Graduation Night, continued....
Adam hadn’t forgotten about the note, but he had managed to put it out of his mind by the next morning. He woke up at 7 AM in order to get to work by 9. As much as he hated to admit it, his legs slowed him down—it took extra time to get dressed and the bus was very slow. There was a subway that ran right past the building where he worked, but it was pretty much impossible to take the subway with a wheelchair. And since he didn’t want the hassle of a car in the city, the bus was his only option.
The bus took an extra long time to come this morning and a crowd had built up at the bus stop. Some drivers allowed Adam to get on first and others made him wait until everyone else had boarded. Either way, he knew all these commuters were going to be pissed at him for slowing them down even more. But screw ‘em.
The bus driver lowered the platform for Adam to board. He wheeled his chair onto the platform and the driver raised it oh so slowly. He heard one man saying to his friend, “This is ridiculous!” Several people shot him dirty looks. The people in the handicapped seats stood up and the driver put up the seats so that he could fit his chair into the space.
Adam locked his wheels and gripped the briefcase in his lap. The bus was so crowded, people were pressed against his chair. A few times when he rode, there was another wheelchair-user on the bus. That made him feel a little better—it made him stand out a little less, he thought. He had never once started up a conversation with the other wheelchair-user, however. He had no friends who were disabled, and it was his experience that most full time wheelchair-users such as himself were grossly abnormal in some way (like the girl his mother tried to set him up with) or elderly.
Adam looked up and saw a pretty Asian woman holding the handrail above him. He caught her casting a surreptitious glance down at him. If the bus weren’t so damn crowded, he might have tried to get her number. Adam found that it was only too easy to pick up women on the bus. He would drop a pen or something and ask them to help him pick it up. Then he would lower his eyes and tell them that they were “very kind” and add that most people ignored him when he needed help. From there, the only constraint was the amount of time it took to get to his stop.
The bus driver had to help Adam get off at his stop. From the stop, it was two blocks to the building where he worked. He wheeled quickly because he was running late. He was comfortable enough in his job that it didn’t matter if he was late, but since he had to put in eight hours a day, arriving late meant leaving late.
The wheelchair entrance to the building was on the side. Adam remembered the doctor’s words ten years ago, about how his disability would eventually become part of his identity. The doctor had been right—Adam was constantly aware of which things were accessible or not without even having to think about it. He gravitated toward ramps like it was his second nature.
There was an added benefit to the wheelchair entrance at work too: it took him directly past Brynne, the gorgeous blonde secretary. Even after all the women he’d had, Brynne still managed to intimidate him. She was easily the prettiest girl he had ever met with the single exception of Maggie McConnelly.
Adam wheeled his chair past the desk where Brynne worked, slowing down to catch her eye. She smiled brightly when she saw him. “Hi, Adam!” she said.
“Oh, hey Brynne,” he said.
“Running a little late this morning?” Brynne said with a giggle.
Adam checked his watch: twenty past nine. Shit. Still, it was worth it to be able to talk to Brynne. “A little bit. It’s okay, though.”
“They yell at me if I come in later than eight,” Brynne told him. “But I’ve only been here a little while.”
“Four months, right?”
Brynne smiled with surprise. “Yeah, four months next week. How long have you been here?”
“Two years,” Adam replied. He had left his last programming job after a brief affair with his married boss made things too uncomfortable. He hoped he wouldn’t have to abandon this job after things ended with Kim.
“Wow, that’s a long time,” Brynne said. She bent down to pick up some papers below her desk and Adam caught a nice glimpse of cleavage. “I hope I’m not here more than a few more months.”
Adam was rendered temporarily speechless by Brynne’s breasts, but he quickly regained his composure. “Oh yeah? Is there something else you’d like to do?”
“Acting,” Brynne blushed. “I know it sounds silly, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
“It’s not silly at all,” Adam assured her. “I mean, you’re prettier than any actress I’ve ever seen in the movies.”
Brynne’s face was bright red. “You really think so?”
Adam nodded enthusiastically. “Definitely.”
