Authors: David C. Taylor
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For Priscilla, Susannah, and Jennifer, with love
All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.
T. E. Lawrence,
Seven Pillars of Wisdom
“They're going to kill me. Do you know this? Do you understand? If you take me back, they will kill me.” Echevarria stubbed his cigarette butt into the corpse of his hamburger in the Miami airport coffee shop. “
You know what that means?
To the wall.
It's what they say when they come to take you out to shoot you.”
“You told me,” Cassidy said. He was reading the sports section of the
to avoid talking to Echevarria. He didn't like him. He hadn't liked him when he picked him up in New York at The Tombs for the extradition, and he didn't like him any better after being handcuffed to him off and on for twenty-four hours. He was one of those arrogant shits who had no understanding of his effect on others. He viewed the world through the narrow crack in his own forehead and assumed that everyone saw the same things he saw, that anything he said or did was acceptable.
Echevarria had been chained to a rail in a Tombs interview room when Cassidy came in with one of the grubby, overused manila envelopes that held a prisoner's belongings from the time of his arrest. On the front of the envelope was a list of names written in different hands and later crossed out, a history without details of men processed through the system.
“Who are you?” Echevarria demanded. He had an accent, an undercurrent of Spanish.
“Detective Michael Cassidy. I'm escorting you.”
Echevarria looked Cassidy over as if inspecting meat. Cassidy was just under six feet tall and weighed a hundred seventy pounds. He had broad shoulders and a narrow waist, unruly black hair, and a face of planes and angles as if the bones were trying to break through. He was restless, intense, with a motor that always ran at high speed. He suffered the examination without comment while he looked over the man he was to return to Havana on a murder charge. Fausto Echevarria was in his mid-thirties. He was tall and round-shouldered. His thick black hair was combed straight back from a high sloping forehead. He had a heavy red mouth and carried himself with his head tipped slightly back so that he looked at the world down his prominent nose. He wore an expression of mild disgust as if everyone around him smelled bad, with no understanding that the rot might be his own.
“Give me my things.”
He held out his hand and Cassidy put the envelope in it. Echevarria took out a thin gold watch with an alligator band and fixed it to his handcuffed wrist. He removed a gold pen, a leather-bound notebook and matching checkbook and put them in the inside pocket of the tan linen suit he wore. Cassidy lit a cigarette while Echevarria checked his wallet.
“A hundred dollars is missing. Someone stole.”
Cassidy took the wallet, counted the money in it, and checked the property list from his pocket. “You had six hundred when you came in.”
“Now I have five hundred.”
“Your suit's been cleaned and pressed. Your shirt's been laundered. Your shoes have been shined. You have a fresh pack of cigarettes. You probably didn't eat jailhouse food. That's where the hundred went.” Jailhouse prices. An orderly or guard doing business.
“Are you calling me a liar?”
“I'm entertaining the possibility.”
It did not get any better as the day went on.
Echevarria complained about the squad car that took them to Idlewild Airport, and Cassidy had to admit that it stunk of piss, puke, fear, and the disinfectant that failed to burn those smells out, but the man had killed three people in Havana and had tried to shoot the New York cops who arrested him. Did he expect to be transported in a limousine? Echevarria looked out the window as they drove east toward the Midtown Tunnel. “They say New York is the greatest city in the world. I say it's a shithole.”
It was going to be a long trip.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
“Extradition escort is crap duty, man,” Orso had said. “They're sticking it to you again.” They had been at the curved bar at Toots Shor's that evening, a warm refuge from a December night with an arctic wind off the river. The bar crowd was three deep, and most of the tables were occupied. The joint was alive with laughter, shouts to newly arrived friends, the hum of conversation, the clink of ice in glasses, boozy good cheer as 1958 drew to a close. “They give escort duty to the stumblebums, the lushes, the guys treading water till retirement. They keep giving you shit details, 'cause they want you to quit.” Tony Orso was a big sleek man, over six feet tall, and more than two hundred pounds. He was dressed in a tailor-made dark wool herringbone suit, an off-white silk shirt, and a maroon Countess Mara neck tie, an outfit that must have set him back six months' salary. Cassidy never asked him where the money came from. Maybe he had a rich aunt.
