It was a cold and dark night when Oliver stood outside the main gate of the palatial mansion that belonged to the CFO of the luxury yacht manufacturer Caesar's Shipyards. He attempted a deep breath but just as his lungs began to fill with the crisp New York winter air they convulsed, dispelling the air violently with each deep and gravelly cough. His face was beet red as he composed himself, then, with his hand against the cold steel of the gate, he stretched his legs. His joints were stiff and his back ached but this was nothing new to Oliver as his body had slowly been getting worse and worse for the past 5 years. While he had expected it for some time now, he wouldn't have put his money on this being the night of his last kill.
He looked down at the silver revolver in his hand with fondness and as it glimmered in the light of the lamp overhead. He opened its wheel to make sure there were indeed 6 fresh rounds inside. There were. Satisfied he put the gun back in its holster beneath his left armpit and slid the black cloth of his ski mask over his face and, with the strength he had left, vaulted over the gate. With a thud, his feet hit the ground and he coughed again but this time he made himself hold back the sound.
It was only eight o'clock, not late enough for anyone to be particularly concerned about visitors so when he rang the doorbell he was greeted by a friendly and unsuspecting maid and as soon as she noticed the masked man standing in front of her she was struck with the back end of the revolver where she let out a loud screech that silenced quickly when she hit the ground. Oliver moved fast, duct taping her mouth shut and hitting her once more across the back of her head to subdue any more fight she might have left. Then he rushed up the stairs to the master bedroom where his victim spent each night reading in front of the fire.
Ralph Crenshaw was an oversized man who hadn't done any real work in two decades. Ralph loved golf, bragging about himself and high-end prostitutes, the younger the better. He had made a name for himself when he was coming up as ruthless negotiator resulting in millions of dollars for the various businesses he had worked for but now his work was offloaded to the next generation of ruthless businessmen in the form of his underling who would gladly sell him out given the chance. Soon, he wouldn't need to wait.
The CFO was so stunned when Oliver burst into the room pointing the long, silver barrel of the revolver in his face that the book lept out of his hands and flew into the fire. Oliver walked slowly up to the finely pajamaed businessman with his finger up to his mouth indicating that the man should keep quiet. While the man's mouth was as wide as a tuba no sounds came out. Within a few steps the barrel was within striking distance but instead of violence, Oliver spoke calmly.
"I want your cash and your jewelry and I want it now," John calmly said handing the pig of a man a large drawstring sack. When the man didn't respond Oliver shouted, "NOW!"
That got Ralph moving faster than he had moved in years. Oliver followed him to his study adjacent to the bedroom. Ralph walked around the room picking up and dropping silver, gold and platinum items in the bag and when he tried to act as if that was the extent of his loot Oliver just nodded his head and pointed to a painting behind the large black desk in the room. Ralph was again shocked into utter silence but did as he was told. He pulled the painting down revealing a safe built into the wall. Oliver couldn't help but let out a quick chuckle that Ralph hoped was a good sign but was actually just Oliver remarking to himself at how cliche and uninspired the whole scene looked like from his perspective.
The safe had large stacks of cash that Ralph put into the bag along with watches, cufflinks, and other shiny treasures until it was emptied. Ralph turned to Oliver, held out the bag and with his lip quivering said, "Here, that's everything." He began to sob and eeked out, "Please just go."
Oliver looked at the sad man with no pity and, still pointing the gun at his face said, "That's almost all of it. Now, there is a hidden drawer under your desk. Open it."
The piggish man began to blubber louder and pleaded, "Please, no, please no, no, no!"
"Do it!" Oliver said and then rushed over to Ralph and slammed the hard barrel of the revolver against the side of his head. Ralph collapsed to the ground with the bag of loot and whimpered, holding his face.
Oliver kicked the chair behind the desk to get it out of his way and then knelt beside the whimpering CFO. He could smell the distinct odor of fresh urine as he put the gun under Ralph's throat and whispered, "Open the drawer you pathetic piece of swine."
The CFO collected himself enough to uncurl from the ball he was in and crawled under the desk where he pressed a few buttons and then came out with a small wooden box. Oliver snatched the box out of his hands before he could protest but he protested anyway. "No, no, no," Ralph pleaded as he clawed at the box but it was too late. Oliver opened the box and dumped its contents on his head were dozens of photographs dispersed themselves like soft snow over his body and onto the ground. Ralph began to sob louder than ever as he clung to Oliver's ankle with mumbled pleas for mercy but Oliver was not there for mercy. He wasn't really there for money or jewelry either.
One photo landed face up on the desk in front of Oliver and as he looked at the child bound to a bedpost in the photograph he knew he had made the right choice. He pointed the gun at the top of Ralph's head and pulled the trigger. His melon exploded into chunks all over the photos, carpet, desk, and Oliver's pants. Oliver took the sack of loot, left the mansion as gracefully as he had come and disappeared into the night.
A few days later Oliver sat in his office on the 30th floor of the Slater and Cohen building in the heart of Manhattan. Instead of the all-black attire and a ski mask, he wore a blue pinstriped Givenchy suit and instead of a gun he wielded a telephone. Whoever was on the other side of the phone was getting a calm but stern earful from Oliver about a late shipment of silicon chips when all of a sudden he began to cough uncontrollably. His face turned bright red as he fell out of his chair and onto the ground. Before he passed out his secretary burst into the room and the last thing he heard was her yelling, "Call 911! Call 911!"
The sun had yet to make its appearance when Selma Gomez sat at her kitchen table reading the textbook Mosby's Medical, Nursing, and Allied Health Dictionary. She only had one hour to study before the chaos of the morning routine would begin and she tried to make the most of her alone time. She enjoyed her hot coffee while memorizing words like tarantism, echopraxia, septum, and tocophobia. Before long the peace was broken abruptly by the inevitable cry of, "Mom!" coming from the twins' room.
Eduardo and Maria made it a point to argue about something each morning and this morning it was about who got to use the bathroom first. Selma closed her book and found the two 10-year-olds wrestling in the door jam of the only bathroom in their small apartment.
"Ed won't let me use the bathroom!" Maria shouted into Eduardo's ear as she held his arm behind his back.
"Mom! She's yelling in my ears!" Eduardo said as he spun around to bear hug his sister.
Selma quietly but calmly pulled the two apart and said, "You have to take turns or no one gets to use the bathroom."
"But I have to pee so bad, mom," Eduardo said fidgeting and holding himself.
