Nobody likes the dogs, Kevin conceded. But next time call Animal Control, okay?
Animal Control. Sorrento repeated the words with a contemptuous chuckle. Again he jabbed at Kevins sternum, fingertip digging into bone. They dont do shit.
Theyre understaffed. Kevin forced a polite smile. Theyre doing the best they can in a bad situation. We all are. Im sure you understand that.
As if to indicate that he did understand, Sorrento eased the pressure on Kevins breastbone. He leaned in close, his breath sour, his voice low and intimate.
Do me a favor, okay? You tell the cops if they want my money, theyre gonna have to come and get it. Tell em Ill be waiting for em with my sawed-off shotgun.
He grinned, trying to look like a badass, but Kevin could see the pain in his eyes, the glassy, pleading look behind the bluster. If he remembered correctly, Sorrento had lost a daughter, a chubby girl, maybe nine or ten. Tiffany or Britney, a name like that.
Ill pass it along. Kevin patted him gently on the shoulder. Now, why dont you go home and get some rest.
Sorrento slapped at Kevins hand.
Dont fucking touch me.
Just tell em what I told you, okay?
Kevin promised he would, then hurried off, trying to ignore the lump of dread that had suddenly materialized in his gut. Unlike some of the neighboring towns, Mapleton had never experienced a suicide by cop, but Kevin sensed that Ralph Sorrento was at least fantasizing about the idea. His plan didnt seem especially inspiredthe cops had bigger things to worry about than an unpaid fine for animal crueltybut there were all sorts of ways to provoke a confrontation if you really had your heart set on it. Hed have to tell the chief, make sure the patrol officers knew what they were dealing with.
Distracted by these thoughts, Kevin didnt realize he was heading straight for the Reverend Matt Jamison, formerly of the Zion Bible Church, until it was too late to make an evasive maneuver. All he could do was raise both hands in a futile attempt to fend off the gossip rag the Reverend was thrusting in his face.
Take it, the Reverend said. Theres stuff in here thatll knock your socks off.
Seeing no graceful way out, Kevin reluctantly took possession of a newsletter that went by the emphatic but unwieldy title OCTOBER 14TH WAS NOT THE RAPTURE!!! The front page featured a photograph of Dr. Hillary Edgers, a beloved pediatrician whod disappeared three years earlier, along with eighty-seven other local residents and untold millions of people throughout the world. DOCTORS BISEXUAL COLLEGE YEARS EXPOSED! the headline proclaimed. A boxed quote in the article below read, We totally thought she was gay, former roommate reveals.
Kevin had known and admired Dr. Edgers, whose twin sons were the same age as his daughter. Shed volunteered two evenings a week at a free clinic for poor kids in the city, and gave lectures to the PTA on subjects like The Long-Term Effects of Concussions in Young Athletes and How to Recognize an Eating Disorder. People buttonholed her all the time at the soccer field and the supermarket, fishing for free medical advice, but she never seemed resentful about it, or even mildly impatient.
Jesus, Matt. Is this necessary?
Reverend Jamison seemed mystified by the question. He was a trim, sandy-haired man of about forty, but his face had gone slack and pouchy in the past couple of years, as if he were aging on an accelerated schedule.
These people werent heroes. We have to stop treating them like they were. I mean, this whole parade
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