Suspensionby Richard E. Crabbe
May 31, 1883, 3:55 p.m. Twenty thousand men, women, and children, their faces shining in the late afternoon sun, are strolling the Eighth Wonder of the World. The Brooklyn Bridge is open just a week, its promenade a magnet for the teeming masses of New York and Brooklyn. Anxious to escape the heat, overcrowding, and disease of the tenements, thousands stream… See more details below
May 31, 1883, 3:55 p.m. Twenty thousand men, women, and children, their faces shining in the late afternoon sun, are strolling the Eighth Wonder of the World. The Brooklyn Bridge is open just a week, its promenade a magnet for the teeming masses of New York and Brooklyn. Anxious to escape the heat, overcrowding, and disease of the tenements, thousands stream onto the soaring span. To breathe free, high above the choking confines of the city is an experience like no other. An engineering marvel of transcending beauty, the bridge is simply breathtaking.
In precisely five minutes, it will fall.
Seven desperate men, former Confederate soldiers turned saboteurs, have labored for years to destroy the bridge. A symbol of hated Yankee supremacy, the bridge is the creation of Chief Engineer, Washington Roebling. They have stalked him down through the years, with hatred born of bitter loss. His actions at Gettysburg have earned him terrible retribution. It is his bridge, his life's work that will pay the price. The river will run red but for one man.
Sergeant Detective Tom Braddock is one step behind the conspirators. Working through a series of murderous dead-ends, Braddock has dogged the seven men from the cables of the bridge to the shadowy alleys of the Lower East Side and the back streets of Richmond, Virginia. With the help of an eager roundsman, new to the force, he has slowly drawn closer to the unthinkable truth, a truth that none can accept.
Braddock's adversaries are many. Enemies within the police department seek to draw him deeper into a cesspool of corruption from which there seems no escape. To lose that battle is to surrender all hope, for his hands are far from clean already. Braddock must prevail against the enemy within if the bridge is to be saved. It is the love of Mary, the captivating Madame of a mid-town brothel that helps him find the way. Their fates are bound together, as surely as they are bound to the bridge. But it is Mike, a boy of the tenements, who literally holds the key to all their futures.
Suspension is a riveting historical thriller filled with fascinating details of the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Meet the Author
Richard E. Crabbe has a 20-year career in advertising sales with Advance Publications, The New York Post, Times Mirror, and currently Time Warner. Suspension was penned substantially on the Staten Island ferry, commuting to Manhattan. He is a lifelong resident of Staten Island, where his wife Kim and three daughters, Chelsea, Amanda, and Rebecca have him happily outnumbered.
Richard E. Crabbe was born and raised on Staten Island, New York. He has had a twenty- year career in advertising sales with Advance Publications, the New York Post, the LA Times, and Time Warner. He is the author of Suspension and The Empire of Shadows. He lives on Staten Island.
More from this Author
Read an Excerpt
By Richard Edward Crabbe
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2002 Richard Edward Crabbe
All rights reserved.
Chapter OneSleep sweetly in your humble graves,
Sleep martyrs of a fallen cause;
Though yet no marble column craves
The pilgrim here to pause.—HENRY TIMROD
A silvery sliver of moon hung over the East River, its light swallowed by the choppy black waters. The tide was racing out. The river tugged at ships as they lay at anchor along the shore. The black water folded in oily eddies and swirls around the granite base of the Great East River Bridge as if grudging its intrusion. The blocks of granite were square-cut, their edges not yet worn smooth. They were black below the high-water mark.Sitting motionless in the cold March moonlight, three gulls sat perched on a cable of the bridge. Like gargoyles they seemed, formed in stone. The moon shone ghostly pale on still, gray feathers. Lost souls of the harbor, they huddled together in the dark, wing to wing. No lamplight burned to unhood the night. The bridge was not open yet. Construction equipment, piles of wood, coils of rope, stacks of steel beams and angle irons, barrels of bolts, nails, tar, cement, and a dozen other things littered the roadways. The smell of lumber, newly galvanized steel, fresh paint, and wet cement clung to the bridge. It was a good smell.Suddenly the sound of metal on metal clattered through the night from somewhere toward the Brooklyn side, reverberating through the steel. Like a length of pipe dropped or thrown, it had a rolling, ringing, bell-like