In that Ghost Stories
are part of Halloween and seeing that I am in the middle of a series of
MARKS VARIETY stories I herewith present a MARKs VARIETY Ghost Story.
Those who are unfamiliar with Rosie, Violet, et al should read the intro to the
Marks Variety Stories.
In life, one must often
take a risk in order to win, while one can lose without ever risking anything. So, the way
Moishe figured it, it was worth it to fall in love with a ghost. I mean, wasnt
Ghost for Number Four
It was the first cold night of November that Rosie who was in charge of keeping the
things on the shelves at Viros Cards and Things, reported that
Unit Four of the Mall, next door to their shop, was haunted again.
Dom, naturally, pointed out that, since the first incident had turned out to be
that nice young couple, Steve and Alex, it couldnt really be haunted
again.And Peter deAngelis,
characteristically, said he doubted if it was haunted this time either. After all, Rosie
had been hearing voices theatening to rearrange her things for several months now -
perhaps it was just the owners of those voices moving in, so they could be nearer to
Rosies things, he suggested to Dom and Moishe.
Henry Mark was good enough to get the pass key which Wendy their landlord, had
entrusted to Marks Variety and check the empty store and, when he found no trace of
anyone having even spent the night there, even Neddo Rubens and Verba Spyles who
believed implicitly in aliens and such had to admit that Rosie was probably getting just a
few grains short of a shakerfull with the passing years.
Finally, only Violet, her sister, would listen to Rosies tales of what
she was hearing in the dead of night, though she never admitted that she didnt
believe her for a moment. She had waited up all one night with Rosie and, when nothing
happened, Rosie had blamed her for scaring the spirit away.
If your ghost was half a man, itd scare me away, Violet had
Its not a man, its a ghost, Rosie had pointed out.
Besides, I think it is...was a young girl...by her voice.
Why whats she say?
Nothing. That is, no words. She just moans...sometimes makes little sounds
like...like a baby nursing. I dont know.
If a girl that young were in there, bottle feeding, Henry would have found
But thats not all the time, Rosie pointed out.
Sometimes her voice changes...becomes a kind of low growl, like a dog or
A bottle-feeding werewolf? Come on, Rose... Violet said
facetiously. Or is it maybe a vampire...sucking on a bottle of plasma?
I tell you, theres something in there, Rosie insisted.
Something unnatural is going on, and if no one here will do something about it,
Ill call in Mervin Klassen.
Mervin Klassen? Whos he?
Here. Rosie handed Vi a small advertisement she had clipped out of
Haunted?House possessed by
spirits of the undead? Shape-shifters in your Cellar? Poltergeists on the Porch?Werewolves in the Woodshed? Vampires in the
Vestibule? Mervin Klassen to your rescue. Guaranteed exorcisms. Money Back if not
satisfied. Write for details and endorsements to Box 13 Postal Station H(for Haunting) or
phone 555-1313 (Please note: Contract requires the permission to use your story in my
We cant call him! Violet said.
Look at that last line in the small print. Everybody who answers this ad and
asks for the endorsements will know about our haunting. And if word gets around that Kinford Plaza is haunted...
Well make all the papers, added Peter de Angelis who had
come into Viros unnoticed. I wont be able to keep up with the coffee and
donuts for the press. Itll be a bonanza.
See? Rosie gloated at having someone support her. And if
Klassen doesnt scare the ghost off, a bunch of reporters certainly will.
I think we better put this to a mall meeting, Violet appeared to
compromise. People only call meetings when theyre pretty sure the meeting will side
Which the meeting, held the following morning - a rarity on a Wednesday -
in La Caf, sort of did.
That is, though it quickly decided that Mervin Klassen was not the answer to their
problems and could, indeed, cause a lot more, Rosie refused to be dissuaded from her
insistence that there was a malignant spirit in Unit Four and that something had to be
done about it.
Thats when Moishe (aka Tony or Murray) Feldman, Doms young assistant
barber, volunteered to spend the night in Unit Four and prove to Rosie she was
imagining things. No self-respecting vampire would suck guilt-ridden Jewish blood, he
assured them. And, unless it was a golem, - or cheap scotch - Jews didnt believe in
Can I borrow the cot from your back room? he asked of Joanna Mark.
And when she nodded, added, Fine. Ill start tonight.
Better wait til tomorrow, Rosie told him.
Because Ive been keeping track, Rosie answered. The
spirits not there every night. Mondays and Thursdays its there. And most
Sundays. This being Wednesday, it should be there tomorrrow, sometime after .
Good, thatll give me time to get comfortable, Moishe nodded.
