Eight Million Ways To Die Page 49


Not bad.

I went downstairs and around the corner. I walked to Armstrong\s, glanced in the window, but went on walking to Fifty-eighth and around the corner and halfway down the block. I went into Joey Farrell\s and stood at the bar.

Not much of a crowd. Music on the jukebox, some baritone crooner backed up with a lot of strings.

’’Double Early Times,’’ I said. ’’With water back.’’

I stood there, not really thinking of anything, while the bearded barman poured the drink and drew the chaser and set them both before me. I had placed a ten dollar bill on the counter. He cracked it, brought my change.

I looked at the drink. Light danced in the rich amber fluid. I reached for it, and a soft inner voice murmured Welcome home.

I withdrew my hand. I left the drink on the bar and took a dime from my pile of change. I went to the phone and dropped the dime and dialed Jan\s number.

No answer.

Fine, I thought. I\d kept my promise. Of course I might have misdialed, or the phone company might have f*ked up. Such things have been known to happen.

I put the dime back in the slot and dialed again. I let it ring a dozen times.

No answer.

Fair enough. I got my dime back and returned to the bar. My change was as I\d left it, and so were the two glasses in front of me, the bourbon and the water.

I thought, Why?

The case was finished, solved, wrapped up. The killer would never kill anyone again. I had done a whole lot of things right and felt very good about my role in the proceedings. I wasn\ nervous, I wasn\ anxious, I wasn\ depressed. I was fine, for Christ\s sake.

And there was a double shot of bourbon on the bar in front of me. I hadn\ wanted a drink, I hadn\ even thought of a drink, and here I was with a drink in front of me and I was going to swallow it.

Why? What the hell was the matter with me?

If I drank the f*king drink I would end up dead or in the hospital. It might take a day or a week or a month but that was how it would play. I knew that. And I didn\ want to be dead and I didn\ want to go to the hospital, but here I was in a gin joint with a drink in front of me.

Because-

Because what?

Because-

I left the drink on the bar. I left my change on the bar. I got out of there.

At half past eight I walked down the flight of basement stairs and into the meeting room at St. Paul\s. I got a cup of coffee and some cookies and took a seat.

I thought, You almost drank. You\ e eleven days sober and you went into a bar you had no reason to be in and ordered a drink for no reason at all. You almost picked up the drink, you were that close to it, you almost blew eleven days after the way you sweated to get them. What the hell is the matter with you?

The chairman read the preamble and introduced the speaker. I sat there and tried to listen to his story and I couldn\ . My mind kept returning to the flat reality of that glass of bourbon. I hadn\ wanted it, I hadn\ even thought about it, and yet I\d been drawn to it like iron filings to a magnet.

I thought, My name is Matt and I think I\m going crazy.

The speaker finished what he was saying. I joined in the applause. I went to the bathroom during the break, less out of need than to avoid having to talk to anybody. I came back to the room and got yet another cup of coffee that I neither needed nor wanted. I thought about leaving the coffee and going back to my hotel. The hell, I\d been up two days and a night without a break. Some sleep would do me more good than a meeting I couldn\ pay attention to in the first place.

I kept my coffee cup and took it to my seat and sat down.

I sat there during the discussion. The words people spoke rolled over me like waves. I just sat there, unable to hear a thing.

Then it was my turn.

’’My name is Matt,’’ I said, and paused, and started over. ’’My name is Matt,’’ I said, ’’and I\m an alcoholic.’’

And the goddamnedest thing happened. I started to cry.


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