Vietnam veteran Detective Dean Wallace washed out of his NYPD job. He returned home to work for his father, the chief of police in his home town. When the body of a young man turns up in the woods along with a copy of THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO and thousands in cash, Wallace not only investigates the crime but also confronts his and his family's past.
Sadie dragged her finger down his chest, touching his light chest hair, sending tingles into his shoulders. She took a drag off her cigarette from her other hand as she lay on her stomach with the bedspread covering her legs.
Dean lay on his back and looked at the orange cinder at the end of his cigarette flaring brightly in the room. Frank Morgan’s saxophone in “The Nearness of You” filling the space around them. Sadie let her hand rest on his chest.
“You had quite a day.”
He raised his head. “Huh?”
“You don’t normally take command like that, but you did. You walked in and took me.”
“I’m serious. I mean, you pay for it, so it’s not like you can’t take command any old time, but you don’t. But today, you did.” She turned her head and smiled at him, a glint in her eyes. She was pleased, even proud.
He let his head fall back onto the pillow. “I guess I did. And, yeah, it was a good day.”
She sat up and dragged most of the bedspread with her, leaving him exposed. She giggled, grabbed the bottle of Wild Turkey, and sat back down, throwing the cover over him. She patted his crotch and smiled. “There, all covered up again.” She offered him the bottle.
He took it and drank some and handed it back to her.
She took a drink. “So don’t just sit there and say, ‘It was a good day.’ What was good about it?”
“I spent the day in the woods.” She stared at him. He smiled and then could not hold the laugh back. “I was doing some surveillance. The person went out of town and led me to something. I think it’ll be important.”
She stabbed the cigarette out in the ashtray on the nightstand. “Like what? What could be that exciting to bring the tiger out of Dean Wallace?”
“I think they’ve got a drug stash out there.” He waved vaguely in the air. “Just a hunch. I’ll find out more tomorrow when I go back out there. But that’s, that’s not what’s exciting. It’s the—shit. It’s what makes this job so exciting at times.”
She leaned over and kissed him on the chest. “Well, tiger, we’ve still got time. Wanna play?”
He nodded and took control.
* * *
When Dean returned home, he opened the refrigerator, hoping to find something he could make to eat. With limited options, he made a sandwich of Wonder Bread, three slices of generic brand bologna, and liberal spread of Miracle Whip. He downed it with a Pabst Blue Ribbon.
He cracked open a second beer to wash the last of the bread down. He picked up the phone and dragged the cord behind him to the kitchen table. He called the station and asked Jim for Guthrie. Jim set the receiver down, shouted at Guthrie, and then transferred Dean without saying a word.
“Hey, I was wondering about you,” said Guthrie.
“Sorry I didn’t call earlier. Josh actually moved today beyond the normal.”
“And I missed it. Damn.”
“It was in the afternoon. He left the store and took Forty-Three out to road One Hundred S. Drove past a farm house and beyond where the paved road ended. He disappeared for a couple of hours and came back with somebody I couldn’t ID, and then left.”
“What do you think it is?”
“I’m guessing they have a drug stash out there.”
“They need two hours to get to and from? They’re probably growing it.”
“Maybe. But I think we need to check it out. Let’s you, me, and maybe Etheridge go out there tomorrow.” Dean rubbed his finger along the edge of the telephone’s case. “See if we can find it.”
“You don’t know where it is exactly?”
“No idea other than a general direction. But I think we’ll find it.”
“Who do you think it was with Josh?” The sound of a lighter.
“I couldn’t ID him.”
Guthrie let out the smoke. “Yeah, but you have a guess.”
Dean smiled. “Yeah. I do. I’d bet it was Alex.”
* * *
Dean took a shower and put on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. He lit a cigarette as he flipped through his records, wondering what he wanted to listen to. He decided to stick with jazz. He debated between Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. He decided on Sonny’s Saxophone Colossus. The Caribbean vibe of “Saint Thomas” filled the room. He sat down on the couch and cracked open another beer.
As the drum solo hit the cymbals, a knock on the door took Dean out of his reverie. He left the music on and loud as he opened the door to his brother.
“Hey there,” said Tony with a smile.
Dean turned sideways and gestured for Tony to come in. As Tony walked past, Dean said, “Welcome.” He followed his brother in, stopped by the fridge, grabbed a beer, and tossed it to Tony. He sat down on the couch as Dean turned down the stereo.
