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Home > Gone for Good(10)

Gone for Good(10)
Author: Harlan Coben

“You love your wife?”

“Yes.”

“So if I came to you and made demands and threats involving her, what would you do?”

Pistillo nodded slowly. “If you worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, I’d tell her to cooperate.”

“Just like that?”

“Well”—he raised his index finger—“with one caveat.”

“What’s that?”

“That she was innocent. If she’s innocent, I’d have no fears.”

“So you wouldn’t wonder what it was all about?”

“Wonder? Sure. Demand to know . . .” He let his voice trail off. “Let me ask you a hypothetical now.”

He paused. I sat up.

“I know that you think your brother is dead.”

Another pause. I stayed quiet.

“But suppose you found out that he’s alive and hiding—and suppose on top of that, you found out he killed Julie Miller.” He sat back. “Hypothetically, of course. This is all just a hypothetical.”

“Go on,” I said.

“Well, what would you do? Would you turn him in? Would you tell him he’s on his own? Or would you help him?”

More silence.

I said, “You didn’t bring me here to play hypotheticals.”

“No,” he said, “I didn’t.”

There was a computer monitor on the right side of his desk. He turned the screen so that I could see it. Then he pressed some buttons. A color image came up, and something inside me clenched.

An ordinary-looking room. Tall lamp in the corner overturned. Beige carpet. Coffee table on its side. A mess. Like a tornado aftermath or something. But in the center of the room, a man lay in a puddle of what I assumed was blood. The blood was dark, beyond crimson, beyond rust, almost black. The man lay face-up, his arms and legs splayed in such way that he looked like he’d been dropped from a great height.

As I looked at the image on the monitor, I could feel Pistillo’s eyes on me, gauging my reaction. My eyes flicked to his and then back at the screen.

He pressed the keyboard. Another image replaced the blood-soaked one. The same room. The lamp was out of sight now. Blood still stained the carpet—but there was another body now, this one curled up in the fetal position. The first man wore a black T-shirt and black pants. This one wore a flannel shirt and blue jeans.

Pistillo hit another key. Now the photograph was wide framed. Both bodies now. The first in the center of the room. The second, closer to the door. I could see only one face—from this angle it was not a familiar one—but the other was blocked from view.

Panic rose up in me. Ken, I thought. Could one of them be . . . ?

But then I remembered their questions. This wasn’t about Ken.

“These pictures were taken in Albuquerque, New Mexico, over the weekend,” Pistillo said.

I frowned. “I don’t understand.”

“The crime scene was something of a mess, but we still found some hairs and fibers.” He smiled at me. “I’m not great on the technical aspects of our work. They have tests nowadays that you simply can’t believe. But sometimes it’s still the classics that get you through the day.”

“Am I supposed to know what you’re talking about?”

“Someone had wiped the place pretty good, but the crime-scene people still lifted a set of fingerprints—one clean set that didn’t belong to either of the victims. We ran them through the computer and got a hit early this morning.” He leaned forward and the smile was gone now. “You want to make a guess?”

I saw Sheila, my beautiful Sheila, staring out the window.

“I’m sorry, Will.”

“They belong to your girlfriend, Mr. Klein. The same one with a criminal record. The same one we’re suddenly having a lot of trouble finding.”

6

Elizabeth, New Jersey

They were near the cemetery now.

Philip McGuane sat in the back of his handcrafted Mercedes limousine—a stretch model equipped with armor-reinforced sides and bulletproof one-way windows at a cost of four hundred thou—and stared out at the blur of fast-food restaurants, tacky stores, and aged strip malls. A scotch and soda, freshly mixed in the limo’s wet bar, was cupped in his right hand. He looked down at the amber liquor. Steady. That surprised him.

“You okay, Mr. McGuane?”

McGuane turned to his companion. Fred Tanner was huge, the approximate size and consistency of a city brownstone. His hands were manhole covers with sausagelike fingers. His gaze was one of supreme confidence. Old school, Tanner was—still with his shellac-shiny suit and the ostentatious pinky ring. Tanner always wore the ring, a garish, oversize gold thing, twisting and toying with it whenever he spoke.

“I’m fine,” McGuane lied.

The limousine exited Route 22 at Parker Avenue. Tanner kept fiddling with the pinky ring. He was fifty, a decade and a half older than his boss. His face was a weathered monument of harsh planes and right angles. His hair was meticulously mowed into a severe crew cut. McGuane knew that Tanner was very good—a cold, disciplined and lethal son of a bitch for whom mercy was about as relevant a concept as feng shui. Tanner was adept at using those huge hands or a potpourri of firearms. He had gone up against some of the cruelest and had always come out on top.

But this, McGuane knew, was taking it to a whole new level.

“Who is this guy anyway?” Tanner asked.

McGuane shook his head. His own suit was a hand-tailored Joseph Abboud. He rented three floors on Manhattan’s lower west side. In another era, McGuane might have been called a consigliore or capo or some such nonsense. But that was then, this is now. Gone (long gone, despite what Hollywood might want you to believe) were the days of backroom hangouts and velour sweats—days Tanner undoubtedly still longed for. Now you had offices and a secretary and a computer-generated payroll. You paid taxes. You owned legit businesses.

But you were no better.

“And why we driving way out here anyway?” Tanner went on. “He should come to you, no?”

McGuane didn’t reply. Tanner wouldn’t understand.

If the Ghost wants to meet, you meet.

Didn’t matter who you were. To refuse would mean that the Ghost would come to you. McGuane had excellent security. He had good people. But the Ghost was better. He had patience. He would study you. He would wait for an opening. And then he would find you. Alone. You knew that.

No, better to get it over with. Better to go to him.

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