WEEP NO MORE, MY LADY
Pan American flight 111 from Rome began to circle on its final approach to Kennedy Airport. Elizabeth pressed her forehead against the glass, drinking in the brilliance of the sun gleaming on the ocean, the distant outline of the Manhattan skyscrapers. This was the moment she had once loved at the end of a trip, the sense of coming home. But today she passionately wanted to be able to stay on the plane, to go wherever its next destination might be.
"It's a lovely sight, isn't it?" When she'd boarded the plane, the grandmotherly-looking woman next to her had smiled pleasantly and opened her book. Elizabeth had been relieved; the last thing she'd wanted was a seven-hour conversation with a stranger. But now it was all right. They'd be landing in a few minutes. She agreed that it was a lovely sight.
"This was my third trip to Italy," her seatmate continued. "But it's the last time I'll go in August. Tourists all over the place. And so terribly hot. What countries did you visit?"
The plane banked and began its descent. Elizabeth decided it was just as easy to give a direct answer as to be noncommittal. "I'm an actress. I was working on a film in Venice."
"How exciting. My first impression was that you reminded me a little of Candy Bergen. You're just about as tall as she is and have the same lovely blond hair and blue-gray eyes. Should I know your name?"
"Not at all."
There was a faint bump as the plane landed on the runway and began taxiing. To deter any more questions, Elizabeth made a business of pulling her carry-on bag from under the seat and checking its contents. If Leila were here, she thought, there wouldn't be any question about identifying her. Everyone recognized Leila LaSalle. But Leila would have been in first class, not coach.
Would have been. After all these months, it was time the reality of her death set in.
A newsstand just beyond the Customs enclosure had stacks of the early-afternoon edition of the Globe. She couldn't help seeing the headline: TRIAL BEGINS SEPTEMBER 8. The lead read: "A visibly angry Judge Michael Harris scathingly denied further postponements in the murder trial of multimillionaire Ted Winters." The rest of the front page was filled with a blowup of Ted's face. There was a stunned bitterness in his eyes, a rigid set to his mouth. It was a picture snapped after he'd learned that the grand jury had indicted him for the murder of his fiancée, Leila LaSalle.
As the cab sped toward the city, Elizabeth read the story -- a rehash of the details of Leila's death and the evidence against Ted. Pictures of Leila were splashed over the next three pages of the paper: Leila at a premiere, with her first husband; Leila on safari, with her second husband; Leila with Ted; Leila accepting her Oscar -- stock publicity shots. One of them caught Elizabeth's eye. In it, Leila had a hint of softness in her smile, a suggestion of vulnerability that contrasted with the arrogant tilt of her chin, the mocking expression in her eyes. Half the young girls in America had imitated that expression, copied Leila's way of tossing her hair back, of smiling over her shoulder....
"Here we are, lady."
Startled, Elizabeth looked up. The cab had stopped in front of the Hamilton Arms, at Fifty-seventh Street and Park Avenue. The paper slid off her lap. She forced herself to try to sound calm. "I'm so sorry. I gave you the wrong address. I want to go to Eleventh and Fifth."
"I already turned off the meter."
"Then start a new fare." Her hands shook as she fumbled for her wallet. She sensed the doorman was approaching and did not raise her eyes. She did not want to be recognized. Unthinkingly she had given Leila's address. This was the building where Ted had murdered Leila. Here, in a drunken rage, he had pushed her off the terrace of her apartment.
Elizabeth began to shiver uncontrollably at the image she could not banish from her mind: Leila's beautiful body, wrapped in the white satin pajamas, her long red hair cascading behind her, plummeting forty stories to the concrete courtyard.
And always the questions....Was she conscious? How much did she realize?
How awful those last seconds must have been for her!
If I had stayed with her, Elizabeth thought, it never would have happened....
Copyright © 1987 by Mares Enterprises, Inc.