/ Language: English / Genre:det_police / Series: Badge of Honor

Final Justice

W Griffin


W. E. B. Griffin

Final Justice

ONE

It was Sunday night, and at quarter after eleven the Roy Rogers restaurant at South Broad and Snyder Streets in South Philadelphia was just about full.

Amal al Zaid, who was five feet seven inches tall and weighed 145 pounds, and who had spent sixteen of his twenty-one years as Dwayne Alexander Finston before converting to Islam, was mopping a spill from the floor just outside the kitchen door when he glanced at the clock mounted high on the wall near the front entrance to the restaurant.

The first thing he thought was that he had forty-five minutes to go on his shift, and then he would be free to ride his bicycle home to the apartment he shared with his mother, two brothers, and a sister in the Tasker Homes Project a few blocks away, grab a quick shower, and then go by the mosque to see what was happening.

The second thing he thought was, Those two is bad news.

Amal al Zaid had seen two young men enter the restaurant. Both were in their early twenties. One was of average height and build, and the other short and overweight. Both of them stopped, one at a time, just inside the door, and looked around the restaurant, and then at each other, and then nodded.

The average-looking one slid into a banquette near the door. The sort-of-fat one, who had something wrapped in a newspaper sticking out of his jacket pocket, walked all the way through the restaurant toward where Amal al Zaid was mopping the floor by the kitchen door. Amal al Zaid then pushed the right door to the kitchen open, and held it open while he pushed his mop bucket on wheels through it.

After a moment, Amal al Zaid peered carefully through the small window in the kitchen door. He saw that the short fat guy had taken a seat in the last banquette on the left, with his back to the kitchen wall. And he saw the short fat guy pull whatever he had wrapped in newspaper from his pocket, and lay it on the banquette seat. And then Amal al Zaid saw what it was: a short-barreled revolver.

“Holy shit,” Zaid said, barely audibly, and turned and looked around the kitchen.

The kitchen supervisor, Maria Manuela Fernandez, a thirty-five-year-old in immaculate kitchen whites, who carried 144 pounds on her five-foot-three frame, was a few steps away, examining the latest serving trays to come out of the dishwasher.

Zaid went to her, touched her arm, and when she turned to him, said, “Manuela, I think we’re getting stuck up.”

Mrs. Fernandez’s eyebrows rose.

“There’s a fat guy with a gun in the last booth,” Zaid said, pointing at the wall, “and there’s another guy-they came in together-in the first booth on the right by the front door.”

Mrs. Fernandez walked quickly and looked through the window in the door, then went to a wall-mounted telephone near the door and dialed 911.

Mrs. Fernandez’s call was answered on the second ring by Miss Eloise T. Regis in the radio room of the Philadelphia police department, on the second floor of the Police Administration Building at Eighth and Race Streets in downtown Philadelphia.

The Police Administration Building is universally known in Philadelphia as “The Roundhouse,” because the building has virtually no straight walls-exterior or interior-or corridors. Even the interiors of the elevators are curved.

Within the radio room are rows of civilian employees who, under the supervision of a few sworn police officers, sit at telephone and radio consoles receiving calls from the public and from police vehicles on the job, and relaying official orders to police vehicles.

There are twenty-two police districts in Philadelphia, and six divisions of detectives. There is also the Special Operations Division, which includes the Highway Patrol-despite its name, far more of an elite force than one concerned with highway traffic-and the Special Investigations Unit.

The Traffic and Accident Divisions actually have the primary responsibility for the public’s safety on the highways and streets of Philadelphia. Their tools include a fleet of radio-equipped tow trucks and other special vehicles. The Juvenile Division is charged with dealing with crimes committed against-or by-juveniles.

Additionally, there are special-purpose units, such as the K-9 Unit, the Marine Unit, the Airport Unit, and the Vice, Narcotics, Organized Crime, and Dignitary Protection Units-and others.

Each district, division, and special unit has its own complement of radio-equipped police vehicles of all sorts.

And on top of this, of course, is the communications network necessary to maintain round-the-clock instantaneous contact with the vehicles of the senior command hierarchy of the police department, the commissioner and his staff, the deputy commissioners and their staffs, the chief inspectors and their staffs, and a plethora of other senior police officers.

With hundreds of police and support vehicles on the job at any one time, it was necessary to develop, both by careful planning and by trial and error, a system permitting instant contact with the right vehicle at the right time.

The police commissioner-or the commanding officer of the Marine Unit-is not really interested in learning instantly about every automobile accident in Philadelphia, nor is a request from the Airport Police for a paddy wagon to haul off three drunks from their bailiwick of much interest to a detective investigating a burglary in Chestnut Hill.

Philadelphia is broken down, for police department purposes, into eight geographical divisions and the Park Division. Each division is headed by an inspector, and contains from two to four districts, each commanded by a captain. Generally, each division has its own radio frequency, but in some divisions, really busy districts-the Twenty-fifth District in the East Division, for example-have their own separate frequencies. Detectives’ cars and those assigned to other investigative units (Narcotics, Intelligence, Organized Crime, et cetera) have radios operating on the “H-Band.” All police car radios can be switched to an all-purpose emergency and utility frequency called the “J-Band.” Special Operations Division has its own, the "S-Band.”

For example, a police officer in the Sixteenth District would routinely have his radio switch set to F-l, which would permit him to communicate with his (the West) division. Switching to F-2 would put him on the universal J-Band. A car assigned to South Philadelphia with his switch set to F-l would be in contact with the South Division. A detective operating anywhere with his switch set to F-l would be on the Detective’s H-Band, but he too, by switching to F-2, would be on the J-Band.

Senior police officers have more sophisticated radios, and are able to communicate with other senior police brass, the detective frequency, or on the frequency of some other service in which they have a personal interest. Ordinary police cars are required to communicate through the dispatcher, and forbidden to talk car-to-car. Car-to-car communication is authorized on the J-, H-, and S-Bands.

“Communications discipline” is strictly enforced. Otherwise, there would be communications chaos.

There is provision, however, for a radio room dispatcher- simply by throwing the appropriate switch-to send a radio message simultaneously to every radio-equipped police vehicle, from a police boat making its way against the current of the Delaware River through the hundreds of police cars on patrol to the commissioner’s and mayor’s cars.

This most often happens when an operator takes a call in which the calling party says, “Officer needs assistance. Shots fired.”

Not every call to 911 requesting police assistance is legitimate. Philadelphia has its fair share of lunatics-some say more than its fair share-who like to involve the cops in any number of things having nothing whatever to do with maintaining the peace and tranquillity within the City of Brotherly Love. And Philadelphia’s youth, having watched cop movies on television to learn the cant, dial 911 ten or twelve times every day to report a murder, a body, a robbery, a car accident, anything that will cause a flock of police cars, lights flashing and sirens screaming, to descend on a particular street corner and liven up an otherwise dull period of the day.

The people who answer the telephones didn’t come to work yesterday, however-Miss Eloise T. Regis, for example, had been on the job for more than twenty years-and usually they know, from the timbre of the caller’s voice, or the assurance with which the caller raises the alarm, that this particular call is legitimate.

When Miss Regis answered the call from an excited Latino-sounding lady reporting a robbery in progress at the Roy Rogers at Broad and Snyder, she had known the call was genuine.

At 11:21, a call went out from Police Radio.

“Possible armed robbery in progress, Roy Rogers restaurant, Broad and Snyder. Unknown civilian by phone.”

Officer Kenneth J. Charlton, of the First District, then patrolling the area, responded, “One seven. In on the Roy Rogers.”

As Mrs. Fernandez was speaking excitedly with Miss Regis, there was the sound of a shot, and some unintelligible shouts.

The door to the kitchen burst open, and the fat guy with the gun came through it. He saw Mrs. Fernandez on the telephone, and when she saw him, she dropped the handset and moved away from the telephone, placing her back against the wall near the telephone.

The fat guy went to the handset dangling from the wall phone, put it to his ear, listened a moment-just long enough to be able to determine with whom Mrs. Fernandez was speaking-then grabbed the coiled expansion cord and ripped it free from the telephone.

Then he looked at Mrs. Fernandez and said, “You fucking bitch!” and raised his revolver to arm’s length and fired at her. The bullet struck her just below her left ear and exited her skull just above her right ear.

Her convulsing body slid down the wall until her knees were fully bent, and then it fell forward onto the floor.

The fat guy then brandished his revolver at the other kitchen workers. There were six: three men and three women. The fat guy had not seen Amal al Zaid when he had shoved the kitchen door open. He had done so with such force that it went past the spring stop, causing it to remain in the open position at a right angle to the doorway. Amal al Zaid was behind it, his back pressed against the wall, literally paralyzed by fear.

“In the fucking cooler, motherfuckers!” the fat guy said, waving his revolver and gesturing toward the walk-in refrigerator.

When the kitchen staff-stumbling in their haste, one of the women moaning in terror as she held both hands to her mouth-had gone inside the walk-in refrigerator, the fat guy walked quickly toward it, closed the door, and looked around the kitchen.

Holy Christ! Amal al Zaid thought. That crazy nigger’s going to see me!

The fat guy found what he wanted-a wooden-handled sharpening steel-on a worktable right behind him, picked it up, and jammed it in the loops intended for a padlock in the refrigerator door. Then he turned and started for the kitchen door.

In the logical presumption that he would be seen by the guy who’d just shot Manuela, Amal al Zaid lost control of his bladder, and momentarily forgot that he was no longer a Christian.

Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name…

The fat guy looked to the left as he made his way across the kitchen, paused briefly to look down at the body of the goddamn bitch who had called the motherfucking cops, and then went through the open kitchen door into the dining area.

Amal al Zaid finally found the courage to look through the narrow crack between the door and the doorjamb, and saw that the fat guy was working his way though the dining room, collecting wallets and coin purses and watches and rings from the customers.

The other sonofabitch was at the cashier’s station by the front door, taking the paper money from the cash register.

The fat guy finished robbing the four people at the banquette he was working, then walked toward the front of the restaurant.

“Let’s get the fuck out of here,” the fat guy said.

“Fuck, fuck, fucking fuck, it’s a fucking cop!” the guy at the register said, gesturing through the window.

He squatted down behind the cash register. The fat guy slid into the banquette nearest to him on the right.

At 11:26, Officer Charlton entered the restaurant, holding his service pistol at his side. He glanced at the cashier’s station, saw the man crouching behind it, and took a half-dozen steps around the cashier’s station.

The guy at the cash register suddenly stood up, lunged at Officer Charlton, and wrapped his arms around him, preventing Officer Charlton from raising his pistol to fire it.

The fat guy jumped from the banquette, ran to them, shoved the muzzle of his pistol under Charlton’s “bulletproof” vest, and fired.

Officer Charlton stiffened, then went limp and fell to the floor. The guy who had been behind the cash register then stepped over Charlton’s body. Then he turned and fired twice at the body. Then he ran out of the restaurant onto South Broad Street after the fat guy.

After a moment, Amal al Zaid pushed himself off the wall and ran to the employees’ locker room.

Shit! Oh, fuck, I pissed in my pants!

In the employees’ locker room, he opened his locker and took his cellular telephone from his jacket, punched in 911, and when the voice said, “Police Radio?” he blurted: “This is the Roy Rogers restaurant at Broad and Snyder. Two black guys just shot the kitchen lady and a cop who walked in while they was robbing us.”

This call too, coincidentally, was answered by Miss Regis. And again her experience told her the call was legitimate.

“Sergeant!” she called, raising her voice just to get his attention, not to ask his permission. Then she threw the appropriate switch.

Three fast, short beeps, signifying an emergency message, were broadcast to every police radio in Philadelphia.

Miss Regis pressed the switch activating her microphone.

“Assist the officer, Broad and Snyder, inside the Roy Rogers, report of an officer shot. Assist the officer, Broad and Snyder, inside the Roy Rogers, report of an officer shot. This is a civilian by phone, we have officers responding to a previous call of a possible armed robbery at that location.”

TWO

The second vehicle to reach the Roy Rogers restaurant at South Broad and Snyder Streets in response to the first “possible armed robbery in progress” call over the F-Band was a new Buick Rendezvous CXL Sport Utility Vehicle, on the roof of which were three antennas capable of listening to police radio frequencies. A fourth antenna was mounted on the rear window, and just before getting close to Synder Street, the driver of the car switched off a flashing blue light with a magnetic base that he had put on the roof after hearing the call.

The driver, however, was not a sworn police officer of the Philadelphia police department, and-as had often been pointed out to him-using the flashing blue light on the roof to speed one’s way through traffic was in violation of at least four laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, ranging from violation of Paragraph 4912 of the Criminal Code of Pennsylvania-impersonation of a public official, such as a police officer-to violation of Paragraph 6504 of the Criminal Code-setting up a nuisance in public.

The Rendezvous itself, and all the expensive radios and scanners, were the property of the Philadelphia Bulletin, with whom the driver, Michael J. “Mickey” O’Hara, a wiry, curly-haired man in his late thirties, was professionally associated. The magnetic base flashing blue light was the property of the Philadelphia police department, having been removed by Mr. O’Hara from a wrecked and burned unmarked car, rendering him liable to charges of having violated one or more of Paragraphs 3921, 3924, and 3925 of the Criminal Code, which deal with the unlawful taking of property.

Mr. O’Hara’s association with the Bulletin went back twenty-one years, to his sixteenth year, when he was hired as a copyboy, shortly after having been expelled from West Catholic High School. Monsignor Dooley had caught Mickey with a pocketful of Francesco “Frankie the Gut” Guttermo’s numbers slips, and when Mickey had refused to name his accomplice in that illegal and immoral enterprise, the monsignor had given him the boot.

Mickey had immediately found a home in journalism, and had become a reporter-the Bulletin said “staff writer”- before he was old enough to vote. As he had risen in the Bulletin city room hierarchy, his remuneration had naturally increased. He had been perfectly happy with his relationship with the Bulletin and the compensation he was given until his childhood friend, Casimir Bolinski, had brought the subject up.

“Face it, Mickey, those bastards are screwing you,” Casimir had said when passing through Philadelphia to visit his parents.

It was more than an idle observation; it was a professional one. Because Mickey had refused to name him as his fellow numbers runner, Casimir, already known as “The Bull,” had graduated from West Catholic High, gone on to Notre Dame on a football scholarship, and from Notre Dame to the Green Bay Packers.

There, while his Packers teammates had spent their off seasons in various nonproductive if pleasant pursuits, Casimir had studied the law. He hadn’t wanted to, if the truth be known, but Mrs. Antoinette Bolinski, who weighed approximately one third as much as her husband, was a woman of great determination, and The Bull knew better than to argue with her.

To his surprise, Casimir liked the study of law, and immediately showed a flair for the business aspects of the profession. The day after the Packers-in an emotional ceremony- retired The Bull’s jersey, Casimir J. Bolinski, D. Juris, announced the opening of his law offices, in which he intended to deal with the relationships between professional athletes and their employers. He started, rather naturally, by representing professional football players, but as word spread throughout the world of sports about how successful The Bull had been in securing pay far beyond the expectations of the players, professionals from baseball, basketball, and even a number of jockeys-the creme de la creme, so to speak, of the world of sports-began to beat a path to his door.

“The way it is, Mickey,” Casimir had explained, “is when I first quit the game, the guys would come to see me and say ‘How they hanging, Bull? What’s this bullshit about you being a lawyer?’ and now they come in, shaved and all dressed up in suits, and say, ‘Thank you very much for seeing me, Dr. Bolinski.’”

Antoinette Bolinski had been thrilled to find out that D. Juris stood for “Doctor of Law,” and that she was thus entitled to refer to Casimir as “my husband, Dr. Bolinski.” She immediately began to do so. The phrase had a really classy ring to it, and if the other lawyers didn’t want to use the title, screw them.

As once the fabled defense of the Detroit Lions had crumpled before The Charging Bull in that never-to-be-forgotten 32-zilch game, the assembled legal counsel of the Bulletin gave way before Dr. Bolinski’s persuasive arguments that the few extra dollars they were going to have to spend on Mickey were nothing compared to the dollars they would lose in lost circulation if Mickey moved over to the Inquirer or the Daily News.

“Jesus, you’re dumb, Mickey,” Casimir had said later. “You’ve got the fucking Pulitzer, for Christ’s sake. You should have known that’s worth a whole lot of dead presidents’ pictures.”

As a result of the negotiations by Dr. Bolinski on behalf of Mr. O’Hara with the Bulletin, Mr. O’Hara’s compensation was quadrupled, and it was agreed that the Bulletin would provide Mr. O’Hara with a private office and an automobile of Mr. O’Hara’s choice, equipped as Mr. O’Hara wished; and that he would be reimbursed for all expenses incurred in his professional work, it being clearly understood this would involve a substantial amount of business entertainment.

With one exception, however-Mickey was the sole supporter of his widowed mother, and had been having a really hard time paying her tab at the Cobbs Creek Nursing Center amp; Retirement Home-his new affluence didn’t change his life much.

After toying with the suggestion of Dr. Bolinski that he have the Bulletin buy him either a Mercedes or a Cadillac, Mickey had chosen the Buick Rendezvous. A Caddie, or a Kraut-mobile, he reasoned, would piss off most of the people with whom he worked. By that he meant the police officers. It was said-with more than a little justification-that Mickey knew more cops by their first names than anyone else, and that more cops knew Mickey by sight than they did the police commissioner.

Mickey knew that most-certainly not all-of Philly’s cops liked him, and he attributed this to both reciprocation-he liked most cops-and to the fact that he spelled their names right, got the facts right, and never betrayed a confidence.

As he did most nights, Mickey O’Hara had been cruising the city in the Rendezvous when one of the scanners had caught the “possible armed robbery” call. He was then five blocks south of the Roy Rogers on South Broad Street.

“Possible, my ass,” he had said, aloud, then put the gum-ball machine on the roof, glanced in the rearview mirror, and made an illegal U-turn on Broad Street.

When he reached the Roy Rogers, he saw there was a blue-and — white, door open, parked on Snyder, which told him the cops had just arrived, and the possible robbery in progress was probably still in progress, because the cop wouldn’t have left his car door open if he hadn’t been in a hell of a hurry.

He double-parked on Snyder, beside the police car, grabbed his digital camera from the passenger seat, and quickly got out of the Rendezvous. Two black guys were coming out of the restaurant in a hurry. In a reflex action, Mickey put the digital camera to his eye and snapped a picture.

The short fat black guy saw him, raised his arm, and took a shot at Mickey with a short-barreled revolver. He missed, but Mickey, as a prudent measure, dropped to the ground beside the Rendezvous. When he looked up, both of the doers were hauling ass down Snyder Street.

Mickey got to his feet, ran quickly to the Roy Rogers, and went inside.

Just inside the door there was a cop on the floor, facedown, in a spreading pool of blood.

Mickey snapped that picture, and then as he was waiting for the camera to recycle, to take a second shot, realized he knew the dead cop. He was Kenny Charlton of the First District.

Sonofabitch! Kenny was a good guy, seventeen, eighteen years on the job. His wife works for the UGI. They have a couple of kids.

The green light in the camera came on, and he took another picture.

He was about to step around the body when he sensed motion behind him and looked over his shoulder.

A very large black man, in the peculiar uniform of the Highway Patrol, had entered the restaurant, pistol drawn. Another highway patrolman was on his heels.

“I think the doers just ran down Snyder,” Mickey said, pointing. “Two black guys, one short and fat… two black guys.”

Sergeant Wilson Carter turned to the highway patrolman behind him. “Get out a flash,” he ordered.

The second highway patrolman-Mickey knew the face but couldn’t come up with a name-left the restaurant quickly.

Sergeant Carter looked down at the body of Officer Charlton, dropped to his knees, felt his carotid artery, and shook his head.

“Jesus, Mickey, what happened?” he asked.

“I got here just before you did,” O’Hara said, shrugging in a helpless gesture.

There were now the sounds of approaching sirens, at least two, probably three, maybe more.

“They shot somebody in the kitchen, too,” one of the restaurant patrons called out.

Sergeant Carter looked around to see who had called out, and when he did, one of the patrons, a very tall, very thin, hawk-featured black man, stood up and pointed to the kitchen.

Sergeant Carter headed for the rear of the restaurant. Mickey followed him, holding the digital camera in his hand, concealing it as well as he could.

Carter pushed open the door and went in the kitchen. Mickey caught it before it closed and followed him in.

There was a body of a chubby woman, some kind of Latina, on the floor, her head distorted and lying in a pool of blood.

“Jesus Christ!” Sergeant Carter said.

“One of them came in the kitchen,” a young black guy in kitchen whites said. “Manuela was calling the cops. He shot her.”

“They all gone?” Carter asked.

“There was just the two of them,” the young black guy said. “They’re gone.”

“You get a good look at him? Them?”

The young black guy nodded.

Carter went back into the dining room.

Mickey didn’t follow him. He took a picture of the young black guy, then held up his finger, signaling him not to go anywhere, and then took two pictures, different angles, of the body on the floor.

Then he slipped the digital camera into his pocket.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Amal al Zaid.”

“You want to spell that for me?” Mickey asked, and wrote it down, and then asked where he lived.

Then he asked Amal al Zaid what had happened, and had just about finished writing that down when three other police officers entered the kitchen-a lieutenant, a detective, and a uniform.

Lieutenant Stanley J. Wrigley was acquainted with Mr. O’Hara.

“Jesus Christ, Mickey, how did you get in here?” he asked.

“I got here before Highway,” Mickey replied. “The doers were two black guys. Carter put out a flash.”

“You have to get out of here, Mickey, you know that,” Lieutenant Wrigley said.

“Yeah.”

“Do me a favor,” Wrigley said. “Go out the back door. Otherwise the rest of the media will bitch you’re getting special treatment again.”

“Yeah, sure, Stan.”

“You get a pretty good look at the doers?” the detective asked.

“Not good. Two young black guys, one of them short and fat.”

“You told that to Carter?” Wrigley asked.

Mickey nodded.

“Thanks, Mick,” Wrigley said, and O’Hara went to the rear door of the kitchen and went through it.

THREE

Twelve minutes later, Mickey O’Hara walked into his glass-walled office just off the city room of the Philadelphia Bulletin, adjusted the venetian blinds over the glass of the windows and doors so that he could not be seen from the city room, locked the door, and then sat down at his personal computer, switched it on, and waited for it to boot up.

He had two computers. One was tied into the Bulletin’s network, and the other was his personally. While he was waiting for his personal computer to boot up, he spun around in his chair and faced the Bulletin computer terminal keyboard and rapidly typed:

CEHold me space for the double murder at the Roy Rogers. I was there and may have pics. O’Hara

He read what he had typed, then pushed the Send key.

Then he spun around in his chair again and faced his own computer. This state-of-the-art device, which fell under the provisions of his contract for personal services with the Bulletin, requiring the Bulletin to provide him with “whatever electronic devices and other tools he considered necessary to the efficient performance of his duties,” was brand new. It had a twenty-one-inch liquid crystal diode color monitor, and provided more than a hundred different typefaces, each clearer and more legible than the single typeface available on the Bulletin’s computer terminals.

Mickey took his digital camera-another $1,200 electronic device he considered necessary for the performance of his duties-from his trouser pocket, carefully removed the memory chip, replaced it with another $79.95 64-megabyte memory chip, and shoved the chip he had removed into the mouth-it reminded him of a feeding goldfish-of a device connected to the keyboard of his computer.

He tapped some keys, which caused the JPG images on the memory chip to be transferred into his computer. The quick tapping of more keys brought the images up on the LCD monitor.

He then removed the memory chip from the goldfish’s mouth, unlocked a drawer in his desk and unlocked a metal box in the drawer, dropped the memory chip into it, relocked it, closed the desk drawer, and relocked that.

Mickey was thinking of writing a book-Casimir Bolinski said he was sure he could sell it for him “for big bucks, Mick, if you ever get off your lazy Irish ass and write a proposal”-and if he did, he would need the pictures.

He tapped keys again and a photo-editing program came up on the LCD monitor’s screen. The first picture, of the two black guys coming out of the Roy Rogers, appeared.

It was really a lousy picture, understandable in the circumstances.

For one thing, he had thrown the viewfinder to his eye with such haste that the picture was cockeyed; the two doers appeared in the lower right quarter of the picture, and only from the waist up.

Far worse, the camera’s internal light meter had detected the bright light coming from the door, decided that was the ambient light, and set the camera accordingly. The entrance to the restaurant appeared in near perfect clarity, but the two doers were not in the light from the door, and consequently they could hardly be seen. You could see it was two guys, but you couldn’t see any facial details.

Mickey quite skillfully tried to fix it, using all of the capabilities of the photo-editing program. He “lightened” the two guys. That didn’t work. Neither did darkening the perfectly captured restaurant entrance. He tried everything else he could think of, but nothing worked.

Finally he gave up. He cropped out the unnecessary background, typed keys that renamed “00001. JPG” to “Doers-XRR. JPG,” then pressed the Enter key. Then he pushed other keys, which ordered yet another electronic device necessary to the performance of his duties to print three copies, eight by ten inches, 1,200 dots per square inch. A $5,300 electronic device hummed and clicked as it began to execute the order.

00002. JPG and 00003. JPG-the pictures of the body of Officer Kenneth J. Charlton, the poor bastard, lying dead at the entrance of the Roy Rogers-also required editing.

He first made a copy of each as they had come from the camera, renaming them Chardwn1. JPG and Chardwn2. JPG respectively, and ordered three eight-by-ten copies of each at 1,200 dots per square inch.

Then he went back to each picture in turn, cropped out unnecessary background, very carefully edited the picture so that Officer Charlton’s eyes appeared to be closed, not twisted in agony, and then made the pool of blood in which Charlton’s head was lying disappear. He then renamed these pictures Charbul1. JPG and Charbul2. JPG, ordered the printing of one eight-by-ten of each, and also sent the pictures by the Internet to O’Hara@PhillyBulletin. com.

He did much the same thing with the other pictures-those of that poor dame in the kitchen and the young black kid- that he had made with the digital camera.

Although a somewhat complicated process, doing everything took him less than ten minutes. He had a good deal of experience doing the same sort of thing, and of course he had, literally, the best equipment the Bulletin’s money could buy to do it with.

Mickey knew that some people-just about any cop- would think what he should have done was simply turn the memory chip over to the cops, to assist them in their search for the murderers.

Mickey had several problems with that. For one thing, if the cops had the memory chip, there was no way he could get copies of the pictures before the Bulletin went to bed at 3 A.M. For another, while Mickey thought it was important that the public get to see the bodies of Kenny Charlton and the Puerto Rican, Latina, whatever, lady lying where they had fallen, there were families involved, and there was no reason the families had to see how fucking gruesome it actually was. Seeing Daddy and Momma in the Bulletin lying dead was going to be bad enough.

When he had finished, he picked up his telephone with one hand, and with the other slid out a shelf on his desk to which a list of telephone numbers was affixed under celluloid. He found what he wanted and punched it in.

“First District, Corporal Foley.”

“Mickey O’Hara, Jerry. Did they pick up the Roy Rogers doers yet?”

“Not yet, Mick. They’re still looking.”

“You’re sure, Jerry?”

“Jesus, yeah, I’m sure. I thought they would have something by now. Every cop in Philadelphia’s down here looking for them.”

"Thank you, Jerry.”

He dropped the telephone into its cradle, looked at the gray monitor before him, a cursor blinking on it, and then tapped the balls of his fingers together as he searched for the lead sentence of what he was about to write. He wanted to get it right.

After a moment, it came to him.

CESlug-Massive Manhunt Begins for Roy Rogers Murderers

By Michael J. O’Hara, Bulletin Staff Writer,Photos by Michael J. O’Hara

Philadelphia April 27-Philadelphia police began a massive manhunt just before midnight, confident they would quickly apprehend the two young black men eyewitnesses say first shot to death Mrs. Maria Manuela Fernandez, kitchen supervisor of the Roy Rogers restaurant at South Broad and Snyder Streets, during a robbery and then shot Police Officer Kenneth J. Charlton, of the First District, who responded to the call, killing him instantly. Amal al Zaid, a maintenance worker at the restaurant, told this reporter Mrs. Fernandez, a single mother of three, was shot without warning by one of the robbers as she was on the telephone reporting the robbery to police authorities, and then ambushed Officer Charlton as he entered the restaurant a few minutes later.

Five minutes and 250 words later, Mickey gave the computer screen a quick read, cursed the goddamn sci-fi movie typeface, then inserted a missing comma and pushed the Send key.

Then he turned to the printer, picked the photographs from the tray, put the ones intended for the cops into a large manila envelope, and, carrying the ones from which he had deleted the blood, walked out of his office and across the city room to the city editor.

“These the pics?” the city editor asked.

“I thought you should see them in color,” Mickey said. “I appended them to my piece, but they’ll look black-and-white on the El Cheapo network.”

The city editor examined the photographs.

“No blood,” he said. It was both a question and a statement.

“You noticed, did you, you perceptible sonofabitch?”

“Nice work, Mickey,” the city editor said.

Mickey O’Hara held up his hands in a what are you going to do? gesture, then walked out of the city room.

He got in his car, which was parked in a slot marked with a RESERVED FOR MR. O’HARA sign, and drove to the Roundhouse, where he parked in a slot marked with a RESERVED FOR INSPECTORS sign, and then entered the building.

The uniforms behind the plate-glass window pushed the solenoid that opened the door to the lobby.

One of the uniforms, a corporal, called: “I thought you’d be out at the Roy Rogers, Mickey.”

Mickey waved the manila envelope in his hand.

“Been there, done that,” he said, and walked across the lobby to the elevator. He rode it to the first floor, and then walked down the corridor until he came to a door marked HOMICIDE.

He pushed it open, then made his way past a locked barrier by putting his hand behind it and pushing the hidden solenoid switch.

There was only one detective in the room, a younger man who looked like he needed both a new razor and a month’s good meals.

“Got you minding the store, have they, Fenson?”

“What can I do for you, O’Hara?” the detective asked.

“Washington’s the lieutenant?”

“This week at least,” Fenson said.

Lieutenant Jason Washington had taken the examination for promotion to captain. It was universally expected that he would pass.

“I hear the results of the sergeant’s exam will be out tomorrow,” he said. “The lieutenant’s and captain’s should be right after that.”

“Can you imagine him in a uniform, addressing some uniform roll call in a district?” Fenson asked.

“No, I can’t,” O’Hara admitted. “Is Washington here?”

“He’s out at the Roy Rogers scene. What can I do for you?”

“It’s a question of what I can do for you,” O’Hara said. “Can you get Washington on the horn and tell him I’ve got a picture of the doers? A lousy picture, I admit, but a picture. ”

He laid it on the detective’s desk.

“You’re sure this is them? And you’re right, it’s a lousy picture.”

“I’m sure,” O’Hara said. “I took it.”

“Washington called a couple of minutes ago and said he was coming in,” the detective said.

Mickey O’Hara used the gentlemen’s rest facility, then sipped on a paper cup of tepid coffee.

Eight minutes after that, an enormous-six feet three, 225 pounds-superbly tailored, very black man came into Homicide. Known behind his back as “The Black Buddha,” Lieutenant Jason Washington regarded himself-and was generally regarded by others-as the best homicide detective in Philadelphia, and possibly the best homicide detective between Bangor, Maine, and Key West, Florida.

“Michael, my friend, how are you?” he greeted O’Hara with obvious sincerity, plus a warm smile and a friendly pat on the shoulder.

“Hey, Jason,” O’Hara said. “I have a lousy picture of the doers.”

He pointed to the photograph lying on the detective’s desk. Washington picked it up, examined it carefully, then looked at O’Hara.

“I concur in your judgment of the quality,” he said. “And the source, Mickey?”

“I went in on the robbery-in-progress call,” O’Hara said. “When I got there, these two were leaving. I took that picture. ”

“And you believe these were the doers?”

“Yeah, that’s them,” O’Hara said. “They match the description I got from one of the employees.”

“The camera zeroed in on the light in the doorway,” Washington said. “Pity.”

“Its twelve hundred dots to the inch. Maybe the lab’ll be able to salvage more than I could,” Mickey said.

“Detective Fenson,” Washington said. “Didn’t you think, considering Mr. O’Hara’s reputation as one of the more skilled photographers of the dark side of our fair city, that it behooved you to get this photograph to the lab as quickly as possible?”

“That’s a pretty bad picture, Lieutenant.”

“But a picture nevertheless, Detective Fenson,” the Black Buddha said softly. “I constantly try to make the point that no stone should ever be left unturned.”

Fenson picked up the picture and walked out of the room.

“I am grateful for the photograph, Mickey,” Washington said. “Even if others may not be. I have a feeling that this case isn’t going to be as easy to close as everyone else seems to feel it will be.”

“Why’s that?”

“Intuition,” Washington said. “Nothing concrete.”

“Your intuition is… what? Legendary?”

“That has been said,” Washington said, smiling, then added, “I just have the feeling, Mick. I really hope I’m wrong.”

“I got a couple of shots of the bodies, too,” O’Hara said, and handed him the manila envelope.

Washington looked at them, then raised his eyes to O’Hara.

“I presume that these will shortly appear in the Bulletin?”

“I cleaned them up some,” O’Hara said. “But yeah, they will.”

Washington took O’Hara’s meaning.

“Thank you, Mickey.”

O’Hara gave a deprecating shrug.

“Buy you a cup of decent coffee, Jason?”

“Cafe Royal? In the Four Seasons?”

“Why not? The Bulletin’s paying.”

“Then I accept your kind offer,” Washington said.

TWO

Office of the Deputy Commissioner (Patrol) Police Administration Building Eighth amp; Race Streets, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Thursday, 7:45 A.M.

When Deputy Commissioner (Patrol) Dennis V. Coughlin, a tall, heavyset, ruddy-faced man who still had all of his curly silver hair and teeth at age fifty-nine, walked into his office on the third floor of the Police Administration Building, he saw that there were three documents on his desk demanding his immediate attention.

They were in the center of his leather-bound desk blotter, held in place by a heavy china coffee mug bearing the logotype of the Emerald Society, a fraternal organization of police officers of Irish heritage.

Denny Coughlin had joined “The Emerald” thirty-seven years before, right after graduation from the Police Academy and coming on the job, and had twice served as its president.

Coughlin peeled off the double-breasted jacket of his well-tailored dark blue suit as he walked toward his closet, exposing a Smith amp; Wesson snub-nosed. 38 Special revolver worn, butt forward, on his right side.

Except for those rare times over the years when he wore a uniform, Denny Coughlin had slipped that same pistol’s holster onto his belt every morning for thirty-three years, since the day he had reported on the job as a rookie detective.

He hung his jacket carefully on a hanger in his closet, closed the door, and turned to his desk.

Captain Francis Xavier Hollaran, an equally large Irishman who at forty-nine still had all of his teeth but not very much left from what had once been a luxurious mop of red hair, entered the room carrying a stainless-steel thermos of coffee.

“I went by Homicide,” he greeted the commissioner. “Nothing that’s not in there.”

Hollaran indicated with a nod of his head the documents on the green blotter on Coughlin’s desk.

“It’s only nine hours,” Coughlin replied. “They’ll get something soon.” He paused, then added, “Jesus Christ, won’t they ever learn?”

“Wolf, wolf, boss,” Frank Hollaran said. “You answer so many calls like that that are false alarms, you get careless.”

“And dead,” Coughlin said, more than a little bitterly.

Two of the documents on the green blotter under the Emerald Society mug detailed the events surrounding the death on duty of Officer Kenneth J. Charlton of the First District. (In Philadelphia, “districts” are what are called “precincts” in many other major police departments.)

One was an “Activities Sheet,” which listed every move detectives of the Homicide Bureau had made in the case, including a listing of every interview conducted. The Activities Sheet was a “discoverable document,” which meant it would have to be made available to the defense counsel of anyone brought to trial in the case. Attached to it was a teletype message known as a “white paper,” which was a less formal, less precise report. As an unofficial, internal memorandum, the white paper was not “discoverable.” The two documents together presented the details of the case as it had so far developed.

According to them, Officer Charlton had, at 11:26 the previous evening, responded to a radio report of a robbery in progress at the Roy Rogers restaurant at South Broad and Snyder Streets in South Philadelphia. That was a fact and was listed on the Activities Sheet. It was also a fact that Officer Charlton had not waited for backup to arrive before going into the restaurant.

The white paper theorized that Officer Charlton had been close to the scene when the call came, and had probably decided that he would have backup within a minute or two, but that waiting for it before entering the restaurant would give the robbers a chance to escape. It was further theorized that the doers had probably seen his patrol car coming. Charlton had been on the job seventeen years, and if he had used his siren and flashing lights at all, he was experienced enough to have turned them off before getting close to the scene. One of the doers had then ducked behind the cashier’s counter, waited until Officer Charlton started to come behind the register, then grabbed him and held him while the other doer had shoved a pistol under Charlton’s body armor and fired and shot him in the spine.

After the doer who had grabbed Charlton had paused long enough to fire two shots at Charlton’s body, both doers had then fled from the restaurant. An autopsy might be able to determine if the first shot had killed Charlton, or whether he had still been alive when the second doer had shot him twice again.

It was splitting legal hairs.

Under Paragraph 250l(a) of the Criminal Code of Pennsylvania, Criminal Homicide is defined as the act of intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently causing the death of another human being.

Paragraph 2502(b) of the Criminal Code of Pennsylvania further defines Criminal Homicide to be Murder of the Second Degree when the offense is committed by someone engaged as the principal, or an accomplice, in the perpetration of a felony. Armed robbery is a felony.

So if it was determined that Officer Charlton died immediately as a result of being shot by Doer Number One at the cash register, Doer Number Two was guilty of the crime of Murder in the Second Degree because the act occurred while he was an accomplice in the commission of a felony.

If Officer Charlton was still alive when Doer Number Two shot him twice again, killing him, then Doer Number Two was guilty of Murder in the Second Degree because he was the principal, and Doer Number One was guilty as the accomplice.

The Activities Sheet reported that by the time other police arrived at the scene, both Doer Number One and Doer Number Two had disappeared into the night and that a very poor-quality photograph had been taken of them as they left the scene by a citizen, and turned over to the Homicide Bureau.

Both Commissioner Coughlin and Captain Hollaran were familiar with all the details in the report on Coughlin’s desk. They had been at the Roy Rogers before Officer Charlton’s body had been taken away by the coroner.

There was a standing operating procedure that Commissioner Coughlin-who exercised responsibility for all the patrol functions of the department-would be immediately notified in a number of circumstances, whatever the hour. Those circumstances included the death of a police officer on duty.

There was an unofficial standing operating procedure understood and invariably applied by the police dispatchers. Whenever a call came in asking to be connected with Deputy Commissioner Coughlin so that he could be notified of the death of a police officer on duty-or something of almost as serious a nature-Captain F. X. Hollaran was notified first.

After he was notified of such an incident, Hollaran would wait a minute or two-often using the time to put on his clothing and slip his Smith amp; Wesson snub-nose into its holster-and then call Coughlin’s private and unlisted number to learn from Coughlin whether he wanted to be picked up, or whether he would go to the scene himself, or whether there was something else Coughlin wanted him to do.

The procedure went back many years, to when Captain Denny Coughlin had been given command of the Homicide Bureau and Homicide detective Frank Hollaran had become- without either of them planning it-Coughlin’s right-hand man.

As Coughlin had risen through the hierarchy, Hollaran had risen with him, with time out for service as a uniform sergeant in the Fifth District, as a lieutenant with Northeast Detectives, and as district commander of the Ninth District.

Last night, when Hollaran had called Coughlin, Coughlin had said, “You better pick me up, Frank. It’s going to be a long night.”

It had turned out to be a long night. The commissioner himself, Ralph J. Mariani, had shown up at the Roy Rogers minutes after Coughlin and Hollaran. He had immediately put Hollaran to work organizing the notification party. The mayor, who was out of town, was not available, so Mariani would be the bearer of the bad news.

When finally the party was assembled, it consisted of Mariani, Coughlin, the police department chaplain, the pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church attended by the Charlton family, the First District captain, and Officer Charlton’s lieutenant and sergeant.

Captain Leif Schmidt, the First District commander, telephoned Mrs. Charlton and told her that he had had a report her husband had been injured and taken to Methodist Hospital, and that he had dispatched a car to pick her up and take her there.

Sergeant Stanley Davis, Officer Charlton’s sergeant, accompanied by police officer Marianna Calley, went to the Charlton home and suggested to Mrs. Charlton that it might be a good idea if Officer Calley, who knew the kids, stayed with them while she went to the hospital.

The notification protocol had evolved through painful experience over the years. It was better to tell the wife at the hospital that she was now a widow, rather than at her home. There were several reasons, high among them being that it kept the goddamn ghouls from the TV stations from shoving a camera in the widow’s face to demand to know how she felt about her husband getting killed.

It also allowed the notification party to form at the hospital before the widow got there. The mayor would normally be there, and the police commissioner, and other senior white shirts, and it was better for them to hurry to a known location than descend one at a time at the officer’s home, which sometimes might not have space for them all, and would almost certainly be surrounded by the goddamn ghouls of the Fourth Estate, all of whom had police scanner radios, and would know where to go.

Telling the widow at the hospital hadn’t made the notification any easier, but it was the best way anyone could think of to do it.

The third document on Deputy Commissioner Coughlin’s desk, which had been delivered to his office shortly before five the previous afternoon-just after Coughlin had left for the day-was in a sealed eight-by-ten manila envelope, bearing the return address “Deputy Commissioner (Personnel) ” and addressed “Personal Attention Comm. Coughlin ONLY.”

Coughlin tried and failed to get his fingernail under the flap, and finally took a small penknife from his desk drawer and slit it open.

It contained a quarter-inch-thick sheaf of stapled-together paper. Coughlin glanced at the first page quickly and then handed it to Hollaran.

“I think this is what they call a dichotomy,” Coughlin said. “The good news is also the bad news.”

Hollaran took the sheaf of xerox paper and looked at the first three pages. It was unofficially but universally known as “The List.”

It listed the results of the most recent examination for promotion to sergeant. Two thousand seven hundred and eighty-two police officers-corporals, detectives, and patrolmen with at least two years’ service-had taken the examination. Passing the examination and actually getting promoted meant a fourteen percent boost in basic pay for patrolmen, and a four percent boost for corporals and detectives.

A substantial percentage of detectives earned so much in overtime pay that taking the examination, passing it, and then actually getting promoted to sergeant-who put in far less overtime-would severely reduce their take-home pay. Many detectives took the sergeant’s examination only relatively late in their careers, as a necessary step to promotion to lieutenant and captain, because retirement pay is based on rank.

The examination had two parts, written and oral. Originally, there had been only a written examination, but there had been protests that the written examination was “culturally biased” and an equally important oral examination had been added to the selection process.

Passing the written portion of the examination was a prerequisite to taking the oral portion of the examination, and a little more than five hundred examinees had failed to pass the written and been eliminated from consideration.

Oral examinations had begun a month after the results of the written were published, and had stretched out over four months.

Six hundred eighty-four patrolmen, corporals, and detectives had passed the oral portion of the sergeant’s examination and were certified to be eligible for promotion.

That was not at all the same thing as saying that all those who were eligible for promotion would be promoted. Only fifty-seven of the men on The List-less than ten percent-would be “immediately”-within a week or a month-promoted. A number of factors, but primarily the city budget, determined how many eligibles would be promoted and when. The eligibles who weren’t promoted “immediately” would have to wait until vacancies occurred-for example, when a sergeant was retired or promoted.

What that translated to mean was that if an individual ranked in the top 100, or maybe 125, on The List, he or she stood a good chance of getting promoted. Anyone ranking below 125 would almost certainly have to forget being promoted until The List “expired”-usually after two years- and a new sergeant’s examination was announced and held.

The first name on The List in Hollaran’s hand-the examinee who had scored highest-was Payne, Matthew M., Payroll No. 231047, Special Operations.

“Why am I not surprised?” Hollaran asked, smiling, and then added, unctuously, “Detective Payne is a splendid young officer, of whom the department generally, and his godfather specifically, can be justifiably proud.”

“Go to hell, Frank,” Detective Payne’s godfather said, and then added, “What he needs is a couple of years-more than a couple: three, four years-in uniform, in a district.”

“You really didn’t think Matt would ask for a district assignment? In uniform?” Hollaran asked, chuckling.

When Police Commissioner Mariani had announced the latest examination for promotion to sergeant, he had added a new twist, which, on the advice of other senior police officials and personnel experts, he believed would be good for morale. The five top-ranking examinees would be permitted to submit their first three choices of post-promotion assignment, one of which would be guaranteed.

Deputy Commissioner Coughlin had at first thought it wasn’t a bad idea. And then he had realized it was almost certainly going to apply to Matthew M. Payne, and that changed things. Matty’s scoring first-which meant that there would be no excuse not to give him the assignment he had chosen- made it even worse.

“I had lunch with him last Thursday,” Coughlin said. “I told him, all things considered, that he stood a pretty good chance of placing high enough on The List…”

“How prescient of you, Commissioner,” Hollaran said, smiling.

“How do you think you’re going to like the last-out shift in Night Command, Captain?”

The last-out-midnight to eight A.M.-shift in Night Command was universally regarded as the department’s version of purgatory for captains. Those who occupied the position usually had seriously annoyed the senior brass in one way or another. There was no relief from the midnight-to-morning hours; the occupant was required to be in uniform at all times while on duty, and he was the only captain in the department to whom the department did not issue an unmarked car.

Some Night Command captains took their lumps and performed their duties without complaint, while waiting until they were replaced by some other captain who had annoyed the hierarchy, but many heard the message and retired or resigned.

“Come on,” Hollaran said, not awed by the threat. “Matt took the exam, grabbed the brass ring, and he’s a good cop and you know it.”

“… and would be given his choice of assignment,” Coughlin went on, ignoring him. “And that he should seriously consider a couple of years in uniform.”

“And?”

“He said his three choices were going to be Special Operations, Highway, and Homicide.”

“Somehow, I can’t see Matt on a motorcycle,” Hollaran said.

“And Highway’s under Special Operations, and he’s been in Special Operations too long as it is,” Coughlin said.

“Which leaves Homicide,” Hollaran said.

“Which, since he knows he can’t stay in Special Operations forever, is really what he wants. He’s got the system figured out.”

“And that surprises you? With you and Peter Wohl as his rabbis?”

Coughlin flashed him an annoyed look.

Hollaran suddenly smiled.

“You’re having obscene thoughts again, Frank?” Coughlin asked. “Or something else amuses you?”

“The Black Buddha,” Hollaran said. “Wait till he finds out the empty sergeant’s slot in Homicide will be filled by brandnew Sergeant Payne.”

Coughlin smiled, despite himself.

“They’re pretty close,” Coughlin said. “Which makes their situation even more uncomfortable for both of them.”

“They’ll be able to handle it,” Hollaran said.

At 9:05, Detective Matthew M. Payne-a six foot tall, lithely muscled, 165-pound twenty-six-year-old with neatly cut, dark, thick hair and dark, intelligent eyes-arrived in the parking lot behind the Roundhouse, at the wheel of an unmarked, new Ford Crown Victoria.

He was neatly dressed in a tweed jacket, gray flannel slacks, a white button-down-collar shirt, and striped necktie, and when he finally found a place to park the car and got out of the car, carrying a leather briefcase, he looked more like a stockbroker, or a young lawyer, than what comes to mind when the phrase “police detective” is heard.

There seemed to be proof of this when he entered the building and had to produce his badge and identification card before the police officer guarding access to the lobby would pass him into it.

But as he was walking toward the elevator, he was recognized by a slight, wiry, starting-to-bald thirty-eight-year-old in a well-worn blue blazer. He was not a very imposing-looking man, but Matt-and others-knew him to be one of the best homicide detectives, in the same league as Jason Washington.

“As I live and breathe, the fashion plate of Special Operations, ” Detective Anthony C. Harris greeted him. “What brings you here from the Arsenal down to where the working cops work?”

“Hey, Tony!” Payne said, smiling as they shook hands. He looked quickly at his watch. “Got time for a cup of coffee?”

Harris shook his head.

