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Authors: William G. Tapply

One-Way Ticket

BOOK: One-Way Ticket
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One-Way Ticket
A Brady Coyne Mystery
William G. Tapply

Contents

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

Fifteen

Sixteen

Seventeen

Eighteen

Nineteen

Twenty

Twenty-one

Twenty-two

Twenty-three

Twenty-four

Twenty-five

Twenty-six

Twenty-seven

Twenty-eight

Twenty-nine

Thirty

Acknowledgments

In Memory

Phil Craig

My partner in fiction, fishing,

and other frivolities

A lawyer’s job is to manipulate the skeletons in other people’s closets.


SOL STEIN

“How do you do Nothing?” asked Pooh.

“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, What are you going to do, Christopher Robin, and you say, Oh, nothing, and then you go and do it.”

“Oh, I see,” said Pooh.

“It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”


A. A. MILNE
,
Winnie-the-Pooh

One

J
UNE BUGS AND FIREFLIES
were flitting around in the walled-in garden behind our townhouse on Beacon Hill. Overhead, an almost-full moon and a skyful of stars lit up the Boston evening. Now and then a myopic moth would alight on the screen of our little portable TV, which was sitting on our picnic table.

Evie and I were slouching side by side in our comfortable wooden Adirondack chairs with sweaty bottles of Sam Adams in our hands, as we often did on a pleasant June evening when the Red Sox were playing. Henry David Thoreau sprawled on the bricks beside us, his legs occasionally twitching with dog dreams. Baseball put Henry to sleep. From our backyard we imagined that we’d heard the roar of the Fenway crowd all the way from Kenmore Square when David Ortiz hit one over the bullpen in the third inning.

At the end of the sixth inning, Evie yawned, stood up, stretched, and said she was exhausted. She kissed the back of my neck and stumbled into the house and up to bed. Evie enjoyed baseball. She liked the geometric symmetry of it and the occasional remarkable feat of athleticism, but she wasn’t really a fan. She didn’t care enough about who won, and she didn’t understand the passionate neuroses of lifelong Red Sox addicts such as I, who had seen the home team squander so many late-inning leads over the years that we were never comfortable until after the final out. We knew there was always a Bucky Dent or a Bill Buckner lurking around the corner, waiting to break our hearts. The aberration of 2004 would never ease our apprehensions.

“It’s only a game,” Evie would point out while I clenched my fists on every pitch. “And besides, they play about two billion of them a year.”

“It’s not only a game,” I would say. “It’s life in a nutshell.”

One inning and half a bottle of beer later the Sox were clinging to an uncomfortable 9-6 lead. The Orioles had runners on first and third with only one out when the phone rang.

We’d brought the portable kitchen phone outside with us, so I was able to grab it on the first ring, before the one beside our bed disturbed Evie, I hoped.

When I answered, a voice I didn’t recognize said, “Mr. Coyne?”

“Yes,” I said, “this is Brady Coyne, and it’s almost eleven o’clock on a Tuesday night. You better not be trying to sell me something.”

Henry, hearing the tone of my voice, sat up, yawned, and arched his eyebrows at me. I reached over and scratched his forehead.

“This is Robert Lancaster,” said the guy on the phone. “I don’t know if you remember me. I’m here with my father. Dalton Lancaster.”

“We met once,” I said. “You were about eight. Your parents were in the middle of a divorce. You and your dad and I had lunch together.”

“That’s right,” he said. “That was about twelve years ago.”

I waited, and when he didn’t continue, I said, “So where’s ‘here’?”

“Excuse me?”

“You said you were there with him.”

“Oh. The emergency room at the New England Medical Center.”

“Who’s hurt?” I said. “You or Dad?”

“Him. My father.”

“Is he okay?” I said.

“They say he’s going to be all right. He wants to talk to you.”

“So what happened?”

“He got beat up.”

“Who—?”

“I don’t know. Three guys. He says he doesn’t know who they were.”

“Well, okay,” I said, “put him on.”

“He’s wondering if you’d be able to meet with him.”

“Sure. We can set something up.”

“No,” he said. “He means now.”

“Listen,” I said. “Whatever happened to your father, client or no client, it’s late and I’m tired and I intend to watch the rest of the ball game and then crawl into bed with my girlfriend, who’s waiting upstairs for me. Just put him on the phone and we’ll set up an appointment.”

“Thing is,” said Robert Lancaster, “they jumped him in the parking lot, kicked him in the face, loosened a couple teeth, cut his tongue, banged up some ribs, and he can’t talk very well. He’s pretty scared, and he says he needs your help.”

“They kicked him?”

“That’s what he says.”

“A mugging, huh? They robbed him?”

“I don’t know. He says they didn’t take anything.”

“Just kicked him.”

“I guess so,” said Robert Lancaster.

“Did he call the police?”

“No.”

“Tell him to report it to the police,” I said. “That’s what he needs to do.”

