Four years ago, Lew Fonesca's wife Catherine was struck and killed in a hit-and-run. Grief-stricken, he fled to Chicago and wound up in Sarasota, Florida where he's made a living as a process server. Four years on, he's still savoring his depression like fine wine, and his therapistand sparring partnerhas had enough. It's time, she tells Lew, to get on with his life. Time to go back to Chicago and find out what really happened to his wife.
Lew hates to admit it, but Ann Horowitz might be right. Even if it kills him, he has to know the truth about his wife's death. So he returns to his home, his family, his friendsand a mystery.
He's resolved to dig until he finds out who killed his wife. In doing so, he'll uncover both sweet and painful memories of his past. He'll also confront a murderer who'll not hesitate to kill again to make sure hidden secrets stay buried.
About the Author
Stuart Kaminsky is an Edgar Award winner who has more than fifty published novels to his credit and who The Mystery Writers of America have named as their 2006 Grand Master, MWA's highest honor. Always Say Goodbye is the fourth title in the Lew Fonesca series (following Vengeance, Retribution, and Midnight Pass). Kaminsky is also the author of the Inspector Rostnikov, Toby Peters, and Abe Lieberman mystery series. He lives with his family in Sarasota, Florida.
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Always Say GoodbyeA Lew Fonesca Mystery
By Kaminsky, Stuart M.
Forge BooksCopyright © 2006 Kaminsky, Stuart M.
All right reserved.
Three Years and Two Months Later
Lew had come to Sarasota more than four years ago wanting no place to go, nothing to do, no people to be responsible for or to be responsible for him.
It didn't happen. He wanted the dark cell of his existence behind the Dairy Queen on 301. Two small rooms overlooking the parking lot, hard to find. Almost none of his business came through the door. He had a Florida process server's license and an arrangement with four law firms to serve papers. Not much money. But more than enough for him.
He wanted each day to be a dark blanket that no one pulled back to let in the light. That seldom happened. And today he was neatly and reluctantly putting aside his search for solitude.
Lew's first stop that morning was the EZ Economy automobile rental down the street. Once there had been two men there. For a couple of years Lew thought they were father and son or two brothers. They weren't.
They were a comedy team whose only appreciative audience was each other. Lew was one of their favorite targets as they drank coffee out of Styrofoam cups or stood with arms folded and negotiated.
The older of the two, Fred, had died a few months ago. Bad heart. Lew had never told him that he shared his name with a hog. Lew thought the company, which hadnever been a thriving business, would close. But it didn't.
"Lewis Fonesca," Alan, the bulky survivor of the duo, said from behind the desk, feet up, rubbing the sides of the cup. Coffee steamed between his hands. He watched it. "What can I do for you?"
"A car," Lew said.
"Tampa airport. Be gone I don't know how long."
"I'm going to find the person who killed my wife," Lew said.
"Good luck," Alan said. "Take whatever car you want. The Saturn's still in good shape. A few scratches. I think you put a few of them there."
He shrugged and looked for secrets or the face of his dead partner in the coffee cup.
"I don't know," he said. "Twenty-five."
"No, for whatever time you have it. Hell, you can own the damned thing for fifty bucks. I'm having a going-out-of-business sale."
He reached into the desk drawer, came up with two keys on a small metal hoop and tossed them to Lew.
Lew expected a joke, a jibe, a half-witty insult, but without Fred, Alan couldn't find one.
"Any jokes for me?" asked Lew, who had been assigned by his therapist, Ann Horowitz, to come up with a joke for each of their sessions. Usually Alan and Fred could be relied on for at least a backup.
"No. Not anymore. Papers are in the glove compartment. Bon voyage," Alan said, sitting slumped behind the desk, not looking at Lew.
"I liked Fred," Lew said.
"Who didn't? Wait. I take that back. A lot of people didn't," said Alan. "It's this business."
Alan tightened his lips and looked around.
Lew wanted to tell him that he didn't want to own a car, fill it with gas, have it repaired, have to report it if it were stolen, which was highly unlikely unless the thief couldn't see. Simply put, Lew Fonesca didn't want the responsibility. He didn't want any responsibility. He had spent four years trying to avoid owning or caring for anything. He had succeeded in avoiding everything but people.
