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.There were no free spots in the lot, so I parked on the street.Jase was waiting for me by his SUV, hands in his pockets, the hood of his jacket pulled up against the drizzle in the air.“Don’t you want to go in?” I asked.“I think something’s wrong.His car…” He jerked his chin at a red Corvette that had seen better days, its windshield cracked, holes dotting the rag top.“It wasn’t parked there last night.He must’ve gone out…”He didn’t need to say anything else.If Eric had left last night, it could’ve been only for one reason.“Give me the keys,” I said.“That’s okay, I’ve got it.” He fished a key ring out of his pocket and started up the path.My gut was in freefall as we walked up to the door.Jase’s hand shook so badly, it took him two or three tries to get his key in the lock and twist it, the door swinging open…It was quiet inside, and dark, the curtains still drawn.Jase flicked on the overhead light to reveal clothes piled all over the couch and spilling onto the floor, his guitar propped against the coffee table.“Eric? You here?” he called.No response.In fact, the air fairly vibrated with silence.Jase let out a long breath.“He must’ve gone out for a walk or something.”“Looks like he’s gathered everything up for you,” I said.“Except my duffle bag and my guitar case.They’re probably still in the bedroom.” He glanced in that direction, the tightness in his jaw broadcasting exactly how much he didn’t want to go in there.I couldn’t blame him.Coming back here was painful enough without facing the bed they’d slept in together.One last reminder of a time when they’d still loved each other.“Want me to go get them?” I prompted.“No, that’s okay.It’ll just take me a few minutes to dig ‘em out of the closet.”“I’ll start carrying the clothes out to the car, all right?”“Sounds good.”I’d just gathered up an armload of T-shirts and jeans when a loud crash-bang echoed from the bedroom.I sprinted to the doorway and froze, watching Jase shove aside the nightstand lamp he’d knocked over and start performing CPR on Eric, who lay limp and motionless across the bed, vomit trailing from his mouth onto the covers and down the front of him, his eyes open, unseeing…“Goddamn you, Eric!” Jase was pumping Eric’s chest like mad, the nauseating crack of a rib not slowing him down at all.“Start breathing, dammit! You’re not fucking doing this to me again…”I finally found my feet again and lurched to Jase’s side, knocking over something in my way.A half full bottle of tequila, glurg-glurging all over the carpet—I reached for Jase’s shoulder, but he shook me off, his anguished gaze flashing fire.“Let go! Can’t you see I’m—”“Jason, stop.” My use of his full name brought him up short, but only for a second.I’d hoped his instinctive obedience to me would kick in, but he just kept going, pounding Eric’s chest like some unholy machine.“Can’t you see he’s gone?”One look at Eric’s pale, unmoving face told the tale.His mouth yawned open, lips cracked and blue.Lips that would never draw breath again.Rigor hadn’t set in yet, but he’d obviously been dead a while.Pills strewn over the vomit-stained covers and the spilled packet of brown powder on the nightstand bore witness to how serious he’d been.Heroin, tranquilizers and painkillers, washed down with booze.This was no cry for help, no blatant ploy to guilt Jase into staying with him.This time he’d really wanted to die.“He’s not gone, he can’t be.I-I…” At last Jase stopped, falling to his knees.Broken.Barely hanging on.A shower of pills landed on the floor by his feet, but he didn’t seem to notice.“I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye…”I needed to get him out of here.Being near Eric’s body wasn’t doing his mental state any favors and frankly, being caught in the blank stare of those cold, dead eyes was making me shudder.“Let’s go in the other room, okay?”I wasn’t sure exactly who propped up whom, but somehow we made it to the couch together.Jase shoved the mountain of clothes to the floor and crumpled onto the ugly gold cushions like a sack of laundry, face buried in his hands.I wrapped my arms around him, holding him as his initial numbness gave way to head-to-toe shaking.“W-we fought the last time we s-saw each other.The l-last time we s-spoke to each other…” His voice was nothing but a thready whisper.“H-he probably d-died thinking I-I hate him…”“I don’t believe that.He knew you cared.All those times you stood by him—”“Until I d-didn’t.Until I went off on t-tour and… and l-left him in that place…” He let loose a sob that sounded like it’d clawed its way up from the bottom of his lungs.“I-I should’ve never left him alone last night.I should’ve broken down the fucking door and—”“And what? Locked him in this apartment for the rest of his life? Kept your eyes on him twenty-four-seven?” Good God, Jason, why do you need me to beat you, when you’re so good at doing it to yourself? “Why don’t we go outside? Get some fresh air while I call 911?”“B-But…” He glanced back at the bedroom, his throat working.“Don’t you think we should…?”“There’s nothing more we can do for him.” I stood, my hand under his arm to help him up.“C’mon.”* * *Jase was still too unsteady to go inside with the police and the coroner when they arrived, so I left him in my heater-warmed car while I filled them in on what happened and showed them inside.They spared puzzled glances for the clothes piled on the living room floor, then headed into the bedroom.I didn’t want to go in myself—laying eyes on that morbid scene once was more than enough—so I wandered into the kitchen, which was amazingly tidy compared to the rest of the place.Eric obviously hadn’t used anything in here last night, except for the glass on the table with an ounce or so of yellowish liquid in it that smelled suspiciously of blue agave,And a piece of paper underneath, words scrawled on it in spidery, disjointed handwriting.Robert gave me some good advice.It’s time I took it.It’s not your fault, Jase.I just can’t do this anymore.— Eric.It’s time to let Jase go, I’d told him at Thanksgiving.Time to admit you’re no good for each other and set him free.But dear God, I’d never meant for anything like this to happen.I picked up the note and read it again, my mind reeling.Jase was in no condition to see this, and luckily, the police hadn’t seen it yet either…I folded it and shoved it in my pocket just as one of the uniformed officers emerged from the bedroom.“Mr.Carr? Can you answer a few questions?”“I’ll do my best,” I said.He asked me a few simple things at first, things I barely had to think about.Which was good, since my mind was still focused on that slip of paper in my pocket.“So, did…” The officer flipped open Eric’s wallet.“Mr.Ferretti have a history of drug abuse?”“Yes.He’s been in rehab several times [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]