Reel Life, Real Death Chapters 41 & 42 & 43

41

“Brix!” Gilmore screamed as she ran to Maxwell’s blood soaked body. She grabbed his head and cradled it in her lap. The icy persona was gone as she held Brix and let the crimson run down her clothes.

Carruthers bravely stepped in front of me to block any more murder attempts. I didn’t lower my gun. The room, by that time, had dissolved into such a frenzy that it was hard to read what was happening. The only thing that was clear was that no one else wanted to be a hero. Weston and Berg huddled together in one corner while Mangiocotti grabbed his wife and the two of them dropped to the floor. Alexis whimpered as his eyes frantically darted around the room.

Still holding the gun as Carruthers blocked my view I yelled over the din. “Go ahead Miss Gilmore, tell us the truth or do I have to shoot your husband too?” I swung the gun toward Alexis who rolled into a fetal position on the floor with his hands over his head. “Now, Miss Gilmore!” I yelled.

“You killed him,” she sobbed still holding Maxwell’s limp frame, “you bastard.”

Carruthers was still in front of me trying to decide what to do. Maybe he didn’t pull his gun because he thought it would provoke me even further. Maybe he was just afraid he was going to be next.

“Who pulled the trigger, Miss Gilmore?” I yelled even louder. “Was it you, Alexis, or someone else? I know you were there. Who did it?”

She slumped against the wall with her head in her hands. She was beaten. Her world was ruined. After a long wait while I held the gun on her husband she wiped her face and looked up.

“Yes,” her voice was very small, “I was there.”

“You imitated Standish’s voice and made the phone call to me from her home and then another one to the police 20 minutes later, didn’t you?” I pressed my advantage.

“Yes.” The crying was making her voice almost unintelligible. “We went there to get the negatives. I didn’t think…I never…it was horrible. We thought we could frame you.”

“You and?” I asked.

“No, no,” she stammered, “I can’t…I…”

While our attention was on Gilmore, Brigham rose from behind the desk with a small pistol in his hand. He had a nightmarish look on his face as he struggled to hold the gun steady. Sweat was flowing out of every pore and he was screaming maniacally. However, before he was able to level his weapon Carruthers dove across the room and swatted the pistol out of his hands. It slammed into the side of the desk and clattered harmlessly to the floor.

Brigham stood motionless trying to comprehend what had happened. A second later he crumbled to the floor and dissolved into hysterical moaning. Carruthers picked up the gun and shoved it inside his belt.

“No one move!” Murphy commanded from a position behind me to my right. “Parker drop the gun! Do it! One person’s been killed today. You could be number two.”

I let my gun drop harmlessly to the floor. Murphy raced to me, picked up my weapon, and slapped cuffs on my hands. “I’m going to personally make sure that you fry for this,” he said into my ear. “I don’t care whether you figured out the case or not.”

Alexis was still cowering in the corner. Both Mangiocottis were huddled by the door with Berg and Weston. Bumchelski had fainted and was sprawled against the door, which had conveniently prevented anyone from escaping. While Murphy guarded me Carruthers was on the phone calling for back up and an ambulance.

“Are you insane?” Murphy yelled into my face above the crying and screaming. “Were you going to kill us all until you got the answer you wanted?”

Carruthers hung up the phone and rousted Brigham to his feet. “They’re on their way,” he said before turning to the disheveled old man. “You shot her?” He asked. Brigham nodded slowly and then vomited onto the floor.

Berg and Weston were still in the corner, the Mangiocottis were across the room from me, Alexis stayed in the corner, and Bumchelski remained splayed across the floor. Lying on the floor sobbing next to her fallen ex-lover was Gilmore. Her hands were shaking and her shoulders heaved. It was only an instant later when the chaos began all over again.

“Just a minute,” came a familiar voice from the floor. Everyone’s head swiveled like they were on turntables. “Take it easy. It was all an act,” Maxwell said as he pushed himself up the wall to a standing position. He then leaned toward a very shaken Gilmore and added, “sorry my dear. JP and I planned this out just in case nothing else worked.”

“What the hell?” Carruthers bellowed.

“This was a gag?” Murphy added.

Once again the room erupted into bedlam. Slowly Berg and Weston came out of the corner while Mangiocotti and his wife stared wide-eyed. Brigham was slumped against Carruthers breathing heavily. Both Alexis and Gilmore remained on the floor too stunned to move.

“I’m sorry everyone,” Maxwell said as he stood in the middle of the room soaked in stage blood. “We, that is, JP and I, thought that this might be necessary. We planned it out riding back from the hospital in Nevada where we were taken after the crash. We were afraid that there might be no other way. No one was going to talk, there wasn’t enough proof for a grand jury, so JP loaded his gun with blanks and I rigged myself up with the blood squibs. Sorry, I probably used too many.”

“But…” It was all Murphy could manage.

“Thanks to JP,” he explained, “I learned just days ago that I’m a father. But I almost lost my daughter before I ever got to meet her. I’ve got a lot of time to make up for and I’m not going to let anyone try to hurt her again, no matter who they are.”

I cleared my throat and nodded my head toward my cuffed wrists. Murphy looked at me with unbelieving eyes. Slowly he fished the key out of his pocket and reluctantly removed the restraints. I tried to rub feeling back into my hands.

Minutes later three more cops barged into the room followed closely by a nurse and a paramedic. It took quite a while before they understood what was going on and knew whom to arrest.

The cuffs that used to be on me were then switched to Brigham. He was so dazed that I couldn’t tell how much he comprehended. The nurse waved smelling salts under Bumchelski’s nose and revived her enough to move her out of the doorway. Immediately after that Brigham was led out to the elevator.

Maxwell helped Gilmore to her feet as her husband slowly climbed out of the corner. He was talking quietly into her ear, but her eyes were blank. Carefully he led her into the hallway with her husband trailing weakly behind. Soon Alexis and Gilmore were led away by one of the other cops.

The Mangiocottis, Berg, Weston, and Bumchelski were allowed to leave with the understanding that they might be needed for questioning. They stumbled blankly into the hallway followed by Carruthers who didn’t look much better.

Eventually only Murphy, Maxwell, and I remained. As soon as the last person out had closed the door the detective launched into another barrage of questions. Maxwell and I explained what had happened in Idaho in more detail, but Murphy looked unsatisfied.

“Look,” he complained to the actor, “I need to talk to Gilmore’s sister, what’s her name again, Hortense Gilley? Where is she?”

“Whoa,” Maxwell raised his hands, “that’s up to JP.”

“Swell,” Murphy shook his head and turned to me. “You’re not going to tell me, are you?”

“Not until this is totally wrapped up,” I said.

“What’s left?” Murphy was trying hard to hold in his frustration. “Aren’t we done here? Johnston and Judge are dead. Gilmore and Brigham are in custody. Brigham planned all this, didn’t he?”

I pursed my lips. “I don’t think so,” I said. “Not all of it.”

Maxwell and Murphy both spun toward me with confused looks on their faces. As they simultaneously tried to form a question I held up my hand. They stopped and waited. Apparently my credibility with Murphy was improving.

“Who else is there?” Maxwell frowned.

“You never found Danny Youngman, did you?” I asked Murphy.

“No.”

“I think he might have been part of this,” I said.

Maxwell tilted his head at me, “your wife’s agent?”

“Yeah,” I rubbed my face in thought, “Maybe so. Look. Because of circumstances in both Brigham’s and Youngman’s pasts they become sort of surrogate father and son for each other. Brigham obviously knew what was going on and Youngman could clearly see how his ‘dad’ had deteriorated over the past several years. These past weeks probably sped up the process.”

“Yeah so?” Murphy squinted in concentration.

“Remember, the only client Brigham Entertainment’s had left was Gilmore. Brigham was barely hanging on and I bet Youngman was willing to do whatever it took to keep both the old man’s career and Gilmore’s from being ruined.”

They nodded in understanding.

“OK,” I continued. “Johnston, Judge, and Youngman all went to high school together. What do you suppose that Youngman is the one who got Johnston the job of retrieving the photos? Brigham wouldn’t have known him. Then when they needed someone to follow us, Johnston got that job too. When all that confusion still didn’t get us out of the picture Johnston was sent to eliminate the only people who could have revealed Gilmore’s secret.”

“Gilmore’s sister and daughter,” Murphy said finishing my thought.

“Gilmore may be crazy,” I added, “but to hire someone to kill your own family, well, she’s not that nuts.”

“And,” Maxwell ventured, “Youngman thought that what Andrea didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her, I guess.”

“When Youngman saw that we were able to get back to LA safely, he probably panicked and split.” I said watching Murphy’s expression carefully.

