Cynthia felt sorry for Jake. And when he said he’d turn himself in, she believed him.
“Yes, tomorrow. Look, I’m not saying don’t call the police. I don’t want you to get into trouble. I just need some time. I will turn myself in, tomorrow. I promise.”
Cynthia gave Jake the $24 she had in her wallet, and wished him well.
“Wait,” Jake pushed his hand through the door, stopping her from closing it.
“Jake, you have to get out of here.” Cynthia’s voice was soft, but firm.
“Wait. I know, it’s just-” He handed Cynthia his keys. They started to heat up in his hands.
“Will you please feed Puddle? I can’t go home right now.”
Puddle was Jake’s rescue cat. He’d gotten him from the shelter when he was released from the hospital after surviving being struck by lightning. They said the cat’s name was “Cuddles,” and he didn’t like it. He thought Puddle would be easy for the cat to get used to, and it reminded him of rain. And lightning.
Cynthia accepted Jake’s keys, and locked the door at No Limits, knowing that she should call the police right then. But something made her want to wait. Was it just that she felt sorry for Jake? Or did she feel something more? She didn’t really want to think about it right now. What she knew for sure, is that she wanted to know how Ben was doing, and decided to visit him in the hospital tomorrow. What she felt for sure, was anxious about going to Jake’s place to get Puddle. How would she explain why she had Jake’s keys? She could say that she always had them, sometimes friends give each other a key, for emergencies… It would be easier just to take Puddle home, Cynthia decided. Jake’s place was a crime scene, after all.
It was only raining lightly when Jake left No Limits just after at 9 o’clock that night, but when the sky opened up and started to rumble around midnight, he came out of hiding. Jake made his way to their neighbourhood baseball diamond. He was alone, soaking wet and cold, yet all he could think about was the first time he was struck by lightning.
“That’s when this all started,” he said to himself.
He willed the lightning to seek him out again. But for some reason, it seemed to be moving away. Earlier, he’d felt so strong, like a real superhero. Now he felt defeated.
He walked back to the new subdivision and ducked into an open garage to spend the night. He felt incredibly lucky to find a bag of clothes marked “donations” in the corner; but decided his luck might be running out when he discovered the bag was full of lady’s clothes.
Digging through it, he was grateful to find a plain white t-shirt, red sweat pants and a good pair of pink, orange and blue sneakers, that were only a little tight. He’d wear them now, and let his own clothes dry.
Then out of nowhere, loud successive shots! Bang! Bang! Bang! Gun Fire? Gun fire! Was someone outside the garage shooting? He ducked behind the car, then heard the laughter.
“Kids,” he whispered to himself, and breathed a sigh of relief. Almost every weekend in the summer, some kid somewhere sets off a few firecrackers. For some reason, they never get tired of doing it.
Jake saw a pair of small pruning shears on the shelf, and he suddenly knew what he had to do. Emptying his wallet, he methodically cut up his debit card and credit cards. He considered his health card and drivers license only for a moment, then cut them up as well.
“Oh, what the heck,” he said quietly, “if I’m going off the grid I may as well do it right!” Then hacked away at his wallet, cutting the thumb on his left hand in the process. Not badly enough to need stitches, thankfully, since he’d just destroyed his health card, but bad enough to be annoying. He grabbed another t-shirt from the donation bag, leaving a smear of blood on the outside of it.
His Lightning Strikers membership card was the only thing he kept. Even dog-eared, it meant the world to him. It was at that very support group, for survivors of people who had been struck by lightning; where he had met Cynthia. She was the only one who believed in him now.
Jake took his cell phone out of his pocket to send one last text. “s-o-r-r-y” he typed in lower case letters, before removing the SIM card from his phone and taking a hammer to it. He picked up the pieces, and walked out of the garage, without looking back.