"Are you sure you want to do this?" asked Frankie.
The one thing that bothered Nick about this comment was thefact that it was made with the disregard that he might haveactually thought things over before coming to this decision.Maybe he just had a hard time being treated as if he was stilla child, or maybe he just wanted the respect of his peers.
"Yeah." Nick kept his answers short and sweet. That's whatlife is about, he thought. It's to the point, no bullshit, justgo.
"I'm not your dad or anything," Frankie said, pausing beforehe continued. "But this isn't something that people would dojust on a whim. It's something that some people would neverdo."
The car that the two men rode in was silent for severalminutes after the comment. Each man seemed to be weighingthe effects of what was said. Nick itched to tell Frankie totake a deep breath and relax. After all, it was he not Frankiethat actually had to follow through with this bizarre plan.What was the point, Nick wondered? After he told Frankie,would it mean things would be all fine and dandy? Would thetwo change their conversation to something much morefriendly and blithe? It was best for him to just let Frankievent his concerns and then be on to his scheduledappointment.
"I could be an accomplice you know?" Frankie said.
"Only if I tell people that you were." Nick began to tirefrom the uncertainty. "Look, if it bothers you so much, pullover and get out of the car."
"It's my car!"
"If I get caught, I'll tell them I stole it."
"Oh, how convenient." Frankie said unamused. "You havethis thing all planned out, don't you?" "Yeah" Nick stated.
"Have you talked to Bonnie about this?"
"She doesn't need to know anything until it's over." Nickreplied keeping his gaze away from Frankie's eyes.
"She doesn't even know that you're doing this?" Frankieblurted in surprise.
"You know what she would say."
"She'd say you were crazy," Frankie replied, "and I'd saythat I'm beginning to think that maybe you are."
"You know what he did to her!" Nick said surprised at thedrastic change of heart by Frankie.
"So that makes you God?" Frankie stared out the frontwindow into the darkness of the night as he drove.
"Who said that Nicholas Rainier decided who would live ordie?"
"So pull the damn car over and get out if you think I'mwrong for doing this!" The testiness in Nick erupted.
"I think you're wrong for doing it....I guess." Frankie'sword came out slowly. "I can't blame you for thinking it,but actually doing it is another thing all together."
The headlights of the car hit a sign on the highway. HighlandPark-6 miles, it stated. Couldn't be too soon, Nick thought.Things would be different after it was all over, Frankiewould see. Things would be just as they were, before thequandary.
"I'm beginning to think you're right Nick." Frankie said outof the blue. "I think I'd better pull the car over."
The comment caught Nick by surprise. He looked at Frankiefor the first time that night. "Fine." Nick stated trying tosound unfazed.
The car slipped easily off to the side of the highway. Frankieput the car in park and turned to Nick. The two stared at oneanother, each calling the other's bluff.
"I really didn't think you were serious." Frankie said.
"I realize that now. What happens when you get caught?"
Nick remained quiet for a few seconds before he replied. "IfI get caught, I will probably go to jail."
"And that doesn't bother you?"
"No." Nick said confidently. "I know it has to be done."
"You don't know JACK!" Frankie screamed. "You'reinsane."
"Whatever." Nick said nonchalantly.
"I don't want any part of this!" Frankie cried. "I am gone,and so is my car. Get out!"
The idea that he was suddenly in jeopardy of failing hismission made Nick insane with rage. He'd planned everydetail of this night for months now, and this was not part ofit. He needed to be in Highland Park in no less than twentyminutes for things to still be followed through.
"Just drive me to the city." Nick said politely.
"No!" Frankie was pissed. "I can't believe you. When youfirst told me about this, I thought that you were kiddingaround. I figured you were just going to scare him."
"What's the point of that?" Nick stated. "People get scaredevery day. Does that mean that they change their ways? Doesit mean that he'd become a model citizen or a great lover?Fear is temporary. It's lost as easily as virginity."
"Then you're going to have to do this on your own." Frankiesaid trying to remain strong and calm.
Nick had been such a fool for believing that Frankie had thecourage to go through with things. He looked at the mannow, seeing the weak fool that had been so cleverly hiddennot even five minutes ago. Nick feared his scheme wasslipping away. All th e work he had done would not be invain he decided. The night of redemption had finallyarrived.
"Get out." Frankie repeated.
"No." Nick said. His defiance would be either his salvationor his undoer.
"Nick, get out."
"I said no. Just drive me to Highland Park and you can go."
