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When male supermodel Cullom Furyk plummets to his death from the top of a major downtown hotel, gay Chicago Police Detective Paul Turner and his partner, Detective Buck Fenwick, are called to find out what actually happened. One witness claims that Furyk was pushed to his death, and someone involved in Furyk's tumultuous personal or professional life may have played a role in the mysterious incident. Will Turner and Fenwick be able to determine the killer before someone gets away with murder?
Read an Excerpt
"Flat," Turner said.
"Flat and squishy," Fenwick said.
"I prefer just plain flat," Turner responded.
"You're probably right," Fenwick stated. "That squishy-jelly look might have a hard time becoming fashion law."
"I don't know," Turner said, "properly promoted ..."
The medical examiner interrupted. "We talking doughnuts or dead bodies?"
"Either one," Fenwick said.
"Neither one," Turner said.
"Anybody seen his right eye?" the ME asked.
An assistant crime lab technician said, "I put it in the van with the other one."
"It was a he?" Fenwick asked.
"Definitely," the ME said. She glanced at the mess before them."Lot of dispersal. Must have hit something on the way down."
"I know I feel better because of that information," Fenwick said, "although I doubt if he does."
"Could he have been dead before he fell?" Turner asked.
The medical examiner looked thoughtful. "I can't prove that by what I see here. I can give you an opinion later."
Turner gazed up toward the top floors of the Archange Hotel. No hotel in Chicago was more exclusive or more expensive. It consisted of two thirty-story gothic towers on opposite sides of State Street, set back twenty-five feet from the street. Each edifice covered an entire city block, from Chestnut to Delaware.
Turner unbuttoned his overcoat. Since last week's record cold, the early January weather had been unusually mild. In the sun and out of the wind, the day was pleasant with an almost springlike warmth. Yesterday the mercury had crawled into the mid-forties.
The crime-scene van was parked halfway up on the curb near the east tower. The police had closed the entire block of State Street and pedestrians gawked from behind yellow crime-scene tape. Parts of the body were scattered from the point of impact near the east side of the street to the wall of the hotel and twenty feet in either direction north and south. Nearby cars had bits of blood, flesh, bone, and clothing on them. Two crime-scene photographers were carefully taking pictures of all the vehicles and each square foot of pavement.
"We have any kind of identification?" Turner asked. "Anybody in the crowd know him?"
A very pale, very young cop walked over. Turner noted his name: Domanici. "I found keys and a wallet next to"the kid drew a deep breath"a bone over there." He pointed between two parked Jaguars eight feet from the body.
Turner opened the wallet. He found an Illinois driver's license with the name Cullom Furyk. The name meant nothing to him.Along with credit cards, he found slips with phone numbers, one hundred seventeen dollars, and two keys.
"We sure this is the dead guy's?" Turner asked.
"It was the only identification we found," Domanici said.
"Is there anybody who actually saw him fall?"
This part of State Street was a busy place even at midmorning. With a crime scene in a busy street it was easy for those who didn't want to be involved to simply walk away. It was also easy for the morbidly curious to trample over possible evidence.
"Some of them got splattered when the body hit," Domanici said. "A couple of them were pretty hysterical when I showed up. That group of people was closest." Domanici indicated a knot of men and women clustered on the pavement on the west side of the street. "Besides them we've got the crowd over there to talk to." A much larger group of people huddled near the north end of the hotel's west tower. "The hotel guests are still inside. One of the guys said they were getting pretty irritated. We're going to have trouble keeping them from leaving."
"Shoot one of them," Fenwick said. "The rest will be much more docile."
Domanici shrugged. "We've only got one guy who claims he saw the whole thing." He pointed him out. "Says he's a photographer." Domanici brought the witness over.
Clark Nemora was in his late teens or early twenties and wore glasses, a dark blue parka, blue jeans, and heavy work boots. Through the man's unzipped jacket, Turner could see a camera dangling on a leather strap.
The three of them sat in the detectives' unmarked car for the interview. The first thing Nemora said after getting settled was a whispered "I never imagined anything so horrible. Am I going to have nightmares about this?"
"What you saw was pretty tough for anybody to handle,"Turner said. "It's a fresh memory. In time it will fade. For now, if you can, we'd like you to concentrate on giving us details about anything you can remember." Turner paused. Nemora's shoulders quivered and his hands trembled. Turner tried easing him into his statement. "What brought you down here this morning?"
