Copyright 2016 Mario V. Farina
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
All Rights Reserved
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Correspondence may be directed to:
Mario V. Farina
Email: [email protected]
These are twelve stories with a twist. This means that the stories have a surprise at the end. Part of the enjoyment of reading these stories will come from try to guess what the ending is like.
The titles of the twelve stories are these:
Remembering the Anniversary
A Meal To End All Meals
Judge Me Fair
The Woman In The Diner
Woman On The Phone
Thou Art A Witch
Voyage To Mars
A Reenactment To Justice
“I should think you’d remember the most important date in our relationship,” Wendy murmured, tears forming around the edges of her eyes. “You could have, at least, given me a card.”
Ben realized how badly he had hurt his wife. True, he wasn’t much for ceremony, but he should have known better. It had been less than a year after he met Wendy that he realized she was the one for him.
Wendy had been a math instructor in the same school where he taught computer science. They began dating, and as they did so, he discovered that she was a no-nonsense observer of holidays just as he was. It was a perfect match. So why was she complaining that he had not remembered their first wedding anniversary?
Women are different, he decided. A part of them says one thing but they really want something else. He was going to learn from this experience and not make the same mistake again.
But habits are strong. Ben would think about June 19 every so often, but most of the time, the date dwelt in the hinterlands of his brain. As the date drew near for his second anniversary, the fact that it wasn’t uppermost in his mind alarmed him. To avoid the horrible blunder of the year before he composed a short computer program that would remind him of the date every day from June 1 until the actual anniversary date. He tested the program to make sure it would work.
On June 1, when Ben started his computer, the screen simulated a brilliant explosion of sun-bright lights which quickly turned to a midnight blackness with stars streaking at the speed of light from the inner cores of galaxies to the outer edges of the universe. This spectacle was repeated several times after which the normal start-up procedure took over. Ben smiled There was no way he would experience this panoply and not remember the anniversary.
Day after day, the display materialized; June 2, June 3, June 4! The program was working splendidly! On the next day, Ben paid less attention to the message. After all, he knew what it was and what it meant. On the next, he paid even less attention. By the time June 10 arrived, Ben was accepting the message as part of the computer’s startup procedure.
Then, June 18! It was a Saturday. At the breakfast table, Wendy mentioned that she needed to pick up some things at the supermarket. It was important she do this, she declared. This started a train of thought in Ben’s psyche “Why important,” he wondered? The word, important, vibrated like a tuning fork in his being.
Important! Important! Suddenly, he stiffened as if struck by lightening. Tomorrow was indeed important! Tomorrow was June 19! “Fool,” he shouted inwardly to himself! How could he had forgotten the importance of June 19?
He needed to do something and he needed to do it quick! Otherwise, he was going to be in the kind of deep trouble that only a victim of a woman scorned could know!
Wendy had left the house taking the SUV. The only vehicle available was the bicycle. This would work! There was a florist on Sixth Avenue only a couple of blocks away. They sold cards. Ben decided to splurge and purchase a bouquet of flowers as well as a card. He wheeled the bike out of the garage, vaulted to the seat and sped to the shop. Broadly beaming, he stood the bike on its kick stand, hastened to the shop’s ornate door and entered. He made his way quickly to the card section.
Where were the anniversary cards, he wondered? Ah, there was the sign! The place was packed. Customers blocked his way. No matter, he bulldozed his way through and began perusing the cards. It was important he select an appropriate card!
Something made him turn toward the figure standing next to him. His eyes met those of the other person. They were familiar and so was the face! “Wendy!?” he managed to stammer, as she gasped in like manner, “Ben!?”
Cora Fielding, Forewoman of the jury, took a vote as soon as the five men and seven women had been seated. She announced the result had been eleven votes for innocent and one for guilty. Ms. Fielding, about 35, overweight, blond with streaks of gray asked, “Would the person who voted guilty care to identify himself or herself?” Janet Carter raised her hand. Puzzled, Ms. Fielding stared at her. “You don’t look familiar,” she said. “Are you one of the jurors? What is your name?”
“I’m registered with you as Mary Carter,” responded the juror. “My real name is Janet Carter.” Mystified, the other members of the jury remained silent. “This is bizarre,” commented Ms. Fielding. What did you do, switch places with Mary Carter? “No,” responded, Janet. “I’m the same person that entered the room. I took on a different appearance and name while we were voting.”
“Nonsense,” retorted the forewoman angrily. “What’s going on here? As I recall, the other person was young with dark hair. You’re, at least, thirty years older! How did you get in here? Where is the other person?”
“I know this will cause a mistrial,” said Janet. “I have a special reason to being here. The other person was me as a young woman. My present appearance is as I was when I died! We’re here to judge the innocence or guilt of Jerome Carter. He’s accused of killing his wife, Janet Carter. Most people think this trial is a farce since there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime. I’m here because I know he’s guilty! I am the person he killed!”
The silence in the room continued but its character changed from mysticism to shock. There was not so much as a murmur in the room. After several seconds, Ms. Fielding found her voice. “Do I understand that you are claiming to be the murdered person?”
“Exactly, declared Janet!”
“How can we believe that? What can you show? What is your objective in being here?” gasped Ms. Fielding.
“I do have a purpose,” responded, Mary. “Whether you believe what I’m saying or not, does not matter. I want this jury to file back into the courtroom and have Jerome see me, a year after he shot me. We need to see his reaction.”
“I can’t agree to that,” Ms. Fielding shouted. “As forewoman of this jury, it’s my duty to report this to the judge at once. This is for him to handle.” She picked up the phone. “Open the door,” she commanded. “We’re coming back. Now!”
She led ten jurors to the door. Janet followed slowly several steps behind.
There were still several persons in the courtroom. The judge was standing behind the bench speaking to his adjutant. Jerome Carter, the defendant, middle aged and balding, was seated absorbed in a discussion with his lawyer. The prosecutor was having an animated conversation with several reporters.
A great deal of confusion ensued as eleven members of the jury seated themselves. “What is the meaning of this?” demanded Judge Allen. “Your honor,” began Ms. Fielding but didn’t get any further. Janet was walking through the door when Jerome Carter caught sight of her. He hesitated for a moment, then rose shakily.
Janet pointed her finger at him. “I’ve come back, darling,” she shouted. With color draining from his face, Jerome sank back into his chair.
“Yes, it’s me, lover,” Janet continued. “Do you have anything to say to your adoring wife? Speak! Though I’m already dead, I’m dying to hear your voice!”
“Jan, Jan, I’m sorry!” shrieked Jerome. “I did it in a moment of madness. I’m sorry!
You’re dead! Go back. Go back to wherever you’ve come from.” He clapped both hands to his eyes and began to sob.
“I’ll go now, beloved,” responded Janet. “But I won’t be far. Stray not one step from the path you need to walk!”
She vanished. The room was quiet except for the tumultuous sounds of Jerome’s continuing sobs.
“Service please.” The voice was deep, sensual, beautifully modulated. Vincent hesitated for a moment, furrowing his brow, then said, “I’m sorry, you’ve dialed the wrong number. Are you trying to get automobile service?”
“Oh, yes. I’m sorry to have disturbed you.”
“No problem at all.” Vincent put the receiver back in its cradle. “That was a lovely voice,” he mumbled barely audibly. “I wonder what she’s like.”
He leaned back in his recliner. “Sometimes they call back,” he thought, as he turned his attention to the TV. “They make the same mistake.”
The phone rang. Vincent grabbed the receiver before it had completed its first ring. “Hello!”
“Oh, darn!” It was the same voice. “You are not Continental, are you? I thought I knew the number, but I’m obviously doing something wrong.”
“Oh, that’s OK,” Vincent summoned his most melodious tone. “I know how it is to dial a wrong number. I congratulate you on your choice of cars. I have a Continental too.”
“Oh, do you? What a coincidence! They are very fine cars, aren’t they?”
“Yes, very fine. Very fine, indeed. I believe in owning nothing but the best. I’m Vincent Bradshaw, by the way. And you are…?”
“I’m Susan Wilkerson.”
“Please call me Vince. Do you live locally?”
“Yes, I do, Vince. I live in the Tall Oaks area. Nothing but the best, you say?”
“I go first class, Susan. Always have. Always will! There is usually a way to get what you want even if you have to bend the rules a little now and then.”
He thought about Nancy Beth. Where she was concerned, a little, was something of an understatement. To remove her from his life, he had found it necessary to take some steps that most people would consider extreme. The objective had been accomplished, and the money he had received in insurance had been a pleasant bonus. Half the money had gone into the huge white vehicle crowding the walls of his garage; some, into the stock market. He hadn’t decided what to do with the rest. A trip to Bermuda with a sweetheart might be a possibility.
Vincent missed his wife, but he was looking forward to finding a suitable replacement. If Susan was anything like her voice, she might be the one.
“Your voice is so delightful,” he said. “I can almost picture what you look like.”
“You can?” Susan responded teasingly. “Tell me, what do I look like?”
Vincent glanced at the ceiling, then made a few flattering guesses. He was wrong in some, but he learned what he wanted to know. She was thirty-two, five, six in high heels, had blue eyes, weighed 108, didn’t smoke, and had long jet-black hair. “People tell me I’m attractive,” she had said.
“How could I be so blessed in finding such a dream girl?” Vincent asked himself. It was imperative that he meet this exceptional girl in person. Romantic notions swirled in his mind.
“Tell me about yourself, Vince,” Susan asked.
“Well, I’m director of Mount Pleasant Hospital. I am thirty-eight, about five, ten, have dark hair, and am of average build.” Vincent knew that he was exaggerating his height by about two inches, and that his average build was really twenty pounds overweight. He should have mentioned that his “dark hair” was streaked with a good deal of gray, but he felt that facts like these were of minor importance. A man’s personality, intelligence, and sense of humor are the most important things to a woman, he thought. Vincent felt that he possessed these qualities in abundance despite the fact that none of the women he knew had ever mentioned them.
There was a pause. Vincent sensed that Susan was getting ready to wind down the conversation. He felt an urgency to get something important asked before they disconnected.
“Tell me, Susan, are you, ah, married?”
“Oh heavens, no!” She responded.
“I’m a widower, Susan,” Vincent replied sadly. “My lovely wife died over a year ago. I loved her very dearly.” Nancy Beth had actually had her so-called cerebral hemorrhage only seven months earlier, but Vincent didn’t want Susan to think that he wasn’t observing a decent period of mourning.
“I’m terribly sorry about your wife, Vince. Listen, I don’t want to be rude, but I need to do some shopping, then dress for the symphony. Much as I’d like to keep talking, I must run.”
“I understand perfectly,” Vincent said disappointedly. “I’d like to talk to you again.”
“I’d like that too,” Susan responded. “Why don’t you call me tomorrow evening after eight. My phone number is 555–0648. Bye for now.”
