Logan and Greevey investigate the brutal murder of a junior high school student, with a look at Logan's relative freshness and the way he copes with such day-to-day horrors.
The dumpster stank. Enrique, who as a NYC garbage man had smelled his unfair share of stinks, had to admit this dumpster behind the Joy Luck Restaurant reeked with a special and intense eye-watering odor.
"Must be those cats," he said to Gordo, who was laboriously moving his fat ass out of the cab of the truck.
"What fuckin cats?"
"You know, man. The cats they put in the mu shu pork. 'Cept it's mu shu cat."
Enrique and Gordo dragged the dumpster out where the truck could lift it, Gordo blinking and pressing his hand to his mouth the whole time. Enrique grinned. "What I tell you?" Before Gordo could wave to Ramon to back up the truck, Enrique began clambering onto the top of the dumpster.
Gordo goggled up at him. "What the hell are you doin?"
"I always knew them Chink restaurants served cat. Now I'm gonna prove it." Enrique, crouching on the left-hand lid, wrenched the other lid open. He winced and buried his face in his elbow until the first wave of uncovered stench passed. "Did you ever smell such a puta stink!"
"Quit fuckin' around. We got the rest of the block to do."
"Just a minute." Enrique held the corner of his jacket up to his face and peered into the depths. Depths that held innumerable bags of discarded bok choy, rice gone bad, spoiled slivered chicken. Spork tines pushed against the plastic, threatening puncture.
One bag had broken. Past the ripped edges of Hefty's best, in a languid yet arrested gesture, poked a hand.
Ed McBain's characters were fond of saying that there were only two reasons for murder: love and money. Detective Mike Logan wondered which caused this one.
He and Sergeant Max Greevey waited until the techs had finished taking photos inside the dumpster, and each time the flashes bounced against the metal interior, Logan's scowl deepened. Not only did he hate dumpster cases, he hated cases where the perp thought he was smarter than the city dicks.
"Nice to see after eggs over easy," Greevey said. "What are we gonna call this one? He didn't get mad, he got Glad."
Now the techs were removing the body -- the parts of the body -- from the dumpster. Prepackaged. Through the opaque bags, Logan could make out arms. Long legs. A torso. A head, long brown hair hanging lankly from yet another rip.
"He got mad, all right," Logan replied. "Something happened to make him hurry. Our guy took the time to cut the vic up into so many parts -- why didn't he have the time to hide each bag in a different dumpster?"
Greevey looked at him, eyebrows raised. "Is that how you'd do it?"
"No, I'd take the body upstate and dump it in a hog lot." Then, as Greevey continued to look at him, Logan shrugged and added, "I heard some stories."
"You're cooping with girlie hog farmers now? Not too thick upon the ground in the big city."
"I get around." Logan slipped on a pair of gloves and approached the M.E., who was carefully slitting open the bags one by one, and then placing each body part together in a gruesome puzzle. White girl, early teens, naked except for a pair of cheap gold-tone hoop earrings. The eyes in the severed head stared blankly at Logan's shoes. He squatted down and gently closed the lids. The techs started shooting again.
"Hooker." Greevey said behind him.
"Maybe -- maybe not. " Logan said. Something about the body struck him, but he could not put a finger on it. Too much of it looked depressingly the same: too skinny, jutting collarbones, budding breasts, bony knees. Bruises glared from livid, blood-smeared skin. The torso bore so many stab marks she looked like a dog bite victim.
"Someone she knew," Greevey said.
"Yeah -- someone close," Logan said, pointing to her lower abdomen -- which was not as skinny as the rest of her. The belly, which swelled in a graceful curve before sloping down to the pubis, seemed to have born the brunt of the attack. The dry lips of stab and slash wounds gaped. "She was pregnant."
Greevey let his breath out in a long sigh.
"It's gonna be a toss-up which killed her, the knife or the hands." The M.E. turned the girl's head so they could see a necklace of bruises surrounding her throat. "I'll bet you dinner she's got a crushed larynx."
The odd thing about the body finally revealed itself to Logan. He turned one hand over, palm up. "We'd better see if this girl ever went to the dentist."
Greevey bent for a closer look. The girl's fingertips, nails and pads, had been sliced away, leaving the white ends of the phalanges shining dully in the growing New York City light.
The ink from his ballpoint kept smearing on the paper. Silently Logan wiped the pen nib on the edge of the pad, leaving a blob that he knew he'd somehow wipe onto his white shirt later. The cook for the Joy Luck Restaurant knew nothing. The dishwasher for the Joy Luck Restaurant knew nothing. The proprietors, an outraged Chinese couple in their fifties, knew nothing; surprise, surprise. "Where are the nosy old gummers when you need them?" He looked at Greevey, who was waving a Polaroid of the girl's face. "Flapping that thing around isn't going to develop it any quicker."
"It helps me think."
Logan took the photograph from Greevey and studied it. The flash had leached the color from the girl's face even further. With his gloved hands he'd tried to comb out her hair, had turned each earring in so that the hoops had brushed her jawline. "Nobody'd mistake this for her yearbook photo."
Two hours of canvassing the neighborhood yielded nothing. Excuse me, ma'am, have you seen this girl? Sir, does this person look familiar to you? Convenience store owners, security guards, bums parked on their coveted length of corrugated cardboard. Nobody had ever seen her before in their lives.
"Of course not," Logan grumbled. His stomach growled in echo. "Come on. I need a break."
Greevey checked his watch. "Christ, I should think so. I was beginning to think you were holding out on me."
They crossed 110th and went into the Park. Greevey ordered two dogs from the vendor who had set his cart up between the entrance and the placidly glinting Harlem Meer. Beneath the green awning his dark face beamed, and Logan found himself smiling back.
"Irie, mon," the vendor said. He chuckled at their blank faces. "Nice day."
"Not for everybody," Greevey said. He crammed about two inches of sauerkraut-covered dog into his mouth and handed the girl's picture to the vendor.
The vendor wiped his hands carefully on a napkin and then took the photo, holding it by the edges. He sucked on his teeth and shook his head. "Ahh, look at dot. Smadi juked her bad."
"You got that right. You know her?" Logan asked.
