Harold R. Daniels
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the accused, Alvin Morlock, is charged with the ultimate crime, the crime of murder. It is the intention of the State to demonstrate, in the course of this trial, that he is guilty and that the degree of his guilt, which it will be your function to fix, demands the ultimate punishment by law. In other words, we charge him with murder in the first degree. Murder calculated. Murder premeditated. Murder ruthlessly and heartlessly committed on the person who had every reason to expect nothing but a cherishing affection from the accused.
The defense will undoubtedly attempt to arouse your sympathy by attacking the character of the victim of his homicide, Morlock’s dead wife. They will tell you that she was extravagant, that she was a slattern and worse. But we will show you that Morlock himself was at least partly responsible for his wife’s actions, and I would impress on you that whatever his motives for murder, they in no sense mitigate his guilt. It is not the dead Louise Morlock who is on trial here. It is her husband, and the charge against him is the taking of a human life.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Alvin Morlock. Opening remarks of Prosecution Attorney Gurney.
Morlock’s tenement was the second floor rear of an old sandstone mansion. Once it had been a stately house, handsome in the dignity of spotless windows and immaculate grounds. On an April afternoon he hurried toward its shelter, head bent against the wind that buffeted his slender body. On other days he had felt almost sorry for the house, humiliated now by pigeon droppings and candy wrappers, by discarded cigarette packages and empty bottles that had once held cheap wine and now gleamed dully in the barren hedge. Today he was concerned only with his personal humiliation.
He hurried up the warped stairs to the tenement and let himself in. The door opened from the hall directly into the kitchen, a shabby room with a chromium dinette set looking out of place against oak wainscoting. There was a scattering of dirty dishes on the table. A plate of margarine had half melted into a greasy yellow pool and the bitter smell of reboiled coffee was in the air.
Morlock called, “Lolly?” There was no answer. Lolly—the name which had once denoted affection—now choked in his throat. She was probably downstairs, he decided, and walked into the living room. There was a desk in the room that he used for his own work. She used a drawer in a cheap end table for her correspondence. Morlock opened the drawer and took out an untidy stack of envelopes.
She had made no effort to conceal the mess she had made of their finances. The letters were all there. A slim pile from a department store. Will you please remit? A thicker pile from the appliance store that Morlock had just left. He read through them swiftly. Polite, at first, then insistent. Some of them quite clever in the manner in which they expressed dismay that a trusted customer could so badly disillusion them. From the gas and electric companies there were past-due notices but no letters. They hardly had to dun, Morlock reflected ruefully.
He sat wearily at his own desk after he had gone through the correspondence. In the last hour, the thought that he owed almost eight hundred dollars which he had promised to pay by morning had recurred to him a half dozen times, but with no lessening of its impact. He was stunned, overwhelmed by the personal disaster that had had its beginning only this morning when the hall monitor brought him a note from Dean Gorham requesting that he come to the Dean’s office immediately.
Morlock had been discussing the minor British poets for the benefit of a bored and listless class in English III when the summons came. After he read it, he had felt no particular alarm although the summons was out of the ordinary. He was not a good instructor; he knew that. He also knew that he was good enough for Ludlow College. He stood up and called to William Cory to monitor the class.
In a class of louts Cory was the most loutish. In an undergraduate body seemingly more callow and less purposeful than any Morlock had ever instructed, Cory was the most callow. He was not the least purposeful, though, for Cory was apparently dedicated with fanatic zeal and boundless patience to bullying his instructors to the point of mute and hopeless exasperation. Those he could not bully he attacked with seemingly inane questions that had viciously calculated double meanings, with false naivete, and with brutal behind-the-back pantomime.
Cory was older and bigger than most of his classmates. He was attending Ludlow under the provisions of the GI Bill and this was his protection. The college’s financial structure was shaky; the students attending under the Bill were the difference between bankruptcy and a threadbare solvency. There was an awareness of this among the instructors and consequently the Corys were tolerated. Morlock, in turning the class over to Cory in his absence, tried to convince himself that he was adopting the policies of the history instructor, Dodson.
“Give the bad ones responsibility,” Dodson contended when the instructors were talking shop. “Maybe it will teach them some common sense. If it doesn’t it will keep them out of your hair for a while anyway.”
Morlock, watching Cory shamble up the aisle, knew that his purpose in picking Cory for monitor had not been the hope of instilling common sense but was based instead on an admission that he feared Cory, and that Cory could embarrass him if he chose, because of that fear.
Cory loomed up beside the desk, a hulking, square-faced man of twenty-three with a lingering rash of acne on his cheekbones. His eyes were green and small, his teeth already in poor condition. He affected a varsity sweater and denim jeans. The cuffs of the sweater were shiny with dirt and grease. Morlock turned his head aside to avoid the smell of perspiration and of underwear not often enough changed.
“Alla right, teach’—I got it,” Cory said in a ridiculous imitation of an Italian immigrant. As he spoke, he looked toward the class expectantly. Looking for his laugh, Morlock supposed. Getting it, too. The watching faces grinned or smirked dutifully.
Once, in the hall, Morlock moved more hurriedly. He was a gray man—gray suit, gray eyes, light brown hair already starting to retreat from his high forehead. A worried man now that he had time to consider the possible implications of Dean Gorham’s note.
Dean Gorham had a receptionist, a part-time student worker, young and pretty in a plaid skirt and cardigan sweater. She motioned Morlock into the inner office when he entered the Dean’s suite, and he glanced down at her to see if he could read anything in her expression that might give him a clue to the nature of the crisis that had pulled him away from his class. If there was anything at all in her expression, it was the sort of contempt that Morlock was accustomed to seeing on the faces of the student body, and it probably had no relationship to the present circumstance. He hurried past her and into Dean Gorham’s office. ‘
Morlock had some respect for Gorham as a scholar. Gorham, however, was a big, imposing figure of a man with a Roman profile. His statesmanlike stature had led to his being pushed into administrative assignments where he would be available for public display almost from the time he qualified as a teacher; so that his scholarship had drowned in a tide of paper, leaving him harried and unhappy. He looked up uneasily as Morlock came into the room.
“You, Alvin,” he said fussily. “Close the door, won’t you, and take a chair.”
Morlock, not speaking, pulled up a leather covered chair from against the wall and sat down.
Gorham stood up and walked toward the window, where he stood looking out toward the meager campus with his hands clasped behind his back. He coughed once, started to speak and stopped, and finally turned back toward Morlock.
“This is very embarrassing,” he began again. “I don’t like to meddle in my teachers’ affairs. I don’t think I ever have with you, have I?”
Morlock—he had a growing and horrible suspicion now about the reason for Gorham’s summons—said, “No, sir.”
Gorham beat one fist lightly into the open palm of his other hand. “Maybe it would be easier if you read this,” he said. He picked up a letter from his desk and handed it to Morlock.
Morlock said, “Excuse me,” before he began reading. The letter was addressed to Gorham in his official capacity as Dean.
This is to call your attention to a situation which we feel you will wish to deal with personally in order to avoid undesirable publicity. A teacher at Ludlow, Mr. Alvin Morlock, is very much in arrears in his payments on several appliances purchased by him from us on our time contract plan. Repeated letters to Mr. Morlock have gone unanswered. Before taking legal action we are taking this means of attempting to reach an agreement as to prompt payment by Mr. Morlock. We shall appreciate hearing from you on this matter without delay.
The letter bore the heading of a local appliance store. When he had finished it, Morlock’s reaction was shameful embarrassment. He wished for a moment that he were dead—anything rather than be in this room with Gorham and his own humiliation. He mumbled, “I didn’t know, Dean Gorham. There must be some mistake.”
Gorham snatched at the straw eagerly. “Of course. Of course,” he agreed. “Those things do happen.” While Morlock listened dumbly, he began to relate some anecdote about a bank deposit he had himself made which had been credited to the wrong account. There had been no mistake. He knew it and he was certain that Gorham knew it. The Dean was, in his way, trying to restore his dignity, as if his own self-respect had dwindled because he had been forced to shatter Morlock’s.
Gorham, from a sense of duty, continued, “Of course, being teachers we are very vulnerable, Alvin. Caesar’s wife, you know,” he added with heavy-handed good humor. The Dean sat down behind his desk. “You’ve been married three months or so, isn’t it?”
Gorham said, “I thought so. Of course, there are expenses involved in setting up a household and sometimes it is difficult. At the same time, we must be very careful to avoid things like this, particularly since the college’s own situation—” He continued hastily, “Of course, in this case it is a mistake. Clerical error probably. You’ll take care of it then?”
Morlock rose. “This afternoon,” he said. He turned and would have left the room but Gorham called to him.
“Alvin. I don’t have much but if I can help—”
The unexpected kindness shook Morlock more deeply than his shame had. He tried to speak and could not. Instead he shook his head and rushed from the room, past the receptionist and down the hall to his own classroom. He paused to regain his poise before he entered the room; when he did enter, Cory was talking to the class, telling some dirty story. Morlock said, “That will do, Cory. You can return to your seat.”
Cory stood up indolently. “Alla right, teach’,” he said in the same moronic affectation of an accent. Morlock, infuriated, shouted, “Oh, for God’s sake, Cory, stop being a jackass.”
His glance was turned toward the class when he called out to Cory. He was surprised to see among the sly, anticipatory smirks a few smiles of congratulation, admiration, perhaps. He assigned a chapter for study and forgot the incident in planning what he would say, to Louise—or Lolly, as she called herself. It was not in him to rail at her or to demand any explanations; he accepted this at the same time that he admitted there was no other way to reach her short of physical violence. He had tried sarcasm and it had withered in the face of her stupendous lack of sensitivity. And Morlock was disarmed by his own sense of guilt. He had known—or at least he should have known, he reflected in the drowsy classroom—that she was incapable of handling money or any responsibility. But in the first days of marriage he had tried to see her irresponsibility as a rather charming naivete. When he could no longer maintain the absurdity that she was naive, he had still hesitated to destroy the illusion, and with it his marriage that he had counted on so heavily. He had once thought, a little desperately, that she would gain a sort of assurance through his trust in her. And now with that hope gone, he could not bring himself to ask her why she had not paid the bills, why she had not told him of the dunning letters. She would react in one of two ways. She would become sly and sullen, probing to find out how much he knew. Or—and this was much worse—she would become kittenish. Daddy is mad at mother for spending his money?
Morlock remembered quite clearly the circumstances surrounding her assumption of the family funds. Three days after they were married he had handed her a check—it amounted to seventy dollars—and asked her to cash it for him on the following morning. When he came home from the college on the next day she handed him some bills.
“I paid another week on the rent,” she said brightly. “And I have to do some grocery shopping tomorrow. Do you want to give me the money now?”
The marriage was new enough so that this seemed a kind of sharing and a bond. He had meant to give her a few dollars for housekeeping expenses but he kept only a few dollars for himself and handed the rest back to her. “You might as well pay all the bills,” he said. It was this demonstration of faith that he hated to take back in spite of a growing distrust.
Dismissing his thoughts of Lolly, Morlock decided that he would have to stop at the appliance store and find out exactly how much he owed—which brought up another problem. Somehow he would have to get money. From a bank, perhaps, although he did not have the slightest idea of how money was borrowed from banks. Or from one of those companies that advertised in the papers interminably: Pay your bills. The money you need in one hour. Morlock resolved to stop at the appliance store and then at the bank. But he would not tell Lolly. He felt a moment’s panic at the thought that there were probably other creditors besides the utility companies. The grocer. The butcher. He reassured himself that she would have kept those paid, otherwise they would have no service, but he did not make a convincing case of it.
Prosecution Attorney Gurney: You have given your name as George Gorham and your occupation as being Dean of Ludlow College. What relationship did you have with the accused?
Gorham: As an instructor in English Literature he was under my administration.
Gurney: He wasn’t a professor?
Gorham: Mr. Morlock did not have enough academic credits to qualify for the title.
Gurney: I see. Did you consider him competent?
Gorham: I considered him competent, yes.
Gurney: Competent for Ludlow College, you mean?
Gorham: I fail to see—
Gurney: Isn’t it a fact that Ludlow College barely meets the minimum standards for recognition by the National Board of Regents?
Defense Counsel Liebman: Objection, Your Honor. The status of Ludlow College is irrelevant.
Presiding Justice Cameron: Sustained.
Gurney: Let it go. This backwater college, then—
Cameron: That will be enough, Mr.: Gurney.
Gurney: Mr. Gorham, as Dean of the college did you ever receive requests from Morlock’s creditors asking you to make him pay his bills?
Gorham: I did receive such letters.
Gurney: Did he pay his bills?
Gorham: I assume that he did.
Gurney: The letters stopped coming?
Gurney: Then you had the right to assume that he had paid them. Do you know where he got the money?
Cameron: On what grounds, Mr. Liebman? I would think the subject pertinent.
Gurney: I will be glad to rephrase the question, Your Honor. Mr. Gorham—should I refer to you as Dean Gorham, by the way?
Gorham: The title is an academic courtesy only.
Gurney: Dean Gorham, then. Is it a fact that Ludlow College carries a family life insurance policy on each of its instructors?
Gorham: It is not. The firm that carries the college’s large policies makes available a small policy at low rates to faculty members. The college shares the cost with the individual faculty members.
Gurney: Did Alvin Morlock have such a policy on his life and that of his wife?
Gorham: He did.
Gurney: What was the face value of the policy?
Gorham: One thousand dollars.
Gurney: Do you know how much money Morlock owed at the time of his wife’s death?
Gorham: Certainly not.
Gurney: But you do know that he was heavily in debt and that he was being hounded by his creditors.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Alvin Morlock. Direct testimony of George Gorham.
It was only half-past two when Morlock stopped in front of the immaculately gleaming facade of the appliance store. Embarrassment and shame waited for him in the building, and he hesitated before he entered. He had been here once before when Lolly had picked out a television set and a refrigerator and a stove. In that order, he remembered wryly. And the largest television set, the smallest refrigerator and stove.
He shook his head silently at the clerk who came to meet him and walked toward the back of the store where a green neon script sign marked the credit department. A fat woman with a sour expression came to her side of the waist-high counter. When he gave his name she said, “Just a moment, please,” and went into a tiny cubicle of an office. She did not come out again. Instead, a tall, very thin man came out and walked to the counter.
The thin man said disapprovingly, “I’m the credit manager, Mr. Morlock. I’ve been waiting for you to come in about your account.”
Morlock knew instinctively that this man would not make or permit any face-saving pretenses. He was holding a manila folder with the word Delinquent stamped on it in red ink, holding it in such a manner that the letters leaped flamboyantly to the eye. Morlock had half planned some evasive explanation, but he said instead, “I’m here. How much do I owe you, please?”
The credit man had expected the evasion, the lie. There was a routine to affairs such as this, Morlock supposed. The deliberate display of the red brand on the folder. The calculated air of disapproval. Next would come hinted threats. The credit man frowned at the folder.
“You realize, of course, that since you are delinquent the entire balance is due. We are prepared to forgo immediate payment of the whole amount if you bring your payments up to date, Mr. Morlock.”
What dignity Morlock could now salvage depended on liquidating the entire bill. He plunged ahead obstinately. “The total, please.”
The credit man opened the folder. “Two months delinquent,” he said. “The balance due as of today, with interest, amounts to seven hundred and sixty dollars.”
Lolly had made no payments whatsoever, then. Morlock, with no head for figures, remembered vaguely that the original total had been something over eight hundred dollars of which he had paid ten per cent at the time of the purchase. He had been appalled at the amount then; he was overwhelmed now by the prospect of the immediate payment of such a large amount of money. There had been, in his youth, no money for luxuries. The salary he received from Ludlow College had seemed like a great deal of money after the long years of privation when macaroni and cheese had been a dinner and hamburger a banquet. He had even been able to save a little before his marriage. What, in God’s name, had she done with it?
“I’ll be back in the morning,” he said to the thin man, and left the store.
He had walked home after convincing himself that it was too late to stop at the bank, and found that Lolly was not home.
At four o’clock she had still not returned and Morlock went into the bathroom to shower and shave, finding a kind of peace in the rituals of habit. She had still not returned when he finished dressing and he wandered into the living room, picking up a book. It did not hold his interest, and he heard her footsteps in the hall before she slammed the kitchen door behind her.
Lolly came to the door of the living room and stood silently looking at him. He had had enough practice in the last few weeks to enable him to gauge her condition with a nice precision. Her face was slightly flushed but placid enough at first glance. On closer inspection, there was a strained tightness to the muscles of her jaw and chin and the pupils of her brown eyes were contracted. He didn’t overlook the slight swaying of her body.
“Hello, Daddy,” she said archly. There was a bright fleck of saliva at the corner of her mouth.
“Hello, Louise,” Morlock said. He decided against bringing up the matter of the unpaid bills now. Her present mood was as unstable as it was unpredictable. She might interpret the most innocent phrase, the most meaningless gesture, as a slight. When that happened she was capable of flying into a murderous fury, beating him down with obscenities. Lately he had begun to wonder if the violences were genuine, but whatever they were, he had no stomach for them.
She walked carefully into the room. “I was downstairs with Anna,” she said lightly. “Does Daddy want his supper now?”
He shook his head. “I’m not very hungry,” he said. “I’ll get something for myself by and by.”
She said, “Oh.” And, after a moment, “I think I’ll go back down and see Anna then. Maybe we’ll go to a show.”
After she had left, Morlock went to the kitchen. He heated water in the kettle and rinsed the sink with part of it. He poured the remainder into a dishpan, adding soap powder and cold water from the tap. He then cleared the messy table and began washing the dishes, remembering how it had been in the days before Louise. He had had two rooms then and he had kept them immaculate. There had even been a sort of lonesome pleasure in coming home to the two rooms, in cooking his own meals. When the kitchen was clean he set a place for himself at the table and cooked eggs and toast and made coffee, welcoming the quiet of the tenement.
He cleaned up the few dishes he had dirtied and went back to the living room. He had been able to put aside reminders of his debts briefly. Now the stupefying thought that he must raise almost eight hundred dollars in the morning overwhelmed him again. There was the bank, of course, but banks wanted collateral, security. And they would want to make inquiries at the college which would take time.
Morlock remembered the newspaper which the newsboy left in the hall. He opened the pages to the classified section, looking for the half noted and remembered advertisements of the finance companies. There were a dozen or more of them, reading, as he remembered, The Money You Need in One Hour. Or, more enticingly, No Co-Makers, No Embarrassing Questions. Your Employer Doesn’t Have to Know. He took a small notebook from his pocket and wrote down the addresses and telephone numbers of a few of the more promising companies. One of them promised to loan, with no security, up to fifteen hundred dollars for any worthwhile purpose. There was a chart below the advertisement showing the amount of monthly payments that would liquidate various sized loans in specific times. He decided that he would try to borrow eight hundred dollars. The payments per month, after the friendly overtures in the text of the ad, were of frightening proportions. Morlock, who during his life had lived by the simple philosophy of buying only what he could afford, decided that he could meet the payments provided the strictest economy was practiced in running the house. And he, of course, would have to assume the handling of the family finances. He did not decide how he would tell these things to Louise.
There remained in the back of his mind a small but potent doubt. What if they would not let him have the money, in spite of the glowing promises? There was his friend Paul Martin who taught chemistry at Ludlow. Paul always managed to give the impression of having money, although Morlock could not quite recall any specific indication. The thought of borrowing from Paul was repugnant, not in the sense that it was trespassing on their friendship, but in the embarrassment that would shame them both if Paul didn’t have the money and had to refuse him. He decided that he would go to Paul only as a last resort.
Louise had not returned at eleven; Morlock was relieved rather than anxious. For some time now he had looked forward to bed with Louise with an emotion that approached revulsion—particularly when she had been downstairs with Anna.
He did not know what time she came in. When he came from the bedroom into the living room in the morning she was asleep on the couch, her coat thrown over her. Her mouth was open with her harsh breathing and there was a smell of staleness in the room. He walked softly past her and into the kitchen.
While he drank his coffee Morlock planned the morning. He would have to call the college and tell them that he would not be in. Louise, he would say, was ill. He would go to the bank as soon as it opened and apply for a loan. If there was to be a delay he would tell them to forget the application and visit one of the companies whose addresses he had copied down in his notebook. If he was refused, there remained Paul Martin, his best friend.
He dressed carefully, estimating the effect that even his choice of a necktie might have on the bank official and selecting the most conservative lest the official think him frivolous. Morlock—a most conservative man—did not perceive the absurdity of this.
Because he dressed carefully and because he had to call the college from a pay station he was five minutes later than he had planned in getting to the bank, and there was already a line of people ahead of him. The man immediately in front of him carried a paper sack and when he reached the cashier dumped the sack on the counter. There were literally thousands of dollars in the bag, and Morlock felt encouraged. The cashier had not seemed in the smallest manner startled. Surely, if money was so casually treated in this place, they would be inclined to be liberal. They might well say, “Why certainly, Mr. Morlock. We’ll be glad to let you have the money you need.” He daydreamed thus while the cashier finished with the man with the paper sack. When it was his (Turn he said as confidently as he could, “I’d like to arrange a loan,” trying to create the impression that he was accustomed to making loans from banks, as if such an impression would influence them in his favor. The cashier looked at him disinterestedly and destroyed his illusion of confidence with three words.
“Commercial or personal?”
Morlock said hastily, “Personal,” associating the word with the adjectives used in the finance company advertisements and hoping that it was the right one.
“Over there,” the cashier said, nodding in the direction of a series of desks behind a low partition. “See Mr. Kaufman.”
Morlock thanked him effusively and turned away.
Mr. Kaufman was a bland man of forty. He was polite with Morlock, and Morlock felt hope rise within him when Kaufman started filling in an application blank. They surely wouldn’t go to the trouble of filling in an application blank, he decided, if they weren’t favorably impressed. When Kaufman had his name and address and place of employment he asked, “How much money did you wish to borrow, Mr. Morlock?”
Morlock said, “Eight hundred dollars,” saw Kaufman’s small frown and added quickly, “I might be able to manage with less. Perhaps five hundred,” thinking that Paul Martin would certainly be able to lend him three hundred.
Kaufman’s questions became more direct. “And what do you wish to use this money for, Mr. Morlock?”
Morlock, watching Kaufman anxiously, explained. Before he was halfway through with the explanation, Kaufman began to shake his head from side to side absently. When Morlock had stumbled through a half-truth of his financial dilemma—he implied that an illness had prevented his keeping his credit good with the appliance company without actually identifying anyone as having been ill—Kaufman pushed the application form aside.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Morlock,” he said. His regret sounded genuine. “You should have come to a bank when you bought your furniture.” His voice registered a mild reproach for Morlock and all people who failed to realize that a bank was the one, the only proper place to borrow money.
Morlock got up and almost ran out of the bank.
And so he had not said the right things, made the right impression. There remained the finance companies. The first one he tried looked like a bank; it studiedly gave the impression of being a bank and the brisk young man who waited on him looked—he carefully rehearsed the mannerisms—like a promising young teller. Except that the young man did not carry on the pretense with the application blank as long as Kaufman at the bank had done. Morlock had rephrased his answer for the inevitable, “What do you plan to do with the money if your loan is approved, Mr. Morlock?” He did not have the chance to use it. The brisk young man’s eyes became bored before he had gone beyond, “Own your own home?” Morlock’s answer to that one had been effusive. They certainly planned to own a home someday. Meantime they had a good rent at so reasonable a figure that it would almost be foolish to give it up just now. When the question became, “What bank do you have an account in?” Morlock was already defeated by the disinterested eyes and he merely shook his head dumbly.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Morlock.”
And at The Money You Need in One Hour, “Sorry, Mr. Morlock.”
He became desperate and out of his desperation he reduced the amount of his request to three hundred dollars. That would be enough to bring the appliance store account up to date and leave enough for the other past-due bills. The restoration of his pride by paying off the whole amount became a luxury that would have to wait.
At Your Employer Doesn’t Have to Know, “Sorry, Mr. Morlock.” And because he was asking for so much less and they still refused to honor their advertised claims, Morlock became a little mutinous. He said stubbornly, “I have a good job. It doesn’t pay very much money but it’s regular. I don’t see why you can’t make a loan to me.”
And the name of another company was murmured to him where he just might be able to meet the necessary requirements. This company made no pretense of being a bank. The front part of the building was a pawnshop; the windows littered with the ransom of a thousand hungers, mingled with the glitter of cheap-jack cameras and binoculars, knives, and jewelry. Morlock was told to go into a back room.
There was one man in the room. He sat behind a pine table reading a newspaper and he did not glance up when Morlock came in. He did speak. “How much you want?” he asked. His voice was thick with phlegm.
Morlock told him. He tried to make his own voice sound bright and alert; wanted to make this man see in him a shiny-honest young man who just happened to need a few dollars. He volunteered, “My name is Alvin Morlock. I am an English teacher at Ludlow College.” And all the time he had the sickening feeling that it was wasted in this place. This man did not care beyond wanting enough information so that the borrower could not cheat him. On that basis he made his loans.
The man put down his newspaper. “And you owe seven hundred bucks to Starkweather’s Appliance Company,” he said. “You average seventy bucks a week.” Morlock stared at him in astonishment before he reasoned that the man who had steered him to this place had undoubtedly telephoned ahead.
The man said wearily, “You guys…” and reached for a piece of paper.
There were more questions and when it was done with, the man opened a drawer in the table and took out a handful of currency. He shoved the paper at Morlock and said, “Sign there,” and began to count the money. He counted out two hundred and eighty dollars.
Morlock protested. “I signed for three hundred dollars,” he said, wanting to point out the man’s mistake to him without angering him.
The man looked up quickly. “First month’s interest and service charge,” he said. “You don’t want it?”
Morlock said weakly, “I didn’t understand,” and reached for the money.
The man reached for his newspaper. “See you the first of the month,” he said.
Morlock hurried into the street.
Heavily in debt and hounded by his creditors.
Gurney: Mr. Dodson, when you took the stand yesterday you testified that you visited Morlock’s home several times after his marriage. As a matter of fact you knew Morlock’s wife before that marriage, didn’t you?
Dodson: I did.
Gurney: Mr. Dodson—you aren’t a full professor either, are you, by the way?
Gurney: Not enough academic credits?
Gurney: I’ll withdraw the question. Mr. Dodson, while you were on the stand you made a big issue of the fact that Louise Morlock was a sloven as a housewife; that she made no effort to become a respectable marriage partner for Morlock. You made quite a martyr of Morlock. Isn’t it a fact, Mr. Dodson, that Morlock had no reason to expect anything else? Isn’t it a fact that you and Morlock met the then Louise Palaggi in the course of a sordid outing during the Christmas’ holidays?
Cameron: Sustained, Mr. Gurney, I think you can establish your point without this sort of language.
Gurney: I’ll try, Your Honor. Now, Mr. Dodson, did you go to Providence, Rhode Island, with Morlock about two weeks before he was married?
Dodson: Yes. No. I should say he came with me. That would be more accurate. It was my idea.
Gurney: Had you been on any trips with Morlock prior to that time?
Gurney: What was the purpose of this… trip?
Dodson: It was a place to go. I didn’t have anywhere else to go over the holidays and Morlock didn’t either, as it turned out. I asked him to go with me.
Gurney: Where did you stay in Providence?
Dodson: At the Compton Hotel.
Gurney: Also your idea, I suppose.
Dodson: My idea.
Gurney: Did you have any definite plans for your… holiday?
Dodson: None in particular.
Gurney: No dates?
Gurney: You planned on a quiet holiday by yourselves?
Dodson: Not exactly.
Gurney: Actually you intended to pick up female companions, didn’t you?
Dodson: We hoped to meet some women, yes.
Gurney: Well, how did you do? Did you make any pick-ups the first night?
Gurney: No? What about an Audrey and Lucy Zonfrillo?
Dodson: There were two girls named Audrey and Lucy in a place we went to. We bought them drinks but we didn’t pick them up.
Gurney: You didn’t pick up Louise Palaggi that first night?
Gurney: It was later that you picked her up, then?
Liebman: I ask the Court to direct counsel to refrain from harping on the expression “pick up.”
Cameron: I suggest, Mr. Gurney, that you use another term.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Alvin Morlock. Cross-examination of Thomas Dodson.
Morlock had no particular liking for Dodson. Dodson was older, in his early forties, Morlock supposed, and had long ago given up any idealism in his approach to being a teacher. Dodson was an out-and-out time server. He hated his subject and he actively detested his students. They returned the sentiment enthusiastically. Dodson was stocky and he affected suits with vests, the pockets of which he filled with all manner of pens and pencils in neat rows. His hair was thinning and he wore it parted on one side. The hair was also coarse and it matted together in strands so that the yellowish pink scalp appeared more naked than if he had been completely bald. He gave an impression of being a hearty good fellow, but Morlock suspected that it was more than partly a pose which he put away each evening along with the vest and pencils.
He had approached Morlock in the teachers’ rest-room the day before the school was to close for the Christmas holidays. Morlock was washing his hands. Dodson ran water in the adjoining basin and began to splash noisily.
“One more day,” he said between splashes. “Then we can forget this dump for ten days. Where are you going, Al?”
Morlock had made no plans. He had assumed that he would spend a part of the holiday with Paul Martin and had only that morning learned—and been a little hurt by the knowledge—that Martin was spending the entire vacation with his married sister in Baltimore. He said uncertainly, “Nowhere, I guess.” He added out of politeness rather than interest, “What are your plans, Dodson?”
Dodson dug his elbow into Morlock’s ribs and chuckled. “I’m not going to hang around here,” he said. “I’m going to get a room in a hotel I know in Providence. Been there before,” he added with another nudge and a leer. “Did you ever go up on Federal Hill?”
Morlock shook his head.
Dodson winked suggestively. “There’s places there—” He stopped abruptly. “By God, Al, you got to come with me!”
Morlock, faced with the prospect of a dull and lonesome ten days, was tempted to the point of wondering if even Dodson’s company wasn’t preferable to solitude. Seeing his indecision, Dodson pounced. “I tell you, Al, I’m the man that can show you around. They’ve got all these little clubs, you know, and stuff! My God, they hang around waiting to be picked up. Take a couple of guys like us—educated, professional men—we’re big shots to them. And we can get rooms and split the cost.”
