The Devil Knows You're Dead Page 16

 Afraid things would fall apart, because they always do. Afraid it would all end badly, because it always does. And afraid, perhaps more than anything, that when all was said and done it would all turn out to have been my fault. Be-cause, somewhere down inside, somewhere deep in the blood and bone, I believe it always is.

 I drank my milk and went home, and this time the doorman greeted me by name and gave me a big smile. (Remember Names and Faces! Let Your Smile Brighten the World!)

 When I slipped into the bedroom Elaine stirred but did not awaken. I got into bed and lay alongside her in the darkness, feeling her warmth.

 Sleep took me by surprise, and the next thing I knew I was dreaming that I was following a man and trying to catch a glimpse of his face. I tailed him over precarious catwalks and down endless staircases, and at last he turned, and he had a mirror for a face. When I sought a reflection in it, all that was shown to me was pure white light, blinding in its in-tensity. I wrenched myself awake, reached out to touch Elaine’s arm, and fell back asleep almost instantly.

 When I awoke again it was nine o’clock and I was alone in the apartment. There was hot coffee in the kitchen. I had a cup, showered, dressed, and was pouring a second cup when she got back from the health club, announcing that it was a beautiful day outside. “Blue skies,” she said. “Canadian air. We give them acid rain, they give us fresh air and Leonard Cohen. What a deal.”

 I called Lisa Holtzmann and hung up as usual when the machine answered. Elaine said, “Gimme. What’s her num-ber?” She dialed it and winced when Holtzmann’s message played. Then she said, “Lisa, this is Elaine Mardell, we had a class together last semester at Hunter. I should have called ages ago, and I’m terribly sorry for what you’ve had to go through. I’m sure you’re busy, but could you call me as soon as you get a chance? It’s sort of important, and—oh, hi, Lisa. Yes, well, I thought you might be monitoring the machine because Matt called you half a dozen times and got the ma-chine each time. He felt funny about leaving a message. Uh-huh. Sure.”

 She asked some questions, said some traditionally sympa-thetic things. Then she said, “Well, why don’t I put Matt on? He’s right here. All right, and you and I’ll get together one of these days. Will you call me? Don’t forget. All right, hold on. Here’s Matt.”

 I took the phone and said, “Matthew Scudder, Mrs. Holtz-mann. I’m very sorry to disturb you. If this is a bad time to talk—”

 “No, it’s fine,” she said. “As a matter of fact—”


 “Actually, I was planning to call you, but I was putting it off. So I’m glad you called.”

 “I wonder if I could see you.”


 “As soon as you’ve got the time available. Today, if that’s possible.”

 “I have to meet someone for lunch,” she said. “And then I have appointments all afternoon.”

 “How does tomorrow look?”

 “I’m supposed to see someone from the insurance com-pany at two tomorrow afternoon, but I don’t know how long that will take. Uh, do you have any free time this evening? Or don’t you like to make appointments after business hours?”

 “My work sets its own hours,” I said. “Tonight would be fine, if you’re sure it’s convenient for you.”

 “It’s perfectly convenient. Nine o’clock? Or is that too late?”

 “It’s fine. I’ll come to your place at nine, unless I hear otherwise. I’ll give you my number in case you have to can-cel.” I did, and added that she could call the hotel desk if she misplaced the number. “I’m at the Northwestern,” I said.

 “Just down the street. Glenn told me a couple of times how he ran into you in the neighborhood. If you have to cancel, call and leave a message. I haven’t been picking up the phone until I know who it is. The kind of calls I’ve been getting—”

 “I can imagine.”

 “Can you? I couldn’t. Well. I’ll expect you at nine, Mr. Scudder. And thank you.”

 I hung up and Elaine said, “I hope I wasn’t interfering. I just had this image of that poor girl sitting next to the phone, scared to pick it up because it might be another jerk calling from one of the supermarket tabloids. And I figured it wouldn’t be awkward for me to leave a message, and then when I spoke to her I could tell her to get in touch with you.”

 “That was good thinking.”

 “But maybe I should have asked you first.”

 “You did fine. I’m going to be seeing her tonight.”

 “Nine o’clock, you said.”

 “Uh-huh. She said she’d been planning to call me.”

 “She didn’t tell me that. What about, I wonder?”

 “I don’t know,” I said. “That’s one of the things I’ll have to find out.”

 Chapter 12

 I went back to my hotel and turned off Call Forwarding. There must be a way to do that from a distance, but I’ve never been able to manage it. I never would have had Call Forwarding in the first place, but it had been a gift from a couple of computer hackers who’d invaded the phone-company computer system on my behalf. While they were in there, they’d arranged for me to get Call Forwarding with-out having to pay the monthly service charge. They also gave me free long-distance service by routing my long-distance calls through Sprint without telling Sprint’s billing system about it. (When I raised ethical objections, they asked me if defrauding the phone company was really going to trouble my conscience. So far I’m forced to admit that it hasn’t.)

 I caught a noon meeting at the Y on West Sixty-third. The speaker was celebrating his ninety days, which is the mini-mum amount of sober time you have to have before you can lead a meeting. He was pleased as unspiked punch to be sober, and his qualification was giddily buoyant. During the break the woman sitting beside me said, “I was like that. Then when I fell off my pink cloud it shook the earth.”

 “And now?”

 “Now I’m happy, joyous, and free,” she said. “What else?”

 Afterward I bought coffee and a sandwich at a deli and picnicked on a bench in Central Park, breathing some of that Canadian air Elaine had spoken so highly of. I could think of things to do but they could wait, and probably ought to; most of them centered on Glenn Holtzmann, and it made sense to put them on Hold until I’d learned what his wife had to tell me.

