The Promise

Writing the forty-nine posts previous to this one have been fun, to say the least.  They were my buffer between the spoken and written word, and it has felt good getting myself into a place where I am comfortable enough to share my work with you, my ever faithful reader.  For the past few weeks I have been wracking my brain in an effort to come up with something a little…special for this post, and I think I finally have it.

The following is strictly a piece of fan-fiction. 

With the exception of the introduction, this work is completely original and has been written solely for the enjoyment of the author and his followers.  This post has been written as a complete story, and may be considerably longer then what you are used to seeing Beneath The Headstone.  In compliance with the author’s writing style, there may be elements of horror and some language which you may not be comfortable with.  Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

———-

Narrator: There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.

……….

“Ryan?  Honey, can you come here for a second?”

“Be right there!”

He was standing before the full length mirror, admiring his nude body when she called to him.  The years had been kind and all of the hard work he had put into himself had paid off.  Running alongside the river every morning for the last ten years had given him the muscle definition that most gym rats would kill to have and yet, there it was.  Above the light brown patch of hair on his chest and over his right pectoral muscle was a single white hair.  It grew longer then the rest of his hair, hair which had been there for most of his thirty seven years, and it stood in defiance to his youth, threatening him of what was to come…

“Ryan?”

“Getting dressed,” he answered in singsong.

As he slid into his running shorts, he paused to study the lines on his face.  There were only a few, mostly around his eyes, but they too promised of what his future held.  He smiled and picked absently at his teeth.  Like the rest of him, they had been well kept over the years and with a proper brushing they would shine.  His dark brown hair matched his eyes, but had recently begun to subtlety fade back.  While he was years away from going bald, if ever, it was yet another reminder of his own mortality.

He gave one last look at himself, grabbed a pair of socks, and hurried to meet his wife before she left for work.  It wasn’t very far from their room to the kitchen and a light jog closed the distance that much quicker.  As he entered the room, his gaze fell hungrily over his wife’s figure, devouring every delicious curve as she leaned over the counter to close the small window over the sink.

Much like himself, she was meticulous about her fitness.  She kept in shape with an hour of cardio at the office gym, followed by a run in the park after she got home.  This, combined with her vegetarian lifestyle kept her body toned and in the best shape of her life as well.  Her long sun-golden hair, when unfettered, hung down to her hips.  While it would have been more practical if she cut it, she found it relaxing to sit before a mirror and brush it before bed.

“Mm, shake that thang,” he crooned in a husky voice.

Oblivious to his advance, she turned and looked at him over her shoulder, her oceanic eyes blankly watching his every movement.  His eyes dropped to her ankles and trailed up the back of her legs as he steadily approached, pausing only to admire the firm derriere beneath her business skirt.   He was reaching out to place his hands on her hips when she suddenly turned, placing her right hand on his chest.

“I’m going to be late,” she said, annoyed.

He leaned forward, pressing his lips gently against hers as he moved his hands along her sides.  Just as he reached the underside of her breasts, she pushed him away and stormed over to her purse.

“Dammit Ryan, I said I’m going to be late!  Now I have to fix my lipstick,” she grumbled as she removed a compact and her makeup.  “I’m not going to be home tonight,” she said after blotting away the excess.  “and I’ve arranged for dinner to be delivered…”

“Again?  This is the third time in two weeks.  I thought we were going to spend some time together?”

“Yeah, well, something came up.”

“I’ll just bet it did,” he thought bitterly.  He quietly finished getting dressed as she inspected herself in the reflection on the compact.  When she next spoke, he was tying the laces on his right shoe.

“Don’t wait up,” she muttered coldly.

“What about dinner?  You want me to do anything special with yours?”

“I only ordered for you,” she answered with a huff.  He looked up just as the door was shutting behind her, his heart thudding angrily in his chest.  Her words had been cold daggers.  Her apathy, the hands that wielded them.  He ached for her, physically and emotionally, and it hurt that he didn’t know how they had ever reached this point.

……….

His feet thundered down the earthen path, kicking dust into the air and leaving a shallow impression with each step.  He was making good distance today, having already run four miles, and was now following a shortcut home through some little known hiking trails.  His mind was wandering, as it usually does in the mornings, and he had lost all track of time.

After warming up, he had left the house in a sprint; eager to put it behind him and ready to burn off some of the anger in his heart.  He blew past the other regulars in no time and soon found himself on the outskirts of town.

“You won’t ever cheat on me, will you Ryan?”

