I know as well as she does that things aren’t going to work out for us. Even more so. She stands there looking at me, eyes wide, jaw dropped, as though I will tell her what to do next and that we’ll get out of this. My mouth remains closed.
Phillip is on the ground beside our feet. His eyes are wide and his mouth opened too. Though in death, not in fear. The gun that had killed him is still in my hands.
“We could say it was self-defense,” she says.
“They won’t believe that,” I say.
“We could say he came up here and attacked us.”
“They won’t believe it.”
She and I are in a hotel room. We have been for a couple of days. It was our way of trying to get away from it all – without very much money between us, that is. Neither of us have very good jobs. It doesn’t help that we both like to drink and usually spend what little we have on that. There is a half-full bottle of Jack lying on the floor. We had opened it only seconds before Phillip knocked on the door.
“How did he know we were here?” she asks.
I shrug my shoulders. It doesn’t seem all that important. He had known where we were and had come to confront us about it. Confront her. He didn’t give a shit what I thought.
“He should have left us alone,” she says. “I told him it was over. I did.”
I don’t know if I believe her, but like everything else it doesn’t seem important.
I had never shot anyone before. It wasn’t even my gun. It was a friend of mine’s. He had given it to me when I said she and I were going to get away for a few days. There was something about a murder and the police closing in on him. I had asked him why he didn’t just throw it away. He had said it had sentimental value. I couldn’t understand why he would choose sentiment over not going to jail, but I didn’t say anything about it. I took the gun and had killed a man with it.
“He’s bleeding all over the place,” she says.
It’s not the first thing you notice when you kill a man. It was the ringing in my ears that I noticed, and the sensation in my hand. I imagined it must be what punching a wall would feel like.
I see that she is right: the circle of blood on his white T-shirt has spread. It is dripping onto the carpet. Blood bubbles out of the wound.
“What are we going to do?” she asks. “Self-defense, right?”
“They won’t believe us.” I have had a few run-ins with the law in my time. More than a few, if I’m being honest. I’ve been arrested for everything from assult to possession to dealing. They were never major crimes and I usually got off with probation and a fine. Only once did I ever spend any time in jail. That was when I beat my best friend with a baseball bat. But that’s a story all unto itself. They’re not going to let me go for this, and I know it. “They won’t believe us,” I repeat.
“They will. I’ll tell them he was strangling me. That he was going to kill me.”
“It won’t matter,” I say. And I say it because what she says isn’t true. Philip had been angry, but he hadn’t strangled her. He had only asked her what she was doing, how she could have thrown everything away for a guy like me. That was when I had taken the gun out of the bag. I think it was to threaten him, but I can’t be sure. Either way, I know that she won’t be able to keep up the lie for long, no matter how much she wants to. That’s why it won’t matter.
She glances down at the body, then herself. “There’s blood on my legs. Fuck, it’s all over me.”
It wasn’t all over her. But some was more than anyone should ever have on them. I could see why it would look worse to her than it was. My hand still rung.
“We’ve gotta go,” she says.
“They’ll find us.”
The look on her face surprises me. It’s as though she has never thought of cameras being everywhere before. In hallways. At front desks. At the ATM.
“They…” Her voice trails off and she begins to shake. It’s beginning to sink in.
“We’re done for,” I say.
“Don’t say that,” she replies.
“We’re done for, ” I repeat. The gun drops from my hand.
The thud surprises me. I hadn’t realized that I had still been holding it.
“Oh, fuck,” she says, “what are we going to do?”
I look at her and wish that I could make this all go away for her. I want to wrap my arms around her. I want to tell her that everything will be fine. But it won’t. It can’t. I’m going to jail. She may too. Though that much I’ll try to stop from happening. I’ll say it was me. All my doing. Hopefully that will be enough.
Sirens sound in the distance. I don’t know how far they are away, but I know they’ll be here soon. She does too.
“They’re coming,” she says.
