by Rick Beck


George Hitchcock let Arnie Siegal drive him to the Delesandros' apartment. The top was down on Arnie's 1968 Cadillac convertible. It was fire engine red. George liked going in style. Arnie's car was impressive. The man in charge of the sports section at the City News knew how to go in style.

After George knocked, Jon opened the door. He was surprised to see Arnie Siegal standing beside George.

"Arnie! No one said you'd be coming," Jon said.

"Hi, Jon. He had to ask me first, after he got your call. When he said who he wanted me to talk to, I was happy to hear it. I've been waiting for you to hit the big time, Jon. He tells me you got yourself sidetracked. You should be in New York City practicing for the US Open. That's where the real competition is. Why aren't you there?"

"I did get sidetrack. Randy, Detective Couch sat me down and gave me a good talking to. I have been acting like a kid, but I'm ready now. I'm ready to get on with my tennis career. Only have so many years to make the most of my God given talent, Arnie."

George was certain that the detective's words were coming from Jon. Randy looked comfortable on the couch next to Mrs. Delesandro. His arm was stretched across Jane's shoulder, leaving no doubt where he stood. She leaned against him for support. They both listened carefully to the exchanges. Neither said anything. Jane smiled.

"Won't you sit. I can make some coffee if you like," Mrs. Delesandro said. "This is my friend, Detective Randy Couch. He was able to get Jon's attention in a way I can't."

"Don't know nothing about tennis, but I do know kids," Randy said. "I've raised four of my own."

"As I said, I don't know anything about tennis either. I brought the man who has all the answers to any sports question."

"Nix on the coffee, Mrs. D," Arnie said. "I'll only be a couple of minutes. I have a message for Jon, and I wanted to deliver it in person. George filled me in on the situation, and I was able to reach out to one of the top tennis coaches on the circuit. Luckily, I knew where he'd be. In New York for the Open. It's less than a month away. Any tennis player worth his salt will be at the Open."

"The US Open," Jon said with reverence in his voice.

"I haven't got a lot of time, Jon. Do you know who Gunther Holt is?"

"Yeah, he handles those British tennis players. He's one of the best coaches around," Jon said. "Gunther Holt!"

"He is and one of his Brits has retired. I talked to him last night. He came here to see you play at the city championship this year. He couldn't believe you weren't under contract to someone. To cut to the chase, Gunther is interested in coaching you. What would you have me tell him, Jon? The man expects to hear something today."

"Yes! Yes! Arnie, yes. Are you kidding me?" Jon asked. "Gunther Holt wants me!"

"I've got to warn you, he's not an easy man to work with. He'll hold your feet to the fire, and if you don't do what you're told, he'll drop you like a hot rock, Jon. He asked me why you weren't in New York. I simply told him you'd been in school. He wasn't impressed, but he saw you play and he thinks you have potential if you can get with the right coach."

"This is what he told me. He'll only sign on as your coach if you follow his instructions. That is all his instructions, not just the ones you like. Don't be telling me you're a go and Gunther calls me in a few weeks and tells me you're dogging it. I don't do this as a rule, but it's hard to say no to George. He told me you needed my help. Not that many athletes I'd get involved with. Slants my perspective. A reporter needs to maintain his objectivity. A lesson George hasn't learned yet, and since I know you, well, don't fuck this up. Sorry about my French," Arnie apologized.

Randy laughed an approving laugh while nodding his head.

"I do. I will. Gunther Holt! Where do I sign?" Jon asked.

"I'll tell Gunther you are a go. He'll call you within a day or two. He's going to want you in New York. Your city championship two years running qualifies you for the Open."

"The US Open," Jon said. "Thank you, Mr. Hitchcock. Sorry about the way I acted. I was confused."

"Boy's not confused any more," Randy said. "I'll want to go to New York to see him play. Take Mrs. Delesandro. Show her the city."

"Sounds like a plan," George said. "All's well that ends well, Jon."

"You can make whatever arrangements your mother thinks wise,"

"And Randy," Mrs. Delesandro said.

