When Rink’s father is murdered, Joe Hunter vows to help his friend avenge his brutal death. Rink’s mother Yukiko isn’t talking, her silence governed by the Bushido tradition of giri, or moral obligation. But other people known to Yukiko are also dying, all due to a shameful secret from their past that Hunter must uncover if he hopes to end the murders. To do that rules must be broken, and Hunter doesn’t care what he must break to stop the killer.
Praise for RULES OF HONOR
“The action scenes are immaculately described…and even the shades of grey are murkier than ever. An excellent starting point to the dark and dangerous world of Joe Hunter.”
“A rip-snorting novel which is fast paced, exciting and yet self-aware enough to address its own belief system.”
—Graham Smith, author of Snatched From Home
“…Hilton drives pace faster than The Stig…”
“Sharp and hard hitting…Matt doesn’t allow himself to get complacent, but continually delves deeper into the psyche of Joe…Fast-paced, action-filled and completely addictive, Matt shows his continuing maturity as a writer with an exhilarating ride that still maintains humour and wit.”
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‘Stay in bed, I’m going to take a look.’
‘I’ll phone the police.’
‘No. Just wait until I check things out. It was maybe just the wind.’
‘That wasn’t the wind, Andrew.’
‘Maybe not, but it’s too early to call the police. Just wait and I’ll go see. If I’m not back in two minutes, call then.’
The woman watched her husband pull a robe over his bulky shoulders, then move for the closet in their bedroom. He opened the door and reached for the top shelf, from which he retrieved a locked box. Inside the box was a relic of her husband’s past. He glanced at her briefly, an apologetic look, but then withdrew the gun that winked dully in the lamplight. Inside the box was a rapid loader, and Andrew fed the six bullets into the gun with precision. Done, he looked at his wife again.
‘It’s only a precaution,’ he whispered, closing the cylinder and latching it tight.
His wife had switched on the bedside lamp, but the rest of the house was in darkness. As he eased open the door and peered into the upstairs hall he pressed his body close to the opening to stop light spill. He paused there a moment, allowing his eyes to adjust to the dark. Then he slipped out into the hall, surprisingly agile for a man of his advanced years. Andrew was a septuagenarian but looking at him most would guess he was at least ten years younger. His height had barely been touched by the years, and he still had the broad shoulders and heavy arms of his youth. His knees bothered him these days, but not now while a bubble of adrenalin coursed through his frame. He went along the hall with the gun held close to his side. He didn’t concern himself with the guest bedrooms or the bathroom because the sound that had woken them had definitely come from below in the living room.
Recently there had been a spate of burglaries in the neighbourhood, the cops putting down the breaking and entries to drug addicts looking for cash, credit cards and items easily pawned. Andrew and his wife, though they weren’t rich, were wealthy enough to attract the attention of a sneak thief. That angered Andrew: he’d worked hard all of his life, even put his safety on the line, to make an easy retirement for him and his wife. No sneak thief was going to take anything from them.
A lifetime ago he’d fought in Korea, had survived the worst that war could throw at him, and for decades afterwards had striven to be the same soldier. He had failed to protect his girl child, who’d succumbed through illness, and one boy following suit with a military career had been killed in the line of duty. So now he was more determined than ever that he would not fail his wife and allow some punk to invade their home and take their lives’ worth. He was old but he’d lost none of his military acumen and thought himself more than equal to a drug-addled thief.
From the head of the landing he peered down the stairs.
Moonlight flooded the vestibule at the bottom, a skewed oblong cast from the window in the front door stretching across the floor. Within the light grey shadows danced, but Andrew recognised them as the trees in his garden dancing to the breeze. He took the stairs one at a time, avoiding the third step down that was prone to squeak under his weight. As he descended the stairs he looked for the blinking red light on the alarm box on the hall wall, but it was steady. Whoever had found a way inside was clever enough to dismantle the alarm. Or they knew the code and had turned it off. There was only one other person who knew the code, but he wasn’t prone to dropping in uninvited like this in the dead of night. Alone the sound they’d heard wasn’t proof that an invader was in their house, but the dead alarm now solidified it. Andrew considered going back upstairs and telling his wife to telephone the police immediately, but something halted him. Pride. Foolish pride perhaps, but he wasn’t the type to run from danger.
