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A TOWN GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER
Beneath the glamour of a trendy Hamptons summer town lies another world–one of dark lives and desperate secrets. And when Labor Day arrives and the beautiful people depart, locals like Declan MacManus are left behind to make a living out of just surviving. A sometime P.I., MacManus is an expert at self-defense and a master of self-destruction,...
A TOWN GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER
Beneath the glamour of a trendy Hamptons summer town lies another world–one of dark lives and desperate secrets. And when Labor Day arrives and the beautiful people depart, locals like Declan MacManus are left behind to make a living out of just surviving. A sometime P.I., MacManus is an expert at self-defense and a master of self-destruction, but nothing he’s seen of the dark side of fortune can prepare him for what he is about to discover.
On a dark, deserted road Mac witnesses a bizarre, single-car wreck, but he knows that what he saw was murder. Following a trail of clues to a chilling conspiracy, Mac is running out of time, out of chances, and out of luck. He is about to become part of a secret no one is willing to talk about . . .
It was dark when I left my apartment above the Hansom House and went down the two flights of stairs to the street below to wait for Frank Gannon. The stretch of gray clouds hanging low overhead had cores the color of lead, and the few spaces of night between them were starless and empty. I would have been warmer had I remained up in my rooms and watched for Frank from my living room window, but it seemed to me that the early night air was the place to be right then. Frank had called me in the morning and told me that he would come by around five, after I had gotten home from work. It was just five now and I was ready for him, wrapped against the cold in a secondhand overcoat with torn seams, waiting at the curb and wondering a little just what it was he wanted from me now.
I tried to stay clear of Frank as a rule, but Southampton is a small town, particularly in the winter. He had done me a favor when I was in a jam with the chief of police not too far back, but I had paid that off three months ago and was not expecting to hear from him again. He had a phobia about talking on the telephone, so he had hung up this morning before I had the chance to tell him to go to hell. He had simply said, "It's Frank, we need to talk. I'll find you after work." And then he hung up. My first instinct was to pretend I hadn't heard him, but by breakfast I knew there really was no point in that.
The wind was out of the south, an ocean wind, and it stung my face and ears and pried through the weak seams in my coat like long fingers. Just two nights ago it had been Indian summer, days in the seventies, nights in the fifties. In my rooms above, and in thedark bar below, windows remained opened to the mild night air.
The clientele of the Hansom House, mainly local laborers and artists, had sat in their summer clothes at the crowded bar and on the half-dozen overstuffed antique sofas in the main room, listening to live music. One night it was three white boys playing reggae, another it was a jazz quintet made up of kids under twenty.
The Hansom House was an old three-story wreck that had been turned a quarter of a century ago by a local artist into a funky bar and restaurant with apartments above. It was something of a holdout for us year-rounders, and this annual stretch of warm days and nights that came always somewhere between October and Christmas was the hard-earned summer vacation we counted on.
But now, and suddenly, it seemed that winter was here, that maybe it had been here all along. These warm nights had been an illusion or trick. The old elm trees that lined my street were bare, and their branches tapped and hissed in the steady wind. The leaves tumbling across the pavement were dead and brittle and sounded like the quick scuffling feet of the last people to leave town.
I saw headlights turn onto the far end of Elm Street a few hundred feet away and head toward me. I could see that they didn't belong to a silver Cadillac Seville, Frank's car, but instead to an old-style Checker cab that had been long ago repainted red. It was Eddie's cab, and it was slowing down for me.
It pulled over to the curb, its wide tires rubbing against the concrete. Eddie leaned across the seat and jerked the handle of the back door. It swung out, and immediately I smelled clove oil and the pungent odor of cigar.
"You'll freeze to death out here, Mac."
He had been on the East End for almost twenty years, but his Jamaican accent remained for the most part intact. The thick bristles that grew from his face were dull silver, like metal shavings, and by the shape of his face you could tell that he was missing most of his back teeth. What remained were yellowed and seemed to always have an unlit cigar wedged somewhere between them. He didn't smoke as a courtesy to his passengers.
Eddie had a way of sometimes knowing things that went on around town before anyone else did, and there were times when he sought me out to fill me in on what he knew, when he thought I might do well to know. We didn't in any way socialize, but our paths crossed often enough, and he was there for me in one way or another more times than I could remember.
I leaned forward to tell him that I was waiting for someone, but before I could speak, he said, "Frank Gannon sent me to get you. Come on, get in, it's cold. I'll take you to his office, my friend."
