Heroes Show Up
If the monster wins, can the ending still be upbeat? I wondered as I listened, wondered if the long years of struggle to free myself from past pain were for naught.
“How do you spell your last name?” I alpha’d and he data’d, writing it down. “The way we understand it,” said the short detective, “your mother only met Lou a few weeks ago. How intimately could she have known him?”
I paused. Notions of family loyalty raised their limp tentacles but I ignored them.
“My mother was a drunk, Detective. I don’t know how well she could know anyone intimately but I know she would have given you a shag at the drop of some interest. I hadn’t heard about Lou but my mother’s lovers changed pretty fast.”
I had been woken up at 2 a.m. by a noise. I jerked up, expecting them to be thieves, but they weren’t. At least not of anything I would care about. Instead they took my life. They told me my mother had been found dead, murdered. They were trying to track down this Lou, who signed a paper they showed me: ‘Just a short note to say thanks a bundle for letting me stay on an extra night,’ it read.
“You think he murdered her?” I asked, unfocused, not understanding why they would be pursuing someone so polite.
The detectives were patient. “Maybe, maybe not, but we’d like to talk to him.”
“Or her,” I said.
I got a raised eyebrow.
“She wasn’t picky,” I said. “Don’t assume anything.”
“Oh.” He made a note.
“Well, we want to see if Lou can shed light on any difficulties she may have had with anyone recently, on what her plans were.”
“Oh.” I gave him back the plastic-sheathed note. A line from Yeats crossed my mind.
Suffer as your mother suffered / Be as broken in the end.
Of course, I hadn’t died, but how broken do you have to be before it doesn’t matter anymore?
* * *
A few days later they were back, giving me a small envelope of personal effects found on her body. I had opened the flap when the phone rang. It was Lou.
“Hello, this is Andrea Carter,” I said.
“My I speak with Andrea Carter?” she said.
I rolled my eyes. “This is Andrea Carter,” I said.
“Oh…you don’t know me, but I met your mother at Charlie’s. My name is Lou.”
Charlie’s was Mom’s favorite hang out, her body had been found a block away. Due to the bruising on her chest, the police had figured she’d been pushed over the railing and fell into the creek bed below. Her neck was broken and she hadn’t even been drunk.
“What can I do for you, Lou?” I signaled to the detectives by pointing at the phone and making my eyes wide.
“Well,” she hesitated. I heard a swallow. “Your mom was real nice to me. She knew I was going through a rough patch, and let me stay at her apartment for a few days. She also was kind enough to help me out, you know, with a little money.” I rolled my eyes again but Mom was always generous.
“I was a little short this month, but I told her I was going to get a check…” She was practically gabbling and I was losing interest, another drunk who needed a hand-out, big whoop, when she told me something that froze me where I stood.
“She didn’t have much money, your mom, but she said she’d let me pawn her necklace, as long as I got it back to her.” She was crying now. “I’m so sorry about what happened. My check came, and I rushed right over to get it out of hock. I have it, and I’d like to give it back.” She was sobbing louder. “I’m so, so sorry she’s dead. I want so much to give it back and make everything right.” Her sobs were causing her to hiccup.
I dumped the contents of the envelope on the table and pawed through it quickly. Not there. I took a deep breath, couldn’t talk… took another deep breath, and then said: “That’s nice of you. Can you come over right now?”
She said she could and I gave her the address and hung up.
I was so upset I had to put my head between my knees. The detectives looked a little taken aback.
“Miss?” said one.
I held up a hand indicating I would be alright.
“What’s wrong?” the other asked.
“Are you sure I have all my mother’s personal effects?” I asked.
They nodded yes.
I got up and retrieved a picture of my mother from the dresser. It showed her cleavage, wearing a necklace with a rather large diamond set in a gold circular setting. Rather like a diamond in the middle of a ring, which it was.
