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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 personal limit.

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 alternative.

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 him.

"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 promise."

She'd held tight to the front of his shirt and asked, "You're not going to do anything foolish, are you?"

"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 her.

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 counter said.

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?"

"Well done."



"A shake?"

"Why not?"

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 bringing it.

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, here."

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 stammering.

"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?"


"Comin' up."

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 shoulders.

"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, quietly.

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. "Thanks."

"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 one."

"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 the burger?"

"It's fine."

"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 called out.

"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.

"A quarter?"

"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 love me."

"Dance with me?" she asked, ample hips already swaying.

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 other's eyes.

"I know this is crazy," she said, "but would you like to come home with me tonight?'

"More than anything else in the world."

"No strings," she said. "Just tonight."

"No strings."

"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 killing him!"

The other two stopped kicking Tru long enough to pry Elizabeth off the third man's back, sending her into the sand again.

"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 women."

"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 him away.

"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 dead."

"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. Cop."

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 with turmoil.

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).



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