“Did he ever use any other name besides Frank Crosetti?”

“What do you mean?”


“Did you hear anyone call him by a different name?”


“Did he ever ask you to call him by a different name?”

“Why would he?”

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“I think he’s using an alias.”

“A phony name?”

“Frankie Crosetti was a ballplayer with the Yankees in the thirties and forties.”

“I never checked his driver’s license or anything, but I guess it makes sense.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Frank was from New York.”

“How do you know?”

“He said so. I figured that’s why he broke my hand. You know how cultures are different, how something might be an okay thing in one place and terrible in another. Maybe in New York sipping someone’s drink is like a supreme insult.”

“I doubt that. But you’re sure he’s from New York.”

“Yes. He said he was born in someplace called Hunts Point. He was very proud of it. And he kept insulting Minnesota, calling it flyover land, and Minneapolis, saying it was hickville, saying he couldn’t wait to get back to New York—to a real city, he said.”

I felt a twinge. What if he was already back in New York? What would I do then?

“He told me once he would take me with him, but …” Janel rested her cast on the table and took another sip of the gimlet. “I didn’t really want to go, anyway.”

“When was he going back to New York?”

“Soon as he took care of some business.”

“What business?”

“I don’t know. He just said he had business and when it was finished he could go back to New York.”

“Could? He said could?”


“Not would?”

Janel shrugged. “What difference does it make?”

“Maybe none,” I told her. But in my head the wheels were spinning. “Would” meant that Crosetti was on a simple business trip—he’d return home once he finished his work. “Could” meant that he needed to complete a specific task in order to be able to return to New York. Yes, I know it was flimsy. But since I was grasping at straws, why not take the tiny ones, too?

“Did Crosetti have any friends?” I asked.

“I saw him talking to two men once. But he didn’t introduce us.”

“What did they look like?”

“The two men? One was small, kinda scrawny. The other was big. Very big. And solid, if you know what I mean. But I didn’t pay that much attention.”

“Crosetti never called them by name?”

“No. I only heard a name once. He was on the phone. I don’t know who he was talking to or what was said—it was at his place, and he made me leave the room. But after he hung up, he said—he said, ‘F-ing Granata.’”


“Yeah. Only I don’t know if it had anything to do with those two guys.”

I bought Janel another gimlet and asked several more questions, but it was just talking. As far as she knew, Crosetti still resided in his house on the hill, and she had no more idea of how to find him than I did. She made some noise about asking the authorities for help, only it didn’t get past the table.

The bartender came to tidy up. I paid him and bid Janel good-bye. As I was leaving she said, “If you do find Frank, don’t hurt him. He’s really not a bad guy.”

The bartender and I both glanced down at her cast. Janel quickly hid it beneath the table. The bartender shook his head and chuckled softly, but I didn’t think there was anything funny about it.

Caution is a habit. Practice it long enough and it becomes muscle memory. Longer still and it becomes instinct. Unfortunately, I hadn’t quite reached that place yet. The man who crept up silently behind me and rammed the business end of a handgun under my ribs caught me by complete surprise. He said so himself.

“Surprise, shithead.”

I had just crossed from the motel entrance to the far rim of the parking lot where I had left my Jeep Cherokee. I had unlocked and opened the door and was about to get in when I felt the muzzle.

“Don’t even think about moving.”

I examined him over my shoulder. He was about five-six and thin—you could knock him down with a Ping-Pong ball. He was smiling at me with all thirty-two teeth. I lifted my arms in a pose of surrender and looked down at the gun still pressed against my ribs. It was a single-action 9 mm Browning Hi-Power—with the hammer down.

I looked him in the eyes. He kept blinking at me like he hadn’t stepped out of the shadows in a long time. He didn’t seem too bright nor too ambitious despite the gun. One of those guys who did only what he was told between eight and five and whose idea of excitement was challenging the slot machines at the Indian casinos.

“Let me guess. You’re putting yourself through community college selling magazine subscriptions.”

He jabbed me harder with the gun.

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