Morlock said doubtfully, “I’d have to think about it.”
Dodson said scornfully, “Think, hell! We’ll just get in my car and go tomorrow night. We can be there by seven. You go in these places and order beer,” he said. “A dime. That’s all you have to spend while you look ’em over. They’ve always got a juke box or a small band on week-ends. I don’t mean bags when I say there’s stuff there just waiting to be picked up. Young stuff, I tell you. Nineteen and twenty. And some of them Eyetalian and Polack girls will knock your eye out. Knockers on ’em like movie stars and they jump around wiggling their little butts…” Dodson paused, his eyes bright. “Treat you like a king.”
And Morlock, even as he despised Dodson, agreed to go along.
Half a dozen times in the next morning he was tempted to tell Dodson that he had changed his mind, but the recollected words, “young stuff,” held him back. Morlock convinced himself that he would find a decent girl among Dodson’s more promiscuous Circes. He told himself that he would content himself with a mild affair with such a girl, let Dodson go to whatever extremes he wished. Morlock had made such plans before. More often than not they had ended sordidly enough; nevertheless he still hoped one day to fall in love. He did not belabor the obvious fallacy that such emotion was hardly likely to be found in the companionship or the haunts of Dodson, History II.
Later, he took some pleasure in telling Paul Martin of his plans. Martin, a chemistry instructor, had the sort of aloof dignity that Morlock would like to have. He had more than once sheepishly realized that he was involuntarily imitating Martin’s mannerisms of speech. He admired Martin and he openly sought his friendship.
Martin asked, “Are you actually going to stay at a hotel with that—lump? You could have come to Baltimore with me, you know, if you had given me time to make arrangements.”
Morlock had the distinct impression that Martin had added the final phrase as a hasty hedge against the possibility that Morlock might be willing to change his plans.
“Why not?” he demanded. “Dodson is a good chap.”
Martin would have said “chap” instead of “fellow” or a simple “guy” and Morlock used the word self-consciously as a sort of defiance. He was as sophisticated as Martin, he felt.
Martin, acting as if he resented the whole business, walked away without further discussion.
Dodson drove to Morlock’s rooming house to pick him up. His car was an old LaSalle convertible. Rakish once, weary now. Like Dodson himself, Morlock thought; regretting again, now that the time had come, that he had agreed to the Providence adventure.
In the car Morlock worried aloud. “Suppose it got back to the college,” he said. “I don’t think Dean Gorham would stand for it.”
Dodson’s somewhat pathetic bad-boyishness was increasing in direct ratio to their distance from Ludlow. “Stand for what?” he snorted. “We’re just going to take a room in a hotel and go out for a good time. Even a teacher is entitled to a vacation.”
Morlock said uncertainly, “It isn’t just that. I mean if we got into any trouble. With the hotel, for instance.”
Dodson whooped delightedly and slapped Morlock’s thigh. “Hell,” he laughed, “We’re not staying at the Biltmore. The hotel we’re going to doesn’t care if you bring women up to your room. By God, if you haven’t got one of your own they’ll get one for you!”
Providence was twelve miles over the state line from Ludlow. Dodson drove the distance, not without skill, in less than half an hour and parked the old car in a public garage. “We’ll leave it,” he said, winking at Morlock. “I don’t want to be able to drive tonight. We’ll use, cabs.”
The hotel to which he led Morlock was on a side street, a red brick building with bars on either side. The lobby smelled of antiseptic. It was, Morlock admitted, clean enough. Dodson said as they entered, “Wait here, Al. I’ll register for both of us. What will we get—two adjoining singles?”
Morlock agreed and watched Dodson head for the desk, extending his hand in greeting to the desk clerk like an old and valued customer. He failed to note any similar reaction on the part of the desk clerk who appeared more bored than enthusiastic. Dodson, he supposed, could not help—what was the expression?—making a production out of his simplest act. He wondered what whimsical destiny had made Dodson a teacher rather than a salesman, say, or a bartender.
Dodson returned, waving two keys triumphantly. “All set,” he said happily. He glanced at Morlock’s suitcase. “Want me to get a bellhop?”
Morlock had seen no attendant in the lobby. He declined, and the two men rode the elevator to the third floor.
They ate in a small Italian restaurant on Federal Hill. “You’ll see what genuine Italian cooking is like,” Dodson had shouted, managing to convey contempt for all other cuisines. Actually the restaurant was dirty and smelly; the spaghetti flaccid and overcooked, its shortcomings poorly disguised with red, garlic-heavy sauce. Dodson ordered a bottle of Chianti with the meal. He seemed to enjoy playing the host, the worldly gourmet. He ate hungrily. Morlock ate little. He was amused by Dodson’s assumption of the role of host, which seemed a little ridiculous since they had carefully agreed in the hotel room to share all costs evenly. Still, Morlock was gradually awakening to the promise of the evening.
They sought a bar after Dodson had tried to order cafe Espresso from the waitress who had never heard of it and who looked at Dodson as if she thought he were a little crazy.
The bar they found was one of twenty in an area of a few blocks. It outdid its neighbors in the matter of neon and there was a canvas canopy leading from the sidewalk to what was designated a Ladies Entrance. Dodson said confidently, “In here, Al. I’ll do the talking. You should have seen the chick I met here last time!”
Dodson, Morlock supposed, had a hundred expressions which could be defined as meaning women in various states of willingness and availability. “Chick,” was no more irritating than “stuff” or “bag.” All three made him uncomfortable, affecting him in much the same manner as the advertisements for soup and cake mix and soda pop that made a fetish out of leaving the a and d out of the conjunction and in the unshakable conviction that this indicated the unqualified approval * of the children who were supposed to speak in such a manner. Butter’ n eggs! Chicks ‘n stuff! He laughed at the thought, told himself not to be a stuffy damn fool and followed Dodson into the bar entrance.
They stepped down into a low-ceilinged room with a stamped tin ceiling. The place featured low lights—the brightest glow in the room came from a pin ball machine that stood in a far corner. The bar itself took up half of one wall and was interrupted by a set of three stairs leading upward toward the dance floor which had its own bar.
Dodson led the way to the bar in the low room, asking generously, “What will you have, Al?” which was unnecessary. They had already agreed to drink draught beer. (“Until we get a chance to look around and see what’s loose,” Dodson had said.) Morlock, looking around him, saw half a dozen men seated on the high stools that lined the bar. They seemed friendly enough, as one or two nodded; but there was a withdrawal common to such occasions. The men at the bar were regulars or they had established their worth by having been in the place for an hour or more and having spent an appropriate amount of money. Morlock and Dodson were new and therefore strangers.
The bartender served their glasses. Dodson drank his quickly and noisily. Morlock could feel the Chianti warming his stomach. He told himself again not to be stuffy and drank his beer. They ordered more and Dodson, who was speaking louder, began a conversation with the man next to him. He dragged Morlock into the discussion. “This is a friend of mine,” he said pompously. “A professor. Al, this is—what did you say your name was?”
The man said, “Snapper,” and signaled for drinks. “Glad to know you, Professor.”
Morlock could feel his own natural reserve melting, dissolving in a tide of beer. He protested—it was not more than a token protest—that he was not really a professor but managed to leave the implication that he could be if he wanted to. And he signaled for a round himself, knowing that he was on the verge of drunkenness. The man who called himself Snapper was of his own age, with thinning light hair and a scar running from his cheekbone to the point of his jaw. He fingered the scar continually.
“Got this in an accident a month ago,” he explained. “We were going down to Attleboro at two o’clock in the morning drunk as a hoot owl. I just got my car back yesterday.”
In the space of two hours Snapper became their friend. Dodson proclaimed this with great and solemn conviction. Morlock, in a golden haze himself, recognized that Dodson was quite drunk and forgave him for it in the same moment. A rare tolerance had come upon him, and he did not resent Dodson even when he loudly explained to Snapper that they were footloose and anxious for company.
Snapper—he was drinking whisky instead of beer by this time—nodded his head wisely. “You came to the right place,” he congratulated them. “In half an hour or so when the band comes in there’ll be so many in there you’ll have to beat them off with a club.”
They waited for the band to arrive. The waiting reminded Morlock of other days, high school dances, the few others he had been able to go to when the youths would hang around outside the auditorium waiting for the music to start and pretending to be tremendously bored with it all and all the time yearning for the pretty girls inside the building. When the music started in the next room he and Dodson hung back for another drink so that Snapper would not think them eager. Except that now it was no longer simply a matter of pretty girls….
Prosecution Attorney Gurney: Your name is Gino Fangio?
Fangio: It is.
Gurney: You are known as Snapper, are you not?
Fangio: They call me that sometimes.
Gurney: When did you first meet the accused?
Fangio: Sometime before Christmas.
Gurney: I’ll refresh your memory. It was December 22, Thursday, wasn’t it?
Fangio: I guess so, if you say so.
Gurney: In a barroom?
Gurney: Was he drunk at the time?
Gurney: Was he drinking at the time you met him?
Fangio: A few, I guess. He and that other guy were out for a good time. Nobody was going to get hurt.
Gurney: Were you with Morlock for the rest of the evening?
Fangio: Well, about that time, he and the other guy—
Gurney: Mr. Dodson.
Fangio: Yeah, Dodson. He and Morlock went into the dance hall. I stayed out at the bar.
Gurney: Did they state their purpose in going into the dance hall?
Fangio: They wanted women. Dodson was—
Liebman: Your Honor, that is speculative.
Cameron: The last statement will be stricken. Do you wish to take an exception, Mr. Gurney?
Gurney: No, Your Honor. Snapper—Mr. Fangio—you stated that you stayed at the bar. Isn’t it true that if you wished to meet an unescorted woman you would have gone with them into the dance hall?
Gurney:. Women frequented the place?
Fangio: A lot of them came there.
Gurney: Without escorts?
Fangio: A lot of them came stag.
Gurney: In other words, it was a good place for a man to meet a woman without the usual conventions. Did you tell the accused that it was such a place?
Fangio: Maybe I did. I guess I did.
Gurney: What were your words as you remember them?
Fangio: I said that they could probably get fixed up if they went in and looked around.
Gurney: And was it right after that that they went in?
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Alvin Morlock. Direct testimony of Gino Fangio.
Morlock and Dodson walked in to the dance floor together, in pretended deep conversation, pointedly not looking around until they were seated at a small table. There were other men going back and forth. Most of these boldly looked around the room, making audible comments on what they saw, and returned to the main bar again.
They ordered drinks and kept up the conversation. “Look at those cheap characters,” Dodson said contemptuously. “I’ve seen ’em before. They don’t want to get stuck buying drinks so they wait until the girls order before they go over and start moving in.”
Morlock agreed that this was so. He was less and less interested in Dodson’s conversation now and more and more interested in the people—most of them women in twos and threes. In the dim light it was hard to distinguish features but there were two girls—in their early twenties, he guessed—in a near-by booth and both of them seemed attractive. One of them caught his glance and smiled tentatively.
Dodson dropped all pretense. “See anything good?” he asked anxiously.
“Over in the booth,” Morlock said. “What do you think?”
Dodson peered eagerly in the direction of the booth. “They’re looking over here,” he whispered excitedly.
“They’re not pigs either.” Still looking toward the booth he suddenly swore. “Dammit. Look at those two punks!”
Morlock turned slightly so that he could see without being obvious. Two youths were approaching the booth. They were, both of them, tall. Both were dressed alike in dark suits that were conservative to the point of being ostentatious. Morlock felt a wholly unreasonable fury at the two intruders. He and Dodson had seen the girls first. The two youths spoke briefly to the girls who then stood up and came into their arms. They danced toward the table occupied by Dodson and Morlock.
Dodson began swearing in a monotone. Morlock, afraid that he might be overheard, attempted to quiet him. “Maybe they came together,” he said.
Dodson muttered, “Like hell,” and bent to his drink.
Morlock shrugged. “We’ll have to be quicker next time,” he said.
The two girls danced closer. Morlock was not comforted by the knowledge that he had been right. They were pretty. Both had heart-shaped faces framed with masses of dark hair. Both had good legs, slim and graceful. They looked like sisters, Morlock thought. One was slightly taller than the other. The shorter one—she was about Dodson’s height—wore a white satin blouse. Underneath it she wore a brassiere—Morlock could see the straps of it when she turned—that lifted her small round breasts delightfully. Her skirt was tight. When she leaned forward against her partner her buttocks also looked small and round. Dodson watched avidly. “How would you like to pat that!” he demanded. He had recovered his good nature. “Didn’t I tell you there was stuff here?”
The band stopped; the two couples returned to the booth—and the youths left. Morlock stood up. “I want the small one,” he said.
Their names, it developed, were Audrey and Lucy—Audrey being the shorter of the two—and they were sisters. Also they drank whisky sours although there had been only beer bottles on the table when Morlock, with a boldness that surprised himself and impressed Dodson, had walked confidently to their table and asked, “Can we buy you a drink?” While he had moved toward their table, Dodson had remained in his seat, watching him eagerly but ready, Morlock was certain, to ridicule him if the girls rejected his offer. They did not and in his wonderful new cloak of confidence he had turned and beckoned casually to Dodson to come over.
As Dodson walked toward him, the new Morlock watched him with some feeling of superiority. Dodson, he thought, would have wagged his tail if he had had one.
Both of the girls worked in a jewelry shop. Both were in the office, they explained quickly. Morlock doubted it and this, too, increased the magnificent self-esteem that he now felt. They were lying to impress him—and Dodson too. Probably they were pearl dippers.
Dodson lost no time in explaining that they were members of the Ludlow faculty. Morlock faulted him for this. Dodson had, when it came right down to it, no faith in his own attractiveness or his own personality. He therefore attempted to reflect whatever light came from being a professional man. Had he not earlier referred to himself and Morlock as educated men? Morlock felt that he needed no crutch.
He was seated beside Audrey. The upper half of her white satin blouse flared sharply to her shoulders so that he could see the upper halves of her white breasts, and where yesterday he would have painfully avoided the appearance of glancing at them, he now openly stared—and felt his earlier resolution to find a decent girl and carry on a mild affair melt in a warm tide of desire. Audrey had, in a few sentences, exposed her own complete lack of mental or spiritual assets. She had, Morlock admitted, no need of them. Having admitted this, he devoted himself to appreciation of what she did hold for men—the appreciation being visual and verbal and in both cases completely acceptable to Audrey.
After an hour and many drinks, she began to press herself against him when they danced. The abstract Morlock noted that she had a magnificent awareness of her really beautiful body and an equal knowledge of the manner in which she might best activate it. He sighed for Dodson who seemed to be making no progress whatsoever with Lucy, and had sunk to the point where he was now trying to make her drink more than she could handle. Unfortunately, he had to order for himself as well as Lucy, the result being a shabby race between sobriety and sex with Dodson ahead, if at all, only slightly.
Morlock danced twice with Lucy. She remarked that the band was good for a small outfit. Audrey had made this comment. She noted that there was a good crowd tonight. Audrey had made this observation, too. Morlock, having no designs on Lucy, was bored.
Another hour and Dodson was making definite progress. When the two girls left for the powder room after an appropriately cute explanation, he watched them sway away from the table and said pridefully, “I told you we’d find something in here!”
Morlock generously did not remind Dodson that he had made all the overtures.
Dodson continued, “She’s hot. I’ll bet we won’t have any trouble getting them out of here and up to the hotel.” There was in the manner he said it, Morlock thought, something suggestive of whistling in a graveyard, and he wondered how many times Dodson had come this far with one of his conquests and seen it the unconsummated.
They came back to the table, and Lucy said, “It’s getting late. We’ve got to work tomorrow.”
They had planned this gambit in the powder room, Morlock was certain. Strangely he was not particularly surprised or disappointed. Dodson’s thick neck reddened. “We’ll take you home,” he said hopefully.
Audrey glanced at her sister and then back toward Morlock. “We’ve got our own car,” she said.
Dodson half stood, and for a terrible moment Morlock was afraid that he was going to remind the girls of the money that he had spent on them. He did not. He controlled himself while they swayed away again. When they were out of hearing he began to curse them, viciously and obscenely.
Snapper consoled them in the lower bar. “I could have told you,” he said sadly. “Those two pull that stunt pretty regular. You know what they did after they left your table?”
Dodson said sourly, “I don’t think they went home.”
Snapper swallowed his drink. “Hell, no. They’ve got regular boy friends. They leave them off in here to have a good time while they shoot pool across the street. You should have picked up something a little older. Those kids are only after what they can get. How much did you blow?”
Dodson said glumly, “Fifteen dollars.”
Snapper whistled softly. “Too bad.” He offered to help them make another choice; closing time was still an hour away. Morlock shook his head. He was feeling an exhilaration that was beyond anything he had experienced. He had never before reached this stage of drunkenness—usually he became quite sick after drinking half what he had tonight. He easily convinced himself that he had had no great desire for Audrey, that he could have had her if he had really wanted to. The way she had glanced at her sister before saying that they had their own car—he had practically sent her away. He glowed with his own nobility.
Dodson was becoming increasingly maudlin and it was apparent that he would make no more conquests.
In the hour that remained before the bar closed, Morlock had several more drinks, trying to retain his mood. Strangely, his thoughts became clearer but the mood began to dissipate the moment they left the bar and walked through the streets to the hotel. He had some trouble with Dodson. By the time he undressed, the mood was entirely gone.
He had had for years a recurrent dream in which he was a boy. Awake, he could never remember the dream in its detail. He could only vaguely remember climbing green hills beside a lake where the mists rose slowly in the cool morning; and yet sometimes the dream was realer than reality—certainly it was happier than reality. In the dream he had a companion, usually a girl a year or two younger than himself. Morlock often courted the dream. He even made preparations for it, putting on fresh pajamas, fresh sheets on the bed. Like a bride preparing the wedding bed. He wooed the dream by returning in memory to his own childhood before falling asleep. He was not often successful and there was always the risk that the sweet pain of nostalgia would go unrewarded by the dream.
Tonight his memory was acute. Lying on the bed, he let it drift rapidly back, the quicker to escape the dreary hotel bedroom. As he usually did, he remembered best when he was twelve….
There was a green pasture littered with great out-croppings of the conglomerate rock they called puddingstone. Through the pasture a path made aimless progress into a cool glade where oak trees formed a park. Beyond the glade were low hills that dressed themselves in white and silver birch, in aspen and wild cherry, and in the spring the wild cherry sang with white blossom. Morlock remembered the way they looked and smelled. He could not have expressed the beauty of the trees in allegory at twelve as he could now but he was completely aware of that beauty. And there was the smell of grass and earth and leaves and the cows in the pasture and even their droppings; and these smells were picked up and blended by the west wind of spring so that the very smell was alive with promise. Beyond the low hills were the somewhat more somber pines and among the pines stood a colossal mass of that same puddingstone that dotted the pastures. It had been rolled up and left there like some toy by the glaciers, and it towered above the pines and hemlocks that soughed mournfully beneath it. There were ledges and faults in the mass and crevices and niches where arrowheads could be found and occasional shards of broken pottery. They called this Abram’s Rock after the legendary Indian who had plunged from it after the death of his bride. Here Morlock, when there was time, played the wonderful games that could be played upon such a mighty site. Here, when he was twelve, came Marian, a grave child of ten with black hair that hung down her back to her waist after the manner of an old-fashioned illustration of Alice in Wonderland. Morlock was with some other boys of his own age; when they saw her standing quietly near them there was a rustle of whispering and snickering. “There she is,” one boy said. “The Portagee kid.”
Morlock remembered then that a Portuguese family from the Cape Verde islands had moved into a worn-out farm not far from Abram’s Rock. There had been some loose and irresponsible indignation. “Ain’t no difference between a nigger and a Portagee. One’s as black as the other.”
This was the first member of the family he had seen and she seemed to be just like any other girl or boy he knew. Her skin was no darker than his own would be at the end of the summer. Her eyes were blue and set wide apart in her oval face. Morlock had been born on the shabby-genteel side of absolute poverty; he knew hand-me-down and make-do as brothers and he could recognize the signals of poverty in the girl’s clothing. She wore a simple dress of some gray material. It was clean but there was a patch in the skirt and it fitted her in the shapeless manner of a larger garment that had been taken in. He was too familiar with the device to miss it. She wore a worn pair of boy’s shoes and her legs were bare. Morlock, out of the kinship of poverty, felt sorry for her.
One of the youngsters in the group called suddenly, “Hey, Portagee I Who said you could climb on our rock?”
And another boy, “Sure. Let’s chase her on home.”
She stood her ground bravely but Morlock could see that she was frightened. She said in a low voice, “My fa’der say I can play here.”
None of the boys had actually been much interested up to this point. The Portagee girl looked much like any other girl and was probably as dull a playmate. Now the heavy accent identified her as an outsider and her soft obstinacy offered them the opportunity to defy authority, the authority of her father, without risk. They surrounded her and one boy mocked her accent.
“What right has your fodder to say you can play here? He doesn’t own Abram’s Rock!”
The girl—she was very thin, Morlock noticed—began to tremble. Tears formed in the outer corners of her eyes but she repeated stubbornly, “My fa’der say I can play here.”
Morlock pushed two of the boys aside. “Let her alone,” he said as fiercely as he could. “She isn’t bothering anybody.”
They had a certain respect for Morlock. He was not as big as some of the boys in the group but he actually worked after school and earned money. Not nickels for running errands but half dollars and dollars for cutting lawns and hoeing gardens which he gave to his mother. He could be identified with authority. More to the point, they were bored and maybe a little ashamed of the incident. They ran off shouting, leaving Morlock with the girl. That had been his first meeting with Marian—actually her name was Marianna—Cruz….
Morlock, lying in the sagging hotel bed, remembered this as he had remembered it on a hundred nights, waiting for sleep to transport him back to a time when he had been happier than he had ever been since.
Gurney: On the night of December 22—they call you Snapper, is it?
Fangio: I already told you that.
Gurney: You have testified that you met the accused on the night of December 22. When did you next see him?
Fangio: The next night. He and the other guy, Dodson, came around. We decided to go to the Balboa Club. They were having a dance.
Gurney: That was Morlock’s idea, wasn’t it?
Gurney: Let that go, Snapper. Did Morlock meet a woman at the dance?
Fangio: Sure he did. That’s what we went there for.
Gurney: Did you introduce them or did he pick her up?
Liebman: Your Honor—
Cameron: I have cautioned counsel against repetitious use of that phrase. Mr. Gurney, you will please refrain from using it.
Gurney: Snapper, you, Dodson, and the accused went out on that second occasion for the avowed purpose of finding women. From your own testimony and Dodson’s, Morlock and Dodson had been unsuccessful in an earlier attempt to pick—to make the acquaintance of Lucy and Audrey Zonfrillo. Did he drop his standards? Wasn’t he anxious to meet any woman at all by the time you went to the Balboa Club?
Liebman: Your Honor, I object to counsel’s leading questions.
Gurney: Snapper, who was the woman the accused met at the Balboa Club?
Fangio: Her name was Louise. Louise Palaggi.
Gurney: Did you know her prior to that time?
Fangio: I’d seen her around.
Gurney: Did you introduce her to him?
Gurney: What did you do after the dance?
Fangio: We went to another place.
Gurney: Just the three of you?
Fangio: We took them along.
Fangio: The women we were sitting with at the dance.
Gurney: And where did you go then? To still another place?
Fangio: We went to Morlock and Dodson’s Hotel.
Gurney: With the women?
Gurney: And who was the woman with the accused?
Fangio: Louise Palaggi.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Alvin Morlock. Redirect testimony of Gino Fangio.
When Morlock and Dodson met him in the bar on the following evening, Snapper had said, “If you want to pick something up you could do better than hang around here. They come in here, all right, lots of them, but they’re too smart. You ought to go to a dance. There’s one on tonight at the Balboa Club. That’s a Dago joint on the Hill.”
Morlock had spent an uneasy day. He had killed time at the public library as a hypocritical sop to his conscience. Dodson had slept through the afternoon and Morlock had fully intended to tell him, when he awoke, that he was going back to Ludlow. He was ashamed of the incident with Audrey and Lucy which, in daylight, seemed cheap and contemptible.
Dodson would not hear of it, taking the attitude that Morlock’s departure would spoil his, Dodson’s, vacation. After dinner Morlock felt the familiar, wistful night magic and agreed to stay on another day.
There would be no more barroom entanglements, Morlock promised himself. A movie, perhaps, and then a sandwich and coffee before he went back to the hotel. But that was before Snapper’s suggestion.
Dodson was enthusiastic. They went to the dance in Snapper’s car.
The hall was crowded when they arrived and bought tickets. The band was just coming back to the platform after an intermission. Morlock sensed a heady excitement as the musicians warmed up with little runs and trills; he remembered those high school dances. Pretty soon they would come in with that big solid opening beat.
Dodson had been looking around the room. “This is more like it,” he said.
Morlock, analyzing his own mood, missed the elation that had been there the previous night. Anticipation there was—there were any number of pretty women in the room—but it was not a lustful anticipation. Further, there was a cynical facet to his character; he had long ago recognized it. If it controlled him this night he would find himself on the sidelines, not dancing, criticizing the dancers with a sardonic smile on his face. The cynicism, he supposed, was a form of sour grapes.
Snapper became expansive. “I told you there’d be plenty of women here,” he said. “Most of them will be looking for rides home when this is over. Thing to do is move in early. Let’s go downstairs to the bar and get a drink.”
Morlock had promised himself to drink very little. He had had too much the previous night and for once it had not made him sick. Miracles were seldom repeated. But Snapper bought a round and Dodson and then it was his turn.
The glow came and he danced, starting with the younger girls in the crowd. Dodson, he noticed, avoided the younger and prettier women and selected the older, less attractive ones—who could be expected to be grateful, Morlock thought, and remembered wryly that it had been Ben Franklin who had originally advised such selection.
In between dances they drank. To do this they held, by right of first possession, a table in the bar. There was another table jammed against their own and he became aware of two women at the table. They smiled each time he returned to the table from the dance floor. After a third or a fourth smile they acquired, by force of repetition, a relationship of sorts which Dodson noticed. After several dances he said, “I think we’ve, been missing something, Al. Let’s ask them to dance.” He sounded patronizing, Morlock thought. Dodson had been having a fine run of luck, not having been once rejected as a partner. As a result he had taken on a jaunty confidence and his offer to dance with the neighboring women was made with a princely condescension.
“Go ahead,” Morlock agreed. “Ask one of them. I’ll ask the one that’s left.”
Dodson, drunk with himself, rose and walked toward them. He held a brief conversation with the two women at the table. One of the two got up and linked her arm in Dodson’s. When they moved away from the table Morlock covertly studied the second woman. She appeared to be in her early thirties and her face was quite attractive. Her figure, what he could see of it, was full blown with a disciplined firmness that suggested corseting.
He stood up, a shade uncertainly, and walked to her table.
“Hello,” he said, “are you having a good time?”
She smiled. Her teeth were white and perfect. “Very,” she said. “Won’t you sit down?”
He was grateful; he had been alarmed over the loss of perfect control of his legs. “Let me buy you a drink,” he said. “My name is Morlock.”
She acknowledged the introduction with a nod and another smile. “Mine is Louise,” she said. “Louise Palaggi.”
“Hello, Louise,” he said dashingly.
When Dodson came back to the table, towing the other woman whom he introduced as Rose but mentioned no last name, Morlock was already deep in conversation with Louise Palaggi. She seemed greatly interested in everything he had to say and demurely declined Dodson’s offer to buy another round. When Snapper joined them with a woman of his own, she refused his offer of a drink too. Morlock didn’t, and as he drank he recognized with wonderful discernment the difference between her and the other women who were loud, raucous, and superficial.
He told her of his job at Ludlow and let her guess that he very seldom came to places like this but that sometimes he got so fed up with ignorant students…
He indicated the loneliness of a sensitive man.
He had never known a woman to listen to him with such perception and sympathy. He told her this too.
He was quite drunk.
Louise told him, for her part, that she was lonely too. She had devoted the best part of her life, she let him guess, to the care of her father and her brothers, keeping up a home for them. She let him know, wistfully, that she was ignorant herself—she had had to leave high school in her second year to make that home—but that it was wonderful to be in the company of an educated man and she regretted that she knew so little.
He told her gallantly that she was one of the most intelligent women he had ever met—in a sense he was quite right—and that he could hardly believe that she had so little schooling.
She told him that she read a great deal.
Snapper and his woman and Dodson with his Rosie became aware, after a while, of the detachment of the couple. Rose thought it was cute; she said so, shrilly referring to them as lovebirds. Morlock, who would have been sickened ordinarily, smiled sheepishly while Louise protested; becomingly, he thought.
When the band played the last number and they got up to leave, Snapper suggested that they go to an after hours club where he was known. Morlock was watching Dodson, who seemed to be afraid of a refusal from his Rosie. He saw Dodson’s face light up with relief and joy when Rosie was loudly enthusiastic at the plan.
Louise said shyly, “Well, I shouldn’t—” but protested no more when Morlock was masterfully insistent.
After the club closed in its turn, they drove back to the hotel, Morlock and Dodson sitting in the back seat with Rosie and Louise. Dodson and Rosie were making love, openly and grotesquely. Morlock was embarrassed. Louise Palaggi, with what he thought a charming and ladylike reticence, ignored them completely.
They would, it was agreed, go up to Dodson’s room for a final drink.
She was diffident about it but she went with them. In the elevator Morlock began to regret that he could not go to bed. He’d had, for him, a tremendous amount of liquor. The surging lift of the elevator made him aware of it.
When Dodson had fumbled open the door of his room, he went at once to the bed with Rosie, falling on the mattress in animal abandon. Snapper and his woman found a chair. Morlock said unsteadily, “Let’s go next door to my room.”
He was physically and mentally aroused by her presence, by the woman smell and softness of her. In his room he fell on the bed and reached for her, pawing at her breasts and trying to pull her down beside him.
“No,” she said, and pulled away from him. She didn’t seem angry. “No, Alvin.”
