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Authors: David J. Walker

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BOOK: No Show of Remorse
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I
HATED IT
. Hated the noise and the acrid smell, hated the weight of the ear cups, hated the pop-up targets with silhouettes of people on them. Hated the swagger and bravado of so much of the clientele, the talk about weapons and ammo and stopping power; and the talk about freedom and being willing to stand up—meaning to shoot people—to preserve it. Hated most that I was a regular there and everyone took it for granted I fit right in … and that maybe they were right and I fit in all too well.

But if I'd been sticking to things I really wanted to do I'd never have petitioned for reinstatement to the bar, and never have met Yogi in the first place. For that matter, if I'd gone with what appealed to me years ago I'd have given up Marlon Shades when the court ordered me to. He would have gone to jail for a long, long time—and taken a few bad cops along with him. That didn't happen.

So, like it or not, I fired my practice rounds until my arm was heavy and numb and my head ached. It's the price paid to make something difficult seem easy, effortless. Like the piano. It's a great kick to play, and every so often see someone nod and smile in remembrance of better times, but the cost is the hours sitting alone, going over and over the same old phrases.
“Long, hard practice make the difficult look easy,”
Dr. Sato preaches.
“So sure you must love practice.”

So sure I did. I loved it all—noise, smell, targets, ear cups, and even my fellow shooters—and I put in another forty-five minutes with my left hand, and then went for lunch with a couple of guys named Gene and Eddy who'd been beside me on the firing line. They were off-duty cops from the suburbs and had no idea who I was, at least not when they told me they knew this great place for lunch, right nearby.

*   *   *

I
LOCKED THE
B
ERETTA BACK IN THE TRUNK
and we walked to a tavern a block from the gun shop. It was hot and dark inside, crowded and heavy with cigarette smoke. The bar ran from the front to the rear along the wall to our left and a row of booths along the wall to our right. In between, about a dozen round tables took up the center of the room, most of them occupied. It was a raucous crowd for that time of day, and it would have been way too loud in there even without the jukebox blaring.

I knew at once the place was full of cops and cop groupies—and not a great place for lunch at all, not for me. The booth nearest the door emptied out, though, just as we came in, so we grabbed it. If Gene and Eddy noticed I chose the bench seat on the side of the booth with a view of the entire room, and sat on the outside end, they didn't show it as they slid into the seat across the table.

A tired-looking middle-aged woman with an ample bosom and too much red dye in her hair showed up at once. She swiped halfheartedly at the table with a gray rag, and took our orders. We all picked burgers—the alternatives were Polish sausage and pizza by the slice—and Gene and Eddy ordered two bottles of Miller Lite each.

“You have any nonalcoholic beer?” I asked.

“O'Doul's,” she said.

“Fine, but just one.” The waitress left. “On the wagon,” I explained, then added, “again,” and tried to look like I knew it wouldn't last long this time, either.

The jukebox pounded out the Supremes, who explained why “You Can't Hurry Love,” while the three of us traded opinions on various types of hollow-point rounds and how big a mess they made inside the human body.

“Don't know how you can drink that shit,” Gene said, when the waitress set down my O'Doul's. A Miller Lite drinker, that Gene, and a real connoisseur.

“I tried it once,” Eddy said. “Tastes like alligator piss.” Then, as the waitress turned to leave, he said, “Say, Miss?”

She turned back.

“Would you wipe this spot … here?” Eddy held his two beers by the necks of the bottles in one hand and tapped his other index finger on the table in front of him. He was on the inside, near the wall, and the woman had to lean in deeply to wipe up a ring of liquid she'd missed before.

“Thanks.” Eddy grinned as he watched her walk away. “Nice tits,” he said.

“Jesus,” Gene said. “She's twenty years older than you, man.”

“Didn't say I wanna fuck her. Just she has nice tits.” Eddy sucked on his beer while the jukebox moved on to Tina Turner, wondering “What's Love Got to Do With It?” “Either o' you guys ever bang a redhead?” Eddy asked.

