Black and White Memories
Robert J. Randisi
Guilt had long since bled the color from Truxton
Lewis' memory of Elizabeth Bennett. Whenever the first strains of
Dusty Springfield's "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me"
started playing it all came back to him, but always in black and
white. He wondered for years why that was. Then it came to him. It
was the guilt.
Despite the guilty sinking feeling when he
remembered the one time in his forty years of marriage he had been
unfaithful, he would not have given up the memories for any
reason-no matter what color they came in. The song was playing on
the radio as Tru Lewis pulled up in front of the house owned by
Jack Langston. Since retiring from the police department ten years
ago--and since the death of his wife several years earlier--Tru had
been housesitting across the country in an attempt to relieve the
boredom of being retired and a widower. One was bad enough, but
both were too much to handle. The house was on Seven Mile Beach in
Port May, New Jersey, a beautiful, Victorian town a county over
from Atlantic City. It was October, which meant the tourist season
was over. When Tru discovered that there was a house available in
Port May he hurriedly made the call that got him the job of
housesitting the place for a month. He stopped the car in front of
the house, one of the largest on the beach. Apparently, Jack
Langston had made a ton of money dealing in commodities, and this
was his family's summer home. Tru would "sit" in it for
the month and then someone else would take over. A month was Tru's
He retrieved his suitcase from the trunk and a
bag of supplies from the back seat of his car, an '89 Ford Galaxy
he'd borrowed from a friend, and let himself into the house with
the key the real estate office had supplied him with. There were
several keys, and he'd been well schooled in their use. He had not
been in the house before, but had seen a diagram and knew where
the guest room-his room-was. He'd learned early on in his
housesitting career that owners did not appreciate a stranger
invading their master bedroom and usually insisted on an
He left the bag of supplies in the kitchen, then
went directly to the guest room and dropped his suitcase on the
bed, which was full-sized, and comfortable looking.
Next he took a walk through the house, checking
each of the rooms to make sure it was secure and had not been
violated since the owner's departure. Finding everything in order
he tried to decide whether to go back to the bedroom to unpack, or
to the kitchen to put away the supplies. He opted for the kitchen.
His "supplies" consisted of six
bottles of his favorite beer-Michael Shea's-and a box of one
hundred Tetley tea bags. It took him a moment, but because the
beer was warm he decided to put it in the refrigerator and make
himself a cup of tea.
Armed with the steaming cup he went to the
sliding doors at the back of the house, off the livingroom, and
went out onto the full deck. There was a breeze coming off the
water. He stood there and enjoyed it, sipping the tea, thinking
about the last time he'd been in Port May.
Port May, New Jersey September 1966
Tru Lewis was twenty-nine years old, had been a
member of the New York City Police Force for seven years. From the
beginning he seemed to be on the fast track to the top. He'd made
detective after four-and-a-half years, much of that spent working
undercover. However, it was that time period that was the cause of
his recent problems. Suddenly, two-and-a-half years after his last
undercover assignment had ended he was under investigation by the
Internal Affairs Division, who suspected him of skimming off the
top of three million dollars in drug money which had been
confiscated by Tru and his partners. What made it even worse was
that his "partners" were apparently testifying against
"You have to get away, Tru," his wife
told him. "I know that. I can understand that. But why can't
we get away together?"
He couldn't tell her why. He couldn't bring
himself to tell her he was sick to death of the smell of baby
powder and puke. It seemed to him that babies smelled of either
one or the other, and recently those smells had attached
themselves to her, as well.
"I'm not good to be around, sweetie,"
he told her. "Let me do this. The verdict comes down Monday.
I just want to spend the weekend alone. I'll be back Monday, I
She'd held tight to the front of his shirt and
asked, "You're not going to do anything foolish, are
"Like swallow my gun? That's not my style,
hon. I'll be back. I swear."
She'd kissed him fiercely and he'd left and
driven to Port May, new Jersey, where his uncle-a retired cop--had
a cottage he said he could use.
"Fuck 'em, kid," his Uncle had told
him. "Go to my cottage and don't think about it."
Not thinking about it was easier said than done,
but going to the cottage did seem like a good idea. He could get
away from the suspicious stares of his "friends and
neighbors," as well as the constant crying and spitting up of
his new daughter.
And his wife. Suddenly the love of his life had
become someone he wanted to run away from. Her solicitous behavior
around him, combined with the fact that their daughter had become
an appendage on her hip, served only to irritate him.
His Uncle's cottage was on Seven Mile Beach. He
hadn't been there since he was a kid. When he pulled up in front
it looked the same. It actually looked the same as the last time
he'd seen it, almost fifteen years earlier. He stood in front and
studied the side of the house where his Uncle had once tried to
smoke out some hornets from a nest but had only succeeded in
setting the house on fire.
