Absolution: The Ted Roth Story

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Chapter 1 (v.1) - Original Manuscript

Submitted: March 14, 2019

Reads: 51

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Submitted: March 14, 2019

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ABSOLUTION

A novel

by Edmund G. Hulton, Jr.

Length: 65,575 words

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foreword

 

Ted Roth’s mind cyclones, recalling the events leading up to the assassination. Exhaling slowly, gutturally through gritted teeth, he shifts onto his back in a vain attempt at easing his pain. His quick, shallow breath relieved somewhat, he glances down at the inadequate, bloody dressing covering the disgorging red hole in his abdomen where the bullet had torn into his flesh. As the wound to his liver is ebbing his life, Ted Roth wonders which vital organ is the epicenter of the undulating heat, white-hot until moments ago, that’s radiating his body. Although the pain is intense and unrelenting, he desperately wants to document the sad truths that affected his life, and that of so many others, but precious little time remains.

His extended hand not obeying its commands, he finally grasps the handheld tape recorder from the nightstand, pulls it to him, and slumps back into the comfort of his deathbed.  Estimating that he has about two hours of recording time, he examines the gadget momentarily, presses the RECORD button, clears his throat, and begins.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

My name is Ted Roth. I used a knife to kill my first victim. His name was Charlie. He was eleven years old; I was ten.

When I was three, my parents moved from an apartment in Leonia, New Jersey, into a two story house on Stasia Street in Teaneck, a few miles away. My mother didn’t work because my father had a good job with a big tool manufacturer in Brooklyn, New York.

I guess by today’s standards, we would have been considered middle-class, although at the time, I must admit, I was clueless regarding our station in the social pecking order. Only in their twenties, Mom and Dad were youngsters compared to the old fogies that lived around us. My father was tall, very tall, over six, six. He was of English ancestry and looked a little like the actor in the old Sherlock Holmes movies, Basil Rathbone. My dad was rather thin with a generous amount of dark brown hair, a long face, and hazel eyes. They were kind eyes. His nose wasn’t large but it was definitely there and proportionate to his facial features and straight mouth. I don’t know if he was considered good-looking, but my mother thought so. He taught me how to play baseball, but other than that, he wasn’t around much. I guess his job came first.

My mom was a very pretty woman of pure Irish descent. She was of average height with an oval face, dark black hair, beautiful green eyes, a perfect nose, and full lips. Mom was a little plump by today’s standards, but apparently perfect for her time. I loved my mom. She was kind and understanding, although a little Elizabethan.

They treated me okay, that is to say that they didn’t treat me badly. The neighborhood though, well, it seemed that no one was friendly. I now suspect the people that lived around us resented our youthful intrusion into their domain and the potential disruption it presented to their solitude. As it turned out, they would have every reason to feel that way.

Anyway, I was the only kid around, and it was a full five years before the demographics of the area began to migrate. So often in my life, I’ve reflected about the lonely hours spent sitting on the curb in front of our home hoping someone my age would come along.

As hard as it is to believe, it wasn’t until I was eight that another kid moved into the neighborhood. His name was Charlie, Charlie Garner, and even though he was a year older, we became best friends. Charlie and I did everything together. For the first time in my short life, I had someone to play with, someone to talk to, someone I could confide in, someone who thought like I did, someone that liked me. I had a reason to get up in the morning. We were buddies, blood brothers, pals.

In retrospect, I loved Charlie. I looked up to him, and he to me. We did everything together. For the next two years, it was just Charlie and me. We both attended St. Anns Catholic grammar school, and even though Charlie was a grade ahead of me, we were inseparable. We became Altar boys and served Mass together at least five days a week. I guess we were pretty religious. Father Andre often remarked that if he didn’t know better, he’d have thought we were joined at the hip. Actually, I didn’t know what that meant until I was older, but I understood what he was saying.

Charlie and I didn’t look anything alike. I was of average height for my age, kind of husky, with closely cropped, dark black hair, blue eyes, and freckles plastered all over my nose and cheeks. My aunts thought I was cute and somehow couldn’t stop pinching my cheeks every time I saw them. I hated that. Charlie was of medium build, and about four inches taller than me. He had light brown hair that was always shaped like his mother had put a bowl over his head and shaved everything below the rim, which she did, once a month. My best friend had hazel eyes and crooked teeth. Back then, I had no concept of handsome or ugly, he was just Charlie.

In mid-June, the Hendersons, from Cleveland, Ohio, moved into the Moore’s house, four doors away. Mr. Moore, a widower, had died two months earlier. Mom said he had a disease. I realized when I got older, it was cancer that killed him. In 1955, cancer was a dreaded malady for which there was no cure. At least today, there’s some hope, back then, it wasn’t a prognosis, it was a death sentence.

The Hendersons had an eleven year old son, named Johnny. Charlie and I walked over to the Henderson’s house about a week after they arrived and introduced ourselves. Johnny was skinny and pretty tall for his age, about two inches taller than Charlie. He had short, jet-black, curly hair, brown eyes and a dark complexion. I think someone told me later that he was Armenian. Johnny seemed to be a pretty nice guy. His father was at work that afternoon, but his mother was at home. She was very nice and gave us milk and homemade chocolate chip cookies. All in all, it was a pretty good start, but that would soon end.

I lived on a dead end street that was always quiet and almost never had traffic other than from the few families that lived on the block. At the south end of the street was a large earthen berm, followed by a strip of woods about a hundred and fifty feet wide that buffered the houses on the street from the traffic noise on Route Four, a major east/west highway linking New Jersey’s suburban bedroom communities with New York City. The wooded area was about a half mile long and bordered the south side of the highway between Teaneck Road in the East and Queen Anne Road to the West.

Charlie and I played there all the time. We’d make bows and arrows from the many saplings, build forts, played hide-and-seek, cowboys and Indians. We would actually fashion our very own wars and battles. A narrow path ran through the dense brush all the way from Teaneck Road to Queen Anne. Along its entire length, we built several hidden blinds to secretly watch people that took short cuts to the many streets that terminated at the woods.

Like clockwork, my mother went food shopping at the A&P every Saturday morning and always brought me along to help with the grocery bags. Most kids would hate the chore, especially on a Saturday, but not me. I was very helpful and rarely needed to be told to pickup my clothes, clean my room, mow the grass, wash the car, or do any one of a number of assigned responsibilities. For my age, I was extremely neat and thoughtful, not only of my parents, but of everyone else. I never really looked at shopping on Saturdays as a job. In actuality, I looked forward to going since Mom would always let me get two candy bars – one for me, and, of course, one for Charlie.

It was early Saturday afternoon, on a torrid mid-August day in 1955, when we returned from shopping. After helping Mom put away the groceries, I kissed her on the cheek and ran out of the house, clutching two melting Chunky bars in my right hand. I headed to Charlie’s to share the treasure. When I got there, I eagerly rapped on the backdoor, but instead of Charlie answering, his mom opened the door. I must have looked stunned because she asked me if I was all right. I told her that I was, and asked for Charlie. She told me he’d left with Johnny about two hours earlier and wasn’t sure where they were.

I didn’t know what to say, what to think. I was shocked and hurt by Charlie’s betrayal, but then I thought, there has to be a good reason why Charlie didn’t wait for me, as he always did. Charlie’s Mother said she was sure they were in the neighborhood. When Charlie’s Mom closed the door, I just stood there with a blank look on my face and an empty feeling in my heart. I felt hollow, as if a part of me was missing. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I know what happened next. For the first time in my life, I tasted rage.

I frantically searched the neighborhood for perhaps a half an hour and then headed for the woods. I ran down the path to Teaneck Road, and not seeing them, I ran all the way to Queen Anne Road; no one. Where was he? I decided to check each one of our hideaways along the path that wound its way through the woods. I was positive Charlie would never show Johnny our secret places, but I decided to look anyway. The first two were empty, but when I walked up to the third, there were Charlie and Johnny. Charlie and I had dug a sort of foxhole a couple of months earlier so it would be easier to conceal ourselves from people using the path. The hole was relatively shallow, about ten feet in diameter, and two and a half feet at the deepest point in the center. From there, it tapered up to ground level around the entire circumference. A mound of dirt, from the original excavation, was piled evenly about a foot above the upper rim. There were bushes and trees surrounding the outside perimeter, and unless you knew where the crater was, it would be very difficult to find.

In our secret place, Charlie was lying on his back. Exactly opposite, and foot to foot, was Johnny. Their pants were pulled down around their knees, and they were pulling on their penises quickly. Johnny’s penis was huge and purple. Charlie’s was large, but not nearly as big as Johnny’s. Without stopping, Charlie looked up at me and told me to join them. I had no idea what they were doing, but I knew it was something dirty and disgusting. I was dumfounded, unable to speak, unable to think. Johnny was smiling when suddenly he began to moan and white liquid began squirting from the end of his penis. I thought he was hurt and had broken something inside. I asked if he was all right and they both started laughing at me. I threw the Chunky bars at Charlie and ran home crying. I went straight to my room and lay on my bed until dinner. I’ve never been so hurt or cried so much in my life. I’ve never cried, not a tear, or a whimper, not even a sob.

I didn’t tell my mother or father what happened, I was too embarrassed. Embarrassed because I lost Charlie, and embarrassed about what they were doing in the woods. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized how extremely Puritan my parents were, especially in affairs of the body.

I didn’t see Charlie the rest of the day. He never stopped by. All I could think of was him and Johnny playing, having fun, laughing at me, making fun of me. I was all alone again, but the loneliness was replaced by a seething anger. It wasn’t so much for Johnny, but with Charlie for betraying me, for hurting me. I composed myself long enough to have dinner with my parents. Mom asked me during supper if I felt okay. I told her I was fine, and afterward, I even helped her clean up. Around seven PM, I went to my room.

It was during this time that I planned my revenge. My head was pounding, it hurt so much. I lay in bed holding my hands over my ears, pressing them very hard, trying to stop the pain. Charlie was no longer my friend. He would never hurt me again. I hated him.

It was very late by the time I fell asleep, but I knew what I had to do, knew what I would do.

***

“Strange,” Ted Roth mused, silently, after turning off the recorder. “ Thinking back, there wasn’t ever a spark of thought as to whether or not it was something I should do.”

He turned the machine back on, repeating that very thought. Then he continued.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

The sultry August morning when Charlie died is as vivid to me today as the day it happened. I had no remorse then, and I have none today. I’ve never felt anything for those that have died at my hands. I don’t know why.

I got up Sunday morning at six-thirty, slipped on my dungarees, white socks, Keds, a T-shirt, and slid the watch in my pocket that my grandmother gave me when Gramps died. I quietly slipped downstairs and out to our one-car garage at the back of the property. My father was a pretty handy guy, and, in season, my mother loved to plant flowers in the many flower beds, strategically located for optimum pleasure, in our front yard. She also had a rather large portion of the backyard reserved for a vegetable garden. I knew that all the tools I needed for the job were inside. I opened the side door, and before I entered, glanced back at the house to see if anyone was watching me; as best as I could tell, no one was. I stepped in, quietly shut the door, and ran over to the far wall where my dad had fashioned a tool rack above his workbench. There were wrenches, screwdrivers, rulers, a level, several hammers of varying sizes, a couple of shovels, a pitchfork, a rake, garden hand tools, nail and screw bins, and coils of rope for stringing vegetable plants. On the shelf below the workbench were various sized wooden stakes my mom used for plant supports. I grabbed a large metal water bucket that was on the floor and placed it on top of the bench. Momentarily, I stood reviewing the plan in my mind. The timing was very important, and I knew that I would only have one chance to gather the stuff I needed. Everything was as clear as glass. I placed: eight oak stakes, each about a foot long, into the bucket along with a large and small hammer, a roll of thick twine, two very long spikes, and my dads hunting knife. I picked the bucket up and turned to leave when I remembered, the shovel. I reversed myself and plucked a long handled spade from the wall. I had all that I required to administer my payback.

With the shovel in my right hand and the bucket in my left, I eased open the side door and looked at the house. No one was stirring. I walked to the end of the driveway, turned left toward the woods, and hurried down the street, constantly pivoting my head to make sure no one saw me. In less than a minute, I entered the woods and went directly to the foxhole where I’d found Charlie and Johnny. I placed the shovel and bucket on the outer rim, pulled a stake out of the pail, jumped into the crater, and immediately lay down in approximately the same position Charlie was the day before. I fanned my legs open, sat up, and using the pointed end of the stake, marked locations in the dirt on the outside of each ankle where I would drive the stakes. I lay back down, placed my left arm perpendicular to my body, leaned across with my right hand, and scored the dirt next to my outstretched wrist. Then I followed the same procedure for my right wrist. Finally, I scratched two areas on either side of my waist and neck. Without disturbing my marks, I got up, retrieved the bucket, and placed it at the center of the hole. I removed the hunting knife, notched the top of each of the eight stakes, and then, using the large hammer, drove them into the ground at the spots I had so carefully identified. I put the hammer back and retrieved the twine. I cut five lengths, each about sixteen inches, for the arms, legs, and neck, then one piece, of perhaps thirty-six inches, for the waist. After throwing the knife back in the bucket, I knelt down at the center of where Charlie’s body would soon be, and fastened one end of each rope around the notched portion of the stakes leaving one stake untethered for the neck and waist. I stood up, double checked my work, then leaned over and tugged at one of the stakes to make sure it was anchored. Picking up the water pail, I scrambled out of the hole. I then put the two nails, the small hammer and the shovel, about four feet into the brush being careful they were on the opposite side of where Charlie would enter the area. While dusting myself off, I glanced around to see if anyone was about. There was no one. I pulled the watch from my pocket, it was a few minutes before seven AM. I put it back, picked up the bucket and ran back to the garage where I replaced the large hammer, remaining twine, and hunting knife. That done, I quietly reentered the house and proceeded back to my room. I took my clothes off, threw the dirty T-shirt in the hamper and went in for a bath to get ready for the nine o’clock Mass I was serving with Charlie.

Every Sunday, Father Andre permitting, Charlie and I would serve one of the four services: seven-thirty AM, nine AM, ten-thirty AM, or noon. Sometimes Father would separate us for a few services if he thought we’d been fooling around too much during a Mass. Luckily, this week we were both scheduled at nine AM. Charlie would always come over, a half hour before Mass and together we would walk to the church, which was only ten minutes from my house. Even though we wore black gowns over our clothing during Mass, we were still required to don our school uniforms for all services.

St. Anns’s dress code for boys consisted of dark brown pants, a white shirt, a thickly knit brown tie, brown socks, and brown shoes. From a distance, with the exception of the color of a guy’s hair, everyone looked the same. I guess that was important to them.

Anyway, today was no exception. My parents were still sleeping when Charlie arrived at eight-thirty AM. He looked a little sheepish as he walked up to the front porch where I was patiently waiting for him.

“Hi, Teddy,” Charlie said while looking down and shuffling his feet. Everyone called me Teddy back then.

“Hey,” I said trying hard not to let him know how hurt and angry I was.

“Sorry about yesterday,” Charlie apologized. “Johnny’s a pretty cool guy. We had a lot of fun. Why didn’t you stay?”

“I had to help my mom with some stuff.”

“Well, okay,” Charlie paused. “Lets get going. Father Andre will kill us if we’re late.”

“Yeah, I know.”

Charlie turned and began to walk. I strode up beside him, and we were on our way. Neither of us said anything for the next few minutes. I was trying to figure out how to get Charlie to go along with my plan, and I’m sure Charlie was feeling pretty awkward. His comment about how cool Johnny was still resonated in my ears. I shook it off and began to speak.

“What are you doing after Mass?”

“We’re going out for breakfast. My mom told Dad she didn’t feel like cooking.”

“Where are you going?”

“I think the Teaneck Diner.”

“I’ve got something to show you. Do you want to see it when you get back?”

“Sure. What is it?” Charlie asked excitedly.

“I can’t tell you, ‘cause it’s a surprise. You’ll see it when you get back. It’s real cool, Charlie.”

“Come on Teddy. What is it?” Charlie asked, almost begging now.

“Man, you can’t tell anyone Charlie, not even your parents and especially Johnny. Promise?”

“I swear to God,” Charlie said, his curiosity fully peaked.

“I got my father’s German Lugar. Found it hidden in the garage.”

“Cool. Can I hold it?” Charlie asked, even more eager than before.

“Sure. Maybe, we can shoot it!” I said, trying to feed his burgeoning enthusiasm.

“You think? Cool!”

“Why don’t you meet me where you and Johnny were yesterday.”

“Sure, when?”

“How about twelve? You should be back from breakfast by then. Don’t tell anyone we're going to meet. My dad would kill me if he found out. You promise, Charlie? Don’t tell anyone.”

“I swear, Teddy, cross my heart and hope to die,” Charlie said, pleading his case.

“Remember that one time your mom came down to the woods looking for you. Man, they’d kill us if they found us with a gun. I’m telling you, Charlie, don’t say a word,” I said, building as much fear in Charlie as I could. “I know, tell your folks you’re going over to Johnny’s. That way they’re sure not to come looking for you in the woods.”

“Sure, Teddy. That’ll work. Man, I’m sorry for yesterday. We still friends?” Charlie asked, looking at me as we reached the door to the church.

“To the end, Charlie. You and me, to the end.”

“Thanks, Teddy,” Charlie said, and we entered the vestibule together.

After Mass, Charlie’s parents picked him up, and they went to breakfast. I needed to act quickly if my plan was going to work. I hurried home, flew through the front door and bolted for the stairway by the kitchen.

“What’s the hurry?” Mom asked.

“No hurry,” I replied.

Mom and Dad were just sitting down to eat and asked me to join them. Everything had to seem normal, I thought. No one could suspect anything was wrong. I kissed Mom on the cheek and sat down at the kitchen table. It was now ten-fifteen AM. If my plan was going to work, I needed to get out of my uniform, into my regular clothes, and be out the door by eleven-fifteen AM. I had plenty of time.

Johnny customarily left for church every Sunday at ten-thirty AM, and typically returned by one PM. The Hendersons weren’t Catholic. Someone told me their religion was similar to mine, some sort of European version of Catholicism. Actually, I never knew what it was, and I suppose it doesn’t matter. As it turned out, the Hendersons would not be living in the neighborhood very much longer.

At eleven-fifteen AM, I emerged from my bedroom wearing an old pair of black pants, a tattered red T-shirt, an ancient pair of black Keds, and my grandfather’s watch in my front pocket. I told Mom I was going to the candy store, which was sort of a local hangout for kids.

“You’re father and I are going to the Sunday Matinee at the Fox. Make sure you’re back by five PM for dinner.”

“Yes, Mom.”

“Don’t get in any trouble and be careful crossing the streets.”

“Yes, Mom.”

Mother always said that. I don’t know why, because I never got in any trouble. The perfect child, I guess.

I scooted out the backdoor and looked to see if anyone was around. Nobody was. The house lots on our street were all perfect rectangles, fifty feet across the front, and one hundred feet deep with no fences or hedges separating property lines. The Henderson’s place was only four houses away from mine, and it was only a hundred and fifty feet from the edge of my property to theirs. It wasn’t unusual for us to use the backyards as a short cut, so I was sure, even if someone saw me, they wouldn’t be suspicious. I took a quick glance back at my house, and seeing no one, I ran through the yards to Johnny’s. Each house was pretty much the same; two stories high, shingled, a porch spanning the front, and a small utility porch or mud room attached at the rear. They kind of reminded me of the houses in the Monopoly game, all identical, except the color.

Back then, crime wasn’t a problem, or, so everyone thought. It was a very common practice for people to leave their doors unlocked, especially in the back. I guess those days are long gone now.

Anyhow, I reached the Henderson’s in a few seconds, walked up the wooden steps and knocked on the porch’s screen door. I was sure they had already left for church, but I thought I’d check anyway. I knocked again to be sure. No one answered. I let a few moments pass then placed my right-hand on the doorknob and turned it slowly. It clicked open, and I entered. Sensing the bogeyman was behind me, I warily peered over my shoulder. He wasn’t. I couldn’t see inside because the door into the main part of the house had no window panes. I twisted the knob, pushed the door open, and listened. My heart was racing, and I felt a strange throbbing sensation in my crotch. It was exhilarating, violating Johnny’s house, just as he had violated me. I’ll never forget the eerie silence when I stepped inside and shut the door. Everything was still, as noiseless as a graveyard at midnight. Sunbeams poured through the seams that dissected the closed curtains on the two side-by-side windows; otherwise everything was cloaked in muted shadows. I pulled the watch from my pocket and checked the time, it was exactly eleven-twenty AM. At best, I had fifteen minutes to find what I needed, exit the house, and beat it to the foxhole to wait for Charlie. I almost screamed when a thundering rap on the back door shattered the lifeless silence.

“Hey, Johnny. You home? I’m going to the woods to meet that jerk, Teddy, you want to come?” Charlie yelled, through the door.

***

Hearing his long-ago friend’s words, spoken aloud, the white-hot rippled through him again as his body convulsed, then shivered. It was not a shiver of fear. He had accepted his fate. His fists opened and closed rhythmically, battling both the pain and his renewed anger. He’d been grunting his story into the mechanical diary, the microphone picking up all of it.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Three

 

I began to tremble uncontrollably, my legs felt like rubber, and I thought I was going to collapse flat on the floor. I wanted to burst through the door and choke the life out of him. We were best friends. Charlie promised, he promised me he wouldn’t tell Johnny. A jerk! My eyes filled, but the tears never came. My vision blurred, and I thought I was going to pass out.

Hold on, I thought, just hold on. It won’t be long. If I had any doubts about what I was going to do, they vanished at that moment. My body was failing me and my mind was racing. What if Charlie had told his parents where he was going? They’d know who did it for sure. What if he waited for Johnny to come home? I’d be trapped in the house. What if Charlie left and came back for Johnny, and they both went to the woods? I’d have to kill them both, and then they’d know who did it. Almost everything depended on Charlie following what I had told him. The odds seemed pretty good that he didn’t tell his parents, fearful they’d find out about the nonexistent gun, but the odds weren’t so good that he wouldn’t wait until Johnny came home. I’d had to chance it. What choice did I have?

A series if knocks banged heavily on the door.

“Johnny, it’s me, Charlie,” came the cry.

I stood frozen, scared to death, petrified that Charlie would open the door and stick his head in. That was pretty common when calling on your friends. Hoping my legs would support me, I slowly turned, put my hand on the door latch, and prayed it wouldn’t make any noise. Slowly, very slowly, I began rotating it to the right. Just as it started to enter the socket, I saw the doorknob turning. Charlie was opening the door. He pushed hard because the tiny portion of the dead bolt that had entered its receptacle bashed loudly against the door jam. Charlie rattled it back and forth several times. I was now paralyzed with fear, the bolt hadn’t entered far enough and would yield to Charlie’s attempts. Thump, thump, thump, it held. Thump, thump, still holding. Thump, it held fast. At last, Charlie gave up, and I heard him bound down the wooden stairs on the back porch.

I stood motionless for what seemed like five minutes listening for any telltale sounds that might indicate that he was returning. When I was sure he’d gone, I commenced my search. I rifled through the kitchen drawers until I found where they kept the cutlery. There were some odds-and-ends: a large carving knife with a lightly colored wooden handle; a slightly smaller one with a dark handle; a sharpener; a couple of spatulas; three or four large meat forks; and a matched set of steak and general utility knives. Perfect. I picked up several of the knives checking their sharpness. Then I found it, a small, razor-sharp paring knife. Holding it in my left hand, I quietly closed the drawer and looked for something to wrap it in. On the kitchen table was Sunday’s newspaper. I pulled out a single sheet from the center, wrapped the knife in it, and eased it into my back pocket.

The few times Charlie and I had been over to Johnny’s house, we’d played in his bedroom. Actually, it was pretty neat. Johnny was into Native American Indian stuff. It was all over his room. There were: bows, arrows, pictures of Indian chiefs, a tomahawk, an Eagle-feathered headdress, tom-toms, fake arrowheads, that kind of junk.

I needed a few more things from the house, and I knew where they’d be. I left the kitchen, ran up the stairs, taking two at a time, rounded the corner at the top, and went to his room. The door was open and I walked in like I owned the joint. My confidence was high, my legs were restored, and my fear was gone. It was going to work. Charlie would pay, and so would Johnny.

The room was a mess, his clothes were scattered everywhere. What a slob, I thought. I walked over to his dresser and immediately spotted what I needed, his wallet. Guys never carried wallets, but they’d always seem to get one from an aunt or uncle at Christmas. So I knew he’d have one, and was sure it wouldn’t be on him. Luckily, I was right. It was black. I think they were always black. Boys’ fashions sucked then, and they suck even more now. Anyway, I opened it up and began flipping through the photo section. There it was, a library card with Johnny’s name and address clearly displayed on the front. I didn’t bother to see if there was any more identification. The library card would do just fine.

In 1955 everyone had a library card. Today, you’d be fortunate to find a kid that has one, even rarer would be finding a kid in the library. No wonder everything is made somewhere else. Times sure have changed. I don’t mean to be digressing like this, but most kids today are real assholes. No imagination.

Nonetheless, I now had two of the four things I needed. I slipped the wallet into my front pocket, and began opening his dresser drawers. In the second one I breached, I found the rest of what I needed, two white handkerchiefs with Johnny’s initials on them. Another worthless but popular Christmas gift. I shoved them in my pants and exited the room. When I reached the kitchen door, I paused momentarily and listened, silence. I nervously unlatched the lock, looked around to make sure I’d left everything the way I’d found it, and departed.

At the bottom of the stairs, I scanned the backyards in both directions, not a soul. I ran through yards and up the driveway of the last house on the block. When I reached the street, I was only about ten feet from the woods. I looked around, just to be sure, then casually walked to the path. When I reached the first thick of trees, I ran to the secret foxhole. I was out of breath when I peered over the rim and saw Charlie lying in the ditch perfectly aligned with the stakes that I had driven in the ground earlier in the day. He looked up at me.

“What’s all this for?” Charlie asked, leaning forward on his elbows glaring at the stakes by his ankles.

“I though we could play cowboys and Indians. You could be the cowboy, and I’ll be the Indian. I’ve captured you, taken your gun, and tied you up.”

In retrospect the whole thing seems pretty lame, but those are the kind of games we played back then.

“Where’s the gun?” Charlie asked, excitedly.

“I hid it in the woods. Why don’t I tie you up, and then I’ll get the gun and pretend I’m torturing you?”

“Can I be the Indian later and hold the gun?”

“Sure,” I said.

“Neat.”

I jumped into the pit and began tying Charlie up. I bound his waist first, then his neck, ankles, and started on his wrists.

“Ouch, that’s to tight,” he squealed.

“Quiet, White Man,” I said.

“That hurts, Teddy.”

“Shut up, White Man.”

When I was finished, Charlie tried to move, but he couldn’t.

“Get the gun, Red Skin,” Charlie beckoned.

“You’re going to die, White Man,” I replied and left the ditch to retrieve the hammer and nails. I pulled one of the handkerchiefs from my pocket and balled it up. A few seconds later I was back. I threw the small hammer and nails next to Charlie’s head.

“Where’s the gun?” were the last words Charlie spoke. As he started to say something else, I shoved the handkerchief deep into his mouth. Charlie was stunned. He began grunting and trashing, trying to get loose, but the stakes didn’t budge. He could hardly move. I unbuckled his pants and pulled them down to his knees. I pulled the knife from my back pocket, unwrapped it, and dropped the paper in the ditch.

“You’re a traitor, Charlie. You made best friends with Johnny. You lied to me. You went to get Johnny this morning when I told you not to tell anyone. Didn’t you, Charlie. Didn’t you! You’re not my friend Charlie. I hate you!” I shouted.

Charlie was moving his head back and forth, noiselessly attempting to deny his betrayal. It was too late. I reached down with my left hand, grabbed his penis, and pulled it until I lifted his butt off the ground, and with two hard slices from the razor-sharp knife, I cut his penis off at the base and threw it into the pit. Charlie’s eyes bulged out. He was squirming, writhing frantically, jerking, and throwing his body in all directions, but the stakes refused him freedom. The handkerchief baffled the intensity of his wild screams. Blood poured from the hole left by the neutered Charlie. Tears were flowing down his cheeks, terror turned to despair, and he began sobbing, then choking. I knew the pain he was experiencing at that point was as much psychological as physical. Charlie couldn’t see the damage, but he was well aware that he was, now, dickless.

“Does that hurt Charlie?” I said sarcastically. “Not as much as you hurt me. I hate you, Charlie!” I screamed. I straddled Charlie’s chest, sat down, and picked up the hammer and one spike. It was very thick and, at least, four inches long. I shoved the pointed end into Charlie’s right ear and he went crazy. It was like riding a bucking bronco. Charlie was retching and screaming muffled screams. He was moving his head so violently, I had to get up and kneel on his neck to stop him from moving it. Then, with two strokes of the hammer, I pounded the nail into his head. Surprisingly, Charlie kept thrashing. I retrieved another nail, shoved it in his left ear and whacked it all the way home. That’s when Charlie went limp. His chest was heaving, and he involuntarily began shaking all over. A stream of urine squirted from where his penis once was, and then he defecated. I remember how much it stunk, and I began to gag violently. I thought I was going to vomit, but I was able to control myself. Charlie’s eyes rolled up in his head and only the whites showed. His twitching became more pronounced, and I somehow knew it was close to the end. I looked down at him. I’ll never know if he heard my last words, although I doubt it.

“How do you like it now, Charlie?”

I dropped the hammer, picked up the bloody knife, pressed it as hard as I could into the right side of his throat, then pulled it all the way across his neck. I hadn’t expected the torrent of blood that gushed from the wound. I jumped off as quickly as I could, but was unable to avoid getting sprayed with the warm sticky stream, spewing from the left side of his neck. Charlie stopped moving almost instantly. It was over, he was dead. He’d suffered, as he’d made me suffer. I felt good, but my plan wasn’t finished. When Charlie’s life stopped pouring from the wounds, I threw the knife in the puddle of blood that was rapidly pooling at the center of the pit, then I took Johnny’s wallet, cleaned it with the remaining handkerchief, and dropped it between his legs. I dipped the handkerchief in the blood by Charlie’s neck, balled it up, picked up the hammer, looked down at my work, and jumped out of the hole. I put the hammer and blood soaked cloth down and picked up the shovel. I gazed up and down the path, and with no one in sight, cautiously spent the next thirty minutes covering Charlie’s body with the dirt piled around the upper perimeter. When I was done, I scattered leaves over the site careful not to completely cover the grave. The tough part was coming.

I looked at the time, and surprisingly, it was only twenty-five minutes after twelve. I put the watch back in my pocket, grabbed the hammer, shovel, bloodied handkerchief and left. When I reached the edge of the woods, I looked down the block and saw a couple of men talking. They were about five houses away. Fortunately, they were on the opposite side of the street from my house and their backs were to me. One of them was wildly gesturing with his arms. He was probably bitching about the rotten kids in the neighborhood. I quickly slipped to the right, ran down the side of the closest house, and through the backyards to Johnny’s. The Henderson’s car wasn’t there, and I was sure they hadn’t returned. I put the hammer and shovel down, flew up the stairs, threw open both doors and barreled upstairs to Johnny’s room. I tossed the bloodied handkerchief under the bed, whirled around, sprinted back downstairs, quietly closed the doors, grabbed the hammer and shovel, and continued until I reached my house.

In the backyard, I turned the outside water on and hosed off my hands, hammer and shovel. I put the tools back in the garage where I’d found them. The blistering hot, August day would dry them in minutes. I dried the water from the bottom of my sneakers by wiping them on the grass and went inside. In the kitchen, I snatched a grocery bag from the food cupboard and rocketed up to my room. I undressed, placed all my clothes in the bag and took a bath. When I was done, I changed into my dungarees, and the Keds I usually wore. I slipped on a clean T-shirt and left the house with the paper bag containing my soiled garments. I walked to church, and making sure no one was around, threw the bag in a large trash bin located behind the rectory. My mother would never miss the old clothes. I walked home whistling all the way. Now, I just needed to wait for Charlie’s parents and the police to do the rest.

***

“Yeah, white-hot!” Ted Roth thought, pausing to gingerly adjust his reclined torso.

He coughed twice, squelching the third by holding his breath. Finally, he exhaled a drawn out, “Aaah, shit,” in disgust. With his last air, he gritted up some phlegm, spitting it on the carpet floor.

In a millisecond of thought, he knew that anyone unfortunate enough to listen to the tape would realize the expletive was not part of his intended narration. Roth decided against hitting the REWIND button, too much pain and too little time to start editing, now.

“My uh, he began, then slowly inhaled and let it out.

He was clear to continue.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Four

 

For the remainder of the afternoon, I played with some of the toys in my room. Most people, especially a kid, would be terrified of being caught for such a heinous crime. Inexplicably, I wasn’t. Thinking about it now, I guess it was because I thought my scheme was foolproof. Little did I realize that afternoon, while waiting for the telephone to ring, or the impending, ominous knock on the front door, how many mistakes I’d really made. Nevertheless, Charlie got what he deserved, and I felt completely justified for my actions. However, I was smart enough to know that few others would feel the same way. After all, no one really knew how close Charlie and I were and therefore couldn’t possibly understand the pain I’d suffered.

My parents got back from the movies around four, and my mother immediately began to prepare Sunday dinner. An hour later we sat down to eat. I remember we had a steak, baked potatoes, and string beans. The steak was medium rare, very tender. Potatoes, my way, are only good when doused with butter and salt. I hated string beans. I still do.

Sunday meals were always a treat and this day was no exception. A little after five PM, the telephone rang. My mother got up from the table, walked into the living room and picked up the receiver. Dad continued to eat while I slowly cut another piece of meat while straining to hear the conversation. It was Charlie’s Mother.

“Hi Sara,” I heard Mom say. Sara was Charlie’s Mother’s name. “He’s not here.” There was a brief pause. “Let me ask Teddy,” I heard her say next. “Teddy,” Mom yelled from the living room, “do you know where Charlie is?”

“No, Mom,” I shouted back. “He told me after Mass that he was going to play with Johnny when he got back from breakfast. I haven’t seen him since then. They’re probably in the woods.” I listened as my mother relayed my story to Charlie’s Mother.

“Sure, Sara. If he comes by, I’ll send him home. Bye,” Mom said, ending the chat and returned to the kitchen.

“That was Charlie’s Mother. He’s late for supper,” Mom announced as she sat down. “Did you and Charlie have a fight?”

“No. Why?”

“Just wondered,” she answered.

I knew the fact that Charlie and I weren’t playing together would raise some suspicion. If pushed, I had a plausible explanation, but Mom didn’t ask, so I thought it best not to say anymore at that point. We finished dinner close to six PM, and, as usual, I helped clean up. Afterward, I went to my parent’s room, turned the radio on, and lay down on their bed. Every Sunday night, I listened to several radio broadcasts. Two of my favorites were, Amos and Andy and The Shadow.

Just as The Shadow was resuming after a commercial interruption, I heard multiple bursts of distant sirens from what sounded like a legion of police cars. It was exactly eight forty-five PM, according to the clock-radio on the nightstand. The wailing concert of irritating noise got progressively closer with each passing moment. I knew they had found Charlie.

My mother’s and father’s room was in the front of the house overlooking Stasia Street. The windows were open, but providing little relief from the sweltering August night. As if choreographed, one by one, police cars squealed around the corner from Selvage Avenue onto Stasia, then accelerated, burning rubber, in a cloud of white smoke, from the rear “drive” tire as they sped past our house. The noise from their sirens ricocheted around the room, while the strobe-effect, of the red-white shock from their spinning lights, flitted wild dances through the bedroom curtains and onto the ceiling and upper portions of the bedroom walls. Somewhat tentatively, I slid out of bed, slowly walked to the window, and looked outside, just as two more police cars accelerated toward the end of the block. I lifted the screen on one of the windows and stuck my head outside to observe the commotion. I counted seven cop cars parked at crazy angles near the entrance to the woods. I also saw several police cars access the fringe of the wooded area from the highway. Within minutes, the last police car that had entered the street, backtracked and setup a roadblock at Selvage Avenue.

It seemed like all of our neighbors were out. Most were walking in small groups down the middle of the street toward the hubbub. The throng grew larger as neighbors filed into the street to join the procession. I could see two cops standing by the entrance to the woods, obviously stationed to hold the ever-growing multitudes at bay. Within seconds of reaching the window, an ambulance was ushered through the roadblock and picked its way through the parting masses in an attempt to reach the end of the street.

“Teddy,” father yelled up the stairs, “Your mother and I are going to see what’s going on.”

“Wait, I’m coming,” I shouted.

I put my sneakers on and ran downstairs. My mother and father had just opened the front door when I joined them.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Mom answered. “That’s why we’re going down there.”

When we reached the end of the block, people were whispering and pointing at Charlie’s parents who were standing beyond a newly erected wooden-horse barricade. A man wearing civilian clothes, holding a pen and small notepad, was speaking with Charlie’s father. Sara was crying hysterically and Tom, Charlie’s Dad, tried to comfort her while speaking with the man.

I could see the radiant blush of white light centered at a spot in the general location of where I’d buried Charlie. Light beams, from handheld flashlights, were bobbing randomly through the woods as officials ran to the location from other streets situated to the east and west. Still others cast brilliant shafts into the moonless night, tunneling into the surrounding trees, and still others were creating bizarre looking specters from the many bushes into which their lights were directed. The whole thing looked unreal.

It seems that the police had denied access from the end of the many streets

 terminating at the woods. Since our street was the closest to the source of the discovery, the crowd continued to grow as scores of people from other blocks poured down the street and through the many backyards. Reporters from the Bergen Record arrived, and I could hear them arguing with one of the policemen who was refusing to let them get any closer. It was now after nine when high intensity pulses of light, evidently from cameras recording the crime scene, incidentally strobe the fluttering leaves in the plentiful scrub trees surrounding Charlie’s grave. No one knew what happened, but rumors abounded. The general consensus seemed to be that someone had died, and since Charlie’s parents were the only ones allowed beyond the barricades, he was the odds-on favorite. The crowd of spectators ballooned to the point that more police were summoned to control the masses.

