Blood Count (Artie Cohen Series #10) [NOOK Book]

Overview

Mid-December 2008. Barack Obama has just been elected; all New York is
ecstatic, especially Harlem. On a freezing night a few weeks later,
detective Artie Cohen gets a late call from his ex girlfriend, Lily
Hanes, begging for his help. Lily has been living at the Louis ...
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Blood Count (Artie Cohen Series #10)

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Overview

Mid-December 2008. Barack Obama has just been elected; all New York is
ecstatic, especially Harlem. On a freezing night a few weeks later,
detective Artie Cohen gets a late call from his ex girlfriend, Lily
Hanes, begging for his help. Lily has been living at the Louis Armstrong
Apartments, one of Harlem's great buildings, while working on Obama's
campaign; now her Russian neighbor, Marianna Simonova, has died, and
Lily fears she's at fault and needs Artie's Russian connections. Over a
weekend when the city is locked in by snow and cold, with the financial
markets tanking, one after another people at the Armstrong die. Artie,
out of his element, a white detective in a black world, is drawn
inexorably into the realm of Sugar Hill and the Armstrong, where almost
everybody except for the real estate developers seems locked in the
past.

Working to solve the murders, Artie tries desperately to win Lily back. Blood Count
is a murder mystery, a love story, and a tale about New York, race,
real estate, money, and music, with an ending one could never predict.

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Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Stasio
Reggie Nadelson has a real feel for the sources of life in the New York neighborhoods she celebrates in her vibrant mysteries featuring Artie Cohen, a Russian-born detective who knows the city with the intimacy of a lover.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Set in December 2008, Nadelson’s ninth mystery featuring Russian émigré and NYPD detective Artie Cohen (after 2009’s Londongrad) shows her at the top of her game. Cohen is roused in the middle of the night by a call from a former girlfriend, journalist Lily Hanes, who asks for his help dealing with a dead neighbor, Marianna Simonova. Despite Hanes’s claim that Simonova died of natural causes in her Harlem apartment, Cohen suspects Hanes isn’t telling him everything. When his digging reveals that another elderly resident of Simonova’s building died unexpectedly about six months earlier, he wonders whether a desire to spare the seriously ill suffering was behind both deaths. Alternatively, the tenants may have been in the way of an ambitious developer’s plans to upgrade the building. Nadelson has few peers at incorporating a strong whodunit plot into a contemporary police inquiry, but her real strength is Cohen himself, a tortured but sympathetic soul whose close relationships are never straightforward. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"Nadelson’s ninth mystery featuring Russian émigré and NYPD detective Artie Cohen (after 2009’s Londongrad) shows her at the top of her game...Nadelson has few peers at incorporating a strong whodunit plot into a contemporary police inquiry, but her real strength is Cohen himself, a tortured but sympathetic soul whose close relationships are never straightforward." – Publishers Weekly

 

“Nadelson’s latest offers a fascinating look at culture change in New York’s melting pot.” - Booklist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802779151
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 10/19/2010
  • Series: Artie Cohen Series , #10
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 1.31 (d)
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

A journalist and documentary filmmaker, Reggie Nadelson is the author of five previous Artie Cohen novels: Disturbed Earth, Red Hot Blues, Hot Poppies, Bloody London, and Sex Dolls. Comrade Rockstar, her biography of Dean Reed, the American émigré who became the biggest rock star in the Soviet Union, is under option to Tom Hanks. Born in Greenwich Village, Nadelson now lives in downtown Manhattan.
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Read an Excerpt

BLOOD COUNT

An Artie Cohen Mystery
By Reggie Nadelson

Walker & Company

Copyright © 2010 Reggie Nadelson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8027-7767-6


Chapter One

Who died?"

The night when I finished a case, closed it up, got the creep who killed pigeons in the park for pleasure—and the homeless guys who liked to feed them, I went to bed early, spent a luxurious hour in the sack drinking beer and watching a rerun of the Yanks' 2000 World Series win on TV.

As I tipped over into sleep, I realized I'd forgotten to turn off my phone. When it rang a few hours later, still mostly asleep, I ignored it, until the voice on the answering machine crashed into my semiconscious brain.

"We got a dead Russian. Get yourself over here," said the voice, and I wasn't sure at first if it was real or I was trapped in that nightmare where you're buried alive, pushing up on the coffin lid, hearing a phone ring, unable to get to it.

At the foot of the bed, the TV was still on— pictures of Obama in Chicago— and I realized I was safe at home in downtown Manhattan, and then the phone rang again. It was only Sonny Lippert.

"Who died, Sonny?" I was pissed off.

"Didn't you get my message? I told you, a Rus sian," he said. "Get your ass over here, man."

