The Double

By George Pelecanos

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In the morning, Spero Lucas met Winston Dupree at his apartment on Ninth and drove out to Rockville, Maryland. There, in a neighborhood of modest G.I. Bill homes off Veirs Mill Road, they found the Waldron residence, a tidy rambler with a small, trimmed yard and an American flag hung above the front door. Bobby Waldron lived here with his parents, in the basement of the house in which he’d been raised.

They were greeted by Rosemary Waldron, a boisterous redhead, retired from a career-long slog in the cafeterias of the Montgomery County school system. Her husband, Bobby’s father, was a master plumber and self-employed. When Bobby was a boy, his father had painted the words WALDRON AND SON PLUMBING on the sides of his truck, but Bobby had expressed no desire to learn the trade. Instead, he enlisted in the Army straight out of Richard Montgomery High.

Rosemary Waldron let Lucas and Dupree in and offered them a couple of Miller High Lifes. They declined. She knew Lucas but not Dupree and, assuming he was a veteran, asked about his deployment and war experience. After Dupree detailed his military background to her in front of a fireplace mantel holding photographs of Bobby in football and Army uniforms, he and Lucas excused themselves and met Bobby at the foot of the basement stairs. He was wearing jeans and a Champion jersey with cutoff sleeves, revealing his thick arms and tiger-stripe tats.

Waldron had drunk beer with Dupree at the American Legion bar in Silver Spring many times, but they had not hit it off. Waldron had a short-man complex, for one, and there was the matter of Dupree’s size. Also, Waldron liked to play that Marine Corps versus Army game, a dick-size contest no one could ever win. Lucas made it a point never to dip his toe, or anything else, in those contaminated waters.

“Come with me,” said Waldron.

They followed him to his dark, windowless room, which smelled of Marlboros and Axe spray. A dime would bounce off Waldron’s bed if tossed onto it; against the wall, many pairs of sneakers were perfectly aligned. It was more barracks than bedroom.

Waldron closed the door, locked it, then went to his closet and retrieved a couple of ripstop, duffel-size bags. He dropped the bags on his bed and unzipped them.

“Short notice,” said Waldron. He looked up at Dupree and shrugged elaborately. “If you’d given me some time, I could’ve got you one of those SAWs.”

“For real,” said Dupree, putting a little edge into his voice. He doubted Waldron could have come up with an M249, a machine gun capable of firing hundreds of rounds per minute. But then again, they were in America.

“Yeah, for real,” said Waldron.

“What do you have for us, Bobby?” said Lucas, hoping to cut the tension and move things along.

“Shotguns, to start,” said Waldron. “Mossberg 500s.” Waldron pulled a pump-action 12 gauge from one of the bags. “I know you guys used Benellis——”

“We used anything we could get,” said Lucas.

“The Mossberg will do,” said Dupree.

“Military spec,” said Waldron.

“Pistols,” said Lucas.

“I got you a choice of revolvers, Luke. I know you like the no-jam insurance.”

“Talk to me.”

“S&W Combat magnums. If you’re looking for a hand cannon, I’ve got a .357.”

“Too much.”

“A .38, then.”

“Let me see it.”

Waldron handed Lucas a six-shot Smith & Wesson Special with a four-inch barrel and soft rubber grips.

Lucas hefted it in his hand. “I like this.” He placed it on the bed.

“Now the semis,” said Waldron. “You jarheads favor your Italian pieces. I came up with a couple of M9s in pristine condition.”

Waldron handed a nine-millimeter semiautomatic pistol to Lucas. He ran his thumb over its black checkered grip. He turned the gun sideways and worked the slide. When it locked open he inspected the chamber.

“Looks clean,” said Lucas.

“I stripped and bored them myself,” said Waldron.

“Military-issue mags?”

“Beretta, dad.”

“Better,” said Lucas. “We’ll take ’em both. That okay by you, Winston?”

“Yep.”

“All with holsters and bricks,” said ­Waldron. “Shaved numbers on the pistols. You get popped, you’re on your own.”

Lucas nodded. “Understood. We’re ­gonna need some goggles.”

“Sure, I got NODs.”

“Throw those in.”

“You need me to show you how to work the goggles?” said Waldron, looking at ­Dupree. “The Marine Corps ­only issued them to officers, right?”

“If you can figure it out, we damn sure can,” said Dupree.

“Let me ask you something, Winston,” said Waldron. “Why’d your ­mama name you after a cigarette?”

