Everybody dies, p.45
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       Everybody Dies, p.45

         Part #14 of Matthew Scudder series by Lawrence Block
 
Page 45

 

  "Not long. "

  "And they might keep it for a good long while, especially if we took care to leave it with a full tank of gas. Of course if they had a flat tire, and went looking for the spare…"

  "God, what a thought. "

  "Ah, its a hard old world if you cant laugh, and even if you can. Do you know what I think Ill do? Ill wipe the fucker free of prints, as its full of mine after all the use Ive given it this past week. And then Ill take it over to the piers and run it into the river, with the windows rolled down so itll sink and stay sunk. Can they get fingerprints off a car hauled out of the water?"

  "There was a time when they couldnt," I said, "but they probably can by now. I think they can just about lift them off motes of dust dancing in a beam of light. "

  "Ill wipe it good," he said, "before I shove it off the edge. Just to be sure. "

  After a moment I said, "Whatll you tell his mother?"

  "That he had to go away," he said without hesitation, "on a dangerous mission, and that it might be awhile before she heard from him. That should hold her for the few years shes got left in the world. She has cancer, you know. "

  "I didnt. "

  "Poor thing. Ill pray for her, and him too, once theyve taught me how. "

  "Pray for all of us," I said.

  I rode up in the elevator, used my key in the lock. By the time I had the door open she was standing in front of me, wearing a black robe Id bought for her. It had white and yellow flowers on it, and tiny butterflies.

  "Youre all right," she said. "Thank God. "

  "Im fine. "

  "TJs sleeping on the couch," she said. "I was going to bring dinner over to him but he insisted he could come over for it, and then I wouldnt let him go home. I was afraid, but I dont know who I was afraid for, him or me. "

  "Either way, youre both all right. "

  "And youre all right, and thank God. Its over, isnt it?"

  "Yes, its over. "

  "Thank God. And what about Mick? Is Mick all right?"

  "He had a premonition," I said, "and thats a story in itself, but it turns out hes got a touch of astigmatism in his third eye, because hes fine. In fact you could say hes never been better. "

  "And everybody else?"

  I said, "Everybody else? Everybody else is dead. "

  "Ill remind you," Ray Gruliow said, "that Mr. Scudder is here of his own volition, and that hell answer only those questions Im willing for him to answer. "

  "Which means he wont say a goddamn thing," George Wister said.

  And that turned out to be pretty close to the truth. There were half a dozen cops in the room, Joe Durkin and George Wister and two guys from Brooklyn Homicide and two others whose function was never explained to me. I didnt much care who they were, because all they could do was sit there while I said essentially nothing.

  They had no end of questions, though. They wanted to know what I knew about Chilton Purvis, whom theyd linked to the murder of Jim Faber as a result of information received, which meant that somebodys snitch had indeed come up with the news. They didnt have any evidence to support the snitchs word, however, and so far they hadnt been able to find an eyewitness to the Lucky Panda shooting who would look at Purviss body and ID him as the shooter.

  I couldnt help them out. Anyway, I figured it was their own fault. If theyd coached their witness properly hed have given them what they wanted.

  Maybe one or both of the unidentified men in the room were from the Bronx, because there were questions about Tom Heaney and Mary Eileen Rafferty, which turned out to be the name of Toms landlady. Tom, I learned, had been shot with bullets from two different guns, and none of the slugs matched any of the bullets retrieved in any of the other homicides in question, although one matched up to a bullet dug out of a corpse in SoHo in 1995. Since most of the players had spent that year in Attica, I figured the gun had some old history attached to it.

  All in all, I didnt really give them anything, and I didnt pay close attention, either. I just sat there and watched Ray, and I didnt open my mouth unless he gave me a nod. And he didnt do that very often.

  I suppose we were there for about an hour, and then Wister lost it a little and said something nasty, and Ray had been waiting for that. "Thats it," he said, getting to his feet "Were out of here. "

  "You cant do that," Joe said.

