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Authors: Stephen King

Billy Summers (40 page)

BOOK: Billy Summers
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“Built into this first slope would be my guess,” Bucky says, tapping the wooded rise behind the house. “Only it's probably more like a hangar. Room for a dozen cars. Or more. Nick's got a taste for the classics, or so I heard. I guess everybody's got an itch that only money can scratch.”

There are plenty that money can't scratch, Billy thinks.

Alice is examining the pix from Zillow. “God, there has to be twenty rooms. And look at the pool out back!”

“Nice,” Bucky agrees. “All the mods and cons. And he might have added more, because these pictures have to be from before Nick bought it. He paid fifteen mil. I saw it on Zillow.”

And stiffed me out of a measly million-five, Billy thinks.

The Zillow photos of the exterior show what Google Earth can't. The vistas of lawn, for instance, brilliant green and dotted with flowerbeds. The paddock is equally green. There are groves of palms, some with groupings of outdoor furniture in their kindly shade. How many hundreds of thousands of gallons of water must it take to keep that estate looking like Eden in the desert? How many groundskeepers? How many on the domestic staff? And how many hardballs are hanging out on the off chance that a hired assassin named Billy Summers might come looking for the rest of his blood money?

“He calls it Promontory Point,” Bucky says. “I did some digging,
it's amazing what you can find with a computer these days if you know how to dip into the darker regions. Nick's been there since 2007, and with his back to the mountains nobody's ever bothered him. Maybe he's gotten a little careless, but I wouldn't count on that.”

No, Billy thinks, it wouldn't do to count on it. Someone who could get rid of a valued long-time associate like Giorgio Piglielli can't be taken lightly. The only assumption he can make is that Nick is looking for him. Waiting for him. What Nick maybe doesn't understand is how angry Billy is. There was a bargain. He held up his end of it. Instead of holding up the other end, Nick stiffed him. Then tried to kill him. Face to face Nick might deny that, but Billy knows. They both do.

Bucky taps a spot on the Google Earth aerial photo of the grounds. “This little square is the gatehouse, and it'll be manned. Guarded. You can count on that.”

Billy has no doubt. He wonders again how many men Nick will have guarding his little kingdom. In a Sylvester Stallone or Jason Statham movie there would be dozens, armed with everything from gas-powered light machine guns to shoulder-mounted missile launchers, but this is real life. Maybe five, maybe only four, carrying automatic pistols or shotguns or both. But there's only one of him, and he's no Sylvester Stallone.

Alice pulls one of the photos from Google Earth to the middle of the table. “What's this? I don't see it on any of the Zillow pix.”

Bucky and Billy look. It's where the west side of the wall ends against a rocky rise. After a bit Bucky says, “I think it must be a service entrance. You wouldn't bother showing that on a real estate site, any more than you'd show the shed where the trash gets stored for pickup. Real estate sites stick to the glamour. What do you think, Billy?”

“I don't know.” But he's starting to. The more he thinks about that beat-up old truck, the more he likes it. And the new wig. That, too.


After supper, Alice commandeers the bathroom to dye her hair. When Bucky offers her a beer (“Just to keep up your strength”), she accepts. They both hear her lock the door behind her. Billy's not surprised. He doubts if Bucky is, either.

Bucky gets two more bottles of beer from the fridge. After Bucky puts on a light jacket and tosses Billy a sweatshirt, they go out on the porch and settle side by side in the rockers. Bucky clinks the neck of his bottle against the neck of Billy's. “Here's to success.”

“Good toast,” Billy says, and takes a drink. “I want to thank you again for having us. I know you didn't expect guests.”

“You serious about wanting a silencer for the Ruger?”

“Yes. Can you also get me a Glock 17 and ammunition for both?”

Bucky nods. “Shouldn't be a problem, not around here. What else do you need?”

“A mustache to match the wig she bought me. I don't have time to grow one.” There's more, but Alice will have ideas about finding the rest.

“What are you thinking of doing? Maybe it's time to tell me so I can try to argue you out of it.”

Billy tells him. Bucky listens closely and after awhile starts to nod. “Going out to his place is risky, bearding the lion in his den type of thing, but it could work. Any bounty hunters looking for you are apt to be downtown, especially around Nick's casino. Double Deuce, or whatever.”

