Of the few women Buford knew, Greyley Bereksohn had to be the most enigmatic.
Greyley, a gifted young surgeon, was soft spoken, standoffish and rail thin, and only left her house for the hospital. She was disarmingly beautiful, with two tone hair and dark eyes, and yet Buford knew of no potential suitors. He had studied her intently, fought tooth and nail to know her and speak to her throughout all of high school, of undergraduate school, of med school, and failed miserably. Once an accomplished wrestler on a full ride scholarship to a state school, he had lapsed into a deep depression and resigned himself to the police academy. He had yet to profess his undying love for Greyley, and so was content to observe her.
Greyley, similarly, had lapsed into a deep depression when the object of her obsession disappeared years ago. James Isherwood had wrestled with Buford in high school; twice as fast and half his size and somehow, impossibly, twice as strong. He had a shyster smile and an aloof way about him, but had very few enemies. The person, Buford suspected, who harbored the most animosity towards James Isherwood was Greyley; James had a habit of rebuffing Greyley’s heartfelt confessions and other assorted advances.
It seemed to Buford that despite everything, Greyley missed James, or rather, the idea of him, dearly, judging from her reclusive behavior and solitary lifestyle and this baffled him.
Today is April fourteenth and the second anniversary of James Isherwood’s disappearance.
Buford is returning home from the station, attempting to blink away the image of the accident he had been called to investigate earlier. The accident was a fatality, all brain matter and bent bones. Donuts churn in his stomach.
As he pulls himself from his car and makes his way to the front door, he spares a glance at the lonely mansion on the corner and wonders vaguely about Greyley, mourning and pining over someone she hardly had the right to mourn, a self serving, devilishly handsome young man turned pile of unrecognizable remains rotting in a ditch alongside the highway somewhere.
Buford’s curiosity, or some other cosmic force, wills him to the manor’s porch, and wills the pad of his finger to the button beside the door.
The previously deafening white noise from within the manor ceases as the doorbell sounds. Buford stands at the door patiently, mystified. It seems to take hours for Greyley to appear at the door, but Buford endures.
Greyley’s whitish hair is piled atop her large head, bound by a rubber band and decorated with flyaway follicles. A blanket is wrapped around her small frame, and her hands are stained, presumably by chemicals, skin stretched taut over her knuckles on her left hand, where she grips the edge of the door. Buford sucks in a breath, awestruck by her effortless beauty.
“Miss B,” Buford greets her with a mock curtsey, a flush creeping across his cheeks.
“Hello,” Greyley says, clearly skeptical and a stark contrast to Buford’s hospitable disposition, “Can I help you?”
“I thought you could use some company.”
Buford lets himself into the house. Greyley whirls around and steps in front of him, almost like she had something to hide, and the rookie cop assumed, mistakenly, that she was ashamed of the mess. Her dining room table was piled high with medical textbooks and scientific journals, laundry flanked the stairs on both sides, medical equipment was littered throughout the living room, encircling a medical dummy still sealed in its packaging. The Bereksohn residence was unmistakably lived in, and Buford found it charming.
The house was eerily quiet, save for the sound of Greyley swallowing thickly.
“Nice place you’ve got here, Miss B.” Buford says sweetly, smiling down at her.
“Thank you,” Greyley musters a smile and pulls the blanket tighter around her shoulders, shifting her weight from foot to foot.
“Now I suppose-” Buford saunters into the dining room and takes a seat at the dining room table in the only empty chair, “That I ought to address the proverbial elephant in the room.” His boot comes to rest just above a crack in the floorboards. Greyley sees this, and winces.
Buford’s expression turns grave as he feigns sympathy. “It’s been two years since your boyfriend went missing.”
Buford unbuttons the top button of his uniform, pulls his collar away from his flushed neck. “Must be awful lonely.” He smirks, reveling in Greyley’s anxiety.
Greyley laughs nervously and shuffles into the dining room, “Hardly, sir.” She heaves a textbook from the edge of the table, swiftly nudging Buford’s boot away from the crack in the wood and depositing the tome on top of it instead. The Principles of Surgery looks about two thousand pages long and just as many years old. Greyley places her foot atop the book, and Buford notices that a grocery bag is wrapped around her slipper and freckled with rust colored stains. He swallows nervously and smiles up at her.
“Lotta medical equipment in here, Miss B.”
Greyley smiles uneasily. “I like to practice.”
“On the dummy.”
Silence, interrupted by the refrigerator whirring back to life.
A sinister smile spreads across Greyley’s face. After a moment, she nods towards the living room. Buford notes, again, that the latex dummy is still in its packaging, in pristine condition.
Concerned, Buford gets to his feet and reaches out for Greyley, who recoils slightly as she lifts her foot from the book on the floor and stumbles backwards. Her eyes are wide with panic.
“Are you hurting yourself, Greyley?”
Silence. Merciful, telling silence. Greyley’s expression is blank.
“Yes,” Greyley says haltingly, unconvincingly, “Yes.”
Poor, stupid, clueless Buford feels a pang of guilt in his chest.
“You are lonely, aren’t you, Miss B?”
Another pause. Greyley’s blank expression contorts into a caricature of pain, desperation, deep seated loneliness.
“Terribly,” Greyley pulls her blanket tighter around her shoulders, “I figured-” She forces herself to look weary, forlorn, “If I wasn’t good enough for James, I’d never be good enough for anybody. And if I couldn’t have James, I didn’t want anybody. It didn’t matter if he wanted me or not, sir, I think I could’ve loved him forever.”
Buford is too busy reveling in the opportunity to comfort the elusive Miss Bereksohn that he doesn’t hear the dull thud from the basement. But Greyley hears it; Greyley hears it loud and clear, even over the pounding of her tell tale heart and the swoosh of blood in her ears.
In an uncharacteristic moment of courage and a characteristic moment of incredibly poor decision making, Buford crosses the room and gathers Greyley into his arms. The panicked, frail woman leans into him reluctantly, forces herself to remain composed, or rather, in character.
“Do you think we’ll ever find him?” She asks quietly. Over Buford’s shoulder, her light, wild eyes sear the spine of The Principles of Surgery.
“I don’t know,” Buford breathes, “But I sure hope you find someone.”
The sun is setting now, and the Bereksohn residence is blessedly silent once again. Greyley hangs her stained blanket over the back of her couch and adjusts her clothes. She clutches a mug of scalding black tea as she makes her way downstairs to the cellar.
“Did I hurt your feelings earlier, J?”
With a flick of her finger, the fluorescent bulbs above the workbench flicker to life.
“I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, baby,” Greyley says out loud, “I’m sorry I called you dumb.”
She sets the mug on the workbench and makes her way to the cot in the corner. The man confined to the cot has been sedated for hours now, and is unsurprisingly groggy. He rolls his ankle and groans, rattling the chain anchored to the cement floor. He knows exactly where he is.
“I thought he was onto us for a second, J,” Greyley takes a seat on the edge of the cot, “You remember how Buford is. Jealous, controlling- frightening, really.” She looks over her shoulder to meet James’ eyes, impossibly lively, blue and defiant.
“I fixed you some tea,” She reaches down and runs her fingers over his short hair, “I thought you’d come down with a pretty nasty case of Stockholm Syndrome, but it seems like time has remedied that.”
Greyley throws her head back and howls, gets to her feet and retrieves the mug from the workbench.
“Thanks for staying sedated for so long,” she presses a kiss to his temple, “And happy anniversary, honey.”