Flowers and music just weren't enough to keep Demetria Elliott safe. According to Marguerite Reed, you need some heavy protection from the snakes of New York, and she notes: "Logan has so many buttons to push -- it's fascinating to write from his point of view. Sometimes his own particular sense of morality and class-consciousness must make his job awkward for him."
By Marguerite Reed
A gorgeous October morning. The wind flirting, not battering; the air lively with the first bite of cold. Leaves cartwheeling down the sidewalk along with the usual paper refuse. Even in Manhattan the leaves turned. A little more faded than the foliage in New Hampshire, sure; but against the city's determined half-tones the oranges, the yellows, the reds shone as if they'd been shaken brand-new out of a box of Crayolas. The dawn light coolly dazzling, like the smile of that aspiring model who always drank her mineral water at the café on the corner, the long-legged girl you never had the balls to talk to.
In the city where Halloween reigned three hundred sixty-five days a year, Sergeant Greevey and Detective Logan both took a breath and stepped from tranquility into chaos. Press already on the scene. A nervous rookie snapping at a bullheaded shutterbug to step behind the tape, get back now, sir. The revolving blue and red from two sets of turret lights battling the cameras' white flash. The crowd of spectators large for this hour of the morning. Students, third-hour shift workers, bored security guards, across the street and at both ends of the block.
Officer Firenzo strolled up to them, his posture easy but his eyes tight. Greevey grinned at him. "And how are you on this beautiful day?"
"I'd rather be Cher's bagel boy, to tell you the truth," he said. "We got a contaminated scene."
Greevey grunted in disgust. "Aw, then let's go home already and start the morning over."
Firenzo jerked his chin at a scrawny, straggled-bearded man flanked by a uniform. "Vic was found by that indigent at approximately oh-five-thirty. Trying to steal the newspapers underneath her for covering. He gave it up when he realized they were stuck to her, and he called it in only after he rolled her and didn't find any money or jewelry. Figured he might get some kind of reward for reporting it."
"So his morning wouldn't be a total loss," Logan said. "Our kind of hero." He took out his notebook. Before he set pen to paper he glanced across the street to the restaurant where in about thirty-six hours he would be meeting Officer Velasquez. An Ethiopian restaurant -- it was almost its own sick joke; but what the hell, he'd try anything once. When he and Greevey canvassed the neighborhood, he could check it out more thoroughly. Their first real date coming up in less than two days. And he didn't even know Velasquez' first name.
The young woman lay sprawl-legged on the stone porch of the cathedral, right arm hanging over the edge. Her hand rested on the second step from the top, fingers curling in. Condensation gleamed on her skin, which had been a warm shade of cocoa. The once-immaculate French roll on the back of her head had unraveled into dull wisps. Black liner smudged the dramatically full eyelids, half-open. The section of cornea exposed to the air was beginning to darken and wrinkle as it desiccated. Her lip had drawn up a little to reveal large even teeth, dull without the sheen of saliva. A crust of blood traced a damning line from her ear down her neck to the classified page of the Times beneath her head where the telltale stain of cerebrospinal fluid, blush-pink at its edges, smudged the newsprint.
Logan looked at the plain cotton slacks, the shapeless smock, the cream cardigan. At least the mutt hadn't stolen her sweater. "I'm thinking not a pross."
Greevey snapped on his gloves. "Not unless medical scrubs are a new kink we haven't heard about."
"Takes all kinds, Max."
"Nuh. We just got all kinds." With a sigh Greevey squatted down next to the body and then dropped to his knees. "Why aren't you down here doing this?"
"You don't have as far to go, Max."
"Fun-ny. Firenzo, we got pictures yet?"
"Yeah, for whatever that's worth."
Greevey slid his hand briefly beneath the woman's shirt. "Fresh. But she's started to cool." Gently he took her chin and tilted it further to her right. "There. That's what killed her. Whacked right at the base of the skull."
Logan wrote. "Messy?"
"Naw. I bet not more than three good smacks with your proverbial blunt instrument."
For the first time Firenzo smiled. "If she was mugged, they were pretty relaxed."
"We got her purse. Took it from the indigent, actually." He turned and beckoned to one of the uniforms, who took the steps two at a time to hand him the black bag.
"That's a big purse," Logan said. He took it from Firenzo and whistled. To him it seemed to be about the size of a briefcase and weigh eight pounds. "Why do women carry such big purses anyway?"
"All the better to ID them with," Firenzo said.
Logan squatted down next to Greevey and unzipped the bag. Inside he found cosmetics, a Fig Newtons wrapper, cheap bottled water, a glasses case, a travel pack of tissues, a smaller, tidier brown handbag. From the handbag he pulled a delicate little wallet. No money. He flipped through about ten plastic sheets of stiffly smiling photos to find her New York driver's licence. She looked up at him from behind the laminate, her exuberant grin reaching her eyes, which glowed even in the piss-poor lighting at the DMV. "Demetria Elliott," he said.
Beautiful Demetria Elliott was gone. Her husk lay oblivious to the detectives who touched her and rifled through her belongings, to the techs who photographed her from all possible angles, to the homeless man who had pawed at her nearly an hour ago in an attempt to steal the newspapers stained with her body's fluids, the sweater still warm from her life's heat. If someone's going to kill you, thought Logan, is it better to die at the front door of the world's largest cathedral? He looked down at her hand, curled upward like a flower, like an empty cup. Like a question.
