A Cast of Killers - By Katy Munger


Naturally, the phone rang just as Tyrone enveloped Camilla in his massive arms and drew her closer to him. T.S. sighed. He had been waiting for this kiss for two weeks now, enduring illegitimate children, plastic surgery, a murder conspiracy, the talking dead and other silly subplots along the way. All for this one single fulfilling moment—a moment now about to be spoiled by a shrill electronic intrusion.

Well, he'd just let the answering machine pick up. He was retired now. He didn't have to answer the phone unless he damn well felt like it.

Unless it was Auntie Lil, of course. Mere machines could not stop her.

It was Auntie Lil. "Theodore!" Her foghorn of a voice, amplified considerably by the answering machine, boomed through his apartment and caused Brenda and Eddie to stir in dreamy feline discomfort.

He ignored her. On screen, Tyrone quivered above Camilla. Their faces wavered closer and closer together, as if controlled by bursts of magnetic force. T.S. had never experienced a kiss like that, but it was just as well. Their necks were weaving from side to side like cobras and he'd no doubt pull a muscle if he tried the same.

"Theodore, I know you're home. And I know you're watching those silly soap operas. You're rotting your brain. Pick up the phone at once or I'm coming over in person. By cab."

T.S. sighed. Auntie Lil would do it, too. She'd be there in twenty minutes and run a white-gloved hand over the television set for signs of heat. Then she'd never let him forget that she'd been right. He picked up the phone reluctantly. Best to stave her off.

"I am not watching soap operas," he replied indignantly. "I am trying to read The New Yorker without interruption, for a change." He nudged the television's volume down a few notches with his free hand. Auntie Lil was a bit hard of hearing. Chances were good she'd never know for sure.

"Nonsense. I've been calling you every day for two weeks now between noon and 1:00 p.m. and you never pick up the phone. I know quite well that "Life's Interludes" is on right now. I know what you're up to, Theodore, and frankly I'm a little disappointed in you. Retirement is not a death sentence. There's no reason for you to turn your brain into Jello. Thirty-five years of work does not entitle you to fifty more of pure laziness."

He sighed again. There was no arguing with Auntie Lil. His own fifty-five years of humble existence could not begin to match her eighty-four years of self-proclaimed authority.

"What was it you wanted, Aunt Lil?" he asked absently, his attention drawn back to the television. The couple on screen were kissing at last. And last and last and last. T.S. stared. Good Lord, when were they coming up for air? He liked romance as much as the next person, but this really was getting silly. Their lips were being mashed about like silly putty. Surely the show's writers didn't believe that people really enjoyed such fleshy gymnastics.

Or did they?

T.S. was no authority on romance; he'd devoted his entire adult life to his business career instead. His few brief forays into romance had been, without exception, disastrous and deeply distressing to his personal dignity. As a highly eligible bachelor, he had been subjected to extremely innovative pressure techniques from several otherwise sane middle-aged women. He'd found these experiences humiliating for all concerned.

Auntie Lil's brisk voice cut through his thoughts. "Good. Then it's all settled," she said with great satisfaction. "You'll be glad that you did."

"Glad I did what?" The television set flickered, as if the celluloid couple's heat was too much for its cables. And still they kissed on.

Auntie Lil sighed with the patience of a weary martyr. "You're not paying the least bit of attention to what I say, are you?"

"Of course I am..." My God—Camilla had pulled away from Tyrone and slapped him across the face. It was a most unexpected plot development. What had Tyrone done to deserve such treatment? T.S. must have missed it. Or was there something going on down there in the waist area, outside of camera range? T.S. leaned forward and scrutinized the screen more carefully, searching for a clue.

"I'm going to march over there right now and rip that television cord out of the wall," Auntie Lil said firmly. "I will not have my favorite nephew turning into some kind of a mesmerized zombie who hums jingles and knows the names of sitcom