Things That Go Bump
Ain't No Sunshine
Three days later, on an unseasonably cool and stormy May afternoon, Margaret MacEaver was interred to her final resting place. Among the mourners, all family or close friends, Alex was a gaunt, pale figure clad in solid black. Snoddy kept a comforting arm around his lover’s waist.
As the priest stepped off his platform, Alex reached into his pocket and pulled out his index cards. Since he was Princess’ best friend, he had been asked to deliver her eulogy. He mounted the platform, took a breath, and began to speak.
“Lamentations, chapter two, verses eleven through thirteen, and chapter five, verse fifteen.
“ 'My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out onto the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city.'
“ 'They say to their mothers, ‘Where is bread and wine?’ as they faint like wounded men in the streets of the city, as their lives ebb away in their mothers’ arms.'
“ 'What can I say for you? With what can I compare you, O Daughter of Jerusalem? To what can I liken you, so that I may comfort you, O Virgin Daughter of Zion? Your wound is as deep as the sea. Who can heal you?'
“ 'Joy is gone from our hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning.'
“Maggie was my best friend. We met when she defended me against a bully in preschool and became inseparable. All though elementary school, middle school, high school, and even college, we stuck together. We swore that no one would ever break us up. Even in the first grade, when our teachers moved our seats around, we would refuse to move unless we were near each other. Usually, by the first month in, we were no longer Alex Durecht and Maggie MacEaver, just AlexnMaggie.
“Under different circumstances, Maggie probably would have gone from my best friend, to my girlfriend, to my wife. Nature decreed that it not be that way, though, but Maggie stuck by me even after I came out to her. She even offered to beat up anyone who threatened me.” Alex couldn’t hold back the bittersweet smile that curled his lips.
“Losing Maggie was like having a hole ripped out of my heart, one that I’m not sure will ever heal. I won’t say that I’ll never forget her, because it’s pointless. You don’t forget half of your heart.” Alex’s voice broke as he began to cry, but he struggled on. “I will, however, say that I will try my hardest to see the beauty in everything, like she did, and keep her memory alive.” He abruptly turned and ran off the platform, sobbing softly. Snoddy enveloped him in his embrace and let him cry.
The rest of the funeral went by in a blur for Alex. He was vaguely aware of people consoling him for his loss and complimenting him for his strength.
/If I were strong, she would still be alive./
“Alex, you ready to go?”
Alex looked up, startled. “Yeah. I am.” He wiped the last few tears from his eyes. Snoddy pulled Alex into his arms again and held him tightly, kissing the top of his head.
“Excuse me,” a snide voice said. Alex and Snoddy pulled apart and looked at the speaker, an older man with a pencil behind his ear and a notepad in his hand.
“Yes?” Snoddy asked.
“I’m very sorry about the loss of your friend, but can you please keep your abominations behind closed doors where decent folks don’t have to see it? I’d appreciate it.”
Alex’s lips parted slightly and Snoddy’s heart sank. That was the first sign of a fresh sobbing attack.
“I’m very sorry you’re such an intolerant fool, but would you mind keeping your archaic opinions to yourself where open-minded people don’t have to hear it? Thanks.” Snoddy glared at the man, put his arm around Alex’s shoulders, and led him away.
Alex was silent for the duration of the car ride, tears sliding silently down his cheeks, hands twisting anxiously in his lap.
Once they arrived at the apartment complex, Snoddy leaned over and kissed Alex.
“Take care, angel,” he said quietly. “I’m just a phone call away.”
Just then, Alex’s cell phone rang. He fumbled it for a second before answering.
“Hello?” Snoddy couldn’t hear what was being said, but whatever it was, it didn’t make Alex happy. “What? No! You can’t—no! I won’t—No, Cowboy. I don’t care about me. Absolutely not.” With one violent movement, he hung up.
“What was that about?” Snoddy asked.
“Cowboy.” Alex snorted. “He wanted to take me off the case. Said I was too ‘personally involved.’”
“Maybe you are, baby,” Snoddy said cautiously. “I mean, she was your best friend—“
“I’m not gonna be pulled off!” Alex yelled. He turned and glared at Snoddy. “I gotta kill the bastard! What if it was me, James? What if I was the one lying cold in the ground? Would you be pulled off the case? Huh?”
Snoddy started. “I—“
“That’s all the answer I need. Thanks for the ride.” Alex quickly got out and slammed the door behind him.
Snoddy watched Alex go into the apartment and rubbed his arms, suddenly chilled. He had only seen the look in Alex’s eyes once before—in the second before Dominic pulled the trigger.
For the next few days, Alex didn’t come into work. He would call Jack and tell him where he was going, and Jack couldn’t help but notice the slight edge on his voice.
Snoddy let himself into Alex’s apartment the following and tossed his head, shaking the water from his hair. It seemed like it was always raining—there was never any sunshine anymore. He desperately needed to see if Alex was okay--the last time he had seen him, the blonde had been paler than usual, with dark smudges beneath his bloodshot aquamarine eyes, and he had been trembling so badly he could hardly stand.
“Alex?” he called. There was no response but a loud, shrill beep. Snoddy quickly located the source of the sound and saw Alex’s cell phone half-buried under a pile of clothes. He dug it out and saw that Alex had ten new voice mails. Curious, and feeling more than a little guilty, Snoddy began to listen.
“Hey, Alex. It’s James. Just wanted to say I love you.” *beep* There were a few more messages along these lines that he recalled sending. Message seven, however, proved to be very interesting.
“Alex sweetie, it’s Mom. You haven’t called and I was worried. I heard about Maggie’s death and I wanted to let you know you can always call me. I love you, sweetheart.” *beep*
“Alex, it’s Wednesday and I haven’t heard from you. Are you okay, honey? Call me back.” *beep*
“This is Simon Durecht at 559-1951. Your mother is getting worried. Please get in touch with one of us.” *beep*
“Alex . . . come home. Please come home. Please.” *beep*
“End of messages.”
/Where are you, angel?/ Snoddy wondered.
Suddenly, with crystal clarity, Snoddy heard Alex’s voice reading in a dull monotone.
“Samuel Matthew Edwards. Nickname is “Specs.” Born August 28, 1949. Died November 7, 1969. Parents are Jonathan and Catherine Edwards. Brother Andrew Edwards, deceased March 19, 1956. Attended Riverton High School, graduated salutatorian 1967. Attended College of William and Mary until death.” He paused. “Goodbye, Samuel.”
There was a gunshot.
~end part five~
Continue to part 6