Don Logan enjoyed a long career in the intelligence community before moving into the world of investment banking. He resides in Chicago and blissfully spends his time writing gritty crime thrillers about despicable people doing despicable things.
THE LAST LOOK
He flinched at the loud thud. The snowball hit the wall about two or three feet above his head, just missing the window. Hell, he should be used to it by now, but it still gets him every time.
He had half a mind to go out there and yell at the little bastards. Teach ‘em a lesson. Aw hell, what good would that do? His back was acting up again. Besides, it was too damn cold out there for that today. Especially today.
He stubbed out the last smoke and knocked back the final swallow of whisky. Stumbling in to the kitchenette, he tossed the empty bottle in the trash. Right next to the others. Back on the couch, he twisted off the gold band and tossed it on the table. He watched it spin as he rubbed the smooth spot on his finger. That thing hadn’t been off his hand in thirty years.
He scratched the back of his neck and gave the trailer a final once over, wondering if someone else would move in. He snorted. Hell no, they’ll just haul it off to the junkyard, into the crusher. They’re always hard to sell, after…
Deep breath. This won’t hurt. Should be over in a split second. A flash and then… black. At least that's what they say. The only choice left was where: temple, mouth, or chin? He tried mouth first. Hit a tooth on the way in. Plan B. Up to the temple.
Eyes shut tight, hand shaking. Come on, don’t wimp out again. Do it.
Shit. One last look around.
One squeeze and the pain will be gone. It’ll all be over...
What? Where am I?
The halls were filled with laughter and anticipation, and the floors were covered in paper. The banner on the wall read: “Congratulations Class of ’78.”
Jesus, the place looks the same as it did back then.
Time to round up Sandy and get the hell out of here. Summer awaits. He found her two halls over, standing outside her locker in that old cheerleader outfit. She was giving out hugs and signing yearbooks.
God, she was cute as ever.
Coach? No, it couldn’t be. He died a long time ago. But there he was, standing in the hall, hands on his hips, whistle around his neck. Beer gut hanging over his belt.
Shit it is him.
“You keep your nose clean this summer, understand me mister? And don’t forget, football practice starts the second week of August.”
Practice? What the hell was he talking about? Crazy sonofabitch. He always was a ball buster.
Wait a minute. Where did he go?
He wrapped his arm around Sandy’s waist and pulled her close. She looked up at him and smiled.
Such a sweet smile.
Whoa, what happened?
Stucco ceiling. Green curtains. TV on top of the oak dresser. It was his old house.
The alarm clock buzzed and Sandy kicked his leg. “Get up or you’ll be late for work.” Her face dropped back onto the pillow. “And don’t wake up the baby.”
He checked the clock. Oh shit. Up and into the bathroom. He dropped the white discs in the glass, quick shower, swallowed four aspirin with the fizz.
Hell, I must have done that a million times.
He saw the Chicago skyline in the distance through the thick window. The train jerked to a stop and the Conductor barked something about a wreck on the tracks. Late again.
All those hours on the train—we should never have moved out to the burbs.
Big Jerry was waiting for him outside his office, grimace on his face, arms crossed.
What an asshole.
He checked the clock: Four thirty. Men's room stall. A quick bump from the vial, and then he was out on the street.
The blare of the jukebox and the smell of stale beer and cigarettes hit him. He waved to the bartender.
“You’re early, Smitty. The usual?”
He slides onto the barstool. “You got it. Dirty, extra olives. Guy’s gotta eat, right?”
Jesus, did I do that every night?
He was staring at a slip of paper.
Oh no, please not here.
The number two in the third at Arlington was a closer. It was also the key horse in his Pick 3. Ten-to-one odds was a little steep. He looked down at the letter on the bar, next to his drink. It read: FINAL NOTICE.
Damn, I loved that car.
His cellphone rattled just as the horses lurched out of the gate. He checked to see who it was.
“Hi, honey. What’s up?”
“Hey, Dad. Are you coming to dinner tomorrow night? It’s your favorite—Prime Rib.” She sang the last part.
She liked to do that.
“Is your mother going to be there?”
Pause. “Yes, of course she is.”
“Will he be there?”
“Dad, come on. We’ve talked about this. They’ve been married for, like, seven years now. You need to get over it.”
“I’ll see.” He looked up at the television screen, the one with the yellow burn-in. “Come on two—push.”
“What? Dad, are you at that place?”
Shit. “Uh, ho, honey—I’m, um, at home, watching television.”
Betting slips became confetti, and a loud groan erupted in the room.
No way she didn’t hear that. “Damnit Dad.”
Maybe I’ll miss her the most.
He was back in his trailer, looking down at his body from the ceiling.
Damn it's a mess. Hope it’s not Sandy who finds me.
It didn’t have to come to this, but at least now he knew why. He should have been there for her, for them. Maybe he wouldn't have ended up here, alone. Like… that.
Man, I wish I hadn’t taken off that ring.