The gun was a Bodyguard, by Smith & Wesson. It was a five-shot revolver that took.38-Special shells, and it was hammerless, so you didn’t have to cock it — a pull on the trigger would fire the gun. It had a two-inch barrel, it was black, it was steel, it weighed a pound and a quarter. The grip was textured, and formed to fit the hand.
The purpose of the gun was implicit in its design. Because it was short-barreled, its accuracy was somewhat limited; it would be a poor bet for target shooting or long-range plinking. The short barrel meant that it was designed to be carried easily on the person, probably concealed. The absence of a hammer facilitated quick draws; a hammer might catch on clothing, might leave the gun snagged in a pocket or under a belt. The gun had been made to carry, to fire easily and quickly, to shoot ammunition that would kill a man with a well-placed hit. It was a gun for killing people.
Now, it was unloaded. He sat on the edge of the bed in their hotel room and held the gun in his right hand, his hand curled around the butt, his finger just resting lightly upon the trigger. The box of shells was on the bed beside him. He opened the box and loaded the gun, putting shells in four of the five chambers. He rotated the cylinder so that there was no cartridge under the hammer and so that nothing would happen if the trigger was pulled accidentally.
He looked up. Jill’s eyes were on the gun, and they were nervous. She raised her eyes to meet his.
“Dave, do you know how to use that?”
“Yes.” He looked at the gun again, set it down on the bed beside him. He closed the box of ammunition. “In the army. They taught us guns. In basic training. Mostly rifles, of course, but there was a brief course on handguns.”
She didn’t say anything. He picked up a stack of papers and ruffled through them. They had gone through everything in less than an hour, finding almost all of Corelli’s papers less than useless. The business papers might have been clues to something, but they couldn’t tell — they were just various bills and receipts and letters relating to Corelli’s construction business. He had evidently been something of a middleman in construction, setting up jobs and parceling them out among subcontractors.
The personal papers included a slew of IOU’s, around a dozen of them representing money owed to Corelli, debts canceled now by his death. They ranged from thirty-five dollars to one for an even thousand, with most of them running around a hundred. There were four rather stiff letters from the sister in Boston, written neatly in dark-blue ink, telling him about her husband and her children and her house and asking him how business was going. There were irritatingly obscure little bits of memoranda — telephone numbers, addresses, names, none linked to anything in particular, each of them standing alone on its own sheet of paper: “Room 417 Barbizon Plaza”; “Henrich, 45 @ 71/2 = $337.50”; “Flowers for Joanie” — a few tickets on losing horses that had run at Aqueduct, at Belmont, at Roosevelt.
In the address book, there were more than fifty entries, most of them tersely inscribed with initials or just a first name or just a last name. There were seventeen girls listed only by first name and telephone number, no address, no last name. Maurie Lublin was listed by last name alone, with a phone number and no address.
Several slips of paper contained just numbers — columns of figures, isolated numbers, bits of addition and subtraction. The number 65,000 came up on several sheets, twice with a dollar sign: $65,000.
Dave said, “Sixty-five thousand dollars. That must be what he owed.”
“I suppose so. I don’t know whether he stole it or owed it. Lee and the other one didn’t find that money, so he didn’t take it with him. If he had it, and he was running away, wouldn’t he have taken the money with him? I think he must have owed it to Lublin and then couldn’t pay. He left town in a hurry, not as though he had planned it or anything. I think he owed the money and planned on paying it, and then he couldn’t pay it and he panicked and ran. And they found him.”
“And killed him.”
She sat next to him on the bed. The gun was between them, and she looked down at it and said, “Guns scare me.”
“Pick it up.”
“Pick it up.” She did. He showed her how to hold it and made her curl her index finger around the trigger. “Aim at the doorknob,” he said.
She aimed. He sighted along the barrel and showed her how her aim was off, and taught her how to line up a target. He took the gun from her and spilled out the shells, clearing all five chambers. Then he made her aim at the doorknob and squeeze the trigger to get the feel of the gun. After she practiced for a few minutes he took the gun from her and loaded it again.
He said, “There’s only one way. We could try to dig up Corelli’s life history if we wanted. We could call up each of the girls he knew and find out what they all knew about him. We could look him up in the New York Times file, and we could look up all the people in his address book, and we could find out everything there is to know about Joe Corelli.”
“Is that what you want to do?”
