An Ending

Malloy the jailer came at 4 A.M to cut Romanchuke down. The jailer had seen hangings before during his eighteen years on the force, and they didn't bother him any more. Hangings were a nuisance to him, of course, and there was extra paperwork involved. But that many years of working the Shakespeare District had numbed him, taking him from the horrified shock of his youth to a state of indifference. As long as the prisoners moved on, it made no difference to him whether they went horizontally or on their own two feet.

His normal routine was to make his rounds, rapping on the bars with his nightstick to rouse the sorry perps who had just finally slipped into sleep. He never made eye contact. Better to not think of them as people; staying uninvolved made the job easier. So he rarely made eye contact, and never, ever looked at a perp's file.

For some reason, though, he looked at Romanchuke's file just after the man was booked, an hour before, and now this one bothered him. As he peered through the bars into the half-darkness within, at the lifeless form dangling from a soiled T-shirt, he became unnerved. This didn't make sense. Perps don't hang themselves over a disorderly conduct rap. That much he knew, and it was just enough to put him ill at ease. He quickly looked over Romanchuke, hoping to at least see needle marks pocking his arms. A junkie would at least make sense, but there were no needle marks to be seen. The victim actually looked pretty straight, Molloy thought. Which made this even harder to understand.

The jailer didn't want to understand, but he couldn't shake it from his mind.

Copyright 2000, P.J. Anderson