Lucinda’s wedding ended.
The church had been packed mostly with Brad’s friends and relatives. The bride’s gown had been made especially for her in Paris and hurried to Lansing on the fastest ships and cars.
The guest list included a who’s who in American politics, academia and film. They had all flown to Michigan to attend the wedding of a rising star in the Republican Party. Brad would be president someday. Everyone said so. Well-wishes crowded around the couple. Movie stars and congressmen did not interest Lucinda. She found them boring.
These people were too fancy, too smug, too self important.
Somehow she must find a way to sometimes get back to Mountain Ridge and her friends.
She had wanted to invite Yvonne, but Yvonne had a farm to run and she had a baby. How Lucinda wanted to see little Louis.
She knew she had to put Jack behind her. She was a wife now, and though her marriage may have been political to unite her family to Brad’s family’s old world political connections, she still wanted to make a good wife. There are some clubs that even wealth and a seat in congress could not buy a way into. And Brad had been so good about her secret. Not every man would marry a Negro, even one as beautiful and wealthy as Lucinda Rinaldi.
The Davies family name would introduce her and her dad to the society that he dreamed about. She was not interested in the great families of New York, Boston and Washington D.C. Her dad was not that interested either. It was just something he wanted. Being a Negro often made Enrico feel inferior. But he and his daughter would rise to the pinnacles of society. He hoped to see her in the White House as hostess and first lady.
Lucinda’s politics were very different than Brad’s. While she was a New Deal Democrat and she knew her father had voted for Franklin Roosevelt, Brad was a Republican who opposed Roosevelt’s ideas for Social Security, and Works Projects.
Brad planned to oppose Roosevelt in every possible way.
With the wedding over, Lucinda retreated to their hotel room while Brad said good night to political cronies.
She brushed her hair and dabbed Lovely perfume behind her ears. She had read in a ladies’ magazine that the best way to get the full effect of a perfume was to rub on baby oil first. Lucinda did this. Then the perfume. She inhaled the rich aroma and hoped her husband would enjoy it. She wanted to be special for him. Was he not an important man?
She admitted she was a little nervous. This was her wedding night. Then she heard the bedroom door opening. She turned and smiled. “Darling.”
He still wore his tuxedo from the wedding, tie askew, and she suspected he was intoxicated.
“I put some blankets on the couch, Lucinda.”
“What?” she got up; her chartreuse silk nightgown caressing the curves of her young body.
He thought how cat-like she moved, as he reached for a decanter of brandy. “You’ll sleep on the couch. When we get to my house in Lansing, you will have your own bedroom like a maid.”
This was not the way a wedding a night should be. “You don’t want me?”
“Of course, I am tempted. You’re a damn beautiful woman. But you are a Negress. What kind of a white man sleeps with a Negress?”
“You knew I was a Negro when you married me.”
“And unfortunately I need your dad’s money. Now go out on the couch like a good girl.”
“No.” she surprised herself with her sharpness. “Father’s money is paying for this room and it financed your campaign. If anyone will sleep on the couch, it will be you. Better yet go get your own room. If you can afford one.” She sighed and sat back down at her vanity table where her cosmetics and perfumes were arranged around her.
Was there a way to change this? To make him see she was his wife and as good or better than any other wife. Lucinda had the best clothes, the best education and she was the daughter of perhaps the richest man in the state. She would not be treated this way. If he wanted an annulment, she would agree. But he didn’t want that, did he? He wanted her father’s money.
When she looked back at him, his eyes filled with hatred and anger. Suddenly he was striding toward her like a cowboy ready to beat a horse. He grabbed a fistful of her hair and pulled her to her feet and then shoved her to the floor. “Get up and walk out that door before I drag you.”
Frightened, she obeyed. She walked into the living room part of their hotel suite, grabbed her purse and ran for the door. But he grabbed her again, this time by the arm. His fingers dug into her flesh and hurt her terribly.
“I knew you’d try to run.”
“I’ll get my own room.”
“Now how will that look on our wedding night?”
“I’m calling my father.”
“Sure, call your father and I’ll call the newspapers. He opened a drawer in one of the desks. It continued her father’s birth certificate. “Race: Negro.” It read. “You think you covered your tracks so well. No one ever bothered to check. But you walk out that door, and I call the newspapers. Neither you nor your precious daddy will be welcome in white society again.”
“I’m your wife.”
“Time enough for an annulment. But we can’t have that now. Can we?”
“What do you want?” She couldn’t believe she was crying now.
