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THE STUDIO WAS AN aquarium of light; the woman and the girl blinked in the glare. Victor Maitland slammed the door behind them, locked it, put on the chain. The woman turned slowly to watch, unafraid.
"You didn't tell me your name, Mama," Maitland said.
"You din' tell me yours," she said, smiling, showing a gold tooth.
He stared at her a moment, then laughed.
"Right," he said. "What the fuck difference does it make?"
"You talk dirty, beeg boy," she said, still smiling.
"And think dirty and live dirty," he added.
She looked at him speculatively.
"You wanna draw me?" she asked archly. "Okay, I pose for you. I show you all I got. Everyteeng. Ten dahlair."
"Ten dollars? For how long?"
She shrugged. "All night."
He looked at the olive-tinted lard.
"No, thanks, Mama," he said. He jerked a thumb at the girl. "It's her I want. How old are you, honey?"
"Feefteen," the woman said.
"Don't you go to school?" he asked the girl.
"She don't go," Mama said.
"Let her talk," he said angrily.
The woman looked about cautiously, lowered her voice.
"Dolores ees—" She pointed a finger at her temple, made little circles. "A good girl, but not so smart. She don' go to school. Don' got job. How much you pay?"
"Good body?" he asked.
The woman got excited. She kissed the tips of her fingers.
"Beautiful!" she cried passionately. "Dolores ees beautiful!"
"Take off your clothes," he said to the girl. "I'll see if I can use you."
He strode to the front of the studio. He kicked the posing dais into place beneath the skylight. Warm April sunshine came splaying down. He jerked a crate around and poked through the litter on the floor until he found an 11x14-inch sketchpad and a box of charcoal sticks. When he looked up, the girl was still standing there; she hadn't moved.
"What the hell are you waiting for?" he yelled angrily. "Go on, get undressed. Take your clothes off."
The woman moved closer to the girl, rattled off a mutter of Spanish.
"Where?" she called to Maitland.
"Where?" he shouted. "Right here. Throw her shit on the bed. Tell her she can keep her shoes on; the floor is damp."
The woman spoke to the young girl again. The girl went over to the cot, began undressing. She took off her clothes placidly, looking about vacantly. She dropped her coat and dress in a pile on the cot. She was wearing soiled, greyish cotton underwear. The straps were held up with safety pins. She unhitched the pins. She pulled her pants down. She stood naked.
"All right," Maitland called. "Come over here and stand on this platform."
Mama led the girl by the hand and helped her up on the dais. Then she stepped away, leaving the girl alone. Dolores was still looking off somewhere into space. She hadn't looked at Maitland since coming into the studio. She just stood there, arms straight down at her sides.
He walked around her. He walked around her twice.
"Jesus Christ," he said.
"I tol' you," the woman said proudly. "Beautiful, no?"
He didn't answer. He jerked the crate forward a few feet, propped the big sketchpad on a can of turpentine. He stood staring at the naked girl through squinched eyes.
"You got something to dreenk, beeg boy?" Mama asked.
"Beer in the icebox," he said. "She coppish English?"
Maitland went close to the girl.
"Look, Dolores," he said loudly, "stand like this. Bend over, put your hands on your knees. No, no, bend from the hips. Look at me. Like this ... Now stick out your ass. That's good. Now arch your back. Put your head up. Come on ... like this. Put it up. Farther. Keep your legs stiff. That's it. Now try to stick your tits out."
"Wheeskey?" Mama asked.
"In the cupboard under the sink. Tits, Dolores! Here. Stick them out. Now you've got it. Don't move."
Maitland rushed back behind the crate and sketchpad. He picked up a stick of charcoal and attacked the white paper. He looked up at Dolores, looked down, and sketched rapidly—slash, slash, slash. He ripped off the sheet of paper, let it fall to the floor. Then he struck at the new sheet, swinging his arm from the shoulder.
He tore off that sheet, let it drop, began a fresh one. Halfway through the third sketch the charcoal stick broke. Maitland whirled and flung the remainder at the brick wall. He laughed delightedly. He strode to the naked girl, grabbed a buttock in one hand, shook it savagely.
"Gold!" he howled. "Pure gold!"
He went to the rear of the studio. Mama was sitting on the cot, bottle of whiskey in one hand, a smeared, half-filled glass in the other. Maitland grabbed the bottle from her, put it to his mouth. He took two heavy swallows and belched.
"Okay, Mama," he said. "She'll do. Five bucks an hour. Maybe two or three hours a day."
"No mahnkey beesness," the woman said severely.
"No mahnkey beesness weeth Dolores."
Maitland roared with raucous laughter. "No monkey business," he agreed, spluttering. "Shit, I won't touch her."
"Mahnkey beesness costs more than five dahlair," the woman smiled a ghastly smile.
He let her finish her drink, and then got them out of there. The woman promised to bring Dolores around at eleven o'clock on Monday morning. Maitland locked and chained the door behind them. He went back to the crate, whiskey bottle in his fist. He drank while he looked at the drawings on the floor, nudging them with his toe. He squinted at the sketches, remembering how the girl looked, beginning to plan the first painting.
There was a knock at the studio door. Angry at the interruption, he yelled, "Who?"
A familiar voice answered, and Maitland scowled. He set the whiskey bottle on the crate. He went to the door, unlocked it, took off the chain. He pulled the door open, turned his back, walked away.
"You again!" he said.
The first knife thrust went into his back. High up. Alongside the spine. The blow was strong enough to drive him forward, face breaking, hands thrown up in a comical gesture of dismay. But he did not go down.
The blade was withdrawn and stuck again. And again. And again. Even after Victor Maitland was face down on the wide floor boards, life leaking, the blade was plunged. Fingers scrabbled weakly. Then were still.CHAPTER 2
HIS STEPDAUGHTERS WERE BRIGHT, scornful girls, and ex-Chief of Detectives Edward X. Delaney enjoyed their company at lunch. He cherished them. He loved them. But my God, their young energy was wearing! And they shrieked; their laughter pierced his ears.
So when he kissed them a fond farewell at the entrance to their private school on East 72nd Street, Manhattan, it was with mingled tenderness and relief that he watched them scamper up the steps and into the safety of the school. He turned away, reflecting wryly that he had come to an age when he wanted everything nice. In his lexicon, "nice" meant quiet, cleanliness, order. Perhaps Barbara, his first wife, had been right. She said he had become a cop because he saw beauty in order, and wanted to maintain order in the world. Well ... he had tried.
He walked over to Fifth Avenue and turned south, the shrill voices of the children still ringing in his ears. What he wanted at that precise moment, he decided, was an old-fashioned Irish bar, dim and hushed, all mahogany and Tiffany lampshades, all frosted glass and the smell of a century of beer. There were still such places in New York—fewer every year, but they did exist. Not, unfortunately, on upper Fifth Avenue. But there was a place nearby of quiet, cleanliness, order. A nice place ...
The courtyard of the Frick Collection was an oasis, a center of tranquility in the raucous, brawling city. Sitting on a gleaming stone bench amongst that strong greenery was like existing in a giant terrarium set down in a hurricane. You knew the ugliness and violence raged outside; inside was calm and a renewing sense of the essence of things.
He sat there a long time, shifting occasionally on the hard bench, wondering once again if he had done the right thing to retire. He had held a position of prominence, power, and responsibility: Chief of Detectives, New York Police Department. Three thousand men under his command. An enormous budget that was never enough. A job to do that, considered in the context of the times and the mores, could never be more than a holding operation. Battles could be won, the war never. The important thing was not to surrender.
In a way, of course, he had surrendered. But it was his personal surrender, not the capitulation of the Department. He had resigned his prestigious post for a single reason: he could no longer endure the political bullshit that went along with his high-ranking job.
He knew, of course, the role politics played in the upper echelons of the Department before he accepted the position. Nothing unusual about that. Or even contemptible. The City was a social organization; it was realistic to expect a clash of wills, stupidity, strong ambitions, idealism, cynicism, devious plots, treachery, and corruption. Politics existed in the functioning of every social organization larger than two people.
It became unbearable to Chief Edward X. Delaney when it began to intrude on the way he did his job, on who he assigned where, how he moved his forces from neighborhood to neighborhood, his priorities, statements he made to the press, his relations with other city departments, and with State and Federal law-enforcement agencies.
So he had filed for retirement, after long discussions with Monica, his second wife. They had agreed, finally, that his peace of mind was more important than the salary and perquisites of his office. The Department had, he thought ruefully, borne up extremely well under the news of his leaving. (He had "rocked the boat," it was whispered. He was "not a team player.") He had been given the usual banquet, handed a set of matched luggage and a pair of gold cufflinks, and sent on his way with encomiums from the Commissioner and Mayor attesting to his efficiency, loyalty, trustworthiness, and whole-hearted cooperation. Bullshit to the last.
So there he was, the age of sixty looming, and behind him a lifetime as a cop: patrolman, detective third-grade, second, first, detective sergeant, lieutenant, precinct captain in the Patrol Division, and then back to the Detective Division as Chief. Not a bad professional career. Second in the history of the Department for total number of citations earned. Physical scars to prove his bravery. And a few changes in method and procedure that wouldn't mean much to civilians but were now a part of police training. It was he, for instance, who had fought for and won the adoption of new regulations specifying that a suspect's hands were to be handcuffed behind him. Not on a par with the discovery of gravity or atomic energy, of course, but important enough. To cops.
He would not admit to himself that he was bored. How could a man as rigidly disciplined and self-sufficient as he be bored? He and Monica traveled, a little, and he carefully avoided inflicting his company on the police of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and La Jolla, California, knowing what a trial visiting cops (especially retired cops!) can be to a harried department, no matter how large the city.