"But I have to pee too, mom," Maria said mimicking Eduardo's voice and mannerism. She stuck her tongue out at Eduardo.
Selma knelt down to look her children in the eye and said, "Go ahead Eddy, you go first this time," to the disgust and annoyance of Maria.
"I really do have to go too, mom," Maria explained with her serious face.
"Ok, but we can both tell that he really needed to go, right?" Selma said.
"Yeah, I guess so," Maria looked down with begrudged agreement.
Selma stood up and said, "Go after Eddy and then wake up your little sister and I'll get breakfast started, ok."
Maria smiled and said, "Ok mom," and then walked over to the bathroom where she began to bang on the door.
Selma shot Maria a look and she immediately stopped but it was too late, the baby was crying. The six-month-old was named Ana and as Selma picked her up out of her crib she calmed and stopped crying. Maria hummed a soft tune and rocked the baby in her arm as she moved about the kitchen preparing breakfast while the twins noisily worked at readying themselves for school. They could almost dress, and get their books and papers ready on their own now but there was always something for Selma to check and make right.
Maria was always the first to say she was ready but Eduardo was always closer to actually being ready. Selma announced breakfast was ready. She always said that breakfast was the most important meal so while she skimped on their sack lunches; which consisted of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and some fruit, for breakfast, she always made eggs, beans, orange juice, and tortillas. There was a moment of peace once again as they all sat at the table eating but soon that was dispelled by the twins harassing each other again.
"Who is going to help me with the dishes after school today," Selma asked in an attempt to distract them from poking and prodding each other.
"Ed said he wants to," Maria said with a devious smile.
"No I didn't," Eduardo said.
"Maria it is then. Wonderful," Selma said to the dismay of Maria.
Eduardo laughed and poked her with his fork and said, "You have to do dishes. You have to do the dishes."
"Eddy, stop poking at your sister. Now you both can do the dishes and I will watch TV after school. Does that sound fair?" Selma asked with a look that told them she was not in the mood this morning.
"Yes," the two said in unison with their heads down.
"Alright, now put your plates in the sink and get your shoes on," Selma said and then began cleaning up before they headed out toward the train to school.
When they were all ready and bundled up in their coats and Ana was secured in her rebozo they made their way to the nearest subway station where they would take the Number 6 train for two stops. Then they would walk two blocks to drop Ana off with Selma's mother who lived with Selma's father, two younger brothers, one aunt and her last living grandmother in their small apartment in the Bronx. Then Selma would walk the twins a few more blocks to where their school was and see them off for the day. After that Selma would take the Number 6 again three stops down where she worked as a maid at the Howard Johnson Hotel.
When she arrived at work she was greeted by the ever-upbeat Henry, one of the cooks, who cheerfully asked, "How ya been Selma? Good to see you this beautiful morning."
Selma smiled back at Henry and said, "I'm good Henry. How are you?"
"I'm good. The Yankees are killing it this season. I'll be right there if they go all the way this year," Henry said things like this all the time but he had never been to a world series game. In fact, he had only been to two live games in his life but Selma loved how blindly loyal he was to his team. Henry was in his late 50's and had had a fondness for Selma ever since they met three years prior.
"That would be amazing, Henry. I'd love to see the look on your face sitting in those seats during a World Series match." Selma said as she made her way through the kitchens and toward the staff room. "Have a good day," She said looking back at Henry's gleaming smile.
Selma put her things in her locker and changed into her uniform and began her rounds where she made her way up and down the 13 floors of affordable lodging the Howard Johnson offered. The first few hours went by as usual; she changed out bedding and towels and cleaned rooms to be ready for their next inhabitants but just before lunch, when she entered a room she found something. As she had been changing the covers on the bed she kicked something underneath the bed. She pulled out the item and discovered a small Coach purse. When she opened to purse to look for identification she found that it contained a large bundle of cash, a gold watch, a diamond necklace, and a small note.
The note read:
Property of Julie Newman
If found, return to: PO Box 137153 E Central Park N, New York, NY 10029
Selma looked at the note and then at the money and jewelry. It was a very large bundle of money and on the top was a hundred dollar bill. She could only imagine how much it would be if they were all one hundred dollar bills. All the things she could do with it. She had tuition to pay for and the kids could use new backpacks, shoes, and school supplies. Her mind wandered for a few minutes but after a while, she snapped out of her daydreaming and put the money back into the purse and put the purse and note on her cart. She didn't trust that if she gave it to her manager that it would end up in the right hands so she decided that at lunch she would mail the purse off to its owner and be done with it.
Ten minutes later, she did just that; but even as she was placed the box with the purse in it into the drop box she was conflicted about her decision and spent the next two days in a haze contemplating what she could have done with that money.
A few more days had gone by and she had just about forgotten about the purse when she got an envelope in the mail addressed to "Good Samaritan" and inside the envelope, there were two items. One was a small key and the other was a letter.
The letter read:
You have passed the test!I placed the purse in the hotel room to find out if there were any good people left in this world and I was so happy to find that there still are. You are a good person and so you get a prize!Go to the following address and use the enclosed key to claim your prize.
Claim your prize at:32 W 46th St, New York, NY 10036
Selma held out the key, which had an attached tag with the number 57, in front of her and looked at it. She didn't know what to think but had heard of people getting rewards for turning in lost items, before. This was very odd though because the person had left their item on purpose which was suspicious to Selma but she was too curious not to find out.
All during church service, the following Sunday Selma's knees bounced up and down, which would normally be for Ana's benefit, but today they bounced out of anticipation. Selma's parents had agreed to watch the kids while she went into Manhattan to the mystery address from the letter and she had to stop herself from constantly looking back at the door of the church. As soon as the service was over she kissed her children and thanked her parents and then quickly walked down the street to the nearest subway station.
After a train ride that felt like it took three years, Selma looked up at the Moe's Pizza sign looming large above the hordes of bustling New York commuters that passed by. She stood on the sidewalk for a moment, not sure if she was in the right place. The address on the side of the building said 32 W 46th St. but if her prize was a bunch of pizza, an hour away from her house, she was not going to be pleased. With skepticism, she walked into the pizza parlor and without saying a word held the key out in front of the confused young man standing behind the counter.
