“Hey, Mark, how’s it going.” The bedroom light snapped on overhead.
Mark sat bolt upright, whipping off the coverlet, which was surprisingly hard to do in a waterbed.
It was Detective O’Hara, standing over him, right beside the bed.
He had a long and speculative look on his face as his eyes slid over the room.
He had a long and speculative look on his face as his eyes slid over the room.
“Holy, Jesus, you scared the shit right out of me.” Mark blinked at the cop, whose jacket was hitched back suggestively, revealing the pistol on his belt.
His hand hovered casually over the butt, near enough as made no difference.
“Sorry about that, Mark.”
“Ah, yeah.” Amy was gone again, after yet another night of partying, drinking, smoking hash and other things, and then they’d had some pretty wild sex.
His glance darted around the room.
What evidence had they left behind?
Her clothes appeared to be gone, and he rubbed his eyes.
“Come on. Get up.”
Mark swung his legs over the side, trying to bite back the resentment. Fucking O’Hara wanted something. That much was evident.
“It’s okay, Mark, I just want to talk to you.”
“Honestly, you got no right to come walking in here—whether the door was locked or not. Whether you’re a cop or not or whether you got a fucking God-damned key or not—”
“Shut up.” O’Hara’s hand was on the butt of the gun now.
“I need some pants, for crying out loud.” This was too much. “Who in the fuck do you guys think you are?”
What in the hell was their problem?
“Fine. I’ll shoot you right there. Get moving.”
“Fuck, people have rights, detective.” Mark’s voice had gone up half an octave.
O’Hara stepped back, training and experience coming to the fore. His fingers curled around the gun-butt. Mark was kicking up a fuss, uncharacteristically for him.
“Get.” O’Hara beckoned with the left hand. “Come on, Mark. Don’t make me get tough.”
He lumbered up out of the bed.
Mark shuffled out into the living room, O’Hara following watchfully. He would have been stark naked, except that during the night he’d had to pee, and he'd left the curtains open on the front windows. His underwear was thankfully pretty clean, but for how much longer no one could say…
“What in the hell is this about?”
Mark’s mouth fell open when he spied a coil of thick manila rope on the chair nearest the door.
“Detective. What in the hell—”
O’Hara pulled the gun and pointed it at Mark’s nose.
“I told you to shut up, punk. Creep. Weirdo.”
The cat came in the window just then. It hadn’t been seen all day, not since the night before last.
Mark had concluded that it might not be his cat after all, and that maybe someone else was feeding it. He didn’t think it was in heat. When it went to rub itself on Mark’s leg, O’Hara’s foot lashed out and he kicked the thing as it went past.
Mark’s blood was quickly coming to a boil.
The trouble was that gun.
O’Hara had him seated on one of the maple chairs in the living room, hands cuffed and the chain through the spindles of the back. The detective was going through the place in a halfhearted search. It seemed like he was just taking a look around. He opened the front closet, just inside the door and grunted.
Whatever he was looking for, he wasn’t going to find it in there. Mark didn’t own a single coat-hangar.
Keeping the gun pointed at Mark, he took a quick look in the bedroom. Mumbling to himself, he took a quick walk down to the end of the hall. The linen closet was shallow, shelved from a couple of feet above the floorboards all the way up to the top. He tried the kitchen. The kitchen pantry was bigger. This was a small room of about three feet wide by four feet deep, with more shelves and even some wooden bins for potatoes and the like at floor level. He snapped on the light, and Mark could see him in there, seemingly at a loss.
Mark’s face was flushed with anger. He couldn’t really resist a cop, not one with a gun pointing at him, but this was outrageous. Were they all like that? His thoughts went back to Schenectady.
The detective came out, his face clearing. He put the gun away.
“It’ll have to be this one, then.”
Ignoring Mark, he picked up the coil of rope and went to work. There was a sickness in Mark’s stomach as the man revealed a noose and slip-knot arrangement. Kids often made them for fun, hanging them up on the way to school as Halloween approached. He’d done it himself, more than once, on Devil’s night. The other end of what was only eight or ten feet of rope went over the steel pipe of the coat hangar, stretching from side to side inside the closet.
“What…in the hell…” Is going on here.
“This is not your day, Mark.”
“I asked you a question, Detective O’Hara. But why don’t I just answer it for you? A certain kind of psychopath revisits the scene of the crime.”
With a smile, O’Hara took out the keys to the handcuffs.
“Well, I guess I can understand your feelings in this matter. You don’t know what’s going on, and you feel you deserve an answer. Hmn.” He appeared to consider the prospect as Mark’s guts churned. “Not a bad guess, actually. Honestly, the quicker I’m out of here, the better it is for me. I’m a busy man and my time is precious. Mark. I’m going to have to ask you not to struggle too much, or it will leave a lot of marks on your wrists.” Those deadly eyes impaled him. “I just want to know that I remember the face of every man I ever killed. It haunts me sometimes, it really does.”