By ten-fifteen PM, authorities began to disperse the gathering and only those who lived on the block were allowed to remain, but were restricted to their property. By ten-thirty PM, the street was completely cleared. Streetlight illumination was sufficient enough to see the ambulance from every house on the dead-end section of the block. Because of this, everyone stayed on the front edge of their property rubbernecking at the drama that continued to unfold. There had to be twenty uniformed police lining both sides of the street, from the woods to the roadblock on Selvage Avenue. At eleven PM, two men took a stretcher from the back of the ambulance and disappeared into the trees. At eleven twenty-five PM, they reappeared carrying something wrapped in white sheets. Everyone speculated it was Charlie. I knew it was. Within a minute, the ambulance negotiated a K-turn and, seemingly in no rush, slowly crept down the street, taking a right at the roadblock, and headed east on Selvage Avenue. By midnight, only two police cars remained, the occupants obviously instructed to maintain the integrity of the crime scene from the curious, until daybreak, when a more exhaustive investigation, and evidentiary collection would surely be performed. At that point, I guess everyone figured it was all over, and they began retreating back into their homes. As I turned to go inside, my mother clasped me by the shoulder from behind. Startled, I turned my head, looked down at her hand and then up at her.

“When was the last time you saw Charlie?”

Just as I was about to answer, I heard a man’s voice.

“Excuse me. Are you Mr. and Mrs. Roth?” a man, coming from the direction of Johnny’s house, asked. In case I haven’t mentioned it, Roth is my last name. It was the same guy that was talking to Charlie’s parents earlier in the evening. My mother and father turned in the direction of the voice. Mom spoke first.

“Yes, may we help you?”

“I’m Detective Baxter from the Teaneck Police Department,” the man responded as he reached my parents. He removed identification from his back pocket and flashed it at my folks.

“I’m Eileen Roth, and this is my husband, Ed. How may we help you, detective?” Mother said. My mother always took the lead in conversations. I was never sure why, but she always did. My father doled out the discipline, my mother doled out the conversation. Who knows. The cop continued.

“I have a few questions I’d like to ask you. I know it’s late, but it’s very important. Do you mind?”

“Not at all,” Mom answered. “What’s going on?”

Detective Baxter looked down at me and then back at my parents. “I’m not at liberty to say at this point. I’ll only take a few minutes of your time.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Garner,” Garner was Charlie’s last name, “told me your son was close friends with their son, Charlie. Is that correct?”

“Yes,” Mom replied.

I chirped in and said, “We’re best friends.”

The detective looked at me with a kind and sympathetic expression on his face. “Would you mind if I asked your boy a few questions?”

“Of course not,” Mom said, exhibiting a ponderous concern in her face and tone of voice.

“What’s your name, son?” the cop asked, looking at me.

“Teddy.”

“When was the last time you saw Charlie?”

“This morning.”

“Where was he?”

“We served nine o’clock Mass together.”

“Was that the last time you saw him?”

“Yes.”

“Where did he go when he left you?”

“His mom and dad picked him up after church, and they went for breakfast.”

“Did Charlie tell you where he was going after that?”

“Sure. He told me he was going to play with Johnny when he got back.”

“Johnny who?”

The cop knew who I was talking about. He’d just come from their house. I thought, why is he playing dumb?

“Johnny Henderson. They live a few houses away,” I responded and pointed towards the Henderson’s house. 

The detective glanced in the direction I was aiming and then back at me.

“Did Charlie tell you what they were going to do?’

“He said they were going to play in the woods.”

“How come you didn’t play with them today?”

Here it was. The question that I knew would come. My answer would not only satisfy my parent’s curiosity, but also put the suspicion squarely on that creep, Johnny. I shuffled my feet and looked down. I tried to think of sad things to force myself to cry, but I couldn’t.

“Teddy, how come you didn’t play with them?” he repeated.

I hesitated, and while staring down at my feet, I said almost in a whisper, “Cause they were doing bad things.”

There was a pause. No one spoke. Evidently they were mulling over the words that just popped out of my mouth.

“What bad things, Teddy?” Mother finally said.

Another pause. I kept looking at the ground.

“Answer your mother,” Dad demanded.

“I can’t,” I blurted, and ran into the house.

“Teddy, come back here, now!” Father commanded.

Ignoring his order, I ran to my parent’s room, eased over to the front window and peeked around the corner to where Detective Baxter and my folks were standing. The window was still open and in the hushed night air, I could clearly hear them speaking. The cop told my parents that Charlie was dead. He wouldn’t tell them how Charlie died, only that it happened earlier in the afternoon, and the body was discovered after the Garners reported their son missing. Back then, the police didn’t wait days, as they do now, before reacting to a missing persons report, especially when a child was involved. Today, no one gives a shit. Nonetheless, Baxter told them they probably wouldn’t have checked the woods except that my mother had told Sara Garner that Charlie was probably playing in the woods with Johnny.

“Look, your son is obviously upset about something. There’s no need to continue this evening. However, I’d like to come back first thing in the morning, and ask him some more questions. Would that be all right?”

“Sure,” I heard Mom say.

“You can do what you want, but I wouldn’t advise pressing him about the bad things he mentioned. When I question him tomorrow, I would appreciate it if the two of you are present. Is that acceptable?”

“Yes,” Mom promptly answered.

“Good, I’ll see you around eight AM.”

“That would be fine.”

Detective Baxter thanked them for their cooperation, shook their hands, and walked toward a black Ford, parked on the corner of Stasia Street and Selvage Avenue.

Mom and Dad watched Baxter until he reached his car. I ran to my room, and while pretending to be asleep, listened to the conversation that ensued. The last thing I remember Mom say to Dad was, “Ed, it can wait until morning. Let him be.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Five

 

I thought for sure my mother would come up to see me, but she didn’t. I guess she listened to Detective Baxter’s advice. It was after midnight, and I was very tired. It had been a long day. I must have fallen asleep immediately because the next thing I remembered was my mother gently rustling my shoulder.

“Wake up, Teddy. Detective Baxter is here to see you.”

Half asleep, I pulled myself up, slid my legs over the side of the bed, and gingerly rubbed the sandman’s blur from my eyes. “Sure Mom, I’ll be right down.”

“Don’t dawdle,” she remarked and left the room. I hated that word. She used it all the time. I rarely dawdled. Hell, I didn’t even know what dawdle meant at ten. She was always using big words, and correcting my grammar. I guess that’s what moms are suppose to do. Anyway, I don’t think I dawdled. I pulled my jeans on, donned my socks and Keds, then slipped into a fresh plain white T-shirt.

I can’t recall having, or even there being, anything but plain white or solid colored T-shirts in nineteen fifty-five. Maybe they did, I just don’t remember. You know, like the T-shirt’s today that have some weird psychedelic multicolored picture of some awful thing, proudly displaying a catch phrase like, ‘69 BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS’, Christ.

When I was done, I scooted downstairs. My mother and Detective Baxter were sitting at the kitchen table. He was at the head of the table where Dad always sat during meals. Mom was sitting along the far side.

“Where’s Dad?” I asked.

“He had to go to work, Teddy.”

“Oh.”

How nice! Dad should never ever miss a day of work. I just killed my ex-best friend and the cops want to interrogate me, but God forbid Dad would have to stay home for his son. I suppose back then the average Joe thought companies were loyal to their employees, and thus, the workers responded in kind. It was a crock then, and it’s a crock now. Companies are loyal to money, not to flesh and blood unless somehow they can make a profit by selling it. And, we’re all so fortunate slavery was outlawed in the US How insidiously stupid people can be! Someday, I’m going to write a book and call it ‘Planet of Fools’. Oh, well. I kissed Mom on the cheek and stood there waiting for direction.

“Please, sit down Teddy. I’d like to ask you a few questions, if you don’t mind.” Detective Baxter requested.

“Sure,” I said and plopped into the chair at the opposite end of the table. A writing tablet was positioned in front of him and he was toying with a pencil between the fingers of his right hand.

“Teddy, you mentioned last night that Charlie and Johnny were doing bad things. Can you tell me what you meant by that?”

This guy didn’t waste any time. I stalled for a few moments while looking down at the table. My mother spoke up.

“Teddy, it’s all right to tell Detective Baxter. He’s just trying to help,” Mom said, trying to ease the discomfort she perceived I was suffering. The truth was that I knew what I was going to say, but I was embarrassed to say it in front of my mother.

“Why do you want to know?” I asked.

“Look Teddy,” Baxter started, “something very bad has happened to your friend,” the detective stumbled for a name, “Charlie. I need you to help me find out why it happened. Can you help me, Teddy?”

“Sure. What happened to Charlie?” I asked in as fragile a tone that I could construct.

“Teddy, Charlie is dead! Someone killed him yesterday, and Detective Baxter is trying to find out who.” It just popped out of Mom’s mouth like she was talking about the weather. Her eyes welled up with tears and she leaned over and softly held my right hand. Then as if of a singular mind, we both stood and embraced. I buried my head in Mom’s soft breasts and tried to cry, but I couldn’t. I was sure they’d see through my act if I couldn’t produce any teardrops. We remained like that for what seemed like five minutes, but was probably only one. Mom gently moved me back and looked into my eyes.

Trying desperately to look sad, but unsure if I was succeeding, I fully expected to see a surprised look on her face when she saw the two dry eyes gazing back at her. She wasn’t. To this day, I suspect Mom chalked it off to shock. I never knew what she initially thought, but it was evident from her reaction that she didn’t think my demeanor was unusual. I’m glad Dad wasn’t there. He was always suspicious – of everything. And then there was Detective Baxter; he might be a different matter, altogether. Mom and I released in unison and returned to our seats. I thought it was better if someone else broke the silence first, so I posed myself rather limply, arms in my lap, head bowed, and my eyes glazing over at the tabletop. Then it struck me. If I didn’t blink, forcing my eyes to stay open, they would water. No one could see my face, since I was still looking down, so I tried it. By the time Baxter resumed his questioning, my eyes were burning and filling with fluid, a natural and involuntary protection mechanism. The human body, what a marvelous machine!

“Teddy, I’m very sorry about Charlie, but I need your help to find out who killed him. Will you help me?” the detective dolefully asked. He was a better actor than me, I thought.

“Johnny did it,” I replied softly, as I slowly and deliberately raised my head so he could bear witness to my pitiful condition. Mom gasped at my accusation.

“What did you say?” hurdled out of Baxter’s mouth.

While looking at him, eyes watering profusely, I repeated, “Johnny did it.”

“Did you see Johnny kill Charlie?” the detective snapped back momentarily losing his soft, caring facade. He began scribbling notes on his pad which he continued to do during most of the interview.

“No, but I know he did it.”

“How do you know, Teddy?”

“Cause they were doing the bad thing.”

“Teddy you need to explain yourself,” Baxter said, now settling down from what he thought was an eyewitness account.

“Johnny and Charlie made their jiggers get big,” I said. I could see my mom stiffen out of the corner of my eye. I side glanced at her, then back to the cop.

“Jiggers, what’s that? Baxter asked, a puzzled look on his face.

Back then no one, and I mean no one, called a penis a penis. In truth, it was called everything but that: dick, cock, pecker, joint, jigger, pee-pee, dangle, snake, lizard, do-do, wee-wee, weenie, stiff, woody, and on, and on, infinitum. Never a penis. Sometimes I think half the words in the dictionary have, at one time or another, been used to describe human sex organs. I remember going to my first picnic and my aunt asked how many weenies I wanted. I almost died. That happened to a lot of guys over time. Strange, ‘Planet of Fools’.

“It’s my a ...,” I said looking down at my crotch.

“Oh,” the detective said. “What were they doing?”

I told Detective Baxter what I saw on Saturday, being careful to leave out my rage at Charlie for his betrayal of our friendship. I simply explained how dirty and disgusting I thought it was. Then I embellished, no that’s wrong, I lied about what happened next.

“After the white stuff came out of Johnny’s jigger, he got up and went over to Charlie. He grabbed Charlie’s jigger and began to pull hard. Charlie screamed and they began to fight. Johnny had a scary look on his face. His eyes were wide open. Johnny kept pulling Charlie’s jigger with one hand and hitting him with the other. I jumped on Johnny and pulled him off.”

“What happened then?”

“Johnny pulled his pants up and ran out of the hole. When he got to the path, he turned around and screamed that he’d get both of us.”

“What happened next?”

“Well, Johnny ran up the path. I guess he went home. Charlie was crying and I asked if he was okay. He told me he was and then he put his pants on. I didn’t know what to say. After a few minutes, I left him there and went home.”

“That must have been what was wrong with him, Saturday,” Mom said looking at the detective.

“What’s that, Mrs. Roth?”

“Teddy came home early and, except for dinner, spent the rest of the day in his room. At the time, I thought it was a little strange, so I asked him if he was feeling all right. He said he was. Frankly, I haven’t thought about it until now.”

“Why was it strange?” Baxter asked.

“Teddy and Charlie always played together. They’d take just enough time for dinner and then they’d go out until dark.”

“Teddy, did you ever see Johnny with a knife. You know, a boy scout knife, hunting knife, anything like that?”

I paused a few moments pretending to think. “Yeah, sometimes he’d have a small knife with a white handle. It looked like a kitchen knife, but Johnny told us it was a special throwing knife a friend had given him. Charlie and I knew it was a plain old kitchen knife, but we never told Johnny that.”

“Why?”

“Well, we didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Besides, sometimes Johnny acted weird.”

“Weird, like how?

“Well, he’d tell us sometimes that if we didn’t do what he wanted, he’d cut us with his knife,” I laid it on a little thicker.

“Did he ever cut you?”

“Naw, most of the time we’d do what he wanted. You know, if we wanted to play cops and robbers, and he wanted to play cowboys and Indians, we’d play cowboys and Indians.”

“You said last evening that the last time you saw Charlie was after church when he went to breakfast with his parents. Is that correct?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You also said Charlie told you he was going to play with Johnny. Is that correct?”

“Yes, sir.”

“If Johnny had threatened you and Charlie, why would Charlie want to play with him the next day?”

I almost panicked. I hadn’t connected that discrepancy. My mind raced for a plausible explanation, bingo! “Charlie told me that Johnny called him Saturday and said he was sorry. Charlie thought Johnny was pretty neat. I guess he decided to forget about what happened.”

“Why didn’t you play with them?”

“I was still afraid of Johnny. He’s pretty big,” I answered, full knowing that if the detective was worth his salt, he would already know that Johnny was at least a half a foot taller than me. When you’re ten, that’s a big difference in height.

Detective Baxter paused while he scratched out some final notes. He began flipping through some pages like he was looking for something. Not finding it, he closed the notepad, looked at me and then my mother.

“I think that’s all for now, Mrs. Roth, Teddy,” Baxter said as he stood. “We’re waiting for fingerprints on the murder weapon and other evidence found at the scene. We may need to fingerprint your son.”

My mother was up, out of her chair, and in his face before Baxter could inhale following his last sentence. “You’re not suggesting my Teddy is a suspect!” she shouted.

“Of course not, Mrs. Roth,” Baxter sputtered, startled by the cat like response from my mother. “We merely need to use Teddy’s prints for an elimination set.”

“What does that mean?”

“Let’s say the person that killed Charlie left fingerprints on some articles at the murder scene. Since the evidence may have been handled in the normal course of the boys playing, their fingerprints are likely to be on the object. By taking Teddy’s prints, we can eliminate them from the evidence, thus leaving only those of the killer. It’s really necessary to protect your son, catch the criminal faster, and make our job easier.”

“Oh,” Mother said.

I loved her very much, but she was naive in so many ways. My mom trusted people, especially those in authority, so she didn’t give Baxter’s fairy tale much thought. If she had, she’d know that he was lying, the conniving bastard. I had a bigger problem. I knew that Baxter would get my fingerprints with or without my mother’s permission, and that could prove disastrous. It struck me that I hadn’t wiped the knife clean before I dropped it. Talk about idiots! I cleaned the wallet, but not the murder weapon. And what about my prints in the Henderson’s house. If they didn’t suspect Johnny, they’d certainly dust his house and find my prints. The chances were that I could easily explain it away as being left over from the last time I played there. But the knife! Brilliant. Now what? Run away? Be cool? I was in deep trouble. The more I thought about it, the more frightened I became.

“As the investigation progresses, I may be back with more questions. Is that all right with you?”

“That would be fine, officer.”

“It’s Detective Baxter, Mrs. Roth.”

What an ass, I thought.

“That would be fine, detective.”

After the cop departed, I could sense that Mom wanted to ask more questions, but she didn’t. Thank God. I was in no mood for anything, except figuring out how to get around the fingerprints on the knife. Evidently the body had been discovered after the newspaper went to print because there was nothing mentioned. I kept clear of my mother and spent most of the day in my room. A few times, I sneaked into my parents room and listened to the radio. All of the stations were broadcast from New York City, so I wasn’t surprised that there was no mention of the slaying. That would change the next day. Dad arrived home at his usual time, six-thirty PM. About a half an hour later, I could hear them arguing. I fanny-dropped six steps from the top of the landing, where I had been sitting, and listened. The gist of the argument centered on my fathers insistence on questioning me, much as Detective Baxter had done, but my mom was adamantly opposed. She’d felt that I’d been through enough. He capitulated, as he always did. At dinner, nothing was mentioned about Charlie or the interrogation, as I call it, with Detective Baxter. It was as though it never happened. In all fairness, my mother presumably devised a strategy to broach the subject only if I brought it up, which I never did. About nine PM, there was a series of loud knocks on the front door.

“Detective Baxter here. I need to speak with you,” an authoritative voice, undaunted by the solid wood door, commanded.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Six

 

I heard my father answer the door and exchange greetings with Detective Baxter. The cop didn’t sound all that friendly. My heart was racing. What could Baxter possibly want at this hour unless they thought I killed Charlie. A million things rocketed through my mind. I replayed every moment, every step of the killing. The knife! They found my fingerprints on the knife! No, that couldn’t be, they hadn’t taken my prints yet. Someone saw me kill Charlie? No, that couldn’t be, they would have turned me in already. A neighbor saw me go into the Henderson’s house! No, that couldn’t be, they would have asked me about that this morning, unless, unless they didn’t find out until just now. Maybe I dropped something at the scene! Then it hit me like my guts had been ripped out. My grandfather’s watch! They found gramp’s watch! Where was it? I couldn’t remember what I’d done with it. It must be on the dresser where I always left it. I jumped up from the stairs and ran to my room. It wasn’t there! Shit! That’s it! I dropped the watch. The police found it. All my friends knew I had it. I showed it to everyone. Terrified, I frantically rifled through my drawers flinging everything on the floor, nothing. Where is it? Damn! I sagged onto the edge of the bed and put my head in my hands. They know it’s me.

“Teddy, would you come down here,” my father yelled up the stairs.

This is it. God, what are my parents going to think. Their son is a murderer. No, their son is a vile, evil murderer. I can’t face them. I need to get out of the house, get out of Teaneck, now. I stood up and glanced through my open door toward the bathroom. That’s it, my escape route. A plan began to take form. I’ll go through the window in the bathroom, get on the roof that covers the back porch, and slide down the gutter. Money, I’ll need money. I whirled around and ran to the closet. I pulled down an old coffee can that contained my life savings. Careful not to rattle the change, I slowly poured the contents onto my bed. There were three one dollar bills, a five, a ten and a bunch of pennies, nickels, dimes, a few quarters, two half-dollars, and a silver dollar gramps had given me. Not much, but it’ll have to do.

“Teddy, get down here!” my father bellowed again from downstairs.

I needed some time. I flew into the hall, “I’m on the toilet, Dad!” I shouted with as much indignation as I could muster. “I’ll be down in a few minutes.” I ran back to the bedroom and began shoving the money into my pockets. When I inserted the first handful of coins, I heard a metallic tinkling sound. What’s that? I placed the palm of my right hand over the outside of my right pocket and felt a lump. My grandfather’s watch. God, what an idiot. It was there all along. Incredibly relieved, I quickly began unloading the money and putting it back into the emptied coffee can.

“Teddy! My father impatiently roared.

“I’m coming,” I called out, as I put the last of the money back in the tin. On my tiptoes, I slid the container back on the hat shelf in my closet and hurried down to meet the unknown. I still had a very uneasy feeling, but was it was greatly lessen by the discovery of the pocket watch. At the bottom of the stairs, I could hear Detective Baxter speaking with my parents in the kitchen. As I rounded the corner, my father said, “It’s about time.”

“Sorry,” I replied.

“Please sit down,” Baxter said motioning to sit next to him. He was seated in the same chair as this morning. My mother was in the same place and my father was sitting where I had sat when the cop interviewed me. I sat across the table from my mother. Baxter pulled five photographs from a manila folder and lined them up in front of me. They were photos of different knives. Apparently, the detective had already told my parents what he was there for because they didn’t ask him any questions.

“Son, would you take a look at these,” Baxter requested, and gestured at the lineup.

I’m not your son, I thought.

“Yes, sir,” I said and gazed down at the images. There was a boy scout knife, two hunting and two kitchen knives. One of the kitchen knives was from the Henderson’s matched set, but it wasn’t the paring knife I’d used. I guess if they’d used the actual knife, there would be blood all over it; a dead giveaway. I didn’t say anything, but continued to look at the photographs. Baxter must have thought that I’d had enough time because he said, “Do you recognize any of them?”

“No, sir,” I said.

“You don’t?” Baxter questioned, a somewhat astonished look on his face.

“Well, no,” I answered.

There was silence. The detective leaned back in his chair and stroked his chin.

“Do any of them look familiar?” he said, and leaned back toward the table.

“This one here,” I said pointing to the one from the Henderson’s kitchen. “It has the same kind of handle as the one Johnny had, but it’s larger.”

“Are you absolutely sure it has the same handle as the one Johnny carried?”

“Yes, sir. I’m sure.”

“Thanks for your time,” Baxter said, while stacking the photos and returning them to the folder. He stood, shook my fathers hand, and walked to the front door; all of us following. When he reached the door, he turned the knob, swung it open and began to leave. As almost an after thought, he turned and said, “I’ll need to take a statement from your son tomorrow at police headquarters. Can you have him there by eight AM?”

“Yes, of course,” Mom said.

“After that, I don’t think we’ll be bothering you anymore.”

“Do you know who did it detective?” Dad asked.

“Yes, I think we do, Mr. Roth.”

“Who did it?” Mom asked.

“I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to say. Please have your son at headquarters at eight o’clock sharp. Good evening,” were his parting words.

Dad pensively closed the door, and turned to me.

“Teddy, you can go to your room son.”

“Do you think it was Johnny? I inquired, full knowing what everyone thought.”

“It looks that way. Go on up, now,” Dad repeated.

“I hate him,” I cried.

“We’re not sure Johnny did it,” Mom said, always the voice of reason.

“He did it. I just know it.”

“Up!” my father said, pointing to the stairs, obviously losing patience with me.

“Goodnight,” I said, pecking Mom on the cheek and leapfrogged up the stairs.

As I lay in bed that evening, I could hear my parents talking well into the night. My mother was very emotional and I heard her sobbing several times. I never knew, but I figured she was saddened over Charlie’s death, for the Garners loss, and the Henderson’s plight. I hoped she wasn’t crying for that ass-head, Johnny.

The next day, Dad went to work as usual and Mom took me to the police station. With a lady keying everything I said on a strange looking typewriter, I told them about Johnny carrying the paring knife, his occasional threats to Charlie and me, and once again identified the photo of the Henderson’s knife handle as matching the one Johnny carried. They asked me to repeat the story about my encounter with Charlie and Johnny on Saturday, which I gladly accommodated. They paid particular attention to my description of the bad thing they were doing, the fight Johnny had with Charlie when they were naked, and the threat Johnny made when he left. A few times during my account, I had to pause to think about what I’d told them over the course of the last two days, making sure that my story was the same. I knew Detective Baxter had written most everything down and I wanted to make sure there were no discrepancies. At times, when my hesitation seemed extended, I thought they might get suspicious, but I didn’t detect any outward alarm. I guess they thought it was because I was nervous.

When we got home, Mom picked the paper off the front stoop. The headline read, ELEVEN YEAR OLD BOY SLAIN IN TEANECK. The Bergen Evening Record discussed all of the details about the discovery of the body, the fact that he was tied down and buried after he’d been murdered, but they left out the parts about Charlie’s penis, ears and throat. Back then, there weren’t too many papers that glorified gore. There was one exception however, that New York daily rag, which will remain nameless, displayed a full, front page photograph of Charlie lying half buried with a gaping slit in his throat. To this day, I don’t know how they got the pictures, but I guess it’s the same way they get many of them today – money, money, and more money. While the New Jersey paper was short on details, the New York paper wasn’t. They had all the bloody particulars, including Charlie’s neutering. I was kind of surprised the story held the headlines in the City papers for more than a week. Everyday, there would be some horrid revelation about the slaying that, I’m sure, bolstered the volume of their readership. By Thursday, and although the papers didn’t use his name, they all clearly described Johnny Henderson as the murderer. They reported that the police found: a wallet, monogrammed handkerchief, and the murder weapon, all belonging to the Hendersons, at the scene of the crime. Unfortunately, after extensive testing, the police were unable to obtain any fingerprints from the knife because it was found in a muddy puddle of blood that had obliterated all latent traces. However, they did find several other pieces of evidence linking Johnny to the crime. Partial bloody shoe prints turned up in the Henderson’s house leading straight to Johnny’s bedroom where they uncovered another personalized handkerchief soaked in Charlie’s blood. A shiver ran up my spine when I read about the footprints. What a dummy! I never even thought about footprints. Luckily, almost all the guys wore Keds, and Johnny was no exception. Today there are as many distinguishing sole prints on sneakers as there are sneakers, back then, they were all the same.

I never saw Johnny again, and I never knew what happened to him. I do know his house went up for sale one week later. A couple of weeks after that, I found out that his father had lost his job. I suppose it was because of what his company thought Johnny did, but that’s pure speculation. No one spoke to the Hendersons. I’m not sure if it’s because they didn’t know what to say, or they were trying to ostracize them from the neighborhood. If it was the latter, it worked. Two months later, on a bitter cold October morning, an old, beat-up truck pulled up to their house. Mr. and Mrs. Henderson loaded their things, and quietly left the neighborhood. No one knew where they went, no one seemed to care. I guess the bank foreclosed on their home because a week after they were gone, a FOR SALE sign went up from the Teaneck Savings and Loan.

For months afterwards, it seemed that our street was constantly busy with curiosity clowns. They parked anywhere and everywhere. They took pictures of anything and everything. They traipsed through the woods and removed so much of the brush and small saplings for souvenirs, the crater where I killed Charlie was no longer concealed, but in open view from at least one hundred feet in all directions.

Never wanting to be betrayed again, I pretty much became a loner, spending most of my time with hobbies and schoolwork. Within two years, most every one of the old farts on our block had moved out and were replaced by younger couples with children. Sometimes, I feel bad that Johnny’s parents suffered for what their kid did to me, but, hey, Fuck Johnny!

Looking back now, I realize the mistakes I made could have undoubtedly exposed me as the killer, but I learned quickly, using each experience to gain proficiency in my craft.

Several years passed before I killed again. She was sixteen years old, and she got what she deserved. Did she ever.

 

 

Chapter Seven

 

After graduating from eighth grade, I entered the public school system in Teaneck. My parents couldn’t afford, at least I don’t think they could, to send me to Bergen Catholic, a rather prestigious learning institution, and the only Catholic high school in the tri-county area. As such, I had no choice but to attend Thomas Jefferson Junior High School. Thomas Jefferson encompassed grades seven through nine. The transition from a parochial environment was very tough for me. For various reasons, most of the kids from St. Anns went on to other schools, so I hardly knew anyone when I started in early September of nineteen fifty-nine. The kids at “TJ” were very cliquish. I suppose that was to be expected since most of them had gone through the public school system together, where they developed their bonds of friendship early. I, on the other hand, was a newcomer, a stranger, and might as well have arrived on a spaceship from another planet. I must admit that I was pretty much of a loner after the incident with Charlie and Johnny, but that doesn’t mean I ignored or hid from people. On the contrary, for the rest of my time at St. Anns, I maintained acquaintances, enjoyed my hobbies, and did most of the things a normal kid would do. I was a Boy Scout, played Little League baseball, and Small Fry football. Actually, I was a pretty good little ballplayer. You know, jack of all sports, master of none. I just never got close to anyone, like Charlie and me. I’m sure many kids thought of me as their friend, but it wasn’t mutual. I never gave of myself, as I had with my only, true, best friend, but I suppose time began to slowly erode the pain.

It wasn’t until three months after I started at “TJ” that I met Frankie Bates. Frankie was an outstanding athlete, and very popular. I guess those two attributes invariably go hand-in-hand. He was the captain of the basketball team, captain and quarterback of the football team, and captain of the baseball team. Frankie could have been the captain of every sport in the school if there wasn’t so much overlap in the sport seasons. Anyway, everyone liked Frankie, especially the girls. I knew Frankie from my gym class. He was one of the school’s elite jocks and therefore always chosen as a captain of one of the teams for baseball, football, soccer, basketball, or whatever sport the teacher announced for that day’s activity. Embarrassingly, I was always one of the last kids taken when they picked teams, but oddly, it was Frankie that usually took me on. I never knew why he wanted me, but I sensed that after it happened a number of times, others began to notice the apparent enigma. Of course, I always had little real playing time since the ball was always passed, kicked or thrown to the more favored players.

The night before my first encounter with Frankie, I was at a “TJ” basketball game. Frankie was one of their first string guards and unquestionably the best player on the team. He was tall for his age, a little over six foot. I think Frankie was of German ancestry. He had golden blond hair, light blue eyes, a handsome face, very broad shoulders, a thin waist in the center of a powerful upper and lower body. I remember sitting in the bleachers that evening, surrounded by strangers, watching the game. One of the “TJ” players took an outside shot. It bounced off the backboard, hit the front of the rim, and careened back toward the foul line. Suddenly, there was a blurred figure flying in midair toward the basket, his legs split wide, right arm raised skyward. Frankie palmed the ricocheting ball and, in one sweeping motion, slammed it back down through the hoop. Witnessing, perhaps the first slam-dunk in history, the crowd went crazy – even those rooting for the opposing team. As if a choreographed event, people throughout the entire gymnasium simultaneously exploded out of their seats cheering, screaming, and hooting wildly. The din was ear shattering. Players from both teams, along with the stunned referees, just stood frozen, mouths wide open, gaping at the basket where Frank Bates, seconds earlier, had performed his magic. Frankie was already at the other end of the court as the basketball bounced into a leisurely roll. He seemed confused by the abrupt cessation of all activity. Moments later, he yelled, “Lets go, lets go!” while clapping his hands. Apparently, the fleshy mannequins heard him beckon, and as if slowly emerging from a trance, they began playing again. Almost immediately, the other team seemed demoralized by the astonishing show of athletic prowess and the game quickly turned into a rout. The final score: “TJ”, eighty-seven; Ben Franklin Junior High, forty-eight. Frankie had forty-six of the eighty-seven points, only two points less than the entire effort of the opposing team.

The next day, Frankie was the talk of the school, faculty, and the entire sports-minded town. The sports page of the Bergen Evening Record, while unable to produce a photograph of the athletic gyration, nevertheless, proudly exhibited a picture of Teaneck’s newest star along with a detailed account of the game. At least half of the article was devoted to reporting the unbelievable, gravity defying feat.

When I walked into the locker room for gym the next morning, Frankie was already there and besieged by every guy in the class. They were all recounting Frankie’s efforts from the night before, almost as though he wasn’t there. Several guys were smacking him on the back, some were putting down the other team, and still others were clowning around, pushing, shoving, and reenacting Frankie’s shot like they had slam-dunked the ball themselves. Frankie just stood there quietly, smiling at the gaggle of chattering faces. Finally he said, “Hey, I gotta get dressed. See you guys in the gym.” Everyone got the message and began filing back to their respective lockers, but not without giving Frankie a final slap on the back or punch in the arm. When the crowd finally dispersed, Frankie sat on the bench facing his locker, took a deep breath, and began to get undressed. For some reason, he turned his head and glanced over at me. He must have known that I wasn’t one of the mass of admirers surrounding him moments earlier. I was still staring at him, but caught myself quickly. I mouthed the words, “nice game” and gave him a thumbs up motion. He smiled, nodded his head in recognition, and continued getting ready for class. I opened my locker and did the same. Five minutes later, the entire class was assembled on the gym floor, ringing Mr. Porter, our gym teacher. Porter called Frankie out to the center where he was standing, and proceeded to spend the next ten minutes touting Frankie’s great achievement and harping on the value of sports as a primer for exemplary citizenship in our crime ridden society. When Mr. Porter first began, I noticed Frankie’s face flush. He was clearly embarrassed, and I remember thinking what a great quality, humility. I doubt anyone else noticed, or if they did, didn’t give a rat’s ass. Sadly, guys back then, and more so now, think of humility as a character flaw. Look at me! Me! Me! Me! I’m great! Oh, well.

When Porter was finished, he picked two captains for football. Since the weather outside was cold and rainy, Porter told us we had to play inside. Frankie was picked as team one’s captain, but that wasn’t unusual, he was always picked first. What was unusual is what happened next. Out of all the jocks there, Frankie yelled out the name of his first pick, “Roth!” I was startled, I mean really startled, and so was everyone else. I hesitated, thinking I’d heard wrong. A few seconds passed. “Teddy, you’re on my team,” Frankie said pointing at an invisible spot on the gymnasium floor where his team was to assemble. It wasn’t my imagination, it was me. As common practice for non-TJ-athletes, I was standing behind the crowd in the appropriate outer fringes, when everyone turned and looked at me. As I began to move toward the assembly point, the crowd parted, like the Red Sea for Moses, and I proudly jogged out to the Promised Land. You could hear a hair drop. Frankie looked at the other captain and said, “Hey, your turn.” Stunned, the other team captain looked at the group of kids gathered around, shook his head, and picked the next best jock in the school, the one Frankie usually selected first. After the teams were finally decided, Frankie flipped a coin for who would take ball possession. He won. I was flying high and didn’t care if I never touched the ground, much less the ball. I had been acknowledged. Why? I had no idea, but the moment was mine, if only for that class, for that day. It was exhilarating.

Frankie assigned everyone to their position. To my astonishment, I was selected as a wide receiver. Now you have to try and imagine this. Here I am, an unknown, selected by the school’s top jock, for a critical position on the team. He’s over six feet tall and well built. I’m five foot six inches, if that, and one hundred and eighty pounds. Mind you, I wasn’t fat, just, well, real husky. A receiver? Suddenly, a terrifying, hollow feeling washed through me as I realized what was happening. It was a setup! I was going to be made a fool of, and, guess what, there was nothing I could do. I’d be the laughing stock of the school by lunch time. Did you hear what they did to that jerk, Teddy Roth. It was happening all over again. Frankie and his buddies had planned this all along, I just knew it. As if a drug was taking root, I began slipping into a deep depression. The last thing I remember thinking was, I’ll get him for this. Charlie got off easy. Just wait Frankie Bates, your turn’s next. 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

I was jarred from my plotting cerebral fantasies when I perceived the faint echo of a voice close to me. “Teddy...,” was all that I heard.

“What? Did you say something?” I said confused, only partially recognizing that my name was used.

“Listen up Teddy,” Frankie said, kneeling at the center of the huddle, “You cut to the center of the court, then go long.”

“Okay,” I chirped, shaking out the cobwebs of vengeful thoughts.

Frankie continued giving instructions to the other players, then finally said, “On three, on three.”

Everyone broke from the huddle, including me, and assumed their assigned positions. I spread out wide to the right, cocked my right leg behind me, and struck my starting pose. My fears were now in full swing. What were they going to do? What was their plan for embarrassing me, hurting me? I’d show them. I recall thinking, snap out of it Teddy. Show them how good you are. Show them all.

Frankie began the snap count and I began to tremble. A defensive player, one of the top five football players in school, was right on top of me. Damn them, I thought.

“HUT, HUT, HUT!” came the halting blasts deep from within Frankie’s vocal cords.

At precisely the “H” in the final “HUT”, I stutter stepped to the right. The defender took the fake and moved to his left crossing his right foot over his left. I knew I had him. I shot forward, sprinting about ten feet, and then angled sharply toward the center of the court. Just as I reached the midpoint, another defender peeled off from his line-backing position and picked me up. Believing I was going to continue across to the other side of the playing field, the new defender made a fatal error, he turned to match me stride for stride. I slowed just a tad, enough to let him inch ahead, then I planted my left foot on the hard deck, changed direction, and tore straight toward the backboard at the far end of the court. All alone and about ten feet from the hoop, I turned my head only to see the spiraling ball about five feet behind, and two feet higher than I could possibly leap. In full stride, I focused on what I had to do, must do, and launched myself into midair. My body went parallel to the floor, my arms were outstretched, palms skyward, and my eyes were directing, pleading the ball into my hands. The last thing I recollect before slamming into the hardwood floor, was the ball touching the tips of my extended fingers. Honestly, I can’t recall what happened at the instant, but I do remember what happened next. Curled into the fetal position, I looked up as a crowd of teammates gathered around cheering the wizardry I had just performed. Frankie extended his hand, leaned over and pulled me off of the floor.

“Way to go Ted. Great catch. Where have you been all my life?” were the only three sentences I heard. I didn’t feel the pain of two, wood burned knees, or the quickly growing welts on my bruised elbows. Frankie wasn’t fucking with me. He really liked me. I was in.

