Trigger Warning: Contemplation of Suicide. (And also swearing)
The night air chilled my skin. The downpour forced the trench coat to wrap around me like the cold hands of death grasping at my soul. Gusts of wind spat rain at my face in periodic breaths. The wind’s exhales dared to snatch my fedora off my head. I checked my holster one more time and twisted relief washed over me as I found the pistol safe next to my chest. A single bullet was loaded.
“They may have my badge, but not my gun.” The words sounded weak coming from my old lungs. Either the callous hands of time were clasped on my neck or my smoking habit finally caught up to me. I let my arm rest on the bridge’s railing and stole a glance at the winding river below me. The falling rain sent ripples through the flowing water mirroring distorted reflections of the city lights. Buildings flickered with light like man made stars amidst the darkness that is humanity.
“This city in the rain is full of promise now.” The voice couldn’t be anything other than Johnson. I’d recognize that police lackey’s pubescent voice anywhere. “Case closed, Detective. All thanks to you.” My gaze stayed on the evening’s weather. A grunt of agreement left my chest.
“They said you retired, sir.” A moment of silence passed as if by waiting he wanted me to deny it. Of course he’d want me to continue, he admired me too much. “What now?”
I turned towards him. The poor fellow was soaked to his skin even through an extra large coat. Cars sped down the road behind him growling like beasts.
“What’s left for an old man?” I said throwing my weight on the cane for emphasis. Johnson pushed back his dark wet hair, resting his hand on his head as he kept his sight on me. Those young eyes of his watched me with concern and childlike awe. He didn’t drop his gaze causing a smirk to appear from my lips. No verbal response from him, I thought. He took my lesson to heart then.
“There isn’t much left for me.” Was that a softness to my voice? “Not a lot of time, not a lot left to do.”
Johnson watched me with hawk-like vision. Subtle movement of his eyes searched my posture and poker face. An expression of shock and horror crossed his face.
“You aren’t planning to... jump. Are you?” A stab of guilt pierced my heart. Damn the boy, and damn me for caring. One simple action, and I could make amends. My hand grasped his shoulder.
“No, I was planning on using a pistol.” I looked back at the river with my hand gripping my cane until my knuckles turned white. I’d done my duty cleaning up the streets of this city. 40 long years to lock away 70 of the worst scum this metropolis could produce. Make that 71 as of tonight, though I could hardly take credit for it; not after the life it cost. Any detective could have solved the murder in two months and it took me three. The decay from time had finally muddled my mind enough for me to sink back down to the common fools of society.
Ever since my first case, I was told I had a gift from God. I must have drained all of the divine ability he gave me like a fine wine. Can’t angels enjoy a cigar every now and then? Can’t the devil take a day off? If God can hear me, at least give me this wish. Can I fade from memory without anyone batting an eye?
Johnson laughed. “Didn’t expect to be dried off by your sense of humor.” I didn’t laugh.
“You mean it; don’t you?” he said. I shook my head.
“Don’t get emotional on me now, Johnson. I lived my life the way I wanted to. Left this city better than I found it. At least let me die in peace.” My hand twitched in an involuntary reach towards my holster. Johnson glanced at the movement a without hesitation extended his hand.
“Hand it over, Detective.”
“Didn’t know you got promoted enough to give me orders.”
“You retired, hand over the gun.”
“Not on your life. The bloody thing is mine”
“Not anymore, sir. Let it go.”
“Because you wouldn't send yourself to wait for judgement day when you have one friend left on this side of heaven. Now hand it over, Rick.”
Damn the boy, he said my name. I remained stunned by his words for a second too long. Johnson dashed towards me reaching for my gun. My old muscles couldn’t keep up. He had the gun out of my holster before I could grab his arm. He pointed the weapon at me in the same movement.
“Impressive” I muttered. Johnson finally turned his skills into instinct. He smiled with a mix of joy and mischief. For the first time since I could remember, I was perplexed. I even raised an eyebrow, which caused him to grin more in a giddy sort of way.
“What’s this now?” I said.
“I managed to impress and surprise the city’s best detective. Didn’t know a couple hours of retirement is all it takes for you to lose your touch.” His words pierced my heart quicker than any bullet ever could. He was right. I lost my touch. I let my shoulders slump. My knees felt weaker than before. I slid to the ground and rested my head against the railing. The rain like forgotten tears flowed down my face. Johnson sat next to me still holding my gun in one hand.
“This city is in the rain,” Johnson said. “Like you always said, sir. Not a comfortable place and not bright, sunny or happy. Partway in the dark, but with a little bit of goodness washing away the filth.”
Johnson looked me in the eyes. “The clouds are parting, Rick. I think I can see a star shining through.” The poetic words of a starry eyed fool forced tears to add to the watery river falling from my face. I felt an arm rest behind my neck and around my shoulder. Johnson embraced me.
“Careful now,” I said. "I'll suffocate.”
Johnson laughed and let go of me.
The rain filled in the lapse in conversation. The traffic ceased as the night stretched into an unholy hour that had the scent of eternity. That smell pulled the trigger to my memory sending a spray of hurt back into my mind. Regret redrew her face on my closed eyelids. Those freckles stained crimson. That dark hair matted with blood. Those blue eyes that once shimmered with life stared into forsaken nothingness. A pull of the trigger and my sin would have been paid for. One simple action, and I could have made amends.
“One mistake Johnson. If I was quicker…” My voice fell silent against my wishes. “If I was sooner-”
Johnson cut me off. “Don’t do that to yourself, Rick. Not once in three years have you ever wondered what if out loud, and don’t you dare start now. You can’t save her life by wondering what you could have done better. Damn it I didn't know her well, but she sure as hell wouldn’t want to see you on the other side tonight. Further more she wouldn’t want you wasting the rest of your life wallowing in pity.”
He stood up and held out his hand.
“You are sad, detective, as you should be. Even through that stone face and sadistic humor, you have a heart that chooses to love people sir. If anything is for certain it's that the only place you'll be free from the dangers of love is hell and an angel like you can't get there even if you tried. I know you try to hide it and you toss aside your emotions to make decisions no one else would. But damn it detective, you love people and you love them fiercely! So be sad, Rick. For her sake let your sorry ass be sad.”
Johnson's words struck cords in my soul as if conducting a whisper of a song of hope in the shards and shadows that resided there. The empty abyss of longing remained tearing me from the inside out, but a peace wrapped itself around the sorrow soaking in the sadness just enough for me to find it bearable. I looked up at his outstretched hand and despite the arguments my pride stated, I reached out and let him help me to my feet. He held out my gun to me.
“Careful now,” He said. I glared at him with a smirk on my wrinkled face. Since when did this city have such heavenly fools like Johnson? I took a final look at my trusted old pistol as it rested in my hand for one last time. Then I looked at the river below me and it beckoned me again. No regrets, I thought. Whispering a final goodbye, I sent the gun spiraling over the rail.
“Take me home Johnson,” I said. “You know the way.”