Tony tapped the top of the can. “I thought I’d swing by. My continuing efforts.”
Dean raised his beer. “To continuing efforts.”
Tony opened his, raised it, and quickly drank the froth that came out of the top.
“How’s that going, by the way?”
Tony slumped into the couch beside his brother. “Pretty well actually. I think Mom has a lot to do with that. Buttering him up and whatnot.”
He had been making an effort to visit them once a week, and when he was unable to do so, he made sure he called. They had never, of course, gotten to the root of their long disagreement. But that was like his family. Just bury any unpleasantness, any strife as if it had never happened, though the tense words, the sullen quietness all showed through nonetheless. In this case, the years had done much of the work of burying the painful memories.
Dean said, “I understand not speaking to Dad all those years, but why didn’t you ever come around here? You just disappeared.”
Tony was silent for a while, scratching the front of his chin. “I always thought Dad’s response to Nolan’s death was over-the-top. Not in terms of his grief. No. Not that. I’m talking about his response to those around him. He shunned me. Practically disowned me. I was easy to deal with from his perspective. I’m the son who didn’t do his duty. You.” He wagged a finger at Dean. “You, though, were an entirely different issue for Dad. You’re the good son. Served your country. And then Nolan gets killed, and you’re the reminder. The son who lived who every day reminded him—Dad—of his sacrifice. You were the scab that never healed. I was the scar.”
“Great. I never thought of myself as the scab. No one likes a scab.” Dean drank the last of his beer. “I’m a reminder to myself. I can’t escape this skin.”
Tony smiled. “So my banishment was from the family. Not because you wanted it, but because Dad wanted it. He wanted me to feel the shame, to feel his disgust.” Tony’s eyes began to well up. “And because of that, I never forgave myself for having skipped the war. I couldn’t face you. I was too ashamed.”
Dean nodded and got up and grabbed two more beers. He sat back on the couch and handed his brother one of them. “You didn’t skip the war. No one did. You just lived a different horror.” He thought of their youthful years, thought of the evening when they played kick-the-can with a bunch of the neighborhood kids. Sometime in the Sixties, not long after Kennedy was killed. The Wallace brothers had always played as a team, and that night was no different. Huddled under a copse of pines at the Jordan house and about a hundred yards from the can, a duo from the “it” team had left behind a sole protector and a half dozen other kids were in jail—the Copley’s front porch.
The brothers had formed a plan: Dean and Tony would be the bait and Nolan would race to kick over the can and free a prisoner. The two older brothers darted from beneath the pine trees, startling the “it” team, who ran after them. Dean and Tony sprinted straight for the can—an empty Folger’s tin—hoping to get the guard to commit chasing after them. Nolan darted out from cover.
Tony glanced behind him and saw only one pursuer and called out to Dean to continue on. And the sound of four footsteps behind Dean dropped to two, but he did not know if his brother was behind him or the opposing player. He dared not glance back. He later learned Tony had saved Nolan from capture by doubling back to Nolan, who was almost caught. As Dean led the guard away, Tony and Nolan circled back to the can. A few yards ahead of the youngest Wallace, Tony threatened the jail, forcing the pursuers to divert their attention to him again, giving Nolan the valuable seconds and space to free a prisoner, kicking the can with a ferociousness that permanently ended its career.
In Dean’s memory, Tony had always seemed to be the protector. Dean had done what was needed to be done. Dutiful. More than once, Tony had dealt with a couple of guys who bullied Nolan. Dean had reported them to the principal, expected the system to administer justice. Nothing out of the ordinary, but then, the Wallace boys were a force.
Dean shared the kick-the-can memory with Tony, who remembered it as Dean being the hero. Tony shook his head as he recounted from his vantage point how Dean had burst out at full speed from beneath the trees and screamed to get the pursuers’ attention. How he sprinted and in that wake took the bulk of the risk, allowing Tony to retreat back, save Nolan, and let them free the prisoner.
They drank their beers and listened to the last notes of “Blue 7” and then silence.
With Nolan gone, they felt like a diminished version of themselves without any way to recover.
