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Didus ineptus permitted himself a slight laugh as he strode along the sidewalk of Persimmon Street, Carew. By the time he reached the two-family house that was his target, however, his amusement had long gone. At just before five in the afternoon of Tuesday, September 24, in this Year of Our Lord 1968, the sun was still shining and the streets were relatively deserted. In another half hour the student and graduate ingress would be in full swing as young people poured out of classrooms and laboratories from Science Hill to the secretarial colleges on State, and the kerbs would fill up with VW bugs and clunkers as those too far afield to walk home grabbed parking.
No one noticed him as he turned off the sidewalk and trod coolly down the side of his selected house to its back door, open as most such were; he slipped in and listened intently at the downstairs door. A child was wailing, its mother’s voice harried—no worries there. Up the rubber-sheathed stairs silently to the tiny top landing, which Maggie never used. She came in at the front, always. Of course she shared the top floor with another girl, but Carol was away at a seminar in Chicago and wouldn’t be back for four days yet.
Out came his lock picks. Expertly wielded, they got him inside within a minute. Now he could shed his knapsack—a relief, for it was heavy, weighted down by auxiliary equipment he didn’t plan on needing. First he toured the interior of every room to make sure nothing had changed, paying particular attention to the area around the front door. She would enter, carry her attaché case to the work table not far away in the same room, then head for the bathroom and a pee. His women all saved their urine, too fussy to use a public convenience. So, he had ascertained on earlier visits, his best position was over there, behind a tall wing chair that Maggie or Carol must have brought with them to Holloman; it was not the kind of piece a landlord included in rented furniture. What significance did it have for its owner, that she had lugged it a thousand miles?
Having decided on his opening gambit in this delightful game, Didus ineptus carried his knapsack to the bedroom he knew was Maggie’s. A tad unorthodox in its color scheme—he disliked beige women—yet extremely neat, the double bed made up as smoothly as a boot camp rookie’s, the dressing table’s oddments tidily arranged, the closet door and bureau drawers fully closed—oh, she was neat!
A chest stood against one wall, its big top free of objects—ideal for his purposes. Working swiftly, he put his tools on it in order before cutting off a piece of blue duct tape six inches long, then a yard-long piece of thick twine. Everything was ready; he walked to the living room and its huge mirror, there to prepare his body, and finally positioned himself behind the wing chair.
Her key sounded in the lock at exactly the correct time: within three minutes either way of six o’clock. She’d had a good day, he could tell because he hadn’t heard her on the stairs; a bad day meant she plodded, thump, thump, thump . . . In she came, attaché case in her left hand, and walked across to deposit it on the table, ready for some work later in the evening. That done, she aimed for the bathroom.
The duct tape was lightly fixed to the swelling curve of the chair back, and was across her mouth before she could think of screaming. In an extension of the same movement, he twisted her wrists behind her back and tied them with the twine, so cruelly hard that her face bulged with the pain of it. She was powerless!
Only then did he turn her around, only then did she see the man who had achieved this so quickly she hadn’t had a chance. Tall and splendidly built, he was naked and totally hairless, his penis erect, engorged; her eyes filled with despair, but she wasn’t done struggling. For about a minute his attention was fully taken up with subduing her, at the end of which she was utterly exhausted. He forced her into the bathroom, where he pulled her panties down and sat her on the toilet. Her bladder was bursting; she let the urine go in a stream, transfixed by a new terror: he knew she had needed to go!
He yanked her up and marched her to her bedroom, kicking her buttocks with what felt like all his might, then flung her on the bed and cut her clothes off with a wicked pair of dressmaker’s shears. After that he drew a white cotton sock over each foot and taped it around the ankle to keep it on firmly. Next he rolled her over onto her stomach, sat on the edge of the bed and cut her fingernails down to the quick with proper clippers, indifferent to the blood he drew when he cut too hard. Out of the corner of one eye she could see his hands gathering the clippings into a small plastic bag, and see too that those hands were encased in the thinnest of surgeon’s gloves.
Didus ineptus turned her over again. Beside herself with fear, Maggie stared up into a face concealed by a black silk hood secured around his neck—she couldn’t even tell what color his hair was! Inserting himself between her thrashing legs, he pinched and poked at her breasts, her belly, her thighs. She kept on fighting, but her strength was flagging fast.
Suddenly there was a rope of some kind around her neck; the world swam, went dark, retreated, returned only to the pain of his brutal entry into a vagina hideously dry from terror. He worked the rope as if it were a musical instrument, cutting off her breath, releasing it to let her have one convulsive gulp of air, or two, or even five before he tightened it again, and the world went dark. If he came to orgasm she didn’t know; only that, after what seemed an eternity, he lifted himself off her. But not to leave. She heard him moving about in the kitchen, the noise of the refrigerator door, heavy footsteps in the living room. Then he returned carrying a book, sat down in her easy chair, opened it and started to read—if indeed he could read through a pair of narrow slits. Swollen with tears, her eyes sought her alarm clock: six-forty. Ten minutes to subdue her, nearly thirty for the rape and its asphyxiations.
At seven he raped her a second time. The pain! The pain!
At eight came the third rape, at nine the fourth.
She was sinking into a stupor by this time, the rope around her neck doing its diabolical work faster and better—he was going to kill her! Oh, dear God, make it quick! Make it soon!
Between the rapes he sat in her chair and read the book—her book, because it had her initials painted on its spine in Liquid Paper—more naked than any man she had ever seen, so smooth and hairless was he. Not a scar, not a mole, not a pimple, anywhere. Oh, Carol, why did you have to go to that seminar? He knew, he knew! There’s nothing about me he doesn’t know.
At ten he approached the bed with a certain purpose she thought new, closed her eyes and prepared through the waves of terror for her death. But he rolled her over onto her stomach and raped her anally, an unendurable pain that seemed to go on and on, for this time he didn’t put the rope around her neck, and consciousness refused to go away.
At eleven he anally raped her a second time, using, she thought, his fist: she could feel tissue tearing, even worse pain. How to face the world after this, if he let her live?
Finally it was finished; he rolled her onto her back.
“Please kill me now,” she mumbled indistinctly. “Please, no more, no more, please, please!”
He lifted something off the bed and held it up so she could see it. A neatly printed notice, meticulously measured off.
TELL ANYONE AND YOU ARE DEAD. I AM DIDUS INEPTUS.
The notice disappeared. She lay and listened to him making his departure at eleven-forty in the late evening, while there were still people walking on Persimmon Street.
Maggie waited five more minutes before she got off the bed and forced herself to stagger to the front door, where she turned around and managed to open its single lock, using both bound hands to pull it ajar. That done, she collapsed to her knees and crawled to the kitchen, where she knew her gas stove shared an exhaust vent with the kitchen downstairs. After resting, she got to her feet, seized her meat hammer in her bound hands behind her back, and lifted herself on tiptoe to beat on the vent.
When Bob Simpson from downstairs found her door open and came in to investigate, she was still banging away with the big wooden mallet, gagged, tied up, naked, and appallingly bruised. The warning notice loomed in Maggie’s mind as Bob picked up the phone to call the cops, but Maggie Drummond didn’t care. She wanted Didus ineptus caught, yes, but she wanted far more than that: she wanted him dead as a dodo.
Captain Carmine Delmonico saw her in the Emergency Room at the Chubb Hospital.
“She’s been beaten, partially asphyxiated and raped a total of six times—four vaginal, two anal,” said the senior resident. “No foreign objects except, we think, a fist for the last anal assault, which tore her up badly enough to need surgical repair. It’s a bad one, Captain, but, all considered, she’s in remarkable shape mentally.”
“May I see her? It sounds as if I shouldn’t.”
“You have to see her, otherwise she’ll give us no peace. She’s been asking every two minutes for a senior cop.”
The young woman’s face was still puffy from weeping, and a crimson line around her throat told Carmine that the rapist had used a sleek, thinnish rope to apply his asphyxiations, but either she had passed beyond this most frightful of all ordeals, or she was made of sterner stuff than most women. Her eyes, he noted, were a clear grey in a face that, under normal circumstances, most men would call very attractive.
“There’s no point in asking how you are, Miss Drummond,” he said, diminishing his height, bulk and masculinity by sitting. “You’re extremely brave.”
“Right now I don’t feel it,” she said, reaching for her water glass and sucking through a bent straw. “I was—I was petrified. I really thought he was going to kill me.”
“What’s so important that you’ve badgered the medical staff to let you see a senior cop?”
“I needed to tell the police while it’s still fresh in my mind, Captain. That rope around my neck made me black out so often that I’m scared the asphyxia might have latent effects—you know, like damage due to cerebral anoxia.”
Carmine’s brows rose. “Spoken like a medical person?”
“No, but I am a physiologist, even though I specialize in birds. That’s a part of why I wanted to talk tonight. You see, he called himself Didus ineptus.”
“The old Linnaean name for the dodo,” said Maggie Drummond. “Taxonomically the dodo is now Raphus cucullatus. I assume the monster who raped me is trying to appear better educated than he actually is. He must have gotten that name out of a very old encyclopedia—prior to the First World War, say.”
“Believe me, Miss Drummond, the monster’s garotte hasn’t harmed your brain,” Carmine said, startled. “That’s a detective’s deduction, and a valid one. You think an old encyclopedia?”
“Some old source, anyway. The dodo has been Raphus cucullatus for quite a long time.”
After a keen look at her face, which had, remarkably, grown less tormented, Carmine decided to stay for a couple more questions. This was an amazing woman. “Didus ineptus or Raphus cucullatus, it seems an odd kind of name for a rapist. I mean, a dodo?”
“I agree,” she said eagerly. “I’ve been racking my basic bird knowledge for an answer, but I can’t find one. The bird really was what we think of as a dodo—stupid to the point of imbecility. All animals trust men when they first run across them, but in no time flat they’ve learned to run, hide, fight back—whatever it takes to preserve the species. Not the dodo! It let itself be eaten into extinction, when you strip all the fancy language away.”
“The island of Mauritius, right?”
“So he’s calling himself incredibly stupid, but why does he think he’s incredibly stupid?”
“Don’t ask me, I’m a bird physiologist,” she said dryly.
“Another question. What did he wear?”
“A black silk hood over his head, not a stitch more.”
“You mean he was naked?” Carmine asked incredulously.
“More than merely naked. He was absolutely hairless, even around the genitals, and his skin was flawless—no moles, spots, freckles, scars.”
“No blemishes at all?”
“Not that I could see. It gave him an obscene look, somehow. He raped me at hourly intervals. Each rape lasted half an hour. In between he read a book.”
“Did you see its title?”
“No, but it was one of my books. It had my initials on the spine, and no dust jacket. I always remove the dust jackets.”
“What was his voice like?”
“He never spoke. He never even cleared his throat.”
“So how did you find out his name?”
“It was written on a card that warned me not to tell anyone, or he’d kill me. It was signed Didus ineptus.”
“Is it still in your apartment?”
“I doubt it. He was very organized.”
“Don’t answer this if you don’t want to—did he climax?”
She winced. “How disgusting! Frankly, Captain, I don’t know. He made no sound of any kind. The staff here found no semen, as I understand.” She blushed a dull red. “I—I was dying to pee when I came in. Once he had me bound and subdued, he pushed me into my bathroom, pulled my panties down and sat me on the toilet as if he knew I had to go.”
“Anything else, Miss Drummond?”
“He was there when I got home, and jumped me. I fought back, but I didn’t stand a chance. He wore me out. After he had his rope around my neck, all the fight went out of me. Awful!”
“Everything you’ve told me indicates that the Dodo—we’ll call him that—stalked you for some time before he acted. He knew your habits, right down to your need of the bathroom.”
Carmine got up, smiling down at her. “Miss Drummond, you are what an English colleague of mine would call a brick. High praise! Try to get some rest, and don’t worry about cerebral anoxia. Your brain’s in great shape.”
After a little more talk with Maggie—she was determined to instruct him about this and that, evidence of a methodical mind and a good memory—Carmine left the hospital in a dark mood, thankful for one thing only: that the Dodo had chosen a victim whose fighting back wasn’t limited to their actual encounter. Maggie Drummond was such a fighter that she was genuinely thirsting to testify against him in a court. But she wasn’t the first of the Dodo’s victims. His act was far too polished for that. How many had there been, all too terrified to speak up? The Dodo—what a name for a rapist to give himself! Why had he chosen it?
“How many have there been?” he asked his two detective sergeants, Delia Carstairs and Nick Jefferson, the next morning.
“At least this answers the true purpose of the Gentleman Walkers,” said Nick, a scowl on his handsome face. “Someone’s girlfriend is out there in Carew too scared to report what happened to her, hence the Gentleman Walkers.”
“We have to persuade the other victims to come forward,” said Delia, “and the best way is to remove men from the cop equation as much as possible. Give me Helen MacIntosh and I’ll guarantee to prep her well enough not to put her aristocratically narrow foot in her mouth. I’ll go on Luke Corby’s drive-home program this afternoon, and Mighty Mike’s breakfast show at six tomorrow morning. By noon, I guarantee I’ll have winkled almost all the victims out of the Carew woodwork. Between those two programs, I can reach every age group in Holloman.”
“Oh, c’mon, Deels!” Nick exclaimed. “Take Madam MacIntosh as your assistant, and all you do is shoot yourself in the foot.”
“Horses for courses,” Delia said, looking smug.
“Save it, Nick,” Carmine advised. “You can have your turn with our trainee over lunch today in Malvolio’s—on the Division, so eat up. Helen’s been living in Talisman Towers ever since she quit the NYPD eight months ago, so she has to know a bit about life in Carew, including the Gentleman Walkers.”
“Didus ineptus! Hardly flattering,” said Delia. “We still use the phrase ‘dead as a dodo’ in ordinary speech—is that what he’s after? A glorious death, shot down while raping?”
“We won’t know until we catch the bastard,” Carmine said.
“It’s in-your-teeth contempt,” Nick said. “Kind of like ‘catch me if you can.’ It’s hard to believe he’s done that to other girls and not been reported.”
“I think Maggie Drummond is an escalation, Nick,” Carmine said, “one more reason why we have to find his earlier victims. Until we see how he’s progressed, we don’t know anything about him. Delia, when you have time, I think you should talk to Dr. Liz Meyers of the Chubb rape clinic. She’s going to have more work shortly, I predict.”
“A naked rapist!” Delia cried. “That is so rare! Invasive rapists have to keep some clothes on in case they’re disturbed. A man without clothes is so vulnerable, yet this fellow doesn’t seem to feel at all threatened. Was he wearing shoes?”
“Miss Drummond says not. It’s possible, of course, that he has a cache of clothes outside somewhere, but he’s still very vulnerable. What if he gets cut off from them?”
“His degree of confidence is extraordinary,” Delia maintained.
“He takes fine care not to be marked or scratched,” Carmine said. “Socks on their feet, fingernails pared and the clippings collected, Miss Drummond said. She described his skin as quite flawless—not even a freckle. He was tall and extremely well built. Like Marlon Brando was how she put it.”
“And no hair, even around the genitals?” Nick asked.
“So she said.”
“Then he has his body hair plucked,” Delia said decisively. “The skin there is too sensitive for depilatories and too hard to negotiate with a razor.”
“Who in Holloman caters for that kind of hairlessness?” Carmine asked. “There’d be talk, and I’ve never heard Netty Marciano mention a beauty parlor half so adventurous.”
“New York,” said Delia. “The homosexual underground. They are beginning to come out of the closet, but not every kind. If the Dodo’s been having the hair plucked for some years, what hair does grow back would be minimal. All he would require would be occasional touch-ups, and I doubt anyone in that world is going to assist in police enquiries.”
Carmine’s face twisted in revulsion. “Pah!” he spat. “This guy isn’t a homosexual. He’s not straight either. He’s a one-off.” He nodded a dismissal. “Spend the morning working on your tactics, but Nick, don’t try to see any Gentleman Walkers. Lunch at noon in Malvolio’s, okay?”
His own morning was spent with his two lieutenants. Abe Goldberg was in the throes of handing off the Tinnequa truck stop heist to the Boston PD, and would proceed to a series of gas station holdups that had seen two men killed for reasons as yet not entirely apparent. Abe and his two men, Liam Connor and Tony Cerutti, were a good team firmly bonded; Carmine worried about them only as a conscientious captain should, because they were in his care and sometimes too brave.
Lieutenant Corey Marshall was rather different. He and Abe had been Carmine’s old team sergeants, moved up to occupy a pair of lieutenancies only nine months old. For Abe, a piece of cake; for Corey, it seemed a leaden weight. Corey had inherited Morty Jones from the previous lieutenant, which handicapped him from the start; Buzz Genovese had just joined him after his second-stringer dropped dead at forty-one years of age, and while Buzz was a very good man, he and Corey didn’t see eye to eye. Not that Corey valued Morty any dearer; he occupied his position as if he could work his cases unaided, and that, no man could do, no matter what his rank.
“Word’s come to me,” said Carmine to Corey in Corey’s office, “that Morty Jones is both depressed and on the booze.”
“I wish you’d tell me who your divisional snitch is,” Corey said, his dark face closing up, “because it would give me great pleasure to tell the guy that he’s wrong. You and I both know that Ava Jones is a tramp who screws Holloman cops, but she’s been doing that for fifteen years. It’s no news to Morty.”
“Something’s happening in that home, Cor,” Carmine said.
“Crap!” Corey snapped. “I talked to Larry Pisano before he retired, and he told me that Morty swings through cycles with Ava. It’s a trough at the moment, that’s all. The crest will happen in due time. And if Morty chooses to drink in his own time, that’s his business. He’s not drinking on the job.”
“Are you sure?” Carmine pressed.
“What do you want me to say, for Chrissake? I am sure!”
“Every Thursday you, Abe and I have a morning meeting to talk about our cases, Cor. It’s intended to be a combination of case analysis and a forum for bringing our problems into the open. Every Thursday, you attend. To what purpose, Cor? With what effect? If I can see that Morty is a drowning man, then you must see it too. If you don’t, you’re not doing your job.”
The glaring black eyes dropped to Corey’s desk and did not lift. Nor did he say a word.
Carmine floundered on. “I’ve been trying to have a serious discussion with you since you returned from vacation at the end of July, Cor, but you keep dodging me. Why?”
Corey snorted. “Why don’t you just come out with it, Carmine?”
“Come out with what?” Carmine asked blankly.
“Tell me to my face that I’m not Abe Goldberg’s bootlace!”
“You heard me! I bet you don’t hound Abe the way you hound me—my reports are too scanty, my men are on the sauce, my time sheets are late—I know what you think of Abe, and what you think of me.” Corey hunched his shoulders, his head retreating into them.
“I’ll forget you said any of that, Corey.” Carmine’s voice was calm, dispassionate. “However, I suggest that you remember what I’ve said. Keep an eye on Morty Jones—he’s a sick man. And tidy up your part of our division. Your paperwork is pathetic and Payroll is querying your time sheets. Do you want me to have words with the Commissioner?”
“Why not?” Corey asked, a bite in his tone. “He’s your cousin—once removed, second—how can I work it out?”
Carmine got up and left, still reeling at the accusation that he had favored Abe over Corey—untrue, untrue! Each man had his strengths, his weaknesses. The trouble was that Abe’s did not retard his functioning superbly as a lieutenant, whereas Corey’s did. I have never favored one over the other!
It was Maureen speaking, of course. Corey’s wife was the root cause of all his troubles; get him drunk enough, and he’d admit it freely. A bitter, envious, ambitious woman, she was also a relentless nagger. So that was the direction her mischief was taking, was it? Easy enough to deal with when they had been his team members, but now that Corey was to some extent free of Carmine, Maureen’s natural dislike of her husband’s boss could flower. And there was nothing he could do about it.
Back in his own office, he wrestled with a different woman, a different feminine dilemma.
Commissioner John Silvestri had always dreamed of a trainee detective program as a way of injecting younger blood into the Detectives Division. There were strict criteria governing the admission of a uniformed man (or woman) into Detectives: they had to be at least thirty years old, and have passed their sergeant’s exams with distinction. Silvestri’s contention was that they missed out on some of the advantages only youth could bring with it; his answer was to harass Hartford for a trainee program, admitting a university graduate with at least two years’ experience as a uniformed cop into Detectives as a trainee who would be subjected to a formal program of classes and tuition as well as gain experience on the job. Since he had been harassing Hartford for twenty years about it, no one ever expected to see it bear fruit. But sometimes strange things happened …
No one in the modest, little old city of Holloman could escape its most influential citizen, Mawson MacIntosh, the president of that world-famous institution of higher learning Chubb University. M.M., as he was universally known, had one promising son, Mansfield, who never put a foot wrong. Mansfield was currently working in a Washington, D.C., law firm renowned for turning out politicians. As far as M.M. was concerned, one day Mansfield would also be a president—but of the U.S.A.
Unfortunately M.M.’s daughter, Helen, was very different. She had inherited her family’s high intelligence and striking good looks, but she was stubborn, scatty, strange and quite ungovernable. Having graduated summa cum laude from Harvard, she joined the NYPD, flew through the academy at the head of her class, and was at once shunted to traffic patrol in Queens. For two years she stuck it out, then quit, alleging sexual discrimination. Working outside Connecticut had been a mistake; Daddy’s influence waned across the border. New Yorkers weren’t even true Yankees.
Helen applied to join the Detectives Division of the Holloman PD, and was refused courteously but firmly. So Helen appealed to her father, and everybody got in on the act, including the Governor.
Finally, after an interview with M.M. in which John Silvestri painted him a picture of his inexperienced, too-young daughter dead in a Holloman ghetto street, the two men cooked up a scheme that saw the Commissioner’s twenty-year-old dream become reality: Helen MacIntosh would join Holloman Detectives as its first trainee. M.M.’s share of things was to prise the money out of Hartford and guarantee that the trainee program would continue after Helen graduated from it. Silvestri guaranteed that Carmine Delmonico and his cohorts would give Helen superb training and background for anything from three to twelve months, however long it took.
Madam had not been pleased, but when her father made it plain that her only chance to be a detective was to be a trainee one, she dismounted from her high horse and agreed.
Now, after three weeks in Detectives, during which she was obliged to spend time in the uniformed division, as well as in Pathology, Forensics and Legal, Miss Helen MacIntosh was starting to settle in. Not without pain. Nick Jefferson, the only black man in the Holloman PD, detested her almost as much as Lieutenant Corey Marshall and his two men did. Delia Carstairs, who was the Commissioner’s niece as well as an Englishwoman, was sympathetic enough to act as Helen’s mentor, a role that Helen bitterly resented as surplus to her requirements. As for Captain Carmine Delmonico, Helen wasn’t sure what to make of him. Except that she had a horrible premonition he was a twin of her father.