“Double Domino.”

Bucky leans forward, looking at him. “Look, if you're worried about the money you promised me—”

“I'm not.”

“—you can let it go. I'm doing all right for money, and I'm glad to be out of the city. I have no idea why I stayed so fucking long in
the first place. Someday someone's going to blow up a dirty bomb on Fifth Avenue, or a communicable disease will come along that turns everything from Manhattan to Staten Island into a giant Petri dish.”

Billy thinks Bucky has been listening to too much talk radio but doesn't say so. “It's not about your money or mine, although I'll take it if he has it. He cheated me. He
me. He's a bad person.” Billy hears himself falling into the speech patterns of the
dumb self
and doesn't care. “He killed Giorgio, or had him killed. He meant to do the same to me.”

“All right,” Bucky says quietly. “I get it. A matter of honor.”

“Not honor,

“I stand corrected. Now drink your beer.”

Billy takes a swig and tilts his head toward the house where the shower is running. Again. “How was she on the shopping trip? Okay?”

“Mostly. Before we went into Common Threads to buy you a cowboy hat—forgot to show it to you, it's a fuckin beaut—she had a little bit of a breathing problem and sang something under her breath. I couldn't make out what it was, but after that she was all right again.”

Billy knows what it was.

“At the used car lot she rocked the house. Spotted that truck and bargained Ricky down from forty-four hundred to thirty-three. When he tried to hold steady at thirty-five she grabbed me and said ‘Come on, Elmer, he's nice but he's not serious.' You believe that?”

“Actually I do,” Billy says. He laughs, but Bucky doesn't laugh with him. He's grown serious. Billy asks him if something's wrong.

“Not yet, but there could be.” He puts his beer bottle down and turns to look Billy square in the face. “The two of us are outlaws, okay? People don't use that word so much these days, but that's what we are. Alice isn't, but if she keeps running with you, she will be. Because she's in love with you.”

Billy puts his own bottle down. “Bucky, I'm not… I don't…”

“I know you don't want to jump in the sack with her and maybe she doesn't want to jump in the sack with you, not after what she's been through. But you saved her life and put her back together—”

“I didn't put her back—”

“Okay, maybe you didn't, but you gave her the time and space to start doing it herself. That doesn't change the fact that she's in love with you and she'll follow you as long as you let her and if you let her you'll ruin her.”

Having delivered himself of what Billy now believes he came out here to say, Bucky pauses for breath, picks up his beer, downs half of it, and gives a ringing belch.

“Argue me back if you want. Giving you a place to stay for a few days doesn't give me the right not to hear opposing arguments, so go on and argue me back.”

But Billy doesn't.

“Take her to Nevada with you, sure. Find a cheap place to stay outside the city and leave her there while you take care of your business. If you get out clean and with your money, give her a bunch of it and send her back east. Tell her to stop and see me and remind her those false papers are just short-term camouflage. She can go back to being Alice Maxwell again.”

He raises a finger, which is starting to show the first twists and gnarls of arthritis. “
But only if you keep her out of it
. Capisce?”


“If you don't get out clean you probably won't be getting out at all. That will be hard for her to hear, but she has to know. Agreed?”


“Tell her that if a few days go by and she hasn't heard from you, you pick how many, she should come back here. I'll give her some money. A thousand, fifteen hundred maybe.”

“You don't have to—”

“I want to. I like her. She's not a whiner, and given what
happened to her she'd have a right to whine. Besides, it'd be money you made for me. You're my only client now. Have been for the last four years. No more bankrolling stickups for this kid. Too easy for one of them to come back on me if something went wrong, and I'm too old for prison.”

“All right. Thank you. Thank you.”

The shower goes off. Bucky leans toward Billy again over the arm of his rocker.

“You know, a baby kitten will take to a dog that decides to groom it instead of chasing it or eating it. Hell, a baby duck will. They imprint. She's imprinted on you, Billy, and I don't want her to get hurt.”

The bathroom door opens and Alice comes out on the porch. She's wearing an old blue bathrobe that must be Bucky's; it's so long it brushes the tops of her bare feet. Her hair is put up, held with what looks like a dozen barrettes, and covered in transparent plastic. She's not going to be even close to platinum, maybe because her hair was so dark to begin with, but it's still a big change.

