The Devil Knows You're Dead Page 37

 I told her war stories, sketched word portraits of some of the characters I’d known over the years, the unusual speci-mens I’d encountered on either side of the law. That way I could hold up my end of the conversation without revealing very much of myself, which was fine with me.

 And we would go to bed.

 One afternoon, with a Patsy Cline record playing in the background, she asked me what I figured we were doing. Just being together, I suggested.

 “No,” she said. “You know what I mean. What’s the point? Why are you here?”

 “Everybody’s got to be someplace.”

 “I’m serious.”

 “I know you are. I don’t have any answers. I’m here be-cause I want to be here, but I don’t know why that is.”

 Patsy was singing about faded love.

 “I hardly leave this apartment,” Lisa said. “I sit at the win-dow and look at New Jersey. I could be out making the rounds, showing my book to art directors, calling the people I know, trying to get some work. Tomorrow, I tell myself. Next week, next month. After the first of the year. What the hell, everybody knows there’s no work now. The economy’s a mess. Everybody knows that.”

 “It’s true, isn’t it?”

 “I don’t know. I haven’t been looking for work, so how do I know it’s not out there? But how can I work up any enthu-siasm for the struggle when I’ve got all that money just sit-ting there?”

 “If you’re not under any pressure—”

 “I could be doing my own work,” she said. “But I don’t do that either. I sit around. I look at TV. I watch the sun go down. I wait for you to call. I hope you won’t call, but that’s what I’m waiting for. For you to call.”

 I waited in similar fashion, waited for my own action, to call or not to call. I won’t call her today, I would decide. And sometimes I’d stick to my decision. And sometimes I wouldn’t.

 “Why do you come over here, Matt?”

 “I don’t know.”

 “What am I, do you figure? Am I a drug? Am I a bottle of booze?”


 “My father drank. I know I told you that.”


 “The other day when you kissed me I had the sense that there was something missing, and I realized what it was. It was the smell of whiskey on your breath. We don’t need a psychiatrist to figure that one out, do we?”

 I didn’t say anything. I remember our faded love, sang Patsy Cline.

 “So I guess that’s what’s in it for me,” she said. “I get to have Daddy in bed with me, and I don’t have to worry that Mommy’ll hear us because she’s all the way across town. And he wouldn’t put it in. He thought it was a sin.”

 “So do I.”

 “You do?”

 I nodded. “But I do it anyway,” I said. Later that same day she talked about her late husband. We never talked about Elaine, I had ruled out that topic of con-versation, but I couldn’t presume to tell her I didn’t want to hear about him either.

 “I wonder if he expected this,” she said.


 “Us. I think he did.”

 “What makes you say that?”

 “I don’t know. He admired you, I know that much.”

 “He thought I could be useful.”

 “It was more than that. He put it in my mind to call you. You called me, I realize that, but I was going to call you. I remem-ber he told me once that if a person was ever in a jam, you’d be a good person to call. He said it with a certain intensity, too, as if he wanted to make sure I would remember later. It’s as if he was telling me to call you if anything ever happened to him.”

 “You could be reading more into his words than he put there.”

 “I don’t think so,” she said, burrowing into the crook of my arm. “I think that was exactly what he meant. In fact I’m surprised there wasn’t a note in the strongbox, along with the money. ‘Call Matt Scudder, he’ll tell you exactly what to do.’ ” Her hand reached for me. “Well? Aren’t you going to tell me exactly what to do?”

 And when I left her apartment that day I walked a block to Eleventh Avenue and down to the corner where he died. I stood there while the lights changed several times, then walked on down to DeWitt Clinton Park to pay my respects to the Captain. I read McCrae’s misquoted words:

 if ye break faith

 with those who died

 we shall not sleep . . .

 Had I broken faith, with Glenn Holtzmann, with George Sadecki? Was there more I could do, and was my inaction keeping their spirits restless?

 What action could I take? And how could I bring myself to take it, if I was afraid of where it might lead?

 Chapter 23

 Two weeks before Christmas Elaine and I had dinner with Ray and Bitsy Galindez at a Caribbean restaurant in the East Village. Ray is a police artist; working with eyewitnesses, he produces drawings of unidentified perpetrators for Wanted posters and NYPD circulars. His is an uncommon craft, and Ray is uncommonly good at what he does. I have used him twice in cases of my own, and on both occasions he did an extraordinary job of dredging up faces from some broom closet in my mind and making them visible on paper.

 After dinner we went back to Elaine’s, where the sketches he’d made for me were framed and hanging on the wall. They made a curious group. Two of the drawings showed murderers, the third a boy who had been a victim of one of the men. The other man—his name was James Leo Mot-ley—had come very close to killing Elaine.

 Bitsy Galindez had never been to Elaine’s apartment be-fore and had never seen the sketches. She looked at them and shuddered, saying she couldn’t understand how Elaine could bear to look at them every day. Elaine told her they were works of art, that they transcended their subject matter. Ray, a little embarrassed, said they were decent draftsman-ship, good likenesses, that it was true he had a knack, but that it was a hell of a stretch to call it art.

 “You don’t even know how good you are,” Elaine coun-tered. “I wish I had a gallery. I’d give you a show.”