When he entered Malvolio’s diner next door to the Country Services building on Cedar Street at noon precisely, Carmine was pleased to see one of the objects of his morning’s labors sitting in a booth toward the back. Now all he had to hope was that she hadn’t spent her morning at loggerheads with Judge Douglas Wilbur Thwaites, the terror of the Holloman courts.
He wished he could like her, but thus far Helen MacIntosh hadn’t presented as a likeable person. Oh, that first morning! She had turned up for work looking like Brigitte Bardot or any other “sex kitten,” as they were called. So inappropriately dressed that he’d had to spell out the kind of garb a woman detective ought to wear, from shoes that stayed on her feet if she needed to chase a fugitive to skirts that didn’t drive men mad trying to see her “breakfast,” as Carmine put it. She’d obeyed orders and dressed properly ever since, but it hadn’t boded well. Nor had she seen the necessity of spending time with the uniforms to find out how the Holloman PD worked on all levels, and she was chafing at the bit to join an investigation, something Carmine had forbidden until she was better prepared. Worst of all, she put men’s backs up. Three weeks into the program, and he despaired.
She was writing busily in her notebook—“journal” she called it, denying this indicated a diary.
“How did your morning go?” Carmine asked, sliding into the opposite side of the booth and nodding at Merele, who filled his coffee mug with an answering smile.
“Hard, but enjoyable. The Judge is so interesting. I’ve known him all my life, but doing law with him is an eye-opener.”
“He’s a nightmare for a wrongdoer. Remember that.”
Her laugh sounded; it was a good one, neither forced nor unmusical. “I bumbled until I got used to him, then I did better. I wish the law teachers at police academy were in his league.”
“Oh, he’s forgotten more law than they’ll ever know.”
Delia came in.
Carmine patted the seat next to him. I always imagine, he thought, that today’s outfit is the worst: then I see tomorrow’s. Today was orange, green, pink and acid-yellow checks, over which she was wearing a bright scarlet waistcoat. As usual, the skirt finished well above her knees, displaying two legs that would do credit to a grand piano. Her hair, thank all the powers that be, had gone from purple and green stripes to peroxide blonde, below which her twinkling brown eyes managed to peer between what looked like tangled black wire. The great debate within the Holloman PD was whereabouts Delia managed to find her clothes, but even Netty Marciano, whose sources of gossip were legion, hadn’t managed to find out. Carmine’s private guess was New York City’s rag district.
For three weeks he had been waiting for Helen to complain about Delia’s appearance, but she hadn’t said a word, just gaped at Delia upon first meeting. Perhaps even someone as rarefied as a MacIntosh could sense that Delia was exempt from criticisms about dress and appearance. Delia was a geniune eccentric, and apparently Helen had recognized the fact. Certainly when she opened her mouth and that mellifluous voice with its pear-shaped vowels and clipped consonants sounded, Delia was revealed as posh.
Nick appeared a moment later, and was bidden sit on the same side as Delia. Three of them now occupied one side of the roomy booth, with Helen, alone, facing them.
The lush, ice-pink lips parted, the vivid blue eyes glared. “Why am I in the hot seat?” Helen asked.
“You live in Talisman Towers in Carew, right?” Nick asked.
“Yes. I own the penthouse.”
“I might have known!” Nick looked angry. “Completely exclusive, huh? Your own elevator and everything.”
“Not quite exclusive. I use the same two elevators everyone else does. There’s a slot for a key in them.”
“Do you have any contact with your fellow tenants?” Delia asked. “Any sort of contact.”
“I know a few of them, but the only one I’m on friendly terms with is Mark Sugarman. He’s three floors down, on the eighth. His girlfriend, Leonie Coustain, lives on the tenth floor. She’s French.” Helen pulled a face. “She used to be vivacious and outgoing, but about three months ago she had a nervous breakdown. Now, not even Mark manages to see her. She’s a snail inside its shell. The worst of it is she won’t get any help, Mark says. He’s very much in love with her, and I used to think that they were made for each other. Now—I really don’t know. Leonie sure doesn’t like him anymore, but he swears he doesn’t know why.” She flushed. “Sorry. That wasn’t a good report—I rambled.”
“Sometimes rambling is better,” Carmine said. “I don’t think Leonie fell out of love with Mark. She was raped.”
The color drained from Helen’s face. “Raped?”
“Yes, definitely,” Carmine said, not yet prepared to mention the Dodo. “What do you know about the Gentleman Walkers of Carew?”
“The Gentleman Walkers?” she asked, sounding bewildered. “They walk,” she said, and laughed. “Up and down and around and around Carew. They’re a great group of guys.”
“Do you know them as individuals?” Nick asked.
“Sure, some of them. Not all of them—Mark says there are over a hundred forty of them. Mark’s their head honcho.”
“Good, a name,” said Carmine. “A big group of men patrolling worried me—vigilantes. But so far they’ve kept well within the law, including when they apprehended a couple of Peeping Toms and a women’s underwear thief. Then last night a young woman named Maggie Drummond was viciously attacked and raped inside her Carew apartment. She notified us. Now we have sufficient evidence to act, including coming down harder on the Gentleman Walkers.”
Helen sat, her face a mixture of horror and eagerness. “But I know Maggie Drummond!” she cried. “She goes to all Mark’s parties—so smart! Well, you have to be smart to get postgrad work in bird physiology at Chubb. She’s doing a Ph.D. in bird migration under Professor Hart—the world’s authority.” Her face softened. “Poor Maggie! Will it ruin her, Captain?”
“Scar her, certainly, but she’s unusually resilient. She insisted on seeing me last night, while the ordeal was still fresh in her mind. He’d partially asphyxiated her multiple times, and she was worried that the trauma might cause her to forget details. She even gave us his name—Didus ineptus. That’s the old term for the dodo, now known as Raphus cucullatus.”
“Can’t I be of more use than giving you Mark Sugarman’s name?” Helen asked.
“Yes, you can,” said Delia, “provided you put yourself under my authority and do exactly as you’re told. Will you?”
“Yes, of course,” Helen said, face lighting up.
“Good. I suspect we’re going to meet a number of the Dodo’s victims, and it’s vital that women comprise the front face of the investigation. Ever since their individual attacks, these young women can’t cope with men, no matter how sympathetic. You and I, Helen, have to do all the victim contact until we can persuade them to seek help from Dr. Liz Meyers at the rape clinic. That means we spend as much time as we can this afternoon coaching you in how to behave—it’s a matter of technique as well as feminine bonding. I’m hoping to be taking calls tomorrow after Mighty Mike’s breakfast show, but it’s possible we’ll have some responses after Luke Corby. You’re my shadow, Helen—wherever I go, you go. Understood?”
“Yes!” said Helen fervently. It was here at last, her first case, and she was going to make sure that Delia shone. Because if Delia shone, so did she.
Carmine took himself off to Carew and the eighth floor of Talisman Towers, the only ritzy block of high-rise apartments in a district chiefly famous for its peace, prettiness, and hordes of women students at all levels of a tertiary education. Helen had explained that Mark worked from home, so Carmine fully expected to find him in his apartment.
“Like Helen, I own my condo,” Mark Sugarman said, leading the way into a big room that had been intended as the living room, but had been turned into a studio. He indicated two hard chairs at a table, and went to the kitchen area to fetch mugs and a coffeepot, then sugar and cream.
In all visual respects he was a large yet medium man, from his height of just under six feet to his face and coloring. What saved him from obscurity were his eyes: long-lashed, widely open, and a vivid green. He was wearing baggy, faded jeans and a short-sleeved shirt whose two breast pockets bulged with items including pencils, cigarettes, a short steel ruler and many lumps and bumps.
If typical artists are supposed to live in extreme disorder, he was not typical, for the room was immaculately kept; it was painted white and its natural lighting consisted of a whole wall of glass panes looking over the treetops toward Long Island Sound, dreamily blue in this lovely start to Indian summer. Rather than an easel, he worked on a drafting board, in front of which sat a bar stool. A tall table to either side held inks, pens, pencils, an electric pencil sharpener, various protractors and T-squares, a neat pile of rags, and a jar of water. As they passed the board, Carmine was amused to see that it held a black-and-white India ink drawing of a wacky-looking family of raccoons. It was very well done, its human element only subtly—but tellingly—suggested.
“I’m a book illustrator,” Sugarman explained, pouring the coffee. “This one’s aimed at a general market from teens to nineties, so the publisher wants classy drawings—no cheating with cross-hatching or other shortcuts. Therefore, hire Mark Sugarman. Few art schools teach classical ink drawing, so I’m in demand. I learned in London and Antwerp.”
“How long has the neighborhood watch been in existence?” Carmine asked, adding cream and sugar; the coffee was old. “I should tell you that Maggie Drummond was raped last night, and wasn’t frightened enough not to call us. Her rape was atrocious—particularly brutal and demeaning—but I come from her with a request that you tell me everything you know. Maggie is very emphatic. She wants this monster caught.”
The unusual emerald eyes had widened and shone with tears; Sugarman’s coffee slopped. “Oh, Jesus!”
“Time to spill the beans about the Gentleman Walkers, sir.”
“And that’s a relief, Captain.” He drew a breath, reached out automatically for a stack of paper napkins and wiped up his spill. “The first one we knew about was Leonie—my dear, sweet Leonie! I found her when I went up to see if she felt like a walk to blow the cobwebs away. She was—oh, a terrible mess! Not cut up or anything, but bruised and soiled. He’d raped her three times, once real pervert stuff. I wanted to call you, but she wouldn’t let me, swore she’d deny the whole thing. Babbling about her family in France, the disgrace.” He ground his teeth. “Nothing I could say would persuade her to change her mind.”
“Did you believe Leonie was the first victim?”
“I did, but Mason Novak—he’s my best pal—said his girl, Shirley Constable, had behaved so like Leonie that he was having suspicions that had never occurred to him before—he thought Shirley had had a nervous breakdown over her work, even though she loved it. After Leonie, he was convinced she’d been raped, but he can’t even get into the same room with her, so—who knows?”
Carmine put his coffee down. “Mr. Sugarman, even if the women refused to cooperate, you should have brought your suspicions to the police, not organized a neighborhood watch.”
“I see that now, Captain, but at the time neither Mason nor I did. I put an ad in the Holloman Post announcing that I was forming a walking club—Carew residents only need apply. And I was inundated with walkers! The Gentleman Walkers were an instant success.”
“Without further stimulus than the rape of Leonie Coustain, which I presume you didn’t mention? That sounds peculiar, sir.”
Sugarman laughed, a wry sound. “Vanity, Captain. We’d found a way to keep fit—walking. Most walkers give it up because of the loneliness, while we walk in trios, always the same three men—we vary the routes. Guys sorted themselves out into trios of like mind, if you know what I mean. And a man walks each second evening, not every single day. It’s enough to keep the waistline trim and the heart in good shape.”
“And no Gentleman Walker has ever encountered a man who might be a rapist?” Carmine asked.
“Definitely not. The closest we came were the Peeping Toms.”
“You did a real service there, anyway. Peeping Toms who are never caught often become rapists later.” Carmine cleared his throat. “I need a list of your members, Mr. Sugarman.”
He rose from his chair at once. “Sure, I’ll get it. I have full details of every Gentleman Walker, it’s one of the club’s strictest conditions.”
Carmine conned the beautifully typed list in some awe. Names, ages, addresses, phone numbers, occupations, days rostered to walk: a painstaking and lucid timetable as well as a list. There were schoolteachers, an occasional physicist, chemists, tradesmen, medical doctors, dentists, plant physical workers, city clerks, technicians, biologists—146 names altogether, ranging in age from twenty-one to sixty-eight.
“You must be a very persuasive recruitment officer.”
Sugarman laughed, disclaiming. “No, I’m the logistics man, not the demagogue. You want to talk to Mason Novak. He’s the soul of the Gentleman Walkers, the one who keeps us inspired—and the one who took over from me as the ultimate authority.”
Carmine found him on the list. “Mason Novak, aged thirty-five, analytical chemist with Chubb. Burke Biology Tower, or Susskind Science Tower?”
“Susskind Science. He’s inorganic, he says.”
“Do you have a meeting venue?”
“Mason requisitions a small lecture theater in Susskind.”
“Um—today is Wednesday, so . . . Friday, six o’clock?”
“For what?” Mark Sugarman asked.
“Oh, come, Mr. Sugarman! A meeting between the Walkers and Holloman detectives. On Friday, September 27. Call the meeting and emphasize that every Gentleman Walker is to attend. Okay?”
“It won’t be difficult to assemble your troops. Listen to Mighty Mike’s breakfast program. I predict that all the Walkers will be agog to discover what’s happened.”
Funny, thought Carmine as his beloved Ford Fairlane headed for home that evening, how troubles never come singly. I have to turn Helen MacIntosh into a first-rate detective when I’m not even sure she’ll obey orders; I have Corey Marshall failing to make the grade as a lieutenant—who could ever have predicted that? Today I learned that our prettiest, most tranquil suburb, Carew, is harboring a particularly dangerous rapist. And my fantastic, six-foot-three wife has been defeated by a twenty-two-month-old child. Desdemona! Twice she’s come face-to-face with killers and won the encounters, whereas a bullying, shouting, hectoring toddler has worn her down to utter defeat. My Desdemona, always hovering on the verge of tears. It doesn’t bear thinking of, yet it has to be thought of. Not merely thought of: it has to be dealt with, and fast. Otherwise I might lose my wife forever.
He parked the Fairlane in the four-car garage’s only free bay and trod down the sloping path to his front door, aware that his couple of visits after work had made him later than probably Desdemona needed. The house, a very big New England colonial with a square three-storey tower and widow’s walk, stood halfway down two acres that backed onto Holloman Harbor; they had lived in it now for more than two years and loved its every mood, from an idyllic summer’s day to the wildest storm to encrustations of ice in a hard winter. But the spirit of the house resided in its mistress, Desdemona, and she was failing.
Nothing he could say had talked her out of a second pregnancy soon after her first; Julian was only sixteen months old when Alex was born. The boys were true fusions of nobly proportioned parents: from Carmine they inherited muscular bulk and a regal presence; from Desdemona they got bones that promised basketball players; and from both they took a high degree of intelligence that boded ill for parental tranquillity. If Julian was already so hard to take, what would it be like when Alex grew into the horrors of toddlerhood, from talking to walking?
The woman who had efficiently managed an entire research facility had retired to a domestic world, there to turn into a superb cook and an indefatigable housekeeper. But ever since Alex’s birth five months ago Desdemona had dwindled, not helped by Julian, a master of the filibuster, the harangue and the sermon.
Okay, he thought, opening the front door, here goes! I am going to do my best to pull Desdemona back from the abyss.
“It’s good to see you, but even better to feel you,” he said into her neck, crushing her in a rather frantic embrace. Then he kissed her, keeping his lips tender.
Understanding that this was no overture to passion, Desdemona put her husband into a chair and gave him his pre-dinner drink.
“Julian’s in bed?” he asked.
“Yes, you tricked him for once. He expected you to be on time, but when you didn’t turn up, he fell asleep.” She sighed. “He had a shocking tantrum today, right in the middle of Maria’s luncheon party. I told her I didn’t want to come!” A hot tear fell onto Carmine’s hand.
“My mother is sometimes not very bright, Desdemona. So I take it our son spoiled things?”
“He would have, except that Maria slapped him—hard! You know how I feel about slapping children, Carmine—there has to be a more effective way to deal with small children.”
Sit on it, Carmine, sit on it! “If there is, my love, you don’t seem to have found it with Julian,” he said—reasonably, he thought. “Tantrums are a form of hysteria, the child takes no harm from being jerked out of it.”
In the old days she would have flown at him, but not these days. Instead, she seemed to shrink. “It wore him out, at any rate. That’s why he’s in bed and asleep.”
“Good. I can do with the peace and quiet.”
“Were you serious when you threatened him with a nanny the other day? We can’t afford a nanny, Carmine, and a stranger in the house would make him worse.”
“First off, woman, I manage our finances. You shouldn’t have that headache on top of two babies. We can afford it, and I didn’t threaten Julian. I was warning him. It’s going to happen, my dear love, though not for the reasons you think. Not for Julian—for you. You’re permanently down, Desdemona. When you think no one’s looking, you weep a lot, and you can’t seem to find your way out of whatever it is plagues you. I went to see Doc Santini this afternoon because every time I insist you see him, you race in and out of his office pretending it’s Julian or Alex is sick. Desdemona, honestly! If there’s one thing Doc Santini’s not, it’s a fool. He knows as well as I do that you’re the one who’s sick. He says you’re suffering from a postpartum depression, love.”
She flung herself mutinously into her chair; when Carmine spoke in that tone, even God had to shut up and listen. And, she admitted as her anger died, there was something wrong with her. The trouble was, she knew it was incurable, whereas these men—what did men know about it—thought it was physical.
“Apparently they’re finding out a lot about women who become depressed after childbirth. It’s nothing Freudian, it’s a physical, hormonal thing that takes time and care to fix. You’ll have to see Doc tomorrow morning, and if you ignore me, wife, I’ll have you taken to the doctor’s office under police escort. My mother is coming round to babysit—”
“She’ll slap Julian!” Desdemona cried.
“Happen he needs a slap. Just because your father beat you as a child, Desdemona, doesn’t make a slap for a transgression cruelty. Sometimes it’s plain common sense. And let’s not get on to Julian, let’s stay with you.”
The tears were running silently down her face, but she was at least looking at him.
“Doc doesn’t want to put you on drugs. You’re a borderline case and you’ll get better naturally if we ease the pressure. In the main, that’s Julian. And the answer for Julian isn’t a slap, I agree with you there, because once a slap loses its shock value, he’ll ignore slaps. How am I doing so far?”
“Spot on,” she said gruffly. “Oh, Carmine, I thought it was your work preying on you when you come home, but it’s me! Me! I am so sorry! Oh, what can I do? I’m such a burden!”
“Desdemona, don’t cry! I’m giving you answers for your pain, not reasons. You could never be a burden. That’s a two-way street either of us could travel down. Doc suggested that I employ a young woman to help you. Her name is Prunella Balducci and she’s one of the East Holloman Balduccis, therefore some kind of cousin of mine. She usually works for megabucks on New York City’s Upper East Side. A couple of weeks ago she got tired of it and came home. Her savings account is loaded, so she isn’t interested in taking a megabucks job. What she wants is to be near her mom and dad for a while. Once she’s had a break, she’s heading for L.A. and a different set of emotional cripples than New York’s. By that, I mean that Prunella takes a job in an emotionally crippled household and gets its inhabitants organized enough for ordinary nannies and housekeepers.” He drew a long breath. “On my way home tonight I called in at Jake Balducci’s place and saw Prunella, who has agreed to come to us until Christmas. By then, she says, your troubles will be only a memory. We can afford what she’s asking in Holloman, Desdemona, so money is not an issue.”
“I don’t—I can’t—”
“Woman, of course you can! I am aware that you clean the house before Caroline comes, which is crazy, but you can’t do that with someone who’s staying here and eating meals with us and is really a part of the family, if only temporarily.”
Desdemona gasped. “Staying here? Where? Which room? Oh, Carmine, I can’t!”
“I also phoned my daughter at Paracelsus, ungrateful little puss that she is. Not a word to us in three weeks, but after I talked to her, I understood why, so she’s forgiven. She’s agreed to do her share toward your recovery by not coming home to sleep until Christmas. Prunella will live in Sophia’s tower. Caroline can clean it tomorrow, I’ve booked her for the day. Prunella is coming next week.”
By this, Desdemona was sagging in her chair, winded. “I see you have it all sorted out,” she said stiffly.
“Yes, wife, I do. Prunella’s chief task is to turn Julian into someone I look forward to seeing when I come home, rather than someone I could strangle for his treatment of you. At the moment he’s power crazy—bossy, manipulative and obnoxious, and if he goes on developing like that, the only career he’ll be fit for is a defense attorney. And I tell you straight, Desdemona,” Carmine said, only half joking, “that I won’t have a son who gets axe murderers and pederasts off. I’d be happier with a son who lived on welfare. There are traces of a nice person underneath Julian’s bluster, and now’s the time to make sure the nice person wins. Do you hear me?”
“I hear, I hear,” she said, trying to smile. “Was it Shakespeare who said, ‘Let’s kill all the lawyers!’? You are absolutely right, we can’t produce a defense attorney. In fact, even a D.A. would be unacceptable.”
“Then is it settled?”
“I suppose so. Yes, Prunella comes—but for Julian’s sake, not for mine.” Her face grew horrified. “What if I dislike her?”
“You won’t. You’ll love her.”
“Will she spank Julian?”
“I think she has better ammunition in her arsenal than that, dear love. Try to move farther away from your own childhood and see Julian for what he is, not for what you were. He’s only half you. His other half is tough Italian-American.”
She climbed to her feet, a long way. “Dinner,” she said.
No matter what her mood, and even when the meal was, as tonight, a simple one of steak, French fries and salad, Desdemona was a superb cook. She sprinkled the outside of the meat with a special salt before broiling it, and her French fries were out of this world—crunchy on the outside, feathery inside.
“Now,” she said after they were finished, “tell me how things went today, Carmine. I heard Delia on Luke Corby earlier.”
“It’s too soon to know much about the Dodo—that’s what we decided to call him, though he prefers the Latin—Didus ineptus. Any idea why he’d think like that?”
“Yes. He’s a poseur.”
“Who got it wrong. The term was a Linnaeus classification, out of date now.”
“I don’t think that bothers him. That particular phrase clicks with some idea in his mind. But the Dodo isn’t what’s worrying you,” she said, sipping her tea. She had persuaded Carmine to switch from coffee to tea after dinner, and he was sleeping better. “Tell me, love.”
“Morty Jones is drinking, and Corey won’t see it.”
“Ohh! Drinking is a firing offense, isn’t it?”
“On duty, yes. Instant dismissal, the works—it’s in our contracts. John Silvestri is an iron man about liquor, and the Holloman PD is famous—lushes need not apply.”
“But Morty! He’s a weak man, I know, yet . . .” Desdemona’s plain face grew plainer save for her pale blue eyes, which Carmine fancied were the same color as pack ice, ethereal and slightly eerie; they grew moist. “I suppose it’s his wife?”
