Jan 05, 2017, 05:56AM

Chapter 6: Little Games

A serialization of The Sound of the Shadows. Last week’s post is here.


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Davy came to his senses from a cold sweat, alone. He had to talk to her. But Anne had left the Adirondacks for her 5th Ave. apartment. A friend was coming over—Mona, a girlfriend from Frisco, a would-be cabaret singer.

Scared to leave a trail, Davy didn’t dare call. Instead, he started the engine, put the Jag in gear and headed south, both hands on the wheel. On the Interstate he did something he doesn’t do: he hit 80 or 90 miles per hour, gathering no troopers, threading the traffic as if the other cars were still.

By mid-afternoon he was on Anne’s doorstep, ringing her bell. Along with the leaping and barking pooches, Anne was delighted. He told her what was what, showed her the letter while they sat on a modern sofa in the expansive living room, a Rauschenberg on one wall, a Bradley Walker Tomlin opposite. Hindu and Athenian icons, a Sudanese mask and an ebony netsuke nestled amidst the books on built-in shelves.

“They’re only going to ask for money. There’s nothing we can do until then. But we’ll settle their hash. We can outsmart this asshole, no sweat, whoever it is. They think they’re clever? Well, they shouldn’t have fucked with me, mister! In the meantime, forget it. It’s good to see you, Davy, no matter the circumstances.” Despite her placid, even warm, demeanor, a furious hornet buzzed in Anne’s brain. Whoever she decided to sting would curse the day they were born.

Terriers leading, they went for a walk in Central Park. One of the dogs took a crap, right there on a sloping sidewalk. Anne dressed it with a red leaf. Davy was amused: Some schnook walking along minding his own business steps on that leaf and goes slickly airborne, the back of his skull cracks against the pavement, the EMTs get there too late...

Autumn swirled around them as they walked arm in arm. In the distance, at the curb, Hansom cabs waited for tourists. Anne’s heels clicked and clacked.

Having crossed to the West Side, they found a bistro, but Davy had no appetite and Anne never ate. They ordered espressos, sat by the front window, watched the passing people. Anne said, “Just look at that asshole swanning by. He thinks he’s something. Ha!”

“This is the first time that I’ve been to New York in a long time, maybe 10 years...”

“Well, it’s changed, and not for the better. But we’ll be safe from the crazy crowd. I’ll show you a good time in the big bad city, country cousin.” She sipped some espresso and shrunk a little into her camel hair coat. “Don’t worry. Be happy. We’ll have a cozy spell.”

Late afternoon became twilight became dark. They hailed a taxi and returned home, closing her door on city noise, and repaired upstairs to her opium den.

The next afternoon while Anne slept in the third floor bedroom, Davy rose and slipped into her black silk kimono. He cinched the waist, delighting in the image staring back at him from the mirror. Wiry and only a couple of inches taller than she, the robe fit neatly. He sampled some of her perfume, Sous le Vent, a dab on each wrist. He rubbed his wrists together, held them to his nose. He smoothed Oil of Olay over his hands and face, chuckling, still a little dopey from last night. He brushed his hair, looked in the mirror, mussed it up, and then brushed it again. Anne slept on.

He went through her closet, the top shelf filled with hat boxes.

He tried on a hat in front of the mirror. Then he returned it to its box and the box to its shelf, tried another, and tried another. He opened Anne’s jewelry box and snapped on a gold bracelet, admired it, turning his wrist this way and that. He sat on the bed next to her, took the bracelet off his wrist and put it on hers, noting just how similar their hands were. She mumbled something. He ran his hand up and down her arm, bent towards her, kissed her slumbering mouth, her neck, her scent.

They’d killed someone, now they wanted to kill someone else, someone also unknown to them. How many more would they kill? Would all of them be golfers?

Back to the closet. Her shoes didn’t fit at all, not even the slippers.

Now to the bathroom, to the medicine chest. He found her razor and shaved. He’d been so preoccupied yesterday he’d only shaved twice, in the morning. He brushed his teeth. Then he shaved again, and when he finished, shaved a third time, achieving that perfect—just perfect!—finish, however temporarily.

