Authors: David Handler
It meant we could search. For the old Olivetti. For a supply of manila envelopes and stick-on address labels. For bloodstains on a rug, on a table lamp, on a lamp cord. For a sign, one clear sign, that Diane Shavelson’s murder had taken place here.
It meant I could find out for sure.
The living room was tidy. No dust bunnies along the baseboards. No finger smudges on the glass coffee table. Clearly, someone came in to clean up after the man. There was a matched pair of table lamps for reading. They were ceramic jar lamps, squat and heavy and difficult to wield one-handed. The shades were of white linen. Neither one looked crumpled or damaged. Or brand new, for that matter. Each had been yellowed by sunlight and time. Neither cord looked as if it had been replaced recently.
I found his trophies stashed in the narrow coat closet underneath the staircase. Two whole cartons’ worth. The stubby little bronze fellow with the leather helmet was all by himself on the closet floor, his right arm poised to deliver that famous stiff arm. I picked him up, surprised by just how heavy he was. A Heisman Trophy weighs thirty-five pounds, in case you’re wondering. I examined him for blood, for hair, for any sign he had been used as a weapon. Nothing. I put him back.
We went upstairs. Lulu took the bedroom. I took the study, with its immense walnut desk, its worn leather loveseat, its bookshelves lined with Tuttle’s library of first editions. Tuttle was an ardent fan of what today’s literary scholars and critics dismiss as “the dead white men.” It’s true, they are dead and they were white males. But at least they could write, which is more than I can say for today’s literary scholars and writers. Tuttle collected them. Tuttle read them. He read Jack London and Rudyard Kipling and James Fenimore Cooper. He read John Buchan and Geoffrey Household and Graham Greene. He read the Tarzan novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs—although I noticed he had parted company with his much-prized complete set of A. C. McClurg & Co. firsts. These Tarzans were A. L. Burt reprints, worth many fewer zeroes.
He read Ring Lardner. He even owned a signed first edition of
You Know Me Al.
This Tuttle still had. This Tuttle had not sold. The book was right there on the shelf with his other volumes of Lardner. He owned them all.
The piece of paper upon which he had hand-scrawled his poem “As the Crowd Roars” was under glass there on his desk. The Olivetti was not on the desk. Nothing was, except for a brass gooseneck lamp. I examined this for blood or hair. It told me nothing. I sat in the desk chair and started going through the drawers. I found overdue notices from the phone company and from Con Ed. I found a registered letter from the Internal Revenue Service, dated the previous June, informing him that he still owed them $21,356. I found a lined stenographer’s pad that contained an assortment of doodles and random thoughts. On one page he had written, “Subject for short story—Doof. How does he keep going? Doesn’t he fucking KNOW?” I stared at this a long time, then kept looking. I found his passport. He hadn’t left the country in three years. London had been his last stop. I found a passionate love letter from a woman in San Francisco with whom he’d apparently had a fling a year ago. He had also borrowed a thousand dollars from her and not paid her back. I found an invitation to a football team reunion that had come and gone in September. I found a set of blue Tiffany’s boxes that contained bundles of oyster-gray note cards with his name engraved across the top in peacock blue. There were matching envelopes, too. Very proper. Very tasteful. Possibly he’d had a fling with Miss Manners, too.
I found no manila envelopes, no stick-on address labels, no typing paper. I went to the closet and opened it. He had stashed his darkroom equipment in there: an enlarger, trays, chemicals. I found no typewriter. I closed the closet door and looked around the room. And that’s when my eyes fell on the suitcase. It was a gallant, battered old leather one, big as a steamer trunk and covered with decals from the
The Excelsior in Florence, The Dorchester in London, the Ritz Tower in New York. Tuttle used it as a coffee table, laid flat before the loveseat. Heavy leather straps kept it shut. I undid them, my heartbeat quickening. I had a feeling I would find something in there.