I was unstoppable. Before the class was over, I’d intercepted a pass and scored two more touchdowns. I guess you could say that I experienced my fifteen minutes of fame. For the balance of the school year, I had what all kids wanted, popularity. I was invited to parties, sat with the jocks in the lunchroom, huddled in the halls with the kids everyone wanted to be with, and became good friends with Frankie. Mind you, I never really got close, like Charlie and me, but we hung out together. In June, we graduated from “TJ”. It was a big-to-do with all of the: parties, graduation ceremonies, class trips, and other benefits reserved for the ninth grade at “TJ” Junior High. Unfortunately, I didn’t partake in many of them as my folks wouldn’t let me have the money needed to partake in most of the activities. They told me that I had just graduated the year before at St. Anns. I hated them for that. They had no idea how tough it’d been to survive at “TJ”. I never really got over it and resent it to this day. Cheap bastards!

That summer in nineteen sixty, I hung out with Frankie. He led a very different life. Frankie’s parents, especially his father, were very strict. I knew Frankie used to get hit. Sometimes, he’d have bruises on his face and back, but he’d never say anything about them, and I never asked. Frankie had one younger brother and three sisters. Two of his sisters were older. All the girls were blond and beautiful. They were all very nice to me, even Frankie’s Mom. His dad was a different story. During the next three years, I don’t think his father ever acknowledged me. He was in the same chair every time I saw him, and always drunk. What an asshole. Anyway, Frankie taught me how to play basketball. Not just play it, but excel at it. Everyday, including Sundays, I’d meet Frankie at one of the many schools in Teaneck and the surrounding towns and we’d pick up games with the local jocks. By August, I was really perfecting my skills. Frankie and I seemed to master each others moves, even before we knew we were going to make them. That’s when Frankie suggested we play for money, and so we did. Usually five dollars a game. That was a lot back then, but we cleaned up. The two of us developed a reputation and before we knew it, guys were coming from all around to challenge us.

On one occasion, a couple of seedy guys showed up at the Ben Franklin School yard where we were practicing. They were from New York City. God only knows how they heard about us, but they had. The game was for twenty bucks. Frankie and I didn’t have it, but we thought we could take them. We cleaned their clock. When it was time for them to dole out the dough, they picked a fight. The biggest guy cold cocked Frankie knocking him to the ground. The smaller of the two came after me. I really wasn’t experienced in fighting, but as he blindly rushed me, his head lowered, I stepped to the side and smashed him on the side of the face with my fist knocking him to the ground. The kid just lay there, looking up at me standing over him. I turned to see how Frankie was doing and saw the big guy kicking the shit out of him while he lay on the ground. I ran over, and in full stride, tackled the fucker from behind. I must have knocked the wind out of him because he lay sprawled on the ground trying to breath, but he couldn’t. I took a few steps to where Frankie lay. He was moaning from the blows he’d taken on the head, back and stomach. I knelt down and asked if he was all right. At that instant Frankie yelled, “Watch it!” I turned my head and saw the guy, I’d just tackled, take a knife out of his pocket. On fear and adrenaline alone, I spun around and jumped on the shit-head grabbing for the knife in his right hand. We wrestled for the knife momentarily and then fell hard to the ground. Amazingly, I was on top. I don’t know why it was so easy, perhaps he was still a bit stunned by the hit he took, but I was able to wrench the knife from his hand. It was a black handled Italian stiletto with a five inch blade, and next to the zip gun, the favorite choice of weapons in gangs. Straddling the jerk, I leaned back and quickly flipped the knife from my left hand to my right. I tried to stab the mother-fucker in the face but he defensively threw his left hand up and the knife glanced off of his hand and plunged deep into the moron’s right shoulder. The guy’s eyes opened as wide as saucers and a disbelieving look transformed his facial expression. The stupid fuck was in denial. His friend, seeing what had just happened, got up and ran away. Inflicting as much pain as possible, I twisted the knife from his shoulder. He screamed as loud a scream as I’ve ever heard. I quickly stood and while straddling the petrified lowlife, I glared down at him and said very calmly and collectedly, “You want some more asshole!” He just shook his head and began pushing himself backward, scraping his butt along the pavement until he was perhaps five feet from me. He jumped up and took off after his fleeing friend. I turned my attention back to Frankie. He was leaning up on his elbows, shocked at what I’d done. By now, a crowd of locals had gathered, and upon seeing the other cretins flee, ran over to assist us.

Word spread quickly about what had taken place. Two Jersey guys, beat the shit out of two New Yorkers. In truth, for the next month or so, I was sure these guys would return with their friends and take us out, but they never did. From that day forward, I was a god. No one, and I mean no one, fucked with me or Frankie. It was simple, the law of the jungle had prevailed. Unfortunately, word had spread to the faculty at Teaneck High by the time I’d started my sophomore year in September of nineteen sixty. From the rumors of that one incident, my notoriety would prove to be a blessing among my peers and a nightmare with teachers. Mom and Dad never found out about the fight and I’m glad they didn’t. I was defending myself, but that’s not how my parents would have seen it.

At the beckoning of Frankie, and virtually all of the other jocks, I tried out for football. I was one of the best players and everyone knew it, but my soiled reputation precipitated a flurry of reasons from the coaches why I wasn’t good enough to make the team. At one point, Frankie had organized a boycott of all sports, but after much pleading, I was able to convince him to abandon the crusade. The problem followed me for the next three years.

Back then, high schools often had a number of fraternities. The only one that meant anything at Teaneck High was the SKAHSA. Don’t ask me what it stood for because I don’t know. All I do know is that the SKAHSA brotherhood was established exclusively for top athletes. If you didn’t have a varsity letter in several sports you wouldn’t even be considered. Every fraternity member cast one vote for a sponsored candidate. The ballot was secret and used a system of black and white marbles. If one dissenting vote, black ball, was dropped in the shoe box, the aspiring jock was rejected, never to be sponsored again. Of course, Frankie was my backer. To this day, I pride myself on being voted into the SKAHSA. I was the first, and I believe, the last non-athlete at Teaneck High ever to be chosen. I cherished the honor, I still do, besides, they had the coolest jackets. Other than the SKAHSA, things were pretty uneventful during my sophomore year. I was still five-six, and one hundred and eighty; not exactly an Elvis Presley, or Marlon Brando type. However, from the end of my sophomore year to near the end of my junior year, the strangest thing happened. My hormones and genes must have shifted into overdrive because during that nine month period, I grew almost one foot in height, and put on exactly zero pounds in weight. At six foot five inches plus, my freckles and baby fat were gone. My parents had gifted me late in adolescence with a tall, dark and handsome appearance. Going from one of the shorter, stockier students, to the tallest and one of the best looking, had both advantages and disadvantages. The advantage: chicks! They finally took notice, although I still shied away from them. The disadvantage: I stood out in a crowd. I wasn’t use to that, and I didn’t like it. Later on, it would prove to be a considerable benefit in advancing my career.

At the end of my junior year, I was awkwardly adjusting to my new physique when I met, and began dating Jamie Carver.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Nine

 

Quite by accident, my first encounter with Jamie Carver was behind a drug store off of Cedar Lane, the main drag in Teaneck. The parking lot behind an attached row of stores, including the drug store, was a local hangout for high school kids, and other young toughs. If you had a car, or knew someone that had a car, that’s where you’d go at night and on weekends. It was an unwritten rule that walk-ins weren’t allowed. There never seemed to be less than a hundred kids organized into groups of like-feathered flocks: The jocks, the hoods or small-town Fonzie types, the easy babes, the cheerleaders, which often mingled with the easy babes, the nice girls, the in-crowd rich kids with their Corvettes, and those that aspired to be part of any one of the groups. I was with Frankie that night. He drove his dad’s car. I was still several months away from getting my license, so I always went with Frankie. As we pulled into our reserved jock-spot, where several other guys were already assembled, I immediately noticed Jamie and her girlfriend, Rose Peck, talking to one of my buddies, Paul Shapiro. Paul was a SKAHSA brother who lettered in track and basketball. Jamie was well known by everyone. She was also a junior, a straight “A” academic, and a member of the rather distinguished Teaneck High theater group where she starred in every school play that called for a female lead. Jamie was very talented, and, in addition to being an excellent actress, she had a stunning singing voice. Hell, she sounded more like Cher, than Cher. Jamie Carver was the most beautiful girl in Teaneck, absolutely no contest. She was tall, about five foot ten inches, with long raven black hair. Her gentle oval face was complimented by the darkest ebony eyes I’d ever seen. Her skin was naturally tan, indicative of her Italian heritage, her nose perfectly straight and effortlessly proportioned to the balance of her facial features. Her lips were full, teeth pearl white, and she had the most welcoming dimples when she smiled, which was often. Jamie’s impressive looks were only magnified by her flawless figure. She had broad shoulders, large, firm breasts, a slim girlish waist, and the longest, most provocatively shaped legs God had ever made. She was the total package. Not knowing her personally, but only by reputation, her personality was said to match the rest of her abundant gifts. From her Sophomore through her Junior year, she was only known to have dated one guy, Mark Lindstrom, and then only once. Rumors abound that several of the top jocks and bad boys had asked Jamie out on dates, only to be rejected. Guys never spoke about their female failures, only their successes, and then, half of the time you couldn’t believe them. By the fact no one mentioned Jamie in the same breath as the word date, demonstrated the universal respect she commanded. Nearing the end of our second to last year at Teaneck High, there wasn’t a guy I knew that had the guts to ask her out. She was untouchable, too sophisticated for the run of mundane immature studs in our school. But there she was, only feet from where I was sitting.

By the time Frankie turned the engine off, I found myself gaping at Jamie through the open window. It was easy to do. She was listening to something Shapiro was saying, when she turned her head, gazed softly into my eyes, and then cracked an unimaginable warm inviting smile, or at least I thought it was. Like an idiot, I turned my head forward pretending I wasn’t staring, but it was so obvious. Frankie turned to me and shook his head.

“Down, big guy. Strictly out of bounds and out of our league.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I capitulated.

We both got out of the car, I avoided another glance at Jamie, and we went to where a group of SKAHSAs were congregated. It was obvious, even before I got there, who they were talking about. It was what they always talked about, girls. Only this time, I knew the subject for the topic of conversation, Jamie Carver. Only a few feet from the gathering, Frankie and I could already here the banter.

“I’d give my left nut just to bang her once,” one said.

“You’d have to cut off both nuts and your dick for that pussy,” another retorted.

“It’d be worth it,” the first replied.

“I wonder what those tits feel like?” someone else chimed in.

“You’ll never see them much less feel them,” another chided.

“I’ve got a hard-on already,” Frankie said just as we reached the group.

“We all do,” someone yelled, and we all laughed.

“Man, what a ride she’d be,” a guy named Jack, oozed.

“She doesn’t want a peewee-dick like yours. What she needs is a real man,” another of the group, Tony, said. Then he grabbed his burgeoning crotch, rubbing it up and down.

“What’s up?” I said to the group like a blockhead. Anyone else would have taken a lot of shit for such a stupid statement, but my reputation prevented anyone from responding with an inappropriate rebuke.

In unison they all said, “Hey, Teddy.”

The conversation then resumed. For the next ten minutes, all of Jamie’s body parts and orifices were fancifully matched and disgustingly satisfied with the tongues, fingers and cocks from each of the young bucks. Great pretenders. Actually, I thought it was pretty repulsive, but I kept my opinions silent and listened.

“Hey, shut-up,” one of the guys said, and motioned with his head toward Rose Peck, Jamie’s friend, who was walking towards us.

I knew Rose from one of my classes, but only casually. I was always cordial to my classmates, giving out “good mornings” and “hi, how ya’doin” in passing. Rose walked up to Frankie.

“Can I see you a second,” she said.

“Sure,” Frankie replied.

The two of them ambled about ten feet from where we were situated. Everyone was staring at them, craning to see what was going on, and to hear what was being said. Rose must have been whispering, because no one could catch a word much less the gist of the subject. For the most part, Rose was talking and Frankie was listening, nodding his head frequently, apparently in agreement with whatever she was prattling about. Once during the conversation, Frankie looked over at me, smiled, and then returned his attention to Rose. A few minutes later their little meeting ended. Frankie came strolling back with Rose and she continued on to where Jamie and Shapiro were still standing.

“What was that all about Frankie?” one of the guys said.

“She wanted to know if SKAHSA would help decorate the gym for the school dance next week. I told her I’d recruit some volunteers.”

“That’s it?” another asked.

“That’s it,” Frankie said.

The conversation then shifted to the latest baseball game, and a sundry of other subjects, including, of course, girls. About a half hour later, Frankie said he had to go home and study for final exams. He looked at me, I nodded, then we both bade our farewells and went back to Frankie’s car. Jamie, Rose and Shapiro were gone. The two of us got in the car, but Frankie just sat there.

“Lets go chief,” I said.

Frankie glanced around outside, then turned to me and said, “She wants to go out with you.”

“Who?”

“Jamie.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No, I’m not kidding. That’s what Rose wanted, to see if you would ask Jamie to the dance next week.”

“Jesus,” was all I could muster.

“You son-of-a-bitch,” Frankie said. “I can’t believe it. Out of all the guys in the school, she picks you. You don’t even have a big dick, and I told Rose that.”

“You what?”

“I told Rose you had a little dick.”

“Asshole! You didn’t!”

“Yeah, I told her the guys referred to you as needle dick, the bug fucker.”

“Fuck you, Frankie.”

“Teddy, she wants to go out with you. No shit.”

“You didn’t really say that stuff.”

“For such a smart guy, you’re so stupid sometimes. Of course I didn’t.”

“Oh.... Did Rose say why Jamie wanted to go out with me?”

“Because Jamie is a child molester, and she likes kiddy dicks.” Frankie paused, and then added. “How the hell should I know. It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it, she likes you. Who the fuck knows why. Who cares. I sure as hell can’t figure it out, but you’re one lucky stiff. And that’s what it’s going to be, stiff. You going to ask her to the dance?”

“I don’t know.”

“What the hell do you mean, ‘you don’t know?’”

“I don’t have a car.”

“Ride with me and Joan.”

“You still seeing her?”

“No, but I’ll make a sacrifice and ask her to the dance to help out your sorry ass. Jesus, Teddy, what the hell’s wrong with you?”

“I’ll call her tonight.”

“You’d better, stud.”

Frankie started the engine and drove me home. I didn’t say much on the way. Frankie kept up his harassment but the words were just a distant chatter as all I could think about was the impending call to Jamie. It was about nine-thirty when he dropped me off. My parents were sitting in the small TV room watching God only knows what. I said, “Hello,” kissed my mom on the cheek and exited the room for the kitchen. That’s  where the telephone was. For ten minutes, I sat at the kitchen table staring at the wall-phone, trying to gather the nerve to call Jamie. I began creating dialogue, in my mind, that I would use on her. That took another ten minutes. At one point, I got up and retrieved a paper and pencil to make notes for use during the conversation. Man, was I nervous. Finally, I marshaled enough courage, plucked the handset from the wall and went to dial. God, what an idiot, I had no idea what her number was. I slowly replaced the phone, pulled out the telephone directory, and found the listing. Again hesitating, I slowly started dialing Jamie’s number. There was a long cord on the phone, so I walked back to the table and sat down. The phone began to ring, I jumped from the seat and hung the phone up. I was acting like a jerk. Of course, she’ll know it was me if I called back. What a shit head! I stood there regaining my strength and finally rotated the numbers. This time I let it ring until someone answered. It was Jamie.

“Hello.”

“Hi, is Jamie in?” I said. What a fucking dope, I knew it was her.

“Speaking.”

“Hi Jamie, this is Teddy, Teddy Roth.”

“Oh, hi.”

“Ah, how are you?” I stuttered. Such a bonehead.

“I’m fine, Teddy.” There was a pause that seemed like an hour. Beads of sweat began popping out of my forehead.

“Um, ah, … I was wondering if you would like to go to the dance next Saturday? I mean go to the dance next week,” I said, twisting my body back and forth, writhing up and down. I was silently hopping on both feet, and making weird facial expressions. My face began to burn up. I must have been the color of a red hot poker. God! If she could see me. What a spastic, dope!

“Sure, Teddy. I’d love to.”

“You would?” I said, astounded like some sort of dimwit.

“Yes, Teddy. What time do you want to pick me up?”

“What time does it start?” Jesus what a dunce. I should know what time.

“Eight o’clock.”

“How about seven-thirty?”

“That would be fine,” Jamie replied softly.

“Okay, see you then,” I said, and hung up. I sagged against the wall. What an ever loving fathead. I just hung up on her. Great conversation – suave, smooth, mature, cool, calm, collected. What a clod. God, I was such a clod.

I glanced at the phone, shook my head, went up to my room and went to bed, but not before reliving the conversation a million times.

 The weekend was uneventful. Frankie and I hung out and played some basketball. By Monday morning, word had leaked out that I was taking Jamie to the dance. All week long the guys ribbed me. You know, stuff like, “Grab a feel for me,” or “Your too ugly to be so lucky,” or “I bet she French kisses,” or “If she’s too much woman for you, I’ll be happy to take your place,” or “Do you have something we haven’t seen before.” That kind of crap. As the week wore on, I was beginning to enjoy the fame. Luckily, it wasn’t until Friday when I was eating lunch in the cafeteria that Jamie caught up to me.

“Teddy,” I heard a soft voice say while my head was bent over, noisily slurping down some spaghetti. I looked up and there she was, smiling – and me, with red sauce and strings of linguini hanging out of my mouth. Jamie had on a clingy, powder blue sweater over a matching skirt. Her breasts were huge. I caught myself staring at them, and redirected my eyes to hers, then I quickly diverted my gaze to a point on the wall behind her. Sucking in the last of the spaghetti, I grabbed a napkin and wiped my face.

“Hi, Jamie.”

“Are we all set for tomorrow night?”

“Sure, Frankie’s driving. He’s taking Joan Richmond. We’ll pick you up around seven-thirty.”

“Great, see you then,” Jamie said and walked away. You could have heard a butterfly land on the table. The guys just sat and stared at her gyrating ass as she swiveled it all the way to the door.

“God damn, Teddy,” Frankie said. How’d you ever get a piece of ass like that to ask you out.

“Well Frankie, I guess it gets down to intelligence and good looks, all of which none of you assholes have,” I said, looking around the table. Instantly, balled up napkins, butter paddies, straws, and other harmless debris was launched in my direction. I jumped back out of my seat and waited until the flurry of objects stopped coming. I looked at Frankie and then around at the rest of the collection of raging hormones.

“Neanderthals,” I barked, and swiftly departed for my next class just in case they decided to chuck larger objects.

I was feeling good about myself. Things couldn’t have been better. I was getting straight “A’s”, going out with the most gorgeous girl in the school and the envy of every guy I knew.

***

Summer vacation was around the corner, and the following September I was going to be a senior. King of the THS hill. What could go wrong?

If I had only known, been less naive, smart enough to see the signs. Maybe, I’d have been able to keep my emotions in check, and she’d still be alive. I’m not saying that what happened was my fault. I did what I did; what I didn’t do was plan it, not really. But, Jamie did, and because of that she deserved every bit of what she got.

As for me, there’d be no returning from the events that transpired on that broiling August evening. Unlike after I had killed Charlie, almost seven years to the day, I had become again, and not just in activity, a normal, if somewhat withdrawn boy, growing into young adulthood.

What Jamie did to me, what happened that night, ruthlessly castrated any lingering compassion I felt for human life. Jamie Carver short-circuited my emotions, to be sure, but she matured my defense mechanisms, too where my survival instincts fathered a cunning and revengeful thoroughbred, a psychopathic killer would soon take root.

***

Ted Roth clicked off the tape recorder, setting it next to his hip on the bedspread. He had begun to breathe heavily; the passions revisited, increasing his faltering blood pressure. Without warning, the pain in his belly pulled hot and dry, like severely burned skin. Roth’s lungs began working shallow, quick, his face glistening, beaded like a Lamaze-trained, delivering woman. He pushed his tongue to the roof of his mouth with a grimaced, “Ahhhett!” and held his breath, forcing the pain from his awareness.

Recovering fearfully, his near-unconsciousness due more to oxygen starvation than the bullet-wound’s internal bleeding, Roth was desperate for a drink of water. Hands and legs trembling, from a lack of blood and nutrients as well as fear, he stood holding his abdomen close, with shaky steps, he headed for the bathroom, paranoia driving him forward.

Ted Roth was positive he would die of thirst before he’d ever bleed to death.

He leaned against the sink, thighs and hands, regaining strength. Avoiding the light switch and the mirror, chin-on-chest, he stared at the sink almost dropping the small dingy glass, his fingers slick with blood. After downing two full glasses, he decided better than bloating himself. Setting the full glass on the back of the sink, he took the course hand towel from the bar and soaked it. Dousing his face, it smelled starkly of blood. Drenching it again, he tried his best to wring it out, realizing then how weak he’d become. Adrenaline rising, he tossed the towel over his wrist, picked up the glass and quickly short-stepped back to the bed, chastising himself for getting too involved with his autobiography.

“Just tell the fucking tale,” he said, setting the glass on the nightstand. He flopped down, sitting on the frayed, bloodstained spread. Letting the momentum carry his torso back, he clenched his teeth, holding his belly as his legs swung up onto the bed.

He knew if he let his emotions run things, he would never finish, and that was unacceptable. With renewed strength, he set the recorder on his chest, pressed the RECORD button and spoke matter-of-factly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Ten

 

Frankie arrived at my house at seven-thirty, Saturday night. He had already picked up his date, Joan. I jumped into the backseat and promptly began howling about the fact that we were late. Frankie tried to calm me down by telling me how fashionable it was being late. His logic was simple, play hard to get, and you can get into their pants sooner. I couldn’t argue since I’d never been with a girl, you know, in that way. In fact, I’d hardly dated at all. I don’t think I really kissed a girl until I was fifteen and I didn’t get my first feel until just after my sixteenth birthday. I’ll never forget it.

***

Frankie set me up with a girl from Hackensack High School. He knew her through a mutual friend and told me she was easy, loved sex, and would put out for anyone. Anyway, we double dated, meeting them in front of the Fox Theater one Sunday afternoon in Hacky, that’s what we called Hackensack. About half way through the movie, I put my arm around my date. I knew she didn’t mind because she leaned into me, you know, snuggled. I was actually scared, because of all the pressure Frankie had laid on me, you know easy babe, loved sex, put out. Frankie was sitting next to Margie, that was my girl’s name. On the other side of him was his bimbo, and was she ever. I’d never seen anyone with so much makeup. She looked like someone had literally painted her face on her head. She did have one outstanding attribute, huge tits. I mean huge, gargantuan, behemoth, monster melons, grand Titons. They had to hurt, they were so big. Soon after Margie began cuddling, I leaned over to say something to Frankie and saw him slobbering kisses all over Pamela, that was his date’s name. Their tongues were fiercely parrying for position, his left hand was under her sweater wrestling her jugs, and her hand was inside his open pants, stroking his dick. I sat back quickly, embarrassed by what I’d just seen. I was such an idiot. Margie was taking all of this in and looked up at me with her doggie sad eyes, like she wasn’t getting her fair share. I thought, what the hell. With my right arm around her shoulder, I leaned down and kissed her full and tender on the lips. Like the stiletto I’d stabbed the asshole form New York with, her tongue shot into my mouth. God, it was long. We kissed for about five minutes without stopping. I guess five minutes was enough because suddenly she took my freehand and placed it over her left boob. I liked it, I liked it a lot. For the next ten minutes I rubbed, squeezed and fondled both of her tits. I’d never felt a woman’s breasts before, they felt strange, sort of hollow, kind of rubbery. Seconds after I began, I got the largest, and hardest hard-on I think I’ve ever had. I thought my cock was going to explode, I really did. It went straight up lifting the crotch of my pants into the air like a tent pole. The next thing I knew, Margie had my belt unbuckled, my zipper open, my dick out from inside my underwear and was gently rubbing it up and down the shaft. I kept looking around to see if anyone could see us. As best as I could tell, no one could. The theater was only half full, and not too many people were close by. It was unbelievable. I never knew how great something like that could feel. Sure I’d masturbated, like all guys, but this was different. To think a girl would do something so private, and so personal to a man, well, a boy. Being the nincompoop that I was, I construed this as a sign of love, a pure gesture of affection. Margie, I thought, really likes me. It’s not the sex, it’s me. An hour into the movie, I genuinely thought I was falling in love. Margie kept stroking and rubbing until I knew I was going to cum. I tried to stop her but she picked up the rhythm. With a last ditch effort at not spewing on myself, I held her hand tight so she would stop, she must have done this before because she broke my grip and increased the pumping to a frantic pace. Just as I was about to erupt, she bowed her head and placed her, oh so soft, lips over my throbbing cock. As I let loose in her mouth, she kept sucking and swallowing as each burst of milky fluid shot to freedom.

After the movie, we all walked outside, and we left them where we had met them, in front of the Fox. Frankie and I promised we would call them, but we never did. When we got to Frankie’s car, he asked me how she was. I said great, and then proceeded to tell him how much she must have liked me. He couldn’t stop laughing. Then, he laid it out.

“How did you like those little titties?”

“They weren’t so little,” I said.

“Did you get her bra off?”

“No.”

“Well if you had, you would have found out you were feeling up her falsies,” Frankie said and burst out laughing.

“Hey, fuck you, Frankie.”

“No shit man, Pamela told me she wears falsies.”

“That’s bullshit,” I blurted.

“Well, what did they feel like?”

“Like tits,” I said, now realizing why they’d felt so odd.

“Okay stud, but you owe me one. I saw you jerk off in her mouth.”

“Kiss my ass, Frankie!”

Well, that was pretty much the sum of my first real experience with a girl, excuse me, slut. I knew Jamie would never, could never, be like that. She was too wholesome, too much of a lady. It would take time and romance before we were intimate, she was special.

***

Anyway, back to the car. Joan was taking in all of the crap Frankie was feeding me about playing hard to get, but she never said anything. I think she was just happy that Frankie, top Teaneck High jock, had asked her out again. We were still going to be late and it didn’t matter what Frankie thought, just what Jamie would think when I arrived fifteen minutes after I’d promised. Frankie was ragging at my hyper-active conduct when he dropped the transmission into drive and pulled away from the curb in front of my house. By the time we reached Jamie’s, I’d calmed down a bit. I was perspiring, my hands were clammy and my armpits soaked. Luckily, I was wearing a dark shirt, otherwise, I would have looked like I just finished chopping wood. It was seven forty-seven as I jumped out of the car and ran up to ring the bell. Before I did, I straightened my hair and checked myself over. You know, zipper closed, shirt tucked in, shoelaces tied, that kind of stuff. Just as I reached for the bell, the front door opened and Jamie was there. I swear, my heart skipped a beat. I felt faint, weak, powerless, speechless and insecure. She was the most beautiful, and stunning woman I’d ever seen. Her hair was meticulously fashioned in a gentle shoulder length flip, her dress was soft pink, with a mildly revealing neck line and flared below the waist, hemmed at mid-calf. Her shoes were in perfect harmony with her dress. Her eyes were like deep pools of liquid onyx, her lips full and sensuous, her breasts softly regal. Other than lightly blushed pink lipstick, she wore no make-up, she didn’t need it. I was in love, really in love.

“Hi, Teddy.”

“Hi, Jamie. You look great.”

“Thanks. Would you step inside a minute, my parents would like to meet you.”

I hadn’t counted on this. I was nervous enough as it was, damn it.

“Sure.”

Jamie pushed the door open and I entered. About four feet behind Jamie, her parents were standing side-by-side. They were ancient, at least in their mid-sixties. Her father was about Jamie’s height, five foot ten inches. Her mother was actually a couple of inches taller, a big woman. Mr. Carver looked like Friar Tuck in Robin Hood, only with white hair. He seemed as round as he was tall. Her mother, on the other hand, was pretty good looking for an old person. She had long, salt and pepper hair, a kind face, broad, rounded shoulders, large breasts, an aged waist line, and long legs. It was evident where Jamie received her looks and figure.

“Mom, Dad, this is Teddy Roth.”

“Hi, Teddy,” Jamie’s Mom said.

“Teddy,” her father said, and stepped forward to shake my hand. It was like squeezing a dead fish. I hated guys that didn’t have a firm hand shake.

“Hello,” was all that I could squeak out.

The interrogation began. Was I in the same class as Jamie? Did I like school? Was I going to college? Where did I live? What did my parents do for a living? How long did I live in Teaneck? Did I play sports? Are you going to fuck Jamie tonight? I figured would be the last and key question for the examination. At one point, I thought I should pull out my dick so they could make sure it was USDA, Grade A meat. That sounds terrible, I know, but shit, I was just taking their daughter to a dance, for Christ sakes.

It’s strange, with a girl like Jamie, I wouldn’t think of being some-sort of insensitive, grab-ass punk, trying to get nothing more than his rocks off. And yet, these two old coots start into this half-assed interrogation – and it’s not what they asked, but like they were interviewing me for a job as a Brinks armored-car guard, all business, cut-and-dry, and the next thing I know, I’ve got this cat-piss, smelly attitude like I’m James Dean and Marlon Brando put together, weird. I was just glad none of it bubbled to the surface.

Anyway, the test concluded, we left with strict orders to be home by midnight. I almost bowed in recognition of the master’s command, but I caught myself.

I guess it was all worthwhile because we had a great time at the dance. Jamie was very attentive to me, probably because I never left her side. Some guys asked her to dance, but she politely refused. I was so proud to be with her, immensely jealous of her popularity and falling in love – hard. The four of us left the dance around eleven and went to Pizza Tower on Route 17, in New Jersey. Pizza Tower was only takeout, so we sat in Frankie’s car munching on pizza, drinking cokes, and talking. As the evening wore on to its conclusion, I became more and more comfortable with Jamie. Frankie was the perfect gentleman all night, and that helped. No wisecracks, no dirty jokes, no macho antics, no public displays of affection; you know what I mean. He pulled up to Jamie’s house at ten minutes after midnight, and waited out front for me. Jamie suggested we walk around to the back porch because she would wake her parents if she went in through the front. As naive as I was, I believed her. We drifted slowly in the dark down the driveway that ran alongside of the house, stopping at the bottom steps to the porch. I hadn’t held her hand all night, I hadn’t held her close during slow dances, and I hadn’t put my arm around her when we were in the backseat of Frankie’s car. Everything had to be perfect on the first date. The last thing I wanted was for her to think I was like one of those immature assholes, with severely diminished intelligence, at Teaneck High. I wasn’t looking to score, but to court her. She was a lady: so sophisticated, so beautiful, so intelligent. She would fall in love with me, I knew it. I needed Jamie, I wanted her, I wanted to be part of her life, but I needed to be patient. Besides, the thought of being rejected during an attempted kiss would be devastating. Jamie turned to me.

“I had a great time tonight,” she said, in a hushed tenor.

“So did I,” I said, thoroughly love struck. Even in the dim light cast from a night light in their kitchen, her eyes sparkled and her hair shimmered.

“Well,” she said, gazing into my eyes.

You’ll never guess what happened next. I shook her hand, then abruptly turned and started back down the driveway. SHOOK HER HAND! What a fucking idiot!

“Will I see you again,” Jamie softly called to me.

As stupid as I felt at that moment, I was at a loss for words. Briefly gaining my composure, I turned, and while still in full stride said, “Sure!” I’ll call…” and I smashed into two metal garbage cans next to the house. The lids flew off, the cans went flying, and garbage scattered everywhere. I thanked God it was dark so Jamie couldn’t see what I’d done, although it was pretty obvious, whether she could see or not.

“I’ll call you tomorrow,” I said.

I thought I heard her giggle then go into the house. There was absolutely no lighting where I’d run into the cans. I couldn’t see a thing. Figuring Jamie had gone inside, I got down on my hands and knees to feel around for the cans. The least I could do was put everything back the way it was. Seconds later, two spotlights, high on the side of the house flashed on, illuminating the entire area. I slowly cocked my head toward the back and looked right at Jamie who was still standing where I’d left her. Moments later her father, dressed in a bathrobe, bounded down the back steps and stopped next to his daughter. I was still on my knees, feeling too stupid to do anything else, and he shook his head. Jamie said something to him and then disappeared inside. Her father spent the next ten minutes helping me clean up. When I got back to Frankie’s car, both he and Joan were rocking back and forth, laughing hysterically.

That was the end of my first date with Jamie Carver.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eleven

 

I waited until ten AM the following morning before I called, which was as long as I could stand, without hearing Jamie’s voice. I was hooked, and I knew it. I’d never had feelings like this before. They were strange, unreal, overpowering. Her father answered the phone. When I told him who it was, he chuckled and asked me to hold on. A few seconds later, Jamie answered. Hearing her sent continuous waves of tingles through my body, like she’d struck the sensual funny bone of my very soul. We talked for two hours about nothing, about everything. She made no mention of my run-in with the garbage cans the night before, and I was thankful for that. I asked Jamie if she wanted to go to the movies that afternoon and she happily agreed. Luckily, I was able to persuade Frankie to double, and off we went to the Teaneck Theater for the one o’clock Sunday matinee. Frankie took Joan and made-out with her for the entire movie. This date was very different then our encounter with Pamela and Margie. As best as I could tell, Frankie was pretty restrained. I never even put my arm around Jamie, much less kiss her. Afterward, we went to the parking lot behind the drug store on Cedar Lane and hung-out until five when we all went home for dinner. I talked with Jamie that evening, and made a date for the following Saturday to celebrate the end of our Junior year.

Monday began the first full week of June, nineteen sixty-two, and correspondingly signaled the start of final exams. It was a difficult week, first because I only saw Jamie once or twice between classes, and second, the tests. I talked to Jamie only once on the phone that week. Her parents were very strict about social activity during school nights and were even more adamant during exam week. The weekend seemed like it would never come, but it did. Frankie and I picked Jamie up at seven o’clock Saturday night. We went out for pizza and then hung-out. It was just the three of us. I think Frankie had had enough of Joan, because from that night on he never dated her again. You’re probably thinking, what girl wants to go on a date with two guys, eat some cheap pizza, and then go to a parking lot and bullshit for the rest of the evening. She did and we did,. As long as we were together, it didn’t matter what Jamie and I did. Mind you, she never said that, but I could sense it.

Anyway, the evening ended around midnight when Frankie dropped us off, and, as before, he waited. Down the dark driveway, Jamie and I strolled again. I skirted wide of the side of the house, careful to avoid the invisible, lurking garbage cans. When we reached the back steps, I waited for a signal from Jamie to kiss her. You know, taking my hand and pulling me close, or looking into my eyes and closing hers, or touching me softly, any sign, any opening, nothing. This was the third date, and I hadn’t even held her hand. At least this time, I didn’t shake her hand. I bid her goodnight, she told me what a goodtime she’d had, and I turned, leaving her standing there, imbecile. When I got back to the car, Frankie asked me if I got a little. I told him she wasn’t like that, she was a lady. He just laughed and drove me home.

The next morning, Sunday, I was on the phone by ten AM. We spoke for at least two hours. I didn’t ask Jamie out because I knew Frankie couldn’t get his dad’s car. I’m sure she wondered why, but she never asked. A real woman wouldn’t be so forward, and she, of course, wasn’t.

The following week was kind of a bust at school. All of the exams ended on Monday and for the rest of the week the teachers tried to find things for us to do, which, without saying, no one had the least bit of interest in. Classes were nothing more than bullshit sessions. The cool teachers participated and the stodgy ones, well, acted as they always had, like pompous asses. I’m sure the last week of school before summer break is the same throughout the United States. A sort of right-of-passage, a perennial ritual where most Seniors skip class: aspiring Seniors begin exercising their new serfdom rights, underclassmen rampage through the halls, profound comments are etched in yearbook pages, girls try to line up dates for the summer, guys lie saying they’ll call, saying good-bye to friends you won’t see until September, and generally releasing pent up energy. These lazy, half-day classes, found almost everyone is in good spirits. The teachers get a break from the kids: the students, ditto from the school, the college bound, thrilled about their new adventure, and the young adults, eager to strike out in their own lives – all too sadly with their specious hopes and dreams of a bright and prosperous future.

As I recall, these happy moments, other, very contrary feelings, wedge deeply into my conscious because not everyone is so joyous. Deplorably, there are those who seek refuge at school from their plight, those who’s dreams have already forsaken them. They are the minorities of race, of social order, of dysfunctional relationships, of abusive upbringing, of financial deprivation. School, in the lives of these poor bastards, is almost all they have to look forward to. God what a country of extremes. The politicians should be forced to live in the shoes of the hopeless. They should be socially exiled and rejected by their fellow man as the poor and downtrodden. Maybe then, things would change for the better. At least the fucking politicians would be forced to shorten the gap between the extremes. Goddamn jerks!

In any case, for me, summer in nineteen sixty-two promised to be the greatest of all. I had fallen deeply in love with Jamie, she was intoxicating. My heart, my very essence, was being consumed so sweetly. I had experienced no greater joy, nothing else mattered.

The next, and fourth time I dated Jamie, the same thing happened. I walked her to the back of her house and departed with not as much as a kiss. I was dying inside. Our fifth date, was the following Saturday. We went to Island Beach on the South Jersey shore with a bunch of friends. Several cars formed the caravan. As usual, I rode with Frankie and his date. We arrived about eleven in the morning and quickly staked out an area on a desolated stretch of beach, on the Atlantic side, at the South end of the island. It was the first time I’d seen Jamie in a bathing suit. Her naturally tanned skin sensuously contrasted with the coral-white one-piece swim suit she was wearing. Her figure was even more incredible than I could have ever imagined. She was a knockout. The guys couldn’t keep their eyes off of her. The other girls were obviously jealous, and so was I.

