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S: That was clever.

M: It was clever but it was stupid, because it was the first step in fucking around with the case.

S: And the next step was writing your own letter.

M: I just wanted to keep it alive.

S: The story.

M: That's right. Even if Whitfield killed himself, which I didn't think he did, that still left Will out there, with a couple of other killings to his credit. Now he's lying low, but what's it gonna do to him to see someone else pretending to be him? He has to respond, doesn't he? And even if he doesn't, he's back in the news.

S: So you wrote the letter…

M: So I wrote the letter, and then you broke the case and got Adrian tagged as Will. And now I'm out here with this stupid phony letter from some fucking copycat, with everybody in a rush to demonstrate that only a punk with cheese where his guts ought to be would write such a chickenshit letter. I thought it was a pretty good letter. Remember, it wasn't supposed to be Will. It was supposed to pry Will out of the woodwork.

S: But that was impossible…

M: Because Adrian was Will, and the poor fuck was dead. And the story goes about quietly dying, and I try to fan the flames a little, and then that asshole Regis Kilbourne isn't content with stinking up the Arts section, he's got to piss all over the oped page. And he couldn't just say, hey, look at me world, I'm braver than the characters Errol Flynn used to play. Instead the dirty little cocksucker has the nerve to review me.

S: He gave you another bad notice.

M: He killed Tumult, you know. Most of the other notices were gentle, even if they weren't going to sell any tickets. But he was vicious. He had a line toward the end, how he was speaking this candidly in the hope that it would dissuade me from ever writing another play. Can you imagine reviewing a first play that way?

S: It must have been painful.

M: Of course it was. And I have to say it worked. I never wrote a second play. Oh, I tried, I wanted nothing more than to prove the cocksucker wrong, but I couldn't do it. I'd type 'Act One, Scene One,' and then I'd fucking freeze. He put me out of business as a playwright, the bastard. He stabbed me in the back.

S: And you returned the favor.

M: Funny, huh? That wasn't planned. Except it's hard to say what was planned and what wasn't.

S: What happened?

M: He reviewed me a second time, told me to strike the set and get a life. And I thought, Jesus, he's asking for it, isn't he? I found out what play he was going to that night, and when the curtain came down I was waiting outside. I followed him right into Alien's. I got to look at the poster.

S: The poster?

M: For Tumult. All the posters on the walls in there are for shows that didn't make it. Kelly. Christine. If you close within a few days of your opening night, you're sure of a place of honor in Joe Alien's.

S: I knew that, but I never noticed your poster there.

M: Oh, it's there, right alongside the men's room door. The Tumult in the Clouds, a new play by Martin Joseph McGraw. And there's the man who killed it, stepping out with this hot-looking broad while he gets ready to piss all over somebody else's life's work. I had a few at the bar while Kilbourne and the photographer stuffed their faces, then went outside when they did. I didn't have to do a 'follow that cab' routine. I was close enough to hear what he said to the cabby, so I got my own cab and wound up standing across the street from his house. I almost went in while she was there.


M: Because I thought maybe he's alone, maybe she dropped him and kept the cab. If I'd gone and she'd been there-

S: You'd have killed them both?

M: No, never. First place, he wouldn't have let me in. 'Go way, I've got somebody here.' You know what? I'd have gone home and slept it off and that would have been the end of it.

S: Instead…

M: Instead I stayed where I was. I had a pint in my coat pocket and I kept warm nipping at it, and then the two of them came out and walked down to the corner. I thought, fuck it, am I gonna follow them to her place now? Or are they off to some after-hours to party until dawn? They could do it without me. But instead he put her in a cab and came back.

S: And?

M: And went in his fucking house.

S: And what did you do?

M: Finished the pint. Stood there for a while with my thumb up my ass. And then I went over and rang his bell. He buzzed me in but kept me standing in the hallway. I told him who I was and that there'd been a new development in the Will case. Even then he didn't much want to let me in, but he did, and I went in and started babbling, the cops this and Will that, I didn't know what I was saying, and I don't suppose he knew what to make of it. Long story short, I got behind him and crowned him with an engraved cut-glass paperweight. Fancy fucking thing, weighed a ton, he got it for making a speech somewhere. I hit him as hard as I ever hit anybody in my life and he went down like the good ship Titanic.

S: And you went into the kitchen…

M: Yeah.

S: And got the knife?

M: And got the knife, yeah. And stabbed him in the back. I thought, teach you to turn your back on me, you little fuck. I thought, you stabbed me in the back, now we're even. Who knows what I thought? I was too drunk for whatever I thought to make much sense.

S: You washed the knife.

M: I washed the knife, and do me a big favor and don't ask me why. If I was worried about prints all I had to do was wipe it, right? But I washed it, and then I put the paperweight in my pocket and took it home with me. And then I went to bed.

