“Bar Room Butterfly” by Barry Gifford

Roy’s grandfather subscribed to several magazines, among them Time, Field & Stream, Sport, and Reader’s Digest, but the one that interested Roy most was Chicago Crime Monthly. One afternoon Roy came home from school and found his grandfather reading a new issue.

“Hi, Pops. Anything good in there?”

“Hello, boy. Yes, I’ve just started an intriguing story.”

Roy sat down on the floor next to his grandfather’s chair.

“Can you read it to me?”

“How old are you now, Roy?”

“Ten.”

“I don’t know everything that’s in this one yet. I wouldn’t want your mother to get mad at me if there’s something she doesn’t want you to hear.”

“She’s not home. Anyway, I’ve heard everything.”

“You have, huh? All right, but I might have to leave out some gruesome details, if there are any.”

“Those are the best parts, Pops. I won’t tell Mom. Start at the beginning.”

Bar Room Butterfly
By Willy V. Reese

Elmer Mooney, a plumber walking to work at seven a.m. last Wednesday morning, noticed a body wedged into a crevice between two apartment buildings on the 1800 block of West Augusta Boulevard in Chicago’s Little Poland neighborhood. He telephoned police as soon as he arrived at Kosztolanski Plumbing and Pipeworks, his place of employment, and told them of his discovery.

The dead body was identified as that of Roland Diamond, thirty-four years old, a well-known Gold Coast art dealer who resided on Goethe Street. He was unmarried and according to acquaintances had a reputation as a playboy who had once been engaged to the society heiress Olivia Demaris Swan.

Detectives learned that Diamond had been seen on the evening prior to the discovery of his corpse in the company of Miss Jewel Cortez, 21, at the bar of the Hotel Madagascar, where Miss Cortez was staying. When questioned, Miss Cortez, who gave her profession as “chanteuse,” a French word for singer, told authorities she had “a couple of cocktails” with Diamond, with whom she said she had only a passing acquaintance, after which, at approximately nine p.m., he accompanied her to her room where he attempted by force to have sex with her.

“He was drunk,” Cortez told police, “I didn’t invite him in, he insisted on walking me to my door. I pushed him out of my room into the hallway but he wouldn’t let go of me. We struggled and he fell down the stairs leading to the landing below. He hit his head on the wall and lay still. I returned to my room, packed my suitcase and left the hotel without speaking to anyone.”

Jewel Cortez confessed that before leaving the hotel she removed Roland Diamond’s car keys from his coat pocket and drove to Detroit in his car, a 1954 Packard Caribbean, where, two days later, she was apprehended while driving the vehicle in that city. Miss Cortez was taken into custody on suspicion of car theft. Upon interrogation by the Detroit police she claimed not to know that Diamond was dead, that he had loaned her his car so that she could visit friends in Detroit, where she had resided before moving to Chicago. Miss Cortez also said she had no idea how his body had wound up in Little Poland. When informed that examination of Diamond’s corpse revealed a bullet wound in his heart, Cortez professed ignorance of the shooting and declared that she had never even handled a gun let alone fired one in her life.

Betty Corley, a resident of the Hotel Madagascar, described Jewel Cortez as “a bar room butterfly.” When asked by Detective Sergeant Gus Argo what she meant by that, Miss Corley said, “You know, she got around,” then added, “Men never know what a spooked woman will do, do they?”

Chicago, May 4, 1955

*****

“What does she mean by ‘spooked’?” Roy asked. “Frightened?”

“Yes, but her point is that women can be unpredictable.”

“Is my mother unpredictable?”

Pops laughed. “Your mother is only thirty-two years old and she’s already been married three times. What do you think?”


Copyright by Barry Gifford. All rights reserved.


Barry Gifford’s fiction, non-fiction and poetry have been published in twenty-eight languages. His novel Night People was awarded the Premio Brancati, established by Pier Paolo Pasolini and Alberto Moravia, in Italy, and he has been the recipient of awards from PEN, the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Library Association, the Writers Guild of America, and the Christopher Isherwood Foundation. His books Sailor’s Holiday and The Phantom Father were each named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times, and his book Wyoming was named a Novel of the Year by the Los Angeles Times. He has written librettos for operas by the composers Toru Takemitsu, Ichiro Nodaira and Olga Neuwirth. Gifford’s work has appeared in many publications, including The New Yorker, Punch, Esquire, La Nouvelle Revue Française, El País, La Repubblica, Rolling Stone, Brick, Film Comment, El Universal, Projections, and the New York Times. His film credits include Wild at Heart, Perdita Durango, Lost Highway, City of Ghosts, Ball Lightning, American Falls and The Phantom Father. Barry Gifford’s most recent books are Sailor & Lula: The Complete Novels, Sad Stories of the Death of Kings, Imagining Paradise: New & Selected Poems, The Roy Stories, Writers, The Up-Down and The Cuban Club. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. For more information visit www.BarryGifford.net.


Image from Wikipedia, altered by Cartoonize.net.

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