Read Screwed Online

Authors: Eoin Colfer

Tags: #Fiction, #Crime, #Humorous, #Thrillers, #General, #FIC016000, #FIC050000, #FIC031000

Screwed (23 page)

BOOK: Screwed
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“No, I got a few good tips for you.”

“I’m listening.”

“Remember that Arabian horse that was stolen?”

“Scimitar? Apparently that nag was worth twenty million bucks. Mares lining up to get inseminated.”

“Yeah, well you can call off those dogs. Old Scimitar is in a trash bag down by Pier Forty nine.”

Ronelle takes a note on her phone. “That is indeed a juicy tip. Outta my zone but I can trade it in for something. What else?”

“A mob button man. Twenty feet out, in a taxi. Bodies in the trunk, and I’m betting you get enough DNA from the inside of that trunk to close a dozen unsolveds.”

Ronelle goes girly for a second and giggles. “Ooh. I love it when you say button man. Makes a lady go all quivery inside.”

This conversation is getting a little flippant for my liking.

“I’m in deep trouble, Deacon,” I tell her. “The deepest.”

Ronnie places her iPhone on the table and makes a show of watching a video. “I see that Dan. Is that a thong you got going there?”

“So you saw the clip. I was severely provoked.”

Ronnie taps her screen. “Looks to me like you were doing a spot of provoking, yourself. That’s two brother officers you’re beating on there. Fortz has been decorated twice.”

“Decorated? Like a Christmas tree.”

Ronnie smiles, reminds me of a wolf I saw once. “Christmas tree. You crack me up, Dan,” she says, displaying none of the traditional signs associated with cracking up.

“I need help, Ronnie.”

“Yeah, with your wardrobe for a start.”

“This is serious, Ronelle. A woman’s life is in danger. It may already be too late.”

“Speaking of taglines, there’s yours. Daniel McEvoy is the Pink Thong. Pray he’s not too late.”

I pound the table. “Pink? That’s red. Any idiot can see it’s red. The sequins make it look a little pink in the light. That’s all.”

Ronnie is delighted. “Whoa there, Thongmaster. I’m here, aren’t I? Alone as requested, against orders and protocol, I might add. So whose life is in danger and how do you account for this video?”

I lay it out in brief strokes. The abduction, the porn studio, my Aunt Evelyn. It’s a good story, so Ronnie listens attentively. She may be a little out there but Ronnie is 100 percent police. She said to me once:

I’m a straight cop, Dan. If you cut me, guess what happens?

Don’t tell me, you bleed blue.

No. I bleed red, you moron, but I will read you your Mirandas before I beat the crap outta you for assaulting an officer.

When I’m finished talking, Ronnie lets it percolate for a minute, getting her questions straight.

“You ain’t bullshitting me?”

“Nope. Straight up.”

“’Cause if you’re bullshitting me. . .”

“I am not bullshitting you. Do I look like a bullshitter?”

“You smell like one.”

“It’s that fecking Hudson. I probably got hepatitis.”

Ronelle lines up the condiments.

“Okay. This woman Costello hires Fortz and Krieger to take you out of the picture?”

“Yeah. I reckon the torture porn was their own little wrinkle in the plan.”

Ronnie knocks over the salt and pepper. “Those guys have been making skin crawl ever since they left the City precinct under a cloud. They’re in the wind now, last seen hobbling away from the scene of an accident out by the Silvercup.”

I am disappointed by this as I had been wishing on a star that Krieger and Fortz had been found dead in their cruiser, having crapped themselves, with their dicks out, wearing mankinis.

Ronnie stands the ketchup and the hot sauce up on the napkin holder. “So your aunt is stuck in the penthouse with the evil stepmom?”

“Is my aunt the ketchup?”

Ronelle scowls. “No. Your aunt is the fucking sauce. What, are you retarded?”

“Sorry. Mayo, right. Yep, that’s about it. My aunt and Edit are up in the napkin holder’s penthouse.”

“You making fun of my diorama?”

“What? God no. It’s very effective.”

“Because this is legitimate policing technique-ing. And if it ain’t swish enough for Mr. Pink Thong, maybe you should find yourself another blue buddy.”

I know Ronelle is playing me but she’s holding all the condiments.

“No. I like the diorama. It crystallizes everything.”

Ronnie is placated by the effort I have put into my verb. “Crystallizes, huh? You really are desperate.”

“Come on, Ronnie, all I need for you to do is badge me into that penthouse. Then Ev can walk out of there of her own free will.”

