Table of Contents
G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS
Publishers Since 1838
Published by the Penguin Group
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Copyright © 2008 by Bill Loehfelm
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions. Published simultaneously in Canada
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Fresh kills / Bill Loehfelm.
eISBN : 978-1-436-25791-6
1. Fathers—Death—Fiction. 2. Murder—Fiction. 3. Loss (Psychology)—Fiction.
4. Staten Island (New York, N.Y.)—Fiction. I.Title.
Printed in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Book design by Lovedog Studio
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
To my parents, Steve and Diane McDonald, thanks for the greatest gift a son can get, your always being there.
And to my wife, AC Lambeth, thank you for being here now.
Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.
—Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep
I DON’T OFTEN ANSWER MY DOOR WITH A GUN IN MY HAND. LESS often at noon on a Sunday. But that day someone beat on my door like they were gonna kick it in, jarring me right out of a perfectly good sleep next to a perfectly naked woman and right into a brutal hangover. I told the woman to go back to sleep, reached for the nightstand, yanked open the top drawer, and grabbed my gun.
It was a nine-millimeter, loaded, that I used mostly as a prop. Every five or six months a new junkie moved into the neighborhood, marked my comings and goings, and figured I was easily rattled out of a few bucks by a skin-and-bones wraith that held his fighting weight eating the cheese out of rat traps. He’d bang on my door, ask if he could wash my car, or watch my mail, or some other money-hustling shit like that, and I’d answer with the nine. I’d explain how the gun not only took care of my car and my mail, but my stereo and my liquor cabinet, too. Negotiations always ended there.
In the apartment above, the neighbor’s dog barked like crazy.
“Jesus, all right already,” I hollered, crossing the living room. “I’m coming.” I leaned close to the door. “Whadda you want?”
“Junior, open the door. It’s important.”
“C’mon, Junior. I’ve been calling you all morning. So has your sister. It’s Purvis.”
My sister? Purvis? Why was he talking to my sister? Why was she calling me? I looked down at the gun in my hand and realized I was naked. And that the guy at my door was actually
“What happened to my sister?” I asked.
“Julia’s fine,” Purvis said. “This concerns something else.”
“This official business? Can it wait?”
“Yes to the first,” Purvis said. “No to the second. Open the door right now.”
“I need to get dressed. Another minute won’t kill you.” Through the door, I could hear him swearing. Fuck it, why not try the truth, I had nothing to hide. “Thing is, I got a gun and a naked girl in here.”
There was a long silence. I figured he’d moved down the hall to call for backup.
“They’re both legal,” I said, lying about the gun. “And neither has anything to do with the other.”
“Thirty seconds,” Purvis said. “Put some clothes on and do not open the door with the gun in your hand.”
I set the gun on the end table and ducked into the bedroom for jeans and a T-shirt. Molly stirred. The bedcovers had drifted down to her hips. I took a moment to admire her, then pulled the sheet and blanket to her shoulders. Mumbling, she asked who was at the door, snuggling deeper into the bed. I didn’t answer, wondering as I dressed how much trouble I’d have keeping her out of whatever I was about to get into. I walked, barefoot, back into the living room, closing the bedroom door behind me.
“All right,” I said, unlocking the dead-bolts and twisting the doorknob. “I’m dressed and the gun is sitting on the table immediately to your right as you walk in.” I opened the door.
Purvis grimaced, waving a hand in front of his nose as I let him into the apartment. “Long night? You smell like it.” He glanced at the gun. “I hope you didn’t drive home.”
“What’re you doing here? And what’s it got to do with my sister?”
He crossed his arms. “John, your father’s dead. He was shot this morning, not far from the house.” He waited for me to say something. I didn’t. The pounding in my head doubled and I felt sick. “Outside the Optimo deli.” Another pause. Maybe waiting for a question. “I’m sorry.”
I chewed the inside of my cheek, trying to catch my breath and will my stomach to be still. I wondered what was stranger, that my father had been shot, or that it was Purvis standing there telling me. We’d known each other since we were kids, grew up across the street from each other. He knew my family. Then, in high school, Purvis and I had a falling-out he’s never been able to leave behind him. “No, you’re not sorry,” I said. “And neither am I. And you know it.”
“Gimme a little credit, John. I don’t like seeing anyone die. I don’t like telling anyone about the loss of a loved one.” He paused. “Even you.” He almost grinned. “Either way, I’m gonna need that gun.”
“Take it. I got nothing to hide.”
“I hope that’s the truth,” Purvis said, pulling on a pair of rubber gloves.
“Whatever, Purvis.” Despite his news, he bored me already.
He just snapped the rubber at his wrists. He picked up the gun and dropped it into a clear plastic bag. He put the bag in his jacket pocket. “You may want me on your side on this,” he said, peeling off the gloves.
“Enjoying yourself?” I asked. I hadn’t shot the old man, and Purvis, despite his tough-cop act, knew it. If he really thought I’d done it, he’d have been at the door with his gun and cuffs out, and about fourteen other cops. If I wanted, I could tell him right now what the police lab would tell him in a couple of days, if the gun ever made it there. That gun had never been fired.
“We’re going to your parents’ house,” Purvis said. “My partner’s waiting for us. He wants to talk to you about this, obviously.”
“You talked to my sister?” I asked.
“Called her myself this morning.” He checked his watch. “She’s arriving soon. Said she was leaving right away.” He looked down at my feet. “Put some shoes on and let’s get going. I’m sure you want to get this over with.”
“How about you don’t give me orders,” I said. “I can get there on my own.”
“Waters told me to bring you,” he said.
“I’m not riding over there in the back of a cop car like a goddamn criminal.” I walked to the window, pulled aside the shade, and looked down at Purvis’s terribly obvious, unmarked white sedan. “Shit, it’s bad enough the whole block’ll be thinking I’m a narc.”
“We’ve waited long enough,” Purvis said. “Waters is getting pissed.”
“I’ll drive over myself,” I said, walking back over to him. I nodded toward the bedroom. “I’ve got company to attend to.” Then the name he’d dropped finally fell into place. “Nat Waters? He’s in on this?”
“He’s my partner.
got the case.”
This was getting richer by the moment. “I’ll be there,” I said, shooing him toward the door. “Scurry back to your boss and tell him I’m on my way.”
Purvis stopped in the doorway. “You are still a fucking asshole.”
“Whatever,” I said, and slammed the door in his face.