Everyone had a great time. We swam, played football, badminton, and barbecued, both lunch and supper, on the beach. Late in the day, Jamie and I were lying on a blanket catching some of the fleeting afternoon rays. I was on my back, and she on her stomach. She leaned up on her elbows at one point and asked me if I could put some tanning lotion on her back. Her elbows were close together and the front of her swimsuit gaped open revealing her breasts. I could see her nipples, they were large and darkly colored. Before I could reach for the lotion, I had an instant erection. Embarrassed she might see it, I lifted up on my knees and hunched over to conceal the obviously swollen organ. From that awkward position, I retrieved the Coppertone and gently pushed her back down to the blanket. I swear, I had the damn thing for an hour and was forced to lay on my stomach to hide it. About a half an hour before dusk, when the beach officially closed, we all gathered our stuff, packed the cars, and headed back to Teaneck. On the way, we stopped and had a bite to eat at a rest area on the Garden State Parkway. By the time we were ready to go, it was dark and getting cool. I don’t know why, but Frankie never closed the driver side window when he drove, even in the winter. Perhaps he had a touch of claustrophobia, I’ll never know. Jamie knew his habit, and before we got back in the car, she retrieved a blanket from the trunk to keep herself warm during the trip back. Everyone was pretty quiet as we started out. Not more than five minutes after we departed, Frankie’s date fell fast asleep in the front. I thought Jamie was about to do the same when she lifted the blanket over our heads and began to kiss me. So violent was her attack, I thought she’d cut my lip. I don’t think two people ever embraced or kissed each other as Jamie and me. We were pressing our mouths together so firmly, I thought I was going to break one of my front teeth. Still wearing our swimsuits, and sporting a loose fitting tee-shirts, I slid my hand between her shirt and bathing suit and tried to slide the straps off of her shoulders, I couldn’t. Jamie quickly responded to my advanced. In seconds, she had her shirt off, then the swimsuit straps, and she pulled the front down revealing her breasts. I fondled them and kissed them like they were some precious metal. I lazily circled my tongue around, and around, her nipples until they were as hard as rocks. She dug her hand below the waistband of my suit, undid the cinch cord, seized my penis, and began stroking it furiously. I don’t think Frankie had any idea what was going on because of the noise from the radio, and the wind whipping through the front window. Frankly, it wouldn’t have mattered to either of us. She and I were out of control, in another dimension. Within seconds, I had an incredible orgasm, minutes later I had another, a few more minutes, and another. While Jamie worked on me, I successfully pulled her suit down to her knees. She quickly kicked them off and we continued to explore each other’s bodies. It was wonderful. Every nerve in my body was screaming with pleasure. I rubbed and massaged her clitoris until it was erect. It was huge. She had an orgasm, then another, and another. She was panting, gasping, moaning, then another and another. It seemed endless. She was so powerful, so strong. More followed. I put my middle finger inside her and she exploded again. She was soaked in her own natural lubrication, I was soaked in cum. This uncontrolled affection lasted about an hour until we began to exit the parkway onto Route 17. I was depleted, empty. Jamie seemed fresh, recovered, she wanted more, but it was too late. When we turned off the exit ramp, we quietly, but frantically, under the cloak of the blanket, reassembled ourselves. This time, when Frankie dropped us off, we barely made it to the back steps before we were kissing, hugging, embracing, squeezing, touching and petting. About fifteen minute passed and I knew Frankie was probably getting impatient. I’m sure everyone was exhausted, but us. It had been a long, long day.

“Look, Jamie, I’ve got to go. Frankie will be honking the horn soon. I had a super day,” I said, so much wanting to tell her that I adored her, loved her, worshipped the ground under her feet, but I didn’t. She was a goddess. I needed to take it slowly. I didn’t want to frighten her, push her, pressure her, run her off. I loved her so deeply, so passionately..

“Me too. It was great,” Jamie said, and softly, affectionately, pressed the side of her head against my chest and gave me one last caress.

I looked down and placed her beautiful face between by hands and gently, so tenderly, kissed her goodnight.

“I’ll call tomorrow,” I said, then turned and began to walk away.

“Teddy,” Jamie whispered.

I spun back to face her.

“I love you, Teddy Roth,” she said, and ran up the stairs and into the house.

I stood frozen, my heart was pounding, my head was throbbing. Had I heard her right? Just then, there was a toot on a car horn. Frankie’s patience had run out.

It was the end of the most magnificent day of my life.

***

Ted Roth stiffened, aware of the warmth that had washed his body. It was liquid and friendly, saturating his senses, and it overshadowed the incessant pain from the bullet’s course. Transcending from the tactile, it had flooded his emotions. The man, most recently, contract assassin, cold and dry-eyed since the day Charlie Garner met his fate, sealing both their fates, had been on the verge of crying.

He missed her. He missed the physical sense of her: body, voice, touch, as much as the idea of her – the promise of lifelong love, the vision of home, children, and the shared joys of the ages of their lives.

Then like a flexing muscle extricating a sliver, Ted squeezed the feelings – longing, sadness, love, loss, completely, firmly out of his being. Avoiding a fishtailing effect, however, he did not give in to his anger. His intent was icy, controlled.

As sure as Jamie Carter would not greet the start of her senior year, “Teddy” Roth – in all his youthful innocence, naivety and hopeful energy would perish as well. Not an idea, mulled consciously, like a shuttlecock in a game of mental badminton, his knee-jerk refusal at reminiscent longing pervaded his mind, as if it were a racial prejudice. If he wasn’t going to pine for the loss of his own person, he wasn’t going to waste any of it on the likes of her.

Ted Roth continued his soliloquy, philosophic.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twelve

 

As our lives grind along,

 and the zest of our spirit smothers,

 and the craving for our youth forsakes us,

 and the wonders of our existence stales,

 and the miracle of love fatigues,

 and life’s early gifts wither,

 and the firmness of our bodies soften,

 and the tightness of our skin loosens,

and days pass unremembered,

only our memories comfort us.

 As much as we hope,

as much as we wish,

 as much as we want,

as much as we need,

as much as we dream,

the spring of our life will never renew.

This is the truth.

God knows it, and so do you and I,

 and it will never change.

–Ted Roth

 

For the unlucky, the unfortunate, and the hapless, life is poisoned before the first bloom can grow, before it can feel the warmth, unfolds its pedals, and explode toward the light, to make the world a better place. The spring of my life was taken, snuffed, ripped from my essence, as sure as if a knife was plunged through my heart. I will tell you what happened, so you will know, so maybe you’ll understand. I never regretted killing them. I’ve never had any remorse, I never will. Jamie deserved what she got and so did her friend. I would do it again, and again, and again. She cannibalized my emotions, my trust, hope, love, dreams, then ate my heart, vomiting it into the empty shell of my soul. No weight of remorse for this death, at the hands of her cruel, premeditative heartlessness would cause her existence to cease. Physically, I insured that it would, and may she rot in hell with Charlie. I’ll join them there shortly, I know it. That’s where all evil lives, isn’t it?

***

For the rest of June and all of July, Jamie and I dated. She told me she loved me. She told me she wanted my children. We made plans to get married after our Senior year at Teaneck High. We were both smart, very smart, she, more than me. I’d work nights and attend Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck during the day. Jamie wanted to be a stewardess for a large international airline, TWA in particular. With her looks, and intelligence, she’d be a shoe-in. Between both incomes, we’d be able to afford a nice apartment. I would finish college in four short years then go on to become a successful and prosperous businessman. Of course, our parents knew nothing of these plans. We would tell them later, avoiding the hassles we were sure to get from both families.

The thought of living with Jamie was overwhelming. Going to sleep with her at night, and waking up with her in the morning seemed sinful and wicked, but there we were, with our love and our dreams. All was perfect. Jamie and I did everything sexually, except intercourse. Jamie wanted to wait for that. Reluctantly, I agreed. It was very difficult. Several times, in the heat of passion, I tried to penetrate her, but she was strong, and held me off. I was weak, but I loved the determination in her, the absolute virtue of her convictions. We would consummate our love on the night of our honeymoon. She was unwavering about that; I went along. I respected her more than anyone I had ever known. She was my angel, my power, my guardian.

In mid August, Jamie’s parents took a two week vacation to visit relatives in Germany. Jamie had no desire to go. I think it was as much for economical reasons as to honor Jamie’s wishes that they decided to leave her at home. I had known about the trip since late June. I was tiring of: back-seats, movies, parks and porches. Jamie and I would be able to spend our days and nights alone, together, a prelude to our inevitable vows. Neither of us could contain ourselves. We spoke of it often during the weeks leading up to the Carver’s departure for Europe.

Jamie’s parents left for Germany on a Wednesday. By that evening, Jamie and I were lying naked on her bed savoring every dram of our constrained lovemaking. It was wonderful, as exciting and fresh, and as new, as the night underneath the blanket in the back of Frankie’s car. I lived a little over a mile from Jamie’s house. During the week that followed, I walked over in the morning and returned late at night. My parents knew that we were always together, but they didn’t know her folks were away. They never questioned my movements so long as I was home at a reasonable hour.

Once in early August, my father told me to be careful. I knew what he meant and nothing else was ever said. I guess most guys would consider that cool. I felt awkward since my father had never spoken word one about sex or girls. Everything I learned, like most guys, I learned on the street.

Anyway, since Jamie and I were always looking for privacy, I hadn’t hung-out with Frankie much. Perhaps once a week, we’d doubled to a movie, or go for pizza, or hangout at the parking lot, or at McDonalds in Hackey, or the A&W, on Route 17. He was always with a different chick, I was always with Jamie. Frankie never said so, but I sensed that he was jealous of the relationship that I enjoyed with the hottest girl in the school. I couldn’t blame him, I almost couldn’t believe it myself.

Just before I left Jamie’s house late Tuesday afternoon, she told me her aunt Harriet was coming over the following day. Jamie figured that her mother’s sister had been asked to check on things while they were away. Jamie wasn’t sure if she would be able to see me at all on Wednesday, but promised that she’d call if, and when, Harriet left. She told me it was possible that her aunt might stay overnight since she was coming all the way from Paterson, New Jersey. Paterson wasn’t that far, but there wasn’t anything I could do about the annoying intrusion, and neither could Jamie. I left her house pretty dejected. The thought of not seeing her for a day was almost too much to bear.

The next morning I got up late, around eleven o’clock. I had no desire to get out of bed, I had nothing to do, no where to go.

I thought that  Frankie might want to play ball or just mess around. We hadn’t done that in a long time, it would be fun, like old times. I jumped out of bed, ran down to the kitchen and dialed his number. Frankie was still sleeping and his mother had to wake him. When he finally got on the phone, he told me that he had a date and that they were going to the shore. He told me they wouldn’t be back until late. Frankie suggested that we could get together the following day, which, of course, I had little interest, since Jamie’s aunt would likely be gone. I told him to have a good time and promised I’d call him on Thursday. I replaced the receiver and went back to my room. I was alone in the house. My father was working, and while I was downstairs, I saw a note my mother wrote reminding me that she had gone to Bergenfield for her weekly card party at Aunt Maries. For three hours, I fiddled with some stuff in my room, but mostly lay in my bed feeling sorry for myself. Around two-thirty PM, I went downstairs and turned on the TV. I sat in the den staring at the screen, not really seeing or hearing anything.

My mother arrived home around five PM, and Dad about six. We had dinner at six-thirty and afterward I went to my room. I lay in bed waiting for the phone to ring, it didn’t. I was slowly torturing myself. As each minute passed, my loneliness grew. How could I ever be without Jamie? My heart was already aching and it had only been twenty-four hours since I last held her. As dusk faded into night, I listened through the open screened window as the crickets, and other six legged creatures, began their evening symphony. I was hot and sweaty, a typical sweltering August night. It was about nine-thirty. I couldn’t stand it, not a second longer. My mother startled me when she knocked on the door and said that they were going to bed. I responded with my standard, “Goodnight,” and waited thirty minutes for them to get settled. I had to see Jamie or at least be near her, even if her aunt was still there. I quietly rose, slipped on a fresh tee-shirt, turned off the small lamp on my night table, went downstairs, and noiselessly exited the house.

About fifteen minutes later, I was walking down Jamie’s street. The moon wasn’t out and it was pretty dark. The streetlights were spaced in such away that there was probably twenty feet of total darkness between them. When I reached the front of Jamie’s house there was only one light on, the one in her bedroom which faced the street. No one had air conditioning back then, so the only relief from the heat was through open windows, hopeful an evening breeze would circulate the stifling, heavy air. I thought it was strange that both her front windows were closed, especially on such a hot and muggy night. Her thin white cotton curtains were drawn, leaving a milky-white glow on the porch’s roof below. I propped myself against a tree and stared at the windows, hoping that I would see a silhouette of Jamie if she walked past. At first, I thought I heard voices coming from her room, but shortly realized that it was a radio playing. I stayed there for about ten or fifteen minutes, then decided to walk around back and see if her aunt’s car was in the driveway. If it wasn’t, her aunt had probably left and I’d be able to see Jamie. I couldn’t wait to hold her; make our special love together. I became more excited at the prospect as I rounded the front of the house and started down the driveway. My hopes were soon shattered when, in the blackness, I saw the faint outline of a car parked by the back steps. I almost stopped and went home, but, for some reason, I decided to continue to the back. As I got closer, it began taking form. It looked very familiar. It was Frankie’s car.

What was Frankie doing here? My mind began to charge. Something must have happened to Jamie. She probably tried to call while I walking to her house, and, not being able to reach me, called Frankie for help. Maybe she fell? Maybe something happened to her parents, her aunt?

The thought of Jamie suffering or being alone without my support was unbearable. I ran up the back steps and turned the doorknob, the door was unlocked. I burst into the kitchen. I could hear the radio clearer now, it was 1010 WINS, a New York, Rock and Roll station. Just as a song began, the disc jockey announced that, Swing on a Star, was Linda Scott’s latest hit record.

Would you like to swing on a star, Carry moonbeams home in a jar, And be better off than you are, Or would you rather be a mule?”

I bounded upstairs to help Jamie. I turned the corner, at the top of the landing, and slowed. Mixed with the music were: moans, screams, chants, all coming from Jamie. They were familiar sounds, not of pain, but of pleasure. I slowed to a walk, feeling weak, dizzy. The door to her room was cracked open. I stood there listening to a jumble of music and primeval mating.

A mule is an animal with long funny ears, Kicks up at anything he hears, His back is brawny but his brain is weak, He's just plain stupid with a stubborn streak, And by the way, if you hate to go to school, You may grow up to be a mule…”.

Frankie was with her, he was wailing, crying out in primitive squeals of ecstasy. I was sick. I knew what was happening, and slowly, tipped my head to the side and peered through the partially open door.

Frankie and Jamie were fucking like wild dogs. Jamie’s head and back were propped up on pillows, as was her ass, which was precipitously balanced on the edge, at

the foot of her four-poster bed. Her head was stretched back; long, raven hair untamed, flared on the white linen bedcovering. Jamie’s mouth was wide-open, weeping breathless groans. Her arms were outstretched, viciously tearing at and then clutching the sheets on either side of her. She was completely naked. Her torso was twisting and squirming and contracting in sheer rapture.

Frankie was standing, facing her at the foot of the bed. His arms were straight out. His hands clenching the posts on either side of the bed. The pillows under Jamie’s ass positioned her cunt in perfect alignment with Frankie’s dick. His legs were split apart, and he was pounding her with his cock, over and over – and faster, like a piston in the cylinder of an accelerating car.

Her legs were open wide for him and stood upright, like twin erections, each leaning against his sweat soaked shoulders. I watched her toes clenching over like fists, in voracious ecstasy, as each powerful thrust, from Frankie’s formidable cock, slammed home. I’ll never forget the wrinkled skin, holding his huge balls, stretched down about seven inches or more from his dick. They were slapping back and forth between his legs with each feverish drive into her cunt. Her tits were rolling up and down, like fleshy Jell-O, in absolute harmony with each of his ferocious thrusts. They were both drenched. Frankie was moaning louder now, his head feverishly rocking back and forth, as their sickening pace escalated.

“Frankie, Frankie, fuck me, fuck me, Frankie! Don’t stop!

 –“Or would you like to swing on a star, Carry moonbeams home in a jar, And be better off than you are, Or would you rather be a pig?”

“That’s it, that’s it, oooooh yeah, right there, yeah, that’s it. You’re right there, baby.”

–“A pig is an animal with dirt on his face, His shoes are a terrible disgrace, He has no manners when he eats his food, He's fat and lazy and extremely rude, But if you don't care a feather or a fig, You may grow up to be a pig…”

“Keep going. Do it, Frankie, do it, don’t stop!”

–“Or would you like to swing on a star, Carry moonbeams home in a jar, And be better off than you are, Or would you rather be a fish?”

More baby, more. Faster Frankie, faster, push it deeper. Deeper Frankie!

– “A fish won't do anything, but swim in a brook, He can't write his name or read a book, To fool the people is his only thought, And though he's slippery, he still gets caught, But then if that sort of life is what you wish, You may grow up to be a fish, A new kind of jumped-up slippery fish…”

 “Oooooh, that’s it Frankie  Fuck me, fuck me hard, Frankie. Don’t stop! You’re so big Frankie. I love you.” Jamie kept screeching, squealing and pleading her lustful desires, over and over and over.

And all the monkeys aren't in the zoo, Every day you meet quite a few, So you see it's all up to you, You can be better than you are, You could be swingin' on a star.”

I reeled away from the vile scene and stumbled to the far wall where I turned my back and slid to the floor. I sat there, my back pressed hard against the wall, listening to the monkey’s copulate; the fucker’s fuck. The hollow, sucking sound of his dick plunging in and out of her pussy, enraged me. Her pleading words, inviting, inspiring, cheering him on, evaporated my heart. She said, she loved him. Loved him, how could that be? I hated them.

“Why? Why? I loved you, Jamie. I loved you,” kept repeating in my head. I didn’t think I could standup, but I did. I sprinted downstairs and into the kitchen. Engrossed in their animal lust, they never heard me. I didn’t have much time for what I had to do. As my brain tried to regain its balance from the torment, the torture that I’d just witnessed, I remembered something Frankie always kept in his car. I ran outside, opened the driver-side door, and grabbed a small personalized baseball bat from beneath his front seat. He always kept it there in case of a fight, almost everyone did back then. I eased the door shut, dashed back inside, and stripped off all of my clothes, leaving them on the kitchen floor.

Completely naked, I bolted up the stairs, bat in hand, and without breaking stride crashed through the door just as Frankie was pumping his cum. They were so immersed in their repulsive betrayal, neither one of them heard the door bang into the wall as it flung open, or at least if they did, they didn’t stop look. In one sweet, avenging motion, and with all my strength, I swung the bat, smashing it across the back of Frankie’s neck. In that bone splintering instant, he was dead. He collapsed straight down, as a lifeless rag doll. His forehead, smacked into the sticky black patch on Jamie’s cunt. The force of the impact, snapped his head straight back like it had been jerked by a cord. With a sickening, empty thud, the back of his skull slapped into the hardwood floor. His body followed with a thunderous, resonating thump, like a gutted side-of-beef had been dropped.

I darted around to the side of the bed and observed the bewildered look in Jamie’s eyes. Just as she began to scream, I bashed the meat of the bat across the bridge of her nose burying her head back into the pillow. Again, and again, and more, I brought it down driving the fury of the ash wood into her face. I was screaming, “Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!” as every blow landed. Her nose disappeared into her skull, her eyes flattened to mush, and her teeth shattered, like glass, as the bat created a trench between her brow and lower jaw. Blood splattered and sprayed all over as each swing found its mark. It was everywhere. When I finally stopped, I was sure she was dead. Seconds later, she began to wheeze, gasping for air. Broken shards of teeth, along with other pulpy fragments from her face, flowed on a torrent of blood from where her nose had been, into her shredded, gaping mouth, and down her throat. She began gurgling, then violently choking as her body went into involuntary spasms. I watched the slut clinging to her last frenzied attempt at survival. Still unconscious, she began writhing, gulping, squirming, and suffocating in the last few seconds of death’s final climax. She went completely flaccid, silent. Her head slid limply to the right. An explosion of blood, bone, and tissue regurgitated from her shapeless mouth, spewing onto the bed and spilling over to the floor. It was over. I stood calmly, disconnected, looking at my work. She was no longer the beautiful, innocent person I’d met a few short months earlier, just a bloody stump of human trash. She got off easy, but I wasn’t through with her, or her lover yet.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Thirteen

 

I stood there surveying my rampage, the carnage I'd inflicted on the two lifeless bodies. A completely empty, hollow feeling swept over me. I felt dizzy, unsteady, and in the middle of all the damage I'd manufactured, I slumped to the floor, wrapped my arms around my legs, put my head on my knees, contemplating my actions. My head was swimming, I felt nauseous. Betrayal had inflicted another deep gaping wound to my heart, and my psyche. The effect was cumulative, chunks of my soul had been removed, first by Charlie, and now Jamie and Frankie.

I'm not sure how long I remained in my pitiful state. It could have been minutes, an hour, or more. When I finally regained my equilibrium, I mentally examined the plan I'd hastily formulated earlier, systematically tuning each step, every action that I would take, then I committed them to memory, in the order of execution. There was much work to be done, and not much time if my makeshift plan was going to succeed. It was almost ten-thirty according to the blood splattered clock on Jamie’s nightstand. I walked around to the foot of the bed and gazed down at Frankie. He was on his back, his feet were wedged underneath the bottom of the bed, his knees were up, and his legs were spread lifelessly apart revealing his limp cock and balls, spiritlessly slumped heavy between his upper thighs. I wanted to cut them off and shove them inside Jamie’s pussy, a reminder to those that found her body what a whore she was, but that would void my plan. It was the only one that made sense, so I resisted the urge.

I picked up the bat, walked to the bedroom door, wiped my bloody feet on a braided rug at the entrance and went into the hallway. I opened a few doors before I found the bathroom. I turned on the shower, adjusted the water temperature, stepped inside with the bat and pulled the curtain closed. First, I cleaned off the bloody bat and placed it at the end of the shower mat outside the bathtub. Then, using a bar of soap, from the wall dish, I lathered up and cleaned myself thoroughly. As I began to rinse off, I leaned forward placing the palms of my hands on either side of the shower head, and let the deluge of water pour over my head and body. It felt good; warm and soothing. Looking down at the mixture of suds, water, and blood swirling around the drain, I mentally reviewed my plan. more fine tuning it. I was calm, very calm. I had to be if this was going to work. After I was completely clean, I turned off the water, slid the curtain back and stepped out of the tub, where I found myself facing the mirror over the sink. I looked old, drawn, and tired. I almost didn’t recognize the face staring back at me. How could I have gone from such great hope and love, to such despair? Mere seconds were all that had elapsed. What had I done to deserve this? First Charlie, then Jamie and Frankie. What? What had I done? I loved them, and they betrayed me. I closed my eyes, not wishing to see the hopelessness in the face of the stranger gazing back at me. I shook my head trying to cast the pain away. It didn’t work. I turned, avoiding the looking glass, opened my eyes, and grabbed a bath towel from a rack next to the toilet. I dried myself and placed the damp towel on the edge of the sink.

The clock was running, time wouldn’t stop and wait. Back in the hall with the bat, I walked to the linen closet that I’d discovered while searching for the bathroom, and removed one of the many white bed sheets stacked on an upper shelf. Still naked, I went into Jamie’s bedroom, pulled Frankie’s body away from the foot of the bed and lay him on his side. My eyes searched the room. I finally saw where Frankie had left his socks, and put them on my feet. I then opened several drawers to Jamie’s dresser until I located two pairs of large wool socks. Slipping one pair on my hands like gloves, I placed the other pair on top of the dresser. I wiped off the handles to the drawers I’d touched, closing each as I did. Retrieving the bat, I wiped it clean and then rolled it in Jamie’s blood, tissue and brain matter. I then put Frankie’s palms and fingers around the handle like he was stepping up to the plate. I squeezed the back of his hand and fingers attempting to leave perfect prints. So far, I’d managed to keep myself free of blood. I pulled Frankie’s hands clear, looked at my work, and saw a small streak from where his hand had slid off the handle. Other than that, it was perfect. I placed the bloodied head of the murder weapon on the end of the bed and continued about my business. Leaving the socks on my hands the entire time, I carefully gathered all of Frankie’s clothing which was scattered in a number of places. I threw his wallet and car keys on Jamie’s dresser, then bundled him, along with his clothes, in the sheet, carefully to fastening both ends. I retrieved the extra pair of Jamie’s socks, from the top of her dresser, and clamped them between my teeth. I picked his body up and, with great difficulty, slung him over my shoulder in an improvised fireman’s carry. Careful not to fall, I walked down the stairs, into the kitchen, and out the backdoor to Frankie’s car. I quietly descended the backstairs to the driveway, listening, and looking as I went for any telltale signs of people. It was quiet, dead quiet. I opened the passenger-side door and flipped Frankie’s body from my shoulder onto the bench seat and bent his legs the rest of the way inside. I carefully removed the socks on my hands and tucked them into a seam in Frankie’s shroud. I pulled the extra pair of socks from between my teeth and guided them onto my hands and quietly closed the door.

Glancing around, and seeing no one, I headed for the detached garage. Similar in construction to my own, I instinctively went to where I knew the side door would be and stepped in. I was startled to see a car parked inside. It was then that I remembered that someone had driven the Carver’s to the airport. Whew! I flipped on the light switch by the door and glanced around for some rope. As luck would have it, hanging not more than a foot from my left shoulder was a new package of clothesline. That would do just fine. I pulled it from the wall, shut the light off, and backtracked to the kitchen where I rummaged through drawers, in the dark, until I found the cutlery. Careful not to injure myself, I located a sharp knife and headed to Jamie’s bedroom. Once there, I looked at the bed, gauged the approximate size of rope I needed, and cut four equal lengths. As tightly as I could, I tied a separate rope around Jamie’s wrists and ankles. I then fastened the rope on her left wrist to an ornate knob atop the right head-post, and similarly, her right wrist to the left head-post. Standing on the foot of the bed, I straddled the right foot-post, and took the end of the rope from Jamie’s ankle and wrapped it once around the knob atop the bedpost. Slowly, I inched the rope back, lifting Jamie’s body into the air until she was as high as I could lift her. I tied off the rope and repeated the process for her other leg. When I was finished, I jumped from the foot of the bed and gloated at my work. There she was in all of her exposed glory, suspended, spread-eagle, three feet in the air. My hands were still covered with Frankie’s socks. Careful not to disturb his blood prints, I lifted the bat from the foot of the bed and shoved the head as deep as I could into the whore’s cunt. You remember, the organ she had been telling me was off limits, reserved only for our honeymoon. That most personal part of her body, which, up until I saw her freely giving it away to that cocksucker, I would have given my life to its protection; for her honor. Shit, I didn’t think they’d have any trouble finding this evidence. I got a good chuckle out of that thought, but, I couldn’t waste time, I had things to do.

I removed the socks from my hands, turned them inside out and put them back on. Using my sock-protected hands, I wiped clean everything in the room that I may have touched. It wasn’t much. I then rummaged through Frankie’s wallet and conspicuously concealed his school ID card near the bed. Not very original, but good enough. I picked up the keys, knife, remaining cord, and retired to the bathroom for my last shower. After I was done, I reapplied the socks, wiped down all the doorknobs, and anything else I may have handled, including the banister in the stairwell. When I reached the kitchen, I donned my clothing, turned the light on momentarily to wipe the drawers and countertop clean. I replaced the sanitized knife where I’d found it, picked up the wallet and keys, looked around to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, flipped the light off, and exited the house, cleaning as I retreated. I briefly stopped to listen for sounds, and hearing none, I opened the driver side door, pushed Frankie over to make enough room for me to drive, and got behind the wheel. I threw the wallet on top of his body, found the ignition key, put in the lock and started the engine. I illuminated the instrument panel and parking lights, but not the headlights. I looked at the clock in the dash and couldn’t believe it was already one AM. I put the car in reverse, backed out of the driveway and started up the street. When I reached Teaneck Road, I put the headlights on, hung a left and headed for Route 4 east, towards New York City.

About twenty-five minutes later, I was traveling Northbound on the Palisades Interstate Parkway. This length of highway went to upstate New York from the Jersey side. A goodly stretch of the parkway ran along the Palisades Cliffs which rise high above the Hudson River.

I’d traveled this route often with guys from the fraternity. The drinking age in Jersey was twenty-one, but in New York it was only eighteen. With fake proof, or at least one eighteen-year old with us, we spent more than a few Saturday evenings in upstate watering holes. Along the route, there were a number of scenic overlooks. The overlooks were closed at dusk, but often, we would slide open the unlocked gates after dark, and use the parking areas to party. Rarely, did cops check. One of the overlooks in particular, was quite spectacular with sheer cliffs plunging a couple of hundred feet to the Hudson. It was there that I would dispose of Frankie. At exactly two AM, I pulled up to the gate at the entrance to the Indian Point lookout. Leaving the car running, I jumped out, swung the gate aside, drove inside just far enough to return the gate to the closed position, and headed to the cliffs.

Back then, lawyers hadn’t yet discovered how rich they could get from liability actions. As such, there were virtually no fences, or barriers of any kind, blocking the average idiot from accidentally walking, or driving off the rock precipice of the Palisades. I guess the State figured people were smart enough to realize the danger. Until now, I’ve never thought about it, but perhaps that’s why so many stupid people have become so rich. When St. Patrick chased all of the snakes from Ireland, they came to America and took the Bar exam. Fuck lawyers.

Anyway, I knew exactly where I had to go. When I reached the spot, I shut the headlights off, but left the engine running, and the parking lights lit. I got out of the car, took my jeans, tee-shirt, and sneakers off, unwrapped Frankie, threw the sheet on the ground, and proceeded to dress him. What a pain in the ass. The last thing I did was take the socks off my feet, and put them back on Frankie’s feet, slip his shoes back on and put his wallet back into his rear pocket. I removed Jamie’s socks from my hands and threw them on the sheet that I’d removed earlier. I then put my odorous socks over my hands and placed Frankie behind the wheel. I wiped everything clean that I could remember touching, and some areas that I couldn’t remember touching. Covering my tracks was paramount. I quickly dressed, then with the dead weight of Frankie’s leg and foot, I depressed the accelerator to the floor. As the engine roared, I opened the driver side window and closed the door. It was pitch black out so anyone looking at the cliffs from a boat, or from the New York or New Jersey side of the river would easily be able to see the car lights plunging to the Hudson river from atop the Palisades. As remote as that might have been, I couldn’t chance it. Reaching through the window, I shut off all the lights, dropped the gearshift into drive, and extracted myself quickly.

“Fuck you Frankie!” I bellowed.

The rear wheels began to spin wildly in the gravel, but the car didn’t move. Thinking Frankie’s piece-of-shit might veer off and crash on land, I momentarily panicked, and started to reach inside to shut the ignition off. But just as I got my hands on the keys, the car took off like a rifle shot. The back of the front window post hit my forearm as I was pulling it out. I never saw the car fly off the cliff. In what seemed like minutes, but, in fact was only seconds, I heard the car hit the water. If they ever discovered the car, they’d think he was killed when the car smashed into the river, his obvious suicide hasten by the overwhelming remorse he felt for killing Jamie Carver.

It was almost three AM when I picked up Frankie’s shroud along with Jamie’s socks and headed back to the Palisades Parkway. It was so dark on that moonless night. I stumbled several times in ruts, and on debris, before I finally reached the highway. At that time of the morning, there was practically no traffic. I crossed over the northbound lane, and traversed the tree-filled median ending up at the southbound lane. I went into a wooded area about twenty feet from the breakdown lane, found a fallen tree, and stuffed the bloody sheet and socks underneath it. I returned to the road and began hitchhiking. Back then, almost anyone would pick up a hiker, not like today. But at three in the morning, it was even difficult then. I didn’t get home until five-thirty, barely a half an hour before my father would leave for work. As I quietly slipped into my room and silently eased the door closed, I heard my father go into the bathroom. I sat on the edge of the bed, took a deep breath, undressed, and was soon fast asleep.

As it turned out, my sleep would be short lived.

***

Ted momentarily switches off the tape recorder to concentrate on shunting a pain induced primordial scream. Simultaneously, he crushes his eyelids tight attempting to endure the oppressive cramps lurching through the midsection of his body like the relentless repetition of deep ocean waves pounding a shoreline. Akin to a welcomed breeze on a sizzling August day, Ted's agony briefly abates. Filling this momentary respite, an apprehensive curiosity to gauge his remaining time leaches into his consciousness. Reluctantly, he gazes down at the opaque, crimson stain that has diffused through the dressing. Ted fears medication will only serve to jeopardize the completion of his task; the dismal truths of his life.

He is much weaker now, barely able to start and stop the machine. His voice has become pallid, and his speech, halting and slowed. His eyes are fatigued, and the fever escalating, scorching the surface of his skin. Ted knows that every minute counts. He must continue; finish his autobiography. Mustering all of his remaining strength, he takes a deep breath, and exhales slowly, then again, and once more. Ted grasps the mechanical journal and turns it on. Glancing up at the wall clock, he launches into the next chapter with labored urgency.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Fourteen

 

The natural process of genetic engineering, my mother and father falling in love, blessed me with a myriad of intellectual and social attributes. Until this minute, I've never really given these gifts much thought. My handsome appearance, physical stature, intelligence, and an incredible memory, to cite a few, never gave me pause for admirable reflection. I took them for granted, as we do our: arms, legs, eyesight, hearing, etc. I'm saddened to say that had I truly understood how very fortunate I was, I may have leveraged these biological donations differently, the final outcome favorable, positive. Who knows?

***

I found myself in some kind of hazed stupor, an out-of-body experience, it seemed. From a distant perch, my soul was looking down at its cadaver, lying still, motionless, on a bed – my bed. All but my face was concealed underneath a large, white sheet. I stared at myself for several minutes when, in a blur of incredible velocity, I involuntarily soared from my perch, and merged with my body, making me whole, giving me life. Everything turned dark, as black as crude oil. My eyes, I thought they were my eyes, were open, but there was nothing to see. I was floating in a cold, inky remoteness. I blinked, then blinked again. Still nothing, just the same vast, icy-black expanse. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, years, may have passed. I couldn't tell. A sonance, weak, but nevertheless distinct, stirred me to a borderline consciousness. A repetitive tapping, barely audible, but yes, there it was: again, and again, and again. There was a rhythm, a pronounced cadence. Three taps, a brief pause, then three more: tap, tap, tap. The counterfeit drumbeat was getting louder, marching closer. I was frightened, on the verge of panic. I twisted, turning onto my stomach, pulling the stark white cloth over me, trying desperately to hide. I buried my face in my hands, hopelessly, foolishly thinking it would conceal my location, protect me from the oncoming, unseen, enemy.

A voice! I could hear a voice! Not kind, nor gentle, acrid. It was vaguely familiar. Even so, I felt an inexplicable terror, the scent of fear seeped from my pores, overpowering my nostrils. The tapping, the incessant: tap, tap, tap. The indistinguishable voice-over, closer now, louder. Instinct took control, adrenaline pumped. I flipped onto my back, as a helpless turtle, throwing up my arms, fists clenched, and began flailing, warding  the invisible monster. White, I could see white, bright white! I blinked, then squeezed my eyes shut, and opened them again. Still, an ocean of white. That was better than black. “White is better than black, isn't it?” I thought.

The noise, the voice, they were almost on top of me. TAP! TAP! TAP! exploded in my ears.

“TAP! TAP! TAP! Teddy, wake up!” Mom said, then knocked three more times on my bedroom door. “Teddy!” she commanded, then repeated the beat. Before she tapped the last tap, my gloss-white ceiling zoomed into focus. I sat up in bed, rubbed my eyes, and peered around my room. I closed my eyes, wishing desperately that she would go away, but I knew she wouldn't.

“Teddy, wake up!” Frankie's Mother called. He didn't go home last night and she wants to know where he is. You need to call her. Do you hear me?” an ephemeral respite, “Teddy, wake up!”

I turned my head toward the nightstand, cocked my right eye, and zeroed in on the alarm clock. Momentarily captivated by the secondhand as it swept past the number twelve, I refocused, and realized it was exactly eight-thirty, a mere two and one half hours since I slipped between the sheets.

“Mom, I'm awake. I don't know where Frankie is,” I hammered back. “Shit, I don't need this crap right now,” was the first thought that came to mind.

“Mrs. Bates sounds quite upset.”

“I'll call her when I get up.”

“You'll call her now. Do you hear me? Now!”

“I'll be right down.” I snapped back, feeling quite put-out. “That fucking Frankie,” I thought.

“Don't use that tone-of-voice with me, young man.” a provoked, womanly voice blasted back through the door. 'Young man', she always used that parlance if she thought I was being fresh with her.

“I'll be right down, Mom,” I responded, rather timidly. I could hear her purposely stomp down the hallway towards the stairs, making her point, apparently miffed at my flip answers, and attitude. I mean, Jesus, she wakes me out of a sound sleep to call that fuck-head's Mother.

Man was I tired. I dragged myself out of bed, slipped my jeans on, and went downstairs where I found Mom in the kitchen. Her butt was against the sink, and her arms crossed, in a gesture of indignation.

“Where's Frankie?” she demanded, like I was some sort of baby-sitter for the stupid fuck.

“How should I know? Who cares where he is other than his stupid mother.” Wow, was that the wrong reply.

“Because he's your best friend. Because his mother is concerned. Because you should care. And, speaking about caring, I don't care one bit for your attitude young man.” she spit out in a fury of terse sentences. Before I could get a word in edgewise, she persisted, “What's wrong Teddy? Did you and Frankie have a falling out?”

Stupid, I am so stupid, I thought. I need to watch what I'm saying, and how I'm saying it. My inflection and comments are apparently giving Mother concern about my current relationship with Frankie. When Jamie's body is found, and possibly Frankie’s, my 'who gives a shit attitude' might very well come back to haunt me. I'll need the full support of my mother when the police come knocking, and I know they will, and soon. After all, my girlfriend will turn up dead, barbarically murdered. And, if everything goes according to plan, my best friend will come up missing. Obviously, the intended implication being to point the blame for Jamie's death at the runaway Frankie. I'm not sure if I'll be able to clear myself from all suspicion, but I'll have to divert the investigation away from me, and, as quickly as possible.