“When isn’t it? I caught him coming in to work Monday, and we had a talk. Seems their relationship came to a head last Saturday night when Morty found Ava sneaking to the spare room at three a.m. When he told her he’d had enough, she told him that his kids weren’t his, and he decked her. On the floor, blood everywhere from a broken nose. Ava packed her bags and left him to the tender mercies of his mother—” Carmine threw his hands up and clutched fruitlessly at the air. “It seems he spent all of Sunday in the Shamrock Bar, so you can imagine what he looked like—and smelled like!—Monday morning.”
“Oh, Carmine, that’s terrible! According to Netty Marciano, the boy—Bobby?—was fathered by Danny Morski, and Gidget belongs to the nonfamous Holloman cop Harpo Marx. I must say the likenesses are speaking, but Morty never knew, did he?”
“Didn’t want to, I guess. He’s in denial, that’s why he’s drinking. Corey’s playing ostrich, head in the sand. Morty’s mom agreed to look after the kids for the time being, but told him to find a housekeeper.”
“Oh, dear!” Desdemona’s English accent wasn’t as posh as Delia’s, but it showed strongly in exclamations. And at least, thought Carmine, watching her, Morty Jones’s troubles were giving her something other than Julian to think about. “What can you do, Carmine?”
“Keep talking to Morty and hope Ava comes home again. No other cop would put up with her out of a bed.”
“Corey’s bothering you in other ways, isn’t he?”
“Clever chicken! Corey’s jealous of Abe. He implied that I’m biased in favor of Abe. It was hard to take.”
Why don’t they leave him alone? Desdemona asked herself, all traces of depression burned to ashes in the furnace of her rage at Corey, Ava, Morty—anyone who didn’t see her husband for the great and good man he was. I must get better, I must! The last thing Carmine needs is an emotionally crippled wife. But what her heart was telling her lay beyond her ability and capacity at this moment; Desdemona sat, huddled in her chair, without the strength to offer him any kind of comfort. All her little spurt of anger had done was to stimulate the ever-lurking tears. When she tried to wink them away, they overflowed, and again it was Carmine who had to summon up the energy to offer comfort.
By noon of the next day, Thursday, September 26, Delia Carstairs, in charge of gathering information about the Dodo’s possible rapes, had accumulated a total of six young women she deemed highly likely to have been victims prior to Maggie Drummond. Done in the form of a dialogue between Delia and the host of the program, the radio broadcasts had proven astonishingly effective; Delia suspected that all six young women had yearned for somewhere feminine to go, and that, as was usually the way, it hadn’t occurred to any of them that a medical school as prestigious as Chubb’s would have a rape clinic rather than merely an emergency room. Delia used her accent to present as a very classy woman who really would, as she assured her listeners, see and talk to victims in privacy and without a male presence.
A delighted Helen was severely cautioned.
“Have you ever been raped?” Delia asked her.
“No, not even close.”
“Then strictly speaking you’re as ignorant as any man. All you have in facing these devastated women is your sex, which I require be used as a reassurance. Never appear indifferent.”
“Are you implying that men dismiss rape as a fabrication?”
“A minority of men only. A few men have been falsely accused of rape—you’ll never convert them. Some have been brought up to regard all women as liars and cheats. There is always an element of ignorance. Samson and Delilah is a good illustration—women are seen as stripping men of their power, their authority.”
“Why tell me stuff I already know?”
Delia drew a patient breath. “I’m telling you this because it’s a rare man who empathizes with a rape victim, but Captain Delmonico is one such rare man. The Dodo case will be worked, and not just because the rapist is escalating.”
“Why?” Helen demanded, eyes glistening.
“Don’t take your mind there, Helen!” Delia snapped. “Don’t go romantically endowing the Captain with a raped girlfriend, or anything even remotely so personal. No such person exists. What I am trying to get through your unversed head, madam trainee, is that you’re extremely lucky to be working here.”
“Yes, Delia,” said Helen meekly. “What do I do?”
“If a victim chooses to come here, you sit in the interview room with her and me. If the victim prefers to be seen at her home, you accompany me to her home. You are purely a witness. You say not one word unless I indicate you may. You don’t ask curious questions either, even if you believe your question will solve the case. You write it down, hand the paper to me, and I will decide. Our best advantage is that we’re women, so don’t blow it. Understood?”
“Should I take notes?”
“Unobtrusively, yes. None of them will consent to a tape recorder, unfortunately.”
There were seven rape victims: Shirley Constable on March 3; Mercedes Mendes on May 13; Leonie Coustain on June 25; Esther Dubrowski on July 16; Marilyn Smith on August 6; Natalie Goldfarb on August 30; and Maggie Drummond on September 24.
When Helen offered to drive each young woman into County Services in a private car and return her the same way, Delia managed to persuade all six earlier victims to come in. Her trainee assistant, Delia noted when Shirley Constable appeared, had handled this most damaged of the victims with a cheerful insouciance that had revolved around her green Lamborghini sports car; she hadn’t mentioned the coming interview.
The erstwhile Carew character had retreated so far inside herself that it took Delia almost an hour to get her talking, but when she did, it poured out. She had been a virgin for religious reasons and regarded herself as ruined for life; but that, Dr. Liz Meyers and the rape clinic would help. Delia had already been in touch with Dr. Meyers, a brilliant psychiatrist whose sole interest was rape.
What preyed more cruelly on Shirley’s mind was her conviction that the Dodo would return to kill her, and a large part of her felt she deserved to die. Oh, we women have to get over this mind-set, Delia said to herself. The value society puts on virginity is a way to make sure a man fathers his children—look at poor Morty Jones.
Having assured Shirley that the Dodo was too busy moving on to bother going back and killing earlier victims, Delia sent her off with Helen to see Dr. Meyers.
“He’s definitely escalating in method,” she said to Carmine and Nick later, “but he seems to have settled into a three-week cycle. There were ten weeks between Shirley and Mercedes, then six weeks between Mercedes and Leonie. From Leonie on, three weeks, with a slight preference for Tuesdays and Wednesdays.”
Carmine was scowling. “Then he’s not a moon man or a sun man, Deels, and that means he’s a real headache. He can switch his time span without feeling that he’s offended the sun or the moon—I hate the ones without a planetary pattern.”
“Then perhaps he’s on a Mars or a Venus cycle. We won’t know that until we check the astronomical ephemeris. I’ll get on to it,” Delia said. “However, if he sticks to three weeks, he’s due to strike around October 16. A Wednesday. We should expect it, Carmine—sun, moon or none.”
“Does he have a physical type of victim?”
“No. Nor a racial one, nor a religious one. All colors of hair, eyes, Caucasian skin. Eastern European roots, Jewish, WASP, Latin American. Things might pop out at us when we consider the events more dispassionately and conclude all the interviews. Apart from Shirley, all we did today was make their acquaintance.”
Helen came in and sat down.
“Your impressions, Helen?” Carmine asked.
“Well, we didn’t spend much time on our home visits—it will be better when I drive each of them in for a formal interview. I can say that the Dodo himself didn’t vary much from victim to victim—did he, Delia?”
“Almost six feet, and extremely well built. Marlon Brando was the movie star they chose. Naked and completely hairless. No scars, spots, moles, pimples. A black, silky hood over his head. He never spoke. The warning and his name were printed on a piece of white Bainbridge board with a black marker.”
“Thank you,” said Carmine, interrupting smoothly. “Delia?”
“Shirley was raped twice, both vaginal. Merecedes also, but the second one was anal. And so it went, Carmine, escalating each time a little. My feeling is that with Maggie Drummond and the arrival of the garotte, or cord, or whatever, the Dodo is close to his kill point. That means it’s imperative we catch him.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” Carmine said.
“Have you any ideas about the Dodo, Carmine?” Nick asked.
“He’s verging on unique, for starters. Through six rapes over a period of nearly seven months, he managed to be invisible. If it weren’t for the Gentleman Walkers, his attack on Maggie would have seemed the first. None of his earlier victims would have come forward of her own volition. The Dodo is a stalker who must know a great deal about the women he targets. It’s my guess that he’s working from a list, and that list might contain a hundred names,” Carmine said grimly.
“Will he escalate to murder?” Helen asked, not having heard the first part of their conference.
“All multiple rapists of this kind eventually move up to murder, Helen. Asphyxiation is a give-away. That’s why, as you women probe the earlier victims deeper and deeper, I want you to be on the lookout for anything suggesting asphyxiation. In a way, Miss trainee, that never gives your victim any idea what you’re doing. We don’t want anyone feeding ideas, okay?”
The blue eyes were blazing, but Helen MacIntosh had learned more than merely police procedure: not a muscle moved in her face as she thought: how dared they treat her like a teenybopper! “Madam trainee!” “Miss trainee!” They were baiting her, but they wouldn’t succeed in getting a rise. “Okay,” she said aloud.
“The nakedness says the Dodo’s ego is so big he’s sure he can deal with the unexpected, like a roommate coming home. His rape technique says he’s never going to be a metal or a fire man, cutting, mutilating, even burning with a cigarette. He punches, pokes and pinches, but most of all he kicks. The assaults are erotic, in that they’re directed at breasts, buttocks, belly, pubes. In an odd way, his actions are immature. According to Maggie, he sustained rigid erections for long periods, yet he can’t climax. According to his lights, he has principles.”
“You’re describing an almost supernaturally cool, calm and collected man,” Nick said uneasily.
“Not supernatural, but certainly highly instinctual. Has any victim reported seeing a weapon, Delia?” Carmine asked.
“Not so far.”
“He must have brought a weapon with him and kept it close at hand,” Carmine said.
Ask your questions, Helen, said their trainee to herself. If they make you seem ignorant, that’s because you are ignorant. But you’re here to learn, and sometimes they don’t see the most basic questions of all—too much water under the cop bridge. “Why should so many sex murderers strangle?” she asked, eyes wide and curious. “I mean, asphyxiation is just one form of it.”
Carmine looked pleased. “As against death by mutilation?”
“I don’t know that anyone honestly knows, but the general feeling is that strangulation—hands, a garotte, a scarf—offers the killer about as leisurely a look at dying as he’ll ever get. It can take minutes, depending, and especially if he’s gotten his technique with a cord down so pat that he can drag his victim to the brink of death a dozen times before the coup de grâce. It also means no blood, and a good proportion of sex killers dislike blood as a component of murder. It’s messy and unpredictable unless you’re extremely well prepared to handle the mess. One errant drop can convict if the blood type’s rare and the killer shouldn’t have been there.” Carmine’s large, square, beautiful hands gestured. “One thing I can tell you, Helen. The Dodo isn’t into blood. What turns him on is a woman’s suffering.”
Though they were sitting in a room without windows, it felt as if the sun had gone in; Helen shivered. Suffering. Such a terrible word. It occurred to her that in her twenty-four years of life, she had never truly witnessed suffering any closer than a television screen or newsmagazine.
“How can the Dodo do meticulous research on a bunch as varied as our victims?” Helen asked. “Shirley is an archivist, Mercedes is a dress designer, Leonie is a mathematician, Esther is a lecturer in business, Marilyn is an archaeologist in dinosaur research, Natalie buys women’s wear for a chain of department stores, and Maggie is a bird physiologist. Where’s the common thread, apart from the fact that they all live in Carew?”
“I doubt there is a common thread,” said Nick. This is one case, he thought, where the women should be driving. “I do think we have to assume that the Dodo lives in Carew, and that under the black hood is a face well known to Carew residents. A face not only known, but trusted, maybe admired. He could be a Gentleman Walker. He could be that movie star guy you go out with, Helen.”
She guffawed. “Kurt? Hardly likely, Watson! He’s a contender for the Nobel Prize in Physics.”
“Yes, but do you see what I mean? Whoever the Dodo is, he leads a double life. I’d be willing to bet that he’s invited to Mark Sugarman’s parties—and those parties are something all the Dodo’s victims have in common.”
Delia squawked. “Nick! You stole my thunder.”
“Did I? Gee, Deels, I’m sorry.”
“It doesn’t matter,” said Carmine. “The fact is, you both noticed the parties. Sounds like you said a little more than hello and goodbye to the other five victims, Delia.”
Her face went pink enough to clash with her orange ascot. “Um—well, yes. They were dying to talk, especially because the public nature of Maggie’s rape told them they weren’t in much danger anymore. They’re very intelligent women.”
“You don’t give credence to the idea that the face under the hood might be disfigured?” Carmine asked.
Helen answered. “No. He has no harelip, cleft palate or butterfly nevus, Captain. Nick was way off with his crack about my boyfriend, but I do know why he picked him. Kurt von Fahlendorf is a gorgeous-looking guy who just happens to be a physics genius. There are three of them hang out together—Kurt, Mason Novak, and Mark Sugarman. They’re friends with an old guy, Dave Feinman, and a couple of younger guys—Bill Mitski and Greg Pendleton. But I can assure you, sir, that none of them is harboring Mr. Hyde underneath Dr. Jekyll.”
“We’ll try to take your word for it—after we’ve investigated them,” Carmine said gravely. “How many more Gentleman Walkers do you know, Helen?”
“Are they all Gentleman Walkers?” she asked ingenuously. “I know them from Mark’s parties.”
“Yes, they’re all Walkers. There are 146 altogether.”
“Wow! Do they have a uniform?”
“Apparently not.” Carmine lifted his eyes to Helen’s. “Is Mr. von Fahlendorf a neighbor?”
“Professor von Fahlendorf. No, he doesn’t live in Talisman Towers. He lives around the corner in Curzon Close—the prettiest house in Carew.”
“He’s very pretty,” said Nick, lip curling.
“He’s very clever,” she riposted. “He’s a professor in the hardest form of physics—particles.”
“Behave yourself, Nick,” Carmine said with sufficient reproof in his voice to make Delia glance at him in surprise. “Is your professor a West German national, Helen?”
“Yes, on a green card. He works on subatomic particles in the Chubb bunker. Very highly thought of by Dean Gulrajani and a few other luminaries, though his nose is a little out of joint since Jane Trefusis joined the lab. It’s really that he’s not very fond of America, but it’s where the work is, and that’s actually what Kurt is all about—subatomic particles.”
“What’s he got against America?” Nick asked aggressively. “Funny how none of these people have a good thing to say about us, yet they’re happy to take our money and our jobs.”
“I agree with you, Nick. It’s mostly envy,” Carmine said in calm tones. “They see their own cultures buried under American films, television and popular fiction. That must be hard, but their own people are in the forefront of promoting global American culture—the kids and the local moguls in particular.”
“East Germany, or West?” Nick pressed.
“Well, it would hardly be East. Oh, you mean originally? Yes, the von Fahlendorfs were Prussian Junkers, somewhere fairly close to the Polish border. His father skipped from East Germany in 1945. Now they’re very wealthy.”
“Including Professor von Fahlendorf?” Carmine asked.
“He’s not hurting, sir. He drives a black Porsche and owns a lovely property. What’s he like as a person? Stiff as a board and about as exciting as Parsifal. But I like Kurt. He has beautiful manners, and if he ever keeps me waiting on a date, I could safely bet my life that nothing less than an escaping muon has detained him. Kurt’s a gentleman, and in case you haven’t checked lately, sir, they’re a dying breed.”
“He sounds more and more like the Dodo to me,” said Nick.
“Enough, Nick!” Carmine said sharply. “What do you know about Mark Sugarman, Helen?”
“Another of the dying breed,” Helen said, a little tartly. “Like me, he owns his condo. An extremely organized person—in fact, the most obsessive man I know when it comes to work habits and organizing his life in general. Kurt’s in the amateur league compared to Mark. He used to throw the best parties until Leonie Coustain got sick—raped, we know now.” She shuddered. “To think that the Dodo invaded Talisman Towers! But Mark isn’t the Dodo either, sir, truly. In the summer he uses the pool, and his chest is covered with hair. Kurt’s hairy too.”
“Haven’t you heard of a chest toupée?” Delia asked.
Helen’s jaw dropped. “You’re kidding,” she said hollowly.
“Anything but. It’s seen as an indication of masculinity, so men who feel inadequate wear them.”
“Thank you, Delia,” said Carmine, eyes twinkling. “While you’re about it, see if you can work out how a stark naked man left no trophy of himself behind in Maggie Drummond’s apartment. Maggie told us he wears surgeon’s gloves, but she had no answer for his lack of blemishes.”
“He touched himself up with greasepaint,” Delia said.
“Greasepaint?” Nick gaped.
“Think about it,” Delia said eagerly. “I think we have to presume that the Dodo has beautiful skin—hardly a blemish. But no human being has absolutely flawless skin. If he’s sandy or red, he has freckles. If his skin’s olive, he has moles. And think of how many men have pimples on their bums. What flaws the Dodo has, he touches up with greasepaint. The Dodo is vain.”
“Good girl!” Carmine said. “Three stars on your wall chart, Delia. We can add greasepaint to his repertoire, along with plucked body hair.”
“Won’t greasepaint come off?” Nick asked.
“Not very easily, if it’s top quality. It may also be that his blemishes are in places that don’t come in heavy contact with his victim. He may also wipe off any transferred greasepaint with an organic solvent—alcohol, xylene, chloroform.”
“We have enough to develop a protocol for questioning the victims,” Carmine said, looking pleased. “Girls, make sure you ask about smells, little scrubs of parts of their skins—you may get a clue as to where the Dodo wears his greasepaint from where he scrubs it off the victims.”
Danny Marciano’s last day as Captain of Uniforms had come and gone; today, Thursday, September 26, was Fernando Vasquez’s first day in the same job. Though as he climbed the stairs Carmine’s mind was not on Fernando Vasquez or the uniformed division.
What was he going to do with Corey Marshall? At their meeting this morning, Corey hadn’t turned up. Worse than that, Abe was smelling a rat now that the Tinnequa truck stop heist was out of his hair and he could assume a more regular schedule. Like so many of Abe’s cases, the gas station holdups were slow to start yielding pointers as to where a canny lieutenant ought to distribute his forces, and Abe was intelligent enough to go with the flow. So while Liam and Tony were out and about prowling, he was using his brain—and had sufficient vacant segments of it to notice something was up between Carmine and Corey.
“I got into the elevator with him yesterday,” Abe said as the two of them concluded their business, “and he cut me dead. I wouldn’t worry, except that lately he’s been saying some hard things about you, Carmine.”
“He feels as if the whole world’s against him at the moment,” Carmine said, knowing he couldn’t palm Abe off with platitudes; Abe was almost preternaturally sensitive to atmosphere in a way that, for instance, seemed to give him second sight about secret compartments. So, while he wasn’t in the slightest paranoid, he could see through evasions. “First, he inherited Morty while you got Liam and Tony, then Wes Cooper dropped dead—that’s more than anyone’s fair share of bad luck. And most of his cases haven’t worked out well. You know Corey—he takes things to heart, Abe, without always seeing the best way to fix them.”
“Say no more,” Abe said with a wry smile, and took himself off to his own office.
What do I do about Corey? Carmine wondered, reaching the top of the stairs.
Having entered the Holloman PD straight from high school, Corey had been a cop for seventeen years, and spent the last five of them in Detectives: he knew the ropes. Yet he wasn’t making it as a lieutenant. Most of the considerable paperwork was devoted to interviews, simultaneously a cop’s nightmare and salvation; out of them came so many leads. But first, they had to be written down. If, for instance, a case went cold, like that triple murder at the railroad station in 1930, the written testimony was all that stood between continued frigidity and a case suddenly on fire. Regarding that old triple murder, pathetically inadequate reportage had stymied Carmine until he found a lead elsewhere. Morty Jones’s notes were vestigial, and Corey’s not much better. Nor did Corey have Morty’s excuse, of working for Larry Pisano for nine years; his boss had been Carmine, a stickler. Now that he thought about it, Abe had done most of the writing up, but he had seen Corey put in his two cents’ worth. Now he had to wonder if those had been the only occasions. Abe would never have told; that kind of pettiness wasn’t in the man.
Corey’s notes about the much-vaunted Ziggy Taylor heroin shipment were unacceptable—three lines! Had it been a genuine tip from a snitch, or Corey manufacturing something more impressive than a series of bag snatchings and burglaries? Drugs had come to be regarded as Corey’s turf, for no other reason than that Corey had laid claim to it with an elaborate network of snitches. It was also, Carmine well knew, the hardest area to police—freewheeling and under the control of the lieutenant. I am being conned, Carmine thought, for no other reason than that Corey knows he can’t hack it. He knows the lieutenant’s job is too big for him, but he can’t let it go.
What to do?
Silvestri’s office loomed; squaring his shoulders, Carmine entered it.
Fernando Vasquez had come into a uniformed division fizzing with anticipation; no one knew what to make of a Puerto Rican boss after the crafty Commissioner had finally broken the news. The uniforms, stunned, didn’t know at whom to be angry, or to whom they could go with their grievances when the time came, as come it would; Judge Thwaites got the blame for this bizarre appointment, and Commissioner John Silvestri said nothing to dispell the misconception. Sergeants like Joey Tasco and Mike Cerutti had filed every one of Captain Vasquez’s qualifications in their minds looking for ammunition, the troublemakers started assembling their troops, and the entire uniformed division was prepared for war.
At interview several months before, Carmine had been a little surprised at Vasquez, though very agreeably. Silvestri, he knew, was absolutely determined to bring in fresh blood of a different kind, for nothing escaped that black eagle’s eye in his anything but ivory tower at the top of County Services. And he had set his heart on Fernando Vasquez.
Laying eyes on Vasquez again today only reinforced Carmine’s conviction that this man would lose no battles, let alone the war. He looked like every super-efficient army major Carmine had ever seen: on the short side, ramrod straight, solidly built, radiating not so much confidence as determination. His dark face was handsome in a Silvestri mode, with a straight, blade-thin nose, a very firm mouth, and black eyes that looked clear through a man, exposing him for what he was. Not the kind of man you could lie to, and not a sympathetic type either. Get on the wrong side of him, and you’d wish you hadn’t. Carmine liked the new captain, and hoped he had sufficient flexibility to sort the sheep from the wolves fairly painlessly. Mind you, Vasquez had a lot riding on this appointment: it was his first virtually autocratic command, and if he couldn’t make a go of it, his career would inevitably dwindle.
There were going to be drastic changes, and immediately, Captain Vasquez announced. No more cosy sergeants’ room, for one. In future, breaks shorter than meal breaks would be taken in whatever area a uniform inhabited, and meal breaks would be taken in the general staff canteen, or off the premises. There would be no more unofficial tenured-for-life positions. The new practice would be ruthless rotation of all duties; even the most senior cops would serve on the desk, in records, the cages, the cells, patrol, traffic, the myriad jobs uniforms did. Joey Tasco was already off his beloved desk and Mike Cerutti out of patrol, and revolution wasn’t even a tiny storm cloud on the horizon; both men had been dumped immediately into equally responsible jobs they had to battle to learn without losing face. Some of the changes were shrewdly aimed at more junior men, suddenly given work they had despaired of ever getting. It was a kind of balancing act: for each old leader knocked down a peg, there was a young leader thrust up a peg. For, having got the job, the new captain had sent for copies of the personnel files, and had every one of his two-hundred-plus men firmly in his mind on the day he started. Yes, he said cheerfully, there would be mistakes.
