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The Line That Divides

By Grasshopper

So many times I’ve gazed out the window, wondering what sort of change it would take to put me out of a job. People who know me mistake my enthusiasm and dedication for genuine love of what I do. I do not love it, I do it because I in fact hate and rail against the very things I work to uncover, to resolve. What it is to be human, such dichotomy in actions and words. Would that I could live in a world where my job wasn’t needed I don’t think I would choose to. What good is living if you only have one choice right? I suppose the animals have it that way. Lucky them. 

The door opens interrupting my reverie and I turn my head from the window. Ah yes, Mrs. Rochester, she has been in once before. I smile genially and spread an open hand toward one of the chairs in front of my dark, cherry-wood desk. I guess folks think my smile is open and genuine, I’d like to think this is true, it feels true, I guess the proof is in how easy they open up to me. If only one of those cliché dames from the serial noir novels would come in looking for my services. Long smooth legs that could wrap around a man forever, supple slightly pouty lips in deep rouge accenting the almost exotic slant of her striking green eyes, wavy auburn hair brushing lightly against the smooth cream of her bare shoulders. Yeah. What I’d give for a dame like that to work for.

Most though were like Mrs. Rochester. People missing loved ones, pets, children. All suspecting foul play. Some came to me first, others came to me after other PI’s failed. I’m not sure why they thought I could do any better. I guess word through the grapevine is that I always solve a case. I wouldn’t say I solve them all, just bring resolution. Some things just can’t be understood by us small minded mortals. I’ve never had to do a case for the cops, they’ve never enlisted my services to aid in failing investigations. Maybe if they had folks wouldn’t think I could solve everything, but then maybe the cops believe it and don’t want to be made to look bad. 

Cops these days. Out for personal reputation and glory, no sense of justice anymore. That’s why folk like me have to exist. You can’t pay someone like me off, we have our own personal codes, our own laws and even a system of self-punishment for when we fail our codes. Walking down the street I can identify others like me. We don’t all work in the same way sure, but we all have the same sense of justice. In another time we may all have been drawn to the force, and all been exemplar of the life. Now though we work as lawyers and PIs, pizza boys and cab drivers. Normal folk can’t identify us straight away, but we know.

Mrs. Rochester was here for an update on her missing husband. The cops had dropped the case after they’d found his car dumped in a river. They hadn’t found a body, but there was enough evidence to ‘suggest’ that the body had just been pulled away by the river since the door was open when they found it. Forensics found enough blood belonging to her husband in the car to believe he’d bleed out, though there is the small possibility that he had only bleed that small amount and was in fact still alive, somewhere in the country, being tended to by a nice sweet family. Oh yes it was a possibility however improbable.

My client wasn’t an ugly woman, she had a comely look about her though she was in her mid to late thirties. About the same age as myself I must admit, but the dark circles under her eyes, the grey in her roots and at the sides of her head gave her more years than was fair. She wasn’t one of those girls who you would have thought was gorgeous in high school, or college, but you would have thought of sleeping with her more-so than the dazzlingly pretty ones. That’s the funny thing about us humans, we simplify and focus what we want to believe is perfection, but our bodies know perfection better than we do with our rational thoughts. Mrs. Rochester smiled sadly at me and tried to work up the courage to ask for an update. I’m a patient man, one has to be to work this kind of life, but I’m also a compassionate one. The less a person has to talk, the less they have to let their emotions show and the less pride they lose. 

“Good afternoon Mrs. Rochester, you’re here for an update no doubt,” I pause momentarily to let her acknowledge with a small nod, the smile is no longer on my face, instead I look concerned. I feel concerned too. I’m not good at schooling my features against what I feel, maybe that’s another reason folk trust me. They see honesty in my eyes. “I think you may well want to sit down to hear what I have to say.” 

“No thank you Mr. Bridges, I’d prefer to hear what you have to stay standing up. I don’t think I could take it sitting.” The hand she holds her purse with twitches. Something in my mind goes click and I believe I am missing something yet have all the pieces now. I did not know I had been missing a piece. “Please continue.” I know that I should be grasping something now, but why would her nervousness be a clue?

