Authors: Adrian McKinty
ALSO BY ADRIAN MCKINTY
The Lighthouse Trilogy
The Bloomsday Dead
The Dead Yard
Dead I Well May Be
Orange Rhymes with Everything
A NOVEL OF SUSPENSE
HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY NEW YORK
Henry Holt and Company, LLC
Publishers since 1866
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New York, New York 10010
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are registered trademarks of Henry Holt and Company, LLC.
Copyright © 2009 by Adrian McKinty
All rights reserved.
Distributed in Canada by H. B. Fenn and Company Ltd.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Fifty grand : a novel of suspense / Adrian Mckinty.—1st ed.
1. Women detectives—Fiction. 2. Police—Cuba—Fiction.
3. Fathers—Death—Fiction. 4. Murder—Investigation—Fiction.
5. Cubans—United States—Fiction. 6. Cuba—Fiction.
7. Colorado—Fiction. I. Title.
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First Edition 2009
Designed by Kelly S. Too
Printed in the United States of America
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“Fifty grand is a lot of money,” I said.
“No,” Jack said. “It’s just business.”
he frozen lake and the black vacuum sky and the dead man pleading for the return of his remaining days.
“There must be some kind of mistake.”
“You’ve got the wrong guy.”
“You’re gonna pay for this.”
, I’ve paid in advance.
And before he can come up with any more material I unroll a line of duct tape, cut it, and place it over his mouth.
I step away from the car, check back up the trail.
Moonlight on the green Park Service hut. Snow on the dogwoods. No new tire tracks.
Apart from me and my confederates, no one’s been here in days, probably weeks. I close the BMW’s trunk and take off my ski mask. He kicks at the side panels with his soles but the muffled protests cease after a couple of minutes.
I plunge my left hand into the coat pocket and bring out an orange.
I stare at it obsessively for a moment, but the color and the smell are making my head spin. I return it to the coat.
“An orange,” I say to myself with a smile.
I breathe the crisp December air, shiver.
I open the driver’s-side door.
The seat. The key. The heat.
I rummage in the bag and find Paco’s Mexican cigarettes.
I partially close the door and look at the BMW’s rocket ship display. Which of these is the clock? Ah, there it is next to the GPS: 6:02 a.m. At least a one-hour wait. We won’t go onto the ice until sunup—no point in taking unnecessary risks in the dark.
I light the cigarette, inhale the loose, sweet tobacco, and let it coat my lungs.
The smoke warms my insides to such an extent that when I exhale I feel empty, scared.
I take an almost panicky second breath of air and smoke.
Keep it there.
Another sad exhalation. Two more iterations but the cumulative effect is the opposite of what I’m expecting, making me jittery, on edge.
I turn on the interior light and examine the pack. A comical English explorer in shorts and pith helmet. Faros. Had them before—when I was a teenager Mexican cigarettes were the only affordable luxury you could get. Uncle Arturo managed to find Marlboros, but my father said that Faros and Rivas were just as good. I must be so nervous that I’m way beyond their power to relax me.
At the bottom of the Faros packet, there is, however, something that looks like a fat joint. I take it out and sniff it. Grade-A narc from Canada—Paco must have stolen it somehow. Maybe the night of the party.
It would be very tempting to light it up, but I should probably save that for
. One of those and I’d be on my ass for hours.
I put it away. Check the clock: 6:06 and still as dark as ever.
A breeze cuts through the door and I pull it fully closed. In brittle Euro-trash an annoyed disembodied voice tells me to fasten my seatbelt. I try to ignore it but it grows increasingly demented. “Fasten seatbelt, fasten seatbelt, fasten seatbelt.”
I fool the computer by clicking and quickly unclicking the belt.
“Seatbelt secured,” the computer sighs with relief.
Clock says 6:08.
I put the cigarettes in the backpack and kill the headlights.
Quick scan through the radio stations. Country. Religious. Country. News. Country. Religious. I nix the radio and max the heat.
Nothing to do now but wait.
A gust rustling the tree branches along the ridge.
A starlit vapor trail.
Kicking from inside the trunk.
The radio again, a Nebraska station playing polka. A ten-thousand-watt Jesus station out of Laramie.
The kicking stops.
I relight the Faros, finish it, wipe my fingerprints from the butt, and throw it out the window.
I leave the window open and turn everything off.
And sit there.
As the day meditates.
Time passes and finally a hint of morning in the black distance and above me a blue, distilled silence as night switches off its stars.
From the passenger’s seat I unwrap the
ROAD CLOSED—SUBSIDENCE DANGER
sign I stole yesterday in Fairview.
Won’t be enough to fool a ranger from the Park Service but it should keep away any early-morning hunters or ice fishermen.
I grab the Smith & Wesson 9mm, get out of the car, and walk back up the trail until I find the aluminum swing gate. In the distance I can see the lights of vehicles on the highway. Big rigs, Greyhound buses, nothing that’s coming down here. I duct tape the sign to the top bar of the gate. Hmmm. In the light of day it doesn’t look so fantastic but it’ll have to do.
I drag the gate through the snow, close it, and lock it with the padlock I’ve specifically brought for this purpose. You’re going to need to be pretty determined to come down this road now.
I take a few steps to the side and admire my handiwork.
Maybe a good idea to get rid of all the footprints.
I grab a tree branch and brush over the area on my side of the gate.
Not likely that man or beast is going to come by at this time of the morning, but my business is going to take a while and this should help deter the curious.
I wipe away all the tire tracks and footprints until I reach the bend in the road, then I toss the branch and return to the BMW.
I get back inside and warm my hands over the vents. 6:36. Better get a move on. I grab the green backpack and put the sledgehammer, the gun, the handcuffs key, the gloves, and the ski mask inside.
I get out of the car and close the door.
Dawn is a smear on the eastern horizon and light is beginning to illuminate the low clouds in alternating bands of orange and gold.
I shoulder the backpack and walk out onto the lake, bend down and examine the ice.
About twenty, thirty millimeters thick. Good enough, I imagine.
I trudge back to the car, open the backpack, and put on the gloves and ski mask.