quality. The three gargoyle gulls came to life. Three heads swung in unison toward the sound. Six eyes gleamed in the dark. Wings shifted. A moment later footsteps could be heard pounding hard down the roadway. A shout in the dark and the sound of leather on wood marked the runner as he crossed the footbridge over the unfinished roadway. A few moments later a second set of feet clattered by. The gulls stirred nervously. One man passed below them, his labored lungs huffing. He didn’t dare to look back. A moment later came a second man, cursing in gasps but running hard. The gulls took flight, their shrill screams piercing the silence above the river. The bridge was not safe tonight. The sounds of pursuit dwindled toward New York.Two days later it was clear that Terrence Bucklin was dead; that much was certain. He lay in an alley behind Paddy’s bar, number 64 Peck Slip—not a place one would want to be found dead. The body cooked in the early afternoon sun that lit the narrow space between the rough brick walls. The Fulton Fish Market was just a couple of blocks away but smelled closer. Dead man … dead fish. Under the circumstances, Terrence was a very unattractive corpse. His mouth, set in just the hint of a grin, lent him the look of a man who had met his end with a lingering knowledge. Whatever that knowledge was, he took it with him.Earlier that morning, at about eleven-thirty, one of Paddy’s more religious patrons had come back into the bar after a visit to the alley. Joe Hamm, the barkeep, discouraged his customers from vomiting in the jakes, so the regulars knew to go out back if the drink started coming out the wrong end. The drunk had announced to all present that there was a corpse out back.“Jaysus fookin’ Christ! There’s a corpse in the alley, Joe!”The bar emptied. Nothing could empty a bar faster than a corpse. Hamm cursed his luck. After the drunk who found the body did his best double-time shuffle out the front door, Joe had gone back to see for himself what the fuss was about. Drunks saw all sorts of things. Joe had regular reports over the years of spirits, leprechauns, animals, and insects of various descriptions, especially spiders. On one occasion, the Prince of Darkness himself. Joe went to the alley expecting nothing more dramatic than a trick of the light. What he found was a hand and a leg sticking out from under a couple of packing crates from the chandlers next door. Hamm tossed the crates aside. He could see immediately that he wouldn’t be pulling any more beers for this one. Joe stood for a moment, looking down at the body in morbid fascination. Maybe next time he’d pay more attention to what a drunk claimed he saw. He turned back toward the bar, dismissing the thought almost as soon as it came.When Joe returned The bar was empty except for one man. That man had occupied the corner table at Paddy’s for the last fifteen years. He hadn’t left with the others. He had work to do, trying to finish the job that the rebels had started at Cold Harbor. He had left half his right leg and a sizable chunk of his left calf on the field in Virginia when a Confederate twelve-pounder came bounding through the line. Three years in and out of hospitals and the doctors had pronounced him as whole in body as they could make him. His spirit, however, was something else. Since then he had become a fixture at Paddy’s. He was the sawdust on the floor and the smoke in the air and the smell of beer. Drinking an army pension was a slow death.“Saw a cop pass down the street toward the docks a couple of minutes ago,” the veteran observed laconically.“Thanks, Bob. You’ve got a cold one comin’ on the house when I get back.”“Hurry back, then.” So Joe Hamm had gone in search of a cop. As he was leaving he couldn’t escape the thought that he had really left two dead men in the bar.Joe was not a particularly tall man so he went down the crowded cobblestone streets craning, bobbing, and hopping in an effort to see a cop over the multitude. He looked like a damn fool, he knew, with his beer-stained bar apron flapping. The thought of that body and all the business he was likely to lose because of it kept him hopping and craning past Front, and all the way to South Street, where he turned South toward the market. Joe came upon a young patrolman who was trying to supervise the untangling of two freight wagons, their steaming draft horses wide-eyed and straining. The cop was doing his official best to keep the teamsters from coming to blows and the wagons from crushing someone in their struggle to get their wheels unlocked. He waved and shouted to be heard over the cursing teamsters and the general clamor of South Street. From the look of things, he was having little luck at this. As Joe Hamm approached, one teamster was letting loose with a creative stream of curses and oaths. The driver on the other wagon was probably just as colorful, but he was cursing in Italian. Joe could pretty much get the gist from his hand gestures, which seemed to encompass the cop as well.Hamm took all this in as he trotted up to the cop and clapped a hand on his shoulder.