Picture Perfect 131
The shower stopped.
Dan gasped. Was he hearing things in the silent house? He stood at the foot of the stairs listening intently. There was no sound other than traffic noise from the street outside. A car starting.
He went up the stairs slowly lest his footsteps made the steps creak. At the top he peered into the dark. He took a deep breath. There wasn’t the smell of a shower, no humidity in the air. He turned on the hall light. The glare made the empty space even emptier.
He went into the bathroom. The shower was dry. There was no water on the tiles or on the floor around it.
He sagged against the wall. So this is grief, he thought. The house had to be empty before he could feel it.
“What’s keeping you, sir?”
The whisper came from the second bedroom. It wasn’t Peter. It was vaguely familiar though.
“Who’s there?” Dan said. “I know it isn’t Peter.”
“That’s right, sir.” The voice said in a normal pitch. “That’s fucking right.”
A man rushed out of the dark & pushed Dan off balance & down the stairs.
“Back to you, Danny boy.”
As he lost his balance Dan grabbed the stair railing to keep himself upright. The force of the shove wrenched his shoulder as he clutched the rail. Punches struck the back of his head, his arm as the man tried to get Dan to let go. Dan’s RCMP training kicked in as he sagged forward slightly then pushed himself upright momentarily distancing himself from his attacker. He took a step down & swung himself over the railing onto the living room floor.
He reached for his shoulder bag by the front door but his attacker grabbed him from behind. They fell to the floor. Dan tried to elbow the man on his back in the stomach but there wasn’t enough leverage. He took a deep breath & pushed up with his right arm. His attacker slid off his back & Dan quickly rolled so that he was on top of the man.
“John!” He finally saw the face of his assailant. “What the fuck!” It was John Kilpatrick.
Dan blocked John’s left hand as it swung up at him.
“Don’t act so surprised Mr. James.” John grabbed Dan’s hair with his other hand & yanked hard.
Dan fell back & scrambled to his feet. As John got up Dan hit him in the jaw with the side of his forearm & darted back toward the kitchen.
“You can’t be this sore about the show? Me winning that stupid award? What?” Dan shouted as John backed him to the kitchen counter.
“The two things I loved the most in my life you’ve taken away from me. You didn’t realize that did you? Not that you cared anyway. When your …. whatever he was …. fuck toy was killed I thought that was good. I laughed. That’s right I laughed.”
“What two things?”
“My career & …. Octavio.” John began to cry.
“Octavio? Who the fuck is …. Roberto!”
“That’s right you stupid, self-centred asshole.” He grabbed Dan by the shoulders & banged his head again the cupboard doors.
“If you hadn’t switched cars he’d still be alive.”
“He was …”
“I rescued him while I was covering the revolution in San Costa. The gorillas taught me a lot during the months I was with them. You didn’t know that, did you?”
“Yeah, but I didn’t set the timer right. But that’s all the past. You’ll be the past soon too. Both of us.” He head butted Dan.
Dazed Dan sank to the floor.
John fumbled with the knobs on the stove, turning the gas on full. Listening for the gas to hiss he pulled a lighter out of his pocket.
Dan shook his head & pulled himself to to his feet. He started laughing.
“What’s so funny?” John said.
“Gas.” Dan took a breath & stepped back away from John & the stove. “I had it turned off yesterday. The law you know, empty house can’t have live gas feed.”
He yanked out one of the drawers & swung it hitting John.
“Good thing I never had these replaced.” He said as John collapsed to the floor.
He waited a few minutes for John to get up to continue the battle. When he didn’t, Dan stooped to check his pulse. John was still alive.
Dan leaned against the counter to catch his breath. He wiped at the sweat that was dripping into his eyes to discover that it was blood. He was afraid to take his eyes off John lest he come to. He tried to recall if the alarm system had voice activation. Had he set it before he went upstairs? There was a trigger at the kitchen door that opened to the garage.
Keeping John in view he took the few steps to the door & pressed the alert button on the alarm panel. It would send a signal to the security firm. The garage door was still wide open after the moving van had departed. Was that how John was able to get in? He turned the garage light on to alert the security that would arrive to come that way.
John remained still on the floor. Dan longed to go the front door to grab his shoulder bag with his phone in it but was afraid that if he lost visual contact with John that John would either disappear like the villain in all slasher movies or he would resurrect to attack him again.
He didn’t breath easy until he heard a car pull up & the doors slam as someone got out.
“Stickler Security.” A female called out. “Mr. James? Is there a problem?” She & another guard walked into the garage.
An hour later Dan was sitting on the stairway as an EMS medic wiped the blood off his face. A policeman askied him about the attack.
“I checked the bathroom & that shower hasn’t been used recently.” The officer said.
“I told you it was dry when I went up to check it. That’s when John, Mr. Kilpatrick jumped out to push me down the stairs.”
“Right. How do you ….”
The officer was interrupted by shouts from outside where another officer was questioning John by the EMS vehicle.
“I want him arrested.” John was yelling. “He attacked me for no reason at all. No reason. I’m calling my lawyer.”
The officer talking with Dan raised his eyebrows. “You see Mr. James, we have two different stories about what happened.”
The medic applied some disinfectant on Dan’s forehead.
“You’ll need stitches, sir. That’s a nasty cut. There’ll be a scar.”
“Thanks.” More than anything Dan wanted to be alone to gather his thoughts. He went over the sequence of the attack, trying to recall what John had said.
“Ask him about Octavio.” He told the officer.
“Octavio? Who is Octavio?”
Just then they both heard the shower go on.
“What the … ” The officer said. “Who is up there?” He stomped up the stairs. He was gone a few minutes & came back down with a small portable speaker dangling at the end of a nylon cord loop. It was still playing the sound of a shower.
“This was hanging on the back of the bathroom door.” He said.
“It’s a wireless puck speaker.” Dan said. “We sell them at the Depot. He must have set it off now when he used his cellphone.”