John Credulo fell asleep watching television in the family room once again as he waited for his wife to come home from bingo, shopping, the hair salon, or wherever it was she said she went that Friday evening. During their fifteen years of marriage, Marie had never gone out at night without John, until two months ago when her best friend Angie became divorced. Now all of a sudden Marie was going out not one, but two or three nights every week. Just with Angie. Or so she said.
A loud pounding noise outside woke John from his sleep as it grew louder and louder. John scratched his head as he stood and took another drink of beer. John took the bottle with him as he made his way down the hallway to the front of his home. Peering out the window to the right of the front door, John noticed an unfamiliar red pickup truck in his neighbor’s driveway. The owner left the headlights on as he continued to pound on Tony Azzardo’s front door, highlighting the fact that it was now dusk outside. John unlocked the door and went outside on the porch. Standing in front of his own headlights, the man in the dark blue silk suit continued pummeling his well-tanned fist on Tony’s door to no avail.
“Uh, hey there fella, I don’t think anyone’s home,” John said. “Haven’t seen the guy lately…he may be on vacation or something.”
“Buddy,” the man replied as he stopped knocking and turned to face John, smiling.
“Yes?” John responded, as Buddy walked over to John’s porch.
“No, no, I’m Buddy,” the man said, laughing. “Tony’s brother, Buddy. Nice to meetcha,” the tall, muscular man said. Holding a beer in his left hand, he offered his right hand to John, who nervously shook it. “I’d offer you a brew, but I see you already have one,” the man said, motioning to the bottle in John’s left hand.
“Yeah, well, I’m John, Tony’s neighbor—well, obviously,” John laughed. “Been here about a year now. I guess you know that your brother isn’t home much… just long enough to borrow things, like power tools and other things I own that never make it back to me, you know?” John smiled as he made his complaint to the stranger, even though he was angry about the disappearing belongings.
“Hey, you ain’t tellin’ me something I don’t already know, like the time he borrowed my fiancé’ and never returned her. Yeah, he’s one of those kinda guys.” Buddy shook his head as he pounded his right fist into his left hand. “But naw, Tony ain’t on no vacation,” the man said as he ascended the porch stairs and stood next to John. “ I saw him the other night at the club with a cute redhead, her hair braided and pinned up, big brown eyes, maybe only five feet tall on a windy day, you know? Pretty and petite.” The man licked his lips as he drew the figure of a shapely woman in the air with his index fingers.
John became angry upon hearing Buddy describe Marie and began pacing back and forth on the porch. “My Marie dancing with Tony down at the Kitty Cat Club?” he said. Distracted, he inhaled and exhaled deeper and faster and forgot about the now empty bottle in his hand. The beer bottle fell to the concrete ground and shattered, the noise piercing the crisp night air. As Buddy bent over to help John pick up the broken pieces of beer bottle, the contents of his shirt pocket fell out onto the concrete porch floor. John picked up the three items and handed them to Buddy, who held open his shirt pocket while John slipped the key, pocket knife, and smart phone inside Buddy’s pocket. John gathered the shattered glass from the porch floor and dropped it into a waste basket next to a wicker loveseat. While bending over the waste basket, John apologized to Buddy for causing the incident.
“Hey! Careful there!” Buddy said while John was bending over, pointing to the phone in John’s shirt pocket. “Looks like at least one of us has a lot to learn about electronic technology,” said Buddy.
John, however, was still unsure of what to think about Tony and Marie. “Well, I apparently have a lot to learn about women! I didn’t think Marie could cheat on me! After fifteen years of marriage, you think you know someone!” John shook his head and wiped the perspiration from his forehead with the back of his hand.
“Whoa, whoa, hold on there, friend. I didn’t mean to start nothin’. I had no idea that the little lady I saw was your little woman…” The man patted John on the back as if to comfort him. “Honest…”
“Hey, no, it isn’t your fault. But if that’s true about that brother of yours, I could just…”
“What, kill him?” Buddy interrupted. “Ha ha ha, you’d have to stand in line. I’m here to collect my fishing tackle and one of those things you put over your head when fishing in the rain—you know—”
“A yellow rain poncho?” asked John, wondering why the guy could not remember what he had loaned to his brother.
