“Beth, why haven’t you answered my calls?”
Bethany stands looking as though she’s unsure of herself. She’s about to speak, but doesn’t know what to say. Just as she parts her lips, she notices that he has a pistol tucked in his trousers.
He notices her eying the gleaming steel. He draws the weapon from his pants and looks at it. “I don’t know why I brought this. It really doesn’t seem necessary, does it?” He begins examining the gun as if it’s something foreign to him. As if in some transient state, slightly detached from the reality of the situation.
Bethany can’t take her eyes off of the gun. Juniper runs into the foyer. Her pace is abruptly halted when she sees the gun. “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!?!”
He points the gun at Juniper, startled by her presence.
“NO!” Bethany yells, grabbing Juniper and attempting to shield her. They embrace each other, feeling helpless.
Realizing it’s Juniper, he gives her a unintentional grin. “What? Do you think I’m really going to hurt her? I love her!” He shifts his focus to Bethany. “I love you, Beth,” he whispers with pleading eyes. Noticing that neither of them have taken their eyes off the pistol, he tries to make light of the situation.
“This thing isn’t even loaded,” he assures them as he turns the gun on himself. “See.”
Gunfire reverberates through the foyer and a warm body collapses to the floor.
Time seems to have flashed forward, yet moves ever so slowly. The place is not occupied by police and the media. Beth stays crouched beside her abuser who has once again managed to make himself appear the victim. Paramedics move in to assist. Juniper stands staring at her in disbelief, wondering what kind of fool’s love or drugs she could possibly have gotten into to care so much for that man. Her thoughts are interrupted.
“Ma’am, I know this might be difficult for you, but we need you to try your best to explain what happened while it’s fresh on your mind.” A female officer places a blanket over Juniper’s shoulders and walks her toward the meeting room, where she takes a seat. She’s shivering with terror but trying her best to control her body movements. The meeting room once full of angry tension is now weighed with sorrow and disbelief. Some others remain present and are also answering questions while talking amongst each other. The officer offers her a tissue.
“This maniac just came in here and tried to get her to leave in front of all of us. He’s been beating her for most their relationship. But I can’t believe the nerve of this idiot.” Juniper sniffs and tries to hold back the tears that are forming. “I tried to get her to leave him, but she wouldn’t. She kept going back.”
“The two of you are friends?”
“Yes. Most of my life, since like second grade or something.” The tears flow endlessly now.
Another officer interrupts and whispers to the officer interviewing Juniper. Almost simultaneously, a scream can be heard from the foyer, startling Juniper. She turns around in her chair. “What’s happening?”
“The man involved has just died,” the officer answers while jotting down notes. “Self-inflicted gunshot wound point blank range to the head. Not many survive those.” The officer hands her a card. “If you have questions, you can give me a call. And of course, if we need any additional information I’ll be in touch.”
Juniper takes the card and the officer leaves. She rushes back to where Bethany is kneeled in the foyer and envelops her in an embrace as the paramedics hoist the body onto the gurney and proceed to exit the premises. Bethany is crying and rocking back and forth. “No, Jun. I never wanted this to happen,” she quietly sobs in a disillusioned hysteria. “I just wanted him to get some help. I didn’t want him to…to die.”
Juniper wishes she could offer some consolation, but the moment he flashed the pistol keeps replaying in her mind. The only thoughts she has are that she’s glad he killed himself and didn’t injure her, Bethany or anyone else for that matter. As painful as this moment is for Beth, it’s finally over. He’ll never beat her again.
A tall, well-dressed statuesque gentleman is being accompanied inside the building by an officer and another gentleman dressed in business attire. Juniper is distracted, still hoping to get a chance to speak with the owner of the building or some city official. The gentleman is being brought up to speed by the officer regarding the course of events. Juniper tunes in to their conversation.
“…and apparently the man 86ed himself because of some disagreement with a young lady that was attending the tenants meeting,” the officer concludes.
“But she doesn’t reside in this building?”
“No, sir. She’s friends with one of the tenants.”
“Look, we’ve got a pretty decent deal going on this property. What can we do to minimize the press on this? I don’t want to jeopardize these negotiations.”
“Not much can be done, now. As you can pretty much tell, the press are already all over it.” The officer motions toward the people taking pictures that are with the newspapers and some camera crew setting up to do a live feed. He reaches in his pocket and pulls out a card. “If you have questions, you can call the station. If you’ll excuse me.” The officer nods and resumes conversing with other law enforcement personnel.
