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A Song of Shadows, Page 2

John Connolly

  ‘—look again at—’

  ‘I don’t think so.’

  ‘—the amount to be—’

  ‘You’re wasting your breath.’


  ‘That house hasn’t had a tenant in almost two years.’

  ‘We’ve had offers.’

  ‘No, you haven’t.’

  ‘You don’t know that.’

  ‘Yes, I do.’


  ‘Any further questions?’

  ‘Will he be armed?’

  ‘I don’t know. You can ask him when you see him, if you like.’

  Soames thought about what he knew of the detective.

  ‘I guess he’ll be armed,’ he said, as much to himself as to Price. ‘If he isn’t, he probably should be.’

  ‘That’s the spirit,’ said Price. ‘And the fewer people who know about this for now, the better. Even when he gets here, it’ll be up to him how he deals with folks. Some may recognize his name or face, some may not.’

  ‘We mind our own business in Boreas,’ said Soames. ‘As far as I’m concerned, you’re the one renting the house, and if I’m asked who’s going to be living in it, I’ll just say that I have no idea.’

  Price stood and extended her hand. Soames shook it.

  ‘It’s been a pleasure,’ she said.

  ‘Uh, likewise. I think.’

  He walked her to her car.

  ‘One last thing,’ she said, and Soames felt his heart sink slightly. He hated ‘one last things.’

  ‘Some men from New York will be coming to look at the house. They’re, well, kind of security consultants. They may want to make some slight alterations, just to ensure that the house is up and running in every way. They won’t damage it. In fact, I imagine that any changes they make will only enhance its value.’

  The promise of enhanced value made Soames feel better about everything.

  ‘I don’t think that will be a problem.’

  ‘Good. They don’t like problems.’

  Something in her tone made him want to reach for a stiff drink, which, when she was gone, was exactly what he did. His secretary saw him sipping from the glass.

  ‘Are you celebrating?’ she asked.

  ‘You know,’ he replied, ‘I’m really not sure.’


  Soames participated in two further meetings before Parker’s arrival in Boreas. The first involved a Maine State Police detective named Gordon Walsh, who appeared in Soames’s office with Cory Bloom, Boreas’s chief of police, in tow. Bloom was a good-looking woman in her late thirties, and had she not been happily married, Soames might have considered putting the moves on her. Of course, the small matter of Bloom’s friendship with his ex-wife also had to be taken into account, which meant that Cory Bloom would be more likely to date a piece of gum that she’d peeled off the sole of her shoe than Bobby Soames, but a man could dream. So far, nobody had figured out a way to police fantasies.

  Walsh hadn’t exactly set Soames’s fears to rest. He’d made it clear that Parker remained vulnerable, and stressed, like Aimee Price before him, how important it was that the detective’s presence in Boreas remained as unpublicized as possible. But Bloom assured Walsh that one of the advantages of Boreas – at least until tourist season began in earnest, which wouldn’t be for another month to six weeks – was the virtual impossibility of anyone being able to stop in town for longer than five minutes without being noticed. If strangers demonstrated unusual curiosity about any of its residents, someone would pick up on it. Bobby Soames could have confirmed the perspicacity of the town’s residents from personal experience, had he chosen to do so, given that his marriage had come to an end precisely because Eve Moorer from the florist’s shop had spotted him coming out of a motel on Route 1, accompanied by a woman twenty years his junior, a gamine who might even have been mistaken for his daughter, if he had had a daughter. But Walsh didn’t need to know that story, and Cory Bloom already did.

  Bloom suggested that, while it might seem counterintuitive to do so, it would be best if a handful of the town’s more prominent and sensible citizens were quietly informed of the detective’s impending residence. She named a number of bar owners; the town’s Lutheran pastor, Axel Werner; and Kris Beck, who owned Boreas’s only gas station, along with a few others. Walsh didn’t object, and left it in her hands. A couple of other minor details were batted around, but otherwise Walsh’s visit to Boreas boiled down to the kind of warnings dotted around train stations and airports: if you see something, say something.