“So,” Murphy sighed deeply as if there wasn’t enough air, “where is he?”

“Good question,” my actor friend said.

“And,” I felt obligated to add a disturbing thought, “what’s he doing?”

42

In a normal town the papers would have had a field day. In a normal town there would have been trials. In a normal town all the details would have come out. But that wasn’t the Hollywood of the 1950s. The secret had been kept for nine years. What’s another 20 or 30 more? Yeah, it was true that lives were ruined, people died, and others had been locked up in rubber rooms. But there were careers to save, more movies to make, and plenty of money on the line. No one was going to foul that up.

Eventually I was able to satisfy Murphy and Carruthers and they let me go home where I laid low for two weeks until Doris was able to drive back from Michigan. To say I missed her hardly covered it. After she returned we hibernated together for another two weeks.

About a week before Doris headed home Maxwell arrived in Michigan and quickly managed to set up Tenny and Sarah with a new life near Lansing. He bought them a house, furnished it, and got to know his daughter a little. How or when they would tell the little girl who she really was would be interesting but, luckily, it wasn’t our problem.

Doris’ career in Hollywood appeared over. Although she’d gotten past HUAC unscathed, the studios, being afraid to work with her again, applied an unofficial blacklist of their own. How they determined that the chaos during that summer in ’52 was her fault was beyond me. Maybe they just didn’t want to be reminded of their own part in all of it.

I was still retired, but retired without an income wasn’t working out very well. We began to talk about where we were going to live. With the finances thinning we agreed that either New York or LA was going to have to go. Doris knew my preference.

She continued to write faithfully every morning while I continued to work on the house just in case we had to sell it. With the great influx of new people to California we figured that we could make a nice profit on the property. At that moment the house was our only potential source of income.

Doris was spending a lot of time on the phone trying to line up a new agent while simultaneously working on two different projects. One was that biography of Gilmore that we’d used as our cover story at the beginning of the case. She decided to not let the effort go to waste and since Gilmore had just disappeared so mysteriously from the public eye it was very topical. There was also another murder mystery novel that she wanted to loosely base on our bizarre experiences of the last months. I wondered how I’d be able to read it without having the dementia of the summer of ’52 coming back to haunt me.

The future looked shaky but, for the moment, there was enough money for us to get by. As long as Doris was with me I didn’t really care all that much where we lived or how we paid for it. Despite her objections I was even willing to get a California PI license and go back to work at the only thing I really knew other than baseball. I figured at 52 years old my alternative plan of making it in the majors was probably not going to work out.

With time on my hands I also decided to make good on my promise to the reporter from the Sacramento Bee. As far as I knew he’d kept his word and didn’t squeal about my escape through the orange grove. He was both thrilled and surprised at the exclusive. My insincere threat when I left him must have been more believable that I thought.

Life was pleasantly calm until about the third week after Doris’ return. That was when we began to notice a dark green DeSoto appearing regularly on our street. I didn’t think much about it at first until it got in the habit of slowing down in front of the house. A couple of times it even stopped.

I would peer out to see who it was but the car’s windows were tinted. A couple of times I even walked out toward the vehicle but as soon as I approached it sped off. It seemed harmless enough, but after the events of the past summer my paranoia hadn’t totally subsided. I tried to get the license, but the driver must have anticipated it and was always able to speed away before I was close enough. It wasn’t long before we got the answer.

It was about 2:00am and Doris was sound asleep as usual. Also as usual I was propped up in bed reading trying to get myself to join her. My book wasn’t working so I put it away and leaned over on my elbow to watch her. Her red hair was splayed across the pillow and her head was tilted back. I lay there hypnotized watching her lips move slowly in her sleep.

A loud knock on the front door quickly rousted me. Who in the world would be out in the middle of the night, I wondered as I pulled on some jeans and stumbled out of the bedroom in the darkness. Doris never moved.

“What do you want?” I called from behind the door.

“I’ve had an accident just down the road,” a vaguely familiar voice called back. “I need help.”

“All right,” I said. “Hang on.”

The door wasn’t open a foot before a large handgun was shoved into my face. Startled I backed into the middle of the living room being followed by a gun barrel that was aimed squarely at the middle of my face. Frantically squinting through the darkness I was able to make out a contorted face belonging to Danny Youngman. Seeing as how I hadn’t been sleeping I should have been more on the ball and not opened the door.

“Wake Doris up!” He commanded viciously.

“She’s not here,” I bluffed, “she’s in San Diego at a conference.”

“Bull,” he sneered. “I’ve been following your schedule. Neither of you have gone anywhere.” At least that explained who had been in the DeSoto.

“JP?” Doris called before I had a chance to try anything else. “Who are you talking to out here?” Wrapped in a bathrobe she stumbled slowly into the living room. “You woke me,” she said before the sight of Danny holding a gun on me stopped her cold.

“Doris,” he said nodding his head as if they saw each other every day.

“Danny wha…” It was all she could manage.

“You couldn’t leave it alone,” he said in a tightly controlled voice. “Now it’s all ruined. Zach is in jail and will never get out. Gilmore is looked up in a mental hospital and she’ll never get out either. Alexis is finished and so am I. None of us are going to be able to work in this town again and it’s all because of you.”

“Listen Danny,” I said raising my hands in a calming gesture. “I didn’t make it come out this way.”

“Shut up,” he said shaking his head. “I know I’ve done things wrong too.”

“Danny,” Doris spoke gently as she took a step toward him. He motioned with the gun and she stopped. “Danny,” she tried again, “can’t we talk this out?”

“There’s nothing to say.” His words became unsteady. “We’ve all ruined everything. You, your husband, and me. The police let you go, but they aren’t going to let me go. The only way to make all this right is to end it for everyone right here.”

“What are you talking about?” I said. “Come on, Danny, put down the gun. Let’s talk about this.”

“No,” he began to sob, “it’s the only way. Eventually you’ll talk. Eventually everyone will know what Zach did. I can’t have that. I can’t.”

Slowly I slid my hand around a lamp sitting on the table behind me. At the same time I snagged the electrical cord with my foot and managed to pull it from the socket. Reasoning with Doris’ now obviously deranged former agent wasn’t getting us anywhere and I needed to make something happen. And I was only going to get one chance.

Somehow in Youngman’s distorted reality he’d decided that killing Doris and I and then himself would somehow make everything go away. It didn’t matter how irrational it was, he believed it enough to act on it.

The gun shook in his hand as tears streamed down his ashen twisted face. Doris’ eyes pleaded with me as out of sight of both of them my grip tightened on the lamp. If there was ever a time to make the perfect pitch…

The gun exploded in the semi darkness just as the lamp I rifled at Danny hit him squarely across the mouth. Our insane attacker toppled over and as I dove on top of him the handgun barked twice more. I buried my fists repeatedly into his face and stomach and he went limp. For a second all was quiet until I heard Doris scream and fall to the floor.

Danny lay motionless. I grabbed his gun and turned toward my fallen wife. She was crying in pain and had rolled onto her side. Blood soaked the front of her bathrobe and her eyes were glassy. She looked up at me and tried to form words but nothing came out.

I tore the robe off as she moaned in pain. Oh God, I prayed, not Doris, not after everything that we’d been through over the summer. Please God I cried as I frantically looked to see where she’d been hit.

Before I was able to find her wound a large explosion rocked the kitchen behind us. Plaster and wood fragments flew wildly around the room. As a wall and part of the ceiling rained down I dove across her body to protect her. Debris slammed into my arched back, but I didn’t move until it stopped. The house was still for a moment until a wall of fire burst from the kitchen shooting flames across the beams above our heads. With the small house collapsing around us I quickly scooped her up and ran to the still open front door. I could feel the deadly blaze licking across my back as I scrambled across the living room with her motionless body.

In less than a minute we were outside. I turned to see smoke cascading out of the house under the eaves. A moment later the windows exploded knocking us both to the ground. Balls of flame engulfed the building and the roof sagged. It only took less than a minute for it to cave in and send a shower of flame and sparks into the night sky.

Out on the front lawn as our home raged behind us I carefully eased her down on the grass. Nothing else mattered, not Danny, not the house, not the future, not the past. Nothing.

“JP.” Doris’ eyes fluttered and she looked up at me and coughed through the smoke curling around our heads. “I love you.”

“Be still,” I said softly as I propped her up into my lap, “you’re going to be all right.”

“Of course I am,” she smiled and then her head lolled back. Again I went to work. Time was slipping away.

