Nineteen years in Night Cover for the Indianapolis PD and suddenly Lt. Leroy Powder gets a new job description. The surly cop may have honed his instincts for solving crimes, but he can’t tell if heading the Missing Persons Bureau is a promotion, demotion, or something in between.
And then he gets a new partner thrown at him. Sure, Sgt. Carollee Fleetwood is a decorated cop who took a bullet for a fellow officer, but all Lieutenant Powder sees is a woman rolling around in a wheelchair. And there’s no time to be sensitive and diplomatic when there’s a job to be done.
As Powder and Fleetwood test each other, they never lose sight of the case at hand—no matter how strange the details. Case by case, from missing loves to missing lovers, the two seasoned detectives slowly gain each other’s grudging respect. And no matter how vicious the jokes get, neither will ever crack a smile.
Hard Line is the 2nd book in the Lt. Leroy Powder Novels, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
About the Author
Since 1971, Lewin has lived in England, currently in Bath, where his city center flat overlooks the nearby hills. It also overlooks the front doors of the Lunghi family detective agency, a newer series of novels and stories set in the historic city. Visit him online at www.MichaelZLewin.com for more information.
Read an Excerpt
A Lt. Leroy Powder Novel
By Michael Z. Lewin
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1982 Michael Z. Lewin
All rights reserved.
The telephone rang.
Powder looked at his watch. He let the phone ring twice more. Then he rubbed his face with one hand, and picked up the receiver with the other.
Because it was twenty minutes till the office opened, he didn't say, "Missing Persons." He said, "E one forty-four."
"Is Roy Powder there, please?" A man at the other end, being familiar.
"This is Powder."
"Cedric Kendall, County Hospital, Roy."
Powder relaxed. "How do, Cedric."
"You are almost the only person in Indianapolis I can count on to be at work before he's supposed to," Kendall said amicably. One hardworking administrator to another.
"No," Powder said. "I've just got a new sergeant coming in today, so I was clearing part of the work load in order to have a little instruction time."
"Your people don't seem to last very long with you," Kendall noted. "Or is this one in addition to the ones you already have?"
"Don't get me started," Powder said. "There are more politics here than in Washington."
"So, what you got for me? A body needs identifying?"
"Yes and sort of."
"Elucidate," Powder said.
Powder picked up a pencil and rubbed gently on his lower lip.
"Two problems came in overnight. One is an unidentified deceased. Elderly male. Exposure, possibly. Alcohol poisoning, possibly. We're cutting him up this afternoon."
"OK," Powder said.
"And the other is an unidentified live person."
"Makes a change."
"Female. Young, perhaps in her late twenties."
"No," Kendall said portentously. "Conscious but seeming to suffer from amnesia."
"Oh," Powder said.
"Two guys found her in an alley last night. They were on their way home from a bar. Sam's on Trowbridge Street, near Hoyt. Do you know it?"
"I've passed it," Powder said. "What time of night was this?"
"About one this morning," Kendall said. "According to the report I've got."
Powder hesitated. "Do I detect from your voice that there is more?"
"For a start, she was stark-naked when they found her."
"I see," Powder said quietly.
"What the two guys told the ambulance man is that they wouldn't have noticed her but for the fire."
"She was burning her clothes. Back from the road. Apparently the alley turns and she was at the bend. They spotted the light and went to look. She saw them coming and ..." He held the conclusion for a moment.
Powder bit. "And what?"
"And she took her gun ..."
"Jesus Christ. A nice class of patient you people get over there."
"And she put it in her mouth and she pulled the trigger."
"What happened? No bullet?"
"There was a bullet all right. But the gun misfired. Cheapo twenty-two. Then they got to her and pulled the gun out. It brought a couple of teeth with it and she was choking on the blood. They took her back to the bar and called the ambulance."
Powder thought for a moment. "The bar was open?"
"One of them owns it."
"When did the ambulance get there?"
"Quarter to two."
"Who has the gun?"
"We do. It's locked away."
"And that pile of clothes?"
"I don't know."