 I spent a couple of hours in the park. I walked up to the zoo and watched the bears. At the expanse called Strawberry Fields, I thought of John Lennon and figured out how old he would be, if a bullet hadn’t assured that he’d stay forty for-ever. If you could see the world from God’s perspective, I’d heard someone say once, you would realize that every life lasts precisely as long as it ought to, and that everything hap-pens as it should. But I can’t see the world, or anything else, from God’s perspective. When I try, all I get for my troubles is a stiff neck.

 Of course there are those who’d say I’ve had that all my life.

 There were messages at the desk from Jan and TJ. I called him first and beeped him. When five minutes passed with-out a call back, I rang Jan’s number. I got her machine and said I was returning her call, and that she could call me anytime.

 I turned on CNN and was paying precious little attention to it when the phone rang and it was TJ, apologetic for tak-ing so long to answer his beeper. “Couldn’t find a phone,” he said, “ ’cept there be somebody on it. Whole stretch of Eighth Avenue, the phones is gone, Dawn.”

 “They’re all out of order?”

 “Out of order? They out of state, Nate. What dudes’ll do, ’stead of breakin’ ’em open, they’ll wrap a chain around ’em an’ attach it to their car bumper, pull off an’ rip the whole box off the wall. You figure they go through all that just for the quarters, or can they get something for the phones?”

 “I don’t know who would buy them,” I said. “Unless they can work out a way to sell them back to the phone company.”

 “Slow way to get rich, Mitch. Hey, what I called to tell you. Could be I findin’ somethin’ out. What I heard on the street, somebody saw what happened.”

 “You found a witness?”

 “I didn’t find nobody yet. I don’t even know her name. All’s I know is the name of somebody who knows her. But I think I be gettin’ somewhere.”

 “The witness is a woman?”

 “More like what we was talkin’ about last night. A chick with a dick, ’cept you told me a different word. Transsex-ual?”

 “That’s right.”

 “I keep hangin’ around you, I gone be educated. This here chick with a dick, I think I most likely be able to find her. Might take a while, is all.”

 “Just be careful.”

 “You mean like safe sex?”

 “Jesus,” I said. “I mean don’t do anything that’ll get you shot.”

 “Hey, no prob’, Bob. That’s why it might take time, ’cause I bein’ careful. An’ these transwhatchacalls ain’t too swift. ’Tween the drugs and the hormones, they inclined to be on the vague side. Tell you, though. I don’t think George did it.”

 “What makes you say that?”

 “Ain’t he our client? And don’t we be the good guys?”

 “I guess you’re right, Dwight.”

 “You learnin’,” he said. “You comin’ along fine.”

 Elaine called, to tell me about her day and ask about mine. We agreed that it had been a beautiful day, and that the au-tumn was the best time of the year. “There was something I wanted to ask you,” she said, “but of course I can’t think of it now. I hate it when that happens.”

 “I know.”

 “And it happens more and more. Somebody told me about an herb you can take that’s supposed to help your memory, but do you think for one minute I can remember what the hell it is?”

 “If you could—”

 “—I wouldn’t need it. I know, I thought of that. Well, it’ll come to me. You’re seeing Lisa tonight, aren’t you? Call me afterward if you feel like it.”

 “If I think of it. And if it’s not too late.”

 “Or even if it is,” she said. “You know what? I love you.”

 “And I love you.”

 Jan called again while I was taking some shirts to the laun-dry around the corner. I was gone less than ten minutes and walked right past the desk without checking for messages; but the clerk spotted me entering the elevator and rang my room with the message. I called her right back, and once again I got her goddamn machine.

 “We seem to be playing tag,” I said. “I’m going out in a few minutes, and I’ve got a business appointment this evening. I’ll keep trying you.”

 It was exactly nine o’clock when I gave my name to the lobby attendant and told him Mrs. Holtzmann was expecting me. His expression turned wary when he heard her name. I sensed that she’d had her share of visitors since her hus-band’s death, the bulk of them unexpected and unwelcome.

 He used the intercom and cupped the mouthpiece in his hands, pitching his voice too low for me to hear him. Her re-ply allowed him to relax. He wasn’t going to be called upon to throw me out or summon the police, and his gratitude was visible. “You go right on up,” he said.

 She was standing in the doorway of her apartment when I got off the elevator, looking prettier than I remembered her, and older, too, as if recent events had sculpted character into her face. She still looked young, but now it wasn’t so diffi-cult to credit her with the thirty-two years the news articles had mentioned. (She was thirty-two and he was thirty-eight, I found myself thinking. And George Sadecki was forty-four. And John Lennon was still forty.)

 “I’m glad you could come,” she said. “I don’t remember what to call you. Is it Matt or Matthew?”

 “Whichever you prefer.”

 “I called you Mr. Scudder on the phone this morning. I couldn’t remember what I called you the night we all had dinner. Elaine calls you Matt. So I guess I will. Won’t you come in? Won’t you come in, Matt?”

 I followed her into the living room, where two couches stood at a right angle to one another. She seated herself on one and gestured toward the other. I sat down. Both couches were placed to take full advantage of the western view, and I looked out through the window at the last vestiges of the sun-set, a pink and purple stain at the edge of the darkening sky.

 “Those high-rises across the way are in Weehawken,” she said. “If you think this is something, imagine the view they’ve got. They can see the whole Manhattan skyline from there. But then when they go downstairs and out the door, they’re in New Jersey.”

 “Poor devils.”

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