Quitting drinking may have saved Frank Devlin’s life, but it killed his career. When the NYPD detective got sober, he also stopped taking bribes, and his rise through the ranks slowed to a crawl. After thirteen years of working the drug-plagued Lower East Side, he has a new relationship and a modicum of inner peace—both of which are threatened when Devlin’s past comes back to destroy him.
A crazed junkie guns down a Senate hopeful and his mistress, and the police suspect that Devlin may be involved for two reasons: the candidate was once his brother-in-law, and the junkie was his longtime snitch. To clear his name, Devlin must sort out a murderous conspiracy that will make him wish he had never climbed onto the wagon.
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About the Author
Roderick Thorp is the author of The Detective, Rainbow Drive, and Nothing Lasts Forever, the basis for the movie Die Hard. He has worked as a private detective and done extensive crime reporting, including a twenty-one-part series on cocaine traffic in Southern California, which was published in the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. Thorp’s other novels include Into the Forest, Dionysus, Slaves, The Circle of Love, Westfield, Jenny and Barnum, Devlin, and River.
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By Roderick Thorp
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1992 Roderick Thorp
All rights reserved.
4:22 P.M. ...
As usual, the young woman reserved the room and arrived a few minutes early. She stripped to her panties and bra, then put her shoes on again before she lit a joint.
The shoes were the idea of the man she was waiting for. She was growing increasingly uneasy with this business, and so having to keep the shoes on, at least for the preliminaries, was more than a little annoying. What really bothered her was the increased riskiness of these meetings. Because of his prominence, the man was being absolutely reckless, choosing hotels for these special sessions. They had a perfectly safe way of meeting at her apartment uptown, but this was something he needed. He was fixated. They had a game in which the impersonality of the hotel room was a part, a little ritual he had to go through, step-by-step, touching a dozen ever more desperate grace notes until he was ready for the jackpot.
The man's peculiarities were nothing new to the young woman, or terribly unpleasant. She had had affairs with an actor, a congressman, and a black football player—in that order, a bisexual, a sadist, and a searcher for the perfect fellatrix. The current festivities always began exactly as the man had written in a letter that had arrived unexpectedly at her apartment this past spring. The story of his sex life, all his damned excuses and justifications, including who was doing what to whom among his big deal friends. Now that you have read this, destroy it—stuff like that, describing what he wanted her to do....
Their drama began when he asked her if she had destroyed the letter. "Did you destroy the letter?" Now she had to hear the question only once to be driven completely nuts. He wanted her angry, wanted to feel her rage. And rage was all right with her. She didn't lie to herself about her negative feelings about men, and she had more than enough experience to draw on to go thermonuclear, if that was what he wanted. Her father was an alcoholic suburban squire whose beatings had made a crippled, dependent old woman of her mother. Sometimes just recalling her father's smoothly shaven, booze-bloated puss was enough to propel the young woman to violence....
"Did you destroy the letter?"
"Yes, I told you."
He had been here ten minutes, and she had been hoping it would start soon. Oh, it was a wonderful, wonderful cathartic experience. He was removing his shirt. The first minutes were always normal. How have you been? Did you have trouble getting here? Kisses. Feels. And now:
"You wouldn't lie to me, would you?"
"No, damn it! I've told you a hundred times—"
"Not that many."
She was twenty-seven, twenty years his junior. It was apparent this evening that he thought he could provoke her more by indulging in petty argument. Quibbling. So she waited. He thought she was stymied, and as he removed his shirt, he smiled. She kept waiting. This wasn't acting. It was a game, intense, exciting. Real. She had the belt in her hand; he had seen that she was ready. Maybe this time he wanted it quickly. She hoped so. She wanted the payoff, suddenly wanted it so much that she had to close her mind to it, dare not think of it.
Her bladder almost opened as she swung the belt. Done perfectly, only the buckle touched his skin, raising a welt like a curved V. He cried out, but did not turn around, hurrying to undress. She brought the buckle down across his back again. He howled. When he was naked, he crawled onto the bed and curled into a fetal position. She kept hitting him, flicking the buckle as deftly as she could. It was his fixation, but her effort was the secret that made it work. She had to hit him until she grunted, until heat radiated from her body, until her aching arm made her tighten her stroke. He was aware of what was happening to her—and she believed he took it as evidence of her willingness to join him in a personal hell she could never understand. Love! He saw it as love, for God's sake! Suddenly he reached for her, not looking at her, but clawing desperately to get her close to him so he could bury his face against her breasts. He had to tear at her underwear, too, never able to bring himself to look at her while he did it. Tearful and still in pain, he wanted to hide from her even as he pushed himself into her. He fucked her hard, as hard as he could, still crying, hiding. She held him around the neck so he couldn't show his face even if he wanted to, and as always, that roused him more—and her thrills began. They didn't last all that long, but sometimes her orgasm was as deep and intense as any she had ever known. And this was when he seemed, strangely, more vulnerable to her; as out of control as he was, this was when she liked him best. This was the time when his cock was hardest, thickest, when it plunged pistonlike in and out of her, relentless, when he was about to flood her with semen, that the mystery of his craziness served her, too, at last, when the thought of being able to beat him again thrilled her so much that she exploded into laughter, and came with him....
