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AN ATTENDED DEATH and Other Short Stories




Now it’s clear and I know what I have to do

I must take you down there to look at them, too

And then we’ll jump right into that pool

Can’t you see, not just me

They want you, too

And we’ll drown together

And we’ll be forever



                                                Dave Murray/Steve Harris “Still Life”

                                                Piece of Mind



            The young man was well dressed but disheveled. He stumbled into the police station at two A.M., his face white and wet with sweat and the front of his shirt plastered to his skin.

            “You have to help me!” he said. “Right now!”

            “Happy to, just as soon as you tell us what’s going on,” said Officer Allen.

            The policeman was also young, tall with broad shoulders and thick, brown hair that he kept combed back in a retro 1950’s coif.

            “There’s no time for that! It’s got Andrew! You have to get over there right now. Both of you! Are there more cops here?” He looked past Allen’s desk rubbing his arms with both hands.

            “Okay, how ‘bout we sit down, take a deep breath and start from the beginning.” Allen suggested in a calming voice. He looked across the interview room toward Sergeant Blair’s office and saw the ends of the Blair’s boots perched up on his desk.

            “There’s no time! The other cops wouldn’t even go.” the man said, then ran back to the glass doors and looked frantically outside. He turned back to Allen. “You have to believe me! It was killing him!! I could HEAR it tearing him apart!! Do you understand? OH SWEET JESUS! I didn’t want to leave him but I couldn’t find the way in!” He covered both of his ears with his hands. “My God, I can’t get his screams out of my head!

            Allen extended a hand toward the chair next to his desk. “Sir, I can’t help until you sit down and tell me what’s going on.”

            “How ‘bout a cigarette, pally?” A gruff voice to their left said.

            Sergeant Blair was suddenly standing next to the man holding a Camel out in one gnarled fist. He had a friendly, crooked grin that seemed genuine.

            Paul leaned toward the Sergeant, his breath pungent with alcohol.

            “It didn’t sound human! Do you understand what I’m saying? Of course you don’t… why should you? and…and…I don’t smoke,” but he took the cigarette, holding it to his quivering lips while Blair brought the flame of his lighter up. The man inhaled and coughed dryly.

            “There now,” said Blair “that’s better, isn’t it? So let’s start with your name.”

            “Paul,” the sweating man managed. “Paul Gwyn.”

            “All right Paul. Why don’t we pull up a chair and see what’s what, okay?”

            “What’s what?” Paul repeated. He took another drag and coughed again. Allen saw that there was a residual of what looked like lipstick around his mouth. His eyes were wide and staring and he continued to look back at the window.

            “They wouldn’t even go!” Paul said again, and allowed himself to be led back to a chair in front of Allen’s desk.

            “Who wouldn’t go where, Paul?” Blair said, sitting on the corner of the desk.

            “The other cops up the street, the guys with the big hats.”

            “Oh the State Police.” Allen said and winked at Blair.

            “I guess so,” answered Paul. “After I told them everything they told me to sleep it off. They wouldn’t even look for Andrew!”

            “Who’s Andrew?” Allen began opening his notebook.

            “M… My boyfriend.” Paul answered and he rubbed at his face. There was something other than makeup there. Something white and powdery. Allen looked quickly up at Blair, who seemed to be studying him more than the man he was interviewing.

            “Okay, Paul,” Allen continued, dismissing Blair, “and do you two live together?”

            “No, we only met a couple of months…What are you doing! Why aren’t you moving?” Paul shouted suddenly jumping back to his feet. “You’ve got to go over there! I couldn’t get to him! The stairs weren’t there anymore…and I could hear him. There was this awful sound…I never heard a sound like that. It was like someone was tearing ten phone books apart at the same time. And Andrew… my poor Andrew… I never heard anyone scream like that. I just know he’s… he’s…” Paul’s face contorted and he began to cry.

            Blair leaned over, gripped the sobbing man’s shoulder, and gently pushed him back into the chair. “Take it easy now. If you want to help your friend, you’re gonna have to slow down and tell us what happened.”

            Allen braced himself for another outburst but the crying man deflated before his eyes. “I told him not to go but he wouldn’t listen.” Paul looked up at the officers, eyes wider than ever. “I tried to help him but I couldn’t get back to the stairs,” he broke off, sobbing again.

            “What’s Andrew’s last name, sir,” Allen asked, picking up his notebook again.

            “Boden. Andrew wanted to come by my place. Hear it for himself.” He looked up at the two officers as if coming out of a trance. “But what difference does it make? This isn’t helping him!”

            “Ah but it is,” Sergeant Blair said soothingly. “This background stuff is important. ‘Forewarned is forearmed’ and all that. Now, go on and tell us what you can. The sooner you do, the sooner we can find Andrew. Does he live here in New Paltz?”

            Paul shook his head. “He’s a project manager for Donovan Construction. They’re across the river… I think.” Allen looked questioningly over at Blair but the sergeant shook his head.

            “So the company put him up in one of the motels?” asked Allen.

            Paul sniffed and wiped at his eyes. “I think so. Anyway that’s where we always stayed. But tonight he wanted to come over. I didn’t want him to, but he insisted.”

            “Why didn’t you want him to come over?”

            Paul drew on the shrinking cigarette and blew smoke over his shoes. He swallowed hard and gazed miserably up at the two uniformed men.

            “Because of my neighbor.” He said hoarsely, beginning to sob again. “My awful neighbor upstairs.”

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