“There’s been a murder,” he said breathlessly.“Listen, don’t bother me now. I’ve got a situation here,” the cop snapped back.Joe gave it another try “I don’t think you heard me.” He was annoyed that the cop wasn’t paying attention. “I’ve got a dead man, a murdered man maybe, out behind my bar. He’s in the alley behind Paddy’s.” That got the cop’s attention.“A dead man, you say? Paddy’s? Where the hell is Paddy’s?” asked the patrolman, looking around.God, this kid was fresh out of the box, Joe thought. Everyone knew where Paddy’s was.“It’s over on Peck Slip,” he said patiently. “Right next door to the chandlers shop.”The young cop still had a blank, distracted look. The two teamsters were gathering steam.“Stick it up your arse, ye goddamn dago,” one shot at the other.“Uppa you ass,” the Italian sallied back in what was probably the sum of his English.“Let’s go then,” the cop said absently.“So who are you, and what’s this about a body?” the cop asked.“Name’s Joe Hamm. Tend bar at Paddy’s. One o’ my regulars found him behind the bar.”“What do you mean, behind the bar?” the cop asked.“Out back in the alley.”“Oh.” The cop took a last look over his shoulder at the receding mess on South Street.“Watch it,” Joe said as he threw out a hand to stop the patrolman. He had almost walked out in front of a wagon loaded with barrels of salt fish. “You new on the force, or just new to the precinct?”“New to the force. How’d you know?”That didn’t really take a detective to figure, Joe thought, but trying not to offend the kid, he said, “Well, you didn’t know where Paddy’s was. Haven’t seen you around before neither. Where’re you from?”“Staten Island.”“Took the ferry there once,” Joe said. “Nice ride. Never knew anybody that lived there though. What’s your name, Officer?”“Patrolman Jaffey. Elija’s my given name. This the place?”They stood in front of Paddy’s, with its dying paint and its dusty windows. Jaffey looked up at the carved and painted wooden prizefighter hanging over the door and wondered if that was Paddy himself or just an appeal to the “fightin’ Irish.” Taking a deep breath, he dove into the shimmering gloom of Paddy’s common room. He and Joe were walking deeper into the place, swirling sawdust in their wake, when from the corner table Bob the veteran said, “That’s Terrence Bucklin out back.”That brought them both up short, turning. “Took a look while you was gone, Joe. Good man, Bucklin,” Bob muttered almost to himself. “Worked on the bridge—mason, I think. Shared a beer with him once or twice … Friendly fella. Damned shame.”Joe and Jaffey stood in the sawdust, and, for an instant, it seemed, they all bowed their heads for the good man who had been Terrence Bucklin.A septic breath of air from the alley carried a reminder of why Joe and Jaffey were there. The patrolman didn’t know quite what to expect. This was his first body, and he wanted to be professional and dispassionate about it. He could handle this, he told himself. He just had to concentrate on the job. He had an important job, and it was important that he do it right and …“Oh my Lord, oh my …” Jaffey blurted when he got a good look at Bucklin. The patrolman’s stomach twisted inside him. He took an involuntary half step back and croaked to Joe, “Go to the station house and get Sergeant Halpern. He’s my watch sergeant. You know where it is, don’t you?”“Yeah, I know Sam too. I’ll get him.”This was to be a day of firsts for Eli Jaffey. He had never been alone with a corpse before. He couldn’t count his aunt and little sister who died of the typhoid three years ago. They weren’t corpses, really, they were family. They had lain in the front parlor of their house on St. Mark’s Place, with flowers in their hair and the smell of lilies floating like a fog bank. They weren’t dead like this, lying twisted in an alley, filling with the gases of their own decay. This was different—no lilies, no candles, no satin pillows, just stink and flies.Jaffey stood, staring down at the corpse, for what felt like an awfully long time. Slowly Eli began to feel that Terrence Bucklin could see with his dead, doll’s eyes into his most private place, where he locked away his doubts and fears. And he seemed to say “Can you do this? Can you look me in the eye?”Bucklin’s eyes were not easy to look at. Jaffey didn’t want to look at them, but felt compelled to nonetheless.