“Daddy’s money and for you to know your place. You'll be a hostess and nothing more. You make any trouble for me, and I have your birth certificate too. We don’t want to disappoint Daddy now, do we?”
“If it’s so easy to check my background, it will be easy for others. What are your chances of making it to the White House with a Negro wife?”
“I can make the originals disappear. I may not be as rich as daddy, but I am more powerful. You remember that.”
She slowly walked to the sofa. “Don’t bother me anymore tonight,” she said sitting down.
He stared at her. As soon as he was sleeping, he suspected she would call her father. Maybe Enrico would end the marriage. His new little slave girl needed a lesson in obedience.
When he walked toward her she gave a small yelp. Was he going to hit her?
“Is that anyway to treat your new husband?” he asked. He pulled her to him. For a moment, she thought he would rape her. Instead he yanked her toward the closet and then tossed her in like she was an old overcoat. He locked the door.
She wanted to scream. Instead she sank to the floor and felt his shoes rub against her sides like they were kicking her. She cried until she fell asleep.
Lucinda knew she was trapped. If she told her father, Brad kept her isolated, treated her worse than a maid, Enrico would kill Brad.
A divorce would mean the end of her father’s dream of high Washington and New York society. The truth about her family would come out and make headlines.
She must endure her marriage.
Enrico awakened when he heard a noise. Someone was walking outside his bedroom door. He thought it must be an intruder and reached for the the gun he kept at his bedside. The doorknob turned. Click. The door opened. From the light of the full moon outside his bedroom window, he saw a flash of white material and a feminine form outlined in the darkness.
He set the gun down and reached for the lamp switch; the room was filled with light. Lisa Brianka stood in the doorway.
The light hurt Enrico’s eyes, but Lisa Brianka’s eyes were closed. She moved in a circle around the middle of the bedroom floor. Her face upturned toward the ceiling. It was as if she could see something through her closed lids.
For just a moment, he was paralyzed with something close to fear.
“Lisa,” he shouted, hoping to pull her out of her trance.
Her nightgown was diaphanous and he worried about the indecency of having a young woman in night clothes in his bedroom at an ungodly early hour. He shouted her name again.
She did not seem to have heard him.
Eyes closed, she continued to look to the ceiling. “Hanging,” she said softly and then she screamed and fell toward the floor. There she crouched in a sort of sitting position as if she were playing with a cat. “Pa’s hanging there,” she pointed to the ceiling. “Don’t hit me. Don’t kick me.” Her body jerked. She fell sideways like someone had pushed her or kicked her. Then she was still for several minutes.
Should he call the sheriff? That would make gossip and trouble. He didn’t want that for either himself or for the poor girl, who was obviously unhinged. He needed to call her sister, but he feared that if he moved past her; she might awaken or become violent.
He watched her for a moment.
And then very slowly she got up and left.
As soon as she left the room, he got up and locked the door.
He would definitely call her sister. But not tonight. What if Lisa lingered in the hall? It would wait until tomorrow. Perhaps he needed to have a phone put in his bedroom. But it should be okay, if he just kept the door locked.
Lisa got up early to prepare his breakfast. When Mr. Rinaldi tasted the coffee he spit it out. “It tastes awful.”
She tasted the coffee herself; it tasted the same as always. But Mr. Rinaldi had opened the sugar bowl and tasted a little bit of the contents. It was salt.
“I’m so sorry. I must have gotten the containers mixed up.” Both salt and sugar came in huge bags. It was easy to mix them up.
“Just go get the sugar,” he had snapped at her.
She flew to the pantry, opened the sugar bag, but it fell over and sugar spilled all over the floor. She started to sweep it up, then he was beside her. “Never mind that. Get my bacon.”
The bacon burned on the stove. She’d forgotten it. Smoke filled the kitchen.
He stormed out of the house saying he would get breakfast at the cafe.
Lisa easily put out the fire that had consumed the bacon, but she found herself shaking.
Cleaning was no easier. She started in Mr. Rinaldi’s bedroom, but knocked over a vase and it shattered into a million pieces.
If anyone thought mine owners had an easy life, they didn’t know the world of Enrico Rinaldi. His secretary had quit. His midnight foreman had a drinking problem and had to be fired. He asked Emil Mynter to find him another foreman, but in the meantime his other foremen would have to work double shifts. Even if he could find a capable secretary and a new foreman, training them would take time.
