The Death of Buddy Finn
As I forced my father's head beneath the bathwater, I wondered what it meant to love him. His wax-like arms sprang out of the tub, scrambling to get hold of my neck, but the old man had no strength left.
Joseph Finn moved into this house to escape his old life. He told no one of its existence, no one but his son. Now I would teach him what a sentimental lapse would bring.
His bony knees popped out of the water, and his heels kicked against the tile I had helped install during the remodel six months earlier. For two minutes he wriggled like a fish caught on the sand. When he stopped moving, I stretched out my fingers like crab legs, cursing him for making me try so hard.
I sat on the tub's edge, watching the water move. I thought about smoking a cigarette, but I didn't have one. So I sat down on the floor to use his black bath mat to dry off my leather coat sleeves. I tried to decide who died next.
I saw my dry cleaner every week. He knew my name and phone number by heart, and he only talked about weather and women. His shop had no air conditioning and the Arizona heat kept him drenched in sweat. His loop earrings shook whenever he laughed at my pitiful jokes.
When his wife pushed out their third child, he started asking about my divorce.
"Is it good to be free again?" he said. "How many new girls you meet?"
I wanted to say no. I wanted to say no every week, every fucking time he asked me.
"Yeah," I said. "All the girls I could hope for."
I couldn't tell the dry cleaner who washed out the champagne stains from my wife's wedding dress about the notes. The little scraps of loose-leaf paper with "I love you," "I miss you" and "Don't forget me" she had tucked into dozens of hiding places throughout my house. I couldn't tell him how I failed, how I let her go.
When he walked back to find my suits among the hundreds of plastic wrapped lives, I scanned the ceiling and corners for security cameras. I found nothing.
I glanced at the lock on the front door - no dead bolt, no security gate. The spare latchkey sat on the counter.
"Have fun tonight," he said, hanging my suit up in front of me.
"You bet, " I said.
The dry cleaner locked his front door at six p.m. and then pulled out two beers from his mini-fridge. He propped his feet up on the little desk he had behind the conveyor belts and stacks of hangers. From my vantage point across the street, I could make out the travel channel on his television.
He drank the first beer in two sips, which is easy on a hot day with American beer. When he started on the second, I had made it past the front door. The television masked my footsteps.
His cell phone rang.
"Yeah, I'm just counting the drawer."
I looked around the man, at his life stacked up around him. The garbage can filled with beer bottles. The war comics left open on the desk.
"No, I shouldn't be too long." He worked some more on the beer. "What? What's that?"
I reached for the jug of cleaning chemicals that rested on a metal shelf behind him. I found my lighter in my suit jacket.
"Sure honey, bok choy and chicken, whatever you want."
He ended the call and tossed the empty bottle into the can with its brothers. He switched off the TV.
When I set him on fire, he jumped and fell into the garment racks. The plastic caught easy and the fire spread. Row by row, those suits and dresses, those sweaters and designer jeans, went up like camera flashes. Each little explosion of light killed a memory or an event, a little something to remember them by.
I let the chemicals trail behind me as I left the shop. The fire followed me out the door. I stood in the street for a minute, watching it burn.
My son held out a real estate brochure. The houses all had tiled roofs and geometric pools.
"Very nice Jacob. You want a beer?"
I opened the fridge and went to pull out some Irish beer, like my father would have liked.
"No thanks. You have any wine?" my son said.
"No. When you start drinking wine?"
"Jessica started taking me to wine tastings. They're a good way to meet business contacts. I met my real estate agent there."
I opened the beers and sat back down at the kitchen table. My son had turned thirty-four a month earlier. He married his wife three years ago. He might not know me enough to miss me.
"You see your mother a lot?"
"About once a week, she likes Jessica's meatballs."
My other son Ken rarely saw my ex. He brought me pizza on Wednesday nights when I had to work late at the paper.
Jacob went back to his brochures, and I looked out the window. I had no yard, no buffer from the neighbor's house. I had no view.
"And this one here," he said, holding up a picture of a house that looked like it had floor-to-ceiling windows, "is near the better schools."
So now Jessica wanted children. She didn't have the hips for it, not like Jacob's mother had anyway. Why did my son marry a flat-assed woman?
"How long have you been trying to get pregnant?"
"Since last month. Didn't I tell you?"
I took a sip of beer and remembered the last time my father called me. He had asked me twenty-five questions.
"We're thinking Brittany would be a good name. We're hoping for a girl."