“It’s the flies, isn’t it?” the corpse said to him. “Come on, look me in the eye and see for yourself, if you can really wear that new uniform. May as well get it over with.”Jaffey looked long and with a will at the dead eyes of Terrence Bucklin. When Sergeant Halpern arrived a few minutes later, Jaffey was doubled over, retching up the last of his lunch. Halpern was about to say something unkind but remembered his reaction to his first bloated corpse, so held his tongue. He was annoyed but a little amused too, though he tried to keep it from the kid, hiding the ghost of a grin behind frowning eyes.Jaffey had the shine and delicate green coloring of an underripe tomato. At least he had the good sense not to puke on the corpse, Halpern thought, although God knew he had seen that done in his time.“Go on into Paddy’s and get yourself something to wash the taste out,” Sam said. “And see if you can get some statements from Joe Hamm and anybody left inside while you’re at it. You’re doin’ nobody any good here, pukin’ on your shoes.”Jaffey gave Sam Halpern a hangdog look as he wiped the remnants of lumpy lunch from his shoes with a bit of rag. A cop should never be seen with his lunch on his shoes, and young Jaffey did pride himself on his spotless uniform. Without a word, he turned toward the back of Paddy’s. He was happy for something to do, and he fumbled for his notebook and pencil. He tried to think of all the questions a good cop should ask of witnesses to a crime, and it helped to take his mind off the corpse on the alley floor with that grin on his face and the flies in his eyes. Jaffey’s eyes strayed back to the body, and for one awful moment he could have sworn that Terrence’s glassy eyes followed him as he moved toward the door. He quickened his pace.Jaffey turned into the back door of Paddy’s that opened on a storage area and hallway. It was black as coal compared to the light in the alley. The black of the hallway congealed into something very solid and Jaffey bounced off it with a grunt, dropping his pad and pencil. In the instant it took for his eyes to adjust to the sudden lack of light, he realized that it was a man he had walked into. To his credit, he recovered his composure quickly and in his best official tone said, “You’ve got to keep this hallway clear, we’re investigating a murder here. Now move back into the bar. I’d like to ask you a few questions.”An amused “Humph” came from the shadow that was the man’s face. He made no move. Jaffey put his hand on the butt of the nightstick hanging at his waist.“Move back, I said, and do it now! Don’t be startin’ any trouble,” he told the big shadow, “just move back into the bar and be quick about it.” Jaffey gripped his nightstick tighter with his right hand. With his left he poked two fingers hard into the man’s chest in an effort to get him moving in the right direction. This seemed to have no effect. Jaffey was a little alarmed at that. Boozer or not, this fellow just didn’t have any give to him. The man’s features were materializing out of the gloom as Jaffey’s eyes became fully accustomed to the light. The stranger started to say something and made a move to get past the patrolman.This would never do, Jaffey thought. He couldn’t let his sergeant see him get pushed around. He drew his nightstick. In his hurry he missed what the shadow-man said. Jaffey thought a crack across the knees would set his man to rights. It was the last thing he thought.“Sorry about your boy there, Sam. Hope I didn’t do any permanent damage,” Tom Braddock said without appearing to mean it.“Jesus, Tommy, did you have to do that? It’s hard enough gettin’ the boys broken in without you bustin’ em up,” Sam grumbled as he bent over the prostrate patrolman.“He was going to crack my kneecaps,” Tom said defensively. “I can’t abide a pup like him goin’ off half cocked, thinkin’ the world has to jump’cause he’s got new brass.”“Seems to me I recall you bein’ pretty green when you started too.” Sam hooked a hand under Jaffey’s arm. “Here, help me get him up.” Sam and Tom leaned Jaffey against a barrel.“Sam, we weren’t green when we started on the force. Ignorant maybe, but not green. We were green back in’62 when we enlisted,” Tom said. “But when we started here that had rubbed clean off.”There was a lot of truth in that. When the war ended and they joined the force, they were a well-seasoned pair.“Sure, you’re right, I guess, but we still didn’t know a damn thing about police work, as I recall,” Sam muttered.“There’s some that say you still don’t, Sammy,” Tom said with a grin.“Screw you, Braddock.” Sam grinned back.Halpern and Braddock stood over Jaffey as he came around. Jaffey looked up from his seat against the pickle barrel where the two had propped him. If he thought Braddock looked big before, he looked positively immense from the floor. Two sets of hands sky-hooked him onto his feet, and he saw at once the reason why the big man had not backed down when Jaffey had run into him. Braddock wore the shield of a sergeant detective. In the dark of the hallway, Jaffey hadn’t noticed it, and with Tom in plain clothes …“Shit,” he mumbled to himself. He had botched the job again. But that wasn’t what was important to him.