"Gunther will be able to secure tickets for whatever matches you want to see. It's a common courtesy given relatives."

"It's so exciting," Mrs. Delesandro said.

"Absolutely is," Arnie said. "I've got to get back to make sure my sports pages aren't getting out of hand. When the cat's away, those mice are likely to do all kinds of mischief, Jon. I'm saving a headline, 'Delesandro knocks off top ranked player.' Don't let me down," Arnie said, heading for the door with George behind him.

George wasn't sure of the time. He'd met Arnie at nine, and they spent less than fifteen minutes at the Delesandros'. It was probably a few minutes after ten when he walked into the newsroom.

"George, where have you been?" Pops asked. "You're always here early. I depend on you to be available. You're a reporter now. You can't be running around without letting me know how to get in touch with you. There's been police called to that Jon Delesandro kid's apartment. You need to get over there and cover it," Pops said.

"Just left there, Pops. Mrs. Packard raised a ruckus is my guess," George said, not sounding that interested. "Arnie and I drove over to see Jon. A police detective was there. A friend of Jon's mother. I wondered why a police detective was conveniently at her apartment during our meeting. They looked friendly, but he was there for a reason other than friendship. Nothing Arnie or I had to say required protection."

"There was a police car at the main entrance when we left. I suppose they were there for a reason. I covered the story that I thought needed to be told. The problem seems to have been resolved. If here's a new development, I'll cover it," George said.

"How can you be so sure?" Pops asked. "This just came across the wire. You left before the call went out to the police."

"Didn't anyone tell you, Pops, I'm a reporter. I'm paid to know stuff like this. It is Mrs. Packard and she was expected, Pops. Your phone's ringing," George said.

"How can you be so sure, Hitch?" Pops asked.

"I told you, Arnie Siegal and I just left Jon Delesandro's apartment. There was a police detective there. He was cozy with Jon's mom, but I figured there was more to his being there than holding hands with Mrs. Delesandro. He was waiting for something, and now I know what he was waiting for."

Pop's right eyebrow went up.

"It was Mrs. Packard, but you had no way of knowing that. Her chauffeur, a Harold Sizemore, was arrested," Pops said. "Why does that name sound so familiar to me."

"I wish I'd been there to see that. I missed him being arrested Friday night too. Harold is the one who tried to bash my brains out. He's the mayor's bodyguard. The guy I had a run in with at the mayor's news conference," George said.

"Harold Sizemore?" Pops said. "There was a Harold Sizemore who played tackle on the city's football team."

"That's Harold," George said.

"For a rookie reporter, you sure as hell have your fingers in a lot of pies. You need to call Jack Carter. He is holding something for you. He needs your call by noon. The information he is holding will go public at one," Pops said. What in the hell do you have to do with Det. Carter?"

"He's arresting the murderer of Max Stein this morning. You can read about it in the City News, the only afternoon newspaper hereabouts. I got to call Jack. Don't worry, Pops. I got everything under control. You can trust me."

Pop's eyebrow was stuck in the up position as he studied the City News' newest full-time reporter. He went back to his desk, but he didn't take his eyes off George, who was now on the phone and typing up a storm.

"Jimmy Vogal and Mrs. Stein were in custody for the murder of Max Stein. Detective Jack Carter, with his usual diligence said, 'I new who'd done it, but proving it and getting it to the D.A. took time and a little undercover work from a friend of the department."

In a half hour George took the story Carter gave him to Pops' desk, dropping it into his in-basket. Pops reached into his in-basket to take George's copy out.

"Max Stein Murder Solved," Pops said.

George watched him reading.

"Jimmy Vogal arrested," Pops said, looking at George and than back to the copy.

"Mrs. Stein in custody," Pops said, looking at George again. "Material witness also in custody. Jack Carter does his usual,wrapping up a case that had gone unsolved. Are you certain? Where do you get this stuff, George?"

"Jack Carter. I added the usual fine job line, because it's true. I was getting that information from the material witness right before I got clobbered by Harold outside of Loey's. Jack had to make sure he had Mrs. Stein covered before he arrested Vogal. He's had the material witness in custody since Monday. He clued me in when he came to the hospital to see me on Saturday. All I had to do was wait for his call and get the final details."

"I suppose you're the friend of the department mentioned here? I suppose you think all your stories are going to make the front page of the City News," Pops growled.

"That's not for me to say, Pops. I write the stories, you guys decide where they go, don't you?" George asked.

"The murder of a prominent local businessman goes unsolved for a year. Of course solving the murder goes on the front page. The city will rest easier once we tell them the Stein murder has been solved," Pops said with certainty.

"Keep your eye on City Hall, George," Pops said. "Jack Carter is going to interview the mayor after his news conference. He didn't tell you that, did he? He told me," Pops said triumphantly.

No, Jack hadn't mentioned that he would be going to interview the mayor after the news conference. There was a good reason why he hadn't told him. Detective Jack Carter wanted to get to the bottom of why Harold Sizemore went to Loey's to attack me. He knew what he'd be told by the mayor. I knew what he'd be told, but Jack would make it clear that what happened to me wasn't acceptable to him, and Mayor Packard would get the message..

It didn't take long for Pops to have somewhere for George to go. It was lunch time. George was contemplating a stop at Jerry's.

"Hitch," Pops called. "If you aren't too busy saving the universe, mayor is having a press conference. Cort's unavailable. Since you and Mayor Packard are old friends, figured you wouldn't mind taking this. Still have your credentials for City Hall?"

"Yes, I'd love to say hi to my favorite politician" George said, taking them out of his desk drawer. "What time."

"No time. Says this afternoon. Go now. Get lunch on the way."

"Don't get in any trouble," Pops yelled as George turned toward the stairs. "And don't piss the mayor off this time."

"Me? Get in trouble? Never," George said, whistling his way down the stairs.

He turned toward City Hall once he stepped outside.

There were five reporters standing near the podium on the raised platform in the room where the mayor held press conferences. The only light in the room came from two ceiling lights over the podium.

George stood just to the right of the gathering, as reporters made small talk about the current stories they were working on. George stood far enough away to be easily seen by anyone standing at the podium.

Man mountain two held the door. The mayor entered at twenty past one with no sign of Harold. George looked behind him to be sure. If the mayor noticed George, he didn't let on.

Everyone in the room was within ten feet of the mayor.

"Thank you for coming. I am announcing my separation from my wife. We've been estranged for some time, and I've come to the conclusion that our marriage is over, and I am filing for divorce later this afternoon. I'll take questions," Mayor Packard said.

There were two questions on why the mayor had decided to end his marriage. It was indefinite at best. He got up this morning and decided the marriage was over.

He didn't even have a cup of coffee before making the decision?

George held his hand high, as Mayor Packard ignored him. When there were no more questions, George jumped in.

"How did Mrs. Packard take the news, and does your decision when you got up this morning have anything to do with Harold Sizemore being arrested again. This time he was apparently arrested at the Delesandros' apartment. Wasn't Jon Delesandro the young man your wife was seeing? Does that have anything to do with the decision when you got up this morning? And what time do you get up?"

"No and no," Mayor Packard said, glaring at George.

"Harold was your bodyguard, wasn't he. Wasn't he arrested Friday night at Loey's bar in southeast?" George asked.

"Yes, and yes," Maryor Packard said, eyes blazing. "Mr. Sizemore is no longer in my employ."

"Does Harold know he's been fired? He was driving your wife's car a few hours ago, when he was arrested at the Delesandros' apartment this time. The 1968 Mercedes is registered to you, Mr. Mayor. Harold Sizemore driving it is an indication he is still in your employee, wouldn't you say?" George said.

"No," the mayor said, leaning into the microphone.

"Is Mrs. Packard having more than a casual relationship with Jon Delesandro?" George concluded.

Two other reporters raised their hand.

"Thank you for coming. This concludes this news conference," Mayor Packard said, heading for the door being held open by Man Mountain two.

"What do you think of that," one reporter said. "I knew he was looney tunes, but that went above and beyond looney."

"Who's Jon Delesandro," a reporter asked George.

"Jon who? I don't think I know him," George said before leaving City Hall for the final time if he had anything to do with it..

He left the room and City Hall, heading for the City News newsroom. He had absolutely nothing to report, but it had been fun.

He told Pops the mayor had nothing to say, except he was divorcing his wife. George didn't have anything to say about it. He'd give his notes to Cort, the man who reported on City Hall. It was up to him if he wanted to follow it up with questions the mayor wasn't going to answer.

As far as George was concerned, the less said about the reason for the divorce, the better off everyone would be. Nothing would be gained by digging out the details, which some other newspaper might decide to dig out. The stories George wrote covered everything he'd ever have to say on the Mrs. Packard and Jon Delesandro affair.

On Saturday morning, with George taking the day off, he sat in the back of the church that was filled to the rafters. They sang and rocked and prayed and sang some more. George sat just inside the doors of the church in the last pew.

Further along on the pew were two white couples. One couple was elderly. The other couple was young, having two elementary school age children with them. They'd be the families Betsy cleaned house for. He was glad to see that they thought enough of their maid to leave their well ordered lives to say goodbye.

There were more prayers. The choir sang and swayed, swayed and sang. Women used white hankies to dab at their wet cheeks. Men sat tall and stoic in suits that only came out for weddings and funerals.

After each prayer came silence. A cough, a sniffle, interrupted by the preacher's booming voice. There was beauty in the ceremony. A lot of people knew and loved the Johnson family.

Betsy looking too young to be gracing a casket, was a lovely shade of brown, little darker than a Hershey bar. Her face hadn't changed, except for the shade of brown, which made Betsy Johnson look healthier in her casket than at the time of her death.

George tried not to remember the face of the pale Betsy. The Betsy he sat with as death crept over her. George couldn't think of a more senseless death.

Who was it that sanctioned the death of a young mother in the prime of her life by denying her the proper healthcare that would have saved her life?

George watched Betsy Johnson's bronze coffin wheeled past him. Following the casket was a tall black man with pride in his anguished steps. In each hand was the hand of one of his two older children; his face a mask that hid his grief.

Behind him a man and a woman walked together. In the woman's arms, a child no more than two. She favored Betsy and she'd have been her mother. The man was her father. The child was Betsy's youngest, and her mother would now help raise her daughter's children. A burden thrust upon her in her golden years, but as Betsy's mother, she'd have it no other way.

Once they passed, people from the front of the church began to follow them. George stood and fell in line behind the group. The two couples sitting beside George fell in line behind him.

The burial was behind the church. It was a shady spot. There were flowers planted along the path to her grave site. The lawns surrounding the burial plot were perfectly cut. Between clusters of graves were gardens. The flowers were in full bloom, giving off a sweet fragrance that scented the late morning air.

George kept his distance. He had no connection to Betsy Johnson. He happened to be present when she died. No one would think that entitled him to barge into her funeral and start asking questions. "How do you feel about Betsy dying like that?'

George cringed, hearing the voice of an annoying reporter poking a microphones into the face of someone in mourning.

He did say a prayer for Betsy. These were the time George wanted to believe there was an god.

George wasn't a reporter today. He wasn't there to get the story. He was with Betsy when she left the world. He needed to make sure she received a respectful burial. It became his responsibility to do that. There were so many people.

It made him feel better to see all the people. He was glad Betsy had been so well thought of. It did make the entire affair easier for him, if not for them.

It was early afternoon when the people returned to the church to eat. Each woman prepared her specialty, adding it to the food that was plentiful enough for everyone to eat their fill.

George had no appetite. He returned to the church because everyone else did. The display of food was remarkable, and the men went first, filling their plates, and the women and children followed. Men always went first. George wondered whose idea that was.

Mr. Johnson stood next to the food, greeting each person who had come to send Betsy off. He shook every hand and didn't once waver. The children and their grandparents had gone. The day had already been too long for them.

George watched Mr. Johnson return home. He was alone.

George considered the task at hand. Did he really want to bring more pain to Betsy's husband? It was his final obligation to Betsy and he saw no way to avoid it.

Just before five, George knocked softly on the Johnsons' door. Not an insistent knock. A polite notification someone was there.

"Yes," Mr. Johnson said, his eyes settling on George.

"Mr. Johnson, I'm George Hitchcock, City News."

"I... I just buried my wife. I got nothing to say to you people. Don't you have any respect at all?" the anger was clear, and his words were the heaviest words George had ever heard a man utter.

He instantly regretted disturbing James Johnson's mourning. What right did he have to be here?

It was too late to turn back now.

"Mr. Johnson, I was with Betsy when she died. Her last words were about you and your children,. I'm certain she'd expect me to tell you what she said" George said in a plea for understanding.

Mr. Johnson came to attention. He regarded George differently.

"You're the one who wrote that article. You told my Betsy's story to the world! Won't you come in, Mr. Hitchcock. Can I get you a cup of coffee? I just now put a pot on the stove."

After stepping inside, the door closed behind George.

Writer's Note:

When I heard a description of Lorena Alice 'Hick' Hickok, it captivated me. It is said that Hick was a lesbian. I believe she was trans long before anything was known about being trans. She did the things men did. She did things woman weren't allowed to do.

A few years ago I met Virginia, who was male trans. She had come to tell me her story in 2002. I was captivated by him. Virginia looked and talked like a man, because he was a trans man.

While I was coming out, I often ended up with hustlers and drag queens. They were the most fascinating people in the gay spectrum. They dressed up when they went out. They became different people.

Gay men dressed up to go out in the 1960s. Most used false names. Many had their gay persona. Their gay life was often as far from who they were in their straight lives as you could get, but that was the game you needed to play if you wanted to be out in the 60s..

Some gay men in the 1960s got married to a woman, had families, distancing themselves from their homosexual feelings. They blended into the society that hated them. I mention this because I hear from "gay married men" more than I hear from any group I can identify. There are a large number of these men.

Bisexual men in the 60s were gay men in denial, according to other gay men. The same men who assumed fake identities when going to a gay bar. What do you think about bisexuals?

At the Stonewall bar in June 1969, drag queens dragged us kicking and screaming into the modern LGBTQ age. Were they men dressed as women? Were they trans dressing in a way that matched who they felt like they were? What do you think about drag queens? In the 1960s drag queens were the bane of gay men. People identified drag queens as gay men. In reality they weren't gay or men. They were trans for the most part. No one knew what that was.

In 1969 it was criminal for a man to go out in public in women's clothing. Who were the drag queens in the Stonewall? Why were they angry enough to throw the police out of the Stonewall?

Few people knew who trans people were in 1969. Certainly no one knew the word while Hick and Eleanor Roosevelt were friends.

What do you know about the gay people who blazed the trail for us? Do you know who Frank Kameny is? Larry Kramer? They should be your heroes. They stood up while we hid in our closets.

I created Hitch to write about what Hick might have been like if she entered journalism in the 1960s. I used a description of Lorena Alice 'Hick' Hickok that I heard on an NPR show to build George 'Hitch' Hitchcock, and it was the most difficult writing I've ever done.

It's time we rethink who we are as a people. How do you view bisexuals, lesbians, trans people? Are we a a people who respects everyone's right to be who they are? We weren't in the 1960s.

We've rethought the idea that bisexuals are in denial. Gay men and lesbians had no use for each other at one time. AIDS created the need for the LGBTQ Nation to come together to help the sick and dying in every way possible, because no one else seemed to care. That's how we became the LGBTQ Nation. It was out of necessity.

We lost our invisibility. People began to see us because we were dying. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and people we worked with friends from high school were dying all around us. Dying of AIDS.

Few of us know all the ways there are to be gay. I've been writing about it for 25 years now. I want to write a story for every way there is to be gay. I want to write stories about where gay people can be found.


'Rick Beck Stories' in a browser will get you to the gay literary sites where I post my stories. You will find wonderful gay authors at these sites, writing about the many ways there are to be gay. Reading their stories will tell you more about yourself.

Happy reading!

Peace & Love,

Rick Beck


Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead