Everybody dies, p.39
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       Everybody Dies, p.39

         Part #14 of Matthew Scudder series by Lawrence Block
 
Page 39

 

  "So we cant call you a Bronx boy. "

  "I dont think so. "

  "Your father had a store," Mick said. "He sold childrens shoes. "

  "Jesus, how did you remember that?"

  "I dont know," he said. "How do we remember some things and forget others? Its certainly not a matter of whats useful to remember and whats not. Theres no end of useful things I cant recall to save myself, and yet I remember your fathers shoe store. "

  A little later he said, "Is your mother well, Andy?"

  "She is, Mick. Thanks be to God. "

  "Thanks be to God," he echoed. "When you went to talk to her just now I suppose you found her in the kitchen. "

  "Matter of fact, she was parked in front of the TV. "

  "Watching a program, was she?"

  "And looking at the paper at the same time. Why, Mick?"

  "Ah, just wondering. Looking at the paper. The Irish Echo, was it?"

  "I didnt even notice. It could have been the Echo. "

  "Do you ever read it yourself, Andy?"

  "More for the older people, isnt it? Or the green-horns fresh off the boat. "

  "Off the plane, these days. Well, your people are a great old family, you know. The Buckleys, Im talking about. Some were what youd call Castle Irish. Do you know the term? It means they were in with the lot at Dublin Castle, the British crowns representatives in Ireland. But there were other Buckleys that were very republican. Which were yours, I wonder?"

  Andy laughed. "I get people asking if Im related to that guy, you know who I mean, uses all the big words on television? But youre the first person ever asked me what side my people were on back in the old country. "

  "Has your mother ever gone back?"

  "No, she was just a girl when she came over. Shes got no interest in going back. Its hard enough to get her to visit her brother in Massachusetts. "

  "Your uncle Connie, that would be. "

  "Right. "

  "And how about yourself? Have you ever been over to the old country?"

  "Are you kidding? Ive never been anywhere, Mick. "

  "Ah, you should go. Theres nothing like travel for broadening a man. Though Ive done little enough of it myself. Ireland, of course, and France. Matts been to France. And to Italy as well, have you not?"

  "Just briefly," I said.

  "Ive not been there myself. But then the last time I was in Ireland I went over to England as well, just to see if they were the devils I learned them to be at my mothers knee. "

  "And were they?"

  "Not at all," he said. "They couldnt have been nicer. I was treated decently everywhere I went. For all the problems theyve had with the Irish, they always made me feel welcome. "

  "Maybe they didnt know you were Irish," Andy suggested.

  "Youre entirely right," Mick said. "Most likely they took me for a Chinaman. "

  As we turned onto 209 he said, "Its a good scheme, Andy. Ive been thinking about it these last few miles. The only hard part will be getting the word to them so they dont suspect the source of it. It would help if we knew whos been helping them all along. Have you any ideas yourself, lad?"

  Andy considered, shook his head. "Theres a lot of guys hang out at Grogans," he said.

  "Not now theres not. "

  "Well, used to be. People whod run an errand for you, or lend a hand on the big jobs. I had to guess, Id say somebody took one of them aside and got a few drinks into him, got him talking. "

  "You think thats it, do you?"

  "Be my guess. "

  "Theres a great Irish tradition of hating the informer," Mick said. "Theres that movie, and I can remember about your fathers shoe store, Matt, so why can I not recall the name of that actor? I can see his face but cant summon up his name. "

  "Victor McLaglen," I supplied.

  "The very man. Oh, the most hated man in Ireland was the man who bore tales. The Patriots Mother. Do you know that song?"

  Neither of us did. In a surprisingly soft voice he sang:

  Alana, alana, the shadow of shame

  Has never yet fallen on one of your name

  And oh, may the food from my bosom you drew

  In your veins turn to poison ere you turn untrue

  "Its the mother singing," he explained, "and shes urging her boy to die on the gallows rather than inform on his fellows.

  Alana machree, oh, alana machree

  Sure, a stag and a traitor you never shall be

  "Ah, tis a terrible old song, but it gives you an idea how our people felt on the subject. A great tradition of hating the informer. And of course you know what that means. "

  "What?"

  "A great tradition of informing," he said. "For how could you have the one without the other?"

  The caprice didnt offer as smooth a ride as the Cadillac. It wasnt as whisper-quiet, either, with more road noise audible and a rattle somewhere in the rear end. But it was comfortable all the same, with Andy and me in front and Mick stretched out in the back and the headlights cutting the darkness in front of us. I half wished we could ride on like that forever.

  Wed turned onto the unnumbered road, and Mick said, "Twas along here we saw the deer. "

  "I remember," Andy said. "I almost hit him. "

  "You did not. You stopped in plenty of time. "

  "A good thing, too. He was a big one. If Id thought, Id have counted the points. "

  "The points?"

