Carl Waits' voice hissed in my mind, waking me from a deep sleep. Though it had been a month since I killed him, the word still haunted me.
I rubbed my eyes. I hated waking up like this. The clock read 2:41. I hoped I'd be able to get back to sleep, though it usually didn't work out that way.
I walked downstairs, hoping if I got something to drink I could sleep better. I was surprised when I found Don sitting at the kitchen table, a cup of coffee in his left hand, his gaze on the table in front of him.
"Hey Don, you okay?" I asked as I walked into the kitchen. He looked up, brought of us his daze.
"Hey, what are you doing up?" He asked.
"I couldn't sleep."
I got out the jug of milk from the fridge. I set it down on the table and walked to the cupboard to take out a glass.
I poured milk into my glass as Don watched me.
"You all right?"
"Me? I'm fine. What are you doing here so late?"
"I couldn't sleep. I was going to go to my place, but I didn't feel like going that far. I hope you don't mind."
"No, no. This is your house as much as it is mine."
"Yeah, but I don't pay the bills to show that."
I smiled. My gaze shot to the counter. There it was. I felt panicky. I moved quickly to it and picked it up, shoving it into one of the drawers.
"What's that?" Don asked.
"N-nothing. Just one of those bills." I tried to make my voice steady, but I didn't do a very good job of it.
Don nodded, but I doubted he believed me.
"You sure you're all right?" Don didn't come over for nothing.
"I just... I don't know, it's been a month, but..." He shook his head as though he still couldn't believe it.
"I know," I said quietly.
"It just worries me. I was this close to losing you." Don motioned by spacing his fingers close together.
"I mean, I've had some close calls before, but when you get involved... I don't know. It makes me want to quit my job like that." He snapped his fingers.
"What? Don, this was a one-time thing. You can't think that way. I'd never forgive myself if you quit your job because of me."
"I don't really want to quit, but if it means putting you in danger, I would."
"Please, Don. There will always be risks. Did I ever tell you I got threatened by one of my students?"
"What?" Don's outrage showed plainly on his face.
"Yeah. One of my students brought a gun into my classroom. He waited until the end of class. Lots of my students do that, so I thought nothing of it. He had been failing my class from the start, though I had offered to help him several times. I just assumed he was taking me up on the offer then. He pointed a gun at me and demanded I let him pass the class."
"What'd you do?"
"I told him I would. When he left, I called the police and they took him away. I had been testing a theory and had a camera in the classroom. The students all signed for it, even the one who threatened me. Apparently, he forgot about it."
"Well, that makes me feel real better," Don said sarcastically.
"The point is that wherever I go there is some risk. My job as a professor at CalSci and yours as an FBI agent are completely different, but the risk is still there. It's a choice, Don. I can't think of any job where there wouldn't be a risk."
Don was silent as he let my words sink in.
"When did that happen?" He asked later.
I felt a flush creep up my neck.
"Four months ago."
"Charlie! You mean you didn't tell me about it?"
"I didn't tell Dad, either."
"I can't believe you never told me."
"It wasn't a big deal."
"A guy aiming a gun at you isn't a big deal?"
"Okay, so it was a big deal. I just didn't want to make it into an even bigger one."
Don shook his head.
"You won't tell Dad, will you? He's worried enough about me already."
"I guess not."
We drank in silent for several minutes. I could tell Don was thinking hard, probably about what I said. I hoped he could come to the same conclusion as me.
"You want to sleep upstairs? You think you'll be able to now?" I asked him.
"I feel a little better. Let's head on up." Don stood and walked toward the kitchen door. I stayed sitting.
"What? You not coming?" Don asked at the door.
"Um, I'll be up in a minute. I have something to do."
"All right. Don't stay up for too long."
When I knew Don was upstairs, I went to the drawer and got out the letter addressed to me. I looked at the top left corner where the name of who it was from was written.
I thought about opening it, but I wasn't ready to deal with that yet. Maybe I never would be. I didn't know her connection to Carl, except that she was probably related. I would open it later, when I felt more stable.
I tucked it into my pocket and left to go upstairs. I could sleep easy tonight, knowing that Don was in the room next to mine.
He was coming out of the bathroom when I reached the top of the steps.
"Sleep good, Charlie."
I smiled at him.
"Yeah... I will."