It's raining. Chick sighs exasperated when he gets out of the car and steps into a puddle, mud spilling on his shoes. These are his favorite boots and it will take him forever to clean them.
People judge him because of his appearance. They think his hair is filthy and his clothes dirty when both is not the case; he is a cleanly person. His appearance is supposed to send a message. I'm different. Don't mess with me. This and his height are enough to scare most people off and he likes it that way.
Chick walks over to the tin shack at the back of the junkyard. It's such a cliché. He, looking like he does. Here. This is one of the places where he feels at home, indeed, but not because of the seemingly obvious but because of the guy who owns it. He was a professor once, teaching literature until his wife dumped him and he decided to quit his old life. Now he's here, an educated man, just like him, treated badly by people close to him as well as in general. Someone who had been looking for a refuge and found it. They have a lot in common.
"You have to eat something," Alex states.
He doesn't know how long they have been in the kitchen by now, only that it has gotten dark outside in the meantime. After it had become clear that Norma wouldn't rely on her usual coping mechanism and prepare some food, he made them sandwiches. Despite the situation, his stomach started to rumble at some point since he hasn't eaten all day.
Norma has remained more or less unresponsive. She is sitting at the kitchen table, staring vacantly into space. Only when he puts the plate with the sandwich down right in front of her, she looks at it, smiling sadly.
"It looks delicious, Alex, but I'm not hungry."
Norman planned to kill her and keep her frozen corpse in the basement. For whatever purposes. Alex looks at the plate and then takes it away again, the smell of food suddenly making him feel sick. She is right. How is any of them supposed to eat something when they just found out about that?
He sits down next to her, grasping Norma's hand. "Try not to think too much about it. Give yourself time to process things."
Norma darts a glance at him that says, Really? This is your advice? Then she jumps up, heading for the basement.
He always forgets how fast she is. Norma is already half way down the stairs when he catches up with her.
Alex tries to grab her arm in order to hold her back. He doesn't want her to see the horrible scenario again. But she throws him off, tearing open the door of the chamber, running inside without hesitation to snatch the first thing within sight which happens to be a stuffed beaver.
She throws it out the door forcefully. Alex has to duck so that it doesn't hit him, hearing it crash against the wall behind him. He doesn't intervene. If this is what she needs, then she can have it. The stuffed beaver is followed by some candles and flowers until Norma rushes over to the armchair, pulling at it. It is much too heavy. She can't move it on her own, giving up after several attempts with an agonized scream. Norma is panting for breath.
"How could he do this to me?" she yells at the top of her voice, the single words melting into one another. Then she goes silent, her chest rising and falling. "How?" Norma whispers, her question directed at Alex as if he had all the answers.
She comes from a violent, incestuous family that could easily have destroyed her before she was old enough to live her own life. But Norma has tried her best. Always. Sure, she made mistakes. But Alex has never met someone whose heart is so pure as Norma's. So to everyone who judges her because of her volatile, seemingly irrational behavior, and he knows there are many of them, he has only one answer: Try to live her life and come out of it unharmed. Endure what she did and try to make it better. Until then – shut the fuck up.
Norma doesn't know that Alex had some of these talks, people usually not addressing their issues with her and the fact that the sheriff married a woman like her right out in the open but between the lines. Either way, he won't have it. It hurts Alex. Not the idea that his reputation could be tainted but that people think badly of her. And now her youngest son, the person she used to love most in the world, wanted to stop that pure heart from beating so that he could keep her for himself forever. On some level Norman must have sensed that his mother had made room in her heart for another man.
So Alex wishes he had all the answers, wishes he could make all of this go away so that his wife wouldn't have to endure even more pain, but...
"I don't know," he admits, taking Norma in his arms. It's the only thing that helps when there are no words.
She doesn't cry, just clings to him, her anguish too deep for tears. Norma sniffles, talking into his shoulder.
"...clear out the chamber? Yes, of course. First thing tomorrow."
He feels her nod, holding on to him even tighter.
