By Kaye George
“Evie, help me. I think... I don’t...” I struggled to understand Nora’s words through the poor phone connection and her hysterical sobs. "I'm afraid he's…" Why was she calling me?
“Nora. Stop. Just tell me where you are.” She gulped twice, great, noisy breaths, then managed to give me directions to where she was experiencing her latest crisis.
Crisis-prone Nora often needed rescuing from one of her magnified molehills. But this time was different. My gut twisted in the wake of her call.
I revved up my Mustang and headed out toward 12 Mile Road. She had said to turn off Interstate 75 and make a couple more turns to end up on an obscure lane. It wasn’t too cold yet, considering it was late October, so I had the top down.
In spite of the warmth, the night was wild. Bare, waving branches clutched at the scudding clouds that played peek-a-boo with the cold moon.
I heard, in the distance, flailing sirens, rushing to quench the countless fires set by troubled Detroit youth. I always assumed they set them out of their inner city frustration. But there was also a tradition to uphold. The hellish tradition of Devil’s Night, Halloween Eve. Detroit was famous for it. Every year firefighters were called in from surrounding states to help keep Detroit from burning to the ground. This was considered a good training ground for new firefighters. But so much damage was done every year to the property of innocent people.
The sirens echoed the turmoil of my racing heart. And I drove through chiaroscuro strips laid by the moon, wondering why Nora was still alive.
We had met an hour ago, as usual, at shift change meeting at the nursing home where Nora and I both worked as nurses. I had managed to put enough barbiturates into her coffee, I thought, and succeeded in doing it undetected. And she had drunk the whole cup.
After the meeting I had walked her out to her car, thinking she might need help. Sure enough, the drugs started to take effect and she leaned against me for the last ten feet. I managed to help her slump into the driver’s seat, then I slammed the door, stepped back and watched her stab her key at the starter a couple of times, turn it, and drive off.
I wasn’t able to suppress a grin. I did so look forward to seeing her dead, that bitch who was screwing my husband, Todd. They thought I didn't know. Ha!
Now I sped to see what had happened, puzzled. Wasn't her car wrecked? Why was she still alive? And why was she phoning me--me, of all people, to come rescue her?
It should be coming up soon, I thought. Then I skidded to a stop just beyond where she stood, so close to the road I could easily have hit her. And I thought about it, but that would have left evidence on my car. I wasn’t interested in going to prison.
Nora sank to her knees when I ran up, her shoulders quaking with her unceasing sobs.
"Evie, I'm so, so sorry."
I grabbed a shoulder and shook her.
“Nora! Stop it. What’s going on?”
She pointed to her car. It had slued off the road – the passenger side was wrapped around an ancient corkscrew willow tree. So she had in fact had an accident, but had lived through it. Damn! What a waste of barbiturates. Now I'd have to think of another way to get rid of her.
“Okay, you wrecked your car. That’s not the end of the world.” I wished I had some cold water to splash onto her face. Besides snapping her out of it, I would enjoy it.
“Just look, just look,” she repeated over and over, clawing at the dry leaves the wind whipped up around her with one hand and continuing to point at the car with the other. Her outstretched arm quivered and her pointing finger traced little circles in the night air.
"Yes, I see, Nora." I smacked her arm down. The undamaged driver’s door stood open. I walked over to it. The bad feeling in my stomach was intensifying. I grabbed the frame above the door to steady myself--my knees giving way--then ducked down, and peered in.
A lifeless form, a bloody mess, was crushed between the dash and the crumpled door. The sickness in my stomach rose to my throat. I squinted to make out the features of the battered face. It was too dark.
Then a fire truck rumbled by and threw a wash of garish red light onto him.
I finally understood. Nora wasn’t dead; my husband Todd was, staring past me into eternity. I hoped he was seeing Hell.