I did. But it wasn’t the Olivetti. It was a zippered black leather portfolio, the kind that artists and photographers carry around. Inside of it there was a photo album—more black-and-white photos that he’d taken of Tansy. These were nude shots. They were not pretty nude shots. They were shots of Tansy spread-eagled on a bed, masturbating, her lips pulled back from her teeth in a savage snarl. Tansy chained to a radiator with a black stocking wrapped tightly around her throat and her eyes bulging from her head. Tansy on her hands and knees with alligator clips on her nipples and a plastic bag over her head, her face underneath twisted in horror. Tansy’s body was beautiful, long and graceful and supple. But it was also bruised around the hips and arms, and there were scratches on her stomach and her hair was messed up and her eye makeup smeared. She looked zonked and miserable. Tuttle appeared in some of the photos. Sometimes he was a face in the mirror. Sometimes all I saw was his foot. Or his fist.
Why had he done this to her? Why had she let him? Was this any of my business? Definitely not. There are certain things you never want to know about other people, especially your friends. I felt voyeuristic. I felt dirty. I zipped the portfolio shut and threw it back in the suitcase. And then Lulu came in and nudged me in the leg with her head. She’d found something. I belted the suitcase shut and followed her into Tuttle’s bedroom.
This particular room was not tidy. The bed was unmade. Clothing was strewn all over the floor. Dirty glasses and coffee cups were heaped on the nightstand. It smelled bad in there. It smelled like a lonely man’s room. I know about that. I know what a lonely man’s room smells like. I threw open a window. There was a
New York Post
on the floor by the bed, open to the pro-football betting lines. Several games were circled in red pencil. But it wasn’t the point spread on the Dolphins-Chiefs game Lulu was intent on showing me. It was something in the closet.
It was the garment bags. There were three of them. They were big and they were blue and they were from Hold Everything.
I told her she was a good girl. She agreed as how she was. Then she waited for me to make my next move. I seemed nailed to the floor. Didn’t know why. What was I expecting to find inside those zippered bags—more attractive single women with blue faces and nice smiles? …
What do we have for our contestants, Johnny …?
I took a deep breath and unzipped one and flung it open.
It held Tuttle’s summer wardrobe—his seersuckers and khakis. His tropical worsteds were in the next bag I opened, his linen slacks and shirts in the third. I zipped them all back up and closed the closet door and asked myself what the hell I was going to do now. Should I give Tuttle up? Okay, he belonged to the Manhattan Fitness Center. Okay, he was into rough sex. Okay, he owned some Hold Everything garment bags. Did this make him the answer man? Where was the typewriter? What about the fucking typewriter? And what if I was wrong? What if Tuttle Cash had nothing whatsoever to do with these deaths? Could he handle a police probe? How about the media crawling all over him, gnawing on him, devouring him? Christ, I’d found the man with his gun in his mouth. What if I pushed him over the edge?
How much more proof did I need? How much?
He was still snoring away on the sofa under his coat. Dawn was growing near. I could just about make out the shape of the fountain outside the sliding glass door. I kicked off my shoes and loosened my tie and sprawled out in one of the leather chairs. With a grunt, Lulu climbed into my lap. Briefly, I slept. In my dreams I kept seeing those awful photographs of Tansy. Only it was
face I was seeing, not hers. It was my baby with a plastic bag over her head. It was my baby with her eyes bugging out.
I awoke with a start. Tuttle and Lulu were snoring in stereo. A weak winter sun was slanting in the glass door. I glanced at Grandfather’s Rolex. It was seven. Outside, they were picking up the trash. Horns were honking. Another day. I yawned and nudged Lulu. She woke up but wouldn’t move. I nudged her again. She got down, grumbling. I got up, grumbling. My back ached, my knees ached, my eyes ached. Plus my left elbow was all swollen from tackling Tuttle to the pavement outside Ten’s. Stiffly, I hobbled into the kitchen in search of coffee. I found some beans in the freezer. I was looking for the grinder, and not having any luck, when I heard a noise. Only, it wasn’t Tuttle.
It was somebody trying to get in the front door.
HEY HAD A KEY.
Both keys. One to the Medeco deadbolt lock that was drilled into the door. The other to the lock that was in the doorknob, which was turning now. The door swung open. Lulu growled. I shushed her. Tuttle just kept on snoring.
“Hey-hey-hey!” a familiar voice called out. “If you got the Java, I got the buns!”
It was Malachi Medvedev, all chipper and combed and cologned. He was an Aqua Velva man, in case you’re interested. He carried a bakery bag and a package of shirts from the laundry. Also that morning’s papers. I could make out the front page of the
which hadn’t played up the answer man one bit. All they did was give over the entire front page to three giant black question marks.
“How are you, Mal?” I said to him from the kitchen doorway.
“Fan-fucking-tastic,” he replied brightly, looking me up and down. “Hoagy, you look like shit. What’d you do, try to keep up with The King?”
“Something like that.”
“Bad idea. He can drink ’em all under the table. Even the ol’ Mick himself back when the Mick still had it going.” Malachi took off his coat and came bustling into the kitchen with his packages. He put them down on the counter and went right for the coffee grinder, which was in a cupboard over the refrigerator. I felt sure I would have found it within two hours. The only hard part would have been lifting either arm that high. He ground some beans and dumped them into a Melitta filter. He put a kettle on to boil. He said, “I thought you two parted on bad terms.”
“Who, me and Mickey Mantle?”
“You and Tuttle.”
“We patched things up. Kind of.”
Malachi nodded approvingly. “That’s nice. I like to see that. Only, why didn’t you go home? Wait, you had a fight with Merilee, am I right?” He wagged a pudgy finger at me. “You pulled a Hugh Grant on her, am I right?”
“You are not.”
“Then what are you doing here at seven o’clock in the morning?”
“I was just about to ask you that, Mal.”
“I keep an eye on him, like I told ya.” He took the package of shirts into the hall and put them on a table next to the stairs. That’s when he spotted Tuttle there on the sofa. “You didn’t put him to bed? I always put him to bed.”
“I considered it a major accomplishment to get him from the kitchen floor to the living room.”
Malachi shook his head at me, clucking. “Man needs to sleep in his bed. Otherwise his back stiffens up.”
“Poor baby,” I said, arching my own back.
“Gimme a hand,” he commanded. “C’mon, c’mon. Let’s go.”
Malachi grabbed Tuttle’s feet. I took him by the shoulders, which meant I was the one who got to walk backward up the curving stairs lugging Tuttle and his two hundred-plus pounds of dead meat. But it was no problem at all. Really it wasn’t. And Lulu made it so much easier by scampering up and down the stairs between us, barking incessantly. Just her own endearing way of saying thanks for keeping her out all night.
Tuttle, by the way, didn’t so much as stir during any of this procedure. The man knew how to sleep, I’ll give him that.
We tossed him onto his unmade bed. Malachi undid Tuttle’s belt and pulled his pants off him, exposing his puffy, hideously scarred knee. He threw the covers over him, shooting a perturbed look at the window. “Who opened that? Man’ll catch his death. He’s very susceptible to colds.” Malachi stormed over to the window and slammed it shut, clucking to himself some more. He was acting real fussy and territorial about me being there. His role as Tuttle’s keeper was very important to him.
We went back downstairs. The water was boiling now. Malachi poured some over the grounds. While it dripped through he got a broom out and went to work on the kitchen floor. This scared Lulu away. She’s deathly afraid of brooms. Don’t ask me why. She’s deathly afraid of many things.
There must have been something in the
that wasn’t about the answer man, but I sure couldn’t find it. How he’d struck again, swiftly and brutally. How Inspector Dante Feldman and his special task force were toiling around the clock to catch him. How he, Feldman, was urging anyone who might have witnessed anything to come forward. They ran the number of the hotline. Also the profile of the answer man that Feldman had wanted to release—that this was a good-looking, intelligent white male in his twenties or thirties, physically fit, new to the city, interested in becoming a novelist or screenwriter. They ran choice snippets of the material that he’d been sending me. The most chilling was featured in raised type across the top of page three:
There are so many more Bridgets out there in the offices and health clubs and bars of New York City, and I have so much more work ahead of me.
There was a nice, big story about me and how I was the killer’s go-between. That’s what they were calling me—his go-between. And Cassandra Dee got major play, too, for being out ahead of the pack, scoop after scoop. “It’s just a whole lotta shoe leather and luck,” she explained modestly. There was a story on Tibor Farkas, the boyfriend of Laurie London, and how he had passed a lie detector test and was no longer considered a suspect (but was being considered as a substitute host for
on MTV). There were extensive profiles of the three victims, interviews with their families and friends. There were profiles of David Berkowitz, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer. Interviews with the families and friends of their victims.