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Parked across the street from Adamson’s, Dean and Guthrie had Alex Smith’s car in clear sight. Guthrie had left his car nearby and sat with Dean in the chief’s personal car, a light gray Caprice Classic Landau Coupe. Dean had borrowed it, knowing Alex had seen Dean’s car. He may well have seen the chief’s, but not that Dean specifically knew of.
Guthrie handed Dean a black coffee in a styrofoam cup with a plastic lid on top. Dean lifted the lid, took a sip, and set the cup in the plastic cup holder hanging on the door.
“I’ve never done surveillance before, so what’s the drill?” Guthrie looked around for someplace to place the plastic lid on his cup, gave up, and held it in his free hand.
Dean smiled. “Pretty boring really. Sit and watch. Stay awake. Stay alert. If he moves, follow. Be discreet. I’d rather lose him than let him know we’re following. Keep track of everything.” He tapped the notepad sitting on the seat between them, a pen hooked to its spiral binding. “Have an extra pen?”
Guthrie shook his head.
“Here.” Dean had three in his coat pocket, pulled out a blue Bic at random, and gave it to Guthrie. “Record time and people. And if he’s driving, include the vehicle make, model, and license. I’m guessing he’ll be driving his own. And note any other things that seem relevant. We’re hoping he goes someplace of interest to us. It’s only the two of us, so one of us gets the night shift.”
“I’ll take it.” He looked at Dean. “I need a few nights off from the wife. She’s on me about fixing stuff around the house. Jesus, I’m just too lazy to do it.”
Dean nodded. He looked out the window. He thought Guthrie was seeking a response from him, but he was not sure he wanted to go there. Marriage conversations meant he had to talk about his failed one. In the end, he could not leave his fellow detective hanging out there. “How long you been married?”
“Fifteen years. She’s a saint.”
Dean chuckled. “Okay. We’ll keep her off your back. I’ll radio you my location at nine so you can take over.”
“I bet you never had that issue.”
Dean gave him a closed lip smile. “We had others.” He rubbed his fingers across his lips. “Cindy was a saint too. Remember that. They’re the saints and we’re the morons.” He patted Guthrie on the shoulder, who nodded and left the car to go home and sleep in preparation for that night’s watch.
And so began a week’s long surveillance operation watching Alex go from home to work to the Shambles to home to repeat it all the next day, except on the weekends, when Alex left his parents’ home on Saturday night to go to the Shambles. Josh and Corey showed up at the Shambles on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, but no other days. Sarah never made an appearance. The logs the detectives kept were monotonous. An alternating set of black—Dean’s notes—and blue ink—Guthrie’s notes. Beyond boring.
After a week, Dean called a temporary halt to the surveillance. The next day, he decided they instead should watch Josh. His behavior previously, his weird statements, added up to something, so Dean thought. Without consulting the chief, they resumed their alternate shifts with a new notebook. Guthrie agreed to work it on his own time, so they did not watch over him during his normal working hours or in the small hours of the night. Guthrie would watch Josh go into the store and report to the station. Dean would arrive around lunch and sit on Josh until the evening. Guthrie would then watch until he was certain the target had called it a night.
Josh worked longer hours and went out less frequently. More boring. After five days, Dean was about to call the whole thing quits, but he decided to give it one more day. He would never know what intuition told him to stick it out one more day. In the end, he was not sure he welcomed it, bittersweet as it turned out to be.
However, Dean did decide to give it that extra day. Josh left work at 2:02 p.m., alone, and in his ’76 blue Mercury Cougar, license plate 406-BPH, with a 1978 re-validation sticker.
Josh pulled out of the Bridewell’s parking lot and headed north toward High Street, turning east onto it. Not his normal route home. Dean followed a ways behind. As Josh came up to the short jog that split it into two one-way streets—High Street and Clemson Street—he took Clemson. Then past the grain mill’s beige and grey siding, where the freight train tracks ran on the southern side, and out beyond town—where Clemson turned into Route 43, into the countryside where the occasional house loomed from a long driveway and fields not yet planted dominated the landscape.
Dean dropped farther behind, worried that being out of Zion exposed him more. A Buick came up behind him, paused, and passed, and he sped up to regain some ground.