The question floated through the veil of his subconscious, surfacing from a memory of the night of their wedding.  It had been late in the evening and they were snuggling beneath the sheets when she asked him.  It wasn’t something he had been expecting her to say, considering he’d proclaimed his intentions to her through the vows he’d spoken earlier.

“O-of course not, Aubrey.  I married YOU, you know.”

“But…  What if you meet someone who’s prettier, or has more money?”

He still remembered the look in her eyes.  They were so large and fearful, so insecure. At that moment, only minutes after they had consummated their marriage, she needed more than anything than to be reassured.

“Aubrey,” he began slowly, “when I asked you to marry me, I didn’t just do it without putting any thought behind it.  I knew from the moment I first saw you that you were the one with whom I would grow old together.  In your eyes, I could see our children. Through your smile I knew eternal happiness.  Aubrey, I would never do anything to lose those things. I’m yours, always and forever.  Nothing will take me from you, ever.”

By the time he was done speaking, she had been in tears.  She pressed herself against him and soon they were making love for the second time that night, and unlike the first, this time was slow, deliberate and they had stared deep into one another’s eyes until the other was spent.  She had collapsed at his side, again snugging against him, and it would be several minutes before each had caught their breath enough to speak.

“Promise me,” she finally whispered.

“W-what,” he stammered.  He had been dozing when she spoke and the question caught him off guard.

“Promise me that what you said is true.”

A bitter smile crossed his features as he thought about it.  What he had told her was true, every last bit of it, but somehow he didn’t think that she had believed him. There had been a part of him that felt like she had only heard the things she wanted to hear and it had nagged at him ever since.

“Honey.” He reached over and lovingly caressed her cheek as he spoke.  “I love you more than life itself.  If I ever cheated on you, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.  To break that trust and destroy all these beautiful things about you; I couldn’t wake up every day and not see the purity of our love inside them.  I’d die of a broken heart.”

She’d laughed flippantly.  It was a sound of amusement, but the look on her face was of confusion. 

“That sounds silly.  To die of a broken heart, after cheating on your spouse?”

“When you put it that way, yes.  No, it wouldn’t be that simple.  My heart would break knowing that I had taken from you something you believed in with all your heart, only to threw it away for one passionate fling.  I would despair that I could no longer see our future in your eyes.  My will to live would vanish with the love of your embrace.  No, it wouldn’t be as simple as my heart ceasing to beat, it would be the catalyst.  I would rather end my own life than live a moment of it without you, as you are to me now and as you were the moment we first met.”

She had cried for nearly an hour.  In truth, he may have cried some as well and they had held on to one another as if afraid to let go.  Later, as they were both drifting off to sleep, she had quietly asked one final question.  It was barely audible and hardly more than a breath of air against his skin, but he had heard it nonetheless.

“What if I cheated on you?”

He turned his head and met her eyes before answering.  Unlike his previous answers, this was only one word.  It left his lips heavy, full of malevolence and a promise he didn’t need to finish.

“Don’t.”

……….

He burst through the light woods and into the far end of his property a short time later. By this time he was running at full speed, his arms swinging in time with legs which pumped beneath him like a well oiled machine.  The distance between himself and the house narrowed with each heartbeat and in less than a minute he was at the back door.

“Running a little late today, are we?”

He looked over at his his neighbor, James Munson, who always seemed to trim the hedges between their properties as often as he ran.

“Yeah,” he panted.  “I guess time just got away from me.”

“Better man than me.  But then again, my days of fitness are long behind me.”

He wasn’t kidding either.  James, retired for over a decade, was in his late seventies, but despite his mournful words he could pass for a man in his fifties.

“You work today Patterson?”

“Yeah.  Listen, I’ll talk to you a bit later James.  I need a shower before I go.”

The older man grunted in response but continued to stare at him as if he wanted to say something.

“Something on your mind?”

“You need to get your house in order, Patterson,” he answered cryptically.

“What’s that?”

He was halfway through the door when old man Munson spoke and his words stopped him dead in his tracks.

“Nothing.  Nevermind.  It’s not my place to say.”

“No, if you got something to tell me, just spit it out!”

“Listen, Patterson.  All I’m sayin’ is that you need to get your affairs in order.  A man should run his house as if it’s his castle, is what I’m saying.”

At that, James turned and left, leaving him standing there and shaking his head.  He stood there for a few seconds, absently scratching his head until the sound of his phone brought him back to reality.

“Shit,” he cursed.  He was already running behind; standing here like a goon wasn’t going to get him ready for work any faster!  He passed through the kitchen and into the hall that separated it from the living room, pausing only briefly at the phone to confirm who was calling; his partner Mike.