"I don't want to fight with you over this." Frankie asserted."If you actually want to do this, it has to be on your own. Itwill be bad enough to see you on the news after this is overand know that I delivered you into the cataclysm."
"You didn't do anything." Nick said to state his case. "I justasked you for a ride, and you dropped me off not knowingwhat was going to happen."
"You've got every angle covered, don't you?"
"Yes." Nick uttered. "You have to know what you're doing."
"Screw knowing what you're doing! What about Bonnie?"
"She'll thank me later."
Frankie couldn't believe what he was listening to. "What,when you're in the electric chair? She'll walk up to you andsay ‘thanks a lot for everything you did'?"
"She may not know what to think at first.."
"She'll freak and be pissed off if she finds out it was you!"Frankie interrupted.
"She's better off..."
"You are really gone man!" Frankie cut in again. "You'vegot to get out of my car!"
This game began to tire Nick. He now had seventeen minutesto reach his destination and the time for this uselessdiscourse had come to its end. "Just drive." Nick articulated.
"Or what?" Frankie wondered.
"Don't do this Frankie."
"Do what? Try to slap some sense into you? Is that such acrime?"
"I don't have time for this." Nick maintained.
"You're such a hard-head Nicholas Rainier!" Grabbing thekeys from the ignition, Frankie opened his door and steppedfrom the vehicle.
"Frankie!" Nick called out. "Give me the keys." He leanedfrom the passenger's seat to the driver's side with his handout in anticipation. "Frankie, give me the keys."
Frankie had walked to the rear of the vehicle and stood withhis back to the car, arms crossed in front of him. He tappedhis foot nervously on the pavement in uncertainty of whatwould come next.
Taking the cue, Nick exited the auto and made his wayaround to the back of the car to face his friend. The two menstood silently staring at one another. Nick had his hand outwaiting for Frankie's offering of the keys. Frankie stoodoverwrought with confusion, tears forming at the corners ofhis eyes.
"It doesn't have to be like this." Nick conveyed. "All youhave to do is give me the keys. You don't have to do anotherthing. Just the keys." Nick's hand was still held out. Ityearned for the keys to be there so the rest of his body couldbe on it s way to the scheduled appointment.
"Because it has to be done. It's that simple."
"She doesn't love you anymore." Frankie told Nick. "Shemay not be happy, but she doesn't love you anymore."
The remark stung Nick. He hadn't anticipated that Frankiewould be this cruel. What did he know about love anyway?What did he know about Bonnie, or even Nick Rainier? Hewas just a weak man, cowering away from the truth. Thetruth was that Bonnie d id love him, and that she needed himnow more than ever. She was not strong enough to resolvethings on her own, and that is why she needed him. Howmany times had she called to tell him about her latestmisfortune? How many times had she cried on his shoulderfor the comfort that only he could give? Nick knew she stillloved him. What the hell did Frankie Bartalon know aboutlove? Nothing, that's what he knew, and Nick didn't have thetime or patience to inform him of the shortcoming.
"Last chance," Nick contended, "Give me the keys."
"Or what!" Frankie shouted.
A thread snapped inside of Nick. His hands clenched tight,his teeth grinding upon one another. Frankie had become theenemy, the obstruction that blocked the path to Nick's goal.The enemy can not win Nick concluded. Nick swung at theman. The blow caught Frankie off guard, shattering his noseon impact. Blood exploded from Frankie's nose, coveringNick's fist.
"Ahhhh," Frankie cried out in pain as he stumbled backwardbefore slipping to the ground. His hands went to his face,covering his nose as the blood continued to flow behind. Hebegan to sob pitifully, uncaring that he looked the part Nickhad made him out as.
"The keys." Nick asserted.
The man lied on the ground clutching his broken face failingto answer. Nick bent over and grabbed the keys fromFrankie's other hand. Looking down, Nick felt ashamed tohave once thought Frankie a true friend. True friends didn'task questions, with hold, or suppress anything from oneanother. This person lying on the ground deserved to die justas that scumbag Vincent did.
"You're pathetic." Nick said to the man. "You don'tunderstand that I have to save her. It's my calling." Turning,he quickly found the driver's seat and started theautomobile. He knew time was of the essence now. It was lessthan thirteen minutes before he must reach his destination orthe night might have been all for naught.
"Nick!" Frankie called one more time as he stumbled to hisfeet. Looking back, Nick saw Frankie standing with his handstill cupping his bloody nose. "Don't do this!"
