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.
Scrambled eggs gave me the idea to blow my girlfriend Lynda’s brains out with my father’s shotgun. Scrambled eggs plus the stickiness, pissiness that overcomes a body in the New York summer heat – a heat not helped when that body is in a 5th-floor walk-up loft on the Bowery with no air-conditioning or fan. And, this was when the Bowery was The Bowery. Like Rob and I on St. Mark’s Place and my acting group and I on West 42nd Street, Lynda and I were playing at being pioneers on a street infamous as the bottom of the urban barrel. After a man had drunk himself down to the Bowery, his next stop was Potter’s Field.
Since those days of yore and gore, St. Mark’s Place, West 42nd and the Bowery have been prettified beyond recognition and way beyond my price range.
Oy, if only I bought when I had the chance!
The legendary punk-rock club CBGB was across the Bowery from our loft but watching pink-haired punks shit, piss, bleed and vomit on each other lost its charm surprisingly quickly. Besides, why cross the street? On our side of the Bowery, we had every wino in New York shitting, pissing, bleeding and vomiting on our doorstep.
Tell me, when’s the last time you climbed over a mountain of stewed cretins wallowing in their own excreta just to get in your front door?
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 told the cop who was interrogating me that a few days after seeing Carrie walk through Needle Park in a trance, I learned that she and her roommate’s possessions had been stolen. They had packed their car for the move from tenement, roach-infested Hell’s Kitchen to toney, roach-infested Brooklyn Heights. But, they’d committed a cardinal sin. They had loaded their car full of their stuff. I imagined a portable TV with a mouse-ear aerial wrapped in aluminum foil sitting on the back seat next to a hair dryer with the cord wound around it. I saw a bag of hair curlers. I saw Earth Shoes, sandals, magazines. I saw hangers. Everything they owned safely stowed and ready for transit, the girls laughed up the stoop, through the vestibule and up the five tenement flights to check they’d left nothing behind.
I’ll bet they felt like they were in one of those “kooky girls come to New York” movies – My Sister Eileen or Breakfast at Tiffany’s. But, when they came back downstairs, their car was empty, the trunk wide-open like the maw of a hippopotamus. When I learned of this theft a dizzying dread crept up my spine. Did my hair stand on end? It may have. I know that I felt helpless against some deadly force, some irresistible undertow, some relentless riptide pulling Carrie under.