Everybody Dies Page 21

"Never found the body, did they?"


"Or the head, I guess."

"Or the head."

He considered this. "You ever been bowlin'?"

"Bowling? Not in years and years. There was a cops' league in Suffolk County when I lived in Syosset. I was on a team for a few months."

"Yeah? You have one of those shirts, got your name on the pocket?"

"I don't remember."

"'I don't remember.' That means you did, Sid, and you don't want to admit it."

"No, it means I don't remember. We ordered shirts for everybody, but I had to quit the team when I got a gold shield and my hours changed."

"And you didn't bowl no more after that?"

"Once that I remember. I was off the police force and living at the hotel, and a friend of mine named Skip Devoe was always organizing things." I turned to Elaine. "Did you ever meet Skip?"

"No, but you've talked about him."

"He was an owner of a joint on Ninth and a hell of a fellow. He'd get a bee in his bonnet, and the next thing you knew we'd all be traipsing out to Belmont for the racing, or to Randall's Island for an outdoor jazz concert. There used to be a bowling alley on the west side of Eighth two or three doors up from Fifty-seventh, and he got it in his head we had to go bowling, and the next thing you knew half a dozen drunks descended upon the place."

"And you just went the once?"

"Just the one time. But we talked about it for weeks after."

"What became of him?"

"Skip? He died a couple of years later. Acute pancreatitis, but then they never put on the death certificate that the deceased died of a broken heart. The story's too long to tell right now. Besides, Elaine's already heard it."

"And the bowlin' alley's gone."

"Long gone, along with the building it was in."

"I bowled once," he said. "Felt like a fool. Looked so easy, and then I couldn't do it."

"You get the hang of it."

"I can see how you would, and then you just be tryin' to do the same thing over and over again. I see 'em sometimes on television, and those dudes are really good at it, and I keep waitin' for 'em to nod off in the middle of the game. How'd we get on this subject?"

"You brought it up."

"The bag. They never found the head, I was wonderin' did they ever find the bag. Don't matter if they did or didn't. Point is, that's a nice friend you got."

"You've met him."


"He's who he is," I said. "He can be very charming, but he's a lifelong criminal and he's got a lot of blood on his hands."

"Times I met him," he said, "was when I was with you, an' we fell by that place of his that got trashed."


"Didn't see a lot of black folks there."


"Not workin' there, not havin' a drink there."


"Dude was polite to me an' all, but all the time I was there I was real conscious of what color I was."

"I can see how you would be," I said. "Mick's an Irish kid from a bad neighborhood, and those were the people who hanged black men from lampposts during the Civil War draft riots. He's not likely to decorate the windows for Martin Luther King Day."

"Probably uses the N word a lot."

"He does."

"Nigger nigger nigger," he said.

"Sounds silly when you say it over and over."

"Most any word does. What you say, he's who he is. We's all of us that."

"But you might not care to work for him."

"Not in his bar, Lamar. But then it don't look like it gone be open for business anytime soon. But that ain't the way you mean."


"We was workin' for him a couple days ago, wasn't we? He much more of a racist now than he was then?"

"Probably not."

"So why would I all of a sudden not want to be workin' for the man?"

"Because it's dangerous and illegal," Elaine said. "You could have some major trouble with the police, and you could even get killed."

He grinned. "Well, all that's cool," he said, "but I just know there's gotta be a downside."

"You think that's funny, don't you?"

"So do you, or you wouldn't be tryin' so hard to keep from laughin'." To me he said, "What we gonna do, exactly? Grab some guns and head for the OK Corral?"

I shook my head. "I don't think either of us is cut out for that," I said. "There will probably come a time for that, and it'll be tip to somebody else to do it. Right now, though, nobody knows where the OK Corral is, or who's holed up there."

"Was the Clantons, way I remember it."

"This time around the Clantons don't have names or faces. What's called for is some detective work."

"An' we the detectives," he said. He scratched his head. "We didn't get too far with E-Z Storage. Fact, we took it as far as we could and signed off the case."

"We haven't got much more now than we did then, but there are a few things."

"Dude who shot your friend."

"That's one. Right now the main thing we know about him is he's black."

"Narrows it down."

"It does, as a matter of fact, because we also know he's a professional. And he screwed up, he shot the wrong person."

"Word might get around."

"It might," I agreed. "Second, there's the gunman at Grogan's."

"Asian dude."

"Southeast Asian, from the looks of him."

