in shining golden helmets screamed past, lights spinning, siren wailing. Everyone was delighted. Children and their parents chased the disaster and soon the square stood empty once more. Jack and I stepped out from where we waited on a stoop. He seemed pleased with his work.

“What I suffer for my art,” he said.

Dim orange firelight from our arson competed with an early moon in the east. Jack put on his gloves and we stepped across Main to State and pushed through an ostentatious and unnecessary revolving door into the Republic Hotel. The lobby was vacant save for an anxious clerk who buttonholed Jack for news of the fire. Jack told him several half-truths and asked for the time. The clerk turned to the clock and Jack bashed him in the back of the head with the butt of his pistol. He placed the gun on the countertop and vaulted the wood. The clerk groaned as Jack kicked him quiet. He spun the register to me. I ran my finger down the line of guests.

“Mr. and Mrs. R. Fitzgerald,” I said. “Two nights. They’re in 201.”

Jack picked a spare key from a pigeonhole and jumped the counter again. He crossed the lobby and shot the bolt, locking the revolving door. We climbed the stairs and approached their door. With his right hand Jack slid the key into the lock and as the gears tumbled said: “Room service.”

Nothing sounded as we entered. Room 201 was lit only by a crooked bed lamp, the air stale and humid. I saw two unmoving figures on the rank bed, a man in trousers and unbuttoned shirt and a nude woman. The man’s shirt cuff was rolled past

his elbow and the pair stirred as our presence was felt. My gaze fell on the dresser, which showed hypodermics, a quantity of powder, the usual paraphernalia. A bottle of rye and two tooth glasses sat next to a woman’s purse. Jack pulled the blankets away from the woman.

“Tashman,” he exclaimed.

It was Lilyan Tashman, the actress. I bit back a grin.

Jack rushed around the bed to Bob and grabbed him by the throat. Lilyan came alive and pulled the sheet up. Bob gagged, groggy and weak.

“What’ve you done with her?” Jack shouted. He cocked his Browning and held it to Bob’s blond head.

“Who? Who?” asked Lilyan, now aware and frightened.

Even dishevelled she possessed a languid erotic charm. Jack ducked down, saw something he liked, and changed. No thought of Laura anymore. I began to regret what was sure to come next.

“Mick, the money,” Jack ordered.

With the Webley in one hand I pulled a familiar satchel out from under the bed, undid the clasp, and whistled. Like the playing cards these were gilt-edged. I ran my thumb across the stacked sheaf, an inch or two thick.

“Negotiable securities,” I said, “denomination of two hundred fifty each, American. Must be forty, fifty thousand here.”

“Happy Hallowe’en,” Jack said to Bob.

“Lilyan, sweetheart, this calls for a wet. Pour Mick and myself a drink.”

Carefully she drew the sheet up around her and went to the dresser. I looked up from the satchel to Jack.

“And now for the coup de grace,” he said.

He grabbed Bob’s neck and Bob’s pretty features turned terrified.

“No! No!”

“Oh yes,” Jack said.

Lilyan stood frozen, the bottle in her hand. Jack pushed Bob through the bathroom door. Lilyan fumbled at her purse and said to me: “Have to make my face.”

I heard two loud cracks from within and turned to the door. There was a moment of silence, then Jack came back into the room. An expression of beatitude lit his face.

“Exeunt omnes,” he said.

He motioned to Lilyan Tashman and reached out his hand. Trembling, she handed him a glass. I stood and took the second. She was beautiful in this light, her chestnut hair loose. I thought of Laura. A train whistle moaned. Lilyan inhaled sharply. She stood proud before us, looking from Jack to me and back again. Jack raised his glass.

“If you were born to be shot you will not be hanged,” he said.

“Here’s to us what’s like us,” I replied. The time seemed nearly at hand.

Jack and I drank. The rye tasted odd going down and I felt my lips and tongue go numb. My throat started to close. Lilyan lifted her hand from her purse, in her grasp her little black vial. She pointed it first at Jack, then at me. She said:

“Trick or treat.”




· · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·

HARRY HOUDINI’S mysterious feats of escape, which thrilled spectators throughout the world in his life, today were locked in the mystery of death. The magician hailed by his fellow workers as the greatest of them all, died in Detroit last night, taking with him the secrets of how he escaped from manacles, chains, coffins, straight jackets, and other contrivances, performances which no man has ever duplicated.

Montreal Herald, November 1, 1926


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Spring 1927


— Is —

The Woman Who Did Not Care

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