“Yeah, that’s what he borrowed, “said Buddy. “Week after week he promises to return whatever it is he has borrowed from me, never makin’ good on his promises. And I’m not the only one he owes tools or dough to. Believe me, I know how you—”
“Want to kill him? No, no, it’s just that I can’t believe a neighbor could do such a thing. And Marie, how could she, with that jerk?” John began pacing back and forth again on the porch between Buddy and the front door.
“I dunno, but if I were you, I’d be mad at my little brother. I bet that one day some woman’s husband will come looking for him and give him what he deserves, you know?” John tried to deny wanting to kill his neighbor a second time, but Buddy kept on talking. “Hey, I’ve been out here for a while waitin’ on Tony, drinkin’ beer, and I need to use the men’s room, you know? Do’ya mind, friend?”
“Yeah, sure,” John replied. “The light’s just inside and to the left in the living room here.” John opened the screen door and then the front door, after which a blast of cold air conditioning hit him as he opened the solid wooden door and pointed toward the hallway inside. “The bathroom’s the last door down the hall on the right,” John said, as Buddy entered his home and shut the doors. John turned and stepped back onto the porch and placed his hands on the porch railing. He stretched, arching his back and bending at the waist with his back to the front door.
Moments later the man in the dark blue silk suit emerged from John’s home and thanked John as he made his goodbyes. “Well, I better get goin’ or I’ll need to make a repeat trip soon enough,” he laughed. “Hope everything works out well for you, my friend.” Buddy walked down John’s front stairs, turned right as he crossed over his lawn, and returned to his red pickup truck parked in Tony’s driveway. John stood and waved goodbye for a few moments as Buddy backed out of the driveway. He then went inside and retired to his bed for the night.
Saturday morning John and Marie awoke to the sound of loud sirens and someone knocking on their front door. “Where were you last night? When did you finally get home?” John growled at Marie as he hastily dressed.
“What are you talking about? Angie and I went to St. Al’s for Friday night bingo, and I came in about midnight, remember? You did kiss me and say goodnight, after all.” Marie finished dressing, put on her shoes, and followed John down the hall to the front door.
As John unlocked the front door and opened it, he and Marie were greeted by two forty-something year-old male police detectives standing inside the screen door. The men stated their names and flipped open and closed their ID wallets so fast that neither John nor Marie caught their names or ranks. “John and Marie Credulo? We’d like to talk to you about the murder last night of your neighbor Anthony Azzardo,” the heavier of the two stated.
“M-mmm-murder?” replied John. I-I-I never even saw Tony yesterday, just his brother who came looking for him and couldn’t find him either,” John said, shaking.
“Murder?” echoed Marie, who placed her hands on her hips as she shook her head. “I just can’t believe it. What’s happened to this neighborhood? We hardly ever see the guy, he is so quiet and I think he is rarely ever home.”
“May we?” asked the slender detective, his blonde comb-over barely covering a large, oval bald patch centered on the top of his head. His heavy-set, dark-haired companion followed him into the living room and walked directly over to the right side of the room before the Credulos answered the detective. He pulled a pair of vinyl gloves from his pocket, put them on, and picked up a blood-covered yellow rain poncho from behind an overstuffed green armchair. “Hey Stan, you see this here?”
“Wow, Bob, just like the recording said it would be. Here,” said Stan Silberding, as he offered his partner a large, clear plastic evidence bag. Bob Robinson bagged the blood-covered poncho and the two detectives walked toward the front door. “Mr. Credulo, you’ll need to come with us down to the precinct, sir,” said Stan, as he opened a pair of handcuffs.
“John, what is going on here? Did something happen while I was gone last night?” Marie hurried to stand by John as Detective Silberding handcuffed him and read him his Miranda rights.
Shaking, with his hands cuffed behind him, John replied “I-I-I have no idea, dear, all I know about last night or the guy next door is that his brother Buddy came over to see him to get his fishing tackle and a yellow rain poncho and when he didn’t answer, the guy asked to use our restroom and did. Then he left.” John searched the detective’s faces for any sign of empathy or understanding, and found none.
The two detectives looked at one another and laughed. “Here’s what happened, Mrs. Credulo, as if you don’t already know,” said Detective Silberding. “You and Mr. Anthony Azzardo have been having an affair, dancing down at the Kitty Cat Club. Hubby over here got jealous, used a spare key to enter Mr. Azzardo’s home while he was sleeping last night, and while wearing a yellow rain poncho, slit Mr. Azzardo’s throat with a switchblade, killing him. We already have all the evidence we need to charge your husband Mrs. Credulo, including a tape recording of him talking about your affair with Mr. Azzardo and how he wanted to kill him, along with fingerprints we found on several very incriminating items. Oh, and by the way, Mr. Credulo—there’s no such person as “Buddy”. Tony Azzardo never had a brother.” Detective Robinson held the front door open as Detective Silberding grabbed John Credulo by the left arm, forcing him through the front door and onto the porch.
“Stop! Wait! Marie! Detectives Robinson and Silberding! None of that is true! I can explain,” protested John, as his please were ignored and he was forced down the porch and pulled across the grass to a waiting police cruiser. As he was shoved inside the car head first, John’s first clue to what really happened came from the medical examiner who happened to be walking towards the two detectives as they were preparing to take John to the local precinct. “The time of death was between 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. yesterday, officers,” the medical examiner said.
John realized that his neighbor Anthony Azzardo was already dead when his brother Buddy was knocking on his door, and that not only was Buddy not Tony’s brother—he was probably his murderer. Everything had happened so fast that morning that John never had time for a shower, his morning coffee, or had time yet to figure out how he was going to get out of this obvious frame up.
At the police station the detectives showed John a list of all of the evidence they had against him. There was a tape recording of John stating that he knew his wife went dancing with Tony at the Kitty Cat Club and that he wanted to kill Tony, and more. John realized that the man pretending to be Tony’s brother must have recorded what John said to him and altered it. John realized that this man purposely let the key to Tony’s house, the knife, and what turned out to be Tony’s cell phone fall out of his pocket in the hope that John would pick them all up, creating fingerprint evidence—which he did. Perhaps worst of all was the yellow poncho they found in John’s home, covered with Tony’s blood, the same poncho mentioned in his conversation with the pretend Buddy. Buddy must have worn it while he killed Tony, removed it afterwards, and placed it in a plastic bag so that he could leave the poncho under the chair in John’s living room when he used the restroom. Once he had John’s fingerprints on the knife, all he had to do was return to Tony’s in the middle of the night and replace the real knife with the one with John’s fingerprints. It all sounded so easy, but getting out of it did not. Although John explained all of this to the police detectives, they wanted to see proof that Buddy really existed.
John suddenly realized that Buddy was wrong about one thing—the very thing that would prove John’s innocence. John asked Detective Silberding for his one all-important phone call. John called Marie and told her what to do, and told her to wait until an officer came for her before she went about obtaining the evidence that would set John free. The ever-faithful Marie did just that, and within an hour of when she arrived at the police station John was cleared of all charges.
As John and Marie were leaving the police station, two police officers and a handcuffed “Buddy” approached them. “Well, well, Loan Shark Lenny Parish, is it? You were wrong about one very important thing,” John said to the prisoner. The police officers escorting Loan Shark Lenny jerked their quarry to a stop to force him to stand still to listen.
“Remember how you teased me yesterday, saying that electronic technology and I were new friends? Well, I may be clumsy, but electronic technology—particularly surveillance—and I are old friends,” said John. “I am an electronic surveillance salesman—yeah, that’s right, my friend. You never asked me what I did for a living, did you? Well, guess which of my employment perks is among the very best? The free digital outdoor surveillance cameras that beam live action and sound to the company servers, the same ones that show you entering and leaving Anthony Azzardo’s home on several occasions during the time of his murder, the same cameras that show you watching my wife so you would know how to describe her to implicate her in an affair and give me a motive for murder,” John said.
“You disgust me,” Marie scolded, her arms folded across her chest.
A silent Loan Shark Lenny, aka Buddy, stood stoically and rolled his eyes as John continued to reveal how Lenny met his undoing.
“Yes, Lenny,” John continued. “These cameras are the very same ones that recorded you as you frantically looked to destroy a tape recording from a digital system—I must admit I had a good laugh at that today, listening to your wondering where the non-existent tapes disappeared.” The uniformed officers laughed aloud and shook their heads.
“Well, Detectives Robinson and Silberding tell me that you will be disappearing for a very, very long time. So, bye, Lenny. Hope everything works out well for you, my friend.”
Sherri Miller is an editor at Halfway Down the Stairs.
© 2014, Sherri Miller