Authors: Eoin Colfer
Tags: #Fiction, #Crime, #Humorous, #Thrillers, #General, #FIC016000, #FIC050000, #FIC031000
I don’t comment; effective as Pablo’s techniques may be, this is all preamble.
“You look good too, Daniel. Solid. Are you married? Do you have kids?”
I shake my head once to cover both questions.
“Me neither,” she says. “Not really. Anymore.”
Three short sentences. All loaded.
“I’m really sorry . . . eh . . . Nana, but I’m under a bit of pressure today.”
She slaps her own cheek gently, dislodging a tiny puff of foundation, which I would have sworn she was not wearing.
“Oh my God. Where are my manners?” she offers her hand for a shake, at a weird sideways angle, like royalty. “I’m Edit Vikander Costello.”
She pronounces Edit to rhyme with Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.”
I shake the hand. To be honest it’s less of a shake and more of an undulation, but I feel strength in the soft dry skin.
“Costello?” I say. “So you married old Paddy?”
“Wife number four,” she says. “The first to outlive him.”
This was something of a feat. Paddy Costello had always seemed to be carved from granite.
“So, you’re not my blood grandmother?”
“No. I’m the later model. Version Four point oh.”
“And how would you know about me, Edit? How could you possibly recognize me?”
“I’ve been looking for you, Daniel. For six months I’ve had Irish detectives on your trail. And you turn up here, two blocks from my apartment on Central Park South.”
“Why are you looking for me? Did old Paddy leave me a whack?”
Edit was embarrassed and refolded her napkin. “No. You were disinherited, along with your mother. I’m looking for you because Evelyn is missing and she’s the only family I have left.”
Evelyn Costello. Just hearing the name shoots me back to nineteen seventies Dublin. My mother’s baby sister, the girl who defied her own father to cross the Atlantic and visit with us. The girl who told my dad she would skewer his sausage with an icepick if he ever accidentally wandered into the wrong room again.
That was so cool. We didn’t even have an icepick. No one I knew did.
Evelyn Costello. My first hero. I saved every penny for weeks just to make sure we did have an icepick if she visited again.
My Aunt Evelyn, who used to bring me to the swimming pool except for that time when she couldn’t for some mysterious lady-reason that I didn’t understand at the time and don’t know a whole lot about now.
Edit began folding my napkin. “Yes. She had addiction issues, like her mother. We put her in Betty Ford the last time she relapsed, but you know Evelyn, don’t fence me in, right? She checked out and we haven’t seen her in over two years. She missed her father’s funeral.”
If Edit is expecting my Aw face, she doesn’t get it. I don’t hold fathers in the same esteem as 1960s sitcoms. One hundred percent of my father figures were drunken, abusive devils who walked the earth.
Edit realizes my heartstrings have not been plucked.
“Sure, they had their differences, but Ev loved her father, and Patrick loved her. It’s a tragedy that she may not even know he’s dead.”
She knows, unless she’s been living under a rock, and even then, most rocks these days have network. When Paddy Costello’s heart finally shattered in his chest under the sledgehammer blow of massive coronary, all the major studios had a video obituary ready to air. Big Paddy Costello: the last magnate. The man who built America, or some such shit.
We know all about empire builders in Ireland. I saw a couple in the army too. I figure if a man is serious about putting together a major hunk of kingdom, then he’s gotta keep a laser focus on that prize his whole life and burn anything that might distract him. His competitors for example. His family for example.
“I thought she might contact you, Daniel. You guys were close, right? She talked about you.”
It’s true. We were close, even though she only stayed with us maybe a dozen times. Evelyn always had spirit. When I was fourteen and she was sixteen, Evelyn came home from a grabby date one night and gave me a stern lecture on the proper way to handle a girl’s boobs. A boy never forgets something like that. Never ever.
“Yeah, we were close. Ev was like a big sister to me.”
Edit nods. “Exactly. She said that. Danny’s big sister, she looked out for you. So I thought that maybe you might have heard something . . .”
Edit Costello’s face is downcast. She has had so many disappointments in life that she’s shielding herself against another one. I hate to be the bearer of zero news but . . .