Ill move Joannas cot in today and get my younger brother Dannys TV
from home - hell loan it to me, or Ill break his neck.
You can have our extra stereo, Verba Spyles offered.
And Ive got a table and two chairs out back I was going to send
out for refinishing, Peter said.
By the time you get through equipping the place, Ill be more
comfortable than at home, Moishe laughed.
You wont be comfortable... Rosie said ominously, notwhen it comes and sucks your blood...
Thursday night found Moishe Feldman sitting comfortably on the cot, drinking a beer
from La Caf, and reading Ann Rices Interview with the Vampire, just to put himself
in the mood for . He had put his alarm clock across the room and on top of the
stereo which in turn was on top of the counter left over from when this had been a video
store so that he would have an unobstructed view of the time.After all, he wanted to be able to pinpoint in
time anything that happened...although, he kept telling himself, nothing was going to
happen, nothing at all, absolutely nothing...at all...
So it was with more than mild surprise that he awoke to find the girl sitting
cross-legged on top of the counter and staring down at him.
Where...who...wha...? he stammered.
I might ask the same of you, the girl answered, since you
seem to have invaded my space.
She was about eighteen to twenty, Moishe figured, two to four years younger than
he, but it was hard to tell for she was over made up which made her look even older. But
the jeans andplaid shirt, open to show a
glimpse of bra, and running shoes with white sox were signs of a teenager, at least at
heart. Not in manner, though. It was tough, challenging. A pretty solid ghost, Moishe
I was sent by the storekeepers of the mall to see who or what was using this
place. Moishe wondered why he was doing the explaining.
You a cop...or a private eye? The girl eyed him suspiciously.
Neither. Im a barber. The Tony of Dom and Tonys. And you
It doesnt matter.
It does when youre trespassing on private property.
The girl shrugged.
So, there are other places, she said off-handedly. Some a them
even have blankets, you know?
Then why did you come here?
None a your business.
Look, Ive told you about myself...
Not a fat friggin lot!
More than you have about you! Moishe snapped back. She had no
right to be so self-righteous. What are you a runaway? Is somebody after you, or
Suddenly, the girls anger evaporated into self-pity. She slipped down from on
top of the counter and sat with her back against it, drew her knees up to her chest,
wrapped her arms around them and, burying her head behind her legs, sobbed piteously.
Im sorry... Moishe said, wondering what in hell he was sorry
about. I didnt mean to...
The girl lifted her red-rimmed eyes to his. She was really pretty, he thought, even
with the mascara running down her cheeks. Maybe even because of it. And he could see now
that she couldnt be more than eighteen...if that.
My names Amy. Just Amy. I dont have a last name any more...not
that I want, anyway. And yeah, Im on the run, but not the way you probably mean.
Im not running away from home. Home ran away from me when I was sixteen.There were a coupla bad years after that I
wont talk about, but, when I married this guy...well, I thought things would get
better. Turned out he got his jollies from beating the shit outa me. Thats who
Im running away from. Thats why I have about six different places where I
crash. So he wont find me.
Then why do you keep coming back here? Moishe asked.
Isnt that dangerous?
Yeah, but I like it here.
Whats to like about it? he said incredulously. There
wasnt even a stick of furniture until tonight.
Its warm, with the other places on either side being heated, and that
counters a good thing.
To sleep on?
To sleep behind.If someone were
to look in when I was crashing here, they wouldnt see me.
Then why dont you stay here every night?
Jeez, you ask a lot of questions!
Look, I know you spend Monday, Thursday and some Sunday nights after
Because Ive got a friggin part-time waitress job at a bar down
Wenford those nights, for Chrissake! You satisfied now?
And the other nights?
I work...other jobs. Look, Ive said all Im gonna...
Its all right. I think Ive got enough now to argue my
With whom? You gonna rat on me? Suddenly the girls face
was contorted with fear. Jeez, Mister Tony, dont do that! My
bastard husbands got the cops lookin for me too, you know. Youd be like
Im not going to talk to the cops. And the names Moishe. You wanna
hear a story?
For a moment, the girl looked dumfounded by his sudden question.
I...I guess so...if its got a point.
So Moishe told her the story of how the tenants of Kinford Mall had kept Steve and
Alexis in this very unit until they had found jobs and could afford to get married. And
how Steve and Alexis had finally been able to pay them back for their kindness.
The point being, he concluded, that with that experience as a
measuring stick, I think I can convince the others to vote to keep you here until we can
all work out how to get you protection from your abusive husband.
Itd be a lot more comfortable than a few of the places Im staying
now... Amy said thoughtfully.
And four of the tenants sleep on site. That means someoned be aware of
anyone snooping around. Just like they were aware that someone or something was in here.
All I have to do is talk the others - and our landlord - into accepting a new
Do you think you can do that?
From what youve told me already, Id be astounded if they turned
you down. But, just in case, would you be willing to meet with them if necessary and tell
them about your husband and stuff?
I...I guess...God, how can you be so...nice?
And with those words, Amy rose from the floor and threw her arms around
his neck and kissed him hotly on the mouth.
Twenty years old, at least, Moishe thought. That was no teenagers kiss.
Moishe abandoned Unit Four to Amy for the rest of that night and went home,
where he tried to explain to his younger brother Danny what had become of his TV. In
parting, he and Amy had arranged that he would bring up her story at the regular Friday
morning Mall meeting, and she would come by Unit Four Friday night to discover the
outcome of that meeting.
So Moishe lay awake most of Thursday night, trying to plan what he was going to
say, and finding himself thinking instead about that kiss.
Wendy Caiden, their landlord, had taken to attending all the regular Friday
meetings, so it was primarily to her that Moishe directed his spiel. But his tale of this
poor homeless waif, pursued by an abusive husband and having to make do onpart-time bar jobs while keeping on the
move had the predictable effects on each of his audience.Vi and Rosie wept openly. Neddo and Verba joined them. Henry Mark nodded
sagely and allowed as he knew of a lawyer who might be able to get a court order against
the husband to stay away, Joanna offered her a regular evening clerking job in the
Variety. Frieda of Lolas Fashions said shed outfit her to go job hunting for
something more permanent, and Bert and Frances Sisters of Sisters Cleaners said
theyd make sure the outfits were always clean and pressed. Maxine said shed do
her hair for free.
And Dom, of course, said her whole story was probably bullshit, but hed go
along - albeit unwillingly - with the majority decision.
The majority meant, of course, the single vote of Wendy Caiden,
for it is well known in any democracy that a landlords vote is worth one more than
the total number of tenants.
I think I would like to meet this Amy before I make up my
mind, Wendy said cautiously. Not that I mistrust anything you say,
Moishe, but I like people to have last names. And I can always tell when people are
trying to snow me. Thats why I always felt that business with Steve and Alexis would
turn out as it did.
That statement prompted Moishe, who distinctly remembered Wendy being the most
convinced of them all that theyd been taken by Steve and Alex, into making a,
perhaps incautious, promise.
All right, he said. I tell you what. Ill personally vouch
for this girl. If what she has told me turns out to be in any way untrue, if she is just
trying to take us, Ill make it good to each and every one of you...even if
I have to borrow from my brother, Sid.
That last phrase was, everyone knew, like swearing an oath on your mothers
grave, for Moishe would far rather be buried beside his mother than borrow from his elder
brother. Danny, the younger one, O.K.; thats where hed got the TV set. But not
Thats good enough for me, then, Wendy smiled. You can
tell her when you see her to move in.
And tell her that therell be a hotel bar fridge and a hotplate
delivered tomorrow, a customer who had been snivelling in one of the booths
of La Caf piped up. From Iggys Furniture and Appliances - Im
Did you think to ask her about those noises? Rosie asked Moishe as
they left the meeting.
Those moaning, sucking and growling sounds.
No! Moishe slammed his palm into his forehead. Ill ask
She dragged herself into Unit Four just after midnight that night, looking
frazzled. Her long blonde hair looked as if shed just got out of bed, her lipstick
was all smeared, her red blouse was half out of her belt and there was a rip up the side
of her black miniskirt.
Moses! Moishe invoked his namesake. What kind of a bar is it
you work in on Fridays?
She looked at him curiously, as if trying to place who he was and why he was here
or, for that matter, why she was wherever here was on a Friday night. And then her eyes
seemed to refocus as it all came back to her.
A rough one, she smiled tiredly. Customers cant keep their
hands to themselves.
Men get that way when theyre tight, Moishe nodded.
What men? she laughed. I work a Lesbian Hangout
Fridays. You take work where you can get it and put up with shit to keep it. Thats
the way life is. Life sucks and then you die, they say.
Cynical for one so young. Say, I never thought to ask. Did you have to
lie about your age to get a bar job?
I never thought to answer. So I wont. My business.
Anyway, I dont think life sucks is what youre going
to say in a minute, Moishe smiled.
Whatcha mean? Theyre gonna let me stay?
Not only that, Moishe grinned. And he told her about their
decision and the fridge and hot plate from Iggys and, leaving the best to the last,
he thought, the outfits from Lolas Fashions.
Thats when she surprised the hell out of him.