Vincent put the receiver down slowly. “What a sexy sounding woman!” he mused. He straightened the recliner and rose from it. He thrust his hands deep into his pockets. Walking slowly around the living room he bent his head forward deep in thought. Something disturbed him about the conversation. Susan had remarked that she was preparing to attend a concert. His wife had enjoyed classical music. Since Vincent’s lack of interest in the classics had been a source of conflict in the marriage, he had resolved never again to get involved with anyone who enjoyed this kind of music. Still, with the right woman, he could bend a little, he thought.
Yes, Vincent missed Nancy Beth, but only because of the comforts and services that she had provided. Now, he had to do his own washing, ironing, cleaning, and cooking. These were inconveniences but, at least, he didn’t have to put up with that pudgy smokestack any longer.
Nancy had been thirty-five when she died, but she had looked ten years older. Her mousy brown hair was streaked with gray. Thick glasses gave her face an owlish expression. She coughed. Her voice was raspy. She bore no resemblance to the curvaceous sexpot that she had been ten years before. Their relationship had declined with the years. It reached a new low during the last week of her life when she had referred to him as an arrogant, sleazy low-life scumbag.
Vincent felt he had needed to rid himself of this obstacle to happiness. Divorce would have been too messy, expensive, and time-consuming. He had zeroed in on a feasible, albeit drastic solution. Nancy’s death had become as inevitable as if it had been predestined.
At eight, the following evening, Vincent picked up the receiver and held it to his ear. He punched the digits of Susan’s number with his left hand. Then he leaned his back against the recliner. He felt his heart accelerate when he heard her voice.
“You sound so outgoing, Susan,” he ventured. “Have there been many men in your life?”
“Oh no, only a few,” she responded. “I was married once. But, that didn’t work out. More recently, I was involved with a man named Tom. I can tell you that story at a later time.”
Tom! Vincent thought of Tom Harris, the Chief Medical Officer at the hospital. Tom had once worked under Vincent. At that time, they had also been good friends. Their relationship was not cordial at this time. Vincent had discovered some shortages in Tom’s accounts and had accosted him with the evidence. Tom had admitted embezzling from his department. Vincent had helped him cover up. Although their present relationship was strained, Vincent had Tom under full control. From time to time, he would demand a favor of him and Tom would never refuse.
Mentally, Vincent would often applaud his own cleverness when he thought about how he had arranged for Nancy Beth’s death, and had contrived to have her cremated almost immediately. The insurance company had been outraged, but its investigators had gotten nowhere. Nancy Beth’s ashes had been widely scattered over the Pacific Ocean in a matter of hours.
Tom had been the key. In his position as Chief Medical Officer, he had the authority to ascertain causes of death and to sign death certificates. He also had power to circumvent certain bothersome police regulations.
Vincent’s thoughts returned to the present. “I’d be honored if you’d accept a dinner invitation, Susan, say for tomorrow evening at six. Would you care to accompany me to the Vauxhall?” This place was the most expensive restaurant in the area.
“Oh, yes, Vince, I’d love to do that,” Susan responded exuberantly. “Tomorrow night would be fine. I’ll look for you at six.” She gave him her Sylvan Lane address and hung up. Vincent phoned the Vauxhall and made a reservation, also requesting certain special preparations.
Vincent left his office early the next day leaving word that he would not return. He hurried home and spent an hour bathing, shaving, and brushing his teeth. He drenched himself with aftershave lotion and slapped his face until it resembled a fresh strawberry. He combed his hair making sure that every strand was in place. He polished a pair of black shoes. Then he tried on various ensembles and settled upon a gray suit, which he complemented with a red striped tie. Having completed his grooming, he examined himself in the full-length mirror in the bedroom tucking in his midsection. He smiled with satisfaction.
Vincent eased the massive Continental out of the garage and maneuvered it down the driveway into the street. He glanced at the car’s ornate digital clock. It was quarter after five, a bit early. He drove leisurely to Susan’s street to preview the area. He found himself in a new development. All the houses appeared to have been built within the last two or three years. Slipping by 1467 Sylvan Lane, he glanced at the house where Susan lived. It was a brick colonial with tall columns. The lawn was green and well trimmed. The shrubs along the walkway seemed to have been recently planted and were thriving. He stopped the car and let the engine idle. There was time to practice. Twisting the rear view mirror toward him, he tried several styles of smiling.
Timing his arrival to the split-second, Vincent guided the car to a coasting stop in front of Susan’s house. He switched off the ignition. Feeling that there might be eyes observing his movements, Vincent took care to exit gracefully. He straightened up, threw back his shoulders, and walked briskly around to the front of the car, then up the short concrete walk to the colonial’s door.
He rang the bell and waited, peering through the door’s curtained window. Just as he was beginning to wonder if there was a problem, he discerned motion within the house and saw a figure scampering toward him
Vincent was immediately captivated by the beautiful woman who opened the door. He stammered a greeting, grinned weakly, and extended his hand. Susan had instantly met his every hope. She was brunette, just as she had stated. Her hair was shoulder-length. It undulated gracefully as she tilted her head and greeted Vincent with an expansive smile. Her blue eyes were of an even deeper hue than he had imagined. She had on a simple, sleeveless, black, knee-length dress that hugged her trimly sculpted figure. On her ears, she wore long silver earrings with pink stones. Around her neck were two strands of pearls, one larger than the other. Vincent noticed that her neckline plunged daringly. Glancing downward, Vince observed that Susan wore a silver bracelet on one ankle. Her feet flowed into black, high-heeled shoes.
“I’ve hit the jackpot!” Vincent exulted inwardly. He and Susan exchanged pleasantries, then agreed that they should be on their way. As Susan scrambled here and there picking up keys, black purse, and matching cloak, Vincent kept his eyes riveted on her figure. Thoughts that he would not have dared share with Susan at this early stage of their relationship occurred to him. Reluctantly, he thrust them from his mind.
Vincent waited until Susan had locked the colonial’s door, then he regally escorted her to his car. He opened to the Continental’s door on the passenger side, and waited until she had entered. Then he lifted her seatbelt from its hook, leaned over, and attached it securely in the belt’s receptacle. “The car complains if the belt is not attached,” he said. He swung the door smoothly to a close, then nimbly darted to the driver’s side, opened the door and swooped in. “Very nicely done,” he commented mentally to himself.
“Stunning car!” Exclaimed Susan. “It’s newer than mine. I’m impressed.”
“I’m glad you like it,” Vincent responded. “It has custom everything.” Events couldn’t be proceeding more favorably!
The auto’s clock indicated there were still almost three-quarters of an hour to fill before seven. The drive to the Vauxhall should require no more than ten minutes or so. Vincent realized that he should have thought about this discrepancy earlier. A thought occurred to him he could take care of the time problem, and make it seem that there had been a plan all along. He turned right on Michigan Avenue and drove steadfastly eastward.
“Where are we going, may I ask?” said Susan.
Vincent smiled broadly, and responded with a lilt in his voice, “I’m kidnapping you.”
“Kidnapping, you say?” She giggled. “Might I be so bold as to ask why?”
“I’ll tell you later,” he teased.
Vincent drove to the Pioneer Mall and parked his car in one of the spaces for the disabled. He turned on the radio and positioned the dial to the first classical frequency he found. “I’m sure you like the station,” he commented, then added, “I’ll only be a moment.”
“You’re acting very mysteriously,” Susan observed.
“It will all be clear very soon!” Vincent responded grinning.
He exited from the car and locked the door. He sprinted into the mall through one of the large glass doors. Just a few feet inside was Frederick’s Flowers. He entered hurriedly and was pleased to see that the shop was nearly empty. He caught the eye of one of the salespeople and scurried to where she was standing.
Speaking brusquely, he asked, “Have you any corsages already made up?”
“Yes we do, sir.”
“Please give me your best one that goes with black,” he demanded. “I don’t care what it costs.”
The clerk led him to a showcase, and opened the sliding door.
“Here is the one for sixteen. It’s…”
“I’ll take it.” Vincent whisked out his wallet. “I’ll take it just as it is.”
Vincent handed her a twenty in exchange for the flowers. “That’s sixteen plus tax. I’ll ring it up, sir,” she said. Vincent couldn’t be bothered with change or paper work. He took the package, turned and fled the shop.
“That didn’t take very long,” Susan remarked.
“I called ahead,” he declared. “I hope you like this.” He handed her the corsage.
Susan gasped. “Oh, how lovely,” she cried. “And look, the carnations match my dress perfectly. How did you know what I’d be wearing?”
“Planned ahead,” he boasted with a smirk. “When I called the Florist, I had them prepare three different corsages for the basic colors that you might be wearing. All I had to do when I arrived was tell them what you actually were wearing and picked up the one that suited you best. I asked them to send the other two to a nursing home.”
“Oh, you’re such a darling,” Susan cooed, “and so thoughtful!” She grasped his hand and squeezed.
“Thank you, ma’am,” Vincent said with mock gallantry. “All I ask in return is the privilege of helping you put on the corsage.”
“With pleasure, sir!”
Together, they fastened the corsage on the collar of her cloak. Studiously, Vincent avoided any semblance of approaching forbidden areas, but privately, he was making plans for next time.
Vincent’s time calculations have been accurate and they arrived at the Vauxhall at exactly seven. The valet took Vincent’s car. Arm in arm, Susan and Vincent walked through the entrance. They approach a tuxedoed individual stationed at a podium.
“We have reservations for two,” Vincent announced. “The name is Bradshaw.”
The maître d’ glanced at a large leather-bound book, then, conspicuously satisfied, elevated his nose and said, “Certainly, sir. This way please.”
He led the couple to a cozy-sized, tablecloth-covered, table in a corner of the elegant dining room. A tall vase with three roses dominated the center of the table. There were two places set, each with a white dish lying within a larger, flowered one. There were arrays of gleaming silverware at each place, and tall champagne glasses and goblets for wine and water. A flame sparkled atop a long white candle set in a silver holder. There were upholstered armchairs at both ends of the table. A stainless steel wine bucket was positioned at one side.
Almost immediately, a waiter arrived to take their drink order. Susan ordered a Sombrero, and Vincent, a Whisky on the Rocks. He also ordered a magnum of vintage champagne.
“Tell me something about yourself,” began Vincent. He had heard that a fine way to make a hit what a woman is to seem interested in her, especially her mind.
“There isn’t much to tell,” she replied “I’m an ordinary person with simple desires.” She leaned forward, opening the V at her neck. She placed both forearms on the table, one crossing the other.
He averted his eyes. “Do you have special interests, hobbies?”
She smiled. “Well I like good music and live theater. I enjoy gardening.”
They touched grasses when the drinks arrived.
“I also like hiking,” she continued. “I’ve been doing this for several months. I used to weigh a bit more than I do now, and I find that hiking is a good way to stay trim.”
“You’re so slim, you don’t look as if you could ever have had a weight problem.”
