Two years ago, writer Terry Orr lost his wife and infant son when a lunatic pushed them into the path of a subway train. Dissatisfied with the police response, he’s been looking for the killer himself ever since. Somewhere along the way, while raising his precocious daughter and continuing his search, he also becomes a legitimate private eye.
First, Terry encounters the brutal murder of a livery cab driver, which he’s determined to solve. Then, he’s drawn into the world of high art and ruthless ambition after a SoHo gallery is destroyed by a bomb blast. And when the two cases collide, Terry might be fatally out of his depth . . .
Wall Street Journal writer Jim Fusilli exploded onto the mystery scene with this debut novel hailed as “a gorgeous nightmare” (The New York Times Book Review).
Closing Time is the 1st book in the Terry Orr Mysteries, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
About the Author
Among his novels are Closing Time, A Well-Known Secret, Tribeca Blues, and Hard, Hard City, about New York City private investigator Terry Orr and his young daughter, Bella, who Orr is raising in the aftermath of the murder of his wife and infant son. Narrows Gate is an epic set in the first half of the twentieth century in the Italian-American community of a gritty waterfront city based on Hoboken, New Jersey, Fusilli’s birthplace.
Fusilli has published many short stories including “Chellini’s Solution,” which appeared in the 2007 edition of the Best American Mystery Stories, and “Digby, Attorney at Law,” which was nominated for the Edgar and Macavity Awards.
In 2005, Fusilli wrote Pet Sounds, his tribute to Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys’ classic album. Described as “an experiment in music journalism,” the book combines the rhythm and emotional weight of his fiction with the often-unorthodox observations of his music criticism for the Journal, for whom he began writing in 1983. Pet Sounds was translated to Japanese by the novelist Haruki Murakami.
Fusilli is married to the former Diane Holuk, a senior global communications consultant. They reside in New York City. For more information, visit www.jimfusilli.com.
Read an Excerpt
We were walking down Greenwich Street, in the moments before twilight, on our way home.
An hour earlier, Bella announced that we were having grilled hamburgers for dinner, and I shrugged in agreement and threw on my short coat over a torn t-shirt and jeans. We'd been living on Italian food; the refrigerator freezer overflowed with containers of pesto con gorgonzola, lasagne con melanzane and the like, prepared by our housekeeper Mrs. Maoli, who seemed to believe I'd allow Bella to waste away without her cooking.
The canvas sack Bella now carried was as full as mine, but, with a glint of mischief in her eyes, she had packed hers with paper products, Boston lettuce, two Portuguese rolls, a copy of Seventeen magazine and a lightbulb. I had the canned goods, a half-gallon of skim milk, five pounds of potatoes and a softball-sized red onion. As she lifted her sack at the Food Mart checkout, she quoted John Stuart Mill: "Each to his own ability, Dad." My daughter is very clever. "I know," she once said. "I'm too smart for my own good." Apparently, I sometimes forget that she's younger than she seems.
"Dad, I heard a good one today."
"Did you roll your eyes at me? Don't," she warned. "My information is solid."
"Your information is rumor."
"Be that as it may," she replied. "But Mrs. Maoli believes me."
Of course your surrogate nonna believes you. She fed you, changed you, nurtured you while Mama was painting, while I scribbled my nonsense.
"Ready to listen?"
I shifted the heavy sack up into my arms. "I'm a giant ear."
"Cynic," she charged. "But, if you listen to me, I'll forgive you."
We reached the corner of Beach Street. With very little traffic on a late Sunday afternoon, we crossed easily heading south, as a few yellow cabs went toward the World Trade Center. On the other side of the wide, pothole-scarred avenue, a young man with Aztec features, his black hair pulled into a long, glimmering ponytail, struggled with three impatient dogs. A tall, auburn-haired woman in a midnight-blue suit, white silk blouse and pearls frowned in anger as she checked her watch and craned her neck to glare uptown. In the air was the scent of the river, and I could smell the dusky potatoes and the paper sack I had in my arms.
Bella said, "Now, Dad, Little Mango told me his uncle saw Isabella Rossellini at the TriBeCa Grill and she was drunk and screaming for Martin Scorsese to be a man and come out and fight and Robert De Niro had to calm her down and then Scorsese's mother had to come over and she was wearing a housecoat and she put her arm around her to calm her down and she started sobbing, saying 'Mama, Mama' and the cops came and it was wild." She didn't breathe; she gasped. "And I don't know how they kept it out of the papers. But it must have been wild. Mango said it was really wild."
