He was all for it so we headed down to the basement to check out the posters. I opened the door and we started down the first flight of steps. As we entered the stairwell, I thought I smelled something a little sour. I looked at Delvecchio and he said, “Hey, don’t look at me, I didn’t do it.”
“Well, what the hell is it?” I said. The smell got stronger as we neared the bottom of the stairs. It seemed to be coming from one of the bins.
“Smells like a dead rat or something,” he said.
“Hardly,” I said, “It stinks like a bag of assholes down here.” I clamped a hand over my nose and we kept walking towards my bin. I thought I might throw up if I had to be down here sucking in this funk. As we got closer to bin number 64, the smell intensified. I stopped beside bin number 62 and bravely took a whiff.
“Oh, shit,” I said, “Whatever it is, it’s in here? Help me with this.” This was Charlie’s bin, but I was sure it had been nearly empty the last time I was down here. Maybe a cat got in there or something. I couldn’t imagine how something could smell so bad and no one had noticed it on their way to the laundry room. I had an apartmentsized washer and dryer, so I only came down here once a month or so to check the lock on my bin.
Delvecchio was holding his tie up to his mouth to offset the odor. We tried the latch on the bin and found that it was padlocked. I told him to wait there while I got something out of my bin. I was sure I had a crowbar or something. I’d buy Charlie a new damned padlock if it was that big a deal. I got into my bin quickly and walked back carrying a tire iron. For some reason, I kept it here instead of in my car, where it might actually be useful sometime.
I tried to break the lock open by jimmying it with the tire iron. It didn’t budge. I stepped back for a moment and studied the wooden slats that made up the front wall of the storage bins. I walked up and tried prying one of them loose. It gave way after a couple of tries. Within ten minutes, I had pried away five of the boards while Delvecchio stood back and watched the stairs. He seemed to be a little paranoid about watching me break into Charlie’s bin. I looked back at him and said, “It’s okay, I know this guy, he’ll understand why I broke in.”
I crawled through and made my way around the stacks of boxes that stood near the front. As I moved further in, I found the source of the smell. There, in the corner of the space was a man sprawled out against the back wall with a bullet hole in his temple. There were some flies buzzing around and the stench was unbearable. I backed out and yelled for Delvecchio.
“Yeah,” he answered, “What is it? Did you find it?”
“I found it,” I said, “You wouldn’t happen to have a cell phone on you?”
“No, I left mine back at McAthorn’s in my car,” he said. “Shit,” I said, “Let’s get back to my apartment and call the cops, there’s a guy in there.”
“A guy,” he said, “in there? Is he dead?”
I rolled my eyes and said, “No, he just hasn’t had a shower in ten or twelve days, of course he’s dead. Come on, let’s go.”
As we turned to leave, we ran smack into Charlie. He was standing on the bottom step and he had a gun pointed straight at Delvecchio.
I could feel my mouth drop to the floor.
I stepped around Delvecchio trying to make sure that Charlie knew it was me down here. “Hey, Charlie, it’s me, Rona.” I called to him, trying to sound casual as a feeling of dread washed over me. Something clicked in my brain and I realized that it probably wouldn’t matter to Charlie if it was me or Mother Theresa down here.
“Oh, hello Rona,” he said snidely, “I was hoping I would find you here, I trust you found everything in order in my locker?”
“What’s going on Charlie?” I said, “What’s with the gun?” Delvecchio had put his hands up and was standing there beside me, not saying a word. I wanted to poke him to make sure he was still breathing, but I figured I had better keep my eye on Charlie.
“You’re a smart girl, Rona,” he said, “But you really don’t know what the fuck you’re doing.”
I continued to play stupid, hoping that if I acted like I still trusted him he wouldn’t shoot me…yet. “I was just getting something out of my bin for my friend here, and we smelled something. I thought it was a dead cat or something so I was trying to get in there and get it out.”
“How sweet,” he said, laying one hand on his check and fluttering his eyelashes while he kept the gun trained on us. “I suppose you were looking for dead cats when you went through my desk earlier today, too?”
“What?” I asked, incredulous. I was hoping he would interpret my surprise as being outrage at the accusation instead of shock at the fact that he had figured out I was in there.
“You know what I’m talking about, you nosy bitch,” he said, “I suppose you’re going to tell me that you didn’t find anything?” “Charlie, there’s a dead guy in your bin,” I said, “I really hope you weren’t storing him.” Maybe the right angle was humor. I guessed I’d soon find out.