“How the hell did you do that?” Jaffey asked with a mixture of surprise and respect as he rubbed the base of his neck. “Feel like I was poleaxed.”Braddock was surprised. He expected indignance, or bravado, or maybe even a bit of a fight from this kid with the fresh brass. A commendable swallowing of pride, Tom figured. The kid was doing his best to recognize his mistakes. Tom wasn’t so sure that if the tables were turned, he’d have the same humility. Perhaps he’d misjudged Jaffey just as quickly as Jaffey had misjudged him.“It’s a form of Chinese self-defense,” Tom said. “I picked it up when I was working patrol in Chinatown. Studied under Master Kwan on Mott Street.” He said this as if it should mean something to Jaffey, but of course it didn’t. “I’ll tell you that story some other time, Patrolman,” Tom continued. “And from now on, make sure of what you’re doing and who you’re doing it to before you do it. You understand me, son?”“Yes, sir, sorry, sir.”“Right,” Braddock said. “Now go on into the bar and talk to Bob. That poor bastard knows everyone who’s been in this place since after the war. Might have to buy him a drink to get anything out of him, though, and get one for yourself while you’re at it. You look like shit.”“Sergeant Halpern said the same thing,” Jaffey said.“You should listen to your sergeant. He knows a thing or two.”Jaffey hesitated a moment. “I’m on duty,” he said lamely.Sam and Tom rolled their eyes and Sam said as patiently as he could. “Jaffey, if Tom Braddock tells you to get a goddamned beer, then you get a goddamned beer. Now be a good lad and put your rulebook in your pocket and see what Bob has to say about our friend over there.”“Said his name was Terrence Bucklin.”“Good. Get whatever you can from Hamm too. He’s a decent sort for a bartender. Find out if he’s seen this fella before, who he’s been seen with, that sort of thing. Can you do that?”“Yes, sir.”“Hm … and Jaffey, don’t call me sir. Sergeant will do just fine.”Jaffey headed down the hallway toward the bar. He stopped to pick up the pad and pencil that he’d dropped when he walked into Braddock and felt himself a fool again at the small reminder.“Well, Sam, let’s get on with it,” Tom said as he walked out into the alley. Sam knew what was coming. Braddock was one of the better investigators in the department by some accounts, though he did have one unsettling habit when it came to murder investigations.“Terrence, Terrence, Terrence, look what’s become of you now.” Tom stood over the corpse, his head hung low and his magnificent handlebar mustache seeming to droop in grief at the terrible end Bucklin had come to.“Who would want to do this to you, man? Or maybe you just drank too much and knocked your head when you fell? Was that the way of it?” Tom paused as if the corpse would answer. “This is Sergeant Halpern and I’m Detective Tom Braddock, and if you don’t mind I’ll be askin’ your help as we go through this.”Halpern caught himself nodding to the corpse at the introduction. God, he hated when Tom did this. He remembered the first murder scene he and Tom had worked together and how startled he’d been when Tom started talking to the body like the son of a bitch was going to sit up and tell them all about it. He had kept his peace at the time, feeling that Tom was just trying to keep down his nervousness with the banter. Later, when the body had been carted off in the coroner’s wagon, Sam had said “The dead won’t answer you, Tom.”“Oh, Sam, that’s not true. The dead have a lot to say. Helps to talk to them, helps them say what they have to, I think.”Sam remembered Tom telling him how he started talking to the dead. It was during the war, at the Battle of the Wilderness.“Don’t look at me that way, Sam. I know they’re not really talking to me, but they were people once, and if you talk to them maybe you’ll get answers you don’t expect,” Tom said thoughtfully. “Does no harm. Helps me, anyway. Helps me put myself in their shoes, see things how they saw them.”Sam remembered that day with a silent grin. He and Tom had seen a lot since then, but Tom’s habit of talking to the dead had never left him. And if Sam had to be honest about it, he guessed it didn’t hurt any.Tom looked up and took in the place where the body lay. He turned slowly, his eyes scanning the doorway to Paddy’s, the trash in the alley, the three-story rough brick walls, the high gate where the alley opened onto the street. He seemed to be absorbing the place. Like a bird, his blue eyes were unblinking, reflecting back the scene in miniature as if it all were now inside his head, shining out, photographed there and filed away. Finally, as if coming up for air out of deep water, Tom filled his lungs and sighed. “What do you make of this, Sam?”