Janey-girl, Moira and Bridget ... every aging, Victorian apartment building hides one smart, drop-dead gorgeous dame. Rain-drops splatter around our feet. "You're kidding," I say.

"No I'm not, Will. Why  do you think I'm kidding?"

"Cause who's gonna believe it? Adults?? A story, right ...   you're telling a bedtime story, only ya picked 8-AM ta tell it."

"You're so funny, dweeb."

"Uhhuh,  funny, huh. Listen ta me laugh, Janey-girl."

"You won't laugh when you see the body."


"Well then laugh away, but believe me it's no joke when a joker appears in your cot," Jane offered with a prurient, petulant twist to her shoulders.

"And you? Suppose I say ... you don't leave naked  men laying in your bed. Not if they're dead and not after 7-AM."

"Are you being smart?"

"Do I have a loaded gun in my pocket. HA. No ... of-course not." Janey-girls eyes wrinkled; she didn't believe me. I knew that. She thought I was kidding.

Her lips pouted. "It wasn't my bed and it wasn't  after seven." Janes face flushed and dripping peered out from under the yellow slicker hat. Still stylishly thin, her face -  it  would stop a school bus. "And did I say he was dead?"

"Well ..."

"Dead drunk ... drunk or stoned. That's what I said. Moira does that to men she sleeps with."

"Did you know the man?"

"Never saw him before."

"Face in the crowd ... I see ... 'course Moira ... she's your room-mate so you would know her."

"Just stop prattling, Will. Listen! Women take time to trust another woman. It's a relationship thing. Moira didn't confide in me. Not completely."

I say with all the rainy-day skepticism I can muster. "But quicker with men ..."

"DAMN," I swear and bang on the oak. 'It's the door', I tell myself ...  some doors, like some people won't let you in no matter what you see ... or see through ...

Janey-girl smirked. "Quick? Moira?? She wears them out, Mr smartypants."

I hated it when Jane called me that.  "Most men get used to it."

We stood outside the foyer peering in.  Between warm cozy inside and us stands a big solid door mostly glass. Like the building, the foyer door was seventy-five year old Art-decco and optimistic. Lucky you, to live here. That's what it says. When you're inside, under the lobbys ancient chandelier you can hear rain beating the  glass tatoo and feel lucky. The image of a smooth, stylish buck frizzed into the glass ... somewhere between the layers ... I've always wondered if you could dig it out? Wouldn't be easy on a day like this.

Outside's not so lucky. The cold, April storm had run in from the north. Rain pitched down South Hill so hard it beat sideways under the awning drenching our legs. Janes legs are awfully  long. I had no luck with the key. A security building, eh ... secure against  the adventurous resident staying dry.

Jane said. "I'd have called the police again, before work, but who needs that reputation? God sakes don't bend it! Here - let me try that. Well damn. Must be your apartment key."  - CLICK - "There, see what I mean? Are you a spaz or what?"

We march in. Old oak panels smell of new oil, and mirrors gleam smartly, as do three photos  of our new  basement washing machine. Dollar-a-load, up from 2-bits. Our landlord fancies himself both a carpenter and photographer, a misunderstood artesian. Right! I've seen him nail wallboard tacks with his Nikon.

"I've had a tough morning."

"What's tough? It's only eleven. Lucky for you  our office computer went down and I showed up."

"Dry shoes and all."

"Not like you. Think I'd walk from downtown, silly?"

True enough, Janey-girl wore dry, sensible shoes ... and a  bright pearl choker only a silly man would ever expect to get back. The car too -  she drove a big Buick much too old for her ... "Yes I see ... you want I should have a look? At the dead body I mean. You may know Moira, but believe me, men are tougher than you think."

"You're not listening to me Will. That dude's not walking anywhere."



"Thanks." Janes long legs spread under my table and toe-tapped up the wall. Rain had stopped. Light filters in from hazy, early sun. It brightens her face. "What's that smell?" She grabbed the bottle of Robitussin wedged between two wrinkled apples. "You drank all this?"

"Must be the sore throat. Here. try one of these ..."

"Looks like a Gummi-Bear,and it's ... it's squishy ... uhg!"

"Vitamin C and E. I can feel the flus cold hand."

"You got your shots, right? And this  Gummi doesn't smell.  Damn, Will lean over ... it's YOU, Will ... you smell like lemon."

"I feel like the peel, but take pills eight a day - two before bed."

Janes lips curl coyly as she swallows. "It's not a date-rape drug then."

"Didn't do the first thing for Bridget."

"I'll bet!" She's chewing cautiously and eyeing the coffee pot. "What happened to your silver cups?"

"Bridget took them."


I reach for the Zippo and battered pack of  Camels. They're leaning against a salt-shaker Bridget forgot to take. "Back."

