You Know it Feels Like Distant Thunder (fiction)
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I woke to the muffled thunder of the IRT working its way up into the sinews of the small building. I couldn't help it; I groaned. I felt like crap. The air mattress had, as they always will, managed to deflate halfway during the night, and various joints ached. The dust had settled into my hair and onto my face, and the grittiness had worked under my eyelids. I staggered upright and used a few cups of water from the Camelbak to rinse my face and hands. That got me mobile enough to change clothes, taking a quick but targeted spongebath along the way; the clean clothing was enough to pull me nearly all the way awake.
As I redistributed my gear about my person and tucked everything save the mattress and tarp back into the packframe, I thought about my situation and realized that I had made a huge mistake. One that I was going to have to pay for, but whose cost would have to be borne, because I had no excuse. Sighing, I pulled out a burn phone and called Patrick.
"This had better be good, whoever you are."
"Patrick, it's Wibert. I need your help."
There was a brief silence. "Sakes, boy, you'd never call me otherwise. What now?"
I gave him a brief account of the fire at my place and my conversations with DiCanzo. I could hear him shaking his head even over the phone. "And anyway, I spent the night out, so I haven't been home."
"You told them you were out of town?"
"Yeah." I winced, silently.
"I won't ask if you really were. Okay. But you're back now, right?"
"Okay. Let me call the precinct and find out what I can find out. You called me yesterday and left a message, right?"
I heard the slight emphasis. "I did, Patrick, but it was late."
"All right then. Give me a number to call you back."
I gave him my voicemail number and disconnected, then made my way out onto Ninety-Sixth street. It was around nine-thirty in the morning and after a few minutes of mental gymnastics I decided it was Sunday, which explained the somewhat light traffic. A couple of blocks uptown got me to a diner with decidedly too much metal trim and menus that were far too well-designed to be a real diner, but they served an omelet and coffee, so I made the most of it.
When I finished, I called my voicemail, and Patrick had left a terse "Call me" so I did.
"Wibert, tell me about the stiff on the bridge."
"Did DiCanzo tell you about that?"
"No. Tell. And tell me how DiCanzo knew about it."
I sighed. "Okay. Give me a second." I dropped twenty bucks on the table and left, turning right twice to head for the less-traveled West End Avenue. On the way, I gave Patrick a brief description of finding Raymond's well-separated corpse in the Broadway Bridge control booth, and a more verbatim description of the conversation I'd had with DiCanzo.
"So you told him you'd been there."
"I went home. I talked to Kharan that evening, and I went to bed. I woke up, had breakfast, and DiCanzo came knocking on my door. He had my carriage pistols, and my Desert Eagle, and wanted to ask me about the bridge. I told him exactly what I'd seen."
"Did he go into the kitchen?"
"What? No. Why?"
"Never mind for now. Was he ever out of your sight?"
I thought. "No. Wait. Yeah, I went into my office to get gear to reload the carriage pistol, he stayed in the living room. Maybe a minute."
"Okay. Keep going."
"Patrick, what the fuck-"
"I'm going to tell you, just keep going."
"There's not much else. He wanted to know who the victim was. I asked if I needed a lawyer, he said no. I told him I'd seen the guy four days before when I'd gotten Galina back from him."
"So you said he was the kdinapper?"
"No. I told DiCanzo that although he had Galina, he'd released her to me, and she said he wasn't the one who had taken her."
"But he was holding her against her will."
"Yeah. I told Galina to tell the police whatever she thought was right; I have no idea whether she talked to them or what she said. Now tell me what's going on."
"Okay." Patrick was silent for a bit, I think reading notes. Then, "Your apartment burned. You know that, right?"
"Yes. How bad was it?"
"No structural damage, but your foyer, kitchen and living room are toast. Bedroom and office are smoke and water damaged. Dining room half burnt. That's not the problem. Problem is that they found a hand in your fridge. The hand belongs to the dead guy on the bridge."
I moved over to lean against the building I was passing. "Aw, shit."
"Do you have any idea how it got there?"
