AL BRUNO III
AL BRUNO III
Thursday November 8th 1996
Cheryl McGlade cancelled her appointments and called in sick to work. That meant angry customers and possibly lost business but how could she care about that now that her best friend was dead?
Most likely dead because of me.
It had been last night when she had learned about it. She had been getting ready for bed and the local news had been just there for noise. Then she heard a familiar name spoken Isobel Talbot.
Cheryl had turned to the television just in time to see flashing lights from a handful of police cars and a serious-looking reporter fading from the screen. For the next few sleepless hours she went from the radio to TV, desperate for any scrap of information. The story took shape quickly enough- Isobel Talbot and Nicholas Schlegel had been found dead in her apartment. The details were sketchy but they painted a picture of shouts and gunfire. The main topic of conversation was which of them had committed murder and then turned the gun on themselves.
My gun. Cheryl thought again and again, With my gun…
She knew she had to go to the police but she hadn’t got the nerve yet. How could she explain herself? All she had wanted to do was protect her best friend because she never learned that love always led to cruelty.
And what gender is responsible for most of the cruelty?
In fact weren't most of the crimes in the world committed by men? Or at very least the very worst? Cheryl could only wonder at the exact ratio of male to female prison inmates but she was willing to be a month's tips that the boy's side had the larger number. Think of the monsters the male race could boast of; Adolph Hitler, Charles Manson, Jim Jones, Ted Bundy and Albany's own Tristam Bloom.
To be certain, there were female murderers but none so noteworthy, none so bloodthirsty. The only name that occurred to Cheryl's wandering mind was Lizzie Borden; every other name that occurred to her were either accomplices or dupes.
Sometimes, and especially now, Cheryl wished she had opened up more about the bastards she had given her heart to. Would Isobel have been ready then to face the Nicks and Galens of the world?
The first man in Cheryl’s life had been an engineering student from the State University and he had disproved the theory that nerds were nice guys. In less than a year he had insinuated himself into every aspect of her life, gently domineering her until she felt she had to OK her outfits with him in the morning before heading out. Every failure was punished coldness and guilt and when there weren’t any failures to rain scorn down on he invented some. The last straw was when he scolded her for making too much noise while they were having sex- her orgasm had distracted him from his own.
She had actually found herself apologizing to him that night but thankfully she had found the strength to leave him before being reduced to a complete puddle of jelly. Upon re-entering the dating world she ran right into asshole number two. Actually she didn't so much run into him as step in him.
In the beginning he'd been a first class dream, they shared the same interests and as far as he was concerned she could make all the noise she wanted in bed. They were on the verge of living together when she skipped a period. At first she wasn't concerned but a week of early morning nausea and two home pregnancy tests later she had to face facts- she was twenty-two, unmarried and pregnant.
When she told her perfect match, he went ballistic, raging that she was trying to trap him and that he was in no way, shape, or form ready for fatherhood. He gave her an ultimatum, the baby or him. He never even offered to accompany her to the Planned Parenthood clinic. That drive into Albany was the bleakest moment of her life.
In the aftermath, Mr. Wonderful had gone back to being Mr. Wonderful, but the damage was done. How could he just pretend it had never happened? How could she pretend it was just business as usual? In the end he'd left telling her she'd changed, that she wasn't the same woman he'd fallen in love with.
The doorbell rang and Cheryl knew it had to be the police. They had traced the gun back to her. She the bell ring a second time before she got up to face the music. When vowed not to ask for a lawyer, she didn’t deserve one.
Cheryl opened the door to find Isobel standing on there, bloodied, dirty but still very much alive.
Glancing apprehensively around her, Isobel stepped inside, closed the door and locked it. "I need a drink."
Still not recovered from shock Cheryl said, “You’re dead. I mean the news…”
“Please a drink.” Then she looked down at herself, “And some bandages. No a lot of bandages.”
When Cheryl had returned to the parlor with two imported beers and the first aid kit she saw Isobel drawing the curtains. Cheryl asked, “Should we call someone?”
“No. Don’t call anybody.” Isobel drank half the beer down in two gulps, "It’s not safe.”
“What isn’t safe?”
“You know.” Isobel gingerly shouldered out of her jacket and blouse. She winced as she tore the fabric from ugly looking scabs and set the wound on her side started bleeding again. “You saved my life. Do you know that?”
“Jesus! What happened to you?”
Isobel finished her beer, “It was your gun. They would have killed both of us.”
"I don't think you'll believe any of it"
"I tell you what,” Cheryl opened the first aid kit, “You talk and I’ll play nursemaid."
“Ok. Ok.” Isobel took the other beer bottle, “But keep these coming.”