It Had to Be You
The city bus stopped a mile from the zoo, in a short amount of time my feet started to ache from the frigid temperature. While making tracks through the thick snow, I passed a few teenagers who were smoking Ganja in the street. I pulled my purse close to my body and prayed this would not be that night.
My nerves danced on top of my skin, “Five more minutes to go,” I encouraged myself as I continued treading through the thick snow.
Uptown smelled like mistletoe, all I could smell now was danger.
The weatherman predicted the winter would be a bad one, funny how they never mention bad summers.
Inside my house, I removed the wet coat and shoes and headed toward the kitchen. The lights were dim, and I could feel cold air seeping through the crack in the kitchen window. I turned the oven on to heat the area, when I saw something scurry across the floor, I was too tired to investigate so I didn’t.
Despite a failing heating system my place was warmer than the outside. Inside my cage I was protected from the elements but still I had no peace, you see Halloween was over yet in this neighborhood it never ends.
I made a small pot of coffee and heated the leftovers in the microwave, wondering how the families Uptown were preparing for dinner on this dark-frosty night.
Johnny and Elizabeth were told its dinnertime; and Dad, he was probably relaxing in the den drinking a Brandy, unwinding from his hectic high- salaried job. “One day” I thought, sinking my teeth on a seasoned meatball.
I finished dinner turned the oven off and disposed my paper plate and utensils in the garbage when I heard someone at my door. It was Chris.
Chris lived with his parents in a duplex three blocks from me.
He took off his coat and handed me two plates of what smelled like heaven. His mother had made roast beef, red potatoes, and a side dish of asparagus. I took the plate to the kitchen placed it inside the refrigerator, Chris opened a bottle of whiskey, and I went upstairs to take a shower.
During my shower he made himself comfortable in my bedroom and scanned for something interesting to watch. After showering, I took a sip of whiskey and flopped on my bed. I was wearing a T-shirt and panties when I returned to my bedroom, but it was no big deal. Chris and I had been friends since high school, nothing more, nothing less. He was like a brother to me, a handsome one but clearly family.
Chris worked at the bank Uptown and usually arrived home about an hour or so after me. He had growing concerns about me walking home alone from the bus stop.
“Do you still have the gun I gave you?”
“Yes,” I answered.
“Good.” He replied.
We sat in silence and continued watching television while sirens and outside drama competed with the streaming movie. Eventually the howling wind drowned the outside distraction making it easier to focus on the movie and the Jack Daniels.
Chris spread the blanket over his body and reclined the chair as far as it would go. The portable heater made my bedroom feel all warm and cozy. After a while, he began to doze off. I continued watching television and eventually did the same. It would be daylight in a couple of hours and the trick-or-treaters would disappear until sundown.
After what seemed like a few hours it was already morning.
I glanced at the chair; it was empty. I could hear Chris talking on the phone downstairs. I opened the curtain and glared outside. It looked like more snow had accumulated and for a split second I was glad I didn’t have to leave the zoo.
Chris had started making breakfast. When he was done, he brought it upstairs. The look on his face had me concerned. He was up to something.
I took a bite of eggs and drank my coffee.
After swallowing his eggs, he put his fork down and sat back in the recliner.
I kept eating.
And I listened. I listened to every crazy but surreal detail that came out of his mouth. Funny thing I wasn’t scared. At that very moment I looked at Chris with a different lens. You see, he still looked like the Chris I knew. He talked like Chris, and walked like Chris, but he wasn’t Chris. He was something I had waited for all my life. A way out.
After two days of doing nothing at home, I returned to work.
Uptown, the Halloween ornaments were coming down and were being replaced with Thanksgiving décor. I watched the early Christmas shoppers pick up items for their loved ones, or maybe even for themselves. I must have taken in $5000 in sales from elegantly dressed housewives taking advantage of the pre-holiday deals.
It was an exciting time.
After work I caught the bus home — my nerves were calm, and my mind was light when the city bus came to a stop dropping me off at the usual mile outside the zoo. The fifteen-minute walk to the cage was met with the usual hostilities but the peace I was feeling somehow managed to silence the commotion.
I opened the door to my house, removed my attire, and made my way to the kitchen. I was in the middle of dinner when Chris called. We went over everything again. No detail was left uncovered. We talked for what seemed like hours, strategizing, implementing, and rehearsing our lines. The show was scheduled for debut in twenty-four hours. Any mistakes and it would be curtains. No encore. It had to be done right, it had to be airtight.
