Authors: Frank De Felitta
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Copyright © 1982 by Frank De Felitta Productions
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First eBook Edition: July 1982
Reissued: January 2002
A MUFFLED SCREAM EMERGED FROM THE CAR.
BOOK I: BILL
BOOK II: JANICE
Chapter BOOK III: ELLIOT
BOOK IV: JENNIE
About the Author
A MUFFLED SCREAM EMERGED FROM THE CAR.
Hoover stumbled closer. The black smoke seared his lungs. He kept low to the wet earth. There was a rush of hot air, and flames licked upward from the engine block. In the rear window, black hair torn into streamers, Jennie beat against the glass.
The scream barely came through the roar of the flames.
“Ivy!” shouted Bill.
Hoover knelt forward. The heat sucked at his eyes. Flames shot up over the roof. Smoke twined lazily from the upholstery inside. Jennie began to choke.
“IVY!!!” Bill bellowed.
“Dear God! No!” Hoover wailed in anguish. “Not this time!”
By Frank De Felitta
Article from THE AMERICAN INQUIRER, reprinted in its entirety, dated February 3, 1976.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
by Shawn Tyneham
Exactly one year ago today, the trial concluded which shocked New York and sent ripples of horror and dismay throughout the nation. On December 5, 1974, Judge Harmon T. Langley, presiding over
The People of New York versus Elliot Suggins Hoover
, opened session for the first time in the Criminal Courts Building, Part Seven, in downtown Manhattan. The charge: kidnapping. The victim: 10-year-old Ivy Templeton, daughter of a rising young executive in the advertising world. But in less than two months, Ivy was dead. Not from her ordeal at the hands of the suspect, Elliot Hoover, but as a result of the bizarre and inexorable machinations of Judge Langley’s own court.
Where are they now? What happened to the defendant, Elliot Hoover, to the aggrieved parents, William and Janice Templeton, since that tragic day that Ivy strangled to death in front of a horrified jury? What happened to old Judge Langley, or to the prosecutor, Scott Velie, or the defense counsel, Brice Mack?
Readers of this column will remember the trial, the crowds that made entrance and exit impossible at the doors of the Criminal Courts building. For days New York was treated to the spectacle of orange-robed Hindus wrestling with blue coated cops, impassioned and unorthodox oratory from attorney Brice Mack, and the celebrities who marched in and out of Judge Langley’s court to testify for Elliot Hoover. But many weeks of arduous research and investigation have unearthed the bizarre circumstances that led to the trial and to Ivy’s tragic death.
It began early in October, 1974, when Elliot Hoover appeared outside the Ethical Culture School. He was forty-six years old, recently returned from seven years in India, and he was
. Waiting for Ivy Templeton.
During the next weeks, he shadowed William Templeton, a junior partner of the Pel Simmons Advertising Agency. He sent obscene notes, gifts to Ivy, gifts to Janice Templeton, and began telephoning. He insisted on seeing them. And day after day, like a shadow that would not fade, he waited for Ivy outside the school.
Finally the Templetons agreed to see him. The following account is based on trial records and recollections of the staff of the bar and restaurant at the Hotel Des Artistes, where the meeting took place.
• DEMANDS DAUGHTER
The meeting began in an atmosphere of hostility and tension. Hoover appeared very nervous, fumbling with his tea cup, swallowing his words, unable to control his trembling fingers. At length, his incredible and uncanny story began to emerge.
He had been, he claimed, a successful Pittsburgh steel executive until, on August 4, 1964, his wife and daughter were killed in an automobile accident south of Pittsburgh. The daughter’s name was Audrey Rose. Then, according to Marie Kronstadt, waitress at the restaurant, Hoover launched into a long and incoherent account of his travels through India. When Bill Templeton angrily demanded he come to the point, a strange and seductive expression came to Hoover’s face. Audrey Rose, he said quietly, had been reincarnated and her name now was Ivy Templeton. To prove it, he continued, Ivy was born within minutes of Audrey Rose’s death.
• THE NIGHTMARE
Unable to procure police protection, the Templetons sought legal advice. Their attorney advised a second meeting to determine precisely whether Hoover’s demands were financial or sexual in nature. Accordingly, Hoover came to the Templeton apartment.
Trial records indicate a tranquil and surprisingly affable meeting. Hoover rambled at length about certain experiences in India. In particular, he displayed an extensive technical knowledge of the doctrines of reincarnation. And once again, he demanded certain rights over Ivy.
