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Fall North

Rating: R

Ed was told to go to Boston to bring back Rollo's daughter. Ed had been to Boston before, knew his way around, and could be trusted to do what he was told. He was the best choice of all the boys. Pyres explained this to Ed twice, two more times than he needed to. Ed sat and drank his beer, not saying anything while Pyres rolled on.

'In case somethin' does happen, you know cops, you know how to get around. You know what you can and can't do up there. The getting around is the big thing. Those streets are crazy up there. Little one-ways and shit. No numbers. None of the other guys would be comfortable.'

Ed drank more of his beer. If Rollo wanted him to go, he would go. He did know Boston, though he did not see it as all that hard to get around, but certainly a different story from the grid of Manhattan. Ed did not need any convincing or explanations from Pyres. In fact, he did not know what Pyres' function actually was, or why a man like Rollo would keep Pyres around; but Rollo did everything for a reason, so Ed sat and drank and listened to every word Pyres had to say.

'Can you leave tomorrow?'


Ed used the Merritt: There were no trucks allowed, and the leaves weren't yet peak color - no tourists yet. He had a bag with three days worth of clothes in the passenger seat. In the trunk he had a Smith & Wesson 9mm automatic with rounds and three spare magazines.

It was a Friday, and the drive took just over four hours.

Ed kept the Chevy under seventy, traveling east now on the turnpike, still among the farms and hills of central Massachusetts. He reached for his phone and dialed a 617 from memory.

'Yes?' An Arab voice scratched in his ear.

'Kurt. Ed. Busy?'

'Oh, my goodness. Where are you?'

Ed read a sign. 'Sturbridge. And closing.'

'Oh, that is wonderful. Are you going to be staying? I am having a party tonight. All the old people. Many faces you know, they will be happy to see their son return. Are you well?'


'Will you be my guest?'

'Yes, Kurt. I have some business that may cut the party short for me, but I wouldn't miss it. I can't stay with you this time. I am getting a hotel - '

'The Charles. I will arrange it.'

'No, no, thank you, Kurt. I'll get something. It's better this time if I handle my own arrangements. I am open to suggestions, though. I need to be close to Brookline.'

'How about Newton?'

'Yes, that would be perfect.'

'Yes. The Sheraton, then. Exit 14.'

'Oh, yeah. I remember now. What time?'

'Oh, come early, if business lets you, my friend. Anytime after the sun goes down. Our friends will arrive after a dinner at the Pudding - can you believe it is still standing? This will give us time to talk. It has been a long time, Edward.'

'Too long. I'll see you soon.'

Rollo had named his daughter Eliza, which Ed thought was asking for trouble in the first place. The name made him think of sex and dirt and makeup. Ed had met her several times throughout the years, even drove her to and from school a few times, though he doubted she remembered it. He remembered her as a brat, yelling about things and swearing, even at an early age.

She was twenty now, and could not have thought Boston was far enough to run to or big enough to hide in. This must be a test, another push to see how far her father would bend. One day, thought Ed, Rollo would tell him to kill her. Rollo would give him the order while lining up a putt, or shuffling his papers, and Ed would do it.

For now, Rollo just wanted her hauled back down to the city. He had not even bothered to call Ed to Tribecca, to the sixth floor on Hudson Street, to tell him in person. Instead he got a long, slow hiss from Pyres in a bar on the West Side.

Alone in his room, Ed hung his jacket in the closet and laid out the pistol on the bed. He maxed out the handgun; fourteen Teflon-lined hollow point rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber, and nestled the silver bulk into the worn Miami holster, counterweighing the gun with two full spare clips. He placed the whole affair in the top drawer of his dresser.

Ed answered the knock on the door in a towel, and tipped the boy who bought him his dinner with a twenty.

'Thank you, Mr. Forester.'

'Yeah. Take it easy.'

Ed ate and watched the sun sink past the highway. He wished he had gotten a room on the other side, to see the orange bounce off of the Hancock and the river like he remembered it.

In the growing dark, the Chevy slid along Soldiers Field Road by the river, onto 16 at Fresh Pond to Alewife. Ed cut off onto Rindge Ave, past the projects, and crossed Mass Ave, with the holstered pistol secure under his driver's seat.

Cambridge looked crowded and familiar, and there were already pumpkins on the stoops and ghosts in the windows as he crossed into Somerville. Outside of Davis Square, Ed parked the Chevy on a one-way and walked the block and a half to Kurt's house.