Josh drove on Route 43 for ten minutes before turning south onto a small paved road with a leaning, rusting road sign that read 100S. Dean drove past the turn off and double-backed after a mile, turning onto 100S. He drove slowly down the road, past a two-story farm house. A truck was parked in the gravel driveway. After that, the paved road narrowed to a single lane that had not been re-paved for years. The fields gave way to trees, a tall, thick forest of virgin wood: maples, ashes, and birches.
After ten minutes of driving slowly, he saw Josh’s car pulled off to the side of the road, in the grass. Dean stopped his car, eased it in reverse, and backed up a quarter of a mile. He pulled off the road and maneuvered the coupe into the woods, hoping it would not be visible should Josh decide to leave.
Dean stayed in the woods but followed the road back to Josh’s car. He listened for any sounds beyond the rustle of the trees in the breeze, dropping down from the canopy. With every loud crack, he stopped and looked around. Some animal somewhere, he told himself. About twenty-five yards from Josh’s car, he crouched behind a large maple tree.
Josh was not in the car. Dean looked around trying to guess which direction he would have gone, looking for some clue. He reasoned Josh had not walked too far, but what did that mean? By the way Josh had driven out here, he had some purpose and had done it before. Dean retreated back toward his car fifty yards. He would wait for Josh, but he needed to be sure he was out of sight from whatever direction he would return. He leaned against the tree, briefly the image of Billy’s body flashing across his mind. He pulled out the flask and took a pull, but he forced himself to not light a cigarette. The old Marine discipline kicking in.
After two hours huddling against the tree and pulling his sport coat around him tight to ward off the chill, he heard voices and then footsteps, though he could not tell from what direction. Crouching behind the tree now, he looked behind him to ensure they were not coming up on him.
The more steps they took and the more they talked, the more he knew his position was secure. He thought back to the car and wished he had camouflaged it better, but too late now. He recognized Josh’s voice. The other, a man’s voice but just barely audible, he could not make out. Josh and the other man were on the same side of the forest as Josh’s car. Wherever they were coming from, it was from the southwest.
“I’m not liking this,” said Josh.
The other responded but not loud enough for Dean to make out the words. He peered around the edge of the tree, but they were not yet visible. The sun was getting low in the sky. In the forest, it seemed even darker.
“But what if he does that to us too?” asked Josh.
“You don’t think so?”
Dean looked toward Josh’s car. He saw two men, one of which he knew was Josh though he could not make him out in the dimming light and shadows. One of them opened the trunk and the sound of something—not hard, not heavy but not light either—landing in it.
“You’re sure it’ll be all right?” asked Josh.
The companion did not reply, but he put his hand on Josh’s shoulder and patted it.
Both of them got into Josh’s car, who conducted a three-point turn and sped back toward Route 43. As they passed, Dean did not risk exposing himself to see who the passenger might be. Josh did not slow down as they passed his car.
Tempted as he was to head off in the direction Josh had come from, Dean figured it was a fool’s errand at this time of day with night approaching and only an initial direction. Josh and his companion may very well have taken many turns. No, better to come back in the morning, with daylight, Guthrie, and a couple from patrol. He walked through the woods back to his car, hugging the edge of the road.
As he drove back to Zion, he contemplated the scene that had just unfolded. He would have bet Josh’s companion was Alex but perhaps Corey. And he would have bet they were moving drugs. Perhaps their storehouse was in the woods. Hunches all, but they thrilled him. The chase. The waiting in the darkening woods. The deducing of actions, motives, and people. All of it felt like a wonderful high. He had felt this before. In battle. In New York. If not for this case, he might have forgotten altogether that feeling, a dim memory sinking backward into some daze of a different self.
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Dean pulled into his parents’ driveway deep into the evening. They were probably having dinner, but he needed to talk to someone about the case, and his dad was someone he could talk through theories with, no matter how crazy, and someone who would understand his desire to answer the questions still unanswered. As he walked up to the front door, he looked back to the street and recognized Tony’s car. He pulled open the storm door part of the way and knocked and then opened the door.
“Hello?” said Eric.
“It’s me, Dad.” Dean closed the doors behind him and walked toward the sound of his dad’s voice, which seemed to flow along the smells of steak and au gratin potatoes.
His mom and dad and Tony were all sitting around the dining room table. Small pool of bloody oil on Tony’s plate. Eric jamming the cut side of a roll onto the plate and mopping up the grease and leftover cheese. The fat of the steak separated and piled off to the side on Jessica’s. She smiled and stood up. “Let me get you a plate.”