Sleeping afterward was part of the purging of his self-hatred. Always, when he called to tell her to get a hotel room, he told her when he had to be gone again, and she calculated the time of the jolting wake-up call accordingly. But now something had awakened her before the operator rang. Daylight—it was still only afternoon. The young woman sat up and looked to the door to the hall, wondering if she had imagined the knob turning. Maybe she had dreamed it. The man was asleep, and she arranged herself in the crook of his body, her backside against his belly, her head on his bicep. Nothing to worry about. This wasn't simply a good hotel, but one of the world's greats—and the men she had seen in front of one of the other rooms when she'd arrived looked permanent, like security men or bodyguards....
Safe. Safe with this sadly flawed, potentially great man. She did not like to think of how he dealt with the marks on his body in his wife's presence. His problem went back to his parents, of course, truly crazy people, the young woman surmised. Whatever the truth, she knew he shared his secret with no one but her. Anything else wasn't possible. She had kept the letter. He didn't know that. The way the world was going, the letter might be worth a fortune someday, and no one would—
There! Someone was at the door! The young woman sat up again, pulling the sheet up about her breasts, and watched the doorknob turn....CHAPTER 2
5:04 P.M. ...
"Come on, don't hold back this time!"
"I want it to last!"
"I can't!" Eileen cried. She bucked her hips harder. "Come with me, baby! Let it go!"
Frank Devlin did, his lips finding her lips to muffle their cries. Little kids were playing on the sidewalk just one flight down. He loved this woman as he had never loved anyone before. In another moment, between breaths, he told her so, taking another moment to add, "You make me feel like a teenager again."
Eileen laughed. Grinning, she gently pulled the hair on the back of his head so she could look into his eyes. "You're just some kind of freak of nature. Will you ever act your age?"
Devlin thought of Satchel Paige's teaching—How old would you be if you didn't know how old you was?—but the telephone rang before he could voice it. "I stopped worrying about that eighteen months ago."
The telephone rang again, but neither of them moved. Devlin was off-duty today and meant to stay that way. The upcoming Liberty Weekend and unveiling of the statue meant nothing to him but overtime he didn't want or need. The telephone rang a third time.
Eileen said, "Thank God it didn't start two minutes ago. It would have ruined me rhythm."
"Count your blessings. Twenty years ago I was the kind of guy who'd have reached for it."
Now she had to speak over her own voice, as the announcement tape of her answering machine came on. The volume was up so they could hear who was calling. "And there was a time, to hear you tell it, when you could have talked on the telephone and done the other at the same time."
She was teasing him. He hadn't told her anything of the sort. But in fact he had done it, talked on the telephone while making love, a long time ago, before his separation from Maryellen Brennan. "Done the other" passed through his thoughts, too. Eileen had stopped using the universal four-letter term because her Irish accent made fook of it, which sounded so childlike to Devlin he couldn't help laughing. After all this time together they still laughed at each other like innocents. They were a miracle, she'd said once, and he believed it. The caller began to leave his message.
"This is Captain Dan Cummings, of the One-twelve. I'm looking for Detective Frank Devlin. It's kind of an emergency."
"Go ahead," Eileen said. He didn't move. "You never know," she said.
He reached to the night table and picked up the handset. "Hello."
"Devlin? You're Frank Devlin?"
The connection was lousy; the guy sounded like he was shouting in a tunnel. Devlin dialed down the volume on the answering machine, but that didn't help. "Do I know you, Captain?"
"Ah, no. No, you don't. Of course everybody knows your name. People here have a special memory of you, and I need a certain kind of help—"
Eileen tapped him on the shoulder. If he was going to talk on the telephone, she wanted to untangle. He sighed. "I'm the right Devlin."
"I'm not your customer," Cummings said quickly. He sounded like an older guy. "It's, ah, my brother-in-law." He let the words hang in the ether a moment, and it made Devlin think that Cummings was making an admission of defeat. "He's I guess what you call a binge drinker. He'll be on the wagon for six months, and then he's gone for three, four days. He comes home filthy and sometimes with a little blood on him, too. Always broke. He just drinks until he's broke."