“Mike, sorry!  I’m running a bit behind this morning,” he answered, out of breath.

“No problem buddy.  I was just calling to tell you that I won’t be in today, so you’ll have to drive yourself.  I’ll still cover half for the commute, that way you don’t have to worry about coming up with the extra cost.”

“Aw, come on Mike.  You’re killing me!  That means I’ll have to take on that deposition by myself!”

“You’re a big boy, Ryan.  You’ve handled worse,” he answered with a chuckle.

“I know I have Mike.  But you also know that I’m handling the Westerson case at two thirty!  I’m only going to have an hour to prepare beforehand.”

“I’m sorry pal.  If I could come in, I would.  But what I got’s not pretty.  It’s coming out both ends-“

“Alright, alright,” he answered quickly, “I don’t need to know all the details.  But dammit Mike, this is the third time in two weeks I’ve had to cover for you.”

“I know, and I’ll make it up to you.”

He sighed into the receiver, frustrated, and looked at the calender next to the base. Every time his partner missed, he marked the day off with a large ‘X’.  Nearly a third of this year’s calender were filled with them.

“So are we good,” Mike asked as he was marking off today.

“You owe me, more than you’ll ever know,” he answered before setting the receiver back into the base.  A quick glance at the clock showed that he was going to be almost an hour late by the time he had showered and dressed.  If he hurried, he might be able to knock some of that time down.

……….

“Good morning Mr. Patterson.  Running behind today?”

Jenine, who was his secretary and had been with him since he and Mike opened this firm, smiled at him as he walked into the office.  Her green eyes studied him quietly from behind her glasses and before he could answer, she absently brushed a stray hair behind her ear.

“Yes, have there been any calls?”

“Only the D.A.  He wants a copy of your files on the Westerson case,” she answered.

“Hold him off ’til noon and then send them over.  Let’s keep him on his toes.  Also, I’ll be handling Mike’s deposition this morning.  I need everything you can get to me by nine. Until then, hold all my calls.”

“Yes sir,” she said, flustered.  “You do realize that only gives you forty-five minutes to prepare?”  His glare was answer enough.  As he entered his office, she scrambled to find what he needed.

Once he was behind his desk and getting prepared, he found himself staring more frequently at the clock above the door.  It was one of those black cat clocks, with the long tail and the venomous pupils which moved in sync and it taunted him with every second that passed.

“Mr. Patterson?”

Jenine’s voice resonated out of his phone’s speakers, startling him.  Reaching forward, he pressed the speaker button that would send his words to the next room.

“Yes?”

“I have the files, do you want me to bring them in?  Or, will you get them on your way over to the courtroom?”

“I’ll pick them up, thank you.”

He released his finger from the button and began to organize his briefcase-

“You need to get your house in order, Mr. Patterson.”

It was as if James had been standing behind him when he spoke, and for the second time in minutes, Ryan jerked in fright.  A bead of perspiration formed at the top of his right temple and began to slowly make its journey down his cheek, and when he finally got the nerve to turn around, nobody was there.

“Get ahold of yourself,” he muttered nervously.  “This isn’t the time to be losing it.”

After taking a moment to collect himself, he turned and did the same for his things before leaving the office.  Jenine, who never ceased to amaze him, stood just outside his door with a small bundle of folders.  He barely slowed down as he lifted his briefcase, opened and caught them in it as he passed.

“Sir?”

“Yes Jenine,” he asked over his shoulder.

“Good luck.”

He gave her a thumbs up with his free hand as he stepped into the elevator.

……….

Ryan was very good at his job and the deposition went as smoothly as if Mike had been there himself.  The judge had been lenient, despite protests from the other attorney, and had allowed him to fill in for his partner provided that he proved he was familiar with the case.  Of course he was.  There was little that he and his partner didn’t share with one another behind closed doors, and not only did he prove himself, but he was able to shave off time from the process as well.

Though it had only been a simple matter of questioning the deponents, something that he had done hundreds of times throughout his career, he left the courtroom feeling as if he had won some major ground.

His spirits were at the highest point that they had been since before parting with his wife, and the rest of the morning’s troubles were all but forgotten as he got behind the wheel of his black 2012 AUDI s6, a car he had only been able to afford after winning another high profile criminal case earlier in the year.

“You need to get your ever lovin’ affairs in order, Patterson.”

He had been about to merge into traffic when James’ voice spoke up from behind him and caused him to instead slam on the brakes.  Luckily, there was nobody behind him at that moment, or his new trophy car might have been totaled from the impact.  His eyes darted to the rear-view mirror as he hoped he wouldn’t see the speaker sitting there, but this wasn’t to be.