"Back where? For what?"

"For breakfast, I suppose ..."

"Breakfast? Oh God  what happened! You and Bridget ..."


"You two split?"

Jane's wagging her head like a shaggy  blonde finger. I  light, and take a long hit. Cigarette tastes good. Lots don't taste as good. "Split like bowling pins. We should talk about something else, huh, or some-one else. Cut some slack, huh don't rub the wounds ... Got a spare dead body?"

"God, Will,  are you telling me Bridgets body went dead?"

"That's not what I meant, Jane ..." 'Course that was exactly what I meant ... or rather nothing had changed at all. Sure, we had our moments, but ... anyway what guy wants to be mean to an eX - even an eX so recent ya hadn't hardly got the knife outa your back ...

Jane was wagging a long, sinuous finger my way. "What did you DO to her!"

"Do? How come it's always the guy that DOES!"

"Did you make her eat these?" Janes face had gone sour.

"No never ... maybe only twice a week. FYI 'Nothing'  Bridget said ...  I  had gone stale .. like the coffee. But I bought a new can yesterday." Janes toe had stopped tapping the wall. I managed to look at the window. No sun, and  fresh rain is beating the glass to get in. "Decafe, huh? Low tension, huh for a change ...? Smells good boiling though, now doesn't it?"

"You'll be sorry, Will ...  you make it this morning?" Jane laughs behind her long-fingered hand. "The coffee I mean.  God sakes it's not black. Anything but black. How can you talk about moving a dead body over black coffee?"

Jane likes to ask embarrassing questions, but fact is about bodies in bed  I  had no better luck with Bridgets - not recent, anyway.  Damn. The coffee stops boiling. I pour two shots and gulp mine down. It's hot and bitter.  My  spare cup sits beside Janes hand. Everything, but coffee I drink from that cup,  big and white and cold china and has a red company logo built into the side in no way Art-decco. Bridget hated it.  Jane winces. I move a honey-jar onto the kitchen table. Sticky, gooey honey - it's tough to keep inside anywhere.  I should pick a spot and leave it there, really ... I've got to yank. The jar's a chipped piece of crockery, nothing much and overused and baked-on honey wants to stick to the oven like it remembers last nights baked chicken and prefers it to coffee.

Jane winces again. "Did you get the mocha-vanilla creamer? It's cheap, really - six-bucks a bottle. Brown sugar is NO substitute."

"I thought he wasn't dead?"

"Not when I left, but I bet he is now. Heart attack!"

Bridget is forgotten that quickly. I've thought about the dead body in Janes apartment. Or rather I don't believe one's there, but I believe something needs to be moved.  Dead wood I hope, cause  rousting a pissed-off boyfriend sat waiting  all night for Moira whose habits with various gents made roundheels a term-of-affection I don't want to think about. She wrote the book ... Moira like Bridget  does column editing for the local newspaper. I got creeps, suddenly, chills up my back and let them pass.

Hell knows why I keep it around, the heavy creame, but I poured a bit into Janes coffee turning black white. "So you DO know him."

"Only the type. His face was flushed."

"One look at a dead body and you know the type?"

"He wasn't dead when I looked. That was 6-AM. One leg stuck out from the sheet and his big toe was twitching. The live-fast die-fast type. A slicker! Women can tell lots about a naked man who isn't moving."

"I'll bet."

"Are you being smart again?"


"I'm not telling you all this for fun. You need to focus."

"I am. There is NO dead gent."

"Trust me. Where will you dump the body?"

"Dump? Actually, I figured that's a problem for the police."

"Seriously, Will. Look at me. Stare deeply into these troubled eyes.  Did you say police? Are you serious?  Clyde copper with a dead body in my apartment?"

"In Moiras part of your apartment."

"How far apart can five rooms get?" Janes face screwed up in a truly unhappy grimace. "Are you  crazy? Detectives, photographers, reporters ... "

"You've handled them before ..."

"You mean when the ex-tried breaking in?"

"Before that, I mean ..."

Well THAT broke the ice and Jane got silent for a bit. She was a fashion model ... had been ...  whose face and peerless body once turned cameras and splashed covers from Klamath to Kazakstan. Second best set of knockers in the world, GQ had rated her when such ratings meant something ...

Janey-girls unforgiving eyes wrinkled. "Oh ... then ... that was my job. People act differently toward you when you do a job." She was quiet again, for a while then  bit her pouty red lip. "What if they find my stash?"


"The coppers, silly. Carpet cleaners aren't due till next week. It's Morrocan!"

That I knew too well ... I smirked through smoky haze. "Figured  you smoked it all last Friday during the party.  Even the parrot was screeching  -- 'SCREE SQUEEZE A FATTY JANEY-GIRL, SQUEEZE A FATTY -- SCREE -- ' "

"Cockatoo, Will, not a parrot. And Tofu is a SHE, not a he.  Tofu does not screech."

