Lullaby (87th Precinct Series #41)

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Overview

The squadroom at 5:15 on New Year's morning looked much as it did on any other day...
But an exceptionally heinous crime was already sending a wave of outrage through even the veteran cops of the 87th Precinct: a wealthy couple, returning home from New Year's festivities, discovered their baby ? and the infant's teenage sitter ? murdered. Parents themselves, detectives Carella and Meyer resolve to bring in the perpetrator at any cost. Meanwhile, gang warfare is overtaking the ...

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Overview

The squadroom at 5:15 on New Year's morning looked much as it did on any other day...
But an exceptionally heinous crime was already sending a wave of outrage through even the veteran cops of the 87th Precinct: a wealthy couple, returning home from New Year's festivities, discovered their baby — and the infant's teenage sitter — murdered. Parents themselves, detectives Carella and Meyer resolve to bring in the perpetrator at any cost. Meanwhile, gang warfare is overtaking the city's streets, threatening its very foundation. A sinister song of death and destruction echoes through the 87th, and it isn't "Auld Lang Syne."

Warring gangs prepare to rip the city to pieces--and the detectives of the 87th Precinct unearth secrets that lead them to the very heart of crime.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Joseph Wambaugh May well be the very best of the 87th Precinct novels. It moves like a bullet train.

People Ed McBain is, by far, the best at what he does. Case closed.

Stephen King Sharp, suspenseful, knowledgeable, witty and wholly involving.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Of all McBain's 60 or so bestsellers, the chillers about the 87th Precinct have been the most popular. This is the 40th, bringing detectives Carella and Meyer to a swank apartment on New Year's Eve. Returning from a party, a couple find their adopted baby and her teenaged sitter murdered. There are so many ramifications, including the later death of the biological mother, that the case seems hopelessly muddled. But Carella and Meyer, outraged by the crime, stick to the wearying routine and finally bring the guilty to book. While readers are absorbed in this horrendous story, they simultaneously fear for Bert Kling, as he investigates competing drug traffickersJamaican, Chinese, blackwho are killing each other and bent on killing him. The lamentably convincing portraits of today's metropolis also create empathy for endangered detective Eileen Burke, tempted to resign despite her commitment to police work and her lover, Kling, as a matter of self-preservation. MWA Grand Master McBain's staccato dialogue and authentic characters, as always, make the new series entry a page turner. Mystery Guild selection; Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club alternates. (Jan.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743470742
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Publication date: 9/1/2004
  • Series: 87th Precinct Series , #41
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Ed McBain, a recipient of the Mystery Writers of America's coveted Grand Master Award, was also the first American to receive the Diamond Dagger, the British Crime Writers Association's highest award. His books have sold more than one hundred million copies, ranging from the more than fifty titles in the 87th Precinct series (including the Edgar Award–nominated Money, Money, Money) to the bestselling novels written under his own name, Evan Hunter—including The Blackboard Jungle (now in a fiftieth anniversary edition from Pocket Books) and Criminal Conversation. Fiddlers, his final 87th Precinct novel, was recently published in hardcover. Writing as both Ed McBain and Evan Hunter, he broke new ground with Candyland, a novel in two parts. He also wrote the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. He died in 2005.

Visit EdMcBain.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Both detectives had children of their own.

The teenage baby-sitter was about as old as Meyer's daughter. The infant in the crib recalled for Carella those years long ago when his twins were themselves babies.

There was a chill in the apartment. It was three o'clock in the morning and in this city most building superintendents lowered the thermostats at midnight. The detectives, the technicians, the medical examiner, all went about their work wearing overcoats. The baby's parents were still dressed for the outdoors. The man was wearing a black cloth coat and a white silk scarf over a tuxedo. The woman was wearing a mink over a long green silk gown and high-heeled green satin pumps. The man and the woman both had stunned expressions on their faces. As if someone had punched them both very hard. Their eyes seemed glazed over, unable to focus.

This was the first day of a bright new year.

The dead sitter lay sprawled on the floor midway down the hallway that ran the rear length of the apartment. Baby's bedroom at the far end, off a fire escape. Tool marks on the window and sill, they figured this was where he'd come in. Mobile with a torn cord lying on the floor beside the crib. Monoghan and Monroe stood looking down at the dead girl, their hats settled low on their heads, their hands in the pockets of their overcoats. Of all the men in the room, they were the only two wearing hats. Someone in the department once said for publication that the only detectives who wore hats in this city were Homicide detectives. The person who'd said this was a Homicide detective himself, so perhaps there was some truth to the ancient bromide. In this city, Homicide detectives were supposed to supervise each and every murder investigation. Perhaps this was why they wore hats: to look supervisory. By department regulations, however, a murder case officially belonged to the precinct catching the squeal. Tonight's double murder would be investigated by detectives in the local precinct. The Eight-Seven. Detectives Meyer Meyer and Steve Carella. Lucky them.