I would probably let Jacob live.
When Lisa pushed me into the corner of the old dark room, I worried the years of dust would stain my suit. I tried not to think about it as she tugged down the front of my pants and put me in her mouth. I tried counting the different colors streaked in her hair. I lost count at five.
I reached up to grab her behind the ear, trying not to pull on any of her four earrings, and she brought me farther in. Most days she busied herself sending me text messages from the intern's desk. Every so often she would pull me into the dark room when the editors went off for a meeting. I didn't want her. But a twenty-three year old journalism student didn't usually know how to work her mouth like this.
She came up for air.
"Come on, come in my mouth," she said.
I had been in the news business for thirty years, and I still hated deadlines.
When an article of mine actually hit the paper, it stank of last minute quotes and rushed research. I didn't write for the nationals, they would never know my name.
An old film roll hit the ground as I tried to support myself with one of the shelves. It cut a line through the dust as I exploded in Lisa's mouth.
The grin she gave me when she looked up had an impish glow. She ran her tongue over her teeth and swallowed. "You know I love you, Buddy," she said.
I could make out the holiday parade from six years ago on the film. The grinning face of the mayor stared at me as I buttoned my fly. I remembered standing next to the photographer as he tried to get close enough to block out Santa Claus, the screaming kids and their single mothers. I remembered rushing the interview so I could get home to my wife.
"Call me Bill," I said, as I walked out the side entrance to have a smoke.
My editors stood behind the rusted garbage dumpster smoking and laughing. Every job has its smoking circle, but journalists form one after every three hundred words. Before the paper took over the building, an auto repair company owned it. Thousands of words had pock marked the old bay doors with black smudges.
Janine, the city editor, laughed the loudest and smoked the most. She hired me ten years ago.
"Did you call the P/O about that wreck this morning?" she asked.
Community papers serviced community readers, and they mainly consisted of lookee loos and know it alls who had a sixth grade reading level. Along with parades, car accidents robbed most of my time. A high body count or a longer freeway commute meant my editors wouldn't require creativity from me for at least three days.
"Yeah, they're waiting on next of kin before releasing the body count," I said.
"We got four calls this morning from drivers. They said they saw at least two white sheets." Two people dead. If one's a kid, I could recycle my piece on safety seats. The fire chief would probably host another family preparation day at the station house. No thinking for a week at this rate.
"I'll head down to city hall later. Get the police report."
The top editor Charles, who we called Chuckie, piped in on every conversation. Fifteen years ago he might have known how to write a story, but the digital age had crashed his hard drive.
"You make sure we get the full report," he said. "They try redacting anything you let them have it."
"Sure Chuckie," I said. Fucker thought every cop and official had a hard-on for a conspiracy. The only secret I wanted revealed was how our paper stayed afloat.
I took the long way to city hall. I drove along the cotton fields and through the immigrant shantytowns. Mexican children tucked themselves together in front yards littered with beer bottles and broken cars while their fathers hung out on street corners looking for work. The summer haze forced their heads down far enough for all the white people to avoid their gaze.
Their stories came out in the paper in the abbreviated section. I knew their statistics but none of their names. Headless bodies in the desert didn't make the front page in Arizona. Every so often one would kill a white man, and my readers would assail my inbox. They called us hacks for not investigating the immigrant problem.
But I knew these murderers just wanted attention. People can only ignore you for so long before you lash out.
I caught up with Sgt. Morales as he walked into the station. As a legal Mexican, he always took my calls, and he sounded grateful when I took his.
"Hey Bill, what's shaking today?"
"You got anything for me on the wreck this morning? My editors are on my ass." I let cops think the newsroom still bustled the way it did in a 1940s double bill. That way they got a kick out of seeing their quotes in print.
"Yeah we had two fatalities," he said. "Looks like they were trying to avoid hitting a tractor trailer and crashed into the median."
"You find the families yet?"
Try writing a lead about the same story every week.
"Hey you hear about that dry cleaner fire on the east side?" he said.
"No. What happened?"
"This is off the record." Everybody thinks I'm Woodward and Bernstein. "But the guy's chemicals went up. Took him and the whole store out."
I nodded, trying to remember how to ask a question like a reporter.
"Another drug related death?"
"Don't know yet," he said. "Hey, don't you live out that way?"
My father's house looked no different. It sat on three acres in a gated community. The desert brush blocked most of the windows, and the mountain behind it blocked out most of the city noise. Heat screens shielded the windows and the Spanish awnings cast wide shadows around the property.
