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Robert Castle decorative flourish The Tour Must Continue

4/13 Tuesday

Arrival at Kennedy. The attendant at the British Air counter checked us through. Let us pass ahead of two hundred others. Pissed them off. I wanted to get away from the mad motherfuckers muttering mad motherfucks at our little group. Only it wasn’t that easy. The Joneses couldn’t find their passports. Mr. Jones is slightly senile. His wife was supposed to have them in her pocketbook. I’m muttering my own motherfucks at the Joneses. Must have been the New York air.

Dwight had found the black copybook in an old box in the basement. Eighty percent of the pages blank, the journal was meant to be his wife’s keepsake. A journal of his last trip to Europe, eight years ago. Her teaching schedule around the Easter holidays prevented her from accompanying him. He had agreed to chaperone eight middle-aged and elderly couples as a favor for a local church group. His wife, Lois, wanted a chronicle of his week and a half without her. Since their divorce five years ago, he occasionally found physical reminders of their marriage. Two weeks ago, it was an old mortgage booklet. A few months back, the warranty for their first computer, which he had bought when he returned from Europe. The notebook beneath the old Time and Newsweek magazines (he was checking the music sections of both for reviews of several musicals) seemed both buried out of sight and planted. He had assumed she kept it. Could she not bear its presence, having divined the journal’s suppressed secrets?

He had never wanted to write the damn thing.

I asked Mrs. Jones if she had checked her purse carefully. Could she please check it again? Grudgingly, she did and found nothing. I asked about the compartment on the outside of the purse. She claimed to have never used it for anything. Insisted she look. Oh! Well, she couldn’t imagine how the passports got there and quickly blamed her husband.

The travel agency stuck us with another group, who piled into the flight lounge before takeoff. I introduced myself. Two nuns, Sister Isabella and Sister Gloria, were chaperoning. Isabella was the principal of a small high school near Trenton. Only girls attended. Neither nun was over five feet tall, which made them, in their black habits, all the more nunnish. They had eighteen girls in their group, the entire graduating class, plus a pair of mothers and one grandmother. The girls had already swarmed the airport shops to buy film, magazines, candy, and gum. They also started to take pictures. Group shots. Shots of planes. Shots with the nuns and parents. One of the mothers videotaped the girls taking pictures.

4/14 Wednesday

Technically the second day of the tour. We’ve been on the jet for two hours. The mother with the videotape sat beside me. Mrs. Kathleen Hill. She gave me half her dinner because she couldn’t eat smoked salmon (salmon gave her hives) and the potato salad (the salmon had touched it). Later, she complained she was hungry.

Mrs. Hill wasn’t on the plane an hour before she started writing in a diary. She recorded significant events throughout the night: her trips to the bathroom, the length of time she had slept, and the coming and going of her daughter, Maxine, down the aisle of the plane. I tried to sleep; however, Mrs. Hill would elbow me whenever she shifted in the seat or she would say something to me despite the fact that my eyes were shut. How did she know I wasn’t asleep?

Dwight stopped to light a Garcia Vega panatella. The heavy smoke filled his mouth, then he exhaled and laughed with a shiver as he recalled the horror ride to JFK over the potholes and chasms of the L.I. Expressway. On the way, he had witnessed the seemingly impossible. A tractor trailer had struck and brought down an overhead exit sign. But that goddamn ride! Compared to New York, the ride from Heathrow to the hotel in London’s Bayswater section was as smooth as a bus driving on velvet blacktop.

He also wondered when Lois had sensed or figured out what was amiss, absent. Had she often reread the journals and felt the bumps reverberate in her unconscious? What was causing those bumps? She could have done the math. One chaperone for every six students. There should have been another chaperone.

Our guide, Gianni (sounds exactly like “Johnnie”), met us outside customs at Heathrow. Obsequious customs men delayed some of the schoolgirls and checked their suitcases. For what? To see their underwear? Gianni was born in Northern Italy but made his home in London’s Kew Gardens. He will be our guide all the way to Rome.