“Well if they wanted to save the building, this certainly isn’t the right way to go about it. This has not only potentially ruined our plans, but put a dent in the crime rate and added another thorn to our statistics. We haven’t had a violent crime in this area in quite a few years.” The tall, well-dressed gentleman turns toward the other beside him. They look around seemingly disgusted and puzzled at the same time. A teenager bumps into them trying to squeeze by. She’s chatting nonstop on her cellular.
“…and how about some dude shows up trying to get his girlfriend to leave in front of everybody. She doesn’t at first, but then runs out behind him after he finally decides to go. Then her friend runs out after her. And girl the man end up blowing his brains out in the foyer. I mean, what kind of mess is this? It’s like some crap you’d see on tv. There’s police all over the place. Folks with the newspapers and from the news askin’ questions and stuff. Ooo, what if they shut the building down and I get to move back home with daddy…” Valissa strolls beside the refreshment table and reaches past two ladies to get herself another appetizer. “Hmm. These things are good.”
“Thank you,” Alesandra gives a weak smile and watches the teenager make way to a seat beside a woman she assumes is her mother.
“Why did something like this have to happen today? I had a surprise for you,” Tish scoffs.
“And just what kind of surprise is that?” Alesandra inquires while beginning to pack up the serving trays.
Tish reaches in her messenger bag and pulls out a flyer, holding it visibly in front of her chest. “Ta Da!”
“”The Epicurean fine cuisine and pastry,’” Alesandra reads. “What is this about?” She takes the flyer and continues reading over it.
“I was going to help you get paid, girl,” Tish squeals. “You’ve been getting called upon quite often to do these little favors, and it’s time you started raking in some dollars. After all, this is your chosen profession.”
“Tish,” Alesandra glares at her. “Let me put you on pause there for a second. My plate is full just trying to finish school. I can’t tag on any additional weight right now. I’m focused on finishing so I can get on at –“
“Ok, let me stop you right there because you’re not making sense. Aren’t you taking time to do these favors anyway despite all that you have on your plate trying to finish school?”
Alesandra hesitates for a moment in thought. “Yeah…” she slowly utters.
“All you’ll be doing is getting paid for what you’re already volunteering to do.” Tish’s argument is reasonably sound. “We could start by hitting this guy’s family up to do the food at the repass.”
Alesandra stares blankly at Tish. “Sometimes I really can’t believe you’re my sister.” Her eyes catch a glimpse of an elderly lady walking behind her.
Geneva barely can make her way to the foyer because there’s so much commotion. The few moments she spent watching were more than just to satisfy her own curiosity. It had occurred to her that an officer might want to speak with her. She had a bird’s eye view of everything from the back where she was seated. At first she thought nothing of the gentleman that leaned against the doorway. He looked a little rough. Had a five o’clock shadow and bloodshot eyes. Geneva figured he was just hung over or something. These young people these days party hard like the world’s coming to an end. And, she’d never seen him in the building before, but then again she’d not recognized most of the other tenants. On second thought, he did have a strange kind of wild look in his eyes as he scanned the crowd. Oh, but what’s an old woman like Geneva know about strange looking men. Just about every generation is full of strange looks to her nowadays. No one asked her any questions. And from what she could gather, the young man probably didn’t survive. So it probably wasn’t necessary to get any additional information.
It certainly would be a dreadful misfortune if she’s forced to find another building. It took quite a while to find a place that could accommodate her fixed income. With all the prices going up it would be too difficult and too much of a financial strain to start all over again. She laughs to herself. It’s funny how the citizens can become an inconvenience to the city in the name of progress. She pauses and takes notice of the people buzzing around, then looks up the stairs. These cruel stairs. So steep for an old woman to have to climb. The elevator hasn’t worked since she’s lived here. Then she thinks about Quincy. If he calls, she’d have something to talk to him about. He’s sure to see the story on the evening news. Just as she’s about to begin her climb a woman eases past her, a teenager walking alongside.
“So, how about we move back to the west side. We don’t have to live that close to daddy. And I can go to that other school if you don’t want me back at the Academy.”
“And have you reunite with those hoodlums? Absolutely not. What we’re gonna do is wait and find out what they plan to do about this first. I doubt any deal is gonna happen now with a mess like this drawing attention to this building.”
“But Maria who wanna walk through the lobby everyday knowing that’s where that man blew his brains out. It could be too traumatic for me and…”
Maria gives Valissa a sideways glance and laughs. “Then you are traumatized each and every step you take out there on that concrete. This is the city, baby. Lots of folks have met their end right out there on them streets. Besides, like that lady was saying in the tenants meeting, it’s too expensive to keep moving.”
“Ahhh!” Valissa stomps up the stairs ahead of her mother mumbling.