The discovery in the basement is so beyond anything one could imagine that the subject of the text messages has taken a backseat. Norma doesn't even know she received them and Alex hasn't told her about it yet, called a befriended IT expert instead who will meet him tomorrow.
For now, this, what is happening right here, is his priority. Tomorrow he will deal with the rest.
Chick slides 50 bucks across the table. In return his friend hands him a gun. Wearing glasses and an accurately ironed shirt, he still looks as if he belonged in a library and not in a junkyard, selling illegal weapons no less.
White Pine Bay is not as lawless as it used to be anymore. It's astonishingly difficult to get an unregistered gun. Chick thought a lot about whether the endgame was meant to be death or not and eventually came to the conclusion that it was.
"So… now that the business part is over, would you like to have some Merlot and talk about Kant?" His friend gives him a sympathetic smile. Another thing they share is their love for red wine and philosophers.
"Yeah, I would."
Death can wait a bit.
Norma has finally fallen asleep. Alex tried to sleep too, but his thoughts kept him awake. He is so angry with Norman. At the same time he is relieved, though, albeit he would never say it out loud. What they found in the basement would not be sufficient proof in a trial regarding Norman's perfidious plans. Therefore Alex does not have to waste much thought on destroying evidence when he will clear out the chamber. It is undeniable proof for Norma, however, what her son had in mind, more than even an overly loving mother like her can bear. The cord between Norman and her that she kept talking about has become frail. It's only a matter of time until it will break.
Alex feels guilty that he sees something good in such a terrible finding, his inner unrest driving him out of bed. He gets up quietly so as not to wake Norma. Although he didn't plan to clear out the chamber until tomorrow, he might as well make use of his insomnia and start tonight, if only to silence his conscience.
The weather hasn't changed. It's still raining, gusts of wind lashing the drops against the windshield relentlessly. Yet Chick is in a good mood after what was a pleasant evening with his mate. The wine was delicious, he got some new philosophical insights, even forgot about his muddy boots. Life can be so easy.
For a moment, he considers to leave town, abandon his revenge plans. Why make a world that is spinning out of control already even worse? Then he remembers the gun in his bag. It's all about closure and if killing someone will bring him peace of mind, it's what he has to do.
There is more stuff in that chamber than Alex expected. He piled most of it at the bottom of the stairs, can't do more without risking to wake Norma up and that is the last thing he wants. Now he only has to find a way to carry the stuff upstairs and throw it away tomorrow without her being around to see it.
Alex turns off the light, fatigue gripping him to the marrow. He has no idea how late or rather early it is, but he is certain that he will fall asleep the moment his head will hit the pillow, longs to huddle up against Norma, close his eyes and forget about everything that is going on for a couple of hours.
As he is going upstairs, there is a creaking sound over his head as if someone was in the kitchen. Alex freezes. Norma would have called for him if she had woken up and had come down looking for him. There it is again. Someone is sneaking around on the first floor.
He left the door to the basement open. It allows Alex to slip into the hallway without a sound, pausing to listen again. Silence, only the howling wind outside and the familiar snap of wood now and then. It's an old house. Just when he is about to believe he was mistaken, Alex hears a quiet shuffle from the kitchen. He scolds himself for not having put new, better locks on the doors. How could he have been so presumptuous to think it wouldn't be necessary because he is living here with Norma?
Alex reaches the entry to the kitchen. His eyes have adjusted to the darkness, the moonlight shining in through the window, illuminating the room sufficiently so that he is able to spot a silhouette. He tenses his muscles, preparing for a fight.
Chick hits the steering wheel several times. Stupid. That is so stupid. And he should have known. Everything was prepared, his meticulous plan polished, and now it's all haywire.
The junkyard is in an area with no reception. Therefore his cell only beeped just now, informing him that he received a new voice mail from Rebecca while he was having wine and philosophical discussions about the injustice of life. Kind of ironic.
She was not supposed to call him, only in an emergency. Well, she had apparently considered it one. That drunk-slash-drugged bitch is going to ruin their lives instead of making them rich and letting him have his revenge.
