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Authors: Les Edgerton

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The Perfect Crime

BOOK: The Perfect Crime
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PRAISE FOR LES EDGERTON

“JUST LIKE THAT is yet another Les Edgerton winner. Mr. Edgerton in his prison memoir conjures up in honest, Bukowski-esque prose a mad dog life lived behind and beyond the bars of institutional correctional facilities. Literature’s version of Johnny Cash, America has yet another gifted bard to sing the blues of time served. I have long believed Mr. Edgerton to be an American original, who has for too long remained one of our best kept literary secrets. As a publisher I want to put to print whatever he writes, as a reader I want to devour the pages, as a writer, I’d be happy to pilfer just a few of his lines.”

— Cortright McMeel, author of
SHORT
; publisher, Bare Knuckles Press and Noir Nation Magazine.

 

(For Monday’s Meal)

“The sad wives, passive or violent husbands, parolees, alcoholics and other failures in Leslie H. Edgerton’s short-story collection are pretty miserable people. And yet misery does have its uses. Raymond Carver elevated the mournful complaints of the disenfranchised in his work, and Edgerton makes an admirable attempt to do the same. He brings to this task an unerring ear for dialogue and a sure-handed sense of place (particularly New Orleans, where many of the stories are set). Edgerton has affection for even his most despicable characters—”boring” Robert, who pours scalding water over his sleeping wife in “The Last Fan”; Jake, the musician responsible for his own daughter’s death in “The Jazz Player”; and Tommy in ‘I Shoulda Seen a Credit Arranger,” whose plan to get hold of some money involves severing the arm of a rich socialite—but he never takes the reader past the brink of horrible fascination into a deeper understanding. In the best story, “My Idea of a Nice Thing,” a woman named Raye tells us why she drinks: “My job. I’m a hairdresser. See, you take on all of these other people’s personalities and troubles and things, 10 or 12 of ‘em a day, and when the end of the day comes, you don’t know who you are anymore. It takes three drinks just to sort yourself out again.” Here Edgerton grants both the reader and Raye the grace of irony, and without his authorial intrusion, we find ourselves caring about her predicament.”

—Denise Gess,
The New York Times Book Review

 

“Edgerton establishes the kind of convincing, and wrenching, interiority with his characters achieved by only the most adept fiction writers.”

—Peter Donahue,
Sam Houston State University

 

“This is good fiction; Edgerton writes lean and nasty prose.”

—Dr. Francois Camoin, Director, Graduate School of English, University of Utah and author of
Benbow and Paradise, Like Love, But Not Exactly,
Deadly Virtues, The End of the World Is Los Angeles
and
Why Men Are
Afraid of Women

 

“Les Edgerton is much more than a fiction writer or a story teller. When you read his work, your ears prick up, your eyes go wide, and your spine tingles. You get the sense that Edgerton has been there, lived the lives of his characters, fought their fights, cried their tears, placed their bets, drank their Wild Turkey, smoked their cigarettes. He writes with a stunning accuracy, a convincing authority and a stark reality. At the same time, he strikes a balance between beautsensitivity and humor. Edgerton isn’t concerned with keeping your interest. He wants to reach into your heart, tear it out, hold it for you while it’s still beating!”

—Vincent Zandri, Bestselling author of
The Innocent
,
The Remains,
and
Godchild

 

“…the characters in Edgerton’s world bite down hard and grind up one another with their back teeth. Their authenticity is palpable as soft-shelled clams; these are sad, mean, fully human characters who long for connection almost as fiercely as they fear it.”

—Melody Henion Stevenson, Author of
The Life Stone of Singing Bird

 

“Edgerton’s best stories are uncompromising in their casual amorality. They stare you down over the barrel of a gun, rip you up whether or not the trigger gets squeezed.”

—Diane Lefer, Creative writing teacher at UCLA and on the MFA in Writing Faculty at Vermont College. Author of
The Circles I Move In
and has received fellowships from the NEA as well as five PEN Syndicated Fiction prizes

“Les Edgerton creates a vivid and compelling world. We feel the rhythm of his language and live in the skins of his characters. Altogether, a memorable experience.”

—Gladys Swan, Faculty member, Missouri University and on the MFA in Writing faculty at Vermont College. Author of
A Visit To Stranger,
Do You Believe in Cabeza de Vaca?
and other novels and collections

“…Edgerton draws memorable portraits of these dangerous and unpredictable characters…”


Library Journal

“There’s no question that Leslie Edgerton loves to write... he does it so well! Edgerton deals with people often called ‘losers’ in a wonderfully poignant way and his affection for his characters gives strength to this collection of stories, one of which has received the Booker nomination. Join our support of this fine writer which
Arts Indiana
Magazine calls “one of Indiana’s best writers.”


