In the last installment of the popular Matt Cobb series, the TV network’s expert troubleshooter, faces a literal case of cold-blooded murder. At two in the morning, he stands in a Manhattan ice rink, over the grisly body of Dr. Paul Dinkover. The network was supposed to be taping a figure-skating special, and this discovery can’t be a coincidence. The victim is a psychologist, one so thoroughly disagreeable that any number of people could be considered suspects—including beautiful Wendy Ichimi, the show’s celebrity skater. But while Cobb’s men are mysteriously attacked, he can’t stop thinking about the way Dinkover died gripping an American flag, a symbol or clue he can’t unravel. And as the leads and tension mount, it will take all of Cobb’s strength to keep his cool and remain on his two feet.
About the Author
William L. DeAndrea (1952–1996) was born in Port Chester, New York. While working at the Murder Ink bookstore in New York City, he met mystery writer Jane Haddam, who became his wife. His first book, Killed in the Ratings (1978), won an Edgar Award in the best first mystery novel category. That debut launched a series centered on Matt Cobb, an executive problem-solver for a TV network who unravels murders alongside corporate foul play. DeAndrea’s other series included the Nero Wolfe–inspired Niccolo Benedetti novels, the Clifford Driscoll espionage series, and the Lobo Blacke/Quinn Booker Old West mysteries. A devoted student of the mystery genre, he also wrote a popular column for the Armchair Detective newsletter. One of his last works, the Edgar Award–winning Encyclopedia Mysteriosa (1994), is a thorough reference guide to sleuthing in books, film, radio, and TV.
Read an Excerpt
Killed on the Ice
A Matt Cobb Mystery
By William L. DeAndrea
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1984 William L. DeAndrea
All rights reserved.
IT WAS A SCENE to give new meaning to the phrase "murdered in cold blood."
The body of Dr. Paul Dinkover lay at the far side of the skating rink, at the end of a long smear of red that was already turning sticky from contact with the ice. I knew that because I bent over to touch it, exactly as if I knew how to judge from the condition of blood how long a man has been dead.
I made a face at myself, looked around for a place to wipe my fingers. I made a mental note to start carrying a handkerchief. I was in mild trouble at the moment, but every second I delayed calling the police made it harsher. In other circumstances I might be able to excuse myself by saying I went to see if I could aid the victim, but that wouldn't work in this case. The cops would know that I would know that anybody who'd lost that much blood, anybody who'd had his abdomen as thoroughly ventilated as Dr. Dinkover had, was way beyond aid.
I didn't care. From where the blood started to where the body lay was a good seventy-five feet, maybe more. I had to find out if I could believe my eyes. I had to find out if this old man, in his death agony, had spent his last ounce of energy doing what it seemed he had done.
I started across the ice. I walked in a wide curve, to avoid messing with the blood smear and any evidence the police might be able to read from it. No sense getting in more trouble than necessary.
It's not easy to walk on ice in street shoes. You have to walk slowly, and put your feet down flat with each step. You have to concentrate, but I couldn't put my whole mind to the process. I was thinking about the body, and about the blood drying like rust-colored paint on my fingers.
My concentration was impaired even more when my beeper went off. Some efficiency-mad clown in Accounting had decided that the Network wasn't getting enough mileage out of its executives, so for more than three weeks now, since the beginning of December, I'd had to carry the damn thing, which went off any time somebody decided he couldn't live without Matt Cobb. This probably set a record for inopportune moments. The noise wasn't loud, or even unpleasant, but it was a surprise, and it made me jump. I don't need to jump when I'm trying to walk across a Teflon-smooth sheet of ice. I don't need to be surprised in the company of a corpse.
I regained my balance, unclipped the beeper from my belt, and told it to shut up, which it failed to do. I thrust it deep in the pocket of my overcoat, but it still gave rapid muffled peeps, like a baby bird being smothered. I clenched my teeth and tried to ignore it.
