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Authors: Peter Blauner

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Hard-Boiled

Slipping Into Darkness (47 page)

BOOK: Slipping Into Darkness
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“I’m going blind,” Francis said before he could stop himself.

 

“Yeah, right.”

 

“I’m serious. My eyes are going.”

 

“Get the fuck out of here, man. Is that supposed to be funny?”

 

“Not to me, it isn’t.”

 

Hoolian fell silent and studied him for a few seconds, still trying to tell if it was a put-on. He stuck a finger in front of Francis’s face and slowly began to move it rightward. Francis tracked it for a few inches until it disappeared. Then he heard Hoolian snapping his fingers somewhere beside his ear.

 

“No fucking way.”

 

“It’s the truth.” Francis leveled his gaze. “I’m seeing less and less all the time.”

 

He must have lost his senses. He still hadn’t even broken it to the kids.

 

“And . . . so . . .
what?”
Hoolian fell back, flustered. “You want me to feel
sorry
for you or something?”

 

“Not at all,” Francis said. “But you’re sitting here, telling me that I’m off the hook for how I did you so bad. And I’m just telling you, it ain’t so. Everybody gets something.”

 

What had he just done? He felt like he’d jumped out of a plane without a parachute. He was in free fall. Hoolian could tell the whole world now. They could reopen dozens of his old cases and question his testimony about things he’d claimed to have seen. They could go after his pension for allegedly lying on the stand and not telling anyone about his condition. They could strip him bare and leave him in the street.

 

Why don’t you just reach over and hand him your gun while you’re at it, Loughlin?

 

But there was something heady and exhilarating about it as well. He felt his lungs open up and his heart beating faster. Noticed the coolness of air on his skin and the renewed vividness of colors around him. All his senses were keener and more alive than they’d been in weeks. So this was what it was like to be on the other side of the interrogation table. Until this moment, he’d never really understood why people ever confessed and told him the things they should have never told anybody else. Now he got it. It was almost like being high, but better. For just a second, at least, he’d let someone see him as he truly was, and there was not just relief but a kind of knife-edge grace in that.

 

———

 

“Everybody gets something.”

 

Hoolian didn’t want this. Didn’t want to see things the way this man did. He was better than that. It served that bastard right, what was happening to him.

 

Just the same, when he closed his eyes for a half-second, he found himself wondering how he’d handle going blind. How would you not go crazy, knowing you’d never read another comic book, look into your lover’s eyes, or see the spokes of the Wonder Wheel go off one by one? How would you find your way home? How would you
not
think it was some sort of punishment?

 

“So you’re not going to ask me for forgiveness or any of that shit?” Hoolian said, opening them up again.

 

“Screw that.” Loughlin pushed back from the table. “I don’t need to cop a plea. You can either stand up to what you did or you can’t.”

 

They both slowly got to their feet. For twenty years, Hoolian had fantasized about what he’d do if he ever came upon Loughlin in a vulnerable spot. He’d plotted things he was going to do with lead pipes, thick ropes, and car trunks. He’d even gone so far as to think of alibis he’d use if he got arrested. But now for the second time he reached down into that vast reservoir of rage he’d been maintaining for years and found nothing. Just half-dry muck at the bottom. Where did it all go?

 

He looked down and saw his own hand rise and hang in midair, waiting for Loughlin to grasp it.

 

The cop didn’t see it, though, because it was just outside his line of sight and Hoolian quickly let it drop back down to his side.

 

“All right, man. Don’t put any more people in prison who don’t belong there.”

 

“Sure. You make it sound easy.”

 

The cop smiled dourly and put the letter in his wallet, as if he were manacling a briefcase bomb to his wrist.

 

“Oh, look, it’s snowing out there.” Hoolian peered out the window.

 

“Jesus, I didn’t even notice the changeover.” Loughlin sneezed, the end of his nose already turning red. “I hope I’ll be able to find my car.”

 

“Yeah, you’re probably going to need to do some digging out.”

 

“Tell me about it.”