"That's right, you saw the man. I was thinkin' they didn't show his face on the TV, but you got to see him up close."

"Closer than I'd have liked. They haven't released his name or anything about him, but that doesn't mean they don't know it."

"Get his name, trace him back, see who he used to hang out with."

"That's the idea. Our third opening's the two guys who jumped me a few blocks from here."

"Pounded on you, till you went and pounded on them."

"I got a good look at one of them," I said. "I'd recognize him again."

"You figure he lives in New York?'

"He'd pretty much have to. Why?"

"'Cause that's how we'll do it, Hewitt. Just drive around lookin' at people, an' pick him out of the eight million faces we see."

"Well, that's one way."

"But you can think of another."

"I can," I said. "The trouble is, it's not a whole lot better than your way."

"Well, we flexible," he said. "We try your way, an' if it don't work we try mine."

"George Wister's not a bad guy," Joe Durkin said. "A good cop and a bright fellow. He doesn't know what to make of you. You want to know something? I'm not so sure I know what to make of you myself."

"What do you mean?"

"You were having dinner with your friend last night. You went to the can and he got shot. And you couldn't think of a reason on earth why somebody'd want to kill good old Jim."

"I still can't."

"Bullshit," he said. "That the same jacket you were wearing last night?"


"Same as your friend had on. Don't jerk me around, will you? You were the intended vic. Only reason you're here now is you picked the right time to take a leak."

We were in a Greek coffee shop on Eighth, just a block down from the Lucky Panda. I'd have preferred a different meeting place, but I'd already rejected his first suggestion, the squad room at Midtown North, and he hadn't liked my idea of getting out of the neighborhood altogether and meeting somewhere down in Chelsea or the Village.

When I'd got there he was at a back booth, drinking coffee and halfway through a piece of cherry cheesecake. He said it was good and I ought to have some, but I told the waiter I'd just have a cup of coffee. Joe said it was good we'd stayed in the neighborhood, that it was going to rain. I said they kept predicting rain and it kept not raining. He said they'd be right sooner or later, and the guy brought my coffee and we got down to it.

Now I said, "I guess that's true. I was evidently the shooter's actual target."

"It took you until today to figure that out?"

"Wister suggested as much last night. In an offhand way, after he'd gotten through floating the idea that Jim had been printing up green cards and bearer bonds for the Five Families. I took it about as seriously."

"When did you change your mind?"

"When I talked to Mick Ballou."

"Your friend,"

"He's a friend of mine, yes. You know that."

"And you know what I think about it. A lot of guys on the job have made themselves grief that way, having friends like that. Buddies from the old neighborhood, guys who went one way while they went another."

"I'm not on the job anymore, Joe."

"No, you're not."

"And Ballou and I don't go back that far. I put in my papers years before I met him."

"And the two of you just hit it off, huh?"

"Since when do I have to explain my friendships to you? You're a friend of mine, and I don't get a grilling from Ballou on the subject."

"Is that a fact? I guess he's more broad-minded than I am. Where were we? You were saying you changed your mind when you talked to your good friend the murderer. When was this?"

"After I finished with Wister. I stopped at his place on my way home."

"Not exactly on your way. You walked over to Ninth and turned left instead of right I don't suppose you dropped in for a drink."

"I'd just lost one friend and felt the need to say hello to another," I said. "And when I got there he told me how he'd been having problems."


"There was a fellow who did some odds and ends for him who wound up in a garbage can on Eleventh Avenue."

"Peter Rooney, and the odds and ends had to do with Ballou's shylocking operation. What'd he do, hold out a few dollars and Ballou put him in the Dumpster?"

"He didn't know who'd killed Rooney, but I gather there had been other incidents as well, and the implication was somebody was trying to muscle in on him. His take on Jim's shooting was that I'd been the target, and it was because I was a friend of his."

"That's what he told you."


"And I don't suppose he mentioned who was putting the screws to him."

"He said he didn't know."

"Like getting roses from a secret admirer? Except instead of roses it's death threats?"

"Maybe he knew and didn't say."

"Yeah, and maybe he said and it's you that doesn't want to say. And then what happened?"

"What happened?"

"Yeah. What did you do next?"

"I went home. I can't say I took it all that seriously. Why should a friendship make me the target of a presumably professional hit?" I shrugged. "I couldn't sleep. I was up late, drinking coffee in the kitchen and grieving for my friend."

"That's your friend Jimmy."

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