Some would have been tempted to call out a challenge, but Andrew knew that it would be a mistake. A desperate drug addict might run for it, but then if Andrew had managed to corner him then his desperation might turn violent. Better that he initiated any beating than the other way around. He went down the stairs, paused to check the alarm box and saw that the guts of it had been teased open and a wire clipped onto the exposed workings to form a loop in the system. The alarm had been negated, but the automatic signal to his service provider would not have kicked in, as it would if the wires had been merely torn out. If he’d stopped to think for a moment he’d have realised that it was too sophisticated a method for an addict only intent on his next fix. But he wasn’t thinking he was reacting. Threat demanded action.
He glanced once towards the kitchen but discarded it: a thief would go for the living room where the possibility of rich pickings was greater. He moved along the short hallway and saw that the door to the sitting room was ajar. Always conscious about home safety, fire and smoke being the worst threat to sleeping inhabitants, he was always careful to turn off electrical appliances and to close doors tight. He had got it down to a bedtime routine and knew he’d closed that door tightly, as he did every night. He paused there listening. He thought he heard a soft footfall, but it came from above, probably his wife. Placing a fingertip to the door, he teased it inward, the revolver held steady against his hip. Then, without warning he shoved the door hard and stepped quickly into the room, sweeping the familiar space for anything alien.
There was nobody to be seen.
If not for the jerry-rigged alarm he’d have thought he’d been mistaken, that the noise that woke him was nothing but wind throwing the garden furniture around the yard. He wondered if the burglar had heard him as he’d risen and had made himself scarce. But in the next instant he knew that he was wrong.
A cold metallic tickle behind his right ear made him halt.
‘You know what that is, don’t you, old man?’
Andrew nodded slightly, a minute movement because he didn’t know how hair-triggered the gun pressed to his skull was.
‘Mine’s bigger than yours,’ whispered the voice over his shoulder. ‘I suggest you drop that old revolver and kick it back to me.’
‘Okay, son, take it easy now.’ Andrew lifted the revolver and flicked the latch to open the swing-out cylinder. He rattled the gun and allowed the shells to tumble out and clatter on the hardwood floor.
‘Not good enough.’ A fist was jabbed into Andrew’s back, directly above his left kidney. Pain flared through the old man, sending a white flash across his vision. ‘Now, as I said first time, put down the gun and kick it back to me.’
‘It’s useless,’ Andrew said, desperate not to relinquish the weapon having placed some spare rounds in his robe pocket.
‘Is it?’ The man clubbed Andrew across the back of his head and sent him sprawling into the living room.
As he fell the revolver was knocked from Andrew’s hand. In the seconds afterwards it didn’t matter because he used both hands to cover the split in his scalp. ‘Son of a bitch.’
‘You see,’ the man said. ‘Even an empty gun can be a good weapon.’ He levelled his semi-automatic handgun on Andrew’s chest. ‘Not that mine’s empty.’
Andrew struggled up to a seated position, grabbing at a settee for support. He could feel blood trickling through his hair. He looked up at the man, squinting to try to make sense of the face.
‘Who the hell are you? What do you want?’
One thing Andrew was sure about: this was no addict looking for a quick payday. The man was large and solidly built, dressed in black jeans, black jacket and a black baseball cap. Backlit by the meagre moonlight in the hall he looked like a living silhouette.
‘If I answered your first question, you’d probably guess the second.’
‘If you’re after money, you’ve come to the wrong place. You’d be better off…’
‘I’m not here for money.’
‘That’s good, son, because I’m old and haven’t worked in years, I don’t have much to get by on.’
‘Save it,’ said the man. ‘You’re wasting your time trying to make conversation. I know what you’re trying to do: humanize yourself in my eyes, making me think twice about doing you harm. You’re wasting the few breaths you have left.’