She’d been hit twice. One tore through her left bicep and the other clipped her left forearm. Tearing off my T-shirt I made a tourniquet around her shoulder. Next I quickly ripped the bloody bathrobe into strips to make some bandages. They’d do until help arrived. She’d lost a fair amount of blood, but it looked like my frantic medical work was going to be enough.

Thank you God, I cried as my eyes filled with tears. Holding her tightly as our house and Danny Youngman went to hell we waited for a neighbor to call an ambulance.

 

43

Freddy’s eyes and mouth were wide open. As before the old man’s story had left him speechless. Parker leaned back and let his exhausted body sink into his wheelchair. Without a word his young partner walked into the kitchen and turned the water on.   He returned in minutes with two cups of tea.

“I don’t know where to start,” he said slowly as he handed the tea to the old detective.

Parker smiled, “that’s OK. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Doris was all right?” Freddy asked finally.

“Yeah. She took great pride in the small scars the wounds put in her left arm. She even claimed that they made her sexier. And you know, they might have.”

“What happened to Brigham?”

Parker sighed. “He was sent to prison where he died only a year later. The poor old guy wasn’t in good shape to begin with and then getting pulled into the mess by Gilmore finished him off.

“They’d gone out to Standish’s to try and work out a compromise. One thing led to another and after Brigham killed her they desperately tried to cover up the mess they’d made.”

“They almost got away with it too,” Freddy added.

“Nobody liked Standish, except for maybe Judge. Those that knew what she was doing closed ranks and being glad she was gone agreed to stonewall the cops. Other than maybe Alexis they didn’t know who killed her and didn’t care. It was only because Maxwell was willing to take a chance that we were able to get to the bottom of everything.”

“And,” Freddy suggested, “he was only willing due to the weird circumstances of your finding out about his daughter and because he felt he owed you.”

“Yup,” Parker nodded as he shifted his weight in the wheelchair, “probably so.”

“Did you see him again after it was all over?”

“Just a couple of times,” Parker grinned at the memory. “He was just as full of himself as ever.”

“Who was the one who’d had sex with Standish before the murder?”

“Don’t know for sure. Today we’d have done a DNA test and found out.”

“Who do you think it was?” Freddy asked as his untouched tea grew cold.

“Keep in mind that this is just a guess but I always had the feeling it was Alexis.”

“Really?”

“Try this out.” Parker took a sip as Freddy watched the cup shake in the old man’s hands. “How about if Alexis first goes to see her to try to put an end to the blackmail. He’s broke, he tells her, and says he can’t pay any more. She coaxes him back into bed despite the promise that he’d made to Gilmore. Thinking that she’s willing to go back to the way things were before he decides that it’s his only way out. What do you suppose that afterward she laughs at him and reneges on the deal? Getting desperate after finding out what had happened Gilmore calls Brigham and they go out to see her and try again.”

“So then what happened to Alexis?”

“His life was over. He was broke, his wife was in a mental institution, and he had nowhere to go.”

“And?”

“He committed suicide about a year later and died at around the same time as Brigham.”

“Oh man…” Freddy shook his head. “All that death, all those lives ruined…”

“Yeah, pretty amazing.”

“Gilmore ever get out of the mental hospital?”

“Eventually,” Parker shook his head sadly. “You know, she was easily the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. But despite all her talent to become someone else she had no ability to be herself, whoever that was.

“She spent about 15 years in a variety of mental facilities before getting out around ‘67. She made a few TV appearances that didn’t go anywhere and then just faded away. Died in obscurity around the mid 80s as one of Hollywood’s most tragic stories.”

“Maxwell?”

“You must have seen his movies on TV,” Parker said. “They play endlessly on American Movie Classics and Turner Classic Movies.”

“I guess,” Freddy paused. “I’m not much on old movies.”

“You ought to check them out sometime,” the old man suggested. “Anyway, with so much money riding on his career the studios did a fine job on covering up his part in all of it.”

“And he really didn’t do anything wrong.”

“That’s right and, as a result of surviving the plane crash, he was probably even a bigger star than before.”

“OK, so he went back to making movies.”

“Yup,” Parker warmed his hands around the cup, “he stayed a big star until the late 60s when the culture changed and his movies began to look out of style. He retired and spent his last years in Hawaii with a wife less than half his age. Died in 1990 I think.”

“But what about Tenny and Sarah?” Freddy continued not wanting to let the day end.

