For Police Lieutenant Frank Mooney, life is a series of problems and complications; he has his hands full with a savage rapist and murderer dubbed “the Dancer.” Despite Mooney and the NYPD’s efforts, the Dancer has already accrued an alarming body count—and Mooney’s job is on the line if he doesn’t put a stop to the savage murder spree. However, this is no average serial killer case: The Dancer has a copycat, dubbed “the Shadow Dancer,” reenacting his brutal work.
Shadow Dancers chronicles the harrowing manhunt that engulfs Manhattan as Mooney attempts to bring these two psychopaths to justice. As the lieutenant gets closer to his suspects, he finds two murderers as chilling and unexpected as any in crime literature.
Herbert Lieberman has created an unforgettable trio with Frank Mooney, the Dancer, and the Shadow Dancer—one that will have readers whipping through the pages to reach the story’s shocking conclusion.
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By Herbert Lieberman
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1989 Herbert Lieberman
All rights reserved.
It thundered that night. The rain fell slantwise in sheets outside and it was wet inside the shaft when they got down there. There was no ladder and the only way in was a rope, not exactly the ideal method of descent for a sixty-two-year-old 230 pounder with disc problems and zero notions once he got down there, how he'd ever get back up.
It was about fifteen feet to the bottom, and the closer he got to it, the stronger the smell became. Mostly it smelled like sewage; then something beyond that, something sweet and rotting, unlike any other odor one's likely to smell in the course of an average workday.
The rainwater pelting through the grate above sluiced down with a dull, incessant roar. After being down there awhile, he could hear it inside his head, as though that's where the noise were coming from. Soon he was soaking wet. The inside of his collar felt like a washcloth, and his socks sucked and bubbled inside his shoes.
It was one of those big old trap drains the city installed nearly a hundred years ago. Now mostly plugged with leaves and sediment, none of them supposedly still function. But still they never overflow, and where the water runs off is anyone's guess. Just after the war, in the late forties, the city rebuilt the whole system, thereby rendering the original trap drains superannuated and defunct.
When he found her, she was right there at the bottom, sort of jackknifed or folded in half and wedged between the stone walls of a conduit that probed farther down into the spongy earth like the neck of a bottle.
She was upside down, her hair fanned out and trailing in a puddle about a foot deep. Leaves and gumwrappers and ice cream sticks skimmed across the surface and lodged in the strands of slowly undulating hair. Except for the wet stocking plastered to her right leg, she wore no clothing. In her left hand she clutched a small rock as if at the end she'd used it to defend herself.
"Find anything?" Pickering clambered down the rope, banging against the wall as he came, then stood there puffing with the beam of his light playing over the body. "Jesus."
"Looks like she's been down here awhile," Mooney said.
Pickering sniffed. "Smells it."
Gazing down from above, the round, grinning moon of McKloskey's face rose above the grating in the beam of Pickering's light. "Well?"
"She's here, all right."
"What the fuck would you think?"
"Nothing. Naked as a jaybird."
Pickering started to laugh, then broke off, startled by the coarse sound of his own laughter echoing through the cold earth.
Above, McKloskey scrambled to his feet, kicking a shower of gravel down the walls of the shaft as he did so. "Don't touch nothing. The M.E.'s coming right over."
They stood there at the bottom, dismal in their wet shoes, huddling off to one side to avoid the splash from the waterfall above. They could hear voices talking overhead, and by that time a few more squad cars had wheeled into the area. The red flicker of their dome lights bounced off the low, rainy sky and shimmered like wet, freshly applied paint on the stone walls inside the drain.
They were at a point just behind the zoo, not far from the big clock with the animated animals—the bronze bears and rabbits and squirrels—that come whirling and spinning and pirouetting out on the hour. During the day the place is crawling with people. Full of tourists and kids and nurses pushing prams. But at night it could be pretty forlorn, particularly around the late winter when the days are short, and the nights cold and damp. The leaves are still down. Just a few stubborn ones cling to the bare branches, shriveled and wasted like the few survivors of a battle that had long ago ended in defeat.
Steam rose out of the softening earth, entangling itself like rags in the bare trees. Even fifteen feet down, they could still see the lights from the Plaza off to the right and those from the Pierre just behind them. They threw a vapory orange diffusion against the rainy sky.
They heard a grunt. Overhead, someone was shoving the grate farther off to the side. It clanged on the pavement walk above, making Mooney think of the ring of horseshoes played on a summer night in the country. Once again, McKloskey's face rose above the grating and peered down at them.
"You want us to try and bring her up?" Pickering shouted above the din of cascading water.
"The M.E. wants to have a look first."
"Tell him not to rush himself. It's dandy down here."
"Hold your water, will you, Mooney? We sent for a ladder."
In a minute or so there was more clanking and scraping. Then, through the mote-filled beam of Pickering's light, the legs of an aluminum extension ladder probed down through the shaft, making grating sounds as it scraped against the walls. In the next minute, the skirts of a trenchcoat swung above the open drain.
"Heads up," a voice boomed. Something dark and heavy from above hurtled past Mooney's shoulder, landing beside his foot with a squishy thud. It was a battered old black leather bag.