When both groups gathered in the hotel lobby for an afternoon tour, Sister Isabella sternly reprimanded several girls for wanting to change roommates. I guess since they had made the assignments months ago, the girls were no longer friends. They had done the same on the plane, seat switching several times, driving many of us nuts. Gianni mentioned to me that a few of them wanted to go home; another had shorted the electricity on her floor in the hotel trying to use a hair dryer without an adapter. Fortunately, they were headed for the Tower of London while our group chose the British Museum.

What had possessed him to suppress Tricia’s presence? He had begun the journal before he had noticed her, although she, and not Mrs. Hill, had sat beside him on the plane and was writing in a diary. He was making fun of Tricia then, not literally, but with the types of mundane comments she was writing. If he wasn’t looking for trouble, why would he have not been honest about it? Why would he have had any desire for her? Tricia was with a couple of nuns.

At dinner, more complaints and whining. English food. Pea soup. Who made up this stinking menu? Not anyone who had experience with American teenagers. A hamburger patty with gravy. Greasy, half-cooked chips. Several girls refused to eat.

I overheard the students say that Mrs. Hill ruined the afternoon sightseeing. She had wandered from the room with the crown jewels and showed up forty-five minutes late at the rendezvous beside the guards. Mrs. Hill seemed oblivious to the inconvenience, but her daughter lashed out during dinner.

“Now we can’t go to the Hard Rock Café.”

“Quiet, Maxine. You can tonight.”

“Sister Gloria’s taking us to Convent Garden. It figures.”

The mother didn’t realize her daughter’s mistake. Maxine continued:

“We can’t go tomorrow. The whole day is planned.”

“At least finish your pudding.”

Maxine ran from the table.

By the way, Mrs. Hill had delayed dinner ten minutes because she had been videotaping across the street in Hyde Park.

4/15 Thursday

Jet lag’s last lag still in us.

The day began so bright and exhilarating. A bus tour took us around London. Piccadilly Circus. Trafalgar Square. Westminster Abbey. Everyone took pictures. The students all seemed to be listening to music on their headphones. Lunch at real imitation English pub. More bad English food. Shepherd’s pie. Fish ’n Chips. The Joneses, Meekims, and the others in our group gagged over their mugs of Guinness. What was so tasty about this crap? They must have thought they were getting something like root beer.

Can’t remember what we did that afternoon. Who could care at this point?

In the evening we went to Miss Saigon and returned to the hotel by 11:30. Sister Gloria met us in the lobby. Her small oval white face was red with tears.

“There’s been an accident. In the Underground. One of the girls … ”

She broke down. Our people stood frozen on the steps. It took five minutes to get the name of the girl who had fallen in front of the train. Gloria said that Isabella called from a police station. No one had returned. They had gone to Leicester Square, apparently to glimpse Princess Diana, who was attending a movie premiere.

I went to the lounge to smoke one of the Havanas I had bought yesterday. The O’Haras and Laughlins came over to express their sorrow over the sudden tragedy. They asked me whether we would stay in London an extra day. Their wives had not finished their shopping. Gianni nervously entered the lounge a half-hour later and chain-smoked his Rothmans. Sketchy details. Girl fell to the tracks. Train ran over her. Uncertain if she was electrocuted first.

I thought the tour was over. I was worried. Right! Refunds.

Gianni shook his head violently.

“You don’t understand, Mr. Valente. The tour must continue.”

Okay, no refunds. But was I relieved? Would the girl’s death affect how much our group enjoyed themselves? They might still want their money back. And wouldn’t the students be too depressed to continue?

“This isn’t the first time,” Gianni said. “Twice in Leningrad (I don’t take groups there anymore) and once at a bar in Warsaw. The last was two years ago. We were having the greatest time. An Englishman, businessman, collapsed face down on the table. The authorities took care of everything. These countries need tourism. Nothing is allowed to stop it. The rest of the students will be fine. They get over these things. Life doesn’t mean so much to them. Everyone must forget what happened. You have paid. Mourning can come later.”

4/16 Friday

Gianni and I drank until three in the morning. He smoked one of my cigars. I finally fell asleep at five and had to awake two hours later.

