Jane heaved a long sigh as she sank into the tub of hot water, sloshing dangerously close to the lip of her ornate marble bathtub. She’d spent a fortune on it after her divorce, telling herself that she deserved something good in her life after such a dreadful end to a boring marriage. The room was only lit by the light of a dozen aromatherapy candles, the sweet scent of cherry blossoms rising from the water enriched by her bath oils that ensured her skin would be nice and smooth for when she needed to go hunting for her next husband.
Today was entirely too depressing… she thought idly as she played with the running water with her dainty feet. Just like Lizzy to do something so rash and blame it all on us. Never could see beyond her own nose about how much pain her actions caused to those closest to her.
Lifting a dripping arm from the water, Jane cupped a small glass of wine and took a measured sip, savoring the mixture of flavors before swirling the glass about silently in thought, thinking of her slumbering daughter but a few doors down.
“The poor dear…” Jane murmured to herself.
She’d had to explain to the young girl about life and death today, in between her mother’s wracked sobbing in the limousine on the way to the wake. She hadn’t wanted to have that talk with her daughter for a few more years because, well, why would you?
A tinkling of glass caught Jane’s ear, snapping her from her warm reverie in an instant. Rising from the water, she snatched the towel resting on her ornate tableau, and wrapped it about herself.
“I swear to God, if Quinn’s gotten out of bed again and broken something, I… I just don’t know what I’m going to do with that girl!” Jane muttered to herself.
She marched out of the bathroom, wiping herself down marginally at best before throwing on her thick terrycloth robe and house slippers, before making her way to her daughter’s room.
The neighbors would later tell the police they hadn’t heard the window break, or the little girl cry or make any noise at all. All that they’d heard were Jane’s screams echoing through the night at finding an empty bed in an empty room with a shattered window, curtains rustling softly in the cool night air.
Quinn was gone.
“You sure you’re alright baby?” Maria called from the bathroom, drying off her wet hair from the quick shower she’d just emerged from, steam still rising from her freckled skin. Michael sat on the bed, propped up by several thick pillows, watching the evening news as he prepared for bed. They’d skipped the wake and decided merely attending the funeral had been more than enough to honor their former friend, especially since both felt like they had played a significant role in her downward spiral.
“Baby? I asked you if you’re alright?” Maria called again, pulling him from his thoughts. Looking to the television and seeing the beginning of a late-breaking report of child abduction, he quickly changed the station to something that might be able to lighten his mood.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” He called back, his voice low enough so that Benjamin wouldn’t awaken from his sleep a few doors down the hall. His boy of four had been exhausted from the day and crashed as soon as they’d gotten home, falling into a deep sleep that Michael had never seen him in before.
Though the boy is fond of naps, Michael thought, the ghost of a smile gracing his harsh jawline. Scooping up the folded television guide on the side table, Michael was surprised to hear the doorbell ring, echoing throughout the darkened house. Looking at the clock and noting the lateness of the hour, he threw back the blankets and moved to wrap his robe over his pajama bottoms and bare chest, slipping on his house shoes as Maria emerged from the bathroom in her nightgown.
“Did I hear the doorbell?” She asked, clearly puzzled.
“Yeah, it’s probably just Gabe from next door… you know he gets lost when coming home from the bars.” Michael assured her, moving to the bedroom door. “You check to make sure Benjamin is still asleep, I’ll see who’s at the door.”
He moved out into the hall, flipping on the light, and began making his way down the narrow stairs of the two-story loft, hand sliding along the rail as he descended the stairs with a curtain of light showing him the path to the door from the upstairs light. Flipping on the outdoor lights, Michael peered through the peephole to see who was standing out on his stoop, only to be surprised when it wasn’t Gabe’s drunken visage staring back at him, but that of an elderly man.
Quickly unlocking the door, save of course for the door chain, he pulled open the door a few inches and poked his face through the narrow opening. “Yes? How can I help you?”
The man was old, though how old was somewhat difficult to tell. He looked maybe thirty or forty, but his close-cropped beard and hair were white with age, his eyes heavy with untold years and sights untold. He wore a long trench coat over a maroon sweater, a pair of pressed black slacks over polished dress shoes finished off what looked to be a sharply dressed man. He smiled at Michael before removing a black felt hat from his head, holding it to his chest,
“My sincerest apologies for the lateness of my visit dear sir,” The man said, a slight European accent leaking through his voice, though what kind Michael couldn’t tell. “But I find myself in need of assistance that I think only you can provide for me at this moment in time.”
“Is everything alright?” Michael asked, a tad confused at the man’s odd demeanor. A thump from upstairs caused him to look back up the stairs, but the strange visitor continued.
“You see I was driving home this very evening after dining with, well, with my daughter and granddaughter and found my vehicle in a state of distress that I couldn’t explain.” The man explained, piercing blue eyes staring through the dimly lit stoop into Michael's with a bone-chilling intensity. “I was told by my daughter, an old friend of yours I do believe from many years ago, that you lived in the area and was a man worthy of trust, and so I decided to come to your door seeking the aid I need.”
“You want me to look at your car?” Michael asked, a little surprised at the man’s odd request.
The man laughed, shaking his head in mirth. “No, of course not! Who am I to impose in such a way on a fine gentleman such as you? No, I merely would like for you to call me a cab, one that could meet me at the corner three blocks down where my car is at, and perhaps even tell me the time? You see, I’m somewhat a step behind in the times, and my watch,” he pulled a golden chain from his pocket, a shining watch dangling from the end of it, “seems to have stopped a few hours ago.”
“Oh… well, alright.” Michael said, happy to help the nice man out in such a small way. “It’s actually… ten past ten right now. I’ll phone a local cabbie and have them meet you at the entrance to the neighborhood, near the old Chinese restaurant? I’m sure you know where that is, right?”
“Oh but of course! An old Jew like me, why I know all the Chinese restaurants in New York like the back of my hand Michael.” The man said with a grin, turning a small dial on his pocket watch a few times. “You said ten after ten?”
“Yes, ten after ten… I’m sorry, you seem to know my name but I didn’t catch yours?” Michael said, still looking through the chained portion of his door at the man curiously.
“That would be because I never gave it to you,” the stranger said with a sudden air of sadness about him, “You seem like a nice lad, and I do thank you for your time. Hard to believe the things my daughter has said about you, while I can easily see the other comments ringing true.”
“I’m sorry, I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean?” Michael was really confused now, looking at the odd man as he began to turn and leave. “Wait! Don’t you want me to call that cab for you?”
The man looked over his shoulder as he placed his hat back snugly on his head, now appearing older than ever. “No, no I’m afraid I’ll only be wasting more of your time. I’m sorry for being a bother dear boy; you try and have yourself a nice night now.”
And with that the man walked down the steps of the stoop and into the enveloping shadows of the darkened streets of Upper Manhattan. Michael spent a few moments just staring after him, trying to see where the old man had gone to, but in the end decided to just close the door (locking both locks just in case) and retire upstairs to bed. Work was going to be hell in the morning; he could just feel it in his bones.
Walking back upstairs, he turned off the light and began making his way back to the bedroom when he stepped in a puddle, a wet splat marking a pool of water just outside his son’s bedroom. Cursing to himself, Michael padded back over to the light switch, flipping it on to see what kind of mess he’d have to clean up, before the blood ran cold in his veins.
A thick pool of red was seeping from beneath the opened doorway, a trail of foot prints leading away from them to where Michael now stood, one slipper soaked in the crimson liquid. Ignoring the sickening feeling pooling in his stomach and the horrid squelching noise his wet slipper made with every step, Michael burst into his son’s room, pushing the door open and flipping on the lamp next to the door, praying to any god that would hear him that his son was safe.
What he got instead was the sight of his wife lying crumpled by the door, eyes wide open and vacantly staring ahead, a look of surprise etched onto her beautiful face. The blood was hers, having come from a gaping wound in her chest placed just to the left of her sternum, roughly the size of a decent sized orange. The window was open, drapes fluttering softly in the breeze and Benjamin was nowhere to be seen.
Michael called into work the next morning from the police station.