"Thanks for the warning," Mooney shouted up. "You nearly skulled me."
"Fancy that. And I wasn't even aiming."
There was the sound of more dirt and gravel showering down from above as the trenchcoated figure descended through the mist-hung shaft.
"Well, looka this," Mooney said, seeing a familiar face in the beam of Pickering's light. "I didn't think you still made house calls."
"What the hell are you doing here, Mooney? Didn't you quit the force ages ago? I heard you married some poor, benighted creature who devotes her life now to cooking your gruel and rinsing out your underwear."
"I never quit. Just a little sick leave. But that was ages ago. You're just not around much anymore."
They stood there grinning at each other in cordial dislike. The beam of Pickering's light made them look like a pair of genial jackals quarreling over a bit of carrion. They'd known each other the better part of thirty years, and there was no love lost between them. Paul Konig was the chief medical examiner of the City of New York. He was roughly sixty-three or sixty-four then—old by M.E. standards.
"What do we have here?" Konig muscled past the detective.
Pickering swung the beam of his light in an arc above their heads, finally pointing it straight down into the narrowing conduit of the drain.
The M.E. stared down at the vague shape at the bottom of the drain. For a fleeting moment, his lips pursed, about to ask a question, but instead he started toward the girl. Rocks and dirt crumbled beneath his slipping feet as he worked his way down to her.
He knelt beside her for a while, not talking, screening the body from the two men above so that all they saw was the feet and head.
"How the hell you find it?" he asked at last.
"Anonymous tip. Someone just phoned headquarters. Said it was here. Told us to come and get it."
"Just like the last time," Pickering offered. "The job out in Flatbush."
"Figure this is the same guy? Your 'Shadow Dancer' chap?"
Pickering flung his light against the far wall of the shaft, illuminating a large phallic drawing scrawled there in green crayon. Flying out of the head of it, a series of numbers spewed—14, 18, 23, 28, 34, 42, 50, 59—as if under great force like volcanic debris. "Sure looks like it."
"An artist, we've got here," Konig grumbled.
"Seen better stuff on the wall of a public toilet," Pickering muttered.
"What's it supposed to mean?"
Mooney shrugged. "You tell me. So far we found the same doodlings in about ten of these things. The numbers change, but the pictures are generally pretty much the same."
Konig pondered the drawing a moment longer, then turned. "Hand me my bag, will you? And let's have some more of that light over here."
It wasn't easy dislodging her. She was wedged in tight between the two stone walls at the point where they narrowed. From the look of her head it appeared that her skull had been crushed.
"Nice shiner she's got there," Pickering said.
"That's no shiner." Konig stooped above the body. "It's a heel mark. Son of a bitch stood on her face and ground his shoe into her eye. It's here, too." The M.E. pointed to a blackish welt on her cheek where the mark of a boot sole had been imprinted upon it.
"She's young," Konig said. "Early twenties, I'd say."
"Doesn't look like the sort to wind up naked at the bottom of a drain," Pickering remarked. "Looks like a class piece of goods. Fashion model or an actress, maybe."
To Mooney, she had the drawn, haggard beauty of one of those icons he'd seen in the paintings of old churches. Lady saints tied to stakes, flames licking up about them, eyes raised heavenward as though confronting God. Only this young saint had been martyred in a sewer.
"How long you figure she been down here, Chief?" Pickering asked.
"'Bout three days, I'd say." Konig's fingers joined behind her head and lifted gently. "Neck's broken."
"Probably busted it being dropped from above," Pickering speculated.
"Nope." Konig slid his finger sideways across the line of her throat. "The neck was broken before. Throttled. See the ligature marks on the throat?" He raised the lid of one eye and peered hard at it. "See the little red dots? Petechial hemorrhages. That all happened before she was dumped down here."
"Where do you think she got it?" Mooney asked.
"That figures. If it were done elsewhere, he'd have had to drag her all the way down here through the park."
"Probably nabbed her walking one of those footpaths up near the street."
"Or right off the street," Pickering said. "The Sixtieth Street entrance is just a couple of hundred feet up from here."
Konig nodded. "Son of a bitch could've been lurking right up there. Nabbed her when she passed. Dragged her off into the bushes, strangled her, then lugged her down here and tossed her into the drain."
"Then jumped in after her?" Mooney inquired.
"Why would he do that?"
"Beats me, but he had to. There's the pretty drawings down there. Then he climbed back out on those iron rungs set into the wall."
"And that rock," Konig mused.
"What about it?"
"The fact that she's still holding it."
"Suggests she was still alive when she got down here."
Silently, they pondered the riddle.
"Well," Konig sighed, "I can't do anything more here now." He'd started to shove his gear back into the bag.
Mooney stirred, brooding about something. "He hadda be awful strong to lift that grate by himself."
Konig gazed up at him in the beam of Pickering's light. "Who says he was by himself?"
"I don't know. I just assumed it. What makes you think he wasn't?"
