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Judy Friedman White
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Art by Noelle Richardson © 2016



Judy Friedman White


I sat at the table in the back corner of the Paradox Café waiting for Detective Healy. My eggs and coffee were getting cold. He was late. Every morning this week, he had arrived around 7:00 am, but now it was nearly 7:30. Maybe he wasn’t coming. Maybe it was a sign I shouldn’t go through with it. 

          I felt like pacing, but had to settle for drumming my fingers on the table, a slab of yellow and black patterned Formica that appeared to be from the 1950’s, but was probably brand new. The whole place had a kind of forced retro vibe—laminated Tom Swift novel covers adorned the wall; tin signs advertising Starlette canned peaches and Lucky Strike cigarettes hung from the ceiling; a bikini-clad mannequin sat under a bonnet hair dryer. It hardly seemed like the place Healy would go for, or any cop for that matter. But I figured he went for the cheap breakfasts, quick counter service, and the fact that it was two blocks from his place in South Boston.

          I couldn’t take much more waiting. I was about to give up and go home, when Healy walked in. He headed straight for the counter, not even noticing me. After he picked up his breakfast, scrambled eggs and hash browns, I called out his name.

          Healy tried to act nonchalant, but I could tell he was surprised.

          “What are you doing here?” Healy asked, moving toward my table.

          “This is going to sound weird.” I fiddled with the button on my shirt “But I—I was in the neighborhood last week. I was um—buying a desk from Craig’s List. The guy, his apartment was on A Street. And I saw you come in here.” I did actually get a desk from Craig’s List, but the seller lived in Brookline, not here. I didn’t want Healy to know I’d been tailing him for weeks. He might not believe I was sincere about this meeting. “I don’t know why, but I came back the next day at the same time and saw you again. I saw you come in here. And then the next day I—”

          “Wait. You’ve been following me?” Healy looked me up and down.

          “No—yes, but it’s only because I—I needed to get the courage. I almost came in yesterday, but I chickened out.”

          Healy kept looking at me, but didn’t speak.

          “I have to—” I said. “I want to tell you—I’m ready to talk, to tell you the truth—about everything.” I pulled out a manila folder from my backpack and placed it on the table in front of me.

          Healy tried to keep his expression blank, but I caught a glimmer in his eye. He was chomping at the bit.

          “To talk? Okay—great. How ‘bout we go to the station?”

          “No—not the station. Here, right here. I’ll go after, but not yet. There’s some things I want to, that I have to say to you—off the record.”

          “Off the record, now. Then to the station,” Healy said firmly.

          His tone was making me nervous. “I don’t know. This was a bad idea.” I stood up.

          Healy sat down at the table. “Please, don’t go, Henry. We’ll take it nice and slow,” he said, his eyes homing in on the folder.

          “I don’t think—I’m not sure I can go through with this.”

          “It’s going to be all right. We’re just going to have a conversation. I want to help you, to make this easier for you.” He smiled sympathetically.

          Against my better judgment I sat back down. Healy’s fake concern wasn’t helping matters. But I’d have to put up with it. I was doing the right thing. “Okay, I guess, I might as well—I have to get it over with.” I took a bite of my eggs, which were stone cold by now.

          “It will help to talk. You’ll see.” He shoveled a forkful of hash browns into his mouth.

          I wondered how he could eat this shit every morning and still look like he did. Chasing bad guys must burn off a lot of calories. “Um—I want to—I have to know some things, before I tell you—before I talk about what I’ve done.” Healy was dying for the juicy details. He wanted to know exactly how I killed those women, instead of what really mattered—that I never wanted to hurt anyone. It just couldn’t be avoided.

          “Okay, I’m listening.” Healy leaned forward in anticipation.

          I kept eating my cold breakfast. “The food’s pretty good here.”

          “Yeah, I know,” Healy said, who kept eating. “Back to what you were saying. That you want to know some things. What is it? What do you want to know?”

          “Okay—wait. You’re not recording this are you?” I’d seen Healy slide his hand into his pocket. I’m sure he wanted proof—so he could he show off to his cop buddies that he could do what no one else could—get me to talk, to nail me. Those jokers on the police force and the D.A’s office couldn’t pin anything on me—not for lack of trying. But I’d been careful, meticulously careful. And now, here I was ready to give him my confession on a silver platter. But not on his fucking iPhone.

          “No, I’m not recording this,” Healy said.

          “Prove it.” I said, “Show me your phone.”

          Healy gave a half smile and put his phone on the table. “You got me. Can’t help it Henry, I’m a cop.”

          “Listen, I want to tell you everything, the whole truth,” I said. “But first— what I want to ask you—it’s private, between you and me.”

