Joe Agatoni took a good look at himself in the rear-view mirror while he
straightened his dark blue tie. He stepped out of the car. He stood confidently
on the sidewalk, his tan, handsome face hidden in the shadow of his fedora. The
people walking by couldn’t help but to take a second look. He lit the cigar in his
mouth, a mouth which always seemed to have a slight smirk on it. Joe made his
way towards the speakeasy, the hole-in-the-wall on 103rd Street where he had
planned to spend his Friday night alone. In his mind, this was the ideal evening,
sitting at the bar with a cold drink in one hand and a lit cigar in the other: Nothing
to do but to listen to the smooth jazz music. Nothing to do but to listen to his
Joe strode down the road, the moon shining on him like a spot light,
putting a little glimmer in his kind, sleepless, brown eyes. He arrived at a
wooden door which lead to the speakeasy. A slender, faceless man in a tight,
black suite stood outside of the door. Without hesitation, Joe whispered a
password the man’s his ear.
This bar was a regular affair, Joe was still as excited a schoolboy getting a
brand-new teddy bear when he walked down the stairs. He loved it there. He
felt as if he could melt away in jazz music and listen to it all night long. Yet as he
walked down the stairs, everything about the place felt a little bit different, as if he
was supposed to remember something he had forgotten. Something felt off. He
decided not to read too much into that. Joe went to the club to forget, to
disappear. He went for an enjoyable night, and an enjoyable night was what he
intended to find.
As Joe walked into the club, his swagger matched the beat of the music
perfectly. He made his way towards the bar, receiving dozens of flirtatious
glances from beautiful women, all of them holding long cigarettes between their
fingers. Nearly every girl in that bar seemed to notice him, except one sitting at a
cocktail table across the room. She was the only girl he wanted. It was as if she
were a glimmering light in a room of darkness; she was the only person he could
Joe was accustomed to many beautiful women gracing the bar, but not
like this one. She had bright blue, innocent eyes, and when he glanced at them
he felt as if they told him everything about her. She had the most confident smile
he had ever seen. Her brown, silky hair brushed her shoulders in perfect
ringlets, and exquisite pearls hung from her neck. She donned a beaded
headband around her head, and wore an elegant black dress, which reached just
below her knees.
Even before he had spoken to her, Joe knew she was interesting. He felt
as if he knew her. He felt as if he had a long, incredible history with her, and yet
he hadn’t even said one word to her yet. He had to meet her. Usually, in a
situation like this he would casually sashay up to her without even thinking about
it twice. Then he would buy her a drink without even asking if she wanted one,
leaving her instantly charmed. With any other woman he would flirt so
effortlessly, causing her pale cheeks to turn bright red, yet something happened
to him that had never happened before: He got nervous. No, not nervous,
frightened. Who was this woman?
He stared at her from across the room, occasionally wandering his eyes
so that it wouldn’t be too obvious that he was looking at her. Just go and talk to
her, Joe. Be cool, you little son-of-a-bitch, he tried to convince himself. He
pondered ways he could introduce himself to her. Hello. The name’s Joe, he
thought to himself. The name’s Joe? That’s a good way to make myself sound
like an idiot. I gotta keep it simple. How about something like—
The sight of a tall, muscular man making his way towards the woman
interrupted his thoughts. The man began to talk to her. With a pounding heart
and crossed fingers that the two wouldn’t hit it off, Joe tried not to look. He was
crushed to see the woman throwing her head back in laughter as the man spoke
Joe stood there for minutes, watching the two of them have what seemed
to be an enjoyable conversation. The harsh voice of regret flared up in his head.
I should have gone up to her while I had the chance. Suddenly, the woman
swiveled off her chair and stood up. For about a millisecond, she made eye
contact with Joe. She walked away as if she were walking on a runway. Oh no,
Joe thought, she’s leavin. There goes any chance I’ll have to meet her. He
turned to the bartender and said in a pouty, disappointed voice, “I need a dirty
martini, and keep ‘em comin’.”
“Sure thing, Robert.”
“Frankie, I’m Joe.”
“Oh, sorry, Joe. Everyone in a suit looks the same around here. You
know, after a while, everybody just looks like a Robert to me, I guess.”
“Just get me my drink.”
Frankie handed him his drink and he chugged it down in three gulps.