"And he's a cop, eh?"
"Not one of us, no," Cummings said. "He's some kind of cop over in Jersey. He wants a cop, and my sister remembered something I said about you, something I heard on the job. Just a minute." He was back before Devlin had reached his cigarettes. "Are you recording this?"
"Oh, yeah. The machine's running."
"Could you turn it off, please? And erase the tape?"
Devlin moved. He had never heard of Captain Cummings, and he hadn't heard anything warm or forgiving in his tone. Even in this circumstance, the man could turn out to be a real prick. Eileen's answering machine clicked twice quickly as it rewound and erased the tape. Eileen's bathroom door clicked, too, with her on the other side of it. Devlin would have liked another look at her. She was true black Irish, so Spanish-looking that all she needed was a pair of castanets. "Who gave you this number, by the way?"
"Your partner, John Lord."
Cummings was some salesman. On Devlin's day off, John usually told people to get another guy. "Go ahead."
"He's ready to go in now, but he wants you. She was working on him and mentioned you, and you're the one he wants. Will you do this? I think he's ready to face up to himself. I was on the phone with him this morning, and he couldn't stop wailin'."
The brother-in-law was only drunk enough for a crying jag—but that was plenty drunk.
"Do they have a place for him?"
"Oh, yeah. She's been in touch with a group over there. It's all set up. But he wants to talk to you. I guess he thinks there's something you can tell him. I know this is asking a lot. Can she call and explain things to you?"
Devlin said sure and hung up. Any other week, he thought. Liberty Week had disrupted everything. Normally he was with Eileen every other night, but never Monday. On Monday nights Eileen visited her cousins in Bayside. On Monday nights, Devlin did the laundry, and while it was in the dryer, he walked up to Queens Boulevard to get straight with Major, his one-eyed bookmaker. This week Devlin was a winner. On Sunday he had taken Detroit in the first game, and the Mets and Houston, each for three units. This morning, he had noticed that Sid Fernandez was scheduled for tonight, and so he had gone for five units on the Mets. Major was good for the money—he was safer and more accurate than any bank. Devlin tapped on the bathroom door. "It's twelve-step work."
"Anything to give me a rest. Don't come in." The telephone started ringing again, and Devlin returned to the bedroom.
"If that's her, she's quick."
"A woman? What happened to Captain Dan Cummings, of the One-twelve?"
She had lowered her voice in an attempt to imitate the guy. Devlin was standing over the telephone when he heard the bathroom door open again. Over his shoulder, he said, "Cummings's sister, the client's wife."
"You have a handsome backside for a man your age," Eileen said. Too late he became aware of sucking in his gut, and she laughed loudly as she closed the bathroom door again. She knew exactly how to turn the tables on him; he never had a chance. He was still grinning when he said hello.
The woman had a really harsh, broad city accent. "I'm calling from Sussex County, not far from Route 80—"
The next few seconds flew by. Devlin hadn't thought of Sussex in years. He wondered how much time had passed since he had hung up on Cummings. It seemed like less than a minute, but it was hard to tell because Devlin had been having fun with Eileen. The sister must have been sitting by the telephone, waiting for Cummings to give her the okay. She said her husband was asleep.
"Your brother told me the circumstances, Mrs.—"
"Quinn. Irene Quinn. I know this is asking a lot. It was asking a lot of my brother." She started to tell the story again. Devlin was thinking that Sussex was a long way from the city when Eileen came out of the bathroom yawning and waving bye-bye. Frank Devlin was forty-three and far from a freak of nature. He had slept all afternoon. Eileen had taken the day off to be with him, but she had brought work home with her, attending to it while he slept. On the other hand, they had been in bed, mostly not sleeping, since Saturday night. After meeting Eileen O'Sullivan, getting horizontal with her was just about his only idea of a good time. Thank God, he thought. She saw him looking at her.
"If somebody needs you, go, because I'm going to sleep. Be back by eleven or forget it, because I'll be a ruin if you wake me after that."
"Fair enough; I'll go to my own place."
As if she had been listening to Eileen, too, Mrs. Quinn asked him where he was located.
"On Forty-eighth Street, in Sunnyside, Queens." He wanted to add, And if I'm not home by eleven, I'll be sleeping five and a half blocks away. Eileen's dark eyes were fixed on his. He really didn't want to go anywhere, but he would be unhappy with himself if he didn't help these people, and sometimes Eileen knew him better than he knew himself.
In seconds, Irene Quinn was giving directions....
Excerpted from Devlin by Roderick Thorp. Copyright © 1992 Roderick Thorp. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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