“Not with the old stagers who need a shake-up, however. It will be with the younger men moving upward. Only the job can reveal whether my guess was right.”
After an hour listening to Fernando, Carmine felt exhilarated. What were his problems, compared to those of a man with such a huge group of men under his command?
“What’s eating you, Carmine?” Silvestri asked suddenly.
Carmine blinked. “I didn’t realize it was obvious, John.”
“I’ve known you a long time. Spit it out.”
“Corey Marshall’s not making the grade.”
“A shame, but no surprise.”
“I chose the wrong way to go about settling him and Abe into their new jobs,” said Carmine bleakly. “I really thought that after good tutelage in the basics, it was better to let them find their own way. It worked with Abe, but not with Corey.”
“In what way?” Fernando asked, sounding interested.
“Organization, including paperwork. Except for Buzz Genovese, the reports from Corey’s team are lousy. For instance, there was a drug-related murder of a prostitute behind City Hall a month ago—before Buzz’s time. Corey handled it himself, but if I were a cop thirty years in the future trying to make head from tail of it, I couldn’t. He hadn’t taken enough photos and his description of the scene was pathetic. I chewed him out about it, but he never bothered to augment the report. There are a lot of Corey’s cases done like that.”
“Does he offer a reason?” Silvestri asked.
“Sure. It’s not important enough to merit the time spent on the kind of report he would for an interesting crime.”
Fernando let out a breath. “Ah! He’s an exclusive man.”
“Your lieutenant resents pedestrian cases, he wants glamour.”
“Yes, exactly,” Carmine said, nodding. “He dislikes routine of any kind as well, hence sloppy time sheets and poor rapport with his team members.”
“No, he’s okay with routine, believe it or not. How long did he work for you?”
“So he’s okay with routine, otherwise you wouldn’t have put up with him for five minutes, let alone five years. He wants exclusive-looking cases, not chickenshit stuff, and I’d be willing to take a bet he thinks your cases are much better than his. But he hexes himself—who’s got his ear?” Fernando asked.
“His wife,” said Carmine and Silvestri in unison.
“That makes it tough.”
“Welcome to the Holloman Police Department,” Silvestri said with a wide grin. “That’s the trouble with small cities. No one can keep a secret. Within six months Netty Marciano will have you squared away too, Fernando.”
When he stopped laughing, Carmine asked a question. “Is it true that you’re going to reorganize the uniformed hierarchy?”
“Given the fullness of time, yes,” Fernando said readily. “There are too many sergeants among the uniforms, which leads to confusion—who’s senior to who, et cetera. There’s no hurry, Mr. Commissioner. It will happen when I’m ready.” He stretched luxuriously. “Detectives is overloaded with chiefs as well. If the Holloman PD has a fault, it’s lack of Indians. Your loots basically do the same work as your team members, Carmine. Your division sounds as if whoever structured it thought paperwork a terrible bogey.”
“That was Johnny Catano,” said Silvestri. “He was chief for years, but never captain. His belief was that each team of three men should be led by a lieutenant, with himself as the most senior. Carmine was made the first captain in 1966, more as a thank you than any change in structure.”
“Mr. Commissioner and I are aware there are too many chiefs, but it’s not easy to fix,” Carmine said. “Tell me more about your changes, Fernando.”
“I want three lieutenants, who will be promoted up from the sergeants. I need an executive, Carmine, so as not to fritter away my own time on—paperwork. I’ve been brought in to get this police department in shape for the stormy times that are coming. Two assassinations within three months are appalling—we can’t let it happen again.”
“Ah! Hence the rotation of men like Joey Tasco and Mike Cerutti. Under the old tradition, they would have automatically stepped into the new officer slots, though it’s years since Joey’s been anywhere but the desk, and Mike anywhere but patrol. It’s brilliant. By the time you have to appoint your new loots, you’ll know who are the best men.”
“So I believe.”
“You’re right about stormy times,” Carmine said. “I’ve had to put Corey and his team on a case I wish I could take myself—is that an indictment of me, or Corey? Not of me, I contend. The principal of Taft High found a cache of firearms in the gym. We have them in the cage already, but the kids aren’t talking and we don’t know why the cache was there. Both Taft and Travis, the two high schools, have disciples of Mohammed el Nesr and his Black Brigade among the pupils, but Mohammed is vigorously denying any BB connection.”
“Lieutenant Marshall should do well,” Fernando said. “It’s potentially high-profile and certainly important. What was in the cache?”
“The report will be on your desk, but it’s scary. Twenty .45 caliber and ten .22 caliber semiautomatic pistols, as well as spare clips. A lot of people could have died.”
Silvestri crossed himself. “As well for us that our high school principals are on the ball. If it’s not the Black Brigade responsible, then who is? They’re not the kind of arms high school kids have access to, and it’s not some parent’s collection. It’s an arsenal cache, not an array of different guns. Just .45s and .22s, all the same make and model.”
“It’s their potential as automatics worries me,” Carmine said.
“Kick ass, Carmine, including Corey’s.”
“Actually it’s up his alley, if he sticks to procedure. My chief worry is, what’s he not writing down?”
Carmine took time that Friday to drive around Carew, look at houses belonging to rape victims and Gentleman Walkers. Why did Nick have to conceive such a hot dislike of Helen? He couldn’t pass up an opportunity to needle her.
Helen had been right when she called Kurt von Fahlendorf’s house the prettiest in the district. It was a pre-Revolutionary saltbox with a pillared porch set in an acre of beautifully gardened grounds; a look around the back revealed a breezeway connecting the main structure to what, in the old days, would have been a kitchen annex. Now it was probably a guesthouse; someone whose family resided in West Germany would need adequate guest accommodation. The guy definitely had money, Carmine decided, between the address and the wages he must pay his gardener.
A man named Dave Feinman lived in a small cottage on Curzon Close just two doors down from Kurt von Fahlendorf. He was a widower and was listed as a retired freelance statistician who still took an occasional commission. Mason Novak, the inorganic chemist whom Mark Sugarman had called the spirit of the Gentleman Walkers, lived in a neat little cottage on Curzon Close just around the corner from Spruce Street.
No Walker seemed impoverished, and hardly any were married or lived with a woman. Probably because wives were not likely to want their husbands off patrolling for the benefit of other women when they had a woman at home. Privately Carmine thought that the reason for 146 unattached men in Carew lay in its hordes of young women. Carew was rich pickings for one kind of man in particular: a gentleman. And what else were the Gentleman Walkers?
Arnold Hedberg, a professor of history at East Holloman State College, lived his on-the-verge-of-forty existence in the bottom third of a three-family house on Oak Lane that he owned outright, no mortgages. Mike Donahue, a plumber with a thriving business, was young enough at thirty-one to live in a block of apartments he too owned, though he had a mortgage. He had plenty of women tenants under his own roof, but none had been targeted by the Dodo. Gregory Pendleton was a forty-five-year-old assistant district attorney; he occupied the top floor of a six-storey apartment block on State Street that he owned outright. Bill Mitski was another who lived in a private house he owned; he had an accounting business that specialized in taxation. And more, and more . . . Few Gentleman Walkers were genuine bachelors. Most seemed to be men who had suffered so badly in the divorce court that they were once bitten, twice shy. Sugarman, Mitski, Novak and von Fahlendorf described themselves as “single”—which didn’t say that they weren’t towing more wives than Bluebeard. If his divorce was through, a man was legally single.
After due consideration he decided that his entire team, including Helen, should accompany him to the Gentleman Walkers’ meeting at six o’clock on the seventh floor of the Susskind Science Tower on Chubb’s Science Hill campus. This was Henry Blackburn’s brainchild, and a good one. The president of Chubb just after the Second World War, Blackburn had sequestered twenty-nine acres of Chubb land on Cedar to the east of the Green, and given it to the Chubb School of Architecture to turn into a science campus. Both the Burke Biology Tower and the Susskind Science Tower hadn’t gone up until 1960, but there were plenty of smaller buildings dotted around, as well as the great truncated, grassy pyramid that was the physics bunker, where all work went on way underground in cooled and filtered air. This grassiness was a perpetual frustration as far as the Committee for Nuclear Disarmament was concerned; they had nowhere to paint their CND symbols, so had to content themselves by parading with placards that said BAN THE BOMB.
Having heard the widely disseminated news of Maggie Drummond’s rape, all the Gentleman Walkers came to a venue Carmine thought ideal for an observer down on the podium, as every face was visible in the curved tiers of seats.
Delia and Helen sat on the podium flanking Mark Sugarman on one side, with Carmine and Nick on his other side. The Walkers stared hard at them, but hardest at Helen, whom most of them seemed to know. Probably, thought Delia, we don’t look much like cops, between two women and a black man.
Mark Sugarman began. “I’m sure you know that Maggie Drummond has been raped, but what you won’t know is that six other girls have come forward—I won’t name names, but some of you will make educated guesses. You’re here tonight to meet the police in charge of the case, answer their questions, and ask questions.”
He introduced Carmine and his team, while Carmine’s eyes continued to rove across the assembled ranks. Easy to decide who was Mason Novak and who Kurt von Fahlendorf; they sat in the front row, together with a very elderly fellow of the kind Carmine always called a “Dapper Dan”—a bit like the 1930s movie star William Powell, even including the little mustache.
Kurt von Fahlendorf was a looker in any language. Six feet tall, a good physique, and the kind of Nordic good looks a fan of Teutonic myth might associate with Siegfried. His crew-cut hair was so fair that it glittered as if made of frost—no fan of the fashionable Beatles-length hair here! His eyes were the same shade of ice-blue as Desdemona’s, and his facial features sharply defined, including high cheekbones that made it easy to mentally put a Wehrmacht general’s cap on his head. Odd, that he didn’t look Gestapo. Maybe that’s because I heard Helen on Prussian Junkers? To Carmine he seemed cold in a scientific way; the eyes were extremely intelligent, but not involved as were the eyes of Mason Novak next to him. This was a passionate man, about the same height and physique as von Fahlendorf, but coppery in coloring and owning a face most women would probably prefer to the Prussian’s; despite his facial irregularities, Mason was powerfully attractive. The heart and soul of the Gentleman Walkers? Yes, he looked all of that. The way he and Kurt sat said that they were very good friends who trusted each other, which said a lot about both men. Probably not the Dodo.
Mark then asked each Walker to rise and give his name; after driving around Carew and looking at records, this was a bonus Carmine hadn’t expected. He had imagined that he would be obliged to demand identification, which would have put the meeting on a different, more antagonistic footing. Sugarman was a good guy.
Feinman was a youthful sixty-eight, fit and appealing; he probably had no trouble pulling women. Arnold Hedberg looked studious, Mike Donahue looked as if he went rock climbing for pleasure, Gregory Pendleton was darkly handsome, Bill Mitski a “gold” man—hair, eyes, skin.
What all shared was remarkable physical fitness, and none was small in stature, maybe because small men would have found it hard to stay in stride with long-legged men: a man’s height was in his legs, not his trunk.
“Our patrols are convivial because we always walk with the same companions,” said Dapper Dave.
“Do you roster everybody?” Delia asked.
“Yes, for every second night, come hell or rainstorms,” Sugarman answered. “We field twenty-four trios, with two men in reserve. As Dave says, always the same three men in a trio. They sorted themselves out amicably during the first six weeks, and haven’t changed since. So on any one night, we saturate the district. That’s why we don’t understand how we’ve missed him.”
“You walk at the wrong hour, Mr. Sugarman,” Nick said. “He starts earlier than you do, so by the time you’re on the streets, he’s already inside his premises of choice.”
“Yes, but he has to come out!”
“If he were a run-of-the-mill rapist, sir, you’re right, he would be leaving while you’re patrolling. Unfortunately he makes a night of it,” Nick said. “Instead of attacking and leaving at once, he remains—and rapes multiple times—for about four hours. So he’s in before you start, and not out until way after you’ve all gone home.”
“We’re useless!” Mason Novak cried, voice breaking.
“No, sir, you’re not,” Carmine said in a strong, positive voice. “Look at what you know you’ve done! While you’re on the streets patrolling, the women of Carew know they can walk safely. You’ve apprehended three potential rapists. And as long as you enjoy the exercise, keep on going. Your activities may not affect the Dodo, but they do make Carew safer nonetheless.”
That made them feel better; they began to sit up straighter, murmur among themselves.
“You’ve saturated the district between six and seven-thirty,” Delia said, “which is particularly important now that the days are drawing in. Do women ever approach you to walk with them?”
“The last couple of days, yes,” Gregory Pendleton said.
“That’s a trend will increase,” Carmine said. “Believe me, the women of Carew are grateful for the Gentleman Walkers.”
“Is there anything we can do to improve our technique?” Mark Sugarman asked.
“You could split into two shifts, the second one from seven-thirty until nine, but it’s not going to affect the Dodo.”
“Is that his police tag?” Bill Mitski asked.
“It’s what he calls himself. Didus ineptus. The old Latin name for the Dodo. We’re using the English form, Dodo.”
Mason Novak scowled, displeased. “The media will love it.”
“True, and that carries some advantages, Mr. Novak. We’ll get publicity when we need it because the name is catchy. That may be why the Dodo picked it.”
“He’ll get publicity too,” said Arnold Hedberg.
“If by that you’re assuming the Dodo is a publicity hound, sir, you’re wrong,” Carmine said, fighting to remember his name. “The Dodo has been plying his craft in absolute secrecy for nearly seven months, which I think says loud and clear that he doesn’t want publicity. Maggie Drummond was a mistake, Professor Hedberg, but he had no way of knowing how brave she is. He couldn’t frighten her into silence. Now the police are aware of his activities, and his earlier victims have found the courage to speak up. Life is getting harder for the Dodo.”
“Should we disband?” Mason Novak asked, despondent now.
Carmine looked surprised. “Now why would any cop want to disband a gentlemen’s walking club? Havn’t I already indicated what a good job the Gentleman Walkers are doing? Let’s hear no more about disbanding, please.” He’s mercurial, Carmine was thinking as he spoke the soothing words; Mason Novak isn’t quite stable, but luckily Sugarman knows it, and can handle him.
He spoke aloud again, but in a different voice: this one was stern, minatory, expressive. “I want all of you to remember one thing, sirs. The Dodo is not a Peeping Tom, an underwear thief, or a simple stalker. He’s the big cat of sexual predators—cunning, awake on all counts, innovative, and silent. There’s a great deal more to him than meets the eye. The person his colleagues, friends and acquaintances know is usually impossible to associate with rape, torture and murder. I don’t mean that you ought to look at everyone you know differently, I mean that sooner or later this extinct bird will crash because of a small mistake. If you think you’ve found a contradiction in someone that plain doesn’t make sense, tell us.”
“When may we see Maggie?” Arnold Hedberg asked.
“Not for a while, sir. We’re taking her into protective custody. We don’t think she’s in any real danger,” said Delia, who looked like a barber’s pole tonight—diagonal red and white stripes—“more that there’s no virtue in taking chances.”
“The Chubb Medical School has one of the world’s top rape psychiatrists in Dr. Liz Meyers,” Carmine said as the meeting broke up sometime later, “and she’ll be running a special clinic for the Dodo’s victims.”
Kurt waited for Helen to come down from the podium.
“I didn’t expect to see you,” he said, ranging himself alongside her as the crowd moved toward the door.
“Since I’m a detective in the Captain’s own team, why wouldn’t I be here?” she asked in a discouraging tone. Now was not the moment for Kurt to assert ownership—in front of all these men, yet! Still, he was a pussycat, no argument there; his manners were impeccable, his kindness something he didn’t need to prove to her after eight months of dating, and his genius was allied with a very rare quality: Kurt could get down to a layman’s level effortlessly. What she found harder to admit to herself was that she loved Kurt’s respect for her. Thus far she hadn’t invited him into her bed, and he genuinely liked that. Why? Because he was looking for a wife, not a mistress; every date that ended in a few delicious kisses and strokes without going farther pleased both of them. He thought she was virtuous. She thought his search for a virtuous bride extremely convenient. Fighting off amorous boyfriends was not Helen’s favorite pastime.
“You shouldn’t associate yourself with this investigation,” he said in a scolding voice. “This Dodo might see you.”
“Oh, Kurt, honestly! I live in a security apartment, not the top floor of a two-family house,” she said, exasperated. “I’m a cop! A professional cop who graduated at the head of the NYPD academy, what’s more. The Dodo’s not that stupid. Like all predators, he goes after prey he knows he can handle. I swear on your starched-up Lutheran God that he couldn’t handle me.”
“Do not take the name of God in vain!” he said, horrified.
“Bah, humbug!” she said, laughing at his seriousness.
Just behind them, Carmine and Nick walked with Mason Novak, and behind them were Bill Mitski, Mark Sugarman and Greg Pendleton.
“You were Shirley Constable’s friend, right?” Nick asked Mason Novak.
“Have a talk with Delia Carstairs in about five days’ time. She’ll be able to advise you by then.”
“I think Shirley’s retreated too far to be saved,” Mason said miserably. “She won’t even let me be in the same room.”
“Too pessimistic, Mr. Novak. We cops have seen Dr. Liz Meyers in action, and she’s something else.”
Didus ineptus heard that conversation as well as several others, and ground his teeth—but inaudibly. There was no point in belonging to the Walkers if he didn’t utilize every asset this association of men owned. He hadn’t been among the first to join, but he wasn’t among the last either; to sit in the middle was ideal, for the middle was always a clump, a jumble, a crowd.
I should have killed Maggie Drummond, he was thinking. What’s the difference between detection thanks to a woman too stupid to keep her mouth shut, and the discovery of her dead body? The body is preferable, but it’s too late now. Because I left her alive, the cops know about me and my methods. Protective custody, eh? She’s safe. Move ahead, Didus ineptus! Maggie Drummond had recognized the name, the taxonomy too. Would the cops deem him an untutored ignoramus, not to know about Raphus cucullatus? The wop captain was educated and intelligent, but was he subtle? It would take a very subtle man to unravel all the strands that tied and trussed the Dodo.
In his heart he’d known that Maggie Drummond meant trouble, but he had to have her. Such a glorious neck! Long and slender, curved like a swan’s. The only one on his list whom he could bear to throttle first—all others paled. Yes, yes, yes, she was trouble! But if he kept her alive, he could go back for a second visit, do it all again. Work her throat to death then.
Whenever they had met he had actively disliked her, an emotion their conversations had revealed she reciprocated. And he had done battle with his extinct bird: fierce battle. It had won, and now the cops knew all about him. No, not all. Just far too much.
Waving and calling messages, he climbed into his car and drove away down Cedar Street toward Carew.
A disappointed and disgruntled Kurt von Fahlendorf turned in to the blind little pocket of Curzon Close and put his black Porsche away in its garage. Having seen for himself that the electric door came fully down, he walked not toward his house but to a spot on the kerb where a gap in the trees permitted a view of the night sky. So wonderful! Yet not, he acknowledged, in the same league as Southern Hemisphere skies, free of humanity’s lights and displaying the whole gauzy panoply of the Milky Way. After he gained his basic science degree it had been a struggle: did he pursue astrophysics, or particle physics?
Tonight he had felt like taking Helen to the Motown Cafe for a drink and dance, but she hadn’t wanted to; this wretched detective’s job of hers had eaten into her leisure a little. But if he stargazed for a few minutes in peace and quiet, he would forgive her. He always did forgive her.
“Stargazing, Kurt?” a voice asked.
Oh, no! The Warburtons.
“Having been underground or indoors all day and evening, to me the rising winter stars are better than a glass of Moët,” he said, keeping the annoyance out of his answer. If the Warburtons thought they were getting under one’s skin, they’d never leave.
“No walking tonight?”
“At this hour? No, a Walkers’ meeting. Why not join, Robbie?”
Came a whinny of laughter, curiously amplified; Gordie was there too—when was he not?
“Dah-ling!” Gordie exclaimed, coming to stand under the lamp. “So much Teutonic seriousness! Robbie and I would be as much use to the Gentleman Walkers as Dame Margot Fonteyn.”
Kurt couldn’t help his lip, which lifted in contempt. “You are correct,” he said, his voice betraying only the slightest trace of an accent. “I will contact Dame Margot tomorrow.”
“No Helen?” Robbie asked maliciously.
“Helen is in the police. Tonight she is on duty.”
“Oh, my!” said Gordie. “A face that could launch a thousand ships, blue blood, and a mind in the Holloman sewers.”
When they bunched into fists it could be seen that Kurt’s hands were big; they bunched. “Retract that, you slimy worm, or I will insert Robbie’s head all the way up your arse.”
The twins backed away in a scuttle, only half afraid because that was their nature: pull the cat’s tail and get out of the way of its claws. “Silly!” Robbie cried. “If your English were more locally colloquial, you’d realize what he said was a clever pun.”
“In a pig’s eye it was,” said Kurt, demonstrating just how colloquial he could get. He turned on his heel and walked off.
The twins watched him go, looking at each other in glee.
“He’s so thin-skinned,” Robbie said, putting his arm around Gordie’s waist and turning toward their house.
“Prussians were never my favorite people,” Gordie said.
“How many have you met, sweetest?”
“They say he’s loaded. Oh, and that face! It’s to die for. Why didn’t Mother Nature give us Kurt’s face?”
“Our face is fine, it suits our style,” said Gordie. “We have plasticity! Kurt has the face of a marble statue.”
“True, true. They say his papa has an enormous factory.”
“Which little bird twittered that?” Gordie demanded.
“Babs, the waitress in Joey’s diner.”
“Is there anything Babs doesn’t know?”
“The identity of the fellow WRHM and HN are calling the Dodo.”
“A putrid fowl.” Gordie shuddered.
They walked together through their red-lacquered front door and divested themselves of their jackets: a dark grey one for Robbie and an ecru one for Gordie.
“Dark—light—dark—light—dark—light,” Gordie chanted, skipping nimbly from a black tile to a white one on the tessellated floor, a caricature of an over-sized child.
“Stick to the white,” Robbie said, leaping on a black tile.
“Light!” said Gordie, on a white tile.
Which finished their dance; they had reached the living room doorway and encountered a geometrically crazed carpet in black and white. Laughing, they flopped into easy chairs, Gordie in a white one and Robbie in a black one, breathless and happy.
