Chapter 1

madeleine-ragsdale-691073-unsplashFaint light from downtown made its way into the third story apartment through the glass sliding doors leading to the balcony. Streaks of lightning occasionally flooded the living room with light as they made their way across the night sky. Rain washed over the newer buildings of steel and glass that towered over the city. Six months ago, the sounds of rain and thunder would have been relaxing to Jeremy LeBlanc, but his life had changed drastically since that time. Filled with hurt and sadness – he couldn’t remember what it was like to be relaxed and calm.

Jeremy sat in the dimly lit living room of his apartment. Tonight, the rain suited his mood more than usual. He was in a dark place, unable to sleep, and several glasses into a bottle of Macallan scotch. Music played gently through large speakers in the corners of the room – a beautiful piano melody accompanied by a woman’s smooth and sultry singing. It was a familiar and soothing voice – that of his fiancé, Nicolette. Listening to her voice brought tears to his eyes and he wished he could hear her laugh just once more.

His heart was heavy in his chest as he forced another glassful of scotch down his throat and refilled the glass from a bottle resting on the black upright piano dominating half of the room. The drink was warm all the way down, but the more he drank the more numb he became to his memories. He stumbled away from the piano and fell back into the couch on the opposite side of the room, doing his best to not spill the glass.

The coffee table in front of him was a mess, with pictures and pieces of paper strewn all over its black top. There were photographs of he and Nicolette – happy, smiling on the left side. To the right – copies of the police report detailing Nicolette’s accident and information on the drunk driver who had hit her car. In the center, just out of reach, were his fiancé’s death certificate and a response from the police department – terminating his employment. A black handgun laid on the seat of the brown leather couch next to him. A lot had changed in six months and Jeremy was ready to be done and imagined himself back in the arms of his love.

Jeremy spent the next half hour sorting through all of the documents and putting them into two small boxes next to the coffee table. Nicolette’s soft voice was still singing from the speakers and Jeremy couldn’t help but think about how the world would never get to know her angelic voice. Not as much as it should have anyway. It didn’t matter anymore – nothing did. He had lost his fiancé to a drunk driver, on a night like this. Then, he was put on administrative leave after nearly putting the driver into a coma. The leave became a suspension and the suspension became termination. He no longer had love or any sort of goal in his life.

He would end it. His eyes swept the room, even though he knew the whole apartment was clean with what little remained packed away. On the surface of the coffee table there was only the half empty bottle of scotch, his drinking glass, a single bullet, his gun, and a piece of paper with only the words “I’m sorry” scrawled on it. No words had come to him to help him explain. Even if they had, there was no one left in his life to care. No Nicolette, no family, no one. This was the only way.

“I have no reason to face the nights ahead,” he scrawled down quickly and then dropped the pen on the coffee table once more. Lightning flashes sent shadows reaching across the room as he reached forward and picked up his gun. His hands moved over the black gun and pressed the magazine release button. The music ended and he sat in silence, loading the single .45 caliber hollow-point cartridge into the magazine and slid the magazine back into place with a sharp click. He racked the slide backward, driving the cartridge up into the chamber. Leaning forward to see in the light, he pulled the slide partially back, checking that the round had loaded and then let the slide snap forward. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

The cool steel of the gun’s slide rested against his cheek for a moment, before he opened his mouth and put the barrel between his teeth at an upward angle. Tears welled in his eyes and he struggled not to cry and back down, his breaths short and quick as he laid his finger onto the trigger and started to apply pressure. He could feel the trigger start to move as a wave of calm came over him. He closed his eyes. Soon it would be over.

“Jeremy, I’ll always love you,” Nicolette’s voice whispered through the speakers surrounding him. His eyes shot open, at first doubting he had heard her voice. His finger slowly moved away from the trigger as the sound of her laughter came through the speakers. She was talking to someone in the recording booth while she was working on her album and he could hear her smiling as she repeated once more that she loved him and then a subtle beeping tone as the music clicked off. He had always stopped the album when the music ended and never guessed that she would put something at the end, just for him.

The gun clicked again as he decocked the hammer and put the gun back on the table. His body shook for a few seconds as he tried to fight the stream of tears flooding from his eyes. This wouldn’t deter him, but the last thing he’d ever think of was her smiling and saying those words. Smiling and sobbing, he wiped his face off with his hands and reached forward to pick the gun back up.

Then there was a knock.

It became more than just a single knock. A series of hard, hurried knocks against his door desperately begged to be answered. A muffled woman’s voice called his name out from the other side. In the confusion, he had stopped sobbing.

Jeremy called out a grunting response as the knocks continued. He stood and tucked his gun into the back of his pants’ waistband. He stopped at the door, rubbed his face dry with his hands as best he could and opened the door.

His neighbor Sarah stood in the hall, face red and smeared with black eyeliner. Her hair was a blonde mess of stray strands swept away from her face. She was fighting to breathe and not succumb to breaking down, though from the irritation around her eyes, it was obvious she had been crying a lot. Thankfully, she was in such a shambled state, she didn’t seem to notice that he had been crying as well. Sarah was a college student and a nice person – they had spoken many times in passing and in the laundry room on their floor. Something was wrong and Jeremy felt only the urge to comfort her or protect her.

“Jeremy,” she managed through choking sobs. “You were a cop, right? I need your help.”

Photo by madeleine ragsdale on Unsplash

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