“No, sorry, Edit. I haven’t spoken to Evelyn in twenty years. She sent me a few letters when I was in the army, but it was small-talk stuff. I heard she was in Betty Ford a few years back and sent a get-well-soon card. But I have no idea where she is.”
Edit holds herself steady so she will not slump. “Of course. Why would you? At least I can call off those investigators, right?”
“Yeah. They didn’t even narrow it down to a continent.”
We smile, but I’m stressed and she’s disappointed so we don’t exactly light up the room.
Edit runs her finger down the glass. “Mr. McEvoy. Daniel. Perhaps you could call me if Evelyn does make contact. She doesn’t have to see me if she doesn’t want to, I just want to know if she’s okay. If she needs money, there’s plenty there for her.” Edit closes her eyes halfway, like she’s visualizing mountains of gold. “I mean plenty.”
Part of me hopes that there’s an extra clause to that sentence—i.e., there’s plenty for you too, but my step-gran has finished talking.
I take the card she pulls out from God knows where, then I see there’s a zip pocket in her sweatband. I didn’t know they made those. Handy.
“Sure. I’ll call. But after all this time . . .”
Edit is so trim that she stands without pushing back the chair. “I know. It’s a long shot. But sometimes long shots pay off.”
I look in her eyes and she’s got that desperate look. Like an addict at the racetrack.
“Look, Edit,” I say, not believing that I’m jumping into another hole. “I got a few things on this week. Important stuff or I wouldn’t put you on the long finger, but next week I can make a few calls. Maybe Ev went over to Ireland. You ever think of that?”
“Yes, of course. She loved Dublin. I’ve had my investigators on the lookout for her too. No luck.”
I push my meal aside, wishing I had a plate of hash browns and bacon instead of this kiddie food.
“These detectives of yours don’t sound so hot. They couldn’t even detect that I left the old country years ago. I know a few guys who have fingers in pies. I’ll get back to you.”
“Thanks, Daniel,” says Edit, automatically sucking in her almost nonexistent stomach, so I can see her rib cage through the velour. “I’ll make it worth your while.”
I gotta do something noble so as this meeting does not end with me looking like a pancake-eating hillbilly.
“That’s not necessary,” I say, hoping my chin isn’t smeared with breakfast. “There’s no charge for doing family a favor.”
Edit is affected by my grand gesture and she leans forward to kiss me on the cheek and comes away with syrup on her lips.
We both ignore it and she leaves, wet-wiping her face on the way to the door.
I am such a douche.
My Twitter bird chirps. I swipe the phone screen and read:
Don’t overanalyze everything. You know what the first two syllables of analyze are?
I can’t help noticing that there’s nothing written on the ass of my gran’s sweat suit.
I triple-tip Mary, and she rewards me with a smile that could almost make a man forget about the people trying to kill him. I decide in the afterglow of that smile that if Sofia ever boots me to the curb, then I will definitely make the trip into Manhattan and see if I can tempt this lady to accompany me to another restaurant where she can actually sit down.
The thought makes me feel a little guilty, but at my age you gotta lay the tracks, right? There are not that many single fish in the sea anymore.
I hit the john on the way out and a good thing too because I get an attack of the shakes and the whole pancake mess comes up again before most of it had the chance to go all the way down.
Goddamn Fortz and Krieger. Screw those guys.
What kind of sick individuals do roadside pickups for snuff streams? I regret letting those bozos live for a full minute as I lean over the bowl. It’s amazing how one short, sharp shock can completely change a person’s views on murder.
Bozos? That’s a bit mild. Arseholes at the very least.
On the plus side of this toilet break, it’s a clean retch. I get it all up in one heave and feel instantly better.
French toast. Maybe that was ambitious.
I wash up as best I can and trot up the steps into the lobby all casual and energetic, like no puking whatsoever has occurred in the fancy restroom. I am feeling a bit delicate though and susceptible to paranoia and I am convinced that every tourist gazing vacantly at their cell-phone screen is actually snapping a picture of the big goon who just threw up in the stalls.
It is entirely possible that I am already a wanted man, with my mug shot posted on the blues’ Web site. Everyone with a badge in this great city could already have my photo and history on their smartphone.
I guess I’m banking on Fortz trying to take care of the McEvoy loose end himself before trusting it to his comrades.
