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Friday, January 24, 2014

"D Is For Doxy" Chapter 3

Here is another example of my writing that I've been sharing here - I've been uploading one chapter at a time.  I need to do so more regularly so that my followers can finish the entire book.  Here then is Chapter 3 of "D Is For Doxy," featuring my hard-boiled private eye Steve Randall:


     Saturday, I hadn’t planned on finding out much, and I was right – to a point.  Although I was sitting in my car near Baker’s office again at lunchtime, I saw something, but it didn’t involve him.  While I was looking for him to come out, a couple police cars drove up and parked across the street.  The officers exited their cars and all went inside a building that looked closed for the weekend.  I could tell they weren’t paying a social visit.
     My attention was now drawn to them, nevertheless, I kept glancing back to Baker’s building.  After the cops had been inside for about ten minutes, a coroner’s car and an ambulance drove up.  The coroner went inside and the two men from the ambulance unloaded a stretcher and followed him in.  Something was happening right under my nose.
    Not being the only one, who by now was getting interested in the proceedings going on inside, I got out of my car and wandered over to join with the small crowd that had gathered.  At least now, I wouldn’t stand out if Mr. Baker came out and spotted me.  A small buzz hovered among those gathered, and it was then that one of the cops came out to keep the crowd under control.  They weren’t unruly or anything, just curious.  I, on the other hand, had a professional curiosity.  I tried to listen to what was being said.
    Some of the people nearer the cop began asking him questions.  At first, he tried to ignore them.  After a while, the cop, being only human, starting looking around and letting slip some answers.
     “What happened in there?”  One elderly lady inquired.
     “The janitor reported somebody dead inside.”
     The cop was a younger, blonde-haired fellow, who, perhaps hadn’t been a policeman for very long.  He looked stiff in his sharply-pressed uniform.
     “Who was it they found in there?”  This came from a young woman standing at his left.
     “They think it was the owner of the building.”
     “When was the body found?”
    “The janitor got here about ten this morning and was cleaning the offices when he came upon one with the deceased.”
    “Ooh, that’s awful.”
    “It must have been a terrible shock.”
     “I can’t really say, ma’am,” was the young cop’s reply.
     “How long had he been there dead?”
     “We don’t know, but the coroner says at least overnight.”
    Bells went off in my head.  I had been here last night watching for Baker.  What if it had happened then?  Maybe I’d better ask to see the officer in charge.
     I managed to get the cop to one side and told him my story.
    “Look, officer, did the guy really get killed last night?”
     “I couldn’t say for sure.”
    “Hey, I’m not one of those thrill seekers over there.  I’m a private investigator.”
     “Oh, yeah?”
    “Yeah.  What you don’t know is that I was here, last night, staking out that building over there,” and I pointed across the street.  He turned and looked at me full face for a few seconds and then decided to escort me in.
    “Come with me.”  I did.
    We went in to one of the back rooms and found the other cops, the coroner and the ambulance attendants.  One of the policemen was taking photographs of the body while every one else looked on.  I was taken directly to the officer in charge.  He was standing to one side.
     “Lieutenant, this guy may have something for us.”
    He looked me up and down slowly and said, “Is that right?”
     “Well,” I answered, “I don’t know for sure, but I was staked out front watching the place across the street
from about five until just after ten-thirty last night.”
    His demeanor brightened immediately.
    “I see.  And did you see anyone come into this building?”
    “I’ve been trying to think.  See, I was mostly keeping an eye open for my man to come out across the street.”
    “What for?”
    “His wife hired me to.”
    And in that one word, I knew what he was thinking.
    “I was trying to remember.  The streets were pretty busy last night, it being Friday, and there was a lot of traffic.  I’m pretty sure it all went on by without stopping here.”
     “So, you don’t really remember anything?”
     “Well, let me think.”
     He turned toward the coroner and started barking out a few instructions.
     “Can you give me an approximation as to the time of death?”
    “Well, roughly speaking, yes.  I can only say somewhere between seven and eleven last night.  But, most likely in that time frame.”
     The Lieutenant turned to me and asked, “You were there then, weren’t you?”
     He turned back to his men.  “Okay.  How did he get here?  Did he have any keys on him?”
    “Yes, right here.”
