“What Might Have Been” (Short Story Excerpt)

The following is the opening page from my original short story, to be published in my forthcoming anthology DARKEST CORNERS

The clock on the wall read 12:41 AM, and Tony fingered the cold steel in his coat pocket for what seemed like the hundredth time that evening. His hands were shaking slightly and his heart was palpitating with such pervasive intensity that he could feel it in his extremities. He lay on the bed, fully clothed, a handkerchief in his left hand used to wipe the beads of sweat from his forehead. His furrowed brow marked the depth of his concentration, and he appeared to be gazing vacantly beyond the spinning ceiling fan directly above.

The room was dark and still, save for the occasional rumble of an engine and flare of headlights outside the window. The motel had been cheap and unassuming, and located conveniently along a stretch of highway that was no longer widely used, thanks to the rerouting of the interstate system three years before. It had looked, for all the world like the Bates Motel in PSYCHO when he first spotted it earlier in the evening. Once a thriving establishment, serving businessmen and families with affordable temporary accommodations, the facility seemed to be more of a home now to those practitioners of narcotic sales and flesh peddlers, at least judging from the swarthy types he had seen lingering just outside several of the rooms . The owner didn’t seem to care, as long as the money was coming in, and as a result, didn’t ask Tony Bryant any questions when he had shown up earlier that evening (sans luggage). He merely had him sign in and pointed down the walkway to room 217.

Now Tony occupied this room until checkout time tomorrow morning at ten. More than enough time, he mused. He had been coming to the end of his rope for some time now, so taking care of things shouldn’t take long at all.

Tony’s hands clenched into fists as he mentally replayed the string of events that had brought him to this place in his life. He was thirty four years old, successful in business and social circles, popular among the ladies, and well respected by his peers. He had managed to achieve relative financial independence in the last couple of years, and had been determined to live his life to the fullest. For the most part, he had made all the right decisions in his life. All except one.

Her name was Megan, and they had been married for the last ten years, nine months, and two weeks. From the first run down apartment to their recent acquisition of a two story Tudor style home in one of the more well-to-do neighborhoods, from the big dreams to the end rewards, they had been together, and anybody on the outside looking in would have seen the perfectly content, upwardly mobile young couple, completely in love, hopelessly devoted, and destined for greatness.

Tony smiled tightly at the irony. If only they knew, he thought. If only they could see the truth….

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