A Ticket To The Boneyard Page 40

It was all right. It was like a meeting, really, except that everybody who spoke said something about Toni. I talked briefly about our trek out to Richmond Hill and back, and mentioned some of the funny things Toni had said in her talk.

It bothered me that everybody thought she\d killed herself, but I didn\ know what to do about that. I would have liked to tell her relatives in particular what the real circumstances had been. Her family was Catholic, and it might have mattered to them. But I couldn\ think how to handle it.

Afterward I went out for coffee with Jim Faber, and then I went back to the hospital.

I was there a lot during the next week. A couple of times I was on the verge of making an anonymous call to 911 to tip them off about the dead body at 288 East Twenty-fifth Street. As soon as Motley\s corpse was discovered, I could phone Anita and tell her she could stop worrying. I couldn\ reach Jan, but sooner or later she would reach me, and I wanted to be able to say it was all right to come home. If I said as much to either of them ahead of schedule, I might someday be called upon to explain myself.

What kept me from calling 911 was the knowledge that all such calls were taped, and that I could be identified as the caller through voiceprint comparison. I didn\ think anyone would ever check, but why leave the possibility open? At first I\d thought Ms. Lepcourt would come home to her apartment and discover the body, but when that didn\ happen over the weekend I had to consider the possibility that she\d never be coming home.

That just meant I had a couple more days to wait. On Tuesday afternoon a neighbor finally realized that the odor she was smelling was not a dead rat in the wall, and that it wasn\ going to go away of its own accord. She called the police, they broke the door down, and that was that.

On Thursday, almost a week after Motley left her bleeding on her rug, a resident internist told me he thought Elaine was going to make it.

’’I never thought she would,’’ he said. ’’There were so many things that kept threatening to go wrong. The stress she underwent throughout was enormous. I was afraid her heart might fail, but it turns out she has a real good heart.’’

I could have told him that.

A little later, around the time she came home from the hospital, I had dinner with Joe Durkin at the Slate. He said it was on him and I didn\ argue. He downed a couple of martinis to start, and he told me how neatly Motley\s suicide had closed out a batch of files. They were hanging Andrew Echevarria and Elizabeth Scudder on him, and there was an unofficial understanding that he\d caused the deaths of Antoinette Cleary and Michael Fitzroy, the young man Toni\d landed on. They also figured him as the probable killer of one Suzanne Lepcourt, who\d floated to the surface of the East River earlier that week. It was hard to tell what had caused her death- as a matter of fact, without dental records it would have been next to impossible to tell who she was, let alone what had killed her. But there wasn\ much doubt that she\d died as the result of foul play, or that the foul player was Motley.

’’Decent of him to kill himself,’’ Durkin said. ’’Since nobody seemed capable of doing it for him. He saved us a lot of aggravation.’’

’’You had a good case against him.’’

’’Oh, we would have put him away,’’ he said. ’’I\ve got no doubts of that. Still, this makes it simpler all around. Did I tell you there was a note?’’

’’On the wall, you said. In lipstick.’’

’’Right. I\m surprised he didn\ use the mirror. I bet the landlord wishes he had. It\s a lot easier scraping it off a mirror than covering it with paint. There\s a mirror on the wall next to the door, too. You must have noticed it.’’

’’I was never in the apartment, Joe.’’

’’Oh, of course. I forgot.’’ He gave me a knowing look. ’’Anyway,’’ he said, ’’offing himself was the first decent thing the bastard ever did. You wouldn\ figure a guy like him to do it, would you?’’

’’Oh, I don\ know,’’ I said. ’’Sometimes a man will have that one moment of clarity, when all the illusions fall away and he sees clearly for the first time.’’

’’That moment of clarity, huh?’’

’’It happens.’’

’’Well,’’ he said, picking up his drink, ’’I don\ know about you, but whenever I feel a moment of clarity coming on, I just reach out for one of these and let the clouds roll in.’’

’’That\s probably wise,’’ I said.

Of course he was hoping I\d tell him what happened on Twenty-fifth Street. He had his suspicions and he wanted me to confirm them. If that\s what he wants, he\s going to have a long wait.

I\ve told two people. I told Elaine. In a sense I\d already told her in Intensive Care, but if a part of your mind really does hear what\s said at such times, it doesn\ tell the rest of your mind later on. I let her think Motley had killed himself until she was home from the hospital. Then, the same day I brought her her Christmas present, I told her what really happened.

’’Good,’’ she said. ’’Thank God. And thank you. And thank you for telling me.’’

’’I don\ see how I could not tell you. I don\ know if I\m glad I did it, though.’’

’’Why not?’’

I told her how my framing him had set it all in motion in the first place, and how I\d done the same thing all over, playing God again.

’’Honey,’’ she said, ’’that\s crap. He would have come back at us anyway. This way it took him twelve years instead of a couple of months. And killing the son of a bitch pretty much guarantees he won\ cause any more trouble. Not in this world, anyway, and that\s the only world I\m going to worry about right now.’’

Around the middle of January Mick and I had a long night together, but after we closed the bar we didn\ go to the butchers\ mass. It had snowed a few days earlier, and he wanted to show me how pretty his place upstate looked with snow covering the hills. We drove up there and I stayed over and rode back with him the following afternoon. It was peaceful up there, and as beautiful as he\d said it was.

On the way up I told him how Motley\s life had ended. It didn\ come as a surprise to him. After all, he knew I had the address, and he knew too that I\d had to handle my business with Motley on my own.

I called Tom Havlicek after Motley\s body was discovered, but I didn\ give him anything beyond the official version. At that point, of course, they reopened the case in Massillon- now that it didn\ make any difference. It did clear Sturdevant\s name, however, which I suppose was of value to his friends and relatives. At the same time it sullied Connie\s, because the local paper came up with the fact that she\d been a hooker years back and shared this tidbit with their readers.

Tom said I ought to come out and he\d take me hunting, and I said that really sounded nice, but I think we both knew how unlikely I was to take him up on it. He called the other day when the Bengals got beaten in the Super Bowl and said he might be getting down to New York one of these days. I told him to make damn sure he gets in touch with me when he does, and he said I could count on it, that he\d make a point of it. And perhaps he will.

I haven\ told Jim Faber yet.

We have dinner at least once a week, and I\ve come close to telling him a couple of times. I suppose I\ll get around to it one of these days. I\m not sure what\s stopped me so far. Maybe I\m afraid of his disapproval, or that he\ll do what he so often does and put me face-to-face with my own conscience, a sleeping dog I let lie as much as I possibly can.

Oh, I\ll get it off my chest sooner or later. After a particularly meaningful meeting, say, when I\m just overflowing with enough spirituality to drown a saint in.

But in the meantime the only people I\ve told are a career criminal and a call girl, and they seem to be the two people in the world to whom I\m closest. I don\ doubt that says something about them, and I should think it would say even more about me.

It\s been a cold winter, and they say we\ve got a lot more of the same coming. It\s hard on the street people, and a couple of them died last week when it went down below zero. But for most of us it\s not that bad. You just dress warm and walk through it, that\s all

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