A wave of ice hit Jack. He stood frozen, staring down at the dark shapes that used to be his neighbours. A strong smell of gunpowder lingered. After shooting his wife Carl had turned the gun on himself and bought it. In the sudden explosion of light Jack had seen Carl’s head vanish, like watching one of those slow-motion videos of melons exploding. The first aid kit in Jack’s hand was useless now. He had been too late. Carl and Mary were beyond help. Jack wanted to scream but bit it back hard.
“Dad?” Amy stood behind Jack. She couldn’t see very well in the dark by the moonlight but she recognized the shape of her father alright. She couldn’t see the horror in the room beyond. The pale blue light didn’t reach far into the room and the bad were wrapped in shadows.
It took a moment for a Jack to register the voice behind him. When he did a cold shiver ran down his spine. “You promised to wait downstairs,” he said turning around towards his daughter.
“Yeah,” she said, “The power went out and I heard another gunshot, I got scared” Her voice was a strange mix of shame, defiance and sadness. “I thought maybe you had got hurt.”
Christ, Jack cursed to himself, how long had he been standing there like a fool, staring at two dead bodies he couldn’t help when his own daughter had been sitting downstairs worrying herself sick about him. “I’m fine,” Jack said stepping forward into the moonlight to reassure Amy, he held out his hands in a gesture that said, not a scratch.
Amy sighed with relief but she didn’t walk closer. She remained close to the open apartment door. She knew that something was wrong. She sensed death and didn’t want to come close. “What about the Grimes?” She asked not wanting to know the answer.
“I couldn’t help them,” Jack replied.
Amy saw the first aid kit clenched in her dad’s fist, she didn’t push the subject.
“Let’s get out of here,” Jack said, “I want to see if there is anything new on the TV”.
“The TV died when the lights went out,” Amy replied.
“Makes sense,” Jack replied. In the heated moments in the Grimes apartment he had forgotten about the electricity flickering out. It had been one of the reasons Amy had left their apartment on the floor below.
“Wait,” Jack said as they stepped out into the dark hallway. He turned back into the apartment and walked with determined steps towards the bedroom. Deep breaths he told himself. If I’m going to do this it has to be fast and without thinking, deep breaths. He wanted to stop in the door frame, freeze up like before, but he didn’t. The smell of gunpowder was only a faint memory now, the smell of blood more tangible. Jack registered the smell but tried not to think about it. He stepped up to bed and wrestled the gun unceremoniously from Carl’s hand. “Sorry old pal,” he whispered and left the room for good. He couldn’t help the Grimes, but his daughter was alive. And he would keep it that way.
Amy saw the gun in her father’s hand as he joined her in the hallway but didn’t say anything. In silence by the dim glow of Amy’s cell phone they walked back down to their apartment and locked the door firmly behind them. Soon the sun would rise and cast its hard-hearted light on the city.
To be continued…
© Hugo Oddlane, 2014