The Lovers: A Charlie Parker Thriller | Chapter 35 of 49

Author: John Connolly | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 7972 Views | Add a Review

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CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

WE WERE COMING TO the end.

“I picked your father up from the Orangetown PD before noon,” said Jimmy. “There were reporters outside, so they put a cop who’d just come off duty in the backseat of an unmarked sedan with a coat over his head, and then they drove him out in an explosion of flashbulbs while I waited at the back of the station house for your father. We drove to a place called Creeley’s in Orangetown. It’s not there anymore. There’s a gas station where it used to be. Back then, it was the kind of bar that did a good burger, kept the lights low, and nobody asked anybody anything beyond ‘Another one?’ or ‘You want fries with that?’ I used to go there with my nephew and my sister sometimes. We don’t talk so much anymore, my sister and me. She lives out in Chicago now. She thought I put my nephew at risk by asking him to do what he did for you and your mother, but we’d been growing apart from each other long before that.”

I didn’t interrupt him. He was circling the awfulness of what was to come, like a dog fearful of taking tainted meat from a stranger’s hand.

“As it happened, there was nobody in the place when we got there, apart from the bartender. I knew him, and he knew me. I guess he might have recognized your father too, but if he did, he didn’t say anything either way. We had coffee, we talked.”

“What did he say?”

Jimmy shrugged, as if it were a matter of no consequence. “He said what Epstein had said: they were the same people. They looked different, but he saw it in their eyes, and the girl’s words and the marking on the boy just confirmed it. That threat of returning. I think of it all the time.”

He seemed to shiver slightly, still water brushed by a cold breeze.

“And then, just before he fired the first shot, he said he could have sworn that their faces changed.”

“Changed?”

“Yeah, changed, just like the woman I killed at Gerritsen, I guess. Best he could explain it, he said it was like a pair of masks that they wore became transparent for an instant, and he saw the things behind them. That was when he pulled the trigger on the boy. He couldn’t even remember killing the girl. He knew that he’d done it; he just couldn’t recall how it had happened.

“After an hour, he asked me to drive him back home, but when we left Creeley’s there were two IAD guys waiting for us. They told me that they’d take Will to the house. They said they were worried about reporters, but I think they just wanted a few more minutes alone with him in the hope that I might have convinced him to come clean. I mean, they knew what he had told them didn’t add up. They were just having trouble finding the cracks in his version. I don’t think he said anything more, though. Later, after he died, they tried to sweat me, but I didn’t tell them anything either. After that, I was pretty much done as a cop. I served out my time at the Ninth, just so I could claim my full benefits and pension.

“So that was the last time I saw Will, as the IAD guys were taking him away. He thanked me for all that I’d done, and he shook my hand. I should have known what was coming then, but I wasn’t looking out for it. We had never shaken hands before, not since the first day we met at the academy. It just wasn’t a thing for us. I watched him go, and then I came back here. The call came through before I’d even had a chance to take off my shoes. It was my nephew who told me. The thing of it was, if you’d asked me then if I was surprised, I’d have said no. Twenty-four hours earlier, I’d have told you it could never happen, Will Parker eating his gun, but, looking back, when we were sitting in Creeley’s I could tell that he wasn’t the same man. He looked old, and beaten. I don’t think he could believe what he had seen, and what he had done. It was just too much for him.

“The funeral was a strange one. I don’t know what you remember of it, but there were people who should have been there but weren’t. The commissioner didn’t show, but that wasn’t a surprise, not for what was being tagged as a murder-suicide. But there were others—brass, mainly, suits from the Puzzle Palace—who stayed away when usually they’d have made an appearance. There was a bad smell around what happened, and they knew it. The papers were all over them, and they didn’t like it. In a way, and you’ll forgive me for saying it, your old man dying was the best thing that could have happened for them. If an inquiry had vindicated him, the press would have hauled them over the fires of hell for it. If the shootings were found to be unjustified, then there would have been a court case, and the cops on the street, and the union, they’d all have been spitting nails. When Will killed himself, they got to bury the whole mess along with him. The investigation into what happened was always set to be inconclusive once he was gone. The only people who knew the truth of what took place on that patch of waste ground were all dead.

“Will got an inspector’s funeral, though, the whole deal. The band played, and there were white gloves and black ribbons, and a folded flag for your mother. Because of the way he went, his benefits were in doubt. You may not know this, but an inspector from Police Plaza, a guy named Jack Stepp, he had a quiet word with your mother as she was walking back to the funeral car. Stepp was the commissioner’s fixer, the guy who cleaned up behind the scenes. He told her that she’d be taken care of, and she was. They paid the benefits under the table. Somebody made sure that she was done right by, that you were both looked after.

“Epstein contacted me after the funeral. He didn’t attend. I don’t know why. I think it was too high profile for him, and he’s not a high-profile guy. He came here, to this house, and he sat in the chair that you’re sitting in now, and he asked me what I knew about the killings, and I told him the same thing that I’ve told you, all of it. Then he went away, and I never saw him again. I didn’t even speak to him until you came along asking questions, and then Wallace turned up after you, and I felt that I had to inform Epstein. Wallace I wasn’t worried about so much: there are ways that these things can be handled, and I figured he could be frightened off if the need arose. But you: I knew you’d keep coming back, that once you’d gotten it into your head to go nosing around in the dirt, then you wouldn’t stop until you came up with bones. Epstein told me that his people were already working on stopping Wallace, and that I should tell you what I knew.”

He sat back in his chair, spent.

“So now you know everything.”

“And you kept it hidden all this time?”

“I didn’t even discuss it with your mother and, to tell you the truth, I was kind of glad when she said she was taking you up to Maine. It made me feel like I didn’t have to be responsible for you. It made me feel that I could pretend to forget everything.”

“Would you ever have told me if I hadn’t come asking?”

“No. What good would it have done?” Then he seemed to reconsider. “Look, I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve read about you, and I’ve heard the stories about the people you’ve found, and the men and women you’ve killed. All those cases have been touched by something strange. Maybe, in the last couple of years, I’ve thought that you should be told so that—”

He was struggling to find the right words.

“So that what?”

He settled upon them, although not happily. “So that you’d be ready for them when they came again,” he said.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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