Before the Templetons could clarify Hoover’s needs, however, the telephone rang with astounding news.
Ivy had been sleeping downstairs with a neighbor, Carole Federico, in order to leave the Templeton apartment clear for the meeting with Hoover. Shortly after Hoover arrived at the apartment, however, Ivy began to display symptoms of frenzied anxiety, delirium, and generalized fear. The Templetons entered her room to find the girl sleepwalking, her arms flailing, knocking over the furniture and painfully oblivious of chairs, desk, and dresser in her way.
She called “Mommydaddymommydaddymommydaddyhothothot!!” in a voice Mrs. Federico described as “unearthly and like a prayer caused by unbearable pain.”
But the worst was yet to come.
Unable to subdue the savage nightmare of his daughter, Bill Templeton turned to see Elliot Hoover standing in the doorway. A look of “inexpressible sadness” mixed with love appeared on the intruder’s face. Then, slowly, with confidence and authority, Hoover stepped toward the girl and called to her. And gradually, she grew quiet and fell asleep in his arms.
He had called her Audrey Rose.
Hoover continued to bombard the Templetons with gifts, mostly books on the subject of reincarnation. He demanded to speak with them again. He telephoned Bill Templeton at work. All to no avail.
Within the week, Ivy was subjected to a second nightmare, worse than the first.
Possessed with alarming strength, she seemed unstoppable, smashing through her bedroom, crying in pain, calling over and over for her “daddy,” yet completely unresponsive to Bill Templeton’s frantic efforts to calm her. By now it was evident that the child was in serious danger of harming herself.
In fact, that night she suffered first and second degree burns over her hands, mostly along the palms. During the trial, Bill Templeton related that she had grasped the hot radiator during her frenzy and could not let go. Mrs. Templeton, however, contradicted that testimony. Ivy’s hands had been burned, she said, when they beat against the ice-cold windows of the bedroom.
As the trial wore on, it became clear that Audrey Rose had died slowly and painfully, trapped within the overturned automobile, beating her hands in vain against the glass of the burning wreck.
• THE THIRD NIGHTMARE
The third, and most intense, convulsive nightmare occurred when Bill Templeton was overseas on business.
This time there seemed no doubt that the child was in desperate straits, in a state of panic, and insane with suffocation and fear. She broke free of her bedroom where Mrs. Templeton had tried to sequester her, and ran into the living room, beating at the cold, dark windows, crying “HOTHOTHOTHOTHOTHOT!!”
Unable to get her family physician on the telephone, Janice Templeton allowed Elliot Hoover to enter her apartment. Her reasons, according to the trial testimony, were unambiguous: to secure the immediate safety of the child and to end the danger of grievous self-inflicted injury.
For the second time, Hoover calmed her, and the exhausted girl fell asleep against his chest, her hands bloody and her face bruised from her hour-long fight with unimaginable terrors.
And for the second time, Hoover had soothed her by calling her Audrey Rose.
What followed then is difficult to make out, yet it was the critical point in the entire sequence of events. According to the doorman, desk clerk, and elevator operator, all of whom had by now taken note of the strange, intense man frequenting the lobby of the building and demanding access to the Templeton apartment, Elliot Hoover did not leave the residence for nearly an hour, and when he did, his steps were “jaunty, like he’d just done something terrific.”
Mrs. Templeton denied that anything improper had transpired between her and Elliot Hoover. Rather, he had spent the time trying to persuade her more forcibly of the truth of his philosophy. Whatever happened, dawn found Janice Templeton and Ivy fleeing New York by special limousine for the isolation and security of a cabin resort in Westport, Connecticut.
• CALM BEFORE THE STORM
Over a month had passed since Elliot Hoover had intruded into their lives. The strain was beginning to tell, not only on Janice Templeton, but on Ivy as well. Though she had no memory of what happened during the onslaughts, she knew that the night brought on dangers that the waking self did not know. Exhausted, her hands still painfully bandaged, Ivy began to muse aloud on the shores of Westport, vaguely aware that things had altered forever in her young life. Her relationship with her mother remained warm, yet, an intolerable tension seemed to follow them wherever they went.
It was also clear that the Templeton marriage was beginning to crack and crumble under the stress.