"Not now."

"Now," he said. "Right now. My place."

"It's the middle of the night."

"Listen. Friend of mine uptown in Harlem, he needs some help, right? One of his detectives found a dead guy up in his precinct with some kind of Rus sian document stuck to him, skewered with a knife, like a shish kabob. He's asking can I get it translated. Asked if I could call you."

"Where is it?"

"What?'

"This document?"

"I have it."

"So fax it over."

"I want to do this in person," said Sonny, and suddenly I knew he was lonely and wanted company.

"He's white?"

"Who?"

"The dead guy."

"Why?"

"You mentioned Harlem."

"I told you, man, he's Rus sian. Probably Rus sian."

Still naked, I went and looked out the window and saw the light on in Mike Rizzi's coffee shop. "I'll buy you coffee, OK? Rizzi's place," I said.

I was surprised when Sonny said OK, he'd come over, couldn't sleep anyhow. Sonny Lippert had been my boss on and off for a long time, right back to the day when he picked me out at the academy because I could speak languages, or at least that's what he always says.

These days I humor him because of the past. He still drives me crazy some of the time, but we're close now. He helped me with some really bad stuff last summer. When Rhonda, his wife, is away, he sits up alone until dawn reading Dostoyevsky and Dickens, listening to Coltrane, drinking the whiskey the doctor says will kill him.

Shivering, I went back to my bedroom. I yanked on some jeans and a sweatshirt, shoved my feet into a pair of ratty sneakers, grabbed a jacket and my keys, and headed downstairs, where it was snowing lightly, like confetti drifting onto the deserted sidewalk.

Who was dead? Some Russian? All I wanted was to go back to sleep.

* * *

"Morning," a voice said, as I walked out onto the street, and I looked up and saw Sam, the doorman from the building next to mine. It was also an old loft building that dated back to the 1870s. But the owners had transformed it into a fancy condo— marble floors, doorman.

A black guy in a good suit, Sam was a presence on the street now. He was a quiet man. Didn't say much, though once in a while we compared the stats of our favorite ballplayers. I said hi and went across the street to Mike's coffee shop.

When I tapped on the window, Mike looked up from behind the counter. He grinned, unlocked the front door, waved me to a stool. There was fresh coffee brewing. Some pie was in the oven. It smelled good that time of morning. From the ceiling hung a string of green Christmas lights.

Mike Rizzi pretty much runs the block: he takes packages, watches kids, serves free pie and coffee to local cops on patrol.

In New York, everybody has a coffee shop, a bar, a restaurant where they hang out. It's the way our tribes set themselves up, claim their piece of territory. To eat, I go over to Beatrice at Il Posto on East Second Street; to drink to my friend Tolya's club in the West Village, or maybe Fanelli's on Prince Street.

"What's the pie?" I said.

"Apple," said Mike. "You're up early, man."

"Can I have a piece?"

He was pleased. Mike's obsessed with his pies.

"Deck the halls with boughs of holly," came a voice over the sound system Mike rigged up years ago.

"Who the fuck is that?"

"Excuse me? That," he said, "that is Nana Mouskouri, the great Greek singer." Mike, who's Italian, is crazy about the Greeks. Over the ziggurat of miniature boxes of Special K, on a shelf against the back wall, he keeps signed pictures of Telly Savalas, Jackie Onassis— he counts her as an honorary Greek— and Jennifer Aniston. "You know her real name is Anastasakis," Mike says to me about once a week.

"'Tis the season to be jolly ..."

"What are you doing around at this hour?" Mike looked at me intently. "You just got home from some hot date? You found a nice woman yet, Artie?"

"Sonny Lippert. Needs me for something."

"Jesus, man, I thought Lippert retired."

I ate some pie. "That's really good, Mike."

"Thanks. So, you ever see her?"

"Who?"

"Lily Hanes. You could bring her over to me and Ange for supper. Ange always says, 'When's Artie going to marry Lily?'"

"Sure."

"What, you met her, like, ten, fifteen years ago? I know you've dated plenty of women, and we liked Maxine and all when you got married to her, but you weren't the same with her like with Lily." Mike was in a talkative mood.

For ten minutes while Mike pulled pies out of the oven and set them on the counter to cool, while I drank his coffee, we exchanged neighborhood gossip. I agreed to go over to his house in Brooklyn— he drives in every morning, around two a.m.— for dinner. But all the time we were making small talk, I could see there was something on his mind.

"What's eating you?"

"Nothing, man."

"You pissed off because McCain didn't get in?"

Mike's a vet, served in the first Gulf War, volunteers at the VA hospital. McCain's a god to him.

