Everybody dies, p.35
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       Everybody Dies, p.35

         Part #14 of Matthew Scudder series by Lawrence Block
 
Page 35

 

  "Yes. "

  "Filling the boys ears with stories about his father. Now how long was it she was here? Is it important?"

  "It could be. "

  "The Riordans took her apartment when she moved out. No, wait a minute, they did not. There was an older man moved in and died there, poor soul, and you may guess who had the luck to discover the body. " She closed her eyes at the memory. "An awful thing, to die alone, but thatll be my lot, wont it? Unless I last long enough to wind up in a home, and God grant that I dont. Mr. Riordans still upstairs, his wife passed three years ago in January. But he never so much as met Betty Ann. "

  "When did he move in?"

  "Because youd know she was out by then, wouldnt you?" She thought a moment, then surprised me by saying, "Lets ask him," and snatching up the phone. She looked up the number in a little leather-bound book, dialed, glared in exasperation at the ceiling until he answered, and then spoke loudly and with exaggerated clarity.

  "You have to shout at the poor man," she said, "but he hears better on the phone than face to face. He says he and his wife lived here since 1973. Now the old man who died, McMenamin was his name, its an old Donegal name, if Im not mistaken. Mr. McMenamin might have been here a year but he wasnt here two. It was vacant between tenants, but it wasnt vacant long either time, flats in this house are never vacant long. So my guess is your Betty Ann and her son left here in 1971. That would mean I had her in my house for three years, and Id say that would be about right. "

  "And about enough, I gather. "

  "And youd be right. I wasnt sorry to see the back of her, or the boy either. "

  "Do you know why she left?"

  "She didnt offer and I didnt ask. To go with some man would be my guess. Another CIA man, no doubt. She left no forwarding address, and if she had Id have long since tossed it out. " I asked if anyone else in the building was still here from those days. "Janet Higgins," she said without hesitation. "Up in 4-C. But I doubt youll get anything useful out of her. She barely knows her own name. "

  She was right. I didnt get anything useful from Janet Higgins, or in the house on either side, or across the street. I could have knocked on a few more doors, but I wasnt going to find Betty Ann Dowling on the other side of them, or her son either. I gave up and went home.

  By the time I got home, Dr. Froelich had come and gone, changing TJs dressing and pronouncing him fit for travel. Hed told him to keep the leg elevated as much as possible. "But not when youre walking," he said, "because its awkward as hell, and it looks silly. So whats the answer? Stay off the leg. Give it a chance to mend. "

  Elaine had picked up a second cane, and he used both of them to get across the street to the hotel. I went with him, and sat in the armchair while he got on-line and checked his e-mail. Hed accumulated dozens of messages in the time hed been gone. Most of them were Spam, he said, bulk e-mailers trying to sell him porn photos or enroll him in unlikely financial ventures. But he had correspondents all over the world as well, people he traded jokes and quips with in a half-dozen different countries.

  It didnt take him long to catch up, and then I told him what I knew about Gary Dowling and his mom. The last address I had for them was twenty-five years old, and they could be using Farrelly as a last name.

  "That F-A-R-L-E-Y?" I shook my head and spelled it for him, and he made a face. "Leave the Y off an you got Farrell, rhymes with barrel. Put the Y on an its Farrelly, rhymes with Charlie. Dont make no sense. "

  "Few things do. "

  "If she got a listed phone, I can find her. Take awhile, is all. Theres a site, got all the phone listings by state. You figure New York?"

  "I suppose you have to try it first. "

  There was an Elizabeth Dowling in Syracuse, and a number of E Dowlings, including one in the Bronx. That was far too simple and obvious, of course, and it turned out to be Edward, and hed never heard of an Elizabeth or a Betty Dowling and didnt sound as though he appreciated my call.

  We tried New Jersey next, and then Connecticut. After that we skipped to California and Florida because theyre states that people tend to go to. I got quite expert at my part of the program, dialing the numbers from the lists TJ printed out, saying, "Hello, Im trying to reach an Elizabeth Dowling who resided on Valentine Avenue in the Bronx in the 1960s. " It only took a sentence or two to determine that they couldnt help me, and I would get off the line in a hurry and move on to the next listing.

  "Good we get to make our toll calls free," TJ said, "or we be runnin up a powerful tab. "

  He got way ahead of me- the computer could find Dowlings faster than I could call them- and that gave him a chance to hobble over to the bed and elevate his leg. When I was between calls he said, "Meant to tell you, I phoned that girl this afternoon. "

  "And which girl would that be?"

  "Sweetheart of BTK? Black father, Viet mama? She say she wonderin why she didnt hear from me. "

  "So you told her you took a bullet in a shoot-out. "

  "Told her I had the flu. Vitamin C, she said. Yes, maam, I said, an did you find out about the dude with the face like the moon? Found out his street name is all. You want to take a guess, Bess?"

  "Moon," I said.

