I thought it might be nice to expound on what might've happened in the hours surrounding the father's death.
Coppa fiddled with the green rabbit’s foot dangling from the ignition, toying with the idea that he should go inside. Then again, Wace would know he was in the parking lot. He’d called half an hour ago. And it was best to leave him alone with his father anyway.
Two of the three times he’d come to visit, the old man had lit into his friend and the arguments Coppa had fired back had only made things worse, Wace had said. Embarrassed, he’d thanked Coppa and promised with a weak grin he could take care of himself. Coppa wasn’t sure he believed that – there’d been enough bruised forearms and jaws to prove otherwise – but he let his friend save what little face he had left and stayed away.
The radio played softly and he stifled a yawn as he eyed the entrance to the hospital. He’d just laid down for a nap after an all-day shift at the construction site when the phone rang. He had half a mind to let it ring, but something told him to pick it up – and he was glad he did. There was something…off about the way Wace had spoken to him. Coppa didn’t even point out that, earlier, Trunny had dropped off his car at the hospital for him to use while he went on a quick delivery.
He drummed his fingers on the wheel, smiling at the family who moved across the lot. A young son skipped, ID bracelet on his wrist and balloon bouncing in the wind, between his mother and father as they made their way to their car. So far, they were the only ones to have left the building.
He flipped down the visor to block the setting sun and checked his watch. Maybe Wace had spotted his car and already lef –
Coppa jumped, slightly startled as Wace slipped into the passenger seat. “Where’d you come from?” He hadn’t even seen him.
Wace didn’t answer and the smile slid from Coppa’s face and turned into a frown. He did as he was told and started the engine, pulling the car easily from the blacktop. He turned the radio off and drove a few blocks in silence, becoming increasingly worried at the quick and uneven intakes of breath he could hear coming from his friend. His eyes slid sideways and he saw the white-knuckled grip Wace had on the knees of his jeans.
The old man was dead.
Wace had come home from the hospital a few nights ago, upset about something that had happened, but nothing ever like this. He was on the verge of crying and Coppa had no idea what to do.
Heart skipping a beat, he looked quickly in either direction and turned his car at an intersection, gliding a hundred yards down an empty street before coming to a stop. The sun was setting and air was stifling, but neither man noticed.
He killed the engine, allowing Wace a moment to get himself together. He felt his stomach tightened when he didn’t. Coppa heard his teeth chatter and the creak of the leather as he shifted in his seat. His boots pushed against the floorboard and Coppa watched openly as he pressed himself back into the bench seat and struggled to catch his breath.
“Wace?” he chanced softly.
There was no verbal reply. He only shook his head.
“Wace, come on – just…” He had no idea what he was going to say, only that if something didn’t change, his friend was going to explode. He was sure of it.
There was a harsh expulsion of breath and it was like Wace had been deflated. He slumped into his seat and his head hung limply between his shoulders. His hands flopped weakly in his lap.
Coppa slid across the bench seat several inches, hand hovering uncertainly over Wace’s shoulder before he touched him. He moved it to his back, rubbing small circles that he vaguely remembered finding comforting as a child. It didn’t seem to help Wace, who was on the verge of hyperventilating at that point.
“Wace, ya gotta…ya gotta calm down, mate. You’ll make y’self sick.”
Wace turned to face him and he was surprised by what he saw. His eyes were dry, but bloodshot, his jaws clenched, teeth bared in a snarl as he struggled to reign in some deep emotion that was threatening him.
“Just breathe, okay, mate? In and out and it’ll – ”
“I killed ‘im.”
It was a whisper, but Coppa heard it as loudly as a gunshot. Even then, he said, “What?”
He turned to face the windscreen. “I…‘e…‘e told me to, Copp,” he said in fits and starts.
“Jesus Christ,” Coppa muttered as his hand slipped from Wace’s shoulder. He brought it to his face and scrubbed hard.
Suddenly aware of the situation they were in, his eyes flicked to the rearview mirror. The street was still empty. He listened hard for sirens, but only heard dogs barking and a distant train whistle. He turned back to Wace and reminded himself to keep his voice even, casual. He didn’t want to make any accusations or cause Wace to panic any further.
