I want to be clear from the outset that everything contained herein is true. My name is Kenneth James Roland, Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing at Southern Michigan University and my actions lead to the death of Kelsey Davidson.
On the night--
He looks up at me. “What the hell is this?”
“You barge into my office, you shove this letter in my face, and you—”
I pull the gun out of my coat. “Read.”
His mouth fumbles for words. “L-L-Look, wh-whatever you…”
I cock the hammer. “I won’t tell you again.”
He pulls his eyes off me.
On the evening of December sixth, I had a formal meeting with Kelsey to discuss her final project, a short story entitled, “Man About Town.” We met in my office, I read through her story, gave her feedback, said she needed to work on her ending, and offered to continue the conversation at my house. I stated I hadn’t eaten all day and asked if she would like to join me. She accepted, thinking it was just about her assignment.
“Look, I don’t know what she told you, but—”
“She didn’t tell me anything. I had to read it in her suicide note.”
His lips tremble. “You—”
I pull the trigger.
The bullet flies past his ear and strikes the diploma hanging on the wall behind him. The glass spiderwebs. Shards erupt and fall. Roland screams, “Please! Stop!”
“She said the same thing to you, didn’t she?”
Tears flood the banks of his eyes.
I cock the hammer again. “Continue, Professor.”
His tongue runs over his quivering bottom lip, and he reads…
I made pasta and poured glasses of wine. Admittedly, we had more wine than pasta. Although Kelsey certainly had her share of wine before, something about the wine was unreasonably strong, she noticed, but couldn’t…
He takes a breath.
But couldn’t make out why exactly. She passed out soon after.
She awoke hours later in my bed and saw me beside her.
The tears spill over.
Kelsey Davidson didn’t tell anyone about what happened. She figured no one would believe a respected professor and bestselling author could do such a thing. She carried the shame with her until it crushed her.
On the morning of February fifth, Kelsey took the gun now pointed at me, stuck it in her mouth and pulled…
Pulled the trigger.
By the time you read this, I’ll be dead.
He starts to hyperventilate and says please as if the word itself would go rotten inside his mouth if he didn’t get it out into the open air as much as possible.
I grab the letter.
“The person who killed me is Joannie Davidson, Kelsey’s mother. On this desk, beside this letter you will find Kelsey’s suicide note and the .38 caliber handgun Kelsey bought at a sporting goods store a few days before she killed herself. Joannie will be at St. Paul’s Cemetery at Kelsey’s graveside waiting to be taken into custody. She will not fight. She will not argue. She will go peacefully, unlike Dr. Roland.”
I don’t give him a chance.
The second bullet hits him just below the left eye socket. Blood coats his diploma. I empty the cylinder into his chest.
I set the gun on the desk along with the letter. I pull Kelsey’s note out of my coat pocket and set it beside the gun.
I leave Roland’s office. A janitor shuffles around the corner and asks, “You hear a few pops, like some loud noises?”
“Yeah,” I say.
I walk out of the building to my car and drive to St. Paul’s. It’s after five. The sun is just about gone, and the horizon looks like spilt merlot dousing a burning ember.
I park and walk to Kelsey’s grave. I sit on the dead grass beside the stone, and I wait, reading the two dates over and over.
Sirens wail in the distance, the sun is almost gone, and I begin to put the finishing touches on my ending as well.
About the author:
Mike McHone was the 2020 recipient of the High Holton Award from the Mystery Writers of America's Midwest Chapter and was recently placed on Ellery Queen's Readers Poll in the same year for his short story "A Drive-by on Chalmers Road?" His work has appeared in Ellery Queen, Mystery Tribune, Mystery Weekly, Playboy, the AV Club, and in the first issue of Guilty Crime Story Magazine. He lives in Detroit.
2/21/2022 10:38:53 am
Difficult story...but so very well done. I assumed it was a male narrator at first and the letter put on the professor's desk confused me. But a slow, second reading took me right into the real sadness of the story. A lesson..don't assume the viewpoint is the writer's gender when reading the work. Thus, your story is even more compelling. I tend to write from the character's viewpoint, not from mine, which is a challenge sometimes.
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