His Angel

Dustin Koski
26 min readOct 6, 2023

We weren’t always happy and we didn’t pretend to be. We had our faith and we had each other. While couples around us always seemed to be smiling for all the world to see, pretending nothing was ever wrong, in those early days Ken and I were honest enough to express our misery. It was what brought us together at school, after all. This continued with scarcely a change as we grew together and eventually joined in holy matrimony.

Yet many times, even when we were both glum to the world, Ken was my shining star. His love made the weakness of my childhood crushes painfully obvious in retrospect. It filled the emptiness left by lost family members. It held the fear at bay when I carried our child, made the pain worthwhile in the stirrups on the table. His kiss on my head as I first looked into our little boy Tomo’s eyes was a moment I will cherish to the end.

Then came the second day of that third month after Tomo had entered our lives. It’s not just that I have lived that morning over and over. It seemed to elongate and consume the next few years of my life. Cruelly, on that morning we woke up to bright, clear skies and the promise of a sunny, wonderful day of fresh air and freedom. We were well-rested because for the first night in several, Tomo had been quiet.

“Hey Ami, watch this,” Ken told me as he got up from the dining room table. “I’m going to get to wake him up for a change,” he concluded with unusual cheer as he walked to Tomo’s room.

“Do it for both of us,” I said with a smirk.

“Good morning, Tomo,” I heard him say. Then there was silence. “Tomo? Tomo. Tomo!” The next thing I remember I was by his side at the crib. I heard him begin to scream, inches from my head, but to my ears all sound was so muffled that I might as well have been feet underwater. I tried to be gentle as I cradled Tomo. I began to tremble as if I had a palsy when I felt the meat-like coldness of his body.

We didn’t even need to call emergency services, as our screaming woke up the neighbors in the apartment above us. I was sitting in a waiting room before I knew what had happened to me.

“No words can make up for the tragedy that has befallen you,” the doctor droned. “All the consolation I can offer is that the cause of death has been determined to be SIDS.”

“SIDS,” Ken said without looking at him.

“Sudden Infant Death Syndrome,” the doctor explained gratuitously. “No fault.”

“No fault,” I said flatly as I looked at Ken. I placed my hand over his, in the hope that he would take it and we would begin supporting each other through the process.

Slowly, he looked up to me for the first time since we had arrived at the waiting room. His eyes were slits. I am not sure how I reacted, but I know he sat straighter, wanting me to feel the power of his anger. I saw in that gesture that all the support, the empathy he had provided for those years had died with Tomo. Without him to reach out to any longer, all I could do was shrink back and direct accusations inward.

Why didn’t I check on him? I must have fed him the wrong thing, bought the wrong bedding, not exercised him. Something.

I suspect Ken blamed himself too. I think we both knew that we were counting on the other to say that no, it was our own fault, not theirs. We would exchange reassurances. Yet neither of us had the strength to support the other in such a way.

For two years we tried to move past that day. I dealt with the impossibility of such an act by shutting down as a person, becoming a vegetable at home when there wasn’t a chore or at work when there wasn’t an assignment.

Such a submissive reaction did not suit my husband. Instead, he found violence. He started lashing out at cheap, easily replaced items around the house. By the sixth month, he must have decided I belonged in that category. At first, the routine was that after every act of abuse came a stream of apologies. For all his anger and claims he didn’t know what he was doing, he never left an injury anywhere that couldn’t be easily concealed. Even during the months I spent in that stupor, I observed how calculating his fury was.

I did as many people of faith do. I tried to give my problems to God. It got me through the days.

It was around two years after our marriage had turned to a pit of ash that I was finally awoken. I was driving home from work on a night so bright from the full moon that when I approached the ravine, I could see the tree line below as a sea of leaves instead of as a void. If I hadn’t been appreciating that murky yet oddly beautiful view, I almost certainly would have missed the black car sliding out of control into the foliage ahead of me.

There was a dreamlike aspect to the sight of the accident. Something so unreal about what I was seeing that its disruption of mundane reality rippled out. The cab of my vehicle was caught in that same surreality and I was left discombobulated. I felt as if I were no longer in control of my vehicle, as if I controlled my arms only through loose puppet strings.

