“Second Witness”

Article courtesy of Tia Colbert of Creative Writing Club

Phaybien paced around the room at a rate of forty-five footsteps per minute, or so Frank tells him. “Man, this is worse than when the news broadcast my name instead of Fabian’s as being the cat thief.”

“Yeah, no kidding, Phil’s dead.”

“They’re going to question us eventually, Frank. What if— oh God. What if they find out—”

Frank puts a finger over Phaybien’s mouth. “Shh. They won’t, unless someone tells.”

“No, man! I swear I won’t crack under pressure.”

“Good. Excellent. We just got to stay cool, you know? We—”

A scoff. “You’ve never been cool in your life, Frank.”

Frank’s eyes narrow through his glasses. “You don’t get a say in this conversation, Rob.”

“What? Why not? I was there!” Rob protests.

Phaybien shrugs at his brother. “Frank’s right. It just doesn’t seem… appropriate for you to be a part of the conversation. Besides, you don’t even live here.”

Rob rolls his eyes. “Whatever. I hope the cops arrest you as accessories.”

“That’s not funny!” Phaybien shouts as Rob leaves the apartment.

“No offense,” Frank begins, “but your brother sucks.”

“Yeah, I know. Sorry about that. He can’t help it.” Phaybien sighs.

Frank perks up. “Phil actually used to be a lot like him, remember?”

“Totally, man,” Phaybien smiles and nods as he recalls younger Phil. “He was the worst before we straightened him out.”

“Reading books, going to class — ”

“ — paying bills on time, having general critical thinking skills.”

“Remember when we first met him? For the first time, like, the very first time?”

Phaybien laughs. “Yeah, man! He was like a volunteer at a library or something. How lame. I’m glad we got him a real job selling Cutco knives with us.”

“Yeah, but then he got a job at Fred’s behind our backs.” Frank shakes his head at the betrayal.

“How many knives have you sold, by the way?”

“You know, a few.”

“Right on, man! Totally the same. Anyway, remember when we took him to get his car?” Frank grins. “He was all ‘I’m really close to paying the one I have off’ and ‘you two picked a car way out of my budget’, but we set him on the right track.” Frank grows somber. “I told you something was up with him a few days ago. Getting all those good things and being nice to people. I really thought we were helping him that morning at the park. He seemed to become himself again, then — he was gone.”

Phaybien sinks into his own chair. “I’m really going to miss the guy. Was he a bit funny looking? Yeah. Did he have some weird habits? Of course. Did I sometimes use his toothbrush without telling him? I mean, who doesn’t? But he was a good dude. A ‘gude’, if you will.”

Frank, who had been nodding along solemnly, pauses. “Did you hear that?”

Phaybien perks up. “What?”

“It sounded like someone coming up the stairwell.” Frank slowly stands and starts toward the door. Their apartment was the only one on the top floor, and they didn’t get many visitors.

Phaybien shrugs. “It’s probably just Rob coming back.”

“No, no,” Frank shakes his head. “Rob’s footsteps are all like ‘sks-doom, sks-doom’ and these footsteps are all like sh-boom ss, sh-boom ss’. Completely different.”

Phaybien pales. “It’s the cops, man, they’re coming for us!” He jumps up and runs into his room.

“Phay, you have to calm down. You have to —” Frank himself begins to freak out. He’s never really been in trouble before unless you count that time in second grade. Or in fifth grade. Or that whole six weeks in eighth grade that actually didn’t end until tenth grade. But that doesn’t matter because he’s never been in this kind of trouble before.

His breath catches as there is a knock on the door. “Who is it?” He squeaks.