Everybody dies, p.36
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       Everybody Dies, p.36

         Part #14 of Matthew Scudder series by Lawrence Block
 
Page 36

 

  "Theres another gun," I said. "A little one, it must be in the pocket of the jacket I was wearing the other night. "

  I looked in the closet, and it was still there. I put it in my pocket, and got the magnum from my sock drawer and donned the holster. Id felt oddly vulnerable all day, walking around unarmed, which was odd in light of the fact that, up until less than a week ago, I went unarmed all the time.

  She said the charge on the warrant was hindering prosecution, which Ray said was bullshit, and just meant that Wister had a tame judge on hand. He was planning to squash it, or quash it, or something.

  I said Id call him, and took a step toward the phone, but she caught my arm. "Dont call anybody yet," she said. "First theres a message you should hear. "

  We went in and she played it. A voice Id never heard before said, "Scudder? Look, I got no quarrel with you. Just back out of this thing and you got nothing more to worry about. "

  She played it a second time, and I listened to it. "The call came in around three-thirty," she said. "After I heard it I took the phone off the hook. "

  "To keep him from calling back. "

  "No, so you could call him back. If you hit star-69- "

  "It calls back the last person who called. You wanted to make sure he was the last person. "

  I picked up the receiver, pressed the disconnect button, and hit *69. The phone rang twelve times before I gave up and broke the connection.

  "Shit," she said.

  I hit redial and let it ring another twelve times. "Its ringing its brains out," I said. "Now if only there was some way to find out where. "

  "Isnt there? Arent all calls logged automatically?"

  "Only the completed ones. "

  "How about the call we received? That was completed. "

  "And if I had a good friend at the phone company I could get at the data. The Kongs managed something similar once, but I dont have them on tap and the phone company computers are harder to hack than they used to be. And you know how it would turn out, dont you?"

  "How?"

  "Itll be a pay phone that they called from, and what help is that?"

  "Rats," she said. "I thought I did good. "

  "What you did was good. It just didnt lead anywhere. But it still might. We can try it again later. "

  "And leave the phone off the hook until then?"

  "No, we just wont make any calls out. That way anytime you hit redial youll get that number again. And if you really have to make a call, do it and dont worry about it, because I dont have high hopes that were going to get him this way. "

  "Rats. " She pressed a button, played the message another time. "You know what?" she said. "Hes lying. "

  "I know. "

  "He wants you to stop pressing, which is a good sign, isnt it? It means youre getting close. And he wants to make you lower your guard. But he still intends to kill you. "

  "Tough," I said.

  I didnt want to stay for dinner. Id just eaten in Buffalo, and I didnt want to hang around if Wister decided to come over again, with or without his chickenshit warrant. Elaine wondered if theyd have our building staked out. I didnt think theyd waste the manpower, but Id continue to use the service entrance. Id come in that way just now, probably out of habit, and it was a habit Id stay with.

  I had a cup of coffee, and told her what Id learned in the small town of Attica, where the state penitentiary was the principal industry. Gary Allen Dowling, who had in fact used the names Gary Farrelly and Pat Farrelly as occasional aliases, had been released in early June after having served just over twelve years of a twenty-to-life sentence for second-degree murder. He and an accomplice had held up a convenience store in Irondequoit, a suburb of Rochester. According to the accomplice, who rolled over on Dowling and pleaded to a lesser charge of robbery and manslaughter, it had been Dowling who herded two employees and a customer into a back room, made them lie face down on the floor, and executed them all with two rounds each to the head.

  I remembered the case. I hadnt paid much attention to it at the time because it happened a couple of hundred miles away upstate, and the city has always provided crime enough to keep my mind occupied. But Id read about it, and it had been fodder for the pols in Albany whod been trying to get a death penalty bill through the governors office. It turned out to be easier to get a new governor.

  Dowling had been twenty-four when he shot those people, twenty-five when he went away. Hed be thirty-seven now.

  He went to Attica, and his traitorous partner in crime was sent to Sing Sing, in Ossining. Within a matter of months the partner turned up dead in the exercise yard. He was doing bench presses, and the bar he was supposed to be lifting had over five hundred pounds of iron on it. His chest was crushed, and nobody seemed to know how it had happened, or who might have had a hand in it.

  Dowling let all of Attica know hed arranged it. Revenge was sweet, he said. It would have been even sweeter if he could have been there to see it go down, but it was sweet all the same.

  Later the same year an inmate hed had words with was knifed to death, and it was like so many murders inside the walls, you knew who did it but you couldnt hope to prove it. Dowling did his first bit in solitary as a result. You didnt need evidence to put a man in the hole.

  His mother was the only person who visited him, and she drove down from Rochester once a month to see him. Her visits were less frequent in recent years because she was ill, and got so she needed to get someone to drive her. It was cancer, and she died of it during the final winter of his confinement. He might have been released to attend her funeral, but he was in solitary at the time. It was funny, hed learned to behave himself in prison, but he lost it when he learned of her death and choked a guard half to death before they pulled him off. You wanted to make allowances for someone whod just had that kind of news, but it was the kind of incident you couldnt overlook, and he was in the hole while his mother went in a hole of her own.

  June 5 theyd let him out. No question, really, with the good time hed accumulated. Hed have been odds-on for the death penalty if it had been on the books at the time, but even without it youd expect someone whod done what hed done to serve straight life without parole. Not how it worked, though.

  The official I talked to didnt have much faith in the system he served. It didnt seem to him that there was a whole lot of rehabilitation going on. You had some men who never did a bad thing until the night they got drunk and killed their wife or their best friend, and most of them would probably be all right after their release, but he wasnt sure the prison system could take the credit. And there were the sex offenders, and youd be better believing in the tooth fairy than in the possibility of straightening out those monsters. When it came to your hardened criminals, well, some got old and just couldnt cut it anymore, but could you call that rehabilitation? All you did was warehouse em until they were past their expiration date.

  One thing he was sure of, he told me. Gary Allen Dowling would be back. If not in Attica, then in some other joint. He was positive of that.

  I hoped he was wrong.

  Thats what I learned in Attica. I dont think I could have told her all of it, not then, over one cup of coffee. I told her the greater portion of it, though, and I told the rest to Mick a little later.

  The phone rang while I was trying to decide if I wanted a second cup. I went to listen to the machine and picked up when I heard Micks voice. "By Jesus," he said, "have you spent the whole evening on the telephone?"

  "The evenings young," I said. "And I havent been on the phone at all. Elaine took it off the hook, and Ill tell you why some other time. "

  "Ive been going half mad," he said. "I cant reach anybody. Have you heard from Andy or Tom?"

  "No, but the phones been off the hook, so- "

  "So they couldnt call you if they wanted to, nor could they call me as they havent the number. Twice Ive called Andy and twice his mothers told me hes out and she doesnt know where.
And theres no one at all answering at Toms house. "

  "Maybe theyre out having a beer somewhere. "

  "Maybe they are," he said. "Have you any plans yourself?"

  It was Friday. I always went to the step meeting at St. Pauls on Friday night. Then I always had coffee afterward with Jim. Id thought I might do the first, even if I couldnt do the second.

  But I had a lot to tell him. Id found out quite a bit since Id talked to him last.

  "No plans," I said.

  "Ill come by for you. Fifteen minutes?"

  "Make it twenty," I said, "and dont come around the front. In fact why dont you pull up in front of Ralphs Restaurant at Fifty-sixth and Ninth?"

  I kissed Elaine and told her I didnt know when Id be back. "And go ahead and make phone calls if you want," I said.

  "I was thinking," she said. "If I make outgoing calls from another extension, it wont change the redial mechanism on that phone. Or am I forgetting something?"

  "No," I said, "I think youre right, and I should have thought of that. "

  "Then you wouldnt need me. "

  "Yes I would. But I think Ill try it once more before I go. "

  I punched redial, and *69 appeared in the little window, and after a moment someones phone rang. I was wondering how long to give it, and then in the middle of the fourth or fifth ring it was picked up. There was silence at first, and then a soft voice, a mans, said, "Hello?

  The voice was curiously familiar. I willed it to say more, but when it spoke again the words were much fainter, as if he was talking to someone else and not into the phone. "Theres no one there," he said, and there was another silence, and then the connection was broken.

  "Bingo," I told Elaine.

  "It worked, huh?"

  "Like a charm. That was brilliant, taking the phone off the hook. Youre a genius. "

  "Thats what my father always said," she said. "And my mother always told him he was crazy. "

  I made a note of the time. In the morning Id have to find someone at the phone company who could pull the LUDS on my phone, and I could find out who it was Id just called. Because I didnt think that was a pay phone. And if I could find out where it was located, I could find them when they thought they couldnt be found.

  I think a subscribers entitled to a record of his own calls, if you can find the right person to ask. I know a cop can get that kind of information in a hurry, and if I couldnt find a cop whod help me out I could always impersonate one myself. Thats against the law, but lately it seemed as though everything I did was against the law.

  I rode down to the basement and went out the service entrance. Wister could have two teams watching the building, one in back and one in front, but I didnt think he even had one. I took a look around, just to make sure, and then I went over and stood in a darkened doorway alongside of Ralphs He didnt keep me waiting long.

  "A son to avenge him," Mick said. "Thats more than the likes of Paddy Farrelly ever deserved. "

  "Hes a son who hasnt exactly covered himself with glory in the course of his young life. "

 
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