"No. I had no idea it was there. I hadn't been in my fridge since...wait, let me think...since right before DiCanzo was there, I was having breakfast."
"Okay. The cops want to talk to you, officially, now, about the body on the bridge. You and I are going to go talk to 'em, nice and meek."
"Did they have any problem with anything else in the apartment?"
"They found a Desert Eagle in the bedroom closet that wasn't the one they knew about, and they're a little pissed off about that, and they want to know why you didn't hand it over for the ballistics test and why it's not registered to your pistol permit."
"What'd you say?"
"I told them that they had it now anyway, and I didn't think there was any reason they couldn't test it if they wanted, and that it not being declared was no doubt an oversight on your part and we'd talk to them about it when we went in."
"That's all they mentioned. Was there anything else in the apartment I should know about?" Patrick sounded a bit annoyed. Like all lawyers, he absolutely hated finding anything out from the police rather than his client.
"Let me tell you about it in person, okay? Where should I be?"
"I'll meet you in front of your building and we'll walk to the precinct. How long?"
I looked up. I was around Ninetieth Street on West End. "An hour."
I hung up.
* * *
Patrick was waiting for me under the awning of my building. I nodded, and he and I turned about and started walking towards Hudson Street. "Okay, Wibert, give. Stuff in the apartment."
I massaged my forehead. "I don't know what they found."
"What might they have found? Don't fuck around with me."
"Some stun grenades. Flash-bangs. A telescoping baton. Some ammo. Um, maybe a knife or two. The carriage pistols on the living room wall, one was loaded - DiCanzo watched me load it."
"Yeah. Paper cases, not frags."
"Wibert, you really chap my ass, boy. Okay. But that's it?"
"Hand to my heart, Patrick."
"Don't," he said. "Okay, tell me about the kidnapping. All of it. Do not leave anything out."
So we stopped for a cup of coffee, and I told him everything while he took notes. "Jaysus. So you did shoot the bartender?"
"In the leg, Patrick! He was fine!"
"You got a funny definition of 'fine', boyo. All right. But the gun didn't match that ballistics test, so we're not going to volunteer anything, understand me? Right. What happened to Raymond?"
"I have no idea. Last I saw him, we'd all made it out of the substation and he'd hauled ass."
"This was what, the night before they visited you at home?"
"And you didn't see him again."
"Not until the bridge."
"Why were you on the bridge?"
I looked at him. He sighed. "Wibert, is this one of those things you can't tell me about?"
"Pretty much, Patrick."
"Let me just ask this. Does it involve any criminal activity?"
"No. Absolutely not. I had, let's call it information, that I could find Raymond on the bridge. So I went."
"Where did this information come from?"
I looked at him.
He sighed. "Michel, boy, think about this. You found the body. Even if they're willing to buy you didn't kill the man, they're going to want to know how you knew to go there, and the only other reasonable way a man would know that is that someone told you - someone who they're very much going to want to talk to about the body."
I looked away. "I know, Patrick. But there wasn't anyone else. It's...it's one of those things."
He drank coffee for a minute or so, watching the traffic on Hudson Street. "Michel, we're going to have to tell them something when they ask, and it had better be true."
I thought about that. "Patrick, DiCanzo knows about this stuff."
"That's not good enough. If he's not volunteering information, you can't point to him; they're just gonna want to know what you can tell him that you can't tell them."
I thought about that for a while. "Patrick, what if we tell them I'm psychic?"
He spat out a mouthful of coffee. "What the hell now?"
"No, I'm serious. Police employ psychics. I can tell them that I knew to look for Raymond on the bridge, and that no-one told me. They can put me under a lie detector for all I care, because it's true."
He buried his head in his hands. "Michel, this is not making my life any simpler."
I shrugged. "Well, that's the truth, unfortunately. What you do with it is up to you."
He looked back up, a pleading expression on his face. "Nobody told you anything about this Raymond?"
"Shite." He looked at his hands again, then stood. "Okay then. We'll throw it against the wall and see what sticks. But you follow my lead, son. If I don't mention it, you sure as hell don't breathe a word."