Tuesday, January 30th, 8:00 PM New York City
Benny was a bully and was happiest when Kerri committed some transgression that permitted him to give her
another disciplinary session. So Benny was very happy this day. Kerri had given him some sunshine in the
middle of the coldest spell in New York memory. Once again she had broken his rules and now she had to be
One look at her told Benny that she knew she had done wrong. Trouble was
she didn't look scared enough. Over the past year Benny had begun to suspect that Kerri might actually
enjoy discipline, and that disturbed him. It took a lot of his fun away. But rules were rules, and
whether she enjoyed it or not she still had to get hers.
He started with the blanket, her only source of comfort and her primary
protection against the bitterly cold North wind blowing down Third Avenue. Kerri was sitting on their
mattress spread on the ground, wrapped in her blanket, just staring at him with that mournful gaze while
she shivered, waiting.
"Give me the blanket," he ordered. "Stupid people got to be
Kerri didn't move except to gather the blanket closer around her
Benny was surprised. He had come to expect immediate compliance to his
orders. Good thing this happened, he thought. Bitch needs a tune-up. He took a step toward her and was
gratified when he heard her whine.
"Benny, please. Not the blanket. I'm too cold already. I didn't mean
nothin' by it."
Kerri's pleas were music to Benny's ears. He stood over her and savored the
moment as she closed her eyes and cringed, waiting and braced for the blow.
This is one pitiful white woman I got me involved with, Benny thought.
Sitting there with her eyes closed, I can do whatever I want. Stupid. Then he bent over and grabbed the
two handles stitched into the sides of the mattress and pulled up with all his might. Kerri rolled over
backwards and wound up on her back on the pavement, with her head resting just inside the doorway of the
closed print shop. She was still clutching her blanket, her eyes still tightly closed, unmoving.
Benny looked at her contemptuously while he stood over her, holding the
mattress by the handles. What to do next? He took a look around him. The street was full of people, but
everybody was walking fast with someplace else to go and something else to do. Nobody cared what the
homeless were doing.
Benny wasn't surprised. He had been through this before. He reached a
Time to throw a real scare into her. He placed the mattress on top of the hospital laundry cart that
held all of their worldly possessions and rolled the cart in front of Kerri so that she was invisible to
anyone walking by, lying in the stall he had created like a young calf waiting to be slaughtered. Placing
his foot on her gut, he pressed hard, hard enough to force all the air from her lungs and stomach, but she
kept her eyes screwed shut.
Ain't no fun like this, Benny thought, so he reached down, took hold of the
blanket, and growled, "I'm leaving and I'm taking what's mine."
Kerri's eyes popped open. No more blank stare. Only terror. She let go of
the blanket and Benny pulled it away. She watched him fold up the blanket and place it under the mattress
in their laundry cart. Then he picked up the rest of their things and neatly placed them in the laundry
cart, each in its accustomed place. Satisfied with his work, he turned back to Kerri. She was still
staring at him, terror-stricken.
Benny liked the way she looked. But maybe I can make it better, he thought.
Let's see. "I'm going over to the Citibank. Come get your shit later once I get unpacked."
It worked well. Kerri rolled onto her stomach and crawled over to him until
she was lying at his feet like a dog. She put her hands over her head and dug her chin into the sidewalk.
"Beat me, Benny. But don't leave me. I'll die out here without you.
I can't do this by myself."
"Then why you always breakin' the rules?" Benny asked in a low,
"Why can't you learn to live right out here?" His voice was rising. "Why can't you
listen and show me some respect?"
Like a parent scolding a child, he waited for an answer, but got none.
Kerri's silence enraged him. "Why do I got to be stuck with the dumbest bitch on the planet?"
he yelled as he gave her the first kick. It was short and sharp and caught her in the side of the ribs,
but Kerri didn't seem to notice. She had known it was coming and she was ready for it. "Not now,
Benny," she wailed. "You gonna have a crowd."
Her reasoning stopped him. She's right, he thought. No reason to do this
now. Who needs a crowd? Later is better, when the streets are clear.
Benny brought his anger under control and looked around him. None of the
people walking by showed any interest in him or her. Not used to the cold like he was, they were bundled
into their gloves, overcoats, and scarves as they passed with heads down against the wind, paying no
attention to the two souls who sometimes lived in front of the recessed print shop, partially protected
from the elements by the ten-foot overhang of the apartment building over the shop.
But someone was watching and had been watching them for days. The thin,
bearded man was sitting at a table next to the window in the Japanese restaurant across the street,
oblivious to the other customers. He picked at his second order of sushi and stared out at the street,
apparently lost in thought. He didn't hear the waitress approach his table, which made her uncomfortable
as she stood there, waiting to be acknowledged.
She followed his gaze and saw nothing of interest outside as she wondered what had recently made this
strange and silent man into such a regular customer.
She reached no conclusion. At one time or another during the past week he
had tried everything on the menu and, although he ate slowly, it appeared to her he ate without
At first she had thought that he was trying to gain weight. The clothes he
wore looked like they belonged to someone a size larger than he was, and she speculated that maybe he was
trying to fit into clothes someone else had given him. After all, she thought, they are nice clothes.
She waited as long as she politely could while he continued staring out the
window, but he didn't notice her presence so she picked up his small bottle of sake from the table and
Her move startled him and he turned to her quickly.
"More sake?" she asked, smiling as she looked down to his empty
"Yes, please. That will be fine."
She poured the remainder of the bottle and stood waiting for his next
request. "Check, please."
She smiled politely at him, then shuffled to the cash register and watched
him while the cashier computed the bill. The customer picked up his last piece of sushi with his
chopsticks and placed it in his mouth. He was staring out the window as he chewed, watching a bum push
his laundry cart down East 30th Street. A sloppy woman was following abjectly, five steps behind. The
waitress lost interest and looked away, but the customer didn't. He knew Benny and Kerri's routine well
and knew where they were going.
He chewed slowly, pleasantly surprised that he could actually taste his
food. He washed it down with the last of his sake, savoring every sip.
Once again, he had murder on his mind.