A Dance At The Slaughter House Page 44


’’I bet you do.’’ He looked at me over the top of his glass. He said, ’’I\d say they deserved killing.’’

’’Do you think so?’’

’’If anyone ever did.’’

’’I guess we all deserve killing,’’ I said. ’’Maybe that\s why nobody ever gets out of here alive. I don\ know where I get off deciding who deserves killing and who doesn\ . We left four people dead back there and two of them I never even met. Did they deserve killing?’’

’’They had guns in their hands. Nobody drafted them, not for that war.’’

’’But did they deserve it? If we all got what we deserved-’’

’’Oh, Jesus forbid it,’’ he said. ’’Matt, I have to ask you this. Why did you shoot the woman?’’

’’Somebody had to.’’

’’It needn\ have been yourself.’’

’’No.’’ I took a moment and thought about it. ’’I\m not sure,’’ I said at last. ’’There\s only one thing I can think of.’’

’’Let\s hear it, man.’’

’’Well, I don\ know,’’ I said, ’’but I think maybe I wanted to get some blood on my apron.’’

SUNDAY I had dinner with Jim Faber. I told him the whole story all the way through, and we never did get to a meeting that night. We were still in the Chinese restaurant when they were saying the Lord\s Prayer.

’’Well, it\s a hell of a story,’’ he said. ’’And I guess you could say it has a happy ending, because you didn\ drink and you aren\ going to go to jail. Or are you?’’

’’No.’’

’’It must be an interesting feeling, playing judge and jury, deciding who gets to live and who deserves to die. Like playing God, I guess you could say.’’

’’You could say that.’’

’’You think you\ll make a habit of it?’’

I shook my head. ’’I don\ think I\ll ever do it again. But I never thought I would do it at all. I\ve done unorthodox things over the years, both on and off the force. I\ve fabricated evidence, I\ve distorted situations.’’

’’This was a little different.’’

’’It was a lot different. See, I saw that tape during the summer and I never really did get it out of my mind. And then I ran into the son of a bitch by pure chance, recognized him from a gesture, the way he smoothed a boy\s hair back on his head. Probably something his own father used to do.’’

’’Why do you say that?’’

’’Because something or other turned him into a monster. Maybe his father abused him, maybe he was raped in childhood. That\s one of the ways it works. It wouldn\ have been all that hard to understand Stettner. To sympathize with him.’’

’’That\s something I noticed,’’ he said. ’’When you were talking about him. I never got the feeling that you hated him.’’

’’Why should I hate him? He was quite charming. His manners were good, he was witty, he had a sense of humor. If you want to divide the world into good men and bad men, he was certainly one of the bad ones. But I don\ know if you can do that. I used to be able to. It\s harder than it once was.’’

I leaned forward. ’’They would have kept on doing it,’’ I said. ’’They were recreational killers, they did it for the sport of it. They enjoyed it. I can\ understand that, but there are plenty of people who can\ understand how I can enjoy watching a boxing match. Maybe what people do and don\ enjoy is yet another area that\s beyond judgment.

’’But here\s the point. They were doing this and getting away with it, and I got on their case and got lucky and figured out what they did and how they did it and who they did it to, and it didn\ mean squat. No indictment, no arrest, no charges brought, not even an investigation. A pretty good cop found the whole thing so frustrating he drank himself stupid. I wasn\ prepared to do that myself.’’

’’Well, you got that part right,’’ he said. ’’And then you decided, well, letting the Universe work this out on its own is just not something I can safely do. God\s in deep shit, you told yourself, unless He\s got me to help Him out.’’

’’God,’’ I said.

’’Well, whatever the hell you want to call it. Your Higher Power, the creative force of the Universe, the Great Perhaps. That\s what Rabelais called it. The Great Perhaps. You didn\ figure the Great Perhaps was equal to the task confronting Him, so it was up to you to take over.’’

’’No,’’ I said. ’’That\s not how it was.’’

’’Tell me.’’

’’I thought, I can let go of this, I can turn this over, and it will all work out the way it\s supposed to. Because everything always does. I know that on the days when I seem to believe in the Great Perhaps, and I still know it when my Higher Power is the Great Perhaps Not. And one thing I always know for sure- whether or not there\s a God, I\m not it.’’

’’Then why did you do what you did?’’

’’Because I just plain wanted them dead,’’ I said. ’’And I just flat out wanted to be the sonofabitch who did it to them. And no, I\m not going to do it again.’’

’’You took the money.’’

’’Yes.’’

’’Thirty-five, you said it was?’’

’’Thirty-five a man. Mick\s end must have run to a quarter of a million. Of course there was a lot of foreign currency. I don\ know how he\ll make out when he unloads it.’’

’’He gets the lion\s share.’’

’’That\s right.’’

’’And what do you do with yours?’’

’’I don\ know. For now it\s in the safe-deposit box, along with the cassette that got the whole thing started. I\ll probably give a tenth of it to Testament House. That seems like a logical place to donate it.’’

’’You could give it all to Testament House.’’

’’I could,’’ I agreed, ’’but I don\ think I will. I think I\ll keep the rest of it. Why the hell shouldn\ I? I worked for it.’’

’’I guess you did at that.’’

’’And I ought to have a little money of my own if I marry Elaine.’’

’’Are you going to marry Elaine?’’

’’How the hell do I know?’’

’’Uh-huh. Why\d you go to mass?’’

’’I\ve gone with Ballou before. I guess the current term for it is \male bonding.\ All I know is it seems to be an occasional part of our friendship.’’

’’Why\d you take Communion?’’

’’I don\ know.’’

’’You must have some idea.’’

’’No,’’ I said, ’’I really don\ . There are lots of things I do without knowing why the hell I do them. Half the time I don\ know why I stay sober, if you want to know the truth, and back when I drank all the time I didn\ know why I did that either.’’

’’Uh-huh. What happens next?’’

’’Stay tuned,’’ I said. ’’Don\ change the channel.’’


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