Entering the house had been easy. Maria hadn't bothered to change the locks, so Lesstin had simply let himself into what had been their winter home. Not that they had spent much time in it. After the long hot week when they had been visiting and she had fallen in love with the city, they had hired a realtor and bought the house that fall, only spending a few tired days in it before going home.
Walking the dark hallways brought up no memories or regret. This was a place he had no attachment to. But, in the living room, with its broad bay window and high open ceiling, there sat the couch they had spent days and weeks choosing. With its gold stained oak frame, and extra deep back, perfect for napping or sitting. Running his hand over the ribbed cloth filled his head with hot anger.
Oh yes, she would learn that nothing comes free. And for what she took from him, he would take the same from her.
Lesstin fingered the chrome plated pistol dangling in a leather holster inside his jacket. Hard and cold despite being tucked against his warm body. A sinister drain, it sapped energy from everything around it. Hopefully he wouldn't have to use it. And once he was done, he could cast it away.
He wouldn't hurt her. No, even though the scheming bitch deserved it. But what if he was with her? What if they walked in together? He imagined the laughing, happy and smiling, holding hands, talking about dinner, planning children, all the things they had taken from him, that they had lied to him about. He would pay if he dared show his face in the house paid for with Lesstin's money.
Lesstin shook his head to clear the anger. It had become a madness, driving him onward in directions he didn't always understand. But he always realized what he was aiming for. Fairness. Equality. It wasn't about the money, he didn't need it, could live off the land if he needed to. But she had stolen the money and ruined the company on her way out. This wasn't revenge. He kept reminding himself, it wasn't about making her pay. Not in that way. He just wanted...
He never finished the thought, because a key clicking in the front door announced someone's return.
One question remained. Would she be alone? Or had she brought some new conquest? A toy to be used, then tossed aside when she grew bored.
Lesstin ducked into a bedroom, furnished with a bed and dresser he had meant for their children. Night's shadow cloaked him; she would not be able to see him from the doorway. He could hear her shedding her winter's skin. The shuffling of coat gloves, clicking heels on tile, and the heavy thud of the oversized purses she loved so much. Just one set of each sound, at the heavy metered pace of the tired or patient.
A pause, too long, ate away Lesstin's own patience. Was that a weary sigh? The first tones of a woman he still wanted to love? Or just-
“You may as well come out,” she said. Her voice sounded harder than he remembered. He didn't move. How had she known?
Another pause. “Howard?” She sounded uncertain, maybe a little afraid. Blood pounded in Lesstin's ears at hearing that name from Maria's mouth. HP. Howard. The instigator of betrayal. He would be dealt with in his own time. Justice came before pleasure.
“This isn't funny.” Strained, trying to control her emotions. This was the tone she had used with Lesstin after an argument. Footsteps away, toward that old door to the cold, lonely stone basement. Feet on tile made a return. Still he did not move. Sweat made his undershirt cling between his shoulder blades. This had been the plan, confront her, announce the return of reason and claim what he was owed. His feet were glued to the floor. Staying in the dark felt much better, if still unjust.
A creak from the first step. She would search the rooms and find him shortly. “Who is there?” Definite fear in her voice now. “I'm calling the police.”
“Don't,” Lesstin said. He sprang from the room, perhaps faster than he should have. Maria screamed, her eyes white-wide from the shock. “I'm not...don't call the cops.”
Maria placed a hand on her chest, and stepped down from him. “Lesstin.” Her words came out between shaking breaths. “You scared me half to death. How did you get in...oh right. You have a key. God. I thought you were Howard.”
“I heard,” Lesstin said. Were his cheeks flushed? Would she be able to see the anger in his eyes?
Maria backed down the steps, dodging the small puddle on the landing. “My socks are soaked,” she said. “I'm getting some water. Do you want some?”
“No, thank you.” This wasn't how she was supposed to react. Fear, maybe. Anger, certainly. Anger was fair, reciprocal. But not...what was this? Calm acceptance?
She vanished into the kitchen. “Howard keeps coming by, even after I told him to stay away. He was never a threat to you, you know that, right? Just...a lens, to see what we had become.” Did she sound suspicious? Concerned? A knowing accent tinted her words. Maybe it was the acoustics. They had loved the house's oddly shaped walls and ceilings, how they bent sound, isolating or enclosing.
But to Lesstin, it seemed she must have known why he had come. She knew her crime, and instead of pleading, crying or begging, she turned away from him, she offered him water. It was his water! If he wanted it, he would take it. And she dared, mocking him with that name, as if saying it more made the crimes less.
He could barely hear her words through the blood pounding in his ears. “Oh.” What else to say? She had already discarded his replacement. The gun felt heavy against his chest, a weight that would be lighter in his hand.
“Why are you here?” She returned from the kitchen. Lesstin still stood at the top of the stairs. When she looked up to him, her face went as white as his was blood-red. “Lesstin, why are you holding a gun?”
Had he drawn it? Or had it moved there on its own will? No matter. “They told me not to come here, when I said I wanted to.”
“Who did?” Her voice trembled. Fear at last. Somehow it did not quite offer the pleasure he had expected.
Lesstin waved his free hand. “The doctors! They kept shoving pills down my throat, telling me not to leave, not to do this and that. Not to live! They wanted it this way. Wanted you...to win.”
“Lesstin, don't come any closer.” To his surprise, he had descended the stairs. Which worked well enough. Talking felt less important, less real. The gun, the closeness, Maria, these were real things. These were justice.
“I just want...what you took. The money, the business. I want it to be Fair.” Fair. Harsh to say, but fairness had an oddly unfair manner to it. If one lose, all lose. If one wins, all win. “When one person has, and one has not, it isn't fair.”
“Lesstin, you...gave me the money.” She backed into the kitchen. A clanging sound of something tumbling, and a heavy thud. Her voice was shaking as much as Lesstin's free hand. “Don't come in here Lesstin. I am calling the cops. If you come in here, God help me, I don't know what I'm going to do. Lesstin...”
Of course there was no money. She had spent it on her toys. But it could be made right. “Justice.” He held it in his hand. Nothing else needed to be said.
Back to the List