16Sunsets – Quietus


“Damn it Andre, get off the escalator hand rails, you’re gonna kick someone!”

Kristof didn’t so much hear the words from the exasperated mother, but read her lips from the other side of the open-air mall. I could get used to this super vision thing, he thought. He mostly kept his wandering eye on a purely professional manner, but with a varying array of people, he found himself intensely examining some of the other mall patrons.

Andre heeded his mother’s words and stood timidly behind her.

The hustle and bustle of the mall patrons initially made Kristof feel normal, but reading the lips of a person more than a hundred feet away reminded him that he was anything but normal. The grumble in his stomach and the lenticular rays of sunlight reminded him that his time was almost up.

Krystal may have abandoned me, but you haven’t, he thought as he saw the sun move from directly overhead to a westerly jaunt.

Across the mall he saw his destination: a clothier. He was aware the shop existed, but never had reason to enter. Until now, he thought as he maneuvered around a humanity that seemed oblivious to the wonders around them. Too many people attached to their phones. He suspected if any of the people wearing out their thumbs could see what he saw, they would throw the damn things away.

He walked through the fancy arch to the clothier and meandered toward a suit he saw from across the mall. It was on a mannequin and mounted above the eye line. He walked to the back of the clothier, never taking his eyes from the suit.

“What’re you, about a nineteen inch neck?”

Kristof turned to see a man in a well-tailored suit examine him from head to toe.

“I haven’t been fitted for a suit since I got married.”

The man produced a tape measure. “You look like a fifty-two inch chest and what, a thirty-eight waist? Let’s get accurate measurements. Take off your jacket.”

Kristof complied with the salesman.

“Johannes is the name and clothing is my game. Hold your arm to the side, please.”

Johannes continued to run the yellow tape measure against various body parts. “What manner of suit do you need today?”

“It’s for a funeral.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, someone close?”

“I hope so, it’s for me.”

Johannes stopped taking measurements. “For you, sir?”

“I’ve got terminal brain cancer. My wife’s overwhelmed, so I thought I could get this taken care of for her.”

“That’s…” Johannes stopped, not knowing the proper response. “That’s considerate of you.”

“Hell, yeah. She dumped me yesterday.”

“I’m sorry, sir. I’m afraid I don’t know how to proceed.”

“You could finish measuring him.”

Kristof and Johannes turned to see an attractive woman in a business suit. She wore red and her accessories matched. “With your build,” she continued, “You could get away with single or double breasted. I recommend a double in a charcoal with a light red and blue pinstripe.”

Johannes nodded at the woman’s assessment.

“Thank you…?”

“Anne.” She extended her hand and Kristof shook it.

“Kristof.” Kristof gave Anne the same once-over Johannes had given him. “You into fashion?”

Anne smiled. “Not really, I just appreciate well-tailored clothing.”

“I’ll bet.” Kristof’s eyes were drawn to Anne’s handbag. It was slight, but he was sure he could make out the impression of a gun against the red leather.

“I don’t think I can afford the kind of suit you’d like though.”

“Nonsense! A man has to look good for his own funeral.” She turned and read Johannes’s nametag. “Johannes, is it?”

“Yes, Ma’am”

“I think a Tom Ford would do nicely. You do those, right?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Anne reached into her purse and pulled out a wad of bills. She counted off thirty bills, folded them over and stuffed them into Johannes’s suit coat pocket. She waved a pair of men’s leather gloves at him. “That should cover these gloves and a suit for Kristof here.”

“I can’t accept that, Anne.”

“Nonsense.” She tapped Kristof on the shoulder with the gloves. “I’m an eccentric woman. Before I was wealthy, I was just weird. You may return the surplus for yourself, Johannes.” Anne turned and sashayed out of the clothier. Kristof and Johannes watched her leave.

“Did that woman…?”

“Yes, Sir,” Johannes replied, “She just bought you a two thousand dollar suit and all the accouterments.” Johannes looked at Kristof’s feet. “You wear a twelve wide?”

“Excuse me, have you seen my son? His name’s Andre.”

Kristof looked around the clothier and noticed the shadows of a rack of clothing had shadows that didn’t quite match the rest. “Check in the shirt display,” he told the distraught mother. “Please try to keep a better eye on him in the future.”

The mother scowled at Kristof, but she retrieved Andre from the clothing rack nonetheless. As she dragged Andre away by the arm, the boy turned and waved at Kristof and Johannes.

“Do you wish to follow Miss Anne’s suggestion?”

“If you can have it ready in an hour.”

“Yes, sir. Right away.”

* * *

Kristof examined the green archway leading to the park. It was wrought iron freshly painted green. It seemed odd to Kristof to focus so much attention maintaining a park that no one visited. No one but the homeless, he thought. Every city had an indigent population, but they hid themselves well. Kristof had been to Las Vegas once and found himself at the railroad tracks. The sea of tents and boxes made his stomach turn. He remembered being embarrassed for the people living there and saddened that people had to live that way. Humanity, he had thought.

Humanity wasn’t any different in his own city. He could see figures hiding in the shrubbery. The telltale signs of the homeless population were everywhere. He made his way to a park bench, just as freshly painted as the arch. He carried a bag from the same restaurant Naomi worked at. It was a different location: He couldn’t bear to see Naomi again – not after the night before. Kristof smoothed his new suit, sat and opened the bag. The smell of his favorite burger wafted up. His mouth watered in anticipation. He was aware of eyes following his movements, but he didn’t care. He would enjoy his final meal.

* * *

Alexander watched from the bushes. There were three men in the park that didn’t belong in the park this close to sunset. It wasn’t long ago he would include himself in that tally.

Alexander graduated at the top of his class in theoretical mathematics. He had worked briefly with the National Security Agency, but like many brilliant people, he quickly bored of the tedium of a government job. Whereas most people would slog through the daily grind for the job security and retirement, Alexander yearned for something more. He tried his hand at private investigation and was quite skilled at figuring out and secret or regret.

As Alexander learned more and more, he became convinced of conspiracies and dangers everywhere. His wife took his son after he lost his private intelligence position at a rather prestigious corporation. He leaked evidence of the corporation’s wrongdoing. Rather than being celebrated for his forthrightness, the company fired and sued him. Ever the ability to understand connections others miss, Alexander insisted he divorce his wife to protect her and his son from the impending financial devastation.

After his wife split, Alexander had no problem tracking her down. He wanted to confront her, but a suspicious sedan with government plates seemed ever vigilant. Alexander knew he wasn’t the only one capable of tracking his wife down. He watched the movements and as one sedan replaced the next, he knew he couldn’t get to his wife without being seen.

One of the ‘out of place’ men in the park that night arrived in a similar sedan. He carried himself well and a slight shuffle revealed a weight on his ankle. Likely a firearm, thought Alexander. The second man wore a leather jacket and gloves. It didn’t take an expert at observation to tell the gloves were brand new. The man kept adjusting them as if they hadn’t been broken in. That man didn’t appear to be armed, but he walked with a confidence that indicated he knew how to handle himself.

The third man, thought Alexander. The third man was a riddle. He obviously saw Alexander hiding in the bushes, but paid him no mind. He wore an expensive suit, but carried a bag from an establishment that laughingly called itself a restaurant. Although the man walked tall, he lacked a certain aristocracy that matched his clothing choice. Alexander stepped out from the bush and approached the third man. I need to understand this riddle, he thought.

“Excuse, me!” He called out to the man in the suit.

The man was about to withdrawal a burger from the bag, but he stopped as Alexander called out. Alexander walked to the bench and sat next to the man.

“The name’s Alexander.”

The man nodded. “Kristof.”

“I hope you’ll forgive my impertinence, but may I have that sandwich?”

Kristof appeared to consider the request for a moment, shrugged and handed over the bag. Alexander tore into the burger and within seconds, it was gone. Kristof handed over his soda. With equal expedience, it disappeared as well.

“I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what?” Kristof asked.

“This…” Alexander produced a knife and stabbed Kristof in the abdomen. Alexander knew the wound would puncture the diaphragm and prevent the man from calling for help. As Kristof’s lungs filled with blood slowly drowning him, Alexander began pulling the shoes off his feet.

16Sunsets – Nervous System

[1630 words]Quietus is the next installment of 16Sunsets. I worked in the prompt from Sunday Photo Fiction.

About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

6 responses to “16Sunsets – Quietus

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