 “A gallery,” he said. “Have to be a rogues’ gallery, wouldn’t it?”

 “I’m serious, Ray. In fact I was thinking of having you do a portrait of Matt.”

 “Who’d he kill? Just a joke.”

 “You do portraits, don’t you?”

 “When somebody asks.” He held up his hands. “This is no false modesty, Elaine, but there’s a hundred guys out on the street with easels and drawing pads who can do your portrait as good as I can, and maybe better. You sit for me and I do your portrait, it’s not gonna be anything special. Believe me.”

 “That’s probably true,” she said, “because what makes your work unique is the way you draw a person without seeing him. What I was thinking was that you could draw Matt by working with me, as if he were a suspect and I an eyewitness.”

 “But I’ve already seen him.”

 “I know.”

 “So that would get in the way. But I see what you’re say-ing, I do. It’s an interesting idea.”

 “My father,” she said.

 “Beg your pardon?”

 “You could do my father,” she said. “He’s dead, he died years ago. I have some photographs of him, of course. He’s in one of the framed photos to the right of the front door, but don’t look at it.”

 “I won’t.”

 “In fact I’m going to take it down so you don’t happen to glance at it by accident later on your way out. This is an excit-ing idea for me, Ray. Could you do that, do you think? Could the two of us sit down and you’d do a drawing of my father?”

 “I guess so,” he said. “I don’t see why not.”

 To me she said, “That’s what I want for Christmas. I hope you didn’t buy my present yet because this is what I really want.”

 “It’s yours,” I said.

 “My daddy,” she said. “You know, it’s hard to picture him in my mind. I wonder if I’ll be able to do it.”

 “The memory will come back when you need it.”

 She looked at me. “It’s starting already,” she said, and her eyes filled with tears. “Excuse me,” she said, and got to her feet.

 After they left she said, “I’m not crazy, you know. He re-ally has an uncanny ability.”

 “I know.”

 “It’ll be emotional, working with him. You saw how I got just thinking about it. But it’s something I really want to do. If I cry a little, so be it. Kleenex is cheap, right?”


 “If I could, I’d give him a show.”

 “Why don’t you?” She looked at me. “You’ve said that before,” I said, “and not just about Ray. Maybe you ought to open a gallery.”

 “What a wacky idea.”

 “Maybe it’s not so wacky.”

 “I’ve thought of it,” she admitted. “It would be another fucking hobby, though, wouldn’t it? And more expensive than taking courses at Hunter.”

 “Chance made a good thing out of it.”

 Chance was a friend of ours, a black man who had col-lected African art for years and now sold it quite success-fully out of a gallery on upper Madison Avenue.

 “Chance is different,” she said. “By the time Chance went into the business he knew more about his field than ninety percent of the people who were dealing in it. But what the hell do I know about anything?”

 I pointed at a large abstract canvas hanging near the win-dow. “Tell me again what you paid for that one,” I said, “and what it’s worth now.”

 “That was luck.”

 “Or a good eye.”

 She shook her head. “I don’t know enough about art. And I don’t know a thing about merchandising it. Let’s be realis-tic, okay? All I ever sold was pussy.”

 It was funny how the mood flattened out. We’d had a good time with Ray and Bitsy, and the prospect of collaborating on a portrait of her father had excited her, but now the blues rolled in like cloud cover. I had been planning on staying over, but a little before midnight I told her I felt the need for a meeting. “I’ll just go back to the hotel afterward,” I said, and she didn’t try to talk me out of it.

 There are two regular midnight meetings in Manhattan, one on West Forty-sixth Street, one downtown on Houston. I picked the closer of the two and sat on a rickety chair for an hour drinking bad coffee. The fellow who led the meeting had started out sniffing airplane glue at seven and had left no mind-altering substance unexplored in the years since then. He’d hit his first detox at fifteen, had arrested in an emer-gency room at eighteen, and had twice almost died of endo-carditis contracted via IV heroin use. He was now twenty-four, had been sober two years and change, had sus-tained some permanent cardiovascular damage, and had just recently been diagnosed as HIV-positive.

 “But I’m sober,” he said.

 At one point I looked around the room and realized I was the oldest man in the room by a considerable margin, except for a wispy white-haired fellow in the corner who was ar-guably the oldest man in America. A couple of times during the discussion I was on the point of raising my hand, but something stopped me. I was at least as close to leaving be-fore the meeting was over, but I didn’t do that either, duti-fully remaining until the hour was up.

 Afterward I walked over to Tenth Avenue, and up to Gro-gan’s Open House.

 Mick said, “Do you remember the first time we talked? I made you take off your shirt.”

 “You wanted to make sure I wasn’t wearing a wire.”

 “I did,” he said. “By God, I hope you’re not wearing one tonight.”

 Burke had gone for the night. The floor was swept, and all the tables but ours were topped with chairs. One light still burned. Mick had just told me a story that would have put him in jail if he’d told it in court. It had happened long ago, but it involved acts for which there is no statute of limitations.

 “No wires,” I said. I looked down into my glass. It held club soda, but the way I was gazing into it you’d have thought it was filled with something stronger. I used to stare like that into glasses of whiskey, as if they contained coded answers. All they did was dissolve the questions, but there was a time when that was enough. “No wires. No strings, either.”

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