Must love practice,
was Dr. Sato's advice. Not:
Must love fellow practicers.

“Alligator piss reminds me,” I said. “I got this cousin in Florida who wrestles alligators at a tourist place. He told me how one time he had his arms wrapped around this male alligator from behind. Standing up, you know? The spectators are clapping and cheering, and all the sudden the damn thing—” I stopped in the middle of my lie, because a man sitting at the bar had swiveled around … and we recognized each other simultaneously. “Shit,” I said.

“Huh?” Eddy said. “You mean the alligator crapped on his—”

“No,” I said. “I mean I shoulda got the hell outta here when I thought about it.”

In the several years I'd been coming to Carl's I'd seen Richard Kilgallon on the firing range quite a few times—but always managed to avoid him. He still looked much as he had the day I'd showed up at the station to surrender Marlon Shades—but without Marlon. Curly black hair, even features, about six-one, and overweight. Not huge; just maybe thirty pounds too much, evenly distributed.

He was a good-looking guy—good enough six or eight years ago to snag Stefanie Randle—but he had a soft look, and my guess was he knew that. Maybe some part of him knew, too, that the effort to take off the extra weight wouldn't be worth it, because the softness started deeper than that. So he papered it over with meanness.

Too late now to slip out the door. He was already headed our way. The stubby glass he carried was filled with ice and a clear liquid. Water? The odds were a thousand to one against that; and equally high against its being his first of the day, given the exaggerated care with which he maneuvered himself between tables on his way over.

“Well, well, well,” he was saying, “now I know what stinks,” and the volume and tone of his voice cut through the babble in the place. “I
thought
I smelled something rotten.” The conversations around him died away, as though a carpet were unrolling out from him toward the corners of the room. “Like a dead possum or something.”

By then even Tina, still questioning the relevance of love, went into a final fade and was gone. No new tune replaced her and I stared up at Kilgallon—right beside our booth now—and wondered if someone had pulled the plug on the box.

Kilgallon glanced around and seemed suddenly aware of how everyone's eyes were on him. Center stage, and I guess he decided to give it his best shot.

“Always thought you two were coppers,” he said, looking at Gene and Eddy. He drank half his drink and set the glass down between Gene and me. Resting his palms on the table, he leaned low enough so I couldn't miss the automatic hanging in the breakaway holster under his jacket. “Musta been wrong, though,” he added. It was vodka he was drinking. It
does
have an odor.

“You're not wrong, partner,” Gene said. He smiled, but he was nervous. “Now why don't you just go back and—”

“Then what're you drinking with this piece o' shit for?” Kilgallon nodded my way.

Gene's eyes widened. “What're you—”

“Nice to see you, too, Richie,” I interrupted. I'd called him that when he'd been watching his friends “interrogate” me about Marlon Shades, and had found out right away he didn't like it. “Your glass is half empty.”

“Shut up,” he said. “No one's talking to—”

“Or is it half
full?
” I lifted the O'Doul's and poured it out, poured it into Kilgallon's glass. “But hey, Richie, it's
completely
full now.” I kept on pouring, and the liquid overflowed the glass onto the table and ran—it was my lucky day—right toward Kilgallon.

He just stared, didn't even move, until the running stream of cold liquid hit his hand. Then he straightened up. “What the fuck are you—”

“Just tryin' to help, Richie boy.” By then the O'Doul's was gone and I'd grabbed one of Gene's Miller Lites—the full one—and poured it out, too. The stream was more of a river now, pouring over the edge of the table onto the floor, and would have splashed on his shoes except he instinctively stepped backward.

“They're right about you.” Killgalon spoke quietly now, almost under his breath. “You really
are
out of your mind.”

“People say that,” I said. Conversations were resuming all around the room. Probably most people couldn't see what I'd done, but they saw Kilgallon step back from the table, and saw us talking more quietly.

He shook his head and started to turn away.

“Kilgallon,” I said. He turned back. “I'm gonna find out who killed that little guy from the park.” He stared, looking genuinely confused. “Just tell everyone,” I said, “that I know most of what happened that night at Lonnie Bright's. And I'm gonna find out the rest of it.”

