When my fare hauled himself out of the cab near Uphams Corner, I took it as a sign, but face it, even if the fat man’s destination had been fifty miles from my goal, I’d have found another convenient omen. I’d made the decision late last night. I needed to have it out with Mooney.
The rump end of a minor hangover beat a tattoo in my left temple, and I knew that if I didn’t take action, I’d stay home to night, sprawled on the sofa like a deadbeat, watching old movie reruns, pouring too many Rolling Rocks down my throat. Again. Since it’s my considered opinion that it’s better to do anything than nothing, I was determined to find out why Mooney wasn’t answering his phone, why he hadn’t replied to my increasingly urgent messages. Mooney’s a guy you can count on, reliable as taxes, so his unresponsiveness was alarming.
I buttoned my sweater closer to my chin and tried for more warmth from the heater. It gave a gasp and a shudder. Tepid air trickled out near my icy feet.
I didn’t want to track Moon down at Headquarters. I had mixed feelings about my former place of employment, plus there was the parking. Fact: Parking at the new Crosstown site is laughable, nonexistent and maddening, the subject of lawsuits by irritated officers. Nor did I relish the thought of hanging out at Moon’s apartment building, spooking his neighbors. So I took advantage of my drop-off point to head farther south, swerving over the Neponset River Bridge to Quincy Shore Drive. Stopped at a traffic light, I squinted into the rearview mirror, ran a hand through my disheveled hair, then cupped it over my mouth and smelled my breath. I hadn’t had a drink in hours, but it seemed like the smell of beer was seeping from my pores.
I popped the center armrest console, hoping for breath mints, and found nothing but crumpled gas receipts and wadded tissues. If it had been my car, instead of one of Gloria’s crummy Fords, breath mints would have nested sweetly among the tapes, CDs, tampons, and apple cores, but my vintage red Toyota was dead at the bottom of a New Hampshire ravine and I still hadn’t purchased a replacement. I’d planned to do it, made a list of possibilities, but a mad dash out of the country had put it and everything else in my life on hold.
Gloria’s voice chimed over the two-way, asking any available cab to do a pickup in Maverick Square. I switched her off with barely a flicker of guilt. East Squantum Street changed its name to Dorchester Street without so much as a by-your-leave, and then the Long Island Causeway stretched its skinny neck out to Moon Island, home of the Boston Police Department Firing Range.
When I drive, I listen to music. Maybe it was because the cab didn’t have a working radio that my thoughts strayed, replaying the conversation I’d had last night just before the six-pack beckoned from the refrigerator.
Sam Gianelli, phoning from who knows where. When I’d asked his location, I got silence, meaningful silence, a warning silence I resented.
"You think I wouldn’t know if my line was tapped?" I’d said.
I’d heard him sigh, but he hadn’t answered. And yes, it had been a stupid thing to say. Maybe they’ve got some new gizmo I can’t test for; maybe they’re one step ahead. So I didn’t press for his location, but I’d tried to press on other things, like when he was coming back to the States, like what I could do to unravel the mess that was keeping him out of the country.
That had gotten a response, a quick one.
"Nothing, Carlotta. That’s exactly why I called. I mean, I called to see how you’re doing, how Paolina’s doing, too, but I want it clear. Don’t get involved. Don’t mess with this."
Hell with that, I’d thought; I was involved.
"So what are you saying, Sam? Good-bye? Are we going to limit the relationship to phone sex from now on?"
"Don’t do anything."
"I’ll call again."
A click. A hang-up. A dead end. So I’d drunk my beers and decided that nothing was harder than doing nothing. Remembering, I steered one-handed through heavy traffic, brooding and yanking at a strand of hair. Wherever Sam was, I decided, it was probably warmer than Boston. Most likely piles of snow hadn’t turned brown and muddy, with a top layer of dingy gray. I was only planning to ask Mooney a few questions, and asking wasn’t doing. If Sam inquired, I could still say I’d done nothing, respected his wishes, foolish as they were.
Mooney was my old boss at the BPD. I’d worked for him—with him—for six years before I turned in the badge and went private. I was the restless one, the woman in a hurry, the one who needed change to survive. He was the creature of habit and I was counting on that habit now: The last Thursday of the month, first thing in the morning, Mooney shot at the Moon Island range.
In the 1700s, Boston’s Harbor Islands served as military outposts to protect the then-bustling seaport. Today, most of them form a chain of national parks. Some, like Bumpkin, Hangman, Snake, Nixes Mate, and Worlds End, in addition to the more mundanely named Thompson and Spectacle, are open to the public. Moon Island, a bump connecting Long Island to the mainland, is more a peninsula than an island, thanks to the causeway. There’s a firefighter training facility at the eastern end, right before the Long Island Bridge, and a nineteenth-century wastewater treatment plant. The firing range is tucked in between the two.