“I was a little miffed that Frankie was going to the beach. He didn’t even ask me,” I finally muttered.

“Well, that's no reason for your attitude. His mother is worried and she thought you might know where he is. Do you know where he is?” Mom persisted.

“Mom, I told you, I don't know. He was going to the shore, probably Island Beach. He told me that he wouldn't be home until late. Maybe he stayed overnight.”

“You need to call his mother and let her know. She's worried sick.”

Now, she's worried sick. Moments before, she was concerned. Pretty soon, she'll have blown her breakfast through perforated ulcers that have suddenly bored holes through her stomach.

“Okay, okay,” I repeated, as I ambled over to the telephone and dialed Frankie's number. I sensed a microscopic smile crossing my lips as I envisioned Frankie answering the phone from underwater, and gurgling out, “HEL-LOOOO.” Before my mind could manufacture more of Frankie's dialogue from five fathoms, his mother answered the phone. Actually, she sounded frantic, which surprised me. I mean, it wasn't like Frankie hadn't been on an 'all-nighter' before. Perhaps, she sensed something; a mothers instinct. Who knows. What I did know was that she was definitely worried about her precious little Frankie. The fucking asshole.

Since Mom was listening to every word I was saying, I relayed to Frankie's Mother exactly what I had told Mom. What I really wanted to say was, “I killed the lying, deceiving little fuck, and drove his car, with the asshole in it, over the Palisades cliffs into the Hudson River.” What I did tell her was that I'd check with a few of the guys, and, if I found out where he was, I'd let her know ASAP. She seemed satisfied with this course-of-action, and we parted conversations.

“Now, don't you feel better?” Mom boasted, the second I got off the phone.

“I'm going back to bed,” I mumbled, and slumped my head over in a display of total  exhaustion and defeat. Trying desperately to avoid eye contact, and further confrontation,  I escaped any reconstituted discussion by proceeding directly to the comfort and pseudo safety of my bed.

No one could have imagined the events that were about to unfold.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Fifteen

 

Apparently at ground zero of another raging August thunderstorm, my room was strobe incessantly as if a phalanx of stadium lights had targeted my windows, wildly discharging intense illumination. Another ear shattering crack of thunder chased a brilliant white burst, rattling the entire house. The combination of the two, shocked me out of the slumber I was enjoying. Startled, I sat up in bed and slowly shook the cobwebs out. Peering out the window, I was mesmerized by the din of the sheets of rain that were ceaselessly hammering the large, thin window pane at the foot of my bed. From the beating it was taking, I fully expected the window to implode, slashing me with razor edged rubble, but surprisingly, it held strong. As dark as it was outside, I figured I'd slept all day and into the night. However, gazing at my bedside clock, I quickly realized it was only a few minutes after three PM.

Another bone splitting concussion harassed a bolt of dazzling illumination, then faded into oblivion.

I began to reflect on the events of the last twenty-four hours. Why did Jamie betray me? Why did Frankie betray our friendship? Why did I get involved? Why, why, why? The whys were now arriving in waves. I was overwhelmed with a convergence of sadness, and anger. I couldn't tell where one left-off, and the other began. I could feel myself slipping, deeper and deeper into a bottomless psychosis. I harvested all of my strength to fight it off. I needed my wits about me. Once the body of Jamie was discovered, there would be a surfeit of suspicion cast my way. Initially, I would be one of the prime suspects. Depression would dull my senses, my ability to think quickly, and to react to probing questions. I wouldn't give a shit. I needed to convince the cops that I was beyond suspicion. In a depressed state, I could envision myself saying, “Yeah, I killed the mother-fuckers, and I'd do it again.” In a well-balanced, rational condition, I would cover my ass eloquently, deflect suspicion convincingly.

I swung my legs over the side of the bed and sat there for a moment, gathering my thoughts. I was surprised that my mother hadn't reappeared to roust me out of bed.

***

For some reason, I thought Jamie’s body would be discovered almost immediately. I’m really not sure why I thought that, but I did. As each day passed without revelation, I became more and more anxious. Two days later, on Saturday morning, Mrs. Bates filed a missing persons report on Frankie. I thought for sure the cops would be knocking on my door that very afternoon, but it wasn’t until Monday, around two PM, when the doorbell rang and a familiar face greeted me.

“Hello, I’m Detective Baxter with the Teaneck Police.” The detective announced and tossed open a black leather bi-fold containing his badge and ID. Baxter hadn’t aged much in the six, some odd, years since I’d last seen him. Perhaps a little heavier, and grayer, but other than that, as my mother would say, he was very well preserved. I on the other hand, looked quite different. From the short stocky kid Baxter interviewed in nineteen fifty-five, to the six-foot, five inch frame I was now sporting. Baxter had no idea who I was. “I’m looking for Ted Roth,” Baxter continued.

“I’m Ted. How may I help you?”

“Well son, you certainly have changed since the last time I saw you. Do you mind if I come inside?”

“No, please do,” I said, and opened the door wider inviting him to enter. I chose to ignore his comment about the last time he saw me. In my mind, I somehow thought it would be best not to stir up warm embers.

“How old are you son?” I hated that crap. I’m not his fucking son. The asshole.

“I’m sixteen sir,” I politely responded. Polite is good.

“Is your mother or father home?” Baxter petitioned as he crossed the threshold into the living room. I quickly speculated that I was still legally considered a minor. Thus, he was required to have my parents present when he asked me questions.

“Yes sir, their in the den. Would you like me to get them?”

“Please.”

I’d been expecting this visit, preparing for it, but I was still nervous, very uneasy. My legs felt like jelly as I entered the den and told Mom and Dad that Detective Baxter wanted to see them.

“I’ve been expecting this. It’s about Frankie. Isn’t it?” Father alleged. I shrugged my shoulders. My mother discharged a look at my father, as if to concur. I suspect they’d been talking about Frankie’s disappearance, on and off, for several days. Speculating the worst, I’m sure. That was a character flaw in both my parents. They always thought the worse. The glass was always half empty, not half full, negative Philistines. Well, I guess in this case they were right. Anyway, they both stood up in harmony, and together, we all paraded into the living room where Baxter was standing. Baxter spoke first.

“Mr. Roth,” he said, recognizing my father. Turning his head slightly, Baxter nodded respectfully in the direction of my mother. “Mrs. Roth,” he politely greeted. There was a brief pause, then Baxter continued. “My name is Detective Baxter,” was chased by another flash of his badge and ID.

“Detective,” Mother coldly countered.

I’m not sure why she reacted that way. Perhaps, she didn’t want to get involved. Maybe, she felt it was an inconvenience. Most likely, she didn’t want to hear anything bad, like the last time Baxter arrived at our doorstep.

“I’m here regarding the disappearance of Frankie Bates. I assume that you are already aware that he’s been missing since last Thursday?”

“Of course we are,” Mom replied, rather curtly.

“My understanding is that Frankie and Ted are good friends – best friends. Would you mind if I asked him some questions?” Baxter solicited, as if I weren’t there.

“Not at all,” father quickly answered. I think he was embarrassed at Mom’s harsh reaction to Baxter. “Please sit down.” Father hand gestured toward the living room couch. Taking his direction, we all took seats. Baxter and my mother at opposite ends of the sofa, how appropriate. My father in his easy-chair, and me in an old and rickety antique chair with a country scene of people harvesting maple syrup, knitted over a cushioned seat.

Baxter pulled out a small writing pad and pen from the inside the breast pocket of his Navy blue suit jacket. “Okay, let’s get started. This won’t take long,” he guaranteed, rather defensively, I thought. Detective Baxter was experiencing the big chill, firsthand. “Ted, how close are you and Frankie – as in friends?”

“We’re best friends.”

“How long have you been friends?”

“Since ninth grade at T.J.”

“T.J.?”

“Thomas Jefferson.”

“Of course. When was the last time you saw Frankie?”

I really had to think about that. Frankie hadn’t been part of the equation as Jamie and I had pretty much spent all of our time together, or so I thought. “Probably the Saturday before last.”

“That’s over a week ago,” Einstein calculated. “That seems like an awfully long time for best friends not to see each other, especially during summer vacation.”

“Is that a question?” I shot back. Shit, be cool, be cool, I thought. Getting the jerk pissed at me was the last thing I needed.

“Yes Ted, I suppose it is,” Baxter responded, sounding a little annoyed.

“I’ve been seeing a girl, pretty steady.”

“Is that Jamie Carver?”

“Yes.”

Boy, had this guy done his homework.

“So you and Frankie don’t double date?”

“Not often.”

“May I ask why?”

Because when I fuck Jamie I don’t want witnesses. How about, I’m not an exhibitionist yet. NO, YOU MAY NOT ASK WHY. IT’S NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS, ASSHOLE!

“Frankie goes out with a lot of different girls, no one steady. Jamie didn’t like having to make conversation with a bunch of strangers each time we doubled. So we kind of backed off.”

“I see. You said Jamie didn’t.”

“Huh?”

“You said, ‘Jamie didn’t like having to make conversation with a bunch of strangers.’ Didn’t, that’s past tense, Ted. Has she recently changed her mind?”

Oh, Fuck. Man, think. Think, before you open your big mouth.

“I meant, doesn’t,” I was never that good in English.”

“What do you mean? You’re a straight ‘A’ student,” Mom interrupted, with unwelcome attribution. Baxter glanced at her, and then back at me, apparently choosing to ignore the comment, but I sensed that the simple inconsistency didn’t play. Anyway, I blew her off as well. The interview was slipping away, out of my control. A few simple questions, and I was already on the ropes. Think, damn it, think.

“When was the last time you spoke with Frankie?”

“Last Wednesday morning,” I offered, following a calculated pause for reflection.

“Can you tell me what you talked about?”

Another deliberate pause, “Yeah, I asked Frankie if he wanted to play some ball. He told me that he had a date and was taking her to the shore. He said that he wouldn’t be home until late. That was pretty much it.”

“Who was he taking to the shore?”

“He didn’t say.”

“And, you didn’t ask?”

“Naw, just another one of Frankie’s bimbos.” –Sorry Mom.

“Are you sure you have no idea who he might have been with?”

“I’m sure. Ask around, maybe someone else knows.”

“We will,” Baxter paused. “Where were you last Wednesday night?”

“Home.”

“All night?”

“Yes.”

“Are you sure you didn’t go out?

“Yes.”

“Yes, you did, or yes, you didn’t go out?”

“Yes, I didn’t.” Shit, did someone see me walking to Jamie’s? This guy knows something.

“He was here all night, Detective,” Mom confirmed, defiantly.

Dad had been listening intently over the course of what he now perceived to be an  interrogation, and apparently had taken offense. “He was here all night. Can we move on, Detective?”

“Yes, sir. I’m just trying to get all the facts. Frankie Bates has been missing since last Thursday. Any piece of information, no matter how obscure, may help.”

I felt beads of sweat forming on my forehead, a dead giveaway. I was beginning to unravel. I needed to compose myself.

“Would you mind if I went to the bathroom?”

Baxter eyed me momentarily. “Not at all.”

I rose from the chair, pleading with my legs to carry the burden, excused myself, and went upstairs to the bathroom. For a few seconds, I thought about running. What does he know? Right now, the biggest problem I had was if a neighbor happened to see me when I went to Jamie’s. I don’t remember seeing anyone, but I wasn’t looking since I sure as hell wasn’t planning on killing her, shit! I’d just have to play the hand, see where it led, adjust as the cards are dealt. I threw some cold water on my face, gently patted it dry with a hand towel and sat on the toilet to regain my poise. A few deep breaths, bolstered by a new confidence, and I was ready. I stood, looked in the mirror, fluffed my hair, then started for the door. Remembering why I had excused myself, I backtracked and flushed the toilet. Descending the stairs, I fully expected to hear discussion from the living room, but there was nothing, not a sound. Perhaps Mom was giving Baxter the same treatment she gave me when I was in the doghouse, silence. I looked at Mom first, and then at Dad as I entered the room. I slipped back into the creaky witness seat, cleared my throat and hunched forward, resting my forearms on the armchair. Self-assuredly, I looked at Baxter, feigning my readiness for his next barrage of questions. I couldn’t help but wonder what he knew, if anything.

“When was the last time you saw Jamie?”

Here we go, I thought. Unfortunately, I had no idea if Jamie’s body had already been discovered. I could only assume that it hadn’t, and obviously, I knew that Frankie was still missing.

“Last Tuesday.”

“Last Tuesday?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I thought you said you two were going steady?”

“We are – well, we were.”

“Are you, or aren’t you?”

“It’s kind of personal.”

“Look son, I’m not really interested in prying into your relationship with Jamie. But if it has any bearing on Frankie’s disappearance, I need to know. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” I said putting my head down like I was in agony. This was it. I would spin my tale, trying to set the hook, deflecting suspicion from me and toward Frankie. Raising my head, and looking directly into Baxter’s eyes, I continued.

“Jamie told me last Tuesday that she wanted to date other guys. We had a fight and I went home. I was pretty upset.”

“Have you spoken with her since Tuesday?”

“Yeah, I called her Wednesday afternoon.”

“And?”

“We had another fight. Jamie told me that she was too young to be going steady. I accused her parents of putting her up to it, but she denied that they had anything to do with her decision. She told me that it would be best if we didn’t see each other for a while. I was sure that she had met someone else and I told her so. Jamie made it clear that it was none of my business, as I didn’t own her. I was pretty sore, and hung up on her.”

“Was that the last time you spoke with her?”

“No. I called her that night to try and reason with her. I heard a voice in the background, it sounded like Frankie. When I asked if Frankie was there, she again told me that it was none of my business, and repeated that I didn’t own her. Then, she hung up. That was pretty much it.”

“Are you sure it was Frankie?”

“No. The radio was on, it could have been that. I don’t know.”

“What did you do after you got off the telephone?”

“I went to bed.”

“Did you call her again?”

“I called her the next day but no one answered. Her parents are vacationing in Germany. Last Tuesday, she told me that she might visit her aunt while her folks were away. So, I figured she went there.”

“What’s Jamie’s aunts name?”

“Harriet.”

“Last name?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you know where she lives?”

“Somewhere in Paterson.”

“How about an address?”

“No, sorry.”

“Lets get back to Frankie. Do you have any reason to believe that Frankie was there?”

“Not at the time. But now, I think it’s odd that Frankie didn’t tell me who he was going to the shore with.”

“Why?”

“Frankie was always bragging about the chicks he dated. He wanted people to know who his latest conquest was.”

I was leaving myself open to: the jealous, estranged boyfriend goes crazy and murders his girlfriend and her lover in a fit of rage.  This was a calculated risk that I had to take. I wanted to get this possibility on the table, upfront, rather than have it come back to haunt me. If Baxter thought I was being straight with him, right out-of-the-gate, I reasoned that he would most likely dismiss any real thoughts of my participation. Besides, I had an alibi, my parents would attest that I was home all evening, sleeping late on Thursday. Even though it was my parents word, unless I left evidence at Jamie’s house to connect me, or someone saw me on the way to Jamie’s, the  alibi was virtually airtight.

“Did you ever think that Jamie and Frankie were seeing each other?”

“No, I never did. I can’t believe it now,” I said with conviction, trying to leach denial from the wounded, still unsure, boyfriend. Baxter bought it.

“Do you have anything else you want to tell me, Ted?”

“Just that I hope you find Frankie. I’m sure he’s just shacked up with some bimbo,” – sorry Mom.

“And where do you think that might that be, Teddy?”

“Down the shore in the car, or on the beach somewhere.”

“Do you have a specific place in mind?”

“Probably Island Beach, or Seaside Heights, or Seaside Park. That’s where we always go.”

“Any hotel or motel in particular?”

“We never stayed in a hotel or motel, couldn’t afford it. We slept on the beach, or under the boardwalk, or in the car.”

Baxter began pawing through his notes. When he was done, he said, “Thank you for your time: Mr. Roth, Mrs. Roth, Teddy,” nodding at each of us in-turn. “I appreciate your cooperation, but right now, it seems we need to pay Jamie Carver a visit. I’ll see myself out.”

Baxter stood and started for the front door, all of us following him. He turned the knob, swung the door open and stepped outside. Baxter then stopped, as if giving birth to an idea. Finally, he looked back over his shoulder, and stared directly into my eyes, and said in a serious, and sober tone, “I’ll want to speak with you again, Ted. Make sure you don’t make any plans to leave town.”

We all watched as Baxter resumed his deliberate gait, slowly descending the front stairs. Dad eased the door closed until the latch snap shut, breaking the uncomfortable silence.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Sixteen

 

Mom and Dad, to say the least, were surprised by much of what I’d said to Baxter. If they believed my tale, and I had no doubt that they didn’t, they found out, at the same time Baxter did, that Jamie and I were no longer going steady. They also discovered that Frankie was a womanizer, and, as shallow as the seed was planted, that he was possibly seeing Jamie on the sly. Pointless to say, there was a significant amount of rehashing my testimony with Mom and Dad after Baxter left. After spinning a few more yarns, recalling little things, that until now, I hadn’t picked up on between Jamie and Frankie, my folks were convinced that Jamie was cheating on me. I needed to garner their total empathy and unconditional support, make them believe that I was the injured party. Frankly, it wasn’t a challenge. By the time our discussion was over, my parents were certain that Frankie and Jamie were scum. I can say, without reservation, that blood is thicker than water.

***

I thought for sure that Baxter would find Jamie’s body, but I was wrong. A telephone call later that day confirmed the fallacy of this belief. Mom answered the phone, it was Baxter. He wanted to speak with me. Mom handed me the phone.

“Hello.”

“This is Detective Baxter.”

“Yes.”

“I went to speak with Jamie but she wasn’t home, or at least she didn’t answer the door. Do you know anyone who might know where her aunt lives?”

“No. I’m sorry, I don’t.”

“I believe you told me that Jamie’s parents are on vacation.”

“Yes, they are.”

“Do you know when they’ll be returning?”

“Tomorrow, but I don’t know what time.”

“Thanks, Teddy,” Baxter said, and hung up.

I stayed home for the rest of the day, lying in bed, revisiting the events of the last week, the last six years. Why had these things happened to me? Was it something that I was doing, or conceivably not doing? I knew of no one else that had experienced such betrayal, such pain, at the hands of their friends, their loved ones. Was I flawed? Was this all life had to offer? Is this what I had to look forward to for the rest of my sad existence? I had no answers, only questions. Again, the endless questions? To date, my life was wrought with heartache. I had nothing else to draw on, no positive associations, at least none that lasted. The answer was simple, I wasn’t fated to have lasting relationships. I became convinced during these reflections, that the pathway I’d chosen was preordained, wrought with sorrows, sadness, and unhappiness. I needed to change, alter my life journey. And, it was at that self-realization, I swore to pass through the rest of my time alone. Unencumbered by sentiment, feeling, interpersonal affairs. I had made this pledge before, after Charlie, but I was weak, a child, prone to false declarations of future intent. I was older now, in charge of my emotions, at the helm of my ultimate providence. I would set a course for enrichment and fulfillment of a life’s purpose, and although I knew not the direction or the purpose, I had no illusions. I wouldn’t make the same mistakes. The rest of my life would be devoid of human communion and passions. This would become my private manifest destiny, Ted’s Manifest Destiny – TMD.

For the rest of the day and evening, I watched TV. Mostly with my parents. Back then TV’s were very expensive, and while today there seems to be a tube in every room, having just one TV in the early sixties was the norm. Nothing much was said about Frankie or Jamie. Everything that needed to be said had been covered, in spades. Besides, I think Mom and Dad didn’t want to rekindle the emotions of Jamie’s and Frankie’s perceived betrayal. About ten PM, I bid my folks goodnight and proceeded to my room. I undressed, got into bed, and was sound asleep in minutes.

I awoke about eleven AM, Tuesday. Normal for a teenager during summer break, even back then. I threw on a pair of jeans, a fresh T-shirt, and went down to the kitchen. I opened the refrigerator, took two or three big gulps of milk from the bottle, then rummaged around for something to eat. Finding nothing that interested me, I went to the TV room, planted myself on the couch and watched game shows for the next couple of hours. Dad was back at work after taking Monday off, and Mom was busily scurrying around the house: washing clothes, ironing, dusting, vacuuming and generally making enough noise to wake the dead, with any luck that would exclude Jamie and Frankie. When Mom was on a tear, nothing got in her way. God help me, when she arrived in the den vacuuming, if I didn’t lift my feet off the floor so she didn’t have to break stride.

It was another lazy August day, and that’s how I treated it. I ignored several telephone calls from so-called friends. I really didn’t feel like talking to anyone. My new TMD forbade it. Toward the end of the day, I was getting quite concerned that I hadn’t heard anything about Jamie. I couldn’t believe that they hadn’t found her. The fucking bitch. The rest of  evening was uneventful. Dad came home at his usual time. We ate dinner at our usual time, carefully avoiding any discussion about Frankie, as usual. We all retired to the den at our usual time. About eleven PM, I rolled upstairs and plopped into bed. Another wasted day had mercifully come to an end.

All I could hear was Mom screaming, “Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” over and over. I glanced at the clock as I jumped out of bed, it was nine-fifteen AM. I threw some clothes on and rushed downstairs. Mom was sitting at the kitchen table staring at the Bergen Record’s banner: TEANECK GIRL FOUND BLUGEONED TO DEATH.  There was a picture of Jamie under the headline, a photo taken from her Junior Yearbook. Here we go, I thought. The shit hurricane has finally reached landfall.

“Mom, what’s the matter?” I asked, as if I didn’t know.

“Jamie’s dead,” she wailed out, tears pouring down her face. She slid the paper over so I could clearly see. “Someone killed her. Her mother and father found the body yesterday evening when they got home from vacation. It’s horrible. Can you imagine what they are going through?” Mom continued, hysterically reciting details from the Record, but I didn’t hear much more of what she said. I was too busy reading. The paper was short on particulars and long on conjecture. Apparently the police hadn’t given the press much information, or by the time the body was discovered, there wasn’t enough time to collect more data before the publishing deadline. Whichever it was, only a few details were released. About the only thing, other than what Mom had blurted, was that Jamie had been dead for several days. An exact number would not be available until the coroner autopsied the body. No other details were given about the cause of death, other than she was found bludgeoned in her bedroom. At the end of the story, there was comparison made to the shocking murder of eleven year old Charlie Garner in nineteen fifty-five. I was surprised to see the association. The only thing that I could think was that the story reporter, or someone in the Newsroom, had also covered the Garner killing. I guess six years is not that long in adult time. For a kid, it’s an eternity.

Mom ranted on for about ten minutes. I put my: denial, disbelieving, shocked, bewildered, and grieving face on, but she was too upset to notice. Finally, she must have realized how much Jamie had meant to me. She stood and hugged me, a hug that almost pressed the air supply out of my lungs. She held the position for what seemed like minutes, saying how sorry she was for me, and her family. I’d say things like: “I can’t believe she’s dead,” and, “I hope they find the bastard and let me have ten minutes alone,” and, “I loved her so much,” and, “My God, how can this be,” and, “We were going to get married,” and, one anguished statement after another. I tried to force some tears, but couldn’t. So I did the next best thing, I adopted a blank, wide-eyed, and stunned look on my face. When the hugging was done, I zombie kissed my mother on the cheek, a nice touch, I thought. I then proceeded to my room and locked the door, for effect.

It took longer than I’d guessed for Detective Baxter to make contact.

 

 

Chapter Seventeen

 

About three-thirty PM, I was sitting in the den watching TV when the doorbell rang. Mom answered and was confronted by two men, Detective Baxter and another man Baxter introduced as, Senior Detective, Harvey Stone. I heard Baxter ask if they could speak with me. Mom invited them in and seated them in the living room. She started for the den just as I emerged.

“Teddy, there are two detectives here to see you,” she said, her complexion rather pasty.

“Okay.”

As we walked into the living room both detectives stood. Baxter spoke first.

“Teddy this is Senior Detective, Harvey Stone,”

We shook hands. Stone wore charcoal-gray slacks, a white starched shirt and a black tie that matched the color of his belt and shoes. He had a pockmarked, rugged looking face, a receding hairline and salt and pepper hair. Harvey stood about five-feet ten inches tall. He had broad shoulders, a reasonably thin waist, and looked like he was in pretty good shape. I gauged him to be in his mid fifties. He had squinty brown eyes, and a straight mouth below a crooked nose that looked like it had been broken, several times. This was a guy you wouldn’t want to tangle with, even at his advanced age. He was packing a snub-nosed 38 caliber, in a brown leather holster on his right hip. Ah, ah, ah, you’re clashing Senior Detective, Harvey Stone. Never, I mean never, mix brown and black. Baxter was dressed like his clone, except Baxter wore a matching black leather holster, complimenting his other accessories.

I was pretty relaxed. I’d been preparing for this visit, rehearsing it over, and over in my mind. I was positive there was nothing they could ask that would surprise me.

“Why don’t you take a seat, Teddy. We’d like to ask you a few questions,” Stone began, noticeably taking control. His voice was very deep, matching his appearance.

“Okay.”

I sat in the same wobbly witness seat as before. Mom seated herself in Dad’s recliner and Baxter and Stone resumed their positions at either end of the couch.

“Teddy, are you aware that Jamie Carver was found murdered in her home last evening?” Harvey started.

Before I could respond, Mom launched into a rant, “Oh, my God! What a horrible, horrible thing. The poor girl. Her parents. How are Jamie’s parents? What an absolute tragedy. Have you found out who did it?” Mom took a breath, then began bawling. It took awhile for all of us to calm her. Finally, when she regained her composure, Stone continued.

“As you may expect, her parents aren’t coping very well. As far as who is responsible, well, we’re trying to determine that, Mrs. Roth. That’s why we’re here.”

“You don’t think Teddy had anything to do with this?” Mom blasted back, unmistakably indigent that they would even consider her son a suspect.

“We haven’t ruled out anyone, Mrs. Roth. We’re just beginning the investigation,” Baxter offered, setting Mom off on another tirade.

“How dare you come into our home and imply that my son had anything to do with Jamie’s death. The nerve of you two. I think you should leave NOW! I MEAN, RIGHT NOW!” Mom bellowed.

“Mrs. Roth, this is a terrible, heartbreaking situation. We would be doing Jamie and her parents an outrageous injustice if we began eliminating suspects without gathering all the facts. We presently have no opinion regarding Teddy’s innocence, or guilt. We just want to ask him a few questions. If you would prefer, we can do this at the Police Station. But, make no mistake, we will interview Teddy, one way or the other,” Stone steadfastly concluded.

Mom mulled, gathering her thoughts. “I’m sorry. I thought, I thought. Well, it doesn’t matter what I thought. Please excuse my rudeness. Why don’t you continue,” Mom said, noticeably embarrassed by her outburst.

“Thank you, Mrs. Roth. This is a difficult time for all of us. Now, Teddy,” Stone went on, “when was the last time you saw Jamie?”

For the next hour, Stone and Baxter pummeled me with many of the identical questions Baxter had asked on Monday, phrasing them differently, trying to trip me up, glean contradictions in my story. I answered all of their inquiries, thoughtfully, completely, consistently, all the while attempting to come across as: despairing, hopelessly depressed, and as brokenhearted as my young acting profession would permit. I was getting good at this, very good. Unless there was a witness that put me at Jamie’s house on the night of the murder, or they found evidence placing me at the scene, they had no case against me. I knew it, and they knew it too. Mom never said another word following her outburst. She just sat there like she was in shock, which she may very well have been. One interesting piece of information Baxter shared with me during the inquisition was that the coroner had estimated the time of death between late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning. Amazing,  how did he do that? I mean, back then, forensic science was only a wet dream. Anyway, when the interview was winding up, the subject I’d been waiting for was finally broached.

“Teddy,” Stone started. “Weren’t you friends with Charlie Gardner?”

“Yes.”

‘Terrible thing that happened to him.”

“Yes, awful.”

“Do you think there may be any connection?”

“I don’t know how. Johnny Henderson killed Charlie. He’s in jail, isn’t he?”

“You were really close to Charlie, weren’t you?” Stone said, ignoring my question.

“Yes.”

“And, you were really close to Jamie? You were going steady.”

“Yes. But what does that have to do with Charlie?”

“And, you were best friends with Frankie?” Stone continued, evading another question.

“Yes, I am – really close friends with Frankie,” I replied, emphasizing the ‘am’.

“It must be really difficult for you to have lost three of your closest friends? I mean, I can’t think of anyone, in my entire twenty-five year career, that has had to endure so much personal tragedy, ” Stone snooped, trying to trick me.

“Frankie isn’t dead. Is he?”

“What makes you think that?”

“You said, ‘I lost three of my closest friends’.”

“Did I say three?”

“Yes.”

“I’m sorry. No, you’re right, we’re still looking for Frankie.”

“Is he a suspect? Do you think he killed Jamie?” I fired back.

“Do you – think he killed her?”

“I don’t know. Maybe?”

“Why would you say that?”

“Frankie was kind of a sorehead, especially when he didn’t get what he wanted.”

“Is that right. Kind of like your description of Johnny Henderson.”

Wow, had this guy done his research. “Yeah, now that you mention it, a lot like Johnny.”

“Enough to kill a person?”

“I don’t know.”

“You said, a moment ago, that Frankie was a sorehead if he didn’t get his way. Would Frankie have been angry about something to do with you or Jamie?”

“I don’t know.”

“Think about it for a minute, son. Is there anything you can recall, no matter how remote, that Frankie might have been upset about?”

Hesitating a few seconds, I responded, “Frankie may have been jealous of Jamie and me.”

“You mean your relationship?”

“I guess.”

“Why.”

“I don’t know, maybe because I wasn’t hanging out with him.”

“Because you and Jamie were going steady?”

“Yeah. As I said to Detective Baxter in the first interview, Jamie didn’t want to double with him. She felt uncomfortable having to make chit-chat with Frankie’s bimbos. So we backed off.”

“Is there anything else you can think of?”

“No.”

“As I said earlier, nothing’s been ruled out yet. Do you have anything you’d like to tell me, Teddy?

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.” Yeah, I smashed her face in and shoved the Louisville Slugger up her cunt. Oh, by the way, that was right after I busted Frankie’s fucking neck in half. You dickhead!

“Okay, Teddy. I think we’re finished for now. Thanks for your time, Mrs. Roth.

Are you planning on leaving town anytime soon?” Stone queried, looking at me.

Simultaneously, Mother and I answered, “No.”  

“Well, that’s good. We may need to do this again, soon. Thanks again. We’ll see ourselves out,” the Senior Detective concluded. Stone and Baxter removed themselves, shutting the front door as they exited.

Mom, silent since her outburst, looked at me, a faraway look, and said, “I hope they find the bastard that did this soon.” That’s the first time I had ever heard Mom swear.

“Me too.”

Mom filled Dad in on the interrogation when he got home. His only comment to me was, “Thank God, that you were here the night of the murder.”

***

Over the run of the next several days, we received numerous calls from the press, soliciting, no, that’s wrong, pressuring me for interviews. The contacts became less and less until even the most persistent finally gave up by the end of August. All of our friends, and some that weren’t our friends, were interviewed by either Baxter or Stone. They had nothing much to tell, other than what I’d already acknowledged. And since Frankie and Jamie weren’t available to comment on my lies, no one could dispute the fairy-tale aspects.

As time trundled on, more details were released regarding the finer points of Jamie’s demise. As usual, the local newspaper downplayed the gore, but the New York tabloids, well, they didn’t miss a trick, providing sensational detail, including: the faceless, nose-less, and toothless cadaver, the midair suspension of the twit, and the bat wedged between the cunt’s legs. All the papers played up the Frankie Bates angle, implying that he was the prime suspect, and still missing. A number of articles made mention of the mysterious blood smears throughout the house, particularly on doorknobs.  The Police, nor the papers, were ever able to reconcile this evidence. Gloves were suspected, but in a crime of passion, which was the consensus theory, it was generally felt that the killer would not have considered this after the murder. Thank God for a clear head, and socks.

Jamie’s Mother lost her mind and was committed to a sanitarium somewhere in upstate New York. It was reported that she had to be tube-fed and hadn’t spoken a word since the night of the discovery. In October, Jamie’s father committed suicide. A bullet in the head. I presume that seeing their daughter displayed in all of her fucking splendor was too much for both of them. I consider Jamie’s father my fourth victim, albeit not directly at my hands. They deserved what they got for raising such a lying, fucking, slut.

Early on, Stone and Baxter were relentless. And, since Frankie was not available for comment, I took the brunt of their stupid questions, handling them all with acumen. I knew that I was still on their small list of prime suspects: Frankie, number one, and me, a close second. End of list. But, they had no tangible evidence, and as the days passed, the contacts became fewer, and less frequent, until they evaporated altogether. 

Frankie’s body was never found, and, as far as I know, is still communing with the fish in the Hudson River. To this day, the case still remains unsolved.

***

My Senior year sucked. I kept to myself, avoiding anyone and everyone. I became known as a loner, most people chalking it up to the trauma inflicted. I graduated in June of nineteen sixty-three, at the top of my class. Hell, why not. By following my personal TMD, I had nothing else to do but study. I received several academic scholarships, most noteworthy to Stanford University in California. Unfortunately, the award didn’t include: books or room and board, which, collectively, my folks couldn’t afford. As such, I took one of my scholastic prizes and attend Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck. It wasn’t very long after I started at FDU, in the fall of sixty-three, that wrath bubbled to the surface.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eighteen

 

At Fairleigh, I majored in Business with a minor in Data Processing. It might as well have been a minor in I.B.M., since, at that time, they were the only company that manufactured equipment to process data.

I became fascinated, obsessed is a better word, with this new business tool, immediately recognizing it as the foundation of a new revolution. A revolution that would change the way we: lived, worked, and played. And, I would be at the forefront, leading the charge, a modern day pioneer, not in buckskin, but in a three piece suit. Thus, very early in my college years, I realized my fortune, my future. I would leverage every piece of fruit, to my advantage, from the eternally expanding, technological cornucopia.

***

During the second semester, in my Freshman year, I was taking English Literature, a course given by, Professor Henry Risner. Henry was a small man, perhaps five-feet four inches in height, with a bald spot on the back of his head, the size of a Jewish Yarmulke. He had a long, pointy French nose, an Irish chin, and a thin mouth that curled down making it appear that he was always frowning. His eyes were brown, inset in an oval, almost hairless face. Risner was forty something with a chubby body that had never seen the inside of a gym. He looked like a football with a head. Henry dressed sloppy and was wholly void of any social graces. Risner was your typical, over educated professor hiding from society, and real work. He often bragged that he was a confirmed bachelor, like any woman in her right mind would give him a second look. Other than that, he was a glowing example of an egotistical, erudite, asshole.

On the first day of class he set the tone for achievement, or should I say failure, by telling everyone that he wanted them to strive for a ‘B’, as an ‘A’ would be impossible. “No one,” he said, “could possibly aspire to a higher grade, only Shakespeare, and there will never be another.”

This guy was a heartless jerk, spending more of his time making his students look like idiots through intimidation, and personal affronts, then he spent teaching. Not surprisingly, Professor Risner and I clashed, and frequently. One early spring day, Risner spent the entire three hour class ridiculing a critical analysis I’d written on Shakespeare’s, King Lear. He had gone so far as to make copies of my paper for every student, but me. Apparently, the reproductions contained his handwritten, sarcastic remarks levied on virtually every paragraph of my work. He had many of the students laughing at his dim jokes, all at my expense. By the end of the class, he had wrongly torn my work to shreds, attempting to paint me an uncultured ignoramus. Obviously, it was a premeditated, malicious attempt at the embarrassment and destruction of Teddy Roth. At the end of his rebuke, he threw the paper at my face, hitting the intended target. He had written in huge red letters, across the face of my work, ‘F – for FOOL and FAIL!’.

For the next two weeks, I attended class as if nothing happened. He continued to assault me verbally, but I ignored the harassment, choosing a passive aloofness. It seems that this satisfied his voracious ego. Feeling that he had won, crushed my spirit, subjugated his foe, my public persecution nearly stopped. Thus, by the beginning of the third week following the incident, he ignored me entirely, as if I weren’t in his class. And, for all intents and purposes, I wasn’t. He had already failed me, no matter how good my work was. The same behavior repeated during the fourth week.

It was Wednesday afternoon of that week when I clandestinely waited in the faculty parking lot and followed Risner home. He lived on the first floor, in an apartment complex, off of Queen Anne Road, in Teaneck, about three miles from campus.

Later that night, after Mom and Dad went to bed, I returned to his apartment and knocked on the door. I was wearing an ensemble of clothing that I’d purchased the previous Saturday at several different Garage Sales in Newark, about twenty-five miles away. In my left hand was a red, plastic gym bag containing a fresh pair of trousers, a short sleeve knit shirt, a pair of socks, and loafers that I’d also acquired in Newark. My prized find was an eight inch, razor sharp hunting knife, with a reverse serrated edge, which I held tightly in my right hand. The door opened and a bare-footed Risner, wearing an FDU T-shirt and a pair of kaki shorts, appeared. I wish I’d had a camera to document the look on his face when he saw me.

“What do YOU want?” were the last words he uttered. In one powerful, sweeping motion I slammed the knife below his sternum, and up into his heart, pushing him as far back into the room as I could. He belched out a stifled groan followed by an gust of warm air that rupture from his lungs and into my face, his last breath expelled. Blood spurted everywhere, a glut of it on me. Professor Harvey Risner was dead before he arched backward smashing the back of his skull on the floor. I remember his head made a empty, sickening thud when it landed, almost like he didn’t have a brain. I chuckled then, as I do now, thinking it would be a great title for a horror flick: ‘THE PROFESSOR WITHOUT A BRAIN’.

