Authors: Jonathan Santlofer
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Hard-Boiled
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ne of the most often repeated legends in the publishing world is that crime fiction writers are the nicest of all. The theory is that they work out all their angst and all their aggression on the page by killing made-up people in all kinds of gruesome ways, thereby leaving their real lives full of nothing but kindness, generosity, and gauzy goodwill. Consequently, they help, support, and encourage one another. The success of one is celebrated by all, and they’re always ready to drop everything to help out with a good cause.
That’s the legend.
Is it true?
Well, yes, it is. All of us were new to the scene once, and all of us can testify to the help and support and encouragement we received from those who came before. All of us remember being sincerely and genuinely congratulated on whatever small successes came our way both by those who left such milestones behind long ago and by those yet to reach them. All of us have had flat spots or difficulties, and all of us have been helped out of them by the others.
But what about dropping everything for a good cause?
That’s true, too. You’re holding the proof in your hands—a serial novel that combines the efforts of twenty great crime writers in a twisted noir tale so seamless it shows just how cooperative crime fiction writers can be when they put their talents together.
Inherit the Dead
is as nasty and dark as it is fun, every chapter a surprise yet inevitable.
But how did it come about?
Well, Linda Fairstein needs no introduction as an acclaimed crime writer, but she’s also a real-life prosecutor on some very tragic criminal cases. Linda, being Linda, wanted to do more than just secure convictions. She wanted to draw attention to Safe Horizon, the largest victims’ support charity in the United States, that provides assistance of every kind to victims of crime, long after the legal dust has settled.
And Jonathan Santlofer needs no introduction as an acclaimed crime writer either or as an acclaimed painter—which he is, too, by the way—and which helps make my point: he generally doesn’t have much spare time on his hands. But Jonathan happily agreed to put the book together and to help the charity. The idea was to assemble an extraordinary cast of bestselling contributors who would combine their creative talents and help support Safe Horizon’s vital work.
So he put out a call to his wish list of contributors—even though he knew that none of them was exactly sitting around doing nothing. At a rough guess, between them they’ll publish about thirty or so novels this year, and I know there’s major involvement in five or six TV series and a couple—or more—major movies; and they all have families, and they all have personal projects of their own.
So what did they all say?
They all said yes. Immediately. They dropped everything and rallied around a good cause. I’m proud to call them my friends, my peers, and my colleagues. And I’m delighted to have a good book to read. I hope you will be, too. And thank you for helping out by buying it.
Crime writers really are a great bunch of people.
Crime readers, too.
he call had been unexpected. The reference—a friend of a friend of a friend—too complicated to follow. But the job—if it turned into a job—was simple enough, a missing person. Or so the caller had said. But Perry Christo, former NYPD homicide detective turned private investigator, knew nothing was ever simple.
It was six years now since he’d left the NYPD. That was the way he always said it:
I left the police department six years ago.
As opposed to the truth: that he had been fired. More specifically: asked to leave
he was fired.
Pericles Alexandros Christo, Perry to his friends (though he didn’t have many—his choice). His mother was the only one who had dared call him Pericles (and live). Forty-four years old, disgraced cop, divorced, one of those men who saw his child every other weekend and sometimes less. His fault. He tugged his collar up against the wind as he cut across Third Avenue. It was the kind of winter day that reminded residents Manhattan was an island surrounded by water, icy water, an unprotected twenty-four square miles of land that had nothing to shield it from the chill other than glass and steel skyscrapers that only helped create wind tunnels and lonely corridors.
But the address Perry was headed for, 720 Park Avenue, only a
dozen or so blocks from his Yorkville one-bedroom, could have been a hundred miles away in every conceivable way and buffered by something special: money.
The call had come the night before.
It’s my daughter. She’s missing and—
Did you call the police?
No. It’s . . . a family matter. And I want to keep it that way.
How long . . . what?
How long has she been missing?
Oh. A week. No. Closer to two.
. If his daughter were missing for two
he’d have called out the National Guard.
That’s a long time.
Well, my daughter, Angel, has a tendency to . . . wander. Now and then.
Yes. Take a trip, go off with a friend. She’s not a child. She’s twenty. And she doesn’t live with me.
Who does she live with?
And I presume he hasn’t heard from her.
You presume correctly.
Have you checked with her friends?
The words barked.
Perry could tell this would be no ordinary mother-and-child reunion.
You will help me, Detective.
It was not a question. And Perry had not answered it. Instead, he waited for her next command, which followed.
Come see me. Now.
Is that a problem?
Now—as in ten at night—when he was already in his underwear, feet up, watching a
Law & Order
rerun. Clearly a woman used to getting what she wanted when she wanted it. But if she could wait nearly two weeks, she could wait another eight hours.
I’ll see you in the morning.
But you will get started right away.
Again, not a question.
he’d said, though he knew he would take the case. A job was a job. And with the current economy he needed every one, though he was doing okay. Four years now since he’d started his own PI firm. More than half of his tiny apartment was his ad hoc office: two computers, a scanner, video equipment, a digital camera with an extra-long telephoto lens, listening devices. Things he never imagined he’d be using, but necessary for the work he did for his biggest clients: insurance companies. Spent his days spying on people out dancing and climbing trees when they claimed they couldn’t walk.
It’s my daughter, she’s missing . . .
The woman’s words replayed in Perry’s mind as he quickened his step against the cold.
He didn’t particularly like missing persons—“locates,” as they were called in the business. Most of them were people who didn’t want to be found, embezzlers or ex-husbands behind on child support, the latter his least favorite and something he turned down when he could. Perry hadn’t missed a child support payment in five years, even at his lowest point when it meant skipping meals—but a missing girl, even one twenty years old, was something else, something to worry about.
Unless she’d run away. Perry turned the corner, more icy wind in his face. Most runaways were teenagers, he knew that, young ones
who didn’t know yet how tough it could be out in the cold, cold world. Perry had found more than his share of them. Girls and boys out of the plains states, corn-fed innocents, pretty young things who’d run away because they hated their parents for good and bad reasons. A mistake either way, which they learned working Manhattan’s mean streets. Most turning up scared and sick, ruined, a few who might be saved (though he was never sure); every one of them another scar on his soul, to see what the world could do to a kid.
Perry tugged the woolen scarf—a gift from Nicky—tighter around his neck.
It’s not my birthday, kiddo.
Does it have to be your birthday to get a gift, Daddy? You give me things all the time.
Nicky had draped the scarf around his neck—soft wool, blue and tan stripes.
See, it matches your eyes, Daddy.
Impossible. There’s no red in this scarf, and my eyes are always bloodshot.
Oh, pul-leese, Daddy. Your eyes are blue, like mine!
The best kid in the world—and he had lost her. Well, not entirely. But every other weekend was like a prison sentence, though one he would wait out because in another three years she’d be eighteen and thinking about college. Barnard on the Upper West Side. Something Perry had suggested. He was already checking out two-bedroom apartments in the area.
The thought made him smile, but looking around at the passersby he noted he was the only one. Lexington Avenue was clogged with people trudging to work on streets slick with ice or stepping over gutters filled with blackened snow, all of them frowning.
A strong gust of wind made him shiver. He’d walked only a few blocks, but he was freezing. His winter coat, a three-year-old trench with a cheap zip-in lining, wasn’t doing the trick. His gloveless
hands—he’d lost the third pair he had bought on the street a week ago—were jammed into his pockets and going numb. If Nicky noticed, she’d be getting him a new pair for sure. God, how he loved that kid. His best work, for sure.
Last night’s call played again as he crossed Lexington Avenue.
I’ll expect you at nine, Detective.
One more time Perry had neglected to correct his status with the client he was about to see. Six years since he’d been a detective. A lifetime, though Perry still saw it like it was yesterday, that damn Bayer case immediately in his mind.