The M.E. was crouched over the teenager's body. Monoghan guessed he would tell them any minute now that the girl was dead from the knife sticking out of her chest. Monoghan had been called out from a party. He was still just drunk enough to find all of this somehow comical. Dead girl on the floor here, blouse torn, skirt up around her ass, knife in her chest. A lapis pendant on a broken gold chain coiled like a blue-headed snake on the floor beside her. Monoghan looked down at the M.E. and smiled mysteriously. Monroe was cold sober, but he found all of this a little comical, too, perhaps because it was New Year's Day and in this rotten business if you didn't laugh and dance away all your troubles and cares —

"She's dead," the M.E. said.

Which made it official.

"Shot, right?" Monoghan asked, and smiled mysteriously.

The M.E. didn't bother answering him. He snapped his satchel shut, got to his feet, and then walked into the living room, where Carella and Meyer were still trying to get some answers from the baby's dazed parents.

"We'll do the autopsies soon as we can," he said, and then, in explanation, "The holidays. Meanwhile you can say one was stabbed and the other was smothered."

"Thanks," Meyer said.

Carella nodded.

He was remembering that years and years ago, whenever he got up in the middle of the night to feed the twins, he would hold one in his arms and prop the other's bottle on the pillow. Alternated the routine at the next feeding. So that one of them would always be held.

There was a dead baby in the bedroom at the far end of the hall.

"Mrs. Hodding," Meyer said, "can you tell me what time you got back here to the apartment?"

Gayle Hodding. Blonde and blue-eyed, twenty-eight years old, wearing eye shadow to match the green gown, no lipstick, the dazed expression still on her face and in her eyes. Looking at Meyer blankly.

"I'm sorry?"

"Two-thirty," her husband said.

Peter Hodding. Thirty-two. Straight brown hair combed to fall casually on his forehead. Brown eyes. Black bow tie slightly askew. Face a pasty white, shell-shocked expression in his eyes. Both of them walking-wounded. Their baby daughter was dead.

"Was the door locked?" Meyer asked.

"Yes."

"You had to use a key to get in?"

"Yes. I was drunk, I fumbled with the lock a lot. But I finally got the door open."

"Were the lights on or off?"

"On."

"When did you notice anything out of the ordinary?"

"Well, not until...we...Annie wasn't in the living room, you see. When we came in. So I called her name...and...and when I...I got no answer, I went to look for her. I figured she might be in with the baby. And didn't want to answer because she might wake up the baby."

"What happened then?"

"I started for the baby's room and...found Annie there in the hallway. Stabbed."

"Could we have her last name, please?"

"Annie Flynn."

This from the woman.

Coming alive a bit. Realizing that these men were detectives. Here to help. Had to give them what they needed. Carella wondered when she would start screaming. He wished he would not have to be here when she started screaming.

"You've used her before?" Meyer asked. "This same sitter?"

"Yes."

"Pretty reliable?"

"Oh, yes."

"Ever any trouble with boyfriends or...?"

"No."

"Never came home and found anyone with her, did you?"

"No, no."

"Because kids..."

"No."

"Nobody she was necking with or...?"

"Never anything like that."

All this from Hodding. Drunk as a lord when he'd walked in, sober enough the next minute to be able to dial 911 and report a murder. Carella wondered why he'd felt it necessary to tell them he'd been drunk.

"Excuse me, sir," Meyer asked, "but...when did you learn that your daughter...?"

"I was the one who found her," Mrs. Hodding said.

There was a sudden silence.

Someone in the kitchen laughed. The Crime Scene technicians were in there. One of them had probably just told a joke.

"The pillow was on her face," Mrs. Hodding said.

Another silence.

"I took it off her face. Her face was blue."

The silence lengthened.

Hodding put his arm around his wife's shoulders.

"I'm all right," she said.

Harshly. Almost like "Leave me alone, damn it!"

"You left the apartment at what time?" Meyer asked.

"Eight-thirty."

"To go to a party, you said..."

"Yes."

"Where was that?"

"Just a few blocks from here. On Twelfth and Grover."

This from Hodding. The woman was silent again, that same numb look on her face. Reliving that second when she'd lifted the pillow off her baby's face. Playing that second over and over again on the movie screen of her mind. The pillow white. The baby's face blue. Reliving the revelation of that split second. Over and over again.

