Home > One of Our Own

One of Our Own
Author: Jane Haddam


PROLOGUE

 

 

1


Tommy Moradanyan was late.

Tommy Moradanyan had been late all day, starting with breakfast, which wasn’t much of a nervous breakdown. These days, his mother expected him to be late. She said it had something to do with puberty.

She meant it had something to do with Russ.

The other parts of being late were more serious. He’d hitchhiked his way north this morning. He’d hit the highway well after rush hour. There were virtually no cars, and even fewer of them were willing to pick him up. That meant it had been five minutes into rush hour by the time he’d presented himself to the guard station. Then Russ had been Russ. It had been another ten minutes before he’d accepted the fact that Tommy wasn’t going to leave until they talked.

Russ had been Russ.

What a laugh.

Pickles was standing on the counter, already tricked out in her green plastic raincoat. The veterinary nurse was named Kelsey. She was cooing like she had a real baby in front of her instead of a dachshund.

“She’s so precious,” Kelsey said brightly. Kelsey said everything brightly. “I put her picture up on Facebook. Father Kasparian said I could. I put her picture up wearing her raincoat here. She’s so proud of her raincoat. People don’t realize how much of a difference it makes, when a dog gets rescued.”

The phone went off in the pocket of his jacket. It was a Samsung Galaxy S10+. He’d been worried about it the whole time he was hitchhiking.

Kelsey was putting on Pickles’s little plastic rain booties. Tommy turned his back to her and propped himself against the counter. Right across from him was the clinic’s plate-glass window. He could see the lights and the rain and the cars. It was after five o’clock.

Tommy looked at the screen, but he didn’t have to. The ringtone was Beethoven’s Fifth. That was the one he had assigned to his mother.

He took a deep breath.

He was late, and she was going to be furious.

“Yeah,” he said, picking up.

“Where are you?” she said.

He turned around and looked at Kelsey and Pickles. “I’m at the vet. Pickles is getting her booties on.”

“You were supposed to be at St. Catherine’s half an hour ago.”

“I know. I’ve been running late all day. I’m getting there.”

“You’ve been running late all day.”

“They didn’t have Pickles packaged up when I got here. There was a bunch of discussion about the wardrobe. They finally decided she needed a sweater under the raincoat. Then they had to dress her up. Then she’s got luggage.”

“Luggage.”

“It’s not going to help to repeat everything I say.”

“I got a phone call.”

“He said he was going to.”

“Tommy—”

“I’m standing in a waiting room. It’s crowded. Fifty million people are admiring the dog. If you want to yell at me, wait till I get to St. Catherine’s. Or wait till we all get home.”

“Tommy—”

“Stop,” Tommy said.

Then he cut the line and turned his attention to Kelsey. Pickles was all dressed up, the plastic rain hood up over her head, the little umbrella attachment fastened to the hood. She looked as proud of herself as Vivien Leigh playing Scarlett O’Hara.

“Here she is,” Kelsey said. “All ready to go.”

“Thanks.”

Tommy had already put Pickles’s little bag in his backpack. Now he fastened the leash to her collar and put her on the floor. She stretched and preened. Two middle-aged ladies with a cat came over to tell her how wonderful she was.

Tommy headed for the door. He wasn’t a child. He was fourteen. He didn’t need a keeper. He didn’t need anything except to get some things figured out, which weren’t going to get figured out, because none of it made any sense.

He stepped out onto the street. There was rain, almost sleet. There was cold. There were too many cars. He turned right, in the direction of St. Catherine’s.

He should have taken Pickles with him up to the state prison this morning.

That would have been a trip.

 

 

2


Marta Warkowski did not like going out alone in the dark. She had never liked going out alone in the dark, even when she was young, even when the neighborhood was still … normal.

Marta had grown up in this neighborhood. She had been baptized at St. Catherine’s Church. She had made her First Holy Communion and her confirmation there. She had attended St. Catherine’s parochial school. She was seventy-two years old. She could remember Masses in Latin and nuns in habits. She could remember when the outrage in the world was over the fact that the Irish archdiocese insisted on calling the church St. Catherine’s instead of St. Katerina’s.

These days, there was no help for it. She had to go out in the dark. And she had to go out alone. In her day, the old women went to Mass at seven in the morning. There were big clutches of them, most of them in black.

Marta didn’t wear black. That would be coming right out and saying she was a widow. She had never married. She just wore her ordinary “weekday” clothes and carried her big pocketbook. In the pocketbook she carried exactly one dollar. She couldn’t be too careful.

She carried her keys, too, of course—one key for the street door, one key for her apartment door. She had grown up in this apartment as well as in this neighborhood. She had laid out her mother in this very living room. The priest had come and blessed the wake.

In English.

The light was out in the vestibule. It always was. The lights were out on the stairs, too. Her knees hurt. It was getting harder and harder to climb.

She saw Mr. Hernandez waiting for her on the landing. She supposed she should call him Señor Hernandez, but she didn’t want to.

She brushed past him without saying hello. She did not put her key in the lock. She did not want this man coming into her apartment.

Mr. Hernandez let out with a stream of Spanish. He knew she didn’t speak Spanish.

“It’s not that I have to have an English Mass,” she said. “I grew up when the Masses were all in Latin. I didn’t understand that, either.”

“Miss Warkowski, please.”

“I want to go lie down now. I’m very tired.”

“Miss Warkowski, please. We have to talk about the apartment.”

“We don’t have to talk about the apartment.”

“Miss Warkowski, please. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s a three-bedroom apartment. You’re all by yourself.”

“I’ll be dead soon enough. That ought to make you happy.”

“I could give you another apartment in the building. I’ve got a one bedroom on the first floor. You wouldn’t have to climb the stairs.”

“I’m going to be laid out in my living room when I go. Just like my parents were.”

She stared at the key in her hand. Who would lay her out when she was dead? All her people were gone. Even the priest was gone. The priest at St. Catherine’s these days was Spanish, like the rest of them.

“Miss Warkowski,” Mr. Hernandez said. “I have a family that needs an apartment. There are two parents and two aunts and four children. I can’t put them in a one-bedroom apartment. You have to see that. You have to see that you should—”

Hot Books
» House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)
» From Blood and Ash (Blood And Ash #1)
» Deviant King (Royal Elite #1)
» Chasing Cassandra (The Ravenels #6)
» The Play (Briar U Book 3)
» Sweet Temptation
» A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire
» Steel Princess (Royal Elite #2)
» Archangel's War
» Angry God (All Saints High #3)
» ENEMIES
» The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #
» Twisted Kingdom (Royal Elite #3)
» Fake It 'Til You Break It
» Serpent & Dove(Serpent & Dove #1)