The following morning, I slept in a little longer — watching the television but not really cognizant of what was on the screen.
Around 4pm I started getting ready. It would be dark by 6:30 P.M.
As I continued getting dressed, I removed everything from my refrigerator and threw it in the dumpster outside and returned to my house.
Inside I could still hear gunfire followed by a series of helicopters circling the area in unison with flashing lights and blue cars parading down the street searching for trick-or-treaters. I put my gloves on and zipped my coat. By that time Chris had arrived.
We both looked at the clock.
It was time.
We walked a block to the first vehicle, got inside, and drove to the destination. The ride to the performance was peaceful, although my heart was racing, I wasn’t afraid. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt this alive.
Chris parked the car, and we walked the remaining distance.
When we arrived at the set, Bundy was already inside the venue and our second vehicle was parked behind the building.
Most people would probably start experiencing stage fright at this time. Oddly, I wasn’t nervous or afraid.
Was it normal to be this calm?
We continued waiting.
And just like that scene 5 started.
I ran to my location while Chris went the opposite direction.
Within a few minutes we saw the antagonist leave the building.
Like a trained sniper, I covered the area, watching to the left, the right, and then the left again, making sure no surprises ruined the performance.
Bundy was right. It was like taking candy from a baby.
As the antagonist continued walking to his car, Chris intercepted and escorted him inside the vehicle. With a Magnum pointed at his head the antagonist did as he was told.
Once inside the car, the antagonist started the engine and began to drive away from the building while Chris kept the gun aimed at his head from the backseat.
As they left the area, my palms became sweaty, and I continued watching the venue.
One by one the remaining villains began leaving the building, dispersing from the area. About fifteen minutes later Chris sent an all-clear text from inside the antagonist’s car. I immediately left my sniper post and opened the door to Bundy’s truck, the third vehicle, and positioned myself on the floor of the backseat.
Minutes later Bundy was the last person to exit the building.
I was still on the backseat when he opened the door to his truck, got inside, and lit a cigarette. I stayed on the floor of his truck until we arrived at the next scene.
I exited Bundy’s truck and joined Chris, and the antagonist, who were parked near the antagonist’s home and began unloading the bags from the trunk of the car to the new vehicle.
Bundy pulled his truck around to the front of the church and waited for his grandmother to exit the sanctuary. After dropping his grandmother off at her home, he headed toward his own house where he remained until morning.
The new vehicle was now in route to scene seven, the Riverside Park.
When we reached Riverside, the mid-size RV Bundy had purchased under a pseudo name was put in park, and Chris removed the antagonist from the vehicle, prepping him for scene eight. The antagonist and well-known drug dealer was not selected to participant in scene nine.
We drove a few feet to Riverside Lake where Chris forced the antagonist to snort a line of high-powered cocaine every few minutes for half of an hour, followed by a copious amount of alcohol. But it would be me who would deliver the fatal blow, 50mg/10ml of Amitriptyline Hydrochloride to the neck.
The antagonist soon began shifting to a state of unconsciousness as we dragged him to the shallow portion of the lake, the weights tied to his body would keep him from resurfacing. The river’s current started pushing the bad guy away from the shore, we watched his body sink in the deep part of the lake. He would not be missed. We were sure of that. Everyone knew he was the one who shot Chris ten years ago, but no one came forward to testify. And why would they? The 3-5-7 Boys had terrorized the neighborhood for years.
It started to snow as we watched Ceejay disappear into his final scene.
On the way back to the RV, I caught a snowflake on my tongue as the wind howled and Chris started the ignition. Feeling like I would turn to stone if I looked back, I continued facing forward until we dropped off one of the duffle bags containing 1.2 million to a location Bundy would pick up in the morning.
On the interstate there was a calmness I couldn’t explain. A sense of tranquility I hadn’t felt in years. We were both starting a new chapter in our lives and there was nothing but open road ahead for the both of us.
Chris took off his ski mask and I did the same.
I went to the kitchen area of the RV and fixed us a snack. There was approximately twenty hours of travel ahead of us and we were both excited. Chris and I had an appointment in Little Havana, at a chapel right outside of Miami where our nuptials would be pronounced before heading to Key West. I was looking forward to a series of never-ending summers and realized there was no one in the world who made me feel this safe. I smiled, reaching over to kiss Chris and whispered in his ear,
“It had to be you.”