The poet

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank the following people for their fine work and support.

Many thanks to my editor, Michael Pietsch, for long and hard work as always on this manuscript and to his colleagues at Little, Brown, particularly my friend Tom Rusch, for all of their efforts on my behalf. Once again Betty Power came through with a wonderful job of copyediting and more. Also to my agents, Philip Spitzer and Joel Gotler, who were there when it was only an idea, thanks again.

My wife, Linda, and members of my family provided invaluable help to me by reading the early drafts and showing me where I went wrong—repeatedly. And I am most indebted to my father’s brother, the Reverend Donald C. Connelly, for his stories about growing up a twin.

I’d like to thank Michele Brustin and David Percelay for their creative advice and, in matters of research, thanks to Bill Ryan and Richard Whittingham, the fine Chicago writer, along with Rick and Kim Garza.

And lastly I would also like to thank the many booksellers I have come to know in the last few years who have put my stories into the hands of the readers.

1

Death is my beat. I make my living from it. I forge my professional reputation on it. I treat it with the passion and precision of an undertaker—somber and sympathetic about it when I’m with the bereaved, a skilled craftsman with it when I’m alone. I’ve always thought the secret of dealing with death was to keep it at arm’s length. That’s the rule. Don’t let it breathe in your face.

But my rule didn’t protect me. When the two detectives came for me and told me about Sean, a cold numbness quickly enveloped me. It was like I was on the other side of the aquarium window. I moved as if underwater—back and forth, back and forth—and looked out at the rest of the world through the glass. From the backseat of their car I could see my eyes in the rearview mirror, flashing each time we passed beneath a streetlight. I recognized the thousand-yard stare I had seen in the eyes of fresh widows I had interviewed over the years.

I knew only one of the two detectives. Harold Wexler. I had met him a few months earlier when I stopped into the Pints Of for a drink with Sean. They worked CAPs together on the Denver PD. I remember Sean called him Wex. Cops always use nicknames for each other. Wexler’s is Wex, Sean’s, Mac. It’s some kind of tribal bonding thing. Some of the names aren’t complimentary but the cops don’t complain. I know one down in Colorado Springs named Scoto whom most other cops call Scroto. Some even go all the way and call him Scrotum, but my guess is that you have to be a close friend to get away with that.

Wexler was built like a small bull, powerful but squat. A voice slowly cured over the years by cigarette smoke and whiskey. A hatchet face that always seemed red the times I saw him. I remember he drank Jim Beam over ice. I’m always interested in what cops drink. It tells a lot about them. When they’re taking it straight like that, I always think that maybe they’ve seen too many things too many times that most people never see even once. Sean was drinking Lite beer that night, but he was young. Even though he was the supe of the CAPs unit, he was at least ten years younger than Wexler. Maybe in ten years he would have been taking his