Her name is Caroline. She is in her late thirties. Everyday for as long as she cares to remember she has come into this bar on the corner down the street from her apartment. She sits in the same seat at the bar, third from the left. On the bar she sets her purse, two packs of Camel lights, and a 99 cent bic lighter. She orders a vodka, straight up with a twist. The first one she downs immediately and calmly orders a second. She speaks to no one. Everyday at two p.m.
SHe sits drinking, smoking, and staring st her reflection in the mirror behind the bar. SHe doesn't know the person staring back at her. The hollow eyes, the wrinkling skin are just a husk. A shell of what she used to be. At 10:30 she promptly rises and leaves the bar. She walks back to her cramped one bedroom apartment. No one is there to greet her. She goes to her bed anf pulls the covers up over her face. She doesn't sleep though. She hasn't in three weeks.
The next day at two p.m. she walks down to the bar, and goes to take her usual seat, but someone is already sitting in it. The person sitting in Caroline's chair is a young, attractive, blond girl with flawless skin and bright blue eyes. "You're in my seat." Caroline says.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize," she replies. "Here you go." The girl moves over to the seat to the left. Caroline takes her seat and motions to the bartender to pour her drink. After she downs her first she signals for the second. As she lights up a cigarette she notices that the girl is staring at her.
"Can I help you?" snaps Caroline.
"Yes, as a matter of fact I think you can help me. At first I wasn't sure, but now I think you can." the girl says, studying Caroline's face. Normally Caroline would ignore any human being around her because that's what they did to her, but there is something about this girl that intrigues Caroline. Also Caroline has been alone for so long that it is nice to be noticed by someone. So she decides to bite.
"Can I buy you a drink?" she asks the girl.
"Oh no, thank you. I don't drink." the girl says.
"So." Caroline takes a puff off her cigarette. "How is it that I can help you...ah..what is your name hon?"
"I'm sorry I completely forgot to introduce myself! Im CeCe." says the girl and extends her hand.
"Nice to meet you CeCe, I'm Caroline." Caroline reaches out and shakes CeCe's hand. A tingle races through her fingers and up her arm. It's the first time she's touched a person in six months.
"I have a business proposition for you Caroline. I want you to do something for me. Something very important. And if you do this for me , I will give you something greater than money."
"Oh yeah, what's that?" says Caroline, playing along.
"Your life back." says CeCe. Caroline sets her drink down and turns toward CeCe.
"What do you know about my life?! What do you mean give me my life back?!
"I can make you feel alive again. You can be a person, even better, you can be a woman again." says CeCe. Caroline doesn't know how to respond to this so she turns away, faces forward, and looks down at her drink. Then she looks up at her reflection in the mirror.
"I don't know what your talking about." says Caroline obstinately.
"Yes you do Caroline. How long have you been coming to this bar, trying to drink away your pain before it consumes you? Trying to regain what you have lost."
"And what is that?" says Caroline turning back to face CeCe.
"Your joy." CeCe slowly replies. At this moment Caroline begins to weep uncontrollably. Everything she has been feeling, this girl, this stranger knows. All her dreams, all her fears. SHe knows.
"What is it that you want me to do?" says Caroline trying to choke back her tears.
"I want you to kill this man." says CeCe as she pulls out a photograph of a relatively handsome middle-aged man and places it on the bar in front of Caroline. It is a picture cut from a newspaper.
"What?" Caroline is bewildered.
"I want you to kill him. I have a gun for you, and I know where he will be tonight. All you have to do is pull the trigger. ANd then.....you can be free." says CeCe.
"You're fuckin crazy." Caroline has heard enough. She grabs her cigarettes, gets up and starts for the door.
"When was the last time you slept Caroline?" CeCe calls after her. Caroline stops dead in the doorway. "Isn't it time you had some peace?" Caroline satnds frozen in the doorway. Thoughts race through Caroline's head. How can this girl give her her life back. What could she do that would make any god damn difference. But if there's even the slightest chance to be what she was, that's a hell of a lot better than having no hope at all. She would do anything to feel that way again. Even kill a man.