When Mr. and Mrs. Bumpus of Cow Patty, Kentucky plopped down in front of the boob tube to watch a cop show, they saw guns and fists and city-wide car chases. Did they see the hours of canvassing or hear the cursing over yet another typo on a report? Hell, no. Logan hadn't drawn his piece in months. Sometimes when he closed his eyes and thought about police work, all he could see were piles of Liquid Paper bottles and broken-soled shoes. Waste baskets filled with greasy sandwich wrappers. There was no real way, he supposed, to get across on a nineteen-inch Motorola the exquisite sensation of accumulating one tiny piece of information after another. Finding a needle in a thousand pounds of hay. And then moving on to the next stack and doing it all over again.
No one had seen anything, of course. Even the homeless guy, who'd eaten all of Elliott's Fig Newtons and then replaced the wrapper, hadn't been around, but had drifted down from Grant's Tomb after being rousted by a beat cop. Ah, but people here knew her.
--Demetria Elliott? She a good girl, lives with her grandmama. Mmm-mmm-mmm, Lord have mercy, this like to kill that poor woman.
--Demetria Elliott? Is that her name? Nice kid. Nursing student. She'd come in every once in a while to pick up a few little things, female supplies, notebooks, breath mints. Always had a smile for me.
--Demetria? Damn, I knew I shoulda asked her out. I seen her walking from St. Luke's to the bus stop regular. She was hot. Hell, yeah, she was. She didn't always wear scrubs. Jeans sooo tight and little clingy tops. But I think she had a boyfriend. I saw her get into a car a couple of times, right at the bus stop, like someone knew she was gonna be there so she wouldn't have to take the bus. Yeah, always the same car. You bet your ass I noticed, it ain't every day a Jaguar pulls over at a bus stop. Silver. Real sweet ride.
This last, Logan noted with a private smirk, came from the thick-browed kid cleaning the windows of the Ethiopian restaurant. "The food here any good?"
The kid shrugged his already slouching shoulders. "I guess so. I'd rather have a sangwich, myself."
Logan scanned his notes while they waited for the light to change. "I'm a happy man, Max,"
"We're about to go tell some poor woman her daughter's dead and then haul her down to the morgue, and you're happy? What you are is a sick man."
"Yeah, and you're my partner. At least when we talk to her we can tell her we've got some leads without lying."
"Hey, we never lie."
"No, but we sure make the truth a pretzel sometimes."
"Useful skill to have."
"I bet it is, to a married guy."
Max snorted and they stepped out onto the crosswalk. "What you know about women would fill a teacup."
"Yeah," Logan grinned. "A really big teacup."
Demetria Elliott had lived with her mother on that edge of Harlem that was still in the precinct. The apartment building was no better and no worse than the others in the area. No pumpkins out on front stoops, but Logan glimpsed a few peeping from windows, along with their construction paper counterparts. Past the smell of urine, garbage, and disinfectant tangled depressingly in the stairwell, up three flights, and into the tropically scented sanctum of an apartment so unexpected that Logan was speechless for a full minute. Guiltily he stepped back to the mat and wiped his feet-the hardwood floors, the thick throw rugs demanded it. Floor lamps with frosted glass shades stood here and there like bizarrely proportioned champagne glasses. Logan blinked. Was he really seeing violet brocade and gold leaf in a tenement in Harlem?
The woman who showed them in appeared equally fabulous. Her heavy head, wrapped in a flame-colored turban, came no higher than Logan's rib cage. A pitch black Sunshield wrapped around her eyes, her eyebrows, most of her cheeks. The cuffs of her fuschia pantsuit fluttered as she gestured to them to take a seat.
Greevey stood, too cool to show surprise, but Logan caught him snatching little peeks out of the corners of his narrowed eyes. Logan perched on the edge of a wingback chair and the two of them went through the ritual of apology and bad tidings.
Tears rolled down the deep grooves along either side of her nose -- channeled, Logan caught himself thinking, as if by a thousand years of similar news -- and dripped from the corners of her mouth. From inside one sleeve she brought out a handkerchief, and removed the sunglasses to wipe her face. Then she blew her nose with a trumpet honk, stowed away the handkerchief, and glared at the two detectives.
"I done cry all I goin' to in front of you mens," she said, her voice strong and raspy. "I can grieve later. I spect you want to know all you can about my baby girl."
"Anything you can tell us, Mrs. Elliott --" Greevey began.
"I seen how you look at our home. Eyes like to pop outta your head. I ain't gonna tell you no stories. Demetria was kind of a wild girl but she took care of me. Just got my cataracts fixed. Demetria had got herself a rich boyfriend and was tryin' to get all the goody she could before he got rid of her."
Don't hold back, Grandma Logan thought. "Did she ever tell you what his name was, ma'am? Did you ever meet him?"
"Are you a fool? If you lived here and caught yourself a rich woman, you think you'd be bringin' her down here? I never asked his name. I just wanted to make sure she wasn't doin' nothin' illegal. I just say to her, 'Demetria, he better not be sellin' drugs. He better not be no gangbanger.' She laughed at me and say, 'No, Mama, he just a nice man with a dull life, and I spice it up for him a bit.' I say, 'I don't care how nice he is, don't be gettin' too spicy and catch a baby.' And she say, 'I'm goin' to be a nurse, Mama. If I can't figure out how not to get pregnant then I may as well go back to bein' a checkout girl.'" She wound down and sat staring into space.
Is she seeing her granddaughter, or the wide-screen RCA she won't get now? Logan cleared his throat. "Mrs. Elliott, if you don't mind, we need you to come down to the morgue --"
A wave of her beringed hand cut him off. "Oh, yes, I know all that, I don't mind. It'll be nice to take a car ride." With a catarrhal grunt she struggled to rise to her feet and Greevey helped her up. She beamed at him with a frighteningly bright set of teeth. "Please let me show you round the place before we go. Demetria was so proud of it."
