Tell no one, p.28
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       Tell No One, p.28

           Harlan Coben
 
Chapter 27

  Eric Wu stared at the sprawling tree. His face was serene, his chin tilted up slightly.

  "Eric?" The voice belonged to Larry Gandle.

  Wu did not turn around. "Do you know what this tree is called?" he asked.

  "No. "

  "The Hangman's Elm. "

  "Charming. "

  Wu smiled. "Some historians believe that during the eighteenth century, this park was used for public executions. "

  "That's great, Eric. "

  "Yeah. "

  Two shirtless men whipped by on Rollerblades. A boom box played Jefferson Airplane. Washington Square Park - named, not surprisingly, for George Washington - was one of those places that tried to cling to the sixties though the grip kept slipping. There were usually protestors of some sort, but they looked more like actors in a nostalgic revival than genuine revolutionaries. Street performers took the stage with a little too much finesse. The homeless were the type of colorful that felt somehow contrived.

  "You sure we have this place covered?" Gandle asked.

  Wu nodded, still facing the tree. "Six men. Plus the two in the van. "

  Gandle looked behind him. The van was white with a magnetic sign reading B amp;T Paint and a phone number and a cute logo of a guy who looked a lot like the Monopoly man holding a ladder and a paintbrush. If asked to describe the van, witnesses would remember, if anything at all, the name of the paint company and maybe the phone number.

  Neither existed.

  The van was double-parked. In Manhattan, a legally parked work van would be more apt to draw suspicion than one that was double-parked. Still, they kept their eye out. If a police officer approached, they would drive away. They would take the van to a lot on Lafayette Street. They would change license plates and magnetic signs. They would then return.

  "You should go back to the van," Wu said.

  "Do you think Beck will even make it?"

  "Doubt it," Wu said.

  "I figured getting him arrested would draw her out," Gandle said. "I didn't figure that he'd have a meet set up. "

  One of their operatives - the curly-haired man who'd worn sweat pants at Kinko's last night - had seen the message pop up on the Kinko's computer. But by the time he relayed the message, Wu had already planted the evidence at Beck's house.

  No matter. It would work out.

  "We have to grab them both, but she's the priority," Gandle said. "Worse comes to worst, we kill them. But it would be best to have them alive. So we can find out what they know. "

  Wu did not respond. He was still staring at the tree.

  "Eric?"

  "They hung my mother from a tree like this," Wu said.

  Gandle wasn't sure how to respond, so he settled for "I'm sorry. "

  "They thought she was a spy. Six men stripped her naked and took a bullwhip to her. They lashed her for hours. Everywhere. Even the flesh on her face was ripped open. She was conscious the whole time. She kept screaming. It took a long time for her to die. "

  "Jesus Christ," Gandle said softly.

  "When they were done, they hung her on a huge tree. " He pointed to the Hangman's Elm. "One just like this. It was supposed to be a lesson, of course. So no one else would spy. But birds and animals got to her. Two days later, there were only bones left on that tree.

  Wu put the Walkman back on his ears. He turned away from the tree. "You really should get out of sight," he told Gandle.

  Larry had trouble wresting his eyes from the massive elm, but he managed to nod and go on his way.