“They stayed in Michigan,” the old detective smiled at the memory. “I suppose the real fairy tale ending would have had Maxwell marrying Tenny and then raising Sarah together with her. It didn’t happen, but the real story wasn’t bad either.”

“Go ahead.”

“Maxwell provided for both of them until Sarah got out of college. Sadly, Tenny got cancer and died about a year after that. The young girl who used to call me Mr. P became a high school history teacher, married, had two kids, and, according to my last letter about a month ago, recently retired.”

“That’s great that you kept in touch over the years,” Freddy said as he packed up the last amount of his equipment. He knew that he could have gone on much longer, but was feeling that he’d worn out his partner enough for one day.

“When she was still in school Doris and I even had the chance to see her a couple of times when we visited my wife’s Uncle Nick and Aunt Rosa. Great kid. Got the best qualities of both parents.”

“She even learn who she was?” Freddy asked not being able to make himself stop.

Parker smiled. “So here’s Doris writing the biography of Andrea Gilmore that she called ‘Reel Life, Real Death’, but she doesn’t want to tell the most interesting part without both Tenny’s and Maxwell’s consent.”

“Uh huh.”

“Things were slowly loosening up by the mid fifties and, over the objections of Excelsior Studios, Maxwell agrees. Cutting off their nose to spite their face Excelsior cites the morality clause in his contract and fires him.”

“Really?” Freddy laughed. “But Weston had known about it since 1944.”

“Yeah crazy, huh? That’s when Maxwell starts his own production company and for ten to fifteen years continues to put out successful films. While the studio was worried needlessly about his past the general public simply found it fascinating.”

“But Tenny…”

“Sarah was eleven when they told her.”

“Tenny and Maxwell told her together?”

“Yeah,” Parker nodded. “According to Tenny, she’d had the feeling that Sarah already knew. She didn’t exactly know how, but that’s how she felt. The three of them decided to keep the secret to themselves until she was out of college. By that time Tenny was gone and Maxwell was retired. Still, you can imagine the front page news that made for a while.”

“So Doris’ book?”

“My redhead simply rewrote it as a novel. It generated a fair amount of controversy when it came out, but nobody managed to put two and two together.   The controversy, though, didn’t hurt sales a bit.”

Freddy gathered his notepaper and packed up the recorder. He gave the old man a hug and promised to call him in a couple of days. Parker rolled himself over to the window and stared down at the traffic inching along below. The sun was shining brightly off some newly fallen snow and made the old man squint.

Without turning around he smiled to himself and said, “you can go ahead. Ask your last question or two. I’m fine.”

“What?” Freddy stammered. “How did you…”

“I guess I’m still a pretty good detective,” Parker laughed turning the wheelchair around. “You had that look.”

Freddy shook his head and pulled a chair up next to his partner. “How did you know it was Alexis and Standish in that picture in the bedroom? He was the only one you could see.”

“Several things,” Parker leaned back and took a deep breath. “Remember the house number 7519? The 19 was visible behind Alexis’ head in the one photo and I recognized the style of the house. Also, the photo was taken of them at ground level. Alexis’ and Gilmore’s house didn’t have a ground floor, remember? It sat at the top of a huge staircase. What do you suppose that Standish herself arranged to have the photo taken for additional blackmail leverage?”

Freddy was still standing by the door. His tape recorder was under one arm and his notebook under the other. It was late in the afternoon, but even after the several sessions it took to record the whole story he still didn’t want to leave.

“JP,” Freddy said sheepishly while holding the door half open. “If I fix dinner for you would you answer two more things for me?”

“Sure,” the old man’s laugh was raspy, “except that we both know you don’t know how to cook.”

“If I order out then.”

“Fine.” Parker didn’t want the day to end either.

“What happened to make your house explode?”

“Oh man. You talk about being frightened. Youngman’s gun went off three times, I think. He hit Doris twice and the third bullet hit our propane tank. I’d recently had it filled and there must have been just enough of a spark to set it off.”

“And the house was destroyed?”

“Yup, right down to the ground.”

“Let me guess,” Freddy tilted his head and rolled his eyes up in concentration. “The two of you moved back to your old apartment in New York?”

“Sure did. If I had known that all it would have taken to get her to move back was burning down the house, I’d have done it months before.”

The two friends laughed as Freddy went to the phone to order take out.

Parker sat quietly and scanned his 75 years of pictures that covered the walls. You’ve had quite a life, he thought.

 

 

 

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