Bleak Lives

A 9-Part Eerie Mystery

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EPISODE 6: Scarlet Farewells

He remembered:

His hands around their necks--somehow both a succession of necks and at the
same time a multitude of necks under his grip, and he was choking the collective life out of them, killing them slowly, agonizingly, torturously, and they were looking up at him with pleading eyes and mouths hanging open, crying, begging for mercy, offering him anything, praying for their lives. . . .

And then there was only blackness.

* * *

THE CABBIE HANDED BACK EDWARD BLEAK'S CHANGE and accepted his tip."Thanks, buddy," he said, "but--phew!--let me give you a tip: you're getting a little ripe. If this is your house, you may wanna grab a bath."

Bleak winced and nodded.  The body he inhabited didn't pick up smells very well--and since that body was dead, he realized he must starting to foul the air wherever he went.

The neighborhood was comfortable:  middle-class, but upscale.  Most of the homes were two storied, although McCutcheon's was a single storey ranch.  McCutcheon had been a general practitioner and had a steady income, but he hadn't been well-to-do by any stretch. The unmown lawn was becoming shaggy, and envelopes were piling up in the mailbox.

What now? he wondered.  How am I supposed to handle this?  Do I ring the bell and introduce myself to Roger's wife?  Do I act like a ghost or an angel?  If Dolores really killed her husband, is she just going to up and confess to me?  Did McCutcheon have any children?  The obituary didn't mention any, but I don't want to frighten a little boy or girl to death.

The only thing to do was to start at the front door.

He tried the doorknob.  It was unlocked.  He pushed it in, peering inside to scout out the territory.  He didn't need Dolores McCutcheon cutting him down with a shotgun.  He looked into a well-furnished sitting room.  The furniture was functional, nothing fancy. Bleak didn't see any occupants.

He stepped inside, trying not to make any noise.  It was darker than he would have expected.  He crept through a dining room and kitchen--well-stocked, but not lavish. Nothing was set out.  Nothing was in use.  All of the dishes were cleaned and put away. No food on the counter.  Dolores must be a meticulous housekeeper.

He walked down a hall.  One bedroom was evidently Roger's office.  The desk was piled high with papers and correspondence.  Bookcases were full of medical texts. Another bedroom had become Dolores' craft room, with sewing machine and dressers full of fabric.  Unlike the study, the craft room had been straightened up.

In the master bedroom, the bed was made and all clothes were neatly put away.  This is a model home, Bleak thought.  The car's in the drive--where's Dolores?

He stepped into the bathroom.

The shower curtain was pulled back.  At first he thought someone had filled the tub with wine.  Then he saw the woman's brunette hair flowing over the rounded rear curve of the tub.  A red-smeared straight razor lay on the floor in an incriminating 'vee.'

Oh, no.

He rushed to the tub and knelt beside it.  He turned the woman's face toward his.  He was surprised to see her eyelids flutter.  She's still alive! he thought.

"Oh, darling."  Dolores' voice was soft and gentle."You came to take me to Heaven. I'm so happy."  She smiled.

He choked on his words."Dolores. . . .  What have you done?"

"Didn't you hear my prayers?  I told you.  I couldn't go on without you. There wasn't any point living after you'd been buried."

Bleak didn't truly know this woman, and yet he felt hollowed out.  He felt he wanted to pour her blood back into her veins.  He didn't want to see her die. "Dolores. . . . "

"You've forgiven me.  That's why you've come back.  I'm sorry I couldn't give you children, Roge.  I know you went into the arms of other women.  I never had the strength to bring it up with you when you were alive, darling, but now it's all right, we're past all that.  I've forgiven you, too."

Her voice was growing ever more weak.  Should I call the ambulance?  She'll be dead before they get here.

"Dolores, listen."  He hated to do this, but he had no choice."I'll take you to Heaven, but you've got to tell me something.  You've got to be honest with me.  Did you take my life, Dolores?  Did you poison me?  You have to tell the truth to come with me to Heaven."

The woman's flesh was growing more pale even as he knelt beside her."Oh, Roge, why are you even asking me that?  It tore me up to know you were with other women, but I would never do that . . . I would never hurt you . . . I can't live without you, can't you see that?  Roger?  I can't see you . . . where'd you go? . . . please hold my hand, Roger. . . . "

Bleak clutched Dolores' hand in his own and squeezed."Please . . . don't die. . . . " he whispered.  Her eyes rolled up into her skull, revealing only eggshell white.

You will meet your husband in Heaven, Bleak thought.  He hoped it was true.

He stood up and, for a long time, simply stared at the recumbent form of the dead woman in the bathtub.  I hope he loved you.  I hope there was something inside your husband that redeemed him.  You didn't deserve what he did to you, and you didn't deserve this sort of an ending to your life.  You didn't kill him . . . but someone else did.

Bleak walked back into Roger's study.  Sitting at the desk, he began to sort through the papers on the desk.  The more he read, the more he realized things weren't right, not just in the McCutcheon's personal life, but also in Roger's professional career. It's time to have a little talk with my--Roger's--partner, Bleak decided.

He re-entered the master bedroom and looked through closets, dresser drawers, and shelves.  Eventually he located Dolores' purse at the back of her closet.  He withdrew Roger's car keys and put the purse back. Reverently, he shut and locked the front door, then slipped behind the wheel of Roger's Chevrolet.

He glanced up once, caught sight of his dead, bone-white face in the rear-view mirror, and roughly angled it away so he wouldn't see his reflection again.


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Bleak Lives is copyright Scott H. Urban.  It may not be copied or used for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)