Teddy smelled pipe tobacco, and he and Chuck turned at the same time, realized there was another man in the room. He sat with his back to them in a high-back wing chair facing the fireplace, one foot extending off the opposite knee, the corner of an open book propped there.

Cawley led them toward the fireplace, gestured at the ring of chairs facing the hearth as hl crossed to a liquor cabinet. “Your poison, gentlemen?”

Chuck said, “Rye, if you got it.”

“I think I can scare some up. Marshal Daniels?”

“Soda water and some ice.”

The stranger looked up at them. “You don’t indulge in alcohol?” Teddy looked down at the guy. A small red head perched like a cherry on top of a chunky body. There was something pervasively delicate about him, a sense Teddy got that he spent far too much time in the bathroom every morning pampering himself with talcs and scented oils.  “And you are?” Teddy said.

“My colleague,” Cawley said. “Dr. Jeremiah Naehring.” The man blinked in acknowledgment but didn’t offer his hand, so neither did Teddy or Chuck.

“I’m curious,” Naehring said as Teddy and Chuck took the two seats that curved away from Naehring’s left side.

“That’s swell,” Teddy said.

“Why you don’t drink alcohol. Isn’t it common for men in your profession to imbibe?”

Cawley handed him his drink and Teddy stood and crossed to the bookshelves to the right of the hearth. “Common enough,” he said.  “And yours?”

“Excuse me?”

“Your profession,” Teddy said. “I’ve always heard it’s overrun with boozers.”

“Not that I’ve noticed.”

“Haven’t looked too hard, then, huh?”

“I’m not sure I follow.”

“That’s, what, cold tea in your glass?”

Teddy turned from the books, watched Naehring glance at his glass, a silkworm of a smile twitching his soft mouth. “Excellent, Marshal. You possess outstanding defense mechanisms. I assume you’re quite adept at interrogation.”

Teddy shook his head, noticing that Cawley kept little in the way of medical texts, at least in this room. There were a few, but it was mostly novels, a few slim volumes Teddy assumed were poetry, several shelves of histories and biographies.

“No?” Naehring said.

“I’m a federal marshal. We bring them in. That’s it. Most times, others handle the interviewing.”

“I called it ‘interrogation,’ you called it ‘interviewing.’ Yes, Marshal, you do have astonishing defense capabilities.” He clicked the bottom of his scotch glass off the table several times as if in applause.  “Men of violence fascinate me.”

“Men of what?” Teddy strolled over to Naehring’s chair, looked down at the little man, and rattled the ice in his glass.

Naehring tilted his head back, took a sip of scotch. “Violence.” “Hell of an assumption to make, Doc.” This from Chuck, looking as openly annoyed as Teddy’d ever seen him.

“There’s no assumption, no assumption.”

Teddy gave his glass one more rattle before he drained it, saw something twitch near Naehring’s left eye. “I’d have to agree with my partner,” he said and took his seat.

“No.” Naehring turned the one syllable into three. “I said you were men of violence. That’s not the same as accusing you of being violent men.”

Teddy gave him a big smile. “Edify us.”

Cawley, behind them, placed a record on the phonograph and the scratch of the needle was followed by stray pops and hisses that reminded Teddy of the phones he’d tried to use. Then a balm of strings and piano replaced the hisses. Something classical, Teddy knew that much. Prussian. Reminding him of caf6s overseas and a record collection he’d seen in the office of a subcommandant at Dachau, the man listening to it when he’d shot himself in the mouth. He was still alive when Teddy and four GIs entered the room. Gurgling. Unable to reach the gun for a second shot because it had fallen to the floor. That soft music crawling around the room like spiders. Took him another twenty minutes to die, two of the GIs asking der Kommandant if it hurt as they ransacked the room. Teddy had taken a flamed photograph off the guy’s lap, a picture of his wife and two kids, the guy’s eyes going wide and reaching for it as Teddy took it away from him. Teddy stood back and looked from the photo to the guy, back and forth, back and forth, until the guy died. And all the time, that music. Tinkling.

“Brahms?” Chuck asked.

“Mahler.” Cawley took the seat beside Naehring.

“You asked for edification,” Naehring said.

Teddy rested his elbows on his knees, spread his hands.  “Since the schoolyard,” Naehring said, “I would bet neither of you has ever walked away from physical conflict. That’s not to suggest you enjoyed it, only that retreat wasn’t something you considered an option. Yes?”

Teddy looked over at Chuck. Chuck gave him a small smile, slightly abashed.

Chuck said, “Wasn’t raised to run, Doc.”

“Ah, yes—raised. And who did raise you?”

“Bears,” Teddy said.

Cawley’s eyes brightened and he gave Teddy a small nod.  Naehring didn’t seem appreciative of humor, though. He adjusted his pants at the knee. “Believe in God?”

Teddy laughed.

Naehring leaned forward.

Oh, you’re serious. Teddy said.

Naehring waited.

“Ever seen a death camp, Doctor?” “

Naehring shook his head.

“No?” Teddy hunched forward himself. “Your English is very good, almost flawless. You still hit the consonants a tad hard, though.” “Is legal immigration a crime, Marshal?”

Teddy smiled, shook his head.

“Back to God, then.”

“You see a death camp someday, Doctor, then get back to me with your feelings about God.”

Naehring’s nod was a slow closing and reopening of his eyelids and then he turned his gaze on Chuck.

“And you?”

“Never saw the camps, myself.”

“Believe in God?”

Chuck shrugged. “Haven’t given him a lot of thought, one way or the other, in a long time.”

“Since your father died, yes?”

Chuck leaned forward now too, stared at the fat little man with his glass-cleaner eyes.

“Your father is dead, yes? And yours as well, Marshal Danids? In fact, I’ll wager that both of you lost the dominant male figure in your lives before your fifteenth birthdays.”

readonlinefreebook.com Copyright 2016 - 2024