Sitting in the center of the back seat was his neighbor, whom kids were known to call Old Man Munson.  His skin was palid, his eyes sunken deep into their sockets, and he seemed to be lost in thought as he studied him.

“W-what the hell, James?  How did you get in my car?!”

He turned to look at him face to face as he spoke, but the back seat was empty. Panicking, he unsnapped his belt and leaned over to see if James had ducked into floorboard for some odd reason, but there was nobody there either.  Defeated, he slumped back into his seat.

“Maybe it’s none of my business, Mr. Patterson, but I think that a man should be in charge of his house and the things inside. You,” he slowly intoned, “spend too much time away from yours and are losing control.”

With a terrified expression on his face, Ryan slowly lifted his eyes to the rear-view mirror and met the scrutinizing gaze of the spectre Munson.  It stared at him relentlessly, never blinking nor turning away and within the burning intensity of its orbs was an emptiness that sent shivers down his spine.  Desperate to escape its cold indifference, he threw his hands over his face.

“Go away, I tell you!  Leave me be!”

His will was strong.  Over the course of his career, he had looked in the eyes of humanity’s worst.  He’d walked through the halls of the country’s most notorious prisons to speak with his clients and he knew the face which was the dregs of society.  His mind was specially tuned for dealing with the horrors of man, but there was nothing inside of him which could have ever prepared him for the visage of death now sitting behind him.

Ryan sobbed behind the cover of his hands, unable to utter anything beyond the terrified gibberish which spewed from his mouth.  His body spasmed helplessly as, for the next several minutes, he succumbed to emotions which swept over him and there was no other sound other than that of the cars passing around his.

……….

A short while later, (or had it been longer?), the ringing of his cellphone returned him to his senses.  His face was wet with tears, and the occasional hitch in breath betrayed the sense of calm making its way through his nervous system, but he was at last free from the hold that his panic had upon him.

Here we go Steelers,” continued to blare from the speakers in his phone, reminding him that his secretary was urgently trying to get his attention.  Slowly, he removed his hands from his face, careful not to look into the mirror where his neighbor had recently haunted him, and swiped the button to answer.

“Jenine,” he croaked into the phone.

“Mr. Patterson, where are you?  We’ve only twenty minutes before you’re scheduled for the Westerson case!”

“Shit,” he muttered, his recent fright all but forgotten.  “Have my papers ready and meet me there.”

“Sir?  Is everything alright?”

“Yes,” he answered as he slowly pulled into traffic.  “Just passing through some unexpected construction.”

He ended the call and without looking up, flipped the button on the bottom of the mirror, angling it so that it only showed a view of the ceiling.  Before long, his thoughts were on the afternoon ahead of him as he mentally prepared for his next case, and the apparition was all but forgotten.

When he finally returned to the courthouse, Jenine was standing out front with the requested paperwork and a worried expression on her face.

“Chin up Jenine!  I’ve been preparing for this for a long time.  We got this,” he said reassuringly.

“It’s not that,” she answered softly.

“Well,” he prompted, “come on then.  What is it?”

She didn’t get a chance to answer, for when they passed through the entrance of the courthouse a small mob of reporters stood before them.  Since his departure, dozens of members from the Press had arrived to cover the beginning of the trial.  Many more came to watch.  It was the most high profile trial of the decade, and the most important case of his career.  Once they were through the doors, they entered into a world where nothing else mattered but that which lay within.

……….

There wasn’t much time left in the day for anything to be fully accomplished in the courtroom.  With such a late start, each side was only able to present their case to the jury and begin describing the crimes of George Westerson, a man who had worked as a mechanic during the day and committed murder by night.  Over the course of eleven years, Westerson had killed dozens of people ranging from individuals to entire families.  He had no limitations to those whose lives he took, and after finally being captured, he confessed to not only enjoying the act itself, but to more horrific deeds as well. George Westerson, auto mechanic turned serial killer, was also a cannibal.

Until last year, he had been methodical with his victims.  Very little evidence had ever been left behind, and none had ever implicated him until after he had taken the son of a local policeman.  During the abduction, which had taken place from the victim’s own bed, he had dropped a lighter, upon which was a partial print.  From that point on, it didn’t take long for the law to shorten the leash between them.

He had narrowly avoided capture, but only because he had been watching TV while preparing meal.  The view had been from a helicopter, inside of which could be heard the excited prattle of a reporter who was sure that she was about to witness his capture.

He left without gathering any of his things.  The victim was still partially butchered on the counter when SWAT kicked in the door and for the next few weeks, the only news on the television was about what he had done.

The law finally caught up with him, but not for anything he had done.  It had been particularly cold the night he had been captured and he’d chosen to sleep in a nearby shelter for the homeless.  His face had been dirty.  His hair had grown long and was as bedraggled as the rest of him and nobody recognized him when he signed in while using an alias.  Later, as he slept on a cot, a member of Vice came in to speak with a contact and had recognized him.

And so now, several months later, he was to stand trial for the horrors he had committed.  Because of the carelessness with his last victim, he knew that he wasn’t ever going to see the outside again and had resigned to confessing his crimes.  He spoke fondly of the eighty-four people he had captured, killed and eaten as if it were no big thing.  When asked where he had buried the remains, he had replied; “There were no remains.”

George Westerson had become the worst monster in human history.  Some had labeled him as the next Jeffrey Dalmer, much to his distress.  He vehemently denied the connection, stating that unlike Dalmer, he was not a sex offender.  He never touched his victims in any way that would ‘spoil the meat’.  Each had been treated with utmost dignity, killed quickly and completely disposed of by consumption.  “They have given their lives,” he had said, “so that I may continue to live.”

Because his victims had been taken from many States, this case had made national news.  The lobby of the courthouse was literally packed shoulder to shoulder with reporters, journalists and those seeking for any scrap of information they could use in their press releases.  They listened to the court’s proceedings greedily.  Some were frantically writing in their notebooks, while others held their Dictaphones high as they attempted to record the proceedings over the rustle of the crowd around them.

Three hours after it had begun, the judge had called for a recess until nine o’clock the coming Monday morning.  Families of the victims, as well as the select few allowed to sit in on the trial, began to filter out of the courtroom.  Westerson had been escorted out of the building and was currently in route to be returned to his cell and for the next hour, the lobby was a scene of chaos as the Press began separating the families for questioning.

……….

“Thank you for staying Jenine.  I know you didn’t have to and when you get home, you make sure and tell Mark that I’ll make it up to you guys.”

They had slipped out the back exit to the courtroom and walked to a nearby diner to have some coffee as they waited for the crowds to clear out.

“Don’t worry about it, Mr. Patterson,” she answered with a kind smile.  “We both knew that today would be crazy and made preparations for dinner beforehand.”

They sipped from their cups in silence, watching the people outside the window and for a moment were lost in their own thoughts.  They would have been shocked to know that each thought of subjects which led to the same conclusion.

“Mr. Patterson,” she finally asked.

He had been absently looking through some of his paperwork when she spoke and glanced up to acknowledge that he had heard her.

“About this afternoon…”

 “Yes,” he prompted.

“Well…  While I was getting your papers together for the trial, I realized that I was missing some of your notes.”

“I thought I had them sitting on my desk?”

“Most of them, yes, but not the ones you had made from when you and Mike were going over the case.  You had left those sitting on the coffee table in his office.”

“Okay, so…?”

“When I was in there, I noticed something on the floor where he usually sets up his cot after a long night.  It was small, and it sparkled as the light from the window reflected upon it…”

He could feel his blood pressure slowly beginning to rise as he continued to listen to her continued circumlocution.  For the last few hours, he had been steadily getting ahead of the earlier events of the day, but now, as they waited out the media parasites outside, it was beginning to catch up to him.  His tie had been loosened after the first cup, and he had unconsciously run his hands through his hair as they spoke.  The effect was a complete transformation of appearance from a sharp looking businessman to that of a gambler about to lose five times the bet he had originally placed.

“What Jenine,” he breathed in frustration.  “What was it?”

He asked the question partially to end the dance she was currently enacting around the bush, but also to quell the sense of dread that had begun to rise from the deepest pit in his soul.  His mind argued against it, but it was the voice of Old Man Munson who spoke loudest.

“I think you know what I’m talking about, Patterson.  I’ve only been telling you all morning.  You need to get your house in order.”

He swallowed a large mouthful of air, sending his Adam’s Apple bobbing dramatically down and back into place as she reached into her blouse pocket to retrieve the item he desperately did not want to see.  Before he could react, before he could even protest, she had lain it on the table between them.

It was the missing diamond earring to a pair he had given Aubrey on their eighth anniversary.

Though he wasn’t aware of it at the time, his eyes had taken on the wild look of an animal backed into a corner.  They continued to widen until they felt as if they were going to pop out of his skull and roll across the table.  His gaze fixated on small piece of jewelry until it doubled, even tripled in size.  It continued to grow with his imagination until the diamond was the size of a basketball, and he was looking through the golden hula-hoop sized ring and into the sympathizing eyes of his loyal friend and secretary.