    One of the officers reached in a plastic bag and pulled out a set of keys.  He held them out in front of him.
     “Good, now go out and see if they fit any of the cars out there.  If they do, come back in let me know.”
    I thought I’d save them the trouble of checking mine, so I spoke up.
     “Mine’s the ’54 Buick sedan, by the mailbox.”
     “That’s all right,” said the Lieutenant, “check ‘em all.”
     The man finished taking pictures, so the ambulance attendants went to work.  By the time they had the body
strapped onto the stretcher, the guy who had went outside to check the keys came back in.
     “Found it, Lieutenant.”
     “Where was it?”
     “Parked a few spaces back of his Buick.”  He motioned in my direction.
     “Okay, get some pictures of it and check it inside and out for prints or anything else.  We may get lucky and the killer rode up with him.  But, I doubt it.  Right now it looks like he probably came in while somebody was robbing the place.”
     The guy with the camera equipment stepped out through us and left the room.  As soon as he was gone, we all heard a woman’s voice from outside, and it was getting nearer.
     “Young man, move aside.  I have a perfect right to be here.”
     Suddenly, she burst inside the office with the young cop looking perplexed.
    “I tried to keep her out, but....”  The Lieutenant cut him off.
    “What are you doing here, ma’am?  We’re conducting an investigation here.”
    “I know, and it’s my husband’s building.”
     And it was then that she saw the corpse, which had by now been covered up with a sheet.
    “Is that.... is that....?”
    She walked over to the stretcher and one of the attendants lifted the edge of the sheet to reveal the head.  The woman took one look at it and immediately broke into sobs.
    “Oh, George, George.  Why did this have to happen to you?”
     By this time, she was fully in the light and I realized who she was.  I had been asked, a few years back, to give a talk at some lady’s society meeting in the library.  She had been on the committee that had asked me to speak about my line of work and, as I remembered it, she had been fairly fascinated by it.  If she saw me, she’d probably recognize me from it.
     She was crying uncontrollably on the shoulder of the ambulance worker.  The Lieutenant let her cry for a bit and then spoke gently to her.
     “Miss.... Ma’am?  Am I to understand that this is your husband?”
     “What’s your name, Ma’am?”
     “Lawry, Eydie Lawry.”
     “When was the last time you saw your husband?”
     “Last night about.... well, it was after the ‘Life of Riley’, a television program we both watch.”
     “And what time would that be?”
     “It went off at.... nine.”
     “And for what reason did he give for leaving?”
     “He said he wanted to check on something here at the store.”
     “Did he often do this?”
     “Lately, yes.  He had gotten the notice that someone might be breaking in sometime or another, so occasionally, he watched the place.”
     “What do you mean, ‘watched the place?’”
     “He’d come down here for hours at a time some nights and wait here with the lights down.  Hoping to catch the thief.”
     “I see.  Did you ever come with him?”
     “No.  He said it might not be safe for me, so I never came along.”
     “Well, it looks like he might have been right about the break-in.  He must have come in on them in the act and gotten killed for it.”
     Mrs. Lawry took his statement too hard and started to cry again.  This time, she used the Lieutenant’s shoulder.  He tapped her on the arm and asked her something else.
     “Ma’am, I know this is pretty rough on you, but until we get anything further, could I have one of my men drive you home?  You’ll probably feel better there.”
     She lifted her head up in my direction.
     “Maybe you’re right.  Why, Mr. Randall, what are you doing here?  Have they called you in on the case?”
     The Lieutenant looked at me, wondering what my connection with the woman was.
     “Not exactly, Mrs. Lawry, I was working nearby on something else last night, when....” I paused, “Say, was
his car a white over blue Caddy?”
     The Lieutenant looked from me to the officer who had found the car the keys had belonged to.
     “What about it, Jensen.  Was it?”
     “Yes, sir.  A pretty new one, too.”
     Mrs. Lawry spoke up.
     “That’s our car, officer.  George just got it last November.”
     “What about the car, Randall, did you see it pull up last night?”
     “I remember it now.  It was after nine, about a quarter of an hour after I heard the 9:02 pull in at the terminal.  I was getting fidgety from having sat in my car for so long and I happened to glance up in my rearview mirror.  I noticed a car pull up without it’s headlights on.  A man, about his description,” I motioned to the deceased, “got out and entered this building.”
