Friday, January 8, 2010
“Fifty thousand by Monday! She's out of her mind. What did you tell her?”
“I told her that she was out of her mind.”
“God damn right. It'll kill the restaurant.”
“The restaurant! The restaurant? Fuck the restaurant, Jo. She sends them to Paduano, we go to jail.”
“She's bluffing. If she sends them to Paduano what does she get?”
“I don't give a shit. She sends the photos...”
“She gets nothing.”
“What are you saying? Give her nothing?”
“No. I don't know." Jo punched up figures on the computer. "Fifty thousand.”
“How much do we have?”
“Cash? Right now? Fifteen.”
“Another ten in the tax account.”
“And by Monday night?”
“I don't know.”
“You got a band playing this weekend, right?”
“That's all of our cash. It'll kill us.”
"Kill the restaurant. Not us."
“She said we should rob ourselves. That it's your specialty.”
“She said that? She can go straight to hell and burn. What does she know? Never owned a thing in her life.”
“It's not the worst idea. We'd get it back in insurance.”
"Fish, it's not that easy."
"Why? It was easy at Edgar's."
"It wasn't. It was a mess. You think you cry "robbery" and they just write you a check? It takes months if you're lucky. And how do we know this is it? How do we know she won't be back in a week, a month wanting more? She always comes back. It's her specialty."
“She's giving us the negatives.”
“Giving you,” said Jo.
“I said she's giving the negatives to you."
“What are you saying, Jo? I'm gonna take the money and go?”
"And at a track. Where you had your first date and fucked her. Isn't that sweet"
“I didn't fuck anybody,” Fisher said. Jo snorted with disbelief.
“Look at these! The Photos are of me, Jo. Of me at the scene. Where in the world am I going to go?”
Jo looked haggard, there were circles under her eyes from lack of sleep, she was skinny as a rail. She smiled like a joker in a deck of cards. “He's laughing at us, Fish.”
“Jack. Wherever he is, he is laughing his ass off.”
"The way I see it," said Fisher, "she only leaves us two choices. One: Fake a robbery and pay her."
Fisher heard Paduano before he saw him. The Rosehill detective, huffing like a freight train, plopped down in the seat next to Fisher and wiped his brow with a handkerchief the size of a towel.
“Getting to be a regular Floridian, Detective.”
“Just trying to tie up this Landy business.”
“How's that coming?”
“I found Robin Grant.”
“She been staying at a series of motels. The last one being 'The Manatee'. Unfortunately she ran out before I got there. But I know she's around.”
“The Manatee is not far from your restaurant. Did she come by?”
“I wouldn't know her if I tripped over her,” said Fisher.
“Mrs. Landy mention seeing her?”
“Mrs. Fisher, you mean.”
“Sorry. Mrs. Fisher.”
“No. She didn't mention it.”
Fisher did his best to concentrate on the game, but he could feel Paduano's stare boring through him. Let him stare, Fisher thought, if he didn't have Sarah, he didn't have a thing. He was just rattling the cage. On the field the manager was slowly strolling out to the mound. The sparse crowd, growing impatient, started to clap for action.
“You know Fisher,” Paduano said, “I think you're in trouble. Matter of fact, I know it.”
“I'm doing fine, Detective.”
The manager finally signaled to the bullpen.
“There's a warrant being sworn out against you in Nassau County for assaulting a man named Savulage outside of Windward Horse Track.”
“Bunch of shit,” said Fisher watching a tall lean kid run in from the bullpen.
“Pat Davis, he's the head of security out there at Winward, he and Mr. Savulage remain convinced that you are their man. Now, I could have that warrant disappear. Davis and I do each other favors now and then.”
“Why would you do that?” said Fisher.
“Because you're going to give me Robin Grant. And I'm not bullshitting.”
The Public Address announced the new pitcher. “Gaston, number 45, Gaston.”
“I'd ask your wife, but she's been telling some stories,” said Paduano.
“Like she doesn't know Robin Grant.”
“She does?” Gaston's first pitch was lined into the left-center field alley. Fisher instinctively rose to his feet.
“She knows her,” said Paduano. “I got a friend on the force down here used to work narcotics in the Keys. He tells me Grant and your wife were running together for years. Even before Jack Landy.”
“I don't believe it”, said Fisher, sitting back down.
“I can give you my friend's number. He's in Coral Gables.”
“What did he say?”
“He said for three, four years, Grant and Mrs. Landy cohabited a bungalow in the Sugarloaf Keys, dealing pot out of a vegetarian take-out stand out on U.S. 1. I went down and checked it out with the landlady. I made a copy of the lease. Both Grant and your wife's name were on the lease.
“That's right. When Landy came on board, they expanded the operation, dealing by car all the way up the coast. They were doing steady business until my buddy got a tip and busted Robin Grant. She ended up serving twenty-seven months, but because she kept her mouth shut no charges were ever brought against the Landys. I take it this is news to you?”
Fisher managed to nod. On the field, Gaston was being lit-up like a Christmas tree, line drives careening off the walls, runners circling the bases.
