Night Work by David C. Taylor is the second book in the transporting historical crime fiction, Michael Cassidy series (Available April 5, 2016).
Michael Cassidy, a New York cop plagued by dreams that sometimes come true, escorts a prisoner accused of murder to Havana on the cusp of Fidel Castro's successful revolution against the Batista dictatorship. After delivering the man to La Cabaña prison and rescuing Dylan McCue, a Russian KGB agent and his now-married former lover, from her scheduled execution, Cassidy returns to New York and retreats into the comforts of alcohol and sex.
The arrival of Fidel Castro in New York three months later complicates the cop's life once more. Cassidy's investigation of a young man's murder in Central Park is interrupted when he is assigned to Castro's protective detail.
Castro has many enemies. American mobsters who have been run out of Havana, businessmen who worry about their investments in Cuba, and members of Batista's secret police all want him dead. Cassidy is already investigating one murder. Can he prevent another?
“They’re going to kill me. Do you know this? Do you understand? If you take me back, they will kill me.” Echevarria stubbed his cigarette butt into the corpse of his hamburger in the Miami airport coffee shop. “Paredón. You know what that means? To the wall. It’s what they say when they come to take you out to shoot you.”
“You told me,” Cassidy said. He was reading the sports section of the Miami Herald to avoid talking to Echevarria. He didn’t like him. He hadn’t liked him when he picked him up in New York at The Tombs for the extradition, and he didn’t like him any better after being handcuffed to him off and on for twenty-four hours. He was one of those arrogant shits who had no understanding of his effect on others. He viewed the world through the narrow crack in his own forehead and assumed that everyone saw the same things he saw, that anything he said or did was acceptable.
Echevarria had been chained to a rail in a Tombs interview room when Cassidy came in with one of the grubby, overused manila envelopes that held a prisoner’s belongings from the time of his arrest. On the front of the envelope was a list of names written in different hands and later crossed out, a history without details of men processed through the system.
“Who are you?” Echevarria demanded. He had an accent, an undercurrent of Spanish.
“Detective Michael Cassidy. I’m escorting you.”
Echevarria looked Cassidy over as if inspecting meat. Cassidy was just under six feet tall and weighed a hundred seventy pounds. He had broad shoulders and a narrow waist, unruly black hair, and a face of planes and angles as if the bones were trying to break through. He was restless, intense, with a motor that always ran at high speed. He suffered the examination without comment while he looked over the man he was to return to Havana on a murder charge. Fausto Echevarria was in his mid-thirties. He was tall and round-shouldered. His thick black hair was combed straight back from a high sloping forehead. He had a heavy red mouth and carried himself with his head tipped slightly back so that he looked at the world down his prominent nose. He wore an expression of mild disgust as if everyone around him smelled bad, with no understanding that the rot might be his own.
“Give me my things.”
He held out his hand and Cassidy put the envelope in it. Echevarria took out a thin gold watch with an alligator band and fixed it to his handcuffed wrist. He removed a gold pen, a leather-bound notebook and matching checkbook and put them in the inside pocket of the tan linen suit he wore. Cassidy lit a cigarette while Echevarria checked his wallet.
“A hundred dollars is missing. Someone stole.”
Cassidy took the wallet, counted the money in it, and checked the property list from his pocket. “You had six hundred when you came in.”
“Now I have five hundred.”
“Your suit’s been cleaned and pressed. Your shirt’s been laundered. Your shoes have been shined. You have a fresh pack of cigarettes. You probably didn’t eat jailhouse food. That’s where the hundred went.” Jailhouse prices. An orderly or guard doing business.
“Are you calling me a liar?”
“I’m entertaining the possibility.”
It did not get any better as the day went on.
Echevarria complained about the squad car that took them to Idlewild Airport, and Cassidy had to admit that it stunk of piss, puke, fear, and the disinfectant that failed to burn those smells out, but the man had killed three people in Havana and had tried to shoot the New York cops who arrested him. Did he expect to be transported in a limousine? Echevarria looked out the window as they drove east toward the Midtown Tunnel. “They say New York is the greatest city in the world. I say it’s a shithole.”
It was going to be a long trip.