“Oh yes, I do have a problem. I like to eat, but I keep my appetite under control. But you couldn’t guess what my greatest weakness once was.”
“Chocolate covered cherries!”
Vincent winced. It was Tom who had supplied the chocolates that Nancy Beth had eaten that night. Tom had had easy access to arsenic and had laced the candy with enough poison to do the job several times over. Later, supposedly, he had responded to her frantic call for help. But, upon arriving, Tom had found her dead. He certified that her death had been caused by a cerebral hemorrhage.
The waiter took their orders. Susan ordered broiled sole with a light lemon dressing; Vincent, a large T-bone smothered with mushrooms. Each requested escargot as an appetizer.
The dining room began to fill and became more noisy. The two had difficulty conversing. Vincent didn’t greatly mind. He spent a good deal of time staring into Susan’s beautiful eyes. He marveled at the contrast between Susan’s and Nancy Beth’s eyes, which had been of a nondescript hazel cast.
Vincent had asked that the champagne be served last. Neither diner had wanted dessert opting to linger over the effervescent wine.
On the drive back to Susan’s home, Vincent wondered whether she would invite him in. This would indicate how she felt about him.
At her home, Vincent assisted Susan from the car, then walked her to the door, the porch light shone casting a warm, romantic glow.
“Would you like to stop in for a cup of coffee?” Susan asked.
Would he! Vincent made no pretense of hiding his exhilaration.
Seated at the kitchen table, Vincent and Susan chatted animatedly. An hour passed, then it was time to part. Vincent and Susan walked to the door. He took her hand and pulled her slightly toward him. He would have been satisfied with a peck on the cheek, but Susan surprised him by throwing her arms around his neck implanting a fervent kiss on his lips. Instinctively, Vincent put his arms around Susan and pulled her closer. He initiated a kiss of his own. Susan blended into his arms. She placed her arms on his back, then raised them to his shoulders, fingers pointing upward, as the kiss matured. Suddenly, she broke away.
“No more; not now, Vince. It’s too soon,” Susan murmured. “I like you – maybe too much. It would be best if you left now.”
Vincent left her house in lighthearted befuddlement. He entered this car and, somehow, made it safely to his home. His mind was filled of what would happen the next time he was with Susan. Exhilarated, he picked up the phone and dialed.
“Susan, this is Vince. I just wanted to say good night one more time before going to bed. I’m going to dream sweet dreams of you.”
“You’re such a dear, Vince,” she murmured. “I enjoyed our evening together.”
“Susan, may I see you tomorrow?”
“I’ve already made plans for tomorrow, Vince. But how about Thursday – the day after tomorrow? Say, I have a great idea! Why don’t I cook for you at your place?”
What fantastic luck! Vincent couldn’t believe his ears. “Yes, yes, oh yes!” He blurted. “I’ll come to get you.”
“No, that won’t be necessary. Give me your address. I’ll do some shopping and come over to see you around six. Will that be all right? In some circles, I was known to be a good cook. I’ll make you an unforgettable meal.”
Vincent eagerly accepted the offer. Then, fearing that she might change her mind, he took the initiative in terminating the call.
Vince hurried home from work the next day and spent the evening clearing up the clutter that he normally allowed himself. He put all his papers in one place, dusted the furniture, hung his clothes, washed dishes, swept and mopped the floor, cleaned the bathtub and the sink. He found a candle and inserted it in the neck of an empty wine bottle. Finally he retrieved a large bottle of champagne from the wine cellar and put it in the refrigerator.
On Thursday, Vincent began pacing the floor at five. Would she renege on her offer?
She didn’t. Smartly attired in a white blouse and matching skirt, Susan arrived at six and began fussing with the chicken that she had bought. She removed the skin, seasoned the meat, and placed it in the oven. She put two potatoes in the microwave, then began working on the salad. Vincent’s entreaties to assist were to no avail.
At seven, the small dining area in the kitchen was ready for the feast. Susan had found a white linen tablecloth and had covered the table. She had also located Vincent’s best tableware and placed the cutlery neatly on the soft material. Vincent contributed by lighting the candle and placing it between the two settings. He also fetched the bottle of champagne, opened it, and poured. They lifted their glasses and gazed into each other’s eyes. “To an incomparable evening,” Vincent proposed as their glasses clinked. Susan smiled teasingly.
An hour later, Vincent put one last bite in his mouth and took a final sip of wine. “I don’t think I can eat another morsel,” he moaned. “My tummy hurts, it’s so full. That was a remarkable meal.”
“I’m glad you think so,” Susan said. “That’s exactly what I had in mind. Now, the bedroom!”
Vincent faltered, “W-what did you say?”
“The bedroom!” The timbre of Susan’s voice bordered the edge of harshness. “You do want to go to the bedroom, don’t you?”
“Why y-yes, of course, I guess so…”
“Come along, then.”
Vincent’s stomach discomfort was becoming more pronounced. A heavy meal normally did not bother him. He cast off all thoughts of indigestion by thinking about the exciting entertainment that Susan was promising. Hastily, he led the way.
In the bedroom, Susan ordered, “Off with your clothes!” She began unbuttoning her blouse.
This was unexpected. Vincent had counted on, at least, a token struggle for the conquest. Perplexed, he began to comply with her instructions. Susan removed her blouse.
“Off, off!” Susan ordered. “Everything has to come off! Don’t be embarrassed. It isn’t as if I haven’t seen anything like this before.” Vincent was surprised by the crudeness of her speech, but continued obeying her demands.
Naked, awkwardly self-conscious, Vincent stood before Susan. She pointed to the bed. “Under the covers. Now!”
He pulled back the blankets and crept under the sheets. The misery in his abdomen was increasing in ferocity. Glancing at Susan, he noticed the crimson birthmark on her left shoulder. “Susan, my wife had a mark like that,” he exclaimed.
Susan glared at him. The pupils of her eyes, now immense, blazed. “Do you think it’s a coincidence? Look at me, Vinnie Boy.” Susan bent forward as if to propel her voice with greater velocity. Her mouth was distorted as she opened it a crack and forced her words through gritted teeth. “Look close! Do I look familiar to you?” Vincent pressed his hands to his midsection. Only Nancy Beth had used that pet name. The anguish in his bowels had turned to a conflagration that was consuming his belly.
An awesome realization drilled itself into Vincent’s brain. “Nancy Beth! You’re Nancy Beth,” he whimpered. “You’re alive!” He clasped his hands to his belly. “Oh, honey, help me, I need a doctor.”
“You didn’t recognize me, did you, Vinnie Boy? Frumpy, lumpy old Nancy Beth is dead. Figuratively of course. She died the night that she supposedly ate the chocolates you gave her. But a new person was born that night whose life was dedicated to only one purpose – to take vengeance. That person took Nancy Beth’s old body, lost forty pounds, dyed her hair, quit smoking, threw away her glasses replacing them with colored contacts, studied voice, and started wearing stylish clothes. All this, so that she could have these few moments of glorious revenge!”
The inferno in Vincent’s gut was raging out of control. “Get me a doctor, please,” he groaned.
“You thought you had Tom Harris under full control. You thought you could order him to authenticate my death, and have my body cremated. You didn’t count on Tom’s not having the guts to do this. He told me what you are planning. When you gave me that box of chocolates and told me you had to work late, I disposed of them where they would do no harm. My stand-in, the body that was cremated was a convenient derelict from the morgue.”
“I took on a new identity and a new name. Tom and I fell in love. We’ve been married six months.”
“Nancy Beth, what’s happening to me? For God’s sake, please forgive me! I’m sorry! Honey, I’m dying! Please help me!” Vincent attempted to rise. He gasped for breath, unable to speak further. His eyes, drenched with tears, he carried on his pleadings for mercy.
“Stop that mewling, you arrogant, sleazy, lowlife, scumbag. You’re not dying! Tom gave me stuff for your chicken that was meant to give you a bellyache you’d never forget. That’s all! The pain will continue for a long time but you won’t die. I have to leave now. But, do think of me! Think of me a lot! Think how much worse this could have been. This evening’s banquet could have been a meal to end all meals!”
“Hear ye, hear ye, the Superior Court of the County of Los Angeles is now in session, the Honorable Lee Mannerheim presiding.” The judge settled into the massive leather chair behind the bench and the long awaited trial began.
The district attorney, William Crane, made the opening statement. “We will show,” he stated, “that on night of March 23, this year, the defendant, Henry Allen Wilton, brutally murdered his wife. We will show that his motive was control of the family owned corporation, Horizons Beyond.”
Henry winced when he heard himself accused of murder. He wanted to shout, “That’s a lie! I loved Jan!” But he couldn’t do this. John Barkley, had warned Henry that outbursts during the trial would hurt him.
When it was his turn to speak, Mr. Barkley asserted that the Defense would prove that his client was innocent. Someone else had committed the murder and made it appear that Henry had done it.
John didn’t mean a word of what he was saying. In private, he made no secret of the fact that he thought Henry was guilty. But everyone deserved the best defense that he or she could buy, and John knew that he was the best. He had been able to convince the judge to grant bail for Henry. It hadn’t been easy or cheap. Henry was president of Horizons Beyond, an international travel agency worth several hundred million dollars. John had utilized his skills of persuasion, honed to acute sharpness with twenty years of courtroom experience, to convince the judge that Henry Wilton wasn’t about to skip the country.
Henry had grown up in the Bronx. He had always had a manipulative bent and, in his youth, had ingratiated himself to some powerful movers who had helped him obtain an education at an ivory league college. Then, he had acquired an influential position at a well-known advertising firm. The same powerful friends had helped him infiltrate the highest strata of society. In his early thirties, he had met and fallen in love with Janice Ann Lansbury, of a prestigious San Diego family. She had returned his love and the wedding had been the gala event of the decade.
The couple made their home at the outskirts of Los Angeles in a luxurious a estate they dubbed Hidden Acres.
Horizons Beyond had been founded by Janice’s grandfather. At the time of the marriage, she was its sole owner. On their tenth anniversary, Janice had conferred upon Henry half ownership in the company. “How else can I show my undying love for you?” she had declared as they toasted each other at their anniversary party.
The first day in the courtroom was long and boring for Henry. The jury was finally selected and the court was recessed until the following day. John told Henry that the nine man and three women who had been selected to serve on the jury were above average in intelligence. This fact meant that Henry had at least a thirty percent chance to cheat the gas chamber. It could have been much worse. As Henry drove homeward, he reviewed in his mind how he had come to find himself in a battle for his life.
It had begun on the night of March 23. While Henry was away on business in Reno, someone had invaded the grounds at Hidden Acres. The person or persons had made their way into Janice’s opulent bedroom and had murdered her with one well-placed bullet in the brain. A silencer had probably been used since the maid had heard nothing and had not discovered the outrage until the following morning. Half a million dollars’ worth of jewels had been taken. The police were unable to uncover any clues. The murder weapon was never found.