“Why do you look like that character on the Frosted Flakes box?”

They showed each other teeth.

“Put it all in one bag, Bobby,” said Lucas. “We gotta get on our way.”

Lucas gave him cash.

At his apartment, Lucas packed the night-vision goggles into his gear bag and found Dupree a pair of his brother Leo’s old gym shorts. Leo had size on him, but the shorts were still too small for Dupree.

“I’m supposed to wear these?” said Dupree.

“It’s just for today.”

“I’ll look like John Stockton and shit. Why we got to pretend like we’re sportsmen?”

“I’m not pretending,” said Lucas. “You are.”

Lucas and Dupree loaded the kayak onto the foam blocks atop the Jeep and fitted Lucas’s old bike, a Trek hybrid, into the hitch-mounted rack. They drove downtown to Pennsylvania Avenue, which was Route 4, and took it out of the city to 301, in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Turning off the highway, just 20 miles from D.C., they were suddenly in a sparsely populated hilly terrain of forests and farmland, tobacco barns, old houses and churches. The occasional liquor and bait store, and johnboats up on trailers, told them they were near water. Lucas wound up a rise on an asphalt road bleached by the sun, along wooded land, and as they came to a clearing on the high ground they saw the ribbon of the Patuxent River below.

“Jug Bay,” said Lucas. He checked the Google map he had printed out that morning and pulled over on the shoulder. Up ahead was a driveway of gravel with a posted mailbox at its head.

“Could be it,” said Lucas.

He drove on. A half mile or so up the road, at the end of the tree line, sat an old service station with plywood in its windows and a flat island that had once held two pumps. Lucas pulled in and studied his map.

“All right,” said Lucas. “If Lumley gave me the right information, King and them are staying in a house at the end of that gravel road. I figure the house is due southeast from where we are now. I’ll shoot us an azimuth.”

“Man, you don’t know what the fuck you’re doin’, do you?”

“We’ll find the house.”

They drove down to the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary and unloaded their recreational gear. Dupree grudgingly changed into Leo’s shorts and took off on Lucas’s bike.

Lucas put his kayak in at the boat ramp and headed out into a freshwater marsh carpeted in cattails, reed and arrowhead. His hand on the paddle felt sure and strong. He saw a great blue heron, turtles and a northern water snake. A front had taken away much of the humidity, and the sky was clear with full sun. It was one of those days that made Lucas believe in something higher. Whether or not there was an afterlife was irrelevant to him. When he witnessed this kind of natural beauty, he knew. This life was no cosmic accident.

Lucas and Dupree met up again in the late afternoon, changed clothes and drove back over to Route 301, where they found a restaurant with wood-panel walls that had salads, baked potatoes and steaks. They ordered no alcohol and told the waitress to take her time. They were waiting for night.

“How’d you like that ride?” said Lucas.

“Your bike’s a little small for me,” said Dupree, cutting into a medium-rare New York strip. “Like those shorts you gave me.”

“You’ll sleep well tonight.”

“How about you?” said Dupree. “How do you sleep?”

“Fine,” said Lucas.

“I don’t have a problem with that either. You believe everything you read, all of us vets wake up in the middle of the night in a full sweat. But I never have nightmares, Luke.”

“So you’re normal, whatever that is. You’re saying the war did nothing to you.”

Dupree swallowed a mouthful of iceberg lettuce covered in blue cheese dressing. He placed his fork on the table. “You ever take those complimentary tickets they give out to veterans? You know, for Wizards and Nationals games?”

“Sure. I’ve sat behind home plate.”

“Me too. The announcer says the soldiers or marines are in the house tonight, and most everyone in the arena or stadium gets up and gives us a round of applause.”

“They’re paying tribute.”

“They mean well. Then they sit back down in their seats, enjoy the game and forget we’re there. A lot of those dudes own businesses. Why don’t they walk over to my seat and talk to me, see what I’m about. See if maybe they can find a spot on their payroll for a veteran who wants to put his back into it. Instead, they clap their hands and think they’ve done something.”

“It’s for them, not us. Those guys who stand up, with their golf shirts on? We did what they couldn’t have done. And they know it.”

“But they don’t know me,” said Dupree. “I’m not a cold-blooded murderer. I’m not a hero. I don’t have PTSD.”

“But you suffer from a touch of depression once in a while, Winston. Tell the truth.”

“I’m just disappointed, man. I want to go to work every day and get treated like everyone else. I don’t need standing ovations. I don’t want sympathy or a thank-you-for-your-service. Offer me a chance at a meaningful job so I can get my life going. Treat me like a man.”

