by Mel Waldman
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
On several occasions when poor Jacob was in need of money, Rose Cohen, the greedy landlady who had married slick, sweet-talkin’ Samuel one year after the death of Florence Cohen, Jacob’s beloved mother, announced: “You’re just like a real son to me so I gotta say no ’cause it looks like you’re a good for nothin’ bum. Sorry!”
And so it went. Valerie E. Diamond told him he was not a man because he couldn’t earn a decent living. She lectured incessantly: “You ain’t fittin’ to be the spouse of my little blonde angel. Jennifer comes from Class and is Grade A.”
Later, in the early ‘70s, in a fit of temporary insanity, perhaps, Valerie E. Diamond tried to poison the mammoth Jacob. But the poison wasn’t strong enough to kill the monolith. And since Jennifer loved her momma and daddy more than she craved for Jacob, she got a swift divorce from the big bad writer who had accused her momma of trying to kill him.
After Jacob’s stomach had been pumped at Vermont General Hospital, Dr. Andrew F. Diamond, eminent surgeon and devoted husband, bellowed: “Get out of here while you’re still alive! And if you mention what happened, you’ll be in a lot of trouble!”
About a year after Jacob’s divorce, Joseph A. Thomas, his agent of five years, dropped him too. “I’m sorry, Jacob. Your writing is crap. Get a grip on things!”
After pondering the big question for quite a while, Jacob had a startling revelation. “I’ll kill the old bitch — Valerie E. Diamond! I will! The bible tells us: ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ The old lady tried to murder me. So be it! I’ll write another mystery!” Jacob cried out.
Jacob struggled with his new mystery entitled Vermont Fury. In this lethal tale, Valerie E. Diamond was kidnapped and locked in a Vermont cabin. Then the kidnapper set the cabin on fire. Her body ablaze, Valerie’s last words were: “You’ll burn in Hell!” Detective James Rogers of 1440 Main Street solved the crime and brought the killer, John Kramer, to justice.
Before completing the story, Jacob called Vermont information and verified that there was no Detective James Rogers residing at 1440 Main Street. Jacob grinned sardonically. Then he watered his plants on the kitchen and bedroom windowsills. He watered the Purple Passion plant, the Star of Bethlehem, the Spider plant, the Wandering Jew, Moses in the Cradle, the Devil’s Backbone, Tahitian Bridal Veil, Night Jessamine, and the Snake plant — Mother-in-Law’s Tongue. And before mailing his manuscript, he whispered to the Mother-in-Law’s Tongue in his bedroom: “You’ll live for many a day, but Valerie won’t.”
On Thursday, March 17, Vermont Fury appeared on the newsstands. Jacob scurried back to his apartment, for he was eager to call the Vermont Times.
As he entered the apartment, the phone rang. When he picked up the receiver, the voice at the other end announced: “Oh, Jacob, I’m sorry we got divorced! And now Mother’s dead! Yes, she’s dead! She had brain cancer!”
“I’m so sorry,” Jacob whispered, his face filled with a gargantuan smile.
“They gave her chemotherapy. And her brain was on fire! Poor Mother! The cancer affected her mind — made her crazy.”
“That’s too bad.”
“Well, perhaps... I mean, I was thinking... when Mother’s death is behind us, we could get together — start fresh. It’s not too late! Is it, Jacob?”
“No, I guess not.”
“Oh, Jacob, I bet you hate me!”
“I don’t hate you, Jennifer. I have the warmest feelings for you,” Jacob said ironically, his eyes burning with rage.
“Call me, Jacob! I’ll give you the number! Please call.”
“Of course, I will.”
“Thank you, Jacob. I know how you felt about Mother but...”
“It’s all over — finished — forgotten!”
“Well, here’s my number and address...”
Jacob carefully jotted down Jennifer’s number and address.
“I love you, Jacob!”
“I love you too, Jennifer!” Jacob protested, his face glowing with murderous fantasies. “Goodbye, Jennifer,” he muttered and placed the receiver down.
Jacob paced back and forth. He watered the plants and whispered to the Devil’s Backbone: “Now it’s time for Russian roulette à la mystery writer style.”
On moral principles, Jacob Aaron Cohen decided to murder his father. His beloved father had stifled the life and career of a young genius.
For the remainder of March and part of April, Jacob wrote Red Florida. His newest lethal tale was about a young writer named Jacob Aaron Cohen who murdered his cruel father. Once more, Detective James Rogers solved the crime. But this time Detective Rogers lived at 1440 Main Street in Beverly Hills, Florida. Jacob called Florida information and verified that there was no Detective Rogers at 1440 Main Street. “Terrific!” he cried out. “Now it’s me against Dad!”
On Saturday, May 12, a day before Mother’s Day, Jacob received an acceptance letter for Red Florida from a small mystery magazine in California. The letter indicated that Red Florida had been accepted for publication and that Jacob would be paid in several months. Apparently, the publishing company was undergoing internal reorganization. Jacob could wait or write a letter to the company rejecting the tentative offer. Jacob decided to wait.
Later, when Jacob was watering the plants, the phone rang. When he picked up the receiver, he heard Rose Cohen screaming: “Your father had a heart attack!”
“Really?” Jacob asked dispassionately.
“Sam was on the critical list for hours! But he’s okay now. His condition is stable.”
“It can’t be!” Jacob protested.
“Oh, yes, the worst is over!”
“I see,” Jacob said with resignation.