"That's the difference between you and me, Mooney. I don't assume things." Konig was binding the girl's hands together and bandaging them with a light gauze in order to keep them clean and undamaged until he had a chance to remove the gunk beneath the fingernails and get it under a microscope.
"Any other clothing besides the stocking?" he asked.
"They're scouring the area now."
"I'd be surprised if they didn't find it scattered right around here someplace—in the bushes," Konig said, snapping his bag shut.
"I'd be surprised if they did," Mooney said.
Konig cocked a brow at him.
"If like you say," Mooney went on, "she's been dead three days, the park workers would've turned the stuff up by now."
"Could've been buried," Konig shot back. He had little patience for opinions that failed to coincide with his own.
"I don't think so," Mooney remarked calmly. "But that's the difference between you and me, Chief. I assume things."
Pickering started to laugh, then caught Konig's frown and broke off fast.
The M.E. wobbled to his feet. "Okay—wrap it up and ship it downtown. I should be back to you with something in a few days."
"I'd never bet a filly against a colt," Patsy Duffy said. He raised the shaker above his shoulder and proceeded to bash the mixture inside into pulpy submission.
"How come?" Mooney asked.
"They're the weaker sex. A good filly can't beat a good colt." Duffy drained off the foaming Manhattan into a cocktail glass.
"Who said?" Mooney asked. "You just say that 'cause trainers in the States won't run a filly 'gainst colts. In Europe, fillies beat colts every day. Orchid's a filly and right now she's the best horse in Europe. It's no big deal for a filly to win the Arc de Triomphe. Happens all the time. Gimme another cherry, will you?"
Duffy dropped a pair of maraschino cherries into the detective's glass, then turned to ring up someone's tab seated beside him. Mooney watched the bartenders work for a while, then looked around the room. They were stacked three-deep at the bar that night. All waiting for tables.
Mooney sat at the bar of the Balloon watching the crowds come and go. For him, there was nothing quite like a good New York steak house. Particularly on a Friday night, normally a payday for most. People were relaxed then, or just beginning to get that way about the dinner hour. There's no school in the morning, and even if people are feeling battered and awful from the week's horrors, they're still feeling pretty good.
If Mooney happened to feel a certain proprietary fondness for this place, it was no great surprise. His wife owned it. The Balloon or, more accurately, Fritzi's Balloon, sat up in the East Eighties in a turn-of-the-century brownstone with a bright striped canopy that ran from the entrance right out to the street. On either side of the big glass revolving doors, a pair of wrought-iron jockeys holding flickering lanterns stood guard in their track colors, welcoming the hungry, well-heeled Upper East Side crowd arriving in cabs for dinner. In a matter of a dozen years or so, the place had become a New York institution—right up there with the likes of Keene's, Crist Cella's, and Smith and Wolenski.
Fritzi Mooney had built it from scratch with her first husband, Nick Baumholz, a wealthy contractor who wanted to give his wife something to do. Baumholz died a few years later, leaving Fritzi to run the place by herself. It was her vision and imagination that had turned it into the booming success it eventually became.
Then she met Mooney. He was in his late fifties at the time. A confirmed, unregenerate bachelor, it was his first trip to the altar. All of his buddies on the force laughed. There was a lottery to see if it would last one week, one month, or one year. Defying all the odds, they were still together after four years, embarrassing all of their betting friends who said they'd be lucky if it went two rounds.
The Mooneys shared a mutual passion. That was the ponies. They loved horse racing to distraction. They only went to the flats. They had no use for the trotters. They had a clubhouse box at Belmont and the unlimited use of a close friend's at Aqueduct, as well. They went each weekend to one or the other with near hieratic zeal. For vacations, they went nowhere that could not provide them a fast, first-rate track.
When they got married, as a sort of wedding present, they bought themselves a yearling. They called him Gumshoe, undoubtedly out of some sort of affectionate deference to Mooney. The colt made them a small bundle and, shortly, they purchased a second thoroughbred—Wizard. When either of their "kids," as they called them, were running, they'd both drop work at any time and dash out to the track just to jump and scream and cheer them on.
"You know Sausalito?" Mooney asked Duffy when he returned.
"Sure. The two-year-old."
"Right. Now there's a filly ran six furlongs at Gulf Stream in 1:09 4/5. The last stakes for colts was run 1:10 2/5. She'd eat up those colts in the Hutcheson."
"What colts in the Hutcheson?"
Mooney turned, and there was Fritzi in a full-length scarlet skirt, a cream silk blouse with a spray of violets at her throat, and glowing as though she'd just stepped from a hot bath. She threw an arm across his shoulder and pecked his cheek. "You smell like a zoo. Where've you been?"
"Down a sewer."
She shrugged and made a queer face at Duffy. "What's he drinking?"
"Just a tot of bourbon, Fritz. It's his first. Honest."
"That's a hundred fifty calories. Don't give him any more."
Mooney groaned. Having suffered a mild heart attack several years before, he was on a fairly strict diet. Still, he couldn't bear having others decide for him what he would eat and what he would drink.
Excerpted from Shadow Dancers by Herbert Lieberman. Copyright © 1989 Herbert Lieberman. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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