“Guess who wants me to take a look at the Roy Rogers scene,” Harris said.

“South Broad? That one? I saw Mickey’s piece in the Bulletin.”

Harris nodded.

“I thought they’d have them by now,” Payne said. “Mickey said ‘massive manhunt.’ ”

“It would help if we knew who we’re looking for,” Harris said. “No one’s picked anybody out of the mug books, and there’s no talk on the streets.”

“I thought there were a bunch of witnesses?”

“There were. I have just been looking at police artist sketches. To go by them, twenty-five different people shot Kenny Charlton.”

Payne picked up on the use of Charlton’s first name. “You knew him?”

“One of the good guys, Matt,” Harris said, just a little bitterly. “With a little bit of luck, right after I get a positive ID on these two bastards, they’ll resist arrest.”

I’m a cop, a detective-hell, I think I’m going to be a sergeant-and I don’t know if he means that or not.

Harris, too, was quick to pick up on things on other people’s faces. The subject was changed.

“So what’s new with you, Matt?” he asked.

“A famous movie star is coming to Philadelphia,” Matt said.

“I thought all movie stars were famous,” Harris said. “Which one?”

“They haven’t told me yet,” Matt said. “I’m on my way to the auditorium for the preliminary meeting with Gerry McGuire of Dignitary Protection. And just for the record, there are also infamous movie stars.”

“Score one for the fashion plate,” Harris said. “Don’t let this go to your head, but the Black Buddha and I miss you, Matt, now that we’re back with the police department…”

Both Jason Washington and Tony Harris, over their bitter objections, had been transferred to the Special Operations Division when it was formed, and only recently-after they had trained other Special Operations detectives to Inspector Peter Wohl’s high standards-had been allowed to return.

“Fuck you, Tony!”

“… and we don’t see much of you. Why don’t you-not today, wait till we get the Charlton doers-come by when you have the time and buy us lunch?”

“Yeah. I will.”

“Give my regards to the movie star,” Harris said, touched Payne’s arm, and walked across the lobby to the exit.

Matt walked across the lobby toward the auditorium.

The Dignitary Protection Unit, as the name suggests, is charged with protecting dignitaries visiting Philadelphia. Philadelphia’s own dignitaries-the mayor, for example, and the district attorney-are protected by police officers, but those officers are not under the Dignitary Protection Unit.

Staffing the unit poses a problem. Sometimes there are several-even a dozen-dignitaries requiring protection, and sometimes only one or two, or none at all.

What has evolved is that only a few men-a lieutenant, two sergeants, and half a dozen detectives-are assigned full time to Dignitary Protection.

When needed, additional detectives-who don’t wear uniforms on duty, and thus already have the necessary civilian clothing-are temporarily reassigned from their divisions, then returned to their regular duties after the visiting dignitary has left town.

Over time, most of the detectives placed on temporary duty with Dignitary Protection had come from the Special Operations Division, as had uniformed officers of the Highway Patrol, which was part of Special Operations. Special Operations had citywide authority, for one thing, which meant that its officers knew more about the back alleys and such of the entire city than did their peers who spent their careers in one district. That was useful to Dignitary Protection.

And the department had yet to hear a complaint from any visiting dignitary that en route from Pennsylvania Station or the airport to his hotel his car had been preceded and trailed by nattily uniformed police officers mounted on shiny motorcycles with sirens screaming and blue lights flashing.

But the Roman Emperor spectacle was really a pleasant byproduct of the fact that Highway Patrol officers were the elite of the department. It was hard to get into Highway, hard to stay there if you didn’t measure up, and while there you could count on being where the action-heaviest criminal activity- was.

The dignitary in his limousine, in other words, was protected by four-or eight, or even twelve-of the best-trained, best-equipped streetwise uniforms in the department.

Consequently, Dignitary Protection had gotten in the habit of requesting temporary personnel from Special Operations first, because the commanding officer of Special Operations almost always gave Dignitary Protection whatever it asked for, without question.

There had been a lot of talk that the smart thing to do would be to simply transfer the unit-if dignitary protection wasn’t a special operation, what was? — to Special Operations.

That hadn’t happened, for a number of reasons never really spelled out, but certainly including the fact that Inspector Peter Wohl, the commanding officer of Special Operations, probably could not have won an election for the most popular white shirt in the department.

For one thing, at thirty-seven, he was the youngest inspector in the department. For another, he already had, in the opinion of many inspectors and chief inspectors, too much authority. And in the course of his career-especially when he had been a staff inspector in Internal Affairs, again the youngest man to hold that rank-he had put a number of dirty cops, some of them high ranking, in the slam.

Almost all police officers of all ranks, although they don’t like to admit it, have ambivalent feelings toward dirty cops, and the cops who catch them and send them to the slam. Dirty cops deserve the slam, and the guys who put them there deserve the gratitude and admiration of every honest police officer.

On the other hand, Jesus Christ, Ol’Harry was a good cop for seventeen years before this happened, and how’s his family going to make out while he’s doing time? And when he gets out, no pension, no nothing. I’m glad he’s not on my conscience.

When Wohl-after having placed second of eleven examinees on the written examination for promotion to inspector- appeared before the senior officers conducting the oral part of the exam, his ability to handle the conflicting emotions that dealing with dirty cops evoked was one of the reasons he got promoted.

So while just about everyone agreed that Dignitary Protection belonged in Special Operations, it didn’t go there. It stayed a separate unit.

There was so much going on between Dignitary Protection and Special Operations, however, that Inspector Wohl had decided there should be one man charged with liaison between the two. He had assigned this duty-in addition to his other duties-to Detective Matthew M. Payne.

It was no secret anywhere in the department that Inspector Wohl was Detective Payne’s rabbi, and there were many who thought that this was the reason Payne was given the assignment. And to a degree, the suspicions had a basis in fact.

The function of a rabbi is to groom a young police officer for greater responsibility-and higher rank-down the line. As he had risen upward in the police department, Inspector Wohl’s rabbi had been Inspector, then Chief Inspector, then Deputy Commissioner Dennis V. Coughlin.

As Commissioner Coughlin had risen upward through the ranks, his rabbi had been Captain, and ultimately the Hon. Jerome H. “Jerry” Carlucci, Mayor of the City of Philadelphia, who had liked to boast that he had held every rank in the police department except policewoman, before answering the people’s call to elective public office.

And His Honor, too, had had a rabbi. His had been-ultimately, before he retired-Chief Inspector Augustus Wohl, whose only son Peter had entered the Police Academy at twenty, two weeks after he had graduated from Temple University.

Wohl did think that learning about Dignitary Protection would do Detective Payne some good-the more a cop knew about the department, the better-but another major reason was efficiency.

Whoever sat in at the meetings at Dignitary Protection would be expected to report to Wohl precisely what had happened, and what would be asked of Special Operations.

Matt Payne not only had the ability to write a report quickly and accurately, but he had almost permanently attached to his right wrist a state-of-the-art laptop computer, on which and through which the final reports of what happened at the Dignitary Protection meeting would be written and transmitted to Inspector Wohl’s desktop computer long before Detective Payne himself could return to Special Operations headquarters in what once had been the U.S. Army’s Frankford Arsenal.

As Payne was about to push open the door to the auditorium, Sergeant Al Nevins, a stocky, barrel-chested forty-five-year — old, trotted across the lobby and caught his arm.

Nevins was one of the two sergeants permanently assigned to Dignitary Protection.

“God loves me,” he said. “You’re early. I was afraid you’d show up on time, and I put out the arm for you, and radio reported they couldn’t find you.” He offered no explanation, instead turned and, raising his voice, called across the lobby, “Lieutenant Payne’s here.”

Lieutenant Gerry McGuire, the commanding officer of Dignitary Protection-a somewhat plump, pleasant-looking forty-five-year-old-walked across the lobby to them. He was-surprising Matt-in uniform.

“I tried to have Al reach out for you, Matt,” McGuire said. “I’m glad you’re here. We’re going to do this, now, in the Ritz-Carlton.”

“Who’s coming to town, sir?” Matt asked.

“Stan Colt,” Lieutenant McGuire said.

“My life is now complete,” Matt said.

Stan Colt was an almost unbelievably handsome and muscular actor who had begun his theatrical career in a rock band, used the fame that had brought him to get a minor part in a police series on television, and then used that to get his first role in a theatrical motion picture, playing a detective. That motion picture had been spectacularly successful, largely, Matt thought, because of the special effects. There had been a half-dozen follow-ons, none of which Matt had seen-the first one had reminded him of the comic books he’d read as a kid; in one scene Stan Colt had fired twenty-two shots without reloading from a seven-shot. 45 Colt, held sideward-but he understood they had all done exceedingly well at the box office.

“Matt,” McGuire said, “be aware that the mayor and the commissioner look upon him as a Philadelphia icon, right up there with Benjamin Franklin.” He looked at his watch and added, “I mean now, we’re due there at nine-thirty.”

He waved Matt ahead of him across the lobby. Sergeant Nevins followed them.

“What’s going on at the Ritz-Carlton?” Matt asked.

“Mr. Colt’s advance party is there,” Lieutenant McGuire replied. “And possibly the archbishop, though more likely Monsignor Schneider. And the commissioner said he might drop by. Colt’s people are calling it a ‘previsit breakfast conference. ’ ”

“What’s going on?”

“West Catholic High School is going to give Mr. Colt his high school diploma,” McGuire said. “Which he apparently didn’t get before he went off to show business and fame. In connection with this, there will be two expensive lunches, two even more expensive dinners, and a star-studded performance featuring Mr. Colt and a number of friends. The proceeds will all go to the West Catholic Building Fund. The archbishop, I understand, is thrilled. And the mayor and the commissioner are thrilled whenever the archbishop is thrilled.”

“I get the picture,” Matt said.

The elevator door opened and Lieutenant McGuire led the way out of the building to the parking lot.

“Where’s your car, Al?” McGuire asked. “Mine’s in the garage again.”

“Mine’s right over there,” Matt said, pointing, and immediately regretted it.

The assignment of unmarked cars in the Philadelphia police department-except in Special Operations-worked on the hand-me-down principle. New cars went to the chief inspectors, who on receipt of their new vehicles handed down their slightly used vehicles to inspectors, who in turn handed down their well-used, if not worn-out, vehicles to captains entitled to unmarked cars, who passed their nearly worn-out vehicles farther down the hierarchy.

Special Operations had a federal grant for “Experimental Policing Techniques,” which, among other things, provided money for automobiles. Special Operations vehicles were not provided out of the department budget, in other words, and the grant was worded so that “unneeded and unexpended funds” were supposed to be returned to the federal government.

The result of that was that not one dollar of “unneeded and unexpended funds” had ever been returned to Washington, and everyone in Special Operations who drove an unmarked car-down to lowly detectives and patrol officers in plainclothes assignments-drove a new vehicle.

When the annual grant money was received, new cars were purchased by Special Operations, and the used Special Operations cars were turned over to the department motor pool for assignment.

From Matt’s perspective, it was a good deal for the department all around. Once a year, the department got thirty-odd cars-most of them in excellent shape-for nothing. And the department did not have to provide-and pay for-thirty-odd unmarked cars to Special Operations.

However, from the perspective of Lieutenant McGuire- and of most other lieutenants and captains, and even more than a few more senior officers-lowly detectives and officers in plainclothes should not be driving new cars when captains and lieutenants were driving cars on the steep slope leading to the crusher.

All Lieutenant McGuire said, however, when he got in the front seat of the car beside Matt, was “I love the smell of a new car.”

They drove up Market Street to City Hall, and then around it, to the Ritz-Carlton, whose main entrance was on the west side of South Broad Street just across from City Hall.

McGuire looked at his watch again and said, “Park in front. I don’t want to be late.”

Matt pulled into space normally reserved for taxis, put a plastic covered POLICE OFFICIAL BUSINESS sign on the dashboard, and then hurried after McGuire and Nevins.

The Stan Colt advance party was in a large suite, the windows of which looked down on the statue of William Penn atop City Hall.

A buffet had been laid out-an impressive one, complete to a man in chef’s whites manning an omelet stove-and there were seven or eight people in the room, including two men in clerical collars. Matt knew the archbishop by sight, and he wasn’t one of the two, so the gray-haired one in the well-tailored suit had to be Monsignor Schneider.

In an adjacent room was a long conference table, on which water and coffee carafes, cups and saucers, and even lined pads and ballpoint pens had been laid out. There were two telephones on the table, and television sets mounted on the walls.

This suite was designed not for luxury-although it’s no dump-but as somewhere the boss can gather the underlings together and inspire them.

Matt walked into the conference room, took a telephone cord from his briefcase, and looked along the walls for a telephone jack. Finding none, he dropped to his knees and got under the table. There were two double telephone jacks, and he plugged the telephone cord into one of them.

As he backed out, he became aware of nylon-sheathed legs.

“Can I help you?” a female voice asked as he got to his feet.

“No, thanks,” he said. “I managed to get it in… ”Jesus Christ! Will you look at this! “… the hole with only a little trouble.”

“Laptop?” the blonde asked.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“To take notes?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She’s probably Stan Colt’s squeeze. Far too beautiful for a common man. Jesus Christ, she’s stunning!

She put out her hand.

“I’m Terry Davis,” she said. “With GAM.”

“Is that one ‘r’ and an ‘i’, or two ‘r’s and a ‘y’?”

“Not that it matters, but two ‘r’s and a ’y.’ ”

“And what’s GAM?”

“Global Artists Management,” she answered, making her surprise that he didn’t know evident in the tone of her voice.

“Of course,” Matt said, “I should have known.”

“If you need anything else, just let me know.”

“Thank you very much.”

“Have you had your breakfast?”

Not quite an hour before, Detective Payne had had two fried eggs, two slices of Taylor ham, two bagels, a glass each of orange juice and milk, and two cups of coffee.

“I could eat a little something, now that you mention it.”

“Well, when you have your laptop up and working, won’t you please have some breakfast?”

“You’re very kind,” Matt said.

She smiled at him and walked back to the room with the buffet, in the process convincing Payne that both sides of her were stunning.

He turned the laptop on, pushed the appropriate buttons, thought a moment about whether he wanted to make this official or not, decided he didn’t, and then typed, very quickly, for he was an accomplished typist, the private screen name for Inspector Wohl, and then his own; he wanted a copy of what he was about to type.

0935 dignitary is stan colt, coming to town to raise money for west catholic high school. So far two $$dinners, two $$lunches, and a $$benefit performance. will know dates locations etc after breakfasting upper floor suite ritz carlton with mcguire, monsignor schneider, terry davis of gam, others. I think I’m in love. 701.

In a moment, the computer told him his mail had been sent. Probably less than a minute later, the computer on the table behind Inspector Peter Wohl’s desk at Special Operations headquarters would give off a ping, and a message would appear on his monitor telling him he had an e-mail message from 701, which was Detective Payne’s badge number. A similar action would take place on Detective Payne’s desktop, and when he got back to the office, he would copy the message into his desktop.

Leaving the computer on, Payne went into the room with the buffet. Lieutenant McGuire, seated at a table with Monsignor Schneider and the other priest, waved him over.

“Yes, sir?”

“Payne, do you know the monsignor?”

“No, sir.”

“Monsignor, this is Detective Payne, of Special Operations, which will be providing most of the manpower for Mr. Colt’s security while he’s here.”

“I’m very pleased to meet you,” the monsignor said, smiling and standing up to offer his hand. “Your boss and I are old friends.”

Was that incidental information, to put me at ease, or are you telling me that if I displease you in any way, you’ll go right to Wohl?

“Detective Payne, this is Father Venno, of my office,” the monsignor went on, “who’ll be my liaison, representing the archdiocese.”

“How do you do, Father?” Matt said politely, putting out his hand and looking over Venno’s shoulder, finding Terry Davis at a table with two empty chairs, and wondering if he could get away with joining her.

“Why don’t you get a plate-the omelets are wonderful- and join us?” Monsignor Schneider said.

Shit!

“Thank you very much, sir,” Payne said.

Although he didn’t have nearly as much appetite as he’d had when contemplating taking breakfast with Miss Davis, the omelets offered did have a certain appeal, and Detective Payne returned to the table with a western omelet with everything, an English muffin, and a large glass of orange juice.

“That was an unfortunate business on South Broad Street last night, wasn’t it?” Monsignor Schneider said. “At the Gene Autry?”

“The Roy Rogers, Monsignor,” Father Venno corrected him.

“Wasn’t it?” the monsignor repeated, directing the question to Matt Payne, his face making it clear he didn’t like to be corrected.

“Yes, sir, it was,” Matt said.

“Have there been any developments in the case?”

“They’re working on it, sir,” Matt said. “I think they’ll wrap it up pretty quickly.”

“Greater love…,” the monsignor said, somewhat piously.

“Officer Charlton was a good man,” Lieutenant McGuire said. “A very sad situation.”

Over Father Venno’s shoulder, Matt saw that the two empty chairs at Terry Davis’s table were now occupied by Sergeant Al Nevins and another man-presumably from GAM-and that everyone was smiling at one another.

“I’ve just placed you,” Father Venno said, a tone of satisfaction in his voice.

“Excuse me?” Matt said.

“You were involved in that… unfortunate incident… in Doylestown a couple of months ago, weren’t you?”

“Unfortunate incident?” And it was six months ago, not “a couple,” and I was just starting to think I’d be able to start really forgetting it. Thanks a lot, Father!

“What unfortunate incident was that?” Monsignor Schneider asked.

“At the Crossroads Diner, Monsignor,” Father Venno said. “The FBI and Detective Payne were attempting an arrest-”

“Of a terrorist,” the monsignor interrupted, remembering. “A terrorist armed with a machine gun. Several people lost their lives.” He looked at Payne. “You were involved in that, were you?”

“Yes, sir, I was,” Matt said.

“As I recall,” the monsignor said, “three people died, and another young woman was shot.”

“I believe there were just two deaths, Monsignor,” Lieutenant McGuire said. “The terrorist, a man named Chenowith, and a civilian, a young woman who was cooperating with the FBI. What was her name, Matt?”

“Susan Reynolds,” Matt answered.

And I loved her, and she loved me, but we didn’t make it to that vine-covered cottage by the side of the road because that lunatic Chenowith let fly with his automatic carbine.

He had a sudden painfully clear mental image of Susan on her back in the parking lot behind the Crossroads Diner, her mouth and her sightless eyes open, her blond hair in a spreading pool of blood. The carbine bullet had made a small, neat hole just below her left eye, and a much nastier hole at the back of her head as it exited.

He laid his fork down, put his napkin on the table, and stood up.

“Will you excuse me, please?” he said, and looked around the room in search of a bathroom.

As he walked across the room, he heard Monsignor Schneider ask, “Detective Payne has experience working with the FBI, does he?” and heard Lieutenant McGuire’s answer.

“Yes, he does, Monsignor.”

Then he was in the bathroom, hurriedly fastening the lock, and hoping that he could splash cold water on his face quickly enough to force back the bile and nausea he felt rising.

Ninety seconds later, he was leaning with his back against the bathroom wall, wiping his face with a towel, exhaling audibly. He had managed to keep from throwing up, but there had been a cold sweat, and he could feel the clammy touch of his undershirt on his skin.

You’re going to have to stop this shit, Matthew. That was a long time ago, Susan is not going to come back, and you’re going to have to really put all of that out of your mind, or they’ll put you in a rubber room.

Finally, he hung the towel back on its rack, and then, after purposefully taking several slow, deep breaths, unlatched the door and went out of the bathroom. Everyone was filing into the conference room-how the hell long was I in the john? — and he joined the line at the end, taking his seat at the table where he had left the laptop.

He saw a dark blue plastic folder lying beside his laptop. There was a neatly printed label on its cover: Stan Colt’s Visit to Philadelphia. Matt looked around the table and saw that everyone had been provided with a folder, and that there was another laptop on the table, in front of a man about his age wearing a gray business suit.

Matt’s seat turned out to be beside Monsignor Schneider.

“Are you all right, son? You look a little pale.”

“A little indigestion, sir. I’m afraid I gulped the omelet.”

“If I may have your attention,” a natty, intense-looking man in a dark suit said, waited until everyone was looking at him, and then went on. “I think it might be a good idea if we all knew each other. I’ll start with me. My name is Rogers Kennedy, and I’m a senior vice president of Global Artists Management, heading up GAM’s New York office. Let me say that I’m delighted to be here, and it’s my intention to see that Mr. Colt’s activities here raise just as much money as possible for West Catholic High School, which is really dear to Mr. Colt’s heart, and to see that that’s done in such a manner that Mr. Colt will look back on the experience fondly. To make sure that any bumps in the road, so to speak, are smoothed out beforehand, or that the best possible detour is set up.

“This lovely young lady, who is living proof that there is such a thing as the opposite of the dumb blonde of fame and legend, is Miss Terry Davis, of GAM’s West Coast Division. Vice President Davis has been charged with the hands-on management of Mr. Colt’s visit…”

1005 head gam man is rogers kennedy senior vp from nyc terry davis gam vp from la is hands-on boss

“… and this is Larry Robards,” Rogers Kennedy went on, indicating the young man with the other laptop, “my administrative executive, who takes things down so we don’t forget anything.”

Mr. Robards smiled around the table.

“Administrative executive”? What the hell is that? larry robards is kennedy’s ‘administrative executive’ read male secretary

“Monsignor?” Kennedy asked.

“I’m Monsignor Schneider,” Schneider said, smiling but not standing up. “The archbishop has asked me to handle Stanley’s visit and the fund-raising events…”

Stanley? Is that Stan Colt’s real name-Stanley?

“… and this is Father Venno, who is under my orders to make himself available to Stanley from the moment he gets off the plane until he gets back on,” Monsignor Schneider said.

Venno smiled around the table. mons. schneider representing archbishop father venno his surrogate

… available to colt around the clock while he’s here.

“I’m Lieutenant McGuire,” McGuire said, getting to his feet. “I command the Dignitary Protection Unit. This is Sergeant Al Nevins, who will handle the paperwork. Both of us-all of the Philadelphia police department-are determined to make Stan Colt’s time in Philadelphia, to use your phrase, Mr. Kennedy, as bump-free as possible. Let me assure you that you will have our complete cooperation.”

He sat down. lieut gerry mcguire for dignitary protection

“Thank you, Captain, that’s good to hear,” Kennedy said, and added: “Mr. Colt will have his own security, of course. Wachenhut, I believe, Terry?”

“Wachenhut Security Services, right,” Terry Davis confirmed.

“I’ll have them liaise with you, Lieutenant McGuire, as soon as possible.”

“Yes, sir,” McGuire said. wachenhut rent-a-cops

Kennedy looked around the table, and smiled at Matt.

“And this gentleman?”

“My name is Payne, Mr. Kennedy. I’m with Special Operations. ”

“I don’t think I quite understand.”

“We’re going to provide the detectives, and Highway Patrol officers-and just about whatever else Lieutenant McGuire asks for. I’m here to get a preliminary idea of what that might be.”

“You’re with the police department?” Kennedy sounded surprised.

“Yes, sir.”

“Detective Payne, Mr. Kennedy,” Monsignor Schneider said, “if I may put it this way, is one of the finest of Philadelphia’s finest.. ”

Jesus, where did that come from?

“Detective Payne?” Terry Davis asked in surprise.

“… whose real-life exploits could really serve as the basis for one of Stanley’s films,” the monsignor went on. “I’m delighted the police department has assigned him to this project.”

Hey, I’m not assigned to this “project.”

“No offense intended, certainly, Detective,” Kennedy said. “We’re delighted to have you.”

I think I have just been had. And I really don’t want to baby-sit a movie actor.

Matt looked at Lieutenant Gerry McGuire, who, smiling at Matt’s discomfort, sarcastically gave him a hidden-behind-his — hand thumbs-up gesture. Matt returned it with a hidden-behind — his-hand gesture of his own, the index finger of his balled fist held upright. Lieutenant McGuire smiled even more broadly.

“If you’ll open the folder before you,” Rogers Kennedy went on, “you’ll find the tentative schedule we have worked out for Mr. Colt’s visit, and I think it would be a good idea to go over it now, to see if there are any potential bumps in Stan’s road we may have missed.”

Matt opened the folder.

Wohl’s going to want at least three copies of this. I can take it to the office and xerox it. Better yet, scan it into the computer, so when the inevitable changes are made to it, they won’t have to be written on it, and the whole thing rexeroxed. Or I can type it into the laptop now, and skip the scanning.

He immediately began to type, and was finished long before Rogers Kennedy, Monsignor Schneider, and Lieutenant McGuire had worked their way through it, item by item. When he looked up, he saw that Terry Davis was looking at him. When he smiled at her, she looked away.

Think about this, Matthew: If your life was really over when that sonofabitch Chenowith killed Susan, would you now be wondering what Vice President Davis looks like in her birthday suit? Or considering the possibilities of getting her into that condition?

Peter Wohl said, Dad said, Amy said, just about everybody — including the second-rate shrink with the bad breath they made me go see-told me that it would take time, but I would get over Susan.

If that is the case-and Jesus, that would be great-then why, when Father Venno “placed” me in “that unfortunate incident,” was I instantly back in that goddamned Crossroads Diner parking lot, with Susan’s blood sticky on my hands? Followed, as usual, with the cold-sweat-and-nausea business?

He looked across the table at Terry Davis again.

As if sensing his eyes on her, she looked at him.

Are you going to be the salvation of M. M. Payne, you stunning, long-legged blonde goddess? Or have I already slipped over the border into LaLa Land?

He winked at her.

She looked away, shaking her head, but he could see she was smiling.

He walked up to her when the meeting was over.

“Well, I guess we’ll be seeing more of one another,” she said. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

“You mean in connection with this?” he asked.

“Yes, of course.”

“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he said. “The only reason I was here was because my boss had other things to do.”

“And didn’t want to come in the first place?”

“You said that, not me,” Matt said. “But there is something you can do for me.”

“Name it.”

“Have dinner with me.”

“No.”

“That’s getting right to the point, isn’t it?” he said. “You didn’t leave yourself any wriggle room.”

“I’m on a red-eye back to the Coast at twelve-thirty,” she said. “And between now and then I’m going to go make the appropriate noises over a girlfriend from college’s toddler I’ve never seen.”

“Dare I hope that changes your response from ‘hell, no’ to ‘maybe some other time’?”

“We’ll be working together. I’m sure we’ll take some meals together.”

“Matt,” Lieutenant Gerry McGuire called, “I’ve got to get back to work.”

He looked at her and shrugged, then walked out of the suite.

THREE

Matt Payne dropped Lieutenant McGuire and Sergeant Nevins at the Roundhouse, and then-after thinking it over for a moment at the parking lot exit-headed back toward Center City rather than toward the Delaware River and Interstate 95, which would have taken him to Special Operations headquarters.

Inspector Wohl would expect him to come to the Arsenal-still called that, although the U.S. Army was long gone-directly from the meeting with Dignitary Protection, but that couldn’t be helped. He needed a quick shower and a change of linen. The cold sweat he had experienced had been a bad one, and had produced an offensive smell. Sometimes, the cold sweats just left him clammily uncomfortable, but sometimes they were accompanied by an unpleasant odor, which he thought was caused by something he had eaten. He hoped that was the reason; he didn’t want to think of other unpleasant possibilities.

He went over to Spruce Street, and west on it past Broad Street to Nineteenth, where he turned right and then right and right again onto Manning. Manning was more of an alley than a street, but it gave access to the parking garage beneath the brownstone mansion on Rittenhouse Square that housed the Delaware Valley Cancer Society.

The 150-year-old building had been converted several years before to office space, which, as the owner of the building had frequently commented, had proven twice as expensive as tearing the building down and starting from scratch would have been.

Inside, the building-with the exception of a tiny apartment in the garret-was now modern office space, with all the amenities, including an elevator and parking space for Cancer Society executives in the basement. Outside, the building preserved the dignity of Rittenhouse Square, thought by many to be the most attractive of Philadelphia’s squares.

When the owner-the building had been in his family since it was built-had authorized the expense of converting the garret, not suitable for use as offices, he thought the tiny rooms could probably be rented to an elderly couple, perhaps, or a widow or widower, someone of limited means who worked downtown, perhaps in the Franklin Institute or the Free Public Library, and who would be willing to put up with the inconvenience of access and the slanting walls and limited space because it was convenient, cheap, and was protected around-the-clock by the Wachenhut Security Service.

It was instead occupied by a single bachelor, the owner’s son, Matthew M. Payne, because the City of Philadelphia requires that its employees live within the city limits, and the Payne residence in Wallingford, a suburb, did not qualify.

The owner of the building had decreed that two parking spaces in the underground garage be reserved for him. Both his wife and his daughter, he thought, would appreciate having their own parking spaces in downtown Philadelphia, and it was, after all, his building.

Matt Payne pulled the unmarked Crown Victoria into one of the two reserved parking spots. The second reserved parking spot held a silver Porsche 911 Carrera, which had been his graduation present when he had finished his undergraduate work at the University of Pennsylvania.

He carefully locked the car, then trotted to the elevator, which was standing with its door open. He pressed 3, the door closed, and the elevator started to move. Once he was past the ground floor, he pulled his necktie loose and began to open his shirt. The buttons were open nearly to his belt when the door opened, and he started to step out onto what he expected to be the third floor.

It was instead the second. Two female employees of the Delaware County Cancer Society had summoned the elevator to take them to the third floor, which was occupied by the various machines necessary to keep track of contributors, and the technicians-all of whom were male-and was seldom visited by anyone not connected with the machines.

The ladies recoiled at the unexpected sight of a partially dressed male-obviously in the act of undressing even further, and from whose shoulder was slung a rather large pistol-coming out of the elevator at them.

“Sorry,” Matt Payne said, gathering his shirt together with both hands, and indicating with a nod of his head that they were welcome to join him in the elevator.

The ladies smiled somewhat weakly and indicated they would just as soon wait for the next elevator, thank you just the same.

He pushed 3 again, and the elevator rose one more floor.

When the door opened, there was no one in sight. Matt crossed the small foyer quickly, pushed the keys on a combination lock on a door, shoved it open, and went up the stairs to his apartment two at a time.

Not quite ninety seconds later, he was in his shower-a small stall shower; there wasn’t room for a bathtub-when his cell phone went off.

He stuck his head and one arm out from behind the shower curtain.

“Payne.”

There was no direct response to that. Instead, Matt heard a familiar voice say, somewhat triumphantly, “Got him, Inspector!”

A mental picture of police officer Paul T. O’Mara came to Payne’s mind. Officer O’Mara, a very neat, very wholesome-looking young officer in an immaculate, well-fitting uniform, was sitting at his desk in the outer office of the commanding officer of Special Operations. Officer O’Mara was Inspector Wohl’s administrative assistant.

He had assumed that duty when the incumbent-Officer M. M. Payne-had been promoted to detective.

Officer O’Mara, like Inspector Wohl, was from a police family. His father was a captain, who commanded the Twenty-fifth District. His brother was a sergeant in Civil Affairs. His grandfather, like Peter Wohl’s father and grandfather, had retired from the Philadelphia police department.

More important, his father was a friend of both Deputy Commissioner Dennis V. Coughlin and Chief Inspector (Retired) Augustus Wohl. When Officer O’Mara, who had five years on the job in the Traffic Division, had failed, for the second time, to pass the examination for corporal, both Commissioner Coughlin and Chief Wohl had had a private word with Inspector Wohl.

They had pointed out to him that just because someone has a little trouble with promotion examinations doesn’t mean he’s not a good cop, with potential. It just means that he has trouble passing examinations.

Not like you, Peter, or, for that matter, Matt, the inference had been. You’re not really all that smart; you’re just good at taking examinations.

One or the other or both of them had suggested that what Officer O’Mara needed was a little broader experience than he was getting in the Traffic Division, such as he might get if it could be arranged to have Personnel, with your approval, of course, assign him to Special Operations as your administrative assistant, now that Matty got himself promoted, and the job’s open.

Officer O’Mara’s performance as Wohl’s administrative assistant had been satisfactory. He was immensely loyal, hard-working, and reliable. The trouble with Officer O’Mara, as Detective Jesus Martinez had often pointed out, was that he had been at the end of the line when brains were passed out, and an original thought and a cold drink of water would probably kill him.

Inspector Wohl came on the line a moment later.

“When’s the meeting going to be over?” he asked without any preliminaries.

“It’s over, sir.”

“You’re en route here?”

“Actually, sir, I’m in the shower.”

“You had planned to come to work today?”

“Yes, sir. I will be there directly.”

The line went dead.

Shit! Another three minutes, and when he asked, “You’re en route here?” I could have said, “Yes, sir.”

I wonder what’s going on?

Why did he put the arm out for me?

Twenty minutes later-after having twice en route responded to radio requests for his location-Detective Payne entered the walled collection of aging red-brick buildings once known as the U.S. Army Frankford Arsenal and now somewhat hopefully dubbed the “Arsenal Business Center” by the City of Philadelphia.

When business had not rushed to the Arsenal, the city had given its permission for two units of the police department to occupy some of the buildings. One was the Sex Crimes Unit, and the other the far larger Special Operations Division, which previously had been operating out of a building at Castor and Frankford Avenues. Built in 1892, the Frankford Grammar School had rendered the city more than a century of service before being adjudged uninhabitable by the Bureau of Licenses Inspections.

It had then served as Special Operations Division Head-quarters-with Inspector Peter Wohl installed in what had been the principal’s office-until space had “become available” in the Arsenal Business Center. Just as soon as funds became available, the city intended to demolish the old school. Unless, of course, it really died of old age and fell down by itself, thereby saving the city that expenditure.

Matt drove through the collection of old and mostly unused Arsenal buildings until he came to one of the “newer” buildings-the cornerstone was marked 1934-and drove around it, looking for a place to park. There were none. Even the spot reserved for COMMISSIONER was occupied.

He finally parked a block away and then trotted to the Special Operations headquarters building. Inspector Wohl was now housed in the ground-floor office of what had once been the office of the Arsenal’s commanding officer.

He pushed open the door from the corridor to Wohl’s outer office.

Officer O’Mara pushed a lever on his intercom.

“Sir, Detective Payne is here.”

“Send him in.”

Matt knocked politely at the door and waited for permission to enter.

“Come in, please,” Inspector Wohl called.

Matt pushed the door open.

There were five people in the room. Inspector Peter Wohl, sitting behind his desk; Captain Michael J. Sabara, fortyish, a short, barrel-chested Lebanese, who was Wohl’s deputy; Captain David Pekach, the weasel-faced, fair-skinned, small, wiry thirty-seven-year-old commanding officer of the Highway Patrol; and, sitting side by side on Wohl’s couch, two white shirts Matt was really surprised to see in Wohl’s office: Deputy Commissioner (Patrol) Dennis V. Coughlin and his Executive Officer, Captain Francis X. Hollaran.

What the hell is going on?

“I’m delighted, Detective Payne,” Inspector Wohl said, sarcastically, “that you have managed to squeeze time for us into your busy schedule.”

“There’s one bastard I would really like to see shuffling around in shackles,” Captain Hollaran said, handing something to Captain Pekach.

“You’d like to see him in shackles?” Captain Sabara replied. “I’d like to see him fry. I’d strap him in the chair myself.”

Despite his somewhat menacing appearance, Captain Michael Sabara was really a rather gentle man. Matt was surprised at his vehemence.

“Fry”? “I’d strap him in the chair myself”?

Who are they talking about?

“You were saying, Detective Payne?” Inspector Wohl went on.

“Sorry, sir. I had to change my clothes,” Payne said.

“When was the last time you got a postcard, Dave?” Commissioner Coughlin asked.

“I get one every couple of months,” Pekach replied. “The one before this was from Rome. This one’s from someplace in France.”

“Probably from where he lives,” Coughlin said, shaking his head. “The sonofabitch knows the French won’t let us extradite him.”

“Unless it had something to do with Monsignor Schneider, I don’t think I want to hear why you had to change your clothes,” Inspector Wohl said.

“Nothing to do with the monsignor, sir.”

“Good,” Inspector Wohl said. “I presume everything went well at the meeting?”

“Everything went well at the meeting,” Matt said. “I e-mailed you, sir.”

“So you did,” Wohl said. “And I was delighted to hear that you think you’re in love, but wondered why you thought you should notify me officially.”

“You’re in love, are you, Payne?” Captain Pekach asked.

“No, sir, I’m not.”

“Then why did you tell Inspector Wohl you were, and as part of your official duties?” Commissioner Coughlin asked.

“It was a little joke, sir,” Matt said.

Jesus, why the hell did I do that?

And damn it, I sent it to his personal e-mail address, so it wasn’t official.

“You have to watch that sort of thing, Matty,” Commissioner Coughlin said, his tone suggesting great disappointment in Matt’s lack of professionalism.

“Who are you in love with, Payne?” Captain Sabara asked.

“There was a girl at the meeting,” Matt said. “I…”

“The sort of girl you could bring home to dinner with your mother?” Sabara pursued.

“Or to dinner with my Martha?” Captain Pekach asked.

Martha was Mrs. Pekach.

“Sir?”

“More important,” Sabara asked, “what makes you think this female is in love with you?”

I am having my chain pulled. Just for the hell of it? Or is there more to this?

“Actually, sir, I knew she was in love with me from the moment she saw me. I seem to have that effect on women.”

There were smiles, but not so much as a chuckle.

“Let me put it to you this way, Matty,” Commissioner Coughlin said, very seriously. “The one thing a detective-or a newly promoted sergeant-doesn’t need is a reputation as a ladies’ man…”

What did he say-“or a new sergeant”?

“… it tends to piss off the wives of the men they’re working with,” Coughlin finished.

Now there was laughter.

“Congratulations, Matty,” Coughlin said. “You’re number one on the list.”

He stood up, went to Matt, shook his hand, and put his arm around his shoulders.

“I’ll be damned,” Matt said.

“Damned? Probably, almost certainly,” Wohl said. “But for the moment, we’re all proud of you.”

“Yeah, we are, Matt,” Pekach said. “I don’t think even our beloved boss was ever number one on a list.”

“Yeah, he was,” Coughlin corrected him. “Peter was number one on the lieutenant’s list.”

Officer O’Mara appeared at the door with a digital camera, lined them all up, with Matt in the middle, and took four pictures of them.

“There’s a dark side to this,” Pekach said. “Matt, you know Martha’s going to have a party for you.”

“She doesn’t have to do that,” Matt said.

“She will want to,” Pekach said.

“I’ve got to go back to work,” Coughlin said. He looked at Hollaran. “Frank and I would have been out of here long ago if Detective Payne hadn’t found it necessary to take a bath in the middle of the morning.”

“It was a matter of absolute necessity,” Matt said.

“So we’ll leave just as soon as Matty calls his father and mother and lets them have the good news.”

“Sir?” Wohl asked, confused.

“You don’t mind if I borrow him for a couple of hours, do you, Peter?”

“No, sir.”

“I’ll wait for you outside, Matty,” Coughlin said.

“Yes, sir.”

There was a round of handshakes, and in a moment Matt and Wohl were alone in the office.

“Sit down, have a cup of coffee, and call,” Wohl said. “You seem a little shaken.”

Matt said aloud what he was thinking.

“I thought I was going to pass,” he said. “Not number one, but pass. But now that it’s happened… Sergeant Payne?”

“You’ll get used to it, Matt,” Wohl said, poured him a cup of coffee, and pointed to the couch, an order for him to sit down.

“Coughlin will wait,” he said. “Prepare yourself for another ‘what you need is a couple of years in uniform’ speech.”

“Another? You know about the first?”

Wohl nodded. “And for the record, Matt, I think he’s right.”

“I don’t want to be a uniform sergeant,” Matt said.

“You need that experience,” Wohl said. “End of my speech.”

“Thank you,” Matt said, sat down, took out his cellular, and started pushing autodial buttons.

It didn’t take long.

Mrs. Elizabeth Newman, the Payne housekeeper, said:

“I thought you knew, Matt, your mother went to Wilmington overnight.”

Goddamn it, I did know!

“Thanks, Elizabeth. I did know. I forgot.”

On the second call, Mrs. Irene Craig, Executive Secretary to Brewster Cortland Payne, Esq., founding partner of Mawson, Payne, Stockton, McAdoo amp; Lester, arguably Philadelphia’s most prestigious law firm, said, a certain tone of loving exasperation in her voice, “I left two messages on your machine, Matt. Your dad went to Washington on the eight-thirteen this morning, and is going to spend the night with your mother in Wilmington.”

And I got both of them, too, goddamn it!

“I’m sorry to bother you, Mrs. Craig. Forgive me.”

“No, I won’t. But I love you anyway.”

On the third call, a nasal-voiced female somewhat tartly informed him that Dr. Payne would be teaching all day, and could not be reached unless it was an emergency.

“Thank you very much. Tell Dr. Payne, please, that unless we have her check within seventy-two hours, we’re going to have to repossess the television.”

“Amy always teaches all day on Monday,” Inspector Wohl said.

Inspector Wohl knew more about Dr. Payne’s schedule than her brother did. They were close friends, and on-and-off lovers.

Matt looked at him but said nothing.

“Low-ranking police officers should not keep Deputy Commissioners waiting,” Wohl said. “You might want to write that down.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you very much, sir.”

Deputy Commissioner Coughlin was standing on the stairs to the building waiting for him.

“You drive, Matty,” he ordered. “Frank had things to do. You can either drop me at the Roundhouse later, or I’ll catch a ride somehow.”

“Yes, sir. Where are we going?”

“The Roy Rogers at Broad and Snyder,” Coughlin said. “You heard about that?”

“Yes, sir. I ran into Tony Harris at the Roundhouse this morning. Did they get the doers?”

“Not yet,” Coughlin said. “We will, of course. We should have already. I’d like to know why we haven’t.”

And en route, I will get the speech.

I really hate to refuse anything he asks of me.

And he’s right-and Peter made it clear he agrees with him-I probably would learn a hell of a lot I don’t know and should if I went to one of the districts as a uniform sergeant.

But I don’t want to be a uniform sergeant, spending my time driving around a district waiting for something to happen, getting involved in domestic disturbances, petty theft, and all that.

I like being a detective. I like working in civilian clothing.

And I didn’t come up with that ruling that the high-five guys get their choice of assignment. They offered that prize, and I won it, fair and square, and I want it.

That’s what I’ll tell him.

When all else fails, tell the truth.

“What did your mother have to say?” Commissioner Coughlin asked.

“My father went to Washington,” Matt replied. “He’s going to meet Mother in Wilmington, and they’ll spend the night. So I’ll have to wait until they get back to tell them. And I couldn’t get Amy on the phone; she teaches all day on Monday.”

“Is he still pushing you to go to law school?”

Here it comes: “Maybe you should think about it, Matt.”

“With great subtlety and even greater determination.”

“He means well, Matty,” Coughlin said.

“I know.”

“What’s Peter got you working on?” Coughlin asked.

I’m not supposed to tell you. But on the other hand, you’re Deputy Commissioner Coughlin. You have every right in the world to ask.

“A cop-on-the-take question. Captain Cassidy, of the Eighteenth, is driving to his new condominium at Atlantic City in his new GMC Yukon XL. He gave his old one-last year’s- to his daughter, who is married to a sergeant in the Eleventh. They also have a condo at the shore.”

“Peter got it from Internal Affairs?” Coughlin asked.

“Until just now, I thought he got it from you,” Matt said. “Either you or Chief Lowenstein. He said he wanted answers before Internal Affairs got involved.”

Chief Inspector Matthew L. Lowenstein was chief of detectives.

“And have you? Come up with any answers?”

“Not so far.”

“What have you got so far?”

“His major expense is the condo,” Matt said. “The payment on the mortgage-$325,000-is about $2,400 a month. They furnished it from scratch, and the furniture payment is $323 a month. The Yukon-”

“What’s a Yukon?” Coughlin interrupted.

“I’m not really sure. What Cassidy has-and the old one, too, that he gave to his daughter-is the big GMC. Until I started this, I thought they called them ’Suburbans.’ ”

“Okay,” Coughlin said.

“Anyway, he bought the new Yukon-no trade-in-with no money down, on a four-year note. That’s $683 a month. That’s about-”

“Thirty-four hundred a month,” Coughlin interrupted. “Which is a large chunk out of a captain’s pay.”

“His house is paid for,” Matt said. “He lives in Northeast Philly, not far from Chief Wohl.”

“I know.”

“He has two kids in school, one in Archbishop Ryan High School and the other in Temple. I don’t know yet what that costs.”

“It’s not cheap.”

“On the income side, in the last nine months, his mother, who lived with him, died. And so did a brother. An unmarried brother, in Easton. There was some insurance-I’m working on how much-and some property. I’m working on that.”

“Gut feeling?”

“I don’t think he’s on the take,” Matt said. “Not the type.”

“You think you can tell by looking, do you, Matty?”

“The Black Buddha told me that just because you can’t take your gut feeling to court, doesn’t mean you should ignore it,” Matt said.

“You better get out of the habit of calling him that, if you’re going to Homicide.”

“It doesn’t make him mad,” Matt argued. “He told me that Buddha was a very wise man, and ‘God knows, I’m black.’ ”

Coughlin chuckled.

“Have you thought what Lieutenant Washington is going to think if you go to Homicide?”

That’s two “if you’re going to Homicide”s. Come on, Uncle Denny. Get the speech over with.

“Sure,” Matt said.

“Aside from the fact that Captain Patrick Cassidy is an affable Irishman who is good to his wife and daughter, and probably has a dog named Spot, why aren’t you made suspicious by his sudden new affluence?”

“There could be a number of explanations for it.”

“I’m all ears.”

“He cared for his mother for years. She could have left him money. Or the brother. Even if they didn’t, I can hear his wife saying, ‘Okay, that’s over. Your mother’s gone. I want a place at the shore.’ ”

“Even if they can’t afford it?”

“I hope to find out they can,” Matt said. “I was going to go to Easton today to check the brother’s will.”

“Was?”

“Here I am, at your orders,” Matt said.

“We won’t be at the Roy Rogers long,” Coughlin said. “I just wanted a look around after the crime scene people did their business. I thought you might want to have a look, since you may go to Homicide.”

That’s two “if”s and a “may.” Where’s the speech?

“I would. Thank you.”

They rode in silence for a minute or two, and there was no speech, which both surprised and worried Matt.

There has to be a hook in the two “if”s and a “may.”

What’s he done? Had a word with the commissioner, who will call me in and say that while I’m certainly entitled to go to Homicide, “the department has a real problem. They really need a sergeant with your experience in the Special Victims Unit and you’ll certainly understand that the needs of the department are paramount, and I give you my word that you’ll get to Homicide one day.”

If that’s what he’s done, he certainly won’t tell me.

Shit!

“Who were they talking about when I walked in?” Matt asked.

“Who’s who?”

“The ‘bastard’ Frank Hollaran said he’d really like to see in shackles, that Mike Sabara wants to personally strap in the electric chair.”

“Isaac ‘Fort’ Festung. The sonofabitch keeps sending Pekach postcards.”

“Who is he?”

“You really don’t know?” Coughlin asked, his surprise evident in his voice.

“No, I don’t,” Matt confessed. “The name sounds familiar… but no, I really don’t know. What did he do?”

“How old are you, Matty?”

“Twenty-seven.”

“I guess that’s why you never heard of him. When you were seven years old-no, six; she was in the trunk for a year-Fort Festung beat his girlfriend to death, stuffed her body in a trunk, and put the trunk in a closet. When they finally found her, her body was mummified.”

“Jesus! And he sends Dave Pekach postcards from prison?” Matt asked, and then, remembering, added, “I thought Dave said from France.”

“He did,” Coughlin said. “Festung never went to prison. After Dave got a search warrant, found the body, and arrested him, his lawyer, now our beloved Senator Feldman, got him released at his arraignment on forty thousand dollars bail, and he jumped it.”

“He was charged with murder and got out on bail?” Matt asked, incredulously.

“Yeah, that’s just what he did,” Coughlin said, “and he’s been on the run ever since. A couple of months ago, they found him in France.”

“And now he’ll be extradited and tried?”

