In The Midst Of Death Page 23


’’That\s right, Matt. According to the report I saw.’’

’’He walked out the door and a late-model car pulled up at the curb and somebody gave him both barrels of a sawed-off shotgun. A school kid said the man with the gun was white but didn\ know about the man in the car, the driver.’’

’’That\s right.’’

’’One man\s white and the car\s described as blue and the gun was left at the scene. No prints, I don\ suppose.’’

’’Probably not.’’

’’No way to trace the sawed-off, I don\ guess.’’

’’I haven\ heard, but- ’’

’’But there won\ be any way to trace it.’’

’’Doesn\ figure to be.’’

Trina brought the drinks. I picked mine up and said, ’’Absent friends, Eddie.’’

’’Sure thing.’’

’’He wasn\ your friend, and though you may not believe it, he was less my friend than yours, but that\s how we\ll drink the toast, to absent friends. I drank your toast the way you wanted it, so you can drink mine.’’

’’Whatever you say.’’

’’Absent friends,’’ I said.

We drank. The booze seemed to have more of a punch after a few days of taking it easy. I certainly hadn\ lost my taste for it, though. It went down nice and easy and made me vitally aware of just who I was.

I said, ’’You figure they\ll ever find out who did it?’’

’’Want a straight answer?’’

’’Do you think I want you to lie to me?’’

’’No, I don\ figure that.’’

’’So?’’

’’I don\ suppose they\ll ever find out who did it, Matt.’’

’’Will they try?’’

’’I don\ think so.’’

’’Would you, if it were your case?’’

He looked at me. ’’Well, I\ll be perfectly honest with you,’’ he said after a moment\s thought. ’’I don\ know. I\d like to think I\d try. I think some- I think, f*k it, I think a couple of our own must of done it. What the hell else can you think, right?’’

’’Right.’’

’’Whoever did it was a f*king idiot. An absolute f*king idiot who just did the department more harm than Broadfield could ever hope to do. Whoever did it ought to hang by the neck, and I like to think I\d go after the bastards with everything I had if it was my case.’’ He lowered his eyes. ’’But to be honest, I don\ know if I would. I think I\d go through the motions and sweep it under the rug.’’

’’And that\s what they\ll do out in Queens.’’

’’I didn\ talk to them. I don\ know for a fact that\s what they\ll do. But I\d be surprised if they did anything else, and so would you.’’

’’Uh-huh.’’

’’What are you going to do, Matt?’’

’’Me?’’ I stared at him. ’’Me? What should I do?’’

’’I mean, are you going to try and go after them? Because I don\ know if it\s a good idea.’’

’’Why should I do that, Eddie?’’ I spread my hands palms up. ’’He\s not my cousin. And nobody\s hiring me to find out who killed him.’’

’’Is that straight?’’

’’It\s straight.’’

’’You\ e hard to figure. I think I got you pegged, and then I don\ .’’ He stood up and put some money on the table. ’’Let me buy that round,’’ he said.

’’Stick around, Eddie. Have another drink.’’

He hadn\ done more than touch the one he\d had. ’’No time,’’ he said. ’’Matt, you don\ have to crawl into the bottle just because of this. It doesn\ change anything.’’

’’It doesn\ ?’’

’’Hell, no. You still got a life of your own. You got this woman you\ e seeing, you got- ’’

’’No.’’

’’Huh?’’

’’Maybe I\ll see her again. I don\ know. Probably not. She could have called by this time. And after it happened, you would think she\d have called if it was real.’’

’’I don\ follow you.’’

But I wasn\ talking to him. ’’We were in the right place at the right time,’’ I went on. ’’So it looked as though we might turn out to be important for each other. If it ever had a chance, I\d say the chance died this morning when the gun went off.’’

’’Matt, you\ e not making sense.’’

’’It makes sense to me. Maybe that\s my fault. We might see each other again, I don\ know. But whether we do or don\ , it\s not going to change anything. People don\ get to change things. Things change people once in a while, but people don\ change things.’’

’’I gotta go, Matt. Take it a little easy on the booze, huh?’’

’’Sure, Eddie.’’

SOMETIME that night I dialed her number in Forest Hills. The phone rang a dozen times before I gave up and got my dime back.

I called another number. A leftover voice recited, ’’Seven-two-five-five. I am sorry, but no one is at home at the moment. If you will leave your name and number at the sound of the tone, your call will be returned as soon as possible. Thank you.’’

The tone sounded, and it was my turn. But I couldn\ seem to think of anything to say.


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