Bill and the Sting of Death

Searching for Answers in the Past

Bill gently massaged his side near the bullet wound. He jerked and gasped for a moment. An aged, dark mahogany desk sat empty in front of him. Although he was a grown man, he still felt like a little boy, called to the administrator’s office for something he had done.

He recalled putting a dead mouse in the office of the cook and smiled. The poor woman hated mice, and the scene she caused after sitting on one was the talk of the orphanage for weeks. It had been worth the month-long kitchen duty after Bill was found to be the source of her consternation.

The old wooden floors and oak paneling in Adam’s office looked darker. Despite its clean appearance, the room smelled musty, mustier than Bill remembered. He stood up and walked over to the large double-pane windows and looked out at some of the children playing in the cold fall air. The long shadows from the trees seemed to envelop the light. The children ignored the darkness and squealed with delight as they enjoyed a game of duck, duck goose.

A door opened, and Bill turned to find Dr. Adam Murray. His black hair was now mostly gray and thinner. He was shorter than Bill remembered. The two men approached one another, embraced, and Bill quickly gasped.

They released, and Adam smacked Bill on the shoulders. “Look at you. What a fine man you’ve become.”

Bill regained his breath, “You haven’t aged so bad yourself.”

Adam started towards his desk and pointed Bill to the chair he previously sat in, “Oh, don’t let the innocence going on outside fool you. It gets harder and harder to keep up with this lot. I tell you, Bill, I don’t know if the kids are more rambunctious or if I’m getting older.”

“Maybe a little of both.”

Adam chuckled, “Indeed. So, tell me, what have you been up to?”

“I was on Wall Street for a while.”

Adam nodded, “Yes. Tell me, why did you leave? I thought that was the dream for every investor.”

Bill shrugged, “Yea, well, it isn’t as romantic as the movies make it out to be. Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time, but the pressures get to everybody. You know the old saying, big risk, and big reward. Sadly, one can only handle the stress of big risks for so long.”

“You showed a lot of wisdom on knowing when to leave.”

Bill looked up at the old copper stamped ceiling, “Perhaps. I took a job down here at Clark and Company.”

Adam said nothing.

Bill looked at Adam, “What?”

Adam asked quietly, “That was you? You’re the man who saved those office workers?”

Tears formed and Bill’s vision blurred.

Adam continued, “The news reported the man had lost his fiancée and unborn child in the attack. I’m so sorry.”

Tears began to flow from Bill’s eyes before he could stop himself. He took a deep breath and then spoke. “I wanted to save her, but I couldn’t.”

“But you saved so many. If you hadn’t been there, they might all be dead.”

Bill stood up and began to pace behind the chair.

He wiped the tears from his cheeks and said, “That’s why I’m here. So many things happened that day. I changed, and I don’t know what I’ve become.”

“Anyone would change after such an event. I hope you’re getting counseling.”

Bill stopped, put his hands on the back of the chair, and leaned towards Adam, “That’s not what I mean. I changed during the attack. I became enraged. Physically, psychologically. My vision turned crimson. It was almost like I could see the blood running through my eyes. I could hear my heartbeat so loud that I barely heard the man threatening me.”

Bill lifted his shirt to show Adam his bandage. “The bullet that did this. I liked the pain; it was almost euphoric. I wanted them to shoot me again. And then I attacked the man that killed Lori, my fiancée. I beat his head in until there was nothing left. It wasn’t just pure anger; it was fun like the kids enjoy playing outside.”

Bill lowered his shirt, and Adam leaned forward and pointed to the chair, “Please, sit down. I have a few things to tell you.”

Bill interrupted Adam as he sat down. “I’m not done.”

“Go ahead.”

“Afterwards. I started having weird dreams. At first, I just thought it was about losing Lori because she was killed in my dreams. But then, I met people I remember nothing about. A brother, and a man named Joshua. Joshua told me if I didn’t find him immediately, I was in great danger.”

Adam asked, “Did Joshua say why?”

Bill paused. Small beads of sweat began to form on Adam’s forehead. Bill pressed, “What do you know? Who was Joshua, and do I have a brother?”

Adam walked to the front of his desk, and sat on the corner. He crossed his arms like he used to do when he had bad news to give Bill. Bill sat back down.

“You do have a brother.”

“So the killer was right.”

“Excuse me? What did the man tell you?”

Bill answered, “He said he was looking for Harold Brown. I told him I didn’t have a brother.”

Adam dropped his arms to his side, “What did this man look like?”

“Why?”

Adam hurried back around his desk and grabbed a pad of paper and a pen from a drawer. “Please, I’ll explain in a moment.”

Bill answered, “It’s like I told Cindy from the FBI, they all wore masks. He had a British accent. That’s all I can really say.”

Adam nodded and continued, “Were any of the men smoking a cigar?”

“What? No.”

“Are you sure?”

Bill’s voice went up an octave, “I would remember a guy in a ski mask smoking a cigar. What’s going on?”

Adam put down his writing implements. “Your brother and Joshua are in danger.”

Bill asked, “Is that why I don’t remember them?”