"How about the details for the guys who found her?"
"I've got two names here."
Powder took the names.
"I'll check the Night Cover log," he said. "And if they don't know anything about it upstairs, then maybe I'll be around. But it won't be for a while yet."
The Missing Persons Department's part-time secretary came in the private door at two minutes to nine. She was a gangly woman of twenty-two, a civilian, who worked mornings for the police in order to pay for afternoons in computer technology. How, exactly, her classes fitted with her employment Powder didn't know. But she'd been at it for nine months. And Powder did know that she flew through the routine paperwork, to be able to spend time punching away at the keys of the computer terminal in the department office, which connected to the central IPD computer.
"Morning, Lieutenant," Agnes Shorter said cheerfully as she came in. When on her feet, she was active and chatty. When she sat down she became quiet and precise.
"Agnes," Powder said, by way of acknowledgment.
Shorter sat immediately at the terminal desk and began to type on the keyboard. Then stopped. "Rats," she said. "Somebody's using what I want."
Powder didn't ask what that might be. He said, "I'm going to have to go out."
"This Sergeant Fleetwood is supposed to be here ..." He looked at his watch. " ... by now, I'd have hoped."
Agnes faced him and smiled.
"I'm going upstairs, but then I'll have to leave the building. You may have to do the initiation ceremonies. Go through our basic routines."
Agnes turned back to the keyboard and played a few chords.
Powder used the stairs for the trip from first floor to fourth. Using stairs was part of his diet and had almost become habit.
On the fourth, he went to the detective dayroom and checked the records for the previous night. A phone call from the ambulance service had been logged, but no file opened and no case assigned.
For the sake of formality, he noted that he was making a follow-up investigation. But he doubted that anyone would notice his notes. These days Night Cover records were treated as having the same permanency as daily newspapers. They were skimmed over in the mornings and that was that.
On the way back to the stairwell Powder passed several officers he had worked with in the past. He exchanged no more acknowledgment with any of them than a nod.
The stairs were empty.
Rather than use the back door, for Missing Persons personnel, Powder came into the department through the public entrance. Agnes looked up momentarily, but continued with her work.
Powder fussed for a moment with the chairs facing a rubber plant on the right side of the entrance. In the corner of the room behind the chairs a basket of variegated ivies and philodendrons hung from midway up the wall.
The main Missing Persons counter faced the door, with only one small section at the end made semiprivate by a fan-shaped barrier at right angles to the counter top. But genuinely private interviews could only take place in a small room just inside the main door on the left.
For Powder there were two ways from the front of the counter to the back. One was through the interview room, which had a connecting door for department officers. The other was through a flap in the counter top.
"Excuse me, please."
Behind Powder a woman in a bulky wheelchair, with two aluminum stick crutches holstered behind the seat like a pair of flags, was asking to get past.
"Will you get out of my way please?" the woman said again, when Powder did not immediately make way. "You may have time to stand around, but I have things to do."
Powder frowned and continued to block the wheelchair's path. "They told me," he said measuredly, "that you would be out of that thing and walking around."
The woman blinked. She sat back and looked up at him. "Which means that you must be Lieutenant Powder," she said.
Powder's frown grew easily into a scowl.
"And you are the kid who thinks that she can do with half a body what most of us have a hard time doing with a whole one."
Sergeant Fleetwood had a choice of provocations to respond to. She said, "Hardly a child."
"Fifty-three percent of the people in this country are older than you."
"And seven months."
"Roll in," Powder said. "I won't ask you to take a seat."
Fleetwood followed Powder through the gap in the counter. Powder gallantly held the flap up for her.
"Not exactly Five Hundred standard with that thing, are you?"
"I'll be out of it full-time soon."
"And onto the crutches?"
"For a while."
"Terrific, kid. Terrific."
"I'm glad you think so too, Lieutenant."
"Generally," he said, "we use the back door here. If you think you can handle it."
"I'll find some knobs to practice on."
"Agnes over there will give you a key."
