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Authors: Stephen King

Billy Summers (48 page)

BOOK: Billy Summers
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Billy says, “Do you think you could get down to fifteen?”

“No way,” Bucky says. “Seventeen,
maybe
.”

“I might be able to do better than seventeen,” Alice says, getting up. “Excuse me, I need a mirror.”

When she's gone, Bucky leans across the table and speaks very quietly. “Don't get her killed.”

“I'm not planning on it.”

“Plans go wrong.”

4

The next day Billy calls Giorgio again from the chilly summerhouse. It has occurred to him that he might not have to use Alice at all. He's a sniper, after all, long-distance delivery his specialty. He keeps his eyes on the picture as they talk, half-expecting the hedge animals to move. They don't.

He begins by asking Giorgio if he could put his sniper skills to work in the matter of Roger Klerke.

“Not a chance. His place on Montauk Point is a forty-acre estate. Makes Nick's place in Nevada look like a tenement.”

Billy is disappointed but not surprised. “That's where he is now?”

“That's where he is. Calls the place Eos, after some Greek goddess. According to Page Six in the
Post
, he'll stay there until just before Thanksgiving, then whistle up his Gulfstream and head back to LaLa Land for the holidays with his remaining son and heir.”

Lalafallujah, Billy thinks.

“Will he have an entourage with him?”

Giorgio laughs and the laugh turns into a wheeze, so maybe he isn't an
entirely
new man after all. “You mean like Nick does? No way. Klerke's got a TV in every room, I hear, all on mute and all tuned to different channels.
That's
his entourage.”

“No security?” Billy can't believe it. Klerke is one of the richest men in America.

“Guys on the estate, you mean? Not if he thinks you're dead. And as far as he knows, you had no idea who paid for the Allen job anyway.”

“He'd think I went to Nick's place just to collect my payday.”

“Right. I'm sure he has a security company on call if he needs them, and he's probably got a panic button, but the only full-time guy is his assistant. William Petersen. You know, like the
CSI
guy?”

Billy has heard of the show but never watched it. “Is Petersen a bodyguard as well as an assistant?”

“Don't know if he's got judo and krav maga skills, stuff like that, but he's young and in shape and you can assume he's good with firearms. Although he might not be actually packing on his hip or in a shoulder rig on the estate.”

Billy files the information away. “Here's what I need from you. One thing you'll have to send. Do it and we're square.”

“Hold on a sec… okay.” All business now. “I'll do what you want if I can. If I can't, I'll tell you. Give it to me.”

Billy gives it to him. Giorgio listens and asks a couple of questions, but he doesn't raise any problems that Billy hasn't already foreseen.

“It might actually work, assuming you've got a girl that can pass muster. I'll need you to email me some photos. Better send a couple dozen, actually. Mostly face, a few full body but dressed modest. I'll pick the ones where she looks the youngest.” He pauses. “We're not talking about a real teenager, are we?”

“No,” Billy says. Just
almost
a teenager, one whose only sexual experience was a nightmare muffled (most likely mercifully) by Rohypnol or some similar drug.

“Good. Judy's man in New York is Darren Byrne. Klerke's done business with him before so obviously you can't be him, but you could be his brother. Or cousin.”

“Yes. I could.” Although he supposes he'll need something pimp-appropriate. “Will Klerke expect her to spend the night?”

“God, no. You park and wait. He does his thing—assuming the Viagra works—and then she's out and back in the car. An hour, two at most.”

Not going to be that long, Billy thinks. Not nearly, and any Viagra he takes will go to waste. “Okay. We are going to roll east from where we are now—”

“You and Bucky?”

“Me and the girl. When we get placed somewhere close to Montauk—”

“Try Riverhead. Hyatt or Hilton Garden Inn.”

You haven't lost a step, Billy thinks. He almost expects Giorgio to say he'll make them a reservation.

“When we get placed, I'll call you.”

“Okay, but start by sending me some stills of your swing.”

“Swing?”

“The
girl
, Billy. And she's got to be the right kind of girl. Young, yeah, but also wholesome. If she looks trampy, forget it.”

“Understood.” Something else occurs to him. “Do you know anything about Frank Macintosh? He was alive when I left, but I hit him pretty hard.”