Around the bus, the girls stood weeping in packs of three and fours. Some of our people did the best they could to console them. A cloudy, cool day.

Two hour drive to Canterbury. Gianni gave a brief description of the countryside. Nobody wanted to see the cathedral. The sisters thought the religious atmosphere would have a healing effect. I had asked Gianni if we would skip Canterbury, go directly to France. But he had hired a driver, and a guide awaited us at the cathedral. They had already been paid.

Listless walk through the grounds. A third of the cathedral was under construction, including the vestibule where Thomas à Becket was beheaded. Waiting later at the bus, Rachel Molloy, a friend of Debbie Taluba, the dead girl, did not return to the bus. A panic swept over the nuns and students. When did anyone last see her? Weren’t the girls supposed to stick together? Sister Isabella’s grief transposed into recrimination. She blamed two girls specifically for losing Rachel. When they cried, Isabella ripped into them for crying. I think I must have gotten a sample of what their school was like. She sent a squad to look for the lost one. Gianni kept checking his watch. The ferry was leaving in an hour and fifteen minutes. Several in my group suggested that we leave Rachel at Canterbury. Suddenly, the girl appeared as if nothing happened. She was talking to a security guard, so she said, and forgot the time. Isabella was less harsh with her than she had been moments before. We lost another ten minutes waiting for the return of the search team.

We caught the ferry at Dover with six minutes to spare. In less than two hours we were in France. Passed through the flat green farmland. The road paralleled the chunnel’s tracks. Gianni rhapsodized the likes of Charlemagne, Joan of Arc, and Louis the Fourteenth. Arrived in Paris at seven.

Tricia had approached Dwight on the ferry and complimented him on the wonderful aroma of his cigar. Never had a woman appreciated his dirty habit.

“My husband smokes a pipe,” she said.

Yes, Debbie Taluba’s death had caused the two groups to intermingle more. Yet, the students spoke about everything but the dead girl. He and Tricia were standing on the outside deck alone. She had followed him outside. Only on the bus to Paris from Calais did he realize her intention and, in himself, a stirring of desire.

By eight we headed for a restaurant three blocks away.

“This place should be easy to find tomorrow,” said Mr. Laughlin, pointing to a large sign hanging over the sidewalk.

Gianni looked on embarrassed. To most of our amusement, we saw that the restaurant was next to a porn theater billing “Double Anal”and “Sexy Lili.” The sisters, the parents, and the grandparent were the only ones who pretended not to see it.

After dinner, less than twenty-four hours after the girl had died, the entire tour stood on Montmartre at the steps of Sacre Coeur. African students beat methodically on steel drums and bongos. Rhythms to carry us beyond sorrow. Festival of youth. The oldest ones in my group couldn’t stand the noise and went to a café bar in the square. Cognacs all around. Some of the wives, Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Laughlin, had portraits done, but when they found out the price, they refused to pay.

Who wouldn’t have felt attracted to some of the teenage students? Dwight could have thought lovingly of Mrs. Hill after a few brandies. Countless stirrings one never thought twice about. Airline stewardesses, tour guides, cocktail waitresses. Even the blonde who posed as sexy Lili.

Slightly older than he, Tricia had caught him off guard. If he had been immediately attracted to her, he never would have given himself a chance, not on a tour with nuns, to act on it. Least of all think that she would brush by him and spray a word scent of flattery.

Anticipating Tricia’s next gesture made writing the journal nearly impossible. He had to write about the last five days of the trip in Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Airport.

Anticipating when they would get together. There never seemed to be likely moments to take advantage of. She had to be with the students all day and shared a room with the mother-grandmother team. Dwight had single rooms throughout the trip. Tricia knew this.

4/17 Saturday

The Joneses, Laughlins, O’Haras, all of our couples complained constantly about Gianni. Too much attention was being given to the students. I explained that he was giving them time to grieve and that he felt guilty for the death and was trying to make up for it.

But this was nothing, the complaints, compared to the shame Mrs. Hill caused us. In London, she wore a leopard skin jogging suit into the Cathedral of St. Paul; she paraded around Versailles in a pink and purple pastel jogging outfit. And that were nothing compared to the incident this morning at breakfast.

