In Brief—Memories of a conversation the author had with the host of the author’s wedding reception.
An Invitation Stirs Unpleasant Memories—
No, this was not a scene from my years as a criminal defense lawyer. It took place during and after a joyous celebration that was a part of my tossed salad life.
I first met Carol at an ACLU meeting in maybe1963. She was a single mother, a lovely, serious young woman who seemed older than her years. We shared an interest in civil liberties and remained friends until her abrupt departure from Los Angeles. Curious about her life in later years, I read that she’s dead now. Carol died in 2001 in Colorado at the age of sixty. Much too young and with a married life that is best forgotten.
But the full story grows out of an invitation I just received. The invitation stirred ghosts of the past.
My former wife will celebrate seven and a half decades of circling the sun later this year and has invited all her friends to join in the celebration. I am happy to say that I am on that list. It’s attributable to the openness and generosity that attracted me all those years ago. I admit that beauty had something to do with it, but my memories are not about invitations.
When Jane and I married, Carol and her new husband, Bert, arranged and hosted our reception in their home. We were surrounded by friends and enjoyed the splendidly catered party presided over by our glowing hostess, Carol, who looked as happy as we had ever seen her. We had stayed in touch with Carol during our courtship and only now met Bert for the first time.
As the party wound down and guests began to depart, Bert and I sat alone and discussed a variety of subjects. At one point, Bert quietly told me that he had violent impulses. I demurred, saying that he seemed too gentle to harbor thoughts of violence. I was to remember that conversation later.
Over the ensuing years, we remained in touch with Carol, but Bert was never present and never mentioned. On one occasion, we asked about Bert’s absence. Carol, not as open as she had been before, told us that he was in Australia. Beyond that, she seemed reluctant to discuss his absence, so we dropped the discussion for fear of its being a sensitive subject. Jane and I eventually concluded that Bert might be in prison. Visits with Carol became infrequent. She withdrew.
One morning as I shaved, the radio newscaster reported that Bert had been seen leaving a young woman’s body in Griffith Park, not far from our apartment. The young woman had been raped and killed. He was now on the run. Jane and I were shocked that this was the Bert we knew.
From this point on, I can only convey what was reported on the news. Bert killed two Arizona Highway patrolmen. He then shot a kindly older couple who had stopped to give him a lift. The man died, but his wife survived her wounds. He fled in their car. He was chased into New Mexico where he found himself trapped in a dead-end side road. When he exited the car, he was reported to be holding a gun. The police killed him in a hail of shots. Rather than holding a gun, Bert had cut off his own hand.
My conversation with Bert looms large now.
We never saw Carol again.