“We have to.”
I fall to the ground, numb. Even my hand, which goes into Phillip’s blood, doesn’t feel anything. His blood could be hot, warm, cold. It could be red, blue, green. I notice none of it.
She begins to cry. “Why did he have to come? I hate him. I really do!”
I know she hates him. She has hated him for a long time. We’ve talked a lot about the things he’s done to her, the things he’s made her do. I hate him too.
“I fuckin’ hate him!” she says. She falls down onto the ground beside me and puts her hands on the side of my face. They slip against the skin and I know there’s blood there. “He deserved to die. You know what he did. You know what he’s like. He wasn’t going to let me leave. He wasn’t going to let me be with you.”
I don’t even have it in me to shrug. What she says is true. But that won’t stop me from having to pay for it.
She continues to cry. She kisses my cheek. She rests her head against my shoulder and we listen to the sirens get closer.
I had never wanted my life to turn out this way. When I was a child, I had been filled with so many dreams. I had wanted to be a lawyer, a doctor, an actor. There was even a time in grade school where I had thought that I was going to go to poor countries to help. But I hadn’t done any of it. Not after Danny died. But that’s again another story.
“I love you,” she says to me.
“I love you too,” I say back. It’s the only thing I’m sure of at this moment. It’s the only thing I feel I’ve ever known. I know that we haven’t always been good for each other. Sometimes we push each other too far. But when I lie down at night, she’s the last thing on my mind. And when I get up, the first.
There’s a knock on the door and we both turn to it. “Open up!” someone shouts. “Police!”
This is it. It feels like that moment on a rollercoaster when you reach the top of the hill and get yourself ready for the speed that is about to come.
There’s no more warning than that. The door is kicked open and three officers charge in. They’ve got their guns held up in front of them, vests stapped across their chests.
“Here,” one shouts.
“On the ground,” another shouts.
“On them,” the final one says.
They surround us. One presses his gun to my head. The metal chills my skin, but doesn’t do anything else.
“On the ground,” he shouts.
I’m already on the ground, but I know he means further. I lie down. So does she. I can feel Phillip’s blood on the side of my face as my cheek presses into the bloodied carpet. That doesn’t matter to the officers. It doesn’t matter to me.
“What happened here?” an officer asks. With my head down, I can’t see which one.
“It was self-defence!” she screams. “Self-defence! He tried to kill us. He…”
She stifles her words, but I can tell they’re still there at the tip of her tongue, desperately wanting to get out.
“Here’s the gun.”
“Kick it over there.”
“Get the cuffs.”
“Take him out of here.”
“Call for back-up.”
There are many more things the officers say, but they all blend into one long sound. It doesn’t matter to me what they’re saying. They know that I killed him. They know I’m going to jail for it.
I feel metal on my wrists and my arms are yanked back, pulling me up. I stumble and feel my shoulders threaten to snap. Only when I’m on my feet, do I know that they haven’t.
“Take him to the car,” one of the officers says behind me.
I’m ushered out of the room. She stays behind.
I squint in the sunlight. It’s early morning and the sun isn’t at it’s brightest, but it’s bright enough for me. Especially after waking up in that darkened hotel room.
I close my eyes and do as I’m told.
In the police car, I look to see if I can see her, to see if she’s going to be taken out in cuffs and put into this same car. She isn’t. The doorway to the room remains empty. Even the officer that placed me here is no longer around.
Phillip’s dead, I think to myself. And I did it.
I breathe out what feels to be the longest breath of my life. And, while I know I can’t make much sense of anything at the moment, I’m starting to wonder if I’m all that upset about killing a man, killing him. I don’t think I am. He deserved to die for what he had done for her. I wanted him out of our lives. And that’s why I won’t be able to argue self-defence. They’ll see straight thought it.
There are more sirens now and I try not to think about it any longer. I wait for the other officers to arrive. I wait for my fate to unfold.