I found myself nearly skidding as I took an off road to the foot of the cliff. I parked suddenly in the middle of a path, nearly fell flat on my face exiting my seat, and began sprinting to where I felt the accident must be. Even when the smell of burning metal hit my nose and made my eyes water, I kept running to the wreck. The flames just let whatever was controlling me know where to run.

If I had been in that moment, I’m sure the threat of the fire would have kept me the vegetable who let her husband hurt her with scarcely an objection to verbalize. As a puppet inside my own body, I drastically dove to the side of the car. First I looked in the backseat for children. There was no one but the driver. He was slowly swiveling his head from side to side. It was as if he were shaking his head in a daze.

His door was only hanging on by half a hinge, so I hardly needed a flow of adrenaline to pull it open. Such was the state of disassociation that I made two attempts to pull him from his seat before I realized his seatbelt was still buckled. It wasn’t until I groped along his torso to undo the clasp that he turned his head to acknowledge me.

It was only then that I noticed a grievous gash he had along his forehead. That was all the pause I had time for, as the flames were closing in around us. I undid the clasp and pulled him from his seat indelicately. He muttered some objection or question. I didn’t respond as I tried to pull him to his feet. He was too limp to stand, so I had to loop his arm around my shoulders and drag him away from the car. I had no destination, no plan for a next step beyond escaping the flames. I might have run for minutes longer if I hadn’t heard the explosion behind us, and looked back to see the car had become a fully-engulfed inferno behind us.

I tried my best to rest him gently on the ground. My strained muscles did not allow that, and in fact as his weight bore down I couldn’t even remain on my feet. With both of us sprawled on the ground, I looked over the body of the person I’d hobbled away from the wreck, and saw the hideous way his right lower pant leg was reddening, and the indentation that was pressing against the fabric from the middle of his shin.

“Your leg! I’m so sorry!” was the first thing I ever said to him. I started looking him over for wounds I could treat in my limited way, wrapping the wound on his forehead with my jacket sleeve. After a moment, he locked eyes with me.

“Don’t tell anyone,” he rasped. “I’ll be ruined.” I understood immediately when I smelled the spirits on his breath. His first priority was that the accident get as little attention as possible. I didn’t have time to speculate as to why before I called emergency services. I certainly didn’t recognize him.

The paramedics seemed confident he was in a stable condition, from what I could tell. In short order, a police officer took me aside for my testimony.

“Ma’am, I know this is irregular, but, uh, if you could make sure to keep this incident as confidential as you can, that would be, uh, highly appreciated.” I said I would. I was an honest woman.

It wasn’t until I drove myself home that it began to sink in what I had done. I didn’t care about the requests for secrecy or that I’d hardly been thanked. I knew I had saved a life. That was all that mattered that night. I’d done something to balance out the loss of Tomo, whether that had been my fault directly or by allowing Ken to do it. I’d been so used to being under a pall that just being neutral was a glimpse of nirvana. For the first time in years, I felt like I had achieved a higher plane as I entered my home.

“You’re late,” Ken said as I arrived without looking away from the television. That was the beginning of the routine when he was particularly angry.

“Don’t tell anyone,” I said, “but I saved a man from a car accident.” That got him to look away earlier than he normally did as I made for the bathroom and some pain relief. Whether it was my words or my uncharacteristically upbeat tone, I was glad for the disruption to the pattern.

“You’re serious, aren’t you?” he said as if I had confessed a crime.

“I’m flattered you think I’d be that creative,” I carelessly said with the easygoing tone I’d had to force around him and others for more than a year. “Seriously, though, he and the police were firm that it should not become public knowledge. I know I can trust you.”

He didn’t lay a hand on me for weeks after that. I came to believe I gained some newfound admiration from him. I also believed that my unusually sunny disposition lifted his spirits as well.

That came to an end one day after I burned the eggs, and he struck me below the ribcage. At a stroke, he took away the sense of uplift from my secret rescue. With hardly a resigned sigh after I recovered my breathing and reoriented myself, I returned to the trance state.

The sense of true happiness was hardly even a memory by the day of the most fateful shopping trip of my life. I was pulling a replacement coffee pot from the shelves when I felt a pair of eyes on me. I followed the sensation to its source.