At first, it appeared that Henry was completely in the clear since he had been in Reno on business for several days. Later, routine investigation by the Reno police uncovered the fact that Henry had chartered a private plane on the night of the murder, a plane that was capable of flying to Los Angeles and back in a time span of only four hours. At his hotel in Reno, Henry had not been seen from ten in the evening until nine the following morning. The State contended that Henry had ample opportunity to fly to Los Angeles, take a cab to Hidden Acres, secretly enter the mansion, murder his wife, and return to Reno during the time that he had not been seen. Henry had taken the jewels to make it appear that robbery had been the motive, they said.
Henry Wilton had been the only passenger on the Gulf Stream 840. The pilot, Mike Chandler, could not be located. When asked to explain his strange actions that night, Henry said that, on impulse, he had decided to take a trip to Montréal, but changed his mind after he and the pilot had been in the air for several hours. He had ordered the pilot to return to Reno. He had no idea where the pilot was now. Records at the Los Angeles airport told a different story. At headquarters, the police had laughed at Henry’s tale.
The Statewide Cab Company had a record of a Mr. Johnson having been picked up at the Los Angeles airport and having been taken to a point within a mile of the Wilton mansion. The driver of the cab that was prepared to swear that the passenger had been Henry Wilton.
The Porsche owned by Henry had been missing. A few days after the murder it was found abandoned in a San Diego suburb.
Henry had failed a lie detector test. The technician who had administered the test stated that he had never seen anyone fail a test as miserably as Henry had. Mr. Barkley told Henry that there was no need to worry. The test could not, and would not, be admitted as evidence during the trial.
A court appointed psychiatrist reported that he found Henry to be exploitative and completely without scruples. When asked whether he thought Henry was capable of murder, he said yes without hesitation.
John Barclay had laid it on the line. He was the best defense attorney in the country, but he couldn’t work miracles. He would deem it a victory if he could save Henry from the death penalty.
Henry was not worried. He felt that a miracle was not needed. He was convinced that when the verdict was read, it would be in his favor.
Arriving at his home, Henry pushed the button on the radio controlled door opener and drove into the garage. Another button alerted the valet that he had arrived. He walked the few steps along the breezeway to the side door. It opened just as he reached it.
“Good evening, sir.”
“Good evening, Thomas, did anything unusual happen today?”
“No sir, there were a few routine calls that I took care of. There were none that required your personal attention. Is there anything I can do for you now?”
“No, Thomas, you may retire to your quarters. I’ll glance at the evening paper and go to bed.”
“Very well, sir.”
Henry walked into the library and sat in his favorite armchair. He picked up the paper that had been made ready for him and skimmed the headlines. Looking over his shoulder to make sure that Thomas was gone, Henry reached for the ornate French phone located on the stand next to his chair. He dialed a number, then waited a few seconds.
“Is it safe to talk?”
There were some words on the other end.
“Yes, I know, dear, but it will all be over within a few days. Then we can let it all blow over and take a nice trip.”
Henry listened, then spoke again.
“Having you on my side makes all the difference. I’ll call you when I get home tomorrow. Good night, my dear.”
The proceedings resumed at nine the following morning. The clerk called out the familiar “Here ye,” and all present settled down for a full day. Henry and his attorney were seated at a large oak table. Flanking them on both sides were additional lawyers from the firm of Cohen, Adams, and Griffith. Henry new that they made an impressive array against the two individuals that the State had managed to pit against him.
The court room was packed. There was a raucous hubbub that Judge Mannerheim effectively quelled with a severe, “Order in the court!”
Henry stared at the judge. “Stern looking. Very stern,” he mused. John had told Henry that judge Mannerheim had a reputation for adhering to the letter of the law. If Henry were found guilty, he could expect no mercy.
Henry perused the jury. He tried to recall the professions of the members. He remembered that most of the men were in business for themselves. Two of the women were wives of office workers and the third woman was in business for herself with a dress shop. Feeling that he had a professional eye for feminine beauty, Henry studied the faces of the women. Not even one of the three was half as attractive as his sweetheart, he concluded. If the State had any inkling that he had been seeing this beautiful woman for over a year, they would have had a field day. He glanced at his watch. It would be several hours before the court would be recessed.
John leaned in his direction and whispered, “You should be paying more attention to what’s being said. Juries expect that.” Henry nodded and tuned in. The people were presenting a pretty good case. They had brought out a witness who was testifying to the brutality of the murder. Henry leaned over to John. “Are they allowed to be so graphic?” He continued with, “Couldn’t that be considered inflammatory? Maybe you should object.”
John whispered back that there was not much he could do. The Prosecution was within its rights.
“Approach the bench!” The judge severely summoned the attorneys from both sides. William Crane and John Barclay moved forward. There was an out-of-earshot animated discussion, then the consultation was broken off. John Barclay came back to the table.
“What did the judge have in mind, John?”
“The judge was very disturbed at the methods being used by the Prosecution. They were told to cool it. You were right, I should have objected.”
“How did Mr. Crane feel about this?”
“He was furious and made a formal protest. On balance, this was good for you. Your chances have improved a good deal.”
In the afternoon, a procedural battle erupted over whether an individual named Gordon Effram should be heard. Henry knew who Gordon was. This man could place him at the Los Angeles airport at eleven. His testimony would be devastating. John’s argument that the existence of Gordon should have been revealed to the Defense before the trial began was weak. But that’s all they had, and they had to go with it.
The judge listened to the arguments of both sides, then decided in favor of the Defense.
“It appears that the people had ample opportunity to inform the Defense of this witness, Mr. Crane,” the judge declared angrily. “I will not allow this testimony. I have to warn you, councilor, that your conduct in this matter has been duly noted. Now, as the hour is getting late, we will adjourn and resume at nine tomorrow morning.”
As Henry walked out of the courtroom, he discussed the events of the day with Mr. Barkley. “They don’t have a great deal left, Henry” John said. “The evidence is strong, of course, but it’s circumstantial. We have just one more hurdle to overcome, then I think you’ll make it.”
In the library, Henry depressed the digits of the number he had dialed the night before.
“Hello, darling,” he said, “How do you think the jury feels about what happened today?”
“No, sweetheart, I don’t have my eye on any of the women in the jury. I was just studying their faces to see if I could guess what they were thinking. When compared to you, they’re nothing.”
There was a pause.
“Yes, dear, tomorrow should be a decisive day. And do be careful. I caught you looking at me with that special way you have. There will be plenty of time for those looks later.”
On the following day, the State presented records from the Statewide Cab Company and offered the testimony of the cab driver who had driven a man close to Hidden Acres. The driver stated positively that the man was Henry Wilton.
Mr. Barkley introduced evidence that the witness had been fired from his previous position for drinking. The objections from the Prosecution were to no avail. They were summarily overruled, and the destruction of this witness was allowed to continue without interruption.
The State attempted to introduce records obtained from Los Angeles International Airport. John was able to have most of them stricken because of missing affidavits. This favorable ruling was based on a technicality, to be sure, but the Defense had prevailed.
The State rested. “Mr. Barkley, Are you going to make a motion?” Judge Mannerheim asked.
John seemed taken aback, then remembered that it was customary to move for dismissal on the grounds that the State had not presented a prima facie case. These kinds of motions were usually denied. He made the motion in a desultory manner.
“Motion granted!” The judge turned to face the district attorney. “Mr. Crane, the behavior of the State in this courtroom has been reprehensible. Whatever case you might have had was destroyed because of the slipshod, even clumsy manner, in which you conducted your case. See me in chambers immediately!”
There was bedlam in the courtroom over the unexpected turn. People rushed to congratulate Henry and his attorneys. The Prosecution was stunned and stood numbly by. Reporters dashed for the phones.
“Send me your bill,” Henry shouted to Mr. Barkley and hurriedly left the courtroom. A police officer drove his Rolls to the front of the building. Henry entered the car and turned the vehicle toward his home.
Meeting his valet at the door, Henry told him to take the evening off. He wanted to be alone and rest.
An hour after Thomas had left, the chimes announced a late caller. Henry hurried to the door and let in a beautiful visitor.
“You always did look lovely in black, your honor,” he said, but those bulky robes don’t do a thing for you.”
He drew her close and kissed her passionately
“I knew you were on my side,” he said “but what you did today was outrageous. They’re going to be very angry with you, Lee.”
“What are they going to do about it? Now that they don’t have you as the political victim of the century, they’ll have to go after Mike Chandler and the maid. My spies in the DA’s office tell me that they’ve had Mike under surveillance for several weeks. They didn’t move aggressively against him because they felt you were easier. In chambers, I told Mr. Crane what I knew, and what would happen to the pack.”
“Henry, you know what a stickler I am for ethical behavior. I wouldn’t have taken such extreme actions if I hadn’t known the truth. But, my love, what a dunce you were that night! When you flew down to see me, you played right into the hands of the Prosecution. It was lucky for you that the judge knew you were innocent!”
Andrea Fisher’s English was atrocious. This would not have bothered most people, but I would flinch every time she violated grammatical rules, used improper expressions, or mispronounced words.
I was an English professor at Wilcox Junior College. I felt that if one wants to express a thought, he or she should do it in the most lucid manner possible, using the most appropriate words. It is true, of course, that not all people will understand what is being said, but that is no reason why the conveyor of an idea should dilute its preciseness in order to fit some common denominator of intelligence.
A word about myself. My name is Gordon Mason. I am in my early 60s, of medium height, and somewhat stocky. My hair is thinning and there is a good deal of gray around the edges. My former wife and I were divorced about two years ago. While I had kept my face buried in the pages of Shakespeare, Bacon, and Keats, Martha had been finding occupations elsewhere to keep herself entertained. One day she told me she had fallen in love with a garage mechanic and wanted a divorce. She took the car and the bank account and left me the house. I thought this was a reasonable settlement.
I did not realize how much I would miss Martha. I tried to keep going as I had, but found that when my supply of clean dishes ran out, I had to wash some, otherwise, I would not be able to eat. And there are only so many times that one can wear a shirt before others begin holding their noses. I tried to resolve these problems by eating out more often, and by discarding dirty clothes, and buying new ones. But, these kinds of solutions were only partially effective as they were so expensive.
Then Andrea came into my life. I met her at a Christmas party. An associate of mine had asked her to accompany him. We were seated at the same table. She and I had an opportunity to talk while others were dancing. Andrea seemed interested in my ideas about Fitzgerald’s translations of the Rubaiyat Of Omar Khayyam, and we agreed to meet again for lunch the following week to continue the discussion.
Andrea was somewhat taller than I and about 10 years younger. Her husband, of 30 years duration had died the year before. She was slim and wore her auburn hair long. I thought she had a pleasant personality and was moderately attractive.
Well, one lunch led to another and, at one point, Andrea suggested that she come over to my place and cook. I gratefully accepted since going out for dinner every night had become tiresome.
