The Skelly Man by David Daniel

The Skelly Man by David Daniel

Author:David Daniel
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: St. Martin's Press


ON THURSDAY MORNING I called police headquarters and asked for Ed St. Onge, but was told he had taken a sick day. “That’s rare,” I said.

The desk officer laughed. “The sonofabitch has got over a hundred accrued.”

I made one stop, then drove over to Centralville.

Pronounced “Centerville,” it’s a section of the city where French-Canadian families staked out turf in the days when the looms and shuttles were going full tilt and the mills were glad for cheap, honest labor. More than a few families had stayed. Vinyl siding in pastel shades was popular on the close-packed homes, along with side-yard shrines of recycled bathtubs set on end in the ground, sheltering statues of Christ and the Blessed Virgin. And now, with city elections looming near, lawns were pegged with campaign signs. Possessed of neither shrine, sign, nor siding, the St. Onge residence made do as a pale gray asphalt-sided ranch with a detached garage. I parked in front.

I was on my way up the cement walk when I heard sounds coming from the garage. The door was up and St. Onge was inside, his back to me. He was puttering among a clutter of garden tools and cardboard boxes.

“Is it catching?” I said from far enough away not to startle him. He turned slowly, squinting out into the rectangle of daylight at my back. He didn’t go for a gun. I went in. “What’re you looking for?”

The gray cardigan he wore over a T-shirt exaggerated his shrug. “Purpose,” he said. “Inspiration. Some reason to keep on doing it.” He frowned and gazed about. “A leaf rake. I know I put it out here last spring. What are you doing?”

I pulled from a paper bag the bottle of George Dickel I had purchased en route. “I was going to wait till Christmas, but it sounds like it might be in order now. Unless the doctor says—”

He took the bottle. He set it on the workbench that ran along one side of the garage, then hunted in a straw picnic hamper and came up with two plastic tumblers printed with watermelon slices. He blew the dust out and poured a couple fingers in each. He didn’t ask me if it was too early. Plastic doesn’t clink the way glass does. I took a hit and grunted approval. He just drank.

“Remember,” I said, “only one of us will be getting a beribboned something under his tree this year. Doesn’t have to be big, as long as it’s expensive.”

We drank. Then I said, “Have you talked to the Murphy woman in the hospital yet?”

He resumed his search, gazing up at the bare pine joists. I looked up, too, at a deep-sea fishing rod, a set of studded snow tires, a dented aluminum thermos cooler and Stein Eriksen’s first pair of skis. No leaf rake.

“Any special cause for the high spirits, or is it just autumnal?” I asked.

“You a visiting nurse?”

I sat on a stool at the workbench while he poured two more.

“You should stick to finding bad guys,” I said.


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