Short Story: Faint of Hart
“When are they going to turn the street lights on, Mack?” George the barman asked.
“I don’t know,” Mack faintly said.
“You are a city electrician for goodness sake. How do you not know why the street lights don’t work?” George asked angrily.
“Come on, George, get off my back.”
“Then tell me why the lights don’t work. Nobody wants to come to a bar when it’s this dark. Customers are afraid of what could happen.”
“Well George, this is just a rumor and I probably shouldn’t even be telling you this, but I heard Joe “Black” Hart is keeping the lights off.”
“What?” George spoke with a righteous indignation coming out of him. “What in the hell would he do that for.”
“I don’t know.”
“ So that’s what it has come down to. One man with all the power is going to set our little town into darkness. I tell you what that just ain’t right of a man. I don’t care if he is the most powerful person in this town. I’ve kept this bar a clean well lighted place so men could drink and be happy and forget they troubles at work or home for a while. Joe ain’t thinking about the men who need those street lights to safely make it to this little corner of paradise. Hart is just a narcissistic man who will do anything to get what he wants.”
The door opened to George’s bar. A slender man of average height walked through the door. He wore a nice black suit with a dark red tie. He surveyed the bar. It was empty except for George and Mack. He slowly walked to the counter and sat down next to Mack.
“What would you like, sir?” The barman asked.
George looked at him strangely and asked, “All you want is a glass of water?”
“Yes, water is all I need.” George looked at the slender man closely. He had a handsome face but with cold grey eyes and hair jet black.
“Do I know you, man? You look awfully familiar.”
“Yes, you do. I was here four days ago. There was a big business party for one of my co workers.”
“Oh, yes I remember you,” George said excitedly. “Mack, this guy.... Excuse me, I forgot your name.”
“Yes, Bernard was great at the party. He was the funny guy and boy I tell you what he had a hot date with him too that night. What was her name?”
Mack coughed violently forcing him to spit out the beer in his mouth. “Did you say Mina Gurden?” Mack asked suspiciously.
“Yes, I did,”Bernard said firmly.
“Do you know her? George asked.
"No, well I have heard of her recently, but I don’t know her,” Mack said tensely.
George gave the electrician a look of curiosity. Bernard took a big gulp from his large glass of water.
“Where are your bathrooms?” Bernard asked.
“They’re over there right of the register,” the barman directed.
Bernard in his slow smooth walk went across the room to the restroom.
Mack began to talk to the barman quietly in an urgent rapid voice, “George it’s him. He’s the reason the street lights are off.”
“What! You can’t be serious. How is he the reason for all this darkness?”
“I remember, now. People in my department were saying that Joe turned off all the street lights because he was looking for somebody...”
“So what? He could be looking for anybody,” George interrupted.
“No they are looking for Bernard. Four nights ago Joe was out of town. On that same night Mina was with Bernard at the party here.”
George looked at Mack while he was in deep thought and finally came to a conclusion. “So Mina is Joe’s girl.”
George still had a face of disbelief that the slender funny man could stir up so much trouble. “I would never imagine a smart guy like Bernard would get caught up in such a foolish affair. But what can you say. An attractive woman will bring even the best men down.”
“Yeah, I think...” Mack began to talk, but was shushed by the barman as he saw Bernard walking back from the restroom.
“Well, I’m going to go on and head back home.”
“Good night, Mack. Be careful out there,” George said.
“Yeah I will be.”
“It was nice meeting you, Mack,” Bernard said
“It was nice knowing you. I mean meeting you too, Bernard.”
Mack spoke tensely. He left the clean well lit bar and hurried off into the growing darkness. It was just George and Bernard in the bar.
Bernard continued drinking his water. George grabbed a beer and started drinking in large gulps. The silence in the bar was uncanny and made George uncomfortable.
“So what do you think of the street lights being turned off?”
“The dark doesn’t bother me.”
“Oh really?” The barman questioned with sarcasm in his deep voice. “I wish it didn’t bother more of your business friends. But have you heard why they say the lights are turned off?”
“No, I’ve been gone for business the past three days.”
“Well, they say that Joe “Black” Hart is looking for a guy. They say this guy was with his girl. Ohh what’s her name?” George knows the name. “Maybe a Mina Gurden.” Bernard’s face tensed. He put down his glass of water and looked at the barman seriously. George grinned because he knew he struck a chord in Bernard.
