THE SNOW IS GENTLY FALLING almost in slow-motion. Thick, fat super clusters seem suspended in the air before his eyes. He blinks. White light stabs at the back of his eyes. He loses focus and stumbles forward through the snow, a hand reaching out to grasp empty air. Blinking rapidly, he regains his vision and staggers toward the black shape in front of him. His car. Fumbling in his overcoat pocket for his keys, he makes it to the luxury sedan. And leaning against the door for support, manages to insert his key and unlocks the door. The migraine is getting worse. He knows he shouldn’t drive. Knows it’s asking for trouble. But the fear gnawing at his innards has him turning over the engine and putting the car into drive, windscreen wipers on full, furiously batting at the thick snow outside.
Lights. Lights, I need lights.
He flicks on full beam, which does little to illuminate the ink-black darkness in the cul-de-sac. For a moment he panics.
What the hell am I doing? His hands start to shake. He blinks back tears. Grabbing the steering wheel, he leans his head against it trying to regain his composure. Images flash through his brain ignited by flares of red. If he doesn’t get moving soon, he’ll be trapped there. In the car. A target. A sitting duck.
Tabernak! Fear as thick as the snow makes the decision for him. He pulls out from the curb onto a road that’s slick, the tires losing their grip. The car swerves. He points the front end down the street towards the brightly lit main road up ahead, heading back into the city, and safety.
Flooring it, the car careens across the tarmac. He wrestles with the steering to keep the car in the midpoint of the deserted road and without indicating, sideswipes the corner out onto the main road—deserted at 3 in the morning—and fishtails it before the tires find their grip. And with full-beam still being swallowed up before him, he guns the sedan down the highway towards the orange glow of the city, off in the distance.
The steady flash of orange, strobing, the overhead lighting making him nauseous. Acrid bile bites the back of a dry throat as he tries to swallow. The pounding thrum in his ears adding to his disorientation, making him close his eye for a second, fighting for control in a losing battle. It’s a dangerous second and lapse of concentration. The car drifts off to the right.
Realising just in time, he pulls the sedan back into what’s left of the tracks he’s following, which are quickly filling up with snow.
Just a few kilometres more, he tells himself, hang in there.
But the illusion of safety is as transient as the glow from the city, at night, lighting up the sky in an orange fire.
A bonfire to his stupidity. To his vanity. To think he could pull this off. To play the game unscathed, and get away with it. The audacity and the hubris. He only had himself to blame. No one else. He was a fool, a fool to believe he was smart enough, clever enough to walk into hell and get out alive, unharmed. And now, what he had done, would almost certainly be his own undoing. And the undoing of everything he had ever worked for. Events had been set in motion. Events he could no longer control.
A life had been taken.
The moment forever etched and seared into his brain. The deafening crack of the 9 mm as the bullet left the chamber and shattered it’s way through skin, bone, and brains. Splattered across a darkened windshield. That awful silence that followed. The resonant ringing inside his head, and the burnt smell of cordite. And the scream that he realised was his own.
Squeezing the steering wheel, eyes closed, gasping for breath at the memory, white lightning lit up his brain. A searing pain akin to that of a bullet passing through his own skull, shattering his sanity. All thought vapourised in a single instant.
The snowplough was on the wrong side of the road, coming towards him. A thundering demon come to take his soul.
It was his last thought as he yanked at the steering wheel in desperation to avoid a fatal head-on collision.
The sedan hit the median, metal grinding into metal, as it bounced, rolled and careened into the concrete bulk of the Montmorency underpass.
Paul Jutra hung in a moment between light and darkness, life and death.