Authors: Lawrence Block
Tags: #Private Investigators, #Police corruption, #Mystery & Detective, #Private investigators - New York (State) - New York, #New York (N.Y.), #Hard-Boiled, #General, #Mystery Fiction, #Fiction, #Scudder; Matt (Fictitious character)
"Well, for a while, anyway."
He eyed me appraisingly. "You sound like your old self a little, you know that? I can't remember the last time you sounded like this."
"Don't make too much out of it, Eddie. All I'm doing is passing up a drink."
"No, there's something else. I can't put my finger on it, but something's different."
We went over to a little place on Reade Street and ordered coffee and Danish. He said, "Well, you sprung the bastard. I hate to see him off the hook, but I can't hardly hold it against you. You got him off."
"He shouldn't have been on in the first place."
"Yeah, well, that's something else, isn't it?"
"Uh-huh. You ought to be glad the way things worked out. He's not going to be a tremendous amount of use to Abne Prejanian because Prejanian's going to have to keep a low profile for the next little while.
He doesn't look too good himself now. His assistant just got nailed for killing two people and framing Abner's star witness. You were complaining that he loved to see his name in the papers. I think he's going to try to keep his name out of the papers for a couple of months, don't you?"
"And Knox Hardesty doesn't look too good, either. He's all right as far as the public is concerned, but the word's going to get around that he's not very good at protecting his witnesses. He had Carr, and Carr gave him Manch , and they're both dead, and that's not a good track record to have when you're trying to get people to cooperate with you."
"Of course he hasn't been bothering the department, anyway, Matt."
"Not yet. But with Prejanian quiet he might have wanted to come on in. You know how it goes, Eddie.
Whenever they want headlines they take a shot at the cops."
"Yeah, that's the fucking truth."
"So I didn't do so badly by you, did I? The department doesn't wind up looking bad."
"No, you did all right, Matt."
He picked up his cigar, puffed on it. It had gone out. He lit it again with a match and watched the match burn almost to his fingertips before shaking it out and dropping it into the ashtray. I chewed a bite of Danish and chased it with a gulp of coffee.
I could cut down on the drinking. There would be times when it got difficult. When I thought abou tFuhrmann and how I could have taken that call from him.Or when I thought about Manch and his plunge to the ground. My phone call couldn't have done it all by itself. Hardesty had been pressuring him all along, and he'd been carrying a load of guilt for years. But I hadn't helped him, and maybe if I hadn't called-Except you can't let yourself think that way.What you have to do is remind yourself that you caught one murderer and kept one innocent man out of prison. You never win them all, and you can't blame yourself whenever you drop one.
"Matt?" I looked at him. "That conversation we had the other night. At that bar where you hang out?"
"Right, Armstrong's. I said some things I didn't have to say."
"Oh, the hell with that, Eddie."
"No hard feelings?"
"Of course not."
Pause. "Well, a few guys who knew I was gonna drop down today, which I was doing, figuring you'd be here, they asked me to let you know there's no hard feelings toward you. Not that there ever was in a general sense, just that they wished you weren't hooked up with Broadfield at the time, if you get my meaning."
"I think I do."
"And they hope you got no bad feelings toward the department, is all."
"Well, that's what I figured, but I thought I'd get it out in the open and be sure." He ran a hand over his forehead, ruffled his hair. "You're really figuring to take it easier on the booze?"
"Might as well give it a try.Why?"
"I don't know. You think maybe you're ready to rejoin the human race?"
"I never resigned, did I?"
"You know what I'm talking about."
I didn't say anything.
"You proved something, you know. You're still a good cop, Matt.
It's what you're really good at."
"It's easier to be a good cop when you're carrying a badge."
"Sometimes it's harder. If I'd had a badge this past week, I would have been told to lay off."
"Yeah, and you were told that, anyway, and you didn't listen, and you wouldn't have listened, badge or no badge. Am I right?"
"Maybe.I don't know."
"The best way to get a good police department is to keep good policemen in it. I'd like it a hell of a lot to see you back on the force."
"I don't think so, Eddie."
"I wasn't asking you to make a decision. I was saying you could think about it. And you can think it over for the next little while, can't you? Maybe it'll be something that starts to make sense when you don't have a skin full of booze in you twenty-four hours a day."
"You'll think about it?"
"I'll think about it."
"Uh-huh." He stirred his coffee. "You hear from your kids lately?"
"Well, that's good."
"I'm taking them this Saturday. There's some kind of father-son thing with their Scout troop, a rubber-chicken dinner and then seats for the Nets game."
"I could never get interested in the Nets."
"They're supposed to have a good team."
"Yeah, that's what they tell me. Well, it's great that you're seeing them."
"Maybe you and Anita- "
"Drop it, Eddie."
"Yeah, I talk too much."
"She's got somebody else, anyway."
"You can't expect her to sit around."
"I don't, and I don't care. I've got somebody else myself."
"I don't know."
"Something to take it slow and see what happens, I guess."
"Something like that."
THAT was Monday. For the next couple of days I took a lot of long walks and spent time at a lot of churches. I would have a couple of drinks in the evening to make it easier to get to sleep, but to all intents and purposes I wasn't doing any serious drinking at all. I walked around, I enjoyed the weather, I kept checking my telephone messages, I read the Times in the morning and the Post at night. I began wondering after a while why I wasn't getting the phone message I was waiting for, but I wasn't upset enough to pick up the phone and place a call myself.