“I'm not going to quit. I like being a cop.”
“Yeah, I know you're not going to quit, but they don't. They think you hate being a cop, 'cause you don't do what other cops do. You don't take the money. You don't look the other way. You don't give a shit what the brass thinks. It's been a few years, but they all remember you threw Franklin out a window. Twice. No other cop's thrown another cop out the window once. Nobody wants a loose cannon in his precinct, so they run you through the different departments. They give you the assignments no else wants, the shit ones, or the ones that are too hot, might burn someone's career. The only reason they don't stack your ass and set it on fire is they think you have juice. Nobody knows where it comes from. Nobody knows who your rabbi is in the Department, but everybody's heard the rumor. Don't fuck with Cassidy. He's got juice.”
“If only they knew.”
Franklin was a Vice Squad lieutenant who Cassidy had thrown out of a hotel window when he caught him torturing a prostitute who had tried to quit working for him. He had thrown him out another window six months later when he discovered Franklin was blackmailing Cassidy's sister, Leah. Franklin had survived, but tossing him had solidified Cassidy's reputation in the Department as a wild man and had given rise to the rumor that he had a powerful rabbi protecting him, because no disciplinary action had been taken against him. The rumor was unfounded, but it had the same effect as having protection, and some people stepped wide around him.
Orso raised his hand, and Al, the bartender, brought two fresh martinis.
“Tony, you want to get another partner, go ahead. No way you're going up the ladder as my partner.”
“Fuck you, another partner. Who do you think I am? Besides, I like all these fucked-up assignments. If it goes bad, you catch the shit. If it goes good, I get some of the glory. I'm having fun. I don't give a shit about promotion. I'll put in my twenty, take the pension, and then set about the business I was made for.”
“Making women happy. Speaking of which, the only good part of this escort duty is you're going to Havana. I hear they've got so much good looking cooze down there Marilyn Monroe would be the dog. What'd this Echevarria guy do?”
“Killed three guys.”
“I don't know. What's it matter? Three guys.”
“Fuck him. He deserves what he gets.”
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
Echevarria leaned forward from the backseat. “How much money do you make in a year, Detective? Four thousand dollars? Five thousand?”
Cassidy ignored the question.
“I will pay you five thousand dollars to let me out at the next corner.”
The patrolman driving flicked his eyes to Cassidy.
“We're going to Idlewild, Officer. No stops.”
“Ten thousand. You give the driver what you want.”
“You don't have ten thousand dollars on you.”
“I'll write you a check.”
“No, no. We go to my bank. Irving Trust on Fifty-seventh. You go cash the check. Ten thousand dollars. We drive someplace. I get out. You tell them whatever you want. I overpowered you. I had friends stop the car. Ten thousand dollars.”
The car stopped at a light. The driver looked at Cassidy again. Cassidy looked back at him until he dropped his eyes. The light changed, and the car went on.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
“I only fly first class.”
“Not on New York's dime.”
When the seat belt light went out, Echevarria lit a cigarette and rang for the stewardess. “Bring me a double rum,” he demanded in a way that made her clench her jaw. When she brought it with the bourbon Cassidy ordered, he tasted it and said, “This is not Cuban rum. This is Puerto Rican. You think I don't know the difference?”
“It's all we have, sir.”
“I don't drink this shit. Take it away. Bring me a double gin and tonic.” He thrust the glass at her. Cassidy saw that she wanted to say something, but her training checked her. She turned and stalked up the aisle.
“You've got a way with people, don't you?”
“Her job is to bring me what I want. Why should I beg?”
The arrogance faltered at the Miami airport police unit when Echevarria understood that he would spend another night in a cell, but it was only for a moment. “Why are you doing this? Where are you going to go, some sad little place with bedbugs, no air-conditioning? I'll buy you the best room at The Fontainebleau, a room you cannot afford on your cop's salary. I'll buy you dinner there too. Like you've never eaten. Wine. Twenty dollars a bottle. Have you ever had twenty-dollar wine? I'll buy it for you. There's no reason to stay here. This is stupid.” He emptied his pockets reluctantly onto the receiving desk.