Border’s Bookstore Newsletter,
September 27, 1997

“Les Edgerton writes like a poet with a mean streak, and his prose goes down easy and smooth like good liquor as it carves up your insides.”

—Henry Perez Bestselling Author of
Mourn the Living
and
Killing Red

 

“…He’s got a story to tell you so get ready; it’s coming at you fast. Get ready…”

—Linwood Barclay

“…tense and hard hitting…”

—Paul D. Brazill

DEDICATION

For my readers. Without readers, writing is like having sex with yourself. The feedback you get for your performance is ultimately flawed. For Bob Parker, my guru on all things electronic and explosive. Bob helped me immensely in making the crime accurate. He’s the one who came up with the idea for a climbers’ harness to hook the wiring for the bomb inside so it couldn’t be taken off without exploding the bomb. When I was finished, Bob read it and proclaimed it, indeed, “the perfect crime.” He told me I could either do the crime myself or publish it and that I’d probably make a lot more money if I did the crime. It’s been tempting, but I’m going with publication. We’ll see… Bob also said it was a template for a perfect crime and that I should leave out or change at least one element so my outlaw friends couldn’t follow it and I’ve done that. I initially wrote this back in the mid-90’s and at the time I came up with the idea no one had ever tried anything like this. Since then, at least a couple of folks have and they all got caught. And, they were caught for things they could have avoided if this book had been out then… Sorry, guys… you should have waited…

 For my superb agent, Chip MacGregor, who’s the best. For my publisher, Aaron Patterson, who saw this as a book readers would enjoy. For my brothers behind bars and particularly the guys in Pendleton—this one’s for you. And, as always, for my wife Mary and my three wonderful kids, Mike, Sienna and Britney—you guys rock.

 

CHAPTER 1

GOING OUT TO HIT the bricks one morning after roll-call, one of the guys on Grady Fogarty’s bomb squad unit cracked, “Jesus! You look like a friggin’ mob guy, Fogarty!”

Grady cracked right back. “Yeah, and you guys all look like Columbo. How ‘bout I introduce you to my tailor? Give me a chance to unload my polyester stocks first, though. I don’t want to get caught short when the market tumbles like it is if you clowns ever check out a mirror.”

That had been a few years back. Before the almost-routine “burglary in progress” call that turned his life upside-down. Where he lost the eye. From that point, his very appearance seemed to deteriorate. It was positively amazing what a little chunk of lead that weighed less than half an ounce could do to a man’s life. Before the shooting, his compadres on the Dayton police force had joked about Grady’s clothes fetish, referring to the Brooks Brothers suits he favored. Internal Affairs might have shown a little more interest in his wardrobe if he hadn’t had such a squeaky-clean reputation. And the fact it was widespread knowledge that he obtained his suits at cost from a grateful clothier. A store owner whose daughter Grady had saved from certain rape one night, responding to screams coming from an alley off Grafton Avenue.

The biggest change wasn’t in his wardrobe, though. The biggest change was in his physical appearance. Plastic surgery had reconstructed his crushed left cheekbone, but he refused to wear the glass eye the doctor recommended, opting instead for what, in a black humor, he called his “pirate patch.” Three months after he was forced into medical retirement, an old friend from the department walked right past Grady without recognizing him. It wasn’t so much that his features had changed radically--all that was different was the addition of the eye patch which made him look somewhat rakish, actually--it was the look in his good eye...and his posture. A fever seemed to burn behind the gray-green iris--not the fever of excitement, but the confused temperature illness sometimes brings. His hair, the exact color of a Dove dark chocolate bar, was dull and mussed. The friend might still have recognized him except for the fact he seemed smaller. A big man, a tad over 6’3”, he appeared diminished by inches. He wasn’t; it was the way he was standing. Holding himself in, slump-shouldered, head bent slightly forward. As if something in his gut was on fire and the muscles in his back had softened. The friend had taken a few steps past him before he realized it was Grady. He started to turn around and say something when he took a closer look and hurried on.

For a while, the change in Grady Fogarty was the talk of the station house from thosho recalled a handsome, lithe, panther of a man, but soon he was mentioned less and less in their conversations until in time he was largely forgotten. Just another cop the job had fucked up. You didn’t want to think about something like that too much. It could happen to you.

***

Catching a glimpse of himself through the bottles into the dingy bar mirror, Grady almost had to laugh. He sure didn’t look like any mob guy these days. The baggy pull-over sweater he had on didn’t have any designer label that he was aware of and the khaki trousers had come directly from Sears.

