Excerpt from Harry Connolly's CHILD OF FIRE

I'm about 2/3 into Harry Connolly's Child of Fire (Canada, USA, Europe), and it's pretty good thus far! I have a feeling that fans of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series will enjoy this one as well.

And thanks to the folks at Del Rey, here's an extract for you to read.


“Hey, stranger,” the knife holder said. “We’re here to welcome you to Hammer Bay.”

“Really?” I said. “Because I don’t see a muffin basket. You wouldn’t be lying to me, would you?” The bar blocked one side of the lot, and a cinder-block wall of the business next door blocked the other. There were no stairs, windows, or gaps that I could use to get away. Behind me was a chain- link fence with struts blocking my view of the other side. A Plymouth Reliant was parked up against it. If I was going to run, that was the way, but there was still that gun.

The one who had spoken was average height and wore large tinted glasses. The other was well under six feet and built like a fireplug; he held a beer in his off hand. Both were thick with muscle that comes with hard physical labor and the flab that comes with fried food. The short one wore a construction worker’s helmet, and all three wore steel-toed work boots.

Glasses took a small box from his inside pocket. He lifted out a couple of tiny bundles wrapped in tissue or toilet paper and handed them to the others. Each man wet the bundle on his tongue, popped it into his mouth, and passed the beer back and forth to wash it down.

The short one nodded toward me. “Look at his tattoos. He’s the one who set up Harlan for Emmett Dubois.”

“Izzat right?” Glasses said, then threw the empty bottle at me. I ducked. It shattered against a fence pole behind me. “Well, well, well, now I’m double happy we waited for him.”

The tall one bared his teeth and came toward me. He kept the barrel of the gun pointed at my stomach while he raised the tire iron. What was it with tire irons in this town?

“Don’t you run from me,” he said with all the practiced bullying of a wife beater. “Don’t you run!”

I wished Annalise had let me keep my ghost knife.

He lifted the tire iron and swung for my head. I raised my left arm and caught the blow on my tattooed wrist.

It didn’t hurt, but I did my damnedest not to show that. I cursed and clutched at my wrist as though he’d broken it.

The other two laughed. The tall guy wasn’t in a mood to be entertained. “Harlan is my friend, and he’s in the hospital because of you.”

He swung the tire iron again. This time I caught the blow on my right arm. I made a small, strangled noise and cradled both arms against my chest.

The scarecrow sneered at me and dropped the revolver into his pocket.

Perfect. He stepped toward me and raised his tire iron again.

I laid a quick, right uppercut on the point of his jaw. He went limp and my left hand was in his jacket pocket before he hit the ground. I yanked the revolver free and fumbled it into the proper position. The scarecrow’s tire iron clattered to the ground.

Glasses and the fireplug stepped back.

I pointed the gun at them. They froze in place.

“All right, kids. This doesn’t have to get interesting. Let’s make a deal. You never come near me again, and I won’t kill you.”

“Forget it,” the tall guy said, struggling to his feet. “The gun’s not loaded.”

Glasses turned on him. “What do you mean, it’s not loaded?” I wanted to know the same thing. “I told you what we needed to do.”

The tall guy shrugged. “You’re my friend, Wyatt, but . . . I left the bullets at home.”

While they hashed that out, the fireplug grinned. He hefted his tire iron and stepped toward me.

I threw the gun onto the roof of the bar and jumped onto the trunk of the Reliant. Then I stepped onto the roof and leaped for the top of the fence. I hit it at waist level and rolled over the top. There was a Dumpster below me. I twisted and landed on it. I heard cloth tearing. I jumped to the ground and ran for the street, wondering if Annalise would spring for more clothes.

When I reached the street, I sprinted toward the left, away from the business district into a residential neighborhood.

I heard them shout behind me and kept running. I was confident I could take any one of them, especially with the protections Annalise had given me. But three was too many. Too easy for one of them to knife me in the armpit or smash in my skull while I was dealing with another.