It was the man I’d rescued, frozen in the middle of pulling a can of grounds from a shelf. From the scar on his forehead to the fact his right leg was still in a brace, he was unmistakable. In good light, I saw that he was graced with gorgeous features. His strong chin, his cheekbones, his eyes. Somehow the bandage on his forehead was the flaw in his face that only made him more attractive, as if it made him attainable instead of a face from an advertisement.

I didn’t have long to appreciate him before he approached me, his leg injury barely an impediment. He was fully a head taller than me and oblivious to how intimidating he normally would have been. If I felt any anxiety, it was impatience for him to reach a conversational distance.

“Hello,” he said, stopping just outside my personal space. “I owe you a huge thank you, both for saving me and for not contacting the press.”

“If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to forgive myself,” I lied. “But if you’d like to make it up to me a little, you could let me in on why you needed it kept secret.”

“Well . . .” he started to say, his discomfort with the question obvious. I wasn’t about to leave him in such a state.

“Maybe your name?” I offered. He smiled sheepishly.

“Toshi Tsukamoto,” he said, offering his hand to shake. I took it.

“Ami Yamada,” I said. “And I’m afraid I must save you again.”


“From that brand,” I said, gesturing to the can of coffee grounds he still held in his other hand. It was so enervating just to realize I still had the spirit to tell a joke.

Toshi and I began visiting a series of cafes almost immediately after that during my lunch breaks, which he made certain coincided with his. We held long and impassioned conversations about the trivialities of life. Not that there was much need. Toshi and I could have merely sat opposite each other, staring into each other’s eyes, and our affection would only have grown. How could I not have found him more beautiful, his presence more affirming with every little incident he recounted from the events of his days? No matter what he did with them, it brought such gratification to know he had those days because of me.

Yet my gratitude to spend time with him paled in comparison with his appreciation of me. His words stayed well within the bounds of polite society for our get-togethers, but any woman with a grain of sense in my position could see and hear the growing passion for me that seemed to project from him every moment we were together.

The most significant point of our conversations was always that Toshiro was struggling to beat his drinking habit. His near death from the accident served as a wake-up call any man would have heeded. Heeded for a time, at least. Before he had his second encounter with me, it had seemed a hopeless effort. With me in his life, he had something to keep him motivated, or even just to get through the day. I was only too eager to provide him every piece of encouragement I could.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” We recited that serenity prayer to conclude our every meeting. It seemed to provide residual uplift for my own life at work and at home. Though I kept my wits about me well enough that I didn’t show any signs to Ken that I had become a nail he needed to beat back into its place.

Our relationship took its next implacable step on our tenth meeting together. We were at a lakeside cafe, and the sun was dappling on the water behind him in a particularly arresting manner. I let him finish, but then I had to speak from the heart. He knew me well enough by then to know the gravity of what I was going to say before I spoke, and the realization cut him off mid-sentence.

“I have treasured all of our time together,” I told him after a moment of silence. “But these get-togethers in this cafe or that . . . they aren’t enough anymore.”

“You’re married,” he said simply after weighing my words.

“Yes, and that is not going to change.” I told him about Tomo for the first time then. He scarcely blinked the whole time I told him.

“So you understand, I will not leave Ken. We have been through too much together for that.” He didn’t have a response. I reached out and took his hand. “But you and I . . . I know that we have a spiritual connection. It . . . it transcends the sacred on Earth.”

He knew to take my hand in response. It felt then as if he had reached across the years to that time in that waiting room to offer the reassurance I had needed.

I recall the moment he first undressed me perfectly. He was on one knee by the foot of the bed, having pulled off my stockings. He paused to stare at my abdomen, replete with cellulite and stretch marks.

“I’m . . .” I began.

“Don’t be sorry,” he said in awe. “I’m blessed that you’re sharing this with me, my angel.” What a ridiculous pet name he had for me, yet it brought me an inner warmth. However ridiculous his word choice was, the lust in his voice was authentic. He proved that again and again when we met. He took several attempts to reach his full potential, but from the start, he showed his appreciation for every part of my body. There was nothing he was unwilling to do for me at a moment’s notice. He even revealed to me tastes I never even suspected, and at my own pace.

