The Devil Knows You're Dead Page 23

 “Deal,” she said. “Eight o’clock?”

 “Eight o’clock.”

 I broke the connection and dialed TJ and punched in Lisa’s number at the tone. “A friend with a beeper,” I explained. “He’ll probably be calling back any minute. When it rings, one of us ought to answer before the machine picks up.”

 “Why don’t you answer it, Matt? I don’t want to talk to anybody. If it’s not for you just tell them they’ve got the wrong number.”

 “Wouldn’t they just call back?”

 “Fuck ’em,” she said, and giggled. “I haven’t had a drink in a while,” she said. “I think I’m feeling this one. Were you talking to Elaine just now?”

 “That’s right.”

 “I like Elaine.”

 “So do I.”

 “I’m warm,” she announced, and got to her feet. “That’s the trouble with facing west. It gets so hot in the afternoon. This summer I had to close the blinds every afternoon to keep the place from heating up faster than the air-conditioning could cope with it. And then I had to remember to open them in time for the sunset.” She took off her blazer, hung it over the back of a chair. “Are you going to be able to stay for the sunset, Matt?”

 “I don’t think so.”

 “We’ve got a VCR. I could plug it right into the window and try taping it for you. Oh, fuck, I did it again.”

 “Did what?”

 “Said ‘we’ instead of ‘I.’ I’ve got a VCR. But you can’t tape sunsets, can you? You have to catch them live and in person. Except they have this video of an aquarium, have you seen it?”

 “I think I heard something about it.”

 “Glenn actually rented it once, if you can believe it. To see what it was like. It was uncanny, you’d swear you had real fish swimming in your television set, that the TV was an aquarium. You know what they could have?”


 “Like a huge TV screen,” she said, “that you’d hang on a wall that doesn’t have windows, or right over the window if you’re in the back with a view of the air shaft. And they could sell you sunset videos, and it would be like looking out your own window if you had one, except better, because you could play it any time of day you wanted. You could have a spectacular sunset at like two in the morning. Don’t you think that’s a brilliant idea?”


 “I think so. Matt, you know what I wish?”


 The phone rang. “I wish you’d answer that,” she said.

 It was TJ, complaining that he’d been trying to reach me all day. “I found her,” he said, “an’ then I lost her.”

 “The witness?”

 “She seen it go down,” he said. “What’s hard is gettin’ the story out of her. She a shy child.”

 “What’s her name?”

 “We on the phone, Joan. Don’t want to be sayin’ names. Name she gave me’s most likely a street name anyway. It a girl’s name, so you know it ain’t the name she was born with.”

 “She’s a transsexual?”

 “ ‘TS’ is her word for it. Always thought those letters stood for somethin’ else. I told her, hey, you TS, I’m TJ, maybe we be kin of some kind. Kissin’ cousins, she say.”

 “Is she a working girl?”

 “She workin’ at bein’ a girl. I hung around with her long as I could, all the time tryin’ to reach you. One time you beeped me I couldn’t get to a phone. Time I did, I called the number an’ got a busy signal. Finally got through, got some weird dude barely spoke English. Told him, man, what busi-ness you got answerin’ the phone when it ain’t for you? He still be figurin’ that out.”

 “You say she’s a witness. What did she see?”

 “Saw the two men we talkin’ about.”

 “Glenn and George?”

 “Okay to say on the phone? Yeah, those two.”

 “Did she see the shooting?”

 “Says she didn’t. Saw just before an’ just after. Saw the one lyin’ there an’ the other goin’ through his pockets.”

 “Or bending over him and picking up shell casings.”

 “What I was thinkin’. You pro’ly got questions to ask her.”

 “A whole bunch,” I said. “Where is she?”

 “Out an’ about. Had a doctor appointment at four, wouldn’t let me tag along with her. ‘Now TJ, I trust you have better ways to occupy your time.’ I tried followin’ her.”

 “You did?”

 “Ain’t that what detectives do? Only you best give me some lessons. I didn’t do too good at it.”

 “It’s not easy.”

 “I followed her into the subway an’ the train pulled out before I could catch it. I hopped the turnstile but I still didn’t have no shot at it, plus I had a fool wanted to report me for fare-beating. Man, I said, you get outta my face with this cit-izen’s arrest shit, or I gonna make a cardiac arrest.” He sighed. “But I lost her.”

 “Can you find her again?”

 “Hope so. I gave her my number, told her to beep me after she done at the doctor’s. If she don’t, I be lookin’ for her over by the Captain.”

 “Is that where she works?”

 “She work up an’ down the avenue. Or she work down on West Street in the Village. She don’t have to work as hard as some of ’em do, ’cause she ain’t got a pimp or a cocaine jones.”

 “What kind of jones has she got?”

 “Guess you’d say it was a doctor jones,” he said. “Puttin’ money by for this procedure an’ that procedure. You wouldn’t believe the shit they’ll do to you if you crazy enough to want it.”

 “In the movies,” I said, “the girl was always saving money for an operation, but it was so that her kid brother could walk again.”

 “Just go to show,” he said. “Times has changed.”

 I would be at the same number for another fifteen or twenty minutes, I told TJ. After that I’d be at my hotel for a little while, and then at Elaine’s. But I’d put Call Forwarding on when I left my hotel, so he could just call the usual number. Any time, I said. It didn’t matter if it was late.

