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Chloe’s Demise September 27, 2015

Posted by vsap in Blogroll, Fiction, Short Story.
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Bill Mayes hurried from his desk at AutoWorld to pick up his daughter, Jana, and deliver her to a friend’s birthday party. As he was pushing through the door he heard a voice over his shoulder.

“Hey Billy, knocking off early today?” It was Mo Hebert, his long-time sales manager.

He turned with a disappointed frown, “Mo, you approved the time and I’ll be back to cover from seven til close.”

Mo’s right hand popped up with a mock wave and he smiled while saying, “Have a nice afternoon.”

Bill made it out the door and into his Ford Explorer, a demo Mo allowed him to have for five consecutive years as top sales performer. Demos were rare in the business and Bill appreciated the gesture. Nevertheless Mo could make him feel unappreciated in moments when family trumped business.

As he drove to Clarkston Elementary School Bill began to sink into his feelings. He was married to Chloe for fifteen years until their divorce six months ago. The marriage which was built on sex and parties began to crumble after a couple of years. Chloe was just a hair over six-feet tall and played the dominatrix while Bill, at five-nine, found it interesting and exciting. She appreciated his self-deprecating humor (“short on height but long where it counts, baby”) and his success in business was a turn-on for her. Chloe, an auditor at the largest accounting firm in East Texas, was a career girl but the pair decided to get married, neither believing it had to last forever.

Within a year Chloe started belittling Bill. Why did she marry a scummy car dealer? Why couldn’t he get reputable work? Like a drug addict, starting small and building to something bigger, she graduated to physical abuse. She would push him and resorted to slapping him in public, in front of family and friends, even the grocery store, if she disagreed with him or simply felt like it. The sex and parties disappeared. Home was a war zone. Bill was sure she was having an affair but he didn’t confront Chloe with it to keep the little peace he had intact.

Finally, he told her he would walk if she didn’t agree to counseling. To his surprise, she agreed. After six months they felt comfortable about getting pregnant and family life. When Jana arrived ten years ago it was a dream come true for Bill. It seemed to be for Chloe, too, at first. Then a kind of postpartum depression overshadowed her and the old Chloe was resurrected. This incarnation of Chloe was worse since Jana stood in her way as not beloved daughter but rival for time and affection. And, Chloe had sacrificed her work to be at home but after six months that wouldn’t do. Bill saw small signs of abuse on Jana, cuts and bruises, Chloe would pass off as clumsiness or simply first-time motherhood awkwardness. Bill didn’t buy it so when Chloe demanded to go back to work Bill was relieved. He was confident he could get good daycare for Jana to put her out of harm’s way.

Once again, there was a leveling off period. Chloe accepted being a part-time mom and relegating Jana to Bill and daycare and then school. There were a few more counseling sessions at Bill’s request and things were not great but “stabilized” as Bill would describe it to his family. Until six months ago.

It was in the midst of tax season, Chloe’s busiest time of year. If she was normally an irascible bitch, this time of year magnified it by ten. Bill and Jana knew to stay out of Chloe’s way until one late March evening. The hair on the back of Bill’s neck began to stand and a hint of perspiration lined his forehead as he remembered that evening. Chloe burst through the door, threw her purse on the couch and its contents spilled across it. She ripped off her fur coat she had bought as a gift for herself when she returned to work, dropped it to the floor and began to rip its liner with the spikes of her high-heeled shoes. Her eyes were on fire, bill recalled, it was like she was possessed by a demon.

“You people!” she yelled, “You fuckin’ people!” then she raised her right hand and pointed directly at Bill and Jana standing stunned in the doorway to the kitchen.

“I’ve had it! I’m done!” She stood quivering in her blue business suit with beige blouse, sweat beading from her hairline, her usually well-cared-for auburn hair looked as if it had come in from a hurricane. She moved to the couch and reached into her purse. She retrieved a 22 caliber Berretta and pointed it at Bill.

Bill stared at the gun in disbelief but he remembered he was touching Jan’s shoulder and he pulsated his touch and said as calmly as he could, “Call 9-1-1, Jana, honey, okay? Go in the kitchen and use my phone.” Jana quickly disappeared.

Before the police arrived Chloe was on her knees in the living room, still holding the gun on Bill, quivering and screaming about how they had ruined her life and career and she would never forgive them. Chloe was stunned by the arrival of the police, spun around on her knee and took a wild shot, putting a hole in the wall next to the door before officers burst in and used a Taser on Chloe subduing her. She was sobbing uncontrollably as police cuffed her and took her away.