Davy realized that he hadn’t eaten since breakfast yesterday. He aimed for the kitchen downstairs.

On the second floor he heard, “Ow!” (Pause.) “Ow!” He followed the cries to a bedroom, its door open.


Entertained, feeling the cool of the doorjamb on his shoulder through the silk of the kimono, he beheld Mona, absorbed in her chore of attempting to shoot up. She didn’t notice him at first. She’d tied off but kept missing the vein. Each useless jab produced a cute little “Ow!” An Egyptian beauty with Cleopatra eyes, her hair was short, like suede. Her bony arms were scarred with tracks. Sitting on a brass bed, not wearing a stitch, she looked up, saw Davy, registered no surprise and said, “Hi...”


“Wanna speedball?”


Mona drew herself up formally as if she were a duchess. She introduced herself and patted a spot next to her, so close he could smell her. She didn’t smell as good as Anne—a little funky, but not unappealing. Intimate. He breathed deeper.

Davy pushed up a sleeve. She tied off his arm—nice veins, right there on the surface where they should be—and a tiny bit of blood bloomed into the glass hypo, then went back out in front of the plunger. She untied him, sending him up into a violet ionosphere while simultaneously sinking. An ocean of mother’s milk, whoa... Not skim milk this time, Mother. No Cheerios. A minute later Mona finally hit a vein of her own. Then she unknotted Davy’s obi, removed it with a quick yank, and instructed, “Tie my wrists to the bedstead.”

After midnight, Mona, Davy and Anne caught a blazing hard bop quintet at The Vanguard, stayed until closing. Davy barely touched his martini.

The following afternoon when they woke, Anne stretched like a cougar and said to him, “Today, my huckleberry friend, we head north. We wait for their financial demand, then we track them down and we kill them. Don’t worry, baby. It’ll be easy. We’re dealing with an amateur. Besides, I want to see your place. I want to see where my guy hangs his hat.”

When Anne saw Davy’s trailer she said, “Wow, Davy! What did they do to you? That you wound up here? Like this?” The terriers tore around, sniffing.

“I dunno...” he said, turning on his shortwave radio. A classical station played Brahms’ “German Requiem.”

“You’re a romantic, Davy. Life doesn’t treat your kind well. Your ideals are sky-high, dooming you to disappointment. You’re destined to wile away the hours in a cemetery with a volume of Wordsworth as the world passes you by. You’re dominated and decimated by impossible notions. God, you probably had the biggest crush on Elsa Lanchester in The Bride of Frankenstein.”

“How did you know that?”

“I read you like a book, Chumley. You’re complicated, but I’ve got your number. This place illustrates something you need to know: Fortune favors the dull. Look at you, a genius, a visionary, reduced to squalor and public assistance. Then look at the idiots of the world: fat and comfy and... dull. Money, Davy, money is the key to unlock your cell. Money is freedom and money is power. Stick with me. I’ve got the money. We’ve got to get you out of here. Pack up your stuff, you can move in with me.”

Davy didn’t need Anne to tell him he was a mess. Anne was made of sturdier stuff than he, no argument, but not gold-medal material in the emotional health department. She reminded him of one of those jugglers on the old Ed Sullivan program, tossing plates in a dizzying oval overhead as she stood on one tippy toe, the audience applauding. Anne’s stability had something of that, except in her case, she’d break something. Or sometimes she’d just march on stage carrying a heavy plate and hurl it like a discus at poor Ed’s mouth. Smashed lips, teeth broken, the impresario is knocked on his keister, writhing in agony, hands to his mouth, his blood spritzes like an archerfish’s spit as the screen cuts to black.

But she had the charm, so hapless Ed would invite her back. Ed was helpless under her spell.

“Hey! What’s this? A scimitar? It looks real,” Anne said lifting a sword from its place on the wall.

“It is real, sharp as a razor. I found it in an antique shop years ago. Decades ago, really.”

“Hey! Let’s go for a walk! Let’s go in the woods!” 