At the mention of her name, Agnes glanced up from the computer keyboard and appeared only just to have noticed Powder and Fleetwood so near to her.
Agnes said, "Hi."
Fleetwood said, "Hello, Agnes; Carollee Fleetwood."
Powder rubbed his face and glowered down at his new sergeant. "This isn't a soft billet," he said.
"Now why would I think that?" Fleetwood asked. "Certainly not because the Missing Persons Department is tucked downstairs into a corner of what used to be Traffic Fines space, or because it closes for lunch, or because it's across the hall from the public toilets. Surely I'm not so small-minded as to suggest that it is anything but the very heart of the Indianapolis Police Department's investigative arm."
Despite himself, Powder broke into a smile. "You forgot the chaplain. Right across the hall from the goddamn chaplain."
It could have been received as an offer of truce.
But Fleetwood said, "That must be handy when you need consoling."
Powder stopped smiling. He said, "I hear he does a special line in cripples."
"We're not 'crippled' anymore. We're 'disabled' now."
"Great. And while we're chatting, let me say that if you haven't got your head sorted out any better than your mode of transportation, and if you're going to be crying into your hanky all day long because you can't run around chasing bank robbers anymore, then maybe you better take your tricycle and get out now."
"Thank you for that warm welcome."
"I haven't spent five years straightening this department out to end up as a nursemaid."
"I tried to get assigned upstairs," Fleetwood said. Her conciliation?
"It was here or a pension, huh?"
"Terrific, kid. Really great. And do you come with your own baby bottles, or do we have to requisition them?"
"A police wet nurse comes down four times a day and puts the tit to me."
Powder rubbed his face for several seconds. He sat down at his desk and picked up some papers. Then he put them down again.
"What I ask for is two full-time officers. Nothing fancy. Could be kids for me to train up. What they send me is a crippled sergeant. A hypothetical question for you, Sergeant Carollee Fleetwood. If you were in my chair, instead of that one, what would you do?"
"I'd cut the crap and give me a chance."
Powder looked at his watch. "Well, I've enjoyed our little chat, but I've got to run. Agnes will give you a taste of procedures here. And if you find she's ignoring you, pull the plug on that damn machine. She does know how to talk. It's a matter of getting her attention."
"Excuse me, Lieutenant?"
"May I ask a few questions?"
"Sure kid, sure. Only not now." Powder left.CHAPTER 2
One end of the alley next to Sam's opened onto Trowbridge Street directly behind the bar. Because the alley ran in a squared-off U shape, its second opening was also on Trowbridge Street, near the other end of the block.
Powder parked in front of the bar. It appeared closed. Instead of trying to raise somebody inside, he walked along the alley. At its first elbow he found the remains of the burned clothes. Shoes, dress, underwear, belt all charred and mixed with cinders as if the fire had been put out by people stomping on it.
Powder photographed the scene from two angles with an instant-print camera. Then he scooped everything in the immediate vicinity into a plastic bag.
Before returning to his car he walked the full length of the alleyway twice, studying the dirt-and-cinder surface, and looking occasionally into the yards of the small houses that backed onto it. Sam's was the only commercial establishment in the immediate area, a brick tavern that had been around since the fifties.
Powder put his plastic bag in the trunk of his car and drove to County Hospital.
"Hello, Roy," Cedric Kendall said, as Powder entered his office.
"I don't know why you wear that white jacket. Unwary people will mistake you for a doctor."
"It happens sometimes."
Powder looked at the densely booked walls, and at the mass of paper on Kendall's desk. "When was the last time you stuck a knife in somebody?"
Cedric Kendall smiled benignly.
"This morning over breakfast, huh?"
"You can't keep secrets from the police," Kendall said.
"I've come to see your bodies."
"There is no open file on the live one and while I'm here, I'll take prints and a picture of the dead one."
"We take the prints for you," Kendall said. "Part of the routine."
"All yours come in with pressure smudges. I'll do it myself."
Kendall shrugged. He wrote a note and passed it across the desk. "That will get you access to our deceased tenant."
