Everybody Dies Page 22

"Jim. Nobody ever called him Jimmy."

"Your friend Jim, then. As opposed to your friend Mick."

I let that go. "Then Elaine woke me around noon," I said, "after she heard about the incident at Grogan's."

"The incident."

"The bombing, although I gather it was more than that. There was gunfire as well, wasn't there?"

"You tell me."

"How's that?"

He picked up his empty coffee cup and tapped it against the edge of the saucer. "The way I hear it," he said, "you were there."

"I just got through telling you I was there. Then I went home, and it must have been two hours later that the shit hit the fan."

"Two hours later."

"Maybe three."

"Not the way I heard it."

"You heard I was there when it happened?"

"That's right, Matt," he said, looking straight at me. "That's exactly what I heard."

"Who's saying that?"

"Information received. You want to rethink your story?"

"My story? I haven't got a story. I told you what happened."

"And you were nowhere to be seen when the crap was flying."


He frowned. "I blame it on all those years on the job," he said. "If there's one thing a cop learns it's how to tell a lie and stick with it. And it's like riding a bicycle, right? You never forget how."

"You think I lied to you?"

"What gives you that idea?"

"Well, I think you lied to me. 'Information received.' You never heard I was at Grogan's. You were on a fishing trip."

He spread his hands. "We had a description, couple of guys seen leaving the scene. One was Ballou and the other could have been you."

"What did they say, it was a white male with two arms and two legs?"

"All right, point taken. The description we had could fit half the precinct. If they'd thrown in pain in the ass, then I'd have no doubts. Maybe I was fishing, but that doesn't make me wrong. Goddamn it, I still think you were there."

"Well, it's a free country. You can think whatever you like."

"I'm glad I've got your permission. While you're at it, you want to give me your word you weren't there when it all went down?"

"What for? You just got through telling me my word's not worth shit."

"I guess it's still worth something," he said, "Or you wouldn't be reluctant to give it. I'm not sure what kind of a game you're playing, my friend, but I don't think I like it. What are you trying to do, do you even fucking know?"

"I'm not sure I understand the question."

"Maybe all you're trying to do is stay alive, and in that case I can't say I blame you. Here's a question you can answer straight. Have you been over there this afternoon?"

"Where, Grogan's?"

"Uh-huh. You happen to walk by, have a look-see?"

I shook my head. "I came straight over here. From what I saw on the TV, there's nothing to see but plywood at this point."

"It's a shame you didn't get to see it the way I did. I was there this morning right after my shift started. They'd removed the bodies by then, but I had pictures to look at."

"I don't envy you that."

"And I don't envy the poor bastards who were first on the scene, far as that goes. What a fucking nightmare." He cocked his head. "If it was you looking at the pictures, there might have been one you recognized."

"What do you mean?"

"Does the name Lisa Holtzmann mean anything to you?"

"Of course," I said without hesitation. "From a few years ago. She was a client, her husband got shot making a phone call."

"Killed by mistake, as it turned out. Like your friend last night."

"What about Lisa? She was at Grogan's last night?"

"You didn't know?"

"I didn't hear her name on the news."

"She was there," he said. "And come to think of it, maybe you wouldn't have recognized her from the picture. What I saw was strictly closed casket."

"I've seen her around the neighborhood a few times over the years. Never at Grogan's, as far as I can recall."

"She wasn't there when you dropped by earlier?"

"It's possible, I suppose. If she was I didn't see her."

"If she was, she should have gone home when you did. You could have walked her home."

"What are you getting at?"

"I don't even know. Matt, if you're holding out information that could help clear the case, you're not doing anybody any good. Straight answers for a minute, okay? Do you know who shot your friend Faber?"

"No. I heard it was a black man, but I can't even say that out of my own knowledge."

"Guy was a pro, way it sounds to me. You don't know who might have hired him?"


"Or who was behind the mess at Grogan's?"

"No, but I'm willing to believe it was the same person who hired the other shooter."

"And you don't know who that might be, and neither does Ballou."

"Not unless he's holding out on me."

"And you don't think he is?"

"I can't see why he would. Did they say on the news the shooter at Grogan's was Asian?"

"One of them was. We've got zip on the second man."

"I didn't know there was a second man."

"The bomb chucker. Unless there was just the one guy, did the shooting and threw the bomb, but that seems a little unlikely. The eyewitness testimony suggests a second man, but it's not conclusive."

"But the shooter was Asian."

