Brick settled once again into the rather large, overstuffed, and very comfortable recliner in the bedroom with his refreshed cup of coffee. He didn’t put his feet up. Wasn’t much like Brick to ever get himself backed into a corner. Or to not have the ability to move fast either.
The Kid sat on the side of the bed without refreshment. He didn’t drink the stuff, either coffee or alcohol—perhaps a holdover from the training days of his youth. Amazingly for a man of his sixty-six years, the Kid appeared still quite youthful and supple, despite his gray and thinning hair. He may have complained about his stiff joints and knuckles, but I for damned sure was a guy that didn’t want to get in the way of those mitts. I had recently seen first-hand, the awesome finality with which the Kid could still knock a young guy on his proverbial ass.
Once again, Brick stared at me without speaking. His brilliant blue eyes shown as usual—like a spotlight. This time, they were also ringed with just a bit of moisture. I knew that what he was about to tell me was not going to come easy.
Finally, he opened his mouth to speak.
“I was a ‘hot-shot’ cop back in 2001, Johnny. Brand, shiny new. So full of myself and my ‘abilities,’ it was a wonder I could take a crap without the help of a good strong laxative. Didn’t matter to me that I was a cop in a little jerk-water stop like Deadwood either. I was just beginning. Deadwood was going to be my training ground. I had nothing in front of me but smooth sailing and a big fat future. But like they say, life is what happens when you’re making other plans. Anyhow, that’s how the day started out. By the time it was over, I was finished. I would never wear a policeman’s badge again—until I took this job.”
“So you are a cop then,” I said.
“In a manner of speaking.”
“We’re supposed to be partners, Brick. Don’t you think I deserve a little more detail than that?”
The remark hung in the air like an old fart. Finally I broke the silence with the most inane reply I could think of.
“You’re not Jewish.”
“Don’t have to be, Johnny. Just have to be willing to fight—and die, for them.”
“Do they give you a magic de-coder ring and everything, Brick?”
“Cute, Johnny. But the answer is no. All you get is a small paycheck to go along with the rather large target painted on the middle of your back.”
“That’s how you got the bullet from Moradi.”
“Correct. He was operating in the Middle-East at the time.”
“Damned long way from Deadwood to Israel,” I observed.
“There’s a bit more to it than that, Johnny. After Deadwood, I kind of hit the skids for a while. While I was playing my ‘lush in the gutter’ routine, I met a cop. It was in Reno, Nevada. As it turned out, he was a Jewish cop.”
“What was a Jewish cop doing in Reno?” I asked.
“Same as me, Johnny. Trying to make a living.”
“What were you doing for a living, Brick?”
“Robbing liquor stores.”
“You are a man of many talents.”
“You could say so.”
“So you got busted?”
“Yes—by the Jewish cop.”
“Then what? Convicted felons don’t usually get hired on by the police—or Mossad either for that matter.”
“The Jewish cop—Officer Stanley Kaplan, to be exact, saw something in me, Johnny. Something I didn’t even see in myself. Instead of taking me to the Station, he took me home with him. Paid for the booze I had stolen. Gave me a sofa to sleep on, three good meals a day, a hot shower and clean clothes—and a choice.”
“To be a man—or just another crime statistic with a cheap grave marker out in Potter’s field.”
“Inspiring. I’m really glad too, Brick, that you made the right choice.”
“Thanks, Johnny. After I got cleaned and straightened back up, Stan was also the guy that put me onto Mossad. I ended up spending over three years in the Middle-East and paying my dues before I came back to the States.”
“What made Kaplan think you were Mossad material?”
“Because I showed him what I could do.”
“What I saw on Nevada Street.”
“That’s right, Johnny.”
“What was that anyway, Brick?”
“That was what my grandfather taught me back when I was a kid. I never knew my father. He died in a car wreck when I was a baby. I was raised by my mother and granddad. He was a pretty good fighter—after all, he had been trained by his father before him.”
“Who was that, Brick?”
“The man sitting just to your left—Kid McCoy.”
“Right. My mother’s father’s father.”
“The very same gentleman that was ‘displaced’ by Roan McCabe.”
“Right, Johnny. That little event gave the Kid some unique abilities.”
“Yeah, Brick. I know a man with those same abilities. His name is Matt McCabe. The son of Roan, and a man that knows how to lag a bit before or behind in time.”
“Right, Johnny. Pretty useful information to have if you want to avoid getting hit—or shot for that matter either.”
The Kid spoke-up. “It was my edge, Johnny. It’s how I won all those fights. It’s how I won the Championship.”
“Yes—I suppose you could say so. But I never had any other jobs skills. And poverty didn’t really agree with me very much.”
I tried to sort it out in my mind. “But you aren’t displaced?” I said to Brick.
“No, I’m not. And I don’t time travel either. What I was taught was basically a mind trick. Most everybody has the ability, with training. That’s how Matt learned. Roan and Aedan taught him. All the damned watch ever did was to focus its owner’s mind. The McCabes just seem to be naturally good at it. The Kid too. Now you are as well.”
