Rosemary's Babyby Ira Levin
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By Ira Levin
PEGASUS BOOKSCopyright © 1967 Ira Levin
All rights reserved.
Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse had signed a lease on a five-room apartment in a geometric white house on First Avenue when they received word, from a woman named Mrs. Cortez, that a four-room apartment in the Bramford had become available. The Bramford, old, black, and elephantine, is a warren of high-ceilinged apartments prized for their fireplaces and Victorian detail. Rosemary and Guy had been on its waiting list since their marriage but had finally given up.
Guy relayed the news to Rosemary, stopping the phone against his chest. Rosemary groaned "Oh no!" and looked as if she would weep.
"It's too late," Guy said to the phone. "We signed a lease yesterday." Rosemary caught his arm. "Couldn't we get out of it?" she asked him. "Tell them something?"
"Hold on a minute, will you, Mrs. Cortez?" Guy stopped the phone again. "Tell them what?" he asked.
Rosemary floundered and raised her hands helplessly. "I don't know, the truth. That we have a chance to get into the Bramford."
"Honey," Guy said, "they're not going to care about that."
"You'll think of something, Guy. Let's just look, all right? Tell her we'll look. Please. Before she hangs up."
"We signed a lease, Ro; we're stuck."
"Please! She'll hang up!" Whimpering with mock anguish, Rosemary pried the phone from Guy's chest and tried to push it up to his mouth.
Guy laughed and let the phone be pushed. "Mrs. Cortez? It turns out there's a chance we'll be able to get out of it, because we haven't signed the actual lease yet. They were out of the forms so we only signed a letter of agreement. Can we take a look at the apartment?"
Mrs. Cortez gave instructions: they were to go to the Bramford between eleven and eleven-thirty, find Mr. Micklas or Jerome, and tell whichever they found that they were the party she had sent to look at 7E. Then they were to call her. She gave Guy her number.
"You see how you can think of things?" Rosemary said, putting Peds and yellow shoes on her feet. "You're a marvelous liar."
Guy, at the mirror, said, "Christ, a pimple."
"Don't squeeze it."
"It's only four rooms, you know. No nursery."
"I'd rather have four rooms in the Bramford," Rosemary said, "than a whole floor in that—that white cellblock."
"Yesterday you loved it."
"I liked it. I never loved it. I'll bet not even the architect loves it. We'll make a dining area in the living room and have a beautiful nursery, when and if."
"Soon," Guy said. He ran an electric razor back and forth across his upper lip, looking into his eyes, which were brown and large. Rosemary stepped into a yellow dress and squirmed the zipper up the back of it.
They were in one room, that had been Guy's bachelor apartment. It had posters of Paris and Verona, a large day bed and a pullman kitchen.
It was Tuesday, the third of August.
Mr. Micklas was small and dapper but had fingers missing from both hands, which made shaking hands an embarrassment, though not apparently for him. "Oh, an actor," he said, ringing for the elevator with a middle finger. "We're very popular with actors." He named four who were living at the Bramford, all of them well known. "Have I seen you in anything?"
"Let's see," Guy said. "I did Hamlet a while back, didn't I, Liz? And then we made The Sandpiper ..."
"He's joking," Rosemary said. "He was in Luther and Nobody Loves An Albatross and a lot of television plays and television commercials."
"That's where the money is, isn't it?" Mr. Micklas said; "the commercials."
"Yes," Rosemary said, and Guy said, "And the artistic thrill, too."
Rosemary gave him a pleading look; he gave back one of stunned innocence and then made a leering vampire face at the top of Mr. Micklas's head.
The elevator—oak-paneled, with a shining brass handrail all around—was run by a uniformed Negro boy with a locked-in-place smile. "Seven," Mr. Micklas told him; to Rosemary and Guy he said, "This apartment has four rooms, two baths, and five closets. Originally the house consisted of very large apartments—the smallest was a nine—but now they've almost all been broken up into fours, fives, and sixes. Seven E is a four that was originally the back part of a ten. It has the original kitchen and master bath, which are enormous, as you'll soon see. It has the original master bedroom for its living room, another bedroom for its bedroom, and two servant's rooms thrown together for its dining room or second bedroom. Do you have children?"
