Red Fades to Black

Stumbling over rooftop pipes and intricately connected heat ducts fused to the residence spaces below I become aware that I can't feel my own warmth. Perhaps expected on a night like this. It is, after all, rather cold. However, I'm torn away from this nonissue-thought as I begin looking around; I can see lights of the busy city that surrounds me on three sides with the fourth being obscured by a taller structure. It's a beautiful sight.

Snow is starting to fall from the crisp night- yet my breath is unseeable. Odd. But not odd enough for me to really take notice as my attention is being pulled toward the sounds from below. Mixed with the noise of a busy cityscape the wail of a police siren is present. I move my way to the edge of the roof and just now notice I'm atop a building some thirty stories tall. Nonetheless, I can make out the rectangular shape of an ambulance below and what must be a police car next to it with a few people hurrying around.

Not one to be nosy I cease with my interest below and notice people looking across to me from the taller building to my front. I guess they too must have heard the ruckus below. As I look my way across to the numerous people peering out from their city coded verandas I take notice that they're not looking to where the noise below was emanating from, but instead, they seem to be looking at me.

Directly across from where I stand, at the width of the street below that separates these two buildings, is a little girl. She's no more than perhaps nine years old- maybe older- but the stream of tears falling down her face aids in her innocent youth. She's not necessarily sobbing, but instead, remaining stone-faced with tears trickling downwards. Her face reminds me of what my mother looked like when she received word that my grandfather passed.

Though it is hard to ignore this somber girl, I make a concerted effort to pull myself away from near the edge with the intent to, perhaps, go back inside the building and out of the light snow. Not because it's cold- I must be numb- but because I don't feel quite right being on top of a building.

I turn to weave my way over and around the piping system once more looking for the exit to the stairs below. Alas, some twenty-yards away I find the stair-shack. As I reach for the obviously heavy door, I notice what appears to be a large red bag slumped up against the opposite side of the building. I turn to look back at the little girl, much further away now, and the rest of the onlookers, and realize they too have noticed the object.

Feeling it's my duty to see what it is, not just for me but for everyone watching, I move that way. Only feet away I hear the unmistakable slamming of heavy feet coming from behind the door leading below. The door bursts open to a crash made only louder by the still night air. Out of it runs half-dozen police and paramedics coming right at me. Cowering down to protect myself I never feel them touch me.

Instead, they pass as if not noticing me to the slumped object. Five of them are huddled over seemingly trying to get a glimpse of the find while the sixth is pacing nearby with a cell phone in one hand and a handheld radio in the other. I can't quite make out what he's saying, other than a few numbers- ten and fifty-six-, attributed to the frenzy of the other five.

Ignoring the gibberish of the lone officer, I turn to see the others starting to spread out. One rushes some ten feet in the opposite direction bent over at the waist heaving. It was rather gross to witness. Nonetheless, whatever was in that bag must be pretty rancid as the remaining four have finished straitening the lump out and are turning away as if they wish they weren't there.

I make my way toward the group asking if they wouldn't mind me taking a look. As none object, I kneel down and realize my knee is resting upon a black gloved hand. I attempt to quickly move myself falling over in the process and nearly become face to face with another person. A person who wasn't there only moments before yet seemed to have materialized from that large bag. If it weren't for the makeshift cover over the head, I would have been looking eye to eye. Yet, this individual wasn't breathing, and from my glimpse of the chin it was obvious they hadn't been for some time- a shade of blue began to take hold.

As I apologize to the others for being so clumsy it becomes apparent they don’t care about my predicament. I'm thankful too as that was rather embarrassing. Turning my attention back to the lifeless person I begin studying what's before me. The red I noticed a few minutes ago wasn't a bag after all, but a costume of some sort. With the black gloves and shiny black boots to match the only thing missing was a big black belt to make the guy look like 'Ol Saint Nick! However, on the opposite side near this person's left foot, I notice a metal object. Taking care not to disturb the body I stand up to move around for a better look. Wouldn't you know- a thick black belt.

Standing at the feet, I begin to look over the body. I'm not an investigator, but an investment banker with no clue what I’m looking at short of a dead person dressed in a Santa outfit. I do notice. However, there are two different shades of red upon his chest.

By this time the policemen and paramedics have moved away and begun watching me as if I know what I’m doing. As they seem to not be disturbing me, I move my way to the person's right side to look at the chest. There I see the unmistakable red fuzz of a Santa outfit that would be more fitting in a shopping mall than here on this rooftop. I also notice a V-shaped stain of red coming from the neck. As I bend down for a better view from over the head, it's clear that there was a lot of blood loss. From here I can see down the left side of the person and notice a handgun on the ground. This wasn't just a handgun though, it looks like something from an old western movie or maybe Dirty Harry. Who knows, Eastwood played in both.

Looking back at the head I try not to disturb the cover on the face as a matter of respect. There is no need for me to peel back the cloth from over the neck as this washcloth size cover only goes to chin revealing the neck. Or, at least, the half that's still there. Putting one and one together it looks as if they were shot in the front of their neck. Perhaps from the hand cannon before me? The blood is no longer flowing, but that doesn't matter as enough has departed this body to begin going down a drain some 5 feet away.

The same policeman is still talking on his phone and begins walking towards me. He has that look in his eyes as if he's on a mission to find something. Taking the hint I back away to let him do his work as he’s already “let me do mine.” He rummages through the pockets of the disguise and pulls out a wallet then turns to walk away. Dangling from the pocket is a necklace chain with a round piece of metal on it. The piece of metal is clearly inlaid with stones forming the letter A. It's something I've seen before...

The officer walks back towards the body and is still talking on his phone. I turn to look at him, but his eyes are focused on a card from the wallet and mine are then back on the necklace when I hear a familiar name. I turn to hear him say it again. One of the other police officers begins walking towards me as the first one is looking over my shoulder at the body and repeats the name- "Scott Roman."

As if on cue the second officer removes the cover from the face of the lifeless body. It's not just a body. It's my body. What have I done?

Fade to black.

This short was originally written in May 2013 and updated December 2017

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