“Do you think it’s time we told Aunt Amanda where we are?” Gordie asked.
“Patience, twinnie-winnie, patience.”
“Our clown and check will go to San Diego, and you know we’re renting the house to strangers. What if they pinch our present?”
But Robbie’s mind still dwelled on their neighbor.
“There was a professor named Kurt
Who wore a plutonium shirt;
A mushroom-shaped cloud
Did Kurt really proud
When the garment proved far from inert.”
“Very good, Robbie! I love your limericks.”
“The Dodo’s victims do have one thing in common,” Delia said the following Monday, the last day of the month.
“Expound,” said Carmine.
“None of the seven has what I’d call a menial job, though there are several thousand Carew women working at menial jobs. Shirley is an archivist—extremely thin on the ground. Mercedes is a dress designer, but not a struggling would-be. She’s the chief designer of that famous boutique line Cobweb. Leonie’s a brilliant mathematician, working at Chubb and surrounded by men who regard her as a freak. Esther was on a fast track at East Holloman State College teaching the more esoteric aspects of commerce—apparently her teaching abilities were outstanding. Marilyn is the one I’d call unlucky, in that she should have been in Alberta working the digs there—she came home unexpectedly. No, the Dodo didn’t send her any trick messages, the summons was genuine. Natalie buys women’s clothes from factories for Huxley’s department stores. She has an unerring instinct for what women are going to want to wear, so Huxley’s are feeling her absence severely. And Maggie, as we all know, is a bird physiologist at Chubb, no mean feat,” Delia said.
“That’s an impressive list, even for 1968,” said Helen, taking over from Delia. “It suggests to us that the Dodo is well aware what his victims do professionally. He’s an intellectual snob, and we’re guessing that file clerks, waitresses and cleaning ladies are safe. Also undergraduates. All his victims so far have been old enough to acquire at least one degree.”
“How does he find out their professions?” Carmine asked with a frown. “There’s a list of Gentleman Walkers and their occupations, but the most Sugarman does with women is to write them down on his list for a party. Helen, your job is to check how many of them are on Sugarman’s party lists. We can’t hope for that from Mason Novak, he’s too disorganized.”
“He must be organized at work,” Delia said.
“You’re right, he must be. However, the Walkers have no idea from seeing a girl out and about in Carew whether she’s a doctor or a file clerk. The Dodo must find out the hard way, by multiple break-ins. A woman’s living space will tell him for sure. But it adds to the danger of discovery.”
“File clerks don’t carry heavy briefcases,” said Nick.
“No, I believe the Dodo has access to records of some sort. What throws me off are the non-academics,” Delia said. “Two of them, a dress designer and a dress buyer. Both women’s wear, yet not really related. How does one find out about them?”
“Walk up to them in a shop and ask, with a very charming smile?” Nick said, half joking.
“He’s a snob in all kinds of ways,” said Helen, tired of Nick. “He doesn’t use a foreign object during his rapes, except maybe his fist, but that’s a part of his body. It interests Delia and me that the most strenuous tussles he had with his victims were before he put socks on their feet and cut their nails. We think he’s taking precautions for later in the night, when he might flag a little himself. Those long, huge erections must take a heavy toll. I mean, sex is a pleasure, but it’s also something you have to work at, especially the man.”
“Has anything further turned up about the books? It seems weird to me that the victims don’t remember a title,” Carmine said.
What a pertinent way to change the subject, Helen thought. The boss could see my frankness made Nick uneasy, so Carmine to the rescue of a fellow man.
Delia answered. “The smallest library held three hundred books, and all of them contained at least a hundred novels. Most of the novels were old and hadn’t been read in years. All the victims could have named a purloined textbook, but an old novel? They knew one had gone because the shelf held a gap where no gap had been before.”
“That says it wasn’t a beloved novel, like Little Women—its absence would have been noticed,” said Helen.
Carmine caught the gleam in Nick’s eye and got in first. “I estimate that we have a little over two weeks before the Dodo rapes again. If, that is, he sticks to his three-week cycle.”
Helen jumped, suddenly very excited. “Captain, what if I set myself up as a lure? He might go for it.”
The shake of Carmine’s head was emphatic. “You’re not thinking straight, Helen. This guy doesn’t choose at random, he’s working from a list he’s already drawn up. It’s not impossible that you’re on it, but nothing indicates that. He’ll know you’re a cop, and I would have said that’s not a profession he’d deem worthy of his attention.” He grinned. “Sorry, but it’s a fact.”
She subsided. “Yes, Captain, you’re right.”
“If the Dodo also happens to be a Gentleman Walker,” Delia said, looking businesslike, “then he can’t be rostered for walking on an attack night. So I took all Mark Sugarman’s rosters and went through them.” She grimaced, revealing lipstick on her teeth. “No correlations, Carmine—not a sausage. I could have skimmed through the lot in less than thirty minutes if Mason Novak didn’t do a good half of them—untidy! But there’s nothing to find, except that I suppose nothing is something.”
Carmine grinned, black brows flying high. “Who’s a nothing that could be a something, Deels?”
“Sixty-one names that never occur on a Dodo night. However, some are bigger somethings than others,” said Delia, smiling. “I mention Mark Sugarman and his two companions—er . . . Arnold Hedberg and Gregory Pendleton, and Kurt von Fahlendorf and his two—Dapper Dave Feinman and Bill Mitski. The list is on your table. Would you like me to try fishing for alibis?”
“For the moment, no. It’s negative evidence at best, and the only guys who’ll be able to supply alibis are the diarists. Work with the victims, you have their trust.”
“What about me?” Helen demanded.
“Your schedule says you’re with Lieutenant Goldberg and the armed holdups,” said Carmine, sounding adamant. “It’s suddenly gone statewide and is being worked from Hartford with Lieutenant Goldberg in command, so it will be invaluable experience.”
“What about you?” Helen asked, then bit her lip: it had come out far too insolently. Oh, damn cops and their armed services style protocols! Why couldn’t a person ask?
No change in Carmine’s expression occurred, though Nick looked annoyed. “I have the Big Three to worry about,” he said levelly. “Sugarman, Novak and von Fahlendorf.”
“Oh, Kurt’s all right,” Helen said blithely.
“No one is all right, Miss MacIntosh, until I say so.”
“Ow!” Nick exclaimed, laughing. Serves you right, you pushy little bitch, he thought.
The Glass Teddy Bear shop actually showed to best advantage after the Busquash Mall had closed its ornate doors and before the timer turned the shop’s interior lights out. No customers disturbed the glitter from arrays of exquisite wine- or water glasses, the sparkle from cut crystal vases, the gleam from transparent plates, cups, saucers, ornaments and paperweights. It was a cavern filled with pools and points of light arising out of mysterious shadows, an effect enhanced because everything in the background was painted black, or covered in black.
All else paled in contrast to the glass teddy bear himself. He sat in the window on a black velvet box, all alone, glowing like a phosphorescent sea creature. His plump body, legs, arms and head were colorless, made of glass so flawless it held not a single air bubble. His legs stretched out in front of his body, the pads on the bottom of his feet a clear yet satiny ice-blue, each surrounded by stitches in glass thread of a darker blue. One arm was slightly forward of the body; the other was extended in mute appeal. Each had an ice-blue, satiny paw pad. The little round ears were lined with the same glass as his pads, and his face, mouth fixed in a joyous smile, bore two huge, starry eyes of a deeper blue. Though of itself the bulk of his glass had no color, this genuine work of art picked up the blue of paw pads, ears and eyes, and shimmered as if an invisible palest blue flame rendered him incandescent.
Most amazing of all was his gigantic size: about the same as a hefty three- to four-year-old child.
Though to some extent the shop was still illuminated from the mall, the lights inside the shop had been out for five hours when the unfaltering forest of pinpoints and pools shivered, some snuffed out, some diminished, others unaffected. The door from the service corridor into the shop’s back room had opened, and remained open as a dark form passed back and forth through it, lugging plastic trash bags. This done, the door closed and a battery-powered light came on. From its position atop a filing cabinet, its rays lit up the curtain of glass beads, a frozen waterfall, that barred entrance to the shop itself. The dark form gathered the curtain up and tied all its fabulous ropes against the jamb. A trash bag disappeared into the shop, and came the noises of cans colliding, bottles clinking, boxes and cartons thudding, wet squelches from cascading organic matter. The bag emptied, the form went back to fetch another bag, empty it in a different place. Ten bags in all—more than enough.
The smell of decay was rising as the dark form moved then to the front of the shop, where the glass teddy bear sat on his black velvet box and the night lights from outside made him glow with a dimmer fire. Whoosh! A cloud of dust and debris flew from the smaller bag that the dark form held out and flapped; the glass teddy bear’s luminescence was extinguished under a pall of sticky, grimy vacuum cleaner residue.
There were several more whooshes in other parts of the shop, then the dark form released the bead curtain, which fell into place with a series of chimes that plastic beads could never produce. A knife came out to slash the strands holding the beads; it hovered, undecided, then the dark form snapped the knife closed, and the bead curtain was safe.
The Vandal moved into the back room, collected his flashlight from the filing cabinet and let himself out. A good exercise . . . That idiot Charlie whom the mall owners employed as their sole night watchman was on his coffee break, regular as the clock he consulted. How come such fools had the money and power to erect something as fine as this shopping mall, then didn’t see the virtue of good night security? They asked for everything they got. And, come to think of it, he could do with a second visit tonight.
From the Glass Teddy Bear he went down to the Third Holloman Bank, whose premises, inside a very upmarket mall, boasted little in the way of precautions like time-locked vaults—no need, in a venue where the clients were after cash or validation of checks. He disarmed the device in the service hall, let himself in and went straight for the cage wherein Percy Lambert kept his cash ready for the morning. Who would ever have thought that these keys would prove so handy? People were so careless! The fifth key fitted the lock, the door opened; the Vandal strolled in and helped himself to $50,000 sitting on the table in preparation for apportioning to the tellers’ drawers in the morning.
By 4:00 a.m. it was all over; the Vandal drove off just as Charlie was starting his rounds. He wouldn’t even notice, thought the Vandal, taking a bet with himself. It would take Miss Amanda Warburton and Mr. Percy Lambert to raise the alarm when they came in at eight.
Amanda Warburton smelled the damage before she set eyes on it, so stunned that she dropped the leashes in her left hand and ran into the shop feeling as if someone had cut off air to her lungs. Gasping, choking, she took in the enormity of this crime, and found herself unable to scream. Instead, she used the phone in her back room to call the mall manager, Hank Murray. Because she was fifteen minutes earlier than Percy Lambert on this first day of October, Hank came racing with his bottle of emergency brandy and some paper cups, oblivious to how bad his morning was going to get, intent only on Amanda.
“Oh, Miss Warburton, this is terrible!” he cried after one horrified glance into the shop. “Here, sip this, it will make you feel better. It’s only brandy—the best thing for shocks.”
He was a presentable man in his early forties whom Amanda had liked on her few meetings with him, so she sipped obediently and did indeed feel some strength flow into her.
“What did he do to the glass teddy bear?” she asked, tears coursing down her face. “Tell me the worst, please!”
Having assured himself that she wasn’t going to pass out, he toured the glass shop, more astonished now than horrified—what was this guy about, for God’s sake?
“Everything’s covered in filth, Miss Warburton,” he said, returning, “but it looks as if nothing’s been damaged—not even a chip. The glass teddy bear is fine underneath his dirt.”
“Then why—? What—?”
“I don’t know, except that it’s vandalism,” Hank Murray said in a soothing voice. “Because your stock is glass, it won’t suffer once it’s been properly cleaned. I know a firm will guarantee to clean up your shop as if none of this ever happened, honest. All we have to do is catch the Vandal, who couldn’t have done this if we had better night security.” He squared his shoulders. “However, that’s my business, not yours. Do I have your permission to get things rolling, Miss Warburton?”
“Yes, of course, Mr. Murray.”
“Call me Hank. Are you insured for this kind of thing?”
“Then it really isn’t a problem. Have you got a card for your insurance agent? I’ll have to see him too, and he’ll have to see this.” He gave a rueful laugh. “I guess I sound cold-blooded, but I have to get things started for you, especially if mall rumor says aright.”
“What does it say?”
“That you’re alone in the world.”
“Except for a pair of very unsatisfactory nephews, rumor is true,” she said.
“Are the nephews hereabouts? May I call them?”
“No, they’re in San Diego. I’d rather you called Marcia Boyce—she’s my friend and lives next door to me.”
His hazel eyes showed concern for her, his attractive face very serious. “I’m afraid I have to call the police. Too much malice for simple vandalism, and I don’t understand why, if the culprits are simple vandals, they didn’t break anything.”
“Nor do I, frankly. Yes, I have to notify the police.”
Her phone rang; Hank answered it, growing stiffer by the second. When he put the receiver down he stared at Amanda in a new horror.
“You wouldn’t read about it, the Third Holloman Bank has been robbed. Looks like the Vandal was more than a vandal. Will you be all right until I can get Miss—Mrs.—Boyce here?”
“Yes, Hank, I’m over the worst. You go. I’ll call Marcia—she’s Miss Boyce—myself. I’m okay, truly.”
Only when Hank was gone did Winston make his presence felt with a long, highly displeased meow.
Amanda gasped. “Winston! And Frankie! Where are you?”
A growl in what sounded like a very big cat’s throat took Amanda’s eyes to a filing cabinet tucked in a corner; it didn’t meet the wall, which was on an angle, and two pairs of eyes stared at her reproachfully. But they wouldn’t come when she called—they were as upset as she was, obviously—so she had to go to them and remove their body harnesses; they walked on leashes with her to and from work every day she opened her shop.
Winston, which had paws the size of a lion’s, it seemed to people meeting it, promptly took its twenty pounds to the top of the filing cabinet and hunched there, a magnificent marmalade in color, with unusual green eyes. The dog, which most people judged a pit bull and steered a wide berth around, was black and white, its ugly white head adorned with a black ring around its right eye. In actual fact Frankie was a gentle soul utterly dominated by the cat, to which it was passionately attached. Both animals were males, and both castrated.
At the end of a ten-minute sulk, the cat gave the dog permission to go to Amanda, who clutched at its muscular back as if to a lifeline. What had happened? Who hated her enough to do this? The stench turned her stomach, but she couldn’t leave until the police came, and even then, she needed Marcia to drive her home, not trusting her own ability.
Two patrol cops arrived first: Sergeant Ike Masotti and his longtime partner, Muley Evans. Though Amanda couldn’t know it, she had drawn the best team on patrol in the Holloman PD.
“Weird,” said Ike to Muley after a cruise through the shop, “really weird, Muley. It’s not kids.”
“Nope,” said Muley, who knew his place: agree with Ike.
“You got any enemies, Miss Warburton?” Ike asked.
“None that I know of, Officer.”
“It might be the glass. Some guys are kinky enough to see a shop full of glass as their ma’s cabinet full of best glass and china, and maybe they hate their ma, but they’re too afraid of her to break anything—just dirty it,” said Ike.
“Right,” said Muley.
“Only thing is, how does it fit in with the bank burglary?” Ike asked Muley. “Fifty thousand smackeroonies! He just picked ’em up and left. Locked the place behind him. Reactivated the alarm. Want to know what I think, Muley?”
“Two different crimes. The guy that did this and the guy that did the bank are not the same guy.”
“Uh-huh,” said Muley noncommitally.
“I like your animals, Miss Warburton,” said Ike, approaching Frankie fearlessly. “What a great dog!” He pulled its ears and it groaned in ecstasy. He examined its collar and tags. “Your name Frankie, huh? Who’s Mr. Huffy over there?”
“Winston,” said Amanda, who liked Ike Masotti a lot.
At which moment Sergeant Morty Jones came through the back door, reeking so strongly of booze that the two patrolmen exchanged a significant glance.
“Taft High kids,” he said after inspecting the premises.
“You’re wrong, Morty,” Ike said. “A bunch of kids go to all this trouble? Never happen. They’d get their fun breaking glass, not covering stuff in filth. Did anyone else get vandalized?”
“Not according to Mr. Murray,” said Amanda.
“Then this is a personal vendetta, right, Muley?”
“In your ear it is, Ike,” said the detective, turning for the back door and freedom; the smell didn’t help his nausea.
“I’ll write my report as I see it, Morty.”
“You can write it as the devil sees it, Ike. Mine is going to say Taft High kids.” On that note, and with a curt nod to Amanda, witness to the entire conversation, Morty Jones left.
“The detective goes, we gotta go, Miss Warburton. Sorry,” said Ike in genuine regret. “You gonna be okay here alone?”
“Yes, I’m fine.”
“That’s one real nice lady,” Ike said in the service corridor. “Why did we have to get Morty Jones? That was fresh booze on his breath, Muley, not last night’s. If the Commissioner gets a sniff, Morty’s out, and Ava wouldn’t like that. I heard she’s making sheep’s eyes at young Joey Donaldson in Communications.”
“I heard that too,” said Muley, and offered a comment of his own. “We ain’t snitches, Ike, but one day someone’s gonna tell the Commissioner Morty’s drinking on the job.”
“The worst of it is that I remember Morty before he went upstairs to Detectives and Larry Pisano. He was a good cop,” said Ike. “It’s Ava. How could she be stupid enough to tell Morty he didn’t father his kids? I mean, he loves them! Who fathered them isn’t the point. They’re Morty’s kids. I curse that woman, I curse her!”
“May she rot in hell,” said Muley.
Thus Carmine didn’t get a full report on the vandalism at the Glass Teddy Bear or the theft of $50,000 from the Third Holloman Bank. Despite the demands of the Dodo, both cases would have interested him.
Steaming, Helen MacIntosh went off to Hartford on that same Tuesday, October 1, in time to join Abe, Liam and Tony for breakfast in their motel; this was one case would not permit a commute, Abe announced, which didn’t please the owner of a Lamborghini. Perhaps, she thought, speeding up I-91, I shouldn’t have called Lieutenant Abe Goldberg ahead of time to ask for tips and a detailed description of what to expect, but how many women will there be? According to Goldberg, just me. He was curt and unforthcoming—I’d find out when I got to Hartford, why waste his time? He treated me like shit, the scrawny little guy—how did he ever make it into the cops at his size? Well, Lieutenant Abraham Goldberg, you are about to find out that no one from the wrong side of the tracks—or the right side!—treats a MacIntosh like shit. I will make your life such a misery that you’ll send me back to Holloman, where I can do the job I’m suited to do—catch the Dodo.
Marcia Boyce drove Amanda Warburton home, Frankie and Winston, on their leashes, sitting royally in the backseat of Marcia’s Cadillac. Luckily Marcia knew Amanda’s pets quite well enough to know that there would be no “accidents” en route.
Amanda and Marcia loved their condominiums, which were on the eighth floor just below the penthouse, and occupied it entirely. They had bought off the plans, which had enabled them to custom-design their kitchens and bathrooms, an en suite bathroom for each bedroom, plus a guest toilet in the foyer. What luxury! What vindication!
As if all that were not enough, no sooner was the block of soaring glass up and its occupants moved in than the residents of Busquash, horrified at how it altered the antique patina of their world, fired the town elders and put an iron-clad ordinance on the books that forbade the erection of anything over two storeys or modern in appearance. As the condos were dream apartments, they zoomed in value at once. What had cost a hundred thousand was now worth a million—and rising.
Marcia fixed a pot of English breakfast tea and laced it liberally with cognac.
“Who would want to do such an awful thing?” Amanda asked, sipping with care: it was hot.
“Not high school kids,” said Marcia emphatically. “Drink up, honey. That detective must have been a dope.”
“You really don’t think it was high school kids?”
“Too malicious in a plotty, planny way, if you get my meaning. Hank Murray told me that nobody else’s shop was touched, and that baffled him. Everyone, even the dope of a detective, thinks the bank robber is a different person.” Marcia sipped her aromatic tea with enjoyment. “Face it, honey, Hank and I both think this was personal, aimed at the Glass Teddy Bear and you.”
Her bright eyes surveyed her friend affectionately—such a doll, Amanda! Pretty too, with her streaky blonde hair and her big blue eyes. Why had she never married? Her figure was good, and her legs tolerated the current above-the-knee hemlines better than most women her age. Marcia herself was a childless divorcée in comfortable circumstances, but, she admitted, her chances of a husband to keep her company in old age weren’t half as good as Amanda’s. Marcia was plain, dark and distinctly overweight.
“A lot of my pleasure is gone,” Amanda said desolately.
“The Glass Teddy Bear is all my dreams come true, but after this I feel—oh, I don’t know—kind of violated. I sank all my available money into the Busquash Mall business—the shop and the mail orders. After all, I did well in my shop downtown, even though I couldn’t display my better lines,” said Amanda. “I leased off the plans at Busquash, and I was right—I’ve done amazingly well. Now—this! Why my shop? Why me? Some of the mall antique stores leave my prices for dead.”
Marcia listened, intrigued. Though they had been friends and neighbors since taking up residence in Busquash more than two years ago, today was Amanda’s first confidence. So she’d had a shop downtown? Where? My own business has been downtown for ten years, but I never remember a glass shop . . . Yes! In the arcade that ran through to Macy’s. Waterford, Stuart, Bohemian, Swedish glass and crystal, wineglasses, tumblers and vases, and a good price for top-quality things.
“Do you have family, Amanda?” she asked, emboldened.
For a moment Amanda’s face went expressionless, then she smiled and answered, her tongue loosened by the brandy. “Yes. Robert and Gordon, my late brother’s boys. They live in San Diego.” She frowned. “Not very satisfactory—they have such delusions of grandeur they remind me of patients in a book on psychiatry I read once.” She visibly shuddered. “And the—the affectations! I dislike them.”
“Oh, poor Amanda!” Marcia cried, moved. “It must be lonely for you.” She looked brisk, smiled brilliantly. “Cheer up, my dear. On Friday you and Frankie and Winston are going to return to the Glass Teddy Bear to find it exactly as it was—a crystal cave of beauty and delight.”
At the mention of their names the dog and cat stirred from their vigilant doze, but when the conversation didn’t continue about them, they snoozed again. It had been an upsetting day, and the only cure was sleep.
Amanda Warburton smiled, an enormous effort. “I hope you’re right,” she said doubtfully. “The smell! The filth!”
Time to introduce another subject. “Hank Murray is smitten with you,” she said.
But that didn’t have the desired effect. Instead of going coy or bridling with pleasure, Amanda looked grim. “I hope not,” she said after a pause. “He hardly knows me. You’re mistaking kindness for interest, Marcia—at least, I hope so. I’m not searching for a boyfriend, let alone a husband.”
