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Something fell in the living room and woke me up. My wife's side of the bed was empty.
"Honey?" I called. "Linda?"
I looked at the clock. 4:43. It was my least favorite time of day, just before dawn. Bleak, as if the sun will never rise. The light in the bedroom was dark gray and hazy. The dresser loomed too large. The closet door was open a crack even though I knew I'd closed it the night before. I could see inside to the black cave of all my childhood monsters.
"Honey?" I called again.
I heard a scraping sound from the living room. I was awake then. I sat up and pulled on my boxers. I reached under the bed to my secret shelf and got my gun. I walked quietly to the bedroom door and opened it without making a sound. I stepped through the tiny hall and into the living room with my gun ready.
"Goddamn it, Ray. Put that thing away."
Linda, my wife, stood at the card table we used for a dining room table. She was dressed in weekend clothes even though it was Friday. Her hair was combed. She had her lipstick on. I could smell the perfume she usually wore to go out at night. There was an open cardboard box on the table. I saw our candlesticks inside.
"I'm leaving."
I had expected something else. A hundred pictures had gone through my mind, rape, robbery, hostage, but not this.
"Where are you going?"
"I'm driving to Phoenix."
Phoenix wasn't right. Linda hated the sun. She hated it here in Los Angeles. She said the California sunshine made her sick. She wanted winter, snow, clouds and rain. Not Phoenix. I shook my head. Linda tapped her foot on the floor.
"Put that gun down. You're making me nervous."
"Ray. Come on," Linda said. Her voice softened but her eyes were hard as ice. "This has been over for a long time."
"Why Phoenix?
"Look at you." Linda shook her head. "Gun in your hand."
"It's perfectly safe," I said. "I'm a cop."
"That's right. You're a cop. I'm tired of it. You're always late coming home and when you finally get here you're distracted, you're in some other world. Even when we go out you can't relax. You always expect the worst."
"I know what can happen."
"It's depressing."
I saw her eyes flicker toward the bookshelves. I collect people's last written words. I had two rows of albums all filled with them. But I knew she didn't like it.
"I'll get rid of them," I said.
"Forget it. Keep your stupid notes. I just don't care anymore."