“You don’t have to come down to Florida, Jacob. Just keep in touch.”
“So he’s doing well?”
“Yes, it’s a miracle — a miracle! And I’m gonna light a candle tonight. You should too. And pray to God, Jacob. It’s good for the soul.”
“Thank God the worst is over, Jacob!”
“Yes, Rose, thank God!”
Later, Jacob spoke to his plants: “The old man’s gonna live. What went wrong? Dad’s gonna live.”
For the next two months, Jacob waited eagerly for the mailman. He hoped to hear news about the publication of Red Florida and expected to receive a large check. In the meantime, Samuel Cohen had recovered from his heart attack and was in good health.
On Saturday, July 2, Jacob received a letter from Mysterious Publications, Incorporated.
Dear Mr. Cohen:
We regret to inform you that we will be unable to publish the enclosed manuscript — Red Florida — due to the fact that we are going out of business. We are quite confident, however, that you will be able to sell your excellent manuscript to another publisher.
Jacob galloped to the Kings Highway station, bought a copy of The New York Times, and darted into Dunkin’ Donuts. He sat in the middle booth and turned to the obituary column. He scrutinized the column and his eyes swallowed dozens of names. No! His name was not there. He shrugged his shoulders and sighed. In a little while, he sauntered off to his apartment.
Jacob passed Mrs. Redding on the staircase. She had something to tell him, she announced, but Jacob continued climbing the stairs without looking back.
Once inside his apartment, Jacob locked and barred the door. No killer could enter his home, he thought.
In the nest few hours, Jacob waited for something horrible to happen. In the meantime, Jacob watered the plants in the kitchen and bedroom, and on the fire escape outside the bedroom. Since it was very hot, Jacob left the windows open, checking periodically to make sure no one was on the fire escape. Each time Jacob looked, he sighed: “No one’s there.”
Although he had a police bar against the front door, Jacob continued to barricade the door with furniture. He was convinced the killer was coming. Jacob had played Russian roulette and lost. Now, he was destined to die.
Soon, he grabbed a large kitchen knife, brandishing it against the still night. Then he checked the fire escape again. No one was out there. And the oppressive heat was smothering him and engulfing his mind. So he kept the windows open. Anyway, he’d slash an intruder trying to enter via the fire escape. Clutching the big knife, he waited.
Later, he lay in bed, the knife by his side. The air was stifling and he was breathing heavily. He rose abruptly and opened both windows to the top. Then he lay down and slept for twenty minutes.
Suddenly, he jumped up. He looked at the clock which indicated it was 9 pm. The bell was ringing. No, it wasn’t the front door! It was the downstairs buzzer. What should he do? He grabbed the knife and waited. Yet the buzzing continued.
He approached the door and listened to the incessant buzzing that rushed through his ears and penetrated his brain. Then he flitted across the threshold and closed the bedroom door behind him. He scurried into the vestibule and spoke into the loudspeaker: “Who is it?”
A husky voice answered: “Detective James Rogers. I’d like to speak to you for a few minutes.”
“Oh, my God, he’s here!” Jacob’s massive body shook violently. And the buzzing sound began again. It entered the apartment once more, intruding, assaulting, and cutting his ears and mind. What should he do?
Suddenly, the big knife dropped to the floor. The monolith gazed at the sharp metal. Trembling hands lifted the object. And the shrill sound rushed forth. Should he climb down the fire escape? No, he might be caught! Outside, the detective might be waiting. He had to protect himself. But how?
Jacob started moving furniture into the corridor, barricading the front door even more. Oblivious of the outside world, Jacob was consumed by the present task.
In the meantime, the thief came up the fire escape and entered Jacob’s bedroom. Although he heard Jacob flitting about in the other room, the thief proceeded to steal whatever jewelry and money he could find. The thief loved the thrill of danger. So he returned to the scene of the crime again and again, robbing a different apartment on each occasion.
Mrs. Redding had wanted to tell Jacob about the recent robbery. Yet he had not been interested. At last, the police were getting involved. Detective Rogers had spoken to her and the other tenants and he was coming back tonight to speak to Jacob. Well, Jacob would find out in due time.
The thief worked quickly, making a clean sweep of Jacob’s valuables. And before leaving, he smoked a big fat cigar, hoping, perhaps, that Jacob would open the bedroom and find him. The thief needed a thrill, but he didn’t get one. Jacob was obsessed with Detective Rogers and unaware of the interloper in his bedroom.
So it went. As the thief climbed onto the fire escape, he tossed the burning cigar into the bedroom. The cigar landed on the bed. And the thief was on his way.
Jacob waited. He had created an impenetrable fortress and for sure, Detective Rogers could not break through the front door. The entrance was locked, barred, and barricaded. Of course, if he changed his mind, he could escape via the fire escape.
Jacob waited, clutching the kitchen knife in his right hand. When the doorbell rang, he cried out: “You won’t get me, Detective Rogers! No, you won’t!”
Outside, in the hallway, Detective Rogers, of 1440 Main Street, Flushing, rang the bell.
Soon, Jacob’s bedroom filled up with smoke. Then a little fire grew into a big one.
Inside the vestibule, Jacob waited unaware of the growing fire sneaking up behind him. For a moment, Jacob thought about the holiday. He wondered if he’d still be trapped in his apartment on the 4th of July. Well, it was coming around the bend, and there’d be a lot of fireworks.
Copyright © 2007 by Mel Waldman