Adam took a long breath and let it out. His shoulders lowered. “In a manner of speaking. Harold Brown is your half-brother. You both share the same mother. She allowed Harold to be put up for adoption.”

“Why?”

Adam answered, “I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to say. Please trust me when I tell you that your brother and his parents tried to adopt you. It got to the point that Joshua and I had to intervene for fear your birth mother’s family would take you from us. You were safer here than with that clan.”

“You mean you kept me from my forever family, my real family?”

Adam shook his head, “No. In a manner of speaking, I mean, but not every family is a family you want to be a part of. They were trouble. There were cases of incest, rape, and beatings within the extended family, and we wanted to protect you from that. Your mother demanded we protect you.”

“Why couldn’t she take care of me?”

Adam spoke softly, “Your mother was a special lady, but she had been abused. Her mind was not right, and she knew she couldn’t take care of you.”

Bill looked down at the floor and started to count the number of knots in the wood.

Adam continued, “Joshua was your psychiatrist.”

Bill looked up and asked, “Why don’t I remember him?”

“Please, have patience. I’ll tell you everything I know.

“You were a furious young man. Well, I should say you could be. Some of the staff thought you were possessed. When you got angry, your voice would deepen, and your body would exhibit almost superhuman strength. Everything came to a head the day an older bully named Bobby was beating you up outside. You became incensed and broke his arm.

“We knew we had to try something drastic before you ended up in jail. Joshua built a world in your mind through hypnotherapy. It was a Viking world because you were always fascinated with their stories. Your mother and her family are from Denmark, so we thought that would make a strong connection in your mind. Joshua called your angry side the Berserker, like the warriors of old. Over time he helped you see you didn’t need to fight a Berserker war, and the two of you locked the beast away in your mind.”

Bill’s forehead creased, and his voice rose, “Then why don’t I remember any of this?”

Adam answered, “Joshua was called away to help with Harold. Your brother was worse than you, and his parents begged him to come and help. Joshua thought he would do for Harold what he did for you and would be back in a year. Unfortunately, a year turned to two years, then three, and then we both knew he would not be coming back.

“Rather than try and explain how Joshua had left you for your half-brother, Joshua talked me into compartmentalizing that memory into your subconscious. He was concerned that losing both him and your brother might cause you to relapse to your violent side.”

Bill’s fingers drummed against the chair’s armrest. “So, I was close to Joshua?”

“He was like a father to you.”

Bill’s breathing began to become shallower, quicker. His voice deepened slightly, “You mean, you both hid away all my good memories because you thought no memories were better?”

Adam’s voice was hesitant, “We thought we were doing what was best.”

Bill’s voice rose in volume, “Best?”

Bill grabbed the armrests and tore them from the seat. He dropped them and then buried his head in his hands and wept. In a few seconds, he could feel Adam rubbing his back.

Adam spoke softly, “I’m so sorry, we didn’t know this would happen.”

Bill’s muffled voice asked, “What am I?”

Adam replied confidently, “You’re still the same man.”

“Am I? I just tore apart your chair.”

“Chairs can be replaced.”

Bill’s voice was urgent, “But what if I didn’t stop at the furniture? What about Joshua’s warning?”

Adam returned to his desk and began writing, “I’ll contact Joshua and see what he tells me.”

“So, you know where he is?”

“I know how to contact him.”

“Then you know where he is?”

Adam looked Bill in the eye, “No.”

“I don’t understand. Why wouldn’t you know?”

“Bill, the man after Joshua, and Harold is extremely dangerous. If I knew where they were, that could put the orphanage and me in danger.”

Bill’s voice softened, “That’s why they came after me. They assumed Harold or Joshua had contacted me.”

Adam nodded, “They probably thought they would try and bring you to their location for safety.”

“Then why didn’t they believe me when I told them I didn’t know?”

Adam’s head drooped, “I wish I knew.”

Bill asked, “So, what am I supposed to do now?”

“You’re welcome to stay here at the orphanage if you like. It’s safe enough, and maybe I can help you with these memories of yours. What you need most of all is time away from this tragedy so you can grieve and let your emotions work themselves out.”

Bill thought for a moment, “Thanks for the offer. I already have a trip to the mountains planned with a friend of mine. It’s quiet, and he has a good ear. I think that’s probably the best plan. I may come back for a visit when I return.”

Adam asked, “Where are you staying?”

Bill looked hard at Adam, “I don’t want to say. Like you said, the more we know, the more dangerous things can be. At least I know some of the reasons why I’m in danger. If you need me, call my cell phone. Do you need the number?”

Adam said, “I saved the number after you called.”

“Good. Well, I should go. I have a lot to think about, and if I’m honest, the pain in my side is starting to get worse.”

Adam stood with Bill, and the two shook hands. Adam said, “Please come visit, don’t be a stranger.”

“Something tells me I’ll be back.”

Bill tapped on his steering wheel as the orphanage faded from view in his review mirror. He glanced up at the sky, “If you’re there, why would you do this? My family, and now my childhood? How can you possibly be good and let these things happen?”

Bill cranked up his radio as he merged on to interstate eighty-five south. He frequently checked his mirror and memorized every car that passed.

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