Chapter One

A car horn interrupted the driver’s thoughts, and he realized his mind had been elsewhere, reliving a despairing moment, an ugly slice of time in which he’d killed a friend. A tear formed in his eye and rolled down his cheek.

He hoped the night would not hold any more surprises. Enough had already gone wrong. He hesitated, and when he pulled onto the road the reflection of the street lamps off the wet pavement reminded him of a carnival midway, and he fancied being transported to another world where things would not be as they were: life dependent on death.

He tightened his grip on the steering wheel and cursed the troublesome mist that swirled through the air. He could discern no rain falling, though the moisture seemed to be everywhere, a monsoon of molecular proportions emanating from the fabric of the world it coated. His lack of concentration didn’t surprise him. He didn’t want to be there, driving around town on such a night. The windshield wipers cleared his field of vision, and when he saw the place where he’d found her before, some bar along 31st Street, he slowed the car and pulled in. His actions were not prescient, or even fantastic. He knew where to look. She frequented such places.

He heard a rattling noise and realized it was his ring clattering against the steering wheel as his hands shook. He wanted to blame it on the wine, but he knew better. The drinking had not intoxicated him to the point of being even remotely prepared for the task ahead of him. Beads of sweat ran down his back at the thought of it. There was no getting around what he had to do. She’d come back. And people ought to stay dead when they’re put that way.

He thought of Papa. Times like this perpetuated his essence, and he imagined his name—though he didn’t speak it, and he did not for a moment pretend to assume his presence. That would be tantamount to disrespect, and disrespecting Papa was not a good idea. He rolled down the car window, letting the cold mist pepper his face as he leaned back in the seat, and waited.

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