Winter Kills

Winter Kills by Richard Condon

Book: Winter Kills by Richard Condon Read Free Book Online
Authors: Richard Condon
Tags: Mystery
stopped and stared at a large photograph of Tim wearing the full headdress of a sachem of the Cherokee nation. When he turned to face Nick his eyes had filled with tears, but the sedation Si had given him held him down. “And all that time and later—and before—and during,” he said, “everything I did, every buck I spent, every threat I made, I was just leading Tim along the road to meet that bullet.” He sat down helplessly.
    “Pa, there’s a couple of more things,” Nick said evenly.
    “Like what?”
    “Willie Arnold was not one of the riflemen. Somebody sold that to the commission.”
    “Do we have to start this all over again?”
    “There were two riflemen. Fletcher was one. He talked a lot about the other one. That’s the whole point of the new investigation. The commission didn’t care who killed Tim—they only wanted to prove that there was no conspiracy. Well, there was a conspiracy. Our new investigation has to establish who hired those two riflemen and Willie Arnold.”
    Pa didn’t seem to be listening. He was dazed, but Nick told himself he had to be getting the point. Pa himself had said what they had to do.
    “Pa?”
    “What?”
    “Every doctor who attended Tim after he was hit—and the doctor who performed the autopsy—said Timhad been shot from front and back. But the Pickering Commission twisted that. They shifted the whole emphasis to rationalize why Willie Arnold had shot Tim, not whether he had done it. Then they buried the autopsy report for the next seventy-five years.
    “Pa, listen to me. If we’re not sure of all the facts, it’s because they were changed so often and so fast by the Pickering Commission, whose job it was to make sure of the real facts and bury them before the investigation was over.”
    “All right, Nick,” Pa said steadily. He seemed to have himself together. “We’ll quit talking and do something.” He sat down at the switchboard and took up the phone. “Get me Fred Frey, the police commissioner of Philadelphia.” He hung up. “Play something on the piano, Nick,” he said. “I have to think a little.”
    Nick went to the piano and began soothes by MacDowell. Pa stared at the Blake portrait of Tim. In about four minutes the telephone light went on and Pa picked up.
    “Hello, Fritz? Fine. How are you? Fritz, you’ll understand why I have to take kind of a guarded tone here—do you have a lab report on that rifle yet?” His face clouded with irritation. “What rifle? This is Tom Kegan. Don’t kid around. Listen, you have a cop named Heller—Inspector Frank Heller—right? Okay. Well, yesterday morning at—what time, Nick?”
    “Quarter to eleven.”
    “At a quarter to eleven your man Heller in the presence of my son, Miles Gander—you know, the geologist—and two other witnesses, both residents of Philadelphia, found one of the rifles that was used”—Pa faltered, his voice broke—“was used in Hunt Plaza in 1960.” Nick moved away from the piano in tension while Pa listened on the telephone. “Why would I try to make a clown out of you?” Pa said to Frey. He became incredulous. “Nobody told you anything about it?” He looked across at Nick blankly. “Well, you better call Heller in, Fred. You better untangle your options.I’ll be waiting right here in Palm Springs for your call.” He disconnected.
    “You heard it,” he said to Nick.
    “Heller must be waiting for a confirming report from the FBI before he takes it to the commissioner.”
    “He’s a crook,” Pa said. “I mean, I feel that.” He got up and began to wander around the room again. “Nick, I hate to let them have another shot at burying all this. Everything I stand for resists the idea of taking what is absolutely my own vengeance to the government and asking strangers to avenge my son.”
    Nick was bland. “That’s the way it has to be, Pa.”
    “Is it? Are we supposed to turn everything over to a pack of lobbygows again? A strung-together scarecrow of

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