This is my mother’s engagement ring. She had it made into a necklace and gave it to my older sister upon her graduation from college. Laura was wearing it the night she was killed. She was getting money from an ATM when my mom stepped away to light a cigarette. They knifed her in the back,” my voice nearly broke at that point, but I went on, “and she died in Mom’s arms. My mom never took this necklace off except to shower, and she certainly would not have given it to some drunk to pawn. If Lou pawned it, then she stole it while Mom was in the shower.” I added, “and Mom would have definitely gone looking for it.”
The two detectives looked at each other. “It could be what the fight was about,” said one. She turned to me. “We have a report two women were arguing about that time, about that place. You think she’ll come?”
“What we’d like you to do, is answer the door, invite her inside, then step outside until we come out. We’ll ask her a few questions to see if she’s a possible. You can go get coffee or something. We’ll call you when it’s safe to come back.” He stood up, not anticipating any problem with those perfectly reasonable instructions when the doorbell rang.
I didn’t answer, but opened the door to face an onslaught of grief.
“Andrea,” she cried and took one step in to throw her arms around me and sob, “I’m so sorry.”
I had my arms braced on the door and door frame. When she recognized she wasn’t getting the response she was looking for, she loosed me, but still held my shoulders. She looked into my eyes, saying: “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to overwhelm you. I know how hard this must be for you. Your mother told me about the trouble.”
“Gee, thanks Mom,” I thought. Stepping aside to let her in, Lou finally saw the two other people in the room.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you had company. I won’t take up your time then, I just wanted to come and give you this.” She handed me Mom’s necklace, the same one in the photo. I held it up for the detective’s to see.
“Lou, we’re detectives in charge of Rachel’s murder.”
She went white at that and stepped back. “It was an accident.” She swallowed. “I mean, I thought it was an accident.”
“We need to ask you a few questions.” She looked at me. “Andrea, can we have a minute?”
I shrugged helplessly. It was a studio loft, there wasn’t anyway I could go, except the bathroom.
Lou looked astonished. “You can’t ask her to leave, don’t you know that?”
The detectives looked puzzled.
Lou was indignant. “She hasn’t left this place for five years, every since the shooting, you know the one, at the Jewish center. She saved all those people.” Lou was getting really worked up about it.
“Perhaps, detectives, you should take Lou to the station instead. I’m sure she’s eager to get this sorted out.”
Lou didn’t look eager, but resigned. I reluctantly handed the necklace to the detective, knowing it would be needed as evidence, and they left, promising to call with news.
Lou was right; I hadn’t left here in five years. My mom had been my lifeline to the outside world. She saw her daughter die in her arms, and had become a drunk, but she still lived her life. She had coped. I had folded. Anger at my sister’s death had made me reckless that day. When Ian “Naveed” Holmes started shooting, I was in the copy room. At the sound of gun shot, I opened the door. Seeing his back to me, I took a flying leap. My speed and weight drove his head into the corner of the desk, and nearly took it off. I was covered in blood. Everyone praised me, thought I was a hero, but I wasn’t, I was just angry. The heroes were the ones who showed up the next day to sort it out, to do the work. My mom was a hero, and now she was dead and I could not even go to her funeral.
I shut the door, shutting out the sun, and wept.
---By Carla Blaschka, 7/21/12
Carla's Bird Prompts:
- Suffer as your mother suffered / Be as broken in the end W.B. Yeats. ‘Two Years Later’ The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats. (Wordsworth Poetry Library, 1994). Page 100.
- “Just a short note to say thanks a bundle for letting me stay on an extra night.” Bill Richardson. Bachelor Brothers Bed & Breakfast Pillowbook. (Wyatt Book for St Martin’s Press, 1995). Page 100.
- “I jerked up, expecting them to be thieves, but they weren’t." Michael Lane. Pink Highways. (Birch Lane Press, 1995). Page 100.
- “If the monster wins, can the ending still be upbeat? William Nolan." How to Write Horror Fiction. (Writers Digest Books, 1990). Page 100.
- “The way we understand it,” said the short detective, “your mother only met Lou a few weeks ago. How intimately could she have known him?” Author. Book. (Publisher, Year). Page 100.