So I ran. I passed one block, then another. As I started on the third, I looked back. All three were chasing me, and the tall one seemed to be gaining. That was fine. Wyatt and the fireplug were falling back, puffing and straining to keep up.

I rounded a corner and was suddenly sprinting right beside a police car. The fat officer sat behind the wheel drinking Mountain Dew from a two-liter bottle. The engine was off. He watched me run past but didn’t reach for his keys or the radio. Great.

In the next block, I nearly stepped on a thick black streak on the sidewalk. I jolted to the side at the last minute, running into the street to go around it.

The beer and pizza began to weigh on me. I stopped beneath a streetlight and waited for the scarecrow.

He didn’t keep me waiting long. And he wasn’t stupid, either. He ran straight at me, then dodged to the side as he passed, swinging that tire iron.

I feinted a lunge at him, then stepped away from the swing. It missed.

The guy slapped his feet on the sidewalk as he tried to stop himself. I charged him. He turned and tried to leap back. With a weapon and a longer reach, I’m sure he was hoping to avoid a clinch.

He feinted a swing for my head, then went for my ribs. I barely managed to get my elbow in the path of the iron. It glanced off my arm without any harm but thumped into my hip. That one hurt.

I grabbed the tire iron as he tried to pull it away. My grip was stronger, and I ripped it from his hand and tossed it into the street. The scarecrow backed away into the streetlight, right where I wanted him.

I spared a glance at Wyatt and the fireplug. They were still half a block away, puffing toward us.

The scarecrow threw a solid left jab followed by a long, hard, circling right. Both were respectable efforts, although neither connected. I ducked under his right and landed a hard left against his floating ribs. I felt something crack.

He woofed and bent sideways. I threw a right into his midsection and slid a left hook over his shoulder against his jaw. He dropped.

I turned toward Wyatt and his remaining friend. We’d been standing in the light, and they had seen the whole show. They stopped running. After a second of indecision, they started walking away. I watched them go for a second or two, then went back to the man I’d just beaten.

I’d known guys who thought winning a fight was cause for celebration. They’d laugh and cheer and spread around high fives. I didn’t feel like cheering.

I took the guy’s wallet while he was coming around. His driver’s license said he was Floyd O’Marra. I also found thirty dollars inside. Good. Eventually, Annalise was going to want her plastic back. I decided to charge Floyd for the important life lessons I was teaching him. I pocketed the money.

“Damn,” Floyd said, rousing himself. “Where am I?”

“Look around,” I told him. “Tell me if you see anything familiar.”

He looked up at me. “Oh, hell.”

“How’s Harlan doing, by the way?”

Floyd didn’t quite know how to take that question. “He’ll probably live.” No thanks to you hung at the end of that sentence, unspoken but clear.

He started to sit up, but I shoved him back down. “Where do you work, Floyd?”

“Henstrick Construction.”

“What kind of construction do you do? What do you build?”

“Whore houses,” he said, sneering a little.

“Is that so? Where can I find me a girl? All this exercise made me a little anxious.”

“Outside of town,” he said. “A couple hundred yards behind the bowling alley. The Curl Club. Ask for me and I’ll get you a real warm welcome.”

He tried to move away from me. I pushed him onto his back. “Do you want to help your buddy Wyatt?”

“He’s my buddy, ain’t he?”

“Do him a favor. Tell him to keep away from me. In fact, you and him should hop in your truck and take a little vacation. Vegas or something. Go have some fun. Because if I see any of you again, I’m going to spoil your whole fucking day.”

Floyd had come around enough to start getting angry again. He tried to roll away from me but winced at the pain in his ribs. He swore. “Next time I’m going to load that damn gun.”

I couldn’t take that lightly. I slugged him once on the nose. Not so hard that I’d break bones, but enough to make him taste blood. I held up his license. “Floyd O’Marra. 223 Cedar Lane. That sounds like a nice little neighborhood. Am I going to have to come to your house, Floyd? Am I going to have to burn it down? While you’re sleeping there?”

He swore at me again. He was still feeling defiant.

Damn. Floyd just wasn’t getting with the program. I couldn’t let this guy go after he’d promised to kill me. I knew very well how easy it was to get shot.

