Fitz - By Mick Cochrane


On a cool morning in late May, Fitz is standing in the alley behind his father’s apartment in St. Paul. Truth be told, lurking is what he’s doing. Trying to act as if he belongs here, as if maybe he’s waiting for a ride. Keeping an eye on the door, checking the clock on his phone from time to time, doing his best not to look suspicious, doing his best not to look criminal.

This is one of the fancier neighborhoods in the city—“the Historic Summit Hill District.” That’s what real-estate agents call it. It’s where F. Scott Fitzgerald, the famous writer his mother named him for, lived a hundred years ago. It’s full of yuppies—Geoffries and Jennas, his friend Caleb calls them, Pasta-Hounds. It’s less than five miles away from where Fitz lives with his mother on the city’s west side, but it took him forty minutes to get here on the bus. He had to cross one of the longest rivers in the world—the Mississippi—and transfer downtown.

His father’s building is red stone, the walls thick as a castle’s. It reminds Fitz of Fort Snelling, the frontier fort overlooking the river he’s visited on school field trips. It’s got turrets and pillars and balconies. A sleeping porch in the back. It must have been built at the turn of the last century, a mansion for some railroad or grain baron. Now it’s divided into separate units: his father’s, he’s learned, is on the second floor.

Fitz has been in the entry—studied the names on the mailboxes, checked out the catalogs and magazines in the bin—but never beyond the heavy security door. He’s never been in his father’s apartment. He imagines hardwood floors, a fireplace, some kind of gourmet kitchen, a wine rack, a killer home-theater system. His father likes nice things, Fitz knows that much about him. His father’s car—a shiny silver sedan, leather interior, five-speed stick—is parked in its assigned spot, twenty feet away from where Fitz is standing.

There’s no litter in the alley, no broken glass. It’s newly paved. Here they probably don’t even call it an alley. That would be too common. There’s some upscale equivalent—“anterior access road,” that’s what they call it, Fitz thinks, something like that.

A black SUV passes slowly. There’s a woman inside, nicely dressed, wearing sunglasses, fluffing her hair in the rearview mirror. Fitz smiles pleasantly at her, trying his best not to look like a kidnapper, and she smiles back. To her, he probably looks like a typical fifteen-year-old boy. He’s wearing sneakers, black jeans, a gray hoodie. He’s got a backpack slung over his shoulder.

And that’s exactly what he is: a typical fifteen-year-old boy. A sophomore on the B honor roll. A kid with a messy room, an electric guitar, a notebook full of song lyrics, vague dreams about doing something great someday, a crush on a red-haired girl. The city is full of kids like him. America is full of kids like him. He’s nothing special.

Except that he’s carrying a Smith & Wesson .38 revolver in the waistband of his jeans and a gutful of confusion, a lifetime’s resentment in his heart. A gnawing hunger for a father he’s never known.

He kneels down now, retying his shoes for the third or fourth time. Fitz can imagine his father inside, straightening his silk tie, sipping a cup of fresh-ground, free-trade coffee, thinking about his day—a meeting with a client maybe, a deposition—no idea that someone is waiting for him, that his son has other plans.


For more than a month now, ever since he discovered his father’s home address, Fitz has been secretly observing him, tracking his movements. Not quite stalking, he tells himself, more like a cop on a stakeout. Fitz has discovered that he has a talent for invisibility. He’s good at blending in. The week before, he was sitting in the lobby of the downtown building where his father’s law firm has its offices. He was slouched in a chair, headphones on, reading, when his father got off the elevator and walked right by him. Fitz could have stuck his foot out and tripped him. He got up then and stood in line behind his father as he paid for his bottle of water and copy of the New York Times in the lobby snack bar, tailed him as he walked the half block to the ramp where he parked his car.

It started out as a kind of game. It was exciting. Every time he set out, there was some suspense.