Ronelle peels the paper from a sugar lump.

“Is that me?” I ask her. “The lump?”

“It’s not all about you, Dan,” she says, and pops the lump into her mouth. On most days, when Ronnie does some tiny unexpected thing like this, it reminds me how singular she is, how striking. This morning I just feel helpless and outplayed.

“The problem is that you’re wanted for questioning,” she says. “I should be escorting you downtown right now.”

I like how this statement is going. Plenty of scope for a but, so I prompt.

“But?”

“But I know how you are about protecting women, in your big-dog, alpha-bullshit, dick-swinging way.”

“So?”

“So if this aunt of yours were to turn up dead, you might cross out one of the Fs in our matching BFF tattoos.”

“Maybe a B too,” I say, playing along.

“So, we’re gonna drive down there ’cause I have probable cause from a reliable source. Kidnapping or some bullshit. Is that enough for you?”

“Plenty, Ronelle. You’re saving a life.”

Ronelle plants her elbows on the table, which in itself is enough to scare off the waitress who was coming over with refills.

“But if you’re setting me up, Dan, then I’m gonna look a little deeper into all the criminal shit that happened in your vicinity last year.”

I am prepared to take any deal at this point. “Okay, Ronnie. I’ll sign whatever confession you want.”

“And you promise me now: no throwing punches, none of your black-ops, wet-work bullshit.”

I am squirming to be off. “No bullshit of any kind.”

“You better believe it, Dan,” says Ronelle, tossing a twenty on the table, even though she didn’t have anything. “I just got the lieutenant’s desk and I want to hang on to it for a while.”

My phone burbles rather than tweets after its time in the river. I can’t help checking it.

Stop waiting for that white knight to come rescue you. You are your own white knight.

I cover the phone with my hand.

Ronelle squints suspiciously. “Got something interesting there, cowboy?”

“Nope,” I say, sliding out of the booth. “Not interesting and not helpful.”

Ronnie slides out her side and suddenly we’re standing very close to each other and I don’t know whether I’m supposed to back away or not. Ronnie steps even closer and puts the flat of her hand on my back. Her eyes are two chocolate drops and her lips when she smiles could belong to a nice person. She’s smiling now.

“Ronnie,” I say, but that’s as far as I get because I don’t know what to say next and also her hand is sliding lower under the band of my jeans.

This is all very public and I don’t really have the time, but I can’t help thinking back to the night we had together, which was pretty wild.

Something must show on my face, because Ronnie laughs.

“Don’t flatter yourself, McEvoy, I’m just checking something.”

She slips two fingers under the thong strap and snaps it good.

“Still wearing it, huh?”

I nod, hoping that none of the diner’s half dozen early birds are watching this little show.

“It’s been a busy day and I don’t carry spares.”

“That could be a problem,” says Ronnie, wiping the river mud from her hand with a napkin. “You’re never gonna get into the Broadway Park looking like a decrepit old bum.”

There was absolutely no need for old in that sentence.

We swing by a twenty-four-hour Kmart on Broadway to pick up some clothes for me that don’t smell of river sewage. With a little persuasion from Ronelle’s badge, the manager relinquishes the employees’ bathroom key and I spend a few minutes scooping crud out of my cavities and staring at myself in a mirror that seems to have some kind of fungus growing between the glass and aluminium. I look pretty shook up, like the zombie version of myself, and this impression is reinforced by the sound of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” playing over the store speakers, or maybe that’s what put the idea in my head in the first place. I stand still to listen to the Vincent Price section, which I have always liked, and realize that there is no song playing over the speakers—in fact there are no speakers.

I need to pull myself together pronto.

I stuff most of my wet clothes in the trash apart from the boots and jacket, which I bag.

Outside the restroom there’s an old Asian guy holding a cup so I toss in a five figuring I’ll take whatever karma can be bought and the guy says:

“Screw you, cue ball. I’m waiting to use the facilities.”

Shite. I can’t put a foot right these days.

“Sorry, man. I assumed you were looking for a buck.”

“’Cause I’m Korean, right?”

I am too weary for this and I’m afraid to stand up for myself in case I spark off another conflict.

“I apologize, okay? Whatever. Just give me back the five or keep it, whatever. No bad blood. Annyeonghi gyeseyo.”

The old dude is patriotically unimpressed by my mangling of his birdsong language.

“Stop talking, cue ball. Your words hurt my brain.”