There was demand for more ore particularly from England and Germany who Enrico knew were preparing for another fight. He prayed Franklin Roosevelt would have the wisdom to keep America out of a European war. Of course, Roosevelt was running for another term and he could lose in November to Alf Landon. Political analysts thought it would be a close race, but Landon was favored.
Enrico planned to vote for Roosevelt again despite backing his Republican son-in-law. Roosevelt was doing what he could to pull the nation from the grips of Depression. That was more than the Republicans were doing.
There had been a meeting of the mine owners where Enrico had been pressured to cut wages. Other mine owners were not only cutting wages, but laying off workers.
Too tired to argue, Enrico said he would think about it.
When he got home, he met a crying maid. Lisa Brianka, babbled about breaking a vase.
He didn’t want to talk about it. “I’m sure it was an accident.”
“You just take the money out of my wages.” she had blubbered.
“That won’t be necessary,’ he assured her. He didn’t like the vase anyway. Where had it come from? Had Lucinda bought it as a favor to some poor shopkeeper.
Lisa was still crying when he climbed the stairs. He hated firing people, but he didn’t know how much longer he could endure ruined breakfasts and blubbering. Crying women made him nervous. On top of that he had to keep his bedroom door locked at night because of the ramblings of this strange girl. He would talk to Lucinda. Maybe she could take Lisa to work for her at the Lansing house.
Brad was running for the U.S. senate. Maybe Lisa could help Lucinda when she had to move. But then what would Enrico do for a maid? If only that other one, Vonnie, had been able to stay.
The house was quiet as he shaved and bathed and then crawled into bed. He was exhausted; sleep came quickly.
Then Lisa screamed.
March found Lucinda back in Mountain Ridge. Her husband had flown to Washington on state business. He had agreed to let her visit her family and friends. He knew she wouldn’t tell her father; she would be too ashamed, and she knew Brad would hurt her if she said anything. Lucinda sometimes feared her husband would kill her. He had threatened her. Anyway her father thought he could enter high society. He was planning his own trip to Washington. She couldn’t destroy his dream.
Brad had once asked Lucinda if she knew what an up-pity Nigger was. Sometimes she felt she just couldn’t take the degradation anymore. She functioned as a hostess, and then he dismissed to her room like the lowest maid.
There was, however, someone she could talk to and share her deepest darkest secrets. She sat in Vonnie’s warm kitchen at the Cheney farm house and ate an apple pie smothered in homemade vanilla ice cream.
“You have to leave him,“ Vonnie said.
Lucinda shook her head. “This means too much to my father. Even though people don’t know we’re Negroes, still so many doors are closed to us. We’re newly rich and to the people who matter, we’re no better than shanty Irish or Jews.”
“People who matter? Shanty Irish?” Vonnie almost had to laugh at that, but the phrases made her sad at the same time. “My dad was Jewish. It’s why a lot of people don’t like us.”
“I didn’t mean it that way.” Lucinda said as she sipped Vonnie’s coffee and knew the contrast between them. Lucinda wore a $300 dress custom made by the best dressmaker in Detroit. Vonnie ’s dress was one she had made for herself.
Lucinda’s hair was professionally styled. Vonnie cut and styled her own hair.
While the kitchen smelled of freshly baked apple pie, cinnamon and coffee, the furnishings were old. It was so different from Lucinda’s world of maids and shiny appliances.
“About Lisa,” Vonnie said.
“I’m so sorry.” Lucinda said. Her dad had mentioned his problems with Lisa.
Vonnie already knew some of it. Lisa had called a few times crying, and Mr. Rinaldi had asked her if she could come back to work. “But she will be staying with us now. I go down and pick her up in the evenings and I drop her off first thing in the morning. I have to be up anyway to help milk the cows.”
“That’s extra work for you.”
“It’s better for Lisa. She’s afraid unless I’m there for her at night. I wish Jack could be here.”
Lucinda took a deep breath. She still thought about Jack often. “Father had nothing to do with what happened to Jack.” she said. “Miles railroaded him and …and…”
“And what?” Vonnie asked.
“Miles even thought Jack was the killer.”
“Girls have disappeared and the police found a few bodies. The state police are saying Mountain Ridge is the center of a killer’s activity.”
Vonnie shivered. Both women were silent for a few minutes. They knew the sheriff’s son thought Jack was riff raft.
Miles Olson met with Michigan police Captain Ben Fuller at the Yorkie Cafe in Mountain Ridge. “What’s on your mind?” the state policeman asked.
“You got anymore on the Michigan killer? You know the serial killer.”
