Thursday, February 14, 2008

Afterward, a vignette

This is a late entry in the Abbott Valentine's Day 750 words or less challenge to do a story with love and crime in it. More of a challenge, perhaps, to do a vignette with no love and no crime. I don't like "publishing" my own fiction on my own website, don't ask me why...too much like utter vanity, probably. But the links to the stories that have showed up are here:

Afterward copyright 2008 by Todd Mason

It wasn’t until he knew she’d been murdered did he realize how much he missed her, and how terribly fast that came to him. There it was, right in front of him, in the paper. It was a freak story, or else there wouldn’t’ve been a reason for the wire report to be carried from one city/suburban cluster to another, every city has its share of routine murder, young men (usually young men, not always either) drunk on despair and testosterone and whatever substance was supposed to make things easier right then, angry spousal equivalents, payback abuse or just abuse.

He hadn’t seen her in years, hadn’t corresponded (if that’s what one did with email) in months, maybe as much as a year. He knew she was happy, in a way he was quite sure she’d never been when they were together, a way she probably couldn’t be with him. She’d gone through several changes, was settling into a new job, she loved her husband the way you’d want to be loved if you were him. An off-duty police officer who’d developed a habit of pulling over women of a certain age chose her one night as she was driving home from the night class. Officer Friendly made sure he was the last to see her alive. She was the sixth of seven they knew about. He’d really gotten sloppy by the seventh.

Sitting there staring at the paper, seeing her name there, knowing there was no reason for authorities to contact him (maybe a call from Officer Friendly’s best buddy in the Academy or at the local land-grant school,, or maybe his ex-partner), didn’t make him feel any less clobbered. Her husband might’ve, but he’d’ve had his own version of real-time hell to cope with, not this sudden smack after the fact. Cold print. Gasping. Cold, blind rage. Officer Friendly had been called Davy by his family. David Miller. Pillar of the community.

He sat staring at the paper and weighed his options. He could go to the trial, try to find a way to kill Davy Miller or at least introduce him to some small measure of what the wire story didn’t detail too closely of what he’d done to at least seven women. He could go to the trial, in that other big city up north a bit, and try to get some satisfaction out of his Twinkie defense, the slam-dunk the prosecutor would have, the life imprisonment with the hope of a shiv in an ex-cop’s back. He’d never have another conversation with her, he’d never get a card from her again at year’s end, she wasn’t at least walking around somewhere else nor laughing nor thrusting her hips just so as she came, nor rolling her eyes just so at some weak joke someone else would make (she’d wiggle her eyebrows to let you know she knew how weak her joke was, if it was). He wouldn’t know that she was fine. She never would be fine again. His impotence in the face of that fact wasn’t as hard to bear as the thought of her loss, but was no more reassuring.

He sat and thought about what he would do, what he was worth, how little David Miller was worth, what she…had been. He couldn’t completely catch his breath, he wasn’t yet ready to cry, if that was coming. Maybe on his trip north.

Whatever he was going to do, he needed to gather a few things, make a few calls. And he needed to know when the services were. And the trial. And whatever came afterward.


C. Margery Kempe said...

Thanks for sharing this -- I loved the verbal echo with Miller and pillar. Tantalizing vignette -- are you going to develop it? A good appropriation of the noir.

Todd Mason said...

Thank you, Kate...and your prize for being absolutely the first person to leave a comment on this blog is forthcoming. I'm not sure this needs expansion so much as polishing, being as it was a response to challenge (I'm still dilettante enough to think in terms of natural and cultured stories)...but never say never. Nor type Nveer, as I'm prone to.

There are a slew of interesting vignettes at Patti's links.