When the Examiner hit the driveways at four this morning, it polarized the town. Caitlin's words entered the public consciousness like electrodes dipped into water, ionizing opinion to positive or negative with no neutral between, the opinions predictable in most cases by the simple indicator of skin color. The process took about three hours: from the time the insomniacs, farmers, and shift workers walked outside to read the front page by street lamp until the last Washington Street matrons toddled downstairs to read what the maid had laid out beside their morning coffee. By seven a.m. telephones were ringing all over town, and by eight every conversation from the sewer ditches and oil fields to the paper mill and the hospitals was centered on two men: Leo Marston and Penn Cage.
My only contributions to Caitlin's story were the actual accusations against Marston, slander per se if I ever heard it. Of course, my slanderous charges became libel per se-meaning that the libeled party would not have to prove damages-the moment Caitlin printed and distributed them. My phrases, preserved for the ages, ran as follows:
There is no doubt that Delano Payton was murdered on May 14, 1968. It is just as certain that former State Attorney General Leo Marston, known locally as "Judge" Marston because of his stint on the state supreme court, was the man behind the conspiracy that resulted in Payton's murder. Under Mississippi law, that makes Marston as guilty of murder as the man who planted the bomb. Murder by explosive device is a capital crime in this state, and there is no statute of limitations. I urge the local district attorney to reopen the Payton case. If he does, he will quickly find enough proof to send Leo Marston to death row at Parchman.
Asked by "the publisher" to describe the evidence on which I based my accusations, I stated:
I am in contact with certain members of the Justice Department who have long known of Marston's involvement in the crime. Conscientious citizens and law enforcement officers have also come forward with previously unknown facts about the Payton murder. I believe we would already have seen a prosecution of Judge Marston but for the fact that John Portman, the present director of the FBI and a former federal judge, was involved in the original Payton investigation in 1968. Some former FBI agents believe the Bureau itself may have been involved in a cover-up of certain facts of Payton's death, but this will be difficult to prove without the original FBI file on the Payton case, which is sealed until the year 2007, ostensibly for reasons of national security.
I was purposefully vague about Marston's possible motives for the crime, but on Caitlin's advice I hinted that Marston, heretofore considered a moderate on race, might secretly have been working in concert with members of the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission to prevent black workers from rising into "white jobs."
Because of my reference to John Portman, the wire services picked up the story before noon, and just before one Caitlin received a call from CNN in Atlanta. There were already two network stringers in town to cover the "black-white" mayoral election, and they spent the morning outside my family's motel rooms, pleading for comment on the story.
But the morning paper had far more tragic consequences. Caitlin had written a separate piece about the fire and kidnaping. In it she vividly described the rescues of Ruby Flowers and Officer Ervin, and also Ruby's death in the ER. She quoted several citizens on Ruby's character, in particular the pastor of the Mandamus Baptist Church, of which Ruby had been a devoted member. She also quoted the fire chief, who pronounced the fire arson, based on the discovery of an incendiary device in the collapsed attic of our house. Caitlin concluded by saying that the arson and kidnaping were clearly attempts to stop my investigation into the Delano Payton murder. It was yellow journalism at its finest, and the consequences were immediate.
At a little after one, a seventy-four-year-old white man named Billy Earl Whitestone walked down his sidewalk to get his mail from the box. He got both barrels of a twelve-gauge shotgun instead, fired from a red Monte Carlo driven by two unidentified black youths. The gunmen stopped long enough to drop a copy of the Examiner on Mr. Whitestone's shattered skull, but even if they hadn't, the shooting would have been recognized as a reprisal for Ruby's death. In his younger days Billy Earl Whitestone had achieved national notoriety as a Grand Wizard of the White Knights of the Imperial Ku Klux Klan. He had also enjoyed a brief renaissance of fame during the 1980s when, Wallace-like, he marched at the head of some black civil rights parades, but apparently this belated conversion had not sufficiently impressed certain members of the African-American community. At least not the two young men in the Monte Carlo.
A drive-by shooting in Natchez is the equivalent of a race riot in Los Angeles. Within the hour Mayor Warren went on the local country radio station to appeal for calm and to condemn the "reckless and irresponsible charges" made against "one of the city's finest citizens" by former Natchezian Penn Cage. He also blasted the "Yankee editor" of the local newspaper. Shad Johnson also took to the airwaves-the black AM station-to urge restraint in the face of "the deteriorating racial situation." Unlike Wiley Warren, Shad urged the city authorities to look into the charges printed in the morning paper and, if they were found to be substantive, to reopen the investigation into Del Payton's murder. Despite his wish that the Payton murder remain a non-issue, Shad could not in the aftermath of the fire and shooting afford to be seen as anything but a champion of the black community, his core of electoral support.