          “All right, I’m ready. You can ask me anything.”

           “No, I can’t. I don’t know if I can trust you,” I said looking at the phone.

          “You can trust me. See?” He pointed to the phone, showing me it was locked. “Now let’s talk.”

          “Well—I’m going to say— I have to talk about her.” I hadn’t even said her name, and Healy could barely maintain his game face.

          “I know. I expected that. Let’s talk.”

          I took a deep breath. “I’ve been keeping so much inside for so long. It’s eating me up. At night in bed, I hear their cries, their desperate pleas for mercy. I can’t take it anymore,” I said and leaned my arms across the table, knocking the folder and its contents onto the floor. I started to bend down, but Healy beat me to it.

          “Don’t worry I’ll get those.”

          It took Healy a minute or two to gather all the papers. I’m sure it wasn’t what he was expecting.

          “These are good, really good,” he said as he looked my drawings.

          They were sketches of Leanne—playing the guitar, curling up on a couch, a few unfinished drafts and the best one of all, a close up—her hair cascading over her bare shoulders, her face plaintive and strikingly beautiful. Healy stared at that one for a long time. “I didn’t realize—you’re very talented, Henry.”     

          “Thanks,” I said, taking some more deep breaths to calm myself. “The drawings—they remind of me of when we were together. When we were happy, before everyone tried to split us apart, to poison our relationship…”

          “Henry,” Healy said urgently. “You said you wanted to talk. I’m ready to listen.”

          “That’s it, right? No other recorders in your pocket?”

          “There’s nothing else.” He turned his pockets inside out.

          “Okay then,” I said and poked at the food on my plate. Healy continued eating.

          “Go ahead, Henry, I’m all ears.”

           “So about Leanne.” I looked him in the eye. “You’re in love with her.”

          Healy put down his fork. “I know how much she means to you.” His voice was soft, almost tender. “Talking to me, telling the truth is going to mean a lot to her.”

           “Yeah, yeah. I know. You don’t get what I’m trying to say.” I had practiced this speech aloud over and over, knowing how difficult it would be to say these words to him. “You’re a good man. You’re good for her.” I cast my eyes down. “Better for her than me.” 

          Healy stroked his chin, reminding me of my old therapist. “Whether I’m in love with her or not isn’t what matters—” 

          “No. It’s the only thing that matters,” I said as my voice cracked. “You’ll think this is crazy—and maybe it is—but I always thought that we belonged together, in spite of everything. That she’d forgive me for...” I scanned the room. No one was even glancing our way. “That she could get past what I’ve done—the terrible things I’ve done…” I couldn’t hold back the tears now.

          Healy’s eyes widened. “Go on, Henry”

          I wiped some tears off my cheek with my sleeve. Healy kept gobbling down his breakfast. Apparently my pain was increasing his appetite. “Even though what I did—I did it for her—for us.” I thought about her poor excuse for a best friend, my own sister, all of them—with their wild accusations about my so-called obsession—they tried to brainwash Leanne, to turn her against me. What happened to them was their own fault. And yet… I straightened up in my chair and swallowed. “I know what I did was wrong. I shouldn’t have hurt them. And worse, or I guess better for you, is I know Leanne will never come back to me,” I said. “Because, I’ve seen you two together. I think she’s fallen for you.”

          Healy had the tiniest hint of a smile.

          “I know that part of her, deep inside, will always love me whether she’ll admit it or not. But she also hates me.  I can’t stand that she hates me.”

          Healy hunched forward. “Henry, she doesn’t hate you. She hates what you’ve done. If you admit it, not just to her, but to the police. If you take responsibility, she’ll respect you. She’ll know you as the man you once were. You can do this, Henry. It’s the right thing to do. It’s what she wants you to do.”

          I took off my jacket. “Kind of warm in here, isn’t it?”

          Healy loosened his tie and wiped his brow with a napkin. “Yeah, a little, but go on.” Sweat was pooling under his armpits.

          “I will admit it—I will, but I have to know—it’s why I came here—I have to know if you truly love her—that you’ll take care of her—that you’ll never hurt her.”

          “I can’t talk about—”

          “I’m ready to give you everything you want, everything she wants. All I’m asking is for a little peace of mind. Can’t you give me that? I don’t know if I can go through with this, unless I know—do you know how hard this for me?”

          “Okay, Henry, yes. I do love her. And I will take care of her. You have my word. Now are you ready to talk, to really talk to me now—at the station?”

          “Let me have the rest of my breakfast. It may be a long time before I get a meal like this again—or ever.”

          “Sure. Okay. I’ll sit with you.” Healy finished up his food, as I forced myself to eat mine. “Henry, no second thoughts. This is right. This will bring peace to Leanne.”

          “Yeah,” I said. “I’m going to clear off this table before we go. I hate to leave a mess. Leanne’s probably told you, I’m a bit of a neat freak.” I picked up my backpack from the floor and handed the folder to Healy. “I want you to have these.”

          “Thanks,” he said, taking a closer look at the sketches.

          My hands were shaking as I carried our dishes toward the plastic bins and trashcan near the front door. My back was to Healy, but I knew he was staring at me, afraid I’d make a run for it. When I turned around, he was a few steps behind me.

          “Okay Henry, thanks.  Now let’s go.”

          I followed Healy outside to his car. I looked around. There were no other people in the parking lot. “Are you okay?” I asked him. “You look a little flushed.”

          “I’m—” He leaned on the hood of his Toyota. “I don’t know, something is—” He dropped the folder and clutched his chest. He looked at me, then frantically reached into his pocket. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”

          “Looking for this?” I said, holding his cell phone in a napkin.

          “What did you do? What the fuck did you do to me?” His breathing was labored.

          “Okay, I suppose it couldn’t hurt since you don’t have much time. While you were picking up that folder I teased you with so brilliantly, I added a little something—something untraceable—to your breakfast. I knew my confession was too tempting for you to resist—that you’d let your guard down and play right into my hands.”

          “Henry.” His voice was raspy. “You think you can get away with killing a cop?”

          “To be honest, I wasn’t sure. I can’t tell you how nervous I was about that. And I was really worried you’d be able to tell—to taste it. But as I hoped, that crap you wolfed down this morning—it masked the salty aftertaste of the potassium chloride.”

          “You, you—everyone will know it was you. You won’t get away with this.”

          “But I will. I’ve done my research. The heart attack, the soon-to-be fatal heart attack you’re having, will cause your body to naturally release potassium chloride into your bloodstream. It will completely mask the lethal dose I sprinkled onto your hash browns. Sure, some of your detective buddies, they might suspect me— but they’ll never be able to prove it.”

          “Evidence…” he said, now struggling to speak. “There’ll be—my plate–you won’t get away—”

          “I’m not worried about that,” I said, as I scooped up the folder from the ground and returned it to my backpack. I looked down at my watch. “Oh in about five minutes or so, they’ll be loading your plate and silverware into their industrial dishwasher, obliterating all traces of poison.”

          “I won’t let you,” he said, as he crumpled to the ground.

          I stood behind his head and watched him reach underneath his suit jacket for his gun. He fumbled with it for several seconds before managing to pull it out of its holster. “I’m…taking you down with me.” His hand was trembling uncontrollably as he tried to point it in my direction.

          I slipped on a glove and grabbed him by the wrist. “Put that thing down. You’re going to hurt somebody,” I said. It only took a few firm shakes to get him to drop the gun.

          I knelt down beside him. “Nice try. Believe me, I agonized over that gun of yours, hoping you wouldn’t discover what I’d done until you were too weak and disoriented to use it. Fortunately, you did everything according to plan.”

          He looked up at me, his eyes narrowed. “Leanne…she’ll know… she will, she’ll hate you…”

          “Of course, Leanne will be sad about your passing—but she’ll get over it. I’ll help her get over it—and you. I lied when I said she wouldn’t forgive me. I know she will, now that you’re no longer in the picture.”

          “She won’t….you can still help me. Don’t do this…” He rolled over, and started to crawl back into the café.

          I stood up to block his path, not that I thought he’d get very far. “It’s too bad. I actually kind of like you, Detective. You’re a decent guy. But you shouldn’t have gotten in my way. You shouldn’t have gone after Leanne.”

          The door to the cafe opened and a woman came out. “Oh no,” she cried. “What happened?” She looked at Healy writhing on the ground. He tried to speak, but only gurgled unintelligibly.

          “He just collapsed! Can you call 9-1-1? My phone died,” I said in a panicky voice. “But I think the reception’s better over there, across the parking lot. Don’t worry, I’ll stay with him, till the ambulance comes.”

          I whispered in Healy’s ear. “It’s too late for you. Once you started sweating, I knew you only had a few minutes at most.” I put my ear to his chest. As he took his final breath, I told him, “You can rest in peace, now. Leanne and I will be just fine.” 

Judy is an experienced copywriter who has won numerous awards including a Clio. But her creative juices really get flowing when she writes about murder and mayhem. She is currently seeking representation for her novel, a psychological thriller about a mailman with a deadly obsession.

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