Congrats to Steve Almond, whose “Now Do You Surrender?” (CR 11.2) has been accepted for inclusion in the 20th edition of Best American Mystery Stories.
As series editor, Otto Penzler picked 50 exceptional mystery stories originally published in North America during the 2015 calendar year. From that short list, guest editor Elizabeth George selected the 20 she judged most outstanding for publication in this prestigious anthology.
A excerpt from Steve’s terrific piece:
“How the hell do you know the name of my daughter?”
Scarface set a hand on Loomis’ shoulder. It was a tender gesture that suggested profound brutality. “Settle down,” he said. “There’s no reason for this to turn in the wrong direction.”
Tony Bennett patted his coat in the way of an ex-smoker. “Quicker we clear this thing up, quicker we’re out of your hair.”
Loomis couldn’t figure out how frightened he should be. He had to pee rather ardently. “What thing?”
“A beautiful day like this,” Scarface said. He gestured toward the sky as if the director of a community theater production had just stage-whispered at him to gesture toward the sky. “Who wants to be standing around in a parking lot? Not me.”
“To review,” Tony Bennett said. “You throw this party, what, two weeks ago? All these kids bringing your daughter gifts and whatnot. So then, just as a common—”
“How do you know what’s going on in my house?” Loomis said. “Have you been spying on us?”
Scarface exhaled through his nose, as if he’d been expecting Loomis to behave this way and it bored him. “Nobody’s spying on anybody. You’re missing the point, Mr. Loomis. Just listen.”
“As a courtesy,” Tony Bennett continued, “your wife went out and bought some nice Thank You cards. And you, Mr. Loomis, told her there was no need to waste good money on such an extravagance. Then you threw the cards straight into the garbagio.”
“I didn’t throw them in the garbage,” Loomis said. “I dropped them into a wastepaper basket. I was making a point.”
Scarface ran a thumb down his nose. “What exact point would that be, Mr. Loomis?”
“That it was overkill. We’d already thrown these kids a whole party with lunch and two art activities and gift bags and I was just sick and tired of feeding into this never-ending arms race of bourgeoisie pieties.”
Tony Bennett yawned. “I don’t understand what you just said, Mr. Loomis. But I didn’t like the tone.” He stretched in such a way as to make visible the outline of something gun buttish against his sports coat.
Loomis felt the flutter in his gut go spastic. The air took on a sour radiance. Scarface’s hand was on his shoulder again, again very gently. “Calm down, Mr. Loomis.”
“I feel like you’re threatening me.”
“Nobody’s threatening anybody.”
“We’re having a conversation.”
“Who are you? What do you want from me?”
“You don’t ask the questions,” Tony Bennett said quietly. “That’s not how this relationship works.” He slipped his hand inside his jacket and let it stay there. “How it works is you go get in your car there and drive home and kiss your wife and send those thank you notes.”