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The last few embers hissed and died as water droplets ran from the sky, hidden from sight by the thick darkness. A form rustled by the now spent fire. A head pushed its way out of the tousled blanket and calloused fingertips groped in the tall, damp grass, grasping for a hidden object. They ran across the still-hot coals and quickly retracted themselves.
More rustling and a flickering light cast the pregnant drops into sharp relief. The man reached down into the wet grass and pulled up a soaking wide brimmed hat. He placed the hat on his head, blew out the candle and sat back down onto the blanket to think. It wasn't supposed to rain tonight—not if you trusted the Book. And everyone trusted the Book. The Book said no rain.
The Book said no rain—and it was raining. Thank god. Silver stood in darkness by the one window in her flat and watched the drops slither down the cloudy pane and gather into small puddles beneath the peeling paint on the windowsill.
"Silver?" It was Cilia.
"What do you want, Cil." Silver used the nickname on purpose, knowing that that her roommate disliked the abbreviation.
The girl seemed to hesitate at the hate in Silver's voice. "It's just, the Book…" her voice trailed off.
Silver didn't turn from the window. Sirens blared in the distance.
Cilia seemed to take the silence as permission to continue. "The Book says you shouldn't get up in the middle of the night, not without telling someone."
It would be so simple to comfort her silly fears and send her back to bed like a child. She would forget the incident by morning and life would go on. Silver turned from the window.
"To hell with the Book." She let the phrase sink in and watched the horror on her roommates face.
"Silver, you can't mean that, you can't really mean that. We couldn't live without the Book, Silver. We'd die without it." She was begging now.
"Look out the window. It's raining. The book was wrong."
Cilia ignored her. "Silver, come on let's go back to bed. Neither one of us should be standing in the dark like this. I'll take you to the doctor tomorrow, I'm sure he'll be able to figure out what's wrong with you." Her voice was soothing now, as if she was talking to a small child.
"I'm leaving Cil." She traced the path of a raindrop with her finger before turning away from the window. She walked back across the kitchen and into her bedroom and started dressing.
Cilia appeared in the doorway. "You can't leave," her voice was high. "What would I tell them at work?"
"Tell them whatever you like." She pulled a bag from under her dresser and started shoving items in it from her draws. She stood up and started through the doorway but found Cilia standing in her way.
"I'm not letting you leave. The Book recommends you not leave your house at night. It's for your own safety." She sounded confident. Silver knew that Cilia could recite everything the book recommended.
Silver stared at her. The gun in her pocket rested invitingly against her hip. But killing Cilia would attract too much attention. People might not accept her own death as easily if she killed Cilia first. But if Cilia described her as a suicidal manic, if she saw the gun…
"Let me through." She had drawn the gun and was aiming it steadily at Cilia's heart.
Shadows danced across their faces as the light on the street outside flickered.
"Silver, we're friends remember?" Cilia licked her lips. "Just put down the gun. I'll let you leave, just put down the gun."
Something outside banged loudly and Cilia screamed and dropped to the floor.
"I would recommend staying down there Cil."
Silver stepped over her, gun still aimed, bag swung over her shoulder and walked across the kitchen to the door. She opened it with one hand, the gun still trained on the heap on the floor. Then she was through the door, into the chilling rain and down the steps. She was halfway along their short street before she remembered that she had forgotten her umbrella.
He had forgotten his umbrella and he was soaked. It had been one of those nights. When he had come home from working at the postal office, he had found his wife in bed with another man. He wasn't surprised though—he had suspected as much for quite some time. She had taken to disappearing at various times of the day without an explanation, sometimes staying away all night.
Tonight though…he shook his head, unable to explain her behavior. The moment he had walked in the door of their bedroom and seen them there, she had started yelling at him to get out. No words of apology, no excuses, no blaming. Just leave.
So he had. Now he was standing outside his apartment, waiting for them to leave. As soon as they did, he intended to go up and write a letter of complaint to the Book. He was sure he would win if he wrote the letter the right way.