Andrew was thinking clearer now and studied his surroundings for a way out of this. He didn’t like what the man had just said, it sounded like he had only one agenda. No way was Andrew going to sit on his ass and offer his would-be killer an easy ride. He thought of his wife upstairs and knew that she’d be next, but not if he did enough to alert her to the danger, and slowed the bastard down. He looked for something to use as a weapon.
‘Don’t even think about it.’
Andrew returned his gaze to the man. He’d stepped inside the room and was looming over Andrew. The gun was held steadily, the barrel aimed directly at Andrew’s face. ‘I want you to know why I’m here, why I’m about to kill you. It’d be a shame if I had to put a bullet through your skull before I showed you this.’
From his jacket pocket the man took out a cell phone. He’d readied it beforehand, and he held out the glowing screen so that Andrew could see the photograph on the screen. Andrew screwed his eyes to help focus the picture and saw that in fact it was a photograph taken from one much older. The image was of a man in uniform, sepia in colour. It was many decades since Andrew had seen that face but he recognised it and knew who this man might be.
‘Who is it?’ Andrew tried, but he knew the man recognised the lie.
‘You don’t remember? Well that’s a shame, because he’s waiting to greet you in hell.’
The man’s voice had risen in pitch and volume, and Andrew knew that the rest of his life could be counted in seconds. He coiled himself, ready to call out, to fight back, to do something.
Andrew squirmed round so that he was partly side-on to the man. To anyone uninitiated to violence it might seem that the old man was frightened and trying to make himself a smaller target. ‘You do know what he did?’
‘Oh, so you’re admitting that you know him now?’ The man put the phone away and from his pocket took out a long tubular object. Andrew recognised it as a sound suppressor. It was both a bad and good sign. It meant that the man was not a first time killer and had come prepared, but also that he did not want to raise an alarm by firing indiscriminately.
‘He deserved everything he got,’ Andrew said.
‘No one deserved that!’ The man screwed the suppressor onto the barrel of his gun with a few practiced twists. He did it blindly, but couldn’t deny the natural reaction to glance at it once, to make sure he’d secured it correctly. It was only a brief second of inattention, but Andrew took advantage of it.
From his side-on position he could chamber his left leg, and he shot it out, aiming with his bare heel at the man’s shin. Better that he aim for the knee, but he didn’t have the range. His heel struck bone, at the same time as he swung his other foot to hook behind the man’s ankle. Andrew scissored his legs. An untrained man would have been upended, giving Andrew time to swarm on top of him and to snatch away the gun. Unfortunately this man had come with violence in mind, and though he was staggered, he was agile enough that he was able to disengage his trapped leg and to hop aside…bringing round the gun.
Andrew’s yell wasn’t out of fear of the bullet destined for him.
A slight figure had appeared as a shadow behind the man, one arm raised in the air. With all of her strength his wife brought down a plant pot she’d lifted off a hallway dresser. The man had somehow felt her presence behind him and was already turning. The plant pot struck him on the shoulder, but it was nothing to the man. He continued his turn and swung with the barrel of the gun, striking the woman across the side of her skull. She hit the floor quicker than the falling plant pot, which shattered in a way that Andrew feared her skull had. The man gave one disdainful look at the woman before turning his attention back to Andrew.
He took a step back. Andrew had come up from the floor much faster than a man of his age should have been able.
‘Bastard!’ Andrew came at him with animal ferocity, throwing two solid punches at the man’s chest, but both fell short. ‘If you’ve killed her I’ll—’
The man shot him: three rapid bullets to the chest.
Andrew staggered at each impact.
‘This time you’ll do nothing,’ the man sneered.
Andrew collapsed to the floor, jammed in the doorway. He didn’t look at the man now, but at his wife. She lay on her side; her head cradled under one arm. He could barely see the rise and fall of her shoulder as it rode each breath.
‘Please,’ he moaned. ‘Take me, but don’t harm my wife.’
The man snorted.
‘Why not? It’s your lying wife’s fault it came to this.’
