no news. BUT ALLOW ME TO PRESENT CHAPTER ONE OF COVER HER WITH ROSES BY REX ANDERSON, ONE OF THE LEADING MYSTERY WRITERS ON THE 1960'S AND 1970'S!!!
The Carillon in the Student Union Tower woke me at about one o'clock. And waking up wasn't a very good experience. I was badly hung over and sticky with sweat because the afternoon sun was beating through the window over my bed. And there was the half memory of something like an ugly, terrible dream in my mind.
For a minute I lay still, cataloguing my miseries: the oppressive sunlight, the foul taste in my mouth, the cruddy feeling in my stomach, the headache, the ding-dong rendition of "Battle Hymn of the Republic," and worst of all, being just barely unable to remember the dream thing.
I tried to recall just a part of it, thinking that would trigger the rest, but I could force no memory at all except for an oppressive feeling of something ugly and terrible.
Finally, at about the time the bells gave up on "Battle Hymn" and started on "The 1812 Overture"--and you haven't lived until you've heard that--I made it to my feet and into the bathroom. I brushed my teeth for a while, and that drowned out the damned bells as well as clearing out my mouth some, and it seemed like life was going to begin again. Then I took some aspirin and washed my face with cold water and went looking for a cigarette.
The apartment I lived in was about a block off campus. Originally, when this land was part of an estate, it had been a garage, with living quarters for servants on the second floor. The big house had been torn down years before, and the land was divided into city lots, but the garage remained, on a small lot by itself. A few years ago, the owner of the property repaired and rebuilt the building, converting it into a two-story apartment for his son and daughter-in-law to live in while his son went to college.
The downstairs part consisted of a big living room and the kitchen and a bathroom. A good-looking wrought-iron circular staircase took you from the living room up to a small hallway on the second floor. Opening onto this hallway were another bathroom and a bedroom and a study room. It was really a pretty nice place. It sure beat hell out of any dormitory I'd ever had anything to do with.
I was able to talk my way into getting the place at the start of my senior year at the university, because my dad was a fraternity brother of the man who owned it and because I convinced my folks that I'd have better grades if I lived alone. The real clincher in the deal, though, was when my mother found out that Elizabeth Beck's son--Elizabeth had been my dad's secretary for years--had an apartment of his own at Purdue.
I didn't see any cigarettes in the bedroom, but in the corner of the hallway I found the shirt I'd had on the night before. It was crumpled on the floor where I'd tossed it along with my sneakers and bermudas. Picking it up, I felt in the pocket.
Suddenly I was scared as hell--there was no cigarette pack in the pocket of the shirt. I didn't know why that should scare me, but it did. I knew that if there wasn't anything in the shirt pocket, I must have left the pack somewhere, and leaving it somewhere was something that should bother me a lot.
The feeling about the pack of cigarettes was the same as the feeling I'd had on waking--as though there was a terrible dream I didn't quite remember.
Then something connected.
I remembered staggering up the stairs and making the top and being glad that I hadn't fallen on my rear. At the top, I stopped for a minute, holding on to the metal railing with one hand and reaching for a cigarette with the other. For a minute I couldn't remember what had happened after that, and I had the feeling of oppressive frustration again.
But then the rest of it came to me. I remembered taking the pack out of my pocket and fumbling in it for the last cigarette. I got it out and put it in my mouth and wadded up the pack. And then what? Yeah. I tossed the ball of paper toward the wastebasket, which was just inside the door of the study and partly visible from the head of the staircase. I remembered missing and being ticked off at missing. For some reason, I was relieved as hell.
I had no idea what could be so important about the cigarette pack. But it was important enough that, even though I seemed to remember exactly what had happened to it, I found myself down on my hands and knees in the study looking for it, just to make sure that my mind wasn't playing tricks.
In a minute I found it, crumpled up and dusty, under the edge of the desk, where it had bounced and rolled. I pulled it out from under the desk and sat up holding it, grinning at it like it was the Star of India.
But pretty quickly I realized how silly all this was so I tossed the balled-up pack at the wastebasket--missing again--and stood up, deciding to forget about the crazy dream and the cigarette pack and, instead, to see what could be done about salvaging some of the weekend.
I looked at the skeletons of the two term papers that lay, lifeless and ugly, on my desk and also at the timetable I had worked out. The aim had been to schedule this weekend so that I would spend a maximum amount of time on the term papers, which were rapidly becoming due, and on as much other studying as possible.
According to the two-day timetable, I was roughly two days behind schedule. Little things like that get pretty rough when it's heading on toward two o'clock in the afternoon of a Sunday in the first part of May--less than three weeks before finals.
Then I looked at the big picture that hung on the study wall. It was a blown-up photograph of Jean in a bikini. I looked at it for a long time. Somehow, that picture just didn't fit in with feeling lousy with a hangover and trying to track down some kind of crazy dream. What I needed was a shower and a shave and a cup of coffee and some studying.