“That’s so sweet,” she said softly, leaning over her desk toward him. Her cleavage was so close, he could have reached out to touch it. He felt his breath catch in his throat and he hoped to god that he didn’t have an erection right now.
“I should probably get to work,” Adam managed to say.
Brynne handed him his time card. “I stamped it for nine o’clock,” she told him.
“Hey, you shouldn’t do that,” Adam protested. “I don’t want you to get in trouble on my account.”
“It’s no trouble,” Brynne said with a wink. As she handed him the card, her fingers brushed against his, and his heart skipped a beat. God, she was hot.
The worst thing about the company where Adam worked was that the floors were carpeted. He hadn’t realized it because his interview was on a different floor than the one where he worked. It was excruciating difficult to push his wheelchair across a carpeted floor and it made maneuvering the chair difficult too. Adam had complained about it to his boss, and they had eventually moved him to a cubicle closer to the elevators.
When Adam reached his cubicle, he saw Kim hovering nearby. She came right over to him. He had hoped that she had come to the realization that she had made a mistake and wanted to forget this whole thing ever happened, but he could see in her eyes that the opposite was true.
“Adam,” Kim breathed. “I was getting worried about you.”
He looked down at his watch. “I’m only twenty minutes late.”
“I know you said you were busy for lunch,” Kim began, “but I was thinking maybe I could come by tonight for an early dinner...”
“What would you tell Mark?”
Kim waved her hand in dismissal. “I’ll just tell him we’re staying late to do some work together.”
“I don’t know...” Adam wouldn’t have minded having Kim over again tonight, but her husband Mark was a big guy and from what she had told him, intensely jealous. Adam had some close calls with jealous husbands and Mark didn’t seem like the kind of man who would have any qualms about hitting a guy in a wheelchair. “I don’t want to wreck your marriage, Kimberly.”
“It’s already wrecked,” Kim said bitterly.
“I think you should take a couple of days to sort out your feelings,” Adam said. “I mean, I really care about you, and I don’t want to feel like you’re just with me to get back at your husband.”
Kim bit her lip. “All right, Adam.”
He sighed with relief as she walked away from his cubicle. He didn’t feel like dealing with some other guy’s emotionally needy wife right now.
Adam’s cubicle was a model of cleanliness and organization. Adam had always been a bit of a slob in high school, but his disability forced him to change that. He could no longer just throw things on the floor when he wasn’t using them, so he had to get himself organized. The papers on his desk were all neatly arranged and the walls of the cubicle were bare, except for a single photograph of his parents.
He booted his computer then loaded up his mail program. He was waiting for an e-mail from his boss, giving him feedback on a project he had recently completed. When the program loaded, a message popped up saying he had 523 new e-mails. When Adam opened his inbox, he saw that the contents of every message was the same:
Adam closed the message he had open and backed out of his cubicle. He felt very sick all of a sudden. Somebody was harassing him. But why? Why now?
All Adam knew was that he had to get out of the building right now.
Once he was downstairs, Adam raced past Brynne at her desk and didn’t stop until he was outside. He leaned over the side of his chair and retched. These letters weren’t a joke. Somebody knew a lot about him and was going through a lot of trouble to scare him. And Adam had a strong suspicion that this person intended to hurt him.
Adam felt a hand on his shoulder and nearly jumped out of his chair. He sighed with relief when he saw Brynne’s pretty face. “Are you okay, Adam?” she asked, her brows furrowed with concern.
“I’ll be fine,” Adam managed.
“Do you want me to call 911?” she asked.
“911?” Adam looked at her in surprise. That seemed awfully extreme. Then again, Brynne had no idea why he was out there. For all she knew, he had some awful medical problem that put him in a wheelchair. “No no, I’m really fine. I just... needed some air.”
“Well, all right,” Brynne agreed doubtfully.
God, she probably thought he was some kind of invalid now. He wondered if he had just blown his chances with her.
“Is there anything I can do for you?” Brynne asked.
“No, it’s really okay,” Adam told her.
“It’s no trouble...”
Brynne reached into her pocket and pulled out a small white card. “This card has my phone number,” she told him. “If you need anything, don’t hesitate to call me. Feel free to call me at any time. Any time.”