“What do you think? I know it's hard to tell right now, but…”

“Looks good,” Bucky says. “I was always partial to a dirty blond. My first ex was a dirty blond. I saw her hanging by the jukebox and knew I had to have her. More fool me.”

She gives that a distracted smile but it's Billy she's looking at, his opinion that matters. Billy knows exactly what Bucky was talking about. He remembers a video he saw on YouTube, one that showed a bird taking a bath in a dog's water dish while the dog—a Great Dane—sat and watched. And he thinks of that old saying about how if you save someone's life, you are responsible for them.

“You look terrific,” he says, and Alice smiles.


Billy and Alice stay with Bucky for five days. On the morning of the sixth day—the one where God reputedly created the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air—they pack up the Dodge Ram and get ready to leave. Billy is wearing the blond wig and the fake glasses. Because the truck is the Quad Cab model, they can stow their scant luggage behind the bench seat. The ancient mower is still in the truckbed. It has been joined by a hedger, a leaf-blower, and an old Stihl chainsaw. The trailer, empty when Billy first saw it, now contains four cardboard barrels purchased at Lowe's. The two men kicked them around awhile to give them the right battered look and filled them with hand tools bought for a song at a bank foreclosure auction in Nederland. The barrels have been secured to the sides of the trailer with bungee cords.

“You want to look like the twenty-first-century version of a saddle bum,” Bucky said while they were playing kick-the-barrels. “God knows there are plenty of them in the West Nine. They drift around, find a little work, then move on.”

Alice asked him what the West Nine were, and Bucky named them off: Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Idaho, Oregon, and—of course—Nevada. Billy thinks the truck is okay. It might be a needless precaution on their road trip, anyway; Bucky's right, any bounty hunters will be concentrated in
the Vegas metro area. Later, though, when it comes to Promontory Point, the way the truck looks could be vital.

“This has been a good visit,” Bucky says. He's wearing biballs and an Old 97s T-shirt. “I'm glad you came.”

Alice gives him a hug. Her new blond hair looks good in the morning sun.

“Billy?” Bucky holds out his hand. “You be safe now.”

Billy almost hugs him, that's the way things are done these days, but he doesn't. He's never been much for bro-hugs, even in the sand.

“Thanks, Bucky.” He takes Bucky's hand in both of his and squeezes lightly, mindful of Bucky's arthritis. “For everything.”


They get in. Billy fires up the engine. It's rough at first but smooths out. Bucky has agreed to find someone to drive the Fusion back to its home base, thus protecting the Dalton Smith name. Something else on my tab, Billy thinks.

He gets the old truck's nose pointed down the road. Just as he puts it in first gear, Bucky makes a
whoa, whoa
gesture and comes over to the passenger side. Alice rolls down her window.

“I want to see you back here,” he tells her. “In the meantime, stay out of his business and stay clean, you hear?”

“Yes,” she says, but Billy thinks she may only be telling Bucky what Bucky wants to hear. Which is okay, Billy thinks. She'll listen to me. I hope.

He gives a final blip of the horn and gets rolling. An hour and a half later they turn west on I-70 toward Las Vegas.


They stop for the night in Beaver, Utah. It's another motel of the no-tell variety, but not too bad. They get chicken baskets at the
Crazy Cow and a couple of cans of Bud at Ray's 66 on the way back. Later they sit outside their adjoining rooms, draw the obligatory lawn chairs close, and drink the cold beer.

“I read the rest of your story while we were driving,” Alice says. “It's really good. I can't wait to read more.”

Billy frowns. “I hadn't planned on going on after Fallujah.”

fallujah,” she says, and smiles. Then: “But aren't you going to write about how you got into the business of killing people for money?”

That makes him wince because it's so bald. And of course so true. She sees it.

“Bad people, I mean. And how you met Bucky, I'd like to know that.”

Yes, Billy thinks, I could write about that, and maybe I should. Because dig, if that muj hiding behind the door had shot Johnny Capps to death instead of just blowing his legs apart, Billy Summers wouldn't be here now. Neither would Alice. It comes to him as sort of a revelation—although maybe it shouldn't—that if Johnny Capps hadn't lived, Alice Maxwell might well have died of shock and exposure on Pearson Street.

