YOU SHOULD’VE CALLED ME
called me,” she
said. “I’d have come over.”
if you’d wanted company
or someone to hold your hand, I could’ve been there.”
mad. Holding my hand wouldn’t
I could’ve made you less mad.”
What made her think that her presence would
solve my problems?
just been angry—I’d
been boiling—because my roommate, the golden boy, had stolen my weed. Everybody
loves that jerk because they don’t
live with him.
gonna kill that guy when I
he do this time?” At
least she understood my anger.
you’d be angry. Is that
the last of it?”
very last. And it was
I smiled. We’d
had some of our
best sex under the influence of that particular bud. And now it was gone.
all gone?” she asked.
shame,” she sighed. “Can
you get more?”
be the same. And I spent
a lotta dough. I’ll probably have to hit my dad up for a loan to pay the rent.
I hate that.”
It was the best.”
“Is Chas trying to impress someone?” she
know. I gotta get a new
roommate, or else I’m gonna murder that guy.”
say that. It’s just dope.”
My voice rose.
easy,” she said.
gotten the last
thing he’s gonna steal from me. He’s not getting another chance.” It felt good
to yell. Almost as good as yelling at Chas himself.
stolen other things from
you?” she asked.
Lotsa cash. Clothes.
Wears them, ruins them. He’s taken books, too, although I don’t think he can
on,” she laughed.
here’s another thing that
drives me nuts. The girls who come here looking for him, crying about how much
they love him. They leave me messages for him. Like I’m a service.” That really
got me. The girls didn’t pay any attention to me. It was just Chas.
know about that.”
Your friend Lisa’s one of
She never said.”
didn’t want you to
know. Anyway, I didn’t want to call you when I was so mad. Listen, I gotta go
to Chicago tomorrow. I’ll be gone ‘til Monday.”
of software I’m
supposed to vet. My boss thinks it’ll be huge. I’m not so sure. I’ll call you when
I get back.”
but don’t kill Chas
make any promises.”
I hung up the
phone and looked
around the living room. It was a nice room, comfortable, with a good couch and
pillows on the hardwood floor. Chas liked it, I know. He brought his girls back
here, often screwed them on the floor by the fireplace, instead of in his
bedroom. He said the girls liked it, it was romantic, but I found it a
nuisance, having to step over bodies if I got home late. Good thing I had my
come home that night,
which wasn’t unusual, and I left for Chicago without seeing him. The huge thing
my boss was so high on turned out to be a big nothing, but I checked it out and
sent him a memo.
I flew in Monday
Chicago had been fun, and now I was ready to tackle work. When I got home
Monday night, Chas wasn’t there, but the apartment had some changes: the
pillows had been rearranged and the rug in front of the fireplace looked scrubbed,
as if he’d finally cleaned up after himself.
come home Monday or
Tuesday night. I can’t say I was worried about him because to worry I’d have
had to care, but I was curious about where he was. Then I thought, hell, he’ll
show up. Like pond scum, he always surfaced.
Chas when I advertised
for a roommate. When we got together over coffee, he told me he worked at an ad
agency in the Village and came from Wisconsin. I liked him, he gave me half the
month’s rent, and he moved in.
until we’d roomed
together for a couple of months that things started to go missing. First, it
was food. Not a lot, but it was clear he wasn’t buying his own. I asked him
I haven’t had time to shop.
I didn’t think you’d mind. I’ll make good.” It was hard not to believe the guy,
he looked so innocent. But then it
happened again and again, and he usually didn’t replace what he’d taken.
When I confronted
him, he said
he was just so busy. The funny thing was he didn’t seem busy. He slept late
every day and was still in bed when I left the apartment for work. When he got
home from his “job”, he was casually dressed, not at all like what I expected
of an ad executive.
He was out most
nights and often
didn’t come home at all except for the times he screwed his girlfriends in the
living room. I didn’t worry about whether or not he had a job. My concern was
the rent money, which he produced promptly for the first three or four months. Then
the rent was late, and I got stories from him about waiting for a paycheck or a
commission that would arrive soon. He usually gave it to me by the tenth, but I
couldn’t afford to pay for the apartment on my own, and I got worried. It took
me a while to connect the missing clothes, missing cash, and missing books to
him. I was just about ready to throw him out when he stole the dope. And that
But then I couldn’t
out because he didn’t come home.
Chas was gone
for five days when
I got a call at work.
Lieutenant John Naylor,
NYPD.” the man said. “Do you know a man
named Charles Richford?”
seen him recently?”
hasn’t been home,” I
like you to come down to
the morgue. A body washed up in the East River. The wallet ID’d him as Charles
Chas? I couldn’t believe he was dead. “Are you sure
it’s him?” I asked. “How’d you find me?”
your card in his wallet.
