It took only ten minutes to catch up with him. I’d had to
push the Pinto’s meager horsepower to do so, and even then I
didn’t want to go over the speed limit—getting stopped by a
cop was not a good idea, not with the nine mil in my jacket.
But I counted on Mateski having stopped at a gas station to
fuel up before his trip home, and to maybe grab some snacks
and a restroom break. That should make up for the five minutes
I’d purposely lagged behind at the Spike. Apparently my thinking
was correct, because there up ahead was the Bonneville’s big ass
with Mateski’s big ass in it.
Traffic was light, and often I was right behind him, though I
tried to keep at least one car between us whenever possible.
The Bonneville was doing fifty-five and so was the Pinto, but
my mind was racing.
Should I stay on him?
Did I need to remove him, at the next gas station, or when
he pulled in at some motel? I didn’t think he could make it all
the way back to Woodstock on one tank of gas.
Did he need killing?
Whenever I had worked with a passive partner, I requested
that my other half hang around town or at least the area, in case
I needed back-up. But certain other active hitters preferred
sending surveillance guys on their merry way. Mateski and Farrell
had made their contact, and would not necessarily be back in
touch over the next few days. Probably unlikely they would be.
At some point, assuming I was successful, Mateski would
discover the job had gone south—that Farrell was dead. I didn’t
do accidents, so the antiques dealer would know an interloper
had taken his partner out. He would inform his middleman,
assuming there was one, and another passive-active pair would
be sent out to do the job, and do it right this time.
But not immediately. Not for a week or even a month or
maybe not at all. That would give me time to find out which of
Candy Stockwell’s family or friends had hired Vale’s killing, and
once the person who hired the job was out of the picture, there’d
be no incentive for Mateski or his middleman to do anything
Or so it seemed to me, as I tailed the Bonneville through a
cold dark night on Highway 218, a dreary underlit stretch of
Midwestern nothingness enlivened only by the oldies station I
was listening to on the car radio.
Songs I had listened to with the girl I wound up marrying
right before I went off to Vietnam. Songs that were popular when,
a few years later, I came back and found her in bed with some
asshole. Even the song that had been playing on the radio when
I went over to that asshole’s house just to talk to him, but when
he smart-mouthed me from under that sportscar he was working
on, I kicked out the jack and crushed him to shit and almost
went to prison for it, almost, and that had been a big part of the
Broker noticing me. Songs like that.
I followed him for sixty-some miles and then pulled into a gas
station, got the Pinto’s tank filled, and headed back to Stockwell.
Had I done the right thing? Hard to know. This profession I had
invented for myself was no exact fucking science…