     “Was anyone with him?”
     “That I can answer easily.  I didn’t see anyone in his car, at least, if they were, they were below the dash.  But, nobody got out with him and I didn’t see anyone waiting for him outside the building.  As far as I can remember, he went in alone.”
     “Parker, go back and find the back exit of this place.  See if it’s been jimmied.”
     “Right, Lieutenant.”
     “Randall, you said you were out there how long?”
     “Until just after ten-thirty.”
     “Did you hear any gunshots?  That’s how he was killed.”
     “No, but I had my windows up against the chill.  I might not have heard shots through my windows and a closed up building.”
     “True.  Did you notice anything else?”
     “No, the man I was watching came out at ten-thirty, and I left.”
     “That’s too bad.  If you’d been here a little longer, you might have had a chance to see the killer come out.
As it was.... I guess that’s all.”
     “If you don’t mind, Lieutenant, maybe I could get Mr. Randall to drive me home.”
     I had the same stunned look as the Lieutenant.
     “Me, ma’am?”  I asked.
     “Yes.  If you don’t mind?”
     “Well, I guess you’re finished with both of us, aren’t you, Lieutenant?”
     “For now, but we may have to talk to both of you again, so be available.”
     “All right.”  I turned to Mrs. Lawry.  “My car’s out front.”
     I took her arm and led her outside to the onlooking crowd.  They quieted down as we walked by and I put her in the passenger side of my car.  I closed the door, walked around and got in myself.  I had to ask her where she lived because I didn’t know.  If I had known at one time, I didn’t remember.
     “Where to, Mrs. Lawry?”
     “Keep going straight.  I’ll show you.”
     We rode in silence for a few blocks and then she turned to me and started speaking.  I was expecting it.
     “You’re probably wondering why I asked you to do this.”
     “I remembered you right away when I saw you, and I thought I could, perhaps, hire you to find my husband’s killer.”
     “The police are doing everything they can and I’m sure they have the means and the manpower to get it done faster than I could.  And save you a lot of money, besides.”
     “I don’t care.  I think you could do things in a different way and get faster results.  I must know who killed George.”
     I mulled over the proposition in my head as we rode along in silence.
     “I suppose I could look into it a little.  Nose around here and there.  But, if I turned up anything, I’d have to give it to the police.”
     “Fair enough.  Then, you’ll work for me?”
     “I’ll look into it.  I can’t promise you anything, though.”
     “Somehow, I don’t know about that.  I think you could get results.”
     I didn’t know whether to take that as a compliment or not, so I said nothing.  After a few turns, we came to her house.  It took up half the block.  She told me to pull up in front and stop, so I did.
     “Now, if you need anything from me, don’t hesitate to ask.  Do you need anything, Mr. Randall?”
     “I normally receive seventy-five bucks a day.”
     “Oh, well, I’ll drop a check in the mail right away.  I’ll make it for five hundred.  Will that be enough to start out with?”
     “More than enough.”
     “Good.  You’ll probably get it on Tuesday.  Is there anything else?”
     “Did your husband go out often to check on his building?”
     She gave me a curious look.  “What are you implying?”
     “I’m not implying anything.  I just wondered.”
     She took a few seconds before she answered.  When she did, I could tell she was unsure of herself.
     “Well, lately, he’d started going over there on and off more frequently.  It was just recently that I started wondering about it.”
     “But, you didn’t know for sure?”
     “No, not for sure,” came her whispered reply.
     “I see.  So, that’s why you want me to look into it?”
     “You can be a little more discreet than the police.”
     “Yes.  But, again, if I find out anything conclusive, I’ll still have to take it to them.”
     “Yes, I understand that.  You will come to me first, won’t you?  Since I’m paying you?”
     “Yes, I’ll do that for you.”
     “I don’t know how to thank you.”
     “Don’t worry, you don’t have to.  It’s part of the service.”
     I remember saying the same thing just the other day.  She opened the door and started to say something, but
evidently changed her mind.  For, she shut the door and walked off into her house.  I waited until she had closed
the door, then moved off into the traffic.
