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The Weight

By Crystal Watson,2014-11-04 17:22
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From Publishers WeeklyAt the start of this tepid stand-alone from Vachss (Haiku), professional thief Tim "Sugar" Caine finds himself in an interesting dilemma--a rape victim has mistakenly identified him as her attacker, but he hesitates to tell the cops the truth because he was participating in a jewel robbery at the time. The canny ex-con figures that if he does time for the sex crime, he will evade scrutiny for the crime he did commit. Caine ends up serving a five-year sentence for sexual assault before he's back on the New York City streets, where he reconnects with Solly Vizner, the man who put the jewel heist together. Most of the book concerns Caine's efforts to track down another member of the crew who Vizner fears could squeal on everyone else, but a less than exciting Published by Pantheon on 2010/11/09

ALSO BY ANDREW VACHSS

THE BURKE SERIES

    Flood

    Strega

    Blue Belle

Hard Candy

    Blossom

    Sacrifice

    Down in the Zero Footsteps of the Hawk

    False Allegations Safe House

    Choice of Evil Dead and Gone Pain Management Only Child

    Down Here

    Mask Market

    Terminal

    Another Life

OTHER NOVELS

    Shella

    The Getaway Man Two Trains Running Haiku

SHORT-STORY COLLECTIONS

    Born Bad

    Everybody Pays

    This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product ofthe author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, livingor dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

    Copyright ? 2010 by Andrew Vachss

    All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Pantheon Books, a division of RandomHouse, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.

    Pantheon Books and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

    Vachss, Andrew H.

    The weight / Andrew Vachss.

    p. cm.

eISBN: 978-0-307-37975-7

    1. Professional thieves—United States—Fiction. 2. Criminals— United States—Fiction. I.Title.

    PS3572.A33W45 2010813.54—dc22 2009050945

    www.pantheonbooks.com

    v3.1

    Contents

    Cover

    Other Books by This Author

    Title Page

    Copyright

    Dedication

    First Page

    About the Author

    (

    Mom:

    I know you couldn’t wait any longer to be with Dad, but don’t fret—I’ll be with you bothsoon enough.

    I’ve got a few things to take care of first.

    Yeah, I know?…?I always did.

    And you know?…?I always will.

    (

    Whatever it was the cops had snatched me up for, they had to believe I was good for it. But notall that good. Otherwise, why go tag-team on me?

    One of the cops on the second shift was an older guy. He looked the way some people say allcops used to: tall, big hands, straw-colored hair. Back then, they’d say, cops would catch akid doing something wrong, they’d kick him in the ass, send him home, and go back to walkingtheir beat. They never paid for a meal, but nobody thought that was graft. Some might even takemoney from bookies or whorehouses. But never from a dope dealer.

    Maybe cops were really like that once. I don’t know; I wasn’t around then. I only know howthey are now.

    I’ll say this for the older cop: He dressed like a guy who lived on his paycheck. And hewasn’t there to dance. He walked in with his partner, sat down, and threw his Sunday punch:“This one just doesn’t look like your line of work, Sugar.”

    That told me he was sharp enough to do more than just check me for priors. Not by calling me“Sugar.” The first pair, they’d called me that, too. Sliding it out of their mouths likethey knew something dirty about me. This cop, he just said it like it was my name.

    The first two cops, I think all they did was scan my record for a “Registered Sex Offender”ticket. When they didn’t see one, they were out of gas; it’s the only card they know how toplay.

    The older cop shook his head, like he was confused about what they’d arrested me for.

    “I got to say, I don’t like you for this one at all.”

    “Then what am I here for?” I asked him.

    He made his eyes go sad, showing he was disappointed in me. It was a good trick. A guy who’sbeen around as long as him, he probably knew a lot of them.

    We’d already been sitting in the interrogation room for a couple of hours when he did that.Maybe it was part of his act, I don’t know. But it was as clear as if somebody wrote the ruleson the wall for us all to see: As long as I didn’t say the magic words, we were going to playit like men. No disrespect, not in either direction.

    Those magic words could only come out of my mouth. Door Number One: “I want a lawyer.” DoorNumber Two: “Yeah, you got me.”

    I tell them I want a lawyer, they’d give me a look like I’d just screwed myself, cuff me backup, and have one of the bluecoats walk me into a holding cell.

    But if I started talking, they’d hold off until they squeezed as much juice out of the lemonas they could. Say I told them I wanted a deal. They’d tell me that I could get damn nearwhatever I wanted?…?depending on what I had to trade.

