Everybody dies, p.16
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       Everybody Dies, p.16

         Part #14 of Matthew Scudder series by Lawrence Block
 
Page 16

 

  There were a couple of other familiar faces, too.

  I walked to where Mick was sitting, picked up my coffee mug, and carried it to a table along the wall. His eyes widened at this, but when I motioned for him he joined me, bringing his bottle and glass.

  "You didnt care for the other table?"

  "Too close to those folks," I said. "I didnt want to listen to their conversation, or for them to be listening to ours. "

  "I already heard enough of theirs," he said, amusement in his eyes. "Its a serious discussion of their relationship that theyre having. "

  "I thought it might be," I said, and then I told him about my visit to the Lucky Panda, and his eyes hardened and his face turned serious.

  And now he said, "I was wrong to get you involved. "

  "I could have turned you down. "

  "And would have, had you known what you were getting into. Id no idea myself Id be putting you in danger. But youre in it now, man. "

  "I know it. "

  "They didnt believe youd heed their warning. Or didnt care. You embarrassed them, made them look bad. Thats more than my two did, for Jesus sake. "

  "Kenny and McCartney. "

  "Executed, the poor lads. "

  Two tables away, the fellow got up and went to the bar for fresh drinks. The woman looked sidelong at me, the trace of a smile on her lips. Then she lowered her eyes.

  "And Peter Rooney," Mick said.

  "Thats a familiar name. Do I know him?"

  "You might have met him here. Let me see, how would you know him? Well, now, he had the tattoo of a ships anchor on the back of his left hand, just below the wrist. "

  I nodded. "Long, narrow face, balding in front. "

  "Thats the man. "

  "He had the look of a sailor, too. "

  "And what sort of look is that? Ah, never mind. The ferry to Staten Island is all the sailing he ever did. Or will do. "

  "Whys that?"

  He regarded his glass of whiskey He said, "You know I always have some money on the street. The Jews taught me that. Its like bread upon the water, isnt it? You put your money on the street and it comes back to you multiplied. Peter worked for me, at the job sites and the union halls. Making loans, you know, and receiving payments. He did none of the heavy work, you understand, as he was not cut out for it. A strong warning was as far as hed go. After that Id have to send someone else. Or go myself, as likely as not. "

  "What happened to him?"

  "They found him stuffed head first into a trash bin in an alley off Eleventh Avenue. Hed been beaten so that his own mother wouldnt know him, were she alive to see him, which thanks be to God shes not. Beaten half to death, and then stabbed dead in the bargain. "

  "When did this happen?"

  "I couldnt say when it happened. It was midmorning he was found, and early this evening by the time I learned of it. " He picked up his glass and drank it down like water. "Did I know this friend of yours?"

  "I dont think so. "

  "You never brought him here, then?"

  "He stopped going to bars awhile ago. "

  "Ah, one of that lot. Not the one you were talking about the other night, was he? That went on retreat with the Buddhists?"

  "That was him, as a matter of fact. "

  "Ah, Jesus. Its a curious thing. Ive had that conversation in mind, do you know, and I was thinking thats a man Id like to know. And now Ill never have the chance. Tell me his name again. "

  "Jim Faber. "

  "Jim Faber. Id raise a glass to his memory, but perhaps he wouldnt care for that. "

  "I dont think hed mind. "

  He poured a short drink. "Jim Faber," he said, and drank.

  I took a sip of coffee and wondered what the two of them would have made of each other. I wouldnt have expected them to hit it off, but whos to say? Maybe theyd have found some common ground, maybe Jim had sought the same thing sitting in the zendo that Mick looked for at the Butchers Mass.

  Well, wed never know.

  He said, "Theyll try for you again, you know. "

  "I know. "

  "By dawn theyll know their mistake, if they dont know it now. What are you going to do?"

  "I dont know. All Ive done so far is lie to the cops. "

  "Do you recall the time I went to Ireland? I was avoiding a subpoena, but twould be as good a place to dodge a bullet. You could fly out tomorrow and come back when they sound the all-clear. "

  "I suppose I could. "

  "You and herself. I know youve never been there, but has she?"

  "No. "

  "Ah, youd love it, the two of you. "

  "You could come along," I said. "Show us around, give us the grand tour. "

  "Just walk away and let them take what they want," he mused. "Do you know, Ive thought of it. Its not my way, but is it my way to fight something I cant see? Let them take it, let them have it all. "

  "Why not?"

  He fell silent, considering the question. Over his big shoulder I saw Andy Buckley lean forward to waft a dart. He lost his balance, and Tom Heaney reached out to set him right. Tom, another Belfast native, worked the bar days, and hardly said a word. He came along when Mick and I had that business in Maspeth. Tom took a bullet that night, and the four of us rode clear out to Micks farm with Andy at the wheel. Mick got a doctor to patch him up, and Tom hardly said a word throughout the ordeal, and was just as closemouthed afterward.

  Someone at the bar was laughing- not, surely, the ever-silent Mr. Dougherty- and at the table near us the man was telling the woman that it was no easier for him than it was for her.

