Antonia replayed the last 20 minutes in her head. She went back till she found where she had ‘lost’ him, his interest, his calm. It was when she started questioning his past, especially when she started talking about that old band, Armored Roses. His demeanor went from calm, engaged, and interested, to somber, mellow and sickened in a matter of seconds. She wanted to meet with him again, to undo any harm she might have caused. But she didn’t have his number, or his address. Wait, he said he was here every night, it was his routine. She would hang back over the next few days to see if he would re-appear at his usual spot.
Meanwhile, Bill was trying to find a place he could get comfortable in, but to no avail. His heart was pounding out of his chest. A mixture of feelings poured through him, his mind was in complete disarray. He walked across the hall into the kitchen, opened the fridge, grabbed some sliced ham, cheese, mustard, lettuce, a tomato, and a mayo type spread similar to ranch dressing. He set the items on the table, grabbed a plate, butter knife, and some sliced bread. He took a deep breath, and started to prepare his sandwich. As he sliced the tomato, he started to calm down. His heart rate slowed, his breathing returned to normal. He focused completely on making the best tasting sandwich in the history of the universe. With his concoction complete, he returned all the ingredients to the fridge, then grabbed a bottle of Heineken from the top shelf of the fridge, closed the door, picked up his plate with his free hand and made his way back across the hall to his living room. He sat in his over-sized recliner that faced the windows to the balcony. The windows were opened. He listened to the business of the people on the streets as they made their way home for the night. The cars and scooters honking at each other, or the pedestrians attempting to cross the street outside of the crosswalk. A dove landed on his balcony. It perched itself near the window and cooed at Bill, as if to tell him, it will be okay. Just relax. Breathe, Bill, just breathe. Bill sat down his half eaten sandwich on the plate and took a large swig of his ice cold beer. The icy beer washed down not only the sandwich but the rest of his anxiety. Bill continued to sip on his beer and listen to the pigeon. Allowing the peace and solitude to return him to a state of complacency. He sat and stared at the bird till it cooed its good-night and flew away to its own home, which was probably in one of the many old bell fray’s around the city. Bill looked at the digital clock on the DVD player, it was 10:15, the sun had finally set completely about 45 minutes earlier. The room was dark. He reached over to the table besides his chair and switched on the lamp that stood there. He could see her eyes staring at him, inviting him in, asking him to lean closer. He rubbed his eyes, and shook his head. He felt his heart start to pound again. “Enough of this bullshit!” he said as he gulped down the rest of the beer. He took the plate with the half eaten sandwich back into the kitchen. He threw the bottle into the garbage, placed a paper towel over the plate, and put it into the fridge where he grabbed another beer. Bill was not a heavy drinker, at least not anymore, but tonight, he needed it. He wanted to sleep, to allow his mind to rest, and a few beers usually did the trick.
Bill returned to the living room, where he sat back down in his recliner, grabbed the remote from the table and flipped through the channels. There wasn’t much on, other than football. Football is all that seemed to be on the TV in Italy, it was the only thing he disliked about living in Europe; the fascination with football. He found an interesting program on Discovery World. He watched as they toured though excavation sites around the world, uncovering how man lived thousands of years ago. He loved how they always made it a point to show how science “proved” that there was no God, or how all the different religions basically believed the same things, they just had different names for it. He wasn’t an atheist, but he wasn’t bible thumper either. He believed in God, the rest he wasn’t sure about, it just seemed like a bunch of rules that somebody came up with in order to subdue the masses. His beliefs weren’t set in stone, but he had to laugh at the way science poked fun of religion and it’s followers. The beer was doing it’s job, as was the program on the TV. Bills eyes began to feel heavy, they were taking longer to open after he would blink. He forced them back open, finished off the rest of his beer, and hit the sleep button on his remote. He set it for 30 minutes. He sat down the empty bottle and remote on the table. Propped his feet up on the ottoman in front of his chair, folded his hands over his chest, and let nature take it’s course.