She spoke, but he couldn’t hear the words as they passed over her lips, lips which were now moving impossibly slow for reasons he could not fathom.  He threw his face into his hands to escape the surreal scene now unfolding before him, and furiously ground his palms into his eyes for the next several seconds.

“…you okay?”

There was a light ringing in his ears, but just beyond it the sounds around him slowly began to re-approach.

“Huh,” he asked in a daze.

Jenine had slipped around the table to his side of the booth and was gently drawing him into her shoulder, and once his head made contact, the flood began.  He was no fool.  He had long suspected that Aubrey had drifted away but he had never once thought that it had been to his best friend and long time business partner.

“Shh,” she whispered soothingly into his ear.  “It’s going to be alright.  Jenine’s here.”

They hadn’t moved for nearly an hour, and nobody disturbed them as he grieved. Some paused to look at the elderly woman and the sad young man whose tears dampened the shoulder of her blouse.  Most smiled sadly as they passed and mouthed words of comfort that only she could see, to which she would kindly smile in return.

……….

Once the tears had fled his body, so too did a powerful cluster of emotions which were now useless to him, as well as the two he’d most cared about.  In it’s place, inside the empty void they had once thrived in, remained a dark seed he had planted all those years before.

Slowly, he lifted his head from her shoulder and forced himself to make what he thought was an embarrassed smile, something which she might expect him to do after such a display of weakness.

“It’ll be our secret,” she said softly before kissing him on the forehead.  “You know, if you ever need anyone to talk to…”

“I’ll come to you.  Thank you Jenine.  I mean it.”

She picked up their bill and stood up from the seat they had shared, pausing to straighten out her clothes before gathering her things together.

“You get some rest, Mr. Patterson, and don’t you worry about a thing.  It’s the least I could do, for the horrible thing I had to show you.”  As she finished speaking, she glanced over to the object which had started all of this.

“I will,” he said with a crooked smile.

She paused to look around the table one last time, and once she was sure that she had gathered all of her things, as well as straightened out his papers for him, she placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, turned and left.

“I think you know what you have to do, Patterson.”

“Yes, I think I do.  I need to get my affairs in order, don’t I,” he said with a grin.

A malevolent shadow formed just under his eyes as he smiled.  It was a smile that if Jenine had turned around to wave at her employer one last time, she might have fled as if the very hounds of hell were on her heels.  A few patrons still in the diner DID take notice, and each quickly averted their eyes elsewhere as an evil spirit danced its way over their graves.

He gathered his papers together and carefully replaced them into his briefcase.  Then, after slowly rising to his feet, he smoothed down his hair, pulled the knot on his tie tight and left without so much as another word.

……….

Once again behind the wheel of his Audi, he placed his cellphone into the dash mount and activated the hands free controls.

“Call Aubrey,” he commanded once it was ready.

Several tones sang out from the speaker as the phone dialed her number, and he listened as the line on the other end began to ring.  She answered after the seventh ring, out of breath.  It wasn’t anything he wasn’t used to hearing at this time of day.  It was when she usually did her cardio, and another smile tipped the corners of his mouth upward as he pictured the ‘exercises’ she was doing.

“R-Ryan?”

Her voice was deeper than he heard in a long time.  He didn’t answer.  He only looked at the phone with feigned interest before returning his attention back to the road before him.  From the other end of the line he could hear the sound of a soft rhythmic clap, punctuated by a short rush of breath.  She could have been running on the treadmill in their home gym, but then he remembered that she had said she wouldn’t be in tonight.

“…would you stop for a second,” he heard her whispering.  It sounded as if the receiver had either been covered or she had turned away from it when she spoke.  Either way, he could care less as he reached over to press the End Call button.  That she would answer the phone in the middle of what ‘they’ were doing only proved how little their relationship meant to her, and it only served to fuel the apathy which grew inside of him.

It was a feeling he knew all too well.  He had seen it in the faces of rapists and murderers as he either sat next to, or across from them in the courtroom.  It was cold and lifeless, this feeling, and it was dangerous.  It nurtured that something inside of him which was so full of darkness and rage for the one who had betrayed him.  It suckled on his emptiness, filling the void with it’s raw emotion and it drove him to the very brink of madness, where he would have to carefully choose the next road he took.

“You’re a disgrace, Patterson.  How can you call yourself a man, when you can’t even take care of the things you own?”

“Oh, I’m going to take care of my business, James.  You’ll see.  And then there won’t be a fucking thing you can say about it.”

……….

It served as little surprise to him that he should see her car sitting in Mike’s driveway. She had pulled it off to the side, far enough that it was hidden behind the trees that followed the pavement up to the house and anyone who was just driving by would be hard pressed to see it.  But, he wasn’t on a leisurely drive and he knew exactly what he was looking for.

He cut the lights and parked at the end of the drive, content to creep the hundred or so yards to the front door, and quietly pressed the door closed after setting foot on the asphalt.  He was fully set on his course of action as he closed the distance between himself and the house, but he saw everything with an unusually high hypersensitivity. He was able to hear and see things better than he ever had, and if he hadn’t been in his current state of mind, he might have taken a moment to wonder at his new found abilities.

His leather A. Testoni Norvegese shoes creaked softly as he walked, a sound that somehow alarmed and comforted him at the same time.  Most of the lights were off in the front of the house, but this wasn’t where he was planning to enter.  Mike would leave the side entrance to the kitchen unlocked for the maid and it was here that he planned to enter.

The handle gave way to his gentle turn and he pushed the door open enough to let himself through.  Like the front of the house, the kitchen was also unlit, but he had been in here enough to navigate his way around.  With only the brief interruption to close the door behind him, he made his way through the kitchen and into the main hall that connected most of the rooms on the first floor, including the Master Bedroom.

He slowly moved through the shadows in the hall, walking against the wall to his right in order to avoid stepping on any loose boards that could give him away.  The door to the Master Bedroom was slightly ajar.  Soft candlelight fell through the cracks, followed by the soft scent of roses and something that was just a little musky.  His heart thudded in his chest, betraying the deadly sense of calm that had stolen over him, and his thoughts jumped randomly from one to the other.

Just as he began to think that he had made a mistake, that maybe the stress had finally gotten to him and he had begun to lose his mind, he heard it.  Aubrey’s voice wafted through the open door and into his ears.  It was just as he thought when he had heard it over the phone before; a sound which he hadn’t heard from her in many years.  The sound of the moan she uttered, as Mike pleasured her with his ministrations, finally murdered the last bit of empathy he had left.

Ryan stepped into the room and witnessed his wife as she lay beneath his best friend and partner.  Her eyes were closed, her face scrunched in ecstasy from what was happening beneath the sheets, and the only sounds were from their ragged breathing and their bodies connecting.

Ryan stood quietly in the doorway, a dark shadow that neither knew had arrived, and he watched for several minutes before quietly retreating from the room and retracing his steps to the kitchen.  There he removed a utility knife from the wooden block on the counter before making his way back into the room where his life, as he had known it, was ending.

His feet carried him to the foot of the bed, where again he watched as the couple upon it were nearing their impending climax.  His head cocked to the side, watching with the look of feigned interest of which his phone had very recently been on the receiving end.

Her breathing became more frantic, as did the thrusts of her lover, and he knew that the moment was near.  As each were entering the moment of no return, he quickly walked around the side of the bed and raised the hand holding the knife.  At that moment, they cried about beneath him, each trembling as waves of pleasure overtook them and as he tensed for the strike, Aubrey opened her eyes.

“Ryan?!”

The knife plunged into the middle of Mike’s right shoulder, piercing his flesh as if passing through soft butter.  Mike screamed in pain and rolled off to the side, lost somewhere between the uncontrollable spasms which still wracked his lower body, and the white hot fire now burning through his shoulder.  His eyes were wide with shock and he looked upon his partner as if he were looking upon Death himself.

“Oh my GOD!  Ryan!  What have you done!”

“I have kept my promise, as I said I would,” he said tonelessly.  His eyes were void of any feeling and at that moment, he stood before her a stranger.  The words were lost upon her.  She had long ago forgotten what they had shared on their first night together.

“What, promise,” she screamed in confusion.

“I meant what I said Aubrey.  I never once cheated on you.”

“That?!  That’s what you’re talking about?  That bullshit about how you wouldn’t have been able to live with yourself?  Really?!  Jesus Ryan, how the fuck do you think that would have worked anyways?”

Mike had begun to recover from the shock of being stabbed and was trying to crawl toward the other side of his King sized bed.  Ryan leapt upon it, standing over his wife with a defiant look in his eyes and planted his left foot squarely into the back of his best friend.

“When I married you, I promised you several things, Aubrey.  Of those things, I have given you everything you’ve ever wanted.  A house, car, money…children?  I gave them all to you.  You were always my first priority, my love, my soul.”

“You’re crazy,” she breathed fearfully.

“I promised you my undying devotion and I meant it.  I never strayed from you, but if I had, I would have fulfilled my other promise Aubrey.  You never would have known, except for that nagging thought in the back of your mind.  Had I cheated on you?”

He paused, taking a deep breath as he prepared to continue.

“It would have been an accident, or at least that what the authorities would have determined, and I would have made sure that you were taken care of when I was gone.”

He ground his foot into Mike’s back, pressing up and against the handle of the blade with the side of his ankle, causing him to again scream in pain.

“Stop it Ryan, you’re killing him!”

He leaned down, his face just inches from hers, which she turned to the side to avoid looking into his eyes.

“Look at me,” he ordered.

She turned her head slowly, just enough that she could connect with him by the corner of her eyes.

“Do you remember what you asked me that night, before we fell asleep?”

“No, how the hell could I,” she spat.

“But, you remembered what I said ‘I’ would do,” he droned sarcastically.  Mike screamed into the mattress as he grabbed the blade and began to wriggle it back and forth.

“Yes!  Goddamn you, yes!”

“Then you remember what I said, don’t you?”

She nodded slowly, her eyes darting between Mike and the monster that had once been her husband, standing above her.

“So, what then?  Are you going to kill me?”

He threw his head and laughed.  It was a manic sound, a heartless sound, and it chilled her to the bone.

“No Aubrey, I’m not.  You see, believe it or not, I still LOVE you!  No, I’m not going to kill ‘you’,” he said with emphasis.

“No, you wouldn’t dare,” she stammered.

In answer to her question, he violently twisted the knife ninety degrees to the right and ripped it out of the man’s shoulder.  Blood sprayed into the air, fanning out across her face and onto the front of his Armani business suit.  It arced into the air, following the path of the blade as it pumped first away from his victim and then back down into the back of his neck.  Mike’s body began to jump and twitch in the throes of death as the last bit of life left his body.

“I do so dare, and you, my love, are going to help me do it.”

As Ryan plunged the utility knife into the body of his partner over and over again, for the second time that night, Aubrey’s screams echoed off of the bedroom’s walls.  Only this time, they were the screams of someone who’s mind was about to break beneath the horror which was taking place.

Narrator:  Eleven years ago, Ryan Patterson and Aubrey Nielson discovered they were going to be parents to their first child.  Very much the young couple in love, and with their family’s blessing, it wasn’t long before they found themselves standing on the altar. What Aubrey didn’t know was that on the night that she exchanged vows with her soon to be husband, she had also entered into the Twilight Zone, a place where all promises are eventually fulfilled.

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5 thoughts on “The Promise

  1. R, I love the opening narration. So creative and well written. And the piece certainly builds the momentum.

    “standing before the full length mirror, admiring his nude body appreciatively ”

    What do you think of:
    standing nude before the …mirror, admiring his body with appreciation?
    And technically, you don’t need the appreciation bc it’s in the admiring though it does offer its own flavor.

    Thanks a bunch for staying with me on the Journey.

    *Pat-squeeze hand*
    Diana

    Like

    • Hello Diana,

      You know? I think you’re right. ‘Admiring’ does imply a certain level of appreciation and it was in this sentence’s best interest to remove the offending repeater. ;p

      I always enjoy your advice, and that you continue to pay the occasional visit Beneath the Headstone. Even this Undertaker of words needs the occasional reminder of how to use them!

      I’ve enjoyed this Journey and look forward to the what it will write in the future.

      Take care,
      R.

      Like

      • I have wanted to visit more often. It’s getting harder with the growing readership, esp bc I seek to maintain meaningful relationships with my awesome readers. I have only four hands as a homeschool mom and writer. You are certainly on my radar.

        Like

  2. I try my best to learn from all writing. I really enjoyed this!

    I find a lot of writers shy away from writing certain ‘taboo’ scenes. Whether that’s intimacy or killing. You don’t, and it’s refreshing. I’ll try to take that into my own writing, and write what feels natural at that moment, and not shy away.

    Thanks for this experience and let me know when you have anything else posted.
    Great stuff,
    Kevin

    Like

    • Thank you Kevin, I am pleased that you have enjoyed my work thus far!

      I’ve been playing around with some flash fiction styled writings as well, I hope you have had a chance to check them out. ‘She Has A Pretty Face Though, was a lot of fun to write.
      There are some new things in the future for my current WIP’s, as well as a new short story.

      Best of luck with your own work!
      R.

      Like

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