found Edward Dollery, age forty-seven, defrocked accountant, big
spender and dishonest person, living in a house rented in the name
of Carol Pick. It was in a new brick-veneer suburb built on cow
pasture east of the city, one of those strangely silent
developments where the average age is twelve and you can feel the
pressure of the mortgages on your skin.
Eddie Dollery's skin wasn't looking good. He'd cut himself several
times shaving and each nick was wearing a little red-centred
rosette of toilet paper. The rest of Eddie, short, bloated, was
wearing yesterday's superfine cotton business shirt, striped, and
scarlet pyjama pants, silk. The overall effect was not
'Yes?' he said in the clipped tone of a man interrupted while on
the line to Tokyo or Zurich or Milan.He had both hands behind his
back, apparently holding up his pants.
'Marinara, right?' I said, pointing to a small piece of hardened
food attached to the pocket of his shirt. Eddie Dollery looked at
my finger, and he looked in my eyes, and he knew. A small greyish
probe of tongue came out to inspect his upper lip, disapproved and
withdrew. 'Come in,' he said in a less commanding tone. He took a
step backwards. His right hand came around from behind his back and
pointed a small pistol at my fly.
'Come in or I'll shoot your balls off.' I looked at the pistol with
concern. It had a distinctly Albanian cast to it. These things go
off for motives of their own.
'Mr Sabbatini,' I said. 'You're Mr Michael Sabbatini? I'm only here
about your credit card payment.'
'Inside,' he said, wagging the firearm.
He backed in, I followed. We went through a barren hallway into a
sitting room containing pastel-coloured leather furniture of the
kind that appears to have been squashed.
Eddie stopped in the middle of the room. I stopped. We looked at
I said, 'Mr Sabbatini, it's only money. You're pointing a gun at a
debt collector. From an agency. You can go to jail for that. If
it's not convenient to discuss new arrangements for repayments now,
I'm happy to tell my agency that.'
Eddie shook his head slowly. 'How'd you find me?' he said.
I blinked at him. 'Find you? We've got your address, Mr
Sabbatini.We send your accounts here. The company sends your
Eddie moved aside a big piece of hair to scratch his scalp,
revealing a small plantation of transplanted hairs. 'I've got to
lock you up,' he said. 'Put your hands on your head.'
I complied. Eddie got around behind me and said, 'Straight
He kept his distance. He was a good metre and a half behind me when
I went through the doorway into the kitchen. There were about a
dozen empty champagne bottles on various surfaces around the
room—Perrier Jouet, Moet et Chandon, Pol Roger, Krug. No
brand loyalty here, no concern for the country's balance of
payments. The one on the counter to my right was Piper.
'Turn right,' Eddie said.
I turned right very smartly.When Eddie came into the doorway, the
Piper bottle, swung backhand, caught him on the jawbone. The
Albanian time-bomb in his hand went off, no more than a door slam,
the slug going Christ knows where. Eddie dropped the gun to nurse
his face. I pulled him into the room by his shirt, spun him around
and kicked him in the back of the right knee with an instep while
wrenching him backwards by his hair. He hit the ground hard. I was
about to give him a kick when a semblance of calm descended upon
me. I spared him the grace note.
Eddie was moaning a great deal but he wasn't going to die from the
impact of the Piper. I dragged him off by the heels and locked him
in the lavatory along the passage.
'Mate,' he said in a thick voice from behind the door, 'mate,
what's your name?'
I said, 'Mr Dollery, that was a very silly thing to do. Where's the
'Mate, mate, just hold it, just one second...'
The freezer had been stocked for a two- or three-week stay, but all
the recent catering had been by Colonel Sanders, McDonald's and
Dial-a-Dino. Dessert was from Colombia. There were dirty shirts and
underpants all over the main bedroom and its bathroom. The
mirror-fronted wall of cupboards held three suits, two tweedy
sports jackets and several pairs of trousers on one side. On the
other hung a nu