"Oh no? Didn't I say the city-roll joints looked thin? What about ...'BLOW ME DOWN, MOIRA, PENNY-A-WHACK SCREEEE...'!"

"I never heard that, Mr smartypants."

"Bet you never heard Moria, either ..."

"Not that I can remember ...," Jane said defiantly.  "But  Tofu is a quick learner and  like any cockatoo just repeats what it hears."

Why women protect each other I'll never understand . "Maybe so ... ," I said. "Anyrate,  take what's left out of the parrot cage - put it in the freezer. Your freezer's huge and the ganja peanuts, really ...  it's only a dime-bag and should fit with the peas."

"Those are organic peas. I never mix vegetables."

"With the coffee-beans, then. You freeze those too."


"You're being difficult, Jane. Two houses worth of furniture! That's what you have in those five rooms. Blankets, throws, pads and pillows. Couches! You've got three couches, so surely there's someplace to hide ..."

"Two couches ... that third's a Seth Thomas loveseat." Her head wagged coyly. "And if coppers bring sniffer dogs?"

"Now why would they do that?"

"The ex  stored  twenty grams of cocaine in my fridge. It figures cops remember."

"Mental giants I'm sure. But if twenty-grams of two year old blow  scream bloody murder, what about  a dead body knees and elbows bouncing down two flights of stairs.  Hardwood stairs what a mess! So  what if someone sees us?"

"Moving the body? Us?"

That natural vision made ALL the difference. Jane springs feral, cat-like  ways of saying stupid that only a quail could appreciate. I poured  two more coffees. It's easy. Like the rest of my place,  most things in my kitchen sit about an arms length away. Computers too ... four and parts more. One box, a huge green churning tower I can reach out and touch from my bed. Sometimes I think those modern computers reach out making the apartment bigger, but they are centuries behind Jane.

I said. "OKey, what if somebody does sees me dragging a dead body down to the basement."

"Use the elevator."

"That too. Three-hundred people, one elevator. What are my chances?"

"Better than the dead guys."

"Thought you said he wasn't dead."

"Not when I last saw him, but he is now. Dead as an old movie. Dead as ... God sakes Will why does that big green box make so much noise. It's just a computer, right? Electricity. Light bulbs don't grind away when you turn them on."

"Only fans. They twitch like big toes."

Jane eyed the green case skeptically. "And they never stop once you turn them on."

"Too bad your roomie Moira wasn't so thoughtful."

"That's it! I KNEW you were being a smart-ass." Jane jumps out of her chair and with a models ropy arms lassoes my shoulder. "We're going up to the apartment this instant!"    

"Maybe we could hurry faster?"

"Oh just shut up, Will."  

I was puffing. We took steps two-at-a-time, or she did while I plumped along behind.  Who wanted to think about it? Three flights of  apartment stairs make differences a novice could never imagine. People who live two stories at a time live in flat-land.

I panted. "My computers stay happy when I sit in front of them and gawk."

"You're a big boy now, and  we better hurry. Don't dead bodies stink after a while? Especially when it's hot and they don't move."

"I don't know, Jane. Bridget always wore Opium."

"She told me you never noticed."

"When the wind stopped blowing roof- tar  inside ... I noticed."

"That's bitter, Will. But ..." Her voice paused thoughtfuly. "It explains why Bridget said you were nice to her only once a week!"

"Once a week! Gawd. Have you ever sucked an Opium toe?"

"It's all becoming clear, now - you and poor Bridget.  Did you act strange  and tell her that before she left?"

I rock speechless on my heels. Yet I know  gravity matters!  Slick, sexy, petite Bridget was never a first floor kind of girl.  Just start walking up. Heat is one thing, the temperature, but  who's surprised when hot air rises? Lights too. The farther you get away from Terra-Firma the darker it gets. Don't believe that moon-glow crap.  So much like Bridget I'm thinking. Beneath her flightly and airy and altogether cosmopolitan disposition lay a soul  steeped in gloom.  You could reach for her as she flew by, then ... whammo. Ever get hit by a flying Persian rug?

Half-way between 2nd and 3rd floor  bright new hallway carpet gave out like carpet-layers patience and the landlords wallet. A faded red design once thick now  foot-worn  rustled beneath my rubber-flops. That rug promised fifteen years of experience should passions arise and instant smoke death in case of fire.

A vacuum had got it fresh this morning, and fibres all stood straight up as if in shock. Maybe the landlord would  schlep this far up and take a picture. When you live on first floor nothing makes a difference; you don't either. First floor renters come  cheap as beer and common as sandspurs on a Carolina beach. Appreciated as much also, replaceable and leavable as Bridget was no doubt aware ... and she moved upstairs just weeks after her opium-scented toes first graced my pillow.

