Authors: Philip R. Craig
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright Â© 2001 by Philip R. Craig
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
and design are trademarks of Macmillan Library Reference USA, Inc., used under license by Simon & Schuster, the publisher of this work.
ALSO BY PHILIP R. CRAIG
A Fatal Vineyard Season
A Shoot on Martha's Vineyard
A Deadly Vineyard Holiday
Death on a Vineyard Beach
A Case of Vineyard Poison
The Double Minded Men
The Woman Who Walked into the Sea
A Beautiful Place to Die
Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn
For our grandson, Riley Spenser Craig,
a fifth-generation Vineyarder,
and for his other grandparents,
Bob and Buzzy Gardner
“What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
“I never know what you are thinking. Think.”
I think we are in rats' alley Where the dead men lost their bones.
âT. S. ELIOT
The Waste Land
I got the details by talking with the survivors, since I wasn't at the house when it happened. Instead, I was on the clam-flats in Katama with my son Joshua. When we came home, there was a cop at the head of our driveway and an ambulance was pulling out and heading toward the hospital in Oak Bluffs. I turned into something made of ice.
The cop recognized my old Land Cruiser and waved us in. I drove fast down our long, sandy driveway. The yard was full of police cars and uniforms. Sergeant Tony D'Agostine met me as I stepped out of the truck.
I was full of fear. “Stay here,” I said to Joshua, and shut the truck's door behind me.
“There's been some trouble,” said Tony.
“Where's Zee? Where's Diana?!”
“Take it easy,” said Tony, “it's all over.”
“Where are they?!” I pushed him aside, and went toward the house. He followed me, saying something I wasn't hearing. I saw what looked like blood on the grass. Jesus! Cops stood aside as I came through them.
That was the beginning of it for me.
The day had started earlier, of course, and had seemed like any other day. School was out, so the pale June people were already on the island, trying to brown up on the beaches before going back to their mainland jobs. Parking places were getting hard to find on the main streets of the Vineyard's towns, and the harbors were beginning
to fill with boats. Another summer season was under way.
That morning, after breakfast, Zee had had a date with Manny Fonseca down at the Rod and Gun Club, where she would practice her pistol shooting under his sharp eye in preparation for an upcoming competition.
“I'm taking Diana,” Zee had said. “She's been on my case for weeks. She wants to watch, and I guess this is as good a time as any.”
Competitive pistol shooting was an odd recreation for Nurse Zee, because she was a healer who basically disapproved of firearms; but, as she had discovered to her surprise and sometimes consternation, she was what Manny called a “natural” with a pistol. Worse yet, she had found that she enjoyed competitive shooting. These facts notwithstanding, she scorned Manny's NRA clichÃ©s about the benefits of gun possession and was ever ill at ease about having a couple firearms of her own, including the custom .45 that she used in competition.
“Just remember what Shane told Marian,” I told her when she got into one of her antifirearms moods. “âA gun is just a tool. It's as good or bad as the person using it.'”
“It may be a tool for Shane,” said Zee, “but for me it's a toy. That makes it even more stupid and immoral.”
“Target shooting isn't stupid or immoral,” I said. “It gives you pleasure. Pleasure is good. Ask any hedonist.”
“Guns are dangerous. We'd be better off if no one had any!”
There were times when I thought that myself, of course. But although I almost never used them, I still kept my father's 30.06 and shotguns in the gun cabinet, along with the old .38 I'd carried when I was a Boston cop.
“Maybe,” I said, “but people do have them. I have them. You have them. They're not going to go away. It's
better to know how to use them safely and to enjoy them than to wish there weren't any.”
“I know. But I don't always like it.”
That morning I'd just said, “Well, make sure the girl child has her earplugs and glasses. I don't need a deaf daughter.”
“What's deaf mean, Pa?” Diana the Huntress, who spent a great deal of time looking for food, had asked.
“It means you can't hear. Like when you put your fingers in your ears. Shooting is very noisy, and the noise can hurt your ears, so you always wear earplugs when you shoot. And you wear shooting glasses in case something hits you in the eye.”
“Oh.” Diana had put her fingers in her ears, and smiled up at me. Then she had pointed and said, “Can I have that piece of toast you didn't eat?”
I had gone to the tide chart that was taped to the refrigerator. “Well, since you ladies are going shooting, I guess I will go clamming. If I leave right now, the tide will be just right down-harbor.” I had looked at my growing son. “You want to come, Josh?”
Joshua liked to do what his folks did. Such a manly little chap. Just like his dad.
So he and I had collected our gloves and clam baskets and driven to Katama, full of innocence, not knowing how our lives were about to be changed.
Back at home, Zee packed her shooting gear into the flight bag she used to tote her stuff, washed and stacked the breakfast dishes, and, just before ten, headed out the door with Diana.
As she reached her little Jeep, she heard a car coming
down the driveway. She put the flight bag on the hood of the Jeep and turned, thinking it was me, coming back early for some reason.
But it wasn't me. It was a black car with tinted windows. Zee didn't recognize it. The car stopped and for a while nothing else happened. Then doors opened and two men got out. They wore slacks and loose summer shirts that hung down over their belts. Dark glasses covered their eyes. One was a normal-sized man. The other one was the size of a large refrigerator.
Zee stepped forward to meet them. Diana came, too, and took Zee's hand.
“Can I help you, gentlemen?”
