For a moment Simon wanted to say he was sorry, feeling sticky and choked with guilt like an oil slick on a rocky shore. But he couldn’t fathom apologizing to a man that tried to kill him. Instead, he slumped over the wheel, eyes fixed on the grief and blood caught in the rearview mirror, the weight of his actions settling on his shoulders and neck. Simon thought about the cycle and envisioned a loop hanging low where he was, as if it were a key ring holding a cinder block. He wanted out. Out of this loop,this car, this life, but at each turn the weight grew and he understood he’d earned the bowing of his limbs and soul under this flood of increasing burden. Death was an ocean on top of him, and Simon briefly thought the man in the backseat was lucky in his failure or else he too would know the crush of consequence. As if on cue though, the injured man spoke again: “I deserved this. But she didn’t.”

No. Daneen didn’t. Katerine neither. But what didn’t she do? The man coughed again and then sat up with considerable strain, as if he were made of sand and trying to hold himself together. Head heavy, he leaned back but, keeping his eyes locked on Simon’s he said,“The voice told her to kill two kids.”

The smiles of Simon’s own kids flashed in his mind’s eye and then, right after, the matted, bloody hair of the woman he murdered. The vision winded him. Outside, droplets of spat rain beaded on the car windshield as the storm arrived. He suddenly remembered the gun in his left hand and turned with it drawn on the beaten man.

“My kids?”

The man looked less like Jaimie as he stared down the bridge of his nose at Simon. He was tired and dazed, but his confusion was clear.

“Your kids are alive. These kids have been dead a long time now.”

Simon didn’t understand, but he could feel the cycle turning again, clicking into place the way the gears of a clock bring a new hour. The rain was falling heavier now. The nose of the gun shook from his nervous hand.

“Dead?” he asked. The man’s gaze did not waver.

“I killed them for her. And then you killed her.”

“When?” Simon asked. The man’s brow wrinkled in obvious confusion.

“Eight years ago.”

(To be continued…)