I entered through the kitchen door and dropped my keys and cell phone on the center island.
The tiled floor gave my footsteps an echo that bounced around the rooms like a pinball.
His body hadn't started to smell, or at least the smell hadn't made it through the bedroom door yet. I didn't need to go back there. No one would check on a man who had no mortgage.
The office still had boxes piled up from before the remodel. Paintings stood four deep against the walls and I had to step over the curtain rods that awaited their installation. I sat behind the old man's desk and blew dust off the lamp before switching it on.
Some boxes had "kitchen" or "bathroom" scribbled in green ink, but I knew which ones had the photos. After dozens of moves, I knew how to recognize a box by the breaks in the cardboard.
I pulled out the musty photo albums. Dad didn't have many, but what he did have were mostly of me. I winced at my graduation photos and allowed myself a slight smile at my baby photos. I hoped my mother had picked out the three-piece suits and trench coat, but I didn't remember the woman. Dad didn't talk about the old days.
When I found the wedding photos I looked at my then twenty-two year old wife and cried.
The day she left me I had stood on my father's porch drinking out of a whiskey bottle. The old man looked disappointed.
"The worst thing you can be is weak," he said. "No body wants to be alone, to be poor, or be sick. But if you stop being weak you can deal with any of it. None of it fucking matters, son. Only a weak man cares if his woman loves him."
I started burning the photos in the backyard spit before the sun went down. Without streetlights, the neighbors would be able to see the flame from a mile away.
I went for the baby photos first.
They went up quick. Old paper burns fast.
I lit my cigarette and wished I had more misgivings about what I had to do. But I didn't. This had to end.
The buzzing from the house kick-started me back to reality and I dropped some ash on my trouser leg. I tried to shake it off as I opened the patio door to listen. What was that sound?
Then I saw the red light reflected in the granite and realized my cell phone had messages.
Lisa had left me two. She wanted to know if I missed her. I'd have to add her to the list eventually. She wanted too much. She cared too much for me to let her live.
I flipped open the phone and dialed her number.
"Hey Buddy. Why didn't I hear from you earlier?"
"I've been working on a story, didn't hear the phone."
"I thought you would call. I've been sitting in my room all alone. I'm bored."
My father's fridge still had some beer in it. I opened a bottle and walked back to the fire pit. I tossed in the rest as Lisa talked.
"So don't you want to see me?"
"Sure I do. Why don't you come over later?"
A coyote ran into my father's yard and looked at me. I looked back.
I had smashed the pizza delivery guy's face into the wall before I realized it. He was dead less than five minutes after he asked me why he didn't see my wife around anymore.
Most delivery guys were students or women who needed second jobs. Like me, he was in his late 50s. He had no career. He made no difference. No one had a right to miss him.
I set the pizza down on the hall table before I dragged his body into the storage closet. He weighed too much for his height, and I to drudge up some strength to lean him against the brooms and rakes.
Lisa had her knuckles up to the door as I returned from moving the guy's car to visitor parking. I had tossed the other pizzas and company signs into the trunk. Her aversion to doorbells awarded her the luxury of acting hurt when I didn't hear her knocks.
"Behind you," I said.
She turned and smiled.
"Where were you?"
"Just checking the mail. I'm waiting on a check for a freelance piece."
Her hips moved well as she walked into the house. She brought the same purse and overnight bag every time. She liked to place them on the white armchair by the window; not knowing it was the only piece my wife hadn't picked out.
She went to the bathroom mirror to check her makeup. The pancaked foundation and black eye shadow made her look like a whore, but I didn't spend much time looking at her face.
During her first visits I tried to talk to her, tried to learn something about her. But when I realized she turned up drunk when she knew someone was going to fuck her, I stopped worrying about it. I kept cheap rum in the house.
She kept my hand pressed against her throat, forcing me to hurt her as I worked it up inside her. Her thigh felt thick as I squeezed it. She said, "oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck."
I could have pressed harder, could have choked the air out of her.
She started texting before I could return with a washcloth. I handed it to her and sat on the edge of the bed.
Her thumb worked the phone with one hand as the other wiped away what I left on her belly.
"You want to do something? I want to go do something," she said.
The tattoos that scarred her beautiful body had no discernible flow. I thought about all the areas I had kissed, not knowing what memories I was placing my lips against.
"What's this one?" I said, pointing to a cartoon figure on her thigh.
