Brian Kelly opened his eyes and knew immediately that he had made at least one horrible mistake. For starters, the bed wasn’t his. He lay there, contemplating his suddenly curious surroundings. The ceiling that wasn’t his. The digital alarm that wasn’t his. The presence next to him that, sticking with the theme, that likely wasn’t his wife.
It took Kelly forty-five minutes to move himself off the bed and onto the carpeted floor. It wasn’t his carpet. He moved slowly, silently, calling upon the tales of snipers in World War Two and Vietnam who low-crawled five hundred yards in a week to get the shot. By the time he reached the hallway and out of the door frame, his stomach, thighs and chest were raw and angry from the effort.
There were no lights on, that he could observe, anywhere. As he stepped achingly slowly down the hallway to the top of the stairs, Kelly returned to the task of figuring out where he was. The pictures on the wall didn’t help.
The first he recalled immediately. In the wake of the Pitt loss, though, the joy on the faces in the photo was hard to take. There he was at a private table at the LaSalle Grill, empty bottles and half-empty bottles and heaps of vanquished plates. Everyone was there, beaming, smoking cigars. Diaco had on sunglasses and no shirt. Alford was wearing Diaco’s shirt. On his head. Martin had his head tipped back, mouth agape. He was belting out “Rosalita.” Jack was there, too. More straight-laced, but he had a cigarette in his right hand. They all had their had their arms around each other. They were going to Miami.
Further along and down the stairs a way, another photograph. In it, Deonte Thompson hung suspended in mid-air, upside down, framed by the Florida players who put him that way. To Kelly, it was a symbol, perhaps unfair, of how he left his team. How they must have felt after he bolted for Notre Dame.
Now, after tedious minutes descending the carpeted stairs, Kelly saw light under a door across the foyer. A mumbled voice met him as a he crossed it, the polished wood cold under his bare feet.
“That’s not…fucking…targeting.” The voice was familiar, but different… and distant. The syllables were laced with disbelief and bourbon. The voice unsure. “Awful!” A bang and clatter. A glass had thumped onto a wooden table. Something jumped. “HOW DO YOU NOT DIVE ON THAT BALL??!! PICK IT UP!!!!” Kelly knew immediately who it was. He gave a light knock and a stage-whisper. “Pssst! Jack!”
Instantly the television noise behind the door ceased. The voice, now frightened, nervous. “WHO IS IT???!! I….I….I’VE GOT A GUN YOU MOTHERFUCKER! I’VE HIT THE SILENT ALARM YOU FUCKING FREAK!!!!”
Kelly recognized this as a very bad situation. He tried to turn and flee out the front door, but it was too late. The door flew open.
Kelly had never been hit that hard in his life. Had never heard a sound that loud. The flash illuminated everything, fleetingly. Swarbrick’s face twisted in agonized surprise. The gun, a Beretta, breathing a whisp of smoke. The television beyond, in the room, frozen on TJ’s fumble.
In the hours it took to fall to the floor, Kelly felt the searing pain of the wound in his gut and watched in vivid detail as the walls and ceiling arced across his gaze. His blood was thick and heavy and it gurgled silently through his fingers and around his palms.
Swarbrick, too, fell back, but he into the room, where he crawled to the window and sobbed into his hands, barking nonsensically at the glass. Perhaps he was screaming at himself, his reflection a panicked patina on the cold surface and the dark night beyond.
Kelly dragged himself with his remaining strength to the room and across to the table, where he felt for a phone. With agonized effort, he knocked the receiver to him. He pressed the 9-1-1 buttons, his pale fingers sticky with dark blood. He was empty of strength. Empty of blood. Empty.
The last thing he heard was the operator’s voice, trailing off as though the phone were moving away from his ear. “9-1-1 Emergency. What’s your location? 9-1-1 Emergency, What’s your location, please?”
Kelly opened his eyes. Everything was dark.