"We plan to," Rosemary said.
"It's an ideal child's room, with a full bathroom and a large closet. The whole set-up is made to order for a young couple like yourselves."
The elevator stopped and the Negro boy, smiling, chivied it down, up, and down again for a closer alignment with the floor rail outside; and still smiling, pulled in the brass inner gate and the outer rolling door. Mr. Micklas stood aside and Rosemary and Guy stepped out—into a dimly lighted hallway walled and carpeted in dark green. A workman at a sculptured green door marked 7B looked at them and turned back to fitting a peepscope into its cut-out hole.
Mr. Micklas led the way to the right and then to the left, through short branches of dark green hallway. Rosemary and Guy, following, saw rubbed-away places in the wallpaper and a seam where it had lifted and was curling inward; saw a dead light bulb in a cut-glass sconce and a patched place of light green tape on the dark green carpet. Guy looked at Rosemary: Patched carpet? She looked away and smiled brightly: I love it; everything's lovely!
"The previous tenant, Mrs. Gardenia," Mr. Micklas said, not looking back at them, "passed away only a few days ago and nothing has been moved out of the apartment yet. Her son asked me to tell whoever looks at it that the rugs, the air conditioners, and some of the furniture can be had practically for the asking." He turned into another branch of hallway papered in newer-looking green and gold stripes.
"Did she die in the apartment?" Rosemary asked. "Not that it—"
"Oh, no, in a hospital," Mr. Micklas said. "She'd been in a coma for weeks. She was very old and passed away without ever waking. I'll be grateful to go that way myself when the time comes. She was chipper right to the end; cooked her own meals, shopped the departments stores ...She was one of the first women lawyers in New York State."
They came now to a stairwell that ended the hallway. Adjacent to it, on the left, was the door of apartment 7E, a door without sculptured garlands, narrower than the doors they had passed. Mr. Micklas pressed the pearl bell button—L. Gardenia was mounted above it in white letters on black plastic—and turned a key in the lock. Despite lost fingers he worked the knob and threw the door smartly. "After you, please," he said, leaning forward on his toes and holding the door open with the length of an outstretched arm.
The apartment's four rooms were divided two and two on either side of a narrow central hallway that extended in a straight line from the front door. The first room on the right was the kitchen, and at the sight of it Rosemary couldn't keep from giggling, for it was as large if not larger than the whole apartment in which they were then living. It had a six-burner gas stove with two ovens, a mammoth refrigerator, a monumental sink; it had dozens of cabinets, a window on Seventh Avenue, a high high ceiling, and it even had—imagining away Mrs. Gardenia's chrome table and chairs and roped bales of Fortune and Musical America—the perfect place for something like the blue-and-ivory breakfast nook she had clipped from last month's House Beautiful.
Opposite the kitchen was the dining room or second bedroom, which Mrs. Gardenia had apparently used as a combination study and greenhouse. Hundreds of small plants, dying and dead, stood on jerry-built shelves under spirals of unlighted fluorescent tubing; in their midst a rolltop desk spilled over with books and papers. A handsome desk it was, broad and gleaming with age. Rosemary left Guy and Mr. Micklas talking by the door and went to it, stepping over a shelf of withered brown fronds. Desks like this were displayed in antique-store windows; Rosemary wondered, touching it, if it was one of the things that could be had practically for the asking. Graceful blue penmanship on mauve paper said than merely the intriguing pastime I believed it to be. I can no longer associate myself—and she caught herself snooping and looked up at Mr. Micklas turning from Guy. "Is this desk one of the things Mrs. Gardenia's son wants to sell?" she asked.
"I don't know," Mr. Micklas said. "I could find out for you, though."