“He’s already been tried. The only in absentia trial I ever heard about. The jury found him guilty, and Eileen Solomon sentenced him to life without possibility of parole.”

“The D.A.?” Matt asked, surprised.

The Hon. Eileen McNamara Solomon had just been reelected as district attorney of Philadelphia, taking sixty-seven percent of the votes cast.

“Before she was D.A., she was a judge,” Coughlin said. “And no, Matty, it doesn’t look as if he’ll be extradited. He’s got the French government in his pocket. And knows it. And likes to rub it in our faces, especially Dave Pekach’s. That’s what the postcard was all about. He’s still thumbing his nose at the system.”

“I’ll be damned,” Matt said.

“Get the case out and read it. It’s interesting,” Coughlin said, and then, nodding out the windshield, “I wonder if they’re just slow, or they got something.”

Matt followed his glance. The crime scene van was parked on Snyder Street, fifty yards past the Roy Rogers restaurant.

“I think there’s a place to park right in front of the van,” Coughlin said. “You can drop me here.”

“You want me to come in?” Matt asked, as he pulled to the curb.

“That’s the idea,” Coughlin said, as he got out of the car. “If you’re going to Homicide, you might find this educational.”

That’s three “if”s and a “may.”

Matt had to show his badge to the uniform standing outside to get past him into the Roy Rogers, and then was surprised to find Coughlin waiting for him just inside the door.

The restaurant was empty except for a man Matt guessed was the manager, sitting with a cup of coffee at one of the banquettes near the door, and a forensic technician trying to find-or maybe lift-prints from a banquette at the rear of the restaurant, by the kitchen door.

And then the kitchen door opened, and Detective Tony Harris came through it, and saw Coughlin. He walked up to him.

“Commissioner,” he said.

“Tony,” Coughlin said, as they shook hands. Then Coughlin asked, “They found something?”

“Jason didn’t think they found enough,” Harris said. “That’s why he sent them back.”

“The famous Jason Washington’s ‘never leave a stone unturned’ philosophy?”

“Never leave the stones under the stone unturned,” Harris said.

“Can you walk it through for me, Tony? Bright Eyes here just might learn something.”

“Sure,” Harris said. “Two doers. They came through that door. Two young black guys, one of them fat. They-I got this primarily from a guy who works here-took a look around, then the fat one walked to the last booth on the left and sat down, and the other one sat in the first booth-where you are, Matt. My eyewitness, who was mopping the floor by the door, ducked into the kitchen. He looked out, saw the fat guy take a revolver-wrapped in newspaper-from his jacket, and told the kitchen supervisor. She called 911.

“The next thing my eyewitness knew, there was a shot.” Harris pointed to the ceiling above where Matt was standing. “We recovered the bullet. Full jacket. 38. If we can find the gun, we can most likely get a good match. Then the fat doer went into the kitchen….”

“Let’s have a look,” Coughlin said.

“Yes, sir,” Harris said, and led them through the restaurant to the kitchen doors.

“We have a bunch of prints from both sides of the doors,” Harris said. “All the employees had been fingerprinted, so we’re running the ones we lifted against those.”

He pushed the door open.

“My eyewitness was behind the door, with his back against the wall,” Harris said. “He saw the fat doer grab the telephone, listen a moment-presumably long enough to hear she was talking to Police Radio-rip the phone from the wall, call her an obscene name, hold his revolver at arm’s length, and shoot her. She slid down the wall, and then fell forward.”

He pointed to the chalked outline of a body on the floor, and to blood smeared on the wall.

“Then the fat doer herded everybody but my eyewitness, who he didn’t see, into the cooler, and jammed a sharpening steel into the padlock loops.”

He pointed to the cooler door, then went on. “Then he went back into the restaurant, not seeing my eyewitness, and started to take wallets, et cetera, from the citizens. Doer Number One, meanwhile, is taking money from the cash register.

“Right about then, Kenny Charlton came through the door. Doer Number One is crouched behind the cashier’s counter. Kenny saw him, the doer jumps up, wraps his arm around Kenny, wrestles with him. The fat doer then runs up, sticks his gun under Kenny’s bulletproof vest, and fires. Kenny goes down. Doer Number One steps over Kenny’s body, takes two shots at it, and then follows Doer Number Two out the door and down Snyder. Mickey O’Hara got their picture, but it’s a lousy picture. No fault of Mickey’s.”

“Why did the fat doer stick his gun under Charlton’s vest?” Matt asked. “Why not just shoot him in the head? Or the lower back, below the vest?”

Coughlin gave him a look Matt could not interpret, and finally decided it was exasperation at his having asked a question that obviously could not be answered.

Tony Harris held up both hands in a helpless gesture.

The restaurant manager walked up to them with three mugs of coffee on a tray.

“I thought you and the other detectives might like…”

“That’s very nice of you,” Coughlin said.

“Mr. Benetti, this is Commissioner Coughlin,” Harris said.

“Oh, Jesus, I’m sorry…”

“I like to think I’m still a detective,” Coughlin said. “No offense taken.”

“I… uh… don’t know how to say this,” Benetti said. “But I’m glad to see you here, Commissioner. I would hate to have what those animals did to Mrs. Fernandez and Officer Charlton… wind up as an unsolved crime.”

“We’re going to try very hard, Mr. Benetti, to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Coughlin said.

Benetti looked at Coughlin, then put out his hand.

“Thank you,” he said, and walked away.

Coughlin looked over his shoulder, then pointed to one of the banquettes. He slid in one side, and Tony Harris and Matt into the other.

“Still no idea who these animals are?” Coughlin asked.

Harris shook his head, “no.”

“The police artist’s stuff is just about useless,” Harris said. “Everybody saw somebody else. We’re going to have to have a tip, or make them with a fingerprint.”

Coughlin shook his head.

“One question, Tony. I want the answer off the top of your head. How would you feel about having Sergeant Payne in Homicide?”

Harris chuckled, then smiled.

“I heard The List was out,” he said. “Good for you, Matt!”

“That doesn’t answer my question, Tony,” Coughlin said.

“Welcome, welcome!” Tony said.

“I should have known better than to try that,” Coughlin said. “In law school, they teach you never to ask a question to somebody on the stand unless you know what the answer’s going to be.”

“Commissioner, you asked,” Harris said. “What’s wrong with Matt coming to Homicide?”

“He’s too young, for one thing. He hasn’t been on the job long enough, for another. I can go on.”

“He’s also smart,” Harris said. “And he’s a stone-under-the — stone turner. I didn’t wonder why this bastard didn’t shoot Kenny in the head, or lower back. Matt already thinks like the Black Buddha. The other stuff, we can teach him.”

Coughlin snorted.

“And he’s going to make a good witness on the stand,” Harris said. “Think about that.”

“I’ll be damned,” Coughlin said. “For a moment, I thought- I guess, to be honest, hoped-you were pulling my leg. But you’re serious, aren’t you?”

Tony Harris nodded his head. “I thought you’d be all for him coming to Homicide,” he said.

Coughlin looked between the two of them but didn’t respond directly.

After a moment, he asked, “Are you about finished here, Tony?”

“Just about.”

“I need a ride to the Roundhouse.”

“My pleasure.”

“Matt’s going to Easton on a job I gave Peter Wohl and Peter gave to Matt,” Coughlin said. “And he’d better get going.”

“What job’s that?” Harris asked.

“One of those I’d rather not talk about,” Coughlin said, looking at Matt. “But the sooner you know something, Matt, the better.”

“Yes, sir. I understand.”

“You sore at me, Matt?” Coughlin said.

“I could never be sore at you,” Matt said.

Coughlin met his eyes and then nodded.

Then he pushed himself out of the banquette.

Matt started to head for the Schuylkill Expressway as the fastest way out of town. When he turned onto South Street, he punched the autodial button on his cellular, which caused Inspector Wohl to answer his cellular on the second ring.

“Matt, boss. Commissioner Coughlin’s on his way back to the Roundhouse, and I’m on my way to Easton. Okay?”

“From the cheerful sound of your voice, I guess you again refused to listen to his sage advice?”

“He didn’t offer any,” Matt said. “He tried to sandbag me with Tony Harris.”

“And?”

“Tony said I already think like the Black Buddha, they can teach me what I have to know, and ‘welcome’-no, ‘welcome, welcome’-to Homicide.”

There was a moment’s silence.

“He also told me he gave you the Cassidy job,” Matt said.

Again there was a perceptible pause.

“If you come up with something unpleasant, give me a call,” Wohl said. “Otherwise fill me in in the morning.”

“Yes, sir,” Matt said.

Wohl broke the connection without saying anything else.

At the next intersection-South and Twentieth Streets- Matt changed his mind about the Schuylkill Expressway and instead drove back to Rittenhouse Square, where he drove into the underground garage, parked the unmarked Ford, and got in the Porsche.

It had occurred to him that he hadn’t driven the Porsche much lately, and it needed a run. What he liked best about the Porsche-something he somewhat snobbishly thought most people didn’t understand-was not how easily you could get it up to well over 100, 120 miles per hour-a great many cars would do that-but how beautifully it handled on narrow, winding roads, making 60 or 70 where lesser cars would lose control at 50 or less. Such as the twenty miles or so of Route 611 between Kintnersville and Easton, where the road ran alongside the old Delaware Canal.

With the winding road, and a lot else on his mind-

God, that was an unexpected compliment from Tony Harris, me thinking like Jason…

And it couldn’t have been timed better. Uncle Denny had egg all over his face…

I wonder when the promotion will actually happen?

What am I going to do if Captain Cassidy’s brother’s will hasn’t been filed in the courthouse? Some people don’t even have wills. What do they call that, intestate, something like that?

With a little luck, the courthouse’ll have a computer and I can do a search for all real estate in the name of John Paul Cassidy…

I’ve got to find out more about Whatshisname who stuffed his girlfriend in a trunk and sends Dave Pekach taunting postcards from Europe…

Uncle Denny said the body was (a) mummified and (b) in the trunk for a year? Didn’t it smell?

I’ll have to find out when Stan Colt is going to grace Philadelphia with his presence. I really would like to see more-a hell of a lot more-of Vice President Terry Davis…

Nice legs. Nice everything…

— he didn’t think about Route 611 passing through Doylestown, right past the Crossroads Diner, until the diner itself came into view.

Shit, Shit, Shit!

The mental image of Susan with the neat hole under her sightless eyes jumped into his mind.

No, goddamn it. No! Not twice in one day!

Think of something else.

Terry Davis in the shower.

A mummified body in a trunk. If you want to feel nauseous, think of a stinking, mummified body.

But (a) mummies don’t stink. They look like leather statues, but they don’t smell, (b) mummies are bodies that have gone through some sort of preservation process. They gut them, I think I remember from sixth grade, and then fill the cavity with some kind of preservatives-or was it rocks? sand? — and then wrap them in linen.

The body in this weirdo’s trunk might have been dried out after a year, but, technically speaking, it wasn’t mummified. After a year, why wasn’t it a skeleton? Wouldn’t the flesh have completely decomposed-giving off one hell of a stink-in a year?

There is a lot you don’t know about bodies. And ergo sum, a sergeant of the Homicide Bureau should know a lot about dead bodies.

Maybe I can take a course at the university.

Not a bullshit undergraduate course, but a course at the medical school. Amy’s a professor. She should (a) know and (b) have the clout to have her little brother admitted.

Christ, I’m going seventy-five in a fifty-five zone!

Sorry to be speeding, Officer. What it was, when I passed the Crossroads Diner, was that I naturally recalled my girlfriend with the back of her head blown out in the parking lot…

Terry Davis has long legs. Nice long legs.

Why do long legs turn me on?

Why do some bosoms, but not others, turn me on?

Why did Terry Davis turn me on like that?

She really does have nice legs.

And she smelled good, too.

He recognized where he was. What he thought of as “the end of Straight 611 out of Doylestown.” The concrete highway turned into macadam, made a sharp right turn, then a sharp left turn, and then got curvy.

Right around the next curve is where we pick up the old canal.

I’ll be damned! I’m not going to throw up.

And I’m not sweat-soaked.

Thank you, God!

He made the left turn and shoved his foot hard against the accelerator.

FOUR

Johnny Cassidy’s Shamrock Bar was on The Hill in Easton, near-and drawing much of its business from-Lafayette College. Even at four in the afternoon, there were a lot of customers, mixed students and faculty and other staff of the college.

Matt took a stool at the bar and ordered a beer, a pickled egg, and a Cassidy Burger-“Famous All Over The Hill”- and struck up a conversation with the bartender, who had a plastic nameplate with a shamrock and “Mickey O’Neal Manager” printed on it pinned to his crisp, white, open-collar, cuffs-rolled-up shirt. Matt thought he was probably thirty-five or forty, and was not surprised that he was talkative.

When Matt asked how Johnny Cassidy was, O’Neal shook his head sadly and said the Big C had gotten him, five, no six, months before. Johnny kept feeling tired, and he finally went to the doctor, and six weeks later he was dead. Died the same week as his mother, in fact.

“So what’s going to happen to the bar?”

“It’s going to stay open,” Mickey O’Neal said, firmly, and then went on to explain that he’d worked in the place for fifteen years before Johnny died, starting out as an afternoon bartender and working his way up to assistant manager, and got to know him real well. Johnny had been godfather to two of his kids. “They called him Uncle Johnny.”

When Johnny knew his time was up, he made a deal with Mickey and his brother-Johnny’s younger brother, nice guy, who’s a cop in Philadelphia, and who had cared for their mother until she died; Johnny had never married-which gave twenty-five percent of the place to O’Neal and the rest to his brother.

“We’re talking about me buying him out, over time, you know, but right now, I’m just running the place for the both of us. Once a month, I write him a check for his share of what we make. It’s a pretty good deal all around. The bar stays open, which means I have a job, and his brother gets a check-a nice check, I don’t mind saying-once a month. Which is nice, too. Johnny figured he owed his brother-did I say he’s a cop in Philly? — for taking care of their mother all those years.”

There were now answers to the questions raised by what Detective Payne had learned at the Northampton County Court House: Seven months before, for one dollar and other good and valuable consideration, all assets, real estate, inventory and goodwill of the property privately held by John Paul Cassidy at 2301 Tatamy Road, Easton, had been sold to the Shamrock Corporation. The building at 2301 Tatamy Road housed both Johnny Cassidy’s Shamrock Bar and, above it, four apartments on two floors.

It would appear on the surface-he would nose around a little more, of course-that there was a perfectly good reason for Captain Cassidy’s sudden affluence. If the brother had insurance, which seemed likely-and the mother did, which also seemed likely-that would explain where he had gotten the cash to buy the condominium at the shore. And it seemed reasonable that getting a check every month for his share of the profits would explain why Captain Cassidy felt he could afford to give his old Suburban to his daughter and buy a new Yukon XL, no money down, to be paid for with the monthly check.

Detective Payne had a third beer “on the house” and another pickled egg, and then got back in his Porsche to return to Philadelphia.

The temptation to take the very interesting winding road beside the old Delaware Canal was irresistible. But he didn’t want to go back through Doylestown-past the Crossroads Diner-so he turned off Route 611 onto Route 32 a few miles south of Riegelsville, and followed it along the Delaware.

A few miles past New Hope, his cellular phone tinkled. He looked at his watch and saw that it was quarter to five.

That’s probably Peter. Despite what he said about filling him in in the morning, he wants to know what I found out.

“Yes, sir, Inspector, sir. Detective Payne at your service, sir.”

“Hey, Matt,” a familiar voice said. It was that of Chad Nesbitt. They had been best friends since kindergarten.

“The Crown Prince of tomato soup himself? To what do I owe the honor?”

“Where are you?” Chad asked, a tone of exasperation in his voice.

“About five miles south of picturesque New Hope on Route 32. I presume there is some reason for your curiosity?”

“What are you doing way up there?”

“Fighting crime, of course. Protecting defenseless citizens such as yourself from evildoers.”

“Daffy wants you to come to supper. Can you?”

Daffy was Mrs. Nesbitt.

“Why does that make me suspicious?”

“Matt, for Christ’s sake, make peace with her. It gets to be a real pain in the ass for me with you two always at each other’s throat.”

“What’s the occasion?”

“There’s a girl she wants you to meet.”

“Not only no, but hell no.”

“This one’s nice. I think you’ll like her.”

“She’s a nymphomaniac who owns a liquor store?”

“Sometimes, Matt, you can be a real pain in the ass,” Chad said.

There was a perceptible silence.

“Come on, Matt. Please.”

“If you give me your solemn word that when I get there, we can go directly from ‘How do you do?’ to carnal pleasures on your carpet without-”

“Fuck you. Come or don’t.”

“When?”

“As soon as you can get here.”

“Okay,” Matt said. “Take me half an hour, depending on the traffic on Interstate 95.”

The Wachenhut Security guards who stood in the Colonial-style guard shack at the entrance to Stockton Place in Society Hill were chosen by Wachenhut with more care than their guards at the more than one hundred other locations Wachenhut protected in the Philadelphia area.

Not only was Wachenhut’s regional vice president for the Philadelphia area resident in one of the luxury apartments behind the striped-pole barrier, but so were executives of other corporations, which employed large numbers of Wachenhut Security personnel.

Number 9 Stockton Place, for example, a triplex constructed behind the facades of four of the twelve pre-Revolutionary brownstone buildings on the east side of Stockton Place, was owned by NB Properties, Inc., the principal stockholder of which was Chadwick Thomas Nesbitt III and was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Chadwick T. Nesbitt IV.

Mr. Nesbitt IV was working his way upward in the corporate ranks-he had recently been named a vice president-of Nesfoods International, of which his father was chairman of the executive committee. Four of Nesfoods International’s Philadelphia-area manufacturing facilities employed the Wachenhut Corporation to provide the necessary security, as did many other Nesfoods establishments around the world.

It therefore behooved Wachenhut to put its best security foot forward, so to speak, on Stockton Place.

It wasn’t only a question of providing faultless around-the — clock security-Wachenhut had learned how to do that splendidly over the years-but to do so in such a manner as not to antagonize those being protected, and their guests.

The senior security officer on duty in the shack when the Porsche Carrera rolled up was a retired soldier who had spent twenty years in the Corps in the military police. His retirement pay wasn’t going as far as he’d thought it would, and since he had enlisted at seventeen and retired at thirty-eight, he’d still been a young man who wanted to work.

Wachenhut had been glad to have him, assigned him- with a raise in pay-to Stockton Place after only six months on the job, and made him a supervisor eighteen months after he had joined the firm. His superiors thought he would be capable of handling the sometimes delicate Stockton Place assignment, and he had proven them right.

When the silver Porsche Carrera slowed as it approached the barrier, the senior security officer on duty nodded at it, then spoke softly to the trainee.

“Now this guy doesn’t look like he’s either about to break into an apartment, or try to sell something. Very few burglars drive cars like that. So you smile at him, ask him who he wishes to see, and then for his name. Then you say ‘Thank you very much, sir,’ raise the barrier, and call whoever he said he’s going to see and tell them he’s coming.”

“Got it,” the trainee said, and stepped out of the guard shack.

“Good evening, sir,” he said to the driver. “How may I help you?”

“Matthew Payne to see Mr. Nesbitt,” Matt said.

“Thank you, sir,” the trainee said, and stepped inside the guard shack, and pushed the button that raised the barrier. Before the Porsche was past the barrier, the Wachenhut supervisor was on the interior telephone.

“Like this,” he said, and then when the phone was answered, said, “This is the gate. We have just passed a Mr. Payne to see Mr. Nesbitt.”

Matt pulled the Porsche to the curb in front of Number 9, got out, walked to the red-painted door, and pushed the doorbell.

The door was opened almost immediately by Mr. Nesbitt IV, who looked very much like Matt Payne but a little shorter and a little heavier.

“Hello, you ugly bastard,” he said. Then he raised his voice. “Dump the dope! The cops are here!”

Then he embraced Matt.

“Thanks for coming. And for Christ’s sake, behave yourself. ”

The ground floor foyer of Number 9 was open to a skylight in the roof, invisible from the street. To the right was the door to the elevator, and to the left the door to the stairs. There were balconies on the first and second floors of the atrium.

Mrs. Chadwick T. Nesbitt IV, the former Daphne Elizabeth Browne, known for most of her life as “Daffy,” a tall, attractive blonde, appeared on the upper balcony, looked down, smiled, and called, “Matt, how nice! Come up.”

Matt and Chad got on the elevator, and when the door closed, and he was reasonably sure he couldn’t be heard, Matt asked, “ ‘How nice’? Is she into the sauce?”

Chad laughed.

“Looketh not ye gift horse in ye mouth,” he said.

The elevator stopped, and the door opened, revealing the living room of the apartment. Floor-to-ceiling tinted glass walls provided a view of the Delaware River, the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, and on the New Jersey shore, mounted on now-disused buildings, a huge illuminated sign showing a steaming bowl of soup and the legend “Nesfoods Delivers Taste and Nutrition!”

Daffy Nesbitt kissed Matt on the cheek, then turned and cried, “Terry, this is Chad’s and my oldest friend in the world.”

Sitting on the thickly carpeted floor with Miss Penelope Alice Nesbitt, aged twenty-two months, was Terry Davis.

She smiled at Matt’s pleased surprise.

Matt looked at Mrs. Nesbitt.

“Get it over with, Daffy,” he said.

“Get what over with?”

“Whatever you’re going to say next in the mistaken belief that it will either be clever or terribly amusing.”

“Hey, Matt, she’s being nice,” Chad said.

“That’s what worries me,” Matt said.

“Hello, again,” Terry said.

“Again?” Daffy asked.

“We met this morning,” Terry said.

“I’d tell Daffy we had breakfast together, but she would read something into that,” Matt said, smiling at Terry.

“Now who’s being clever and terribly amusing, you prick?” Daffy snapped.

“Daffy, please, try to control your vulgarity in front of my goddaughter,” Matt said, unctuously.

Terry Davis laughed.

“Is she really?” she asked. “Your goddaughter?”

“Yeah,” Matt said.

“She’s adorable.”

“Yeah.”

“What do you mean you had breakfast?” Daffy asked.

“At the Ritz-Carlton, no less,” Matt said.

“Anybody for a drink?” Chad asked.

“You got any champagne?” Matt asked.

“You hate champagne,” Daffy said.

“Not on those days on which I get promoted, I don’t,” Matt said. “But I’ll settle for scotch.”

“Promoted to what?” Daffy asked.

“To sergeant, thank you for asking.”

“No shit! Hey, good for you, Matt!” Chad said. He went behind a wet bar and came up with a bottle of champagne. “I knew there was one in here.”

“Terry,” Daffy said, “Matt is a police officer.”

“I know. ‘One of Philadelphia’s finest,’ ” Terry said.

“Who said that?” Daffy asked in disbelief.

“The monsignor. What was his name?”

“Schneider,” Matt said. “I think he’s a closet cop groupie.”

He dropped to the carpet and picked up the toddler, and tickled her.

She shrieked in delight.

“Matt, you know you’re not supposed to do that with her,” Daffy said.

“She obviously hates it,” Matt said. “What have you got against tickling?”

He nonetheless handed the child to Terry and got up.

“It hyperexcites her,” Daffy said.

“Oh,” Matt said.

The champagne cork popped, and Matt walked to the wet bar and took a glass, then handed it to Terry.

“Thank you,” she said. “Congratulations.”

“Thank you,” he said, and turned to Daffy. “Yes, thank you very much, I’d love to.”

“You’d love to what?”

“Stay for supper,” Matt said.

“Would you believe, wiseass, that Chad tried to call you to ask you to supper? He said they said you were out of town, and they didn’t know when you’d be back,” Daffy said.

“I talked to him, but I didn’t know if he could make it,” Chad said. “So I didn’t tell you.”

“Daffy has this terrible habit of offering me up to the ugliest women,” Matt said. “I think they pay her.”

“That’s what I thought she was doing to me when she said someone was coming she really wanted me to meet,” Terry said. “You’re not nearly as ugly as I thought you would be.”

“Then you can’t ask for your money back, can you?”

Terry laughed.

“You really are a bastard, aren’t you?” she asked.

He took a second glass of champagne from Chad, then, making a show of thinking it over carefully, shrugged and handed it to Daffy.

“In these circumstances, I will give you a walk,” he said.

“Which means what?”

“That tonight I will not wring your neck for playing cupid,” Matt said. “Half the police department already knows I’m in love with Terry.”

“Damn you, you’re embarrassing Terry!”

“Are you embarrassed, Terry?” Matt asked.

“I’m still having trouble getting used to the idea that you’re a policeman,” she said. “And that you showed up here. Did you know I was here?”

“Of course. I had you under surveillance from the time you left the Savoy-Plaza. That man in the overcoat who exposed himself to you on Broad Street? One of my better men.”

Terry laughed.

“Baloney!” she said.

“I’ll prove it to you. He has a camera… delicacy forbids my telling where. I’ll send you a print.”

He mimed opening an overcoat, focused his hips, and then mimed pushing a shutter cord.

“Say ‘Cheese.’ Click. Gotcha!”

Chad laughed.

“Oh, God!” Terry said.

“I can’t believe you did that!” Daffy said.

“But you’re smiling, Daffy darling!”

“We thought we’d eat in,” Daffy said, quickly changing the subject. “Terry has to be at the airport at eleven-thirty. I bought some shrimp at the Twelfth Street Market, but Monday the cook is off.”

“That’s Daffy’s way, Terry,” Matt said, “of asking whether I will be good enough to prepare my world famous Wild Turkey shrimp.”

“Wild Turkey shrimp?”

“Over wild rice,” Matt said. “Yes, Daffy, I will. But you’ll have to peel the slimy crustaceans. That’s beneath the dignity of a master chef such as myself.”

“I’ve got to give Penny her bath,” Daffy complained.

“I’ll peel the shrimp,” Terry said. “I have to see this. Wild Turkey-you’re talking about the whiskey?…” Matt nodded. “… shrimp?”

“Bring your glass, I’ll bring the bottle. The kitchen for some unknown reason is on the ground floor.”

Matt led Terry into the kitchen, turned on the fluorescent lights, and then took his jacket off and laid it on a counter. Then he took his pistol from its shoulder holster, held it toward the floor, away from Terry, removed the clip, and then ejected the round in the chamber.

“I’m impressed,” Terry said. “If that was your intention.”

He gave her a dirty look but didn’t reply. He reloaded the ejected round in the magazine, put the magazine in the pistol, the pistol in the shoulder holster, then shrugged out of that and hung it on an empty hook of the pot rack above the stainless-steel stove.

Then he looked at her.

“I wasn’t trying to impress you. I don’t like leaving guns around with a round in the chamber.”

“Sorry,” she said, and then asked, “What kind of a gun is that?”

He looked at her for a moment before deciding the question was a peace offering.

“It’s an Officer’s Model Colt,” Matt said. “A. 45. A cut-down version of the old Army. 45.”

“That’s what all the cops carry?”

“No. Most Philadelphia cops carry Glocks. They’re semiautomatic, like this one, but nine-millimeter, not. 45.”

“Then?”

“I think this a better weapon.”

“And they let you do that?”

“With great reluctance. I had to go through a lot of bureaucratic bullsh-difficulty before I got permission to carry this.”

“What is it with Colt?” Terry asked.

“Excuse me?”

“There’s some sort of significance, obviously. Stan actually changed his name legally to Colt. And he always carries a Colt automatic in his films.”

“What was his name before?”

“Coleman.”

“Stan Colt, nee Stanley Coleman?”

“Yeah.”

“Whatever works, I guess,” Matt said, chuckling. “To answer your question, I suppose there is a certain romance to ‘Colt.’ They call the old Colt. 44 revolver ‘The Gun That Won the West,’ and then the Colt Model 1911-the big brother of my pistol-was the service weapon right through Vietnam. Now the services use a nine-millimeter Beretta.”

“You ever shoot anybody with that pistol?”

“Not with that one.”

“But you have shot someone?”

“Why don’t we just drop this subject right here?” Matt flared.

“Sorry,” she said, offended and sarcastic.

He found a plastic bag of shrimp in the refrigerator, took it to the sink, tore the bag open, and started to peel them.

After a long moment, Terry went and stood beside him and took a handful of shrimp.

He glanced at her but said nothing.

They peeled shrimp in silence for perhaps three minutes, and then Matt said, “That’s not the first time you’ve peeled shrimp.”

“How can you tell?”

“Most people don’t know how to squeeze the tail that way.”

“My dad has a boat. We have a place on Catalina Island. I practically grew up peeling shrimp.”

“Your father’s a movie star? Producer? Executive?”

“Lawyer,” she said. “With connections in the industry. Enough to get me my first job with GAM.”

“So’s mine,” Matt said. “A lawyer with connections.”

"Daffy told me-when she was selling me on the blind date.”

“Actually, he’s my adoptive father,” Matt said, as he took a large skillet from an overhead rack.

“Your parents were divorced? Mine too.”

“My father was killed before I was born,” Matt said. “He was a cop, a sergeant named John X. Moffitt, and he answered a silent alarm and got himself shot. My mother married my dad-that sounds funny, doesn’t it? — about six months later. He’d lost his wife in a car crash. A really good guy. He adopted me legally.”

“Is that why you’re a policeman? Because of your father?”

“That’s one of the reasons, certainly,” Matt said, as he unwrapped a stick of butter. “I like being a cop.”

“Daffy doesn’t approve,” Terry said.

“I know. Daffy would be delighted-because of Chad-if I married a nice young woman, such as yourself, went to law school, and took my proper role in society.”

“Yeah,” Terry replied thoughtfully. “I picked up a little of that. Tell me about your promotion.”

“The sergeant’s examination list came out today,” Matt said. “With underwhelming modesty, I was number one, and get to pick my assignment.”

“Which is?”

“Homicide.”

“What is that, some sort of a death wish?”

“Huh?”

“Homicide sounds dangerous,” she said. “Killers, right?”

“I never thought about it,” Matt said. “But now that I do… Homicide’s not dangerous. Being on the street is dangerous. My father was a uniform sergeant in a district. That’s dangerous. Cops get hurt answering domestic-disturbance calls. Stopping speeders. Homicide’s nothing like that. You’ve been watching too many Stan Colt movies.”

“I don’t really understand.”

“Street cops face the bad guys every day. Last night, a uniform cop answered a robbery-in-progress call at the Roy Rogers restaurant on Broad Street. One of the two bad guys shoved a revolver under his bulletproof vest and killed him. The first homicide guy didn’t get to the scene for maybe fifteen minutes. By then, the bad guys were long gone.”

She looked at him but said nothing.

“The trick to this is to saute them slowly in butter with a little Cajun seasoning,” he said. “You add the booze just before serving, and flame it. And since the rice isn’t done, we can put this on hold and have another glass of wine while we wait for the rice and the bathers to finish with the bathee.”

“What about when they arrest… the bad guys? Isn’t that dangerous?”

“First you have to find out who the bad guys are. Then make sure you can-to the district attorney’s satisfaction- make the case against them. Then, if they’re not already in the Roundhouse surrounded by cops, if you have to go out to arrest them, you take enough uniforms with you to make sure nobody gets hurt.”

“That’s not much like one of Stan’s movies, is it?” she asked.

“Not much,” he agreed, as he filled her glass.

“Then why does Homicide have the prestige? You were as proud as a peacock to tell me you were going to Homicide.”

“Homicide detectives are the best detectives in the department, ” he said. “When you’re trying somebody for a capital offense, all the ‘t’s have to be crossed and the ‘i’s dotted. There’s no room for mistakes. People who kill people should pay for it.”

“And Homicide sergeants?”

“Modesty precludes my answering that question.”

“Modest you ain’t, Sergeant.”

“Sergeant I ain’t, either. I’m just number one on The List. God only knows when I’ll actually get promoted and sent to Homicide.”

“And in the meantime, you’ll have to do something beneath your dignity, like protecting Stan from his adoring fans? Or vice versa.”

“Meaning?”

“Now that we’re going to be professionally associated, I think I should tell you that Stan likes young women. Very young women.”

“That ought to go over big with the monsignor and the cardinal. And I’m not-I am now really sorry to say-going to be involved in that. That’s Dignitary Protection, and sometimes, since the subject came up, that can be really dangerous. Dignitaries, celebrities, attract lunatics like a magnet.”

“You’re not going to be involved?”

“No. I was just there this morning to see-for my boss- what the triumphal visit will involve. I’m with Special Operations, and we usually provide the bodies needed.”

“I’m sorry, too,” she said.

“We will solve that problem when you come back,” he said. “I really want to see more of you.”

“So what do you do in Special Operations?” she said, obviously changing the subject.

“Today, for example, I think I proved that a cop who’s been spending more money than a cop makes came by it entirely honestly.”

“Internal Affairs?”

“No. This was unofficial, before Internal Affairs got involved. Now there won’t be an Internal Affairs investigation. A good thing, because just being involved with Internal Affairs makes people look bad.”

Mr. and Mrs. Chadwick T. Nesbitt IV and a freshly bathed Penelope in her nightgown appeared in the kitchen at this point, and Detective Payne resumed his preparation of Wild Turkey shrimp over wild rice.

At 10:45 Matt said that he would be happy to deliver Terry to the airport to catch the red-eye to the coast.

At 11:17, as he closed the trunk of the Porsche after having taken Terry’s luggage from it, and she was standing close enough to him to be kissed, a uniform walked up and said, “You’re going to have to move it, sir. Sorry.”

Matt took out his badge and said, “Three sixty-nine,” which was police cant for “I am a police officer.”

The uniform walked away. Matt looked at Terry, saddened by the lost opportunity.

Terry stood on her toes and kissed him chastely on the lips.

“Thanks,” she said, then quickly turned and entered the airport. She turned once and looked back at him, and then he lost sight of her.

He got back in the Porsche, and on the way to Rittenhouse Square decided that, all things considered, today had been a pretty good day.

The Hon. Alvin W. Martin, Mayor of the City of Philadelphia, a trim forty-three-year-old in a well-cut Harris plaid suit, smiled at Police Commissioner Ralph J. Mariani and waved him into his City Hall office.

“Thank you for coming so quickly, Ralph,” he said. “Have you had your coffee?”

The mayor gestured toward a silver coffee service on a sideboard.

“I could use another cup, thank you,” Mariani said. He was a stocky Italian, balding, natty.

“I was distressed, Ralph,” the mayor said, “to hear about the trouble at the Roy Rogers.”

“Very sad,” Mariani said. “I knew Officer Charlton. A fine man.”

“And Mrs. Fernandez, who paid with her life for calling 911.”

“A genuine tragedy, sir,” Mariani said.

“I’m going to the funeral home at three this afternoon,” Martin said. “I should say ‘homes.’ Officer Charlton’s first, and then Mrs. Fernandez’s. I think it would be a good idea if you went with me.”

“Yes, sir. Of course.”

“I feel sure the press will be there,” the mayor said. “I’d really like to have something to tell them.”

“I’m afraid I don’t have much news, Mr. Mayor,” Mariani said. “We’re working on it, of course. And it’s just a matter of time until we nail those animals, but so far…”

“When you say you’re working on it, what exactly does that mean?”

“That we’re applying all our resources to the job.”

“Who’s in charge of the investigation?”

“Lieutenant Washington, of Homicide, sir.”

The mayor knew Lieutenant Jason Washington, which was not the same thing as saying he liked him. The mayor thought of Washington as a difficult man who was not able to conceal-or perhaps didn’t want to conceal-his contempt for politicians.

Mayor Martin had sought Lieutenant Washington out shortly after taking office. The police department always provides a police officer, sometimes a sergeant, but most often a lieutenant, to drive the mayoral limousine, serving simultaneously, of course, as bodyguard.

He’d toyed with the idea of having a white officer-a very large, happy, smiling Irishman who would look good in the background of news photos came to mind-but before he could make the appointment, he’d seen Washington striding purposefully though the lobby of the Roundhouse, and asked who he was.

That night he had mentioned the enormous lieutenant to his wife, Beatrice, at supper.

“I thought you knew Jason,” Beatrice said. “He’s Martha’s husband.”

The mayor knew his wife’s friend, Martha Washington. Beatrice, as the mayor thought of it, was “into art and that sort of thing,” and Martha Washington was both a very successful art dealer and a painter of some repute.

“No, I don’t,” the mayor confessed. “How do you think he’d like to be the mayor’s driver?”

“I don’t think so,” Beatrice had said. “I can’t imagine Jason as a chauffeur-yours or anyone else’s.”

“You’re going to have to get used to being the mayor’s wife, precious.”

Mayor Martin had taken the trouble to meet Washington socially, which had proven more difficult to do than he thought it would be.

The mayor had arranged for the Washingtons to be invited to a friend’s cocktail party, and when they sent their regrets, to a second friend’s cocktail party, which invitation they also declined with regret. On the third try, he finally got to meet them, and Alvin W. Martin’s first impression of Jason Washington that night was that he was going to like him, possibly very much, and that he would look just fine in the background of press photos.

Washington was an imposing man, superbly tailored, and erudite without rubbing it in your face. The mayor, studying Washington’s suit with the eye of a man who appreciated good tailoring, wondered how he could afford to dress that well on a detective’s salary. He decided the artist wife picked up the tab.

He finally managed to get him alone.

“I’d really like to get together with you, Jason. You don’t mind if I call you ‘Jason,’ do you?”

“Not at all.”

“I’m in the process of selecting a driver. Would you be interested?”

“With all possible respect, Mr. Mayor, absolutely not.”

“Actually, it would entail more than just driving the limo,” the mayor had said. “I really need someone around who can explain the subtleties of the police department to me.”

“I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding such a person, Mr. Mayor.”

“And, specifically, I need input from someone knowledgeable about what I might be able to do for our fellow blacks in the police department.”

“I can tell you that, Mr. Mayor, in a very few words: Really support a meaningful pay raise; get it through the City Council. Policemen often have a hard time making ends meet.”

“I was speaking specifically of black police officers.”

“There are two kinds of police officers, Mr. Mayor. The bad ones-a small minority-and all the others. And all the others are colored blue.”

“That’s a little jingoistic, isn’t it, Lieutenant?”

“Simplistic, perhaps, Mr. Mayor, and perhaps chauvinistic, but I don’t think jingoistic, which, as I understand the word, carries a flavor of belligerence I certainly didn’t intend.”

“Let me be very frank,” the mayor said. “When I asked around for the name of an outstanding black officer to whom I could turn with questions regarding the police department generally, and black officers in the department specifically, your name immediately came up. You have a splendid reputation. And I wondered how it is you’re a lieutenant.”

“ ‘Only’ a lieutenant? Is that what you mean?”

“All right, if you want to put it that way. You don’t think race had anything to do with you having been a policeman twenty-three years before being promoted to lieutenant?”

“Mr. Mayor, I’ve spent most of my career in Homicide…"”

“You’ve been described to me as one of the best homicide investigators anywhere.”

Washington ignored the compliment, and continued:

“… where, because of the extraordinary amount of overtime required, most detectives make as much as inspectors and some as much as chief inspectors. I was a little late reaching my present rank because I never took the examination until I had assurance, in writing, that should I pass and be promoted, I would not be transferred from Homicide.”

Aware that his temper was rising, the mayor said, “I wasn’t aware that you could make deals like that.”

“They aren’t common.”

“Frankly, the more you reject the idea, the more it appeals to me. I need someone who will tell me how things are, rather than what they think I want to hear. And I was under the impression that police officers serve where their superiors decide they can be of the most value.”

“That’s true, of course,” Washington had replied. “But it is also true that police officers my age with twenty years or more of service can retire at any time they so desire.”

The mayor suddenly saw the headline in the Bulletin: ACE HOMICIDE LIEUTENANT RETIRES RATHER THAN BECOME MAYOR’S DRIVER.

“Well, I’m disappointed, of course,” the mayor had said. “But I will certainly respect your wishes. You will be available, won’t you, if I need an expert to explain something to me?”

“I’m at your service, Mr. Mayor,” Washington had said.

Mayor Martin now looked across his desk and asked, “And what does Lieutenant Washington have to say about why these people haven’t been arrested? It’s been two days, Commissioner.”

Mariani replied, “I talked to him last night, Mr. Mayor. He says he’s doing everything he can think of to do, and that something’s bound to turn up. Right now, we don’t even know who the doers are.”

“There were no witnesses?”

“There were witnesses, sir. Mickey O’Hara of the Bulletin even took a picture of the doers as they left the restaurant. He was one of the first to reach the scene. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a very good photograph.”

“We have a picture of these people?” the mayor asked, incredulously.

“Not a very good picture, Mr. Mayor.”

“I can see the story in the Bulletin,” the mayor said, unpleasantly. “Even with a photo provided by the Bulletin, police are unable to identify, much less arrest-”

"O’Hara wouldn’t write a story like that,” Mariani said. “He understands our problem.”

“You have more faith in the press than I do, obviously,” the mayor said. “And none of the witnesses can come up with a description of these people?”

“We put police artists on the job immediately, Mr. Mayor. The result of that has been a number of pictures none of which look like any other picture. Everybody saw something else.”

“The bottom line, then, is that you don’t have a clue as to who these people are.”

“We’re doing our best, sir.”

“That’s really not good enough, Commissioner,” the mayor said. “I need something for the press, and I need it by three this afternoon.”

“What would you like me to say, sir?”

“How about forming a task force?”

“We have one in everything but name now, sir. A cop has been killed. Washington can have anything he asks for. It’s just going to take some time, I’m afraid.”

“A cop and a single mother of three,” the mayor said. “We don’t want to forget her, do we?”

“We’re not forgetting her, sir. But when a police officer is killed, it sort of mobilizes the entire department.”

“Just for the record, Commissioner, the entire police department should be mobilized whenever any of our citizens is brutally murdered.”

“Yes, sir. Of course.”

“What about Special Operations, Commissioner?”

“Sir?”

“Supposing I announce this afternoon that I have ordered that the Special Operations Division take over the investigation? ”

“Sir, it’s a homicide,” the Commissioner said.

“You don’t think it’s a good idea, I gather?”

“Mr. Mayor, it won’t accomplish anything that’s not already been done. If I call Inspector Wohl…”

“Who is?”

“The commanding officer of Special Operations, sir.”

“Okay.”

“If I call him right now and give him the job, he’ll say ‘Yes, sir,’ and then he’ll call Lieutenant Washington and ask him how he can help. I don’t know this for a fact, but I’ll bet Wohl has already done that.”

“Let’s do it anyway,” the mayor said. “Make it official. And tell this Inspector… Wohl, you said?”

“Yes, sir.”

“To light a fire under Washington.”

“Yes, sir. Sir, Inspector Wohl was once a homicide detective…."”

“So much the better.”

“A rookie homicide detective. Jason Washington, as a very experienced, very good, homicide detective, was charged with bringing Detective Wohl up to homicide speed-”

“Commissioner,” the mayor interrupted somewhat sharply, “I’m getting the feeling you’re dragging your feet, for reasons I can’t imagine. So I repeat, call this Inspector Wohl and tell him he is now in charge of this investigation task force, and I expect results.”

“Yes, sir, I’ll do so immediately.”

“There’s one more thing,” the mayor said. “The cardinal called me at home last night.”

“Yes, sir?”

“About the visit of Stan Colt. The cardinal said that Colt being here may raise a half million dollars or more for West Catholic High School.”

“It probably will, sir.”

“The cardinal wants to make sure Mr. Colt’s visit goes smoothly. And in this case, I want what the cardinal wants.”

“So do I, Mr. Mayor. After the cardinal called me about Mr. Colt coming here, I gave Mr. Colt ‘Visiting Dignitary’ status for his trip. He will be under the care of the Dignitary Protection Unit.”

“So he told me,” the mayor replied. “What he called me about was the assignment to Colt’s visit of a particular detective. Apparently this detective made a very good impression on Monsignor Schneider-who’s doing the nuts and bolts of Colt’s visit for the cardinal-when they met at some sort of preliminary meeting. I’d like this done.”

“Certainly, sir. You have the detective’s name?”

“Payne,” the mayor said. And then he read the commissioner’s face. “You know him? Is there going to be some problem with this?”

“We published the sergeant’s examination ratings yesterday, ” the commissioner said. “Detective Payne ranked number one.”

“In other words, he’s a very bright detective?”

“And a very good one.”

“And now he’s a sergeant?”

“He will be whenever the promotion ceremony is held.”

“And when will that be?”

“Whenever you decide, Mr. Mayor.”

“How about…” He checked his calendar. “I’m free from nine-fifteen until ten tomorrow morning.”

“Sir, we have the funds to promote the top twenty-one men on the list immediately. It would be difficult to get all twenty-one in on such short notice.”

The mayor gave him a look that was mingled curiosity and exasperation.

“We could promote the top five,” Commissioner Mariani said. “You will recall, sir, we offered the top five examinees their choice of assignment.”

“And you can get all five in here tomorrow morning?”

“Yes, sir. I’m sure I can.”

“Good. We’ll get him in here and promote him, and the others, and then assign Sergeant Payne to Dignitary Protection. ”

“But there’s a small problem there, too, I’m sorry to say. Payne is entitled to his choice of assignment.”

“Commissioner, why don’t you suggest to Detective Payne that the Dignitary Protection Unit would be a fine choice of assignment?”

“He wants to go to Homicide, sir.”

“How do you know that?”

“Deputy Commissioner Coughlin told me, sir. He’s Detective Payne’s godfather.”

“Figuratively speaking, or literally?” the mayor asked, sarcastically.

“Both, sir.”

The mayor exhaled in exasperation.

“Then I suggest you suggest to Deputy Commissioner Coughlin that he suggest to Detective Payne that Dignitary Protection would be a fine choice-indeed the only choice- for Detective Payne to make.”

“Mr. Mayor, the prize-the choice of assignment-has been widely publicized. If we don’t make good on the promise…”

“What?”

“I’m afraid the Fraternal Order of Police would-”

“Jesus Christ!” the mayor exploded. “How about this, then, Commissioner? We promote Payne. Sergeant Payne is assigned to Homicide, and then temporarily assigned to Dignitary Protection for Stan Colt’s visit?”

“That would work fine, sir.”

“Then please see that it’s done,” the mayor said. “I’ll look for you here about quarter to three. Thank you, Commissioner. ”

FIVE

Inspector Wohl and Detective Payne were alone in Wohl’s office at the Arsenal. Payne’s laptop was on Wohl’s coffee table, and Payne was bent over it, using it as a notebook, as he reported to Wohl on his investigation of the sudden affluence of Captain Cassidy.

Wohl held up his hand to Detective Payne to stop; he was about to answer his cellular phone.

He picked the cellular up from his desk and answered it. “Wohl.”

Then he slipped the cellular into a device on his desk, which activated a hands-off system.

“Are you there, Inspector?” Jason Washington’s deep, resonant voice came from the speaker.

“Just putting the phone in the whatchamacallit, Jason.”

“Lieutenant Washington reporting for duty, sir.”

“Do I have to tell you this wasn’t my idea, Jason?”

“I understand it was the mayor’s inspiration of the day,” Washington said.

“Well, just for the record: Lieutenant, you are designated the senior investigating officer for the mayor’s task force investigating the murders at the Roy Rogers. You will report directly to me. Now, is there anything you feel you need to facilitate your investigation?”

“No, sir.”

“If there is, you will promptly let me know?”

“Yes, sir.”

“We now go off the record,” Wohl said. “Who told you?”

“The commissioner. Off the record. He also told me about Matt. I thought Matt would have called me.”

“Me, too,” Wohl said. “Detective Payne, why didn’t you telephone Lieutenant Washington and inform him of your spectacular performance?”

“He’s there?” Washington asked.

“Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Well, Detective Payne?”

“I thought,” Matt said, raising his voice so the microphone on Wohl’s desk would pick it up, “Tony would tell you.”

“As indeed he did. When can we expect your services, Sergeant?”

“Homicide’s wastebaskets need emptying, do they, Jason?” Wohl asked, innocently.

“I’m not a sergeant yet.”

“You will be, as I understand it, at approximately nine-thirty tomorrow morning. May I assume that you will report for duty immediately thereafter?”

“Your wastebaskets must be overflowing,” Wohl said.