“Depends on how you look at it, Johnny.”
“I once told Matt the watch was either a blessing or a curse,” I said.
“You wanted in Johnny, and don’t tell me you never considered the risks. You saw Matt and you knew what the watch had done to him. Still, you didn’t back away like a sensible man would have. No one that has ever come in contact with the Devil’s timepiece has come away unscathed. You’ve got a lot of Irish luck in you, but it was no match for the watch. It’s got you too now—just the same as him. Just in a little different way.”
I knew it was true, but I wanted no part of going there right at the moment.
“What happened in Deadwood?” I asked.
“I killed a woman.”
“By accident. Didn’t matter. She was just as dead as if I had done it on purpose.”
The Kid spoke up. “I killed a woman too, Johnny. I did it intentionally.”
“So this quaint little trait runs in the family?”
“Something like that, Johnny,” the Kid said. “The woman I killed was my wife. My last wife, as it turned out.”
“How many did you have anyhow, Kid?”
“Eight. But one of the eight I married three times.”
I was never much good at mathematics, but even doing a quick count in my head, I came up with a count of six different ladies.
“Busy man, Kid. A wonder you ever found any time to climb into a boxing ring.”
“It was an interesting life all right, Johnny—I’ll grant you that one. Complex, complicated, and very busy.”
“I’ll bet. So why did you kill number eight—or number six—or whatever the hell number she was?”
“Because she was responsible for the death of my daughter.”
The old fart smell returned as that remark hung even heavier than Brick’s had a few minutes earlier. For the life of me, I couldn’t think of anything to say to him, so I turned back to Brick.
“And if you don’t mind my asking, Brick—how did yours end up dead. I’ve got to tell you two, I find this fascinating. I’ve been throwing lead around for a few years now, and have never managed to mow down one of the fairer sex.”
“Well, that’s just exactly what I did, Johnny,” Brick said. “I mowed one down.”
Brick clenched his jaw. I could see the tendons in his neck bulge slightly as he went on.
“It was a bank robbery and hostage situation. Long story short, Johnny—Chief Wiggins selected me to drive the perps and their hostages to a waiting helicopter. Only once in the car, I was supposed to pull a Beretta nine from under the dash and take them both out—inside the car.”
“Messy work,” I said. “But it’s been done.”
“Yeah, but I got fancy. I pulled the pistol before I got out of the car, and engaged them on the street—right in front of the old-fashioned red-brick bank building. I wanted to be a showboat.”
“I can dodge a punch, Johnny, because I am out of time-sync a split-second before it’s launched. In other words, I can see the fist being thrown just before it actually happens, and I move out of the way easily. The Kid does the same thing. It’s what Grandpa taught me. I upped the game a little though, and applied the same basic technique to pistol shooting. I could actually see where the bullet was going to go, a split-second before I pulled the trigger. It had the effect of making it look as though I were firing without aiming, but in fact—it was a very carefully aimed shot—in my mind’s eye.”
“Cheating—just like the Kid,” I flatly stated.
“Guilty, Johnny. I guess with the Kid and I, the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree.”
“So what happened?”
“I killed the two perps—after issuing them a fair warning to throw down their weapons. I saved the three hostages too. Two Women and an infant.”
“So a happy ending then.”
“Not quite, Johnny. I had disobeyed orders getting out of the car that day. I guess it wouldn’t have mattered that much if it had worked out all right. But it didn’t. A lady died. A pregnant woman at that.”
“Full-metal-jacketed bullets. 9mm. It was all the Department used in their Beretta model ninety-twos. They fed through the gun like greased lightning, and solved any potential malfunction problems, but they created a few new ones along the way.”
“Exactly, Johnny. You’re getting the picture now.”
“How’d it happen?”
“I took out the bad guys with two perfect head-shots. I could not have missed. Like I said, they were perfect—no chance of a screw-up. No chance of anything going wrong. Except something went wrong. The full-metal-case bullet zipped right through the head of bad-guy number two, instead of expanding and staying inside like a hollow-point would have done. It pinged off the side of the brick building and traveled about two blocks away, and ninety degrees away from the direction it was originally travelling. It hit and killed a twenty-three year old pregnant woman out for a walk with her dog.”
“I’m sorry, Brick.”
He shrugged. It was a cop’s worst nightmare. An innocent bystander had died. Bad enough under circumstances that went down right according to the book. But this one had to lay damned awfully heavy on Brick’s heart. He knew, every single day of his life since that moment, that if he had simply obeyed his orders, that woman and her unborn child would have gone on living, instead of taking a short trip to a marble slab in the back of a hearse.
“So two deaths you blame on yourself,” I observed.
“No—just one. The lady was brain-dead, but they got her to the hospital and on life support in time to take the child. A little girl, as it turned out. A preemie, but she lived all right, and she’s alive today—fourteen years old. Her mother died a few hours later, when they removed her breathing tube.”
“Jesus,” I said. Under the circumstances, it seemed all right to so use his name.
