The next day, Davy recited another brand new poem for Anne:
And Broadway shows,
And sweet kisses,
All in a row.
Do I know thee?
Yes! I know thee!
All in a row!
Of course, she loved it. And of course she rewarded him with sweet kisses all in a row, sending him on his way at noon. Down the steps, he was swept into the Upper East Side tide, unaware of undertows. Anne remained home to ready their Spain and Denmark foray.
Whistling absent-mindedly, wandering for a half-hour or so, hands a-pocket his Harrington, Davy came to a small coffee shop. At the counter he ordered a coffee. Three seats away, a blonde, about 40, nursed a coffee: black, like Davy’s.
“Hi!” she said, looking over, then away, shrinking just a bit into her pea coat.
Staring at her coffee as if it were a crystal ball, she said, “Whatcha doin’?”
“Nothing. Just drinking a coffee.”
“Yeah. Me too.” She smiled at him, and then refocused on her cup. He liked her smile, the way her nose crinkled. She looked up again and, staring ahead into the mirror, said, “Wanna share a booth? And a slice of apple pie?”
Meeting her reflected gaze, Davy said, “Okay.” He liked her optimistic eyes. They were like freshly-minted pennies, or the dots on a pair of exclamation points. Davy took pride in his judge-of-character ability, and this woman was right on beam, a good egg. He could tell.
By the plate glass window, their two coffees refilled, the couple a shared an apple pie a la mode. Davy glanced up to see Mona walk by. He waved, but she didn’t see him.
“Do you know her?”
“She didn’t notice you.”
Davy flipped through the pages of their table’s mini-jukebox until he came to “Over, Under, Sideways, Down.” He dropped some coins into the slot and punched its code. Stillness was ripped by the throbbing beat, a “HEY!” and searing mid-Eastern style riff.
“I like The Yardbirds, too,” she said, nodding, looking at the formica, her palms flat against it, fingers splayed. “They were pretty wild!”
She asked if she could pick the next song and without waiting for his permission, reached over and selected The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” Hal Blaine leading the charge for three Spanish Harlem roses. Holding her cup in both hands, leaning forward a little, she said, “My name’s Helen, Helen Foont. What’s yours?” Her stare was intense yet gauzy.
“Let’s order hamburgers!”
“Oh... oh no. I’m a vegetarian, almost a vegan, really...”
“Oh, stop it! Garçon! We’d like two of your very finest hamburgers! And the hugest platter of French fries... And two Cokes! Merci beaucoup!” Davy insisted his hamburger be well-done, hopefully exterminating the filth crawling and swimming about some doomed creature’s decomposing remains. When the food arrived, Davy added a mound of catsup, mustard and relish to his hamburger and ate it with a knife and fork. Helen rained salt on the fries, squeezed a dab of mustard on her burger.
“See? Not so bad!”
She was beautiful in a funny way, very different from Anne: shorter, a little heavier—curvy. Her eyes a devilishly dark shade of blue, almost violet. He wanted to see her naked, he wanted to sink his teeth into a shoulder. As they were exiting, Davy sensed some odd sort of movement as Helen passed a table of seniors arguing politics, octogenarian spittle flying.
On the sidewalk, she yanked his elbow, “C’mon!” To his amazement, she’d swiped an old lady’s purse. Grabbing his hand, Helen led the sprint, dashing, breathless, shoving people aside if they were too slow, up two blocks, down a flight of stairs to a train on the verge of closing its doors.
“C’mon! C’mon!” In an instant they were onboard and barreling to Grand Central Station. Manhattan above, they had a car to themselves. “When we get to Grand Central, I’m gonna go home from there, to Bridgeport. Wanna come along, see my place?”
She rummaged the purse, finding nearly a hundred bucks in its wallet. At Grand Central she tossed the purse, with wallet and all its credit cards and ID, in a mailbox. “She’ll get her important stuff,” Helen smiled. “And we got us some bread!”
Helen’s rented room, bathroom down the hall, was on the second floor of a two-story house on the outskirts of Bridgeport, the solitary building for a few blocks, rubble and tall grass and debris fanning out from three sides. Across the street, an out-of-business auto repair shop, weeds cracking the tarmac. Helen’s building was covered in faux-brick tarpaper. Her room was the only one occupied; the other doors padlocked.
Davy stared out a grimy window onto November trees and blocks of empty lots and crummy houses and sidewalks that looked as if they’d suffered a collective nervous breakdown. In the distant haze, corporate buildings, alien gods designed to intimidate the local populace. Davy knew he wasn’t going to make it home tonight, or any other night. Anne, if she ever caught up to him, would kill him for this. But he liked Helen, liked her a lot. In fact, all his love and adoration for Anne had skipped over, in a heartbeat, to Helen, as if he’d withdrawn all his dough, every last cent, from one bank and deposited it in another. Was this unbalanced? He pondered, then showed that ponder the door, closed his eyes, Helen’s cute little nose swimming before his mind’s eye. It was a round nose, such a cute round nose. And her overbite? It drove him crazy... He was the mongoose to this blonde’s cobra.
The small room was spare and threadbare, furnished with a worn easy chair, a bed and an AM clock radio atop a dresser. Overhead, a bare 60-watt bulb. Helen sat in the center of the bed, flats kicked off, feet tucked under her. Davy walked over and sat on a corner of the bed.
“I won’t bite. Come a little closer.” Davy moved only a little closer.
“Whatsa matter? Doncha like girls?”
“W-well, yes. I like ’em j-just fine...”
“Then kiss me, ya big dumb dope!” As their lips met, a church bell struck six o’clock.
Morning was gray in that especially gray neighborhood of gray Bridgeport, a gentle rain falling well into evening. Davy and Helen rose late, around 1:00. He loved the way she looked first thing in the day, eyes a little puffy. Davy cleaned up and shaved, twice, in the hallway bathroom. After breakfast at her favorite greasy spoon, they went for a walk, a long walk through the slums, no umbrella. She hugged his arm and said, “Gee, I really like you, Davy. I’ve been waiting for you for, like, forever!”
Back in the room, Helen went to the closet and pulled a big suitcase down from the top shelf. She said, “Wanna see something that’ll knock your socks off?”
She sat the suitcase on the brown rug, squatted before it, flipped the latches and lifted the lid to reveal the contents: it was packed tight with bundled hundreds.
“Jiminy Crickets! Where’d that come from?”
“I stole it! It took years of dedicated work, but I done it! Not too shabby for a high school dropout, huh?”
“My favorite philosopher is Oscar Wilde. Do you know what he said?”
“He said a lot of things...”
“But the most important one? Do ya know that?”
“Let’s hear it.”
“If it ain’t nailed down, it’s mine. And if I can pry it loose, it ain’t nailed down.”
Davy thought, “Ain’t?”
Standing, Helen said, “I’m a thief,” emphasizing the point by giving herself a sharp slap on her fanny. Davy pulled her to him, bent her across his knees, lifted her skirt and gave her a few solid whacks as she laughed. That night, in the wee hours, Davy woke and stared at the ceiling for about an hour and thought. He thought about Anne, about something she’d once told him, about how any jerk could pull themselves up by their bootstraps, happens every day. “But, Davy, the real trick is to be born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth!” That’d made a certain opiated sense. But now, after meeting Helen and seeing how she’d come from nothing, a Bridgeport backstreet girl, he had to admire her spunk. Maybe it was because his senses were running on a keener plane due to a mild opium withdrawal—he’d been smoking dope with Anne long enough to develop a slight dependence—but he saw life clearly now, as if for the first time, especially as he tumbled the murders over in his mind.
Of the four crimes, right off the bat: he hadn’t decapitated John, he’d had nothing whatsoever to do with the actual slaughter. That was entirely Anne, acting out of the blue. So, scratch that one.