  "Moon. Friend of Goos from Attica, an that be all anybody knows about him. Said thanks a lot, an call me when them pimples clear up. "

  "You didnt say that. "

  "Course not. " He cocked his head, looked at me. "You sick of makin phone calls, aint you? You got somethin else to do, I can work the phone. I can even elevate my damn leg while I do it. "

  * * *

  I left and started walking uptown. I hadnt eaten anything since Mrs. Horvaths Nutter Butter cookies, and I stopped in front of a Chinese restaurant on Broadway, a block or two beyond Lincoln Center. I hadnt eaten Chinese food since my last dinner with Jim ten days ago. I would never be having dinner with him again, and maybe Id never be in the mood for Chinese, either.

  Oh, get over it, a voice said, and it was Jims voice, but it wasnt a mystical experience, it was my imagination, supplying the response I could expect from him. And he was right, of course. It wasnt the food or the restaurant, it was the guy who walked in with a gun, and he wasnt going to be doing that anymore.

  Still, I couldnt eat a Chinese dinner without thinking about Jim. I had hot and sour soup and beef with broccoli, and I remembered how hed told me he wanted to have that vegetarian eel dish one more time before he died.

  The food was all right. Not great, but not terrible, either. I knocked off a pot of tea with the meal, and afterward I ate the orange wedges and cracked open the fortune cookie.

  There is travel in your future, it advised me. I paid the check, left a tip, and traveled the rest of the way to Poogans.

  "The guy who hit you was Donnie Scalzo," Danny Boy said. "I thought I was going to come up empty, Matthew, and then one fellow turned up who looked at the picture and knew him in a heartbeat. Hes a Brooklyn boy and I guess he never got across the bridge much, but this fellow grew up in Bensonhurst right near Scalzo. I think they got thrown out of the same grammar school. "

  "I hope it wasnt before they learned to diagram sentences. "

  "Do they still teach that? I remember my eighth-grade teacher standing at the blackboard drawing lines, taking sentences apart and putting them back together. Heres a subordinate clause angling off this way, and there goes a prepositional something-or-other slanting up toward the ceiling. Did you get that in school?"

  "Yes, and I never knew what the hell they were doing. "

  "Neither did I, but I bet they dont do it anymore. Its another lost art. It would have been useful knowledge for Donnie, because he just recently got out of the joint. His sentence was five-to-ten, and he could have had fun diagramming that. Aggravated assault, so I guess you werent the first guy he ever took a swing at. "

  "You dont happen to know where he served it, do you?"

  "Tip of my tongue. Upstate, but not Dannemora, not Gree
n Haven. Help me out here. "

  "Attica?"

  "Thats it. Attica. "

  I went home and called TJ. "Attica," he said. "We gettin a lot of hits on that site. Too late to call, though. "

  "A call wont really do it," I said. "I think Ill have to go up there and talk to somebody. "

  "Attica," he said again, rolling the word on his tongue this time, as if looking for a name that rhymed with it. "How you get there, anyway?"

  "Easiest thing in the world," I said. "Just hold up a liquor store. "

  Mick called, wanting to know if Id heard anything from Tom Heaney, whom hed been unable to reach. I said I hadnt, but that anybody whod called would have had to talk to the machine. Tom, I pointed out, barely talked to people. I told him what Id learned- about Moon, about Donnie Scalzo, and about Gary Allen Dowling.

  I made it an early night, and I was at Phyllis Binghams travel agency at nine on the dot. She was already at her desk. I told her I wanted to go to Buffalo, and while she brought up what she needed on her computer she asked how Elaine was doing on her buying trip. Of course she would have seen the sign in the shop window, it was just up the street, but for a minute I didnt know what she was talking about. I said it was going fine, and she said she could get me on a 10:00 a. m. Continental flight out of Newark, but that wouldnt give me any time to pack. Nothing to pack, I said. She booked me on the flight and on a return flight at 3:30 the same afternoon. If I missed it thered be another two hours later.

  "I guess you wont get to look at the Falls," she said.

  I went out and got a cab right away, and I didnt even have to talk the driver into making the trip to Newark. He was delighted. I made my plane with a few minutes to spare and landed an hour later in Buffalo. I rented a car and drove to Attica, and that took another hour because I missed a turn and had to double back. I was there by noon and I was out of there by two, which put me way ahead of Gary Allen Dowling, not to mention Goo and Moon and Donny. It only took me forty minutes to get back to the Buffalo airport, where I had plenty of time to turn in the rental car and grab a meal before they called my return flight.

  There was a long line for cabs at Newark, so I saved a few dollars and took a bus to Penn Station and the subway home. I walked in the door and Elaine said, "You said youd be home for dinner and I didnt believe you. But you may not be able to stay. "

  George Wister had turned up, she told me, but this time shed said I was out and refused to let him in. He came back with a partner and a warrant, but shed spoken to Ray Gruliow, who was waiting with her when Wister showed up. She let them in, and after Wister had satisfied himself that I wasnt there he traded threats with Ray and then left.

  "They were looking for a gun," she said, "and I knew you wouldnt have tried to take yours through a metal detector. I looked all over before I found it in your sock drawer. I took it to the basement and locked it in our storage bin, and after they left I went down and retrieved it, holster and all. Its back with your socks. "

 
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