Nemora leaned forward. "I'm an architecture student. I really love gothic structures. The Tribune Tower was the best example of that style in this area until the Archange was built. I was taking pictures of the Tribune earlier. I'm trying to catch each building from the same angle once each hour. I'm working on a project on the effects of shadow and light."
"Did you get a picture of the falling body?" Turner asked.
"No, I was still working on my camera setting and being sure I was at the same angle as I was before. It takes time to get a shot just right. It has to be perfect. This is for my senior project at school."
"Did you see him when he started falling?" Turner asked.
"Yeah." The kid swallowed hard.
"What did you see?" Turner asked.
"He was walking along the ledge on the top floor of the east tower."
"I'm not sure. It was pretty high up, but I thought I saw someone push him."
The detectives leaned forward.
"But you're not sure?" Turner asked.
"I don't know. Before he fell, the guy had his hands outyou know, like balancing on a high wire? Then he sort of twisted around like maybe he was trying to go forward and look behind at the same time. I thought an arm shot out and pushed him. He pinwheeled out and fell. I couldn't take my eyes off him. About halfway down, he hit one of those flagpoles. I remember thinking I should do something to help, but what could I do? I guess I couldhave tried to catch him, but I just couldn't move. If I was really a professional photographer, I'd have gotten pictures, but he hit the ground before I could react. It all happened very fast."
"You wouldn't have been able to save him," Turner said. "Most likely you'd have been killed if he hit you when he landed."
A tremor shook Nemora's body.
"You're not sure about the hand pushing him?"
"I'm sorry, no. He was so high up, and I wasn't expecting anything to happen. I remember thinking he was nuts to be walking like that. Then I thought it might be one of those stunt guys, although I wondered where the cameras were to cover his feat. For a couple seconds I thought maybe he was, like, bungee jumping or something." Nemora gulped. "But there wasn't any wire to hold him. When I looked back up to the top, I thought I saw someone watching him fall. It was too far away to get a good look."
"Could the hand have been reaching to save him, not push him?" Turner asked.
Nemora paused a moment. "I hadn't considered that."
"Does the name Cullom Furyk mean anything to you?"
"Isn't he a fashion model? Involved in a lot of causes?"
"Did you know him?"
"I'm not famous."
They had one of the uniformed officers take him down to Area Ten headquarters to record his statement.
"I'm ready to vote for homicide," Fenwick said.
Turner said, "If somebody'd tried to catch him or stop him, I think we'd have an upset person down here saying he or she tried to save him."
They returned to the medical examiner. Fenwick asked, "Can we look at the body?"
"Yeah," the ME said. "But there is not much point to thathere. We'll reassemble everything as best we can at the morgue. We'll be able to give you a lot more then."
"We still have to look," Turner said. A fall from a great height was not Turner's favorite kind of crime scene to work. "We need a path to the most central point of impact."
The ME pointed and said, "Try approaching from the left front fender of that Rolls-Royce."
Turner and Fenwick followed her suggestion. Stepping carefully, Turner and Fenwick slowly approached the largest intact part. They stopped in a clear patch five feet away. After several moments Turner said, "Not much point in staring at it."
"Dead is dead, down is down, so to speak," Fenwick said. Turner watched Fenwick eyeing the bits and parts of the body strewn across the pavement.
"Don't say it," Turner said.
"I was just"
Fenwick gave a martyr's sigh. "Okay," he said, "I see lots of blood, lots of gore, and absolutely nothing that's going to help in this investigation."
Turner looked up and swung his head from east to west to examine both towers. He held his hand up to block the sun from his eyes. After several moments, he turned his gaze back to the body. "We have two crime scenes."
"I hate that," Fenwick stated.
Turner continued, "Here and the point where he started from. I don't think down here is going to tell us much. I hope up there is better. We need to start working on the people in the hotel."
They walked over to Domanici. Turner asked, "Do we have somebody official from the hotel to talk to?"
"Yeah," Domanici said. "The manager, Bert Weeland. He's over there." He pointed to the revolving doors that led into the hotel on the east side of the street. Next to a liveried doorman, atall, thin man in an Armani suit stood ramrod straight just inside the doors.
"You get anybody else who saw something significant, let us know right away," Turner said.
Picking their way through the detritus, Fenwick and Turner ambled over to the hotel entrance. It felt good to locomote the streets without having to worry about patches of ice or inches of snow. Avoiding stray remnants of Cullom Furyk was another matter. The doorman swung the revolving door for them.
DROP DEAD. Copyright © 1999 by Mark Richard Zubro. 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. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
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