Gone Cold
home from prison on a furlough one weekend. Was home just six hours when he got himself gunned down. Died right in his father’s arms. Outside the Ponderosa.” He looked up at me. “If you’re a father, it’s a thing you can only imagine. The worst pain in the world, losing a child, and it’s a pain you know will last forever. Right up through the day they put you in the ground.”
    On the table, the Chairman’s cell phone started buzzing. I couldn’t tell for certain, but it looked to me like a burner, a prepaid hunk of plastic that you can get for cash at your local convenience store.
    “Aye,” he said into the phone. “Well, that’s naw much of a surprise now is it?”
    When he ended the call he looked directly at me, said, “It seems you’ll be spending the night with us, laddie.”
    I shook my head. “That’s not necessary.”
    His eyes narrowed. “Don’t presume to tell me what’s necessary and what isn’t. The three of you, you’ll be bunking here tonight. End of story.”
    “And why’s that?” I said.
    “Because Tavis Maxwell has predictably lost his bloody head over the death of his boy. He’s got dozens of men on the streets of Glasgow just waiting for you to show yourself.”
    Ashdown said, “Then it’s best we leave Scotland altogether.”
    The Chairman shot him a look. “Naw, Mr. Ashdown. I’m afraid that’s impossible at the moment. See, Maxwell’s got men surrounding South Lanarkshire as well. They ken you’re here. They don’t dare approach my house; it’s part of the pact we have with the old bill. But as soon as you walk out that door, you’re fair game, all of you, including the lass.”
    Ashdown rose. “I think we’ll take our chances.”
    Gerry Gilchrist slammed his fist down on the table. “Look, I don’t need this aggro. I’m doing you all a bloody favor, and I expect some fucking gratitude for it.” He turned to me. “Now, I’m sorry if I’m pissing on your strawberries. But you saved my boy. Which means, like it or dislike it, you’re under my protection tonight. You three get yourselves killed, it’s my reputation that’s at stake. And I don’t intend to be perceived as weak. Because when you’re perceived as weak, that’s when they come for you, the fuckers.”
    The Chairman stood from the table and stepped out of the room.
    Kinny Gilchrist, who’d sat silently the entire time, shrugged his bony shoulders. “Guess that means meeting’s adjourned. My father’s mates will show you to your rooms.”

 
    Chapter 20
    I was too wired to sleep. So was Zoey, though for an entirely different reason, I suspect. Following our discussion with the Chairman, she had gone off to another part of the house with Kinny, who’d hinted at having an ample and varied supply of party favors.
    “So,” she said as we sat alone in Gerry Gilchrist’s sizeable library, “we chatted a bit about our adult lives back in Dublin, but neither of us really touched on our childhoods.”
    “We reminisced some,” I said, leafing through a hardcover copy of Madame Bovary . I was searching for a quote I was fairly certain wasn’t within the pages of any of Flaubert’s works. Despite a poor memory for such things, these words had remained emblazoned in my mind since the day I’d first read them:
    “One mustn’t ask apple trees for oranges, France for sun, women for love, life for happiness.”
    “I’m not talking about the part of our childhoods we spent together, Simon. I’m talking about our childhoods after we’d separated.”
    I sighed, my eyes pinned to a random page. “When it was just me and dear old Daddy?”
    “And me and Mum.”
    Her newly pensive tone unsettled me. I’d just gotten used to Zoey as she was, just hours ago completely erased from my mind the sister I’d expected her to be. Now she sounded like someone else entirely. Someone sober, figuratively if not literally. Someone earnest with serious questions that demanded serious answers. And my

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