I inwardly shrug to myself and set it aside to piece together later, this case is not completely solved yet but I have all the clues I need now. “Alright mam,” I take a moment and reach out to my tea which still steams on my desk. I take a contemplative sip and look up into her eyes. “Your husband was not in the car when it went into the river, though I believe he was dead before it did. I found some leads that the police had initially failed to find and I followed up on them. It seems that your husband was assaulted by a woman of about your height,” there is something fuzzy tugging at the back of my mind as I tell her this, but it’s not clear yet, “at a hotel about twenty miles from the spot in the river where the car was dumped.” 

As I speak her eyes begin to lose their sadness, not one I’ve seen before but everyone reacts differently, I am not so arrogant to believe I’ve seen it all, “I believe I have some solid leads on where to start looking for traces of your husband whether he is alive or not. I traced a number of possible routes between the hotel where the fight took place and where the car ended up.” Did her mouth twitch just a bit? No, it must be a quiver. The truth is hard but usually enlightening I suppose. They always want to know. I’m still not sure why she isn’t sitting down. She is a strong woman, Mr. Rochester had been a lucky man, but I don’t think he’s still with us. There is a line that was crossed that can’t be returned from and unfortunately her husband is on the other side. 

“The couple of people I found that saw the altercation didn’t fess up to the cops because they tend to be the usual suspects. That’s how lowlifes and ex-lowlifes tend to be. They gave me a description between the three of them,” her eyes narrow and it seems like she’s looking into me. That nagging feeling at the back of my mind isn’t getting any clearer, what am I missing? “The description I have is of a woman of middle age about your height,” steel seems to be forming in her eyes, amazing how poetic I can be sometimes, “her hair is a dark brown streaked with blonde,” Mrs. Rochester’s hair is dark brown, her fist clenches around her purse. “Average body type, with a round face and a hooked nose…”

I close my eyes as realization fills my mind, the nagging sensation that had been laying in ambush has leapt out and severed my instincts and left my trigger reaction handicapped. Her voice reaches my ears, “I have to thank you Mr. Bridges, you’ve helped me figure out just what I have left to cover up. I’m sure you understand, your final payment is going to have to be in lead.” I open my eyes and am staring down the barrel of a revolver that looks only slightly too big for Mrs. Rochester’s hands. She doesn’t let me respond. I think she feels she might have to feel guilty if she gives me a chance to speak. It’s alright. As she pulls the trigger I forgive her, not for killing her husband, and the others she will kill to save her skin, but for killing me. As the bullet erupts from the barrel I send silent and quick prayers to all those victims in the world I can’t help now. As the bullet rips into my head, darkness consumes my thoughts.


I suppose others in my shoes might be wondering why they were waking up, staring at a familiar ceiling, the leaf shaped fan blades spinning slowly, circulating a nice cool stream of air. The first time I did, I also wondered why. Not so much anymore. Sitting up I rub habitually at the spot where the bullet had gone through my skull. This is the first time I’ve been shot in the head, I must say it was an interesting experience. Mrs. Rochester will not be getting away with what she thinks she will. It is unfortunate that this time, the person I was trying to help is in fact the person who needs to be put away.

I swing my legs over the side of the bed and walk casually into my bathroom. There I am, staring back at myself through the mirror, naked, newborn. I rub the beard on my chin. Seems it’s time for me to remove it, they all think Samuel Bridges is dead by now. Usually takes about three days for my body to heal up and find its way back home, another twelve hours for me to wake up. I don’t know what happens while I’m sleeping. I do dream though, pleasant dreams, white dreams. Look at that, I’m being poetic again. I reach behind the mirror and pull out the shaving cream and a straight edge razor.

“Looks like it’s time for Jeff Bridges to carry on where his brother left off.” I smile half heartedly at myself. I had liked the name Samuel. But, life is what it is. Mr. Rochester, he is on the other side enjoying, or maybe not, whatever is there. I wish him well, and truly hope it is the former. 

There is a line that divides the living from the dead. Some of us move past that line and can’t come back. Some of us cannot cross.