On November 13, 1974, Janice and Ivy returned to New York
• THE KIDNAP
Almost before Ivy was asleep, the most violent nightmare of all seized her. Bill Templeton, returned from overseas, called the doctor. But the seizure exceeded his wildest expectations. She bit, kicked, and screamed and, sweating freely, he was barely able to subdue her by tying her to the bed. The doorbell rang and, thinking it was the doctor, Bill ran down to admit him.
It was Hoover.
He lived in Des Artistes now, he explained. He had just moved in. Now he wanted to help Ivy. Bill and Elliot Hoover struggled violently at the door, but Hoover was able to force his entry into the apartment. Janice, fearing for Bill’s life, came to his aid in the corridor. Hoover locked them out of their own apartment.
In the violence that followed, the stories from the score of onlookers are remarkably consistent. Bill Templeton, in a fury of rage, tried to break down the door. A house key was produced just as two police officers appeared in the corridor. Shouting, cursing, Bill led the officers back into the apartment and into Ivy’s room.
Both Hoover and the girl were gone.
They had gone down the rear exit and were ensconced, behind locked doors, in Hoover’s new apartment. There under threat of drawn revolvers, Hoover reluctantly and silently opened his door. He was immediately seized and wrestled into handcuffs.
Not far away was Ivy, calm and breathing easily, and only a bit sleepy for all her ordeal.
Subsequent medical examination revealed the girl had not been molested. Elliot Hoover was arraigned on a single count of first degree kidnapping, bail denied.
• THE GREAT CIRCUS
Which brings the case to December 5, 1974.
Jury selection proceeded slowly. Only the
covered any of the trial opening, and that with a single reporter. The prosecutor, Scott Velie, was a tough, battle-scarred veteran of almost three decades of legal jousting, and it was widely assumed that he would wrap up the case within a few weeks.
Elliot Hoover’s attorney was Brice Mack, a public defender without notable prior experience.
It was not until the opening remarks that Brice Mack revealed the strategy of defense.
Not guilty by proven reincarnation.
Judge Langley immediately suspended proceedings and conferred over two hours in his chamber with both attorneys. Whatever arguments Mack produced, they were effective, for a subdued Judge Langley overruled the prosecution and the trial proper began.
As the days dragged on, the seats in Part Seven of the Criminal Court Building began filling up. First with news reporters, then with spectators, and finally with orange-robed supporters of Hoover’s, who chanted and swayed when the major bulwark of Hoover’s case, the venerable Gupta Pradesh of India, took the stand to explain the mechanics of reincarnation to a bewildered, skeptical and often amused jury.
Whatever dignity the court may have salvaged from the opening remarks was clearly destroyed when a small riot broke out between courtroom guards and the Hindus.
By now the trial was international news. Mystics and psychics paraded into Courtroom Two, testified for Hoover, and the atmosphere of the court took on the flavor of a county fair viewed through delirium tremens.
The delirium escalated into hallucination when Janice Templeton testified for the defense.
• “YES, I BELIEVE HIM!”
The reasons behind Janice Templeton’s surprising and dramatic testimony are now clear, though in the superheated atmosphere of the courtroom it came like an electric spark into a chamber of volatile gases.
Ivy had been removed to a girls’ parochial school in the countryside not far from Darien, Connecticut. There she participated in a winter pageant, traditional to the school, of the burning of a large and decorated snowman to herald the coming spring.
Hypnotized by the flames, she had broken from the chorus of girls and slowly, irresistibly, had entered the roaring mass of logs and straw, flame, and smoke. Ivy suffered minor burns to her face and scalp, singed hair, and some effects from smoke inhalation. The Templetons interrupted their vigil at the trial and raced to the hospital in Darien.
It was there, apparently, that the great transformation in Janice Templeton’s thinking solidified. She recalled Hoover’s words, spoken so fiercely to her once before. That not only was Ivy the reincarnation of Audrey Rose, but that the struggle of a soul in torment would lead Ivy back to danger, back into the fire and smoke from which she had come.
Fearing for Ivy’s life, and believing that Hoover possessed the key to safeguarding the child’s future, Janice testified on Hoover’s behalf. It was the final break between the Templetons.
• THE DEATH OF IVY TEMPLETON
It was at this point that the prosecution inaugurated the test which led so tragically to the death of Ivy Templeton. Incensed at the antics of the defense, and the malleability of Judge Langley, Scott Velie proposed to put to rest once and for all the question of reincarnation.
