There was someone at the door.
There was someone there, someone he did not know, but a presence that was ominous nonetheless, bringing with it a certain presentiment. He sat in the study, in the leather chair, shaky hands folded on the desk, taking slow, unsteady breaths in a last-ditch effort to calm himself. The doorknob jangled again, and he wondered, just for a moment, if he should go and let the person in.
Ridiculous, he thought. One did not let one's murderer in.
After a few moments, the clacking noises were abruptly curtailed, the lock apparently picked, and he heard the door swing open. Two soft footsteps followed, and then the sound of the door closing. He stared down at his hands, trying to concentrate on them and not his imminent destruction.
The steps came down the hall, like a slow, steady heartbeat, the opposite of his own at the present moment, which pounded in his ears like a clock counting down. They paused a minute at the study door, and he focused intently on the desk, intending to get this over and done with without so much as eye contact, just two shots and that was it, back of the head and he wouldn't feel anything anymore…
The study door swung open with a creak, and it took every fiber of his existence to prevent himself from looking up, just out of sheer curiosity. Once he silenced the desire, he retreated back to his shoddy bulwark of ignorance, praying that it would be over in the next minute.
But nothing happened. There were no more footsteps, no movements, nothing- just silence and the sound of the rain pounding on the sole window in the study, with the occasional lightening strike illuminating the dark room. It dragged on for minutes, or perhaps his sense of time had been so distorted that it may have possibly been merely a few seconds.
"What are you waiting for? An invitation?" he said, looking up.
She stood there, the figure clad in black, ever somber and grim, the shadows falling around her cheekbones and hollowing out her face, making it more enigmatic and apathetic. He thought, maybe, just maybe, he caught a momentary glimpse of sadness in her eyes, but it was gone before it could be confirmed, and he was unsure of whether or not it had just been a figment of his imagination. He focused on her eyes, trying to make sense of them, trying to figure out why she was here, now. He had seen her die, he had watched her bleed out on the pavement, and now it all seemed like some mad hallucination.
Why was she here?
She had changed, undoubtedly, and the recent times had aged her face a bit, the skin paler, the hair darker, cut differently. It was the culmination of the tiny anomalies that had almost caused him to not recognize her. But the cold demeanor that emanated from her reinforced who she truly was.
He wanted to cry, or to throw up, or to scream, or to hit the wall, but he couldn't even bring himself to whisper. His mind was still reeling in circles, mystified by her, by how she had survived, and considering the prospect that she may have faked her own death. Suddenly he felt sick, betrayed and used, and accompanying that came anger.
The scene had grown to mawkish for him, too sickly sweet, and he truly began to wonder if he were hallucinating. But underneath her left eye sat the scar, the one from years past, the one that he had given to her.
"Hey, kid," she said, softly, at long last. There was a weak smile accompanying the words, and he started to realize that this was just as hard for her as it was for him. He had to deal with the fact that he was dying, most likely within the next hour, but she had been given the onus of taking his life and walking away with his blood, the blood of someone she had truly loved, on her hands.
"It's you," he admitted, looking back down at the desk. "It's really you."
She nodded, almost unwillingly. "I'm sorry-" she started to say, preparing for some kind of an impromptu speech, but he cut her off by looking her dead in the eye.
"Tell me something- did you fake it?"
She shook her head no this time, a bit more confidently. "No. I just…survived. And I realized I had a couple of opportunities. I had the opportunity to give you what you wanted- to be free of me. And I had the opportunity to sever myself from the Reds. So I took them. I let you believe I was dead."
He took a moment to let her words sink in. Was it really what he had wanted? To be free of her chains? The first thought he'd had upon hearing of her death, was, in fact, that he had been emancipated from her shackles. Rather twisted and shallow, he knew, but he couldn't help what he felt. "Did Erica put you up to this?" he asked.
She bit her lower lip, a nervous habit she'd always possessed. "She tried to. And when I said I wouldn't, she threatened to tell the Reds about me. Needless to say, you won't hear anything from her again."
He shut his eyes, ruminating briefly on the gruesome fate of the woman with the black hair. She'd gotten what was coming to her, in his opinion. He'd fallen briefly into his thoughts when she fished him out with her words.
"You can leave, you know. If you get a knife, we could put a little bloodspatter here, maybe leave a brass or two, make it look like-"
He snorted, almost chuckling, finding her attempt to mollify this situation by giving him an out rather amusing. "I'm dying anyway," he confessed. "What's it really going to matter?"
She glanced down at the floor, at the black case held in her hands, the case that held the weapon of his demise within it. "Are you sure about this?"
The case came open, and the gun was in her hands in a flash, a matching Ruger, just like the one she had owned before, complete with the silencer, which he was currently staring down. He glanced past it to her hands, clad in black leather gloves, her index finger ready to pull the trigger, to her arm, then her shoulder, and finally to her face, which had begun to show the signs of grief and sorrow.
"Open casket or closed?" she said, forcing him to refocus.
"Doesn't matter," he answered nonchalantly, about to add something to the statement, when he heard the two shots, muffled by the silencer. He fell silent, and took a glimpse at his chest, feeling the pain from the two bullets, like the punctures left by a snake's fangs, spreading through his chest just as fast as the blood leaked out.
He opened his mouth to speak, perhaps to say goodbye, but all he got was an unexpected rush of blood, and he almost retched, leaning forward, and collapsing on the desk, still staring up at her, his eyes never leaving her frame. She sat on the corner of the desk, reaching for his hand, gripping it, and tracing the knuckles with her thumb, and it was then that the irony of the situation had dawned on him. He had assumed he had been dueling her in this game of chess, but all along in reality he had merely been one of her pawns on the board, to be moved about as she wished. And now was the time for that pawn to be thrown away in one definitive act by his queen.
"I don't want to die," he managed to choke out in a whisper, bringing forth more of the coppery-tasting liquid to his lips.
The blood ran down the corner of his mouth as he opened it to speak again. "It hurts."
He looked at her, one last time, with pleading and a strange sort of deference in his eyes, with respect for the woman who could have quite possibly been both the villain and the hero in this long, strange saga that had become his life. "I'm scared," he whispered.
She gripped his hand a bit tighter, starting to feel it go icy. "Me, too."
And the air around him grew cold and still, silence falling at long last, save for the rain, the sound that was always there, the rain that never ceased, the rain that washed away the tears and the blood when all was said and done. She sat there, holding his hand, until it was as frigid as her own, and then she knew that her auburn-haired boy was gone, and she was truly alone again in this world, as it had been before.
She stood up from the desk, taking one last look at him, and gently brushed a piece of hair from his face, twisting it around her finger. "Goodbye, kid," she said, taking a step toward the door. She shut it behind her as she left, leaving her pawn in the room, as the rain continued to fall, steadily, like tears, tears shed for the denouement of his final tragedy.