Adam stared up at her, back down at his legs, then back at Brynne. “Uh, thanks,” he said, swallowing hard. “I will definitely do that.”
“Please do,” Brynne said sweetly.
As Brynne walked back to her desk, Adam couldn’t help but stare after her. What the hell just happened? Did Brynne just ask him out? He was pretty good at reading women, but this was the last thing he had expected from her.
His excitement faded when he remembered why he was out here in the first place. His life was in danger and he had to do something about it. First thing when he got home, he was calling the cops.
Adam called the police as soon as he got home, although he didn’t receive any more threats during the day. To his surprise, they insisted on sending a car over when he told them the whole story. Half an hour later, two police officers showed up at his door. The officers introduced themselves as Detectives Martin and Dunn.
“Mr. Harding?” Detective Martin asked at the door. “You called about the threats?”
“Yeah, come right in,” Adam said. He didn’t like the idea of his neighbors seeing two cops outside his door.
The officers walked inside and looked around the apartment. “You live here alone?” Detective Dunn asked.
“Yeah,” Adam replied.
“For how long?”
“Uh… about four years.”
Martin was looking down at Adam’s legs. “You didn’t say on the phone that you were handicapped.”
Adam didn’t like the accusatory tone in the officer’s voice. “No, I didn’t. Does it make a difference?”
Martin shrugged. “People who are more vulnerable tend to make better targets.”
“Vulnerable?” Adam felt his face burn.
Martin nodded. “Most of the calls we get about threats are from women and the disabled. Not a lot of men call us. It makes more sense now.”
It took all of Adam’s self-restraint not to scream at the officers to get the hell out. “Look,” Adam said tightly. “Do you want to see the letter or not?”
“Let’s have a look,” Dunn said.
Adam wheeled over to the cabinet and pulled out the envelope he had received last night. Dunn took it from him and opened it up. “Who’s Shannon?” “She… uh…” Adam bit his lip. He hadn’t counted on explaining all this to the cops. “I was in a drunk driving accident about ten years ago. That’s how I… anyway, this woman, Shannon Richards, was in the other car. She was killed.”
“So you did kill her?” Dunn asked, nudging his partner.
“No, I didn’t.”
“Let me get this straight,” Martin spoke up. “You were drunk and you drove into another car, killing this woman Shannon Richards?”
“Well…” Adam hesitated. The cops were looking at him like he was the biggest asshole on the planet. “I wasn’t the one driving.”
“No, I wasn’t. A friend of mine was driving.”
Martin folded his arms. “So how come you were the one who got this letter?”
Adam looked up at the officer’s skeptical face. It was time to come clean. “I said that I was driving so my friend wouldn’t have to go to jail.”
“That was a nice thing to do,” Martin commented, a touch of sarcasm in his voice.
“Well, he was my best friend.”
“So you went to jail?”
Adam shook his head. “No, they suspended my sentence because of… my injury.”
Martin looked him over. “What injury is that?”
Adam gestured at his legs. “I was paralyzed from the waist down.”
“I see,” Martin said. “And what was the name of the person who was driving?”
“Listen,” Adam sighed. “I don’t want to turn this into a big thing. I just… I just want you to find out who’s been sending me these letters.”
“That’s why we need the whole story,” Dunn piped in. “You’re making a very serious accusation here, Mr. Harding. We can help you, but we need all the facts.”
“All right.” Adam closed his eyes and took a breath. “His name is Roger Jacobson.”
Dunn took out a small notebook and wrote down the name. “Now Mr. Harding, do you have any idea who might be responsible for sending this letter?”
Adam folded his arms. “No, I don’t. That’s why I called you.”
“Did this woman, Shannon Richards, have a big family?” Dunn asked.
Adam had tried not to think about Shannon Richards’ family in the years following the accident. “I think so. She was married and she had a kid. Her husband actually threatened me at the time, but… that was more than ten years ago.”
“And what was his name?”
“David Richards.” Talking about the accident was making Adam feel ill. It was bad enough that he had to live with the consequences every day of his life, but now he felt like he was reliving the experience itself.
Dunn was writing this all down. “And how about her kid?”