“No butter with our croissants,” she cried out. She turned to the other tables. “Raise your hands if you want butter.” Several of the girls did. Mrs. Hill asked Sister Isabella: “Isn’t butter ’beure,’”which she pronounced “bear.” She called out to the girl who served the tea and coffee: bear, bear, bear.

Mrs. Hill wasn’t satisfied with the coffee, tea, and hot chocolate options. Fortunately, she didn’t try the French for “orange juice.” Predictably, her coffee was too strong, the rolls too hard. When the girl finally brought the patties of butter, Mrs. Hill used “merci” so derisively that the girl looked as she wanted to rip out the American bitch’s tongue.

At Versailles she had begun to overreact verbally to the architecture and paintings. Compensation for touristic inadequacy. Then she videotaped the place to death. I remember her saying in London that kings and popes had too much power and why didn’t the poor people rebel against the opulent monarchs living in their future tourist havens. Maybe, like Mrs. Hill, the people are dazzled by the gold and the glitter.

Entering a forbidden zone. Under the nuns’ noses. Seduced by Tricia’s unequivocal lust for his body. Exactly what men crave from a woman! And later are revolted by the thought of this lust. The tour would not allow preliminary affections. An hour would be enough to satisfy the desires. Barely adultery from the perspective of a normal affair lasting months or years.

4/18 Sunday

The students rejoiced when the Sisters announced they would miss Mass. Three-hour bus tour. The Louvre. Eiffel Tower. An afternoon along the Seine near Notre Dame. Sister Isabella brought her group into the cathedral to pray the rosary. Gianni had to return to the Louvre to pick upa student’s passport, which had been dropped. I took my group to the Pantheon. Saw the graves of Rousseau and Voltaire.

Gianni secured an entire train car as if he had captured an empty fortress. We filled up every sleep compartment. Didn’t have to worry about strangers harassing the girls or North Africans trying to sneak into Italy. I should explain. Two Algerians had approached Gianni and me, asking if they could hide under the seats when we reached the border. Gianni dispatched them immediately, but I wondered if these two would have paid us for smuggling them. Gianni and I shared a compartment with the two nuns. It was uncomfortable merely having the nuns present. Gloria snored like a grizzly. She and Isabella had taken the top bunks. Gianni and I played rummy and hearts. I left to have a cigar. I had to smoke between the train cars and discovered in the process that more than half the students were smokers.

Two uninterrupted hours of sleep, maybe a grand total of five. Stiff neck and back in the morning.

Tricia had slipped a note under his door in Paris. She wanted to make love on the train. At an arranged time, he left for the refreshments car and nearly walked the length of the train. In the dining car, he waited for her, which was his cue to return. As he passed her she mentioned the number of an empty compartment. Ten minutes later, without a word, they kissed.

“How did you know I’d like you,” he said when the kiss was done.

She twirled his hair, licked his lips for the Havana taste.

“Take off your clothes,” she said firmly.

He hesitated. He could hear people in the corridor. Doors sliding open and shut.

“The door is locked,” she said.

He didn’t know whether she was telling him the truth. By then, her slacks were on the floor and she was clutching his balls.

“Now, now, it must be done now,” she whispered in his ear. “Think of it. On a train. Flying through the night. Clickety-clack.”

Someone jiggled the handle of their compartment.

“What if the person gets the conductor?” he said.

She pulled on her slacks.

He thought he had ruined his chance.

“It’ll have to be in your room in Rome,” Tricia said.

“Why not tomorrow night, in Florence?”

“I’m taking them to the disco, remember. By the time I get them back to the hotel, forget it. You better not even talk to me tomorrow. Throw them off the scent.”

“Who knows?”

“Students have a way of sensing these things. Not yet, maybe. But to be on the safe side.”

“Shit.”

“One of my little darlings,” Tricia laughed, “told me that they thought you liked me.”

Tricia’s coolness interested Dwight in her more than ever. She was having fun. She knew what she wanted. What thrilled her. It helped him overcome his guilt.

