Evan inhaled the final bit of smoke from his cigarette and tossed it aside just as the ember began eating into the filter. He was the kind of neighbourhood that looked as if though it had been taken out of some real estate brochure, houses in organised rows of arrogant perfection. The same kind of false perfection that seemed to dictate the lives of the people Evan knew lived here. Slowly he exhaled, a steady stream of smoke coming out of his nostrils. He ran a hand through his hair and pretended his receding hairline didn’t bother him, like he always did. With practised ease he fished out a pack of cigarettes out of his coat pocket, and had a new cigarette lit in a matter of moments.
“Why do they always have to live in the suburbs?” he muttered to himself as he walked down the length of one the streets that made the suburban maze these families called their home. They had to be families. Normal people did not live in places like this.
Evan reached into a different pocket. “Where did I put the damn thing?” He said and then let the cigarette rest on his lips to keep both of his hands free as he rummaged through the many pockets of his black coat.
After a while he found it. It, was a crumpled up note with a name and an address on it. With a nod Evan folded the note and put it back into a different pocket, a habit that frequently caused him quite a bit of irritation. His eyes wandered from facade to facade. He had to squint to see clearly in the dusk. He refused to believe the fact that he needed glasses ever since his niece had said he looked like an old fart in the pair he had received to try on.
His niece was a tiny girl who looked like a miniature version of her mother, Evan’s sister. Brutal honesty was a trait both mother and daughter shared so Evan had little hope the girl would grow out of it. In spite of the blows to his ego he loved his sister and her family something fierce since he didn’t have one of his own. It never works out, Christina, he would always try to explain when his sister harassed him about his being single at forty-five. I’ve been married to the job for too long.
Evan sighed, something that usually mean a large puff of smoke about his person. His job, the reason he was out here in the suburbs. Walking the last street was a habit he had developed over the years. It gave him time to mentally prepare himself. He shuddered and continued down the street. As he came near the end of it his eyes locked onto the number sign he’d been searching for. His feet suddenly felt very heavy. He slowed down.
Tossing the half-smoked cigarette aside he made his way towards the door. He deliberately averted his eyes from the toys that lay forgotten on the grass in the tiny garden around the house. He had to be professional. He had to be politely sympathetic but show no real empathy. Emotions were not something he could afford to show. He had to a job to do, questions to ask and answers to find.
And so it begins, he thought to himself and rang the doorbell. There was a moment of tension building while someone made their way to the door on the other side. Adrenaline. Evan counted his heartbeats. They seemed slow and far between. A voice called from the inside. The handle began to turn. The light of a hallway introduced the silhouette of a woman. Something inside of Evan clicked. Introduction.
“Mrs Daniels?” He asked and received a confirming nod. “Detective Evan Rodriguez,” he continued and showed her his badge. “I’m afraid I have some bad news about your husband, Richard.” Gauge reaction.
“Is he in some kind of trouble?”
Worry. Seems genuine. Unaware. Proceed. “I’m sorry to have to tell you like this, Mrs Daniels. Your husband was found murdered a few hours ago. He appears to have been gunned down on his way from work. I have to ask you a couple of questions, may I come inside?”
Mrs Daniels’ face was a visage of disbelief. Denial and refusal of the reality he presented to her. Her face contorted. The grief Evan saw in her eyes soon spread throughout her face and then her entire body. Evan had to catch her as her knees gave way. The intensity of the pain that coursed through Mrs Daniels lashed out at him. A little girl came running into the hallway, frightened by the sound of her mother’s wailing. The girl was not much older than his niece.
The world began to spin around him. His calm shattered like a vase hitting the ground, with a loud crash. Tears leaked out of his otherwise so stoic eyes. He tried to swallow, tried to speak. His voice just wouldn’t produce the sounds. With a heavy heart he sank down as well until he knelt beside the crying Mrs Daniels and her frightened daughter. Evan never knew for how long they had remained like that but when he looked at his watch much later it was almost past midnight. Reaching into his inner coat pocket he pulled out a card with his name and number on it.
“Here,” he said. “We can do this some other time. Here is my number. If something should happen or if you need to talk, don’t hesitate. There will be uniforms patrolling the area tonight, rest safely.”
Mrs Daniels needed some help getting to her feet but once she was standing she picked up her daughter and held her close. Bidding them good night felt so stupid, how could anyone have a good night after something like what just happened? He said goodbye and walked back the way he had come. He made it all the way to his car without even thinking about pulling out another cigarette. It wasn’t until he stood in front of his own door he felt the urge to light one. He did and went inside.
Empty. His apartment felt empty. It was filled with things, ranging from work-related reports and papers to various electronic gadgets. Electronic devices such as phones had always been a guilty pleasure of his. It was filled with many things and yet even so, there was nothing there. Hollow. He felt hollow. Whenever he closed his eyes he would see the weeping Mrs Daniels and her daughter. His life was empty. What he had meant nothing.
He couldn’t stay. The apartment made him feel sick. He rushed outside. Once he was out he pulled out his phone and dialled a number. “Laura? Hi, it’s me, Evan. I know it’s late but, about that date,” he began and words just followed on their own.
Perhaps it was selfish. Perhaps it was fear. However, in that moment Evan Rodriguez knew what he wanted. For the first time in his life he could see. He saw the void that had always been in his chest with new eyes. The loneliness and isolation that had followed him his entire life had to end. He had to live, but first he had to learn how. Laura, he knew, could teach him that.
Something has to change. Something will change. I know because I will start with changing myself. I hope it’s true, what my sister says. That it’s never too late to start living…