“I'll bet you can,” said the refrigerator. A little wind caught his shirttail and lifted it slightly, giving Zee a brief glimpse of a pistol holstered on his belt. His black glasses seemed to eat her up.
“We want to see Tom Rimini,” said the other man.
“I'm afraid you've come to the wrong house,” said Zee. “I don't know any Tom Rimini.”
“You Mrs. Jackson?”
She nodded, feeling uneasy.
“Then we're at the right house. We don't want no trouble, so you better just have him step out.” Somehow both of them had gotten very close to her.
She pulled Diana nearer to her. “I just told you. I don't know anyone named Tom Rimini.”
“That's not what we hear,” said the refrigerator. He put out a huge hand and took hold of the collar of her shirt. “Don't get yourself hurt for him. It won't do no good.”
She jerked herself away from him and felt the shirt tear. She was both angry and frightened. “I don't know who you are, but you'd better get back in that car and get out of here right now!”
“Oh, a feisty one,” said the refrigerator. “I like feisty ones, Howie. Nice tits, too.” He laughed.
“This your little girl?” asked Howie. “Come here, dearie.”
He swept Diana up into his arms before Zee knew what he was doing.
“Ma! Ma!” cried Diana.
Zee reached for her, but the refrigerator stepped between her and Howie.
“Ma! Ma!” he said, grinning and spreading his arms. Zee ducked, but he was expecting her move and caught her. “Hold it, Ma.”
But Zee didn't hold it. She stamped her foot on his shin and brought her knee up hard. It was as though he could read her mind. He turned slightly and the knee glanced off his thigh. Then he slapped her across the face and her ears rang. He slapped her again and she felt sickness rise up in her. She twisted in his arms and this time he let her go. She almost fell.
“Give me my daughter!”
“Take it easy,” said Howie. “And you take it easy, too, Pat. We don't want any trouble, Mrs. Jackson. We just want Tom Rimini. We get him, we go away. Just like that.”
She felt so light-headed that she could hardly stand. “I tell you he isn't here. I've never heard of him.”
“Go look in the house, Pat,” said Howie.
“Keep an eye on Ma,” said Pat. “She may jump you when I'm gone.”
“I don't think so,” said Howie. He held Diana against his chest with his left hand and dipped his right hand under his shirt. The hand came out, and there was a click, and the hand was holding a knife with a long, thin blade. He laid it on Diana's cheek. “You won't jump me, will you, Mrs. Jackson?”
She stepped back. “No. Please take the knife away. I'll do whatever you want, but don't hurt her.”
“That's good,” said Howie. “Pat, go search the house.”
“She don't act so tough now,” said Pat. He went into the house.
“I hope Rimini ain't in there,” said Howie. “If he is, Pat is going to be pretty pissed off at you.”
“He's not! You've come to the wrong house, I tell you. Please, let Diana go. Let her come to me. We won't run or fight. We'll do what you want.”
“You'll do what we want, anyway,” said Howie.
Pat came out of the house. “Nobody home.” He looked at Zee. “When'll the rat be back?”
“How many times do I have to tell you that he's not here? I never heard of him. You must have gotten bad information.”
Pat came toward her with long strides. She backed away, but he caught her arm with a huge hand. “They had a talk with his wife like I'm talking with you,” said Pat. “Like this.” He hit her in the belly and she fell, doubled over, unable to breathe, feeling her mouth sucking air like a fish out of water. She didn't hurt; she just couldn't move.
“You don't think she'd lie, do you?” asked Pat.
“You're a pretty woman,” said Howie conversationally. “Pat's got an eye for a pretty woman. Now you stop lying and maybe I can talk him into looking for Rimini someplace else.”
She tried to speak, but could not. They watched her with detachment. Finally she could breathe. There was grass and dirt in her mouth. She was filled with fear for Diana.
“I'm not lying, I swear. If I knew him, I'd tell you.”
Pat picked her up and tore her shirt half off her body.
“Oh, I don't know,” he said. “You're a tough chicken. You probably need more persuading than most.”
He hit her and knocked her backward against the Jeep. She struck the flight bag with one flailing arm and knocked it to the ground. She tried to stand, but the world turned gray, then black, and she fell.
Far away she hear Diana cry, “Ma! Ma! Don't hit my ma! Don't hit my ma!”
“Don't hit her too hard, Pat,” said Howie's voice. “She can't talk if she's dead, and sometimes you don't know your own strength.”
The world swam back out of blackness. The flight bag was underneath her.
“You and me are going to have some fun first,” Pat said to her. “Then if you be polite and tell us what we want to know, you can stay pretty for your husband. Get up now.”
She nodded and, using her body to shield her hands, slid them into the bag. “All right,” she said. “Please don't hit me again. I'll get up.” She touched the familiar grip of the .45. “I'm dizzy. I just need a minute.” She got the pistol in one hand and a full clip in the other. She knew she had to be very fast and very sure, because she'd only get one chance.
“All right,” she said. “I'm getting up now.”
She straightened up on her knees and turned the gun toward Pat, slapping the clip into the magazine as she did.
Pat, caught off guard, was still almost too quick. As she jacked a round into the firing chamber, he leaped back and with remarkable speed whipped a hand to his belt and came up with his own pistol.
She shot him three times, one, two, three. The first round took him in the belly and knocked him back as
his own weapon went off. She was aware of a blow to her left ribs but paid it no heed as her second round hit him in the chest and sent his pistol flying. Her third round split his dark glasses in two and left him spread-eagled on the lawn like some profane crucified Christ.