“Doc Rivers got him stabilized but after that there was nothing he could do. He had a brain bleed, and Nick said he might have had a heart attack to go with it. His ma took him to Reno. He's in a long-term facility. Palliative care, they call it.”

“I'm sorry to hear that,” Billy says, and he really is.

“Margie took an apartment nearby. Nick's paying for the whole deal.”

“He's in a coma?”

“It might be better if he was. Nick says Marge told him he sleeps a lot, but when he comes around he talks nothing but gibberish. Has seizures and screams a lot.”

Billy says nothing. He can think of nothing to say.

Giorgio says, and not without admiration, “You must have hit him
really
hard. Elvis has left the building.”

5

Billy, Bucky, and Alice go to Boulder, where Alice trawls through three different malls, shopping at stores with names like Deb,
Forever 21, and Teen Beat. She discusses every choice with Bucky, who will be taking the pictures Giorgio (or Judy Blatner) will send to Klerke. Billy mostly follows them around, garnering suspicious looks from some of the sales staff. Alice buys a lightweight quilted parka, four skirts, two shirts, a blouse, and three dresses. One of the dresses has a boatneck top, but that's as close to sexy as any of the clothes get. Bucky vetoes a pair of low heels in favor of sneakers.

He also vetoes some low-rise jeans she likes, at least for the pictures. “Buy the jeans for yourself if you want, but he'll want to see you in a dress.”

Once the shopping is done, four hundred dollars' worth, she gets her hair cut at Great Clips. While she's occupied with that, Billy buys shoes, slacks, and a bomber jacket with inside pockets. He shows Bucky a lime green silk shirt and Bucky clutches his head. “You're not going for the streetcorner pimp-daddy look. Concierge service, remember?”

Billy puts the green shirt back on the rack and selects a gray one instead. Bucky looks it over and nods. “Collar's a little Rick James for my taste, but never mind.”

“Rick who?”

“Never mind.”

As they walk back toward Great Clips, both of them carrying bags, Alice comes bouncing out. Her hair is shorter and styled. She's wearing a Colorado Rockies hat with a ponytail threaded through the back. She breaks into a run, the ponytail swishing, and Billy thinks, Holy God, I think this really might work.

“The stylist tried to argue me out of cutting it. She asked me why I wanted to lose such beautiful hair that must have taken me years to grow. But the best part? She asked me if I liked high school so much I wanted to look like I was still there!”

She laughs and raises a hand, palm out. Bucky gives her a high five. Billy does the same, but his enthusiasm is fake. In the excitement of the shopping expedition, Alice has forgotten
why
they're
shopping. He thinks Bucky has too, because he's drafting off her happiness. But Billy remembers. He's thinking of that little girl in TJ, clutching a toy and listening to the sound of approaching footsteps.

6

Alice wants to take the pictures as soon as they get back, but Bucky tells her to wait until the next morning, when she's looking her youngest and freshest. He calls it the September morn look.

“Neil Diamond, right?” Alice asks. “My mom's a big fan.” And to Billy: “Don't even ask, I called her last night.”

Maybe Bucky is thinking of Neil Diamond, but Billy is thinking of Paul Chabas, and the girl in the house on the outskirts of TJ, and Shanice Ackerman. In his mind the two girls have become a pair.

7

Bucky sets up their little photo shoot the next morning. He wants to use the east-facing window for natural light. The sofa is there, but he says they should move it and put a chair there instead. When Billy asks why, Bucky says it's because sofas say sex, and that's not the look they're going for. Innocent young girl is the look they're going for. Maybe selling herself just this once to help her poor old broke-ass mother.

When Alice comes out in one of her new skirts and tops, Bucky tells her to go back into the bathroom and scrub off most of the makeup. “You want just a little blush on your cheeks and enough mascara to make your eyelashes look good. Tiny touch of lipstick. Got it?”

“Got it.” Alice is excited, a kid playing dress-up.

When she's gone, Billy asks Bucky how he knows about this stuff. “Don't get me wrong, I'm glad because I couldn't do half as good a job, just the clothes go a long way toward selling it—”

“No,” Bucky says. “The clothes are good, but it's mostly the hair. The ponytail.”

