I sit up in shock. Alex is on top of him. His knife goes flying in the air and hits the cement with a clink. I jump to my feet and retrieve it. I stare at my own blood dripping from the blade. Alex is strangling him with all his might. Steve struggles against the angry teenager, but he is losing strength. The element of surprise worked in Alex’s favour.
“Let me finish him,” I say.
Alex looks up at me with red eyes. He does not lessen his grip on Steve’s neck.
“Why the fuck are you helping me?” he shouts.
“Let me kill him! You don’t want this on your record. My life is already tarnished. Let me take the fall.”
Alex growls and releases Steve. I stand over the light-headed Steve, who is practically unconscious. I slit his throat with my knife then stab his heart with his. I feel nothing as I drop the weapons and walk away from him.
Alex is gaping at me.
“You didn’t answer me,” he says. “Why did you help me?”
“I didn’t want you to die.”
He squints as tears stream down his ruddy face. “You killed Brad! My innocent brother. Why did you do that?”
Steve must have told him I did it. The terrible ache returns to my chest and stomach. I killed someone who didn’t deserve to die, someone who just wanted to help me. Well, maybe that was a lie. Brad was probably trying to get me to have sex with him, but he was not a bad person. He deserves to be alive right now.
I can’t answer Alex’s question, because I am unable to speak. A painful lump has formed in my throat.
Alex bends over as he lets out a guttural cry. It is the kind of sound that makes your blood want to curdle.
“I know I am a horrible person, Alex, but your brother’s death will haunt me forever.”
He shakes his head at me. “It will haunt you forever? I don’t give a fuck. You’re insane! I should kill you. Brad is gone because of you! What kind of person kills just for the hell of it? I could scalp you right now and dig out your brains while you’re still breathing.”
I cross my arms and glance back at the knives resting close to Steve’s corpse. “I’d understand if you tried, but I won’t let you do it.”
I slowly step away from him. He doesn’t follow me as I go back to my car. I can sense him wrestling with the desire to have a go at me, but he restrains himself. He possesses a natural kindness that I will never know. I take a wad of cash from the money bag in the car.
Hero barks at me from the passenger seat. I quickly shut the door and walk back to Alex.
“What the hell is this?” he asks, visibly trembling.
“I know this doesn’t erase what I’ve done, but I want you to have this. It’s twenty thousand dollars.”
He backs away. “I don’t want your dirty money, bitch. I want to see your head roll off your body so I can dissect it!”
The grief in his eyes. It is horrifying. I can see that nothing can comfort him, not even a sum of money that could lift him out of poverty for a short time.
“I know you want me dead, but wouldn’t it be better if you had this money? Take it, get yourself a good place to live far away from here or put it into a college fund. It’s yours.”
“This is all about appeasing your damned conscience, isn’t it?” he spits. “Nothing is ever going to erase what you did to Brad! You are sick in the head. The only thing that can help you is the electric chair.”
I sigh deeply. My patience is waning.
“I want you to have the money. Please, take it off my hands.”
He clenches his fists. He wants to hurt me, but he won’t.
“I hope you die very soon,” he says with a hoarse voice.
“I know you do.”
“This is still a joke to you, isn’t it?” he shouts. “Do you understand how alone I am now that he’s gone? Brad is the only family I have. You took him away from me! If your soul burns in hell forever, it still won’t be a just punishment for what you’ve done. I swear to God! I hope that the worst things happen to you in this life.”
“Maybe they already have.”
He balls a fist and nearly lifts his arm to sock me in the face, but he stops himself. “Yeah? Good. You deserved it,” he says between clenched teeth.
My chest constricts. I felt sadness like him once when I was too small to understand the sick things that were happening to me. Unable to fight back the lake of tears I held back for decades, I fall to the cement. A sob explodes from deep within me and I start to weep. I can’t stop. I lie on the pavement in emotional agony as Alex stares down at me.
“Will you ever kill again?” he asks.
I shake my head. “Never again.”
“If I see your face after this, I will kill you.”
I nod. “Why did you go after Steve when he was about to kill me?”
“He’s the most threatening of the two of you. No offence. I wanted to eliminate him and then have a go at you if I could, but you didn’t run when you had the chance. You stayed and helped me.”
“I didn’t want to see you get hurt, Alex.”
He shudders then takes the twenty thousand dollars cash from me and walks away. Maybe he’s a bit rougher around the edges than his older brother, but he will never be a murderer like me. He tries to do the right thing no matter how shitty he feels.
I force myself to stand, draw in a shaky breath, and rush back to my car. I look over my shoulder at Steve lying dead on the pavement and at Alex walking away with the money. I feel sick enough to vomit; I lean against the vehicle to get my bearings. I close my eyes and Brad’s face appears. His sad brown eyes and vengeful smirk torment me. If only some part of his soul could still be alive and aware of the impact he has had on me. His kind face in my mind’s eye is still so vivid. I wish I could touch him and tell him how much I want to do things differently.
“I am so sorry for what I did to you, Brad. If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t have killed you. I would let you live.”
He fades away until darkness takes his place. I open my eyes again and look up. The sky is blue and I am empty.
I get into my car and drive away with Hero at my side. I have no idea where I’m going to go, but I know that I will never kill anyone again. I gave my word to Alex and I have Brad to thank for that. His kindness stretched beyond the grave and stirred something inside of me that I didn’t realize I had.
Loud sirens sound above my thoughts. I don’t bother to look at the bright flashing lights in the rear-view mirror as I step on the gas.
Thank you so much to everyone who read my novel, Marie! I hope you enjoyed this wild tale as much as I enjoyed writing it. 🙂