Authors: Peter Abrahams
Tags: #Thrillers, #General, #Fiction, #Suspense
“GRITTY … HIGHLY
“Smooth elegance … Well-constructed characters …
deserves all the kudos it’s bound to get.”
—Toronto Globe and Mail
“[Peter Abrahams] creates a fascinating and memorable character in Eddie Nye.… [He] spares the reader nothing, in gritty dialogue and often gruesome detail. Consistently interesting and suspenseful, his thriller’s shocking outcome is revealed only on the very last page.”
“Thickly surrealistic … As nightmarish as the best of Abrahams’s yarns of long-term retribution.”
“[The hero’s] introspective personal odyssey will prove fascinating to those who like thrillers more than skin deep.”
“A very good psychological thriller … Skillful suspense.”
—Drood Review of Mystery
By Peter Abrahams:
THE FURY OF RACHEL MONETTE
TONGUES OF FIRE
A PERFECT CRIME*
LAST OF THE DIXIE HEROES*
Published by Ballantine Books
A Fawcett Book
Published by The Ballantine Publishing Group
Copyright © 1994 by Pas de Deux Corp.
by Peter Abrahams © 2002 by Pas de Deux
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by The Ballantine Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Originally published by The Mysterious Press in 1994.
Fawcett is a registered trademark and the Fawcett colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.
This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming hardcover edition of
by Peter Abrahams. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.
Grateful acknowledgment is given for permission to excerpt from
Samuel T. Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
by John W. Elliott. Copyright © 1965 by John W. Elliott. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Monarch Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, New York.
Grateful acknowledgment is made for permission to quote from
Surveiller et Punir
by Michel Foucault, © Editions Gallimard 1975, and Georges Borchardt, Inc.
To Peggy and Anthony
The author is grateful to Mary Owen at the Barnstable County House of Correction and to Tom Connolly at MCI-Cedar Junction for their patient assistance.
Justice pursues the body beyond all possible pain.
Surveiller et Punir
Discipline and Punish
is the word. You can’t stop hearing it when you’re inside. “You crazy, man?” “You fuckin’ with me, man?” “Fuck you, man.” “Shi’, man.” “Sheet, man.” “Shit, man.” It doesn’t mean a thing. It’s just an itch that no one can stop scratching, a sore tooth no one can stop probing.
Fifteen years is a long time for scratching and probing, longer when there’s nothing to do but mop floors and sew mailbags, all for fifty-five cents an hour. You’ve got to find ways of making time go faster. Nails—during his third year they started calling him Nails, but his real name was Eddie Nye—Nails took up weight lifting. That made time go faster, but not fast enough. What he needed was a way to make time disappear. That’s what led him to reading. Nails probably hadn’t read a book in his life, except for high-school assignments, and, much earlier,
Muskets and Doubloons
, but in the room they called the library, with its blue-white strip lighting, steel chairs and tables bolted to the floor, yawning corrections officers, he ploughed through everything on the shelves. He started with Max Brand. After a while he learned that the better the book, the closer time shrank to the vanishing point. Seven years later he was reading Tolstoy, still searching for the story so perfect it would kill time dead. Old books were better. Nothing written in the twentieth century worked at all.
Poems were best, especially long ones with rhymes and a beat. One day Eddie came upon “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” He returned to it over and over, not unlike a child who can’t stop looking at a bloody crucifixion on the wall at Grandma’s house.
Eddie read the papers too. Funny thing about the papers.
Although he read every word, including the weather in places he’d never heard of and subjects he had no interest in, like the stock market, recipes, dance reviews, he somehow didn’t get it. Everything just floated by—megabytes, Japanese cars, yuppies, the end of the Cold War, all that. Eddie knew things were happening, but they were far away and meaningless. Like looking through binoculars from the wrong end. Of course, you could say it was Eddie who was far away. He had to be, to get away from time.
Not that he didn’t want out. That happens to some of the longtimers, but didn’t happen to Eddie. It wasn’t that he had plans: he couldn’t form any. But he wanted out, all right, so bad that with two or three months to go he started getting wired. Couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t sit still. In consequence, his memory of events in those months wasn’t too clear. It lacked, for example, some of the details, the nuances, of El Rojo’s first contact.
At the time, Eddie had a cell on the first tier of the north wing of F-Block. Cell F–31 measured four paces from the bars to the seatless steel toilet, a pace and a half from the steel bunks to the steel side wall. Eddie had the top bunk, Prof slept on the bottom. Prof wasn’t in for long. Forgery. Three and a half to eight, but probably much less with parole. Eddie had had lots of cellmates—Gerald, who had split his wife’s skull with his son’s Little League bat; Moonie, who’d shot some bystanders in a drive-by; Grodowicz, who’d botched a kidnapping by detouring to sodomize the hostages; Rafael DeJesus, a smuggler and occasional killer of illegal aliens who’d taught Eddie Spanish; a kid whose name Eddie no longer remembered, who hadn’t been able to stop stealing cars and had finally run over twins in a twin stroller at the end of a high-speed chase; Jonathan C. McBright, a professional bank robber and by far the easiest to live with; another guy who’d killed his wife, but unlike Gerald denied it and cried in the night; and others, who’d done more of the same.
They came, they put up their decorations, they served their time or got paroled, got transferred, got killed, or killed themselves. Eddie kept his distance from his cellmates, from everybody. That was the secret of being a successful con.
When they were gone, Eddie took down their decorations, tossed them in the corridor at mopping-up time, nodded hello to the next arrival. He never put up decorations of his own.
Prof was almost as austere. He’d taped just two pictures to the wall above his bunk. One was a studio portrait of his wife, Tiffany, and their two kids, all wearing matching reindeer sweaters and smiling like the kind of family used for selling something wholesome. The other, much bigger, was a photo of a powerfully built woman with a two-pronged dildo inserted into her body and an impatient expression on her face, as though she was already late to her next appointment. The juxtaposition of the pictures didn’t seem to bother Prof; maybe he didn’t even notice. Eddie noticed, but it didn’t bother him. In fifteen years he’d seen everything, everything that could be taped to a wall.
Something clicked in the steel walls of F-Block. Eddie heard Prof sit up on the bottom bunk. “Hey, big guy, whaddya know?” he said. The barred door slid open. “We’re free.” Prof had a sense of humor. Not as good as Rafael DeJesus’s though. DeJesus had been really funny. He’d even performed at Catch A Rising Star once, after jumping bail.
Prof went into the corridor. Eddie heard it fill quickly with restless, noisy men. They’d been in lockdown for five days, all because Willie Boggs had lost another appeal. That had led to a demonstration of Willie’s supporters outside, a demonstration covered by local news and therefore seen inside. The footage had fed delusions of hope on death row, causing a commotion that spread to Max and then to F-Block. Lock-down reminded everyone what the situation really was and that all Willie’s pastors, ACLU lawyers, and anti–death penalty crusaders—including the head of Amnesty International, the justice ministers of two Scandinavian countries, and Mother Teresa—couldn’t put Humpty together again. The only appeal left was to the governor’s clemency, of which in his ten years of office he had shown none.