    The way they were working me, walking so soft, that was just to stop me from asking for a

    guys, just good at their job—they thinklawyer. Good cops—I don’t mean like they were good

    the same way we do. They know if you get all impatient you can mess everything up.

    So they stayed decent and respectful, like I said. Not kissing my ass or anything; making it

     me talking,just three men, talking. The way they’d figure it, so long as they could keep

    talking about , there was always the chance I’d take Door Number Two. Or stumbleanything

    through it.

    They had to know it was a-thousand-to-one against them getting me to confess. And I knew it waseven worse odds against me convincing them they’d grabbed the wrong guy.

    A weak hand, sure. Who hits a gutshot straight-flush draw? But I wasn’t drawing dead, not yet.

    We each had our reasons for staying with it. They had all the time in the world. And that’show much time I was looking at.

    So I had to stay to see the last card drop. Because, no matter what those sex-crimes clowns hadtold me, I knew this couldn’t really be about a rape.

    The rape they kept asking me about, it must have been a bad one. For the cops, the worst onewould be if it happened to some kind of famous person. I hadn’t seen a paper for days, but Iknew they’d been sitting on my place, waiting for me to come back. At least six of them, roundthe clock. That’s a lot of cops.

    I didn’t know how long they’d been waiting, but they couldn’t have started until after Ileft, and that was only a few days ago.

    Sending the sex-crimes cops in first, that didn’t mean anything—it could just be a hype toget me to take my eye off the ball. Misdirection, like three-card monte. They pull you in forsomething big, get you so scared of that charge that you drop your guard and give up something

    about whatever they’re really after you for.

    I knew they hadn’t bagged any of the others. If they had, they’d drop their names, so I’dknow they weren’t just blowing smoke. Then they’d have their magic words. Door One: one of

    the other guys had turned canary, put all the weight on me, trying to cut himself a deal. DoorTwo: here was my chance to help myself before it was too late.

    Only the second pair of cops would try a move like that. The first two, the sex-crimes boys,they mostly made speeches. Or asked me stupid questions, like a TV camera was filming them. Bigguy like me, all those muscles—what happened? I’d been on steroids so long I couldn’t get itup, and she’d laughed at me? I hadn’t meant to hurt her, just slap her around a little,maybe? Come on, isn’t that how it went down?

    I yawned in their faces.

    “Got nothing to say now, huh?” one of them had said. Like he’d just nailed me to the cross.

    I wanted to ask him if that pathetic crap ever worked. What kind of chumps show you their hand

    then try to bluff you off a better one?first and

    But I didn’t say anything. I’m a professional, not a punk with a pistol. You’ll never see mypicture on a security camera sticking up a bodega. Or jacking some guy in a suit while he’sstanding at an ATM.

    I’m a thief, and I do clean work. I don’t hurt people for money, I don’t set fires, I don’tdo any of those sicko sex things. Stuff like that, it gets spread all over: the papers, radio,TV. Gets everybody paying attention. Specially when there’s big reward money out there.

    A man who does my kind of work, the only way he ever gets caught is if he goes in without aplan. Or if someone rolls over on him.

    You never talk about your work, period. Too many guys walking around with heavy charges hangingover them. Anyone gets caught holding K-weight powder in this state, it’s the same as a murderbeef. A street cop catches a guy holding that heavy, he can make the bust, but all that’d gethim is another one of those “commendations” every cop has a couple dozen of. What he reallywants is that gold shield, so he’d rather have that guy on the street, working for him. Anyoutlaw is going to be able to go places no undercover ever could. So all he has to do is listenlong enough.

    Guys like that, they’re all nothing but rats on leashes. If it wasn’t for informants, thecops would have to get damn lucky to ever make a case against a pro.

    They’ll pretty much always get the amateurs—the clowns who leave a trail you could followeven with one of those white canes tapping the way.

    The amateurs who stay out the longest are the ones who kill for fun. A random kill doesn’teven look like what it really is until the bodies pile up.

    There’s also people who get off on being a rat. Nothing in it for them; they like doing that

    kind of stuff.

    So it’s just as hard for people on my side of the law to sniff them out as it is for the lawto sniff out a guy who does freakish stuff.

    There’s even people stupid enough to rat on themselves. A pro can be smart about work and dumbabout other things. Say you talk about your work to your girlfriend: all it takes is for her toget mad at you one time to put a whole crew under the jail.

