He pulled his empty tip jar out of his bag and strummed the guitar. The passing crowd of congressional employees seemed more constipated than usual this morning, so he decided to sing a Woody Guthrie song he’d rewritten in Kenny’s dishonor:
“This town’s not your town; this town’s not my town. It’s owned by K Street and their pals on Wall Street. No more redwood forest, dirty Gulf Stream waters. This town’s not made for you and me.
Influence peddlers want a new highway: ‘Here’s campaign money, now please vote my way.’ Got all their wishes when votes were tallied. This town’s not made for you and me.
This town’s not your town; this town’s not my town. It’s owned by K Street and their pals on Wall Street…”
Chapter 5: Better Choices
The sound of Helen Miller’s laughter surprised him. He stopped mid song and admired her nymph-like face as she reached for his tip jar to deposit five $100 bills. He examined the bills. If they were fake, she was an excellent counterfeiter. He strummed the strings with gusto then set the guitar down.
“Thanks again, Ed.”
He smiled, remembering her kiss on his cheek. “Anyone would have done the same thing.”
“No. You’re the special one, the hero who jumped down to help. The crowd would have watched me die. Did you ever read about Kitty Genovese? Someone stabbed her to death in New York while all of her neighbors watched and did nothing to save her.”
Ed nodded, trying to take his eyes off Helen’s cleavage. He thought he saw part of a tattoo but felt too nervous to ask.
“I was just going to have a Diet Coke at McDonalds. May I treat you to something, mister?”
He smiled in agreement, and she held his hand as they walked. He decided he wasn’t about to pull away from this gorgeous creature – married or not. They entered McDonalds in Union Station where they ordered two large drinks and sat at a table.
“I’d like us to be good friends.” Helen inched her bare foot up his thigh. “Have you ever met someone and had the overwhelming feeling you were soul mates?”
Her words summoned painful images of April. He dreaded times when he could only imagine her as a rotting corpse, no matter how hard he tried to block the thoughts, no matter how hard he pressed his fingers against his closed eyelids and begged the heavens for inner calm.
Helen rubbed his arm. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
Ed watched a bald man cram an Egg McMuffin into his mouth. Yellow yolk fell down the guy’s chin onto his white dress shirt. The beeping sounds from the deep fryers and the smell of burnt coffee thickened the air in the dining area, sending waves of nausea.
“Thank you for risking your life for me. I have no doubt God sent you. Nothing happens by coincidence.”
He remembered praying minutes before seeing Helen. Was this crazy woman God’s answer? He tried to flush the superstitious notion from his mind, but she continued: “You saved me from the person trying to kill me. I must help you in return.”
Ed slurped his drink and studied her long, smooth legs as she replaced her high-heeled shoe.
“Did someone really push you? Why didn’t you try to move off the tracks while you still had time?”
Helen scanned the crowd and started to whisper. “I didn’t think I had the power to resist him.”
“My husband, Congressman Jonathan Miller.”
Ed imagined this vixen in some marble-columned mansion, staring across a long candle-lit dining room table at a quick-witted politician, whose underworld minions often broke kneecaps and gave people concrete shoes before dumping them in the ocean. He decided it might be best to thank her and leave.
Helen clinched his wrist and planted wet kisses on his hand: “You don’t believe me. No one believes me. He’s so cruel. I can’t stay married to him.”
Helen’s brain cells seemed more than a little fried, especially as Ed recalled her comment in the subway about a “glorious new dawn.” In any case, he considered it difficult not to feel pity as her soft, warm lips pressed against his wrist.
“Please be my friend. God wants us to help each other. We’ll be best friends and lovers if you’ll have me.”
Ed smiled wide, but she rose to her feet with a frown. “It’s a little too busy in here. I’m staying in the Washington Hilton. I’d feel safer if we talked in my suite.”
He took her hand and followed her outside to the cabstand. In a cab, he looked up at the towering statues of Roman centurions on top of Union Station as the driver turned onto the main road. “Tell me about your husband.”
Helen’s eyes became animated. “We’re getting a divorce.”