So many of those who shaped my life are dead – dead as the airline passengers who fell to earth one Brooklyn Christmas; dead as the woman I saw speared by a falling window pole on 42nd street. Dead. And, so many of the other souls who merely touched my life – they must also surely be dead. They could not have survived their fragile, reckless lives ’til now. I want to gather them all to me and bury them all in Green-Wood Cemetery – there to find eternal rest in a plot guarded by weeping Protestant angels, ivy-covered Civil War soldiers and by me. Their graves, a stone’s throw across the street from my boyhood stoop, will be dug in the sacred soil where Washington’s troops were slaughtered and the American Revolution saved.
I will spend my final days on that stoop staring into Green-Wood, staring into eternity. I will daily tend their graves while intoning Carrie’s poem – “What is death?” Maybe one of my dead will have the answer.
Forty-five years after Carrie’s murder, I search through the New York Library’s aptly named newspaper morgue. I read everything I can find about Carrie. I scan the New York and Indiana papers for months before and after her murder. The ephemera surrounding her death distracts me. Yankee scores. African famine. Watergate. Unimportant, long-ago-bullshit.
I give all the info I find to Sergeant Tom, my photographer, and ask him to look into Carrie’s murder for me. He’s long retired but has friends in the Cold Case Squad. They owe him a favor so they look long and hard but Carrie’s case file is missing.
“Don’t worry, Tommy. It’s in there somewhere. It’s just misplaced.”
Actress slain. File missing. Presumed misplaced.
Not much of an ending. So, I can’t end here.
Maybe this way –
Still chasing her ghost, I look online for everything, anything about Carrie. I wander around her Indiana town via Google Maps. I lay a wreath on her tombstone via Find-A-Grave. (Her father was buried in that same cemetery a mere seven years after Carrie was – no doubt her killer’s second victim.)
From a Kokomo, Indiana newspaper I learn that a teenage poem of Carrie’s had been read aloud at her funeral. The title of her poem? “What Is Death?” I don’t have the answer to Carrie’s question. Maybe she does. Now. Maybe her question holds the answer to mine – “Why does her murder haunt me so?”
Online I find a long-abandoned “Question-and-Answer” thread begun by an Indiana college student who was writing a term paper about Carrie’s murder. The student posted some questions. Someone in Indiana, who claimed to have known Carrie, posted some answers.
My girlfriend, Lynda, wanted to kill her rapist and wanted me to help her. And, I was more than happy to oblige. We discussed alibis, escape routes, safe houses. But, we didn’t kill him. The more we plotted, the more we realized that we’d be immediate suspects. Lynda had reported her rape to the cops. They were sympathetic but warned that in court it would be a “He said, she said.” Plus, she had established a motive for vigilante justice. And, just as cops always look for the boyfriend first when a woman is murdered, they look for the boyfriend-accomplice first when a rapist has his brains pulped with a Louisville Slugger. We had settled on that as the murder weapon. I no longer had my trusty Rocky Colavito model but Lynda’s little brother had a Reggie Jackson model that would work a treat. She would distract her rapist and I would crush his skull from behind.
Funny what time did to our relationship – a few years later, I plotted to kill Lynda and she plotted to kill me. Her accomplices were two comrades from her Communist Party cell – the woman a failed modern dancer and the man a failed modern poet. A deadly duo.
God only knows why but Lynda’s brand of Marxism attracted especially fervent, intelligent, young Whites who were hypnotized by the ravings of their glorious leader – a Hebrew weasel out of the Russian Pale by way of the Brooklyn Pale. He was an imitation Mao and these American kids were his very own Red Guard. I met a talented musician who’d abandoned his French horn scholarship to work in a factory and organize the oppressed workers. I met a beautiful dancer who’d married a Neanderthal negro-convict to convert him to dialectical materialism. I watched her wrestle with reality as she employed the theory of commodification to explain why Tyrone, while on parole, had beaten her bloody, stolen her TV and split.
Carrie’s body was found at 5:30 AM by a milkman. Imagine. Brooklyn still had milkmen in 1973. A tenant reported hearing something at about the time of Carrie’s murder. It wasn’t a scream or a scuffle, just a “something.” There were reports of suspicious cars seen in the area but the cops checked and dismissed that angle. Remember Carrie’s street was a Dead-End so a getaway car was unlikely. No. Carrie had been followed from the subway. The cops were sure. They questioned people who’d been on her train, “See anything strange?”
No. No one had. The murderer had probably been lurking near the subway station in Brooklyn Heights. A crime of opportunity. Of impulse.
Committed in a minute.
Carried out in a frenzy.
That was the headline.
Tell me I’m dreaming. This is a movie, right?
The Daily News and New York Post ran the story big. For a few days. Carrie’s smiley 8×10 photo filled their front pages. For a few days. A pretty someone I knew was a tabloid headline. A pretty someone whose death I foresaw. A pretty someone from Indiana. Slain. The streets of New York became a B-movie nightmare-montage in which I saw Carrie’s face everywhere. She smiled at me from every newsstand I passed and from every TV screen in every bar. I found her smile abandoned on subway seats. Discarded in trashcans. Thrown in the gutter.
Mayor Lindsay took a big interest in the case. For a few days. Crime and New York had become synonymous under his libtard administration. He appointed extra cops to the hunt and invited Carrie’s parents to stay in the Mayor’s mansion. I could give him the benefit of a doubt but I won’t. He felt guilty and obligated.
“Dear God,” Handsome John Lindsay whined to his campaign manager “not another Kitty Genovese, not on my watch, not in ‘Fun City’.”
Then the faces of other murdered girls pushed Carrie’s smile from the front pages and from memory.
I’ve mentioned Guardian Angels several times so, for you latecomers, I better explain who they are. I have to remind myself that not every boy had hanging over his bed a painting of a Guardian Angel escorting a little boy through a dark wood while the horned, hoofed Devil lurked behind a tree. Not every boy prayed at bedtime –
Angel of God, my guardian dear, To whom God’s love commits me here,
Ever this day be at my side, To light and guard, to rule and guide.
Here’s the straight skinny, straight out of the catechism: Catholics believe that we are all assigned a Guardian Angel at birth. These invisible, winged creatures are not dimple-buttocked cherubs but flaming-sword waving bruisers who have our backs from “Womb to Tomb.” It’s their mission to keep us out of trouble and out of live sexxx shows. But, they don’t always do a good job. I don’t know if mine was sitting next to me watching Babysitters In Bondage with his head in his hands or if he waited outside smoking a cigarette. But, supposedly, where I go, he goes.
Some Catholics find having an angelic shadow comforting. It makes my flesh crawl. Always has. And, what perplexes me no end is why these heavenly bodyguards let so many kids get hit by cars and fall off fire escapes. Why didn’t Carrie’s Guardian Angel tell her not to go into that vestibule? And, if my murdered friend Carrie wasn’t a Catholic maybe her murderer was and why didn’t his Guardian Angel warn her? You expect me to believe that Carrie didn’t pass a single Guardian Angel the night she was slaughtered?