"Piece of shit," Nick mumbled as he threw the car inreverse. The tires squealed on the pavement as the auto lurchbackwards. Nick saw Frankie's scared face in the rear-viewmirror just before the car made contact with the man. Thethud was barely aud ible over the roar of the engine. The carbounced as the body slide beneath one of the back tires, Nickgiving it more gas. The front of the car rose as Frankie'sframe reached the front tires. The auto slid easily past thebody, Nick backing up until he could see every gory detail inthe headlights. Frankie lay on the ground, his limbs sprawledto either side. Blood covered his body, his head rolling fromside to side in agony. It had to be nearing ten minutes nowNick thought as he slid the shifte r into drive, making noattempt to avoid the body as he proceeded to his calling.
The street signs flew by, Nick hardly noticing them as heconcentrated strictly on his mission. He had to be toSalvadori's restaurant by 11:00 to meet Vincent and the restof the plan would fall in place. It was all too convenient, thefact that he w alked home from his workplace, his homebeing only four blocks away. The route consisted of a darkalley that covered three of the blocks. This was to beVincent's last night employed at Salvadori's, planning onmoving out of state with ‘his' Bonnie to pursue a worthlessacting career. Bonnie had filled him in on all the juiceydetail, Nick understanding her concealed call for help. Whata tragedy it would be that Vincent would never get his bigchance at stardom. He would die mysteriously in a dark alleyas he made his way to the sanctuary of his home. ‘And on hislast day of work' the papers would read, ‘a route he hadcovered countless times during his two-year employment atSalvadori's'.
He could still make it, Nick deduced as he glanced at hiswatch. He had seven minutes until Vincent's shift ended. Allwas well.
The street lamps of the city came into view as he bounded ahill. He was close now. Reaching the city limits, the glare ofthe street lights hurt his eyes as he proceeded. Squinting, hethought of his plan. Arrive on time, park, shoot and leave. Itwas by no means elaborite, but it was a plan none the less.
Maybe killing wasn't his specialty, but helping a friend inneed was. How many times had he listened to Bonnie on thephone as she wept from the ugliness of the relationship withVincent? He was uncaring to her feelings, unlike Nick. Hehad cared ever so much for Bonnie during their relationship.Nick had lived and died for the word, the breath, the body,the mind, the everything that Bonnie had to offer. Notanother soul on this monstrous world could love her the wayhe had. Nick knew that Bonnie understood this. This waswhy she couldn't be happy with Vincent, or any man for thatfact. She just had a problem getting rid of these men. This,of course was were he came into the picture. He would helpher out, then and only then could they truly be togetheragain.
He halted the car at the end of the street. Nick watched outthe window, scrutinizing the rear entrance of Salvadori'srestaurant. Checking his watch, it was 10:58. He breathed asigh of relief, thinking he may have showed one minute late.What now h e wondered? Should he leave the car? Should hehide behind a corner in the alley in wait of his prey? It wasbest he wait in the car he decided, the door to the restaurantno more than forty yards from where he was positioned. Hewould leave as soon a s the man exited the building,overtaking him halfway down the dark alley. Yes, it wouldbe the best way to conduct this Nick concluded.
Nick sat in his car for twelve minutes (he counted them offas he sat waiting) past the hour. He began to wonder if hehad somehow missed Vincent's departure. The anger builtinside him, wishing he had not wasted that precious timewith Frankie as he f ought for the car keys. Indeed, hewished he had extra time to run the bastard over anothertime if he'd missed his calling.
"What now?" Nick asked aloud. "What now?"
His questions seemed to be answered as the rear door openedand a man appeared. Several other people clambered aroundthe doorway as the man made his way down the stairs. Thepeople waved their hands, the man waving back as he turnedhis back on them. Nick saw that it was Vincent. His heartjumped a beat in anticipation, the desire that had maybebegun to leave had come pouring back into Nick. He lickedhis lips as his hand reached for the door latch.
"Better late than never." Nick muttered, grabbing the gunthat was sitting on the passenger seat as he climbed out ofthe car. The street was silent as he made his way towards theman. The distinctive thud of Nick's heart pulsed in his head,all but dr owning out his footfall. Vincent disappeared fromNick's sight, but only briefly. Picking up his pace, Nickraced to the alleyway. There was Vincent, walking awayfrom Nick, unaware of the impending fate.