The clerk assumed she didn't speak English and said, "Los casilleros han vuelto aquí," which means "the lockers are back there". The clerk pointed to the door to her left and then walked out from behind the counter and gestured for Selma to follow him into a room with a sign on it that read "LockerHero" in bold yellow letters. Inside the room, there was a wall of lockers from the floor to the ceiling on all sides save the hallway that led into the back of the pizza parlor. The clerk waved at the lockers like Vanna White and then walked back to the counter.
The clerk was only confused for a moment when Selma came back out from the locker room and took a chair from the small dining area and headed back into the side room with a determined look of her face. Locker 57 was in the topmost row and even with the chair she strained to reach the lock. With effort, she pushed the key into position, turned it and opened the locker. Inside, there sat a bright blue backpack. Selma grabbed it, jumped off the chair and opened its main compartment. Her jaw dropped when she looked inside the bag.
Although the route back home was faster than the route into the city it took infinitely longer for Selma. She clutched the blue bag in her lap and tried her best to act normally but only succeeded in weirding a few people out with her darting eyes and worried expressions. At home, she locked the door behind her and rushed into her room where she dumped the contents of the backpack onto her bed. Bundle after bundle of hundred dollar bills landed on her brown comforter until they were spilling onto the floor. When she checked the other pockets of the bag she found gold, silver, and diamond jewelry. While she never added it all up, if she had counted the money and estimated the price for the jewelry, she would have found that it was worth over 1.5 million dollars. She put the treasure back in the bag, hid it under her bed and smiled.
"Why are these rooms always either too dark or too bright," Oliver remarked as the tall blonde nurse checked his chart. With that, she looked up, nodded her head, and then looked back down at the clipboard.
"What's the prognosis, Miss Newberg," Oliver asked.
The nurse looked up from the chart and answered calmly, "The doctor will see you tomorrow to discuss that with you. I'm just checking the test results to make sure we are giving you the best care with the new information." She looked at him with kind eyes and asked, "Are you comfortable? Need anything?"
Oliver's obsidian eyes peered back at her and he responded with a relaxed tone said, "I feel fine. The drugs are working." He smiled and then rolled his head away from Nurse Newberg and passed out.
The next morning the sun crawled its way up the side of the hospital walls and when it reached Oliver's window it flooded the room with warmth and light simultaneously waking Oliver from his fevered dreams and disguising the morbid truth the room held. Oliver wiped the sweat from his brow with his blanket and pressed the button for his morphine. He winced as he tried to sit up and when the pain was too much he lay back down in defeat. A moment later, as if on command from the sun, his doctor came in.
Doctor Hill was a stout man who wore wide-brimmed glasses and had a thick New York accent. He came in with a concerned look on his face that most people assumed was due to the news they were about to receive but for the doctor was actually just the look he always had on his face. Even if he had good news he looked as if someone was about to die. They always assumed the worse and this morning Oliver did the same.
"Good morning Mr. Wasco. How are you feeling?" Doctor Hill asked with genuine interest as he picked up the chart from the wall.
"I feel like shit," Oliver said and attempted once more to sit up. He struggled once again and had to lie back down.
"That's understandable given the circumstances," the doctor said after reviewing the chart for a moment. He looked up from the chart and continued, "I will be blunt with you, Mr. Wasco, I don't believe in flowering things up, preliminary blood tests indicate that you have severe late stage pulmonary fibrosis. Pulmonary fibrosis is an aggressive lung disease, Mr. Wasco. I will need to run an x-ray to confirm." He looked back down at the clipboard's contents and began to write on it.
The sun's rays created a striped pattern over Oliver's face as they streamed past the curtains where he now looked out the window in silence.
"Mr. Wasco? Do you understand what I'm telling you?" The doctor asked, now with additional concern on his face.
"Yes," Oliver answered with no emotion attached to his words.
Doctor Hill walked around the bed and into Oliver's eye line and asked, "Can I ask why this wasn't caught earlier? You must have been dealing with the symptoms for years?"
Oliver continued to look out the window and said dryly, "I was diagnosed three years ago."
Doctor Hill let out a, "huh" as he started to understand his patient's demeanor. He had seen this attitude with some of his patients. They were either too proud or too depressed to care that they were dying and so they just gave up on life. In situations like this, he thought it best not to attempt to "flower" up the mood. He walked around to the other side of the bed and put the chart back on the wall.
Before he left he said, "I will schedule the X-ray for later today and we will see what we can do from there. In the meantime let us know what we can do to help you feel comfortable."
That evening, his x-ray hung on the wall as he lay in bed in a haze of morphine and certainty. He knew he would not be leaving the hospital this time and he was fine with it. He stared at the ceiling and thought back on his life and found nothing to fight for and no one who would care. For the next few days, he lay in bed undergoing more tests whose results all pointed in the same direction, toward death but he didn't care about any of it. That is until he had an idea.
Oliver had grown to like Miss Newberg over the past few days. Not only was she beautiful but she was also not full of shit like so many others. She never tried to make him think everything would be ok or tried to make him forget about his circumstances. She did her job and mostly left him alone but when they did talk she always seemed genuine and thoughtful. She had a dry wit and a dark sense of humor, which Oliver appreciated.
"How are you feeling Mr. Wasco? You dead yet?" Nurse Newberg asked him with a smile.
As soon as she walked in the room Oliver made himself sit up in bed, which seemed easier now. "I'm still alive Miss Newberg. Thanks for asking," Oliver answered in a tone that almost resembled a positive emotion. He tried to smile back at her and said, "Call me Oliver."
"If we are going to be informal you can call me Jessica, Mr. Oliver," Jessica said with a smirk. "Is there anything I can do for you?"
"Actually there is Jesse, can I call you Jesse," Oliver asked but continued before she could respond. "I have something very important that I need to tell someone and think I can trust you. Can I trust you?"
Jessica closed the door and sat in the chair next to Oliver. "Probably not but you're going to be dead soon so..." Jessica said with a shrug of her shoulders. She smiled and then said, "Sorry. That was a bit much."
"Don't be sorry. I like it," Oliver said and then gingerly reached his hand out for hers. She held it and while she sat there he told her his story.
Oliver was diagnosed as a sociopath when he was 15 but no one had ever found out about the rats, cats, and dogs that he had killed prior to that time so no one ever really knew the depth of his dysfunction. He was a bright kid and at an early age he knew to hide his violent tendencies but he didn't know how to hide his lack of emotional connection and sympathy toward others until later. He was born into poverty to a single mother who had three other mouths to feed and he was the youngest son, so was also the least interesting to her.