He shot Andrew again, this time in the head.
It was misty in San Francisco.
The mist was nothing unusual, because it was a regular occurrence in the bay area. Something to do with the humidity coming in from the Pacific and meeting the cool air sweeping out from the U.S. landmass, or vice versa. Whatever the phenomenon, it had coalesced into low-lying clouds. Today it had formed out on the water, a huge embankment that had followed the shorelines, obscuring from view the world famous Golden Gate Bridge before pushing in to shroud Alcatraz and on to similarly veil the Bay Bridge. Above the mist I could still make out the tallest points of the Bay Bridge, against the backdrop of a starry sky. The thrum of traffic over the bridge was muted, a background accompaniment only. On the Embarcadero traffic was light, and none of the famous cable cars were in sight. Pedestrians were few as well, but there were street people camped out next to a large fountain that looked as if it had been erected using the leftover concrete from an overpass. Most of the street people were tucked under sleeping bags, shopping trolleys piled with their belongings forming wind breaks behind them. One of the homeless guys was an early riser like me, and he was rooting through some boxes outside a pizza shop. He had shuffled past a minute earlier without noticing me, which went a long way to prove my disguise was working.
I was wearing a thick parka jacket picked up from a military surplus store, plus jeans and a pair of boots that looked like they’d seen a thousand miles, and a wool cap pulled down around my ears. I’d gone unshaven for three days. To complete my disguise I’d rooted around in an open Dumpster and allowed the stink to percolate. I was sure that no one but another hobo would come within ten feet of me from choice.
It was very early, an hour or two before dawn, but I wasn’t feeling it. I’d only flown in from Florida two days before, and my body clock swore it was actually midmorning. I was wide-awake and intent on the job at hand. I saw the man I’d been waiting for immediately.
He was a large man. Maybe a shade over six feet, but big in other ways: big shoulders, big arms, big chest and waist. He was also big in the local criminal underworld, but still a few rungs from the top. He was dressed for purpose in a windcheater jacket: not a defence against the chill but to conceal the gun holstered beneath his left armpit. He was called Sean Chaney, a strong arm of the resident criminal fraternity. He looked half-asleep, which suited me fine.
As he moved by, I fell into step a dozen yards behind him. He didn’t glance at me, and wouldn’t be concerned if he did. All the homeless people here knew who he was, what he did for a living and didn’t hassle him for change. He walked alongside the Hyatt, a huge structure of tiered rooms and balconies to make the best of the view across the bay. The Embarcadero Centre was on our right; a three storied shopping mall that spanned several blocks of the city. Apart from security lighting all of the shops remained in darkness and there was no one else around. My boots scuffed the ground, and to me sounded like canon fire, but Chaney seemed oblivious and carried on to the corner of the hotel and took a left. Coming round the corner after him, I saw him check his watch and his pace picked up.
Valets on the hotel door watched Chaney stride past, but didn’t give me as much as a glance: it said something about human nature to me. There was a junction in the road here, and it was a boarding point for the cable cars that carried tourists up and down Nob Hill, but Chaney didn’t approach the stop but headed for the stairs down to the underground BART system. I counted to ten then followed down. He was already past the ticket machines heading for the southbound platform. There was no one else in sight, but I wasn’t worried. The big man was rubbing his eyes and yawning expansively. I fed coins into the machine, took my ticket and then shuffled towards the platform. This time Chaney did look at me, but it was a glancing blow that didn’t stick. He went back to yawning, turning away from me with uninterest. I slouched against a wall, at the opposite end of the platform.
The Bay Area Rapid Transport system is on the ball at all hours of the day and night, and it was little more than a minute before the train squealed into the station. Chaney was at the doors in a second, rocking on his heels while he waited for them to open. He squeezed inside even as the doors hissed open. I waited a few seconds more, then clambered aboard the second carriage along. There was a middle-aged Chinese woman sitting in my carriage and she gave me a brief fearful look, before quickly averting her eyes. She was sitting with a couple of bags on her lap and as I moved past her she pulled them tight to her chest like a shield. I cringed inwardly, thinking about how I’d frightened the woman, but it was neither the time nor the place to reassure her she was in no danger. The only person in danger on this train was Chaney.
The next carriage along was deserted.
I moved through it as the train pulled out of the station and began swaying along the tracks.
Coming to the next connecting doors, I paused.
Peeking through the glass I could see Chaney midway along the carriage. He was facing my way, but had taken out his cell phone and was involved in checking the screen for messages. He didn’t see me, and was totally oblivious of the other person who had entered the carriage from the far end. He’d obviously had it too easy of late and had lost the intrinsic paranoia necessary for a criminal.
My friend Jared Rington moved along the carriage with an easy pace, but even from this end I could see the muscles working in his jaw, an old knife scar standing out as a white slash against his tawny skin. Rink hadn’t gone to the trouble I had. He wasn’t disguised, and didn’t see the need. He wanted Chaney to know who was coming for him, and who his executioner was going to be. The only compromise to his usual colourful attire was a pair of black leather gloves. Chaney had his back to Rink, but my friend isn’t the type to do a hit from behind. Rink’s voice was muffled, but I still heard his sharp command: ‘Stand up you piece of shit.’
Chaney dropped his phone and went for his gun, already turning as he rose.
Rink struck him with the edge of his hand, a chop to the side of the big man’s neck. Uncontrolled the blow could kill, but Rink had tempered the force. It was still enough to stagger Chaney and while he was weakened, Rink took the gun from him with a practiced twist of the wrist. Chaney grunted something, continued his turn and tried to grapple for the gun. Rink hit him again, a sweeping elbow strike that contacted with Chaney’s face and knocked him back a few steps. Rink followed him, bringing up the Glock he’d liberated to point it directly at Chaney’s forehead.
Time I did something.
I hit the button and the door swept open.
As I entered the carriage my view of Rink was slightly obscured by Chaney’s thick body. I had a horrible feeling that Rink would shoot, and the bullet would go directly through Chaney’s skull and hit me. I sidestepped, placing myself in the open next to the exit doors. Rink was taller than Chaney, and I knew he’d seen me from the slight narrowing of his eyes. That was all the notice he gave me, though, because his attention was on the man he was about to kill.
I brought up my SIG Sauer P226 and pointed it at Chaney’s back. My other hand I held open to Rink.
‘Don’t do this, brother,’ I said to him. ‘Chaney’s a piece of shit, but he doesn’t deserve this.’
Rink didn’t even look at me. Nausea squirmed a passage through my gut.
‘Don’t,’ I said again.
‘What’re you going to do, Hunter?’ Rink’s eyes never left Chaney. ‘Shoot me?’
‘I don’t want to,’ I said.
‘That’s something, at least.’ Rink ignored me then and took a step nearer Chaney.
The enforcer reared back on his heels, bringing up his hands in a placating motion. ‘Whoa! What’s this all about?’
‘I’m about to kill you,’ my friend snarled.
‘Rink. Don’t do it.’ I hurried towards him. ‘Don’t cross the line, brother.’
‘It’s too late for that, Joe.’
I knew then that there was less than a heartbeat to spare.
Rink is more than a friend to me. He is more like a brother, and I love him as such. When he’s thinking straight he’d die for me, as I would for him. There’s no way on earth that I’d shoot him and he knew it. So I did the first thing that came to mind. I shot Sean Chaney instead.
I shot him to save his life.
My bullet struck him in his left thigh and he dropped like an ox in a slaughterhouse. He bellowed like one too, his hands going to the wound in his leg. The speed at which he’d collapsed saved him the bullet that Rink was about to put in his skull. My friend blinked over the top of the writhing man at me.
‘What the hell’d you do that for?’
‘To save you from making a big mistake.’
‘There’s no mistake.’ Rink turned the gun on the fallen enforcer, but I could see a flicker of doubt worming its way across his features.
By now I was alongside my friend and I put my hand on his wrist.
‘Trust me,’ I said.