“Not a whole hell of a lot, Tom. No bullet holes, not much blood, no murder weapon, no witnesses we know of. He looks dead though,” Sam said, nodding down toward the body. “I’m pretty certain of that.”“He’s been gone about two days,” Tom said. “Probably died sometime Saturday night. It’s been pretty warm last couple days. Wouldn’t take long for him to swell up like he has.”“With the bar closed for the Sabbath that explains why nobody found him sooner,” Sam observed.“He’s a worker,” Tom muttered as he stooped over the body. “A mason, unless I miss my guess. Did pretty well for a while but he’s down on his luck lately.”“How d’you figure that?” Sam asked, clearly skeptical.“Cement on his shoes and his pants are worn at the knees,” Tom said, pointing. “See his hand?” Tom turned Bucklin’s hand palm up. “Calluses, and cement dust in the cracks … see? Shoes aren’t the cheap kind but he’s worn them clear through. That’s why I guess he’s seen better times. Looks to have been pretty healthy, although I’ll grant you he don’t look too healthy now.” Tom looked at the body closely. “I’d guess he was thirty-four, thirty-five or thereabouts. Did you look through his pockets?” Tom glanced up at Sam questioningly.“Just his jacket. Nothing in the pockets except an orange. Didn’t have time to do more. You got here only about five minutes after me. I was standing off while Jaffey puked up his lunch.”“Yeah. Thanks for sending for me.” Tom put a hand over his nose. “Wish that rookie hadn’t lost his stomach. Smells bad enough as it is.”Sam gave a grim little laugh—It was shallow, as if the air weren’t fit for laughing. “It ain’t rosewater and lilies. Jaffey’s all right, though, you’ll see. He just needs to get his feet under him. There’s something in that boy that shines.” Sam looked back at the doorway toward Paddy’s. “Been keepin’ an eye on him.”“We’ll see,” Tom muttered. He wasn’t convinced by a long shot.“So, Terrence, mind if I go through your pockets?” he asked the corpse. He searched Terrence’s pockets, starting with his vest. Slowly he felt inside and out, feeling the fabric for something that might have been sewn into the lining. Sometimes a man would do that with something he didn’t want a cutpurse to find. The vest turned up a few coins, a cheap pocket watch, and a tattered piece of paper. Tom examined the watch, looking for an inscription or perhaps a tintype tucked into the back. It was an ordinary watch, a Waltham with a dented brass case, and nothing in or on it of any note. Tom had hoped for more but was not surprised. A working man rarely had the money for gold watches or inscriptions, for that matter. Next, Tom turned over the yellow folded piece of paper, feeling its worn edges and dirty sheen.“Been in his pocket awhile, I reckon. Looks like it’s been wet too.”“Might just be sweat,” Sam said, looking over Tom’s shoulder.Tom looked down at the body and murmured, “This meant something to you, didn’t it, lad? I’ll just have a look at it if you don’t mind.” Tom unfolded the paper with surprising delicacy. His big fingers seemed to coax the yellow sheet open, and it almost appeared to unfold itself.“Looks like a bill,” Tom murmured. “Thompson’s Mortuary Service,” he read, stopping to glance at the corpse. “Coffins Made to Order. Embalming. Burial Services. Death Masks and Portraits of the Dearly Departed.”“Looks as though our man had a death in the family,” Sam said.“Two. Says he’s being charged for two embalmings and caskets, one hearse, flowers, a burial plot, and a priest. Strange, two caskets and one hearse,” Tom mused.“Jesus, a hundred fifty-three dollars and forty cents. At those prices I can’t afford to die.” Sam gave a low whistle. “What’s that address there, Tommy?”“It’s kind of washed out. I’d say 242 Suffolk Street, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it, the ink’s run pretty bad.” Tom turned to Bucklin and murmured as he crouched near the body, “Buried someone near to you a while back?” His hands slowly emptied the two front pockets of the man’s worn wool pants. Their faded dark plaid confines yielded little. A folding knife with a blade worn down from sharpening, a button, and one key was all he found. The key might be useful, but there was no way to tell what it was for. It looked much like any other, a simple iron skeleton key. “Most likely a front-door key.” Tom held up the key.“Not much help,” Sam observed. Half the locks in the city had keys like that.“Help me roll him over.”Sam stooped by the body and together he and Tom rolled the corpse on its left side.