Since the child was alleged to be recalling states of mind prior to her birth, it was incumbent upon the court to regress Ivy, hypnotically, and try to show whether that was in fact the case, or whether Hoover had been able to put his own convenient interpretation on a simple case of delirium.
Judge Langley, having agreed to much more for the defense, reluctantly ordered the test.
In a small laboratory at the Darien Hospital, the jury, Judge Langley, Hoover, Bill Templeton, and the officers of the court were sequestered behind a mirrorized window stretching the width of the room. Behind the mirror, visible to the court but able to see nothing of them, was Dr. Steven Lipscomb, doctor of psychiatry. Ivy, pale and still weak from the ordeal by fire, entered the room, the lights were lowered, and she was easily and swiftly placed under hypnosis.
Janice Templeton did not attend the court, but watched through television monitors installed in an adjacent hall for the benefit of visiting newsmen and spectators.
At first the hypnosis went smoothly. Ivy was brought backwards in time to her eighth birthday, then to her fourth, then to her third. The girl not only remembered in exact detail all the events of the birthday parties, but her voice underwent a dramatic change, growing younger and younger, more and more like an infant’s.
Finally, nervously, Dr. Lipscomb instructed Ivy to go back to a time before she was born.
Ivy curled into the prenatal position.
Then, as Dr. Lipscomb’s voice droned on, urging her backward, ever backward in time, she suddenly bolted upright, eyes open.
She seemed to look happily ahead, but then her face clouded over. Her eyes widened and her mouth opened in a terrible scream. Unable to bring her out of the trance, Dr. Lipscomb tried to comfort the girl, who rocked pitiably on her couch.
Suddenly, Ivy threw herself—or seemed to be catapulted—onto the floor. Screaming in pain, she ran the length and width of the room, her lip bleeding from the fall.
The litany, which the Templetons had heard all too often, now poured out of the twisted mouth of their daughter: “Mommydaddymommydaddyhothothothot!!” Dr. Lipscomb wrestled vainly with Ivy, unable to stop the frenzied delirium.
Then, as she had repeatedly done in the Templetons’ apartment, she threw herself at the long glass in front of her. Her face reddened to an alarming degree, her nostrils flared, as though she were suffocating. She began writhing in convulsions that signified a disintegrating nervous coordination.
Hoover rose against the opposite side of the great mirror and tried to shout to her, but the hypnosis chamber was soundproofed. In the melee of screaming and fainting jurors, it was Hoover who had the presence of mind to hurl a chair through the glass, and the officers of the court tumbled into the chamber just as doctors rushed in through a side door to relieve the panic-stricken Dr. Lipscomb.
Despite the administration of oxygen and injections of adrenalin, Ivy’s respiratory system had failed for too long. The brain had gone almost five minutes without oxygen. At 10:43 A.M. she was declared dead by physician R.F. Shad. Cause of death: laryngospasm, or convulsive closing of the larynx, obstructing the intake of air into the trachea.
• WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
The tragedy at Darien Hospital will not be quickly forgotten, even for those who only knew of the events through the news media.
But for those who were there, the Templetons, the attorneys, Judge Langley, what thoughts must have gone through their minds since that day? And what has happened to each of them? It has taken months to piece together the whole picture, and finally the denouement for the major participants can be revealed:
Acquitted of the charge of first degree kidnapping. Spent two weeks in New York City, praying at the Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple at Christopher Place. Known to have purchased a one-way ticket to India. Presumed to have retreated to a temple in the central plains. Precise destination unknown.
Judge Harmon T. Langley:
Under attack from all quarters of the legal profession, Judge Langley retired early. He lives with his sister in Brooklyn Heights and refuses to see reporters. Suffered a mild stroke in early June, 1975.
Scott Velie, prosecutor:
Successfully fought to retain his license to practice in the State of New York. He is known, however, to have lost the more difficult battle against alcoholism. He has not appeared in court since
The People of New York versus Elliot Suggins Hoover
Brice Mack, public defender:
Now president of well-known firm of Mack, Lowenstein, and Fischbein. Author of moderately successful book on the trial of Elliot Hoover.
Collapsed after being forcibly restrained during the final moments of the fatal test. Was treated for symptoms of dislocation, severe paranoia, and a morbid, guilt-ridden depression. Released, he returned to his apartment at the Hotel Des Artistes. He has subsequently been institutionalized and at this writing is confined to a sanitarium in Ossining.