He continued to train the gun on Chaney, but I could feel the doubt in his body now, and finally he allowed me to press the gun down.
‘It wasn’t Chaney,’ I said. ‘It wasn’t him or any of his guys.’
‘And you know that how?’
I flicked a cautionary nod. ‘Later, okay?’
At our feet the enforcer was sitting with his back against one of the bench seats. His jaw was set in a grimace of agony as he grasped at his wounded leg, and his eyes were brimming with fear as he watched us. He made a mistake of opening his mouth.
‘Who the fuck are you? Do you realise who you’re messing with?’
Rink rounded on him.
‘You’ve just got a goddamn reprieve, punk. Now shut your hole!’
Chaney looked at me. ‘You shot me, you bastard. You should’ve let your buddy kill me, ‘cause I’m gonna…’
‘Going to what?’ I glared down at him. ‘I barely scratched you. You’re an ungrateful piece of crap; I’ve just saved your life.’
‘Says who?’ Chaney struggled to get up, leaning on the bench with a blood-slicked hand. ‘The way I see it your buddy is too much of a pussy to shoot. If he was gonna do it, he’d have goddamn done it. Just wait ‘til I get up and—’
I kicked his support arm from under him. Chaney went down on his backside with a solid bump. Anger flared, shame at what he perceived as the ultimate humiliation. He began to struggle up. Rink and I shared a glance and it was just like old times, before all this started. I shrugged at him. Gave him the go ahead.
Rink turned up the corner of his mouth in a smile. Then he slapped the butt of the Glock against Chaney’s skull. The enforcer was out cold before he’d slumped all the way to the floor.
‘What now?’ Rink looked at me.
‘We get off at the next station and make ourselves scarce.’
‘Thought you’d maybe explain yourself first.’
‘There’s no time.’ I left Rink while I searched the floor and came back a moment later, pocketing the flattened round I’d put through Chaney’s leg.
Rink grunted. ‘That’s why I wore gloves and used his gun. No forensics to worry about.’
‘As if that would make a difference? Doesn’t look like you made an effort to avoid the CCTV cameras.’
‘They’d have seen a big guy with black hair, but only the top of my head. Could be one of a thousand dudes, even in this shirt.’ He tugged at the collar of his bright Hawaiian number that was only partly hidden by a black leather jacket. It would look like a warning beacon anywhere else but here: there was still a large contingent of hippies and arty types in San Francisco who sported much gaudier attire. Rink nodded at me. ‘I see you’re still dressing as classy as ever.’
I was pleased to hear the tongue in cheek insult; it meant my big friend was back, thinking a little clearer than before.
‘It’s academic now,’ I said, referring to the concern about forensics. ‘Chaney isn’t going to call the police. He didn’t die, and when he wakes up he’s going to realise how lucky he’s been. All that talk was just bluster. Fear. He’ll keep quiet. But that won’t mean a thing if we’re still standing round here when we reach the next stop.’
Rink crouched down and pushed the Glock into Chaney’s holster, then arranged his coat so that it was hidden from view. Then he followed me through the carriages, away from where the Chinese woman sat oblivious to what had just occurred. We were pulling into the next station at Montgomery Street and I could see that some bleary-eyed passengers were waiting on the platform.
‘What’s the time?’ I asked.
Rink calculated. ‘Has to be coming up six o’clock by now.’
‘Good. Some of the shops should be opening. Don’t know about you, Rink, but I need a strong cup of coffee.’
‘What you need is to get rid of that coat. It smells like someone took a crap in it.’
The doors opened and we had to stand aside to avoid a suited man who rushed aboard, already conducting business on his Blackberry. He didn’t give us so much as a glance and went for the nearest seat. We got off the train and moved for the exit stairs. The train was already moving away and, as it moved parallel to us, I glimpsed into the carriage where we’d left Chaney. He was still sound asleep. Probably he wouldn’t waken until the train reached the terminus at San Francisco International Airport. Wherever he’d been heading this morning, he was going to be late for his appointment.