“Please stay a little longer,” he asked me once after a couple months of rendezvouses in love hotels across the city, holding me tighter as I ran my fingers through his hair. “You can be a little late from lunch this time.”

“I can’t,” I told him. “I know my habits. If I stay a few minutes too late this time, eventually it will be fifteen minutes, half an hour. They already suspect something, I’m sure.”

“Who cares what they suspect?” he whimpered. “I’m not ashamed, and neither should you be.”

“I’m not ashamed,” I said with more certainty than I felt.

“Word may get to Ken. It wouldn’t be safe if he knew.”

“So he has been hurting you,” Toshi said.

“I didn’t say that,” I corrected, but I didn’t sound convincing to my own ears. As much as Toshi had loved the blemishes and imperfections of my body, there was not a bruise or a scar he hadn’t doggedly questioned. Ken had found cause to leave me many in the time up to then. “Toshi, can we please just enjoy the short time we have together? We can discuss this next time.”

“Lovers talk about these things,” Toshi said. I let go of him then and pulled away, reaching for my pile of clothing.

“Not now, darling,” I insisted. He didn’t dispute the point, he just buried his head in the pillow I’d been using while watching me get dressed with one eye.

Ken, for his part, had for years been at least three-quarters suspicious I was unfaithful to him anyway, so when I began my affair it aroused no suspicions in him. The earliest, least elegant meetings with Toshi had left me with lingering yearnings, and I’d tried to coax Ken to bed with me. Unfortunately I could never reach him before the alcohol had, and even when the spirit was willing, or at least flattered, the flesh was unsuitable.

“It’s not my fault you let yourself go,” Ken admonished me the last time he unsuccessfully attempted to perform with me. This was despite the fact that Toshi, for all his kind words about the state of my body, had inspired me to start dieting and exercising for the first time in years.

“I’m sorry,” I told Ken.

“Ah, don’t be,” he muttered. “Not like you’re going to do anything about it anyway.”


It was the tryst after that disappointing night with Ken when Toshi gave me the most important message of my life.

“I’m going to kill your husband in three days.” He said that just after catching his breath, and without a word of preparation for me. I forced a few dark chuckles, and immediately went silent since it had been obvious from the beginning that he wasn’t kidding. The late afternoon sun was coming in through the window and illuminating half of his face perfectly, which made the half in the shadows seem all the darker in contrast as he stared into my eyes.

“Don’t talk such nonsense,” I admonished.

“It’s the truth,” he said. Once again I tried to laugh it off, this attempt even feebler than the first.

“Ridiculous,” I said. “Darling, if you were serious, why would you ever tell me of your plan, and give me a date no less?”

“To give you hope that freedom is coming soon,” he said, still humorlessly but with no apparent irritation that I had laughed at him. “To give you a chance to tell him goodbye before I take him away. And to make plans and establish an alibi.” Pretending Toshi was joking was getting me nowhere. I felt deep fear that trying to escape might provoke him to violence, a notion which would have been unthinkable only a minute ago.

“Don’t hurt him,” I begged. “You must be aware on some level that I still love him if you know I’ll need time to say goodbye.”

“No, you feel a misguided attachment to him. Stockholm Syndrome, a sickness that can only be cured by removing him from your life.”

“Then leave him alone, and let us get away from him.”

He turned away from me and slammed his fist on the bed. “No! I’ve seen how he hurts you. I cannot allow someone who has done that to live! I would have to be insane!” He looked for a moment on the verge of tears, but he choked them back while looking into my eyes for a response.

“I . . . I can convince him to stop hurting me,” I offered. This time he was the one to laugh, though it was at least half a scoff.

“Don’t you remember what you told me about after the time you saved me?” he asked incredulously. “You said he left you alone for a time, and what set him off again? Burned eggs. He’ll never stop blaming you for Tomo. There might be pauses between beatings, but sooner or later he’ll give himself some psychotic excuse to do it again!”

“I . . . I need time to think about this,” I told him at last, climbing off the bed. “I need to get back in time.”

“I understand, my angel,” Toshi said, doing nothing to impede me. “Will you pray with me before you go?”

“Yes, of course!” I insisted. I never delivered the serenity prayer with the sincerity I did then. He recited it along with me. It seemed like the same sincerity he had brought to it since the first time.