Little Mango was the son of Jimmy Mango, a neighborhood wiseguy, and the nephew of Tommy Mangionella, a hard-ass policeman. It was a toss-up as to who was crazier, Jimmy or Tommy the Cop.
"So?" she asked.
"Bella, I heard the same story when I was a kid. Only it was Ava Gardner looking for Frank Sinatra at the Copa and it was Dolly Sinatra who did the calming down."
"Could happen twice."
The TriBeCa Grill was, in fact, part-owned by De Niro, who I've seen in the neighborhood but never in his restaurant. I said, "Mrs. Scorsese died a few years ago."
"Maybe it was someone who looked like her."
"Yeah, maybe it was Ingrid —" I stopped myself, and exhaled slowly. "Diddio would've said something." Diddio is a rock and jazz critic who loved brushing up against celebrities. "Nobody said anything about a brawl."
"You can be so naïve sometimes," she huffed. "They can keep it quiet, Dad. They're rich."
I was preparing my reply when I looked up and saw her skidding toward us, her arms waving, a frantic, near-maniacal expression on her round face. Purple jacket open and billowing behind her, she bore down on us, shrill-shouting out our names, flapping, flouncing.
"Yikes," Bella whispered.
It was Judith Henley Harper. Judy had been Marina's agent. I wasn't sure if Bella remembered her, though she never seemed to forget anything.
"Terry! Terry Orr!"
Hugs; air kisses, cheek-against-cheek, as she arrived. Bella flinched, but was gracious.
"Gabriella, oh my god in heaven! Dear, how old are you? You must be, what? A teenager, at least."
"I'm twelve," she chirped.
"Twelve years old, my goodness." She turned to me, and went on her toes to touch my head just above the ear. "Your hair's a little longer, Terry, no? Very becoming. The slightest hint of gray, not too, too much; is it? I like it. I approve. Though what are you? Thirty-two-ish? A little early for gray, maybe. Maybe."
She stepped back to examine us, giving me a chance to look closely at her. I figured Judy for about 55 years old, though her exuberance, her butterfly gestures, bright eyes, made her physical age irrelevant. She was a ball of energy, under short hair that was either blond or silver, depending on the light, that she combed with her fingers. There was a time when I would've welcomed her company, when I would've invited her to join Marina, Bella, Davy and me for tonight's dinner.
She adjusted the pale-violet frames of her glasses and returned to Bella. "And who do you look like, dear? What I mean is, you don't look very much like your father. Nor do you look at all like Marina. But you'll be tall, like your mother. Not as tall as your father, thank goodness." She grabbed Bella by the chin and squeezed. "You have your own beauty, dear Gabriella. Very cute. Lucky. Yes."
"Thank you," Bella managed. She adjusted her faded denim jacket.
Judy made a sad, sympathetic face. "So, Terry, really, how are you?"
"I don't know, Judy." I shrugged. "Fine."
"I think about her, Terry. She was gifted. No doubt about that."
"Yeah, you were good to her, Judy."
She waved her hand, dismissing the compliment. "Her work sold itself, Terry." She smiled. "And would continue to, if you'd let me."
I shook my head. "I told you, Judy —"
"Now, now, Terry. Don't get huffy."
We had four of Marina's paintings in our home, four of the seven that remained in the family. They were landscapes of the environs of the Foggia region of Italy, where she was born and had been raised: the sea-arch of Vignanotica; the cliffs of the Gargano coastline; the view east from the church of San Giovanni; and Lake Occhito, near Campobasso. Her father, who still lived in the province, had two street scenes Marina had done here in TriBeCa, and her sister Rafaela had a portrait of her son, Marina's godson, a work that was the least characteristic and by some accounts, the most interesting.
Judy knew I would never sell these remaining works, but I suppose I didn't blame her for trying: She's no mere mercenary, but she's not in business to amuse herself, like some of her effete peers whose rich husbands set them up with a few paintings in a well-appointed yet soulless gallery. Judy presented Marina's first major exhibition nine years ago, and from her small storefront in SoHo, she sold 46 paintings and a dozen or so sketches, making certain that the work of Marina Fiorentino was well known not only downtown and around Manhattan but throughout the art world, arranging shows in London, Seville, Paris and Florence. (For her efforts, she'd pocketed 15 percent of the $18.5 million those sales netted.) To this day, Marina is the subject of articles in art magazines, and a TV documentary she's featured in turns up every now and then on PBS, on MSG's Metro channels.