“I have nothing so mundane in mind for Sergeant Payne, Inspector. His first duty will be to supervise Detective Harris, and Harris’s team.”

Matt thought: That will be a blind man leading the guide dog around.

“Tony’s somehow fallen from grace?” Wohl asked.

“Actually, Peter, it was Tony’s idea. He figures Matt can keep other people from looking over his shoulder. And we all know what a splendid typist Sergeant Payne is.”

Wohl considered that-the problem of how rookie Sergeant Payne will fit into Homicide has been solved. Jason said it was Tony’s idea, but I suspect Jason was involved. Matt will follow Harris around, relieve him of as many administrative details as possible, and since he is both bright and aware of his massive ignorance of Homicide procedures, he will keep his mouth shut, do whatever Tony “suggests”-which will include making sure that the rest of Tony’s team does what Tony wants them to do, and when-and in the process learn a hell of a lot-and grunted his agreement.

“Tony hasn’t come up with anything on the doers?” Wohl asked.

“They’re out there somewhere, Peter,” Washington said. “I think it highly unlikely that the mob imported two professionals from New York to stick up a Roy Rogers.”

Wohl chuckled.

“One distinct possibility, Peter, is that these two master criminals, once they have gone through the-best estimate- less than fifteen hundred dollars they earned on this job, will do it again.”

“Yeah,” Wohl agreed, seeing both the likelihood of a second or third or fourth robbery before they were-almost inevitably-caught, and the likelihood that once they were arrested, they could be identified in a lineup as the Roy Rogers doers.

“There is an obvious downside to that,” Washington went on. “Their willingness to use their weapons…”

“Compounded by the fact they know they are already facing Murder Two,” Wohl interjected.

“… and there will be no greater penalty if they use them again,” Washington finished for him.

“Or they may really go underground,” Matt said, “knowing they’re wanted for Murder Two.”

“The cheap seats have been heard from,” Wohl said.

“I was about to make reference to wisdom from the mouths of babes,” Washington said. “Except, of course, he’s right.”

“God, don’t tell him that. His ego needs no buttressing.”

“Actually, Peter, he will bring a fresh approach, which may very well be useful. Yesterday, when Tony walked Coughlin and our new sergeant through the Roy Rogers, Matt wondered aloud why Doer Two put his revolver under Charlton’s vest. Tony was somewhat chagrined that question hadn’t occurred to him.”

“Is that significant?”

“Never leave a stone unturned…” Washington began.

“… or the stone under the stone,” Wohl finished.

“You were, as I recall, an apt pupil,” Washington said. “It might be. It opens avenues of inquiry. ‘Is Doer Two a cop hater?’ for example. ‘Is he someone who knew, and intensely disliked, Kenny Charlton?’ ‘Did Stan Colt-which brings us to that-use the under-the-vest technique in one of his cinema fantasies?’ ”

“Yeah,” Wohl agreed. “What about Stan Colt?”

“The commissioner didn’t mention that Sergeant Payne’s services will be required in Dignitary Protection when Stan Colt comes to our fair city?”

“No,” Wohl said, simply. “He didn’t.”

“He apparently made a very good impression on Monsignor Schneider,” Washington said, “as incredible as that might sound. I am to lose his services temporarily whenever the Colt people think they need him.”

“Can’t you get me out of that?” Matt asked.

On the other hand, that would give me a lot of time with Terry.

“No,” Washington said. “Peter-Tony just walked in, shaking his head ruefully-you asked if there is anything I need. I just thought of something.”

“It’s yours,” Wohl said.

“I’m a little short of wheels. Sergeant Payne, obviously, will no longer be needing his sparkling new Crown Victoria.”

“Okay,” Wohl said. “And to prove what a fully cooperating fellow I am, I will even have Sergeant Payne deliver it to you, tomorrow when he reports for duty.”

“It’s always a pleasure dealing with you, Inspector,” Washington said, and the line went dead.

Peter removed the cellular phone from the hands-off system, laid it on the desk, and turned to Matt.

“Now, where were we?”

The telephone on his desk buzzed, and Wohl answered it.

The conversation was very brief.

Wohl said “Yes, sir” three times, “Yes, sir, at three” once, and “Yes, sir” one final time.

He looked at Matt again. “The commissioner thinks it would be a very good idea if I were to be at the Monti Funeral Home at three,” he said, “to coincide with the visit of the mayor, and his announcement that he has formed a task force to quickly get the Roy Rogers doers.”

Matt nodded.

“Now, where were we?” Wohl asked again.

When the Hon. Alvin W. Martin got out of the mayoral limousine at the Monti Funeral Home on South Broad Street in Yeadon, just outside the city limits, he paused long enough on the sidewalk to tell the press that he would have an announcement to make as soon as he had offered his condolences to Mrs. Charlton and the Charlton family.

Then he made his way into the funeral home itself, where he found the long, wide, carpeted central corridor of the building about half full of men with police badges on their uniforms, or hanging from breast pockets of suits, from chains around the necks, or on their belts.

Each of the badges had a narrow, black “mourning band”-sliced from the elastic cloth around the bottom of old uniform caps-across it.

The mayor spotted Deputy Commissioner Coughlin at almost the end of the corridor. Commissioner Mariani had told him that Coughlin knew Mrs. Charlton, and would escort him into the “viewing room” where Charlton’s body was laid out, wait until the mayor paid his respects at the casket, then introduce him to Mrs. Charlton, and finally lead him out of the viewing room.

Coughlin was in the center of a group of seven men. Mayor Martin recognized first Mr. Michael J. O’Hara of the Bulletin- no camera, and in a suit. What the hell is he doing here? And with these people? — and then Captain Hollaran, Coughlin’s executive assistant-or whatever the hell his title is-and Lieutenant Jason Washington. The others he could not remember having met-or, for that matter, even seen- before.

One was in the special uniform of the Highway Patrol, and as Martin drew closer, he saw the insignia of a captain. That made him the Highway Patrol’s commanding officer. That little fellow is the head of Highway Patrol? There was another captain, a large man with an imposing, even somewhat frightening, mien-Jesus, I’d hate to get on the wrong side of him! — in a standard police captain’s blue tunic and white shirt uniform.

The other two men-young men, one in his twenties, the other maybe ten years older-in Coughlin’s group didn’t look like policemen. Both were wearing gray, single-button suits very much like the suit the mayor was himself wearing- I’ll give three to two that they get their clothes in the same place, and that place is Brooks Brothers. They look like lawyers. I’ll give even money that’s what they are.

Well, I would have lost that one, he thought, as the older of the lawyers turned toward Commissioner Coughlin-probably to tell him he spotted me-and in doing so, his previously concealed breast pocket came into view. There was a black-banded badge hanging from it.

Martin extended his hand and smiled just a little as he reached Coughlin.

“A sad occasion, Commissioner,” he said.

“Indeed it is,” Coughlin said. “Mr. Mayor, I don’t believe you know any of these officers?”

“Aside from Captain Hollaran and Lieutenant Washington, I’m really sorry to say I don’t,” Martin said. “Good to see you, Jason, Captain.”

“Good afternoon, Mr. Mayor,” they said, almost in unison.

“This is Inspector Peter Wohl, of Special Operations,” Coughlin said, and the older lawyer put out his hand.

“How do you do, sir?”

“Captain Sabara, his deputy,” Coughlin went on, “and Captain Pekach of Highway Patrol.”

When the mayor had shaken their hands, Coughlin gestured toward the “other lawyer.”

“And this is Detective Payne, Mr. Mayor.”

“Is it indeed? Congratulations on the exam, Detective Payne.”

“Thank you.”

What I’m looking at here is the police establishment. A politically correct police establishment. Coughlin and Hollaran, the Irish cops of fame and legend; God only knows what the rough-looking one is, Eastern European, maybe; Wohl sounds German; Payne looks like a WASP. And Jason Washington representing the Afro-Americans-what did Washington say, “all cops are blue?” All we’re missing is a Jew.

As if on cue, a large, stocky, ruddy faced, barrel-chested man with a full head of curly silver hair, a badge with a mourning strip on it hanging from his pocket, walked up to the group. He was Chief Inspector of Detectives M. L. Lowenstein.

“Afternoon,” he said.

“Thank you for coming, Chief Lowenstein,” the mayor said. “I really wanted you here when I make the announcement. ”

Lowenstein nodded at him, then put out his hand to Detective Payne.

“I saw The List, Matt,” he said. “Congratulations.”

He knows Payne, too? That young man really gets around.

“Thank you.”

“Have you seen Denise?” Coughlin asked Lowenstein.

“Sarah and I went to the house Monday evening,” Lowenstein said, and looked at Commissioner Mariani. Neither the commissioner nor the mayor had trouble translating the look: I’ve already expressed my condolences, so there’s no reason for me to be here again, except for this political bullshit about a task force.

“Anytime you’re ready, Mr. Mayor,” Coughlin said. “I’ll take you in.”

“Right,” the mayor said, and nodded, and followed Coughlin into the viewing room.

It was a large room, with an aisle between rows of folding chairs. Up front, the first row of chairs on the right was upholstered. Mayor Martin saw the heads of two children on either side of a gray-haired woman-the widow and their kids-and of several other adults-family members, probably.

Officer Kenneth J. Charlton was laid out in a gray metal casket in the center of the room. As he walked down the aisle behind Charlton, the mayor could see his face, and then enough of the body to see that Charlton was to be buried in his uniform.

Coughlin stopped in the aisle next to the first row of chairs, and the mayor realized he was expected to approach the casket alone.

There was a prie-dieu in front of the casket, which made the mayor uncomfortable. So far as he was concerned- he had learned this from his father, the Rev. Dr. Claude Charles Martin, now pastor emeritus of the Second African Methodist Episcopal Church-prie-dieux were a Roman Catholic device, or maybe Catholic/Episcopal device, of which he did not approve.

So what the hell do I do now? Ignore it, as Pop would have me do, and stand by the casket looking thoughtfully down at the body? Or use the damn thing, and feel-and perhaps look-hypocritical?

He dropped to his knees onto the padded prie-dieu and bent his head. And looked at the face of Officer Charlton.

You poor bastard. Goddamn the animals that did this to you!

The anger took him by surprise.

Lord, forgive my anger. But what we have here is a good man who put his life on the line to protect other human beings. And lost it.

Lord, take him into Your arms, and give him the peace that passes all understanding.

He’s wearing his badge. Will they take it off? Or bury him with it?

Probably take it off.

Give it to his family?

Or is there some sort of memorial with the badges of the other cops who’ve been killed in the line of duty?

They have their pictures hanging in the lobby of the Roundhouse, but I can’t remember if their badges are there, too. ^1

Lord, protect this man’s wife and children, and give them the strength to get through this ordeal.

Make them wise in Your ways, Dear Lord, and grant them Thy peace.

Give the police the wisdom to find the people who did this to this Thy servant, Lord.

And quickly, before they kill someone else.

Lord Jesus, guide my steps with Thy almighty hand.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

The mayor took one more look at the face of Officer Kenneth J. Charlton, and then got somewhat awkwardly off the prie-dieu.

Then he turned and walked toward the widow and the children.

Mrs. Charlton stood up, then urged the boy and the girl to their feet.

“Mrs. Charlton, I’m Alvin Martin…”

“It was good of you to come, Mayor.”

"… and you have my most sincere condolences, and my…”

“This is Kenny Jr., and this is Deborah.”

“Kenny, Deborah, your father was a brave man who died a hero. You can be very proud of him.”

There was no response.

“If there is ever anything I can do for you, I want you to call me. You understand?”

Kenny Jr. and Deborah nodded their heads but didn’t look at him.

The mayor nodded at Mrs. Charlton, then turned and walked to the aisle and then down it.

His press relations officer was waiting for him in the corridor outside the viewing room.

He led the mayor to another viewing room where the press was waiting for him. The press relations officer had arranged Mariani and the other police department brass in a line against the wall, and he handed the mayor two three-by-five cards on which the essence of the announcement had been printed in large letters.

The mayor glanced at them quickly, then turned to face the press.

“This is a very sad day,” he began. “Both a citizen-a single mother of three-and a police officer have lost their lives as a result of a brutal attack that affects not only their grieving survivors but every citizen of Philadelphia.

“This sort of outrage cannot be tolerated, and it will not be. I have ordered the formation of a task force to be commanded by Inspector Peter Wohl of the Special Operations Division…”

When Matt Payne, driving the unmarked Crown Victoria, came down Pennsylvania Route 252 and approached the driveway to his parents’ home in Wallingford, he looked carefully in the rearview mirror before applying the brake. Two-fifty-two was lined with large, old pine trees on that stretch, and the drives leading off it were not readily visible. He had more times than he liked to remember come uncomfortably close to being rear-ended.

Wallingford is a small Philadelphia suburb, between Media (through which U.S. 1, known locally as the “Baltimore Pike,” runs) and Chester, which is on the Delaware River. It is not large enough to be placed on most road maps, although it has its own post office and railroad station. It is a residential community, housing families whom sociologists would categorize as upper-middle-income, upper-income, and wealthy, in separate dwellings, some very old and some designed to look that way.

Brewster Cortland Payne II had raised his family, now grown and gone, in a large house on four acres on Providence Road in Wallingford. It had been in the Payne family for more than two centuries.

What was now the kitchen and the sewing room had been the whole house when it had been built of fieldstone before the Revolution. Additions and modifications over two centuries had turned it into a large rambling structure that fit no specific architectural category, although a real estate sales-woman had once remarked in the hearing of Mrs. Patricia (Mrs. Brewster C.) Payne that “the Payne place just looked like old, old money.”

The house was comfortable, even luxurious, but not ostentatious. There was neither swimming pool nor tennis court, but there was, in what a century before had been a stable, a four-car garage. The Payne family swam, as well as rode, at the Rose Tree Hunt Club. They had a summer house in Cape May, New Jersey, which did have a tennis court, as well as a berth for their boat, a fifty-eight-foot Hatteras called Final Tort V.

Matt made it safely into the drive, and as he approached the house, saw a two-year-old, somewhat battered, GMC Suburban parked with one of its front wheels on the grass beside the parking area by the garage. It had been Brewster Payne’s gift to his daughter, Amelia Payne, M.D., not because she needed such a large vehicle, but in the hope that the truck-sized-and truck-strong-vehicle would keep her alive. Amy Payne’s inability to conduct a motor vehicle over the roads of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania without, on the average of once a week, at least grazing other motor vehicles, street signs, and on memorable occasion, a fire hydrant, was almost legendary.

Amy Payne was in the kitchen with her mother and Mrs. Elizabeth Newman, the Payne housekeeper, when Matt walked in. They were peeling shrimp. Amy was a not-quite-pretty young woman who wore her hair short, not for purposes of beauty but because it was easier to care for that way.

Mrs. Newman was a comfortable-looking gray-haired woman in her fifties. Patricia Payne was older than she looked at first glance. She was trim, for one thing, with a luxuriant head of dark brown, almost reddish hair, and she had the fair skin of the Irish.

“Well, if it isn’t the famous soon-to-be Sergeant Matthew Payne,” Amy greeted her brother. “How good of you to find time in your busy schedule for us.”

“Amy!” Patricia Payne protested.

“Got another fire hydrant, did you, Sigmund?” Matt said, as he walked to the table and kissed his mother.

“You were on television,” Patricia Payne said. “I guess you know.”

“That wasn’t my idea,” Matt said. “The mayor’s press guy grabbed my arm and said ‘You stand there.’ ”

“You did look uncomfortable,” his mother said. “Well, I guess congratulations are in order, aren’t they?”

“That’s what I came out to tell you,” Matt said. “How did you find out?”

“Not from you, obviously,” Amy said.

“Hey, I tried to call when I found out,” Matt said. “Didn’t I, Elizabeth?”

“Yes, he did.”

“And she told me you and Dad were going to be overnight in Wilmington,” Matt said, and added, “I even tried to call you, Sigmund Freud.”

“I thought that had to be you. Sophomoric humor.”

“I’m almost afraid to ask,” Patricia Payne said.

“He told the receptionist to tell me they were going to repossess my television unless they got paid,” Amy said.

“Matt, you didn’t,” Patricia Payne said, but her face revealed that she found a certain element of humor in the situation.

“I walked into the office, and the receptionist, all embarrassed, whispered in my ear and said that the finance company had called-”

Mrs. Newman laughed out loud.

“I’m going to get you for that, wiseass,” Amy said.

“I put a bottle of champagne in the refrigerator after Denny called,” Patricia Payne said. “Go get your father and we’ll open it. He’s in the living room.”

“Uncle Denny called?” Matt asked.

“We’re invited to the promotion ceremony,” Patricia said. “Denny’s very proud of you. We all are.”

“You, too, Sigmund?” Matt asked.

Dr. Payne gave him the finger.

“And that goes for your boss, too,” she said. “We had dinner Monday night and he didn’t say a goddamn word.”

“All Peter knew was that The List was out. He didn’t know when the promotion would come through, except that it wasn’t going to be anytime soon. That’s probably why he didn’t tell you.”

She snorted.

Matt walked out of the kitchen, down a narrow corridor, and through a door into a rather small, comfortably furnished room with book-lined walls, and the chairs arranged to face a large television screen.

Brewster C. Payne was sitting with his feet up on the matching ottoman of a red leather armchair, one of two. He was a tall, angular, dignified man in his early fifties.

He had a legal brief in his lap and his right hand was wrapped around a glass of whiskey.

“You were on the boob tube,” he said. “You looked distressed. ”

“I was,” Matt said, and then went on: “Amy’s pissed that Uncle Denny told you before I did. For the record, I tried to call just as soon as I found out.”

“That’s not why she’s… somewhat less than enthusiastic, ” Brewster Payne said. “I think she was hoping you’d fail the test and leave the police department.”

“Mother’s got champagne in the fridge,” Matt said, changing the subject. “But I’d rather have a quick one of those.”

Payne pointed at a bottle of scotch, sitting with a silver water pitcher, a silver ice bowl, and several glasses. Matt helped himself, and while he was doing so, Brewster Payne rose from his chair. When Matt raised his glass, his father held out his glass and touched Matt’s.

“It’s what you want, Matt, so I’m happy for you. And proud. Number one!”

“Thank you.”

“You can stay for supper? We bought some shrimp on the road from Wilmington…”

“Sure. I made shrimp last night for Chad and Daffy, but what the hell…”

“We could thaw a steak.”

“Shrimp’s fine. Daffy was playing matchmaker again. I’d already met her. She’s from Los Angeles. She’s handling, I guess is the word, Stan Colt when he comes to town. His real name is Stanley Coleman.”

“I saw it in the paper. Are you involved with that somehow? ”

“Peter sent me to a meeting to see what Dignitary Protection is going to need to protect Super Cop. Monsignor Schneider-who sitteth at the right hand of the Bishop-was there. I think he’s a cop groupie. He knew all about Doylestown. Anyway, he asked for me by name. When Super Cop, aka Colt aka Coleman comes to town, I’ll be temporarily assigned to Dignitary Protection. Terry said he’s interested in very young women. That ought to make it interesting.”

“Is that the young woman’s name, ‘Terry’?”

“Terry Davis. Two ‘r’s and a ‘y.’ She said her father’s a lawyer with movie connections, and he got her the job with GAM. Which stands for Global Artists Management.”

“I think I know him,” Brewster Payne said. “If it’s the same fellow, he masterfully defends, whenever challenged, the motion picture industry’s amazingly imaginative accounting practices.”

“Interesting,” Matt said. “If you happen to bump into him…"”

“I’m getting the impression that you are somewhat taken with this young lady, and therefore not entirely unhappy with the prospect of protecting… what did you call him? ‘Super Cop’?”

“She’s a blonde. Nice legs,” Matt said. “And she knows how to peel shrimp. What more can one ask for?”

“What indeed?” Brewster Payne said.

“Matt,” Patricia Payne said at the door, “I told you I was going to open a bottle of champagne.”

“I needed a little liquid courage to face Sigmund Freud,” Matt said.

She turned without replying, and after a moment, her son and husband followed her into the kitchen.

The three women were standing around the chopping block in the middle of the kitchen. They each held a champagne glass, and there were two more on the chopping block. And something else, wrapped in a handkerchief.

Matt and his father picked up the champagne stems.

“To Sergeant Payne,” Patricia Payne said, and they all touched glasses.

Matt took a sip and set it down.

“I’ve got something for you,” she said. “I wanted the family to be together when I gave it to you.”

She picked up the handkerchief and handed it to him. Even before he unwrapped it, Matt knew what it was. It was a police badge, and he knew whose.

“Your father’s,” she said.

Matt looked at the sergeant’s badge, Number 471, of the Police Department of the City of Philadelphia.

“When Denny called,” Patricia Payne went on, “he said that he could arrange for you to be assigned your father’s number if I wanted. I told him I thought you would like that. And he asked me if I happened to still have it, and I told him I’d have to look. I found it. It was in the attic. And your father’s off-duty gun, the snub-nosed. 38.”

He looked at his mother but didn’t say anything.

“Your father was a good man, Matt,” his mother said. “A good police officer.”

“I have two fathers,” Matt said, his voice breaking. “My other father is a good man, too.”

Brewster Payne looked at him.

“Write this down, Matt. Never reply to a heartfelt compliment. You never can come up with something worth saying.”

He put his arm around Matt’s shoulder, and then embraced him.

“Give that to Denny before the ceremony tomorrow,” Patricia Payne said. “He’ll know how to handle it.”

Matt nodded, and slipped the badge into his pocket.

“Under the circumstances,” Brewster Payne said, picking up his whiskey glass, “barring objections, I think I’ll have another of these.”

“Me, too,” Matt said.

“First, we’ll finish the champagne,” Patricia Payne said. “And then we’ll all have a drink.”

Matt had just turned onto I-476 in Swarthmore to return to Philadelphia when the S-Band radio in the Crown Victoria went off: "S-Twelve.”

He pulled the microphone from under the center armrest.

“Twelve.”

“Meet the inspector in the 700 block of North Second.”

“Got it. En route. Thank you,” he said.

It was entirely possible that a crime had been committed in the 700 block of North Second Street, requiring his professional attention. But it was far more likely that he was going to find Inspector Wohl inside the premises at 705 North Second, which was known as Liberties Bar, and was the preferred watering hole of the Homicide Bureau.

I wonder what that’s all about?

I wonder why he didn’t call me on the cell phone?

Tomorrow, I will no longer be S-Twelve.

There was a somewhat battered, three-year-old Crown Victoria parked on Second Street in front of Liberties Bar. And a last year’s Crown Victoria, three brand-new Crown Victorias, and a Buick Rendezvous.

When Matt walked into Liberties, the drivers of these vehicles were sitting around two tables pushed together along the wall, across from the ornately carved, century-old bar. They were Deputy Commissioner Coughlin, Chief Inspector Lowenstein, Inspector Wohl, Lieutenant Washington, Detective Harris, and Michael J. O’Hara, Esq.

There was a bottle of Old Bushmills Irish whiskey, a bottle of Chivas Regal, a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, and two bowls, one with cashews, the other with stick pretzels, on the table.

“What’s going on?” Matt asked, slipping into a chair at the table beside Harris.

“I am interrogating a witness to the Roy Rogers job,” Harris said, nodding at O’Hara. “And getting nothing out of him.”

“Jesus, Tony,” Mickey said. “The bastards took a shot at me!”

Matt poured scotch into a glass.

“It would behoove you to go easy on that tonight, Detective Payne,” Wohl said. “Which is the reason we put the arm out for you. We didn’t want you to go off somewhere and get smashed by yourself.”

“Yes, sir,” Matt said, and picked up the drink and took a sip. Then he took his father’s badge from his apartment and slipped it to Denny Coughlin.

“Mom found that, and said to give it to you,” he said.

Coughlin looked at the badge, then laid it on the table.

“What’s that?” Lowenstein asked.

“Jack Moffitt’s sergeant’s badge,” Coughlin replied. “I remember the day he got it.” He looked at Matt and said, “I don’t want to hand this to your mother a second time. You understand me?”

Matt’s mouth ran away with him.

“Color me careful.”

“Watch your lip, Matty!” Coughlin said.

“That would make a good yarn,” Mickey O’Hara said. “ ‘New Sergeant Gets Hero Father’s Badge.’ ”

“Which you won’t write, right?” Lowenstein said.

“Okay,” Mickey said, shrugging his shoulders and reaching for the bottle of Old Bushmills.

“I loved Jack like a brother,” Coughlin said. “And he had a lot of balls. But he wasn’t a hero. His big balls got him killed. He answered a silent alarm without backup…”

“I remember,” Lowenstein said. “I had North Detectives when it happened.”

“Jack knew better,” Coughlin said. “He could still be walking around if he’d done what he was trained-ordered-to do.”

“Dennis, how would you judge Dutch Moffitt’s behavior?” Jason Washington’s sonorous voice asked.

Coughlin looked at him, obviously annoyed at the question.

“Was that an excess of male ego-‘I’m Dutch Moffitt of Highway Patrol. I can handle this punk by myself’?” Washington pursued. “Or a professional assessment of the situation in which he found himself, with the same result?”

Coughlin looked at him for a long moment before deciding if and what to answer.

“Dutch said, ‘Lay the gun on the counter, son. I don’t want to have to kill you. I’m a police officer.’ Was that the right thing to do? I think so. I would like to think that’s what I would have done. I would also like to think I would have looked around for a second doer. Dutch didn’t, and the junkie girlfriend shot him.”

“I worked with Dutch,” Peter Wohl said. “I can’t believe he didn’t look for a second doer. He had trouble keeping his pecker in his pocket, but he was a very good street cop.”

“Your mother never told you, ‘Don’t speak ill of the dead,’ Peter?” Coughlin said. “Especially in front of the deceased’s nephew?”

Wohl shrugged, unrepentant. Coughlin had another thought.

“Your grandmother’s going to be in the mayor’s office tomorrow, Matty. I thought she had a right to be.”

“Oh, shit!” Matt blurted.

Coughlin glared angrily at him.

“I was going to tell her later,” Matt said, somewhat lamely. “Maybe even go by.”

“She’s your grandmother, Matt,” Coughlin said, on the edge of anger.

“I don’t like the way she treats my mother,” Matt said.

“Don’t tell me she’s still pissed that Jack’s widow married Payne?” Lowenstein asked.

“It’s a religious thing, Matt,” Coughlin said. “Patricia raised Matt as an Episcopal after Payne adopted him.”

“You Christians do have your problems, don’t you?” Lowenstein asked. “How many angels can fit on the head of a pin?”

Coughlin gave him the finger.

“I don’t agree with her, Matty,” Coughlin said. “You know that. But she’s still your grandmother.”

“Does my mother know she’s coming?”

“If your mother knew, she would, being the lady she is, not go.”

“Jesus-”

“Before you two continue with what is sure to be an indeterminable discussion of Mother Moffitt,” Washington interrupted, “may I finish with my profound observation?”

Matt realized-wondering why it had taken him so long-that while no one at the table was drunk, it was also obvious that no one was on their first-or third-drink, either. He looked at the bottles. The Chivas Regal was half empty; the Jack Daniel’s and the Old Bushmills were almost dry.

And Washington had even called Coughlin by his first name.

What the hell is this all about? Why are all these people sitting around here getting smashed?

“How could we stop you?” Mickey O’Hara asked.

Washington continued, “With the given that Sergeant Jack Moffitt was a good street cop, that Captain Dutch Moffitt was a good street cop, and that Officer Charlton had survived almost to retirement as a street cop, what mistake-indeed, what fatal mistake-did all three of them make?”

“They weren’t as good as they thought they were?” Mickey asked.

“Close, Michael,” Washington said.

“Oh, shit, not that ‘they didn’t turn over the rock under the rock’ crap again,” Tony Harris said.

“Yes, indeed,” Washington said. “That ‘turn over the rock under the rock’ crap again. If Sergeant Moffitt had looked around the gas station one more time, if Dutch had looked around the Waikiki Diner one more time, if Charlton had taken one more look…”

“I don’t think that’s such a profound observation, Jason,” Coughlin said.

“More like self-evident,” Lowenstein said.

“I was trying to make the point for Matt’s edification,” Washington said.

Coughlin looked at him, then at Matt.

“He’s right, Matty,” he said. “Pay attention.”

“Yes, sir,” Matt said.

“Would you like to see how your names will appear in tomorrow’s Bulletin?” Mickey asked. “Or shall we go back to discussing Mother Moffitt?”

He took several sheets of paper from his inside jacket pocket and swung them back and forth.

“Curiosity underwhelms me,” Wohl said, and held his hand out for the sheets of paper.

Slug-Mayor Forms Double Murder Task Force

(Jack, don’t bury this with the underwear ads. These slimeballs need catching. AND USE THE PICTURES)

By Michael J. O’HaraBulletin Staff Writer

Photos by Jack WeinbergBulletin Photographer

Philadelphia-Mayor Alvin W. Martin, surrounded by the heavy hitters of the Philadelphia Police Department, and standing not far from where the body of Officer Kenneth Charlton lay in state in the Monti Funeral Home in the 2500 block of South Broad Street, this afternoon announced the formation of a special police task force to bring the two men who murdered Charlton and Mrs. Maria M. Fernandez during the robbery Sunday evening of the Roy Rogers restaurant on South Broad Street.

“Both a citizen-a single mother of three-and a police officer have lost their lives as a result of a brutal attack that affects not only their grieving survivors but every citizen of Philadelphia,” the mayor said, adding: “This sort of outrage cannot be tolerated, and it will not be.”

(Photo 1 L-R, Lowenstein, Mariani, Martin, Coughlin) Flanked by Police Commissioner Ralph J. Mariani, Deputy Commissioner Dennis V. Coughlin, and Chief Inspector of Detectives Matthew Lowenstein, Martin announced that Inspector Peter F. Wohl, the highly regarded commanding officer of the Special Operations Division, would head the task force.

(Photo 2 L-R, Washington, Wohl, and Harris) Speaking to this reporter later, Inspector Wohl said it was not his intention to take over the investigation from Lieutenant Jason Washington, “who is beyond question the most skilled homicide investigator I know of,” but rather to “ensure that Lieutenant Washington and his able team leader, Detective Anthony Harris, get whatever assistance they need from not only Special Operations, but the entire police department, so these criminals can be quickly removed from our streets.”

(Photo 3 L-R, Sabara, Wohl, Pekach, Sgt M. M. Payne, and Capt F. X. Hollaran) Wohl’s deputy, Captain Michael J. Sabara, and Captain David R. Pekach, commanding officer of the elite Highway Patrol, nodded their agreement with both Wohl’s cold determination and with his explanation of the difficulty sometimes encountered-as now-in identifying the perpetrators of a crime.

“The patrons of the Roy Rogers restaurant were terrorized by the cold brutality of these criminals. Shots were fired. Two people were killed, and everyone else’s life was in danger. It’s regrettable, but I think very understandable, that the horrified witnesses can’t really agree on a description of the men we seek.

“This is not to say that we won’t apprehend them, and soon, but that it will take a bit longer than we like.”

Wohl went on to say that “it’s only in the movies that a fingerprint lifted from the scene of a crime can be quickly matched with that of a criminal whose identity is unknown. There are hundreds of thousands of fingerprints in our files, millions in those of the FBI, and the prints we have in our possession will have to be matched to them one at a time until we get a match.”

Wohl went on to explain that once the people sought are in custody, their fingerprints can be used to prove they were at the scene of the crime, “but until that happens, fingerprints won’t be of immediate use to us.

“And once we have these people in custody, and can place them in a police lineup, there is no question in my mind-experience shows-that the witnesses to their crime will be able to positively identify them. This crime will not go unpunished.”

Wohl said that police are already running down “a number of leads,” but declined to elaborate. End

Wohl slid the two sheets of paper across the table to Coughlin. Lowenstein leaned over so that he could read it, too.

“Magnificent story, Mickey,” Wohl said. “There’s just one little thing wrong with it. All those quotes from me are pure bullshit.”

“Is the Black Buddha the most skilled homicide investigator you know of, or not?” O’Hara challenged.

“Of course I am,” Washington said. “Let me see that when you’re finished, Dennis, please.”

“He is, but I didn’t tell you that,” Wohl said.

“But if I had asked, you would have said so, right? And I’m right about the fingerprints, right?”

“But I didn’t even talk to you at the goddamn funeral home!”

“But if you had, you would have said what I said you said, more or less, right?”

“This’ll be in the paper tomorrow, Mick?” Lowenstein asked.

“It will, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was on page one.”

“Pity you couldn’t have put in there that we had a late-night conference,” Lowenstein said. “Martin would have loved that.”

“I didn’t know about the ‘late-night conference’ until I walked in here,” O’Hara said. “When I heard on the command band that everybody was headed to the 700 block of North Second, I thought there was a war on here.”

“Commissioner Coughlin and myself were conferring privately with Inspector Wohl,” Lowenstein said, “when these underlings coincidentally felt the need for a late-night cup of coffee at this fine establishment.”

There were chuckles.

“Nice story, Mickey,” Coughlin said.

“Presuming the conference is over,” Wohl said, as he got to his feet, “I am going home.” He looked at Matt. “And so are you.”

Coughlin stood up.

“Are we square with the tab here?”

“I’ll get the tab,” Mickey O’Hara said. “My pleasure.”

“Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and at the mayor’s office at quarter to nine, Matty,” Coughlin ordered. “And I expect you to be nice to your grandmother.”

“I have, as always,” Jason Washington said, getting to his feet, “thoroughly enjoyed the company of my colleagues. And I am sure you have all profited greatly from the experience. ”

Detective Harris shook his head, then chuckled, then giggled, and then laughed. That proved contagious, and each of them was smiling, or chuckling, or laughing as they filed out the door onto North Second Street.

SIX

The Hon. Alvin W. Martin looked up from his desk when his executive assistant, Dianna Kerr-Gally, a tall, thin, stylish, thirtyish black woman, slipped into his office. thin,

"It’s ten past nine, Mr. Mayor.”

“Is everybody in the conference room?”

“Just about, but Commissioner Mariani has someone he wants you to meet.”

She nodded toward the outer office.

“Sure, send him in,” the mayor replied, with an enthusiasm he really didn’t feel. He had things to do, and the less time spent on the promotion ceremony the better.

It wasn’t only Commissioner Mariani. He had with him Deputy Commissioner Coughlin and a tall, lean, stern-faced, gray-haired woman in a simple black dress and the young detective who had scored number one.

“Good morning, Mr. Mayor,” Mariani said.

“Good morning, Ralph.”

The mayor smiled at the woman, who returned it with a barely perceptible curling of her lips.

She looks like that farmer’s wife in the Grant Wood painting.

What’s that on her dress? Miniature police badges. Three of them.

“Mr. Mayor,” Coughlin said. “I thought before the program begins that you’d like to meet Mrs. Gertrude Moffitt…”

“I’m delighted. How do you do, Mrs. Moffitt?”

She nodded, her lips curled slightly again, but she didn’t say anything.

“Mrs. Moffitt is the widow of a police officer, and two of her sons died in the line of duty as police officers…,” Coughlin said.

Well, that explains the three badges.

“… Sergeant John X. Moffitt and Captain Richard C. Moffitt…” Coughlin went on.

“That’s a proud tradition, Mrs. Moffitt,” the mayor said. “I’m honored to meet you.”

She nodded again.

“… and she is Detective Payne’s grandmother,” Coughlin finished.

“The tradition continues, then,” the mayor said. “This must be a proud moment for you.”

“If my grandson still carried his father’s name, it would be,” she said.

What the hell does that mean?

Detective Payne looked pained.

Whatever the hell it is, I’m not going to get into it here and now.

“Since you know full well, Mrs. Moffitt, that police work never ceases, I’m sure you’ll forgive me if I ask the commissioner if there have been any developments in the Roy Rogers case.”

“I’m afraid not, Mr. Mayor…”

Damn! The press will be in the conference room. It would have been a perfect place and time to announce the cops have finally bagged those animals.

“… but Commissioner Coughlin tells me there was a meeting last night of all the principals of the task force, plus Chief of Detectives Lowenstein.”

“Really? Well, I hope something good will come from it.”

“I feel sure that it will, Mr. Mayor,” Coughlin said. “We all feel there will be developments in the very near future.”

“I hope you’re right, Commissioner,” the mayor said. “Mrs. Moffitt, when we go into the conference room”-he looked at his watch-“and we’re going to have to do that right now, I think it would be very appropriate if you were to pin his new badge on your grandson.”

And a picture like that will certainly make the evening news.

“All right,” she said.

“Here it is, Mother Moffitt,” Coughlin said. “That’s Jack’s badge.”

“That’s Jack’s badge?” she asked, looking at the badge Coughlin was holding out to her.

“Yes, it is.”

“You told me, Dennis Coughlin, that it had been buried with him.”

“I was wrong,” Coughlin said.

“And where was it all these years? She had it, didn’t she?”

“Patricia’s Jack’s widow, Mother Moffitt.”

She snatched the badge out of his hand.

“Well, at least she won’t have it now,” Mother Moffitt said.

“If you will all go into the conference room now?” Dianna Kerr-Gally asked, gesturing at a door. “We can get the ceremony under way.”

When the mayor tried to follow the procession into the conference room, Dianna Kerr-Gally held up her arm, palm extended, to stop him.

He stopped.

Dianna Kerr-Gally, using her fingers and mouthing the numbers, counted downward from ten, then signaled the mayor to go into the conference room.

He walked briskly to the head of the table, where a small lectern had been placed. He looked around the room, smiling, attempting to lock eyes momentarily with everyone.

There were five promotees, all of whom looked older than Detective Payne, and all but Payne were in uniform. Two of the promotees were gray-haired. All the promotees were accompanied by family and/or friends. Dianna Kerr-Gally had put out the word no more than four per promotee, and apparently that had been widely ignored. The large room was crowded, just about full.

There were three video cameras at the rear of the room, and at least half a dozen still photographers. One of them was Michael J. O’Hara of the Bulletin.

I’ll have to remember to thank him for that front-page story about the task force.

Jesus, is that who I think it is? It damn sure is.

Brewster C. Payne in the flesh.

The last time I saw him was on Monday in Washington, in the Senate Dining Room. He was the “something really important has come up” reason our distinguished senior senator was sorry he couldn’t have lunch with me.

What’s his connection with Detective Payne?

When Dianna Kerr-Gally came to the lectern to hand him the three-by-five cards from which he would speak, he motioned her close to him and whispered, “The tall WASP in the back of the room?”

She looked and nodded.

“His name is Brewster Payne,” she whispered back.

“I know who he is. Ask him if he can spare me a minute when this is over.”

She nodded.

“If I may have your attention, ladies and gentlemen?” the mayor began, raising his voice so that it could be heard over the hubbub in the room.

The next time we do something like this, there should be a microphone.

“I realize you’re a busy man, Mr. Payne,” the mayor said, as Dianna Kerr-Gally ushered Brewster Payne into his office. “But I did want to say hello. I don’t think we’ve ever actually met, have we?”

“I don’t believe we have. But didn’t I see you in Washington on Monday?”

“Across the dining room,” the mayor said, waving him into a chair. “I need a cup of coffee. Do you have the time?”

“Thank you very much,” Payne said. “I’d love one.”

“Dianna, please?”

“Right away, Mr. Mayor.”

“Would it be impolitic for me to ask what you and the senator seemed to be talking so intently about?”

“My firm represents Nesfoods,” Payne said. “The senator chairs the Agricultural Subcommittee. We were talking about tomatoes, United States and Mexican.”

Nesfoods gave me one hundred thousand for my campaign. I wonder how much they gave to the senator?

“The tomato growers here are concerned about cheap Mexican tomatoes?”

“That issue has been resolved by the Free Trade Agreement. What I hoped to do-what I think I did-was convince the senator that it’s in everybody’s best interests for the Department of Agriculture to station inspectors in Nesfoods processing plants in Mexico, so that we can process the tomatoes there, and ship the pulp in tank trucks to the Nesfoods plants here and in California. That will both save Nesfoods a good deal of money and actually increase the quality of the finished product. Apparently, the riper the tomato when processed, the better the pulp.”

“And what was the problem?”

“As hard as it is to believe, there are those who are unhappy with the Free Trade Agreement,” Payne said, dryly, “and object to stationing Agriculture Department inspectors on foreign soil.”

“But after you had your little chat, the senator seemed to see the light?”

“I hope so, Mr. Mayor.”

Dianna Kerr-Gally came into the office with a silver coffee service and poured coffee.

When she had left them alone again, the mayor looked over his coffee cup and said, “I wasn’t aware until this morning that your son was a policeman.”

“I think of it as the firm’s loss is the city’s gain,” Payne said. “Actually, Matt’s my adopted son. His father-a police sergeant-was killed before he was born. I adopted Matt before he could walk.”

“You’d rather he would have joined Mawson, Payne, Stockton, McAdoo and Lester?” the mayor asked.

“Wouldn’t your father prefer to see you in a pulpit?” Payne responded.

“Whenever I see him, he shakes his head sadly,” the mayor said. “I don’t think he’s given up hope that I will see the error of my ways.”

“Neither have I given up hope,” Payne said. “But in the meantime, I am as proud of Matt as I daresay your father is of you.”

“I like to think public service is an honorable, even noble, calling.”

“So does Matt,” Payne said. “He thinks of the police as a thin blue line, all that separates society from the barbarians.”

“Unfortunately, he’s probably right,” the mayor said.

Payne set his cup down.

“I don’t want to keep you, Mr. Payne,” the mayor said. “But I did want to say hello. Could we have lunch one day?”

“I’d be delighted,” Payne said. “And thank you for the coffee.”

He stood up, shook hands with the mayor, and walked out of the room.

Commissioner Mariani told me that if I didn’t send that young man to Homicide as promised I could expect trouble from the Fraternal Order of Police. He didn’t tell me that the FOP would be represented, pro bono, by Mawson, Payne, Stockton, McAdoo amp; Lester.

The Hon. Eileen McNamara Solomon, Philadelphia’s district attorney, devoutly believed that at least seventy percent of the nurses under fifty in the surgical department of the hospital of the University of Pennsylvania would rush to console Benjamin A. Solomon, M.D., the moment he started to feel sorry for himself because his wife-the-D.A. had become careless about her appearance.

So, although she was always too busy to waste a lot of time in a beauty parlor, she made it to Cathleen’s Coiffeurs every Tuesday at 8:00 A.M., watched what she ate, and, weather permitting, jogged on the Parkway for an hour starting at 7:00 A.M. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

The result was a rather tall, lithe forty-nine-year-old, who wore her blonde hair cut stylishly but short, and whose husband had no reason to see if the grass was greener in someone else’s bedroom.

After graduation-third in her class-from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, and passing the bar examination, Eileen McNamara had declined offers to join any of the several more or less prestigious law firms because she suspected she was going to become the Token Female.

Instead, she took a job with the Public Defender’s Office, which had the responsibility of providing legal counsel to the indigent. She had quickly proven herself to be a highly competent courtroom lawyer.

But she had always been a little uncomfortable after she had convinced a jury that there was reasonable doubt that some miserable sonofabitch had actually pistol-whipped a grandmother while in the process of robbing her corner grocery, or some other miserable sonofabitch had actually been pushing drugs on grammar school kids.

And she had been unhappy in the company of her colleagues, who almost universally believed that having been born into poverty, or to a drug-addict mother, or of Afro-American /Puerto Rican/Latin/Outer Mongolian/Whatever parentage was an excuse to commit robbery, rape, and murder, and to meanwhile support oneself in outrageous luxury by selling what were known as “prohibited substances” to others.

So she had changed sides. Philadelphia’s district attorney was delighted to offer Miss Eileen McNamara a position as an assistant district attorney not only because she was a good-looking blonde, but also because her record of successfully defending people his assistant D.A. s had prosecuted unsuccessfully had made them look even more incompetent than they actually were.

She had been somewhat happier in the D.A.’s office, but not much. The cases she would have liked to prosecute seemed to get assigned to the “more experienced” of her fellow assistant D.A. s, and the cases she was assigned to prosecute were-she quickly figured out-the ones her fellow assistant D.A. s didn’t want because the cases were either weak or politically dangerous or both.

But she did her best with the cases she was given, and managed to convince one jury after another that not only was there not any reasonable doubt that some miserable sonofabitch had done what the cops had said he or she had done, but that he or she had done it with full knowledge of what he or she was doing, and in the belief he or she was going to get away with it, and therefore did not deserve much pity from the criminal justice system.

Assistant District Attorney McNamara quickly discovered- as something of a surprise-that as a general rule of thumb, she liked the cops. By and large, they were really what they considered themselves to be, a thin blue line protecting society from the barbarians.

What surprised her in this regard was that they seemed to genuinely share her concern for what she thought of as the other group of innocent victims of a criminal act. The first group was of course those who had been robbed/beaten/ murdered by the criminal. The second group was the wives/ parents/children of the miserable sonofabitch who had committed the crime.

Eileen McNamara had been an assistant district attorney almost three years when she first ran into Benjamin Solomon, M.D., F.A.C.S. More accurately, when Ben ran into her, rear-ending her Plymouth with his Cadillac as she was looking for a parking place in South Philadelphia.

Ben hadn’t been going very fast, just not paying attention, but fast enough to do considerable damage to her trunk and right fender. The accident had taken place within, if not the sight, then the hearing, of Officer Martin Shaugnessy.

Officer Shaugnessy had trotted to the scene. He pretended not to recognize the good-looking blonde assistant D.A. who had once made mincemeat out of the public defender who had decided that the best way to get his client off the hook was to paint arresting Officer Shaugnessy as an ignorant, prejudiced police thug who took an almost sexual pleasure in persecuting young men of Puerto Rican extraction.

“How much have you had to drink, sir?” was his first question now to Dr. Solomon, who had just given Miss McNamara his effusive apologies and insurance card.

“Drink? It’s eight-thirty in the morning! I haven’t even had my breakfast!”

“People who speed and drive as recklessly as you obviously were, sir, are often driving under the influence. Would you please extend your right arm, close your eyes, and try to touch your nose?”

“Officer, I don’t think the doctor has been drinking,” Miss McNamara said. “I think this was just a simple fender bender.”

“You sure?” Officer Shaugnessy asked, dubiously.

“I’m sure,” Miss McNamara said. “And I’m sure the doctor and I can work this out between us.”

“Well, if you say so, ma’am.”

“Thank you,” Miss McNamara said.

“Yes, ma’am,” Officer Shaugnessy said. He filled out the Form 75–48, which the insurance companies would need, and then went back to walking his beat.

While they were waiting for the wrecker, Eileen became aware that the doctor kept stealing looks at her. For some reason, it didn’t make her uncomfortable; usually when men did that, it did.

As the wrecker hauled her Plymouth away, Dr. Solomon looked directly at her. His eyes on hers did make her uncomfortable.

“What was that with the cop all about?” Dr. Solomon asked. “You know him?”

“I know a lot of cops,” Eileen said. “That one looked familiar. But do I know him? No.”

“How is it you know a lot of cops?”

“I’m an assistant D.A.”

“Really? An assistant D.A.?” Ben had asked, genuinely surprised. “Good-looking blondes don’t come to mind when I hear that term.”

“On the other hand, you do look like a doctor,” Eileen heard herself say, adding quickly, “What kind?”

“Chest-cutter,” Ben had said. “Thoracic surgeon. What do you mean, I look like a doctor?”

“Your eyes,” Eileen said. “You have intelligent, kind eyes.”

When she heard what she had said, she blushed.

“So do you,” Ben had said, softly, after a minute. “Can I buy you breakfast?”

“Breakfast?”

“And lunch, and dinner, and whatever else you want to eat for the rest of your life?”

“You’re sure you haven’t been drinking?”

“I don’t drink,” he said. “If I sound a little strange, I was at the table all night-until about an hour ago. And then I met you.”

Benjamin Solomon, M.D., and Eileen McNamara, L.L.D., were united in matrimony not quite a month later, which caused varying degrees of joy and despair within their respective Eastern European Hebraic and Irish Roman Catholic communities.

They had been married three years when Eileen told Ben the strangest thing had happened the previous afternoon. She had been asked if she would be interested in running for judge in a special election called by the governor to fill two vacancies caused by the incarceration of two incumbent jurists.