The heated air blowing from the vents under the dashboard felt good. It flowed past me and disappeared fast into the cold night.
Eddie steered us away from the curb and to the end of Elm Street, then turned left and passed the empty train station, then turned left again onto North Main and headed us toward the village. Frank's office was about a mile away, across the alley from the Village Hall, where the police station was. For the past few months I had gone out of my way to avoid either of those places, staying clear of that whole corner of town. It seemed the smart thing to do, and I wasn't happy about being driven toward it now.
The first quarter of a mile Eddie and I rode in silence. I saw that his eyes were fixed on me in the rearview mirror.
"Cold came suddenly," he said.
He glanced at the road ahead, then back at me again. "You back working for him again?"
We came to the stoplight on the corner of Newtown Road and Main Street. The village was ahead of us and looked empty; there were maybe a dozen cars lining the length of Main. Frank's office was just beyond our sight. We'd be there in less than a minute.
The clouds over the village were low, brushing the treetops, flying like phantom ships racing into the east. I watched this for a moment, then turned my head and looked into the reflection of Eddie's eyes in the rearview mirror.
I watched his bloodshot eyes. He usually worked sixteen-hour days just to make ends meet. He never charged me a cent for any of the rides he had given me over the years.
"He's a dangerous man," he said. "You know that."
Eddie looked forward after a moment and waited for the light to change. It was obvious from what was around us that within a month Southampton would be little more than a ghost town, and Eddie and I and everyone else like us would be in on that long haul to spring.
His office was dimly lit and sparsely furnished. It ran the length of the top floor of the narrow building. Frank was behind his desk when I came in, reading a file with a look of concentration. He gestured eagerly for me to come in and take a seat on the leather couch by the door. I passed and stood leaning against the brick wall, my hands deep in my overcoat pockets, my eyes on the bare trees outside the storefront window that overlooked Main Street.
A smaller window in the back of that long room overlooked the parking lot behind the Village Hall, where the police patrol cars were parked. Frank could watch the shift change from there and know, if he wanted, which cops were out on any given night. Everyone in town knew this about him. And Frank made a point of letting everyone know.
He glanced up from his reading and looked at me over his half-frame glasses. "Thanks for being on time, MacManus."
The only light on in the room was the desktop reading lamp by his right elbow, but I could see him well enough by it. He was fifty-five or so, not very tall but thick through the torso, built like a keg. He wore his black hair slicked back and his dark mustache thick but trimmed just above his upper lip.
"What do you want, Frank?"
He closed the folder, then removed his reading glasses and dropped them on the desktop. He leaned back in his chair, the springs protesting under his weight, and rubbed the bridge of his nose between his index finger and thumb. He seemed genuinely tired, but I really didn't care.
"Augie's coming back to work for me, starting tomorrow night. Did you know about that?"
"Augie's a grown man."
"Grown up more than most people I know. Always has been. See, I don't like to turn friends down when they come to me for help, especially a friend like Augie. They don't come any better than him. And I know how much he wants to get back to work and put the 'accident' and the past six months behind him. But the truth of it is, he isn't one hundred percent yet. If he wants to work, he's got to work with a partner at first. But of course he'll only partner with one person."
"He'd know I was there to baby-sit him. He'd see through the both of us in a second."
"Not if we told him you were tired of driving around without car insurance and you broke down and came to me for some work."
I wanted to ask Frank how he knew that my insurance had lapsed, but I didn't bother.
"It's simple, Mac. You didn't know he was coming back to work for me, right? So when you came to me tonight it was because you didn't think it was wise driving around without coverage anymore, what with things being the way they are between you and the Chief. You needed money, and I was the only place you could turn. He'll buy it because he has no choice otherwise."
Last May a kid from the high school where Augie's fifteen-year-old daughter, Tina, went died from a heroin overdose. The kid had bought the drugs on school grounds, and when he heard this, Augie waged a one-man war against the pusher. It ended with Augie almost being beaten to death in his own house after taking surveillance photographs of a major player in the local heroin trade. That man was dead now, and the man we believed he had hired to beat Augie, an ugly ex-boxer named Searls, was in prison and blind. I had taken out both his eyes in a fight when he had come after Tina.
Augie had spent three months in the hospital and another four pushing himself toward a full recovery. He had retired from the DEA a few years ago and returned to the East End to live a quiet life. It had been anything but that.
