BY SCOTT H. URBAN
About the author
Edward Bleak was inside the body of Roger McCutcheon--Dolores' husband. She hadn't been able to give Roger a child, and he had engaged in affairs with other women. Someone hated Roger enough to kill him--but it hadn't been his wife.
I will try to make things right, Bleak vowed.
He stopped his car just down the road from a stately home in an upscale section of New Regina. Evening was coming on, but he could tell the house was large and vaguely Tudor. It was set back away from the road and surrounded by trees, and a low stone fence ran around the property. He was feeling more at home in this body that wasn't his, and he sprang over the wall. As he did so, he noticed another man proceeding up the walk to the front door. At Roger's house, he'd seen a picture of Roger, Dolores, Phillip Easton, and his wife Patty. Bleak could tell the man wasn't Roger's partner Phillip.
I've got to get in that house, and I don't want any interruptions, Bleak decided.
Pulling the watchman's gun out of his coat pocket, Bleak turned it around and held it by the barrel. At the same time, he raced up behind the man and cracked him across the back of the skull with the butt of the gun. The man groaned and crumpled, unconscious, to the sidewalk. Bleak pocketed his gun, then got his hands under the man's shoulders and pulled him behind the shrubs on the right side of the house.
Sorry, chum. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Bleak stepped up to the front door. I wonder what Roger's partner is going to say when he sees him back from the dead. But the door was locked, and then Bleak thought twice about ringing the bell. He walked around the side of the house to the rear. The lawn was neatly maintained with lush flower beds. There were chairs and a table on a broad stone patio. Bleak walked up to the backdoors that led onto the patio. Looking in through the glass panes, he could see that the lights were on. He hoped the Eastons were home, but he also hoped they didn't have any servants around.
He tried the doorhandle--unlocked! He swung it open and stepped inside, but one of the hinges squeaked as he did so. Damn it! As he was shutting the door, he heard footsteps coming up behind him.
"Darling! There you are. But why are you coming in through the backdoor?"
Darling? Who does she think I am? Her husband Phillip? Bleak didn't turn around; instead, taking a gamble, he said, "It was safer."
"Oh, you must have seen someone out front. Don't worry about that. I'm glad you were able to come. Phillip's going to be working late at the clinic, and you know how I hate to be left alone." There was more than a hint of the flirt in her last statement. "Come have a drink with me, darling . . . what's wrong? Why aren't you looking at me?"
"I'm not who you think I am, Patty. I'm someone you once knew but thought never to see again."
"What are you talking about--"
Bleak pulled his hat low so that she couldn't immediately make out his features. His eyes took in a slightly older woman in a tight-fitting sheath dress. She had a deliberate, frosty beauty to her. Her nose and chin were both sharp; her figure well-preserved.. A strand of pearls was clasped around her neck. She was holding a highball glass.
"Who--who are you?"
"I came back to see you again, Patty." He slowly brought his head up, revealing his features.
"NO!" The dropped glass shattered into countless shards on the floor, the remnants of her Tom Collins spread out in a nova. Her hands fluttered, came up to her mouth, and she screamed--shrilly, mindlessly. Then she turn and ran.
He'd expected the scream, but he hadn't expected her to run. He launched himself after her, already at a disadvantage because of his uncooperative dead form and his ignorance of the mansion's layout. She was already too far ahead to snag with his hands. He followed her through a futuristic kitchen and a hallway. There she was, fumbling at the locks on the front door. I can't let her get outside!
"Patty," he intoned, in the deepest tones he could manage with this voice. "You can't escape me. . . . "
Her hands flew up as she shrieked again. She collapsed to the floor, huddling in the corner, pulling her arms up over her head as if expecting to be struck or pummeled. "Don't hurt me!" she cried out. "Don't hurt me!"
By now he was towering over her. He already realized what a horrifying visage he presented to the world. He took a hunch and said, "You've already found another to replace me, haven't you, Patty?"
"I'm sorry! I'm so sorry! I thought you were dead! I'm sorry!"
"The bed was hardly even cold before you found a new lover . . . someone else to cheat on your husband with!"
"I can't take it! Phillip hates me! He won't touch me! You know that! But he'll never give me a divorce, either! He's always at the clinic, and I can't stand to be alone! Oh Roger . . . how can you be here? You're dead! Dead!"
He thought it was starting to fall in place. Phillip Easton was spending too many nights at his clinic--or with his own mistress. Patty, alone and starved for affection, turned to Roger McCutcheon, her husband's partner. Roger abandoned his wife Dolores, already depressed over her inability to become pregnant. Roger and Patty had an affair, until . . . until what?
"I am dead, Patty . . . but I had to come back for you."
She howled in abject terror. "Are you going to kill me?"
He stared at the pathetic woman on the floor. He didn't know how he ought to feel toward her. She had cheated on her husband and betrayed Dolores McCutcheon. She had hardly waited a week before finding another lover--the man he'd coshed out on the front walk.
"Did Phillip kill me, Patty?" he demanded. "Did he find out about us and kill me to get me out of the way?"
Red-faced, sobbing, Patty looked up at the body of her former lover and truly took him in for the first time. "Don't you remember, Roger? Don't you know what happened?"
"I want to hear you say it, Patty. You tell me what happened."
She sat still for a long time--still crying, hands out in front of her, chest heaving, staring at him. "You left me, Roger. You went away, and I thought you didn't love me anymore. Phillip told me you had a heart attack, that's all I knew. We loved each other, at least for a while, and I couldn't even kiss you goodbye."
Bleak bent over and put his ashen face close to hers. Patty squealed and tried to force herself back into the wall. "I didn't have a heart attack, Patty. I was murdered. I can't rest in my grave until I find my killer."
"Are you going to kill me?" she shouted. "Are you going to take me to Hell?"
"Is that what you deserve, Patty?" he whispered, but his words went unheeded. The encounter had overstrained her, and she went limp in a faint.
Scowling, Bleak arose. Although this body was no longer alive, he felt sick to his stomach. The whole affair was full of lies and betrayal. Bleak paced through the house, quickly scanning for anything that might be of use to him. In Phillip's study, he ran his eyes across row after row of medical texts and journals. Phillip also had a cabinet full of drugs and potions, not all of them labelled. Bleak wondered what some of the unnamed drugs could do.
His frustration level was building, and he felt like tearing the house apart.. But instead he restrained himself and decided it was time for a talk with his partner. He stepped over the slumped woman and slammed the door behind him.
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!)