He nodded. “Thanks.” He sat next to Tony, patting him on the shoulder as he did.
The t-bone was extra well done, as his parents had always made it—except for Tony—crispy on the outside with a distinct, thick char. Tony and Eric had already collected the crispy parts of the au gratin, a prized portion of the meal since he had been a kid. Enough so fights often erupted for the last bit, forcing Eric to claim it for himself or Jessica. The spinach was plain, so Dean added salt and pepper. The whole meal was reminiscent of the early Sixties, down to their seating. Only the empty chair across from Dean reminded them that it was not.
With beers in hand, the men remained at the table as Jessica cleared the plates.
Dean pointed back and forth between Eric and Tony. “So you two mended finally?”
“A work in progress,” said Tony. “A work in progress.”
“Good. Good. So, Dad, I wanted to pass some things by you about the Nimitz case.”
“It’s been a while.”
“Yep.” Dean looked at Tony.
Eric said, “It’s all right. He can listen.”
Tony gave him a thumbs up.
Dean shrugged. “So after the busted interviews, I keep going over things. Trying to find a new angle.”
“Who are the players?” asked Tony.
“A lot of them, but we’ve got Alex Smith.”
“The DA’s kid?”
“That’s the one.” Eric gulped his beer.
“Yeah, well, he’s one of them,” continued Dean. “He and William’s girlfriend, Sarah, had a few nights together. Plus it seems Alex is somehow involved in the drug trade. Not sure. You’ve also got Charlie McCord. Definitely making his money beyond what the body shop is bringing in. Then you have Paul Zorn—the other end of the drug trade stick. And maybe the girlfriend’s father. For evidence, we’ve got the pistol that fired the shots, with its dead end in the Sixties. Twenty thousand in cash and The Communist Manifesto in Billy’s closet. And the trove of passports and cash found with the body in Montreal.”
Tony gave him questioning look, so Dean told him about his trip to see Renard.
“Billy a spy?” Eric’s voice was incredulous. He set the can of Budweiser on the table.
Dean nodded his agreement. “I know. Doesn’t make much sense. In Zion at least.”
Tony leaned in. “Yeah. I studied The Communist Manifesto in college. Lots of people did.”
“Yeah, but Billy seemed to have no inclination towards study, if you know what I mean?”
“What about his friends? What did they say about him?”
“Generally, nice guy and all that. He seemed like a good employee. Showed up. Did the work. One of his buddies made comments that Billy wasn’t all that happy with the work situation. And we know he wasn’t putting in overtime, which is what he was telling his parents.”
“He was still young, though, right?” asked Eric.
“So maybe he was learning about this stuff. Was getting pinko or something.”
Dean took a drink of his beer. “Maybe, but that seems like the convoluted answer. He’s a spy. There’s not much to spy on here in Zion. I mean, drugs make more sense. Maybe the dead guy in Canada was moving drugs and Billy was one of his drivers. Had passports to help move beyond driving between Canada and the U.S. Flying them in. Or—Billy had mentioned getting out of here with his girlfriend. Heading to Puerto Rico. Maybe he had other ideas. Thought he needed a passport to help him out.”
Tony rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s not unheard of having someone on the State-side funneling Soviet spies across the border. Someone on this side to give them a bus ticket and stuff.”
Dean shook his head. “I don’t know. Maybe. But I prefer the simpler answer.”
“Occam’s Razor you.”
“What about his friends and family the day of his disappearance?”
“Two friends alibi each other. One was at home alone—though we know he showed up after Billy left the bar. Shortly after that. Don’t know why. His dad stopped us before I could get an answer. His girlfriend was at home alone. Says she talked to Billy around midnight. His parents alibi each other. And Zorn. Well, it’s Zorn. Trask alibis him.”
“You think the Grim Devils are a part of this?”
“It was a stab in the dark.”
“Hell, it was desperation,” said Eric. “Mind you, we didn’t have anything. Still don’t.”
“Yeah,” said Dean. “We figured if drugs are involved, it’s Zorn. But we pressed on the two friends Corey and Josh. They were with Billy the night he disappeared. Josh was acting weird. So we pushed. And Zorn suggested that the other friend, Alex, was not pristine. Which we know, but he made it sound bigger.”