He spent most of his early years alone, wondering the city streets scrounging up things to eat or to sell to the other latchkey kids. When he entered elementary school his teachers noticed that while he didn't socialize with the other kids very much he excelled in his academic work getting straight A's in all his classes. His destructive tendencies couldn't be overlooked after he was caught setting fire to a trash bin outside of a Trader Joe's when he was 14. That is when he was first sent to a psychologist. During his sessions with the psychologist, he learned what a sociopath was and he began training himself to disguise his lack of empathy and remorse. He began crafting a new persona for himself and from then on he was charming, likable, and careful. Everything he did from then on was planned out, organized and disciplined.
In high school, he rose to the top of his class and was granted a full scholarship to Columbia Business School in New York where he excelled as well. It was in business school that his disdain for the wealthy began to emerge. He saw people who were somewhat like himself; manipulative and intelligent but where they had ambition, he had only hate. Hate for their greed and lust for power. He hated their fake smiles and their mediocre lives. In their smiles, he saw his own fakeness reflected back at himself and he resented that most of all. He worked hard to blend in. He even had a girlfriend here and there although when any of them spent any real amount of time with him they sensed that he was different and always left quickly.
He was recruited right out of university to a high-level management position for a large corporate chain, which he explained was where he met his first victim.
By this point in the conversation, Jessica was no longer holding his hand and was unsure if she wanted to continue listening. She was intensely intrigued, though and so continued to listen.
"I knew they were the one as soon as I met them, even though I didn't know I knew," Oliver said with his eyes locked on Jessica's. Neither of them could look away from the other. Oliver continued, "I met him at a corporate benefit dinner in DC. Some CEO of some lame boring corporate chain. It was the way he looked at everyone else that I noticed. He looked at everyone as if they were only there to meet with and talk to him. Everyone might as well have been a robot for all he cared. Anyways, I spent the weekend getting to know the man. Then, I spent two months researching everything about him. Where he lived, what school he went to... Everything. In the last few weeks leading up to it, I spent every day off watching him. During one such outing I watched him beat his wife, then his teenage son, who dared to defend his mother and then, later that night, he beat a stripper within an inch of her life. Must have been having a bad day I guess. But fuck him is what I thought. Fuck him for thinking that what he wants matters. Fuck him for trying to have a family when he obviously couldn't manage it. Fuck him, you know?"
Jessica didn't "know" but she felt sympathy for Oliver. He was so conflicted and angry. She reached out and held his hand and as she did he turned away from her for the first time during their conversation.
"I broke into his house one night while his family was out of town and shot him in his bed while he slept. He was the only one that didn't see it coming. I wasn't afraid after that. It was all easy after that first one." Oliver turned toward Jessica and clasped her hand in his. She made a half-hearted attempted to break free but his eyes shot through her and she submitted.
"I need you to do something for me, Jessica," Oliver said with as much honesty as he could convey to her. "The people I killed were all very wealthy people and I took some of their wealth with each kill. I kept it as a reminder to myself that I was as greedy and evil as they were. I despise myself Jessica and I hate the world but that doesn't mean that someone else can't benefit from my actions. I put the items in lockers all over New York and used some of those bastard's own money to do it." Oliver laughed at his comment but then began to cough violently.
"Oh Oliver, you're a fucking mess," Jessica said and then stood up and helped him to his side where she massaged his back. He stopped coughing and the two sat in the room together in silence for a while.
Oliver broke the silence and calmly said, "I want good people to get that treasure. I want someone good to have some of that wealth. Someone who deserves it. Not some demented piece of shit like me." He hacked up a bit more of his decrepit lungs and laid back down in his bed. As his eyes closed a single tear fell down his face and he added, "Please help me, Jessica."
Mt. Sinai Hospital's emergency room was busy almost every night. They treated everything from the hypochondriac's insistence they are dying from skin cancer even though it is just a mole they never noticed, to gang shootouts resulting in multiple patients with multiple gunshot wounds. Jessica Newberg worked in the ER a few times a week before her night shifts to get more hours, help out and stay sharp. Jessica had started in the ER and she still loved the excitement that came from never knowing what to expect and being able to help real people right then and there.
One afternoon, when she had just started her shift in the ER she was called to assist with an intake of a critically injured male. The man was in his late 60's and had stopped breathing when Jessica joined the other nurses and doctors transporting him to the nearest available operating room. As they all rushed down the hallway Jessica started chest compressions on the elderly man sidestepping as fast as she could along the side of the rolling gurney it rushed through the hallway. The elderly man's eyes were closed and he had a bloodied bandage around his head.
The paramedic who had come in with the man followed the team and gave a quick report, "Patient was hit by a car. He suffered multiple fractures as well as head trauma. Low vitals and irregular heartbeat."
Inside the operating room, Jessica continued CPR as the others frantically worked around her. For the next few moments, as equipment was being placed, veins were being prodded and defibrillators were being prepped she pressed into the man's rib cage over and over trying her best to keep a constant rhythm. This was not her first time administering CPR but it was never something she got used to. She could feel the man's rib bones cracking under the pressure of her hands but she continued until she heard someone say, "We've got a pulse, great job." She stopped and worked with the team to stabilize the patient. Their efforts kept the elderly man alive, although he suffered major damage to his legs, pelvis, hips and suffered minor brain damage from the impact with the concrete.
Jessica left the operating room where a young man wearing all black peered into the room. He bit his nails and his eyes were red from crying. She walked up to him and said softly, "He is stable. Is he your grandfather?"
Without turning away from the window the young man answered, "No. It's my fault he's in there."
"Oh," Jessica said taken aback by the young man's solemn words. "Well, you did the right thing coming to check on him. I'm sure it was an accident."
The young man started to cry. Jessica tried to put her hand on his shoulder but he shrugged it off with an angry jerk. He then turned to her and said, "It's all my fault. I should have seen him. I should have driven slower. I did this!"
Jessica looked into his red eyes and felt sympathy for the young man. His sadness and anger were obvious. He hated himself for what he had done and her heart sank. Her eyes welled up with tears and when the young man saw her cry his anger faded away. Without thinking he hugged her and as she held him he wept. For the next few days, she stopped by the old man's room a few times and every time she did the young man was there waiting. One day she asked him his name, Hank Turner he said, and she tried to distract him from his misery with idle questions about his job, school and such but mostly she would just sit with him for a few minutes in silence. One day they were both gone.