“He was just a baby,” Adam said. “Four years old, maybe.”
“He’s not a baby anymore then,” Martin said. “He’d be a teenager now. Maybe ready to get his revenge.”
Adam swallowed. “I… I guess it’s possible…”
“Any other relatives? Brothers? Sisters?” Dunn asked.
“I… I really don’t know.”
Dunn snapped his notebook closed. “I’m going to be honest with you, Mr. Harding. There’s not a hell of a lot we can do for you right now.”
“I see,” Adam said. He wasn’t surprised. He had been starting to wonder why he had bothered calling the police in the first place. All they did was make him feel self-conscious and scare him even further. “Well, thank you for coming anyway,” he said, trying to keep the sarcasm from creeping into his voice.
“That’s what we get paid for,” Martin said.
It had taken a long time to get there, but Roger Jacobson was exactly where he wanted to be in his life. He graduated from law school four years earlier and had joined a prestigious law firm. He worked very hard, but he also made a good living and he enjoyed his work.
But Roger had always been a smart guy and knew he’d have a fulfilling career. He had been a little less certain of the path his romantic life would take. In college, he had gone to countless parties and been rejected by countless girls. He managed to get a few dates in college, but they usually didn’t lead to a second date.
When Roger graduated from law school, he realized to his horror that he had never had a girlfriend. He wasn’t too worried though, because he figured that any woman would want to go out with an attractive young lawyer. But somehow, it didn’t get any easier. He had more dates, but his relationships never lasted longer than a month. He always got dumped.
Roger began to wonder what was wrong with him. Was this some sort of strange punishment by the gods for the terrible thing he had done the night of his high school graduation?
Then, one and a half years ago, Roger met Joy.
She was waitressing at a bar he often frequented with some of his friends from work. He saw her and was immediately attracted to her curved hips and warm smile. He asked her out and she said yes.
Roger hadn’t held out much hope, considering how all his other dates turned out. But then one date led to another and another... and before he knew it, Roger had a girlfriend.
Joy was incredible. She was beautiful, she was funny, she was intelligent, and she was great in bed. Roger felt funny when he admitted to her that even though he was 27 years old, she was only the second woman he had slept with, but Joy had been infinitely understanding.
Then, three months earlier, Roger asked Joy to marry him. She said yes.
Finally, Roger felt complete. He had a great life, including a woman to share it with. He looked forward to going to work in the morning and he looked forward to coming home at night. What more could a man ask for?
Then it all blew up in his face one night, when Roger came home to see Joy’s pretty face streaked with tears.
“Honey,” Roger said as panic seized his chest. “What happened?”
Joy rubbed a red-rimmed eye. “The police were here, Roger.”
“The... the police?”
“They were saying you killed someone,” Joy sobbed. “Some woman named Shannon Richards...”
Roger’s eyes widened. “What?”
Joy took a careful step backwards. “Is it true? Did you...?”
“Joy honey,” Roger said, shaking his head, “how could you ask something like that? It’s me.”
Joy’s shoulders shook with tears. Roger wrapped his arms around her and allowed her to rest her head on his beard. “It’s all a mistake,” Roger assured her.
“Do you know who this woman is?” Joy managed to ask.
“Yes.” Roger had never told Joy the story. He had never even uttered Adam Harding’s name in her presence. He was ashamed of what had happened. It wasn’t something he liked to think about. But he supposed it was time to tell her... at least part of the truth.
“When I was in high school, I was in a car accident,” Roger began. “One of my friends was driving and he was... drunk. We were all drunk, I guess. Anyway, we weren’t hurt in the accident, but the person in the other car was killed. That was Shannon Richards.”
Joy pulled away from him. “How come you never told me any of this?”
“It’s not exactly something I’m proud of.”
“Yes, but we’re going to get married,” Joy said. “We’re not supposed to have any secrets from each other.”
“Well, I told you now.”
Joy still seemed unsatisfied. “I don’t get it, Roger,” she said. “Why, after all this time, are the police asking about it?”
“I have no idea,” Roger said.
“What about the guy who was driving?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, who was it?”
“I... I don’t remember his name.” Roger winced at the lie.
“Did he go to jail?”
“I... I don’t think so.”
“No?” Joy seemed surprised. “I would have thought you’d go to jail for something like that?”
Roger felt very uncomfortable. He felt like Joy could see through all his lies. “Listen, I don’t want to talk about it, okay?”
“Well, the police do,” Joy said. “They’re calling your office tomorrow.”
Roger nearly choked. “What? You gave them the number?”
“It’s the police, Roger,” Joy said tearfully. “What was I supposed to say?”
Roger hung his head. “I’m sorry, honey. It’s not your fault. It’s just... upsetting, that’s all.”
Joy hugged him. “It’s okay. I know you’d never hurt anybody. I just got scared when I saw the police here and all. But if you explain to them the truth about what happened, I’m sure everything will be fine.”
Unfortunately, the truth was the last thing that Roger wanted anyone to hear.
Roger waited until Joy had already gone to sleep before sneaking over to the phone book. To his surprise, Adam’s number and address were both listed. Like Roger and many of their other classmates, Adam had relocated to the city and had an apartment in a good neighborhood.
Roger stared at the phone number, willing up the courage to call. It was only 11 PM and he knew Adam always stayed up late in the past. But he had a feeling Adam wouldn’t be happy about getting this phone call. Adam wasn’t an idiot—he’d know why Roger was calling after all these years. Then again, what choice did he have?
Roger dialed the number slowly and heard ringing on the other end. He nearly hung up, but finally he heard the voice on the other end: “Hello?”
The voice was so familiar, it nearly brought tears to his eyes. “Adam?”
“Uh, yeah. Who is this?”
“It’s Roger.” He cleared his throat. “Roger Jacobson.”
There was a long pause on the other line. “Rog? Jesus...” Another pause. “Why... why are you calling?”
“I guess... I figured it’s been long enough.”
“Shit,” Adam murmured. “How long has it been?”
“Close to eleven years.”
“So maybe we could go out for a drink or something?”
A pause. “I don’t really drink.”
Roger cursed silently. “Yeah, me either. Coffee then?”
A longer pause. “Yeah, all right.”
Roger could barely keep his mind on his work the next day. He kept thinking about Adam and the accident and the impending call from the police. By the mid-afternoon, he had almost managed to put it out of his head when he heard his secretary’s voice on the intercom. “Roger, a Detective Martin would like a word with you…”
Roger yanked the phone of the receiver. “Roger Jacobson speaking.”
“Yeah, Mr. Jacobson, this is Detective Martin of the New York police department. We’d like a few minutes of your time.”
“Uh… certainly. What’s this about?”
Roger heard a shuffling of paper. “Were you involved in a drunk driving accident eleven years ago, in which a Mrs. Shannon Roberts was killed?”
“Mr. Jacobson, we’ve got a statement here from a Mr. Adam Harding, saying that you were the driver of the vehicle.”
All the blood drained from Roger’s face. “That’s not true. Adam… I mean, Mr. Harding plead guilty to manslaughter. He was the one driving.”
“Well, Mr. Harding claims that’s not the case.”
“I don’t know what to tell you. I wasn’t driving.”
“Were there any other witnesses?”
Only one: Maggie McConnelly. “No. I mean, it was eleven years ago…”
“There’s no statute of limitations on murder, Mr. Jacobson.”
Roger swallowed. “I assure you, this is all a big mistake.”
“It may well be,” the detective said, “but even so, we’re obliged to investigate further.”
Roger hung up the phone with a heavy feeling in the pit of his stomach. After all these years, Adam had turned on him, for some reason. And now he was in danger of losing everything.
Adam chose a coffee shop that was near his apartment. They decided it made more sense to meet near Adam, since he didn’t have a car. But once Roger got into Adam’s neighborhood, he found that it was impossible to find parking and wished he had just taken the subway.
Roger arrived at the shop five minutes late, despite having planned to arrive early. He found that his heart was pounding as he walked towards the store. He hadn’t seen his friend in over ten years. The last time was at the murder trial, and they hadn’t parted on good terms.