And then he was sick.
Gurney: You have given your name as Attilio Palaggi. You are the father of the deceased woman?
Gurney: Louise Palaggi was your daughter, wasn’t she?—
Palaggi: She was my daughter, Louise. A good Catholic girl. She went to convent school for four years. She was a good girl, Louise.
Gurney: Mr. Palaggi, did the accused visit your home prior to his marriage to your daughter?
Palaggi: A good girl…
Liebman: Your Honor, there seems to be no point to this badgering of a decent old man. The defense will agree that Alvin Morlock visited the Palaggi home several times before his marriage to Louise Palaggi.
Cameron: Will Mr. Gurney inform the Court as to the purpose of this line of questioning?
Gurney: The prosecution only wishes to show that Morlock had every opportunity to observe the woman he met at the Balboa Club, to see that she was his inferior in education and upbringing, and that his marriage to her was not the result of any romantic attachment.
Cameron: You may continue, Mr. Gurney. Please be as considerate of the witness as possible.
Gurney: Very well, Your Honor. Mr. Palaggi, how many times did Morlock visit your home?
Palaggi: I don’t know. I think, many times.
Gurney: During these visits he was frequently alone with your daughter, was he not?
Cameron: I will ask you once again, Mr. Gurney, what is the purpose of your line of questioning? What are you trying to establish now?
Gurney: The sordid nature of Morlock’s relationship with Louise Palaggi prior to their marriage.
Liebman: Oh, objection!
Cameron: I’m not going to rule on your objection at this moment, Mr. Liebman. Mr. Gurney, can you amplify your last comment? The Court realizes that by admonishing you to show consideration for your witness we may perhaps have disarmed you. I am going to let you have some latitude in establishing your point.
Gurney: It has already been established by competent testimony that, the accused met the deceased, Louise Palaggi, at a dance without the usual formality of an introduction and at a time when he was deliberately seeking a woman. It has been shown that on the very night he met her, he took her to his hotel room and that thereafter he visited her home on several occasions. It is not stretching credulity to assume that he used the humble awe she felt for his position as a means to seduce her on that very first occasion, and that thereafter he pursued her with all the purposeful directness of a rutting boar—
Cameron: Order! I will have order in this courtroom!
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Alvin Morlock. Direct testimony of Attilio Palaggi.
Louise Palaggi had attended convent school until she was twelve years old. By the time she was fifteen—her mother had died while Louise was an infant—she was attending a city high school. She had put the teachings of the nuns far behind her and had already acquired the beginnings of notoriety on Federal Hill.
Her puberty had coincided with the era of the big name bands: the Dorsey Brothers and Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, and Artie Shaw. When they played New England they usually played a stop at a road house fifteen miles from Providence. Louise was in her second year of high school when one of the big bands was booked in for a playing date that happened to fall on the last day of school. She was already considered wild by the women of her neighborhood, who clucked about it and wondered why Attilio—he had money enough from his contracting business—didn’t marry again to provide her with a mother. She was pretty, they agreed, too pretty for her own good. And she picked out her own clothes and why couldn’t Attilio see that she got them too tight over* her bust and her behind?
She had already had dates with boys in the neighborhood. The dates thus far had included movies and school dances, canned beer, drunk warm and daringly in the back seat of an automobile, and love-making carried on in the same place. The love-making had been mild at first; lately there had been panting efforts to touch her fine breasts and to put hot hands on her slim bare legs. She had not, thus far, permitted it to go beyond that point although she had been aware of a growing desire of her own. Fear of her father and her four brothers stopped her. They adored her, the single woman in their house, and they would have killed the boy involved if she got into trouble. Beyond that, some faint vestiges of the chastity urged by the nuns at the convent school remained with her.
One day she had stopped after school for a magazine. On her way out of the drugstore she nearly bumped into a man not much taller than she.
He caught at her arm to steady her and said, “Sorry, Miss—” and then paused to stare at her. She was accustomed to such a reaction by this time and knew that he would now make a pass. She had two reactions of her own for these occasions. She would adopt an air of cold contempt, or she would smile. ‘
“Let me buy you a cup of coffee,” he said.
She had meant to use contempt. He was small and she liked taller boys. But he was older than the boys of her own crowd and very well dressed. Clothes-conscious herself, she liked that.«She said, “All right.”
It developed that his name was Eddie Mason and that he was at the track, an expression that puzzled her briefly until she realized that he meant the race track which operated just outside Providence.
“I’ve got three mounts tomorrow,” he said. “How would you like to come out to the track and watch?”
Not for the world would she have admitted that she had to go to school. “Sure,” she said.
It further developed that he had a new car and that he liked to dance. Before they separated she agreed to meet him later in the evening on the corner of the street where she lived. They would go to the roadhouse where Tommy Dorsey was playing a one-night stand.
She had never been to a roadhouse; she knew that her father would refuse to let her go if she asked. At supper she said that she was going to the movies with Frances Adiano, a rather plain girl who worshiped her and whom she treated with a casual contempt.
It was not only the day of the big name bands, it was a day of big songs. “I’ll Never Smile Again,” and “String of Pearls.” Louise Palaggi was fascinated by the music and the surroundings. She had discovered a new world that she never proposed to leave.
Later, in Eddie Mason’s car, she learned the price of living in such a world. She paid it, if not cheerfully, at least without more than token protest.
Her father would be waiting up, so Eddie left her a block from the house. While she walked that block she rehearsed the attitude she would use when she walked in. She was completely aware of the strength of her position in the Palaggi home; she had developed a naivete to center the attentions of her father and her four brothers on herself and away from any infractions of the few family rules that applied to her. But it was almost two o’clock in the morning, and she knew she would have to use a different tactic.
Attilio and her brother Dominick were waiting for her in the kitchen. The old man had drawn his trousers on over the heavy winter underwear that he wore to bed. His white hair was rumpled and his eyes were reddened with weariness and worry. Dominick, Louise’s oldest brother, sat at the table, his arms folded across his chest. His eyes were hot and sullen. She was more frightened of him than of her father although, queerly, she sensed that he loved her more than her other brothers.
He stood up and pushed his father back when the old man would have risen. “Where have you been all night?” he demanded. “And don’t lie about being at the Adianos’. We talked with Frances.”
She was thankful that she had not tried the old approach, the innocent smile. Dominick, she thought, would have slapped her if she had.
Her one defense was attack. “You’re not my father,” she said. “If pa wants to know where I was, he’ll ask me.
Attilio looked up at her. “I ask,” he said tiredly. “Where you been, Louise, till such a time?”
She said contritely, “I’m sorry I’m so late, Pa. Some of the other kids got up a crowd to go dancing. I didn’t think we’d be so late.”
Dominick was watching her closely, looking at her clothes. He asked more quietly, “You all right, Louise? Nothing happened?”
She said angrily, “You see, Pa? He acts as if I was a whore or something just because I stayed out a little with the kids. He’s got no right!”
She had, as she had planned, made the issue not her lateness but Dominick’s criticism of it. Attilio turned to stare at Dominick.
“Such words I hope never to hear my daughter use,” he said, “But she is right. Dominick, never say again to me that Louise is a bad girl.”
Dominick and his brothers still treated the head of the family with Old Country deference. Dominick, who had said nothing of the sort, stood up angrily. “All right, Pa,” he said bitterly. “If it was my say I’d give her a licking.”
The old man said, “Is not your say. I am the head of this house.”
Later, in her bedroom, Louise felt a little sorry for Dominick. He would be mad for a couple of days. Then he would bring her a present and make up. She thought, before she went to sleep, of the fun she would have at the race track with Eddie Mason. Thinking of Mason, she felt the last small twinge of conscience about what they had done in the back seat of his automobile. She could have stopped him if she really had wanted to. She hadn’t wanted to and now that it was over it didn’t seem such a terrible and mysterious thing. Forgetting the pain.
Eddie picked her up at noon, by prearrangement.
She had started from the house as if to go to school and spent the morning in the library. He had another man with him, a stocky man in his thirties with a loud voice and shrewd, piggish eyes.
“This is my agent,” Mason said. “Herb Clark.”
Herb would stay with her, it developed, during the races. When Mason had seated her in a box seat he gave her two fifty-dollar bills. “Have a ball, kid,” he said. “But don’t bet on any of the pigs I’m riding.”
Herb said, when Mason was gone, “You better let me bet that money for you if you decide you like something, kid. The mutuel clerk might ask you how old you are. How old are you, anyway?”
“Eighteen,” she said. She didn’t like Herb. He was too patronizing. “And I’ve bet for myself before.”
She hadn’t. She had never been to the track before, but she knew about betting from hearing her brothers talking about it. In the first race she bet five dollars on a favorite. The horse ran second. She told Herb that she had bet ten and shrewdly put five in her purse. In the second race she bet a horse that he picked, betting ten dollars this time. The horse won, paying her more than a hundred dollars, and she changed her mind about Herb. When he offered to buy her a drink, she accepted. They drank cold beer at the mezzanine bar where the crowd was thick and the bartender had little chance to pay attention to her apparent age.
When Eddie joined them after the sixth race—he had no more mounts for the day—she was more than two hundred dollars ahead and was becoming shrilly drunk.
Herb, winking at Eddie, said, “We ought to get on out of here before the last race.”
The ride toward Providence with the windows of the car open sobered her to the point where she realized the danger in facing her family—particularly the suspicious Dominick—with the smell of beer on her. They would, all of them, be working until dark on one of her father’s construction jobs. She got into the house before they returned and went to her room, closing and locking the door. When, one by one, they came to knock softly on the door and inquire was she all right, she reassured them that she just didn’t feel very well and that she would be up after a while. Turning away, they nodded wisely to each other. Louise, they told each other, was growing up. Probably this was her time of the month.
She saw Eddie Mason almost daily after that but she never again made the mistake of coming in after midnight, which had been established as her curfew. On the third date he asked her if she had a friend that she could get for Herb Clark so that they could double date. Louise had never completely outworn her original dislike for Clark and she was still a little frightened by him. Her first impulse was to say no, she didn’t know any girl who would go out with the agent. She rejected the impulse lest Eddie think it odd that she knew no girls. “Sure,” she said. “For tomorrow night.”
Eddie nodded. “Just don’t bring no rube,” he said. “Herb—well, you know him.”
In the morning she went to the Adiano house. Frances was in the kitchen, washing dishes. She was almost seventeen, a coarse-haired, dark-skinned girl. She did have a good figure. She was too happy to see Louise to be surprised at the visit. Usually she had to seek Louise out.
Louise had made up a careful little lie about Clark and Mason. “You’ll like them,” she explained. “They’re not like the boys around here.”
Frances was doubtful. Her family was deeply religious; she doubted that they would let her go out with strangers.
Louise ridiculed her. “You don’t have to tell them,” she mocked.
In the face of her ridicule, Frances agreed to meet her later in the evening. They would go, it had been agreed, to a drive-in movie.
Herb and Eddie picked Louise up first. Herb was curious about Frances, wanting to know not what she looked like but, “If she knew the score.”
If she admitted that Frances was a quiet, religious girl with practically no experience with men, Herb would be furious. Eddie would also resent Louise’s selection of Frances. In full knowledge of what Herb meant by asking if Frances knew the score, Louise said, “Sure she does, even if she don’t act like it.”
She watched Herb closely when they met Frances. He did not seem to be disappointed at her lack of prettiness. When they were parked in the far reaches of the drive-in—there were no individual loud-speakers then, only one great one that drowned out all conversation—she could feel the vibration of a struggle in the back seat over and above the disturbance she and Eddie were making. She heard too the muffled protests and the low cursing of Herb. After a time she heard a cry of pain and a wail from the back seat. Eddie sat up and said, “What the hell?”
Sobbing, Frances broke away from Herb and flung open the door to the back seat. Before she could get away Herb grabbed her and drew her back. “Get going!” he snapped to Eddie. When they were clear of the range of the loud-speaker Frances’ sobbing quieted some. She moaned to Louise, “He did it to me. He did it to me, Louise!”
The two men let them out a block away from Frances’ house. When they stopped the car, Herb looked curiously at Louise. “You bitch,” he said, and then they drove off.
Frances had by this time stopped her moaning. Louise, out of a new fear, said, “You better not tell, Frances. It would only make things worse.”
She had to argue the point for several minutes before she convinced Frances; even then she had little hope that the other girl would not run immediately to her parents.
She lived in fear for the next two days but there was no word from Frances’ parents. Going to market in the morning, she saw Frances herself, white-faced, but they did not speak. On the following afternoon, when she was beginning to hope that nothing would come of the incident at the drive-in, Louise came home to find her brother Dominick sitting at the kitchen table staring moodily into space.
“You’re home early, Dom,” she said brightly. “Sick?”
He stood up. “Frances Adiano went to confession this morning,” he said flatly. “The priest told her she better tell her folks what happened to her the night she was out with you.”
Louise backed against the kitchen sink. “It wasn’t my fault,” she whimpered.
Dominick said something obscene in Italian. “They are going to send her away,” he said. “You know something, you little bitch? They are going to send her to Boston to her uncle’s house. I’ll tell you something else. Her mother is wearing black for her.” He took two steps toward her and slapped her with his callused hand, knocking her to the floor where she crouched, afraid to cry out. Dominick bent over her, his face contorted. “What am I supposed to say when I see her brother or her father? You tell me that, you hear?” He straightened and wheeled away only to turn back. “The Adianos won’t tell Pa. They’ve got shame for Frances. If he finds out, I think I’ll kill you.”
Louise was sufficiently frightened by the incident to keep to the house for the next week or so. After that she called Eddie at his hotel and arranged to meet him again. By the time the horses moved on to another circuit, taking him with them, she was known in a half a hundred cafes and night clubs on the Hill. She became a pet of the small-time mobsters who congregated in such places. She had money when she needed it. The gamblers in the places she frequented would make small bets for her for luck when they phoned in their own bets. She became skillful at shuffleboard. There was a table in almost every bar and she could challenge the best players on even terms. She did so only when she had to. It was easier to find some half-drunk player who didn’t know her or of her and she did not hesitate to cheat on the scoring when it was possible to do so, confident that her patrons would protect her against any accusations if she was caught. She never went back to school.
Dominick seldom spoke to her. The old man, Attilio, seemed to age overnight and to shrink inward like a winter apple. The other brothers, in their turn, tried to reason with her and they became enraged at her defiance and came to follow Dominick’s example. It was not a happy house.
About a year later, when her reputation was completely shattered, old Attilio fired a drunken laborer. The laborer, frantic with rage, cursed at the old man. When he could not find enough bitter things to say about the old man himself, he screamed, “You think you so much, you! That girl of yours, she is no better than a whore anybody on the Hill can sleep with.”
Dominick had driven a sand truck up in time to catch part of it. He leaped down from the cab without stopping to switch off the motor and was on the man, beating him to the ground in a shuddering huddle before he could say more. The old man turned away without speaking. He went home and never again came on a job. He would sit by the hour in the kitchen, not speaking. He treated Louise, whenever he saw her, as a little girl. When she would come in stupidly drunk, he never seemed to notice.
More and more often she began to stay away from home. For a month at a time she would have a room in a hotel. She made the winter tour of Florida with the race track crowd. When she came back after being gone three months, Attilio greeted her as if she were a child again and had just come home from school. A pattern was established that lasted until she was in her thirties.
Several weeks before she met Alvin Morlock for the first time, an icy fact was brought home to Louise. She was getting old. She had been sitting in a bar listening to two youths boldly discussing the women in the place. They had started with two girls at the far end of the bar and had worked their way back and she had complacently waited until they came to her. “There’s something,” they would say. “She could put her shoes under my bed any time.” She had waited while they had discussed the woman next to her. Then one of the youths had said, “She was a real doll once. My brother used to go out with her.” He was obviously referring to her, Louise Palaggi, and she could scarcely believe what she was hearing. She ordered another drink; while she drank it she remembered the spans of three and four days without a date that were becoming common now, and which she had put down as chance or coincidence. That night she studied her face and body carefully. The faint haze of black hair on her upper lip was becoming increasingly more difficult to hide. There were wrinkles at the corners of her eyes and mouth and the skin of her throat had become papery. There was a definite thickening of her hips and lower body and the breasts that had been so firm were softening. She was familiar with the dramatically sudden aging of Italian women; she had seen it a hundred times. Almost overnight a red-lipped provocative bride could become a shapeless, sexless old woman.
She could fight it but it would be at best a delaying action. Frightened, she began a deliberate search for security. She had sense enough to know that she would not find it in the sphere in which she then moved. She began a careful preparation by renewing certain old friendships. This was not easily done. The girls—women, now—of her youth had to be carefully approached. She had openly and contemptuously violated the standards by which they lived, and it took every trace of a charm that had been considerable to overcome their wary distrust. But it had to be done. They had their clubs and their dances. To the dances came the retired mail carriers and the widowed grocers, the eager greenhorn paisans from the old country, and the substantial middle-aged men newly loosened by death from the silver cord that was so strong in Italian people.
She had felt that she could be, with ease, the belle of the local dances and she was frightened again when she was little more than a wallflower at her first discreet appearance. She studied the younger women, tight-breasted and slim-waisted, who competed for the available men and shrewdly concluded that she was overmatched. This first sortie took place at a dance sponsored by a parish womens’ club. She conceded that she would have to lower her standards. Her visit to the Balboa Club on the night that she met Alvin Morlock for the first time was the result of that concession. On that night old Attilio had said to her, “You my good girl, Louise. You don’t be out too late.”
Gurney: Since counsel for the defense is obviously going to persist in obstructing any efforts to get the testimony of the father of the deceased woman into the record, we ask that Attilio Palaggi be dismissed and that Thomas Dodson be recalled to the stand.
Cameron: Mr. Palaggi may stand down. Thomas Dodson will be recalled. The bailiff will caution witness that he is still under oath.
Gurney: Mr. Dodson, getting back to the little excursion you and the accused made to Providence in search of women—
Liebman: Your Honor, this is a travesty of proper cross-examination.
Cameron: The Court agrees. Mr. Gurney, you have been repeatedly warned. Please save any further inferences for your summation.
Gurney: Very well. Mr. Dodson, how long did you and Morlock stay at the Hotel Compton?
Dodson: A little over a week. Through New Year’s Eve. Then we had to get back for our classes.
Gurney: Did Morlock see Louise Palaggi frequently during that period?
Dodson: I suppose he did. He didn’t spend much time with me.
Gurney: He spoke to you of her?
Gurney: Did you go out in their company at any time during that week?
Dodson: No. I didn’t see her again…
Gurney: Never mind. You didn’t go out with them. How did he speak of her?
Dodson: I don’t know what you mean.
Gurney: As a conquest? Was he in love with her?
Liebman: Objection. Any answer would have to be speculative.
Gurney: But he did see her every night during the time you stayed at the Hotel Compton?
Gurney: Getting back to that first night you took the women to your rooms, were you intimate with your companion on that occasion?
Liebman: Will the court instruct the witness that he doesn’t have to answer incriminating questions? He is not on trial here.
Cameron: You understand that you don’t have to answer, Mr. Dodson?
Dodson: I understand. Under the circumstances I’d rather not answer.
Gurney: Your privilege, Mr. Dodson. You wouldn’t know, of course, if the accused was intimate with his companion? When they went to his room, I suppose they could have been playing gin rummy or discussing poetry.
Liebman: You can’t attack the character of the accused by innuendo, Gurney.
Gurney: What character? You think they were playing gin rummy? Morlock knew what he was getting into and I’m proving it.
Cameron: We will have no more of this bickering. Counsel will address his remarks to the Court.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Alvin Morlock. Re-cross-examination of Thomas Dodson.
Louise Palaggi had rejected Morlock on the night of their first meeting only after careful consideration of the effect of such a rejection, and not out of any particular repugnance at his drunkenness. Within ten minutes of his approach to her table, she had decided that he was adequate for her purposes. He was personally presentable, which was a plus. He had a secure job with a reasonable income—she supposed that professors made reasonable incomes. More than that, she became aware of an odd liking for him, a tenderness aroused by his false boldness in striking up an acquaintance. The kind of boldness she was accustomed to was by no means false. She would have to be careful, though. He was sensitive. Quiet, studious. He would be studious, being a professor, according to the fat one, Dodson. Dodson was trouble, though. She would have to wean Morlock away from Dodson; who was noisy and a drunkard but who would certainly not be fooled by Louise Palaggi; he would never stand quietly by while Morlock married her.
While Morlock was still coherent she had invited him to Christmas dinner, a gamble that was partly forced on her. If they went to any dance or night club on Federal Hill she would be greeted with a familiarity that would undoubtedly alarm Morlock. The gamble had its advantages. Morlock was cultured, educated. She was neither but she could surround herself with the trappings of both and let him draw his own conclusions while she kept quiet and let him speak.
The next day she cleaned house, with her father happily puttering after her. There were very few books in the house, and books, to her, were the very symbol of education. Dominick had a library card; he used it to borrow Westerns occasionally. She used the card to draw half a dozen books from the library, making her selection from a catalogue on the library bulletin board listing the great classics of the century and adding a book of collected poems. All the books except the poetry volume she left in the living room; that one she took to her bedroom.
Music, too, was culture, and here she had weapons of her own. She had been brought up in a home where arias were sung before breakfast; she had absorbed Verdi and Rossini with the air she breathed when this had been a happy house. Old Attilio had records of a great many of the operas, and Dominick had bought the old man a good record player.
There remained the matter of dinner. She solved it by buying steaks and a packaged salad. They would have wine, of course; there was plenty of it in the house.
The final problem was her father. Dominick was out of town and the other brothers were married and living in homes of their own. She could send the old man to spend the night with any of them or she could let him stay, which would be more in keeping with the impression of chasteness that she wished to create. She studied him objectively. He was withered and old, but with his immaculate white mustache and his silky white hair he was not undistinguished looking. Nothing to be ashamed of. And he could be an asset in conversation if the talk turned—and she would see that it did—to music. Early enough she could send him off to bed.
On Christmas day she bathed and dressed carefully. She put on a new girdle that bound her thickening hips and stomach—and after some thought took it off again. In case it became necessary to use her ultimate weapon, she wanted her body to seem soft and desirable. She put on a black dress that accented her white skin and complemented her thick black hair.
She had an alert mind and a retentive memory when she chose to use them. When she was dressed she picked up the volume of poems and rimed the pages until she found one that appeared to be shorter than most of the others. She lit a cigarette and began reading the poem half aloud. When she had finished it, she read it again, glancing away from the page from time to time. At the end of an hour she could recite it verbatim from memory.
She memorized the name of the poet and looked in the table of contents for additional poems by him; the names of these she also memorized. She looked at the clock on her dresser. It was six o’clock. She was thoroughly bored with the poem but she could relax. She did not delude herself that she could carry on the deception for long. She did not intend that it should take long. She had already decided that she would marry Morlock, and she had dedicated herself to the project with all the skill she had.
Morlock threaded his way along sidewalks still crowded with displays of Christmas trees and greenery. A light snow was falling and carols echoed from loudspeakers in a dozen cafes. He had started out to keep his appointment with Louise Palaggi primarily from a sense of obligation—she had been very understanding—secondarily from a desire to escape Dodson who had, in his own words, scored with the woman he had picked up at the dance, and who was at this moment happily getting ready to go out with Snapper and try to duplicate the feat. Morlock could barely remember what Louise looked like. Now, with the old familiar nostalgia of the carols in his ears, he was rather happy that he actually had a date; that he would spend an evening with a woman who apparently liked him and who was obviously not cheap. Hadn’t she refused him her body? Still, he felt a faint embarrassment at the prospect of facing her after the episode in the hotel room.
The Palaggi house was high and square and homely with its icing of fretwork—a three-decker, they called such houses on Federal Hill. There was a lamp in the window with a red silk shade. It made a warm glow in the darkness. Morlock rang the bell and Louise Palaggi opened the door.
“You’re just on time,” she said.
Morlock stamped his feet to rid them of loose snow and followed her into the house, making some inane comment about the weather.
Louise took his coat and introduced him to her father, trying at the same time to put him at ease. She asked the old man if he wouldn’t play some records, knowing that he would play some of his operas. Culture. She excused herself to bring wine and again to start dinner so that Morlock’s impression was that she was a domestic woman making a fuss over him.
He was naive, but not a fool. Looking about the room he saw the books, recognized the second-hand look of library property and glanced at the library form in the back of several of the books which showed that they had been withdrawn that same day. A score or a hundred students had tried variations of the same strategy. Morlock, recognizing the transparent little scheme, found it touching and pathetic rather than sneaking and hypocritical, and he was rather nattered that she had gone to such lengths to make a good impression on him. (He was to wonder, much later, if she had actually anticipated this reaction, if she had plotted such a double trap.)
She wasted little time, when dinner was over, in sending the old man off to bed. She had managed, by this time, to augment the impression planted the night she met Morlock that she had spent most of her youth caring for her father. Old Attilio, dazed with happiness at the sudden warmth in this cold and empty house, left them willingly enough.
When they were alone in the living room, she came over to sit beside him on the lumpy old couch. The lamp with the red shade was at her left shoulder. It softened the lines of her face and flattered her; she was conscious of this. Morlock, watching her as she crossed the room, was aware of the womanliness of her body. He was by now full of a sense of well-being and he felt sorry for Dodson who was undoubtedly drunk by this time.
“About the other night,” he said. “I hope you weren’t offended.”
She was surprised again by her own tenderness for Morlock. “Don’t feel bad about it,” she said. “You had a lot to drink. I suppose I asked for it, going up to your room with you like that. You must have thought I was pretty easy.”
He protested that he hadn’t thought anything of the kind.
Louise would have liked to keep the conversation revolving about what had happened that night because of the relationship it established; but she realized he actually meant it, that he was genuinely ashamed of his actions, and she shifted the subject adroitly.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t have invited your friend tonight,” she apologized. She added, after a swift analysis of Morlock’s shame balanced against the certain factor that Dodson would not have been ashamed at all, “You don’t seem at all like him.” She left it hanging-. If Morlock wanted to make something of it, it was there.
She was growing more confident. What little self-conscious awe she had felt over the fact that he was a college graduate and a professional man had dissolved completely.
Morlock, caught between a vague sense of loyalty to Dodson and a human desire to accept the implied compliment, wavered. “We’re not very great friends,” he explained. “We both happened to have no plans for the holidays so we came in to Providence together.” He felt somewhat a Judas, until he reflected that Dodson was probably quite happy with whatever he was doing at the moment.
After Dodson had been dismissed, Morlock found himself enjoying his date with Louise Palaggi immensely. She had spent her adult life catering to men; tougher men, more sophisticated men than Morlock whom she found very easy to please. When, after quite a lot of wine, he awkwardly put his arms around her she yielded briefly before she pulled away.
“It isn’t that I don’t want to, Al,” she said. “We’re both grown up. But I’m not cheap and I don’t want you to think that I am.”
Morlock was—later—more pleased than displeased by the refusal. Going back to the hotel when the evening was over, with his footstep* ringing in the cold air, he reflected that for all the pretense with the library books she was really very intelligent, very good company. And she had had to take care of the old man all these years. She, like himself, had missed something out of life.
In the days that followed he saw her almost constantly. He met her brother Dominick and had the impression that Dominick was being put on parade for his inspection. He liked Dominick, who had a reserve that matched his own. When the thought came to him that his company was being taken for granted, he was rather grateful for the sense of belonging.
They did not go out with Dodson and Rosie again. Morlock was embarrassed about this but Dodson was unconcerned. “If you’ve got something lined up,” he said, “good luck.” He stopped laughing and said seriously, “Don’t get in over your head, Al. Rosie’s told me things about that Palaggi woman.”
They spent most of their evenings in the living room. Dominick was seldom home and they had the crowded old room to themselves after the old man was sent off to bed. Morlock came to look forward to the long evenings, feeling pride in being eagerly welcomed, basking in the attention she paid him when he read to her.
Outside of the one poem which she had recited for him (she introduced it by saying, “This is my favorite, Al, by the author of…” just like a movie credit), she had nothing to contribute except her attention, but she made the most of this. She had a trick of resting her chin on her infolded hands and watching his face while he read or talked of what he had read. This, after the long years of bored and indifferent student audiences, was hardly short of intoxicating to Morlock, even while he guessed that her interest was at least partially a pose.
It even occurred to him from time to time that her objective almost had to be marriage. He did not run from the thought. It was almost enough to be wanted that much—on any terms.
Louise, after several evenings of this, was bored with Morlock’s company in spite of her fondness for him. On New Year’s Eve she sent him away early, letting him guess that she was sick. (He was shyly pleased with the delicate intimacy of the hinted revelation and the close relationship the very revelation itself implied.) He left„ feeling quite gallant. When he was safely gone, she changed her dress and called a cab. Far enough from Federal Hill she allowed herself to be picked up in a cafe and thereafter surrendered herself to drinking and to her companion with complete abandon. It was the last time, she promised herself. Afterward she would be faithful to Morlock. After they were married. It did not occur to her that he might not ask her.
Gurney: That will be all for now, Mr. Dodson.
Cameron: Does the defense wish to question witness further?
Liebman: Not at this time.
Gurney: We would now like to introduce two documents which I will ask the Court to admit in evidence as exhibits A and B. I show them to counsel for the defense.
Liebman: I don’t need to see them. I’ve already examined them.
Gurney: The documents, Your Honor, are a true copy of a marriage certificate issued in East Providence, Rhode Island, on January 9 of this year and signed by valid witnesses including Thomas Dodson, and a copy of an insurance—
Liebman: Now wait a minute—they haven’t been admitted as evidence yet. You can’t read them out.
Cameron: Let me have them, Mr. Gurney…. Do you have any objection to their admission as evidence, Mr. Liebman?
Liebman: No. I just didn’t like the way counsel tried to get them in.
Cameron: They will be marked as requested and admitted as evidence.
Gurney: I show them to the jury. They are a marriage certificate dated January 9 of this year and an application to the Dempster Insurance Company for a policy on the life of Louise Palaggi—Louise Morlock, that is—dated January 10. He didn’t waste any time, did he?
