From the author: George Graham learns that sometimes you must be very careful what you wish for!
I'll See You In My Screams
George Graham puts his briefcase down on the crowded subway platform, unfolds his Daily News, and peruses the front page. He quickly folds it as he feels the vibration of an approaching train. He checks his watch. Eight twenty—right on time.
Coming in rather hot, the train comes to an abrupt stop as it reaches the end of the platform. The engineer, apparently miscalculating his speed, has to lean on the brake. The quick stop causes the elevated station platform to shudder. The doors fly open and a mass of morning commuters rush in to claim available seats. George is lucky today, he finds a seat by the exit. The doors close and the train lurches forward. George unfolds his paper and settles-in for the thirty-minute ride to his 42nd street destination.
Several minutes later, as the train approaches a station, George, now totally engrossed in his paper, glances up to check on his progress. His view is partially obstructed by a passenger hanging on the strap before him. He strains to catch a view of the far side of the subway car. As the train slows, the name of the Simpson Street Station sign comes into view. The train stops and the doors open. Looking down to check his watch, his gaze falls on a beautiful face sitting on the opposite side of the car—a face framed in flaming red hair. What is unusual about this young lady with the beautiful face, is that she appears to be looking at him. George checks the people sitting on either side of him to see if perhaps it is one of them she is observing. To his left sits a middle-aged woman, totally engrossed reading a book. To his right, an African American man snoozes. Apparently, she's looking at me! he decides—Do I know her? She doesn't look familiar. I wouldn't forget a face like that. Holy shit, she's smiling at me, should I smile back?—What am I thinking? What would my gorgeous wife Iris and three beautiful kids think if they knew?—on the other hand, this woman is so gorgeous that I can't believe she's coming on to schlumpy me—middle-aged George Graham. Shit! What should I do?---I'll just do nothing. That's it, I'll play it cool'.
George goes back to reading; that is, pretending to read, for he can't get his mind off this gorgeous woman apparently singling him out to flirt with. Several stations go by as the peek-a-boo game goes on. Each time George looks up, his redheaded admirer is staring at him—seductively. George's breathing deepens as his level of excitement rises. Where is this going? He wonders.' She's probably a hooker, he surmises. But so what!. She's beautiful; how often does a guy like me get to be with a woman like this?' George feels intensely guilty for feeling this way, but his excitement grows every time he sees Red looking at him.
The train pulls into Grand Central station and the doors open. Red gets up and pushes her way to the door. She turns and looks at George. She smiles and nods her head at him as she steps off the train. George loses sight of her as the people around him rise to exit the train. He jumps up and pushes his way to the door, trying to get off the train before the doors shut. The door is closing as he makes a last desperate push to make it through the rapidly vanishing exit before it totally disappears. A bystander on the train, noting his dilemma gives him the final shove through the exit that barely gets him off the train as the door slams shut. He strains to see if he can spot the redhead, but cannot. He searches about as he desperately pushes his way through the crowd. He looks about, but no luck—that is, until he spots her beautiful red hair in the center of the platform. Compact in hand she touches up or pretends to touch-up her makeup. Her gaze focuses on George and she gives him a seductive smile.
As George self-consciously makes his way to her he quickly considers an opening line.
"Hello, my name is George. Do I know you?" he says.
"No, I don't think so," she answers.
"I was just wondering... The way you were looking at me on the train, I thought perhaps you knew me," he says.
"Did you? You looked so friendly. You reminded me of someone I used to know. I just thought I'd like to know you better." George catches his breath. Everything is moving deliciously fast.
“What's your name?" he asks.
"Monica. What's yours?"
"George—I thought maybe you’d like to go get a cup of coffee or something, Monica."
"Sounds good. You have a place in mind?"
"I'm not very familiar with this area. How about you?"
"This is Grand Central Station, Hon. There are a million coffee shops in and around the station.”
The endearment "Hon" strikes a familiar note in George's ear. Beginning to sound like a Hooker, he speculates. Oh well, what the hell, he rationalizes; she's a gorgeous piece of ass. When am I gonna have another chance like this? I don’t think Iris will mind very much.
"Sure. Let's find a place close by," says George.
Not far from a station entrance on the Park Avenue side of the building, she leads them to a little sandwich and coffee shop. George selects a table toward the back of the shop, away from the windows.
"Maybe we should ask for a table in the kitchen, Hon," teases Monica.
"No, it's not why I..." George's protest is cut off by Monica.
"It's okay, Sweetie, I understand," she says. George flushes red as he buries his head in a menu.
"What are you having, Babe?" asks Monica after perusing the menu for several minutes. George puts down his menu.
"I guess, a toasted buttered bagel and coffee is all I want," he says. "What about you?" he asks.
"That sounds good, order me the same while I go make myself beautiful," she says.
Taking her purse, she makes her way to the lady's room at the rear of the shop.
George self-consciously fiddles with his phone as he awaits Monica's return. Engrossed in checking his emails, George is suddenly startled when a voice before him, inquires.
“Is that you, George—George Graham?”
Stunned. George nearly drops his phone. Before him is a face from another time another place. It takes George an interval to put the voice and the face together.
“Tom, Tom Jeffrey, right?" queries George.
“That’s right, George. Long-time no see. How’ve you been?
“Can’t complain I guess,” replies George, hoping to curtail the conversation by not elaborating.
“No, I mean since Lisa and the kids—since they… uh... you know what I mean.”
“You can say it, Tom., I’m used to talking about it by now. You mean, since Lisa killed the kids and herself. Is that what you mean?”
“Yeah, I didn’t want to come right out and say it... A terrible thing, George. How were you able to handle such a thing. Your whole family. The old neighborhood is still shocked.”
“Shit happens, Tom. You just handle it. The fact is, Lisa, didn't kill all the kids—the two boys. My daughter Virginia, the youngest, survived."
“I didn’t know that. Yeah, I remember Virginia, a sweet kid. It must have been terrible for her. How is she doing? Is she living with you?"
“No. I’m not sure what happened to her, In all the commotion at the time, she disappeared. She’s the only family I have left. I’ve been looking for her in the years since.”
“How long has it been?”
“Almost twenty years.”
“Wow, that long, huh? I‘ve gotta give you credit, George, it looks like you’ve taken it much better than I would—I think I would have...” Tom’s voice trails off as he lowers his eyes and shakes his head. “Anyways, it was good running into you this way,” he says.
Monica returns as the waitress is finishing placing the order on the table. George introduces Tom.
“Monica, this is an old neighbor of mine, Tom Jeffrey.”
“And getting older by the day. A pleasure to meet you, Monica,” says Tom.
“Thank you. same here,” she says.
“I have to run. Good seeing you, George," says Tom, giving George a wink and a nudge indicating Monica.
“You too,” replies George.
Monica dominates the conversation with frivolous small-talk while they have their bagel and coffee.
"Do you like me, George?" she asks.
"What d’ya mean?"
"It's not a trick question, George. Do you like me?"
"Yes, I think you're beautiful," says George.
"Would you like to go somewhere alone with me?" asks Monica, seductively.
"Yes, I guess so."
"You guess? You don't sound very enthusiastic."
"You took me a little off guard. Yes, I think you're beautiful and yes I'd like to go somewhere alone with you. Is that better?"
"Much. And if you don’t mind, I have a place in mind,” says Monica.
"Since I don’t know this area, tell me about your place," says George.
"Actually, there's a little hotel near Times Square, where I stay when I'm working on Broadway." George's eyes light up.
"You're an actress?" He asks.
"Dancer—in a chorus line."
"Oh wow, really?"
“It’s not much, but it's a living," says Monica. "So, would you like to come up to my room?"
"Sure, let’s go," says George,
The Elsmere Hotel is a structure built at the turn of the 20th century. The last time it saw better days was at the turn of the current century. The hotel is located in the center of possibly the busiest, most trafficked place in the civilized world, Times Square New York. A shuttle stop away from Grand Central. To find the hotel, however, you must have prior knowledge of it. The entrance is well hidden between a second rate movie theater showing porn films, and a novelty store selling knock-off Rolex’s, and I phones.
"We don't have to sign in or anything, do we?" asks George as he and Monica are about to enter the Elsmere.
"No, Babe. Don't worry, we're going straight up to my room," says Monica in a reassuring tone.
The entrance to the little hotel is painted a drab olive green. The dark, narrow hallway leads to a tiny, ancient elevator. There is no one behind the check-in desk, which is located further down the hall. Monica closes the elevator's metal accordion gate and presses a button for the third floor. The lift starts with a jolt and noisily crawls its way to the third level. Getting off the elevator, Monica takes George's hand and giddily pulls him along the dingy hallway.
