Wounds (short fiction)

Someone must have seen him because the police were at his door. He wasn’t surprised. Murder was a nasty business, and it was to be expected that his first one would be sloppy.

He opened the door and smiled at the two officers standing before him. One was short and round. The other was tall and thin. A matched set.

“Something I can help you with?” Ray asked.

“Mr. Rogers?” asked the taller cop.

“That’s right.”

“Can we come in?” asked the shorter cop.

“Sure.” Ray stepped aside, let the officers enter.

“Mr. Rogers, could you tell us—”

“I killed her,” said Ray.

The cops glanced at one another.

“That’s what you want to know, right? A guy matching my description was reported leaving the scene of the crime. Tall. Pale. Short hair. Blue eyes.” He nodded to the coat hanging from the rack. “Brown coat with classic pinup art stitched to the back.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I can’t believe I wore the coat,” said Ray. “That was stupid. Why not leave a card with my room number and a confession while I was at it?”

“So you’re admitting you killed her then, sir?” asked short cop.

“Yes, Officer. I killed her, but I’m not sure it falls under your jurisdiction. She wasn’t completely alive in the first place.”

They put their hands on their guns. Ray waved his hand, focused his will. They froze.

“It’s a rotten thing,” he said. “I’m not a violent sort. I’m really not. But when I saw her checking in, just a few rooms down, I knew what I had to do. It’s an old wound, and some old wounds don’t heal. No matter how many centuries pass. Some things can never be forgiven.”

He sat on the creaky bed and sighed. “I’ve never killed anyone before. Can you believe that? All these centuries. I’ve never had to. I never slipped. Countless gallons of blood drained and nobody died. I thought I was better than the others because of it, that I had more respect for life than them. Turned out, it wasn’t a matter of respect. Merely motivation.

“So I killed her, but if it’s any consolation, she wasn’t one of the good ones. I looked down on her forever because of all the horrible things she’d done, and the irony is that it took me killing her to understand her. I still don’t forgive her. I still think it was the right thing to do. I’d drive that stake through her heart a thousand times. So much for the high ground.

“Old wounds, gentlemen.”

He laughed bitterly.

“Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to forget all about this conversation. Different guy. Different jacket. By the time you come back tomorrow, I’ll be gone. Justanother unsolved case.”

They tipped their hats. “Sorry to have bothered you, Mr. Rogers.”

“No bother at all.”

Ray shut the door, lay in the bed, and turned on the TV. She was dead, and it still didn’t make him feel any better. He remembered all the people, dead and undead, who had wronged him. Wronged other people who hadn’t deserved it. He’d sat on the sidelines too long, thinking himself above it.

She was his first murder. He hoped to hell she was his last.

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