The Cold Inside (a serial novel) Chapter Thirty-Four part one
The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Tuesday January 24 1995
“Well, here we are.” Phil sat down in the chair beside his wife’s bed and sipped at his black coffee. Her eyes were taped shut with strips of hospital gauze, he stared longingly at them. Had he really taken those eyes for granted? “It ends today.”
This was it, their last Tuesday on Earth- their last day on Earth. Phil had already taken care of all the things he felt he needed to take care of. The bills and taxes could all go to Hell as far as he was concerned. The storage room where he kept the mementos from his other life was paid up for another year or two. He’d given Tristam the keys – payment for services rendered. What was the little bastard going to do with all those grimoires and blasphemous objects? Phil wasn’t sure he wanted to know.
“Zara, I think we’re going to be just fine.” He’d always been too paranoid to call her by her real first name in the public, even after Special Agent Wight’s little visit. He couldn’t risk the Monarchs or some long lost follower of the Dark Gods figuring out what they were. It didn’t seem to matter much now. “There is a place I found that’s just... Like a dream. We’ll be safe there.”
Phil felt a little guilty about just abandoning Junior in the park. Junior had been a good cat but what other choice was there? There wasn’t anyone he knew or trusted to take the cat and the local animal shelter would only give the poor little cuss a week to find a new family and then it was all over. Better the fluffy old Persian took his chances in the wild. Still it struck Phil as a little sad, he’d gotten the cat as a welcome home present for Zara. But she’d never come home, she’d never even seen the cat.
One of the nurses walked over, smiled at Phil and then carefully checked and noted Zara’s life support system; the IV bag was low, the Foley bag was full. Phil waited until the nurse was gone before he started speaking again. “I’m sure you’ve heard this enough already but I want you to know that I think sometimes I was too busy griping and complaining to really let you know how much I loved you. I still can’t believe you stayed with me all this time. Right to the end.”
There was a runestone in his pocket, a lump of oddly discolored rock engraved with arcane symbols. He slipped it under her pillow. “We both know people didn’t mean much to Victor but I couldn’t believe how little you mattered to him. It killed me inside to hear the things he said sometimes. In the end I was too afraid. Even when I knew what he wanted I was too much of a coward to warn you or the others.” He stood there, stroking her hair, lost in the past, “I let him kill August and Lionel. When he told me to strap you down on the altar I did it. I just couldn’t believe he was going to go through with it. Isn’t that ridiculous? When I finally did something it was too late, he took the worst I could dish out and just laughed. If John hadn’t stepped in…”
Phil found his way back to his chair and finished his coffee in silence. This was the part that hurt the most. Yes, he knew it was just her body but still the thought of leaving her to a cremation and a pauper’s grave stung. If John hadn’t disappeared he could have taken care of the burials and spared no expense. There should have been children there to mourn Zara too, children and grandchildren.
And there would have been if not for the ham fisted abortionist they’d used to get rid of Victor’s baby in 1958. Phil cursed himself for trusting that smug drunk, especially his reaction when he found out his ‘harmless procedure’ had landed Zara in the hospital.
“These things happen.” He’d said it without so much as a twinge of remorse in his voice.
Phil didn’t regret killing him in the least.
Another nurse came by to change out the bags and recheck Zara’s life support. Phil watched him make his rounds and then he kissed the love of his life on the forehead for one last time before heading out.