Supervised the cremation of Ivy Templeton. Known to have sent the ashes to India for dispersal. Now works as assistant designer for Christine Daler, Ltd., firm that specializes in women’s sport and casual wear. According to those who know her at Des Artistes, she no longer accepts the beliefs which she once, under the influence of Elliot Hoover, publicly embraced.
No other event presented in this column has been so obliterated by time. Even Brice Mack has grown wary of public comment and no longer will speak about the trial. Nor have any of the participants, including the staff of the Darien Hospital, been willing to discuss what happened. Perhaps it can never be known: exactly what Janice Templeton believed when she testified. What did her husband believe before he collapsed and reason fled?
What has life been like, the apartment empty, with not even an echo of the smiling blond child who once shared their lives, and not a trace of the intruder who waited so calmly, so omnisciently, outside of Ivy’s school? All unresolved, unsolved, waiting for time to work its slow but certain cure, to transform the violence and pain to a tender acceptance.
But perhaps the list of actors in this tragedy is not complete. Perhaps, in memory of the quiet girl whose courage could not in the end save her, we must add:
Born September 5, 1959. Died August 4, 1964, thirty seconds before the birth of Ivy Templeton. Death due to smoke inhalation.
Born August 4, 1964. Died February 3, 1975, 10:43 A.M. Death due to convulsive closure of the larynx.
Did Audrey Rose return August 4, 1964? And, if so,
who died February 3, 1975, 10:43 A.M.?
“I become the fire of life which is in all things that breathe, In union with the breath that flows in and flows out I burn.”
The Words of Krishna
February 3, 1975. 11:45 P.M.
It was dark. Bill tasted salt on his lips. Suddenly he became violently nauseous. Terrible images pulled at the back of his brain, grinning monsters who violated Ivy in sparkling space. There was a feeling of black pressure, of perpetually drowning.
Bill heard a deep gurgling, like water choked in a filled drain.
“Are you awake, Mr. Templeton?” said a soft voice.
The gurgle had been his own voice, disembodied, with a torpor thick as tar.
A pretty face moved into his field of vision. Soft brown eyes and short brunette hair swept up under a white cap. She smiled.
“Can you hear me, Mr. Templeton?”
A gentle hand and sponge wiped at his mouth and chest. Bill’s head was turned to the side and the breathing came more easily.
A small light went on, a soft amber that glowed against cold green walls. The sheets were stained from Bill’s nausea. He became conscious of the rhythmic breathing of his own chest, drawing, expelling, drawing, expelling.
“Janice,” he mumbled weakly.
“Your wife waited six hours,” the nurse said. “Then she was taken to a hotel. She’ll come back in the morning.”
Bill turned his head around. Now he knew where he was. The hospital ward had four beds in it, but his was the only one occupied. The others were freshly made and the screens pulled out of the way. It was abnormally quiet. Outside there seemed to be a black screen over the windows. Then he saw her watch. It was nearly midnight.
“Janice,” Bill repeated.
“Your wife is at the Darien Central Hotel.”
Bill groaned. His lips were so parched, they had cracked. The nurse dipped her finger in a glass of water and spread it across his lips, then helped him drink. The sensation of cold water going down into his body revived him.
Suddenly his eyes darted around the room. He stared at the nurse.
“Where’s Ivy?” Bill whispered.
The nurse hesitated. “There’s been an autopsy.”
Bill’s face slowly transformed into a dolorous mask, the kind that is sold hanging on sticks for Chinese New Year, a human face distended into curved lines of grief.
“I’m sorry,” the nurse said quietly.
Bill tried to move his limbs but all that happened was that his chest rose and his back arched away from the bed. The nurse mopped his forehead with a soft cloth.
Bill stared into the soft brown eyes. He had the wild, distraught face of a madman.
“I didn’t mean to,” he hissed. “The test was supposed to—to— Oh, God—” Bill fell back and began to weep.
The nurse discreetly pressed a small plastic button by the bed. After several minutes, a physician walked into the room. His eyes were red and he needed a shave. He had a barrel chest and short, beefy arms with white hair and a thick gold wrist watch.
The physician put a comforting hand on the nurse’s shoulder. She made room for him, and he sat down next to Bill.
