"No you won't."

He let go of her arm, looked defeated. So he had threatened her and intimidated her but she had held fast. Now he was ready to give up, go home, leave her.

"I shouldn't have come," he said. "I didn't think this through."

"Sometimes we make mistakes," she said, sounding conciliatory, utilizing her workplace demeanor. Finally it was about to end. This was the way he had been in the office—just a quiet supplicant being turned down. It was never pleasant, but it did happen.

Then, without warning, he struck her full across the face. Her right hand went to her ear where an earring seemed to drive itself into her brain. She yelled in pain. He struck her again in the same spot.

"If I had thought this through," he said, then stopped, struck her again, this time catching the tip of her nose as she pulled back. She could taste blood.

"I'm bleeding."

"Shut up. Just shut up. Don't say anything else. Nothing. I have to think."

Absolute Truth

2015

On the Friday evening before Christmas, Abigail Bennett arrives home from work, having battled miserable traffic and an increasingly heavy snowstorm. Her son is at a neighbor’s and her husband has not arrived home yet—the other bay in the garage is empty. She removes some articles from her trunk and prepares to go inside the house.

from Absolute Truth

 

Standing in the garage with the door still raised, she could actually hear the snow. All those poems about silent flakes—they weren’t true, especially when they struck the scattering of oak leaves that had stubbornly survived a spate of November windstorms. She slammed the trunk closed and turned to retrieve the day’s mail. Several feet away a large figure stood.

"You're Abigail Bennett."

She gasped.

“Jesus Christ! What the hell?”

"I had some questions for you."

"You can't be here—you can't come to my home."

"You turned me down. I made a convincing presentation, a logical request, and you turned me down."

"I...listen, the bank has rules. You can't just bop over here..."

"...And you bend them. I know that. I've seen it plenty of times."

"I don't have that authority. If you'd like to set up another appointment with a bank officer, maybe Monday...."

"You could have fixed this hours ago. You chose not to. You were the deciding vote."

"I know that. I didn't think the request was appropriate, given all the factors."

"You don't know the factors," he said, his voice nearly a shriek. "You don't know a goddamn thing. You sit behind that desk all day and ruin people's lives. You don't even know my name."

That much was true. She'd been called in to help with the decision, had scanned everything briefly, had seen enough red flags to engender a denial. No, she didn't remember his name, but she made her decisions based on data, not emotion.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I looked at the papers."

"Well you should have looked at me," he said, then took a step closer.

She reached into her purse to find her cell, to end this, but he grabbed her arm.

"Leave it alone."

She pulled away, began rummaging again.

And then she was on the ground, sheets of paper surrounding her, the phone from her purse several feet away. He stood over her.

"I didn't want much, did I? Couple hundred thou? I know your assets—that's a small loan for you people. It would have been like just another mortgage."

"Your previous loan," she said the details returning. There had been a default, or a delay, or something that made him a bit too much of a risk. Reminding him of those considerations would only make things worse.

"I was paying it off."

"Yes, that's true," she said. She searched for his name, couldn't remember. Maybe if he had been more demanding or angry when he was denied that loan—but he had been docile, polite, had thanked them for their time, wished them a happy holiday, and left.

"Listen," she said, "let me bring it up again on Monday."

She pushed herself to her feet and took a step toward the cell, now dampened by melting snow..

He held her arm again.

"I didn't come here to hurt you. I just wanted to know why."

"Perhaps another lending institution could help?"

"Tried them all. Begged them all. What's next, a loan shark? Thirty-five percent interest. Is that my option, because I already have that option."

"As I said, I can try...."