Metamorphosis (Part 5)

Continued from:

The plane touched down on the shimmering cracked runway and taxied toward the ramshackle hodgepodge of buildings that served as the airport. It was a defunct WWII airfield, abandoned by all except those who prefer to travel and transport relatively unobserved. Located in the middle of Texas ranch land, the only witnesses to activities here were herds of sleepy steer and the nodding iron mantises sucking crude from the parched earth.

Cabrera brought the plane to a halt at the end of the runway. He opened the door to the scorching Texas heat. and climbed down to meet the flatbed coming out to meet them. Close behind the truck was a government-issue black sedan carrying US Customs, Immigration and Public Health officials. El Comandante’s customer would have to wait a bit longer to take possession of the large crated stone in the plane’s cargo hold.

All cargo coming into the US was subject to Customs examination. Because his plane flew under foreign registration, US Immigration and Public Health always stuck their noses in too, even though he and Muñoz would leave immediately after off-loading the crate and refueling.

It was all a bit of a hassle, but one Cabrera was happy to tolerate. It was far easier on the nerves than the alternative.

It wasn’t mere luck that had enabled El Comandante to traffic goods in and out of the US undeterred for so long. He made a point of following the letter of the US law. Electronic waybills and cargo disposition documentation were filed in advance according to US Customs requirements, and he insisted the customer pay any duty tax before the shipment arrived. The Customs official meeting the plane was there to inspect the cargo, and verify that the filed declarations were accurate. Thanks to some clever packaging, what the government man saw was not quite all that the customer was getting. There was no question that the duty tax the customer had paid was far from adequate, but Customs would never know that.

Cabrera had flown into the US under the radar many times, moving more kilos of cocaine that he cared to remember. But he hated it. He was too old for such risk-taking, and was glad to be out of it. Though he was well aware that El Comandate’s compliance was largely a sham, he was grateful that the old man pulled it off so well. Not once had he been questioned beyond the routine.

Questions answered, documentation examined, the crate opened and resealed, the flatbed backed up to the cargo door and positioned its attached conveyor belt in the opening. With the help of a winch inside the plane, Cabrera and Muñoz moved the crate to the belt. The hunk of marble was soon secured on the bed of the truck and on its way.

And after refueling, so were Cabrera and his plane.

Back in Medellin, the old man savored the anise flavor of his aguardiente liqueur, and mentally counted the money he’d made from his latest “export” into the United States.



“I think the statue’s magnificent, Kate. What else could I think?”

As I say the words, a flash of satisfaction appears on Kate’s face and is gone just as quickly. I could have imagined it, but… No, I’m sure I saw it.

“Want to take a look at ‘the scene of the crime,’ Marty?” Without waiting for my answer, Kate is already walking toward the back.

“I do.” My eyes linger on the statue for a long moment, then I turn to follow her into the office. “But don’t even joke about that, Kate. The cops have a way of being awfully literal.”

She doesn’t go into the office, though. Behind a decorative screen at the back of the gallery, she presses a nearly hidden button. A panel illustrated with a fresco of Charon on the river Styx slides back to reveal a small elevator. Clever.

After a short ride, during which I fight the enticement of the heady perfume that embraces me in the close quarters of the elevator, the doors open to an apartment foyer.

“Well, this is quite a change from The Garret,” I comment as I step onto the gleaming black and white tile flooring. The tiny apartment Kate and I shared in the Village during college wasn’t much larger than this foyer, and it was a whole lot drearier.

“Thank goodness. What a pit that was.” Kate tosses a smile over her shoulder as she shrugs out of her coat. It goes into the coat closet, and she holds out her hand to take mine.

It’s irrational, I know, but I feel a little hurt by her response. That Village apartment may not have been anything to write home about, but my memories of sharing it with the girl I loved are positive. A silly adolescent romantic notion, I suppose, one Kate apparently didn’t share.

I follow as she leads me into the living room, noting with admiration the sensuous roll of her shapely hips under the clinging knit dress. Easy, boy, I think to myself.

She gestures to the couch sitting perpendicular to a small fireplace. Several colorful throws completely cover its upholstery.

“I couldn’t stand to look at the blood stains, and the police told me I couldn’t get rid of it yet. So…”

I lift the throws to look at the stains as Kate escapes into the kitchen. As she had mentioned, there isn’t a lot of blood, but the small spots that are here spread in a wide spatter pattern. This was no accidental nick with a pocketknife. I can see why the cops are suspicious. Probably the result of a deliberate blow, it looks like the “arterial spatter” the CSI shows on TV love to feature.

The white carpet beneath my feet is spotless.

I call to Kate in the kitchen. “Didn’t you say there was blood on the rug, too?”

“Yes, but the cops said I could clean that up. They took pictures of the spots before they left.” Kate emerges from the kitchen, snifters containing a rich amber liquid in hand.

“The crime scene guys were barely out the door before I called a carpet cleaning service. Ugh, it was gross,” she says as she hands me the cognac.

“Let’s talk over here.” Kate moves toward two overstuffed chairs positioned in the gentle curve of a bow window on the other side of the fireplace. “I just can’t sit on that couch.”

She picks up a remote from the mantle, and with the click of a button, the fireplace springs to life, filling the room with a warm glow.

After setting her glass down on the small table between the chairs, she turns and heads toward a short hallway. “I’ll be right back. Make yourself at home.”

Uh-oh…When a woman said that to Philip Marlowe, it usually meant she was going “to get into something more comfortable,” and that always led to trouble.