     It was pretty odd for me to have gotten two cases in two days that were so different, and yet, so much alike.

Nikki's Favorite Daughter - A Short Story

In case some of you follow my blog and like to read my uploads, here's a short story first for you.  It's entitled "Nikki's Favorite Daughter."  It essentially came to me in a dream, and in that dream, I envisioned it to be filled with a lot of dialogue.  So, if it seems a little "talky," blame my subconcious/sleeping mind, not me!  Here it is, so enjoy it!  If you read it and loved it or hated it, please don't hesitate to comment and let me know.  I appreciate hearing from the people who read my blog.  It gives me a reason to continue doing it.

Nikki’s Favorite Daughter

     “Your Nikki’s favorite daughter, aren’t you?”
     The television news reporter from Channel 10 moved his microphone nearer her lips in anticipation of a response.
     “I guess I am.  How did you find me?”
     “We have our sources, Mrs. Halley.”
     “I’d like to know who they are.”  She laughed.
     “So would a thousand other people.  Then, you don’t mind a few questions?”
     She studied her watch for a few seconds.  Staring at it wouldn’t make it any later and she wasn’t due back in town for another two hours, not until school let out.  Being interviewed by Les Warren was as good a way as any to kill some time.  She pointed to the chairs on her porch.
     “If we’re going to do this, let’s at least be comfortable.”
     “Thanks a lot.  It’s very nice of you to agree to this.”
     Les motioned to his two-man crew and they began setting up pieces of electronic equipment just off the front edge of the early-afternoon-sunlit porch.  When they were ready, the one shouldering a large video camera nodded his head.  The interview could begin.
     “Just why is channel 10 so interested in me, now?  Wouldn’t my mother be the better story?”
     “She might, but no one can get to her.  They’ve got her sealed up tighter than a kettle drum in the New York Philharmonic.  And besides, you’ll make a great human interest piece.  Something we’ve found our viewers really respond to.”
     “I’ve seen your show.  Maybe I should go take off half my clothes.  Give them more to respond to, Les.”
     “It’s not sweeps.  You’ll do fine just the way you are.  The natural look.”
     “You’re sure?”
     “Relax.  Tell me about your relationship with Nikki.”
     She couldn’t help smiling, despite the circumstances.  “She was my mother, you know.”  Les frowned.  “Okay, my relationship with Nikki.”  She stared out over the cameraman’s head and her eyes got a faraway, wistful look in them.  For a full sixty seconds, she was silent.  The reporter wondered if she was going to back out of the interview.  Finally, she cleared her throat and started to speak.  Because her voice was so low, the soundman punched up the recording level a few decibels.
     “I was the last of three girls, we didn’t have any brothers.  I was six years younger than my oldest sister, Nancy and four years behind Abbe.  We were always close, in those early years, even despite the age difference.  They never treated me like the baby of the family, not like mother did.  Oh, she meant well, I suppose, but how do you think Nan and Abbe felt about it?  Although Nikki gave me most of her attention, they managed to take it in stride.  I never once knew them to get mad at anything mother did.  And she was always doing things just a little bit different than everybody else.  ‘The Nikki Torres Way,’ she called it.  Like it was patented or something.”
     “I remember once when she came to get me out of school, I must have been in the fourth or fifth grade at the time.  When my teacher asked what she was doing there, long before class was over, my mother looked at her and said, ‘I always try to take a personal interest in the teaching of my child.  Don’t you know what today is?’  It was just an ordinary school day, for all my teacher knew, so she said no.  My mother, being the forceful presence that she is, planted both feet firmly on the floor and said in her best ‘I’m surprised you don’t know what day it is’ voice, ‘Why, today is the day that the swallows fly back from Capistrano.’  I guess you could have knocked Miss Wilson over with a feather.  She was too astonished to have an answer for her.  There was often no answer for the situations mother created.  I didn’t want to leave my classmates, and I couldn’t disappoint mother.  Dear, sweet, well-intentioning Nikki.  She took me, and only me, for a drive to the seashore, where we sat for hours in her convertible foreign sports car watching the waves crash endlessly onto the beautiful, empty beaches.  No other living thing was around except for a few hungry seagulls.”
     “Did she do this often?”
     “What?  Wait for the swallows?”
