CURVE BALL

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Chapter Sixty-Five

Billy Dee took McNulty’s phone. He hesitated as to whom to call first. It was going to be messy either way. He walked out of the room for privacy and dialed his wife.

“Hello, Janine?”

She sounded as if she had been awake.

“Just called to let you know I’ve been caught up in police business. Don’t want you to worry.”

“I wasn’t,” she said. “I figure if there was something I’d get a call.”

He looked at the phone.

“Everything ok with you?”

“Not a thing wrong. I’ve been doing some cleaning and cooking like I always do.”

He swallowed and his hand got sweaty. Oh, Lord something’s going on. His wife didn’t do those things. Not at this hour of the night. “Baby, I’ll be home soon.”

“Billy Dee, you be careful.”

“Always.” She hung up. He went back into the room and gave McNulty his phone.

“You all right?” McNulty asked.

Billy Dee strapped on his gun. “Huh?”

“I asked if everything was ok?”

He gave McNulty a look. “Yeah, sure. Hey, how much time passed since Majuski left here?”

McNulty looked at his watch. “I’d say, give or take at least 20-30 minutes. Why?”

“I got a feeling he’s no longer in the hospital.”

Their gaze met.

“Where is he then?” McNulty asked.

“I gotta go.”

“But, an officer is coming down to interview you.”

“Can’t wait,” and he hurried out as best he could.

Billy Dee’s tires squealed as he hit the gas and drove out of the parking lot. “Something ain’t right.” He went for his phone by instinct then remembered it was gone. At least the bastard didn’t get his gun. He flew down the city streets. There was little traffic. Why would Majuski be after him and his wife? Hell, the cocksucker left him for dead. Why mess with Janine? He tapped his hand on the wheel. He could feel his anger. He’d empty ten rounds into the motherfucker if his wife were harmed. Ain’t go’in to be no talk’in or advising of fuck’n rights. No sir…point and shoot. Although it had been awhile since he used his piece. He was once a pretty good shot. Well he was a hell of lot younger, but the eye never goes away. He’d know what to do. He looked at the clock on the dash. Ten minutes had gone by and in another ten he’d be home. He made a series of turns. He was in his neighborhood. There was the gas station, the coffee shop two blocks down, Pete’s Pizza, and then his block. He made a left onto Drexel. His street was a mix of small apartment buildings and bungalows. He parked several building down from his. He killed the engine and the lights and prayed the goddamn door didn’t squeak when he opened and closed it. He stayed in the shadows as best he could until he neared his house. The nightlights that were usually on were off. Should he go through the front, the back, or the basement door? He could hear himself breathe, and even though it was cool outside he had to wipe the sweat off his face. He took a minute to gather himself. The basement was best. Unexpected. One thing for sure he knew his way around even in the dark. He walked along the side of the house. His hand touched the bricks for guidance. Near the middle of the building was a railing perpendicular to the side. He felt his way around the barrier to the three-step staircase that lead to the basement door. He avoided the rake and shovel placed there on some forgotten Sunday, and got his keys. The light reflected from the night sky helped him identify the right one. So far so good. The lock had to be jiggled with just enough pressure. Twice he failed. He cussed and threatened that if he lived through this, he’d destroy the goddamn lock, and then added, “please Mary and Joseph, open.” It did. He stepped in. The light from the outside was limited. He was enveloped in darkness a few feet into the laundry room. He stepped carefully, but stumbled on something. “Damn,” he hissed, and waited. Silence. The staircase leading to the kitchen was to his right through the room. He knew there was a flashlight on a shelf on the opposite wall. He walked like a blind man with his hands outstretched. It seemed to take forever to get to the other side. He touched the wall and used his hands to locate the light. Success. He took a deep breath and pointed the flashlight toward the floor. The batteries most have worn, the light was dim. His wife wouldn’t be happy. He could hear her scolding him. “I told you Billy Dee, check those double ‘D’s’. The electricity go out when there’s a big storm.” If he had been look’n at her he wouldn’t be quite sure what she meant. It don’t matter now. He prayed that she was still there to see. He looked down at the flashlight. “Give me enough juice to get to the staircase,” he said. He crouched a bit and moved slowly. When he got to the first step, he put the light on the stair and unholstered his gun. At his age, he was going to use two hands, just like he was trained all those years ago. There were 9 stairs between the basement and the kitchen. Each step creaked a little louder as he made his way. He took more time. As he neared the top, he looked up. Shit, the door. Usually, Janine left it open and unlocked. It was definitely shut. He moved to the side of the stair so his body would be at a 90-degree angle to the door. He tried the knob with his left hand and shifted his weapon to his right. As he turned it, he leaned his left shoulder into the frame. Locked. He wiped his face with his sleeve. Why the hell would his wife do that? He was breathing heavily again. He had to think. The door must be Majuski’s work. The son-of-a-bitch was thorough. He looked down the staircase at the flashlight resting on the bottom step. He looked at the door. Somewhere on his key ring was the one for this lock. He had no choice but to get the light. He holstered the gun and went down the stairs. The flashlight flickered when he held it under his arm and shined it on the keys. “Come on baby, don’t die on me now.” He went as quickly as he could as the beam dimmed into darkness. Shit. He at least succeeded to find two possibilities. He separated them from the ring and went up the stairs. This time there was no light. He counted the stairs so he wouldn’t bang into the door. On the ninth step, he reached out and felt the wood barrier. He searched for the doorknob and then with one hand felt his way a few inches above for the keyhole. The first key failed. Son-of-a-bitch. Sweat trickled down his face. Okay, this got to be the one. He jiggled the lock and called upon Jesus. The key didn’t move. His frustration mounted. He touched his holster. He could shoot his way in. After a second or two he gave up that idea. He tried the key again, but this time, while he played with the lock he pulled the handle towards him. The sweet sound of a click greeted him. Okay, I’m in. He opened the door and took out his gun. There was a nightlight at the end of the kitchen and another in the bathroom next to it.

The rumble of the furnace, water dripping from some faucet, the creaking of a sleeping house, noises usually ignored or not even heard, greeted him with every step. He made it through the kitchen and edged up to the bathroom. The hallway that led to the front door had a staircase to the second floor on his right and the living room on his left. He crouched and held his breath. He peered through the slats of the staircase for a second and then swung his arms with the gun pointed into the living room.

“Janine?”

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