A few months later Jessica sat in her cozy red lazy-boy recliner chair with a hot cup of tea and attempted to distract her thoughts by watching The Great British Baking Show, a show known for its uplifting and positive perspective but nothing could get her mind off of Oliver Wasco and Hank Turner. She had watched Oliver die just days before Hank hit the old man with his car and she couldn't help but connect the two in her mind. It was as if the world was showing her the opposite of someone like Oliver. Although Oliver would have both despised and envied the young man he and Jessica would have agreed that he was a good person.
She clicked the remote and the TV was silenced revealing her to herself in its black mirror. She looked at herself, drank her tea and imagined the box of keys hiding under her bed. The box hadn't been opened since Oliver informed her of how to get them and she wouldn't have them now if it hadn't been so easy to get them. He had left them inside of a locked mailbox at an abandoned apartment complex only a few blocks away from her home in Queens. It took her a while to get up the nerve to open the mailbox but one early morning she took a walk and found herself in front of the address Oliver had given her.
Jessica's heart raced as she opened the mailbox with a small silver key. She didn't have to wonder what was in the box as its top was open. It sat there, right where he said it would be. There must have been dozens of keys in the little cardboard box but she didn't count them then. She closed the box and rushed home as fast as she could, hid the box where it sat until she couldn't get the whole thing out of her head that night.
She got up, rushed into her room, pulled the box out from deep underneath her bed and opened it. With her eyes closed, she reached in and felt the cold fragile metal swish around her fingers until she felt one that seemed right. The key she had picked was a unique key in that it was the only bronze key in the entire box. She closed the box, pulled a blank page out of her printer's tray and started to write.
Hank Turner,You are a good person and you win a prize!Enclosed in this letter you will find a key with an address on it. Go to that address and claim your prize!
Jessica had found out enough about Hank during their conversations that she felt confident that the address his mother gave her was correct. She mailed the letter with the key never found out he received it. In her imagination he used the money to go to college and he still talked with the old man from time to time but either way she felt happy with what she had done. So happy she decided to continue to give away keys to worthy people. First, she needed to find out what was in those lockers.
She had gotten to the point where she would carry a key or two in her purse every day just in case she came upon a deserving enough person. Jessica couldn't help herself from counting them now that there were so few remaining in the little cardboard box. A baker's dozen sat there now. Bakers are good people, she thought, with closed eyes before she reached into the box. Her fingers danced around the keys prodding and flicking them this way and that. The familiar feel of the metal structures reminded her of the past keys and all the tests she had orchestrated.
From purse drops and attempted robberies to fraud and assault, she had tricked people into revealing their true natures. There was one thing she hadn't attempted but now that the keys numbers were dwindling in number their significance was growing and she decided that it was time to "up the odds" by giving someone the opportunity to "kill" someone who deserved it. No one would really get killed of course but it was a test she had to try.
Bronze, she thought, unclear why the color came to her but the decision to die her hair bronze was solidified as she picked this test's key. She made a rule that for every key she gave out she had to change her appearance in some way. This was a way to keep her from giving them out too loosely and it would make her harder to recognize if they did go to the police. She was always very careful to remain anonymous and to always use latex gloves when handling anything related to the project. Over the years she changed her hair many, many times, both in style and in color. Once she had it shaved underneath on one side giving her a "punk" look. Her coworkers just thought she was eccentric or maybe in a band. Today, her hair was as black as Oliver's eyes once were. She looked at the silver key her fingers had chosen, put it in her pocket and walked out the front door toward that evening's test.
She took a cab into the city, paid in cash and stepped out into a dark parking structure. She found the elevator and headed to the roof. Inside the elevator, she pulled out a snub-nose revolver with a black rubber handle out of her purse and pulled one cartridge out of the wheel to examine it. The tip did not contain a standard jacketed projectile like a normal bullet but instead, the casing was extended, folded over at the tip. She put the blank cartridge back and checked each of them individually, making sure she did not mistakenly put any real ones in. The chime of the elevator dinged just as she put the pistol back inside her purse. Out on to the roof the wind howled.
Jessica pushed back against the wind and crouched beside a blue Toyota Tacoma to wait. A few minutes later she heard the ding of the elevator and then it's light emerged as the doors opened. A man came out but it wasn't the one she was waiting for and for a moment she thought about calling it all off. Witnesses could ruin the whole thing, she thought. This worry was quickly brushed aside when another man came out of the elevator. It was her target, the one that she had chosen to test.
He was a nice looking man of 30 years with a baby face. She had seen him, a while back, at the hospital when he visited his mother. If he hadn't come back every day for a week she wouldn't have thought anything of him but he seemed to be dedicated and considerate. Jessica even stopped a couple of times and looked in at them in the room as they talked or played cards and they always seemed happy. After he left one day she went in and asked his mother all about her son, whose name was Henry, and after hearing about how great he was, she decided to give him a key. Well, if he passed her test of course. She had grown bored after giving so many keys away over the past two years and as she had so few left she wanted to make this one count.
Henry was only a few feet out of the elevator when Jessica let out a guttural screech. Surprised by the sound he turned his head to see Jessica ambling toward him holding her stomach. When he noticed what he assumed was blood covering her hands he rushed to her.
He wrapped his arms around her and as she slumped into his arms she cried, "He's going to kill me!"
Henry looked up into the darkness of the parking lot where he saw a tall, dark figure making their way quickly toward them.
"Oh fuck, oh fuck!" Henry blurted out and quickly dropped Jessica to the ground where she hit the hard pavement.
"Here," Jessica said attempting to hand Henry the purse. "Take my gun," she added and then lay down on the ground clutching her stomach.
Henry fumbled to get the gun out of the purse but just as he was about the pull it out he heard, "Don't even think about it!"
He looked up to see a tall man wearing all black and a ski mask over his face pointing a black automatic pistol at him. The purse hit the ground and Henry's bare hands reached for the sky. The next 15 seconds can only be described as awkward as silence doesn't usually accompany such a frenetic exchange. Then, another voice came from behind the man in the ski mask.
"Drop the gun, motherfucker," a gruff and serious voice barked out. "NYPD! Drop your gun, now!"
The man in the ski mask looked down at Jessica, and said softly, "Is this part of it?"
Henry's eyes were closed or else he would have noticed that he was being saved and that Jessica was definitely not really bleeding. She slowly reached for her purse, pulled the revolver out and in a smooth motion rolled over and pointed the gun at the man in the ski mask.
"Mam! Drop your gun. I've got this!" The unmasked intruder yelled when he saw Jessica's gun brandished.
"He tried to kill me!" Jessica said with her gun pointed at the confused "assailant".
The off-duty officer did not know who to train his gun on but finally settled on the man in the ski mask who continued pointing his gun at Henry, not sure why anymore.
"Everyone calm down now. Let's all just take a ..." the off-duty officer would have added the word "breath" but before he could a shot rang out from Jessica's pistol.
The loud concussive blast echoed in the night as the man in the ski mask instinctively flinched and redirected his firearm at Jessica.
Another set of loud blasts rang out but this time from the officer's pistol. The masked man convulsed as shot after shot tore through his body until he finally fell to the floor in front of Jessica. The officer was stunned just long enough not to notice Jessica jumped to her feet where she scrambled toward the elevator.
"Mam!" the officer yelled out but was too late. The elevator chimed and she was gone.
"What the hell happened here, John?" Captain Edgar Tade asked Officer John Valencic as the wind whistled around them. John paced back and forth, biting his fingernails and nodding his head up and down. The adrenaline was still pumping through him when the other officer's had arrived and his heart raced as the Captain stood, hands on hips, staring at him.
John recounted the evening's events in a single, frenzied burst of explanation. He told of the man in the hoodie and how the woman shot her gun but as he remembered what happened next he froze, unable to speak. His lip quivered but before his emotions got the better of him he steeled himself. He looked the captain in the eye and said, "Then, she says, 'he's trying to kill me'. She shoots her firearm. Then, the assailant turns to shoot her so I had to shoot, Captain. I had to."
"Alright, alright, " Captain Edgar said. "You did the right thing." Captain Edgar thought for a moment and then asked, "She just left?"
"Yeah, she jumped in the elevator and was gone. I didn't know if I should go after her or stay on the scene. I'm sorry, Captain," John said, almost in tears. He sat down on the concrete and held his head in his hands.
The captain put his hand on John's shoulder and said, "You did the right thing, Officer. You'll get used to it." Then walked over to talk with the officer taking Henry's statement.
A week after the shooting on the windy rooftop John sat at his kitchen table in front of a soggy bowl of cereal. It hadn't been touched as it's creator was too busy being nervous about returning to his beat after a week of department mandated R and R. During that time he had had two appointments with a department psychiatrist who determined that he was fit for duty. That morning he got up an hour earlier than he normally would as he wanted to be extra prepared for the day. That meant ironing his uniform twice and wasting at least one bowl of cereal.
He dumped the cereal into the sink and headed out the door. His fingernails had grown back just in time for him to start biting them again as the elevator made its way to the ground level of his apartment building where he would normally pass by the bank of mailboxes without notice, he hated the mail, but for some reason, he had the urge to check it. Inside he found a weeks worth of coupons, advertisements and one plain white envelope with no return address. He flipped open his pocket knife and sliced the envelope open. Inside was a folded piece paper and a small aluminum key with a paper tag on it with the number 23 written on it.
The letter read:
Dear Good Samaritan,
You proved that there are still good people in New York.Good people deserve to be rewarded!Go to the address below to claim your prize:
32 W 46th St, New York, NY 10036
John held out the key to examine it, curious as to what this all meant. Then he placed the key into his pocket and made his way to NYPD Precinct 17 in the heart of Manhattan.
At the precinct, John was greeted by handshakes, cheers and just a dash of sympathy from Officer Jessup, who had recently been involved in his first shooting and knew how hard it was. The others seemed to revel in both his return to duty, as that wasn't always the case for officer's involved in shootings, and for getting another "bad guy" off the streets. Little did they know that the dead man was only hired to play the "bad guy" in a dark rouse Jessica had concocted in an effort to force another man to choose between getting shot or killing.
The rest of the day went exceptionally well for John and he was just excited to be back at work. John Valencic had dreamt of being a policeman since before he could talk. His fondest memories of his father, who was shot in a gang-related traffic stop when he was 11, was seeing his father in his navy blue NYPD uniform and while it was dangerous he couldn't see himself doing anything else. The day seemed primed for his first day back as the most dangerous occurrence was almost getting hit by a car while walking across the street during lunch.
When his shift was over he changed into his street clothes and decided to visit the location listed in the strange letter and in no time he was looking up at a sign that read "Moe's Pizza". He walked into the parlor where the clerk, no older than 16, greeted him with, "Welcome to Moe's Pizza, how can I help you?"
With confusion on his face, John walked up to the counter, pulled out the small silver key from his pocket and asked, "What do you know about this?"
"That key?" the clerk said, now somewhat confused as well.
"Yes. Someone gave me this key and this address. Can you tell me anything about this key."
"Oh!" the clerk said, excited to have an answer for the stern man. "It must be to one of the lockers. Come with me." The clerk disappeared into the back of the kitchen area leaving John alone in the pizzeria. A few moments later the clerk came out of a side door and motioned for John to follow him. Inside the room were hundreds of identical lockers lining each wall. Above the largest section of lockers was a sign with bold yellow letters that read "LockerHero.com".
"What the hell is this all about?" John asked the clerk gruffly.
The clerk pointed at the large sign and said, "It's Locker Hero."
"Yeah, I got that, smartass. But why are these here?" John asked as he looked for the locker with a 23 on it.
"Oh. It's for Penn Station. You know, the train? For luggage and shit," the clerk said and, tired of all the questions, walked away from John and back into the kitchen.
John found the 23rd locker and opened it to find a small black backpack, which he promptly opened. His eyes opened wide when inside the pack he saw bundles of cash piled on top of one another. When he opened the side pouches he found silver and gold jewelry in the form of earrings, necklaces, and watches, all encrusted with diamonds and other gems.
Just as he was closing up the pack and imagining where it all came from he heard the door behind him slam open. He turned to see members of the SWAT team, in all black tactical gear, rush in at him yelling commands.
"Drop the bag! Get on the floor," he heard one of them yell and he quickly did as they commanded
"Alright, alright," he said with his face firmly planted on the linoleum floor as a SWAT member roughly placed handcuffs on him.
A tall, bald man, dressed in a cheap suit stood in front of him and looked him up and down.
"What is this all about?" John asked.
"I'll ask the questions, OK?" the man said sarcastically and then continued, "We have been waiting for you. I'm Detective Walter Washberry. What's in the bag?"
"Look for yourself!" John quipped.
"Where did you get that key, then?" Walter asked.