4/19 Monday

Arrived in Pisa, seven-ten. Gianni arranged for the bags to be taken from the platform to the bus. Only the bus hadn’t arrived. He took all screw-ups personally. He should. He was paid adequately, but the real money came from the gratuities at the end of the tour. The student’s death, fortunately for him, gave him latitude and established grounds for “understanding”if anything went wrong. He will be supremely lucky if both groups have a great time. When the bus arrived, he bellicosely castigated the driver. I thought there would be a fight. Then we were taken to a restaurant near the Leaning Tower. After breakfast we returned to the piazza with the Tower (leaning more than I remembered it), and the students in our group discovered Italian men. I remarked something about this to Mrs. Hill’s daughter, Maxine, who told me the English men were aloof and the French men ugly. Meanwhile, the Italian men caught wind of this brood of delectable items like leopards on the savannah newly aware of antelopes. Human life was not a mystery, suddenly. Animal desires. Pack movements. Twenty-four hours without a shower starkly brought forth the girls’ natural features. Their raw beauty and basic sexuality. Italian men in their twenties stood around the church and baptistry and gestured toward our approaching group. The men appeared more coquettish than the girls. Maybe I was among the leopards!

Sister Isabella raced ahead to alter the direction of her students. She too appeared transformed. From a small, black-haired, pale-skinned modern nun still in black habit into the medieval type of Italian nun one saw frequently throughout Italy (remember Assisi last time!). Her plan backfired. She wanted to head for the Tower, but it was closed. Too dangerous to ascend to the top. I got the feeling years ago that it seemed fairly easy then to fall out of one of the Tower’s upper floor openings.

He felt his first twinge of jealousy. He watched Tricia receive the chits and clicks from the young men. He imagined her going with one of them. She had a knack for finding empty spaces and quickly making use of them. Why had he hesitated the previous evening? She could have been his. Then he would not have been worrying in Pisa and Florence.

The girls returned to church, passing the men who were strutting their stuff. If looks could copulate! Mrs. Hill videotaped the girls being drooled over.

Hazy sky, soft hills. We passed Lucca, Pistoia, Empoli, and Prato. The bus pulled into the Piazzale Michelangelo. An overview of Florence. The Duomo of Brunelleschi and the Palazzo Vechhio stood out. Closer to us were the Church of Santa Croce, where we were finally deposited an hour later. Near the leather shops. Factory outlets for belts, purses, pants, and jackets. Both groups plunged into spending sprees. For most of us, that seemed to be what this trip was for. The students whipped out Visa, American Express, and Mastercards. Shop, shop, shop. Visits to the Uffizi gallery and the Bargello were afterthoughts. My group faded by 5 p.m. and wanted naps before dinner. A long two days. At dinner, the Joneses and the O’Haras got shitfaced on Chianti. Couldn’t get them back to the hotel fast enough.

In Florence, Dwight could not stop thinking of the Italian men. He did not want Tricia to leave his sight and accompanied her group to the disco. She continued to ignore him. He risked the possibility that one of his tour group members would later mention this excursion to Lois. A few inconsequential details which in themselves were innocent could prompt Lois to wonder why he hadn’t mentioned it in the journal. She would know that he was hiding something. Why didn’t he mention the other chaperone? But she had never brought up anything about this trip to cause him alarm.

Could their marital problems be conveniently traced to his one lapse? Had his mental cruelt—the sarcasms, the silences, the cryptic allusions to foreign movies—been fleshed out by a plain, lascivious English teacher?

4/20 Tuesday

At the Accademia, I caught the students and a few of my old ladies staring at David’s genitals. As scandalous as “Double Anal"! Then we returned to the leather shops.

Mrs. Hilldropped into the empty seat beside me on the bus to Rome. She had heard that I taught music in high school. What instrument? I wanted to say “the bastinado.” What school plays had I directed? Moments after we finished the conversation, she wrote in her journal how she met an ex-music teacher who had directed Peter Pan and The Music Man. She also itemized her purchases at the autostrada rest stop, as well as the time of her purchases. These banalities fascinated me.