Stairs wound around the ancient, brass-trim  elevator. It was centered, in the building so no apartment was close. The chandeliers above each exit burned gas once and had never been converted.  I had liked them at first, a distraction ... something non-technical. A person can hide in a place like that ... When I  moved into the building I took all the mechanical leftovers for a social style ... a kind of elegant and unhurried poverty. That was two years ago.

Gloom hung over each  elevator exit - empty and dark -  both savvy choices for those sudden, late night trysts and hell  on the grocery shopper. Sure I'd seen 'em both ways ... usually with  wet paper bags ... Twelve doors each side, for the first and second floor wings, but by the third floor only ten.

Who figured that? I knew damned well who. The old man in 414 with no teeth and a fifteen year-old junkie girlfriend had told me!  Luck fell to people old enough or connected enough to live on the fourth floor. Jane and Moiras apartment  was last on the south-facing side. The sixth apartment, and  for three-fourths the rental, twice  the size of my own. The landlords room-dividing carpenters never made it to the fourth floor. And  neither did he.  You can understand that walking stairs were for him beyond comment and the heart ... his heart couldn't stand the stress of our elevators shock starts and stops.  But monthly rent checks were appreciated not to say demanded by his rat-terrior.  It became give-and-take with his hi-rise favorites. Fourth floor checks walked DOWN to his basement digs, while  by way of bribe fourth floor residents got every months 4th-week gratis.

All this I thought standing in the darkened 4-th floor elevator well. My left hand is comfortable buried in the rear pocket of my slacks,  while the right ... it's a mystery, or becoming one, all these bodies or none of them.  I can't imagine  Sherlock Holmes or Phil Marlowe fiddling with their thumbs. So I hide one while  peering  first into the empty elevator shaft, then down at the fresh-vacced red carpet for ...

Well the body, dweeb that's what your looking for.  Traces of Janes body ... I mean the one she thinks she saw in Moiras bed. Her imagination of course, or a fiction ... but I wonder what Marlowe would find? Like I didn't know. You could almost smell the mishap, the misanthrope, the mis-aligned ... From an elegant, but tired Brownstone Chandlers detective would find a blonde - experienced -   living too rich whose past  was shadowy as her mascara. Somewhere  behind, in those shadows hid a boyfriend, or two of them and somewhere ahead ...  Marlowe always found the dead bodies first. But not you, palsy ... my head was spinning ...

Then Janes langorous  fingers tug me down the hallway. Bridgets old apartment sits just one before Janes. The brass knocker says 404 and has a fresh wax-job. I must have stopped or slowed down or stared at the brass ...

"She's not in, Will."

"I wouldn't think so. Newspaper editors meet every morning at ..."

Janey-girl shook her head pathetically and put her hand on my arm. "I mean she's not IN? Understand?"


"Bridget left an hour early this morning."

"Couldn't sleep, huh. She's feeling sorry for herself. I knew it! Misses me already and probably depressed like me. Maybe I should ..."

"Sorry, dweeb.  She didn't leave alone ..."

"Bridgets cat tried following her out the door? Oh ..."

"You aren't listening to me, Will. As thick as walls are in this old building, nothing could silence all that screaming! I thought she was with you, but then again, you never told me she was a screamer."

"I didn't know ..."

"Men are always the last to know. But  snap out of it - gawd you look pale as a corpse! Show some determination.  There's more than one dead body to find this morning."

Jane I think has a certain psychic aspect to her. Yes, I'm sure that's true. But I figure waiting an hour or two before rolling over dead. We stand in front of  her door. Solid oak, yes and old as the building. I  puff for breath, and  hold the key out uncertainly Jane had slipped me.  A thin yellow FIRE-EXIT light flickers above her  hair. She wears spills of blonde hair over each shoulder.  She was tapping her toe, which she did whenever something was expected. Sharing a building for two years I know that much about Jane. Actually I was listening. Hell, even through a locked door you could hear a dead body roll off a bed.

Sure of it. "Is this the key?"

"How many did I give you?"

"One ..."  Flip-flops too ...  I had no intention of kicking in Janes door, and had changed out of my klodhoppers for the ascent. The red rubber soles disappeared into red shag.  

Jane said. "Then don't try the keyhole dweeb, but I figure you could slip it between the latch." Breathy and impatient ..."You are SOOOO  shaky? Just how bad a morning did you have?"

"You mean besides Bridget? A boot-sector virus ruined one of the RAIDS."

"What-ever ...  you know I don't  appreciate  that  babble."


"He's the one with AIDS?"

"OKey, the server got owned."

"Last month you were going bankrupt, now this Kletz is buying? Make up your mind!"

CLICK -  "What's ... what's that, Will?" -CLICK -

The lock turns, but does not release. I say. "Anti-virus protection,"  then push,  then shoulder into the door. With a snap and creaking the door swings open. I step through.

Janes face peered over my shoulder. "That thing you're holding in your right hand. It's no anti-virus, dweeb. That's a 32-caliber ... a revolver.  Where did you hide it?"

"In my pocket."

"I didn't see anything in your pocket, " she whispered.

"I never showed you my pocket."

"Suppose I asked?"

"Then I think about it."

"Do you think about showing me the gun?"

"No Jane, I think about hiding the pocket."

"Well you did that already without thinking about it." Janes whispering got louder. "Did you get a license?"

"For what?"

"That thing in your pocket. The gun! Don't you need a license when you hide a gun?"

"I'm not hiding it now."

"You will when the police show up."

"I'm not calling the police." Jane made my head spin. I took  three creaking steps forward ...  the hallway was empty as an oak-plank hallway can get. Both bedroom doors were closed ... or had been closed.  Farther away, light seeped out from a crack in the bathroom door that opened just enough to raise glints from vanity mirrors.

"What if the coppers find us ... gawd, Will  find you packing a gun in a womans apartment with a dead body. They'll think I'm guilty!"

"Guilty of what?"

"It's always the girl, in those Raymond Chandler books you read ... the ones you make ME read, always some ditzy dame who's done ..."

"I never called you ditzy."

"You just did."

"Then trust me, it  won't be the last time."

"Suddenly, you're so aggressive!" Janes hand touched my shoulder. "That's what I told the ex.  He wasn't the first and won't be the last. I said that just before he broke down the door."

"Most men get used to it. NOW," I growled!

We move in a rush down the hallway.  I  swipe at the bathroom door, and some sort of foo-foo potpouri pours out. We rush past the bedrooms and into the living-room. It expands like pastel origami,  unfolding  L-shaped, brightly lit and silent --  an over-furnished cave into which my apartment could comfortable disappear, and in which beside us and the balcony curtain  blowing freely over a blue velvet couch and a  chiming chrome mariner clock nothing at all else moved even a fraction.

"Nobody's here," Jane says loud and surprised. We stand in the living-room, inside a U-shaped leather couch the color and size of a swimming pool. "It's ... it's empty!"

"Seems I remember saying the same thing ... outside in the rain."  I tuck the 32-caliber revolver back into my slacks. Sure, it makes a bulge. Jane could have noticed any time ... "You didn't think a dead body would walk in here, did you?"

Three mugs and a half-filled coffee pot steams on the kitchen table. Jane breathes Gummi-flavored  hot breath down my neck,  and her  fingers clasp and unclasp the pearl choker. "Then why ..."

"I was looking for the person who left the dead body."

"Wouldn't he be in the bedroom?"

"No man hides in a  boudoir."

"I mean the dead body."

"There is no dead body in your apartment, Jane. None nada nix." Quickly I  walk back to Moiras bedroom and throw open the door.  

Suddenly  noise bangs my ears. Window-shades open wide, and  rain pounds at the glass. Moiras bed is huge, a California king. She could entertain City Council without mixing Republicans and Democrats.  I turn on the overhead studio-lights. "How big did you say that guy was? Can he hide under a pillow?" Two pillows that is, both  plumped and tucked  above a  Hopi Indian wool spread.  Neatly folded and newly ironed - if you can iron wool. I didn't see a crease in the red and black mountain landscape nor a headmark on the silk. "Looks like Moira hasn't been sleeping in her bed."

I hear a small gasp as Jane stalks around me, then stalks the bed with a frown so determined if even one little twitching toe had survived the ghostly clean-up Jane would have pounced on it like a cougar on a hare.      

"He was laying right here!" Janes fingers punch holes in a red, Hopi mountain. "And his toe was ..." her hand rips back the blanket, then silk sheets. She turns on me. "Don't look at me like that, Will. I am NOT crazy. I am not making this up."


Jane shakes the bed ... just to be sure ...  "The body was HERE, and the room totally wrecked!"

"So the guy wasn't dead. Just worn out. After you leave,  he wakes up, picks up and cleans out."

"Men never pick up ..."

"Pick up! Can I tell you where Bridget put her silk stockings?"

"Does it matter?"

"Oh, I'll say it does. She stored them with my  spare hard-drives. Do you know what silk static does to a hard-drive?"

"That's different ..."

"What's different," I say sharply?  I point at the fluorescent lamp over Moiras writing desk ...  "No papers on the desk, Jane. No panties, no socks and no ... er ... toys. And the light is turned off. Did Moira ever spend 10 seconds here with that light off? Bridget told me never."  