She leapt at him with a whoop of joy, clamped her arms around his neck and her legs
around his waist, and her momentum carried them both over backward onto the couch. And
then she kissed him fiercely, her tongue parting his lips and finding his, exploring it
It was the kind of kiss Moishe had never had before and, for some reason, it
frightened him. There was something not right, sort of not-human about it, and he rolled
her off him and leapt up, reaching the door to the back room in a single stride.
Amy looked up at him and her mouth grinned broadly and her lovely blue eyes
By the jeez, I think Ive actually scared you, she said
I...I...Ive never been... Moishe stammered.
Never been kissed like that? Amy laughed. Geez, Moishe,
where have you been, in a monastery?
Hardly...Im Jewish, Moishe said
unnecessarily. I...I just havent had that much...experience with
kissing...girls, I mean.
What have you been kissing then? Your mother? Your dog? Amy
continued to snigger.
And my cousins...yeah...
Amy stopped laughing.
Youre serious arent you? she said incredulously.
Well, I tell you, Moishe baby, you keep bringing me good news like you did today and
Ill make you the best f...darn kisser in the City. Youll have more
kissin cousins than you can shake your stick at...if you know what I mean.
Moishe didnt; he only knew it was time he got out of here...before she kissed
him like that again. It had done strange things to his tummy...no lower than that...
Frieda says you can come in tomorrow after five to pick up what you
want, he blurted out. And Maxinell do your hair and give you a make-over
before eight in the morning. By tomorrow night, you wont recognize yourself.
Gee, I hope not. Amy seemed sincerely worried.
I work a pretty sleazy bar on Saturdays, she said. The tips are
better if you look like a slut.
Everyone who comes out of Maxs looks like a slut, I
think, Moishe smiled weakly. And just tell Frieda what look you want in
clothes. If you ask me, she runs more a theatrical costume shop than a fashion
Sounds like my kind of place. Amy got up off the bed and started
towards him. God, I dont feel Ive thanked you nearly enough...
Quite enough for now, thanks. Moishe swallowed hard.
And was out the door lest she jump him again.
Outside was safer...and the traffic on Kincaid all but drowned out the sound of his
heart pounding...and of the peals of laughter from inside Unit Four.
But it was only then Moishe remembered that he hadnt remembered to ask her
about those noises.
Sunday of that week was the last Sunday of the month, and the tenants of Kinford
Mall had agreed that they would all do their inventories and books that day. Of course, La
Caf and Marks would have been open anyway, and Earthanasia was almost never formally
open, but the others usually shut on Sundays. However, the arrangement meant they had an
extra day a month to discuss common business if something had come up.
And, of course, this week, something had, in the person of the Surnameless Amy.
You should have seen the outfits she got from me, Frieda
marvelled. Ida never sold that stuff around here in a million years.
Dont know whatever prompted me to buy it. Some fast-talking salesman I bet.
Why what was it like? Peter de Angelis asked.
A black faux leather mini, so short I swear her bum was hanging out a foot
below it, black net stockings, and a sleeveless sheath that left nothing to the
imagination except the colour of her tits. Shell look like a thirty-year-old floozy
in those things. If its passes she wants from drunks in those bars she works,
shell never have to buy a ticket again.
I could use one of those around here, to spice up La Caf, Peter
I did her hair that way too, Maxine nodded. Long, wavy,
draping over one eye...you know like Veronica Lake.
A movie star, Maxine said grumpily. I forget I was born in a
different century from the rest of you.
Whys she want to cultivate the hard-boiled look? Henry Mark,
who could remember Veronica Lake, wanted to know. Moishe says shes pretty
enough as she is.
Shes lovely, Moishe nodded, and then blushed at his
She told me she has to dress for the kind of jobs shes trained
for, Frieda answered. Primarily cocktail waitressing. Though shes
done a couple of stints as a receptionist.
For what? A brothel? Dom diPietro grumbled.
Lawyers, she says. She also takes dictation and her presence keeps the
clients from noticing the fees theyre being charged.
So, when are we going to meet our mysterious new neighbour? Joanna
Mark asked.I dont think anyone
but Moishes ever laid eyes on her.
I bet hes laid... Dom started to say but was stifled by a
glare from Moishe.
Ill see if shell come to our meeting next
Friday, Moishe leapt in with an answer. And youll see this
hard-boiled look is just a kind of...a business uniform. Basically I think
shes just a nice kid whos been dealt a rotten hand. Which reminds me...can I
borrow yesterdays paper from someone? Amy says she wants the Classifieds to
look for something steadier than four different bar jobs.