     “To my knowledge, she never did it again.  But she was always doing things like that, you understand.”
     “What about your sisters, did she do things like that with them?”
     “No, never.”  The roar of a jet drifted over them and she waited until it subsided.  She repeated, “Never.”
     “Was it because she didn’t like them as well?”
     “Oh, no.  She adored them.  All three of us got swell presents at Christmas and for our birthdays.  She never skimped on those.”
     “But.... there was something....?”
     She nodded.  “It wasn’t a thing you could put your finger on and say, ‘There, there it is.’”
     “Then, what do you think it was?”
     “Do you have any children?”
     “Two.  A boy and a girl.”
     “Is your boy the oldest?”
     “No, my daughter is.”
     “Right there.  You see?”
     “See what?”
     “You said, ‘a boy and a girl.’  Not, ‘a girl and a boy.’  Why was that?”
     “It’s just natural, I suppose.”
     “You should have said, ‘a girl and a boy.’  She’s the oldest.”
     “I didn’t mean anything by it.”
     “I know, it’s just what I was saying, though.  There was nothing.... concrete about it.  I just felt inside that there was something different in her manner toward me.”
     “Did your sisters notice it?”
     “They never let on if they did.  But, I know they must have.”
     “Didn’t anyone say anything about it?”
     “That was the funny part.  Just when it seemed like she thought of me as an only child, why, then she’d surprise everyone and bring Nan a pony, or Abbe an expensive doll house, imported from England.”
     “Where did she get the money?  I know she didn’t work.”
     “Her first husband died and left her financially secure.”
     “Was he your father?”
     “No, he wasn’t mine, nor my sisters.  She never talked about him, so we didn’t know much about him.  What little I have learned about him, I found out from digging through old records.”
     “Why did you want to know?”
     “Curiosity, I suppose.  I wanted to know more about Nikki so maybe I could understand why....”
     The soundman stepped up onto the edge of the wooden porch.  “Could you pause for a second, Les?  I need to put in another tape.”
     Les looked at the woman seated beside him, watching her eyes.  No matter what he might wish, it was up to her to make the final decision.
     “No, go ahead,” she whispered.  “I don’t mind.  A short break might be good.”
     A new tape was inserted and a hand signal given to start the interview again.  Les tried to put her back at ease once more.  If he was lucky, he might get enough footage to run two different spots - one for the six-o’clock news and another at ten.  He mentioned her father, if only for the happy memories it might stir up.
     “Angelo Torres, the man that gave you and your sisters a first step into the world.  What was he like?”
     “He was a good man.  What I can remember of him.”
     “When did you last see him?”
     “Just last week.”
     Les looked up from his notes.  “Oh.... I was under the impression that....”
     “Well, at one time, yes.  But, since this.... thing, I very much wanted to talk to him.  He was glad to see me, for whatever the reason.”
     “When did he leave you?”
     “Nikki kicked him out around 1972.”
     “Was the story true about there being another woman involved?”
     “For years, that was what mother told us.  It must have been her own kind of personal therapy, I guess, but there was no truth to it.  None whatsoever.”
     “Do you know the real reason why they split up?  Or have you surmised it?”
     “Yes, I do know.  I just don’t feel comfortable saying it.”
     “Too painful?”
     “No, it’s not that.  You might think I was imagining things.”
     “You know Nikki best.”
     “Yes, and that’s why I’m almost certain of my feelings.  They’re all I have to go on, but I.... know I’m
right, so I’ll just come out and say it.  Mother didn’t want anything to come between us.”
     Les sat there, hardly believing the words she was saying, what she was implying.
     “You mean, between her and you?” he said.
     “That’s exactly what I mean.  I think as time wore on, she started changing.  Her and Angelo never got on famously, as the saying goes, so there was no love lost between them.  My sisters and I missed him for a while, but she conditioned him right out of our thoughts.  Quick.  Too quick.  We believed all the things she said about him, why shouldn’t we?  She was our mother.  And I kept believing them up until I was in high school.  Then I began to read between the lines of what she had said.  What she said didn’t make sense to me anymore.  Unfortunately, I never took the thought any farther.  I wish now that I had.”
     “How was your father when you saw him last week?”