Three hours after Whitestone's death, I was invited to the police station to discuss the statements I'd made in the newspaper, particularly my reference to "local law enforcement officers." The police chief conducted the interview, and he seemed to labor under the misapprehension that I was subject to arrest if I didn't answer his questions. I calmly and courteously enumerated my rights under the Constitution, then explained that I had first contacted the district attorney about my suspicions and found him apathetic. I refused to answer any questions, and suggested that the chief talk to Austin Mackey instead. As I departed, he told me he considered the death of Billy Earl White-stone my responsibility, and I didn't argue. He was mostly right.
I left my bodyguard outside during this interview. He and his three associates from Argus Security had arrived from Houston just after midnight, flying into Baton Rouge via Argus's Gulfstream V and driving up to Natchez in four separate rental cars. They checked into the Prentiss Motel, and by two a.m. my family was being protected by some of the finest bodyguards in the world. The total cost of this protection was staggering, but my memory of Annie's quivering chin was enough to make me ashamed for even thinking of money.
Three of the four guards were former FBI agents, and fit exactly the mental image I'd had before they arrived. Lean and tight-lipped. Late forties. Economical movements. Nine-hundred-dollar business suits specially tailored to conceal the bulges of various firearms. The fact that they were former FBI agents concerned me a little, but their boss had assured me that none of his men had worked under John Portman. The fourth Argus man was about thirty-five and blond, with the lean, confident look of a professional mountain guide. He wore jeans, a sweatshirt, and hiking boots. Daniel Kelly was a veteran of the army's Delta Force, and like the others, was billed at eight hundred dollars per day.
After hearing the details of our situation, the senior member of the detail suggested the following plan. One operative should remain with my mother and Annie at all times, another with my father, and one with me. The fourth would sleep at the hotel for six hours, then relieve one of the other men, beginning a continuous rotation. I agreed, and chose Daniel Kelly as my guard.
After my interview at the police station, Kelly and I stopped by the offices of the Examiner, where we found Caitlin doing her best to handle a barrage of phone calls from other newspapers. She stopped working long enough to tell me that her father had called from Richmond and demanded to know what the hell she thought she was up to, then ordered her aboard the first Virginia-bound aircraft leaving Mississippi. Caitlin told him he had better get ready to mount a libel defense, because she was sticking by her story, and if he fired her, he should prepare to read further installments of the Payton story in the Washington Post. I didn't envy Mr. Masters. Caitlin had been preparing for this day for a long time.
Thirty minutes before the courthouse closed, Leo Marston filed suit against myself and the Natchez Examiner for a grand total of five million dollars, his complaint drafted in record time by his junior law partner, Blake Sims. Actually, they filed two separate suits-one for slander and one for libel-neatly severing my fate from that of the Examiner, which, as part of a media group, will have a battery of attorneys on retainer, many of them First Amendment specialists. A deputy served me with the papers just as our family was leaving the motel for dinner at the Shoney's Restaurant across the street.
I invited the Argus men to eat with us, but they took their jobs too seriously for that. Two stood in the front parking lot near their cars, like businessmen shooting the breeze after an early dinner, while Daniel Kelly covered the rear entrance. I hadn't felt that safe in a long time. The Argus men made quite an impression on Annie too. She'd spent most of her waking hours since the fire on my mother's lap, but during dinner she began to loosen up, using the Shoney's crayons to play each of us in games of tic-tac-toe.
Ruby's death hung over the adults like a pall, but we tried to focus on the good times we'd had with her, which were countless, as they spanned thirty-five years. My father had stopped by Ruby's house earlier to give her husband, Mose-a retired pulpwood cutter-a substantial check and a gallon of Wild Turkey. They talked for half an hour, shared some whisky, and Dad left the house wondering how long the old man would survive without Ruby around to take care of him.
Caitlin's articles had upset my mother, but Marston's lawsuit terrified her. I tried to reassure her by explaining that my intent had been to force just such a lawsuit, but she refused to be mollified. Like most people who have lived any length of time in Natchez, my mother believes that Leo Marston is untouchable, and that anyone who tries to hurt him is doomed to failure or worse.
