Halfway Down

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Brendan Fudge was as determined as he was creative. As he saw it, the reason for a botched suicide was piss poor planning. He’d succeeded in life with attention to detail and that would serve him well while mapping out his demise.

The trick to it was to have a backup to the primary plan. There was no reason to unnecessarily inflict pain—after all, he didn’t hate himself, only his life. Going out by making an incision in his gut, then nailing his intestines to ledge before jumping made for a rather painful and shocking end. He imagined his chitlins trailing behind (he snickered grimly at the thought of his entrails trailing him) like a bungee cord, only to rip loose when they’d pulled taut…

“Damn,” he said at the concept. Sometimes he could even scare himself. Perish the thought. He considered another means to exit stage left.

One of the keys to success as the CFO had been formulation, random audits, and close review, weighing out all options and possibilities before proceeding. Fucking facts and figures. It was time consuming and tended to get on most of his coworkers’ nerves, but it had always worked.

Well, not always. Violet’s decision to leave coincided badly with an investigation into misplaced funds—money he’d pilfered in tiny, seeming undetectable increments (a few thousand here, a few tens of thousands there), to keep her draped in furs and sparkling in jewels. She was neither impressed nor was the board of directors going to be lenient. The timing was all messed up and he could have dealt with either the investigation or her exodus, not both happening simultaneously. He found himself feigning heartbreak, groveling on his knees, begging her to stay. He’d even pushed out tears and wanted to make himself believe he actually loved her, though nothing could be further from the truth. He enjoyed the look of a trophy wife to some of those high-level events that required elbow rubbing with others who breathed rarified air. Besides her making great arm candy, especially with her newly-enlarged breasts, her facelift, and the great conversation piece the name of Violet Fudge made, he didn’t have much use for her. No matter the lavished gifts, she could always see though his jive ass like glass.

Which brought him back to his dilemma of how to end it all. Mr. Fudge wanted to simply disappear, which was easier said than done. All the worker bees would know is that he wouldn’t show up. Calls from that diamond-hogging heifer and her overinflated divorce attorney would go unanswered for a day or two before anyone suspected something. By that time, he’d be long gone, leaving the cares of this world behind.

He considered what he had at his disposal and his attention went to his boat—not the semi-extravagant yacht his wife had demanded, but the other one. It was little more than a fishing dingy, actually, but it had an outboard motor that could easily get him out past the shallows and beyond the reef to deep water. That’s where his salvation lay…as a secondary plan, anyway.

He cleared his mind and set it to task. A couple hours later, he was in open water, the lights of the coastal condos and resort hotels shining in the dark like jewels. It was a gilded prison to which he’d gladly never return. He puttered out to his chosen location—a spot where the undertow would sweep his remains further out to sea to be food for the sharks and fish and whatever else lay beneath the surf.

Brendan patted his pocket, the cold, blue steel of the .357 sitting against his thigh like an old friend. It was a fact that revolvers, unlike semiautomatic pistols, did not jam, so that mitigated a possible mishap. The rounds were also jacketed in watertight casings, so the powder wouldn’t get wet. Fucking facts and figures. He wanted nothing that would stop him from blowing his brains out as the anchor took hold and pulled him to the bottom of the Atlantic. He’d hedged all bets. The worst thing was to be eaten alive by sharks, which, now that the area was at full nightfall, were in their feeding phase. It was suppertime and, after he’d sunk low enough and the trigger was pulled, the mental marinara would sound the dinner bell so they could enjoy what was left of him.

The night was one he would’ve enjoyed from the patio of his rather posh condo that overlooked the shore. He’d only moved there at the half-drunk whore’s behest, but it’d had its benefits. One of them was the ability to enjoy the warm, salty air coming off the water on a pleasant night. That said, he’d picked a great evening to get this done.

He’d left no suicide note, as there was nothing more to say. Of course, he’d changed his will, leaving all his material possessions to some inane charity he neither knew nor cared anything about. The investigation coming to its conclusion, he was looking at a stiff prison sentence of 1 to 5. Though it would likely be meted out in a minimum security facility for white collar types, the shame it would bring, coupled by the empty feeling he’d gotten when Violet announced that she was leaving, didn’t allow for a comeback. The situation was not going to change and he was opting out. Besides, worse than his fear of drowning or being devoured by the denizens of the deep was what would happen in prison showers. He’d get his butt busted for sure and wind up as some troglodyte’s bitch, being violated on a whim, and forced to sit down when he peed. Yeah, he’d seen the documentaries before.

