The man walked determinedly toward his car, but his mind was elsewhere; on the case, or cases as it were. He was actually making good headway on the investigation by his reckoning, disturbing headway. He had found the link in the cases he had been looking for two days before, and it had changed everything! Even he couldn’t believe the ramifications of his find.
The night was warm and he removed his jacket and hung it over his arm, folding it carefully first. He rubbed his free hand through his military cut salt and pepper hair, letting his mind wander, enjoying the weather.
Reaching the car, he dug into his pocket and pulled out his keys to unlock his government furnished sedan, but his keys suddenly fell from his hand. He looked down in confusion and wondered why he just did that, and why all of a sudden he couldn’t seem to move to correct it.
He felt a hand then on his shoulder, hot breath on his neck. “I hear you’re looking for me,” the stranger whispered into his ear, “thought I would save you the trouble.”
The man reached quickly for his weapon, but his arm wouldn’t respond; still hanging limply at his side. Fear was creeping up his spine now. It’s an emotion that he had very seldom experienced, and he didn’t like the feeling one bit.
The hot breath again, “you will crumble to the pavement in a moment; let me help you down instead.”
Hands snaked under his arms, clasped gently around his chest and pulled backwards, lowering his growing dead weight easily to the pavement.
“There now, nice and comfy. Look at those stars, aren’t they marvelous?”
The stars were indeed beautiful, and the man took a good look at them for a change; it had been years since he had looked at the sky as anything but an overhead certainty.
“I’m very impressed with you; I wanted you to know that. There are very few people that could have put all the pieces together. I salute your tenacity detective; unfortunately you were starting to get in the way of my work. But I want you to know something; you are a rare breed indeed, one of the good guys.”
The man was thinking, thinking of his mom and dad. Funny what you think about in times like these. He missed them a lot; twenty years had passed since they had left this world.
“Let me put that coat over you; that concrete is probably getting cold. I want to make sure you are comfortable.” The man on the ground made out the silhouette of a stranger over him with a wide brimmed hat, the shadows completely concealing his identity.
Thinking now of his friend, he really only had one. That was ok though, true friendship was rare. He wondered how he was doing; it had been over a year since he’d seen him. He hoped he had found some happiness by now.
Wide hat over him again, “time to say goodbye, and I must admit, it’s been a pleasure.”
The life slowly went out of the eyes; the man on the ground was gone. The stranger continued to look down upon the man in the deserted parking lot. Reaching down gently, he laid his palm on the man’s brow and slid it down, closing the eyes. He then crossed himself, finishing the ritual by taking to his mouth a pendant hung from his neck with a chain, kissing it reverently before letting it slide back to his chest.
“Yes indeed, a pleasure it has been. In a different life, who knows?”
The stranger rose up, removed his hat and wiped his brow. Replacing the hat fastidiously on his head, he looked down one final time before proceeding on his way.
Fingers to the rim of the hat, he tipped the hat slightly with a nod, “I bid you adieu Frank Luther.”
Turning, he walked away nonchalantly, whistling a tune, the eerie yet vaguely familiar melody filling the quiet night air.