I kept the good news of the day to myself. Just after noon Special Agent Peter Lutjens had called the motel from a pay phone in McLean, Virginia, and asked me to call him back from a pay phone. When I did, he told me he'd been stewing about the Payton case and had decided to try to photocopy the sealed FBI file. He still had his security pass to the proper archive. The problem was the staff. The "friend" who had reported his initial inquiry to Portman worked every day but Sunday, so Sunday was Lutjens's only shot. And he was due to report in Fargo on Monday. I thanked him profusely and tried to reassure him that what he was doing would ultimately serve the Bureau, not undermine it. He told me he'd call me Sunday if he wasn't in jail, and hung up.
When we got back to the motel after supper, I found two old-fashioned handwritten messages waiting: "Call Livy" and "Call Ike." I had no idea what Livy could want, other than to curse me for vilifying her father in the newspaper, but I called Tuscany anyway. The number of the Marston mansion hadn't changed since we were kids, but the fact that it had remained in my memory for twenty years probably said something about my buried feelings for Livy. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach as the phone rang, but I resolved to tell Leo to kiss my ass if he answered.
"Marston residence." A maid.
"Yes, could I speak to Liv, please?"
"Just a moment, Mr. Sutter."
After a few moments Livy came on the line and said, "John?"
"Oh. Just a minute." Her voice was under tight control. I heard the clacking of heels on hardwood, then her voice again, more relaxed. "I'm glad you called back. How's Annie doing?"
"Better. Look, I know you must be upset about the paper."
A strange laugh. "Things are pretty crazy around here. I don't know what you're trying to do. But I know why you're doing it."
I said nothing.
"Penn… hurting my father won't make up for the years we lost."
"I know that."
"I hope so. Because I called to tell you that, as bad as all this is, I don't want to let him come between us again."
We both waited in the vacuum of the open line, each hoping the other could somehow bridge the chasm my accusations had opened between us. I imagined her sitting alone in the Italianate palace that had sheltered her throughout her childhood. She had often portrayed it to me as a prison, but I never bought into this. She wouldn't have traded Tuscany for anything.
"You haven't asked where I got my information about your father. You haven't protested his innocence."
"Of course I haven't. It's ridiculous. My father murdering a black man? He's probably the least prejudiced man in this town."
"Del Payton's death may not have been a race murder. Tell me something, Livy. What would you do if you found out your father had ordered the burning of my parents' house?"
"Just pretend it was true. What would you do?"
"Well, obviously, I'd be the first one to call the police."
Maybe she didn't even know she was lying. "I need to go, Livy."
"Can we see each other tonight?"
I couldn't believe she wanted to be within ten miles of me after the newspaper story. "Not tonight."
Images from the day before filled my mind: Livy floating naked in the pool, kissing me passionately as we sank slowly through the green water, her thigh pressing against me. "We'd better play it by ear. There's a lot going on right now."
"That's all the more reason to stay close. Just remember what I said about my father. I meant it."
I hung up and dialed Ike's cell phone before thoughts of Livy could overwhelm me. I wanted to call her back and say, "Pick me up in twenty minutes." But the past had finally caught up with us, and Ike the Spike was growling in my ear.
"Meet me where I wanted to last night," he said, meaning the warehouse in the industrial park by the river. "One hour."
"What about? About whatever the fuck it is you think you're doing, man. This town's going crazy. One hour."
"I'll be there."
"Damn straight you will."
I've been sweating in the dark warehouse for twenty minutes, breathing the stink of fertilizer and wondering what could be keeping Ike. It's fully dark now, and the spotlight of a tugboat pushing barges upriver arcs through the night like a Hollywood klieg light, searching for sandbars and unexpected traffic. A slight breeze off the Mississippi penetrates the twenty-foot-wide warehouse door, where I stand watching the dark line of the levee, waiting for the headlights of Ike's cruiser.
I am unarmed but not unprotected. Daniel Kelly is covering me. After asking four times if I really trust Ike Ransom, Kelly parked his rental car behind the warehouse and told me to forget he was there. I parked the BMW out front so that Ike would see it when he drove up.
What I take for the sound of another tugboat suddenly resolves into a car engine. A set of headlights descends the levee, pulls into the parking lot of the warehouse, and stops beside my car.