Withdrawing the gun he had slide into his jacket, he thoughtof how good it felt in his hand. The cold steel of the weapongave him confidence. He held it in front of him as hewalked, pointing it at the back of his intended victim. Theurge to just p ull the trigger and be over with it teemedinside Nick. Did he really need to see his face before he didthe deed? What was the point? After all, he was here foronly one reason. The thought had only occured as he pulledthe trigger. The shot rang ou t, the echo in the alley wasdistinct. The bullet struck Vincent in the shoulder. Hescreamed in shock as he reeled forward and fell to theground.
Was that it? Was it over, Nick wondered? He watched asVincent began to squirm on the ground, realizing his callinghad not yet been answered. Walking towards the man, Nickwas indifferent to Vincent's moans and pleas for mercy. Hesimply raised the g un and fired two more shot when he wasclose enough. One shot hit the man in the abdomen, the otherin the head. And then it was over.
He stared at the carcass for a few minutes, unaware therewas a person coming down the alley towards him. He wassimply admiring his work, the way he had just plainlyfulfilled his destiny. He had saved Bonnie from the monster,and soon, she would want to thank him. He would be waitingfor that day with baited breath. "Hey?" a voice called outfrom a distance.
Nick looked up in surprise. He saw a man about one hundredfeet from where he stood. He raised the gun and fired in thatdirection, his shot failing to find it's target. The manscrambled for cover, his screams bustling with fear. Nickran to where t he man had ducked behind a dumpster and sawhim cowering on the ground in the fetal position.
"Please don't kill me." the man pleaded.
"I saved her." Nick stated. "It was my calling." And withthat said, he raised the gun and fired a bullet into the skullof the man.
Nick released a heavy sigh as he watched the blood trickledown the front of this man's face from the bullet hole. It ranto the right side of his nose, playing briefly around his lipsbefore finding his chin. Nobody would stand in his way. Hewas on a mission, a mission of true love. Love....Nickthought about the word. It was Bonnie, she was his calling.He had saved her, he repeated to himself. She was free. Hewas overcome with the desire to let her know of her newfreedom. She would thank h im. He knew that. She had tothank him. He had intended to wait, but why? Shouldn't theybe together now? Wouldn't it be best for him to tell her thathe had answered her calling? She would thank him. Shewould love him again. He had to see her no w, to tell herhow he had saved her. She must know now, then they couldbe together again. Yes, she would love him like neverbefore.
It was almost 12:00. Where was Vincent, Bonnie wondered?There had been times she had wondered why she even stayedtogether with him. She had never actually stayed in arelationship for more than thirteen month. She and Vincenthad just reached their two year anniversary, a milestone byany means. Was it that she just felt that something extra forthis man, or just that she had turned twenty eight and wasfeeling the need to settle down? Maybe a little of both,maybe neither. It was probably becau se she felt love forVincent, but doubted the fact that she was actually in lovewith him. Could he ever genuinely meet the expectations shehad? In the long run, was there ever a relationship, straightor gay, that left both partners feeling totally co ntent?Bonnie doubted there was, but it was quite possibly just herown high expectations that always seemed to get dashed. Shehad tried to learn to settle for imperfection, hoping that thegood would outweigh the bad in the end. It's not that Vincentdidn't try to be the daring, compassionate and understandingperson she asked for, he was younger than her and hencemore immature. He often forgot, or felt that he needn'tcommunicate his love to her. Bonnie needed the reassurance,the self-gratifying approval that she was appreciated.Vincent was wrapped in himself the majority of the time,forgetting to pontificate his emotions. He was alsoinconsiderate to her at times. Those forgetful times he hadnot called to let her know he was alright and h aving a beerwith his friend had prompted Bonnie to believe he was deadin some gutter. It was the proper response she told herself,considering that he had said he'd call and then he did not.This was one of those time, as he was already an hour past his shift end, and there was still no sign of him. She wouldnot worry, Bonnie forced herself to believe. He would showup and tell her that his co-workers had persuaded him to stayfor a few last drinks. ‘How could he refuse', she alreadyheard the arg ument in her head, ‘it was after my last day atwork'. The enacted discussion fueled her all that much more.She would not leave for California with this man if he didnot clean up his act and start to think of her more often.
