Ed met me at the station. I didn't expect that; Lynn must have called him and told him when
I'd be there.
"You're looking a lot better than the last time I saw you," he said as he reached for my
suitcase. I let him carry it. I didn't feel so hot. "And Lynn sounded good on the phone."
"Yeah, she's good." Small talk's never been my strong suit. "Where'd he get picked up?"
"Portland. It was pure luck---a secretary, cleaning out the files, noticed the name on the
old bill, and remembered it as a drunk and disorderly she'd typed up a few days before. "
"You get anything outta him yet?"
Exley shook his head. He opened the trunk of his car and put my bag inside. "I don't know,
Bud…." He hesitated.
"I'm not sure they're gonna be able to get him certified to stand trial.….I'm not sure he's
Huh. "He's no dummy. You sure he's not playing you?"
"Could be, I guess. If he is, he's real good."
We went right to the station. Ed wanted me to wait until the next day to see him; I almost
agreed. Now that I was here, I hesitated-and then I realized I was scared. I wanted to see
him, I needed to see him….but somewhere inside me there was something left over from when I
was 12 and scared to death. So…..a quick look now, to get the first time over with. I told
Ed I wanted to make sure it was him.
"Your aunt ID'd him."
"Yeah, well, I want to make sure."
"What's he said about….anything?"
"He doesn't answer questions. He sings."
"Sings, huh? I don't ever remember hearing him sing, even when he was so drunk he couldn't
Walking inside the station was a little like going inside the Rev's church for the first time.
Everybody turned and looked, murmured to each other for a minute. Difference was, I knew most
of these guys, and after that first minute, it was almost like I never left. Almost.
All the backslapping and good to see ya's weren't helping my jitters any, though.
I could hear him singing-if you could call it that---way before I got to the lock-up. The
other prisoners were complaining, yelling at him to shut up; I didn't blame them.
I stood next to the bars. He was sitting on the bunk, facing away from me.
The man on the bunk seemed too small to be him. The gray hair I guess I expected. But he
was real thin. My old man was a big guy with a beer belly, muscled. I almost told Ed this
was the wrong guy, when he turned around and looked me straight in the face.
I couldn't talk; I couldn't breathe. I might as well have still been tied to that radiator.
Everything was still the same between him and me. After 20 years, just the same.
He stopped singing. His eyes narrowed. "I know you?" he asked.
My hand started to hurt-I was squeezing one of the bars. He stood up. I was taller than him;
it made me feel strange, like I was rising up in the air.
"Bud?" Ed shook my shoulder. "You OK? Hey, come on, you've seen him, let's get out of here,
go get something to eat."
I looked away from the old man, looked at Ed-and could breathe again. Settled back down on
the ground. And needed to get out, like Ed said. OK.
I knew he shuffled up to the bars as I left, and watched me walk away. I didn't look back
at him, but I knew it. I could feel it, like a lizard crawling up my back.
Next day, I went to the D.A.'s office. Sat and waited my turn to see Lowe, like a good boy,
but I made sure the secretary didn't forget I was there. Too much time to think here, too,
so making her nervous gave me something to do.
The D.A. wasn't real happy to see me. "I don't believe you're on the police force here
anymore, White," he said. "I don't see what business you can possibly have with me."
I threw the file on his desk. He opened it and looked, quick, and then closed it up again.
"As I said, White, what business do we have?"
"I want to know what direction you're going on this."
"You have no connection with this office, or any other. This is police business, not yours."
"Look again. I'm the witness."
He read through it more carefully this time. "So you are. I'm sorry for your…loss. But
you're still a civilian. I'm afraid I don't have to tell you anything at the moment."
I smiled. "I thought you might say that. That's why I had a little conversation with
somebody real special before I came here. He had a lot of interesting things to say about
you." Lowe looked a little less sure of himself. He was cool, though. "Arthur Barnes.
Don't bother to pretend you don't know him. He sure as hell knows you." I would have liked
to make him sweat a little, but other things were more important. "And he'll talk if I tell
him to. So, now, I want to know what direction you're going on this."
Lowe wasn't a stupid man. It took him 10 seconds or so to swallow his dislike of me; but
then we had no more problems.