 

He walked out the door, leaving his cup half full on the table, then paused before the window. The wind was lifting the snow into wide grainy arcs under the streetlamps, as if some magnetic force was trying to draw it back up to the clouds. Hoolian saw him turn around twice, trying to get his bearings as the night fell over him and cars skittered around the sugar-dusted cube in the middle of the plaza.

 

Then he hunched his shoulders, thrust his hands into his pockets, and started trudging south toward the Bowery, past the cranes and cement trucks, a hulking figure heading into the whiteout, getting smaller and smaller until he finally disappeared.

 

 

CODA

STARING AT THE SUN

 

 

60

 

 

 

TOM WAS IN the kitchen, looking up at the ceiling, with his hair still damp from the shower, his blue work shirt unbuttoned at the collar, and a pair of scissors buried in his chest just below the sternum.

 

Francis checked his Swatch against the clock on the stove and noted his time of arrival at 10:42. Then he carefully navigated his way out of the kitchen and found Eileen on the living-room sofa, with an iodine-red blood smear on the front of her white turtleneck.

 

“You want to tell me what’s going on?”

 

She looked at the Christmas tree in a daze, its colored lights blinking on and off erratically while her granddaughters and their mother sobbed hysterically upstairs.

 

“It was happening again,” she said.

 

“What?”

 

“I told you before. Children have secrets.”

 

He sat down beside her, making sure not to touch anything on the floor or the coffee table. “If you want me to help you, you’re gonna have to do better than that.”

 

“I know he couldn’t stop himself,” she said in an unnaturally calm voice, as if she were just waking from anesthesia. “My own child. What do you do if your own child turns out to be a monster?”

 

Francis tried to keep his mind clear as he started to take notes.

 

“You know but you don’t know. You want to pretend that it’s not happening. But what can you do? You can’t keep them apart forever, a brother and a sister.”

 

Francis put down his notepad, unable to make himself write any more.

 

“You know, she wanted it to stop.” Eileen picked at Scotch tape wrapped around her finger. “She tried to tell me, but I couldn’t stand to hear it. It was too much for me.”

 

Francis nodded, the last part of the picture finally coming together. No wonder she’d been going around saying Allison was still alive, haunting him with hang-ups on the answering machine, trying to keep him from forgetting about the case.
They buried the wrong child.

 

“It was starting to happen again, with his own children.” She put her hands on her knees, steadying them. “I caught him this morning with the older one in the bathroom. His own daughter. And I couldn’t let it happen again. Could you, Francis?”

 

“I don’t know. I don’t know what I’d do.”

 

“Yes, you do.”
She raised her chin defiantly. “I think you’d know
just
what to do.”

 

For a moment, all the grief-stricken madness and medicated excuses were gone. She was the mother beast with blood on her claws from trying to keep the young from eating each other.

 

“If someone gave you a chance not to make the worst mistake of your life twice, you’d move heaven and earth. And don’t tell me you wouldn’t.”

 

———

 

Rashid, now in the task force, and Jimmy Ryan arrived five minutes later and found Francis in the kitchen, standing over the body and taking notes.

 

“What do you say, X Man?” Jimmy snapped his gum. “What comes around goes around, eh?”

 

“I’m thinking he bled out right away.” Francis barely glanced up. “Mom was home and he was dead by the time she called nine-one-one.”

 

“Yeah?” Jimmy hunched down beside the body, studying the way the blood soaked through the shirt. “That’s some fuckin’ entry wound. Looks like it got one of the main arteries.”

 

“Yeah, he must’ve been pretty determined.”

 

“What?”
Rashid did a double take, almost losing his toothpick. “You’re calling this a suicide?”

 

“I’m not calling it anything.” Francis’s pen kept moving across the page. “It’s up to Crime Scene to lift the prints off the handle and the ME to decide the cause.”

 

“Excuse me, I’m going to go call JC and let him know what’s doing.” Jimmy stalked out of the room, wanting no part in the deal.

