The girl has gone missing. Again. But this time people are trying to kill her. Trying to burn down everything she has touched or left behind. The girl’s surrogate father feels responsible and to assuage his guilt, he hires Richard Dean Buckner, former Saint Ansgar homicide detective turned private eye to ferret her out.
Buckner was doing fine as a bare-knuckles detective for the PD until he was rendered “unserviceable” by a hit attempt. Early retirement doesn’t sit well with that type of man, half predator and half savior.
He takes the case, and from two ex-boyfriends who ruined their lives for the girl, her rapist dad, drug dealers she burned for thousands, an uncomfortable meeting at the local Incest Survivors group to whoever is setting fire to her life, Buckner is going to need all his guts, instinct and .44 Magnum to finish the job.
Because in Saint Ansgar, what doesn’t kill you only makes you wish it did.
Praise for THE SUBTLE ART OF BRUTALITY
“Richard Dean Buckner is just the hero for our modern world: a righteous killer who can step outside convention and right the wrongs; and Sayles is just the writer to drive his story. This is how I like my fiction: unrelenting prose and kick-ass justice.”
—Joe Clifford, author of Lamentation
“The brutality is in the prose. Course and violent, Sayles writes like he is seeking vengeance against the world. It’s 21st century noir. Mickey Spillane on meth.”
—Tom Pitts, author of Knuckleball
“As subtle as brass knuckles to the face. Buckner is a classic and Sayles is one to watch.”
—Eric Beetner, author of Rumrunners and Over Their Heads (with JB Kohl)
“…Richard Dean Buckner left me wanting more. He is a breath of fresh air in an antiques shop. A biker in a museum. A chaotic, reckless anomaly. You know I’m enjoying something when I deliberately slow down my reading pace to enjoy the novel longer. The Subtle Art of Brutality is a ridiculously strong first novel, starting the new darling of the P.I novels legacy.”
—Benoit Lelievre, blogger and reviewer at Dead End Follies
“Gut twisting detective fiction done the way it is supposed to be done. RDB makes Dirty Harry seem a little soft.”
—Todd Morr, author of Jesus Saves, Satan Invests
“The Subtle Art of Brutality is a nut busting slice of noir. All of the required hard-boiled elements are present and accounted for…”
—Chris Leek, author of Gospel of the Bulley
“The Subtle Art of Brutality is a testosterone-and-meth cocktail, a relentless blast of tough guy intensity. 21st-century hardboiled.”
—Warren Moore, author of Broken Glass Waltzes
Pre-Order the Kindle edition for $1.99 until JUNE 30
“The worst thing about a contact shot to someone else’s head is getting their brains, hair and skull fragments washed off my face.”
I cock the hammer back. He sobs harder. “If you’ve never tasted a man’s grey matter tinged with gun powder and revenge you have an inexperienced palette.”
The man is on his knees before me, facing away, hands tied behind him, crying, .44 Magnum squeezed against the back of his skull as tight as a waterproof seal.
“Then of course, you have no idea what diseases the guy might have had.” I blow smoke. It crowns his head. “But the money is good.”
Smoke drifts off my cigarette, lazy and weaving in the air. The souls of dead soldiers rising from a battlefield. I drag and watch ruined ashes flutter off the cherry-like leaves from a long-dead tree, tracing spirals through the night down to their deaths before my feet.
inter in Saint Ansgar might as well be winter in Anchorage, if Anchorage never fully woke up from a nightmare. The sun is shining, eyes are open, but every corner is razor-sharp and every shadow has gritting teeth.
Here, outside on the street, frost dances in the predawn hours like devils of ice cavorting around a fresh kill. We’re south of the river that cuts Saint Ansgar from west to east in a beltline of ice floes and estuary water. Here, in these half burnt-out urban developments, the graffiti and the chalk outlines, people know where they are by the police crime scene tape and stained concrete.
Street lamps keep vigil over the empty traffic ways. Aged guardsmen cast from ironworks during the Great Depression that have seen these streets constructed and then turned over to scum and felons. Here, outdoors, we’re alone as far as the eye can see. It must be extra cold kneeling on frigid concrete.
“Please mister…I have a wife. She’s a worrier anyways and I—you’d love her. She’s blonde and hilarious and and—oh God…my wife is gonna be wondering where I am soon and—”
“Your wife will find out from the police where you have been. Or you can tell me where she is and you can go home right now.”
“Tell you where who is? My wife? She’s at home like I—” He shuts up with a stern whack from my iron.
“Who? For Christ’s sake who?”
“Alisha McDonald.” I say.
“No, no nono—”
“Yes, Francis. Her.”
“No, I had nothing to do with—”
“Missing nine weeks now.”
“No, you sonofabitchno I—”
“Alisha McDonald, age seven, sandy blonde and brown, four-foot-one, last seen—”
“Fuck you, pig, and fuck your mother I am—”
“I didn’t do nothing—”
“You went to the shopping mall—”
“I was cleared!”
“You saw her last. Before she vanished off the face of the planet.”
“I was cleared—”
“Your wife’s family lined some pockets.”
“That little girl is with somebody else—”
“Pocket lining doesn’t clear shit. Death does.”
Desperation and vindication both: “I told her stupid fucking old man I had nothing to do with that little girl! I told him as soon as I turned my back some pervert must of took her! I didn’t even wanna go to the mall! Her old man was probably banging her out himself and then hired some junkie to shut her up! That’s why he asked me to take her to the mall instead of doing it himself! A set-up! He was always dog shit like that! It’s just that the people around him never knew! He hid it well!”
Francis. Like a scorned woman crying to the police about her boyfriend hitting her.
But his next words…those he says with contempt. And worse, honesty. Flat pulse honesty: “Fuck that girl and fuck her old man for pointing the finger at me.”
I let the last bit sink into the air.
“Her old man always points the finger at me.” Like a spoiled child.
“He pointed the finger at you, Francis, because you did it.”
“I didn’t do nothing—”
I strike his head and he collapses forward. Sees stars. Hell, I can see them dance around in his eyes like old cartoons. He groans. Growls. Had enough. He rolls and leaps up. Teeth bared at me.
Unfortunately for him my left cross is just short of a freight train. I bury my fist into the crumpling structure of his mouth. His eyes roll back to white.
No time for unconsciousness.
My cigarette rubs a burnt ashen sore on his forehead. Francis wakes with a searing startle. I shake the sting of a good punch out of my hand and lift him up by the hair. I turn him to face a silhouette waiting in the shadows. His eyes adjust to the contrast of dark on darker. He sees what the shape makes out. Who the shape makes out. Recognition. Horror.
“This is how I see it played out, Francis,” I say. “The girl’s mother trusts you. And why not? She knows you. That is what you want. The girl’s dad knows better but he doesn’t tell his wife for obvious reasons. Something inside is hungry. I know the type. Maybe you’ve been starving it since the incident when you were a child.”
He looks to me. Wants to ask how I know but won’t. To ask how I know is to admit it’s real.
“Your brother told me, friend. But maybe you’ve been feeding that hunger all these years. Maybe after I gore you out, I could dig up your back yard and find a slew of four-foot tall skeletons still with some baby teeth lining their jaws.”
A single tear freshens his cheeks.
“But whatever that hunger is, you give in this time. You plan a nice day at the mall, just you and Alisha. Buy her a soda and a stuffed animal. Listen to the music in her laughter, you cast your smile down onto the little girl. Your next meal. You don’t take her home. You take her someplace else, do whatever it is you do, and stash her away for later use.
“Or you dumped her corpse.” I twist his hair until I feel clumps tear out from his scalp. More squealing. Thrashing.
“Of course you’re the prime suspect. No security videos, no eyewitnesses. Nothing to prove you didn’t do it. Your wife and her nouveau riche family bought your freedom. I checked. The D.A. owes your father-in-law a blow job or two for all the campaign money, the fund raisers. They release you on your own recognizance; shake down a few convicted child molesters to make everybody else feel good. Slowly loosen the squeeze on you. Just let it slip from memory. You get away scot-free.”
“No!” Clawing at my fingers as I tighten my grip.
“Yes. Too bad I got the case.”
The silhouette walks forward. An apparition appearing before us. The gray of the evening, the jejune bleakness of the situation paints the new man with its sad brush. Washed out, defeated and hollow. His eyes say it all: he just wants an end. No matter how ugly. Or truthful. He wants his little girl in whatever remaining condition she may be found.
Francis takes it all in. The fistful of hair shudders in my fist. Small at first, becoming more pronounced. Francis becomes afraid, ashamed. Dirty. Ignominy and consternation flood about. He becomes a little boy, he pisses his pants and has the demeanor of a beaten dog. Making progress.
“Say it.” I yank his head in a staccato whip. “I know you think you are a man, so be big. Be strong. Say it.” A whisper to his ear.
“I—I never—I mean, oh God…”
“Do not think God will intervene on your behalf,” I say, a snarl. “He might not like me per se, but I have noticed He stays out of my way. God is in all things, but not this street alley. Not tonight.”
Francis starts crying again, his shame surfacing. Our every word a cloud of ice dying in the freezing, rank air. Every one of those clouds containing secrets.
Another whisper: “Her old man told me you did something like this before.” The heat of my breath against his ear must be like a dry breeze from Hell.
Eyes light up in humiliation, the way a boy looks when somehow his mom finds out he’s been sneaking peeks at her clothing catalogs and stuck the pages together. A seedy, pervert breed of humiliation.
He begins to cry harder. Good.
Another breeze: “Little Francis, not straight, not queer, just deviant. Your mom used to babysit kids? And you were what? Fourteen?”
He does not want to hear. The truth of one’s past always has a way of haunting, and where there are ghosts hidden the guilty can only hope they go un-resurrected.
Another whisper: “You called it tickling?”
His sobbing is so messy and intense he cannot speak using vowels. Blubbering. A whole minute, his throbbing eyes focused on that silhouette. I smack him good and hard. “Speak it, before I lift you off the ground by your deranged cock.”
Through his blubbering and his punch-broken mouth he stumbles out: “Back then I—I just…I wanted to figure it out is all; I had such strong urges and no one to talk to. I didn’t mean to hurt—”
“What you meant and what you did are two different things. Your brother told me that kid’s name and I looked him up. Dead. Three years into college. Suicide. His boyfriend said he talked about getting molested as a youngster. Happy now? You did that to a kid your mom was trusted to babysit and you barely escaped with a hair on your ass. And now, all grown up, decades later, and this.”
Our eyes meet. “Alisha McDonald.”
My gun goes to his forehead, plugging into the round wet cigarette burn. “Where is she?”
He stares at the silhouette in the shadows as it grows tense, antsy. Agony.
“Or,” I ask, “did her old man really bang out his eight-year-old, kill her and frame you for it?”
In the shadows Kenneth McDonald cries like a lost soul who has now just realized he is in Hell, and the concept of permanence brings with it a new definition. His child molester brother accusing him of fucking his own kid.
Francis McDonald. One of the thousands of reasons God blessed me with brutality.
“Oh…” Gun to his head. I can hear his diseased heart break. Exposed. Family ties severed. Some things you cannot take back. He stares at his brother in the shadows, crying himself.
At last: “Ken, please forgive me,” he says. Defeated. This is where I want to be. A broken man will squawk. Confess. Plead. Beg and negotiate.
Alisha’s father walks into the buzzing light from the street lamp overhead to face his sibling.
“Where is my little baby?” Ken McDonald asks. His voice quiet, grave and betrayed.
“Forgive me, please.”
“I don’t know what to forgive you for.”
“Forgive me and I’ll tell you. I promise.”
Ken looks on as Francis mumbles something about giving in to temptation. The words come out through wet tears and all-consuming fear, like the speech itself was something hiding from predators and is poking out to see if the coast is clear.
Ken, so softly: “When we were kids you promised that if I lied to Mom about what happened you’d never do it again. How do I know you won’t lie again?”
“Christie knows. She’ll—”
“My own sister-in-law knows? She knows what you did?”
“And she has said nothing?”
“To protect her family name! They have an image! Jesus, Ken! You know that! She caught me burying Alisha—” He cuts off, swift and permanent as the gallows.
Burying. It destroys Ken. His little girl. I know he had expected to never have his baby again, but the finality, the reality, is never the release people think it is.
“I’m so sorry.” Blabbers. “I just—I just—I’ve had to sleep on the couch ever since she caught me and she broke all my things and she was screaming about forcing me into therapy or chemical castration and—”
“Shut up. You. Shut. Up. Now.” No longer his brother. It’s in his eyes. Their family name is the same but from two different levels in Hell now. He croaks out the words like they are sand and he is underwater. The cold distance, the irrevocability of this godless situation creeping in his voice.
The soulless countenance of Ken McDonald changes. His demeanor changes. Becomes alien. Gone cold now. Never fear a man more than when his callousness emerges and you didn’t see it coming.
I squeeze the gun tighter against Francis. “Where?”
“Promise my forgiveness,” the pervert says, so low the dirt hears him better than we do.
After a breath as long as God’s, after he can retrieve his voice since hearing the word burying, Alisha’s father speaks. He does not look up.
“I forgive you for your sins against—” but he cannot finish.
“Thank you.” Such relief.
“Where?” I say. The only word I can insert into this gunpoint conversation.
“Under the new herb garden we planted. The marigolds mark her headstone.”
Ken starts to cry. But he bares his teeth as well.
So desperate now, rooting for mercy anywhere it may be dug up: “She loved marigolds, right? I thought they’d be a sweet gesture, a nice thing for Alisha—”
“You don’t speak her name. Ever,” Ken says through teeth that must be carnivorous now.
I don’t want to ask if they have cooked with those herbs. If they have trimmed the flowers and put them in a vase on their kitchen table.
A diseased man in Francis. A terrible accomplice wearing the mask of a soulmate in his wife. Their own niece, entombed unceremoniously in their yard. Hidden. Cast off.
How many other children? I make a note to look up his previous addresses.
“Let me go now,” the molester asks. “Let me go. I did my part here…”
Ken looks with a galvanized fury. It makes my heart warm.
“Alisha sends her best.” An arctic tone. “You are not my brother. I want you to hear that from my mouth. I will cut your name in two.
“I will cut your name in two.”
He turns around and begins to walk away from us, bathing in the shadows that line this neighborhood. “You’ll understand that when I said I forgave you, I lied.”
Alisha McDonald’s broken father strides away from us to go unearth his dead child to give her some dignity. I told Ken as soon as he hired me the answers would come, but not without a price.
Ken steps up and off the street, past the lights and into the gloom and darkness. But then he stops. Stands bolt still.
All that emerging callousness doing its work. Ken doesn’t fight it; just welcomes it. It’s armor. The best kind. Transforms his core just past the edge of shadow where the light cannot reach him.
Eventually Ken turns back towards us. Walks forward from the shadows a different man. Just like that. Flashes of his little girl and whatever horrors his mind played for him, flashes of his kid brother and the sins Ken committed to protect Francis, coming back now to stab him in the back. Betrayal lodges deep. Past bone and into the soul.
The decision Ken has just made, bathed in the ink from a night here in country that God has overlooked, he becomes someone else. Something else.
He walks up, holds out his hand. Now we’re talking.
I pull a drop gun I took from a gang-banger months back. He didn’t need it anymore; he was quite dead. The drop gun goes to Ken’s open palm, then it goes to Francis’s head and my .44 doesn’t have to worry about being traced.
A gunshot later and I am heading home to wash the brains off of my face. Contact shots are bad about that kind of thing.
My name is Richard Dean Buckner.
People call me either Richard or Mr. Buckner. No one calls me Dick.
An overflowing ashtray.
The air is blue with so much smoke. I crush another butt into the glass dish after using it to light a new cigarette. Two old, yellowing cigarette carcasses shift in the pile like demolition rubble. They almost cause a landslide. I drag deeply, exhaling through my nose like a raging bull snorting heat into a crisp morning.
I rub my neck where several years ago I was assaulted with a hypodermic needle loaded with a lethal dose of the Big Fry. Hit attempt. To kill an elephant you have to hit it with a missile. I guess I’m something more than a typical elephant because the missile failed. Not without cost, though.
The PD called me unserviceable. I think that bitch Flemming picked the word on purpose. The PD retired me unceremoniously with a pension check just big enough to legally argue they gave me something.
Black and white photographs are scattered across my desk and ink blots like square leaves falling off a zebra tree.
My desk’s far edge is lined with origami. Two swans, with their flat heads and triangle beaks, tread water on the wooden surface and swim without moving an inch. A sailboat with so many imperfect folds it would do better as an anchor. It sails in the empty sea along my desk, prow facing the swan, invisible waves rolling and hitching it to nowhere. A paper rose, a table with two chairs. A whale. All so imperfect.
A half-dead fan spins above me. Two dim bulbs dangle from it, casting light in search beacon fashion. It, being tossed around by the fan’s wobbly spinning, jumps and bobs and dives and swings, throwing light here and there and back here again. Trying to read by the lone fan’s erratic behavior gives me headaches.
The blinds behind me are drawn loosely, allowing grated, wedge-on-top-of-wedge blocks of waning sunlight to fall over the room. A fake plant rises out of a cheap, wicker pot and leans into the corner; a drunk using the wall to hold himself up while he searches for his next step.
I blow smoke rings up at the fan and watch them get thrown about and torn into thousands of small gray strips. I rub my face and sandpaper lining my jaw grits under one palm.
The phone rings.
“Hello, Abe.” Abe Baldwin is my main man. He is a terrible trial lawyer who has a crusader complex bigger than a movie star’s ego. He spent a few years in the city’s district attorney’s office, but he is horrible at research and even worse at arguing. The sign of a good cook is if they are fat. If Abe were as bad a cook as he is a lawyer, we would have lost him a long time ago.
The writing on my office door says I’m a private investigator. In between jobs for Abe I take pictures of rich housewives banging the pool boy, rich husbands banging the maids, dirty cops taking pay-offs, blah blah blah. The usual, makes-ends-meet fare. There’s plenty to go around.
Abe will call me with a special case every now and then, and I look into it for him. He called me a few weeks ago about Ken McDonald and his daughter.
“How did it go?” Abe asks.
I sip my bourbon and coffee and say, “His brother did it.”
“Francis? He confessed?”
Abe sighs with relief. “Good. Because Ken McDonald went to his brother’s house last night. He made a huge scene. Cops and media huge. Smacked around his sister-in-law.”
“I saw on TV.”
Abe keeps on anyways. “Fucked that house up like he was a bull on ’roids. He pummeled every square inch of that house.”
TV had some on this morning’s broadcast.
“Dug up his kid,” Abe said.
“They’ll be looking for Francis, you know.”
“Yeah, I know. Dubberly was the investigator on that one?”
Detective Mickey Dubberly is a fat, shining example of the police department’s inability at quality screening. Dubberly is about as dirty as a cockroach trudging through pig shit, and what I really need to do is just plug him full of lead.
The one thing about scum cops: if they are given a way out that doesn’t involve something ugly, they’ll take it. No doubt Dubberly, the head detective on the missing Alisha McDonald case, was the one taking the biggest cut from the pervert’s in-laws.
“Dubberly can be dealt with easy enough,” I say without a true worry.
“Yes. Dubberly is a squirmer. He’ll run straight to the captain and blabber on and on about how he always thought Francis was the real threat…blah blah blah. He’ll pass the buck.”
“What if they find Francis’s corpse?”
“They’ll see that his brother shot him. If Kevin hasn’t already confessed everything.”
“Do you think McDonald will talk?” Abe. Cautious. Worried about his ass.
“Not about us.”
“We shook hands on it if that means anything anymore. He said what he wanted. He got it. He pulled the trigger. I doubt he’ll talk.” Abe breathes in and out from his nose. I know Abe; that’s his nervous breathing.
“But, just in case I took the usual precautions.” Cash. No paper trail. No phone records. “All he could prove is he called you for help. When we first met he told me he spoke to several lawyers that day. You’ll be lost in the shuffle. Deny. Stick to it. You’re out of any real trouble.”
“Just deny it? What about the girl’s body? How’d he find it then?”
“Just because the police let go of their prime suspect doesn’t mean McDonald had to let go of his as well. Alisha was last seen with Francis. The brand-new garden planted the same time his kid disappeared, probably as big as a child’s coffin. McDonald also knew his brother had hurt another kid. It all adds up to him solving this on his own.”
“I hope so. I don’t need that kind of heat right now.”
“You know, I like that—” and I can’t hear Abe’s words because the colors smear in my mind, running like a fresh oil painting drenched in water. Red cascades down and peels away to an orange which becomes yellow before my brain seizes for just a moment and I know my teeth grit so hard it’s audible. The last runner of liquid horror traces down across my vision and my skull clears up.
Just like that. Why I am unserviceable. Big Fry Smear.
My voice groggy and choked up: “I said I’d find his kid, not have his back later.”
Abe said, “Anyways, I sent a guy your way. Friend of a friend of a friend.”
“You don’t have friends, Abe.”
“My wife keeps saying that. Friend of a friend of a friend of a former client. He needs you to look up his daughter.”
“Great. Another father-daughter case. Is he legit?”
“Sure he is. Why not?”
I installed a light outside my office door for one reason: security. There is a panel of frosted glass in my door, shoulder height. The light limns anyone who shows up knocking, and the glass frames their heads in case I answer the door with a gunshot.
It’s been known to happen.
A man’s silhouette appears from the murky grayness of the textured glass and I say to Abe: “I’ll call you back.”
Abe says something about having me over for dinner, and before I can tell him I won’t eat the slop his English-immigrant wife cooks, my doorknob turns.
The man walks in unannounced. That will get you killed around here. He looks distinguished by way of his IQ or academic accomplishments. He is rather unremarkable, but the snooty air about him immediately puts a bad taste in my mouth. I do not like being around people who think they are better than me. I do not like it at all, Sam I am.
Under the desk, my revolver comes out and aims in his direction. If he knows he’s covered by a large bore revolver he doesn’t act like it. My eyes go to his hands. Without patience: “You knock first.”
“I do apologize, sir.”
“Don’t apologize.” I say. “Knock.”
“Mr. Buckner, may I call you Richard?” He says, smoothing the front of his suit jacket.
I say nothing. After an uncomfortable minute he takes the hint, nods like a spoiled child and walks back out my door. He stands there for a second, clearly not used to bending to someone else’s will. Knocks. Hard.
“Come in.” I say, pleasantly enough. I do not re-holster my iron.
Irritated: “Mr. Buckner, how are you?”
“Oh, just fine. What were you saying?”
“Well, I—” He stares at my swans and sail boat. “Your origami are…unique.”
“The good ones are at home.”
“Your mother must be very proud of you.”
“Even if she were alive I wouldn’t give a shit.”
“Hmmm. Well, anyways.” He looks around. Smoothes his jacket again. “Is it Mr. Buckner or Richard?”
“Depends on who’s addressing me.”
“A paying client?”
“Well, anything but Dick. Do not call me Dick.”
“Understood. I am Dr. Windslow, and I need you to find a certain young lady for me.”
An uncomfortable chuckle. Then, “Absolutely not. As it were she was a…mistress.”
“Abe send you over?”
“No. I don’t know an Abe.”
“Why do you want the mistress?”