Sitting on the bed, Bonnie looked at herself in the mirror onthe back of the bedroom door. She felt old. The lines hadbegun to take form at the corners of her mouth and the edgesof her eyes. She plucked the grey hairs from her scalpalmost on a dai ly basis. Her green eyes had once shown witha brilliance, the sands of time seeming to dull their radiance.Parts of her body had begun to gradually decline from hardand perky to soft and wavering. It hadn't been long ago thatshe was proud of her ap pearance. Looking at herself sittingon the edge of the bed, she wondered how she had arrived atthis current condition, unhappy and uncertain. She'd alwaysbeen so full of life, always longing for the next breath, thenext second and now she fluctuated from content todespondent in a heartbeat. Bonnie remembered those earlydays all to well. They came back to her more regularly now.It was a sign she must move on, or this is what she hadalways believed in the past. As soon as a person afflicted th ewill of your life, it was time get out. This was why she hadnot ever been capable of truly committing in a relationship.Maybe this was true, she thought almost proud of herself forbeing able to deduce her own enigma. She had never givenlife with another person a chance, fleeing at the first signsof unhappiness or discontentment. Bonnie knew that she wasprobably just as much to blame for the lack ofcommunication. Her strong will prevented Bonnie fromconfronting a problem that she could not so lve on her own.She tried to stop herself from weeping, but the tears came inabundance . All this deduction of weather to stay or go hadbrought no solution. The empty answer left her destituteinside. Bonnie had no idea of weather she should leave w ithVincent for California or not. Suddenly glad that he hadfailed to show on time, Bonnie turned over the questions yetagain as she cried shamelessly for enlightenment.
Did she actually believe that she could go through with theplans that Vincent had mapped out for the two of them?Whatever she decided, Bonnie knew she had to stick with thedecision, there had to be no middle ground. It was leaveVincent forever or g o on with him and act fortuitous. Thechoices perplexed Bonnie, knowing she had suddenly beenthrust into making a decision that could inevitably affect herlife forever.
. Bonnie's trial with her life had reached a new extreme. Shewas in desperate need of a joint to calm her nerves.Vincent's stash, which he probably thought was undisclosedto Bonnie, was nearly destitute. There was only oneremaining, Bonnie happil y disregarded the idea he may beupset that she had drained the cache. As she lit up, shewatched the flame as it licked the end of the joint. It dancedplayfully around the sides of the paper, carefully scaring itblack as it did so. This is what has happened to me, Bonniethought. Each relationship has burned me, blackened me andmade me into the ghastly figure that I now only reside insideof. Over time I have become less and less of a human. Myperson has left the husk of flesh, abandoned it and left it torot. The revelation hit her by surprise. Bonnie knew if shewas to save even a piece of what remained of her essence,she had to be away. She would sit and wait the arrival ofVincent before the final verdict was made. ‘Yes, that wasbest' , she thought to herself as she turned her gaze from themirror, unable to look even a moment longer at herself.
The gun no longer felt as reassuring in Nick's hand as hemade his way down the streets of Highland Park. He hadforsaken the idea of returning to the car, believing he wasbest of on foot, and away from the scene without having toback-track and risk b eing spotted or captured. Nickunderstood the fact that he had killed two people, but it wasfor good reason he reminded himself. Murderers went tojail, and he would not chance being mistaken for one. He wasa savior, a redeemer or even an angel, neve r a ‘Murderer'.There would be no person that understood that except forBonnie. He would be a monster in the eyes of all others, andhe didn't need to be delayed his benediction with Bonnie.
Nick made his way down Fourth avenue, deciding it was bestto pocket the hand-gun as he walked along. His thoughtspressed on to the moment when Bonnie would tell him howmuch he meant to her and how grateful she was that he hadcome through for her. T he incident in the alley had all butfaded from his mind. Another step taken meant he wasanother step closer to Bonnie. Another house passed left himmore eager to pass the next. The next corner turnedsignified the last corner on his route to his des tination. Itinspired Nick to quicken his pace, anxious to be done withthe insipid tour.
At last the house was in sight. Nick saw the two-story from adistance, still wondering why Bonnie had moved in withVincent in such a drab dwelling. It looked old, the paintpeeling severely in several places, the shrubs over-grown toalmost roof heig ht and the lawn showing spots of decay andneglect. The closer he became, the more he saw how thehome had succumbed to the years. The porch steps had begunto chip and crack, the sidewalk also had begun to break andthe driveway was in Nick's speculati on impassable. Theboards on the front porch had begun to warp so severally insome spots that it was evident from the street. There weretwo windows on the front of the house that had boardscovering them, presumably from breakage. It was an eyesore to Nick, proof to him that he had done the right thing.He would walk to the front door and tell Bonnie he had cometo save her from this Hell. That would be when she wouldthank him, and they would be together of course.