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
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.
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—”
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.
Okay—great. How ‘bout we go to the station?”
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.
think—I’m not sure I can go through with this.”
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.
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?”
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.
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
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…”
Healy said urgently. “You said you wanted to talk. I’m ready to listen.”
it, right? No other recorders in your pocket?”
nothing else.” He turned his pockets inside out.
I said and poked at the food on my plate. Healy continued eating.
Henry, I’m all ears.”
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. 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—”
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”
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
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.”
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
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.
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
“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
“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
he said, now struggling to speak. “There’ll be—my plate–you won’t
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.”
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.”
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
“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.”
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.