"Did you call home at any time tonight?" Meyer asked.

"Yes. At about twelve-thirty. To check."

"Everything all right at that time?"

"Yes."

"Was it the sitter who answered the phone?"

"Yes."

"And she told you everything was all right?"

"Yes."

"She was okay, the baby was okay?"

"Yes."

"Did she sound natural?"

"Yes."

"Nothing forced about her conversation?"

"No."

"You didn't get the impression anyone was here with her, did you?"

"No."

"Did you call again after that?"

"No. She knew where to reach us, there was no need to call again."

"So the last time you spoke to her was at twelve-thirty."

"Yes. Around then."

"And nothing seemed out of the ordinary."

"Nothing."

"Mr. Hodding, does anyone except you and your wife have a key to this apartment?"

"No. Well, yes. The super, I guess."

"Aside from him."

"No one."

"Your sitter didn't have a key, did she?"

"No."

"And you say the door was locked when you got home."

"Yes."

In the hallway, one of the technicians was telling Monoghan that the knife in the sitter's chest seemed to match the other knives on the rack in the kitchen.

"Well, well," Monoghan said, and smiled mysteriously.

"All I'm saying," the tech said, "is that what you got here is a weapon of convenience. What I'm saying..."

"What he's saying," Monroe explained to Monoghan, "is that your killer didn't walk in with the knife, the knife was here, in the kitchen, with all the other knives."

"Is what I'm saying," the tech said. "For what it's worth."

"It is worth a great deal, my good man," Monoghan said, and nodded gravely.

Monroe looked at him. This was the first time he had ever heard his partner sounding British. He turned to the technician. "Michael was out partying when I called him," he said.

"Which may perhaps explain why he seems a little drunk," the tech said.

"Perhaps," Monoghan said gravely.

"Which, by the way, I didn't know your name was Michael," the tech said.

"Neither did I," Monoghan said, and smiled mysteriously.

"So what it looks like we got here," Monroe said, "is an intruder finds a knife in the kitchen, he does the sitter, and then he does the baby."

"Or vice versa," the tech said.

"But not with the knife," Monroe said.

"The baby, no," the tech said.

"The baby he does with the pillow," Monroe said.

Monoghan shook his head and clucked his tongue.

"What a terrible thing," he said, and began weeping.

He was weeping because he had suddenly remembered a very beautiful, dark-haired, dark-eyed woman who'd been at the party tonight and the terrible thing was that he'd forgotten her name. He was also weeping because he'd had his hand up under her skirt when Monroe telephoned. Lying on a lot of coats on the bed, his hand up under her skirt when the telephone rang. Scared him half to death. He took out his handkerchief and wiped at his eyes. Monroe patted him on the shoulder. The technician went back into the kitchen again.

A pair of ambulance attendants came into the apartment, took a look at the dead teenager, and asked Monroe if he wanted them to leave the knife in her chest that way. Monroe said they should check with the officers investigating the case. One of the ambulance attendants walked over to where Hodding still had his arm around his wife.

"Leave the knife in her or what?" he asked Carella.

Which was when Mrs. Hodding began screaming.

It was four o'clock in the morning when Carella knocked on the door to the Flynn apartment. Both detectives had the collars of their coats pulled up. Both detectives were wearing mufflers and gloves. Well, Carella wore only one glove, since he'd taken off the right glove before knocking on the door. Even inside the building, vapor plumed from their mouths. It was going to be a cold year.

Meyer looked colder than Carella, perhaps because he was entirely bald. Or perhaps because his eyes were blue. Carella's eyes were brown and they slanted downward, giving his face a slightly Oriental cast. Both men were tall, but Meyer looked cold and burly whereas Carella looked warm and slender. It was a mystery.

They had obtained the baby-sitter's address from Hodding, and now they were here to break the news to her parents. This would have been a difficult thing to do on any day of the year. Bad enough that a child had died; it was not in the natural order of things for parents to outlive their children. Bad enough that death had come as the result of a brutal murder. But this was the beginning of a new year. And on this day, two strangers dressed for the freezing cold outside would stand on the Flynn doorstep and tell them their sixteen-year-old daughter was dead. And forevermore, the first of every year would be for the Flynns an anniversary of death.

Meyer had handled the questioning of the Hoddings. Carella figured it was his turn. He knocked on the door again. Knocked long and hard this time.

"Who is it?"

A man's voice. Somewhat frightened. Four o'clock in the morning, somebody banging down his door.