"It's a beauty," Guy said.
Rosemary said "Isn't it?" and smiling, looked about at walls and windows. The room would accommodate almost perfectly the nursery she had imagined. It was a bit dark—the windows faced on a narrow courtyard—but the white-and-yellow wallpaper would brighten it tremendously. The bathroom was small but a bonus, and the closet, filled with potted seedlings that seemed to be doing quite well, was a good one.
They turned to the door, and Guy asked, "What are all these?"
"Herbs, mostly," Rosemary said. "There's mint and basil ... I don't know what these are."
Farther along the hallway there was a guest closet on the left, and then, on the right, a wide archway opening onto the living room. Large bay windows stood opposite, two of them, with diamond panes and three-sided window seats. There was a small fireplace in the right-hand wall, with a scrolled white marble mantel, and there were high oak bookshelves on the left.
"Oh, Guy," Rosemary said, finding his hand and squeezing it. Guy said "Mm" noncommittally but squeezed back; Mr. Micklas was beside him.
"The fireplace works, of course," Mr. Micklas said.
The bedroom, behind them, was adequate—about twelve by eighteen, with its windows facing on the same narrow courtyard as those of the dining-room-second-bedroom-nursery. The bathroom, beyond the living room, was big, and full of bulbous white brass-knobbed fixtures.
"It's a marvelous apartment!" Rosemary said, back in the living room. She spun about with opened arms, as if to take and embrace it. "I love it!"
"What she's trying to do," Guy said, "is get you to lower the rent."
Mr. Micklas smiled. "We would raise it if we were allowed," he said. "Beyond the fifteen-per-cent increase, I mean. Apartments with this kind of charm and individuality are as rare as hen's teeth today. The new—" He stopped short, looking at a mahogany secretary at the head of the central hallway. "That's odd," he said. "There's a closet behind that secretary. I'm sure there is. There are five: two in the bedroom, one in the second bedroom, and two in the hallway, there and there." He went closer to the secretary.
Guy stood high on tiptoes and said, "You're right. I can see the corners of the door."
"She moved it," Rosemary said. "The secretary; it used to be there." She pointed to a peaked silhouette left ghost-like on the wall near the bedroom door, and the deep prints of four ball feet in the burgundy carpet. Faint scuff-trails curved and crossed from the four prints to the secretary's feet where they stood now against the narrow adjacent wall.
"Give me a hand, will you?" Mr. Micklas said to Guy.
Between them they worked the secretary bit by bit back toward its original place. "I see why she went into a coma," Guy said, pushing.
"She couldn't have moved this by herself," Mr. Micklas said; "she was eighty-nine."
Rosemary looked doubtfully at the closet door they had uncovered. "Should we open it?" she asked. "Maybe her son should."
The secretary lodged neatly in its four footprints. Mr. Micklas massaged his fingers-missing hands. "I'm authorized to show the apartment," he said, and went to the door and opened it. The closet was nearly empty; a vacuum cleaner stood at one side of it and three or four wood boards at the other. The overhead shelf was stacked with blue and green bath towels.
"Whoever she locked in got out," Guy said.
Mr. Micklas said, "She probably didn't need five closets."
"But why would she cover up her vacuum cleaner and her towels?" Rosemary asked.
Mr. Micklas shrugged. "I don't suppose we'll ever know. She may have been getting senile after all." He smiled. "Is there anything else I can show you or tell you?"
"Yes," Rosemary said. "What about the laundry facilities? Are there washing machines downstairs?"
They thanked Mr. Micklas, who saw them out onto the sidewalk, and then they walked slowly uptown along Seventh Avenue.
"It's cheaper than the other," Rosemary said, trying to sound as if practical considerations stood foremost in her mind.
"It's one room less, honey," Guy said.
Rosemary walked in silence for a moment, and then said, "It's better located."
"God, yes," Guy said. "I could walk to all the theaters."
