“STAY, SHE SAID”
I would normally leave previews of “Stay, She Said,” until the novel is ready, but this one is a new year’s treat for anyone who’s been following WWWM for nearly 10 years. If you like thus, enjoy.
CLIP FROM WWWM 5 – “STAY SHE SAID”
Crossing All the ‘t’s and Dotting All the ‘I’s
11 p.m. Thursday, December 29, 2005
The wind hurled enough sand through the air that I had to turn my back to it. I wore a fleece jacket from Switzerland that I almost never had occasion to wear in Florida. I’d bought it on a vacation to Switzerland years ago. I’d worn it In the snow flurries of an early winter as I stood outside our rental car looking down on the pass that Hannibal had led his troops and elephants through the Alps in his losing war on Rome. Debbie had stood beside me in the snow shivering, looking for all the world like some other-worldly Viking goddess.
Tonight I stood nearly 4000 miles and a world away from the Alps, walking the St. Augustine sands. It seemed colder tonight. The temperature was only in the low 40s, but the howling wind of a Nor’easter brushing the Florida coast brought the temperatures down into the 20s, if that. But it wasn’t just the wind. When I was a kid I’d come to St. Augustine with friends on a chilly Saturday morning with the wind howling and a few hours later I was lucky to avoid frostbite on my face and nose and for a long time I couldn’t feel my ears.
This was where I’d always come to think, to hurt, to figure out what to do next. I think a lot of other people did too. Northeast Florida had its own unique charms, but what it had always had primarily was THE BEACH. This was a different world, a differerent realm and I think people unconsciously realized it.
I had a few memories of the forests of West Virginia, the mountains, but they were faded now. THIS was my world. If I’d been a praying man, this was where I’d come to fall down on my knees and beg mercy from the powers that be. Except that I knew there was no mercy to be had. I was a walking dead man and there would be no more long term plans.
I felt better for walking near and in the rolling waves that drenched my slacks, the wind-hurled sea-foam leaving my jacket damp and smelling of salt. God knows why the dark waters and the howling winds had raised my spirits, but they did. I took one last look out into the night, thinking that somewhere on the other side of the night Aline was either awake or preparing to wake, unless she had already returned to the Bon Chance.
I made my way back to the trail that led up the dunes to the parking area for the Matanzas beach and bird preserve. AS I climbed I heard soft voices off in the dunes. They were almost certainly lovers enjoying the privacy of the dunes in the dark. But it still reassured me to pat the Glock I carried in a shoulder holster. It was probably over caution, but too many strange things were happening.
I made it back to my Caddy and slipped inside. I could still hear the roar of the wind, but it was muted and sounded more romantic than fierce.
I pulled out my cell and dialed a number Tyrone Biggs had given me. It rang about twenty times before a male voice answered.
“I’d like to talk to-“
“This is a very private line, asshole. Get lost.”
And he hung up.
I dialed again and after 30 rings the same voice came back on.
“WE got this number, fuckhead. Get the hell off this line while you’re still breathing.”
Another 40 rings and a different voice came on.
“I don’t know who you are, or what you want, but this is Mr. B’s very private line. And your number don’t belong to anyone Mr.B wants to talk to. WE got your phone located and we can have somebody to you in two hours top. That might be time enough to run, but you piss him off and there’s nowhere you can hide.”
“Tell Mr. Biggs that Bill Maitland would like to speak with him.”
And I hung up.
Thirty minutes later the phone rang.
I’d passed the time listening to a tape of the best of the Cranberries and Lady GaGA, Old memories and the best of the new stuff. I had to start listening to more of the new stuff. I already felt the tug of memory, the magnetic attraction of living in a time when I didn’t have a death sentence hanging over my head.
I imagine the same thing happens to guys in their 70s and 80s. AS death looms you want to listen the a more comfortable music. It would happen to me if I wasn’t careful. And I really didn’t want to turn into an old fart while I was still in my 40s.
That was why I had to keep working. Not WANTED to keep working, NEEDED to keep working, but HAD TO. I didn’t want to turn inward and spend my time staring at my own navel. A big question mark might hover over my life, but I wanted to remain part of the world. When I was gone, I was gone, but until that time I was going to be a prosecutor. I was going to keep sending assholes to spend the rest of their lives looking out through prison bars or to end their lives in pain and internal fire.
Call me an asshole but the bleeding hearts who care about monsters who kill, rape and maim others are ignorant or aren’t very good human beings themselves. They’ve never read the reports of what it was really like for men, women and children who died in pain and fear.
I accepted the call.
So I wasn’t going to retire.
“I didn’t believe them when they said it was you.”
It wasn’t a question so I didn’t respond.
“Has something happened to my brother? Or is something going to happen to him?”
“Nothing that I know of.”
“I was involved in some very pleasant partying before you called, which is why my men didn’t want to interrupt me.”
“Well, I’m happy for you. But I’d appreciate a moment of your time.”
“What do you want, Maitland?”
“I’d appreciate some privacy. Your phone being tapped?”
“I’ve spent a good amount of time and money trying to keep anyone from listening in. I change phones every few days, and numbers. And my tech people have got the greatest incentive in the world to stay on their toes.”
“Avoiding the unemployment line?”
“Continuing to breath.”
“That’s a pretty good incentive. But you ought to know there’s a good chance the NSA is going to be listening in.”
“The Feds. Why…it doesn’t matter. I repeat, what do you want?”
“I’d like to ask you for a favor.”
“You? A favor? From me?”
There was a silence and then, “Who do you want me to kill?”
… … …
A longer silence.
“This isn’t some weird sting, is it?”
“That’s some favor.”
“I’m not going to go into details, but sometime – in a day or a week or five years – I’m going to fall down – and I won’t get up. Which is not really a problem or your concern. I’ve made my arrangements. There is only one possibility I haven’t taken care of.”
There was another long silence. I thought I heard Marvin Gaye in the background, a soft “honey” in the background.
“It’s okay if I drop dead. But if I’m not lucky, I might survive…for a while.”
“And that’s a problem…?”
“I don’t want to spend the rest of my life as a vegetable. There’s no coming back. And I
don’t want my wife – my ex-wife – or my kids to have to be the ones to pull the plug. Especially, if my mother is still alive, I don’t want her doing it. She’s lost too much already.”
“So you thought of me.”
“You have to admit it wouldn’t be a stretch. You kill people. Hopefully you won’t have to do anything. But, keep your ears open. I’ll make arrangements to have someone contact you, but you’ll probably hear something.”
“And why shouldn’t I hang up, go back to what I was doing, and just forget all about this?”
“No reason. You should hate me. Maybe you do. But…you surprised the hell out of me already. There was no reason to do what you did. But you did. I’m hoping you will again.”
I could hear the wind howling outside and Marvin Gaye in my ear. The combination of the howling wind and his mellow tones made a nice sound. Maybe mellow and smooth hadn’t been his best arrangement.
I could hear it in his voice.
“Shit happens. You know as well as I do that nobody gets out alive.”
“Thank you – in advance,” I said to the man who was everything I wasn’t – and never wanted to be.
“I could say it will be a pleasure, Mr. Maitland, but it won’t be.”
I ended the conversation to let him get back to what he’d been doing
I could relax now. I had dotted all the ‘I’s and crossed all the ‘t’s. I lay back against the car seat and listened to the Cranberries sing against the wind.