Gone for Good Page 62

The Ghost hit the lawyer again, finding the same spot on the ankle. There was a crunching sound like a truck tire over a beer bottle. Ford put up a hand, pleading for mercy.

Over the years, McGuane had learned that it was best to strike before you interrogate. Most people, when presented with the threat of pain, will try to talk their way out of it. That goes double for men who are accustomed to using their mouths. They’ll search for angles, for half-truths, for credible lies. They are rational, the assumption goes, and thus their opponents must be the same. Words can be used to defuse.

You need to strip them of that delusion.

The pain and fear that accompany a sudden physical assault are devastating to the psyche. Your cognitive reasoning—your intelligentsia, if you will, your evolved man—fades away, caves in. You are left with the Neanderthal, the primitive true-you who knows only to escape pain.

The Ghost looked over at McGuane. McGuane nodded. The Ghost stepped back and let McGuane move closer.

“He stopped in Vegas,” McGuane explained. “That was his big mistake. He visited a doctor there. We checked the nearby pay phones for out-of-state calls made an hour before and an hour after his visit. There was only one call of interest. To you, Mr. Ford. He called you. And just to make sure, I had a man watch your office. The feds paid you a visit yesterday. So you see, it all adds up. Ken had to have a lawyer. He’d want someone tough and independent and not connected in any way to me. That would be you.”

Joshua Ford said, “But—”

McGuane held up his hand to stop him. Ford obeyed and closed his mouth. McGuane stepped back, looked at the Ghost, and said, “John.”

The Ghost advanced and without hesitating, he whacked Ford on the side of the arm above the elbow. The elbow bent back the wrong way. Ford’s face lost whatever color was left.

“If you deny or pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about,” McGuane said, “my friend here will stop the love taps and start to hurt you. Do you understand?”

Ford took a few seconds. When he finally looked up, McGuane was surprised by the steadiness of the man’s gaze. Ford looked at the Ghost, then at McGuane. “Go to hell,” Ford spat out.

The Ghost looked at McGuane. He arched an eyebrow, smiled, and said, “Brave.”

“John . . .”

But the Ghost ignored him. He whipped the iron bar across Ford’s face. There was a wet ripping sound as his head snapped to the side. Blood squirted across the room. Ford fell back and did not move. The Ghost lined up for another blow to the knee.

McGuane said, “Is he still conscious?”

That made the Ghost pause. He bent down. “Conscious,” the Ghost reported, “but his breathing is sporadic.” He stood back up. “Another blow and Mr. Ford might go nighty-night.”

McGuane thought about that. “Mr. Ford?”

Ford looked up.

“Where is he?” McGuane asked again.

This time Ford shook his head.

McGuane walked over to the monitor. He swiveled it so that Joshua Ford could see the screen. Cromwell was sitting cross-legged, sipping coffee.

The Ghost pointed at the monitor. “He wears nice shoes. Are they Allen-Edmonds?”

Ford tried to sit up. He got his hands underneath him, tried to push, fell back.

“How old is he?” McGuane asked.

Ford did not reply.

The Ghost lifted the bar. “He asked you—”



Ford nodded.


“Two boys.”

McGuane studied the monitor some more. “You’re right, John. Those are nice shoes.” He turned to Ford. “Tell me where Ken is, or he dies.”

The Ghost carefully put down the metal bar. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a Thuggee strangulation stick. The handle portion was made of mahogany. It was eight inches long and two inches in diameter. The surface was octagonal. Deep grooves were cut into it, making it easier to grip. There was a braided rope attached to either end. The rope was made of horsehair.

“He’s got nothing to do with this,” Ford said.

“Listen to me closely,” McGuane said. “I’m only going to say this once.”

Ford waited.

“We never bluff,” McGuane said.

The Ghost smiled. McGuane waited a beat, his eyes on Ford. Then he hit the intercom button. The security receptionist responded.

“Yes, Mr. McGuane.”

“Bring Mr. Cromwell here.”

“Yes, sir.”

They both watched the monitor as a beefy security guard came to the door and waved toward Cromwell. Cromwell uncrossed his legs, put down his coffee, rose, straightened out his jacket. He followed the security guard out the door. Ford turned to McGuane. Their eyes met and locked.

“You’re a stupid man,” McGuane said.

The Ghost regripped the wooden handle and waited.

The security guard opened the door. Raymond Cromwell entered with his smile at the ready. When he saw the blood and his boss crumbled on the floor, his face dropped like someone had short-circuited the muscles. “What the—?”

The Ghost stepped behind Cromwell and kicked the back of both legs. Cromwell let out a cry and dropped to his knees. The Ghost’s moves were practiced, effortlessly graceful, like a grotesque ballet.

The rope dropped over the younger man’s head. When it fully circled his neck, the Ghost jerked back violently while simultaneously putting his knee against Cromwell’s spine. The rope tightened hard against Cromwell’s waxy-smooth skin. The Ghost twisted the handle, effectively cutting off blood flow to the brain. Cromwell’s eyes bulged. His hands pawed at the rope. The Ghost held on.

“Stop!” Ford shouted. “I’ll talk!”

But there was no reply.

The Ghost kept his gaze on his victim. Cromwell’s face was a horrid shade of purple.

“I said—” Ford quickly turned to McGuane. McGuane stood at ease with his arms folded. The two men locked eyes. The quiet sounds, the awful gurgling struggle coming from Cromwell, echoed in the stillness.

Ford whispered, “Please.”

But McGuane shook his head and repeated his earlier statement: “We never bluff.”

The Ghost turned the handle one more time and held on.


I had to tell my father about the security tape.

Squares dropped me off at a bus stop near the Meadowlands. I had no idea what to do about what I’d just seen. Somewhere along the New Jersey Turnpike, while staring out at the decaying industrial plants, my brain slipped on the autopilot. It was the only way to keep moving.

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