“So I went off the deep-end for a while, Johnny. Mostly from that incident. I simply couldn’t get it out of my head—day or night. The only thing that let me sleep much was pills, and booze. I had a girl-friend. A Sweet lady named Rose. She tried her best to help me. She finally moved in with me not too long after it happened. She did the best she could, and that’s a plain fact, but as I hit the sauce harder and harder, well—our relationship simply dissolved in all that alcohol. She left me.”
Brick hesitated again and struggled for several seconds before he went on.
“Hell no, Johnny—that’s not even close to being fair. I left her. She was simply the first one to walk out the door.”
“You loved her?” I asked.
“Yeah. I would have married her in a heartbeat.”
“Is it too late, Brick?”
“Yeah. Too late. I looked her up after I got back to the states. She was dead. Breast cancer. She hadn’t even hit forty yet.”
All I could do was shake my head lamely side-to-side. There were really no words.
“What about the child?” I asked.
“Jennifer Joyce Ames,” Brick said. For the first time, I caught the hint of a smile. “Everyone just calls her Jenny. Her mother’s name was Joyce. A sweetheart of a kid. Dear God, how I love that child, Johnny.”
“You keep up with her?”
“I do. No one ever knew who her father was. And no man came looking for her either. She went to live with her Aunt in Northern California. The lady didn’t have much money, so I’ve helped to support her as much as I can over the years.”
“Does she know what happened?”
“Yes she does. I told her everything, right after she turned eight years old. She grew up fast, Johnny. A more poised young lady you’re never going to find anywhere. She forgave me—a lot more than I ever did myself.”
“You were never tempted to have your great grampa go back and fix things, Brick?”
“Never. Joyce was gone—to another place. And I didn’t have the right to take her from wherever that was—anymore than you could with your girl Sheila. Some things just have to be endured the way they are.”
I nodded my head in agreement.
“So what’s next?” I asked.
The Kid spoke up. “How about a tour of Detroit, Johnny? My Detroit, that is. The way it was, back in the day—and the way it will never be again.”
“Why not? We have some time.”
“I’ll show you around,” the Kid said. “Be your tour guide. One little thing I might ask though, Johnny.”
“What’s that, Kid?”
“Help me find out who the son-of-a-bitch was that killed my daughter.”
“Ever try before?”
“Yeah, but didn’t have much luck. I’m a pug, not a detective.”
“Ever hire one?”
“A couple. They took a lot of money from me, but never came up with anything. I don’t think they tried very hard.”
“They were like the police, Johnny. They thought they already knew who did it.”
“The police had a suspect?”
“Long story. Do you think you might like to hear it, Johnny? I’ve had this thing hanging around my neck for a long time.”
“Is it why you killed yourself?”
“If we found the killer, would you change your mind about that, Kid?”
“Maybe. Don’t know. Not sure. Take your pick.”
“Did you do it, Kid?”
“No, Johnny. I loved that little button like few other people I’ve ever known.”
“What was her name?”
“Beatrice. Little Bea Alderman.”
“Her natural father. I was her step-dad.”
“How did her father look as a suspect?”
“Lousy. His name was Lew—a cheap hood. Stabbed to death in a bar-fight when Bea was about two years old.”
“How old was she when she was murdered?”
“About seven or so.”
“How was she killed?”
“Nobody knows exactly, Johnny.”
I raised an eyebrow.
“Her body was never found, Johnny. She was kidnapped from the house her mother and I shared.”
“And the police just assumed she was dead?”
“Some pieces of her clothing were recovered on the banks of the Detroit River a few weeks later. The cops figured she was dumped in the river.”
“Why do you blame the mother?”
“Oh, she didn’t actually kill Bea, Johnny. She just caused it to happen—by her bad behavior.”
An odd look had come over the Kid’s face when he said that. Made me think that perhaps I didn’t really want to pursue this particular line of questioning—at least not right at the moment. One thing for sure—after seeing that look, I had no doubt in my mind whatsoever, that the Kid was at least capable of murder.
“Kid—I owe you my life. I’ll help you find the answer you’re looking for, if there is any way possible to do it.”
Brick spoke up. “One more thing, Johnny. I’d like to have you get rid of the watch. Right now. Here. Today.”
“Reason number one—you don’t need it anymore. Reason number two—I don’t want it falling into Moradi’s hands in the year 2015. Or anybody else’s in 1940 either.”
I thought it over for a few seconds, and then shook my head yes. It made a lot of sense.
“Where?” I asked.
“Somewhere where no one will find it. But somewhere where you can retrieve it when you’re ready to.”
“Suggestions?” I offered.
“I’ve got a place, Johnny,” the Kid said. “And it’s perfect. Better yet, it’s right nearby.”
“Sounds good,” I agreed. We all just sort of looked at each other for the space of a few seconds—wordlessly. Then I broke the silence—Todd Beamer style.
“Okay then,” I said. “Let’s roll.”
With Chapter Eighteen, we have reached the end of the first half of THE RECKONING. We’ll be back in a week or so with the beginning of the second half of the book. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day!
Dumb Joke of the Day: