He pushed through the swinging back doors into the carrier station. People he’d seen every day for years were there, busy as usual. He walked past them. When he got to the big fan set up near the stairwell, he paused and stared into it. Taking off his sunglasses for a moment, he gazed into the polished and spinning surface of the fan’s convex center hub.
—It was like a circus mirror.
—His face appeared fat, and drenched with sweat. His bloodshot eyes stared back at him like a clown’s whose makeup had run. He turned to look back at the others, wondering if they saw too, but no one cared for sideshows.
—The stairwell’s doorknob beckoned. Gleaming. Seeing a tiny but headless reflection of his body mirrored in it, he reached out his hand in fascination. Then he gripped it. Suddenly, resolutely. Like a handshake. Finally, he opened the door and stepped inside.
—Once on the staircase, he began to climb methodically, one step at a time. Having come to return his postal carrier pack as he’d been instructed, he now opened the pack and withdrew the .45 automatic inside. When he arrived at the top of the stairs, he opened the door into the office hallway, and could hear the secretaries chatting together. —Laughing.
—It was cooler up here. Much cooler.
—He ran his hand across his matted hair, feeling for a moment the cold air streaming down from the vent nearest him. Then he lifted his gun, and started down the hallway. Walking past the offices, he fired as he went. When he got to the corner office, he found station manager Ollie Westover behind his mahogany desk, on the phone. A cup of black coffee was spilled across several papers.
—Ollie looked up and said, “No–don’t do it . . . Thompson, right?”
—“Right,” Thompson said. And fired.
—Afterward, he went to the window, and gazed down at the street fronting the postal station. As he waited, he felt the air conditioning coming from the vent above Ollie’s slowly cooling body. Then, in the distance, he heard the expected sirens approach. At last, several police cars and an unmarked white Cavalier arrived, screeching into the front lot, narrowly missing several patrons.
—He smiled sadly as he put the .45 to his own head.
—“Vaya con Dios,” he whispered.