They ate silently for a while. Lucas looked like he was enjoying his meal, but he was thinking hard about his friend.

“This thing we’re about to do,” said Dupree.

“Uh-huh.”

“All that hardware we got from ­Bobby…that’s for show, right? I mean, we gonna go in strapped and scare the shit out of those boys, right?”

“That’s the idea.”

“I don’t want to shoot anyone. I’m done with that.”

“You won’t have to,” said Lucas. “You’ve got my word.”

Billy King came down the stairs of the colonial with a single piece of luggage in hand. In the soft bag was enough clothing for several days and nights, a couple of disposable cells, his portion of the cash he had skimmed from the coin deal and the remaining cash from the previous jobs he had done with Serge Bacalov and Louis Smalls. He intended to return to the house in Croom, but he didn’t want to leave any of his money behind. In the event the house and its occupants became radioactive and he could not come back, he had everything he needed in the bag. And he had wheels. If a man planned correctly and traveled light, he could stay free.

Bacalov sat at the dining room table. He had field-stripped his Glock and was cleaning its barrel with a bore brush and solvent. Smalls was sitting on the overstuffed couch. He had just done a bong hit of hydroponic and was now listening to an old Baroness CD, Blue Record, through his earbuds, the psych-metal crunch of the music causing him to nod his head. He saw King come down the stairs, suitcase in hand, and he felt a drop in his stomach. Smalls pulled his buds out and stood.

“Where you go, eh?” said Bacalov.

“I’m going to visit a lady friend,” said King.

“Always a woman with you.”

“You should try it sometime.”

King had never seen Bacalov with a woman, though he’d seen him watching them in strip joints and on the stroke sites he bookmarked on his laptop. First time they’d met, they’d been in that meat house on Connecticut Avenue, the one with the notoriously ugly dancers. Both of them at the bar, watching, though by rights King should have been home and satisfied. He’d just come from the Wyoming, where he’d banged his latest crinkle bunny to within an inch of her life. King had struck up a conversation with Bacalov and found his chimp-like face, his one eyebrow and his mangling of the English language amusing. Also, he sensed that Bacalov had fire. They soon tired of their surroundings and moved together across the street to the bar of Russia House, a restaurant and lounge. Bacalov said he’d be more comfortable around his people. But the place was filled with Americans, and Bacalov didn’t talk to any women there either. Mainly he boasted about his criminal past and what he was capable of. Told King about a local man he knew, a moolie, who would maim and kill for hire, even gave him the man’s number so he could verify his claim. King thought that most of it was bullshit and alcohol talk. But not all. He saw potential.

“You put women over our business,” said Bacalov.

“I sold the coins,” said King. “I’m working on the paintings.”

“The paintings just sit here.”

“I left word with Lumley. He hasn’t gotten back to me yet. He will.”

“When are you coming back?”

“Couple, three days.”

“Billy?” said Smalls. “Wait up, I’m coming out too.”

Smalls grabbed his deck of cigarettes and a matchbook and followed King outside to the wraparound porch. King dropped his suitcase to the gallery floor. A motion-sensitive light came on when they stepped outside. It illuminated half the front yard, where the Crown Victoria and Monte ­Carlo SS were parked. The surrounding forest and gravel road were in darkness.

A branch snapped nearby. King turned his head toward the woods.

“Billy,” said Smalls, redirecting King’s attention.

“What did you want, Louis?”

“I just came out to have a smoke,” said Smalls. “Serge doesn’t like the smell of it in the house.”

“Fuck what Serge doesn’t like.”

“He’s our partner.”

“I want a divorce.”

Smalls lit his cigarette and exhaled smoke. “What about me?” He nearly winced at the desperation in his voice.

King looked him over. He knew what he was to the kid. But someday soon, King would have to cut him loose too. King wasn’t anyone’s sidekick or father.

“What about you, Louis?”

“We’re stayin’ together, right?”

“Sure. I’ll see you soon.”

Smalls eyed him warily. King picked up his bag, walked to his Monte Carlo and opened its trunk.

Lucas and Dupree crouched at the edge of the woods in darkness, several yards in from the tree line. The curtains were drawn in the windows of the house and they couldn’t see inside. Lucas had made a sketch of the colonial. He also drew a circle in the front of the house that estimated the size of the pool of light thrown out from the motion detector mounted above the gallery roof.