Her speech was slurred; she obviously was drunk or high, probably both. I'm driving over now, she announced. I know we said no contact and you have this plan with the text messages and… She lost her train of thought. Whatever. The line went dead and when he called her back, she didn't pick up.
He hits the steering wheel again and steps on the gas. Maybe he will be there in time to stop her.
Alex clenches his fist. His gun is upstairs, but it looks as if this is only one person. So he will take his chances. The silhouette moves, height and outline telling him this is not a man. Alex unclenches his fist the same moment the shadow turns around, spotting him.
"Alex," a female voice says and something starts to tingle at the back of his mind. Recognition. "I'm so glad to see you." The words are slurred, but it's obviously the truth even though she appears to be in some kind of trance-like state. Drugs? Alcohol? Either way, he knows now who this is.
"Rebecca. How the hell did you get into my house?" Alex keeps his voice down. No need to wake Norma. He will handle this and then go back to bed.
"You remember me. That's so sweet. I didn't mean it to happen like that, but I really needed to see you." Like that probably being a lock she picked or a window she smashed in and he didn't hear it because of the wind.
It has to be some sick joke, anyway. He broke up with her more than a year ago. They haven't talked to each other, never even seen each other on the street ever since. So, what is she doing here?
Alex's mind is used to do police work, to connect the dots. Rebecca worked at a bank. He heard through the grapevine that she had lost her job but didn't pay attention back then. Wasn't Bob Paris one of her clients? Could it be so easy? I know what you did. Judging from her state, she might be in financial trouble. Maybe that was where the text messages were going. Maybe she assumes he has something to do with Bob Paris' death and therefore also has all his money. Everyone knows about Bob Paris' disappearance and she might try to benefit from that. Rebecca always had a sixth sense when it came to the things that were going on in White Pine Bay beneath the surface. Then Alex remembers the text messages Norma received. How would Rebecca know about Norma's past?
"Did you send me these text messages?"
He can't see her face, but she turns her head away as if she was embarrassed.
"Yeah," Rebecca admits reluctantly. "Don't be mad at me, okay? But this guy had that plan and..."
"What guy?" Alex instinctively looks around, tensing up when he spots the headlights of a car outside. The car passes by though. There's no one here except the two of them.
"Chick or whatever. I don't know his real name." She sighs, slightly tumbling.
"Did you also send text messages to my wife?"
She snorts. "Your wife. No, Alex, I didn't send anything to your precious wife. You know, some people have to make a living. They can't just go and marry the sheriff to save their sorry ass." Rebecca's voice is getting louder.
He has to get her out of the house. Now that she handed it over to him on a silver platter that she and a guy named Chick are behind the text messages, it will be a walk in the park to deal with the rest in the morning. No one got hurt. It doesn't even feel like a threat anymore. Just two low lives trying to get their share of the cake.
"No one understands why you married that woman, anyway," Rebecca continues her rant. "Do you know with how many men she has slept since she moved here?"
"All right, Rebecca. Just leave, okay? I'm not going to call the trespass in. We'll handle the rest tomorrow." He just wants her gone.
She shrugs, her voice flat all of a sudden. "I knew you'd choose her. It doesn't matter. All that matters is that we're here."
Alex is about to approach Rebecca to drag her out of the house when he smells it. Gas. Rebecca is standing in front of the old gas stove. She must have manipulated it so that gas has been streaming out while they were talking. Now he hears it, too. A hissing sound.
He had almost been relaxed before. It seemed so absurd. One of his old flames breaking in, trying to blackmail him. But what appeared to be a misguided, harmless act has turned into a life threatening situation in a split second. Ice-cold fear is flooding through Alex. One spark will be enough to blow up the kitchen and the bedroom is right above it, Norma sleeping there peacefully. Just when he is pondering on whether he can risk calling for Norma, he sees the lighter in Rebecca's hand.
"I loved you, but you destroyed it all."