He wanted to say something hopeful, helpful to the man behind the desk, who avoided meeting Lew's eyes, but he could think of nothing to say, nothing he was capable of saying that wouldn't be a lie.
Lew would either return the car when he was finished using it or he would give it away. He would probably return it. He didn't want the responsibility of finding a new owner.
Lew stopped at the DQ lot to get his already packed carry-on duffel bag and drop it on the passenger seat.
Dave, the owner of the DQ, was out on his boat in the water. His arms and face were tanned, lined and leathered from years on the deck. Lew tried going with him once. Once was fine. He handed the girl behind the window a folded note and asked her to give it to Dave. The girl was new, couldn't have been more than sixteen. Her face was freckle-covered, her eyes sleepy, her mouth partly open and her hair struggling to escape the rubber band that held it back.
"There are almost six thousand DQs in the world," said Lew.
The girl, note in hand, looked at him and crinkled her nose.
"Twenty-two countries," Lew went on. "Company started in an ice cream shop in Kankakee, Illinois, in 1938. First franchise was in Joliet, Illinois, in 1940."
The girl's mouth opened a little wider, showing not-quite-even teeth.
"The original DQ motto was 'We treat you right.' Now it's . . . ?"
"I don' know," said the girl.
"'DQ something different,'" said Lew. "I prefer 'We treat you right,' and I try to have at least two chocolate cherry Blizzards every week. You do good work."
"Thank you," the girl said. "Almost six thousand around the world you say? Maybe some day I could work at a DQ in England or Japan or some place like that."
"It could happen," said Lew.
The girl was smiling to herself as he left.
He got to the Texas Bar & Grille where the morning crowd was dwindling after plates of barbecue breakfast burritos and Texas fries. No lights were on but the sun spread through the tinted windows. Ames McKinney--seventy-four, tall, lean, white hair, and wearing a flannel shirt--came around the tables and looked down at the seated Lew. Ames was his friend, his protector, but not this time.
"Goin'?" he asked.
He understood. Ames wanted to go with Lew, but he understood.
"Thought anymore 'bout what you're gonna do when you find him?"
"No," Lew said.
"That's one way to go about it," he said.
Lew shook his hand. His grip was hard, tight, sincere.
"You take care," he said. "I'll look in on your goods."
"Thanks," Lew said and then, "Goodbye."
Ames nodded his goodbye and turned back toward the bar and the small room down the narrow corridor next to the kitchen where his room was. Ames had once been rich. Now he was the cleanup man in a bar and he liked it just fine.
Lew's Uncle Tonio once said, "Always say goodbye."
Short absences, long absences. Forever. "Goodbye." God be with you. Any absence might become forever. Lew didn't remember whether he said goodbye to Catherine on the morning of the last day of her life.
He had said his goodbyes to Sally Porovsky last night. Sally, an overworked social worker with two kids, had touched his cheek and said, "Look in your pocket when you get outside. Goodbye."
The Long Goodbye, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, "Goodbye Mama, I'm Off to Yokohama. Goodbye dear and amen, here's hoping we meet now and then," "Every time we say goodbye." They all applied but lately the word goodbye had begun to sound odd to Lew, to look odd on paper. He wanted to make it mean something to him again.
He said, "Goodbye," and Sally closed the door.
In the moonlit parking lot next to her apartment, he took out the sheet of paper she had placed in his pocket. It read, Find him, take care of yourself, come back. Sally.
Lew had said his goodbyes to Flo Zink, the bangle-clad, frizzy-haired, feisty little seventy-one-year-old woman who favored Western clothes and music. Her choices of both were badly out-of-date.
Flo was from New York. Her husband had died, leaving her lots of money and a drinking problem. She had worked out her drinking problem motivated by the prospect of being allowed to take in Adele, a sixteen-year-old girl Lew and Ames had rescued from a daddy-sanctioned life of prostitution. Adele had an infant baby named Catherine. The baby had been named for Lew's dead wife. When he said goodbye at twilight, Flo was holding the baby. Jimmy Wakely and the Rough Riders were singing "When You and I Were Young Maggie Blues" through speakers placed throughout the house. Adele was out but would be back in an hour. Lew couldn't wait.
Flo held Catherine out for Lew. He was afraid to touch her. He didn't have bird flu or the plague but he knew his depression could be infectious.