I stomped on his hands, one after the other.

He howled. Lights started turning on in the houses around the block. I didn’t care anymore. He swore at me some more, and each word was a half sob.

It wasn’t a pretty thing. It wasn’t a nice thing. But I couldn’t have some guy running around after he’d threatened to shoot me. I’m not that brave.

I knelt beside him and lifted him off the ground. I knew it made his ribs hurt. I wanted him to hurt. I wanted him to get his thirty bucks’ worth.

“Shut your mouth,” I snarled at him. “In case you haven’t figured it out yet, you’re one word away from being a corpse, because the next thing I’ll stomp on is your neck. Get it? Keep away from me. Next time I won’t be such a sweetheart.”

This time Floyd understood. He nodded frantically, his eyes closed. I dropped him onto the sidewalk and collected his tire iron.

I walked toward the bar. The police car was still parked in its spot, but I circled around the block to avoid passing it again. My hip felt tender where Floyd had hit me with the iron.

On the way back, I saw another black streak from across the street. Damn. The town was full of them.

I pushed open the door to the bar and strolled in like an old friend. Sara’s mouth fell open. She backed toward the cash register, probably wishing she’d kept the door bolted. I dropped the tire iron on the bar. Loudly.

Bill was still sitting there. “Damn,” he said. “Not a mark on him.”

Sara lunged under the counter and pulled out a shotgun. The barrel was several inches too short to be legal. “Get out,” she said.

“I don’t care about you, Sara,” I said. “I don’t care what you’ve done. But I’ve come to Hammer Bay to do a job.”

“What ever,” she said. “Get out.”

She was scared, but not of me. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. “Does Wyatt buy meth or does he make it himself?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Please. You can’t tell me you don’t know what’s going on.”

Bill chuckled. “Sure she can. She’s a tough girl, but she’s a little naïve.”

I turned to Bill. “Which is it, then?”

“Wyatt buys it somewhere south of here, then sells it in the lot at his night job.”

“Are the cops clueless or paid off?” I asked.

“Paid off, I bet,” Bill said. “Considering.”

“What night job?”

Bill laughed. “The Curl Club. He keeps it low-key, though. I don’t think Henstrick has worked it all out yet.”

“Wyatt isn’t a customer there, is he?”

“No, he’s a bouncer, like Floyd and Georgie. Most of her boys work the club when they’re not working on job sites. Especially when times are hard.”

“Who is this ‘her’ you mentioned?”


“Ah.” I felt embarrassed to have to be told.

Sara was getting impatient and I was done. I backed toward the door. “Thanks, Bill.”

He said he was glad to help. Sara asked me if what I’d said about Africa was true.

“Be sure to lock the door behind me.” I left.

If I had played my hand right, Sara would begin asking around, spreading the rumor. Annalise was going to have to go after Charles Hammer again, and Hammer would know we were coming. I wondered how much it would take to truly isolate him.

A police car was parked across the street. Inside I saw the silhouette of the same fat officer I’d seen earlier.

I heard a clatter nearby. I turned toward the sound.

Something low and gray moved out from the side of the Dumpster. At first I thought it was a dog. Then I saw the tinge of red fur. It was the wolf from the night before. It stared at me. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

The door to the bar opened. I whirled around and saw Bill limping toward me. He wore an eager, fevered expression.

“You’re here for something, aren’t you?” he asked.

I glanced back at the mouth of the parking lot. The wolf was gone. “Yeah. A couple beers and dinner.”

“Sure, sure. I understand. Listen, have you talked to Pete Lemly yet?”

“Who’s he?”

“Our local newspaper guy. He knows a lot of the local chess pieces, and how they like to move.”

The police car across the street started up and pulled away. Bill glanced over at it, noticing it for the first time. His expression grew fearful. “Oh, Lord. I gotta get.” He hustled back into the bar.

Apparently, I was not a person to be seen with. I started walking. Two couples passed me headed for the bar. They walked close together as though huddling against the darkness, and when they laughed, their voices were too loud and full of strain.

