"You're not well." Chase realized the absurd inadequacy of that statement, but the killer—like all else in the modern world—had reduced him to clichés.

The killer either did not hear or pretended not to hear what Chase had said. "I just wanted to tell you, Mr. Chase, that it doesn't end here. You are not a facilitator of justice."

"What do you mean?"

"I'll deal with you, Chase, once I've researched your background and have weighed a proper judgment on you. Then, when you've been made to pay, I'll deal with the whore, that girl."

"Deal with?" Chase asked.

The euphemism reminded him of the similar evasions of vocabulary to which he had grown accustomed in Nam. He felt much older than he was, more tired than he had been a moment earlier.

"I'm going to kill you, Chase. I'm going to punish you for whatever sins are on your record, because you've interfered with the intended pattern. You are not a facilitator of justice." He was silent. Then: "Do you understand?"

"As much as I understand anything."

"That's all you have to say?"

"What more?" Chase wondered.

"I'll be talking to you again."

"What's the point of this?"

"Facilitation," the killer said—and disconnected.

Chase hung up and leaned back against the headboard of the bed. He felt something cold in his hand, looked down, and was surprised to see the glass of whiskey. He raised it to his lips and took a taste. It was slightly bitter.

He closed his eyes.

So easy not to care.

Or maybe not so easy. If it had been as easy as he wanted it to be, he could have put the whiskey aside and gone to sleep. Or, instead of waiting for the bird-dogger to come after him, he could have blown out his own brains.

Too easy to care. He opened his eyes.

He had to decide what to do about the call.

The police would be interested, of course, because it was a solid lead to the man who had killed Michael Karnes. They would probably want to monitor the telephone line in hope that the killer would call again—especially since he had said that Chase would be hearing from him. They might even station an officer in Chase's room, and they might put a tail on him both for his own protection and to try to nab the murderer.

Yet he hesitated to call Detective Wallace.

The past few weeks, since the news about the Medal of Honor, Chase's daily routine had been destroyed. He loathed the change.

He had been accustomed to deep solitude, disturbed only by his need to talk to store clerks and to Mrs. Fielding, his landlady. In the mornings he went downtown and had breakfast at Woolworth's. He bought a paperback, occasionally a magazine—but never a newspaper—picked up what incidentals he required, stopped twice a week at the liquor store, spent the noon hour in the park watching the girls in their short skirts as they walked to and from their jobs, then went home and passed the rest of the day in his room. He read during the long afternoons, and he drank. By evening he could not clearly see the print on the pages of his book, and he turned on the small television to watch old movies that he had memorized virtually scene by scene. Around eleven o'clock, he finished the day's bottle or portion thereof, after having eaten little or nothing for dinner—and then he slept as long as he could.

It was not much of a life, certainly not what he had once expected, but it was bearable. Because it was simple, it was also solid, safe, empty of doubt and uncertainty, lacking in choices and decisions that might bring about another breakdown.

Then, after the AP and UPI had carried the story of the Vietnam hero who had declined to attend a White House ceremony for the awarding of the Congressional Medal of Honor (though he had not declined the medal itself, since he felt that would bring more publicity than he could handle), there had been no hope of simplicity.

He had weathered the uproar, granting as few interviews as possible, talking is monosyllables on the phone. The only thing for which he had been required to leave his room was the banquet, and he had been able to cope with that only because he knew that once it was over, he could return to his attic apartment and resume the uneventful life that had been wrenched from him.

The incident in lovers' lane had changed his plans, postponed a return to stability. The papers would carry the Medal of Honor story again, with pictures, along with the report of his latest act of foolish interference. There would be more calls, congratulations, interviewers to be turned down.

Then it would die out. In a week or two—if he could tolerate the spotlight that long—things would be as they had once been, quiet and manageable.

He took another swallow of whiskey. It tasted better than it had a short while ago.

There were limits to what he could endure. Two more weeks of newspaper stories, phone calls, job offers, and marriage proposals would take him to the end of his meager resources. During that same time, if he had to share his room with an officer of the law and be followed everywhere he went, he would not hold up.