"So now  after she's left you, you believe Bridget. That's SOOOO like a man. I thought you would pass out in front of her door."

"I wasn't going to pass out."  Certainly not. No man ever shows that kind of weakness to a woman. I was going to jump out her window, if the door opened ...

Jane said pleadingly. "I suppose I could have caught you ...  honestly, Will have I ever lied to you?"

"You said Tofu the parrot doesn't scream."

"Cockatoo, Will, and I mean lie about a person."

"Don't beg me to remember! That party a year ago ...? The one with all the fags? You said Bridget was lonesome and sweet, when you set up that first blind date."

"Lonesome, yes. She had slept at home all week. But beg my pardon I NEVER said she was sweet, I said ...... TOFU ... T-O-F-U ... ," Jane screamed suddenly and with gushing tears  ran from the room.  

Jane stood in front of Tofus empty cage. It  swung from a bamboo pole Jane had nailed into the wall ... actually, that I had  hammered into the wall while Tofu shrieked  WRAK ... NAIL 'ER UP, MATEY ... WRAK ...  ON A DEAD MANS CHEST ... WRAK ...

The cage swung uneasy ...  bulky as a washing machine ...  heavy brass bars just sturdy enough to keep in Tofu who had size and dispositions of a green vulture. Its proper home was a herd of dead antelope. Jane fed it smoked salmon while I drove the nails. That had been two years ago and suddenly I became Janes pal. Now the cage sat empty and Jane was bawling.

I tried to help. "At least they didn't take your stash."

"My T-O-F-U ...", Jane wailed and rushed at the cage. "She'll freeze!"

I nodded. Jane kept her apartment at the temperature and humidity of  a Costa Rican rain-forest, which  seemed to suit Tofu just fine. "Birds fluff their feathers in the cold. Tofu can survive ..."

"Not my Tofu. I  give her a cut and wax every month."

"Oh ... how domestic." I'd never heard of cut-and-wax for a parrot, but  from what Bridget had described it could have done her no good. Just how domestic is enough has limits. But heat is one thing and a cage something else again. I pointed to the open balcony window. "Flown the coup. That's my guess?"

"She flew away?"

"A bird in the bushes is happier than one in the hand."

Jane turned angrily. "So much you know ... how can you say something so heartless and cruel. Tofu would NEVER leave me!" Jane stomped to the window peering out  disconsolately into solid sheets of rain. Then whorled around pointing a long, slinky finger at me. "She SAW something! There was a dead body in Moiras bed ... there was a crime, Will and Tofu heard or saw the criminal. Call the police!"

"Be reasonable, Jane."

"Don't give me that reasonable crap. You aren't the one with a lost bird."

"Not lost ... how about un-found. Tofu could be hiding anywhere."

"How dumb do I look. Will? You think she's hatching eggs in the crisper?"

"I think we should  sit down and think it over. How many bodies are missing? When did they go missing? Let's talk about it."

"Talk? A man of action like you? After you dial 911 !"

I patted my pocket. "The police aren't going to be happy finding an man with an unlicensed concealed revolver at the scene of a crime. They won't like your stash, either."

"Oh damn the stash ...". Janey whips out a cell-phone and starts punching 911 ... which punching takes not much till I grab her long, langorous wrist ...

"We'll call no crime before it's time ..."

"Whatever, dweeb," she said flipping the phone to me and whipping over to the empty, swinging, creaking cage. "Here then ...". She extracted a plastic baggy from beneath  layers of  mouldy, yellow newspaper at the cage bottom. "Put it with the coffee. I never believed  the Kona was organic anyway. How can anything be organic in the middle of an ocean?"

"I think they kept pigs and fowl," I said taking the baggy and trotting toward the kitchen.

"Pigs are NOT organic. They're foul! Neither are turkeys."

"Tell that to a  turkey."

Jane has poured coffee into two mugs. She sips hers. "Have you ever seen the label ingredients on a  frozen turkey? How can you call that organic?"

"I don't think the turkey cares by then ..."

"Just like a man, to say that. Maybe YOU can't tell the difference ... just taste this Kona and tell me if it's organic or factory made."  

True enough. I've seen white coffee  beans that God never intended and chocolate coffee meant only to hook kids while they smoked their mothers Marlboros.  Jane's  strolling behind me two cups of Kona in hand as I open the fridge door, and ... she shrieks

 "... T-O-F-U ..."

Behind me I hear two mugs crash. Janey-girl never kept a clean floor, I think and have flipped  Janes stash into the crisper ... flipped - tossed ... dropped  would not really do  justice to the ocean of green waxed  clipped feathers stuffed into the crisper, or my hand that shakes like an electrified mummy.

I  stutter " ... B...B...BRIDGET!"

Who lives in the present ... really?  I wanted to say hello and apologize. The last time Bridgets green eyes watched me so coldly ... I had dared  satisfaction before hers and rolled out of a long denied and thus overheated clutch. Boy would she give it to me now! It was Bridgets rule, you see. Roll your own or never roll out of a clutch before she had reached ... as she fondly called it ... the third plateau.  

Months before  she had caught  out the phrase from a DXM  abuse website. What was she doing there or clubbing away on my  Linux box?  Damn! I cursed the day she found my password scribbled in black magic marker on the  keyboard. A man misses those woman-gone-bad things about a woman after she goes away.

We had stolen that afternoon. I was reaching for a Camel Straight when I caught those ice-pick eyes in the ceiling mirror she insisted I bore into perfectly good drywall. Green icy eyes that would neither clear nor soften. She wore red lipstick that afternoon ... redder than red. That red now, the bruise over her left temple.

"...Jane ..." I think I said weakly.

Yes, I had seen Bridget naked and Jack-Frosted over before.  I reached out to touch her face ... it was only hiding there, you know, pale and fridged like an etching ...  she would jump out at me if only I could pry free the etching ... from behind  double-pane  freezer glass.  I staggered backward, not really feeling Janes loping hands on my shoulders, then my waist. I plopped into a  Wedgewood chair and broke off the arm. My head and eyes swam in that disconnected sort of way  loss brings. It's funny, what you remember ...

Then I heard  the raspy scrapping - SNICK - SNICK - the scrapping of metal over metal. It sounded so much like Jane cocking the hammer of my 32-caliber revolver. I went for the pocket. My hand felt and came away empty and I looked up.

Jane had the 32-caliber revolver pointed at my gut.  

She laughed an amused little laugh. "HA! You should see  your hopeless self. Beady little pin-pick eyes and mouth hanging open ... you were muttering nonsense about  green ice and naked frost. You were drooling. A woman could shoot you out of pity."

"I try not to drool ... honest ..."

"You are soooo owned, dweeb." She was so close to me that strands of her blonde hair were brushing my shoulder, but her voice ... that  voice seemed to echo from another side of the earth.


"Crashed, overflowed, exploited ... corrupted."

"Well yes ... of course ... memory is easy to corrupt." Suddenly Janes face came into focus. "I thought you hated those computer words?"

"Ha! HaX0Red that's you thinking I was just a ditzy dame."

"Did I think that," I said weakly? "I certainly think more of you now."  A 32-caliber doesn't look like much unless you are staring into the snub steel barrel. Jane had stepped away, but her long arms waved the barrel in front of my nose. Long as the longest day, that snotty snub-nosed, or queerest impression of Jane and I couldn't remember when I first started thinking about it or why. I was impressed. "Did you and Bridget have a disagreement?"

Jane mocked, "agree to disagree? How little you know. We agreed on everything, but I agreed more forcefully."  

"Yes I see ...  wasn't about the coffee was it? No, of course not. Bridget hated Kona."

"You're babbling, dweeb. Hahahaha ..."

"I'll be all right. But how could you ever kill the parrot? You loved it."

"Sometimes a girl just has to adapt. Tofu saw too much."

"Beaked parrot lips don't slip."

"Cockatoo, and so much you know Mr smartypants.  Beak, feathers and all, Tofu was an overly bright cockatoo. They're limited, really,  only suppose to learn twenty-six words.  But Tofu started shrieking  'WRAK ... PENNY-A-WHACK ... WRAK ... JANEY-GIRLS  GOT THE HAMMER ... WRAK ...'  

What was I supposed to do?"

I poured a bit of the Kona into the empty mug and sipped ... "Hummm ... get Bridget another cup of coffee?"

"The grabby bitch wouldn't listen to reason, and I couldn't poison her since she won't drink organic."  

"So when Bridget left her apartment early this morning, you lured her over here and used my hammer." I lit a fresh Camel and chewed on the bitter, Virginia blend. "But afterward, you never walked out through the door."

"What a clever dweeb you are this morning. I did learn from those detective novels. Fingerprints, footprints ...  who wants to leave a postcard? Naturally, I climbed out through the balcony window and down the fire-escape."

"Yes, of course ... the sensible shoes ... But did you ever consider councilling  for Bridget and you  ... I'm OKey, you're a crapper kinda stuff  ..." I  slipped forward in the chair ...

"Far enough Will ..." Janes shaky hand steadied. "Talk? To Bridget! What a laugh. Ha! She was always too stoned on Robitussin to find a verb not written down on paper. Verbs like NO, NOT, NIX, NEVER ...MINE!"  Jane puffed blowing a web of  blonde hair from her eye. "Enjoy the Hawaiian junk while you can. I can't stand the thought of lead pollution if I have to shoot three times."

"Shoot me? Well, I guess the hammer IS out of the question ..."

