In one fantasy, he saw himself at her funeral. Mourners surrounded him, besieging him with condolences. During the service, people spoke about her beautifully, though she was such a loner, David thought, he wasn't sure who they'd be. Later, Alice was interred, the oversized casket lowered into the ground. Then all he saw was himself, sitting there bereft. He couldn't imagine what he would do afterward. He might as well be like that little dog, Greyfriars Bobby, and sleep by her grave. Pepin shuddered. He was here to support her. His love for his wife was renewed. And then one day, Alice began to lose weight.
BEFORE ANY UNDERTAKING, Detective Sheppard thought, we have our rituals. Like deep knee bends before a run or a hitter's crotch grab as he steps up to the plate. Efforts to prime the pump. The mind, body, and soul's preshot routine. Habit's comfort, Sheppard thought, loading his pipe, and habit's effect. The carpet worn down from our usual route through the house. Gums brushed away from the teeth over time. Tastes we've sampled so often we can't detect them anymore. At the police station, Sheppard spied an old whore putting on makeup, fascinated by the delicacy with which she painted on her lipstick, how she held the mirror out before her as if she were aiming a precision instrument, turning her head from side to side in the small reflection, checking her work, then snapping the compact closed and dropping it in her bag, ready to hear charges.
Murder, Sheppard reflected further, is an interruption of habit, or its culmination.
But before any undertaking, Sheppard thought, even an interrogation, the same motions apply. We orbit, we repeat. Already Detective Hastroll would be sitting before the one-way glass, staring down the suspect, thrilling, Sheppard imagined, to his own invisibility. It was always remarkable to Sheppard that you could feel Hastroll feeling you when you entered a room. Hastroll kept his back to him, staring down the suspect all the while, thrilling and analyzing and focusing. And yet there was that subtle reaction Sheppard noticed as soon as he stepped inside, not a move on Hastroll's part so much as a transmission of energy. Like something electrical. It was almost as if he could feel Hastroll blink in slow disgust at his arrival.
"What do you think?"
"Guilty," Hastroll said flatly. "Guilty as sin."
Sheppard stood next to his partner. Behind the glass, the suspect, David Pepin, sat weeping.
"You could at least go either way on this one, Ward-a shadow of a doubt, at least. The man's in an authentic state of distress."
"Guilty," Hastroll said, his huge humped shoulders hunched. "Guilty distress."
"How about aggrieved distress?"
"Guilty, guilty, guilty."
The two men gazed at the suspect for a time.
Good cop first or bad cop?
You go, Hastroll said.
There is the same thrill of one- way glass, Hastroll thought, as in hearing the sound of your voice recorded. Or catching sight of yourself in the background of a photograph. Or passing yourself on a television screen in an electronics storefronta peep of a view as your image walks toward you. For you are always a secret to yourself, Hastroll thought. But there are glimpses and hints and clues.
Sheppard entered the interrogation room and sat directly across from Pepin.
Dont even ask me, Pepin cried. I didnt kill my wife!
Excerpted from Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross Copyright © 2010 by Adam Ross. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, 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 publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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