A distant thrum cooed along the streets followed by ultra-bright LED head-lights. They galloped across rain-slicked asphalt and illuminated the rain-drops as if in freeze-frames. Attached to them was a modern electric-engine sports car. The thing was near-silent in broad daylight, at night a ghost. The only suggestion of its presence was the whisper of water spraying from its tires compelled along straights, corners, and otherwise-empty streets by a lead foot.
Attached to that foot was Mick Connell at the wheel. A descendant of a long line of Irish, hot-headed, drunkards, flaming red hair topped his Cromagnon-skull above a perpetual brood. The glass-quart bottle of off-brand bourbon raised to his lips made his vices all the more obvious.
A pothole sloshed liquor over his face, down the front of his black, button-up shirt. He cursed, capped off the bottle, and tossed it into the passenger seat. He fought to dry the wet spot with a hand. A droning horn drew his mind up. He swerved right with an angry growl. The horn doppler-shifted away. He cursed again, grabbed absently for the bottle and took another pull off it.
This time he drained the bottle, tossed it into the back seat. It clanged with a few others he’d polished off earlier. The car threw itself around a wide curve of a ramp and the highway spilled out ahead like a endless, faceted onyx.
Mick had only goal; murder that cheating whore and her man-bitch. Mick didn’t care if the guy lived in a corporate penthouse or the white-house, no-one humiliated him like this. The whore would get what was coming in time, but this was a matter of honor and a man’s now-broken, unspoken rules. It didn’t matter how rich you were, you didn’t dick another man’s wife.
“Shirley. That cunt. She’s done this. And in my home. Fucking brought him into my home and took it on my bed.”
Didn’t matter now, he knew. The place was burning to the ground. He’d already seen to that. He’d poured the gasoline himself, lit and dropped the match. They’d probably get him for arson, insurance fraud. A nickel or dime as punishment. He could do that. It was the principle of the thing. He lit the place up, watched it burn down, and in five to ten years, he’d be back to salt the earth.
There was only thing left to do, and he would do it without fear of the repercussions.
They’d been friends once, or so he’d thought. The truth was he couldn’t be sure anymore. He couldn’t be sure of anything really. All he knew was he’d run through the latest security footage from the house. He stopped specifically on the bedroom, hoping to see Shirley undressing or rubbing herself off. What he found drove him into a rage instead.
And now he was driving to murder that bastard. The gun in his waistband was a newer model, chambered with a .45 ACP round. It and the bullets were expensive. A whole mag cost more than a bottle of liquor nowadays, but it would be worth every penny to pump him full of lead– just like he’d pumped Shirley. His wife on his bed.
“Friends,” Mick scoffed angrily. “Fuck-friends, that’s what. Friends that fuck each other over.”
Mick could only vaguely remember when Koren had been his friend. It was mostly the fault of too many nights liquored up. He’d remember in the morning, then forget again by evening, whether or not he actively realized it. He’dd never forget this though.
The car raced down an off-ramp and into the city. It rocketed and weaved through sparse traffic from the late hour. Shirley was supposed to be working with Koren, for him, on some secret project for their company. Every night she’d come home sallow-faced and haggard. At the time, Mick thought it was from rough work. Instead, it was from getting dicked by the bastard. Well tonight would be the last time.
Mick raced into the parking garage of Koren’s building, skidded to a halt across three, empty spaces near an elevator. The engine died. He got out, stormed for the elevator, and queued the penthouse floor. He keyed in a code his “friend” had once given him; it still worked.
The elevator lurched upward. Mick pulled the pistol from his waist-band, flipped the safety off. His ears turned hot, flushed, and with a breath he checked the breech, let it slide back to chamber a round.
It would be quick, painless. For Koren anyhow. Twenty-five to life, probably, but time off for a crime of passion for Mick. Twenty even– plus the nickel for arson. More like fifteen or thirteen with good behavior. Nothing worse than he’d been through as a kid. Hell, with the right bribes, he might even get put up in one of those swanky, white-collar places they stuck bankers.
The doors opened on the elevator and he surged out like a tidal wave of fury. He stormed along a hall to a lone door at its end. With two, heavy kicks, the door burst in off its hinges. Mick exploded inside screaming incomprehensibly with the gun aimed at Koren.
The suited man sat across a coffee table from Shirley, his tie pulled down. His hair was ruffled, eyes dark, sleepless. Shirley looked equally haggard. For a moment, Mick paused. It was enough to slow his speech. The dumbfounded pair eyed him dully, began to grasp his accusations. Mick fingered the trigger, its barrel on Koren’s head. He took a deep breath, knowing it was a delicate moment. All the same, his mind and brain were frayed, and an interruption made things worse.
“Mick, bloody hell, what are you on about?”
Mick threw a memory card across the paper-strewn coffee-table between his wife and his victim, “I know what you two did. On my bed. In my home.”
Koren and Shirley exchanged a look; they knew what he was implying, but had not the faintest idea what the hell could’ve make him think it. Koren moved to stand. Mick’s finger tapped pistol’s trigger. He hesitated, locked eyes with Mick, “I just want to check the card.”
Mick sneered, allowed it. He wasn’t sure why. Maybe to savor the moment a little longer. Koren pulled over a laptop, played the lone, edited-down vid in its directory. Koren watched the clip for a moment. A furrow took residence on his brow. He swiveled the laptop outward so Shirley could watch. The vid played over, on repeat. The second time through, Mick was forced to watch.
“There’s nothing there, Mick,” Shirley said sadly.
“Not even you,” Koren added.
Mick stared at the screen, he’d clearly seen it earlier. Had double-checked the card over and over. The timestamp in the vid’s corner was even right. All the same, there stood a lone bed from a wide-angle. It was empty. The same five minutes of vid played over and over, the bed empty.
Mick was sobered by reality, “Wh… what’s going on?”
Koren shook his head, sighed, “I wish we could do something about that.”
Shirley agreed, “If we could, it would mean we could eliminate the problem itself.”
He wantonly waved the gun between them, “What are you talking about?”
Shirley was on her feet, voice soft, she pushed his arm down, eased the gun away from him, “Mick you’re ill. You imagined all of it. You don’t remember. Every-time the black-outs happen, you reset. Your brain creates dreams where memories should be. It’s similar to sleep-walking, in a way.”
Mick’s eyes began to well up, “S-so you n-never cheated on me?”
Koren was aghast. “Mick, you’re my brother, mate. I’d never do that to ‘ya.”
Shirley took Mick’s face in a soft hand, “No, honey. I understand what’s wrong with you. I knew when we met. I could never do that.”
Mick suddenly collapsed in a heap, reality weighing down on him. He sobbed, bound forever to eternally sleep-walk through life with terrible dreams mascarading as memories; forever a doomed somnambulist.