The lights were on and the shades all drawn at the square triple-decker. Ed circled the house slowly, admiring Kurt's landscaping efforts - a reasonable banzai station sat at the rear of the property. Two women he did not know passed by windows on the first floor, and then Ed finally caught sight of Kurt. He looked well, if perhaps heavier than three years ago. His glasses sat on his brown nose, threatening to fall, as ever. He gesticulated wildly to someone unseen, his eyes full of wine and mirth.

Ed turned at a noise at another window and grinned. A Rottweiler, his giant paws on the sill, was staring directly at Ed. His growl deepened so that Ed could hear him plainly through the glass. Kurt halted his pantomime and shot a suspicious glance out the window, unable to see a thing. Dog and man disappeared and soon the rear door opened.

'Make peace with your gods, my punks. That sign out front is no lie! Bruiser! On!' Kurt yelled his half-threat without direction as he loosed the animal. Bruiser bounded down the stone steps and straight at Ed, who stood still. As the dog closed, his growl slipped into an excited whimper and happy grunts. As Ed wrestled with the dog he saw Kurt peering towards them, unable to see, but with a smile spreading as he grew certain.

'Oh, my goodness. My son, come out where I can see you, you handsome bastard devil. Stop making love to my Bruiser. And he calls himself an attack dog.'

Ed straightened himself, disengaging with the mass of dark fur and licking wetness. He stepped out of the night and into the small circle of light the porch bulb threw, Bruiser now at his side with a new master.

'Ach. He was always more your dog than mine. Come here. You look well.'

The middle-aged man embraced the younger, and took him inside.

'It is the real thing, and the best. I have a friend in Barcelona, you would like him, he dresses like you. He sends this to me for the holidays.' Kurt poured them each a second small glass of absinthe. 'Your business, it does not happen tonight?'

'Not after this glass. I will take care of it tomorrow.'

'Then back to New York?'

'The plan is by Sunday.'

'Then lunch. We will go to the beach and have the thin beef.'

'Oh, god. I almost forgot. Of course.'

'Yes. The real thing. There has sprung up many imitators in and around the city. It is ridiculous. One cannot hope to duplicate the taste. The setting is part of it. The sea, the birds. The sea salt, it gets into the beef.'

More guests began to arrive. Ed could hear them outside the study door. Bruiser was lying on his friend's feet.

'How are your kids?'

'Morons. I do not know where we get them. It is worse than even in your years, Edward. They are morons, adrift in their idiocy. I try to keep them in the yard; out in the Square they will be hit by cars, or fall into the river.'

'There must be a few, though.'

'You were always my star. You know this, you were my favorite, my hope. A genuine sense for what is right and what is wrong. That, paired with a realistic knowledge of how the world works. In your years, Edward, it was not the intention that was lacking. All young people want to bring about a thousand years of peace and grass - you just thought you could do it by deciding it was the right thing to do. Marches.'

Kurt sipped at his green drink, letting it seep into his blood and color his memories. Ed was warm and happy from his first glass.

'Ach. The world is a clawed serpent, my son. It is a mechanism for rending flesh and grinding love to powder. We are little bags of jelly, created for some reason that must be humorous on a level beyond ours, created and then thrown into this machine. Without us to mash and grind, there can be no machine - take heart! At least we are necessary, and that is something. But without this process, this torture, we are nothing. The most we can do is to harden ourselves, to use any means, even the basest, to carve out whatever temporary peace we can for ourselves. To postpone the rending. The pain.'

Kurt seemed to drift off, and then came back.

'You. You always understood this. You, at nineteen, knew the claws and the cold. You had a halo of blood on your head, my son. The other Cambridge kiddies walked through the Square and peered at each other from inside clouds. They saw the cobblestones as soft, guiding hands - you saw them as they are. Bloody rocks.'

'Bloody rocks.'

They drank.

Kurt gave in for a moment. 'Oh, why did you not go to change the world? You were one of the only ones who knew how.'

'Who says I'm not?'

'Did you lose that part, half of the essential mix? Did you lose the urge to try to create peace? Or have you found a new way to see how the world works?'

'No, professor. I still see how the world works.'

Kurt was soon deep in absinthe, too hard to find behind those old glasses. They joined the larger party in the living room. A few people were dancing. Ed left after being introduced to the first two couples, Kurt trailing after him 'This was Edward! This was my one final hope! He is now a shadow in New York! Look on my failure! He is in politics!'

To Bruiser's dismay, Ed stole out the way he had come in, and let the fall air clear him out while he walked to his car. More guests were arriving and parking illegally.