"Are you being smart?"

"No. But why?"

"Why shoot you? What a  moon-faced Lusr you are." Jane had hustled herself a new cup and mocha creamer from the fridge before shutting the door.  She gulped the  Kona. "All you can talk about is Bridget. What a cheating round-heels she was if you only knew ... Bridget this and Bridget that. You never once looked at me, and after everything she did you still loved her. You hate me."

"Yes indeed, that's one of the whys. But ... but why Bridget?"

Jane shot me a sharp-toothed feral stare. "Are you that blind? How do you think I live so well?" She gripped her pearl choker, and stalked passed the table on long  models legs that now seemed shaky with her sensible shoes toeing  Moroccan living-room carpet. "Bridget was trying to steal the landlord from me."

"Steal? Silly me. I thought he could be had for a rent check."

"Easy to say if you have the check. A BIG check, Will. Mulla, dinaris, clams ... You make peanuts. I need and Bridget wanted T-bone. She was determined to cover her  ceilings with cut lead crystal mirrors. Imported ... Italian ... do you have any idea ...?" Jane motioned the gun barrel toward the door. "Our landlord offered to supply the lift."

I stuttered ... "Huh ... he ... the landlord? He and Bridget?"

"They screwed like rutting pigs." Janes toes  harshly scrapped the carpet. "And don't try making wimpy  excuses for her. Oh I can hear you ...' a mistake, huh ... human frailty ...' give this chick a break! I tell you  week after week  they went at it, and did she suffer?  She screamed!"

"Oh ... I thought the landlord had a heart condition?"

"Heart? Ha! That scumball? I could laugh at that! He swallows nitro-tablets like Gummi-bears that ...  that useless, no good, double-crossing mangy dog."

"Pigs ... dogs ... cockatoos ... Bridget always was kind to animals." Sometimes you can't do anything better than make an excuse. A month ago, maybe or two when Bridget and I were hot-stuff I'd offered to move us out to the valley ... get a house and a yard and a dog ... Bridget hated dogs ...  I said. "Lousy as the landlord guy is, that's no boost to YOUR ego, huh?"

"I gave him all the boost he needed, him and his sleezy camera." Janes face went away someplace ... then turned harsh. "I earned  him more ego than he was born with."

"So maybe he was investing the profit?"

"Damn you Will that's just SOOOOOO like men to stick together. Don't worry; I'll fix his lift later, but  your hapless, ruined ego,  ...  that's my way out. You're my alibi."

"And I thought I was just a pal."

"Listen up, palsy ...  I'll  tell you a bed-time story anyone can believe.  You discover the woman you love is sleeping with the landlord. The babe is cheating, conniving, double-dealing ...  you dash up to her apartment to confront her."

"Then aren't we in the wrong apartment?"

"Not even!  You think I haven't worked this out? Bridget escapes into my place ... she has a key ... but you bust through the door and kill her with the hammer."

"So that's why the apartment key didn't work. You queered the lock before ..."

"Of course. A man wild with jealousy ... you had to break it!"

"No kissy kissy makeup then, huh? Bridget could be awfully persuasive ..."

"Are you being some kinda perv? Of course you don't forgive her. You act without mercy, my poor deluded dweeb. It's a  sudden, overwhelming passion thingy ... like hickys but more decisive! Naturally,  Tofu sees you kill Bridget, so you have to kill her also. Then I happen by."

"The goddess of chance just happens ..."

"Maybe yours does, but I poured two ounces of nail-polish remover into our surge protector. When it caught fire boy-oh-boy did it ever smoke!"

"Of course you disarm me."

"Not at all ...  seeing Bridgets poor dead body you become horrified at the act!  Depressed, lonely, you're raving insanely. You're a suicide!"

"But you're the protective type. You try stopping me."

"What can a frail woman do once a man's made up his tiny little mind."

"Tiny, yes, but it's tough to kill yourself with a hammer."

"Hammer?  Are you being smart?  You  suicide with  this revolver!"

"From twenty feet?"

Police sirens wailed in the background. Perhaps she wasn't so far away. If foxes were quail, then who would eat eggs? Seems I'd been thinking like that all day and I didn't feel good about it. Real pals understand while the bodies are still warm. I blew a long thin final  stream of smoke toward the open window and it whisked away ... Jane swung those  langorous legs toward me.

"No more Mr smartypants." A crimson rage came over her face as she lifted the 32-caliber revolver toward  my head and fired point blank  ...

-- CLICK -  CLICK --

"But ... but ..."

"We shoulda stayed pals, Janey-girl."

"Pals? I would have been happy with once-a-week. I see how you look at me. But damn, the one day I need you ..."

"Janey-girl, I was only kidding.  Do you think I'd carry a loaded gun in my pants pocket?"