It was at my home that I began to notice the odd little irregularities in Andrea’s English. In restaurants, they had gone over my head, but in the house they made a stronger impact.
“My friend, Agnes, don’t know whether to look for another job, “ she said while we were enjoying our dessert. I laughed and said, “Andrea that should be she doesn’t not don’t.” “You see, don’t is a contraction for do not. You are saying that your friend, Agnes, do not know whether to look for another job.”
“Oh,” she said, “I’ll try to remember that.” After dinner, Andrea washed the dishes and dried them. She noted that the floor needed sweeping and took care of that. Next she hung up some coats and shirts that were lying around the house.
We continued to date and, one day, Andrea called and asked whether I would like to eat at her house. Happily, I accepted.
During the meal, Andrea used the expression he done and she done several times. Each time she did so, my teeth grated. Finally I could stand it no longer, and with some heat, reminded her that she should have said he did and she did. She expressed regret for blundering and promised to do better next time.
Over the next several days and weeks, my friendship with Andrea flourished and we began seeing each other every day. We would eat out, or she would prepare a meal at my house. Andrea began to pick up after me, to sweep, vacuum, wash my clothes, make the bed, even clean the shower. She began to spend more and more time at my house. The quality of my life improved to a considerable degree.
It was like I had gained a housekeeper, errand girl, and cook, all in one package. All I had to do was speak a kind word to her now and then.
However, Andrea’s English continue to annoy me and I escalated my criticisms. One day I reprimanded her more severely than I had ever done before.
“Andrea,” I exploded, your English is insufferable. You use improper past participles, you don’t know the difference between the past tense and the present perfect, you use double negatives, you mispronounced words, and there are many more mistakes you make. I think we had better terminate our relationship.
Tears welled up in Andrea’s eyes. “Gordon,” she pleaded, “ain’t I good to you? Don’t I cook and clean for you? Don’t I wash your clothes and make your bed? Hasn’t I always went to the market for you and did your shopping? Why should a few mistakes in English make so much difference?”
“I know I am demanding a great deal,” I admitted. “But I am an English professor. What one says needs to be steeped in good grammar much like tea when it is being brewed. I know my manner of expression may seem pompous, but the correct use of English is an obsession with me.”
“I got an idea,” said Andrea. “Say the rules to me and I will write them down in a notebook. After that, I will practice and improve. We can start with a problem and work on it until I get the hang of it. Then, we can work on another problem, and so on.”
I thought this was a magnificent proposal, and we started with the difference between went and gone. Andrea bought a large notebook and, after dinner, we sat at the kitchen table. I explained the difference between the two words and she wrote down my explanations carefully.
It worked. Andrea stop saying went when she meant gone. She also mastered the differences between gave and given, saw and seen, and several other troublesome pairs.
One day, she met me at the door. “Listen,” she said, “today, after I came back from the market, I did the washing. Then I went to the bank for you and gave them your deposit.” Her face was aglow with ecstasy.
“I am delighted with her progress,” I said.
We worked on pronunciation next. When commanded, Andrea obediently brought out her notebook. Over the next several hours, I dictated a list of commonly mispronounced words and their correct pronunciations. “Practice these,” I ordered. She agreed to do so.
After pronunciation had been mastered, we worked on prepositions, then adjectives, then adverbs. And so it went for weeks. I must admit that Andrea was a conscientious student. She studied the notes until she understood everything I taught.
Andrea began speaking elegant English, but somehow I was not pleased. What drove me to do what I did next, I do not know. Possibly she had become too successful in English and I still needed someone over whom I could maintain a level of superiority. I began disparaging Andrea’s cooking, her dress, her driving.
Our relationship cooled. Uncharacteristically, Andrea began acting unpredictably. There were periods of time in her days that she could not account for. She defied my demands for explanations.
One day, Andrea informed me that I would have to go it alone for a few months. There were things she had to do and matters that she needed to think about. I was too proud to beseech her to stay. She packed and left.
The next few months passed slowly. I became depressed. My home became disordered again. The quality of my work at the school declined. I was called into the principal’s office.
After nervously clearing his throat, Mr. Hildebrand spoke. “Gordon,” he said, “I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. Your performance has been unsatisfactory lately. You don’t look well. The students are complaining. We’re asking you to retire effective the first of the month.”
“Surely my performance has not been that bad,” I protested. “And, in such a short time, you couldn’t possibly find anyone to fill my position.”
“Well, as a matter of fact,” he replied, “we have a replacement already. She is a Ms. Andrea Fisher. She’s an expert in the English language and has just published a book called, The Ten Most Common Mistakes People Make in English – – and How to Avoid Them. It should be a bestseller. We hired her as soon as she applied.”
“She’s your replacement. I’m sorry, Gordon, you’re through!”
11On this day, I did not go to the diner at the usual time. I had overslept and it was about nine. The Liberty Diner was a little less crowded than usual. I strolled toward my favorite booth and was unhappy to see a young woman already sitting there. She was reading a book while having breakfast.
There was an empty booth on the other side of the aisle. I selected one where I could keep the woman in view. She had caught my interest. First, she was reading a book. Nobody read books any more! I was a teacher of English Literature at Linden High School and no one knew this better than I. Second, she was attractive, but seemed lonely. Though not actually beautiful, there was a kindliness in her face that more than made up for that. Third, I was lonely too. At thirty, I had let love and marriage effervesce by being too preoccupied with academic affairs. These interests had taken their toll with wasted time. When the magic number of thirty arrived, I felt something should be done about catching up. I couldn’t tell what the woman’s age was but it seemed to be in a range that I should find acceptable.
The woman had not noticed me. There would have been no reason for this. She seemed thoroughly engrossed in her book. Every so often she would take a bite of food as if she had suddenly remembered to do it.
She had dark auburn hair. I couldn’t tell how tall she was since she was sitting. I would have guessed about five-five or five-six, perhaps a little too tall for me since I was shorter than average. She was thin and I was a little overweight. I found myself feeling ashamed of my thoughts. I was here to eat, not to evaluate the availability of a chance personal sighting.
The server came and took my order. It was the usual sausage and eggs over easy, home fries, English muffin instead of toast, coffee. “You’re late today, Ben.” Trudy knew my name since she had served my breakfast for, at least, three years. My name is Benton Harris. I don’t think she knew my last name. We exchanged the usual pleasantries. She attended to another table for a few seconds then disappeared into the kitchen. I turned my attention back to the young woman.
She had captured my thoughts! There was something special about her. I knew not what, but it was something I could not ignore. How could I meet her? I wondered. From outward appearances, she seemed to be the kind of woman that my mind had always pictured as being a perfect wife, kind of face, studious, physically appealing. Another person might immediately have gone to her and introduced himself. I’m not demonstrative. This activity would have been too bold for me.
She appeared to enjoy reading. I didn’t think she’d appreciate being disturbed while immersed in a book.
I could try bumping into her as both of us were leaving. No, there would simply be two excuse me’s and that would be the end of the encounter.
I could send her a note. No, she’d think I was a masher.
I might ask Trudy to introduce me? No, Trudy might feel this was not a role she should be expected to exercise as a server in a restaurant.
I couldn’t let the woman go. I might not see her again. Trudy had brought coffee but not my meal yet. I could go to her booth and ask what was the book she was reading. I was mulling over that idea when my food was delivered. I slowly began to partake.
The meal didn’t go well. I kept scolding myself for having been so ineffective. Now, she would finish eating, and I would finish eating, and we’d both leave, and that would be the end of today’s opportunity to meet the woman I found myself so strongly attracted to. Yes, I could come back tomorrow at the same time but there was no assurance she would be here again.
Shakespeare, through Brutus, had expressed my thoughts better than I could when he wrote something like,
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
This might be the day I would remember as the day I had let the girl of my dreams turn my dreams to a sea of regrets.
I continued eating and kept glancing at the woman from time to time. Once she looked in my direction and I quickly averted my eyes. I didn’t want to let on that I had been watching her. I resolved to be more careful.
I berated myself for having failed so miserably. The only plan I could formulate for the future was to come back tomorrow and embroil myself in the same ordeal. I ate without enjoying the food, or even being aware that it was being consumed. I saw Trudy bring the young woman a check. She paid her bill and left some folding money on the table. I returned to my food seething inwardly.
“Pardon me, may I sit here with you?” I looked up. It was her! It was her! I felt myself flushing in several colors. “N-no, n-not at all,” I stammered. “Please do!” She sat at the opposite side of the booth.
“My name is Emily,” she said. “I couldn’t help noticing you. You seemed so deep in thought. I was over there reading,” she said pointing to where she had been sitting. “I couldn’t focus on the words in my book thinking about you. Are you a professor?”
Now that she was closer, I could smell faint scents of perfume. “I-I teach at the high school,” I said. “In my spare time, I-I do a little thinking,” I said, realizing, with some humor, that this was as incongruous as stating that Fred Astaire danced a little.
“I eat here every day at about this time,” Emily said. “I bring a book to keep me company but I’d rather talk to someone. Shall we sit together tomorrow so you can tell me what you think about? I would like that.”
I readily agreed. Emily and I did meet for breakfast many times afterward. And for many years! Today, as I write this, we’ll be celebrating the thirtieth year of our marriage.
“Hello Hildy, it’s Millie. You were right! He admitted it to me last night. I’m calling from outdoors. I don’t want Gerry hearing me. I’m not going to waste any time on this. I’m going to use the same attorney you did.”
“Good thinking,” responded Hilda Ellis, Mildred’s friend. “Lee Williams helped me a lot with my divorce. Lee bled that scoundrel of mine as much as anyone could. So far as Gerry is concerned, I think the quicker you get that worm out of the house, the better.”
“Thanks, Hildy. You’re a good friend. I’ll see if I can make an appointment for tomorrow. Bye.”
Mildred Olsen initiated another call.
“Gerard, I’m making an appointment with a lawyer. Hilda gave me the name of the lawyer she had when she divorced Frank. I want a divorce as soon as possible.”
“Shouldn’t we discuss division of assets before either of us sees an attorney. This way, each of us will make out better.”
“No, Gerard. I think the lawyers, fighting it out, will decide the best division. I’ll be talking to my lawyer tomorrow, and I’ll need to know the name of that bimbo of yours. Who is she?”
“That’s my business, Mildred. There’s no reason to get her mixed up with this.”
“Well, we’ll see what my lawyer has to say about that.”
Mildred was furious as she abruptly broke the connection. She decided to walk through the nearby park to cool down and think things over.
She was about half an hour into the walk when her phone rang. She hit the Talk button and was assailed by an angry voice. It was Gerard.
“Where do you get off talking to my lawyer?” he demanded!
“I did nothing of the kind,” she responded. “I don’t even know who your lawyer is.”
“You talked to Lee Williams and made an appointment for tomorrow. Cancel it!”
