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The Man in the Black Coat

Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it

John sat in a dark and hidden corner on the other side of the bar, away from his coworkers. They seemed to have fun, but he was not in the mood for celebrations. Before his friend blew the candles, the group shouted, “Make a wish, make a wish,” and he thought, “if only I had one, I’d use it to go back to that awful day.”

Tomorrow would be the third anniversary of the night that changed his life, and he wanted to avoid being around anyone or answering any of their stupid questions:

“John, are you feeling ok? Do you need anything?”

No, sir! He was feeling awful as always, and he just wanted to sit in peace, drink his whiskey, and forget the last three years and the haunting man in the black coat.

It all started when his wife, Barb, began nagging about how he behaved at their parent’s dinner table. John knew he was a bit rude with his father-in-law that night, but he couldn’t stand Rick, his brother-in-law’s swagger, nor Senator Richard Williams’ arrogance. They always tried to undermine John in front of the rest of the family.

Rick, the great Stanford economist, was always showing off his insider trade information and how he made millions with the housing bubble and financial crisis of 2008. Too bad the stupid SOB was naïve enough to trust his mentor Bernie. John loved to ask his brother-in-law if he finally recovered all of his money from Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

But that night, Barb wasn’t in a mood to watch the pissing contest and asked John to take her home, arguing she had a headache and told him to drive her car. As soon as she got inside the SUV, the fight began.

“Seriously, John, why couldn’t you just shut your mouth and try to be at peace with the rest of the family? Oh, no! John Robert Marino, the great Harvard Law prosecutor. You always need to have the last word, as if you were inside the courthouse giving your closing argument. But no, Johnny, not everything is a trial, and every one your opponent. It is family. They are my family!.” Barbara said.

“Come on, Barb, they started it. Your father is constantly trying to undermine everything I do. He always treats me as a second-class citizen because my family came from abroad, but that was three generations ago. As if he came on the Mayflower himself,” John responded.

“No, John, he didn’t come on the Mayflower or arrive at Plymouth himself, but he has always been proud of his heritage and the family’s origin. Besides, he doesn’t think you’re less because of your last name. It’s just that he is upset you didn’t accept to work in politics with him at the Capitol, as he suggested.”

“Of course, I didn’t. I preferred not to work in politics. I rather put criminals in jail, not work with them.” These were the last words he said to her lovely wife before he saw the panicked expression on Barb’s face. As he returned his attention to the road, there he was, the strange man in a dark coat, looking at them.

John thought, why isn’t he moving? The man looked like a scared deer staring at the headlights. He sounded the horn, but the stranger kept staring at Barb’s red SUV.

That was when John realized the man wasn’t looking at the car. He was looking straight into his eyes with an astonishing look. John tried to avoid hitting the man and turn the wheel, but the SUV skidded and hit the curve, making him lose control and smash into a concrete wall.

When he woke up, he was in a hospital bed with a broken leg and several tubes connected. Feeling numbed and in pain, he reached for the nurse’s call button and pushed it. Moments later, a tall nurse dressed in white came into the room, walked toward John, and said.

“Hello dear, you woke up; what do you need, honey?”

“Where am I?” “What happened?” “Where is my wife?” John asked.

“Don’t worry; everything is alright. Now, get some rest, and you’ll feel better in the morning,” he heard the nurse say as his eyes closed, and he fell asleep.

But he didn’t rest at all. The image of the man in the black coat haunted his dreams, always staring at his eyes as if he was trying to look inside his head. Yet, who was that man?

The following day, when he woke up, he saw Senator Williams standing beside his bed with a condemning look and said, “What happened, John?” “Why did you make that stupid turn?”, “Why did you kill my Barb?”, “I’m going to make sure you rot in jail for the rest of your miserable and pathetic life.”

“What do you mean Barb is dead?” “I did nothing wrong. I was only trying not to hit the man standing in the middle of the street,” John answered.

“Nice try, asshole. There was no one else in the street. You just turned the wheel and crashed directly into the wall. I’m sure you did it deliberately. You killed my little girl, and you’re going to pay for it.” The Senator said as he walked out.

Weeks passed by, and John received an indictment charging him with the premeditated murder of Barbara J. Williams.

When the trial began a month later, John faced the court on the other side from where he usually stood. Now he was the accused, and he would make sure all the charges were dismissed.

He argued it wasn’t his fault because the man in the black coat was standing in the middle of the street, and he tried to avoid running over him. Nevertheless, no one believed him. There was no record of anyone standing in the street, not in the surveillance cameras or Barbara’s SUV dashcam.

John knew this was a scheme by Senator Williams, so he pleaded guilty to Involuntary Manslaughter and reckless driving, though his alcohol levels were normal.

The judge sentenced him to twenty-four months in prison and a $100,000 fine. When he was about to leave the court, John thought he saw the man standing by the door, but no one else did.

During his time in prison, the dark figure haunted him everywhere, in the prison yard or at the end of the corridors. Late at night, after the guards turned the lights off, the figure stood outside his cell watching him.

During the first three months in jail, John slept in the corner of his cell, covering his head with a blanket to avoid watching the man outside and crying about the loss of his beloved Barb. He became paranoid, and when the psychiatrist asked him why he didn’t use the bed, John told the doctor it was because of the man in black. Still, there was no video record of anyone standing there.

He received some pills to keep him calm and help him sleep. Nevertheless, nothing seemed to calm him except for Barb’s picture taped to the wall beside a calendar marking the days left until he could visit her grave.

As time passed, John became used to the dark figure, and occasionally, he even tried to speak with it, but the man just stared at him. He also talked to Barb’s picture, begging her to forgive him for the accident and not telling her how much he loved her instead of his last angry words.

When his sentence was about to end, the dark man’s visits became more scarce, and on the last day, he packed all his belongings and prepared to leave that dark and cold place.

The day they released him, he took a taxi to the cemetery where Barb’s grave lay. He felt a cold shiver through his body and goosebumps on his neck as he reached the place. John stood still for an instant as he saw once again the man in the dark coat watching him.

Minutes later, the figure vanished, and he went back to the apartment he once shared with his wife. When he opened the door, he noticed that all of Barb’s belongings were missing and a handwritten note from the Senator on top of the table read, “You took away our daughter. You don’t deserve any of her memories. Here is her wedding band and the ring you gave her. We want nothing from you.”

John ran to the closet, looking for his wife’s clothes, but couldn’t find anything. They’d taken all. He reached the bottom of the drawers for the shoebox, where they kept their passports and some souvenirs. Fortunately, the Senator’s goons didn’t find it.

He carried the box to the bed and found their wedding and honeymoon photos, the first ring he gave her, and a silver flower with her names engraved inside. His head started aching, and he went to the bathroom to look for some aspirin. When he opened the bathroom cabinet, he saw Barb’s medication bottles with her name and felt deeply sad. Grabbing the aspirins, he closed the cabinet door.

John removed two aspirins from the plastic container, placed them in his mouth, and leaned to drink water from the faucet. When he stood back, he almost choked.

In front of him, in the mirror, were the dark figure’s eyes staring at him. He turned as fast as possible, but there was no one behind. John assumed it was because of the day’s stressful events, so he opened the cabinet door again and took two of Barb’s sleeping pills. This time, he made sure not to close the mirror door after drinking water.

The next day, he showered and went back to the office. His coworkers received him pretty well, except those appointed by Senator Williams, who gave him a side-eye.

As the days turned to months, John returned to his practice as D.A., though sporadically, he fell into depression, thinking of his wife, and others in panic, after seeing the dark figure roaming the office halls or the courthouse.

John woke up at the table in a dark and hidden corner of the bar to discover his friends had already left the premises and decided it was time to return home. He remembered his car was at the office. Hence, he should start walking back to his apartment. After all, it was only a couple of blocks away.

It was a chilly night, so he closed his coat and started walking, wondering why the streets were so empty if it wasn’t late. He began to walk faster to avoid the dark figure or criminal who might want to mug him.

When John crossed the street one block away from his apartment, he heard the sound of a fast-moving car going his way. He froze, staring at the man behind the wheel. To his surprise, it was himself driving Barb’s red SUV towards him.

The last thing he remembered was Barb’s frightened eyes looking at him and the terrified look on the man at the wheel staring directly at his scared eyes.

At that moment, he knew what was happening. His wish came true, and he was here to save his beloved wife. Without any fear, he threw himself in front of the wheels of a vehicle coming the other way.

Instants before the running passenger bus hit him, John understood why he had returned that day. He had to sacrifice himself to save Barb’s life. As he felt all his bones crushing under the tires, he said:

“I just hope this time, instead of arguing with Barb and fighting Senator Williams or annoying Rick, I let her know how much I love her and that I will always do, in this or any other life.

Featured image Picture by Cocoparisiene at Pixabay

© Copyright Jose Luis Ontanon, 2022

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in All Stories, Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Mystery/Thriller