“Maybe I will write it. If I get a chance. Tell me about you, Alice.”

She laughs, but it's not the free and easy one he's come to like so much. This one's a warding-off laugh. “There isn't much to tell. I've always been a fade-into-the-woodwork person. Being with you is the only interesting thing that's ever happened to me. Other than getting gang raped, I guess.” She utters a sad little snort.

But he's not going to let it go at that. “You grew up in Kingston. Your mother raised you and your sister. What else? There must be more.”

Alice points to the darkening sky. “I've never seen so many stars in my life. Not even at Bucky's place.”

“Don't change the subject.”

She shrugs. “Okay, just prepare to be bored. My father owned a furniture store and my mother was his bookkeeper. He died of a heart attack when I was eight and Gerry—she's my sister—was nineteen and going to beauty school.” Alice touches her hair. “She'd say I did this all wrong.”

“Probably she would, but it looks fine. Go on.”

“I was a B student in high school. Had a few dates but no boyfriend. There were popular kids, but I wasn't one of them. There were unpopular kids—you know, the ones who always get pranked and laughed at—but I wasn't one of them, either. Mostly I did what my mom and my sister said.”

“Except about going to beauty school.”

“I almost said yes to that too, because I sure wasn't going to a smart-peoples' college. I didn't take many of the courses you need for that.” She thinks about it. Billy lets her. “Then one night I was lying in bed, almost asleep, and I all at once came full awake.
awake. Almost fell out of bed. Did that ever happen to you?”

Billy thinks about Iraq and says, “Many times.”

“I thought, ‘If I do that, if I do what they want, it will never end. I'll be doing what they want for the rest of my life and one day I'll wake up old right here in little old Kingston.' ” She turns to him. “And do you know what my mom and Gerry would say if they knew what happened to me in Tripp's apartment, and what I'm doing now, being here with you? They'd say ‘See what it got you.' ”

Billy puts out a hand to touch her shoulder. She turns to him before he can and he sees the woman she might be, if time and fate are kind.

“And do you know what I'd say? I'd say I don't care, because this is my time, I
to have my time, and this is what I want.”

“Okay,” he says. “Okay, Alice. That's fine.”

“Yes. It is. You bet it is. As long as you don't get killed.”

That's something he can't promise, so he says nothing. They look
at the stars awhile longer and drink their beer and she says nothing until she tells him she thinks she'll go to bed.


Billy doesn't go to bed. He has a pair of texts from Bucky. The first says the landscaping company that does the work at Promontory Point is called Greens & Gardens. The man who runs the crew might be Kelton Freeman or Hector Martinez, but it might be someone else entirely. It's a high-turnover business.

The following text says that Nick often stays at the Double during the week but always tries to get back to his estate in Paiute for the weekend. Especially for Sundays.
Never misses the Giants during football season
, Bucky adds.
Everybody who knows him knows that

You can take the boy out of New York, Billy thinks, but you can't take New York out of the boy. He texts back,
Any luck with the garage?

Bucky's response is quick:

Billy has brought the pictures, both Google Earth and Zillow. He studies them for awhile. Then he opens his laptop and looks up a handful of Spanish phrases. He won't have to say them when and if the time comes but he says them now, over and over, committing them to memory. He almost certainly won't need all of them. He might need none of them. But it's always best to be ready.

Me llamo Pablo Lopez

Esta es mi hija

Estos son para el jardín

Mi es sordo y mudo
: I am a deafmute.


They go back to the Crazy Cow for breakfast, then get on the road. Billy wouldn't want to push the old truck, and he doesn't have to. It's only a couple of hundred miles to Vegas, and he won't move against Nick until Sunday, when the pros play football and the compound at the end of Cherokee Drive is apt to be at its most quiet. No groundskeepers or landscapers and hopefully no hardballs. He checked the schedule and the Giants play the Cardinals at four PM eastern, which will be one PM in Nevada.

To pass the time, he tells Alice how he got into the business from which he now considers himself retired. Johnny Capps was the first link in the chain that ends—so far, there's at least one more link still to be forged—on Interstate 70 heading west.