For some reason, getting into it with this ancient Korean brings on something of a mini-breakdown. I think it’s partly the randomness of it—this guy doesn’t have a beef with me—and partly the cue-ball thing. Sure I have a forehead the size of JFK’s proposed new runway, but thanks to Zeb’s surgical skills my bald patch is gone, so I thought my hair wouldn’t be such a target. Yet this restroom-waiting, empty-cup-holding, angry old motherfucker has nailed me twice already. Would it pain Jesus so much to send a few more decent people my way every once in a while? I know they’re out there. Jason is one. Evelyn is another, underneath the layer of pickling.

Yeah. And Edit was one too. Remember?

I want to bawl like a drunken aunt. I wanna grind my teeth to stumps and punch the wall, but I don’t and the effort of containing it starts me shaking all over. For a moment I think I might actually be having a heart attack, then the moment passes and I collapse onto a chair beside the Korean guy.

He drapes his spindly arm around my shoulder and says:

“My son.”

And I think: Wow. Is this guy going to surprise me by playing into his stereotype and delivering a nugget of wisdom?

“I never see a man shake after taking a dump before.” He pats me on the back. “That must have been a hell of a dump. Hollowed you right out. I think maybe I’ll wait here a few minutes, let the extractor fan do its work.”

Clever but not very wise. I pluck my five dollars from his cup and go back outside, into my life.

Predawn lasts a little longer in Manhattan because of the urban topography and what light does manage to find a through line is faded and whittled until it arrives gray and limpid on the sidewalks.

Yeah, I know. You’re thinking that maybe I should concentrate on the problems I got instead of contemplating early-morning light in Manhattan.

Limpid? Fuck me.

The Broadway Park House is exactly where I left it last night, standing sentry over Central Park, built on money so old it started off as goats. Ronelle pulls her Lincoln in hard, bumping the front wheel up on the sidewalk, letting the doormen know who’s in charge before she even steps out of the vehicle.

The experienced guys get the message and hang back, but one young buck bristles at how the Broadway Park bay has been defiled and is over like a shot.

“Can I park that for you, ma’am?” he asks, pronouncing ma’am like his pops owns a plantation somewhere.

Ronnie doesn’t even look at him. “You don’t touch my car, kid. And if anyone does touch it, I’m holding you responsible. Got it?”

The kid may have blurted out some kind of reply, but at that stage we are already through the door.

Ronnie has a menace about her that is particularly effective in post offices or hotels. Wherever people are responsible for shit. They take one look at Ronelle Deacon with her game face on and they start thinking, Not me, please God, not me.

Ronnie strides through the lobby making a beeline for the concierge desk, snapping her fingers at a lady trying to hide behind the monitor.

“Hey, hey, sweetie,” she says. “Get me Edit Costello on the phone.”

The lady makes a perfunctory attempt to uphold the hotel’s privacy policy.

“Miss Vikander-Costello does not wish to be disturbed. She sent a memo.”

Ronnie flashes her badge. “See this, sweetie? This trumps the shit out of your memo. This takes your memo out back and beats the crap out of it. This bends your memo over and—”

“Very well, Officer,” says the lady, rightly guessing that Ronnie would continue with her graphic memo-defiling imagery for as long as was necessary. “I’m dialing right now. Look, I’m dialing.”

Edit picks up and the concierge speaks to her in that enthusiastic yet deferential manner that makes rich folk feel good about having people serve them, then hands the phone to Ronnie.

“Miss Vikander-Costello has kindly agreed to speak with you.”

Ronnie takes the phone and winks at me. This is not a friendly wink like a person might get from Fonzie. This particular wink says, See how smooth I am? Now keep on keeping quiet and let me do my thing.

Okay. Let me do my thing might be a little bit of stereotyping on my part, but that Korean guy knocked my powers of interpretation for six.

Ronnie tucks the phone under her ear and puts on a sad face.

“Yes, Mrs. Costello, thank you so much for agreeing to speak with me.”

Thank you so much?

That ain’t the Ronelle I know. She’s running some kinda game.

“My name is Lieutenant Deacon, with the Jersey State Police. And the thing is, we found a relative of yours down by the docks. His wallet identifies him as one Daniel McEvoy and, believe it or not, you are this bum . . . eh, this guy’s next of kin. I was wondering if my associate and I could come up and talk to you about him. It won’t take more than a minute, then I’m outta your morning.” Ronnie nods for a couple seconds, then smiles her dangerous, beautiful smile. “Thank you so much, Mrs. Costello. I appreciate you taking the time.”

BOOK: Screwed
13.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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