He thought back, trying to remember how the last case had gone. As far as he could recall, the popular opinion had decided the wife was guilty. Once that verdict had been delivered, another vote had been held to determine the wife's punishment.
He smiled. The public had decided that the wife should be stripped of everything—including the clothes on her back. This might not be such a bad night after all.
He started phrasing the letter in his head. He was just a simple, Book following man. He had suspected his wife of having an affair for ages, but had given her the benefit of the doubt. Not until actually seeing them together in bed had he decided to take action. The Book did take a clear stance against cheating, after all, and he didn't want to go against the book.
He paused mid-thought. He'd heard something behind him in the alley, he was sure of it. If someone saw him out on the street at this time of night, he might be reported. He shuddered—the general punishment for being out after dark was imprisonment for three years.
Suddenly something cold was placed against the back of his head and he fell. Red liquid ran into the cracks in the sidewalk, mixing with rain. He was dead.
"I don't know, is it? He was your husband after all."
The two lovers were sitting on the couch talking to a third man who had just entered the room.
"You're dripping on the carpet Shawn; you should be wearing a raincoat in this weather," the woman said, glancing down at the steady stream of water issuing from the man.
"Sorry about that. I'll get a towel and clean it up and worry about the body lying on the sidewalk later."
The man on the couch got up. "She's here." He walked to the door and opened it. A woman stepped into the room.
"There's a dead man lying in front of your flat."
"Silver! You made it." The woman got up from the couch and hugged her.
"Mica," Silver pushed her away and held her at arms length. "Why is your husband dead?"
Mica shrugged, "Shawn killed him."
"On your orders."
Mica smiled and shrugged, "Yes, on my orders."
"Dakota, you know better, you should have stopped them." Silver had turned to the other man in the room.
"How the hell are you going to explain the death of your husband?" Silver ran her hand through her long dark hair and leaned against the wall. "You're not just risking your own life here Mica. You're risking mine and Dakota's and Shawn's,"
Mica cut her off. "I know Silver. I know what I'm risking. He had to die. He was going to report me to the Book. I knew we couldn't risk something like that."
"You didn't stop to think, Mica. If he'd sent a letter, it wouldn't have been published for two weeks. That would have given us enough time to figure out how to stop him."
The ceiling fan rotated slowly sending chips of paint showering to the floor. Mica buried her face in her hands.
"Enough Silver. What's done is done. Shawn is going to go take care of the body and then we'll decide what we're going to do." Dakota's voice was devoid of all emotions.
"I need another gun." Silver matched her own voice with Dakota's.
He looked at her for a moment. "Are you calm enough to carry a gun?"
"I'm a hell of a lot calmer than some people in this room."
The coffee table that sat between Shawn and Silver toppled over as Shawn lunged towards her, his hand reaching for his gun. But Silver was already there, her hand already on the cold handle of the weapon. She released the safety and aimed it at his face.
"What are you going to do Silver? Kill me?" He laughed. "You didn't even have the guts to kill your roommate, did you?"
Dakota stepped in front of Silver and placed his hands on the gun. "You're smarter than this." His greens eyes searched her gray ones. "Let it go. If we survive it's going to be because we worked together."
She could hear the rain splashing against the windows and the steady hum of the fan. She put the safety back on and loosened her grip. He slid it from between her hands and placed it in his pocket.
"You don't need a gun to get rid of a body," he said as Shawn made a move to take the gun back. Shawn glared at him and went through the door, slamming it behind him.
Mica started sobbing.
"That's the second time I could have killed him." Silver picked up a piece of paper from the floor and started ripping it into pieces. "You'd think some respect would be earned at some point."
Dakota looked at her. "This isn't the time to fight that battle."
"I know. But as soon as we win this one, as soon as we get our freedom back—I'm going to kill him."
Mica sobbed harder.