I finally made it to where the body was and looked at the scene. Dr. Dinkover lay half on his side, clutching a piece of cloth to his body. Blood had soaked the cloth, making most of it a uniform red, but a blue corner and two white stars remained to tell me it was supposed to be an American flag. Dinkover had crawled all that way, almost certainly hastening his death, in order to pull over an American flag and bleed on it. His left hand was still bunched in the cloth held tight to his heart; his right was closed over the gold eagle at the top of the flagpole. The heavy metal base of the flagpole had rolled off the little strip of carpet it had been placed on when the set was built and had gouged a deep half-circle in the ice.
I noted all this and filed it (the police were sure to ask questions, and not too politely either), but my mind was still taken up with that last journey of Dr. Dinkover. Dying, he'd grabbed for the American flag. Amazing. In fact, considering his history, damn near incredible.
It was 1:59 A.M. I was inside a light green warehouse sort of a building rather grandly called the Blades Club ("Manhattan's Finest Year-Round Ice Skating Center"). It certainly was a lot finer than the neighborhood. The Blades Club huddled among a whole bunch of buildings that really were warehouses, and at this time of night the area got pretty spooky. Even without corpses.
The Network had picked the Blades Club for taping part of "Wendy Ichimi's Springtime Christmas" for several reasons. For one thing, it really was a good sheet of ice; for another, it was only a few blocks west of Madison Square Garden, where Wendy was starring in America's Ice-Travaganza through Christmas Eve. Highlights of her final performance there would also be part of the special, and the Network's logistical people figured that they could tie up less of their new experimental equipment if they moved it from the Blades Club to the Garden when the Olympic Fantasy segment (which Wendy had just finished taping that afternoon) was over with. It would be cheaper than committing a double complement of equipment, and easy, too, because of the distance.
They probably hadn't considered the Blades Club for ease of body disposal, but Manhattan's Finest Year-Round Ice Skating Center could offer that, too. About a hundred yards farther west was the Hudson River; a little way to the north was a huge hole in the ground that would someday become the new convention center.
As I looked at the body again, I have to admit I was tempted. Even if I hadn't been the one to find the body, it was all too evident that the late Dr. Paul Dinkover was going to be my problem, the kind of problem Special Projects is designed to handle.
"Special" in this context means "stuff nobody wants to talk about," as in "special education," or that great standby of TV commercials, "a woman's special needs." Well, the Network has special needs, too. Keeping regulating agencies happy. Avoiding scandals. Getting an edge on the competition. I'm in charge of the department that's supposed to handle all that. Mostly we succeed. They call me, but don't treat me like, a vice-president at the Network. I try to keep the department as virtuous as possible, but my definition of virtue is necessarily flexible.
I thought it over and decided I really couldn't stretch it far enough to include getting rid of the body. Ordinarily, it wouldn't have crossed my mind even as a wishful thought, but this was so damned unfair. Dr. Dinkover wasn't supposed to be here. He had nothing to do with the Network. He was an old friend of Wendy's father, but he hadn't been invited to the rehearsal. I had, in fact, heard Wendy specifically disinvite him that very afternoon.
But there he was. Uninvited, unexpected, unwelcome, and messily dead. And Matt Cobb's responsibility.
I'd looked at him too long—my stomach began doing calisthenics in an effort to tell me to get out of there. I kept looking for a few more seconds, telling my stomach we'd see who was boss, and to my chagrin almost found out. I started the slow walk back across the ice toward the exit. All the way, I kept seeing the bloody flag clutched to the old man's body. And wondering.
I was just reaching for the handle when the door opened to reveal a seamy-faced guy in an immaculate green coverall with a shiny silk patch on one sleeve that said Blades on it. His name was Gertz, and he was the night attendant.
He was impatient. "It's five past two, mister. They tell me out there you're all done for the night, that's fine with me, but I'm supposed to put the lights out at two o'clock, or you TV guys are stuck for another hour. Golden time, you know?"
