We stood there looking at each other, fifteen feet apart. I calculated the distance in steps. Three steps, maybe four and she would be in my arms. I wouldn’t let her go. I couldn’t. We would go away. I could make it happen. I knew how. I knew all the tricks. But it wouldn’t work. I knew that too.
“I know.” I said it softly, tenderly.
“I know you do.” She looked at me with eyes that could melt my heart. “I knew you would get it.” The gun came softly, slowly out of her handbag and looked at me.
She looked down at my waist. I looked down. My gun was out, pointed at her. It must have been instinct. I didn’t remember going for it.
She looked into my eyes. A tear trickled down her cheek. “I won’t go to jail. I can’t. It’s over for me anyway. There’s nothing left.”
“There’s me. Am I not enough?”
Her eyes flickered for an instant, thoughtfully. Then they hardened, “No. You should be. But I’ve known too much, had too much, seen too much. There’s too much for me to give up.”
We stood there for what seemed like an eternity, looking into each other’s eyes, measuring the loss.
Finally she said, “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Something about her eyes. They narrowed, hardened, in preparation for the recoil. Instinct took over again and my gun spoke, seeming of it’s own accord. She folded more than fell, crumpling in a heap, a third eye formed in the middle of her forehead.
I went over to her and knelt on one knee. She was dead, had been before she hit the floor. I had been my usual cold, efficient self. Cold, efficient and alone. I reached for the phone and dialed a number.
“Lieutenant Harper,” I said to the anonymous voice that answered. I waited patiently, examining the cavern of my heart.
“Lieutenant, I think I’ve got some answers for you.”
I leaned back in the chair and stretched my legs out under the desk.
Susan looked up from her magazine. “What?”
“Drivel. Pure drivel.”
She went back to her reading. “I think that title has been taken.”
“Yes, but this is the real thing. Pure. Pure as the driven snow. Pure as rocky mountain spring water.”
“You’re not going to start that again, are you?”
“It’s finished. You want to read the last chapter? Want to see how old Bob gets out of this one?” I clicked the printer icon and waited impatiently for the pages to spit themselves into my hand. I handed the offending document to Susan.
She laid aside her magazine and gave her full attention to the pages I gave her. “Don’t call him Bob. It’s Robert. You know how he hates Bob.”
I got up and went to the frig for a beer as Susan read. Bob had been good to us. The first novel was five years ago. It was a big hit, a selection of the Mystery Book club. There had been two others since, both successes in the private detective genre. Bob had gotten us out of debt, had guaranteed our retirement. This one would allow us to replace our ten-year-old cars with new and expensive transportation. But I knew I could do better. I was being stifled by the restrictive official rules of the detective novel. I wanted out.
Susan was finished reading when I came back into the room. She looked up at me. “It works. I like it.”
“You knew she couldn’t live. It’s against the rules.”
“I know”, said Susan as she returned to her magazine.
I took a long drag on my beer and sat down in the recliner. I leaned back and looked thoughtfully at the ceiling. “I think I’ll reverse it.”
“Reverse it? Reverse what?”
“The end. I’m going to reverse the end. I’m going to kill Bob off.” I was still looking at the ceiling, afraid to look at Susan.
“You can’t do that.” Her voice was calm, given that I was talking about derailing the gravy train.
I looked at her. “Why not? It’s my book. He’s my character.”
“You have a contract. Three more books. They won’t let you out of it.”
“If he’s dead, they’ll have to.”
Susan closed her magazine and dropped it on the floor beside her chair. “I guarantee you they won’t let you. They’ve dealt with temperamental authors before. There’s probably something in the contract that won’t let you kill Robert off. They’ll get their three books.”
I smiled confidently. “We’ll see.”