Mirrors, crystal votive holders, and lavender rugs brightened the tiny bathroom. A three-leaf walnut table crowned with a mass of freckled lilies graced-maybe overpowered -- the combined kitchen and dining area. That explained the disturbingly sweet scent.
They found lilies again in Demetria's room, which was a fantasy of robin's egg blue and more gold leaf. "She loved those flowers," her grandmother said. "Always made sure there were some fresh in the house. I think she liked the name as much as the flower. Stargazers."
Tapes and CDs stacked in tidy piles next to a an impressive array of nail polish at one end of the glass-topped dresser. Nothing complicated or controversial, Anita Baker, Jodi Watley, L.L. Cool J. A combination CD and tape player at the other end.
On impulse Logan pressed play. Demetria had liked her music loud. Backed by a lazy snare drum and an unsophisticated keyboard, the singer's voice filled the room. Trained without seasoning, polished but immature -- and all the more aching because of it.
A few stolen moments is all that we share
You've got your family and they need you there
Though I try to resist being last on your list
But no other man's gonna do
So I'm saving all my love for you
"Oh, lord, didn't she love that song." Mrs. Elliott reached across Logan and switched off young Whitney Houston.
Needles showed up in the damnedest haystacks, didn't they? "Would you mind very much if I borrowed this tape?"
"You go right ahead, baby. She played it til I was sick to death. Ain't no way I can ever listen to it again. But there's something you can bring back to me. My Demetria always wore a bronze centime. Pierced, on a little chain around her neck. She got it from her mother, who got it from me, and I got it from my mother, who got it from hers."
"It a French coin. From back in the old days in Haiti. On one side there's an eagle. On the other side there's a man's head. Says Napoleon III."
"Hey, music lover," Max said. He stood by the bed, a smirk on his face, holding up a catalog. "You think the guy on this Sharper Image address label owns a silver Jaguar?"
Demetria Elliott, did you love this guy? Or were you just milking some rich horny sap? Whitney Houston's voice still swooned in his head as Logan glanced down at his desk. He saw the yellow message slip taped to his phone and then did a double take. Patsy Kelly. Holy fuck. Speaking of milking.
"You're gonna pull something, you keep doing that," Greevey observed.
"When did she call?"
"While you were courteously walking Mrs. Elliott out to the taxi." Greevey giggled -- giggled, the bastard-behind a manilla folder. "What a nice Irish boy you are, Mike."
Logan jabbed a finger in Greevey's direction. "I'll get you." Patsy Kelly was the hottest paralegal in Manhattan. He'd met her in the D.A.'s office a couple of months ago. Getting a date with her was like wangling a private audience with the Pope. He was quite sure, though, that the Pope didn't wear pink garter belts from Victoria's Secret... and pink lipstick to match.... His overworked and underserved imagination provided him with the image of those puffy little pink lips rounding into an O.... Suddenly there was a lot less room in his slacks. Logan snatched the receiver from its cradle and began punching in the numbers.
"Patsy Kelly, please." The agreeable feminine voice on the other end asked Logan to hold. Oh, yeah, he could. He drummed his pen against the blotter and looked up to see Greevey watching over the rims of his glasses. "What?"
"Thought you had a date tomorrow night. With someone else."
"Shit." Logan's eagerness collapsed with an almost audible crash. Patsy Kelly. Velasquez. Eyes like melting chocolate, sweet and sulky. Eyes like blue frost, a slap in the face from a frozen fjord-but hadn't he read somewhere about Iceland's geothermal wonders?
As a capricious God would have it, Patsy Kelly chose that moment to let him off hold. "Mike," she cooed into his ear. "Where were you? I missed you."
"Yeah, well. There was this nice little old woman from the projects whose only granddaughter was killed, and she needed a shoulder. I happened to be there." Work it, Mikey..
"Oh, Mike, that's what I love about you. You can't fool me. You put on that devil-may-care façade, but underneath you're so sensitive."
Give me a chance and I'll show you how sensitive. "I'm just doing my job. Speaking of jobs --" Blow-- "how are things at the D.A.'s?" Unfortunately, she answered. He endured her chirpy recital, glancing up at Greevey, and made the quack-quack hand signal that all men understood; uh-huh-ing and interjecting masculine but sensitive noises while he ran her through the latest catalog from Frederick's. He had decided he still preferred her in pink when she finally wrapped up with a "so, Mike -- about why I called --"
"The question had crossed my mind, pretty lady."
"I wanted to know what you were doing tonight. The landlord has to put bug bombs in my building tomorrow and I won't be able to go in for twelve hours... so I thought, who would be the very best company tomorrow night? And Mike Logan was the name that popped into my head."
"Tomorrow night?" If he cut it short with Velasquez, he might still be able to meet Patsy for a drink -- he could clean up his place ahead of time in case Patsy needed a few more hours away from a bug-bombed apartment. Old ladies and little kids didn't have a monopoly on his commiserating shoulder.
"Well, of course, tomorrow night." Was that a hint of peevishness tinging her voice? He must be imagining it.
He was not imagining, however, that shuttling from one date to the next was bullshit. He didn't need to see the expression on Greevey's face to know that. Nor did he want to imagine Velasquez' reaction if he canceled -- but he already was. It would be airy, noncommittal, civilized. After five seconds of silence that would be the emotional equivalent of being plunged into liquid nitrogen. What the hell did he care anyway? The butch bitch was probably a closet dyke anyway, on a horse with a gun. Jane Wayne.