I smiled ruefully. Three days' exposure to TV technicians, and he was beginning to talk like one already. "Golden time" is the end of the rainbow for Network employees, and it explains why technicians never get upset if things go wrong. They get time and a half past eight hours, double time past ten, and two and a half times their normal pay for every hour or part thereof after twelve. Golden time.
"So what are you gonna do, mister?" Gertz demanded. "I mean, technically, I shouldn't be giving you no choice at all, but since everybody else is already out of here—"
"How long does it take you to get the lights back on once you turn them off?" I asked.
"Half hour, forty-five minutes. We got these special athletic lights—"
"I know. Leave them on."
"You want me to leave them on?"
"Mmm-hmmm. The police are going to need them, and they won't like waiting for you to get them cranked up again."
"Police? What police?"
"The homicide police." I hooked a thumb back over my shoulder.
Gertz looked. His eyes got wide, and his jaw started to work. I grabbed him by the shoulders and turned him around before his stomach showed him who was boss.
"Leave them on," I said again, leading him from the rink and back to where (I hoped) the Wendy Ichimi party would be waiting.
"Yeah," Gertz said. He was a little better in the corridor, out of sight of the body. His mind went back to first concerns. "I'll leave them on. Only thing is, the owners are real sticklers about this place. Who do I bill this all to?"
"Don't worry," I told him, "somebody will pay for it."CHAPTER 2
"WHAT THE HELL WAS the flag doing there?" said Detective Lieutenant Cornelius U. Martin, Jr. "That's what I'd like to know." His dark brown face tightened in a scowl. "No. What I'd really like to know is why I always get these damned TV cases."
"I asked for you when I called Headquarters. Luckily, you happened to be on duty tonight."
"Luckily for who?" Lieutenant Martin has known me all my life; his son and I played basketball together. He knows I was an English major in college, and he knows I'll never have the guts to correct him when he says "who" when it should be "whom." That's why he does it.
"Luckily for justice, Mr. M. I think this case is going to call for a lot of understanding between the Network and the police."
"You can save that bullshit, Matty. You and your Network won't get any favoritism from me."
"I didn't ask for favoritism, I asked for understanding."
He grunted. "Tell me about the flag," he said.
"It's supposed to remind you of the Olympics."
"What Olympics? Munich?"
"This is a set for part of a special for Wendy Ichimi. Sort of a flashback fantasy kind of thing. Her world championships. Her gold medal."
"Yeah, I saw her outside. Cute little thing, isn't she?" The lieutenant smiled in spite of himself. Wendy had that effect on people.
"Cute enough to get the Network to fork over a bundle to sign her to do a special."
"Which explains what you're doing here, I suppose. Looking after the Network's bundle."
"Sort of. Dr. Dinkover's been hounding Wendy, trying to get her to do something for one of his causes, and her agent asked us for someone to help fend him off."
"Pretty menial work for a vice-president."
"When there's no crisis going on, all Special Projects work is menial. Besides, I'm only here because I got a frantic call from Max Brother—"
"Wendy's agent. I got a call from him. I was going to bed and my beeper went off. Did you ever have to wear one of these things?"
"No. Get on with it."
"I got a call from Max Brother that Brophy hadn't shown up, that he and Wendy had had to come to this disgusting neighborhood in a cab, that if the Network was going to be so cavalier in its commitments, he would just hire somebody tomorrow from a top agency and bill the Network for it. He said—"
"Wait a minute," the lieutenant said. "Brophy didn't show up?"
"Harris Brophy? The one who works for you?"
"That's the one, and before you say anything, I don't believe it either. There are a lot of things wrong with Harris, but irresponsibility isn't one of them. I called the Network to set my overnight man searching for him before I got over here."
"Why didn't you send the overnight man and look for Brophy yourself?"
"I thought of it, but I decided it would take at least a vice-president to mollify an angry agent. I had no idea how the star would be taking it."