S: And you remembered everything when you woke up?

M: Everything. You used to have blackouts?

S: Lots of them.

M: I never had one in my life. I remembered every fucking thing. The only thing, I tried to tell myself maybe I dreamed it. But the fucking paperweight's sitting on the bedside table, so it's no dream. I killed him. Can you believe it?

S: I guess I have to.

M: Yeah, and so do I. I killed a human being because he gave my play a bad review fifteen years ago. I can't fucking believe it. But I believe it.


"You like irony," I told Ray Gruliow. "Maybe you'll like this. I suspected Marty early on. Matter of fact, I suspected him long before he did anything."

"That's irony, all right," he said. "I'd recognize it anywhere. And we even talked about it at the time. You ran a check on Marty, made sure he was otherwise occupied when a couple of Will's victims qualified for last rites."

"Patsy Salerno and Roswell Berry. He couldn't have killed either of them, but before I established as much I had this scenario spinning in my mind. He writes the original column, just pouring out his very real feelings about Richie Vollmer."

"And Richie calls up and says he's not really such a bad guy, and Marty arranges to meet him, sucker-punches him, and strings him up."

"Seems farfetched," I said.


"What struck me as a little more plausible was that some public-spirited citizen read Marty's column and got inspired."

"And wrote Marty a letter, and then did a number on Richie."

"Yes to the second part," I said. "But no to the first. The way I figured it, all the Will letters were Marty's. He wrote the original column and thought that was the end of it. Then Richie turned up hanging from a tree limb. Then Marty saw a way to make a big story a whole lot bigger. He invented Will and wrote two letters, one he pretended to have received before Richie's murder, expressing agreement with the column, and one he sent himself afterward, taking credit for it."

"Just to make a better story out of it," he said. "And position himself as a key player."

"Without any intention of taking it any further. But it's a hell of a story."

"Bigger than Bosnia."

"Well, closer to home. You get a story like that, you don't want to let it die. You already wrote two Will letters and nobody looked at you cross-eyed, so you write one more and threaten somebody you figure the city could live without."

"Patsy Salerno, for example."

"Right. But Marty was miles away making a speech when Patsy was killed, so that took a farfetched theory and made it impossible. I thought up a few variations on the theme. Maybe Marty wrote the letters, and whoever had killed Richie was equally obliging when it came to knocking off the rest of the people on the list. I didn't think that could work, and the Omaha business exploded it."

"What do you mean?"

"The letter writer knew Roswell Berry had been stabbed before he got the coat hanger treatment. And that was something only the killer would have known, and Marty was in New York when it happened."

"And then Adrian died."

"Adrian died," I agreed, "and Adrian turned out to be Will, and that made the story bigger than ever, so big that Marty couldn't bear to see it die out. And he got the idea of writing a letter. Why not? He was a writer."

"Did you ever let him know you'd checked him out?"

I had to think. "No," I said. "Why?"

"Then you don't have to worry that you put the idea into his head."

"Never occurred to me. I wasn't the only one who had checked him out early on. The cops made sure he was clean, and he must have known they investigated him. But I don't think anything or anybody gave him the idea of picking up where Adrian left off. I'd say it was something he couldn't help thinking of."

"And no one was going to suspect him, because they'd already ruled him out. Both you and the cops."


"And it was just an innocent hoax at first, with no murderous intent. Until he got caught up in his own bullshit."

"You sound like his lawyer."

"No," Ray said, "and God forbid. I've got enough guilty clients at the moment." He talked about one of them, one who was actually likely to be able to pay him a fee for a change, and then he said, "I understand you're going to be coming into a few dollars yourself."

"It looks that way."

"The way I heard it, Leopold's beneficiary is giving you a third."

"That's what she says. She could change her mind once she's got the money in her hand. People do."

"You think she will?"

"No," I said. "I think she'll follow through."

"Well, I hope to God you won't let your conscience get in the way."

"It's a lot of money," I said.

"You earned it, for Christ's sake. Not just in terms of the results you produced but the time you put in. Look at the months you've been working on this, and what did you get in return? A two-thousand-dollar retainer from Adrian?"


"You probably spent that and more on expenses."

"Not quite."

"Don't quibble," he said. "Just take the money."

"I intend to."

"Well, that's a relief."

"I usually take money when it's offered," I said. "It's how I was brought up. And this is money I can take with a reasonably clear conscience. And I can use it. Christmas is coming."

"So they tell me," he said, "but you must have done your Christmas shopping by now."

"Not quite all of it," I said.

* * *

The week before Christmas was about as social as it gets for us. We were out just about every night. We had dinner one evening with Jim and Beverly Faber, and another night with Elaine's friend Monica and her married boyfriend. (Monica, according to Elaine, figures if a guy's not married there must be something wrong with him.)