“Listen to me, Mr. Templeton. Your wife waited here almost seven hours before we insisted that she get some rest. She was in a state of near-collapse.”
Bill’s mumbling ceased. Then his eyes narrowed. He faced the wall as though angry or afraid of the physician.
“Where’s Hoover?” Bill asked.
“Hoover, God damn it!”
The physician leaned forward and gently eased Bill back to face him.
“It was all my fault.
There was an awkward silence. Both the physician and the nurse felt a tremendous need to find something to say, not to let the accusatory silence mount up over the patient like an imprisoning wall. Bill’s eyes darted from one to the other guiltily. But neither could think of anything, though their minds raced, and suddenly the music became audible from the corridors, a ballad about love burning in one’s heart.
“Shut that damn thing off,” growled the physician.
The nurse left.
“Look, Mr. Templeton,” the physician said, licking his lips, “the court—er, ordered the test, legally. There is a mechanism of law that works through the judge and jury and the court officers. The hospital only acted as a tool of that legal apparatus.”
Bill realized the doctor was trying to exonerate the hospital.
“It was my idea,” he moaned. “I fed it to Velie. I helped him come up with it. Oh, my God…”
The nurse came back. Now the silence was complete. She had closed the doors and the air was still, smelling faintly of clean linens and antiseptic.
“I don’t like the way he’s responding,” she whispered.
“Some clown gave him fifteen cc’s. His system’s all junked up.”
“Is there somebody he could talk to?”
“Just the psychologist. Lipscomb. I sure wouldn’t bring him in here.”
Bill heard their words, discussing him as though he were not there. The words did not reach down into his brain. Nothing reached down. Several sheets of steel separated his brain from his body, or at least it felt that way. There were no connections anymore. The body parts had retreated as though to survive on their own as best they could. Brain in one place. Feelings in another. Eyesight registering. And grief. Grief and guilt, like a whole universe, radiated through him, flowed like electricity along every nerve fiber, obliterating each and every memory, each and every hope.
“I… meant…to save…to save…her….”
“You did everything you could, Mr. Templeton,” the physician said, squeezing Bill’s shoulder.
The physician conferred with the nurse, and then was gone. After a few minutes, the nurse left for other patients. Bill staggered to the closet, found his clothes, and dressed. Wobbly, he peered out into the corridor. When the desk nurse answered an emergency light, he walked, reeling, down the receding floor to the elevator, then heard steps, turned, and ran stumbling down the stairway.
Tears flowing from his eyes, he ran across the icy parking lot, clutching his thin coat around his chest. Overhead a dim break showed pale gray between the night clouds.
Suddenly he came upon the Darien Central Hotel. He recoiled. Had he escaped from the hospital to be with Janice? Or had he escaped to avoid seeing her later? Bill ducked into an alley. His shoes filled with icy slush, his socks were soaked, and he wandered among the garbage cans and parked buses of the Greyhound Bus depot.
Inside, people milled about the terminal, staring at him. Surely they knew that he had killed his own daughter. He was a figure of ridicule, pathetic and morbid, a creature of the hospital, morally deformed, who had concocted a wild scheme.
In the distance, the tall, dark silhouette of the hospital loomed. A few lurid yellow lights gleamed in long rows at the top floor. Bill wondered if that was where they stored the bodies.
His reflection in the dirty window looked abnormal. He looked like a murderer.
Behind his reflection, he saw a small, humpbacked clerk turn on a light. On the wall were arrival and departure schedules. Bill whirled around, saw two elderly women staring at him, and then he went quickly inside.
The two elderly women still looked at him through the window. They were certainly discussing him.
“May I help you?” said the clerk.
Startled, Bill turned. The clerk was a round-faced woman, her eyes squinty, with freckles over a tiny nose.
“You want to buy a ticket?”
“What’s the next bus?”
“Southbound,” the clerk said. “Interstate to Baltimore.”
“Should leave in an hour and thirty-five minutes. Depending on the roads.”
“I’ll take it.”
“Twenty-five fifty, please.”
“Will you take a check?”
“Sorry. Not allowed to.”
Bill showed her. The clerk frowned but retrieved a banged-up roller from under the shelf and filled out the credit card slips. Bill signed.
Bill shook his head. “I’ll wait outside by the buses.”
“It’s your frostbite.”