Chloe was held without bond. It took nearly a two months but she settled on being committed to a mental institution rather than prison. A month later Bill filed for divorce and full custody of Jana with no rights for Chloe, which were granted.

The road to Clarkston School today was another path on the journey of recovery. Notwithstanding Mo’s looking over his shoulder, Bill appreciated his employer being supportive during an abnormally difficult time. Thoughts of Chloe safely institutionalized and Jana out of her reach made him feel better and return from his reverie in time to pull up to the school, Jana and a couple of her friends waiting by the curb in excited banter. She waved to her friend and climbed into the SUV.

“See you in a few minutes!” Jana said to her friends as she struggled to close the door. She turned to Bill and exclaimed, “Hi Daddy! Let’s go to Carmen’s party! It’s been a great day…” and Bill listened attentively as his daughter explained her day and how all of her friends were excited about the party.

“Carmen is from Mexico and they will have a piñata! I saw a video online about it. It should be fun! Did you remember the present?”

Bill pointed to the back seat. Jana smiled and looked straight ahead. They arrived at Carmen’s and he helped Jana with the present and said “hi” to all the moms. He was getting used to seeing them at various plays and sports events. They lived in Tyler, Texas, not far from Clarkston Elementary School, and crossing paths with a variety people was not usual for a car dealer. Some of Jana’s friends parents were his customers and even the ones who weren’t were cordial and treated Jana like one of their own. The pain was worth this outcome, he thought, as he waved good-bye, and said he would be by to pick her up at six.

Jana wasn’t the only reason for Bill to take a few hours off this afternoon. Bill’s parents were on a Caribbean cruise, which they always took this time of year, so he needed to stop by, check on the mail and Buzzy, their old Tabby cat, before he would head home for a couple of hours of peace and quiet. Raising a fifth grader alone and relying on selling cars for a living was a noisy and hectic life and Bill knew he needed to give himself more space to recover.

As he entered his parent’s home, he got a flashing feeling that he was being watched. He turned to close the door but instead stepped out again and looked around the porch and out to the street but nothing was amiss. He closed the door behind him and saw Buzzy curled on the couch, eyes half-opened, not sure if he should bother to get up and greet his guest. Bill set his keys on the table next to the door and did his usual walk around but something struck him as different. He felt it but he couldn’t touch it. Living room, kitchen and bath checked out. His parents moved their bedroom to the main floor where Bill had grown up. The stairs were getting a little tricky and his dad didn’t want to put them in peril so the upstairs held a couple of bedrooms, one with Bill’s artifacts and another for Jana to stay if needed.

Bill saw no need to check upstairs so he returned to the kitchen and used the Keurig to make a cup of coffee. He spied the heavy ceramic mug he made for his dad in high school emblazoned with “World’s Greatest Dad” in adolescent scrawl and decided to use it. After it brewed he took it to his dad’s recliner next to Buzzy’s couch and turned on the new sixty-inch LCD Bill bought his parent’s with his bonus last year. Channel 2 Action News at 4 appeared and Bill set the remote on the table, deciding he should catch up on events. After a couple of apartment fires and freeway accident, Bill was ready to turn it off but then he saw the “Breaking News” logo stream across the screen so he decided to watch another moment.

“We have breaking news in from Rusk State Hospital. Three patients over-powered nurses and security guards and escaped this morning from the facility not far from Rusk, Texas. The DPS is reporting that two of the three patient were captured within the hour but one is still at-large,” the female reporter paused as her teleprompter refreshed, but she re-directed, “Let’s get you out to Howard Clark who is at the scene. Howard, what’s the latest?”

“Thanks Sylvia, I’m standing about a mile from the Rusk State Hospital. As you know, the facility is one of just a few in the state offering Inpatient adult psychiatric and forensic services and psychiatric residential adult services.  Also, it provides adult maximum security forensic psychiatric services. It’s that last part that’s important to note. These patients reside in that maximum security facility where at about eleven this morning three escaped the facility. Two of them, Patsy Gray of Waco and Grace Frailey of Terrell were captured not too far from where I’m standing. However, we are told another, yet unnamed patient escaped and we are told she may be armed and is very dangerous. All we know now is she may have been originally from the Tyler area. Let me get it back to you Sylvia while I talk with DPS to find out more. I’m Howard Clark, Channel 2 Action News at 4.”

Bill sat erect in his father’s chair, grabbed the remote and shut down the TV. He set his hot coffee on the table along with the remote. It finally occurred to him what was bothering him when he walked into the house. A scent. Chloe always used a fragrant soap, a sort of rose scent would rise from her skin. It is part of what attracted Bill to her and, later, repulsed him about her. He panicked for a moment, Chloe escaped? It seemed surreal. Bill had experienced the rush of Chloe’s anger and he could imagine how her stature could intimidate and overpower nurses and ill-prepared security guards. He knew it was less than an hour from Rusk to Tyler. Still, it couldn’t be real, could it? He thought.

He heard soft footfalls descending the stairs. A large mirror above the TV revealed the unfathomable. Bill watched as Chloe came down the stairs, gun at her side. He just stared at the reflection, frozen in place.

“Hello Bill,” Chloe said with a measure of coldness he had not heard in some time. Her eyes were dead. The full head of auburn hair was cropped short and dyed platinum, she looked like Annie Lennox. She was wearing a tee shirt with the “Don’t Mess With Texas” logo, faded jeans and sandals. Her once flushed face now gaunt and pale. She looked down at Buzzy, still curled on the couch below her. Chloe shot Buzzy one in the head. The shot startled Bill and he grabbed the chair with both hands as hard as he could.

“You know, Bill, I never liked cats,” Chloe said as she placed the gun back at her side, “I never liked your parents, either. Lucky for them they are gone. I would have loved to put them down. You haven’t been keeping in touch, Bill.”

Bill was staring at her in the mirror. She finally looked up and noticed what he was doing.

“Look, Chloe, we don’t have to relive the past. We decided to part ways, start fresh, and I understood you were good with that,” Bill responded to her as they looked at each other in the mirror. She shrugged slightly as a sign of indifference.

“You know how I got here?” Chloe asked, “I took these clothes from some gal in a truck stop restroom and the jeans had car keys in them. Lucky, right? So I found the car from pressing the fob and it didn’t take long to get here. Ditched the car down by the dealership and walked over. Took a little longer than I expected. I’m a little out of shape.”

“Why come here?” Bill asked.

“Kind of a dumb question, Bill,” the old Chloe rising to the challenge, “I went home, remember, our home, and damned if you didn’t get rid of the 22 I was about to kill you with back then. I came here, logical, right? Your dad leaves a spare key above the door. Perfectly safe. No one knows except everyone on this street! So, I let myself in and sat by the window in Jana’s room and waited. I knew you’d show sooner or later. Where’s the kid?”

“I don’t think that’s important. What’s important is if someone heard that shot the police may be on the way. You should think about your future. You don’t want to go to prison do you? Isn’t Rusk better than going to prison?” Bill was hoping to prolong the banter in case the police were on the way. If they weren’t he’d have to think of more ploys to keep alive.

“It’s a prison by another name,” she said, “I’d kill Jana if she was here right now, you know that don’t you? I’d kill her while you watched then let you live with that. Does that sound crazy to you, Bill? I think it’s both logical and fair. But, I don’t have that option do I? So, what’s next?”

“I guess sex is out of the question,” Bill quipped and nervously smiled.

Chloe’s head turned and Bill’s head turned and Chloe’s eyes met Bill’s for the first time. She began to raise her right arm, the hand of which held the 22. Bill grabbed the coffee cup and flung it across hitting Chloe in the face. He quickly got to his feet and found the remote and hit her forehead squarely as she reeled back from the hot liquid and ceramic pieces blinding her and flying everywhere. The gun went off with a harmless shot toward the kitchen before it slid on the hardwood floor away from Chloe. Bill took Buzzy’s lifeless body and used it like a pillow to suffocate Chloe, knees on her abdomen and screaming “you bitch” repeatedly.

When the police arrived Chloe was unconscious but still alive. Bill called Jana’s party host to see if she could stay an hour or two longer. He called Mo to tell him he received an unexpected visit from Chloe and he wouldn’t be able to cover seven til close as promised. Mo told he had watched all of it on the news and Bill could take as much time as he needed. Bill told Mo he would be in by Noon, his regular time for tomorrow. He didn’t know what he would tell his parents.

After Bill had answered police questions he was left with a mess. His parent’s house a crime scene. Their cat brutally murdered then used to subdue his killer. Thank goodness his parents were on a cruise. He didn’t want to leave but the police asked him to leave it as is, if not inconvenient, in case the investigation needed to continue. He agreed. Bill had to retrieve a new set of clothes from his upstairs room since the police needed his for evidence. He would call a local service company to clean things up before his parents got home. Then a shiver went through him. What if Jana saw this on TV? He hoped her friends were too busy to notice. He’d explain later if he had to but for now it would be sufficient to pick her up and take her home.