SHOULD’VE CALLED ME
“You should’ve 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 do anything.”
“Maybe I could’ve made you less mad.”
What made her think that her presence would
solve my problems?
I hadn’t 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.
“I’m gonna kill that guy when I
he do this time?” At least she understood my anger.
“Stole my stash.”
“I guess you’d be angry. Is that
the last of it?”
The very last. And it was good stuff.”
“Yeah, it was.”
I smiled. We’d had some of our
best sex under the influence of that particular bud. And now it was gone.
“It’s all gone?”
“What a 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.”
gold. It was the best.”
“Is Chas trying to impress someone?” she
don’t know. I gotta get a new roommate, or else
I’m gonna murder that guy.”
say that. It’s just dope.”
dope?” My voice rose.
easy,” she said.
“That weasel’s 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.
“Cash. 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 them.”
“Really? She never said.”
“She probably 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.”
piece 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.”
“Okay, but don’t kill Chas
make any promises.”
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 own john.
Chas didn’t 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
I flew in Monday morning.
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.
Chas didn’t 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.
met 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 about it.
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.
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 was it.
then I couldn’t throw him out because he didn’t
Chas was gone
for five days when I got a call at work.
“This is Lieutenant John Naylor,
NYPD.” the man said. “Do you know a man
named Charles Richford?”
seen him recently?”
He hasn’t been home,” I said.
like you to come down to the morgue. A body washed up in the East River. The wallet ID’d
him as Charles Richford.”
Chas? I couldn’t believe he was dead. “Are you sure
it’s him?” I asked. “How’d you find me?”
“He had 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 chest.
I turned away. “That’s him.”
The morgue attendant asked, “Are
you identifying this body as that of Charles Richford?”
“Yes,” I said. “It’s Charles
He pushed the
drawer in. “The police will want to talk with you,” he said.
“I’ll be at home. They have my
arrived at 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?
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.
The fingerprint 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 me.
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.
When Lieutenant Naylor came in,
he brought another cop with him—his partner, Sergeant Matteo.
Matteo started 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 everyone out.
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 asked.
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.”
“What the hell?” I asked. “She’s
been seeing me.”
told them you threatened to kill Richford when you talked
to her just before you left for Chicago.”
kidding me. She said that?”
said Richford had stolen things from you, and you were
furious with him, said you’d kill him.”
was 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
house and 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
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.
“You said 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.”
“Chas?” I was totally floored. I
knew women liked the guy, but a porn star . . . ?
the 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
“Do you have anything to add to
what you’ve already told us?” Naylor asked.
didn’t 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. Richford’s health.
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.
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 an hour.
“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?”
think they said Friday or Saturday. You were gone by
then, so you’re in the clear.”
“Maybe. Is that why you told
them I threatened to kill Chas?”
looked embarrassed. She wouldn’t look at me. “They
they told me. That gives me a motive. Why did you tell them that, Cara?”
“I wasn’t trying to focus
suspicion on you. They asked me what you and I had talked about.”
“Did you tell them
Chas stole my drugs?”
flinched. “No. Just that Chas had stolen things
from you and you were angry.”
Cara? Why did you try to focus their attention on me?
You were screwing him, weren’t you? How come I didn’t know that?”
“I wasn’t 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?”
“Yes. I knew about the films.”
“Has his doctor been in touch
you mean? Why would his doctor be in touch with me?” I was sure she knew what I meant.
think Chas gave you an STD. What was it? AIDS? His doctor
notified his contacts, and you were one of them.”
I 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
ridiculous. You’re crazy.”
“Am I? 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?”
“Have you shared your
interesting theory with the police?”
but I’m sure they’ll get there on their
they may arrest and convict you, and that’ll be the end of it.”
“Is that what you’re hoping?” I
asked. I knew now that what I’d said was true. I should have talked to the cops.
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 you.”
“You won’t want to use that. It’ll
match the one that killed Chas.”
it 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
I tried to distract
her. “Did 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.”
Cara laughed. “No
one’s going to rescue you, Bobby.”
“You killed 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.”
“You’re crazy, Cara.”
“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 it.
“Now, Cara,” I said, “shall we call the
cops and the paramedics arrived quickly, took Cara into
custody and loaded me onto a gurney to carry me downstairs.
As we were leaving,
Cara said, “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
What a bitch!
Carole 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.
She 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.