3.02: The View From The Top

Henry wandered for a time that night. Many people insisted that they accompany him, but he was more insistent on being alone. There was a pressure—a sort of buzzing—building inside of his head through which he couldn’t talk. It wouldn’t let him think. 

What Kara told him about the village was true. Though he discharged himself from Teresa’s converted field hospital well after nightfall, and cast his eyes down, people in the street still spotted him and tried to approach. Gone was their characteristic fear of the dark. Now it felt like a real festival in Tortus Bay; everywhere people chatted loudly and drank deeply beneath the moon. Whenever he was spotted, he hunched over and hurried on. That was enough for most of them. For the rest, there was the cold shoulder. They were still too polite to be that much of a bother—and there was still somewhere that none of them would go. Somewhere Henry could be alone.

The door to the lighthouse sat ajar, unobstructed by boards or police tape. It was completely scrubbed out. No evidence remained of the crime which had been committed there. The crime, or its inevitable repercussion. Regardless it was with hesitation that he stepped inside. The window he’d smashed was now whole, and the splintered staircase reinforced with new wood. Up top, additional boards had been fitted to occlude the sky, but not so completely that he was unable to wedge his way in-between. There he saw the moon again, reflected infinitely over the ocean’s placid waters. He sat on a block of broken stone. 

Teresa put his useless arm in a cast. Kara told him that they might yet find a cure. Niles said nothing at all, but looked at him with sad eyes. Henry couldn’t hold any of it in his mind. He watched the waves, and thought about nothing.

***

He did not properly sleep that night, but neither could he claim to have stayed awake. All he knew was that eventually the sun rose, arced through the sky, and beat down from overhead. He made his way down the stairs, and out the lighthouse door. 

Tortus Bay had not yet fully risen. Those few who roamed the streets did so with destinations clearly in their mind, and coffee cups clutched in their fists. Litter built up in the gutters. Henry arrived at the Police Station just as three figures departed the building.. Teresa, Sofia, and Lola looked briefly in his direction, but not one of the three acknowledged his presence. The daughters huddled around their mother’s skirts, and they hurried the other way down the sidewalk.

Leia Thao sat at her desk, looking worse for wear than Henry had ever seen. The bags under her eyes stretched down to her jaw. Her greasy hair stuck up in clumped horns. There were yellow stains around the collar of her t-shirt, and her sweatpants were torn and bloody. She glanced up at him, and sighed.

“I came to talk about Mathas Bernard.”

“Save it.”

“If you listen, I can ex-”

“I said save it!” she snapped. “There’s nothing more you need to say.” A crumpled bag of sunflower seeds sat on the edge of her desk, which she now seized and upended into her mouth. For several seconds she chewed. “Do you remember what I told you three months ago, when I picked you up in the park?”

Henry thought back. “To get a job and fit in?”

“I did, didn’t I?” She smiled, but there was no hint of joy in it. “I also told you that I had never once fired my service pistol. Never one time, in all the years I’ve worked as this village’s sheriff.”

“I’m not sure that shooting a skeleton breaks your record.”

“Three people died last night,” she said. “Heath Tiller, Patil Derderian, and Tod Donald.”

Those words struck him. Heath, the fisherman. Patil, the friendly waitress at the SS cafe. And Tod, the portly bird watching enthusiast. “I didn’t know.”

“We found the bodies this morning. That’s me talking to a journalist, alright?” She spat out a shell. “From what I hear, there would be a lot more names if not for you, Kara, and Teresa.”

He shook his head. That buzzing was back, drowning out the world.

“And what if I had helped? What if I had done my job, as it should have been done? Would that number be zero?” She paused again, but continued on when Henry made indication that he was about to talk. “Do you know what it’s like, to fight for the wrong thing for your entire life? To choose to believe on faith, despite the evidence of your eyes, and in the end have it cost human life? After today I will no longer be the sheriff of Tortus Bay.”

“You’re resigning?”

Leia nodded. “I will stay on in a volunteer capacity, to help clean up. Then Taylor will take over as interim chief, until something more permanent can be arranged. My last official act as sheriff was closing the Mathas Bernard case, which I did today.”

“Oh?”

“The man died of a heart attack outside of his home. There is no basis for further suspicion.”

Henry didn’t trust the strength of his voice to last for long enough for him to say what he needed to say, so instead he turned to leave—and made it nearly to the door before she spoke again.

“How’s the arm?” she asked.

“Very bad.”

***

Exhaustion finally caught up with him. Henry took the long way home, to avoid the devastation on main street. He could not bring himself to look at it, yet. Along the way he did not bother to cast his head down or disguise his appearance, but no passersby attempted to stop him. Perhaps they had also heard the news.

On the curb outside of his apartment there sat a lump. Henry squinted. It was a plaid lump. As he approached it stirred, and stood. Clint was red-faced. “You,” he said. The man staggered. He wore the same outfit as he had the day before, torn apart and spattered with his own blood. “I never asked you.”

Henry took a precautionary step back. “Excuse me?”

“I never asked you!” Clint surged forward in a hail of finger jabs. “I never asked you for anything, okay?”

“Fine!”

“It’s not fine!” he yelled. His eyes were clear, and there was no scent whatsoever on his breath. “I didn’t ask you for anything. Ever. Alright?”

“Alright.”

Clint huffed, and shook his head like a wet dog. “Didn’t ask,” he said again, and spun on the spot to wander off down the street.

“I’m glad to see you’re feeling better,” Henry said, but he wasn’t sure that he heard. He watched the man disappear into the distance, wondering what in the world he should have said instead of what he actually did, and by then he didn’t feel like going to bed any longer. Instead he made a phone call.

“Hey,” Niles said. “Glad you called.” 

“I don’t know where you and I stand.”

“I don’t know either.”

“I don’t know what we’re doing.”

“Neither do I.”

Henry breathed. “I want to see you.”

“Then come over.”

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