The Title

by David Caldwell

Black and White: Part 02.


John Black had blood on his hands. He rubbed his hands vigorously under the running water. The blood became nauseatingly viscous. No matter how hard he scrubbed, it clung to his skin. At first it was the color of dull copper, now it was bright red.

And it seemed to have a life of its own.

A voice called.


He ignored it. 'I have to get this blood off my damn hands,' he thought frantically.


'Shut-up for Christ sake. Can't I be left in peace? This damn blood. Oh God. It won't come off!'


Black rubbed his hands harder, thinking that his skin would chafe off in bloody strips if he continued this much longer.


'SHUT UP, YOU BITCH,' he screamed in his head. His face suddenly felt wet. He craned his neck and looked at his distorted reflection in the stainless steel teapot on the counter next to him. His face was covered in blood.

It was also starting to bubble.


White flash. John blinked. He heard the running of water, it sounded distant, far away. He absently looked at his hands. No smears of the garish crimson fluid staining his skin. His left hand slowly made its way to his neck where a small gold crucifix hung. He gently touched it.

"God… help… me. What is happening?"

"I'll tell you what is happening a lot faster than your God will, Johnny boy. You're going insane. Welcome to the club."

John whirled around swiftly, his hand instinctively reaching for his holstered weapon.

It wasn't there. His weapons were confiscated by the department as a precaution while he was on medical leave. He was now part of the 'rubber gun' squad. John clenched his jaw and ground his teeth audibly.

"I know you've wanted to do me in, Johnny boy, but what are you going to shoot me with, your finger?"

His wife, Gen, was standing to the entrance of the kitchen, her head cocked to one side, a cigarette dangling out of the side of her mouth. John wanted to smile. She looked goofy, he thought, like a parody of some ancient, 40's film-noir private eye. She even spoke like one. The urge to smile quickly left him. He took his time shifting his hand from where his holstered gun would have been to his front trouser pocket. He hated being called 'Johnny-boy'. The urge to smack her right in the face came as quickly as the impulse to smile. His hand curled into a fist inside his pocket. A grin, completely devoid of humor, played upon his lips. He took a step toward her. Her eyes widened a bit and she shrank back, reaching for a chair to steady herself. 'Christ, what am I becoming? I never wanted to physically hurt her before. Am I some violent brute, ready to back-hand my wife for some smart-ass jibe?' A voice spoke to him from some dark corner of his mind. A voice he was hearing all too often as of late. 'A 'violent brute' you call yourself? That is a charmingly quaint phrase. Accurate, but archaically put. You fucking kill things for a living, you dolt. If that does not constitute violent, than I don't know what else does!' He assumed that voice belonged to him, his inner monologue so to speak, but now he was not quite so sure. He abruptly turned and went into the refrigerator, producing a bottle of beer. He twisted the top off and let the cap clatter noisily on the table. He didn't sit in the chair so much as collapse into it. His wife wavered a moment by her chair and then slowly sat down. She took a healthy drag on the cigarette and blew smoke out of the corner of her mouth.

'At least she didn't blow it in my face this time,' he mused to himself.

"So, Gen said cautiously, did your God answer you?"

John sighed. It was going to be the same old debate. Devout vs. agnostic. He did not consider himself overtly religious. But, be that as it may, it had earned him the nickname of 'John-The-Baptist-Black' from his colleagues in the department. He was not going to be drawn into a heated argument. Not this morning, anyway. He ignored the question and took an equally healthy swig of beer.

"Is that what you are going to have for breakfast?" she said coolly.

"For now. It's a meal in a bottle," he said, attempting a bit of humor. His wife remained stony; his wit would find no purchase upon her granite-like countenance.

John felt his mind drift back to a time when they were husband and wife. When it had meant something to the both of them. She was a biochemist who worked for the U.N. here in the city and occasionally overseas. Her work was complex and sensitive, thus requiring her to have a high-security status. When they got married, even though he was a narcotics detective at the time with the NYPD, he had to have a background screening as well. Questions and more questions, he had done it before. No need to object. When she became pregnant, things started to get worse. The pregnancy was arduous. Gen became moody, withdrawn. John thought that was S.O.P. when you have a demanding career and pregnant with your first child. Ben was born six weeks early and spent his very short life in the neo-natal intensive care unit, being poked and prodded, tubes inserted and monitored by machines. Four weeks later they mourned. Ben was cremated. There was no more room to bury the dead on the isle of Manhattan.

Gen slipped into a drug-induced fog of prescription medication, further fueled by illicit narcotics she would combine with her legitimate meds. Worse, she was diagnosed with a Non-Specific Neurological Disease. That is what her doctors told her. He pleaded with her to make them elaborate. She refused. He was told that was all he needed to know. He thought she was being brave. Perhaps stoic. That notion quickly faded. She was shutting him out. John thought it might have something to do with the volatile bio-chem lab work she did for the U.N. He pressed her to investigate. She simply told him that she had signed a strict non-disclosure form and that was that. She was getting a medical pension and first-rate care. End of story. Her illness, her dependency on drugs, were taking their toll on their marriage and their lives. He wanted to comfort her. Be there for her. That is why he left the Narcotics squad and went into the bloody business of being a Blade Runner. Killers have flexible schedules. He cared for her physically when it got really bad, but that was all that she would allow. Intimacy and compassion were dead issues to Gen. He could keep them burning in his heart, but that is where they would stay. Smoldering. Her voice cut through his thoughts, bringing him back a reality he did not wish to be a part of.

"Take your meds, you're zoning out again."

John finished the last of his beer and carefully rested the bottle on the table. He did not relish the idea of taking drugs, even thought they were prescription. He had a rough go of it recently, retiring three replicants in one day. It was a thoroughly nasty bit of grim, bloody work and the department's Health Services physicians recommended time off and something to help him cope with the depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome that often afflicted rep-detects. John rubbed his unshaven face and grimaced. His beard felt coarse. Unkempt. He could shave and that would take care of it. Clean and smooth. He wished he could do that with his life.

"I think I'll skip my meds. I don't feel in control when I take them. Plus, they make my throat feel as dry as a desert." He smiled wanly and got up from his chair. Gen did not speak nor look in his direction. That unnerved him. Almost made him angry. A quip, some sort of sarcastic remark - that he would have preferred to her silence. He went to the bathroom, going through the mundane motions of personal hygiene, lost in tumultuous thought. He squinted, staring at his reflection in the bathroom mirror, hoping that small action would somehow compel his mind to behave, to think rationally. He sighed heavily. His mind, still adrift in chaotic contemplation, would not obey.

He changed quickly and told Gen that he was going out to see Father Soo, perhaps to do some grocery shopping, purchase something extravagant for dinner. He stood there, waiting for a response. Nothing. Black clenched his teeth, bile rising up from his stomach, burning his throat. 'Goddamn bitch, say something, ANYTHING!' He screamed in his mind. He stood for a very long time staring at the back of her head, letting the rage burn; smolder; then extinguish itself through a long exhalation of breath that was a combination of anger and bitter resignation. He walked to the door, hesitated, then strode out of the conapt.

Gen sat still. Cigarette smoke wreathing around her delicate features. Slowly, a smile cracked her stony edifice. She was glad John was gone. Gone for the day and she would probably not see him until evening. She smiled broadly at that thought. "Bye, Johhny-boy, see ya when I see ya." she spoke aloud, almost giggling.

It was the last time Gen Black saw her husband alive.

  Back     Contents     Forward