Schram balled up the slip of paper with Georgia’s number and address, threw it on the ground, and pulled out the other slip. The wind was picking up. It chilled his face and hands. Rather than wander around he needed to get to the next place, Dee’s place. He asked an older woman who seemed to be walking for exercise. She stopped to give him directions. It was only two blocks away.
When he’d found the house, Schram was surprised. He expected a something larger. This was a very small brick house on a large lot. He liked the look of this place. Nicely landscaped. He prided himself he had an eye for landscaping, having spent his teenage years doing yard work. He didn’t see anyone else on the street. He strode to the front door of the little house and knocked firmly. He shifted the pack on his shoulder. He wanted to get inside as soon as possible, out of sight of the street. He’d heard no footsteps, but suddenly the door swung open.
“Hello,” said a short, chunky, dark-haired woman through the screen. “Are you the fellow who wanted to look at the room?” There was that low voice again, Marlene Dietrich without the German accent, a voice very much like Donna’s. Who would have expected it from this dumpy little girl?
“Yes, I’m Andy,” said Schram. “Andy Steele.” She opened the screen door and he walked into the front hall. He reminded himself that he would touch nothing—not even this woman. Especially not the woman. Although plump, she looked solid.
“I’m Dee,” she said in the low voice he remembered from the telephone. She spoke without a hint of self-consciousness, but her eyes closed and opened. She was wearing a dazzling teal green blouse and stretchy black pants that looked synthetic. She had tan moccasins on her feet, more like slippers than shoes. No socks. She was very round, but firm. He guessed she was 25, about Donna’s age.
He peered into the living room. It was cozy. Several full bookcases stood opposite the fireplace. Hanging from the walls in every available space were colorful paintings unlike anything he’d ever seen, carved masks, and strange little patchworks of bright fabric. The chairs were grouped for conversation around a coffee table, not a television. On the coffee table were glossy magazines with names like NY Arts and Arts Editor. Schram stood in the entry way awkwardly, shifting his backpack, waiting for the chubby girl to make a move.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “You’re here to see the men’s room.” She giggled. Her dark brown hair was cut very short, the way famous models sometimes have it cut. “That’s what we call it.” She led him through the living room, a small kitchen and dining area with a big patio door looking out into a private backyard, and down a short hall. “This is the bathroom,” she said, pushing open a door. No tub. Just a shower.”
Schram stuck his head in and said, “I approve. I hate baths. The last time I took a bath, I was a kid. I’d bumped into a wasps’ nest in a neighbor lady’s backyard. They got me all over the face and hands, my ears. They stung me through my hair. They crawled into my clothes and stung me everywhere. Yellowjackets are fierce once you get them going. They can sting you repeatedly.” His voice conveyed his admiration for the insects.
“Sounds awful,” said Dee. She chewed her already well-chewed fingernails.
“I soaked in a baking soda bath for two hours. When I got out, I was still aching, but I didn’t feel it anymore.”
“What do you mean?” She faced him. Her hand was still in her mouth.
“I had planned my revenge in the bathtub. A gallon jug of gasoline and a match. The yellowjackets lived in a hole in a rotten stump. The next morning began cool. I filled my jug and lugged it over to the neighbor’s yard. I wanted to get to them before the sun made them active. I poured the whole gallon down the hole before a single yellowjacket could come out. I tossed a match and backed away. I knew it would burn, but I didn’t expect it to explode. There was this low boom, and half the stump blew off, dumping out hundreds of crispy black yellowjackets, wingless and legless. They never knew what hit them. I went back the next day and saw no survivors.” Schram had grown excited as he spoke.
“How old were you at the time?” asked Dee, betraying a little concern.
“About ten, I guess. It was one of my first jobs,” he said.
“It was a job?”
“Yeah, the lady paid me $10. At that time earning ten bucks might take me all day picking dandelions, mowing, or raking. That’s how I supported myself all through my teenage years—until I went away.”
“Went away? To college?”
Schram hesitated, remembering his lines. “Yeah, I went to Robinson College downstate. Very selective. Costs $18,000 per student each year, but I was lucky, the government picked up the tab. I studied sociology and psychology at Robinson. I’m interested in criminology now.”
“You must have been a good student,” she said.
“I guess. They let me graduate early,” he said.
“Pretty dangerous to let a ten-year-old kid blow up wasp nests with gasoline. Your parents let you do this?” She was trying to get to know him, he thought. He needed to sound reassuring.
“I knew what I was doing,” said Schram. “My father hadn’t been home for years, and my mother was always a little…dreamy.” He became aware suddenly that he was speaking as Schram this time, not as Steele. He was talking about his own background, not Steele’s. He could see she was hooked. For some reason, she liked him.
“Well, this is the men’s room,” she said in her low voice. Her eyes closed and opened. Some kind of nervous tic, he thought.
“Sorry,” he said. “I got carried away.” He looked around at the matching bedroom set of dark oak. The dresser was built in, the queen-sized bed sat on a heavy four-poster frame, and a full-length mirror bordered by the same dark oak hung on the wall. One window looked north and one west into the overgrown backyard. “Nice,” he said. “Is it available just for the summer, Donna?”
“It’s Dee,” she said. “So far, but Teddy isn’t sure he can come back in the fall. He had to return to Springfield to run his father’s feed store. His father had a stroke.”
“What’s he studying—agribusiness?” asked Schram. He was proud he had learned that word in his studies at Robinson Correctional Center.
“No. Teddy’s studying film history. He hates business and he hates the feed store. But I doubt he’ll return here. He’s not strong. He can’t stand up to his father. He’ll let us know by August, he said, whether he’ll be back. I can’t promise he won’t be.”
“Us?” asked Schram.
“My cousin, Dolly, and I,” she said.
“Where’s Dolly today?”
“She travels,” said Dee. She’s a buyer of art objects for my uncle’s import business. This is actually his house. But he lives in New York City where he has a shop. Have you been to Soho?”
“Wanted to,” said Schram. He had never heard of Soho.
“When you go you should check out Uncle Max’s shop. It’s fabulous. You won’t be able to afford a single thing in it.”
“So Dolly’s in New York with your uncle--I mean, her father?” Schram pressed but acted as if he was indifferent to the answer.
“No. Actually she’s in Quito looking at some Aztec pottery, if you can believe that,” she said.
Schram felt his tension release. He had discovered that they would not be interrupted. Still, he needed to be sure. “Do you mind showing me the rest of the house?”
“Sure,” she said, turning her stocky body and marching out of the room. “I don’t blame you. This is a great house.” He could keep up with her quick little steps just by walking normally. They went back down the hall, through the kitchen, and down a longer hall. There was another bathroom and two bedrooms. “This one is mine,” she said, gesturing to the bedroom on the right. “Excuse the mess.” She opened the door on a tidy room, larger than the one she called the men’s room. The windows faced south and east, toward the street.
“Very nice,” said Schram.
“Thanks. Let’s look at Dolly’s room.” He backed out and moved aside so she could get past him and open the second bedroom. “This is the master bedroom, you’ll see,” she said.
He stepped into a much larger room with twice as many windows, antique furniture, and strange art on every wall and shelf. He saw a huge master bathroom through a door on the far side. From this angle, he could see the big Jacuzzi tub in there. All ceramic and chrome.
“I’ll take this one,” he said.
“Me too,” said Dee, closing her eyes and opening them.
“This is a great house,” he said. “How much for the men’s room? Hey, what would you call it if a woman rented it?”
“We like to have a man in the room,” said Dee. “It makes us feel safer.”
“Safer?” he laughed. “What could happen in this neighborhood?” He was enjoying this.
“A woman was raped a block from here last fall,” said Dee. “She was parking her car in the alley when a guy jumped her?”
“Big black guy?” asked Schram.
“No. It was a slender white man, maybe 40. Why did you assume it was a black man?”
He had to improvise. “Just a coincidence. A friend of mine at Robinson actually knew a big black dude named Alvin Harris who served time for a couple of rapes in Evanston. How much for the room, Dee?”
“$650 in the summer, $850 during the school year,” she said, leading him back toward the kitchen. “That’s cheap for a place like this.” He said nothing but stopped in the kitchen as if he were thinking. She turned to face him, rotating her potato shaped body. He noticed a block of Chicago knives on the counter. He felt a surge of excitement as he pictured her body naked. This was the moment.