As I take a sip of the cognac – the excellent cognac, I might add – I settle in one of the chairs and look at the lights of Madison Avenue outside the window. I can see the Ralph Lauren building on the corner. Even at this hour, it’s beautiful, arched windows glittering. Kate landed in a pretty grand neighborhood, I’d say.

“Marty, could you help me for a minute?” Kate’s voice reaches me from down the hall.

“Sure.” I set my glass down next to Kate’s and head in the direction of a lit doorway at the end of the short hall.

As I turn the corner, I see that she has called me into her bedroom. There is one small lamp lit in the room. Kate is standing just inside the door, silhouetted against the lamplight. She’s wearing a silky peach-colored robe that perfectly complements her fair complexion and chestnut hair. From the outline of the shape beneath, I doubt she’s wearing much else.

Taking a step forward, she reaches up and kisses me very gently, just at the corner of my mouth. Her fingertips barely touch as they slide under the hair at the nape of my neck, and despite myself, I groan. That has always driven me crazy.

I can’t help myself. I put my arms around her, pull her hard against my chest, and kiss her hungrily. Lost in the kiss, I’m transported back in time. I’m twenty-one again, kissing my girlfriend in our shabby but romantic garret.

Kate breaks away for a moment and unties the sash on her robe. As it falls into a silky puddle at her feet, she wraps her arms around me and molds her naked body against mine.

Oh. my. God. I may just have a heart attack right here.

“Ah,” she murmurs with a smile in her voice as her lips move to meet mine again, “you’re glad to see me.”

To be continued




The hardest part was not knowing.

Why had her parents returned her like a defective toaster? What was her flaw? Was her soul so stained with Original Sin that only the Sisters could scrub it clean? Was that why she was left to their ministrations?

Don’t worry,” they told her when she questioned, and she questioned just about everything. “Wisdom will come if you are pure. You’ll understand when you grow up.”

That promise of wisdom kept her going, made the pain of abandonment a little more bearable.

The expectation that she would understand someday carried her through many long, dank years living in the Home, where the door to salvation slammed in her face over and over. It supported her through an endless stream of goodbyes as friends too left her behind, departing with new parents to live in a different sort of home.

In her darkest moments, she replayed Sister Martine’s words to sooth herself. When I grow up, she thought, my soul will be clean and it will all be clear. 

But when she did grow up, she still didn’t understand. And she was pretty sure that her soul was just as stained as it had ever been. Wisdom eluded her.

Once on her own, like an explorer in the Land of Endless Confusion, she searched everywhere for that elusive wisdom. She tramped through failed careers and disastrous relationships, looking in every dusty corner and under every rock. But all she found was more pain, more confusion.

Then, one day she discovered the ruby light, glowing warmly in liquid enticement. 

What the hell, she thought. With a stained soul, I’ll never find heaven anyway.  It occurred to her that perhaps this was the wisdom she’d been looking for all her life.

She dove in, and heard the angels sing.


Metamorphosis (Part 4)

 Continued from:

The driving rain that pounded the small private airstrip outside Medellin for several hours finally stopped. Enrique Cabrera had begun to despair of taking off before dawn. Not that he hadn’t been in the air in bad weather before.  It was getting into the air that worried him. With the heavy cloud cover, visibility was nil. Worse, the temperature was dropping, and it wouldn’t be long before the water on the runway began to ice. He didn’t want to take a chance skidding off and into the muddy field. Not with this cargo.

The rain had been unexpected. This part of Colombia seldom got more than a few inches a month. Cabrera almost postponed the flight until tomorrow night, which would not have made El Comandante or his customer happy. As it were, they were several hours behind schedule. Mierda. Fucking global warming, he thought.

He climbed from the nondescript rust-pocked panel van sitting on the apron near the old DC-6 cargo plane. He walked around to the front of the plane, and with a circular motion of his arm, he beckoned to Juan Muñoz, sitting in the cockpit.

Vámanos, he mouthed. Let’s go. Muñoz nodded, and in a few moments, the first of the four prop engines on the plane coughed to life, releasing a cloud of oily smoke. As each engine approached speed, it was followed by the next, until all four props were spinning at full speed and the plane was ready for take-off.

Cabrera went back to the van and spoke to its driver. Moreno would have some explaining to do when he got back to camp with the van.

“El Comandante will question your delay, Manuel. Tell him it was my decision. Only un hombre loco would attempt to take off in such rain. Sí, we will be a few hours late, but I will deliver the cargo safely. Better late than lost in the mud or the mountains. You tell him that.”

 “Sí. Ningún problema.” Manuel Moreno would tell El Comandante, for all the good that would do. He would still bear the brunt of the boss’ anger. The old man’s temper was legendary. Moreno already wore evidence of that on his scarred face.

Cabrera turned and strode to the plane’s open door. He climbed the small aluminum ladder and, once in the plane, pulled the ladder up behind him. He threw the latch and secured the door.

Before going to the cockpit, he paused to check the crate that was strapped down in the plane’s belly. There was little doubt  they would run into some weather as they climbed to flight altitude, and the last thing he needed was for the heavy crate containing the massive piece of marble to break lose.

Satisfied, he went up to the cockpit and climbed into his seat. Earphones in place, he checked for final clearance with the small tower, and took her up. 

They would be in Texas in a few hours, and more than a few more hours late. But somehow, Cabrera didn’t think the buyer would be too upset at the delay after laying eyes on the magnificent stone they carried with them



While I wait for Kate to emerge from the Ladies' Room, I find a small grouping of empty chairs tucked behind a fern in the Plaza’s lobby. Confident no one will overhear me, I take a seat and speed-dial Harry’s cell.

