Step to the Graveyard Easy

BOOK: Step to the Graveyard Easy
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Contents

Cover

Title Page

Dedication

Epigraph

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

Also by Bill Pronzini

Imprint

For Marcia

And the Spirit say, Go down, Death easy
I want you to go down, Death easy
I want you to go down, Death easy
And bring my servant home.

Step to the graveyard easy
I want you to step to the graveyard easy
I want you to step to the graveyard easy
And bring my servant home.

—“GO DOWN, DEATH”

1

Cape was screwing the little redhead from Logan’s Café when Anna came home and caught him.

He didn’t see or hear her walk into the bedroom. The redhead was on top, making pleasure noises, leaning forward with her breasts in his face. Neither of them knew Anna was there until she yelled, “You son of a bitch!” in a shrill tremolo.

The redhead wrenched around and off him so violently she damn near ruptured him. Anna was standing stick straight in the doorway. White face, white fisted hands, white nurse’s outfit and cap. Like a ghost except for her eyes. They burned hot, smoky at the edges, like cigarette holes in a piece of paper before it bursts into flame.

None of them said anything. Anna stared at him; the redhead, Lonnie, stared at Anna; and he didn’t look straight at either one. Lonnie was scrambling into her clothes, panting in a different cadence now. He heard her start to babble.

“Oh God, Mrs. Cape, I’m sorry… he said you wouldn’t be home until late… I didn’t mean to… I don’t know why… oh God, I’m sorry…”

“Get out of here,” Anna said. She didn’t take her eyes off Cape.

“So sorry, really, I…”

“Get out of my house.”

Lonnie ran out, holding her blouse closed with one hand, her bra trailing from the other. The front door slammed.

Anna said, “In our bed. Right here in our bed.”

Cape swung painfully off the bed, stood up. He didn’t say anything.

“You’re such a shit.”

“I guess I am.”

“Put something on,” she said, disgust in her voice. “She shines all over you like grease.”

He bent, wincing, to pick up his pants. He put them on, put on his shirt. The doorway was empty by then. When he went out into the living room, Anna was at the sideboard pouring Scotch. The bottle’s neck chattered against the rim of the tumbler. She’d pulled off her cap; her blond hair was frizzed up on top and sides like a fright wig. He moved past her to the front window, stood looking out.

Behind him she said, “Well?”

He didn’t answer.

“No excuses? No apology?”

A kid went by on a bicycle, pumping hard, his long hair streaming out behind him.

“All right, then. Tell me this. Is she the first?”

Another kid, this one fat, working the pedals even harder and sweating in the muggy June heat. The type who would always be lagging behind, trying to catch up to the front-runners and never quite making it. The type Cape himself had always been.

“Answer me, Matthew.”

No. Not really like that kid, not any longer. He’d quit pumping hard, trying to catch up; for some time now he’d just been standing still.

“Damn you, say something!”

“Would you believe me if I said Yes, she was the first?”

“No.”

“Well, she was.”

“Liar.”

“Have it your way then.”

“Why other women? Wasn’t I enough for you?”

Cape turned to face her. Hurt and anger made her eyes as round and shiny as grapes. “You’re woman enough for any man,” he said.

“Then why? Why fuck somebody else in our bed?”

“I did it, that’s all.”

“You did it, but that’s not all. Not by a long shot.”

“The only answer I can give you is that I’m not the same.”

“What does that mean? The same what?”

“Same man you married. I’ve changed. You haven’t.”

“Right, sure. That explains it.”

“We’ve grown apart,” Cape said. “Things haven’t been good for either of us for some time. You know they haven’t. We don’t even have sex much anymore.”

“Oh, so now you’re going to use that as an excuse.”

“I’m not making excuses.”

“I can’t help it if I’ve had so much night duty, long hours at the hospital.”

“Not blaming you, Anna. Just stating a fact. The marriage isn’t working.”

“Maybe it isn’t,” she admitted, “but we could’ve worked things out. Twelve years… we made it through rougher patches…”

“In the beginning,” Cape said. “We’re different people now.”

“You keep saying that. You’re the one who’s changed, that’s for sure. The past few months… moody, restless… all that so-called business travel to Chicago or wherever… and now you bring another woman into our bed. I hardly know you anymore.”

“No, not anymore.”

“What’s the matter with you? Some kind of midlife crisis, is that it? You’re thirty-five, that’s not even midlife.”

