Vitamin D, C, A, B. She takes them all. Why you ask? Habit mostly. Being raised by parents who thought that everything that the news said would help raise a healthy kid was necessary. She had a basket on top of the fridge. It was brimming with lotions, oils and pills. Inside the fridge was even more interesting. Most people have a salad drawer, or a small section dedicated to greens. Mary had instead an entire fridge dedicated to salad. There was no meat. She was a vegan. And not the type that says ‘I’m a vegetarian but I love to have the odd bacon sandwich’ Mary hated that kind of vegan or vegetarian, or whatever they called themselves. She prided herself on being legitimate in everything she does.
She freshly ironed her clothes every day. Cleaned her apartment religiously. Most people wake up in the morning and think ‘I want another few minutes’ Mary wakes up and thinks about how she needs to cook, clean and eat the most healthy food she can. Long read hair put into a pony tail with a bit of fringe lightly tickling her left cheek. Looking the way she does it’s a wonder as to why she is single. Then the regimented way she lives answers that question all together.
Its morning. Ten o’clock so that means CNN and a round of whole wheat toast with butter churned by a guy called Guy in Denmark. Her frilly pink apron still on she took the time to listen to the news while reading the next chapter in her new ‘coffee table’ book.
Later today her plan is to scrub the kitchen, then to go shopping for avocados which is surprisingly difficult because you need to have them perfect, so when you cut them down the middle, and get the seed out, you have perfect segments.
Wheat toast finished. No rest for the wicked she tells herself. Time to start scrubbing away. Each inch needs to be shiny. Her sink is the worst. It is always clean. But doing so with minimal scratching to the aluminium is a pain in the behind.
As she works away she spares the odd glance out of the window. That needs cleaning as well. She can see slight smudging and a bit of dust. More elbow grease would be needed if this was to be a productive day. It was an incredibly big, it spanned her entire living room. Took such a long time to clean, but she managed it.
Bent over, the window in front of her. In the space of one seconds a bullet was expelled from a chamber, it raced from its destination, a small apartment on down the street at the perfect angle to see into her kitchen, the bullet took no time to shatter the glass and glance her shoulder. Ripping the shoulder strap of her pink apron and sending a horrific shudder through her body.
Imagine being electrocuted. Minus the loss of bowl control that was more or less the effect it had on Mary. She threw her scouring pad in the air, turned, and ran for cover. She approached her kitchen counter. Her bottle of vitamin B pills exploded and a shower of orange pills cascaded around her.
Her mirror exploded, sending small images of the apartment being ripped apart by what seemed to be stray bullets. But make no mistake. All the bullets are on target. After his clip is spent there is a pause as he reloads. Mary has no idea how long this would take but she runs for the phone. Luckily its cordless. She hides behind the sofa. In an ideal world she would run for the bathroom but she wouldn’t be able to make the distance. And then she would be stranded.
Before she began to dial she checked her surroundings. Nearly everything had been shot at. Except her lap top and the phone, its cradle has been nicked by a bullet however. She dialled 9/11.
“Hello 9/11 what is your emergency.” It was a woman. She sounded young. At least ten years younger than Mary.
“I know this sounds crazy.” She realised she was breathless. She was shaking. “But there is a sniper shooting at me. I’m in the Crowley apartment building. Room 345b. Please hurry.”
“Ok stay calm. Do you want me to stay on the line? It will take ten minutes for police to be on this.”
“Please just talk to me.”
“Ok what is your name?” She asked. Soothingly.
“Mary. And I’m forty two, well if I’m unlucky not for much longer.” She laughed uneasily. “Am I going to be ok. How long are they out?”
“eight minutes. And do not worry. We have our best on this. They will deal with this perfectly.”
Mary looked around her apartment, careful not to show she had a phone in her hand. No bullets flying. Had they gone away? Her answer lay on the screen of her laptop. It was blank. A white screen. With two words on it in black times new roman script. ‘Hello Mary’
The words disappeared and slowly the words ‘Yes. This Is the sniper’ were written there. Both answering the question about to escape her lips and chilling her to the marrow of her bones. The words hung there unnerving her immensely, like waiting for a cake to rise, a full wheat flower low sugar cake, naturally, every time she sits by her oven a torch in hand looking to see if it’s ok to take out, scared it will collapse in on itself.
The screen went completely blank again. But she didn’t have time to look at it she put her head behind the sofa. She picked up the phone and heard the operator.