He pored over the photograph, dreadlocks tumbling forward over his shoulders. "No, mon; I cyaan help you." The concerned expression on his knobby face cleared, and he grinned. "Cho! Why you wan to aks me when dere's another cop over dere?" He turned and beckoned with a great sweep of his left arm. "Hey, Lady Cop, come yah a lilly bit!"
Logan followed his gesture to see two mounted police several yards away. One of them leaned down to speak to the grade-schoolers who were patting the horse. Waving elaborately, the kids broke away and raced each other to the lake, book bags bouncing on their narrow shoulders. The two cops walked their horses over to the vendor, and as they came closer Logan saw that one of them was indeed a woman.
Her voice was amused as she spoke to the hot dog vendor. "What is it, Judah?"
Before either Greevey or Logan could say anything, the vendor handed the female officer the dead girl's Polaroid. "Dis yah gentlemen wan to know about dis lilly dawta."
"Sargent Greevey and Detective Logan from the Two-Seven," Greevey said. "We caught a call this morning on this vic shoved into a dumpster. Absolutely no ID."
"Ain't that a bitch," her partner said sympathetically. His expression was both affable and opaque behind wire-rimmed glasses. "Hansen and Velasquez. No leads at all, huh?"
"We got squat. Probably a hooker, perp kills her, we find her God knows how many miles from the scene. Looks like Times Square next."
The woman's eyes were the color of wedgewood beneath the pale blue of her helmet. They narrowed as she looked at the photograph. Logan, to his disgust, found himself assessing her as well. Her shoulders were square, the swell of breasts unyielding beneath the tight leather jacket. The blue riding breeches, made gaudy by the yellow seam stripe, fit her long legs snugly. He couldn't decide whether or not the black knee-high boots were erotic; she shifted in the saddle and he glimpsed the discreet steely jut of the rowel-less spur on her heel.
"Don't make plans just yet," she said, frowning. "This girl looks familiar."
Logan's focus snapped down. "Yeah? From where?"
"Dammit, I can't be sure, you understand."
"Yeah, yeah, I know."
"If I had a better photo, I could be. But I think I've seen her before. In the Park." She stared at the Polaroid a moment more, one fingertip grazing the surface, then passed it to her partner. "What do you think, Chris? Ring a bell?"
"Nope. One of the kids that pats your horse?"
"Hell." Her hands tightened on her mount's reins. "I got a million of 'em."
Greevey gloomily took the picture back from Hansen. "Appreciate it."
Logan dug inside his coat and brought out his card. "If you think of anything -- "
She took it, a smile tight on her high-cheekboned face. "Yup."
Logan watched them ride slowly off. The sun slapped against the helmets, the leather, the spurs, softening to a caress on the horses' honey-brown coats. He looked past them to the kids chasing each other around a park bench.
"Last time I checked, this was still a school day."
Max finished the last of his dog, his expression sour. "Who's gonna care? They're probably as safe here as anywhere else in this city."
"I bet that's what she thought too."
Their description of the victim rang the cherries at RCIC. Three days ago Raymond Hartzell had reported his daughter missing to the 33rd precinct. Now the girl had a name. Patricia Hartzell. She lay in a long narrow aluminum drawer at the morgue, waiting for her parents to claim her.
Logan stood behind Greevey while his partner rang the doorbell. He realized he was biting a hangnail and put his hand in his pocket instead. Slow footsteps approached the door. He straightened up, arranging his features into his sympathetic cop face. A shadow briefly darkened the peephole set at eye-level.
"Mr. Hartzell, it's the police," Greevey said, pitching his voice to be heard through the door. "We'd like to speak with you."
Someone rattled two locks and then a chain. The door finally opened half a foot to reveal a woman's face, one hand clutching the door's edge. She started to speak, coughed with her hand to her mouth, cleared her throat. "Can I help you?"
Greevey held up his badge. "Sergeant Greevey and Detective Logan, ma'am. May we come in?"
"It's about Tisha, isn't it?" The woman's light blue eyes glossed with moisture. "Please. Come in." She retreated into the apartment, leaving the detectives to follow.
Greevey was making nice with the woman, who said she was the girl's mother, while Logan did a quick scan. Short, tightly curled brindled hair -- sallow skin -- the stains of sleeplessness or long pain beneath her eyes. If Mrs. Hartzell had ever resembled her daughter, that time had since passed in the wake of age.
The single window in the living room sparkled. By the window a framed print of an angel shepherding two children over a bridge glowed in toxic blues and pinks. The coffee table and matched end pieces bracketing the white upholstered couch gleamed. Cinnamon potpourri and lemon-scented cleanser fought in his nostrils. He felt as if he were in a daytime TV commercial.
"Would you like some coffee?" Mrs Hartzell asked. "It's fresh."
Good to the last drop, or mountain grown? Logan thought, and was sorry for it. Mrs. Hartzell stood in the entrance of her kitchen, her hands clasped together, her mouth trying to stretch into what might pass for a smile. But her lips were trembling and her skin was white at the knuckles.
"Mrs. Hartzell, please sit down," Logan said. He guided her to the sofa with a hand on her shoulder. She flinched at his touch but went obediently. Her head remained bowed, her shoulders slumped while Greevey tried to meet her eyes.
"Your daughter -- " Greevey began, but the woman interrupted him.
"Tisha's dead, isn't she?"
Greevey leaned forward. "Mrs. Hartzell, your husband reported your daughter missing three days ago. A body has been found that matches the description your husband gave."
Mrs. Hartzell gave no sign that she had heard him. Her shoulders remained motionless, no sound escaped her. Logan saw a fat tear fall from her eyes splat onto the back of her fisted hand. After a minute, she whispered. "How?"
"It was an attack, Mrs. Hartzell. She was strangled."
That hand crept up to her own throat and rested there, almost protectively. "Was she... was she raped?"
Logan steeled himself to it, and said, "We don't know, Mrs. Hartzell. The report from the coroner's office hasn't come back yet."
She bit back a tiny moan, brief as a kitten's mew.
"Can you think of anyone," Greevey was saying, "anyone at all, who your daughter might've had problems with? Was she involved with drugs?"
"No, never! Ray found marijuana in Bonnie's dresser once -- Bonnie's our oldest -- and threatened to turn her in for it. Bonnie's in college, now, so we have no idea what she might be up to." She lifted her hands limply and let them fall into her lap once more. "Tisha didn't go out much. She went to school -- church -- choir practice. We tried to keep her safe."
"When did you last see Tisha, ma'am?"
"Oh... Sunday afternoon, after we came back from the park. Tisha said she had to go to the library, for school." She lifted a distracted hand to her head -- someone had done a piss-poor job of cutting her hair, Logan thought idly -- then realized that what he took for a badly evened hairline was in fact the edge of a crooked wig. "She was doing a report on the origin of the clarinet. Tisha loved music."
"And she went to the library?" Greevey prompted.
"Ray took her. He had to go to his store anyway; he goes every Sunday to get everything ready for the next week. He took her, and he dropped her off, and when he went to pick her up, she wasn't there. Not anywhere."
Logan cast about for something else to look at, something that would get them on track and not walled up inside this gray woman's grief. The top of the particleboard entertainment center boasted several photographs. Black and white of a smiling couple in their wedding finery -- Mr. and Mrs. Hartzell, presumably. Baby pictures. A professional shot of a young woman in formal evening wear, rhinestones flaring around her neck. Logan knew this was not Patricia, but he asked, "Is this your daughter, ma'am?"
Mrs. Hartzell raised her head as though it were a lead weight. "Yes," she said dully. "But that's not Tisha. That's Bonnie's graduation photo. Tisha's picture is to the left."
Patricia's photo showed her to be a junior high student with a roses-and-milk complexion, coffee-dark eyes, and a slight pout to her lower lip that would wreak havoc on a guy's hormones -- in about six years. Next to her picture was a wicker basket. Envelopes -- what looked to be posted from some medical center -- lay stacked in it. Bills, Logan thought. Lots of bills. "Pretty girl," he said. "She going to college here?"
"No, she's at Syracuse."
He said as gently as possible, "Mrs. Hartzell, we suspect that Patricia was pregnant."
That made her look up. Blunt as a fist, hurt stared from her face. Her mouth moved soundlessly. Then she put her hands to her face, pressing, pressing as if the intolerable were inside her head rather than downtown. "Oh, Tish. Oh, Tish. My baby."
Ray Hartzell closed his butcher shop to come down and identify the body. He met Logan and Greevey at the entrance to the City Morgue and told them in detail what a shame it was those die-hard mackerel-snappers still wanted fish on Friday during Lent. Logan and Greevey, mackerel-snappers both, shook their heads and let Hartzell lead the way long the hall.
It didn't bother Hartzell that his audience wasn't in his line of sight. He barreled down the hall, arms pumping along to the rhythm of his stride, hands balled into loose fists, the flourescent lights from the ceiling reflected in his slick-backed hair.
Dyed, Logan thought.
Hartzell's braying voice bounced off the hallways and drowned out the echoes of their footsteps. "What's all this Vatican Two about if some of 'em are still gonna eat fish on Friday? Make up their minds, is what they need to do. You gotcher pro-fish Catholics and yer pro-meat Catholics, yer pro-life Catholics and yer baby-killer Catholics, and they can't make up their minds who's a good Catholic and who's not. Me, I'm plain old Presbyterian. No screwing around."
They reached the door to the viewing room. As if a switch had been flipped, the stream of words ceased. Hartzell stood there mutely, not two feet from the faceless grey surface. Logan looked at Greevey. Greevey nodded and reached around Hartzell to push the door open. "After you, Mr. Hartzell," he said.
The three of them walked into the chill room, Greevey buttoning his suit jacket, then touching Hartzell's shoulder, briefly, guiding him to the observation window. The smaller man's throat clicked as he swallowed. "You guys must do this a lot, huh?"
Logan watched Hartzell closely as the tech drew the sheet away from the corpse's face. Lips compressing into a hard line. Lower lids tightening. Already light skin going chalky. The head going forward, shoulders hunching for the time it took for the red hand on that big wall clock to move one tick. The eyes watering, mean. Then the spine straightening, chin going up, arms folded across the barrel chest.
"That's Patricia," Hartzell said.
"Nobody at the library remembers any girl in jeans and a turtleneck sweater." Greevey said, wiping powdered sugar from his upper lip and the tip of his nose, a gesture that made him look like the only coked-up Fuller Brush man in history. "Mike says Dad was diddling her."
"But do you know, Mike?" Cragen asked. He ran his hand over his head and looked at the phone. "I got the press on my ass this week about false arrests. Slow news week; hey, let's dig up something on the PD."
Logan glanced up and removed the box of donuts from his partner's reach, then returned to the notes on his legal pad. One of these days, he swore to himself, he was going to get a microcassette recorder and sweet-talk Cragen into getting a secretary transcribe everything. "I got my cop radar on."
"Cop radar is for shit in the court and you know it."
"All right. This is what I got so far." He poised his pen over the pad, streaked tip tapping each line as he listed what he'd seen with his own eyes. "Number one, someone in that house is not well, and it ain't that charmer Hartzell. I saw a stack of bills from St. Vincent's that would make an insurance clerk's day. Number two, why is this girl's mother wearing a wig? I see a wig on a woman, and what do I think?"
Cragen shrugged. "Chemo?"
"Right. Bills plus wig equals Mom has the big C. You think she's really going to be knockin boots with the old man?"
Greevey pulled a face. "'Knockin boots;' Mike, you've been out in the projects too much."
"But you get me."
"I get you," Cragen said. "Go on, Sherlock."
"Oldest daughter is out of the house. She doesn't have a boyfriend, she doesn't have friends over; she doesn't go to sleepovers."
"Now you lost me."
Logan ran a hand over his mouth, scanning his own crappy handwriting. He hated trying to translate intuition into words, words that wouldn't get the case thrown out by some slick lawyer. "The less people are around, the less chance of someone stopping this bastard's fun."
"What about Mom?" Max asked.
He was unable to keep the scorn out of his voice. "Come on, Max. You think she would say boo if she thought Ray was doing anything with 'her baby?'" He had a sudden flash: that of a door cracked open, one of those timid eyes visible as muffled, desperate noises seeped across the narrow hall -- and then the door closing with a soft, deliberate snick.
"Multiple stab wounds usually means the perp knows the vic, right? This isn't your usual case of rape n run." He shook his head irritably and took an abrupt swig of coffee, burning his tongue. Fuck. "We've seen this kind of thing before. Shit, SV sees it all the time."
"He's got a point, Don. Rape and murder begin at home."
Cragen was watching him. "You want it to be him, don't you?"
"What, so I get to be right? No, no way." He was on his feet, hand in his pocket for the keys. "I want it to be him so that we can nail him."
"All right." Cragen waved them out. "Go to her school. Find the sister. And make sure of your man."
Latrice Morgan was a lusciously plump woman with café latte skin and brilliant aquamarine eyes. A guidance counselor with colored contacts? Logan mused, appreciating the pull of her fantastically printed blouse across her breasts. Greevey, who always knew when his dick went on alert, shot him a look as if to say pervert; and Logan agreed silently with him, chiding himself. He chided himself again as he studied her lips, full and glossy.
"Tisha came to see me several times each year. Sometimes twice a month" she said. She folded a tissue into a square and dabbed each lower lid. "Seventh grade, and six times already this semester."
"Is that unusual, Miss Morgan?" Logan asked, although he knew the answer. That much hadn't changed about junior high.
"It's Mrs. Morgan, thank you. And yeah, for a kid who had no problems in class and never got into a fight? It sure is." She shook her head, tears welling up again. "She came into talk."
"What would she talk about, Mrs. Morgan?" Greevey asked.
"At first she wanted to try to get into the gifted program. She's a bright kid, but she didn't make it. I mean -- she was a bright kid." The tissue dabbed again.
Logan reluctantly looked away from the woman. Framed photograph of Morgan and a chubby man he guessed to be Mr. Morgan on her desk, corkboard of thumb tacked snapshots on the wall. He got up and examined the collage of toothy smiles, finding Tisha near the top in a wallet-sized class photo. Hair pulled back tightly, shoulders brittle beneath the pink and white striped sweater. She seemed to be almost peeking at the camera, sidelong Bambi glance lightened by a small grin.
"After that she came into to talk about her classes, or school events, movies–I tried to make time for her. But with eight hundred other kids in the school -- " She shrugged. "She had problems."
"What kind of problems, Mrs. Morgan?"
Morgan snorted. "You got to ask me that? That girl wore clothes as well as a coat hanger. Every time she came in, I had something for her, cookies, or zucchini bread."
"But she wouldn't eat," Greevey said.
"Oh, she ate, all right. She ate, and I kept her until I knew she wouldn't go puking it up, neither. But every time I brought up the subject on how thin she was, she blew me off. Said she wanted to be a model." Morgan smiled, a world-weary, seen-it-all smile Logan had seen at least once on the face of everyone he'd ever talked to in this city who wasn't still sucking a thumb. "I got problem kids stacked up to here. I can make you a list of who's getting scholarships to Riker's and who's going to end up in the gutter with a needle hangin out their arm. I can't save the world, Detectives. Neither can you."
What's that make us if we don't try? Logan thought. He ran the tip of one finger along the edge of Patricia's photograph. "Would you mind if we borrowed this?"
"Just one more," Logan said.
Greevey scowled -- an expression Logan kept expecting to be followed by an out-thrust lower lip, but somehow never was. Sometimes it came pretty damn close, though. "What's the matter? You ain't got a date tonight?
"No, I ain't got a date tonight. This case is the only thing I want to put to bed right now. I don't like it."
"You don't like any of 'em."
"Oh, and you do?" Logan slid into his suit coat, watching his partner. "Come on, Max... what if this was Eileen? Would you want the cops on her case to knock off early and go home to meat loaf and mashed potatoes?"
Greevey glared at him, looking as if he had another headache. "Don't pull that crap on me. I haven't been home before seven for a week. All this will still be here in the morning."
"That's what I'm afraid of."
Greevey sighed. "We'll get this wrapped soon, Mike. It'll be one of those nice solid ones. I got a good feeling about it."
Logan handed Greevey the fat bottle of aspirin, then looked around at his desk and pulled a face of dismay. "Think I'll stay here and get this paperwork cleared up. That's one thing I don't want find here tomorrow morning."
Greevey looked at him. "You better not be thinking what I think you are."
Logan winked at him. "You got a dirtier mind than I thought you did, Max. Go on. Get outta here and say hi to Marie for me."
Logan found himself pulling up a block away from the newest club on Eighth. He had to go trolling, try to bury the cop for a while in a little fleshly comfort. Right now I need to interrogate some babe in a miniskirt whose bra size is bigger than her IQ.
The line was uncomfortably long. He considered flashing his shield, but then he thought he might have a scotch or two, and he didn't want that shit coming back on him. He waited impatiently, hands in the pockets of his slacks, jingling his keys. Ahead of him was a huge black man with an immaculate cleanhead, preppy in a polo shirt and braided belt, yelling into a cell phone. In front of the black guy stood an anorexic with her hair sprayed to roughly the dimensions of the flame in the Statue of Liberty's torch. She swayed dreamily to the muted beat, glancing over her shoulder. Logan saw the pinpoint pupils of the heavy coke sniffer. Ahead of her was a prostitute, chatting loudly with her girlfriend. The two of them waited behind a spindly youth with a pencil-thin moustache, resplendent in a maroon suit, whom he recognized as one of the low men on the meth ladder. Finally, the guy at the door had a gun -- the butt clearly printing against his blazer.
Inside the music crashed over him. Bodies, spattered in a confusion of lights, gyrated on the dance floor. Before he studied the possibilities further, he pushed his way to the bar and caught the bartender's attention long enough to ask for two fingers of Laphroaig. While the bartender poured, Logan did a casual sweep of the bar. Huge mirror, doubling the glittering profusion of bottles. Amber, garnet, emerald, aquamarine, and diamond liquid turned the array into a drunk's Christmas tree. Logan took his scotch from the grumpy bartender and turned to study the dessert tray.
The majority of women here were accompanied. He wasn't in the mood for hard work, and the prospect of an altercation with another guy over some chick didn't interest him. His gaze roved over the few clusters of women, ganged up with their girlfriends. Pretty, even the homely ones, in the way that all living creatures are pretty–the epileptic light breaking in their eyes, splintering their figures into woman-shaped shards: ass, thigh, throat -- the delicious Eden's fruit of breasts in a white crop-top.
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Logan shut his eyes for a moment. The scotch was smoothing his way finally, rinsing his mind clean of the detritus of his day; he asked for another. This one tasted even better than the first.
He found the white crop-top again, out on the floor. The blonde wearing it was going all out, like some kind of Caucasian tribal queen, her pelvis a marvel of serpentine undulation. Her hands flashed in the light, as expressive as a Balinese dancer's, bangles skating in delirium around her wrists. Her raised forearm prevented him from seeing her face, but he was more than compensated by the sight of her navel peeping just above her belt buckle, the glimpse of her brassiere as she arched her back and rolled her hips in a hypnotic ellipsis. Even as the song segued into a slightly less frenzied mix, she stayed on the floor; and as he watched her it seemed as if his sense of sight had translated into the sense of touch, so tactile was the shape of those tits beneath the ribbed fuzziness of her sweater, her ass beneath the smooth denim. She danced alone.
The driving beat was thudding its way right into Logan's bloodstream. He set his empty glass on the bar and insinuated his way through to the dance floor. Slipping behind her, he found the rhythm and began to move with her; nothing fancy, just enough so that he could -- you bold bastard -- rest his hands on her hips. Beneath his touch he felt her flinch; recover; resume. Though he would never win any medals for dancing, he could fake it well enough so that he could mirror her, knees flexed, pelvis describing a liquid circle to the left, mimicking a position decried by the Church. Her hands dropped to cover his; and they moved together like a wheel and piston, like a ball and socket, effortlessly fluid, the febrile music the oil between them.
The song was fading into something slow, a voice of indiscriminate gender mooing from the speakers. He wanted to pull her flush against him and run his hands up beneath that maddening crop top to cup her breasts. His grasp on her hips tightened convulsively. Breaking free of his grip, she spun to face him; and Logan found himself looking down into the indigo eyes of Officer Velasquez.
The music was still loud, but he had no trouble making out her words. "What the fuck are you doing here?" She was crimson, her hands on her hips. He could almost see her remember why they had been there a minute ago, and she snatched them away to fold her arms beneath her breasts.
"I was dancing with you." Oh, boy, time to turn on the ol' Mikey charm. Somewhere in the depths of his astonishment he found a grin and slapped it on.
She studied him narrowly, actually tilting her head with a curiously raptor-like motion. What hard eyes you have, Grandma. "You had no idea who I was, did you?"
He put his hands up in aw-shucks defense. "Not a clue."
She nodded and then leaned in and bawled over the music, "Gotcha. So what you are is a tramp." Her chin tilted upward in a sharp jerk and she left him on the floor.
Oh, this is a bit much, he thought. Shouldering aside a few entwined couples, he followed her to her table. "Hey!" He caught her elbow. That hard gaze whipped up to his again. "Hey! What about you?"
"What about me what?"
"You had no idea who I was, either. You let me come right up and grab your ass."
Her face shone with sweat. Her eyes bore into him a moment longer until the corners began to crinkle with humor. "I won't tell IAD if you don't. Deal?"
He laughed. "Deal. Say -- you want to go get a drink?"
Shaking her head, she stepped back from him. "Aw, but I was having so much fun here letting strangers grab my ass."
"Come on." Then, as she continued to shake her head, he remembered, and dug out his wallet. He caught Patricia's photo between index and middle finger and flashed it at her. "I got a legit reason."
They walked the few blocks down to a diner where they both ordered coffees. In the somewhat better light at the counter Velasquez examined the wallet photo, silent for long minutes. Logan waited. At length she spoke, frowning, her response so drawn out she sounded half-asleep. "Yes. I remember her... Sundays. Sunday afternoons." She set the picture down on the bar surface and leaned forward, propped on her elbows, hands in her hair. "No bigger'n a minute. Walking with an older man and woman."
"Do you remember what they looked like?"
She stared into space, eyes unfocused. "The woman, I can remember thinking she's mousy." A brittle laugh. "Sorry. The man... black hair. Like a vinyl skullcap."
"You remember how they acted?"
She shot him an unreadable look. "You don't ask for much, do you? Okay. I think I've seen them about three times. Like coming to the Park was a weekly thing. Maybe I missed them before. They were always very subdued, sedate. One on each side of her. That kind of thing stands out when you've got kids running around all over the place, frisbees, balls, dogs, et cetera. I mean, they acted as if they were taking the air, for chrissakes." She looked down at the picture again. "And this girl is dead."
Velasquez opened her mouth as if to say something, then shut it decisively. She sipped her coffee, still staring at the photograph. "I can't say anything that you haven't heard before."
"What do you mean?"
She shrugged, her mouth pursing in a self-deprecating moue. "Well, geez. You see missing kids on milk cartons, on flyers put up in the corner mom n pop store... and I always know they're dead, you know. No wondering about where are they now, or maybe they'll come home. And I think about stupid shit, like did they have socks and shoes on when they died... were they warm... did they see it coming? Did they know? Did it hurt?" She shoved the photograph at him. "And here's another." For a moment she looked up at him, her face utterly solemn, eyes abyssal. "Do we do any good, Logan? Do we do any fucking good?"
Her fingers were cold against his as he gently took Patricia's photograph from her. "I don't know."
The sounds of the bar frothed around them, conversation and clinking of glasses unheeded as they gazed off in different directions. She shook herself suddenly and forced out a laugh. "Well, some fun date I am!" Shouldering her purse, she slid off the stool. "Go out and get the son of a bitch, Logan." She stuck her hand out at him and he took it reflexively. "I'm not sure if it was nice to meet you, but it was certainly interesting, which beats nice any day, doesn't it?"
He wouldn't let go of her hand and she looked at him quizzically. "Velasquez -- we can try again sometime, right?"
"You know -- to have a fun date."
Her lips, soft where her lipstick had rubbed away, pressed together; and she slid her hand from his.
"I'd like to see you again," he pressed.
"I don't think it'd be a good idea. Thanks for the coffee, though. You take care, okay?" And she was gone, ducking around a fat businessman struggling into his coat and then straightarming the door open.
All the vics stared at him. A perp iced a white-collar Boesky, and he went through the motions and bitched to Cragen about overtime; some bum killed a person who had no-one to speak for her... or him... and Logan took the case home with him, slept with it, woke up in the middle of the night with the corpse sitting at the edge of his bed. The female vics were always worse.
Go out and get the son of a bitch, Logan.
He found himself thinking of Velasquez. Her face swam into his consciousness, sober in the apathetic light of the diner, fingertips quiet on Patricia's photograph. There had been no polish on her nails. Logan was indifferent to that kind of thing on a woman, but he had to admit that the sensation of his tongue against the impersonal plastic slickness of well-sculpted nails was exciting. He thought of what it would be like to kiss the female officer's fingers, to slide them into his mouth -- they would be as innocent and dexterous as a child's.
He was aroused, and appalled at his arousal. From the hiccup of a balcony to the refrigerator and back again he paced his apartment, letting the images and instincts from Patricia's case seethe his brain.
He walked out into the night air and leaned against the railing, looking out over the street to the wall of the apartment building facing his. The lit windows living eyes in a dead face. There were horrors behind those shades, those blinds, those curtains, in every building in the city. From the cruddiest little shithole tenement to the penthouses of the inconceivably wealthy, he could move through each layer, and the miasma of what he witnessed every day clung to him like an oil slick. If angels walked New York City, as some crackpots claimed, he could only imagine that one was Grief; and the other, Horror.
The noise and brilliance of the city surrounded him. Scintillation of multicolored lights, beautiful from a distance, each signifying an individual existence in the immediate. And the cacophony–honking, wailing, shouting, weeping, laughing, the subterranean rumble of the trains, all molten sound, the city's respiration. Impossible to separate one voice from such a din, impossible to single out one face from millions.
One. Patricia Hartzell had been one.
The coroner was a pleasant suicide blonde somewhere near Greevey's age. "You sure know how to pick 'em," she said. "Twenty-four weeks pregnant, and she looks like she fell into a Cuisinart."
"Twenty-four weeks?" Logan shot a look at Greevey. "She looked maybe eighteen, tops."
The woman shrugged. "Funny thing about pregnant women. If they want the baby, they get big as a house. They don't want it, they can still fit into their size 5 jeans." She scanned the report on her clipboard. "Plus, I suspect the infant was suffering from IUGR."
Greevey frowned. "IUGR?"
"Intrauterine Growth Retardation, when the baby isn't growing as fast as it should. Sometimes linked to other congenital problems, sometimes caused by poor nutrition, maternal age, smoking, alcoholic consumption. This girl was border-line anorexic." She flipped the top sheet over. "Multiple stab wounds to the abdomen, seven of which penetrated the abdominal wall through to the uterus. The fetus sustained six out of those seven cuts. Defense wounds on the mother's inner and outer forearms, wrists, and hands -- trying to ward off her attacker here" -- she held her hand up across her face, palms turned outward -- "and here." The same hand moved down to shield her belly.
Logan swallowed. "And the bruises around the neck?" he asked after a moment.
The coroner rolled her eyes. "Where wasn't she bruised? Crushed larynx. The strangling is what killed her, not the stabbing. Whoever did it has large, powerful hands."
"So we could be looking for a tall guy," Logan said, writing.
His partner grimaced. "Or just a guy with big hands. Tell us about the fingers. He cuts off the fingertips, so what? He never heard of dental records?"
"He's not worried about her identification -- he's worried about his. She must have fought enough to drive cloth fibers, skin fragments underneath her nails."
"Can't you do DNA testing on the fetus?"
"Tissue samples have already been sent. Don't expect anything back for a couple of weeks -- and if we don't have the father's DNA..." She left the sentence hanging. "Unfortunately, he's not a secreter."
"No sign of rape?"
"Vaginal and rectal trauma consistent with object rape, yes. But he wasn't leaving anything of his with her if he could help it." She lowered the clipboard and gazed squarely at the detectives. "My guess, gentlemen, is that there was an argument over that baby. And I hope you find the bastard who settled the question."
Greevey handed Logan a danish oozing with strawberry chemicals. He watched as Logan bit gratefully into it. "Doesn't affect your appetite, does it?"
Logan grunted in negation through the mouthful of pastry. He set his hand on the doorknob to the squad room only to have it turn beneath his grip. The door swung open and Profaci stood on the other side, grinning. "Lady here to see you two."
The woman seated by their desks rose to her feet as soon as she saw them approaching. Short, stylishly tousled fire-engine red hair, tight black dress, black platform heels strapped with faux leopard. The sight of her chocolate eyes ticked a fingernail against Logan's memory.
Greevey extended a hand as Logan set down his danish. "Sergeant Greevey and Detective Logan. May we help you, Miss -- "
She gave Greevey's hand a brief pump. "Hartzell; nice to meet you; I'm here about my sister."
Bonnie. "Can we get you anything, Miss Hartzell? Coffee, a doughnut?"
She nodded to the styrofoam cup next to her on the desk. "Nah, I'm all right, thanks." She dropped back into her chair. "I drove straight from Syracuse, and I hope you guys got some time." Taking a deep breath, she picked up the cup and held it in her lap with both hands. "Okay, here it is. Our dad did it."
Greevey pulled his chair out from his desk and sat. Logan hiked a cheek up on his side of the desks and folded his arms. Greevey was cool, he had to give him that. "Did what, Miss Hartzell?"
Bonnie stared at him. Two dull red spots blossomed beneath her cheekbones. "You're the two cops investigating my sister's murder, right? After Mom phoned me yesterday that she was dead I called around to find out who was handling her case."
"Well, do you have any suspects? Unless you've already arrested Dad, I bet you don't. Here." She unslung her purse from the back of the chair and brought out a bubble-gum pink wallet. From it she pulled a card and then slapped it down in front of Greevey.
Deliberately he drew out his glasses, adjusted them on his nose, and held the card out, studying it silently. "This is a card for an gynecologist," he said finally.
"And on the back is a number for an abortion clinic. She told me she wanted an abortion. See, you may not understand, but she really hated the idea of carrying her father's kid around inside her."
"Miss Hartzell... we have to consider the possibility that someone else may have been involved."
"Who? The Easter Bunny? That kid could barely pee without someone knowing about it. No way was there somebody else. Dad practically kept a log on her after I left for college. Said he didn't want his daughter coming to the same bad end as I did. Let me tell you, he owned us while we lived with him."
"And then you left," Logan murmured.
She rounded on him. "Yeah, I left, and I have to live with that! I should have known this was going to happen! When Mom got sick... When Mom got cancer, and was in the hospital, he used to wake us up in the middle of the night and ask us to pray with him. After a few days of this I told him, 'Dad, you can't do this, Tisha has to get her sleep.' And then he would just wake me up...he would ask if he could lie down next to me, he missed Mom so much. He was so miserable. I couldn't tell him no, as long as he wasn't bothering Tisha." She was quiet for a long moment, her hands clenched around the cup. Logan watched the edges begin to crumple. "And he began touching me. He was saying how lonely he was, how he missed Mom, how he was a man, and it's different for men, and if I loved him and was a good daughter I'd help him." Suddenly her thumb punched through the flimsy side of the cup. Coffee gushed out and drenched her skirt, and she half-rose, cursing.
When she had finished cleaning herself up with several napkins, she slammed the cup into the trashcan. "Fucker. Fucker; I hate him."
"How long ago was this, Miss Hartzell?" Greevey asked.
"This was -- year before last. I was getting ready to graduate high school and leave for college. I was afraid he would go to Tisha if I said no. He'd been telling her what a cutie she was turning into, pinching her butt and stuff." Bonnie looked down at her stained skirt, silent. The detectives waited. "She called me up about a month ago and told me she was pregnant. She wanted an abortion, so I started trying to get her one. I bet the son of a bitch found out."
Greevey looked at her over the rims of his glasses. "'Trying' to get her an abortion?"
"Abortions are expensive, Detective, especially when you're going to college on a scholarship."
"Last I heard, an abortion was the same price as a cheap mob hit."
She shrugged. "All I know is that when I started calling around for one, I didn't have the money. By the time I might have the money saved up, she would be too far for New York. So I found a place that would still see her after twenty-four weeks. I got the money; I got the appointment for her next week in Kansas."
"Kansas! How far does Kansas do abortions?"
"Far enough. And for two thousand dollars, they'd better."
"Where'd you get that kind of money, Bonnie?" Logan asked. His pen had found its way into his hand; he clicked it repetitively as he listened.
She looked up at him, her expression mulish. "How do you think? Stripping."
Greevey slipped off his glasses and leaned forward. "Bonnie -- do you know how your sister was killed?"
She shook her head. "Mom wouldn't say. But she was stabbed, wasn't she? I mean, that would be the obvious way."
"Well -- hell. Dad's a butcher. Come on. A butcher, for Chrissakes."
A butcher. A late-term abortion. A thirteen-year-old girl. Logan flipped through his notes, hoping some incontrovertible piece of evidence that he'd forgotten about would jump out at him. He sighed and pushed his chair back, fastening the top button of his shirt. "So, you want to go rubberhose the dad?"
"You think she's jealous?"
He looked at Max, startled. "Jealous? Who?"
"You n I've seen sicker things. Sister sees the attention going from her to her sister, gets sent away to college where she can't control the situation. She's not Daddy's girl anymore. Maybe she killed Patricia."
"Max, come on. That's obscene."
"And this isn't?" Max clapped on his fedora. "That's the world we live in, Mike."
The world we live in. Logan silently agreed with his partner as they drove the motor pool Chrysler down to the outskirts of Little Italy. They parked, then hoofed it the rest of the way. The tourists were out, gawking up and down Mulberry street, clusters of Asians with colossal cameras around their necks, barrel-bodied women hollering at their kids in voices that twanged like sprung wire. A couple of teenage boys in front of PJ's mugged for a third holding a camcorder, shoving wadded up bread into their lower lips and gesturing in the promise of an offer no -- one could refuse.
Hartzell's butcher shop was on Hester Street. A sour smile escaped onto Logan's face as he considered the irony of this, and then he was pushing open the door-adorned with blackletter, picked out in gold, both tasteful and ordinary. Old World Meats. The obligatory bell chimed as he and Max walked into meat heaven.
The cold air was rich and strange with spices, the subtle scent of paper, the dark red smell of fresh flesh. Morning light poured into the shop, bathing everything in white reflected from the blindingly clean walls, counters, display cases. Shards of rainbow danced on the far wall; Logan turned to look and saw that dozens of cut glass tremblers -- the kind found with antique lamps -- were strung across one window in a fiery skein. For an instant he was caught in the pleasure of the thing; and then he wondered if it had been Patricia's idea.
He caught up to Max at the counter. The stocky blonde kid behind the counter eyed them as he handed a customer a tightly wrapped package. Five others stood behind her. Max smiled pleasantly and flashed his shield. "Sergeant Greevey and Detective Logan. Is Mr. Hartzell around?"
The kid jerked his head toward a hallway behind the end of the display counter. "He's in his office."
"We'll just take ourselves back there, if that's okay with you," Logan said. The kid shrugged distractedly, most of his attention on the gnarled man in a watch cap requesting three pounds of mortadella.
The air in the plastered hallway was colder, even, then the air in the front room. Logan heard bantering voices echoing in the room at the end of the corridor. Set in the left wall was a open door, looking in on a cheaply paneled cubby of a room with barely enough space for a desk and four file cabinets. A phone, a mug of cheap pens, and a lamp flanked the calendar blotter covering most of the desk's surface. Logan could not be sure unless he actually walked over, but he thought he saw the corner of a magazine beneath the blotter, boasting a bright blue H.
The hallway opened into the room where the actual butchering got done. The whole place looked steel-plated and scientifically efficient–or at least, that was what the designer had wanted people to believe. There was no escaping the tiled floor tilting gradually down to the drains, nor the wall hung with an assortment of medieval looking toothed and edged implements. Knives of every sort; cleavers; scrapers; brushes. Saws.
The lighting in the room could be no more different than the lighting in the front: long fluorescent bulbs delivered unrelenting illumination throughout. It bounced off of Ray Hartzell's absurdly inky hair and painted the stains on his aprons almost black. He looked up, the grin on his face seeping away. His assistant, an older man with a magnificent nose that spoke of bread more exotically leavened than plain Rainbow white -- and how does this old guy, who I bet still speaks with an accent, like our Know-Nothing friend good ol' Ray? Logan wondered–stood with his gloved hands poised above a piece of meat roughly the size of Max's thigh, a small saw in his right fist.
"You got him yet?" Ray demanded.
Max stood foursquare to him, hands in his pockets. Logan drew out his notepad, prepared to scribble... and his gaze kept creeping back to the saw in the assistant's hand, the saws racked up on the wall.
"Detective Logan and I were wondering if we could ask you some questions, Ray," Max said evenly.
Ray took off his gloves and tossed them into a waste can. "Sure. I gotta few moments." He looked at his assistant. "Sal, why don't you take five. I can tell you've been dyin for a cigarette." The grin on his face stretched tightly over his teeth as Sal left. "So, Detectives. Shoot." He chuckled dryly.
Logan spoke up, tap-tapping his pen against his pad, doing his best to look about with the air of a guy who's bored to tears, wishing he were anywhere but here, while all the time his brain was racing through the language of a warrant request. "Can you tell us where you were Sunday?"
"Church of course. Weren't you?"
"And -- after church?"
Hartzell sighed long-sufferingly. "Every Sunday we go out to the park for a walk. My family does stuff together; we don't all go off and 'do our own thing.'" He gave Logan a hard look which was barely shy of a glare. "Check with my wife. She'll tell you the same thing."
"Yeah," Max said. "We got a couple of cops in the park we can check it with too. Say they've seen you a lot. Nice family, every Sunday. What did you do when you left the park?"
"They went home, and I came down here."
"You usually open on Sunday?"
"No, I sure ain't. I don't have to make a buck on the Lord's day, not like some people. I came in to go over the books, make sure everything was ready for Monday." His glance flickered across the table and then downward. Logan followed his gaze to see one of the drains, round, steel faced. For the most part it gleamed dully in the artificial light, but Logan could see the faintest ring of rust-colored grime accrued at the edge. Patricia's blood type is in that drain; get a tech down here right now. His pulse started to slam excitedly.
He glanced up to find Ray watching him just as Max said, "I understand your wife's been ill."
"Hell of a thing, to see your wife like that. I got a wife at home, too. Daughters. I tell ya, if she ever got sick, I don't know what I'd do." Max took off his hat and scratched his head, as if ruminating sorrowfully on the possibilities. "Sure would be lonely, I tell you what."
Ray's adam's apple bobbed once. "A man gets through it."
"Sure... a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do." Max leaned closer to Ray and dropped his voice. "And a man has needs, doesn't he, Ray? Girls aren't like men, no matter what all those libber magazines say. You talk to a female cop, she's not gonna get it. But we know, Ray. We understand."
The word came on a gust of air. "She..."
Logan held his own breath, fingertips biting into the barrel of his pen.
A phone began to ring. Faint, almost tinny, the sound coming from the hallway. The phone in the office.
Hartzell blinked blearily at the two of them. "Phone," he said. He nodded jerkily at them and disappeared down the corridor. The phone continued to ring.
Max looked at Logan. "He's gonna bolt."
Logan swore and turned, but Max was ahead of him, striding down the hallway like a bear after a honey thief, calling Ray's name. Logan was on his heels when a huge flat WHACK slapped their eardrums.
They two of them shoved their way into the office to see Ray Hartzell in his office chair, slumped bonelessly over to one side. Blood and brains and chunks of bone dripped down the front of the file cabinets behind him. A stench of shit and meat, fresh meat, made the room's air unbreathable. The phone continued to ring. Cries of dismay filtered to them from the front.
Logan swallowed hard, took the two steps to the phone, and picked it up. He did not hear what the caller said. "I'm sorry. Mr. Hartzell is unavailable at the moment. Please call back" -- he fumbled -- "another time." The phone clattered into its cradle.
"Now call 911, Mike," Max said softly.
"Yeah," Logan said. He was not sure what he should feel, as he picked up the phone again, as he heard running footsteps from the hall, but the only emotion that swamped every pore so that his hand shook was rage.
Logan flipped the page of his calendar over and stared blankly at the date. Eventually the thought came to him that one week ago Patricia Hartzell had already died. Forensics had vindicated his hunch. They never found the saw he'd used to dismember his daughter, but it had been her blood type in the drain, shrieking to anyone who could hear. The DNA results were due back any day now.
He picked up the phone in mid-bleat. "Detective Logan." And make it snappy.
"I heard you got him." Cool feminine voice. Images of a horse, colored lights plucked at his memory.
"Officer Velasquez, how nice to hear from you." Time turned to honey. He leaned back in his chair, ignoring Max's glance.
"Thought I'd offer my congrats."
The beginnings of a grin faded. "We didn't get him. He got himself."
"Do you feel cheated?"
He watched the fat gold academy ring gleam in the light as his thumb pushed it around and around his finger. "Yeah," he said finally.
"It's not the same, is it?"
He had to get away from this topic, and fast. "Listen -- I know you said no last time, but I'm going to try again. There's a little place a block from St. John's that I've been dying to try, but I don't want to go alone."
"You know it. I think I might need some police protection."
Silence for a long moment. "All right. But only because I'm dedicated to community service. I gotta go, Logan; I'll get back with you. You still have her picture, don't you?"
Logan's hand went to the wallet in his jacket. "Yeah."
"I thought so." More silence. "You're all right."
Logan hung up to finally meet Max's inquisitive gaze. "I'm all right," he said.
"I coulda told you that," Max said, and handed him the box of powdered donuts.