Ed slept in his room in Newton until six. Pyres had given Ed a photograph of Chris Hammond. He was thick and covered in tattoos; a Boston tough guy. This was the man that Eliza was pretending could take her away from Rollo and New York. Hammond was connected with the South Boston crowd, but only one or two steps up from a nobody. He drove cars, sometimes helped beat up on kids and old men.

Pyres had also given Ed a recent black and white photograph of Eliza, a well-taken one at that, in Ed's opinion. It was flattering, and she was staring calmly at something off to the side, in the middle distance, as if listening to someone a few feet from her. Just in case you hadn't seen her in a while. Might be a lot of bitches with this guy, don't want you snatching the wrong one.

There was a Brookline street address scrawled on the back of a book of matches. Kid likes to party on Friday nights in Southie, but ends up back here at his Uncle's place.

Ed, the Chevy, and the photographs fled along Route 9. He slowed as he entered the side streets of Brookline, the million-dollar dwellings of stone glaring down at him from behind the bent backs of landscapers scooping leaves into bags.

At number fourteen on a windy hilltop street Ed parked at the curb and walked down the drive. The house had been converted from a stable a hundred years before, sat well back from any other property, and commanded a view of Cleveland Circle. Ed could see most of the Reservoir, and behind that the Middle Campus of Boston College. The facade of the house was narrow, and two cars sat in the circular drive. A gray Toyota truck bore plates that Ed knew from memory belonged to Eliza - a gift last year from her father. The second car was a nasty bit of European speedcraft, crouching half on the grass and gleaming in its paint so that even the fallen leaves seemed to give wide berth as they rustled past.

Ed never slowed on his way to the front door. He reached it, found it locked, breathed deeply, and knocked.

Almost immediately a heavy-set Asian man opened the door a crack and began to speak. The words were crushed, however, by the oak door as Ed uncoiled his entire body square into it. His motion began in his heels, legs straightening to unleash his full potential upwards and forward into the heavy wood, driving with his shoulder and gripping his pistol firmly in its holster. Lucky, thought Ed as he felt the door connect solidly with the man's mouth. A gout of blood stayed on the oaken corner even as the enormous man's body lurched back to follow his head.

Ed stepped into the house, closing the door behind him and drawing his gun in the same motion. He trained the Smith & Wesson on the Asian, who somehow stayed conscious and on his feet. The bigger man wore a gun as well, but was concerned only with his face; his eyes wide and his giant hands held near his mouth. He gave high, hitching breaths, but said nothing.

Ed motioned with the gun and the man seemed to understand, and began to kneel down, blood falling from his ruined teeth. Ed circled immediately behind him and shifted his weight to throw a wide, fast kick. Ed's boot was steel-toed, and connected at the man's temple with a wet spank. The enormous body slumped to the floor, motionless. Ed snapped out the man's revolver, thumbed out the cylinder and spilled the six shells out onto the marble floor, then tossed the gun into a plant.

The house was a line, one room behind the other, and Ed walked quickly through the foyer, a living room, a dining room, and a kitchen. The next door was small and closed, and Ed replaced his pistol before shouldering his way in.

Ed and the door splintered into the bedroom.

The room was dark, but the light that fell in through the broken door let Ed see enough. A shape moved towards him, and Ed let his arms and legs work by themselves; by touch. He gripped flesh in two places as hard as he was able and twisted Hammond's body to his left and forced him through the doorway. Hammond began to yell something, then yelled in pain. Out in the light, Ed could see that Chris was indeed a big boy, dressed only in boxer shorts and mapped in Gaelic-style tattoos. Ed threw him to the tiles.

Back on the West Side, Pyres had explained to Ed precisely what Rollo had wanted done, and Ed had sat and listened and drank his beer.

Kick his ass. If you have to, kill him. But kick his ass, like you would a punk kid. Do it in front of her. Let her see you fucking humiliate this guy, treat him like a bitch. Let her see the big man she ran away to.

Ed put his pistol on the tough guy and called into the dark room for Eliza. She came out wrapped in a sheet. She looked genuinely scared, not the angry brat he seemed to remember. Ed told Hammond to get up. The kid had two or three inches and about fifty pounds on Ed.

Ed slid the clip out of the gun and raked the slide, catching the ejected round with a practiced motion, and set the whole lot on the kitchen counter. He backed off, and invited Hammond, showing his empty hands and turning all the way around once.

'Come on, son.'