“Hey, stranger. What’s got you down?” he heard a raspy, yet sweet voice
When he turned to see who it was, he was surprised to see that it was the
woman that he was staring at all night. “Nothing, at least not anymore,” he said
ever so smoothly.
“Hey Lucy,” the bartender asked. “Can I get you anything?”
“Bourbon would be great, Frankie.”
“It’s on me,” said Joe.
“I’m Joe,” he told Lucy. He considered shaking her hand, but decided to
tip his fedora instead. Yes, this was more gentlemanly.
“You go by Joe now?” She asked, fixing his tie.
Oh my God this woman wants me, Joe thought. “Uh, yes.”
“Well, thanks for the drink.”
They began speaking, skipping right past the small talk into the interesting
topics. He felt as if it were meant to be. He felt as if their love story would be as
romantic as Romeo and Juliet, yet without all the tragic deaths.
After a martini, Lucy was throwing her head back in laughter, then, as if
the spell had worn off from her gaze, she flirtatiously grabbed Joe’s hand and
noticed his watch. “Oh no! It’s well after midnight!”
“Oh, yeah, it is. I didn’t even notice long we’d been talking.”
“Listen, I have to go.”
“Go where? Where could you possibly have to go this late?”
Her face blushed bright red. Joe decided not to press her any further.
“Hey, at least let me walk you home”, he suggested, hoping it could
maybe land him a kiss, or at least her telephone number. Phones were rare
those days, but her shoes showed she possibly could afford one. She nodded
The walk home was painfully silent. They walked up to a brick building
several avenues through the blackness and Lucy said quietly, “Okay, this is my
“Do you have a telephone? I’d like to keep in touch.”
“No, but you know where I live now. It’s taken long enough after all.”
Then she walked away through a courtyard. While this was an odd thing to say,
Joe paid no attention. He wistfully watched her, struck by the truth that the night
had ended. His mind danced away into the blackness of a dream.
Joe awoke the next morning, his suite still clinging to his limbs with sweat
and his tie thrown on the floor. He had a pounding martini headache that ripped
across the back of his head to his spine. In a tired voice, he mumbled to himself,
How much did I have to drink last night? The sound of his voice felt like pots
banging against his head.
As if this excruciatingly painful migraine was not enough, loud, vexatious
knocks rapped on the door. He cupped his hands over both ears to mute the
deafening noise. He delayed opening the door, hoping the knocking would
cease. Then three more knocks persisted.
Joe reluctantly opened the door. He was surprised to see two police
officers standing in the hallway. “Can I help you?” he asked nervously.
“Yes, we’re from the Chicago Police Department.”
There was a long pause. “So what exactly is it that I can help you with,
“We’d like to ask you a few questions, sir, if you don’t mind. A witness
saw you with this woman last night, does she look familiar?” They held up a
photograph of Lucy.
Joe nodded and said, “Yes, I believe I met her last night. That was the
first time we had ever met. Why? Is she wanted for something?”
“No. She was murdered last night. Technically early this morning.”
Joe’s heart sank in his chest. He actually thought he might have loved
her, no matter how crazy that was. He tried to hold back his tears that were
bound to come pouring out of his eyes any second.
“Do you mind if we search your apartment?” one of the officers asked him.
Joe shook his head. Then he nodded and stepped aside. He could hardly form
After a few minutes of searching, the officers announced to Joe that
everything looked completely normal and there was nothing suspicious in his
apartment. He thanked them and they left. He didn’t want to believe she was
dead. How could she have died? He was with her until midnight.
He then remembered she had to be somewhere, refusing to say exactly
where she needed to be. Perhaps if she had not left, she wouldn’t be dead. Joe
couldn’t help but to feel guilty about leaving her alone.
He abruptly began cleaning, uncontrollably organizing to keep his mind off
of the news he had just heard and to find some order left in his life. His room
was like a black hole of dirty clothes. Whenever he picked up a shirt, ten more
magically appeared. Then he reached his arm way under the bed, as though he
were reaching for buried memories. Nothing of use came from his excavation--
nothing until he uncovered the photograph. He dusted it off and walked over to
the light. The picture was of him and a woman. The woman looked familiar. In
fact, she seemed to look exactly like Lucy. He flipped the picture over and on the
back in black ink it read: “Robby and Lucy— June 6th, 1922.”
