“Gone all over, I bet.”


We drove in silence for a bit. While we’d been inside the jail, the blue sky had turned gray. The temperature had dropped a good ten degrees. The air felt like it was made of wet tin foil. No question—snow was coming.

“Bigs had a shot at going to Colby. They told him if he spent a year at community college getting his grades up just north of acceptable, they’d hold him a place on next year’s baseball team. So, he buckled down.” He looked over at me with eyebrows raised in confirmation. “He did. Went to school days, worked nights.”

“So what happened?”

“Company he worked for shitcanned everyone. Then after a month, they offered them their jobs back. It’s that cannery right over there.” As we rolled over a small bridge, he pointed to a beige brick building along the banks of the Androscoggin River. “Only the unskilled labor got the offer; the skilled labor just got dumped. But the company offered the unskilled their jobs back at half their previous hourly wage. No bennies, no insurance, no nothing. But plenty of overtime if they wanted it, long as they didn’t expect time and a half or any of that commie bullshit. So he takes the job back, Bigs. To make his rent and pay for school? He’s working seventy-hour weeks. And going to school full-time. So guess how he stays awake?”

“Crank.”

He nodded as he turned into the parking lot of his law firm. “The shit that cannery pulled? Companies pulling that all over town, all over the state. And the meth business? Well, that’s booming.”

We got out of his car and stood in the cold parking lot. I thanked him and he shrugged it off, a guy far more comfortable with criticism than praise.

“He did a piece-of-shit thing, Bigs did, but until he started tweeking, he was not a piece of shit.”

I nodded.

“Don’t make it right what he did,” he said, “but it didn’t come from a vacuum.”

I shook his hand. “I’m glad he’s got you looking out for him.”

He shrugged that compliment off, too. “Over a fucking car.”

“Over a fucking car,” I said and got into my own car and drove off.

At a rest stop just over the Massachusetts border, I stopped for something to eat and sat in my car with it and opened my laptop on the front seat. I tapped my keyboard to bring it out of sleep mode. A pleasant tingle coursed over my scalp. When I reached the home page for IntelSearchABS, I entered my user name and password and clicked my way to the Individual Search Records page. A little green box waited there for me. It asked for a name or alias. I clicked on NAME.

Angie would kill me. I was supposed to be done with this rogue shit. I’d gotten my laptop back. I’d gotten my laptop bag and my picture of Gabby. I’d gotten my answers about Peri Pyper. It was over and done with. I could walk away.

I remembered Peri and myself having drinks at the Chili’s in Lewiston and the T.G.I. Friday’s in Auburn. Less than a year ago. We’d traded childhood anecdotes, argued over sports teams, jabbed each other for our political differences, quoted movies we both loved. There was zero connection between her whistle-blowing and her getting shot by some dumb, fucked-up kid in a parking lot at three in the morning. No connection whatsoever.

But it’s all connected.

This should not be about that, a voice said. You’re just pissed off. And when you’re pissed off, you lash out.

I leaned back in my seat, closed my eyes. I saw Beatrice McCready’s face—pained and prematurely aged and possibly crazed.

Another voice said, Don’t do this.

That voice sounded uncomfortably like my daughter’s.

Leave it be.

I opened my eyes. The voices were right.

I saw Amanda from my morning dream, the envelopes she’d tossed in the bushes.

It’s all connected.

No, it’s not.

What had I said in the dream?

I’m just the mailman.

I leaned forward to shut down my computer. Instead, I typed in the box:

Kenneth Hendricks

I hit RETURN and sat back.

PART II

Mordovian Rhythm & Blues

Chapter Nine

Kenneth James Hendricks had several aliases. He’d been known, at various times, as KJ, K Boy, Richard James Stark, Edward Toshen, and Kenny B. He was born in 1969 in Warrensburg, Missouri, the son of an aircraft mechanic stationed with the 340th Bombardment Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base. From there, he’d bounced all over the United States—Biloxi, Tampa, Montgomery, Great Falls. First juvenile arrest occurred in King Salmon, Alaska; the second in Lompoc, California. At eighteen, he was arrested in Lompoc on charges of assault and battery and charged as an adult. The victim was his father. Charges dropped by alleged victim. Second arrest as an adult, two days later. Assault and battery again, same victim. This time his father pressed charges, maybe because his son had tried to cut off his ear. Kenny had been halfway through the job when his father’s shrieks alerted a neighbor. Hendricks did eighteen months for the assault, plus three years’ probation. His father died while he was in prison. Next arrested in Sacramento for loitering in an area known to be popular among male prostitutes. Six weeks later, still in Sacramento, his third assault arrest. This one for pummeling a man at the Come On Inn along I-80. The victim, a Pentecostal deacon and prominent political fund-raiser, had a hard time explaining how he’d come to be naked in a motel room with a male prostitute, so he refused to press charges. The State of California revoked Kenny’s parole anyway, for being under the influence of alcohol and cocaine during his arrest.

When he got out of prison in 1994, he’d picked up a Waffen SS tattoo at the base of his neck, courtesy of his new best buddies in the Aryan Brotherhood. He’d also picked up a dedicated criminal trade—all his arrests for the next several years were for suspicion of identity theft. The more sophisticated personal computers grew, the more sophisticated Kenny grew with them. Couldn’t quite tame the old ways, though, and in ’99 he was picked up for rape and battery of a minor in Peabody, Massachusetts. She was seventeen or sixteen, depending on which time of night the rape actually occurred. Kenny’s lawyer fought hard on the issue. The DA realized that if he put the victim on the stand, what was left of her would just get chewed to the marrow. Kenny ended up pleading to the reduced charge of sexual battery on an adult. Because the state took rape so seriously, he was given two years, less time than he’d done in ’91 for snorting a couple of lines of Sacramento blow and chugging a six of Bud. Final arrest was in 2007. He was caught receiving fifty grand worth of TVs he’d purchased with a stolen identity. The plan had been to sell them out the back door for five hundred dollars less than he’d paid using the corporate credit card of one Oliver Orin, owner of the Ollie O’s chain of sports bars, several of which had just finished structural renovations. I had to hand it to him—if anyone could order fifty K worth of plasma TVs without raising an eyebrow it would be a guy like Oliver Orin. Because of his priors, Kenny was convicted and sentenced to five years. He served just short of three. Since then, no convictions.

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