'Motherfucker' was all Hammond said as he rushed the older man. The kid was a brawler, exploding with speed. If he ever connected, he might be able to kill a man. Ed exhaled.

He let Hammond come to him, and he let the boy take a fast swing at his head. Ed leaned away smoothly, his upper body free of Chris' tight punching arc. At the same time, standing firmly on his right leg, Ed snapped a left roundhouse - steel-toe pointing out - into the boy's exposed rib cage. There was a noise like the popping of an ice cube.

Ed took one hop away and let the boy feel what had happened. Hammond began to shake it off, then fell to one knee. He glared at the older man, unable to understand how he had been hurt so bad so quickly. His mouth made a series of shapes.

'Get up, boy.' Ed was going through the motions, his heart not in it. Sometimes he enjoyed throwing his weight around, but the girl watching flattened it all out a bit. She saw that Hammond was hurt.

'You son of a bitch' she said to Ed. 'Leave him alone. I'll go with you, okay? That's enough.'

Hammond had collected himself a little, and holding his right side he made another move towards Ed. Ed cut the distance between them and Hammond instinctively put his hands up to guard his face. Ed grabbed Hammond by his testicles, squeezing with more than half his strength. The boy shrieked, breathed, then shrieked again. He feebly clawed at Ed's throat, but Ed kept the pressure on. He pulled and twisted as he squeezed. Hammond's face was purple, and his eyes like baseballs. Eliza began screaming.

Out of the corner of his eye, Ed saw her dart back into the bedroom, so he wrapped it up with Hammond, hauling back and giving him a right under the eye so hard it was a wonder the boy's neck held. The kid sat down immediately, almost politely, and went to sleep.

Ed walked briskly into the bedroom to find Eliza struggling with some sort of nickel-plated small caliber handgun, trying to put bullets into it by jiggling the slide and swearing at it. Ed caught her hands and twisted the gun out. She cried as he twisted, and her shoulders began to slump. She snapped out of it, fooling Ed, and reached and scratched his face. She drew blood as she screamed at him, almost laughing. He hit her instantly with a right, and she bounced off the closet door on her way to the carpet.

Ed stood rock still until he saw the rise and fall of her chest.

Then he sat down and fiddled with the handgun and looked around the bedroom. Coke, some pot, but no needles. Rollo had been afraid that it was heroin with her now - her arms were pale and thin, but free of tracks.

Ed sat Eliza up carefully in the crook of his elbow, supporting her head. He ran his finger over the swelling that had already started under her eye. There was also a small cut where his knuckle had connected. He gently woke her with motion.

''Kay. Nuff. Wha?'

'Easy. Stay awake, okay? Gonna feel worse the longer you stay out. Better to wake up now, so stay with me. We need ice. Can you stand?'

The two made their way into the kitchen, Eliza shaky on her feet but doing better than Ed had expected. Hammond lay in the same position in which he had landed. Ed put some ice into a sandwich bag.

'You're going to have to get some things together. You know you have to go home.'


Ed had a look around as he gave her a little privacy. The house belonged to Hammond's uncle, some Southie big shot named Fran Doyle. Fran's sister was Chris' mother, hence Useless Chris gets a fast car, some tattoos, and access to the house while Fran is away in Vegas.

The place was tastefully done for the home of a scumbag from South Boston. There were old, grainy photographs of the Brookline area from the 1800s. The place was mostly blacks and whites, and the green from enormous potted plants. Plenty of big windows used the view well. Must have hired somebody.

Eliza emerged dressed in tight slacks and a black stretch shirt. Over-sized sunglasses almost concealed the shiner that was forming under her eye. She carried a weekend bag.

'That all you're going to need?'

'All I got.' She gave a wincing glance at Hammond, who was beginning to grunt a little. 'Where's Chang?' she said as they began to walk through the rooms of the linear house, but Ed did not answer. Eliza sucked in as she saw the giant man's body. 'Did you shoot him?'


Eliza looked Ed over. They left the house and began to walk up the drive.

'What about my truck?'

'I'm sure Rollo will buy you another one, or have someone retrieve it for you.'

'Fuck that. I'll drive it. I'll follow you.'

'Fuck that.'

'No. Come - come on. I know you, right? What's your name?'


'Ed. Right. Dad talks about you all the time. You're, like, the best at everything, right? Well, let me follow you. Where am I going to go? Chris's family is going to kill me if I stay in Boston after this shit, okay? I'll follow you, and that way my car doesn't get left in front of a house where you killed one guy and beat on another guy.'

'I don't know if that man is dead.'