 Lisa was silhouetted against the window, the contours of her body more apparent than when the blue blazer had cloaked them. My eyes were drawn to her breasts and but-tocks. She said, “I heard you say you’d be here another twenty minutes.”

 “If it’s all right.”

 “Of course it’s all right. Was that an informant you were talking to? Has there been a break in the case? What’s so funny?”

 “Nothing. I was just talking to a kid who does some work for me. He’s not an informant, although there are a couple of informants I probably ought to be talking to.” My friend Danny Boy Bell, for instance. “He found an eyewitness to the shooting, or at least to its aftermath. Is that a break in the case? Probably not. I’ll have to find out just what she saw, or thinks she saw, and make some estimate of her reliability.”

 “It’s a woman, then?”

 “Not exactly. Whatever I get from the eyewitness, it’ll probably be less of a revelation than what I learned this morning at Waddell & Yount.”

 “You mentioned you were there. You didn’t say what you found out.”

 And that took the allotted twenty minutes, and five or ten more in the bargain. I recounted most of what I’d got from Eleanor Yount and checked it against what Lisa Holtzmann knew about her husband. I asked a lot of questions and filled a few pages in my notebook, and along the way she went back to the kitchen and freshened her drink. It seemed to me that its contents were a little darker this time around, but that may have been a trick of the lighting. We were starting to get that sunset.

 Eventually I got up from the couch and told her it was time I was on my way. “I know,” she said. “You’re meeting Elaine at eight o’clock, and having dinner at the little place around the corner.”

 “You were paying attention.”

 “I offered you the privacy of the bedroom,” she said. She let the line hang in the air for a moment, then said, “First you’ll go back to your hotel to shower.” She extended a hand, touched my cheek, ran her fingers upward against the grain. “You’ll probably want to shave, too.”


 “I’m going to pull a chair over to the window and watch the sun go down. I wish I didn’t have to do it alone.” I didn’t say anything, and she took my arm and walked me to the door. Her hip bumped against mine, and I could smell the scotch on her breath and the woodsy scent of her perfume.

 In the doorway she said, “Call me if you find out anything I should know about.”

 “I will.”

 “Or just to talk,” she said. “I get lonely.”

 Chapter 16

 Before I left my hotel, I slipped the deck of fifty hundred-dollar bills into the top drawer of my dresser. That’s the first place they’ll look , a little voice told me. That was fine, I de-cided. Let them find it right away instead of tearing up the whole place. I closed the drawer and went out to catch a cab to Elaine’s. Dinner wasn’t a great success. The restaurant she picked was indeed a little place around the corner, a French bistro that called itself Chien Bizarre, its logo featuring a severely clipped and presumably deranged poodle. Elaine, a vegetar-ian, couldn’t find anything on the menu that hadn’t flown or swum or crept sometime in recent memory. This has hap-pened before, and she is generally cheerful about it and or-ders a vegetable plate. On this occasion she wasn’t cheerful about it, nor did her spirits brighten when I reminded her who had picked the restaurant. The waiter helped out by being deliberately obtuse when she explained what she wanted, and the kitchen overcooked the vegetables and then overcharged for them.

 The service was slow, too, and neither of us was in a mood that fostered conversation. There were a lot of long si-lences. Sometimes that’s fine. There’s an AA group I go to occasionally structured along Quaker lines, with members speaking up when moved to do so. The silence is apt to stretch between speakers, and nobody gets nervous about it. The silence is considered a part of the meeting. Elaine and I have shared silences that enhance the conversation in much the same fashion.

 Not this time. These were edgy silences, uncomfortable and disquieting. I tried not to look at my watch, but there were times when I couldn’t help myself, and when she caught me at it the silence only deepened.

 On the way home she said, “The one thing I’m glad of is that they’re in the neighborhood. I’d hate for us to have spent cab fare on that meal.”

 “If they weren’t in the neighborhood,” I said, “we wouldn’t have gone.”

 “That was supposed to be a joke,” she said.

 “Oh. Sorry.”

 The doorman that evening was an old Irishman who’d been with the building since V-J Day. “Evening, Miss Mardell,” he said cheerily, his eyes not registering my pres-ence.

 “Evening, Tim,” she said. “Lovely out, isn’t it?”

 “Ah, beautiful,” he said.

 In the elevator I said, “You know, the son of a bitch makes me feel invisible. Why doesn’t he acknowledge my pres-ence? Does he think you’re trying to keep me a secret?”

 “He’s an old man,” she said. “It’s just the way he is.”

 “Everybody in the world’s either too young to know bet-ter or too old to change,” I said. “Have you noticed that?”

 “As a matter of fact,” she said, “I have.”

 There was a message on her machine. It was TJ, leaving a number for me to call. I told Elaine I should probably call him right away. Go ahead, she said.

 I dialed the number and it was answered on the second ring. Someone with a throaty voice said, “How may I help you, dear?”

 I asked for TJ. He came on the line and said, “Here’s the deal, Lucille. Now’s a good time to come on down and see us.”

 I glanced at Elaine. She was sitting in the black-and-white wing chair, making faces at the clothes in the Lands’ End catalog. I covered the mouthpiece and said, “It’s TJ.”

 “Isn’t that who you called?”

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