"This way, Hon," she says
George smirks as he notes that the building does not have smoke detectors or a security system. Reaching the far end of the hall, Monica removes a key from her bag and unlocks the door. The room is small, old, and smelly. The cheap furnishings consist of a four-poster bed, and a small dresser with a mirror stuck on the wall behind it. Upon a rickety night-stand, by the bed sits a lamp, covered by a faded plastic lamp-shade with a burn-hole in it. In all likelihood the hole was created when temporary lovers, wanting a more romantic atmosphere placed a covering over the shade to dim the glare of the bulb, thus causing the trapped heat to burn the shade. George notes Monica doesn’t engage the security chain when she closes the door. Sensing his concern she asks:
"Something wrong, Babe? Why don't you get comfortable and tell me a little about yourself.”
Moving to him, she wraps her arms around him and kisses him long and lingeringly. Then, sitting on the edge of the bed, Monica begins very slowly undressing.
"C'mon Tell me a little about yourself, Hon. I don't know anything about you. I know you're married, I saw your ring. Do you have kids?" asks Monica "
"Yes, three," says George.
"So, tell me about them and also tell me about your wife."
"Well—yeah, I still wear the ring, but you see, they're all dead," says George, dispassionately.
Monica comes to attention and stops undoing her clothes.
“O my God, really—what happened?” She asks.
“It’s a rather long story but I’ll try to give you the abbreviated version—You see my wife killed two of the kids and herself,” he says, rather offhandedly. Monica takes George’s hand.
“You poor poor man,” she says.“What happened to your daughter? Is she still alive? She asks.
“I don’t know,” replies George. She disappeared that day, and I never saw her again—but—I didn’t say who went missing, I also had two sons. How did you know it was my daughter?”
Monica hesitates, “I don't know, just a lucky guess,” she says.
George nods thoughtfully.
“Anyway, that was nearly twenty years ago. It’s the past. Let’s get on with the present,” he says. “Sure, Georgie—but I was just wondering, why would your wife do such a thing?”
George becomes very quiet and doesn't answer as he slowly turns toward Monica. The mild, friendly face has now turned steely hard. His stare, cold and penetrating.
“I'm sure it's none of your business, sweetie, but if you must know, she was a lying, cheating bitch, like most women—perhaps like you," he hisses.
“Why would you say that?" asks Monica. “What a terrible thing to say.” She stands and moves away from him.
“I’m saying, I’m not stupid, girlie. Do you think I don’t know what you’re up to? Do you think I was born yesterday? I know your little game. You attract a mark by batting your long eyelashes, shaking your cute ass, and jiggling your tits—then you lure the patsy to a place—like this raunchy place.—You know, I’ve been to some crummy places, but let me tell you, this is by far one of the crummiest. Then, when they’re most vulnerable—with their pants down, your accomplice comes through the unlocked door, mugs them, and fleeces them of their money and valuables. The thing you didn’t count on is that I have my own game. You see, I also lure people, mainly girls like you, and they are very surprised when I turn the tables on them and spring my little surprise on them—like this.” George slowly slips a large switchblade knife from under his coat, and with a flip of his wrist flings it open in front of Monica’s face. Repelling back, she trips herself and falls against the dresser, her eyes big as saucers, her mouth agape.
“I love that look of fright that comes over the face of my marks at the sight of my trusty blade; the fear of pain, fear of death—I love it,” professes George, with a glint of mania in his voice.
Monica edges toward the door.
“Please don’t hurt me, don’t kill me. I don’t have anyone coming to mug you, I swear,” pleads Monica. “I’ll give you all the money I have and more,” she says as she picks up her purse and opens it.
“I tend to believe you, my dear, but I intend to have all your money and whatever else is of value in your bag—and... Oh yes—your life,” says George“
"Perhaps you won't hurt me if I show you what I've brought you,” says Monica, as she opens her purse. Her eyes narrow and the timbre of her voice hardens.
“I see your switchblade and raise you a Glock 9 millimeter,” she hisses as her hand exits the handbag holding an automatic pistol leveled at George's head.
George's eyes widen and he retreats, slack-jawed and speechless.
"What's the matter, George—or should I say—Dad?" asks Monica waving the automatic under Geroge’s nose. "Cat got your tongue?"
George, still stunned, leans against the wall.
“What’s that you just said—what d’ya mean, Dad?--- what is this? Who are you?” He asks with a trembling voice.
“Just what it sounds like, George. I‘m your loving baby daughter—I‘m Virginia and I've been looking for you for a very long time, almost twenty years—practically from the day you killed my mother and my two brothers. I ran—I got away before you could do to me, what you did to them. Looking back now, you might as well have killed me too. You destroyed me, destroyed my life and I've used every day since, to find you, Daddy, my loving Daddy. I'm finally going to get justice for my brothers Tad and Byron and especially for Mommy," she says, patting the gun.
“You don’t understand, Virginia—your mother was a...
” Virginia cuts him off’ “Quiet!,” she orders, venomously. “I don’t want to hear what Mommy was, or what she did, especially not from you. One thing I’m certain of, she wasn’t a murderer. No one deserves what you did to her—to my brothers, to me. No one.”
“What are you going to do, Virginia?" asks George as beads of nervous perspiration begin appearing on his quivering lip.
“What do you think I'm going to do, Dad?" I'm going to even the score for Mom, my brothers, and my sister," she says and raises the gun to eye level, aiming it toward George's head.
“Don’t do that, Virginia! I-I purposely let you go. I-I love you, that’s why you’re alive today. I let you go,.I let you live.”
“Liar! You’re a dirty liar,” she says as her finger slowly tightens on the trigger.
“Don’t do it, please don’t,” begs George
Click, click, click… Virginia pulls the trigger repeatedly but nothing happens. The horror and tenseness slowly drain from George and an evil smile take its place.
“So, Virginia, you were going to take revenge for the murders of our wonderful family, is that it? I guess you should have had a loaded gun to start with. Well, you know what, my dear Virginia, I really enjoyed killing them. I enjoyed every plea for mercy and every scream, as they died—and now I'm going to enjoy listening to you, pleading for your life,” says George as he flips the blade.
“I’m sorry for you George. you’re a very sick person and you need to be strapped into the electric chair or put away forever—Have you heard enough?” Virginia aims her question toward the door.
“What?” asks George.
“I wasn’t talking to you, George.”
“She was talking to me," a voice responds from the hallway as the door opens and a man steps in, followed by several uniformed policemen.
"Detective Dolan, NYPD,” he announces to George. “We heard and recorded your whole sick story,”
George is bewildered.
“What the hell’s goin’ on?” he asks.
“I’ll tell you what's going on, George,” says Dolan, “You’ve been scammed by Detective Phillips here,” he says, indicating Monica.
Monica stands over George, as Dolan handcuffs him and reads him his rights. Then, standing nose to nose with him, she says.
“George, It’s been my pleasure and good fortune after almost a year of working on your cold case, to track you down, and finally get the goods on you and to hopefully punch your ticket to hell, or at the very least put you away forever for what you did to your family, and God only knows who else—you lousy piece of excrement.” George stands.
“I don’t get it, Monica, or whatever your name is. How did you set this up?”
“We’ve had you under surveillance for months. We finally got you on the right train at the right time. You remember when I went to the bathroom in the coffee shop, well I actually called detective Dolan who was waiting to hear from me. We've used this crummy room to trap other scum like you. Works like a charm," says Monica.
George jerks forward and spits in Monica's face. Startled, Monica slowly wipes the spittle from her face with a tissue as she stumbles away, then obviously changing her mind, she returns, and with a roundhouse left hook to the jaw, sends George reeling across the room.
Now, more than a year since his trial, George Graham is convicted of murder and sentenced to death. As is usual in these circumstances, there are many appeals and delays in carrying out the sentence. George sits on death row day after day, week after week, month after month, awaiting his fate. After almost two years, he finally has used up all of his appeals, and a date is set for his execution, It is on the final week before his execution by lethal injection, that he receives a special visitor.
A young shabbily dressed blonde woman peers through the glass partition in the visiting room as George Graham enters the prison’s visiting room at Dannemora State prison in upstate New York. Picking up the connecting phone, he remains standing and glares suspiciously at his visitor through the glass partition.
“Now! Who the hell are you and what do you want?” asks George.
“It’s me, Dad, your daughter Virginia---I’ve come to watch you die.”
Word count 3,589