Tell her if she applies for something that doesnt require tits,
shed better see me again, Frieda chuckled.
Monday afternoon the sofa, easy chair and four-poster bed arrived from Iggys
Furniture and Appliances.
Said she saw the ad in Saturdays paper when she stopped in this
morning, Iggy told Moishe when he called the store. Said youd sign
for the delivery and someone would let my guys put it in her room.
Moishe didnt see what else he could do but send it back and that would
probably cause more trouble than it was worth. So he signed for it and got the passkey
from Henry Mark to let the delivery guys in.
I guess, when she was looking for the want ads the ad from Iggys caught
her eye, he explained to Dom.
She got the money for all that?
Guys in the truck say shes buying it on time.
Can she even afford that though?
I guess. Shes got tips and stuff from four jobs...
And no rent to pay. Dom said suspiciously. How old is
I dont know exactly, but whats it matter?
If shes under eighteen, shell need a co-signer.
Oh no problem, then.Shes
gotta be twenty, maybe even twenty-five, Moishe laughed, wondering why he felt
You better hope, Dom said ominously.
And that tone, as well as his promise yesterday to invite her to the Friday meeting
meant Moishe was sitting in the new easy chair and waiting for Amy in Unit Four when she
arrived after midnight that night.
If Amy was surprised to find him there, she didnt show it. She was wearing
the tight scarlet sheath which showed the outline of her nipples, and her lipstick matched
her dress, the stiletto heels and the red mesh stockings.
There was no way that woman was younger than twenty-five, Moishe thought.
Amy, undulating delightfully as if she were putting on some kind of mime show for
him, walked over to the hotel bar fridge by the old video counter and got herself a beer
before she spoke.
You want one? she asked.
No. I dont drink except on weekends, Moishe answered.
Every days a weekend, Amy smiled. Do you mind if I get
She kicked her heels off.
Thisll just take a moment, Moishe said hurriedly.
Cant that wait?
Sure, I guess.
But she sat on the arm of the easy chair which didnt make him any more
comfortable. He could smell her perfume.
Arent you curious as to why Im here? he asked.
No, because I know why youre here, Amy smiled.
Then you tell me.
Youre wondering why I, an employed adult, had to have you co-sign my
loan on this stuff. She waved a lacquer-nailed hand around at the furniture.
I...what? Moishe gulped.
You signed a paper when those guys delivered the furniture, didnt
Yeah...for the delivery.
You didnt read it?
No, I didnt think...
Boy! Youre even stupider than I am! You should always read things
you sign, didnt you know that?
Look, what you signed was a paper that says youll make it good if I
dont pay for this stuff. Its called co...
I understand that, Moishe interrupted. What I
Its because Im not exactly...employed... Amy muttered.
Oh, I work. But the bars I work in...they dont pay me nothing. I
work purely for tips. That dont count when youre buying on time.
But do you make enough?
To buy this stuff? Sure.Oh,
dont worry, theyll never come after you. The tips are pretty good at all
times. And, of course, get better if I let the guys...or, on Fridays, the
girls...play around with me a little. Nothing serious, just feelies, you know.
Her hand dropped to his and she shoved it under the hem of her dress which had
ridden well up her thigh.
Moishe was out of the chair in one heroic bound.
The others want to meet you at the Friday morning meeting! he panted as
he ran for the exit.
Tell them Ill be there, Amy chuckled, as he threw himself
out the door, slamming it behind him.
And, maybe, during the meeting, Ill let you finish that feel, she
laughed to herself.
Amy was dressed the way Moishe had first met her when she turned up at the Mall
Meeting Friday. In blue jeans, running shoes, and a plaid shirt...done up so that no bra
showed. She had also removed the scarlet nail polish and make-up and had tied her blonde
hair back into a pony tail.The result was
the little lost girl look that had first tugged at Moishes heart and started this
whole thing. And once again. he had to wonder if she really was under eighteen and had
lied about her age to get the waitressing jobs. That would also explain why hed had
to co-sign that contract for the furntiure.
And then the story she told - in a frank, straightforward manner - of how her
father had married again to a woman who resented her, and how shed come home one day
to find their apartment bare, and the two years on the streets as a squeegee kid, living
in youth hostels, until she met and married Pete, made Moishe realize she had to be at
least twenty. You simply couldnt cram that much living into less time.
Amy certainly seemed to impress the others too. She sat primly in a booth
with Moishe and recounted her tale without emotion and - for which Moishe was
particularly thankful - without some of the more colourful language her jobs had taught
her. Indeed, except for one small instance where she referred to Pete as a poor
shit, she seemed to realize that a certain circumspection was required in the
presence of Rosie and Violet and the others.
If shed deliberately been out to win their hearts, Moishe thought, she
couldnt have done it better. But what was the best about her that morning was that
she was being perfectly natural. The tarty babe in the scarlet sheath was the
At the close of her tale, Henry Mark said he had been speaking offhand to a
lawyer friend who might be willing to get her a court order to prevent Pete from
hounding her, but Amy insisted that, while she appreciated his concern, she would rather
go her own way with this. Shed worked with a lawyer for a few months, she said, and
she was sure she could get him to act for her to institute divorce proceedings, which is
what she really wanted.
And the Mall meeting broke up with even Wendy Caiden admitting she was inclined to
like the girl...even if she still didnt have a last name.
Moishe walked her to the back door of Unit Four, which led to the little back room
where shed set up the four-poster.
You really won them over today, he told her.
Did I look as nervous as I felt? Amy asked.
You looked as cool as a cucumber.
To coin a phrase, Amy smiled. Well, I wasnt. I was
Cause I knew, if they didnt like me, theyd kick me
out...and I...I couldnt stand that... Her lower lip began to quiver
and the tears to well in her big blue eyes.
I...Id never let them do that... Moishe managed to gag out.
But the little lip still quivered.
Moishe didnt know what came over him. But suddenly he found himself kissing
that lip. Both of her lips in fact. And her hands were behind his neck and pulling his
lips hard against hers. And her breasts were thrusting against his chest through the plaid
shirt. And he was suffocating in the lovely smell of her...
He wrenched his head away and gasped for air.
You...wanna come inside...? she breathed.
I...I think I better not... Moishe said weakly.
Have it your way, she said. I need the sleep anyway.
And she was gone into Unit Four.
Moishe turned away to find Dom glowering at him from the back door of the Barber
Shes really got you fucked up in the head, hasnt she? he
What do you mean?
I think youre falling for her, thats what I mean.
If I am, whats it to you? Moishe said defensively.
I like you, and I dont want to see you hurt, Dom answered.
So listen to me, Murray. That little kids trouble.
Fuck you, Moishe said, uncharacteristically.But sometimes Dom just pissed him off with his
Wednesday morning, Rosie came into Dom and Tonys and asked to see Moishe
Have you asked about those sounds yet? she asked him.
Moishe applied the heel of his hand to his forehead again.
I keep forgetting. Ill ask her Thursday night when I see her.
Why not today? I heard those noises last night again. And this morning I
smelled bacon frying, so Im pretty sure shes still there and not out job
hunting...at least not yet. This mystery is driving me crazy.
Amys regular routine had become to sleep in Unit Four every night, then
work her Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday shifts. Then, after sleeping in late the
following day, shed go out job-hunting in the afternoon. She also went job hunting
all day before work, so the only times she was at home were when she was sleeping.
That made it most unusual for her to be cooking bacon there at this early hour on a
Wednesday. Besides she ate almost all of her meals out. But, when he walked up to the
front door of her Unit, there was certainly the smell of cooking bacon on the air.
He tapped on the door gently so as not to startle her, but it did anyway, for the
voice that answered was small and afraid.
Just a sec, Moishe... The voice was relieved. I...Ive got
Then Ill certainly wait a sec. Moishe found himself
It was several minutes, in fact, before she opened the door to him and when she
did, though she was dressed in her jeans and plaid shirt, she was still wearing her tarty
make-up and, he could see by the running mascara that she had been crying.
I was hoping this would be a happy surprise breakfast for the two of
us, she said. Instead its going to be a disaster.
Why, whats the matter? he asked.
You know that lawyer I told you about? The one I worked with for a
Who might act for you? That the one?
Yeah, well last night I thought I had him all teed up to do it on the cheap
for me. But do you know what on the cheap means to him?
Not an idea.
I called him on the payphone just now. Five thousand fuckin bucks!
Thats his deal for a friend.
Gee, whats he charge enemies? Moishe exclaimed. So why
dont you take Henry Marks friend?
You dont understand. Amy began to well up again.
Ive already signed some papers. I owe him the five thou whether he acts for me
or notThats just a...you know.
Yeah. Geez, whatm I gonna do, Moishe?
And the tears burst forth again.
Moishe fought off the impulse to take her in his arms, knowing that he
wouldnt be able to stop himself this time. And not knowing if he wanted to be able
to. But damn sure he didnt want to take advantage either.
He took a deep breath, both to clear his mind and find what resolve he had left.
Leave it with me. Ill see what I can do, he said.