I heard a woman scream. The couples heard it as well. They stood still, looking at one another as though waiting for someone else to make a decision.

I ran toward the sound. The woman, whoever she was, kept screaming. I sprinted around the corner and heard them following me.

About twenty yards ahead, I saw a woman standing on the far side of a Dodge Neon. Her face was lit by a fire in the car. She wore an expression of utter horror.

Then the fire went out. She staggered against a tree planted by the curb. A wave of wriggling silver shapes spilled out the back door, swarmed onto the nearest lawn, and burrowed into it.

I was just a few yards away when I felt that sudden twinge against my iron gate.

I slowed my pace. The woman brushed at her coat and then dragged a little girl from the backseat, urging her to hurry because it was already so late.

I stood ten yards away and watched her. Damn. Her child was gone, and she’d already forgotten. She noticed me and started to hurry. I had scared her.

The whole town was scaring me.

I walked around the block. By the time I reached the Neon, the woman and her child were gone. A black scorch mark on the sidewalk led toward the lawn, where the dirt was loose and shiny black in the streetlight. Another dead kid.

I walked toward the motel. At the last minute, I turned up the road and walked to the supermarket again. It took me an hour, but I eventually returned with a sack full of the last lean beef in the store. It was only four pounds, but if Annalise wasn’t healed, it would be better than nothing. At least I didn’t run into that cashier again.

As I walked across the parking lot, I noticed that the lights were on in her room. I went into my room next door, set the food on the table, and thumped lightly on the wall.

She knocked on my door within a few seconds. I let her in, then went into the bathroom to wash my face. I hate the feeling of dried sweat on my face.

“How are your hands?” I asked her.

“They’re a little worse,” she said. “Not too much worse, but they aren’t good. I’m not sure what I should do.”

Neither was I. I finished washing up and joined her in the other room. She was tearing the plastic off a skirt steak. Her hands were stiff and awkward.

“What about the rest of the Twenty Palace Society?” I asked.

She stopped and looked at me. “What about them?”

I knew I was about to tread on a sensitive spot, but it had to be said. “What if you called for help? You—”

“I don’t need their help,” she said evenly. “I don’t need anything from anyone. I’ve been doing jobs like this since before you were born. Since before your father was born.”

“Okay. Okay. I get it. You’re a rock.” I noticed that she had set my ghost knife on the table. I picked it up and started cutting the meat.

It felt good to have my ghost knife again.

Annalise ate all the meat I cut for her. When she was finished, she held up her hands and flexed them.

“Better?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “But not healed. I’ve never had such a stubborn injury.”

“We’ve pretty much bought out the local market.”

“In the morning we’ll try to find a butcher.” She sighed. “The longer it’s been dead, the less potent it is for me.”

That kind of talk makes me ner vous. Would she need to eat something alive soon? Maybe we should pick up a dozen oysters.

The door to my room slammed open. I threw myself to the floor. Someone shouted, “Police! Nobody move!”

Then I heard a gunshot.

“Luke! LUKE!” a man shouted. “Easy, now! Easy!”

I realized I was holding my ghost knife. I didn’t want the cops to have it, so I set it on its edge and pushed it through the carpet. It disappeared into the floor.

“Nobody move!” someone else shouted. This voice was young. I wanted to glance at them, but I held myself completely still. I didn’t need to see their faces. Not until they put away their weapons, anyway.

“Is anyone hurt?” the first voice asked. I recognized it as Emmett Dubois.

“I’m unhurt,” Annalise said. Her voice was cool and relaxed.

“Good, good, now don’t move.”

The fat cop knelt on my back and cuffed me. I was hauled to my feet. Annalise stood beside me, her hands also cuffed behind her back.

“I’m sorry, Emmett,” one of the cops said. He was the one with the seven-day beard. He’d apparently left his cigar in the car. I guessed this was Luke. “It’s that smell.”

“I know,” Emmett said. His voice was soothing, an older brother talking to a younger. “We’ll talk about it later.”

They made us stand by the window while they tossed the place. They found my clothes but not the ghost knife. Emmett Dubois seemed pretty interested in all the meat wrappers, but he didn’t ask us about it directly.

Then they took us to Annalise’s room and let us watch as they tossed it, too. She didn’t seem to have brought anything of her own into the room.

Finally, we all watched as Luke and the red- haired cop searched the van. They threw everything onto the asphalt, even rolling out Annalise’s dirt bike and searching under the seat, inside the exhaust pipes, gas tank, and handlebars.

A little man came out of the manager’s office and watched. He crossed his arms and stood well back in the shadow of the door as though he was afraid to be seen.

They didn’t find her vest of ribbons or her spell book. The only thing that seemed to interest Emmett was the satchel she’d brought to her meeting with Able Katz. He pulled the papers out, shuffled through them, and shoved them back.

If Annalise was bothered by the way they ransacked her stuff, she didn’t show it.

“All right,” Emmett finally said. “Let’s load them up.”

Luke came over to drag me into a waiting police car. The fat cop took Annalise. I saw him lean down and whisper something to her. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but I knew he wasn’t offering her a private suite with cable TV. Not that Annalise seemed to be bothered by anything he said. They sat us in the back of the cars and drove us away.

I didn’t like being in the back of a cop car again. It smelled bad. I had to sit against my handcuffs, and they hadn’t even belted me in.

We drove north through the downtown, passing the parking lot where Wyatt had tried to ambush me. The police station was on a small side road at the edge of the water. Huge, irregular black rocks lay on all sides of the station and the tiny road leading to it.

We parked outside the station. Three Dodge Ram trucks were there, one gleaming black, one fire-engine red, and one painted gunmetal gray with flames on the sides. They were tricked out with fog lights, chrome wheels, ski racks, and who knows what else. Beside them was a vintage
Bentley, black, although I couldn’t see enough of it to guess the year.

These were expensive cars, far above the level of the usual pickups and station wagons I’d seen around town or the dinged-up, rusted Celica parked at the far end of the lot.

They brought me inside but didn’t process me. No fingerprints, nothing. Luke just walked me into the back and stuck me in a cell. Alone. He made me back up and stick my hands through the bars so he could uncuff me. He took his time about it.

“That girlfriend of yours isn’t much of a looker,” he said.

A chill ran down my back. I tried to turn to look at him, but he yanked the chain on my cuffs.

“She’s got all them tattoos, though,” he continued. “I’d guess she’s a wild one. Am I right?”

I imagined Annalise backhanding Luke’s head off his shoulders. “Watch your step with her.”

Luke grabbed the back of my collar and slammed my head against the bars. My eyes filled with stars. I spun and fell against the metal bench. When I looked at him again, he had a nine-millimeter pointed at my head.

“A little caution might be a good idea right now, son. A little common sense, if you get my point.”

I felt my head. There was no blood, but I’d have a fine lump in a couple of hours. And it hurt like a bastard.

Part of me wished he’d pull the trigger. I was sick of being chased, threatened, and left in the dark. A bullet, at least, would be a clean end.

“Common sense has never been my strong suit,” I heard myself say.

Luke holstered his weapon. “Guess we’ll have to work on that together,” he said. He smiled at me and left.

I could, with a little concentration, summon my ghost knife, but I’d never tried it from farther than a few yards. I wondered if I could call it from all the way across town.

I closed my eyes and tried to shut out the pain in my head. The ghost knife had power, and that power recognized me. I didn’t understand it any more than your average stickup man understands the chemical composition of the gunpowder in his nine-mil, but I knew how to
make it work. I closed my eyes and concentrated. I couldn’t feel it. It was too far away.

Crap. With my ghost knife, I could have cut myself out of this cell in a few seconds. I planned to try again when my head cleared, but I wasn’t hopeful.

The door opened and a woman walked into the hall. She looked past sixty, and she wasn’t handling the years well. Her face was pale, and the pouches under her eyes were the color of storm clouds. Her hair looked as though she’d cut it herself without looking in a mirror. Her mouth moved ceaselessly: she licked her lips, chewed them, pursed them, twisted them into a frown. She carried a stack of files.

