Hope to die, p.22
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       Hope to Die, p.22

         Part #15 of Matthew Scudder series by Lawrence Block
Page 22


  "For the most part. The ones I ran into over the years all looked as though their feet hurt them some. "

  "I spect mine will," he said, "by the time these shoes take me to 168 Meserole Street. "

  "What did you do, call Brooklyn Information?"

  "Takes too long. They got to answer the phone, and then all theyll tell you is the number. You still got to look it up in a reverse directory or else call it and trick the address out of whoever answers. Whos got time for all that shit?"

  "Your time is valuable," I said.

  "I got on the Net," he said. "Typed in Peter Meredith, Brooklyn, and got the address, the phone, the zip code. Took two seconds an I didnt have to talk to nobody. "

  "Except the address is wrong. "

  "Say what?"

  "Meseroles in Greenpoint, not Williamsburg. The two neighborhoods run into each other, but Meseroles in a part of Greenpoint that got gentrified a while ago. Thats not a place to find a low-priced fixer-upper. "

  "Thats Meserole Avenue. They on Meserole Street. "

  "Theres two Meseroles?"

  "Youd think oned be enough," he said. "Look hard, you can probably find some cities dont have any. " From the back of the clipboard he produced a sheet of paper showing a map of a few square miles of North Brooklyn. "Printed it out just now," he said, anticipating my question. "See? Heres Meserole Avenue, up in Greenpoint, an this heres Meserole Street, runnin over towards Bushwick Terminal. "

  I looked at the map. Both Meseroles, street and avenue, crossed Manhattan Avenue, the two intersections a mile and a half apart. It was the sort of thing that drove UPS drivers crazy.

  Ray Galindez, a police artist I know, had bought a house in Williamsburg a couple of years ago, and Id taken the L train out to visit him. The same train would get you close to Meserole Street, but youd have to stay on an extra three stops. I didnt know the neighborhood- I hadnt even known the street existed- but I could guess why Kristin Hollander thought shed rather stay in Manhattan.

  "I didnt know you could do this," I said. "Print out a street map of Brooklyn. "

  "Man, you could just as easy print out a street map of Samarkand. You gotta get on-line. You missin out. "

  Wed had this conversation before. "Im too old for it," I told him, not for the first time, and he told me about a man hed exchanged e-mails with, eighty-eight years old, living in Point Barrow, Alaska, and surfing the Net for hours every day.

  "Why would anyone that age live in Point Barrow, Alaska?" I wondered. "And how do you know hes telling the truth? Its probably some nineteen-year-old lesbian posing as an old man. "

  He rolled his eyes.

  "Im sure Id have a wonderful time surfing the Net," I said, "and Id be a better person for it, too. But I dont need to because Ive got you to do it for me. "

  "And to chase out to Brooklyn for you. " He looked down at himself, shook his head. "Good thing it out in the middle of nowhere. Dont want nobody I know seein me lookin like this. "

  "Not to worry," I said. "Theyd never recognize you. "


  I should know better, but I tend to form mental images of people I havent met. Ill hear a voice over the phone and think I know what the persons going to look like.

  With Seymour Nadler Id had his voice- low in pitch, professionally calm- to go by, along with his name and address and profession. I found myself preparing to meet a big bear of a man, balding on top, with a mane of dark hair flowing down over the collar of his open-necked corduroy shirt. His beard, as black as his hair, would need trimming.

  Nadler turned out to be about my height, trimly built, clean-shaven, and wearing a gray glen plaid suit and a striped tie. His hair was brown and neatly barbered, and he still had all of it. His eyes, behind horn-rimmed glasses with bifocal lenses, were a washed-out blue. He had a small, thin-lipped mouth, and the hand he offered me felt small in mine.

  His office was on the tenth floor, agreeably furnished with older pieces. There was a couch, of course, but there were also several comfortable chairs. The carpet was Oriental, the paintings American primitives. Next to his desk, a computer perched on a black metal stand, the rooms only contemporary note. The windows looked out on Central Park.

  "I can give you twenty minutes," he said. "My next appointments at two, and I need ten minutes to prepare. "

  I told him that would be ample.

  "Perhaps you could tell me exactly why youre here," he said. "My claim for losses incurred in the burglary has long since been settled. It took you people long enough, and I cant say I was happy with the amount, but it didnt seem worth going to court over. " He smiled. "Although I considered it. "

  He evidently thought I was working for his insurance company. I hadnt quite said that, but Id certainly done what I could to create that impression.

  "Well," I said, "its in connection with the gun. "

  "The gun!"

