It was five o’clock in the evening and already the hazy October sun hung low in the sky behind her. It’s death rattle sent beams of purple light through the corridors of streets between the gray grid of skyscrapers and washed the rough surface of Lake Michigan in a thick haze of melancholy.
She was naked, standing two hundred and fifty feet off the pavement behind a sheet of glass that stretched from her bare toes to well over her head. It was warm and cozy in here and she felt more at home than she had in years. Of course, she wasn’t at home. She wasn’t anywhere near home. The home she was in belonged to her… her what? They had never put a name on it. Boyfriend sounded childish. She was not a child, and neither was he. She turned the idea over in her head for a while then let it drift away.
He was still in the bed floating halfway between sleep and consciousness and mumbling incoherently to himself. She stared at him smiling, feeling something she never expected. She walked over and sat on the bed gazing at him wondering how long this feeling could last.
She lifted a soft pack of cigarettes off the night stand and tapped one out of the torn foil on top. It was slightly crooked and she straightened it out a bit before resting it gently between her lips. She spun the wheel on a small pink Bic lighter and brought the tiny flame to he face. She took two short puffs, then one nice long drag.
She liked to smoke, and she didn’t feel bad about it in the least. The rest of the world had turned against her on this, but she was unapologetic. She like the sinewy taste, the tight gripping feeling in her chest, and yes, even the dirty oily smell of it. She loved that first long drag pulled between the teeth and held just a little extra in the lungs. She loved letting it go and watching that purple smoke cut through the air and fill the room in a dense haze. She loved smoking, and more than that, she loved smoking after sex.
She loved him too. That was the reason for her unrest now. He was hovering lazily in a place of comfortable twilight, but she was wide awake and her mind was running a mile a minute. She had just realized that she loved this man, and she was on the endorphin high of that epiphany.
She hadn’t told him yet of course. She hadn’t even said it out loud to herself, but she was sure he felt it too. The way they had been just now, the way they fit together, it had never been like that before. Not ever. Not with anyone, except maybe, well it didn’t matter now. Finally nothing mattered except him and her.
She put out the cigarette and climbed on top of him, straddling his waist and running her fingers through his hair. She leaned down and bit his earlobe playfully, then kissed his mouth.
“Mm, you smell like smoke,” he said.
“I know,” she said softly.
“Are you heading out?” he asked.
“No,” she said.
He opened his eyes and stretched. he looked at his wristwatch still strapped on his arm and sighed.
“Okay,” he said.
She smiled warmly at him.
“We should get married,” she said.
It was the sounds that woke her. Knocking first, then pounding and shouting. They pulled her out of a dreamless sleep like a bolt of lightning waking Frankenstein’s Monster. She sat bolt upright and air crashed into her lungs like waves on a rocky shore. She was lost, confused, and panicky for understanding. She was alone, her head throbbing and her body ached like she had gone ten rounds with a Mack truck.
Where was she? The room was small, but surprisingly opulent. Expensive looking furniture in deep leathers and woods. It was warm with delicious savory aromas in the air. The lighting was low, almost romantic and there was the soft crackle of a fire somewhere in another room. All this, yet she was on the floor.
She focused on her breathing, slowing it down, calming her heart rate and gaining some control of her senses. She touched her face and found it tender and sore. Her hands, too, were bruised on the knuckles and-
Her breath stopped.
Her hands were smeared with blood.
Blood, fresh and red on her fingers and palms. On her wrists too, and up onto-
Her arms. They had blood on them, and they were bare. She looked down. Her chest her whole body. She had no clothes on. She was naked and she was covered in blood.
She stood like a jackknife to unsteady legs and found herself standing in a smear of sticky crimson fluid. In front of it, pressed perfectly into the white carpet were a path of tiny red footprints.
Again there was the pounding, muffled and distant, and the voices shouting words she couldn’t understand. She scanned the space trying to find something to grasp hold of, some small detail to remind her where she was and why. She looked for her clothes, but didn’t see them anywhere. The only thing she could see was the red footprints leading directly to where she had just woken up.