    A few years ago, that happened to a guy I’d worked some jobs with. He was real good-looking.Smooth talker, too. Always found some girl to pick up his tabs—I don’t think he ever paidrent in his life. This guy, he’d never talk about our kind of work, but any woman he everstayed with, she’d have to know he wasn’t any W-2 man. Probably helped them get over thenights he didn’t come home. And explained the flashy way he always dressed, too. Whatever,they were always happy to help out with some cash while he was waiting on this big score he hadcoming.

    Only this last one, she couldn’t leave it that way. She just had to satisfy herself he wasn’t

    spending her money on some other girl.

    A lot of them do it now. They call it “playing detective.” You know what I mean: they buytheir boyfriend a cell phone and pay the bill themselves. The mark thinks he’s playing her,but the person who pays the bill gets the bill. Which means she gets a lot of phone numbers.

    So, anyway, the girlfriend, she finds a number she doesn’t recognize, dials it while theguy’s sleeping. Wakes him up and goes off on him. She’s taking care of him, and he fucking

    cheats on her!?

    He should’ve just promised her he was done with that other girl. Better yet, just walked awayand not come back.

     man. Throws a fistful of hundreds on the floor, tells her, “Here,But, no, he has to be a big

    bitch. Go pay your little cell-phone bill.”

    All their time together, she thought he was her kept boy, so seeing all that money sends herover the edge. A few minutes earlier, she was screaming at him to get out. Now she’s standingin front of the door. She’s got more to say, and he’s going to listen to it or?…

    He should have let her scream herself dry. But, the kind of fool he is, he’s got to play hisrole, just like he did flashing the money. Ends up banging her around pretty hard.

    He’s not even a few blocks away when she goes 911 on him. They pick him up right on thestreet. Once they tell him what he’s being pinched for, he doesn’t say a word.

    This guy figures, they arraign him in the morning, he takes whatever they’re offering. What’she looking at?…?thirty days and some anger-management class?

    But he’s only in a few hours when the girlfriend waltzes in and tells the cops she’s decided

    her case. When they tell her it’s notnot to press charges. Stupid broad, she thought it was

    up to her, she loses it again. By the time she’s done running her mouth, they’ve got enoughprobable cause to take her home and have a look around. That was all it took.

    I’ll say this for that guy: maybe he played big-shot, but he paid for doing it, and he didn’task anyone he ever worked with to split the tab.

    When a whole crew gets pulled in at the same time, the first thing they do is cut you off fromthe other guys. There’s all kinds of ways to do that.

    But these cops hadn’t even mentioned the job, much less any of my partners on it.

    When they left me alone in the interrogation room—a lot of them try that—I had plenty of timeto think.

    So, when they finally came back in, I thought I’d try that same trick myself, dividing themup.

    “Those other guys, they watch too much TV,” I said to the older cop.

    “Is that right?”

    “They found my DNA?” I said, making a joke of it. I knew these cops must have been watchingwhile the sex-crimes buffoons took the first crack at me.

    The older guy’s partner—a black guy, closer to my age; clean-cut, sharp dresser—said, “DNAdoesn’t lie,” making his voice all deep and serious, the way the sex-crimes clown had said itto me.

    “And I still didn’t start yelling for Legal Aid,” I reminded them.

    “Meaning …?”

    “I figured—I hoped anyway—they’d send in the A-Team sooner or later.”

    “You wouldn’t be stroking us now, would you, Sugar?” the older cop said.

    “I’m just saying, there’s cops and there’s cops. I mean, come on, if they really had any ofthat CSI stuff, they would have shown it to me by now. Waved it in my face.”

    “You think that’s what we’d do?”

    “No, I mean those other guys. Like I said, TV cops. But I know you couldn’t have anything—”

    “You were gloved?” the black guy cut me off, like he just saw an opening and needed to movefast before it closed.

    It was my turn to look disappointed. “That’s cold, Officer,” I said to him. “I thought wewere going to play this straight.”

    “Cheap shot,” the older guy said. A cop’s apology, sure, but I trusted it at least enough tosee if I could get them to say the wrong thing.

    So I baited the trap: “Something’s screwy here. Listen, I absolutely know you don’t have any

    of that stuff. You know why? Because I know it wasn’t me who did it.”

“Simple as that?”

    “It’s the truth,” I said, dropping an even bigger hint. What I had in mind, it had to betheir idea. It couldn’t come from me, or they wouldn’t trust it.

    “Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, let’s say you’re right,” the older guy said.“Say we don’t have one single piece of physical evidence to tie you to the rape. That’d makeit a tougher case in court, sure. But we’re still holding the ace.”

