EXCERPT: 'Last Night in Twisted River'

"Hell, we used to jacklight deer in Coos County just like this. Shine the light on them, till the deer stared right at you. First the buckshot, then the deer slug." But here the woodsman paused before continuing. "Well, with a deer— if you're close enough— the buckshot will suffice. With the cowboy, we don't want to take any unnecessary chances." "I don't think we can kill anybody, Mr. Ketchum," Carmella said. "We simply don't know how to do that."

"I just showed you how!" Ketchum told her. "That little Ithaca is the simplest gun I own. I won it in an arm- wrestling match in Milan— you remember, don't you, Cookie?"

"I remember," the cook told his old friend. It had turned into something more serious than an arm- wrestling match, as Dominic re¬membered it, but Ketchum had walked away with the single- shot Ithaca— there was no disputing that.

"Hell, just work on your story," Ketchum told them. "If the story is good enough, maybe you won't have to shoot the bastard."

"Did you come all this way just to bring us the gun?" the cook asked his old friend.

"I brought the Ithaca for them, Cookie— it's for your friends, not for you. I came to help you pack. We've got a little traveling to do."

Dominic reached back for Carmella's hand— he knew she was standing behind him— but Carmella was quicker. She wrapped her arms around her Gamba's waist and burrowed her face into the back of his neck. "I love you, but I want you to go with Mr. Ketchum," she told the cook.

"I know," Dominic told her; he knew better than to resist her, or Ketchum.

"What else is in the duffel bag?" the busboy asked the logger; the kid had come out of the kitchen and was looking a little better.

"Fireworks— for the Fourth of July," Ketchum said. "Danny asked me to bring them," he told Dominic.

Carmella went with them to the walk- up on Wesley Place. The cook didn't pack many things, but he took the eight- inch cast- iron skillet off the hook in their bedroom; Carmella supposed that the skil¬let was mostly symbolic. She walked with them to the car- rental place. They would drive the rental car to Vermont, and Ketchum would bring the car back to Boston; then he would take the train back to New Hampshire from North Station. Ketchum hadn't wanted his truck to be missing for a few days; he didn't want the deputy sheriff to know he was away. Besides, he needed a new truck, Ketchum told them; with all the driving he and Dominic had to do, Ketchum's truck might not have made it. For thirteen years, Carmella had been hoping to meet Mr. Ketchum. Now she'd met him, and his violence. She could see in an instant what her Angelù had admired about the man, and— when Ketchum had been younger— Carmella could easily imagine how Rosie Calogero (or any woman her age) might have fallen in love with him. But now she hated Ketchum for coming to the North End and taking her Gamba away; she would even miss the cook's limp, she told herself.

Then Mr. Ketchum said something to her, and it completely won her over. "If, one day, you ever want to see the place where your boy perished, I would be honored to show you," Ketchum said to her. Carmella had to fight back tears. She had so wanted to see the river basin where the accident happened, but not the logs; she knew the logs would be too much for her. Just the riverbank, where the cook and young Dan had stood and seen it happen— and maybe the exact spot in the water— yes, she might one day want to see that.

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