"I don't know. Don't remember."
I watched my editors move around the room over the tops of my feet. The office chair wobbled under my weight. Janine wrote out the story list on the whiteboard.
"What do we have for Saturday?" she asked.
The others shifted their eyes around the room. They tapped their pens on their notebooks. Shuffled their feet.
"Well, come on. No ideas?"
Janine's eyes had started growing bags. Her skin had the stretch of cheap leather, and I could smell last night's vodka when she got close.
"We do have the little girl with leukemia. Her mother's been calling."
Chuckie sat behind his desk, cradling his head. He grinned at all of us like a pound dog hoping to get picked. I adjusted my left leg to block him from my view.
"There's also a few charity events at the schools. I have the press releases at my desk."
The photographer behind me leaned closer to listen. He had covered four assignments that morning, and his car didn't have air conditioning. I held my breath.
"Hey Buddy, what about the crime beat?"
I looked up at Janine. The office heads all turned in my direction. I sat up and picked up my notebook. Flipping through the pages, I tried to find some story thread I could bullshit with.
"Hasn't anybody died lately?"
My bathroom mirror made what little looks I had seem arbitrary. The light provided no flattering shadow to my hanging stomach. My shriveled penis frowned back at me.
I ran the straight razor against my neck, cutting away the beard from the last few days. I avoided eye contact with the mirror. The aftershave didn't burn, but I made the face I watched my father make when I was a boy.
Most hangovers turned the stomach and pinched the eyes from within. But my head made due with a Top 40 list I would never listen to otherwise. Sade's "Smooth Operator" greeted me that morning, and I had yet to shake it off.
My watch told me I should have met my son Ken twenty minutes ago. I had to dress fast.
I started wearing black suits exclusively in my early 20s. My father told me the men people took seriously always wore black suits. I hoped one day he would be right.
As I stepped out to lock my door, a police patrol car pulled up in front of the house. I heard no siren, no other cars in the area. They didn't have enough yet.
Most of the cops in this city look like fresh fruit. With only five or so murders a year, they didn't do much but bust drunken teenagers and calm down old ladies that heard noises.
"Are you Mr. Finn?" he said.
A lesbian cop stood by the car. She nodded in my direction, trying not to look threatening. But the way her hand fidgeted with her pistol clasp had me thinking she wanted trouble.
"We just want to ask you some questions about Ben Poe, he delivers pizzas for that place up the road," the first cop said.
Second cop nodded, again.
"I mean I order from them, but I don't know any of the drivers' names."
"Did you order one two nights ago?"
"Ben's gone missing. According to his order sheet you were the last person he delivered to."
I hadn't had time to move the body, or the car. I wanted to look at the storage closet, check its seams for blood. I wanted to, but I didn't.
"Oh really?" I said. "Well I got my pizza. Same as usual."
"So he delivered to you and left?"
"Yeah, far as I know."
The cops looked at each and nodded.
"Then why's his car parked out there in visitor parking?"
As my son Ken ordered the big steak, I threw back my whiskey.
We went to Irving's most weeks. Only a mile from the house and their waitresses looked liked Hitchcock blondes.
Most of the other tables had older people or tourists. My city wasn't a place for up and comers; it was a place people went to die. These slow walkers put on their white sneakers and thousand dollar sweaters to go out and talk about the weather.
They liked it when it got hot.
"Did you know your brother is trying to have a baby?"
Ken shrugged. He drank some of his German beer and smiled at me. The kid didn't care for drama, and his interest in other people's affairs didn't last long. He didn't have a reporter's nagging mind.
"So maybe he will, maybe he wont," Ken said. "Just another seat at Christmas dinner."
Usually I wanted our dinners to last. But I had to move a body before the cops came back to take a closer look.
I smiled back at the kid and excused myself from the table. I figured if I hurried, he would believe a lie about an upset stomach.
When I entered the marble bathroom, a couple men smiled at me the way men do in restrooms. So I smiled, shrugged and sighed when I opened my fly.
The framed front pages from the day's papers stared at me as I pissed. My eyes caught "Victim's wife seeks aide after dry cleaner fire." The lead dragged and the reporter left the plea for money in the fourth paragraph. I couldn't find one neighbor reaction.
As I made my way back to the table, a smiling blonde walked away from the table.
"What's her name?" I asked, sitting down.
"Marcie something." His eyes followed her shake from across the room. "You know I like blondes."
"Yeah son, I know."
The neighbor's cat stared from atop the concrete wall. He refused to look away. I sat on the dusty patio chair, trying to keep the cobwebs out of my hair while I smoked.
I needed a smoke while I figured out what to do.
"I know I'm not impressing you."
He finally got bored and started licking himself.
I blew smoke out and closed my eyes. I needed to calm down.
When the banging started, I looked up at the cat. He didn't look interested, and he jumped back into the neighbor's yard.
I crept back into the house and toward the sound. The window in my office shook, and that window connected to the wall next to the storage closet. I got closer to the window, straining to hear. I could hear muffled noises in between the banging.
I opened the front door. Old Ben Poe had fallen out of the closet. His gut was suffocating Lisa.
Her black knee-high boot kicked against the wall. Bang. Bang.
Dried blood and brain shook out like snowflakes over her as she struggled to escape the death hold. I hesitated, but I had to stop the banging before anyone else heard.
I grabbed her ankles and held tight. The muffled screaming got louder.
Ten seconds went by. I sighed, and then lifted the body with my shoulder.
She let out a giant breath and then went to scream again. But I pressed down on her mouth as I lifted the rest of Ben off her. "You need to shut the fuck up Lisa."
Her eyes watered up, but she listened. I let her go and pushed the body back into the closet. The blood trail had spewed against most of the spare paint and boxes I had stored away. The paint my father had picked, the color I was going to use for my kitchen.
"Ohfuckohfuckohfuck," Lisa said. Then she took off running.
The next morning I pulled up into the circular driveway in front of Jacob's house. I couldn't figure why my son felt he needed to move from this place.
I stopped to smoke before I went in. Jessica didn't like people who smoked, and she had no problem letting me know. So I took my time, watching my son's neighbors walk their dogs. They all had that smile rich people have on the weekends. The shiny grin that says I don't really need this time off.
Beneath their white baseball caps, with the buckle in the back, they stole glances at my wrinkled pants and splotchy shoes. I looked sad. They didn't like that.
Inside, Jessica bustled about the living room, laying out exotic cheeses and crackers. Her parents beamed. Jacob sat next to them, showing them the real estate brochures.
"Can I get you something Buddy," Jessica said.
"You have some whiskey?"
She went to the built in bar, with its stainless steel sink and poured me a drink from a dusty bottle.
"So what do you think of the neighborhood we're looking at?" she said, handing it to me.
"Very nice," I said.
"Well they'll be only a couple of miles from our house," Jessica's mom said.
I nodded and walked over to the bookshelf. Every title had the word "novelization" written under it. All except mine. My first and last shot to escape looked slim next to these blockbusters.
When I published that novel, my wife wore the short pink dress, with the stringy hem, and she let me rip its thin shoulder straps as I fucked her against our wooden kitchen table. Stolen from one of the many moves, the table had traveled more than 5,200 miles from Ireland when my grandfather moved to America in the early 1900s.
My wife had expected the book to chase that relic into a starring role at some sad yard sale, its thick legs drawing shade lines in the grass. But my passion for words barely paid the mortgage, and over the years her domestic aspirations drooped as low as her ass. I had loved that ass, stealing handfuls as she folded my black sweatshirts or when she leaned over to toss pennies into fountains. But early on she decided I would only get what I wanted if she got what she wanted.
When she left me, I hadn't held her ass in eight years.
My novel went down easy, like whiskey on Sunday morning. But it didn't make money. No one bought things chaser-free these days.
The photographer's trunk had guns. Six I could see, probably more I couldn't. We didn't have gun laws in Arizona. We had gun allowances.
Thomas told me he had to keep himself protected, that I didn't know the dangers a photographer faced. But he covered the same areas I did. And he rode along with the same police officers and firefighters. Only I had air conditioning. Maybe he wanted to shoot the heat.
He slipped a handgun into his camera bag, and we walked into the local church together. As we waited for the head of the parish, I flipped through magazines in the waiting room. Thomas leaned against the secretary's desk, breathing heavy and wiping his brow.
"I knew a girl who used to work here," he said.
Thomas hated silence, and I had to go through this on every assignment. Whether it was imaginary or not, I didn't have time to think about this much pussy.
I opened a gardening magazine and pretended to read.
"Her as'ole was so tight, thought it had pinchers in it."
I had to ask the lead man about one of his members who had a heart attack last summer. He dropped dead on the golf course, surrounded by ten of his best friends. It had spurred the church to promote heart safety. My editor wanted me to spread the word. A community piece to buffer the car crashes.