Robby and Lucy? It couldn’t be the Lucy he met at the bar. He became
so light-headed he could hardly stand up. He felt as if he couldn’t breathe and
his eyesight became blurry. What the hell happened last night? Why does this
“Robby” guy look like me? Who is this woman really?
Joe needed some air. He grabbed his coat and fled out the door, only to
find the fresh air was hardly the tonic he needed. He lit the cigar he had in his
pocket. That felt better, yet he was still confused and afraid.
Joe started walking. He didn’t know where. He just needed the streets to
move around him. After several aimless blocks, Joe stopped at a storefront and
stopped instinctively. The sign read “Hypnosis”. Nothing else. Hypnotism? It
seemed so ridiculous. Then again, so was his morning. It seemed worth a shot.
He opened a stained glass door and walked up a narrow flight of wooden stairs.
He arrived at a small waiting room, yet no one was there. In the back of the
room, there was a sheer purple curtain. When he pulled it aside, an old woman
was sitting before him.
“Hello, I’m Joe Agatoni. Are you the hypnotizer?”
“Yes, I’m Ms. Gendelle,” she said in a raspy voice.
“I didn’t have an appointment or anything, but I was wonderin’ if maybe
you could do whatever you do here to me. I mean I’m just so confused about
some stuff, nothin’ seems to be making sense. I just need some answers,” he
The woman was calm and unruffled by his nerves. “Please sit,” she said.
“Tell me what is happening and let me take you to the place where it all started.”
“Well last night I met a girl, then I heard this mornin’ that she was
murdered. It was the first time we had ever met, or at least that’s what I thought.
Then, today I found a picture and on the back it said ‘Robby and Lucy’. I don’t
know what’s goin’ on and I sure as hell don’t know where the name Robby came
from. But now I’m starting to remember that the bartender at the bar we met at
called me Robby.”
The woman’s eyes widened but she remained composed. “Very good.
Well, now, let me clear your mind. Now, as I swing this gold locket back and
forth, you will drift into a deep sleep.” Her voice was low and soothing. “When I
clap my hands together, you will fall into your thoughts as though your head is
slipping underwater. You will open your eyes slowly and tell me everything you
know about this woman you call Lucy.”
The woman began. Joe drifted into a drowsy cloud of dreams as he
followed the locket swing back and forth. He slipped into sleep as intended.
“Who are you?” she asked.
The woman swallowed hard. “What do you see right now, Robby?”
“I’m in a house. A large house like a museum. There’s a big party going
on. I don’t know anybody here besides my friend, Harry. I’m talking to a girl.
She’s the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen and she is absolutely fascinating.”
“Good,” the woman said. “Is this Lucy?”
“Wonderful. Stay with Lucy. Tell me everything you know about her.”
Joe went on to explain his whole dramatic romance with Lucy, from the
first date to the big fights. It seemed a little bit like a soap opera. He explained
how Lucy had broken his heart. One day, she left him without any good
explanation. All she said was that he didn’t love her anymore.
“Last night I somehow ended up with Lucy again,” he continued, “I have
no idea how I got there. I must have blacked out. But when I saw her, I wanted
to get back at her for leaving me. She deserved to feel pain after what she had
put me through. I always keep a pocketknife on me. And there it was, just sitting
in my pocket. So I pulled it out slowly and slit her throat. Then, I wiped off the
blood and dropped the knife through the grate outside her apartment.” Joe
paused. “Anything else you want know?” he asked, still in a daze, staring in the
woman’s like a glass figurine.
Ms. Gendelle grew terrified but tried to hide her fear. She then said in a
slightly shaky voice, “No, that will be all.” Her eyes looked at the man’s hands.
Then she scoped the room for objects, anything she might use to protect herself.
Nothing. Her breath speed up. She watched the door. “Now, as I swing this
locket in front, you will drift into a deep sleep, and when I clap again, you will
wake up as Joe.”
The woman clapped. Joe jolted awake and looked at her, eager to find
out what she learned. “What happened? Did I have anything to do with the
murder?” he asked.
She stared into his eyes, realizing Joe knew nothing of Robbie, realizing
she already knew too much.
“No,” she said.
“Nothing at all?” he asked.
“Not that I heard. I’m sorry I can’t help you,” she said, holding her breath.
Joe let out a hopeless sigh of relief. He paid the fee, put on his fedora, and gently
left the darkening room.