He used the key his Uncle had given him to open
the door. Even the inside looked the same. The furniture worn and
musty, the walls cracked and peeling. He was carrying a small
duffel bag with extra clothes in it, and a paper bag with a
six-pack of his favorite beer, Ballantine. He put the beer in the
fridge, dumped his duffel in the smallest of the two bedrooms, and
then went out back on the porch to look at the water. He left the
front and back doors open to air the place out.
After twenty minutes he decided to close up the
house again. He put on a windbreaker, because the salt air was
cool in September, stuffed his hands into the pockets of his
jeans, and started walking.
Being alone turned out to be a bad idea. All he
could think about was what he would do if he was kicked off the
force-or worse, kicked off and arrested. He replayed each scenario
over and over again. Just when he started to think that swallowing
his gun might not be such a bad idea he came to the end of the
beach and saw the shack.
Not actually a shack, but a small restaurant. It
almost looked like what his old man used to call a roadhouse. He
decided it was more of a café than anything else.
It was getting dark and the place was lit,
though not brightly. He looked around and was struck at how black
and white everything seemed. The sand was white, the sides of the
building were white, the water was dark, there was not a hint of
color anywhere. It was as if he had stepped through a portal into
an alternate dimension where color had been drained from
everything. He could smell fish frying, and hunger suddenly gnawed
at his belly. He realized he hadn't eaten a since that morning,
when his wife had tried to force breakfast on him. He'd finally
agreed to eat some toast before leaving, just to shut her up.
He walked towards the little cafe and as he got
closer he could hear music coming from inside. It was Dusty
Springfield singing "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me."
As soon as he opened the screen door and stepped inside he saw
The interior of the place continued to foster
the colorless illusion of the moment. The floor was laid with
black and white tile, the walls, tables and countertops were also
white. The leather of the booths and counter stools was black. A
man behind the counter wore a long white apron over a white
t-shirt and black pants. What hair he had left was black, a wispy
fringe around his head and a thick mat on his forearms.
And in the midst of all this she stood, a
shining oasis of color in a desert of black and white.
And the color was gold.
Her skin was pale, and her waitress uniform was
a white apron, a white peasant blouse and a black skirt-but her
hair was golden blonde, and made her stand out, although she would
have done so, anyway. Her figure was Monroesque, with full, round
breasts, the nipples of which were prominent, probably because the
place was airconditioned to the point of freezing.
A few of the booths were occupied, and some of
the tables. Since the tourist season was over Tru decided these
had to be locals.
"Sit anywhere," the man behind the
Tru only saw the one waitress, so it didn't
matter where he sat, she'd be waiting on him. He chose a booth
with no one seated directly in front or behind him.
When she came over he saw that she was older
then he'd first thought, maybe late-twenties instead of early. She
had blue eyes, which he hadn't been able to notice until now. The
blue of her eyes and gold of her hair were the only hints of color
in the place.
"Can I get you something?" she asked,
and he realized this was the second time she'd spoken, He'd been
staring and hadn't heard her the first, but now he did and her
voice had a smokey, throaty quality to it.
"Oh, uh, a burger," he stammered,
feeling fourteen again, when being near any girl, let alone one as
beautiful as this one, had made him stammer.
"How'd you like it?"
She smiled and his stomach fluttered. That
annoyed him. He wasn't fourteen anymore, and he was married, so
why should he be reacting this way?
"I could just about sell you anything,
couldn't I?" she asked, lowering her pad.
He nodded and said, "Just about."
"Well," she said, staring at him with
a look of amusement, "why don't we just leave it at a burger,
fries and shake for now?"
"Um . . ." he said, and she walked
away, leaving in her wake a scent that tickled his nostrils and
drove out all memory of baby smells.
She returned briefly with a glass of water and a
smile and he breathed in her scent once again. He found himself
waiting anxiously for his food, though his hunger had suddenly
become a secondary concern. It was only because she would be
While he waited he noticed three men come into
the place and immediately seated themselves in a booth. They were
all dressed similar to the way he was, jeans and windbreakers, but
they all had Elvis hair and were eight or ten years younger than
him. At that point the waitress started toward him with his plate
of food in one hand. One of the new arrivals grabbed her free arm,
halting her progress.
"Come on, Lizzie, we need some service,
She yanked her arm away and said, "Don't
grab me like that again, Hal. I'll get to you when I finish with
this guy. And don't call me Lizzie!"
"You love me," Hal called after her.
"I know it."
She made a face that he couldn't see and walked
to Tru's booth.
"Old boyfriend?" he asked, without
"He wishes," she said, setting his
plate down. In doing so she bent over and brought her cleavage
tantalizingly close to him. If her scent had teased him up to now
it was suddenly heady, wafting up from between her breasts and
making his head swim. "Can I get you anything else?"
"Uh, that shake."
"Oh yeah, right," she said, laughing,
full, ripe lips parting to reveal perfect white teeth. "I'm
sorry. What flavor?"
She had to walk past the booth with the three
men and the one called Hal reached for her again. She avoided him,
causing his friends to laugh at him. She went behind the counter,
made Tru his shake, and started for his table again. As before Hal
grabbed her free arm.
"Come on, Lizzie," he said,
"don't be like that."
She tried to pull her arm away again, but he
held fast this time.
"You're hurting me!" she snapped.
Abruptly she overturned the shake glass and
poured the contents onto his head. He shouted, released her arm
and jumped up. His friends were now shedding tears, they were
laughing so hard.
"Goddamn it, you bitch!" Hal swore.
Tru could see that Liz looked frightened so he
got up and hurried over to the action. He got between her and Hal
before the man could do anything.
Abruptly, his two friends stood up and got
behind him. He started to reach for his badge before he remembered
it wasn't there. They'd taken it from him pending the
investigation-that and his gun. All he had left was the adrenaline
rush he always got in situations like these.
"I think you boys better go and eat
someplace else," Tru said.
"What's it to you?" Hal demanded.
"That was my milk shake," Tru said.
"Because of you, I have to wait for another one."
The strawberry colored liquid was still dripping
from Hal's chin and there was clumps of it in his hair and on his
"That bitch had no call—"
"She asked you to stop grabbing her and you
didn't listen. I think you got what you deserved, don't you?"
Hal stared at Tru, looking ridiculous and more
pink than strawberry. Behind him his friends gave Tru the meanest
looks they could muster, but he saw they weren't going to do
anything without their leader's say so. He closed the distance
between himself and Hal, invading the man's space, causing him to
step back a pace before he could stop himself.
"Time to leave, Hal," Tru said,
Hal tried to match Tru's stare but in the end he
couldn't, and looked away.
"Hal?" one of his friends asked.
"Let's go," Hal said. "Burgers in
this place stink, anyway."
They backed away a few steps, then turned and
shuffled out the door, Hal pushing them from behind.
He felt her hand on his shoulder and then he
turned and faced her. She was taller than his wife, who had dark
hair and dark skin and brown eyes. This girl was all pale and
golden, and took his breath away.
"My hero," she said.
"No problem," he said. "I was
kind of mad he got my shake."
"Go sit down and I'll bring you another
one-on the house."
He went back to his booth and started on his
burger, not really tasting it. He was coming down from the rush of
facing those three punks without a gun and badge, but was still
high from the girl.
He looked up at her standing there with another
shake, smiling down at him.
"I asked, are you a cop?" She put the
shake down, this time without bending over.
"Why did you ask that?"
She shrugged. "Because you act like
"Well," he said, "it's a long
story, but yes I am-I was . . ."
"Hey," she said, waving her hands in
front of her, "none of my business. I'm sorry I asked. How's
"Look," she said, "I just want to
warn you about those guys . . ."
"They didn't seem so tough."
"Well, you were facing them," she
said. "Just be careful, okay? And really . . ." She put
her hand on his shoulder and leaned over to kiss his cheek. She
was so plush that for a moment he was blinded by the paleness of
her skin. "Thank you," she said. "It's been a long
time since anyone stood up for me." He couldn't understand
that, at all.
After the last of the customers left she came
over and sat opposite him in his booth.
"Close up for me, Liz?" the boss
"Don't worry, Lenny," she said.
"I'll lock everything."
The boss left and she leaned forward, a move
which pressed her breasts against the table so that they swelled,
threatening to spill out of her blouse. And there were those blue
eyes, that full, soft mouth.
"Give me a quarter," she said.
"For a song."
He reached into his pocket and handed her one.
She went to the jukebox and punched in the number she wanted. Then
turned and walked slowly toward him while the song started. Once
again he heard Dusty Springfield's "You Don't Have To Say You
"Dance with me?" she asked, ample hips
He pushed away his partially eaten burger and
got up. She came into his arms and pressed against him. He forgot
about everything-his wife, the baby, Internal Affairs, his badge .
. . everything. Nothing else existed except her in his arms. He
knew he should be feeling guilty. After all, his wife was at home
taking care of their new daughter, his career was on the line, and
here he was dancing with a woman he'd only just met, but wished he
could stay with forever.
"You're married, aren't you?" she
asked. Her head was on his shoulder, her mouth near his ear.
"The good ones always are."
They danced until the song ended and then he
didn't want to let her go. They stepped away and looked into each
"I know this is crazy," she said,
"but would you like to come home with me tonight?'
"More than anything else in the
"No strings," she said. "Just
"I don't want to break up a marriage,"
she said, "but I feel like if I don't take this chance I'll
always wonder . . . you know?"
He nodded. "I know."
"I'll lock up," she said, and began to
scurry about, turning off burners, and lights, and locking doors,
until finally they were going out the front door together.