“And then Henry blocked everything.”
“And then there’s McCord.”
“I don’t buy it, son. I’ve known Charlie for a while. Seen him at the council meetings. A nice house doesn’t mean he’s a drug dealer. And why would he kill the kid anyways?”
Tony stood up. “Could’ve seen something he wasn’t supposed to.” Tony stretched his arms by grabbing his elbows above his head. “Maybe Billy is clean. Works a bit late one night or shows up to pick something up after hours and sees his boss up to no good. Charlie pops him.”
Eric grunted. “So you’ve got a list of suspects, hardly any evidence, and what are you wanting?”
Dean nodded. This is where he wanted to get to the entire evening. “I want to do the surveillance we talked about. I want to sit on Alex. I think he’s the key. We sit on him, and we watch him, and he leads us to information. It’s our best shot at cracking this. But I need Guthrie at least so we can do twelve-hour shifts.”
“Yeah.” Dean downed the last of his beer. “His parents call every Wednesday. I can’t even tell them we’re doing anything actively now.”
Tony said, “Makes sense to me. If that doesn’t lead you anywhere, you’ll have to button up the case.”
“It was about to go into cold storage anyways. Just a week. Give me and Guthrie a week of overtime. I’ll work it on my own time for my hours.”
Eric twisted his lips and pulled at the Budweiser bottle’s label. “Screw it. We got nothing else. You and Guthrie can keep an eye on him for a few days. See if he does anything fishy.”
Dean said they would start the next day. They all cracked open another beer and the conversation drifted to the goings-on about town, the chief’s tolerance of the mayor, and memories of better times. They even toasted to baby-brother Nolan, killed in action, proving the belief that living or dying in a combat zone was often more a matter of luck than skill. Dean had been lucky by that measure of things. Nolan not. But Dean could not let go of the idea that good luck in war meant bad luck at home.
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Drizzle dropped from the nearly uniform gray clouds. Tall maples, birches, and ashes were just budding, and the scenery alongside the road would have been desolate had it not been for the green of the firs and spruces. He flicked the wiper button every so often to wipe away the dots of water that piled up. He had just left the home of Gary Swan. Reggie had driven by for a check in when Gary’s manager at Adamson’s had reported him absent and did not know who else to call. Reggie had kicked in the door and radioed Dean the moment he was inside.
Gary had died in his recliner, the TV still on. When Cotton arrived, both Dean and Reggie agreed with the coroner that Gary had passed due to natural causes. The three of them put Gary into the coroner’s van. After Cotton left, Reggie and Dean searched the house for any information regarding next of kin. Dean knew Gary’s parents had died a few years before, but he did not know if he had any siblings or cousins. The effort proved fruitless. The probate courts would have to figure out what to do next. They boarded up the door before leaving.
Dean drove aimlessly through town and then back. He found himself on Route 23. He stopped at a 7-11 and picked up a cold ham and cheese sandwich with a small bag of Fritos and a six-pack of cold Pabst Blue Ribbon. He drove out to the Pratt farm and pulled off to the side of the road across from their driveway. The call with the Nimitz’s that morning had been the same depressing conversation. No new leads. No new evidence. He could not bring himself to tell them the case was due to be shelved into cold case storage next week. After the conversation, he had opened the case file. He was halfway through it when the call from Reggie had come in.
He shut off the car and rolled down the window. He unwrapped the sandwich and freed a can of the beer, opening it. From beneath the rest of the six pack, he pulled out the Nimitz case file.
Dean pulled out his notebook from his front pocket and a pen. He flipped to a blank page. He wrote down the short list of evidence. Twenty thousand in cash and a copy of The Communist Manifesto in Billy’s closet. Why both? He added a question mark next to both items. He thought of Renard’s quip. He wrote spy next to both and added yet another question mark.
The thirty-eight with six bullets in it that once belonged to Corey and his grandfather.
That left the Remington M1911A pistol. Last known owner was Dennis Kowlowski who died in 1963. He bought it in 1952. What happened once he bought it was unknown. He scratched his head and took a drink.