"Police," Carella said, and wondered if in that single word he had not already broken the news to Annie Flynn's parents.

"What do you want?"

"Mr. Flynn?"

"Yes, what is it? Hold up your badge. Let me see your badge."

Carella took out the small leather case containing his shield and his ID card. He held it up to the peephole in the door.

"Could you open the door, please, Mr. Flynn?" he asked.

"Just a minute," Flynn said.

The detectives waited. Sounds. A city dweller's security system coming undone. The bar of a Fox lock clattering to the floor. A chain rattling free. Oiled tumblers clicking, falling. The door opened wide.

"Yes?"

A man in his mid-forties was standing there in striped pajamas and tousled hair.

"Mr. Flynn?"

"Yes?"

"Detective Carella, Eighty-Seventh Squad," Carella said, and showed the shield and the ID card again. Blue enamel on gold. Detective/Second Grade etched into the metal. 714-5632 under that. Detective/Second Grade Stephen Louis Carella typed onto the card, and then the serial number again, and a picture of Carella when his hair was shorter. Flynn carefully studied the shield and the card. Playing for time, Carella thought. He knows this is going to be bad. It's four o'clock in the morning, his baby-sitting daughter isn't home yet, he knows this is about her. Or maybe not. Four A.M. wasn't so terribly late for New Year's Eve — which it still was for some people.

At last he looked up.

"Yes?" he said again.

And with that single word, identical to all the yesses he'd already said, Carella knew for certain that the man already knew, the man was bracing himself for the words he knew would come, using the "Yes?" as a shield to protect himself from the horror of those words, to deflect those words, to render them harmless.

"Mr. Flynn..."

"What is it, Harry?"

A woman appeared behind him in the small entryway. The detectives had not yet entered the apartment. They stood outside the door, the cold air of the hallway enveloping them. In that instant, the doorsill seemed to Carella a boundary between life and death, the two detectives bearing the chill news of bloody murder, the man and the woman warm from sleep awaiting whatever dread thing had come to them in the middle of the night. The woman had one hand to her mouth. A classic pose. A movie pose. "What is it, Harry?" and the hand went up to her mouth. No lipstick on that mouth. Hair as red as her dead daughter's. Green eyes. Flynn, indeed. A Maggie or a Molly, the Flynn standing there behind her husband, long robe over long nightgown, hand to her mouth, wanting to know what it was. Carella had to tell them what it was.

"May we come in?" he asked gently.

The squadroom at a quarter past five on New Year's morning looked much as it did on any other day of the year. Dark green metal filing cabinets against apple green walls. The paint on the walls flaking and chipping. A water leak causing a small bulge in the ceiling. Cigarette-scarred wooden desks. A water cooler in one corner of the room. A sink with a mirror over it. Duty chart hanging on the wall just inside the wooden slatted rail divider that separated the squadroom from the long corridor outside. A sense of dimness in spite of the naked hanging light bulbs. An empty detention cage. Big, white-faced clock throwing minutes into the empty hours of the night. At one of the desks, Detective/Third Grade Hal Willis was typing furiously.

"Don't bother me," he said the moment they came into the room and before anyone had said a word to him.

Willis was the shortest man on the squad. Curly black hair. Brown eyes. Hunched over the machine like an organ grinder's monkey, he pounded at the keys as if he'd been taught a new and satisfying trick. Battering the machine into submission. Both fists flying. The reports Willis submitted were no masterpieces, but he didn't realize that. He would have made a good lawyer; his English composition qualified him for writing contracts no one could understand.

Neither Carella nor Meyer bothered him.

They had business of their own.

They had learned little of substance from either the Hoddings or the Flynns; they would question them again later, when the shock and subsequent numbness had worn off. But they had been able to garner from them some definite times that pinpointed Annie Flynn's whereabouts and activities while she was not being murdered. Starting with all the negatives, they hoped one day they might get lucky enough to fill in the positives that would lead to the killer. Cops sometimes got lucky, Harold.

Meyer sat behind the typewriter.

Carella sat on the edge of the desk.

"Quiet, you two," Willis called from across the room.

Neither of them had yet said a word to him.

"Eight P.M.," Carella said. "Annie Flynn leaves her apartment at 1124 North Sykes..."

Meyer began typing.

"...arrives Hodding apartment, 967 Grover Avenue, at eight-fifteen P.M."

He waited, watching as Meyer typed.

"Okay," Meyer said.

"Eight-thirty P.M. Hoddings leave Annie alone with the baby..."

Meyer kept typing.

A cold gray dawn was breaking to the east.

He had shared bacon and eggs with Eileen in an all-night diner on Leland and Pike and then had jokingly but hopefully asked, "Your place or mine?" to which she had given him a look that said, "Please, Bert, not while I'm eating," which was the sort of look she always gave him these days whenever he suggested sex.

Ever since she'd blown away that lunatic last October, Eileen had sworn off sex and decoy work. Not necessarily in that order. She had also told Kling — who, she guessed, was still her Significant Other, more or less — that she planned to leave police work as soon as she could find another job that might make use of her many-splendored talents, like for example being able to disarm rapists in the wink of an eye or put away serial killers with a single shot. Or, to be more accurate, six shots, the capacity of her service revolver, the first one in his chest, the next one in his shoulder, the third one in his back, and the others along the length of his spine as he lay already dead on the bed. I gave you a chance, she'd said over and over again, I gave you a chance, blood erupting on either side of his spine, I gave you a chance.

"Now I want a chance," she'd told Kling.

pardHe hoped she didn't mean it. He could not imagine her as a private ticket, tailing wayward husbands in some imitation city, of which there were many in the U.S. of A. He could not imagine her doing square-shield work in a department store somewhere in the boonies, collaring shoplifters and pickpockets. I'm quitting the force, she'd told him. Quitting this city, too. This fucking city.

Tonight, they'd left the diner and he'd gone up to her apartment for another cup of coffee, greet the new year. Kissed her demurely on the cheek. Happy New Year, Eileen. Happy New Year, Bert. A sadness in her eyes. For what had been. For the Eileen who'd been his lover. For the Eileen who'd been a fearless cop before the city and the system burned it out of her. Ah, Jesus, he'd thought and had to turn his head away so she wouldn't see the sudden tears flooding his eyes. Still dark outside when he'd left the apartment. But as he'd driven home through silent deserted streets, a thin line of light appeared in the sky in the towers to the east.

He turned the corner onto Concord.

Oh, shit, he thought, I don't need this.

There were four men on the street corner.

Three huge black men and a small Puerto Rican.

The streetlamp was still on over their heads. They struggled silently in the morngloam, natural light mingling with artificial, the three black men wielding baseball bats, the little Puerto Rican trying to defend himself with nothing but his hands. Blood spattered up onto the brick wall behind him. This was in earnest.

Kling yanked up the hand brake and came out of the car at a run, hand going for his gun, rules and regs racing through his mind, felony in progress, substantial reason to unholster the piece. "Police officer," he shouted, "freeze!"

Nobody froze.

A bat came spinning out of the half-light, moving like a helicopter blade, horizontal on the air, twirling straight for his head. He threw himself flat to the pavement, a mistake. As he rolled over and brought the gun into firing position, one of the black men kicked him in the head. In the dizziness, he thought Hold on. In the dizziness, he thought Shoot. Blurred figures. Someone screaming. Shoot, he thought. And fired. One of them fell to the pavement. Someone else kicked him again. He fired again. Knew he was okay by the book, piece as a defensive weapon, tasted blood in his mouth, not a means of apprehension, lip bleeding, how the hell, almost choked on something, a tooth, Jesus, and fired again, blindly this time, angrily, and scrambled to his feet as one of the men swung a baseball bat for his head.

He took a step to the side, the thick end of the bat coming within an inch of his nose, and then he squeezed the trigger again, going for the money, catching the batter too high, five inches above the heart, spinning him around with a slug in the shoulder that sent him staggering back toward the blood-spattered brick wall of the building where the third black man was busily beating the shit out of the little Puerto Rican, swinging the bat at him again and again, long-ball practice here on the corner of Concord and Dow.

"Put it down!" Kling shouted, but his words this morning were having very little positive effect, because all the man seemed intent on doing was finishing off the little Puerto Rican who was already so bloody he looked like a sodden bundle of rags lying on the sidewalk. "You dumb fuck!" Kling shouted. "Put it down!"

The man turned.

Saw the gun. Saw the big blond guy with the gun. Saw the look in his eyes, knew the man and the gun were both on the thin edge of explosion. He dropped the bat.

"Hey, cool it, man," he said.

"Cool shit!" Kling said, and threw him against the wall, and tossed him, and then handcuffed his hands behind his back.

He knelt to where the little Puerto Rican was lying on the sidewalk, bleeding from a dozen wounds.

"I'll get an ambulance," he said.

"Gracias por nada," the Puerto Rican said.

Which in Spanish meant, "Thanks for nothing."

Copyright © 1989 by Hui Corporation

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