“You’re the fellow who . . .” She broke off. I waitedfor her. “Why did you help Harlan Semple?”

I didn’t say Because my boss told me to. Instead I said, “Is he somebody to you?”

“My nephew.” She glanced at the door behind her. She didn’t want to be caught talking to me.

“How is he? I wanted to visit him, but I haven’t had time.”

“He’s stable now, after a bad night and day. They said you saved his life. Why did you do it? Did you know him?”

“No, I don’t know him, and I’m not sure why I did it.”

“Did he . . . did he say why he was doing what he was doing?”

“You mean shooting up the town?” She didn’t flinch. She just stared at me with the blank eyes of a hungry bird. “He said it was because of his daughters. He said he had two daughters, but they disappeared. He said kids have been disappearing from the whole town, but he’s the only one who remembers.”

She shook her head. “That poor, crazy-headed boy.”

“Did he have two daughters?” I asked her.

“He didn’t have anyone. His wife took up with . . . someone else after he was hurt. He was all by himself.”

I didn’t believe a word of it, but I was sure she believed it. She reached up and wearily wiped her eyes. I noticed a nasty scar on her hand.

“Is that a bite mark?” I asked. “A dog bite?”

She became flustered and started toward the exit.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “Do you want to help your bosses?”

That stopped her. She glanced ner vous ly at the door, then came back toward me. I didn’t get off the bench. I had to present this next bit carefully. She was obviously terrified of the Dubois
brothers, and being so close to them every day meant she was probably desperate to keep them happy. She wouldn’t pass on any information that might irritate Emmett or his boys.

“I don’t care what you folks here get up to, understand?” I used a high voice and kept my head and shoulders as low as I could without breaking eye contact. She still stared at me dubiously. “Honestly, I don’t care. The only thing I care about is avoiding trouble.”

“You’re not very good at it, though, are you?”

I smiled. “I’m trying. Listen, I’m just a driver. Annalise, my boss, is the one in charge. And she’s rich. Very rich.”

Her mouth twisted. “She doesn’t look rich.”

“She’s eccentric, you know what I mean?”

She folded her arms. “Why are you telling me all this?”

“Just make sure your bosses know to be careful around her. If something happens to her, her people will be all over Hammer Bay. Politicians, lawyers, state cops, private investigators, newspaper people, the whole works. They’ll start talking to everyone in the town, auditing
tax rec ords, the whole deal. I’ve seen it happen.”

“I still don’t know why you’re telling me,” she said stubbornly. “Everyone here is completely professional. She doesn’t have anything to worry about.”

Of course she didn’t have anything to worry about. But I didn’t want to deal with the fallout if Annalise pinched off Luke Dubois’s head.

“Come on, ma’am,” I said. “Don’t kid a kidder. Luke Dubois stood right outside this cell and made a crack about her. He needs to know.”

“So you’re trying to help him, too?”

“Luke Dubois burst into my motel room and shot the place up, then he banged my skull against these bars. I wouldn’t piss on him if his hair was on fire. But I don’t want to sit through another deposition, or give more statements to state cops and private eyes. I just want to get through the next couple of days without some damn catastrophe falling on my head.”

She stared at me for a moment, then said: “I’ll get Sugar.” She left the room.

A few minutes later, she returned with the tall redhaired cop. He was all knobby muscles and bulging Adam’s apple. His name tag said S. DUBOIS.

“Is there a problem, sir?” he asked, just like a real TV policeman.

I went through the whole spiel again, but it was a little more polished this time. Sugar listened without expression. Finally, he held up his hand. I stopped. “I’ll be right back, sir,” he said. Then he left the room.

The woman watched him as though she didn’t know whether Sugar wanted her to follow or stay where she was, and that it was an important question. She decided to stay.

A minute later, Emmett came in. He looked relaxed, smiling like the host of a well-planned dinner party. “I understand there’s a problem of some kind?” he said.