“Amen,” we said together. I stared at him, desperate that the prayer had stirred something in him.

“Think what you will, but remember, I’m going to kill him.”

Denial is a powerful thing. By the end of my shift, despite everything, I had managed to convince myself that Toshi must not have meant it. If it wasn’t said in bad humor, then it was only bluster.

Ken and I had a good dinner, watched TV, and went to bed at a reasonable hour, and all in all it was a great evening by our standards.

The next morning, though, it had truly sunk in. Watching Ken sluggishly prepare himself for work, I truly accepted that my lover intended to murder my husband.

That day, I called him at the beginning of my lunch break while sitting in the office cafeteria.

“You meant what you said yesterday,” I said. I didn’t think anyone was listening to our calls, but at that point I was so anxious that I wouldn’t have mentioned killing if we were talking in one of the hotel rooms on the off chance the room was bugged.

“I’d never lie to you,” he answered.

“Don’t you touch him! Don’t you come near my husband! You hear me?”

“I’m still going to do it.”

“Then we’re through! Even talking about that, I never want to see you again!”

“. . . That’s your choice.” It was the first time it seemed like anything I’d said gave him even half a second’s pause. “I’m still going to do it. After what he did to you, he’s not getting away with it.” I was silent for a long time.

“Have you ever done this before?” I asked at last.

“No,” he said, no hesitation. No question in his mind. Or at least no remorse in it or in lying.

“Then how do you know you’ll be able to do it?”

“I’ve had the chance to before. If there had been anything like the way I feel about you to motivate me, I would have done it then, and not cared about the consequences.”

“Are you trying to implicate me?” I asked through gritted teeth. “Act like you’re doing this for me, so I’ll go along with it?”

“No, I understand, you’re too close to him, too connected, for good and bad. I would never demand you get involved under any circumstances. I’d never testify against you, or anything of the kind.”

“How can you think you’ll get away with this?! Why do you think I won’t turn you in?!”

“That’s your choice.” He made a sharp, choking noise. “I — I wouldn’t be surprised if you did. That’s part of what I love so much about you. You really are my angel.”

“Don’t call me that! Leave us alone!” Even as I ended the call and then buried my head in my hands, I felt my helplessness. I was caught.

If I tried to warn Ken, either he would think it was some kind of empty threat I was stupid to take seriously, or he would suspect that the only possible reason Toshi would have told me about his plan was that he trusted me, and there was the risk he’d beat me to death even before he got confirmation of my infidelity. If I went to the police, they would need me to press charges against Toshi if I had any hope of having him arrested long enough to save Ken, and Ken would still hear about it, and again, there was the risk of being beaten to death for infidelity. I couldn’t persuade Ken we needed to take a completely unplanned trip in six days or convince him he needed to go into hiding for six days without making him suspicious. I didn’t have the connections to fake something to lure Ken away from home for however long it would take to convince Toshi to abandon this plan.

I was still going over and uniformly rejecting all my options while Ken and I were at home and had begun to watch a TV program that must have been designed to not really engage the mind. In the middle of some scene, I looked over to Ken, still wearing his business casual outfit. He looked completely relaxed as he sprawled across his seat, almost as if he had partially collapsed in on himself.

I know some would consider him weak, lazy, maybe overconfident to be so blasé while he was regularly abusing me and I was responding the way I did. At that moment I only saw someone who was content. Unsuspecting. A buck that didn’t have the slightest notion it was in a rifle’s sights.

The moment felt real to me in a way Toshi’s insane plans and mad words about angels did not. That moment of uneventful, even banal life seemed permanent. Toshi wouldn’t, or even couldn’t do anything to change it.

Ken looked at me. He tried to smile, then he looked down, as if he were unable to make eye contact. He’d apologized to me time and again, but that gesture of regret felt more sincere than any I’d ever felt before. It had been so long since he’d left himself so vulnerable to me.

And yet I couldn’t bring myself to confess to him. I couldn’t even find the heart to warn him. The most I had in me at the time was to hope. Hope and denial, what a useless and yet seductive combination. It kept me able to go to sleep and work the next day in a more or less normal frame of mind.