“I think you should,” Ben had said after a moment. “You’ve been on both sides of the fence, and I think you’d do a good job straddling the middle. And you already have the name. Judge Solomon the Second.”

She won the election handily, primarily, she believed, because nobody had ever heard of her, and there was general contempt for those whose names were known to the voters.

And she liked the bench, at least trying to keep things fair and just.

They hadn’t been able to have children-Ben’s fault, the gynecologists said, probably because he’d worn Jockey shorts all of his life-and she really regretted that. But she told herself that a child whose parents both had independent careers could not have gotten the attention it deserved, and that made being childless a little easier to bear.

She had been on the bench six years when a delegation of pols came to her and proposed that she run for district attorney. The incumbent had been elected to Congress. Her service as an assistant D.A. and her six years on the bench had taught her that there was considerable room for improvement in the Office of the District Attorney.

She talked the offer over with Ben. She was sure that she would make a hell of a good D.A., but she hadn’t been at all sure that she could win, and if she lost, she would be out of a job. She couldn’t run for reelection to the bench and for D.A. at the same time.

Ben said she should give it a shot; she would always regret it later if she didn’t. And, Ben said, it wasn’t as if they were going to have to sell the dog to make the car payments if she found herself unemployed. That was a reference to the fact that Ben’s scalpel earned more than ten times as much money for them as the government paid her to wield her gavel.

She ran, and won with fifty-two percent of the vote. The first time she ran for reelection, she got fifty-eight percent, and the last time, she’d garnered sixty-seven percent of the vote.

Eileen McNamara Solomon had two cellular telephones, which, when she was there, she placed in rechargers on her desk beside the office phone with all its buttons. One of the cellulars, which buzzed when called, was her official phone. She made herself available with it around-the-clock.

The second Nokia cellular had a green face, and when it was called, it played “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.” This was her private line, its number known to very few people. It had been a gift from Ben, who said that, believe it or not, he had a busy schedule, too, and didn’t like to be put on hold.

When the green phone began to play “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” she thought it was probably Ben, and wondered if he was about to ask her to lunch.

“Hi,” she said to the telephone.

“You busy, Eileen?” a female voice inquired. She knew the voice.

“Never too busy for you, Martha. How are you?”

Eileen McNamara and Martha Peebles had met in Art Appreciation 101 at the University of Pennsylvania, and the tall, then sort of skinny eighteen-year-old Irish girl and the seventeen-year-old slight, short WASP with an acne condition had been immediately comfortable with each other.

Eileen had told Martha all about her family, then taken her home to meet “King Kong”-her brother-and her father, both bricklaying subcontractors, and her mother. Martha had been visibly reluctant to talk about her family, except to say that her mother had died and she lived with her father and brother, who was a would-be actor.

Martha had not offered to take Eileen home with her, and Eileen wondered if she was maybe ashamed of her father, or her home, and went out of her way to make sure Martha understood she didn’t care if her father “had problems” or what her house looked like, or how much money there was.

It was four months before Martha finally took Eileen home, on a Saturday, and Eileen got to meet the brother, Stephen, who was light on his feet, and her father, Alexander.

Martha had shown her around the house and property, which had taken a little time, as there were twenty-eight rooms in the turn-of-the-century mansion set on fourteen acres behind stone walls on Glengarry Lane in Chestnut Hill, plus a guest house, a hothouse, and stables for Alexander Peebles’s polo ponies.

“I never saw anything like this,” Eileen had confessed, as they left the stables. “Not even in the movies.”

Martha had looked at her.

“I really don’t want this to change things between us,” Martha said. “You’re the best friend I ever had.”

Eileen had never forgotten the frightened look in Martha’s eyes.

“Don’t be silly.”

“And don’t tell anybody else, please.”

“Why should I?”

Eileen had never had a best friend in high school, and neither, Martha said, had she. They became and remained best friends and stayed best friends. Martha was the first person Eileen had told about Ben, right after he rear-ended her. And Martha had been her only bridesmaid when she married Ben.

And Eileen really worried about Martha, particularly after her father died, cutting the queer brother out of his will, and leaving everything to Martha. Everything included the Tamaqua Mining Corporation, which owned, among other things, somewhere between ten and twelve percent of the known anthracite coal reserves in the United States.

There had been no man; there never had been one in Martha’s life seriously. There were several reasons for this, Eileen thought, the primary reason being that Martha, aware that she was no great beauty, suspected that what few suitors she had had were primarily interested in her money, followed closely by Martha’s comparison of her young men with her father, and finding that none of them came close to matching up.

Eileen really thought that maybe her best friend was losing it when she began to complain that her house was being burgled on a more or less regular basis, and that the police weren’t paying attention.

Eileen called Denny Coughlin and told him she would appreciate it if he would lean on the commanding officer of the Fourteenth District and get him to send enough uniforms around to 606 Glengarry Lane often enough to convince the inhabitant that her property and person were being adequately protected.

Denny Coughlin had called her back within the hour to tell her she could put her mind at rest about Miss Peebles. He’d called the Fourteenth District commander, as she’d asked him to do, and Captain Jessup had told him he was a little late. It seems Miss Peebles’s lawyer, Brewster Payne, had talked with his partner, Colonel Mawson, who’d telephoned Police Commissioner Czernich about Miss Peebles’s problem.

The commissioner had called Jessup and told him not to worry about Miss Peebles anymore. He had given the problem to Special Operations, and Highway Patrol would now be rolling by 606 Glengarry on a regular-at least hourly-basis. Special Operations had been told the commissioner didn’t want to hear of any more problems at 606 Glengarry Lane.

The next morning, just after Judge Solomon had walked into her chambers at nine, Martha Peebles had called.

“Eileen, it happened.”

“What happened?”

“My knight in shining armor. He finally came.”

“Martha, are you all right?”

“His name is David Pekach, and he’s the captain commanding Highway Patrol. And we did it, Eileen!”

Martha reported that Captain Pekach had called to inform her that her property would now be patrolled by Highway Patrol on a regular, frequent basis, and that she could put her mind at rest.

“My God, Eileen. He’s so much like Daddy. All man. You just feel safe when you’re with him.”

“What do you mean you did it, Martha?”

“You know what I mean,” Martha said, not even very shyly.

“You’re not telling me this cop just walked in the door, and you took him to bed?”

“No, of course not. Not then. What happened was that he said he would swing by at midnight himself, and I said I never went to bed that early, and if he had the time-didn’t have to get home to his wife-why didn’t he stop in and I’d give him a cup of coffee. And he said he wasn’t married, and thank you, he’d like a cup of coffee. And he came back at midnight, and that’s when we did it.”

“I think you’re out of your mind.”

“I know. I’m out of my mind with love. His first name is David. And I thought it was going to hurt the first time, and it didn’t. God, Eileen, it was wonderful!”

“Denny, tell me about Captain David Pekach of Highway Patrol,” was the call that came next.

“What would you like to know, Eileen? And why?”

“The why’s my business. Tell me about him.”

“What about him? He’s a good cop.”

“Is he married?”

“No. He’s never been married. Before he made captain, and they gave him Highway Patrol, he was a lieutenant in Narcotics. He grew a pigtail, and the dealers thought he was one of them. He’s got one hell of an arrest record.”

“That’s all?”

“When he was a rookie detective in Homicide, just a kid, when the rest of the department didn’t think the sainted Fort Festung could possibly do anything like hurt his girlfriend, Dave Pekach finally got a judge to give him a search warrant-”

“I know who he is,” Eileen interrupted, remembering him from the trial.

“Like I said, Eileen, he’s a very good cop.”

“Tell me about him and women. I understand he’s quite a swordsman.”

“Who told you that?” Coughlin asked. “Eileen, you’ve seen him. He’s a little guy. Looks like a weasel. Women do the opposite of swoon when they see him. I’ve never even seen him with a woman. What’s this all about?”

“Thanks, Denny.”

Brewster Courtland Payne, Esq., gave Miss Martha Peebles in marriage to Captain David Pekach three weeks later. The Hon. Eileen McNamara Solomon was the matron of honor.

“Eileen, I realize this is short notice, but I’d really like you and Ben to come for supper tonight,” Martha Peebles Pekach said now.

“What’s up?”

“Brewster Payne’s son-Matt? — just made sergeant, and Precious and I are having a little party for him.”

“That kid made sergeant?” Eileen asked, surprised. Very privately, she thought of Detective Matt Payne as the Wyatt Earp-or maybe the Stan Colt-of the Main Line. Most cops never draw their weapons in twenty years of service. Brewster Payne’s kid had already shot two critters and been involved in an O.K. Corral shoot-out in Bucks County and he hadn’t been on the job much over five years.

And now he’s a sergeant?

“He was number one on The List. The mayor promoted him this morning.”

“I’ll have to check with Ben,” Eileen said.

“With or without him, Eileen, please? Sixish.”

Lieutenant Jason Washington, who was sitting in his glass-walled office, his feet resting on the open lower drawer of his desk, deep in thought, became aware that Detective Kenneth J. Summers, a portly forty-year-old, who was on the desk, was waving at him.

He raised his eyebrows to suggest that Summers now had his attention. Summers pointed to the telephone. Washington nodded and reached for it.

“Homicide, Lieutenant Washington.”

“Dave Pekach, Jason.”

“Dare I to hope that you are calling to tell me two critters have flagged down a Highway car and, overwhelmed by remorse, are asking how they can go about confessing to the Roy Rogers job?”

“You don’t have them yet?” Pekach asked, surprised.

“You know where we are, David?” Washington said. “In the absence of a better idea, I have four people running down a somewhat esoteric idea proposed by the newest member of our happy little family.”

“Matt?”

“Indeed. Sergeant Matthew Payne. He wondered-causing Tony Harris some chagrins-and between thee and me, me too-for not having had the same thought first-why Doer Number One took the trouble to put his weapon under Kenny Charlton’s bulletproof vest instead of simply shooting him in the head.”

“Yeah. I wonder why.”

“There may be no reason, but for the moment, we are considering the possibility that he knew Kenny, felt some personal animosity toward him, and wanted to make sure the wound was fatal.”

“That’s possible. That sounds like a deliberate act, not like something that just happened.”

“So we are now compiling a photo album of every young African-American critter Kenny ever arrested. And since Kenny spent many years on the street, there is a large number of such critters.”

“It may work, Jason,” Pekach said, thoughtfully.

“And I have Tony starting all over again from Step One,” Washington said.

“Actually, I was calling about Matt,” Pekach said. “My Martha wants to wash down his sergeant’s badge…”

“Somehow I don’t think Your Martha used that phrase.”

“She’s having a few people in, is the way she put it. You and Your Martha, of course, and Tony. And My Martha asked me to ask you if it would be a good idea to ask the other guys in Homicide.”

“What and where are the festivities?”

“Tonight, here. Six, six-thirty. If it stays nice, outside. Like the last one. Which, come to think of it, Lieutenant, was to wash down your new badge.”

“I was about to say, David, that tonight is not the best of times. But then I remembered the profound philosophical observation that all work, et cetera, et cetera. Tony will be there, I’ll see to that, and so will My Martha and I. And I will put a card on the bulletin board advising everyone that edibles and intoxicants will be available at 606 Glengarry Lane for anyone interested in celebrating Sergeant Payne’s promotion.”

“You think anyone will come?”

“Edibles and intoxicants may entice one or two. And simple curiosity about Castle Pekach will entice some of the others. I don’t want to make it a command performance. Is Henry going to grace the premises?”

Captain Henry C. Quaire was commanding officer of the Homicide unit.

“My Martha called Whatshername.”

“Gladys,” Washington furnished.

“Gladys and Henry will be there,” Pekach said.

“Why am I not surprised?” Washington said.

Gladys Quaire regarded an invitation to 606 Glengarry Lane as the Philadelphia equivalent of an invitation to watch the races at Ascot from the Royal Enclosure.

Pekach chuckled, then said goodbye.

When Dr. and Mrs. Benjamin Solomon drove through the gate at Glengarry Lane, the macadam road to the house was lined with various models of Ford Crown Victoria automobiles. They were in Ben’s Cadillac, as Eileen was wearing what she thought of as her Doctor’s Wife hat.

But she could not leave her D.A.’s hat very far behind. In the new Ford Crown Victoria that followed the Cadillac into what was still known as the Peebles Estate, Detective Albert Unger of the District Attorney’s Squad pushed his microphone button as he rolled past the gate.

“Radio, D-One.”

“Go, D-One.”

“At 606 Glengarry Lane in Chestnut Hill until further notice.”

“Got it.”

Philadelphia provides an unmarked detective-driven police car to its district attorney. The detective, of course, also serves as bodyguard to the D.A. Usually, this made sense, and it was nice to be picked up at the house and dropped off by a car. But sometimes-now, for example-it didn’t.

There were going to be at least thirty-knowing Martha, probably more-police officers at 606 Glengarry Lane, all of them armed, and many senior enough to be accompanied by their own armed drivers. The person of the district attorney was going to be about as safe as it could be. And if something happened that required the immediate presence of the district attorney, any of the white shirts’ unmarked cars would be available to take her there with siren howling.

But, because he went where she went, poor Al Unger would just have to hang around the car waiting for the radio to go off while the D.A. was at the party. He wouldn’t be alone. Deputy Commissioner Coughlin’s driver and the drivers of the other senior white shirts would also have to hang around waiting for their radios to go off. Martha Peebles Pekach would ensure, of course, that the caterer’s waiters would make sure they were fed.

Eileen was not surprised-the weather was wonderful- that the party was being held outside the stables. Alexander Peebles’s polo ponies were long gone, and the grass field where they had once played was ideal for an outside party.

Tables had been set up, and waiters moved among them serving drinks and steaks and Italian sausage from charcoal stoves.

Their hostess and her husband greeted them as they walked on the field.

“Sorry to be late, Ben had to work,” Eileen said, hugging Martha Peebles.

“You’re here, that’s all that matters,” Martha Peebles said. She kissed Dr. Solomon. “I put you with the Paynes,” Martha went on, gesturing toward one of the tables.

“Guess who I got a postcard from?” Captain Pekach said.

“When you get a minute, I’ve got something to tell you about that,” Eileen said.

“In a couple of minutes,” Pekach said.

Eileen saw Ben smiling, and she saw why. Amelia A. Payne, M.D., was sitting with her parents. Ben not only would have someone to talk to-he really had little in common with the cops, or for that matter with Brewster C. Payne-and he and Amy Payne both liked each other and shared a disdain for some of their fellow healers at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and many of UP’s bureaucratic procedures, about which they could-and almost certainly would-talk at length.

Deputy Commissioner Coughlin and Brewster C. Payne got to their feet as the Solomons approached the table.

The men wordlessly shook hands. Eileen sat down beside Patricia Payne, and Ben sat down across the table beside Amy.

“Where’s the birthday boy?” Eileen asked-and before Patricia could answer, dealt with the waiter. “Irish rocks for me. Diet Coke over there.” She pointed at her husband, then added: “Make it a double. I’ve been a good girl all day.”

“One for me, too, please,” Patricia Payne said. “Not a double.”

“Where is Sergeant Payne?” Eileen asked.

Amelia A. Payne snorted.

“I guess you’re thrilled, huh?” Eileen asked.

“Not really,” Amy said, “truth to tell.”

“Matt went into the house for something. He’ll be back,” Patricia said.

“Is it safe to say you’re thrilled?” Eileen asked Patricia.

“Mixed emotions,” Patricia replied. “Proud? Sure. Happy for Matt. Sure. But the badge the mayor pinned on him was his father’s.”

“Ouch,” Eileen said. “They kept it all these years?”

“I had it. I thought it was the right-”

“It was,” Eileen said, firmly.

“Mother Moffitt showed up at the ceremony,” Amy said. “To cast her usual pall on things.”

“Amy!” Patricia Payne said.

“Dave got another postcard from our fugitive,” Coughlin said, obviously to get off the subject of Mother Moffitt.

“He told me,” Eileen said. “There was something today… I’ll tell you later, when I tell Dave.”

“Am I permitted to ask? ‘Our fugitive’?” Brewster Payne said.

“Isaac ‘Fort’ Festung,” Eileen said.

“Oh, that chap.”

“That despicable sonofabitch,” Coughlin said, and added, immediately, “Forgive the French.”

A waiter handed the district attorney a drink. She waited until Patricia Payne had hers, then touched glasses and took a healthy sip.

“To Sergeant Payne,” she said.

“Thank you,” Patricia Payne said.

“Denny, ‘despicable sonofabitch’ is an apt description of Fort Festung, so an apology for your language is not necessary, ” Eileen said. “But if you’re asking for a general pardon for our French brothers, I’m not about to forgive them.”

There were chuckles and smiles.

“She’s even stopped buying French perfume,” Dr. Solomon said.

“See if you can enlist Patricia in your cause, Eileen,” Brewster Payne said.

“What they should have done when he showed up in France-he entered France illegally, by the way, and was using a phony name, also illegal-was deport him on the next plane.”

“Didn’t that have something to do with the death penalty?” Patricia asked.

“That was their first excuse, but when that didn’t wash- we didn’t have the death penalty at the time of his trial; there was no way I could have sentenced him to death, as much as I might have liked to-they said they wouldn’t let us extradite because he’d been tried in absentia.”

“I thought the legislature took care of that, and guaranteed him a new trial if he asked for one.” Brewster C. Payne said.

“They did. And we so informed the French. Now they’re giving us some nonsense about the statute of limitations,” Eileen said. “We’re appealing that. We expect a decision on that tomorrow, and if it goes our way, we’re back to Step One. In other words, we start asking all over again for his extradition. ”

She stopped, suddenly becoming aware that two men were seeking her attention.

“And there’s Dave Pekach waiting for me to tell him what I just told you,” she said, nodding at Pekach, who was standing at the edge of the field. “Excuse me.”

She got to her feet and turned to a waiter, “Medium rare,” she ordered. “One piece of Italian sausage, a sliced tomato. No potatoes. I’ll be back in five minutes, or less.” She pointed at her husband. “That handsome gentleman will have the same.”

She stood up, and walked to Pekach, and followed him into the stable. They walked almost to the end of it.

“Did I interrupt something important?” Pekach asked. “You and Denny Coughlin looked pretty serious.”

“We were talking about Saint Isaac,” Eileen said. “What did the new postcard say?”

“The usual. ‘Having fine time, wish you were here. Best regards, Isaac.’”

“The arrogant sonofabitch!” the district attorney said, and then went on: “I had a call-Tony Casio did-from the State Department today.

…”

“I have the feeling I’m about to hear something I shouldn’t,” Matt Payne said, coming into the passageway from inside one of the stalls.

“What the hell were you doing in there?” Pekach asked, curiously.

“I’m gone,” Matt said. “Sorry.”

“Stay,” Eileen said. “There’s no reason you shouldn’t hear this. Maybe you should.”

“What were you doing in there?” Pekach pursued.

Matt looked between them and decided that when you don’t know what the hell to say, tell the truth.

“You remember the scene in The Godfather, the wedding, where everybody handed the bride an envelope? As a tribute to the Godfather, not because they gave a damn about the bride?”

“Yeah,” Pekach said. “So?”

“I felt like the bride,” Matt said. “Out of respect to you and Martha and/or my parents and/or Denny Coughlin, everybody was coming to the table and saying, ‘Congratulations, Sergeant.’ And then Amy would snort. So I came to hide in here.”

“You should have waited until Ben and I finally got here,” Eileen said. “Our congratulations would have been absolutely sincere.”

He looked at her for a moment.

“Thank you,” he said, and then added: “Like I said, I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop and I’m gone.”

“You’re not interested in Fort Festung?” Eileen asked.

“I’m becoming fascinated-”

“Okay. Stay. Latest bulletin,” Eileen said. “Tony Casio…”

“He’s Eileen’s fugitive guy,” Pekach explained.

“… had a call from the State Department this afternoon. The French are going to rule on the statute of limitations tomorrow, and their ‘legal counsel,’ read FBI guy, heard that it’ll go our way.”

“Which leaves us where?”

“We start the extradition business all over again. If the decision comes down tomorrow in our favor, we start the extradition process again tomorrow.”

“And this time?” Pekach asked.

“The French can stall only so long, David,” Eileen said. “We’ll get him.”

Pekach looked at her a long moment but didn’t say anything.

“Okay, birthday boy,” Eileen said. “Back to the table. And smile nice when somebody says ‘congratulations.’ ”

“Yes, ma’am,” Matt said.

At just about the time the last of the unmarked Ford Crown Victorias was leaving the Peebles Estate-somewhere around 1:15 A.M.-Homer C. Daniels, a six-feet-one-inch, 205-pound, thirty-six-year-old Caucasian male, who had once been a paratrooper and still wore his light brown hair clipped close to his skull, was standing in the shadow of a tree in the 600 block of Independence Street in Northeast Philadelphia, in the area known as East Oak Lane.

He was looking up at the second-story windows on the right side of what had been built as a single-family home- not quite large enough to be called a mansion-not quite a century before. It had been empty for a while after World War II, and then had been converted to a “multifamily dwelling” with two apartments on the ground floor, two on the second, and a third in what had been the servants’ quarters on the third.

Daniels, who was wearing a black coverall, thought of himself as a businessman rather than a truck driver, although in each of the past several years he had driven a Peterbilt eighteen-wheel tractor-trailer rig 150,000 miles all over the country.

For one thing, he was a partner in Las Vegas Classic Motor Cars, Inc., the company that owned the Peterbilt. And he almost always had the same partner’s interest in the truck’s cargo, and sometimes he owned all of the cargo.

Las Vegas Classic Motor Cars, Inc., as the name implied, dealt with what they referred to as the “Grand Marques” of automobiles, ranging from the “vintage”-such as Duesenbergs and Pierce-Arrows, no longer manufactured-to the “contemporary”-such as Ferrari, the larger Mercedes-Benz, and Rolls Royce.

As a general rule of thumb, if an automobile was worth less than $75,000, Las Vegas Classic Motor Cars, Inc., was not interested. A boat-tailed Dusey, in Grand Concourse condition and worth, say, $1,250,000, had the opposite effect.

They bought and sold some cars themselves, and accepted some cars on consignment. Often they would buy a “decent” classic, and spend up to $100,000 rebuilding it from the frame up to Grand Concourse condition before offering it for sale. They also provided “frame up” restoration for owners of classic cars, and had earned an international reputation for the quality of their work.

Cars of this sort were genuine works of art, and as one would not entrust a Rodin sculpture or an Andy Warhol painting of a tomato can to the Acme Trucking Company, or even the United Parcel Service, one could not move, for example, a Grand Concourse-condition 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL “Gull Wing” coupe worth $275,000 to or from Las Vegas without taking the appropriate precautions.

Dragging such a motorcar along behind a car or truck on one of the clever devices available from U-Haul was obviously out of the question. So was loading such a vehicle on a flatbed trailer, chaining it in place, and covering it with a tarpaulin.

The solution was to ship such a vehicle within a trailer, and for a while Las Vegas Classic Motor Cars, Inc., had done just that. Then it had occurred to the partners that contracting for the transport, “direct, sole cargo” of vehicles, was costing them a lot of money. They crunched the numbers, and concluded the expense of buying and operating their own truck was justified.

They bought the Peterbilt, had a trailer specially modified- essentially the installation of padding and means to hold the vehicles immobile while being transported-and hired a professional truck driver.

That had proved to be a disaster. The driver had hit something-he said-on the road, causing him to lose control, go into a ditch, and turn over. The devices installed to keep the 1939 Packard Le Baron bodied convertible in place had not been strong enough to hold the massive car when the trailer had turned over, and massive damage had resulted.

The partners had suspected that what had really happened-truck drivers like to “make miles”-was that the driver had fallen asleep at the wheel. The insurance company had similar suspicions, and although they had-finally-paid up, they had immediately informed the partners that their rates in the future would regrettably have to be raised significantly.

That was when the idea of Homer driving the rig had come up. For one thing, Homer had been an over-the-road tractor-trailer driver immediately after leaving the service. For another, Homer and his wife had finally had enough of each other, and it wouldn’t be much of a hardship for him to spend a week or ten days away from Vegas.

And other benefits came to mind. If there was a motor vehicle in Saint Louis, say, of interest to Las Vegas Classic Motor Cars, Inc., and Homer was there-or near there-with the truck, he could both have a good look at it-without the cost of an airplane ticket to get there and back-make a recommendation to the partners, and if they decided to make the deal, just load the new acquisition on the truck right then and there.

And then there was the restoration business. Homer could look at a car someone wanted to have Las Vegas Classic Motor Cars, Inc., restore, quote the owner a price, and if a deal was struck, just load the car right then and there and haul it back to Vegas.

The original trailer, of course, was shot. They bought another, and really customized it. The new trailer was heated and air-conditioned, and would hold three cars, instead of two-five, if they were all Porsches, which happened several times. In addition, cabinets were built for tools, and there was what looked very much like an old-timey railroad sleeper compartment, which held a toilet, a bed, a shower, a tiny desk for Homer’s computer, and a closet for Homer’s clothes.

When Homer was trying to make a deal for, say, a 1940 Buick Limited spares-in-the-fenders convertible touring sedan worth, say, 150 large, he should look like a businessman, not a truck driver. And if he was going coast-to-coast-for that matter, anywhere overnight-and needed some sleep, he could just pull into a truck stop, go in the back, get a couple of hours of shut-eye, and then get back on the road without the hassle of having to find a motel where he could park the rig, and then pay fifty, sixty bucks-sometimes more-for just using the bed for a couple of hours.

The whole arrangement-traveling all over the country included-had proven ideal for Homer’s hobby, which was to find some young bitch who looked like the bitch he had wasted ten years of his life on, who lived by herself, and then being very careful about it, when everything fell into place, get into her apartment, scare the living shit out of her-a man in a black ski mask waving a Jim Bowie replica knife with a polished, shiny twelve-inch blade in her face did that very nicely-cut her clothes off with the knife, tie her to her bed, and take before-during-and-after slipping the salami to her pictures with his digital camera.

This was the fourth time Homer had stood in the shadow of a tree looking up at the apartment of Miss Cheryl Anne Williamson, who at twenty-three looked very much like Mrs. Bonnie Dawson Daniels had looked when she was that age. That is to say, she was tall, slender, blonde, had very fair skin, and even, Homer thought, that deceptive look of sweetness and innocence that Bonnie had.

Deceptive because Bonnie the Bitch was anything but sweet and innocent.

The first time Homer had stood in the shadow of the tree, he had followed Cheryl home from Halligan’s Pub, where he had seen her cock-teasing the guys at the bar. It had been immediately apparent to Homer that Cheryl had not gone to the bar to maybe meet somebody she could get to know really well, maybe even someday marry, much less to get laid.

She had gone to the bar to cock-tease some dummy, get him all worked up, and then let him know she wasn’t at all interested in fucking him. What she got her kicks from-just like Bonnie the Bitch-was humiliating some poor bastard, letting him know he wasn’t good enough for her.

The first night when Cheryl had left Halligan’s Pub, he had followed her home. That time he was driving a year-old Cadillac De Ville, used as a loaner by Willow Grove Automotive, where he had parked the rig. Las Vegas Classic Motor Cars did a lot of business with Willow Grove-on that trip, he had dropped off two Porsches from California, and would leave with a really nice Rolls Royce-and the guy who ran it always loaned him a car overnight when he was in town.

That first time, Homer had watched her park her Chrysler Sebring, watched as she entered the apartment building, and then stood in the shadow of the tree until lights went on in a second-floor apartment. Then he went to the Sebring- Homer had once spent six months working for Las Vegas Towing and Repossession, and getting into the Sebring was no problem-and got Cheryl’s name, address, and phone and social security numbers from documents in her glove compartment.

Then he got back in the De Ville and went back to Willow Grove Automotive, parked the De Ville, gave the keys to the security guy, went to the rig, made sure the current had been plugged in, and then went to the compartment in the trailer, locking it from the inside.

He took off all his clothes and sat down in front of the computer, turned it on, took one of the good CDs from its hiding place, slipped it in the drive, looked at the index, thought a moment, and then decided Saint Louis was what he wanted, transferred the Folder STL to the computer, decrypted it, then ran Photo-Eaze, which allowed him to run a slide show of the digital images in STL.

The girl in Saint Louis-Karen-didn’t look as much like Bonnie the Bitch as the one tonight did, but he’d had his good times with her. As the slide show ran, he dropped his hand to his groin and played with himself. He ran the slide show again-there were twelve pictures-and then pushed Hold on Number 11, which showed Karen tied to the bed immediately after he’d slipped her the salami. He’d really shown her she wasn’t as high and mighty as she thought. She looked soiled and humiliated.

It’ll really be great to get this new one, this Cheryl, like that!

That thought had been so exciting that he ejaculated before he intended to.

Couldn’t be helped. Goddamn, this Cheryl’s really going to be a good one!

He cleaned himself up with Kleenex, then took the CD from the drive and put it back in the hiding place, erased Folder STL from the hard drive, and then started the U.S. Government Approved Slack Wipe Program. That would run for a couple of hours. What the program did was overwrite and overwrite and overwrite again the slack space on the hard drive, so there would be no chance of anybody ever being able to recover the images of Karen he had just looked at.

Then he took a shower and went to bed.

At seven the next morning, he got behind the wheel of the Peterbilt, got on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and headed west. There was a guy in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, who collected Rollses, and there was a good chance he’d be interested in some kind of a deal with the one now in the rig.

Three weeks, more or less, later, Homer had again stood in the shadow of the tree outside Cheryl Williamson’s apartment. He had gone to Halligan’s Pub in hopes of seeing her there, and when she hadn’t shown, he’d gone to the apartment complex.

By then, primarily because of a credit check he had run on her, he knew a good deal about her. He knew where she worked, for one thing, and where she had gone to school, and that she had never been married, and that she owed fifteen payments of $139.50 on the Chrysler Sebring, and thirty-three payments of $105.05 on the furniture in her apartment.

The lights were on in her apartment, which meant that she was there, and that he could probably take the coveralls and face mask and Jim Bowie knife from his briefcase and get the job done. It was a temptation. He’d thought of her a lot.

But it was also possible that she wasn’t alone in the apartment, and there was no sense taking any chances. All things come to he who waits. He had decided to wait.

It was a month after that that he stood for the third time in the shadow of the tree looking up at her apartment. This time, Cheryl had been in the Harrison Lounge, cock-teasing some poor slob who had no idea what a bitch she was, and when she’d left-alone, of course-he’d followed her home again. That night, he was sure, was going to be the night. He even went back to his car-this time a Plymouth Voyager loaner from Willow Grove, there being nothing better on the lot-and changed into the costume.

When the lights went out in Cheryl’s apartment, he decided he would wait five minutes before climbing the back stairs to her apartment. Thirty seconds later, Cheryl came out of the building, got into the Sebring, and drove off.

There was no way of telling, of course, where the bitch was going. Or when-even if-she was coming back. If he continued to wait in the shadow of the tree, somebody might see him. And if he went back and waited in the Voyager, the cops might drive by and wonder what someone was doing sitting in a car at quarter to three in the morning.

When he got back to Willow Grove and the rig, he loaded DEN into the computer, and watched the sixteen pictures he’d taken three months before of an arrogant bitch named Delores in Denver. A not-so-arrogant bitch anymore, which was nice to look at and remember. But Delores was not nearly as pretty as Cheryl, and Delores didn’t look nearly as much like Bonnie the Bitch as Cheryl did.

Tonight, Homer had the feeling everything was going to fall into place. Willow Grove Automotive had loaned him a dark gray De Ville-not the one he’d had before-and when he got to Halligan’s, the minute he pulled into the parking lot, he saw Cheryl’s Sebring, and didn’t even have to go into the lounge.

He just sat in the De Ville and waited for her to come out. When she did, a guy came out after her, and they had a little argument in the doorway. The bitch was obviously telling the guy she’d been cock-teasing for the last hour, at least, that he had it wrong, that not only was she not that kind of girl, but even if she was, she wouldn’t give any to a jerk like him.

The guy went back in Halligan’s Pub, Cheryl got in her Sebring, and when she was out of sight, Homer started the De Ville. He knew where she lived and he didn’t even have to follow her. And when he got near Independence Street, he saw-on Sixty-seventh Avenue, North-a dark place where he could park the De Ville where it wouldn’t attract attention, and where he could change into the costume without being seen.

And when he got to the tree and looked up at Cheryl’s apartment, the lights were on. He figured she had been there no more than four, five minutes at most.

The light came on a minute or so later in a little window he was sure was the bathroom, and he thought about what Cheryl would look like in the shower while he waited for the light to go out.

Ten minutes later, it went out, and no more than a minute after that, so did the lights in her bedroom.

Homer checked the pockets of the coveralls to make sure he had the Jim Bowie replica knife, the camera, and the plastic thingamajigs he would use to tie her spread-eagled on her bed.

As he pulled on a pair of disposable rubber gloves, Homer started to get a hard-on thinking about what he was going to do, and told himself to cool it. He didn’t want it to be over too soon.

Outside wooden stairs, with a narrow platform, had been added to the old building to provide a rear entrance to the second-floor apartments.

He went up them quickly, putting his feet on the outside of each step. If you stepped in the middle, sometimes the stairs would squeak, and the last thing he wanted to do was to have some yapping dog hear him and start barking.

When he got to the platform and her back door, he pulled the black ski mask from his pocket and pulled it over his head, then took a close look at the door. There were actually two doors, an outer combination screen and winter door. The screen thing was in place.

He put the blade of the Jim Bowie replica in the crack between the screen and the frame, and carefully pried it open wide enough so that he could get his hand inside to unlatch it. Then he very carefully pulled it open. It came easy, without squeaking.

Once he had the screen door open, he made sure that the screen was back in place. He was pleased when he saw that he hadn’t even scratched the sonofabitch.

The inner door wasn’t much more trouble. There was a pretty good lock, but the construction was cheesy, and all it took to pop the lock was to force the blade of the Jim Bowie replica into the frame and lean on it a little.

Homer opened the door wide enough to get the blade inside and ran it up and down, checking for a chain or whatever, and when there was none, opened the door all the way, stepped into the kitchen, and then closed it behind him.

After a minute, there was enough light for him to see pretty good. He was glad he’d waited. There was a little table in the kitchen he probably would have bumped into.

This was the hairy part of the operation, making it from just being inside into the bedroom and to the bed itself without making any kind of racket.

Homer made his way slowly and carefully through the kitchen, into the living room, and then to a door he was pretty sure was the bedroom door. This sometimes was a problem; if there was a lock on the bedroom door and it had to be popped, it sometimes woke the bitches up.

No lock.

The door opened smoothly inward.

There was more light in the room, two of those go-to-the-bathroom little lights plugged into sockets near the floor.

Cheryl was in bed, lying on her stomach. She was wearing pajamas.

Homer walked to the bed, very carefully reached out for Cheryl’s shoulder, and then suddenly grabbed it, jerked her over on her back, then pushed her hard down on the bed with his hand on her throat.

“One fucking sound and you get your throat cut!” he said, waving the Jim Bowie replica in front of her face.

Cheryl whimpered.

“Please don’t hurt me,” she said. Scared shitless.

“I’m going to fuck you, bitch,” Homer said. “It’s up to you whether you get hurt or not.”

He grabbed Cheryl’s left wrist, put a plastic tie on it, jerked it tight, and then tied it to the bed.

The headboard was wrought iron. Sometimes when the headboard was material-or there was no headboard at all; that had happened twice-there was a problem. You had to tie the bitch to the springs, which meant tying a couple of the ties together to make one long enough.

No problem like that tonight. He tied the left tie to a curve in the wrought iron, then reached across the bitch for her right hand.

Cheryl started to sob.

Homer slapped her, hard.

“Not a sound, bitch!” he said.

Once he had the second plastic tie in place, he jerked on it to make sure it wouldn’t come loose, then jerked on the other one.

Then he knelt on the bed, sat back on his heels, and ran the blade of the Jim Bowie replica down Cheryl’s body, from the neck between her boobs to her crotch.

She whimpered again.

He tied her right ankle to the wrought iron at the foot of the bed, and then the left ankle. Then he ran the blade up her body again.

“Not a peep, you fucking bitch!”

He went to the light switch by the door and flipped it on.

Cheryl’s eyes were wide with terror.

He leaned over the bed and put the blade of the Jim Bowie replica under her pajama top, and one by one cut the buttons off so that it could be easily opened when it came time for that.

He took the digital camera from the coveralls and took Cheryl’s picture.

Then he leaned over her and pushed the left side of her pajama top off her breast and took a picture of that.

Very nice. Her nipples had become erect.

Homer became aware that he had a hard-on. A real hard-on.

He reached into the coveralls and took it out and waved it at her.

“This is for you, bitch!” he said.

He walked to the bed and pushed Cheryl’s pajamas off her right breast, and then took a picture of her like that.

Then he went and knelt on the bed so that he could rub the head of his penis on her nipples.

That was very exciting, so exciting that he knew he was going to have an orgasm, and since that was the case, he might as well have a good one, so he put his hand on it and pumped rapidly until he ejaculated onto her breasts and face.

She turned her head and whimpered.

As fast as the camera would permit, Homer took three pictures of that, and then had an artistic inspiration. He took the Jim Bowie replica and carefully scraped some of the semen from Cheryl’s breast on it, and then laid it between her breasts, with the tip just under her chin. And he took two pictures of that, looked at them in the camera’s built-in viewer, and then put the camera on the bedside table.

“I’ll be right back,” Homer said. “We’re just getting started.”

He went into the bathroom, and first urinated, and then, standing over the washbasin, washed his genitals, toying with them, thinking that when he went back in the bedroom, he would be able to get a shot of his sperm on her breasts and face.

That was an exciting thought, so exciting that he felt himself begin to grow hard again, and he thought that’s what he would do, get it up again, so that when he went back in the bedroom, she would see it and get a hint of what was in store for her.

When he went back in the bedroom, the goddamn bitch had somehow got her right hand free from the plastic tie. That had given her enough movement to twist onto her side, and to pull her telephone from the bedside table. She was punching in a number.

“You goddamn fucking bitch!” Homer said, angrily. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

He moved quickly to the bed, made a fist, and punched her as hard as he could in the face. He turned her on her back again and punched her again. He reached for the telephone, to pull the line free from the socket. It wouldn’t come at first and he pulled harder, and then the line snapped, and the phone came out of his hand and flew across the room and smashed into the mirror mounted on the wall. The mirror broke into three large pieces, and two of them fell to the floor, where they shattered into small pieces.

Jesus Christ, that made enough noise to wake the fucking dead!

“That’s going to cost you, bitch!” he said, menacingly.

He realized he was breathing heavily and took a moment to calm down.

Then he looked down at Cheryl.

There was a little blood on her face, running down over her lips, and she was looking at something on the ceiling.

He looked up to see what she was looking at. There was nothing but the ceiling and the light fixture. He looked back down at her, and she was still looking at the ceiling.

He waved his hand in front of her eyes. There was no reaction.

“Jesus Christ!” Homer said, softly.

He reached down and slapped Cheryl on both cheeks.

“Goddamn you, wake up!” he said.

There was no reaction.

“Oh, shit,” Homer said, softly, and waved his hand in front of her open eyes again.

“Shit, shit, shit,” Homer said.

Then he went to the door, turned the lights in the bedroom off, and made his way back through the apartment to the kitchen, and let himself out, taking care to make sure the screen door’s latch had automatically locked after he pushed it shut.

He went quickly to the De Ville, and was halfway down the block before he remembered to take the black ski mask off.

And then Homer had an at first chilling thought.

I don’t have the fucking camera!

He patted his pockets to make sure.

Shit, shit, shit!

Oh, fuck it! I never took the rubber gloves off, so there won’t be any fingerprints, and they can’t trace it to me. I bought it in that store with the Arabs in Times Square in New York, the time I picked up the silver-gray Bentley. I paid cash. I’ll just have to get another one. It was getting pretty old, anyway.

SEVEN

On the other side of Cheryl Anne Williamson’s bedroom wall in her second-floor apartment on Independence Street was the bedroom wall of the apartment occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Herbert McGrory.

There was a mirror on that wall, too-the apartments were roughly mirror images of each other-and when Cheryl’s bedside telephone slipped out of Homer C. Daniels’s hand and flew with sufficient velocity into her mirror to cause it to shatter, it also struck the plasterboard behind the mirror.

At that point on the wall, behind the plasterboard, was one of the two-by-four-inch vertical studs, arranged at sixteen-inch intervals along the wall. Between each stud, insulation material had been installed, more to deaden sounds between the two apartments than for thermal purposes.

Technically, this was a violation of the Philadelphia building code, which requires that living areas be separated by a firewall, either of concrete or cement blocks. The building inspector somehow missed this violation. Over the years, a number of Philadelphia building inspectors have been found guilty of accepting donations from building contractors for overlooking violations of the building code.

Many-perhaps most-of these corrupt civil servants have been found guilty and fined or sentenced to prison, or both, but it was obviously difficult for the city to reinspect every structure examined and passed by the inspector caught not looking, and it wasn’t done.

The stud moved, not far, but far enough to strike the back of the mirror on the McGrorys’ wall. The mirror bent, then cracked, and then a large, roughly triangular piece of it slid out of the frame and crashed onto the floor.

The noise woke Mrs. Joanne McGrory, a short, rather plump thirty-six-year-old, who was in bed with her husband, who was tall, rather plump, and thirty-eight years old.

She sat up in the bed and exclaimed, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!”

She looked around the dark room, and then down at Mr. McGrory, who was asleep on his stomach.

“Herb!”

After a moment, without moving, Herb replied, “What?”

“Get up, for God’s sake!”

“Why? What’s happened?”

“Get up, Herb, damn you!”

Mrs. McGrory turned on the lamp on her bedside table as Mr. McGrory sat up.

The first thing Mr. McGrory noticed was the shattered mirror.

“Jesus, what happened to the mirror?”

“How would I know?”

“It’s busted.”

“I can see that. What happened?”

Mr. McGrory ran over the possibilities.

“It could have been a sonic boom,” he theorized.

“Sonic boom?”

“You know, when an airplane goes faster than sound.”

“Oh, God, Herb! Sometimes…”

“Well, you tell me,” he said.

“Get up and see if anything else is wrong,” she said. “Don’t cut your feet on the broken glass.”

“Jesus!”

“Do it now, Herb!”

Two minutes later, after taking a cautious tour of their apartment, Mr. McGrory returned to announce that the only thing that seemed to be wrong was the mirror.

“You didn’t hear anything?” Joanne asked, significantly, nodding toward the wall with the broken mirror.

Several times, the McGrorys had heard the sounds of Cheryl Williamson entertaining gentleman callers in her bedroom. Once they had had to bang on the wall to request less enthusiasm.

Mr. McGrory smiled and said, “Could be…” and then made a circle with the thumb and index finger of his left hand, into which he then inserted, with a pumping motion, the index finger of his right hand.

“You’re disgusting,” Joanne said, and then added: “This time, it’s too much. The mirror is busted. I’m going to go over there and read the riot act to her.”

“No, you’re not,” he said.

“Yes, I am.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Then I’m going to call the cops. I won’t have this!”

“Call the cops? What are you going to say, ‘The lady next door’s boyfriend screwed her so hard the mirror fell off our wall’?”

“Unless we do something about it, we’re going to have to pay for that mirror,” Joanne argued.

“Okay,” Herb said after a moment’s thought. “Go tell her what happened.”

“If I go over there, what she’s going to say is that she doesn’t have any idea what I’m talking about. Would you?”

“Would I what?”

“Say, ‘Gee, I’m sorry my scre… lovemaking broke your mirror, and I’ll write you a check’?”

“And what good do you think calling the cops is going to do?”

“It can’t do any harm, can it?” Joanne asked reasonably. “Maybe something is wrong next door-with her. And I don’t want us to have to pay for the mirror.”

Joanne went to the telephone on the bedside table and punched 911.

At 1:57 A.M., a call went out from Police Radio:

“Disturbance, house, 600 Independence Street, second-floor left apartment.”

Officer James Hyde, a tall, thin, dark-haired young man of twenty-four, reached for his microphone in his patrol car, pushed the button, and replied:

“Thirty-five twelve, got it.”

A moment later, there was another response, this one from Officer Haywood L. Cubellis, a 210-pound, six-foot-seven, twenty-five-year-old African-American from his patrol car:

“Thirty-five seventeen, I’ll back him up.”

Whenever possible-in other words, usually-two cars will respond to a “Disturbance, House” call. Such calls usually involve a difference of opinion between two people of opposite-or the same-sex sharing living accommodations. By the time the cops are called, tempers are at-or over-the boiling point.

If two officers are present, each can listen sympathetically to the complaints of one abused party vis-a-vis the other, which also serves to keep the parties separated. One lonely police officer can be overwhelmed.

Both cars arrived at 600 Independence Street a few minutes after 2 A.M., although neither-there was little traffic- had used either siren or flashing lights.

While it might be argued that neither Officer Hyde nor Officer Cubellis was a highly experienced police officer-Hyde had been on the job three years and Cubellis four-they had enough experience to know that it was better for officers responding to a “Disturbance, House” call to bring with them calm, reason, and order, rather than the heightened excitement that howling sirens, flashing lights, and screaming tires produce.

“Hey, Wood,” Jim Hyde called as both got out of their cars and started into the apartment complex.

Officer Haywood Cubellis waved but did not respond.

He followed Hyde to the second-floor door of apartment 12B, and stood to one side as Hyde both knocked with his nightstick and pushed the doorbell.

Mrs. McGrory answered the door, in her bathrobe, with Herb standing behind her in trousers and a sleeveless undershirt, looking a little uncomfortable.

Both Hyde and Cubellis made a quick analysis.

Nice people. Looked sober. No bruises or signs of anything having been thrown or overturned in the apartment.

“You called the police, ma’am?” Hyde asked.

“Yes, I did.”

“What seems to be the trouble?”

“I like to think of myself as a reasonable person,” Joanne said. “Live and let live, as they say. But this is just too much.”

“What is it, ma’am?”

“Come in and I’ll show you,” Joanne said, and motioned the two policemen into the apartment. Both nodded at Herb, and Herb nodded back.

Officer Hyde looked at the broken mirror.

“What happened?”

“That’s what we would like to know,” Joanne said. “That’s why we called you.”

“You don’t know what happened to the mirror?” Hyde asked.

“Herb, my husband, and I were sound asleep when it happened. ”

“I told her I thought it was probably a sonic boom,” Herb said.

“That’s nonsense,” Joanne said. “It came from in there.”

She pointed at the wall.

“What’s in there?”

“The next apartment,” Joanne said.

“What do you think came from in there that broke your mirror?”

“You tell the officers, Herb.”

“This was your idea. You tell them,” Herb said.

“Sometimes you make me sick,” Joanne said. “You really do.”

“Why don’t you tell us what you think happened, ma’am?” Officer Cubellis suggested.

“Well, all right, I will. So far as I know, she’s a very nice girl. Her name is Cheryl Williamson. But she… every once in a while she entertains in there, if you know what I mean. Most of the time, there’s absolutely no problem, but once or twice-more than once or twice-she, they have gotten sort of carried away with what they’re doing, and it gets a little noisy, if you take my meaning.”

“What’s that got to do with your mirror?” Officer Hyde asked.

“It broke,” Joanne said, as if surprised by the question.

“And you think the people next door are responsible?”

“Well, Herb and I certainly aren’t,” Joanne said.

“Jim, why don’t I talk to the lady next door?” Officer Cubellis suggested.

“Why not?” Hyde said.

“Maybe something happened to her,” Joanne said.

Officer Cubellis left the McGrory bedroom.

“I don’t know how much it will cost to replace that mirror, but it won’t be cheap, and I don’t see why we should pay for it,” Joanne said.

“Yes, ma’am,” Officer Hyde said.

Five minutes later, Officer Cubellis returned and reported that it didn’t appear anyone was home in the next apartment. He had both rung the bell and knocked at Cheryl Williamson’s front door, and then gone outside the house, up the side stairs, and knocked at her back door. There was no doorbell button there that he could find. There was no response from either place, and he could hear no sounds from inside the apartment, or see any lights.

