(This is the fifth installment of a macabre short story. You might wish to read the previous four chapters beginning here before continuing.)
...."It's not too late to save your soul."
....It was that same voice from before. He'd ignored it before without consequence. There was no need to pay attention to it he thought. Besides, he had enough to think about. Memories were slowly forming. It seemed that the more energized he was becoming, so too was the past becoming clearer to him. At first he'd needed help. From each body in which he'd taken temporary refuge, he had gained a few bits of memory. Each bit was just a small piece of a larger picture. The puzzle was nearing completion.
Divorce was never easy. His had been no exception. His ex-wife was bleeding him for every penny she could get. His credit was gone. She'd gotten everything; the house, the car and the dog! Life had been miserable enough when she'd suspected he was shacking up with a another woman. Life had become one living hell when she'd caught them together.
....Sharon Gates had been a beautiful exotic dancer when Cash had rescued her from that life of sin. She had been enamored by the handsome knight in shining armor who had helped her out of a binding contract with the shiftless owner of the strip club. It had been too easy for Cash to put the squeeze on the man. With the threat of a raid promised by the cop, the man began to fork over a monthly stipend of protection. With the steady flow of money Cash was able to shower the woman with gifts.
....His life of excess came to an abrupt end one weekend during a record heatwave. First the club owner got religion, closed up shop and left town. If it wasn't bad enough that the well had run dry, his wife wanted more and more and more. Then he was being kicked while he was already down. His lover laid some bad news on him. The bitch had gone and gotten herself pregnant.
....Cash felt he had no recourse. He began putting the squeeze on several small businesses with shady dealings. They paid and he kept the heat off them. He had made his biggest score when he'd muscled himself in on a well known drug dealer. He was getting a piece of the pie and his own free supply of the product.
....Then there was that night at his ex-wive's apartment when his world was turned completely upside down. They had been arguing, as was the norm, over money. The war of words had turned violent when she threw the vase at him. He was about to leave when he'd found a police badge on the hall table. It belonged to Johnson, his trusted partner.
....He had gone into a rage. His partner had been banging his god-damned wife! She had then begin to beat him with an umbrella. Raising his hands to protect himself, the shield cut a gash across her face. Blood pouring into her face, she had stumbled backwards while he was shoving her away from him. He had tried to grab her, but her momentum had sent through the window.
....Cash had fled the scene. He hadn't bothered to look at her crumpled body atop the dumpster in the alley. He had paid little attention to the wino who had been lying there across the alley. At that fateful time, he had been thinking only about his own skin.
Cash was reflecting on all that had happened that night. He was reflecting on all that happened since. He was beginning to wish that the memories had not returned. He should have died once and for all when he had been shot. His body had died, but his tormented soul had been stranded in this, his own personal Hell.
...It was true that his fellow officers had cleaned up that mess at his ex-wife's flat. They had gone so far as to have set up some sleazy junkie in connection with her death. The jury had bought the story hook line and sinker and sent the poor bastard up the river for a life sentence. It was Captain Monahan who come with the idea of taking care of the old wino. Everyweek since that night, he had been receiving an envelope containing five new twenty dollar bills.
....There had been a catch to his benefactors' actions. They had wanted equal shares of Cash's action. He'd had no choice but to cut them in. It was then that Cash had handed Johnson the badge he'd so foolishly lost. They'd looked each other in the eye during the exchange. No words had been spoken and the subject was never breeched again.
....Cash had laughed inwardly at the irony of it all. Yes, Johnson had been screwing his wife for some time. He'd wondered then how his partner would have reacted had he known that Cash had been sleeping with his wife also. After his wife had died in that alley, he had been spending more time than ever with his partner's wife. All the while, he had been harboring a grudge against his partner. Mrs. Johnson had been thinking about filing for a divorce. Cash had been so certain that he'd take Johnson's wife away from, that he'd begun to think of her as his wife. He'd become obsessed with woman.
....Cash saw it as a chance to get to his partner, so he encouraged her. Once they were divorced, he'd promised her that the two of them would get married. It'd been an easy sell. He'd known for sometime that she was madly in love with him. Perhaps that was why he'd been so convinced that she was indeed his wife.
....It was then that he'd realized he had just solved another part of the puzzle. The divorce hadn't happened. She'd gotten cold feet. It wasn't his wife and kids he'd seen at the cemetary. She was there for her husband. It had been Johnson's body in that casket! She had spurned him to stay with the bastard!
His anger was building to a fevered pitch. The timing couldn't have been better. There ahead of him, pulling into his driveway was Merriweather. He knew his mission was coming to an end. He had no idea what might lay ahead after, but he was driven to bring it all to a final closure. He would make quick work of Mr. Merriweather. He still had to learn just what happened when he was gunned down. Of most importance, was who had pulled the trigger.
....Then there was Monahan! There was more to him than met the eye. He had to be the "big" that was bigger than he. Besides aiding in the cover-up, Cash knew there had to be something else. In any event, he thought, he was going to make quick work of both Merriweather and Monahan.
....After that, he had one more "errand" to run. There was another funeral that he would need to attend. She would be there too. The "guest of honor" would be one Mrs. Johnson.