“No.” He took out two cigarettes, lit one for himself and offered the other to her. She shook her head and he put the cigarette back in the pack. “No,” he said again. “Corelli doesn’t matter any more. We’re not trying to find Corelli. He’s dead, and we don’t need him. We’re not writing his biography. We’re looking for the two other men.”
She didn’t say anything.
“Lublin hired those men,” he said. “We have Lublin’s name and we have his phone number. We can find out where he lives. We’ll see him, and he’ll tell us who the men were who killed Corelli.”
“Why will he tell us?”
“We’ll make him tell us.”
Her eyes darted to the gun, then away. She said, “Now?”
“Now.” He stood up, gun in hand. “We’ll check the drugstore phone books. We’ll find the Lublin who matches the number in Corelli’s book, and then we’ll go see him.”
Dave tried the gun in each of his jacket pockets. In the inside pockets, it made a revealing bulge. In the outside pockets it hung loose and awkward. He jammed it under his belt but it didn’t feel right there, either.
Jill said, “Give it to me.” He gave her the gun and she put it in her purse. The purse was a flat one, black calf, and the gun did not fit well. She got another purse from the dresser, a larger one, and she put the gun and her other things into it. There was no bulge this time.
It was raining now, raining steadily, with a wind whipping the rain into their faces as they walked to the drugstore. Cars streaked by on wet asphalt. She held his arm with one hand and the purse with the other. In the drugstore, he started to look through all the phone books. She saved time by calling Information and asking the operator which borough Lublin’s exchange would be in. The exchange was Ulster 9, and the operator told her that would be in Brooklyn.
They found him in the Brooklyn phone book: “Lublin, Maurice 4412 Nwkrk... ULster 9-2459.” He looked at the listing and couldn’t figure out what the street was supposed to be. There was a New York street directory on the magazine rack, and he thumbed back to the index and checked the Brooklyn streets in alphabetical order. There was a Newkirk Avenue listed; it was the only street that fit.
He tried Lublin’s number, and no one answered. He called again and got no answer, then checked the phone book again to see if there was an office listed. There wasn’t.
“He’s not home,” he told her.
“Then let’s have dinner. I’m starving.”
He was, too. They hadn’t eaten at all since morning, and it was almost six already. But he hadn’t noticed his hunger until she mentioned it. He interpreted this as a sign of their progress. They were moving now, growing involved in the mechanics of pursuit, and he had been hungry without even realizing it.
They went to an Italian restaurant down the block and ate lasagne and drank bottles of beer. In the middle of the meal he left the table and used the phone to dial Lublin’s number. There was no answer. He came back to the table and told her.
“He’ll get home eventually,” she said.
“I suppose so.”
After dinner, he called again. There was no answer. They stopped at a drugstore and bought a couple of magazines, and he tried again on the drugstore phone. No answer. They went back to the hotel room. At seven-thirty he tossed a magazine aside and picked up the phone, then cradled it.
“What’s the matter?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “Do you suppose they listen in?”
“The hotel operators.”
“I’ll be back in a minute.”
He went downstairs and around the corner to the drugstore and tried again. There was no answer. In the hotel room, he kept looking at his watch. He went back to the drugstore again at eight, and called, and a man answered.
He said, “Mr. Lublin?”
“Just a minute, I’ll get him.” Then, “Maurie. For you.”
He hung up and went back to the room. He told her, “Lublin’s home now but he’s not alone. Somebody else answered the phone.”
“No, I’m sure it wasn’t. I’d remember their voices.” He thought a moment. “There were noises in the background. They may have been having a party. I don’t know. I think there were a lot of people there. But there’s at least one other man, the one who answered the phone. And he called Lublin by name. If Lublin were the only other person there, he wouldn’t have called him by name, I don’t think.”
“What do we do now?”
“I’ll call again in a little while. Sooner or later he’ll be the only one left, and then I’ll go after him.”
She didn’t say anything for several minutes. Then she said, “Don’t call again tonight.”
“Because he’ll be suspicious. Calling and then hanging up — if it just happens once he’ll shrug it off, but if it happens more than that he’ll get suspicious. We can’t let him be on guard. The best thing for us right now is that nobody even knows about us. Lublin doesn’t know we exist and the two men don’t know we’re looking for them. We can’t afford to let them find out.”
She was right. “I’ll go there around three in the morning,” he said. “The party’ll be over by then.”
“Why not, Jill?”
