Find Her a Grave - Collin Wilcox - ebook

Find Her a Grave ebook

Collin Wilcox

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Opis

To honor a dying don's last wish, a mob lieutenant searches for hidden diamonds. After seven years ruling his empire from prison, Don Carlo remains as powerful as ever, but his heart is beginning to fail. On the verge of death, he begs his right-hand man, Bacardo, to look after his family. Not his wife and children, the don explains, but Louise and Angela - his daughter and granddaughter from a beloved mistress who died long ago. To Louise, the don bequeaths one million dollars in diamonds, hidden in a cemetery in a tiny California town. Securing her inheritance will mean mortal danger for Louise, Bacardo, and the private investigator they hire to help them - a moonlighting director named Alan Bernhardt. Bernhardt understands the risks, but also knows that the theater and the mafia have two things in common: the understanding that a professional is only as good as his word, and that the only way to survive is to act without fear.

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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

1985

TUESDAY, JULY 9th

3:15 P.M., EDT

4:05 P.M., EDT

FRIDAY, JULY 19th

2:20 P.M., EDT

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 22nd

8:20 P.M., EDT

1986

WEDNESDAY, MAY 14th

3:45 P.M., EDT

4:10 P.M., EDT

MONDAY, MAY 19th

1:10 P.M., EDT

2:20 P.M., EDT

TUESDAY, MAY 20th

8 A.M., EDT

WEDNESDAY, MAY 21st

11:57 P.M., PDT

TUESDAY, MAY 24th

10:15 P.M., EDT

1990

THURSDAY, APRIL 12th

10 A.M., PDT

TUESDAY, APRIL 17th

11:15 A.M., EDT

12:40 P.M., EDT

2:40 P.M. EDT

FRIDAY, APRIL 20th

6 P.M., PDT

7:05 P.M., PDT

7:20 P.M., PDT

9:45 P.M., PDT

SATURDAY, APRIL 21st

10 A.M., PDT

2:15 P.M., PDT

5:30 P.M., PDT

6:10 P.M., PDT

7 P.M., PDT

10:15 P.M., EDT

7:20 P.M., PDT

7:50 P.M., PDT

8:10 P.M., PDT

9:40 P.M., PDT

10 P.M., PDT

11 P.M., PDT

11:45 P.M., PDT

SUNDAY, APRIL 22nd

8:30 A.M., PDT

9:20 A.M., PDT

12:05 P.M., PDT

1:25 P.M., PDT

2:40 P.M., PDT

5 P.M., PDT

5:50 P.M., PDT

8 P.M., PDT

9:30 P.M., PDT

9:40 P.M., PDT

10:20 P.M., PDT

11:10 P.M., PDT

11:40 P.M., PDT

11:45 P.M., PDT

11:59 P.M., PDT

2 A.M., PDT

3:15 A.M., PDT

4:20 A.M., PDT

MONDAY, APRIL 23rd

8:25 A.M., PDT

8:40 A.M., PDT

12:05 P.M., EDT

10 A.M., PDT

10:32 A.M., PDT

12:12 P.M., PDT

12:35 P.M., PDT

2 P.M., PDT

5 P.M., PDT

5:50 P.M., PDT

8:30 P.M., PDT

10:20 P.M., PDT

11:05 P.M., PDT

1:10 A.M., PDT

1:50 A.M., PDT

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Begin Reading

About the Book

To honor a dying don’s last wish, a mob lieutenant searches for hidden diamonds.

After seven years ruling his empire from prison, Don Carlo remains as powerful as ever, but his heart is beginning to fail. On the verge of death, he begs his right-hand man, Bacardo, to look after his family. Not his wife and children, the don explains, but Louise and Angela- his daughter and granddaughter from a beloved mistress who died long ago.

To Louise, the don bequeaths one million dollars in diamonds, hidden in a cemetery in a tiny California town. Securing her inheritance will mean mortal danger for Louise, Bacardo, and the private investigator they hire to help them - a moonlighting director named Alan Bernhardt. Bernhardt understands the risks, but also knows that the theater and the mafia have two things in common: the understanding that a professional is only as good as his word, and that the only way to survive is to act without fear.

