SEVENTEEN

Before he had left to buy 'food' (junk cough junk) , Spencer was nice (not lazy) enough to prepare actual food for her. She never really understood why Spence wanted to eat first. He never really cared if it wasn't the kind that would make you drunk. But he did look stressed. Maybe he just needed to relax. Oh shut up, 'Kit Kat' and let it go. Stop being stupid. So what if he wanted to eat? He's only human…it's not as if he's dying or anything.

Kathryn sat down to it as she held the phone firmly in her left hand, her brother rattling on about his day. She smiled at the food prepared for her…hoping it wasn't poisoned. If there's one thing you need to know about Spence, it's that you never trust him. Not with your home. Not with your pet. Not with your money…

Not with your heart.

On a saran-wrapped plate, smoked salmon and cream cheese were flanked by rings of onion sliced so thin it would make a tissue envious. A poppy-seed bagel waited in the toaster. Reaching over, she pushed the lever down and watched the coils flare to orange. The smell relaxed her a little bit. Who knew Spence could cook? The two soon hung up and Kathryn was left sitting alone by herself, picking at her food.

I love you is eight letters long, but then again, so is BULLSHIT!


--- He had the counter guy put four shots in a cardboard cup and sat the chromium table Kathryn had used when he was checking the apartment a few nights back. What to tell my step-brother's wife? The only humane thing to do would be to go up there and tell her nothing at all. Just tell her he had drawn a blank. Just leave it completely vague. It would be a kindness. Just go up there, hold her hand, break the news, refund their money, and then describe a long and fruitless search backward through history that ended up absolutely nowhere. Then plead with her to accept he must be long dead, and beg her to understand nobody would ever be able to tell her where or when or how. Then disappear and leave her to live out the short balance of her life with whatever dignity she could find in being just two out of the tens of millions of wives who gave up their husbands to the night and the fog swirling through a ghastly century.

Yeah. Fucking brilliant, Spence.

He sipped his way through the coffee, with his left hand clenched on the table in front of him. He would lie to them, but out of kindness. Spencer had no great experience of kindness. It was a virtue that had always run parallel to his life. He had never been in the sort of position where it counted for anything. He had never drawn duty breaking bad news to relatives. Not even at the hospital, or the very few years he had been a cop and a convicted felon. He had always managed to weasel himself out of this one. It was one thing he had never even thought of doing. Now, two years after leaving the Nightstalkers, kindness was suddenly a factor in his life. And it would make him lie.

But he would find Daniel.

would.

He unclenched his hand and stared at it. At the cracked plastic container with no label.

Take one, honey. It'll take away all the pain…

--Like a bullet to your brain--

Lungs filled with air. Inhale. Exhale. All gone…

Just take one. Easy kill. No pain…

Take the easy way out…

He held the pill with his thumb and his index finger, staring at it.

Come on, you know you want to…


At one point in the past few minutes, the waitress noticed his eyes glaze over, almost as though he was going to faint. At another point, she took note of the fact that he had his face buried in his arm, his left hand clenched in front of him, terrible wheezing and coughing being muffled by his arm. Getting terribly worried, she asked him, "Are you all right sir?" she said kindly, putting a hand on his shoulder. The man didn't bother to look up and kept still, crushing an empty bottle of flavoured water in his hand. "I'm…no…I'm…" he sighed heavily, "I'm fine. I'm just stressed." he replied.

"Would you like a glass of water?" she asked, her eyes glazing over to the empty plastic container on the table.

"No."

"I hope you feel better, sir." The waitress said sympathetically.

"I hope so too." ---

Outside the shabby inner-city building where the police were, I hop off the motorbike after Spencer, he was halfway there when he collapses. Just goes limp, and falls on the concrete. His head makes a faint cracking noise, hollow, like when you hit a coconut. I tried to catch him but it was too late, he was too far away. I look at him stupidly for a moment, then run towards him, all the while, screaming his name in panic. There was no one walking around, no cars in the alley. I scream for help. I couldn't leave him, and I couldn't just magically make a 6' 1 guy float in mid-air towards the station. Fuck!

I didn't know what to do. I bend down and a sensible voice tells me he's not dead, another voice says he's dead, chanting it inside my head and all I wanted to do at that very moment was kill that little voice. I look around, my heart racing, Tasmania trying to crawl up my throat. There's even a cat mewing at me, and rubbish bins. I half expect to get ambushed by a guy with a gun. I hold him in my arms and slap him gently, silently talking to him, "Come on, Spence. Talk to me, Spence. Talk to me please."