He put his hand back on his shoulder, compelling Wace to look at him, to notice his questions. “What ‘appened? Tell me what ‘appened, tell me what ya did.”
Wace shook his head, struggling to form the words to his story.
“Jus’ start from the beginning. You went there after work and your dad was in the room…”
“And…an’ I…we watched some football on the telly. The, uh…the nurses came in, gave ‘im some food an-and…‘e got upset, so they left us.”
Coppa nodded, imagining the details as Wace recounted them. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary so far.
“When they left, ‘e…‘e looked up at me and…”
He stopped, and for a moment Coppa thought he wouldn’t be able to continue. Wace wiped angrily at the liquid that had pooled in his eyes and took a deep, shuddering breath.
“‘E whispered somethin’ to me that I…I couldn’t hear ‘im, so ‘e said it again and…I told ‘im that I couldn’t do it and ‘e…‘e just said it again and I…the pillow was there an’…
“Wh-why would ‘e…why would ‘e tell me ta do that?” he pleaded as he brought his eyes back to Coppa. “Why would ‘e…fuck.”
Coppa pulled him into his arms and pressed his head against his chest, holding him tightly to him as he did his best to calm him. “It’s okay. It’s gonna be fine. I dunno why ‘e did that, mate. I dunno,” he lied, inwardly seething at the old man.
He knew exactly why he did it. Because he was a selfish bastard who couldn’t stop himself from putting this one last hurt on his son. Because he wanted to die and knew Wace would never disobey him.
“Did anybody say anything at the hospital, any of the nurses? What ‘appened after…” he whispered, still holding onto his friend.
He felt Wace shake his head and start to push himself away. “I…I don’t think so. They didn’t…they came in and did some sorta thing where they shocked ‘im, but…they didn’t try so hard.”
He sat up straight, taking a deep breath and rubbing at his face. “I had to uh, sign some…some papers and I – that’s when I called you. I filled ‘em out, then went out the back – there’s a table area where you can smoke. I don’t…I don’t remember anything after that.”
Coppa nodded, absorbing the information as well as he could. Nothing seemed out of place so far. If it came to it, they’d have to deny everything or Wace would be spending the next thirty years in prison – and since he wasn’t about to turn his friend in, they’d give Coppa a few just for good measure.
He couldn’t let that happen.
“Okay, Wace, we’re gonna go ‘ome,” he said, forcing assuredness into his voice. If Wace was going to be able to pull this off, he had to believe Coppa when he said it was all right.
“We’re gonna go ‘ome, get some dinner, eat and go ta bed, all right? ‘Cuz that’s what we prob’ly woulda done anyway. We gotta keep things as normal as possible, okay, mate? In case there’s any questions later, we gotta make sure things are normal.”
He waited for a nod from Wace and was relieved to see that he was trying to pull himself together. Now they had a plan, now Wace had something to do that kept him from thinking about what he’d done.
Coppa put the car into gear and pulled a sharp right, turning the car back to the main road. His heart was pounding in his ears the entire drive back, eyes dancing to each of the mirrors to make sure they weren’t being followed. His heart stuttered when he pulled onto their street and he spotted an unfamiliar car. Eyes squinting in the darkness, he disregarded it after a moment’s inspection – it was too old to be a police cruiser and it was parked too far away, empty.
He backed the car down the alley, pausing before he pulled the keys from the ignition. Wace seemed to hold the same sense of hesitancy, so Coppa made the first move and climbed from the car. He coaxed his friend into taking a shower while he put two pizzas in the toaster oven. They watched the evening news and drank two beers apiece, leaving the bottles in the crate by the doorway and the plates in the sink until morning.
Coppa washed his face and came back to the bedroom that he and Wace were sharing while they did the remodeling on the main bathroom. Wace was already in his twin bed, sheet pulled to his neck, face blank and eyes unseeing.
Coppa started to say something, but stopped himself. Anything he could’ve said had already been said or wouldn’t do any good.
He reached up from his bed and turned off the light, sinking into his warm pillow with a mild sense of trepidation. Wace was covered in shadows for the most part, but he could see the glint in his eyes from the streetlights. Coppa watched him silently, relieved that his face was hidden in the darkness.
It was a long time before either of them slept.
- Razor's Edge - 28b (NEW)