It felt unfamiliar in my hand. The grip. Kind of slippery. I put the gun down and wiped the palms of my hands on my corduroy pants. The rhythm of the palms, who'd written that? But that was trees, not hands.
Concentrate. Well, I didn't have to kill him. Wouldn't it be better if I simply put six bullets into his legs instead? Say, three in each knee-cap. Wouldn't it be great to greet him in the street? Me upright, him in a wheelchair. Of course, that'd mean wearing a mask during the gunning. Why was it all so complicated? Getting hold of the gun had been difficult enough. Now I’d need what, a ski-mask? No, that simply wouldn't do.
I picked up the gun again. It still felt unfamiliar, but it was no longer slippery. The grip was good enough.
"Got you, you bastard!" I said.
I listened. She hadn't heard. I came out of the bathroom, carefully shielding the gun (as I'd shielded my regrets), put on my leather jacket. Took it off, tried my winter coat. Put the gun in the outer right pocket. That felt better. I could even shoot through the coat. But would that be a good idea? Wouldn't my coat then become evidence. I could see it before me. The courtroom. Exhibit 1: The punk who'd sold me the gun. Exhibit 2: The ski-mask. Exhibit 3: My coat.
They'd promised an awful amount of snow. 'A dangerous amount of snow,' the weatherman had said. I'd laughed at that. Dangerous. But, okay, the elderly, they slip and smash a hip, the young drive too fast, hit a patch of black ice and ... I opened the door of the hotel room.
"Joe! Joe! Where are you going?" Sally said, "Where are you going?"
"Oh, just into town. I want to catch Zebedee's before they close. I'm fresh out of … fresh out of ... clean shirts."
She got off the bed and came towards me, holding out the palms of her hands (movement, but no rhythm). I saw her future written there. Exhibit 4: Sally Penn-Smith, witness for the prosecution.
"It's going to snow," she said, "They said there's going to be a dangerous ..."
"I know. A dangerous amount of snow," I said.
"You're surely not going to walk in?"
"Maybe you're right, I'll cab it up."
"Come and take a coffee at my place, why don'tcha?"
"What and get snowed in there?" I said.
"Would that be so bad? It can't be much fun staying in a hotel."
She looked around at the brown walls, craned her neck to look up at the Empire green ceiling. Kicked her big toe at the painted wooden floorboards (black and ginger stripes).
"It has a bar, a sauna, and, if you're that way inclined, if you're romantic about the stars, telescopes on the roof terrace," I said.
"Come on out to my place," she said, "It'd save you some money. I'm not leaving town for three days.”
A nurse on an oil rig. Three weeks on, two weeks off. A two in five chance I'd have found her in town. Luck, for once, had been on my side. If you can call it luck.
"For old times' sake," she said.
I looked at her violet eyes, only they weren't violet in the daylight, but lavender. I'd forgotten that. Just remembered the violet nights. Those eyes. Piercing my daydreams and nightmares in all the years since ...
"I shouldn't have told you about Bill," she said, "Back then, I mean, and I only told you because it was over, over I tell you! It was you I loved. Still love!"
As though I'd forgotten. As though that was why I hadn't come back to town. You can push it away and push it away, but you have to deal with it one way or the other in the end. You have to decide to start living again, even if it means somebody else dying. My best friend back then. Cheating on me, cheating on his wife, Connie. I hadn't said a thing, just left town. Took the night train out.
"You won't come?" she said.
"I'll come later. You take a bath, I'll cab it up to town, leave the taxi meter running. Be back before you're out of the tub. Then we'll go to your place. Promise."
"Alright," she said.