Wrote in response to WD prompt: You wake up standing over a body with a bloody knife. Piece together what happened.
Death in the Dark
May 7, 2010
My eyes crack open. Even the dim light hurts, so I scrunch them closed, tight. I’m dizzy. I retch. I try my eyes again, better.
Standing up, the room spins a bit, forcing me back onto the floor. I lie near a wooden table, and right next to an overturned chair. On the floor, there’s a round thing a few feet away in the shadows. I hear very distant music, laughing, glasses clinking. But here I’m alone. There’s no feeling of immediate danger.
Close my eyes again, take stock. What’s my name? Jim. Good. Time to take a deep breath and go to my special relaxation place, but I can’t remember if it’s a place I’ve been or just imagined. Bad. Bile in my mouth; I gag and spit.
I open my eyes, see little. Patting down my body, there’s no major wounds or missing limbs. My head aches. Reaching back, there’s a large lump, with a bit of wet around it. Not good. Suddenly there’s a persistent vibration from my right hip, then it stops. Must be feeling my cell in its holster. Good.
I take the phone out, open it. I squint as the light burns my eyes. 12:15 am. One missed call. My last outgoing call went to voicemail at 12 am. I try to stand up again, but I’m still nauseated. Back to the floor. I start up the strobe in my cell phone camera. The light is blinding, but I quickly see that the round thing across the way is my ball cap. There’s a knife near my left hand, with blood around it. Picking it up, I can see it’s a large sheath knife, made of soft steel. I wouldn’t purchase anything that cheap. Ah, at least my long term memory is working. I kill the light when can’t bear it any longer.
Worn out, I lie back again and close my eyes. Okay, can you remember anything else? Yes, moved to New Orleans about 3 months ago due to a job transfer. Good. About a month ago I reported a chemical spill to the authorities after my employer wouldn’t. Good. Well, bad for my career. Costs them thousands per day until it gets cleaned up. Put on leave. This happened to another whistle-blower about a year ago who cost them millions; Conor’s still on leave. We’d met for drinks a few times, to share notes and drown our sorrows.
What else? One of my co-workers called yesterday. Wendy felt sorry for me, she did, and wanted to meet for a drink. We’d shared a double cubicle and she had been one of the bright spots in the relocation for me.
She recommended a cozy tourist spot on Bourbon Street, the home of the real pirate Jean Lafitte. Easy to find, it’s a place they’ve kept original, with unpainted wood siding, no electricity, and a rustic interior. A quiet piano bar, with candles in each room. Tours of the French Quarter gather here, with the tourists encouraged to spend money at the bar.
A latrine smell interrupts my thoughts. Whew, where is that coming from? I sit up, flash on the light, but don’t see anything. I hunch back down.
Recent events are coming back to me. I’d gone straight into an empty back room after getting a drink, to avoid the tourists. Wendy didn’t show up, and I tried to call her at midnight. The piano stopped; must have been his break. There was a creaking floorboard behind me, and the candle went out. Some thug walloped me pretty good.
I finally feel strong enough to stand up, for real. The smell is very strong now, and I want to vomit. I turn on the cell light again to find my way out. Off in the corner, I see a dark shadow. Using my light, I see it’s Conor. Blood has drained from a large chest wound. The pants are all stained and smelly. I retch over his body. How convenient – kill one enemy and frame the other for it?
The manager comes in with one of those wind proof super lighters to get the candle going. She sees me with the bloody knife leaning over the body, and screams.