  "On his antlers, Mick. Thats how the hunters rate the bucks, by the number of points on their antlers. He was a big one, but dont ask me how many points he ran to, because I wasnt paying attention. "

  "Hunters. OGara posts the property, keeps the hunters off of it. I dont want the trespassing, you know. And I dont want deer shot on my land. Theyre terrible predators, you cant keep them out of the orchard, but I wont have men shooting them. I wonder why that is. "

  "Youre getting soft in your old age. "

  "I must be," he agreed. "Slow down a bit, why dont you?"

  "Slow down?"

  "Theres deer all through here. The big buck was standing in the middle of the road, but sometimes youve no warning at all and they leap out right in front of you. "

  I thought of Danny Boy and his list, and pictured the deer dashing out from between parked cars.

  Andy eased up on the gas and the car slowed some.

  "In fact," Mick said, "why dont you pull over altogether?"

  "Pull over?"

  "Sure, whats our rush? Well all stretch our legs and you can smoke a cigarette. "

  "Id just as soon wait, to tell you the truth. Were almost there. "

  "Pull over," Mick said.

  "Yeah, sure," Andy said, "only I got to find a spot with some room on the shoulder. Should be a place coming up soon. "

  Mick drew a breath, then leaned forward and hooked an arm around Andys throat. He said, "Matt, take hold of the wheel, thats a good man. Andy, ease the brake on, and do it gently, boy, or I swear Ill throttle you. Guide us off the road, Matt, thats lovely, and now turn off the ignition. And take his gun, the one in his waistband, and see if hes got another on him. "

  "This is crazy," Andy said. "Mick, dont do this. "

  There were two guns, one under his belt in front, the other at the small of his back. I got them both, and Mick motioned for me to set them on the dashboard.

  "Out of the car," Mick said. "Come on now. Heres our spy, Matt. Heres our informer. Stand still, Andy. And dont even think about running. You wouldnt make ten yards. Id shoot the legs out from under you, you know I would. "

  "Im not going anywhere," Andy said. "Youve got this all wrong. Matt, tell him, will you? Hes got this all wrong. "

  "Im not so sure of that," I said.

  To me Mick said, "You knew, didnt you?"

  "Not as early as you did. I had a sense of where you were going but I thought you were just fishing. But then I caught on when he said his mother was watching television. "

  "An
d reading the newspaper. "

  "Right. "

  "Are you guys both nuts? Im a spy because my mas watching the TV?"

  "That call you made," I said, "a minute or two after Andy went into the house. You passed it off as a call to OGara and hung up before he could answer. But you didnt call the farm, did you? You called Andys number. "

  "I did. "

  "And you got a busy signal," I said. "So you knew he was on the phone, calling Dowling and letting him know we were on our way. "

  Andy said, "Let me get this straight. You called my house, Mick? While I was in there talking to my mother?"

  "But you werent talking to her," Mick said. "You were talking to Paddy Farrellys son. A pity you didnt talk to her instead. She might have sung you a verse or two of that song. The Patriots Mother, and I trust you can remember it as I havent the heart to sing it again for you. "

  "The line was busy," Andy said. "Thats what this is all about? The line was busy?"

  "It was. "

  "Jesus, I was in the john. Maybe she made a call while I was taking a leak. Why dont you call her right now and ask her?"

  Mick let out a sigh, then reached to lay a hand on Andys shoulder. "Andy," he said gently, "why do you think people have been going to Confession for all these centuries? They feel better afterward. And dont tell me youve nothing to confess. Andy, look at me. Andy, I know its you. "

  "Aaah, Jesus, Mick. "

  "Suggesting we go to the farm, all of us, and lay a trap for them. That set the alarm bells ringing. Youd have done better to let me come up with the idea myself, with maybe the least bit of a hint from yourself to steer me in that direction.

  "And youd no way of knowing Id be wary the instant the farm was mentioned. You see, your murderous friend fell into a wee trap himself. He called Matts house, and Matt pressed the numbers you press to call the person back. The person who answered didnt say much. But didnt you say he sounded Irish? And had a soft voice?"

  I nodded.

  "OGara, it must have been. They kept him alive in case I called, so that he could answer the phone. Theres no one there, he told them, and they broke the connection. Do you suppose he and his wife are still alive, Andy? Or have they killed them already, now that you called to say we were on our way?"

  "Jesus, Mick. "

  "Were you there when they killed Tom, Andy? And the old woman in the wheelchair?"

  "They never said they were going to do that. "

  "And what did you think they were going to do with her? Put her on a bus to Atlantic City, with a bag of quarters for the slot machines?"

  "Oh, God," he said. He had his face in his bands, and his shoulders were heaving.

  Gently Mick said, "How did he get to you, Andy? Did he remember you from school?"

  "He was a year behind me at St. Ignatius. "

  "And you knew him well, did you?"

  "Not well at all, but when he turned up I knew him right away. He had the same face when he was a kid. "

 
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