I stared at him while my guts turned to liquid nitrogen and all the heat in my body rushed to my eyelids. Words writhed around inside my head, taunting, the ice in my guts stabbing me. Just then, Tasmania sprouted into volcanoes and the inside of my head filled up with molten lava. It's not true…he's not dead…

Well, I can't feel a pulse, honey.

…He's not dead…

That's right, keep telling yourself that…

…No…your lying…he's not dead…

Strike one. A miss. Tsk, tsk, tsk…lost your dad…

…No…he's not gone…

Strike two! A miss. Lost your mom…

No! SHUT UP!

And…BAM! Strike three! He's outta here!

--- "Tell me," says Spencer, all amused, "What made you change your mind?" It had taken me until after school to decide…and five seconds till I came running back in. Just after Capital Barbie left from an audition. I scoff. An audition. Yeaahh, right. I bet she wanted more than a freaking audition.

"It's…the mess."

"What mess?" He looks around at the drama suite as he puts on a sneaker. I'd found out from the school notices that here, after school, he was interviewing people interested in the production. Hence, Capital Barbie. I'd read a book under a tree for an hour until the school was empty and all the others had gone home. No…well…actually, I was pretending to read a book, while rehearsing what I was going to say to him. Somewhere along the lines off, "Will you marry me?"

"Muddle," I say, but he hasn't understood.

"This is quite normal," he chuckles. I love his smile…his laugh…I just loved everything. "I know Lara's office is over the top but…"

"It's not just the office, Spence. It's everything."

"Life's messy." He says with a shrug, resuming what he had been doing two minutes ago. Push ups. Life's messy. Well, I agree with you on that one, pal. Dammit, Katy, will you get it out of the way? I mumble on, "This is the only organized thing I can count on. Everything's been such a wreck."

"I know how that feels." he says, sounding bitter. And being the nosy person that I am, I wanted to know why. He gets up and rakes his fingers through his hair, before whistling the tune of 'Bloody Mary Morning' by Willie Nelson. How do I know? I love Willie Nelson. I think he's cool. "So…" he says after the tune finished. "…what kinda job are you aimin' for, darlin?" he asked, in that roughly nice voice of his, as he sat down on the chair, propping his feet up on the table. I tilted my head and thought, Damn, he looks good with aviator glasses…He started to whistle again and that caught my attention.

I shrugged lamely and said, "Lawyer. I guess…I mean, I hope. You?"

He throws a tennis ball at the wall-- thunk --catches it. Throws it-- thunk --catches it. Then, finally he shrugs. "Doctor…but everyone says I should be a cop or something."

I stride over to a chair and sit down, pretending to look busy reading a confusing Shakespeare book, "You should. After standing up for me like that. Thanks a lot."

He turns to me and grins, "Well don't stress yourself, I'm still on duty."

We exchange a smile and the he stands up and sits down on the chair across from me. I gave him a curious look and he starts to laugh, shaking his head. I guess I looked pretty confused because he starts to grin. He leans over and puts both his hands on my knees. I gulp. Here are my options: A) I run out of here as fast as I can B) I run out of here as fast as I can and C)…I run out of here as fast as I can! He then glances down at my lap where the open book lay. "You said you can't read Shakespeare."

I suddenly felt comfortable under his touch and I know it might sound… 'daft', but I guess…I…I……

"I love you." I said, my voice cracking as I stared. He looks up from the book and stares at me.

"What?"

"Nothing!"

Sure as hell don't sound like nothin'---

--- Top 5 reasons Spence wasted his time with me:

5. He likes me.

4. He had nothing better to do.

3. He just wanted to make up for leaving when we were kids.

2. He felt sorry for the Kit Kat girl.

1. He likes me? ---


Still no movement.

Still no pulse.

Just then, a sleek midnight-blue Mercedes rounded up the corner. I could see it easily but Tasmania wouldn't allow me to scream, no matter how much I wanted to. No matter how much…I needed to. I put my fingers in my mouth and blew three of my loudest whistles. Until finally, the car came to a halt, and a tall cop stepped out, looking down at the lifeless body I was holding, in disbelief. His eyes wide in silent terror,

"Spence…"

Inhale…

Exhale…

All gone.

There's ten thousand reasons to survive…

…you only need one to die