Tears sprung to Mark’s eyes as the bastard unlocked the cuff on the left wrist, yanked him to his feet, and kicked the chair away simultaneously. Mark was kept off balance the whole time, and then the cuff was snapped back on.
“You’ll never get away with…this.”
“You’ll never know, will you? By the way, if you give me too much trouble, I’m going after the girl—what’s her name, Amy. Right? You understand?” O’Hara gave him a rap on the side of the head with the barrel of the pistol. “You get it, punk?”
“Argh. You’re not going to kill me—you’re too fucking stupid.”
“Hah. Good one.”
“Yeah. Just when you think you know Ed O’Hara, he turns on you. In the final scene, he turns out to be a prick.”
O’Hara wasn’t taking it too personally. He shoved Mark into the closet, giving him another rap on the head. He flipped the noose over Mark’s head, giving it a quick one-handed yank, tightening the noose. Sharp fibers stung his neck and Mark, trying to spin, kicked at the detective’s groin but O’Hara was obviously expecting it and took it on the hip-bone. Painful it might have been, it wasn’t enough to make much of a difference.
“Right. Fat lot of good that will do you.”
Mark shuddered. This dude was going to kill him. He was really going to do it. He watched as O’Hara pulled something out of his pocket. Taking a blood-stained knife out of a plastic baggie, he dropped it carefully on the floor. Sealing the bag, he put it away. He pulled a folded piece of paper out of an inner pocket and went into the kitchen.
“I’m thinking there’s a dead hooker just around the corner.”
“I’m thinking you may be right.” O’Hara gave him an approving nod. “Yeah, you catch on real fast.”
O’Hara came back. He stood there admiring his handiwork, not quite sure perhaps how, or if he could really do it. Mark weighed a hundred and seventy pounds. He would be kicking and screaming, and it would take two hands to lift him off the ground…the solution was to choke him into unconsciousness and then lift him. Either that, or get him to stand on the chair and then tie off the rope. Kick the chair away. Perhaps that was best. The trouble with these shit-hole apartments was that the pipe brackets holding up the coat rod would come right out of the wall, and that wasn’t what he wanted at all. Perhaps choking was best after all—
Mark’s mouth opened as the detective put the gun securely away and stepped in to finish it.
Mark’s mouth snapped shut and he stared, trying not to hope.
Mark’s voice couldn’t be too loud, or O’Hara’s instincts would be aroused. But he had to keep him occupied as long as possible…
Words to a song he’d written a long time ago came to him.
“You are strong but I am wise. We shall meet again—in hell, O’Hara. In hell.”
O’Hara nodded thoughtfully.
“Right on. You wrote that yourself.”
“It’s all bullshit, you know—it’s all fake. It’s all a lie. I did it to get out of jail, O’Hara. Sure, I had a mental illness. I’ve suffered from severe and chronic depression since I was a kid. But the Establishment is bullshit. I plead self-defense. The fact is, you’re a million times crazier than I am.”
What Mark saw but O’Hara missed was Amy’s purse, sitting on the floor in the far inner corner of the room. It was in the shadows, beside his parka and the two horn cases.
The detective appeared to consider it. This guy was a real sadist, to be toying with his victim like that. Like a music critic, only worse in some ways…O’Hara, apparently humoring Mark, drew the other chair over, and sat on it backwards, grinning at Mark.
“It really doesn’t matter, Mark. You can take that little secret to the grave with you…besides, I wouldn’t trust no one over thirty.”
He went on, for which Mark was grateful. Otherwise he was thirty seconds from dissolution.
A lot of pain stood between here and then.
“Gambling is nothing more than the study of probabilities.” He pursed his lips. “A lot of people are going to die here tonight. I want a nice, tight little solution to my case, Mark. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that you happen to be available. But like poker, police work is the study of your fellow human beings. Your arrest reports, even your little stints in jail, will conveniently disappear.”
“What in the hell are you talking about, Ed?” Mark tried to make his voice reasonable, friendly almost. “Hey, it’s not like I love the system any more than you do. Maybe I can help you, Ed.”
“You are helping me, old buddy, old pal. Can you dig it.”
Mark sighed, deeply, and as loudly as he could.
O’Hara laughed and it was his undoing. He threw his head back and really laughed.
Noisy as the building was at the best of times, O’Hara hadn’t heard her opening up the bathroom door or creeping down the hallway with a short length of lead pipe in her hands…
“Ah. Mark. You slay me, you really do.”
Just at the last possible second, O’Hara began to turn, hearing the squeak of the floorboards, but by then the pipe was already swinging.
The look on her face was intense, having no doubt seen and heard enough out of this guy to have no hesitation at all.
The impact sounded a lot like Babe Ruth knocking another one out of the stadium.
This one was going out of the park.
The detective went down like a sack of potatoes and it was like for a moment, the whole building went quiet.
Which was kind of unusual, for good old # 99 Easy Street...
(End of Part Twenty-Three.)
Thanks for reading.