About the Author

Collin Wilcox (1924–1996) was an American author of mystery fiction. Born in Detroit, he set most of his work in San Francisco, beginning with 1967’s The Black Door - a noir thriller starring a crime reporter with extrasensory perception. Under the pen name Carter Wick, he published several standalone mysteries including The Faceless Man (1975) and Dark House, Dark Road (1982), but he found his greatest success under his own name, with the celebrated Frank Hastings series.

Find Her a Grave

An Alan Bernhardt Novel

Collin Wilcox

 

BASTEI ENTERTAINMENT

 

Bastei Entertainment is an imprint of Bastei Lübbe AG

 

Copyright © 2015 by Bastei Lübbe AG, Schanzenstraße 6-20, 51063 Cologne, Germany

 

For the original edition:

Copyright © 2013 by The Mysterious Press, LLC, 58 Warren Street, New York, NY. U.S.A.

 

Copyright © 1993 by Collin Wilcox

 

Project management: Lori Herber

Cover adaptation: Christin Wilhelm, www.grafic4u.de

Cover design by Michel Vrana

 

E-book production: Jouve Germany GmbH & Co. KG

 

ISBN 978-3-95859-570-5

 

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All rights reserved, including without limitation the right to reproduce this e-book or any portion thereof in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

This book is dedicated to Tottie and Gardie

All those years …

1985

TUESDAY, JULY 9th

3:15 P.M., EDT

BACARDO LEANED FORWARD, TAPPED the driver on the shoulder. “Switch on the radio, Eddie. Remember, no rock and roll.” Bacardo waited until the music came up, then turned to the man beside him. Both men wore dark suits, white shirts, ties, and black loafers. Bacardo’s loafers were brass-buckled; Caproni’s were tasseled.

“You’ve never done this before, right?” Even though music now filled the Lincoln’s interior, Bacardo spoke quietly, discreetly.

Caproni shook his head. “Never.”

“The way it goes,” Bacardo said, “we leave the car in the parking lot. Eddie’s done this before, he knows how it goes. When we’re parked, Eddie gives you the car keys. You take the keys, open the trunk, take out the suitcase. Then—this is important—you keep the keys in your pocket. If Eddie has to move the car, which he won’t, he’s got a duplicate set of keys. Got it?”

Caproni nodded. His dark eyes were fixed on Bacardo’s face. Waiting avidly for the rest of it:

“At the gate, you give up the suitcase. There’ll be two guards—flunkies—and a lieutenant. Harrison, that’s the lieutenant’s name. A guy about fifty, about two-twenty-five, reddish hair, bald, with a pot that’s just starting. If there’s any question, give me a look. Harrison’s the one that gets the suitcase. He also gets the keys. The way it works, we take everything out of our pockets, for the scanner. Harrison knows the keys he wants. He picks up the keys off the conveyor belt.”

“So Harrison gets the suitcase and the keys, both.”

Bacardo nodded. “Right. And then he disappears. That’s the last we see of him. While we’re inside, Harrison unlocks the suitcase and empties it out, checks off everything. It’ll take him maybe fifteen, twenty minutes, no more. Meanwhile, we do our business, me and the don. While we’re doing business, Harrison takes the suitcase out to the car, puts it in the trunk, gives Eddie the keys. And that’s that.” Bacardo smiled, spread his large, knob-knuckled hands. He was tall, gaunt, loosely made. Like his hands, his face was large and rough-cut. It was a peasant’s face: heavy brow ridges, an outsize jaw, an amorphous mouth. The body, too, was peasant-bred, defying the efforts of even the most skillful tailor. Bacardo’s complexion was mahogany brown, his ancient Sicilian heritage. His unruly hair was dark and coarse and thick. His eyebrows, too, were spiky-thick, and his jowls were dark with underlying stubble. His black eyes revealed nothing. Like all mafiosi, Bacardo was clean-shaven.

