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The dead man sat slumped against the rear wall of the small, wood-paneled elevator. His head was resting against his left shoulder, his hands were folded against his chest. Just above his right hand was a blotch of blood. His left leg lay out of the elevator door.
The slippered foot was the first thing Detective Mac Taylor saw as he walked quickly across the marble-tiled lobby of the apartment building on York Avenue near 72nd Street.
Mac moved past two uniformed officers and stood in front of the open door next to Aiden Burn, who was clicking away with her camera at the corpse and the elevator. The dead man was wearing a gray sweat suit with two holes chest high leading into bloody darkness.
"Still snowing?" asked Burn as Mac checked his watch. It was a few minutes after ten. He pulled on a pair of white latex gloves.
"Three more inches expected," said Taylor, kneeling next to the body. There was just enough room for the two Crime Scene Unit investigators and the corpse inside the small elevator.
"Who is he?" Mac asked.
"Name's Charles Lutnikov," Burn said. "Apartment six, third floor."
Lutnikov was about fifty, had thinning dark hair, and a paunch.
"No pockets in the sweat suit," said Mac, gently rolling the body first right and then left. "Who IDed him?"
"Doorman," said Burn, glancing back at the uniformed patrolman who was clearly admiring her rear end.
"You married?" Burn asked the cop, camera in one latex gloved hand.
"Me?" the cop said with a smile, pointing to himself.
"You," she said.
"A man is dead here," she said. "Probable homicide. Look at him, think about him, and not my ass. Can you dothat?"
"Yes," said the cop, no longer smiling.
"Good. The kit out there next to the door. Move it just where I can reach it."
"Bad night?" Mac asked.
"I've had better," said Aiden, continuing to snap away as the cop moved Aiden's equipment box.
Mac's eyes were focused on the dead man's chest. "Looks like two bullet holes. No powder burns."
Mac looked at the walls, the floor, the ceiling of the small wood-paneled elevator and then leaned over and carefully pulled the corpse forward.
"No sign of exit wounds," he said, letting the body slump back.
"Then the bullets are still in him," said Burn.
"No," Mac answered, removing from a leather packet in his pocket a thin steel probe that looked like a dental tool.
He carefully lifted the dead man's shirt to get a better look at the wounds.
"One shot," he said, touching each hole with the probe and talking as much to himself as to Aiden. "This one is an entry wound. Small caliber. It's almost closed. This one is an exit wound, broader, rougher, skin erupted outward."
"Then there should be some blood spatter in front of the body," she said.
"And there they are," said Mac, looking down at dark tear-shaped spots on the floor.
He stood up, put the probe away, took off his latex gloves, dropped them in a bag in his pocket and put on a fresh pair of gloves.
When blood was present, you changed your gloves every time you touched something. No contamination. Criminalists across the world knew that. It took foul-ups in the O.J. Simpson case to make it gospel.
"No gun?" he asked.
"No gun," answered Aiden. "No bullet."
"He's been dead for less than two hours, probably less than an hour. Doorman found the body and called 911."
Mac gave a final look at the dead man and said, "Photograph his ankles. There's a bruise on this one." Mac pointed to the leg that dangled outside the open door. "Then . . ."
"We go over the walls, floor, sweat suit...?" Aiden asked.
Mac nodded and added, "Full drill."
Full drill included an ALS (Alternate Light Source) examination that would illuminate body fluids including semen, saliva, urine, fingerprints, and even trace narcotics. Aiden had her own compact ALS that fit into a case the size of an eyeglass holder. It plugged into any wall socket, and she used it to check the cleanliness of hotel or motel rooms where she stayed when she was on the road.
Mac moved out of the elevator past the two cops to a man in a purple-and-gold-trimmed doorman's uniform who looked over the officers' shoulders. The man was short and black and very nervous. He had no idea of what to do with his hands so he tried wringing them, then plunged them into his pockets, then took them out again when Mac moved in front of him.
"He's dead," the man said. "I know. I could tell."
"What time did you come on duty, Mr....?"
"McGee, Aaron McGee. Everyone calls me Mr. Aaron. I mean the tenants do. Don't know why."
"What time did you come on duty, Mr. McGee?"
"Five in the morning." He looked at his watch.
"Five hours ago. Five hours ten minutes. Took me two hours to get here in all that snow."
