by Randall Allen Dunn
Sliding the manila envelope across the bar, the guy said, “Half of it’s there. Ten thousand. The rest when she’s gone.”
As he finished speaking, the stranger turned on his stool, got to his feet, and headed toward the door.
As Tim was about to call the man back, the terrible meaning of those eleven words clarified for him: Half of it’s there. Ten thousand. The rest when she’s gone.
In the Dean Koontz thriller, The Good Guy, simple barroom banter leads an innocent man, Tim Carrier, to accidentally accept a bizarre assignment: to kill a woman he has never met. After mistaking Tim for his private appointment, a nervous man slides him a photo of a woman and an envelope full of cash, with instructions to get rid of her.
Tim had only been playing a joke by pretending to be the man’s contact. He never expected this kind of trouble. And once the stranger disappears, Tim is at a loss for what to do next.
Most of us would know what to do. We could simply pocket the pile of bills and escape, ten thousand dollars richer. Many of us wouldn’t even harbor a guilty conscience over the woman who was scheduled to be murdered.
So Tim makes a simple choice: find the woman and warn her.
He’s no danger junkie or thrill-seeker. He doesn’t seek the glory of a hero. He just feels it’s right to warn the woman, to give her a chance to escape.
It proves more complicated than that, when he discovers that Linda Paquette, the woman he’s trying to save, is a bit eccentric. Meeting Tim at her door, she invites him in, having almost no qualms about bringing a total stranger into her home. A home which houses a 1939 Ford coupe in the kitchen, because she likes to look at it while she eats. She soon invites him to take a “virtual ride” by sitting in the car with her.
Beyond the windshield lay the kitchen. Surreal.
The keys were in the ignition, but Linda didn’t switch on the engine for this virtual ride. Maybe when her mug was empty, she would fire up the Ford and drive over to the coffee brewer near the oven.
She smiled at him. “Isn’t this nice?”
“It’s like being at a drive-in theater, watching a movie about a kitchen.”
She’s not overly concerned when he warns her about the threat against her life. Though she eventually agrees to vacate her home. After which, Tim and Linda find themselves on the run from the real contract killer, Krait. But after several of his attempts to kill Linda are thwarted by Tim, Krait steps up his game.
By threatening Tim’s mother, Mary.
At which point, Krait (using a false name of Kessler) discovers something surprising about his adversary.
“So when we call Tim, I’ll tell him I’ve spirited you away. And I’ll have instructions for him. You’ll play that game. You’re long gone, and you want to come home, and please will he do what the bad Mr. Kessler tells him to do.”
Earlier her cheeks had flushed with anger and humiliation. At last she had paled.
“I can’t do it,” she said.
“Of course you can, dear.”
“I can’t put him in that position.”
“Choosing who’s going to die.”
“Are you serious?”
“What a horrible thing for him.”
“I can’t do it.”
“Mary, she’s a skank he met just yesterday.”
“Just yesterday. You’re his mother. It’s an easy decision for the boy.”
“But he’ll have to live with it. why should he have to live with a decision like that?”
“What the hell? Are you afraid he’ll choose the skank over you?” Krait asked, and warned himself against the anger that he heard in his voice.
“I know Tim. I know he’ll do what he thinks is right and best. But there’s no right here that doesn’t have a wrong attached to it.
Krait took a deep breath. He took another. Calm. He needed to remain calm. He stood up. He stretched. He smiled down at Mary.
“And if he chooses me,” she said, “I’ll have to live with that girl on my conscience, won’t I?”
Krait can’t figure it out. In fact, he considers the behavior of Tim and his mother, Mary, an unsolvable puzzle.
Conscience and compassion are absolute mysteries to those who have none. So when you have a decision to make about whether to help someone else, expecting nothing in return, don’t worry about whether other people support you, or even understand you.
They don’t have to live with the choices you make. You do.
Find more reviews of The Good Guy at amazon.com!
Thursday, July 29th, 2010