  "Twenty-two-caliber Italian pistol," I said. "Stolen from a desk in your office, if my informations correct. "

  "I never even reported the loss of the gun. "

  I paged through my notebook, trying to look puzzled. "You didnt report it to the police? The law requires- "

  "To the police, yes, of course, but Id already submitted my claim to you people before I missed the gun. It wasnt that expensive, and Id never listed it on my inventory, so I didnt bother to amend my claim. If Id known you people were going to nickel-and-dime me on the value of my wifes jewelry, you can be sure I would have put the gun on the list. "

  I held up a hand. "Not my department," I said. "Believe me, I know where youre coming from. Dont quote me on this, but our claims adjusters pull that crap all the time. "

  "Well," he said, and gave me a sudden smile. We were on the same side now, and I felt pleased with myself for having successfully used psychology on a psychiatrist. "Well, then. What about the gun?"

  "It was used recently in a home invasion. "

  "Yes," he said, frowning. "Yes, I actually did hear about that. A genuinely horrible incident, and it happened not far from here, I believe. "

  "On West Seventy-fourth Street. "

  "Yes, not far at all. Two people killed. "

  "And two more in Brooklyn. "

  "The perpetrators, yes. Murder and suicide, wasnt it? Interesting. That seems to happen sometimes, you know, with people who run amok and kill people. They conclude the drama by killing themselves. " He put the tips of his small fingers together, pursed his lips. "Im not certain of the mechanism. The conventional wisdom is that theyre suddenly struck by the enormity of their actions and commit suicide to punish themselves. But I wonder if it isnt simply that theyve run out of people to shoot and still feel the need to go on. So they turn the gun on the only person available, their own self. "

  His waiting room held several framed diplomas and certificates, but that speech did more to convince me he was a board-certified psychiatrist than a whole wall full of sheepskins.

  "Well, thats just speculation," he said, after Id admired the theory. "But why are you here? Surely the guns not likely to be returned to me. "

  "No, I believe its going to have to stay in a police evidence locker for a long time. "

  "It can stay there forever," he said. "I certainly dont want it back. "

  "Did you replace it?"

  He shook his head. "I bought it for protection. I never expected to use it, and indeed I never had occasion to remove it from the locked drawer where I kept it. " He stroked his chin. "When it was gone, I wondered if I might not have wanted it to be gone. Perhaps my distaste for the weapon had somehow contributed to its having been taken away by the burglars. "

  "How would that work, sir?"

  "Theres a principle that nothing happens entirely by accident. Some element of unconscious design is involved. This doesnt mean that the victim is always at fault, thats nonsense, but sometimes theres a contributory element. In this instance, the burglars confined themselves to our living quart
ers. The gun was absolutely the only item removed from my office. Thats why it took me as long as it did to know the damned thing was missing. "

  "So you think the way you felt about the gun…"

  "It may not have literally induced the burglar to come in here and get the gun," he said. "I can see where you might find that a bit of a stretch, and so might I, truth to tell. But the whole business, well, I certainly didnt feel inclined to go out and buy another damned gun. "

  I said, "You kept it in your desk. "

  "Thats right. "

  "That desk youre sitting at?"

  "Yes, of course. Do you see another desk in the room?"

  "And which drawer would that be?"

  He looked at me. "Which drawer? What possible difference can it make which drawer I kept it in?"

  "Probably none," I said.

  "And once again, just why are you here? I regret profoundly that a weapon I once owned was the instrument of several peoples deaths, but I cant see that its any of my responsibility. "

  "Well, thats just it. "

  "I beg your pardon?"

  "Theres a question of legal responsibility," I said. "Its possible that the owner of a weapon could be held accountable for the results of the use of that weapon by another party. In other words, someone injured by a bullet from your gun could sue you for letting the gun fall into criminal hands. "

  "But thats ridiculous! Why not go all the way, why not sue the guns manufacturer, for Gods sake?"

  "Matter of fact," I said, "thats been done a couple of times. Made a product-liability case out of it and got a judgment against the weapons manufacturer. Its likely to be overturned on appeal, but- "

  "Are you saying somebody who was shot with my gun is going to sue me?"

  "Well, in this case the primary victims are all deceased. If a suit were brought, the plaintiff would be an heir of one of the victims. "

  "That couples daughter…"

  I certainly didnt want him calling Kristin, trying to head off a mythical lawsuit. "In this instance," I said, "our concern is that one of the other parties might bring suit. "

  "You dont mean one of the criminals? Someone breaks into my home, steals my personal property, including my lawfully registered pistol, and kills several people with it, himself included, and youre saying some relative of his is entitled to sue me?"

  "Dr. Nadler," I said, "anyone can instigate a lawsuit, and some lawyer will always turn up to take the case. "

  "Ambulance-chasing shysters," he said.

  "No suit has been brought, and in the unlikely event that one is, its almost certain to be dismissed, or resolved in our favor. Im just here to gather information that will help us nip such a legal action in the bud. "

  It had been surprisingly easy to stir him up, and it wasnt as easy to calm him down again. I didnt want to waste time, either; he kept looking at his watch, and I knew hed send me on my way at ten to two.

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