Cameron: That comment will be stricken. Mr. Gurney, I will not tolerate another such aside.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Alvin Morlock. Introduction of documentary evidence by Prosecution Attorney Gurney.
Morlock and Dodson drove back to Warfield, the small town in which Ludlow College was located, on New Year’s Day. Morlock had made a tentative agreement with Louise to come to Providence on the following week-end. Dodson was glum and taciturn as he faced the prospect of four more months in the classroom. Classes began two days later.
Morlock was lonesome for the first few days after his return. His room seemed emptier, his evenings longer than they had been before meeting Louise Palaggi. Soon enough the loneliness slipped away and he was guiltily conscious that he had perhaps missed the solitude as much as the companionship. At the end of three days he had already begun to consider various excuses to prevent his going back to Providence on the weekend.
That night, his landlady met him as he came in the door. “You’ve got a visitor,” she said. “I invited her to wait in your room.” The landlady—she knew romance when she saw it—wore a conspiratorial smile.
Morlock muttered, “Thank you,” and hurried to the stairs, uncertain as to whether he was happy or annoyed. The visitor, he was certain, could only be Louise.
She was waiting inside the room. When Morlock entered, she ran to him and threw herself against him. “I got lonesome for you, Al,” she said. “Are you glad I came?”
He remembered to put his arms around her. He was very glad, he told her; he told himself.
Louise had half expected that Morlock would call her during the early part of the week; when he did not she knew that she had overestimated the pull of her sex and that Morlock would probably cancel their date for the week-end. She had been, she decided, a shade too hard to get, and there remained only one thing to do. She would remind Morlock that she was a woman and that he was a man.
Morlock had planned to spend the evening correcting term papers. Now he hastily changed his plans. He called Dodson and arranged to borrow his car. He took Louise to dinner and a movie and drove her back to Providence. When they got out of Dodson’s old car, she took his hand and said, “Come on in, Al.”
When she had hung their coats in a closet she came and sat beside him on the couch. He was aware of the woman softness of her body, and he was convinced now that he had been glad to see her, convinced that he really had been lonely. When he reached for her she came into his arms with an eagerness that matched his own. The night dissolved in a warm bath of sex.
They were married five days later by a Justice of the Peace in East Providence. Dodson stood up for Morlock. Morlock would have liked to have asked the austere Paul Martin, whom he considered a closer friend than Dodson, but he had hesitated out of fear that Martin would not approve of Louise. Louise Palaggi stood alone. Morlock had supposed that there would be a rather elaborate wedding with a traditional Italian reception to follow. Louise explained that since she was marrying him, a non-Catholic, her family chose not to come. He was just as pleased, he told her, and half meant it.
Morlock approached the ceremony with a sort of tender determination. He did not love Louise. She had none of the qualities he had supposed he would look for in a wife. Still, she had an Old World approach to marriage. She would make a home for the two of them. If she was unlike him in intellect, she was like him in that she was alone and lonely. They would make an enduring marriage, he determined, and was a little embarrassed by his own feeling of nobility.
More than any other emotion, Louise felt a warm sense of security. She was a solid married woman with nothing to fear. She would be a good wife. She would cook Morlock’s meals and keep his house clean. Even while she thought this, she had the feeling that they were children playing with dolls and that the whole thing was a game.
On the following day, Morlock, a tidy man in his personal and business habits, stopped at the Bursar’s office to report his marriage’. After the ritual flurry of congratulations by the girls working in the office, a heavy set man with a jovial face approached him.
“I’m Ed Hale,” the man said. “I handle the insurance or the college. You’ll want to increase your own insurance now, and we’ve got this little family policy that the college helps out with.”
“I was going to take care of that later,” Morlock said, wanting time to think about it.
“It won’t take a minute,” Hale said. He went on, bludgeoning Morlock, scenting a commission of a few dollars.
Morlock, already embarrassed by the very nature of his errand to the office, signed the application hurriedly and rushed away.
Gurney: Your name is Anna Carofano?
Mrs. Carofano: That is my name.
Gurney: Are you married?
Mrs. Carofano: Not any more. My husband died three years ago.
Gurney: And you presently operate a rooming house in Warfield, Massachusetts. Is that correct?
Mrs. Carofano: More of the tenement than a rooming house. I’ve got three tenements in the building, not just rooms to rent.
Gurney: I see. Were you acquainted with the deceased?
Mrs. Carofano: You mean, did I know Louise Morlock? Sure, I knew her.
Liebman: If it please the Court, the defense will stipulate that the accused and his wife maintained a residence as man and wife in the tenement house belonging to Mrs. Carofano as of January 13 of this year.
Cameron: Mr. Gurney?
Gurney: We’ll go along with the stipulation. Mrs. Carofano, would you say that they were happy while they were living in your house?
Liebman: Objection, Your Honor. The answer would be argumentative.
Cameron: I think in this case that the witness is reasonably qualified to express an opinion. I think we will let the question stand, Mr. Liebman. Do you wish an exception?
Mrs. Carofano: I don’t know if he was happy or not. She wasn’t.
Gurney: She told you that she wasn’t?
Mrs. Carofano: Sure. A lot of times. He’d come home at night and read a book. She said he never talked to her unless they were having a fight.
Gurney: Did they quarrel frequently?
Mrs. Carofano: Sometimes it would be every night. Then, for a while they’d get along a little better. He was always criticizing her, the way she cooked, the way she kept house. And he never took her anywhere. She said he thought he was too good for her just because he was a teacher at the college.
Liebman: Your Honor, hasn’t this gone far enough?
Cameron: I think the testimony is becoming irrelevant, Mr. Gurney.
Gurney: Yes, sir. Now, Mrs. Carofano, did the accused ever, to your knowledge, strike his wife?
Mrs. Carofano: I don’t know if he did or not. I do know that more than once she was afraid to go home.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Alvin Morlock. Direct Testimony of Anna Carofano.
Morlock and his new wife moved into a hotel for the first few days of their marriage. It was agreed that Louise—Lolly, she liked him to call her—would find an apartment that they could afford. On the fourth night Morlock came home to the hotel to find her dressed and waiting.
“Al,” she told him, “I’ve found a place. I paid a week’s rent and there’s some furniture in it already that we can have. Let’s go and see it right away.”
“Of course,” he said. He was happy to see her excitement. Their marriage had thus far been prosaic. Morlock had fancied himself bringing home little gifts, finding her cooking his meals. This had been impossible in the greenhouse hotel existence. Now, with their own place, it would be different. He could bring Paul Martin home for dinner, a nice little affair with wine and after-dinner brandy. Morlock had never had an after-dinner brandy but he suspected that Paul Martin would be impressed by it.
Lolly seemed so happy at the prospect of moving that Morlock forced himself to hide his shock when they turned a corner and she said triumphantly, “There it is.”
The tenement was ugly, sordid ugly. He had not expected a vine covered cottage; neither had he expected to live in a house that was flanked on one side by a grocery warehouse and on the other by a bar. When they were inside, he tried not to notice the cracked and stained linoleum, the leprous plaster. “It’s nice, Lolly,” he said. “We’ll fix it up in no time at all.” Later, when they left the house to go back to the hotel for the final night, he glanced around him and was struck by the thought that only this neighborhood in all of Warfield resembled Federal Hill in Providence; only this house and a few of its neighbors were architectural cousins to the three-deckers of Lolly’s birthplace.
They bought appliances on credit. Morlock brought home paint and brushes and sandpaper and turpentine, with a little picture in his mind of a magazine cover picturing a young couple restoring an old tumbled down house. On the magazine covers the house had graceful lines—as did the people—and needed only a dash of paint to restore its beauty. The tenement that Lolly had picked for them needed more than paint.
There was a wooden wainscoting in the kitchen. It was about five feet high and covered with a Joseph’s coat of a dozen layers of paint. Under all this paint, Morlock explained, there was undoubtedly fine walnut. (It was cypress.) This would be their first project. They would strip off the old paint and wax the fine wood. The boards in the wainscoting were eight inches wide.
There had been some excitement for Louise in the first few days of their marriage. When the excitement was burned out, there came the novelty of moving to the new tenement. Other women, she was aware, would have been content, happy, even, with the project of fixing up a home. She waited impatiently for the miracle to happen to her. The wooden boards of the wainscoting were symbolic. Starting with a section of two boards she began scraping and sanding. It was hard work and the turpentine raised welts on her hands. She stayed at it for most of a day, not quite knowing what would be revealed to her when she had stripped off the old paint. When Morlock came home he was delighted.
“It’s beautiful, Lolly,” he exclaimed. “Look at the grain of the wood.”
Actually she had been disappointed. It was, as he had said, wood. She privately thought it had looked better with paint on it. On the following day she did two more boards and thereafter one at a time, sporadically. At the time Morlock went to trial for her murder, less than one wall was done.
For years, food had been to her something that you ate so that you would not be drinking on an empty stomach. But after they bought the stove and moved into the tenement, she made a real effort to plan and cook picture-book meals for Morlock. He came home one night to pot roast and mashed potatoes, broccoli and endive salad. The very next night he came home to cold pot roast and canned peas. The cooking phase lasted days less than the restoration phase.
There came a period when she became addicted to watching television, watching the day by day adventures of the heroines of the daytime serials. Other women, she knew, found them of absorbing interest. She convinced herself that she watched out of a sense of duty to Alvin. After just three weeks of marriage, she was having to fight hard to keep up any sort of pretense at being a happy housewife. One afternoon she walked toward the television set and stood staring down at the screen where a stereotyped heroine was weeping over her lover lost. Louise said out loud, “Bull—,” and reached down and cut the set off. She was pleased with the word. She had carefully avoided swearing and vulgarisms except of the mildest kind since her marriage. She said it again. Then she took her coat from the bedroom closet and walked briskly from the tenement.
The bar and grill adjacent to their tenement was called Fagin’s and the words, Ladies Invited, were stenciled on the front window. Louise walked in without hesitation. It was dim and smelled pungently of beer. A kaleidoscope of a juke box sang softly to itself in a corner of the room. She felt a long-missing contentment as she walked toward the bar and sat on a high stool. There was a sign behind the bar that had the words Bartender on Duty in red enamel over a small piece of slate. On the slate was chalked, Jimmy.
“I’ll have a beer, Jimmy,” she said pleasantly.
When it came, she sipped it slowly while she looked around the long room. There were half a dozen men drinking quietly at the bar. Four men were clustered about a shuffleboard table opposite the bar, noisily arguing about the game. There was one woman in the room and Louise automatically measured her. She was plain and quite fat; her face was raddled and her eyes vacuous. Louise discarded her.
When her beer was half gone the bartender brought a fresh glass and nodded toward the shuffleboard table. “On Billy Harrison, Miss,” he said. She glanced swiftly along the bar. Jimmy, the bartender, had refilled all the glasses. Billy, whoever he was, had bought for the bar and was consequently not making a play for her. Nevertheless, she lifted the glass and turned and nodded in the direction of the shuffleboard players.
There had been a slight lessening of talk, of laughter, and a withdrawal when she walked in at the door and moved toward a stool. She had expected it and she had sensed it. When she had called the bartender by name, there had been a relaxation. Not complete but a relaxation when it became apparent that she was wife to no man in this place and was not here as a troublemaker. When she turned to salute the drink buyer, the noisy talk and laughter in the room returned to its former level. With the gesture she identified herself to these people as a fellow traveler if not a friend. A middle-aged man with a soft hat on at the far end of the bar took out a scratch sheet and began to study it. Now she was home. These were people she understood, friendly people who never read books and who cursed when they felt like it and used dirty words.
A young man took the stool beside her. He wore tight jeans and a gray sweatshirt. His hair was dark and curly and his eyes brown and beautifully clear. He smiled and nodded his head in the direction of the shuffleboard. “You play?” he asked.
“A little,” she said, returning the smile and wishing that she had dressed more carefully.
“Want to challenge?” he asked.
“All right,” she agreed. She was familiar with the Unwritten law that bar society had developed to keep traffic moving at the shuffleboard table. The winners of any game must accept any challenges or forfeit the table. The bar had a law of its own—not unwritten. The losing team must buy a round for the winners.
“My name’s Eddie,” he said. She remembered with a sharpness that other Eddie who had been a jockey.
“Call me Louise,” she said happily.
“Okay, Louise. Try hard now. I’m on the tab already. You play on Billy Harrison’s end. He’s half stiff.”
She felt vastly protective toward this handsome young man. She would save the game for them both. “Don’t worry,” she said confidently.
They played and won the first game, with Eddie shouting down encouragement from his end of the table. “Nice shot, Louise.” And, “Way to go, Louise.” She barely remembered in time not to show too much skill, not to beat Billy Harrison too badly. By the end of the game she was indelibly Louise to the other players and to all the patrons of the bar.
They were challenged and won again. Eddie was now openly boasting of her, introducing her to every newcomer as his partner as proudly as if she were his wife. More proudly. They won beer and they bought beer and Louise glowed, happier than she had been since that afternoon when she heard the two young punks refer to her as having once been something to see. Well, she was something to see right now, wasn’t she?
She planned shrewdly a means to protect these golden hours. If she were home at five there would be time to get Al’s meal ready and straighten up the house a little. Then tomorrow afternoon—every afternoon—she could come to this place. As long as she left in time to get his supper ready. That left the mornings and the evenings. She could sleep late in the mornings. But she began already to begrudge Morlock the evenings, especially now at four o’clock on the afternoon of the day that she discovered Fagin’s.
When they lost a game—“My fault, Louise,” Eddie grimly admitted—they went back to the bar, taking stools beside the man with the scratch sheet. Louise had noted the men who came in and bought one or two drinks and talked briefly with this man, and she had placed him in his proper category. A bookmaker. She did not feel clever about her discovery. There would be one in a place such as this as a matter of course, and she accepted him as being the bookie as matter of factly as she accepted the bartender as being a bartender or the ladies’ room as being a ladies’ room.
More out of a desire to impress Eddie with her sophistication—she thought of it as knowing the score—than any urge to gamble, Louise asked the bookmaker, “Are they still broadcasting the fifth race at the Fairgrounds?”
He studied her briefly and then nodded. “If you want something, you’ll have to put it in right away.”
“Let me take your Armstrong,” she asked. When he handed it to her, she glanced quickly at the entries with Eddie looking over her shoulder. She fumbled in her purse for money. “Five to win on War Command,” she said casually.
Eddie asked Jimmy to turn the radio on. He said anxiously to Louise, “I don’t know, partner. That favorite looks hard to beat.”
“He can’t carry that much weight,” she reassured him.
War Command broke fast out of the starting gate. He was in front by three lengths down the back stretch, by five turning for home and by seven lengths under the wire. Eddie, throughout the race, moaned and pleaded, “Stay out there. Come on, baby, stay out there!” Louise watched him with a tolerant, almost maternal smile.
The man in the soft hat gave Louise twenty-eight dollars. She handed ten of it to Eddie. “We’re partners,” she said when he made a token protest. Then she bought a round of drinks for the bar. She felt confident, sure of herself, but she watched the clock. At fifteen minutes before five she got up to go.
Her friends mourned. Couldn’t she stay for another one? How about one more game, Louise?
She walked toward the door, a woman of determination and dignity. Jimmy, the bartender, called anxiously, “We’ll see you again, Louise?”
At the door, she turned and smiled. “Sure,” she said. “See you tomorrow.”
Except for the prospect of a long evening with Al, she was quite happy.
Louise hurried up the granite steps to their tenement. Mrs. Carofano, the landlady, was sweeping the front hall on the first floor. Louise smiled and started up the stairs. Mrs. Carofano called after her, “What’s the rush? Stop and have a cup of coffee with me.”
Louise smiled again and shook her head. “I have to get Al’s supper,” she said, feeling vaguely like a martyr.
In the kitchen she hastily set out a meal. She waited, in some apprehension, for Morlock to come in. She retained some of the Old World attitude toward marriage that was prevalent on Federal Hill. Women—wives—did not go out drinking in public cafes in the afternoon. She considered chewing gum or brushing her teeth to eliminate the odor of beer and decided against it. Let him find out. It would be interesting to see what he would do about it. She knew what her father or her brother, Dominick, would have done. What they would have done, Morlock didn’t do. He came in and kissed her absently, not noticing the odor if any remained. Louise did not feel relieved but resentful.
Morlock had a habit of reading while he ate. He had given it up in the first days of their marriage but had lately resumed it. She watched him as he ate. After supper he would read the paper or correct student examinations, seldom speaking. He would probably stay up until long after she, in boredom, had gone to bed.
Morlock had tried, at first, to make conversation as he had made it in the parlor of Louise’s home on Federal Hill, but it had been one-sided. Louise was inconceivably uninformed about the subjects in which Morlock was interested. When he tried, as he had planned earlier, to bring the arts to her, he found that she preferred to turn the television set on—with the volume turned up high enough to prevent conversation.
They had had their first serious quarrel several days before Louise’s excursion to Fagin’s Bar. She was, it had developed, an atrocious housekeeper. Morlock had gone to the bathroom to wash before eating. When he had wet the facecloth and brought it up to his forehead, he had been revolted by the sour odor of curdled soap. He had been angry enough to say, “For God’s sake, Lolly, the least you could do is rinse a few things out once in a while.”
She had promptly sailed into battle, almost happily it seemed to him, beating at him with words he would not have believed she knew. Out of his anger he had exploded with a list of her shortcomings. With every one that he mentioned she had responded with a torrent of vileness.
For two weeks after her first visit, Louise spent her afternoons in Fagin’s Bar. It developed that Anna Carofano was also a regular at the place and Louise complained to her many times. “He don’t give a damn,” she said bitterly. “I cook his meals and keep his house clean and all he does is sit there with his damn books.” The fact that she neither kept the house clean nor went to any pains to cook a decent meal, Louise considered beside the point. Nevertheless, during the two-week period she carefully left the bar in time to be home when Morlock arrived. She let it be known that she did this out of fear of her husband, getting satisfaction out of the stature this impression of her as an abused wife gave.
One day she didn’t bother to leave in time to be home when Morlock arrived. She had been engrossed in a gin rummy game in which she had won heavily, and she had been drinking whisky rather than her usual beer.
She came in the house an hour after Morlock had arrived. Before she opened the door she armed herself with a defensive anger in case he chose to make something of her lateness.
Morlock was sitting at the kitchen table. Hearing her, not looking up, he said mildly, “Hello, Lolly. Been to a movie?”
She stood in the doorway, swaying slightly. After a moment she said something so obscene that Morlock was briefly stunned. When he did not immediately respond, she repeated the phrase. This time he rose from his chair, his face pale.
“You’re drunk,” he said.
“What if I am, professor?” she said, raising her voice. “You’re too good to get drunk, I suppose. What about that night in Providence when you puked all over your bed?”
“Lolly,” he said. “For God’s sake.”
She stared vaguely at him, remembering that she was furious but completely unable to recall what she was furious about or if there was anything to be furious about. She clutched at the first thing that came into her mind. “Books,” she said. She made it sound as if she had spat. “You and your books. You want me to tell you what you can do with your damn books?”
Morlock, defenseless in the face of her irrational anger, said, “That’s enough, Lolly. Let me help you to bed now and we’ll talk about it in the morning.”
She was slightly appeased now that she had his attention. She held up another grievance, selecting it like a candy from a box. “A movie,” she said bitterly. “That’s what we do around here for a big time. Why don’t anyone ever come to see us? Your fat friend Dodson, he’s the only one you bring home. Well—him.”
“Lolly,” he pleaded, “keep your voice down. Let me help you to bed. I’ll make you some coffee and bring it to you.”
Her mood suddenly changed. “All right,” she said. She giggled. “You’ll have to help me off with my clothes.”
*In the bedroom she lay deliberately limp on the bed while he tugged and hauled to undress her and to get her nightgown on. When he was finished, she pulled him to her and kissed him wetly. Morlock pulled away, and then, fearing that she would sense his revulsion and become furious again, looked for an excuse.
“I’ll go make the coffee,” he said. “We’ll have a cup of coffee and a cigarette together first.” He hated himself for the hypocrisy, but when he had gone to the kitchen he moved as deliberately as he could, hoping that she would fall asleep.
This was the second of their quarrels. Thereafter they were repeated almost weekly. On the occasion of a later quarrel Morlock became furious himself; a mistake he did not repeat. Her coarseness, the obscenity of the accusations she made, completely shattered him. He could not match her in either volume or vileness. After that quarrel they made no pretense of making up.
She began to go out in the evenings, usually pretending that she was going to a movie with Anna Carofano. Morlock was not fooled by the pretense, but he did not particularly care. After three months of marriage, he preferred solitude. As an escape from the sordid atmosphere of the tenement, he began to dwell more and more in the past. He became aware of a longing to return to the scenes of his boyhood.
After the humiliating time with the Dean and the appliance company and the loan agency, he decided to implement the longing. On the next Sunday he arose early. Lolly was still asleep; he dressed quietly and went out to have coffee in a restaurant. In the afternoon, after they had had dinner, he decided, he would try once more to talk with Lolly. Their marriage, on its present basis, was impossible. He considered divorce or separation only as remote extremes. He had not married Lolly for love. He could not exactly define now why he had married her. There had been the flattery of her attention on those long evenings in the three-decker house on the Hill. There had been the warmth, after the empty years, of being expected and wanted. There is some Pygmalion in every person. He had recognized her lack of culture and wanted the egotistic satisfaction of developing her mind. The cliche was repugnant but it was a part of the marriage. There had been sex, of course. And still another part of the marriage was—sympathy? Knowing these things and admitting them, he could not now divorce her or leave her when she seemed so badly in need of help.
He finished his coffee and left the restaurant to walk through streets, dozing in Sunday somnolence, to Dodson’s rooming house. Dodson’s bedraggled convertible was parked at the curb. He knocked at the door and entered. Inside the building he walked through the old-fashioned, high-ceilinged hall to Dodson’s room.
Dodson was asleep. He woke him. “Tom,” he said, “I’d like to borrow your car for a couple of hours.”
Dodson said sleepily, “Go ahead. The keys are on the dresser.” He asked more alertly, “Anything wrong, Al?”
“No. I just want to take a little drive and do some thinking.”
Dodson turned over and went back to sleep. Morlock took the keys and went out to the old LaSalle. Dodson kept the engine in good running order and it started easily. Morlock headed out of War field on the road to South Danville, the town where he had been born, where he had been a boy, and where he had not returned in fifteen years although it was only a short ride from Warfield.
He had a half-formed idea of driving through the town and seeing how much of it he remembered. He did not intend to visit Abram’s Rock until he stopped at a filling station for gas; then, remembering that it was only half a mile away, he had a tremendous urge to see it again.
The filling station attendant was helpful. “Sure,” he said. “There’s still a road leading right up close to the rock; but you’d better not try to make it in the car. The mud would be right up to the axles.”
Could he, Morlock asked, park in back of the station and walk in? He could. He got out of the old LaSalle and started walking toward the great gray boulder. He felt an odd excitement as he entered the grove surrounding the rock. The air was warm and turbulent with the promise of spring. Abram’s Rock seemed as awesomely solid, as overwhelmingly huge as it had in the vanished years. Morlock, slowly climbing its flank, remembered the solace he had found here as a child. Even now the rock had that power. Here he had played with Marianna Cruz. Here he had come when he was troubled. Here he had made plans and dreamed dreams. The plans had been fruitless and the dreams had been just dreams. But on Abram’s Rock this seemed of little importance.
Gurney: You have given your name as William Davis. Will you tell the jury your occupation, please?
Davis: I operate a filling station in South Danville.
Gurney: And that is near Warfield, isn’t it?
Davis: Twenty miles, maybe.
Gurney: Did you ever see the accused before?
Gurney: He was brought up in South Danville. Did you know that?
Davis: I heard about it since the trial began. I’ve only lived there six years or so myself. I didn’t know him from the other time he lived there.
Gurney: Under what circumstances did you see the accused?
Davis: He drove up one day in a big old LaSalle convertible. You don’t see many of them any more. I guess that’s why I remembered him. He bought five gallons of gas and asked if the road to Abram’s Rock was still open.
Gurney: Abram’s Rock?
Davis: It’s a big boulder, maybe two hundred feet high. There’s a dirt road leading there from the back of the gas station but you can’t drive a car over it in the spring. Too muddy.
Liebman; The witness is neither a geologist or a weather forecaster. Can’t we get on with this trial? I’m sure the prosecution will have adequate descriptions of Abram’s Rock for our benefit from more qualified witnesses.
Gurney: Your Honor, the prosecution intends to show premeditation in this crime. We are trying to develop that the accused, Morlock, knew every inch of Abram’s Rock.
Cameron: We will bear with you.
Gurney: Mr. Davis, you have testified that Morlock asked you if the road to Abram’s Rock was open. When did this take place?
Davis: About a month before he killed—
Liebman: Your Honor!
Cameron: The jury will ignore the interjection by the witness. Mr. Davis, you will confine yourself to answering the questions of counsel without volunteering conclusions.
Gurney: That would have been in the early part of April?
Gurney: What did he do after you told him about the road being muddy?
Davis: He asked me if he could park his car in the back of the station. I told him he could and he did. He got out and started walking up the road toward Abram’s Rock.
Gurney: Did anything in his manner at that time strike you as peculiar?
Davis: He seemed sort of… fuzzy.
Gurney: How long was he gone?
Davis: An hour and a half, maybe.
Gurney: Did you see him again on subsequent days?
Davis: Sure. After that he came every Sunday. He’d park the car and walk across the fields.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Alvin Morlock. Direct testimony of William Davis.
When he had made his way to the top of the rock, Morlock sought out a sunny spot protected from the wind and sat down, giving himself over to a sort of bitter nostalgia. The rock had called to him and he had come, drawn to it by all the powers of memory. Not all the memories were pleasant; he had come here when his father died, when he was twelve. He had never known his father well; he remembered him not as a parent but as a wasted, infinitely patient man who spent his days and his months and years in a ground-floor bedroom. Morlock did not see him often but he did remember his eyes, dulled with pain and shame. He had some illness that they did not speak of. Morlock’s mother, each day of her life, performed some service for her husband from which she would return, closing the bedroom door softly behind her while she closed her eyes for a moment in weary repugnance. She never complained aloud.
Morlock had two older sisters; these two, with his mother, made all the preparations for the funeral, leaving him very much to himself. A few aunts and uncles came. Morlock saw that these were as poor as his own immediate family. He had no suit for the ceremony and there was no money—there never was—to buy one. His mother made over a gray flannel suit that had been given to one of his sisters during a period of service as a maid. He wore this to the church and to the cemetery.
It rained steadily during the actual burial. At twelve, just beginning to be conscious of his clothes, he stood in the rain, self-consciously aware of the ill-fitting suit and of the ragged haircut one of the uncles had given him at the last moment. To compensate for his clothes, he stood as straight as he could so that some of the sparse gathering patted him on the head and said, “There’s a little man.”
When it was over and they gathered in the living room of their house to make plans, Morlock hurried to his room and changed his clothes. Slipping out of the back door so that no one would see him and call to him to stay in the house, he made his way through the fields to Abram’s Rock, the wet grass whipping his bare legs as he ran. Near the top of the rock was a great crevice that was bridged by a fallen tree, making a shelter of sorts. He climbed to the crevice and crawled beneath the tree so that he was partially protected from the rain. Then, only then, he began to cry, his head tucked against his drawn-up knees. He cried partly out of the aching, conventional sorrow of a boy at losing his father, but also out of pity for the man who had spent those years in that musty smelling bedroom and out of grief for the shame in that man’s eyes.
When he was finished with crying he looked up, not having heard anyone approaching but sensing a presence, and saw at the level of his vision a pair of bare brown legs emerging from a skirt of some coarse material. He came out from beneath his shelter to see the Portagee kid—he so identified her in his quick, shamed anger at being found in tears—standing quite still and gravely watching him.
He said petulantly, “What are you doing out in the rain, kid? Don’t you have any sense?”
She said quietly, “You’re out in it. Why were you crying?”
He bent his head and tried to steady his voice. “My father died,” he said.
She skipped across the crevice and slid down beside him, sitting as still as he. “I’m sorry,” she said. “My mother died when I was eight.”
For perhaps several minutes neither of them spoke again. Morlock no longer resented her presence; she no longer intruded in his grief but rather shared it and made it lighter for him. After a time he said, “You shouldn’t be out in this rain. You’ll catch your death of cold.” Unconsciously, speaking to this child younger than himself, he parroted the words his mother had used a hundred times.
She shrugged. “Where I used to live it rains all the time. Nobody minds it. Besides,” she gestured in the direction of the farm where her people lived, “everybody is drunk back there. They always get drunk when they can’t go out and work in the fields.”
Morlock was shocked by the blunt explanation. Drunkenness was a disgrace and a shameful thing that people spoke about in whispers. He felt pity for this child who spoke of it so calmly without knowing what she was saying. He said uneasily, “I’m sorry.”
She shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. They hit each other and throw things. By and by they go to sleep. It doesn’t matter.” Morlock found her accent pretty and wished she would speak more. She stood up. “I guess they asleep now. I go get something to eat. You hungry, boy?”
Morlock shook his head.
“We can sneak into the kitchen and get something if you like,” she said.
“I guess I’d better go home myself,” he said. He started the descent to the ground. When he was halfway down he looked back. She was standing where he had left her. When she saw him looking back, she called, “I’m sorry about your father. You come here tomorrow?”
Because he was a boy he called back casually, “I guess so. Maybe.” But on the way home he felt an odd anticipation at the thought of seeing her again.
His mother was alone in the kitchen when he came in the house; the uncles, the aunts and the sisters were in the parlor. She looked at him, wet and forlorn in the doorway. They were an undemonstrative family, but she made a rare gesture. She came toward him and dropped to her knees and hugged him wordlessly.