They were on him like a pack of wild dogs.
Her arm was linked with his so that when they
pulled him from the steps she went sprawling into the sand as
well, away from the action. They rained down punches and kicks on
him. He tried to give back as good as he got, but it was three
against one and they had caught him unprepared. He had no doubt
that it was the three punks from earlier in the evening. In fact,
one of them still swelled sweetly of the shake Elizabeth had
poured over his head.
She finally got back to her feet and decided to
join the fray rather than call fruitlessly for help. She jumped on
the back of one of the men and began to pummel him.
"Get her off me!" he shouted.
"Stop it!" she cried. "You're
The other two stopped kicking Tru long enough to
pry Elizabeth off the third man's back, sending her into the sand
"We're not gonna kill him, Lizzie" Hal
said. "We're just teachin' him a lesson."
"Yeah," one of the others said,
"No big city asshole better come here and mess with our
"What the hell are you talking about?"
she demanded. "You losers don't have any women."
The three men exchanged glances, wondering how
to respond to that.
"Besides," she said, before they could
make up their minds, "you're really in trouble now."
"And why's that?" Hal asked.
"Because he's a cop," she said.
"You three dimwits just assaulted a cop."
"A cop?" Hal said.
"Jesus," one of the others said.
"We didn't know."
"A cop, Hal," the third one said.
"We gotta get outta here."
"Lizzie-" Hal started.
"Just get out of here," she said,
cutting him off, "and don't call me that."
"He started it," Hal said. "He
stuck his nose-"
"I can keep him from reporting this if
you'll just get out of here!" she said, urgently.
"Come on, Hal," one of the others
said, grabbing his arm. "Let's go."
Hal gave one last look at Tru, lying in the
sand, bloody and battered, and then allowed his friends to pull
"Jesus," Elizabeth said, and dropped
to her knees next to him. "Are you all right?"
"I-I think so," he said, spitting
blood from a split lip.
"You're not dead, or anything?"
He laughed, then hissed because that split his
lips even more.
"No," he said, "I'm not
"Do you have a place around here?"
"Just up the beach."
"Well," she said, "I guess we
better go there so I can look after you. Can you get up?"
"Yeah," he said, his head clearing
somewhat. "Where did they go?"
"They ran off when I told them you were a
cop." She helped him to his feet.
"You don't want to go after them or
anything, do you?"
"No," he said, "I just want to
forget the whole thing."
"Well then, lean on me," she said.
"This isn't exactly what I had in mind, but I guess I'll have
to play Florence Nightingale."
"Not what I had in mind, either."
She tended to his wounds, which were more
annoying than serious, and then helped him into bed. She'd kissed
his forehead then his mouth and said, "You're not in shape
for much more than this," which he later thought had probably
been for the best.
She'd walked to the door then, turned and said
to him, "I'm not leaving my number."
He nodded. "I understand."
"Too bad," she'd said, "Mr.
She left, the taste of her on his lips, and he'd
never even told her his name.
The Present . . .
He took the tea cup back into the house and put
it in the sink. Then locked all the doors, going out the back and
walking down the deck steps to the sand. He started down the
beach, then turned and frowned at the house. He hadn't noticed it
before, but it was apparently on the same lot his Uncle's house
had been on. He'd thought it a coincidence that a house on Seven
Mile Beach had become available for sitting, but not this much of
a coincidence. He continued down the beach as dusk came and seemed
to bleach the color out of everything, The sand was white, the
water was getting dark. He wondered if the small café would still
be there, and if it was she couldn't possibly still be working
there as a waitress, could she?
When he finally came to the end of the beach he
saw it. Only one wall still stood, but it was the one with the
front door in it. He walked to the steps that the three men had
pulled him down from. He'd gone home the next day, hugged his wife
and baby, told her that he'd come home early because he'd gotten
mugged-and because he missed them. That Monday he found out that
I.A.D. had cleared him and his career would continue.
He'd thought about Elizabeth over the years once
in a while, especially when he heard that Dusty Spingfield song.
He'd recall how they talked, how their eyes met, how they'd danced
in the café and what they had almost done-and would have done-if
the three punks hadn't jumped him outside. He'd felt guilt all
these years because of how good he'd felt just dancing with her.
How bad would it had felt if he'd spent that night with her?
He'd never cheated on his wife in all the years
they'd been together and had always considered this café the
place where he'd come the closest. As a younger man he'd felt that
even the dance had been a betrayal, but now, thinking back, he
knew it hadn't been. It had simply been a cleansing time for him,
a few moments respite from a life that had suddenly become filled
There was no harm in that.
Bob Randisi is the author of several mystery
series, the Founder and Exec. Dir. of the Private Eye Writers of
America and Co-Founder of Mystery Scene Magazine.
His newest book is Blood On The Arch (SMP, 2000).