At the very least there will be two bent cops on my tail.
Enough of this bullshit. I have a job to do.
But once these bonds are delivered, I gotta get right back on the Krieger/Fortz situation.
Only Ronnie can help me there.
I pick up a pack of Lifesavers at the lobby concession then push through the revolving doors into the Manhattan afternoon. I feel like it should be midnight at the very least but the day’s travails have managed to shoehorn themselves into the span of a baseball game, which—God forgive me for saying it—is the most boring thing to do on a sports’ field apart from sweep it. First time I went to a game, half the crowd was gone before I realized the game was over. Zeb brought me to a game and spent most of the game pointing out the guys from the visiting team who had syphilis. Apparently half the dugout had the clap.
I am too frazzled for public transport so I flag a cab on the corner of Broadway and tell the cabbie to head straight down to SoHo. You would imagine that the guy would be ecstatic with a plum fare like this but he hammers on the steering wheel like I just admitted to boning his mom.
Usually, I am sensitive to people’s moods, even when they’re assholes, but today is not usually, so I knock on the Perspex.
“Two things, pal,” I say to him. “First turn off this mini-TV thing here. I could give a fuck about Lady Gaga’s fashion sense.” This is kind of a lie, Gaga is fascinating and she can belt it out too. “And second, if you don’t stop beating on that wheel I am going to shoot you in the head with one of the four guns I got here.”
The guy shapes up a little after that, but if it ever comes to it he will be thrilled to pick me out of a lineup.
Thanks to midtown traffic I got a little downtime to call Tommy Fletcher in Ireland. I search through my phone’s contacts and the little cropped head shot beside his details flashes me back to our army days. I remember when that photograph was taken. It was on the day Corporal Tommy Fletcher lost his left leg during an early-bird minesweep. Tommy was bitching about the heat and flies that flew into your face like bullets. And there was sweat in my eyes and I could hear blood rushing in my helmet, and I could not believe that people were looking to me for leadership. Kids were watching us pass by like we were boring them at this point, and the old men lounged in Nike track bottoms and sandals drinking their tiny glasses of sweet tea, playing their version of backgammon, conversing in the haranguing tones that I used to think were arguments but now realized was just business as usual, paying us absolutely no mind.
I remember thinking: This place should be a paradise. They got the weather, the ocean. Beautiful girls. Bloody hell, they got the best surfing in the med.
Then a Katyusha rocket streaked from the unfinished top floor of an apartment block, its vapor trail hissing like a snake. It missed Tommy and me but rolled the truck over Fletcher’s leg. The shooting started then and we were suddenly in a vortex of bullets. To stop myself from freaking the hell out, I decided I would save Tommy. One simple instruction for my brain that allowed me to slice through the confusion. I dumped my weapon and pack and slung Corporal Fletcher over one shoulder. After that I don’t really remember much about the heroic rescue until we were back at the hospital. When the medic sliced off Tommy’s trousers his leg fell off and on account of all the morphine in his system Tommy took it really well and said; “Jesus Christ, kid. Be careful with the scissors.”
Later on, he made me sit on the bed beside him with the bagged severed leg across our knees for a photograph. And that’s the one I use for his contacts.
I press call and Tommy answers on the first ring like he was hunkered over the phone.
“What do you want?” he says in a Belfast accent. Tommy is from Kerry, but that accent ain’t scary unless you can see the psychopathic face it’s coming out of. The Belfast accent, on the other hand, is what they should broadcast from satellites to scare off aliens.
“Tommy. It’s me. Danny.”
“Jaysus, Sarge,” he says, reverting to his normal voice. “This is freaky. I was punching the numbers to call you.”
The line is digital clear and it’s like my old comrade is in the cab beside me.
“Yeah? Why’s that, Tom? You got some news?”
“You are not going to believe what happened to that old cross-country lady you had me scoping.”
“I heard. Lightning. One in a million.”
Tommy draws a breath. “Fucking act of God. I’d actually grown quite fond of that old bird, she had a grand arse on her.”
It’s impossible to know whether or not Tommy is lying. Actually, that’s not true. Tommy is always lying. It’s his default setting. What’s impossible is sorting the outright bullshit from the little white lies.