My acquaintances think Harris as unpleasant to look at as he is uncomfortable to speak with. I have gotten used to the stiffness of face and neck, as well as the odd speech lacking variety and modulation. Perhaps his arms hang too much when he walks, but no one can deny his erectness of stature or spirit, or the quality of his several books on crime.
I find him an honest companion, and one not easily distracted by casual flotsam and jetsam carried past us on our frequent walks about the city. This is not to say that he doesn’t notice everything, a quality I admire in a fellow writer, but one that I don’t always possess. I tested this hypothesis the other day, shortly after my return from across the pond.
“Something odd about that fellow with the mole beside his nose. The way his eyes twitched when we passed a while back, sizing us up.”
“He recognized me from the trial of the Romance Killer, and the interview on television.”
“How do you know it was from that particular instance?”
“He is father of the convicted man. The subject concerns him more than a casual observer.”
“I don’t recall much about the case.”
“You were off in England, researching the court of Henry the Eighth. How’s that going?”
“Difficult, three subjects vying for dominance. Wait a moment. I seem to recall this fellow of yours murdered women he had gotten to know intimately. For their money, I take it?”
“Didn’t want money. I attended hearings, the trial itself, and am working on the book.”
“How did I not know this?”
He chuckled three times, a sound like a spade digging in the earth, hitting stone each time.
“Well,” I said, a bit peeved, “what did he want?”
“He had sufficient resources from the father with the mole beside his nose. Pale blue eyes, almost translucent, jagged lower teeth. American industrialist, largely retired, entertains himself by manipulating members of congress.”
“Ye gods and little fishes.”
“The son has put a kink in his ability to meddle, though he believes this all might blow away once he buys a parole or pardon for the younger fellow. He has already purchased stories in tabloids accusing others of the crimes.”
“What was the nature of these crimes?”
“The son, having money and free time, became addicted to romance without the capacity or desire to establish commitment. He wanted beautiful women to love him. And, to hear him tell it, he had succeeded a few times, three to be exact.”
At this point we entered a Starbucks, purchased coffees, and went onto the terrace to watch traffic pass by. “How did he get caught?” I asked.
“These weren’t prostitutes. He liked beautiful brunettes, shapely and desirable. Especially troublesome women. He wanted conquest, and that required difficulty. That third woman whose heart he captured was a policewoman, a detective.”
“She put the cuffs on him?”
“They were sitting close, whispering sweet nothings. They might have shouted them for all anyone would hear. Nothing but water all around them. Absolutely naked. She had a bit of a sunburn and her head on his arm. She couldn’t believe she ever doubted him.”
“He had won her over that much?”
“Beautiful woman, smart as a whip, he told me in a private conference following conviction. No one knows this but me at this point. Divulge it, I will have you killed.”
“My lips are sealed.”
“According to him, he broke into tears. She begged to know what had provoked his sudden sorrow. Not sorrow, he said. He never wanted anything more than to be free, in her mind, from suspicion. He feared she could never love him with yet a shred or scintilla of doubt in her mind.”
“Profound on his part, wouldn’t you say.”
“She comforted him, they made love on the cushions. Then, looking in a porthole where she saw only her reflection, she pulled her hair back in a pony-tail.”
“He took the opportunity to bash her head with an eight-pound mushroom anchor planted on the deck for this purpose.”
“My word. The body?”
“Tied it to the anchor, tossed it over like a fish, caught and released. Once she fell in love with him, he had no use for her. Wasn’t capable of love but needed validation, to know he was favored by the universe. That had moved him to tears. Body came loose from anchor, floated in much worse for wear. No one identified her for the two weeks Junior spent in St. Thomas before apprehension. Lost his tan by trial but still had a sunny glow.”
“Validation,” I mused.
“Ephemeral validation, lasting a short time before requiring repetition. The father’s gripe is how it reflects on his political goals.”
“He’s a Watcher—end times apocalypse, and so on. Wants to help it along. I pointed this out in the interview.”
“Doesn’t care for you?”
We sat in silence several minutes, at the end of which time, he asked me about the angles I had conceived on the court of Henry the Eighth, a subject I was glad to expand upon.