Anyway, I closed and locked the door behind me. I then proceeded to search the apartment for anyone that might be unlucky enough to be there. I had no intentions of sparing any witnesses. This was the first time I had ever considered killing someone that wasn’t the precise object of my retribution. I checked all of the rooms, closets, and finally under the shit-heads bed. The apartment was empty. I went into the bathroom, dropped the gym bag into the bathtub, and grabbed a bath towel that was draped over the shower rod. Returning to the body, I dropped the towel next to his chest, and cut off his T-shirt. I then inserted the serrated edge of the knife about an inch into his chest cavity, just below the sternum. With more than a few sawing motions of the knife, I managed to sever the bone up the middle. I then made two parallel incisions, of approximately twelve inches in length, hacking through the cage of protective bone as I did. The first cut was just below, and the other at the top of, the dissected sternum. Once the flesh and bone composite door was complete, I joined the backs of my hands together, and inserted my fingers through the center of the divided breastbone, until my nails pressed into his heart. I then tore open the ribcage, snapping ribs from the spine  and exposing the shredded life pump, and lungs. Apparently my incisions were slightly deeper than I’d thought, rendering bonus damage, making the irregularly formed, bloodied organ look like scrimshaw carved in red meat. I opened up the towel and laid it next to the corpse. Carefully, I excised his heart, placing it in the center of the towel. Satisfied with the operation, I went back to the bathroom with the knife and weighty towel. I opened my bounty in the sink and commenced cutting his heart into small pieces, flushing each down the toilet. In a linen closet next to the bathroom, I retrieved a wool blanket, and used it to cover the majority of the bathroom floor. I turned the shower on, cleaned the knife, and tossed it on the blanket. I then zipped open the plastic gym bag and placed it on the blanket. Finally, I stepped into the shower and purified myself, scrubbing away the metallic, bloody odor of his existence. When I was finished, I placed the socks, from inside the bag, on my hands and dressed. I picked the knife up and sanitized it of blood and fingerprints. I did the same with the plastic gym bag, the handle on the toilet, and the bathroom and linen closet doorknobs. After checking the room one more time, I retreated to the front door, carefully avoiding stepping in pools of blood that had collected about the carcass. Opening the door slowly, I listened carefully, then looked for anyone that might be around. None heard or seen, I stepped outside and closed the door, wiping the knob as I did. With a grin on my face, I removed the socks from my hands and dropped them on Risner’s Welcome mat. Baxter and Stone would finally have a small piece of the puzzle. Before getting in my car, I removed my loafers, using my feet, watchful not to get any blood on me. Leaving the shoes at the edge of the curb, I wiped my feet in the freshly watered grass by the side of the parking lot. I looked around once more and not seeing anyone, I slid behind the steering wheel and started the car, using the keys I’d left in the sun visor. As I drove home, I was mentally calculating how long it would take from the time the body was found to when Baxter and Stone would show up at my door. The odds were that I wouldn’t have a lengthy wait.

***

It was six days before the remains were discovered. As hot as it was, I couldn’t help but think about the thick stench of putrid flesh that wafted up the nostrils of the first wretched soul that opened the door to the apartment. However, I never learned the details of the revelation. If the papers or police knew, it was never released. That’s what made me think it was a brother, sister, or relative that found him, wanting to remain anonymous. Who knows, it could have been that FDU sent someone to investigate, also wishing to avoid notoriety.

It wasn’t until the following Monday morning that Baxter showed up at the door. My name had popped up on a list of Risner’s students, and, of course, being the super sleuth that he fancied himself, he took an interest. Baxter was not friendly, at all, and requested that I accompany him to the Teaneck Police Station. Dad was working and Mom was out shopping. I surmised that I was no longer considered a minor, thus he didn’t need my parents consent or blessing. I left Mom a note saying that I would be at Fairleigh’s library doing research, indicating that I wasn’t sure how long I’d be.

The interrogation lasted only an hour or so, Stone joining in on the inquest. The funny thing is, the coroner had estimated the time of death to be a full day after I’d actually wasted the asshole, and on that day, I had an airtight alibi. Mother and father thinking I was home, was okay, but this was about as good as it gets. I was on an overnight fieldtrip, with twenty-two other students, to I.B.M. headquarters in Armonk, New York. The entire Advanced Data Processing class attended, where we learned about some of IBM’s sophisticated, futuristic research projects. After I laid my excuse on them, Stone left the room. He returned about ten minutes later, whispering something into Baxter’s ear. Moments later, the inquisition was terminated. I presume Stone called FDU and obtained verification of the fieldtrip, confirming my attendance. Another case closed on Teddy Roth.

While Baxter was driving me home, he told me that he, along with Stone, believed that I killed Charlie and Jamie. He told me they also thought that Frankie was dead, murdered at my hands. And, while I had an alibi for the time of Risner’s death, he believed that I somehow had a hand in it. Baxter told me it was just a matter of time before they got me.

When I stepped out of Baxter’s car, I looked back through the opened door and mockingly whispered, “Take your best shot, Baxter.” When I slammed the door, I could sense Baxter’s piercing stare as I walked down the driveway. Just as I was rounding the back of the house, I stopped, and looked back into his penetrating eyes, and smiled. I then turned, and went up the wooden stairs into the house. Mom wasn’t home yet, so I tore up the note that I’d left her. From the kitchen, I went into the living room and noticed that Baxter was still parked outside. He was motionless, his hands on the steering wheel, glaring toward the rear of the house, where I’d flaunted my pearly whites in a show of defiance. If I could have seen that far, I’m sure he had a white-knuckle death grip on the steering wheel, pretending it was my neck. What an asshole.

The media had a field day, and, as usual, the New York tabloids sensationalized every bit of gore.

***

The next three years were very tedious. I kept to myself, choosing not to socialize in any FDU activities. I honored my personal TDM, never attending sporting events, school plays or rallies. I ignored all efforts to recruit me into fraternities and academic clubs. All-in-all, I pretty much drove to class and then home, where I studied most of my waking hours. Frequently, I found myself the object of horny, curious women. I think my standoffish bearing presented a challenge. A test to see who would be the first chick to date me. What is it in the female psyche that compels them to possess what they can’t have? It seems the more I fended off advances, the more attempts there were. Most guys vanish after the first rejection, their ego scarred. It beats the shit out of me. I guess it’s the Venus, Mars thing. Anyhow, I never heard from, or saw, Baxter or Stone again. I can only speculate that they retired, frustrated with at least three unsolved cases still on their belt.

***

Once again, Ted switches off the tape recorder to endure the torment of a stabbing pain in his abdomen. While his suffering has worsened, he can’t help but reflect how completely indifferent and arrogant he’d become by the time he’d snuffed out Risner’s life. Ted struggles to reconcile whether he’d subconsciously conspired to get caught, or whether it was nothing more than the challenge of a cocky nineteen year old, playing a extremely deadly game. Ted knows that he’d never felt completely justified about butchering the professor, often  intellectualizing that his justification was nothing more than a shallow rationalization for blood letting. Perplexed by this latent re-visitation, Ted abruptly shakes his head, shoulder to shoulder. Failing to liberate these unproductive judgments, Ted forces himself to refocus on the one thing he must do, fulfill his mission: confess the dark truths of his life. Ted flips the recorder on, powering an effort to regain the pace of his chronicle. Struggling to exercise a deep breath before he begins, Ted coughs violently, spitting up blood. Terrified that the infection ravaging his body, and the loss of blood, will soon triumph over his lucid mind, Ted, amid a renewed sense of urgency, wipes the dark, red spittle from around his mouth, with the bed sheet, and painfully commences to unlock the next chapters of his life.

 

 

Chapter Nineteen

 

I first saw Kayley Tegan O’Brian in the fall of my Senior year at FDU.

I sat directly behind her in Abstract Economics – AE. From the first day of class, I was overwhelmed with the natural beauty of this incredible female specimen. For weeks, I studied everything about Kayley. I memorized her every feature, every movement, every little quirk, every quality. I began mimicking her expressions. Merging many of her attributes and gestures with my own. Kayley was older than me, possibly seven or eight years, it was hard to tell. There was something else, a familiarity about her, but, I couldn’t place it. Perhaps a angelic vision in a dream. From the first moment she spoke, I listened intently to each remark, every comment, presentation, statement or question she posed in class, eavesdropping on personal conversations whenever I could linger inconspicuously in the background. The aroma of her perfume alone, would send me into a dream state, imagining. It was clear that Kayley was intelligent, gifted. She became an indelible part of my consciousness, for every waking second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day. My grades suffered, badly. I didn’t care. I didn’t care about anything. She had taken my breath away, innocently, unknowingly embezzling my heart. I was wildly, intensely in love with Kayley Tegan O’Brian and she didn’t even know who I was. She’d never even given me a second glance, nor any other boy for that matter. She was strangely aloof, distant, mysterious. The anticipation of her arrival at class alone, would sap my strength, weaken my knees, render me helpless. And when she did appear, a corporal metamorphosis would send astonishing waves of pleasure through my body. AE was only one days per week. Time crawled on its hands and knees between classes.

It wasn’t until the fourth week of class that I mustered enough courage to speak with her. Class had just finished and I waited while Kayley organized her books and papers. Finally, she rose and strolled out. I sat there, for what seemed like an hour, marshalling my strength, questioning if I had enough chutzpah to approach her. The room now empty, and realizing that she may already be nearing her next class, I bolted from my desk and burst through the doorway, promptly tripping on the raised aluminum threshold. My books went flying when I released them in an attempt to cushion my inevitable destiny with the cement walkway. My knees hit first, then my outstretched palms, finally coming to rest on my nose. I heard a composition of startled screams. Pushing myself up, I rested my butt on the back of my ankles and placed my hands on my thighs. Temporarily dazed, I watched as droplets of blood trickle, from the scrape on my fiery nose, splatter on the pavement. As I tilted my head back,  I found myself looking at the most beautiful pair of legs I’d ever seen. I didn’t have to look any further to know who they belonged to.

“Are you all right?” were the first words Kayley spoke to me. As I peered up, the softest, and largest, almond shaped eyes, that I’d ever seen, were sympathetically gazing into mine.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“You don’t look fine. Here, let me help you,” a soft, caring voice offered. Kayley bent over, gently took hold of my right arm, and tenderly helped me to my feet. I could barely keep myself from collapsing back to the concrete. Not because I was hurt, but the very touch of her skin to mine, was more intimate than anything I’d ever experienced. It seemed as sinful a feeling as I’ve ever had. She was much shorter than me, as most people were. She was perhaps five-feet five inches tall, close to a foot shorter. Kayley hurriedly rummaged through her pocketbook and retrieved a white, cotton handkerchief with a colorful, flowered embroidery on one of the corners.

“Your bleeding, Teddy,” she said, and patted the end of my nose trying to absorb the glut of blood.

“I’ll do that,” I said, trembling at the anticipation of the second act of physical connection. I took the striking linen from her, and held it firmly on the abrasion. The most sensuous fragrance I’d ever inhaled, gently eddied into my consciousness. I still have that handkerchief, a memento of our original encounter.

Standing next to Kayley was one of our classmates, Marla, a short, dark haired, heavy set girl, about twenty-one years old. They must have been engaged in a conversation when I ruptured through the door and toppled over, skidding to a stop at their, then fashionable, penny loafers.

“I have to get to class, Kayley. I hope you’ll be all right, Teddy,” Marla said, looking at me.

“Thanks.” I nodded as if I was fine. Marla then departed, leaving me alone with Kayley. God was I embarrassed. In addition to the tip of my nose dripping crimson, my elbows and knees were also bloodied. My kakis were torn open at both knees and the tips of my black leather shoes, had white, cement filled crevices where they dragged over the pavement while gliding in route to Kayley’s feet. What a first impression, probably the last, I thought.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yes. Just a Bozo scratch or two, but other than that, I’m fine.” I managed to squeak out.

“I need to be getting to class. I’m already late,” she said glancing at her watch.

“Sure, I’m sorry to have held you up.”

“Those scrapes look pretty bad. Make sure you put iodine on them when you get home,” Kayley said, looking concerned. She smiled at me and hurried off.

Her smile was infectious, broad and warm. Her perfect, pearl white teeth were elegantly framed by soft and inviting lips.

By the time our next class rolled around, my nose had formed a hideous scab which I covered with a small flesh-tone Band-Aid. Kayley asked how I was. I pathetically answered, “Okay, thanks for asking,” and that was it. What a conversationalist. It was another two weeks before my malady was healed sufficiently to uncover. By the first class of the following week, I’d managed to collect enough daring to ask Kayley for a date. I had meticulously planned the event. I would take her to an early dinner at a popular Italian restaurant, DiAngelos, Then to a movie, Romeo and Juliet, at the Oritani Theater in Hackensack. It would be an ideal evening, and I would be the perfect gentleman.

Kayley was alone, headed to her next class.

“Hey, Kayley, do you have a second?” I said, shuffling up beside her.

“Hi, Teddy. What’s up?”

“Well, well,” I pitifully stuttered. “How would you like to go out Saturday?” There was a weighty pause, “for dinner and a movie,” I clumsily sputtered.

“Teddy, that’s really nice, but I can’t.”

“Oh,” I muttered, as the emptiness feeling I’d ever felt hollowed me. “Then how about a week from Saturday?”

“I’m sorry, Teddy.”

I must have appeared stunned, which I was, because she then said, “Teddy, it has nothing to do with you. I just don’t date,” and she followed, “with anyone.”

Before I could think about the appropriateness of my next comment I blurted out.

“Why?”

“I’m sorry, Teddy,” she said, then turned and walked away.

I was completely flattened, the air sucked out of my lungs, the blood drained from my heart. I became lightheaded and I actually thought I was going to faint. I stood there, for what must have been ten minutes, in denial. Finally, when a fragment of my senses restored, I decided to cut the next class and went home. I mulled our brief exchange over and over for the next week, analyzing every word, every gesture. I avoided her, as I believe she did me, at our next two classes. I couldn’t reconcile her remarks about not dating. Sure, I’d never seen her talking with another guy, but most of them were coyote ugly, academic types with black horned rimmed glasses, pen protectors, baggy, corduroy pants complimented by their vision of a color coordinated shirts. Maybe she had a steady boyfriend? Maybe she was married?

I was lying in bed one night when it hit me like the rush of flood waters careening down a gully. Kayley Tegan O’Brian, was Sister Kay O’Brian, my seventh grade teacher at St. Anns. My God, was she still a nun? No, that couldn’t be, they were still wearing habits, weren’t they? Why hadn’t I recognized those eyes, her faultless nose, her warm smile? They were about the only facial features exposed through the restrictive Habit that delimited the faces of the Sister’s of Charity. I intellectually punished myself for my dismal powers of recognition. She was so beautiful, even with only a diminutive portion of her face exposed. Could I be mistaken? I had to find out.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty

 

I was waiting for Kayley outside of class. As she walked up, she skirted around two other students, noticeably seeking to avoid me. Not deterred, I quickly flanked the naive blockers and scooted up behind her before she could reach the sanctuary of the classroom.

“Kayley, may I have a word with you?” She spun around, looking quite flustered.

“What is it, Teddy?” she said, and took a step back, revealing a moderately icy demeanor and a subtly defensive posture.

I turned my head right, then left, making sure no one was close enough to hear what I was about to say.

Leaning over near her right ear, I whispered, “Sister Kay?” Keying on her reaction to the test. Kayley turned as pale as the stark white Habit that formerly bordered her face. She just stared at me, not a look of anger, but perhaps relief, maybe closure. I wasn’t sure.

“Meet me at the Student Hall around three-thirty. It should be quiet at that time,” she said.

“Okay,” was the only thing I could get out before she twirled about and briskly marched into class.

At three-twenty, I eagerly walked into the Student Hall and immediately began scanning for Sister Kay. She was right, I thought, there were very few people in the immense room, so it didn’t take me long to realize that she wasn’t there. Disappointed, I found a table close to the door and waited. At three forty-five, I began to think she wasn’t coming. At four, I realized she had stood me up. I got up from the table and started for the exit, just as she entered. She noticed me immediately. I nodded in recognition and backtracked to the table. Kayley sat down directly across from me, several awkward  moments passed before she began.

“Teddy Roth, I knew it was you from the first day of class. You’ve changed quite a bit: taller, leaner, and older, but you’ll always have the same handsome features. I was praying you wouldn’t recognize me, but I don’t think God listens to me anymore since,” her voice trailed off., – “Since I renounced my vows.”

“Renounced? Why, wouldn’t God listen anymore? I said, thinking that I was a budding comedian.

“Teddy, I think this was a bad idea,” Kayley said and began to stand.

“No, no, please, I’m sorry. Please, sit.

Kayley looked at me, like she did when I was in one of her classes, and I did something wrong, and sat back down.

“Please, Let me try this again,” I shamefully said, duly scolded. “Can’t you quit being a Sister? It’s just a job, isn’t it?”

“While we are referred to as ‘Sisters’ of Charity, we really are nuns. In the Catholic Church, there is no forgiveness for my conduct as a nun.”

“I didn’t know there was a difference.”

“The main difference between Sisters and Nuns is that nuns are cloistered and sisters work out in the community. Sisters take simple vows from which they can be released, nuns take solemn vows, from which they cannot be released.”

“Oh,” I softly mumbled, feeling stupid, like I should have known the difference. “What happened?”

“Teddy, don’t take this the wrong way, but, it really isn’t any of your business.”

“No, I guess not. I’m sorry.” A pregnant moment trailed. Why are you here at Fairleigh? Don’t you already have a degree?”

“I’m doing my graduate work in Finance and Marketing. The AE course is a required subject.”

“Where did you do your undergraduate work?”

“Villanova, I majored in Religious Studies with a minor in Finance. Right now, I work for Bank of America in Midtown Manhattan as a financial advisor. B of A is funding all of my studies. When I’m not in class, I work there.”

“When did you leave the convent? – If you don’t mind me asking?”

“About three years ago.”

“You said you don’t date. Is that because you’re married?”

“No Teddy, no husband. I was married to God for so long, I don’t think it’s in the cards for me.”

Kayley was so radiant, a burst of sunshine in what, for me lately, had been a dull and boring existence. Her blond, shoulder length hair now framed her face, replacing the restrictive Habit she once wore. Momentarily daydreaming,  I couldn’t help but reflect on her ample assets. Her skin was flawless, smooth, wrinkle free, and deeply tanned. Her chin was beautifully sculptured and her golden eyebrows arched delicately over extraordinarily contrasting almond shaped, chocolate eyes. She possessed an hourglass figure, topped with perfectly proportionate breasts which, she clearly attempted to camouflage with loose fitting garments. Kayley was stunning, as striking a woman as I had ever seen. She graced the earth with her sheer presence. She was intelligent, elegant, refined, engaging, and charming. Yet intuitively, I sensed a darkness, malevolent shadows masking her past, an outward defensiveness, with an embedded distrustfulness veiled deep within. As we talked, reminiscing about St. Anns, elements of the conversation evoked reactions that convinced me of the accuracy of my appraisal. Kayley was cloaking something.

It was nearing seven o’clock. We’d been there for almost three hours and I was starved, as I’m sure she was. The Hall had practically filled to capacity when a few students, unable to find other seating, plopped down at our table.

“Look Kayley, it’s getting pretty late. Let me at least buy you something to eat. No strings, I promise. You can meet me, separate cars. Do you like Italian?” I machine-gunned out.

“I love Italian,” she said, with a glowing, winning smile.

“How about DiAngelos?”

“One of my favorite places.”

Her comment sent ripples of pure ecstasy through my loins. I was becoming  aroused, not for any sexual expectation, but the thought of being with her.

“Ok, let’s do it. Do you need to go home first?”

“No.”

“Okay then.” I said, shuffling some papers from one textbook to another, stalling until the preeminent bulge in my pants subsided. Together, we walked to Student Parking. Her car was at the north end, mine in the opposite direction. We split up, agreeing to rendezvous at DiAngelos.

***

  I arrived first, about eight o’clock, but not before flouting every speed limit on the way. I hustled inside and reserved a table. I whined a little about the two hour wait, but not excessively since it would give me more time with Kayley. The place was always packed, this night was no exception. About five minutes later, Kayley walked in. I greeted her and we sat in waiting chairs that were situated just outside of the barroom. Within seconds, virtually every male that could still get an erection, and some that couldn’t, were eying Kayley. It was an uncomfortable feeling, anger exponentially rising within me. Just when I was about to have some meaningful dialogue with a couple of gawking patrons, a notion landed ashore, washing up on my thoughtless mind. I should be proud. She was, after all, my date, not theirs.

It’s true, beautiful people get superior service. DiAngelos was no exception. One look at Kayley, and they shaved about an hour and fifty minutes from our wait. You should have seen the vicious looks we got as we were called to our table. Our waiter, seated us in a quiet, candlelit booth. Away from kids, and boisterous customers. It was perfect.

The warm glow of the candle washed over Kayley’s face, highlighting the depth of the sparkle in her eyes. She was a goddess, my goddess. I needed to be with her, to protect this fragile, unassuming flower. I realized that I’d fallen deeply, profoundly in love. Something, I sworn never to do. I needed to convey these feelings, not only in words but in deed, but how?

Fuck Jamie Carver, I thought, she was a tramp, a slut. Kayley could never betray a friend, much less someone she loved. No, Kayley was an angel, truly.

The waiter returned and introduced himself. Alex handed us the menus and described the evening’s dinner specials. Without thinking, I asked for the wine list. Even though I was of legal age, I appeared every bit of nineteen. Before I could withdraw my request, Alex handed me the list, apparently a tip-wise veteran, he was smart enough not to proof me, thus avoiding what would have been my second embarrassing blunder.

It started off as the most magnificent night of my life. How it ended, would cast uncontrollable chills, overwhelming even the coldest of hearts.

***

As death attempts to terminate his agony, Ted desperately labors to regain his visual acuity. Overcoming the seemingly impossible, he winces, then shivers, looking at the blanket where an immense, irregular, opaque blood stain continues its rapid growth. A sickening, metallic scent of inevitability is heavy in the room.

His hand trembling, Ted gently presses on the tepid, soggy fabric absorbing his life and knows that it won’t be much longer before permanent darkness conquers. Barely able to lift his head, he stares at the tape recorder on his lap and is surprised to see that it is still running. His right hand, disturbingly sticky from drying blood, is barely able to close its weakened fingers. In a sheer test of will, Ted defeats the physics and wearily grasps the small device and shuts it off. Speculating he’s been unconscious about twenty minutes or so, Ted painfully alternates between the: REWIND, PLAY and STOP buttons, until he positions the tape at the end of the last sentence recorded.

Fretfully trying to oxygenate the little blood remaining, Ted struggles to take several short, hallow breaths. Finally, gaining sufficient energy, Ted pushes RECORD, and although not knowing whether he’ll be able to finish, continues.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-one

 

We relaxed in our cozy booth talking about anything and everything: St. Anns, former students Kayley thought that I knew, her childhood and mine, Fairleigh Dickenson University, the class we were taking together, the traffic, the weather, everything and nothing. It was all fascinating for me, I suspected for her as well.

The waiter never tried to give us the bums-rush, attempting to turn the table for another seating and thus enlarge his tip coffer. As I’d deduced earlier, this guy was a savvy veteran, and he was sufficiently rewarded for his professional service when I subsequently laid cash down for the bill.

We dined until almost ten-thirty. More than two hours of bliss had past; it seemed, but a few minutes. After we finished the last of our meal, Kayley leaned forward, looked deep into my eyes, and quietly said, “Ted, I’ve had a wonderful evening.” Her eyes, oh God, her eyes, were so sincere, so astonishingly beautiful, pools of sparkling ebony. I felt she was looking into my soul, and prayed she couldn’t see into my past; that whore, Jamie.

“Would you like to stop by my apartment for a cup of coffee?”

A shiver spun up my spine, radiating out through my shoulders and arms. I was dumfounded. I had anticipated, indeed envisioned, a long courting process to win her respect, her love. An insane thought rifled through my head, this is happening too fast. Quickly overcoming the stupidity of that mindless reflex, I choked out, “I’d love to.”

I followed Kayley to her place on Bird Creek Road in Fairlawn. She lived in a modest one-bedroom apartment on the first floor of a two-story complex. The apartments were new, only about a year old, I estimated, and were fashioned, it seemed, in an architecture that reminded me of an old southern mansion; very nice, very appealing.

Once inside, Kayley quickly retired to the kitchen where she began to fuss over brewing, freshly-ground, coffee.

Kayley’s apartment was very inviting, albeit, very small; a large living room, a bedroom, I surmised, a full bath, which I promptly used, and a breakfast bar that separated the bachelors kitchen from the living room. Kayley had decorated the entire place with Early American furniture and knickknacks. There was a large, hunter green, country-blue and red,  plaid sofa and a matching easy chair. Handsome wooden end tables, with rustic brass oil lamps, were on each side of the couch, and a matching coffee table was centered in front. The end table to the right of the sofa was shared with the easy chair which was canted toward the sofa, perhaps at a thirty degree angle. On the opposite wall, an expansive Cherry wood entertainment center faced the grouping of furniture. It contained a large TV at the center. The TV was framed by bookshelves loaded with a variety of hardbacks and paperbacks neatly stacked, both horizontally and vertically in a random, yet oddly organized pattern. Integrated with all of this, was a variety of curios that complimented the eye-catching arrangement. Various sized paintings of rustic country scenes, along with variety of pictures, old metal signs, and antique posters, were scattered about; all in direct proportion to the available wall-space.  All-in-all, a rather efficient, attractive, warm and appealing job of decorating.

It seems quite strange that I remember such detail. In fact, I could reconstruct the layout today. I think it’s because Kayley’s apartment was, in the truest sense, an extension of her personality; which only reinforced my sense that she was not only beautiful and intelligent, but possessed an aesthetic adroitness, and a sophisticated charm that one seldom discovers. Kayley was the complete package.

I sat at one end of the sofa and intently watched Kayley scurry about the tiny kitchen preparing the after dinner amenities. About twenty minutes later, Kayley emerged and placed a serving tray at the center of the coffee table. It contained a pot of coffee, two mugs, a creamer, sugar bowl, two spoons, napkins and a small plate with wedges of delicious-looking cinnamon coffeecake, perfect. I was disappointed when she sat at the opposite end of the couch. I’m not sure what I had expected, but I was disappointed nonetheless.

“Cream and sugar?” she asked.

“Just a little cream.”

Kayley leaned forward and poured the coffee and cream. That’s when I realized she wasn’t wearing a bra. Her breasts jiggled with every movement, and, as she sat upright to hand me the mug, her large, protruding nipples seemed to almost pierce the blouse she was wearing. I found myself staring at her chest and quickly averted my eyes to hers. Immediately, I was aroused and forced to lean forward to disguise the emerging bulge in my pants. God, did that hurt. I must have looked peculiarly positioned because Kayley innocently solicited,  “Are you okay?”

“Oh, I’m fine. Just stretching my back “

“Do you have back problems?

“Oh, no. It’s just that we’ve been sitting for so long. It’s beginning to cramp a little,” I stammer out, beginning to feel the rush of a hot blush rising from my loins to my face.

“Would you like me to rub your back?” hit me like a freight train.

I panicked. The erection went to full staff. I leaned forward as far as I could without breaking it off.

“Sure. If you don’t mind,” I eked out in sinful pain.

“Why don’t you take your shirt off and lay on the couch. I’ll get some lotion and talc. I’ll be right back,” Kayley said excitedly, then rose from the couch; a kind, inquisitive smile displayed.

God, saved by the lotion and talc, I thought. As soon and Kayley disappeared into the bathroom, I stood up, adjusted Ted junior to a more comfortable position, quickly took off my shirt and lay face down on the sofa. Thank God it was soft. I don’t think my dick could have taken any more abuse. Kayley materialized a few minutes later holding a couple of bottles of lotion in her right hand and a tin of talcum powder, and a large towel in her left. She moved the coffee table away from the couch and knelt by my waist.

“Could you get up a second? I’d like to put the towel on the sofa.”

Great, I thought. How do I get out of this one? I turned my back to Kayley so my dick was facing the back of the sofa, slid my feet off the end and in a corkscrew motion stood so my back was now facing her front. Kayley spread the towel over the cushions and part of the backrest.

“Okay,” she said.

I reversed my twisting move, keeping my back to her and positioned myself gingerly on my stomach, and little Teddy, now Ted the greater.

Placing all but one of the containers on the table, Kayley poured some lotion into the palm of her left hand and then rubbed the palms of both hands together. She began massaging the scented liquid into the small of my back in circular motions. My dick was screaming. I thought it was going to explode. Never had I enjoyed, and hated, such ecstasy. It was an extreme dichotomy of physical sensuality. I wiggled, adjusted, squirmed, turned a little this way and that. Nothing seemed to help. If I could have, I would have enjoyed the backrub, but I couldn’t. Every time I thought of who was touching me, Ted, the greater, like Pinocchio’s nose. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any more.

“Kayley, I have to get up,” I said almost angrily, not at her but the involuntary reaction my body had conjured.

“Why? Don’t you like the backrub?”

“No, that’s just it, I’m enjoying it too much,” I said, then turned onto my back. It was impossible to conceal my hard-on as I sat up.

“Oh,” Kayley said, as she noticed the obvious protrusion.

I was so embarrassed. “Will you excuse me a minute. I need to go to the bathroom. I’m very sorry.”

“Why? I guess I should be flattered,” she said, and giggled.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, and hurried off.

I reached the safety of the bathroom, closed the door, turned on the cold water and splashed it in my face. It took a few minutes before Ted the greater transformed into Ted the lesser. I sat on the toilet seat, head in hands, embarrassed to go out and face her. Perhaps, five minutes had passed.

“Ted, your coffee is getting cold,” echoed from the living room.

Composing myself, I finally stood, threw some more cold water in my face and patted it off with a hand towel. I opened the door and saw Kayley sitting on the couch, smiling.

“I thought you’d never come out. Here,” she said patting the cushion next to her, “come sit.”

I did as she requested. We sat in silence a moment; Kayley sipping her coffee. I’m not sure what possessed me, but the absolute genius of my thought processes screamed out, change the subject.

“So, have you missed being a nun?” was my next mindless question.

“No,” was her sharply articulated, blunt reply.

“I’m sorry. I don’t know why I asked. I know you don’t want to talk about it.”

A few moments of very painful silence was broken by Kayley’s next remarks.

“Something bad happened to me, Ted. I’ve never told anyone because there has never been anyone that I could tell. I’ve been so alone. I’m an orphan, you know,” Kayley uttered, and began gently sobbing. It was evident she was trying to conceal emotions that were surfacing, but she was betrayed by physiology, as her shoulders began to heave in concert with the sobs.

I was stunned at her reaction, her comments; the fact that she was an orphan. So many thoughts skyrocketed through my mind, so many emotions.

“Look Kayley, it’s probably none of my business, but, if you need to talk, I’m a good listener.”

“You’ll think I’m a horrible, dirty, disgusting slut.”

“That’s impossible.” What the hell was this all about? For a second, thoughts of that bitch Jamie crashed into my brain.

“No, I mean it. You will think I’m a terrible human being.”

“That’s impossible,” I repeated, as sincerely as I could muster. “No matter what you’ve done, I could never feel that way. You’re the most wonderful person I’ve ever met.” And, without thinking, my emotions now irrevocably entangled with hers, I said, “I love you, Kayley. I love you more than life itself. Whatever has happened, we can get through it, together.”

Kayley gazed into my eyes; tears streaming down her cheeks. “Thank you, Ted, but I can’t burden you with my problems. I’m so sorry I brought it up,” she managed to utter between sobs. Then she threw her arms around me and squeezed hard. I returned the embrace and we just sat, holding each other, not word spoken. After several minutes, Kayley’s tears subsided. She kissed me on the cheek and we instinctively divided.

“Look Kayley, this is obviously something you’ve been holding inside. I’m not a psychiatrist, but my guess is that you need to talk to someone. Believe me, I’m not judgmental. I’m not that kind of person. Nothing you could say, I mean nothing, could shock me or make me love you any less.”  

Kayley, without a millisecond of hesitation, apparently needing to share her agony with another, began a gruesome account of the day of her personal hell.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-two

 

 “It happened almost five years ago,” Kayley began. “I was happy with my station in life, serving God. I’d never had any other distractions, any other interests. My life was fulfilling, joyful.”

Kayley trailed off, as if  pausing while her brain reloaded.

“Do you remember Father Harold?”

“Yeah, the old coot. Nothing but brimstone and fire. We were all damned for our evil and carnal ways,” I shot back, then wondered why I just didn’t say “yes.” I promised her I was a good listener, and, what I needed to do now, more than anything, was to keep my mouth shut.

“Well, one Sunday evening after vespers, Father Harold asked me to come by the rectory. He told me that he had a special project that needed attending. At the time, I didn’t think that was unusual, since he and Father Andre always had someone doing one thing or another for them. You know like, cleaning the rectory, sending out mailings to parishioners, filing, cooking for them when the daytime housekeeper wasn’t there, that kind of stuff. It was almost nine PM when I finished my evening duties. I grabbed a sweater from my room and left the convent to see what Father Harold needed. I knew Father Andre had gone home to visit his family, leaving Father Harold alone in the rectory. For Father Andre, it was almost a religious pilgrimage performed after serving his final Mass on the last Sunday of each month, and everyone knew it.

When Father Harold answered the door, it was immediately apparent that he’d been drinking. He was slurring his words and had difficulty keeping his balance. No sooner than I stepped inside and closed the door, he grabbed me by the arm and proceeded to pull me upstairs. I asked him to stop. I told him that he was hurting me. All he said was, “Hush, child.” I didn’t know what to think or what to do. I tried wrenching my arm away but he just clamped down harder, hurting me even more. I started to cry as we went upstairs. That’s when he slapped me in the face with his free hand. My Habit cut into my left cheek. My nose began to bleed, spilling blood on the bottom of my Habit and clothing. I felt my lips swelling and they quickly became numb like they’d been shot with Novocain. When we reached the landing, he pulled me down the hallway to the right. At the end of the hall, he pushed me through an open doorway. I stumbled over the raised threshold and fell sprawling, face down on an enormous, round Persian-like rug. My knees, and the palms of my hands, were on fire from rug burns. Father Harold stepped inside and kicked the door shut, then he locked it. He grabbed me by my right arm, yanked me off the floor and pulled me over to the bed and threw me on it. “Take off your clothes,” he squealed, insanely. I began crying hysterically. I knew what he wanted to do to me.

Father Harold began taking off his clothing. As he bent forward to remove his pants, I jumped off the bed and ran for the door. As I was fumbling to unlock it, I felt a razor-sharp pain to my right kidney. I must have passed out because the next thing I remember is being in bed with Father Harold. He was on top of me, both of us were naked. He was disgustingly fat and smelled of sour wine and stinking sweat. At first, I wasn’t sure what he was doing, then I screamed out in pain as he plunged his penis inside of me. I had never been intimate with a man. His penis was large and he kept pushing and pulling himself in and out. I thought my flesh was tearing inside and I felt sick. I was crying and hollering for him to stop, but he didn’t. Father Harold began bellowing like a crazy person, “Oh, God. Oh, Jesus,” over and over. Then he suddenly stopped, dropping the full weight of his body on top of me. I could hardly breathe, I felt as though I was suffocating, he was panting like an animal. Then, he rolled off. I just lay there in his sweat, weeping. After a few minutes had past, I regained some of my wits and ran to the door. Before I could get it open, he spun me around and slapped me in the face, then punched me hard in the stomach. I cried out in pain from the blows and began convulsing, then dry heaving. I remember falling to my knees, clutching my stomach. He dragged on the floor back to the bed and raped me again. When he was done, I could feel the warmth of my blood discharging from my vagina, trickling down between my legs.

Father Harold was lying there screaming a sermon at me, telling me how bad I was, that God was punishing me for my wicked thoughts and deeds, that I was nothing more than the Devil’s offspring, bred from the seed of vile fornicators. He told me that my parents were dead, taken by the hand of God. I was so confused. He got out of bed and looked down at me. I tried to cover myself but he just threw my hands aside and got back into bed. He forced my legs apart and knelt between them. He just stared at my breasts, and my privates. His eyes were wild. He violently shoved his face between my legs and began licking the blood and semen from my thighs, and genitals. He stuck his tongue inside me cupping out whatever was there. When he finished, he mounted, and raped me again.

Eventually, he tied me to the bed while he slept. Each time he awoke, he would rape me again. At one point he masturbated on my face then licked it off. I began to choke and gag, but nothing came up. This went on all evening. The unbearable pain, the disgusting stench of his body, the taste of blood in my mouth, the odor of blood, my blood, was thick in the room. His ranting about the wicked. Screaming God’s name at all of his climaxes. I don’t know how many times he raped me. I lost count. All evening, I kept thinking, why doesn’t someone come looking for me. It wasn’t until later, when I regained my senses, that I realized that there were no bed checks. Nuns weren’t slaves or in a prison, they were in a convent, without bars. Of course, no one would have miss me.”

Kayley lingered, as if reflecting on what she had told me. I sensed that she was relieved. Relieved that her story had finally been told. But, she was not finished, not by any means. And I, I was never so enraged, not even when I’d caught that cunt Jamie and Frankie in bed.

Kayley took a deep breath, gazed plaintively into my eyes, then looked away and continued recounting her nightmare.

“The clock-radio next to his bed read 5 AM when Father Harold awoke from one of his many respites between raping me. He was a different person. Naked, he calmly got out of bed as if nothing had happened, and walked soberly into a bathroom at the far end of the bedroom. Leaving the door open, he took a shower and afterward shaved. He walked to a closet, opposite the foot of the bed, and proceeded to get dressed. When he was finished, he untied my wrists and told me to clean myself, pointing toward the bathroom. I’ll never forget what he said next.

“Child, you are the result of an unholy union of Satan’s disciples. You are nothing more than the wicked product the Devil’s loins. God has instructed me to punish you and thus, your Father, Lucifer.  If you ever speak of this past evening, I will smite you to your rightful and fiery destiny. So child, when I beckon, you will come to receive your punishment. And you will rejoice in the pain, and repent for your sins, asking God for forgiveness. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Father.”