Last year, Bella's web search on her mother produced more than 5,800 hits. Later, after Bella went off to bed, I repeated the search and found that some 3,000 of them were about her murder. I didn't read any of them. I know that story better than anyone else.
"Terry, did I hear right? Have you been working as some sort of private detective? Is this true?"
Bella interrupted. "He's doing research for a new book. On, er, Samuel Jones Tilden."
And with that, Judy became animated again; her voice jumped an octave, her hands darting as she spoke. "Good for you, Terry. You're writing again. God knows we need you to keep writing, Terry. The world needs books by Terry Orr."
I nodded amicably, or at least what passes for amicably for me now, but I was thinking that social amenities had been exchanged, obligations met and fulfilled, and now it was time to go. I started to inch forward.
"Terry, listen: I want you and Gabriella to come to an opening. I want you to come. I insist. Tomorrow night. Sol Beck. You know Sol Beck." She paused. "Do you know Sol Beck?"
I said no.
"You'll like his work. Very natural, après Hopper. A touch of darkness. New York without hope." She smiled. "He'll sell."
"Judy, you know that's not my thing —"
"We'll come," Bella chimed.
"Gabriella, good for you. Good. Seven o'clock. You know the drill, Terry."
"Judy," I said, "I —"
"Gabriella, you can bring a boyfr — No, I guess, at twelve, maybe not yet, although who knows these days? These days: You could be married for all I know. No, I suppose not. Your father probably scares the boys away. How does Mr. Muscles do it? Stomping around like Frankenstein? Big angry face?"
Bella looked up at me. "He's cool with my friends," she said, "mostly."
"Anyway," Judy continued, "you just make sure he comes. Terry, don't make me hound you. You know I can be a terror." She waited a second and put her hands on her hips. "Terry, you're supposed to say something right about now."
"Well, you are a shark, Judy," I said. "It's your gift."
"From you, Terry Orr, I take that as a compliment." She went on her toes again and I got another set of kisses. Bella did too. "Seven o'clock," she repeated. "Gabriella, nag him into it, okay?"
And Judy bounced off, her low heels click-clicking on the cobblestone as she crossed Beach.
A young, paint-splattered couple emerged from the warehouse behind my daughter. The man, who was no older than 20, wore a circular ring through his eyebrow. His girlfriend, the long expanse of her stomach exposed by a short, cropped t-shirt and jeans that began beneath her hips, had a tattoo of a snake that ran up to her pierced navel.
I looked at Bella, who smiled broadly, comically.
"You shouldn't have done that."
"Oh, Dad, it's good for you to go out. To someplace other than the Tilt."
"Bella, you know better," I added gently.
She slumped and said softly, "We don't have to go."
"Yes we do. You made a commitment for us."
"Sorry," she murmured, her eyes locked on the concrete at her feet.
We started toward North Moore. I looked ahead, toward our house, and I was not unaware that she was staring up at me.
The next evening I was at the kitchen table, lost in a thick brief Sharon Knight had messengered over from the Manhattan D.A.'s office. I had long ago gotten beyond the stilted language of these things, the impossible syntax, the disagreeable self-importance that characterized documents written by lawyers, and now I was able to make sense of them on the first pass-through, then get to understand the real point of the matter. Beyond the reams of obfuscation, legal briefs had a certain elegance, and they revealed precisely what was at stake in a case. Typically, it was either money or revenge or both. With an increasingly wavering dispassion, I was learning the system, as I had to, thanks to Sharon's aid and Addison's obstruction.
I looked up to find Bella at my elbow. She was dressed in what could only be described as neo-hippie: a purple, floral ankle-length dress, the green-and-red bowling shoes and her all-too-familiar denim jacket. The thing on her head was not so much a hat as a velour throw pillow. Giant clip-on hoop earrings dangled almost to her shoulders. She was wearing my watch as well as her own.
She asked, "Are you going to change?"
I was still in a tattered UNLV t-shirt, well-worn sweats and running shoes. "I'd better."
"I'll wait," she smiled.
