Exactly two weeks later, the phone rang. “Are you ready for what you’re going to hear?” asked Dick.
Randall took a deep breath, sighed and said, “go on.” He barely got the words out of his mouth before he added, “is she on Broadway?” Dick began his narrative in a matter-of-fact monotone. “Yes, she’s on Broadway, but not exactly where you would probably hope. Trying to hold himself from the precipice of assumption, Randall asked, “what do you mean?” asked Randall.
“She’s making movies,” Dick said. Randall interrupted momentarily and almost tongue-in-cheek, asked, “is her name in lights?”
“You could say that,” Dick replied. “She’s the headliner in the marquee over the theatre. It reads,” he hesitated, cleared his throat and said, “are you sure you want to hear what I’m going to tell you?” Randall said, “yes.”
Dick continued. “The movie is called ‘Getting Intimate With Martine Monroe’. Underneath the marquee reads, ‘You’ll forget all about Marilyn, once you feast your eyes upon the provocative, captivating temptress, Martine’.”
“So, what does that mean?” Randall said, sounding confused. “Is it a movie a little on the seedy side or is it…?” Dick said, “son, it’s exactly what you think it is. I don’t know any other way to put it. She’s a porn star, and from what I hear, and have seen, she’s a pretty good one.”
“You’ve seen the show?” Randall asked. “How does she look?” He quickly corrected the way the question sounded and asked, “does she look okay?” Again, trying to correct himself, he said, almost mumbling, “I just want to know if she’s okay and looks like she’s enjoying herself.”
Still trying to reclaim some dignity, he said, “I guess there are no easy questions to ask about this kind of work. It would be sort of like asking a prostitute is she has fun doing what she does…or asking an addict if they like doing drugs.” Then he asked, “did she look high?”
Dick said, “that, I couldn’t say. Did she look like she was enjoying herself? Yes, she did, but I imagine she’s making a pretty penny for acting like she’s enjoying herself, and I will say that she looked like she knew what she was doing, high or not. This may be a little too personal, but was she promiscuous in the past?”
“Not when I knew her,” Randall said. “I’m not sure she had ever even been kissed. We didn’t have an intimate relationship, so I really don’t know.”
Dick gingerly asked, “did you want one?” Randall said, “I didn’t really give it much thought. I just knew she was headed down a dark path and I wanted to help. I understood the constraints of the way she was raised, and I know that sometimes, privilege makes one…rebellious…shall we say? I also know that rebellion sometimes manifests itself in the shape of booze, or pills or liquid inside a needle, or powder sucked up a nose.”
“You know, son,” Dick said. “Almost daily, actors and actresses admit to popping a few pills or having a little snort to help them with the long hours and strenuous demands of their jobs. Now, I’m not saying it’s right. I just know it happens. My question to you, is this. Now that you have this information, what are you going to do with it?” Randall said “I have no idea.”
After the call, he sat down and poured a glass of wine. The last time he had wine was when he and Martine were toasting Callie. Dick had a valid question, he thought. What was he going to do? Should he go to New York? And what would he do when he got there? Try to talk her into coming home? Try to talk her into ending her pornographic career?
He wasn’t her official advocate. He wasn’t her mentor in any sense. He wasn’t even sure that she still considered him to be a friend, or if she had ever considered him to be a friend, but his past kept echoing. Someone had reached out to him. Someone had saved him.
He finished his glass of wine and sat, staring at the wall, mentally weighing the benefits versus the cost of a privileged lifestyle. Many times he had overheard people talking about what they would do if they had money. It always amused him. People tended to think that money meant happiness. More often that they thought, it meant isolation and loneliness. It meant doubt and suspicion. Did someone like you for you, or did they like you for your money? And of course, privilege, for a few, made the heart yearn for escape.
Two weeks later, he received a call from Dick. “I don’t know how to tell you this, son, but Martine has, um, how can I say this gingerly…Martine has taken her final curtain call.”
Almost unable to breathe, Randall asked what he meant. Dick said, “she was found in her dressing room after she failed to appear on the set. It looks like she overdosed, but not before someone damn near beat her to death. They haven’t yet released the official cause.”
“Are you sure it’s her? How did you find out?” Randall asked. Dick said, “I always make friends with local law enforcement, and as you know, information is for sale.”
“Are you still there?” asked Randall. “No,” Dick said. “I left last week, but I got the call a few minutes ago. Apparently, Martine was well known to ‘New York’s Finest’. They closed their eyes to the drug use, if she…well, if she…opened her mouth…or her legs. I know that’s an indelicate way to put it, but it is what it is…or it was what it was, rather.”
Randall was audibly crying as they continued to talk. “Do they know who did it? Do they have any leads?” Dick said, “no leads. The kind of work she did, and the lifestyle she was leading, doesn’t really lend itself to a list of ‘usual suspects.’ It could have been anyone. A spurned cast member, a jealous cast member, one of New Yorks’ finest, or a complete stranger. They just don’t know.”
“What’s going to happen to her?” Randall asked. Then, panicked he asked, “has anyone gotten in touch with her mother and father?”
Dick said, “I don’t think they know who to get in touch with. That’s why I called you. Do you want me to tell them who she was, and how to get in touch with her parents…or will you?”
Randall dropped the phone and yelled, “JESUS!” Not sure if he had broken his phone and the call had been disconnected, he apologized and asked Dick if he was still there. He said, “I’m still here.” He hesitated and said, “it wasn’t released, but I was made privy to a note the officers found.” Randall was suddenly catapulted back to the day they found Callie. “What did the note say?” he asked.
Dick said, “I don’t know, but I can probably get my hands on a copy, for the right price, of course.” Randall said, “pay whatever they want. Just get a copy.”
“Consider it done,” Dick said, “but what about her next of kin? Don’t you think they should know?”
Randall said, “yes. I think they should know, but I don’t want them to know everything.” After a long pause, he said, “let me ask you a question.” Dick said, “I’m not sure I want to hear it, but go on.”
“Do you think you could buy off the coroner?” Randall asked. “Maybe have him certify her death due to maybe natural causes?”
Dick sighed and said, “wow. That’s a pretty big ask. I don’t know how corrupt the coroners there are, and even if I found one who would be willing, I’d bet it wouldn’t come cheap. You’re talking about official, legal documents, and if I could get it done, and again, that’s a big if, it would mean that the person who brutalized her would get away with it. Natural causes means no evidence, no investigation, no conviction, no nothing. Do you understand?”
“I understand,” Randall said.
Two days, and twenty-five thousand dollars later, Dick called Randall. He had obtained a copy of the certificate, listing cause of death as “natural.” He also had a copy of the note Martina left. It was déjà vu for Randall. Dick said the police officers on the scene said that Martine was clutching the note in her hand when she died, and it would of course, be documented as evidence.
Dick said, “she’s listed as Jane Doe. They’ll probably cremate her in a few days, unless someone comes forward to claim her.”
Randall asked, “and then?” Dick said, “well, in New York, unidentified bodies are ferried to City Cemetery, which is a potters’ field on Hart Island. Do you want to leave her there, or do you want to bring her home? That can be arranged, you know…again, for the right price.”
Randall said, “does someone have to identify her body before her remains can be returned?” Dick said, “I don’t think they would care. It would just be one less body they had to deal with. I’ll see what I can do, and by the way, I still think you should let her folks know.”
Randall didn’t answer. He just said, “can you send me a copy of the note?”
“Check your email,” Dick said.
As soon as Randall got the alert, he opened the email and openly sobbed as he began to read.
I went looking for love,
And all I found was shame.
I went looking for justice,
And all I found was blame.
I went looking for truth,
And all I found was lies.
I went looking for someone,
Who would hear my desperate cries.
I was playing a part,
And I let people stare.
I took off my clothes,
And I colored my hair.
I went looking for reasons,
I had questions to ask.
All I found was deception,
From the ones in the masks.
I went looking for answers,
And all I found was silence.
I went looking for warmth,
And all I found was violence.
I went looking for trust,
And all I found was deceit.
I went looking for honor,
And all I found was a cheat.
I went looking for peace,
And all I found was regret.
I was looking for a pardon,
But they couldn’t forget.
I went looking for sunshine,
And all I found was rain,
I went looking for friendship,
And I found it in Cocaine.
I went looking for dreams,
And all I found was pain.
I went looking for comfort,
So I needled a vein.
I went looking for rescue,
But it came far too late.
All I had learned from living,
Was how it felt to hate.
A post script was included with the email. How or where Dick had acquired a copy of the note was not revealed, and he said that all he knew was that it had been found, tucked inside her wallet. There was no date, but clearly, it had been written recently.
Things were crystal clear to Randall as he read with rage.
I saw you last night, and you scared me,
I picked up my phone, and you dared me.
A call never made, a call not received,
A scream never heard, a killer relieved.
Randall couldn’t remember where he had heard the exact phrase, but it seemed to fit, as he softly recanted aloud;
“Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget, falls drop by drop on upon the heart.”
Randall called Dick, but said nothing. Finally, Dick asked, “are you there? Tell me what you are thinking?” Randall said, “I think she hated what she was doing. I think she was looking for redemption, but couldn’t get past her defiance of everything she had ever known. I think someone betrayed her, and I know someone killed her.”
“Well,” Dick said. “When it comes to her, you wanted the slate wiped clean, and that’s what you got. As far as anyone will ever know, she just died, and that’s what you wanted. Now, you have to let it go. I don’t want you to go all cowboy on me and open up a can of worms. In other words, don’t start opening doors that you can’t close. She made her own choices. You tried to save her, but she obviously didn’t want salvation. Tell me that you are going to let this go.”
After several seconds of silence, Dick asked, “are you there? Are you going to let this go?”
Randall said, “I appreciate everything you’ve done. Send me the bill.”
Dick again asked, “are you going to let this go, son?”
“No,” Randall said, and hung up.