In hindsight he should have known that something was off about Rebecca right from the beginning. But she had been pretty and funny, an independent, strong woman, their affair a nice distraction until he found out that was only the cover and someone else was living inside the perfect disguise. Alex never loved her, but she also never loved him. It's a story her delusional mind has made up, alcohol and possibly drugs worsening her already emotionally instable state of mind, whatever the final straw was that led her here.
"Rebecca… put that down," Alex tries to reason with her.
Her fingernail scrapes over the small wheel of the lighter.
"You know what? Let's sit down in the living room and talk." He has to get her away from the stove, open the window, find the leak and turn off the gas.
Alex is not sure whether she even hears him anymore though. Rebecca keeps staring at him but seems to have retreated to a place somewhere inside her mind. Well, it doesn't matter as long as he will somehow manage to take the lighter away from her because she won't stop playing around with it.
The sound is straining his nerves, getting louder and louder until Alex hears nothing but Rebecca's fingernail scraping over the small wheel and his own breathing.
"Alex?" Norma's sleepy voice from upstairs. "Who are you talking to?"
No, no, no.
By now Alex has made it to the middle of the kitchen. Move forward and attack Rebecca or run into the hallway and hope he and Norma will make it outside?
Norma's light steps on the stairs behind him, coming down. "Alex?"
Perhaps he would have made it to Rebecca to take the lighter away from her in time. He will never know because the awareness that Norma is on her way right into the kitchen leaves him no choice.
"Don't come into the kitchen, Norma! Get out of the house. NOW!"
Rebecca doesn't say anything, doesn't move, but this time there is no scratching sound. There is only a blinding light as the lighter ignites the gas.
If it wasn't so horrible, it would look beautiful. The spark reaches out, finds the gas, a bright blue and white connecting to a cloud. A few steps closer and the explosion probably would have killed him on the spot. As it is, Alex sees the fireball and the ceiling coming down, burying Rebecca, right before the blast whiplashes him into the hallway.
Alex's ears are ringing. He coughs, fire and smoke making it hard to breathe.
"Norma?" He pushes some debris that landed on him away, groaning with pain. Even though his entire body hurts, he gets up in no time due to adrenaline and fear. "NORMA?" Where is she? If she made it outside, she would answer, wouldn't she?
The stairs are half gone, the first floor destroyed. It takes Alex a moment to orient himself. They have to get out. Either they will die from suffocation or during the next explosion, once the fire will reach the gas tank.
Alex stumbles up the stairs, the wooden steps splintering underneath his feet when he makes out a body lying on it. The blast must have pushed her against the wall and knocked her unconscious.
"Norma! Talk to me, baby!"
The fire is already licking at what is left of the handrail, the thick smoke making it impossible to see the hand in front of his eyes. Alex picks Norma up, checking her pulse that is faint but steady. The front exit is the closest. He can only hope the vestibule is still there, that there still is a way out. It's a matter of seconds now.
Alex holds his breath, heading into the black, hot cloud where the front door is supposed to be.
Does the motel have a new neon sign that is much brighter? Chick squints as he approaches in his car. Then he realizes that the bright light doesn't come from a new neon sign. The house is burning. The entire fucking house.
He stops the car, pushing his glasses up his nose so that he can have a better look. That stupid bitch. This has to be Rebecca's work. Anything else would be too much of a coincidence.
"Huh," he states out loud.
Only now he notices a man carrying a woman down the steps in front of the house. He is barefoot, in pajama pants and a shirt, the woman wearing a nightgown or what is left of it. They both look quite bruised and battered. Chick raises his eyebrows. He will be damned if this is not the sheriff carrying his wife into safety. No trace of Rebecca. Well, so be it.
Chick starts his car again, dialing 911. Wait. Is the motel burning, too? It looks as if the wind blew the flames over.
"There's a fire at the Bates Motel."
He ends the call, watching the scenery in the rearview mirror as he drives away. The two figures are getting smaller and smaller, a man, holding his wife in his arms while their world is burning down to the ground behind them.
Actually it looks quite romantic.