I watch the dark clouds as the wind pushes them over a sky strewn with stars. It feels like peace…
Three years ago.
I have known Malik for about three years, I cannot say that we are easy friends, we have little in common but we share something that is not easily explained. When I reported one of my neighbours for killing his wife, no one believed me. I could not say what I had ‘seen’ because it was not what anyone rational would have believed but when I held open the elevator door for him he had blood on his hands. Not when I was looking directly at him but the back wall of our apartment buildings elevator is an old mirror. In that reflection I saw fresh blood on his hands, and specks on his face.When Malik questioned him that first time he made a soft moaning noise in the back of his throat and I knew that he saw what I had seen. My neighbour eventually confessed to beating his wife to death and leaving the body in the trunk of his car, abandoned under a bridge about 40 miles south near the turnoff for the freeway. Detective Malik made sure my name was never mentioned and I tried to forget about the whole thing until a few weeks later when he turned up at my door very drunk with a bottle of rye whiskey and some photographs of a kidnapping case. I only held them for a second but I confirmed what he thought he saw when he first touched them. The little girl was alive and well. Her Mother had picked her up from school and fled to Canada. She and her ex had been fighting a lawsuit for custody and she was loosing because she was an ex-junkie and alcoholic. We talked long into the night about the how and the why of what we see and how we are able to see what we do. He told me that once when he was a little boy he answered a question before his grandmother asked it and she made him swear never to tell anyone what he had done. I told him about growing up in Germany with my Aunt after my parents were killed in a car accident and she asking me if I missed them. I said ‘No, ho could I? They are standing just there.’
Two years ago.
The dead don’t speak, at least not to me. They show me things and point me in the direction I need to go but beyond that they have never said a word. I was making coffee when I heard the tiniest voice, like a whisper, turning there was a young girl standing by my door. She had her hand over a rough, ugly wound in her neck. “…David…” It sounded like the lightest noise you can imagine. She said my name again and pointed to the window. Outside three floors below was a taxi parked across two lanes of traffic, a very tall black guy was screaming for help and in his arms was the same girl in my apartment. Blood had stained her white dress and she seemed to be trying to hold onto the wound, desperate to say something. “He didn’t do it. He’s my uncle. It was Caleb.” By the time I had turned back she was gone in every sense. I rang Malik and a few days later he dropped by with take out Chinese and cheap wine. I think that he is as lonely as I am. He never mentions any friends, just the people he works with, cases and occasional in a distracted moment his Grandmother. When he told me what had happened to that girl, the sexual abuse at the hand of her older brother and him eventually stabbing her in the neck, the utter devastation it had brought to her family not least her Uncle, because he was also her God father and adored her. All I could say was. “And the Brother’s name is Caleb.” Malik didn’t reply. He didn’t need to. We both drank until we passed out.
A year ago.
It’s been six months since I moved. I still don’t have a wide group of friends. There’s Caitlin who works at my local coffee shop and Brian and Elizabeth at the gym I go to but they are just nodding friends, I know sometimes I do feel lonely and even though I miss Malik in my own way, I am glad I live in a small town where nothing really happens. Selling my apartment and cashing out some shares and my pension means that I could buy an honest to god house. It’s a suburban cape cod affair and has a few shadows in a few rooms but I pay them no mind and they don’t bother me either. Live and let live… Almost. I like that I can just get in my pick up and a short drive has me in the ‘wilds’, lots of open sky and grassland, woods and lakes and rivers. If I could just stop having these terrible dreams I think I would finally be at peace with myself. I can’t read Caitlin at all. Looking at her is like looking into a mirror, god knows where I got the courage but I asked her on a date and she said yes.
The dream is the same one I have had every night. I am lost in a city I don’t recognise and Caitlin is crying and holding my hand. Malik is drawing his gun and shouting something. Then there are light and clouds and stars and then I can’t see anything. It’s the dark and the cold that makes me wake.
I get to the gym early and swim for an hour before I do some weight and then chill in the sauna. Brian is handing out flyers to his housewarming. I take one and promise to show. I think Caitlin might like it, she mentions that I need more friends enough to make me realise, I need more friends. I was laughing at something Brian said as I held the door open for someone who almost shoulder barged me out of the way as he hurried to the reception desk. I didn’t really think about it until I was almost home and couldn’t help shake the feeling I knew that guy. Maybe he had ‘one of those faces’ or maybe I had seen him at the gym before and just not been more aware. I forgot about it and carried on with my day. I work from home as a self employed adviser. It a freephone number that anyone can call, to keep cost down there is no office just a switchboard that routes callers through to whoever is available. We are not supposed to give out our names so I always say ‘Hello you are through to Christopher, how can I help?’ It was about the ninth call and my second cup of coffee when I waited for a response. Sometimes people need a few seconds to compose themselves before they speak.’Be seeing you soon David’ The voice said and the line went dead.
Even factoring in the time difference, I knew it was to early to call Malik, so I called him anyway. He soon shut up when I told him what had happened, about my dream, this terrible sense of dread I was feeling. It was a five hour drive so I was glad he offered to come to see me for a few days, rather than me having to ask. I didn’t log my phone into the office number, I just called Caitlin. She sounded surprised but very eager to blow off work and hang out for the day. We watched some truly awful movies and made love and drank coffee and made love and walked in the park and made love. At about nine or so, I remembered Brian’s House warming so we showered and got dressed and decided we would show our face for a while then go back to Caitlin’s and go back to bed. Brian had gone all out with construction paper and lighting and god knows to recreate NY in his living room, I’ve never been but it’s still pretty cool. He even has onions frying and a hot dog bar. Underneath a low jazz track he had taxi horns and the recorded voices of street vendors shouting their trade. I have to say it was pretty cool. Caitlin was dancing with Brian to some old Eurythmics song and I was talking to one of Brian’s neighbours about old horror movies when there was a shout from the hallway. It suddenly felt like I had fallen into cold water. The room was in black and white but there were blood stains all over Caitlin. I stood up to try and warn her but something hit me in the chest and I fell backwards. From behind me somewhere Malik stepped over my legs, unholstering his gun and the noise was the loudest thing I had ever heard. In front of me the man from the Gym was falling to the floor. I realised why I knew him. I had seen him in my old building, he was the brother of the guy that beat his wife to death. I didn’t know why he was here or how he managed to hit me in front of everyone. Caitlin is crying. I look up at the New York City skyline and realise the warm, wet feeling on my shirt is my blood. I look up but there is no ceiling. I watch the dark clouds as the wind pushes them over a sky strewn with stars. It feels like peace…