“After we’re through the scanner,” Bacardo said, “a guard’ll take us to the administration building in a golf cart. The don’ll be waiting for me in the warden’s office. You’ll be in a conference room right down the hallway. You’ll probably talk to Gerald Farley. He’s captain of the guard, maybe the number-four man in the prison. Maybe he’ll have someone with him, maybe not. Maybe you’ll be patted down for a wire, maybe not. This is your first time, so they probably will pat you down. Anyhow, you’ve got to figure that Farley’ll be wearing a wire. Right?”

On cue, Caproni nodded. “Right.”

“Mostly,” Bacardo said, “what Farley’ll give you is just a lot of shit to make him feel important. He’s a windbag, but he’s no dummy, so you’ve got to watch yourself. One thing you’ve got to remember, and that’s not to talk about the suitcase.”

Caproni nodded again. “Got it.”

“What you’ll get from Farley, the only thing you have to pay attention to, is how it’s going with our guys. Usually there’s no complaints. Our guys, the capos, they’re all in one cellblock. Which, naturally, everyone calls ‘Mafia Row.’ There’s eleven guys there now, including the don. In the rest of the prison, there’s maybe twenty-five soldiers and button men. They’re also our responsibility. If one of them fucks up, we take care of it. Us, not the guards. That’s the deal. The guards don’t fuck with us, we don’t give them any problems. Our guys do their time, behave, get out, go back to work. You know all this.”

Caproni nodded. The Lincoln was slowing, stopping for a red light. Even though there was no traffic in either direction, the driver came to a full stop, turned, then smoothly accelerated to a conservative forty-five. Looking at the sign on the light pole, Caproni saw FREDRICKSVILLE, 5 MILES. And, yes, in the distance the beige buildings of the prison were dimly materializing, built along the top of a bluff that was the landscape’s only distinguishing feature; the rest was marshlands. Caproni glanced at the digital clock on the dashboard; the time was 3:25 P.M. The radio was playing something from the forties: a love song with mournful lyrics. Was it Sinatra?

“The way it works,” Bacardo said, “just so you’ll know, the don only talks to the warden or the captain of the guards. Nobody else—no guards, no inmates. And nobody talks to the don directly. Anything that’s important enough for the don to make a decision, it goes to Augie first. He’s the don’s cellmate.”

Caproni nodded, then decided to say, “Can I ask you something?”

Bacardo shrugged. “Ask.”

“The don’s been in for—what—five years?”

“Right.”

“Out of—what—a fifteen-year sentence?”

“Right.”

“So how come? I mean—” Perplexed, Caproni shook his head, spread his hands. “I mean, Christ, that was a frame-up, the don’s trial. It was like Luciano and Genovese all over again. I went to the don’s trial a few times. And those two guys the DA dug up, they could hardly remember their lines. The don, it looked like ten to one he’d walk on appeal.”

Grimly, Bacardo looked straight ahead as he said, “In the first place, it wasn’t the DA. It was the state’s attorney. And the feds, if they want you bad enough, they’ll get you. Christ, you talk about Luciano and Genovese. Those two, between them, who knows how many guys they had whacked. So the feds got Luciano for pimping, for God’s sake—fixing Frederico up with a seventeen-year-old girl so stupid she didn’t know enough to keep her mouth shut. And Genovese, Christ, convicted on a nickel-and-dime drug deal—street-corner stuff.”

“And now Don Carlo.”

Still staring straight ahead, Bacardo made no reply. The subject was closed.

4:05 P.M., EDT

THE WALL BEHIND THE warden’s desk was covered with pictures, most of them photographs in narrow black frames. Advancing a step, Bacardo looked closely at a snapshot of a cabin cruiser with—yes—Warden Donovan at the helm, one hand resting on the traditional oaken ship’s wheel. Wearing, yes, a yachtsman’s cap, Donovan was smiling, squinting into the sun. Two men and three women shared the cockpit with him. The men were bare-chested, rolls of middle-aged fat overhanging their belts. The three women matched the men: overweight, cheerful-looking, settled. Donovan and one of the men clutched cans of beer, raised in a salute. From the design of the cockpit and the lines of the woodwork, the boat appeared to be a Ranger.