“How did you learn that stuff? You didn't ever…” Billy trails off. What does he know about Bucky Hanson, really? That he brokered stickup guys, that he's good at getting fugitives out of the country, that he has contacts in the legal profession and maybe even some top echelons of the New York judiciary. If so, Billy doesn't know who any of those guys are. Bucky is discreet. Which is probably one reason why he's still alive.

“Did I ever take pictures of young women dressed up to look like jailbait? No, but it was a thing for awhile in the porno mags like
Penthouse
and
Hustler
. Back in the 80s, when there
were
porno mags. As for taking pictures, I learned at my father's knee.”

“I thought you told me once that your father was a mortician. Somewhere in Pennsylvania.”

“He was, so I also learned a lot about makeup at my daddy's knee. Photography was his sideline—yearbook photos and weddings, mostly. Sometimes I was his assistant. In both jobs.”

“I came to the right place,” Billy says, smiling.

“You did.” But Bucky isn't smiling back. “Don't you get that young woman hurt, Billy. And if you do, don't come back here because the door will be closed to you.”

Before Billy can answer, Alice comes back. In her white blouse, blue skirt, and knee-socks she looks very young indeed. Bucky seats her in the chair and tilts her head this way and that until the muted morning light is shining on her face to his liking. He's using Billy's phone to take the pix. He says he has a Leica and would love to use it, but that would be a little too pro. Klerke might not register that and be suspicious, but then again he might. TV and movies are a big part of his business, after all.

“Okay, let's get this party started. No big grin, Alice, but a little smile's okay. Remember what we're going for. Sweet and demure.”

Alice tries for sweet and demure, then dissolves in a fit of giggles.

“Okay,” Bucky says, “that's fine. Get it out of your system, then remember that the man who's going to be looking at these is a fucking pedophile.”

That sobers her up and he goes to work. For all his pre-shoot fussing, the actual photography doesn't take long. He shoots sixteen or eighteen of Ponytail Alice in various outfits (but always, even in the boatneck dress, with the lowtop sneakers). He shoots a dozen more of Barrette Alice and finishes with a dozen of Alice Band Alice. He makes three sets of eight-by-tens on his color printer so they can each look at a stack. Bucky tells Billy and Alice to pick half a dozen they think are the best and says he'll do the same. At one point Alice cries out in a mixture of glee and dismay, “Jesus Christ, I look about fourteen in this one!”

“Mark it,” Bucky says.

When they're done, they have all agreed on three of the shots. Bucky adds two more and tells Billy to email those five to Giorgio. “He's pimped for the nasty old lizard before, so he'll probably know whether or not Klerke will bite.”

“Not yet,” Billy says. “I'll do it once we're on the road and headed to New York.”

“What if Klerke tells Giorgio he's not interested?”

“We'll go anyway and I'll find a way in.”


We
will,” Alice says. “You're not leaving me behind in a motel this time.”

Billy doesn't reply. He thinks it's a decision he'll make when and if the time comes. Then he thinks of what Alice has been through, and what Klerke has done to girls even younger than this one, and realizes it might not be his decision to make.

8

That night he calls Nick for the last time. “You still owe a million-two.”

“I know and you'll get it. Our friend paid off. As far as he knows, you're dead.”

“Add another two hundred thousand. Call it a bonus for the shit you put me through. And send it to Marge.”

“Frank's mother? Are you serious?”

“Yes. Tell her it's from me. Tell her to put it toward Frank's care. Tell her I did what I had to, but I'm sorry.”

“I don't think your apology will cut much ice. Marge is…” He sighs. “Marge is Marge.”

“You could also tell her that what happened to him ultimately comes back to you, not me, but I don't really expect that.”

There's silence for a few seconds and then Nick asks about the rest of what Billy's owed. Billy tells him exactly how he wants it handled. After some discussion Nick agrees. Does that mean he'll actually do it if Billy isn't around to make sure? Billy has his doubts, because he has no idea how long Nick's gratitude at being spared will last. But he intends to make sure his wishes are carried out, because he has no intention of dying in New York. It's Roger Klerke who's going to do the dying.

BOOK: Billy Summers
2.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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