It's Ike's cruiser.
He gets out, his brown uniform looking black under the single security light, and walks toward the warehouse door. Halfway there he stops, turns, and watches the levee for nearly a minute. Maybe he senses Kelly's presence. Whatever the reason, he resumes walking toward me. When he's ten yards away, I step into the light, holding both hands in plain view.
Ike draws his pistol faster than I would have believed possible, recognizing me just as the barrel lines up with my chest. He quickens his step and shoves me back into the shadows.
"You ought to know better than that," he mutters.
"Why are you so jumpy?"
The whites of his eyes flick left and right in the darkness. "You ain't jumpy? After somebody burned down your house and took your kid?"
"Who set that fire, Ike? Who took my daughter? Ray Presley?"
"Could have been." He holsters his pistol. "But I don't know for sure. Not yet."
"Why are we here?"
"So you can tell me what the hell you think you're doing in the paper. You crazy? Making statements like that?"
"You're the one who told me Marston was guilty."
"Jesus. Is that the way you did it in Houston? Shoutin' shit in the papers before you got any proof?"
"Take it easy. Everything's under control."
"Under control? Shooting your mouth off about local law enforcement coming forward?"
"I'm pursuing this the way I think best. As far as the newspaper story goes, I wanted Marston to sue me, and the story accomplished that."
"I wanted the right to request everything from personal papers to phone records from Marston under the rules of discovery."
A gleam of recognition. "That lawsuit means you can ask for Marston's personal shit? And get if!"
"Okay… maybe you ain't crazy. You get the judge's legal files, you're liable to find all kinds of illegal shit."
"Marston's legal files are protected under client confidentiality rules. But everything else is fair game."
"How long you got to answer his suit? At least thirty days, right? That should give you plenty of time for fishing."
"I'm going to file my answer tomorrow."
His mouth drops open. "Why you gonna do that?"
"By proceeding aggressively, I force Marston to conclude that I either have evidence in my possession, or that I know people willing to come forward and testify against him."
"But you don't."
"Don't be so sure. I'm building a case."
Ike's eyes narrow to slits. "What you talking about? What kind of case? You holding back on me?"
"What if I am? You've been holding back on me from the start."
He raises a warning finger but says nothing, and instead begins a staring contest. His bloodshot eyes are so jerky that he can't focus in one direction long, and he soon looks away.
"What are you taking, Ike? Speed? What?"
"I take me a drink now and then. So what? Have you talked to Stone again?"
"Yes, but he's just like you. Scared to tell what he knows."
"I told you, man, I know Marston done it, but I don't know why."
"How do you know, Ike? How can you know he did it if you don't know why?"
He grunts in the dark. "I know what I know. Why'd you slam Portman in the paper? You go pissing off the head of the FBI, you're asking for some serious payback."
"I did it to protect myself and my family. That newspaper story threw a lot of light on Portman. On me too. It makes it harder for him to retaliate."
"Yeah? I heard somebody tried to poison Ray Presley. Who the hell you think did that?"
"I figured Marston ordered it. You think it was Portman?"
"Sure as hell wasn't the tooth fairy." Ike scrapes the tip of a boot along the cement floor of the warehouse. "Stone say anything about surveillance?"
"There's somebody watching me."
A shiver runs along my forearms. "How long?"
"I picked him up today, but he could have been there longer."
"Stone's under FBI surveillance himself. He thinks Caitlin and I are too. Phones, the works. But why would the FBI be watching you?"
"Maybe 'cause of your damn newspaper article."
"I didn't mention your name. Why did you warn me away from the FBI, Ike? Have you tried to talk to them about the Payton case before?"
"Say what?" He takes out a cigarette and taps it against his palm but does not light it. "Why don't you focus on some shit that'll get you somewhere? Like Marston's papers. There's bound to be something in there to prosecute him on. He's had his hands in all kinds of shit for years. I mean, who cares what he goes down for, 'long as he rots in Parchman."
"I care. To get out from under this slander charge, I've got to prove Mars-ton guilty of murder. Not campaign finance fraud or any other bullshit. Murder. Do you comprehend that?"
Instead of answering, Ike flips open his lighter, ignites it, and puts the flame to the tip of his cigarette. As the orange glow illuminates his face, something incomprehensible happens. The flame reaches toward me as though sucked by a wind, and Ike slams his shoulder into my chest, punching the air out of my lungs and knocking me to the cement floor.