Heartened, Rosemary leaped from practicality. "Oh Guy, let's take it! Please! Please! It's such a wonderful apartment! She didn't do anything with it, old Mrs. Gardenia! That living room could be—it could be beautiful, and warm, and—oh please, Guy, let's take it, all right?"
"Well sure," Guy said, smiling. "If we can get out of the other thing."
Rosemary grabbed his elbow happily. "We will!" she said. "You'll think of something, I know you will!"
Guy telephoned Mrs. Cortez from a glass-walled booth while Rosemary, outside, tried to lip-read. Mrs. Cortez said she would give them until three o'clock; if she hadn't heard from them by then she would call the next party on the waiting list.
They went to the Russian Tea Room and ordered Bloody Mary's and chicken salad sandwiches on black bread.
"You could tell them I'm sick and have to go into the hospital," Rosemary said.
But that was neither convincing nor compelling. Instead Guy spun a story about a call to join a company of Come Blow Your Horn leaving for a four-month USO tour of Vietnam and the Far East. The actor playing Alan had broken his hip and unless he, Guy, who knew the part from stock, stepped in and replaced him, the tour would have to be postponed for at least two weeks. Which would be a damn shame, the way those kids over there were slugging away against the Commies. His wife would have to stay with her folks in Omaha ...
He ran it twice and went to find the phone.
Rosemary sipped her drink, keeping her left hand all-fingers-crossed under the table. She thought about the First Avenue apartment she didn't want and made a conscientious mental list of its good points; the shiny new kitchen, the dishwasher, the view of the East River, the central air conditioning ...
The waitress brought the sandwiches.
A pregnant woman went by in a navy blue dress. Rosemary watched her. She must have been in her sixth or seventh month, talking back happily over her shoulder to an older woman with packages, probably her mother.
Someone waved from the opposite wall—the red-haired girl who had come into CBS a few weeks before Rosemary left. Rosemary waved back. The girl mouthed something and, when Rosemary didn't understand, mouthed it again. A man facing the girl turned to look at Rosemary, a starved-looking waxen-faced man.
And there came Guy, tall and handsome, biting back his grin, with yes glowing all over him.
"Yes?" Rosemary asked as he took his seat opposite her.
"Yes," he said. "The lease is void; the deposit will be returned; I'm to keep an eye open for Lieutenant Hartman of the Signal Corps. Mrs. Cortez awaits us at two."
"You called her?"
"I called her."
The red-haired girl was suddenly with them, flushed and bright-eyed. "I said 'Marriage certainly agrees with you, you look marvelous,'" she said.
Rosemary, ransacking for the girl's name, laughed and said, "Thank you! We're celebrating. We just got an apartment in the Bramford!"
"The Bram?" the girl said. "I'm mad about it! If you ever want to sub-let, I'm first, and don't you forget it! All those weird gargoyles and creatures climbing up and down between the windows!"
Excerpted from Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin. Copyright © 1967 Ira Levin. Excerpted by permission of PEGASUS BOOKS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are saying about this
"Suspense is beautifully intertwined with everyday incidents; the delicate line between belief and disbelief is faultlessly drawn."
New York Times
"A darkly brilliant tale of modern deviltry that induces the reader to believe the unbelievable. I believed it and was altogether enthralled."
"Impossible to put down. . . . Ever so subtly Levin has stripped his audience of their rational defenses and holds them in his clutches . . . the climax is an icy shock which no one will ever forget."
Meet the Author
Ira Levin is the author of The Boys from Brazil, Rosemary’s Baby, Son of Rosemary, The Stepford
Wives, This Perfect Day, Sliver, and A Kiss Before Dying (for which he won the Edgar Award). Levin was also the recipient of three Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Awards. His website is iralevin.org.
Otto Penzler is the proprietor of the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City. He is the founder of the Mysterious Press and Otto Penzler Books, and has received an Edgar Award, an Ellery Queen Award, and a Raven Award for his contribution to the mystery field. His anthology The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps was a New York Times Bestseller.
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