He cocked the gun and aimed it at me, “Just couldn’t wait to join your friend, Kimball, could you?” He smirked and started to walk closer to us. I swallowed my anger at hearing the mention of
“You killed Kimball?” I asked, through gritted teeth.
“Sure did,” he said, sighing. “It was easy, much easier than our friend, Luther.” He looked over at Delvecchio as he said this and Gil seemed to snap out of his stupor. He lunged at Charlie and tried to wrestle the gun away from him. I reached down for the tire iron that I had dropped by the bin. I watched the two men rolling around on the floor, marveling at how much of a fight Charlie was putting up. Delvecchio was nearly twice his size, but he was out of shape.
Charlie brought the butt of the gun down near Delvecchio’s shoulder. He rolled away writhing in pain as Charlie scrambled to his feet. I seized the opportunity to swing the tire iron at Charlie’s hand. Thankfully, I made contact and the gun skidded across the cement floor.
Charlie stopped and looked at me, “Now that wasn’t very nice, Rona.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a knife. I backed away still holding the tire iron. He wasn’t going to let me out of here without a fight. I watched Delvecchio over Charlie’s shoulder, I was hoping that he would spring to life and give me a hand, but he didn’t. He was holding his neck and lying there as though he’d been shot.
“You don’t want to do this, Charlie,” I said, “We can work this out.” “Bullshit,” he said, “You know, you know everything now. I can’t trust you to keep it to yourself even if I kill the big guy.”
I thought to myself, “You’re right, you weren’t that good of a lay.”
“Why’d you do it?” I asked, “How do you know Janetti?”
“I don’t know Janetti,” he said, smiling crazily, “I know Lucy. I
I thought about this and it popped into my head that this must be the guy who had stalked Lucy even after she had married Delvecchio.
“You’re Harley Buck,” I said; now I was smiling.
“In the flesh,” he said, taking a moment to bow slightly. He was obviously proud of himself. “How’d you guess?”
“That wasn’t the hard part,” I said, “But I would like to know how you figured out that Janetti was actually Lucy Deardon.”
“Simple,” he said, taking a half-hearted swipe at me with his knife. I jumped backward as the blade caught my thigh.
“Fuck!” I screeched, “Watch that shit, Charlie!”
“Oh, I assure you, that’s nothing,” he said. “Back to your question, I sold the Janetti’s their house out on Beach.”
“And…?” I asked, “You just recognized her?” Blood was oozing from my leg as I hobbled backward.
“Not quite,” he said, still walking towards me. I was running out of room. The end of the hallway was only about twenty feet back.
“First I screwed his wife.” He lunged forward and took another swipe. This one missed me.
“Ah,” I said, putting together the pregnant Rita with this newfound knowledge.
“We had an affair,” he said, “and while I was fucking her, I was finding information out about her ‘husband.’” He made little quote marks in the air as he said the word.
He ran a hand through his short hair and stopped short. “That’s right, I guess I’m gonna be a daddy soon.” He laughed as he started walking again. I noticed some movement in the background and could see that Delvecchio was stirring. I prayed that he would get the gun and shoot this asshole before he took another swipe at me.
“Congratulations,” I said, sarcastically.
“I traced his social security number back until I hit something odd,” he said, he was going on and on as though he’d been dying to tell someone. “At one point, this number belonged to Lucy, my Lucy.” His smile had vanished, and he was now looking at me as though I had ripped his heart out.
“Why?” he said, his voice was weak, “Why did you do this to me,
“Whoa!” I said, “I’m not Lucy, I’m Rona.”
This didn’t sink in. He lunged again and I was able to dodge the blade. I was still bleeding, and it was beginning to take its toll. I rubbed my forehead as my leg throbbed in pain. He was getting closer and we were almost to the end of the hall.
“Charlie,” I said, “I’m not Lucy, I didn’t do this to you.”
“Lying bitch,” he roared, and with a final swing, he raised the knife and came charging at me. In the distance, I heard Delvecchio shuffling toward us and then came the gunshot. Charlie’s face went blank and he dropped the knife as he fell to the ground. The bullet had his him in the back and as he fell, I saw blood seeping through the front of his shirt. He was dead.
Delvecchio stood there with the gun in his hand. He was rooted in place. I breathed a sigh of relief and then ran to Delvecchio to see if he was okay. Well, actually, I hopped. I put my hands on his shoulders and eased his arms down. He let the gun fall to the floor and then stepped closer to me, putting his head on my shoulder as he started to breathe again.
“It’s okay,” I said, “It’s okay, you got him.”