 

Rashid crouched down beside the body. “That’s a helluva tough angle for somebody stabbing himself, G.,” he said. “Most people would aim the blade down.”

 

“Why don’t you ask him why he did it that way?” Francis kept writing. “Fucking scumbag. He probably knew he had cancer from the DNA tests we gave him and he knew his trial was starting in a couple of weeks. Probably figured killing himself was the best option. Would’ve been the only decent thing he ever did.”

 

Rashid stood up very slowly. “Uh-uh, chief, I don’t like it.”

 

“Who asked you anyway?”

 

“I’m saying, I got a lot of respect for you, because I’ve seen the way you handle yourself. But if it turns out somebody’s been fucking with evidence at a crime scene, I don’t want any part of it.”

 

Francis lowered his pad and slapped it against the outside of his leg. “You
implying
something, Detective?”

 

Rashid thrust his chin out. “You heard me. The leopard don’t change its spots. Don’t jam me up because you got some history that don’t sit right.”

 

“Fuck you, I’m doing this by the book. Anybody says otherwise is a liar.”

 

Rashid bowed his head and looked up at Francis from a low angle, trying to get a word in with the man behind the mask. “Don’t do this, G.,” he said. “It’s not your job to make things work out the way you want —”

 

“Excuse me.” Francis cut him off. “You wanna throw stones, throw stones. You wanna be my partner, be my partner. That means we don’t have to talk about it. We just do what needs to be done and we don’t send anyone to the can, doesn’t belong there. This lady’s trying to raise her grandchildren. She needs some understanding. If you can’t get your head around that, step off right now.”

 

Rashid stared at him a long time before he knelt down next to the body again, chewing his toothpick and shifting it from one side of his mouth to the other.

 

“Still looks kind of funny to me,” he said. “Guy stabbing himself with a pair of scissors. There’s easier ways to do it. He didn’t leave a note, did he?”

 

“Not that I noticed.” Francis started to walk away. “But look around for yourself. You don’t always see everything the first time.”

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I WOULD LIKE TO give thanks to the following people for their generosity in making this book possible:

 

Chauncey Parker, Lisa Palumbo, Mark Desire, Joseph Calabrese, Laurey G. Mogil, M.D., Joyce Slevin, Bob Slevin, Luke Rettler, John Cutter, Jennifer Wynn, Stephen Hammerman, Arthur Levitt, Mark Graham, Anthony Papa, Mitchell Benson, Peter Neufeld, Jim Dwyer, Peter Garuccio, John Hamill, Steve Kukaj, Peter Walsh, Charlie Breslin, Ron Feemster, Svetlana Landa, Daniel Perez, Charles Shepard, Leon Maslennikov, Katya Zhdanova, John Nelson, Ron Kuby, Nelson Hernandez, Joel Potter, Vicky Sadock, Sam Bender, Daniel Bibb, Mark Stamey, Bilial Thompson, Shqipe Biba, June Ginty, Bob Stewart, Kevin Walla, John McAndrews, Kim Imbornoni, Chris Smith, Tom Grant, Ed Rendelstein, James Watson, Molly Messick, David Segal, James McDarby, Steve Lamont, Steve DiSchiavi, Darryl King (the real one), Sophie Cottrell, Richard Pine, Michael Pietsch, and Judy Clain.

 

I would also like to give a special tip of the fedora to my old neighbor and friend Jim Knipfel for his graciousness and his excellent books, including
Slackjaw
and
Ruining It for Everybody.

 

All of the above are hereby absolved of all responsibility for any factual mistakes made between these two covers, as well as for the character defects and crimes of moral turpitude described therein. All of those truly belong to the author.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

PETER BLAUNER is the author of five other novels, including
Slow Motion Riot,
which won an Edgar Allan Poe Award for best first novel of the year, and
The Intruder,
a
New York Times
and international bestseller. His work has been translated into sixteen languages. He lives in Brooklyn, NY, with his wife, Peg Tyre, and their two children.

 

For more information, visit www.peterblauner.com.
BOOK: Slipping Into Darkness
12.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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