Already he felt the same vague emptiness arising in him that had filled him so completely in the hospital. It was that profound lack of purpose that he must stave off at all costs. Even if it meant withholding information from the authorities.

He wouldn't tell the police about the call.

He drank more Jack Daniel's.

Good people down there in Tennessee, distilling Jack Daniel's for the solace of the world. Good product. Better than fame or praise or love. And cheaper.

He went to the cupboard and refreshed the glass with another two ounces from the dark bottle.

He worried that he was keeping a lead from the police, but the cops were clever. They would find the man without Chase's assistance. They would find fingerprints on the door handle of the Chevrolet and on the murder weapon. He knew that they had already issued a statement to the effect that the killer would be suffering from a badly bruised throat and resultant laryngitis.

What Chase was keeping from them would do little to speed up their efficient law-enforcement machine.

He knew he was lying to himself.

It wasn't the first time.

He finished his drink. It went down quickly, smoothly.

He poured more whiskey, returned to bed, slid beneath the covers, and stared at the blank eye of the television.

In a few days everything would be back to normal. As normal as this world could ever be. He could settle into old routines, living comfortably on his disability pension and the moderate inheritance from his parents' estate.

He had no need to get a job or to talk to anyone or to make decisions. His only task was to consume enough whiskey to be able to sleep despite the nightmares.

He wasn't lonely: He communed with Jack Daniel's.

He watched the blank television.

Sometimes he felt that the TV was watching him too.

Time passed. It always did.

He slept.


CHASE ROSE EARLY THE NEXT MORNING, FRIGHTENED AWAKE BY DEAD men talking to him through mouths full of graveyard soil. After that the day deteriorated.

His mistake was in trying to go on with his day as if the events of the previous night had never happened. He rose, bathed, shaved, dressed, and went downstairs to see if there was any mail on the hall table. There was none, but Mrs. Fielding heard him and hurried out of the perpetually gloomy living room to show him the first edition of the Press-Dispatch. His picture was on the front page: He was turning toward Louise Allenby as she got out of a squad car. The girl appeared to be crying, gripping his arm with one hand, looking far more grief stricken than she had actually been.

"I'm so proud of you," Mrs. Fielding said.

She sounded as though she were his mother. Indeed, she was old enough for the post—though whatever mothering instinct she showed always seemed strained and false. Her hair was tightly curled and bleached blond. The excessive rouge and bright lipstick made her seem older than she actually was.

"It wasn't anything like they said, not as exciting as that," Chase told her.

"How do you know? You haven't read it."

"They always exaggerate. Reporters."

"Oh, you're just too modest," Mrs. Fielding said.

She was wearing a blue and yellow housedress with the two top buttons undone. Chase could see the pallid bulge of her br**sts and the edge of a lacy yellow brassiere.

Though he was much stronger and much younger than Mrs. Fielding, she frightened him. Perhaps because he could not figure out what she wanted from him.

She seemed to want something more than the rent. More than some companionship. There was a desperation in her—maybe because she herself didn't know what she wanted.

She said, "I bet this brings twice the job offers that the last article brought!"

Mrs. Fielding was much more interested in Chase's eventual employment than was Chase himself. At first he'd thought that she was afraid he would fall in arrears on the rent, but he'd eventually decided that her concern went deeper than that.

She said, "As I've often told you, you're young and strong, and you have a lifetime ahead of you. The thing for a fellow like you is work, hard work, a chance to make something of yourself. Not that you haven't done all right so far. Don't misunderstand me. But this lounging around, not working—it hasn't been good for you. You must have lost fifteen pounds since you first moved in."

Chase did not respond.

Mrs. Fielding moved closer to him and took the morning paper out of his hands. She stared at the picture in the center of the front page and sighed.

"I have to be going," Chase said.

She looked up from the paper. "I saw your car."


"Do you like it?"

"It's a car."

"It tells about the car in the paper."