“Mr. Buxton, how do you feel about the decision? Are you relieved Gunner? Can we get a statement Gunner?” Light bubs were flashing, the lights from the TV cameras were blinding. He could smell the aroma a dozen different colognes and perfumes. The heat from the bodies of the crowd pressing in around him was overwhelming. His hands formed into fists, his knuckles were white, his jaw was clenched. He felt like one of those old bear traps that could spring shut with it’s iron claws at the touch of a leaf landing on it’s trigger. His entourage was pushing him through the crowd. “We have no comments at this time.” he heard the man to his left say to the plethora of journalists following him to his waiting limo. As they descended the steps of the court house and reached the waiting car, the crowd of journalists divided in front of him. The photographers were snapping photos of a person waiting in front of his car door. Now they were back to shooting him, then the other person. Then he saw her. She stood tall and silent. The victory he had just won, was a heavy defeat in her mind. She stood her ground as he got closer. Her stony expression never changed. He was now standing right in front of her. The man next to him started to speak: “Not here, not now Bill, you…” but Bill stopped him as he started speaking to the woman standing in front of him. “ Elaine, I’m sor…” THWACK! The sound of flesh hitting flesh echoed through the air. The shutters snapped even more frantically than before. She had slapped his left cheek. As he looked back up at her, her expression had not changed, there was no expression in her face. But her eyes, yes her eyes were screaming at him behind the tears that were slowly falling from her eyes. There was a fury there that no words of judgment either in his favor or hers would ever erase. There was a man who had been standing behind her, he put his arm around the older woman, and started to lead her off “let’s go home mom, it’s over now.” The man gave a cold stony look at Bill, daring him to say another word. She allowed her son to lead her to their car that was waiting two cars up from Bills‘. Bill stood there, thankful for the sunglasses that were hiding his eyes that were rapidly filling up with tears. His lawyer and bodyguard ushered him into his limo, crawled in after him and closed the door.
“Well the criminal part is over now Bill. Now we have to prepare for the civil suit that I’m sure Elaine and Tom are going to bring against you. I think we have a great shot at being able to get out of having to pay any damages to them.”
“Give her what she wants Tony, I don’t care what the amount is, just work it out with her side, and get with my manager and accountant.” Bill said.
“But Bill!!! You were just found innocent in her death, why should you have to pay?”
“JUST DO IT TONY!” Bill screamed at his lawyer. “No more filings, briefs, affidavits, depositions, juries, court hearings, I’m done. I just want to put this behind me. Give Elaine what she wants, end of discussion!”
The car phone rang. Bill didn’t hear it he was staring out of the window. There was a large hard lump in his throat. He swallowed hard. A tear started to trickle down from his left eye. He took a deep breath and sat up straight, gained control of himself till they reached his Malibu home. Tony stuck the phone in his hand. “It’s Sonny for you.” he said. Bill apprehensively took the phone from Tony. He didn’t particularly care for Sonny, but he was head of his record label, and he had to play nice with the guy that ensured he made money; money that he was now gonna need more than ever.
“Yeah, Sonny, what’s up?”
“Congratulations man! I knew you had nothing to worry about!! Now that this is all behind us, we can get back to the studio and wrap up these last few tracks for the new album. And we need to meet up to discuss the tour.”
“ Yeah, okay Sonny. Look I’m exhausted can we talk later? I’ll call you tomorrow, k?”
“Oh yeah, sure man!! Look take the rest of the week off, and come down to the studio Monday morning, say around 9 ok?”
“Ok, see ya then Sonny.” Bill said flatly
“Cheer up man, you’re free! Go celebrate!” Sonny hung up. Bill handed the phone back to Tony. “Ass-wipe.” Bill said under his breath. Tony placed the phone back on it’s receiver. Sonny’s got a point you know, you just got your life back, you should be happy, let the last 9 months go, man. Look I’ll send my guy over to ya, he’ll fix you up.”
“No Tony! Just leave it okay!” The car was pulling up into his driveway. It came to a stop. Tony started in again about how he needed to relax, party. How he was sure the guys would be over soon with some beer, girls, and anything else he wanted. Bill threw the door open to the car. Tony was right behind him. Bill spun around as Tony continued to talk about throwing a big blow out!
“ENOUGH TONY!!! I DON’T WANT ANY DRUGS, GIRLS, OR PARTY! My wife is DEAD!! Her family blames ME! Just leave me alone, get the hell off my property!”
Bill woke up, sweat was pouring from his body. There was a strong breeze blowing through the open windows. Bill’s heart was pounding again. He wiped the sweat from his face. Placed his feet solidly on the floor. He leaned over and placed his head in his hands and cried for the first time in 17 years.