Silence in the Air

4210 Words – 5 people’s lives all intersect when a heist goes wrong and one police officer gets involved.

The silence in the air is tangible. It is long past midnight. All 3 people in the room are staring each other down. There are two others, just outside the door, discussing things in private.

This is going to end with someone dead on the floor.

Elizabeth, wearing a brisk evening gown and her hair up in a shoddy bun, is openly brandishing a knife. She twists it back and forth between her hands, eight inches of steel blinking continuously in the light. She’s convinced she’s going to be the reason someone dies tonight, and she wants it to be known to everyone else that this is her intention.

Mack desperately doesn’t want to be here, and yet here they are. Mack is just a butler. They’ve never seen more than a thousand dollars in their savings account at any given moment, but this gig was finally giving them the chance they needed to save up and transition. They aren’t out to Elizabeth about being nonbinary yet, and their bowtie is getting tighter and tighter around their neck with every passing minute.

Arthur is here because he tried stealing a single pendant from Elizabeth’s well guarded safe. He was nearly successful, but Mack fucked up keeping watch, and they both got caught in the safe. This whole gig took two fucking years to set up and put together, and it was ruined because some dipshit kid couldn’t keep their hands off the gold. Arthur told them, numerous times, We’re in here for one thing and that’s it. It will make us a fortune.

Outside, Officer Du Bois is talking to the person who caught Mack and Arthur; Elizabeth’s secret lover, Anna. Du Bois can clearly tell Anna is nervous. He has ideas about why- besides the presence of a police force he knows isn’t quite friendly to queer people- but holds his tongue. Right now his job is to listen. He’s trying to get all of the details, and he doesn’t have anyone nearby to help him.

Anna is fucking mortified. She’s dead and she knows it. Elizabeth has a knife and she plans on using it. This pig doesn’t even have a fucking gun, and she knows he isn’t going to put himself in front of a knife for some dyke he doesn’t even know. Elizabeth’s husband is going to find out about this, and Elizabeth doesn’t want Anna to have the chance to come clean about this. Oh, but the way Elizabeth’s hair gleamed in the gentle moonlight…

“Anna,” Du Bois snaps his fingers. “Anna, I know you’re going through a lot right now but I need you to stay with me.” She’s barely in her underwear and a night gown. She’s probably freezing. Du Bois watches her shiver. Offer her your coat.

“Oh. Of course, officer,” she says. “Where were we again?”

Du Bois slides off his coat. “Here,” he says, “Put this on. You’re freezing out here.” Good thing he’s got a jacket underneath as well.

She takes the coat and wraps it around herself. She’s surprised. She’s not sure if this cop is putting on an act to gain her trust or if he legitimately cares about her well being. “Thanks,” she mutters.

You can’t just dodge around the issue. She’s in danger. Du Bois knows this, but he doesn’t legitimately think asking her about her danger will help her in anyway. A different voice speaks up: You might not, but it could lead her to open up more.

Anna stares into the pig’s eyes. There’s something going on behind that lid of his, and she wishes she had any idea what it was. She can watch the gears turning in his head, but she can’t see the hands of the clock turn.

Du Bois sighs. “There’s something more troubling you, isn’t there?”

Anna tenses up. She’s glad the large coat is hiding her body enough so that he can’t see the motion. “I don’t know what you mean, officer. I was just cold.”

He does see her tense up, however subtle that might be. He’s had that coat for five years, he recognises when every single wrinkle in that battered old thing shifts. There it is. Strike the heart. “Don’t worry, once this is over you and Elizabeth will be able to rest in peace.”

Anna shuffles in place, trying to keep from wincing. Barely a moment has passed, but she can tell there’s so much going on in the officer’s head. His eyes, almost imperceptibly, are scanning every inch of her. “You think Elizabeth is going to kill you, don’t you?” he says.

Her eyes widen. Nail on the head, chief. “She’s got a knife, and she hasn’t stabbed anyone else in that room yet. If she wanted the thieves out of the picture, she would’ve done it. You think she’s waiting for you, because you were the one who ran and left to get a police officer. This encounter is the only thing extending your life, because once I cuff those two and walk away, you’ll be alone with Elizabeth, and that’s the last thing you want right now.”