  ‘What I don’t understand,’ said Soames at last, ‘is why he picked here.’ It had been bothering him ever since Aimee Price signed the lease on the detective’s behalf.

  ‘You know the Brook House Clinic?’ said Walsh.

  Soames did. It was an upscale private medical center about ten miles west of town, and more like a resort than a hospital. A couple of Hollywood actors, and at least one ex-president, had been treated there, although their presence at Brook House had never made it into the newspapers.

  ‘Well, he spent time there as part of his rehabilitation, and they’ll be taking care of his physiotherapy.’

  ‘He must have money, but he won’t have much of it left once that place is done wringing him out,’ said Soames. He wasn’t sure that he could even afford to have his temperature taken at Brook House.

  ‘My understanding is that they struck a rate,’ said Walsh.

  ‘Brook House? I heard they billed you just for breathing the air.’

  ‘You, maybe. Not him. You mind if we take a look at the house?’

  Soames didn’t mind at all. Bloom drove them out in her Explorer, and Soames found himself instinctively dropping into Realtor mode, pointing out interesting features of the landscape, and the proximity of stores and bars, until Walsh informed him that he was only here for an hour, and wasn’t actually planning on relocating, which caused Soames to clam up and sulk the rest of the way to Green Heron Bay. Walsh made a single slow circuit around the house before entering. He then examined the interior thoroughly, opening and closing doors and windows, and testing locks and bolts.

  ‘What about the other house?’ he asked Soames, as all three of them stood on the porch, watching the waves break and the sands spiral.

  ‘It’s empty,’ said Soames. ‘Has been for a while, just like this place.’

  ‘Anyone makes any inquiries about it, you let the chief here know, okay?’


  Walsh took in the dunes and the ocean, his hands on his hips, like he’d just conquered the bay and was considering where to plant his flag.

  Soames coughed. He always coughed when he was nervous or uncertain about something. It was his only flaw as a Realtor, like a gambler’s ‘tell.’

  ‘Um, the lawyer, Ms Price, mentioned that some security consultants from New York would be coming by.’

  Walsh’s mustache lifted on one side in what was almost a smile.

  ‘Right, “security consultants.” Is that what she called them?’

  ‘I believe those were her words.’

  ‘Well, you’ll know them when you see them.’

  Soames had visions of black-clad operatives, bristling with weaponry, rappelling from helicopters. Even though it wasn’t a warm day, he took a handkerchief from his jacket pocket and used it to mop his brow. This was like preparing for a presidential visit.

  ‘I guess there’s not much more that we can do for now,’ said Walsh.

  He started to walk back toward Bloom’s car, where the chief was already waiting. Soames trotted along beside him, trying to keep up. Walsh’s strides would have made Paul Bunyan’s seem dainty by comparison.

  ‘You got any idea when he’s supposed to get here?’ asked Soames.

  ‘A week, I think.’

  ‘Will that be enough time for the, ah, “security consultants” to do their work?’

  ‘If it isn’t, then he won’t arrive until they’re done. But I
expect so. They’re professionals.’ Walsh’s mustache lifted again. ‘Are you concerned about them?’

  ‘A little,’ Soames admitted.

  ‘Good. You should be.’

  Soames tried to focus on his commission.

  Back at his office, he poured himself a drink after Walsh and Bloom had left. He resisted having a second, because that way lay a slippery slope, but he was pretty certain that, before the detective’s time in town was out, he’d be buying another bottle to keep in his desk drawer.

  Maybe even more than one.

  Soames was almost relieved when the consultants finally arrived, even though he’d been having disturbing dreams in which they appeared as versions of his father and complained about his alcohol consumption. He was starting to feel like Ebenezer Scrooge, anticipating the visit of the third specter whose coming he feared the most, when a terse call from Aimee Price informed him that the consultants would meet him at the house first thing on Friday morning.

  The men were already waiting when Soames arrived: one tall and black, the other shorter and whiter, although Soames thought that he might have been Latino, or part Latino, or part lots of things, most of them problematic. Soames knew better than to ask. All he knew for sure was that they both made him nervous, the black one most of all. He introduced himself as Louis, but didn’t shake hands. He was wearing a nicely cut dark suit. His head was shaved, and a hint of gray-flecked goatee adorned his face like moonlight reflected on a lake at midnight. The other man, who did shake hands, said his name was Angel, which was another reason for Soames to believe that he might be Latino. Or part Latino.

  Or something.

  He couldn’t say precisely why the men were unnerving. It might simply have been the pent-up concern inspired by the earlier references made to them. Then again, it might also have been to do with the fact that, when he began showing them the house, he got the distinct impression that they were already intimately familiar with its layout. Okay, so it was possible that they could have looked up the description and dimensions on his website, but the website didn’t detail which doors stuck, or which floorboards squeaked, and the men pointed out these flaws to Soames before they reached the doors or boards in question.

  They were also interested in the panel for the old alarm system.

  ‘How long has it been out of commission?’ asked Angel.

  ‘I can’t say for sure. The house hasn’t been lived in for two years, so at least that long. Why?’

  ‘Just curious. We’ll be replacing it anyway. There are signs of rot in the frames of the doors, front and back. They’ll have to go. The windows look okay for now. We’ll be changing the locks, obviously.’

  ‘Er, sure. Just as long as you leave a set of keys with me.’

  ‘Sorry, we won’t be doing that.’

  ‘Excuse me?’

  ‘Only one person is going to have keys to this house, and that’s the tenant.’

  ‘I can’t agree to that. Suppose something were to happen?’

  ‘Like what?’

  ‘A fire.’

  ‘You got insurance?’


  ‘Then you’re insured.’

  ‘What about a flood, or – I don’t know – an accident of some kind?’

  The one named Louis turned his head slowly in Soames’s direction. He stared at the Realtor in a manner that made him feel like a tick on the end of a pair of tweezers, waiting to be squeezed.

  ‘You just mentioned fires, floods, and accidents,’ said Louis. ‘What kind of death trap you trying to rent here?’

  ‘That wasn’t what I meant,’ said Soames.

  ‘Better not be.’

  ‘You have to understand,’ said Angel, ‘that there are unusual security considerations. That’s why we’re here.’

  ‘I really do need a set of keys,’ said Soames, surprising himself with the determination in his tone.

  ‘Okay, then.’


  ‘Yeah, we’ll give you a set of keys.’


  ‘What sort of keys would you like?’

  ‘What do you mean?’

  ‘I mean you can have any keys that you want, just not the keys to this house.’

  Soames felt his anger growing. He wasn’t used to being treated like this. He didn’t care who was coming to live in the house.

  ‘Now listen here—’ he said, before a heavy hand landed on his left shoulder. He looked up at Louis’s face.

  ‘We could go look for another rental—’ said Louis.

  ‘I’m starting to think that might be a good idea.’

  ‘—but that would inconvenience everyone involved,’ Louis continued, as though Soames had not spoken. ‘Which would be bad.’

  He smiled at Soames. Soames wished that he hadn’t. It was that kind of smile.

  ‘How much is the lawyer paying you for this place?’ asked Angel.

  Soames gave them the figure.

  ‘How much were you asking?’

  Soames gave him another figure that was about thirty percent higher.

  ‘You’re a tough negotiator,’ said Angel. ‘It’s amazing that you’re not paying her.’

  Soames acknowledged that he had, at one point in his discussions with Price, believed that to be a distinct possibility.

  ‘Let me make a call,’ said Angel.

  He stepped into the empty living room and took out his cell phone. Soames heard him speaking in soft tones. When he returned, he named a figure closer to the original rent, along with an additional sum of $100 per month to Soames himself for what he termed ‘caretaking expenses.’

  ‘Caretaking?’ asked Soames.

  ‘Caretaking,’ said Angel.

  ‘What does that mean?’

  ‘It means that we want you to take care of yourself, and in return we’ll take care of your house.’

  ‘Maybe I don’t need the keys after all,’ said Soames.

  ‘They’d just be one more thing for you to worry about,’ said Angel. ‘A revised rental agreement should be at your office when you get back.’