“You feel safer with a man around the house,” he said.
“We do,” she said.
Schram reached over casually and removed a long slim knife from the block. He felt the blade. It was sharp.
“Nothing personal, Donna,” he said, holding out the knife in her direction and backing her into a corner of the kitchen counter. Her mouth opened. If you don’t take your clothes off right here, right now, I’ll carve you up like a potato. I’m serious, girl. This is what I do.”
Dee’s face was frozen in shock and horror. Her face flushed red. “Tears started down her cheeks. She burbled, “Please.”
“Let’s go,” Schram shouted. “Unbutton or I’ll use this.” She slowly unbuttoned her shiny teal blouse. “Take it off and drop it on the floor. Now your bra.” He waved the knife. She did as he asked. Then he made her take off her moccasins, her pants, and her panties until she stood naked in front of him. Dark pubic hair. Her breasts stood up well without support, he noticed.
He reached into his pack and took out the sterile gloves. He put them on. He found the Donatello’s Trattoria matches in his pocket and tossed them on the counter. “I want you to write my name and number on the inside so you can call me whenever you need a thrill. Use that pen. It’s ‘Andy Steele’ with three e’s and this phone number.” She obeyed. “Just leave them on the counter there,” he said. “Now pick up your clothes and bring them with you. Let’s go back to the bathroom in the master bedroom.” He followed her, looking at the cellulite on her bare ass and thighs. He didn’t mind it.
“Hang them up here,” he said when they arrived in the bathroom. She did it in silence as if she were hypnotized. “Now fill that tub with nice warm water. You are going to take a bath, Donna.” She bent over and adjusted the faucets. Her large breasts wobbled. He touched the side of the blade to one of her buttocks. “If you do everything I say, gorgeous, I won’t cut you. But if you don’t, I will split you open from your asshole to your mouth.” She closed her eyes for a few seconds and then opened them, wider.
After the tub was full he asked her to add the usual stuff to the bath. She poured in some bath beads. She looked at him as if awaiting his next command.
“You cooperate very well. You see I’m not angry with you. I am going to rape you, but I promise I will not touch you. Or cut you.”
“What do you mean?” she asked. Her trembling voice was even lower than normal.
“Time to get in the tub, honey,” he said. “I love your voice. I like your hard blubber. You’ve got all the parts Donna has.”
She got into the tub and lay back with a silent sigh as if she felt safer with her naked body a few inches beneath the surface of the water. But the water was clear. He was looking her up and down greedily. Her face and her breasts were flushed bright red. Her nipples were hard, poking out.
“Why do you keep calling me Donna?” asked Dee.
“Because you are Donna’s scapegoat, Dee,” he said. “You are getting what Donna deserves. “Now put your feet up on the edge of the tub. No, one on each side. Spread it, Donna. I want to see what you got.” She did it. A pink crease opened up in her pubic hair. Then he opened his pants, rolled on the condom, and began to masturbate. She turned her head away. “Look at me, bitch,” he screamed. She looked at him, sobbing, tears flowing. He groaned as he came. The whole event had taken less than sixty seconds. After he stopped convulsing, he pulled up his khaki pants and fastened them, leaving the condom on.
“Consider yourself raped, slut. It’s the best you’ll ever get, Donna,” he said. “I am a yellowjacket that never stops stinging.” Dee looked at him. He made sure she saw the knife. He didn’t want her thinking she had a chance against him. “Are you ready to wash your hair, darling?” She couldn’t speak.
“Let me help you,” he said. He opened his hand and placed it directly on top of her head, as if he were palming a basketball. But her head was much smaller than a basketball. It was about the size of a slow-pitch softball, he thought. Her short brown hair helped him get a good grip on her skull. He pushed down evenly, watching her eyes widen. He forced her head completely underwater. He could still see her wide eyes as her arms and legs moved in panic. She finally put up some resistance by reaching up and grabbing his wrist. She tried to pull his arm away. She couldn’t move it. She could not break free. She had no nails on her fingers to gouge him or scratch him or collect his DNA. He was lucky. In less than a minute her hands let him go. He could see her inhale water into her lungs, then again, before she passed out, eyes still open.
He let her go. She was completely underwater now. He reached over and activated the Jacuzzi jets, turning them up to high. The water roiled and the suds billowed up to the surface. Who would think there was a drowned woman under there?
Schram let the lights on when he left. He retraced his steps back to the kitchen. He wiped the knife thoroughly with his handkerchief and placed the knife back into its slot in the block. He could hear the hum of the Jacuzzi in the far off bathroom. He went back through the living room and into the entry way. Her purse was on the table there. He hadn’t noticed it before. He looked inside it, pulled out her wallet, and found three hundred dollar bills. He pocketed two and returned one. No thief would leave a hundred dollar bill, he thought.
He knew he hadn’t touched the door knob when he came in, but he wiped it down just in case, then he opened the door with a gloved hand. He pushed open the screen door with his shoulder, glancing left and right as it shut behind him. There was no one in sight. He walked briskly toward the street and on to the corner and crossed back toward campus, putting blocks then miles between himself and dead Donna in her bath.
When he was sure he was away, he began to congratulate himself on a successful mission. He had improvised effectively, thanks to her compliance and the Jacuzzi tub. He had not needed his ligatures, his shower cap, nor his lighter fluid. They were all still in his pack. A fire was always a great way to end an adventure, but this time he had left no trace of his presence. He didn’t need to torch the evidence, for there was no evidence. Fire had been his pattern, but he was learning and growing. He had gained enough control over his actions to break out of his patterns. Fuck the profilers.
A downed co-ed. No signs of foul play. The coroner would rule accidental death. Even the Donatello’s matches wouldn’t change that. Yet the matches should be enough to ensure that Steele got the news about Donna first hand.
Chapter 29– Police Visit Steele
who talks to Donna and Lisa and Rain thereafter
Chapter 30– Schram Burns a Retirement House two Franciscan priests killed
Chapter 31– Luis calls Steele about Gordo, missing
Chapter 32– Schram kills a young single mother and child in Lisa’s neighborhood
Chapter 33--Steele talks to Donna about what happened
Chapter 34– Lisa and Steele follow police investigation
of Gordo’s disappearance. Luis has to be instrumental to save Gordo.
Chapter 35– Schram kills old lady receptionist
substitute for Mrs. Simone—Schram is getting crazier.
Chapter 36– Schram Takes a Detour, Kills Mother
Chapter 37– Schram makes his final play at Steele’s apt. He follows Steele in.
He takes control. He tells Steele that this will end it.
Chapter 38– Lisa arrives and she’s trapped now too
Chapter 39– Steele is talking to Schram.
When he talks straight, Schram responds well
Steele doesn’t understand who will substitute for him
Chapter 40– Steele trying to shoot Schram
Schram knows about the gun but allows Steele to think he has that possibility, Schram has taken out all the bullets.
Chapter 41– Schram wants Steele to invite Donna, the Priest, Luis, Mrs. Simone, to the party
Chapter 42-- Schram addresses the party while Steele works his way toward the gun
Chapter 43– Steele shoots Schram, to Schram’s great delight
He gets to be the substitute Steele
Steele, I died for you. I am your Savior.
In the end, Schram will get his way. He forces Steele to use his gun and kill him, right there in front of everyone. Schram's revelation at the end is that he could not find someone worthy to die as a substitute for Steele. He, Schram, must be that substitute, but he can't kill himself. Steele must. That will be closure. It's ironic Steele has the gun that saves him, but he was controlled into using it. Shades of Donna being right.
Chapter 44– Police come, clueless, mop up
Chapter 45– Mrs. Simone, Donna, and Fr. Eglar go home
He and Lisa give them a ride. Luis in front seat. Donna in between in the back.
Chapter 46– They drop Luis off and go to the Drake Hotel.
In the end, Steele is okay. He has Lisa now. They survived this. They can survive anything. Both will stay put with their jobs, but they will get together in a common living space, a condo overlooking the lake?
Donna will go on. She's okay. Not as naive as she once was. Luis is okay too. He goes back to his family. Steele retains him as a patient at no cost. They get together and discuss mythology. Luis is starting to see that he has a special gift for psychology. He cares and he has insight.
People and Places
Andrew Steele, Ph.D.
East Washington Street
Office # 749
2245 S. 29th, apartment 11
Robinson Correctional Center in Robinson IL (250 miles straight south of Chicago)