We had met during my brief stint with Frank and had been friends since. Augie was the only man, outside of Eddie, whom I trusted. I wouldn't let anything happen to him, no matter what the cost, to me or anyone else. And Frank knew this, knew this well.
"What's the job?"
"A father wants his son-in-law tailed, thinks the young man has something on the side. Simple documentation. Easy."
"You need two men for that?"
"One to drive, one to take pretty pictures," he said. "The client has very deep pockets, and he wants results. No bullshit, MacManus. I'm telling you exactly how it is, take it or leave it."
"Except, of course, I can't leave it."
Frank sighed and looked down at his hands folded now over his stomach. His fingers were thick, his hands probably twice the mass of mine. "You know, when Augie walked in here with that cane, I wondered, 'Who the hell is this cripple?' To be honest, I don't think he's going to cut it. I think he's setting himself up for a hard fall. But I owe him a shot, if that's what he wants."
The sound of a car door slamming shut echoed up from just below the front window. Frank looked toward it curiously but didn't get up to check. He just sat there for a moment, alert, listening and waiting for the sound of the street door opening and footsteps moving up his stairs.
I saw the world he lived in then, the world he had created for himself. Maybe for a second I felt for him, but only a second.
"If I do this, Frank, I don't get paid. We have to be clear on this up front. I'm not working for you. That's not why I'm here."
He watched me then, the way a father would a son he didn't understand. He paid well, and I could have used the money badly, everyone knew that. But I didn't ever want to need money badly enough to where I'd take it from a P.I. like Frank Gannon.
"Look, however you want it, MacManus." He was still staring at me, but I got the sense then that maybe a part of him had just given up on me. There was real comfort in that. "There's no reason to make an opera out of it."
I nodded at that. "Good." I removed my right hand from my overcoat pocket and reached for the doorknob. As far as I was concerned, we were done. But I wasn't fooled by the pitch. There was more to this, and I just wanted to see it coming before it hit. "See you around, Frank," I said.
"Take it easy, kid."
It was the next night that we parked on the shoulder of a narrow back road on the edge of town and waited.
There was nothing where we were but the kind of stillness and darkness you'd expect to find so far from the heart of things. There were fields around us, dormant farm fields, and border trees that stood in the distance like hedges of briar against a sky. There was no wind, but it was cold enough without it. The air outside the cab of Augie's pickup truck was arctic air, killing air, and even with the heater running full blast the glass around us was as cold as metal to the touch. I was glad to be inside.
Augie beside me, I was behind the wheel, his camera equipment between us. He was wearing an army field jacket and scarf over a heavy knit sweater, jeans, and Timberland boots. All I had over my jeans and thermal shirt and ten-year-old work boots was my ratty overcoat. I kept my bare hands tucked inside my coat pockets.
Posted May 22, 2002
An impressive first effort by Mr. Judson. There is action right from the start, and the pace never let's up. Just when I thought that I had figured out who was behind the bizarre single-car wreck (murder) witnessed by the protagonist, Mac, the author threw me another curve and I was back to square one. It was a fun trip to the end. The other thing I enjoyed was the depth of Judson's main character, Mac. He was a three dimensional man, not just another super hero accomplishing the seemingly impossible. Such depth should lend itself well to the series which author Judson promises.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 21, 2002
In Southampton, Long Island, private investigator Frank Gannon hires Declan MacManus to tail a client¿s son-in-law who might be cheating. Declan wants to say no, but cannot allow his best friend Augie, still recovering from severe injuries, to go on the case alone. <P>Augie and Declan conduct a stakeout in a lonely back road when they notice a person in the nearby woods. Soon a car arrives followed by explosion with the vehicle falling into a pond. Declan pulls the driver out of the water, but is too late to save the teenage girl. Because of his poor relationship with the police chief, Declan leaves the area. Later, Augie informs Declan that the police destroyed the crime scene evidence. That night both men are separately attacked with Augie killing one of his assailants and Declan badly injuring his. The police arrest Augie for murder, forcing Declan to take his buddy¿s teenage daughter into his home while trying to prove his friend¿s innocence against a conspiracy that includes the police. <P> THE BONE ORCHARD is an exciting private detective mystery that belies the fact that this book is D. Daniel Judson¿s first novel. The story line is loaded with action as readers take a tour of the underbelly of the Hamptons. Declan adheres to what he believes is morally correct and is aided by the secondary characters providing depth so that readers fully grasp how much ethics mean to him and how much future appearances by him will mean to the audience. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.