It began with pain, and nothing else.
Blinding flashes from within his eyelids – gods, even they hurt, scratching at his eyes, the flicker of his lashes, like nails on a chalkboard, deafening, even over the blood rushing in his ears.
He faced the sky – the ceiling, and the light hurt. He didn’t know it was a naked bulb, pearled, non energy efficient, he only knew that it hurt.
He rolled, too quickly, and vomited, and for a moment, the pain was lost to the convulsions, and then lost again as he passed out.
The second time was better, it was more than pain. The smell of vomit on his nose, coupled with a hint of metallic bite, blood on his tongue, his fingers moved, and only sent short jolts dancing along his arms.
His head hurt.
The room spun as he sat himself upright, it blurred, it faded, and eventually, focused.
His head hurt, but he forced the pain back – a sense of missing something, something urgent, something incomplete, something.
It was a spartan room – the door closed and bolted from the inside, the windows closed and the blinds drawn – no light except from that naked bulb that he still could not look at. A double bed, made, four pillows, dull brown duvet, with a blood splatter motif. A single chair, a narrow desk, a door that lead into an en suite. A pool of blood. A pool of vomit.
A hotel room, most likely, and…
His head hurt.
Blunt trauma to the back of the skull? He slowly reached around, touched the matted hair. It hurt more when he touched it. It had hit him off center, to the right, or is it the left, of the junction between spine and skull. His hand came away wet – he’d need to get that looked at soon – it was still bleeding.
He’d been assaulted – but why? He struggled to picture his past, to remember, but only increased his pain. He was missing something…
He’d been struck, on the back of the head, and left, to die?
The ground loomed. He managed to slow his fall, but still ended up face down on the floor. He retched but nothing came. He’d need to slow down.
He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, steadied himself, forced back the pain.
And saw it.
A single spent cartridge, dull, under the chair.
Slowly, carefully, he propped himself up – there, under the bed, an automatic, it seemed somehow familiar.
So, he thought, a shot had been fired, a single shot? He looked, slowly, carefully, it would appear so. And he had been knocked out.
Murder? Was that blood not his? Had he witnessed something? But the door, it was locked, from the inside, was the murderer still here?
The murderer was still here.
He looked at the en suite door – the only place to be hiding – perhaps disposing of the body? Lye? That was the acid you used, wasn’t it?
He fumbled for the gun, dragged it towards himself, bloody fingerprints now on the slightly damp barrel. It was old, but still felt a comfort in his hand.
Using the bed for support, he made it to his feet.
His head hurt, pain ached through the roof of his mouth. His eyes wept. He held the gun as steady as he could, and edged towards the door.
Carefully, quietly, slowly, soundlessly.
The door was ajar, ever so slightly, and he placed his foot next to it, ready.
He swung the door open – gun up, covering, just like he’d seen in the movies…
And it was empty.
No killer, no body in the bath, no blood stains or leftover organs. Only the cheap scratchy toilet paper and those single serve shampoos. And those white towels – bleached clean.
He did not understand. It made no sense. And why did his head hurt so much?
He turned, slowly, moved towards the phone on the desk. He steadied himself on the edge, placed the gun down, reached for the handset. Time to call for help.
A page, a note, an explanation? He reached for it, and as he smeared congealing blood on it, he tried to focus his eyes. His head hurt. And his hand… it was in his hand.
In his hand.
“I am a failure…” it began.
And he was, he realised.
But he’d get it right this time.
He wedged the gun up under his upper jaw.
He closed his eyes.