He blew a quick breath into the phone. “Look, I’m sorry, okay? He called me. I said, ‘Why are you calling me? You never call me.’ He said, ‘I got a problem, and I need you to come over here.’ I said, ‘What about all those times I had a problem? Did you come over?’” He paused. “Anyway, he called, I went. Now I’m here and I’m calling you.”

“You’re the one he called,” I said. “You being his only son.”

“Me being convenient,” said Robert. “I live in Brighton. I go to BU. I took the T over. Look. He’s hurt pretty bad, Mr. Coyne.”

“So I should come right away, too,” I said. “Since I’m his lawyer as well as his friend.”

“That’s the message. If you can’t do it, I’ll tell him.”

I blew out a breath. “Yes. Okay. He’s my client. That’s what I do. When are they releasing him?”

“In a few minutes, I’d say. They’ve patched him up, given him a prescription. He’s finishing up some paperwork.”

I thought for a minute. “There’s a little bar-and-grill on Tremont Street, place called Vic’s, stays open late for the after-theater folks, five minutes from where you are. Know where it is?”

“We’ll find it,” he said.

“Just around the corner from Boylston,” I said. “I’ll meet you guys there in fifteen or twenty minutes. You get there first, grab a booth and order me a cup of coffee.”

“You got it,” said Robert Lancaster.

I clicked off the phone, verified that the Sox had not blown their lead, turned off the TV, and took the phone and the TV into the house. Henry followed behind me.

I went up to our bedroom and opened the door. In the dim light from the hallway I saw Evie mounded under the covers. She was lying on her side facing away from the doorway. The curve of her hip made me smile.

I went in, sat on the bed beside her, and touched her shoulder. “Hey,” I said softly.

She didn’t respond.

I leaned over, lifted the hair away from her neck, and kissed her on the magic spot where her neck joined her shoulder.

She moaned softly, then rolled onto her back. She blinked her eyes, focused on me, and smiled. “Did we win?” she mumbled.

“It’s not over,” I said. “We’re ahead. Sorry to wake you up. I—”

“I wasn’t really asleep,” she said.

“You feel all right?”

“It’s nothing.”

“What’s the matter, honey?”

“Little headache, that’s all.”

“Why don’t I get you some aspirin.”

“Sure,” she said. “That’s a good idea.”

I went into the bathroom, shook a couple of aspirin tablets into my palm, filled a glass with water, and took them back to the bedroom. I sat beside Evie and propped her up with my arm so she could take the pills.

“Thanks,” she said. She sighed, lay back on her pillow, and closed her eyes.

“You going to be all right?”

“Oh, I’ll be fine,” she said. “Overtired, I guess. You coming to bed?”

“Not yet. I’ve gotta go meet a client.”

“Huh?” Her eyes popped open, and she frowned at me. “What’s up?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m meeting him at Vic’s on Tremont Street. I’ll be back soon. You go to sleep.”

“Anybody I know?”

“Just a client, honey.”

“This time of night?”

“A lawyer’s work is never done,” I said. I touched her cheek. “Feel better, okay?”

“Yes, sir.” She closed her eyes and smiled. “Kiss me.”

“Yes, ma’am.” I bent over and kissed her mouth.

Her hand touched my face. “Come right back, please.”

“I will.”

“Be safe.”

“Always,” I said.

Two

D
ALTON LANCASTER AND I
were first-year students together at the Yale Law School twenty-something years ago. He quit after his first miserable year when his father died. He hated law school and only went because both of his parents were lawyers. His old man was a partner at Schilling, Lowe, and Lancaster on State Street and expected his only son to join the firm as soon as he passed the bar. His mother was none other than Superior Court Judge Adrienne Lancaster.

Dalt was convinced that he’d never satisfy his parents, especially his father. All he ever wanted, right up to the day that Frederick Billings Lancaster keeled over in the firm’s washroom, was for the coldhearted prick to say something nice to him.

So after he buried his father, Dalt quit law school and used his patrimony to buy an upscale California-style bistro in Boston’s South End, and when that failed he tried to make a go of a family restaurant in Arlington, but that didn’t work out, either. He managed to keep it a secret for a long time, but finally it came out that he’d been investing more time and money in the blackjack and poker tables at the Foxwoods casinos in Connecticut than in the tables in his restaurants, and pretty soon Dalt’s share of his old man’s money was gone.

Along the way he married a dark-eyed waitress named Teresa. They had a son, Robert. When Dalt gambled away all their money, Teresa divorced him and took Robert with her.

I handled Dalt’s end of the divorce. Teresa went for full custody of Robert on the grounds that Dalt was an addicted gambler, besides being an incompetent father and husband. I told Dalt I thought we could get fifty-fifty custody, but he said no, Teresa was right, he was not to be trusted, and we ended up settling for a weekend a month and a week in the summer.

For the past decade or so Dalt had been managing other people’s restaurants, working for a salary, most recently at a seafood place called the Boston Scrod in the Faneuil Hall Marketplace in downtown Boston.

BOOK: One-Way Ticket
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