“Then you damned well should be!” Marcia said, astonished. “I wasn’t implying love or marriage, Amanda. I just meant that Hank’s a nice guy who’d like to know you better. Wouldn’t it be fun to have dinner with a good-looking man at Sea Foam instead of with me at the Lobster Pot?”
“No, it wouldn’t be fun!” Amanda snapped.
“Leave it, Marcia! Just leave it!”
Marcia left it.
Expression flinty, Carmine stared at an unrepentant Helen MacIntosh as she sat on the opposite side of the kitchen table he preferred to a desk, with its drawers, kneeholes, modesty panels and nice wood tops. Who could ruin Formica, already?
Her pose was slightly insolent, slewed sideways on the old kitchen chair, legs crossed nonchalantly, one foot flopping up and down in its Ferragamo flattie, both legs on full display because she was in the shortest miniskirt Carmine had ever seen. A mane of hair flowed loose down her back, she was wearing enough makeup to put Delia in the shade and her décolletage was—low. All told, his years of police training told him, she was flaunting about $3,000 in clothes, for nothing had been bought off the rack.
“What made you decide to join Lieutenant Goldberg in Hartford wearing exactly the kind of apparel I told you was inappropriate?” he asked, a hard edge to his voice.
“With about seventy cops in my immediate vicinity, sir, I figured I wouldn’t need sensible shoes to chase any fugitives, or worry about what the public thought of my miniskirts,” she said lightly, foot still jiggling.
“You were more than Lieutenant Goldberg’s assistant, Miss MacIntosh. You were in Hartford representing the Holloman Police Department, on duty as a trainee detective, the first in a brand-new program every police department in the state is watching. I did not send you to Hartford to model for Mary Quant, as you well know. Instead of looking professional and as unobtrusive as possible, you tricked yourself out as if your function in the Holloman PD is to tease cock, if not service it.” Carmine’s voice didn’t change. “Who were you impressing? Or rather, to whom were you determined to give a wrong impression?”
Her cheeks were red, her mouth tight. “They stared at me like a dummy in a shopwindow. I knew they would no matter what I wore, so I decided to give them a thrill.”
“And when are you going to learn that being a cop isn’t about yourself, Miss MacIntosh? Did you stop to think what his peers and superiors would think of Lieutenant Goldberg, towing a sex kitten as his personal assistant? Under ordinary circumstances, Miss MacIntosh, there’s only one reason a forty-year-old man tows a sex kitten as an assistant. If you’d been in Detectives longer, I would have let Lieutenant Goldberg figuratively strip you in front of seventy men, but you and he aren’t acquainted yet. After this, you never will be. I hear tell that he simply looked you up and down, and told you to go home to Holloman. With, after you left, an apology on your behalf.” The amber eyes blazed. “What a fool you are, Miss MacIntosh! I handed you an ideal opportunity to get to know the best detective in the division, and you screwed it up because of your own ambition. No wonder the NYPD did nothing with you. How long did it take them to realize that mentally you’re on a par with any spoiled fourth grader? You’re puerile! Asinine!”
Her hands were trembling, she had swung to sit upright on the chair, and the beautiful face was rigid—with rage or with mortification was impossible to tell.
“Am I to take it that you didn’t understand the valid and necessary reasons for wearing sensible clothing on duty? That you have some scrambled feminist idea that I’ve put you down to feed my own masculine ego?”
“No, Captain, I got the message the first time,” she said, eyes sparkling with unshed tears. “It’s for my own safety and protection, I understand that.”
“You will apologize to Lieutenant Goldberg. In writing, and in person.”
“I’ll be back there properly clothed in an hour.”
“No, you won’t. Lieutenant Goldberg doesn’t trust you. You get your wish, Miss MacIntosh, and stay in Holloman. But not with the Dodo. Nick Jefferson will go to Hartford.”
Her skin lost color, she gasped. “Sir, please!”
“No. The subject is closed, and we won’t discuss it again.”
“As you wish.” Her shoulders straightened.
“However, I have a question to ask that I didn’t when I interviewed you. What drives you to a police career?”
She had risen to her feet. “I avoided that at interview, sir, I know. I’m attracted to the armed services, but the very idea of trying West Point or Annapolis—brr!” She shuddered. “They really are institutions for men, and I’m not a committed enough feminist to buck those two fortresses. Besides, I have a funny feeling that being a cop is a more interesting life. I like working for solutions, I guess.”
“I see.” He stood, a powerful man whose muscular bulk diminished his nearly six feet of height. The face turned to look at his wayward trainee was both broad and angular, its nose imperious and its mouth’s natural sensuousness disciplined into firmness. His eyes, as gold as brown, were widely opened and well apart, and had a fearless quality.
Why did I try that stupid stunt? Helen asked herself as she left Captain Delmonico’s office. For the same reason, she decided as she climbed the stairs, that a little kid pokes a sleeping tiger with a stick.
“Very true,” said Delia, in a frightful combination of acid yellow and mustard yellow with bright blue bows. “But in future, dear, do remember that poking a sleeping tiger is bound to see you squashed flat under one paw.”
“Can’t I help you with the Dodo?” Helen begged.
“No, dear, I have no desire to be pulp under the tiger’s paw. You’re with Paul Bachman in Forensics for many days to come.” Delia sighed wistfully. “I scraped into Detectives through the back door—a head for plans, lists, paperwork by the ton—and it didn’t hurt to be the niece of the Commissioner, whose secretary I was. Before that, I had ten years with the NYPD in documentary fraud and anything else involving paper. But look at you! It really is a splendid program they’ve worked out for you. Everything we had to pick up on the job, so to speak, you’re being properly taught. So don’t you let my uncle John down! If you do, you’ll feel the size of my paw.”
“The cleaners did a wonderful job,” said Hank Murray as he emerged from the service elevator with Amanda Warburton on Friday, October 4. “You’ll be able to open for the weekend.” He produced his own keys and opened her back door, one of many on a broad service hall.
As they walked inside he sniffed, smiled. “Smell, Miss Warburton. Sweet yet a tad herby—I hope that you don’t mind my picking the fragrance on your behalf. You’d never know that there was ever rotting garbage in here, would you?”
“No,” said Amanda, sagging in relief.
“Come on, take a look at the shop,” Hank encouraged as he steered her toward the shimmering curtain of glass beads. Then he stopped, so suddenly that Amanda cannoned into him.
She couldn’t help herself. Amanda shoved the mall manager aside and ran into the shop.
Almost every item had been moved to form a gigantic mound where her sole counter had been; it had been pushed, complete with cash register, against the only free wall, where her array of Lalique and Murano picture frames had hung. They too were in the huge heap, displaying a corner here, an edge there. But the “yard” for drinking a yard of beer was still in place on the same wall high above, and below it, the entirely ornamental “half yard” of thick, heavy crystal was intact.
Tears pouring down her face, Amanda rushed to the front window to check on the glass teddy bear himself. Yes, yes, he was there, unremoved, unmarked, sitting on his black velvet box and apparently ignored by the Vandal.
What kind spirit had prompted her to leave her animals at home this morning? Fishing up her sleeve to find a handkerchief, Amanda Warburton knew in her heart of hearts that she had expected more trouble today; the dust and dirt of the previous assault had seemed—yes, definitely—unfinished. Today was a logical sequel to the first attack.
Having notified the police, checked that no other stores had been vandalized, and learned that the three banks the Busquash Mall harbored were all okay, Hank was now kneeling alongside the pile of glass, not touching anything, but eyes busy.
“Weird!” he exclaimed. “Miss Warburton—Amanda!—it is weird. As far as I can tell, nothing’s been broken—or cracked—or chipped. Look for yourself. If I get the same cleaners back to pick up everything wearing gloves, you shouldn’t lose much if anything. No, no, don’t cry, please.” He hugged her, trying to convey comfort and sympathy. Miss Warburton was a lamb, she didn’t deserve this malice, this—this cruelty.
By the time Ike Masotti and Muley Evans arrived, Amanda was in the back room, with Hank Murray persuading her to have a little of his emergency brandy.
“I have to notify Detectives,” Ike said on taking a look at the mound of glass. “May I use your phone, Miss Warburton? The airwaves are full of flapping ears shouldn’t be listening.”
“There’s definitely something weird going on,” Ike said to the phone. “You’d better come take a look-see, Morty. This is definitely not high school kids.”
They waited more than an hour.
He couldn’t help himself; he’d had to call in to the Shamrock Bar for a quick snort en route to the Busquash Mall and that persnickety bastard Ike Masotti.
Nothing was improving, for all that Delia Carstairs kept telling him things had. She’d found him a great housekeeper, but he didn’t want a housekeeper, and nor did the kids—his kids. They all wanted Ava back. Bobby and Gidget, the lights of his life, not his? It was typical Ava, that’s all, to throw that one in. Only why had he decked her? So many years of knowing she played around—what was so different about that Saturday night? Except that he snapped at the taunt about the kids.
Now the kids cried all the time, he cried whenever he could sneak to the cells . . . He cried into his Jameson’s too, and had to clean up in the Shamrock bathroom before he could nerve himself to do whatever Ike Masotti said at the Busquash Mall. His head was spinning, he had to stop and park for a few minutes to get some sanity back . . . Oh, Ava, Ava! Bobby and Gidget are mine!
When he shuffled into the Glass Teddy Bear, the two patrolmen exchanged glances—the smell of liquor was overpowering, worse than it had been last Tuesday.
Morty gave the mountain of glass a cursory inspection and returned to the back room. “High school kids,” he said, shrugging. And, to the cops, “You’re wasting my time, guys.”
“Less time to elbow-bend, you mean, Morty?” asked Muley when Ike wouldn’t. No one made underserved cracks at Ike.
“It’s high school kids,” Morty maintained.
“It is not high school kids!” Ike yelled, exasperated. “This is nasty, Sergeant Jones. It feels wrong. No way that high school kids would pile up all that glass without breaking some, and none’s broken—not even chipped. This stinks of vendetta.”
“I don’t care what it stinks of, Ike. No real damage has been done, there’s not enough here to put anyone up on charges.” Morty licked suddenly dry lips. “I gotta go.”
Blinking, Amanda sat listening as if in a drugged haze; she was conscious that Hank’s hand on her shoulder had tightened its grip, and understood that the detective’s indifference had angered him. As Sergeant Morty Jones disappeared, she reached up to pat the hand. Thwarted, Ike and Muley followed Morty out, gazing at her in mute apology.
“Would you mind calling the cleaning firm for me, Hank?” she asked. “I’ll have to stay to supervise them—they won’t remember whereabouts things belong, now I tore the plan up.” She gave a small squeak of distress. “To think I had to draw a plan even once! But to think I’d need it twice!”
“First, your insurance agent,” Hank said firmly. “That lazy so-and-so of a detective didn’t take any photographs, and someone should. If anything is damaged, you’ll need proof.” He pressed Amanda’s fingers gently. “From now on the mall is going to be protected by a professional security company, something I’ve been saying to deaf ears since the mall opened. But no, the owners didn’t want to spend the money. Now, they have no choice. A bank robbery and a vendetta against a tenant with fragile stock. I mean, what if the Vandal had decided to target Quattrocento, down on the first floor? You can clean the filth off glass, but not off a fourteenth-century credenza.”
“Who would do this?” Amanda asked for the tenth time, unable to get past her own violation.
“I have no idea.” Hank paused, then said, very delicately, “It’s going to be a very long day for you, and you shouldn’t be alone this evening, Amanda. May I take you to dinner?”
“Thank you, I’d like that,” said Amanda, sounding surprised.
The dinner with Hank Murray at the Lobster Pot went so well that the next evening, Saturday, he took her to Sea Foam.
Though she admitted that Hank was an ideal escort for a forty-year-old spinster, she wasn’t about to let him put his shoes under her bed. An occasional man had enjoyed that privilege, but only one had mattered, and he was long dead. If her heartache was permanent, that was her business. Financially she was comfortable; she didn’t need a meal ticket. Though, she couldn’t say why, she had a feeling that Hank wasn’t nearly as well off as the manager of a famous shopping mall ought to be. He paid the Sea Foam prices without a blink, yet when he fished for his wallet at the Lobster Pot, Amanda fancied that he was relieved she had indicated she preferred classy diners to upmarket traps for gastronomes.
She had acquired Frankie and Winston, now three years old, as a deliberate ploy; with two cute animals in her window, her shop was visited by everyone who came to the Busquash Mall. No one else was allowed to have a pet; that Amanda was, was due to a clever sales pitch she had made to the mall owners, a bunch of tightwads, combined with impeccably trained animals. At home the dog and cat were great company, though now that Hank had appeared, Amanda realized that no animal was a full-time substitute for a man. Hadn’t Marcia said so? Yes, and had her head bitten off for her pains. Still, Hank might have worked out differently had he been a different kind of man—pushed for an intimate relationship, for instance. But he hadn’t, and wasn’t. Hank seemed willing to keep on an outer orbit, never close enough to get burned.
On Sunday night she worked late, though she hadn’t told Hank. They hadn’t made any plans for the evening because he was involved in the outfitting of a new shop only three doors down from hers. It had been a dismal, unsuccessful outlet for vaccum cleaners—not the kind of thing people shopping at the Busquash Mall were after. Now it was going to be full of American Indian goods—blankets, ceramics, paintings, silver-and-turquoise jewelry. Hank had high hopes for it, and Amanda understood why. Buying Indian wares east of the Rockies wasn’t easy.
At eleven o’clock she locked up. On her way to the service elevators she poked her head in the back door of the Indian shop to give Hank a surprise greeting, but the place was a zoo of workmen, materials, tools and noise.
Only when she reached her neat little black Mercedes did she realize that her car keys were on the edge of her desk in the back room of her shop—oh, darn! How had she come to do that? A rhetorical question: the reason was a brown-wrapped box about the size of a Benedictine box that she’d had to squeeze into her bag, only to find it sitting smack on top of her car keys. She’d taken the box out, retrieved the keys, put the box back—and forgotten to pick up the keys. Darn, darn, darn!
The security firm was coming on board tomorrow night, but there was so much light and racket from the Indian shop that her journey back to her own shop was shorn of most of its fears. What fears were left? Crates, tools, cables and items of shop furniture all over the service corridor.
She flicked on the switch that sat alone and illuminated the area just inside her back door; the car keys were there, right where she’d left them.
Came the unmistakable sound of breaking glass from her shop. Outraged, Amanda never stopped to think. Dropping her big navy leather bag on the floor, she ran for the bead curtain, screaming shrilly to summon help from the Indian shop. A black-clad form wearing a ski mask stood on the far side of her counter, surrounded by the shards of what had been—she knew it well—an Orrefors one-off bowl designed by Bjørn Wiinblad. Above his head he held a Kosta Boda one-off vase of a surrealistic cat.
What foiled her was the counter. As she ran to one side to get around it, he threw the vase not on the floor but at her, turning her scream into a howl of pain as the heavy object struck her on the hip. Down she went, while the black figure raced for the big sliding door at the front of the shop. Men were spilling into her back room as the Vandal tore off down the mall proper, and was lost in the shadows.
Hank! Where was Hank?
“Here, Amanda,” came his voice. “What are you doing here?”
“Working late,” she panted, and moaned. “Oh, he hurt me! Where were you?”
“Getting another plan from my office.”
By this time the lights were on and Amanda realized that her glass stood in more danger from her would-be rescuers than from the Vandal.
“Please!” she cried, struggling until Hank lifted her to her feet. “Mr. Murray will deal with this now. Thank you, thank you for coming.” I sound like a happy hostess after a dinner, she thought, and cried out in pain. Someone thrust her chair under her, and she sank into it, sitting sideways, as the workmen gradually left.
“Luiz, there’s your plan,” Hank said, indicating a rolled-up blueprint on the floor. Then, to Amanda: “Will you be okay while I use your phone to call the cops?”
“Wheel me with you,” she said.
For some reason that amused him; he laughed. “Oh, Amanda! What did he do?”
“Broke my Bjørn Wiinblad bowl—a one-off,” she said, her hand grasping his belt as he wheeled her at her side rather than from behind. “He threw the Kosta Boda pussycat at me, so I suppose that’s broken too. Oh, Hank, this is awful!”
“He might have killed you,” Hank said grimly, making her as comfortable as he could. “Ambulance first, then cops.”
“Make sure the ambulance uses the service corridor!” she cried in alarm. “I won’t have a gurney in my shop.” A small pause, then: “And I won’t have Sergeant Jones.”
Hank picked up the phone. “Nor will I,” he said.
The call was patched through to Carmine at home. Though as a captain he was on permanent call, he and his two lieutenants took turns on matters that came in after hours, and tonight chanced to be Carmine’s turn, a double whammy: he was taking Abe’s calls as well until he returned from Hartford.
“Oh, thank God, someone senior! Captain, I absolutely refuse to let Miss Warburton have any further dealings with that drunken moron Sergeant Jones!” said an irate voice. “I understand that a detective will have to come to the Busquash Mall—just don’t send him. The previous attacks were vandalism and so is this one, but tonight Miss Warburton was injured. I want the bastard caught, and all Sergeant Jones can catch is a cold.”
Carmine finally managed to get a word in. “Your name, sir?”
“Henry—Hank—Murray, manager of the Busquash Mall, and a personal friend of Miss Warburton’s. It’s her shop, the Glass Teddy Bear, that’s been vandalized. And the first time the Vandal struck, we had $50,000 taken from the Third Holloman Bank as well. Sergeant Jones is supposed to be dealing with that too, but he’s done nothing.”
Carmine decided to go himself; if the theft of $50,000 from a bank was being neglected, his division was in big trouble—why didn’t Corey mention it? I’ve seen not a word on paper! What is going on with Morty Jones? “Drunken moron” sounds as if he’s drinking on duty. By rights I should send Corey, but I have a feeling matters have already gone too far for that. Nor can I be sure that Corey would give me a truthful account of Morty’s situation. The only one who tells me anything is Delia.
“Must you go out?” Desdemona asked in the hall. “If Julian wakes and realizes you’re not here, he’ll get up.”
“At a quarter of midnight? He won’t wake, lovely lady.”
“Think best, not worst.” He kissed her. “If he does wake, tell him I’ll be back in five minutes with a switch.”
“It won’t happen, Desdemona. Go to bed yourself.”
I can’t wait for Prunella Balducci to arrive, Carmine thought as he backed the Fairlane onto East Circle. Why didn’t I sense that my wife was as green as grass when we had Julian? She was stuffed full of theories, and that’s what they were—theories. Julian needs far more exercise than he gets, but Mommy is stuck with a second baby. Now she’s lumbered with an under-exercised, strong-willed child who pushes her around because she’s permanently tired. Nag! I never understood that toddlers could nag until I met my own son. Julian the defense attorney.
By the time he reached the Busquash Mall, Carmine had girded his loins to hear the worst about Morty Jones, and could only be thankful that Mr. Henry—Hank—Murray hadn’t called Silvestri. Not that he, Carmine, was prepared to shield Morty from official retribution; more that he wasn’t as yet convinced that Morty was beyond redemption. “Drunken moron”—an interesting reading of Morty’s character. If he was drinking on the job, it was more recently than when Carmine had seen him ten days ago. That had revolved around Ava’s swearing that the kids weren’t Morty’s. He loved those kids, loved them far more than selfish, nympho Ava did. Why did she screw cops, and no one but cops? But if the poor guy’s inebriated condition is obvious to civilians, it must be obvious to Corey. Who wasn’t lifting a finger.
Amanda Warburton was shaken and in pain, but quite capable of speaking for herself. “I lost my head when I heard the glass breaking,” she said. “He’d busted my Bjørn Wiinblad bowl into pieces, and he had my Kosta Boda cat over his head, ready to do the same. Then he saw me, and threw it at me.”
Carmine stamped the floor with his foot: it was covered with a deep-pile black commercial-quality carpet. “I’m surprised the object broke,” he said.
“It’s concrete underneath, and while a short drop wouldn’t harm it, it would have sufficient momentum if he pitched it from above his head, which is where he was holding the cat.”
“You know your glass, Miss Warburton.”
“Yes, it’s been my life. But he knows it too, don’t you think? No short drops.”
Hank Murray butted in. “That idiot Sergeant Jones kept insisting the culprits were from Taft High,” he said angrily. “None of us agreed with him, even the two patrolmen—now they were great guys. Better detectives too. When he wouldn’t change his mind after the second attack, Miss Warburton and I lost all confidence in him. He stank of booze! So this time I wasn’t going to let Mr. Jones near the place.”
“I’m taking the case myself, Mr. Murray,” Carmine said, his voice calm. “Any reason Sergeant Jones was so set on Taft kids?”
“Vandalism in the neighborhood, apparently, but Taft’s neighborhood isn’t anywhere near Busquash apart from its easterly situation,” said Hank.
“What about in this mall? Apart from the Glass Teddy Bear’s vandalism and the robbery at the Third Holloman Bank, have you suffered any kind of crime wave, as the papers put it? Pickpockets, bag snatchers, gang hazes?”
“You’d know if we had, Captain.”
Or should, thought Carmine grimly. “No, sir, I guess I need to phrase that better. I meant activities that weren’t reported to the police. I presume, for instance, that you have a security company patrolling?”
“No,” said Hank, scowling. “Finally, after nearly three years and half a hundred requests to the owners, Shortland Security will start patrolling tomorrow, Monday, October 7. It took three vandalisms and a bank robbery to succeed, but at last I have.”
“I see. Why the surprise that the Vandal broke your bowl?”
“Because on his two earlier visits,” said Hank Murray before Amanda could answer, “the Vandal never so much as chipped one thing. That was the weirdest part.”
Two ambulance medics walked through the back door, and all hope of further conversation with Amanda Warburton ceased.
“I’ll send two forensics technicians over first thing in the morning,” Carmine said as she was wheeled out, “but if by some miracle you’re discharged from the hospital tonight, don’t come here. No one is to touch a thing, understood? Mr. Murray, I’ll see you at ten tomorrow morning about the bank robbery.”
Carmine thought Hank heard, but it was debatable; he was busy assuring Amanda that he’d go to her apartment to feed her animals, and taking custody of her keys. Besotted.
Before he left, at a little after 1:00 a.m., Carmine picked up Amanda’s phone and dialed the number in his notebook. A sleepy voice answered. “Miss MacIntosh? Be at Paul Bachman’s lab before eight tomorrow morning. At eight on the dot you will accompany him to the Busquash Mall and a shop called the Glass Teddy Bear, which has been a prey to vandals or a vandal. Paul will take care of the physical evidence, whereas you will take care of the detective’s duties. I expect you to make full enquiries at the neighboring shops, and also ascertain, if you can, the number of vandals involved. Pay particular attention to a shop three doors up that’s being fitted out to sell American Indian goods—there may be witnesses. Take a close look at the Glass Teddy Bear’s goods—how upmarket are its lines, for instance? You can report to me later tomorrow.”