Outside, several giant buses stood in the blue shadows under a corrugated roof. Beyond the alleys and telephone poles, the west wing of the hospital rose high, cream colored, its windows reflecting the pale blankness of the snow.
Bill watched several cars pull up to the hospital parking lot by the wide revolving doors. A van without a rear window drove around to the back. A choking gasp coughed out of his lungs.
A bus driver looked up from a clipboard at Bill. “You okay, mister?”
“Which is the bus to Baltimore?”
“You’re leaning against it.”
“Mind if I get in?”
“No, go ahead. But we don’t leave till three.”
Bill stepped up into the cold bus, walked to the rear seat, and huddled for warmth. He saw the humpbacked clerk making conversation with the driver. Another light went on inside the station. Bill shivered and could not stop shivering. All he knew was that he had to get away from Darien.
At 2:59 the driver stepped in, turned on the engine, and then the passengers, dressed in heavy overcoats, got in. The baggage compartment slammed shut like a coffin lid and the bus drove away. Darien slid by on both sides, wet roads and dirty stores, cars smeared with heavy, muddy slush underneath, a general air of downtown poverty. The only modern edifice was the hospital.
Bill started to cry. When he stopped, they were rolling onto the broad Interstate, past flat white fields, in a thick, gentle snowstorm.
Six seats in front, a mother bounced a small blond girl on her knee, drew pictures on the frosted windows, and sang softly.
“This is the way to Grandmother’s house, Grandmother’s house,” the mother sang. “This is the way to Grandmother’s house, so early in the morning.”
It was a melody Bill had sung to Ivy. Ivy had loved the snow. Her blond hair and fair complexion had been a throwback to Scandinavian ancestors Bill had never known. She had learned to ice skate almost before she could walk. She was happiest when the fat white snowflakes came down like a blanket, obscuring everything but the trees.
“This is the way to Grandfather’s house, Grandfather’s house. This is the way to Grandfather’s house, so early in the evening.”
Bill covered his ears with his hands.
“Please stop!” he whispered hoarsely.
Then it was silent. The road hummed gruffly under the wheels. Bill realized that the passengers were staring at him.
“Why did that man say stop?” said a little girl’s voice.
“Shhhhhh,” her mother cautioned.
The bus detoured into a small town, with the familiar series of dismal streets, an occasional pedestrian wrapped in a winter coat. But here the streets were slick with ice, and icicles hung down from garages and telephone wires.
Bill stared at his hands. They were shaking like leaves in a storm. There was no feeling in them.
I am a murderer, he thought.
Deep down, he knew why he had supported the idea of the test. It had nothing to do with Ivy’s well-being. He wanted to crush Hoover. Torn to pieces by the strain of the trial, Bill had wanted to make sure that Hoover was destroyed. That was the real purpose of the test.
Bill’s hands rubbed, gouged at his eyes as though to eradicate the images of Ivy, beating at the mirrored glass. He moaned. This time the bus driver turned around.
“You feel okay, back there?”
Bill did not answer.
“We don’t allow drinking on here.”
Two hours passed. Bill dozed. Awoke. Dozed again. He had a dream. In the dream he was sitting on the witness stand, explaining to Janice why he had left the hospital. Suddenly, Gupta Pradesh rose, dressed in a fiery red swirling cloth, and held in his arms the body of dead Ivy. Gupta Pradesh reached down, touched her leg, and then contemptuously threw gray ash into Bill’s face.
“Ahhh—” Bill jerked awake.
As soon as he opened his eyes, the dream vanished. All that was left was a sensation of having wanted to explain things to Janice. His mind violently obliterated the dream.
Outside, the snow was streaked and dotted with patches of dark gray ice. Bare trees hugged the hills and hollows. Farms spread out, cold and isolated. Then there were electric transformers, auto garages, and a series of brick warehouses. The density of cars and people increased. After two stops, Bill recognized the Hudson River, troubled and turbulent, deep gray and rolling swiftly under the brown and white hills.
“We’ll be in New York in about fifteen minutes,” the bus driver called through a static-ridden microphone. “Stopover for breakfast, thirty-five minutes.”
Bill watched the tall buildings, the forbidding gray canyons, slush, taxi cabs, early morning pedestrians, the violent rhythm of the great city awakening around him. He became frightened, vulnerable.
At the bus terminal, twenty more passengers tried to get on but were told to wait for thirty-five minutes. The driver checked the passengers coming off, making sure they still had their tickets. Bill followed them out, stepped on an escalator, found a grill in the main hall, ate quickly without tasting, then wandered out through the main doors.