“When you’re dressed, go down the back staircase and go out through the backdoor. Is that clear, child?”

“Yes, Father.”  

I ran to the bathroom and closed the door. Staring into the ornate mirror above the sink, I was shocked to see the damage that he’d inflicted. My face was smeared with both fresh and dried blood. My lips were swollen, my face bruised in many places and several cuts surrounded my mouth and eyes. There was a deep cut at the hairline in the middle of my forehead. The stream of blood ran between my eyes, along the right side of my nose, over my mouth then down my chin, dripping on the white tiled floor. I don’t know how the cut got there, or I just couldn’t remember. I guess it really didn’t matter. I began to cry, stinging tears.

I was startled when I heard a door slam in the bedroom. I quietly cracked the bathroom door open and looked into the bedroom. Father Harold was gone. I locked the door and took a hot shower to cleanse the filth from my body. I was sore all over from the beating I’d taken. When I was drying myself, I noticed that I was still bleeding between my legs. I rolled up some toilet paper and inserted the ball to halt the flow of blood. It was a terribly painful process, but one that needed to be done. I then rushed back into the bedroom and got dressed quickly, afraid he would return. The Habit had blood stains from the injury to my forehead, mouth and cheek. It didn’t conceal the bruises and cuts to my lips and eyes. Just as I finished dressing, I heard a sound coming from the hallway. I panicked. Father Harold was coming back. Returning for more; coming back to hurt me. I quietly opened the door to the hallway and saw Adeline, the rectory housekeeper, descending the stairway. When I couldn’t see her any longer, I hurried down the hall. As I rounded the top of the stairs, I looked down the other hall and saw a door that I suspected led to the back stairwell, and it did. I ran down the stairs and cracked opened the door at the bottom. I found myself looking into the kitchen. From the corner of my eye, I noticed movement off to my right. I quickly turned my head and saw Adeline leaving the kitchen. I knew where the backdoor was located from the many times I’d been there. I glanced around to see if anyone else was there, not seeing anyone, I ran out the backdoor. I crossed the parking toward the convent. Luckily, there was no one in sight and I was able to slip in through back of the convent and get to my room without being seen.

For the next five days, I stayed in my room, telling everyone, through my closed door, that I had a stomach virus. Although concerned for my wellbeing, the other nuns respected my wish for isolation leaving meals trays and some over-the-counter cold and flu medicine outside of my doorway. On the second day, I put my bloodied Habit and soiled clothing in a laundry bag and left it in the hall for the weekly pickup. On the evening of the fifth day, there was a knock on the door. It was Mother Superior. From her questions, and tone, it was evident that she was getting suspicious of my self-induced sequestering, but I was able to fend her off, promising that I would be at morning prayers.

Several months before, on a whim, like a child playing ‘dress-up’, I had purchased some makeup at a local drug store. For several hours the previous evening, I practiced covering my healing injuries until I felt comfortable enough that I could disguise most of the remaining blemishes. As promised, I showed up for morning prayers, and while I sensed some curious looks from a few of the nuns, nothing was said. For the next month, life at the convent resumed a relatively normal routine for me.

I avoided Father Harold as much as I could. However, on the last Sunday of the following month, Mother Superior approached me late in the afternoon and said that Father Harold wanted to see me for a special project. I felt the blood drain from my face, and thought I was going to faint. I must have turned ashen white, because she asked if I was feeling all right. I began to tremble uncontrollably, and, after gasping for air several times, I told her that I wasn’t feeling well and asked if she could assign someone else. Apparently concerned about the physical manifestations she witnessed, she promptly agreed. I went straight to my room and prayed until I fell asleep that Father Harold wouldn’t convince Mother Superior that I was the only one for his ‘special project’.

It wasn’t until a month later when I was helping Father Andre haul some boxes of prayer books from the rectory to the church, that my living nightmare returned.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-three

 

“I was picking up the last of the boxes at the rectory with Father Andre when Father Harold walked into the room. After they exchanged greetings,  Father Harold asked Father Andre if he could spare me for a project. Before he could answer, I told Father Harold that I’d would return after I dropped off the last of the prayer books at the church. Of course, I had no intentions of returning, but I needed a way to get out of there, and fast. Father Andre said that he could finish up and instructed me to help Father Harold. He shifted the box that he was holding under his left arm and grabbed the last box from the table, hiking it up under his right. He then told Father Harold that he would see him Tuesday evening. That’s when I realized that it was the last Sunday of the month. Father Andre was off to see his relatives.

Panic set in and I began trembling. All that I could think of was getting out of there so I began to follow Father Andre as he started to leave. That’s when I felt Father Harold’s hand clamp down hard on my right arm. Startled, I let out a yelp. Hearing my distress call, Father Andre turned and asked if I was all right. Before I could answer, Father Harold, still holding my arm, and squeezing harder, told Father Andre that I was just fine. Father Andre glanced at Father Harold, and then back at me, and with a look of puzzled alarm, said, “You know, I don’t think I’ll be able to get this box to the church after all. If you would, Sister Kay,” Father Andre gestured, slightly elevating his right arm soliciting help with the box wedged beneath it. Eagerly, I pulled away from Father Harold, who reluctantly released my arm, and grabbed for the box Father Andre was holding. On the way to the church, Father Andre said he would assist Father Harold with his project before he left and suggested that I return to the convent, which I did, posthaste. To this day, I believe Father Andre knew, or at least suspected, something was going on between Father Harold and me. I also believe that I was not Father Harold’s only victim. Anyway, after Father Andre’s rescue, things got back to normal. Given the circumstances, I avoided Father Harold as much as possible.

Three months had past since the incident and I had not had my menstrual cycle. At first blush, it didn’t concern me because my cycle was irregular and it wasn’t unusual to skip a month, but this was the third, rapidly approaching the fourth. My second clue, and the clincher in my mind, happened on an overcast and  rainy Wednesday morning. I had awaken at five AM and started getting ready for morning prayers when I began to feel sick-to-my-stomach. Within seconds, I rushed into the bathroom, bent over the toilet bowl and dry-heaved for the better part of fifteen minutes. In a brief respite of relief, I went into my bedroom and ate some graham crackers that I had stashed in my nightstand. Almost immediately, my nausea passed. It was then that I realized I was pregnant.

That morning, I confided in my best friend, Sister Ellen. And, as it turned out, I was mistaken about our friendship because before breakfast was served, Mother Superior, asked to see me in her office. Once there, she confronted me with my dilemma. Mother Superior asked who the father was and I declined answering for fear that no one would believe me. I also held that it was not beyond Father Harold’s capacity to hurt, or perhaps kill me. All-in-all, it was an ugly meeting, but in the end, arrangements were made to see a doctor the next day for confirmation.

Yes, I was pregnant. For the next six months, I was confined to the convent, the preponderance of time spent in my room, where I was to secretly give birth to my baby. Everyone in the convent knew about my situation. One or two seemed sympathetic, most were silently outraged. Mother Superior was in damage control mode. Can you imagine the scandal for St. Anns if word of a nuns pregnancy got out? She certainly couldn’t.

During the last two weeks of pregnancy, the baby stopped moving. I sensed something was dreadfully wrong but I kept it to myself. I went into labor almost nine months to the day when Father Harold raped me. It was a horrible delivery. The nuns involved with the birth were ill equipped to handle anything out of the ordinary, much less an emergency. As the baby exited my womb, I heard a single concert of loud gasps from the Sisters in attendance. The male child was stillborn; the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. I never knew what they did with my baby and they would never tell me.

After I recovered, Mother Superior suggested that I leave St. Anns to pursue ‘other interests’. I was so frightened, as an abandoned child might be. I was raised as an orphan at the convent. I went to Villanova and graduated with a degree in religious studies and promptly returned to St. Anns becoming a Sister-of-Charity. Other than the four, virtually cloistered years at Villanova, my entire life was the Convent at St. Anns. I knew nothing else, I wanted nothing else but to serve God. He was my blanket, my security, my life. I hated Father Harold for doing this to me. He was an ugly, vile man. He had no business impersonating God and I knew he would pay for his behavior someday, in Hell.

Mother Superior let me stay at the convent until I found a job. In less than a month, I accepted an offer for employment with Bank of America in Midtown Manhattan. Mother Superior gave me some starter money, one thousand five hundred dollars in cash. I used it to rent this apartment, buy food and a new civilian wardrobe. I left St. Anns on a crisp, mid-September morning to start my life over. During the next several months, I commuted by bus to my job in the City. I obtained my drivers permit and purchased a used car for two hundred and fifty dollars that very day. Weeks later, I passed my drivers test and received my license. That was the first taste of real independence I’d had in my entire life, and it felt good, real good.

I still have guilt feelings about what happened. Somehow, I can’t get by Father Harold’s comments about being born of Satan’s disciples. Perhaps, I had brought all of this on myself.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” I finally said, barely able to contain the seething anger percolating inside of me. “Father Harold is a sick bastard. He doesn’t deserve to breath the same air you do.”

I leaned over and embraced this delicate flower. She began to cry, a great weight finally lifted. Kayley and I just held each other, both lost in our thoughts. She, I’m sure relieved of her burden, and I, planning my visit with Father Harold.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-four

 

Kayley nudged back from our enfold. “Ted, it’s getting awfully late, would you like to stay over? I could make up the couch. I have a couple of extra pillows and blankets.”

“Will you be all right, Kayley?”

“I’m fine. I hope we can remain friends?”

Friends! What the hell was that? “Kayley, I told you that I love you. I meant that. I hope in time you will feel the same about me.” Ted paused, pondering Kayley’s last few comments. It was like a switch had been turned off. In the ON position, Kayley was intimate, warm, personal, capable of baring her soul. In the OFF position, cool, distant, calculating every word spoken. Boy, had this guy fucked her up. “I have to get up early for a class tomorrow. I think it best if I go home. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine, Ted.”

“Okay, good.”

“Ted, it’s a little early for me to get involved in any serious way. I hope you understand?”

“We’ll take it easy. I promise. I had a wonderful evening. When can I see you again?”

“Just call, I’m always here after six PM on weekdays and I’m rarely out on weekends except for shopping groceries and perhaps a short jaunt to the cleaners. Here, let me write my number down.” She grabbed a pen from the end table and wrote her number on one of the napkins.

“Thank you.”

I put the napkin in my pocket and kissed Kayley gently on her lips. It was a long kiss, a loving and tender kiss, mutually initiated, equally enjoyed. We stood together and she walked me to the door. I squeezed her hand in a feeble attempt at reassuring her that I understood, that I supported her.

On the way home, I couldn’t help but recount her evening of horror. That prick’s reign of terror would end, abruptly, sooner than later.

***

I was so preoccupied with how to get this asshole, that I barely remember going to the few classes that I did attend that week. In fact, I cut the only class that Kayley and I had in common. A week had passed and I hadn’t called her. Somehow, I couldn’t talk to her, much less face her, until I was able to put a period at the end of her nightmare. She needed to move on, and so did I. As long as this fuck was around, she would have no closure, and I could have no beginning.

It was an epiphany, to be sure. Saturday morning, I happened to be looking at a calendar taped to the refrigerator and realized that the following day was the last Sunday of the month. If all had remained the same, and I was unsure of that, Father Andre would be off visiting his family, and that dick, Harold, would be alone. I had worked out all of the details, I just needed the opportunity and the calendar had given me that.

Ten minutes later, I was in my car on the way to Cedar Lane Hardware with a list of supplies that I needed. It was an odd lot of implements that had the clerk guessing what I was making. His curiosity made me nervous. Depending on the consequent press coverage, he might be able to link me directly with what would, with God’s help, take place the following evening. Finally, capitulating at the intensity of questioning by this  jerk, who apparently had decided this was his personal challenge of the day, I told him that my purchases were for multiple projects. This seemed to satisfy his snoop-meter and he backed off, lucky for him. On the way home, I analyzed the plan in my mind, again and again, looking for flaws. I repeated the exercise all evening long until I finally fell asleep, around two AM.

I awoke late the following morning, invigorated. My parents were gone for the day. I sat on the front porch all afternoon evaluating the plan in my head. It was flawless, or so I thought. I couldn’t wait to confront that putrid piece of human garbage. Long about five-thirty PM, I loaded my trunk with everything that I needed then drove to the church where I parked on the street with full view of the rectory, and waited. The gods were kind, I was only there about ten minutes when I saw Father Andre exit the front door and get in his car. I hunkered down in the seat until he had exited the parking lot, speeding off to his monthly appointment. I returned home just in time to catch the six o’clock news.

It had been cold and rainy all day. The weatherman predicted two more days of the inclement conditions, with fog moving in during the early evening. My folks were still not home, and that was fine. I left them a note that I’d be home very late. At exactly nine PM, I pulled out of my driveway for the short drive to St. Anns.

About fifty feet from the entrance to the church parking lot, I shut off my headlights and coasted the rest of the way turning quietly into the deserted lot. The predicted fog floated thick in the air, eerily pierced by illuminated, dancing apparitions that extend into the darkness from light cast through several windows in the convent and rectory.  There was a faint red glow from flickering candles emanating through several of the church’s stained-glass windows. Other than that, there were no other lights on in the church, at least none that I noticed. I parked the car near the rear entrance of the church and out of sight from passing traffic. I flipped the interior light switch to the off position and exited the car, closing the door over, making sure it didn’t latch. I then looked to see if anyone was around. Feeling comfortable, I opened the trunk and pulled on a pair of work gloves. I then placed a large screwdriver in my back pocket. I closed the trunk, but didn’t lock it and quickly proceeded to the front of the church.

Back then, churches were open twenty-four hours a day. A practice that has long since been abandoned.

I entered through the enormous wooden cathedral-like doors and closed them behind me. I slid the door’s floor deadbolts to the closed position, locking them fast. I tested the strength of the lock and mentally mused that it would take a bulldozer to break through them. I turned and passed through the vestibule and walked down the aisle toward the back of the church, all-the-while admiring the great oaken cross, suspended by two hefty chains, immediately behind the altar.

At the end of the aisle, I opened the gate and hurried past the right side of the altar to the Priest’s Sanctuary. I tested the door and, as I had expected, it was locked. I removed the screwdriver from my back pocket and easily jimmied the door open. I passed through the darkened sanctuary to the back door of the church and unlocked it. I placed my ear to the door and listened for any sound, hearing none, I slowly opened the door and peered out into the fog laden night, as best as I could see, I was alone. My car was no more than ten feet from the door. I eased myself outside and quietly closed the door. At the car, I removed a large canvas bag that harbored all of the tools that I would need. I closed the trunk, but didn’t lock it, and reentered the church through the back door. Once inside, I locked the door and hurried to the altar where I promptly dumped the contents of the bag on the top of the altar.

I needed to execute my plan quickly, taking no more than thirty minutes to prepare my own sacrificial altar. Pushing the tools to the side, I jumped up on the altar, picked up the bolt cutters, and, standing on my tiptoes, cut through the chain link that was fastened to the right cross member. As soon as I’d broken through, the cross fell, swinging back and forth from the remaining tie anchored to the left side cross member. I stopped the cross from swinging and inserted a length of rope through the bottom link of the chain that I’d just cut. I then tied the rope around the junction of the two pieces of wood. I cut the second chain and the cross, now supported by the rope I’d just fastened, swung back and forth. Releasing the slipknot I’d fashioned, I lowered the cross to the floor behind the altar. The damn thing must have weighed a hundred pounds, something I hadn’t counted on. With a great deal of effort, I dragged the cross to the front of the altar and lay it so the bottom of the cross was perpendicular to the base of the altar. I looked at my wristwatch, it was nine twenty-five. I was five minutes ahead of schedule. I stood back momentarily, admiring my work, then quickly took inventory of the tools on the altar. I shoved a rag in my pocket along with a roll of black electrical tape and a short length of twine. I picked up the sheathed hunting knife I’d brought, and shoved it into my back pocket. Everything was ready.

Father Harold answered the door and it was plain that he’d been drinking. Not good, I thought. He may offer resistance, which I was prepared for, but not in the rectory. He just stared at me, glancing once at the gloves I was wearing.

“May I help you,” the bastard asked.

My eyes darted around room behind him, no one was in sight. I stepped through the door pushing him back, slamming the door behind me.

“What…!” Were the last words he spoke before I knocked him to the floor with a thunderous right-cross. I straddled his body and placed the unsheathed knife near my right hip. I then shoved the rag in his mouth and wrapped the tape around his head holding the rag firmly in place. Father Harold began to gag. His eyes opened wide and he began to mumble, apparently thinking that I could understand mumble. I rolled the fat fuck over and tied his hands behind his back. I picked up the knife and stood him up.

“Just in case you get any ideas,” I shoved the tip of the knife about a half of an inch into the skin below his jaw, “don’t.” He screamed, a stifled scream, and looked at me as though I was crazy. Blood began dripping from the wound as I hauled him to the door. I opened it slowly, looked outside, and seeing that it was clear, briskly walked him to the church. He put up no resistance. Once inside, I locked the door and brought him to the front of the altar and pushed him to the ground next to the cross. I pulled his pants and boxers off. Kayley was right, this was a big man. I took the knife and cut his shirt and undershirt off, careful to inflict maximum pain. I rolled him over and cut the bindings from his wrists. With the knife in my right hand, I turned him to his back and told him, as I waved the knife in his face, to get on the cross, which he did. I grabbed three lengths of twine from the altar and quickly tied each wrist to the ends of the cross members, making sure I cutoff the circulation to his hands. I then crossed his ankles and tied his feet to the base of the cross. I went to the alter and put on a pair of rubber boots that I’d brought. I then retrieved three spikes and a handheld sledge hammer from the altar. Two of the spikes were three inches long, the third eight inches in length. When Father Harold saw what I had in my hands, he must have realized his fate, and began to squirm like a stuck pig, the pig that he was. I quickly knelt on his left wrist and drove the three inch spike between his wrist and hand. Father Harold must have passed out because he went limp. I then shifted to his right and did the same thing. I turned next to his feet and slammed the eight inch spike through both of them, deep into the oak. Blood was seeping from all of the punctures. With a great deal of effort, I managed to prop the base of the cross against the top of the alter. This was perhaps the most difficult, but not unexpected, part of my plan.

There he was, inverted on his cross in all of his unclothed splendor. I retrieved a chalice from a cupboard behind the alter, grabbed the hunting knife and proceeded to relieve Father Harold of his balls and dick. I put them in the chalice in front of him so, on the off chance he revived, he would be looking, upside-down, at the severed instrument of his demise. I retrieved a two and one half inch wide, two foot long, galvanized pipe from the altar and pounded it about a foot into his asshole. I only wish he’d been awake to hear me say, “How does that feel, cocksucker.” Unfortunately, he never regained consciousness. I sat in the front pew watching the life ebb from his lifeless body. In a final death knell, Father Harold passed from this world and into Hell.

I gathered up the remaining implements of death from the altar and placed them back into the canvas bag. I walked into the sanctuary, turned on the spotlights that illuminated the altar. I removed my rubber boots and placed them into the bag. I peeked into the parking lot, the fog was like soup, almost masking my car a mere ten feet away. I closed the door behind me and proceeded to the trunk of my car. I extracted the hunting knife sheath that was still in my back pocket and put in the bag. I then placed the bag on a large, thick cotton towel that lined the trunk. I removed my shoes and outer garments and placed them in the bag, along with the gloves I’d been wearing for the entire task, then zippered the bag shut. I closed the trunk, careful not to make any noise, and slipped into the front seat where I put on a fresh pair of jeans, a sweatshirt and sneakers. I sat for a moment reviewing everything I’d done, satisfied that I hadn’t left any clues, I pulled the door over, started the engine and exited the parking area, shutting the door and turning my headlights on half way down the street.

I drove to the Hackensack bridge. It was ten-thirty PM when I arrived. I stop the car midway on the bridge and opened the hood, feigning car problems. Traffic was very light. When no cars were in sight, I opened the trunk, pulled the zipper open a couple of inches so it would fill with water and sink quickly. I hustled over to the rail and threw bag and towel into the river. I retreated to my car, closed the hood, and drove home, arriving about eleven PM. My parents were already in bed. I went straight to my room and lay in bed, for an hour or so, exhausting my brain for flaws in the execution. Not realizing any, I fell fast asleep.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-five

 

I watched the news on TV the next morning before heading off to class. There was no mention of Father Harold’s death. It was probably too early, however, I knew the body must have been discovered since the first morning Mass started at six AM; the nuns beginning to arrive around five-thirty AM. That evening, I watched the six o’clock news switching between Channels Eight and Ten, nothing. Strange, I thought, very strange. I called Kayley around six-fifteen PM. It had been more than a week since I’d seen or spoken with her. She was genuinely excited to hear from me. We made plans to go out the following Saturday. In fact, if I didn’t think that I would appear overbearing, I would have asked her out every night that week.

Friday morning arrived and still no word about the untimely demise of the nun fucker. I was sitting at the kitchen table leafing through the newspaper and decided to check the obituaries. There it was, a very small announcement about Father Harold’s passing followed by a brief biography. I closed the paper and leaned back into the chair, thinking. At first, I couldn’t figure it out. This would have been a sensational story for the press. Even if the local police tried to keep it secret, they would have failed. Palms would have been greased and the gory details would be front page on the New York Daily News, and most likely all the majors throughout the country. What the hell? I just couldn’t put it together. And then, it hit me, my second intuitive leap of understanding in as many weeks. This is what I surmised happened.

Father Harold was most likely discovered by the first nuns entering the church that morning. With Father Andre gone, the only other live-in priest assigned to the parish, Mother Superior would have been summoned immediately. After viewing the horrific scene, and without any other leadership available, she would have called the Bishop, not the police, seeking direction. Upon hearing the news, and the description of the mutilation, the Bishop would have sent an emissary to evaluate the situation, arriving, most likely, within an hour or so. After brief, but probing, interviews with Mother Superior and some of the nuns, the Bishop would have been contacted and the decision made to keep the murder ‘quiet’ pending further investigation. Father Andre would have been recalled, arriving back at St. Anns, I’m guessing, within a couple of hours. After questioning Father Andre, and perhaps Mother Superior and other nuns for the second time, there may have been enough evidence, suspicion, or direct revelation, regarding Father Harold’s insidious activities. The Bishop would have been again notified and plans instantly formulated for keeping the ‘incident’ within the purview of the church. Most likely, Father Andre and the Bishop’s emissary cleaned up the mess, repaired, and re- hung the cross, and bagged Father Harold, locking him up in the rectory’s basement or another inconspicuous place. The Bishop would have pulled strings and made arrangements for the: death certificate, body prep, brief viewing, and burial.

According to the paper, the viewing was scheduled that afternoon from one PM to three PM, immediately followed by the interment. This guy had history, and they knew it.

***

Saturday night, Kayley and I went to a Broadway show, followed by dinner at British Sterling, a high-class restaurant on Lexington Avenue in mid-town Manhattan. Kayley was unaware of Father Harold’s death so I enlightened her, telling her about the obit and burial the previous day. Her entire demeanor changed after that, like a giant parasite had been removed from her vital organs. The evening went well and I spent a platonic night and morning in bed with her. I was sensitive to her ordeal and acted accordingly. When she was ready for intimacy, she would signal me. In truth, I didn’t need to have sex with Kayley, I loved her as she was, fully understanding the baggage she carried. It wasn’t until two months had past when we had our first lovemaking. It was very painful for her, both physically and mentally. I was as gentle and compassionate as a person could possibly be, but it didn’t help. The floodgates opened and before we had consummated our coupling, tears had swelled in her eyes and began trickling down her cheeks. I gently eased off and lay silent by her side. In all future encounters, I had Kayley mount on top so she would feel in control, able to easily escape if the need arose. Over time, Kayley became more comfortable and relaxed with our sexual activity, but to my knowledge, she never had an orgasm. She had been hurt irrevocably, and I came to accept our plight.

In nineteen sixty-eight, I finished at Fairleigh and enrolled for my MBA program at NYU. By then, I had moved in with Kayley. We were deeply in love. We rarely had sex, and that was okay. We had each other, and that was good enough. After receiving my MBA, Kayley and I were married in June of nineteen seventy. It was a small wedding, nothing special. We had few friends, and mostly family attended. We honeymooned in Kauai for two weeks. It was a most beautiful and memorable time.

Kayley was still working at B of A and I had started up a small consulting company with John Lambert, a college acquaintance from NYU. It was the early days of the computer revolution and R&L Consulting, Inc., was in a healthy and enviable positioned to capitalize on the burgeoning need for information.

Kayley and I planned our lovemaking to coincide with her ovulations and in nineteen seventy-two, we had our first child, Michael Shannon. Michael was a beautiful boy and we doted over him as any couple would with their first baby.

By nineteen seventy-five, R&L Consulting was expanding rapidly. We moved from our small office in Teaneck to a ten thousand square foot facility in Fairlawn. We boasted thirty employees and several Fortune Five Hundred accounts. In nineteen seventy-eight we went public and quickly became the darlings of Wall Street. Our stock value grew, almost exponentially, in the early days, making John and I very rich.

Kayley and I built a fifty-six hundred square foot contemporary Colonial home on six acres overlooking the Hudson river in the most prestigious Englewood Cliffs. Our lives couldn’t have been better.

After many months of pleading, I finally convinced Kayley to quit her job at B of A and work for us as Executive Vice President of Marketing and Sales. She was a natural. Between her intelligence and looks, Kayley, in the first six months on the job, had single handedly doubled our business. Shortly thereafter, we built a brand new thirty-five thousand square foot facility in Hackensack, filling it with two hundred and fifty employees. It was prime real estate. It seemed that everything we did made us money.

In nineteen eighty, Kayley and I had our second child, Jennifer Elizabeth. She was a gorgeous baby weighing seven pounds seven ounces. We consciously spoiled her as we did Michael.

The years slid by, business boomed, the kids grew and all was right with the world until nineteen ninety when my parents were killed, along with six others, in a horrific, chain reaction pileup on a fog laden New Jersey Turnpike. I loved my parents. They had been a integral part of our lives and our children’s as well. It was a grief stricken cold March morning when we buried them. I didn’t cry at the funeral. I was incapable of that emotion ever since Charlie betrayed me. It was a long time before life got back to normal.

In nineteen ninety-two, Michael went off to college. He was a brilliant boy. Ever since I can remember, he wanted to be a lawyer. I never knew why, perhaps a surfeit of Perry Mason. Anyway, he was accepted at Yale where he started on the path to his Juris Doctorate. Kayley took Michaels leaving very hard, as most mothers probably do when the first child leaves the nest to face the harsh realities of the world we live in.

Time passed quickly and my past deeds were nothing more than a remote memory, buried in a sea of daily delights and extreme personal satisfaction. I became entrenched in local politics and it wasn’t long before I was fundraising for the Republican National Committee. I had all but retired from R&L Consulting, leaving the day-to-day activities to John Lambert and a handpicked complement of bright businessmen and women. Kayley left R&L shortly after Michael went off to college wanting to spend as much time with Jennifer as possible. I was traveling extensively on behalf of the RNC, organizing activities to fatten their war chest. I was fast becoming well know in political and social circles. Frankly, I fit in as comfortably as a cub with her mother.

In nineteen ninety-eight, Jennifer flew from the nest landing at Villanova, her mother’s Alma Mater. There, she majored in business and computer science. A chip off the old block.

Things meandered along, status quo, until early in two thousand and seven when I invited John Lambert to an RNC fundraiser in Bergenfield. It was more of an excuse to get-together with John who I hadn’t seen in over a year.

John had retired a couple of years earlier, and was also intensely involved in politics. In fact, John was more connected than I since he had personally, and surreptitiously, contributed over one million dollars to the last Presidential Campaign. A feat that John could afford, and easily disguised. Money talks in politics and John’s spoke as loud and as clear as anyone.

John accepted the invitation and we attended the one-thousand-dollar-a-plate rubber-chicken banquet. Afterward, we decided to continue reminiscing at a local pub, The Irish Hound. It was a quaint place, decorated throughout with old country, Irish memorabilia. Not unusual, it was packed for a Saturday night, but as luck would have it, a booth opened up just as we entered, about ten PM. John and I slid in on opposite sides, and ordered a beer. About midnight, and many alcoholic beverages later, I was feeling no pain and neither was John. I wasn’t much of a drinker, never had been. I felt that it dulled my senses, something I could ill afford to let happen. Somehow, John started talking about betrayals. He was orienting the discussion regarding two former, trusted employees that had left R&L and opened up their own consulting firm, taking three high-revenue clients along for the ride. It was a disloyalty, which had almost caused me to eternally sever the relation with those bastards. Restraint had prevailed, fortunately for them.

I had never spoken of my hurtful past with anyone, but for some reason this night, my tongue loosened and I began to dredge up ancient history. I talked about Charlie, Jamie and Frankie, my professor at Fairleigh, and that fuck, Father Harold. I don’t know how much I articulated, but I had John’s full attention, that much I remember. John sobered up quickly and when I realized the frightful look in his eyes, I terminated the conversation making him promise never to repeat what I’d told him. He agreed, and we left the bar shortly thereafter.  Riding home, I kept screaming out loud, “You stupid fuck! You stupid fuck!” When I got home, Kayley was already in bed, fast asleep. I kissed her on the forehead and retired to my study where I promptly fell asleep on the couch.

The implications of that discussion would haunt me until death’s victory dance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-six

 

A week later, the telephone rang in my study.

“Hello.”

“Hi Ted, this is John.”

“Hi, John,” I said, hesitating a moment.  “I’ve just gotten over my hangover. How about you?”

“I still have it.”

“That’s too bad. Milk and cookies.”

“What?”

“Milk and cookies. Preferably chocolate chips. An old fashion remedy for a hangover.”

“Oh,” John replied. “Hey, I’d like to get together with you Friday night if that fits into your schedule.”

“Well, let me see,” I said, and began flipping through my appointment calendar. “That would be fine. What’s this all about?”

“I’d like for you to meet some friends of mine.”

“What for?”

“Perhaps the beginnings of a business deal. I think you will be very interested.”

“Look John, I’m out of the consulting business. I’ve put my time in. All that I’m interested in right now is spending time with my family. Maybe you should try someone else.”

“It’s not that kind of business deal. Nothing like R&L. Think of it as an arrangement.”

“Well then, what exactly is this arrangement?”

“Ted, if I told you it would spoil the surprise. Give me a little leeway here. We’ve known each other for years. Do it for old time sake. How about it?”

“What time did you say it was?”

“I didn’t. Meet me at Sam Baker’s house in Tenafly, at nine PM sharp. Do you know where he lives?”

“Sure. How does the Chairman of the RNC figure into a business deal?”

“Ah, ah, ah, remember, it’s a surprise.”

“All right, John. By the way, about that stuff I told you last week. I was just shooting my mouth off, okay?”

“I never gave it a second thought. Don’t sweat it.”

“All right then, next week, nine PM, Sam Baker’s place.”

“You’ve got it buddy. See you then.”

“Okay,” I replied, and hung up.

I sat at my desk wondering what that was all about. Until last week, I hadn’t seen or spoken with John in almost two years. Now, twice in one week. Red flags were flying, blowing in a maelstrom of bullshit. And, why the hell would Sam Baker be involved. Perhaps, I thought, they wanted me to run for public office, Representative, Senator, Governor. Was that even possible? I was politically connected but had no constituents, no public platform. I’d was a relative unknown. Maybe they thought that was a good thing. I decided to wait until Fridays meeting to find out what all the mystery was about. I had no choice otherwise.

***

The week was relatively quiet. I went out to dinner with Kayley twice, and spoke with the kids. Michael was still holding on, by a thread, to his bachelorhood. He’d  had just landed a job with a prestigious law firm in New York City: Stark, Moby and Ronald. Jennifer, also unattached, was the new Northeastern Regional Vice President of Marketing for I.B.M. I was extremely proud of both of them and looked forward to someday becoming a grandfather.

It was perhaps a half hour drive, considering Friday night traffic, to reach Sam’s house in time for the nine PM meeting. I left about eight-twenty, just to be on the safe side. Sam had a huge English Tudor, I guess mansion would aptly describe his place, on about five acres in the richest, most prominent part of Tenafly. I arrived a little early and was greeted by security at the front gate. They reminded me of  secret service agents. You know, wire in their ear, stodgy, focused, smile-less.  It wouldn’t be but a few minutes before I realized how accurate my assessment was. I flipped open my wallet and displayed my license to the well dressed, black-suited guard.

“Please, take it out of your wallet.”

Why do they always say that? Can’t they read through clear plastic?

“Are you Ted Roth?”

“I am,” I replied.

The guard looked at me, then at my license, and then back at me. He scanned a list of names on a clipboard, and, evidently satisfied that I was, who I said I was, let me pass, but not before giving me directions of where to park. On the way, I must have driven past at least a half dozen black limousines lined up in the driveway that approached the house. A chauffer was standing at the ready by each vehicle. What the hell is going on? I thought.

As I rolled up to the front entrance, I was welcomed by a couple of similarly dressed gentlemen. I rolled the window down, assuming I would be given further directions for parking.

“Mr. Roth,” the taller of the two said, “please leave the car here.”

“Okay.” I closed the window, shut the engine off, exited the car and closed the door. I was still holding the car keys in my hand when the taller one spoke again.

“Mr. Roth, for security reasons, we will have to check to see if you are carrying any weapons.”

“Is this really necessary?”

“Yes. Please turn around, put your hands on top of the car and spread your legs.”

I almost told them to go fuck themselves, but in the end, thought better of it. I’d play the game, for a while at least. I did as they asked, but not before I threw a second protest at them. The shorter one patted me down. It was obvious that he was looking for more than a bulky weapon but I wasn’t sure what. It was only later that I realized that they were, most likely, looking for a wire. After he finished, the other man escorted me to the front door and opened it. As I stepped inside, another man was waiting. He was short, white-haired man with a middle age roundness. I assumed that he was the butler. I think the black-tailed tuxedo gave him away. I heard the door close behind me just as the butler spoke.

“They’re waiting for you, Mr. Roth. Please follow me,” he requested with classic King’s English enunciation.

“Who’s waiting for me?”

The butler did not respond. He just looked at me like I was from Pluto, then turned and began briskly walking through the immense foyer turning down the first corridor on the right. About halfway through the Mahogany clad passage, the butler stopped and opened a door to his left, then stepped inside. I was trailing behind him by five or six steps. When I reached the door, I paused and peered into the room. It was a large, dimly lit library. I could see perhaps ten or so people sitting on richly upholstered, high-back chairs around a handsome, rectangular, teakwood conference table of perhaps sixteen feet in length. From where I was standing, I could only make out a couple of faces. The others were either facing in the opposite direction or their heads were turned from sight, most were busily engaged in socializing with one or more of the attendees. The two individuals I did recognize, came as a shock. Dick Blaney, Vice President of the United States, and Andy Deck, the President’s Chief of Staff. A cold chill rippled throughout my body, exiting via my shoulders and neck which then involuntarily quivered as the arctic shockwave passed.

“Gentlemen, Mr. Ted Roth,” the penguin announced crisply to the group.

All heads turned to faced me. The butler gestured with his right arm for me to enter the room, and I did. He then departed, closing the door softly.

“Welcome Ted,” the Vice President said, as he rose from the head of the table and walked over to shake my hand. “I think you have met, or at least know, everyone here tonight, but just in case, let me go around the table.” The Vice President began his introductions starting to the right of where he was sitting,  proceeding counterclockwise.

“Don Liqfeld, Secretary of Defense.”

Don nodded.

“Jack Ash, Attorney General.”

“Mr. Roth,” Jack replied.

“Tommy Edge, Department of Homeland Security.”

Edge said nothing.

“Finishing up this side: Bob Fuller, Director of the FBI, and George Tent, Director of the CIA.”

Both nodded.

“Over there,” Blaney motioned, starting down the far side of the table, “we have: Dick Buyers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Andy Deck, Chief of Staff, Bill Harm, Director of the Secret Service, and Sam Baker, Chairman of the RNC, who has been gracious enough to let us use his home for this meeting.

“Gentlemen,” I said, offering my salutation.

“And, of course, you know John Lambert.”

“John,” I said. If my looks could kill, John would be lying on the floor.

“Ted, why don’t you take a seat next to John.”

There was another man in the room that the Vice President hadn’t introduced. He was a looming figure positioned about six or seven feet behind Blaney’s chair. I assumed he was Secret Service, positioned to protect the Vice President.

I walked around the far end of the table so I would pass behind John’s back, thinking I would say something to him as I did, but as I reached that point, I continued on and sat at the only vacant chair. I was now facing Dick Blaney at the head of the table. In front of me were two manila folders. On the center-tab of the top folder was typed, TED ROTH, and on the second, PRESIDENT’S ITINERARY - AUGUST.

“Ted,” the Vice President began, “I’m sure you’re wondering why you’re here.”

“Yes, the thought had crossed my mind.”

“Let me get to the point. To be frank Ted, we feel that the President has moved much too far to the left. He is slowly abandoning his party in favor of a more liberal approach to government. President Boatman has been knee-deep in a planned sequenced of proposed legislation to create nothing more than, what could best be describes as, a welfare state. He continues to pander to minorities, illegal aliens, and those that are too lazy to help themselves, focusing on social injustice rather than individual failings. If the President has his way, we will remove God from our Constitution and social vocabulary. Damn it Ted, this country was founded by God fearing Americans. These fucking atheists and agnostics should be run out of the country along with the ACLU, the bunch of liberal fags.

Boatman is also toying with the idea of closing half of our federal prisons and furloughing tens of thousands of hardened criminals. He’s also looking at drastically reducing our military and defense spending in an attempt to procure funds to support his views on the government ameliorating social conditions to create a more equitable society. He’s headed in a direction that may, very well, precipitate the ultimate collapse of the States. A unified country, he calls it. Can you imagine a nation of three hundred million people completely dependent on the government? Well, can you Ted?”