He saw something else in the mirror he hadn’t been sporting back then. His eye patch.

Which was the subject of the present conversation he was having with the woman sitting on the stool next to him.

“So how’d it happen?”

He sighed. He wondered if he really needed this shit. He knew what was going to happen next. He’d answer her silly-ass question, take her drunken ass out on the dance floor, and an hour later they’d be doing the horizontal cha-cha. Not bad work if you could get it though, he thought...

“How’d I lose my eye?”

She wasn’t too bad-looking. Actually, she was the best-looking woman in the joint. It was his pirate patch, he knew. Always got the babes. It was the pity-factor. Only they always called it something else.

“Tragic,” was how one had put it. “You look tragic, Grady.”

Somebody was over at the Wurlitzer, feeding coins into it. Sam Cooke began singing “You Send Me.”

“Yeah. Oh! Dance with Susie!” the woman exclaimed. “That’s Susie’s favorite song!”

Great, Grady thought. She refers to herself in the third person. First person I ever heard of that did that who wasn’t a basketball superstar or a World Series hero.

“Can you dunk it?” he asked, following the blonde out onto the dance floor.

“Never mind,” he said to her puzzled look, her hands going up around his neck, her body settling into his in such a way that the only place for his own hands was on her ass. That wasn’t all bad. She did have a nice ass. Nice everything, in fact.

“Come on,” she slurred, her face buried in his chest and her hips doing interesting things with his own. “Tell Susie.”

“It was a hearing problem,” he said. Might as well have some fun.

“Huh?” she said, picking her head up to look into his eyes before nestling back into his chest.

“Yeah,” he went on. “Somebody said ‘shut up’ and I thought they said ‘stand up.’“

She cocked her head to look up at him again.

“Really?” She processed what he’d said. “Oh, you! Come on, what really happened?”

The song ended and they stood there a minute until Willie Nelson began singing “On The Road Again,” and he steered her to a table, holding her chair out for her.

“Can’t dance to that stuff,” he said, grabbing another chair and pulling it next to hers where he could catch her if she decided to go out. She was that drunk.

Once they got new drinks, he launched back into his story.

“I guess you want the real deal.”

“Uh-huh.” Her chin was resting on her hand and when she spoke she slipped. Grady caught her before she crashed to the floor. This time, she propped up her chin with both hands and gazed into his eyes.

hat happened was I was pitching in the World Series...for Cleveland...seventh game, bottom of the ninth, score tied 2-2, two outs, 3-2 count on the batter and I brought my heat.”

One of Susie’s eyes started to cross slightly. Grady could see her losing focus.

“Heat?” she said, glomming onto the word.

“Yeah,” he said. “Smoke. You know...
heat.

She twisted her mouth into a smile.

“I got heat... you want some heat, baby?”

Grady said, “Yeah, well, let me finish this.” He took a long drink to loosen up his pipes.

“Anyway, I wind up and put everything I got into it. They told me later the gun got me at 96. The batter was Hack Wilson, remember him?”

“Sure,” she said.

“Yeah, there’s gonna be a test later, babe. Hack Wilson and the Chicago Cubs. Three years ago in the Series. You remember this, Susie, and we’re a romance.”

His drink gone, Grady signaled the bartender for another. Susie’s was barely touched. He doubted if she could hold another drop.

Susie said, “I remember. Jack Wilson and the Chicago Cubs.”

The bartender put his drink in front of him and took three singles off the stack he had out.

“Yeah, well, you passed the test, Susie. You know your baseball, that’s for sure. Anyway, Hack nailed the best pitch I’ve ever thrown. He just crushed that ol’ pea.”

He looked at her to see if she was still buying this and went on. “Hit me smack in the eye. Here.” He pointed to his patch.

Susie’s eyes widened and her hand flew to her mouth.

“Hey!” he said. “Don’t be throwing up on me here!”

She nodded her head and swallowed hard. “I’m okay.” She surprised him then, leaning over and pulling his face to hers, planting a wet lip lock on him. When they broke apart and he came up for air, Grady said, “Someday I’ll tell you about the time I got kicked in the nuts in the NBA championship game and my dick grew a foot.”

***

Later, in her apartment, just after they pulled their sweaty bodies apart, Grady said, “Wake me up at five, will you? I promised my brother I’d help him out in the morning.”

He was talking to himself. She was already snoring. He thought about waking her, or trying to figure out her alarm and setting it himself, but before he did any of that he was nodding off his own self.

BOOK: The Perfect Crime
12.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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