Excerpt from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

A Savannah Story

by John Berendt

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
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  • First Published:
    Jan 1994, 386 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 1999, 255 pages

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"Inside, Danny will be seething because I won't come right down there. He won't show it, though, because he knows I'm the only one who'll help him. He knows I'll call the bonds-man and tell them to go get him out, and they will. But I won't do that until morning, after the drugs have worn off."

Williams gave no outward sign that he was at all embar-rassed by the human tornado that had just passed through his house.

"Danny has two distinct personalities," he said. "He can switch from one to the other like turning the pages of a book." Williams was speaking about Danny with calm de-tachment, just as he had spoken earlier about the Waterford crystal chandelier in the dining room, the portrait by Jere-miah Theus in the parlor, and the judge's son and the gang-ster's moll. But he did not address the most curious question of all: Danny's presence in Mercer House and the fact that he apparently had the run of it. The incongruity was star-tling. Perhaps it registered on my face, because Williams of-fered something of an explanation.

"I have hypoglycemia," he said, "and lately I've been blacking out. Danny stays here sometimes to baby-sit me when I'm not feeling well."

It may have been the Madeira, or the atmosphere of frank-ness that Williams had inspired with his stories--at any rate, I felt free to observe that blacking out alone might be pref-erable to having this person running loose in the house. Wil-liams laughed. "Actually, I think Danny may be improving a little."

"Improving? Over what?"

"Two weeks ago, we had a similar scene, but it ended a bit more dramatically. Danny was agitated that time because his best friend had made a disparaging remark about his car, and his girlfriend had refused to marry him. Danny came back to the house and carried on about it, and before I knew what was happening, he had stomped a small table, thrown a bronze lamp against the wall, and slammed a cut-glass wa-ter pitcher on the floor with so much force it made a perma-nent imprint on the heart-pine floorboards. But he wasn't through yet. He took one of my German Lugers and fired a bullet into the floor upstairs. Then he ran out the front door and fired another shot into Monterey Square, trying to knock out a streetlight.

"Naturally, I called the police. But when Danny heard the sirens, he tossed the gun into the bushes, ran indoors, flew up the stairs, and jumped into bed with all his clothes on. The cops were no more than a minute behind him, but by the time they got upstairs, Danny was pretending to be fast asleep. When they 'woke' him, he put on an act of confusion and denied he'd broken anything or shot any guns. But the police noticed tiny drops of blood on his arms from the little splinters of glass that had shot up when he smashed the pitcher on the floor. So they took him off to jail. I figured the longer I left him there the madder he'd get, so the next morning I dropped the charges and got him out."

I did not ask the obvious question: Why do you have any-thing to do with him? Instead, I asked a question of more immediate concern: "You said Danny had fired 'one of' your German Lugers. How many do you have?"

"Several," said Williams. "I need them for security. I'm here by myself a lot, and I've had a couple of robberies. The second robbery was pulled off by a man who was armed with a submachine gun, and I was asleep upstairs at the time. That's when I installed the alarm system. It works fine when I'm out of the house or upstairs, but I can't throw the switch when I'm walking around down here on the main floor, because it'll summon the police. So I keep pistols in strategic places. There's a Luger in the rear library, another in a desk drawer in my office, a third in the Irish linen press in the hall, and a Smith and Wesson in the living room. I've also got a shotgun and three or four rifles upstairs. The pistols are loaded."

Excerpted from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. Copyright© 1994 by John Berendt. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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