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Authors: Michael Koryta

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BOOK: The Silent Hour
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    "I
don't know yet. We'll see."

    "We'll
see— If it's pushing eighty degrees up here it has to be, what, a hundred and
sixty down there— With ninety percent humidity—"

    "Close
to that, sure."

    "And
summer hasn't even hit yet. Only a damn fool would stay in Florida in the
summer when he could retreat to a home near the beautiful shores of Lake
Erie."

    "I'll
admit I'm not enjoying the weather as much lately."

    "So
why not come home— What did you do, meet a woman—"

    He
didn't answer.

    I
said, "Joe—"

    "Could
be the truth, LP. Could be the truth."

    I'd
made the initial remark as a joke, but his response seemed sincere, and that
silenced me. Joe's wife of thirty years, Ruth, had been dead for five now, and
in that time he'd not gone on a single date. The few people who'd attempted to
make introductions for him had been shut down quickly and emphatically. If Joe
was actually seeing someone, it was an awfully big step for him.

    "Well,
good for you," I said after the pause had gone on too long.

    "Oh,
shut up with the sincerity. Makes me sick. If I were anybody else, you'd be
giving me hell right now, asking which strip club I met her at."

    "A
stripper— At your age— No way. I just assumed you'd done some volunteering at a
home for the blind. Convinced her you were forty years younger and
good-looking. Convinced her you were more like me, in other words."

    "You're
neither good-looking nor forty years younger than me."

    "Close
enough on both counts, grandpa. Close enough. Can I at least hear the young
girl's name—"

    "Gena,"
he said, "and she
is
a few years younger than me, smart-ass."

    "You
lecherous old dog. How many years— Is she even legal yet— Is this girl—"

    "Goodbye,
Lincoln."

    "Oh,
come on, you've got to give me more than—"

    "Talk
to you soon," he said, and he was laughing as he hung up.

    I was
laughing, too, and in a good mood as I went downstairs to check the mail, happy
for him even if disappointed that this might delay his return. Had a smile on
my face until I took the mail out of the box and saw my name written in
unpleasantly familiar handwriting on the only envelope inside.
P. T.
Harrison
, the return address said, but I didn't need that to identify the
sender. I'd seen enough of his damn letters already.

    I
tore the envelope open as I walked back up the stairs, shook out the contents
as I stepped inside the office, dreading whatever twisted manifesto he'd
decided to write this time. There was no letter, though. Nothing but a check
for five hundred dollars, with
thanks for your time
written in the memo
portion.

    I
threw the envelope in the trash but kept the check in my hand for a minute. It
was a simple design, blue on blue, standard font, the sort of check most banks
issued cheaply. It told me nothing about Parker Harrison that I didn't already
know, except that he had a checkbook.
I have six thousand dollars. I'll
spend every dime…

    I
smoothed the check against the top of the desk and wondered if it would bounce.
If not, then Harrison had done all right for himself after serving fifteen
years in prison. Managing to stay on the streets for twelve years and save at
least a little bit of money might not seem like much, but it was more than most
of his fellow offenders managed. Twelve years was a hell of a run for some of
them. I had a friend who worked at the Cuyahoga County Jail and referred to the
booking area as "the revolving door." Same faces went in and out,
year after year, decade after decade. Harrison hadn't done that. From the small
amount of research I'd done once he began his letter writing, I'd determined
that he'd never been charged with any crime after his release, not even a
traffic ticket. I didn't know where he worked or how he lived or what he did
with himself, but he hadn't taken another bust. For years, he'd lived quietly
and without incident. Then the remains of a former employer turned up in the
woods and he'd decided to surface again, surface in my life.

    "Go
away, Harrison," I said quietly. "Go away." Then I took the
check and held it over the trash can, opened my fingers, and watched as it fluttered
down. I wouldn't take his money. Didn't want it, didn't need it.

    For
once, that was true. My former fiancee, Karen Jefferson, had mailed me a check
for eighty thousand dollars after my investigation into her husband's death in
the fall. She was worth millions now, could certainly afford it, but I'd thrown
that check in the trash, too, and the two that followed it. Then she sent
another, along with a letter insisting that I take the money. I had. Cashed the
check but hadn't spent a dime of it. The money sat in a savings account,
earning a pitiful interest rate, but that was enough for me. I didn't want to
invest it or spend it, but I appreciated the sense of comfort it provided. The
sense of freedom. If I didn't like a client, I didn't have to work for him. If
I didn't like a case, I didn't have to take it. If for any reason I didn't feel
like working, well, I didn't have to. For a while, anyway. That eighty grand
kept me at least a few steps ahead of the thresher.

    I
spent the rest of the day at my desk writing a case report. A local insurance
company had hired me to conduct background investigations on candidates vying
for a management job, and by the time I'd summarized the findings on all seven
of them it was midafternoon and I was sick of being in the office. I locked up
and left, thinking that I'd have an early workout. My energy felt wrong,
though, and by the time I got to my building I'd talked myself out of exercise.
I got into my truck instead and drove toward Clark Avenue in search of a drink.
If you give up on the healthy decision, why not go all out in the opposite
direction—

    I was
headed for the Hideaway, which had reopened in April after being closed for
nearly a year from fire damage. I'd found myself down there often in the past
few weeks, maybe trying to recapture something that was already gone, maybe
just enjoying the place. I didn't want to overthink it. The owner, Scott
Draper, had been a good friend once, and maybe could be again. With Joe gone,
I'd become more aware of just how many friendships had wandered off or watered
down over the years. A lot of that was my fault—I'd retreated from the world
for a while after losing Karen and my job. Hell, if Amy hadn't come around back
then, when a kid who'd spent a lot of time at my gym was murdered and she was
asked to write about it, I'd be pretty damn pathetic by now. Funny how having
just one woman around is enough to make you look like a functioning member of
society.