Without any polite preliminaries, he answers. “So, is she still the looker she was back in the day?”

Even from 2,500 miles away, I can hear the lecherous leer in Harry’s voice drifting over the airwaves and into my ear.

“Oh, yeah, she’s all that. But, I don’t know, Harry. Something’s off. She’s gotten herself into a hell of a mess.”

I tell Harry the strange story of the sculptor’s disappearance, peering through the fern every now and then toward the Ladies' Room door.

“It sounds to me like the cops have no choice but to try to make a case against Kate, but with no body, it’s going to be an uphill battle.”

Exercising his talent for stating the obvious, Harry says, “They could find a body any time, Marty. If that blood matches, she’ll be in real trouble.  What do you think? Did she do it?”

“I would like to think she couldn’t have killed anyone. But, geez, Harry, I wouldn’t swear to it. Like I said, there’s something that’s just not right here.”

I stand and walk around the fern to check the lobby.

“I’ve got an appointment with the detective who questioned Kate.” I continue. “I’ll see if I can get a sense of where they’re going with this. I’m not holding my breath, though. They have no reason to cooperate with a PI from LA. But it’s worth a try.”

“Anything I can do from here?” he offers.

Harry’s holding the fort in LA, and was in the midst of what was shaping up to be a lollapalooza of an embezzlement case when I left.

“Well if you have time, put your computer skills to work getting everything you can on Alex DuBois.  He’s the sculptor. He’s supposed to be well known. Kate told me a book had been published featuring his work.”

I spot Kate emerging from the hallway to the restrooms and give her a wave.

“I have to go. I’ll check with you later.”

OK,” Harry says. “And, Marty? Watch yourself. You never could say ‘no’ to Kate Bell.”

“No worries, Pal,” I say before ending the call. But truth be told, I am worried. He’s right. I was always lousy at following my best instincts when it came to Kate. I was much more likely to follow my base instincts. I’m very worried.


Kate and I walk over to a little Italian restaurant on 57th and have dinner. Over our meal of the little triangle-shaped spinach ravioli in butter and sage sauce called Fazzoletto di Ricotta E Spinaci, and a glass of Chianti, we set aside the topic of Alex DuBois and talk about old times. 

After dinner, I offer to walk her home. Yeah, I’m chivalrous that way. But I’m also anxious to see the sculpture and the layout of the gallery and apartment above. We pull our coats tightly around us, and head up Madison. It’s chilly, but it’s not a long walk and we’re sheltered from the cross-town wind by the buildings along the street.

After crossing the street at the magnificent former Rhinelander mansion that now houses Ralph Lauren,  Kate leads me to a doorway  recessed in a building about halfway up the block. She unlocks the door, and to my surprise, it swings open to reveal a small inner courtyard. As I have often done in the past, I wonder how many little secret gardens hide behind the canyon walls of the city.

“Wow. This is great,” I comment as she relocks the door.

“Yes, it is, isn’t it? I love this little oasis. It’s too cold to use it now, but in the summer, it’s heavenly.” Kate walks deeper into the courtyard, following the wall of the brick building at our left.

“The door to the gallery building is back here,” she says as she shuffles keys on a ring in her hand. “I’ve had the gallery closed since… well, you know. The security gate is down covering the front of the store. This is the only way in.”

Kate unlocks a door at the back of the building, which triggers the beeping of an alarm system. She quickly punches a series of numbers into a security panel, silencing its chirpy voice.

“Come on; let’s go in through the gallery.” We move down a short hall and Kate opens an inner door, deactivates another alarm and flips a few switches on a  panel just inside the door.  The level of security doesn’t escape my notice. It wouldn’t be all that easy to break into this place.

As the lights come on, I see we are in a small kitchen.  It opens onto an office, and on the far wall of the office, swinging café doors apparently lead into the gallery itself.

Kate heads toward them. “The exhibits are in here.”

She pushes through the doors and holds them open for me. When I walk into the gallery, the statue dominating the space in front of me literally takes my breath away.

Only a few lights burn in the gallery, and all of them illuminate the sculpture. It stands at least seven feet tall, if you include the two-foot concrete base. But the base is inconsequential compared to the winged woman emerging from it. I’d recognize her anywhere. Well, all except for the wings, that is.

DuBois has somehow created an incredible contradiction in terms. The piece must be heavy as hell.  But, somehow, there is a lightness to it that defies gravity. The woman looks like she’ll take flight at any moment.

And the marble… There is no other word for it but amazing. Like the gossamer butterfly she represents, the woman’s body is awash in subtle colors that seem lit from within by a liquid golden glow.

The piece is nothing short of awesome, in the truest sense of the word.

I glance back at Kate, who is watching me closely. She smiles faintly, and in a voice that seems just a little smug, asks, “So? What do you think?”

Continued in Part 5




Daylight, melted
In rivulets of mauve and
peach, lies seeping into the edge
of night, leaving just enough light to see.
The yellow cheer and cerulean celebration
of the day have fled, leaving only a dusky gray
that outlines looming, blackened shapes no longer
clear. Shadows whisper offers of mystery and intrigue,
but I feel no longing to follow. Here, beside me are
you, a lush purple silhouette. My hand in yours,
I warm to your touch and I smile into the
twilight twinkles that are your eyes.
Soon moonlight wraps its arms
securely around  us, and
we are night.