“He's the one who got shot in the legs in that house. The one they left alive to try and lure the rest of you in.”

“Yes. Clay Briggs—Pillroller—got him stabilized and he was airlifted out. Johnny spent a long time in a shitty VA hospital and got hooked on dope while they were trying to rehab what couldn't be rehabbed. Eventually Uncle Sam sent him back to Queens in his wheelchair, hooked through the bag.”

“That's so sad.”

Well, Billy tells her, at least the dope addict part of Johnny's story had a happy ending. His cousin Joey reached out to him, a guy who'd kept the Italian family name of Cappizano, although he was of course called Joey Capps. With permission from one of the larger New York organizations—and of course the Sinaloa Cartel, who controlled the dope business—Joey Capps ran his own little organization, one so modest it was really more of a posse. Joey offered his wounded warrior cousin a job as an accountant, but only if he could get clean.

“And he did?”

“Yes. I got the whole story from him when we reconnected. He went into a rehab—his cousin paid—and then went to NA meetings three and four times a week until he died a few years ago. Lung cancer got him.”

Alice is frowning. “He went to NA meetings to get off dope, but his day job was

“Not pushing it, counting and washing the money from the trade. But yeah, it comes to the same thing, and once I pointed that out to him. You know what he said? That there are recovered alcoholics tending bar all over the world. He sponsored people, he said, and some of them got clean and resumed their lives. That's how he put it, they resumed their lives.”

“God, talk about the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.”

Billy tells her that he almost signed up for another tour in the suck, decided he'd be crazy to do it—suicidal-crazy—and took off the uniform. Kicked around, trying to decide what came next for a guy whose job for a lot of years had been shooting other guys in the T-box. That was when Johnny got in touch.

There was a Jersey guy, he said, who liked to pick up women in bars and then beat them up. He probably had some kind of childhood trauma he was trying to work out, Johnny said, but fuck a bunch of childhood trauma, this was a very bad guy. He put the last woman in a coma, and this woman happened to be a Cappizano. Only a second cousin or maybe a third, but still a Cappizano. The only problem was this guy, this beater of women, was part of a larger and more powerful organization headquartered across the river in Hoboken.

Joey took Johnny Capps along for a sit-down with the head of this organization, and it turned out the New Jersey guys didn't have much use for this shitpoke, either. He was trouble, a nasty
stronzo madre
with rings on the fingers of both hands, the better to beat the living crap out of women instead of taking them home to
fuck them as any natural man would want to do, or even
fottimi nel culo
, which some men liked and even some women. But no woman likes getting her face beat off.

The upshot was that the
couldn't give Joey Capps permission to off the
stronzo madre
, because there would have to be retribution. But if an outsider did it, and if both outfits—the Hoboken organization and the much smaller Queens crew—paid for it, the thorn could be pulled. Call it mob diplomacy.

“So Johnny Capps called you.”

“He did.”

“Because you were the best?”

“The best he knew, anyway. And he knew my history.”

“The man who killed your little sister.”

“That, yes. I looked into the guy before I agreed to take the job, got a little of his history. Even went to see the woman he put into a coma. She was on life-support machinery, and you could tell she was never coming back. The monitor…” Billy draws a straight line above the steering wheel. “So I did him. It really wasn't much different from what I did in Iraq.”

“Did you like it?”

“No.” Billy says it with no hesitation. “Not in the sand and not back here. Never.”

“Johnny's cousin got you other jobs?”

“Two more, and there was one I turned down because the guy… I don't know…”

“Didn't seem bad enough?”

“Something like that. Then Joey introduced me to Bucky, and Bucky introduced me to Nick, and that's where we are.”

“I'm guessing there's quite a lot more to it.”

She's guessing right, but Billy doesn't want to say any more, let alone go into the details of the jobs he did for Nick and for others. He has never said any of this, not to anyone, and he's appalled to hear that part of his life told out loud. It's sordid and stupid. Alice
Maxwell, business school student and rape survivor, is sitting in an old truck with a man who killed people for a living. It was his fucking
. And is he going to kill Nick Majarian? If he gets the chance, very likely. So, a question: is killing for honor better than killing for money? Probably not, but that won't stop him.

BOOK: Billy Summers
4.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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