He quit teaching two years before the trip. Pursued a musical career and never earned half what he had made teaching. Did not play enough weddings. It must have angered Lois when he returned to teaching after their divorce.

And he now wondered: did Lois interpret his last sentence as saying “Lois’s banalities now bore me"?

She added an entry about her daughter being depressed, blaming it on Debbie Taluba’s death, and about a secret agitation among the girls. A secret talking. Secrecy beneath the usual secretiveness of teenage girls. The secrets girls actually kept to themselves! Which would have meant nothing to me had I not overheard a conversation a few days ago on the ride to Paris.

“They weren’t friends anymore.”

“That’s because she stole her boyfriend from me.”

“I still don’t believe it.” (This “it,” I gathered, was not referring to the boyfriend stealing.)

“Everyone is talking about it.”

4/21 Wednesday

Forgotten in the confusion and sorrow of this tour was Sister Isabella’s promise to get the entire tour group an audience with the Pope. Her order of nuns is based in Rome and had connections. Not a private audience but the kind in Vatican Square for ten thousand people. We had to get there two hours early. The sun beat down and gave us sunburns. For what? The old guy in white mechanically motioned to and blessed announced portions of the crowd. Different school names were mentioned and the students cheered and waved pennants. I didn’t hear Sister Isabella’s school. An hour and a half of this.

“This afternoon when we get back to the hotel,” Tricia whispered to him.

Dwight pulled out a cigarette to give the impression that she had asked for it.

We filed out of the square and scrambled for lunch, then visited the Colosseum, Forum, and Ippodrome. Finally, we got to see some ruins. The heart of the greatest empire. We walked around and admired the vastness of the Forum and the monstrousness of the Colosseum. What would it have been like to bow to Hadrian or Trajan upon return from a campaign? We also stopped along the Appian Way and entered the catacombs. Funny that the Christians hid so close to the busiest highway. Maybe it was convenient for the persecutors and persecuted. No potholes on the Appian Way, either! Back at the hotel by seven.

Half the students, the mother and grandmother, the O’Haras, the Meekims, and Gianni had returned to the hotel by four-thirty. I saw Gianni in the lobby and wanted to ask him about the night tour to the Trevi Fountain. His eyes were black, crazed. He was shaking his head.

“You look terrible,” I said.

“Never happened to me before. Never happened. Never. Never happened to anybody.”

Actually, Tricia and Dwight walked from the Forum to the hotel with five students. She came to his room at six o’clock. No one would notice her absence. At lunch, she complained of a headache and, upon returning to the hotel, told the student she would see them at dinner.

“I never cheated on Lois.”

“That’s your loss.”

“This is natural for you?”

“You’re wasting time with the chit-chat. Take off your pants.”

Tricia had stripped naked within ten seconds of entering his room.

“You have beautiful breasts.”

“Sure.”

“I never noticed them with your clothes on.”

“I’ve cheated on my husband, if you really have to know.”

He was naked and kissed her.

“Feel less guilty,” she said, “the harder you get.”

“I’m not used to it.”

“You have had too much time to think about it. We should have kept at it on the train. It had an impulsive feeling then, after which it would have seemed never to have happened.”

“We wouldn’t be here now.”

“I wish I could have come to you dressed as nun,” she said.

I thought something had happened to Mr. Meekim. He took heart medication.

“The girl,” Gianni said, “I don’t know her name. The one that got lost.”

I had to think. The one in the Louvre. No, that was a passport. Canterbury.

“What? You have to be kidding.”

"Did you hear a knock or yell?” Dwight asked.

“Don’t stop. Don’t stop.”

The girls seemed to be running in the halls. Tricia wouldn’t release her legs locked around his back.

"Fuck me, fuck me, fuck me,” she cried out softly.

I offered him a cigar.

“Two on one tour,” he intoned. “Two on one tour.”

I told him that things could not get any worse. He wasn’t responsible. He would not listen.

“I’m not worried about the bonus. You know what I mean. One death, fine. This has happened before. We talked about this. No problem. Two deaths. No joke. I am the jinxed one, Mr. Valente. The newspapers will write about it. Worldwide publicity.”

