When I got up the next morning, I realized the fridge was almost empty. God how I missed my dear Stella. While in town buying the necessary staples, I took the opportunity to find out more about the insufferable Leyton and gather more information about Coxsackie’s Black Widow. Margaret, who owned the store, was at the counter when I brought up my eggs, bread, coffee, butter and sugar.
Maggie had been married to a brute of a husband who had died of natural causes years before I moved to town. It’s a pity I couldn’t do her a good turn by getting rid of him. As usual, she had a cup of coffee waiting for me.
“What’s new?” she asked.
“I’ve made a new friend,” I said.
“How do you know?”
“He’s been asking all about you.”
“Oh, who you are, what you do, what you’ve done. Nobody in this town minds their own business. But Leyton takes the cake!”
“Well, I’m there for dinner tomorrow. Maybe when he realizes that I’ve spent my life tallying tax records he’ll decide to obsess over someone else.”
We heard car doors slam. Maggie turned her head to look out the window. “It’s that fortune-hunting Jane Masterson.” Maggie loved talking about Jane. I never even had to prod her. “Did you know she’s out to pry Jerry Lawson from his wife.”
So poor old Jerry was to be her next victim. I wondered if maybe I should speed up my efforts at ridding the world of dear Jane and save a marriage and an innocent man’s life. Maggie could have no idea what was going on in my mind and I merely said, “Poor Cynthia Lawson doesn’t stand a chance.”
Maggie looked up and smiled at Jane Masterson as she entered the store. The Black Widow was a slight woman no more than five feet tall. A blonde in faded jeans who herself was beginning to fade in terms of looks. Still, compared to Cynthia Lawson …
I savored the moment—the hunter surveying his prey. She had an insolent 7-year-old boy at her side who could have used some gentle disciplining. Instead, when he snatched a candy bar off the shelf she smacked him across the face. The child began to wail. I thought, another point in my favor—finishing her off would mean a lot to the boy as well. Can you imagine growing up with that for a mother?
My Hobby (Part II)
That night, Leyton was waiting for Sue and I on the porch. “Nice evening,” he said as we approached. He shook hands with me and kissed Sue. Never understood these bastards who slobber over casual female acquaintances.
He showed us inside. The furnishings revealed much of what I had already suspected about the Leytons. The furniture looked as if they had purchased it as brand new sets from a showroom. The paintings on the wall were of the kind you’d find at a tourist stop “art gallery.”
He led us into the kitchen where his wife, a heavy-set lady, was putting the finishing touches on the meal, which apparently was some kind of lamb roast.
She smiled up at us. “I’d shake your hands but my hands are greasy,” she said shyly. “I’m just finishing up. Stanley, take them out to the porch for some cocktails and appetizers.”
“I’ll help you,” volunteered Sue. Leaving me in the clutches of asinine Stan.
I followed Leyton to the porch, where the evening breeze had blown Mrs. Leyton’s cocktail napkins everywhere. While I helped him pick them up, he was already inundating me with questions. Was I a Yankees fan? What did I think of the Knicks? Had I ever been married? What exactly did I do for a living? My replies were short and curt. It was none of his business and I wanted to make sure he disliked me enough to never invite me over again.
Sue came out all smiling to announce that dinner was ready. In the dining room the lamb roast was the center of attention.
I’d been a vegetarian ever since I ran over the Belgian baker. “I’ll take the wild rice and vegetables,” I said.
“What about some meat?” Leyton seemed perplexed and looked to his wife for guidance.
“I’m a vegetarian.”
“Wow George, I could have sworn you were more of a hunter,” he said.
How little he knew.
Throughout that woeful meal, the Leytons proved that they were desperately trying to assimilate into the American way of life. They spoke about catalog-shopping, baseball, reality television and the latest celebrity gossip. When we were finished, Leyton yawned and after punching his own chest announced, “I think I had too much.”
We started to make our way to the living room. I’d be damned if I was going to undergo another of Leyton’s almost too-friendly grillings. “I think I’d already mentioned that we’d have to call it an early night,” I lied. “I’ve got to go back to the city early tomorrow. Some unfinished business to take care of.”
“You’ll do nothing of the sort,” Mrs. Leyton said. She turned to Sue: “Are you interested in limited edition figurines?”
“Love them,” idiot Sue said.
“Come back into the kitchen. I have a collection I’d like to show you.”
Leyton showed me to a chair: “I wasn’t going to let you out of my grasp that easily.”
I laughed, but his face remained unexpressive. He turned around and walked over to the liquor cabinet. “I’m not always this bubbly. I suffer from depression. Started when my brother died.”
“He died when I was in Australia and he was in New York.”
“I’m sorry,” I said.
He smiled. “Yeah. Pity I never got to know him better.” He handed me a drink.
“I’ll show you his picture.” He retrieved a framed photo from the bookshelf.
There he was, the face of one of my—I’ll call them victims for want of a better word. I had hoped he didn’t detect the surprise in my face.
“No, Georgy, it isn’t a coincidence.”
“What are you talking about?” I got up.