  He began guiding Soames gently but firmly out of the house.

  ‘It’ll take a few days to make the alterations required,’ said Angel. ‘It’ll be done discreetly. You don’t mind if we hold on to these keys for now?’

  He waved the keys that Soames had brought with him. Soames patted his jacket. He was almost certain that he’d put the keys in his inside pocket after he opened the door, but he supposed that he could have been mistaken.

  ‘You have my number,’ said Soames, ‘just in case there are any difficulties.’

  ‘There won’t be, but thank you.’

  ‘Right. Well, I’ll leave you to it.’

  ‘We appreciate it.’

  Soames got into his car. The two men had arrived in a new black Lexus LS 600h L, which Soames figured to be about $120,000 worth of machine. Clearly, being a security consultant paid well. He just wished that he understood exactly what that meant.

  As Angel had promised, a revised rental agreement was waiting for him when he got back to the office. It wasn’t until he was e-mailing a countersigned copy back to Aimee Price that he noticed the agreement had been sent at 8:15 a.m., when he was still on his way to meet the men called Angel and Louis.

  Bobby Soames had just been railroaded.

  Four days later, Charlie Parker arrived in Boreas.


  Soames parked his car at the turnoff for Green Heron Road, which ran behind the two houses on the bay. A pair of dirt drives connected the homes to the road: Parker’s first and then, about a quarter of a mile along, the second house, which had always been known as the Gillette House, even though no Gillettes had lived there since the 1960s.

  It was now being rented by a woman named Ruth Winter and her nine-year-old daughter, Amanda. Soames had taken care of the paperwork, but only after running it by Walsh and the chief first. The Winters were given a clean bill of health. Their fa
mily was from Pirna, where Ruth Winter’s mother still lived. Soames hadn’t gone poking into Ruth Winter’s affairs, or her reasons for moving to Boreas. It seemed to him that she simply wanted a little breathing space for her and her daughter. Residing in Boreas would allow Amanda Winter to continue her schooling in Pirna, as it was the same school district and the school bus would pick her up and drop her off from near the house.

  Soames had paid a couple of visits to the Winters since they had taken up residence in Boreas – more, if he were being honest, than might be considered entirely necessary under the circumstances, not least because Ruth was not unattractive. She was in her late forties, with fair hair and blue eyes. Her daughter took after her, and was already tall for her age. It was only on the third visit that Ruth Winter inquired if Soames was always so attentive to his clients. She posed the question with a degree of good humor, but underpinning it was the clear message that Bobby Soames had delighted her long enough with his presence, which was why, on this particular morning, he had driven no farther than the road. His attention was instead fixed on the house occupied by the detective. Soames liked to think that he was taking a personal interest in Parker’s continued good health, while also remaining concerned about the house itself. He didn’t like not having access to it, and he was still worried by the possibility that Parker’s presence in Boreas might bring trouble down on the town and, by extension, on Bobby Soames.

  He had made only one previous visit to the detective, and that was on the day after Parker’s arrival. Something odd had occurred as Soames turned into the lane. He was listening to WALZ out of Machias when the signal was interrupted by a low buzzing noise. It passed quickly, and Soames thought nothing more of it, but Parker had been waiting outside for him when he reached the house, and Soames was certain that, under the detective’s loose windbreaker, he had caught a glimpse of a gun.

  Soames’s first thought was that Parker did not look well. He moved slowly, and was clearly in some pain. His hair was streaked with strange markings, and it took Soames a couple of minutes to realize that his hair had grown back white where the pellets had torn his scalp. Two attackers, armed with pistols and a shotgun, had ambushed him as he entered his home. They’d have killed him, too, if he hadn’t somehow found the strength to fire back at them. Even then, what really saved him was that he hadn’t been given time to deactivate his alarm before they fired, and his alarm company was under strict instructions to notify the Scarborough cops if it went off. The police figured they must have missed cornering his attackers only by seconds. As for those assailants, the official story was that they had not been identified or found, but barroom scuttlebutt suggested they were dead.