“Well, now, I guess we know what killed you, don’t we, Terrence?” Tom said, looking at the back of Bucklin’s head. “That’s as nasty a bash on the noggin as I’ve seen. Neat, though, wasn’t it, Sam, just a bit of blood?” Tom ran his hand over the matted hair. “Crushed the skull like an eggshell but barely broke the skin.” Tom leaned close to the body and spoke so low Sam could hardly hear him. “Didn’t know what hit you, did you, partner, just an unscheduled freight train smack in the back of the head. Next thing, you’re looking up from the gutter, with the world spinnin’.”Sam snuck a look at Tom out of the corner of his eye. Tom was looking closely at the back of Bucklin’s head, peeling back the blood-sticky hair to get a better look at the large depression. The skull was soft there, like a melon that had been dropped days before. A chill went through Tom at the feel of it. He pulled his hand away sticky with the cool brown blood of Terrence Bucklin’s broken head. Tom had plenty of experience with blood, and it rarely affected him one way or the other. He stood and pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket. Tom wiped the blood away and tried to keep from scrubbing too hard. He gazed around at the alley on either side of the body, his eyes measuring the place. He measured the distance from the body to the door to Paddy’s, the width of the alley, the packing crates that had once hidden the corpse. The alley was too narrow, too small. There was no way anyone could be out there and not be aware of another presence. Tom could not believe that a man could stand there and have his head crushed by surprise. The tall brick walls echoed and amplified every sound, and a step would be clearly heard from ten feet away. Then he fixed an eye on the tall gate that opened on Peck Slip.“Caught him comin’ over the gate,” Tom said with certainty, his words ringing off the brick walls.“Wha’? How you figure that?”“Look,” Tom said as he walked to the gate. A small brown rivulet of dried blood ran down the green-painted boards. Braddock stepped on a crate to peer over the top. “Thought so. Came over the gate. Got hit as he went over. See the scrapes? Killer came over to finish the job.”Sam gave a puzzled frown, nodding as if he knew what the hell Braddock were talking about.Tom looked back at Sam. “See the cement dust? There’s scrapes from two different kinds of shoes here too. A little hard to see, but I’m pretty certain. He was running from someone. Figured to duck into the alley and throw him off, I guess. Probably slipped getting over the gate. That would account for the scrapes. Lost some time and got caught going over. At least that’s how I’m seein’ it.”Sam nodded sagely. Tom looked back at the body. Terrence stared back up at Tom and Sam. He knew.Tom walked back to the body, bending over to feel in the back pockets. He tugged a wallet out. “A few greenbacks here. Looks to be a pay stub too, from the New York and Brooklyn Bridge company.”“So Bob was right. He did work on the bridge,” Sam mused. Bob was something less than reliable.“So it would appear. Did all right. Says here he was paid twelve dollars last week. He’s got, let’s see, ah, three and five is eight dollars and some change, maybe nine and a quarter all told.”“So our killer didn’t care for money, or got scared off before he could take it. Plenty would kill for less than nine dollars and change,” Sam said.Tom nodded at the truth of that. “Seen men killed for less: a pair of shoes, a pint of rotgut. Strange the killer left it,” Tom said after a pause. “If you kill a man for money, you don’t leave before you have it. I think Terrence here is dead for some other reason.”Sam gave a huff of agreement. “So what do you think? Jealous husband, revenge, debts—could be any damn thing.”“Terrence knows, but he’s not talking,” Tom said, looking down at the body. “Well, Terrence, my lad, anything else you’d like to reveal to us?” Terrence was mute. The silence echoed, and Tom waited. Sam shifted his feet, feeling more and more awkward as time and silence conspired. “Damn.” Tom’s eyes fixed on Terrence’s vest. Sam gave a little jump as if Terrence had actually said something. “Why didn’t I see that before?” Bending over the body, Tom looked closely at the dark wool of Terrence’s work-stained vest. “This look like a tobacco stain to you, Sam?”Halpern joined Tom, bending low to get a closer look. “Hard to tell with that dark cloth,” Sam muttered. “Might be. What of it? Most every man who ever chewed tobacco ends up wearin’ some of it.”Tom looked at Sam, a question in his eyes. “You find any chaw on him? I know I didn’t.”“No, but …” Sam trailed off while he searched for an explanation.“You look in his mouth?” Tom asked with a little grimace. The two of them looked at each other and then down at the body. If he had been chewing tobacco, there might be some left tucked in his cheek, a particularly unappetizing thought given the body’s condition.“Shit.” Tom grumbled. He could have waited for the coroner to do his autopsy, but waiting to find out something he could learn for himself was not Braddock’s style. “I’ll look in his mouth.” “Give me your gloves, Sam.” He held out a hand as if he really expected Sam to give them up.Halpern chuckled, shaking his head. “Not mine, partner.” The ones in his pocket happened to be his last good pair. Fishing around in a dead man’s mouth was not his idea of a productive use for them.