The two men sipped their coffee in silence for awhile. Finally Fuller spoke. “We haven’t had anything recently. If he’s still out there, he could’ve moved to a new area.” Fuller paused and sipped more of the black coffee. “He could be hiding his victims better. There’s a theory there are more bodies. We’ve got lots of missing women in this state and lots of people saying there’s a copy cat killer or more than one.”
“But nothing’s shown up recently,“ Mills clarified.
“Women are still missing.”
“That happens all over.” Miles said.
“We got twice the national average. That hasn’t changed.”
“Then you think the killer’s still out there.”
“I don’t know what to think, Miles. What do you think?”
“We got a vagrant name of Jack Brianka. I’ve had my eye on his for a long while.”
“And he tried to rob a gas station last year. I got him sent up to Marquette. He’s doing time there now.”
“How long’s he in for?”
“He should be getting out soon. He got a year and that’s mostly used up.”
“A year? For robbery?”
“He’s got some high level friends. He worked as a gardener for the Rinaldis. Originally they gave him five years, and that wasn’t nearly enough.”
“You think Enrico Rinaldi’s gardener’s our serial killer?”
“Like I said, I’ve had my eye on him. The family’s no good. One of his sisters just had a baby a couple months after getting married to a Civil War veteran no less.”
“A ninety-something year old guy knocked her up?” the police captain almost choked on his coffee. “You’ve got to be making this up.”
“He ain’t the father. You can be sure of that. Who knows who’s the father? For all I know the girl was doing tricks from the Rinaldi mansion.”
“You’ve got some imagination.”
“The other sister is a lulu. Crazy as can be.”
“Is that her name? Lulu?”
“Her name’s Lisa, but she has nightmares, roams around at night in her nightgown, talks about hanged men. The girl is a real basket case. She was out on the lawn at the Rinaldi’s one night. The neighbors called us in.”
“What do you want from me?”
“Just sharing some information, cop to cop. The killings have stopped since Jack Brianka went jail.”
“We don’t know that for sure.”
“I know it. And when Brianka gets out of jail, somebody gotta keep an eye on him.”
“Thanks for the coffee,” said the police captain.
Lisa walked through the woods.
Her red coat purchased from the Sears catalog even had a hood, and it protected her from some of the morning cold.
She knew Almasy house was at the other end and there was even a path. She looked at the old house. She knew she had been here before. She had been taken there the night she lost her parents.
She remembered the thick carpets and the chandelier hanging…swinging. It had frightened her. Why? The house had not seemed safe. She had expected hooded figures to jump out from the shadows. Then her mother was lying in a box. She understood now. Her mother was dead . Lisa knew about coffins now, but she hadn’t then.
She had wanted her mother and had tried to crawl into the coffin. Lisa remembered her mother’s dress was dark and made from a stiff, scratchy material. Her mother had been so still like a doll, and her mother had not tried to hold her. She remembered the strong arms that had pulled her away from her mother’s body. The arms had not been soft and soothing like her mother’s arms used to be.
She had wanted her ma.
She had wanted her pa.
Instead there was that awful old lady telling her that she must never tell anyone what happened. “It was all a nightmare.” the old lady had said. “You imagined it all. No one will believe you.”
What had happened that night? Her mother had died. Her father had disappeared. They told her he left town because he didn’t want to be saddled with the kids.
But she did remember why her pa would never come back for her. How she wished she didn’t remember.
If she closed her eyes, she could see the rope around his neck, his face twisted in pain. She didn’t want to remember him that way. “Pa,” she whispered as if he could hear her and come to her.
That scary old lady knew what really happened that night. Lisa was sure of that. Why had the old lady lied to her?
The killer watched Lisa as she moved down the path. He had watched her before. She would be easy. Too bad he was taking time off. No more killing until Jack Brianka got out of prison. But there had been a few. He couldn’t resist.
Bodies had to be carefully hidden.
The girls who disappeared carefully chosen.
It wouldn’t do to kill Jack’s sister. Not now. Would it? Miles said she couldn’t even disappear. Jack had to look guilty.
Of course, Jack couldn’t come back here; it was a condition of his sentencing.
But how far away would he stay with both of his sisters here?
The killer would have liked to rape Lisa as he and his buddy had once raped Vonnie. He wanted to kill her, and make the body disappear as other bodies had. But if the Rinaldi’s maid went missing, that would cause problems. Some people would know he was still here and that he hadn’t stopped killing. There were other ways of dealing with Lisa Brinaka. It just had to wait until later.
TO BE CONTINUED…