"How did she?"
"Turned out she was fine. Said she was worried about Harris."
Lieutenant Martin took off his hat, the one he had owned since before hats came back into fashion, and ran a hand over his white hair. "Jesus," he said, "Brophy missing. I hope he doesn't turn up dead somewhere. One of your goddam Network murders at a time is already too much."
"Thank you. I can tell you're really trying to cheer me down."
"Don't mention it." He looked at me suspiciously. "Matty, no crap now. Can you tell me one single solitary thing more that will be of any help at all? I mean, I am gonna get pressure put on me (thanks to you) about this thing from just about everybody."
I knew what he meant. Paul Dinkover was famous in a lot of ways. He had first come to prominence in the late forties. He was perhaps the most renowned American psychiatrist alive by the mid-fifties. He'd been a devout Jungian at first, but he had theories that grew into heresies as far as Dr. Jung and the faithful were concerned. Soon Dinkover had become a psychiatric movement in himself.
He became more than renowned about 1960 when he collaborated with a twenty-five-year-old journalist named Carla Nelson on two books that served to popularize his theories. Sex in a Sane Society sold an astronomical number of copies; Signs, Symbols, and Sanity sold in numbers that were only slightly less incredible. The titles probably accounted for the difference. In any case, they made Dinkover rich, and they continued to do so. Even today, nobody in any college anywhere takes an introductory psych course without reading at least one of these books, probably both.
In 1961 Dinkover went from fame to notoriety when the fifty-year-old psychiatrist was hit with a very messy divorce suit by his wife of twenty-eight years, who named several women, including Carla Nelson, as correspondents. Soon after the divorce was granted, Dinkover married Miss Nelson, which was good for a few more headlines.
But the amazing Dr. Dinkover got his biggest, loudest headlines during the late sixties and early seventies, after he had retired from his practice altogether. He became a very visible leader of the anti-Vietnam war movement. His position (he said) was based on the proposition that he had wasted his life trying to help people to sanity in the midst of a society that could perpetrate insanities like genocide and Nixon. (He always could turn a phrase, no matter what you think of the sentiment.) He was especially visible during the murder and terrorism trial of the Landover Four, heading the drive to raise money for their defense, and acting as media spokesman for them during the trial. We still have the tapes in the Network library—he got a lot of publicity for the four, but he didn't do them much good. He did, however, turn a few spiffy phrases when the four were convicted. Eric Sevareid on CBS called it the best piece of oratory to come from the Vietnam protest movement.
After 1975, when the war came to its ignominious end, and the boys (including me) came home, Dr. Dinkover seemed to be at a loss for a cause titanic enough to match his energies. He turned up here and there, using one cause or another as a forum to tell Americans how corrupt and crazy they all were, but the parade had more or less passed him by.
Still, Lieutenant Martin's point was well taken. Dinkover had been good copy for more than thirty years, and his death by violence at age eighty-two, added to the fact that he had apparently used his own death as an opportunity to take one last swipe at American society, was going to make the investigation into a combination pressure cooker and a circus.
"I'm sorry," I told him sadly. "There's nothing. The Network is only involved in this by accident. I happened to be here."
Lieutenant Martin sighed. "All right, dammit. Let's see what I can learn from the others."
They were sitting impatiently on the slippery bus-station plastic chairs that filled the waiting room of the Blades Club. Five of them, all part of Wendy's entourage—no Network personnel. The Olympic Fantasy segment had already been taped and the equipment moved, but the Network had reserved the rink to give Wendy a place to practice her special routine for the Christmas Eve show.
I got a wry nod from Detective First Grade Horace A. Rivetz. Rivetz was a tough, wiry little guy who was wry about everything. His typical response to any tale of human depravity was, "It figures."
Excerpted from Killed on the Ice by William L. DeAndrea. Copyright © 1984 William L. DeAndrea. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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