John’s wife knew he had to work every day to keep up with the piles of medical bills that flowed in daily. Her cancer treatments were expensive, and their insurance wouldn’t cover everything. They were already forced to move to an efficiency apartment where they had to share the kitchen with four other people, but she knew she shouldn’t feel guilty about the drastic life changes since they found the spot on her brain. With chemotherapy every week, the weekly emergency room visits, and the undeniably expensive medication she required, she couldn’t help but feel that way.
When John told her he was going to get another job so they could start saving for an apartment so they didn’t have to share their space with someone else, her guilt intensified. Monday through Friday John worked at a real estate office as a minimum wage paper-pusher. On weekends, he found odd jobs doing some construction work.
She tried talking John into letting her go to work part time somewhere, but as soon as she mentioned it, he dismissed it with saying he would take care of things, and she just needed to get better. He worked longer hours on the weekends now, and she was alone reading her murder-mysteries that he would buy her once a week. They sold all their electronics and only had the essentials in their efficiency, but as long as she had light in the sole window she was content with her books.
Sunday morning, John woke up at his usual time of 5:00 AM to get ready to head to another one of his construction jobs. She knew he had to get there early to get picked out of the many people who showed up every morning hoping to get chosen for work that day. John usually was there before anyone else, and the crews knew it. He was picked every time because of his reputation of going in early and working as late as they needed. It paid enough to cover the rent and utilities with a little left over for one of her books.
She glanced over at her small stack of books and smiled. John worked so hard to give her what she wanted she would sometimes imagine her life as if she was in one of her books. She imagined herself as a detective, trying to find out who murdered the vivacious night nurse.
A knock at the door snapped her out of the crime-solving daydream.
“Who is it?”
No one answered back as she walked towards the door. The shadow under the door darkened before a manila envelope came through the bottom. She picked up the envelope and turned it over; with nothing written on the front she slid her finger under the taped flap. She pulled out a full paged glossy black and white photo of a woman. She flipped it over to see an address and a note that read, “$100,000 cash.”
She opened the envelope wide to see if there was anything else. She saw a small piece of paper stuck to the bottom corner of the envelope. She reached into it and pulled it out. As she unfolded the inch by inch square she began to see ink that bled through. She opened it all the way and read it quietly out loud.
“To Whom It May Concern:
I know who you are and I know you’re in desperate need of money. I’m offering $100,000 for the untimely death of my wife. She’s been cheating on me for some time even though I, too, am dying of brain cancer but she has the audacity to do this. You may not think this is enough to kill someone over, but let me assure you that she isn’t safe. She, too, is killing people. You see, she has HIV and seeing as I was already dying from this damned cancer, I didn’t care about adding HIV to the mix.
In closing, I will give you cash to do this. If you succeed, you’ll find the cash in front of your door next Sunday. If you do not, I understand and will never contact you again.”
The letter wasn’t signed, but the handwriting was similar to the way she writes now, shaken and almost uncontrolled. The woman in the picture, if true, was a killer if she knowing passed on this deadly virus. She looked over at the stack of unopened bills and looked back at the photo. The woman in the picture was looked young, probably in her early 30s and looked as if she could have been a model.
As she looked back at the bills, she sighed and grabbed her jacket. John worked so hard every day, and this was a way to help them out and set up a life for him after she was gone. She knew she had only a couple of years left, and getting them a house completely paid for would be a great start for him. They were both still relatively young, being in their mid-thirties, and he still had a lot of love in him that he could share with someone else.
With that thought, she picked up the picture and stuffed the note in her pocket. The address was just around the corner. She knew the place, it was where the hookers went when they were ‘on the clock.’ She tried to figure out how she was going to do it. Her wrist-watch beeped at her to take her chemo pills again. She opened the bottle and found it half full.
She needed her chemo-pills, but she only needed a week’s worth if they had the money to buy more. She nodded to herself. She would give the woman a week’s worth of Xeloda by injection. She could get close enough, she just didn’t know how to stick her without her calling the cops. She pulled out one of her syringes that she used for her daily injections of vitamins and set out crushing the pills with a spoon.
After mixing the Xeloda and water, she pulled back the plunger to watch the liquid fill the tube. She put the cap back on the needle and put it in her jacket pocket. She looked at her books again and thought herself to be the villain this time, instead of the detective. She walked out of the little one room apartment and shut the door behind her. She didn’t have any keys, so locking it was out of the question. She walked down the stairs, holding onto the weak support of the hand rail, and thought about the possibilities of the life she and John could enjoy if they had the money.
She walked to the run down motel with the different possibilities running through her head. As she approached the entrance, she could see hookers lined down the street showing off their ‘goods’ to the people who drove by. She shook her head at them. The life they had wasn’t the one they chose. She knew that if they didn’t make enough money, their pimps would beat them to make up the difference.
She walked into the building and headed to the front desk.
“Excuse me, have you seen this woman,” she asked the clerk.
The clerk glanced at the photo and said, “Room 213, are you her 10 o’clock?”
I nodded as if I knew what he was talking about and muttered a thank you.
The clerk let out a sound and said, “Now she’s fucking women too…anything for a bit of smack I guess.”
She smiled as she realized what she was going to do. She found a renewed energy as she walked up the two flights of stairs. She approached the door to 213 and put her smile away. It was time to get serious. John was depending on her now, even if he didn’t know it. She opened the door and walked in.
“Hello?” she said to a seemingly empty room.
“Only come in if you have some H.” a feminine voice replied.
John smiled at his wife as she laid her eyes to rest. “It’s okay honey. I’ll be okay. I don’t want you to hurt anymore.”
She opened her eyes again and smiled at her husband. He had missed work this week to take care of her while she was on her death bed. “John…Please read the letter I left you in our dresser. I left you a present in it.”
She closed her eyes for the last time while taking her last breath. John wept at her bed as the nurse called in her death. As they wheeled out her body, John went to the dresser to read the letter she wrote to him.
If you’re reading this note, it means I’ve lost the battle with cancer. What I haven’t lost though, is my love for you. I’ve loved you since our first date, and I’m positive I loved you on my dying breath. Under the bed you’ll find a shoe box that I kept all my medicine in. I know you would never dig into my medicine, as you never could figure out which pill was which, but for that I love you more. Please remember, that this was the hardest secret to keep from you, but I did it to help you.
I’ll love you forever and ever”
John was confused as he put the letter down and stooped to collect the shoe box. He opened it to find a large folded wad of cash. He flipped through the hundreds to find not a single one was less than a hundred dollar bill. Under the cash there was a news article titled, “The Cancer Killer.” The article told the story of a young woman who was married to a millionaire who was killed by an injection of cancer medicine. Mixed with the high amounts of heroin in her system, the combination was deadly. No one seems to remember who had visited her in the run-down motel, or even why the young woman was there to begin with.
John dropped the article back in the box as he remembered his wife making an excuse that she had dropped her chemo pills down the drain as she was trying to take them. He looked back at the note and the money and put the lid back on the box. He pulled on his jacket, grabbed the box, and walked out of the apartment forever.