Authors: Art Bourgeau
To my wife Patricia J MacDonald...
We met under the Biltmore clock,
"....Thou shalt not pass by me,
lest I some out against thee with the sword."
TERRI DiFRANCO closed the front door of the rowhouse
and hurried down the steps. Usually when she went out she thought
about the black silhouette carriage scene on the storm door, and how
her father always teased her mother about it, saying it had been a
long time since anyone had seen a carriage in South Philly unless it
was at a Mafia funeral, but this time her thoughts were elsewhere.
She paused at the bottom of the steps long enough to
adjust the shoulder strap of her purse and to turn up the collar of
her jacket to keep out the cool September breeze. The breeze was from
the south, carrying on it a hint of the pungent smell of the oil
refineries near the airport and bringing a mist that had already
encircled the blue-white streetlights in a halo, foretelling the rain
soon to come.
Two doors up, Louise Pipari was walking her dog,
Willie. Terri waved as Louise bent over and used a discarded potato
chip bag to clean up Willie's nightly offering.
When she saw Terri she smiled and sang out, "Thanks
for taking in that package for us yesterday. It was a birthday
present from Henry's brother in California."
"Anytime," replied Terri with a smile as
she turned to go.
At the corner of Second and Morris she stopped at the
candy store to get cigarettes. Like most of her friends, Terri had
started smoking when she was twelve, but although it had long ago
ceased to be a secret, her parents were firm in their resolve not to
let her smoke at home. A resolve she found weird since both of them
George Luongo, a longshoreman who worked with her
father at the nearby docks, was the only other customer. He had a
cassette from Second Street Video Palace tucked under his arm. As she
shoved the pack of Marlboros into her purse she caught a glimpse of
the title. It was
George saw her looking and flashed her a smile which
was missing a tooth on the left side. "Hey, Terri, you're
looking good tonight. Got a hot date?" he said.
"Naw, not tonight," she said with a smile
and hurried out of the store before he could follow up with his usual
line about how if he only weren't married he'd be knocking on her
door every night.
Sometimes George would catch her in the wrong mood
and his teasing would embarrass her, but not tonight. The compliment
made her feel good, for she had tried so hard to look good tonight,
carefully choosing from the mishmash of her teenage wardrobe those
things that would show her to best advantage, from her high heels and
tight Capri jeans to her soft, bright blue sweater, which everyone
said made her look cuddly. But that wasn't what made her look good.
It was more basic than clothes. Petite in stature and Mediterranean
dark, with ebony eyes beneath storm-cloud brows, and full, pouting
lips over teeth with a slight gap in the front, she was, some said, a
pocket Venus who, at this early, blossoming stage, had not yet come
to know her own powers.
Despite what passed for surface sophistication in
clothes and manner Terri, at fifteen, was an innocent. Which was not
to say that she was without knowledge in the affairs of men and
women. She had read her mother's well-worn copies of Fanny Hill and
Lady Chatterly's Lover several times. She knew when to laugh at a
dirty joke, basically how couples made love, and had brushed up
against what she hoped were male erections several times at school
dances. But that was it. Everything she had learned was second
hand—until just before Labor Day when all that changed.
Terri quickened her pace. Her destination, near some
Water Street warehouses, was at least six blocks away. She was
running late, but she considered herself lucky to get out at all. It
wasn't so much that her parents didn't trust her. Mostly it was
because they were afraid. Over the past few years, teenage girls had
been disappearing one by one, without a trace from the neighborhood.
Disappearances in a city the size of Philadelphia were, of course,
nothing new, and they occurred at intervals infrequent enough that
the police chalked them up to runaways who weren't worth the trouble
they made. But a growing number of the neighbors, including Terri's
parents, thought differently. They feared the girls had been
murdered, and because of their fear it was getting increasingly
difficult for Terri to get out at night even for a couple of hours.
Tonight had taken a lot of work. She had had to lay
the groundwork early in the day, telling her mother that she was
going to meet Marie, her best friend, and even then, right up to the
last minute, it had looked as if they weren't going to let her go.
But Marie was not the reason she was rushing now—and
for the past month. The reason was Peter.
As she hurried past Second and Tasker, with
Rachubinski's Funeral Home on one corner and the headquarters of the
Avalon String Band on the other, her thoughts went back to that first
muggy Saturday night. She had been with Marie at Costello's Cheese
Steaks, one of the few places her parents would let her go to any
longer, waiting for Joey, a boy she thought she cared about. Only
Joey was a no-show. At first she treated it lightly, but as the
evening wore on, the other girls goaded her until she was anxiously
sipping soda, smoking, biting her nails and asking arriving kids if
they had seen him.
It did not take long for the pieces to fall into
place for her. Joey was with her rival, Lisa, in the backseat of a
friend's car. Several people had seen them in the parking lot of the
shopping center on Oregon Avenue.
For weeks, in his cute, fumbling way he had been
after more than a goodnight kiss, but since his inexperience had
matched hers, she had had no trouble keeping him at bay. She thought
he had respected her for it, but she was wrong. Now he was with
another woman, and everyone knew it. Completely humiliated but
determined not to cry in public, she lit a cigarette and started for
home. Marie followed, but Terri sent her back and continued up Morris
Before she could reach the well-lighted Moyamensing
Avenue a sleek, silver Datsun 300ZX overtook her and stopped just
ahead. Terri was not alarmed. South Philly was a safe place, and she
had seen the car cruising the neighborhood several times recently, so
she thought nothing of it.
As she drew abreast of the car, from inside its
darkened cock-pit a voice asked her for a light. It was a
sophisticated, sexy voice full of come-hither, not like the rough,
raucous voices of men from the neighborhood.
Had Joey not stood her up, perhaps she would have
kept walking, and the past month—the most emotion-filled month of
her life—would not have happened. But he had, and she didn't.
Instead, she approached the car and offered the driver her matches.
As he lit his cigarette she saw he was a real living dream,
incredibly handsome, with short, dark hair, a beard, darkly tinted
aviator glasses and fine bones that bordered on the delicate.
He wore Italian driver's gloves with holes over the
knuckles and, oddly for a muggy late August night, he was wearing a
dark leather jacket that looked as soft as butter. Carelessly draped
around his neck was a white silk aviator scarf. "Thanks,"
he said as he handed her matches back.
She felt him looking at her and, as much to get even
with the absent Joey as to please the handsome stranger, she struck a
slight pose to give him a better look.
He kept her close to the car by turning up the tape
deck so she could hear the opening drum and organ notes to "The
Celebration of the Lizard."
"Do you like the Doors?" he asked.
"Sure," she replied with a shrug, but he
had scored a point. Music was her language, and even though Jim
Morrison had been dead for almost her whole life, the Doors were
still a big South Philly favorite on the suitcase-sized ghetto
blasters her friends lugged around.
"What's your favorite of their songs?" he
asked . . .
Now almost a month later, as she once again rushed to
meet him, the thought of the humiliation of that moment when she had
been unable to think of the title of a single Doors hit still rankled
"'Roadhouse Blues'," she had finally
blurted out after what had seemed like a tongue-tied hour.
He laughed and said, "'Roadhouse Blues,' I would
never have guessed that was your favorite. That's a pretty rough song
for a young girl."
There was a challenge in his voice when he said the
words "young girl," and she bristled at it. One humiliation
in an evening was bad enough, and he wasn't going to make it two. She
dropped her cigarette on the street and ground it out. Returning the
challenge she said, "All right, which one would you have picked
You look like someone who would like 'When the
He had been right she remembered now, but she
couldn't let him see it. It was too embarrassing to be that
predictable, so she played what she thought was the bitch but what
later he had laughingly called her "ingénue role."
Gradually they had exchanged personal information.
She told him her name, and where she lived. In return she learned
that his name was Peter. He offered no last name. Finally, he invited
her to get in the car, where it was cool, and to go for a ride with
"Maybe it wouldn't be so hot if you didn't go
around in that leather jacket," she bantered back.
"It's one of the problems of the job," he
replied. "Goes with the territory."
When she asked what job, he produced a badge.
The news that Peter was a cop, especially a handsome
cop in a sports car, just like on her favorite television show, was
enough to get her in the car, but he refused to give her any more
details except to say that he mainly worked undercover.
She watched him with fascination as they turned onto
Second Street and for the next half hour drove the same pattern over
and over—Second to Snyder, to Front, to Washington, and back to
Second. He kept the air conditioning on frigid and the Doors tape
Finally they parked in a dark spot amid the concrete
pilings that supported an overhead secton of I-95 near Front and
Snyder. He changed the tape from the Doors to a more romantic one by
Ray Charles, an old guy who was one of her mother's favorites. It was
a misstep on his part. Her system always responded best to the
thud-and-thunder of hard rock. It was music you could lose yourself
in and words with real meaning. The old Ray Charles stuff made her
feel uneasy, like she was sitting in a dark room and suddenly heard a
floorboard creak. It was an itchy feeling that made her want to fold
her arms in front of her.
Their first contact was even worse. Accustomed to
Joey's rougher handling, the gentle way Peter brushed her hair back
and the soft whisper of breath in her ear set her teeth on edge. His
soft, sensual kisses were almost unbearable on nerves not yet
familiar with such pleasure as he sucked and nibbled on her lips
until they felt swollen.
She sat perfectly still, wishing that either he would
stop or the strange itchiness would go away, but neither happened.
Instead, the feeling intensified as he opened her blouse and began to
touch her breasts. Before this, Joey was the only one she had ever
let touch them, at least bare, but this was different. As with his
kisses, before long the pleasure bordered on pain. She felt shame at
how easily he took control of her, dominating her until all she
seemed able to do was occasionally mutter the expected, "Please
don't." Later, when he put his gloved hand between her thighs,
she knew she should protest more strongly or even push him away, but
it seemed so useless.
After a while he took her back to Morris Street where
he gave her a good-bye kiss and said, "Meet me again next
Saturday. About eight at the warehouses on Water Street. Know where I