In all his years as a cop, he’d never had much luck asking the neighbors if they’d heard anything. He could have been following up on a banshee firing an AK-47 at noon, and the neighbors, like good concerned citizens, would answer the door when he knocked and dutifully report,
“Oh, I was out.”
“Really? No, I didn’t hear anything. I must have had the TV up a little loud.”
“No. No, I can’t believe I didn’t hear anything though. Then again, I am a pretty sound sleeper.”
“Nah, nothing. Funny too, any time the guy in 4B takes a shit I can hear that—”
He had been convinced that any time a gun was fired in Bay City, the neighbors were all either out, drunk, drugged, or elderly.
“—Did you ever suspect that your wife was being unfaithful?”
“No.” It’s an outright lie. “I know she wasn’t.”
“I see.” The therapist had no way of knowing anything about Peter Valis’ late wife’s sex life, but the man’s tone betrayed the truth. He made a note in shorthand on his pad:
not a good liar
There’s a long pause. Valis shifts uncomfortably on the couch. He’s sick of doctors, sick of people who want to listen to him talk about his feelings and pat him on the back. “Look. We both know I’m only here so I can get back to work. You’re not going to help me. You read the file— you know what I’ve been through. Nothing but time can help that—”
“But Peter, even you,” he regrets his phrasing immediately, “can understand that there’s some value in talking about these things, right? I’m not…trying to trivialize your grief. I’m just suggesting that maybe the way you were dealing with your grief, previously, maybe that wasn’t the most constructive way? I know, you lost your wife, your unborn child—”
Valis flinches at the mention of the child. The therapist makes a note, but honestly, who wouldn’t flinch? He feels like a bully for bringing it up, but the man keeps refusing to work with him.
“—I can’t even pretend to know what that’s like.” Valis is silent, and the therapist makes another note. When he looks up again, the older man is smirking at him, a cold glint in his eye. “Yes? Is there something you’d like to…talk about?” There is a slight nervous quiver in his voice.
Just keep taking notes. You know nothing about me. The baby wasn’t mine. There is no way it could have been mine. You know nothing about me.
Valis says nothing.
It took three months. The idea had been there in the back of his head since the funeral. If he was really being honest with himself, it had been there long before.
It hadn’t been one of those “cry for help” things. No, he had been more serious about this than possibly anything else in his life. So it was only fitting that he muck it up, just like everything else.
He’d put a lot of thought into it, sure, but when the time came the execution was somewhat lacking. He’d been unpleasantly drunk and unaccustomed to pointing a firearm at his own head. The recoil slammed his arm back, and the bullet barely grazed him before lodging itself in the ceiling. Little chunks of plaster rained down on him, and his last thought before blackness was
shit. that’s coming out of my security deposit.
And the one time, the one time, he would have hoped for a deafdrunkdrugged, not-at- home, sound-asleep, elderly neighbor—
the lady in 2C called the cops. And the super.
It had all been down hill from there.