“Okey dokey,” he said, his voice lost in the breeze. After securing the anchor to his feet with a knot that could not be easily untied—especially in the inky blackness of the ocean at night—he took a final gander at the stars. They, like the coastal condominiums, twinkled invitingly. If the rumor was right, he’d be amongst those very same stars in the next few minutes. He couldn’t afford to consider the possibility of eternal damnation (an impossibly horrific slice of hell in which hammerheads ripped off his arms and legs, leaving him defenseless while incarcerated savages took advantage of what was left), so he deleted it from his cognitive vocabulary.

The water was surprisingly, even refreshingly cool. He couldn’t think of a better exit and was neither scared nor hesitant. He tossed the anchor over the side and felt the tug around his legs when the chain reached its limit. Cool like the ocean water off of West Palm Beach is how he’d feel as he made his way to the afterlife. The shot to the roof of his mouth would be a snap. Before his mind could register that it’d been blown out the back of his skull, he’d be gone. Sinking into the depths would galvanize his demise and then the sea creatures would join in nature’s recycling effort.

“Here goes nothing,” Mr. Fudge said rather sarcastically. As he wiggled closer to the edge of the boat, it suddenly dipped low, took on water, and toppled. The timing couldn’t have been worse, since he’d just put the barrel of the gun into his mouth. Off balance, he reflexively jerked the trigger. The bullet tore through his left cheek, ripping off half his jaw, exploding in a burst of red chunks from the side of his face.

The agony was horrendous and, in his haste to staunch the sanguine profusion, he fumbled and dropped the gun, which sunk into the inky black water quicker than he did. There would be no second chance and his scream registered in a cloud of muted bubbles that rose quickly to the surface as he plummeted like a stone.

The muffled yell and thrashing about registered in the nerve receptors of a great white that was making its rounds, in search of a midsummer night’s meal two miles out. But that wasn’t what focused its attention, causing its black, soulless eyes to glimmer and its jagged, razor-sharp tooth-filled mouth to drool. (The concept of drooling sea predators was something that had eluded scientists. After all, how could saliva be noticed when there was water all around?) With a smile on its menacing mug, it canted its sleek, 20-foot frame and turned in the direction of the call to chow.

Several makos and bull sharks picked up on the same scent and signal, which came across like music to their antagonistic ears. So, a feeding frenzy in an orgy of guts it would be.

But Brendan was too preoccupied, cursing while feeling the burning of the salty water instinctively sucked up into his nose as he fought to breathe. He plunged deeper still, the pressure mounting as his splayed fingers clawed desperately to find the .357 that had probably landed on the reef. He’d never find it and his death would be one brought on by the pain in his lungs. Damned evolutionary theory ensured he couldn’t breathe liquid after being expelled his mother’s womb over 50 years before. Whether Darwin was wrong or right, a review of his current situation stated that drowning would be his demise.

Or so he thought.

That’s when he felt the bump of the blunt, hydrodynamic monster. Then another of the same sideswiped his left thigh, exposing the capillaries beneath his skin, drawing more blood into the water. That caused even more pain than his gaping, misshapen maw. He shouted a cloud of water, as that medium had claimed all the air from his lungs before he’d even made it halfway down. Gripped with terror, the formerly cool-headed executive shat himself, adding gravy to the tomato soup.

Crushing-sharp-jagged-serrated knives grabbed hold of his bloody leg and with a single application of thousands of foot pounds of pressure, Brendan had one less limb. Somehow, through the mind-numbing anguish, something deep in his mental process recalled an amusing anecdote about being busier than a…

Before he could imagine that kicking contest, he was out of the running—quite literally. A second bite caught him at the hip on his opposite side, ripping the other leg free and liberating his viscera. Part of that appendage, still charged with electricity and jerked out of time with the cloudy spurts issuing it from it. His bottom half—the part that hadn’t been greedily gobbled as an appetizer–succumbed to gravity as the anchor took it all the way to the bottom.

But he would never get to reach that depth. Though he could no longer register pain, he felt the pressure of the chomping and ripping as his worst fear had come to what was left of his life. The sharks—oh, how they celebrated, painting the reef red in their delight.

And Brendan Fudge, a man who’d been too smart for his own good, had only his hard head (and a bit of his neck, minus much of his mandible, of course) left. In its final, incredibly cognizant instant, his brain audited the experience of his disconnected dome floating peacefully toward the sandy corral below. There his noggin would hold a reunion with one chain-wrapped foot and that wily, if not elusive revolver.

The one that Violet had given him for his final birthday.

Fuckin’ figures.

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