'He looked pretty fucking dead to me, Ed.'

Ed looked around, and then back at Eliza. She was able to keep eye contact, and he was impressed. 'You know your father.'

'Yes I do.'

'He is upset with you as it is.'

'Yes he is.'

'He is one more episode away from telling me to hit you, you know that?'

'You already hit me.'

'Kill you. Understand?'


'You try to lose me, I will find you and kill you, understand?'

'Yes I do, Ed.'

'Do you?'

'Yes.' She moved closer to him. Ed's point was made, but he did not move away.

'It won't make the slightest difference to me, you know?' he said, lower now.

'Okay. I'll do what you want.' She moved gently back and forth.

'Stay right on me.' Ed broke away and walked to his car.

Ed looked in his mirror every five or six seconds, willing her to stay behind him. They took Beacon Street through Newton and arrived together at the mammoth hotel. Ed noticed his face in the mirror as he got out of his car; three good gashes from Eliza's fingernails framed his left eye. He donned sunglasses of his own, swearing quietly to himself.

Ed had a long talk with Pyres while Eliza showered; at least, what Ed considered a long talk. Ed pushed for someone to drive up and take her off his hands - he had some business to take care of here the rest of the weekend; personal things. He couldn't be dragging a twenty-year-old girl around with him everywhere.

Pyres said he was sorry, but that there was nobody else. November was almost here, there were city elections, this was the busiest time of the year.

'In fact,' oozed Pyres, 'We need you back as soon as possible, here. How long is this - personal stuff gonna take?'

'The weekend. I will be back late tomorrow.'

There was a muffling, a scratching, then a silence. Then Pyres came back on the line. 'Yeah. Mr. Rollo is anxious to see his daughter, Ed. This personal stuff better be real important - '

'I can put her on a bus right now, she will be back in four hours. You can meet her at Port Authority at - '

'Ed, Ed, please. You're the professional, right? You were sent to get the chick and bring her back, not put her on a damn bus while you go sightseeing. Those fucking buses stop, you know? Pit stops, like, and what do we tell Rollo when she doesn't hop back on, okay? No - if you have some things to do, just do them, but the girl stays with you, and comes back down with you.'

'And her truck?'

Another scratching, then silence, then more oozing.

'Right. Mr. Rollo wants you to handle that as you see fit, Ed. Get one of your Boston people to drive it down, or have it flat-bedded. Whatever, we'll pay for it. Just get it and her down here by Sunday and we're all right.'

We. We'll pay for it.

There was a time when Rollo was the only one who spoke to Ed. Ed thought about killing Pyres with his hands, and then took his shirt off and did push-ups until he felt better.

He was breathing heavy from his workout when Eliza came out from the bathroom in a towel. She picked up the 8' x 11' of herself on the dresser. Ed prepared to answer any query about it, but none came. She put the photo back, thoughtfully, and then floated towards Ed without looking at him.

She came close to Ed, and ran her fingers over his chest and down his abdominal muscles. He didn't move away.

'Keep pretty trim for an old man.'

'Not so old.'

'Hmm. So when do we go?'

'I have things to do. I have to meet someone today, run some errands tomorrow. we can leave after that.'

'I like these scars.' She whispered, pressing against him and kissing his chest. He was able to stay motionless for a minute or so, and then Ed picked the girl up and moved her to the bed.

The towel came off. She had a dancer's legs and ass, but with full, young breasts that would not fall for twenty years. She worked at his belt and ushered him inside of her, as she did she released a long moan. They were loud and fast, and afterwards Ed took a shower of his own. He kept the bathroom door open, which blocked the door out to the hall.

When he was done she had dressed, but only into one of his t-shirts. He lay on the bed and she wrapped herself around him.

'I can't stay with my father.'

'That's not my problem.'

'I'm going to run away again, and keep running until he doesn't come after me anymore. Or until you come to kill me. Isn't that your problem?'

Ed turned and held her face. 'He is probably going to have you killed whether you run or stay, sooner or later.'

She was crying without making a noise. 'I know. Ed?'


'Did he have my mother killed?'


She knew this but had never heard it. She looked toward the window. 'Did you know her?'


'What was she like?'

'I didn't know her real well. I was just a kid, younger than you. I was working for Stacks in Brooklyn, but we used to go to those parties. We'd bus the tables, run drinks. Rollo would come. Your mother was taller than him. Talked loud. She was beautiful, everybody seemed to like her. She drank Manhattans.'

'What's in a Manhattan?'