Technically, he may’ve aided Anne with Veronica’s death, but he wasn’t the one who’d throttled the girl, he wasn’t even upstairs at any time. For all he knew, Anne hadn’t even killed the girl. Maybe she’d simply left her there trussed and gagged, another party possibly chancing upon the victim and making her a corpse. Veronica? Who knows? Regardless, the number diminishes precipitously from four to two, a 50 percent cut.
The detective’s death: was that actually murder? Fisher had chosen to take those backward giant steps. Granted, he was under duress. But ultimately, wasn’t that really a suicide, wasn’t he responsible for his actions? Or was it a game of Simon Says gone dreadfully awry? Either way, I’m off the hook. Besides, that bastard was begging for it.
Now down to a single case, Davy scoured his conscience searching for an honest answer, the unvarnished truth. At length he seemed to recall aiming above the golfer’s head, or at his leg—something just to scare or injure the poor fellow, not kill him. But he’d been shaking like a leaf, what with Anne breathing down his neck, egging him on, calling him a girl. That wasn’t murder; it was accidental homicide. Or just an accident, like dropping a glass jar of honey. A mess, but it could happen to anyone; it doesn’t make one a criminal, just a butterfingers. We all goof up, for crying out loud.
Absolved, but just to be on the safe side, Davy said an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and an Act of Contrition, adding an improvised prayer: Dear God, if You really do exist, please forgive me and have mercy on me, Your humble servant, Davy Raboy. PS: I realize this isn’t the official way to confess, but since I’ve done nothing wrong, I have nothing to confess. This is more of an extra-credit sort of thing. I’m sure that You, in Your infinite wisdom, understand. Thank You. Amen.
He thought about Anne some more, coming to view her as evil, as a bad influence on him, exactly the sort of woman Mother had always warned him against. Not that it’s Anne’s fault, per se. She’s the product of a broken family. And a sick society—all those influences that permeate our consciousness from toddlerhood: TV, movies, comic books, the news, etc. It was all, sort of, out of her hands. I’m better off without her, yes, but I wish her well, I really do. Anyhow, Helen’s the gal for me, and that’s that, end of discussion.
Feeling much better, Davy turned on his side, hugged Helen close, and shut his eyes as “The Blue Danube Waltz” rolled around his brain until he fell into a sleep of the dead, profound dreams dancing.
The next morning, after shaving, Davy got down on one knee in that grim room and proposed to Helen. She accepted. The lovebirds bought rings at a pawn shop, filed papers and, by the end of the week, tied the knot before a justice of the peace in Bridgeport City Hall. A few days later, standing up, using Helen’s dresser as a table, Davy wrote a letter to Anne, on a legal pad, with a Papermate, the kind with twin black hearts on the clip.
It read: Dearest, darlingest Anne, I’m sure you’ve been anxious regarding my sudden and unexplained disappearance. Have no fear, sweetheart, I’m alive and well. Please dear, allow me a moment of your time to explain. I met someone. And we’ve married. I wish you the very best on your journey ahead. Of course, I will always cherish our precious weeks together. Your pal, Davy. PS: Please, as a token of my eternal esteem for you, keep my XK120 and all my other stuff.
Feeling that’d mollify her to a large extent, he neatly folded the page in three, put it in an envelope, addressed it to the East Side manor, while blotting out a teeny-tiny voice, way in the distance, on that far horizon, warning of doom.
Davy and Helen stole a car and headed south for the winter, for sunny F-L-A. Once there, they’d plot their next moves. Along the way, they stopped at a JC Penney on the main street of a small North Carolina town to get a new wardrobe for Davy.
“Don’t you look sharp in that plaid shirt and chino combo, Mister Love of My Life!” Helen gurgled in the parking lot, fussing with his collar, removing a stray thread, golden sunlight blessing them. “It’s gonna be so much fun to see The Everglades! Boy-o, Raboy-o, I’ve always wanted to do that! Oh, gee whiz! I've got those teardrops in my eyes!” She was so happy she could just burst.