"He's undergoing psychological testing at the present time. If we find that he's competent
to stand trial, he'll be charged. If, as I think more likely, we find him incompetent, he'll
be sent for treatment."
"I know the procedure, Lowe. Why don't I explain it to you a different way? I don't give a
rat's ass if he's sane or not. I'm here to make sure there's no deals made, that he ain't
gonna walk out on the street again in 7 or 10 years."
"That's up to a judge, White, not me."
"You just make sure you don't cut any deals with his lawyer. If he's not crazy, then you
better ask for the death penalty."
"That's ludicrous. This is basically a crime of passion. No judge is going to give him the
I leaned over his desk and put my hands on it so I could look him in the face. "No passion
involved with this at all. He walked in the house with a tire-iron and beat her to death.
You let me worry about the judge. You just do your part."
"Fine. No deals. Anything else?"
"And the death penalty."
"All right. We'll ask for the death penalty. For all the good it'll do. And if that's all
you wanted, White, then I think we're through."
Easier than I expected. I picked up the file. "See ya around."
I woke up on Ed's couch in a cold sweat. Same dream as I used to have, the one where the
blood flows real slow across the floor toward me, real slow, while I'm still trying
to get loose. Didn't take that long in reality for it to reach me and pool around my feet,
but in the dream it seems like it takes forever. And of course, in the dream, I don't get
tired, so I can stand right there next to the radiator for that forever, when actually I got
tired after just a few hours, and had to sit down.
Stupid thing to dream about.
Ed's alarm went off while I was making coffee.
You know, it's funny. He always looks so….tidy….at the station, but when he first gets up
in the morning he's a royal mess. Bumps into things. Too bad I didn't feel more like
"You gonna call Lynn today?" he asked after he put on his glasses.
I didn't answer at first; then when he peered at me through those lenses, I shook my head.
"She worries, Bud."
"I don't want her in it."
He pointed at what was left of the bullet wound on my chest. "That look like that all the
I looked down-it did look kinda red and puffy. And it hurt some-not too bad, but some. Have
to have it looked at sometime, I suppose. Not today.
I put on my shirt.
I spent the whole day talking to lawyers and a retired judge or two. Lowe was right; there
was almost no chance the old man'd get the death penalty. Most likely he'd get 20 years to
life, and he could be out on the street in seven to ten no matter what Lowe or I or anybody
else did. That's if he wasn't declared insane. If that happened, he could be out any time.
If they let him out and I didn't know about it, he'd be scot-free. I couldn't let that happen.
There had to be something I could do.
The old man was singing again when I walked in the lockup the next day. I had this urge to
see him and talk to him that I couldn't figure out-no point to it, but I had to do it.
Just like before, he stopped singing and looked at me. "It's you again. Who the hell are
you anyway? What you coming round here for looking at me?"
He had an old man's voice. An old man's face, an old man's body. He should've been getting
close to sixty; he looked a lot older than that. I remembered him taller; I guess I was
shorter then. Wasn't much to him now. Not very scary anymore.
He tilted his head and shuffled closer to the bars. "You look like somebody I met sometime.
You know me?"
"Yeah, I know you."
"You one of Vincent's bunch? I meet you at the track?"
I shook my head.
"Well, what's your name? What you keep looking at me like that for?"
"Everybody calls me Bud."
"Well, hey, Bud, good to know you. Put 'er there---" He stuck his hand through the bars at me.
I coulda broken his arm real easy. I wanted to. "I still can't remember where I know you
After a few seconds, he pulled his hand back inside the cell. "You ain't very friendly."
We stared at each other for a coupla minutes-he was trying to remember me, and I was just
looking. I could see it plain now, better than the first night, I could see that he was the
same bastard, didn't matter what he looked like or how old he was. When I was a kid, I used
to think about what I'd do if I ever found him; what I'd say, what he'd say, how I'd kill him.
I had lots of plans. Now there he was, standing right there in front of me. But the damn
bars were in the way.
He blinked and backed up a few steps.
I turned and walked out. And almost ran into Lynn just outside the lockup door.
"I thought I told you not to come down here."
She looked a little unsure of herself. "You haven't called me since you've been here….I was
"I've only been gone 4 days."
"I don't want you here. You can get back on the train-"
"We brought the car."
"OK, the car, then……who's we?"
She turned and looked behind her. The Rev was standing a few paces back. "He wanted to
come with me. He wants to talk to you. He's sorry---"
"I don't wanna talk to him." The old man inside the jail started singing again. "Let's get
outta here. The noise is just gonna get worse."
Ed said the report from the psychiatrists wasn't in yet. He went to get coffee for everybody.
Lynn didn't say much; I guess she knew I was pissed.
The Rev said, "This is probably my fault, Bud, I encouraged her to come. I'm sorry. I
didn't know you felt so strongly about it."
"Yeah, well, there's a lot you don't know."
He was turning his hat around and around in his hands, crumpling up the brim. He took a
"I know I failed you, son."
I let that go by.
"I'd been asking God to show me what my life was good for-"
I really didn't want to hear this.
"I wanted to do something more important than dealing with drunkenness on Saturday night,
or counseling teenagers with impure thoughts. And God answered my prayer-he put you right
in front of me, and I failed the test."
"I ain't a test."
He ignored me. "I failed you. You made me privy to a portion of your inner life, asked me
for my understanding----"
"I didn't ask you for shit."
"---and I failed miserably. Let me try to do what I should have done in the first place,
Bud, let me try at least, to understand your life-"
"I don't need you to do anything, Reverend, thanks."
"---and help you with your struggle-"
"Can it! There's no struggle, this ain't a test, I don't need you here for anything! All
I need you to do is get back in that car, and take Lynn home with you. Understand?"
"I think I'd like to see your father, Bud," Lynn said quietly.
"Well, I don't want you to. I don't want you to meet him. I don't want you to see him. I
don't want you to have anything to do with him." Dammit, I didn't mean to put that look
on her face……"I don't want him to know anything about you, baby. Can't you understand
that? And if things get…bad…I want you safe."
"Why would things get bad? Tell me what's going on."
How was I going to tell her? I thought she said she could read everything in my face,
anyway. And where the hell was Ed with that coffee?
The Rev decided to get back in the conversation. "Lynn didn't tell me what the problem is,
Bud, but I can see you're troubled. Perhaps there's something I can do."
I'd about had it. "You wanna know what's going on? OK, Rev, I'll show you." I grabbed the
file, opened it and shook out the crime scene photos. I stuck one under his nose. "You see
this? You know what this is? Got any idea?" He took it and studied it; he didn't say
anything. "This was a woman. You probably can't tell what happened to her by looking at
the picture. The sonuvabitch downstairs hit her twelve times in the head with a tire iron.
This part up here is what's left."
I have to give him credit; he looked kinda green, but he just swallowed and took a deep
breath. He picked up the rest of the file and read some of the first page.
"This was years ago," he said. "You couldn't have been a police officer then."
I was tired of talking. I was tired of the whole damn thing. It wasn't any of his damn
business, anyway. And if I stayed there any longer, I was liable to hit somebody or
something. Lynn followed me when I left the room, and all the way out onto the street.
She didn't push me, though. She's a smart woman. She stood back until I was a little
calmer, until my hands stopped squeezing air, until I leaned my head back against the
building and took a deep breath.
"I'm sorry I brought the Reverend," she said, and then moved close enough to put her hand
just inside the open collar of my shirt. "I didn't realize it would be harder for you
with him here."
"Can't you take him home?"
"I think you need me, baby. I think I need to stay and look after you." She moved her palm
to my forehead. "You've got a fever, did you know that?"
I closed my eyes and put my arms around her. My head hurt. My chest hurt. I didn't know
if it was from the bullet wound, or just plain fear. My throat felt like it was closing up.
"Please," I whispered into her hair.
I could feel her shaking her head. "Would you leave me if I was hurting?"
"If something happens…."
"Nothing's gonna happen to me, baby."
"I didn't want you to see any of this…."
"Any of what? What's gonna happen, Bud?"
I couldn't tell her. I didn't know for sure.