If Anna wasn’t scared of this cop before, she sure is scared of him now. How the hell did he figure all of that out so quickly? She’s barely told him anything. She was going to try and run away- no, sneak away- when the chance arose, but there was no chance. This cop is never going to let her go now.

The first voice speaks again. You were completely correct. Now she’s even more scared, though. You shouldn’t have pressed further. If you leave her here alone, her blood will be on your hands. Her death will be your fault, whether or not you arrest Elizabeth afterward. Du Bois thought about this.

“You’re right!” Anna suddenly cries. “Elizabeth is going to kill me. She’s been cheating on her husband with me for seven months, and she’s going to end my life. He can’t find out about me, do you understand? She can’t let him find out about me. I’m just supposed to be some eye-candy maid for him, and just dust the corners. I know I should’ve left so long ago, but the money was decent, hormones are expensive, and- and-”

Harry nods. He doesn’t say anything. She’s already opened up. Like a shaken up can of pop, she’s finally burst.

“I love her!” She proclaims. “I loved her so fucking much, even though I knew how much of a risk it was. I knew that I wasn’t going to make it out of this relationship safely. I held out hope that one day Elizabeth would sweep me off of my feet, take me out to her boat, and we’d sale off into the pale ocean and onto other land. We’d be safe, and it’d just be her and I. We’d be alive and okay and her husband wouldn’t seek us out.”

Anna is crying at this point. Du Bois wants to cry, too, but he knows he can’t. He can’t just break down in front of a witness. He can’t just let her die, either. He has to make a tough choice, though: keep her here while he sorts out everything between everyone here tonight or let her run away and find new safety right now.

Anna is sobbing and she can’t stop. This is the last night she will ever see the sun, and it wasn’t even between the legs of an older woman. An older, graceful, beautfi- no no no! Those thoughts won’t do at all. She can’t rely on Elizabeth anymore. Elizabeth isn’t her love anymore. She’s alone in this world- again.

Du Bois takes her hand. He knows this is the greatest risk he’s ever going to take on his job, even greater than the time he was shot twice- though both shots only tore some skin off of his side- leaping from the cover that was about to collapse on top of him and the cover that was barely holding itself up during a firefight nearly eight years ago, but it was one he was willing to take. He slips her a business card. “Get out of here, Anna. Call me in 6 hours. We’ll figure this out.”

Anna takes the card, and she runs. She isn’t coming back. She doubts she will call this cop, either. One mercy doesn’t mean a fucking thing.

Du Bois turned back inside. There were still three more people he needed to deal with. He was sure he knew the whole story at this point, no one had lied to him about anything so far, but he still needs to figure out what to do about this whole situation.

“Officer Du Bois, you’re finally back,” Elizabeth chides. “I’m certain Anna treated you well.” Elizabeth digs the knife into her table and drags it down, leaving a sizable mark in it. This was the fifth one she had made so far. Mack winced every time they saw it, and Elizabeth relishes their fear.

Mack, despite every muscle in their black ass telling them otherwise, stares in the cop’s eyes. They need to show they aren’t afraid. This cop couldn’t do anything to them. Mack would get out of here just fine. They knew it. Whatever prison this cop would put them into couldn’t be worse than what they knew Elizabeth desperately wanted to do tonight.

Arthur rolls his eyes at Elizabeth’s statement. “Yeah, alright your highness, you’re rich and your servants,” he put a lot of venom into that, “are well behaved. Are you going to let us go or what?”

Elizabeth huffs, indignant. “You think you get to just leave? After breaking into my home? Attempting to steal my family heirlooms?” She scoffs and shakes her head, looking at Officer Du Bois. “Can you believe this officer?”

Du Bois nods. “I can. Although, according to this lad, the pendant isn’t actually yours. It was stolen from another family who wants it back. He was hired to get it back.” This was what Arthur had told him earlier, and it checked out later when Elizabeth let him examine the amulet. It didn’t actually bear her family crest, but the DuFrasne crest. “It’s a surprise to me that they only requested the pendant be stolen back and not anything else as revenge.”