Ten minutes later, after I had changed my shirt and dug an old brown corduroy blazer out of the back of the closet, we were outside, under the distant stars, thin clouds, the silver rays of the moon, as we headed toward SoHo, toward Judy's.
Bella said, "We should take a cab. We're already late."
We approached a large green Dumpster on Harrison. Just beyond it, an Asian man in a starched white uniform sat on a wooden crate and read a newspaper. The scent of bok choy, snow peas, water chestnuts and MSG wafted from the screen door of the cubbyhole restaurant behind him.
She said, "We told Judy we would be there, so we should be on time."
We turned onto Hudson, passing Chanterelle, for my money the best restaurant in Manhattan. For a moment, I thought about the seafood sausage, the squab with lentils, the turbot, the cheese tray, and the Opus One Marina had sprung for on my 30th birthday.
"Don't be so agitated," I advised.
Bella said, "I'm not agitated. I'm just talking about the time. I'm a kid. I have to be on time."
"Five minutes doesn't mean much."
"You can be late by two seconds, you know. One second."
We turned north on Hudson. There were several ways to get to the Henley Harper Galley from our place. I decided to head over to Franklin to West Broadway to Canal, then on to Greene. Bella, I knew, was still thinking about a cab.
We walked in silence to Franklin, observing the small parade, the indifferent clash of men in Brooks Brothers suits with stout $20 cigars; unruly boys in lime-green, long-sleeved t-shirts over hooded sweat tops and baggy jeans; high-gloss women in Gaultier and sapless, doe-eyed girls in old Doc Martens and thrift-shop rejects. To me, TriBeCa was a place of uncertainty now, of permanence and transition; of graceless wealth and timeless abjection; of coexistence: where seemingly abandoned warehouses stood above empty streets, and where other seemingly abandoned warehouses were in fact blocks of luxury apartments carved out of vast, unwieldy lofts. It was a place where people in blue chalkstripe formed a slapdash line and waited for a table at a 12-seat storefront restaurant that served Thai or Pakistani or Rumanian and, until the man with the goatee from the architectural firm that built the million-dollar apartments dined there, was known only to the rumpled man who read a Schoenberg score through bifocals held together with a safety pin, to the matronly woman in the tattered gray smock, the former model who decades ago ran with Ginsberg and Kerouac, who listened to Ferlinghetti on red vinyl, who slept with Neal Cassady. There was a Gothic quality to the neighborhood, and the cast-iron colonnettes, stone gargoyles, the Italianate palaces, the ornate metal canopies, the broad-shouldered textile buildings were redolent with a sense of history I could feel and admire. And yet there were shadows, and broken windows, razor-wire, wide cracks in the pavement, and failure and loss. And there were the ghosts, apparitions that materialized without warning, whenever they chose to, on barren cobblestone streets, in the graffiti-splattered alleys, under the frail trees in Duane Park, at the Tilt, at Wetlands, when I pass Chanterelle.
A gaggle of teenaged boys played handheld video games on the steps of a brownstone. Rusted fire escapes loomed overhead, and a cracked hydrant dribbled water into the gutter. In the distance, the Empire State Building was crowned with a white light that seemed to waver in the mist.
"Did you go to see Dr. Harteveld?"
"No," I replied.
"You haven't seen Dr. Harteveld in three weeks."
We reached TriBeCa Park. A man with matted hair and dirt-crusted feet was sleeping on a cardboard mattress he'd placed on a bench. Under him lay an old, forlorn dog.
"She's your doctor."
"She's our psychiatrist," she corrected. She was disappointed in me, for not seeing Dr. Harteveld, for not being ready for the Beck opening, for not writing about Samuel Tilden.
"Bella, I'm walking as fast as I can go without losing you."
She stopped. "I'm not nagging, Dad," she said, "and no cab is okay by now. I think Dr. Harteveld's good for us, that's all. It's good for us to talk to her. She'll like this, that you're out. With people."
I said nothing. She was under my skin now, and I am prone to resist that, to resist pressure, as quickly, as fiercely as I can; a red light and heat, fury — though not ever with her.
"You see her when? Friday? I'll see her Friday."
As we reached Canal, the green WALK sign beckoned and we crossed in front of a FedEx truck. "You promise?" she asked.
"Do I have to promise?"
She skipped ahead.
"Come on," she shouted. "The light's changing."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Closing Time"
Copyright © 2001 Jim Fusilli.
Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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