A Ticket to the Boneyard (Matthew Scudder Series #8)by Lawrence Block
Twelve years ago, Matthew Scudder lied to a jury to put James Leo Motley behind bars. Now the ingenious psychopath is free. And the alcoholic ex-cop-turned-p.i. must pay dearly for his sins. Friends and former lovers -- even strangers unfortunate enough to share Scudder's name -- are turning up dead. Because a vengeful maniac is determined not to rest until he's
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Twelve years ago, Matthew Scudder lied to a jury to put James Leo Motley behind bars. Now the ingenious psychopath is free. And the alcoholic ex-cop-turned-p.i. must pay dearly for his sins. Friends and former lovers -- even strangers unfortunate enough to share Scudder's name -- are turning up dead. Because a vengeful maniac is determined not to rest until he's driven his nemesis back to the bottle...and then to the boneyard.
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New York had a cold snap that year right around the time of the World Series. Oakland and the Dodgers were in it, so our weather didn't affect the outcome. The Dodgers surprised everybody and won it in five, with Kirk Gibson and Hershiser providing the heroics. The Mets, who'd led their division since Opening Day, were in it through seven playoff games. They had the power and the pitching, but the Dodgers had something more. Whatever it was, it carried them all the way.
I watched one of the games at a friend's apartment and another at a saloon called Grogan's Open House and the rest in my hotel room. The weather stayed cold through the end of October and there were speculative stories in the papers about long hard winters. On the local news shows, reporters took camera crews to farms in Ulster County and got rustics to point out the thick coats on the livestock and the woolly fur on the caterpillars. Then the first week of November Indian summer came along and people were out on the streets in their shirtsleeves.
It was football season, but the New York teams weren't showing much. Cincinnati and Buffalo and the Bears were shaping up as the power in the NFL, and the best Giants linebacker since Sam Huff drew a thirty-day suspension for substance abuse, which was the current euphemism for cocaine. The first time this had happened he'd told reporters that he had learned a valuable lesson. This time he declined all interviews.
I kept busy and enjoyed the warm weather. I was doing some per diem work for a detective agency, an outfit called Reliable Investigations with offices in the Flatiron Building at Twenty-third and Broadway. Theirclients ran heavily to attorneys representing plaintiffs in negligence suits, and my work consisted largely of tracing potential witnesses and getting preliminary statements from them. I didn't like it much, but it would look good on paper if I decided to get myself properly credentialed as a licensed private investigator. I wasn't sure that I wanted to do this, but I wasn't sure that I didn't, and in the meantime I could keep busy and earn a hundred dollars a day.
I was between relationships. I guess that's what they call it. I had been keeping company for a while with a woman named Jan Keane, and that had ended some time ago. I wasn't certain it was done forever, but it was done for now, and the little dating I'd done since had led nowhere. Most evenings I went to AA meetings, and afterward I generally hung out with friends from the program until it was time to go home and to bed. Sometimes, perversely, I went and hung out in a saloon instead, drinking Coke or coffee or soda water. That's not recommended, and I knew that, but I did it anyway.
Then, on a Tuesday night about ten days into the warm weather, the god who plays pinball with my world turned a shoulder to the machine and lurched into it. And the Tilt sign came on, bright and clear.
I had spent most of the day finding and interviewing a ferret-faced little man named Neudorf, who had presumably witnessed a collision involving a Radio Shack delivery van and a bicycle. Reliable had been retained by the bicyclist's attorney, and Neudorf was supposed to be able to testify that the van's driver had thrown open the door of his vehicle in such a manner that the bicyclist could not avoid running right into it.
Our client was one of those ambulance chasers who advertise on television, and he made his money on volume. His case looked solid enough, with or without Neudorf's testimony, and it figured to be settled out of court, but in the meantime everybody had to go through the motions. I was getting a hundred dollars a day for my part in the dance, and Neudorf was trying to find out what he could get for his. "I dunno," he kept saying. "You spend a couple days in court, you got your expenses, you got your loss of income, and you wanna do the right thing but how can you afford to do it, you know what I mean?"
I knew what he meant. I knew, too, that his testimony was worth nothing if we paid him for it and not much more than that if he wasn't well motivated to supply it. I let him think he'd get paid off under the table when he testified in court, and meanwhile I got his signature on a strong preliminary statement that might help our client get the case settled.
I didn't really care how the case was resolved. Both parties looked to be at fault. Neither one had been paying sufficient attention. It cost the van a door, and it cost the girt on the bicycle a broken arm and two broken teeth. She deserved to get something out of it, if not the three million dollars her lawyer was asking for. As far as that went, maybe Neudorf deserved something, too. Expert witnesses in civil and criminal proceedings get paid all the time -- psychiatrists and forensics experts, lining up on one side or the other and contradicting the experts on the other side. Why not pay eyewitnesses, too? Why not pay everybody?
I wrapped up Neudorf around three, went back to Reliable's offices and typed up my report. AA Intergroup has its offices in the Flatiron Building, so I stopped on my way out and answered phones for an hour. People call there all the time, out-of-town visitors looking for a meeting, drunks who are beginning to suspect that something may not be working for them, and people coming off a bender and looking for help...A Ticket to the Boneyard. Copyright © by Lawrence Block. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Meet the Author
Lawrence Block is one of the most widely recognized names in the mystery genre. He has been named a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America and is a four-time winner of the prestigious Edgar and Shamus Awards, as well as a recipient of prizes in France, Germany, and Japan. He received the Diamond Dagger from the British Crime Writers' Association—only the third American to be given this award. He is a prolific author, having written more than fifty books and numerous short stories, and is a devoted New Yorker and an enthusiastic global traveler.
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Excellent writing with a fascinating moral issue that simultaneously attracted and repelled me from Scudder. Concise, no-nonsense writing with a compelling story. I seek out any of Block's Scudder books or his Burglar books. His Hit man series so far pales in comparison. Long live Lawrence Block!