And was gone before she could even think of thanking him.
elder brother Sid was a doctor, and not just any doctor, a shrink, and not just any
shrink. His clientele included half the top money ACTRA members and two-thirds of the
investment banking executives - professions not entirely unrelated. He lived in a fifty
room bungalow on Park Road - the ritzy side of the tracks as Bert Sisters called it.
Moishes younger brother, Danny, would be rich as Sid one day, for he was
studying business law at Western, where he planned to go on to an MBA.
Moishe wasnt mentioned by his father. Not because he didnt realize the
value of his chosen occupation, but because he was a barber and not a tonsorial
artist, or a ladies artiste who got a thousand bucks a perm.
So Sid was more than a little surprised when Julie, his current live-in maid, told
him his brother Moishe was at the door.
At first he wondered if Dad had died and then decided that, if he had, theyd
have sent the family lawyer not Moishe to break the news. So he took a second guess that
turned out to be the right one.
How much do you need? he sighed, taking the initiative away
from his brother as he entered the sunroom.
Five thousand dollars. Moishe noticed for the first time he needed
What for? Sid swung around to face Moishe, keeping the sun behind him
so that Moishe could not see his face...another cheap psychological trick.
Moishe decided to tell the truth.
Christ, what a sap you are! Sid laughed when Moishe was through -
as Moishe knew he would. It was a bray of a laugh that always had made Moishe feel like a
turd, a very small turd.
I think I love her, Moishe admitted for the first time in a tiny
I think youve got testosterone between the ears, Sid said.
How you gonna pay me back?
I was going to branch out...do shampoos, womens
hairstyling, Moishe lied. Oh, shit, Sid, I dont know how Ill
pay you back!
Good for you! Sid beamed. Youre the first leech in our
family ever admitted that. You know how much Danny and Dad and Uncle Morty are into me
Youd choke if you knew. Five thousand is chicken-poop. Julie?
Yes, Sid? the pretty little brunette materialized as if by magic.
Give this bloodsucker five thousand out of your jelly jar and show him the
door. And, for Chrissakes, dont thank me. Youll make me look like a sap in
front of the...hired help.
Sid leered at Julie.
Moishe had never seen so much money in one place. And neither had Amy.
They spread the thousand five-dollar bills out on the bed and stared at it for
maybe five full minutes.
Whered you get it? she finally asked, in a voice full of awe.
It doesnt matter. Its yours.
But Ill never be able to...
I said its yours. You dont have to repay it.
Geez, Moishe... Her big blue eyes welled with tears for the
umpteeth time. But this time it was with happiness.
And then she kissed him.
Really kissed him.
Before he knew it, they were rolling naked in the money, and her experienced kisses
were discovering every inch of his innocent body.
And soon, without asking, Moishe found out what the slurping, sucking, groaning,
growling and moaning noises meant.
The slurping was her wet tongue exploring his every nook and cranny, the
sucking...well, hed never have imagined that was so good. And the growling was the
noise she made when he entered her, the groaning the noise he made when he came and the
moaning...that was her spasming to her orgasm.
They lay for a long time, listening to their heartbeats, before it occurred to
Moishe but, when it did, he rolled off her and stared down at her beatifically smiling
face. Then he kissed her closed eyelids and said softly,
You have...other boyfriends, dont you?
Mmmm...mmm, she nodded without opening her eyes.
You have them here sometimes?
To do what we just did.
Amy opened her eyes and stared up at him earnestly.
I used to...do all that...once or twice, that is, she said. But
youve suddenly changed it all. God, Moishe, you were wonderful. Do me like that
Hed have to make up something to tell Rosie, Moishe thought, as he melted
into her naked breasts.
Moishe didnt get into the Barber Shop all day that day. He had Amy sneak out
to the pay phone, call and say she was Moishes landlady and that he had the
twenty-four hour flu and he didnt leave Amys until she went out that
night to work a special shift at the lesbian bar. Then he dressed, gingerly pulling his
undershorts over his chafed member, and waddled off to his rented room to sleep the night
Rosie accosted him before nine in the morning with the usual question about the
I knew you were in there yesterday, she said. And I swear I heard
She keeps tropical fish, he said.
Rosie looked at him peculiarly.
Every few days she has to clean the water. Suck it out of the tank, you
know. He made a sucking sound with his lips.
But the growls and other things...
Big tropical fish, Moishe nodded sagely. Some get angry when
theyre flapping around in a half inch of water. Others just get sad or sick.
And he walked off, moaning, groaning and growling.
That should satisfy her for now, he smiled and knocked on the door to Unit Four,
hoping for the same breakfast hed had yesterday...all day.
But Amy must have been sound asleep in the back room, for there was no answer.
