The world literally turned on its side. Nausea brewed in my gut. I ran over to the kitchen sink and stuck my face under the tap and slurped. After a few draughts I cupped my hands and buried my face in cold water. It helped; the wrenching in my stomach subsided.
“Jesus! Jesus!” Wade squeaked over and over again. He was still in a fetal position next to John.
“Wade! Wade!” I walked over to him and shook his shoulder, trying not to look at John. I could see his form at the edge of my vision; I wanted to look, I didn’t want to look.
“Wade! Get up, man! Come on!”
“God! I’m gonna fuckin die! I’m gonna fuckin...fuck!”
I shook him harder. “Wade! Get up! We can fix this.” I pulled on his arm and he was dead weight. “Come on!
Wade finally moved and I guided him to my small dining table. He sat and slumped his head on the cheap faux wood. I went back over and grabbed the rum from the coffee table, again trying to and not to look at John.
I grabbed two clean glasses and poured rum. Wade guzzled and whimpered. I sipped and thought. I didn’t think about calling the police. I didn’t think about Wade. God help me I only thought about myself and the film.
“Wade. Wade! Calm down. We’re gonna fix this.”
Wade drank more and he was silent at last. “How?” he croaked.
I sipped heavy. “Do you still love your wife?”
“Fuck her, man!”
I nodded. I got up and went over to John, I looked right in his face and my heart started pounding again. His eyes looked like glass, his face looked like a mannequin. He was so handsome and his skin so smooth he kind of always looked fake, take away life itself and he was a mannequin.
Taking several deep breaths I patted down his pants pockets and found where his keys were, but stopped short of getting them. I ran to the kitchen and got rubber cleaning gloves under the sink and put them on, returned to John and pulled his keys from his pants. John's coat was hanging on the back of the now overturned chair, I righted the chair and searched the coat and found John's phone and dropped the coat. I then took my own phone from my pocket and put it on a side table and pocketed John's.
“Wade. This is what we’re gonna do. We take John down to his car, I drive it, you drive yours back to your wife’s place.”
“Because if he died mysteriously over there he didn’t die here, where you and I are!”
Wade thought a moment then nodded his head.
I still didn't know what I was going to do. I was pretty sure nobody would believe Wade's ex choked John to death, but getting him out of my place was a start.
We finished our drinks and got to work. I threw John's coat on his chest and grabbed his shoulders and Wade his feet. It’s amazing how much a body weighs, even a slight guy like John, one sixty at most. Dead weight is heavy weight. We carried John to the elevator as quickly and quietly as possible praying my neighbors were asleep.
The elevator ride was the worst forty five seconds. We had no idea what would be on the other side of the doors in the lobby. As the numbers clicked my heart almost exploded at each floor fearing the car would stop and someone would get on. Finally we hit the lobby and the doors slid open to empty dim lighting.
We shuffled out to the parking lot and found John’s Mercedes. Wade got the passenger door open and we got John in the seat and I buckled. “OK, you drive your car and we head over.”
He turned back. “It’s gonna be OK. Maybe you’ll get your kids back.” Wade nodded again and got in his car. He started up and drove off.
I took out John’s cell and texted myself. Dude you are out COLD Wade took off, we had words! Anyway, going to get seconds!! Sorry about your head, LOL! I put this phone in the diver side door cubby and felt something. I gripped some sort of heavy plastic handle and pulled out a metal object. A gun. A revolver. It had a short but thick barrel.
“Jesus Christ, John!”
I put the gun in the center console and drove. As the streets appeared before me, as pools of streetlights illuminated my dark path, my thoughts turned just as dark, darker. My own hand would have to be the creator of my future. It was foretold; it had t be. Look what happened, I wanted none of it. Now in my own home, fortune spoke.
Wade was there, waiting for me outside of his car, hands in his pockets, head down. I parked and got out of the car. “She home?” I asked.
I opened the passenger door and unbuckled John. “Hey!” I called to Wade. Wade shuffled over and helped me swing Johns legs out. We pulled and I grabbed his shoulders and we hoisted the corpse up again and carried it to the house, John's coat falling off his body into the grass.
Wade punched in the code to the Apple locks and they still worked. “Wow!” he said and turned the knob.
We carried John into the foyer. “Stop!” I said. “Spin around then lay him down. "
Wade and I switched positions so John lay with his feet at the front door. “Come here,” I guided Wade to an easy chair. He sat with his head bent forward into his chest. I ran back out and got the gun from the console, closed the door, and then scooped up John’s coat. Back inside I tossed it on the sofa. Then I turned and just looked at Wade, a broken man. Lost his wife, lost his kids, has a record for assault, and now he’s a killer. It would be a good thing.