Quit lying to yourself, Mike. You've seen her dance. He cleared his throat-I can't believe I'm doing this -- and plunged. "I'd love to see you, Patsy, but I gotta ask for a rain check. I'm free any other night this week, but I made a commitment for tomorrow night that I can't break."
That was a word, right? Not the sound of a door closing?
"Any other night, Patsy. How about tonight? Any where you want to go." This was bad. He felt himself scrabbling for purchase. "I'd love to see you."
"You have a date tomorrow, don't you? Mike... can't you break it?"
"No, Patsy, I can't. I'm so sorry." He hoped he sounded sincere. Christ, he was sincere.
"Well. She must be pretty hot stuff. I hope she's worth your while, Mike."
Click. There. That was it. He'd lost another chance at Patsy Kelly. He slammed the phone down. Women! And what was that 'worth your while' crack? He lashed out with his foot at his wastebasket.
It rebounded off the side of his desk and fell over in front of Profaci, who nearly spilled his coffee. "Hey! Max! What's the matter with him?"
Greevey blithely rolled paper into his typewriter. "Mike's throwing a tantrum because he can't make up his mind which woman to lead on."
Profaci laughed. "Poor ol' Mikey. Here ya go: woman runs into the precinct, lookin' a real mess, her hair all wild, clothes messed up. "Officer, officer! I've been raped by an Irishman!' The Sergeant goes, 'How do you know it was an Irishman, ma'am?' She says, "Because I had to help him!'"
Logan flipped him off. "You shouldn't tell stories about your mother like that."
Profaci cackled and retreated to his desk.
"Mike." Greevey began typing. "Go catch us some lunch, huh? Try not to seduce the counter girl while you're at it."
By the time Logan returned with Chinese, Greevey was shrugging into his coat, eyes in his doughy face fierce with the joy of the hunt. "Turn right around, Mike, I got a plum."
"Then you can damn well drive. I don't want to be shaking rice out of my coat again."
The woman at the DMV, Greevey explained as they drove to Morningside, was accustomed to running checks from a plate number and coming up with a name. Not the other way around. "You're not the only one who can sweet talk a lady," he said. "Christian Mansfield IV owns a 1989 XJ5. And he's a surgeon at St. Luke's."
Logan whistled. "Opportunity's everything, isn't it?"
"It's a hell of a lot."
Not the first time they'd gone to St. Luke's. Or any of the other hospitals in Manhattan. At least their case wasn't dangling from someone's lifeline. Logan hated death watches. He strolled to the vending machine and waited for coffee he didn't want, while out of restlessness and unshakable habit he surveyed the ER. Greevey spoke to the harried Puerto Rican woman at the desk. A feverish girl slumped against a guy barely old enough to shave: coat hanger abortion. A toddler with a purple mouse beneath his eye bounced on his smiling mother's knee: had it been her fist or her boyfriend's? A vulture of an old woman held a dishcloth to the back of her skull-the ends of her ivory bob slowly and discretely dripped crimson. She could have fallen in the bathtub. She could have been mugged and left for dead.
Thoughts tumbled in his head, edges trying to dovetail. Demetria had been killed relatively tidily. Her clothing had been more or less undisheveled. Good leather wallet, the lab should get some fine fingerprints from it. Had he ever heard of a case where a mugger had stolen the vic's cash and then replaced the wallet, zipped up the purse? The uniforms had searched the homeless. Unless the mutt had the money shoved up his winky hole, he hadn't taken anything. Would anybody other than a bunch of cranked-up bangers have the nerve to bludgeon someone at St. John's front door?
When Greevey walked up to him, he handed over the coffee. Greevey took it reflexively. "I like cases like this," he said. "Dr. Mansfield just pulled down thirty-six hours straight over the weekend and went home to his loving wife and children as of seven o'clock last night. Dr. Mansfield--" -- and now Greevey's smile became cherubic -- "is frequently complimented on his two-year-old Jag, silver grey in color. Wanna take a ride to Fifth Avenue and see how the other half lives?"
"How big," asked Logan, "is a Jag's trunk?"
Fifth Avenue. Home to some of the richest people in the world. Logan immediately longed for a shower. After a little wrangle with security, Logan and Greevey took the elevator up eight floors of gray limestone to Dr. Mansfield's apartment. A maid in a navy blue uniform greeted them in the vestibule and walked them into the high-ceilinged front hall. Logan felt instant and thoughtless resentment towards the Mansfields. Bitch, clean the damn place yourself, he thought. Meaning Mrs. Mansfield.
Standing in the gallery apartment he wanted to turn up the collar of his coat and hunch his shoulders. He might stick the Stars and Stripes on his lapel every morning, just like his dad did, but this kind of place always made him feel like a Communist. Dove-grey fabric covered the walls, lending the hallway a soft shimmer. He supposed it must be silk. His shoes clacked on the floor as if he were in a courthouse. He looked down and saw grey marble. To him it looked like dirty slush. The maid, who might be a lively girl under different circumstances, looked at him and Greevey with a closed face the color of honey. Her amber-streaked hair was pulled back against her head and bound into a savage knot.
"Can I help you... gentlemen?"
Unbidden Greevey held up his shield. "Sergeant Greevey and Detective Logan--"
"Eduardo said you were police. I believe him."
"Is Dr. Mansfield at home?"
She opened her mouth to speak, and a voice cut her off. "Let me talk to them, Tee." Not a man's voice, though. Not Mansfield.
A girl stood in a doorway to the left. No more than nineteen at the outside. A severely demure dress draped over her slim curves, hard little breasts like two fists beneath the expensive material, feet hidden by low-heeled girlish pumps. Mother-of-pearl barrettes accented her mouse-fair braid. Seeing her Logan felt grubbier, cruder. As if nothing separated the hoodlum of eighteen years ago from the successful Detective First-Grade with a seventy-five percent conviction rate. She looked like the kind of girl who had always sat in the front of class at Our Lady of Mercy, the kind who walked past him as if he didn't exist. "My parents aren't home, and I'm expecting my boyfriend Jimmy at any moment. I'll be happy to speak to you in the library for a few minutes. Won't you follow me?"
The maid did not offer to take their coats.
In the library Logan felt infinitesimally better. The pale grey of the entryway darkened to oyster and gunmetal hues. She offered them a seat. Greevey settled politely on a deacon's bench while Logan stood. Leather-bound books lined two walls, a fireplace yawned in the center of the third. A window in the fourth wall looked out on the daunting view , flanked by plaques, a case of trophies. Some of the gold figures were women, tennis rackets poised to trounce their opponents.
She regarded them from a wingback chair, her elbows resting on the arms, fingers steepled. It was a startlingly adult pose. "I'm Cassidy Mansfield." Her head tilted to one side, slender neck rising out of the simple round collar. Something hung from a black ribbon fastened high up on her throat. "Is my father in some kind of trouble?"
"When will they be back, Miss Mansfield?" Greevey asked.
"Please, call me Cassidy. Not for some time. They're out on Long Island looking at a house. We want to get out of the City." She crossed her legs. The charcoal skirt slid upwards, revealing her knee.
"Miss Mansfield - Cassidy -- did your father ever mention a Demetria Elliott?"
Pink bloomed in Cassidy's face. Logan's attention sharpened. "Yes," she said after a moment. "He was having an affair with her. He sat down with Mother and me over the weekend and told us. He's going to try to get her transferred to a different hospital. That's one reason why we're moving."
Belatedly Logan took out his notepad. "You and your mother are moving?"
She laughed. The note caught in her throat. "Please. We are all moving. Just because Dad got messed up with some cheap little nurse doesn't mean the family has to split up. That wouldn't be good for any of us." Her gaze touched on Logan, swung to Greevey, returned to Logan. "Why are you bringing her up? Has she said something?"
"Miss Elliott can't say anything, Cassidy," said Greevey. "She's dead."
The skin over a couple of knuckles, beneath her fingertips, wrinkled. White showed at the tips of her nails. "How did you find about her? Did you go to the hospital? What are they saying?"
"No one had anything but good to say about Demetria Elliott."
"I don't care what they say about her. But Dad -- this was a private thing." The color had not left her face. "Dead!" She put her hands to her cheeks. "Are you going to arrest me if I say I'm not sorry?"
"No, Miss Mansfield." Logan could not bring himself to call her by her first name. "But we're going to want to come back and talk to Dr. Mansfield."
"I suppose you have to." The wispy brows drew down. "You're not saying he's a suspect, are you?"
"Miss Mansfield --"
"That's ridiculous! That'scrap! If you were a world-class surgeon--" She glanced at the two detectives and Logan saw the disdain sizzling in her expression. "Well, would you ruin everything to kill some--"
Say it, Logan thought. Go on and say it.
"--little black bitch who could be had by the next guy flashing his wallet? Would you throw away your home, career, your family? How stupid would you have to be?"
The singer, fooling herself with the sound of her own spun glass voice.
It's not very easy living all alone
My friends try and tell me
Find a man of my own
But each time I try I just break down and cry
'Cause I'd rather be home feeling blue
So I'm saving all my love for you
"Sometimes," Logan said carefully, "people do pretty stupid things when they're in love."
Cassidy snorted. "Love. Don't think for a moment that Dad loved her. He loves us."
Greevey got to his feet. "Thank you very much, Cassidy. You've been very helpful."
She stood as well. The ornament dangling from the ribbon around her neck caught the light. "So my dad's not a suspect?"
"If he's got nothing to hide, then he's got nothing to worry about."
"Then feel free to come back any time, detectives. My father had nothing to do with that girl's death."
She walked them out to the vestibule, smiling, asking disingenuous questions about a detective's workload on Devil's Night and Halloween. "By the way," Logan said. He gestured a little too closely to her throat with one finger. She flinched. He pretended not to notice. "That's a very interesting necklace you have one. Where'd you get that?"
Cassidy smiled, lifting her chin. "I can't tell you where it came from. It's an old coin. Just a good luck piece my boyfriend gave me."
Logan and Greevey rode the paneled elevator in silence for a floor. Logan began biting a hangnail.
"Max -- you ever see any of Eileen's friends dress like that? You ever see a teenager dress like that?"
"Not unless they were out to impress someone twenty years older."
"Did you see that around her neck?"
"I saw it."
"Didn't you say that Mansfield just worked thirty-six hours over the weekend?"
"That's what they told me at the hospital."
When the door opened onto the lobby someone collided with them getting in.
"Hey, buddy, watch it," Logan said, steadying the guy with a hand on his arm. He found himself looking into his own face. Or at least the face of someone who could have been his brother, say ten, fifteen years ago. Black leather jacket, shock of dark hair, a New York complexion on a sullenly good-looking square-jawed face. Earring in one ear. Black boots. Levi's that had seen less-aerated days.
Logan acted on a hunch. "You're gonna spill whatever you're delivering."
It worked. "Hey, buddy, I'm not a delivery guy. I got as much right as you do to be in this elevator."
Greevey had caught on. "Going up to see your mom?"
"Mom, hell. Going to see my girlfriend." He leered at them with a don't you old over-the-hill schmoes wish you were me expression.
"Your girlfriend Cassidy Mansfield?" Logan asked. "You must be Jimmy. We were just up to see her. She's a sweet girl." He matched the kid's grin with his own you wouldn't know what to do with it variety.
"Yeah," Greevey added. "She mentioned you."
The doors closed and they heard the elevator ascending past the floor. "Hey," Jimmy said, but his protest had deflated. "That's my --"
"It'll come back," said Logan comfortingly. Greevey drifted around to the kid's back. Logan crossed his arms and leaned a shoulder against the wall. No sweat. We're just three cool guys hangin' on Millionaire Row talking about chicks. "So who would you rather bang, my man? Cassidy or Demetria?"
"I never--" the kid started, and then he saw his mistake. He ran. Greevey caught his jacket and the kid eeled out of it, stumbling past a portly family couple walking into the lobby, and out of the glass plate doors. Logan was right on his heels.
Goddamn him, Jimmy tore right into the street, dodging and dashing among the cars.
Play in traffic, pal? That's okay, I do that too. Logan stuttered past a bus, spun around the nose of a cab, and spotted Jimmy pounding up the sidewalk, blundering into well-dressed pedestrians. Logan raced after him. Thanks for clearing a path -- A burly woman blatantly put herself in Jimmy's way. He shoved into her, trying to knock her down, and she fisted her hands in his T-shirt. He punched her. Blood spurted from her nose. As Logan caught up to them he saw something that looked like a marble drop to the sidewalk and shatter.
"You little shit! That was my eye! I'm gonna sue!"
"Why'd you run, Jimmy?" Logan set the cans of cola on the table. Jimmy Scanlon, at the age of eighteen, had a record no worse and no better than most young men from Hell's Kitchen. Stole a couple of cars for kicks. One B&E. No history of any kind of assault. The punch there on the sidewalk had been from pure fear.
He did not answer Logan's question. He had not answered any of their questions since they had ushered him into the interrogation room half an hour ago, except to answer that yeah, he'd like something to drink.
Logan sighed. He took off his jacket and slung it over the back of the chair, the dropped down into it. He loosened his tie. He cracked open one can and drank deeply from it. So okay, he'd have to go a little deeper. "I was on my own when I was nineteen. I couldn't wait to get out of my house. I was putting myself through college. I didn't take any money from anyone. Anything I was going to do, I would do it myself. I worked as a cabbie. How many college girls you think dated a guy when they found out he was a cabbie?"
Sheepish laugh. "Not too many."
"Right, not too many. Either they thought I was Travis Bickle or they knew I was too damn poor to show them the kind of time they wanted. And there was this one girl -- she made Cindy Crawford look like trash. Hot. But classy, too, you know?"
Jimmy nodded. He was watching Logan now.
"She was way too good for me, like she was on a different planet, and I knew it. But that didn't stop me. I got her to go out with me once. And then I got her to go out with me twice. More than twice."
A snort of contempt tangled with reluctant empathy. "How'dja do that?"
"Because I did every fucking thing she wanted me to, man. And I paid for it, too. I paid hard, and I paid alone." Logan leaned his elbows on the table. "Nobody knew about the things I did. If they'd known, they would have laughed their asses off."
Jimmy took the cola nonchalantly, as if he'd just noticed it. After a moment he opened it. "People just don't know."
"No, they just don't know."
"When you find someone who's like that - so -- God, so beautiful -- what are you gonna do?" "All guys want to do is make women happy. And they lead us around by our dicks." Logan watched Jimmy gulp the drink all the way down and was not surprised to hear the ring of empty aluminum when he set the can back on the table.
Jimmy inhaled deeply and held it. Here we go. Logan wanted to sit back in his chair and gloat, but he held the pose of the listening ear, the friendly shoulder, the guy who's been through it all and gives a shit.
"I didn't do anything wrong," Jimmy said. His gaze was guiless. "I fucked up, but I didn't kill her. Do I need a lawyer?"
Logan shrugged. "You gonna confess to murder? You said you didn't kill her, Jimmy. I believe you."
"She said that once Demetria was out of the way she would ask her dad about us getting married."
Married; oh, you poor sap. "We'll do our best to help you out, Jimmy. But you gotta help us."
You used to tell me we'd run away together
Love gives you the right to be free
You said, be patient, just wait a little longer
But that's just an old fantasy
"Cassidy found out about this a couple of months ago. This girl -- God, she's so cold, did you ever know a girl so cold? She'd known something funny was going on with her dad's finances for a while. Money not available when she wanted it. There was a big trip to Europe she'd been looking forward to, she was going to take a year off before she went to college. That got cancelled. She was only going to get a week in the Bahamas or someplace. She didn't get the car she wanted. So she started snooping and found all kinds of bills. She even got ahold of a copy of her dad's will somehow. And Demetria was in it. Maybe he did love her. Cassidy asked me to look at what Demetria was doing to her family. Said she was blackmailing him. I said, why don't you go to the cops? That's a good one -- me, wanting to go to the cops. She blew up about that. Said she didn't want her family's name dragged through the dirt. Just because her dad lay down with pigs didn't mean we all had to get muddy.
"She asked me to kill Demetria."
"What did you tell her?"