“What did your company say?”

“Nothing yet. But I will be sent to hell. Odessa. Sofia. I cannot tell how bad the Bulgarians are. Thessalonika. Glasgow. Glasgow. Glasgow.”

He nearly broke into tears.

He still experienced a twitch of excitement thinking of her crying out “fuck me”and talking dirty.

They had agreed to go to dinner a half hour apart. He went downstairs first and met Gianni. Heard the story of Rachel’s death. His first thought was that he wouldn’t see Tricia again.

The girl, Rachel, fell ten stories from the hotel window. Landed in an alley. Around six-fifteen. On the other side of the building from my room. No one knows if it was suicide or an accident.

Thursday 4/22

The police kept both tour groups at the hotel last night. Police were asking where we were when the girl fell.

This morning we left the hotel at eight for the eleven-thirty flight. We walked speechlessly out of the hotel and onto the bus. Gianni accompanied us to the Leonardo da Vinci Airport. All the way to the departure gates. He didn’t have to. He felt responsible. We all did. He could barely look at Sister Isabella and me when we handed him the gratuity money.

“This has been a terrible tour, I know,” he said.

Tricia wore sunglass, She had been crying all night. Rachel was her favorite student. Should she have been in her own room, five doors from Rachel’s? Could she have saved her? Dwight couldn’t inconspicuously approach and find out her feelings.

I had a couple hours and found one of the airport’s two smoking rooms. An hour passed. Gianni passed by and saw me.

“Mr. Valente, I am happy I found you. No thanks, I prefer my English cigarettes.” He was agitated, excited, not altogether unhappy. “The police have arrested one of the girls.”

“What for? Shoplifting? Who?”

“The one with the cameras. Always the video. Her daughter.”

“Maxine.”

“Yes. My reputation is saved.”

“What’s your reputation have to do … ?”

“She murdered those two. In the Underground. Pushed her. Pushed the other out the window. They did not die themselves.”

Tricia had found and told him. His first thought when he saw her rushing to the smoking area was that she wanted to continue the relationship in the United States.

“Doesn’t it send a chill up your spine that we’ve spent all this time at the side of a homicidal maniac?” she asked him.

“How did they catch her?”

“Two of the other girls told on her. Then Maxine broke down. She said Rachel had suspected her of killing Debbie.”

“Why?”

“Debbie had stolen Maxine’s boyfriend a few months before the trip.”

“I should have guessed.”

“Even better, Debbie had broken up with the boy a week before we left. Maxine apparently waited because there was no refund for the trip.”

“A sensible teenager and homicidal maniac.”

“She had also heard there was no death penalty over here.”

“Why didn’t the girls tell on her sooner? I heard them talking about it on the bus without realizing … ”

“They didn’t want to ruin the rest of the tour and waited as long as they could.”

“Two more sensible teenagers!”

“I have to go.”

Dwight was sad, besides, because Tricia’s group would not be returning to the States that day. Neither did she kiss him goodbye.

Fabricating the final entries of the journal an hour before landing, he gave Gianni the honor of informing him about the murders. It seemed fitting. To Dwight, now, these seemed the truest passages. Yes, he could well imagine Gianni’s redemption.

I thought, for an instant, that the mother was the murderer and the kid was covering up for her. Wishful thinking.

I was stunned. Murder. Was he sure? Maxine! To think I had spoken to a murderer several times during this trip. Mrs. Hill probably videotaped the confession. Gianni continued:

“Not accidental. You cannot believe how much happiness this brings me. Not suicide. Murder. Murder. Do you not see? No Odessa. No bleeding Glasgow. I cannot be blamed. I am not the jinxed guide.”

I was happy for him.

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Robert Castle teaches history, sociology, and film at a small academy outside Trenton, New Jersey. His work regularly appears in Bright Lights Film Journal and Unlikely Stories. His work also has appeared in Film Comment, Gadfly, The Sun, The MacGuffin, Film-Philosophy, Metaphilm, Wilmington Blues, 5_trope, 3 AM, previous editions of The Paumanok Review, and other literary magazines.