“He might not live alone.” She sat next to him and held his hands in hers. “Please,” she said. “We don’t know anything about him yet, about the setup there. Let’s wait until tomorrow. We can go there after a call, or if nobody’s home we can go there and break in and wait for him. Either way. Right now he’s there and he has company, and we don’t even know if he lives in a house or an apartment, we don’t know anything. Can’t we wait until morning?”
“Are you nervous?”
“Partly. And I’m exhausted, for another thing. A good sleep wouldn’t hurt either of us. Tomorrow—”
He nodded slowly. She was right, there was no sense wasting their major advantage of surprise. And it wouldn’t hurt to wait another day. They had plenty of time.
He got the bottle of V.O. from the drawer and lay on the bed with it. She went over and turned on the television set. There was a doctor program on, something about an immigrant who wouldn’t consent to surgery, and they watched it together. He didn’t pay very much attention to it. He stretched out on the bed and sipped the V.O. straight from the bottle, not working hard at it but just sipping as he watched the program. She said she didn’t want anything to drink.
After that, they watched a cops-and-robbers thing for an hour, then caught the eleven o’clock news. There was nothing important on the news. During the weather report she turned off the television set and suggested that they go to sleep. He was tired without being sleepy. He could feel the exhaustion in his body, the need for sleep, but at the same time he felt entirely awake. But sleep was a good idea. He took another long swig from the bottle to make sleep come easier.
They undressed in the same room with no embarrassment, no need for privacy. The adjustment of the honeymoon, he thought wryly. They had accomplished that much, surely. There was no longer any question of embarrassment. He felt that he could not possibly be embarrassed now in front of this woman, that they had lived through too much together, had shared too much, had grown too intimate to be separated by that variety of distance. They undressed, and he switched on the bedside lamp and turned off the overhead light, and they got into bed, and he switched off the bedside lamp and they lay together in darkness.
She was breathing very heavily. He moved toward her and she flowed into his arms and her mouth was warm and eager. He kissed her and felt her warmth against him, and he kissed her again and touched her sleeping breasts and she said his name in a husky whisper. His hands were filled with the sweet flesh.
It didn’t work. It began well, but there was tension for him and tension for her and it did not work at all. The desire was there but the capacity was not.
She lay very close to him. “I’m sorry,” she said.
“I love you. We were married Sunday. What’s today? Tuesday night? We’ve only been married two days.”
He didn’t say anything.
“Two days,” she said. “It seems so long. I don’t think I knew you at all when we got married. Not at all. Courtship, engagement, all of that, and I hardly knew you. And two days.”
He kissed her lightly.
“I love you,” she said. “Sleep.”
He lay in the darkness, sure he wouldn’t sleep. Lublin was in Brooklyn, on Newkirk Avenue. He had called him on the phone, had hung up before Lublin could take the call. He should have waited another minute, he thought. Just long enough to hear the man’s voice so he would know it.
But it was real now, it was all real. Before there had been the fury, the need to Do Something, but the reality had not been present. And then that day there had been the article in the paper, the visual proof again of Corelli’s death. And the trip to Hicksville, to Corelli’s home and to Corelli’s office.
It was very real. He had a gun now, Corelli’s gun, and all he knew about a gun was what he had learned ages ago in basic training. Could he hit anything with a gun? Could he use it properly?
And he had never fired at a human target. Not with a revolver, not with a rifle, not with anything. He had never aimed at a living person and tried to kill that person.
He reached out a hand and lightly touched his wife’s body. She did not stir. He drew his hand back, then, and settled himself in the bed and took a deep breath.
He woke up very suddenly. He had fallen asleep without expecting to, and now he woke up as though he had been dynamited from the bed. His mouth was dry and his head ached dully. He sat bolt upright in the bed and tried to catch his breath. He was out of breath, as if he had been running furiously for a bus.
His cigarettes were on the bedside table. He reached out and got the pack, shook out a cigarette, lit it, cupping the flame to avoid awakening Jill. The smoke was strong in his lungs. He smothered a cough, breathed in air, then drew once more on the cigarette.
He looked at her side of the bed and could not see her in the darkness. He reached out a tentative hand to touch her.
She was not there.
In the bathroom, then. He called her name, and there was no answer, no answer.
Nothing. He got out of bed and went to the bathroom. It was empty. He turned on lights, looked around for a note. No note.
She was gone.