“So now Robin Grant...” Paduano continued, “someone your wife has known all her life is suddenly a mystery to her. Grant's car is seen outside the restaurant the night Mr. Landy has a very odd and fatal accident, and when we ask Mrs. Landy, all she can do is say 'never heard of her.' ”
Fisher had stopped correcting Paduano as to his wife's new last name. Intentionally or unintentionally, Paduano was leaving him out of all of this. There was no reason to dissuade him.
“You're saying Robin Grant killed Jack Landy?”
“Let's try it out,” said Paduano. “Robin Grant killed Landy. Mrs. Landy gets the restaurant, Grant gets... paid off? I don't know. But Mrs. Landy sells the restaurant and moves to Florida. She opens a new restaurant and her sister shows up looking for whatever she thinks she has coming. She did the time for the Landys in the Keys, she did the killing in Rosehill, so she figures her sister owes her bigtime. But now Mrs. Landy has taken on a new partner. You. But these two have always been the real partners. Before Landy, who is now dead. And... before you.”
“What if Robin Grant killed Landy on her own?”
“Yeah, but why? What does she get? No, I like my way better. And if I'm right...”
...“Well, Fisher, I don't know what kind of shit you're swimming in, but I'd watch it.”
Fisher drove the long way home. Paduano had worked it all out for him. The lentil connection. Sister Sarah/Robin was “the friend who got busted”, the one whose arrest convinced Landy to get out of the dope business. Sarah kept her mouth shut and Jo and Landy went free. So, Jo owed Sarah for much more than faking a robbery at Edgar's. The whole time, it had been Jo and Sarah the whole time. Yeah, Paduano had it worked it all out, worked out everything except for the jerk who killed Jack Landy. Jo needed someone else to do that. And she picked him. She picked him at the track. She picked him as she watched him brutally beat Savulage.
A siren wailed off in the distance. There's a baby crying somewhere, thought Fisher, the boils of life start early.
He remembered how good it felt when he reared back and kicked Savulage, feeling his shoe going deep into the man's flesh until it met bone. "Laugh at me, will you?"
What did Jack Landy call him in the basement of Edgar's? “Smalltime.” He called him “smalltime”. The last losing thought of a loser.
Who is “smalltime” now? Let him know how the wheel comes round, how justice means getting even. “Smalltime”.
Now the facts of the conspiracy played over and over on the interior loop in his mind. “I know Jo,” Sarah said. Damn right she did. What else was she doing there that night outside of Edgar's? With a camera? A camera? Like she carries it around with her everywhere she goes. You don't have a camera unless you know, unless you're there to document. They're setting me up, thought Fisher. They're lining up my balls like a putt.
He waited for Jo at the condo. If she had walked through the door right then, he would've killed her, choked her by the neck until her head flopped back and forth like a doll. But she didn't come. He drank a shot of tequila, and then another, and then another. He walked into her closet. He went through her clothes dress by dress until he found the one he wanted, the killer dress she wore that night at the harness track.
He was addicted to her; if ever in his life he told himself the truth, this was it. What were those twenty questions they asked you at meetings? “Has your addiction caused you to committed an illegal act?” “Has your addiction made you careless to your own personal welfare?” He curled up into a ball on the floor of the closet and prayed for all of it not to be true. “Please, please, please,” he begged the gods he never believed in. “Make it not be true.” If she asks me to do it, I'll know, he thought. If she says “You do it”, then he would know his prayers had not been answered.
Jo came home past midnight with steamed Cajun shrimp and Pacifico beer from the Sloop. They ate off paper plates in the kitchen and calmly planned the fake break-in.
“In order to collect the insurance,” Jo said, “ it has to look real. It can't be half-assed or they'll see right through it.”
“Uh-huh.” Through the kitchen window, Fisher watched a boat cruising along the Manatee River, the green of its running lights glowing in the starless night.
“The safe has to be bashed in, completely smashed. The office has to be physically turned upside down, everything everywhere. Trashed.”
“Trashed, bashed and smashed,” said Fisher.
“The thing is,” Jo said. “...who is going to do it? I mean it's got to be one of us. No one else. No more outsiders.”
“No outsider,” Fisher agreed. On the river, the boat had cleared, the waves from its wake lapped against the bank.
“You want the last shrimp?”
"No you take it.”
He watched her peel off the shell, cool as a shadow, they could have been talking about the price of pickled peppers.
“So, who is going to do it? I mean, I could. I could do it. I can trash the hell out of the place. I know what files to throw, you know, stuff I have duplicates of.”
“Good. Fine. Good.” Jo held the beer bottle half-way to her mouth, as if she was thinking about something.
“Just, the thing is... the safe.”
“What about it?”
“To smash it in, to really smash it in... I mean it's a big safe. It's not like at Edgar's. You got to really...”
“Exactly And the thing is... maybe I'm not strong enough.”
“So you're saying?”
“I think it's got to be...”
“Me,” said Fisher.
“Yeah. With the safe and all. Got to be you.”