  "Oh, really? Just watch us. "

  "And kiss your license goodbye," Wister said. "I got papers on my desk, formal request for the state to pull your ticket, with all the reasons laid out to make it real easy for them. You walk out of here and I fill out the rest of it and toss it right in the mail. "

  "And therell be a hearing," Ray said, "and youll be subpoenaed, which I know you fellows just love. And by the time the dust settles hell have his license back, along with a whole lot of newspaper coverage to make him look like a hero. "

  "He wont look like a hero," Joe said. "Hell look like a fucking criminal is all hell look like. Which more and more is what hes been looking like anyway. "

  "Thats enough," Ray said.

  "No its not, its nowhere near enough. Matt, what the hells the matter with you? Youll lose your license. "

  I said, "You know something? I dont care if I do. "

  "Dont say another word," Ray said.

  "No," I said, "Ill say this much, and Im saying it to you as much as to them. They can do what they want, and if the state rescinds my license thats fine. You could fight it, and maybe wed win, but its not worth the bother. "

  "You dont know what youre talking about," Joe said.

  "I know I got along fine without a license for over twenty years," I said. "I dont know what the hell made me ever think I needed it. Maybe I make a few more dollars with it than without it, but I always made enough. I never missed a meal, and back when I drank I never lacked the price of the next drink. You want to pull my license? Go right ahead. What the hell do I care?"

  We walked out of the station house and down the steps, and when we were out of earshot Ray said, "Theyll get your license pulled, and Ill get it back. Not a problem. "

  "No," I said. "Thanks, but I wasnt just sounding off. I mean what I said. Well let it go, and the hell with it. "

  "You never needed it in the first place," Elaine assured me. "What, so you can work for a few more lawyers? And they can bill a little higher for your services? The hell with that. "

  "Exactly my point. "

  "Besides," she said, "we know the real reason you got the license. You wanted to be respectable. And its like all those folks on the Yellow Brick Road, baby. You were respectable all along. "

  "No," I said. "I wasnt, and Im still not. But the license didnt change anything. "

  And that would be a good place to leave it, except theres a little more to the story. Like everything else, its not over till its over.

  That was in September, and in mid-December we got a Christmas card with a return address on Staten Island. It said Seasons Greetings instead of Merry Christmas, no doubt in deference to the Jewish vegetarian hed once given a ham to, and inside, beneath an unexceptionable printed message, hed written Gods love to you both and signed it Mick.

  Elaine said she was sure hed sign it Fr. Michael F. Ballou, S. J. I said he was with the Thessalonians, not the Jesuits, and she said goyim is goyim.

  Then in late April TJ mentioned that hed passed Grogans and had seen a Dumpster at the curb and a construction crew hard at work. I said evidently thered be a Korean greengrocer in there before long.

  And then a week later the phone rang, and Elaine answered it and came to tell me Id never guess who it was.

  "I bet its Father Mick," I said.

  "Ah, Jaysus," she said, "and get along with ye, and havent the wee folk gifted ye with the second sight your own self?"

  "Begorrah," I said.

  I picked up the phone and he invited me to come down and see how the work was progressing. "Of course its impossible to get it so it
looks old," he said, "and there are bullet holes they want to cover up, and they ought to be left as they are. Theres history to them. "

  I went over there, and for all of that they seemed to be doing a good job, and getting it more right than not. I said I gathered this meant he was back in business.

  "I am," he said.

  "You said youd stay there until they kicked you out. "

  "Ah. Well, they didnt do that. Theyd never do that. " He took a drink from his silver flask. "Theyre lovely men," he said. "The nicest men Ive ever met in my life. And they were so good as to let me take my time to realize for myself that I didnt belong there. I half wish I did, but I dont, and they allowed me to see as much. "

  "And here you are. "

  "And here I am," he agreed. "And glad to be back, and are you glad to have me?"

  "Damn glad," I said, "and sos Elaine. We missed you. "

  His story, as I said early on, his story far more than mine. But how could you ever get him to tell it?

 
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