• Dzama


The trumpet was tarnished and blood-stained and there was a long scratch along one side from a grazing bullet. Max used it to obliterate everything that had ever happened to him and take him away from the roach-infested dives he played at. He also used it as a blunt instrument to kill three of his wives, his old manager, and his accountant. The cops in Sweelley were still trying to figure out what had caused the deaths. Marvin Orr, the lieutenant in charge, had a whole table of lamp bases of various shapes and sizes and a dry-erase board of artistic renderings of the possible impact scenarios. Dorley, Orr’s competitor, had a list on his board that included statuettes, alarm clocks, and “Oriental weapons” but neither of them had come up with “trumpet” and Max was such a well-dressed and well-groomed citizen that no one in law enforcement suspected him yet.

His girlfriend Maggie, however, was not from Sweeley. She had been passing through on her way back to a Catholic boarding school when her train was delayed and the warm summer night breeze had carried one of his trumpet arias all the way over to the platform where she had been quietly reading Tennyson. She wandered into “Sweeley’s Well” where, as the only patron that night, she was treated to the jazz concert of her life.

About a week after that night, she lay in his bed admiring the trumpet and fondling its curved brass. She had already heard the story about the long, curved scar and how it had deflected a bullet meant for Max’s heart but always made Max tell the story again whenever someone new was within earshot. This morning though, Max hadn’t said two words to her and had even snapped at her when she tried to brush his hair out of his eyes in the early hours of the morning when he was still mostly asleep.

With the sound of the shower coming through the open bathroom door, Maggie studied the trumpet carefully. There was something red and sticky in the cracks which, it very slowly dawned on her, bore a disturbing resemblance to fresh blood.

She shivered and stood up out of the bed, naked but still holding the trumpet. She looked out the window into the alley below and saw a pile of a half dozen or so people lying bloody in the dreck and garbage. They all appeared bludgeoned and she couldn’t help but look from them back to the trumpet with its gory evidence glittering in its seams.

Just then Max stormed back into the room in his bathrobe, face half-covered with shaving cream. “Give me that!” he shouted, lunging at her for the instrument. In her terror she struck him hard with the trumpet and he spun and immediately collapsed to his knees. “B-baby,” he stammered, which was the name he had given the trumpet, “don’t–.” And he fell straight onto his face and died right there in the hotel room, his dark blood spattered over his white robe.

Maggie stood, naked, dazed, still holding the trumpet high before becoming aware that the phone was ringing. Dressing quickly she threw the trumpet into her overnight bag. She left the hotel with the phone still ringing, catching the next train back to New York City.

Copyright © 2008. All Rights Reserved.

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