"Vietnamese, as a matter of fact Wasn't that on the news?"

"If it was I missed it All I heard was Asian."

"Maybe they didn't release it yet. Don't ask me his name, but it's on file, along with his fingerprints and his pictures, full face and profile. Been on file a few years now."

"You've got a sheet on him?"

"He was a troubled youth," he said. "Remember Born To Kill? Slope gang based downtown, got a lot of press a few years ago for being more homicidal than the Viet Cong?"

"Weren't they the ones who shot up a wedding party in Jersey?"

"Was it a wedding or a funeral? Whatever it was, it had all the old Mafia guys shaking their heads, wondering what the world was coming to. BTK was mostly running protection gangs in Chinatown, giving the tongs some grief, the usual first-generation crap. Reason you don't hear about them anymore is they mostly wound up dead or in jail. Or both, like our friend from last night. He did three years upstate for robbery and assault, and then last night he was dead at the scene." He leaned forward. "Somebody shot his lights out. Maybe you, with what you got right there inside your jacket."

"It's a.38," I said. "Is that what you dug out of Mr. Dead at the Scene?"

"We left that little chore to the medical examiner. But no, he got punched out with three shots from a.45. When did you start carrying a gun?"

"When I saw the news this morning. I've got a carry permit, if that's been worrying you."

"Yeah, it's a load off my mind."

"What was his name?"

"Who, the dead shooter? They've all got the same name."

"That must be handy," I said. "You call out one name and they all come running."

"You know what I mean. They all got names like you'd order in a restaurant if you could just figure out how to pronounce it. This one, his name started with NG, so even if I remembered it I wouldn't know how to say it"

"If you get sick of being a cop, you can always go to work for the UN."

"Or the State Department, teaching 'em how to be diplomatic. What the hell do you care about the name of some dead slope?"

"It was just an idle question."

"Only it didn't sound that idle. What are you holding out?"

"Not a thing."

"Am I supposed to believe that?"

"Believe what you want."

"You know," he said, "you're licensed by the state of New York. You can't withhold evidence."

"I don't have any evidence to withhold. Any suspicions or theories I might have aren't evidence, and I'm under no obligation to pass them on."

"If you were there last night, what you saw is evidence."

"I was in the bathroom," I said deliberately, "and what I saw was my own face in the mirror, and I already told Wister- "

"I'm talking about Grogan's. You son of a bitch, you knew I was talking about Grogan's."

"I already told you I left before there was anything to see."

"You were home in your own kitchen."

"That's right."

"Drinking coffee. That what you do when you can't sleep? Drink coffee?"

"If only I'd checked in with you, you could have told me to make it warm milk instead."

"You're making a joke, but it's the best thing in the world before you go to bed. Even better, sweeten it with a stiff shot of scotch. But I guess you'd leave the scotch out, wouldn't you?"


"Or maybe not. Maybe you chip around. Is that why you like hanging out with your gangster friend? Do you sneak drinks from time to time?"

"So far I haven't."

"Well, give yourself time. What did your other friend think of you hanging out in ginmills with cheap crooks? Your friend Jim. I bet he thought it was a great idea."

"Is there a point to all this?"

"The point is I think you were there last night."

"No matter what I say."

"No matter what. You were at Grogan's when the shit hit the fan, and you must have been standing right in front of it, which is why you're so full of it right now. You know what he wants to do? George Wister? He wants to put out an order and have you picked up."

"I suppose he can do that if he wants."

"Nice of you to give him permission."

"But he's not going to learn anything he doesn't already know."

"Matt, Matt, Matt," he said. "I thought we were friends."

"So did I."

"Except they say a cop can only be friends with another cop, and that's not what you are anymore, is it?"

"I'm the same thing I've been for as long as we've known each other."

"Seems to me you've changed. But maybe not." He sat back in his seat. "Let's wrap this up, okay? I don't know how deep you're into all of this, but the main reason I'm here now is to warn you off. Stay the hell away from Ballou."

I didn't say anything.

"Because he's finished, Matt. Somebody came real close to doing the world a favor last night. He dodged the bullet, but he may not be that lucky next time. And you know there's gonna be a next time."

"Unless first-rate police work leads to the quick arrest of those responsible."

"And how can we miss, with the cooperation we're getting from the public? Not the point. Which is that he's going down. He's the focus of a major departmental investigation. If the next bomb or bullet doesn't get him, all that means is he'll do time."

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies