Excerpt from Lighting the Dark Side: Six Modern Tales by William Potter
James Goodal jarred the oversized revolver from a dying man’s hand and then tossed the weapon across his living room. Even in the after-midnight darkness, he could see blood, soaking red the beige carpet near his feet. The man no longer stirred so James averted his gaze to the top of the staircase and to his surprise, he couldn’t see or hear her.
“Ashley,” he called.
“ASHLEY!” he yelled as loud as his voice would allow.
Still no answer.
Fear held James in place; fear of what he would find if he ascended to the second floor of his home. He thought he heard a faint, weak whisper calling to him. A shiver went through him, and he knew he had to move.
He stepped over the body and charged up the stairs for the second floor, and after an instant, he found her a few feet from her bedroom.
“Oh god, Ashley, no!” The teenager had both of her hands clutching her left thigh a few inches below her crotch. Blood was seeping between her fingers. James knew that if the bullet had cut the main artery in the leg she could bleed out.
His mind was adrift in panic, searching for what he should do. Then it slammed into his brain. “I’ll call an ambulance.” He jogged for the phone next to his bed and quickly dialled 911.
“Ambulance!” he blurted when the operator asked for his emergency.
“My roommate was shot in the leg. It’s bleeding badly!”
While sprinting back to where Ashley lay, he pulled off his pajama top and placed it on Ashley’s leg.
“Apply pressure!” the operator said.
“I am!” He kneeled next to Ashley with one hand on his portable phone and the other holding the shirt to the wound.
“Is she breathing?”
“Yeah, she’s looking right at me.” The horror in Ashley’s eyes sunk into him and panged his heart. He had never in his life felt so worried for another human and so utterly useless to help.
“The ambulance is just a few minutes away, sir,” the operator said.
Then the operator began asking about how Ashley was shot, about the kind of firearm, and who fired it.
“Is the shooter still in the house, Mr. Goodal?”
“Yes, I think he’s dead.”
“Yes, I killed him.”
James set the phone aside and took Ashley’s hand in his. “It’s okay, Ashley. They’re coming. Just hold on, sweetie. Hold on.”
“I love—you—James,” Ashley said almost silently, and then her body wilted and her eyes rolled back and closed.
Seven days earlier, James walked west on Kingsway in the sleet of a mid-December Friday afternoon. Inside the oversized shopping mall, holiday mayhem was in full effect. The politically correct powers had all but eradicated Christ from Christmas, and he wondered what the point of it all was anymore. Even the mall Santas couldn’t be called St. Nick or Kris Kringle; they were affectionately referred to as the man in a red suit.
He had no interest in shopping for presents or any of the forced family get-togethers
that would ensue. The entire holiday only served to remind him that he was separated from his wife and only recently at that. The street was packed with cars, each occupant in search of the perfect gift opportunity for that special someone. He shook his head. He needed coffee and that was the only purchase he cared to make.
In the distance, a vehicle made a panic stop with tires screeching. Everyone just needed to calm down, he thought.
“Now get out and trade punches,” he said to himself. He smiled.
Instead, the driver floored the accelerator and sped toward him. The vehicle was an enormous late ’70s Cadillac with aftermarket-smoked windows, chromed wheels, and ultralow-profile tires. Then the driver’s door opened and a body flew out into the street and rolled over and over until it came to rest stomach up. The Cadillac didn’t slow down; in fact, it increased speed and roared past him. The person lying on the pavement was a woman and she put her hands to her face; however, she did not get up from the middle of the street.
For a moment, James thought he had walked into a movie shoot. He looked around, and no one was moving to help the woman so he began to step into traffic. He put his arms up and waved his hands to get the attention of the motorists, and in seconds, he was standing over the woman.
She was young, not even driving age, he presumed. Despite her scrapes and cuts, she was beautiful. A horn sounded and he startled. He looked down into the girl’s eyes and saw a level of fear that he himself had never experienced.
James reached down and scooped the woman into his arms and carried her as a groom would carry his bride over the threshold. He held her until he reached the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street and he placed her on a bus stop bench seat.
She said nothing. She sat staring at her hands in her lap, with her bleach blond hair covering most of her face.
“Are you okay?” James asked. He saw blood through her torn jeans at the knees and from a scrape on her chin.
She remained quiet.
“I’ll get my car and take you to the hospital.”
She shook her head. He couldn’t miss noticing her deep brown eyes.
“You probably have a concussion or even worse.”
The wind increased, forcing the rain through his jacket until it met his flesh. He shivered and kneeled to look into the girl’s eyes.
She looked away. “I’m fine!”
“Look. I can’t just leave you here. Let’s get you cleaned up at least.”
“Just leave me alone, okay?” She glared at him, with her eyes wide and intense, and then she stood and turned from him. And walked away.
James watched her slight limp as she continued along the sidewalk. She would be freezing in her skin-tight jeans and sweatshirt. He had to do something, but what? He couldn’t force her to go to the hospital.
He replayed the scene he had just witnessed in his mind and cringed when he thought about what it meant. He had never felt so much concern and anxiety for a complete stranger in his life…