"Why are there, um, copies of the Style section all over the place?" he asks tiredly. "Do you have a dog? A chow or something?"
No, Owen." I move slowly around the chair until I'm facing him, standing directly in his line of vision, and he's so drunk he can't even focus in on the ax, he doesn't even notice once I've raised it high above my head. Or when I change my mind and lower it to my waist, almost holding it as if it's a baseball bat and I'm about to swing at an oncoming ball, which happens to be Owen's head.
Owen pauses, then says, "Anyway, I used to hate Iggy Pop but now that he's so commercial I like him a lot better than - "
The ax hits him midsentence, straight in the face, its thick blade chopping sideways into his open mouth, shutting him up. Paul's eyes look up at me, then involuntarily roll back into his head, then back at me, and suddenly his hands are trying to grab at the handle, but the shock of the blow has sapped his strength. There's no blood at first, no sound either except for the newspapers under Paul's kicking feet, rustling, tearing. Blood starts to slowly pour out of the sides of his mouth shortly after the first chop, and when I pull the ax out - almost yanking Owen out of the chair by his head - and strike him again in the face, splitting it open, his arms flailing at nothing, blood sprays out in twin brownish geysers, staining my raincoat. This is accompanied by a horrible momentary hissing noise actually coming from the wounds in Paul's skull, places where bone and flesh no longer connect, and this is followed by a rude farting noise caused by a section of his brain, which due to pressure forces itself out, pink and glistening, through the wounds in his face. He falls to the floor in agony, his face just gray and bloody, except for one of his eyes, which is blinking uncontrollably; his mouth is a twisted red-pink jumble of teeth and meat and jawbone, his tongue hangs out of an open gash on the side of his cheek, connected only by what looks like a thick purple string. I scream at him only once: "Fucking stupid bastard. Fucking bastard." I stand there waiting, staring up at the crack above the Onica that the superintendent hasn't fixed yet. It takes Paul five minutes to finally die. Another thirty to stop bleeding.
I take a cab to Owen's apartment on the Upper East Side and on the ride across Central Park in the dead of this stifling June night in the back of the taxi it hits me that I'm still wearing the bloody raincoat. At his apartment I let myself in with the keys I took from the corpse's pocket and once inside I douse the coat with lighter fluid and burn it in the fireplace. The living room is very spare, minimalist. The walls are white pigmented concrete, except for one wall, which is covered with a trendy large-scale scientific drawing, and the wall facing Fifth Avenue has a long strip of faux-cowhide paneling stretched across it. A black leather couch sits beneath it.
I switch on the wide-screen thirty-one-inch Panasonic to Late Night with David Letterman, then move over to the answering machine to change Owen's message. While erasing the current one (Owen giving all the numbers he can be reached at - including the Seaport, for god's sake - while Vivaldi's Four Seasons plays tastefully in the background) I wonder aloud where I should send Paul, and after a few minutes of intense debating decide: London. "I'll send the bastard to England," I cackle while turning the volume down on the TV and then I leave the new message. My voice sounds similar to Owen's and to someone hearing it over the phone probably identical. Tonight Letterman has on Stupid Pet Tricks. A German shepherd with a Mets cap on peels and eats an orange. This is replayed twice, in slow motion.
Into a hand-constructed bridle leather suitcase with a khaki-colored canvas cover, extra-heavy cap corners, gold straps and locks, by Ralph Lauren, I pack a wool six-button double-breasted peak-lapel chalk-striped suit and one wool flannel navy suit, both from Brooks Brothers, along with a Mitsubishi rechargeable electric shaver, a silver-plated shoehorn from Barney's, a Tag-Heuer sports watch, a black leather Prada currency holder, a Sharp Handy-Copier, a Sharp Dialmaster, his passport in its own black leather passport case and a Panasonic portable hair dryer. I also steal for myself a Toshiba portable compact disc player with one of the discs from the original cast recording of Les Miserables still in it. The bathroom is done completely in white except for the Dalmatian-spot wallpaper covering one wall. I throw any toiletry articles I might've missed into a plastic Hefty bag.
Back at my apartment his body is already in rigor mortis, and after wrapping it up in four cheap terry-cloth towels I also bought at the Conran's Memorial Day sale, I place Owen headfirst and fully dressed into a Canalino goose-down sleeping bag, which I zip up then drag easily into the elevator, then through the lobby, past the night doorman, down the block, where briefly I run into Arthur Crystal and Kitty Martin, who've just had dinner at Cafe Luxembourg. Luckily Kitty Martin is supposed to be dating Craig McDermott, who is in Houston for the night, so they don't linger, even though Crystal - the rude bastard - asks me what the general rules of wearing a white dinner jacket are. After answering him curtly I hail a taxi, effortlessly manage to swing the sleeping bag into the backseat, hop in and give the driver the address in Hell's Kitchen. Once there I carry the body up four flights of stairs until we're at the unit I own in the abandoned building and I place Owen's body into an oversize porcelain tub, strip off his Abboud suit and, after wetting the corpse down, pour two bags of lime over it.