When the light had come on, Dupree had instinctively moved back a little, causing a branch to snap. The sudden illumination had surprised them when King and the one named Louis had walked out the front door. So had King’s presence and size.

He was as Grace Kinkaid had described him: strong legs, low center of gravity, powerfully built. Blond and wrinkled by the sun. An aging beach stud, his thighs filling out his shorts, sockless feet in boat shoes, polo shirt stretched tight across his upper frame. Big as he was in the chest and shoulders, it paled in contrast to the massive muscle-and-bone structure below his waist.

Lucas studied him as he walked across the yard, suitcase in hand, leaving the lanky, bearded Smalls behind, still smoking a cigarette on the porch. There was athleticism in King’s step and also a jaunty, you-can’t-fuck-with-me stride. King was something out of a painting hung in the dark corner of a museum, the kind that gives nightmares to a child. A goatish figure, more Minotaur than man.

Lucas looked at the nylon suitcase that King was dropping into the trunk of his Chevy. Its contents bulked out the bag’s sides.

King had packed for more than one day. This was good.

In his head, Lucas made plans.

Dupree phoned him twice the next day. Lucas did not take the calls.

In the morning, he phoned Charlotte to see if they might meet for lunch. He ­wanted to talk to her in person, tell her how he felt about her before he made his move on the painting, in the event that things went wrong. He realized he’d never told her he loved her. In fact, he’d never said those words to any woman. But now he felt he could and should say it to her.

Outside of their initial meet in the hotel bar, they’d never been together in public. In his mind he saw them at a nice quiet restaurant, having a good meal, him looking into her eyes, reaching out, touching her hand. Practically speaking, and morally, he knew it was wrong. Charlotte was married. She’d never once expressed a desire to leave her husband. She wanted to maintain her status quo: successful career, marriage, a house in Upper Northwest and a young lover in her bed when she wanted it. A lunch with him out in the open was a ridiculous, dangerous proposition. It would threaten all that she had.

Still, he phoned her. Got the message box, as he knew he would. Told her that he needed to speak with her and asked her to call him back that day.

He waited around his apartment for an hour or so. His phone didn’t ring.

After a shower, Lucas grabbed Waldron’s ripstop duffel bag from out of his closet, and his own personal bag, and laid his equipment out on the bed: flex-cuffs, a roll of duct tape, a bolt cutter, a pair of night-vision goggles, his Blackhawk Omega pistol vest and a looped holster belt that would fit below the vest. Lucas withdrew a Mossberg pump-action 12 gauge and loaded it with rounds of buckshot. He put this on the bed alongside the NODs. He took one of the Beretta M9s and a magazine from out of the bag. He checked the top, steel-jacketed round against the spring for tension, palmed the magazine into the grip and slid the nine into a Bianchi holster. He slipped a second, 15-round mag into the pistol vest and dropped several 12-gauge shells into another compartment. Next, he found the S&W .38, released its cylinder and loaded its chambers with hollow points. He snapped the cylinder back in place and put extra rounds into a third pouch. He slid his phone into the shoulder pouch designed for a radio; he was going to need the phone’s compass to navigate the woods.

He dressed in a black T-shirt, dark blue Dickies, a Timex Expedition digital watch and lug-soled Nike boots. He picked up the bag, walked it downstairs and out to the street and placed it in the cargo area of his Jeep.

Dusk had fallen on the streets. By the time he crossed the line from D.C. into Maryland, it was night.

Lucas had humped the half mile through the woods wearing his night-vision goggles while carrying a bag heavy with gear and iron. He was in superior shape, but still, by the time he reached the tree line bordering the house, he needed to rest. He peeled off his goggles, allowed his breathing to slow and opened the bag that he’d dropped beside him. He then removed the Beretta nine-millimeter and the S&W .38 from the bag and fitted them in the holster belt looped into the pistol vest. He took the Mossberg from the bag and placed that on the ground beside the NODs.

Lucas looked up at the house. One window had a light in it, the others were dark. Dark windows had been a primary danger area in Iraq. So were doorways and doors.

The front door of the house opened. The one called Louis closed it behind him and stepped onto the porch. As he did, the motion detector came on and sent light out into the yard. Lucas remained still. He watched Smalls stand there and light a cigarette.

Carefully, quietly, Lucas got two pairs of double-cuff restraints from the bag. Keeping his eyes on Smalls, he put them in a pouch of his vest. He then retrieved the roll of duct tape and slipped that into the pouch holding the loose hollow points. He picked up the shotgun with his left hand; he needed his throwing arm now.

