Malcolm Buck stood for what seemed like ages, after Graham Sheppard left in the Trooper’s cruiser, peering at the officer whose life he had ended without much forethought. He had just reacted and now the young Trooper was dead with half his head blown out. The beige and gray tiles around him were a wet puddle of life blood. Buck’s initial sickness had passed, but the shock of his actions had remained and he stood waiting for the authorities to come and cuff his massive mitts- haul him away for murder of a State Trooper- the death penalty for sure even if it was in self defence. But no one came. No ambulance, no firefighters, no police, no one.
Slowly he walked to the door, where across the street the skeleton of the charred vehicle still gave fuel to flame. It continued to crackle like the fire pit of a camping getaway. He closed and locked the door more in habit and flipped the sign to, “Sorry we’re closed.”
If I’m going to wait here for the consequences it might as well be by my wife’s side.
Malcolm turned to a door at the back of the store where a staircase led to an apartment above the shop. An apartment he shared with his wife. He stepped over the fallen police officer. His march continued in a funeral dirge and methodically he began to climb the stairs.
Everything had happened so fast and not just today. Six months ago his wife had been diagnosed with a rare form of inoperable brain cancer- a high grade Astrocytoma they had said. The disease had infected the healthy tissue in her brain. Three months ago doctors had put her on a new experimental treatment with heavy chemo and miraculously her cancer had gone into remission. She had started to improve. Her mobility, her appetite, her jest for life had all returned and there seemed cause for celebration. Then three weeks ago it had all stopped- crumbling bricks from a house rebuilt. She had taken a turn and her condition worsened, leaving her immobilized and bed-ridden.
There would be no hospital bed in Whitefish for her. Buck understood that much. Before her speech had finally abandoned her, she had said, “If I’m going to pass, then it’s at home with my husband by my side, not surrounded by walls of sea-foam green and waited on by nurses because it’s their job. Promise me that Malcolm.” And he had. As dire as the reality of the situation today seemed and Sheppard’s warning of more to come, he could not leave his wife like this. She needed him even if her time was drawing to an end.
He unlocked the door and walked in to the apartment, placing his keys on the hook by the door. He quietly entered the bedroom and stopped for a moment to take her in- fragile in her form, almost brittle.
She had kicked off the covers, perhaps in pain and Buck released another shot of morphine into the IV with a press of his thumb on the button control next to the bed. Her legs had taken on a purplish hue. Circulation’s going. Not long now. He covered her up and gently kissed her forehead. She had lost so much weight and was now just a shell of her former self. To one who didn’t know, the union between this huge man and this diminutive woman would seem inconceivable.
The rain began to fall heavier in the outside world, making a sizzling noise on the glass and pane. Buck closed the window.
He then positioned his chair on an angle facing his wife and sat in it. He took her idle hand in his, engulfing it. He stroked her wrist. “I did a bad thing today Emma. I took a life.”
Emma laid quietly, a gentle rising and falling of her breast as her husband continued his confession. “I wish I knew what to do about that? I suspect eventually they’ll come for me, but they’ll have to drag me from your side, I can tell you that much.”
Her skin was pale and shiny like glass, but she seemed calmer- more at peace than he’d seen her in some time. Her lips in a paper thin straight line, her eyes lidded and sunken, but there was still a beauty and delicate air about her.
“Have I told you how much I love you lately?” Buck said, the tears welling up in his eyes.
She seemed to smile- a barely noticeable curve at the corners of her mouth, but he could see it as much as feel it. It comforted him to know on some subconscious level she could still hear his words, sense his presence, and respond to his touch.
“There was another fellow, came in to the shop. Said we’re all in trouble here in Coram. From what I saw, I tend to believe him Emma......Jed Bradshaw’s dead. Dallas Shaver’s dead. In fact there’s a whole lot of people in a bad way. I’m not sure who we can turn to. I.....I wish I had you to tell me what you think is the right thing.”
Emma took a deep breath and exhaled in a long gush of air. It was her last.