She looked to the left and gazed out a huge floor to ceiling window with a perfect view of the city skyline reflected off the choppy waters of Lake Michigan. The voices continued, the pounding too, but they seemed foggy and dreamlike and her attention was drawn back to the footprints. The bloody footprints in the pristine white carpet leading right to her, covered in blood herself. She couldn’t help it, she had to follow them.
As she walked her sore bare feet left a perfectly matching set of stamps in the ground, each growing lighter and pinker step by step. She walked through a doorway into what was clearly the bedroom and choked on her own breath. She fell to her knees and caught the corner of the bed with her arms. She gripped it desperately trying to make her body breathe again as she stared at the wide ugly splatter of thick dripping blood on the virgin wall of the bedroom.
She hung there, gripping the sheets of the bed, feeling herself beginning to lose her grip on reality. She stared at the wall feeling the water fill her eyes and her muscles letting go of the bed. She felt herself break and the tears came crashing out of her eyes like from breaking levees. She fell to her hand and sobbed, panting and choking and trying not to let herself pass out. She felt her stomach turning over and fought the urge to vomit.
She closed her eyes and gulped down the warm pleasantly scented air and tried to bring herself back to center. Each breath seemed like and eternity and when she felt as though she may have lived her whole life over again, there on her hands and knees in a place she didn’t know, she gritted her teeth and opened her eyes again. In front of her, just inches away, lay a small black gun.
She’d seen guns before. On TV and in movies, but never in person, and never this close. She didn’t know why, and in retrospect it would seem obviously foolish, but she reached out and picked it up. It was heavier than she expected, and cold. It felt hard and solid in her hand. She wrapped her fingers tight around the grip and trigger and looked at it in her hand.
The next crash was different. It was louder and closer and broke through the dense fog of her trauma. It was the sound of an explosion. Not a bomb, but an object. A table crashing or… a door. The voices were louder too, inside the apartment now, just a room away. They were curt and authoritative, and they were moving. They were calling out, moving room to room, shouting for someone. They were calling a name, a name she remembered.
“Mr. Grayson?” they shouted.
She found her breath. Her heart slowed down. The fog in her mind cleared and the night came back to her. She knew where she was, and she knew she was in trouble. She stood up, still gripping the pistol uncousiously.
“Hello? Mr. Grayson? Are you here?”
Her mind went into a frenzied panic mode. Mr. Grayson. She had come to see Grayson. She had come to see-
In the doorway stood a uniformed police officer with his gun drawn and pointed at her chest.
“Put the gun down ma’am.”
She stared at him without understanding.
“Lady, drop the gun,” a new voice said and a second officer came through the door.
“What?” she said.
“Drop the fucking gun lady!”
A third officer appeared behind the first two and she lifted her eyes to meet his. As she did the first cop charged her and tackled her hard onto the bed. The gun dropped to the floor with a mechanical thud and there were sounds of the other officers entering the room.
“What’s your name lady?” came from the cop on top of her as he turned her over on her chest and pulled her hands behind her. “Whos blood is that? Where is Grason?”
She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t move. Most of all, she couldn’t speak. She laid there, under the officer as he wratcheted steel bracelets around her wrists and tried to understand what was going on.
“I found him,” one voice said.
“He’s dead,” came back in a flat, matter of fact tone. “GSW to the head.”
“Lady, what’s your fucking name?”
She started to cry again. She was wailing silently, dry heaving into the mattress. She felt her head get light and the room start to spin.
“Goddammit lady, what’s yo-”
“I found a purse!”
“Lady, is this yours? Lady? Hey, we’re going to search your purse now, okay?”
She heard the sound of the contents of her purse being dumped on the bed next to her.
“Hold on, yeah. Here it is. I.D. says her name is Rose. Weather Rose.”
“Ms. Rose,” came from the man on top of her. You are under arrest for the murder of U.S. Attorney Brandon Grayson. You have the right to remain-”
Everything went black.