I dumped the coat first chance I got. The jeans and boots should have gone in the Dumpster with it, but they were all I had with me. I threw the wool cap in with the rubbish, made do with smoothing down my hair. It was short so didn’t look too bad. The shirt and canvas jacket I’d worn beneath the coat weren’t filthy, so I looked reasonably dressed and wouldn’t be kicked out of the coffee shop we headed for. Rink was silent as we strode across a thoroughfare beginning to swell with foot traffic as people headed for their work places. Rink is the epitome of the strong, silent type—until he gets going—but this morning his silence was deeper than normal. I could feel it like a living thing, caged for now but ready to be let loose to ravage and tear.
I gave up smoking and hard liquor years ago, but the old habits had been replaced by my over-reliance on strong coffee. I ordered the largest cup on sale, got a fruit smoothie for Rink. The shop had only just opened its doors and the barista was overworked. As soon as he’d delivered our drinks he continued stocking the shelves we’d disturbed him from doing. That suited us: there were no other customers and we could speak in private. We took a table where we could see the entrance and out of the front window, so there’d be no surprises. It was an old habit I’d been unable to lose.
‘I saw you.’
‘Thought you might’ve,’ I said, cupping my drink with both palms. ‘But you were still going to go ahead with the hit?’
‘Thought you might try to stop me.’
‘If you were determined enough to kill Chaney there was nothing I could’ve done about it.’
Rink closed his eyes briefly. ‘No. But I’m glad you did. You said I made a mistake: I trust you. But you’d better tell me how or I’m going back for the punk.’
I took a long swallow of coffee. ‘Chaney is a thug; there’s no denying it. And I don’t doubt that he deserves the bullet you planned to put in him, but it wasn’t him.’
‘How can you be so sure?’
‘I went back and talked with your mom again, Rink.’
‘She told me it was Chaney.’
‘She was…uh, lying.’
Rink’s forehead creased, but it wasn’t at my suggestion that his mother was less than the symbol of virtue and goodness he believed, but that my words had struck a chord in him.
‘Not lying per se,’ I went on, ‘but guessing: putting two and two together and getting five. As you know, there had been some trouble with Chaney’s lot throwing their weight around, so it was only natural that your mom should mention him to the police, and to us when we got here. But she’s had more time to think and she doesn’t believe that Chaney’s the one responsible any more. For a start, she doesn’t believe that a clown like him could’ve done what he did.’
‘No,’ Rink said. ‘Now that I’ve met him and tested his mettle, I don’t think so either. But it doesn’t make a difference to me, Hunter. Someone is responsible and I’m gonna find him. And when I do, even you won’t be able to stop me next time.’
‘As if I’m going to try? I’ll be right there beside you, brother.’
Rink hadn’t even looked at his smoothie until now, and he chugged it down. ‘You went back to see my mom. How is she?’
‘Hurting. Physically and mentally. She was more concerned about you running off the way you did than anything else. She was frightened that she sent you after the wrong man and asked that I stop you from making the biggest mistake of your life.’
‘Chaney wouldn’t have been a loss…to anyone.’
‘Maybe not, but the way you went about it, there’d have been only one suspect. Your mom didn’t want to see you going to prison for the wrong man.’
‘That’d put a wrench in the works…no way I’d find the right one then.’ Rink squinted at me. ‘I take it the disguise wasn’t for my sake?’
‘I had to get close to Chaney in order to find you. Like many, he’s blind to anyone he deems beneath himself. It worked. I was able to find him, and he led me to you. Had a feeling that you’d do him on the early train where there was little chance of collateral damage. But I wasn’t positive and decided I’d shadow him for as long as it took you to make a move. Would’ve made life much easier if you hadn’t done a runner from the hospital, or if you’d answered your bloody phone when I called you.’
He curled a lip at my ear bashing. Usually the tables were turned the opposite direction. Then he grew melancholy, and his hooded eyes sparkled with unshed tears. ‘Didn’t want to bring you down with me, brother.’
‘Jesus, Rink! It’s your dad we’re talking about here. I want to avenge his murder as much as you do.’
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