     “He told me he was sorry it all happened, as was I, and I assured him I knew it wasn’t his fault.  It meant a lot for him to know that I felt that way.”
     “Did your sisters ever try to track him down?”
     “If they did, I never knew about it.”
     “Would they have told you if they had?”
     “I think so.  As I said, we were always close.”
     “Always?  Even after they graduated and moved away?”
     “They may have been in two other states, but there was a kind of bond between us.... scientists would probably call it a mental link or E.S.P.”
     “What do you think it was?”
     “Just the fact that we lived so close together all those years.  You grow to know someone after that long.”
     “Did Nikki realize you three were that close?”
     “We didn’t, at the time, so how could she?  She was just your average mother.”
     “Hardly average.”
     “We thought she was great.  When that’s all you’ve ever known, you tend to think everyone’s mother is like that.”
     “Were your friend’s mothers like that?”
     “Friendships were a thing that she never encouraged.  We always had to come home right after school.  We
weren’t allowed to play at friend’s houses or to sleep over.”
     “Did Nikki demand that?”
     “Yes, in a way.  Only, she made it seem like nothing out of the ordinary.  Why, when we got home, she was just as likely to involve all of us in making a batch of cookies or to take us to the zoo.  She was always one for family togetherness.”
     “Yet, through it all, she still favored you?”
     “What can I say?  She did, but she must have had a reason for doing so.”
     “Do you ever wish you could ask her what it was?”
     “No, after all these years, I wouldn’t want to know.”
     “Aren’t you in the least bit curious?”
     “My curiousity became jaded at a very young age.  When my sisters became old enough to finally move out on their own, I sensed relief in them.  Maybe more than that.  It was nothing tangible and I’m sure mother wasn’t aware of it.”
     “How did she take it when they left?”
     “She turned to me.  I was still there and she liked me even more because of it.  Now, however, she was unimpeded in her efforts to shower me with every bit of her love and affection.”
     “Did it seem strange at the time?”
     “What is normal and what is not?  As I said, if that’s all you’ve ever known, you don’t know any different.  Her manner didn’t change overnight.  If anything, it just grew more intense.  It was just her and I alone in that big, rambling house.”
     “The one in West Hollywood.”
     “Yes, that’s the one.  She always told us that a famous movie star had owned it.  I asked a realtor once and found out that it had been owned by a minor starlet from the silent era of the twenties.  I’ve since forgotten her name.”
     “Why did you go to New York when you turned twenty-one?”
     “Who knows?  Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we lived in Hollywood, the motion picture capital of the world.  At the time, I suppose, I saw myself as a great actress, the next Katherine Hepburn.  I wanted to learn all about it, but just not here.  Do you understand?”
     Les nodded his head without speaking.
     She continued.  “New York was where real actresses lived and worked, learned and starved, and coped and triumphed.  It sounded romantic to a girl of twenty-one.”
     “I can imagine.”
     “Maybe you can.  Anyway, I went there and supported myself, not in the custom I’d been used to, but it wasn’t a bad experience, in all.  I remember back on those two years quite fondly.  When I came back to California, mother insisted that I stay with her until I got settled.  I had gotten over the notion of being the next big thing and had become a very good secretary after my time in New York.  I liked the work and had no trouble in securing a position almost immediately.  It was with a firm that was involved, peripherally, with the motion picture industry.”
     “Howe Associates.  I believe a couple of their clients are the heads of some of the minor studios.”
     “Precisely.  The job provided me with more than enough to live on, so I found my own apartment and really started to live my life.  It felt like the first time I had ever done so.”
     “How did Nikki feel about it?  About being left alone, abandoned by her last daughter?”
     “She wasn’t like that, she was very supportive.  She always was when it had something to do with me.  Nan and Abbe could have ideas about things, but whenever I had a notion, it was always full speed ahead.”
     “Can you give me an example?”
     “There was the time I wanted to go into business for myself.”
     “After Howe Associates?”
     “No, when I was eight years old.”
     “What kind of business could a child of eight desire?”
     “I chose the age-old favorite, a lemonade stand.  For customers, I had our neighbors in the immediate
area.  They all knew me, knew that I was very precocious at that age.  Still, I made a go of it.”   
     “How long did it last?”
     “Why, the complete summer vacation.”