On the way home from work, I stopped by a store that an internet search revealed sold knives. I attempted to imagine stabbing Toshi as I looked for a parking space and failed. I tried to imagine myself brandishing a knife at Toshi to threaten him to leave Ken alone. Instead I imagined Toshi overpowering and disarming me. That was followed by a vision of Toshi begging his angel to stab him. I left the lot without even stopping the engine.

I had ideas over the next day that made my notion of pulling a knife on Toshi seem like the sanest solution on Earth. There was one that I would bribe one of Ken’s siblings to call and pretend there was a family emergency to get him away while I tried to talk Toshi down. I tried contacting private security companies in the hope of discreetly hiring a bodyguard for Ken though we hardly had enough money to hire a fast-food worker to come over and fry us dinner. I had so many other senseless ideas that they all got in each other’s way and prevented me from putting any of them into action before denial took over again and convinced me to proceed as close to normal as I could.

The cycle went on until just after sunset on the third day. Ken was on a third beer while we were both doing some paperwork we’d brought home from the office. Doing routine tasks had managed to silence the anxieties. I tried to accept Toshiro’s words as something I could not change, and give them to God.

I was near the top of the denial crest when I glanced out the main living room window with the blinds completely open.

Silhouetted under the parking lot light was a man striding toward our apartment. The face was concealed in shadow but it was still unquestionably Toshi.

I could see a glint in his hand off the barrel of a handgun. If he wanted, he could stop where he was, and Ken would be right in his line of sight. An easy shot.

I was paralyzed with fear until Toshi reached the trunk of Ken’s car in our driveway, and then he stopped. He moved his arm to aim.

I finally got the initiative to do something. I closed the blinds, and darted over to Ken to yank him out of his chair.

“Ken, you have to run! Hide! Something!” I told him as I awkwardly attempted to get him on his feet. He cursed when I knocked over his beer.

“What is wrong with you?!” he yelled at me, wrenching himself free from my grip.

“Toshi is outside with a gun, and he’s coming to kill you!” I screamed at him in a panic, fumbling for my phone in my pocket.

“Toshi? A gun?! Kill me?” Ken stumbled across the living room to get into the bedroom while I began dialing emergency services.

“Just hide and lock the door!” I screamed as I got to the front door and scrambled to lock it. It wasn’t until I fumbled with the knob that I realized that the door already was locked, but the sort of person Toshi had shown himself to be was not going to be stopped by one locked door.

I finished dialing emergency services and turned to usher Ken back to one of the other rooms with a lock, and made a frantic groaning noise when I saw that he hadn’t even stood up.

“What is all this?” he asked as I grabbed his arm to try and pull him up.

“Toshi is, he’s insane and he’s — ”

“He’s coming to kill me?” Ken asked, standing up very deliberately, not seeming at all afraid. He glanced past me at the door.

“Yes! We have to — ”

“How do you know this man’s name?” Ken asked in a familiar, dangerous tone. “How did you know he was coming to kill me?”

“I — I’ll explain later! Right now, we have to hide or he’ll kill you!”

“Who?” he asked, gesturing to the door. I looked back, and saw that Toshi hadn’t made any attempt to open it. Ken walked over to the blinds and slid them open. No one was outside. He turned to me with a death glare.

As Ken did these things, I had a realization.

“You, you were working with Toshi, somehow, for some reason to get me,” I said, my voice becoming shriller as I spoke. “A test, something! Did you just think this up? Was it something on the fly?”

“Who is Toshi?” Ken asked with menacing calm, stalking towards me while clenching his fists, his eyes becoming glassy. He repeated the question again and again. I was so overwhelmed by my conclusion that somehow Toshi and Ken had trapped me in this situation that I didn’t even try to calm Ken or ask him further about their plan. There was nothing that I could think to do but take it.

Ken didn’t stop asking me who Toshi was as he began lashing out. I got to learn in the worst way just how much he had been pulling his punches for years. This time there was no consideration for whether injuries would be visible at work the next day. My dropping to the floor didn’t even slow him down. The only thing that did was a loud knock at the door.

“Prefectural police,” barked the officer from outside. Ken looked back and forth from the door to me a couple times, then wiped his mouth and went to answer it.

“Don’t say a word,” he said in a hushed tone to me.

“Sir, we received an emergency call at this num — ” The officer seemed to see me, I could hardly tell as I was delirious. In a flash he had his cuffs out. “Sir, you’re under arrest for assault and battery. On your knees with your hands on your head.”

“Officer, I can explain,” Ken said, fear audible in his voice.

“Save it,” the officer said as he pushed Ken to his knees. He radioed for backup as he secured Ken’s wrists, and another officer came in. He began checking my vitals as Ken was led outside.

What happened next was later thoroughly explained to me.

Ken was stumbling to the police car, a man trying to face his defeat with dignity. Meanwhile, the arresting officer walked behind him slow enough to maintain a distance where he could confidently whisper to his companion.

“You’re sure he’s the guy?”

“Yes,” Toshi answered, undoing the strap on his firearm. “Be ready. He’s about to resist arrest.”

“This isn’t right,” Ken muttered, shaking his head when they had reached the patrol car.

“What’s that, sir?” Toshi’s partner asked.

“She was putting it around,” Ken explained as if he were about to burst into tears, turning back to the officers. “I don’t deserve this for my wife cheating on me. Any husband would have done the same!”

“Putting it around?” Toshi asked, catching up to Ken and taking out his smartphone.

“You know,” Ken said, shaking his head at Toshi, not caring in the slightest about their rank anymore, due to their apparent intellectual inferiority. “Adultery. She’s been cheating on me, her husband.”

“Oh,” said Toshi, holding up his phone with a very specially chosen image of my distinctly visible face and his on it. “You mean like this?” Ken stared at the screen, then looked at Toshi. He looked devastated, his expression becoming hopelessly hangdog for a moment. Then he inhaled deeply, stiffening his upper lip and snarling, seeming to work himself up into a rage.

Maybe he thought he had a chance against Toshi and his partner. Maybe it was mindless, impotent anger for one last time. Whatever the truth was, a crime scene analyst would later release a report that Ken had tackled Toshi before being overpowered by his partner, and ultimately required two gunshots to the head to be taken down.

It was local news for a while how Ken died a dishonorable death, regional news for thirty seconds of a broadcast, and then it was forgotten by the wider world. All my friends, family, and coworkers needed to do was see my face in the aftermath of that night and they were convinced I did not need to hear their suspicions. If anything, suddenly everyone knew what Ken had always been like and they were sorry that they’d never said anything about it before.

I realize now how unfortunate that was. I should have wanted everyone suspicious of me.

Suspicious of us.

Because weeks later, there was a knock on my door. I let the person keep knocking for five minutes before answering. There was another wait before either of us said anything.

“I was cleared,” Toshi said matter-of-factly. “Look, if you don’t thank me, or don’t forgive me, I understand. But I did what was needed, my angel.” He wasn’t going to leave as long as I didn’t answer him.

“Come in,” I said at last.

So far, even with all the reminders of my time with Ken and Tomo that I’ve kept with me, Toshi hasn’t lashed out. I’m not blind to the fact he could at any moment. He knows he can get away with it. He could become bored with me, convince himself that I need to be replaced. He has a strong will. He’d have the will to come after me if I escape, the cleverness and connections to hunt me down and cover it up if necessary. Who do I have to turn to? The people that left me with Ken while now insisting they knew all along?

So I stay close to him and I cope. I have coped in part by developing a new habit. I have started to enjoy the occasional beer from the supply Ken left behind, the occasional glass of wine.

Toshi will look at the wine as I take sips. He will put the bottles I leave around the house in cupboards and other out-of-the-way places. He will stare longingly at bottles of liquor that I casually insist a friend from work got for him before we go and recite the serenity prayer to get him through the temptations of the day.

He’ll never suspect me, even as I tempt him more and more, leading him back down a path that ends in him crashing another car at the bottom of a cliff. A path I wouldn’t have known existed if he hadn’t shown me that it’s possible to think my way around the law, around morality. He can’t suspect me.

After all, I’m his angel.

For more fiction from Dustin Koski, check out his novel Robin Hood Vs. King Arthur. It’s a story of two of the most legendary figures in fiction with class analysis.



Dustin Koski

Dustin Koski is a stagehand with IATSE Local 13 and a librarian who has written numerous articles and scripts with millions of views.