Gone for Good Page 42

The traffic was miraculously light this evening. Carly Simon faded away and then the Chairman of the Board begged his woman to give him just a little more time and their love would surely grow. Such desperation in that simple plea. I love this song.

We cut across town and took the Harlem River Drive north. When we passed a group of kids huddled under an overpass, Squares pulled over and shifted into park.

“Quick work stop,” he said.

“You want help?”

Squares shook his head. “It won’t take long.”

“You going to use the sandwiches?”

Squares examined his potential help-ees and considered. “Nah. Got something better.”


“Phone cards.” He handed me one. “I got Tele-Reach to donate over a thousand of them. The kids go nuts for them.”

They did too. As soon as they saw them, the kids flocked to him. Count on Squares. I watched the faces, tried to separate the smeared mass into individuals with wants and dreams and hopes. Kids do not survive long out here. Forget the incredible physical dangers. They can often get past that. It is the soul, the sense of self, that erodes out here. Once the erosion reaches a certain level, well, that’s the ball game.

Sheila had been saved before reaching that level.

Then someone had killed her.

I shook it off. No time for that now. Focus on the task at hand. Keep moving. Action kept the grief at bay. Let it fuel you, not slow you down.

Do it—corny as it might sound—for her.

Squares returned a few minutes later. “Let’s rock and roll.”

“You haven’t told me where we’re going.”

“Corner of 128th Street and Second Avenue. Raquel will meet us there.”

“And what’s there?”

He grinned. “A possible clue.”

We exited the highway and passed a sprawl of housing projects. From two blocks away, I spotted Raquel. This was not difficult. Raquel was the size of a small principality and dressed like an explosion at the Liberace museum. Squares slowed the van next to him and frowned.

“What?” Raquel said.

“Pink pumps with a green dress?”

“It’s coral and turquoise,” Raquel said. “Plus the magenta purse pulls it all together.”

Squares shrugged and parked in front of a store-front with a faded sign that read GOLDBERG PHARMACY. When I stepped out, Raquel wrapped me in an embrace that felt like wet foam rubber. He reeked of Aqua Velva, and my mind couldn’t help but think that in this case, indeed, there was something about an Aqua Velva man.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered.

“Thank you.”

He released me, and I was able to breathe again. He was crying. His tears grabbed hold of his mascara and ran it down his face. The colors mixed and got diverted in the rough of his beard, so that his face started looking like a candle in the back of Spencer’s Gifts.

“Abe and Sadie are inside,” Raquel said. “They’re expecting you.”

Squares nodded and headed into the pharmacy. I followed. A ding-dong sounded when we entered. The smell reminded me of a cherry tree-shaped freshener dangling from a rearview window. The store shelves were high and packed and tight. I saw bandages and deodorants and shampoos and cough medicines, all laid out with seemingly little organization.

An old man with half-moon reading glasses on a chain appeared. He wore a sweater-vest over a white shirt. His hair was high and thick and white and looked like a powdered wig from Bailey’s. His eyebrows were extra bushy, giving him the look of an owl.

“Look! It’s Mr. Squares!”

The two men hugged, the old man giving Squares’s back a few hard pats. “You look good,” the old man said.

“You too, Abe.”

“Sadie,” he shouted. “Sadie, Mr. Squares is here.”


“The yoga guy. With that tattoo.”

“The one on his forehead?”

“That’s him.”

I shook my head and leaned toward Squares. “Is there anyone you don’t know?”

He shrugged. “I’ve lived a charmed life.”

Sadie, an older woman who would never see five feet even in Raquel’s highest pumps, stepped down from behind the pharmacy stand. She frowned at Squares and said, “You look skinny.”

“Leave him alone,” Abe said.

“Shush you. You eating enough?”

“Sure,” Squares said.

“You’re bones. Pure bones.”

“Sadie, can you leave the man alone?”

“Shush you.” She smiled conspiratorially. “I got kugel. You want some?”

“Maybe later, thanks.”

“I’ll put some in the Tupperware.”

“That would be nice, thank you.” Squares turned to me. “This is my friend, Will Klein.”

The two old people showed me sad eyes. “He’s the boyfriend?”


They inspected me. Then they looked at each other.

“I don’t know,” Abe said.

“You can trust him,” Squares said.

“Maybe we can, maybe we can’t. But we’re like priests here. We don’t talk. You know that. And she was particularly adamant. We were to say nothing, no matter what.”

“I know that.”

“We talk, what good are we?”

“I understand.”

“We talk, we could be killed.”

“No one will know. I give you my word.”

The old couple looked at each other some more. “Raquel,” Abe said. “He’s a good boy. Or girl. I don’t know, I get so confused sometimes.”

Squares stepped toward them. “We need your help.”

Sadie took her husband’s hand in a gesture so intimate I almost turned away. “She was such a beautiful girl, Abe.”

“And so nice,” he added. Abe sighed and looked at me. The door opened and the ding-dong chimed again. A disheveled black man walked in and said, “Tyrone sent me.”

Sadie moved toward him. “I’ll take care of you over here,” she said.

Abe kept staring at me. I looked at Squares. I didn’t understand any of this.

Squares took off his sunglasses. “Please, Abe,” he said. “It’s important.”

Abe held up a hand. “Okay, okay, just stop with the face, please.” He waved us forward. “Come this way.”

We walked to the back of the store. He lifted the counter flap, and we walked under. We passed the pills, the bottles, the bags of filled prescriptions, the mortars and pestles. Abe opened a door. We headed down into the basement. Abe flicked on the light.

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