by Than Pence
Trevor's best friend is River, a rock. He always tells the truth, no matter what.
|“I don’t think so.”
::When have I ever been wrong?::
Biting his lip, Trevor clicked on the Stay button. Seconds passed. He couldn’t stop his knee from bouncing with anticipation.
::Relax. This is a surefire win.::
“There’s no such thing—”
::There is with me. There always has been.::
Trevor knew that River was right: there was never a time that he wasn’t right. “I just get so… nervous when high stakes are on the line.”
A chime sounded from the computer, followed by digital confetti raining down the screen like a decimated rainbow. Trevor’s heart caught before he realized what it meant: he was now four-thousand dollars richer.
::Told ya,:: said River.
He sounded so smug and confident to Trevor. He looked at the smooth stone next to the mouse. “Yeah, you did. How’d you get so good at poker?”
The river rock didn’t move but Trevor imagined him shrugging his shoulders. ::I don’t know anything about poker. I just know when someone’s bluffing.::
That was true, Trevor knew. Ever since he’d found River and heard the rock speak, it was nothing but truths that were produced. As a mischievous teenager, it tended to put Trevor into hot water more often than not. With River in his pocket, he could easily tell which jock was lying about losing his virginity and which preps were stealing their parent’s pills.
::Nikki stole those shoes. Bradley throws up after his meals. Mrs. Greeling had a sex dream about you.::
The truths always came quick, matter-of-factly. Trevor thought he was going insane at first because no one else ever heard River. Some of the ideas could never be proven, like the time River told him his mother had aborted the first two children before him. He didn’t feel like he could ask his mother about that, but the idea of it chilled him. Trevor never quite looked at his mother the same after that.
When River was accidentally left at home and Trevor didn’t hear anything about his classmates was when he knew that the rock was special. Now he kept River with him all the time and he never ignored his advice, but River somehow always knew the truth.
Presently, Trevor was thinking not only about how beneficial River was, but how he was going to spend his winnings. He didn’t ask River: the rock always suggested something sensible. For now, he’d keep it in savings. ::That’s wise.::
Trevor stifled a curse.
* * *
Sweat was pouring from his scalp, down his neck and back. Trevor was miserable. “Summer is the worst, especially in the city.”
::It smells like shit out here.:: Trevor couldn’t deny it; River hit it on the head, although Trevor might’ve thought to equate it to garbage. ::You need a haircut.::
“No, I need a colder climate.” The wide woman walking past him gave Trevor a dirty look, but that was rare. Most of the time, people assumed Trevor was talking to his Bluetooth.
He pulled out his phone and checked the address again. The sun was making it impossible to read the screen and Trevor swore at himself for forgetting his sunglasses.
“River, am I close?”
::One more block, then two doors down.::
“Why not three?”
::Because that band was terrible.::
Puckering his lips as if he’d been personally stung, Trevor smiled at River’s dry joke. Before long, he was at the building where he’d put money down for an apartment for an unbelievable price. River had let him know about it. Not only that, but the sublet fee was going to nearly double his overall profits from various online poker games.
The super, Hank, let Trevor in. ::He’s sleeping with his nephew’s wife.:: Trevor paused and glossed over the humpty dumpty-looking man; his cheeks were blotched red, his thin, stringy hair was plastered to his head by sweat, and his breath smelled of sauerkraut and tuna. I guess he’s great in bed.
Trevor followed Hank up to the apartment . It was on the fourth floor, the top floor, a walk-up.
“In this heat, no one’s gonna want to walk up to this apartment.”
::The views will get ‘em.::
“The views… will get them,” said Hank between huffs. Trevor was almost stunned but he smiled at the coincidence and kept climbing.
Outside the apartment, Hank handed him the key. “Welcome home. Good luck. Don’t choose a shitty tenant.”
Trevor blinked at the man’s blunt request. “I’m sorry?”
Hank closed his eyes and apologized. He then quickly followed it with, “I just don’t want to be hiking these stairs every time some yuppie thinks their pipes need to be snaked.”
::He’s snaking pipe on the regs,:: said River. Trevor cracked a smile. Hank cocked an eyebrow.
His smile evaporating, Trevor thanked Hank and proceeded into the apartment.
* * *
Grabbing a paper towel, Trevor wiped water from his face. Without his glasses, he looked like a fuzzy, frail man with a short, trimmed beard. He put his glasses on and sighed, thinking about the half dozen potential tenants. They’d all sucked. River was very helpful in deciding who would make good tenants, but he didn’t make it easy to turn them away. The single brunette seemed like the best candidate by far but River said that she would sneak pets into this no-pet building.
He threw the paper towel away when River said, ::You look like shit.::
“Could you say something positive? To make me feel good?”
::That barista, Michael, is thinking about you naked right now.::
“How is that supposed to make me feel good?”
::It should flatter you, handsome.::
He groaned. “How many more interviews?” he asked while exiting the bathroom.
There was a knock at the open front door that startled Trevor. A high-pitched sound escaped him, making his neck prickle with embarrassment. ::One more.:: Trevor nodded at the woman. She was most likely Trevor’s height but made taller with high-heels. Her pink and white swirled dress was short but not inappropriate, and strapless.
Her smile is what Trevor mostly noticed. It was wider than most smiles but it didn’t unnerve him. The teeth were perfect. “Am I late?”
“No, no! You’re right on time, Mrs…”
“Ms. Kuller. Diane Kuller.”
