WALKING CAPTAIN KIRK
By Barry S. Brown
Yeah, it was
me that found Stephanie. Well, me and her husband, Charlie.
If you like, for the price of a beer I’ll tell you things I never told the cops or the newspapers. See, all the cops cared about was what time did I find Stephanie’s body, and how did I happen to be there, and did I see anybody else on the street. Stuff like that. I was ready to tell them more—lots more—but they said they already got Stephanie’s murder figured out, that it was all pretty routine, and they didn’t need to hear any more. The newspapers said the same. It’s maybe true—I mean about them having it all figured out and its being routine—but there was nothing routine about it for me, and for that beer, I’ll tell you what I mean.
Oh hey, anything on tap is fine as long as it’s not ale. I never did have much of a taste for ale.
I guess the best place to start is where it all starts for me. Which is actually over Beverly’s pot roast. Beverly is my wife and she makes a terrific pot roast. Except that night I never even touch it. No sooner is the food on the table than my brother-in-law goes off for about the hundredth time since he’s living with us about how I’m nowhere near where I should be on my job. Only this time he’s got it in his head that if I was head bookkeeper like he thinks I ought to be, me and Beverly wouldn’t be eating pot roast in a duplex in Brooklyn, but could be eating steak in what he calls ‘a nice little bungalow’ in Hicksville. Which, if you don’t know, is someplace out on the Island. I ask you, who in their right mind would be caught dead living in a place called Hicksville? Anyway, I take it for as long as I could before I tell Beverly to save me a piece of pot roast, that I’m going out and will be back when I get back. Which is when I come down here to Mel’s for a beer and a little peace and quiet.
I watch some of the game on TV, talk to the guys and just sort of hang out until I feel sure I can go home without running into my brother-in-law. It used to be I’d have to wait until he locked himself in his room for the night; now, he’s more likely to be tooling around in his fancy new sports car. Which is something else I don’t get about my brother-in-law. One day, maybe two weeks ago, he comes home with this little foreign job I figure has got to set him back at least forty thousand. He tells me and Beverly he finally hit the lottery, but neither of us ever seen him buy a ticket. I ask him how he decides what car to buy. I don’t say it, but I know he never before owns a car that isn’t a hundred years old. And he says he talked it over with Charlie, who you remember is Stephanie’s husband, and who lives in the other half of our duplex. Charlie, you should understand, manages a mattress store and probably knows as much about sports cars as I do about mattresses. But it’s just around then that Charlie and my brother-in-law have suddenly become big buddies. One day they hardly got time to hello each other and the next day they’re together every time I turn around.
Like there was this one time I couldn’t sleep, and I come into the kitchen to grab a bite—it must of been two in the morning—and there’s my brother-in-law and Charlie sitting at my table, drinking my beer, with their heads close together, looking real serious like they’re solving world peace. Everything goes dead quiet when I come into the room and they give me these big phony smiles, but nobody offers me a chair. Anyway, it’s not long after that my brother-in-law comes home with this new set of wheels.
Yeah, I hear you. You’re right I’m getting away from telling about finding Stephanie. I’m sorry, I just get all wound up when I start talking about my brother-in-law.
Anyway, it’s after midnight by the time I head back home, and by then the whole neighborhood looks to be asleep. I check to make sure my brother-in-law’s car is gone and then I’m ready to call it a night. At least I am until I see Captain Kirk sitting on Charlie’s half of the porch. Captain Kirk, you should understand, is the name Charlie gives his dog because he’s a big Star Trek fan. Except it’s a ridiculous name for this dog because he’s always getting lost and can never find his way home. But there he is that night, sitting outside Charlie’s door, whining the way he does because he can’t bark like a real dog. He’s what they call a miniature schnauzer. There’s people say he’s cute, but personally I don’t care for any dog you got to watch you don’t step on.
Anyway, on that night not only is Captain Kirk found his way home, but he’s still wearing his leash like he’s just back from his walk. Now, you got to understand Charlie is absolutely crazy for that dog and would never leave him sitting outside the house. In fact, Captain Kirk is maybe one of the biggest things Charlie and Stephanie argue about. Charlie wants the dog walked at least three times before he gets home, once in the morning and twice in the afternoon. Stephanie doesn’t want to be cooped up in the house all day playing nursemaid to a dog.
It’s not that me and Beverly are nosy you understand. It’s that you can’t help hearing things. It’s true there’s a wall between our houses, but there’s also windows and doors.
And I got to say I can see Stephanie’s side of it. They got no kids, and there’s no excitement around here. Charlie makes good money from all I can see, but he’s at the store from nine in the morning to nine o’clock closing. Which means that all the rest of the time there’s just houses and people like me who are twice her age. So why not grab a subway and head downtown. Which Stephanie does some of the time. And which I think is nobody’s business but hers. Beverly says the same. But people being what they are, there’s always talk when a married woman sets foot out of the house to go anywheres except shopping. And it’s worse when the woman is young and pretty like Stephanie. Anyway, word gets around that Stephanie doesn’t always take the subway or go downtown. At least not by herself. There’s talk about her being picked up on a pretty regular basis by a guy who is built real big—probably about like you from what I hear—is nice-looking, and has got dark curly hair, sort of like yours I guess. They also tell me he’s one sharp dresser—although I’m betting you have him beat in that department. Mind you, I never seen this guy myself and neither has Beverly, but that’s the talk.
Anyway, I see Captain Kirk on Charlie’s porch, and I figure I got to do something about it regardless of how me and the dog get along. You see Captain Kirk is not exactly crazy about me or pretty much anybody except Charlie and Stephanie—and my brother-in-law now that he starts giving him treats whenever he sees him. Which is probably how the dog becomes his good friend and acts all peaceful and quiet around him. I don’t give the dog nothing so instead of him being my friend, I got to walk around him real slow, while he is meanwhile eyeing my ankles like they’re porterhouse steaks, and making a noise that’s as close to a growl as he can get. He keeps watching me while I start banging on Charlie’s door like there's a fire inside and he don’t know it.
Charlie finally shows up in his pajamas and bathrobe, and looking at me cross-eyed like I’m there to sell him something he don’t want and can’t use. Then he sees Captain Kirk and I become history. He picks him up and hugs him, and lets the dog lick his face—which I personally find disgusting—before he finally turns serious again and asks me if Stephanie is over at our place. I tell him I never seen Stephanie, and I’m pretty sure Beverly’s asleep, that anyway all the lights are out at our place. He says he don’t get it. He tells me he’s been sick in bed all day, and it was Stephanie that took Captain Kirk for a walk, but not until late because they were watching a movie that went on longer than they expected. He says he went back to bed and must of fallen asleep.
He asks will I go with him to look for Stephanie, and I tell him I will, but first I got to let Beverly know what’s going on. Which I do while he goes to throw on some clothes. Of course, Beverly is worried like I knew she would be, and I tell her it’s probably nothing, but Beverly turns out to be right about her worrying like she usually is. When I go back out, I take a baseball bat with me just in case. This is really a pretty safe neighborhood, but it’s the middle of the night, and besides, the truth is there’s no place that’s completely safe anymore. Which is the same as what the cops told me—but that was later on. So, me with a baseball bat, and Charlie all nervous and jumpy, start going over the same streets where he says they always walk Captain Kirk.
I tell Charlie I’m sure everything is alright, which I’m not sure of at all, but I figure it’s the kind of thing you're supposed to say. And I try to make small talk. I ask him whether he thinks the Mets are gonna have a good year, and when that goes nowhere I tell him I’m glad he and my brother-in-law are getting along so good. This time, he turns and looks at me funny, and asks what makes me say that. But he says it the way people do when they think you don’t know what you’re talking about. So after that I don’t say nothing.
We go maybe one more block and that’s when we find Stephanie. She’s lying there in the middle of the sidewalk with blood running all over, and this look on her face like she’s just had the surprise of her life—which I suppose you could say she had—and there’s a butcher knife sticking out of her where I guess her heart would be. I can tell you I hope I never see anything like that again. Up to then, the only bodies I ever seen was at funerals where they’re all smoothed out and look like they’re asleep. I tried telling Beverly about it later on. I tell her how the butcher knife looked something like the one we lost a couple or maybe three weeks ago, but how it was dark, and all butcher knives probably look alike anyway. Which is when she tells me to just shut up, that she don’t want to hear any more about it.
Well, Charlie pretty much goes crazy, jumping and screaming, and carrying on like I suppose anybody would if they found their wife laid out in the middle of the street with a butcher knife stuck in them. And maybe it’s his carrying on, or maybe it’s just that there’s a squad car cruising the area, but right about then two cops show up and they quick throw a blanket over Stephanie, and then they put in a call for some more cops and for an ambulance. One of them hustles Charlie out of there, and the other one says he’s got to take my statement—just like you see on TV. He wants to know why ‘the deceased’—which is what he calls Stephanie—is out so late, and what she’s doing in that neighborhood. I explain about her needing to walk Captain Kirk, which I tell him I think is a funny name for a dog, but he says he’s heard worse. And I tell him the neighborhood is the same one where they always walk the dog, and never had any problems, although later I see why he says what he does because there’s nothing but closed up stores and doorways you need a flashlight to see into.
Then he wants to know how ‘the married couple’—which is again his words—got along and how well do I know them. I say as far as I know they got along just fine—I don’t see any reason to get into the arguments we hear—and I explain we’re next door neighbors, but not close. He writes it all down and then he flips his book shut, and tells me it looks cut and dry to him. Prob’ly a junkie who just planned to snatch a purse, but then panicked and stabbed Stephanie. He says it’s not the usual thing, but it happens with amateurs like this guy must of been, what with him leaving his knife behind. He thinks there’s not much chance of catching what he calls ‘the perp,’ unless he left fingerprints, but he says with television they all know to wear gloves. He doesn’t think I should tell any of what he tells me to Charlie and, of course, I never do.
They finish talking to me, and then they drive me and Charlie home. I ask Charlie if he’ll be alright or if he don’t want to stay with us. I told him he could bunk with my brother-in-law, but he says he’ll be okay by himself, that he just wants to get back to his own place. After that I don’t see him again for days.
I spend the next half hour telling Beverly what happened, and then neither of us can sleep and we don’t even try. Beverly wants me to go around and make sure both our doors are locked and all the windows are shut, which I tell her is not really necessary, but which I’m actually happy to do. I no more get finished doing that when my brother-in-law shows up looking kind of green around the gills. He tells us the news about Stephanie is already on the radio, but he’s in no shape to talk about it and just wants to go to bed. After which he goes upstairs, while we sit up the rest of the night. Beverly works herself into a corner of the couch and she maybe gets a little sleep off and on, and I do a pretty good job on the bottle of scotch my boss give me last Christmas.
I felt bad for a week and Beverly is still pretty shook up. In fact, the two of us have decided to get away this weekend. I already made reservations for Asbury Park—which, if you don’t know, is in New Jersey. My brother-in-law meanwhile bounces right back although I see he’s not near as chummy with Charlie as he was before we found Stephanie. I guess everybody deals with these things different. Like I didn’t go to Stephanie's funeral. I just didn’t feel I could handle it.
The cops came around once to see Charlie to find out if Stephanie had any jewelry on her so they can check the pawn shops. They came by to see me, and told me the same thing the first cop told me about it prob’ly being a dope fiend and not holding out much hope of catching him. Then they talked to me and Beverly about getting an alarm system for the house or maybe buying a dog. We’re thinking about it. I mean the alarm system; we neither of us want a dog.
Charlie meanwhile gets right back to walking Captain Kirk in the same neighborhood where Stephanie was stabbed. He says something about having to get back on the horse. I asked him wasn’t he surprised that Captain Kirk found his way home that night, and he just shrugs and says the dog goes for walks that way every night so it’s not that big a deal. I guess that’s possible so I don’t say anything. Besides which, I don’t want to open up old wounds—if you get my meaning. But like I said before, that dog has got to be the stupidest thing on four legs. Every time he gets loose, he runs all over the neighborhood and Charlie has to go find him to bring him home. And that’s in the daytime—which is why I can’t figure out how he finds his way home that night without someone bringing him.
Well, that’s about all I can tell you except to say I’m real sorry for your loss. To tell you the truth, I didn’t know Stephanie had a brother. She never mentioned it, and I would never have guessed it from looking at you. You probably been told a million times you don’t look a thing alike. Anyway, I completely understand about you wishing you could even the score. I know how I’d feel if I had a sister—which, by the way, I don’t.
But I better be getting on home before Beverly has the cops out looking for me. Thanks for the beer; I hope some of what I told you is a help. And don’t worry about me saying anything to spoil your plans for the weekend. I promise to do just like you ask and not say a word to anybody, not even Beverly. I’m only sorry we won’t be there. Like I said, we’ll be in Jersey, but I’m sure your visit will come as a big surprise to Charlie, and like you say, you’ll get a chance to meet my brother-in-law—although I can’t think why in the world you would want to. Just make sure to keep the noise down at night. It’s the kind of neighborhood where people pack it in real early. You’ll see, by ten o’clock it’ll be like a tomb.
Barry S. Brown is the author of the popular five book Mrs. Hudson of Baker Street series. See www.barrysbrown.com for more information.
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