As he lands on top of me, gunfire erupts outside the warehouse and echoes through the metal building. Two shots, I think. Then a third, the sound quick and flat.
"Get off," I grunt, unable to draw breath with Ike on top of me.
He rolls off and up into a kneeling position, his pistol pointed through the warehouse door.
"What happened?" I ask.
"There's two guns out there. One silenced."
"I've got a man out there, Ike. Maybe one of the guns was his."
He whips his head around. "What man?"
"A private security guy. From Houston."
He peers into the darkness the way he must have done in Vietnam, with absolute concentration. "I can't see shit," he hisses. "But some lardass ex-cop ain't gonna help us one bit, I know that."
"He's not what you think."
After a minute of silence, he works his way toward the edge of the door.
"What do you see?"
"Shut the fuck up."
A boom like a cannon shot shatters the silence, reverberating through the warehouse for at least four seconds. Ike hits the floor with his pistol still aimed at the door.
"That's a deer gun," he says. "Stay down. We got serious shit going down out there, and it ain't all got to do with us."
"How do you know?"
"Ain't but one bullet come into this warehouse."
As I lie facedown on the floor, breathing accumulated dust and oil, the seconds drag past. There are no more shots, but the instinctual voice that warned me during the fire that killed Ruby is not comforted by this fact. It knows that silence is the cloak of the approaching enemy.
"How long we gonna lie here?" I whisper.
"Till I tell you to get up."
Another five minutes pass.
"Penn Cage!" yells a man from beyond the warehouse door. "It's Kelly! Daniel Kelly."
"That your guy?" asks Ike.
"It's Kelly," shouts the voice again. "Come out! And bring your friend. We need some law out here."
I scramble to my feet and trot to the edge of the door.
Daniel Kelly stands forty feet away, an MP-5 submachine gun slung over his shoulder.
"What happened?" I ask, walking into the parking lot.
"Somebody tried to whack you. Or the cop. I couldn't tell which."
Ike steps into the light, his pistol aimed at Kelly. "Who shot who out here?"
Kelly holds up his hands. "Take it easy, Deputy. I'm a friendly. I was out here covering your meeting when I saw a muzzle flash from over there." He points at the levee, a dark silhouette fifty yards away. "It was a silenced rifle, and it was firing subsonic rounds, because I didn't hear the bullet crack. I started running toward the flash, whipping out a spotter scope as I ran, trying to get within range and see at the same time. The shooter was firing from the prone position, already setting up for his second shot. I yelled just as he pulled the trigger, and as he swung around to deal with me, I double-tapped him on the run."
"Is he dead?" Ike asks.
"Definitely. I put one through his head to be sure, and it's a good thing, because he was wearing a vest."
"What about that deer gun I heard?"
Kelly points into the darkness south of the warehouse. "The deer gun belonged to the guy over there. Who is also dead. The shooter on the levee took him out. That was the first muzzle flash I saw. He fired across my line of sight, at a right angle to you guys. The other guy must have fired off that deer slug as he was dying. Pure reflex, probably."
"I don't get it," I say. "Why would they shoot at each other? A falling-out among hit men?"
Kelly shakes his head. "I don't think these guys were together. They're dressed different, and their equipment's different. I think the guy with the deer gun was just in the way."
"Who knew you were coming to this meeting?" Ike asks.
"My father and Kelly. That's it."
"What about you?" Kelly asks Ike.
"Nobody knows where I'm at. How did these guys get so close if you were covering the meeting?"
Kelly scratches the side of his nose, as though to emphasize his calmness. "First of all, they're not that close. Second, the curve of the levee blocked my line of sight to the guy with the deer gun, but not his line to you. Third, the sniper on the levee followed you in. He probably drove with his lights off and parked well back, then moved up on foot." Kelly pauses, his cool blue eyes level with Ike's. "And fourth, if I was in with those guys, you'd be bagged and tagged right now."
Ike snorts and turns toward the levee. "Show me the dead guys."
Kelly unslings his MP-5 and starts jogging toward the levee. We follow him across the lot, trying to stay with him as he pounds up the spongy grass on the side of the levee. The odors of cow manure and bush-hogged grass weight the humid air. At the crest, Kelly points at a black shape lying at the edge of the gravel road that runs atop the levee.
"No wallet," he says. "No ID at all. Car's clean too. A rental."
"That's risky," Ike remarks. "He gets stopped at random without ID, he's gonna get run in."
"Unless he's willing to do the cop."
Ike walks to the corpse, bends over, and takes a long look. "Never seen him. Take a look, Cage."
I walk over and glance at the dead sniper. He's dressed from head to toe in black, and looks like he stepped off a film set. His face is pale and placid in the dark, as though he were shot while sleeping. A dead face can be difficult to identify, so I give it long enough to be sure.
"I don't know him."
"Here's his weapon." Kelly holds out a long, bolt-action rifle to Ike. "Rank-Pullin starlight scope. Fourth-generation passive amplification. Expensive toy."
"Guy's definitely out of town," Ike declares. "Nobody around here uses shit like this. Caliber looks awful small."
"It's a special twenty-two magnum. Chambers subsonic rounds. An assassin's gun."
"Christ," I whisper. "Where's the other guy?"
Kelly points into the darkness south of the warehouse, then starts down the slope.
The second corpse is lying facedown in a thicket of weeds, dressed in jeans and a plaid flannel shirt. There's a red bandanna knotted around its head.
Ike bends down and pulls a rifle from the dead hand. "An old Remington thirty-aught-six. Seen better days too."
Kelly says, "The shooter on the levee probably saw him moving up to get a shot. Poor bastard didn't have a chance."
Ike puts both hands under the corpse and rolls it over. Below the dead man's left eye is a small black hole. Small but obviously fatal.
"I've seen a hundred shitkickers just like him," says Ike. "But I don't know this one."
As I stare, the slack features suddenly coalesce into a coherent whole, and a feverish heat shoots through me. The dead man is a nightmare made flesh, a physical echo of the most terrifying night of my life.
"I know him," I say, grabbing Ike's arm.
"Who is he?"
"His name's Hanratty. I convicted his brother of capital murder. He was just executed."
"I'll be damned. That Aryan Brotherhood bastard?"
"Right. I also shot his other brother four years ago."
"No shit," says Kelly, with respect mingled with surprise.
"This one was the last." The fever heat has disappeared, leaving a chill in its wake. "The youngest."
Ike kicks the corpse's leg. "No more boom-boom for this Aryan papasan."
He kneels and starts going through the dead man's pockets, quickly turning up a wallet. "Hanratty, Clovis Dee," he says, reading the driver's license.
"Brother of Arthur Lee," I say absurdly.
"And white people make fun of African names," Ike mutters, getting to his feet. " 'Least we know what happened now. This shitkicker was out for revenge, and he picked the wrong night to try it. He was crowding that ninja assassin up on the levee, and he paid for it. The question is, who sent the assassin?"
"Portman?" I suggest. "The hardware looked pretty sophisticated."
"John Portman would definitely have access to people like that," Kelly says quietly. "Retired Bureau. Agency. Former CT operators." He looks at Ike. "In any case, I hope you appreciate this enough to take care of any problems that might arise."
"Don't sweat it," Ike replies. "We're in the county here. Me and the sheriff understand each other. Although three killings in one day is big-time trouble for this town."
"The district attorney could be a problem," I tell them, thinking of Austin Mackey.
"Fuck that tightass," Ike mutters. "We got three witnesses telling it one way, dead guys got nobody. Mackey got no choice."
"I was thinking of Kelly's submachine gun. It's illegal."
Kelly smiles and draws a pistol from his holster.
"What you gonna do with that?" Ike asks, dropping his hand to his own gun.
Kelly fires three quick rounds into the night sky, then holsters the pistol. "Browning Hi-Power," he says with a smile. "Chambers the same nine-millimeter cartridge as the MP-5. Very convenient, as long as they don't do a ballistics analysis."
Ike nods as if noting this for future use. "Well, let's get this over with. Let me call the sheriff."
He starts back toward the warehouse, but I take his arm and stop him. "Who sent the sniper, Ike? Who's trying to kill me?"
He looks back, his face indignant. "How you know he was shooting at you?"
He pulls his arm free and walks on, but I stay where I am, breathing the cooler air blowing off the river. The stars are bright here, the water close. A few minutes ago a silent bullet passed within inches of my face. But I am still alive. And the last Hanratty brother is finally dead. My daughter is a lot safer than she was before Daniel Kelly did something not many men could have done.
"Thanks, Kelly," I say softly.
He gives me a self-deprecating smile. "Just doing my job, boss."