Home > The Suit (The Long Con #4)

The Suit (The Long Con #4)
Author: Amy Lane





I READ a LOT of C.J. Box during the pandemic, and he, in turn, was simply fascinated by The Egg Thief. While the “murder bird” plot did not come from them, I was certainly inspired by his description of falconry and the oft-times amoral makeup of those who spend their lives in pursuit of the perfect bird.



Author’s Note



SO AFTER spending a couple of months listening to C.J. Box audiobooks, I really wanted to include falconry in my next Long Con story, but I needed something a little over-the-top and caperish. I stumbled upon a website talking about why we don’t crossbreed falcons and eagles to create super-predator birds. I was as fascinated by the why as I was by the fact that it was totally possible, with a little captive breeding and a little genetic splicing. I just wanted to say that while the murder-bird depictions are completely my imagination, the fact that there really could be murder birds is within the realm of reality so don’t @ me with hatemail about writing murder birds when murder birds could totally be a thing!



Humble Beginnings



Carl in Grade School


CARL COX was nine when he realized his last name was going to get him teased on the playground. That didn’t stop him from doing his duty as a class monitor, though.

“Put that back,” he said, looking levelly at Johnny Clemson, who apparently had a name so unremarkable that he would never get teased about it ever. It didn’t hurt that Johnny had been held back twice and stood head and shoulders above the other kids in the fourth grade—and unlike Topher Garrity, who was naturally genetically huge but had no skill or coordination, Johnny used his advantage to beat up the little kids and steal their lunch money.

Or in this case, taking books from the library without checking them out, then breaking their spines and ripping out their pages. Carl—who really loved reading—was not only the monitor from his class this week, he was also really irritated because Johnny had a book in his hand that Carl had been waiting to read.

“What’re ya gonna do about it, Cox-sucker!” Johnny sneered.

Carl blinked. He knew the swearwords, yes, because he could listen to the big kids use them just like Johnny, but he’d never put two and two together.

He did now and made the sad realization that “suck” was going to be the operative word in this matter and then continued with his mission.

“Put that back,” he insisted.

“No!” Johnny retorted. “Who cares about a stupid book!”

Carl scowled at him. “I do. It’s about birds. Birds are cool.”

Johnny scoffed and held the hardbound cover open like wings, letting the beautiful illustrations flap about in the New England autumn wind. “Then let’s see if this book will fly!” he cackled, and Carl took the only option open to him.

He punched Johnny in the nose and caught the book as it fell. As Johnny howled and doubled over, clutching at his nose as blood spurted, Carl trotted to the library to inform the librarian that Johnny Clemson had tried to steal the book, but Carl was returning it, and he’d like to check it out after school if that wasn’t too much trouble.

The surprised librarian—a sweet-faced older man who had never had children of his own and was often surprised to find other people’s children responding so excitedly to reading—had reclaimed the book and was holding it to his chest when the vice principal strode in, looking baffled.

“Carl!” she said in exasperation. “Did you really punch Johnny Clemson in the nose?”

Carl turned to her and tried a smile. She was a handsome buxom woman in her thirties, sort of momish to the max, but with very stylish suits, and he’d noted that momish women liked his smile. Blond, green-eyed, with a choirboy’s face, Carl could get away with everything from taking extra cookies at lunchtime to getting extra time on his math test by giving a pretty smile.

“He was going to tear the book, Mrs. Stewart. I couldn’t let him tear the book! It’s on birds!” The next thing he said was totally sincere. “Birds are cool.”

Mrs. Stewart stared at him, dismayed because this was not a problem with an obvious solution, and Mr. Patrick, the librarian, held out the book in question.

“He, uhm, just returned it,” Mr. Patrick said hesitantly. “The Clemson boy was in here eating, and I made him leave the library. The book was in the display of science books by the door. I didn’t see him take it on his way out.”

Mrs. Stewart scrubbed at her face with her hand. “Oh, Carl,” she muttered. “What are we going to do with you? Johnny Clemson’s father is furious—you punched his kid in the nose!”

Sadly, Carl did know the penalty for fighting. “Two day’s suspension,” he said glumly. “And you’re going to have to call my parents.”

She let out a laugh. “Maybe not that severe,” she said. She met eyes with Mr. Patrick. “So, uhm, you like that book?”

“Yeah. I didn’t want him to tear it up,” Carl said.

“Well, how about Mr. Patrick checks that out to you, and you can read it in my office this afternoon. It will count as one day’s suspension, and we can skip tomorrow’s. How’s that?”

“You mean I get out of PE?” Carl asked excitedly. Johnny and his friends would be there, and he was pretty sure his new nickname was going to make the rounds.

“Don’t sound so excited, Carl,” Mrs. Stewart said dryly. “People might believe this isn’t a punishment.”

Carl nodded soberly, but inside he was beginning to see the benefits of this law-and-order thing.

And spending the afternoon with the book still left him thinking that birds were cool.



Carl in College


ALAS, BIRDS were not cool enough to let him get a degree in ornithology, although if his college had had a good program, he might have gone for it anyway. But he did get to indulge his other fascination, spawned in part by looking at big picture books with antique illustrations—art history.

“Carl, baby, it’s a very nice BA and all, but what are you going to do with it?”

“Get a law degree!” Carl said.

“Like your Uncle Roger?” his mother asked. “He makes good money.”

“Like international law,” Carl told her. “So I can be an art dealer.” He had in fact completed his first semester of law school at Georgetown. He had grants, loans, and letters of recommendation. It seemed prestigious to him.

She shook her head, unimpressed. “Uncle Roger sues people. This other stuff I don’t know about.”

“Ma, it’s a good degree, and I got lots of grants and stuff.”

“So you got a degree in something useless and you’re going to get a bigger degree in something even more useless?” his mother asked him, absolutely baffled. “Why don’t you get your business degree? Then you can be like your cousin Jed! He got a degree in English and then a degree in business, and now he makes six figures.”

Carl stared at her helplessly. Born in New Jersey, his mother had a wig of gold-and-brown hair piled high, a tight-fitting shirt straining around her bust with a fitted jacket over it in a leopard-skin print, and matching tight pants. A lifelong smoker, she had lines in her lips that could be seen in the lipstick prints on her highball glasses. She’d moved with his father to Maine but had refused to leave the accent behind.

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