They were used to being poor, but hardly as poor as they were in the time directly after his father’s death. There were periods when they were actually hungry. Morlock helped as much as a young boy could. He had his lawns to mow, his errands to run. He spent the entire afternoon of one bad day gathering empty bottles and making the rounds of the stores collecting the few cents’ deposit on them. “When he had collected enough money, he bought frankfurters and rolls and a small package of tea. These things he brought to his mother as another boy would have brought the first silvery pussywillows of the spring. When their financial pressures eased some and there was time for play, he spent all of that time at Abram’s Rock with Marianna Cruz. Their games were solemn games played without the boisterous clamor that other children made. Morlock told her the legend of Abram’s Rock. She was fascinated with it and they enacted it many times. Often she would bring food to the Rock. Later in the year, when the corn ripened in the neighboring fields, they would steal a few ears. These they would roast in hot ashes. They would play their sober games until the shadows of the hemlocks lay long across the mossy flanks of Abram’s Rock. It was, for Morlock, a golden summer.
They were seldom bothered by the other children. Occasionally a crowd of them would come whooping to the Rock and join in whatever game the two were playing but the games never held them long. They would stay for a time and then, like a noisy flock of starlings, they would whirl away in a group. Once one of them shouted as if it were a shocking state of affairs that Marianna was Morlock’s girl. The rest of them took it up, giggling and gossiping, hoping to shame Morlock and the girl. Morlock’s reaction was more of surprise than resentment or shame. He seldom considered Marianna to be a girl. She was a comrade and a friend.
The summer waned and before they were aware of it it was time for school to begin.
Morlock asked her, “What grade will you be in?” He himself would be in the sixth.
She had been unusually quiet for several days. Morlock had supposed it was because of some family situation. Now she said in a troubled voice, “Woman was out to the house to see my fa’der. I will be in the first grade.” She looked straight at him, holding his eyes with hers in a way she had. “I’m afraid to go there to that school,” she continued.
Morlock, who liked school with its books and its crayons and its pencils, asked in astonishment, “Why should you be afraid? You’ll like it!”
She began to cry very softly. “Way I talk,” she said. “Way I dress. I got no good clothes. They will laugh at me.”
Morlock said loyally, “There’s nothing wrong with the way you talk.” He felt a rage at the thought that they might laugh at her, and he continued fiercely, “They better not. You can walk to school with me if you want to. I won’t let anyone laugh at you.”
Her face brightened. “Then I won’t be afraid,” she said with complete faith.
Morlock, the following morning, half regretted that he had invited her to walk with him to school. They would laugh, certainly, at the way she talked and the way she dressed, and he could not defend her against the whole school. And they would laugh at him for walking with her. Yet he had promised and so he waited for her.
She came early, walking quite slowly, head down, until she saw Morlock waiting for her. Then she began to walk faster, hurrying toward him. When she was abreast of him she slowed again and they walked on together. As they came nearer to the school, the sidewalk began to blossom with the back-to-school dresses of little girls and she began to hang back. Morlock, out of a sudden pity, said, “Don’t be afraid, Marianna.”
Now there were small boys and big boys; at the fence that bounded the schoolyard a whole cluster of them. When they saw Morlock and the girl they began to jeer and catcall. “Hey, Alvin—where did you get the Portagee girl friend?” And, “Hey, Portagee! Bet those are the first shoes you had on all year!”
Morlock felt a furious flush of embarrassment. Then he felt Marianna’s small hand creep into his own and he was ashamed of the embarrassment, ashamed of the regret that he had earlier felt at having offered to let her walk with him. This was his friend of the golden summer and to be ashamed of her was worse than being a traitor. He held his head high and said aloud, “Don’t pay any attention to them, Marianna. I’ll take you to your teacher.” And he wished that he could kill them all.
There were yet a few weeks of summer. They met after school each day at Abram’s Rock, which by now was almost like a home to them. It was their refuge, their sanctuary, and they knew every nook and cranny, every weathered scar on its great gray flanks.
Gurney: Your name is Paul Martin and you are an instructor at Ludlow College, is that correct?
Martin: It is.
Gurney: What is your subject, Mr. Martin?
Martin: I hold a masters degree in chemistry.
Gurney: What is your relationship to the accused?
Martin: Morlock? He is a colleague. He is—was—an instructor at Ludlow.
Gurney: Not a friend?
Martin: Hardly. Morlock did make overtures. I would say that we were acquaintances.
Gurney: What form did the overtures take?
Martin: I don’t know. It’s hard to say exactly. He made a point of seeking me out, trying to cultivate me. He was rather a lonely man before his marriage. I felt sorry for him.
Gurney: Before that marriage did you ever spend an evening with him?
Martin: Several. We would have dinner and then perhaps go to a movie.
Gurney: I am certain that you made no excursions to Providence with Morlock.
Martin: Certainly not.
Gurney: What about after the marriage?
Martin: He asked me several times to take dinner at his home. When it would have become embarrassing to refuse again, I accepted.
Gurney: And when was that?
Martin: About a month before his wife’s death. In April, it would have been.
Gurney: She was present at that dinner?
Gurney: In what condition?
Gurney: Put it this way—in the course of the evening did she consume any alcoholic beverages?
Martin: She did.
Gurney: To the extent that she was visibly affected?
Liebman: You’re just putting the same question in different words.
Cameron: I’ll have to agree with defense counsel. What are you trying to demonstrate with this line of questioning, Mr. Gurney?
Gurney: I’m trying to show a motive. I want to demonstrate that the accused found himself in an intolerable situation. He fancied himself quite a gentleman; too good for the deceased. He was especially anxious to impress Mr. Martin. With her around, he couldn’t make the pretense.
Cameron: I think I will let you continue, Mr. Gurney. Please be more careful in the manner in which you elicit testimony.
Gurney: Thank you, Your Honor. Mr. Martin, what was the result of Louise Morlock’s drinking?
Martin: Her conduct became embarrassing. I had been trying to carry on a conversation with her—out of politeness. She had very little to say. When I tried to draw her out, she became quieter—that was at first—and hardly spoke at all.
Gurney: Was the accused visibly affected by her conduct—this withdrawal, this refusal even to carry on a conversation?
Martin: Oh, yes. He seemed annoyed at first. The situation was awkward. I finally tried to steer the conversation around to something that would at least be of interest to Morlock and myself. He was, well—sullen would be the word for it. I supposed that he was embarrassed about his wife’s behavior.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Alvin Morlock. Direct testimony of Paul Martin.
On the afternoon of the Sunday he first revisited Abram’s Rock, Morlock returned Dodson’s car and went home to find Louise up and dressed and making motions at straightening up the house, which she sometimes did following her nights out with Anna Carofano. “Lolly,” he said, “I’ve got to have a talk with you.” She glanced at him and returned to her dusting. “I’m here,” she said. “I’d like you to sit down, Lolly. This is important.”
“All right. Do you want a cup of coffee?”
“No, thanks.” He sat down at the kitchen table. “The Dean had a letter from the appliance company last week, asking him to make me take care of our account.”
She started to speak and Morlock shook his head.
“Don’t lie about it, Lolly. I’ve already talked to them. There hasn’t been any mistake. You haven’t paid the bill. Do you have any of the money put away?”
Morlock continued quietly, “We can’t go on the way we’re going, Lolly. I’ve borrowed enough money to bring us up to date. I’d better handle the money from now on. Do you mind telling me what you did with it?” When she did not immediately answer he continued, “Let it go. We can’t do anything about it now, anyway. I’ve been thinking, Lolly. Maybe part of all this is my fault. I do bring home a lot of work and we haven’t had friends in.”
She was quick to seize the initiative. “Because you think I’m not good enough for them. I know all about that.”
“I’m going to ask Paul Martin to dinner,” he said. “I’ve told you about him.” He had several times mentioned to Martin that he would like to have him out for dinner some evening, being careful to make the remark indefinite enough not to suggest an immediate acceptance. Now, he decided, he would ask Martin to come—the following evening, in fact. If Martin was snooty about the tenement or Lolly that was just too bad.
He asked Martin the following morning. “Paul,” he said when he met Martin in the hall, “Louise and I would like to have you come to dinner tonight if you aren’t busy.” He was both relieved and worried when Martin, even though somewhat condescendingly, accepted.
Morlock left the college as early as he could that afternoon. He hurried home in some anxiety, fearful that Lolly might not be all right. He had come to measure her by this standard—she was all right and had not been drinking, or she was not all right. Her all-right evenings were becoming increasingly rare. She had become more and more excited over the prospect of Martin’s visit, rousing from the sulking mood that she had adopted when Morlock had taken the handling of family money from her.
She actually had the house cleaned up when Morlock arrived. She had scrubbed the kitchen, where they must necessarily eat, and borrowed curtains somewhere. She greeted him gaily. “You’re home early, Al. How does it look?”
He answered enthusiastically, “Fine. Lovely,” feeling that she was as eager as he to make something of this fresh start-, as willing as he to contribute more than a fair share toward its success.
They had decided upon veal cutlets for the main course. There would be wine with the meal. Morlock, when he went out to buy food for the dinner, also bought a bottle of brandy—the brandy intended to impress Martin.
Martin arrived a few minutes before seven. Morlock and Louise had been waiting for him for perhaps ten minutes. She had bathed and put on a black taffeta dress that became her very well. This, Morlock thought, is marriage. The couple you saw on the covers of the household magazines, dressed up and eagerly waiting to shower hospitality on their callers. Things would be better now and it certainly was his fault, the way Lolly had acted. Why hadn’t he done this before?
Martin knocked at the door; Morlock had given him explicit instructions about how to reach the tenement—apartment, he had called it—and Morlock rushed forward to open it.
“Good evening,” Martin said, shrugging out of his topcoat. He glanced about him as he did so, and Morlock watched him anxiously. He had intimated to Martin that the place was laughably Bohemian. “Third floor, you know, and a smell of cooking cabbage eternally in the halls.” Now he fretted over whether Martin would keep up the pretense that the tenement was truly Bohemian and not just sordid. Martin was noncommittal. “Quite a place you have here,” he continued. So hard to find a decent rent,” Morlock murmured.
“Lolly, this is Mr. Martin. He’s the chemistry instructor at the college. Sit down, won’t you, Paul, I’ll mix a drink.”
Lolly smiled and admitted that she had heard a great deal about Mr. Martin and that she was pleased and she would have one too, please, Al. Morlock went to the kitchen and mixed drinks, making Lolly’s very weak. When he brought them in Martin was seated, talking to Lolly.
“I was surprised that Alvin married,” he said. “I’d thought he was a confirmed bachelor like myself.” His tone indicated that he was quite satisfied to remain single. “Did he struggle much?”
Fine, Morlock thought. They were going to get along. Paul wasn’t going to be patronizing.
Morlock made a second round of drinks, leaving Lolly out, while she cooked the supper. When it was ready they sat at the kitchen table to eat, Morlock watching Martin anxiously to see if he liked the food. Apparently he did. He ate hungrily and had several glasses of red wine. Near the end of the meal he said, “I’m very fond of Italian cooking. You are Italian, aren’t you, Mrs. Morlock?”
“My people were,” she explained.
“From Providence,” Morlock added. “They’re in the construction field.”
Martin nodded. “I see. What school did you go to, Mrs. Morlock?”
Martin was referring to college, using the casual “school” in the affected manner of an educational snob. Morlock knew this, and tried to guess if Martin was deliberately being sarcastic.
Completely misunderstanding, Lolly said, “Gordon High—but I never finished. I had to stay home and take care of my father.” The explanation sounded ridiculously contrived—a line from East Lynn or Over the Hill—Morlock hurriedly suggested that they go into the living room for brandy, trying to create the impression that this was a nightly habit in this household. Lolly stayed in the kitchen to clear off the dishes. By the time she rejoined them, Martin had had two brandies and was becoming increasingly expansive. He rose when she came into the room.
“We were talking about your husband’s favorite subject,” he explained. “I’ve been telling him that the Bacon myth might not be as much a fantasy as he believes.” Morlock had more than once suspected that Martin’s own knowledge of literature was superficial, consisting of a few catchwords and stock phrases. He had accused himself uneasily, on those occasions, of being disloyal. Martin continued, “Are you a great reader, Mrs. Morlock?”
She had seated herself in the chair opposite the couch where the two men sat. Morlock brought her a drink—a small brandy. She apologized that she didn’t really read very much.
Martin held out his empty glass to Morlock and expertly switched the conversation to hypnotism. “You’ve been reading about the reversion techniques, I suppose?”
She had not been following them too closely, she explained.
It became a nightmare. Morlock was at first grateful to Martin for trying to find a subject in which Lolly would feel at ease. After the third or fourth change of subject he realized that Martin was probing and exposing, deliberately humiliating her. She knew nothing of the ballet, of history, or of painting. She knew, it appeared, very little about anything.
Morlock could see what Martin was doing but he was helpless to prevent it. His immediate reaction was anger that Martin should so needlessly spoil his little party. His second reaction was one of pity for Louise who was by this time, numbly shaking her head to most of Martin’s questions. He was embarrassed for her rather than ashamed of her, and he tried several times to rescue her. When Martin persisted in his probing, Morlock began to hate him for his cruelty, but before his emotions overcame his good manners Martin contemptuously discarded Louise. He began a discussion of college affairs with Morlock in which Louise could have no possible interest. After a while she excused herself and went out to the kitchen. Morlock, preoccupied with concern for Louise and thoroughly disliking Martin by this time, contributed very little to the conversation.
Liebman: You testified on direct examination that Louise Morlock’s conduct became embarrassing on the night of your visit to Morlock’s home.
Martin: I did.
Liebman: To digress a moment, Mr. Martin, are you a British citizen?
Martin: Certainly not.
Liebman: Educated in Britain?
Gurney: Your Honor, the nationality and educational background of the witness can have no possible bearing on this matter.
Liebman: I’d like to point out that counsel for the prosecution has made a point of establishing the educational background of previous witnesses as well as the accused. By the rules of evidence it becomes my prerogative—
Cameron: You need not continue, Mr. Liebman. Since the prosecution has elicited testimony as to educational background on direct examination, you have the privilege of rebuttal in kind.
Liebman: Thank you, Your Honor. Mr. Martin, you state that you are not a British citizen and that you were not educated in Great Britain. Yet I have detected a strong British flavor in your speech. Where did you get the accent, Mr. Martin—is it an affectation?
Gurney: Objection. The character of the witness cannot be assailed on such a flimsy basis.
Cameron: Sustained. Mr. Liebman’s final remark will be stricken.
Liebman: Your Honor, I am questioning the credibility of the witness. It appears to me that any man contemptible enough to disclaim a friendship and cheap enough to affect an accent—
Cameron: That will do, Mr. Liebman.
Liebman: Mr. Martin, where did you actually go to college?
Martin: Canton, Ohio.
Liebman: Did you ever travel abroad?
Cameron: The witness will speak up.
Liebman: On the night of your visit to Morlock’s home did you drink any alcoholic beverages yourself?
Martin: Yes. Brandy. And wine with dinner.
Liebman: You don’t suppose your own conduct might have been affected?
Liebman: Mr. Martin, when the conduct of the deceased woman became embarrassing, what was the reaction of the accused?
Martin: Well, naturally I left early. Morlock walked down the stairs with me. He was bitterly angry.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Alvin Morlock. Cross-examination of Paul Martin.
Morlock paid little attention to Lolly’s absence in the kitchen. She returned after a few moments only to go back to the kitchen again after listening to Martin’s droning conversation. Martin himself had rather more than a moderate amount of Morlock’s brandy. When Lolly returned for the second time, she sat in her chair in such a manner that her skirt was pulled above her knees. When she did not rearrange her clothing immediately, Morlock looked more closely at her face and saw the vacuous half smile that she usually wore when she had been out with the Carofano woman. When he went to the kitchen on a trumped-up excuse, he saw that she had been drinking from the bottle of whisky he had used to make their before-dinner highballs.
He hurried back into the living room to hear her say, “Do you like what you see, Mr. Martin? Would you like to see more?” With the words she pulled her skirt higher.
Morlock said, “Stop it, Louise,” and wheeled to explain to Martin. Martin, when he turned, was laughing.
“Let her alone, Alvin,” Martin said. “I want to see what she’ll do next.”
She turned suddenly sullen* “Books,” she said. “All you know about is books, either one of you.” Her voice became more shrill. “You think I’m just an ignorant Dago from Federal Hill, don’t you? I’m not as ignorant as you think.”
Morlock stepped over to put his hand on her arm.
“Don’t, Lolly,” he pleaded. “Nobody thinks anything of the kind.”
She flung his hand away. “What do you know about it?” she snapped. “You’re not so much. You’re not even any good in bed.” She laughed sharply. “You’re a fairy, that’s what I think. Both of you. A couple of fairies.”
She began to cry. Martin stood up. “I think I’d better go, Morlock,” he said coldly.
Morlock turned away from Lolly. “I think you’d better,” he answered. “I’ll get your coat.” He got the coat from the closet and handed it to Martin, not holding it out for him to put on. When Martin was ready, Morlock opened the door to the hall and snapped the light switch. The dingy hall remained dark. “The bulb is probably burned out,” he said. “I’ll see you to the street.” He turned back to glance at Lolly who was huddled in her chair, still crying. “I’ll be right back,” he called gently.
He preceded Martin to the street and walked a few paces from the door with him. “Martin,” he said, “that was one of the crudest exhibitions I ever saw in my life. If I was half a man I would have thrown you out of my house when you started dissecting her.”
Martin paused. “Oh, come, Morlock,” he said. “She is an ignorant Dago from Federal Hill. And a drunkard. I didn’t make her what she is.”
“She was all right,” Morlock said. “She was trying to be nice and entertain you because you were my friend. She really tried, you dirty bastard. Don’t ever even say good morning to me again.” He was annoyed with the childish sound of his ultimatum, and he wheeled away from Martin without saying more.
When he was a few steps from the tenement entrance he saw Lolly rush out of the door, and he called after her. When she did not turn, he ran after her. She entered a building that was gay with neon tubing and he followed after her so swiftly that he had to fling up his hand to keep the door from hitting him in the face. Fast as he was, she was already seated at the bar when he closed the door behind him. He walked to her side, feeling he had had enough scenes for this day. “Come on home, Lolly. I told him off. The whole thing was his fault.”
The bartender brought her a drink, putting it down warily.
She turned to face Morlock. The tears had spoiled her careful make-up but she was no longer crying. She laughed and cried shrilly, “Get away from me, you damn fairy.”
Pleading with her would accomplish nothing; Morlock was certain of that. In the face of the hostile, staring faces in the room he could only retreat as quietly as possible.
He waited until past two o’clock for her to come home, and finally fell asleep in a kitchen chair. She could probably never sustain the excitement of getting ready for a visitor over any period of time. Martin was probably right—she was a drunk and there was no chance for this marriage. He hated Martin for destroying what chance there had been—if there had been a chance—because it had not been Martin’s right. He was certain that there would not be another chance.
Gurney: I call Francis Macomber to the stand. For the record, now that you have been sworn, will you give your occupation?
Macomber: I am a second class patrolman on the Warfield Police Force.
Gurney: You have a regular tour of duty—a beat?
Macomber: Yes. It takes in Kosciusko Street north and south to Main and Chestnut.
Gurney: Do you know an Anna Carofano?
Macomber: I do. She owns a couple of tenements on my beat.
Gurney: Do you know the accused in this case?
Macomber: I do now.
Gurney: Did you ever see him prior to this trial?
Macomber: I did.
Gurney: Officially—in the line of duty?
Macomber: Yes. On the evening of April 17.
Gurney: What happened on that occasion?
Macomber: It was about six o’clock. I was making the rounds, checking doors and like that, when I saw a woman sitting on the steps of one of Mrs. Carofano’s tenements. The accused was standing beside her. I was a block away. I couldn’t hear anything and it didn’t look like anything out of the ordinary at first. Then I saw him—
Macomber; The accused. Morlock. I saw him lift his hand and slap her across the face. I ran up to where they were. She was crying. He hit her at least three more times before I could reach him and grab his arm.
Gurney: Were there any witnesses to this sorry business?
Macomber: You know how people are. If they see a cop move fast they figure something has happened and they swarm around. I guess maybe a dozen people were there.
Gurney: What happened then?
Macomber: I said to him, “Cut that out. I’m a police officer.” The woman got up and ran up the steps and into the house. Morlock—the accused—just stood there and looked after her. Then I said, “I don’t want any woman beaters on my beat, Mister. What’s your name?” He gave me his name and I asked him if the woman was his wife. He said that she was. So I started to make out a report on the fight. I asked him if he lived in the tenement where the woman ran in, and where he worked. He told me he lived there and that he was a teacher at the college.
Gurney: Go on.
Macomber: We have sort of a rule about college people and professional men. People that publicity would hurt. I told Morlock to get in the house and that I didn’t want to ever hear about him laying a finger on her again or I’d pinch him. He didn’t say anything, just went tearing up the stairs after her. I hung around a few minutes but I didn’t hear anything so I called in to the desk sergeant. He told me to write it off as quelling a domestic disturbance without using any names, and I did.
Gurney: And how many times did you say the accused struck his wife?
Macomber: At least four.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Alvin Morlock. Direct testimony of Patrolman Francis Macomber.
On the day following Paul Martin’s visit, Louise awoke with the sun streaming in the window. She glanced at the clock in some surprise; it was almost two o’clock. She had come in at four a.m. Her head throbbed and her throat burned. Her clothes were piled neatly on a chair beside the bed. Al must have undressed her when he got up to go to work. She swung her feet down and reached for a robe behind the bedroom door. In the bathroom, she splashed cold water on her face and scrubbed her teeth. The living room was orderly and neat. He must have picked up and emptied the ash trays and rinsed the glasses they had used. It wasn’t going to buy him anything. The hell with him and with his fairy friend, she thought.
He had left the coffeepot ready. All she had to do was light the burner underneath it. While she waited for the water to percolate, she opened the cabinet above the stove where they kept what liquor they had in the house. The whisky and the brandy bottles were gone. He had hidden them but he had left a little red wine. She wasn’t going to be bothered hunting around for wherever he had hid the stuff. She poured a little of the wine into a water tumbler and drank it. It seemed tasteless and insipidly sweet. She turned off the burner under the coffeepot. While she waited for the coffee to settle she was struck by a sudden and fearful thought. She hurried to the bedroom and snatched up her pocketbook.
There was a bulk of bills in it and she laughed in sudden relief as she counted the money. If he was going to cut her off from the family funds she would have to watch herself. More than once money had been stolen from her purse in one barroom or another but her more immediate fear had been that Morlock might have rifled the purse to keep her from going out. What he didn’t know, the dirty Shylock, was that she could have a tab at Fagin’s any time she wanted one.
There were eleven dollars in the purse. She snapped it shut and went back to the kitchen where she poured coffee and drank it swiftly, an urgency growing in her to be away from this place and seated at the shining bar in Fagin’s place.
She put on the black dress she had worn to please Morlock and his friend. She would show him. She posed in front of the mirror, pulling in her stomach and throwing out her breasts. Not all done by a long way. Men still looked after her when she walked by, wanting her, thinking how it would be to sleep with her.
Fagin’s was almost deserted; two or three regulars and Frank, the bookmaker, sat at the bar. Eddie, the good-looking boy with the dark hair and the clear brown eyes—he was now accepted as her regular shuffle-board partner—whistled when she came in.
“Some doll,” he said admiringly. “Where you been, Louise—to a wedding?”
Jimmy, the bartender, brought her a drink. “On Fagin, Louise,” he said. “Not to a wedding, not in black. Black is for wakes.”
She relaxed, content with their admiration, soothed by the easygoing familiarity of these men. “I had this on last night,” she said.
Jimmy nodded. “I heard you were in,” he said, not mentioning Morlock.
She drank her drink quickly. “Let me have another,” she said. “Give Eddie one, too. I feel like getting tight.”
Jimmy and Eddie waited politely for an explanation. “I had a fight with my husband last night,” she said. “He came in here after me and I told him to get away and leave me alone. To hell with him.”
Eddie said, “Sure, Louise. To hell with him. How about a game? Billy and Jimmy against you and me.”
She shook her head. “Let’s sit here and talk, Eddie. I don’t feel like playing right now.” She was feeling the warmth of the whisky already. Today the whisky didn’t seem to make her gay as it usually did. Encouraged by the sympathy of Jimmy and Eddie, her real friends, she began to feel more and more sorry for herself and more and more bitter toward Morlock. She hadn’t really meant it when she called him a fairy. He was not a fairy, she explained carefully to Eddie, but he acted like one with that fag, Paul Martin.
When she got down from the stool to look at the selections on the juke box, she stumbled and nearly fell. Impossible that she was half drunk this soon, she reasoned. She was thinking as clearly as if she had had nothing at all to drink.
There was a section on the juke box that listed old time tunes being revived. She read them carefully. How could she be drunk when she could read so easily? “Sunny Side of the Street.”
“Blueberry Hill.” That’s when they had the good songs. “Dance with me, Eddie,” she commanded.
Eddie got down from his stool. He was really a good-looking kid. He put his arms around her and she leaned against him. They began to sway back and forth. Eddie was pressing too hard, thrusting his lean belly against her. She knew what he was after all right. Trying to get her worked up. She giggled. What if he did? Who cared? She pushed him away suddenly. “I want another drink,” she said.
Eddie said fuzzily, “Sure, Louise,” and they walked arm in arm to the bar. Jimmy brought the drinks and she reached for money to pay him with. Funny where it went. Seven dollars left. She gave Jimmy a single and asked him to change the remaining dollar bill. The five she tucked in her compact, remembering vaguely that for some reason she had to be careful of her money. Oh, yes, that was it. Shylock Alvin was going to handle the money from now on—him. She had spent more in a single day out at the track than he made in six months. When Jimmy brought her change she bought two packages of cigarettes, Lucky Strikes for herself and a package of Pall Malls for Eddie. He was a good kid. When she gave him the cigarettes, he said, “Let’s dance again, Louise.”
It felt good to be wanted. She said, “Sure,” and they moved away from the bar again and into each other’s arms. “Chapel in the Moonlight.” That was nice. When had she danced to that song before? Oh, yes—it had been Tommy Dorsey’s band, that first night—how long ago?—that she went out with the jockey, Eddie Mason. The other Eddie. But this Eddie—come to think of it, she couldn’t even remember if he had ever told her his last name—pretty young to be playing an old timer like that except that it was slow and he could do—what he was doing now. Pushing hard against her. She giggled again and moved her own body against him. Fresh kid. If that’s what he wanted she could give him lessons.
They broke apart reluctantly when the music ended and walked slowly back to the bar. While she ordered another round of drinks, she was aware of an animal desire to have Eddie possess her. After a moment she giggled again. It would be a good joke on Morlock. She had been unfaithful to him several times since their marriage—twice in Anna Carofano’s bedroom and once in a parked car. Sexual fidelity meant so little to her that she hardly considered herself as having cheated Morlock. But to bring this kid to their home and in Morlock’s own bed—this would pay him back for taking the money from her and for bringing Paul Martin to their home to insult her and call her a Dago from Federal Hill. She didn’t remember that the words had been her own and not Martin’s.
When she had finished her drink, she said, “This damn dress is too hot. I’m going over and change into something else.” She looked sidelong at Eddie as she spoke.
He said huskily, “I’ll go along and help you change,” trying to keep his tone light so that he could pretend that he was joking if she acted offended. When she merely shrugged, he called to Jimmy the bartender. “Let me have a pint, will you, Jimmy?” he asked. “Make it Carstairs. You’ll have to put it on my tab until Friday, all right?”
Jimmy said, “I guess,” and got a bottle from beneath the bar. He put it in a paper bag and handed it to Eddie.
They left the bar and started toward the tenement. It was really funny, she thought, the way Eddie tried to look as if he weren’t in a hurry. He sprang ahead to hold the door open for her. Ah, wasn’t he being polite though! He wouldn’t be so polite when he got in the bedroom. She still had it, for Eddie or any real man. Al? He could drop dead.
She held the door to the living room aside while Eddie stepped in and then closed it behind her, smiling at him. As the door closed, he reached for her with both arms, the bottle still held in one hand. With the free hand he pulled her closer. She pushed him back, laughing.
“Let’s have a drink first,” she said. “We’ve got lots of time.”
He asked huskily, “What about your old man, your husband?”
She said, “I thought we already said to hell with him.”
Eddie, said nervously, “Sure. But just the same we don’t want him to come in and find us.” He put the bottle down and moved toward her again, reaching for the front of her dress, trying to get his hand on her breast.
A little irritated, she pushed his hand away. “Don’t tear my dress,” she said sharply.
He moved away and she picked up the bottle. “You stay here,” she said. “I’ll make us a drink.” She smiled, her anger forgotten, at his crestfallen expression.
When she returned, carrying the drink, she moved past him and toward the bedroom. When he followed her into the room, she pointed toward the bed and handed him his drink. “I’m going to take it off,” she said. “I don’t want you ripping it.” She reached down and pulled her dress over her head. Standing in her slip she still teased him, lingering over her drink. She moved a step toward him, lurched and caught herself barely in time. “Go out in the kitchen and get the bottle,” she said.
He left, hurrying. When he returned she was lying on the bed. He fell on top of her…
He was just a kid, she thought. No lover at all, all impatience and fumbling ineptness. Al, for all he was a Shylock and thought he was too good for her, was a better and more considerate lover. She pushed Eddie, half asleep now, aside and drank from the bottle he had placed beside the bed.
She had really had too much this time. The room was spinning, spinning. She relaxed, drowsing. Anyway, she was even now. Better wake up and get Eddie out before Al came home. He didn’t have to know about this. She was satisfied, knowing what she had done herself, keeping the secret to laugh about. She would tell Anna Carofano, of course.
She awoke from a doze to see Eddie, his back to her, standing beside the dresser. She blinked, trying to get her eyes into focus, before she realized what she was seeing. The little sneak was going through her purse. She sprang naked from the bed and snatched at it. He dropped it and it fell to the floor in a clatter of metal. Her compact, her cigarette lighter. A few coins.
“You son-of-a-bitch,” she screamed, “what do you think you’re doing!”
He said, “Ah, don’t get sore, Louise. I just wanted to borrow a couple of bucks.”
She was almost insane with anger. Unable to find words she slapped him across the face with all her strength. He fell back against the dresser, hand against his cheek. He looked as if he couldn’t believe what was happening. She took her eyes from him to reach for her purse. In that moment, he lashed back at her with his closed fist. She had stooped and the blow missed her face, catching her on the shoulder and knocking her to the floor. He stood over her, his eyes narrowed.
“You’ve got a hell of a nerve, you bitch,” he said. “Give me the dough. You got what you wanted, didn’t you? You think I cared anything about coming over here with an old bag like you?”
She got to her feet as he snatched up the compact and opened it, taking the money from it, holding her off with one hand as she clawed at him, unable to speak, unable even to scream. He pushed her away and ran from the room. She started after him, half crazed, and only remembered when she was halfway into the hall that she was naked. With silent, desperate fury she raced back to the bedroom and threw her robe over her naked body. She raced down the stairs, wanting only to catch Eddie and hit him and hit him; when she reached the front door he was not in sight. Reaction hit her then, swift and furious. Even a hot pants kid. She began to cry in racking sobs that shook her whole body. Morlock, coming home at that moment, found her sitting on the top step. He ran up the steps and bent to look at her. “Lolly,” he said, “what is it? What happened?”
She continued to cry in shaking spasms that would not let her catch her breath. Recognizing hysteria, Morlock slapped her across the face, trying to hit her hard and unable to make himself do it. When the sobbing continued, he hit her again. It was at that moment that the policeman grabbed his arm. “Cut that out,” he said. “I’m a police officer.” The slaps or the words reached Louise. She scrambled to heir feet and rushed up the stairs. Morlock turned to explain, but the policeman was saying, “I don’t want any woman beaters on my beat, Mister.” There were people gathered around, staring, giggling. Morlock, humiliated, tried to explain but the policeman beat at him with questions. He answered them in monosyllables, wanting only to hide his head, to be away from the staring faces and to get to Louise. When at last he was permitted to go to her, she was in the bedroom, lying on her stomach with her face buried in her arms. She would not answer any of his questions.
Gurney: Mr. Murphy, when you were sworn you gave your name as James Murphy. What do they call you—Jimmy?
Murphy: Most people.
Gurney: And you work as a bartender in Fagin’s Cafe, is that correct?
Gurney: Did you know the deceased, Louise Morlock?
Murphy: Well, I didn’t know her last name. I’d heard it but it didn’t mean anything to me until this thing happened. I called her Louise and let it go at that.
Gurney: Do you know the accused?
Murphy: I know him now.
Gurney: Did you ever meet him before this trial?
Murphy: I did. Somebody pointed him out to me some time ago as Louise’s husband.
Gurney: He wasn’t a customer of Fagin’s, then?
Murphy: Him? No.
Gurney: What about Louise Morlock—was she a good customer?
Murphy: She was a regular.
Gurney: And what, precisely, does being a regular involve?
Murphy: Every bar, unless it’s in a downtown location, has regulars. People that come in every day and spend some time. If you don’t have maybe twenty regulars to count on, you might as well close up. Louise came in every day. There were other people that came in because they expected to find her there. Your regulars make the place like a club. She spent a little money and she was an attraction to the place.
Gurney: How long was she a regular?
Murphy: Almost from the time she moved into the neighborhood. That was a while after New Year’s.
Gurney: Was she a heavy drinker?
Murphy: Not at first. Then, sometimes she’d get started early and have a little more than her share. I’ve seen lots worse. I never had to shut her off.
Gurney: You say that Morlock—the accused—was not a customer.
Murphy: That’s right.
Gurney: Then how did you happen to meet him?
Murphy: I went looking for him. Louise owed me some money.
Gurney: A personal loan?
Murphy: No. A bar tab.
Gurney: Isn’t it against the law for bars to give credit?
Murphy: Sure. But it wasn’t Fagin’s bar that gave her the credit. Take a bartender; if he wants to let a regular run up a little tab on his own responsibility—it’s not his license. Fagin isn’t involved. But if the tab isn’t cleared up, the bartender that served the drinks is stuck for the money. Louise had me stuck. That’s why I looked up her husband.
Gurney: How much did she have you stuck for?
Murphy: Forty-two dollars.
Gurney: Forty-two dollars! That seems like a lot of money for a bar bill.
Murphy: Well, that’s how much it was.
Gurney: How long did it take her to run up this bill?
Murphy: A couple of weeks. I can tell you when I went looking for Morlock. It was Saturday, the 28th of April. The reason I know is that tabs are supposed to be cleared up Friday. I had so much money out that I wasn’t going to get any of my own pay. So I gave her one day and then went looking for him.
Gurney: And you found him?
Murphy: Sure. I kept watching out the window for him to come down the street. I already told you I had somebody point him out to me. I walked out to him and I said, “Mr. Morlock?” He said, “Yes,” like it was a question. So I told him about the money Louise owed me.
Gurney: What was his reaction?
Murphy: Well, he already looked worried, nervous. When I told him about the forty-two dollars, he flinched as if I’d hit him. Then he apologized for his wife and said he didn’t have any money right then but that he’d take care of it just as soon as he could. Then he said, “She won’t be around any more.”
Gurney: What did you think he meant by that?
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Alvin Morlock. Direct testimony of James Murphy.
Louise awoke on the morning following the incident with Eddie and heard Morlock moving about the kitchen. She lay still, looking around the room and planning the words of explanation she would use. Her purse had been picked up, together with its contents and placed on the dresser. She looked hastily around for the whisky bottle, hoping that it had been kicked under the bed and but of Morlock’s sight. It wasn’t which meant that he had found it so that she would have to incorporate it in whatever lie she told.
She still had her robe on. Getting up, she went to the bathroom to rinse her face and walked out to the kitchen, a little frightened at the prospect of facing her husband. If she were married to someone like her brother Dominick, she would know what to expect. A smash in the face, a beating that would bruise her body—but a beating that was also a form of penance, a beating that was punishment but opened the way to forgiveness. But if she were married to an Old Country man like Dom it never would have happened. By reasoning thus, she transferred some of the blame to Morlock.
He turned as she came into the kitchen. “I’ve got coffee made,” he said. “Sit down and I’ll pour some for you.”
Morlock, looking at her white face, felt an impersonal compassion for her. He had seen the whisky bottle on the bedroom floor. He had seen her underclothing scattered around the room and her body, naked under the robe, and he had drawn his own conclusions about what had happened. He had been able to perceive dimly that she had, in her way, been exacting a form of vengeance for Paul Martin and for his own detachment from her. Also, she was in her middle thirties. Becoming aware that her youth and good looks were disintegrating swiftly, and frightened because she had nothing to fall back on. He had failed her as a prop. Now she was trying alcohol and other men, and she would have to find out for herself what a miserable support they were.
He sat across from her at the kitchen table. “Do you want to tell me what happened?” he asked her.
“I laid down for a nap,” she said. “I didn’t feel very good after Monday night. I woke up when I heard a noise and I saw a man standing over the bed. He had a whisky bottle in one hand. I started to scream and he hit me and told me to be quiet or he’d kill me. Then he took my purse and started looking through it. I was afraid to yell out.”
Morlock asked, “Do you remember what he looked like? Do you want me to report it to the police?” Her story was a lie; he knew it and she knew that he knew it. His question was no more than a tacit acceptance of her transparent little story.
She shook her head. “It would only make trouble and they’d never get him.” Then, wanting to hurt him, she said, “Al, you didn’t ask me what happened then. He raped me.”
Morlock knew she was taunting him with her guilty admission. He turned toward her with the rage of the cuckold rising swiftly in him, caught himself and only said woodenly, “You’d better see a doctor right away.” Then he left the room.
She heard the hall door close behind him, not gently but not slammed either. She stared in the direction of the hall and then cried out to the closed door, “Go on, then! Get out! What do you care what happens to me?” She reasoned with childish logic that if he pretended to accept her story, he should then show the proper reaction. If he didn’t accept it he should have hit her, kicked her. For a moment, when she said that she had been raped she had thought that he was going to smash her. Now, out of frustration and shame she called after him, “You queer, you. You don’t even care about that.”
Her rage quieted and she felt the need for a cigarette. She went into the bedroom for her purse; when she opened it she saw three dollar bills. There had been no money in the purse. Eddie had taken the last five-dollar bill. Al must have put it in there. It did not occur to her in her anger that he might have put the money in her purse out of consideration. She began craftily to guess what his motive had been. The amount was significant. Three dollars. Three bucks. Enough for cigarettes and a movie and two or three drinks. Or, if you skipped the movie, quite a few drinks.
She bathed and dressed and turned on the television set to kill time until after lunch. Fagin’s was open in the morning hours but the chairs were still stacked on the tables and Jimmy would be busy cleaning up for the day’s trade. Unable to accept her rejection by Morlock or the humiliation by Eddie, she waited until one o’clock to go out. When she did go she approached Fagin’s with some hesitance. Eddie, she was nearly certain, would hardly dare to come back to the place after what he had done. She might have called the cops for all he knew—and she had had a perfect right to. Still, wondering what she was going to do about it, he might be hanging around or he might have talked to Jimmy on the telephone. She decided to be bold about it; she had either to be bold or not go in at all. She straightened her shoulders and walked in, smiling. “Hi, Jimmy,” she greeted the bartender. It was hard not to look around to see if that bastard Eddie was in the place.
Everything was all right; she sensed immediately that Eddie had not come back. Jimmy said, “Hello, Louise. Drink?”
“Just beer,” she said lightly.
The three or four men in the place looked up and nodded or spoke. Frank, the bookie, held out his Armstrong, not speaking. It was all right. And if Eddie did come around later, she would have her own version of what had happened—one that would make him look stupid.
She left Fagin’s place in the afternoon in time to make Morlock’s supper. There was food in the refrigerator; not much, but enough to make a passable meal. When he came in he was burdened with two paper sacks of groceries. Trying to show me up, she thought, showing me that he doesn’t trust me even to go to the supermarket, letting everybody know what a lousy wife I am.
Morlock greeted Louise quietly. He did not kiss her—never again was to kiss her—and after silently eating his meal, he sat down in the living room and read the paper while she washed the dishes. They spent the evening in perfect decorum, speaking little. After she went bed, he walked into the bedroom. She had turned out the light but she could see his silhouette against the living room door and she felt a happy, eager anticipation. Maybe she was a drunk and a cheat but if he came to bed with her, it was forgiving her in a way and she would show him how nice she could be; make it up to him in the only way that she was any good.
Morlock bent over the bed and took the pillow from his side. He said, “Good night, Louise,” and walked out of the room, closing the door behind him. She felt shame for just a moment. Then the shame turned inward, feeding on her, poisoning her. It was in that moment that she made her decision. Whatever happened to her, Morlock was going to be a part of it. She would drag him after her.
He slept on the couch in the living room. She made a point of getting up when she heard him stir and hurrying to the kitchen to start breakfast so that he would not have the satisfaction of acting the martyr. He ate the breakfast she put before him as he had eaten the supper, silently. When he started out for work she called after him—she would almost have preferred biting her own tongue but there was no alternative—“Al, I haven’t got any money.”
He turned to face her; “I left you some yesterday,” he said. “Did you use it all?”
“I went to a movie.”
He reached into his pocket and took out a handful of change. “I’ve only got about a dollar and a half,” he said. “I’ll give you half of it. There won’t be any more until Friday.” He put the money on the table and went out.
At Fagin’s that afternoon, Louise played shuffleboard with much determination but with unbelievably bad luck. Needing to win, she could not.
“Jimmy,” she said finally, “my old man doesn’t get paid until a week from Friday. I guess you’ll have to put me on the cuff.”
Jimmy said easily, “Why sure, Louise. Anything you want.”
She had put Morlock’s payday a week ahead in case—it was then Thursday—he tried to buy her off with three dollars again. She had indicated to Jimmy when she would pay; she would not have to worry about money, outside of change for cigarettes, for more than a week.
Since she had credit she might as well use it. After a time she approached Frank, the bookmaker. “I’m short for a while, Frank. Can you cuff me?” she asked.
Frank glanced from her to Jimmy. Jimmy said, “She’s all right, Frank. I’ll be good for it,” and the bookie nodded.
“Let me have the Armstrong,” she demanded. In the race that would later be broadcast, she picked an overwhelming favorite. “Give me five to win on Blue Glitter,” she said. Frank shrugged and wrote up the bet. Blue Glitter finished a poor third.
When Morlock came home on Friday, he made no mention of money. He was going in to the college on Saturday to conduct a make-up examination, he said.
When Louise arose on Saturday, he had already gone but he had left a ten-dollar bill on the kitchen table.
Since he was now buying the food, this money was obviously intended for her use as she saw fit. Just as obviously Morlock did not intend to give her any more.
She could, she knew, pay her tab as well as Frank the bookmaker’s five dollars with the ten and have a dollar or two left. But since she had credit for a week, why should she? Also, her luck was bound to turn.
Saturday afternoon she lost ten more on favorites. In desperation she picked an eight to one shot on Monday and lost another ten. When on Tuesday she walked toward Frank, he silently shook his head, indicating that he would take no more bets until her bill was paid.
She was drinking less now and sticking to beer. On Thursday she asked Jimmy, keeping her expression light, “What’s my tab, Jimmy? I’ve got to take care of you tomorrow.”
He took a slip of paper from the cash register and studied it. “Forty-two bucks, Louise, counting what you owe Frank.” He added anxiously, “Don’t be late with it, Louise. I’ve got to square up with Fagin.”
She had not the remotest chance of getting that much money from Morlock. He probably thought he was doing her a big favor by giving her ten dollars for a week. On Friday she did not go to Fagin’s directly after lunch. Instead she dressed carefully in the black taffeta and caught a bus going toward the college.
She had been to the college once or twice with Morlock. Once when their marriage was new and they were pretending that it was something that it was not, she had met him on a Friday afternoon after going to a movie. They had gone into a stucco office building set aside from the campus. There were a dozen girls inside the place. Morlock had gone to the counter that crossed in front of the door and one of the girls had come up to meet him. She was an ugly thing with mousy hair and no more breasts than a mackerel. Morlock had said, “Hello, Grace. This is my wife. Louise, this is Grace. She’s our best friend.”
Grace had simpered and handed Morlock an envelope containing his pay check.
Louise was aware of the danger involved in what she was about to do. She carefully balanced that risk against Morlock’s dislike of scenes and decided that the risk was slight—unless he had already called for his check. Actually, she decided, she had no choice. Against what might happen, what Morlock might do, was the certain knowledge of what Jimmy and Frank would do if they didn’t get their money.
Walking with great dignity and no hesitation, she entered the little stucco building and felt a tremendous surge of relief when the same girl came to the counter. She smiled. “Hello, Grace,” she said. “Remember me? Mrs. Morlock? I’m supposed to meet Alvin on the campus. He asked me to stop in and pick up his check.”
And all the worrying had been for nothing. Grace smiled and said, “Oh, sure, Mrs. Morlock. I’ll get it for you.”
With the check in her purse, Louise walked away from the office building. There was one more danger; she might run into Alvin. She didn’t. Off the campus again she caught a downtown bus. She cashed the check at a drugstore with no difficulty: the druggist merely read the face of it and scarcely glanced at her own scrawled endorsement—in Morlock’s name—on the reverse side. There was a bus station close to the drugstore. She walked in and bought a ticket for Providence. To hell with Morlock. To hell with Jimmy and Frank the bookmaker. While she waited for the bus, she went into a cocktail lounge and had two highballs.
Two hours after Louise left the office building, Morlock entered. He stood at the counter waiting for Grace, drumming with his fingers in nervous preoccupation, looking up at length to find Grace looking at him.
“Mr. Morlock,” she said. “Your wife picked up your check right after lunch.”
He could not believe it. He stammered, “What?” and even in his disbelief he sought wildly for some means of diverting this final shame.
Grace saved him. “She said she was supposed to meet you on the campus.”
Morlock struck his own brow in mock dismay and grinned at Grace. “So she was,” he said. “She’ll make me take her to dinner for this.” He strode away from the counter, as if in a hurry to keep his forgotten appointment, and headed for the campus in case Grace might still be watching. When he was out of sight of the office, he turned and hurried to catch a bus for Kosciusko Street.
She would not be there. He was certain of that; and yet he was dismayed when he found the tenement empty. He ransacked her closet. She had not taken her clothes. She could not, with seventy dollars, afford to replace them, and therefore she must have gone back to Federal Hill where she had dresses and other things. Morlock made a cup of coffee and sat back to think about it. He would be out of it cheaply if he never saw her again. He had no money. He would have to borrow from Dodson or someone else to keep going and he would have to stall the loan company and the other creditors. But little by little, given time, he would work his way out of debt.
On the following evening he was stopped in front of the tenement by a man who introduced himself as Jimmy.
“Jimmy Murphy, Mister Morlock. I’m the bartender at Fagin’s there. I hate to mention this but your wife owes quite a bill. We’ve got to have the money.”
“Forty-two bucks. I know it sounds like a lot but she was betting with the book on top of running a tab. We really got to have that money.”
“I’m not able to pay you right now,” Morlock said. “She took everything I had too, but I’ll get it for you just as soon as I can. I can give you some of it next Friday.” He started to say, “But don’t ever let her have credit again,” but remembered that she was gone now. More to himself in reassurance than to Jimmy, he said instead, “She won’t be around any more.”
Gurney: You are a second grade detective on the Providence, Rhode Island, police force, Officer Jacobs. Did you have occasion to arrest the deceased, Louise Morlock, on the night of April 29th?
Jacobs: I did.
Gurney: On what grounds?
Jacobs: I could have run her in for any one of several things: making a disturbance, common drunk. I was as easy as I could be. I charged her with loitering.
Gurney: And you say that that was on Sunday, the 29th of April?
Jacobs: It was. I rechecked the blotter when this investigation was brought up.
Gurney: And what is the usual disposition in such cases?
Jacobs: It’s up to the judge. Depending on circumstances, anything from ten to thirty days.
Gurney: Was Louise Morlock sentenced?
Jacobs: No. We let her go with her husband. We’ve known Louise for years—we were glad to get—
Cameron: Sustained. You know better than that, Detective Jacobs.
Jacobs: I’m sorry, Your Honor. We let her call her husband Monday morning. I wasn’t around when she called, but I was there when he came in to get her. I took him aside and sort of warned him a little bit; told him we didn’t want to see it happen again or we’d have to send her over the road.
Gurney: What was his reaction?
Jacobs: He was sore, of course. Most husbands are on a thing like that. Most of the time they choke all up and tell us what they are going to do when they get their old woman home; what will happen to her if it ever happens again.
Gurney: Did Morlock make any such threats?
Jacobs: No. He seemed more concerned about whether the arrest was going to be in the papers.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Alvin Morlock. Direct testimony of Detective 2nd Grade Melvin Jacobs.
Louise got off the bus at the downtown terminal and immediately caught a local bus for Federal Hill, again getting off in front of the old three-decker where her father lived.
She had decided to say that Alvin had gone to a teachers’ convention for a week and that she was visiting only for that length of time. Once re-established in the house she could fall back into the old routine. She did not plan to return to Morlock, but she did have the assurance of a husband in reserve—and if he tried anything silly like divorcing her, she would make him pay.
Dominick and the old man were sitting at the kitchen table, eating supper, when she entered the room. She said lightly, “Hi. Got anything left to eat?”
The old man rose immediately, his face beaming. “Louise,” he said, coming forward to hug her and kiss her. “My girl. Dominick, you get you up and get some thing for your sister. Go down the block and get steak, chicken, anything.”
Dominick went on eating, his face bent toward his plate. She could, she knew, use her power over the old man to make an immediate issue of her return. Not wanting a scene so soon she said, “I’m not that hungry, Pa. Whatever you’ve got will do for me.”
He bustled happily to the stove. “I fix you something nice. You sit down now, Louise. You see.”
She said casually, “All right, Pa. I’m going to be here for a week. Al had to go to a convention and I didn’t want to be left alone.”
Dominick asked harshly, “Where is the convention?”
“New York,” she answered him.
“Right in the middle of the term he goes off to a convention?”
She flared at him. “What do you know about teachers? Why don’t you mind your own business?” He said nothing more until they had finished eating. He left the kitchen and she hoped that he had gone out.
She was not to do the dishes. The old man winked and nudged. “I guess you tired of cook and wash for your old man, eh? I clean up. You go play phonograph.”
Dominick was sitting in the parlor, his big hands folded on his knees. He got up when she came into the room. “Where’s your bags?” he demanded.
“You came to spend a week, but you didn’t bring no clothes. Sure, I believe this. You got clothes here. Why should you bother, eh?” He advanced until his body vas almost touching hers. His eyes were hot, his face twisted in the anger he could not express by raising his voice. “Listen to me, you whore, you. You left your husband, the poor bastard, and you think you can come back here to slut around and live off the old man and me. That’s what you think. Now you listen to me. You don’t stay even tonight. You get out. Get out and I’ll tell the old man that you had to go back home. If I ever see you again in this house I get you away somewhere and beat you until you are nearly dead. And if I see you after that, I beat you until you are dead. Get out now, right now, before he comes in here.”
“I haven’t got any place to go, Dom,” she pleaded, backing away from him.
“Go back to your husband.”
“I can’t,” she wailed.
“Then go to hell.” He pushed her toward the door. At his touch, she whirled and tried to run toward the kitchen. Dom’s hand closed on her neck with such violence that his fingers nearly met at her throat. She could not scream, she could not breathe. He opened the door and pushed her so violently that she nearly fell down the steps. On the sidewalk she turned to scream at him but when he came toward her, she turned and hurried up the street.
Within a few minutes the initial shock of Dominick’s violent expulsion wore off. She still had most of Morlock’s paycheck, nearly seventy dollars. She would get a room, buy the few cosmetics she needed. She would think about it later. Meanwhile, she wanted a drink.
The bars and clubs were the same as they had always been. Only the people seemed different. She stopped in several, intending each time to stay only briefly and then to see about getting a room. And then she was given a warm welcome in one of the smaller bars. She had walked in to see a fat little man waving a handful of bills. She smiled and said, “Hello, Porky. You buying?” She remembered him from the old days.
He was half drunk, she saw. He turned and said, “Hey, Louise! Where have you been keeping yourself?”
“Here and there.”
He rushed over to put his arm across her shoulders. “Give Louise a drink,” he demanded, waving the bills. “Hey, Louise, what about a game of gin? Let me win back some of the dough you won off me.”
The bartender—she remembered him too—said, “Watch out for him, Louise. He won forty bucks this afternoon. He can’t lose.”
“Come on, Louise,” Porky insisted. “For a buck.” She could make money from this little drunk, Louise thought. A mark. See that he kept drinking—and she would be careful about how much she drank herself. “You’ll never get even with me playing for a buck,” she said. “How about five?”
She began to play conservatively, getting down as soon as possible on each hand in order to avoid a schneider which would cost double. Porky was a nervous, noisy player: laughing happily when he went down for a good score and cursing when he lost points. Not a good player but tonight a lucky one. He won two games in which she barely got on the board and she became angry with herself. She would win, she was confident that she would win; but each game that he won meant just that much more ground that she would have to make up before she began making money from him.
Porky’s luck, good to begin with, became fantastic. Twice he ginned before she even made a run in her and. He schneidered her on the third game and crowed happily.
“Hey—what I tell you! You want to get even, we play ten.”
She finished her drink and said angrily, “All right. Ten.”
She won the ten-dollar game and felt better. Now if she could schneider Porky she would begin to get into his money. As winner she bought drinks.
She did not win another game; she lost six consecutive times. Porky was quite drunk by now and she would have been able to cheat him—she did manage to cheat a little on the point count—but the game had attracted attention by this time and there were too many people standing near the table. One man, a wise guy, she thought, several times corrected her when she counted in her own favor.
She was in a bad jam. She had less than two dollars left. Until now they had put the money on the side of the table before each game. It was her deal as loser of the last game. Without putting her money up, hoping that Porky would not notice, she began to deal the cards.
The wise guy said, “What about getting the dough up, Louise?”
He was staring at her coldly.
“Why don’t you mind your own damn business? Come on, Porky. Discard.”
Wise guy said, “You’ve got your money up, Porky. Where’s hers.”
Porky looked troubled. “You’re supposed to put it up, Louise. You know that.”
“I was going to,” she said, “until this nosy bastard butted in. I got the money right here in my purse.” She appealed to Porky’s drunken sense of gallantry. “You want me to show you?”
Wise guy butted in again. “She hasn’t got more than a couple of bucks in her purse, Porky. She’s been trying to cheat you all night. Make her get the dough up or don’t play with her.”
Porky was unhappy. He had been playing and winning and having a fine time and now these people wanted to fight. “I know you got the money, Louise. Why don’t you put it on the table and we’ll play. You’re due to win one.”
“There was nothing she could do now; nothing she could say. Wise guy had spoiled it. She did not consider what the consequences might have been if she had played and lost and been unable to pay. She had taken such chances before and relied on her sex and looks to get her out of it.
She got up defiantly. “If that’s the way you feel, the hell with you,” she said, and walked from the room with the laughter following her.
She no longer had enough money for a room. She entered a cafe and tried to call Rosie, the friend of that first date with Morlock. She was not home. Louise sat at the bar and ordered beer, trying to make herself think what she should do. It was much easier to drink beer and not think. She began a round of bars, insinuating herself between groups of men so that she was offered drinks often enough but received no more substantial bids.
Louise, who had allowed herself to be picked up on hundred occasions in the old days, had never solicited.
Her contempt for the slatterns who did was the more powerful because of her fear that she might some day sink to the same level—though she never really admitted this fear to herself. At one-thirty in the morning, lurching a little, her stockings awry and her lipstick smeared; at one-thirty, half drunk and loose mouthed, Louise Morlock approached a tall man on a street corner. “Say, Jack,” she began.
The man said, “Oh, oh. You’d better come with me, dear.” He waved a hand and a car appeared. She got in the back seat and sank into the cushions only half aware that the car was a police car.
She was allowed to make a telephone call Monday morning. Sick and ashamed, she asked the operator to get Ludlow College in Warfield for her.
Morlock had spent most of Sunday at Abram’s Rock. The great monolith was now a touchstone for him. He could sit on its ancient gray head and be transported out of his troubled world and back to the golden days when he had played here with Marianna Cruz. He went to his classes on Monday refreshed, as though he had taken strength from the rock. He was preparing a lecture in the teachers’ lounge when Louise’s call came. There were several other teachers in the room; because of their presence he kept the shock from his voice.
“Al,” she said. “I’m in trouble. They’ve got me at the police station. Al, come and get me, will you?”
He asked in a low voice, “Where?”
“In Providence. Al—will you?”
“I’ve got classes this morning,” he said. “I can’t get out of them on such short notice. I’ll get there as soon as I can.”
Driving to Providence in the afternoon in Dodson’s car he tried to think of a solution; when he walked into the police station he had not found one, other than to take her back with him. They would have to reach some sort of an understanding. In the meantime he would have to make it clear to her that he was a teacher; his job depended on his reputation and that of his wife. The fear came on him then that it might already be in the papers; might have gotten back to Warfield. When the detective who had arrested Louise took him aside, he blurted out, “Did it get in the papers?”
The detective seemed a little irritated at the interruption.
“No,” he said. “Where married women are involved we keep it quiet as much as we can.”
Gurney: I call William Cory.
Cameron: The clerk will swear the witness.
Gurney: Mr. Cory, what is your occupation?
Cory: I am a student at Ludlow College.
Gurney: A veteran?
Cory: Yes. I was in the army two years.
Gurney: Were you a student in any of the accused’s classes?
Cory: Mr. Morlock? Sure. I had English with him.
Gurney: Did you know Mrs. Morlock?
Cory: I met her, yes.
Gurney: Under what circumstances?
Cory: I went to his house one Sunday to see about my marks. They were bad. I wanted to see if I could take any special test or anything to improve them.
Gurney: On what date was this visit?
Corey: May 6th.
Gurney: Was Morlock home?
Gurney: What happened then?
Cory: Well, I asked where he was and what time he’d be home. Then I left.
Gurney: I remind you that you are under oath, Cory. How long did you actually stay?
Cory: I don’t know. Maybe half an hour.
Gurney: Half, an hour to ask two simple questions?
Cory: I already told you I don’t know how long it was. Maybe it wasn’t half an hour.
Gurney: Mr. Cory, wasn’t it long enough for you to have intimate relations with her?
Liebman: I object, Your Honor! What is he trying to do—impeach his own witness?
Cameron: This is highly unusual, Mr. Gurney. Unless you can show a strong justification for this line of questioning I shall have to rule for the defense. Come to the bench, please.
Gurney: Your Honor, I have a reluctant witness here. I chose the method I used as the only means to an end. I can produce witnesses numbering at least twelve who will state that Cory admitted—bragged is the word—to having intimate relations with Mrs. Morlock, the deceased. I submit that the accused was faced with the prospect of becoming a laughing stock for the whole school and that this is part of the substance of motive. I don’t want to drag a bunch of students in here and sully them with this thing. If Mr. Liebman will go along with me I can establish what I want without doing that.
Cameron: I will let the question stand.
Gurney: I ask you again, Cory. Were you intimate with Mrs. Morlock? Don’t be shy. I understand that you bragged about it to half the school.
Cory: I was.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Alvin Morlock. Direct testimony of William Cory.
Out of vast relief and a little shame Louise had been wildly penitent when she and Morlock left the police station to ride back to Warfield. Morlock had been white-faced and silent during the first half of the ride. He had then stopped the car at the side of the road and turned to face her.
“I want you to know,” he said, “that I wouldn’t have come after you if I had had a choice. I can’t afford any more of your escapades, financially or otherwise. I married you and I’ll see that there’s a roof over your head because I think you’d wreck me if I didn’t.”
She reached for his hand and he drew it away. “Al,” she promised, “it won’t happen again. I’ve learned my lesson.”
“Did you see your father while you were in Providence?”
“I know what you want,” she answered. “You’d like me to go back there and live and you’d be rid of me. Al, I don’t blame you. They wouldn’t take me in. Please, Al…”
He was silent as he started up the car and drove the rest of the way home. They met Anna Carofano in the hall. Louise said, “Hello, Anna,” but the other woman stared coldly at her without answering. Because of what had happened at Fagin’s, Louise supposed. Louise wondered if Jimmy the bartender had come to Al for his money, but she could not find the nerve to ask about it.
The penitent mood began to fade on the next day. Bored with the tenement, afraid to go to Fagin’s—she had no money anyway—she began to feel injured. She had, after all, told Al that she was sorry. She was willing to come more than half way toward a reconciliation but he treated her like something dirty. He hadn’t even left her money for cigarettes. By the end of the week she was convinced that most of what had happened was Al’s fault. She had, in that time, not left the tenement.
When she had asked him for money on Friday, “Enough for a movie and cigarettes, Al,” he had said flatly, “I can’t do it, Louise. It will take me months to pay off our bills now.” She had screamed at him then, but he had merely stared briefly at her and gone out. On Sunday she did not dress. Al had left the Sunday paper and gone off somewhere, and she sat in her robe in the parlor halfheartedly looking at the racing results. When she heard the knock on the door she was startled. It had been a week since she had seen any face but Al’s. Anna, probably, she thought, hoping that it was and that she was all through being mad and would tell her what had happened at Fagin’s about the tab.
Cory, the professional ex-GI, had determined to force an understanding with Morlock. He couldn’t figure it out. Morlock, one of the easiest to bully and bluff of the whole faculty, had in the last few weeks hardened. He had been ruthlessly failing Cory on paper after paper and Cory was now worried. Driving to Morlock’s place—he had obtained the address from the Bursar’s office—he had planned his approach. He would be open and honest, call Morlock “sir,” admit his errors, and appeal to his sympathy. “I know I’ve been a pretty poor student, sir, but I’d like to ask you as man to man for one more chance.” The advantage of this approach was that if it failed he could switch to bullying and if that didn’t work either he could threaten to go to the Dean and complain that he was being discriminated against. The Dean wouldn’t stand by and see a GI Bill student flunked. It would mean that the V.A. might come snooping around.
He was a little surprised at the sight of. Morlock’s home; he had supposed that teachers were able to afford something a little better. He walked up to the third floor, practicing his approach, looked in vain for a bell and finally knocked. He was further surprised when he saw Louise. If he had pictured Morlock’s wife at all he would have expected some mousy little creature with a thin face and a scrawny shape. This woman standing in the doorway was big and strapping and—built. A little on the full-blown side maybe, but something nevertheless. More than he would have thought Morlock could handle. He gave her the boyish smile. “Mrs. Morlock?” he asked.
Louise, happy to have the monotony broken, returned the smile. “Yes,” she said. “Come in. My husband isn’t home but I’ll be glad to take a message.”
He stepped inside and she closed the door.
“I’m at the college,” he explained. “In one of your husband’s classes. My name’s Bill Cory.”
“Sit down, Bill,” she said. “Would you like a cup of coffee?”
He didn’t particularly want the coffee but he was fascinated with the way she moved; the way the robe almost came open. So help him if he didn’t think she didn’t have anything on underneath it. “Sure,” he said. “I’d like it.”
Maybe, the way she was acting, he ought to change to another approach; the rough, surly one. He would delay his decision.
It didn’t take her long to get the coffee. When she put it in front of him he could see right down the front of the robe and she didn’t have anything on under it. He had heard of situations like this; first time he’d ever run into one. She sat down beside him, so close that he could feel the pressure of her thigh.
Louise had been aware of the way that Cory followed her with his eyes. “A hard up kid,” she thought at first, finding some amusement in it. Studying him, when she brought in the coffee, she changed her mind about his being a kid. Where she had planned to give him something to think about, something to look at and then send him on his way, she suddenly saw in him a means of getting even with Morlock. She saw it with almost blinding clarity.
“It’s too bad we haven’t got something better than coffee,” she said. “Al won’t be home for hours.” She was afraid for a minute that she had been too crude; that he might be scared off. He got quickly to his feet.
He was aroused by the sight of her breasts and the feel of her thigh. By God, he had never run into anything like this. “I can take care of that,” he blustered. “You leave it to me, Mrs. Morlock.”
“Lolly,” she said, smiling. “Sure you can get it on a Sunday?”
“Sure,” he said. “I know half a dozen places. Leave it to me.”
He was gone for half an hour. In that time she bathed and put on fresh make-up. She did not dress but put on the robe again.
Liebman: Cory, how old are you?
Liebman: You say you spent two years in the army. Overseas?
Liebman: No combat, then.
Liebman: How long did you say you spent with Mrs. Morlock?
Cory: I already said I don’t know. Maybe it was half an hour.
Liebman: But it could have been a lot more?
Cory: I guess it could.
Liebman: Did you make any plans to see her again?
Cory: She said I could come again on the next Sunday.
Liebman: And did you?
Liebman: That would have been May 13. Were you intimate with her again on that occasion?
Liebman: Weren’t you afraid that her husband might discover you?
Cory: She said that he went off every Sunday… there wasn’t anything to worry about.
Liebman: How many people did you tell about this affair?
Cory: Some of the guys. I don’t know how many.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Alvin Morlock. Cross-examination of William Cory.
Louise was waiting for Cory when he came back with the whisky. She had several drinks and then matched his eagerness with her own; hers the more satisfying because of the revenge she was getting on Morlock. On the second Sunday he brought the whisky with him. She planned that second tryst in spite of the danger that Morlock might not go out. She was by this time accustomed to his Sunday absences and she was gratified to see him leave early for wherever it was he went, That evening, when Morlock came in, she sat across from him at the supper table and studied him. Where had he been? Her curiosity began to grow.
Cory, on the occasion of his first relations with Louise, kept the affair to himself. Cory, brute of the back seat, had been overwhelmed by a carnality that very nearly frightened him. After the second meeting with Louise, he could not hold the knowledge in. He rolled it over and over in his mind, trying to find some way of using it. It wasn’t every day that a student shacked up with a professor’s wife.
Maybe, he thought, he could use it to blackmail Morlock into giving him passing grades. He considered this and then rejected it. Then, because it was too obscene, too scandalous, and too heroic a thing to keep secret, he began bragging of it. “You guys think you’ve had a piece,” he would say. “You ought to see what I’ve been getting… and from who.” Then he would tell them.
Morlock, on both Sundays, came home to find Louise almost gay. He could smell whisky. If he gave any thought to it he supposed that Anna Carofano had been up to see Louise and had brought a bottle. Until the trial he never knew that she had betrayed him with Cory.
Liebman: Cory, you have testified that you had several rendezvous with Mrs. Morlock in the weeks immediately preceding her death. You held these trysts only on Sundays, didn’t you?
Cory: Any other day he was liable to be home.
Liebman: And you, in fact, were with her on the Sunday she died, weren’t you?
Cory: Sure, yes, but it wasn’t like the other times. She was getting sore about him, where he was going every Sunday. She wanted to know what he was doing. She followed him one time and saw him get in Mr. Dodson’s car and drive off. So then she wanted me to come early the next Sunday and wait around the corner in my car; she wanted me to take her wherever it was he went. She thought he was seeing some other woman.
Liebman: The irony of this didn’t strike you?
Liebman: Let it go. Cory, did she ever discuss with you the advantages of doing away with the accused?
Cameron: Sustained. Do you want a ruling on that, Mr. Liebman?
Liebman: No. I take it, then, that on Sunday, May 20th, you generously agreed to help the suspicious Mrs. Morlock as she shadowed her husband?
Cory: The 20th?
Liebman: The 20th. The day she died.
Cory: Well, yes. I did. I didn’t want to. All the time I was seeing her I was spending a lot of money on whisky and cigarettes and I was pretty near broke. I had to gas up my car—I didn’t know how far he was going or anything like that. She never offered to help pay for it. And I was scared that he might see me with her.
Liebman: My heart goes out to you, Cory.
Cameron: We can do without the sarcasm, Mr. Liebman.
Liebman: I stand reprimanded, Your Honor. Cory—what time did the accused come out of the house?
Cory: I don’t know. I was around the corner waiting for Lolly—for Mrs. Morlock. I got there about eight-thirty because he always left a little after that. I waited about ten minutes and then she came out and got in the car and told me which way to go.
Liebman: Was the accused familiar with your car?
Cory: I didn’t think so but she said not to take any chances. I stayed a couple of blocks behind him—he was walking then—until he got in Mr. Dodson’s car and started out of town. Then I stayed far enough behind so he couldn’t see that he was being followed or who was in the car with me. He drove steady as far as South Danville, not in a hurry, and then he parked the car behind a filling station and got out.
Liebman: Did you stop at that time?
Cory: No. I slowed down a little but I drove on past and pulled off the road a little bit and stopped.
Liebman: How far past his car was that?
Cory: Maybe fifty yards. He didn’t look back. Mrs. Morlock was the one that said to stop there. We sat in the car and watched him walking up a little dirt road. He was looking straight ahead.
Liebman: What was her attitude at that time?
Cory: She seemed pretty excited. She said, “Come on. Let’s see where he goes.” I told her that I didn’t want any part of it and she got mad. She made me promise to wait for her and I said that I would unless her husband was with her when she came back. She hurried off the way he went—he was out of sight in the trees—and I stayed in the car and waited.
Liebman: You’re sure you stayed in the car? You’re sure you didn’t go into the woods with her?
Cory: I’m sure. I never got out of the car.
Liebman: How long did you wait?
Cory.: I guess it was about twenty minutes. Then I saw Mr. Morlock come running down the road. The road I told you about that the two of them walked up. You could tell just from the way he was running that something had happened and his face was bleeding. I started up my car and got out of there.
Liebman: Thou faithful lover. That’s all, Cory.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Alvin Morlock. Cross-examination of William Cory.
What had been hardly more than an idle curiosity about Morlock’s absences each Sunday grew and festered in Louise’s mind. He had a hell of a nerve, she thought, treating her like a prisoner, not letting her have any money, not speaking to her and all the time carrying on some affair of his own.
How else could he be spending all that time? She reasoned, more cunningly, that if she could catch him at it she would have the satisfaction of bringing him down to her own level—the level on which he placed her—and he could no longer humiliate her with her own shortcomings. But she would have to catch him in the act; right in the middle of the act so that he could have no possible defense. She had tried to follow him one Sunday, thinking that he would head for some cheap hotel room or walk-up flat.
She would, she thought, give him just time enough and then she would rush in. She practiced the things she would say to him, and to his woman. Or if she could catch him at something queer like with that fag, Martin… so much the better. She rehearsed the things she would say until even the accusations she rejected remained in her mind as referring to facts accomplished, actual things she had seen. There was no longer any possible doubt in her about what he was doing, and her spying took on the air of a crusade. When, on that first Sunday of her espionage, he got into Dodson’s car and drove away she raged in her frustration and was more than ever convinced of his guilt. When Cory came, she asked him to drive for her so she could see where Morlock went. He was difficult but she had a sensual power over him that made him easy to control.
She watched Morlock throughout the week, impatient for Sunday to come, clutching her obsession to her like a mother clutching an infant. When Sunday did come and he did leave, she rushed to the appointed place to meet Cory, afraid that he might not be there. He was there and she got into the car, hardly aware of Cory at all.
Morlock, in the few weeks since he had rediscovered the sanctuary of Abram’s Rock, had already worked out a routine for his visits. By arrangement with Dodson he had the use of the old LaSalle until evening on each Sunday; in return he filled the car’s tank with gasoline at the filling station adjacent to the rock and thus repaid the filling station proprietor as well as Dodson.
He could park the car in back of the filling station and take the road to the rock without speaking to anyone, which was very important. He had reached a point where any conversation at all was an intrusion. Aware of the dangerous psychological ground on which he was treading, he rationalized. The rock was the only place where he could escape Louise, he told himself; the only place where he could be free of half a hundred reminders of the failure of his marriage.
He was aware of his own hypocrisy. In actual fact, he knew, he was visiting the rock less as a refuge than as a retreat from Ludlow, from being a second-class teacher and a failure. He spent hours each week on the rock, not in idle, harmless contemplation of what might have been but in an actual return to his youth. Here he and Marianna had played and daydreamed. Here he had been happy.
On Sunday, May 20th, he walked toward the rock in quiet anticipation. At the very summit there was a spot where the sun warmed the granite and where there was a fallen tree that he could sit on. Once he had crouched in tears at that very place, he remembered. And Marianna had come to him to ask, “Why are you crying?” That had been the day of his father’s funeral.
Today he would remember more pleasant times. He had the faculty of selecting his memories as an orchestra leader might choose a single work from all the creations of a composer. Morlock was also aware of the danger in this power of selection. He was not, he decided, hurting anyone except possibly himself. If he preferred to spend his solitude in a return to what was past—that was his privilege.
This gray slope up which he struggled—how many times he had seen Marianna skip to the top, slim and bare-legged, as graceful as he was clumsy.
When he was at last at the summit he found his fallen tree and sat down, warm from the exercise. Beyond he could see hills and pastures, green with the new grass of spring and populated only with grazing cattle, brown and black and white and looking like playthings from this height. There were towering spruce and hemlocks below the sheer side of the cliff over which he looked, but their tops never reached the height of the rock. This was the place where Abram, the Indian of the legend, had leaped, it was said. He remembered when he had told Marianna the story. Her eyes had widened and filled with pity.
“Was he killed?” she wanted to know.
“Sure,” he had told her with the contempt for death of boyhood. “It’s almost a thousand feet down.”
“He must have missed her very much,” she said thoughtfully. “Had they been married very long? What made her die?”
“I don’t know,” he had answered. “I guess she just got sick or something. Indians didn’t have doctors.”
She had been quiet for a little while. Then she said, “She must have been very glad that he loved her enough to jump when she die.”
At twelve he had been less interested in the legend than she. Nevertheless, when it was her turn to choose the game they would play, or the direction of their pretending, she often chose the legend of Abram as a focal point to set the stage. He never entered halfheartedly into the game because it was of her choosing or something that he might privately consider sissified; when she pretended that she could hear the dead Indian princess crying in the depths below them for Abram, he pretended that he could hear it too.
Once, when they played this game, she said gravely, “If they made me go away from here, I would wish that I could jump like Abram did, Alvin.”
He asked, in astonishment, “Why?”
“Because I would be sad at leaving here and going away from you.”
He was touched. “I guess I’d feel the same, Marianna.”
And it occurred to them both simultaneously. They would make a pact, solemnly and with pomp. They were friends. If anything happened to the one, the other would do as Abram had done.
These things were the subject of Morlock’s reminiscence when he heard the sound of someone approaching behind him. He had to recall himself to the present violently and with great conscious effort. He got to his feet and turned in the same motion; when he saw Louise climbing the last few feet to the top he could not believe what he saw. When he did believe it he said, “Louise—for God’s sake, what are you doing here?”
She had followed him up the rutted road from the filling station, stumbling in her high heels and flogged by the outstretched whips of birch and alder that had invaded the road. She caught only a glimpse of him from time to time but she had kept on, realizing that he could hardly have turned off the road. After a few minutes she had begun to perspire from the effort of trying to keep him in sight. The perspiration had stung her where the branches had scratched her skin but she had been unconscious of any pain in her urge to confront Morlock in all his guilt.
Even when he had started to climb the rock, she had not doubted for a moment that her obsession was based in reality; she only wondered at his choice of a trysting place. She had taken off her shoes to get a foothold on the smooth surface and started climbing the barely visible old trail to the top. She had come close enough to the summit to see him several seconds before he heard her and turned and she was profoundly disappointed when she saw that he was alone and that there could be no other person on the bare summit. Unable to believe this she glanced at every pebble, every crevice in the granite.
“I followed you,” she said when she had caught her breath. “Al, I thought you were seeing someone, the way you’ve been gone every Sunday.”
He was outraged at her intrusion. “How did you get here?” he demanded.
“I got someone to take me,” she said. A quick suspicion returned to her, a saving hope. Probably she was just too early. Probably someone was coming right this minute, the someone he was seeing. She turned to look back down the trail.
Morlock, after his first anger, felt a despairing sense of loss. The rock would never be the same again. It could never again be a sanctuary. With her mere presence she had dirtied it. He saw her backward look and interpreted it correctly.
“Don’t bother,” he said. “There isn’t anyone coming. You shouldn’t have come here, Louise.” He watched her move toward him, looking curiously about her, like a filthy alley cat in a shrine. “This is all I can stand, your coming here,” he said. “You’re going to have to get out. I don’t care where you go or what you do. I’ll help you with what money I can, but you’ve got to go away from me.”
“What did I do?” she demanded. “You can’t blame me for thinking you were up to something—seeing some woman probably. You haven’t come near me—I know that much.”
“This place had a meaning for me,” he said. “I used to play here when I was a kid. This is where Marianna—” He caught himself and finished lamely, “And the other kids used to come.”
She seized on the name instantly, picking it from all the other words he had used with instinctive awareness of its importance to him.
“Marianna,” she said. “Sounds like a Dago like me. Who is she, Al?”
“She was a girl I used to know when we were kids,” he said. He tried to divert her. “Come on, Louise. I’ll take you down.”
She had wandered close to the steep edge. She peered over and drew back quickly with a mock shudder. “Hell of a drop. What was she like, Al,” she said, taunting him.
“She was just a girl.”
“And you came up here to play with her?”
“Oh, damn it, yes. Now come on down.”
She was not through. Glancing at her, he saw that she was smiling maliciously. Lowering her voice, she asked slyly, “What did you play, Al? Doctor?”
When he understood, he took a step toward her, his face contorted. In his fury he slapped her twice across the face. Louise, stepping back from the blow, brought her shoeless foot down on a sharp pebble. To transfer her weight from the injured foot she took still another step backward, this time into empty space.
Morlock, lunging to catch her, nearly went over the sheer edge himself. Staring down he could see her body twist and turn and hear her thin, terrified wail. She seemed to fall for an impossibly long time before the green boughs of the hemlocks reached up to receive her. In that moment he was aware of a great rushing tide of revelation. That was how it was to fall, the body turning, the lips screaming. That was how Marianna Cruz had died.
He had never let himself think about it before. Now it was thrust on him. He sobbed once, and began to run down the trail. There was heavy undergrowth around the base of the rock. It tore his flesh and his clothing as he forced his way through. When he came to her, Louise was lying face down on a mass of detritus from the rock.
Her clothing was hardly disheveled and there was nothing gruesome about her appearance. She might have been sleeping there except that her body was curiously flattened, out of proportion. Morlock turned her over and then, without feeling for her pulse, he began to force his way through the underbrush to the road that led to the filling station. And Cory, sitting in his car, saw Morlock running, head down, unaware of the blood streaming down from his face.
As he ran Morlock frantically made plans. Louise had already cost him too much, in dignity, in self-respect. He would not let her cost him his freedom—his life, perhaps. She was dead. He was certain that she was dead so that there was no person except himself who could say what had happened on top of the rock. She had fallen accidentally. It happened all the time. That was what he would tell them. He would have to assume a grief that he did not feel, but he could do it. He must do it. He had a driving obsession to get her body away from the rock and this he could do by pretending to refuse to believe that she was dead. He would get someone to help him to get her away from there and at the same time add color to his picture of bereavement. Alive or dead she desecrated Abram’s Rock.
Gurney: I will recall William Davis to the stand.
Cameron: Witness will remember that he is still under oath.
Gurney: Mr. Davis, getting back to Sunday, May 20th, I’d like to ask you if you saw the car driven by the last witness, Cory.
Davis: I didn’t see any car. I didn’t see her then, either.
Davis: Mrs. Morlock. This Cory already said he pulled ahead of the filling station before he parked. I was pretty busy. I did see Morlock’s car when he pulled in but I didn’t pay much attention to him. I knew where he was going.
Gurney: Tell us what happened then.
Davis: Maybe half an hour after Morlock got out of his car and went toward the rock, I was sitting in the station making out bills. All of a sudden I heard footsteps coming like someone was running—I’ve got gravel around the gas pumps. You can’t walk on it without making a racket. I got up to see what was going on and just then he came in the door. He was breathing hard and his hair was all mussed up. He had a couple of bad scratches on his face. He yelled, “She fell from the rock. Help me.” I tried to steady him down so I could find out what happened. “Who did?” I asked him. He said, “My wife. Help me, please.” I’ve got a stretcher that the Civil Defense issued me in the station. I knew that if she was hurt she’d have to be carried out to the road. I called the town constable—we don’t have a police force—and I told him to come out to the station and to send an ambulance. Then I went with Morlock. I was carrying the stretcher and I had a hard time keeping up with him. I asked him how it had happened and he said—
Liebman: Your Honor, I don’t think that would be admissible.
Gurney: It would be in the Res Gestae. I can give you any number of precedents.
Cameron: I’ll have to agree with Mr. Gurney, Mr. Liebman.
Liebman: I’ll withdraw the objection.
Cameron: Witness will continue.
Davis: He was pretty broken up. He said, “I don’t know, I don’t know.” He kept after me to hurry. Well, pretty soon we came to where she was. I took one look at her and I told him that I was sorry for him but it wasn’t any use and we might as well go back and let the ambulance men handle it but he insisted that she wasn’t dead and we should get her to the hospital. So the two of us got her on the stretcher and started out of the woods. Halfway there we met Tom Harrison—he’s the constable—and Doctor Sedge.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Alvin Morlock. Redirect testimony of William Davis.
Gurney: Doctor Sedge, the witness who preceded you has stated that you were present when the body of Louise Morlock was being carried from the woods surrounding Abram’s Rock. Would you give the jury an account of what happened from that point?-
Sedge: I am an intern at the County Hospital. I was on call on Sunday—the Sunday in question—and when Constable Harrison telephoned for an ambulance to meet, him at Mr. Davis’s filling station, my immediate thought was that there had been an auto accident. I got in the ambulance and told the driver where to go. When we got to the station, Constable Harrison was already there. The station was unlocked but there was no one in sight and we were puzzled for a moment until the driver looked up the road and saw two men with a stretcher. We hurried to meet them.
Gurney: “Them” being the accused and Mr. Davis?
Sedge: Yes. Constable Harrison took one end of the stretcher and the ambulance driver took the other. I told them not to stop and put her down but to keep right on going to the ambulance and I would examine her on the way to the hospital. It seemed to me that she was either dead or moribund—
Sedge: Dying. I felt for a pulse while I walked along beside the stretcher but I could find none. She was probably dead then, although she might have been barely alive. In deep shock the pulse is often extremely difficult to detect. On the way to the hospital I was able to examine her more thoroughly. She was, by that time, unquestionably dead.
Gurney: From a fall?
Sedge: I would say from injuries resulting from a fall. I examined her at the hospital again. Among other injuries, she had a fractured skull and pelvis, several fractured vertebrae, one of which had pierced the pericardium, and fractures of the left femur and tibia. I assumed that the specific and immediate cause of death was hemorrhage due to the piercing of the pericardium. The medical examiner later conducted an autopsy and confirmed this.
Gurney: Were there any superficial injuries? Scratches or bruises such as those resulting from a blow?
Sedge: There were many such but these could also have been the result of her fall.
Gurney: Did the accused ride in the ambulance with you?
Sedge: He did. He had lacerations on his face. When I was certain that I could do nothing for the woman I offered to take care of him. He was in a state of shock; almost numb with grief, I thought. He hardly seemed to understand what I was saying. I cleansed his cuts and scratches when we arrived at the hospital. I told him that I had notified the medical examiner and that he could wait in the hospital reception room.
Gurney: What was his reaction?
Sedge: He seemed startled that it would be necessary to notify an official. He asked, “Do you have to do that? She fell from the rock. It was an accident.”
Gurney: You spoke of lacerations on his face. Could they have been inflicted in a scuffle or fight?
Sedge: I would say so, yes. He claimed that he scratched his face while running to the spot where his wife fell.
Gurney: That will be all, and thank you, doctor.
Cameron: Does the defense wish to cross-examine?
Liebman: Not at this time. I reserve the right to cross-examination.
Gurney: I shall now call Police Chief Charles Stewart to the stand.
Cameron: I do not wish to press you, Mr. Gurney. In order that the Court may determine the future course of this trial, however, I should like to know how many more witnesses you intend to produce.
Gurney: This will be the final witness for the prosecution, Your Honor.
Cameron: Thank you. The witness will be sworn.
Gurney: Chief Stewart, you are the head of the Warfield Police Department, are you not?
Stewart: I am.
Gurney: Did you personally arrest the accused?
Stewart: I did.
Gurney: On what date and on what charge?
Stewart: Tuesday, May 22. The charge was suspicion of homicide.
Gurney: What specifically led you to make the arrest after a lapse of two days?
Stewart: Well, first let me say this. In the event of the unnatural death of a married woman under circumstances that are at all suspicious, a police officer will automatically consider the possibility of homicide by the husband. This isn’t my own conclusion. It is the sum of the experience of many police officials. More often than not it is a homicide.
Gurney: But you didn’t arrest Morlock on just a possibility?
Stewart: The medical examiner doubted the story the accused sold him. He notified the district attorney who got in touch with me since Morlock lived in my jurisdiction. There was certainly insufficient evidence to justify an arrest at that time. We talked it over. The accused was a teacher at the college. If it got out that we were investigating him for the murder of his wife, he would have been ruined even if he was innocent. The district attorney asked me to make a confidential check and see if there were any indications that Morlock might have killed her: motive—that sort of thing. I found out most of the things that you have been hearing here during the trial. On the 21st—the day after the murder—
Stewart: I’m sorry. I should have said after the death of Morlock’s wife.
Cameron: That much of the testimony as involves the word “murder” will be stricken. Please be more careful, Chief Stewart.
Stewart: On the evening of the 21st I visited Morlock in his home. I had already learned some facts about the financial trouble he was in. When I got there he was cleaning the woodwork in his kitchen. I immediately thought of bloodstains, but if there were any there he had probably removed them. He had enough turpentine and paint remover on the table to do a good job. I still didn’t have enough evidence to arrest him. I talked to him for a little while and then left.
Gurney: And you arrested him the next day?
Stewart: I did. On the strength of an anonymous telephone call that I received the following morning.
Liebman: Your Honor, I am going to anticipate counsel’s next question. I’d like a ruling on the admissibility of the content of this telephone conversation before any portion of it is brought out to the prejudice of my client.
Cameron: The content of any such conversation would fall within the definition of hearsay and would not be admissible.
Liebman: Thank you.
Gurney: Your witness, Mr. Liebman.
Liebman: Chief Stewart, when you visited Alvin Morlock’s home you found him cleaning woodwork in the kitchen and immediately thought of bloodstains. You knew then, beyond any possibility of doubt, that she had fallen to her death miles away. Then why the rigmarole about bloodstains?
Stewart: I did not know beyond any doubt that she had fallen to her death. As a matter of fact, when I left Morlock’s home I called the medical examiner and asked if it was possible that she had been killed elsewhere and her body later thrown from the rock. I was told that it was not impossible. I thought—I still think—it possible that there had at least been a quarrel in the kitchen. I think that removing paint from woodwork is an unusual activity for a recently widowed man.
Liebman: And the next day you arrested the accused on the strength of an anonymous telephone call. Is this a practice of yours?
Stewart: The anonymous telephone call was one part of what was by then a large mass of circumstantial and other evidence against Morlock. As a matter of fact, the person who made the call is no longer anonymous. I have identified that person, to my own satisfaction, while sitting here in this court.
Liebman: Who was it?
Stewart: The student, Cory. The one who drove Mrs. Morlock to South Danville on the day she was killed. I recognized his voice as soon as he took the stand.
Liebman: You could be mistaken though, couldn’t you?
Stewart: I could be, but I’m not.
Liebman: Well, we’ll leave that for the jury to decide, Chief Stewart. I wonder, however, if you might clear up a little puzzle for me. You have heard Cory testify that he drove Mrs. Morlock to Abram’s Rock. Yet earlier you suggested that the bloodstains on the woodwork in Morlock’s apartment resulted from an assault by the accused on his wife, and that he then drove her to the rock and disposed of her body.
Stewart: I stick with what I said about the bloodstains. I still think there was a fight and the blood was Louise Morlock’s. But now that you remind me about the boy’s testimony, I think it might have happened this way—
Liebman: Never mind the speculation, Chief Stewart.
Gurney: Objection, Your Honor: Counsel asked the witness a question. Now he refuses to allow him to answer.
Cameron: The witness will be allowed to answer, Mr. Liebman. I’ll rule on admissibility when he’s finished.
Stewart: As I was saying, the deceased had Cory drive her out there after a quarrel in order to patch up things with her husband. The accused made no attempt, as far as we can learn, to make any secret of the visits he made to Abram’s Rock. He knew that she would follow him up there, sooner or later, and that way he would avoid the self-incrimination involved in taking her there himself.
Liebman: Your Honor, I must protest the groundless insinuations….
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Alvin Morlock. Direct testimony of Dr. Robert Sedge; cross-examination of Chief of Police Charles Stewart.
Morlock made the return trip to Abram’s Rock with the filling station owner trailing behind him, carrying a rolled up stretcher. The man kept asking foolishly, “What happened?” Morlock, needing to think, wished that the man would be quiet. He answered, “I don’t know, I don’t know,” hoping that the man would interpret his answer as the sort of frenzied distraction that he would expect under the circumstances. He had already told the man, back at the filling station, that she had fallen from the rock. Now, he supposed, he wanted a morbid description of the details of the fall. Excitement for a Sunday morning. When they reached the spot where Louise had fallen, the man bent over the crumpled body and then straightened with a theatrically long face.
“It isn’t any use, mister,” he said. “The best thing we can do is leave her here and wait until the ambulance comes.”
Morlock had to get her out of there. He said in grief-stricken disbelief, “Maybe she isn’t dead. Please help me with her. We’ll have to move her out to the road anyway.”
The man bent to unroll the stretcher. “All right,” he said, “give me a hand with her now and we’ll roll her on face up.”
The body was oddly flaccid. The filling station man said, “She must be all smashed inside.”