I walked over to him and gripped his right hand with my left, holding it in friendship. “It’s all gonna be OK, man! I promise.” He started whimpering again. I took out the revolver with my right hand. In a motion that was smoother than it should have been I cocked the hammer, held Wade’s hand up to his head, put the barrel of the gun to his temple, the chamber of the gun next to his hand, and fired.
Wade’s body shook for an instant, a violent tremor at the speed of sound, then went limp in the chair. My ears rang hard.
“John?” a woman’s tinny voice called out.
I looked around, severely disoriented when Wade’s wife appeared wearing nothing but a towel. Luckily it was dark and I couldn’t see her face very well, otherwise I don’t think I wouldn’t have been able to do it.
I pointed the gun and shot twice. One of the bullets hit her chest. She fell. I heard ragged breath coming from the floor. I knew I should have put another in her but I couldn’t.
It was dark in the house, she was just woken up, there are two dead bodies in her house; her soon to be ex husband and the ex’s friend she just had sex with. If she survived there’s no way I’d be involved at all except for...wheels turned. I dropped the gun on the floor next to Wade’s body and put John’s phone in his coat. I looked at Wade, I was already getting used to dead bodies. Other than the dripping holes in his head he looked at peace.
I didn’t’ see a bulge anywhere on him for his phone, I figured it was in his car.
I left the house to the sound of the ragged breathing that got deeper and slower.
Wade’s phone was in his car on the passenger seat. I picked it up and texted myself; Christ man! I can’t do it! Look at what they did to me! I tossed the phone back onto the seat, closed it, and walked off into the night.
The walk was almost an hour and a half, it was a cold walk but peaceful other than times when a car drove by and there was no sidewalk. I had to quickly find a spot on the shoulder of the road to wait as the car sped by. A few times I stumbled and almost fell down an embankment.
At the corner of my street I tore off the gloves and threw them down a storm drain. Finally home I took off my shoes, got a black magic marker from the kitchen drawer, and drew a dick on my forehead. Then I took the bottle of rum to my bedroom and drank it all until I fell asleep.
The pounding on my front door woke me. Not that I was sleeping deeply, I tossed and turned most of the night despite all the rum, but finally I nodded off, probably no more than an hour before.
I shot up and understood through the cobwebs that someone was at my door. Of course I knew who it would be. Who else could it be? I looked over and there was a finger or two of rum left, I swigged it hard and creaked out of bed. I limped over to the bedroom door, my calves and thighs tight from the long chilly walk, my lower back screamed. I felt like shit, no doubt I looked like shit. That would be helpful.
I looked out the peephole and saw a middle-aged man wearing a dark brown suit with a blue shirt and burgundy tie. His face was hidden by sunglasses and a black mask. His head was shaved but based on the shadow under his scalp he had the potential for a nice head of hair.
I grabbed my mask and opened the door. He flashed his badge. “Good morning Sir.” There was a hesitation as he glanced at my forehead. “I’m Detective Ligotti. Sorry to bother you but, may I come in?”
“Is something wrong?” I croaked.
“It’s best if we talk inside, Sir.”
I waved him in and as I started making coffee he laid out the situation. John and Wade were dead, along with Wade’s wife. I didn't react. Actually hearing it made me feel bad, but I was genuinely s hungover and out of sorts, I think I came across as genuine. "Wade! Jesus Christ! What happened?"
"There was indication that they were with you last night, Wade and John. Can you walk me through your evening?”
“Sure, well, coffee?”
Det. Ligotti waved it off.
“Feel free to take your mask off, Sir. I’ll just stay over here.” I nodded and poured myself a much needed cup, pulled my mask down and drank.
“Wade’s been staying here, he lost his job, well so did I, but he’s separated from his wife. God!” The hesitation was genuine. Shit was finally settling in my mind, what happened, what I did. “Sorry.”
“Take your time, Sir.”
“Anyway. We were just hanging out when John texted Wade. He was, said he was going to be in town for a while since the pandemic shut everything down. So yeah John came over, brought rum, and shit...I don’t really remember a lot. I got wasted.”
Ligotti’s eyes went back up to my head and crinkled with a smile. “Yeah, I see.”
I smirked. “Douchebags must have...anyway. You woke me up. That's that.”
“Where’s your phone, Sir.”
I put the cup down and looked around. There it was on the side table where I put it the night before. I walked over and woke it up. “I got two texts; one from Wade and one from John.
“Do you mind telling me what they say?” Ligotti asked.
“Sure. John texted first, Dude you are out COLD. Wade took off, we had words! Anyway, going to get seconds!! Sorry about your head, LOL!”
