End of the Road

From where I lie, one can hear the tugboats chugging up the Mississippi. How on earth did I wind up here? A stone’s throw from an old plantation house ablaze in the wee hours, the arsonist long gone?

We started coming out here, to meet…the professor and I…years ago. The house nearby had been in his family for generations, though he and his wife had moved into town years ago. It was a beautiful relic, a tourist trap. They shot a movie here once, with Clark Gable. I think I saw it with my Aunt Dolores at the Bijoux.

No one will think to find us out here…no one will suspect a thing. Trust me.

Except, of course, my neighbors down in New Orleans. They’ll figure out something, put two and two together. My oddly timed trips, the front porch light left on until morning. Tonight, when it’s still on…and the afternoon papers carry a story about a woman’s body found near the blaze…they’ll know it’s me. A couple of them will recall seeing a tall, graying gentleman in the alleyway once or twice…and how I’d fumbled at explaining his presence.

Gee, I make a terrifically lousy adulteress. Which is surprising given how long I’ve been at this.
Miss McGinley, allow me to introduce Professor Reeves. He’ll be supervising you in the lab, at least until early ’58, when he returns to Louisiana. Reeves, you’ll remember how impressed we on the Admissions Committee were with Miss McGinley’s application?

That’s over now, of course. The ensuing love affair, the lies, the lusty, clandestine weekly rendezvous. All done.

Now, I’ll be just one more ghost story tied to the old plantation house. Me, the old caretaker, the specters from the steamboat explosion who were rolled in flour to stop the burning…perpetual residents on the river’s bend.

Except, of course, the steamboat survivors and me…we were real.

The jury will forget that, of course, in their rush to acquit him. And, to tell the truth, I’m not sure it was him…it was dark, cold…we were supposed to meet here. The car was certainly his…wasn’t it? I saw it pull up the allée…but I never really saw a face. I lacked courage to tell him that I was ready to break it off, to call it quits at last. I kept my back turned to him in the drive. I didn’t want to look.

When I heard the gun’s pop, I turned…but too late. The car backed away as I fell.

That’s how I got here. That’s how I wound up dead.

By Penny Dreadful

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