Pulling into a space in the level gravel lot, I opened the cab door and sniffed an unexpectedly salty breeze. Living in Cambridge, the way I do, you can almost forget the proximity of the Atlantic. I inhaled the sea air gratefully. There’s something cleansing about the ocean, all that green water licking the shore, endless and timeless, soothing and hypnotizing. It would be here forever. It didn’t care.
I sucked in a deep breath, trying to summon some of the Atlantic’s cool indifference for my upcoming encounter, attempting to submerge my feelings, keep them hidden like the secret reefs and rocks beneath the surface of the sea. I suspected that my ex-boss had gotten every single one of my messages, that he’d decided to ignore them because he didn’t want to part with information. I needed to make him understand that he needed to answer my questions. I needed to stay calm in spite of emotion that roiled like the great white waves breaking near the shore.
I slammed the car door harder than I intended to, and the noise reverberated. My parka, too heavy to drive in, was stowed in the trunk. I pulled it on and zipped it shut against the wind.
Since I was no longer a member of the force, I technically had no right to pass through the small white bungalow and visit the range. I didn’t think anyone would bother to stop me since members of the general public, while not welcome to shoot at will, are required to make the occasional appearance. The Moon Island range is where citizens go to get their gun licenses renewed. I could always lie and give that as my purpose, but I didn’t think I’d need deception. A smile, a wave, a confident walk, they fool even cops.
My luck was in; I didn’t need a cover story because I knew the guy on the desk.
"Mooney," I said, coming in the front door, continuing out the rear.
He was in the third lane, wearing dark glasses and ear protectors, firing, spent cartridges flying from his Glock. He didn’t notice me and that was fine.
For half a second I was sorry I hadn’t brought my Smith. I like to shoot; I like the smell of the range. I’m not crazy about target shooting; I don’t get off on it the way some of the guys used to—I am the best and all that competitive malarkey. I’m good. I’ve got a good eye for spotting a volleyball on a court, a good eye for a target, but I know target is just a sport, like volleyball. It’s not street.
I watched Mooney out of the corner of one eye. I took his wardrobe for granted, the navy pants and light blue shirt that might as well be a uniform. I knew his routine: 120 rounds, three times the limit carried on the street, fourteen in the gun and two thirteen-round clips. Moon’s not a street cop anymore, but he talks about going back, says he’d rather be moved down the ranks than up. Lots of guys say that, talk about the good old days, but I believe Mooney. He’s good at working the streets, better at streets than bureaucracy, and he excels at bureaucracy. When the suits bring pressure to bear, he tells the uncomfortable truth, ready to step down to the detective bureau or walk a beat and wear the uniform again. So far he’s kept his position as head of Homicide, but he walks a fine line. I thought I saw him notice me, and I wondered what my presence would do for his numbers.
"Hey, I figured that was you."
The instructor approached; what was his name? Harry, right, Harry something. A nice broad-beamed guy who’d lost his partner in a shootout and decided to teach other cops how and, more important, when to use their weapons. I smiled and nodded. What are you supposed to say when someone says, "I figured that was you"?
"Look what I got," he said with a face-splitting grin, displaying a gun case big enough to house a major hunk of artillery. "H-K MK23. Special Ops gun. Wanna give it a try?"
I gave a less-than-enthusiastic shrug.
"Well, okay, then. Forget it. Navy SEAL buddy of mine dropped it off. Guys say it’s got too much kick for a woman."
"Stop prodding, Harry." His smile got even broader when I said his name.
"You’re just waiting, right?"
"You need to reup for anything?"
"No." I don’t have to keep my numbers up the way Mooney does.
"Got more women now. Had to put in another bathroom."
When I used to go to the range, the toilet was for the guys, and the women made do. That’s the way it was when I was in the force and that’s usually the way it is now, except everybody talks about how times have changed.
Harry removed the pistol from the case. "Pretty thing, isn’t it? A lot of the SEALs want something smaller and lighter, but this is a stopper for sure. Forty-five ACPs and those’ll sure drop a target faster than a nine. Double action. You can use the JHP bullets, too, the expandables."
I have about as much patience for gun talk as I do for wine talk. I like to shoot and I like to drink, but I don’t practice either vocabulary.
"Pretty heavy, though."
He handed it to me, and I thought why the hell not? Mooney wouldn’t duck out on me, now that he’d seen me. Harry handed over ear protectors and goggles.
Just like threading a needle, a cop friend named Jo Triola once told me, and we’d joyfully shared the secret giggles of the girly metaphor. You couldn’t say that to any of the guys, that shooting a gun was like threading a needle. If it wasn’t a sports meta phor, Jo and I had learned early on, better not say it at all. The concentration required to shoot well, to fire efficiently and effectively, shuts out the rest of the world. If I could continually manufacture tasks that required the same level of concentration as shooting, I wouldn’t have to question Mooney, wouldn’t need to talk to anyone, wouldn’t have to face up to...
I got lost in the sound and the smell and the immediacy of the task at hand, and suddenly it was as clear as if it were happening all over again. Muscle memory can do that to you, I suppose, because the last time I’d fired a gun, not this gun, but a similarly heavy gun, an unfamiliar gun, and smelled the pungent tang of cordite, I’d heard the reports unfiltered by earmuffs. I’d been in South America, in Colombia, in Cartagena, and the scene had had nothing to do with orderly lanes and motionless paper targets. It had to do with revenge and hatred, with ensuring that my little sister walked out of the room alive.
The sweat trickled down my back in spite of the cold and I could have shot forever, slapping magazine after magazine into the well, imagining the people I’d have liked to kill, trying not to imagine those I wished I could bring back from the dead. As fast as I could pump bullets into the target wasn’t fast enough. I rammed another magazine home and repositioned my body and I wasn’t standing in the lane at Moon Island anymore. I was in an airless second-floor room with thick whitewashed walls, smelling sweet florals and spring rain and cordite.
"Hey, what the hell? You okay?"
"Keep it pointed downrange," Harry was yelling in my ear. "He’s dead. You fucking shredded him."
"What the hell!"
Eventually you run out of ammunition; that’s what it comes down to. You’re forced to go back to the daily routine, the one-foot-ahead-of-the-other stuff, the get-up-in-the-morning stuff. The confronting-your-old-boss-at-the-firing-range stuff.
Mooney was suddenly there, the way he is, solid and as unassuming as a man the size of a linebacker can be, his face concerned but wary. I caught a glint of gray in the brown hair near his right temple.
"I’ll take care of this, Harry," he said.
The instructor glanced at him and then at me, turned and walked away, carrying the H-K and shaking his head.
"You meant to call me back, right?"
"If I’m gonna avoid you, I guess I’ll need to change a few habits."
"I can find you anytime."
"You found me now."
"You know what I want."
"Forget about it, Carlotta."
"What do you mean, forget about it?"
"It’s a secret indictment. Secret. They’re called that for a reason."
"Why? Why is the DA keeping it under wraps? Is it political?"
"Mooney, it’s murder."
murder? Whose? Who the hell died? You can at least tell me that."
"Look, I can’t talk to you. I can’t be seen with you."
"You can’t be seen with me? Why?"
He lowered his voice. "You know a fed named Dailey?"
"Gianelli know him?"
"How would I know?"
"You haven’t told anybody that I gave Gianelli the heads-up?"
"I would never do that."
"Has anybody been following you around? You know, in an American-made sedan, gray or brown? You know the deal."
"No. What the—?"
"Just answer the question."
"I should answer your questions, but you won’t answer mine? Look, Moon, if I don’t even know what crime he’s supposed to have committed, I can’t do anything. I can’t help—"
"Sam doesn’t want my help."
"Right, Carlotta. He doesn’t want your help. You ever wonder why?"
"What’s that supposed to mean?"
He licked his lower lip and for a moment I thought he was going to turn away without another word. He stared at the ground as he spoke, kept his voice even and uninflected. "I don’t know, but it occurs to me that maybe Gianelli doesn’t want you to find out what really happened. He may not want your help because there’s no way you can
help. He may say he didn’t do it, but what I don’t understand is why the hell you believe him. You know who he is, right? What he is? You know where he comes from. A man lives with that kind of shit since he’s a boy— You tell me: How do you live with shit all around you and not get dirty?"
I stared at him, all the rational and convincing words I’d meant to use forgotten. I could hear the waves against the rocks and the pom-pom-pom
of a silenced.22.
"Look, I have to go," he said quickly. "I can’t tell you anything. I never could."
"Don’t ask me again. You know what I’m talking about, Carlotta. Isn’t it time to admit it to yourself?"
I didn’t say anything. I pressed my lips together and stared at the gravel until the individual stones melted into a solid band of gray.
"Hey, how’s Paolina? Jeez, I’m sorry, Carlotta, I should have asked right off. I should have called you back, just to ask."
"Yeah," I said, swallowing an unexpected lump in my throat. "You should have."
Excerpted from Lie Down with the Devil by Linda Barnes
Copyright © 2008 by Linda Appelblatt Barnes
Published in 2008 by St. Martin’s Minotaur
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.