Mac had his notebook out and was writing carefully.
"Who was on duty before you?"
"Ernesto, Ernesto...Let me think. I know it. He's been here five, six years. I know his last name. I'm just, you know?"
"You have a sign-in book?" Mac asked.
McGee nodded. "Write in the name of every visitor. Check with the tenant before I let anyone in. Tenants I just write in myself and say 'Good morning' or 'Good night' or some such. Holidays last month, I said 'Merry Christmas' to the ones I know are Christians like me and 'Happy Hanukkah' to the Jews. I don't say anything to the Melvoys. They're atheists, but they give me a little something at Christmas anyway."
"Any visitors for Mr. Lutnikov this morning?"
"Not a one," said the doorman, shaking his head emphatically. "Not for him. Not for anybody in the building. Computer people are supposed to come fix the Rabinowitz's computer this morning."
"Any tenants leave this morning?"
"The Shelbys on ten," said the doorman, motioning for Mac to follow him toward the front door of the Belvedere Towers. "Walked their dog for a few minutes and then came back. Too cold out there for the little thing, but he did his business. Mrs. Shelby was carrying one of those see-through scooper bags, you know. They came back in fast."
"And Ms. Cormier," McGee went on. "She goes out every morning, rain, shine, snow, makes no difference. She takes a walk. Eight in the morning. Always says 'Hello, Aaron.' Stays out maybe half an hour, even today."
"She have anything with her?" Mac asked.
"Same as always," McGee said. "One of those big bookstore bags, the kind with a picture of some guy with a beard on it. What's the name of that bookstore?"
"Barnes and Noble?" asked Mac.
"That's it," said McGee. "Same bag every day."
McGee moved with a slight, swaying shuffle. He had to be at least seventy, probably more.
"Sometimes the Glicks will go out early on a Saturday," he said. "They're on two, but he's got the chemotherapy so they've pretty much stayed inside on Saturdays lately."
They stopped in front of the doorman's desk to the right of the front door. Some of the early February freeze seeped through the frame of the door. The snow, at least two feet of it, had stopped falling hours ago, but the temperature was still dropping and more snow was expected. Mac was sure it was now closing in on zero.
His car was parked a block away in a loading zone in front of a deli with his visor pulled down to show his CSI tag. The walk from the car to the apartment building took about five minutes. It would normally have taken no more than a minute or two. It reminded Mac of a wild snowstorm about six years ago in Chicago. In the aftermath of that storm, small, uneven hills of snow had to be climbed like slippery mountains. Mac and his wife lived in a ward in which the alderman was not part of the Democratic Party machine, which meant they were the last to be plowed. It might be days before they could get their car out of the garage. But they had turned the near disaster into a nighttime challenge, climbing, slipping, sliding, falling to make it to the major street four blocks away that had been plowed and where they had found the neighborhood supermarket open.
When Mac slipped on a hill and sank, rear end, into the snow on the way back home, Claire had laughed. Groceries were strewn around him making their own indentations in the snow lit by the hazy streetlights.
Mac hadn't been able to laugh. He looked up with an exaggerated frown, but the frown became a smile. Claire was ankle deep in snow, her ears red, her blue watch cap pulled down to her forehead, her red-knit, gloved hands clutching shopping bags. She was laughing. He could see it all now, dark street, white snow, streetlamp glowing, her laughing.
"Let's see," said McGee. "It's Saturday so the go-to-work people are thinking three times before going out in this weather and it's still early so . . ."
He looked at the book.
"Nothing," he said. "No one else in. No one else's out."
"When's Ernesto's shift?" Mac said, returning fully to the present.
"Midnight to when I come in at five."
McGee looked at the book again, squinting.
"No entries on Ernesto's shift. None at all. No one in. No one out."
An ambulance pulled up outside in front of the door, its sirens silent. Two paramedics dressed in white under blue jackets came out, opened the back door of the ambulance, pulled out a stretcher and a body bag.
The doorman stopped to watch them come in. "I never got any of the names of you policemen," he said. "Maybe I should . . ."
"It's all right," said Mac. "Tell me about Mr. Lutnikov."
"Sorry we're late, Taylor," said the first paramedic through the door, a bodybuilder with a baby face. "Weather."
Mac nodded and said, "Get him to the lab as fast as you can, but be careful out there."
"Roger that," said the bodybuilder, moving with his partner past Mac and the doorman.
"Where were we?" asked McGee as he watched the paramedics track more snow through the lobby.
"Mr. Lutnikov," Mac reminded him.
"Kept to himself mostly," said McGee. "Polite enough. Gave me a fifty dollar bill, crisp, always crisp, on Christmas, every Christmas."
"He had a lot of money?" asked Mac.
"Don't know," said McGee with a smile. "That's about average for Christmas. Everyone in the building gives me cash on the holidays. Want to know how much I got this past holiday? Three thousand four hundred and fifty dollars. Put it right in the bank."
There was a stir of movement down the hallway by the elevators. Mac glanced over. The dead man's leg was still hanging out the door.
"You found the body," said Mac.
"Sure did," said McGee, pointing down the hallway. "Heard the elevator stop, looked over for someone to get out. Nobody did. Bell just kept ding-dinging so I went to look. Know what I saw?"
"A leg sticking out and the door slamming into it," said Mac.
"That's right. That's right. Door's automatic. Stick something out and it just keeps banging against it and ding-dinging."
Which accounted for the bruises on the dead man's ankle. It also suggested that the dead man's leg had been propped against the elevator door and fell out when the door was opened.
"Does the elevator automatically come back down here?"
"No sir. You have to push the L button or it sits wherever it stopped last."
"Are the two other elevators as small as the one with the body?" Mac asked.
"No sir," repeated the doorman. "They're considerably bigger. Elevator three is small because it only goes up from fifteen to the penthouse and then back down here."
A whirl of wind beyond the rattling glass front doors turned the doorman's head. "Looks real bad out there. Hear it's cold too. Below zero."
"Mr. Lutnikov lived on three," Mac said. "Any idea why he was on an elevator that didn't stop at his floor?"
McGee shook his head. "Everything from fifteenth floor up is single apartments. Take up the whole floor. Four, five bedrooms, balconies. Ms. Louisa Cormier in the penthouse has her own screening room, with these real plush seats and a great big screen. People up there have the big dollars."
"For Lutnikov to get to elevator three . . ." Mac prompted.
"He'd have to come down to the lobby, get on elevator three, and go back up," said the doorman.
"Mr. Lutnikov know anyone who lived on fifteen or above?" asked Mac.
McGee shrugged his bony shoulders.
"Wouldn't know," he said. "Friendly building but not close-like. People in the lobby say hello, smile polite-like but . . ."
The paramedics were coming through the hall carrying a stretcher with a zippered body bag, the dead man inside. Mac could see Aiden Burn putting crime-scene tape across the door of the elevator.
"I'll get the door for you," said McGee, hurrying in front of the paramedics and pushing open the door to a rush of wind, an invading gust of snow and a blast of icy air that ran through Mac's shoulder blades.
Aiden joined Mac. She slipped her gloves off and dropped them in her pocket. The lingering cold from the outside attack of the storm had hit her. She zipped up her blue jacket, the twin of Mac's with the words "Crime Scene Unit" in white letters across the back.
"He wasn't going out jogging in his slippers," said Mac, watching the body being loaded into the ambulance.
"Where was he going?" asked Aiden.
"Or coming from?" answered Mac.
"Somewhere between fifteen and twenty-one, which is the penthouse," she said. "The buttons show the elevator doesn't go between one and fourteen, but it does go to the lobby and the basement. There's a B button on the elevator. No garage."
"You take the basement. I'll start on fifteen."
"Whoever shot our victim stood outside the elevator," Aiden said. "No powder burns on his shirt. Elevator's too small to fire a shot and leave no powder burn."
"And," she added, "he or she was a good shot. Entry wound is right in line with the heart."
"Can I turn elevator three back on?" asked the doorman.
"No," said Mac. "It's a crime scene. There's a stairwell?"
McGee nodded his head and said, "It's the law."
"The tenants will have to use the staircase down to the fifteenth floor and take one of the elevators from there or keep walking," Mac said.
"They are not going to like that," said McGee, shaking his head. "Not at all. Can I call them and tell them?"
"Right after you give me the names of every tenant from the fifteenth floor up," said Mac.
"I'll write them down for you," said McGee, picking up an automatic pencil from the dark brown desk and clicking it with his thumb.
Copyright © 2005 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Alliance Atlantis Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.