A smell of vomit reached him, mingled with roasted chestnuts and salt pretzels heated on a grill. Hundreds of people strolled in through the wide doors. New York always had a stony, murderous quality, and this time it had almost a physical taste.
Bill was lost. After walking several blocks, oblivious of the taxis which missed him by inches, the drivers hurling epithets, he found himself in Hell’s Kitchen. Even in the cold, there were crates of fruit slanted by the doors to attract buyers. Cold eyes watched him go by, suspicious eyes sizing him up.
Motion was the only cure for what Bill felt. He walked a mile uptown, a second mile backtracking, and lost any sense of direction. It was approaching the noon hour. Suddenly, he had an abnormal, almost infinite desire for alcohol.
Inside a pink, smoky bar full of laborers and Hispanics, Bill peeled off the last of his five-dollar bills. All that was left were four singles. Dark eyes scrutinized him, the expensive suit gone dirty with mud and slush, the handsome face now drawn in to resemble some kind of fleshy death’shead. Bill plastered down his hair with a shaking hand.
“Double whiskey,” he said.
Bill sat at the wet, stained bar. The bartender brought him a bottle of whiskey and a glass. Bill watched the liquid pour into the glass. He lifted the glass to his lips. I wish to die, was his thought as the burning liquid traveled quickly down to his stomach, etching its way into his body, promising deliverance.
He ordered a second drink.
His hands stopped trembling. Dream images of snow-driven landscapes occurred to him. In his reverie, he looked out of a dirty bus window and saw distant farms wheeling past in great perspectival arcs. Then he also saw, on the horizon, the clearly visible, long, dark-roofed shape of the hospital in Darien. He drank.
Then he saw Ivy behind the window glass, beating her fists at the mirror, frightened.
Bill lowered his head onto his arms and wept.
No one paid him any attention.
After half an hour, he walked out into the cold, bitter wind howling up from the Battery. His legs were numb, though whether it was from the whiskey or the cold, he no longer knew. New York roared around him in an angry maelstrom of murderous voices, dark accusations.
In horror, he saw Des Artistes loom in front of him.
By some innate homing instinct, he had walked back through Central Park, past the lakes, and had drifted over to Sixty-seventh Street.
Before he could retreat, Mario, the doorman, spotted him.
Bill ran back through the park, sweating, then cut south and east and finally ended up at the derelict warehouses among the concrete piers of the East River. Somehow the day had passed and it was night again. Several bums sat in the shadows of a bridge, cooking beans, and he wandered into their circle to keep out of the cold wind.
In that darkness, the smell of beans and grease filled the space that also glistened with tar leaking down from the bridge. Trucks rumbled overhead, gears switching, carrying tonnage out to the west or bringing foodstuffs into the city markets.
“Warmer by the fire than it is over there,” said a thin, coughing man with a greasy gray coat and an ascot stained with tar.
Bill approached the low fire, rubbing his hands. He declined sweet amber wine. They left him alone. As he looked into the fire, he felt a deathly chill spread out within his body, a chill that no fire could reach.
Outside the night, the lights of midtown gleamed; the Empire State Building rose high into the light clouds like a mirage of happier times.
One by one, the men drifted away. Bill watched them shuffle into the darkness on the roads. They were a kind of subterranean living species he had never talked with before. Now they were gone and he had no company but his thoughts.
Ivy bolted from the blue couch. She threw herself violently to the floor. Then she was running, running and screaming, down the length of the glass.
“Huh?” Bill said, startled.
A noise died in the darkness of distant stone, then there was a stealthy rustle.
Bill quickly shoveled a burning ember onto a piece of cardboard and threw it into the darkness. There was a scamper. Then it was quiet as before. Rats, Bill thought. City rats. He listened. No sound.
Suddenly Bill’s heart pounded. He covered his ears with his hands. I’m going mad, he thought. I’ve got to think. To reason.
But the fatigue made it difficult to think. Only images came, and the images were distorted. Snowy landscapes. The Greyhound station in Darien. The cold, long hospital. And Hoover, standing, shouting through the glass. Bill rubbed his eyes until red sparks danced.
Something became horribly clear: when it counted most, Hoover had had the presence of mind to smash the glass. Bill remembered only paralysis.