“Where you move does not matter,” the radio personality’s voice crooned over the audio system of the recently renovated bookstore. “It need only be new — a place without memories. If not somewhere you have never been, then a glass and steel metropolis risen where, last you looked, hooves trod cobblestones before wattle and daub. Do forget. Do depart. Toronto’s time has come to an end. Only pain remains here for you. Why wallow, when you could free yourself? Free of guilt, free of grief . . . free of this wretched city and all the anguish it cannot help but bring you while you insist on remaining within it.”
“Excuse me,” Beverly asked the young man behind the counter, whispering as if she were in a library rather than a bookstore. “Could you please change the station?”
“Sorry,” he shrugged. “The new manager is real specific about what’s on when, and this ‘Nightcrawler’ is the graveyard program. Just between you and me, I think it’s a pay-to-play deal.”
Beverley sighed and returned to the genre section. Twenty-four-hour bookstores were not legion, and with constantly changing shifts at the hospital, this one halfway between work and home had become her refuge . . . until it sold.
“The losses you have experienced justify starting over,” the radio commenter continued. “This is not giving up, my child. No! This is the fresh beginning for which your heart longs. In a new home, you will no longer see the ghosts of the lost. They will not await you across your desk or in your passenger seat. Bury your emotional baggage here in Toronto, in their graves, and move on — with your burden lightened.”
Beverly snorted and barely stopped herself from stomping her foot. She glared up at the nearest speaker.
“Not your style?” another customer asked from ‘self-help,’ across the aisle. He was tall, fair and handsome, but sorrow steamed off him. Beverly had seen too much too recently to fail to recognize it, even through his charming smile.
“Sometimes a fresh start is the answer,” Beverly said, “but he’s twisting it all around, packaging running away as beginning anew. And I think it’s really tasteless to put down the city like that just a few weeks after— you know.”
“The Vudu bombings.” His smile faded.
“Abandon this zone of death and plant your hopes in a fertile future,” the radio broadcaster cajoled. “Nothing holds you here.”
“Yes,” Beverly agreed with her fellow customer, not the radio. Of the plane’s passengers and crew, only that miracle baby had survived, but the madman’s next victims at the twenty-third precinct had crowded her ER. “They say that you should never make a major change in your life — like moving, or quitting your job — within the first year after a personal tragedy. It’s too easy to do something you’ll regret. And recommending denial as a long-term means of coping with bereavement is one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever heard.”
The ‘self-help’ customer’s forlorn, fascinating smile reappeared. “You’re right, of course. Grief and fear both can make a person . . . more selfish than usual. The Nightcrawler has been snagging hooks in his audience’s grief and fear for a while now.”
“Oh, are you a, uh, fan? I didn’t mean to offend—”
“I do listen a lot,” the man shook his head, “but I think I’ve reached my limit tonight.”
Beverly glanced over the shelf again, regretfully. Then she shrugged, laughed and raised her eyebrows at the exit. They escorted each other out the door and stood chatting in the parking lot until nearly dawn.
So only the young man at the counter heard the Nightcrawler's sign-off at the end of his show. “After all, I will come with you. I will always be with you.”
~ ~ ~