“Ms. Kuller. Hello.” He stepped forward to grab her outstretched hand but tripped over his own foot. “Oh, I’m sorry. That was embarrassing!” He let out a large, singular laugh, hoping it would mask his unease.
“No, don’t worry. If this is a bad time…”
“It’s a great time! Come in, please. There’s a chair here. Or you can sit in mine. It’s not comfortable but I believe yours would be uncomfortable too. Or is.”
Trevor froze. “Uh… I’m…” He then pointed to his Bluetooth. “Shut up, solicitor. How’d you get my number?!” He quickly jerked the device from his ear and smiled. “I’m sorry. Please sit. This won’t take long.”
::Sex with you never does.::
Momentarily, Trevor regretted bringing River along. He considered leaving the river rock in the bathroom.
Trevor, after a few seconds of fumbling, managed to get into a groove of talking with Diane in the barren apartment and was on the verge of pulling out the necessary documents when River chimed in again, but with something altogether different.
Trevor paused, unsure if he’d heard his friend correctly.
Diane nodded, her smile getting tight. “And?”
He blinked. “What? I’m sorry, yes. These are the, uh, the papers.”
::Kill her. Now.::
His pulse quickening, Trevor looked at Diane Kuller as she scanned over the lease. She mouthed the words as she read, an act that he normally found enraging. For her, it was endearing. “Excuse me.” She looked up. “I just need to,” he then pointed to the bathroom behind her and she nodded, smiled, and continued reading.
In the bathroom, Trevor took off his glasses and splashed his face again. He took deep breathes before asking River what he was talking about.
::She’ll kill you, Trevor. She’s a serial killer. She just finished a spree in Atlanta and she’s decided to give our shitty city a shot.::
Palming his eyes, Trevor tried massaging River’s voice away. His mind went to the Jellyjam River when he was fourteen. When his father had died. When his mom’s boyfriend was acting like an asshole. When he found River, the most perfectly formed river rock he’d ever seen. When River started talking to him and Trevor finally accepted that he wasn’t imagining it.
He’d often thought that it was some form of psychosis, but River knew things that Trevor couldn’t possibly know. And when River wasn’t present, Trevor didn’t know anything ordinary, much less unique.
Now River was making a demand and it was forcing Trevor to look at his situation through different eyes once again. Was River really talking or was something in Trevor’s brain doing it? Something in his brain that was making up stories and trying to seem prescient?
And what if he’s right, yet again? River is always right!
Finally, Trevor decided to ask River a question. “How do you know?” It was a whispered question but it sounded like a gunshot in the tiny bathroom. No one’s going to buy this apartment with such a tiny bath.
::When have you needed proof? She’s a murderer and she’s going to kill Hank and then Hank’s nephew and that starts off a series of murders.::
“That’s not proof.”
::Her last murder in the city will be your’s.::
Trevor shuddered. He looked to the door. He imagined Diane Kuller on the other side, her back to the bathroom.
::You could easily do it. Here, now.::
Trevor shook his head.
::Take off your shirt, twist it up, and strangle her from behind. She won’t expect it.:: Trevor knew she wouldn’t. River never lied.
Trevor started breathing heavily and pulled at his shirt’s collar. It was growing warmer. Sweat trickled down his spine again, a liquid, desperate anxiousness.
He took a deep breath, held it, then he noticed a shift in sound on the other side of the door.
::Wait,:: said River. ::She’s not in the chair.::
His heart hammered and Trevor began worrying that Diane was about to break through the door and murder him horribly. Several minutes passed. Parts of Trevor started thinking that Diane forgot he was in the bathroom and left, even though that was absurd.
River didn’t offer further advice. Trevor's bladder started to scream at him but he didn’t want to move, fearing he’d draw the predator’s unwanted attention. Finally, a male’s voice sounded out. It was Hank. Trevor, fearful for Hank’s life, opened the door.
Hank jumped, startled, and Trevor realized how quiet he’d been. “Hank!”
“You’re still here. Any bites today?”
“The sublets. Anyone sign?”
Looking at the empty chair, Trevor went to the contract that Diane Kuller had been mouthing over. It was unsigned. Diane was gone. Trevor was fearful.
“Uh, nothing. Did you see this woman?”
“Who? The one with the tits?”
“They all have… Where is she?”
Hank shrugged. River didn’t answer. Trevor dug his hand into his pocket and pulled River out. He said nothing. Hank said, “Nice rock.”
River still said nothing and Trevor felt tears well up. He realized that he hadn’t listened to the river rock’s advice and he was going quiet. Trevor didn’t like that. He hated River being quiet even more than confronting a potential murder.
I should’ve killed her. He looked to Hank. He’s as good as dead.
“Sorry, Hank,” he said, pocketing River.
He shrugged. “No worries. I’m here anyway. Tell me when you want to set up another appointment.”
Trevor nodded as Hank left the apartment and it's beautiful views. River remained quiet and Trevor wasn’t sure when he’d talk again, or if he ever would. And he wasn’t sure if he should be relieved or upset. Discomfort was the leading emotion, as well as remorse.
“I should’ve killed her,” he muttered to himself.
Word Count: 1,997
Featured in the "Mystery Newsletter (June 22, 2016)"
Winner: 2nd Place in June 2016's "What a Character! : Official WDC Contest"
Prompt for June 2016: Write a story about a character whose best friend is something other than another human being. It can be a pet, robot, inanimate object, imaginary friend, or anything else you can come up with!