     “Did you make much money?”
     “I probably lost twice as much as I made.  Mother furnished all the lemonade supplies.”
     “Did your sisters help you?”
     “No, it was my project alone.  Mother made sure to stress that point.”
     “Did they mind being left out of it?”
     “Well, they were at the age when they were just beginning to find out about boys.  That kept them occupied and out of the way of mother’s need for my special attention.”
     “How did Nikki take it when you got married?”
     “I don’t think she expected anything to change.  It always does, though.”
     “Yes, marriage is a big step.”
     “It was for me.  I found myself in a whole different world.  One I never even dreamed existed.  I still had my job as a secretary and Jack worked in an advertising firm.  We were very much in love right then, still are, as a matter of fact, and life looked rosy.  At the beginning, mother seemed to support us.  I had everything I’d ever wanted and my mother’s approval, too.  She came to our house on numerous occasions and each time I never suspected that anything was wrong.  Then, my sisters began dropping by.  My mother was putting things into their heads, things that weren’t true, and they were checking up on me.  Each time they came, I sensed that strange things were going on in their minds, but nothing was ever said.  They’d stay for a couple of days, find out how things really were, and then go back to their own lives.  After this went on for a while, they began to realize what was at the root of the problem.  They believed I was happy and knew it was just mother’s queer way of doing things.  It had a side effect.  My sisters began to drift away from her after that.  Once the damage was done, it was too late to repair it.  Mother tried, but nothing worked.  After that, she turned all her efforts back on me.  She tried to convince me that my married life wasn’t the best goal I could attain.  She had me almost believing it, if it hadn’t been for Jack.  He straightened things out on that one quick.”
     “Was that the period when Nikki and you didn’t speak?”
     “You make it sound like required reading in History 101.  It only lasted for six months.”
     “What finally ended it?”
     “Mother apologized.”
     “Was this before or after your first child?”
     “Right before.  At the time, I felt, somehow, she must have found out about my pregnancy.  But, she couldn’t have.  Only Jack, myself and my doctor knew it.”
     “She picked up where she’d left off?”
     “Not exactly.  It was like she was a changed person.  Nothing was too good for a daughter of hers in the condition I was in.”
     “Hadn’t both of your sisters, by that time, had children?  Did Nikki act in the same manner toward them?”
     “I can’t say, because I wasn’t there with them.  I did get the impression later on that they felt mother could have done more.”
     “Like what?”
     “Well, been there for them more.”
     “She hadn’t been, at the time?”
     “She was and she wasn’t.”
     “What do you mean?”
     “She was there in body, but not in spirit.  If that makes any sense.”
     “I think I can understand what you’re saying.”
     “Exactly.  It’s such an ephemeral kind of thing.”
     “And it never changed?”
     “Not to my knowledge.”
     Les looked at his watch, knowing that at any time the interview would have to come to a close.  He still hadn’t asked the question he had on his mind, the one his viewers would most want answered.  He tried leading into it.
     “What made Nikki ‘go over the edge,’ so to speak?  If I may put it that way.  Was it one particular incident or was it a cumulative effect?”
     “You know, I’ve often wondered that myself.”
     “Don’t you have any idea at all?”
     “No, not really.  And now, I guess we’ll never know.”
     “Not unless they come through with a pardon in time.  Do you think that will happen?”
     “No, I don’t.  And I don’t know if they should.  What’s done is done.  You can never go back.”
     “But, she’s your mother.”
     “The mother I knew disappeared a long time ago.  I want to remember her the way she used to be, back
when we were all together.”
     “Do you plan on attending her execution?”
     “No, I couldn’t handle it.  It would only remind me of too many things.  Sad and lonely things.  Things I will never know again.”
     “Like the bond between you and your sisters?”
     “Yes.  When Nikki killed them, a part of me died with them.  No one could ever know what that was like.”
     “I guess not.”
     She stood up.  “I hope you’ve gotten enough for the story you wanted.”
     “Oh, yes, Mrs. Halley.  It was great of you to allow me to get this much.  It should play pretty well tonight when it’s aired.”
     “Well, that’s good.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go get my children from school.”
     “You’ve got kids in school of your own, now?”
     “Yes.  Three darling girls.”

The End.