A New Ricky in Their Midst ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
Ethel let herself in at the kitchen door and helped herself to a cup of coffee. She sat down at the table and began nibbling at the bacon that was left over from breakfast. When Lucy came in from the other room, she took one look at Ethel and began crying.
“What’s wrong, honey?” Ethel asked.
“Oh, Ethel, it’s just awful!” Lucy sobbed.
“I’ve just been frantic since two this morning! I don’t know what to do!”
“You and Ricky have another fight?”
“I don’t know what’s got into him lately.”
“Well, pour yourself some coffee and sit down and tell me all about it.”
“Oh, Ethel, I hate to tell you what I’ve done!”
“It can’t be all that bad!”
“This time it is!”
“I’ll help you get it straightened out, whatever it is. What are best friends for?”
“Oh, Ethel, I don’t know how to tell you this!”
“Just say it. You’ll feel better.”
“I’ve killed Ricky!”
“I said I’ve killed Ricky Ricardo. My husband. The famous bug-eyed Cuban bandleader known and loved by millions.”
“Oh, Lucy! You didn’t! I’m speechless!”
“I know! It’s terrible!”
“Are you sure he’s dead?”
“He’s dead, all right. He’s been dead since two this morning.”
“Well, get yourself calmed down and tell me all about it.”
“Well, he came home from the club about one-thirty and I noticed right away that he was acting sort of funny. He wouldn’t look me in the eye.”
“Oh, honey, that’s a very bad sign!” Ethel said, spraying crumbs out between her teeth.
“He took off his clothes and laid them on the chair next to the bed and went into the bathroom. I heard the water running, so I figured he was taking a bath. I gathered up his clothes for the laundry and you’ll never guess what I found!”
“There was lipstick on the front of his shirt and, not only that, it reeked of perfume!”
“That doesn’t necessarily mean anything, honey! How do you know he didn’t just brush up against one of the chorus girls from the club?”
“Oh, he brushed up against her all right, and did a lot more than that, too!”
“Oh, honey! Now don’t start jumping to conclusions!”
“That isn’t all. When he came out of the bathroom in his bathrobe, I asked him if he had a pleasant evening at the club and he yelled at me.”
“Yelled at you? That doesn’t sound like Ricky!”
“He called me a meddling old bitch and said he was sick and tired of my nagging at him all the time.”
“Oh, Lucy! What did you do then?”
“I asked him if he had been seeing another woman and he broke down and began crying. He said he had been seeing a chorus girl named Delores for about two years and he couldn’t go on any longer with the deception. He and Delores are in love, he said, and he wanted me to divorce him so he could marry her!”
“Oh, Lucy! I can hardly believe it! I never would have suspected it in a million years!”
“I know! He’s been very good at concealing it, hasn’t he? The louse!”
“What did you do then?”
“Well, we began arguing, saying nasty things to each other. I called him a two-timing pig and he called me a henna-haired harridan. We became more and more angry. When he twisted my arm and tried to slap me in the face, I took a knife and stabbed him in the neck. It was a clear-cut case of self-defense.”
“Oh, Lucy! The neck?”
“I severed the jugular vein in one stroke!”
“Oh, honey! Wasn’t there an awful lot of blood?”
“There was, but I got it all cleaned up.”
“And where is he now?”
“He’s on the floor next to the bed. I have him wrapped up in two leak-proof sheets. There’s not a trace of blood left.”
“Oh, Lucy! I’m afraid you’re in for a lot of trouble!”
“I know! I’ve just been frantic trying to figure out what to do!”
“I think you should call the police and turn yourself in. Tell them Ricky came at you and you were only defending yourself. With a good lawyer, you might get off with a light sentence or maybe no sentence at all.”
“Oh, Ethel! I’ve thought about it from every angle! I want to call the police but I’m afraid they’ll be mean to me. They’re all men, aren’t they? Of course, they’ll take Ricky’s side and make me out to be the villain!”
“Oh, Lucy! What will people think when Ricky doesn’t show up at the club? You’ll have to tell them something!”
“I have a plan all worked out. I think it’ll work, but I’m going to need you and Fred to help me.”
“Oh, no! You’re not getting me mixed up in this!”
“Ethel, I thought you were my best friend!”
“I am, but I’m certainly not going to spend the next thirty years of my life in Sing-Sing in the name of friendship!”
“Oh, don’t be silly! Nobody’s going to jail!”
“But it’s murder, honey! It’s serious!”
“If you and Fred will just do what I say, everything will be all right.”
“Just how far do you think Fred and I are willing to go to help you after you’ve killed your husband?”
Ethel called Fred to come up to Ricky and Lucy’s apartment and, when they had him comfortably seated on the couch with a bottle of soda in his hand, he looked suspiciously from one to the other.
“What have you two dizzy dames got cooked up?” he asked.
“Are you going to tell him, or shall I?” Ethel asked.
“There’s no easy way to say it,” Lucy said.
“For heaven’s sake, just say it!” he said.
“Ricky and I had a terrible fight last night.”
“Yeah, what of it?”
“She severed Ricky’s jugular vein with a knife and killed him!” Ethel blurted.
“In the heat of the moment, I killed Ricky, Fred,” Lucy said. “That wasn’t really my intention, but it just happened.”
“Have you called the police?”
“Well, no, Fred. You see, I don’t think that’s necessary as long as you and Ethel help me.”
“Help you do what?”
“The furnace in the basement is really hot this time of year. I mean, there’s a big door and a big fire burning inside.”
“Oh, no! I’m not going to put Ricky’s body in the furnace!”
“With all three of us, it’ll be so easy!”
“No, I’m not getting mixed up in a crazy scheme like that! Do you think I want to spend my golden years behind bars?”
“If we do it right, Fred, nobody will ever know.”
“What do you say when people come looking for Ricky?”
“Well, I’ve thought of that, too. I’ll wait twenty-four hours and then I’ll file a missing persons report. After that it’ll be easy to make it seem that he’s run off.”
“He was cheating on her, Fred!” Ethel said.
“Yeah, he had a girlfriend named Delores.”
“If we’re lucky,” Lucy said, “we can get the police to believe that tramp Delores had something to do with his disappearance.”
“No less than she deserves!” Ethel said.
“So Ricky was stepping out!” Fred said. “The old dog!”
“I just might kill him myself if Lucy hadn’t already done it,” Ethel said.
“Well, that sort of puts things in a different light, doesn’t it?” Fred said.
“Now are you willing to help me?” Lucy asked.
“On one condition.”
“You give me one-third interest in the club.”
“Fred! I can’t give you one-third interest in the club! I don’t own the club!”
“Freddy, for once in your life do something to help somebody else without calculating what you can get out of it,” Ethel said.
“Well, it was just a thought,” he said. “You can’t blame me for trying.”
“So, you’ll help me, then?” Lucy asked.
“Looks like I don’t have much choice.”
In the middle of the night, with everybody in the building asleep, the three of them loaded Ricky’s stiff body into a large trashcan on wheels and took it down to the basement on the elevator. Fred wheeled the trashcan up to the door of the furnace; he and Ethel hefted Ricky’s body out of the can and into the furnace while Lucy stood by and chewed her nails.
“How long do you think it’ll take to burn the bones and teeth and everything?” Lucy asked.
“We’ll give it until this time tomorrow,” Fred said. “I’ll come down every couple of hours and stoke the fire.”
Lucy called the police at the appropriate time and told them Ricky had disappeared, apparently run off. He had been despondent lately over money, she said, had even mentioned suicide, and there was another woman involved. The next day, all the newspapers ran the story: Bug-Eyed Cuban Bandleader Disappears—Foul Play Not Ruled Out.
Lucy began receiving condolences from friends and business associates of Ricky’s. The phone rang day and night and Ethel stayed with Lucy to keep newspaper reporters from bothering her with silly questions. Lucy’s mother saw the news on television and called Lucy long-distance from Jamestown, New York, imploring her to “come home.”
After weeks, the case was unresolved. Police could offer no clues. They concluded that Ricky had indeed run off. There were reports of witnesses seeing him board a plane for South America on the night he disappeared. At least two people claimed to have seen him on an ocean liner bound for Greece. Others claimed to have spotted him in other locations, including a racetrack in Kansas City and a brothel in Augusta, Georgia.
The club held auditions to find a replacement band leader for Ricky. One in particular, a man named Mickey Richards, stood out because he was so much like Ricky, not only in the way he looked, but in the way he sang, talked, and walked.
Mickey Richards was hired and took over as bandleader at the Copacabana. Lucy watched him with interest and was amazed at how much like Ricky he was. The management of the club even persuaded him to change his name to Ricky Ricardo. Out in front, the theatre-type marquee proclaimed: He’s Back! He Was Never Really Gone in the First Place!”
The club was more successful than ever before, with patrons being turned away every night. People soon forgot that the real Ricky had ever left because there was a new Ricky in their midst, and this one was even better than the original.
For her part, Lucy missed Ricky terribly and was sorry she had killed him. She cried herself to sleep at night, wishing she might undo what she had done. She began making little overtures to the new Ricky, inviting him to the apartment for dinner or to a Broadway opening. A couple of times she left anonymous love notes in his dressing room at the club. She imagined that the new Ricky would fill the void left by the departure of the old Ricky and that everything would be as it was before, in the old days before he grew tired of her and fell in love with that floozy Delores.
Alas, it was not to be. The new Ricky differed from the old Ricky in one very important respect: He didn’t like bottle redheads and in fact didn’t like women at all. Lucy toyed with the idea of killing him, too, but she was afraid she wouldn’t get away with it a second time. She would talk to Fred and Ethel and ask them what they thought about it.
Copyright © 2018 by Allen Kopp