“I wanted you to be the first to know,” Roman had confided in me. “I’m going to kill Henry Smithers.”

“Gone off your meds again, eh, Row?” I had been through these self-destructive episodes before. Roman had expressed a desire to marry Prince Harry before Markle got to him, and then there was all the brouhaha in Tijuana about going into business with El Chapo.

“Henry Smithers is a damn rotter, and you know that,” Roman insisted.

“You’re not the Avenging Angel of Agincourt again…” That escapade landed him in a Paris jail with an evangelizing jihadi.

There we were, two Kappa Nus frat brothers enjoying a Bloomin’ Onion at Outback Steakhouse, but I wanted my rib-eye medium rare, not more appetizers. I am a firm believer that carbs redirect one’s attention. “I suppose it’s a moot question, but what has Smithers done to you to deserve a demise?”

Rowan’s exasperated sigh blew out the candle on the table. To this day, I do not understand why a chain food establishment feels it necessary to decorate with a soy product.

“For God’s sake, Blake Herrington, do you never read my text messages? Henry Smithers took unflattering photos of Eleanor’s derriere and posted them on social media!”

I searched my memory. I did receive a text from Roman about the post, and immediately verified the truth of his accusation by checking Smithers’ Facebook thread. There was a photo of Eleanor’s ample rear, hardly covered by a red triangle of cloth secured in her crack by a bungee cord. Since I’d seen Eleanor’s behind before, I recognized it instantly, but never found it offensive. I like the small brown mole on her right cheek.

“Eleanor’s an attractive woman. I wouldn’t be upset if others found out about it,” I said.

He lowered his eyes and brought a piece of onion bloom to his lips. “I haven’t been able to—you know—perform since.”

“You’ve given up acting in community theater?” It was a hobby that occupied him away from home on Thursday nights.

“Nothing could induce me to do that! I mean perform in the Biblical sense.”

His confession of immature ejaculation explained Eleanor’s persistent texts inviting me to tea when she prefers lemonade. “I see,” I said. “Have you a murder plan in mind?”

If I got him to tell me, I might be able to warn Smithers that Roman was gunning for him, even if I couldn’t bring myself to tell the police. Roman might find out it was me that ratted him out, and I was fonder of Roman than of Smithers. He was such an unenthusiastic pledge.

“Of course, I have a plan, and you’re part of it.”

“I hope you don’t expect me to be the decoy. Henry won’t have anything to do with me since I dallied with his Dolly.”

Rowan’s eyes narrowed. “I hope you weren’t indulging in intimacies with him again, Blake,” he said.

“Dolly was his girlfriend,” I hastily explained, and was a little miffed at his reference to a passing prank-night experimentation.

“I didn’t know Henry dated Dolly. I thought she was David Hackmore’s dalliance. Had I known she was Henry’s heartthrob, this murder might have been preventable. I could have posted pictures of her pubes for the public to pant over.”

My rib-eye and Roman’s T-bone steak arrived then. The conversation lulled a bit as we ravished our red meat in symbolic destruction of the vegan meat protesters parading their “Love a Cow, Eat Vegetables” signs outside our window. Roman sliced off a forkful and waved the skewered chunk of bovine carcass around to get their attention, gobbled it down with a smile, and smacked his lips in a splendid show of enjoyment. He really was a superb actor considering he was nursing a bruised, impotent ego at the time.

“Are you going to have pie?” I asked after we finished our meat and potatoes.

“Just another whiskey sour for me, thanks.” I was sure he stopped his meds when he said that. He never disobeyed doctor’s orders against mixing alcohol with opioids unless it was a holiday. “Are you going to help a fellow Kappa Nu or not?” he demanded.

“It depends on your expectations for my involvement,” I said.

Roman whispered. “I want you to lure him to the pier. I’ll do the rest.”

“The rest being…?”

“I’m going to stab him, wrap him in a spinnaker, weigh him down with construction blocks that I’ll have in the trunk of my car, put on my scuba gear, and lash him to a pylon twenty-feet down.”

The plan had earmarks of thoroughness, but serious flaws. “You do realize your boat is berthed at Seaport Village and there are at least fifty other boats in incestuous proximity, and there are two twelve-story hotels overlooking the piers, right? Possibly a thousand pairs of eyes might see you, Row. Location. Location. Location.”

Roman tapped the end of his fork slowly on the table, contemplating my contribution to reality. It was becoming apparent to me he hadn’t considered the location detail at all.

Now, the challenge for a Kappa Nu has always been accommodating new information, incorporating it into his world view, and formulating an alternative acceptable outcome. Roman, being a theater arts major, was always torn by conflicting demands on his intellectual capacities, and I finished off a decaf coffee and a slab of lemon meringue pie before he spoke again.

“You’re right,” he said finally. “I’ll need a distraction. Right before I dispatch Henry Smithers, you’ll blow up a boat.”


“It seemed just the ticket,” I tried explaining to the police. I got information about IEDs off the Internet, but there was no mention of possible harm to adjacent sea craft. I had no idea that innocent objects, given enough velocity, might become lethal spears, cannonballs, or fire-starters. I certainly didn’t expect people to be aboard their sea crafts on a Tuesday evening either.

“Is Roman going to be alright?” I wanted to know.

Henry Smithers, unfortunately, had been the recipient of a projectile that pierced him between the shoulder blades, a large splinter of a maimed mast, the EMTs reported. To his credit, Roman admitted that the explosive faux pas was part of his murder plot, and pointed out that neither of us had actually killed Henry—or the retired couple who were celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary on their new boat, ironically named Heavenly Excursion. Still, the police and the media adamantly refused to accept his admission as a mitigating circumstance. That is how David Hackmore, Esq. got involved in the cabal. He studied law. I studied business administration. No wonder his relationship with Dolly didn’t last.

Roman told me that just before the wooden spike split Smithers’ sternum, during their conversation, Smithers maintained he got the photos of Eleanor from me, but Roman steadfastly refused to believe him. “A man staring death in the face is likely to say any crazy thing that pops into his head,” Roman said as we shared a lunch of prison-prepared vegetables. We both inquired whether the warden had caved into pressure from the vegan crowd, and Roman confided in me that he did believe that Eleanor was having an affair with someone. He just didn’t know who.

As we were now part of a larger, much fiercer brotherhood, living in close quarters, I felt it prudent not to divulge particulars.