How many suitcases full of money and dope had it taken to buy the Ranger? Donovan, they said, was only a few years from retirement. How much had he—?

From behind him Bacardo heard the click of a latch, the metal-on-metal sound of a door swinging on its hinges. He smiled as he turned to face Carlo Venezzio. The smile was genuine; more than anyone’s, Venezzio’s life was part of his own.

As always, Venezzio wore neatly pressed, dark-colored slacks, burnished loafers, and a white silk shirt, open at the neck. The feel of silk on his skin, Venezzio had once said, was half as good as sex.

As he pushed the door closed, he greeted Bacardo, gestured to the long leather sofa where they always sat, one at either end. A man of medium weight and height, sixty-five years old, Venezzio lowered himself slowly to the couch, bracing himself with both hands, one hand on the back of the sofa, one hand on the cushion. Watching the other man, Bacardo was aware of differences: a pallor of the face, an uncertainty of gesture, a tightening of the mouth, an underlying grimace about the eyes.

It had been two weeks since Bacardo’s last visit. In those two weeks something had changed. Something significant.

But the voice, thin and reedy, was the same: “So. Caproni. How’s he working out?”

Bacardo shrugged. “So far, so good.”

“He’s ambitious. Too ambitious, maybe.”

“Sure. But he’s smart. And he listens. He pays attention. I give him something to do, I know it’ll get done.”

“Okay.” Venezzio nodded. “Let’s see how he works out. You need a number one, Tony. Someone to take the load off.”

Bacardo nodded in return. Between them, words had always been few. For a long moment, in silence, Bacardo covertly studied Venezzio. If the man in the street had to choose, “accountant” would be Venezzio’s label, not “mafioso.” Or, more like it, “CPA.” With his narrow, pinched face, his small, compressed mouth, his mild stare, and his no-style glasses, Venezzio looked and acted like a quiet man, no ambition, no trouble to anyone. Only the eyes hinted at the truth: watchful, hard-focused eyes that saw everything, blinked at nothing. His only vanity was his thick head of brown hair, only lightly flecked with gray. When he passed a mirror, Venezzio almost always took a silver comb from his pocket, ran it through his hair, then turned his head from side to side, checking the result. Once a week, without fail, Venezzio had his hair trimmed, always by his personal barber.

“So,” Bacardo finally decided to say, “anything?”

At the question, Venezzio’s mouth briefly up-curved, the mockery of a smile. But behind the glasses with their tinted lenses, an optical necessity, Venezzio’s eyes were steady, constantly registering small, significant calculations and corrections, the moment-to-moment pulsations of the machine within the man. Over the years, how many men had died when Venezzio’s calculations had gone against them?

“How do I look?” Venezzio asked.

It was a puzzle of a question, a test, one of the don’s little games—the game that never ended, loser beware.

Having expected the question, Bacardo decided to say, “You look tired, Carlo. And a little pale.”

With his eyes fixed on Bacardo, Venezzio smiled again: the same hard, bitter smile. “Pale, eh? I look pale?”

Bacardo made no reply, and once more they regarded each other in silence, both men probing, balancing risk against gain, the endless game. Finally Venezzio looked away, let his eyes lose focus as he spoke in a voice Bacardo had never before heard:

“All my life, I’ve been healthy. I never had problems, except for that ulcer, thirty, thirty-five years ago. I always took care of myself, you know that. I quit smoking when I was—what?—twenty-five. Maybe thirty, no more. Okay, I used to drink, that’s no secret. But nothing like most guys drink, nothing heavy. You know.”

Gravely, Bacardo nodded. “Yeah, I know.”

“And when I turned fifty or so, I cut out the hard stuff. And I watch my weight. Two meals a day, that’s it. You know.”

“Sure.”

“All that,” Venezzio said, “that’s on one side. And then there’s the old man—my dad. He was never a drinker, either. And, Christ, he could bend iron bars, I bet, when he was fifty.”

Remembering, Bacardo smiled. “Yeah—your dad. Nobody fucked with your dad.”

“Yeah …” Still with eyes gone blank, Venezzio spoke absently, from far away. Then, with infinite regret: “So then, when he was fifty-two, he had a heart attack.”

“Ah … yeah.” But more than that, Bacardo knew, he must not venture.

“Probably now,” Venezzio said, “these days, they could’ve saved him, all the equipment they’ve got, and the drugs, and everything. But then, back then—” Grimly, as if he were remembering an ancient grudge, Venezzio shook his head.

“Back then, yeah …” As Bacardo said it, images returned: the limousines in the funeral procession, the church in the old neighborhood, packed. And, yes, Don Carlo, tears streaming down his cheeks. Maria had been with him then—Maria, the daughter of a don, beautiful in black. And their two children, so young, so round-eyed.

There was more, Bacardo knew… something more. Never would Venezzio speak of his dead father like this, not without a purpose, without a plan.

A heart attack …

These days, they could have saved him.

The pallor of Venezzio’s face, the effort it had taken, lowering himself onto the sofa. All of it meant something.

“I thought maybe you heard.” As he said it, Venezzio’s eyes were hard-focused, probing, boring in.

Careful to keep his own gaze steady, keep his hands at rest, under control, Bacardo spoke softly, cautiously: “I heard nothing, Carlo. Nothing.”

There was a last uncompromising moment of scrutiny, the final test. Then, also speaking softly, as if admitting to something shameful, Venezzio said, “Five days ago, I had a heart attack.”

“Ah …” As if he, too, experienced the pain, Bacardo touched his chest over his heart. Then: “A small one, though. A warning.”

Venezzio shrugged. “I guess that depends on who you talk to. The nurse said it was a warning. The doctor, he didn’t say that. He said the next one—” He shrugged again. Venezzio was speaking as he always spoke: without inflection, revealing nothing. But, deep behind the eyes, something had gone dead—or, if it was fear, come alive.

As both men sat facing each other, the silence between them began to lengthen past the breaking point. Bacardo realized that he must be the first to speak.

“Lots of guys, you know, they have a heart attack and it’s no problem. They just watch themselves, eat right, exercise, and they live forever.”

No response. Nothing but the eyes, boring in.

Bacardo drew a deep breath, began again: “What we’ve got to do is get a good doctor to look at you. These prison quacks, what’d they know?”

As if to dismiss the subject, Venezzio gestured, an indifferent response. “Sure. But what’d any of them know? Something like the heart, it’s a crapshoot.” Then, a familiar mannerism, Venezzio took a ballpoint pen and a small notebook from his shirt pocket. They were about to do business.

“One thing,” Venezzio began, “is that our guys inside here, they know what happened. You understand?”

Slowly, meaningfully, Bacardo nodded. “Yeah, I understand.”

Venezzio clicked the pen, wrote in the notebook, turned the pad for Bacardo to see:

Tony G., written in Venezzio’s cramped, precise hand.

“You want …?” It was a question that would never be completed, not in words. Not here, in the warden’s office, almost surely bugged. Venezzio nodded—once. For Tony Gallino, it was the death sentence.

“Soon?” It was the only question that was allowed. The meaning: would the council be consulted, one slim hope for Tony G?

“Soon.”

Meaning that, no, the council would not be told—or asked.

Meaning that, for Don Carlo’s heart attack, Tony G. must pay. It was coincidence, nothing more. To prove that Don Carlo was still capo di tutti, it was necessary that an example be made of someone. For years, systematically, Tony G. had been skimming, mostly gambling receipts. So Tony G. had drawn the short straw, bad luck for Tony.

Acknowledging the order, Bacardo nodded—once. Signifying that he would pick one man and do the job himself.