“Thanks a lot!” Tom said with a sarcastic twist to his mouth. “All right, now look here, Bucklin.” He wagged a finger at the body for emphasis. “I’ve got to play dentist for a bit, so you just relax and don’t go biting one o’ my fingers off.” Tom half meant it. After prying Terrence’s mouth open, he looked inside, pulling the cheeks away from the swollen gums as much as he dared. Tom was as gentle as he could be, for he feared that Bucklin’s well-aged cheeks might tear away. The thought sent a cold trickle of sweat rolling down his back. His probing fingers turned up nothing, and he stood quickly, almost wiping his hands on his pants. “Be right back.”Tom washed his hands three times in the washroom of Paddy’s without really feeling clean, but he went back out to the alley anyway. Sam was twirling the end of his mustache the way he did when something bothered him. He had a puzzled look on his face, and he said, “It’s odd, you know. Back when I was still chewing tobacco, I managed to spit some down my shirt and it always made sort of a dribbly run down the front. Ruined a couple o’ good shirts that way. Tobacco stains are hell to get out. Funny thing is, Mr. Bucklin here just has a big old splotch on his vest.”Tom nodded and said softly. “I was thinking the same thing while I washed up. Killer spat on him. Bashed his head in and spat on his dying body. Tobacco juice don’t run when you’re flat on your back.”They stood over the corpse, Sam’s thumbs hooked in his pockets, Tom’s arms folded across his chest.“Bucklin was probably still alive when he did it,” Tom said slowly, knowing it as if he’d seen it done. Sam just nodded.“Says something about the kind of man we’re looking for, don’t it?” Tom grunted. Whoever had done it was not going to like it when he caught up with him. It was both decision and promise.
Captain Sangree lowered his field glasses and, with the corner of his shirt, rubbed the dust from the lenses. It wasn’t dust that clouded his vision, though there was a bit of it, catching the light like smudgy stars. It was remembrance. Watching the sergeant and what appeared to be a detective examine the body of Terrence Bucklin put him in mind of another body nearly twenty years before. Unlike Mr. Bucklin, there was no mystery about that death.He stood a few feet back from his office window, nestled in shadow. The body was inconveniently close, with a clear sight line from his third story window to the alley where Bucklin lay. It was nearly impossible not to watch. Considering the man had been killed on his orders, it seemed wise to observe what he could. He was going to have to have a serious talk with his man about his sense of timing and locale. The man was an expert, and as calculating and cold-blooded a hunter as he’d ever seen. He was inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, with all due deference to his skill, but killing Bucklin almost on his doorstep was something else, and he had better have a damn good reason for it. The captain raised his glasses again. At this distance he almost didn’t need them. Bucklin’s sprawled body was barely a block away. There wasn’t much to see, just the cops standing above the body, mouths moving occasionally in mute conversation. He made careful note of the two, their demeanor and appearance, the way they acted and related to each other. The big one was the man to watch, he could see that immediately. The breadth of shoulder and trimness of waist gave him an air of physical power. He looked like a boxer. The smaller of the two was unremarkable. They appeared to know each other and seemed on friendly terms. There was no stiffness between them like he had seen in the young cop who got there first. They had worked together before, a factor to be taken into account. It wouldn’t do to underestimate them, he decided.Bucklin had been an unexpected threat to his plans. He had, by chance, come to stand in the way of Sangree’s mission. His life was forfeit—a casualty of war, one in a long line, counting no more than any other. True, it was a shame, as all casualties are, but it was necessary nonetheless. The field glasses saw the body once again. It looked no different from countless bodies that populated his dreams. The well-worn pair of brass field glasses caught a glint of the sun as they were lowered. Tom and Sam might have seen it if they had been looking that way. A scarred hand lowered the shade and snapped the binoculars closed.SUSPENSION. Copyright © 2000 by Richard E. Crabbe. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Excerpted from Suspension by Richard Edward Crabbe. Copyright © 2002 Richard Edward Crabbe. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >