Vic also had caches of white supremacist flyers hidden where the authorities could find them once an investigation started. An excellent cover story. Not towel-head terrorists but homegrown stuff. Very plausible, and Vic didn’t feel so much as a twinge of sympathy for his buddies in the white leagues who would take the hit for all this. Once the Man rose there would be a whole New Order and old loyalties wouldn’t mean a thing. All human connections would be broken forever.
Without warning an image of Lois popped into his head. It happened so suddenly that it jolted Vic, even though it was the fifth or sixth time it had happened today. Lois. For sixteen years she’d been his whore and his punch, and never once had he ever given a single moment’s serious consideration to the possibility that there were any genuine feelings for her anywhere in his heart. A month ago Vic would have laughed at the thought. Now she belonged to Ruger and suddenly there were conflicted feelings in Vic that he would have liked to reach in and tear out by the roots.
He didn’t want to feel a goddamn thing for her, or for anyone except the Man, yet there it was. The Man must have known all along, or must have gotten wind of it the way he does, because when Little Halloween went all to hell and Griswold vented his rage at Vic, Ruger, and all the others, there had been a special twist of the blade for Vic. To appease the Man, to earn back his favor, Vic had been asked for a sacrifice. The Man wanted him to give up Lois. Not just give her up—he wanted Vic to let Ruger have her.
That shouldn’t have hurt. Sure, maybe it should have stung his pride a bit, like the alpha dog having to yield up a favorite toy to a new puppy in the house, but it should not have hurt him deep inside.
He swallowed more beer and stared at his list without really reading the entries. It did hurt, though. It actually hurt.
Ferro said, “What’s this bullshit all about?”
Val leaned back in her chair and gave him a long, calculating look. “Frank, I want you and Vince to come with us to the hospital. Saul Weinstock has all of the forensics and video information and he’s willing to show you everything.”
“Why should we go anywhere with you?”
“Because now that you’ve read that report you have to know the rest.”
“No, we don’t,” said LaMastra, “it’s not our case anymore. What part of that can’t you people process?”
Ferro met Val’s stare and after a minute he said, “Be quiet, Vince.”
LaMastra pivoted in his seat and stared at him. “What?”
“She’s right,” Ferro said. “There’s something very wrong here and we have to know what’s going on.”
Crow exhaled a long breath, but Val didn’t look convinced. “Are you saying that you understand what’s going on…that you understand what those reports indicate?”
“No,” Ferro snapped. “I’m saying that someone has either screwed up a crucial phase of the investigation, or else these folks are pulling some kind of shit. In either case I want to know what’s going on.” He looked hard at Val. “And if there’s something hinky with this don’t think my sympathies for your losses are going to cut you any slack.”
“All we want you to do is look at the evidence,” she said.
“Okay. We’ll go that far, but as of now I’m putting you all on notice. This is police business and you are a bunch of local yokels who are not cops.” He stared hard at Crow. “And I don’t give a rat’s ass if you used to wear a badge, Mr. Crow. That was then, this is now.”
“Frank,” said Val, her blue eyes dark and unblinking, “if, after seeing what Dr. Weinstock has, you want to arrest us, then so be it. If we can’t convince you with what we have to show, then jail is going to be the safest place for all of us to be.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ferro demanded.
Val just gave him an enigmatic smile and called for the check.
Sergeant Jim Polk finished his coffee and stepped out into the sunlight of October 30. Though the forecast called for a storm later, the sky of early afternoon was a cold blue dome dotted with crows circling high above. The sunlight was warm on his face and Polk indulged himself by standing there, face tilted upward, eyes closed, enjoying the warmth.
“Trying to get a tan, Jim?”
Polk opened his eye to see Gus Bernhardt’s florid, sweating face beaming at him from the passenger window of Unit C1, the command vehicle of the town’s small fleet of cruisers. Gus was chewing a mouthful of gum so big he looked like a cow with a cud and Polk resisted the urge to spit on him. Instead he pasted on a genial smile.
“Afternoon, Chief,” he said. “Nice day for it, huh?”
“Sunshine brings in the tourists,” Gus said, as if that’s what Polk meant; and at least that much was true because the town around them had swollen to bursting with tourists. Thousands upon thousands of them—overnighters and day-trippers, kids and adults, families and school groups. They were everywhere, going in and out of the stores like lines of worker ants. Laughing, all of them. Everyone seemed to be having tremendous fun.
Polk hated them all. He hated the smiles on their faces, he hated the hands that lovers held, he hated the grins on the faces of the kids as they showed each other the costumes they’d bought for tomorrow night. Speakers on the lampposts played music, and Polk swore to himself that if he heard one more goddamn rendition of “Monster Mash” he was going to take his hunting rifle and climb to the top of the Methodist Church and just plain open up.
“You drink your lunch today, Jim?”
Polk blinked and refocused on Gus. “What?”
“I been talking to you for a whole minute and you’re just staring shit-faced at the crowd. What’s with you today?”
“Late night,” Polk said. “Burning the midnight oil.”
“Midnight oil, huh? Well, I hope she had big tits,” Gus laughed at his own joke and signaled his driver to go. Polk stepped into the street and watched the cruiser head south.
South was a good direction, he mused. Maybe he should head south, too. Maybe before tomorrow night. Once this party got started Pine Deep was going to be a really bad place to be found loitering. Polk knew that he was a fool, but he wasn’t fool enough to really believe that his neck would be safe once Ruger and those others started their shenanigans. What was the phrase he heard on TV so often? “Ethnic cleansing?” Tomorrow night was going to be all about them, and Polk didn’t belong to that club and sure as hell didn’t want to. Not that he felt any kinship with the throngs of bleating sheep that flocked all around him.
Yeah, getting out of Dodge was a great idea, and south was as good a direction as any. Somewhere nice and hot, where there was a lot of sunshine. He had plenty of cash now. He could go now, not even bother to pack. Just get in the car and drive.
He snorted, mocking the thought even as he had it. Sure, it was a nice idea, except if Vic caught up to him. Or Ruger.
He thought about the evidence in Saul Weinstock’s office—the evidence he told Vic wasn’t there. He wondered if he should tell Vic now. Make up a story, say he went back and checked and found it. Would Vic reward him for that? Maybe, maybe not. Vic was hard to predict; he never jumped the way you’d expect.
Or should he go drop a dime to someone? Maybe that Philly cop, Ferro. Drive down to Doylestown or Newtown and use a pay phone. Put a rag over the mouthpiece and leave an anonymous tip. God, it would nice to screw things up for Vic. Might even work, he thought. Probably would work. Polk looked around. It would save a lot of people, too. People like him. Ethnic cleansing. Them against us.
Polk thought long and hard about making that call. Fifty cents in a pay phone and the Red Wave might come crashing down before it got rolling. Tell Ferro about the evidence and a whole lot more besides. Name names, give locations. Polk knew enough to bring it all down.
He looked at his watch. Nearly two in the afternoon. He smiled as he looked at the people around him, trying to feel what they felt, trying to see the day through their eyes. He should make that call.
“Vic would kill me,” he said aloud. A passerby flicked him a glance, but as Polk was in uniform the tourist said nothing. Polk turned and watched him go. “Vic would kill me.”
The speakers began playing “Monster Mash.”
Or worse than kill me , he thought, and that was really the decider. Polk knew too much, and it included way too much about Ruger and his kind. There were fates worse than death, Polk knew, and that was no joke.
He jingled the coins in his pockets, feeling with the pad of his thumb the faces of a couple of quarters mingled in with the pennies, nickels, and dimes. His car was parked across the street. Tank was almost full; the gym bag with the cash was hidden in the wheel well. Hours and hours until sunset.
“God help me,” he said softly, and he turned and walked up the street, away from his car, back toward the station.
“Thank God!” Weinstock said and gave Ferro’s proffered hand a vigorous shake. Then he seized LaMastra’s and wrung that. “Come in, come in. I can’t tell you how glad I am to see you fellows. Thanks so much for coming.”
Ferro gave him a stern glare. “To be honest, Dr. Weinstock, we’re not happy to be here and the clock is ticking on my patience.”
“Understandable, understandable, sure. Well, you guys should sit down and get comfortable. There’s a lot to go over.”
The two detectives sat; the doctor went around behind the desk and perched on the edge like a frightened pigeon ready to take flight. He looked like hell, with dark smudges under his eyes, three visible cuts from a botched job of shaving, and a case of the shakes that made LaMastra glad that Weinstock wasn’t about to operate on him.
“Before we get started, I want both of you to swear to me that everything I tell you, everything we discuss here today is going to stay between us.”
Ferro pursed his lips and drummed his fingers on the desk top before saying, “I’m not sure we can make that promise.”