They wandered out of Davy’s trailer, down the hill, hand in hand, took the left onto the side road, then to the dirt road and, from there, into the forest owned by the retired abortionist. Anne carried the scimitar with her, occasionally slicing the wind with a whistle.

“Hey! Watch it with that thing! Be careful!”

“Don’t be a chicken, Davy me laddie!”

In the woods, off the trail, they saw John the Baptist approaching, deer rifle in hand. John didn’t even notice them until they were close. Then he let loose with one of his patented greetings, “HOWDY!” followed by, “Say! Who’s this little ol’ peapickin’ gal with you?” Ann held the sword tucked behind her back like Bugs Bunny hiding a murderous mallet from Elmer Fudd. “You can call me Salome, you worthless sack of crap!” Voilà—she brandished the weapon and, with a quick spin and a hip roll, separated John’s head from the rest of him. The noggin flew back and landed on yellow leaves with a thud while his body tipped back a tad, tottering, spewing a volcanic shot of red, then collapsed with a thump. They watched the body deflate like a pierced blimp.

Davy said, “Holy fucking shit...”

“He shouldn’t have called me a gal, a little ol’ peapickin’ gal.” She walked over to the head, stared into its dull eyes and, with a wrist flick removed the Ichabod Crane nose.

“Does he have any family or friends?”

“His wife’s dead, a year ago. Cancer. They had a boy, but he moved to Germany. You know, years ago John launched into one of his I-support-President-Bush-and-the War-in-Iraq spiels, and all I could think was, Yeah, your bastard isn’t in the military, and you were never in the military, it takes more than talk, you moron. You don’t want your lousy taxes to go up, but how are we supposed to pay for all the death and destruction you lust for? And how are we supposed to pay for all these soldiers returning with limbs or faces blown off? I saw a photo of this returning soldier. His entire head was a mass of scar tissue. He had no features, just this mass of mess with two eyes staring out, two nostrils and a mouth! He looked like he belonged on the cover of Famous Monsters of Filmland, I kid you not!  What would John care? He was a rough-tough cream-puff! He was big talk, little action. All he ever did was...” 

“Shut UP for a minute, will you?” 


“Does he have any friends, anyone in the area, who will notice if he’s not around?” 

“No. No one can stomach him, not even the jerks. And he gets his mail delivered to the post office. He only goes there about once a week. And if he’s in Iowa visiting his mom or in Vegas, they’d just let his stuff pile up.” 

“We’re safe, at least for a while. Maybe forever. But we need to be careful. We already have one asshole to deal with. We don’t need more. C’mon, Davy, let’s go. We have to find a way to dispose of this thing,” she said, flourishing the scimitar in his face, stopping an inch short of a slice. “En garde!” 

“Hey! Watch it with that thing! Dammit!” Anne laughed.

They scurried back to his trailer without anyone driving by and seeing them, not unusual in this desolate area. Anne went out and bought a newspaper at the Bonnie’s Country Store and wrapped the scimitar in an edition of The Boonville Herald. After spending the night in Davy’s trailer, they got up before dawn and drove about fifty miles south and hiked deep into a woodland with two small, easy-to-conceal-in-a-coat shovels. Way off the trail, they dug a three-foot hole. After thoroughly wiping the sword with an alcohol soaked rag, they tossed it and the rag and the newspaper in the hole, doused everything thoroughly with alcohol, and lit it. After the blue flame died, they shoveled dirt onto the spot, and then covered it with dead leaves, perfectly blending it.

Anne said to Davy in the car, “Enough of fun and games. Now we need to trap this lowlife blackmailer. They’re going to ask for money. It’s a when, not an if. And when they do, boy-o, they’ve set their own trap. I can’t wait to get at them, whoever they are, because it’s going to be murder, bloody murder, you bet. No one fucks with me.” 

Back in abortionist’s woods, leaves drifted from above as ant armies and freelance insects feasted on John’s remains. Across his face, over his scalp, up his sleeves, into his shirt, up his pants. A couple of weeks later, a neighborhood dog loosened a rib, ran off with it, a secret toy for it alone to worry.

John’s nose was consumed and pelletized by rodents within a day.


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