'That's whiskey with vermouth, the sweet kind, and a cherry, usually.'

'Are those good?'

'Yeah. That's a classy drink.'

'How did you start working for my dad? Why did you leave Brooklyn?'

'Had an uncle up here. Ended up paying so I could go to college. Four years of that. Joined the service for another few years. When I came back, Rollo was running things. He offered, I took it.'

'Do you like him?'

'We're friends.'

The two stayed wrapped and warm in each other, then made love again. This time they were slow, and didn't get dressed again until after noon.

Ed met Kurt on Revere beach, where they had roast beef sandwiches - Ed really had forgotten how good they were. Bruiser was motoring around in wide circles, harassing seagulls.

'There is a weight on your head. More than normal.'

'It's just work.'

'Nothing you can talk about in specifics, I am sure.'


'I am used to it. Shed no tears for me.' Kurt darkened. 'Are you still there, boy?'

'I'm still here, Professor.'

'I believe you. But there is only a remnant now of what used to burn in those eyes. I myself was frightened of you now and again, dear boy. Certain comments, certain viewpoints. You looked like you could kill.' Kurt laughed at the memory, but held Ed by his arms, then became sad and quiet. 'Get out of what you are doing if it is taking you from yourself, Edward. Politics can do this to a man, especially a young man.'

'Not so young.'

'Ach. Yes. Not too old, either, though. Not so old as to be resigned, to be unchangeable. You know that.'

'I do. I am further along than you might think.'

'Ah! You are considering getting out?'

'Yes. I believe I am. I have obligations yet to fulfill. But after - 'Ed trailed off on his own.

'Miles to go, eh? Well, that is wonderful. I wish you the best. Maybe you will decide to teach with me in Cambridge.'

'I'm not sure I have much to teach. Much useful, anyways.'

'You see how the world works, still. That is something, is it not?'

Ed looked out at the gray expanse of autumn ocean. 'Thank you for everything, Kurt.'

'Oh, my boy. It has always been my delight and my privilege.'

Kurt laughed; tried to force it on to Ed. He couldn't, so he patted the young man's shoulder twice while he looked at his shoes and the sand.

'How old are you?'



'I know. You thought older, right?'

'Like sixty.'

He could feel her begin to enjoy his laugh.

And so he dragged her around. Ed saw Blake at the Quiet Man Pub, had a couple of beers and listened to stories - listened sadly, realizing Blake was now a drunk. Maybe he always had been. He was shocked to see Ed at first, but within a half-hour he was talking to him like they had been together for the past ten years. Eliza was happy to sit in a corner and eat a sandwich.

Ed failed to find a couple of people entirely. Katie O'Hare had moved to Philadelphia to teach music, and Sullivan had opened his own law practice in Los Angeles. Mr. Sullivan, Sr. told Ed the news after swearing, dancing then marveling at him. Eliza could see that the old man wanted nothing more than to talk with Ed for hours on end, but Ed would not even come in, though the offer was repeated three times. The old man physically pulled on Ed's arms, but he wouldn't move closer. Ed seemed like a vampire invited to Mass. When Ed and Eliza walked away from the large Sullivan home near Central Square, Ed seemed bothered.

'He sounded like a pretty good friend of yours.'

'Yeah. We did some great things together. I always got along with his dad, too.'

'Yeah, it looked like it. Why didn't you talk to him longer, or go in or something? He really wanted you to.'

'Let's just get going. The longer we walk and drive around here, the more chance we have of running into Hammond or his people. They've got to be looking for you.'

'What are we doing? Just looking up your old college buddies?'

'Yeah. You ever think about college?'

'No. Yeah, but dad - Rollo, says it's all bullshit.'

'It is. Doesn't mean you don't meet good people.'


Ed slowed his pace as they approached the car. 'Are you ready to go?'


'Need anything?'

'No. Let's just go.'

Ed and Eliza moved seventy miles west in just under an hour, and then started heading south. Then Ed's phone rang, and he listened to Pyres for a few moments. Ed listened to the slow hiss through the phone and watched clumps of orange trees hurtle past the car. He made a sound when he thought that Pyres wanted to hear one.

Ed said yes. Then he hung up.

Eliza watched her hands shake. 'We're going to pull over soon, aren't we?'

Ed felt the tired weight of the gun holstered at his ribs, and scanned the woods on either side of the highway. It was bound to get more remote past Hartford. 'Not for a while.'

As Eliza started to sob quietly, the trees hurtling by were at peak color, like in postcards.