Last Chance for Glory
Last Chance for Glory
November 27: 2:48 AM
THE HOWL BEGINS AS a single note in the upper range of a polished contralto. It holds steady for a moment, then slowly rises through the octaves, finally disappearing somewhere beyond the range of the human ear. Melody Mitchell, asleep in her bed, tries to incorporate the howl into her dream, hears it as a distant siren on a deserted city street. She visualizes the headlights of an ambulance rushing to an emergency, sees wet roads, red and blue reflections on rain-slick asphalt.
It doesn't help, though. It never does. The howl begins again, proceeding from the same note to the same emptiness, then drops to a soft moan as the covers begin to slide across her back.
Even half-asleep, still pulled by the fading edges of her dream, Melody Mitchell is not shocked by the liquid brown eyes that meet hers when she lifts her head from the pillow.
"You're gonna be the death of me, Roscoe. The absolute death," she mutters.
Roscoe, undaunted, does a little dance, the moan now transformed into a series of sharp barks.
My fate, Melody thinks. Other middle-aged women have husbands and children; I have a geriatric Doberman with a weak bladder.
She shrugs into a long, goose-down coat, jams her feet into fleece-lined boots, snaps the leash onto Roscoe's collar.
"Roscoe," she repeats, "you're gonna be the death of me. No doubt about it. And don't give me that look. What I should do is swap you for a girl dog. At least they pee all at one time. They don't have to wet every hubcap on the block."
She steps out of the elevator to find Petya already holding the door. The rumor, among the residents of 551 Gramercy Park North, is that Petya, instead of protecting the shareholders from New York predators, sleeps the night away. If that's the case, Melody has yet to catch him at it.
"Is late, Miss Mitchell. I am thinking for once dog waits till morning."
"No such luck, Petya. What's it like out there?"
"Is cold. Winter begins."
Petya arranges the crags and crevices of his battered, Russian face into what Melody can only see as a look of resigned martyrdom. The saint tied to the stake, already smelling the acrid stink of smoldering pine.
Urged along by a now-desperate Roscoe, Melody heads directly for the curb. A stiff wind brings tears to her eyes.
"Please, Roscoe, don't take all night with this. It's awful cold out here."
Roscoe lifts his leg obligingly, then freezes in place. A low growl rumbles deep in his chest. Melody looks down for a moment, then follows the dog's eyes to the middle of the block. She sees a man in a dark overcoat standing next to a polished Mercedes. The man turns and looks at her for a moment, then walks away.
"Hush, Roscoe. It's nothing. A man parking the car."
Roscoe, in apparent agreement, lets go, drenching the bumper of a rusting Toyota.
They make their way along the row of parked cars, Roscoe pausing every few yards to sniff the pavement. Melody, now thoroughly awake, grows more and more impatient. Her feet are freezing.
"One more chance," she warns as they come abreast of the Mercedes, "and back you go." She looks through the window, wondering, as New Yorkers will, if the man she saw was a thief.
Not likely, she thinks. He was too well dressed to be after a radio. Or even the whole car.
The street lamps throw a light somewhere between amber and beige. The tone efficiently filters the sharp urban edges, blending light and shadow into a smooth continuum. Nevertheless, even without looking twice, Melody is certain that what she sees lying on the backseat is the blood-soaked body of a naked woman.
Melody Mitchell is sitting in front of the TV, her eyes propped open. A mug of useless coffee rests on the end table. She is watching a C-Span re-telecast of the prior day's proceed