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«Dead and Gone», Andrew Vachss

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Book 12 in the Burke series, 2000

for Alicia Jimenez:

jibara, abused child, migrant laborer, garment-district worker, defender of her family, protector of her neighborhood, savior of damaged creatures, nurturer of a revolution, mother to my brother… heroine.

all your days on this earth were without rest. always you waited for it to be your time. always waited in vain.

and now you wait for us.

en nuestros corazones nada ha cambiado. serГЎs adorada y respetada para siempre. trabajaremos sin descanso para que te sientas orgullosa de nosotros.

espera pacientemente, MamГЎ. pronto serГЎ como antes fue, todos juntos.

pero sin dolor.


Technical assistance:

Lieutenant Paul Nolin Berthelotte, USN

Professor James Colbert, UNM, USMC (1970-1971)

Sergeant Mike McNamara, Licensed for Life

Dead and Gone

You know what it takes to sit across the table from a man, listen to him talk, look into his eyes… and then blow his brains all over the wallpaper?


And the more of that you have, the easier it is.

“You pick a spot yet?” The voice on the cell phone was trying to come across as bored with the whole thing, but I could pick up little worms crawling around its edges. Impatience? Nervousness? No way to know for sure.

“No,” I told him. “And if I can’t find one in a few minutes, we’ll have to do it next time.”

“Hey, pal, fuck you, all right? There don’t have to be a next time.”

“Up to you.”

“Hard guy, huh? I guess that’s right-it’s not your kid.”

“Not yours, either,” I said, my voice level and unthreatening, sending my calmness out to him. “We’re both professionals-how about we just keep it like that? This is a trade. You know how trades work. Soon as I find a safe spot, I’ll pull in, just like we agreed, okay? We’ll hook up, do our business, and everybody gets paid.”

“You don’t find a spot soon, nobody gets paid.”

“I’ll get back to you,” I said, and killed the connection.

It had taken weeks to get this close. A missing kid. Too young to be a runaway, but there’d been no ransom note. Just a… vanishing. That was almost ten years ago. It wasn’t a media story anymore. The cops told the parents they were still looking. Maybe they were.

The parents were the kind of people the cops would put out for, that was for sure. She was a gynecologist; he did something in biochemistry. But they were also first-generation Americans; Russians. So, when they got a call from a man who spoke their language, a man who said he ran a “recovery service” on commission, they took their hopes and their fears to Odessa Beach. Not the one on the Black Sea, the one in Brooklyn.

In the Russian mob, even the grunts have a hierarchy. You can read their rank right on their bodies-the specialists mark themselves with prison tattoos. The symbols tell you who’s the thief, who’s the assassin, who uses fire, who does bodywork. But they didn’t have anyone who does what I do. So Dmitri, the boss, reached out across the border. To a Chinatown restaurant run by a Mandarin matriarch who trafficked in anything except dope and flesh. She didn’t sell food, either.

“Half a million dollars?” I asked her, seated in my booth in the back, the third bowl-of a mandatory three-of hot-and-sour soup in front of me.

“They say,” Mama answered. Meaning: she wasn’t endorsing it herself; she wouldn’t vouch for anyone involved at the other end.

“And a hundred for me?”

“For whole trade,” she said, reminding me that I hadn’t found this job on my own-they’d called her. The whisper-stream knows a phone number for me. After it bounces around the circuits, it eventually rings at one of the pay phones in the back of Mama’s restaurant.

“Six hundred,” I added it up. “And Dmitri, he’s going to taste, too, right?”

“He say, same country, he help for nothing.”

“And you say…?”

Mama just shrugged. We’d never meet the parents. What they wanted was a middleman. The hundred large was all there was as far as we were concerned, no matter who else was getting what.

“Why come to me, then?”

“Cossacks know I find you. Say you know… these people.”

“You mean they think-?”

“Not same people. Those people.”

“Ah.” Sure. Who knew the freaks better? They raised me. Recaptured me every time I ran, aided and abetted by the only parent I ever had: the State. I learned from the freaks, did time with them. And, when I got the chance, I hurt some of them.

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