Morlock bent to pick up one end of the stretcher—the front end. The other man moved to the back to spare Morlock the supposed agony of looking at his wife’s body. With the heavy burden between them, they began to pick their way out of the woods toward the dirt road. The going was difficult and Morlock, not in the best physical condition, felt his heart begin to pound with the effort. Wanting to stop, he nevertheless kept on while the sweat broke out on his face and bile rose in his throat. Every ounce of his strength was being poured into the task of putting one foot down, ignoring the pull at his shoulders and arms, and then bringing the other foot forward in its turn. He hardly knew it when other hands took the stretcher from him.
When he could think again he was in the ambulance and another man—a doctor, he supposed—was looking at him curiously. “Are you all right?” the doctor asked.
The doctor’s eyes were intelligent behind his glasses. Have to be careful now. Don’t overact, Morlock told himself. He turned quickly to look at the stretcher. The doctor had drawn a sheet over Louise’s face. Morlock put his hands up to cover his eyes. He did not want to meet the doctor’s glance. The intelligent eyes would be filled with pity, sympathy for the bereaved husband, and Morlock could not face them. The doctor said sympathetically, “I’m sorry. I understand that she fell from Abram’s Rock.”
Morlock nodded, not speaking.
The doctor was looking at him intently. “Look here,” he said. “You’ve got some nasty cuts on your face. We’d better have a look at them.”
“They don’t hurt,” Morlock said. “I can wait until we get to the hospital. Are we almost there?”
In the hospital efficient hands wheeled the stretcher bearing Louise’s body through one door and other hands ushered Morlock into the gleaming white emergency room. “Might as well clean those cuts up here,” the doctor said busily. “I’m Doctor Sedge, by the way. Then when we’ve got you fixed up you can sit in the reception room and wait for the medical examiner.”
Morlock repeated dully, “The medical examiner? Do we have to report this to him? It was an accident,” wishing almost as he spoke that he had not acted so surprised. He hadn’t thought about it, but he realized that there would be some sort of official inquiry. The question might have a guilty ring to Doctor Sedge.
If it had, the doctor did not show it. “A matter of routine,” he said. “We have to notify him in the event of any accidental death.”
The medical examiner came and there were questions; interminably there were questions before the official, a fat man with an overbearing manner, dismissed him. “That will be all, Mr. Morlock,” he said pompously. “For now.”
Morlock did not, of course, go in to the college on the day following Louise’s death. He called Dean Gorham and was told that certainly, Alvin, we wouldn’t think of your coming in for at least a week. Take as much time as you wish and if there is anything we can do…. Meanwhile, we are terribly sorry about your wife….
Later he called the funeral parlor. Oh yes, Mr. Morlock. A tragic thing. Please accept our heartfelt and so on and of course we’ll be glad to handle everything for you. Ah—is there insurance? We’ll be glad to make financial arrangements, of course….
Of all the people he knew, only Dodson, fat and slovenly and strangely decent, came to see him.
“Al,” he said awkwardly, “I’m going to leave my car with you. You’ll probably need to be getting around. Anything else? I’ve got a few bucks.”
Morlock, deeply shamed, thanked him and saw him to the door. When Dodson was gone he puttered about the house absently. He was not at that time greatly frightened that he would be found out. Apparently Louise’s death had been accepted as an accident. Well, in a way it was.
He had by this time almost convinced himself that he had not struck her hard enough to make her fall. In the kitchen closet he came upon the turpentine and paint remover that he had so hopefully brought home to Louise months ago.
For want of anything better to do—he planned to leave this house and its associations as soon as he could—he brought them out. There was one board in the wainscoting that Louise had started to strip, leaving it half finished. Might as well finish it, he thought. He was scraping the old paint when he heard a knock at the door. Not getting up he called, “Come in.” When the door opened he turned to see blue serge and brass buttons, and then he was frightened.
“Good evening,” the officer said. “I’m Chief Steward. I heard about your wife’s accident. Thought I’d drop in and talk to you about it.”
He was staring at the sandpaper and the paint remover, Morlock saw. It was silly to feel guilty about a thing of which he was innocent, but immediately the act of removing the paint took on a criminal meaning. He said fatuously, “Have a chair, Chief. I was just taking some paint off the woodwork. Something my wife started.”
Stewart said, “No, thanks.” He kept right on staring at the woodwork, Morlock noticed. Looking for bloodstains, he was certain—particularly after Stewart’s next comment, “Did you and your wife quarrel a great deal, Mr. Morlock?”
Morlock answered, “I guess not any more than the average couple. We did have an occasional argument.”
Stewart nodded. “I suppose,” he said. “Probably about money. That’s what most family quarrels start over. Was it money, Mr. Morlock?”
Morlock, faintly angry, began, “Look here—”
Stewart interrupted. “Don’t be offended,” he said. “I’ll be frank with you, Mr. Morlock. Your wife died a violent death under circumstances that are a little suspicious. As part of my job I have been inquiring around—as much to protect you from publicity if there is nothing wrong as to find anything criminal in your wife’s death. I’m sure you realize that we always investigate these things.”
Morlock, who had not realized anything of the sort, said, “Certainly.”
Stewart reached for the doorknob. “I’m not going to bother you tonight,” he said. “Later in the week I may want you to come in and make a statement.” And he was gone. Hurriedly, Morlock thought.
He went to bed but not to sleep. While the noise of the traffic, the rustle of humanity died about the old house, he lay with his arms folded under his head staring at nothing and seeing a body twisting down, down, down. Not Louise’s body. Marianna’s.
Cory could not sleep either, nor had he slept on Sunday night. When he had seen Morlock emerging from the woods with his face painted with blood, he had turned his old car and raced away from that place. Morlock’s appearance, alone and bleeding, could only mean one thing.
He must have forced Louise to tell who had driven her out there, had helped her follow him. If she had told him that, he would have forced the rest of the story from her and now he must know all about him, Cory. God knew what he had done to Louise. Beaten her and left her lying there, probably, while he came looking for Cory.
Cory lived in a dormitory. Morlock, he knew, could find out where he lived and he would be coming for him. Ah, God. It wasn’t fair. She had started the whole thing. Cory took an armful of his clothing and fled the dormitory. He started for Fall River. Morlock wouldn’t think of looking for him there and he could hide in any one of a thousand rooming houses.
When he reached Fall River he felt the need of a drink. There would be plenty of time later to look for a rooming house. He parked the car and walked into a bar. There were people in this place, lots of them. Morlock could not touch him here.
After a time he decided that he might just as well stay here until dark, in case someone had seen the direction he had taken when he left Warfield and Morlock had found out. He was half again as heavy and strong as Morlock, but it did not occur to him that it bordered on the ridiculous for him to fear the smaller man.
Cory had long since recognized the physical cowardice within him and adjusted himself accordingly. He did not know the extreme of fear until he heard the news on the bar radio. Almost as an afterthought the announcer said, near the close of the program, “The wife of a Ludlow College instructor fell to her death this morning from Abram’s Rock, a landmark in the South Danville vicinity. No further details were available at the time of this news broadcast.”
When he heard the broadcast, Cory literally shook, and the bartender asked, “You all right, mister?”
Cory, certain that Morlock had killed his wife and equally certain that Morlock would kill him if he found him, said, “Sure. I’m okay.” He spent the night sleeplessly in a rooming house. Morlock could not possibly know he was here, could not possibly find him, he told himself. But at each creak of the timbers of the old house, at each street noise, each footstep, he started.
The following morning he rushed from the place to buy a newspaper. He riffled through the pages, looking for a further report on Louise Morlock’s death. When he found it, it told him nothing more than the news broadcast had. He was by this time near the edge of panic. He had very little money left; he could not stay here more than a day or so. He could not go back to Warfield, where Morlock was waiting.
He walked the streets until noon, seeking crowds to mingle with. He then telephoned a friend at Ludlow, unable to stand the uncertainty.
“Johnny,” he asked, “anything new? Anybody been looking for me?
Johnny, recognizing Cory’s voice, said, “Not that I know of. Where you been? You missed two classes.”
Cory answered vaguely, “Oh—around. Hey, that was something about Morlock’s wife, wasn’t it? Was Morlock in his classes?”
“Are you crazy? Of course not. Say, what’s on your mind? You didn’t call up just to talk about Morlock’s wife. With the record you’ve got you’d better get on in to class.”
Cory hung up. It had been silly to ask if Morlock was at class. Certainly he would not be, but he had hoped for it against all common sense. If he knew where Morlock was for just a little while he could relax for that time at least. As it stood now, Morlock might be looking for him at this minute.
He spent Monday night in fear that became increasingly tinged with resentment. Here he was, broke and afraid, and Morlock remained free to find him and kill him as he had killed his wife. Why didn’t the cops—? Cory suddenly grinned as the solution struck him. Of course, he thought. Morlock had fooled them with some lie about an accident. Once they knew the truth—and he would see that they did—they would have to arrest Morlock.
In the morning he called the Warfield Police Station and asked cautiously to speak with the chief.
“You know about what happened to Mrs. Morlock, don’t you? She lived on Kosciusko Street. It was in the newspapers.”
Chief Stewart asked impatiently, “Of course we do. Who is this? What’s your name?”
Cory said, “It doesn’t make any difference what my name is. I just wanted to tell you that Morlock killed his wife. If she went off a cliff it was because he pushed her off.” He hesitated, wanting to make a stronger case against Morlock but wishing at the same time to avoid possibly implicating himself.
“He found out that she was sleeping with some guy,” he said finally, and hung up. He had only to wait until the noon news program now, and he could go back to Warfield. They would have to arrest Morlock now.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you have heard the evidence in this case and it now becomes your duty to weigh it, examine it, and determine if the accused is guilty, and, if he is guilty, in what degree. In the last two days the prosecution has brought before you witness after witness to testify against Alvin Morlock. Reviewing them briefly, we have proved that he was heavily in debt, largely as a result of his wife’s extravagance. She gambled with his money and lost it. We know that he held an insurance policy on the life of his wife—a policy taken out only a handful of hours after his marriage. The sum of money was not large—but it would have relieved the pressure of his debts. Isn’t it conceivable that it struck Morlock as a form of grim but poetic justice that she be made to repay the money she had lost? There was only one way that she could pay—with her life. The prosecution contends that Morlock exacted this payment.
Now consider the position of the accused. He was an instructor in a small college in a small town. His character, his reputation, were more important to him than would have been the case had he been a mechanic or a farmer. Louise Morlock left his house. She was arrested in a near-by city and only the merciful consideration of the officer who arrested her saved her from being charged with prostitution. He must have lived in fear that it would happen again and that this time it could not be hushed up. There was literally only one way he could be certain that it could not happen again. If she were dead.
We can believe that she made life intolerable for her husband. You have heard what happened when he made a pathetic effort to entertain his best friend in his own home. She shamed him, humiliated him. If this were not enough, she betrayed him with one of his own students.
All these things the defense will repeat to you in rebuttal, and they are true. We do not deny them. But there is another side to the picture. The side that Louise Morlock would reveal if she were alive.
Through the testimony of Thomas Dodson and Atillio Palaggi we have demonstrated that Alvin Morlock had every opportunity to realize the fact that Louise Palaggi was a woman of little education, little refinement. He took the risk of marrying her for reasons that are still his own since he has not seen fit to take the stand. Perhaps he felt that he could shape her to his own desires. Perhaps he was lonely and sought to warm himself at the fire of marriage. Both of these purposes, I remind you, are selfish.
Let us say that his reasons were the most charitable that we can conceive, and the fact will remain that he took a risk and should have been prepared to pay the price should he lose—and we concede that he did lose. It was a bad marriage. But I remind you that it was a bad marriage for Louise as well as for the accused. She had only one recourse, one escape from it. She could drink, pass her days in drunkenness. Alvin Morlock had no recourse save one. He had to get rid of her. You cannot judge if he was justified in doing so. You can only judge whether or not, on the basis of the evidence you have heard, he did or did not kill her. And if he did, was it a murder of passion, an involuntary act on the part of a man insane with fury, or a cold and calculated obliteration of what he considered an evil.
The defense will plead with you that if he is guilty he is guilty only of the former. He did not know, they will tell you, that she would follow him to Abram’s Rock on a given day and that therefore he could not have premeditated her death. I submit to you that Morlock planned her death over a period of time and that he waited as patiently as any tiger for the opportunity to spring. The law does not set a time limit on premeditation. A man does not have to plan his crime three months or four or two hours or two minutes in advance of its execution in order for premeditation to exist. The actual purpose of the law governing premeditation is to define intent. Did Morlock intend to kill his wife? I say that he did, and that the moment he waited for arrived on the morning of Sunday, May 20th, when she allowed herself to be tolled to the cliff from which she plunged to her death.
Alvin Morlock did not love his wife. If any love ever existed, he helped destroy it. Yet, when he ran to the filling station to report her fall and to seek help, he pretended to be pitifully broken up. He carried on the pretense with Doctor Sedge and with the medical examiner… and I remind you that he was startled when he learned that the medical examiner had been notified. Why startled, if Louise’s fall were an accident? And so I say…
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Alvin Morlock. From the summation of Prosecution Attorney Alfred Gurney.
After delivering his charge to the jury, Superior Court Justice Dunstan Cameron watched the jurors file from the room in solemn procession. He felt troubled. Before he rose from the bench to recess the court, he called to the bailiff. “Ask Mr. Liebman and Mr. Gurney to come to my chambers,” he said.
When Liebman and Gurney arrived Judge Cameron was staring out the high window of his chambers. He turned at their entrance. “Gentlemen,” he invited them, “find chairs. I won’t take much of your time.” He turned to Liebman. “Sam, I don’t want you to misunderstand me. I am not criticizing your conduct of the defense, but I don’t believe Morlock could have made a worse impression if he had tried. Wouldn’t he consent to take the stand?”
Liebman shook his head. “I did my very damnedest to persuade him,” he said. “I practically told him it was his neck if he didn’t get up there. I guess you noticed his expression—the jury did.”
Judge Cameron nodded. “Lack of expression would be a better description. I don’t believe he showed the slightest sign of emotion throughout the entire trial.”
Liebman shrugged. “I told him, for God’s sake to look as if he were sorry about something—anything. Judge, I was appointed to defend Morlock. He’s indigent and couldn’t afford counsel after the way his wife stripped him. In spite of that, I give you my word that I did everything that I could. I worked harder to try and make a case for him than I have since I was admitted—and you know how long that’s been. It’s almost impossible to defend a man who won’t defend himself.”
“I’m sure of that, Sam. You did your best. Still, I’m worried about a reversal if the jury comes in with the verdict I think they’ll reach. He made a poor impression.”
Liebman shook his head. “Morlock has already told me that he doesn’t want to appeal the verdict, whatever it is. I’d like to tell you something else he said. This was after I’d told him that he was just asking for the chair if he didn’t listen to my advice. He said, ‘If I’m to be executed, I hope the judge will make it as soon as possible.’ I’ve heard that sort of talk before but I always could see the martyr complex behind it. I think Morlock actually means it.”
Gurney said, “If they bring in a guilty verdict, appeal is automatic.”
Judge Cameron nodded. “That’s true,” he said, “but the Supreme Court would be prejudiced against him if he didn’t actively seek the appeal. Couldn’t you have produced a few more witnesses?”
Liebman shook his head. “I wanted to put her brother on the stand,” he said. “Morlock wouldn’t have it. Actually, he was probably right. If I had used her own brother to attack her character—particularly after the showing the old man made—it would have had a bad effect on the jury. In any case, the prosecution admitted to her poor character. The only defense was to establish Morlock’s good character, and he is such a neutral sort of man that even that is difficult. And you, Gurney, made his trip to Providence with Dodson look like the orgy of the century.”
Judge Cameron nodded. “I suppose you’re right,” he said slowly. “Under the circumstances it was almost imperative that Morlock take the stand himself—unless he actually wanted to be found guilty. He was aware of that?”
Liebman nodded. “As I said, I told him that it was his neck if he didn’t.”
Judge Cameron stood up. “Well, gentlemen, I guess that’s all. Thank you for coming.”
In the corridor Gurney said to Liebman, “What about lunch?”
“I guess so. Let’s go to the Hof-Brau. I could use a drink before I eat. I’ll tell the bailiff where we’ll be.”
When their drinks came Liebman lifted his in a mock salute to Gurney. “You murdered us,” he said.
“I don’t know,” Gurney answered. “If I did, it wasn’t your fault. How long do you think, Sam?”
Liebman glanced at his watch. “Two hours,” he said. “If it goes three they’ll bring in first-degree.”
Their food was brought, but neither man ate with any interest. Liebman said, after a lengthy silence, “Your summation was solid, Alfred. What little popguns I had, you spiked.”
Gurney shrugged. “Tell me about Morlock,” he said. “What was his story about what happened up on that rock?”
Liebman put down his fork and lit a cigarette. “I went to see him the second day after he was arrested,” he said. “I told him that I’d been appointed to the case and that I’d looked into it and that the first thing I’d do was ask for bail to be set pending a hearing by the Grand Jury.”
Gurney looked interested. “Well?” he asked.
Liebman smiled ruefully. “He told me that he didn’t want bail. Then I told him that he should have no secrets from his attorney and asked him what happened up on the rock. He said, ‘She fell.’”
“That’s all?” Gurney asked.
“That’s all. I told him that if he had killed her, his best course was to plead guilty and that, under the circumstances, we might get the charge reduced to manslaughter. His answer?”
Gurney said, “She fell?”
“Correct. And that’s all he would say. I pleaded with him to tell me what had happened. I threatened him with a first-degree murder verdict. I even drew him a picture of the chair. He actually took a small, academic interest in that. I tell you, Gurney, I’ve had clients who were scared numb so that they could only repeat over and over whatever lie they had committed themselves to. And I’ve had some who couldn’t help me because they were in a state of shock. Morlock was neither scared nor in a state of shock. I got the impression sometimes that he was actually sorry for the trouble he was causing me.” Liebman pushed his chair back and stood up. “I feel badly about this,” he said. “Can you think of anything I didn’t do that I could have done?”
Gurney signaled for the check. “I don’t think so, Sam.”
The courtroom was nearly empty when they returned to it. Only a handful of spectators, grimly determined to be present when the jury came in, clung to their seats. A few court attaches sat listlessly at the front of the room. Liebman thanked Gurney for the lunch and made his way back through the maze of corridors to the detention cells, where Morlock was being held during trial hours. He nodded to the custodian and said softly, “Alvin?”
Morlock sat up. “Hello, Sam,” he said.
Liebman said, “I don’t want you to worry any more than you can help. Let’s face it. They’ve been out almost two hours already. If they were going to find you not guilty they’d have done it by now. I want you to ask for the appeal if things turn out badly.” Liebman argued in vain. After a few minutes he returned to the courtroom. When Gurney saw him, he raised an eyebrow. Liebman returned the gesture with raised shoulders and out-turned palms.
When Liebman had first visited Morlock in his cell two days after his arrest and two months before his trial, Morlock had already decided on the course he would take. He would die—he smiled wryly at the thought that it was quite possible that he would die before he would reveal the nature of that last quarrel. On the night of the day that Louise fell to her death, he had known animal panic and great fear that he might be found out. Later the fear became revulsion, shame that he might stand publicly accused of killing her, that before the world he would appear to have risked his life in such a sorry cause. He had killed her because she had trespassed on the most secret recesses of his being, trampling and scuffling with dirty feet, but he could not say this. It would be assumed that he had killed her, if they refused to believe his story of an accident, because she had spent his money, had gambled, had whored. Stewart, the police chief, had indicated when he arrested Morlock that these were the stuff of suspicion. Well, let them. He would not, could not, ask for the pity and the mercy of a jury by telling them what Louise had been any more than he could tell them of her obscene remark about Marianna Cruz. The jury would never be able to understand how he felt about Marianna. He Was left no choice but to say that Louise fell, this and nothing more. He said it with the monotonous beat of a metronome and to the great exasperation of Sam Liebman.
In the first days of his confinement, he slept little. He had only to close his eyes, it seemed, and the vision of Marianna Cruz’s body hurtling into the green depths of the forest would recur. He had not been there when she actually had fallen and he had never before pictured what it must have been like. The picture had been forced upon him when he saw Louise make the same terrible journey through space; and it returned and returned. He had much time for his regressions and this time he did not have to apologize to himself for making them. In a cell there was little else to do. But there was another difference. He had lost the power to select, to pick and choose from a hundred memories, and the memory that kept returning was one he had avoided for nineteen years. It concerned his betrayal of Marianna.
He had been sixteen, nearly two years older than she, when it happened. She had been his constant companion for four years. If her English had improved, she had changed little otherwise. She remained a shy child with great eyes and an elfin quality that he could recognize even then. If her breasts were beginning to bud, she was unconscious of it. Through long association they could very nearly understand each other without the use of speech. Each school day he waited for her to pass his house. He would walk with her then and so much a habit was this that the schoolboys no longer jeered or made comments when they approached the schoolyard.
It happened that a cycle of teen-age faddism made scholastic ability fashionable. Morlock, who was an excellent student, won several prizes in quick succession and whereas this would have ordinarily gone unnoticed by the student body, the fashion dictated that he be given the same recognition as an outstanding athlete. Morlock, who had never been noticed by ninety per cent of his classmates, who had been invited to not more than two parties in his life, who did not resent being called a stick-in-the-mud, suddenly found himself being lionized. Football and basketball players sought him out, calling him admiringly, “The Professor.” He reacted to it in the manner of a ham actor finding himself in a hit show. There was a girl, an early blooming Circe of a girl, in Morlock’s class. So pretty a girl that most of Morlock’s classmates were in love with her, dreamed pillow-hugging dreams of rescuing her from all manner of terrible situations. Morlock had been content to admire her from a great distance, knowing that she was from another sphere and not reaching to it. When he suddenly became socially acceptable, she sought him out in the corridor.
“Alvin,” she said, “we’re all going over to Franklin’s for hamburgers after school. Why don’t you ever come with us?”
She said the words with the graceful condescension of the queen that she was, and Morlock immediately became her subject. Frantically estimating how much hamburgers would come to and if he would be expected to pay for hers—funny he couldn’t remember her name now or what she looked like—he said as casually as he could, “I’m not doing anything. Sure—I’d like to.”
Fascinated by her, he joined her group of admirers as soon as the last class was finished. When they came to the gate of the schoolyard, Marianna Cruz was waiting for him in the placid certainty that he would walk home with her as he always did. The queen called, “Alvin, your friend is waiting for you. I guess you can’t come after all.”
They had laughed, then, at him and at drab little Marianna. Morlock, desperate to show his maleness, had said loudly, “Oh, go on home, you little Portagee, and quit hanging around me.”
Marianna had turned, her shoulders straight, and walked away. Morlock wanted to run after her and comfort her as he had when the other children had called her that same name on Abram’s Rock when she first moved to the neighborhood. But he could not forgo the company of the gold-and-white girl and her court. A day later he came to the defiant conclusion that Marianna was worth ten times as much as any one of them; but at that time, when he hurt her, he did not go to her. And everything else in his life had hinged on his betrayal of Marianna. If he was a second-rate teacher, it was because he had been a second-rate friend to her when she needed him. If his life was a succession of failures, it was because he had failed her when he was sixteen.
That was the unbidden memory that came to Morlock in the cell where he was confined. Marianna never came back to school. He never saw her again. A week later he approached the school to see his classmates gathered in a gossiping little knot inside the gate. One of them said, “Wasn’t that awful about the little Portagee girl, Alvin?”
Morlock had been briefly dazed. “What about her?” he asked. “What happened?”
They told him, in fragments and phrases.
“She fell off of Abram’s Rock.”
“Her father went out looking for her when she didn’t come home to supper.”
“The police were out there. They said she must have slipped.”
“My father says it’s dangerous up there and they ought to put a fence up or keep kids off it.”
Morlock had turned away from them, not ashamed of the tears in his eyes. If he had not hurt her, if he had been a faithful friend, he would have been with her and he wouldn’t have let her get too near the edge. Maybe she had fallen on purpose. Maybe it had been an accident. Nobody would ever know, but Alvin Morlock knew this—Marianna would not have died if he had been with her.
They had an elaborate funeral for Marianna. The entire school went and Morlock was pushed and shoved close to the front of the procession. “He was her friend,” they whispered busily. “Let him be up front.” So they made way for him so that he could be more ashamed.
The fad for scholarship passed and Morlock returned to the obscurity that he was never to leave until he went on trial for his life. Until the time he was arrested for murder he had never once permitted himself to remember the events leading up to Marianna’s death. The first time that he did remember it, he combined two memories: the happy time of the pact they had made on Abram’s Rock, and the terrible time he had deserted her. The recollection of the manner in which a body twisted and turned as it fell through the air acted as a trigger to his guilty thoughts. He no longer wished to live. He was overwhelmed by remorse that even extended to Louise. After all, he told himself, if he had not married her she would still be alive.
When Sam Liebman visited him and suggested that if he pleaded guilty he might be found guilty only of manslaughter, Morlock had already decided that he would do nothing, say nothing to mitigate his guilt. If he stood trial and was found guilty, he would accept it.
Sam Liebman sat beside Alfred Gurney, waiting for the jury to return. “Three and a half hours,” he said, glancing at the old-fashioned clock on the wall.
Gurney smiled. “You’ve waited for juries before, Sam,” he said. “Stop fretting. Change the subject. How is Morlock taking it?”
“I went back there again a few minutes ago. He was half asleep. You did a job on him—and me.”
“I had all the witnesses,” Gurney said.
“Sure you did. Where did you get that Stewart?”
“Stewart, the Chief of Police? He’s a wonder, isn’t he? He had F.B.I. training and it stuck. He’ll trip on his own cleverness some day. Still, he made quite a witness—Hold it, Sam.”
“What is it?”
“Here they come. They just talked with the bailiff through the door.”
A court attendant went scurrying for Judge Cameron while the spectators who had been strolling the grounds, smoking in the corridors, patiently waiting, rustled into the courtroom. When order was called and the jury filed in, a custodian brought Morlock in from the detention cell. He glanced almost blankly at the faces of the jurors. They stared straight ahead, their expressions indicating their awareness of the gravity of their verdict, whatever it was.
When the courtroom was still, Judge Cameron asked, “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, have you reached a verdict in the case now before you?”
The foreman said, “We have.”
“How find you?”
“We find the defendant, Alvin Morlock, guilty of murder in the first degree.”
Judge Cameron hesitated, then asked, “Do you have any recommendations?”
“We do not.”
Judge Cameron turned to face Morlock. He said quietly, “Alvin Morlock, you have been found guilty of murder in the first degree by a jury of your peers. Since there has been no recommendation that mercy be shown you, in accordance with the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts I now must pass the sentence of death by electrocution on you. On the 15th day of October, the warden of the penitentiary in which you are confined will see that the terms of this sentence are carried out. And may God have mercy on your soul.”
In the two months that Morlock served on death row in Charlestown, he had three visitors. They were Sam Liebman, Thomas Dodson, and Dominick Palaggi. Liebman visited him twice, uneasy with the thought that Morlock was deliberately destroying himself and that he did not deserve to die.
“Alvin,” he said, on his last visit, “let me go to the governor and ask for a stay. Man, even if you killed that woman she isn’t worth your life. Even a commutation would get you life and you would be a free man in twenty years.”
Morlock said, “I appreciate how you feel, Sam. I think that you mean it for me and not as a professional matter. But I don’t want to fight it.”
Tom Dodson came and sat for half an hour in the visitors’ room with Morlock. In that time he did not say half a dozen words. Morlock, at the moment he was sentenced to die, had become entitled, in Dodson’s eyes, to some of the respect reserved for the dead. There was an ethereal, a spiritual quality to the atmosphere of death row that frightened and impressed Dodson, and their conversation consisted of Morlock comforting his visitor. When Dodson rose to go, Morlock put his arm around his shoulder. “Don’t come back, Tom,” he said. “I appreciate your coming and I wish things had been different. You’re probably my only friend and I’d like to make it up to you. If it will make it easier for you, I’m not frightened. It’s going to be all right.” And Dodson left, his eyes streaming.
Last to come and most unexpected was Dominick Palaggi. He came into the visitors’ room shyly, and he sat in his straight-backed chair staring at the floor and cracking the knuckles of his big hands while he asked Morlock if he was being treated all right and if the food was all right and was there anything he could get for him. After ten minutes of this he looked squarely at Morlock.
“Louise was no good,” he blurted out. “She isn’t worth it that you should die if you killed her. I should have killed her myself a long time before she met you.”
And Morlock comforted Dominick as he had comforted Dodson.
When Dominick rose to go, he shook hands very formally with Morlock. “Try not to be afraid,” he said. “On Federal Hill a lot of us will have masses said for you.”
Morlock, as he had told Dodson, was not frightened even when the weeks dwindled to days and the days to hours. He became frightened for the first time when the chaplain came to sit with him for half an hour before his execution—and even then he was more afraid of dying than of death.
When the warden came to read the death warrant and to follow Morlock down the long corridor to the chamber that they referred to only as “the room,” Morlock had lost the momentary fear he had known during the chaplain’s visit. He shook hands with the three remaining prisoners in death row and accepted their last words. “Don’t chicken out, Al.”
“Wait for me. I’ll be with you in two weeks.”
“It’s going to be all right. You wait and see.” But even as he accepted them and made reply in kind he was moving away from them, caught up in a great wind that swept him out of the chilly corridor of the cell block and back, whirling and spinning, to another time and another place.
He was standing in front of the frame house where he had been a boy and he was waiting for Marianna Cruz; he was telling her that he would walk to school with her and hearing her say, “Then I won’t be afraid.” Morlock felt the touch of a small hand creeping into his as he walked behind the chaplain and he, in his turn, was not afraid.
“Alvin Morlock, 35, a former teacher at Ludlow College, paid with his life last night for the murder of his wife, Louise. Morlock, who during his trial was icy calm, maintained his composure through his last hours. He showed no sign of fear as he was strapped into the electric chair. Some witnesses, in fact, claimed that they observed a defiant smile on Morlock’s face just before the lethal charge was routed through his body.”
From the Fall River Bulletin