Excerpt of Speak of the Devil by Richard Hawke
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If she had known she would be dead in another five minutes, maybe she
wouldn't have swatted her son so hard. That's just my guess. His balloon
had been drifting into my face, that was the problem. It wasn't bugging
me, but it was bugging his mother. He was a towheaded kid with a round
pink face. The balloon was larger than his head. I couldn't say one way
or the other if the kid was having fun, but Mom clearly wasn't.
"Ezra, if I have to tell you one more time."
She seemed to be wound awfully tight for nine-thirty in the morning. But
I've never been a parent, so I'm hardly the person to judge. Maybe the
kid was an absolute handful and his actions drained his mother daily of
her reservoir of patience. Maybe the reservoir wasn't terribly deep to
begin with. Or maybe the two were running late that morning and Mom
hadn't gotten her caffeine jangle for the day.
Maybe this, maybe that. Maybes all over the place. Cheaper than a dime
donut, as my father used to growl.
It was a Thursday. Thanksgiving is always a Thursday, so that part is
easy. Fall was playing out nice and slow. The trees in Central Park were
more yellow and red than I'd seen them in years. A high, bright sun was
sending down just about zero warmth through the bracingly crisp air.
What they used to call apple-cider weather.
I was standing at the corner of Seventy-second and Central Park West. I
wasn't supposed to be standing there. I was supposed to be making my way
up five flights of stairs in a turn-of-the-century brownstone halfway
down Seventy-first, swinging my bag of bagels and whistling a happy
tune. I had fetched the bagels (three poppy, three sesame) from a place
on Columbus that makes them on the premises, but instead of trotting
directly back to Margo's like a good dog, I had drifted up the street,
lured by the sound of crashing cymbals, and was standing on the corner
dodging a white balloon and watching Mother Goose roll by. Big pointy
hat. Oversize smile.
Mother Goose, that is. Not me. I was hatless. And I wasn't smiling. When
I see a gun being drawn in a crowd and it's not attached to a cop or to
someone I know and trust, generally speaking, I don't smile.
Central Park West runs northsouth. The parade runs south. Been that way
since the late twenties. Back then they used to release the big balloon
figures at the end of the parade. There were only a few of them, so it
wasn't as if the skies of Manhattan suddenly darkened with a flotilla of
giant balloons. You couldn't do it today. You'd have scrambled F-16
fighter jets intercepting the balloons faster than you could blink.
I was standing on the west side of the street, directly in front of the
Dakota, when I saw the gun being drawn. If you've seen the movie
Rosemary's Baby, you've seen the Dakota, although they called it
something different in the movie. In the book, too. Richard Nixon tried
to get his suitcase in the door of the Dakota not long after he was
bounced from the White House, but the residents there would have none of
it. It's that kind of place. When I think of that story, it's actually
Nixon's wife I imagine. Poor beleaguered Pat. I imagine her standing on
the sidewalk with her skinny arms crossed over her skinny chest, one of
her dull practical pumps tapping irritably against the pavement. Well,
Mr. I-am-not-a-crook . . . what next?
from Speak of the Devil by Richard Hawke Copyright © 2006 by
Richard Hawke. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of
Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be
reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the