He had to go. You’ll see.

We don’t often say things like this, but in Silver’s case, one was dealing with damaged goods intent on doing further damage to himself and others. He was a menace.

My friend couldn’t see this. Pia was a lifetime do-gooder. She’d met him some time ago at a food-kitchen in downtown L.A. After retirement, Pia devoted herself to volunteer work, especially for the homeless. She was guilt-ridden. It didn’t help that he was partly Indian, a Native American; that is, of a desert tribe, the Mohave, currently flush from the burgeoning casino business. Somehow, Silver missed out on the profit-sharing; or, as he had put it, the profiteering.

Silver was once a killer and had served time in San Quentin. Even this impressed my friend, so intent was she to know someone authentic. Yes, she was so desperate to befriend a man who’d actually done something other than teach that she let him convince her that murder was an accomplishment. On top of that, he bragged to her about having roughed up other inmates while in prison. He was a survivor. She admired him for that, too. “If you think you could have gotten through a thing like that, why don’t you try?”

This effort to make me feel small spelled the end of our friendship. The whole thing had coarsened my friend and wrecked our relationship. Silver knew how to squeeze her bleeding heart. He played her like a piano. As a Holocaust survivor, she identified with his fortitude. After years of marriage to a European intellectual, a university professor, she was ready for a man of action; at least that was how I looked upon it. Her husband had been my professor. Pia felt alienated from all the Southern California success she saw around her and was relieved to finally find someone who had had a miserable life. She decided they had a lot in common. She believed he deserved a medal, not scorn.

This guy was no threat to me, but I couldn’t allow him to cause further havoc. He’d moved into my friend’s garage one summer, into rooms built back in the heyday of fine automobiles and live-in chauffeurs. The family had once kept a grand Packard sedan and even installed an underground gas tank with its very own pump. He fit right in and she had hopes that he would flourish. Instead, he went insane.

My friend Pia didn’t know how to handle an alcoholic who drank beer by the case and could down an entire bottle of vodka in an afternoon. He would rant and rave and dance around the property, throwing stones at her upstairs bedroom window at three in the morning. She’d come down to calm him and he’d bend her arm behind her back and force her down the cellar stairs to where the family kept the wine so he could steal a few bottles. This went on for ages. Police were called; Pia would be hysterical, but the thing would eventually blow over. When he sobered up, Silver apologized. On top of that, Pia was old school. She believed in loyalty and couldn’t bring herself to press charges. She refused to take responsibility for Silver’s demise. And there was always hope. Pia believed in redemption above all else.

Undoubtedly, there were quieter times. I wasn’t around. I heard about these things from friends and on occasion through Cindy, Pia’s daughter. But things were getting out of hand. One night, Silver broke Pia’s arm and locked her in the basement. He pissed on her and dragged her down the drive by her hair. He made her take out her dentures and suck his cock. He fancied himself some sort of shaman and she believed he spoke ancient truths. No matter what he did, he had her convinced he deserved a second chance. He had her under his spell. She loved him. I didn’t. This time Silver upset Cindy, but even though she was able to get a restraining order, it was not easy to kick him off the property. Not without Pia’s consent. Of course, there was nothing I could do. I just heard the stories and seethed.

Killing is not my thing, don’t get me wrong. I knew nothing of such matters, but having grown up on Gunsmoke and the like, I had a strong sense of justice, understood revenge, and recognized the benefit of murder as a solution to nagging problems. I couldn’t help thinking something had to be done.

Pia had been spending money on him. An expensive tool kit and a used Chevy van. She got him paint supplies to help start a business. She even hired him to redo the inside of the house. She gave him $10,000 to get his act together. It was all gone in a week. He treated all his friends under the freeway pass to champagne. They drank themselves silly. Someone stole the van, someone else took the tools. Or had he sold them? Who knew? In any case, it was all gone within days. Then he came crawling back drunk as a skunk and set the garage on fire. The whole place had to be knocked down and, in the meantime, Pia moved Silver into the main house. He was king. I figured he wouldn’t be going back to the garage any time soon, and I was right.

He wore a size 14 shoe and was over six foot four.  He was all man and that impressed her. I pricked up my ears when she said he had a perforated liver and had been warned not to drink or he would die. She’d taken him over to Cedars-Sinai and he’d been seen by a specialist. One more drink and that’d be it. Bad news for Silver, but Pia, of course, didn’t see it this way; she couldn’t have been happier because now she could play nurse. Hey, everyone wants power.

My friend had locks installed on the basement and grew ever vigilant. She believed she had everything under control, but I began to make my plans. I’d stopped one night at the local liquor store over by UCLA to buy cigarettes and noticed a sign offering home delivery. I made inquiries and learned that I could have a case of vodka delivered to the house and, if I did it right, she’d never find out. He’d get the booze and, knowing him, hide the bottles before she got home from delivering Meals on Wheels to bedridden millionaires in Bel Air. I ordered the vodka, the cheapest brand, and they threw in a bag of ice. I paid a bit extra for orange juice. I figured he might like a screwdriver.

And then everything turned around. He’d gone too far one night and then ran off rather than having to face her. He had brought another woman into the house and there had been violence. They’d spent time watching movies in the library, no doubt fucking on the floor, and then he’d knocked her around and who knows what all ensued. They’d wrecked the place. This time Pia was mad. She threatened to call the police. He went off to the park, his old stomping ground, and got himself cut in a fight. The police found him the next morning under a palm tree. He’d bled out. He died there where he lay. The coroner kept his body for a while and then lost it.

There was no funeral. Everyone forgave his antics, especially Pia. Everyone said he was a good guy, even her daughter. Many felt sorry. The thing of it is is that Pia liked to feel needed. Her first lover had been in the Dutch resistance but turned out to be an informer. She spent the rest of the war in a German prison camp. It was a defining experience, one that made the post-war years pale in comparison. In L.A., she suffered a life among academic phonies just back from expensive trips to Europe. Silver, although no freedom fighter, reminded her—I eventually realized—of headier times, when men were men and loyalty meant something. She wasn’t about to send anyone to jail no matter what he did. She was tough enough and, besides, she wasn’t about to rat on a guy she saw as a victim. I didn’t, but I will say this: Silver taught me something valuable. Sometimes death is the solution. That may be why people love mysteries. They identify with the killers, not the detectives.