John's heart started to slow back down from the initial rush of being ambushed and slammed to the ground. He responded calmly, "An anonymous letter came to my house this morning."
"I'm going to need that letter," Walter said.
"Well, I threw it away. And that's all I'm saying without a lawyer."
"What's your name," Walter asked unfazed by John's response.
"Officer John Valencic, Precinct 17, badge number 7239," John said proudly.
John sat with his lawyer in the interrogation room of the Broadway Police Department just a few blocks away from Moe's Pizzeria. After an hour of questioning John explained what led him to the locker with the backpack and due to the fact that he hadn't broken any laws, they couldn't detain him much longer so he just waited. As he waited he noticed that the detective left his folder on the desk in front of him.
"Look away for a second," John said to his lawyer, who looked at him wearily but then walked over to the wall and looked at his phone.
John opened the folder quickly and tried to skim the documents inside. He saw the name Selma Gomez and a list of confiscated items on the first page. The second page had information related to LockerHero.com and the rental history of locker 23 and 57. Both lockers were rented at different times but from the same account. The account name was highlighted with the word "FAKE" written next to it. Underneath that was an IP address and the dates the rental was placed for each locker. Locker 23 was rented first, nearly 8 years earlier and locker 57 was rented about 5 years earlier. Someone had paid for the lockers to sit for years.
John took out his phone and took a picture of the first and second pages but just as he was about to take a look at the third page he heard voices getting closer. He closed the folder, put his phone back in his pocket and motioned for his lawyer to come back over to him. Just as they resumed their positions Detective Washberry came into the room accompanied by Captain Edgar Tade. Both looked unhappy.
"Thank you for your time, Officer Valencic. You are free to go," the detective said dejectedly, now that his trap hadn't procured the "big fish" he had hoped.
"Thank you, Detective," Caption Tade said to the detective and they shook hands.
John and Captain Tade walked down the hall together toward the exit but when no one was looking the captain stopped suddenly and slammed John against the wall holding him to it with his forearm. "I better not find out you're lying Valencic," the captain said gruffly. Then, as suddenly as it had started he let John go and stormed out of the building leaving John to ponder his mistakes.
Back at his small apartment in Brooklyn John pulled out his phone and examined the photos and when he came to the IP address he immediately thought of Charlie Taylor. Charlie Taylor and John were high school sweethearts but had a falling out when Charlie decided to go to school in California to study software engineering while John stayed behind to join the academy. That was two years ago and they hadn't spoken since but if anyone could track down the real owner of that IP address, Charlie could. She had always been exceptionally skilled with computers. John searched through the contact's list on his phone and was happy to find her number was still there.
"John? Is that really you?" Charlie asked.
"It's been too long Charlie," John answered.
"Godamn! It is you. How the fuck are ya," Charlie said with excitement.
"I'm good. How the fuck are you," John shot back.
"I'm great! I'm starting my Ph.D. in Applied Cryptography this fall and I can't wait. It's at Stanford. Can you believe it? I'm going to Stanford in two months! It's crazy. But what about you? Are you a cop yet?"
John couldn't help but feed off of her enthusiasm and responded in an almost yell, "Yeah!" He caught himself and continued, "Sorry about that. Um. I am. New York Police Academy class of 2017. Badge number 7239."
"That's amazing John," Charlie said.
Before she could say more John rushed in, "I know it's been forever and it's really good talking to you but I called because I need a favor."
"Go on," Charlie responded skeptically.
John proceeded to tell Charlie the entire story of the shooting, the woman, the key and his subsequent detainment just hours earlier. After a long-winded explanation that could have been boiled down to something as simple as, "I have an IP address I need you to track down," John finished by asking if Charlie would find the real owner.
"Doesn't sound completely legal to me," Charlie responded.
"This is really important Charlie. The money, the jewels from the lockers; they originally belonged to two men who were murdered right here in New York. It would be huge if I tracked this woman down first. Please help me Char, Char." John said playfully.
"Fuck! That is a good pitch. Fine, I'll do it."
"Thank you so much. You're awesome. I owe you one."
"You're fuckin right you do. I'll need some time."
"Of course. Thanks again. It was really great hearing your voice."
"You too. I'll be in touch," Charlie said before hanging up.
The hand on the clock on John's wall had only advanced by one hour when the phone rang. John was surprised to hear Charlie's voice on the other end.
"I got a name," Charlie said.
"That was quick," John responded.
"That's what she said," Charlie added. They both chuckled for a second.
"Seriously, thank you, Charlie."
"I haven't even told you who it is yet."
"Go on," John said mocking Charlie's earlier version of the same comment.
"The IP was connected with the pseudonym Oscar Juarez. Other than booking locker rentals Oscar Juarez doesn't exist. So I dove deeper and found time codes and locations for all transactions done under that name. All the IP addresses were randomly generated but the locations weren't. There were over 62 different lockers booked by Oscar but all of them were done at only four coffee joints in the Manhattan area. Then, I cross-referenced the dates and times of the bookings with credit card purchases made at the coffee shops during the time Oscar would have been there. You know what I got?" Charlie asked.
"A name?" John asked sarcastically.
"Yup," Charlie said. "Oliver Wasco."
As the newly dyed red hair passed in between the lines of light that streamed in through the midday windows it shimmered and faded like a binary star fading in and out of brilliance. Jessica was in a particularly good mood when she strolled past the windows of the hallway of Mount Sinai Hospital but her smile faded as she approached the receptionist's desk.
"Someone has been asking about you Jessica," the receptionist said when Jessica was close enough to hear.
"Good morning to you too, Susan," Jessica said through a forced smile. Jessica never really liked Susan although she didn't fully understand why. It could have been that Susan always spoke as if she was about to cry. This made her seem weak. Or it might have been that Susan was the only nurse on the 5th floor that was close to being as beautiful, with her curly blonde hair, her perfect skin, and curvaceous body.
"Well, they didn't ask about you, exactly," Susan's lips quivered slightly as she spoke. "An officer came in asking about that patient, from a couple years back. Oliver Wasco. He wanted to know if anyone had come to see him or talked to him before he died. I told him I didn't think so, other than his doctor and nurses. I showed him the group picture we took and he pointed to you and asked what your name was. So I told him."
"You told him what?!" Jessica snapped at Susan. "What's his name?"
"I don't know, he didn't say," Susan said, a nanosecond away from balling like a baby.