“-Mary? Are you ok? Oh god you haven’t been-“
“No, no, I’m fine. But I think he has hacked my laptop. It’s on the table near the window he shot through and he is sending me messages.”
“My god. What did they say. The first one said ‘hello Mary’, then the next one said ‘yes, this is the sniper’. And he began a third, ill check.”
She looked over and once again her stomach turned. “It says. ‘If you contact the outside I will kill you.’ Oh my god...”
“Stay calm. Does he know you have contacted us?”
Mary looked up. He was typing instructions. ‘I want you to pick up a piece of paper, a pad preferably, and I want you to write responses to my questions on here, this one sided conversation is getting boring. Whenever you respond just hold up the response, believe me, I can read it from where I am’ She isn’t sure what to do. But then she acts. For all she knows this could be to get her out in the open. But then again whenever she put her head out he could have shot her.
Calmly, like she was about to get her washing, she walked to her phone book and got a pen. She then turned and walked back to the sofa. She wrote on it. Happy? She held her arm out for ten seconds. They dripped by. She kept half expecting her arm to explode like her vase.
Instead she got a reply.
‘Very, now what I want you to do is answer this question. Why do you think this is happening to you?”
This caught Mary by surprise. She put the phone to her ear and made sure that the sniper couldn’t see her.
“What’s your name. Calling you miss emergency services woman is difficult.”
“My name is Brandy.”
“Ok Brandy. He asked me to correspond with him with notes. He looks at them as I hold them up from where I’m hiding. He then replies. He wants me to answer as to why I think this is happening to me.”
“Why do you think so?”
“I don’t know.”
“You have no enemies?”
“Not that I can think of. What do I write.” Her voice had gone up several octaves now. “That I don’t know. I’m hiding behind a couch. He can shoot through this.”
“Just say you don’t know.”
She wrote it down on the paper. She held it out. She counted the seconds. It dragged on and on, the one clock that hadn’t been hit by a bullet was ticking over and over. It rand in her head. Soon the computer screen showed a response.
‘Mary, do you not think about your past. About your mind. About him. Not about Larry Bryant?’
She froze. A name that went to her brain. Straight to her nerve endings. A name she had thought she had trained herself to forget. The name she saw on the surface of every kitchen work place, in the reflection of every mirror, in the shine of the porcelain dish and bowl.
Larry Bryant. The love of her teenage life. A stupid boy. From a stupid time in her life. His death was a hard pill to swallow.
Brandy can be heard calling Mary’s name softly. “Yes.” Mary replies just as softly.
“What did he say.”
“He asked me something. Personal.” “So this is someone with knowledge about you? That’s helpful.”
“Where are the police?”
“Five minutes out, just keep it up, soon you will be talking to an officer on the scene.”
“I don’t want to do that. I want to talk to you.”
Brandy ignored this. Pretending that she wasn’t flattered. “What did he ask?”
“He asked about someone I used to know. Larry Bryant. He died a while back, when I was still in high school. He and I used to go out. But then he died in a freak accident.”
“What kind of freak accident?”
Mary took a deep breath. Shuddering at the thought of even diving into her own subconscious and rooting around for this memory, like she was a pearl diver. With the best intentions she divers, looking for a memory. And then she finds a shark among the pearls. And the shark wants to tear off her head.
“We. We were drinking. He and I, we were in the tenth grade. And we just did stupid things back then I guess.”
“It’s ok.” Brandy says, hearing the catch in Mary’s voice. “Take your time.”
“He and I were drinking. We had been going out for the last few weeks.” She looked out over her shoulder. As she began talking she began writing. “He had had far too much.” She laughed cynically. It was a sound that rarely left her lips. “He couldn’t hold his alcohol. Neither could I. Up until that time we hadn’t done much. If you understand me. Holding hands. Kissing.”
“Yeah. But he got a bit over the top. And started searching for pastures greener. We were by the peer, do you know Sidewinder street?”
“yeah, the little peer?” Brandy had a wistful sound in her voice.
“It’s well known.” Mary couldn’t hold back a genuine smile. “But like I said. He got over the top. And I being the ‘prude’ I was, his words not mine, he started reaching for my upper body, and under my skirt, undoing his trousers. I pushed him away. He didn’t get the picture. This happened two or three times. Then he got angry.”
Mary found herself crying and Brandy could hear the stifled sobs. “Did he fall?”
Still writing on the paper Mary replied. “I only meant to push him away. I didn’t mean for him to.” She began to cry, she stopped writing and brushed away stinging tears. “For god sake when are the police going to be here?”
“Two minutes I promise.”