I rubbed at my forehead, the penis that wouldn’t come out for at least a week.
“The other?” Ligotti asked as he scribbled in a notepad.
I looked at the other text a moment, I thought that was a nice touch. “He said, ahh, he said Christ man! I can’t do it! Look at what they did to me!" I put the phone down. "Oh, Jesus Wade!”
“Do you know where John went? Going to get seconds? What does that mean? What were the words he had with Wade?”
“Shit, it’s coming back. Yeah, well, we got drunk and I guess John, according to John, he went to Wade’s old house thinking he still lived there with his wife. And I guess he and Wade’s wife chatted and one thing led to another.”
“Wade knew this?”
“Well John pretty much bragged about it to both of us. Made Wade feel like shit.”
“Did Wade and John get along?”
“Yeah, actually. They were pretty close when we made our film. Texted and whatnot now and then.”
“I watched The Night of Dr. Barlow by the way. Loved it!” Ligotti interjected.
“Thank you!” I was genuinely touched.
“I’m a sucker for culty low budget horror. Anyway. Did you and Wade get along?”
“Yeah. Wade’s a good guy. Was.” Deep inside was a pang, for Wade before that night, the way his life fell apart, and for how his life ended, what he’d be remembered for, even though he didn’t do it.
“What about you and John? Did you guys get along?”
I knew Ligotti would smell a lie a hundred miles away. “No. I really couldn’t stand John, actually. Never could.”
“Really? Why’s that?”
“He was always a jerk, thinking about himself and only himself. After he got some success in Hollywood he got worse. Plus he wanted money from me.”
“You owed him money?”
“No! I absolutely did not. ”
“Money is a pretty powerful motive for murder.” He watched me closely.
“I guess. But he just tried to guilt me into giving him more. We...all the actors had contracts and were paid a daily rate. Everything is square.” Ligotti watched me a few moments. I nervously sipped coffee.
“Ms. Miles said as much.”
“You talked to Dana?”
“A few hours ago. This is really too bad.” Ligotti closed his notebook and sighed. “After all this virus business you’d all be on your feet. Divorce is never easy but your friend Wade...should have gotten some help with his emotions. And John...yeah sounds like he was a major dick, but...man. The silliest things least to disaster. Anyway, thanks for your time. And I hope you make more movies.”
And Ligotti left. Wade's wife did indeed die, and it was a relief. Jesus, what was I becoming? No witnesses, there should be gunpowder residue or whatever on Wade's hand, my cell should ping that it never left my place all night. My plan was flawless.
Later that day Wade and John hit the news.
John’s family had a small service to which I went. I sat in back. His parents were beyond destroyed, the proud parents of a burgeoning movie star. They seemed like lovely people, I didn’t understand how they created John.
Wade’s in-laws had a private ceremony for their daughter a few days later, they wanted nobody that had anything to do with Wade to be there.
Wade’s service was soon after, again a small affair. His father’s sister took care of the arrangements. It was her, a few cousins, myself, and Dana. Social distancing was easy since the church wasn’t a quarter full.
A masked funeral, it was strange.
I took a seat in the pew a few feet from Dana. “Hey,” I whispered.
She glanced over, mask covering her mouth and nose, sunglasses covering her eyes. She was Ligotti’s twin. She turned away without a word.
After the painful affair I paid my respects to Wade’s aunt. “Oh, dear. You were the only good thing in his life. He talked about you all the time, more than his kids.” She let out a nervous laugh and her eyes went dark. “He should have never married that...he...you and he could have gone places.” She excused herself.
I turned and looked for Dana and she was nowhere to be found.
On the way home I bought a bottle of rum and some Chinese takeout. I played around on my phone as I inhaled General Gao’s Chicken. I found Wade’s obituary and I cried, the first time in this whole affair. I had to spit out the food so I wouldn’t choke. Wade was a good man, he was a sad man, I tell myself I unburdened him with another fifty or more years of misery.
Later that month a news magazine program did a profile on John and of course The Night of Dr. Barlow, was mentioned. The host talked about the reclusive director and how they tried to get a hold of me for an interview. They did no such thing. They even had the balls to have a camera crew in front of some gothic looking apartment building in Pittsburgh saying I lived in the upper floors but building security was tight. I actually laughed out loud. I lived in a large cinderblock of a building in a working class town an hour away. Such bullshit but it was profitable bullshit.
Two weeks later production companies were calling me wanting to buy the rights to The Night of Dr. Barlow, the dreaded cursed film. I texted Dana the good news.
An hour later she was knocking at my door.
I opened it, there she was with black mask, dark glasses, and even so the scowl shined through. “Jesus Christ! What did you do?”
TO BE CONTINUED.... one more part to go.