Tempest couldn’t see the man walking behind her; she could only feel him. She felt the coldness in his heart, the buffered anger begging to burst from his mind. He was behind her flirting with each shadow made by trees and buildings. He was skipping to the jingle of October wind chimes and to the wind muffled sounds made by crowds of pigeons waiting for the city to evacuate its bowels impacted with humans. He was a mad man. Tempest knew him.


She walked faster, carrying herself closer to the subway. Once on her car, she would dare to look back. He would be there, watching. He never missed a day. His dark hat and black wool three-quarter-length coat gave him away. His yellowed stained grin gave him away. She knew him. He had become a brother to her, a kindred spirit filled with evil. He would point his gun at her and grin with a devil beside him. The man she knew only as Ducante would pull the trigger and she would fall to the floor of the subway car, blood pulsing and flooding the dirty, grease covered floor. Her neck would open itself to her fellow passengers showing the sinew and gray ripped artery feeding her brain. The passengers would look at her with terror as she gulped her last thin breath of stale subway air.


Time was on her side though. Tempest began running. She could beat him to the subway; beat his finger to the trigger mechanism. She would sit next to someone; the man wouldn’t find a clear shot. He wouldn’t get a chance to complete his grim mission. She would win over Ducante. She would win this battle between her purity and his evilness. Tempest began to laugh. She ran faster and laughed harder. Insanity had taken command. Fear had taken its toll, ripping what little logic was left in Tempest’s way of thinking. By god she would martyr herself if necessary.


She didn’t look back. She couldn’t. Not necessary, she knew he was behind her exhaling his death stench with every quickened step. Tempest could hear his laughter, hyena-like and just as deadly. His smell of rotting flesh filtered through her nostrils making her gag with each of her hysteric giggles. She didn’t think about the incongruence. She had no time. Her car was pulling up and emptying its contents. She flashed her pass and clumsily crossed the turnstile. Refusing to look back, Tempest bumped and dodged her way onto the car, number eight westbound.


She found one empty seat. An older man occupied the space next to her, newspaper pressed against his face like a blanket. The smell of alcohol and stale tobacco oozed from his ragged clothing. A raspy, “Hi, sweet one,” fell from the man’s jagged teeth, more of a snake’s hiss than a voice. “Been around here long?” A strange question asked by a strange old drunk. She wouldn’t look at him, too worried about Ducante’s bullet. “Can’t you talk little one?” He pressed. Tempest would have no part of it.


Finally she worked up the courage to look out the graying car window. He wasn’t there. Ducante had not caught up with her. She smiled and relaxed enough to look at the old man, who wasn’t the old man at all. Ducante sat next to her with a crooked smile pasted on his lips. “Been here long?” He asked cynically. “What took you so long?” His laughter echoed off the subway car’s roof. Tempest jumped when he pulled his pistol out of his coat pocket. “I know you’ve been wanting this.” The voice sounded far away, like the sound of a television playing in someone’s room across the hall, her hall, her room.


Tempest stood up, Ducante only smiled. He made no move towards her. His pistol’s stare steadied upon her. She ran as fast as she could through the car’s corridor, shoving faces and bodies aside, until she reached the metal double doors separating cars. She attempted to open the doors. They wouldn’t budge. Tempest began screaming, “Ducante, you bastard!” She slammed her body against the doors and they begrudgingly opened to a black night filled with all the smells of depravity found in a tunnel of paranoia, of insanity. Her head hit the hardened steel rails. At that moment, Tempest Garner’s nightmares ceased.


“Doctor Ducante,” asked Janet Landis casually, “will five milligrams be enough to hold her?” Four exhausted attendants watched curiously as he floor nurse pulled the needle out of Tempest’s hip. “Don’t just stand there guys. Let’s get her into isolation.”


Roy Ducante smiled with his eyes glued on the nurse’s ass. “I think five will do just fine.”


A train full of strangers rumbled by the state hospital on its way to Chicago. It was the Broadway Limited carrying no celebrities or businessmen, just old men with black umbrellas and old ladies with holes in their dreams. Most were sleeping, some stared at the brick buildings that made up the state mental hospital, some stared out their windows into a moonless night, but no one gave a shit either way.  Each passenger carried their own list of troubles waiting in Chicago like a wolf waits for his prey to tire of running from a version of Ducante that only they could see.


Tempest lay nearly naked on a bed in lockup.  Doctor Ducante went home to an empty apartment and a cheap bottle of vodka.  It was just another day of insanity


The End