There was no answer at noon either when he walked past on his way to La Caf for
Nor at the back door when he tapped there after closing. She should have been up
and getting ready for her Thursday job.
Maybe she was as tired as he was after yesterday.
Or...maybe something had happened at that gay bar last night.
Lesbians could be pretty vicious, Dom had said as if he knew. But then Dom always
sounded as if he knew.
Still, she could have been hurt.
Maybe she was in there injured and in need of help.
So he went over to Marks Variety and borrowed the passkey from Henry Mark who
was working nights.
Of course, Unit Four was dead empty.
Everything was gone.
Even the old video counter.
Amy had taken every blessed thing.
Including Moishes five thousand dollars.
And his trust.
The others tried their best not to rub it in. Even Dom seemed to realize that
it would serve no purpose to say I told you so. So he stuck to the party line,
which was that Amy was so smart she had conned the whole lot of them.
Which was true...though not five thousand bucks worth.
Of course, Moishe couldnt bring himself to tell anyone about that
But as the days went by, Moishes inner optimism - developed as a defense
against Sids constant belittling of him - began to reassert itself, and he found
himself - secretly - making excuses for Amy.
Chief among these was the theory that Pete had somehow got wind of where she was
staying, that she had been alerted by a friend and had flown the coop before her brute of
a husband could catch up to her.
Of course, that being the case, Pete should have been around looking for her by
now...and he hadnt.
But, Moishe told himself, Amyd be getting in touch with him as soon as she
felt it was safe.
And then, after a week, the first piece of evidence supporting Moishes theory
seemed to fall into place.
Pete turned up.
At least, though he never gave his name, Moishe was sure it had to be Pete.
He looked like a Pete. He looked like a guy whod like to beat girls up for
the fun of it. His scruffy jeans contrasted with the thick gold chains draped around his
neck and, even from twenty feet away, he smelled of stale beer. And he was pounding on the
door of Unit Four when Moishe arrived to open the Barber Shop on Friday morning.
Excuse me, Moishe said. Can I help you?
You got someone living in there? the big, broad-shouldered, unshaven
man asked, pointing at the window that had been papered over since it was a video store.
No, Moishe said simply. It was the truth after all. This is
a mall, not a condo.
I can see that, the square-jawed lout snapped. You ever have
someone sleeping there?
Not...not in three years. Moishes voice was less certain,
though there was still a element of truth. Steve and Alexis had been about three years
ago. And Amy sure wasnt there now. Its just an empty store.
Just the kind of place shed choose, the man nodded. You
You can ask the other storekeepers. Nobodys been in there. Stores
been deserted since a porno video store folded.
Porno video, the man snorted a laugh. Thats appropriate.
Well, if you ever see a blonde - little tits, big blue eyes, pretty kinda - hanging around
Theres lots of girls fit that description, Moishe
The man dug in the pocket of his faded jeans shirt and produced a photograph. It
was slightly out of focus, but the girl, posing in the nude on top of a bar table with her
head half-turned to the camera was definitely Amy. Moishe tried not to reveal his
Now Im sure, he said. Ive never seen this girl.
Well, if you should, tell her Im still after her.
Who shall I say...?
Just tell her Im after her. Shell know who you mean.
And the hulk turned and lumbered away.
Only then did Moishe notice that his mouth was parched.
Dom always opened the Barber Shop on Saturdays so, the day after the big mans
visit, he bought his usual paper from Marks and took it in to read until the first
customer turned up. Naturally, he flipped to the Local News Section first, because that
was where Dom and Tonys ran an ad every Saturday.
And a picture leapt off the page at him. There were two pictures actually, but it
was one that first caught his attention.
He read the brief story under the picture, slipped the Local section out of the
paper and went down the strip mall to La Caf, where he figured Henry Mark would be having
breakfast. He needed Henrys advice in the worst way.
Henry was sitting with his paper open to the same page, as if waiting for Dom to
It says she was badly beaten before she was killed, Dom said
Poor kid, Henry nodded.
I guess when youre a street pro, you take those chances, Dom
But they figure her pimp - whats his name - did it, Henry
tapped the paper.
Alpietro Digiovanni, known as Pete Dom read.
Bugger gives us Italians a bad name.
Do they give her a last name?
No, shes just a prostitute known on the street as
Amy, Dom read further.
Poor kid. No wonder she took off.
Not far enough it looks like.
Shhh..hide your paper. Here comes Moishe, Henry whispered.
But when Moishe Feldman came through the door of La Caf, they saw he already had a
copy of the paper under his arm. His face looked as if hed been mortally wounded and
his choked voice could manage only five small words.