We’re not sure it’s him. He’s been in the water a while. We’d like you to take
I agreed, told
my boss some
story and headed for the morgue. I was ready for the body to be somebody else
and to get the hell out of there. But it wasn’t somebody else. It was Chas, his
hair coated with mud, his body bloated from the water, a bullet hole in his
I turned away.
The morgue attendant
you identifying this body as that of Charles Richford?”
I said. “It’s Charles
He pushed the
drawer in. “The
police will want to talk with you,” he said.
be at home. They have my
four-thirty that afternoon. He shook my hand briefly, then asked if I’d mind
answering a few questions. I said okay, and he sat down.
When was the
last time I’d seen
Chas? What was our arrangement on the apartment? What did I know about his
private life, his job, his parents, his life before we met? Where had I been
during the last week? Could anybody verify my whereabouts?
I told him what
I knew and said
I thought Chas had been in the apartment after I’d gone to Chicago because of
the missing cushions and the clean rug. Then the Lieutenant asked if I’d mind a
search of the apartment and some fingerprint dusting. He said the police wanted
to find out where the murder had been done.
experts and the
crime scene investigators arrived, dusted every surface they could find and
sprayed the living room floor, the fireplace, the rug and the pillows with something
called Luminol. Nobody said anything to
Lieutenant asked me
to come down to the station for some further questions. I asked, “How come?”
and he said, “Just a few formalities,” so I went to the station where I sat for
a while alone in an interview room.
Naylor came in,
he brought another cop with him—his partner, Sergeant Matteo.
by asking me
about my whereabouts from the time Chas went missing. I explained again about
going to Chicago, and he said they would need the details: the tickets, the
names and telephone numbers. I asked him why, and he said they had to check
I asked if they
knew when Chas
had been killed, and Naylor said it was hard to pinpoint because of the water
but probably Friday or Saturday, although it could have been earlier. They
asked me why I hadn’t reported Chas missing after he was gone for more than a
week, and I said he was gone a lot, and besides, I wasn’t his keeper.
Then they told
me that Chas had
been killed in the apartment. Matteo said that Luminol revealed traces of blood
on the newly cleaned rug, on the floors and on a couple of cushions.
any suspects?” I
early yet. We’re still
gathering information,” said Matteo. “You know a woman named Cara Trinidad?”
“Yeah. She’s my girlfriend.”
was in Richford’s cell
phone. She said they’d been seeing one another.”
hell?” I asked. “She’s
been seeing me.”
them you threatened to
kill Richford when you talked to her just before you left for Chicago.”
kidding me. She said
Richford had stolen
things from you, and you were furious with him, said you’d kill him.”
pissed, but I wasn’t
serious. I was going to kick him out whenever he came home, that was all. You
don’t really think I killed him, do you?”
just trying to get the
facts, Mr. Rankin. You can go now. Just don’t leave town.”
I left the precinct
grabbed a cab. I couldn’t believe Cara had been screwing Chas. What a
two-timing bitch! And telling the cops I’d threatened to kill Chas. She knew
I’d been kidding.
The next day
I got another call
from Lieutenant Naylor. He asked if I’d stop in to the precinct again. I waited
again in the same interview room until Naylor showed up about twenty minutes
after I got there.
Richford worked for an
ad agency?” he asked. “Did he tell you the name?”
he was, but he was also making
porn flicks in the Village.”
I was totally floored. I
knew women liked the guy, but a porn star . . . ?
way, the blood in your
apartment has been identified as that of Charles Richford. Blood spatters
indicate he was shot in front of the fireplace.”
I just sat and
stared at the
Lieutenant. Did all those girls who chased him know that Chas was making porn
flicks? Did Cara?
have anything to add to
what you’ve already told us?” Naylor asked.
answer, just stared at
him, my mind a blank. Chas hadn’t been what I thought he was. The up-and-coming
ad executive had turned out to be a sleazeball starring in porn flicks.
When I got home,
there was a
letter for Chas from a doctor’s office. I knew I should turn it over to the
cops, but I opened it anyway. I’d make some excuse to the cops later. The
letter was brief. It said that the doctor had been trying to reach Mr. Richford
for some time to inform him that the doctor had notified his contacts about his
status and asked Mr. Richford to get in touch with the doctor promptly to begin
his own treatment. Beginning treatment was, the letter said, essential to Mr.
I read the letter several times, unable to make sense of it. Notification
of what? Contacts for what? What kind of status?
Then I remembered
that Chas was
a porn star. Something on TV a couple of weeks ago talked about porn stars
getting STD’s, and efforts being made to get them to use condoms. Is that what
the letter was about? Did Chas have an STD?
Did he have AIDS? Son of a bitch! Could I get it from contact with him?
Maybe I should get tested.
I thought about
Cara and Lisa
and the other women Chas had screwed. Maybe Chas had infected them.
I thought: one person couldn’t have gotten
Chas’ body from the apartment to the elevator, down to the ground floor, and
across four long blocks to the East River. That would take at least two people
and a car.
The doctor’s letter said Chas’ contacts had been notified. I guessed
that meant that they’d been told that Chas had tested positive for AIDS. Or
syphilis or some other STD. And Chas’ contacts knew. They knew he might have infected
them. Maybe they were angry enough to want him dead.
It was still
early, and I hadn’t
had any dinner. I called Cara to see if she wanted to meet me. I was angry at
her for telling the police I’d threatened to kill Chas, but I wanted to know if
there was anything else she could tell me.
I had to offer
to bring in
dinner before Cara agreed to see me. I ordered from an Italian restaurant near
where she lived, bought a bottle of wine, and was at her apartment in about half
“Apparently Chas was killed in my apartment,”
seem surprised. “What
have the police told you?” Cara asked.
They wanted all the
receipts from Chicago. I guess to be sure I’d been there. Did they tell you
when he died?”
they said Friday or
Saturday. You were gone by then, so you’re in the clear.”
Is that why you told
them I threatened to kill Chas?”
Cara looked embarrassed.
look at me. “They told you?”
they told me. That gives
me a motive. Why did you tell them that, Cara?”
trying to focus
suspicion on you. They asked me what you and I had talked about.”
tell them Chas stole my
“No. Just that
Chas had stolen things from you and you were angry.”
Why did you try to
focus their attention on me? You were screwing him, weren’t you? How come I
didn’t know that?”
really. It just
Like an accident?” I
asked. I watched her. Maybe she was involved in his murder. Then I asked, “Did
you know Chas was making porn flicks?”
knew about the films.”
doctor been in touch
you mean? Why would his
doctor be in touch with me?” I was sure she knew what I meant.
Chas gave you an STD.
What was it? AIDS? His doctor notified his contacts, and you were one of them.”
don’t know what you’re
talking about.” She was lying.
others, too. Lisa
and some of your friends. I think you got together and decided to kill him
because he’d infected you, and he was still having unprotected sex. Was it
It took at least two
people, maybe more, to kill Chas and move the body. He was killed in my
apartment, then his body was carried out to the elevator and downstairs. Someone
had to have a car. You don’t, but Emily has one. I know Emily slept with Chas. I
think you met Chas at the apartment, killed him, and you and Emily and maybe
others moved his body to the river. How’m I doing?”
interesting theory with the police?”
I’m sure they’ll get
there on their own.”
they may arrest
and convict you, and that’ll be the end of it.”
what you’re hoping?” I
asked. I knew now that what I’d said was true. I should have talked to the
Cara opened a
little drawer in
the coffee table, and suddenly there was a gun in her hand. It was pointed at
me. “I’m thinking that you killed Chas before you went to Chicago. Then you came
here, very angry because I told the police you’d threatened Chas, and you tried
to kill me to keep me quiet. So I pulled out my gun, which I keep for
self-defense, and killed you when you attacked me. That’s why I had to kill
want to use that. It’ll
match the one that killed Chas.”
won’t. That one’s in the
river. This is one my parents sent me when I moved to New York. For protection.
And that’s what I’m going to use it for.” She pointed the gun at me. She really
was going to kill me.
I tried to distract
the rest of your co-conspirators bargain for another murder? I imagine they
just signed on to help you
with Chas, not to kill me. Emily isn’t a killer. Nor Lisa.”
“No one’s going to
rescue you, Bobby.”
him, didn’t you? You’re
the one that fired the shot. Did you bring the others in afterward? Did they
know what you planned?” I was alive as long as she kept talking.
know what I
planned, but they helped me get rid of the body. They knew it was the right
thing to do.”
“I am not
crazy. He deserved to
die. He was killing other people, helpless people.” As she spoke, she waved the
gun in the air.
I saw my chance.
I slid off the
chair, to the side of Cara away from the gun. She turned and tried to aim, but she
was clumsy with the gun. When I leaped at her, I wasn’t fast enough to stop her
from firing, but I knocked her arm away, and the bullet hit me in the side. It
hurt like hell, but by that time I was on her, and the little gun in her hand was
pointed up to the ceiling. She fired once more, but then I got the gun and held
“Now, Cara,” I said, “shall we call the cops?”
The cops and
arrived quickly, took Cara into custody and loaded me onto a gurney to carry me
As we were leaving,
“By the way, Bobby, I got a letter from my doctor, too. I have to notify my
contacts that I’m HIV positive, so I’m telling you.”
What a bitch!
Sojka has had a short story
published in an anthology from Red Coyote Press and in Storyteller magazine. She
has also published three mystery novels,
the latest of which is Psychic Damage.
All of her novels are available on Amazon.
has served as a Peace Corps
volunteer in Africa and was for many years the administrator in a public law
office. She is now retired and can write as much or as little as she pleases.