Roger saw Adam sitting at a table near the entrance to the shop. Roger was struck by how similar he looked to the way he did in high school. His hair was cut shorter, more professional, and he wouldn’t have been caught dead with a tie in public ten years ago, but other than that, he looked the same. The only real difference was the wheelchair that he sat in and his motionless legs.
Adam looked up and actually smiled. “Rog!” He held out his hand and Roger gave it a good shake. God, it was nice seeing Adam again. “Excuse me for not getting up, but... have a seat.”
Roger couldn’t help but smile back, despite his nervousness. Up close, Roger could see a few lines on Adam’s face that hadn’t been there when they were eighteen and a certain newfound seriousness about him. Yet there was still something very youthful about Adam.
“Gained a few pounds, huh?” Adam said playfully.
Roger blushed. He had put on about twenty pounds in the last ten years, mostly in the gut. He liked to think it didn’t show, but Adam had proved him wrong. “I guess my metabolism has changed a little bit since high school... unlike yours.”
Adam squinted at him. “What’s with the beard?”
Roger touched his beard. “You don’t like it? My fiancé wanted me to grow it.”
“Fiancé?” Adam raised an eyebrow. “What’s this all about?”
“I got engaged a few months ago,” Roger told him. “It’s kind of scary, but I really love her.”
“Good for you,” Adam said, leaning back in his chair. “What do you do for a living? Let me guess: accountant?”
“No, I’m a lawyer.”
Adam stared at him for a minute, then burst out laughing. “Oh man, you’re kidding me! You’re a lawyer?”
“Why is that funny?”
Adam wiped the smile of his face. “I don’t know. It just is.”
It was strange how after ten years, it felt like nothing had changed between them. They were talking and laughing just like they always did. It made Roger wonder why he had stayed away for so long.
“Nobody else thought it was funny when I told them at the reunion,” Roger said.
“Yeah, the ten-year reunion... it was a few months back.”
“How come you didn’t go?” Roger wanted to know. “Everyone was asking me about you.”
Adam shrugged. “Uh, I don’t know. I just didn’t really feel like seeing everyone, you know?” He hesitated. “Was Maggie there?”
Roger saw the wistful look in his friend’s eyes. God, Roger thought, he’s still in love with her! “No,” he answered truthfully. “She wasn’t there.”
“Oh,” Adam said. He seemed relieved.
“How about you?” Roger asked.
“What about me?”
“What do you do?”
Adam made a face. “Computer programming. Not really my ideal job, but what are you gonna do?”
“I always thought you wanted to go to medical school.”
“Yeah,” Adam looked down at the table. “I did, I guess. I applied to a bunch of schools, but... I mean, at the interviews they pretty much told me straight out that they never had a student who was disabled. Well, at least never one in a wheelchair. And it would be pretty hard for me to get through the clinical stuff...”
“That’s bullshit!” Roger exclaimed. “You mean they didn’t let you in because you can’t walk? That’s discrimination!”
“Calm down, Earl Warren,” Adam said, shaking his head. “They didn’t not let me in. I... withdrew my applications. They were right. It’s very rigorous and I don’t think I could have done it. I mean, it’s not like I saw any other disabled students who were applying.”
“It’s not right,” Roger mumbled.
“It also didn’t help that I had a conviction for vehicular manslaughter.”
Roger’s face flushed. “I’m sorry.”
Adam shrugged. “Hey, it’s the past, right?”
Except it wasn’t the past. Not anymore.
“Are you married?” Roger asked.
Adam shook his head.
“Why? You interested in me?” Adam laughed wryly. “No, I haven’t had a girlfriend... well, since high school.”
“Oh, come on,” Adam said. “You think women are lining up for a date with a guy who’s paralyzed? It’s not so easy for me. Girls just... don’t think of me that way anymore.”
Roger leaned forward and looked into Adam’s dark eyes. “That’s not what I heard.”
Adam stared at him. “What have you heard?”
“Well,” Roger said slowly, “I heard you use your wheelchair to trick women into sleeping with you.”
A smile spread across Adam’s face. “Oh yeah? Who told you that?”
“Marian Jaymes,” Roger replied.
Adam looked confused.