“Why did you do it?” George asked with fiery anger in his voice.
“Why did you go for Mina?” The barman asked forcefully. Bernard didn’t answer. He looked out the window facing the darkness. He thought about that night four days ago after the party.
“Bernard you know we can’t do this,” Mina softly said.
Bernard looked in Mina’s beautiful bright brown eyes and asked, “Do you love me?”
“I love you terribly so. But you know Joe will find out. He has eyes and ears all around me.”
“That’s okay. I love you.”
“He’s going to kill you if we do this.”
“I need to know you love me.” Mina was sitting down next to Bernard on her bed. Tears filled up her eyes.
“Bernard you know I love you. I’m freed when I’m with you,” Mina sweetly said. “But I’m afraid for you.”
“Why,” the slender man asked in earnest.
“Because Joe loves me and you love me. But Joe will never let me go. I am his prize and he will kill anyone who tries to take it.” Bernard looked out the window of Mina’s bedroom at the street lights that lit the room poorly, for a moment. Then he turned toward her.
“I love you and I’m not afraid of Joe. I will face him when it’s time. But right now I need to know that you love me.” All of Mina’s tears began to fall and she gently placed her head on Bernard’s chest. She could feel his heart beating harder and harder.
She wiped the tears from her eyes and kissed him gently with her full red lips. They slept for the first time together that night.
“Because I know our love is real and it keeps me from being like you and every other coward in this town,” Bernard said strongly. George just stared at Bernard with a dumbfounded look. He gave up trying to reason with him. Bernard took out his wallet to pay for the two large glasses of water.
“I don’t charge a price for water,” Mack said. He put the wallet back in his pocket and walked toward the door of the bar.
“Hey, Bernard where are you going this late? It’s almost 12”
He turned around to face the barman and said, “I’m going to Mina’s apartment.”
George looked at him with an astonished and grave look.
“You know Joe is going to kill you.”
“That doesn’t bother me,” he said calmly then walked out into the dark.
Mina’s apartment was five minutes away from George’s bar. He walked toward the light that he could see from Mina’s third story apartment. He moved slowly, but not with the same smooth ease as he usually did. He quickly turned around once to see if there was anyone behind him, but he only saw darkness. He finally got to the door of the apartment building and mumbled to himself, “Should I let this all go?”
Out of nowhere a strong wind took the little crack of the door and threw it wide open. Bernard’s heart began to beat fast. He walked in and closed the door. The apartment was in complete darkness. He had to feel for the stairs, sweating profusely. The stairs made an eerie sound with every step he took. He could feel his heart pounding on his chest. He felt Mina’s calm hand over his heart. The wind banged the door violently against the wall several times. He knew his legs were locking. He felt Mina’s warm body moving against his. The hallway to Mina’s door seemed longer in the dark. He walked with a slow smooth ease through the dark hallway. He could hear Mina’s deep long breaths of content in the back of his mind. Bernard felt his heart calm down. The sweat on his forehead began to cease. When he knocked on the door no one answered. He firmly turned the door handle and the light from the room was very bright and made the hallway seeable Bernard saw Mina on her bed.
“Ohh my God,” Bernard shouted as he quickly went to the side of Mina. She had rope around her ankles, mouth and wrists. He quickly untied the rope. Mina lunged to hug her rescuer with tears in her brown eyes.
“Joe knew you were in town, tonight. He tied me up because he knew you would come get me,” Mina said frantically. Bernard’s slim face grew in anger.
“Where is he right now?” He asked with rage.
“I don’t know but we need to leave.” Mina and Bernard were sitting on the bed. Bernard stood up and turned towards the door where he saw a man dressed in an all black suit, black tie, and black top. He had a gun pointed at Bernard. It was Joe “Black” Hart.
Mina screamed, “ Joe don’t do it.” She jumped from the bed and latched onto Bernard. Joe looked Bernard in the eyes and pointed his gun to the bed. Bernard pushed Mina back onto the bed. He looked straight into the bold bitter grey eyes of Joe “Black” Hart. Joe began to put weight on the trigger. Mina latched back onto Bernard. Joe saw she would die with Bernard if he fired. That didn’t bother him. He pulled the trigger. The shot went through Mina Gudren and into Bernard Ernest’s heart. They died together.
The next night all the street lights were back on.