Everybody dies, p.26
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       Everybody Dies, p.26

         Part #14 of Matthew Scudder series by Lawrence Block
Page 26


  "How do you mean, present?"

  "To the public. I do a drawing, people look at it, they say to themselves, oh, an artist did this, so its just an approximation. But they can make that computer likeness come out looking like a photograph, and you see it and it seems authentic. Its got credibility. It may not look like the perpetrator, but it sure shows up nice on TV. "

  I tapped the sketch hed done. "This ones never going to be seen on TV," I said, "and it looks just like the son of a bitch. "

  "Well, thanks, Matt. Now how about the other one?"

  "The other goon? I told you, I didnt get a good enough look at him. "

  "Maybe you saw more than you think you did. "

  "The light was bad," I said. "The streetlamp was shining in my eyes and his face was in shadow. And he was only in front of me for a second or two anyway. Its not a question of memory. "

  "I understand," he said. "All the same, Ive had some luck in similar situations. "


  "What I think happens," he said, "is that the memory doesnt get suppressed, but it barely registers in the first place. You see something, and the image hits the retina, but your minds on something else and you never know you see it. But its there all the same. " He spread his hands. "I dont know, but if youre not in a hurry…"

  "Im certainly willing to try. "

  "Okay, so just get comfortable and let yourself relax. Start with your feet and just let them go completely limp. This isnt hypnosis, by the way, which is to my mind a great way to get people to remember things they never saw in the first place. This is just to relax you. Now your lower legs, letting them relax completely…"

  I didnt have a problem with the relaxation technique, having gone through something similar at a workshop Elaine dragged me to once. He led me through it, and he had me envision a canvas hanging on a wall, all in a gilded frame. Then he instructed me to see the face painted on the canvas.

  I was all set to tell him it wasnt working, and then damned if there wasnt a face looking back at me on the framed canvas Id constructed in my minds eye. It didnt look as if it had been pieced together with an Identi-Kit, either, or morphed on a computer. It was a real human face with a real expression on it. And I knew it, by God. Id seen it before.

  "Shit," I said.

  "Youre not getting anything? Give it time. "

  I sat up, opened my eyes. "I got a face," I said, "and I was all excited, because it was like magic the way it appeared. "

  "I know, thats what its like. Like magic. "

  "But it was the wrong face. "

  "How do you know?"

  "Because the face I just saw belongs to somebody else. A few days prior to the incident I was in a bar, and I caught a glimpse of a guy. You know how youll see a person and you know him but you dont know how you know him?"

  "Sure. "

  "Thats what happened. Our eyes met, and I knew him and he knew me, or seemed to. But I cant think how, and the fact of the matter is I probably saw him once on the subway and his face imprinted itself in my memory. New Yorks like that. Youll see more people in a day than the entire population of a small town. Except its in passing. You dont really see them. "

  "But you saw this face. "

  "Yes, and now I cant get it out of my mind. "

  "Whats it look like?"

  "Whats the difference, Ray? Its just a face. "

  "Its just a face?"

  "You know what I mean. "

  "Why not describe it a little?"

  "You want to sketch the guy? Why?"

  "To clear the slate. Right now you try to picture a face and thats the face that comes up. So if we get that face on paper well be getting it out of your mind. " He shrugged. "Hey, its only a theory. I got the time, and I always enjoy working with you, but if youre in a big hurry…"

  "Theres no hurry," I said.

  And the face seemed eager to be drawn. I watched it emerge as we worked together, the head very wide at the top and tapering sharply like an upside-down triangle, the exaggerated eyebrows, the long narrow nose, the Cupids bow mouth.

  "Whoever he is," I said, "thats him. "

  "Well, its an easy face to draw," Ray said. "A caricaturist would have a ball with him. In fact this here comes out looking like caricature, because the features are so prominent. "

  "Maybe thats why I remembered it. "

  "Thats what I was thinking. It stays with you, if it was a meal youd say it sticks to your ribs. Itd be a hard face to forget. "

  Bitsy came home while we were working, but she stayed out of the kitchen until we were done. Then she joined us and I had another cup of coffee and a piece of carrot cake. I left the house with the two sketches, sprayed with fixative and tucked between two sheets of cardboard inside a padded mailer. Elaine would want the originals. Shed frame them and hang them in the shop, and sooner or later somebody would buy them.

  I gave Ray $300, and I had trouble getting him to take it. "I feel like a thief," he said. "You come to my house and I get more enjoyment than Ive had in the last two months on the job, and on your way out the door I pick your pocket. " I told him I had a client and he could afford it. "Well, I wont pretend I cant find a use for it," he said, "but it still doesnt seem right to me. And I collect again when Elaine sells the originals. How can that be right?"

  "She collects, too. Shes not a charity. "

  "Even so," he said.

  I walked through the rain to the subway and got downstairs just as a train was pulling out. I sat there while three outbound trains came and went before I caught one back to the city. I could have transferred at either Sixth or Eighth to a train that would take me to Columbus Circle, but what I did was get off the train at Union Square and walk over to the Kinkos at Twelfth and University. I made a dozen copies of the sketch of the guy whod punched me in the stomach. I didnt have any use for copies of the other sketch, but I made a couple anyway while I was at it.

  Some years ago Id spoken at a group called Village Open Discussion, and I seemed to remember that they met on Tuesday evenings at a Presbyterian church just a block west of the copy shop. It was a big meeting, a young crowd. There was a show of hands after the speaker, and there were always plenty of hands in the air. Matt the Listener sat back and listened.

  It was still raining when I left, so I passed up the outdoor pay phones for one in a coffee shop on Sixth Avenue. I dialed my own number, waiting for the machine, and Elaine picked it up on the first ring.

  "Thats a surprise," I said. "I thought we were screening our calls. "

  "Oh, hi, Monica," she said. "I was just thinking about you. "

  I felt a chill, and tensed my stomach muscles as if in anticipation of a blow. I said, "Are you all right?"

  "Oh, never better," she said. "I could do without the rain, but other than that Ive got no complaints. "

  I relaxed, but not entirely. "Whos there with you?"

  "I was going to call," she said apologetically, "but then these two friends of Matts dropped by. Did you ever meet Joe Durkin? Well, hes married, so forget it. "

  "Youre good at this," I said. "But thats not the Monica I know. Shes only interested if theyre married. "

  "Yeah, hes kind of cute," she said. "Hang on and Ill ask him… My friend wants to know your name and if youre married. "

  "Dont get too cute or hes gonna want to talk to me. "

  "He says his name is George, and the other is classified information. But theres a ring on his finger, if that means anything. " She laughed. "Youll love this. He says hes working undercover and its part of a disguise. "

  "Yeah, I love it," I said. "How long are they likely to hang around, do you have any idea?"

  "Oh, gee," she said. "I really couldnt say. "

  "Anybody call?"

  "Yes. "

  "But you dont want to say the names, so just answer yes or no. Did Mick call?"

  "No. "


  "Uh-huh, a little while ago. You know, y
ou really ought to get back to them. "

  "Ill call him. "

  "There was something else I had to tell you, but I cant think what it was. "

  "Somebody else called?"

  "Yes. "

  "Feed me the initials. "

  "Absolutely, baby. "


  "Uh-huh. Thats right. "

  "Andy Buckley?"

  "I knew youd understand. "

  "Did he leave a number?"

  "Sure, for all the good it does. "

  "Because he left it on the machine and you dont have it handy. Never mind, I can get it. If those two get on your nerves, tell them to get the hell out. "

  "My sentiments exactly," she said. "Look, sweetie, I have to go now. And Ill tell Matt what you said. "

  "You do that," I said.

  I knew Mick would know Andys number, so I tried him first on his cell phone. When it went unanswered I tried it again in case Id dialed wrong, and after six rings I gave up.

  Bronx Information didnt have a listing for an A or Andrew Buckley, but Id figured the phone was probably in his mothers name, and there were two Buckleys listed on Bainbridge Avenue. I wrote down both numbers, and when I called the first a youngster said, "Naw, thats the other one. Next block up and cross the street. "

  I called the second number and a woman answered. I said, "Mrs. Buckley? Is Andy there?"

  He picked up and said, "Yeah, Mick?"

  "No, its Matt Scudder, Andy. "

  He laughed. "Fooled me," he said. "She said, A gentleman for you, and thats what she always says when its the big fellow. Just about anybody else, she goes, Its one of your friends. "

  "The woman knows quality when she hears it. "

  "Shes a pistol," he said. "Listen, have you talked to Mick lately?"

  "No, I havent. "

  "I thought Id hear from him but I havent. Wheres he staying, do you happen to know?"

  "I dont. "

  "Because I want to switch cars with him. What I did, I went down and got his Cadillac out of the garage, and I dont want to park it on the street. Thats fine with the bucket of bolts I drive, but a car like that parked out in the open is what the fathers call an occasion of sin for the kids around here. Its in front of my house right now, and I gave a kid from down the block twenty bucks to watch it, and you want to know what Im doing? Im sitting in the window watching him. "

  "I think Mick wants to hang on to your car," I said. "He said his is too visible. "

  "Oh, yeah? Fine with me, only I thought we were supposed to switch. You got his cell phone number?"

  "He doesnt seem to give it out. "

  "I know, he just uses it when he cant find a pay phone. You want to know, what I think is he lost the number of his own phone and doesnt know how to find it out. Hey, dont tell him I said that. "

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