She couldn’t not ask it: “Is this connected with the Dodo?”
There! You might have wangled yourself back to Holloman, Miss MacIntosh, but no way are you working the Dodo. In fact, I couldn’t use you on the Dodo if you were a model trainee rather than a pain in the ass. The Dodo case is going nowhere.
Carmine’s first task on Monday morning was to visit the County Services property registry, which necessitated a plod up and down several flights of stairs and the negotiation of several halls that made him feel as if he were passing from one country to another, instead of from one municipal function to another.
Without evidence he couldn’t look at Kurt von Fahlendorf’s bank accounts, but there was one way he could check whether the Carew gossip was right about the German’s wealth. How valuable was his property, and did he own it outright? Half expecting the deeds of 6 Curzon Close to be buried under X or Y Holdings, he found them openly listed: K. von Fahlendorf owned 6 Curzon Close free and clear. At one acre, it was a significant Carew property, especially given its extreme age. That antiquity made it costly to maintain, as every rotted board in its siding had to be replaced with a board of the same age and kind, and every roof shingle had to be hand split. A tiny cul-de-sac, Curzon Close, just six houses on it, and two were owned by Gentleman Walkers: Mason Novak owned 4 Curzon Close outright. Dapper Dave Feinman lived first house around the corner on Spruce Street. Coincidence?
“Ebenezer Curzon had owned and farmed fifty acres of Carew,” said the chief conveyancer to Carmine, delighted to have a captive audience. “It was sold off gradually, of course, all but the farmstead itself. That passed out of Curzon ownership in 1930, when the Depression was at its worst. It’s had a number of owners since, and I’m sorry to see it in foreign hands.” Her spatulate fingers tapped the floor plans of 5 Curzon Close. “Now this one, I’m pleased to say, has recently gone to what sound like real Yankees. Robert and Gordon Warburton.”
Poised to plead an emergency—the chief conveyancer would talk all day—Carmine propped.
“Warburton? Robert and Gordon?”
“Yes. They bought 5 Curzon Close eight months ago.”
“Do they live in it, or was it an investment?”
“That, Captain, I do not know.” She leaned across the counter conspiratorially. “However, I can tell you that there was an awful fuss when they started to paint it.”
Hooked, he leaned forward too; their foreheads nearly touched, like caryatids without a lintel. “Fuss, Aggie? Cough it up, or it’s back to dancing in the Rockettes for you.”
She giggled. “Would you believe, Carmine, that they began to paint it in black and white, board by board, in stripes?” A titter. “I had to drive out and see it. Like a zebra, Captain. Naturally the Council wouldn’t permit it—we were inundated with protests. I mean, right next door to Busquash, where you can’t even have a colored Christmas light showing outside? Carew is a part of Holloman City, so the ordinances can’t go that far, but they can be interpreted as forbidding black-and-white-striped houses. The Warburtons were livid and tried to launch a lawsuit, but not even Isaac Lowenstein would buck the town ordinances. Well, can you see Judge Thwaites hearing it? In California, the Warburtons said, anything goes. In which case, was the consensus of opinion, go back to California.”
“Well, dog my cats!” said Carmine feebly. “I guess staid old New England would be a shock after California, huh, Aggie? What was I doing, that I didn’t hear of it?”
“The race riots after Martin Luther King Junior?”
“Yeah, right.” He gave the chief conveyancer his most charming smile, and vanished as quickly as a pricked bubble.
He just had time on his way to Busquash Mall. Fortunate.
When the Fairlane pulled up outside 5 Curzon Close, Carmine tried to envision the lovely white clapboard house painted in black and white stripes. Why on earth would anyone want to do that? It stood in about half an acre of land, and bore evidence that at least one tenant of it was prepared to put in the hard work English-style flower beds demanded; they had been mulched for winter, and about next May would be a picture. No, real gardens didn’t fit with zebra-striped houses. The only touch of color the house now sported was a red-lacquered front door. Not paint, lacquer. Carmine ended in concluding that Robert and Gordon Warburton had been pulling a few tetchy New England legs. Jokesters and pranksters, not Philistines.
Out of the Fairlane, up the flagged path toward the red door; before he was halfway there the red door had opened to disgorge two men who shut it firmly behind them. Perhaps five paces apart, Carmine stopped and they stopped, each side examining the other.
What Carmine saw were two absolutely identical men about thirty years of age. They had the kind of streaky brown hair that suggests towheaded toddlers; it was well barbered, thick and wavy. The face they shared had regular features and an enquiring expression, with greenish, grapelike eyes contributing most of the enquiry. As they stood side by side on the path, Carmine could not put one a fraction taller, heavier or wider than the other, and their physiques were exactly alike: narrow shoulders, slim waists, no hips, though the feet were splayed like ballet dancers’. They wore the same knit shirts, casual trousers and loafers, except that one twin was clad in black, and the other in white. Had they not worn different colors, it would have been impossible to tell them apart, and that was very strange in mature men: identicalness diminished with the years.
He pulled out his gold badge and introduced himself.
“I’m Robert Warburton,” said the black-clad twin. “You’ll always know us apart by the colors we wear. Robbie dark, Gordie light. We thought it had better be black and white today in case you’ve come about our black and white house that was.”
“So you already know I’m a policeman?”
“You have been pointed out to us, Captain.”
There was the faintest suggestion of femininity about them; Carmine found himself wondering if, had he not been known to be a cop, the slight suggestion might have been a downright scream.
“Are you related to Miss Amanda Warburton?” he asked bluntly.
They gave a stagey jump, perfectly synchronized. “Yes, we are,” said dark Robert, apparently the spokesman.
“She never mentioned you last night, though I would have thought she’d stand in need of relatives.”
“You saw her last night? Not a date, obviously. Actually she wouldn’t have mentioned us.” He giggled. “She doesn’t know we’re living in Carew.”
“Any reason why, sir?”
Robert and Gordie shrugged in unison. “Not really, just the way families are, Captain. Amanda’s our father’s generation—our only aunt—even if there aren’t many years between us. A pity, I feel. The three of us are the last of the Warburtons. One reason why we decided to have a house near Amanda.”
“And then not tell her.”
Both pairs of skinned gooseberry eyes opened wide, but neither twin answered.
“I’d appreciate your letting Miss Warburton know,” Carmine said. “Your aunt is the victim of a weird kind of persecution, gentlemen. Her glass shop has been vandalized three times in a week, and Miss Warburton was injured last night during the third attack. A motive is hard to find, hence my visit to you.”
“Ooo-aa!” Gordie squealed.
“You mean we’re suspects?” Robbie asked sharply.
“Yes. Have you been in Holloman all week?”
“Well, yes,” dark Robert admitted.
“Are you gainfully employed, sirs?”
Both faces lit up identically. “Are we gainfully employed? Are the Marx Brothers a success? Are Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine sisters? We are movie stars!” Gordie announced.
“Glad to hear you can speak too, sir. May we go inside?”
“A Californian’s home is his castle,” said Robert. “No, Captain, we stay out here.”
“What’s inside? Dead bodies? Stuffed dodos?”
They understood the reference to dodos, but ignored it. “Whatever it might be is our business until you produce a legal warrant,” Robert said, chin out. Gordie’s chin was out too. “I note that New Englanders are not a trusting bunch, so why did you think Californians would be?”
“It’s Miss Warburton who concerns me,” Carmine said, rather enjoying this interlude. “I hope you’re planning to tell her you’re here, like today or tomorrow?”
“Don’t you want to hear about our career as movie stars?” Gordie asked, sounding injured.
“I don’t go to the movies,” Carmine said solemnly. “There are three repertory companies in Holloman, and American Shakespeare is just down the road at Stratford.”
“Yecch!” gagged Gordie. “Stage is phoney.”
“Film is phoney,” said Carmine.
“Twins! Identical twins!” cried pale Gordie.
“And there you have it, Captain,” said dark Robert. “We are identical twins who can act. We fence. We’re expert riders. We can sing and dance. After we did Waltz of the Vampire Twins last spring, the offers have been rolling in. Right age, right sex, right look—we’ll never be Cary Grant, but we’ve found a way to live pretty well.”
“And that’s just the tip of our iceberg!” shrilled Gordie.
“Shut up, Gordie!” Robert snapped.
“How can movie stars live in Connecticut?”
“Paul Newman and Kirk Douglas do,” said Gordie.
“We have two more houses, Captain,” said Robert; it was clear that he was used to cleaning up after Gordie’s indiscreet remarks. “One is in San Diego that we rent out, and one in the Hollywood Hills is our residence while we’re on the West Coast. Work in California, rest in Connecticut.”
“Does either of you keep a diary?” Carmine asked.
“It’s a joint effort,” they chorused.
“Now why doesn’t that lay me flat on the ground in surprise? Bring yourselves and the joint effort diary to the County Services building, Police Department, tomorrow morning at nine. And make sure your diary goes back to the beginning of March.”
“Why? What have we done?” Robbie asked.
“Just helping with enquiries, sir. There’s a rapist loose in Carew.” He nodded to them and retreated down the path, the Warburton twins staring after him in horror.
Hank Murray was waiting in his office, though not the one where he kept plans, records, mountainous files and his secretary.
“A man your size could harldy move down there,” he said, seating Carmine in a green leather chair. “This one is for my clients and members of the board. Cappuccino? Long black with cream? Ursula’s waiting for the order.”
“Cappuccino,” said Carmine.
“Would not go amiss, Mr. Murray.”
Within five minutes Hank’s secretary appeared with a loaded tray, including his favorite, apple Danish.
“Fill me in on the bank robbery,” said Carmine.
“A definite inside job, Captain. Whoever stole the money had a set of keys. They came in the back door off the service corridor, and had keys to the strong room.”
“Do you have keys to the strong room, Mr. Murray?”
Hank gasped. “Lord, no! I have keys to the service door, of course, but to nothing else in any Busquash Mall bank branch.”
“Did Sergeant Jones ask you?”
“Uh—no. I wasn’t with him when he went to the bank.”
I just hope he went to the bank, Carmine thought as he found the emergency stairs and went down a floor. Avoiding elevators was one of the ways he dealt with Desdemona’s cooking.
Having declined Hank’s company, he walked around to the mall proper and entered the bank through its front door.
A nice little branch, floored and walled in a streaky marble of pink, white, green and grey. The tellers were behind a fine counter of the same marble, and probably each was equipped with an alarm button beside the right knee, placed so it wouldn’t be knocked accidentally but was easy to reach. There were five teller slots, but only two working; several—customers? clients? patrons?—were inside, but no line had formed.
His gold badge admitted him through an electric gate in the counter, and he was conducted to a large desk in the far left corner where Mr. Percy Lambert, the manager, sat looking gloomy.
“Captain, I’m so glad to see you,” said Lambert, a tall, thin man with scant hair and the facial lines of one who suffered chronic indigestion.
Carmine sat in the client’s chair and looked competent. “I gather the money that was taken was your cash reserve for the next day?” he asked. “Answer me as if I know nothing, it’s my usual technique. Sometimes repetition jogs the memory,” he explained smoothly.
“Yes, it was the next day’s cash reserve. Under ordinary circumstances it’s sufficient to get us through, but if we have a heavy run on cash, I call the head office on Cromwell Street and get more,” said Mr. Lambert.
“Does that happen often?”
“No, as I usually cater for known periods of high demand, like holiday weekends. Weekends I have to keep additional funds in-house, as all our other branches are closed. The Busquash Mall is special. The Fourth National has a branch here too, and we alternate weekends. Holiday weekends, we’re both open.”
“I see. Was there anything special about the money, sir? Was it sequentially numbered? New or used?”
“Used bills, non-sequential.” The long face grew longer. “Ideal for a robber. It wasn’t marked in any way.”
“Show me where and how.”
The back right-hand corner of the big premises had been cut off from the general area by an extremely pretty cage of gold bars adorned with curlicues and simple lacework. The area inside it was ten by ten feet, its rear wall taken up by a series of safes with heavy branched handles and numbered dials. A console sat against the front row of bars, and the entrance door was to the only free side, the left.
“We changed the lock immediately,” Lambert said as he turned a key several times back and forth, “but it’s being converted to a proper combination lock whose numbers will be changed daily.”
“You’re insured, of course.”
They walked in, a squeeze for Carmine, who vowed to check his weight at the police gym that very day.
“We have no safety-deposit boxes or facilities for really big sums of money,” Lambert said. “I guess if I expected any kind of robbery, it was a holdup.”
“And none ever happened?”
“No, none, even aborted.”
“Has Detective Sergeant Jones been back to see you?”
“No,” Lambert said, sounding unconcerned. “I told him at the time that I didn’t think he’d solve it. I’ve racked my brains, Captain, and can’t ever remember the keys to the strong room out of my hands, let alone gone missing.”
“Do you carry them on your person?”
“No, I can’t. They’re heavy—the tellers’ drawers are on the same ring, and several keys to those safes back there.”
“So they’re in your desk? Known to be?”
“Not quite. They’re in that safe in my far corner—under the imitation fern. And I’m the only one with its combination.”
“Then your security is good, Mr. Lambert. Just keep your eyes peeled for anyone who reveals knowledge about the bank’s locks, and particularly your safe combination.” His voice remained dry. “Were you satisfied with Sergeant Jones’s conduct, sir?”
“Have you any reason to think I might not be, Captain?”
“No, it’s a routine question. But I would like a frank answer,” Carmine said.
“Well, he was pleasant enough, and he knew how bank robberies usually go down. If I have any complaint, it was the smell of liquor on his breath. But he apologized for that, said his wife had just left him and he’d gone on a bender.”
“Thank you for your understanding, Mr. Lambert. I’ll keep in touch,” said Carmine, and departed.
So Hank Murray was ruled out, and who else was left? No one. Murray had seemed a shoo-in for a while, listening to him on the subject of parsimonious mall owners and their reluctance to hire proper security; had it stopped with Amanda Warburton, Hank was a good bet, as the vandalisms had brought him into closer contact with a very attractive lady he clearly doted on. It would have enabled him to kill two birds with the same stone: get to know Amanda better, and bring Shortland Security on board. But to Carmine, the same man committed both crimes. In fact, the Vandal, whoever he was, had probably never intended more than that first, most bizarre invasion of the glass shop—garbage, yet! The two that followed were less imaginative, even if it had taken him some hours to pile up all the glass on the second invasion. The Warburton twins, perhaps? No. They were poseurs, and the idea of vandalism would most likely horrify them. Who, who, who?
A glance at his watch said that perhaps his forensics team were still at the Glass Teddy Bear; since he was on the premises, he may as well see what, if anything, had been discovered.
“The cleaning firm put paid to any chance I had of collecting evidence,” Paul said, packing up his gear in the back room. “It reeks of commercial fluids under an air freshener, and the carpet was shampooed within an inch of its life. The Vandal must have ruined the place, so to get it back to normal took real work. I asked Mr. Murray if it was Whistle-Clean, and it was.”
Since this firm contracted for the worst messes human beings could make, Carmine simply grimaced. “Never mind, Paul. The poor lady needed to be cheered up. How did Miss MacIntosh the sex kitten do?”
Paul’s fresh, round face lit up in amusement. “I wish I’d seen her! She turned up in a gabardine pantsuit that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a nun. She did very well, Carmine. Went the rounds with her notebook and pencil, charmed the men and made the women like her. I guess the rocket you tied to her tail did the trick.”
In she came, notebook, closed, in her right hand; when she saw Carmine she gulped, almost saluted, then contented herself by standing to attention.
“At ease,” Carmine said solemnly. “What did you find out, Miss MacIntosh?”
“Nothing worth a thousand words of notes, sir, but there is one very interesting thing I’d like to show you,” she said, and moved toward the shop.
Carmine followed, waving goodbye at Paul.
Down to the front window, where the glass teddy bear sat in all his glory; Helen pointed at his face. “Did you ever see such eyes?” she asked. “Stars in them. And such a gorgeously rich blue, like the Pacific at its deepest.”
He inspected the glass teddy bear’s blue orbs intently. “Uh—they’re lovely,” he said lamely. “Is that it?”
“Yes, sir, that’s it.” Her face became serious, awed. “Sir, this glass animal is a wonder of the world. If you look closely at the little round tail—teddy bears don’t usually have tails—you’ll see the artist’s signature—Lorenzo della Fiori. He was the acknowledged master, the best in anyone’s memory. Based in Venice, but on Burano, not on Murano. Ten years ago he was murdered—thirty-four years old! God knows what treasures the world lost when he died untimely.”
Carmine was staring at her, stupefied. “How do you know this, Miss MacIntosh?”
Her lashes lowered, she assumed the demure look he supposed was a part of her customary repertoire when talking to men. “Art history and art appreciation at Miss Procter’s School for Girls, Captain. They may not have taught us much science, but they stuffed us full of art, literature and music. Miss Procter’s theory of education is that a Miss Procter’s girl will marry so well that one day she’ll be a patron of art, literature and/or music. After all, there’s only so much of a schoolgirl’s day that can be devoted to etiquette and the Blue Book.”
His lips twitched, but he maintained his calm. “You’re saying this thing is worth a fortune?”
“Several fortunes, actually. Look at its eyes again. Each is as big as an over-sized marble, and its color is a rich, slightly opaque cornflower blue. You can’t call the glass cloudy, because that implies wispiness, whereas this is uniform. It really is an eerie opalescence, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” he said, fascinated. Where was she going?
“What really makes each eye so mesmerizing is the six-pointed star in its depths. I mean, the star isn’t anywhere near the surface, yet if you could turn the big marble over, it would give you the same impression. The star kind of floats in space. Fabulous!” she cried.
“It must have been very hard to get the stars in its eyes.”
“That’s just it—he didn’t!” Helen said excitedly. “No human hand made those eyes, Captain. They’re star sapphires.”
“Jesus!” He stepped back involuntarily. “What are we looking at in pedestrian terms like dollars?”
“First, sir, you have to understand that this matched pair of gems is unique,” said that remarkable young woman. “Star sapphires are a dismal blue-grey color that detracts hugely from their value. The perfect color for a sapphire is cornflower blue, and star sapphires don’t come in cornflower blue. They just don’t. Except for this teddy bear’s eyes. Their value is inestimable, but if I had to put a price on a wonder of the world complete with two huge, matched, cornflower-blue star sapphires for eyes, I would go into the double millions. High double millions. Put it on display for two years, and you’d earn your money back. This is a true museum piece, but the only way you or anyone else would find out what it’s worth is to send it for auction.”
He grinned. “Does Miss Procter’s teach gemology too?”
“Captain, really! Did the Russians get into space first? Gemology is number one on the Miss Procter’s syllabus—name me a debutante who doesn’t have a jeweler’s eyepiece in her evening bag to check out any offered diamonds.”
“Quite,” said Carmine, keeping his mouth straight. “So a museum piece sits unprotected in a window with a vandal on the loose. Except that the Vandal has a carefully laid plan. And were it not for Miss Procter’s syllabus, we wouldn’t know that the teddy bear is anything other than very lovely and moderately expensive. The Vandal must have had a shock when Hank Murray succeeded in hiring Shortland Security. They’re the best, so getting the glass teddy bear out is now almost impossible.”
“Do you think he’s what the vandalisms have been about?”
“It begins to look that way.”
“According to Mr. Murray, Miss Warburton will be back in the shop tomorrow. Her injuries were slight.”
“What did she lose in breakage?”
“Just a one-off Orrefors bowl made by someone called Bjørn Wiinblad. Her books give its retail price as a thousand dollars.”
“The other piece wasn’t harmed?”
“No, sir, it survived. It’s cute, if wacky. Art glass is highly individualistic—there’s no other substance can be worked in so many different ways than glass,” Helen said.
“This is shaping up as a peculiar case,” Carmine said. “I want you to cultivate a friendship with Miss Warburton if you can, and work other aspects of the case as well. I want a full report on Robert and Gordon Warburton, ex San Diego. That means all the way back to before their birth. And investigate Amanda Warburton’s life too. How did she come to get possession of the glass teddy bear?”
Helen looked at Captain Delmonico’s obdurate face and made an intelligent decision: not to hope for the Dodo.
“Yes, sir,” she said, looking willing. “I can do that.”
On his way into the County Services parking lot, Carmine got lucky; Morty Jones was arriving too, and because a captain rated a better spot, he was able to trap Morty as he walked past the Fairlane everybody knew was Carmine Delmonico’s unmarked—a crotchet that the Commissioner condoned. Morty made the mistake of assuming the Fairlane’s driver was inside; when Carmine opened his door and leaned out, Morty gasped.
“Get in,” said Carmine curtly.
There was no escape; Morty slid onto the passenger’s seat.
“You can smoke, Morty,” Carmine said as he slewed sideways to examine the sergeant, eyes busy. Yes, no doubt he was drinking. Not so much the stink as the trembling hands, the rheumy eyes.
He’d been such a promising cop, Morty Jones, twenty years ago; Danny Marciano, not a dinosaur then, had put in as much work on Morty as he did later on Nick Jefferson, bullied him into taking a degree from West Holloman State College at nights, and put him in patrol with Virgil Simms, another great guy.
All the girls were after him. He was going to have a big career in law enforcement, and he was easy on the eyes—tall, a graceful mover, handsome in a dark and broody way he used to joke branded his ancestors as Welsh. He passed his sergeant’s exams with distinction, and, armed with his degree and a new wife, applied to join Detectives. The move had upset Captain Danny Marciano as much as his choice of a bride, but nothing could budge Morty: Ava said a detective was better. He was wild about her, would do anything to please the woman all his friends knew was a tramp—only how to tell Morty? It couldn’t be done.
By the time he made it to Detectives he was the father of a son, Bobby, an event that predisposed him to like his whole world, including Larry Pisano, the lieutenant to whose team he was posted. Not a good boss for Morty Jones. Elderly and embittered, especially after he was passed over in favor of Carmine Delmonico as head of the Division, Pisano lived for only two things: his looming retirement, and creating as much trouble as he could for Carmine. Among other ploys, he set out to ruin Morty Jones’s roseate life by informing him of Ava’s extramarital activities. Morty hadn’t believed him, but the seed of doubt was sown; the cheerful, enthusiastic cop gradually lost his good humor and—worst of all, in Carmine’s view—his interest in his work, which he continued to perform, but sloppily.