I went through it a third time, making it much shorter and much less emotional. I did my best to make it sound like Annalise was a land mine. I didn’t want to sound like I was threatening anyone.

Emmett cut me off after I’d barely touched on the points I wanted to make. “Nothing is going to happen to her. This may not be the Ritz, but my brothers and I are professionals.”

I rubbed the goose egg swelling on the back of my head. “Then there aren’t any problems at all, I guess.”

He looked at me. I looked at him. He didn’t seem to like me much. “I know who you are,” Emmett said. I didn’t answer. “Come along, Shireen.” He led the others through the doorway and bolted the door from the other side. The lights switched off.

I lay back on the bench. It shouldn’t have bothered me that Emmett Dubois knew me and my history. It was part of the public record. Anyone with an Internet connection and the correct spelling of my last name could dig up the newspaper articles in a few seconds.

But it did bother me. He knew about the time I’d served, the enemies I’d made, and the people who were dead because of me. I didn’t know a thing about him, except that he was hiding something. I wasn’t sure what it was, but it was all over his face.

I wondered, not for the first time, why he’d picked us up. My fight with Floyd was reason enough, but had Sara called him, too? And there was the incident at the toy company to consider.

Somehow, I doubted it was the latter. The further that morning’s fight slipped into the past without comment, the more convinced I was that no one could remember it. The Dubois brothers didn’t strike me as the souls of restraint— one of them would have said something.
Also, Sara and Bill hadn’t heard about it hours after it happened.

One person I expected to remember everything was Charlie Three. The fires at the toy offices tied him and his company to the burned kids, but how was he doing it and why? And according to Bill, the latest Hammer — although it was funny to call him that since he was barely older than I was— had cut the Dubois brothers loose. His father and grandfather had used the police to control the town, but they were on their own now.

And there were the seizures to consider, too. Bill said they ran in the family.

Actually, he’d said they came on when the patriarch was successful. That was something to talk about with Annalise, if I ever got the chance.

Had Hammer made a phone call and had us picked up? It was possible, but if I had a whole town under my thumb, I wouldn’t have the cops bring my enemies to a cell. I’d have them run out of town or shot.

Of course, the Dubois brothers might march in like automatons and breathe fire on me, but I didn’t expect it. They could find a better place to kill us than their cells.

Then again, maybe Hammer hadn’t sicced the cops on us after all. Maybe Floyd and Emmett were bowling buddies, and I was going to get stomped by the rest of the league before morning.

It wasn’t a pleasant thought, but I’d been around scary people before. I was a light sleeper, too, especially when people were thinking naughty thoughts about me.

I stayed awake a good long time. When a suspect falls asleep quickly in a cell, cops see that as a sign of guilt. No one came to check on me, though, and eventually, I slept.

I heard the lock on my cell door clank open very quietly, and I was sitting up before I was even fully awake.

“Skittish, ain’t he?” Luke Dubois smiled down at me. His fat brother stood beside him. It occurred to me that I’d never heard him speak. “Stand up and turn around,” he said.

I did. He cuffed me and led me to an interrogation room. Emmett was waiting.

“Welcome, Mr. Lilly,” Emmett said. “Have a seat. Wiley, set up the video, please.”

Luke shoved me into a chair and left the room. Wiley, the fat cop that Bill had told me to be careful with, pulled a video camera out of a corner and set it on a tripod. The camcorder was a new model.

Emmett smiled at me as we waited. He had a pair of folders on the table in front of him, but he didn’t open them.

Wiley started the camcorder, then sat in the corner. He pulled his gun from his holster and held it in his lap, staring at me as if he was trying to come up with a reason not to shoot me then and there.

Emmett recited the date for the benefit of the camera, then his name, Wiley’s, and mine. I glanced at his watch. It was 3:15 in the morning. I wiped sleep out of my eyes. I needed to be alert.

“So, Mr. Lilly,” Emmett said, smiling and leaning forward. “Tell me what you know about the murder of Karoly Lem.”

1 commentaires:

Anonymous said...

Don't quote the whole novel, Pat. =P