Then Thursday around two in the afternoon I was walking along, not going anywhere in particular, and as I passed a newsstand at the corner of Fifty-seventh and Eighth, I happened to glance at the headline of the Post. I normally waited and bought the late edition, but the headline caught me and I bought the paper.
Jerry Broadfield was dead.
When he sat down across from me, I knew who it was without raising my eyes. I said, "Hi, Eddie."
"Figured I'd find you here."
"Not hard to guess, was it?" I waved a hand to signal Trina. "What is it, Seagram's? Bring my friend here a Seagram's and water. I'll have another of these." To him I said, "It didn't take you long. I've only been here about an hour myself. Of course the news must have hit the street with the noon edition. I just didn't happen to see a paper until an hour ago. It says here that he got it around eight this morning.
Is that right?"
"That's right, Matt. According to the report I saw."
"He walked out the door and a late-model car pulled up at the curb and somebody gave him both barrels of a sawed-off shotgun. A school kid said the man with the gun was white but didn't know about the man in the car, the driver."
"One man's white and the car's described as blue and the gun was left at the scene. No prints, I don't suppose."
"No way to trace the sawed-off, I don't guess."
"I haven't heard, but- "
"But there won't be any way to trace it."
"Doesn't figure to be."
Trina brought the drinks. I picked mine up and said, "Absent friends, Eddie."
"He wasn't your friend, and though you may not believe it, he was less my friend than yours, but that's how we'll drink the toast, to absent friends. I drank your toast the way you wanted it, so you can drink mine."
"Whatever you say."
"Absent friends," I said.
We drank. The booze seemed to have more of a punch after a few days of taking it easy. I certainly hadn't lost my taste for it, though. It went down nice and easy and made me vitally aware of just who I was.
I said, "You figure they'll ever find out who did it?"
"Want a straight answer?"
"Do you think I want you to lie to me?"
"No, I don't figure that."
"I don't suppose they'll ever find out who did it, Matt."
"Will they try?"
"I don't think so."
"Would you, if it were your case?"
He looked at me. "Well, I'll be perfectly honest with you," he said after a moment's thought. "I don't know. I'd like to think I'd try. I think some- I think, fuck it, I think a couple of our own must of done it.
What the hell else can you think, right?"
"Whoever did it was a fucking idiot. An absolute fucking idiot who just did the department more harm than Broadfield could ever hope to do. Whoever did it ought to hang by the neck, and I like to think I'd go after the bastards with everything I had if it was my case." He lowered his eyes. "But to be honest, I don't know if I would. I think I'd go through the motions and sweep it under the rug."
"And that's what they'll do out in Queens ."
"I didn't talk to them. I don't know for a fact that's what they'll do.
But I'd be surprised if they did anything else, and so would you."
"What are you going to do, Matt?"
"Me?" I stared at him. "Me? What should I do?"
"I mean, are you going to try and go after them? Because I don't know if it's a good idea."
"Why should I do that, Eddie?" I spread my hands palms up. "He's not my cousin. And nobody's hiring me to find out who killed him."
"Is that straight?"
"You're hard to figure. I think I got you pegged, and then I don't."
He stood up and put some money on the table. "Let me buy that round,"
"Stick around, Eddie. Have another drink."
He hadn't done more than touch the one he'd had. "No time," he said. "Matt, you don't have to crawl into the bottle just because of this. It doesn't change anything."
"Hell, no.You still got a life of your own. You got this woman you're seeing, you got- "
"Maybe I'll see her again. I don't know. Probably not. She could have called by this time. And after it happened, you would think she'd have called if it was real."
"I don't follow you."
But I wasn't talking to him. "We were in the right place at the right time," I went on. "So it looked as though we might turn out to be important for each other. If it ever had a chance, I'd say the chance died this morning when the gun went off."
"Matt, you're not making sense."
"It makes sense to me. Maybe that's my fault. We might see each other again, I don't know. But whether we do or don't, it's not going to change anything. People don't get to change things. Things change people once in a while, but people don't change things."
"I gotta go, Matt. Take it a little easy on the booze, huh?"
SOMETIME that night I dialed her number in Forest Hills . The phone rang a dozen times before I gave up and got my dime back.
I called another number. A leftover voice recited,
"Seven-two-five-five. I am sorry, but no one is at home at the moment.
If you will leave your name and number at the sound of the tone, your call will be returned as soon as possible. Thank you."
The tone sounded, and it was my turn. But I couldn't seem to think of anything to say.
About the Author
The prolific author of more than fifty books and numerous short stories, Lawrence Block is a Mystery Writers of American Grand Master, a four-time winner of the Edgar Allan Poe and Shamus Awards, and the recipient of literary prizes from France ,Germany , and Japan .
Block is a devout New Yorker who spends much of his time traveling.
Bad cop Jerry Broadfield didn't make any friends on the force when he volunteered to squeal to an ambitious D.A.. about police corruption. Now he's accused of murdering a call girl. Matthew Scudder doesn't thinkBroadfield's a killer, but the cops aren't about to help the unlicensedp.i . prove it- and they may do a lot worse than just get in his way.