    “I got picked out of a photo spread?”

    “Got it in one,” he said. Smiled a little, too.

    “I don’t know what to say about that,” I said, real quick—before they realized they’d toldme something I didn’t know. I’d already been in a lineup, but I’d just been guessing aboutthe mug-shot book.

    So I kept going: “I mean, I’ve been in lineups where I was the only white guy on the stage,but this one was fair. Hell, a couple of those guys looked enough like me to be my twinbrother.”

    The black cop laughed. Not the first time he’d heard that one, I guessed. “Probably so,” hesaid. “Only thing is—”

    “Yeah, I know. They were cops, right? And no cop ever did a rape.”

    They looked at each other for a second—just a quick glance. I was walking pretty close to theedge of their line with that last one. They must have had some way of signaling each other. Ormaybe they’d worked together so long they didn’t need to.

    “But you didn’t ask for your phone call,” the black cop said. “Which means you thinkyou’ve got a shot at getting us to buy your story.”

    would get that shot. “It’s noYeah, I was right—he was smart, just like his partner. Maybe I

    story,” I said, making sure I didn’t sound resentful.

    “You know what would turn it for you, Caine?” the older one said. “An alibi. That wouldpretty much trump our ace.”

    I’d been hoping for something else, but I rolled with the punch, and tried again. “For you,or for a jury?”

    “For you,” he hit back. “You know there’s no point giving us a piece of cellophane—that’djust make it worse. But you give us a real alibi, we’ll check it out. Check it out deep. Turn

    it upside down and sideways. If there’s a hole in it, we’ll find it; trust me on that. But ifyou’re telling the truth—and, like I said, I kind of think you just might be—that’d be good

    for you.”

    It’s not just the hard eight; now I’m down to my third throw, I thought. Why wouldn’t they

    just ask me to take a—?

    The older cop broke into my thoughts. “Here’s the good part for you, Caine. It’s not onlyyou who knows how good we’d check out your alibi—the DA knows it, too. Believe me, my partnerand me tell them your alibi’s rock-solid, no way those Ivy League wimps are going to take achance on messing up their conviction rate.”

    “Hard enough to get them to prosecute good cases,” the black cop said. His mouth twisted when

    he said that. I took it for real, not a play. Probably watched some solid cases tossed out, andhe hadn’t liked it much.

    I remember thinking what a fucked-up mess things were. See, I believed those cops. Mostlybecause they weren’t telling me anything I didn’t know. Every pro on both sides of the lineknows the DA’s Office’ll always deal away the courthouse on a sex crime. Specially if thewoman was the wrong kind. Like a hooker, or slow in the head, or even dressed too sexy. Ormaybe she had booze or drugs in her blood when they ran the tests.

    The younger guy was right: the sex-crimes DAs were all about plea deals. Everybody knows theymake the sweetest offers. But once they said “alibi,” I was cooked.

    And when they dropped that the girl had seen a photo spread, I knew this wasn’t a bad-ID case;it was a stone-cold frame. I must have fit the girl’s general description, so the cops showed

    first. Then all she had to do was pick the guy in the lineup who lookedher the mug-shot books

    most like the picture.

    Crooked, sure. But that old cop-trick didn’t make it a setup; the photo spread did.

    You know how I was saying if they really had some forensic stuff they’d’ve shown it to me? I

    knew the girl who got raped never got a real look at the guy who did it. There’s my eyes:one’s blue, the other’s brown. And my hair’s what they used to call “dirty blond.” But myeyebrows are black like they’d been painted on with ink, so you can see the open spot in theright one, where the scar is.

    That girl who got raped, if she’d said any of that stuff, they would have shown me her

    statement. Lots of big guys walking around, but how many with two different-colored eyes?

    That’s how I knew for sure they were measuring me for a frame—they never even asked me tostep closer when I was in the lineup.

    The cops had grabbed me just after I got back from a three-day-weekend job. The second I openedthe door to my apartment, I knew someone had been there while I was gone.

    I stopped in my tracks, spun around, and took off. If I could get to the basement, there was achance of slipping out the back.

    But they were waiting for me.

    Which meant I wasn’t walking out on bond, even if the real rapist walked in and confessed.When they took me, I was carrying. The worst gun charge you can draw is “felon inpossession,” and I qualified, both counts.

    So I knew I was going down even if I beat the rape case. I don’t know why it still mattered tome if these guys thought I was a degenerate. I didn’t give a fuck what those sex-crimes copsthought, but these other cops were?…?I don’t know how to say it, exactly. Different. Morelike?…?more like me, I guess. So I kept trying.

    “When did it happen?” I asked.

    “You don’t—” the younger one started, before the older guy stepped on whatever his partnerwas going to say.

    “Sunday night, around two in the morning,” he told me.

    “I was—”

    “Please don’t say ‘home, watching TV, all alone,’ okay?”

    “I got a TV. HBO, Showtime, all that.”

    “You rolled snake eyes on that one, pal,” the older cop said, almost like he felt bad for me.“Just your luck, there had to be a domestic-disturbance call late Sunday night. A bad one. You

    know it’s got to be bad when two different 911 calls come in, and neither one from the victim.

    “Three cars responded. The woman in the apartment two doors down from yours, she was a busted-up mess. Ambulance job—she was just barely breathing. Told the first-responders that the guywho did it to her—her boyfriend, naturally—he took off just before the first radio car gotthere.

    “We’d gone in silent-approach, no sirens, and it worked. First we sealed off the building,then we started a door-to-door.”

    He talked like all real cops do. “We” didn’t mean him personally; he was talking about thewhole department. “You catch the guy?” I asked him.

    “Yeah. Hiding in a stairwell, three flights down. Big guy, like you. But only on the outside.His hands looked like he stuck them in a meat grinder. The fucking dirtbag was moaning andcrying, like he was the one who got hurt. Those kind, they’re all alike.”

“The girl make it?”

    “Yeah. Barely. She’s going to need reconstructive surgery, eat through a straw for a year.”

    “And she’s not going to press charges, right?”

    The black guy looked at me like he’d rather be measuring me for a coffin than a frame. “We

    need her testimony. That kind of thing, it’s yesterday. Now the victim doesn’t pressdon’t

    the charges; we do.”

    I already knew that. I didn’t have anything more to say. I just sat there and waited to see ifthey did.

    The older guy broke the spell. “Thing is, we had to make sure this guy wasn’t holed up in oneof the other apartments?…?maybe even holding hostages.

    “Everyone on your floor answered the door. A couple of them were pretty pissed off, it beingpast two in the morning by then. But they were all wide-awake anyway, as much noise as we weremaking. Only one door wouldn’t open for us. The landlord passkeyed the uniforms in, seeing ashow this was an emergency.”

    He gave me one of those corner-of-the-mouth smiles, watching my eyes. I didn’t blink, but Ididn’t play stare-down with him, either—that’s for punks.

    “And your place?…?well, you know it was empty,” he went on. “Looked like nobody had beenthere for a while. Not that it was all filthy or anything; just the opposite, in fact. You canalways tell a convict’s apartment. A man who’s done real time, he keeps his house clean. Neatand clean. Always seem to like those studio apartments, too.”

    The younger cop looked calm, but his hands kept clenching and unclenching.

    “Why am I telling you this?” the older guy said. He was looking at me, but I know he wastrying to show his partner something.

    “I don’t know,” I said. Honestly.

    “Two reasons, Caine. One, you’ve been around the block. More than once. You knew your roomhad been tossed the second you walked in, am I right?”

    I just nodded.

    “Two,” he said, “I really don’t like you for this one. So just give us something that

    stands up. For once in your life, make a good decision. Give us that alibi; it could turn outto be the smartest thing you ever did.”

    “Fuck me,” I said, lighting the last of my cigarettes. They’d taken them away when theybooked me, but the older guy brought them back when he and his partner took over. He was smartenough to know I’d appreciate a little thing like that.

    “What?” the older guy said. “You think your backdoor girlfriend’s gonna deny everything,try and save her marriage, something like that?”

    I just looked at the ceiling. A pack of legit smokes costs a fucking fortune in this city, butI’d be paying a lot more than that for a single where I was going.

    “I’m done,” I told them.

    These guys were pros; they weren’t going to blow a confession by talking when it was my turn.And they weren’t going to get up and walk out—I still hadn’t told them I wanted a lawyer.“I’m done” could mean anything. But all it meant to me was exactly what I’d said.

    It stayed quiet until I finally told them, “I’ll save the alibi for the trial.”

    “Don’t be an asshole,” the younger one told me. “You just as good as told us you don’thave an alibi. And anything you can put together over a three-way phone call is never going tohold up.”

    “Yeah.” I nodded at him. “You’re right. I’m not even going to try. I mean, I don’t have

    to give an alibi, right?”

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