"I suppose it does."

"Wasn't that nice of them?"

"Yes. Very nice."

"They hardly ever do anything for the boys who serve and don't make a big protest of it. You read all about the bad ones, but no one ever lifts a hand for good boys like you. It's about time, and I hope you enjoy the car."

"Thank you," he said, opening the front door and stepping outside, trying not to look as though he were fleeing.

He drove to Woolworth's for breakfast.

The novelty of the car had worn off. He would have preferred to walk. There were too many decisions to make while driving a car. Walking was simpler. Walking, it was easier to shut the mind off and just drift along.

Ordinarily, the lunch counter at Woolworth's was a guarantee of privacy, even when every stool was taken. Businessmen reading the financial pages, secretaries drinking coffee and doing crossword puzzles, laborers hunched over plates of eggs and bacon—all wanted a moment of solitude before the daily hubbub began. Strangely, the elbow-to-elbow proximity fostered a respect for privacy. That Tuesday morning, however, halfway through his meal, Chase discovered that most of the other customers were watching him with only poorly disguised interest.

The ubiquitous newspaper with the front-page photograph had betrayed him.

He stopped eating, left a tip, paid his check, and got out of there. His hands were shaking, and the backs of his knees quivered as if his legs would fail him.

He didn't like being watched. He didn't even like being smiled at by a waitress or a clerk. His preference was to go through life as one of those nondescript men whom people looked through.

When he went to the newsstand around the corner from Woolworth's to purchase a paperback, he was confronted with so many images of his face in the newspaper racks that he turned away at the door without going in.

At the nearby liquor store, for the first time in months, the clerk commented on the size of the whiskey purchase. Clearly, he felt that a man like Chase shouldn't be buying so much booze. Unless, of course, the whiskey was for a party.

"Giving a party?" the clerk asked.


Anxious for the barren confines of his little attic room, Chase walked two blocks toward home before he remembered that he now owned a car. He walked back to it, embarrassed that someone might have seen his confusion.

When he settled behind the wheel, he felt too tightly wound to risk driving. He sat for fifteen minutes, paging through the service manual and the ownership papers before finally starting the engine and pulling away from the curb.

He didn't go to the park to watch the girls on their lunch hour, because he feared recognition. If someone tried to strike up a conversation, he would not know what to say.

In his room, he poured a glass of whiskey over two ice cubes and stirred it with his finger.

He turned on the television and found an old movie starring Wallace Beery and Marie Dressler. He'd seen it at least half a dozen times, but he kept it on just the same. The repetition, the dependable order of the sequential scenes—through thousands of showings in movie theaters and on television—gave him a sense of stability and soothed his nerves. He watched Wallace Beery's clumsy romantic pass at Marie Dressler, and the familiarity of Beery's antics, seen so often before and in that same exact detail, was like a balm on his troubled mind.

At five minutes past eleven the telephone rang.

He finally answered it, declined to do a press interview, and hung up.

At eleven-twenty-six it rang again.

This time it was the insurance agent with whom the Merchants' Association had taken out a year's policy on the Mustang. He wanted to know if the coverage was adequate or whether Chase would like to increase it for a nominal sum. He was chatty at first but less so when Chase said that the coverage was adequate.

At eleven-fifty the phone rang a third time. When Chase answered, the killer said, "Hello, how has your morning been?" His voice was hoarse, hardly louder than a whisper.

"Not good."

"Did you see the papers?"


"Lovely coverage."

Chase said nothing.

The man said, "Most people want fame."

"Not me."

"Some people would kill for it."

"You ?"

"I'm not after fame," said the killer.

"What are you after?"

"Meaning, purpose."

"There is none."

The killer was silent. Then: "You're a strange egg, Mr. Chase."

Chase relied on silence.

"Be by your phone at six o'clock this evening, Mr. Chase. It's important."

"I'm tired of this."

"You're tired? I'm doing all the work here. I've spent the morning researching your background, and I have similar plans for the afternoon. At six I'll tell you what I've found."