Everybody Dies Page 33


"I wish I could have been him."

"Elaine's answer to that would be that maybe you were."

"In a past life, do you mean? Ah, it makes a nice story, but it's hard to believe in it, isn't it now?"

"This from a man who has no trouble with transubstantiation?"

"But that's different," he protested. "If the nuns had drilled reincarnation into my head I'd believe that, too." He looked away. "'Twould be pleasant to believe I was the Big Fella once. But what a fucking comedown for himself, eh? To be Michael Collins in one lifetime, and to come back as Mick Ballou."

He said, "We were talking of guns before. Are you still carrying the same one?"

I nodded. He held out a hand and I gave it to him. He turned it over in his hand, lowered his head and sniffed it.

"Cleaned it since you fired it," he said.

"Yes, and reloaded it. At least the cop who takes it off me won't know it's been fired recently. But I ought to get rid of it altogether."


"Yes. They wouldn't make the match unless they looked for it, but they might look for it. I'd have tossed it by now but I didn't want to walk around unarmed."

"No, you can't do that. But I can help you out." He opened the satchel he'd brought from Grogan's, pulled out guns and set them on the desk. "These automatics are good," he said. "Or are you partial to revolvers?"

"That's what I'm used to. And don't automatics tend to jam?"

"So they say, but I've never had it happen to me. Either of these would give you more firepower than what you've been carrying."

"I don't know if they'd fit in the holster." I tried one, and it didn't. I put it back and picked up a revolver not unlike the one I'd been using. It was another Smith, but chambered for magnum loads. I tried it in the holster and it was a perfect fit.

"I've no extra rounds for it," he said. "There'd be a box in the safe, and there they'll stay. Have you had a look at the old place?"

"The bar, you mean? Only on television."

"I drove past it. Sad to see it like that." He shook off the memory. "I ought to be able to get hold of some shells to fit this thing."

"I'll buy a box tomorrow."

"Jesus, that's right. You've a permit, they'll sell you whatever you want."

"Well, they won't sell me a bazooka."

"I wish they would. I'd buy one, if I knew where to point it. It's hard to fight what you can't see. Take this, in the meantime."

He handed me a little nickel-plated automatic that lay in the palm of his hand like a toy.

"Here," he said. "Put it in your pocket, it weighs next to nothing. There's only the clip that's in it, but it's not the sort of thing you'd be likely to reload."

"Where did you get it?"

"I took it away from a man years ago, and I can tell you he'll have no further use for it. Go ahead, put it in your pocket."

"Two-Gun Scudder," I said.

It was like one of our long nights at Grogan's, with the door locked and only the two of us left. There were people dead and the world going to hell around us, but for all that it was an easy night, or even an aisy one. The conversation flowed, and when it ran out from time to time there would be a long silence.

"When you die," he said thoughtfully, "'tis said you see your whole life. But you don't see it minute by minute, like a speeded-up film. It's like everything you ever did in all your days was a brushstroke, and now you see the whole painting all at once."

"It's hard to imagine."

"It is. What a picture that would be! 'Twould be worse than the dying, to have to look at it."

There was something I'd forgotten. I was wondering what it was and thinking I ought to get on home when Mick said, "So he was no help at all to you."

"Who are we talking about?"

"The man you left for dead. Did you ever tell me his name? I can't recall."

"Chilton Purvis."

"Ah, you told me. I remember now. He had nothing to tell you?"

"They never told him a name, or gave him a number to call."

"Or if they did he wouldn't tell it."

"He'd have told me anything at that point," I said. "All he cared about was getting to the hospital. When I showed him the sketch, he ID'd the thing before I got it unfolded. He'd have sworn that was the guy who shot JFK if he thought that's what I wanted."

"You mentioned a sketch," he said. "Just before you told me that the boy was shot."

"Which was right around the time you stood up on the brake pedal and gave the guy behind us a heart attack."

"Aaah, he should learn how to fucking drive. But this sketch. You never said your man in Brooklyn saw it."

"I don't know that he really saw it. 'Yes, mon, that's him'- but he barely looked at it. I showed him another sketch by the same artist, someone he couldn't possibly have seen, and yes, mon, that was him, too. Which one, I asked him. Both of them, he said. And anyone else I wanted to throw in the hopper, just so I hauled his ass to the ER."

"He's looked at another picture now," he said. "His whole life laid out before him. He'll identify that straight enough. Do you have that sketch on you?"

"Oh, for Christ's sake."

"No harm if you don't. Next time'll do."