This is the violet hour, the hour of hush and wonder, when the affections glow again and valor is reborn, when the shadows deepen magically along the edge of the forest and we believe that, if we watch carefully, at any moment we may see the unicorn.
                                                                                            Bernard DeVoto "The Hour"


Written for


Metamorphosis (Part 3)

Continued from  

Metamorphosis (Part 3)


It was nearly ten o’clock when the last customer left the gallery. Exhaustion and an over-service of champagne left Katherine wobbly on her Jimmy Choos. She turned the locks on the front door, flipped the sign in its window to ‘Closed’ and drew the gauzy curtains across the front windows, blocking the view from Madison Avenue. She hit the button that lowered the security grate in front of the gallery and locked it in place. Longing for sleep, she turned to head for the small elevator discretely situated behind a Japanese screen at the back of the gallery and her apartment above.

As she walked across the large room, she saw the many champagne glasses and small plates left on the tables scattered through the exhibits. There were even a few glasses on the base of the large sculpture dominating the space in the center of the gallery. Slobs, she thought.

Groaning, Katherine kicked off her heels and padded back to the small kitchen behind the office to get a tray. The furniture rental company was coming first thing in the morning to pick up the tables and the mess had to be cleaned up. And she knew for damned sure the acclaimed artist honored by the exhibit wasn’t going to do it.  In fact, she didn’t know where Alex was, and assumed that he had already gone upstairs. Sure, she thought. The help will take care of it.

As she began collecting the glasses, she paused to gaze at the sculpture. It mesmerized her, as it always did. There was no question that this was Alex’s best work, the piece that would make him internationally famous. And probably even more arrogant, she thought, if that’s possible.

The base was a crude, unfinished hunk of concrete. Emerging from its top, a nude woman cast in marble struggled toward freedom, small wings unfurling from her back. The contrast between the rough grey concrete and the smooth marble, which is veined in subtle colors, is breathtaking.

“It’s you,” Alex had said proudly when he unveiled it for her.

“Oh, Alex.” Katherine breathed, stunned and flattered.

“Just call me Pygmalion in reverse,” he chuckled.

Not taking her eyes from the magnificent piece, she asked, “What do you mean?”

“Pygmalion created a statue and it was transformed into the perfect woman. I transformed you into the perfect woman, then created a statue.  Pygmalion in reverse, see?”

The warm glow she had been enjoying from the assumed flattery disappeared as though Alex had doused it with ice water. I should have known better, she thought.

“I call it Metamorphosis. Perfect, don’t you think, Katherine?”

Right. Perfect. She grimaced in disgust as she got back to cleaning up the mess made in his honor.

Katherine gathered the glasses from the base of Metamorphosis, and carried them to the kitchen. It was the last thing she needed, but she downed a glass of champagne and poured another, clicked off the gallery lights, and rode the elevator up to the apartment.

When the elevator doors slid open, she walked into an empty apartment. In a way, she was grateful. She was in no mood to listen to Alex sing his own praises, and she was too tired to care where he had gone or with whom. She drained the champagne glass she’d carried up with her and fell fully dressed across the bed. She was asleep in minutes.



“He ‘transformed’ you? What does that mean? I thought you were pretty much perfect right from the get-go.”

Kate leans across the small table and kisses me, sending my pulse into over-drive. “Alex is an artist. He saw me as an ‘unfinished work of art,’ he said.”

I roll my eyes. Oh, please.

“We met at Rizzoli’s when he was there to do a book signing – there's a wonderful book of his work -- and started dating. I was so flattered that a famous sculptor was interested in me. I think I was blinded by his fame. In fact, I know I was.”

Kate drains her glass and I quickly follow suit, raising a finger to catch the waiter’s eye.

“It was stupid, I know,” she continues. “But I was young and already bedazzled by the world of art. To have this successful sculptor notice me totally blew me away.”

The waiter sets down our drinks, and when he leaves, Kate continues.

“To make a long, sordid story short, after dating for several months, we moved in together.  It wasn’t long before Alex started ‘fixing’ everything he saw as being wrong with me.”

What?”  I’m shocked. If there was anything wrong with Kate Bell, I’m Brad Pitt.

“Oh, he was subtle. From the beginning, he called me Katherine, saying Kate was too 'common.' Then he started changing the way I look. At first, I just thought he was buying me gifts. I kept pinching myself, wondering how I’d gotten so lucky. But in retrospect, I see it for what it was. How could I not? He even admitted it, didn’t he? ‘I transformed you into the perfect woman.’ His words. Apparently, I wasn’t good enough to be the girlfriend of the great DuBois.”

Tears well in Kate’s eyes and she impatiently swipes them away with her graceful fingers.

“He told me how to dress and went shopping with me to make sure I followed his advice. He thought my hair style was too old-fashioned and unsophisticated, so he took me to a stylist. He stood there, he actually stood there, right beside the chair, and told the guy how to cut my hair.”

I’m appalled. “How come you put up with that, Kate? I don’t remember you as being a shrinking violet.”

“I…” Kate pulls the napkin out from under her glass and wipes a tear from her cheek. “I don’t know. Bit by bit, I lost myself, somehow. I hardly recognize myself in the mirror. I look to him for approval for everything.” More tears stream from her eyes.

Seeing her like this breaks my heart. I hand her my handkerchief and wait while she wipes her face.

“Oh, and I forgot to mention… Being a buyer at a bookstore wasn’t good enough. He bought a small gallery, which I run now. We live in an apartment above it. It’s the perfect job for an artist’s girlfriend, don’t you think?” The scorn in her voice in unmistakable.

Remembering the phone call that brought me to New York, I’m starting to have a really bad feeling.

“Kate, where is Alex now?”

“She raises her eyes to meet mine, and says, “See, that’s the thing. I don’t know.”



A shaft of sunlight coming from a gap between the bedroom drapes cut across Katherine’s eyes, waking her. She opened her eyes, and immediately closed them again as a world-class headache made its presence known. Too much champagne, she thought. Before she closed her eyes against the pain, she saw the way she was dressed, and realized that she’d slept in her clothes.

Groaning, she sat up, and looked at the clock. She was relieved to see that it was just after seven o’clock. The gallery didn’t open until ten, but the rental company would be there at nine to pick up the tables from the previous night’s opening.

As she swung her legs to the floor and stood, Katherine saw that she was alone in the bedroom.  Since she had fallen asleep on top of the bed, she assumed that Alex had just slept on the couch when he got home.

She walked to the bathroom, leaving a trail of clothes on the floor behind her, and got in the shower. After letting the hot water run over her head a few minutes, she felt a little better. She finished bathing and wrapped herself in a terry bathrobe.

Before getting dressed, she headed to the kitchen. She hoped that coffee would finish the job started by the shower to make her feel human again.

Rubbing her hair vigorously with a small towel, she went into the kitchen. She popped a k-cup into the coffee maker and pressed a button. A minute later, she poured milk into the steaming cup, sprinkled the contents of a Splenda packet on top, and gave it a stir. Cup and towel in hand, she left the kitchen. When she looked over at the couch, she dropped both. She jumped back as the hot coffee splashed on her bare feet, and stifled a small scream.


Kate picks up her glass in a shaking hand, and takes a decidedly unladylike gulp of the cosmo.

“What is it, Kate?” I ask. “Was Alex on the couch?”

“That’s just it, Marty. He wasn’t there.” Kate lowers her voice and leans toward me. “But what was there was blood. Not a lot but it was kind of splattered on the couch and the carpet in front of it.”

What? What happened?”

“Marty, I don’t know.” Kate’s voice is tinged with panic now. “I was a little drunk, but I’m sure I would have noticed that blood if it had been there when I got back upstairs after the opening. The couch is white.”

I rub my hand over my eyes. “OK, think back, Kate. Did you hear anything during the night?”

“No. I went right to bed. Actually, I think passed out. I was so tired, and I’d had a lot of champagne. I never heard Alex come in or anything else. I saw the blood the next morning, but I have no idea how it got there.”

“And there was no, um… Alex wasn’t there?”

“No. I haven’t seen him since. And that was three days ago. Marty, I’m so scared.”

My mind racing in a dozen different directions, I ask, “What did you do when you found the blood?”   

“I called the police. And then I called you.”

“And they came right away?”

“Yes.” Kate replied. “They asked a lot of questions: where was I the night before, when was the last time I saw Alex, that kind of thing.  While they were talking to me, some other cops came and took samples of the blood. They looked around, but there was really nothing to see. Everything looked totally normal except for the blood.”

“Was the front door locked when you got up?”

“I never thought to check it. I use the elevator in the gallery to get upstairs most of the time. But the cops checked it, and said it was locked. And they said they saw no signs it was tampered with.”

“So how was all this left?”

“A couple of detectives came the next day, and asked me pretty much the same questions as the uniformed guys the night before. When they left, they told me to call them if I heard from Alex. But, Marty, they sounded… oh, I don’t know, sort of suspicious, you know? Like they thought I wasn’t going to hear from Alex. And they told me not to leave town.”

Kate took a big swallow of her drink. “Marty, there’s something else I didn’t tell the police. I had dropped my clothes on the floor when I went in to take my shower. That was before I saw the mess in the living room. The bathroom is off the bedroom and I didn’t go out to the living room until after I showered. When I went in to dress before the police got there, I just scooped the clothes up off the floor and dumped them in a basket on the closet floor. It wasn’t until later that I saw it.” Kate’s eyes bore into mine. “Marty, there was blood on my slacks.”

“Don’t worry, Kate,” I tell her. “I’ll help you get to the bottom of this. I’m not leaving until we find out what’s going on.”

Kate looks at me, tears glistening in her eyes again. “Oh, Marty, what if I…? You don’t think I killed Alex, do you?”

I take her hand again. “No, absolutely not. In the first place, if you had killed him, there would have been a body, right? But, besides that, I know you, Kate; you would never kill anyone.”

As I reassure her, I hope that I’m right. The girl I knew in college couldn't kill anyone. But this Kate? Alex’s ‘creation’ is not that girl. In addition to her appearance, I wonder what else he changed.

Continued in Part 4.


Tune in for the next muse at The Tenth Daughter of Memory.

Metamorphosis (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1

Metamorphosis (Part 2)


Grateful to be out of the chill, I rub my cold hands together and head for the staircase to Rizzoli’s mezzanine, where Kate said she’d meet me. At the top of the carpeted marble stairs, books are arrayed on shelves around the edge of the mezzanine. The chandelier I’d seen from below hangs over the open center. On the other side, I see Kate sitting on a bench in front of the window overlooking 57th, flipping through a glossy coffee table art book. The two-story arched window that frames the front door downstairs now also frames Kate. She is dressed in a charcoal gray knit dress, and colorful silk scarf flows around her neck like molten Chihuly glass. Her chestnut hair is shorter now and slightly curly, but she’s as beautiful as I remember.

She looks up as I approach, and a smile welcomes me. I can’t help but notice that it never quite reaches her brown eyes.

“Marty.” She stands and wraps me in a hug. “It’s so good to see you. Thanks for coming. I knew I could count on you.”

After a quick peck on the cheek, she steps away.

“When could I ever resist you, Kate? Oh, wait, that would be around the last time pigs could fly. How could I forget?”

I’m pleased to see the smile climb into her eyes at last.

“You haven’t changed a bit. Same old Marty.” Taking a small step back, she looks me up and down. “Actually, you haven’t changed. You look great. A bit older and wiser perhaps, but it looks good on you.”

“Well, you’re right about the older part,” I chuckle, “but I’m not so sure I’m any wiser. But you? You don’t look a minute older.”

“You always were a slick talking rascal.” I think I catch a tinge of sadness in her voice.

“So, what’s up? I’ve been going crazy. You call and drop that bombshell on me, and then just let it hang?”

“I’ll tell you everything, but can we go somewhere else?” Her eyes scan the mezzanine, which has begun to fill with after-work browsers.

“Sure. I’ve been fantasizing about a martini all afternoon. The Plaza is just around the block. Let’s go get a drink.”

Kate slips on a black cashmere coat and we make our way downstairs and out onto 57th, which is more crowded than I left it. As we retrace my steps back to Fifth and hang a left, Kate tucks her arm through mine. It feels just right. I think back to the many times we explored the streets of New York just like this 17 years ago.

Without prompting, Kate begins talking.

“After school, I completely lost track of you, Marty. I had no idea that you’d moved out west. I tried calling your mom and dad once, but got a recording that the number was disconnected.”

“Dad died a few years ago, Kate. Heart attack. Mom moved out to California to be near me. She has a small place in Santa Monica.”

“Oh, I'm sorry to hear about your dad. I liked him a lot." She gives my arm a small squeeze. "Why California, Marty? I always thought you’d go into your dad’s business.”

“Actually, I did for a while. But you know how much I love movies, Kate. I opened a branch of Tremaine & Co in LA.”

We cross 58th Street and walk past the Pulitzer Fountain to the entrance of the Plaza.

As we climb the few red-carpeted steps beneath the gilded marquee sheltering the doorway, Kate stops short.

“Remember that time we came here and they had those live mannequins in the windows?”

“Yes!” I laugh. “I remember standing in front of the windows trying to get a reaction out of them. They were like the palace guards in England. They never even twitched. I don’t know how they resisted my charm.”

Kate rolls her eyes. “You acted like a maniac. I’m surprised they didn’t run away in horror. God, that was a long time ago, another lifetime. It was my 21st birthday, remember? We came to celebrate with my first legal drink.”

“I’m glad you qualified that.” I say as we head into the marble lobby. It's like walking into Versailles, grander than I remembered it.

We find the Oak Bar and settle in at a small table in a quiet corner. When the waiter appears, I order my martini and Kate asks for a Cosmo.

While we wait for our drinks, I ask, “So how did you find me? I’m really glad you did, by the way. I’ve missed you, Kate.”

Kate smiles. “I saw a note in the NYU Alumni magazine a couple of years ago announcing that you’d opened a detective agency in LA. You and Harry. Still the Dynamic Duo, I see.”

“Yep. He went out to LA when I did. We were going to take Hollywood by storm.”

“And did you?”

“Ha, not even close. Turned out the studios and Hollywood types already had accountants. Who knew?”

Kate gives me a well, duh look.

“Yeah, I know. Harry got closer than I did. You remember that he was a computer whiz, right?” She nods. “Well, most of the studios have gone digital, and our Harry got in on that pretty early. Before so many guys opened their own computer graphics shops, the studios dabbled in it, and Harry was there.”

The waiter sets down a bowl of peanuts and two frosty stemmed glasses, mine clear as crystal and Kate’s a rosy pink. We touch glasses.

“I’m really glad to see you, Marty,” Kate says as the glasses clink softly.

“And I, you,” I respond. “You have no idea.”

We both sip and almost simultaneously make an appreciative “mmm” sound.

“So, anyway, I saw in the alumni update thing that you guys had opened this detective agency. A detective agency? What happened to accounting?”

I swallow the peanut I’ve been chewing. “Well, I guess I was bored. Instead of signing on exciting clients from Hollywood, I ended up with plumbers and electricians from Van Nuys. When Dad died and the business was mine, I sold out. I made enough to give me a little cushion while I tried to decide what I wanted to be when I grow up. My fantasy of being ‘Accountant to the Stars’ had failed, so I turned to another fantasy. Got my PI ticket and a really neat hat, and sure as Bob’s your uncle, I’m Marty Tremaine, Private Eye, at your service.”

As I say the last few words, I reach into my pocket and pull out a business card, which I present to Kate with a flourish.

She accepts my card with a smile. “It is a nice hat.”

“You should see the real one. Now, what’s up? I know you didn’t call me out of the blue just to say hi. Though I’ve got to admit, ‘I think I might have killed someone’ is one hell of an opening.”

Kate takes a swallow of her drink. “For the past ten years, I’ve been living with a man named Alex DuBois.”

“I didn’t know you were married, Kate.”

“Oh, I’m not.” She gives a slight snort of derision. “Not that there is much difference. Not to me, anyway. Practically from the moment we met, he was 100% in my life: in my job, my home, my bed, and worst of all, my head.”

“I’m not sure I follow, Kate.”

“No, I can see where you wouldn’t, Marty. You’re a nice guy. But there are men out there, guys like Alex, who are not so nice.” She pauses to take another sip of her drink.

I can see this is hard for her. She actually seems… I don’t know, a little less somehow. Definitely not the strong, self-confident Kate I remember.

I reach across the table and take her hand. “It’s okay. Go on.”

“Maybe I should start at the beginning. After school, my first job was at Rizzoli Bookstore.”

“You majored in art history, right? Don’t I remember that you wanted to work at the Met?”

“Good memory.” Kate smiles. “I couldn’t get in. Openings at the Met are pretty scarce. Rizzoli is known for its Arts department. I was lucky to snag a job as a buyer. You were probably wondering why I suggested we meet at Rizzoli.”

“Not really,” I say, shaking my head slightly. “I figured it was just convenient for you.”

“Yes, it was,” she answers. “But it was also where this whole ugly saga began. I thought it would be a fitting place to begin to write its ending.”

I notice her fingers drawing in the condensation on the side of her glass. It looks a bit like a woman with wings. Then she gives the image a swipe with her thumb, obliterating it, and looks up at me.

“Marty, do you know the story of Pygmalion and Galatea?”

Continued in Part 3.

Written for the Tenth Daughter of Memory.

Metamorphosis (Part 1)

This is a Tremaine Investigations story. You can read earlier stories in the series here:

    Metamorphosis (Part 1)


    “You know, Alex, there may be a limit to how much of your arrogance I can overlook.”

    Katherine’s eyes remained on the sculpture in front of her as she spoke. A quick glance at her profile told Alex she was pissed, but it wasn’t fatal. A faint smile touched his mouth.

    He wasn't worried, a perfect illustration of that arrogance, he supposed. But the flat tone of her voice belied the threat in her words. She wasn't serious. He doubted she’d ever be serious. He created her. She was his, completely. And they both knew it.

    His smile widened.



    As I move along the along the broad sidewalk with the crowd, I realize that I don’t exactly fit in. I might look like just another New York businessman bustling about his workday if I were not obviously underdressed for the unseasonably cold weather. In a sea of men in top coats, my California-weight Armani suit, well tailored though it may be, stands out. Not that anyone notices. This is New York, after all.

    I shiver and hunch my shoulders against a cold gust. The late afternoon sun is thin and doesn’t do much to warm the air. Geez, it’s colder than … well, you know. It’s been a long time, but was it always this cold in New York in November? As I round the corner from Fifth to 57th Street, I notice Bergdorf on my right, its glittering windows featuring mannequins posed amid pumpkins and autumn leaves.

    Yeah. A glance at my watch tells me there’s enough time. I turn in at the 57th Street entrance and head to the Men’s Department to get myself a lightweight topcoat. I’m blessed with one of those builds. The grey coat from the rack slips on as if it were custom-made for me. I’m back on the street in ten minutes and immediately swept back into the crowd rushing down 57th.

    Funny, I don’t remember so many people completely focused on getting there back in my day. Ha, probably because I was one of them. Carried along by the tide of humanity, I’m actually struggling to keep up. I guess I’ve gotten used to the slower pace out in LA. Besides, we don’t walk anywhere there. LA’s the city Detroit built. I decide I’d better reacquaint myself with the subway.

    Still, this walking has to be good for you. Maybe that’s why everybody walks – and quickly, very quickly – instead of bringing a car into the city. Well, that, and the fact that a decent parking space costs more than a Nolet Silver martini, which you’d need anyway if you were crazy enough to drive here. As far as I’m concerned, the martini does a lot more for your heart than racing the streets with the rest of the rat pack. Or maybe everyone just moves fast to keep warm. A martini can take care of that too.

    Like the people ahead and behind me, I veer around the huge red number 9 splitting the foot traffic flowing down the sidewalk like a rock in a stream. Just ahead, peeking over an awning on the building next door, I can see the arched glass front of the townhouse housing Rizzoli Bookstore. A glow of light from the chandelier inside beckons warmly like an old friend, and I step it up as I make my way to the right side of the sidewalk. I’m eager to get warm, and even more eager to see the woman I know is waiting for me inside.

    Using my shoulder so I won’t have to put my already frozen hand on the cold brass door handle –I should have gotten some gloves too – I push my way through the heavy wooden door. The interior of the bookstore is just as I remember it. Beneath the glittering chandelier suspended from the gently arched ceiling high above, patrons stand browsing through the books displayed on rich wooden shelving and tables. Strains of Mozart play softly in the background. I can’t help but smile. The ambiance here is about as far from Barnes & Noble as New York is from LA. It’s good to be back.

    I’m Marty Tremaine, and I’m no stranger to New York.



    I spent four years living in the city while I was at NYU. Harry Carrold, my closest friend since forever, and I shared first a dorm room and then the tiny apartment we liked to call our “garret,” both in the Village near Washington Square. After graduation, we moved to LA, I to open a branch of the family business, and Harry, well, because “Hey, what the hell?” And that should pretty much sum up Harry for you.

    My dad ran a very successful accounting practice in Hartford. He expected me to come into the business, naturally, since I was the only child. But I’d had my heart set on Southern California for as long as I could remember. I’m a huge movie fan, and the pull of Tinseltown was strong. Oh, I had no aspirations to be the next Hollywood hunk or anything. I just wanted to be in the neighborhood. Being accountant to insurance drones just wasn’t going to do it for me.