“I’ll do nothing of the kind,” declared Mildred. “Lee’s name was given to me by my friend, Hilda. I have the right to be represented by any lawyer I want.”
“This would be a conflict of interest for Lee. Cancel the appointment!” He hung up.
Mildred hit the buttons for Hilda’s number.
“Hildy, that snake is trying to steal my lawyer,” she exclaimed.
“Lee Williams? He has the same lawyer?”
“Yes, have you any idea how that happened?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Are you sure you don’t. There’s something sneaky going on here.”
“If there’s anything sneaky, I don’t know anything about it.”
“Hildy, I hate to ask you this, but you and Gerry seem to be a very cozy couple. Are you the one who’s been having the affair with him?”
“No,” shouted Hilda! “How dare you suggest that?” There was a loud click at the other end and the call was ended.
Mildred placed a call to Gerard. “You’ve been seeing Hilda, haven’t you?”
“You know who! My so-called friend, Hilda Olsen, that’s who! I just talked to her. She all but admitted it!”
“That’s crazy, Mildred. I hardly know her.”
“Go fry an egg!”
Stewing, she sat on a bench.
The phone rang. She hit talk. “Yes?”
It was Hilda.
“You told Gerry I was having an affair with him?”
“I’m sure of it!”
“You’re out of your mind.”
She hung up.
The phone rang again almost immediately. She hit talk and shouted, “If you’re going to apologize, forget it.”
“This is Lee Williams. Did you think it was somebody else?”
“Yes Lee, I apologize for the way I spoke to you.”
“That’s all right, Mildred. We’ll have to cancel our appointment for tomorrow. I can’t represent you.”
“Why, for goodness sake?”
“I’m representing your husband.”
“I’m afraid so!”
“Can’t you drop him and represent me instead, as one woman to another?”
“No, I can’t. I’m the other woman, Mrs. Olsen! I felt you needed to know sooner or later.”
The phone disconnected itself when Mildred dropped to the floor in a dead faint.
We live in a world of witches. This is more of a problem in other lands than it is in the United States because we don’t use archaic language here any more. But we should know more about witches anyway. Here are the facts:
There are many witches in our country. They look like ordinary people, both men and women. There are bad witches and good witches. The bad witches can cast spells; good witches cannot do this but they can remove them where they exist.
If you say to a person, “Thou art a witch!” there may be a reaction. If he or she is not a witch, the individual may be offended, but nothing worse is likely to happen. However, if that person is a bad witch, he or she may cast a spell upon you. The spell will be such that it may be removed only by a good witch!
I can’t emphasize how important that last paragraph is!
In my youth I was at a diner one time after I had been reading about witches. There was a lovely blond woman serving me and I thought I’d try a new line. I said, “Thou art a witch!” The plan was that if she complained, I’d say I had yearned to be placed under her spell. As it turned out, the woman was a bad witch! She became very angry and, indeed, placed me under her spell. She turned me into a coffee cup! The picture at the front of this book shows what I looked like at that time.
Yes, that is a picture of me at the time. I was actually a coffee cup!
I had not expected this outcome and spent several days in this condition. But I was optimistic. Every time I’d be placed on a table and someone sat there to eat, I’d say, “Thou art a witch!” My hope was that a good witch would hear this and remove the spell. Most of the time the result was, simply, shock. After all, who had ever heard of a talking coffee cup?
After a week of this unpleasant existence, a pretty woman came to have breakfast. She was alone. I said, “Thou art a witch!” I was hoping she was a good witch so that she could remove the spell.
“Yes,” she responded. “I am a good witch.” I was overjoyed and begged, “Would you please make me human again?” She was willing but in no hurry. She wanted to know more about me. We had a pleasant chat, which was interrupted only when the server, a kindly-looking older woman, came to take the her order. I had found out a lot of good things about the young woman, but all she knew about me, up to that point, was that I was a coffee cup.
We continued our conversation, and I got the feeling that when I was a human again, we could take our relationship up to the next step. Eggs and bacon were delivered to her and she enjoyed this but I had nothing but coffee.
After the good witch had eaten, she changed me back to a human. At that time, I found myself sitting opposite her. We continued to chat. At the end, we exchanged telephone numbers and she left. The server came back and stared at me. “I didn’t see you come in,” she said. “How could she have?” I thought. I had been there all the while as a coffee cup!
I found this a little amusing and was chortling a little too loudly.
“What’s so funny?” she asked.
I was laughing by this time, and I said through my tears of laughter, “I was thinking about the time I said something I shouldn’t have and got turned into a coffee cup!”
“What on earth did you say?” the server asked.
“Thou art a witch!” I replied
The woman’s countenance took on a severe appearance “That was nasty!” she growled as she turned me back to a coffee cup.
My name is Rex Snyder. I’m not an astronaut but Mrs. Snyder and I are on our way to Mars. We left Earth on January 1, 2040. Today is March 1, 2040 and we’re a little more than half way to our destination. A great deal of progress was made last year in power generation and space technology. A new form of propulsion was discovered named fusion flame. A luxurious space vehicle was built by NASA, which enabled my wife and I to begin the trip and travel in relative comfort while underway.
The distance from Earth to Mars varies from moment to moment. The minimum distance between the two planets is about 40 million miles but in traveling from Earth to Mars, we’ll need to travel many more than 40 million miles; actually about 150 million. Because of this, NASA chose a happily married couple to make the trip. My wife and I are living in a bullet-shaped vehicle that doubles as a space ship and a luxurious home. It has every modern convenience that happy home owners could wish for. We won’t need to do any driving since our entire trip has been computer programmed. When we get to Mars, we’ll simply orbit the planet, then return home. There will be no landing. The entire trip was planned as a political coup. Several competing nations have been preparing to travel to Mars and our President decided it was imperative that our country be first. The voyage was begun even though the planning for it was only partially complete.
During the time the voyage was being planned, there was a contest throughout the United States to select the most eligible childless couple to go, Happily Lucille and I were chosen.
It’s been fun so far. On January 1, 2040, there was a short dash on a runway at Dallas airport. When Mars One reached a velocity of about two hundred miles per hour, it rotated skyward and escaped Earth’s gravity within a few seconds. Our ship is traveling at about 25,000 miles per hour. Lucille and I spend our time looking out the picture windows, enjoying elegant meals we prepare using the Fusion-powered range, reading, watching TV, listening to music, and, otherwise simply enjoying a life of leisure. We’ll be returning to Dallas on or about March 1, 2041. We’ll arrive at Mars on or about July 1, 2040. We’ll need to stay in orbit with Mars for a few days before the window for a return trip to Earth opens. During those orbits we’ll be taking thousands of pictures.
This trip is tedious despite the comforts. Lucille and I knew this when we were chosen to make the trip, but it will all be worth it because of the service we’re providing for humankind. I know she and I will be greatly honored when we return and I’ve been composing our arrival speech.
May 1, 2040
Something important has happened since I wrote the first part of this story. After March 1, life continued happily until today. NASA hadn’t told us but several weeks after Lucille and I had begun our trip, further advances in space technology were made and another couple was launched to travel to Mars. Their ship was Mars Two and it was twice as fast as ours. Around lunchtime, as we were looking out our starboard picture window, we suddenly observed Benny and Helen Brown looking out the picture window of another space ship as it overtook and passed us on its way to Mars. We learned later that Benny and Helen were going to arrive at Mars well before us, and that our ship had been turned around for a return to Earth. This was disappointing but, at least, we thought, we’d arrive on Earth in plenty of time to get a small amount of glory.
May 15 2040
Today, as we were speeding toward Earth, we were looking out the port window and unexpectedly saw Grace and George O’Brien looking out the starboard window of still another space ship aimed toward Mars. This was Mars Three. Even further advancements had been made in technology and this ship was much faster than Mars Two. It was going to arrive at Mars before Mars Two. The latter ship had also been turned to return to Earth. This was bad news but we thought we’d arrive back on Earth first.
June 1, 2040
Alas, this will not to happen. We’ve just seen Mars Two forging ahead of us on the way to Earth. A few days from now, Mars Three will go by in the same direction. NASA told us that, actually, Mars Three will be first to arrive at Dallas. This will be on July 1. Grace and George O’Brien will get all the honors. Three weeks later, Mars Two will land. Lucille and I won’t get back until September 1, 2040. Our ship has been declared obsolete. There will be no welcoming ceremonies for us. What is worse, our ship will not even land at Dallas. As a convenience to NASA, it will be redirected and parked at a huge storage yard in Houston.
NASA has scheduled our return to Dallas to be by bus but, at our own expense!
Bottom of Form
“What’s your husband doing in Albany these days?” Jill asked.
“I thought I had told you,” replied Belle. “He’s attending a teachers’ convention and should be coming home at the end of the week. How did you know he was in Albany?”
“I go there every so often to shop. I watch for the sales, and, you know me, I can’t resist a good sale. I was on Western Avenue, and I saw Ed going by. Didn’t have a chance to say hello.”
“The convention is on State Street,” commented Belle. “I wonder what he was doing on Western Avenue.”
“Well, I don’t think this has anything to do with anything, but he was with a nice looking young lady. Blond. They were deeply engrossed in conversation. Maybe they were on break and having some lunch. It was about two in the afternoon, I think.”
“Yes, that must be the reason. She’s probably a teacher also. And they had simply gone for a quick lunch.”
Belle Cameron and Jill Wallace were having coffee in the kitchen of Belle and Edward’s new home on Mason Avenue in Troy. They had been married almost a year and had recently purchased a small Cape Cod. Jill was a new friend. Belle did not fully believe what she had said about the meeting that her husband was having with a woman. She had full trust in him, and believed that there was nothing wrong, but there was just a slight hint of a doubt. “I’ll try to ask him a simple, innocent question, when he returns,” she thought.
It was Tuesday, and the days passed slowly. Belle couldn’t shake from her mind what Jill had told her. She was going to have coffee with Jill again on Thursday, and maybe she would learn a little more.
When they next met, Belle said, “I’ve been wondering, Jill, how the conference is going. I’ll be happy to see Ed when he returns tomorrow.”
“Funny you should say that,” Jill interjected. “I was in Albany yesterday and was on Western Avenue again. Would you believe, I saw Ed with a different woman. Red hair! I knew I shouldn’t do this, but I kept out of sight and followed them to see if I could find out what they were doing, so that I could tell you and relieve your mind, if you had had any suspicions. They walked together holding hands, until they came to a house on Wilson Avenue. They went in and I waited about an hour, but they didn’t come out. I hope I’m not telling you anything that you wouldn’t want to hear.”
“Well what you’re telling me is disconcerting,” replied Belle. “I will definitely need to ask him about this when he comes home Friday.”
“I’m sure there’s a very good explanation for all of this,” responded Jill. “I wouldn’t worry about it a great deal.”
“Well I am worried. He told me he was going to be at a conference, but I have not heard from him since he left, and I’ve been wondering how he’s been doing. I trust him completely, of course. But what you’ve told me doesn’t seem to have a simple explanation. I just can’t help but think that . . .”
“I would feel the same if I were in your shoes,” interrupted Jill.
It seemed to take a week for Friday to arrive. Finally around four-thirty, the door opened and Edward walked in jauntily. “Hi, Belle, I’m home,” he called out. She ran to him and they kissed their hellos. Belle resisted the urge to begin questioning him. This was not easy but she succeeded.
After dinner, as they were sitting in the living room, Belle said, “Ed, dear, how did the conference go?”
“As usual,” he replied, “dull, but informative.”
“Were there many people there?”
“Oh, several hundred, maybe.”
“What did you do for lunch?”
“There was a Burger King at the end of the block. I usually went there and had a couple of burgers.”
“Did any of the others go with you?” She asked nervously.
“No, I was usually alone. One day one of the guys came with me.”
“One of the guys?”
“ Yeah, I didn’t know him very well. I think his name was Joe.”
“Anything else interesting happen?” she asked haltingly. “Anything that you’d want to tell me?”
“No, nothing at all. It was all routine stuff.”
Belle was not satisfied with the conversation that she and her husband had had. As soon as she had an opportunity, she phoned Jill. “I talked to Ed,” she said. He didn’t tell me anything about the women that he had been with in Albany. “What do you think might be going on?”
“I think it’s very suspicious,” responded Jill. “He and that redhead seemed awfully cozy together. I wouldn’t put it past him to, well, you know! I have an idea; why don’t you arrange a little dinner party and invite me, and some others, and I’ll see if I can worm it out of him what was going on. I’m very good at finding out things that people might be trying to hide.”
“I’m not sure that will work,” objected Belle, “but it’s worth a try. I’ll keep you posted.”
After they had hung up, she went back into the living room, and exclaimed, “I just had a wonderful idea!”
“Tell me about it.”
“I’d like to have a party Sunday and invite Jill Wallace and your sister, Madeline, and her husband, Tom. How does that sound to you?”
“Those are sudden invitations, aren’t they, dear? Do you think they will be able to make it. It’s a coincidence that I was just thinking of inviting my sister and Tom for dinner. So your idea comes at a good time.”
On the following day, Belle phoned Madeline and was pleased that she and her husband would happily accept an invitation for the following Sunday. She called Jill and told her that she had arranged for a party on Sunday, and, of course, she should attend.
“Now, we’ll find out what that scoundrel has been up to,” commented Jill. “I’ve always been a little suspicious of him!”
“He may be doing something on the sly, Jill, but you’re judging him too soon. He could have had perfectly legitimate reasons for being with those women. I’m sure you’ll find out. Besides, this will give you an opportunity to meet my husband’s sister and her husband.”
“I’ll come early so that I can help with the party,” said Jill just before hanging up.
On Sunday, Belle and the Jill worked on the arrangements for the party which was to begin at two in the afternoon. Ed was in and out purchasing last-minute items.
Two o’clock arrived and everything was set for a gala afternoon. All that was needed was the arrivals of Madeline and Thomas, then the festivities could begin. Precisely at two, the doorbell rang. Belle opened the door and escorted the visitors into the living room. She turned to Jill, and said, “Jill, I’d like you to meet Ed’s sister, Madeline, and her husband, Tom.”
Jill looked as if she had been hit with a sledgehammer. Her face turned various shades of yellow, blue, and green. She opened and closed her mouth, but no sounds came out. She stiffened as rigid as a statue and seemed to be on the verge of toppling to the floor.
“Jill! What the devil are you doing here?” shouted Madeline. “I thought I’d never see you again. You have no idea the hate that I still have for you!”
“What’s going on, Madeline?” Belle objected. “Jill is my friend. Why are you speaking to her that way?”
“She’s a devious demon,” responded Madeline. “When I met Tom and we began planning to get married, this woman, that you call your friend, and that I thought was my friend, tried to convince me that Tom was being disloyal to me. She told me about things that Tom was doing, that were perfectly innocent, but she made it seem as if he was two-timing me. And she made up fake stories completely out of whole cloth. She wanted Tom for herself and was using the most vicious of schemes trying to take him away from me. Tom told me the truth and I ordered this evil person to get out of my life and stay out!”
Belle turned to Jill and exclaimed, “Those things that you were telling me about Ed and other women were lies!”
Jill did not respond.
“Belle,” Ed said. “When I was at the convention, there was a time when I was with Madeline. We were selecting an anniversary gift for me to give you for our first anniversary. She was the only woman I was with while at the convention. If Jill said there were others, she was lying!”
“The next move is up to me,” thundered Belle uncharacteristically. “Ed, would you open the door. I’m going to take this woman by the arm and escort her to the door, then, pardon my French, I’m going to push her out with a kick to her derriere.”
“I’m talking about a brain transplant,” Dr. Thorne stated calmly. He paused letting what he had said sink in.
Ten minutes before he had made this statement, Dr. Wendell Thorne had leaned back in his leather armchair and contemplated his visitor leisurely. Robert Moore had waited for the older man to speak. “Now that the preliminary groundwork has been laid,” Dr. Thorne had begun, “we can get down to business.” Robert had gazed at the distinguished looking doctor. He had had the uncanny feeling that this meeting was going to change his life.
The two men were seated in the doctor’s tastefully, but inexpensively, furnished office at the State Prison. Several framed certificates on the walls mutely testified to the fact that the gray-haired man was qualified to practice medicine at the prison. There was a pause. Robert waited patiently.
“Because of the work done by intermediaries, you and I finally dare to meet in person,” Dr. Thorne said. “I won’t waste any words. You are a very wealthy man, but are sentenced to death within six months because of an insidious disease in your body that cannot be controlled.” He looked for Roberts reaction.
Robert Moore slumped. Even as they spoke, he could sense the slow erosion that was taking place deep inside his body. Within a matter of months, perhaps only a few weeks, Robert Moore would cease to exist as a human being. Initially, he had resisted the ravages that were taking place, but he now had accepted the inevitable.
He nodded. It appeared that Dr. Thorne had done his homework.
“I’m offering you a possible way out,” the doctor had said. “For a sum of money, which I’ll mention presently, I can give you a new chance. In a sense, I can renew your life beginning at about age twenty-five.”
Robert had never been married. He was fifty-eight. The idea that he could be transported back to an earlier age spurred his interest to an immediate peak. He wanted to ask a thousand questions all at the same time, wanting immediate answers to all of them.
Sensing Roberts impatience, Dr. Thorne raised his hand as if to bar questions, and continued with, “Please don’t ask questions. You will learn quickest by letting me explain, step-by-step.”
“Benny Harris, who used to be a prizefighter, is on death row.” Dr. Thorne had begun quickly making every word count. “He’s due to receive death by lethal injection on January 23. He’s guilty of the crime of which he was convicted. He admits to beating a man to death with his fists and awaits death serenely. But he wants his death to serve a useful purpose. He wants to leave his family ten millions dollars. If you begin to see where I’m going, do you have any problem with what I’ve said so far, Mr. Moore?”
Robert quickly shook his head negatively. “No, no, of course not.” He exclaimed. His heart had begun to pound wildly.
“There are expenses, Mr. Moore. There are people who will certify that Benny died of a heart attack, others who will keep quiet about a special operation that will take place in the prison hospital. There is, of course, the cost of a suitable fee for…, well, for me.” The doctor flushed a little. “The cost to you will be ten million for what Benny wants to leave his family and five million for me. A good deal of my fee will go for quiet expenses.”
“I understand what you’re saying, Dr. Thorne,” Robert blurted. “Let’s say that cost is not important. But please, tell me what this is all about!” Robert Moore could not control the trembling in his voice.
“I’m talking about a brain transplant!” Dr. Thorne had paused letting what he had just said sink in.
“God! Do you mean that…” Robert didn’t know quite how to finish the sentence.
“A brain transplant,” the doctor. repeated “I propose removing your brain from the diseased body, your body, in which it is entrapped and placing it into the head of a healthy man – the head of Benny Harris, to be specific. Benny agreed to all of this for the welfare of his family. There are no guarantees, Mr. Moore. None!”
“I assume there is a reasonable chance for success?” Robert stammered.
“Yes, most assuredly. We have done brain transplants on animals for several years. The operations have been uniformly successful. Amazingly, in mice and chimpanzees, the body does not attempt to reject the brain of another animal. I feel that a transplant on a human being, at this time, would be successful. This procedure is illegal, you understand, but for the sake of science, and for a suitable fee, I am willing to chance it. The final decision is yours.”
Robert knew that his ultimate answer would be yes. But several questions nagged his mind. “After the operation, who will I be?”
Dr. Thorne smiled at the question. “You will still be Robert Alfonse Moore, the Wizard of Wall Street. You will continue to think like Robert Moore, act like Robert Moore, even write and speak like Robert Moore. You will, of course look like Benny Harris because every part of you will be Benny Harris except the part that makes you uniquely you – your brain. Yes, there will be a period of transition. You will have to go undercover for a while, grow a mustache and beard, have your barber shave off some hair at the front of your head to give you a higher forehead, spray gray color into your hair. You will need to gradually change your appearance until you are fully accepted in your new appearance. This is easier than it sounds, Mr. Moore. You will be surprised at how little people actually know about the faces and physiques of other people that they see every day.”
Robert wasn’t convinced, but what did that matter? He was being offered a chance to rid himself of this grisly disease that had made itself an unwelcome guest in his mortal body, and he was being offered an opportunity to relive many years, benefiting from the experiences of many right and wrong decisions he had made over that period of time. He might even get married this time around. He was not going to be deterred by the possibility that some persons would question his sudden changed appearance. He could handle that.
“Besides that, what’s the worst thing that can happen to me?” Robert asked.
“I can’t answer that question,” Dr. Thorne responded cautiously. “Needless to say, we are exploring new ground. You might die on the operating table; you might become a vegetable, in which case, we would not allow you to survive. You might find that you could not use your new brain. We just don’t know. But based on what we’ve learned from laboratory experiments, I believe that you will be you accept that you will reside in a far more satisfactory physique than the one that you now inhabit.”
Robert Moore eagerly gave his ascent.
Over the next several weeks, Robert’s body was racked with pain as he took care of the several transactions that were needed to transfer funds from long-term investments to this one most important investment of his life. It seemed as if a demon within his frame was attempting to do away with him before he had the chance to undergo his unprecedented act of transformation. The demon lost.
The operation was performed on December 6.
Robert Moore awoke in the prison hospital. After a moment of questioning as to where he was and what was happening, he began gratefully accepting his new role in life.
There was not a great deal of pain. He felt remarkably well, as if several sacks of gravel had suddenly been removed from his chest. There was a bandage around his head but this did not keep him from moving about examining every part of his body that was in sight and reach.
Earlier, he had seen a picture of Benny Harris and had been informed about Benny’s physical attributes, but now, for the first time, he could see what Benny was really like. There were freckles on his arms. This came as a surprise. There was hair on his chest, bristles on his chin. Somewhat self-consciously, he felt himself under the covers, and was not displeased with what he discovered. Robert felt that he had made an extraordinarily good decision in exchanging a prizefighter’s body for his old dilapidated one. He congratulated himself profusely.
Robert crawled out of bed and stumbled to the dresser. He stared at the ruggedly handsome face in the mirror. “Hi, Benny,” he muttered. Then in a stronger voice, he cried out, “Hi, Robert Moore!” The voice sounded like his but was stronger and more vibrant.
The door opened and Dr. Thorne walked in carrying a newspaper. “I see you’re up,” he said. “Everything went extraordinarily well, even if I do say so myself.” He opened the paper and pointed to a story buried deep inside. The headline read, “Convicted Murderer Cheats Lethal Injection.” The two men smiled at each other and shook hands.
The next several weeks went pretty much as Dr. Thorne had predicted. Robert went under cover and began transacting all his business by phone. He passed the word to servants and close associates that he had just undergone a facelift and did not want to appear in public for several weeks. He began to grow a mustache and a beard. A steady stream of messengers started delivering food, newspapers, soap, and other personal necessities to his home and office.
There were rumors that Robert had become a recluse and that he was emaciated and had grown long craggy fingernails. When he heard these reports on radio and television, he smiled. Soon, very soon, he thought to himself, he would begin making an occasional appearance to test whether people would accept his new look. He exalted in the thought of coming out and becoming accepted. He felt that he could then really begin to live.
The day for Robert’s first adventure into the outside world arrived. He had made arrangements to give a talk on how to invest at a local college. He got out of bed, dressed immaculately, sprayed some gray wig tint into his hair, mustache and beard. Satisfied, at last, that he had added just the right amount of age to his face, he began walking to the bathroom door.
Strangely, what should have been a simple maneuver required an extra effort of his will. His left leg seem reluctant to move, it seemed to have a mind of its own. It wanted to remain motionless while the rest of his body focused on the door. Puzzled, and with a strong exercise of the will, Robert partially walked the recalcitrant leg, partially dragged it, to its planned destination. He immediately regained control and the incident was forgotten.
Robert met the press before his lecture. A few reporters asked why he looked different. He confessed to a facelift and said that he had kept himself undercover for a long period of time because he wanted his new appearance to be a complete surprise to the outside world. Whatever suspicions others might have had were dispelled when he answered their questions with the kind of authority that only Robert Alfonse Moore could have commanded. Photos were taken during his talk and published in the papers.
Much to his distress, Roberts left leg proved to be unruly again the next day. He had ventured outdoors and, at the massive gate to his estate, had turned to walk right, but the obstinate leg had wanted to go left. He forced the leg to travel in the direction that he had intended. Greatly fatigued by this effort, he cut his outing short.
It happened again later the same day. While Robert was relaxing in his leather recliner, his unruly leg began pulling on him as if it were a dog tugging at his pants. The leg wanted to travel! It took all the mental strength that he could muster to keep this defiant member from carrying him off to some unknown destination.
Despite the lateness of the hour, Robert was compelled to call for assistance. Filled with foreboding, he dialed a number and heard Dr. Thorne’s sleepy voice at the other end.
“Doctor,” he began. “My left leg. It seems to have a will of its own. I know this sounds unbelievable, but at times, it will not obey the commands of my mind. It wants to go somewhere on its own, and I don’t know where that is.”
There was a long silence on the other end.
Dr. Thorne’s voice finally crackled across the line. “I can’t explain it all,” he said, “but it might have something to do with the clone syndrome that we are just beginning to understand. It is known that every cell in the human body has the property to reproduce another human exactly like the owner of the body. It’s possible that there is still a part of Benny Harris left somewhere within you. It may be that a remnant of Benny’s brain, in your left leg, is attempting to control that leg.”
Horrified, Robert asked what he could do.
“Wait for me,” the doctor exclaimed. “We’ll let the leg take us where it wants to. Maybe it just wants to go to the boxing ring,” he said with a hint of sardonic humor in his voice.
Forty-five minutes later, Dr. Thorne arrived at the Moore mansion. Robert and the doctor sat and talked while waiting for the disorderly leg to begin expressing its will.
They did not have long to wait. “It’s happening,” cried Robert. “The leg, it’s pulling at me.
“Go with it,” Dr. Thorne cried out excitedly. “Let’s see where it wants to go!”
With a cooperative Robert Moore, the leg led him and Dr. Thorne to Robert’s Rolls-Royce. Through subtle motions transmitted to the young man’s body, he was guided to drive to State Prison. Dr. Thorne gained entry to the prison. The car, along with its occupants, was allowed to drive to the prison’s hospital. The rebellious leg was controlling all actions.
In the hospital, the perverse limb led the two men to a laboratory buried deep within the bowels of the huge prison. In the lab, the trek ended in front of a glass jar containing a human brain. The label on the jar read, Benjamin R Harris.
“That’s Benny’s brain,” Dr. Thorne whispered in awe. “His leg has brought us here. It wants Benny’s body reunited with his brain.”
Quaking with fear, Robert gasped, “What can I do. Make it stop!”
“There is not a moment to lose,” Dr. Thorne shouted. “The leg must be removed. With it, you will be tormented for the rest of your life.”
“Anything, anything!” Blurted Robert. “Losing a leg is a small price to pay for peace.”
Hastily, an operating room was prepared. The required attendant personnel were swiftly recruited. They were told that Roberts leg was infected and had to be amputated at once in order to save his life.
The operation was performed. Several hours later, Dr. Thorne visited Robert in the recovery room. “How are you feeling, Robert?” He asked.
“All right, I guess,” he responded. I have pain, but that’s nothing compared to what I’ve gained. “Losing a leg isn’t so bad. I can get an artificial one made up. Despite the setback, I can still enjoy the life I had planned.”
“Of course,” Dr. Thorne assured him “the nightmare is over. You can now…”
The doctor stopped speaking and stared intently at Roberts hands. “Why are you doing that?” He asked
“Doing what?” A frigid ice cube crept up Robert’s spine.
“Why are you clenching your hands?”
He got his answer in an unexpected way. Just in time, Dr. Thorne was able to evade a vicious right and left combination thrown at him by Robert Moore’s fists.
It was Saturday, October 15, 2016. Norman Kendall awoke at seven to a voice that seemed to be coming from everywhere in the room. He opened his eyes and looked around. There was something familiar about the room, but it was not the bedroom in which he had gone to sleep the night before. He felt groggy from some unknown cause. He listened to what the voice was saying.
Norman Kendall, you are reliving a day in your life from this same date in 1991, Arise from your bed, and check to see whether your gun, in the middle bureau drawer, is there.
Norman was fifty-two. He was about five-ten, balding with streaks of gray in the hair that still remained. He was about twenty pounds overweight. His eyes were gray, as was his small mustache. He was wearing blue pajamas.
He placed his feet on the wooden floor and walked unsteadily to the bureau. He recognized the furniture in the room from a bedroom, having the same appearance as this one, in which he had slept many years before. Opening the middle drawer, he saw a small caliber automatic.
The voice instructed,
Do not touch it. Walk to the kitchen.
He was fast regaining his strength as he took the several steps that led to the nearby room. He entered the kitchen. It was not the kitchen that he had used for the last several years. It looked exactly like one that he had known from a long-ago past. At the kitchen table, was sitting a young, blonde woman. She had a cup of coffee in front of her from which she was sipping. She had on a pale, yellow night gown that had seen much use.
“Lillie,” he gasped. “You’re, you’re . . .” He was not able to complete the sentence. He had intended to say, “You’re alive!”
As before, the voice seemed to come from everywhere.
You are in the kitchen of your apartment on the same date as today in 1991. Help yourself to some coffee and sit facing this woman.
Numbly obeying the command, Norman did as the voice had directed. “Lillie,” he muttered, “Is this you? Am I dreaming? I need to wake up!”
Speak to this woman as you did on October 15, 1991.
The woman spoke for the first time. “I’m real, Norman dear. Tell me that you have found another and that you will be leaving me.”
“Lillie, that was in the past. You’re dead now. Why are you here, if you are really here?”
“We are reliving that date, that last date of my life. Tell me about Edna.”
“Edna was a momentary thing! She meant nothing to me! She stayed with me only a short time. What I did, I did from a moment of insanity!”
“Tell me, that you knew I was pregnant! Tell me that I was ruining your chance for happiness. Tell me that you needed me out of the way.”
“Lillie, that was all a mistake. I was looking forward to having our baby.”
“Tell me what you said when I told you that I would not grant you a divorce. Repeat those terrible words.”
There was silence in the room.
Tell her what you said.
“I didn’t mean it what I said! I didn’t mean it!”
Tell her what you said.
“Something about getting rid of her. But they were just words. I didn’t mean them!”
Do what you said you would do!
“I can’t. I can’t.”
The voice was fierce. The demand was intense.
Do it! Now!
Norman stood and walked back to the bedroom. He was gone for a minute, then came back with a gun. He faced the woman and pointed the gun at her.
“Say what you said to me before you pulled the trigger!” the young woman commanded.
Say the words! This is a reenactment of that date. You will not be set free until the reenactment is fully completed exactly the way it happened.
“With this gun . . .”
“With this gun, I put an end to you and that thing in your belly!” Ronald yelled strongly as if reliving the emotion he had felt on that day twenty-five years earlier.
“Then?” It was the woman’s voice.
“I shot you!” he shouted. “Yes, I meant to do it! You were in my way!” Norman pulled the trigger. A shot rang out. The woman fell to the floor.
Norman turned from what he had done, and strode briskly from the room and into the bedroom.
Three police officers were waiting for him there. They had heard and seen everything. Two of them immediately put cuffs on Norman and escorted him from the room.
The young woman had risen from the floor and joined the officer who was still in the bedroom. A young man came from somewhere and joined them.
Officer Jamison said, “What is the whole story, Ms. Farmer. How did all this come about?”
This is what Jessica Farmer said:
“The thing that he said was in her belly was me, I’m Jessie Farmer. Lillian Kendall was my mother. I’ve been told that I am the spitting image of mom. I knew my father would think I was his wife who he killed. There had been someone nearby who had heard enough of the conversation and who had acted promptly enough so that my life could be saved. Mom died but there was not enough evidence to charge my father. This reenactment took a lot of planning. We had these two rooms built. My husband, Ted Farmer, here, was a rock in my support. He and I drugged my father while he slept and brought him here. Ted was the voice that you heard. The gun, of course, shot a blank.”
“Your plan worked perfectly,” said the officer. “We might say that it was A Reenactment To Justice!”