Mack looks over at Arthur in shock. Why hadn’t Arthur told them this?

Arthur shuffles in his seat. “Yeah, so really I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I was basically a subtle repo-man. That’s allowed, right?” It’s a cheap excuse, he knows, but it’s better than nothing.

“No, it’s not,” Du Bois says. “The DuFrasne’s should’ve contacted the police about the theft, and had us perform a proper search and investigation. Taking the law into your own hands is also a crime, and they will be investigated as well.”

Arthur shifts in his chair. He really wasn’t in the mood to deal with the pigs for however long that would take. This was supposed to be an easy job, in and out, and then he was going to take a long trip out to some nice little island and lay low for a few years. Now he’s stuck playing footsies with “the law.” He had a plan B, cold against his leg, but he really didn’t want to have to use it.

Elizabeth scoffed again. “You have absolutely no proof I stole that pendant in the first place.” She couldn’t believe she was being accused of such things. She was rich, no one was supposed to question her. This cop was just supposed to clean up after her, not do whatever he’s doing.

Mack noticed the tight grip Elizabeth had on the dagger. Her knuckles were white.

Du Bois crossed his arms. “Elizabeth, you’d best put that weapon away. You’re in the presence of a police officer, and that can easily be read as a threat.”

Elizabeth laughed. “You don’t even have a gun,” she said. “How do you plan on enforcing any law if you have no weapons to do so?”

Arthur did his best to avoid laughing, too. It was obvious the cop didn’t have a gun. His holster was empty. There’s not a cop within a hundred miles who conceal carries. If this one was the exception, he was probably breaking some rule himself.

Mack’s eyes shifted to the holster. They hadn’t even thought to see if the cop had a gun. You always presume they do, because if you look at their hip they’ll think you want to steal their gun and shoot them. They weren’t willing to take that risk, but they did just now anyway. Now they know this cop can’t do a thing to stop them from leaving. They could stand up and walk away right now.

The knife digging into the table was more audible than any previous dig before. Elizabeth made sure it was deeper, too. “So what are you going to do tonight, officer?” She followed this up by tossing the pendant onto the table. The clatter of its chain was suddenly subdued when contrasted with the knife.

The pendant released some sort of black mist upon hitting the table. Mack saw it, and looked around to see if anyone else did. No one even looked at the thing. They were all too busy staring each other down. Mack returned their eyes to the pendant. They couldn’t see the mist anymore.

Du Bois straightened his shoulders. He knew what Elizabeth was trying to do, and he wasn’t going to let it happen. He’s avoided corruption and bribes for the last six years at least, and he wasn’t in the mood to break his streak as the cleanest cop in his precinct. “I’m going to put all three of you under arrest for further investigation. Come quietly and we won’t have any issues.”

Arthur’s eyebrows rose. The pig was going to arrest the wife of a rich man? That was a bold move, unheard of until today. He had no intention of being arrested, but he was tempted to stick around just to see what would happen. Of course, that would void his deal with the DuFrasne’s, and a bit of fun at the expense of Elizabeth was not worth giving up that money.

Elizabeth stood up, holding her knife at her side. “Fuck you!” she shouted. “I know my rights. You have no precedent to arrest me.” This cop was either stubborn or stupid, because no one arrested Elizabeth. She had every cop in a twenty mile radius under her thumb. What was this bastard doing?

Du Bois briskly reaches a hand into his jacket. He didn’t have his gun, but he thought this bluff might do something worthwhile.

Arthur sneaks his hand down the legs of his pants and reaches for the gun he took. A six barrel revolver, incredibly uncommon in these areas. More fire power than most of the handguns that people could get. Of course, the one cop hiding heat had to show up tonight.

Mack’s eyes scanned everything, as if in slow motion. Elizabeth was standing at the ready, waiting for the chance to strike. Arthur was reaching into his pants, and the bulge of a pistol was suddenly apparent. The cop was also reaching for something in his jacket- wasn’t he wearing a coat earlier?- but they doubted it was actually a gun. Du Bois was bluffing.