"Guy in the icebox going to be able to read this? Maybe I was wrong. Maybe you are a doctor. It looks just like a prescription."
"And the young lady is in five eleven. I let the head nurse know someone would be coming. Ask for her at the desk in front of the central elevator."
"The patient still without benefit of memory?"
"I didn't ask, Roy. Sorry. But I've made a copy of the ambulance file on her."
"That's the Wishard service?"
"Yes," Kendall said. "They handle virtually all the emergency stuff in the county. And I've got a copy of our admission sheet for you." He handed Powder the two reproductions. And a small .22 automatic pistol.
Powder folded the papers and pocketed them. He handled the gun gingerly. "Cheap and nasty," he said. He put it in another pocket. Then he flipped an imaginary coin, caught it, and turned it on his wrist. "Heads or tails?"
After a momentary double take, Kendall said, "Tails."
"Right. I go see a lady about an identity."
The admission report had very little information on it. The woman was estimated as being in her late twenties, five five, and weighing one thirty. Hair brown, eyes blue. The only distinguishing feature was a well-healed scar at the base of her neck, which, it was speculated, might have been from operations following a broken neck.
Five eleven was a small, spare single room. The woman lay on her side looking at the window, but turned toward the door quickly as Powder entered.
He was startled by the blackness of shock rings around her eyes. But as he pulled up a chair he saw that the eyes inside the targets were alert and suspicious.
"Howdy," Powder said. "How are you feeling this morning?"
"Are you a doctor?" she asked. Her speech was slurred, the mouth swollen.
"Nope. Police. I'm Lieutenant Leroy Powder. This is my ID." He held the card up so she could see it easily. She wasn't interested. "I'm in charge of the city's Missing Persons Department. The hospital has asked me to help find out who you are."
The woman's eyes darted round the room, returning to Powder only intermittently. "I don't know," she said.
"I'd be grateful if you would tell me what you remember?"
"About anything." Complete amicability.
"I remember having some kind of soft cereal for breakfast," she said slowly.
"Did you enjoy it?"
"I don't remember enjoying it or not enjoying it," she said.
Easily, Powder asked, "What's your name?"
The woman looked at him. "I don't remember," she said. Because of the markings and swelling, it was hard to tell what kind of expression was on her face.
"Do you know where you live?"
"Or where you come from?"
"Whether you're married?"
"What happened to give you those scars on the back of your neck?"
A momentary pause. "No."
"Or why you were burning your clothes before you tried to kill yourself?"
Here she clearly reacted and hesitated before saying, "Why what?"
"No one has mentioned that to you?" Powder asked evenly. "You're not a nudist, by any chance?"
The woman squinted, wagged her head again, and said, "I don't think so."
Powder tipped back onto the back legs of the molded plastic chair. "Naked as a jaybird," he said. "Chanting a mystical song and praying for rain until two people you'd waked up with the howling and racket —"
The woman shook her head again, and lay back onto the pillows behind her.
"A young couple," Powder said, "disturbed by the merriment, came down to see what was happening and no sooner did they appear in the alleyway than you picked up a gun and took a couple of pot shots at them." Powder drew the automatic from his pocket and raised it, at arm's length, to point at the woman's face.
"No," the woman said, beginning a response but ending with a strangled sound.
"Excuse?" Powder said. "I didn't quite hear."
"I didn't say anything. Nothing."
"Except to deny my version of the story," Powder said. He let the chair come forward onto all four legs again, then leaned closer to the woman, who had turned her face away. "It doesn't much matter anyway," he said. "I came here not believing that you have amnesia."
She said nothing.
He pulled his chair up to the edge of her bed. "I'm fifty-three. I've only got seven toes and my remaining hair is so gray people are always surprised that I'm not in a wheelchair. I've known a lot of people who think their troubles are insupportable. Once they decide to cut the crap, they find there are good things along with the bad. So give it a think and I'll be back with my notebook tomorrow."
Excerpted from Hard Line by Michael Z. Lewin. Copyright © 1982 Michael Z. Lewin. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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