"I've got it," I said, "and I meant to show it to you hours ago. He's hired help, but my guess is he's a lot closer to the top man than Chilton Purvis or the Vietnamese. Maybe you'll know him."

I got out my wallet, found the sketch of the man who'd hit me, showed it to him. It was well drawn, he observed. You got a real sense of the man. But it was no one he recognized.

"Now the other one," he said.

"It's just a face," I said. "Somebody I thought I recognized, but couldn't place. I couldn't get the face out of my mind, so my artist friend drew it."

He took the sketch and the color drained from his face. He looked at me and his green eyes were fierce. "Is this a joke?" he demanded. "Is this a fucking joke?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"You've seen this man, have you?"

"At Grogan's, the night we buried Kenny and McCartney. I just had a quick glimpse of him but he's got a memorable face."

"Indeed he does. I'll never forget it."

"You know him?"

He ignored the question. "And you recognized him."

"He looked familiar to me but I couldn't place him. TJ says he thinks he's seen him around the neighborhood."

"And is that where you've seen him? Around the neighborhood?"

"I don't know. I almost think…"


"That it's a face from the past. That I saw it years and years ago, if I ever saw it at all."

"Years and years."

"But who is he? You know him, obviously, but I never saw you react like that. It's almost as if…"

"As if I'd seen a ghost." He stuck out his finger, touched the sketch. "And what do you think that is? What's that if it's not a ghost?"

"You've lost me."

"I've lost it all," he said, "for how am I to contend with a ghost? What chance have I against a man who's thirty years dead?"

"Thirty years?"

"Thirty years and more." He took the sheet of paper in both hands, brought it closer, held it at arm's length. "Just the head," he said. "All you'd put in a drawing, isn't it? And it's how I saw him last, and how I see him in my mind. Just the head."

He threw down the sketch, turned to me. "Don't you see it, man? It's Paddy Fucking Farrelly."

"How old was he, this man you saw?"

"I don't know. Somewhere in his thirties."

"That was Farrelly's age when he died. I killed him, you know."

"That's what I always understood."

"By God, I have to say he had it coming. He was a bad bastard, that one. I had my troubles with him in school days. A few years older than myself, and a bully he was, a terrible bully. That ended when I got my size and gave as good as I got. He didn't care for that, the dirty bastard.

"'Tis a vast city, New York, but the old Kitchen's not so big, and the pool we swam in wasn't large at all. We were forever in each other's way, forever coming head to head with each other, and everybody knew how it had to end. By God, I thought, if someone's after getting killed it needn't be myself, and I laid for the bastard, and I did for him.

"You've heard the stories, and there's a mix of the true and the false in them. This much is true: I took his great ugly head off his shoulders. Do that, I thought, and your troubles with a man are at an end, for the best doctors in the world won't sew him together again.

"I never thought to run a stake through his heart."

"Let's figure this out," I said.

"It's a mystery," he said. "If you'd been brought up in the Church you'd know that mysteries can't be figured out. They can only be contemplated."

We were in an all-night diner he knew in Queens, way the hell out in Howard Beach not far from JFK. He'd wanted to get away from McGinley & Caldecott, as if Paddy Farrelly's ghost had itself taken up residence there. I don't know how he managed to find the diner, or how he knew of it to begin with, but I figured we were safe there. The place was as remote as Montana.

For a man who'd just seen a ghost he had a good appetite. He put away a big plate of bacon and eggs and home fries. I had the same, and it was good. I could probably be a vegetarian like Elaine, but only if bacon was declared a vegetable.

"A mystery," I said. "Well, I didn't have the advantage of a Catholic education. I think of a mystery as something to be solved. Can we agree that it's not a ghost I saw?"

"Then it's a resurrection," he said, "and Paddy's an odd candidate for it."

"I think it would have to be his son."

"He never married."

"Did he like the ladies?"

"Too well," he said. "He'd have his way with them if they liked it or not."

"Rape, you mean?"

"Words change their meaning," he said. "Over time. When we were young it was scarcely rape if they knew each other. Unless it was a grown man with a child, or someone forcing himself upon a married woman. But if a girl was out with a man, well, what did she think she was getting into?"

"Now they call it date rape."

"They do," he said, "and quite right. Well, if a girl was with Paddy, she ought to know what she was in for. There was one was going to press charges, but Paddy talked to her brother and her brother talked her out of it. No doubt he threatened to kill the whole family, and no doubt the brother believed him."

"Nice fellow."

"If I go to hell," he said, "as I likely will, it won't be his blood on my hands that puts me there. But, you know, there were enough he didn't need to force. Some women are drawn to men like him, and the worse the man the greater the attraction."

"I know."

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