"I got over it, more or less. It was that broad's fault, Palin. Geez. Who invited her to the party?" Mike looked over my head toward the door. "You got company," he said.

Chapter Two

Wrapped in a camel hair coat, Sonny Lippert took off his brown fedora and climbed on the stool next to mine. His hair was all gray now. He had finally stopped dyeing it. He tossed a sheet of paper on the counter in front of me and greeted Mike, who brought him a mug of coffee. "Anything to eat, Sonny?"

"You got a poppy bagel?"

"Sure."

"Yeah, so can you do it well toasted, with a little schmear, but not too much? OK?"

"You got it." Mike reached for some cream cheese.

I picked up the piece of paper— it felt thin and greasy, like onionskin— and when I unfolded it, I saw it was printed in Russian. "This is what you called about?"

"Yeah, man, I need you to translate it, Art. OK? They found it stuck in his chest with a knife, like I said, right near his heart," said Sonny, pointing at the paper. I saw the edges were brown from blood.

"Where'd they find him exactly?"

"Harlem, up by the border with Washington Heights. Church cloister. Half buried, dirt all over him."

Mike put a plate down in front of Sonny. He picked up the bagel, spread the cream cheese on it, and bit into it. "Nice," he said to Mike. "Thanks."

"They whacked him before they buried him?" I said.

"They cut him up good, with a curved boning knife, it looks like, same as they used to stick the paper to his heart."

"You said he was still alive when they buried him?"

"I said maybe." Sonny ate another bite of his bagel.

"Who told you?"

"An old pal name of Jimmy Wagner, he's the chief of a precinct uptown, the Thirtieth. One of his homicide guys found this guy a couple days ago. I think. I think Wagner said a couple days. He thinks it's mob stuff. Drugs, maybe. Some kind of extortion."

"Why's that?"

"He didn't say, just asked for me to get him a translation," said Sonny. "Just read it, Art, OK?"

"Don we now our gay apparel, fa la la la la la la la la ..."

"What the fuck is that music?" Sonny said.

"Mike likes it. She's Greek," I said. "The singer."

"Yeah, right. Just translate the fucking Rus sian," he said. "Please."

I gulped some coffee. I put on my glasses. Sonny was amused.

"They're just for reading, so shut up," I said.

While I looked at the blood- stained paper, Sonny made further inroads on his bagel. Mike poured him more coffee. I read, and then I burst out laughing; I couldn't help it. This was stuff I knew by heart, but you would, too, if you'd grown up in the USSR, like I did. I didn't leave Moscow until I was sixteen, and the stuff had been drilled into me like a dentist going down into the roots.

"You find it funny, Art? It's a joke?"

"Yeah, I so fucking do." I read out a few lines.

"In English, for chrissake."

I read: " 'Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.'"

"Jesus," said Lippert. "It's the fucking Communist Manifesto."

"Yeah, your parents would have appreciated it," I said. Lippert's parents had been big Communists back in Brooklyn— it's part of Sonny's history; it never leaves him. Now, he stared at the paper and shook his head, deep in some memory of childhood.

"Does that help?" I said. "Is that it?"

Reaching into his coat pocket, Sonny took out two pictures and tossed them on the counter and said, "Take a look at these."

In one photo was a dead guy on a slab at the morgue. The second was a close-up of the guy's upper arm where there were some tats, Russian words circling his bicep.

"Same guy as they found the paper on?"

"Yeah," said Sonny.

Naked, the dead guy had a huge upper body, heavily muscled arms, a slack face. A lot of Rus sians who work security in the city were once Olympic weight lifters, though I'd picked up at least one hood who'd been a nuclear physicist. Times change.

What were you? I always ask them. What were you back then, before the empire collapsed, before everything changed?

"What about the tats?" said Sonny.

I held up the picture.

"Jesus," I said. "I never saw Russian tats like this, but it goes really well with what's on the paper."

"Yeah? What?"

"'Workers of the World Unite. You have Nothing to Lose But Your Chains,' you know that one, right, Sonny? I mean, ask yourself, is this guy the last crazy Commie true-believer left on planet Earth, except for maybe a few elderly ladies holding up pictures of Stalin on the street in Moscow? Maybe he belongs to a gang of old Commies. Maybe he strayed, turned capitalist, what ever." I yawned. "I'm going back to bed."

"You'll help me with this one, won't you, Art?" Sonny asked. "You could do me a favor and drop in on Jimmy Wagner."

"What's your interest? You're retired. What do you want this for?"

"I'm consulting on certain cases that come my way."

I saw now that Sonny was looking thin, old, his face lined.

"You feel up to working?" I was worried. Truth is, I love the man.

"I'm taking a few things on."

"Why's that?"

