I OPENED THE DOOR to my basement and stepped down the wooden stairs that led into the expansive room where I did my work. My wife didn’t like me working on my cases in the house – the pictures of dead bodies and the gruesome things that the killers I hunted did to them didn’t sit well with her. She was gone now, but it had become a habit, I guess. I flicked the switch up, and immediately the room was filled with a yellowish light, complimenting the wooden shelves and cupboards around the room nicely.
I came here every day after I got home from the office. To sit, to think, to work. It was my place; a room where I could go, escaping the loudness of the world, escaping almost life itself. Just me, my work, and my bourbon. It was easy to think down here.
I unconsciously looked to a far side of the room where I had scribbled a name: Julia. The name of my daughter.
I didn’t want to think about her, but I knew there was no stopping it now that I had looked. The memories would flood my mind. Sometimes I hated that I had put her name there in a moment of depression and sadness. But I knew I would hate myself even more if I hadn’t. I needed to be reminded. Reminded of how my life used to be. How I had made it how it was. How my job had ruined her life and mine. The job I still had – the job I still did.
I walked over to a metal stool in the corner of two large tables and dropped a few manila files on the desktops. I poured myself a glass of bourbon and just sat down, thinking. Thinking of her. She used to be my everything, my all – my reason for living and waking up each day. Until she was taken from me all those years ago.
I shook my head desperately, hoping to shake the thoughts, but there was no use. I took a large gulp of the warming liquid before setting the glass down on the table. I buried my head in my hands and let the tears fall as they always did. And the memories came back, the memories of my life with her. I could see her face again…
“Daddy, daddy!” Julia called happily. “Look, balloons!” I took her by the hand, leading her to the balloon-seller. I smiled at her, truly happy. Nothing made me happier than to see her happy – even if it was because of something so simple as a balloon.
I tugged on my hair, angry now. Frustrated. I hit the table with my fist and screamed. “It’s not fair!” I shouted to no one before more tears slid down my cheeks again. I couldn’t take it. Day after day, night after night. I wasn’t willing to let myself forget but I couldn’t live with remembering either. I was torn.
“That one!” she exclaimed excitedly, pointing to a pink balloon hidden among the dozen others. Her pig-tales bounced as she showed her excitement, pulling my arm with her other hand.
“No, no, no!” I shouted again. I stood up quickly, slamming both fists against a cupboard door. I begged my mind to think of something – anything – else, but all I could see was her face. Her beautiful, perfect face.
“Look, daddy! Isn’t it pretty?” She proudly displayed her balloon to everyone after I had bought it for her. She skipping gleefully through the carnival crowds and when she pulled my arm I skipped with her.
“Stop, stop!” But it wouldn’t. It never did. The gunshot sounded in my head.
I instinctively took cover from the unknown source of the gunshot while people screamed around us. I was about to grab my daughter before I realized what had happened: the crimson stain on her stomach. “No, no…baby!” Her precious, tiny body dropped to the ground, life escaping from her grasp.
“No, no, no…somebody help! Anyone!” I shouted as loud as I could, reaching down to her side, picking up her body in my arms, pressing her against my chest. “No, no, please!” The tears were uncontrollable. “Somebody help, please!” I pleaded. I could see many people on their phones, but I knew it was too late. She was gone and there was no bringing her back.
I looked up toward the sky, crying out in pain. The pink balloon floating away above me.
And my last of her memories sailed off into the sky along with it as I remembered for the umpteenth time: she was gone.
My wife had begged me to give up my job. I was never home, gone for days at a time catching serial killers. But that wasn’t the worst part. She hated what I brought home with me every night. Not just the pictures, but the mood. The killing took a mental toll on me, but I couldn’t leave it alone – no matter how much she pleaded.
I knew something like this would happen. I knew, but I let it happen anyway because I couldn’t give my job up. Julia’s death had been the last straw. My wife blamed me and left that day. I had only seen her once more, at the funeral.
She was right. It was my fault.
I screamed again. I hated myself for letting it happen. I knew the people I hunted as an FBI agent would come after my family – I had just ignored it. Ignored it until it was too late.
I held her body in my arms as the blood continued to flow out of her – and her life with it. The paramedics came and tried to pull me away, but I wouldn’t budge.
I stood up and threw my glass at the wall and it shattered into hundreds of pieces.
I breathed heavily for a few moments, resting my palms on the tabletop, before getting my emotions under control. I shook my head, trying to shake the memories even though it never worked.
I went back to one of the wooden counters and poured myself another glass of bourbon. I sat back down and opened the case files. My daughter had died because of my job, and my wife had left me because of it. So I allowed the torture of their memory plague me every time I came down here. I had to make their loss mean something, so I made sure to put as many monsters behind bars as I could – monsters like the man who had murdered my daughter.
But I knew it would never be enough.
~ :: ~