Finally, Lew stopped back at his office and called Ann Horowitz, his eighty-two-year-old therapist whose main, but not only, virtue was that she charged him only ten dollars a visit. He was, she said, an interesting case.
"Lewis," she said. "You're leaving in the morning?"
"Good. Call me if you need me. You have a joke?"
Getting a joke from a chronic depressive is not that hard. Getting the depressive to appreciate the joke, to smile, to laugh, is almost impossible.
"Yesterday I called the makers of Procrit, Ambien, Lipitor and Cialis and asked them if my doctor was right for me. They all said no."
"Lewis, you make that up?"
"I told you there was hope," she said. "Now go find the man who killed your Catherine."
Thirty-four thousand feet above the Gulf of Mexico, Lew sat in an aisle seat at the very back of the Southwest Airlines plane out of Tampa. The back seats didn't recline, but they were the closest ones to the restroom. There is no real silence on an airplane. The flying machine is constantly roaring, whistling, grinding and changing its mind about the thrust of the engines. Inside the plane, children whine, adults lie to just-met seatmates, a couple hugs, their eyes shut. Flight attendants up and down the aisle pass out cholesterol chips in little bags you can't open.
Ames had given Lew a book to read, A Confederacy of Dunces. It lay in his lap unopened.
The young man next to Lew scratched his cheek as he looked at the screen of his laptop computer and tapped in something. He was wearing headphones and humming a song Lew didn't recognize. The image on his screen was the Warner Brothers black-and-white shield. Then came the words, Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce. Lew closed his eyes, trying not to watch, trying not to say the words as the characters spoke.
He didn't concentrate. He drifted through a dark sky. Lew was floating, tumbling in nothingness. Then sudden panic. He tried to open his eyes. Couldn't.
"You okay?" the young man with the laptop said with concern.
Lew's eyes opened. He was panting. The man was about thirty, with dark curly hair. He was looking at Lew with concern. His left eye was green. His right eye was too, but a darker, lifeless green. The right eye, he could see now, was definitely glass.
"Yes," Lew said, sitting up. "Bad dream."
"I'm sure," he said, but he wasn't.
When Catherine was alive, he had dreaded flying, had held her hand tightly when they took off and landed, had silently cursed the madness of the other passengers who didn't realize that the odds of their dying were higher than they thought, that they were in a machine, a very heavy machine, that could lose an engine, a single bolt, a stretch of wire, and they would all be dead.
When Catherine died, that had all changed. Flying presented no problems, no fears. The worst that could happen was that the plane would crash. He could live with that. He could die with that.
He must have slept, because the captain was announcing the beginning of the plane's descent into Chicago's Midway Airport. The young man closed his laptop, looked at Lew with his bad and good eye, and smiled. Lew nodded.
When the plane landed, Lew went to the exit, duffel-shaped carry-on in hand, between baggage claim 3 and 4. Outside Lew saw his sister's husband, Franco, in his white Ford tow truck at the curb, looking across at Lew and holding up his hand.
Lew knew why he had panicked on the plane. He was going back to Chicago. Now that he was here, the panic threatened to return.
He climbed up into the passenger seat and put his bag on the floor. The interior of the truck smelled of grease and oil.
"Lewie," Franco said, reaching over to hug him. "Lewie."
"Franco," Lew responded.
Lew had known Franco Massaccio since childhood. A barrel of a man with an easy grin. Genius didn't run in Franco's family, but hard work and loyalty did. Franco was loyal and a good husband to Lew's sister Angela. He liked talking religion. He was a reasonably good Catholic. Lew considered himself a reasonably bad Episcopalian.
"You never get used to the smell, huh?" asked Franco. "'I like the smell of the streets. It clears my lungs.' You know who said that?"
"Bobby De Niro in Once Upon a Time in America," said Franco. "An Italian playing a Jew. Well, listen, what are you gonna do? Right?"
"You have it?" Lew asked as Franco looked over his left shoulder and eased into the traffic.
"It's at home," Franco said.
Lew nodded and looked out the window. Standing at the curb was the one-eyed young man with the laptop. He was looking back at Lew.
"Friend or something?" asked Franco. "That guy back there?"
"Something, maybe," Lew said, looking back.
Copyright 2006 by Double Tiger Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.
Excerpted from Always Say Goodbye by Kaminsky, Stuart M. Copyright © 2006 by Kaminsky, Stuart M.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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