"She had skinny legs and a big ass. You know real skinny. Like, you could lift her and fuck it at the same time."
The secretary looked up at us.
"Everybody likes a big ass Thomas. Shut up now."
I tossed the magazine down and stretched out my collar.
"Yeah whatever. You and your suits."
The church courtyard had three non-working fountains. Cherub angels huddled around their concrete virgin mary. Their poised bodies had white stains around their edges, leftovers from the chlorine dumped in to wash out the bird shit and algae.
Built before the public health warnings had infiltrated the state's conservative dictum, the church still had ashtrays built into the pavement. Whatever Mexican maintained the property had drawn little crosses in the sand. When I flicked my ash on it, I imagined them flying away like little bits of Jesus's flesh.
I was born Irish, so I was born Catholic. I didn't hate the Church, but I spent more time looking at its architecture than I did kneeling in its pews.
I saw at least five cop cars parked on my street. I stopped my car before I got to my house, stepping out slowly. The old woman from next-door held congress over the other neighbors. Her red shawl blew back and forth as she filled them in.
The baby who lived across the street with his young parents tossed his rattle at her, but she didn't notice when it struck her knee.
"She was in my living room, blood was everywhere," she said.
I peered through the broken windows on the woman's house, but the cops had surrounded whoever had broken in. The broken armoire was a liquor cabinet, and I could see the bottles of sherry that remained on its shelves.
"Maybe if we had more police patrolling our neighborhood these things wouldn't happen."
An ambulance pulled up and the EMTs parted the crowd with their stretcher and stormed into the house. They lifted the woman from the pool of broken glass and began checking her vitals.
"Wait'al ya see this tramp."
When they wheeled her out of the house, Lisa searched the crowd with a glazed look. She didn't see me.
I ducked into the office ten minutes after my shift started. Janine stood at Chuckie's desk waving her hand in front of his face as he typed. He tried to swat her away, but she refused to budge.
I dropped my notebooks on the desk and waited for my old monitor to boot up. The coffee I took from the break room fought the cream from mixing with it. Thomas's empty desk chair had rolled over to my desk, and I kicked it away.
Chuckie finally started listening, and his mouth had dropped. Janine had her hands on her hips like an angry cartoon mother. She turned her hips and looked at me. Chuckie's eyes followed.
I pulled a cigarette out of my coat pocket and got up to leave the room.
"Buddy we need to talk," Janine said.
I had whiskey in my car, and I knew it would slow her throaty voice from reaching inside me. If I pretended not to hear her, I might make it.
Chuckie started shuffling toward my desk, but Janine beat him to it. I hadn't stood up before her stare pushed me to the back of my chair.
"There's a police officer in the publisher's office," she said. "You need to come in there with us."
I downed the coffee and lit my cigarette.
"Is she dead?" I asked.
The police officer looked over at the publisher, who kept his hands neatly folded on his pompous frame.
"No Buddy, she isn't dead," the publisher said. "But the officer would like to know why she broke into your neighbor's house."
Janine's face had boiled to playing card red. The day's story notes had started to rip in her hands. She lifted one high heel up over the other and then back again. She stared at me.
"Beat's me. Bitch is crazy," I said.
Chuckie laughed. He laughed hard and then snorted as he tried to hold it in. The publisher looked over at him with disgust. Chuckie bowed his head but kept laughing. When he looked up at me, he rubbed the back of his head and smiled wide.
"Mr. Finn, why would an intern at this newspaper be in your neighborhood, if not to see you?" the officer asked.
"Look, why would I tell an intern at this newspaper to break into my neighbor's house?"
Janine didn't like doing it, but she smiled. Reporters love it when other reporters fuck with cops.
"Mr. Finn, were you involved with Miss Gray?"
The publisher sighed, but his belly wouldn't let it out. His eyes told me he blamed Janine and Chuckie for letting this happen.
"She wasn't my girlfriend," I said, looking at the publisher. "But, yeah, she came over sometimes."
"We found a significant amount of drugs in her system. Did you know about this?"
"Bitch is crazy."
From across the street, I watched the blonde leave Ken's house. She looked like a woman who knew what to do. I'm sure he enjoyed himself.
I knocked on the door. I heard Ken's footsteps as he walked across the tile to the front door. For his nightly cigar, he usually left his office window open. Anyone on the street could hear everything in his house.
He opened the door.
"Hey son, can I come in for a minute?"
He nodded and let me in.
He shut the door and leaned against it. He put his cigar in his mouth and crossed his arms across his white T-shirt. He leaned one leg across the other.
"Whattya want, coppa?"
A pair of dogs barked outside. A car pulled into the neighbor's driveway. A garage door clanked against the rails.
"How about a beer?"
He started walking toward the kitchen before I finished the sentence. I walked into his office and saw the remnants of a rendezvous. I stepped over scattered pillows and a pair of red panties. I shut the window.
Ken handed me the cold pilsner glass and took a seat at his desk.
"Why didn't you call," he said. "It's pretty late Pop."
"How was she?"
He shrugged a little and pushed off some ash. Behind his head I could see his college graduation photo. My wife wore the green dress. It ended at her ankles.
"I started seeing a woman, myself."
"Oh yeah? Where did you meet her?"
"At work. She's in love with me."
He sat back in his chair, frustrated. He eyed a bottle of scotch on the side table, but he didn't want me to notice. I took a sip of beer and looked into the glass.
"Do you want to sleep it off in the guest room? I have some work to catch up on, but I'm going to call it a night pretty soon."
Ken's phone lit up on the desk. He picked it up and his fingers started flying over the inaudible keyboard. I took another long sip of beer.
I put the glass down on one of the leather coasters and walked over to the desk.
"Hang on, it's Mary. She forget her..."
I lunged at Ken and got my hands around his throat. The phone dropped on the desk and the cigar fell on the floor, smearing the white carpet.
His face showed nothing but surprise. He tried to speak but put his energy into hitting my wrists. I wouldn't let go. We fell to the floor, and I pressed down with all my weight.
He tried hitting my face but it didn't stop me. His leg kicked the desk. It toppled over and his fancy computer skidded a little before conking out.
I heard footsteps behind me. But I had finished killing my baby boy when Mary screamed. I saw her raise her hands to her face like some horror scream queen before she turned and ran.
I picked up the pilsner glass and left the house.
Lisa sat propped up in her hospital bed watching reality TV. Without her makeup, I could see the lines of worry beneath her eyes. Her streaked hair lay upon the pillow like a vomiting rainbow.
A white bandage covered one eye and another wrapped around her arm. The real Lisa didn't turn me on.
She finally noticed me, and she smiled.
"Buddy! Oh, I'm so glad you came."
I sat down on the bed and rubbed my thumb on her wrist.
"Are you OK?"
"I feel like shit, you know? Don't worry. This isn't like me. Usually I can handle my shit." She said shit like she owned the word.
The reality stars started screaming, throwing things. I heard sirens coming from somewhere.
"Did you tell the cops what you saw?
Lisa looked hurt.
"No, you killed a guy. That's so fucking hot."
I moved my hand up her hospital gown. I felt for her nipple ring and gave it a tug. When she smiled, the dried cracks in her bottom lip widened.
"They only come by to check every hour. You can fuck me, if you want."
I heard more sirens. I though of my father's house. The dead quiet that welcomed every echo you introduced it to.
If they found him, when they found him, would they make out the look of disappointment on the old man's face? Would they know he felt disappointment in himself, and not for the son who killed him?
"You can hurt me, Buddy. I'll help you kill the next one."
"I would like that."
I broke her nose with the first punch and probably her jaw with the second. I wouldn't stop until I killed the last person who loved me. Until no one who knew my name thought anything of it.
But the gunshots interrupted my triumph. The first bullet went through my shoulder and the second dropped me off the bed. I looked up into the face of the lesbian cop.
"Don't fucking move," she said.
Doctors hurried in and surrounded Lisa. I listened. I heard her buried voice sputter out through the blood, "STOP!"
Everyone in the room turned. Lisa hanged her head over the bed to look at me. She squinted and her jaw drooped like a donkey's.
"Don't kill him, please don't kill him. I love Buddy Finn, I love him."
The lesbian's boot pressed into my shoulder wound. I coughed. It hurt.
I hunched forward and looked her in the eye.
"Why didn't you let me die?"
About the Author
Michael Famiglietti has written for the Arizona Republic, Scripps Howard Foundation, Arizona Highways and various art publications. Since leaving daily journalism, he has focused on writing short crime and pulp fiction. When not working on a new story, he's building his film noir and old paperback collections. He's listened to way too many commentaries. Reach him at www.twitter.com/famigliettiwise.