“I know what your troubles are, Morty,” Carmine said in a warm voice, “but the drinking has to stop.”
“I drink on my own time, Carmine.”
“Horse shit you do. Right at this moment your boozing is so consistent that they’re thinking of giving you your own stool in the Shamrock Bar. The Shamrock Bar, for God’s sake! A cop bar! You’re like a man in a car with no brakes at the top of the roller coaster’s worst hill—you won’t pull up when you get to the bottom, you’ll wind up mangled in a heap of broken parts—the parts that make up your life, Morty! I know about the bust-up with Ava, and it’s bad, but think of your kids. You owe them a duty. What happens when the Commissioner finds out, huh? You’re out on your ear, no pension, no references to help you get another job. You’re on contract, have you forgotten?”
“I’m not drinking on the job,” Morty maintained.
“Have you talked to Corey?”
“No, he’s got his own problems.”
“Then talk to me! I want to see you the kind of guy—and cop!—you used to be. Try to see your life on the job as the one place where you can forget your personal problems, bury yourself in the work. It’s a good technique, Morty, and it’s not beyond you. But while the alcohol is swilling around in your brain, you can’t think straight. That’s why it’s number one priority—stop drinking entirely, please! I could go to John Silvestri now, and you’d be gone in less than an hour. I choose not to, because I don’t believe you’re too far in to climb out. Delia found you a great housekeeper to give you a decent home life while you fight this battle, so fight it. Fight it!”
But Morty’s response was a sudden bout of despairing tears; Carmine watched and listened in his own kind of despair.
The story came out again—the accusation that his kids didn’t belong to him, Morty’s striking her, how awful it was to exist without Ava. His kids cried, he cried …
“If I can’t get through to you, Morty, you’ll have to see Dr. Corning,” Carmine said eventually. “You need help.”
“The department shrink? I won’t go!” Morty said.
“You will go, because I’m seeing Corey and making sure of it,” Carmine said. “Doc Corning’s a good guy.”
In answer, Morty opened the car door and bolted.
Which left Carmine to see Corey.
Who was in his office, apparently having some kind of argument with Buzz Genovese.
“Later,” said Corey, glancing at Carmine’s face.
Buzz gave Carmine a smile, and vanished. Carmine sat down—not the right moment to tower over a seated man.
“What do you want?” Corey demanded, sounding truculent.
“Dig out HPD Form 1313,” Carmine said.
“You heard me, Cor.”
“Why, for God’s sake?”
“‘Who?’ would be a better question, but you know who. Morty Jones. It’s time you and I referred him to Dr. Corning.”
It had always been the team joke that the Jew Abe Goldberg looked like a WASP, and the WASP Corey Marshall looked like a Jew. The older they became, the truer the statement became. Corey had lost weight—Maureen was on a diet fad—and his long, Semitic face had fallen in a little more, giving the scimitar of a nose additional prominence and the permanent black beard shadow on Corey’s jaws the appearance of charcoal stage makeup. His dark eyes blazed into anger.
“That’s crap, Carmine! There’s nothing wrong with Morty.”
“Oh, come on, Cor, where are your eyes? Where’s your sense of smell? Morty Jones is drinking on the job, and he’s gotten himself into a terrible mess,” Carmine said, keeping his voice level, dispassionate. “If I can see it, you must see it—he’s your team member.”
“Yes, and my business!” Corey snapped. “I don’t need the captain sticking his oar in. As soon as Ava comes home, Morty will go back to normal—without the need for a psychiatrist.”
“My sense is that Ava’s not coming home. She’s going to file for divorce, and we have to act before that happens. Dig out the form, Corey. That’s an order.”
“Only if I agree with you, and I don’t. In my opinion, to send Morty to a psychiatrist would be the end of him.”
Carmine’s hands clutched at the air. “Oh, Jesus, where do you guys get your mistrust of psychiatrists from? Dr. Corning has saved at least half a dozen cops from losing their jobs—and worse, their lives. The murder rate is rising nationwide, which makes cop suicides look less, but that’s a false statistic, and you know it. It’s my considered opinion that Morty is very depressed. He may need medication—but not Jameson’s whiskey.”
“I’ll undertake to deal with the booze myself, Carmine,” Corey said, adamant, “but I will not sign your form.”
Carmine got up and left. True, to mention suicide was to give Morty’s situation undue significance, but it was imperative that the drinking stop, and he didn’t think Corey was capable of that kind of therapy. Why did they hate psychiatrists?
Delia trotted in late that afternoon. “I’ve finished the interviews,” she said, “save for the twins tomorrow morning. Do I get to do them?”
“You can sit in, but I’m having the pleasure,” Carmine said.
“And I’m off to see what noisome things I can find under the California stones,” said Helen lightly, waved at Delia and left managing to look as if she were intrigued by her task.
“Anything interesting?” Carmine asked Delia.
“Only what Miss Marcia Boyce does for a crust,” Delia said, perching on the chair Helen had vacated.
“Miss Boyce runs a secretarial agency on Cromwell Street. Her girls are skilled in abstruse forms of executive assistance like typing specifications for space rockets, Nobel standard papers in physics and organic chemistry, medical dissertations, mathematical hypotheses—you name it, Carmine, and Marcia Boyce has a secretary who can do it. It costs heaps to hire a Boyce secretary, but those who do can be certain they’ll have no errors in transcribed dictation or deciphered scribbles. Most hirings are to Chubb or UConn, but there are lots of out-of-state universities that hire too. Educational institutions rarely hang on to a Boyce girl for more than six months—a federal grant runs out and Miss Boyce has her girl back. However, professors who have already won a Nobel Prize hang on to their Boyce girls for years. Miss Boyce doesn’t care which way it goes—she takes a healthy cut as personal profit.”
Delia paused to sip her mug of cop coffee, grimacing. “Of course, if Richard Nixon becomes president in November, there won’t be nearly as much research money available. Republican presidents are notoriously anti-research unless it’s armaments related. Pure research will die one of its little deaths because the dodos in Washington don’t understand that applied research sits on a solid foundation of pure research, so . . . according to Miss Boyce, at the moment everyone is using up LBJ’s lavish research money rather like condemned men eating a last meal.”
“The topic’s fascinating, Deels, but not relevant.”
“Oops, sorry!” The eyes twinkled within their stiff mascara hedges. “Miss Boyce is genuinely worried about Miss Warburton, but she can’t offer anything concrete. Even when the Busquash residents made such a kerfuffle over their skyscraper and sacked the town elders, Miss Boyce says there was no sort of emphasis on Miss Warburton as a tenant. The word Miss Boyce is fond of is ‘evil’—she says Miss Warburton is being persecuted—her word again—by an evil presence, someone out to torment Amanda in a sadistic way. Marcia doesn’t believe the Vandal is interested in the glass. She thinks his obsession is Miss Warburton herself.”
“How does Hank Murray figure in her ideas?”
“No, it’s not Hank is the Vandal, at least according to Miss Boyce.” Delia gave up on the coffee with a sigh. “The trouble is, Carmine, there seems to be no motive apart from a psychopathy.”
“And there, Miss Carstairs, you and Miss Boyce are wrong.” Carmine filled her in about the glass teddy bear and his eyes.
“Ooh!” Delia exclaimed. “And Helen found all this out?”
“Thanks to Miss Procter’s School for Girls—or so she’d have you think. There’s an element of leg puller in Miss MacIntosh, but I confess I like her the better for it. We can safely put the bear’s value in the high double millions.”
“Does Miss Warburton know?”
“It would seem not. I’ve shifted Helen to the case to see what she can learn. Obviously our trainee is going to do much better on cases that have an upmarket nature.”
“Stands to reason,” Delia said. “I miss Nick!”
“So do I, though I wish he’d make more of an effort to like Helen. Still, Abe says he’s doing fantastically well in Hartford, and he’s a minority representative for us.”
“How can a little boy from the stews of Argyle Avenue come to like M.M.’s daughter?” Delia asked. “Especially given her personality? In time she’ll lose some of the hauteur, the unconscious exclusivity, but it must be very hard for Nick in particular to stomach. He’s had to work so hard to get what he sees as falling into her undeserving lap.”
“I know, Delia, I know.”
The brothers Warburton announced their advent before they actually appeared; the County Services parking attendant buzzed to say that this pair of spooky twins refused to leave their car on the street; until their Bentley was safely garaged, they were not getting out of it. The attendant was told to let them park, and shortly thereafter the Warburton twins materialized in Carmine’s office looking insufferably smug.
They were exquisitely dressed for a chilly fall day. Both wore what were probably Hong Kong copies of Savile Row suits: Robert’s was a navy three-piece pinstripe with a striped Turnbull & Asser shirt and a Stanford tie; Gordon’s was a pearl-grey silk with a white silk shirt and a self-embroidered white silk ascot. They wafted a hugely expensive cologne, and bore shaves so close the skin gleamed like satin. Even their eyebrows were thinned and brushed, Carmine suspected. A pair of sartorial dazzlers.
“What color’s your Bentley?” he asked, curious.
“Pewter,” said Robert, “with white leather interior.”
Having introduced Delia, Carmine escorted the twins to the largest of the interrogation rooms, sat himself and his papers down opposite the Warburtons, and put on a pair of reading half glasses that gave him a professorial air. The diary was full-page size, one day to a page, and its cover was a hairy faux zebra skin; the year, 1968, was emblazoned in gold numbers an inch high.
I am fed up with all this light and dark nonsense already, thought Carmine, conscious of a burning desire to cause mayhem. Fire a twelve-pounder shot at this catamaran, hole both hulls!
“I should inform you,” he said, “that I have a very old and dear friend in L.A.—Myron Mendel Mandelbaum.”
The effect of this projectile was extraordinary. Both the brothers assumed an identical look of mingled awe, astonishment, delight and—speculation? The skinned-green-grape eyes had somehow acquired the kind of stars Carmine had last seen in the eyes of a glass teddy bear. Now I know, he thought, what the phrase “stars in their eyes” truly means.
“Mr. Mandelbaum assures me that you are indeed—er—‘hot property’ in Hollywood. Apparently it’s far cheaper to pay real actors a high salary than incur the costs of blue screen doubling the same actor through many scenes. Also, two real actors give additional flexibility, Mr. Mandelbaum says. I’ve also talked to your agent, who assures me that you’ve arrived at a point where you can choose your film roles. TV commercials as well.”
They proved what superb actors they were by managing to look simultaneously proud yet humble, worthy yet unworthy.
“How divine to be vindicated by luminaries like the great and powerful Myron Mendel Mandelbaum,” said Robert, winking at tears. “A Zeus, he dwells atop Mulholland Drive, unattainable, a thousand titans as his lackeys, his world spread out before him in a myriad million lights!”
“Obliterated by smog, more like,” said Carmine. “Okay, let’s can the crap. March 3 this year—where were you?”
Gordon flipped the pages, Robert read the entries.
“In Holloman,” said Robert.
“Both of you?”
They looked identically appalled. “We are never apart!”
“Holloman. In between, we were in L.A. filming our greatest screen triumph, Waltz of the Vampire Twins.”
“But B-grade. June 25?”
“In the air from L.A.”
“On vacation in Yosemite National Park.”
“Can you produce proof? Receipts, for instance?”
“Alaska, filming a TV commercial for an aftershave.”
“Coo—oo—ool,” Robert drawled.
“Have you left Holloman during September?”
“Not after we returned from Alaska on Labor Day. We decided to stay in Connecticut for the fall colors.”
“In Connecticut, try October for those.”
“We are now aware of that, thank you.”
“Why Yosemite? You don’t look outdoorsy, sirs.”
“You can’t tell a book by its cover,” Gordie piped up.
Robert glared at him.
“Do you like books?” Delia asked.
“Easy come, easy go,” said Robert.
“If there’s a film of the book in the offing,” Robert said.
“If you saw a wall of shelves containing a thousand books of all sorts, sirs,” Delia persisted, “what would you look for?”
“A thousand books? That’s a library. There’d be indicators. I’d go straight to movies.”
“That rapist in Carew is heavily into books,” Carmine said.
The inevitable As One reaction: horror mingled with terror.
“Captain, you cannot possibly think of us as rapists!” cried Robert, gasping in perfect unison with his twin.
“Seriously, sirs, no, I don’t. What I do want to know is how much of the simultaneous everythings is real. You may be as homozygous as homozygous gets, but you’re not inside the exact same skin.” Carmine’s voice became menacing. “There must be all kinds of differences between you, but you’ve turned eliminating them into an art form. You’re actors by trade, and actors by nature. I’ll grant you some invisible connections, even a minor ability to read each other’s minds, but you are not the same person. How about dropping the identical role for a moment and letting me see the quintessential Robert versus the quintessential Gordon? I can tell you this much—Robert is the one thinks before he speaks, and Gordon is the one speaks before he thinks.”
“Captain Delmonico! Is that a valid observation?” Robert asked. “Perhaps the speak-think is a function of our clothing? Perhaps the one in pale clothing, no matter whether it be Robbie or Gordie, is the twin speaks before he thinks? Colors have such strong vibes, you must know that! Who knows what the City of Holloman did when it forbade us to balance the exterior of our house between the forces of Dark and Light?”
“Oh, piss off! Get out of here!” Carmine said, tried beyond endurance. “You may not be the Dodo, but you’re sure cuckoo.”
Amanda returned to the Glass Teddy Bear limping a little from a sore hip, but basically unharmed. She had insisted on driving herself in and had Frankie and Winston with her; Hank was waiting at her named parking place to help her out, make a fuss of the animals and bring her upstairs.
“Luckily I have another Bjørn Wiinblad original in stock—not a bowl, but a vase,” she said, pointing to a stack of big cardboard cartons against the back wall of her office. “If you can get it for me and unpack it, I’d be grateful.”
So by the time Hank left Amanda had settled down, the new original was in place, she had adjusted the Kosta Boda pussycat to her satisfaction and the dog and cat were ensconced in the window. Hank put the partition up that prevented any customers reaching in to pat them and disappeared through the front door with a wave. He was bringing Chinese over for dinner in her apartment, and she didn’t expect to see him until it was time to go. Why couldn’t she learn to love him? Marcia was right, he was ideal for a lonely woman. Yet she couldn’t seem to love him as more than a friend, and wished there was some way she could at least demonstrate that much to him.
The morning passed fairly quietly; she sold several lots of wineglasses to customers with very different ideas—one was after the impossibly thin blown crystal of utter plainness, the other after Waterford hobnail, and a third after Murano edged in gold. Wonderful, how tastes varied.
When her stomach rumbled she realized that she hadn’t brought any lunch with her—well, she hadn’t had the energy yet to shop. Never mind, it wouldn’t hurt her figure to skip lunch.
At which moment the door gave its glassy tune; she looked up in time to see a tall, very beautiful young woman clad in a business pantsuit of burgundy gabardine erupt into the shop with both hands full.
“Is there a space on the counter?” she demanded, steering a skillful path around pedestals and tables.
“Yes,” said Amanda, startled.
“Good,” said the young woman, whose striking mass of apricot hair seemed likely to snap her slender neck off, it looked so heavy. Down went brown paper bags and a thermos. “I suppose there’s a place in the mall where I could have got us lunch, but not knowing, I brought everything in from Malvolio’s, including coffee. Do you have any plates, or do I have to pirate some glass ones, wash them, and use them?”
By this Amanda didn’t know whether to laugh or back away in horror, but the pets decided for her by effortlessly leaping the partition and crowding around the visitor begging for attention.
“I’m Helen MacIntosh from Holloman Detectives, and I’m here to grill you. I hope you like hot roast beef sandwiches.”
“Indeed I do, and I’m hungry, and I forgot to pack lunch.” Amanda got up from her chair. “I’ll get plates, mugs and whatever you recommend in cutlery.”
The lunch was delicious, Helen MacIntosh such good company that Amanda hated the thought that, as soon as she had answered some questions, this feminine sun would vanish to shine elsewhere.
But it was a very leisurely interrogation that lasted several hours and through a dozen customers, during which intervals Helen pretended to be a staff member.
“I have a message from Captain Delmonico,” Helen said after the lunch things were cleared away and the shop deserted.
“He’s very different from Sergeant Jones,” Amanda said.
“Try comparing Veuve Clicquot to rubbing alcohol. Anyway, he said to tell you that your nephews, Robert and Gordon, have been living in Carew for over eight months.”
She was shocked. “I don’t believe it!”
“Why haven’t they told me? Visited me?”
“The Captain thinks it’s the way they’re made—pranksters. Every day you live in ignorance of their proximity, they have a giggle at your expense. It’s no more malignant than that, he says. They’re not the Vandal—the wrong kind of prank.”
“Do you have their number?”
“Sure. I’ll give it to you before I leave.” Helen gazed around. “This is the most gorgeous shop, I love it. It’s solved all my Christmas shopping problems. That glorious massive urn over there with the peacock feathers actually incorporated in the glass—it’s so hard to get glass to assume those iridescent, metallic colors. My father will adore it, he’s got a vacant pedestal in his office.”
Amanda went pink. “Um—it’s very expensive, Helen—a one-off Antonio Glauber,” she said in a small voice; here was a blossoming friendship going west before it really got started.
“What’s expensive?” Helen asked.
“Fifteen thousand dollars.”
“Oh, is that all? I thought you were going to say a hundred thousand. Put a red sticker on it.”
Amanda’s eyes had gone as round as the glass teddy bear’s. “I—are you—can you honestly afford it, Helen?”
“The income from my trust fund is a million dollars a year,” she said, as if it meant little. “I don’t spend wildly, but it’s so hard finding things for parents who can also afford to buy whatever they fancy, price no consideration. And that urn is really a beautiful piece—Dad will love it.”
“It’s for sale, of course, but I never expected to see it go,” Amanda said huskily. “One gets so attached to the original pieces. Still, I’ve done so well since being in Busquash Mall that I’ll have to take a buying trip next summer.”
“I can understand why there’s a Not for Sale notice beside the glass teddy bear. It’s a museum piece.”
“Yes. I’d never sell him.”
“No one could afford it. What have you got it insured for?”
“A quarter million.”
Helen’s vivid blue eyes glazed. “Uh—that’s crazy! You must know what it’s really worth.”
“He’s worth whatever value I care to put on him, Helen. If I insured him for more than that, he’d have to go into a vault and never be seen. That’s not why Lorenzo made him. Lorenzo made him for me, my own one-off, never for sale.”
There was iron in the voice; Helen desisted, choosing to lie on the floor and play with the dog and cat. She had begun her work, but it was far from over. Here was her best source about the twins. Twice a week, lunch. That should do it. And what a change, to find she really liked the person under the detective’s microscope.
“Do you believe all that?” Amanda asked Hank over Chinese in her apartment that night. “Eight months, and never a word! I phoned Robert up and gave him such a chewing out! Oh, they’ll never change! Narcissistic, self-centered—the tragedy, Hank, is that they’re so clever. I mean really, really clever. Robert plays with words the way a cat does with a ball of twine, and Gordon is a brilliant artist. They’re both artistic, they should do something with their talents, but do they? Never! All they do is hang around movie studios grabbing work here and work there, silly projects—Oh, I am mad!” Amanda’s voice changed, dropped to a growl. “They murdered their parents.”
The noodles fell off Hank’s chopsticks; he put them down and stared at her, astonished. “Excuse me?”
“You heard me! They pushed their father down the stairs when they were eight, and put arsenic in their mother’s food as soon as they didn’t need her anymore.”
“Wow!” Hank fished for more noodles; he was hungry. “I take it they escaped retribution?”
“Yes.” She sighed. “What do I do with my estate?”
His laugh sounded zany. “My mind’s spinning in circles, Amanda. You mean your will?”
“Yes. The only blood kin I have are a pair of crazy twins. But if I disinherit them, who is there? The ASPCA? The Humane Society? A farm for broken-down donkeys?”
“Or an indigent mall manager,” he said with a grin.
She gasped, clapped her hands together. “Yes, that’s it! I’ve had a funny feeling—are you really indigent, Hank? Trust me! I’d like an honest answer.”
He looked hunted, swallowed convulsively. “For what it’s worth, I’d trust you with my life, Amanda. My ex-wife is permanently institutionalized, and I’m permanently broke keeping her there. The fees are astronomical. Funny, your health insurance will pay for anything except a mind, just as if something that can’t be seen can’t be broken.”
“Oh, Hank! That’s terrible! What happened?”
“The divorce was through—acrimonious on her side, not on mine. Her moods—well, they frightened me. Then she came back on some pretext—a forgotten picture, I think it was.”
“You don’t remember?”
His hunted look grew worse. “According to the psychiatrists, human beings have a tendency to forget just what they ought to remember. Anyway, it was a pretext. She went for me with a knife, and I defended myself. We were both wounded, and there was nothing in it between our stories. That the cops tended to take my word over hers wasn’t popular with her friends—she had some very important ones. In the end it never came to trial because her mental condition deteriorated terribly. But I got the hint. Unless I paid to keep her in a private asylum, there might be a trial—mine. I knew it was the easy way out. I’m pretty sure I would be acquitted at trial, but I can’t be a hundred percent sure. There’s no statute of limitations on murder, and she’s way past seeming dangerous. Any jury looking at her now would see a shriveled-up scrap of scarcely human flesh. So I keep on paying.”
“Hank, Hank!” She rocked back and forth. “I knew there was big trouble there, I knew it! Go to trial, Hank, please. You would have to be acquitted. Besides, there was no murder, just an attempted murder.”
His shoulders hunched. “I can’t bear to open that can of worms, Amanda, I just can’t!”
He’s a lovely man, she was thinking, watching him, but he’s timid, and I suppose that side of him will show at a trial. If indeed there is a case to answer—he won’t even find that out. Her friends are having a kind of revenge in keeping him poor …
“I wish there was something I could do,” she said, sighing.
“There isn’t. One day Lisa will die, and my troubles will be over. She’s developing kidney failure.”
“Would you consider a loan?” she asked. “I could afford to help you keep her institutionalized.”
His hand went out, clasped hers, and his gentle brown eyes sparkled with tears. “Oh, Amanda, thanks, but no thanks. I’m not much of a man, but I won’t let you do that.”
“I have a good cash income and over two million dollars in assets,” she said warmly. “I’m not in love with you, but you’re my very dear friend. Leave it for the moment if you prefer, but let me ask again six months from now. And if she does go into kidney failure, you’ll have huge medical bills as well. Please don’t hesitate to ask, okay?”
There had been a subtle alteration: Hank Murray looked more cheerful, stronger. He squeezed her hand. “Okay,” he said, lips turned up in a smile. Then he lifted her hand and kissed it.
© 2010 Colleen McCullough