    A
week or even a few days earlier, I might have noticed the car behind me while I
was on the highway. When I was riding the peak of my paranoia, I'd done a good
job of watching the mirrors. That was past, though, and I didn't pay attention
to the cars behind me as I burned up 1-71 toward downtown, didn't register any
of them until I pulled onto the Fulton Road exit ramp. Even then, it was a
cursory thing, just an awareness that I'd been one of two cars leaving the
highway.

    When
I turned off Fulton and onto Clark and the car stayed with me, I finally gave it
a few seconds of study, memories of Dominic Sanabria's visit not completely
purged yet. It was a Honda Pilot, newer model, red. Not the sort of thing you'd
expect a mob enforcer to drive. I put my eyes back on the road and pulled into
a parking space on the street a half block from the Hideaway. The Pilot kept
going. Nothing to worry about.

    By
the time I was out of the car, though, I saw that the Pilot's driver had just
pulled into a spot across the street, not far away. I stood on the sidewalk and
watched as the door opened and a tall guy with blond hair stepped out and
walked in my direction.

    He
came across the street and up the sidewalk without missing a step, even when he
realized I was standing there watching him. Walked right up to me, lifted a
hand as if he needed to catch my attention, and said, "Lincoln
Perry—"

    He
didn't match the mob-enforcer mold any better than his car. Tall, maybe six
three or four, with broad, knobby shoulders under his starched blue shirt.
Something about him made me think of a baseball pitcher. He moved well but
without any sense of speed or agility, seemed like the sort of guy who'd be
good at most sports despite not being particularly athletic. There was a shadow
of beard along his jaw, darker than his sandy hair. Light blue eyes.

    "Why
were you following me—" I said.

    "You're
Lincoln—"

    "You
know I am. You were following me."

    He
held up his hands, palms spread. "Sorry, man. Didn't mean to freak you
out. I'd just stopped by the gym and was going down to your office when I saw
you get into your truck. I was already in my car, so I just pulled out after
you."

    "I've
never seen you before in my life," I said. "So how did you know that
was me, and that it was my truck—"

    He
smiled. "The lady who was in the gym office looked out at your truck to
see if it was still there before she sent me up to your office."

    "And
your natural inclination was to follow me—"

    "Actually,
yeah. I'm a PI. You should know how that goes."

    
"A PI—"

    "Name's
Ken Merriman. You the sort that likes to see ID—" He reached for his
wallet, but I waved him off.

    "Don't
worry about it, Ken. I'm a little on edge lately. Not your fault."

    "No
problem—and, hey, give me
some
credit. If I'd been tailing you I could
have done a better job than that." He laughed and nodded in the direction
of the Hideaway. "You working or grabbing a beer—"

    "The
latter."

    "Well,
why don't you let me buy a round, and I'll try to talk you into doing the
former."

    "That
kind of visit, huh—"

    "That
kind of visit," he said, starting toward the bar.

    "Where
are you from—" I asked, falling in step beside him. I knew most of the
private investigators in the area, by name if not by face, but neither Ken
Merriman's name or face was familiar.

    "Pittsburgh,"
he said.

    "Keep
your voice down, man. People in this neighborhood hear Pittsburgh, they turn
violent. It's the home of the Steelers, you know."

    "The
proud home," he agreed as we reached the front steps.

    "I
also haven't worked on anything that involved Pittsburgh in a long time,"
I said, reaching for the door handle. "So whatever brings you up here must
have a local tie."

    "It
did once, at least."

    "Did—"

    "About
twelve years ago."

    I was
holding the door open for him, but he stopped on the top step, looking at my
face.

    "Twelve
years—" My voice was hollow.

    He
nodded.

    "There's
a name I don't want to hear you say," I said.

    "Which
one— Cantrell or Sanabria—" He winked at me and walked into the bar.

    

Chapter Eight

    

    Draper
wasn't behind the bar, but I didn't care anymore—Ken Merriman had just
obliterated my plan for a relaxed evening. I followed him as he walked to the
back of the narrow dining room and slid into a booth.

    "What
do you want to drink—" I said.

    "No
waitress—"

    "Not
till five. What do you want—"

    "Guinness
would be good."

    He
handed me a ten, and I walked back to the bar and got his Guinness and a
Moosehead for myself, then came back and sat down across from him. There'd been
a few guys at the bar, but we were the only people in the dining room.

    I
lifted my beer and nodded at him. "Here's to unwanted visitors from
Pittsburgh."

    "Come
on, don't say that. Here's to fellow PIs, wouldn't that be friendlier—" He
grinned and lifted his glass. "To Sam Spade."

BOOK: The Silent Hour
10.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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