It was ten till midnight when Eliza called. I was sitting on the front porch watching lightning dance across the clouds in bursts of neon white. When I answered the phone on the third ring, Eliza sounded wistful.
"Ezra," she said.
"Are you watching the lightning?"
"It's beautiful tonight."
Eliza paused. I didn't like it.
"Do you remember what we did when there was lightning?"
"Do you remember how good it made us feel?"
"Why don't you come over, Ezra?"
"Grant may be home."
"Grant isn't home, Ezra. He's in Atlantic City, all the way on the other end of the map."
"Are you drunk?"
There was another pause. I heard ice clinking in a glass.
"Put the bottle away and get some sleep."
"Grant isn't home, Ezra. Sometimes it's like he's never home."
"That's because he's dead."
I hung up.
Eliza didn't call back.
The lightning was a precursor to a violent thunderstorm. I snapped the shutters closed on my windows. I locked all my doors. I sat on the couch in my living room and watched some poor reporter on television suffer through the storm's wrath just to tell me it was raining outside.
The phone rang again at three past one. It was Eliza. I answered it on the third ring.
"What did you mean when you said Grant's dead?"
I muted the television with the remote. I picked up my highball of whiskey and stared at it. I hoped Eliza enjoyed this pause.
"Tell me what you meant by that."
"Are you sober?"
The clinking of the ice again.
"No. Does it matter?"
"Then consider me sober."
I sighed. This wasn't going to be easy.
"You asked me if I remembered what we did when there was lightning."
"I remember the lightning was white, like it was tonight, when Grant died."
"Wait. Grant's really dead?"
"How long has he been dead?"
I gave her a practiced pause.
"Two years, give or take."
"Do you know how Grant died?"
"It was a dark and stormy night..."
"It really was, Eliza. It was a night like this one. All three of us were in the house. You, me, and Grant."
"Grant was home?"
"And so were you?"
"Grant came back from Atlantic City early. Said his conference got cancelled at the last minute."
"I don't understand, Ezra."
"What we were doing was wrong, Eliza. It broke the bonds of marriage."
"Why do you think Grant made all of those trips to Atlantic City?"
"He liked it?"
"It's a sleazy town where sleazy people do sleazy things."
Eliza paused on the other end. The storm crashed against my shutters.
"Do the math, Eliza."
"Grant was cheating on me?"
"And I was cheating on him with you."
"That still doesn't explain why he's dead."
"Yes, it does."
A long pause followed. I swished the whiskey around in my highball. Eliza didn't say a word for a long time.
"You killed him. You killed him, Ezra."
"And you're still drunk."
"If you were sober, Eliza, you'd remember who really killed Grant."
I hung up.
Eliza didn't call back.
The storm shook the entire house. I couldn't sleep because of the noise. I stayed up and watched some old tapes I had of Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. Jimmy Fallon be damned. Carson would always be king.
The phone rang at a quarter past two. I knew it would be Eliza. I answered it right away.
"Ezra?" she asked dreamily.
"I killed Grant, didn't I?"
"Why did I do that?"
"You valued my life more than his."
"Was he going to kill you?"
"And I killed Grant to protect you?"
"Then why aren't you here with me, right now?"
Another practiced pause. This was the worst part of all.
"After I covered up Grant's murder, you drank yourself into a state."
"You were grieving. People grieve in different ways."
"But I thought I loved you."
"So did I. I tried to make you see what Grant did, but you wouldn't listen. You drank all night and all day, twenty-four-seven."
"But why did you leave?"
"I tried to get you help. You wouldn't take it. You can't help people who won't help themselves."
"Will you help me now, Ezra?"
"Will you come over right now?"
"I'll be waiting."
She hung up. I hung up. I got dressed and went to the garage. Grant's Bentley still looked and smelled and tasted like it was brand-new.
It was time to take it for one final spin.
The Bentley pushed through the pounding rain with the wipers slashing at full-speed. I made it to Eliza's house in twenty minutes. When I pulled up to the front door, she was standing there in a long robe of white silk.
I got out of the Bentley and picked her up in my arms. The pain of the past two years washed away when my lips met hers again. We stood in the rain, holding, touching, loving, until Eliza led me inside and up to her bedroom.
We made love like it was the last time. Eliza enjoyed every second of it. So did I.
After we had completed the night's events, Eliza stood from the bed and slid back into her robe. She let it hang open, revealing a vertical line of soft flesh that ran the length of her body. She walked to the dresser and opened a cigar box.
"Can I interest you in a Cuban?" she asked.
"Are you leaving?"
"Are you staying?"
"Then why come at all?"
"To settle things."
I stood from the bed and went to my clothes. The sound of a revolver's hammer falling into place made me freeze.
"What you were saying, about settling things?"
"That's why I asked you here tonight."
I turned to look at Eliza. She had pulled the revolver from the cigar box. It was a small thing, a thirty-two caliber at best. That didn't mean it couldn't tear me to shreds.
"If I wouldn't have cheated with you, Grant wouldn't have found us here."
"And if Grant wouldn't have tried to kill you, I wouldn't have had to kill Grant."
"And if I would've stayed sober, you wouldn't have left."
"I've given this a lot of thought, Ezra, and you know what I decided?"
"You're the cause of all my problems."
Eliza pulled the trigger. There was a sharp clap in the room. I couldn't tell if it was the gun or the lightning outside. A knife split across my belly and fire spewed up to my mouth. I was on the floor in moments. Something warm spilled from my lips. I couldn't feel my lips anymore. I couldn't feel anything anymore.
The last thing I saw as I slipped into darkness was the lightning outside the bedroom window.
It was white.