At home, in their brownstone next to the 251st Precinct house (it had been his precinct), he took care not to get in Monica's way, not to follow her about like a lorn puppy as he had seen so many other retired men dog their wives' footsteps. He read a great deal, he visited museums, he wrote letters to Eddie, Jr., and Liza, his children by his first wife. He treated Monica to dinner and the theatre, he treated his stepdaughters to lunch, he treated old Department friends to drinks, listened to their complaints and problems, offering advice only if asked. They called him after he retired. At first, many. Later, few.
And he walked a great deal, all over Manhattan, visiting neighborhoods he hadn't seen since he was a street cop, marveling every day how the city had changed, was changing—a constant flux that dazzled with its speed: a middle-class Jewish neighborhood had become Puerto Rican, a rundown tenement street had been refurbished by young married couples into smart converted brownstones, skyscrapers had become parking lots, factories had become parks, some streets had disappeared completely, one street that had been solidly fur wholesalers was now wall-to-wall art galleries.
But still ... you could write so many letters, read so many books, walk so many city blocks. And then ...?
Get a job, Monica had suggested. In the security department of a store. Or start your own security company. Something like that. Could you be a private detective? A private eye? Like on TV?
No, he had laughed, kissing her. He couldn't be a private eye. Like on TV.
Finally, the afternoon drawing on, the elegant courtyard of the Frick Collection darkening, he rose and walked toward the entrance without visiting any of the galleries. He knew the paintings. El Greco's St. Jerome was one of his favorites, and there was a portrait in the long gallery that looked like Don Ameche. He liked that one, too. He walked out past the magnificent pipe organ on the stairway landing.
He had read or heard somewhere a story about old man Frick, the robber baron who had built this palace. It was said that after a stint of crushing labor unions and ruining competitors, Frick would return to this incredible home, put up his feet, and listen dreamily as his private organist played, "When you come to the end of a perfect day ..."
Smiling at the image, Edward X. Delaney stopped at the cloakroom and surrendered his check.
He gave a quarter to the attendant who brought his hard, black homburg.
The man palmed the coin and said, "Thank you, Chief."
Delaney looked at him, surprised and pleased, but said nothing. He left the building, thinking, They do remember! He had walked almost a block before he acknowledged the man might have intended "chief" as "pal" or "fella." "Thank you, buddy." It might have been as meaningless as that. Still ...
He walked south on Fifth Avenue, enjoying the waning May afternoon. Say what you would—at the right time, the right place, it was a fucking beautiful city. At this moment the sun lowering over Central Park, there was a golden glow on the towers, a verdant perfume from the park. The sidewalks of Fifth Avenue were clean. The pedestrians were well dressed and laughing. The squalling traffic was part of it. All growing. It had been there before he was born, and would be there when he was under. He found comfort in that, and thought it odd.
He walked down to 55th Street, lumbering his way through increasing crowds as he moved south. Shoppers. Tourists. Messengers. A chanting Hare Krishna group. A young girl playing a zither. Peddlers. Mendicants. Strollers. He spotted a few hookers, a few bad lads on the prowl. But mostly an innocent, good-natured crowd. Sidewalk artists (butterflies on black velvet), political and religious orators with American flags, one line of pickets with a precinct cop nearby, lazily swinging a daytime stick. Delaney was part of them all. His family, he was tempted to think. But that, he admitted, was fanciful and ridiculous.
He was a heavy, brooding man. Somewhat round-shouldered, almost brutish in appearance. Handsome in a thick, worn way, with grey hair cut en brosse. A solemn mien; he had a taste for melancholy, and it showed. His hands were fists. He had the trundling walk of an old street cop on patrol.
He wore a dark suit of dense flannel. A vest festooned with a clumpy gold chain that had been his grandfather's. At one end of the chain, a hunting case in a waistcoat pocket. It had belonged to his father and had stopped fifty years ago. Twenty minutes to noon. Or midnight. At the other end of the chain was a jeweled miniature of his detective's badge, given to him by his wife on his retirement.
Squarely atop his head was his black homburg, looking as if it had been cast in iron. He wore a white shirt with a starched collar. A maroon tie of silk rep. A white handkerchief in the breast pocket of his jacket, and another in his left trouser pocket. Both fresh. And ironed. His shoes were polished to a dull gloss, ankle-high, of black kangaroo leather. The soles were thick. When he was tired, he thumped as he walked.
He suddenly knew where he wanted to go. He crossed 55th Street and turned east.
Excerpted from The Second Deadly Sin by Lawrence Sanders. Copyright © 1977 The Lawrence A. Sanders Foundation, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Posted May 8, 2013
I love all of Lawrence Sanders books. The characters seem very real and depending on which book you are reading, sometimes you can sympathize with the perpetrator.
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Posted December 2, 2013
So very happy these have been reissued and that I can curl up with Edward X on my Nook !! The entire series is spectacular ! Buy one, buy all, you'll love reading them late into the night !
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Posted January 24, 2014
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Posted April 6, 2014
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