Many years ago, still in their teens, they’d tried to hijack a Puerto Rican poker game, he and Tony G.—the “two Tonys.” They’d carried switchblades and iron pipes wrapped in friction tape. One of the players had pulled a gun, an enormous long-barreled revolver, the first gun Bacardo had ever faced. He’d run—and stumbled. And fell. Tony G. could have gotten away clean, but instead he’d turned, come back, shouted something in Spanish to the Puerto Rican with the gun. The Puerto Rican had started, staring at Tony G. Then, amazingly, the Puerto Rican had begun laughing, a wild, loud laugh. Then, with the gun, the Puerto Rican had—

“—something else,” Venezzio was saying. Still he spoke quietly, evenly—all business. Expectantly, Bacardo looked at the other man. Awaiting orders.

Once more, Venezzio wrote on the pad.

Janice Frazer.

Instantly, Bacardo sensed the significance of the two words, written on the same page beneath Tony G. It was the turning point, Venezzio’s final accounting. Kill Tony G., and that point was made.

Leaving only Janice Frazer, the name that was never spoken, the woman who never was. Janice, and one name more—the name Venezzio was writing now: Louise.

“Yes,” Bacardo said, “I understand.” As he said it, the memories returned, taking shape and substance: Janice Frazer, the incredibly beautiful peaches-and-cream waitress, no more than nineteen years old. He and Venezzio had been together when Venezzio had first seen her. Venezzio had been twenty-nine, married to Maria for less than a year, with one child on the way. Maria had been nineteen, too, the same age as Janice. But Maria was the daughter of a Mafia don; Janice was a runaway teenager from the Midwest.

And Louise was the love baby Janice bore—the baby Janice took with her when she left New York.

At twenty-nine, Venezzio had only been eight years away from the top job, capo di tutti. Luciano couldn’t stop him, and neither could Genovese.

Only Janice Frazer could have ruined his chances—Janice and her love baby. Louise.

“We never talked about them,” Venezzio said. “But everyone knew. You, and everyone else. You knew.”

“I—” Uncertain how to say it, Bacardo broke off. Then: “I saw her a few times, dropped off a couple of envelopes, like that. After she had her baby.”

“Ah …” Venezzio nodded. “Yeah. Right.”

“We never talked about her, though, you and me. Not really.”

Gesturing to Bacardo’s pocket, Venezzio said, “Turn it on.”

Nodding, Bacardo withdrew the small pocket radio he always brought with him. He found a music station, golden oldies, and put the radio between them on the couch.

“A little louder,” Venezzio ordered.

“Say when.”

“That’s fine.” For a moment they listened to the soft, syrupy strains of “Deep Purple.” Then Venezzio began to speak.

“I never lost track of Janice. You know that.”

Bacardo nodded, a slow, measured inclination of his large, rough-featured peasant’s head. “I knew that, yeah.”

“Until she had the baby, it was all right to have her in New York. But when she had the baby, she started making demands. So I had to send her away. I waited until the baby—Louise—was six months old, but then Janice had to go. Especially when, Jesus, Maria had Carlo Junior just about the same time. Carlo and Louise, they’re both the same age—thirty-five now.” Venezzio shook his head, an expression of memories remembered with regret. “Life’s funny, you know. Very funny.”

“Funny. Yeah.”

“Janice took the kid and went out west. She had relatives out there. So every once in a while, I’d—you know—drop in on her, you know what I mean.”

This, Bacardo knew, was the story no one else had ever heard—the story no one would ever hear again.

This was a story with a purpose.

“Maria, you know—” Venezzio drew a deep breath, began to shake his head. “Maria, as soon as she had Carlo, she started laying it to me. I was pretty much—you know—just starting out then, climbing the ladder, and whenever I did something she didn’t like she’d go to her old man. Don Salvatore always spoiled her, I knew that when I married her. I always figured one reason he never got married after Lucia died was because he was hung up on Maria. Fathers and daughters, you know—it happens.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean.”

“But, anyhow, by the time we had Maria—that tells you something, you know, the mother naming her daughter after herself—by that time, that was pretty much it for the marriage. We lived together, went through the motions, but that’s all.”

“Like almost everyone.”