“Three score and ten,” he said.

“What?”

“Never mind. Forget it.”

“Forget it,” Anna said bitterly. “Am I supposed to forget what I just saw in the bedroom?”

“I don’t expect you to, no.”

“I couldn’t if I wanted to. In
our
bed, damn you!” She swallowed Scotch, coughed, tried to drink again, and choked this time. She hurled the glass against the couch. “You bastard,” she said. She was on the edge of tears now.

“I’m sorry, Anna. I know you don’t believe it—”

“I wouldn’t believe you anymore if you said the sky was blue.”

“—but it’s the truth. I’m sorry for everything.”

“Liar. All you’re sorry for is that you got caught.”

“All right.”

“All right, all right, all right.” She drew a long, shuddery breath. “We’re finished, Matthew. Once and for all, as of right now.”

“I know.”

“What you did today… it’s the one thing I won’t put up with.”

“I know,” he said again.

“You know, you know. You don’t know
shit,
that’s what you don’t know.”

“You’re better off without me,” he said.

“Well, that’s for damn sure.”

“I’ll leave right now.”

“The quicker the better. Pack up and get out. Go chase after that redheaded bitch, finish what you started.”

“I’m through with her.”

“You think I care? Screw her brains out, for all I care.” Wetness dribbled along her cheek. Angrily she wiped it away. “One thing you better understand right now. I want this house. I’ll fight you for it if I have to. That’s the first thing I’m going to tell the lawyer.”

“You won’t have to. Everything’s yours except half of what’s in the savings and the Emerson stock.”

“Isn’t that generous of you. I suppose if we had kids, you’d let me have them too. You know something, Matthew? I’m glad we’re childless. I’m glad I had that miscarriage nine years ago.”

“You don’t mean that.”

“Don’t I?”

“No, you don’t. Hurt me if you want—don’t hurt yourself.”

She put her back to him, standing rigidly the way she had in the bedroom doorway. “Go on, get out of here. I can’t stand to look at you. I hope to God I never see you again after today.”

“You won’t.”

“Is that a promise?”

Cape said softly, “You’ll never see me again.”

“I should be so lucky.”

He returned to the bedroom. His half of the closet was filled with suits, sports jackets, ties, casual clothes, a dozen pairs of shoes, a five-piece set of Gucci luggage; his dresser was jammed with shirts, underwear, socks, jewelry. Material possessions. Things. He dragged out one medium-size suitcase, filled it with essentials
and one suit, two sports jackets. Took him less than fifteen minutes—just long enough to dismantle twelve years of his life.

Anna was gone when he came out again. Just as well. There was nothing more to be said.

Except one thing. And he said that aloud to the empty house, because she wouldn’t have wanted to hear it anyway.

“Good-bye, Anna.”

2

Bernie Klosterman was the only one of Cape’s half-dozen friends who wasn’t married. He lived alone in a two-bedroom high-rise condo near downtown. Cape found him home, astonished him with the news.

“Sure, sure,” Bernie said, “you can stay here tonight. Longer, if you want.”

“Just tonight, thanks.”

“Listen, Matt, why’d you do it? You never cheated on Anna before, did you?”

“First time.”

“Taking that waitress to your house… man, what possessed you? If you had to bang her, why not a motel somewhere?”

“Maybe I wanted to get caught,” Cape said.

Bernie stared at him. “Why would you want that?”

“The push I needed. Last push out.”

“Out of the marriage? I knew the two of you weren’t getting along, but—”

“Not just the marriage. Everything. Now there’s no turning back.”

“What’re you talking about?”

“I made the date with Lonnie yesterday,” Cape said. “This morning I quit my job.”

“You… Jesus, Matt. You’ve been with Emerson Manufacturing, what, fourteen years? Next in line for a promotion, isn’t that what you told me?”

“District sales manager, yes.”

“And you quit? Just like that?”

“Just like that. I had three weeks’ paid vacation coming. Gave that up in lieu of notice.”

“Oh, man. They must’ve been pissed.”

“I’m not indispensable. They won’t have any trouble finding a suitable replacement. Neither will Anna.”

“And what about you?”

“I told you. I’m out.”

“I don’t get it,” Bernie said. “What does being out buy you?”

“Freedom,” Cape said.

“Freedom to do what?”

“Get the hell out of Rockford, first of all.”

BOOK: Step to the Graveyard Easy
4.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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