“Oh god, I need to show him something. I wrote as I spoke. I’ll just show it.” Her hands k a lot now. Her mind racing. Who the hell was this guy who knew about Larry? And what the hell is he doing shooting at her? Larry had no brothers. No other girl friends, and his father was an alcoholic, she doubted he could urinate straight, let alone shoot.
The note said. ‘Larry died, and it was most likely my fault. And I don’t know who you are, and why you care, but please, just stop. Why do you care about Larry so much?’
She waited for the screen to show his reply. It appeared straight and it made her feel sick.
It read. ‘Because I am Larry.’
More tears fell. Creeping their way down her cheeks. It felt like she had been hit in the gut. She could feel the ghostly reaching hands of Larry. Her throat caught on her breath. The brushing of fingers on her femininity. Her response. The impulse to push. She looked back to the screen.
She wasn’t sure if she should be relieved or angry.
One final message came up.
‘As to why I care. Well, wouldn’t you care when someone dies, and no one is punished? Because you have lived scot free for the last few years. Until now. So, what do you think will happen? Am I going to kill you? Torture you? I am sure someone has heard the gun shots. But that is of no concern. I have about three minutes.’
She felt ill. Back on the other end of the phone Brandy was talking to her. Calling her name frantically.
“The police are nearly with you. They are outside. Two are coming up. Both dressed in civilian clothes. I have to go now.” She said in a hushed tone. “Goodbye. And you will be fine.” Mary wanted to scream for her not to go. But instead just sat there.
The monitor showed no sign of changed. Was he waiting for a reply? She began to write it down. The words coming to her spontaneously.
‘I have no idea who you are. But I am sorry about Larry. This entire thing is crazy. If you want I’ll admit to it all. I’ll go to the police. But please, just stop this.’ She could think of nothing else to say. Nothing else but pleading sprung to mind.
She held out the note. Waiting for the reply. For the monitor to go blank then display the next answer. Or maybe he would pass his righteous judgement on her by splattering her grey matter on the wall.
She waited. It was more than ten seconds. She put her hand down and turned. The old message was still there. No response. What was he doing? She felt more than ill.
“Mary.” A hiss came from her door way a few meters away. It was a man, he was middle aged. He held a badge and a gun. “I am detective Marshal” The woman he was with looked at Mary. Shock and concern on her face. Her eyes darted to the pad. She saw the phone. Her eyes darted to Mary again.
“Who is that?” Mary pointed at the woman. Not trusting anyone she wanted the name of its woman.
“Who?” He turned to face the woman, she shot him point blank in his face. Spraying Mary with blood. The woman pointed the gun at Mary.
“Hello Mary.” She said. Mary was expecting the sniper to do something. The woman stepped out and went to the laptop. Bringing it over. “Did you ever give a reply?”
“You shot him.”
“And you broke the rules. You called the emergency services.” Her insides froze.
“Yes.” She smiled thinly. “I’m not interested in your simple little note. I want to hear from your lips. What do you think should happen to you. How do you feel about Larry’s death.”
Mary began to cry. “It, it haunts me...everyday I wake up and I see his face. I didn’t love him. I’m not going to romanticize it. But I cared about him. And it wasn’t his fault. It was my fault. And I deserve death. I am so sorry.”
The gun stayed pointed at Mary. The woman spoke. “I spent years thinking Larry was murdered. But then I found you. I suspected you knew something. But then I saw CCTV of the night. No proof of you pushing him. But enough. And I thought to myself I need the truth. Only in terror could I get what I needed.”
“But you killed him” She pointed at him.
“I have killed several other people over this time.”
“What do you mean?”
“Larry was pushed in by you. But more than his death have set me on this path. The final person will be whoever let him drown. Who stood there and watched.”
“Who was that?”
“I have no idea. I have a picture on the CCTV.”
They stayed there. In complete silence. Then the woman embraced Mary. She hugged Mary close.
“I’m sorry I put you through this.” Mary had no idea what to say. No its ok, you only shot up my apartment. But in reality she felt something close to relief. Letting it all out. Someone forgiving her.
“Who are you?” Mary asked. The woman kissed her cheek. She got up and went to the door.
“The police will be here soon. Sorry about the mess.” Before she left she turned around with a smile on her face. “You can call me Brandy.”
Mary fainted. But the last two things that occurred to her was that there had been three shooting prior to today. One of them had been the man who lived on their road who had been convicted of being a paedophile. The other two she didn’t know. And secondly, and more disturbingly, Larry had had a little sister called Brandy.