Jessica realized she might make Susan cry for real so she composed herself and said politely, "I'm sorry. Thank you, Susan," and then briskly walked around the corner to her desk. The keys clicked on her keyboard and for a few seconds created a chaotic but controlled cacophony. After a silent moment followed by few swift mouse clicks the screen had displayed a news article about an NYPD officer involved in a shooting involving a mysterious missing woman. Jessica failed to restrain a faint, breathy gasp as she looked at the article.
She recognized the police officer in the article and knew she was the woman the whole city was looking for. "Mysterious Raven Haired Vigilante Stumps NYPD" was written at the top of the webpage and when she scrolled down an artist's rendering started to reveal itself. Jessica sighed in relief as she saw the pencil drawing of a woman with black hair but otherwise didn't look anything like her. She skimmed the article and found a sentence that called John Velencic a "new recruit, barely 6 months on the job, and already shooting people in the streets". Her mind began to race.
Then, her fingers began to type and soon she was looking at John Valencic's Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram profiles. None hadn't been updated in over two years and the Instagram profile was definitely a different John Valencic as this one just had a picture of a peace sign and all the posts were of a young woman posing in different parts of the world. The Facebook page, though, had John's high-school yearbook photo as his profile picture. The last post was simply a sad face which, along with the old photographs, gave the page an ominously baron look. From there it was a quick click jump to whitepages.com where she found his address, the name of a few relatives and could look at his credit score or criminal record if she wanted. She settled for his address.
After her shift ended she did not help in the ER but instead went straight home. In fact, she hadn't been in the ER for over three months now. It had become a hassle and she was already helping people by handing out keys to unknown treasures. She often wondered what was in all those lockers but had only once used a key herself. She had picked the biggest key in the box one day and decided that that would be her key. The locker it went to matched it in relative size as it was a "long-term" locker and along with the backpack it had also contained a briefcase, both of which were full of cash and jewels. Enough loot that if she had wanted she could have quit her job and moved to Maui, which was just one of the fantasies she entertained.
She never went to Maui but instead kept her job and only started spending the money in short bursts a few months later, never buying anything that she wouldn't have been able to afford with her current job. It was too frightful for her to think about someone finding out about what she was doing so she tried to be careful. Although once, on a whim, she took herself to Las Vegas, but after she blew $12,000 over a weekend she decided she wouldn't do that again.
At home, Jessica rushed into her bedroom where she hid a large blue trunk deep inside her closet. A large padlock dangled from its clasp. She unlocked the box and started to rummage around inside of it until she pulled out a long silver-barreled revolver. It was as shiny and clean as when it had been purchased by the late Oliver Wasco and she kept it that way. For him.
Before Oliver had died he had given Jessica two keys; the one that opened the mailbox with the keys and one that went to his house. He gave her strict instructions to take his laptop and the revolver he had used on his last kill and destroy them both. She had only kept half of her promise. When she saw the revolver she thought it was too beautiful to destroy and couldn't help but keep it as a memento to the man that changed her life.
The subway ride into Brooklyn didn't take long and she sat patiently with her purse on her lap until she arrived at the closest stop to John's address. It was dark and cold when she came out of the subway underground into the night air. She crossed her arms for warmth and headed toward Lexington Ave. It was eight o'clock when she arrived on the doorstep of John's five-story apartment building. On the outside of the building, a bank of buzzers was nestled into the bricks and Jessica swept her hand across all of the metal nubs which caused a few recipients to respond angrily. Shouts and slurs clogged up the speaker but along with the fuzzy noise, Jessica heard the click of the front door unlatch.
Outside of John's door, she pulled the large revolver out of her purse and wrapped on the door with her knuckles a few times. She hoped he would open the door not suspecting an assassin and she would just shoot him in the face as soon as she saw him. Her hands shook slightly as she waited but no one came.
She knocked again, this time harder and was surprised when the door slowly opened from the force of her knocks. Tentatively, she swung the door open and walked inside. The interior of the apartment was dimly lit and nearly quiet save the soft hum of the radiator on the back wall. To her immediate right, a bowl of half eaten cereal sat alone on a small round table in the corner of the room.
The end of the revolver preceded her as she held it with both hands in front of her, jerking it in the whichever direction she faced as she walked throughout the desolate apartment. As she passed the small kitchen she noticed a file on the counter. She opened the file to find a full-page photo of herself. On the next page, she found a printout from her hospital profile which listed many personal details. Circled in blue ink was her address. She slammed the file shut and moved on with her search.
As she passed through the living room she noticed the bedroom door was closed and moved toward it slowly. She couldn't hear the clank of her shoes on the wooden floor over the sound of her heart pounding inside her ears. Outside the door, she stopped and backed against the wall.
She tapped on the door with the butt of her gun and said, "You shouldn't have come for me!" When no one responded she continued, "I help people! I make people rich! And you want to ruin all of it!"
"You got that man killed!" John yelled from somewhere inside the bedroom.
"He deserved it!" Jessica screeched and then added, "And actually, you killed him."
"It doesn't have to be like this, Jessica! I can help you!" John yelled back with as much optimism he could muster.
"They'll never understand," Jessica said and then took a few deep breaths. "I just wanted to give good people a chance at something better. That's what Oliver wanted. So, I made sure they were worthy. I tested them and if they didn't pass they didn't get a key. I had a system! It was working! Until you came along and messed it all up!"
"Just calm down and we can talk about this!" John yelled back, concerned with the stress rising in her voice.
With a single, rapid move she twisted the doorknob and flung the door open as fast as she could. When she did she was immediately assaulted by a strobe light that filled the room and blinded her.
Without thinking she pointed her gun forward and took a single shot into the wall in front of her. The sound of the immense weapon overtook the flashes of light and spilled out of the apartment in a wave around them. A second later three more bursts came from the corner of the room and in the flashes, Jessica fell to the floor like an old black and white film where only a few frames of the action could be seen. John stood up from behind his bed where he had taken cover just moments earlier. With his gun still trained on Jessica, he walked over to where his duty flashlight was still popping off light beams and turned it off.
When his eyes adjusted to a lack of strobe lights he could see Jessica, the woman from the rooftop but with red hair now, lying still on the floor, a river of blood flowed from her neck and chest. John kicked the pistol away from her hand even though he knew she was done for. He knelt down and looked into her lifeless eyes which were still open. He felt her wrist for a pulse but only felt the fading warmth of her skin on his fingers. He gently closed her eyes, took out his phone and called 911.