  "Maybe its not supposed to be easy," she said.

  I looked across at Mick, wondering if hed heard what she said. He was forming a response to my question, and then his face changed as he caught sight of something behind me. Before I could turn to see what he was looking at, he was in motion, swatting the little table and sending it flying, cup and saucer and bottle and all, then heaving himself at me across the space where the table had been.

  There was a ragged burst of gunfire. Mick hurtled into me and I flew over backward, my chair breaking up into kindling beneath me. I landed on it and he landed on top of me. He had a gun in his fist and he was firing it, snapping off spaced single shots in answer to the bursts of automatic-weapon fire from the doorway.

  I caught sight of something sailing overhead. Then there was a loud noise, with shock waves rolling, rolling like the sea. And then there was nothing at all.

  I couldnt have been out for very long. I dont remember coming to, but the next thing I knew I was on my feet, with Mick urging me on. He had one big arm around my waist, the hand clutching a battered leather satchel. Hed gone and fetched it from his office, so I must have been unconscious for at least as long as it had taken him to do that. But not much longer than that.

  He had a pistol in his other hand, an army-issue. 45 with the front sight filed down. I managed a look around but couldnt take in what I was seeing. Chairs and tables were overturned, some of them smashed to splinters. Barstools lay on the tile floor like corpses. The backbar mirror had disappeared, all but a few stray shards still left in the frame. The air was thick with the residue of battle, and my eyes stung from smoke and the fumes of gunpowder and spilled whiskey.

  There were bodies scattered around, looking like dolls tossed aside by a thoughtless child. The man and woman whod been discussing their relationship were together in death, sprawled alongside their overturned table. He was flat on his back with most of his face gone. She lay curled on her side, bent like a fishhook, with the top of her head open and her brains spilling from her shattered skull.

  "Come on, man!"

  I suppose he was shouting, but his voice didnt sound very loud to me. I guess the bomb blast had left me partially deaf. Everything was slightly muffled, the way it is in an airport when youre fresh off a plane and your ears havent popped yet.

  I heard him and the words register
ed, but I stayed where I was, rooted to the spot, unable to draw my eyes from them. This is no easier for me than it is for you, hed told her.

  Famous last words…

  "Theyre fucking dead," Mick said, his tone at once brutal and gentle.

  "I knew her," I said.

  "Ah," he said. "Well, theres fuck-all you can do for her now, and no time to waste trying. "

  I swallowed, trying to clear my ears. It was like getting off a plane m the middle of a war zone, I thought. Smelling the cordite and the death, and stepping over bodies on the way to the baggage claim.

  One such body lay in the doorway, a small man with delicate Asian features. He was wearing black pants and a lime green shirt, and at first I took it for one of those Hawaiian shirts with tropical flowers on it. But it was a solid-color shirt and the flowers were three bullet holes and his blood supplied the petals.

  Resting in the crook of his arm was the automatic rifle with which hed sprayed the room.

  Mick stopped long enough to snatch up the gun, then gave the dead man a solid boot in the side of the head. "Go straight to hell, you fucker," he said.

  A car stood at the curb, a big old Chevy Caprice, the body badly pitted with rust. Andy Buckley was behind the wheel and Tom Heaney was standing alongside the open door, a gun in his hand, covering our exit.

  We dashed across the sidewalk. Mick shoved me into the back seat, piled in after me. Tom got in front next to Andy. The car was moving before the doors were shut.

  I could hear sirens. Imperfectly, as I heard everything, but I could hear them. Sirens, coming our way.

  "Youre all right, Andy?"

  "Im fine, Mick. "

  "Tom?"

  "No harm, sir. "

  "Good job you were both in the back. What hell they made of Grogans, eh? The fuckers. "

  Wed headed north on the West Side Drive, then cut over to the Deegan at some point. Andy offered more than once to drop me and Mick wherever we wanted to go, but that wasnt what Mick wanted. He said he wasnt sure yet where hed be staying, and wanted a car.

  "Well, this heres a step down from the Caddy," Andy said. "But it was just down the block, and a lot quicker than getting yours out of the garage. "

  "Itll do me fine," Mick said. "And Ill take good care of it. "

  "This piece of shit? You treat it nice, itll die of shock. " He slapped the steering wheel. "She runs good, though. And the body damage is a plus, far as Im concerned. You can park it on the street and know its gonna be there when you come back for it. "

  We drove through the Bronx, a part of town I know hardly at all. I lived there briefly as a child, upstairs of the little shoe store my father opened- and closed, whereupon we moved to Brooklyn. The building where we lived is gone, the whole block bulldozed for an addition to the Cross-Bronx Expressway, and my recollection of the neighborhood is gone with it.

  So I couldnt really keep track of where we were, and I might have been equally lost in more familiar terrain, my hearing still imperfect and my whole inner self numb and befogged. There wasnt much conversation, but I missed a portion of what there was, tuning in and out.

  Tom said hed walk from Andys house, there was no need to take him to his door, and Andy said it was easy enough to run him home, that it wasnt far at all. Mick said near or far wed drop Tom at his home, for Gods sake.

 
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