Lucas felt along the earth until he found a stone. He rose from his crouch and stepped out of the woods, into the portion of the yard still in darkness. He planned to use a box tactic; he would avoid the area exposed by light, move in the blackness and stay inside its line. He got as close to the house as he could without crossing that line and threw the stone, arcing it high into the woods on the other side of the house. Smalls turned his head in that direction as the rock skittered through the branches of trees. Lucas moved the Mossberg to his right hand and broke into a run.

He was on the porch quickly, taking its steps while barely touching them, reaching Smalls, startled and frozen, within seconds. Lucas swung the shotgun, putting his hips into the motion. The stock connected under Smalls’s jaw. He lost his legs and Lucas hit him again in the temple as he was going down to the gallery floor. ­Lucas turned him over, flex-cuffed his hands and ankles and wound duct tape around his head and mouth. Checked his breathing and searched his jeans pockets. Found a phone, a brown envelope holding money, a wallet, matches and a ring holding keys. On the ring were the keys to the Ford. A house key too.

Lucas moved to the door, entered the house and shut the door behind him. He held the Mossberg ready, his finger inside the trigger guard, and stood still. He mentally cleared the room: an open living room–dining room area, a kitchen in the back. Old cushiony furniture, a cable-spool table holding a bong, a chandelier over the dining room table. A banistered stairway leading up to the second floor. Computer equipment heaped in a corner of the room. And square objects wrapped in brown paper leaning against the right wall. His blood ticked.

As his eyes and shoulders moved he moved the barrel of the shotgun. The index finger of his right hand brushed the trigger. His left hand cupped the pump.

He heard a voice from up the stairs.

“Louis. You come back, eh?”

He heard the unmistakable snick-snick of a racking pump.

Lucas stepped toward the stairs and sighted the shotgun. At the top of the stairs he saw an elbow, a small triangle of flesh, peaking over the corner.

“All right,” said Lucas softly.

Bacalov spun around the corner and fired as Lucas pumped off a shell. The banister exploded in splinters before him and Lucas stepped back, then moved forward and rapidly pumped out five more shots up the stairs, hammering the plaster at the top of the landing and tearing up the wall. The shotgun blasts shook the house.

“Fuck you,” said Bacalov, and Lucas heard nervous laughter. He knew what that meant: relief. Bacalov had not been hit.

Lucas tossed the shotgun aside and drew his .38. He stepped out of the field of fire and walked backward, aiming the revolver at the stairs. He stopped and stood beside the couch.

“Take what you want,” shouted Bacalov.

“I’m going to,” said Lucas, blinking his gun eye against the sweat that was trickling into it.

“Who are you?”

“Come find out.”

“I am going to lay down my gun.”

Bacalov appeared on the stairway, shooting in descent. Lucas dropped behind the couch. Bacalov kept his finger locked on the Ithaca’s trigger as he pumped, cycling rounds through the chamber, slam-firing into the buckling hardwood floor and cable-spool table. The room went sonic.

Lucas heard the thump of a shell hitting the back cushion, felt its impact, saw stuffing rise in the air above him.

Bacalov dropped his shotgun and ran across the room. At the sound of his footsteps Lucas came up firing. He squeezed off several rounds and saw red leap off Bacalov’s shoulder.

Bacalov fell behind the dining room table.

Lucas crouched behind the couch. He could hear Bacalov moving chairs. He holstered the .38 and drew the M9, releasing the safety in the same motion. He pulled back on the receiver and let it go. Its recoil spring drove the slide home and chambered a round.

Bacalov, wounded but game, crouched on the floor behind the table and chairs he had pulled together. He drew his Glock with a shaking hand, jacked in a round and wiped at his face. He rested the barrel on one of the crossbars of a ladder-back chair and aimed it in the general direction of the couch.

Lucas readied himself at the edge of the couch. With his left hand he pushed at the couch and moved it, and Bacalov let off several shots, punching lead into the cushions, and at that Lucas came up over the couch-back and fired off many rounds at the chandelier. Glass and metal rained down on Bacalov and bit his face, and once again Lucas dropped behind cover.

“I am not hurt,” said Bacalov, but now there was a quiver in his voice.

Lucas concentrated. The Beretta’s mag held 15. He struggled to remember how many rounds he’d fired.

Recharge.

“I am not afraid,” said Bacalov.

Yes you are, thought Lucas. So am I.

Lucas released the partially spent magazine and slipped it into his vest. From the same pouch he took a full-load magazine and palmed it home. He readied the gun and chambered a round.

“You are pussy,” said Bacalov.

Lucas stood and fired. The dining room table splintered and Bacalov came up out of his crouch and squeezed off a round. ­Lucas felt a bullet crease the air as he walked forward, focused, firing his weapon, and through the smoke and ejecting shells he saw ­Bacalov dance backward as blood misted from his chest. He dropped his Glock and fell to the floor.

Lucas kept his gun arm steady and aimed. He stepped to Bacalov, stood over him. Watched as he struggled for breath, saw his shirt flutter about the chest wound, listened to the rattle of his filling lungs. His eyes crossed and saw nothing. Lucas shot him twice more and walked away.

He went out to the porch and checked on Smalls, now conscious, his eyes frightened, his wrists raw from struggle. There were no sirens in the distance, no headlights coming up the gravel road. Only the sound of crickets and a faint ringing in Lucas’s ears.

He reentered the house and went up the stairs. He went bedroom to bedroom until he found the laptop on Bacalov’s bed. The size of the shirts hung in the closet told him it was the little man’s room. He’d corresponded with Bacalov via e-mail, and there’d be a record. He took the laptop off the bed.

Downstairs he went straight to the wrapped objects leaning against the wall. He tore off the brown wrapping of the top one and put it aside. He found what he was looking for when he unwrapped the second painting. Two men, bare-chested, one middle aged, one young, just as Grace had described. In the right-hand corner was the artist’s name: L. Browning. The Double.

He went back out to the porch, got his duct tape and returned to the living room, where he rewrapped Grace Kinkaid’s painting. He then went around the room collecting ejected casings and shells, slipping them into his vest. He did the best he could.

He made two more trips outside and back again, carrying his shotgun, the painting and the laptop to the edge of the woods. He left those items there and found his bolt cutters and a bottle of water in the bag. He was still wearing the .38 and nine on his holster belt when he stepped back onto the porch.

“Serge is dead,” said Lucas. “You can be dead too. Blink hard if you understand.”

Louis Smalls closed his eyes, paused and opened them.

“I’m gonna free your hands and turn you over.”

Lucas used the cutters to liberate Smalls’s hands. He removed the duct tape from his face, put him on his back, helped him sit up, then took him by the arm and moved him so that he was in a sitting position against the porch wall. He was still bound at the ankles. Lucas stood before him.

Smalls rubbed at his raw wrists and watched Lucas as he drank deeply from the plastic water bottle. Lucas capped the bottle and tossed it to Smalls. He had a long drink.

Lucas picked up the wallet off the floor, opened it and examined the Maryland driver’s license inside. The name said ­Louis McGinty. The photo matched, but the license’s graphics were smudged and not quite right.

“What’s your real name?”

“Louis Smalls.”

“Billy’s?”

“Billy King.”

“Where is he?”

“With a woman.”

“Where?”

“I don’t know. I don’t even know if he’s coming back.”

Lucas believed him. “How deep are you in with these guys?”

“Deep.”

“Why?”

“I got no one else,” said Smalls.

“You can do better.”

Smalls looked down at his hands. “What’s gonna happen to me?”

“I’m giving you a chance. That depends on you.” Lucas dropped the wallet in ­Smalls’s lap. “Take the envelope with you too.”

Lucas crouched down and cut the flex-cuffs from Smalls’s ankles.

“Why?” said Smalls.

“I got what I came for. It’s done.”

Smalls stood and gathered his things. He took the keys out of the door lock where they dangled.

“I need to get some things out of my room,” he said.

“No. Keep the car keys and give me the key to the house. Get in your car and drive.”

Smalls removed the house key from the ring and handed it to Lucas. Without further comment Smalls went to his car, fired up the ignition and drove away.

Lucas locked the front door of the house. If King did come back, he’d find Bacalov rotting and ripe.

Lucas knew he’d never be able to carry his guns, gear, the painting and the laptop back through the woods. He jogged the half mile to his truck unencumbered and drove the Jeep back to the house, where he loaded everything into its cargo area. He went down the gravel road with his headlights off, navigating by the light of the moon.

Lucas rode back to D.C. in quiet, with the radio off and the windows down. He thought of Bacalov and their battle, and he saw him dead on the living room floor.

He would have killed me.

Lucas stared coolly at the road ahead.

Excerpted from The Double by George Pelecanos, forthcoming from Little, Brown and Co.


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