Shit, Blackie, this one’s dead, too. What’re we
gonna do?” The speaker, scarcely more than a boy --- the
lines cruelty would carve deep into his face not yet showing more
than petulance --- looked with disgust into an aluminum cargo box
half the size of a semitrailer.
His nose, high bridged and straight, the only feature of his
face that suggested an ancestry not devoted to the baser things,
wrinkled at the stink, a stink not from the bodies, or from the way
they had died, but from the way they had lived for nineteen
“Maybe more’n one.”
“We get rid of ’em.”
Drops of water on the younger man’s thick black hair
glittered in the harbor lights like a cheap sequined hairnet. As
his head pushed into the shadow of the shipping box, Blackie, fifty
last birthday and made of hard muscles and hard times, turned away.
For a second it had looked as if the head vanished and left the
body standing stooped over by itself. Blackie didn’t like
magic. Didn’t like things that vanished or shifted or
weren’t what they seemed to be; things that couldn’t be
“Dougie, get your goddam head out of the box,” he
snapped. “What’re you doing? Sniffing’em?
Unoff ended, Dougie did as he was told. “What’re we
going to do?” he asked again, sounding plaintive.
Absurd burbling notes of “Baa Baa Black Sheep” swam
through the moisture- laden air. Blackie tensed, his eyes seeking
and sharp with the keenness of the hunter --- or the hunted. He
wished the night were darker. Seattle’s interminable drizzle
caught the light from the quay and the street above the docks,
giving everything a shadowless glow, robbing the place of depth,
“It’s your cell phone,” Dougie said
“Fuck.” Blackie fumbled the phone out of his jacket
pocket and pawed it open, his blunt fingers clumsy as hooves on the
tiny plastic cover.
“Yeah? Oh, hi, sweetie-pie.” A vicious glare, at
odds with the sugary voice, abraded the smirk from Dougie’s
face. “No, Laura, Daddy didn’t forget. I thought you
got to stay up later’s all. Okay. Ready? Nighty night, sleep
tight, and don’t let the bed bugs bite.” As he closed
the phone, Dougie began his lament.
“What’re we gonna ---”
It was cut off by another few bars of the children’s
nursery song. Blackie’s daughter liked to program the ring on
his cell phone.
He flipped it open again. “Sweetie…” he began,
then trailed off . His flesh tightened over wide cheek and brow
bones, drawing the rigid lines of a man in pain --- or in thrall to
someone who enjoyed the dark arts. “Yeah,” he said. And
“Yeah.” And “Clear.”
Putting the phone back inhis pocket, he jerked his chin toward
the freight container. “Throw ’emin the back of the
van. We got another job.”
Dougie padded happily into the reeking darkness of the metal
coffin. He knew Blackie’s look, the freaky frozen look. The
other job would be better. It was way more fun when they
weren’t already dead.
Excerpted from BURN: An Anna Pigeon Novel © Copyright 2010
by Nevada Barr. Reprinted with permission by Minotaur Books. All