His eyes slink about. Serpent. His throat clicks at the speed of light. He needs to think of something. If he is going to lie he should have concocted it before now.
“To rekindle, I suppose.”
“Marriage not work out?”
Incredulous: “I beg your pardon, but you cannot seriously—”
“Yes or no. Has your marriage failed?”
“Why must you assume I am married? I have no wedding band. I am not fat as so many married men are. I—”
“Only a married man has a ‘mistress.’ Single men have girls, girlfriends, bitches, baby mamas. A distinguished man like you uses the correct label for everything. It would be an insult to your superior self-perception to do otherwise.”
“Very well. My marriage has ended. Quite abruptly.”
“Because of your affairs?”
“None of your business.”
“And now you want to rekindle an extramarital affair? Correct? Why did the affair end in the first place? Wife find out?”
“The wife and I spent our time in therapy trying to salvage our marriage. Now it is over and I want my old girlfriend back.”
His throat clicks again. A tell.
“Why do you want her back?”
“So we may continue, as I stated earlier.”
“Does she want to be found?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, why do you need a private detective to find a woman whom you think will still want to be with you? If she’s that in to you she shouldn’t be hard to find.”
“Will you take the case or not?” Cut to the chase.
“What’s her name?”
“Denise Carmine. White female, age thirty-two. Brown and blue. Five-foot-eight, one hundred and thirtyish. Divorced, no children. Drives a white Toyota sedan.”
Impressive. And dangerous.
I lean forward, one elbow on the desk. That hand I rest my chin into, the other hand still holds him unwitting, inches from death. “Let me tell you about a common theme running through my office.”
“Very well.” Impatient red rising up his collar. The throat clicks. I already know my answer.
“I need to make this clear. Dudes come in here asking me to find the ex-girlfriends they’ve been hiding from their wives. It happens. For some reason man will court a woman, spend money on her, make plans with her, propose to her, marry her, live with her, make children with her, and then cheat on her and risk everything. Much like yourself.
“Some of these guys get away with it. Some don’t. But they all hide their affairs. Some want to hide them deeper than others. Those are usually the guys who have something to lose and they decide that whatever it is, they don’t want to lose it. So they come in here and hire me to find these girls.
“Once I found a married dude’s mistress. I told the guy where she was. He left my office, went to her place and beat the fuck out of her for talking about their affair in a bar.”
Dr. Windslow begins to shake his head in denial.
“So this mistress, it’d been few years since porking this married dude. She got drunk in Steamy’s Pub and blabbed that she slept with a guy who had a membership to some country club. I’m sure she bragged about him, said his name, the whole nine yards. The married dude must have had a friend in the bar, because it got back to him. How, I have no idea. Don’t care. She needed four reconstructive surgeries afterwards. I don’t know what she looked like before. But now, wherever in the world she goes she’s the ugliest thing walking down the street.
“I guess the married dude thought there was a quiet understanding that the mistress was not aware of. The affair was a secret, and she wasn’t being secret anymore.”
Dr. Windslow still shakes his head, but as an act. A knee-jerk response. No real reason behind it. Another tell.
Our eyes meet, mine dig into his. “No. I will not take your case.” Firm. Stolid. “But I will be keeping an eye on you. If Denise Carmine, white female, age thirty-two, brown and blue, five-foot-eight, one hundred and thirtyish, divorced, no children, drives a white Toyota sedan turns up beaten or dead, I’ll remember you.”
The good Dr. Windslow smoothes his jacket again and looks very uncomfortable. I should kill him now and spare Denise Carmine the looming threat.
“I do not hunt women for angry, jealous men.”
“You are mistaken about me, Mr. Buckner. But I can see there is no turning back from this point—you believe my motives are soiled—so I bid you farewell.”
I cock the hammer. He takes notice.
“I will be keeping an eye on you.”
His throat clicks again, but this time because he is swallowing hard.
“I do not sleep. And I see everything.”
He walks out.
I do not hunt women for angry, jealous men.
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