Caroline stands in front of the office building on 185th street. In her purse is the 38 caliber pistol CeCe gave her. She clutches the purse tightly to her side. The building is eight stories high. On the seventh floor in the office at the end of the hall is where CeCe told her the man in the picture would be. Caroline takes a deep breath and opens the glass door to the building's lobby. The pounding of her heart is deafening. She walks over to the elevator doors and firmly pushes the up button. Caroline watches intently as the numbers ;light up. Six, five, four, three, two, one. The doors open and Caroline walks through, and pushes the button for the seventh floor.
The elevator doors begin to close, but just before they do a hand jams itself into the narrow slot, reopening the doors. A handsome middle-aged man enters the elevator, looks at the button panel, but doesn't push anything. He is going to the seventh floor. He is the man in the picture. Caroline starts to panic. Her head is spinning, she is reeling from the torrent of thoughts in her mind. Do it, do it. Now is your chance. Caroline slowly reaches into her purse and wraps her fingers around the gun. It's now or never. The man looks at Caroline, puzzled. He faces forward again, still with the puzzled look on his face. The elevator keeps rising. Four, five, six.
Theman turns to Caroline and speaks. "Excuse me but aren't you Caroline Canter?" he says. Caroline is frozen. How does he know who she is? Quickly Caroline reaches over to the button panel and pulls the emergency stop button. A red light comes on overhead. She pulls the gun out and points it at the man.
"How the fuck do you know my name?" she shrieks. Her hands are shaking and clumsy from the weight of the pistol.
The man puts his hands up. "Whoa. Caroline it's me. Joseph. Joseph Metzinger. Shoreville High. Class of '86. Don't you remember me?" The man is surprised, but not scared. Caroline doesn't know hat to do.
"Joseph? Oh, my god. You're Joey Metzinger? It can't be. It can't be you." Caroline is crying, she's shouting hysterically. "It can't be you!"
"Caroline what's the matter? Why are you doing this?" the man backs up against the side of the elevator. He reaches for the button panel, but Caroline stops him with the gun, thrusting it right in his face.
"Don't do that! Don't move!" she screams.
"Is this about what happened back in highschool? If it is I'm soory, I was just a kid."
"So was I! And now I'm nothing. Nothing!" The man drops to his knees, pleading for his life.
"Please Caroline, don't do this. I'm sorry. I'm sorry." now the man is scared. Caroline starts to laugh at this.
"Look at you now. Lokk at the golden boy." Caroline presses the gun to the man's forhead. "You stole my life and now I'm going to take it back." Caroline pulls the trigger. She pulls it over and over again untill the chamber clicks empty. No more bullets. No more Joey Metzinger.
Caroline drops the gun and sinks to the floor. She looks at the blood on her hands. It is already starting to dry. She feels her heart rising. The fog of the past twenty years lifts and disappears from her eyes. CeCe was right She kept her promise. Caroline reaches up and pushes in the emergency stop button and the elevator lurches back to life. Seven. The shiny elevator doors, now splattered with the man's blood, part. A woman with an armload of files is standing there waiting to get on. She looks at Caroline. Then she looks at the man. Her bottom lip quivers as she drops the file folders. They hit the floor and all of the papers in them splash out. Her screaming doesn't even phase Caroline who continues to sit in the pool of blood that is still spreading across the floor of the elevator. The woman runs screaming for help as the doors once again close, and the elevator starts to descend to the lobby floor.
Caroline just sits. Sits and smiles. Five, four, three, two, one. The doors open into the lobby. Caroline stands up and walks out. The people in the lobby, in their business suits and skirts stop dead in their tracks. They stare at Caroline. She turns to walk out the front door, but two uniform cops are coming through it. They pull their guns and tell her to get on the ground. Caroline puts her hands up, and drops down to one knee and then the other. They handcuff her and take her outside to their cruiser. They place her in the back seat. More cops arrive on the scene. The red and blue lights flash casting odd shadows on the front of the office building. An ambulance rorars up to the curb and two medics jump out and rush inside. Caroline just sits. Sits and smiles.
The interrogation room at the police station is cold. Uncomfortably cold. The metal of the handcuffs around Caroline's wrists is even colder. The blood on her hands is completely dry and starting to flake off. She stares at her reflection in the two-way mirror. On the other side of the mirror stand two detectives. They look at the woman in the other room. They have been trying to get her to confess for the last six hours, but she just tells them the same story about a girl named CeCe in the bar down the street from her apartment and then returns to staring at her reflection. They are waiting for Dr. Frank Morris, a forensic psychologist to speak to her. There is a knock on the door. A man walks into the interrogation room carrying a cardboard box. He sets it on the table, pulls a chair over and sits directly across from Caroline. She pays him no attention.
"Hello Caroline. My name is Dr. Frank Morris." Caroline gives him no response. "I'm just going to ask you a few questions about some things we found in your apartment." He pulls out of the box a file folder. Out of the he takes the picture of the man that CeCe gave her. He places it on the table in front of Caroline. She glances at it but quickly looks back to the mirror. He then takes from the folder a section of newspaper. He unfolds it to reveal a story about a local lawyer named Joseph Metzinger who was the defense attorney in a high profile rape case. The picture has been cut out. The doctor picks up the picture in front of Caroline and places it in the open space where the picture has been cut out of the story. It fits perfectly. "Caroline? Did you cut out this picture?" Caroline looks down at the paper and then up at the doctor.
"No. CeCe gave me that picture."
"Yes, she gave it to me yesterday at the bar." Caroline replies.
"Ok. What about this?" The doctor removes from the box a plastic evidence bag containing a blood-stained .38 caliber pistol. He tosses it down on the table. "Did CeCe give you this gun too?"
"Yes." Caroline is confused.
"This pistol is yours. We ran the serial number and it is registered to you, Caroline Canter." The doctor waits for her response.
"But that's not possible. I don't own a gun!" Caroline is becoming agitated. Nothing is making sense.
"Who is this CeCe girl? Did anyone else see her?"
"Ask the bartender, he saw her, she was sitting right next to me when he poured my drinks. He had to have seen her. Ask him. Ask him." says Caroline.
"We already did, Caroline. He said you sat alone, the entire time, and didn't talk to anybody, let alone a young girl." Caroline starts to cry.
"I...I don't understand." The doctor reaches back into the box and removes a yearbook. Shoreville High, 1986. He flips open to a marked page and points at a picture with a heart drawn around it. There he is. The quarterback of the football team. The prom king. The golden boy. Joey Metzinger. Underneath is written C.C. + J.M. forever. Caroline stares at the picture, still not quite sure what to say. The doctor then flips to another page. There she is. The blond hair, the flawless skin, the sparkling blue eyes. Caroline shouts in excitement. "That's her! That's CeCe!"
"Look at the name Caroline." says the doctor. Caroline scans over to the side of the page and reads the name of the girl whose picture is third from the left. Caroline Canter.
"But...that can't be. How can that be?" Caroline stands up and backs away from the table. The doctor takes one last thing from the box. It is a police report. It is dated June 17th 1986. He places it over the yearbook.
"This is a police report, from Shoreville. One month after you graduated you walked into the police station and filed a complaint against Joseph Metzinger. You told the officer on duty that the two of you were at a party together and he took you up to an upstairs bedroom and raped you. He was arrested, but never brought to trial. You refused to testify so the charges were dropped due to lack of evidence." Caroline returns to her seat. She picks up the report and skims through it. She places it back down on the table and then looks at the doctor.
"How could I testify? No one believed me. He was Joey Metzinger, I mean what girl didn't want him? They would have turned it around so everyone would think I was lying. They would say I was angry because he was going to end it. That I was trying to ruin his life for leaving me. There was no way I could go through that. So I buried it. Deep inside myself and locked it away. Then I came here. I thought hey a new city, a new me. I never talked about it, never told another living soul. But you can't escape your past. It's always there, creeping around behind you. Never dissapearing. It starts to become a part of you until the only thing you can do to keep it from swallowing you whole is try to drown it in a bottle. Then one day someone offers to take it all away. It's surprising what a person will do for a glimmer of hope, when they have nothing." Caroline slouches down in her chair.
"So it was for revenge? That's why you killed him?" asks the doctor.
"No. It wasn't for revenge. I did it because CeCe told me that if I did she would give me back what he took from me. My life, my joy, my innocence, and my humanity."
"And did she?" asks the doctor.
"No, but she did give me one thing." says Caroline.
"What is that?" he asks.
"Peace." she says. Caroline looks hard at the doctor, then looks at her reflection. She looks into her sparkling blue eyes and smiles. She sits and smiles.