Piscataqua RiverJuly 5, 2018
Charlie Felder’s accountant was the only person waiting for him when he walked out of Cedar Junction Correctional Institution a free man.
No family. No friends. Just Mort Rabinowitz.
Charlie placed a heavy cardboard box on the Chrysler’s back seat and joined Mort in front. Looked Rabinowitz up and down. Said, “You’ve gotten old.”
“Thirty-to-life,” Mort grunted as he pulled away from the prison. “Long time.”
“You could’a came to visit.”
“I was busy watching your money.”
Mort rubbed the side of his nose. It was a tic Charlie remembered from three decades ago. “Everybody thought you’d roll on Rossi, get out early.”
“Not how I operate,” Charlie said.
“The boss appreciated it.”
“I can tell from the welcoming party.”
Mort looked across the front seat, his eyes rheumy. He shrugged. “Everybody’s gone now, Charlie. There’s a whole new group running things. It ain’t like it used to be.”
“Whatever. Doesn’t matter anyway.”
Mort nodded and said, “So, where am I taking you?”
“Your office. We’ve got business to discuss.”
Being thirteen years retired, Mort no longer had an actual office, so they conducted their business in the basement of Mort’s raised ranch in Belmont. It was fine by Charlie. After thirty years inside, he was a hell of a lot more comfortable surrounded by damp concrete walls than he would have been sitting on an overstuffed couch in Mort’s living room.
“How much is there?” Charlie asked.
“Almost three-quarters of a mil.”
Charlie whistled. He’d known the proceeds would be significant, and in fact had guessed quite accurately at the rough figure before his release. Still, hearing Mort say the amount out loud made it somehow…real.
Charlie had been convicted in 1988 for the murder of a Boston cop, a crime he committed while executing the head of a rival mob outfit. All of his accounts were frozen, which pissed off Charlie’s pregnant wife almost as much as his incarceration. Her bitterness became even more pronounced when those funds were eventually awarded to the dead cop’s family.
But there’d been one more account, a secret one the authorities never found. Nobody besides Mort Rabinowitz knew about it. Not the Rossi crime family. Not Charlie’s wife. Not anybody.
“The funds are liquid?” Charlie knew the answer but had to ask.
“Of course. You want me to cut a check now?”
“Yeah,” Charlie said. “For ten grand. In your name.”
Mort rubbed his nose and hesitated as though he didn’t understand. “I don’t understand, “ he said.
“Anybody else would have taken my cash and disappeared. Anybody. Far as I’m concerned, ten large is an underpayment. Take it.”
“Thanks, Charlie. What about the rest? You want it now?”
Charlie sat for a moment, thinking. Then he wrote a name and address on a slip of paper. “All of it goes to this woman,” he said, sliding the note in front of the old mob accountant. “Tomorrow.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You don’t have to. And it has to look like it came from my wife.”
“But Charlie, she’s been dead since the year after you got sent up.”
“I remember,” Charlie said drily. “Make it look like it came from a thirty-year trust or something. Can you do that?”
“Of course,” Mort said. “But I still don’t understand.”
“You still don’t have to.”
Charlie sat across the street from Shelly Lambert’s house, watching his daughter through the living room window. He’d never even seen a picture of Shelly, but it was definitely her. She looked exactly like her mother.
After the car accident that killed Melissa—gangland revenge for Charlie’s hit—the newborn had been raised by Melissa’s sister. She despised Charlie and fully honored Melissa’s policy of cutting Charlie out of his child’s life.
That was fine with Charlie. It was no more than he deserved.
He reached into his cardboard box and pulled out a sealed envelope. Sliced it open and gazed at the contents before returning it to the box. Then he repeated his actions. Over and over.
Every week since his arrest, Charlie had written a letter, first to Melissa and then, after her death, to Shelly.
All had been returned unopened.
Not thrown away.
Returned. Every last one.
Thirty years. One thousand five hundred sixty letters, minus the two still in transit.
Shelly was almost thirty now. Full-grown, with a child of her own that Charlie had also never seen. She would get her money tomorrow. She would think it was from her dead mother, so she would accept it. She would be okay.
Charlie dropped the Chrysler into gear and drove away.
He’d grown up in Kittery, Maine, in the shadow of the Piscataqua River Bridge. As a kid he’d lobstered with his father, boating under the bridge to the open Atlantic every day. At eighteen he decided he knew a faster and easier way to make money. His father had never spoken to him again.
Now he sat on the top of the bridge, at the apex. The state line. Maine on one side. New Hampshire on the other.
Charlie had researched the bridge in the pen, so he knew his exact height above the water, rolling dark and silent far below: one hundred-thirty-five feet. He’d learned also that it would take almost exactly three seconds for an object to fall that distance through space.
Three seconds of total freedom. Freedom his release from Cedar Junction hadn’t come close to providing.
Charlie left the keys dangling in the Chrysler’s ignition and stepped onto the pavement. The staties would come along any second now and find the car, and eventually, it would be returned to Mort.
He climbed onto the iron railing. He knew he should be afraid but he wasn’t. He felt only anticipation.
When he pushed off the railing, he kept his eyes fixed on the moon-dappled Atlantic in the distance.
Three glorious seconds. Charlie was finally free.by
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Allan Leverone is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of nearly twenty novels, including MR. MIDNIGHT named one of the "Best Books of 2013" by Suspense Magazine. His short fiction has appeared in dozens of anthologies, magazines, and websites, and he was awarded a 2012 Derringer Award for excellence in short mystery fiction. Allan lives in Londonderry, NH with his wife of over thirty years, three grown children, and two beautiful grandchildren. Learn more on Facebook, Twitter @AllanLeverone, or at AllanLeverone.com.