God, I loved a hot shower. It was my answer to darned near everything. That's why I was a dropout from the hippie thing, I guess. I used Dexedrine sometimes, when I had to study all night; and I took tranquilizers once in a while, before tests. And I smoked and I drank. But I didn't like the feeling of too much hair on my head, and I sure as hell couldn't stand smelling like a hog pen. My answer to whether Dow Chemical or the National Take-A-Viet-Cong-To-Lunch Movement should have recruiting booths in the Student Union was to take a couple of aspirins and a hot shower. Maybe I didn't have as fulfilled a spirit as Joan Baez and Company, but I sure as hell didn't have to gag at the idea of being locked up in a small room with my own armpits.
The aches and stiffness began to go away under the hot water, and the headache sort of sloughed away, and I started to shave. I hated to shave, but I hated not to even more, so I usually shaved in the shower. It sure made it easier to take.
It was shaving that did it.
Although I was beginning to feel great, I still wasn't steady enough to avoid cutting myself. I knew when it happened and it stung a little, but I went ahead and finished the job of shaving and ducked under the nozzle and washed off the lather. Then I stood back, out of the spray, and put my finger to the cut. It wasn't bleeding much, but some--enough to leave a smear of blood on my finger.
And looking at the blood, bright and red and ugly, I suddenly remembered everything.
It hadn't been a dream at all. I was scared. I couldn't believe it had really happened, but I could remember it, plain and cold.
I got out of the shower and put on a pair of bermudas. Then I got a fresh pack of cigarettes from a dresser drawer, got one lighted, and headed downstairs.
Everything had come back to me so clearly that I could even remember where I had left it. Even so, as I went down the stairs, I couldn't believe it would really be there.
But it was. A long, narrow bundle. Something wrapped in a blue-and-white silk scarf. It was on the bar, where I remembered putting it when I came in.
As carefully as possible, I unwrapped it a little, cursing myself because I was so shaky that it almost dropped out of my hands, and I knew I couldn't stand the noise of its dropping onto the floor, because somebody might hear it--even though there was no one around who could hear it.
I knew for certain then that the memory was a memory and not a dream, and that it was all real and true.
The scarf unwrapped easily part of the way, but then it stopped unwrapping, because it was glued evilly to the blade of the butcher knife by dried brown clots of human blood.
"Oh, God," I said. "Oh, my God." I didn't recognize the sound of my own voice. I wanted to run, and my body tensed toward the door and I could see myself roaring down the highway at top speed and escaping...
But I thought of Jean.
And thought of how much I loved Jean.
The blood on the knife and on the silk cloth was dry and brown, but still new enough to have a hot, fetid odor. And I said to myself, "At ease, man. Don't panic. Don't panic." And thought of how very much I loved Jean.
Finally then, I was able to stop all the thought and all the panic. I thought of nothing but the things that had to be done and done carefully, one by one.
The most important thing was to get rid of the goddamned knife.
The first thing I thought of was driving out into the country and throwing it out of the car. Fine. But not in broad daylight. Not on a Sunday afternoon in spring, when there was probably a couple of students and a six-pack of beer under every bush within fifty miles. The time to get rid of the knife was at night, I realized. But I also realized that I couldn't just leave it lying around until it got dark.
I thought about the guys I knew who smoked pot. They sure as hell couldn't leave that lying around, either. I knew a couple of them well enough that they didn't make any secret of where they hid the stuff. They had made it, with their hiding place, through a search or two, so I figured it must be a pretty good one.
I refolded the scarf around the grisly knife, being careful that no flakes of blood fell to the floor, and took the little bundle into the kitchen. In thirty seconds, I had the freezer compartment of the refrigerator knocked free of ice at the sides and pulled down at the front. The bundle fitted nicely on top, behind a thick layer of frost. After I raised the compartment back into place and dribbled tap water in the proper places, it looked and felt as though it wouldn't be free of its accumulation of frost and ice until after about eight hours of dedicated defrosting.
With the knife out of the way, I allowed myself to give in to the shakes again for a while. The cup and spoon banged together while I made instant coffee, and I spilled some of it on the way into the living room, but another cigarette and the coffee helped a lot.
I wanted to call Jean, but I knew she'd still be at her grandmother's in the City and I knew it might not look too great later, if it came out that I had made a long-distance call at that time. So I just thought about her for a while and thought about how great it would be when she got back in the evening.
But when the coffee and cigarette were gone, it was time to think about Melissa.
Goddamn the knife.
Somehow, it helped to twist things around in order to be able to blame Melissa for the knife. It had been my own stupidity that made me go into a yellow funk and take the knife away with me. But it was more satisfying to place the blame on Melissa.
I let myself think about that for a while and then I knew there was nothing to do but wait.