"Why's anyone hustling right now? Tough times."

"You have your pension, right? You told me you had some investments." He stared down at the remains of his breakfast.

Once upon a time, Sonny Lippert was the most connected guy in the city. He could raise anyone on a dime. You'd say, Sonny, I need a lawyer for a friend, I need somebody in forensics, a contact with the Feds, and he'd say, No problem, Artie, man, just give me a few minutes.

He had to be in bad shape financially. The meltdown was killing the city. Madoff had been arrested, but I didn't figure Sonny for a big enough player to have put his money with the bastard.

"Sonny?"

"Just say I'm doing some consulting work, OK? Can we leave it at that, Art? OK? Please?"

"Sure."

Sonny got up, put his hat on, tossed a five on the counter, thanked Mike for the bagel and coffee. "So I'll fi gure on hearing from you by the beginning of the week, right? Just plan on working with me a couple days, maybe more, right, man?" he said. "And Artie?"

"What's that?"

"Answer your phone."

I went home, got into bed. Warm under the covers, drifting off to sleep, I forgot about Sonny's case. I'd left the answering machine on again, too tired to bother. When it rang, I said out loud, "I'm asleep."

The phone rang again. The answering machine clicked on. I was sure it was Sonny, and I yawned. And then I heard her voice. I grabbed for the phone as fast as I could.

"Artie? Are you there? Pick up the phone, please, Artie? I need you. Please. Hurry." It was Lily.

Chapter Three

I need you." Lily's voice echoed in my ear as I got in my car.

I tried playing back what she had said, but I knew from her tone she must be in big trouble. I was still groggy with sleep, and all I had really heard was that she wanted me to hurry. I looked at the road. Saturday morning, early. No traffic.

I'd scribbled the address, in Harlem, on a scrap of yellow paper I put on the dashboard. 155th Street. I drove too fast, breaking the speed limits on the FDR.

Everything was gray, the tin- colored river where chunks of ice had formed, the buildings on the Queens side of the East River, everything except the red neon Pepsi sign. It was cold. I turned on the heater and put the radio on for the forecast. Snow. Fog. Cold. Sleet fell on my windshield.

I drove. I tried Lily on my cell over and over, but she didn't answer. The only time I'd seen her in a year had been six weeks earlier, election night, the Sugar Hill Club in Harlem.

That night in November, when I see her, she looks wonderful. Her red hair sticking out from under a gold cardboard tiara, Obama's name spelled out on it in glitter, Lily is wearing a white shirt, collar turned up in her jaunty way. She's laughing. She doesn't see me at fi rst.

"Lily?"

"Hi, Artie," she calls out to me, spotting me near the bar. "Hi," she says, smiling, and then, for a moment, she's swept away into the crowd.

This is why I'm here. This is why I drove uptown, why I had jammed my car into the tight spot on 152nd where I saw the silver ghost van.

I knew she'd been working on the Obama campaign, living uptown in a friend's apartment. So when my pal Tolya Sverdloff had said, "Let's go to Harlem election night," I was OK with it. "I'll meet you at the Sugar Hill Club," I had said. I'd been here with Lily once or twice to listen to music. I figured she might show up.

In the club, the tension is electric, everybody waiting for the results. In the club I see white faces, black, Latino, Asian. People are yakking in Russian, Italian, French. To night everybody is a believer. Once Obama is elected, everything will change, people say. If it happens; when it happens. Soon.

The results are coming in, slowly at first. Inside the club, the TV hangs overhead like some ancient oracle, and with every win, the crowd turns to look.

Yes we can!

"Lily?"

Almost a year since I've seen her. It's a year since we agreed to stay away from each other. No calls. No e-mails. I've kept tabs on her as best I can. We know some of the same people.

For a while I went to bars and coffee shops I knew she liked. Sometimes I went past her building on purpose and felt like an idiot standing on the corner of Tenth Street, watching out for her.

How long have I known her? Almost fifteen years, on and off.

The only thing I'd had from her all year was a handwritten note when Val died. Tolya's daugther Valentina died and Lily wrote to me. Just that once. Only then.

Now, Saturday morning driving through the gray city dawn, sleet coming down on my windshield, Lily, her desperate phone call earlier, election night, were all rattling through my head. Like a maniac, I drove to Harlem, dialing her phone number over and over, hurrying to see her, to help her. Lily needed me.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from BLOOD COUNT by Reggie Nadelson Copyright © 2010 by Reggie Nadelson. Excerpted by permission of Walker & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Posted December 4, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Counting Slowly

    Blood Count gets off to such a slow start that any interest wanes. The story just meanders and demanded more patience than it deserved. I read a lot of books, rarely do I find one as somnolent as this.

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