"Listen, Mags. I've got something to tell you," he says. He's worried, chewing at his lip as he fiddles with his key fob.
"You firing me?"
The edges of his mouth turn up, just a little. "Nah, not today. No, it's about, uh, Anthony Pugh."
Adrenaline surges through my veins. My vision goes starry. Anthony Pugh is a suspect in the killing of at least four women on Long Island's South Shore between 2011 and 2014. Three years ago, I tracked him down, and we arrested him as he was driving toward the beach with a woman named Andrea Delaurio in the back of his car. He'd been assaulting her for days. I believed with every fiber of my being that he was taking her to the beach to kill her. So did she. We saved her life, but, tormented by what Pugh had done to her, she killed herself before we could charge him. We weren't able to get him on the murders, for lack of evidence, and he only served a year in prison on related charges. He lives in Northport now, about ten miles from my house.
"The guys from the Second Precinct who we have checking in on him once in a while called me up just as I was leaving. A couple times, last month or so, they followed him into Alexandria. Seemed like he was just cruising, you know, maybe nothing to it. Then, last Thursday, he drove by your house." He reaches up to scratch his forehead. He's nervous.
"What the fuck? Why didn't they tell me?"
"They weren't sure he meant to drive by. He didn't stop, didn't look at your house." He pushes the unlock button. We both hear the beep. But he waits. There's something else. He doesn't want to say it. "This morning, five a.m., he did it again. Except this time he slowed and looked up at your house, sat there ten or fifteen seconds, then drove away."
I look out across the parking lot, toward Veterans Memorial Highway. It's one of those February days where you might be fooled into thinking spring is on its way. The sun is down low in the sky, shining up a scrubby, empty field across the way. "What should I do?" I ask Marty.
"You don't have to do anything. We can have someone on the house, if you want. We'll definitely keep an eye on him. You'll know if he's coming your way, if he's anywhere near the high school. You and Lilly are heading over to Ireland soon for vacation, right?"
"Sunday. But, what the fuck, Marty?" An image of Anthony Pugh's face when I arrested him flashes into my head. Pale gray eyes, grayish-blond hair; the kind of guy you'd never notice, the kind of guy who looks completely harmless. Even then, when I had him down on the pavement on a shoulder of the LIE, my handcuffs around his wrists, he looked so innocent, so normal, like the battered, drugged-up woman in the back of his car was there by accident. He should be in jail. I shouldn't have to think about him at all.
Marty opens the passenger door for me. "I know. You going on vacation is good, buys us some time. We can try to figure out if he has anything up his sleeve."
"Okay," I say, but I'm still agitated, angry at Cooney.
Marty knows it. "You did your best," he says. "We need to let it go. Let's get back."
I nod, get into my car, tell him I'll see him back at headquarters. I have a ton of paperwork to do today and then I have to go get Lilly from school. I'm exhausted from working and managing her grief over her father's death. The sun goes behind a cloud and once more, it looks like what it really is: a dreary mid-February day, with many more dreary winter days to come. I crank the heater, not sure if I'm cold because of the chill or the idea of Anthony Pugh, out there waiting for something, waiting for me.
The LIE is packed for a couple of exits, then starts emptying out the farther east I drive.
I'm almost back to headquarters when my phone rings. Seeing Marty's number, I answer on the car system and say, "I know that was fun, but come on, Marty."
He snorts. "Ha, no, Mags, we got a body. Just heard from dispatch. The pleasure of your company's required down on the South Shore. Guy got shot on the beach near that water park in Bay Shore Manor. You'll see the cars. Third Precinct got the call. Lab's already on the way."
I feel my stomach drop. Shit. "Okay. I'll get off and head down there. They tell Dave?" My partner, Dave Milich, lives in Port Jefferson, on the North Shore.
"Yeah, when they couldn't get us. He's on the way already."
"I'll give you an update later. Bye, Marty."
I swing into the right lane, get off in Holbrook, and, feeling like I haven't gained any ground at all this morning, head back the way I came.