“Yeah.” Venezzio smiled, a thinning of his lips, no more. Never had Bacardo seen Venezzio really smile. Or laugh. It was, someone had once said, the secret of his success. If a man smiled, he could forgive. But Venezzio never forgave. Or forgot.

“But you always had—” Bacardo pointed to Janice’s name in the notebook lying beside the transistor radio.

In response, Venezzio nodded. “Yeah. Right. I always kept track of her—her and the little girl. And I have to say, speaking of fathers and daughters, I always liked it, being with the girl. She was someone to—you know—give presents to, take to Disneyland, like that.”

“Sure.” Bacardo said it quietly, sympathetically. Then: “Did you ever go to that other one? Epcot Center?”

“No.”

“Amazing. Really amazing.”

A short silence fell as they listened to Tony Bennett winding up “That Old Black Magic,” one of Bacardo’s favorites. Then Bacardo decided to ask, “So how’re they doing now?”

“Well …” Venezzio pointed to Janice’s name. “She’s dead. She died about a year ago.” He spoke without inflection, without emotion. “She went out west, like I said. For a while—a few years—she did all right, she and Lou—she and the little girl. I took care of them, saw they had everything they needed. If I couldn’t make it, I’d send someone, make sure she was all right. I sent you, I remember, once or twice.”

“Twice.”

“Yeah. Twice. And for a while—years—she was all right. They had a nice house, and the little girl did fine in school and everything. You know—the way most people live, with white picket fences, and a garden, and bicycles on the lawn.

“But then she started to drink—” Venezzio pointed to Janice’s name. “When she was a girl, her mother drank, and her father was never around. That’s why she left home, because her mother was a drinker. So then, Jesus, she starts drinking.”

“That happens. It happens a lot. The parents are boozers, so are the kids.”

“Yeah, well—” Venezzio gestured, an expression of helplessness, of futility. “Well, that’s what happened. She drank herself to death, ruined her liver.”

“She seemed real nice,” Bacardo offered. “Always real—you know—cheerful, very friendly. Some women—beauties—they aren’t friendly. They figure they got the looks, that’s it.”

Looking away, lost in memory, Venezzio made no reply.

“Did she always have the house with the white picket fence?”

“Always. She always kept it nice, too. And you’re right, she was always cheerful. Some people, you know, they get mean when they drink. Or else they start slobbering. Not her, though. Maybe she’d get a little loud, but that was all.”

“What about the little girl? She’s thirty-five, you said. Is she married?”

“She was married, with a child of her own. She’s been married twice. Once it was a divorce, and once her husband died. It was out in Los Angeles. She doesn’t live there now, but that’s where she lived when—” He left the rest of it unsaid. But a glance at Venezzio’s face revealed the rest of it: with a divorce behind her, and now widowed, Venezzio’s daughter was struggling, needed help.

“What I’ve been doing,” Venezzio said, “I’ve been thinking about this. You understand what I’m saying?”

Gravely, Bacardo nodded.

Venezzio picked up the notebook, slipped it in his shirt pocket. He gestured to the radio, which Bacardo switched off.

“What I want you to do,” Venezzio said, “is think about this too. I want you to figure out a plan, if something happens with my heart. You understand?”

“I understand. Sure. No problem.”

“You think, and I’ll think. Come back in ten days, and we’ll talk.”

“Right.”

“Okay …” Venezzio nodded, allowed his eyes to momentarily close as he drew a deep, ragged breath. Then he raised his hand, wearily signifying dismissal. Meaning that Bacardo should go to the door of the office and summon a guard.

“Tell him to get a golf cart,” Venezzio ordered. “I feel like riding.”

“Sure.” Bacardo rose, hesitated, then decided to touch Venezzio’s shoulder, in sympathy.

FRIDAY, JULY 19th

2:20 P.M., EDT

“NO GOLF CART,” BACARDO said.

Venezzio nodded as they walked through the door to the small exercise yard, a featureless expanse of concrete surrounded by prison buildings with closely barred windows. Overhead, in the clear, bright July sky, a small formation of birds whirled against the sun. At Venezzio’s request, the exercise yard had been cleared for Bacardo’s visit.

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

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