“I met Marian at the ten-year reunion,” Roger explained. “She told me she ran into you a couple of years ago. She said you gave her some pathetic story and you wound up sleeping together a few times. Then you dumped her. Or, as she put it, you tricked her into dumping you.”
Adam shook his head, still smiling. “Wow, how did little Marian get to be so smart?”
“She said she ran into some other girl you fucked.”
Adam finally laughed. “Okay, you got me. Shit, was she pissed at me?”
“You’d think so, but no. In fact, she said I should give you her number if I saw you. She thinks you have a self-esteem problem and she wants to try to help you.”
“Aw, that’s so sweet.”
“Do you want her number?”
“No, that’s okay.”
Roger frowned. “So I guess it’s true then.”
“In one sense,” Adam said. “Come on, Rog, you know me: when have I ever had to trick girls into sleeping with me?”
“True,” Roger admitted. “But you do lie to them.”
“Lie?” Adam rubbed one of his motionless legs. “I don’t lie. I’m a fucking paraplegic. They see me in the chair and they just assume I’m a pathetic loser and they feel bad for me.”
“But don’t you ever want to have a meaningful relationship with a girl?”
“Hey, fuck you, pal,” Adam spat. “You think I like it that I can’t even look a girl in the eyes unless she’s sitting down? You think I don’t want to go dancing or even hold hands when we walk? You know, I’d like to play baseball with my kids and go camping and all that bullshit, but that’s never going to happen.” He slammed on the armrest of his chair. “You fucking put me in here, you asshole! I can’t believe you’re fucking judging me!”
Roger swallowed hard. He looked around the restaurant and saw several people looking over at them. “Listen, calm down. I’m sorry.”
“Fuck you,” Adam muttered. “This was a mistake. You haven’t changed at all. You’re still the same squirming piece of shit you were before.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
Adam looked Roger square in the eyes. “You expect me to believe you just called me right out of the blue? Come on, Rog, what’s this about? What do you want me to do for you this time? You need a kidney? I can’t give you one. They don’t let paraplegics give kidneys.”
“I just wanted to ask you something,” Roger said quietly.
“Well, go ahead.”
“After all these years, why did you go to the police about me?”
Adam frowned. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“A few days ago,” Roger said, “two cops came to my apartment and asked my fiancé if I was involved in murdering Shannon Richards.”
Adam stared at him. “Holy shit... they did?”
“Yeah, like you don’t know...”
Adam smiled a little. “Well, it wasn’t intentional, believe me. But if I had known the police would be knocking on your door, I would have called them sooner. I got some letters, okay? I got two threatening letters about... I don’t know... saying that I was a murderer and I was going to pay. So I called the cops.”
“And you told them that I was the murderer?”
“Well, sort of,” Adam admitted. “It’s not like it was a well thought out plan or anything. It was so long ago, I didn’t think it mattered. I didn’t even think they believed me. But I guess they did.”
Roger sighed. “Great.”
“I didn’t do it to fuck you over,” Adam said, “even though that’s what you deserve.”
“I deserve to go to jail?”
“You’re not going to jail.”
“I don’t think you realize how much trouble I might be in,” Roger said.
“I don’t think you realize how little I care,” Adam retorted. “In fact, I hope you go to jail.”
Roger stared at him. “You really mean that?”
“You should never have asked me to take the fall for you,” Adam said. “You should have faced up to the goddamn music. You should have taken the year or two in jail. At least then maybe you’d have some respect.”
“I never would have gotten into law school with a jail record,” Roger pointed out.
“Yeah well, there’s more important things in life.” Adam shook his head. “You want me to call up the police and tell them I lied to them the other day? I won’t do that, Rog. You’re just going to have to deal with this one on your own. You’re not my friend anymore and I’m not going to help you.”
Adam pushed his chair back from the table. Now Roger could see his abnormally thin legs and his feet motionless in the footrests. Roger could only imagine what it must be like for Adam, unable to control half his body, relying on a wheelchair to get around. Adam probably spent the last ten years of his life hating Roger for taking his body away from him. And Roger knew he deserved it.
Roger vowed that no matter what it took, he was going to make things right again with Adam.
to be continued....