Authors: Archer Mayor
Tags: #Mystery, #Thriller
“You are too much. Spit it out.”
Willy kissed her cheek. “I missed you guys.”
She flushed with pleasure. “Then you did the right thing.”
He rose, stroked Emma’s smooth forehead once, as was his habit, and retreated to the doorway, where he stopped to look back at them, mother and child, rocking by the window overlooking the sun-dappled lawn.
He had been missing them. That much was true. But of course—considering his complicated psyche—the motivation hadn’t been purely sentimental. He’d been sensitive to what had almost befallen Dan, when Sally had been grabbed. He’d embraced the man’s panic.
It had taken Willy a long time to reach this point in life—a long time, a lot of luck, and an inordinate amount of kindness and patience from people who—had they been remotely reasonable—wouldn’t have expended the effort.
And now he had a daughter. Tiny, frail, and utterly dependent.
He’d come home in the middle of the afternoon to be reminded of that, and to bask in the proof of his good fortune.
But he’d also come home to refresh his memory of them. Because he knew—was haunted by the knowledge—that life could change faster than it takes a teardrop to travel a cheek.
* * *
That night, late as usual, Joe walked down Main Street from the office, swung right on Elliot, and walked into a bar named Silva’s, created and named by his much-missed companion. When Lyn had been alive, it had become a routine for him to drop by during her shifts, just to sit on the last stool, hard against the wall, and watch her work the crowd. He had first done that in Gloucester, Mass., several years ago when he’d gone to the local bar to gather information on a case, before he’d even known her name.
He’d admired her then, and had never stopped.
The place wasn’t busy. It was midweek. Maybe twenty people were spread about, chatting, laughing, and enjoying their time off.
As he paused in the doorway, taking in the scene, the woman at the bar, reminiscent of Lyn in fact, if far younger, slapped a can of Coke before his usual place, flashed him a wide grin and a thumbs-up, and went off to tend to a man calling out from the bar’s far end.
Joe felt a double pang of pain and relief, walked over to his spot, and settled in before the cold can, admiring how Lyn’s daughter Coryn, who’d inherited the business, had so quickly adapted to a life she’d never anticipated.
Like her mother, she had a knack with people.
* * *
Later still, long after most of the town had gone to sleep, Dan Kravitz settled down to enjoy the quiet of the night—his favorite time of day. He was feeling more kindly disposed toward the world and its inhabitants, if perhaps only for the moment—a mood no doubt helped, just hours earlier, by his addressing the lingering problem of what to do with Leo Metelica’s dark and ominous Colt .45. He’d dropped it into the Connecticut River.
Not surprisingly, he did know himself well enough to realize that his fears and mistrust would eventually take him back. But for now, life could be worse. He wasn’t in jail—always a plus; his daughter was safe and sound and back to doing the things that gave her pleasure; Hauser—whoever or whatever he’d been—was no longer a concern; Jordan would be dealt with by the police, assuming Ben Underhill hadn’t already acted, which Dan guessed he had; and his dealings with the state’s attorney had led to an acceptable arrangement with the state’s department of corrections—specifically their parole and probation unit.
He now had a corrections handler with the unlikely first name of Clark, who seemed delighted to be dealing with someone who wasn’t a drug dealer, a pervert, or a hardhead disposed to punching people’s faces.
They saw each other once a week.
Dan had a new job as a lawn-care and landscape-maintenance assistant, according to the official listing. It put him outside and working alone, often mowing cemeteries or tending to parks and green spaces that lay far off the beaten path. Clark had proven sensitive to Dan’s needs.
And he had a new apartment, too, as sparsely furnished as always, and as neat as an operating room. It was quiet and on the top floor, and had a separate entrance, which mattered a great deal to him.
He also still had his secret lair. No one had known about that, after all. Not even Sally. So why give it up?
Compromise was a good thing, after all, now and then. Joe Gunther had shown that, as had the prosecutor.
And as Dan was showing now.
He rose from the armchair he’d been enjoying and crossed over to the couple in the large bed at the far end of the bedroom, pausing to pet the cat that lay stretched out on the Turkish rug.
Dan wasn’t going to leave a Post-it note behind, after all, or remove anything from the fridge downstairs.
He’d told Joe that he was done with the Tag Man thing.
And so he was.
OTHER BOOKS BY ARCHER MAYOR
The Price of Malice
The Second Mouse
St. Albans Fire
The Surrogate Thief
The Sniper’s Wife
The Marble Mask
The Disposable Man
The Ragman’s Memory
The Dark Root
Fruits of the Poisonous Tree
The Skeleton’s Knee
Scent of Evil
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
. Copyright © 2011 by Archer Mayor. All rights reserved. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Tag man : a Joe Gunther novel / Archer Mayor. — 1st ed.
1. Gunther, Joe (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Police—Vermont—Fiction. 3. Burglars—Fiction. 4. Murderers—Fiction. 5. Brattleboro (Vt.)—Fiction. I. Title.
First Edition: October 2011