While waiting for Mary to get dressed Jerry found a mint in his pocket, carefully opened the paper wrapping and slipped the candy into his mouth. The sweet peppermint flavor flowed through his mouth overcoming the last traces of the taste of Mary still lingering. He wondered about his timing, when he first spoke the words it seemed perfect, but now what was he to do? It was his room in the hotel so he couldn't simply walk away; he had to get her body out somehow.
The bathroom door was still closed and Jerry figured this could take some time. He sat down on the bed and let his mind wander back to when he first met Mary. After attending a concert he had stopped into a nearby coffee shop, a shop often frequented by the performers from the concert hall. Mary walked in with several other musicians, each carrying their instrument cases.
From his booth, Jerry watched them settle at a nearby table and over the course of perhaps half an hour or so he came to focus all his attention on Mary. She seemed to interact with the musicians with an odd combination of confidence and shyness. Seeing beyond the frumpy hairstyle, the heavy rimmed glasses and stiff, formal clothing, Jerry saw something more. In her he saw a stark, innocent beauty, a woman on the verge of living who remained trapped by her own fears.
One by one her friends excused themselves and headed home to their families or off to parties or dates and soon she sat by herself at the table. Jerry quickly moved over to her table and looking down at her said, "I got to see you tonight, at the concert, you play clarinet."
"Well, oboe actually, they're about the same size."
"Yes, it has to do with the reeds."
"Ah, may I sit down?"
"I'm not too well versed in music; I enjoy listening to it but I never really could pull it all together, the notes, rhythm and all those lines, dots and squiggilies on the page. It was all so confusing."
"Oh you get used to after a while, it's like reading a book to me now."
"Amazing," Jerry replied, noticing that as Mary talked, she'd only meeting his eyes for a moment before glancing away. While she seemed at ease in talking music, she seemed worried the conversation might shift. Jerry could see her eyeing the door. "All your friends have left, can I call you a cab?"
"No, I live nearby, I can walk it."
"This late at night?"
"It's not far and it's well lit."
"Well, can I walk you home?"
"No, that's not really necessary, it's really close."
"Look, I'd feel better if I walked you home. If you're worried about me, I'll walk on the other side of the street. I have a loud voice, we could talk back and forth between cars," he said jokingly.
Mary smiled, "You don't have to do that."
"Then you'll let me walk you home."
"Yes," she replied reaching for her check.
Jerry quickly grabbed it and leaped over toward the cash register. After paying he opened the door and let Mary step out into the night. Jerry followed, slipping into step beside her as she headed down the street. The two of them crossed one street and then in front of the second building she stopped.
Jerry paused asking, "What's wrong?"
She nodded, trying to hide a grin.
"You weren't kidding when you said it was close."
Looking down at the ground she said, "Well, goodnight."
"Goodnight? But I don't even know your name."
"It's Mary," she replied, holding out her hand.
Jerry took her hand shaking it gently, "I'm pleased to meet you Mary, I'm Jerry."
"Well, goodnight Jerry," she said softly, easing her hand from his. She turned and walked up to her door.
Not wanting to push the situation, Jerry remained on the sidewalk watching as she unlocked the door, opened it and stepped inside. She then waved meekly through the window there. Jerry waved and watched as she disappeared into the building.
It was a setback for him, for the first time a delay in his plan, but it was something he could handle, a fermata only, and like in the music it was up to him, the musician to determine the length of delay. He headed back to hotel that night, had a quick drink at the bar and revised his plan. In his room he waited with great resolve, determined that the delay would remain in his control.
The next night he moved early and quickly, seemingly running into her just outside the concert hall. Instead of visiting the coffee shop so close to her home, it was drinks in the bar at his hotel and later they went upstairs. Once they entered his hotel room he was very quick, the speed of his actions fired by the slight fermata. Her final breath was a faint note that wavered in the melody and then faded.
And now he had to wait once more, something he was determined to control. Around two he would get a cart from the nearby storage room and with a quick jaunt down the rear elevator he'd be close to his truck. Then a short drive, a quick stop and a visit to the car wash and it was over. All he had to do was pause for just the perfect time.