* * *
“Extradition escort is crap duty, man,” Orso had said. “They’re sticking it to you again.” They had been at the curved bar at Toots Shor’s that evening, a warm refuge from a December night with an arctic wind off the river. The bar crowd was three deep, and most of the tables were occupied. The joint was alive with laughter, shouts to newly arrived friends, the hum of conversation, the clink of ice in glasses, boozy good cheer as 1958 drew to a close. “They give escort duty to the stumblebums, the lushes, the guys treading water till retirement. They keep giving you shit details, ’cause they want you to quit.” Tony Orso was a big sleek man, over six feet tall, and more than two hundred pounds. He was dressed in a tailor-made dark wool herringbone suit, an off-white silk shirt, and a maroon Countess Mara neck tie, an outfit that must have set him back six months’ salary. Cassidy never asked him where the money came from. Maybe he had a rich aunt.
“I’m not going to quit. I like being a cop.”
“Yeah, I know you’re not going to quit, but they don’t. They think you hate being a cop, ’cause you don’t do what other cops do. You don’t take the money. You don’t look the other way. You don’t give a shit what the brass thinks. It’s been a few years, but they all remember you threw Franklin out a window. Twice. No other cop’s thrown another cop out the window once. Nobody wants a loose cannon in his precinct, so they run you through the different departments. They give you the assignments no else wants, the shit ones, or the ones that are too hot, might burn someone’s career. The only reason they don’t stack your ass and set it on fire is they think you have juice. Nobody knows where it comes from. Nobody knows who your rabbi is in the Department, but everybody’s heard the rumor. Don’t fuck with Cassidy. He’s got juice.”
“If only they knew.”
Franklin was a Vice Squad lieutenant who Cassidy had thrown out of a hotel window when he caught him torturing a prostitute who had tried to quit working for him. He had thrown him out another window six months later when he discovered Franklin was blackmailing Cassidy’s sister, Leah. Franklin had survived, but tossing him had solidified Cassidy’s reputation in the Department as a wild man and had given rise to the rumor that he had a powerful rabbi protecting him, because no disciplinary action had been taken against him. The rumor was unfounded, but it had the same effect as having protection, and some people stepped wide around him.
Orso raised his hand, and Al, the bartender, brought two fresh martinis.
“Tony, you want to get another partner, go ahead. No way you’re going up the ladder as my partner.”
“Fuck you, another partner. Who do you think I am? Besides, I like all these fucked-up assignments. If it goes bad, you catch the shit. If it goes good, I get some of the glory. I’m having fun. I don’t give a shit about promotion. I’ll put in my twenty, take the pension, and then set about the business I was made for.”
“Making women happy. Speaking of which, the only good part of this escort duty is you’re going to Havana. I hear they’ve got so much good looking cooze down there Marilyn Monroe would be the dog. What’d this Echevarria guy do?”
“Killed three guys.”
“I don’t know. What’s it matter? Three guys.”
“Fuck him. He deserves what he gets.”
* * *
Echevarria leaned forward from the backseat. “How much money do you make in a year, Detective? Four thousand dollars? Five thousand?”
Cassidy ignored the question.
“I will pay you five thousand dollars to let me out at the next corner.”
The patrolman driving flicked his eyes to Cassidy.
“We’re going to Idlewild, Officer. No stops.”
“Ten thousand. You give the driver what you want.”
“You don’t have ten thousand dollars on you.”
“I’ll write you a check.”
“No, no. We go to my bank. Irving Trust on Fifty-seventh. You go cash the check. Ten thousand dollars. We drive someplace. I get out. You tell them whatever you want. I overpowered you. I had friends stop the car. Ten thousand dollars.”
The car stopped at a light. The driver looked at Cassidy again. Cassidy looked back at him until he dropped his eyes. The light changed, and the car went on.
* * *
“I only fly first class.”
“Not on New York’s dime.”
When the seat belt light went out, Echevarria lit a cigarette and rang for the stewardess. “Bring me a double rum,” he demanded in a way that made her clench her jaw. When she brought it with the bourbon Cassidy ordered, he tasted it and said, “This is not Cuban rum. This is Puerto Rican. You think I don’t know the difference?”
“It’s all we have, sir.”
“I don’t drink this shit. Take it away. Bring me a double gin and tonic.” He thrust the glass at her. Cassidy saw that she wanted to say something, but her training checked her. She turned and stalked up the aisle.
“You’ve got a way with people, don’t you?”
“Her job is to bring me what I want. Why should I beg?”
The arrogance faltered at the Miami airport police unit when Echevarria understood that he would spend another night in a cell, but it was only for a moment. “Why are you doing this? Where are you going to go, some sad little place with bedbugs, no air-conditioning? I’ll buy you the best room at The Fontainebleau, a room you cannot afford on your cop’s salary. I’ll buy you dinner there too. Like you’ve never eaten. Wine. Twenty dollars a bottle. Have you ever had twenty-dollar wine? I’ll buy it for you. There’s no reason to stay here. This is stupid.” He emptied his pockets reluctantly onto the receiving desk.
The cop on duty was a gangly redhead named O’Hara. He had big knuckled hands and bony wrists, and he wore black cowboy boots with his uniform. He led Echevarria to a holding cell, pushed him in, and locked the door.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Cassidy said.
“Anything special with him?” O’Hara asked.
“Feed him and water him, and stand well back. He talks an awful lot of bullshit. You listen to him for five minutes you’re going to want to reach in and slap him silly.”
He caught a taxi to the Fontainebleau where he had reserved a room, took a shower, and then went out to Joe’s and ate stone crabs and drank a twenty-dollar bottle of Puligny-Montrachet. He went back to the hotel and lay in bed in the dark room and listened to the thump and hiss of waves on the sand eight floors below and waited for sleep to come. He had been running on empty for weeks, wired on coffee, cigarettes, and booze. If he slept, there were bad dreams of running and gunfire, hard, bright, ugly images that disappeared so quickly when he woke gasping and panicked that he could not capture one of them. He had had vivid dreams since childhood, dreams in which he was both asleep and awake. Days, weeks, or months later he would be somewhere in the city, and he would recognize that this was what he had dreamed, this street, that person; an overheard conversation as he passed two people in a doorway; that window with the three women behind it; that man with the oily smile who beckoned him from an alley mouth. The dreams were random. Sometimes they came true, sometimes they did not, but disappeared to wherever dreams go. For years he tried to find markers in them that would allow him to separate the prophetic from the run of the mill, but he could not, and then a few years back something had changed. He had walked a dark street one night, and as he walked he understood that he had dreamed these moments, dreamed the walk, the dark night, the danger that lay ahead in the shadows. The dream had predicted this, had warned him, and because of that warning he had been able to kill the man who waited in the darkness to kill him.
For a while after that, the prophetic dreams had come often, and he had been able to hold on to them after waking. Usually they predicted something mundane, an unlooked-for meeting with an old friend, the recognition of a room as he entered that he had only seen before in a dream, a conversation in a restaurant, but they had also helped him solve the murder of a young woman found dead on the ice at Wollman Memorial Rink, and to track down a serial killer. He had begun to think of the dreams as a talent, a resource, something that he could develop. Through his brother, Brian, he had found a sympathetic neurologic researcher at Cornell Medical College who had run tests and found nothing out of the ordinary, no explanations. “We don’t know the capabilities of the human brain. We do know that we use only a fraction of its capacity.” He had asked Cassidy to keep notes on all his dreams and especially on the ones that came true, and he had done that for a while, but then the dreams changed. They became more fragmented, more chaotic, and he woke unable to remember them.
For the last few weeks, sleep had come hard, and the dreams were harsh and splintered, and they left him with feelings of dread and impending loss, but with no understanding of what it was he was going to lose.
That night Cassidy dreamed of Dylan—Dylan, his lost love, who had not troubled his dreams for years. He was in a tunnel, a place he had never seen before, dark and oppressive, claustrophobic. A line of figures shuffled past him. They were pale and insubstantial, the color of faded roses from head to foot. They scuffed by heads down, identical, featureless. Then one raised its head, and it was Dylan. Gunfire, and the figures began to fall until only she was left standing, eyes wide and pleading. He awoke drenched in sweat, gasping for air.
* * *
Copyright © 2016 David C. Taylor.
To learn more or order a copy, visit:
David C. Taylor was born and raised in New York City. He spent twenty years in Los Angeles writing for television and the movies. He has published short stories and magazine articles, and has had an Off-Broadway musical produced in New York. He is the author of Night Work and now divides his time between Boston and the coast of Maine.