    We compromised, Pop and I. I would join Tremaine & Co but I would do it in Los Angeles. I had grand dreams of bringing in some of the money that flows in and out of Hollywood.

    So Harry and I headed west. I opened the West Coast branch of Tremaine & Co, putting my finance degree to good use. I did very well, though oddly, few of my clients came from the movie business. Harry is a techie, and he bopped around from company to company, changing jobs whenever he got bored. Since the world of computers was growing like crazy and relatively few people could be called “experts” yet, LA was Harry’s oyster. Interestingly, many of the pearls in that oyster did come from the entertainment world. Go figure.

    We both got married, with similar results. Neither of the marriages had long-term staying power, Harry’s much less so than mine. But I did come out of it with a couple of great kids. We won’t talk about the woman who became the ex-wife from Hell. I did manage to get even with her eventually, but that’s another story.

    A few years ago, Dad died, leaving Tremaine & Co to me. I wasn’t having a whole lot of fun crunching numbers by that time, so I sold the business. I’d been drawn to my romantic Hollywood image of being a P.I. for quite a while. Yeah, me and Philip Marlowe. So I took some classes, got myself a license, a gun permit and a cool fedora, and stenciled my name on the door to Tremaine Investigations. It wasn’t long before Harry quit his programming job and came in with me, because “Hey, what the hell?”

    We’ve been doing pretty well, and all of the profits these days are by way of honest labor. I have to admit that back at the beginning,  that wasn’t always the case. Harry and I had a unique combination of skills that had enabled us to collect a “fee” from both parties in a divorce action. Hey, what self-respecting bean guy doesn’t know how to cook the books a little? And, luckily, this one has a computer whiz around to clean up the kitchen after him.

    But a hard-earned windfall, courtesy of my ex-wife, gave us the cushion we needed to switch lanes and travel the high road. Business could be better, but what we do bring in is coming in via the old-fashioned route. I’m not saying I’ll never take a short cut again, but for now, it’s all on the straight and narrow.

    I've got to say, though, that being a private dick hasn’t turned out to be quite as glamorous as I expected. There are a lot of days when I get to sit with my feet up on my beloved battered wooden desk and imagine myself recovering the Brasher Doubloon.

    It all began on one of those days. I was at my desk reading the week-old Variety Harry had left on behind when Steve appeared at the door to my office. Stephanie – “don’t call me Steve” -- McGuire is our receptionist, secretary and all around Jill-of-all-trades. She may be Tremaine Investigations’ most valuable asset, present company excepted, of course. There’s not much she can’t do, from playing “mom” to her two sometimes-irresponsible employers to fixing the copier.

    “You’ve got a call, Marty. You want me to put it through?”

    I lifted my eyes from yet another article about the rise and fall of Charlie Sheen. “You know who it is?”

    Steve waggled her eyebrows at me, green eyes sparking. “Yup. A sexy-sounding lady from New York named Katherine-with-a-K Bell.”

    I think my heart stopped for a moment. Kate Bell. Back at NYU, Kate Bell was the object of my desire – OK, let’s be honest here, it was out and out lust -- the love of my life and ultimately, the one who got away. Kate Bell.

    I realized Steve was waiting, looking at me with her freckled face full of questions. “Uh, yeah, put her through.”



    At the sound of her voice, my mind went into instant flashback, replaying steamy scenes from the Marty and Kate Story.

    Kate was the sexiest woman I’d ever known, hands down. She was about 5’8”, and at a time when being as thin as a runway model was considered ideal, Kate was all curves. She wore her dark hair long, and when she allowed it to float loose to her shoulders, she looked like Jane Russell. Most often, though, she tied it up in a perky ponytail that bounced happily behind her as she ran out to Washington Square most afternoons to get a lemon gelato from the old Italian guy with the cart.

    I never really knew what happened between us, but we were a hot item, and then we weren’t. Though I’d thought about her plenty, I hadn’t spoken to her since I left New York.

    “Kate. How are you?”

    “Marty, I need your help. I think I might have killed someone.”

    Continued in Part 2.

    Written for the Tenth Daughter of Memory.


    Stream of Soup

    Hmmm… Soup for supper? 

    I’ve always liked Campbell’s Soup, but those kids?  Please. They look like the Katzenjammer Kids pretending to be little angels while they are mentally planning some sort of mischievous attack on the Captain. 

    Who was the Captain, anyway?   I suppose he could have been a boarder, given the times, but what if he and Mama were getting it on?  Geez. 

    And that’s a strange one. Read somewhere that Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On was first going to have a religious bent.  Wow, gimme some of that old time religion. 

    Andy Warhol had a lot of that old time religion.  They say he was a Byzantine Catholic, whatever that is.  He sure seemed obsessed with The Last Supper, and even did a painting sort of like this one called Sixty Last Suppers.  He ate soup for lunch rather than supper, though, Andy Warhol did. 

    Hmmm… Soup for supper?   I’ll have the Chicken Noodle.

    Posted for dVerse Poets Pub, where today's prompt is Pop Art.

    The Funeral

    Mourners gather around the raw wound.
    Some clutch flowers to toss into the void.
    Skies darken in sadness as heads bow.
    I stay away, filled with anger and dread. 

    Kettle drums roll as skies rend and cleave.
    Collective tears of eternity flood through.
    Inevitable sadness drenches me where I lie,
    Huddled in bed, blanket pulled over my head.

    What a cold lesson it is to learn that,
    When the heavens weep in sodden sobs
    To the sound of so many hearts breaking,
    There can be no shelter from the storm.