At first it was OK. The FBI provided me with a little house and a job working nights in the mall. “Keep to yourself and it should be fine,” they told me. “In a few years, they’ll forget all about you. Statute of limitations.”
Right. No such thing with a 100k contract on your head.
Thing was I couldn’t stand the boredom. I had to get out. I took my paycheck to the Horseshoe and parlayed it into enough to buy the RV.
Now I move around, never staying too long. “My name’s Frank,” I say.
No last names ever.
“I don’t get why it has to be a full seven days.”
“Read the Book of Job. That’s where sitting Shiva comes from.”
“I’ll get right on that.”
“I don’t appreciate your tone.”
“I just don’t understand why. It’s not like you’re orthodox. And who was she to you anyway, that you need to sit by her body for a week?”
“She was my mother’s oldest sister. You never met her.”
“I haven’t met anyone in your family aside from your mom.”
“I know you haven’t.”
“You think they won’t approve of me. Is that it?”
My numb feet swelled in my boots as I squatted with the others in the frozen mud.
McCombs had scrounged some charcoal somewhere and made a fire in a 305mm Skoda shell the Germans left behind when they retreated.
We crowded around its scant heat, holding over the flames our tins of bully-beef skewered on bayonets.
Everybody had snipers deployed all along the lines, so our chief amusement was putting a helmet atop a stick and waving it above the trench wall.
We’d take bets on how long before it was shot through.
This seldom took longer than a half-minute.
They rowed by the sprawling house with floor-to-ceiling windows facing the lake.
“Pretty deluxe,” he said, resting his oars as they drifted. “Place like that set you back two million at least.”
“I’ve never seen anyone in it,” she said, shading her eyes. “Just the caretaker mowing the lawn.”
“Must be nice,” he said.
Over the months they kept an eye on it, even made a bet about when they might see the owners. They never did.
It was she who first noticed the windows. “All that fantastic view, yet the shades are drawn tight.”
“Must be a story there.”
Anyone less on the ball might have missed it, but Henry wasn’t one of those. Sheeple he called them, gullible consumers of whatever garbage was slaked in front of them, be it TV shows or sports or fast food.
Henry stayed one step ahead of them.
It wasn’t until the last payphone had been ripped out that he surrendered his pager, opting for a decade-old flip phone.
Even so, he knew they were watching him, probably more closely than before because he wasn’t on the rest of their grid.
But at least he hadn’t found any trackers in his walls.
Always the fear of waiting. Will they come? Will they forget me?
They never forget, of course. Yet this feeling of dread gets stronger with every passing year, seems to grow inside her as though her brain is swelling inside her skull, pressing into it, striving to escape.
She becomes obsessed with ritual, counts her footfalls, takes notice of birds. She avoids using the verb to be in any form, as though naming a thing will give it shape, make it real.
Soon she avoids talking altogether.
But still the formless fear grows to fill her.
She becomes furtive, watchful.
He set his half-full mug of coffee on the sill without seeing the amazing view.
He stood up, took his raincoat from a hook and opened his office door, walked wordlessly past his secretary and the rows of desks.
He went into the hallway and pressed the elevator button, heard the rush of the car in the shaft hurtling up the twenty-two floors of the Transamerica building where he had worked for fifteen years, worked his way from the copy room all the way into the corner office he’d just left for what turned out to be the last time.
“It’s just for a couple days, man. I swear.”
“I know brother. I got you. I wish you could have the couch, but you know Giselle. She promised Ladonna she wouldn’t let you crash with us.”
“You gonna get in the doghouse she finds out?”
“I’ll handle it. You and me, we go way back. She knows that.”
“There a bathroom here?”
“Down the hall there’s a janitor closet got a toilet and sink. The lock’s busted, so you shouldn’t have no problem.”
“What do I say if somebody asks me?”
“You worry too much. Nobody ever comes down here.”
“I love the space. Will the smell go away?”
“That roller door is perfect. I can drive the Aston Martin right in. We’ll put in one of those lifts like we saw in Chicago. The one you said was like Batman.”
“The ceilings are divine. Can you imagine everything that went on in here?”
“Don’t be so romantic. People lived lives like anyone else. Now this third floor has serious potential. Raise the ceiling so we can walk out onto a terrace.”
“I want to keep those tablets on the front. I think it will be lucky.”
“Are you crazy?”
Perhaps it is the water, or maybe the act of doing something innocuous like washing dishes, but she can only cry at the kitchen sink.
She’d made the discovery by accident. She’d been scrubbing a plate when a paroxysm of grief surged through her, racking sobs that were thankfully drowned out by the rushing faucet.
She’d stood there weeping, the water cascading over her hands matching the tears rolling over her cheeks.
Afterward she felt amazing.
Now after dinner she quickly gathers the plates and silverware, shoos her family from the kitchen, her heart skipping in eager anticipation