Mack lastly, glanced at the pendant again. It looked malevolent. Something wicked was surrounding it, and no one else was paying attention.

Du Bois felt the danger. He carefully eyed Elizabeth- he could probably take her if he had to- then glanced at Arthur and Mack. Mack was slowly scooting his chair sideways, away from everything. That was a reasonable response. Arthur had a hand down the leg of his pants. It was clear he had a gun. Du Bois began to calculate actions within his head.

Elizabeth’s gaze darted amongst everyone in the room, too. Du Bois remained focused on her. Arthur was staring immediately between the two of them, as if planning an escape. If Elizabeth attacked the cop, she knew Arthur and Mack would flee while they struggled. She couldn’t have that.

Elizabeth took a sharp step toward Arthur, and Arthur knew who he was going to point his gun at. He immediately stood up and pointed the gun at Elizabeth. “I don’t make a plan without accounting for all the risk, madame.”

Mack could see the amulet becoming more and more volatile with every passing moment. He carefully stood up, getting ready to run the moment it was convenient- or possible, honestly.

The room was standing still once more. Du Bois still simply had his hand in his jacket, and he knew at this point he didn’t have a bluff worth anything. He slowly pulled his hand out of his jacket and prepared to tackle whichever of those two made the first move.

That’s your gun! A voice spoke to Du Bois. Shit in a biscuit, it was indeed his gun. He recognised the barrel, with a small inscription on the side. It was illegible at this point, but it used to say “Lady Death.” The owner before him was a bit gruesome. He’d been missing this gun for a year and the precinct refused to issue him a replacement. He thinks he lost it during a chase, where he must not have closed up his holster properly. Someone must’ve snagged it during the in-between.

Arthur has 2 bullets in the gun. If he makes a shot, he needs to make it count. He stares down the barrel of the gun, straight at Elizabeth. He takes a second to glance at Du Bois, who he notices has not drawn a gun but has his hands out his coat. The pork chop bluffed.

Elizabeth is sitting in silence as well. So much for that idea. She’s fuming. She was going to fucking kill these god damn thieves and that god damn cop and the god damn girl. She’s done playing games. She’s done playing around with everyone. That amulet deserves to be with her. It’s her amulet. It was always meant to be her amulet. “Fuck it,” she says, before grabbing the necklace and running.

Arthur is surprised. “Wha-” is all he manages to say before realising he doesn’t know what he’s watching.

Mack sees the mist wrap its way up Elizabeth’s arm. It has a vice grip on her flesh. Her skin color is becoming paler, and her veins are darkening.

Du Bois rushes her. He charges directly at her. He can tell she’s running toward the window, and he has to stop her before she jumps. This is only a second story, but that fall would certainly break a bone, at least.

Elizabeth is almost there. She’s nearly there. The window is right there.

Mack watches the mist take over more of her. Are those three not seeing this?

Arthur suddenly notices what’s happening and takes the chance. He whispers to Mack “Let’s bounce.”

Du Bois grabs Elizabeth’s arm. She turns and stabs at him with the knife. Du Bois steps aside and uses her own momentum to throw her back into the main room.

Elizabeth somersaults back to her feet and leaps at Mack, who was following behind Arthur. She raises the knife with her hand in the air and shrieks.

Arthur turns around at the sound of the shriek and sees this. He fires.

Mack’s ears are ringing.

Du Bois is running to grab Elizabeth again.

Elizabeth no longer has a knife curled between her fingers, but instead carries four fingers and a thumb. This means nothing.

Du Bois sees Elizabeth is preparing to jump off of Mack’s back. He tries to grab her ankle, but she’s already airborne. “Shit!” he cries.

Arthur sees her gliding toward him. There is no blood leaking from her palm. She’s looks sickly, like death. Her hand is wrapped around his throat, and her nails are digging into his skin. Nothing about this is right.

Du Bois shoves Mack out of the way and assesses the situation. Arthur dropped his gun. Elizabeth is tightening her grip around Arthur’s throat. He’s bleeding.

Mack fucking knew it. Mack fucking knew there was something wrong with that fucking pendant. She’s a fucking monster now. She’s being possessed by some kind of fucking demon. She’s covered in that mist now- there’s absolutely no way everyone else hasn’t seen it by this point- and she isn’t bleeding. She’s about to strangle Arthur to death, and she isn’t even human anymore. This is fucking bullshit.

Elizabeth grasps even tighter. Arthur gurgles. Her thumb touches her ring finger. She pulls, lifting her hand above her head. The smell… it’s delicious.

Du Bois already dove for the gun. He’s already crouched and aiming the revolver at the back of her head. She cackles and let’s go of Arthur’s windpipe. Du Bois steadies his hand. He breathes out. He fires.

Elizabeth was right. She was the reason someone died tonight, technically. Consciousness returns to her for just long enough to witness Arthur’s corpse on the floor before she, too, fades from this existence.

Du Bois sighs. He checks the chambers of the revolver. It’s completely empty. He got lucky.

Mack sees the black mist swiftly retreat back into the pendant. That can’t be a fucking good sign.

Du Bois gets up and begins to assess the damage. The first thing he does is try to pull the pendant out of Elizabeth’s hand. It’s much easier to do before rigor mortis sets in.

Mack witnesses the fucking cop go for the amulet. They lean over and pick up the knife. “Don’t touch that fucking amulet,” Mack says.

Du Bois stops. He looks at Mack, and sees that they’re currently armed. “What do you know about the necklace?”

Mack curses. “Are you fucking dense? Did you not see the black mist that possessed Elizabeth? And how it disappeared the moment you killed her? Back into the amulet?”

Du Bois didn’t see any of this. Though, glancing at her hand, he does now see that she only just started bleeding. That is strange. “Hand me the knife, then,” Du Bois instructs Mack.

“What? Mack asks. “What do you plan to do?” This cop is loose as hell. What would the knife do to the amulet?

Du Bois holsters his gun, only just realising he was still carrying it. The weight is simultaneously comfortable and burdensome on his hip. “I’m going to cut off her hand and place it into an evidence bag.”

Mack eyes Du Bois. They sigh. Du Bois still has the gun. There isn’t a damn thing this knife would do anyway. They hand the knife over, and Du Bois takes it.

Du Bois saws her hand off. He then slides the entire thing into an evidence bag he took from his jacket.

He stands up. “Will you wait here, Mack, while I radio my precinct and let them know about this, or do I have to arrest you?” Du Bois is done. This is only the fifth person he’s killed during his 21 years of police work. He wants to go home and be fucking done with this case for the night.

Mack shakes his head. “I- um-” They don’t even know where they would go or what they would do. Their plan was to get paid by Arthur and then leave this place for a long time, probably forever.

He gets into his buggy. He radios his precinct and tells them to get over here. He’s exhausted.

Mack sits in the hallway, alone. If they wanted to, they could probably go back into the safe and take some valuables and run away. They don’t think they should, however. Whatever was going on with that amulet only they could see. They don’t really want to be working with any cops, but they need to figure out why they could see it but no one else could.

Anna is cold. She stole Elizabeth’s purse from next to the door before leaving, and it had a lot of cash in it. She ran for a long while into the night. She paid for a hotel room at least two miles away, and she lies in bed, on top of the blankets, still wearing the officer’s coat. She would need to buy some clothing tomorrow. Or send someone else to do it, more likely.

She sighs. She isn’t sure where she is going to go from here. She at least has enough money for the next two weeks, if she’s careful. What will she do after that?

She reaches into one of the coat pockets and finds the business card the cop gave her. She pulls it out and looks at it. “OFFICER DU BOIS,” it says. It has a phone number, too. Phones are wildly expensive, even Elizabeth didn’t have one. If you wish to make a phone call, you usually have to wait in line at a payphone.

Anna thinks about the card long and hard. Maybe she’ll give him a call. She doesn’t know what else she can do.

Author: Kay Walker

I write short stories, and post them to my site

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