The sandwich was dry, so Dean tore open the mayonnaise and mustard packets and squeezed their contents to the underside of the top bun. They did not save the sandwich, but he ate it anyway. The sandwich mirrored his list: lots of promise but not much living up to it. He went back to the case file and his notebook. The passports were confusing, for no one had ever mentioned Billy traveling, and they were not in his possession. And drug dealers did not usually resort to that kind of passport forgery, at least those bringing their haul across the Canadian-U.S. border.
He flipped to another blank page and divided it up into a set of columns, a task he had done a half-dozen times already. On the far left, he wrote “Time” and then added columns to the right for each of his suspects: Sarah, Carlos, Alex, Corey, Josh, McCord, and Zorn. He added yet a final column next to Zorn and put a question mark there.
Billy was at the Shambles from six to about eleven-thirty, so he wrote “11:30” in the far right. He noted Sarah, Carlos, Alex, and McCord all claimed to be home, but only Carlos and McCord had anyone to vouch for them, albeit, their wives. Corey and Josh both said they left Billy walking and went home immediately, but they did have not alibis saying when they arrived home. Zorn claimed to be at the club with fellow Grim Devils member Quentin Trask, which Trask had confirmed to Guthrie. At midnight—according to the phone records it was 11:58 p.m.—Sarah received a call from Billy. They talked for a few minutes, and that was the last known interaction with Billy before his death. Dean scratched his head. On the previous page, he wrote “Drugs?” next to the cash.
He looked at his watch: 4:13. He wadded up the sandwich and chip packaging into a bundle and drove back into town. At the 7-11, he threw them away and called Sadie from a pay phone. She was free until seven, and she would be happy to see him.
* * *
As he buckled his belt, she smiled at him and held a Virginia Slim in her right hand. She inhaled. The rain began slashing in from the southwest, drenching the window in sheets and thumping the roof.
He smiled back, but she noticed the weakness of the smile.
“What’s wrong, baby?” she asked.
“Huh? Oh, nothing. Just thinking about this case.”
“That’s why you’re here, to not think about work.”
He winked at her. “I wasn’t while.” He turned on the lamp on the nightstand.
“Is it that Billy kid again?”
He nodded as he pulled out a cigarette and lit it. “Yep. Reviewed the case again today.”
He looked at her and considered if he should tell her anything. He would have told Cindy everything, even though she hated it. “It’s just bothering me. That we haven’t solved it yet.”
“It was months ago though.”
“Yeah, that’s what’s eating at me. So little information. And contradictory. You know, the Canadian police found some things in Montreal that don’t make a lot of sense. Unless you’re a drug dealer or a spy. And I don’t get the sense this kid was capable of being a spy. And no one thinks he was into drug trafficking. And what the hell’s to find in Zion?”
She slid her long legs over the side of the bed and stood up, smiling as she did so. She grabbed the thin robe on the chair next to the bed and pulled it on, her nipples still visible through it. “Spy? In Zion?”
“I know, right?”
He nodded, and she walked out. He buttoned up his shirt. He sat on the edge of the bed, and as he reached down to grab his shoes, he used the nightstand for balance. His grip slipped, and he clutched at the handle on the drawer to the stand, which he pulled out a little as he sat back up, left shoe in his right hand. Through the gap of the drawer, he saw a notebook. He looked at it. He knew what it was without opening it. He thought about pulling it out and looking at it, seeing who else visited her. If she had other regulars like him. But he did not. He knew she did. He knew he was not special. He slid it closed and started putting on his shoe.
Sadie walked in and handed him a drink. Bourbon with two large ice cubes.
“Thanks.” He took a drink and set it on the table. “It’s probably drug stuff. Everything these days seems that way.”
She held a vodka tonic in her hands. “Seems that way.”
“I figure if we can find out who Billy was transporting drugs for, we’ll find his killer.”
“You think he was transporting?”
“I don’t see him running a dealing business. Not with Zorn in town. I could see him driving the stuff from Canada down for some extra cash.”
She smiled, but it was a smile he had rarely seen on her, one that allowed a glimpse beyond her facade into the woman she really was. “You know, more than Zorn and his goons transport drugs in this town.”
“Yeah, like who?” He asked it without thinking, just a normal question, but he could tell immediately that it cut through something, like he had crossed a threshold not meant to be crossed between a hooker and her john, especially when her john was a cop. “Nevermind. Sorry.”
She nodded once and took a drink.
He downed the last of his bourbon quickly, setting the glass down on the table, the ice tinkling.
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