“No, sir,” I patronized.

“Neither can we. Just this week he has started a crusade to pass a Bill putting a moratorium on offshore drilling and halting all further oil exploration in Alaska. He is also considering shutting down all current Alaskan drilling operations, as well. Ted, this guys moving in a very dangerous direction. Under his vision of our energy policy, we would become almost one hundred percent dependent on foreign oil, placing our economy in the hands of the cartels. What do you think of that, Ted?”

“Not much.”

“The Presidential election is in less than two years and it’s apparent that the Democrats don’t have any viable, much less electable, candidate. It is our belief that the son-of-a-bitch is moving toward switching parties and declaring himself as a Democratic candidate. This would be an unprecedented change and cause irreparable damage to the Republican Party and everything we stand for. It would be decades before we could overcome the fallout from such a move.

Are you aware that Chief Justice Johnson has announced his retirement at the end of June?”

“Yes, I am aware of that.”

“Well, Marcus Boatman, the person you voted for as President in the last election, is now close to appointing Linda Odslow, as Johnsons replacement. If Odslow’s appointment is approved by Congress, and it will be, since they own a majority in both the House and Senate, it will swing the balance of the Supreme Court to the fucking Left, a shift that we can not permit, we will not allow.

Ted this is just a glimpse of the madness we will be facing if he is allowed to continue. Just last week, Boatman confided in me that he will be replacing  the majority of his cabinet in the coming months. The people he’s suggested would be on the who’s who list of a Liberal’s favorite Liberal. The group gathered here tonight represents the leadership of The Assembly.”

“The Assembly?” I interrupted.

“Yes, Mr. Roth,” Bob Fuller, the Director of the FBI, began. “The Assembly’s goal is simple, we must purge the political landscape of all primary influences that could undermine or alter the philosophical course that we have mapped for America.”

It sure sounded like a corporate mission statement to me.

“Frankly, we will stop at nothing to achieve our objectives, from disposing of key targets to character assassination of anyone that might acquire the slightest potential for securing an adversarial toehold. Supreme Court Justices, Federal Judges, U.S. Senators, Representatives, no one is immune. The methods we use are merciless, Mr. Roth, and the people we employ, are cunning, well connected, and thus escape the scrutiny of law enforcement.” Fuller suspended his tirade, evidently waiting for a response.”

I couldn’t believe this guy was so open; disposing of people, character assassinations.

“Why are you telling me all of this? What does this have to do with me?”

“We want you to kill the president,” came sliding out the Vice President’s mouth as easily as a melting ice-cream bar.

“This is a joke?”

“This is no joke, Mr. Roth. We want you to kill the President, Marcus Boatman. It’s that simple. Your considerable pernicious talents, coupled with your sociopolitical connections, make you the perfect, invisible killing machine for our needs.” Blaney said, in a cold and callous demeanor.

“What pernicious talents?” I asked, squirming in my seat. And before he could answer, I hit him with, “And what makes you think I would do that?” I began to get out of my chair. “I think it’s time for me to take my leave, gentlemen.”

“Sit down, Mr. Roth, and open the top file in front of you,” Blaney commanded in as threatening a tone as he was probably capable of articulating. No sooner had the words left his lips when the titanic Secret Service guy came to attention. Obviously, ready to enforce Boatman’s directive.

I sat back down, pulled the chair forward and opened the folder. It was a complete dossier on my past. The past, that until I went out with that betraying motherfucker Lambert, was known by me alone. I spent the next several minutes reading through the package, all-the-while incensed with Lambert’s treachery. An almost uncontrollable urge was continuing to bubble within me. I could barely breathe and I began to mildly tremble with pitting anger. The more I read, the worse my physical condition became. Everything was there: dozens of newspaper clippings about: Charlie, Jamie, Frankie, Professor Risner and Father Harold plus pages upon pages of Detective Baxter’s and Stone’s analysis of the crimes, their suspicions, and their conclusions. At the end, there were a number of DNA comparison reports from the FBI’s forensic laboratory, identifying me as a perfect match, the killer. Because the cases remained unsolved, apparently evidence was retained, some of which contained trace DNA which was used to compare against my own. I’m not sure how they got my DNA, but it really didn’t matter. They had me. I knew it, and they did as well. Even though I was finished examining the file, I kept my head down staring at the last page in the folder. John was going to die, and soon. I hope they knew that, but right now, I had to compose myself. It took several minutes to corral the rage I was tasting. Finally, I lifted my head.

“What makes you think I’ll assassinate the President, Mr. Vice President?”  I said with as much equanimity as I could rally.

“Because if you don’t Mr. Roth, these files will find their way, quite anonymously, to the police and the newspapers.”

“What if I go to the authorities and tell them about your little organization?”

“First,” George Tent, Director of the CIA, said, “who would believe that the FBI, CIA, Vice President, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and half of the Presidents cabinet are plotting to kill him? They’d probable throw you in a loony bin. And second, you would be putting your family in harms way. Do you understand what I’m saying, sir?”

I sat there fuming at their pugnacious and invincible attitude.

“I need a few days to think about this.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Roth. We need an answer now. As the expression goes, ‘time is of the essence’,” Jack Ash, the Attorney General, countered.

I was trapped and they knew it. Their blackmail scheme was perfect. Kill Boatman or be publicly exposed for the murders I committed thus ruining me, and my family. I really didn’t care about the consequences to me, but I couldn’t get past the immeasurable suffering that Kayley and the kids would have to endure, surely for the rest of their lives. I was trapped, in a snare from which there was no escape.

“How do we proceed?”

“The second folder in front of you contains the President’s August itinerary. Each engagement is randomly numbered. Formulate your plan from that schedule,” Don Liqfeld, Secretary of Defense, instructed. “When you have mapped out your approach, we want you to call the telephone number on the inside jacket. A prerecorded message will simply speak the phrase, ‘American Freedom’. You will then identify the number corresponding to the event selected, then hang up. The number you called will be disconnected and no further contact will be made. We will expect you to carryout the operation as indicated. Any deviation will result in your dossier being released to the public and all the authorities in the appropriate jurisdictions. Is that clear?”

“Yes, but what if, for some reason, the event is cancelled?”

“We will reestablish contact and provide further direction,” the Vice President said.

I had to get out of there and clear my head.

“Well, I guess that’s it. Is there anything else I need to know?”

“Yes, try and limit collateral damage,” Ash said.

“Anything else?”

“When you have successfully completed your mission, your files and all records will be destroyed. You will never be contacted again. If for some reason you are caught, any mention of this meeting, or your assignment, and your records will be released.. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“This gentleman will see you out,” the Vice President said motioning toward the behemoth behind him.

Before I left, I had one final thing to do. Just prior to standing, I reached into my pocket, and removed my keys. The key fob was a three inch Swiss Army knife that was a Christmas gift from my son ten years earlier. I opened the razor sharp blade under the table, rose quickly, and took two steps positioning myself directly behind Lambert. I put my left hand on the fuck’s forehead and jerked it back as far as I could. I then burried the two and three quarter inch blade into the left side of his neck. With one swift motion, I sliced his throat from ear to ear. His head flopped backward, held only by the connective tissue of the vertebra and skin closest to the wound. There was a unified gasp from the dickheads at the table as blood shot, spewed and sprayed in a one hundred and eighty degree arc. Lamberts carotid arteries were in full surge. Virtually everyone facing Lambert was covered with varying amounts of blood as they instinctively pushed back from the table in a feeble attempt to avoid the deluge. Those closest to him, Tommy Edge, Bob Fuller and George Tent, were instantly drenched. Those further away, Jack Ash and Don Liqfeld, were sprayed. Even the Vice President, Bill Harm and Sam Baker received droplets and a fine mist on their face and clothing. Dick Buyers and Andy Deck seemed to escape the carnage. Lambert’s severed neck disgorge blood at high velocity for five or six seconds until there his heart ran out of fluid to pump.

The bull behind Blaney charged toward me. I turned to face the attacker when I heard the Vice President yell.

“Arnold, no!”

Can you believe this fucking guys name was Arnold. At any rate, he stopped in his tracks. Blaney was smart. He knew there was nothing they could do. If they wanted the President out of the way, killing me wouldn’t achieve that objective. While several of the elite were retching and vomiting, I closed the knife and retrieved the bloody itinerary wiping the cover off on Lambert’s back. A tremendous sense of satisfaction swept over me as I looked at his wide-open, dead eyes, staring at the ceiling.

“Is there anything else, gentlemen?”  I sarcastically asked, as I brushed by Arnold and exited through the door to the hallway.

There was nothing they could do but clean up the mess and wait for my call.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-seven

 

On the way home, I pieced it all together. Even if Blaney was telling the truth about all of Boatman’s plans, there was no way congress, the public, or the private sector would allow him to push all of them through to law. Lobbyists would get rich indeed, but half of the crap they spoke about would never get to first base. It was then that I surmised Blaney had concocted much of the story, convincing the others, on the strength of country and party loyalty, of their approaching demise. It was Blaney that would win. After the assassination, he would be sworn in as President, a virtual shoe-in during the next Presidential election by a sympathetic public. He was a power hungry, conniving politician at the top of his game, with the rest of his tribe guarantying their own prestigious jobs for another term. Yes, Blaney was the key. If I failed, they would just recruit someone else. These guys had it sewn up as neat as you please, no loose ends. Boatman was a dead man.

For the next week, I tried to figure a way out of my predicament. It seemed that no matter what move I made, I would be checkmated.  Then it dawned on me, there was a way, after all.

***

It was nearing mid June and I hadn’t yet decided which Presidential event would provide the best possible odds for a success, or the safest for my getaway. For the first time, I was perplexed about how to approach the plan for killing someone. Should I first decide on the method of killing, or the place? Would the method define the place, or would the place define the method?

My heart wasn’t in this, and it was evident. I feared for my family, preoccupied with the consequences of disclosure. I lay awake, many a sleepless night, brooding the potential. Too many people knew about my past, that asshole Blaney made sure of that. I was hoping the proverbial light bulb would go off, but it didn’t. I struggled with the conundrum, method or place, for another week. August was fast approaching and I needed to settle on a plan.

 I was working in the garage roughing up the finish on a hall-tree that Kayley bought while antiquing the prior weekend, when the fire and smoke detector on the ceiling started beeping. I threw the well worn steel wool I was using in the trash and proceeded to inspect the alarm. Since I couldn’t remember the last time I’d replaced the battery, I assumed that it was on its last leg. I retrieved a nine volt from my workbench and changed it out. I depressed the test button and it seemed to work fine. I stood below the alarm for a few minutes waiting to see if the damn thing would chip. It didn’t. I walked back to where I was working and threw the old battery in the trash. Immediately, there was a bright flash and some oily rags, at the bottom of the can, started on fire. I grabbed a small fire extinguisher that was hanging on the wall, pulled the pin, and quickly smothered the smoky mess. I was stunned at how fast the fire had erupted. I looked at the bottom of the trashcan and noticed the scorched, powder covered, battery nestled at the center of the steel wool that I had discarded earlier. The steel wool by the two battery poles was gone. Puzzled, I  took a small piece of unused steel wool and put it on the workbench. I then retrieved the battery from the can and touched the poles to the metal fibers. Instantly, the steel wool vanished in a puff of smoke, akin to an old fashioned flashbulb. It was at that moment that I realized the method by which the assassination would be executed.

After Kayley went to bed that evening, I sat at the desk in my library and scratched out a drawing of the device that I would use. The weapon I diagrammed was simple. There were only eight components: an 8" ribbed (so it could bend) plastic soda straw with a ¼" throat, black gunpowder, a small tuft of ‘0000’ steel wool, a 5" length of insulated 30 gauge wire, a remote control switch, seven – 1.5 volt watch batteries, a wireless remote control activator and a small tube of epoxy resin.

I wasn’t sure where I would find some of the pieces and parts, but I didn’t

think that would present a problem. The soda-straw bomb was amazingly simple, but would be highly effective. This is how I initially envisioned its construction.

  • The bottom of the 8" straw would be sealed and waterproofed using an epoxy resin plug.
  • The seven batteries would be stacked, positive (+) to negative (-), starting at the bottom of the straw (the power stack).
  • Soldered to the bottom, negative (-) battery pole of the power stack, would be a 2 ½" section of the 30 gauge insulated wire.
  • Soldered to the top, positive (+) battery pole of the power stack, would be a 1" section of 30 gauge insulated wire. The soldered connection to the battery would then be covered with an epoxy resin seal.
  • Next, the positive (+) and negative (-) leads of the insulated 30 gauge wire from the power stack would be attached to the input power posts of a cylindrical remote control switch.
  • On the power-out side of the switch, the negative (-) and positive (+) leads would be connected to a 1" run of 30 gauge insulated wire with a small portion of each pole stripped bare. Epoxy resin would be used to seal the end of the remote control switch.
  • Stacked on top of this would be a tuft of steel wool (the detonator), with the stripped, negative (-) and positive (+), leads from the remote control switch imbedded. The wire antenna, for the remote control switch, would be extended inside the remaining space, and anchored about ¼" from the top of the straw with a speck of resin.
  • The remaining 5, or so, inches of straw would then be filled with black powder.
  • Finally, the top would be sealed with an epoxy resin making the entire device waterproof.
  • The soda-straw bomb could then be put in the dishwasher to remove any scent of gunpowder.

 

The sketch of my original drawing is in the center draw of my desk.

Soda-Straw Bomb

 

       
   
 
   

drawing not to scale


This may all sound very complicated, but it wasn’t. The biggest problem I faced was finding some of the components. I planned on purchasing each item separately at geographically dispersed locations, at least, twenty miles from my home. I would pay cash for everything avoiding a credit card trail. Acquiring the components in this fashion would make it impossible to trace any of the purchases back to me.

I found the ribbed straws that I needed from several convenient stores that sold gigantic containers of soda. I purchased a can of black gunpowder at a gun store about fifty miles away. Black powder was readily available for hobbyists that used antique or reproductions of muzzle loading weapons. These guns all used black gunpowder. The steel wool, 30 gauge wire and epoxy resin were purchased from different hardware stores in three different towns. I bought the watch batteries at a number of drug stores in, and around, Newark, New Jersey. The remote control switch, as small as it needed to be presented a challenge. At first, I thought I would be able to find the RC at a hobby shop. Miniature RC’s were used in any number of hobbies from RC model airplanes to RC model cars, to RC helicopters, RC toy trains, and many other similar leisurely pursuits, but I was unable to find exactly what I needed. I spent several days searching the internet and then I found it. The worlds smallest remote controlled car, the Shon Qa Woi. The entire thing was less than two and one half inches long costing only six dollars and fifty cents. The racecar came with a fully functional remote control with two broadcast frequencies, 27 Mhz and 57 Mhz.

I went to Atlantic City and checked into the Trump Hotel Plaza and Casino eventually ending up at an internet coffee bar where I purchased ten of the micro cars having them delivered COD, overnight, to my hotel room.

By the following evening, I was in the garage building a prototype. It was unbelievably easy. I only loaded about a tea spoon of black powder in the straw. This small amount filled the straw about one eighth of the way. I shoved a piece of tissue paper down into the throat to hold the powder in place over the steel wool detonator. I then sealed the top with the epoxy resin.

I was sure that bomb sniffing dogs would be used, just prior to the Presidents arrival, to ‘clear’ the room he would be in. As such, my bomb needed to have a neutral scent, nothing out of the ordinary. In order to accomplish this, I needed to make sure the device was waterproof. To this end, I placed the straw in the dishwasher and ran it on full cycle. At the end of the wash and dry cycle, the straw seemed integral. I put the prototype in a freezer bag along with the remote control unit, sealed it, and placed it the trunk of my car and went to bed.

The next morning, I awoke around four-thirty AM. I told Kayley that I was going for my morning run, which I did at least three times a week at the Englewood Country Club which was no more than six or seven miles from my home. It was still dark when I arrived in the parking lot. There were a few cars in Employee Parking, but other than that, I was alone. I exited the car, opened the trunk and removed the plastic bag. I closed the trunk and jogged off toward the Fifth Hole; a five hundred and ten yard, par five and situated on the most remote part of the course. Halfway down the fairway there were two large sand traps, one on each side. That was where I planned on testing the bomb. I reached the traps in a few minutes, selecting the larger of the two, and walked to the center.  I opened the bag and buried the straw-bomb under about an inch of sand. I walked about seventy-five feet away, removed the remote control from the bag and pressed the ‘GO’ button, nothing happened. I took two strides, about five feet, and hit the button, again nothing. I repeated this process until I was about fifty feet from the bomb. There was a enormous explosion, one that I had not anticipated. I couldn’t believe the blast and damage that the small amount of black powder created. There was a hole in the center of the trap about two feet wide and at least six inches deep.  Scattered about were tiny pieces of the straw. I never found anything else: the batteries, remote control switch, nothing but a few pieces of plastic. I put the remote control back in the freezer bag, and put it in my pocket. I then walked to the back edge of the trap and picked up the sand-rake and smoothed over the spot where the bomb had detonated. I covered my foot prints as I exited.

On the way home, I couldn’t help but think of the power that would be generated by a fully loaded device.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-eight

 

That afternoon, I reviewed the President’s itinerary and settled on a fundraiser that was scheduled to be held at a Marriott Hotel in Teaneck on August 5th. The Marriott seemed perfect, it was only about ten miles from my home.

The next day, I put on my best navy-blue, pinstripe suit and drove to the hotel. I knew exactly what I was looking for. When I got there, I asked to speak with the person in charge of scheduling business events.  I was introduced to a Ms. Lynda Perot. She was a very young gal, perhaps twenty-five. She was a tall, thin girl, with light brown hair, stunning, cerulean colored eyes, and a ample supply of transparent freckles, attractively arranged on her face. Lynda was cute, possessing a bubbling, sales-oriented personality. I fed her a bogus name and gave her a phony telephone number, which she promptly wrote down in her daily organizer. I explained that I was researching hotels for an annual CEO conference scheduled for the following May. Ms. Perot was exceedingly helpful. We toured the facilities including the: ballroom, meeting rooms, pool, restaurants, the gift store, a couple of guest rooms, and the lounge. She gave me enough material on local restaurants and activities to fill the nearly empty briefcase I had brought. After the tour, I asked Ms. Perot about their audio visual and equipment. I told her I was particularly interested in their daises and how they interfaced with the sound systems. Lynda wasn’t all that sure of the technical aspects of the equipment and suggested that I speak with the hotel electrician. I told her that I was in kind of a rush and said that if she could show me the equipment, I would be able to determine the adequacy. She took me to an unlocked storage room behind the ballroom. It was a very large room, lined with tall shelves and tables that contained a shit-load of equipment. I had no sooner walked in the door when I spotted the daises. There were four lined up on a table at the back of the room and two stand-ups next to the table. I pretended to inspect much of the electronic paraphernalia in the room, ending up at the daises. Four were portable, the kind that would be placed on top of a table. Two were full size, the type a speaker would stand behind. All of them had adjustable black metal, gooseneck microphones about an inch thick and fourteen or so inches long. I took a quick look at the way they were fastened to the dais. I asked Lynda if they had any other speaker’s stands. She told me that they didn’t. Satisfied with my examination, I told Ms. Perot that I had only a couple more hotels to evaluate, but based upon what I’d seen, her hotel was on the top of the list. She was genuinely excited and gave me a glossy brochure containing information on all of the hotel amenities, group rates, meal costs per plate, and the like. Her business card was prominently inserted in a slot on the front. We exchanged pleasantries and I departed.

***

That afternoon, I settled on the Marriott for the assassination, it was a no-brainer. The random number assigned to the event in the President’s itinerary was 103. As per Liqfeld’s instructions, I called the number on the inside jacket cover. A prerecorded male voice on the other end said, “American freedom.” I replied, “One hundred and three,” and hung up.

There were exactly thirty-eight days until the President’s, twenty-five-hundred-dollar-a-plate, fundraiser. I knew, but I’m not sure how, perhaps a piece of trivia extracted the recesses of my mind, that the Secret Service would sweep the hotel and surrounding areas, approximately thirty days prior to the scheduled date and then again randomly until the actual event took place. And, intense scrutiny would be performed the day before, and the day of the President’s arrival. That meant that I had exactly six days, leaving a cushion of two days to plant the devices.

For the next two nights, I built six straw bombs, this time filling them, almost to the brim, with gunpowder. Leaving only enough room for the epoxy plug at the top. On the third night, I ran them through the dishwasher after Kayley had gone to bed. With rubber gloves on, I placed them in a large freezer bag and put them in my briefcase along with the tools I would need to complete the task. I awoke about one AM, and careful not to awake Kayley, I went downstairs to the garage and put on my blue pinstripe suit, which I’d stashed there, and quietly left for the hotel. When I arrived, there were a few people in the lobby speaking very loudly. Undoubtedly, fallout from the lounge. I walked to the corridor leading to the banquet room, briefly took stock of anyone that might be around, and, satisfied that there was no one, I walked to the entrance to the room. I checked again for prying eyes and entered. The room was dark, except for light emanating from Exit signs at the front, side, and rear. I opened my brief case and donned a pair of rubber gloves. I quickly went to the back door and passed through. Across the hall, was the storage room door. The corridor I was in was well lighted, and as that hour of the night would have it, no one was around. I crossed the hall and was about to open the door when I noticed that a new lock had been installed. I briefly panicked. Realizing that the lock was most likely installed in response to the Presidential visit, I decided to leave and regroup. On a whim, I tried the door. It was open. Like anything new, the routine for securing the door obviously hadn’t been enforced, or assigned to the appropriate people. Lucky for me, bad for the President. I entered the room, turned the light on and closed the door. I went directly to the daises. I opened my briefcase, extracted a cordless drill and Phillips head bit. For the next hour I disassembled the gooseneck microphones, inserted a straw bomb in each, and reassembled them. It was all too easy. When I was finished, I left the same way I’d come. In the banquet room, I removed my gloves and went home. It was about three AM when I slid into bed next to Kayley. She was fast asleep.

There were thirty four days left until the fundraiser. Everything was ready.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-nine

 

That morning, I slept in. When I awoke, Kayley was gone. I found a note in the kitchen saying that she’d gone food shopping. I made some coffee and went to the library. Just in case something were to happen, I thought that it would be best if Kayley was out of town when I attended the fundraiser. August 5th was on a Saturday. It would be a great opportunity for Kayley to spend a weekend at Jennifer’s apartment in Midtown. I jumped on the internet and purchased tickets to the Philharmonic for that evening and made reservations at Tavern on the Green for Friday, the 4th. I then called a local limousine service, which I’d used before, and reserved a stretch for the entire weekend. I called Jennifer but was unable to reach her, so I left a message. While I was waiting, I contacted the RNC and made arrangements for a seating at the fundraiser.

Jennifer called back within the hour.

“Hello.”

“Hi Dad. You called.”

“Hi Jennifer. I’m going to be at a Presidential fundraiser on Saturday, August 5th and you know how much your mother hates those things.”

“Not her thing,” Jennifer said.

“Yes, well, so, I thought it would be a good idea for you and her to spend that weekend together. What do you think?”

“That would be fantastic,” Jennifer cheerfully said. “I haven’t spent any time with Mom in months. Let me take a look at my calendar. Hold on.” A few moments later, she picked the phone up. “My calendar is clear. Frankly, even if it wasn’t, I’d make it clear.”

“Wonderful, I got a couple of tickets for the New York Philharmonic on Saturday evening and made reservations at Tavern on the Green for Friday night. I also made arrangements for a limo service for the entire weekend. They’ll be picking your mother up at three PM on Friday, reservations at the Tavern are for six. Is that a problem?”

“Of course not. Dad, the limo isn’t really necessary. I can pick Mom up.”

“It’s my treat, honey. Besides, I don’t want to worry about you driving back to the apartment after a few glasses of wine.”

“Dad, you still treat me like I’m a teenager.”

“That’s a fathers prerogative.”

Jennifer and I chatted for a few more minutes before the conversation concluded.

When Kayley got back from shopping, I told her about her weekend fling with Jennifer. I don’t think I’d seen Kayley that excited for months.

All was in place. The only thing left, waiting.

***

According to the Presidents itinerary, dinner would be served at six PM, with the President scheduled to speak at eight. The President rarely ate at these events and that night would be no exception.

The rest of July, and the first few days of August, crept by at a snails pace. The weather had been usually warm and humid. During that time, I spray painted one of the small, remote control units black, hoping it would pass for a car door opener. Truthfully, when I was done, I couldn’t tell the difference myself.

On Friday, August 4th, the limo arrived, right on schedule. I kissed Kayley

 goodbye and wished her a magnificent weekend with Jennifer.  She was so looking forward to spending quality time with her daughter. I was alone with my thoughts that night, and for the most of the next day until I left for the fundraiser. During that time, I kept playing, over and over in my mind, what I would do, what I had to do.

I arrived at the Marriott at five-thirty PM. Security was tight, very tight. There was an archway metal detector, that had been set up by the Secret Service, at the entrance to the banquet room. Which, of course, everyone was required to pass through. When it was my turn, I showed them my invitation with my right hand. Receiving the nod, I moved forward. The scanner must have been set on ultrahigh sensitivity because the alarm sounded as soon as I stepped into the threshold. I was a little nervous and I hoped the Secret Service agent wouldn’t detect the anxiety I was feeling. They asked me to step back. I pulled the car keys from my pocket for them to see. One of the agents held out a small bowl. Taking the hint, I dropped my keys in the center. The agent glanced at the contents of the bowl, plainly satisfied that there were no lethal weapons, he motioned me to pass through again. This time, no alarm sounded and they handed me back my keys. When I entered the room, I showed the attendants my invitation. After finding my name on a seating chart, one of them escorted me to my table.

The table was round with ten place settings and was situated, at the center of the room, about forty feet from the dais, now sporting the Presidential seal. I was relieved to see that they were using one of the lecterns I had rigged. I had considered that the Secret Service might have their own, but that seemed remote, since the in-house daises were typically set up to interface with a hotel’s sound system, of which there were probably dozens on the market.

Salads were already at each place setting. Waiters circled the tables offering a variety of dressings. Personally, I like blue cheese and I made sure the guy doused my salad suitably. After the salads were cleared, a gaggle of smartly dressed servers began to dole out dinner. For twenty-five hundred dollars, we were actually dished up prime rib, baked potatoes, and baby asparagus, delicately roofed with cheese, a far cry from the elastic chicken typically rendered at these affairs.

I actually recognized several people in the room, but everything was so regimented, I had little chance at socializing, and that was fine with me. I didn’t know anyone at my table, and I thought that was most likely a conscious decision by The Assembly. Chitchat proliferated over dinner with the typical twenty questions; everyone trying to find out who was connected, what they did for a living and how wealthy they were. It was all really sad. As the bullshit spewed, I wondered how regal they would act when the fireworks started.

There were probably three hundred people in the room. Let me see, three hundred times twenty-five hundred dollars. I roughly figured that was a cool, three quarters of a million bucks before expenses. Not bad for a thirty minute speech.

Desert and coffee were served by eight fifteen.

As the hour of reckoning drew near, I was becoming more and more antsy.  Since the gooseneck throat, holding the microphone, would be at an approximate forty-five degree angle toward the speaker, I figured the shrapnel would blow outward, around the circumference of the neck, with, as I imagined, the head of the microphone blowing through the orators head. Thus, the dais, the ceiling, and anyone to the right or left of the neck of the microphone would be in the blast zone. Most likely, those on either side of the gooseneck would be Secret Service agents, which was okay by me. They were paid to give their lives for their country. And, other than some blown eardrums, I prayed no one else would be injured. I seemed a perfect plan, but one never knows.

By eight forty-five the tables were being cleared while a second round of coffee was being offered. The folks running this thing were right on schedule. By eight fifty-five, the tables were cleared and the waiters and waitresses had vacated the hall. A din in the banquet room rose in anticipation of the President. Expecting his arrival at any minute, I slid my hand into my pocket and placed my forefinger on the ‘GO’ button. At exactly nine PM, the Vice President entered through the back door and walked to the dais to introduce the President. He leaned forward, his mouth only inches from the microphone, and began tapping it with his finger.

“Can everyone hear m..” and before he could get the ‘e’ in me out, I turned my head away and depressed the ‘GO’ button.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty

 

In the enclosed space, the detonation was devastating. In a twenty foot semicircle from the wall behind the Vice President outward, the ceiling lights and tiles had collapsed. The front of the room was thick with a cloud of fine white powder. People seated in the first two rows of tables were on the floor covered in rubble. I could see women screaming but I couldn’t hear them, my eardrums were either shattered or traumatized from the blast. Instant panic ensued. Animal instincts took over. People were running for the exits. The strong and uninjured, trampling anyone in their way. It was a scene out of a horror movie. I sat there and surveyed the carnage.

Several Secret Service agents poured through the back door to attend the Vice President. A huge spherical blood stain was painted, like a piece of Abstract Expressionism, on the wall behind the dais, unmistakably created as a result of the collision of microphone with Blaney’s head. There was no way he survived the explosion. It was then that I noticed it. At the center of the bloody artwork was a shock of hair. I started to laugh, Blaney wore a toupee. It was apparently blown from his head and ended up sticking to the wall on a glut of blood, brains and flesh. A fitting headstone for the ambitious fuck.

I waited until most of the animals had escaped the zoo. I calmly stood and walked out to my car. There were perhaps a hundred people in the lobby and more outside. Women were crying, many consoling each other. There was so much confusion and mayhem, I’m sure no one noticed me leave. As I exited the parking lot, I could hear the racket of approaching sirens. Some police cars had already arrived, others were careening into the hotel’s entrance. I made a right turn on to Frank W Burr Boulevard and headed home.

***

Driving home, I couldn’t help but think that I had played the only cards that were dealt to me. I had hoped that by killing Blaney, The Assembly would dissolve with its members melting back into the fabric of their petty political careers. After all, their head had been removed, literally. With no one in charge, these frightened little rabbits would not want to pursue me for fear that they would meet the same fate as their leader. But for now, I felt a sense of liberation, of freedom. I believed I’d extricated myself from their grip.  Time would tell.

When I reached my house there was a car parked in my driveway. I didn’t recognize it and wondered how it had gotten through the security gate at the entrance to my property. As I pulled into the driveway, I could see the silhouette of someone sitting in the drivers seat. Cautiously, my senses on heightened alert, I pulled up next to the car and got out. Before I reached the back of my car, the person in the other car jumped out and began walking to meet me.

“Is that you, Teddy?” the man asked.

No one had called me Teddy since I was a kid.

“Yes. Who are you?”

“Let’s just say that I’m a person from your past.”

I rounded the back of my car, at the same time the stranger did, and stopped. The guy looked familiar, but I couldn’t place the face.

“How did you get in here?” I demanded.

“Oh, that was easy,” he said, and raised his right arm. He was holding a gun and pointed it at me. The gun was no more than a foot from my forehead.

“Whoa, take it easy pal,” I said. “What’s this all about?”

“Don’t you recognize me, Teddy?”

“I can’t say that I do. You look familiar, but I’m sorry, I just can’t place you.”

“Well, I’m disappointed. I’d hate to think your going to die without knowing who your killer is.”

“What are you talking about? Why would you want to kill me?” I said stalling for time, frantically trying to gain some advantage. This guy meant business and unless I could come up with something quickly, I was fucked.

“Teddy my boy, heeerrreee’s Johnny,” the asshole said and threw both arms out to his side, taunting me.

“Johnny who?”

“You know, you’re really beginning to piss me off. You fucked me, and you fucked my family. Shortly after we left Teaneck, my father committed suicide and my mother ended up in a mental institution. You killed Charlie and blamed it on me. You worthless piece of shit. I’ve been waiting for this day for my entire life.”

“Johnny Henderson?”.

“In the flesh.”

“Johnny, you’ve got it all wrong.”

“No, I’ve got it all right. I suspected you all along, I just didn’t have any proof. It wasn’t until The Assembly put your package together that I realized that it was you who murdered Charlie.”

“The Assembly? How do you know them?”

“I work for them, asshole, and I begged them for this assignment. I was recruited by Bob Fuller about a year ago. You know the Director.”

“Yeah, I know Fuller. He’s a pimple on the ass of the FBI.”

“Well, I wouldn’t be knocking my friends. I might get angry and kill you,” Henderson said, laughing. “Now, we can do this with a minimal amount of pain, or I can make it ugly. It’s your choice.”

It was all clear. They never planned on letting me out. This prick probably doesn’t know anything about my mission. He was just assigned to kill me. Little does he know that there is likely someone that’s been tasked to kill him. They were smart, very smart. You get three deep in murder, each killer not knowing why they’re pulling the trigger, and, in the end, there are no fingers left to point back at The Assembly.

“Look Johnny, lets talk.”

“The talking is over. Lets take a walk around back, “ he said, gesturing toward the back of the house with the gun.

“When he limp-wrist the gun toward the back of the house for the second time, I grabbed for his hand. We wrestled for a few moments. I had a death grip on the gun and was desperately trying to move it away from between us when it went off. I felt a sharp, burning pain in my abdomen and quickly realized that I was on the short end of a fatal sentence unless I could get gun out of his hand. With all of my strength, I shot my right knee up into his balls and he dropped to the ground screaming. I wrenched the automatic from his hand and shot him in the chest. He began convulsing violently then writhing on the pavement. I slammed the next bullet into the side of his head stopping the death dance. To be sure, I leaned down, put the barrel between his eyes, and pulled the trigger. The bullet passed through his head blowing out the back, taking a large amount of tissue with it.

My adrenalin was pumping overtime, I barely realized I’d been wounded.  It wasn’t until later that I discovered that the bullet has passed through and exited out the fleshy part of the right cheek on my ass.

What the fuck do I do now,  I thought. I stood there a second studying the scene. I went into the garage and washed my hands in a utility sink. I then put on a pair of rubber gloves and retrieved a 60 gallon plastic bag and returned to the driveway. I put the bag on the trunk of my car. I would need it later. After unsuccessfully searching Henderson’s body for his car keys, I found them in the ignition. I put his body in his trunk, retrieved the remote gate opener from my car, shoved it in my pocket, and drove off the property. About a mile away, I parked his car in a residential neighborhood where it would most likely be days before it raised a suspicious eyebrow. I would have driven the car further away, but I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to make it home. The adrenalin must have stopped flowing because the next thing I knew, I was doubled over in pain. After the initial wave passed, I limped home, and was quite fatigued by the time I reached my driveway. I removed my all of my clothing and put them in the plastic bag, along with the gun which was in the right pocket of my trousers. The hole in my abdomen was oozing the darkest blood that I’d ever seen. I rifled through the plastic bag and retrieved my undershirt, holding it over the disgorging hole, applying as much pressure as I could bear. It was then that I realized that I had an exit wound. Surprisingly, it wasn’t bleeding very much. I went back into the garage and wrapped duct taped, several times, around the circumference of my hips and over the undershirt, which I now used to cover both wounds. I returned to the driveway, turned the garden hose on and cleaned my car first, then sanitized my body with particular emphasis on all of my exposed skin prior to disrobing. Finally, I attacked the driveway, washing the blood and other bits and pieces into the grass, a veritable smorgasbord of delights for the tiny inhabitants living there. I replaced the hose, but not before cleaning it as well.

It was close to three AM Sunday morning, trash pickup was at the crack-of-dawn the following day. Kayley was scheduled to arrive home that afternoon. I retrieved one of two large trash containers from the garage, dumped the plastic bag containing my clothing, picked up the gate opener, that I’d left on the car, and began slowly rolling the trash, naked, down to the front entrance. When I returned,  I threw a plastic bag over the front seat, pulled the car into the garage, removed the plastic, closed the door and went upstairs to a guest bathroom where we kept a first aid kit. I stood in the shower and painfully removed the makeshift bandages.  I then put several layers of clean gauze over the wounds and taped them to my body. I kicked the bloody undershirt close to the drain and turned the shower on, first rinsing my feet, careful not to get the dressings wet, and then moving the spray over the shirt. I got out of the shower, dried myself off, and squeezed the soaked undershirt until it stopped dripping. Using the shower head, I washed down the bathtub and turned it off. I went into the laundry room two doors down and threw detergent, bleach, and the undershirt in the washing machine and dialed it to heavy, and started the cycle.

Instinctively, I knew it was only a matter of time before the life drained out of me. I walked to the library and retrieved a handheld tape recorder and not wanting to soil my bed, went to a small guest bedroom. I pushed through the door and sat on the bed, I was feeling dizzy. I pulled the nightstand close and got under the covers. The room was all white, clinical in appearance.

If everything goes well, the authorities would suspect a linkage to Henderson’s murder, but without hard evidence, they wouldn’t have a case. The Assembly would evaporate and like everything else in life, the events of August 5th, would be a distant memory by the first snowfall.

***

The end was near, that much was clear. My heart was racing, palpitating, attempting to pump that which it did not possessed. I no longer felt any pain. The room was getting darker, my eyes playing tricks. Imaginary shadows cast ominous monsters on the walls and ceiling.

I pushed STOP, and then REWIND, dropping the tape recorder on my chest.

I lay there thinking about Kayley and the kids. They were the essence of my being, my reason for living. I hoped that they would be okay. They could live with innuendo, and I knew that was all there would be.

I heard a faint click; the recorder notifying the completion of my previous command. Now, there was only one more chore it needed to perform. Groping with my right hand, I located the device and arduously raised it close to my eyes. Squinting hard to squeeze some acuity from my rapidly failing vision, I finally recognized RECORD, and pressed it.

“I love you Kayley, with all my heart. I am so sorry,” were the only words that she would hear. I felt the gentle warmth of a teardrop slipping down my cheek, my last human emotion.

I positioned the tape recorder by my side and closed my eyes; my absolution, now complete.


© Copyright 2019 Edmund. All rights reserved.

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