Former social worker turned store bought P.I., Matt Jacob, has had his share of vices and woes. Now Matt is struggling to kick his addictions and settle down with a woman who makes him happy. Then a phone call changes everything.
In Ties That Blind Klein brings back some of the most original and riveting characters in crime fiction with a story that grips from the first page to the last.
Read a sample chapter from Ties That Blind
Lovemaking had slammed my ass to sleep. A good sleep, deep enough that I hadn’t heard the ring of Boots’s cell phone, not so deep that I couldn’t feel her body crawl across my own. I lifted my hands to stroke her buttocks, grew confused when she twisted out of reach, then dimly understood when she grabbed the phone. Still, I turned to hide my disappointment. A disappointment that instantly disappeared when she poked me with the cell.
“It’s Lou,” she said, worry flooding her hazel eyes and smooth face. “And he sounds serious.”
I couldn’t ignore the belly-dread. Lou was my dead wife’s father, the money-half of our partnership in two attached six-flats we both called home. It was much too late for the call to be about the buildings.
“Why didn’t he call my phone?”
“He knows you keep it off—now take the damn thing!”
“Lou? Are you all right?” I stared blankly as Boots swung out of bed and bent her lean, limber body to pull on a pair of thigh-high jeans while I tried to push the image of Mrs. S.’s funeral out of my head.
“I’m fine,” Lou wheezed. “I hate to bother you this time of night but I need a mitzvah.”
I closed my eyes with relief and didn’t notice Boots trying to get my attention until she tugged my arm. “Is Lou okay?” she whispered. “He called me Boots, not Shoes.”
I raised my eyebrows and shrugged.
“Matty,” Lou continued anxiously, “Lauren’s son is on the other telephone line bleeding from knife wounds. She’ll keep him on the telephone until you pick him up and bring him to the hospital.”
“You know where he is?”
“At a bar in The Plain. Jimmy’s on Washington, near Forest Hills Station. The boy says he’s standing in an old fashioned phone booth, one with a door.”
I hadn’t thought any of those were left in our new digital age. “Lou, an ambulance makes more sense.”
“Sense doesn’t matter here, the kid won’t deal with anyone in a uniform. You can understand that. And you’ll have to bring him to Beth Israel. He won’t go anywhere else.”
“Why doesn’t his mother pick him up?”
“We’re at Lauren’s house on the North Shore. It will take too long to get there.”
“He’ll come with me?” I took one of the lit cigarettes Boots was holding and dragged deeply, my initial fear and Forest Hills’s cemetery receding into nervous apprehension.
“Lauren promises by the time you get there she’ll have him ready and willing.” He paused then added proudly, “She’s not wrong about much, boychick, she won’t be wrong about this. Anyway, you look shaggy enough for him to trust.”
His tone troubled me more than the words. “Lou, if the kid was stabbed, someone has to call the cops.”
There was a momentary pause. “Matty, he did this to himself.”
After a long moment I asked quietly, “Who are these people? Who is this Lauren?”
This time it was the words, not his tone, that got to me.
“He called her his ‘squeeze,'” I said, wrestling into my pants. “What the fuck is he talking about?”
Boots sat cross-legged on the bed, her back pressed against the modern metal headboard. By now she was wearing a beige tank-top that left a strip of her flat, tan stomach exposed. “Squeeze means girlfriend. You’re not that out of touch.”
“I know the definition, smart-ass. Only Lou’s never mentioned a girlfriend. I’ve never even heard of this lady.”
“You keep calling her ‘this lady.’ She has a name, doesn’t she?”
I stopped tying my sneaks and glanced up. “Lauren. Her name is Lauren. Where’s the dope?”
Boots frowned, raising slight ridges on her forehead. “You’ve been pretty good, Matt. Why not wait until you get back?”
“I don’t know if I’m coming back. I might have to take Lou home or something.”
“You don’t have grass at your apartment?”
I returned her smile with a quick, worried grin of my own. “Then light me another cigarette, okay?”
The ride across town was a smooth sail—no obstructions, detours, or potholes—much like the past years. Boots and I met after Chana, my wife, and Rebecca, my daughter died, a period in my life when I could barely collect rent in the building Lou had bought just to keep me busy and out of trouble. Though depression wasn’t Boots’s vice, during those years she had her own form of protection–Hal. Old enough to be her father, vaguely married, always on time. Therapy and years had eased some of my gloom, and Boots had long since shed Hal. Now things were going so well that, for the first time in what seemed like forever, I’d been thinking our long-time, on again, off again relationship was gonna keep. Neither of us was direct, but lately conversations were sprinkled with veiled references and humorous quips about our stability.
And I’d still managed to tamp down my drug use, though it cost me a small fortune for smokes. Who’d a thunk I’d been able to become somewhat straight—though very somewhat. From the jump I didn’t do intimate alliances all that well, and the closer they veered into “family,” the further I usually leaped in the opposite direction.
No real surprise. The only fond memories from my own original family were stories about my grandfather’s rabid love affair with baseball. How he’d sit in the darkened front room smoking his pipe, head cocked toward his tubed radio inning after inning, game after game.
Hell, I was even a little like him. I collected old-fashioned Bakelite radios and followed baseball. But I usually sat across from a television and filled my pipe with marijuana. Tobacco I bought pre-rolled.
Lou was the nearest thing to family since the accident. We’d always liked each other, our relationship bound by mutual love for Chana, my second wife. But our friendship hadn’t blossomed until the death of his wife Martha, his move to the building from Chicago, and a serious boundary war which ended after Mrs. S.’s surprise death. She’d been Lou’s closest friend in town and though almost a year had passed, I thought he was still mourning. I guess I was wrong. So here I was, hard into the night, driving to some godforsaken gin-mill to fetch a failed suicide–a failed suicide who was talking on the phone with his mother. My father-in-law’s secret squeeze.