“I don't know what your problem is,” he said. “But you—”

“I
am
the problem,” I said, “And there's only one way to stop me.”

Kilgallon stared at me for a couple of heartbeats, then turned and wound his way back to the bar.

“Jesus,” Gene said.

Eddy stared at me. “You
are
crazy, man.”

“Maybe just a little,” I said, and stood up. I fished out a twenty to give it to Gene. But just then the waitress showed up, carrying a tray with our burgers—in three little red plastic baskets lined with thin waxed paper—and cottage fries. I grabbed one of the baskets. “Gotta run,” I told her, and put the twenty on the tray. “Take another beer for Gene out of here and keep whatever's left. Sorry about the mess.”

I took my lunch, plastic basket and all, and left the tavern. That whole spilling thing was dumb, maybe. But when a small, innocent man gets beaten to death, just for helping you out, it
can
make you crazy. Besides, it impressed the hell out of Eddy and Gene.

*   *   *

S
O IT WAS
F
RIDAY AFTERNOON
and I was back in the Cavalier. I stopped at an Amoco station for a fill-up and a can of Pepsi and ate my lunch in the car, parked beside the self-service air machine. It was a surprisingly good burger, on dark rye bread with Cheddar, not too greasy. Actually, I'd ordered a plain bun … and no cheese. But it was tasty, nonetheless.

I left there and headed north on River Road, with no idea what to do until eight o'clock that night when I'd show up at Miz Becky's Tap and bang around on the piano for a few hours and drink lots of nothing but ginger ale and coffee, and keep a careful eye out for any strangers who seemed overly interested in me.

If any showed up, they'd probably be men, not unlike the two men in the dark blue Bonneville that had been behind me, usually two cars back, all day—ever since I left the coach house that morning for police headquarters. They'd picked me up again when I left the gun shop parking lot, and they'd driven by a couple of times—never looking my way, of course—while I was eating what must have been Eddy's cheeseburger and fries.

CHAPTER

17

A
CELL PHONE WOULD HAVE BEEN HANDY
, because I knew just the person to call about the two goons following me. But so far I'd managed to avoid the damn things, and avoid one more monthly dribble out of my so-called budget.

I could have had a more expansive budget, of course, but I'd have had to abandon my game plan … and
work
for a living. As it was, I had enough money for whatever I wanted, as long as I stuck to what I
really
wanted, which didn't include a lot of stuff, and a house to store the stuff in, and a security system to keep the stuff from getting stolen. Most of it I'd never use, and most of what I did use would probably be to do things I didn't really want to do, anyway.

My system—Barney Green called it “complete liquidity”—might have had a lot to do with Lynette Daniels having gone off to Taos. The thing is, I owned just about nothing, not even a credit card. The Steinway upright was mine, but all the other furnishings and appliances came along with the coach house I leased from the Lady. I did own my clothes, such as they were; and the Beretta, a nifty little semiautomatic handling .22 LR cartridges in a seven-round magazine. But that was about it. I called the Chevy Cavalier mine, but really I leased it from Barney, or from some trust he owned or controlled or something.

Complete liquidity.
Or call it
freedom,
maybe. I got by.

Anyway, not having a portable phone, I kept driving and watching for a public phone in just the right sort of place. Nothing was turning up, though, and with the traffic signals and all the starting and stopping, I was afraid the two guys in the Bonneville would get bored and drop off. So I changed course and headed back south, and finally found what I was looking for, just south of O'Hare airport. It was a pay phone at the far end of a huge, half-empty supermarket parking lot, with plenty of empty space surrounding me and the Cavalier. The Bonneville stayed down at the other end, where all the cars were parked, and that suited me fine. If I was wrong about who'd sent the two men, I'd want lots of room between me and them after I hung up.

I punched out the number I wanted and, halfway through the second ring, someone picked up.

“Yeah?” A man's voice, one I didn't recognize. “Who's this? Whaddaya want?”

BOOK: No Show of Remorse
2.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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