"I said hell no, whattaya think? I ain't no prize, but I'm not a murderer. No way. So she asked me if I could just scare her. You know. 'Stay away from Dr. Mansfield or else.' So I thought about that. But I didn't like it. From what I'd heard about Demetria, I didn't think some guy waving a baseball bat around would scare her. She'd just go to the cops. And that'd be my ass." Jimmy's laugh held no humor. "I've had enough of cops to know I don't want to fuck up anymore.
"So.... You got a cigarette? I quit while I was with Cassidy; she hated it. But I don't think I'm gonna have to worry about that anymore."
"We'll get you one in a while," Logan said.
"Hey, okay, you're the man, right?" Jimmy began fiddling with the pop-top on the can, bending it back and forth. "Last night she called me from a payphone. She said she'd just blew the bitch's lights out. That was how she said it, too. 'Jimmy, I just blew that bitch's lights out and you're the only one who can help me.' She told me where she was, to come get her, and then she hung up the phone.
"I didn't know what to do. She was letting me use her car... so I drove down to where she said she was. And I find her -- I find her in a diner drinking a glass of milk and eating a piece of pie. Like it was nothing. Just nothing. She wasn't even shaking. I was, man, I was shaking like a leaf.
"She'd dragged the body behind a dumpster and put cardboard over it. But she didn't want to leave it there. She asked me to go dump it somewhere. In the East River, if I could. And to dump the pipe she'd hit her with. So I asked her where she was parked. She didn't want me to use the car she'd driven.
"Did she say why?"
"That was her precious daddy's Jag. She said to put the body in her car and then afterwards she'd vacuum it out and sell it.
"So you're telling me that Cassidy hit her?" Logan shook his head. "I know you're telling the truth. But do you think anyone else will see it that way?"
"Cassidy's a lot stronger than she looks. She's got a helluva right arm. Plays tennis. Brings home trophies."
"You think she'd been planning this for a while?"
"Oh, hell, yeah. That's Cassidy. She's a planner."
"But you didn't dump the body in the East River."
"No. I didn't dump the pipe, either. It's at my apartment in a paper bag. She was so sure I'd cover for her that she didn't wear gloves. " Jimmy brought his gaze up to Logan's. "The moment I saw her in that diner I knew she was going to leave me high and dry on this."
"Why'd you dump the body at the church, though?"
"It was the first church I saw. You wouldn't know it now, but I used to be an altar boy." Jimmy looked away. He stared at the bilious green wall for a while. "I don't know if I could tell you why. I don't know if I have the words."
While waiting for Fingerprinting to report from the length of steel pipe found in Jimmy Scanlon's apartment, after lunch the following afternoon Logan and Greevey went to the coroner's office. The M.E. had the cause of death ready for them: a basal skull fracture from trauma to the base of the skull. The angle of the blow told the story of a shorter, possibly lighter assailant.
"Good thing she wasn't brought in any earlier. I hate the warm ones," the M.E. said. "With them, it's best to let them sit while you go get a cup of coffee."
Greevey made a face. "Thanks for the tip. No chance she was alive when the vagrant found her?"
"Nah. And she was one of the lucky ones. Never knew a thing. I finished one yesterday, histamine levels indicated she was alive for twenty minutes before the guy was done with her. You should see the cuts in her palms."
"We'll pass," Logan said. Before his treacherous imagination began playing the slide show, the phone rang. The M.E. picked it up, listened, and gave it to Greevey.
"Greevey here. Yeah, boo to you too. Got something I'll like?" He threw a twinkling glance at Logan. "Oh-ho, trick or treat!" Grinning like a jack o'lantern, he hung up. "Little Miss Muffet actually has a record. Picked up for shoplifting from Saks when she was thirteen. It was hushed up, but that doesn't mean we don't have her prints. And guess what? Her prints are all over that metal. And they match up to some of the ones lifted from Elliot's purse."
"Any of them Scanlon's?"
"Not a single one."
Cragen, bitching about the press, gave them the green light. They rounded up a couple of uniforms and drove back to Fifth Avenue before the worst traffic of the day. Schoolbuses from the City's prestigious private schools hissed past. The leaves that had tumbled on the breeze yesterday lay sodden on the sidewalks, matted in gutters and in untended corners.
Logan had hoped to feel triumphant when he walked into the palatial structure again. Riding in with the law on his side, ready to ferret out wrongdoing in the highest sanctuaries of the City. Wrong. If anything, he felt worse. Righteousness didn't improve his suit or his self-esteem.
When the security palooka's eyes widened at the sight of the uniforms, Greevey daggered him with one glance. Meekly the guard buzzed them on up.
"I hate this," Logan grumbled as the elevator doors slid shut.
"Grow a pair," Greevey muttered. "You know that if she killed Elliott, it doesn't matter if she's Princess Di."
Mansfield himself was waiting for them when they stepped into the vestibule; a tall, stoop-shouldered man wearing glasses and a puzzled expression. On his feet were purple slippers, of all things. Logan would have bet his paycheck on who gave them to him. Not the smoke-thin woman who hovered in the doorway leading off to the left. Certainly not from Cassidy Mansfield, standing behind her mother. Get on with it, Logan thought. "Cassidy Mansfield," he called. Damn you, Max; why are you making me do this? "Will you please step forward?"
Cassidy, neck to knee in black, sailed past her parents. She refused to meet Logan's eyes.
"Cassidy? Just a minute, here! What the hell is going on?"
The rich wore impotence badly. Logan considered feeling sympathetic towards Mansfield. He rejected it. "Cassidy Mansfield, you are under arrest--" A gasp from the woman as Greevey cuffed her daughter. "--for the murder of Demetria Elliott."
Mansfield growled wordlessly. "I don't know where the hell you've gotten your information, detectives --"
"It's a mistake, Daddy," Cassidy said. She wore her cuffs like sterling bangles. "Just call Rachel Epsom." Her eyes cut to Logan, and now her voice was very soft. "My lawyer will make you look like a fool in front of the judge, Detective." Her gaze traveled him slowly. "But you're used to that, aren't you?"
Logan did not trust himself to take her arm. He let Greevey do that while he Mirandized her. It took all of his concentration to keep the rage from breaking through in his voice.
Looking for a breath mint, Logan found Demetria Elliot's tape. At a stoplight he pushed it into his car's tape deck. Whitney Houston picked up where he'd cut her off. He turned the volume up and let her voice flood the car.
I've got to get ready
Just a few minutes more
Gonna get that old feeling
when you walk through that door
'Cause tonight is the night
for feeling alright
We'll be making love the whole night through
The saxophone smeared the air with melancholy, an intriguing combination with the singer's triumphant words. Fooling yourself, kid, Logan thought. And yet the song heightened his sense of anticipation. The first time he had seen Velasquez she'd been in uniform. The second time, she'd been sweating on the dance floor in jeans. What Velasquez would he see tonight?
At the restaurant he picked a table where he could see the door clearly, noting the pleasantly low lighting, the tile floor, the vivid artwork-African, he guessed-on the buff walls. The waitress padded over to him. She was a brown sapling-slim girl decked out a long white tunic and pants trimmed with wide bands of yellow, green, red, black. She offered him a menu and a buoyant smile. "Would you like something to drink, sir, while you look at the menu?"
"Water, please. And another menu -- I'm waiting for someone."
Twenty minutes later he was still waiting. Traffic. Had to be. He knew he should have insisted on picking her up. He turned away the waitress for the second time, and checked his watch for the thirtieth. Five more minutes and then I'm ordering.
Logan was trying to make sense of the entrees when a voice spoke over him.
"I wasn't sure if you'd still be here," Velasquez said.
He scrambled to his feet, pulling out the chair for her. She settled on it like a swan-like a sugar swan, stiff and crystalline. "The traffic was terrible." As she had the night he saw her dancing, she wore white. A white batwing sweater, a deliriously high white skirt, white fuck-me stilettoes.
"I was beginning to wonder--"
She was clumsy, as he'd never suspected of her. The smile she tried on trembled like a reflection seen in a puddle; she reached for her water glass and knocked over the salt. Quickly she pinched up a few grains and tossed it back over her left shoulder. What was she seeing when she looked at him?
"Traffic -- there was no traffic. I'm lying. I almost stood you up."
After a moment Logan found an acceptable response. "I'm glad you didn't."
Velasquez leaned forward so that her jaw-length blonde hair swung to frame her face. "Tonight I got a very interesting call from a Patsy Kelly in the D.A.'s office who claims you're hers. Three days ago I mention to a friend in the same office that I'm going to dinner with you. The grapevine is a powerful thing."
Logan's hand itched to throw something. "Before we go any further, I want you to know she's not my girlfriend. There's nothing serious going on there." At least she hadn't crossed her arms.
"But I wasn't going to--"
"Let me tell you my side of it." Through a tangy lamb stew served over porous flat bread, he defended himself. Describing the on-again, off-again dance that Patsy had led him on. His refusal to break tonight's date. Velasquez ate very little, her attention on him, until she simply sat with her fork in her hand, her fingers curled around her dewy glass of water. Her pupils had dilated as he'd spoke until her eyes sparkled darkly above her cheekbones.
"I am going to say something awful," she said when he'd finished. "Something revelatory and damning."
"Look, I'm glad you showed up to tell me what happened. Even if you don't want to see me again."
"I don't care."
"What?" He felt dizzy.
"That's what I was going to say before you interrupted, Mike. I plead absolute ignorance of dating etiquette, but I'm fairly sure I shouldn't be saying this."
His focus dropped to her mouth, the firm discreet color of a shell's interior. A slick of moisture from her last drink glossed her lower lip. That mouth said, baffling him, "I don't care if you are serious about Patsy."
He stared at her. She stared back, the beginning of a smile touching her eyes. Around them silverware clinked, conversation ebbed and flowed, surging in his ears like his pulse. Greevey had asked him once how many dates he would have to go one before deciding he wanted to bed a particular woman. One, he'd said. Hell, he wasn't even through with this date before knowing that about Velasquez.
Color rose in her cheeks as if she'd read his mind. Her gaze broke and turned to the windows where St. John the Divine dominated the view. "Tell me about the case?"
After eating they walked to the Cathedral. Floodlights lit the lacy stone, danced on the darkened surface of the rose window. Neither the scaffolding or the yellow police tape could diminish its soaring presence.
"It won't be finished in this century," Velasquez said, looking up at it. "Will it ever be finished?" Without any shift she nodded over to the steps. "That's where she was found."
"Yeah." Logan wanted her to thread her arm through his, but she remained physically aloof, her hands thrust into the pockets.
"But not where she was killed."
"Your Demetria studied nursing, had a good time with someone else's husband, and looked after of her grandmother. So she was hit in the back of the head and left to brain hemorrhage behind a diner during the late night rat shift, wedged between a dumpster and a concrete wall with a shitty piece of cardboard over her."
The skin on the back of his neck prickled. Now he did put his arm around her. "Maybe I'm glad he dumped her here."
She laughed. It sounded like a bone caught in her throat. "Sure, Mike. So am I. Who expects God to find you in a Manhattan alley?"