“I know she came in,” Joanne said. “I woke up when she came in. Her screen door squeaks. It was a little after midnight. ”

“Possibly she went out again,” Officer Cubellis said.

“Or maybe she knows the cops are here and doesn’t want to answer her door.”

“Why would she want to do that?”

“The mirror, of course,” Joanne said. “Somebody’s going to have to pay for it.”

“Ma’am, you’ll just have to take that up with her yourself in the morning,” Officer Hyde said.

“Can’t you just go in and see if she’s there or not?” Joanne asked.

“No, ma’am, we can’t do that.”

“For all we know, she’s in there lying in a pool of blood,” Joanne said.

“Ma’am, why would you say that? Did you hear any noises, anything like that?”

Joanne thought it over before replying.

“No,” she said finally, with some reluctance. “But that doesn’t mean anything. The mirror did get busted.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Officer Cubellis said, patiently. “But that doesn’t give us the right to break into that apartment. Think about this: You and Mr. McGrory are in here, watching a Stan Colt movie on TV. Lots of shooting, women screaming, explosions. Particularly at the end. The lady in the next apartment hears this and gets worried and calls 911. When the movie is over, you and Mr. McGrory go out for a hamburger. So when the police get here, there’s no answer. And they break in. And then you come home, and find the police in your apartment, and the door broken in.”

“Who would have to pay for the broken door if something like that happened?” Joanne inquired.

“The police…” Officer Cubellis began, and then changed his mind about the ending, “… would have to make the lady next door pay for the broken door,” he said. “Because she was the one who wanted the police to break in.”

“Jesus Christ, Joanne!” Herb McGrory said. “Officers, I’m sorry we put you to all this trouble.”

“No trouble at all, sir. That’s what we’re here for,” Officer Hyde said.

“I’m sure you’ll be able to work things out about the mirror, ” Officer Cubellis said.

Officers Cubellis and Hyde left the McGrory apartment, got into their patrol cars, and put themselves back into service. Officer Hyde filled out a Form 75–48, an initial report form for almost all police incidents. On it he stated that the McGrory mirror had been broken, and that Mrs. McGrory believed the occupant of the adjacent apartment was somehow responsible. An initial investigation of the adjacent apartment revealed that there was no response at that location and the premises were locked and secured.

When it was 2:23 A.M. in Philadelphia-the time that Officers Hyde and Cubellis reported to Police Radio that they were back in service after the “Disturbance, House” call-it was 8:23 A.M. in the village of Cognac-Boeuf, a small village in the southwest of France, not far from Bordeaux.

Despite the name, no cognac was distilled in the area, and the local farmers raised only enough milk cows for local consumption. Although sheep were still grown in the area, even that business had suffered from the ability of Australian and Argentine sheep growers to produce a higher grade of wool and a better quality of lamb at a lower price.

What once had been a bustling small village was now just a small, out-of-the-way village catering to what small farmers were left and to retirees, both French and from as far away as England, Sweden, and even the United States of America.

The retirees sold their houses or apartments in Hamburg or Copenhagen, and spent the money to buy-at very low prices; nobody but retirees had use for them-ancient farm-houses with a hectare or two of land, spent enough money to make them livable, and then settled down to watching the grass grow.

The Piaf Mill, for example, which sat on a small stream a kilometer from Cognac-Boeuf, had been purchased, with 1.7 hectares of land, six years before by a Swedish woman, Inge Pfarr Stillman, and her husband, Walter, an American, using the money-about $80,000-Inge had gotten from the sale of her apartment in Uppsala, near Stockholm.

It had gradually become believed that Walter Stillman, a burly man who wore a sloppy goatee as white as what was left of his hair, was a retired academic. He was obviously well-educated, and it was thought he was writing a book.

The mill, now converted into a comfortable home, was full of books, and every day the postman on his bicycle delivered yesterday’s International Herald-Tribune from Paris, and once a week, the international editions of Time and News-week.

Most afternoons, Stillman could be found in Le Relais, the better of Cognac-Boeuf’s two eating establishments- neither of which had won even one of Michelin’s stars- often playing chess with Pere Marcel, the parish priest, and drinking the local vin ordinaire.

The people of Cognac-Boeuf-in particular the shopkeepers-had come to call Stillman, respectfully, “M’sieu Le Professeur.”

His name was actually Isaac David Festung, and he was a fugitive from justice, having been convicted of violation of Paragraph 2501(a) of the Criminal Code of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for having intentionally and knowingly caused the death of Mary Elizabeth Shattuck, a human being, by beating and/or strangling her by the neck until she was dead.

M’sieu Le Professeur’s true identity had come to light two years before when, at sunrise, a dozen members of France’s Gendarmerie Nationale had appeared, pistols drawn at the Piaf Mill’s door. When Madame Stillman opened it to them, the gendarmes had burst in and rushed across the Mill’s ground floor to the stairs, then up the stairs to the loft. There they found-naked under a goose-down comforter in bed-a man who, although he insisted indignantly that he had never even heard of anyone named Isaac Festung, they arrested and placed in handcuffs.

After a brief stop at the constabulary office in Cognac-Boeuf to report the suspect was in custody-there was no telephone in Piaf Mill, and the radios in the gendarmes’ Peugeots were out of range of their headquarters-the man, still denying he had ever even heard of Isaac Festung, was taken in a gendarmerie car to Gradnignan Prison in Bordeaux, fingerprinted, and placed in a cell.

Forty-five minutes after that, a technician of the French Surete, sent from Paris, after comparing “Stillman’s” just-taken prints with a set of prints of one Isaac David Festung, furnished via Interpol by the office of the Philadelphia District Attorney, declared that it was his professional opinion that they matched beyond any reasonable doubt.

When confronted with this announcement, Isaac Festung shrugged his shoulders and said that it was sad but he wasn’t surprised, that it had been inevitable that the American CIA would finally gain control of Interpol and finally be able to silence him.

Madame “Stillman,” meanwhile, back at the Piaf Mill, had gotten dressed and then driven to the telephone office in Cognac-Boeuf. There she had made several telephone calls, and had then come out to repeat more or less what her husband had said in Bordeaux: He was being persecuted by the American FBI and CIA both for being a peace activist and “for what he knew.” What he knew was not specified.

He had fled the United States, they both said, after he was arrested on a preposterous charge of murder. Furious that he had escaped their clutches, the CIA and FBI had arranged for a kangaroo trial in absentia, which had predictably found him guilty and sentenced him to death.

One of the telephone calls Madame Stillman/Mrs. Festung made was to a lawyer in Paris, who promptly called a press conference to make public what outrageous violations of law-and common decency-the barbaric American government was attempting to perpetrate.

The next day, the newspapers of France-and elsewhere in Europe-carried the story, often accompanied by outraged editorials.

For one thing, the European Convention on Human Rights had declared that an accused criminal was entitled to his day in court, which meant that he had the absolute right to be physically present in the courtroom to refute witnesses making, for example, preposterous charges that he had beaten and/or strangled his girlfriend and then stuffed her body into a trunk, which he then stored in a closet in his apartment, until the odor from there had caused his neighbors to call the police, asking them to investigate.

As astonishing an outrage as that was, the Americans had the incredibly barbaric arrogance to sentence the man illegally tried to an illegal sentence, that of being put to death by electrocution.

The death penalty was not permitted under French law. Extradition of someone sentenced to death, even in a trial at which he was present when a jury of his peers had found him guilty, was absolutely forbidden.

Many of the editorials demanded both that Mr. Festung be immediately set free and that the French government make, in the strongest possible language, their outrage known to the United States government.

The government of France wasn’t willing to go that far, possibly because the United States government suggested that if it did, the United States government would no longer honor requests of France passed to them via Interpol.

The matter would be decided, the French government announced, as soon as humanly possible, in a French court. France being France, that took six months, during which Mr. Festung remained confined in Gradnignan Prison in Bordeaux.

Mrs. Festung visited him frequently, sometimes daily, while they waited for the wheels of French judicial bureaucracy to grind inexorably.

The United States government then contracted for the services of a French law firm to represent it at the appeal hearing. There was a legal counsel, with a large support staff- more than forty people, it was said-attached to the United States Embassy in Paris, but it turned out that before he had become the legal counsel of the United States, he-and most of the members of his staff-had been special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and were not allowed to practice law, even in the United States.

This revelation produced a plethora of editorials in the French press, on the theme that it was a gross violation of French sovereignty to have American secret policemen operating under diplomatic cover on the sacred soil of La Belle France. What was next, some editorials demanded, the CIA operating in France?

When the case-actually the appeal-was finally heard, the French lawyers representing the United States very politely made the following points:

1. Trials in absentia are permitted under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the immediate jurisdiction, when the accused has not shown up as promised after being released on bail, and his whereabouts are unknown and undeterminable.

2. In the case of Mr. Festung, there was no sentence of death by electrocution. At the time of his trial, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had no provision in its laws to execute anyone, by electrocution or any other means. Mr. Festung had been sentenced to life imprisonment.

3. The government of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, on learning that Mr. Festung had been located in France, and understanding the French distaste for trials in absentia, had passed special legislation applying specifically to Mr. Festung, guaranteeing his right to a new trial if he should wish one.

4. Inasmuch as Mr. Festung had entered France illegally, on a false passport, in a false name, he was not entitled, under French law, to the protection of French law, and furthermore, French law stated that someone apprehended in France who had entered the country illegally would be immediately deported.

The three-judge bank of appeals justices considered the case for almost three-quarters of an hour before deciding to deny the request of the United States government for the extradition of Isaac David Festung, now known as Walter Stillman, resident of Cognac-Boeuf.

Isaac David Festung was free to go.

A cheering crowd greeted the Festungs both outside the court building and when they returned to their home in Cognac-Boeuf.

The United States ambassador to the French Republic decided to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeals. It was whispered that he did so somewhat reluctantly, and only at the insistence of the secretary of state personally. The story went that the secretary had been approached by the Hon. Carl Feldman, the senior senator from the state of Pennsylvania, at the urging of the Hon. Eileen McNamara Solomon, the Philadelphia district attorney.

The story whispered about went on to say that Mrs. Solomon had told Senator Feldman that she could see no way to keep out of the newspapers the fact that Senator Feldman had been this slimy sonofabitch’s lawyer and had gotten him released on $40,000 bail-a ridiculous figure for someone facing a Murder Two charge-which he had then jumped, and offered the suggestion that if the senator hoped to get reelected, it might well behoove him to also get it into the papers that, having recognized the error of his ways, he was doing everything in his power to have the murdering sonofabitch extradited.

Neither Senator Feldman nor District Attorney Solomon would comment on this story, but it was soon announced by the French Ministry of Justice that what the Court of Appeals had really meant to say when it had released Mr. Festung was that he was to be released only to Cognac-Boeuf, and there he would be under the surveillance of the Gendarmerie National, pending the results of the appeal of the U.S. Embassy of their decision to the Supreme Court of France.

When Isaac Festung woke in his bed at just about the time Officers Cubellis and Hyde were reporting themselves back in service in Philadelphia-and six months after the Ministry of Justice’s announcement-he was not at all worried about what the French Supreme Court would decide best served the interests of justice.

Not only had his lawyers told him he had nothing to be worried about, but based on his own analysis of the situation- by which he meant his analysis of France and the French mentality, intellectual and political-he did not see much- indeed, any-cause for concern.

The French, Fort Festung had concluded, had an identity problem, and an enormous capacity for self-deception. At the same time, they professed France to be a world power equal to any. They knew this wasn’t true.

They were about as important in the world, Fort Festung had concluded, as the Italians, perhaps even less important. The difference was, the Italians knew what they were, and acted accordingly, and the French refused to admit what they were, and acted accordingly.

The most important factor in the equation was that the French really hated America and Americans. The Italians were grateful that the Americans had run the Germans, and the native fascists, out of Italy in the Second World War, and grateful again for the American relief effort after the war, and for American help in keeping the Communists from taking any real power in Italy.

The French were privately shamed that the Americans had twice been responsible for chasing the Boche from French soil. American aid to France after the war had made France resentful, not grateful, and France had been relieved when the Americans took a whipping in what had been French Indochina. It would have been almost too much for the French to bear if the Yankees had beaten the Vietnamese into submission after they had failed.

Dien Bien Phu was just one more name on a very long list of battles that the proud French Army had lost, something one would never suspect watching them strut down the Champs Elysees on Bastille Day with flags flying.

Fort saw proof of his theory in French automobiles. Most of them, he thought, in addition to being notoriously unreliable, were spectacularly ugly. And they had yellow headlights. No other country in Europe put yellow headlights on their cars. So far as Fort could tell, the only advantage of the yellow headlights was that they immediately identified a car as having been made in France.

They couldn’t even sell French cars in the United States. They didn’t meet American safety standards. Automobiles made, for example, in Korea did. And that was not even getting into the comparisons that could be made between Peugeots and Citroens and the Mercedes-Benzes and Porsches made by the hated Boche on the other side of the Rhine and which were highly regarded around the world.

There were, when he had time to think about it, literally hundreds of other proofs of France’s general inferiority and the French unwillingness-perhaps inability-to accept it.

What this all added up to was that when a Frenchman found himself in a position where he could tell the United States to go fuck itself, he could count on hearty cheers from the great majority of his countrymen.

The issue, in other words, no longer had anything to do with what happened in Philadelphia so many years ago, or with Fort Festung.

It had become a question of the French Republic proving its sovereignty and independence before the world. France, the world’s center of culture and civilization, was not about to bow to the will of the goddamned uncultured, uncivilized, and despicable United States of America.

Vive La France!

In the meantime, living in Cognac-Boeuf wasn’t at all bad. He admitted he missed the excitement of Philadelphia, and obviously, he could never go back there. But with this business all out in the open, when the Supreme Court issued its decision, he would be able to travel all over France, which meant Paris.

And in the meantime, Fort Festung thought, as he got out of bed and put on a loosely fitting shirt and baggy cotton trousers, and slipped his sockless feet into thong sandals, life here in Cognac-Boeuf wasn’t at all bad.

He could, for example, get on his bicycle, ride into Cognac-Boeuf, take a table at La Relais, have rolls fresh from the oven, locally made butter, coffee, and a hooker of cognac placed before him, and consume them while he explained to the locals what the stories in Time and the Trib really meant.

And that was exactly what Isaac David Festung did, while Officers Hyde and Cubellis remained on patrol in Philadelphia, maintaining as well as they could peace and domestic tranquillity in the City of Brotherly Love.

When Captain Henry C. Quaire walked into Homicide a few minutes after eight the same morning, he saw Sergeant Matthew M. Payne sitting on a chair outside the chief of Homicide’s office. Sergeant Payne rose when he saw Captain Quaire.

“Good morning, Sergeant,” Quaire said, smiling, and then waved his hand toward the door of his office. “Come on in.”

Matt Payne followed him into the office.

“One of your major responsibilities, Sergeant,” Quaire said, pointing to his coffee machine, “is to make sure that one of your subordinates makes sure that machine is tended and ready for service by the time I walk in here.”

“Yes, sir,” Matt said.

Quaire poured an Emerald Society cup full, and turned to Payne.

“Help yourself, Matt, and then pull up a chair.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you.”

Privately, Henry Quaire was not overjoyed at the assignment of Sergeant Payne to Homicide. For one thing, he’d had nothing to do with it. Almost traditionally, the chief of Homicide had been able to select his men, and there were a number of sergeants-three, in particular, who wanted the assignment-whom Quaire considered to be far better qualified to be a sergeant in Homicide than Sergeant Payne.

But the commissioner had had his off-the-wall idea of giving the top five guys on the sergeant’s list their choice of assignment, so Payne’s assignment was a done deal, and there was no way he could fight it.

Not that he really wanted to, he decided. For one thing, he was off the hook about picking one of the other sergeants. If he had had to make a choice between them, two of them would not have gotten the assignment, and they-and their rabbis- would have been disappointed, and their rabbis probably pissed.

Now they could be pissed at the commissioner.

And it wasn’t as if Payne was an absolute incompetent getting shoved down his throat. He was, in fact, a pretty good cop, who would probably do a good job in Homicide before moving onward and upward in the police hierarchy. Like his rabbi, Inspector Peter Wohl, he was one of those people who seemed predestined for ever-greater responsibility and the rank that went with it.

Nor was there going to be, so far as Quaire sensed, much-if any-resentment from the Homicide guys about having a brand-new sergeant with just over five years on the job as a Homicide supervisor.

For one thing, Payne was close to the two most respected people in Homicide, Lieutenant Jason Washington and Detective Tony Harris. Washington had no problem with Payne’s assignment, and when Quaire had asked Tony Harris, Harris had been almost enthusiastic.

“I’ve worked with him, Captain,” Harris said. “He’s smart as hell. And this place can use a little class. Unless I’m wrong, he’s going to be dynamite on the witness stand.”

Smart as hell and being dynamite on the witness stand were two desirable characteristics for anybody in Homicide.

And then there was the fact that everybody in Homicide knew that Payne had had two good shootings. The first had been the serial rapist in Northwest Philadelphia who’d tried to run Payne down in his van. That bastard had already had his next intended victim trussed up like a Christmas turkey in the back of his van when Payne had interrupted his plans with a bullet in his head.

The second was when they were rounding up the doers in the Goldblatt amp; Sons Furniture job, and Wohl had put Payne and Mickey O’Hara in an alley to keep them out of the line of fire, while Highway and Special Operations uniforms went in the front. One of the doers had appeared in the alley with a. 45 semiautomatic. Payne had taken a hit in the leg, but he’d downed the bad guy anyway.

And then there was the third incident, just six months ago. Payne had run down-good detective work-a lunatic terrorist they wanted. The FBI had been looking for him without coming close for years. Payne knew the critter was going to be in the parking lot of a diner in Doylestown. He had no authority in Doylestown, and didn’t think the Doylestown cops would know how to handle the terrorist, so he’d called an FBI guy he knew-one of the good ones, for a change- and the FBI guy had gone to Doylestown.

When they’d tried to put the collar on the lunatic, he’d let loose with an automatic carbine, wounding a bystander woman and killing the woman who’d led Payne to the lunatic.

There’d been a hell of an exchange of gunfire, handguns against an automatic carbine. The FBI guy had actually put the critter down, but Payne had been involved up to his eyeballs and hadn’t blinked.

If things were perfect, a cop would never have to take his pistol out of his holster, but things aren’t perfect, and all cops-including Homicide detectives-admire the cops who do it right when they have to take out their weapons.

And then finally Captain Quaire was aware that at Dave Pekach’s wife’s party for Payne last night, Payne had sat at a table with Deputy Commissioner Coughlin, District Attorney Eileen McNamara Solomon, Chief Inspector of Detectives Matthew Lowenstein, and Inspector Wohl, making it clear he had friends in high places.

“Welcome aboard, Matt,” Quaire said.

“Thank you, sir.”

“Would you have any objection to being assigned to Lieutenant Washington’s squad?”

“No, sir.”

“So be it,” Quaire said. “You’re a bright young man. Do I have to remind you that you’re the new kid on the block, and that most of the people here have been in Homicide longer than you’ve been on the job?”

“I don’t mean to sound flippant, sir, but that’s not the first time that’s been pointed out to me.”

“And in a situation like that, what are you going to do?”

“Keep my eyes open and my mouth shut, sir.”

“Don’t go too far, Matt, with the mouth shut. You’re a sergeant, and you’ll be expected to act like one.”

“Yes, sir. I understand.”

What I’m doing here is wasting my time, and his. Before he walked in here this morning, he was coached on what to expect and how to behave by Peter Wohl, who was a very young detective here. Or by Denny Coughlin. Or by the Black Buddha. Maybe even by Matt Lowenstein. Or Tony Harris. Or, more likely, all of the above.

“When is this business with Stan Colt going to happen?” Quaire asked.

“I think he’s coming on Friday, sir. I haven’t had the time to check with Lieutenant McGuire.”

“You better check with him soon, for the obvious reasons. ”

“I’ll do it right now, sir.”

“And let me know.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Okay, Matt. Go to work,” Captain Quaire said. “Glad you’re going to be with us.”

“Thank you, sir.”

At 9:25 A.M., as Jack Williamson drove his Chrysler 300M northward on I-95 toward Bucks County-coincidentally, just beyond and to the left of the Industrial Correction Center, and just shy of the Philadelphia Police Academy-his cellular telephone buzzed.

Williamson was a tall, rather good-looking, well-dressed twenty-nine-year-old whose business card identified him as Senior Sales Consultant for Overbrook Estates, which offered custom-built executive homes on quarter-acre lots in Overbrook Estates, a new gated community in Beautiful Bucks County starting in the mid-$250Ks.

He cursed-for having forgot to do so earlier-as he reached for the earphone and jammed it in place, and then pushed the button on the microphone, which he was supposed to have clipped to his jacket, but now held somewhat awkwardly in his right hand.

“Jack Williamson,” he said.

“This is your mother.”

Oh, shit. Now what does she want?

“What can I do for you, Mother? On my way to work, where I’m already twenty-five minutes late?”

“I’m worried about Cheryl.”

“Can we talk about this later?”

“She doesn’t answer her phone…”

Probably because she knows it’s you calling.

“… and not even the answering machine answers.”

“Maybe it’s full.”

“And she’s not at work. I called there, too.”

And just possibly, Mother Dear, she told them to tell you she was out.

“Mother, she probably had car trouble or something.”

“No. She doesn’t answer her cell phone, either. Jack, I’m really worried.”

“Mother, what exactly is it you’d like me to do?”

“I want you to go by her apartment and see if she’s all right.”

“Mother, I’m on my way to work, and I’m already late.”

“Jack, she’s your sister. Your only sister.”

He didn’t reply.

“If only your father were still alive…” Mrs. Williamson began.

“Okay, okay. Don’t start that. I’ll go.”

“You’ll call me?” his mother asked.

Jack detected a triumphal tone in her voice.

Score another one for Momma Dear.

“I’ll call.”

He looked for, found, and took the next exit ramp-Exit 23-and a block onto Willets Road pulled to the side, clipped the cellular’s hands-off microphone to his shirt, then picked the phone up and held down the 5 key, which caused the cellular to automatically dial Cheryl’s number.

There was no answer, which meant she wasn’t there. He hung up, then held down the 6 key, which caused the cellular to automatically dial Cheryl’s cellular number. After five rings, a recorded female voice announced that the party he was attempting to reach was either not available at this time or out of the local calling area.

He cursed again, dropped the phone onto the seat, put the 300M in gear, and headed down Willets, deciding the best way to get to Cheryl’s-all the fucking way across North Philly-was to take Roosevelt Boulevard and then Adams Avenue, into the East Oak Lane section of Philadelphia.

When he got to Cheryl’s door, he could hear the chimes inside playing the first few bars of “Be It Ever So Humble,” but there was no answer. Which meant that Cheryl was already probably at work.

He decided that when he got back to the car, he would call her at her office, and turned to leave.

Then nature called, and he was a long way from Overbrook Estates.

He felt around the top of the door frame for her spare key, and when he didn’t find it, turned over the floor mat in front of the door, and when it wasn’t there either, took a last shot and, standing on his toes, ran his hands over the trim above the windows next to Cheryl’s door. He knocked a key off, failed to catch it, and it bounced off the floor and went over the edge of the walkway.

“Jesus H. Christ!” he said, and went down the stairs and two minutes later managed to find the key in the grass.

He unlocked the door and entered the apartment. There were, he remembered, two toilets, one with a bathtub off Cheryl’s room, and another, just a water closet and a washbasin, off the kitchen. He went to the latter and relieved himself.

He was on the walkway checking to make sure the door was locked when a female voice asked, “Is everything all right?”

Now what the hell?

Jack found himself facing Mrs. Joanne McGrory.

“I’m Cheryl’s brother,” he said. “Jack Williamson.”

And as soon as you satisfy your goddamn curiosity and go away, so you can’t see what I’m doing, I will put the goddamn key back where it belongs.

“I’m Joanne McGrory. Next door.”

“I’m pleased to meet you,” Jack said.

“I’m pleased that everything is all right,” Joanne McGrory said. “After the mirror, I was worried.”

“Excuse me?”

“Our mirror came crashing off the wall, and I thought maybe something happened in there, too.”

“Everything’s fine in there.”

“I called the cops, but they wouldn’t go inside.”

“You called the cops? Why?”

“Well, if you were in bed in the middle of the night and your mirror came crashing down off the wall, what would you do?”

“Mrs. McGrory, you’re telling me the police were here last night?”

“Yes, they were,” Joanne McGrory said. “I called them, thinking that something might have happened to Cheryl.”

“And what did they do? Say?”

“They said they couldn’t go into her apartment.”

Jesus H. Christ, is my imagination running away with me? Is something really wrong here?

Jack Williamson put the key back in the lock and reentered the apartment. He’d already been in Cheryl’s kitchen and living room, so he went to her bedroom and opened the door.

Oh, my God!

Holy Christ, what happened in here?

She’s buck fucking naked and she’s tied to the bed!

He walked to the bed and looked down at Cheryl. Her eyes were open, but sightless.

Oh, my God, she’s dead!

He turned. Mrs. McGrory was coming into the bedroom.

“I think you’d better get out of here,” he said.

“Well, excuse me. I’m just trying to be neighborly.”

“Get the fuck out of here, goddamn it!” Jack said, waited until she had fled, and then looked for Cheryl’s telephone.

It wasn’t on her bedside table. It was on the floor, and he could see the cord had been broken.

Jesus, I’ll have to use the cell phone in the car.

What the hell am I going to tell Mother?

As he went through the living room, he remembered that Cheryl had a second phone, mounted on the kitchen wall. He went to it, then stopped.

Maybe it’s got fingerprints on it.

I better use my cell phone in the car.

Fuck it!

He took the handset from its cradle with his handkerchief and, using his ballpoint pen, punched in 911.

“Police department, operator 178,” a male voice answered on the second ring.

“Jesus!”

“May I help you, sir?”

“I’m… my sister’s apparently been murdered,” Jack Williamson said.

“And where are you, sir?”

“In her apartment. Second floor, right, 600 Independence Street. I let myself in, and found her-”

“And your name, sir?”

“Williamson, Jack Williamson.”

“You just stay where you are, please, Mr. Williamson. I’ll get police officers over there right away.”

“Jesus Christ, she’s tied to the goddamn bed!”

“Help will be there very shortly, Mr. Williamson.”

Officer Roland Stone was twelve blocks from Cheryl’s apartment-near the intersection of Godfrey Avenue and Howard Street-when his radio went off.

“3514.”

“3514,” Stone replied.

“3514, take 600 Independence Street, second-floor apartment, right. Meet the complainant, report of a 5292. Use caution-the complainant is on the scene and states it is a possible homicide.”

“3514, I have it,” Stone said, and flipped on the light bar on the roof and the siren as he turned left onto Water Street.

“35A-Andy,” Police Radio called next, to alert the supervisor-a sergeant-in the area.

“35A, I copied. I’m en route,” Sergeant John J. Haley responded. He was three blocks away from Cheryl Williamson’s apartment. This meant Haley had heard the initial call to 3514, and there was no need for the Police Radio operator to repeat the information.

Without really thinking about it, Sergeant Haley oriented himself with regard to where he was-at Franklin Street and Sixty-fifth Avenue North-and where he was going, took a quick look, made a U-turn, and stepped hard on the accelerator. He used neither the light bar nor the siren. They wouldn’t be necessary.

When he got out of his car at the curb in front of 600 Independence and started inside, a white, middle-aged woman was standing on the walkway just off the porch.

“Up there,” she said, gesturing inside. “Second floor, on the right.”

Haley took the porch stairs, and then the interior stairs, two at a time.

The door to Cheryl Williamson’s apartment was ajar.

There was a white, late twenties male sitting on a couch, his head bent.

“Police,” Sergeant Haley said.

“In there,” the man on the couch said, gesturing toward an interior door.

“What’s happened here?”

“Some fucking perverted cocksucker killed my sister, that’s what happened here.”

Sergeant Haley went into Cheryl’s bedroom, stayed only long enough to determine that the naked female in the bed was dead-he had seen enough bodies to make that determination with certainty; he didn’t feel for a pulse-and then stepped backward into the corridor and then went into the living room.

Looking at the guy who said he was the brother, Sergeant Haley squeezed the transmit switch on his lapel microphone.

“35A.”

“35A,” Police Radio responded.

“35A, notify Northwest Detectives, and Homicide. We have an apparent homicide. White female, no obvious cause of death, but there are signs of a possible rape. Hold myself and 14 car out at the scene.”

Jack Williamson looked up at Sergeant Haley.

“She is dead, right?”

“I’m afraid so.”

They both could hear the growing scream of Officer Stone’s patrol car approaching.

EIGHT

In the radio room-"room” doesn’t do justice to the large area in which Police Radio is housed-in the Roundhouse, the radio operator who had taken Sergeant Haley’s call then pressed a button on his console that automatically dialed the number of the desk man at the Northwest Detectives Division.

Detective units operate on what is known as “The Wheel.” It’s actually a roster of the names of the detectives on duty at the moment, and it’s designed to equitably distribute the workload. In most detective divisions, there is a detective assigned to “man the desk.” The “desk man” answers the telephone. When a job comes in, the desk man assigns it to the detective “next up” on the wheel.

When the phone rang in the Northwest Detectives Division, it was answered by Detective O. A. Lassiter, who was not the desk man but was filling in for Detective Len Ford, who was in the men’s room “taking a personal,” as a bathroom break is referred to on Police Radio. It also happened that Detective Lassiter was next up on the wheel.

Detective Lassiter was twenty-five years old, with 115 pounds distributed attractively around her five-foot-seven-inch frame. She had dark black hair, green eyes, long attractive legs, and had what her fellow detectives agreed- privately, very privately-were a magnificent ass and bosom.

“This is Police Radio, operator number 178,” the Police Radio operator began, then went into the details of the call he’d received from Sergeant Haley.

Detective Lassiter wrote them down on a lined tablet and finally said, “Okay, we got it,” then raised her voice to call out to Lieutenant Fred C. Vincent, “Hey, Lieutenant, we got one.”

“What kind of job is it, Lassiter?” Vincent asked.

“Homicide, possible rape, white female, twenty-three years old. Her brother found her inside her apartment, tied to the bed. He’s still at the scene.”

“You better take somebody with you,” Vincent said. “I’ll get over there as soon as I can.”

“Yes, sir,” Detective Lassiter said, and then, raising her voice, called out, “Charley, you loose enough to go with me?”

“What’s the job?” Detective Charley Touma, a plump forty-four-year-old, asked.

“That’s not an answer, Charley, that’s another question,” Lieutenant Vincent answered for Detective Lassiter.

“I am at your disposal, Detective Lassiter,” Touma said. “What’s the job?”

“Homicide, possible rape, young white female,” Detective Lassiter said, as she opened the drawer of her desk, took from it her Glock 9-mm semiautomatic pistol, and slipped it into its holster.

Lieutenant Vincent was pleased that Detective Touma would be working with Detective Lassiter. Touma was a good man, a gentle man. The job was probably going to be messy, and although he knew he wasn’t supposed to let feelings like this intrude in any way in official business, the truth was that Lieutenant Vincent looked upon Detective Lassiter as, if not a daughter, then as a little sister.

Immediately after talking to the desk man at Northwest Detectives, the Police Radio operator pushed the button that automatically dialed the number of the man on the desk in the Homicide Unit, which was, physically, almost directly under him in the Roundhouse.

Detective Joe D’Amata, a slightly built, natty, olive-skinned forty-year-old, who was next up on the Homicide wheel, answered the phone: “Homicide, D’Amata.”

“This is Radio,” the operator said, and then proceeded to repeat almost verbatim what he’d reported to Detective Lassiter at Northwest Detectives. And Detective D’Amata, as Detective Lassiter had done, carefully wrote everything down, then said, “Got it, thanks.”

He looked around for Lieutenant Jason Washington and saw that he was in his office talking with-almost certainly telling him the way things worked-Sergeant Matt Payne.

The only problem Joe D’Amata had with Payne as a sergeant in Homicide was that it made him reconsider the decision he’d made years before, when he’d been in Homicide a year, and there was a sergeant’s exam coming up, and he had decided not to take it.

It was pretty clear by then that he’d cut the mustard and wouldn’t be asked to “consider a transfer.” He realized that he would much rather be a Homicide detective than a sergeant, or a lieutenant, or even a captain, somewhere else. For one thing, with all the overtime, he was taking home as much-or more-dough as an inspector. But the money wasn’t all of it. He liked Homicide.

Homicide was special, and it paid well. Who needs to be a sergeant?

So he hadn’t taken the exam, and hadn’t thought about getting promoted since. And he knew that many-perhaps most-of the Homicide detectives had made the same decision at some time in their careers.

Another trouble with taking the exam and making sergeant was that he’d have to leave Homicide, the personnel theory there being it was bad policy to have somebody who last week was one of the boys this week be their supervisor. Even if he went to a regular detective district-South, for example-as a sergeant, he wouldn’t be doing any investigations himself, just supervising detectives who were investigating retail thefts, stolen autos, and the occasional more exciting aggravated assaults, or bank robberies. And, if you turned up a good suspect on a bank job, the FBI would immediately take over. If he were sent to a uniform district, a very distinct possibility in today’s “career-development-minded” department, then he would be devoting his investigatory skills to “Disturbance, House” calls.

There were exceptions, of course. There were exceptions to everything. Jason Washington had taken the lieutenant’s exam with the understanding that if he made it, he would stay in Homicide. And the word was out that with a couple of belts in him, after he’d heard Payne was coming to Homicide, Tony Harris had gone to Washington and asked if he couldn’t do the same thing, and Washington said he would work on it.

There was something else, too. The reason Payne was the new sergeant was the nutty “First Five Get Their Choice of Assignment” decision Commissioner Mariani had come up with.

That could have come out worse. Payne was a youngster, but he was a good cop. He’d been doing in critters from the time he’d come on the job. Denny Coughlin had gotten him assigned as Peter Wohl’s administrative assistant to keep him out of trouble until he realized that rich kids from the Main Line really shouldn’t be cops just because their father and uncle got blown away as cops.

He had been working for Wohl hardly any time at all when he’d popped the Northwest serial rapist and taken him permanently off the streets without putting the Commonwealth to the expense of a trial.

Maybe it was in his blood. Who the hell knew? But the point was Payne was a good cop. What if the Number One guy had been somebody else? Some dickhead out of Community Relations, some other candyass good at taking exams but who, on the street, couldn’t find his butt with both hands and who would piss his pants if he had to stare down some critter? What then?

Joe D’Amata pushed himself out of his chair and walked to Lieutenant Washington’s door. He waited until he had Washington’s attention.

“We got one, Jason,” he said. “White female, twenty-three, probably involved with a rape.”

“Dare I hope the culprit is in custody?” Washington asked.

D’Amata shook his head.

“No. Thirty-fifth District uniform is holding the scene,” he said.

“Sergeant Payne will accompany you to the scene,” Washington said, smiling broadly, “checking to make sure everything you know has to be done is done. You will explain each step in the procedure to him, so that he will be assured you know what you’re doing.”

In other words, show the rookie the ropes.

“Anytime you’re ready, Sergeant,” Joe said.

“Let me know what happens, Sergeant,” Washington said.

“Yes, sir.”

Matt got up and followed D’Amata into the outer room.

“What I usually do first, Sergeant,” D’Amata said, “is secure my replacement on the wheel.”

Matt nodded.

D’Amata raised his voice.

“Kramer, put the Hustler down and take the phone.”

Detective Alonzo Kramer, who appeared to be reading a large ledger at his desk, waved his hand to indicate he understood he was now up on the wheel.

Matt Payne wondered if he really had a copy of Hustler magazine hidden behind the green ledger. And decided he didn’t want to know.

“What I will do now, Sergeant,” Joe D’Amata said, punching numbers on a telephone, “is inform the very clever technicians assigned to the Mobile Crime Lab that their services are going to be required.”

Other detectives-who, Matt did not need to be told, were the squad who would work the case-began to gather around D’Amata’s desk.

D’Amata put the telephone handset in its cradle.

“With your permission, Sergeant, I will designate Detectives Reeves and Grose to remain behind. Reeves, who went to night school and now reads almost at the sixth-grade level, will research the victim, see what he can find out about her in the files-does she have a rap sheet, outstanding warrants, et cetera, et cetera. Grose, who can’t read at all, will seek out a judge to get us a search warrant for the premises.”

Detectives Grose and Reeves, having picked up on what was happening, were smiling.

“I’m sure you’re aware, Sergeant,” D’Amata went on, “that our beloved Lieutenant Washington is picky-picky about getting a search warrant before we even start rooting in garbage cans in search of evidence, and photographing the deceased.”

“He has made that point, Detective,” Matt said.

“Something to do, I believe, with slimeball lawyers getting critters off because the evidence was gained unlawfully. ”

“So I was led to believe,” Matt said.

“And I think, with your permission, Sergeant, that I will designate Detective Slayberg-that’s the fat one in the cheap suit.. ”

“Screw you, Joe,” Detective Slayberg said, but he was smiling.

“… as the recorder. He’s very good at describing premises. ”

“So I usually get stuck with that, Sergeant,” Slayberg said.

“Many years ago,” Matt said mock seriously, “when I was a young police officer, I made the mistake of letting my sergeant know I could type with all the fingers on both hands.”

The others chuckled.

“Boy,” Slayberg said, “with all possible respect, Sergeant, that was a dumb fucking thing to do.”

“So I learned,” Matt said.

There were more chuckles.

“So now, these little details out of the way, and with your permission, Sergeant, I think we should proceed to the scene.”

“Absolutely.”

“With just about everybody working the Roy Rogers job, Matt, we’re a little short of wheels. You mind if Slayberg and I ride out there with you? Or did Quaire beat you out of that new car you brought with you?”

“Not yet,” Matt said. “But then, I haven’t been here very long.”

I wonder why Quaire didn’t grab the car?

He watched as all the detectives who would be going to the scene went to filing cabinets, unlocked them, and then took from them their personal equipment, which included their weapons, surgical rubber gloves, and leather- or vinyl-covered folders holding legal tablets.

He followed D’Amata out of Homicide, at the last moment picking up his briefcase, with his laptop inside, from atop a filing cabinet near the door.

When Matt got out of the unmarked Ford, he saw that yellow-and-black tape reading POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS had been strung along both sides of the path into the apartment complex to prohibit access to one of the buildings.

Two uniformed white shirts, a captain and a lieutenant, were standing talking to two detectives, one of them a woman, on the concrete path in front of what was obviously the crime scene.

“Captain Alex Smith, the district commander,” Joe D’Amata said. “Good guy. I don’t make the lieutenant.”

“Lew Sawyer,” Slayberg furnished. “He’s a prick. The broad is from Special Victims, and she’s a real bitch.”

“What the fuck is she doing here?” Slayberg asked. “Special Victims Unit doesn’t have anything to do with homicide investigations, even when the victim has been raped.”

“Smile nicely at her, Matt,” D’Amata said.

Captain Smith saw the three of them coming and smiled.

“Hello, Joe,” he said, putting out his hand.

“Good morning, sir. I know you know Harry, but… Sergeant Payne?”

“Yeah, sure, how are you, Harry?” He shook Slayberg’s hand. “I know who you are, Sergeant, but I don’t think we’ve ever actually met.”

“I don’t think so, sir,” Matt said, reaching for Smith’s outstretched hand.

“This is Lieutenant Sawyer,” Smith said. “And Detectives Domenico and Ellis, of Special Victims.”

“I think I used to see you around the Arsenal, didn’t I?” Detective Domenico asked.

There was something about her smile Matt didn’t like, and he remembered what Slayberg had said.

“I used to be out there with Special Operations,” Matt said.

Everybody nodded at each other, but no hands were shaken.

“What have we got, Captain?” Joe asked.

“A dead girl, the doer is probably a sicko, and maybe a problem.”

“What kind of a problem?”

“There was a ‘Disturbance, House’ call here last night. Two cars responded. The lady next door said her mirror fell off the wall. She said the trouble came from the Williamson apartment, and wanted them to check it out. There was no response when the officers rang the bell, no lights, no sounds, and no signs of a break-in. So they couldn’t take the door.”

“Uh-oh,” D’Amata said. “I think I know what’s coming.”

Captain Smith nodded.

“So they left,” he said. “And then the brother let himself in this morning, found his sister, and the lady next door told him what had happened last night. Actually, early this morning. And the brother is pretty upset with the police department for not taking the door the first time we were here.”

“Ouch,” D’Amata said.

Slayberg’s cellular buzzed.

He said his name, listened, then said, “Thanks. We just got here. Wait.” He turned to Matt.

“Sergeant, the search warrant is on the way. Grose will bring it. Reeves said there’s nothing but a couple of driving violations on either the victim or her brother, and wants to know what you want him to do.”

“Tell Grose to tell Reeves to come out with him and the warrant,” Matt said, forgetting that he had promised himself to keep his eyes open and his mouth shut.

He stole a quick glance at D’Amata, and saw nothing on his face to suggest he thought Matt had ordered the wrong thing. And he remembered what Quaire had said about his being expected to act like a sergeant.

“Why don’t we go have a quick look?” Matt said to D’Amata and Slayberg. “The search warrant’s on the way.”

He started to walk toward the stairs, and became aware that everybody started to follow him.

I’m not about to tell the district captain he can’t have a look at the scene, but that doesn’t apply to the lieutenant and certainly not to the smiling lady from Special Victims.

“It’s your job, Sergeant, but I would like a look.”

“After you, sir,” he said, waving Captain Smith ahead of him.

“Lieutenant, would you mind waiting until the Crime Lab people do their thing?” Matt asked.

“I just wanted a quick look, but you’re right,” Lieutenant Sawyer said.

“You understand,” Matt said to Detective Domenico.

The ice in your eyes, Detective Domenico, Sergeant Payne thought, would freeze the balls off a brass monkey. What’s your problem? You’re not even supposed to be here. This isn’t a rape, a child molestation, it’s a homicide.

The uniform in front of Cheryl Williamson’s door stepped aside when he saw Captain Smith and the others.

Once they got inside, Captain Smith touched Matt’s arm.

“I know Sex Crimes,” he said, using the old name for the Special Victims Unit, “doesn’t have anything to do with a homicide investigation, even when a sexual assault is involved. They just happened to be in my office talking to me about an unsolved rape when this job came out.”

“Yes, sir,” Matt said. And then he saw in Joe D’Amata’s eyes that he found this interesting. After a moment, so did Matt.

An unsolved rape and they just happened to be here at a homicide rape scene? Is there something else we’re not being told? I think I’ll have to send a team over to the Special Victims Unit to see what their files may have.

Without a word Joe D’Amata opened his leather-bound notepad, turned to the last page of the tablet, and scrawled a note for himself: Sex Crimes, unsolved rape in area, Lt. Sawyer, Det. Domenico, Ellis.

There was another female detective in the apartment, sitting on the couch beside a well-dressed, somewhat distraught-looking man.

She stood up when she saw them.

Sergeant Payne had an unprofessional thought: Now, that’s a very interesting member of the opposite sex.

“Captain, I’d rather not have anybody in there until we get the search warrant and the Crime Lab,” the very interesting member of the opposite sex said.

“The warrant’s on the way,” Matt said. “And we’re just going to stand in the door for a quick look.”

“Take a good long look,” the man on the couch said, as he stood up. “If you cops did what you’re supposed to do, my sister would probably still be alive.”

“I’m very sorry for your loss, sir,” D’Amata said.

“You’re sorry? That does Cheryl a lot of fucking good.”

"Who are you?” Detective Olivia Lassiter asked, almost a challenge.

“Joe D’Amata, Homicide,” D’Amata said. “I’ve got the job. This is Harry Slayberg, and Sergeant Payne.”

D’Amata and Slayberg nodded at Detective Lassiter as they walked around Matt to the bedroom door.

“Who are you?” Matt asked.

“Lassiter, Northwest Detectives,” she said.

D’Amata and Slayberg stood in the doorway of Cheryl Williamson’s bedroom and looked around-without entering-for about sixty seconds. Then they stepped away from the bedroom door and started looking around the living room. Captain Smith went to the bedroom door.

“Jesus,” he said, softly.

Matt saw that D’Amata and Slayberg had rubber gloves on their hands, wondered why he hadn’t seen them put them on, and pulled a pair of his own from his pocket.

He was about to walk to the door when the apartment door opened again and two men entered. Payne knew one of them, a balding, rumpled man in a well-worn suit, Dr. Howard Mitchell of the medical examiner’s office. He had with him a photographer, a young man Matt could not remember ever having seen before.

Matt found it interesting that Dr. Mitchell had come to the scene personally. Usually technicians from the M.E.’s office worked a death scene, and the M.E. did not; he either supervised the autopsy or did it himself.

Probably, Matt decided, Mitchell’s appearance had something to do with a Special Operations job he’d heard about, one that had almost been assigned to him, although in the end it had been assigned to Detectives Jesus Martinez and Charles T. McFadden.

It had begun when a highly indignant citizen, the nephew of a woman who’d fallen down her cellar stairs and broken her neck, had gone to his district and told the desk sergeant to report that he’d just gotten Aunt Myrtle’s last Visa bill. Aunt Myrtle didn’t drink, couldn’t drive, and there was no way she could have charged $355 worth of booze at Mickey’s Liquor Store in Camden, New Jersey, on the day of her death.

The report had worked its way through the bureaucracy to the Roundhouse, where it had been discussed by Deputy Commissioner Coughlin and Chief Inspector of Detectives Lowenstein.

They agreed there was something about it that made it seem more than a simple case of credit-card fraud. And since it crossed state lines, it became a federal offense, which meant it was in the province of the FBI. Although both Coughlin and Lowenstein held the FBI in the highest possible respect, they also suspected that a credit card fraud involving only $355 would not get the FBI’s full attention.

“Give it to Peter Wohl,” Lowenstein said. “Not this job. Get him to see if there have been other reports of other things missing from other recently deceased citizens.”

Coughlin had-unnecessarily-told Peter Wohl that if somebody at funeral homes, cops at the scene, or maybe even from the M.E.’s office were taking things they shouldn’t, he would rather learn this from Special Operations than from the FBI.

Charley McFadden and Hay-zus Martinez had been given the job because they had less on their plates when the job came in than Matt did. It hadn’t taken McFadden and Martinez long to discover-Matt couldn’t remember ever before having seen Charley so personally indignant-that a lot of stuff had disappeared over the past six months, and that it was pretty clear it had disappeared into the pockets of some of the M.E.’s technicians. They had apparently decided that since the deceased had no further need for rings, watches, other jewelry and cash, they might as well put the same to good use-their own.

Four of them had been arrested, tried, and convicted.

“Good morning, Doctor,” Captain Smith said from the bedroom door.

“Hey, Smitty,” Dr. Mitchell said, and then spotted Matt. “Hey, Payne. I saw your picture in the paper.”

“Good morning, Doctor,” Matt said. “The search warrant’s en route.”

Dr. Mitchell winked at D’Amata and Slayberg, then walked to the bedroom door, pulling on rubber gloves as he did so. The photographer followed him. Mitchell gestured with his hand for the photographer to stop at the door, then went inside.

The medical examiner needed no one’s permission to enter the crime scene. It belonged to him until he released it to Homicide.

Matt walked to the bedroom door.

Dr. Mitchell bent over Cheryl Williamson’s body, took a quick look, put his fingers on her carotid artery, looked at his watch, and announced, “I pronounce her dead as of ten fifty-five. ”

He looked over his shoulder at Matt.

“Unofficially, it looks like her neck is broken, and to judge from the lividity of the body, I’d guess she’s been dead eight, nine hours or so.”

He signaled to the photographer that it was all right for him to enter the room, and started for the bedroom door.

Matt got his first look at the victim.

She was naked, with her legs spread apart by plastic ties tied to the footboard. Her upper body was twisted to the left. Her left hand was tied to the headboard, and Matt could see another tie hanging loose from her right wrist.

She looked at him out of sightless eyes, and his mind was instantly filled with Susan Reynolds’s sightless eyes looking at him in the parking lot of the Crossroads Diner.

He felt the knot in his stomach and the cold sweat forming on his back, and stepped quickly away from the door.

Jesus, not now! Dear God, don’t let me get sick to my stomach and make an ass of myself on my first Homicide job!

He bumped into something, somebody, and saw that it was Detective Olivia Lassiter, and that he had almost knocked her over.

She looked at him with what he thought was annoyance.

He started to say “Sorry,” but was interrupted by Jack Williamson, bitterly asking, “You got a good look, I hope?”

He turned his back to Williamson and touched Detective Lassiter’s arm.

“You get anything out of him?” and then, before she could reply, asked, “Why didn’t you get him out of here?”

“I was just getting him calmed down enough to talk when you walked in,” she said. “He doesn’t want to leave, and I didn’t want to push him.”

“Come with me,” Matt said.

“That sounds like an order,” she said.

“Okay,” Matt said. “It was a request, a suggestion, but I want you to come with me.”

She met his eyes defiantly for a moment, then shrugged and turned away from the open door.

Matt walked to the couch. Jack Williamson looked up at him with cold contempt.

“Mr. Williamson, I’m Sergeant Payne. I’m the Homicide supervisor, and I need to talk to you, and we can’t do that in here. In just a few minutes, there will be technicians all over the place, and we can’t be in their way. I want you to come with Detective Lassiter and me to someplace where we can talk. Okay?”

“The lady next door offered anything we need,” Olivia said. “What about her kitchen? She had said she would put a pot of coffee on.”

“We’ll just sit around and have a friendly cup of coffee, right? And maybe a Big Mac? With my sister like that in there?”

“We have to talk someplace, Mr. Williamson, and we have to get out of the way of the technicians, and sitting down over a cup of coffee seems a better idea to me than standing on the sidewalk,” Matt said. “What do you say?”

Williamson shrugged, a gesture of surrender, and stood up.

“Mrs. McGrory, this is Sergeant Payne of Homicide. We have to talk, privately, to Mr. Williamson,” Olivia said when Mrs. McGrory answered her knock. “Could we use your kitchen?”

“Certainly.”

“Thank you very much,” Matt said, as she led them in her kitchen.

“Anything I can do to help. There’s a fresh pot in the Mr. Coffee. Just help yourself.”

“That’s very kind of you,” Matt said.

“I feel just terrible about this, especially with the cops being outside while it was happening.”

“We don’t know for sure that’s what happened, Mrs. McGrory,” Matt said.

“Of course, that’s what happened. I was here, wasn’t I?”

“Thank you very much, Mrs. McGrory,” Olivia said, easing her out of the kitchen and then closing the door.

“Why don’t you sit down?” Matt suggested to Williamson. “I’ll get the coffee. How do you take yours, Mr. Williamson?”

“Black,” Williamson said.

“Black,” Olivia said.

Olivia and Williamson sat down at the kitchen table while Matt took the glass decanter and poured coffee into ceramic mugs. He walked to the table and set the mugs on it.

“Okay,” Matt said. “Let’s get a couple of things understood between us, Mr. Williamson. I don’t know what happened last night, when Mrs. McGrory called the police, and I don’t care.”

“You don’t fucking care?” Williamson asked, disgusted and incredulous.

“My job is to find the person, or persons, who killed your sister, and see that when they’re brought to trial they won’t walk out of the courtroom because some legal ‘t’ wasn’t crossed or some legal ‘i’ didn’t have a dot. I understand that you’re unhappy with what you think happened last night.”

“What happened last night was that the fucking cops didn’t do a goddamn thing to help my sister.”

“If you believe the police did something they shouldn’t have, or didn’t do something they should have, you have every right to make an official complaint-”

“Fucking-A right, I do. And I will.”

“But I think you’ll agree, Mr. Williamson, that right now the priority is to find out who did this thing, and the sooner the better. Would you agree with that?”

“Jesus, of course I ‘agree with that.’ All I’m saying is that if those fucking cops had done what they were supposed to do last night, my sister would still be alive.”

“There’s one more thing, Mr. Williamson,” Matt said. “Your language is beginning to offend me. I hope you’ll watch your mouth. I would really rather not have you transported to Homicide and placed in an interview room until you get your emotions under control.”

Williamson glared at him but didn’t say anything.

Matt opened his briefcase and took out his laptop.

“What’s that for?”

“I’m one of those guys who can’t read his own writing,” Matt said. “I take notes this way. Are you objecting to it?”

“If I did?”

“Then I’ll take out a notebook and ballpoint, and waste a lot of time trying to make sense of my notes when I finally have to type them up. All right?”

Williamson shrugged. Matt turned the laptop on and began to type.

“Is it ‘Jack,’ Mr. Williamson?”

“John J. For Joseph.”

“What’s your first name and badge number, Lassiter?”

“Olivia, 582,” she furnished.

“Okay, Mr. Williamson, let’s start with your personal data,” Matt said. “Residence?”

Twenty minutes later, Matt said, “I think that’ll be enough for the time being, Mr. Williamson.”

“Okay.”

“You know how to work a laptop?”

Williamson nodded.

Matt slid the laptop in front of him.

“Would you take a look at that, please, and see if I’ve got it right?”

Williamson read the several pages Matt had typed and then nodded his head, “okay.”

Matt turned the laptop off, closed the cover, and put it back in his briefcase.

“When I get that printed, Mr. Williamson, I’ll have a detective-most likely Detective Lassiter-bring it to you for your signature.”

“When?” Williamson asked.

“It’ll wait until tomorrow,” Matt said. “I know that you’re going to be busy today. I’ll call you tomorrow to see when it will be convenient.”

“I have to tell you this,” Williamson said. “When my mother hears about what happened last night, this morning, with the cops… God!”

“I’m not trying to talk you out of filing a formal complaint,” Matt said, “honestly, I’m not. But for what it’s worth, from what I’ve heard, the officers who responded to the ‘Disturbance, House’ call were just going by the book. If they had any indication that something-anything-was going wrong, had gone wrong, in the apartment, they would have taken action.”

Williamson looked at him but didn’t respond directly.

“What am I supposed to do if my mother wants to come here?”

“Well, right now she can’t have access to the apartment. Not today, and probably not tomorrow, either. Tell her that.”

“Jesus Christ!” Williamson said.

“I’d be happy to go with you, Mr. Williamson,” Detective Lassiter said. “If you think it would make things any easier. And I’d like to talk to her, too. That doesn’t have to be right now. Your call.”

“It couldn’t do any harm,” Williamson said. “And maybe, if you were there…”

“If you’ll give me your cellular number, Sergeant, I’ll call and let you know how things went,” Detective Lassiter said.

Matt wrote the number on a small sheet of notepaper and handed it to her. She tore it in half and wrote two numbers on it.

“I guess you have the Northwest number, right?” she asked. Matt nodded. “My cellular and apartment,” she said.

“Thank you,” Matt said.

Under other circumstances, Olivia, my lovely, I would be overjoyed that you shared your telephone numbers with me.

Come to think of it, Olivia, despite the circumstances, I am overjoyed that you have shared your telephone numbers with me.

Mrs. McGrory was not in her living room as they passed through, but Matt could hear her voice in the next room. Only her voice, which suggested she was on the telephone.

He decided he had already thanked her and it would be better not to disturb her when she was on the phone.

When they went downstairs and through the front door, he saw that the press was gathered behind the POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS tape, and that the moment they saw them- two detectives, with badges showing, escorting a so-far-unidentified white male-video cameras rose with their red RECORDING lights glowing, and still camera flashbulbs went off.

“Where’s your car?” Matt asked.

“Halfway down the street,” she said, and pointed.

Matt touched the arm of one of the uniforms.

“I want to get Detective Lassiter and this gentleman to her car, down the street, and I don’t want the press to get in the way.”

“No problem,” the uniform said, raised his voice, and called, “Dick!”

Dick was a very large police officer of African-American heritage.

He and the other uniform led the way through the assembled journalists, one on each side of Detective Lassiter and Mr. Williamson.

Sergeant Payne brought up the rear, which gave him a chance to decide that Detective Lassiter had a very nice muscular structure of the lower half of the rear of her body.

As he walked back to 600 Independence, ignoring questions from the press about the identity of Mr. Williamson, he realized he didn’t really have much of an idea of what he was supposed to do now.

He remembered something he had been taught at the Marine Base, Quantico, while in the platoon leaders program: reconnoiter the terrain.

He spent perhaps ten minutes walking around the outside of the big old house, even going up the rear stairs, and then into the basement. He saw nothing of particular interest.

When Matt returned to the front of the house, two uniforms were carrying a stretcher with Cheryl Williamson’s body on it down the pathway to a Thirty-fifth District wagon.

Well, I won’t have to look at the sightless eyes again-not that I’m liable to forget them.

When they had moved past him, Matt went up the stairs and into the Williamson apartment.

“What happened to that very pretty detective from Northwest?” Joe D’Amata greeted him.

“She went with the brother to tell the mother.”

“This is our job, Matt,” D’Amata said. There was a slight tone of reproof in his voice.

“She calmed the brother down. He liked her…”

“I can’t imagine why,” D’Amata said.

“… and (a) I thought that would make things easier with the mother. The brother suggested his mother was going to blow her cork when she found out that there was a ‘Disturbance, House’ call here and the uniforms didn’t take the door. And (b) somebody had to talk to the mother, and I think she can do that as well as we could, which means that we can be here.”

“Your call,” D’Amata said. “Two things, Matt: You want a look at the rear door?”

“I saw the outside from the stairs,” Matt said, as he followed D’Amata into the kitchen and to the door. “I didn’t see any signs of forced entry. Did you?”

“Those scratches might be an indication that somebody pried it open,” Joe said, pointing. “Operative word ‘might.’ The door was latched, locked, like that, but if you leave the lever in the up position like that, it locks automatically.”

“What do the crime lab guys say?”

“What I just told you. No signs at all on the front door. So we don’t know if the doer broke in, or whether she let him in. Could be either way. If she knew the doer, let him in…”

Matt grunted. Most murders are committed by people known to the victim.

“You said two things,” Matt said.

“This is interesting,” D’Amata said, taking a plastic evidence bag from his pocket. It held a digital camera.

“It may be, of course-and probably is-hers. But it was under the bed, which is a strange place to store an expensive camera like this. Even stranger, there are no fingerprints on it. Not even a smudge.”

“Why don’t we see what pictures are in it?”

“It doesn’t work,” D’Amata said, his tone suggesting that Matt should have known he could come up with a brilliant idea like seeing what pictures were in the camera all by himself. “Which might be because it got knocked off the bedside table when the doer jerked the telephone out of the wall and threw it at the mirror.”

“No prints on the phone, either?” Matt asked.

D’Amata held up his rubber-surgical-gloved hands.

“I’m getting the idea the doer is a very careful guy,” he said. “Which also suggests he knows how to get through a door without making a mess, and which suggests that although they are lifting a lot of prints in here-so far, they’ve done both doors, the bedroom and her bathroom-I would be pleasantly surprised if they came up with something useful.”

"Yeah,” Matt agreed.

“So, I was just about to call you to ask if I should take the camera to the crime lab and see if there are any pictures in it.”

“As opposed to having a District car run it down there, which would put a uniform in the evidence chain?”

“That, too,” D’Amata said. “I was thinking that if there are pictures in there, I could get a look at them a lot quicker if I was there when the lab took them out of the camera, then wait for the lab to print them.”

“The camera’s been fingerprinted?”

“I told you, there’s nothing on it. Not even a smudge.”

Matt set his briefcase on the kitchen table, opened it, rummaged around, and closed it again.

“We’re in luck,” he said. “I’ve got the gizmo.”

“What gizmo?”

Matt walked to the door leading from the kitchen to the living room and motioned to one of the uniforms in the living room.

“Don’t let anybody come in here until I tell you, okay?”

The uniform nodded and stood in the center of the doorjamb. Matt closed the door.

“Who’s in the bedroom?” he asked.

“Harry, making the sketch,” D’Amata said. “A uniform’s keeping people out of there, too. What are you doing?”

Matt went back to the kitchen table and took out his laptop, then a small plastic object with a connecting cord. He plugged it into the laptop, then turned it on.

“You can look at them here?” Joe asked.

“And store them in the laptop,” Matt said.

D’Amata handed him the evidence bag. Matt took the flash memory cartridge from it and saw that D’Amata had initialed it. If there were evidentiary photos in the camera, a defense attorney could not raise doubts in the jurors’ minds that the pictures they were being shown had actually come from this camera.

He put the memory card into the transfer device, then copied the JPG images from it to the laptop’s hard disk.

“There’s eight images,” Matt said. “Let’s see what they are.”

The first picture was obviously evidentiary. It showed Cheryl tied to the bed, staring with horror at the camera.

D’Amata went to the door and called Harry Slayberg.

Matt waited until Slayberg came, then displayed the other seven pictures.

“This critter is a real psychopath,” Slayberg said, softly.

“You can see, in the first one,” D’Amata said, “that the phone’s still on the bedside table.”

“And both of her wrists-run the last couple back again, please, Matt, so I’m sure-are still tied to the headboard,” Slayberg said.

Matt displayed the entire series of pictures again.

“So what might have happened was that she got one wrist free… ” Slayberg said.

“And he struggled with her… ” D’Amata picked up. “And that’s when the camera got knocked under the bed.”

“Or,” Matt offered, “he went into the bathroom to take a leak, or clean himself up, and while he was in there, she got the hand loose, and tried to call 911…”

“And Dudley Do-Right came out and caught her,” Slayberg picked up, “hit her-probably harder than he intended-and jerked the phone out of the wall and threw it at the mirror.”

“He was probably scared or in a rage or both,” D’Amata said, “and didn’t think that throwing the phone at the mirror was going to make a lot of noise.”

Matt picked up the camera.

“It’s an expensive camera,” he said. “Kodak. I gave one almost like it to my sister for her birthday. Which triggers a couple of thoughts.”

“Dudley Do-Right is either well-heeled or he stole the camera,” Slayberg said.

“They are serially numbered,” Matt said. “And come with a program that if it won’t work, or you break it, you call them and they FedEx you a new one overnight. I think we should be able to find out who bought this. With a lot of luck, it will be the doer. But even if he stole it, he might have stolen it while doing another rape. That might tell us something.”

“I don’t think so, Matt,” D’Amata said. “Dudley’s a very careful guy, and, I suspect, smart. Smart enough not to take anything that could tie him to one of his escapades.”

“And the second thought is that I’d like to show these pictures to my sister.”

“Did you just say what I thought I heard you say?” Slayberg asked. “The sister at Dave Pekach’s party?”

D’Amata laughed.

“One and the same,” he said. “She’s a shrink, Harry, a very good one.”

“I didn’t know,” Slayberg said. “That’s a thought, but the book says a department shrink and/or Special Victims, not a civilian.”

“Maybe that rule could be bent,” D’Amata said, smiling. “I heard Dr. Payne call Commissioner Coughlin ‘Uncle Denny,’ and Inspector Wohl ‘Honey.’ ”

“That was at the party,” Matt said, chuckling. “And subject to change. But she’s worked with us before, Harry. I don’t think there would be a problem.”

“What I think we should do now,” D’Amata said, “is seek the wise guidance of the Black Buddha. He’s a white shirt- they get paid to make decisions.”

Matt caused the screen of his laptop to go blank, then took out his cell phone and held down the number that caused the phone to automatically dial the cell phone of Lieutenant Jason Washington.

“Washington.”

“Payne, sir.”

“I was just about to call you, Sergeant Payne.”

“Yes, sir?”

“Where are you, Matthew?”

“At the scene, sir.”

“Stay there, and make sure D’Amata and Slayberg stay there. Commissioner Coughlin, Chief Lowenstein, Captain Quaire, and I will be there shortly, to exhort you vis-a-vis the rapid solution of that case.”

“Yes, sir.”

Washington turned off his cell phone.

NINE

Matt pushed the End button on his cellular. "Washington’s on his way here,” he announced. "And so are Coughlin, Lowenstein, and Quaire.”

"What’s that all about?” D’Amata asked.

Matt shrugged. “He wants the three of us here.”

“Was he in the office?” D’Amata asked.

“He didn’t say.”

“Then we have to go on the premise that he-they-may be two minutes away,” D’Amata said. “ ‘Jesus is coming, look busy.’ How can we best do that?”

“I don’t know about you two, but I’m going back to doing the scene,” Slayberg said, and walked out of the kitchen.

“Emperors and people like that like to be welcomed when they go someplace,” D’Amata said. “Matt, why don’t you and I go outside and wait?”

They left the apartment by the rear door. There was a uniform standing at the foot of the stairway, and other uniforms were standing just inside the POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS tape. On the other side of the tape there were not only more spectators than Matt expected-Cheryl Williamson’s body had been taken away; the show was over-but more than a dozen representatives of the print, radio, and television press.

He didn’t see Mickey O’Hara, and wondered where he was. Mickey was usually the first press guy at the scene of a murder.

The answer to that came when-ignoring questions several of the journalists called out-they walked around the end of the building to the front. There, behind the yellow-and — black POLICE LINE tape were even more spectators and representatives of the press, and Mickey O’Hara was among them. To make sure they didn’t cross the tape, two uniforms stood directly in front of the press, one male, one female, both looking as if they had left the Academy as long as two weeks ago.

On the inside of the tape, there were a number of police officers, in uniform, and others with badges visible on their civilian clothing. Captain Alex Smith, the Thirty-fifth District commander, and Lieutenant Lew Sawyer were talking to a woman with a badge on her dress, whom Matt remembered after a moment to be Captain Helene Durwinsky, the commanding officer of the Special Victims Unit, and a man with a lieutenant’s badge hanging on his suit jacket. He saw Detectives Domenico and Ellis, of Special Victims, standing a few feet from the white shirts, with several other detectives Matt didn’t recognize.

“You got the word?” Captain Smith said.

There was no question what “the word” was, but Matt didn’t know if Smith was speaking to him or Joe D’Amata.

“With no explanation, sir,” D’Amata replied.

“It may have something to do with Phil’s Philly,” Captain Smith said dryly. “On which-according to my wife, one of Phil’s most devoted listeners-about forty-five minutes ago, Mrs. McGrory spoke at some length about Miss Williamson being raped and tortured while the police stood not caring outside her door.”

“Oh, shit!” D’Amata said.

“I just talked to her,” Matt said. “I used her kitchen to talk to the brother. She didn’t say anything about talking to that ass… Phil’s Philly.”

Phil’s Philly was a very popular radio talk show. Philadelphians dissatisfied with something in the City of Brotherly Love could call the number, and be reasonably sure both of a sympathetic ear on the part of Phil Donaldson, and that Mr. Donaldson would then call-on the air-whoever had wronged the caller, to indignantly demand an explanation, an apology, and immediate corrective action.

“Well, she did,” Captain Smith went on. “My wife said that Phil’s first call was to Commissioner Mariani, and when Commissioner Mariani ‘was not available’ to take the call, Phil called the mayor. Who made the mistake of taking the call.”

Three unmarked cars pulled up shortly thereafter, within moments of each other. Television and still cameras recorded Deputy Commissioner Dennis V. Coughlin and Captain F. X. Hollaran as they walked into the apartment complex, ducked under the POLICE LINE tape, and walked up to Captain Smith’s group. Smith and Sawyer, who were in uniform, saluted.

The press then recorded the same out-of-the-car-and-under — the-tape movement of Captain Henry C. Quaire and Lieutenant Jason Washington, and then turned their attention to Chief Inspector of Detectives Matthew Lowenstein.

Lowenstein ducked under the tape and then spoke, while the cameras rolled, to the two young uniformed officers standing in front of the assembled press.

“Do you know who I am?” Lowenstein demanded, firmly, as flashbulbs went off and television cameras followed his movements.

“Yes, sir,” both young officers replied, in unison.

“Most of the ladies and gentlemen of the press will respect this crime scene tape,” Lowenstein said, pointing to it. “That one”-he pointed to Mickey O’Hara-"will more than likely try to sneak under it. If he does, use whatever force you feel is appropriate. Like breaking his arms and legs.”

“Yes, sir,” both young officers said, earnestly, in unison.

Mickey O’Hara laughed with delight.

Chief Lowenstein then walked up to the group around Deputy Commissioner Coughlin. The uniformed officers saluted him.

“I can’t believe you did that!” Coughlin said, not quite able to restrain a smile. “What the hell was that about?”

Chief Lowenstein was one of a tiny group of senior police officers who was not awed by either Deputy Commissioner Coughlin’s rank or his persona, possibly because they had graduated from the Police Academy together and had been close personal friends ever since.

“You all looked guilty as hell,” Lowenstein said. “Playing right into Philadelphia Phil’s hand. I decided a little levity was in order.”

“I hope Mickey doesn’t try to get past the tape,” Captain Hollaran said. “That female uniform’s got her eye on him.”

Deputy Commissioner Coughlin followed the nod of Hollaran’s head, saw a very determined, very slight, very young female police officer, her baton in her hands, glowering at Mickey O’Hara, who outweighed her by fifty pounds. Coughlin had a very difficult time not laughing out loud.

He returned his attention to the group and settled his eyes on Matt.

“Sergeant,” he ordered, “take us someplace where we can talk privately.”

“Yes, sir,” Matt said. “Will you follow me, please, Commissioner? ”

He led the procession to the front stairs of the building and up them to Cheryl Williamson’s apartment. This was not the time, he decided, to take further advantage of Mrs. McGrory’s hospitality.

He led the procession into Cheryl Williamson’s kitchen. It was crowded with all of them in it.

“This will all seem a lot less amusing if that little scene is on the six o’clock news, and the mayor sees it,” Coughlin said. “Jesus, Matt!”

“I’d rather have that on the tube,” Lowenstein said, “than poor Smitty here on it trying to explain the law that kept his uniforms from taking the door when-maybe, just maybe-the doer was inside raping and murdering the young woman.”

“You don’t think he was inside when the uniforms were here?” Coughlin asked.

“We don’t know, Denny. Maybe he was already gone when the uniforms arrived, but if Smitty says that, in addition to explaining the law, it’ll look as if he’s loyally covering for his men.”

Coughlin grunted.

“If, however,” Lowenstein said, “some very senior officer, after half an hour personally investigating the facts, went down there and said the same thing…”

“You don’t mean me?” Coughlin snorted.

“… we could almost count on Mickey doing a thoughtful piece for the Bulletin explaining when the cops can and cannot take a door,” Lowenstein finished, “and probably getting into how hard we’re working, routinely, to get this guy.”

“Routinely?” Coughlin said. “Matt, you weren’t in the mayor’s office with the commissioner and me. The mayor doesn’t want this solved in due time, he wants it solved in time for the six o’clock news.”

“Who’s the lead detective, you, Joe?” Lowenstein asked.

“Yes, sir,” D’Amata said.

“What are the chances for that?”

“Not good, sir,” D’Amata said.

Lowenstein gestured with both his hands: Give me more.

“We have no idea who he is, other than he’s a four-star psychopath,” D’Amata said. “We have only one thing that might lead us to him.”

“Which is?”

“He left his camera behind, and Matt Payne-”

“How do you know it’s his camera?” Lowenstein interrupted.

“He took pictures of the victim, sir.”

“How do you know that?”

“It’s a digital camera, sir,” Matt Payne said. “I downloaded the images from the flash memory card into my laptop.”

“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. You’re saying you have pictures the doer took of the victim?”

“Yes, sir,” Matt said, and pushed his way through everybody jammed into the kitchen, and brought the pictures up on the screen of the laptop.

“My God,” Dennis V. Coughlin said.

“How long have you had these?” Lowenstein demanded.

“Not long, sir,” Matt said. “I was calling Lieutenant Washington to tell him when he said you were all headed here.”

“And how can you locate the doer by his camera?” Lowenstein challenged.

“I’m not sure I can, sir. But I know that type camera. It comes with a program that…” He stopped, trying to think of a way to explain simply the Kodak camera replacement program.

"That what?”

“The camera has a serial number,” Matt said. “If we can get Kodak to tell us where they shipped it-”

“Who the hell are you?” Lowenstein demanded, nastily, interrupting him.

“Detective Lassiter, sir. Northwest.”

Matt turned and saw her standing in the doorway. She looked a little stunned by Lowenstein’s greeting.

“And what is so important that you felt you could just barge in here like this?”

“I just left the victim’s mother,” Olivia said. “She understands why the uniforms couldn’t take the door. I thought I should tell Sergeant Payne. I heard about Philadelphia Phil- or whatever his name is-on my way back here.”

“The victim’s mother understands why the uniforms couldn’t take the door?” Dennis V. Coughlin asked, and then, before she could answer, asked another question. “What were you doing with the victim’s mother?”

“I sent her with the victim’s brother when he went to tell the mother,” Matt said.

Matt happened to be looking at Washington, whose expressive eyebrows rose in surprise.

“You sent her?” challenged the lieutenant from Northwest Detectives who had been standing with Smith and others when they first had gone outside.

“Yes, sir.”

“You gave one of my detectives orders?”

“Not now,” Lowenstein said, sharply, then turned his attention to Detective Lassiter. “You’re sure the victim’s mother understands about the door?”

“Yes, sir. I told her how that works,” Olivia said. “She seemed to understand. She even calmed the brother down about it. All she wants is for us to catch the doer.”

“What’s in the envelope?”

“A picture of the victim, sir,” Olivia said, and handed it to him. “I borrowed it from the mother.”

Lowenstein looked at it, then handed it to Coughlin.

“It’ll come in handy,” Lowenstein said. “You know about the doers’ camera?”

“No, sir.”

“You ever been on television, Detective?” Lowenstein asked.

“No, sir.”

“Well, unless I’m mistaken, when Commissioner Coughlin goes outside in a couple of minutes, to tell the press why the officers couldn’t take the door, he’s going to want you to go with him, to repeat what you just said about the mother understanding. Could you handle that?”

“I’d rather not-”

“That’s not what I asked,” Lowenstein snapped.

“Yes, sir, I can handle that.”

“I haven’t said I’m going outside to talk to the press,” Coughlin said.

“Oh, excuse me, Commissioner, I thought you had.”

“I just had a brilliant idea, Chief Lowenstein,” Coughlin said. “Since you’re so good at it, I’ll reassign you to Public Relations.”

“Unless we do something, we’ll all look as stupid as the mayor thinks we are,” Lowenstein replied, unabashed. “You got a better idea, Denny?”

“No,” Coughlin said. “As a matter of fact, I was trying to think of a way to thank you that wouldn’t go directly to your head.”

“You’re welcome,” Lowenstein said. “Can I make another suggestion?”

“How can I stop you?”

“Detective Lassiter has dealt very well with the mother and the brother. We don’t know that possible problem has gone away permanently…”

“And you want to detail her to Homicide for this job so she can sit on them?” Coughlin asked.

“That, too, but what I was thinking was that you could say, ‘Detective Lassiter, who has been detailed to Homicide for this investigation, has spoken to Miss Williamson’s brother and her mother. They have found no fault with police procedures, isn’t that right, Detective?’ ”

“I don’t know,” Coughlin said, doubtfully.

“You have any problems with Northwest detailing Detective Lassiter to Homicide for this job, Captain Quaire?” Lowenstein asked.

“No, sir,” Quaire said.

“Lieutenant Washington?”

“No, sir.”

“You, Lieutenant?”

“No, sir,” the lieutenant from Northwest Detectives said.

“Okay, done,” Lowenstein said.

He gestured toward the kitchen door.

“You’re on, Commissioner,” he said.

Coughlin exhaled audibly, straightened his shoulders, and marched through it. Captain Frank Hollaran and Detective Lassiter followed him.

“There’s a TV in the living room,” D’Amata said. “There’s a Channel Six Live camera out there.”

D’Amata got it turned on and tuned to Channel Six by the time Coughlin, Hollaran, and Lassiter appeared on the screen as they came out of the walkway between the two buildings.

Coughlin marched to the massed press, with Olivia Lassiter following him. When he stopped, just inside the crime scene tape, she moved to his side.

There were shouted questions from a dozen reporters, to which Coughlin, his arms folded on his stomach, paid no attention whatever. Finally, almost in confusion, the questions died out.

“I’m Deputy Commissioner Coughlin,” he said, finally. “I will take a few questions, one at a time.”

Most of the reporters raised their hands; several shouted questions.

Coughlin pointed at one of the reporters who had raised her hand.

“If you can get these gentlemen to behave, I’ll take your question.”

One of the reporters who had been shouting a question said, disgustedly, “Oh, for Christ’s sake!”

Another voice, female, very clearly answered her colleague with, “Why don’t you shut the fuck up, you asshole? Some of us have deadlines.”

Coughlin pointed to a reporter holding a microphone with a Channel Six Live sign on it.

“I don’t want to tell you your business,” he said, very politely, “but I really hope someone bleeped that question before it got on the air.”

That brought laughter. When it died down, he pointed to the reporter he had selected before.

“Commissioner, what’s happened here?”

“A murder,” Coughlin said, “of a young woman named Cheryl Williamson.”

“Not a rape and murder?”

“We don’t know that yet. The medical examiner will make that determination.”

“Is it true that somebody called 911, the cops came, and then refused to enter the apartment, while the murderer was inside?”

“A few minutes before two this morning, Miss Williamson’s neighbor called 911, reporting that her mirror had fallen off the wall. Two patrol cars-not just one-of the Thirty-fifth District responded, and were here in just under four minutes. They listened to what the neighbor said, that she suspected that something had happened in Miss Williamson’s apartment that had caused her mirror to fall off the wall. The officers rang Miss Williamson’s doorbell and knocked at the door. They did that at both the front and rear doors. And they looked for signs of a forced entry and found none. There were no lights on in the apartment, and they could hear no sounds. They concluded there was no one in the apartment.”

“And left?”

“And left.”

“Why didn’t they go in the apartment?”

“Because that would be against the law,” Coughlin said. “Without sufficient cause, police have no right to break into anyone’s home.”

“The neighbor said, you said, that she thought something had happened in the apartment. That’s not sufficient cause?”

“If there had been any sound, even any lights burning, any indication of forced entry, I’m sure they would have entered the apartment. There wasn’t, and they didn’t.”

“And how do you think her family will react to that explanation? ”

“This is Detective Lassiter,” Coughlin said. “She can answer that better than I can.”

“I’ve spoken to Miss Williamson’s mother and brother,” Olivia said. “They both told me they understand why the police did not break into the apartment. Mrs. Williamson said all that she wants is for the police to find whoever did this to her daughter before the same sort of thing happens to someone else.”

“And what exactly did this guy do to her?”

“At this point, we don’t even know it was a guy,” Olivia said. “We just started the investigation. Commissioner, may I be excused?”

“Yes, you can, Detective, and I am about to excuse myself,” Coughlin said. “Whenever we learn more, we will make it available to the press. Thank you.”

“He’s very good at that,” Lowenstein said, in the apartment. “We look a lot better than we did five minutes ago.”

Everyone agreed, but no one said anything.

Lowenstein looked around and found Jason Washington.

“You know O’Hara’s cell phone number?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I think it would be a very good idea for you to meet with him, now. Take Payne and Lassiter with you.”

“Yes, sir.”

“As for the rest of you, one or two at a time, not all at once, get out of here and let the Homicide people do their job.”

There were nods of understanding and a few “Yes, sir”s.

Chief Inspector of Detectives Lowenstein had two more thoughts:

“If you don’t mind a suggestion, Sergeant Payne,” he said. “I think that you personally should try to run down connecting the camera with the doer.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And I think it might be useful if you asked Dr. Payne to look at those pictures. Do you think she would be willing to do that?”

“I’m sure she would, sir.”

“Chief,” Captain Durwinsky said, “I’d like to have copies of those pictures as soon as I can have them. We may be dealing with the same doer.”

“How can that be done, Payne?”

“All I need is access to a computer with a digital photo program and a color printer,” Matt said.

“We’ve got one at Special Victims,” Durwinsky said. “That’s not far.”

“Okay,” Lowenstein said. “There it is. O’Hara, Special Victims, your sister and running down the doer via the camera. Got it?”

“Yes, sir,” Matt said.

"O’Hara first, Chief?” Captain Durwinsky asked.

“Yeah, Helene,” Lowenstein said. "O’Hara first. I would like to see at least one story in the newspapers that doesn’t gleefully point out our many failures and all-around stupidity. Okay?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Okay. Now everybody get to work.”

Lowenstein walked out of the apartment.

In the hope that it wouldn’t be seen, Michael J. O’Hara of the Philadelphia Bulletin parked his Buick Rendezvous behind the Oak Lane Diner at Broad and Old York Road. The Rendezvous, with its array of antennae, was known to other members of the Philadelphia press corps, and some of his colleagues were even bright enough to be able to spot an unmarked car, and wonder what O’Hara was up to with the cops.

Mickey entered the diner and, after looking around, found Lieutenant Jason Washington, Sergeant Matt Payne, and that good-looking detective who’d come out of the crime scene with Denny Coughlin to face the press, at a banquette in the rear, drinking coffee.

He walked to them and slid in beside Washington.

“Well, isn’t this a coincidence!” O’Hara said. “Mind if I sit down?”

“I hoped you parked that conspicuous vehicle of yours where it will not attract the attention of the Fourth Estate?” Washington asked.

“Jesus!” Mickey said, his tone suggesting that Washington should have known the question was unnecessary. He smiled at Detective Lassiter. “I’m Mickey O’Hara.”

“Yes, sir, I know who you are,” Olivia said.

Mickey shook his head sadly, gave out a long sigh, and turned to Matt.

"You’re in luck, Matthew,” O’Hara said. “This beauty-this young beauty-calls me ‘sir,’ which means she has decided I am too old to merit her interest.”

“As obviously you are,” Washington said.

“Then, speaking with the wisdom of a senior citizen, my beauty, let me advise you to beware of this young man. While some think of him as the Wyatt Earp of the Main Line, others more accurately describe him as the Casanova of Center City.”

“That’s not funny, Mick,” Matt flared.

“Which part?”

“The Wyatt Earp part,” Matt said. “As a matter of fact, both parts.”

“One day, my beauty…”

“My name is Lassiter,” Olivia said.

"One day, Lassiter, my beauty,” O’Hara went on, “not so long ago, in an alley of our fair city, Wyatt Earp here put down a very bad guy who was shooting at both of us with a. 45. I meant nothing but respect in dubbing him Wyatt Earp.”

“As disassociated as I am from the realities of life,” Washington said, “I actually thought you would be interested in learning what has transpired at 600 Independence.”

“I know what happened at 600 Independence. A citizen called 911 when she heard strange noises in the next apartment. Two uniforms responded, and they all stood around chatting and not taking the door while the doer worked his wicked way on the victim. What else do I need to know?”

“You know why they didn’t-couldn’t-take the door?”

“This is not at all what I expected when you called, Jason, my oversized old pal,” Mickey said.

“Excuse me?” Washington said.

“When you summoned me, I expected to find you, Tony Harris, and that black kid from the Roy Rogers-you do recall asking if I would mind going over the whole thing from Step One once again with the aforementioned?”

“That’s at five o’clock this afternoon. That’s when you said you’d be free and when the kid gets off work,” Washington said.

“Then you called again, Jason, twenty minutes ago, and asked if I was free to come here now, and I said yes, and I walk in here, and not only do I get Wyatt Earp and the beauty here, instead of the expected aforementioned, but you ask me the really dumb question ‘do I know why Hyde and Cubellis didn’t take the victim’s door?’ ”

“How’d you know their names?” Olivia blurted.

“I wouldn’t want this to get around, my beauty, but some of my friends are cops.”

“And?” Washington asked.

“What you’ve got are two nice young cops who are sick about maybe being outside doing nothing while this critter was doing what he did to the girl-that’s their first reaction- and second, they are naturally a little worried that the mayor is going to hang them out to turn in the wind. I don’t intend to let that happen. I’m going to do one of my famous think pieces. My working slug is ‘A tough call, but the right one.’ ”

“Thanks, Mick,” Washington said. “That’s what I was hoping to hear.”

“It would help if I knew a little about the doer, or maybe what he did to her.”

“All we really know about him is that he is unquestionably a psychopath,” Washington said.

“Isn’t that a given with a rapist?”

“This guy is sick, Mick,” Washington said.

“How do you know that?”

Washington hesitated just perceptibly.

“Not for publication?”

“Agreed.”

“Show him the pictures, Matt,” Washington ordered, and added: “He left his camera behind.”

Matt took his laptop from his briefcase and slid it across the table.

“You know how to work Photo Smart?”

“Another unnecessary question.”

"The pictures are in ’Wilifoto,’ ” Matt said.

O’Hara turned the laptop on and started the Photo Smart program.

“This fellow is a bit odd, isn’t he?” Mickey said, looking at the first picture, and then, as he ran through the images, twice added: “Jesus H. Christ!”

“May I see those?” Olivia asked.

“No,” Mickey said. “You really don’t want to see them.”

"I’m a cop, Mr. O’Hara,” she said.

"Of that I have no doubt, my beauty,” O’Hara said, as he turned the computer off and closed the lid, “but you are also indisputably a very nice young woman. My sainted mother would never forgive me if I showed those images to a very nice young woman.”

He slid the laptop back across the table.

“You going to get him?” he asked.

"Still off the record?” Washington asked. O’Hara nodded. “All we have right now is the camera. They’re serially numbered, and we’re going to try that.”

"Good luck,” O’Hara said, getting to his feet. “This guy needs bagging, and soon.”

“I’ll keep you posted, Mick,” Washington said.

"I’m counting on that,” O’Hara said. He looked at Olivia. “Remember what I said about the Casanova of Center City, my beauty.”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, Mickey!” Matt said.

"Parting is such sweet sorrow,” O’Hara proclaimed, and walked out of the diner.

“We have a transportation problem,” Washington said. “I rode out here with Captain Quaire. I have to get back…”

Matt reached into his pocket and handed him the keys to his unmarked car.

“I’ll ride with Lassiter,” he said.

“I’m going to have to give my car back to Northwest,” she said.

“You are very bright youngsters,” Washington said. “I’m sure you’ll be able to sort this out.” He slid across the banquette and stood up, and added: “You can have your car back later-sometime after I meet with Tony, O’Hara, and the kid from the Roy Rogers. Okay if I leave it at the Roundhouse, the keys with the uniform in the lobby?”

“Fine,” Matt said.

“Welcome to Homicide, Detective Lassiter,” Washington said. “And I wouldn’t worry too much about Sergeant Payne. His Lothario reputation is really far darker than the facts justify.”

He walked away from the table.

After a moment, Olivia asked, “Special Victims?”

"I’m thinking,” Matt said. “Sometimes that takes a little time.”

“And I’d like to see those pictures.”

He didn’t reply.

“I’ll be right back,” he said.

She watched as he walked to a pay telephone booth in the front of the diner and looked in the yellow pages telephone book. He punched at the keys of his cellular for a moment, then returned to the table.

“What?” Olivia asked.

“Watch,” he said, and pushed the Call button on his cellular phone.

“Center City Photo? I need to talk to someone about Kodak digital cameras.”

Getting the correct number at Kodak from Center City Photo was like pulling teeth. The Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York-once Matt had identified himself as Sergeant Payne of the Philadelphia police department Homicide Unit-was very cooperative. It would take them a little time to run the serial number down-was there a number where he could be reached?

Their call came as Olivia was pulling up before the Special Victims building at the Frankford Arsenal.

Their records indicated that a digital camera with that serial number had been shipped, as part of an order for a dozen identical cameras, five months before, to Times Square Photo amp; Electronics, 17 West Forty-second Street, New York City.

"That camera comes with an overnight FedEx replacement, right?”

“That’s right, Sergeant, it does. And I checked to see if that program had been activated for that camera. It hadn’t.”

Oh, shit. But what did I expect? That this critter was going to leave a trail for me?

“But that sometimes happens,” the lady from Kodak went on. “People sometimes don’t activate the program until they have problems with the camera.”

Am I going to get lucky?

“You don’t have a phone number of Times Square Photo, by any chance, do you?”

She gave it to him.

“Thank you very much,” Sergeant Payne said. “I really appreciate your cooperation.”

The two people at Times Square Photo with whom Sergeant Payne spoke on his cellular were not nearly so cooperative. The first person, a male, spoke only a few words of English, and the second, a female he finally managed to get on the line, had only a few more words of English than did her male colleague.

These were sufficient, however, to make Sergeant Payne understand that she couldn’t do nothing like consult her records of sale for just anybody, that she was trying to run a business, for Christ’s sake, and at that moment she had customers she had to take care of. For Christ’s sake.

“Did you understand me when I said this is Sergeant Payne of the Homicide Unit of the Philadelphia police department? ”

“No shit? Good for you. Good luck. Have a nice day.”

And at that point she hung up.

“Sonofabitch!” Matt said, then, to Olivia, “Sorry.”

“I have heard the expression before,” Detective Lassiter said.

Matt held the key that automatically dialed the office of Amelia S. Payne, M.D. He was informed that Dr. Payne was with a patient.

“This is Sergeant Payne. This is official police business. Get her on the phone, please.”

Dr. Payne came on the line thirty seconds later.

“Matt, this had better really be police business.”

“It is. I’m working a murder.”

“Not the one where the cops stood around outside her apartment shooting the breeze while the girl was murdered and raped?”

“I didn’t know you listened to Philadelphia Phil, Amy.”

“My secretary does. And it’s Phil’s Philly.”

“That’s not exactly the way it happened, Amy.”

“Of course not,” she said, sarcastically.

“Are you scrapping with Peter again, or is there some other reason you’re being such a bitch?”

“What do you want, Matthew?”

“The doer left his digital camera at the scene. With pictures of the act. Chief Lowenstein wants you to look at them.”

“Just Chief Lowenstein?”

“Me, too, Amy, okay?”

“Okay. Bring them by. I’ll take a look.”

“I’m about to print them. I’ll be there in thirty, thirty-five minutes.”

“Okay,” Amy said, and hung up.

The Special Victims Unit did not have a color printer the quality of the one Mickey O’Hara had had the Bulletin buy for him. It was slow, there were eight images, and Matt made what he quickly realized was an error when he pushed the button that caused the printer to make three prints of each image.

He needed a set for Amy, of course. And the price of using their printer was a set for Special Victims, and a third set was necessary for Jason Washington, both for his edification and to make sure there was no screwup when the Forensics lab finally got the flash memory card and made the official prints.

The result of this was that it took thirty-six minutes for the printer to do the job, and as they came slowly out of the printer Detectives Lassiter and Domenico had the opportunity to take good, long looks at all of them. Matt didn’t give a damn about Domenico, but he was made uneasy by Detective Lassiter’s reaction. Her face made it evident that she was trying and failing to examine the photographs with calm professionalism.

When they were finally outside, in Detective Lassiter’s more than a little beat-up unmarked car, she looked at him for orders.

“We’re a little pressed for time-What do I call you? ‘Olivia’ all right?”

“Fine, Sergeant.”

“We’re a little pressed for time, Olivia. I think you should meet my sister; you’ll probably have to see her again, so we’ll go to the university first. Then, since Washington grabbed my car, we’ll go to my place so I can pick up my car. I’m going to New York. Then I want you to drop a set of pictures off at Homicide. If Lieutenant Washington is there-or Captain Quaire-give them to one of them. If not, seal the envelope and give it to the man on the wheel for Washington. Then I think you’d better go call on the Williamsons again. Get their statements.”

“What do I do about getting this car back to Northwest Detectives?”

“We’ll deal with that later,” Matt said. “The priorities right now, I think, are to see if I can run this critter down through the camera store, and to keep the Williamsons happy.”

“Happy?” she asked, sarcastically.

“You know what I mean.”

“Well, what did you think of my sister?” Matt asked when they were back in the unmarked car outside the University of Pennsylvania Hospital.

“She’s nice,” Olivia said. “And she’s a professor of psychiatry?”

“Too young, you mean?” Matt asked, and Olivia nodded. “She got her M.D. at twenty-four. I wouldn’t want you to quote me, but she’s smart as hell. And she really can get into the minds of psychopaths. This isn’t the first time she’s helped. She’ll probably give us a pretty good picture of how this guy thinks.”

“Where to now?” Olivia asked.

“The Delaware Valley Cancer Society Building, South Rittenhouse Square.”

“What are we going to do there?”

“I live there,” Matt said, and waited for her curiosity to overwhelm him. It didn’t.

When she pulled to the curb in front of the Cancer Society Building, Matt said, “You’ve got my cellular number?”

“And you’ve got mine,” Olivia said.

“See you later,” Matt said.

“Right,” Olivia said.

He got the Porsche out of the basement garage and headed for New York. When he was out of Center City traffic-on I-95 North-he slipped his cellular into a dash-mounted rack, which permitted hands-off operation, and punched in Joe D’Amata’s number.

“D’Amata.”

“Payne. I’m on my way to New York, unless you need me there.”

“There’s not much you can do here,” D’Amata said. “The crime lab folks are just about finished. Slayberg’s done the scene. We got statements from both McGrorys. What I’d like to do is get the Williamsons’ statements.”

“I got a statement from the brother,” Matt said.

“Then just the mother, then.”

“Olivia’s on her way to the Roundhouse to deliver the pictures to Washington-”

“He’s not there,” D’Amata interrupted. “He called to say if I needed him, if we needed him, he’s going to take another look at the Roy Rogers.”

“He’s going to meet with O’Hara, Harris, and the black kid witness at five o’clock, to start all over again.”

“So he told me.”

“Olivia’s going from the Roundhouse to see the Williamsons.”

“Olivia is, is she?”

“Fuck you, Joe.”

“I think that’s what they call ‘verbal abuse of a subordinate, ’ Sergeant. You’ll be hearing from the FOP.”

“Then fuck you twice, Joe,” Matt said.

D’Amata laughed.

“You have the Williamson mother’s address?” Matt asked.

“No, but I probably can get it from Detective Lassiter.”

“I’ve got her cell number. You need it?”

“Yeah.”

Matt gave it to him, then said, “Tell her that I said I want her to introduce you to the Williamsons as the lead detective on the case. Maybe ‘senior homicide investigator’ would be better.”

There was a pause while D’Amata considered that.

“Lassiter’s got them calmed down, and we want to show them how hard we’re working, right?”

“Yeah. Make sense to you?”

“Yeah. That Philly Phil asshole business is still dangerous. My wife called and asked me what the hell was wrong with the uniforms, they didn’t take the door.”

“Well, let’s keep the Williamsons stroked.”

“Consider it done,” D’Amata said. “If anything comes up, I’ll call you.”

“Same here.”

“That digital camera’s a long shot, Matt. But let’s hope we get lucky.”

“Amen, Brother.”

Sergeant Zachary Hobbs, a stocky, ruddy-faced forty-four-year — old, was holding down the desk in Homicide when Detective Lassiter walked through the outer door.

Detective Kenneth J. Summers, who should have been working the desk, was meeting a lengthy call of nature, which he blamed on something he must have eaten at the church supper of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church the previous evening.

“Can I help you?” Hobbs asked. He was not immune to Detective Lassiter’s looks.

“Lieutenant Washington?”

“I’m sorry, he’s not here.”

“Captain Quaire?”

“He’s not here either. Can I do something for you?”

“Would you give whichever of them comes in first this envelope, please?”

She handed it to him.

“Sure.” He weighed it in his hands. “What is it?”

“It’s from Sergeant Payne,” Olivia said.

Hobbs looked at her, waiting for her to go on. After a moment’s hesitation, she did.

“It’s photographs of the victim in the Independence Street job.”

Sergeant Hobbs immediately tore the envelope open and looked at the eight photographs.

“Where the hell did Payne get these?” Hobbs asked.

“The doer forgot his digital camera at the scene. Sergeant Payne downloaded the images to his laptop, and Special Victims printed them for us.”

“Next question: Who are you, Detective? How did you get them?”

“My name is Lassiter,” Olivia said. “Northwest. I’ve been detailed to Homicide. Sergeant Payne told me to bring them here.”

“Detailed? By who?”

“Chief Lowenstein,” Olivia said.

“Well, so long as you’re with us, Detective, you’re certainly going to bring a little class to the premises,” Hobbs said. “Where’s the camera?”

“Detective D’Amata has it,” Olivia said.

“Okay. As soon as either the boss or the Black Buddha comes in, I’ll see they get these. They may want to talk to you…”

“I’ll give you my cell phone number,” she said, and did.

“Where will you be?”

“I’m going to take the victim’s mother’s statement,” she said.

“Sergeant Payne told you to?”

“Yes, he did.”

He looked at her a moment, then said, “Welcome, welcome. Would you be offended if I said you’re the best-looking detective to come in here in my memory?”

“Not at all,” Olivia said, and smiled at him. “Thanks.”

“My pleasure,” Hobbs said. “See you around.”

In the best of all possible worlds, Olivia thought, as she left Homicide and the Roundhouse and got in her unmarked car, the encounter between herself and Sergeant Hobbs of Homicide would have been entirely professional and gender-neutral.

But the Philadelphia police department was not the best of all possible worlds, and Sergeant Hobbs had made it clear that he found her to be an attractive member of the female gender.

So what was wrong with that?

He wondered who the hell I was, which was natural, and he really wondered, which was even more natural, who had detailed me, even temporarily, to Homicide. Once I told him Lowenstein, that was the end of it.

It really couldn’t have gone any better.

When Olivia Lassiter, then just shy of her twenty-first birthday, and a junior at Temple University, majoring in mass market communications, had told her parents that she had taken, and passed, the entrance application for the Philadelphia police department, and that she intended to drop out of college to enter the Police Academy, their reaction had been the opposite of unbridled joy.

Her father, a midlevel executive with an insurance company, had spoken his mind. “You’re crazy. You have gone over the edge! You should be locked up for your own protection.”

Her mother, a buyer for John Wanamaker amp; Company, had said more or less the same thing, then tried tears approaching hysteria, and said she was throwing her life and “the advantages Daddy and I have given to you” away.

Olivia had dropped out of Temple and entered the Police Academy and graduated and did a year working a van in the Ninth District, and then a second year in the Central City Business District. Truth to tell, she hadn’t liked either job, and there had been a strong temptation to accept her father’s offer to go back to college, get her degree, and make something of herself.

But that would have been admitting she’d made a mistake. And she hadn’t been quite prepared to do that. She had been on the job just over a year when a detective’s examination was announced. She took it, and passed it, ranking just high enough to get promoted-among the last few promoted from that list-eighteen months later.

That had put her in Northwest Detectives. From the first day, she’d liked being a detective, even though she was aware she was conducting a lot of investigations-of recovered stolen automobiles, in particular-that none of her new colleagues on the squad wanted to do.

It took her several years to pay off her car note and the furniture note, but that happened, too, about the time she realized she was no longer regarded by the squad as the “rookie broad,” but as one of them.

She knew that she was not very popular with some of the wives and girlfriends of the guys on the squad-they seemed to suspect that the first order of business every day was to jump Detective Lassiter’s bones-but there was nothing she could do about that, even if it was unfair as hell, and untrue. She had no interest, that way, in any of the guys.

She had taken the sergeant’s exam, placing so low on the list that her chances of promotion were about as good as those of her being taken bodily into heaven. Her ego had been a little damaged-she hadn’t thought she would do that badly-but it really hadn’t bothered her. She liked the squad, she liked Northwest Detectives, and a promotion would have meant not only leaving the Detective Bureau but almost certainly being put back in uniform. Since she had been on the job, she had compiled a long list of uniform sergeant’s jobs she really would have hated.

The bottom line there was that she liked what she was doing and had no reason to feel sorry for herself. She had wondered idly about going someplace else as a detective, and had snooped around Special Victims and Major Crimes and Intelligence enough to know that she was better off with Northwest Detectives. The District Attorney’s Squad was a possibility to think of, and so was Special Operations, and for that matter even Homicide.

Olivia thought of herself as a realist, and understood that her chances of getting assigned to Homicide-even in ten years-were practically nonexistent.

But now this had been dumped in her lap, this detail- however long it lasted-to Homicide. There was no question at all that Opportunity Had Knocked, but there was a big question about how to deal with it. If she played it right, there was a chance-slim, but a chance-that it would help her get into Homicide. Maybe not now. But later.

And if she screwed up somehow, in any way, she knew she could kiss any chances of getting into Homicide farewell forever.

Olivia had just turned onto North Broad Street when her cell phone buzzed. She fumbled in her purse for it and finally pushed Answer.

“Lassiter.”

“D’Amata. You know who I am?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“I want you to start thinking of me as the senior Homicide investigator on this case,” D’Amata said. “Not just some ordinary Homicide schmuck.”

“Okay. You want to tell me why?”

“Because when I told our beloved leader, Sergeant Payne, that I wanted to go with you to take the Williamson mother’s statement, he said sure, but tell her to introduce you as ‘the senior Homicide investigator on the case.’ ”

“He say why?”

“Our orders, Detective Lassiter, are to keep the Williamsons stroked. I think it’s a good idea. Our leader is as smart as a whip.”

“Okay. Whatever you say. I’m on North Broad, six blocks from City Hall, en route to Mother Williamson’s. You need the address?”

“Yeah.”

“404 Rockland. It’s just south of Roosevelt Boulevard.”

“I know where it is. I’ll meet you there. On the street. Either I wait or you wait, okay? Payne wants us together.”

“See you there.”

Olivia pushed the End button and dropped the phone back into her purse.

Sergeant Matthew Payne, she thought, was very likely going to cause some sort of problems for her vis-a-vis making the best of her opportunity to try to get into Homicide.

She had known who Detective Payne was before he walked into Cheryl Williamson’s living room. She had seen him on television when there had been the shooting in Doylestown, covered with that poor girl’s blood, tears running down his cheeks. It had made her cry.

And, purely as a matter of female curiosity, when she finally got her hands on the new sergeants list, she had looked to see who had scored well.

Detective Payne of Special Operations had scored number one.

The first time she had seen him in the flesh was when he walked into Cheryl Williamson’s living room. The first thing she’d thought was that he was even better looking than he’d looked on television, and the second thing was Christ, not now. I have never before been physically attracted to anyone on the job. Not now, please, God, and not a hotshot like this one.

The one thing I could do for sure that would screw up my chances of getting into Homicide would be for me to get involved with their fair-haired boy. And I will not. Not. Not.

TEN

Matt more or less obeyed the speed limits crossing New Jersey. It was a temptation not to, but he was driving the Porsche, and from painful experience he had come to believe that so far as the New Jersey State Police were concerned, ticketing a Porsche often was the high point of their tour, giving them great joy and satisfaction.

As he came out of the Lincoln Tunnel, he looked at his watch. It was half past two, which explained why his stomach was telling him he was hungry. He turned uptown, and ten minutes later turned onto West Forty-second Street toward Times Square. Just before he got there, he saw Times Square Photo.

Now the question was finding someplace to park, someplace where the parking attendants might not find great joy and satisfaction in seeing how deeply they could scratch the glistening silver paint of a Porsche.

He moved through the crowded streets, and a few minutes later found himself entering Times Square again from the north. The only parking places he had found had SORRY, FULL signs in front of them.

He noticed, at first idly and then with great interest, an automobile-a somewhat battered black Ford Crown Victoria-parked on the right curb between Forty-third and Forty-fourth Streets, right beside a sign reading NO PARKING NO STOPPING AT ANY TIME. There were several antennae mounted on it, and it rode on black heavy-duty tires. The fenders were battered, and there were no wheel covers.

If that’s not an unmarked car, my name is not Sherlock Holmes.

Matt pulled the Porsche to the curb in front of the Ford, then backed up until their bumpers almost touched.

The Ford’s horn blew imperiously, and the driver put his arm out the window and gestured for him to move on.

Matt instead got out of the car.

Now he could see the driver and the man sitting beside him. The driver was heavyset and looked to be in his forties. His ample abdomen held his tweed sports coat apart and strained the buttons of his shirt. The man beside him was younger. He was wearing a leather jacket and a black turtle-neck sweater. Matt thought he was in his mid-twenties.

Matt found his leather wallet with the badge and photo ID and took it out. He decided that standing on the sidewalk and speaking to the young man in the passenger seat would be safer than speaking to the driver, and went to that side of the car. The other choice would most likely have seen him rolled through Times Square under the wheels of a bus.

The young man rolled the window down.

“I’m Sergeant Payne, and-”

“Get in,” the older man said, pointing to the rear seat.

Matt got in.

“Let me see that,” the older man said, and Matt handed him his badge and photo ID.

“What can we do for you, Sergeant Payne?” the older man said, and then passed the ID to the younger one.

“I’m on the job, working a homicide,” Matt said.

“You’re not trying to tell me they kill people in the City of Brotherly Love?” the younger one said.

The older one chuckled.

“The doer left his camera at the scene,” Matt said. “Kodak tells me they shipped it to Times Square Photo.”

“Take the next right. It’s right around the corner,” the older one said.

“I called them before I came here,” Matt said. “They spoke just enough English to make it clear they are not very cooperative. ”

“Welcome to New York,” the younger one said. “Only a few of us speak English, and even fewer are cooperative.”

The older one chuckled.

“The doer-”

“By ‘doer,’ you mean ‘the suspected perpetrator’?” the younger one interrupted.

“Right. He’s a real sicko-”

“By which you mean he’s ‘psychiatrically challenged,’ right?” the younger one asked. “Has difficulty accepting the common concept of right and wrong as the modus operandi for his life?”

“Yeah, you could put it that way,” Matt said. “I want to get this guy before he does it to another young woman.”

“A noble thought,” the young one said. “How could we be of assistance?”

“It would help me a hell of a lot if one of you would go into the store with me. I really need to have a look at their sales records.”

“Presumably, Sergeant,” the young one said, “this fishing expedition of yours has been cleared by the New York police department’s Office of Inter-Agency Cooperation?”

Oh, shit!

“No. I haven’t cleared anything with anybody. I just got in my car and drove here. This happened early today, and right now this is our best lead. I just acted on my urge.”

The young man considered this a moment.

“Charley, take us out of service for ten minutes. I’m going to take a little walk with Sergeant Payne.”

“Right, Lieutenant,” the older one said, reaching for an under-the-dash microphone.

Lieutenant?

The young one got out of the passenger seat, then opened the rear door and motioned Matt out. Then he walked to the Porsche and got in.

Matt carefully watched the traffic and then quickly got behind the wheel.

“Do all the sergeants in Philadelphia get wheels like this?” the young man asked. Before Matt could reply, he ordered, “Two blocks down and make a right.”

Matt got into the flow of traffic.

“I usually say it’s something we took away from the drug industry,” Matt said. “But the truth is, it’s mine.”

“They must pay better, one way or another, in Philadelphia, ” the young man said.

“My lieutenant borrowed my brand-new unmarked car,” Matt said. “So I drove this, instead of taking the train.”

“If one of my sergeants had a brand-new unmarked, I’d do the same,” the young man said. “There’s a parking garage on the left.”

Okay, that makes you a lieutenant. What’s a lieutenant doing sitting in an unmarked in the middle of Times Square?

“It says full.”

“Some of us can read,” the young man said. “Although I will admit we do have a number of people on the job who are literacy-challenged.”

Matt pulled into the parking lot, nose to nose with a Mercedes. There was no room. He was blocking half the sidewalk.

The attendant came out, waving his hands, “no.” He was wearing a beard and a turban.

“I think sign language is going to be necessary,” the young lieutenant said, “and not because this fellow is aurally challenged.”

He got out of the Porsche, took his badge from his pocket, and held it two inches from the bearded man’s face. Then he signaled with arm gestures that the attendant was to move the Mercedes elsewhere so the Porsche could take its space.

The attendant waved his arms excitedly for a few moments, but then got into the Mercedes.

The lieutenant signaled, like a traffic officer, for Matt to back the Porsche up far enough to give the Mercedes room to pass. The Mercedes went around him, onto the street, and the lieutenant signaled for Matt to pull in.

Then he stood on the sidewalk waiting for Matt to get out of the car.

They walked back up Broadway to West Forty-second Street and into Times Square Photo.

Three people-two of them bearded and in turbans, the third a stout young woman whose flowing, ankle-length dress and gaudily painted wooden bead jewelry made Matt think of gypsies-descended, smiling broadly on them.

What they lacked in language skills they made up for with enthusiasm, offering Matt and the lieutenant cameras, tape recorders, and other items for sale, cheap.

“Get Whatshisname,” the lieutenant ordered.

The three looked at him without comprehension.

“Get Whatshisname!” the lieutenant ordered, considerably louder.

Still no comprehension showed on the faces of the trio.

The lieutenant put his fingers in his mouth and whistled shrilly.

Almost immediately, another man in a neat turban and immaculately trimmed beard appeared. His suit and shirt were well-fitting, and he also wore a red vest with embroidered ducks in flight pattern.

He hurried up to them.

“Lieutenant Lacey,” he said in British-accented English, “what a pleasant surprise! How may I be of service to you or this gentleman?”

“Tell him,” Lieutenant Lacey said to Matt.

“Five months ago, you received a shipment of a dozen cameras from Kodak,” Matt began.

“We receive shipments from Kodak virtually weekly,” the man said. “They make a splendid product, and because we sell so many of them, we are in a position to offer them at the lowest possible prices. And in your case, of course, as a friend of Lieutenant Lacey, there will be a substantial additional discount. Permit me to show you-”

“I don’t want to buy a camera, I want to know who you sold it to,” Matt said, aware that Lieutenant Lacey was smiling at him.

“I will make you an offer you cannot refuse!”

“I have the serial number,” Matt said.

“I gather this is an official visit, Lieutenant Lacey?” the man asked.

Lacey nodded.

“Sergeant Payne needs to know to whom you sold a particular camera.”

“We are, of course, willing-I’ll say eager-to cooperate with the police in every way.”

“Is there a problem?” Lieutenant Lacey asked.

The man looked at Matt.

“You say the camera was shipped to us five months ago?”

Matt nodded.

“You know the model?”

Goddamn it, I don’t.

“It’s a rather expensive digital,” Matt said.

“That only narrows the field down a smidgen, I fear,” the man said.

“If I saw one, I’d know it.”

“That sort of item is updated as often as the sun rises,” the man said. “I rather doubt if it would still be in our inventory. You did say you have the serial number?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Then it will be a simple matter to go through our sales records and find it. We assiduously record the serial numbers of all our better merchandise.”

“Then we have no problem here?” Lieutenant Lacey asked.

“None whatever. I am delighted to be of service. I will return momentarily.”

He headed for the back of the store.

“Good luck, Sergeant,” Lacey said.

“Thanks very much, Lieutenant,” Matt said.

“No thanks are required. I wasn’t in here with you. I never ever saw you. I would never act in a case like this without the full authority-in writing-of the New York Police Department’s Office of Inter-Agency Cooperation to do so.”

He turned and walked out the door.

The turbaned man who spoke the Queen’s English returned to where Matt stood a few minutes later, trailed by two turbaned men, each of whom held two large cardboard boxes in his arms.

He gestured rather imperiously for the men to place the boxes on a glass display case.

“The sales records are filed, Sergeant, to comply with IRS requirements, sequentially, or perhaps I should say chronologically. I have brought you the records for the last six months. If there is anything else I can do for you, please do not hesitate to ask.”

Not quite an hour and a half later, Sergeant Payne found the sales slip he was looking for, near the top of the left stack of sales slips in Box Three.

The sales slips had been stored in the manner in which they had come out of the sales registry machines-that is to say, fan-folded. Each stack contained 250 sales slips. They had been placed in the storage boxes eight stacks high, six stacks to a box.

By the time Matt found what he was looking for, his feet hurt from standing, his stomach was in audible protest for being unfed, and his eyes watered.

And what he found wasn’t much.

A Kodak Digital Science DC 410, Serial Number EKK84240087, had been sold for cash three and a half months previously to Mr. H. Ford, 400 Lincoln Lane, Detroit, Michigan. Mr. Ford’s signature, at the bottom, acknowledging receipt of the camera in good working condition, was barely legible.

He then had a very hard time making the previously charming English-speaking proprietor understand that he would like, at the very least, a photocopy of the sales slip and would really like to have the sales slip itself.

Then he had an inspiration.

“What I really would like to have are several digital images of you. First in the act of separating that sales slip from the fanfold,” Matt said. “And then another of you initialing the sales slip.”

“And you have a camera?”

“No. But I thought if I bought one…”

“How interesting! I just happen to have a splendid, latest-model, state-of-the-art Kodak-a DC910 with fast-charge lithium batteries-that I could let you have at a substantial discount.”

“The pictures, you understand, would be useless to me unless I had the actual sales slip itself?”

“You do have a credit card?”

“Of course.”

“Of course you do. And nothing would give me greater pleasure than to cooperate with the police in this investigation. ”

A total of $967.50 and fifteen minutes later, Matt put a Ziploc bag in his briefcase. It held the original sales slip and a flash memory card holding images of the proprietor tearing the sales slip free from the others in the fanfold stack; initialing the sales slip; of himself initialing the sales slip; of himself and the proprietor each holding a corner of the sales slip; and a final shot of himself putting the sales slip in the Ziploc bag.

Counsel for the defense, he thought, would, considering the pictures, have a hard time raising doubt in the minds of a jury that he had acquired the real sales slip.

And he could give the Kodak DC910, with fast-charge lithium batteries, to his mother. She had expressed admiration for the camera he had given Amy, and it seemed only just that his mother get one that cost twice as much as Amy’s.

Now all he had to do was find Mr. H. Ford, of 400 Lincoln Lane, Detroit, Michigan.

He walked back down through Times Square to the parking lot, and got into the Porsche. On his cellular telephone, he established contact with a Detroit directory assistance operator, who regretted to inform him they had no listing for a Mr. H. Ford at 400 Lincoln Lane in Detroit.

Matt had been prepared to be disappointed.

“Have you got a special listing for the Homicide Bureau, maybe Homicide Unit, something like that, of the Detroit police department?”

“Just the basic police department number.”

“Give me that, please.”

“Homicide, Sergeant Whaley.”

“Sergeant, my name is Payne. I’m a sergeant in Homicide in Philadelphia.”

“What can we do for Philadelphia?”

“I’m working a job where the doer left his camera at the scene. I traced it to the store where it was sold. According to their records, it was sold to a Mr. H. Ford of Lincoln Road in Detroit.”

“And you’re beginning to suspect there is maybe something a little fishy about the name and address, right?”

“To tell you the truth, yes, I am.”

“Okay. So?”

“Maybe he once went to Detroit,” Matt said. “Have you got any open cases of murder, or rape, or murder/rape where the doer tied the victim to a bed and then cut the victim’s clothes off with a large knife?”

“Nice fellow, huh? That all you got?”

“This happened last night.”

“You do know about the NCIC in Philadelphia?”

“We have inside plumbing and everything,” Matt said. “And I don’t mean to in any way undermine your faith in the FBI, but sometimes we suspect they don’t give us everything out of their databases, including stuff we’ve put in.”

“I can’t think of any job like that offhand,” Sergeant Whaley said. “But I’ll ask around. You said your name was Payne?”

Matt spelled it for him and gave him Jason Washington’s unlisted private number in the Roundhouse.

“I’ll ask around, and if I turn up anything, I’ll give you a call.”

“Thank you very much,” Matt said.

He pushed the End button, put the key in the ignition, and started to drive out of the parking lot.

The attendant jumped in front of the car, waving his arms.

It was necessary for Matt to dig out the credit card again, and sign a sales slip for $35.00 worth of parking before he could put the Porsche in gear and head downtown toward the Lincoln Tunnel.

He looked at his watch; it was quarter past five.

When he came out of the New Jersey exit of the Lincoln Tunnel, it looked very familiar and he wondered why. He rarely went to New York City, and when he did, he almost never drove, preferring the Metroliner, a really comfortable train on which one did not have to keep one eye open for the New Jersey State Police for being in violation of speeding and/or drinking laws.

It was a moment before he understood.

He saw it at least once a week, on television. The opening shot on The Sopranos was from the inside of New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano’s GMC Suburban as he came out of the tunnel.

Another segment of the TV show came to his mind. A New Jersey detective on the pad from the mob got caught at it, and jumped off a bridge.

That made him think of Captain Patrick Cassidy, whose sudden affluence-including his new Suburban-he had found to be completely legitimate.

If it had gone the other way, would Cassidy have taken a dive off the Benjamin Franklin Bridge? And would I have been at least tangentially responsible?

His reverie was interrupted by the tinkling of his cell phone.

“Payne.”

“Where are you, Matthew?” Lieutenant Jason Washington’s deep, rich voice demanded.

“I just came out of the Lincoln Tunnel on my way back.”

“And what developed in New York?”

“The camera was sold to an H. Ford of Lincoln Road in Detroit,” Matt said.

“Well, one never knows. There is a credible legend that Jack the Ripper was the King’s brother.”

“So I have heard. I’ve got the original sales slip, with a signature on it, in a Ziploc.”

“How did you get that?”

“I explained how important it was to the proprietor, and then bought a nine-hundred-dollar camera, after which he gave it to me.”

“There’s a slim chance, if he signed it, we might get a print.”

“Yeah.”

Shit, I didn’t even think about that. Oh, Jesus! If there are prints on there, they’ll be the proprietor’s and mine. There’s no excuse for such stupidity.

“You’re going to have to come to the office anyway, to get a property receipt for the sales slip, so I’ll leave the keys to your car in the FOP mug on my desk,” Washington said.

“You mean I’m getting it back?”

“You had doubts? I’m your lieutenant, Matthew. You can trust me,” Washington said, and added, “I’m driving Martha’s car, less because of spousal generosity than because she wanted to ensure my presence at a cultural event at the Fine Arts at seven-thirty.”

“Have fun.”

“If fortune smiles upon me, I may even be afforded the privilege of physical proximity to our beloved mayor.”

Matt chuckled.

“I am at the moment en route to meet with Tony, Mickey, and the witness from the Roy Rogers,” Washington went on. “If there are developments, call me between now and seven-thirty. ”

“Yes, sir.”

“Otherwise, after ten, call me to report your progress or lack thereof. But do not call me while I am at the Fine Arts unless what you have to say is really important.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And drive carefully, always adhering to the posted speed limits of the Garden State, Matthew.”

“Yes, sir.”

The line went dead.

Harris, Amal al Zaid, and Michael J. O’Hara were sitting in the rearmost banquette of the Roy Rogers restaurant at Broad and Snyder Streets when Amal saw an automobile pull to the curb outside.

“Get those wheels,” he blurted in something close to awe. “That’s an SL600!”

“What’s an SL600?” Tony Harris asked, looking. “You mean the Mercedes?”

"V-12 engine,” Amal al Zaid said. “Six liters!”

A large black man in a dinner jacket got out of the Mercedes SL600.

"V-12?” Tony asked. “No shit? What’s one of those worth?”

"V-12,” Amal al Zaid confirmed. “That’s worth at least a hundred thousand bucks!”

“Jesus,” Tony said.

“More like a hundred and a quarter, kid,” Mickey O’Hara said. “Well, I guess that’s his coming-out present to himself.”

“Excuse me?” Amal al Zaid asked.

“What did he get, Tony? Ten to fifteen?” Mickey asked.

Tony Harris shrugged.

“Or was it fifteen to twenty?” Mickey mused. “Well, whatever, he’s out, obviously. Who said ‘crime doesn’t pay’?”

Tony Harris raised his eyebrows but said nothing.

Amal al Zaid nearly turned around on the banquette to follow the guy in the tuxedo who had gotten out of the Mercedes-Benz SL600.

“It looks like he’s coming in here!” Amal al Zaid said.

“Why would a heavy hitter hood like that come in a dump like this?” O’Hara asked rhetorically.

Lieutenant Jason Washington walked through the restaurant, slid onto the banquette seat beside O’Hara, quickly shook hands with O’Hara and Harris, and then smiled cordially at Amal al Zaid.

“Thank you for coming,” he said. “I really appreciate your time.”

Amal al Zaid said nothing.

“I’m Lieutenant Washington,” Jason said, oozing charm.

He had told Tony Harris to ask the witness to meet them in the Roy Rogers in the belief he would be more comfortable there than he would have been, for example, in the Homicide unit in the Roundhouse.

Amal al Zaid said nothing.

“Actually, I’m Detective Harris’s-Tony’s-supervisor.”

“You’re a cop?” Amal al Zaid asked, incredulously.

“I realize that dressed like this-I’m going to sort of a party with my wife…” He paused, and then asked, “What did Mr. O’Hara tell you about me?”

“He said you just got out,” Amal al Zaid said.

“Actually, sir,” Tony Harris said. “The phrases Mr. O’Hara used were ‘fifteen to twenty’ and ‘heavy hitter hood.’ ”

Washington came out with his badge and photo ID, and showed it to Amal al Zaid.

“Mr. O’Hara is an old friend,” he said. “Despite a well-earned reputation for a really weird sense of humor.”

“I’m weird?” O’Hara asked. “You’re the first man in recorded history to walk into a Roy Rogers in a waiter suit.”

“It’s not a waiter suit, you ignoramus.”

“It looks like a waiter suit to me,” Mickey said. “What about you-Double-A Zee?”

Amal al Zaid giggled and nodded his head in agreement.

“Are you going to take our order, or is there something else Double-A Zee and I can do for the cops?” Mickey asked.

Amal al Zaid giggled again.

“Do you mind if he calls you that?” Washington asked.

Amal al Zaid shook his head, “no.”

“Can I call you that?”

“Sure.”

“Thank you,” Washington said. “Okay, Double-A Zee, let me tell you where we are in finding the people who murdered Mrs. Martinez and Officer Charlton.” He paused.

Amal al Zaid looked at him expectantly.

“Just about nowhere,” Washington said, finally.

“How come?” Amal al Zaid asked.

Washington shrugged.

“We’ve done-and are still doing-everything we can think of. We’re going to get them eventually. But the sooner we do, the sooner we can get them off the streets, the sooner they won’t be able to do the same sort of thing again. We don’t want any more people to die.”

Amal al Zaid nodded his understanding.

“An investigation is something like taking an automobile trip,” Washington said. “You can make a wrong turn and wind up in Hoboken when you really want to be in Harrisburg. I’m beginning to suspect that we’ve made a wrong turn, early on, and this is what this is all about.

“What we have here, where this trip began, are the only two witnesses who seem to know what they’re talking about; the only two who kept their cool in terrifying circumstances-”

“I was scared shitless,” Amal al Zaid corrected him.

“Make that two of us,” O’Hara said.

Amal al Zaid looked at him with gratitude.

“Who kept their cool in terrifying circumstances,” Washington repeated, “the proof of which, Double-A Zee, is your behavior in this from the beginning. And Mr. O’Hara’s attempt to take a photograph when they came out of the restaurant-”

“Attempt’s the right word,” Mickey said. “All I got is an artsy fartsy silhouette.”

Washington ignored the comment.

“So what we’re going to do now,” he went on, “is start from the beginning, once again, to see where we took the wrong turn. We’re going to do this very slowly, to see where what you saw agrees with what Mickey saw, or where it disagrees. Detective Harris”-he pointed to a huge salesman’s case on the banquette seat beside Harris-“has brought with him records and reports that he and others have compiled that he thinks will be useful. We’re going to see if what you and Mickey saw agrees or disagrees with what other people saw, or thought they saw, and if it disagrees, how it disagrees. You still with me, Double-A Zee?”

“Yeah, I got it.”

“If either you or Mickey thinks of something-anything- or if you have a question while we’re doing this, speak up. I’ll do the same. Okay?”

O’Hara and Amal al Zaid nodded their understanding.

“Let’s get some more coffee,” Washington said, waving for the attention of the shift manager, who was hovering nearby to see what he could see, “and then Tony can begin.”

Tony Harris took a sheaf of paper from the salesman’s case, took off a paper clip, and divided it into four.

“This is the chronology as I understand it,” he said, as he slid copies to Washington, O’Hara, and Amal al Zaid.

“We know for sure that Mrs. Martinez called 911 at eleven-twenty P.M. We have that from Police Radio. And we know that at eleven-twenty-one, Police Radio dispatched Officer Charlton. So I sort of guessed the time of the events before that.”

He waited until the shift manager had delivered a tray with coffee.

“If I get any of these details wrong, Double-A Zee, even if it doesn’t seem important,” Harris said, “speak up. Same for you, Mickey.”

Both nodded again.

“Okay. Sequence of events,” Harris said. “Double-A Zee was standing there”-he pointed-“mopping the floor, when he saw the doers come into the restaurant. How long had you been there, Double-A Zee, when they came in?”

“A couple of minutes.”

“A couple is two. Maybe several?”

“I keep the mop bucket right inside the kitchen door,” Amal al Zaid said. “What happened was when I cleaned the table-”

“This table?” Harris interrupted.

“Yeah. I see that the people who’d left had knocked a cup of coffee-what was left of one-on the floor. So I went in the kitchen, got the mop and bucket, and come back. It wasn’t a big spill, but it was right in front of the kitchen door-”

“The one on the left?” Harris interrupted.

“Yeah. The Out one, they come through with full trays and they couldn’t see the spill.”

“I understand,” Harris said.

“So I figured I better clean it up quick, and I did.”

“And you’d been there a couple, like two, minutes and the doers came in?”

“Right.”

“Why did you notice, Double-A Zee?” Washington asked.

“Excuse me?”

“You were mopping the floor, paying attention to doing that. Why did you notice these two?”

Amal al Zaid thought that over carefully before replying: “I looked at the clock over the door. They was standing under it.”

“And why did you pay attention to them?” Washington asked, softly.

“I could tell they was bad news,” Amal al Zaid said.

“How?”

“The way they was standing, looking around. Nervous, you know? And the… I dunno. I just didn’t like the look of them.”

“Okay. So then what happened?”

“Then they split up. The one stayed in front, and the short fat guy came toward the back, toward here. That was funny.”

“You had finished mopping the spill by then?” Harris asked.

“Yeah. Right. So I pushed the bucket back into the kitchen. And then I looked through the window and saw…”

“The window in the right door, the In door?” Harris asked, pointing.

“Yeah,” Amal al Zaid said. “And I saw him take off his shade-”

“His glasses?” Harris interrupted. “Double-A Zee, I don’t remember you saying anything before about him wearing glasses.”

“Not glasses, his shade.”

When he saw the lack of understanding on Harris’s face, Amal al Zaid explained patiently, almost tolerantly: “You know, like a baseball cap, without a top.”

“Oh,” Harris said, understanding.

“The shade part was in the back,” Amal al Zaid went on. He pointed at his neck. “I guess it got in his way.”

“How was that?” Washington asked, softly.

“The wall,” Amal al Zaid said. “He was sitting where you are. That cushion is against the wall.” He pointed. “I guess when he sat down, his shade bumped into the wall. Anyway, he took it off.”

“Okay,” Harris said. “I’m a little dense. Then what happened?”

“Tony, would you hand me Mickey’s pictures?” Washington asked.

“Any particular one?”

“Better let me have all of them.”

“I thought,” Amal al Zaid said, “the last time, you told me he took only one picture of these guys.”

“There was only one image, Double-A Zee,” Washington explained. “But they made a number of different prints, trying to see if they could come up with something useful. You know, they blew up different parts of the picture.”

“Oh, yeah,” Amal al Zaid said.

"I tried that myself,” O’Hara said, “and got nowhere.”

“What are you looking for, Jason?” Harris asked.

“I want to see if this fellow left the scene wearing his shade,” Washington said. “Maybe Mickey’s pictures will at least show that.”

Tony Harris rummaged through the salesman’s case and came out with a manila envelope stuffed with prints. There were, in all, about twenty prints of the one digital image Mickey O’Hara had made as he walked up to the Roy Rogers restaurant. Most were eight by ten inches, and most of them concentrated on the heads and shoulders of the doers, although the process had failed to overcome the bad quality and bring out more details than in the original print.

Washington began to examine each print carefully. After looking at perhaps ten of them, he set one aside.

“You got something?” Mickey asked.

Washington didn’t reply.

After a moment, Mickey took the pictures Washington was finished with and started looking at them. As he finished the first one, he slid it across the table to Amal al Zaid, who looked at it and slid it to Harris. When Washington finished, he had set two more prints aside. He slid the rest to Mickey, then patiently waited until they were all through, before handing Mickey the three prints he had set aside.

“So far as I can determine from these,” Washington said, “neither of these gentlemen was wearing anything on his cranium as they left the scene.”

“I don’t think a jury would fall in love with these,” Mickey said. “But I do see silhouetted heads, and there ain’t nothing on either of them.”

Washington again waited until both Amal al Zaid and Tony Harris had examined all three prints.

“So what?” Amal al Zaid asked.

“This poses the question, Double-A Zee,” Washington said. “If this fellow came into the restaurant wearing a shade, where is it now?”

Harris went back into the salesman’s case.

He came out with a typewritten list.

“Here it is,” he said, “On the unclaimed property list. Number fifteen. ‘One black sun visor, make unknown, gray cotton-covered visor, plastic headband.’ They found it under the table. So far as prints are concerned… ‘One partially smudged print, possibly index finger, on rear of headband.’ ”

“That won’t be enough, will it?” O’Hara asked.

“Oh, ye of little faith,” Washington said.

He took out his cellular telephone and pushed an autodial key.

“Has Captain Quaire gone for the day?” he asked, and then a moment later, “Would you switch me to him, please?”

There was a brief pause.

“Lieutenant Washington, sir,” he said, “with a request.”

There was another pause.

“On the list of unclaimed property found in the Roy Rogers, as item fifteen, there is ‘One black sun visor, make unknown, gray cotton-covered visor, plastic headband.’ We have reason to believe it was left behind by one of the doers. The lab reports one partially smudged print, possibly index finger. I would like to inspire them to greater effort. This might be possible if you took the item down there personally, sir…”

There was another brief pause.

“Thank you very much. And may I suggest that you tell them I will be in later tonight to check on their progress?” Pause. “Thanks, Henry. It’s all that we have right now.”

He pushed the End key and turned to Amal al Zaid.

“Double-A Zee, I think we’re at the point where the doer took off his shade. What happened next?”

At twenty after six, just as he turned onto I-95 South, Matt’s cellular rang.

“Payne.”

“Sergeant, this is Lassiter.”

“I have a surfeit of bad news, Detective Lassiter. With that caveat, you may proceed.”

He thought he heard her giggle, and found it charming.

“No bad news. I just left the Williamsons’…”

“And?”

“Everything’s under control. Their minister is there. I don’t think she’s going to change her mind about the uniforms being right in not taking the door. And I’m going back in the morning-she asked me to.”

“You get a gold star to take home to Mommy, Detective Lassiter,” Matt said.

“Sergeant,” she said, a tone of exasperation in her voice, “Northwest wants their car back, that’s one thing. The second thing is, Mrs. Williamson told me Cheryl used to hang out in a bar called Halligan’s Pub. I’d like a look, but thought I’d better check with you first.”

“Do they serve food in Halligan’s Pub?”

“I don’t know. I suppose so.”

Matt looked at his watch.

“I’ll meet you at Northwest in twenty-five, thirty minutes,” he said. “You can give them their car back. Where is this Halligan’s Pub?”

“In Flourtown.”

“Okay. Then we will go together to Halligan’s Pub. And after that, we’ll see. Washington called. I can pick up my car at the Roundhouse.”

“Fine,” she said. “Anything else?”

“Call Joe D’Amata and tell him we’re going to check out the saloon.”

“Right.”

A uniform sergeant put out his hand to stop the silver Porsche as it rolled into the POLICE VEHICLES ONLY parking lot at the Thirty-fifth District Building. Except for a few rooms used by the Inspector for the North Police Division, Northwest Detectives occupied most of the second floor of the building.

The driver of the Porsche rolled down the window.

“I think it’ll be all right, Officer,” he said. “I’m just here to pick up my date.”

He pointed toward Detective Olivia Lassiter, who was leaning against the wall by the entrance.

The uniform sergeant whistled shrilly, attracting Detective Lassiter’s attention.

“You know this guy, Lassiter?”

She looked, and then nodded.

“Yeah.”

She walked to the Porsche.

“Next time, find some other place to park,” the sergeant said.

“Yes, sir,” Matt said.

Olivia got in the Porsche.

Where the hell did he get this car? A Porsche on a detective’s pay?

“Have a good time, Lassiter,” the sergeant said.

Matt grinned, but didn’t say anything as he turned the Porsche around.

“What was that all about? ‘Have a good time’?” Olivia asked.

Matt shrugged.

“What did you say to him?” Olivia challenged.

“Nothing,” Matt said.

The hell you didn’t. You’re really a smart-ass. “You get a gold star for Mommy!” Jesus!

“Did you get anything from the Williamsons besides the name of this saloon?” Matt asked.

“The names of half a dozen guys Cheryl dated,” she said. “And of a couple of her girlfriends.”

“You’ll have to give them to Joe.”

“I already did.”

“Where exactly is this saloon?”

“It’s called Halligan’s Pub. At Bethlehem Pike and College Avenue in Flourtown. I’ve been there. Sort of a neighborhood bar for the young and unattached.”

“Spend a lot of time in places like that, do you?” Matt asked, innocently. “Looking for a little action?”

You sonofabitch!

She glared at him but said nothing.

If he thinks I’m looking for action, and so much as lays a hand on my hand, I’ll knock him into next week.

“Hey, I’m kidding!” Matt said.

“I haven’t been amused,” Olivia snapped.

“Look, this is my first time,” Matt said.

“First time for what? Working with a female detective, you mean?”

“Yeah. Or at least a good-looking one.”

“Can we keep this professional?”

“I worked a couple of jobs with an Intelligence detective, a female,” Matt said. “But she was old enough to be my mother. We got to be friends. So I asked her-we were having a couple of drinks-how I should behave with a younger female cop. And she said treat her like you would treat any other cop. That’s what I was doing. Making a little joke.”

Why do I believe him?

“What kind of a little joke were you making with Sergeant Pinski?”

“The uniform in the parking lot?”

“Yeah. What did you say to him?”

“I told him I was just picking up my date.”

“You thought that was funny?”

“He believed it. And my other choice was to tell him I was on the job and show him my badge. Thirty minutes later, every uniform in the Thirty-fifth, and all your pals in Northwest Detectives, would have heard about the Homicide sergeant driving a Porsche picking up Northwest’s good-looking Detective Lassiter.”

He’s right. That’s exactly what would have happened.

“Where did you get this car, anyway?”

“When I finished college. It was my graduation present.”

“It looks brand-new.”

“It’s five years old. I take pretty good care of it.”

“It’s beautiful,” she said in genuine appreciation.

That was dumb. What’s the matter with me?

“They’re nice,” Matt said. “Look, let’s spell this out. I was not making a pass at you. I will not make a pass at you. I just got promoted, and I just transferred to Homicide. The last thing I want is for somebody to say Payne walked in, hung up his hat, and started hitting on Lassiter. That’s the truth.”

“Okay. Just so we understand each other.”

“So what were you doing in Halligan’s Pub? Looking for a little action?”

“You sonofabitch!” Olivia said, but she laughed.

And they found themselves looking at each other. And both looked quickly away.

“What can I get you?” the bartender at Halligan’s Pub asked when they had taken stools at the bar.

“I don’t know about Mother, but I would like a Famous Grouse on the rocks and a menu.”

“You want to eat at the bar?” the bartender asked.

“I want to talk to you, and you’re here,” Matt said.

“And what for you, honey?” the bartender asked.

I will not ask what a famous whatever is.

“The same, please,” Olivia said.

“You’ve been in here before, right?”

“Indeed she has,” Matt said. “Mother tells me this is where the action is. Presumably there will be a shill’s fee for her?”

The bartender chuckled, then turned to make their drinks. He put them on the bar and then laid two plastic covered menus on it.

Olivia picked up her glass and sipped it.

Scotch. Probably one of those very chic, very in, single malts or whatever they call them that the in people drink.

“Hot roast beef sandwich, please,” Matt ordered after a ten-second perusal of the menu. “French fries, green beans. What about you, Mother?”

What the hell is that Mother business?

Damn it, a hot roast beef sandwich sounds good. But I’ll sound like his echo.

To hell with it.

“The same, hold the fries,” Olivia said.

“Coming right up,” the bartender said, and walked down the bar to a computer.

Matt picked up his glass and raised it to Olivia.

“Mud in your eye, Mother.”

“What’s with ‘Mother’?” Olivia asked.

“Even the Casanova of Center City does not make a pass at a mother,” Matt replied.

“Oh, Jesus!” Olivia said.

“I’m just ensuring that I will not get carried away,” Matt said.

“I won’t let that happen,” Olivia said.

“Good. I invariably falter in the face of temptation.”

“You’re out of your mind, you know that?”

“You sound just like my sister, Mother.”

She shook her head, but she smiled.

“This is nice booze,” she said. “I’m afraid to ask what it costs.”

“Fear not, Mother, that was my round. But actually it’s not very expensive. Not like twelve-year-old or single malts. I found it in Scotland. It was the bar whiskey.”

“In Scotland?”

“My father and I, and my father’s buddy and his-son-my-buddy, were shooting driven birds over there.”

What the hell does that mean?

“I don’t know what that means,” Olivia confessed.

“They raise pheasants,” Matt explained, “and charge people to shoot them. They call it a ‘drive.’ The shooters form a line, and then the beaters drive the birds-hence ‘driven birds’-toward the line of shooters. Great shooting.”

“It sounds barbaric,” Olivia said.

“You’re a vegetarian?”

“No.”

“Where do you think your roast beef came from? A steer that died of old age?”

Olivia didn’t reply.

“The pheasants are raised to be eaten, just like chickens and turkey. I suppose you could argue that wringing their necks would be kinder than shooting them, but I don’t see the difference. And three hours after they’re shot, they’re cleaned, plucked, packed in ice, and on the way to a gourmet restaurant. ”

“And you get your kicks by slaughtering the pheasants, right? You get a real kick out of killing things, right?”

“You got it, Mother,” Matt said. “Once you understand that, everything falls in place.”

She could tell by both the bitter tone of his voice and his eyes that she had really angered him.

He shook his head in disgust, turned away, and picked up his glass.

What made him so angry?

Oh, God! When Mickey O’Hara called him Wyatt Earp, he blew up. And then O’Hara told me about the bad guy Matt “put down”-by which he meant killed. I didn’t mean to suggest he liked killing people! But I guess it sounded like I did.

So what do I do now, apologize?

The waiter slid plates holding hot roast beef sandwiches across the bar to them.

“I think you probably have just saved my life,” Matt said, sniffing appreciatively and picking up a French fry. “But just to make sure, you’d better give me another of these.”

Olivia saw that he had drained his glass.

The bartender chuckled and looked at Olivia.

“Why not?” she said.

Matt looked at her in surprise.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“Sorry for what, Mother?”

“I was out of line,” she said.

Matt met her eyes. It made her uncomfortable, but she couldn’t look away.

After a long moment, he said, “I guess that makes us even.”

And then he looked away, and unwrapped his knife and fork from its napkin wrap and attacked the sandwich.

Olivia took a healthy swallow of her drink, and when the bartender delivered the second round, emptied what was left of hers into the new glass.

She was astonished at the speed with which Matt emptied his plate of the roast beef, the potatoes, and the beans. She had taken only her third bite when she saw him lay his knife and fork on the empty plate and slide it across the bar toward the bartender.

“Very nice,” Matt said.

“Glad you liked it.”

“Did you know Cheryl Williamson?” Matt asked the bartender.

“I guess you heard?” the bartender replied.

Matt nodded.

“Goddamned cops,” the bartender said. “I guess you heard what those bastards did? Or didn’t do. Pardon the French.”

“What did you say your name was?” Matt asked.

“Charley,” the bartender said.

“Mother, show Charley your badge,” Matt said.

She looked at him in surprise.

“Detective Lassiter, show Charley your badge,” Matt ordered.

Olivia pulled her oversweater far enough to one side so the bartender could see her badge, which she had pinned to the waistband of her skirt.

“Sorry, I didn’t know… ” Charley the bartender said, uncomfortably.

“No problem,” Matt said. “The reason we don’t wear uniforms is so people can’t spot us as cops right off. By the way, I’m Sergeant Payne. My friends call me ‘Matt.’ ”

He extended his hand across the bar until Charley the bartender took it.

“Tell me, Charley,” Matt said, as he slipped back onto his stool. “Have you made up your mind for all eternity, or would you be interested in the facts about what those goddamned bastard cops did or didn’t do?”

“Hey, Sergeant, I said I was sorry…”

“If we’re going to be friends, call me Matt,” Matt said. “And that wasn’t the question, Charley. Are you interested in the facts, or have you made up your mind, and don’t want the facts to get in the way?”

“Okay. Let’s have the facts,” Charley said.

“Mother, give Charley the facts,” Matt said.

“Is that your name?” Charley blurted.

“I call her that to remind myself not to make a pass at her,” Matt said.

“Really?”

“Really,” Matt said. “Tell Charley what really happened, Mother.”

“Okay. From the top… ” Olivia began.

“… so at the end, what you have are two decent young cops who feel guilty as hell for not breaking into her apartment,” Olivia finished. “Even though they did exactly what they were supposed to do.”

“Jesus,” Charley the bartender said, and turned away, to return in a moment with the bottle of Famous Grouse.

“On me,” he said, as he started pouring. “Not on the house, on me. I feel bad about what I said before.”

“That’s absolutely unnecessary and we shouldn’t,” Matt said. “But we will.”

“Are they going to catch this guy?” Charley asked.

“We’re going to get him,” Matt said. “The question is when. The sooner they get him, the sooner they’ll be able to be sure he won’t be able to do something like this to somebody else.”

“Maybe I get this from the movies,” Charley said, “but those Homicide detectives seem to know what they’re doing.”

“I know two that don’t,” Matt said. Charley looked at him in surprise. “These two,” Matt finished.

“You’re Homicide?”

Matt nodded.

“And that’s what we’re doing here. Trying to run this guy down. We understand Cheryl used to come in here.”

“Who told you that?” Charley asked.

“Her mother,” Olivia said. “And she gave me a list of people Cheryl hung out with.” She handed him the list. “Do you know any of these people?”

“Most of them,” Charley reported after a minute.

“Any of them in here right now?”

Charley looked down the bar, then looked through the doors of two adjacent rooms and came back to report that none of them were.

“Well, we’ll run them down,” Matt said.

“It would help if you could tell us anything about Cheryl,” Olivia said. “What kind of a girl was she?”

“Let me say something unpleasant,” Matt said. “It’s okay to say unkind things about the dead if the purpose is to find out who killed them.”

Charley considered that a moment.

“I take the point,” he said. “Okay, so far as I know, she was really a nice girl. If she were a bimbo, I’d say so, okay? You want my gut feeling?”

“Please,” Olivia said.

“I think she came in here hoping that Mr. Right, the guy on the white horse, you know what I mean, would walk in and make eyes at her. And I don’t think he ever did. She was good-looking. Guys hit on her. But she wasn’t looking for a one-night stand, and I never saw her leave here with a guy. Sometimes, when she was in here with her girlfriends, a couple of them would leave together with a couple of guys. Never alone. You know what I mean?”

“I get the picture,” Matt said.

Matt’s cell phone went off.

“Payne.”

“D’Amata, Matt. Where are you?”

“Halligan’s Pub.”

“Yeah. Lassiter said you’d be going there. She with you?”

“Yeah.”

“You eat yet?”

“Just finished.”

“I’m in Liberties,” D’Amata said. “I figured you might want to compare notes.”

He’s taking care of me. That’s nice.

“Okay.”

“The Black Buddha’s going to want to know what’s going on, and he’ll be finished with that artsy thing pretty soon. If you don’t want to come to Center City, I could meet you someplace. ”

“I’ll come there. I’ve got to pick up my car at the Roundhouse anyway. Thirty minutes?”

“Thirty minutes,” D’Amata said, and hung up.

Matt looked at Olivia.

“We have to meet D’Amata, Mother,” he said.

She nodded.

“Can I ask you a favor?” Matt asked the bartender.

“Name it.”

“I’m going to give you a card-a bunch of cards-with my number on it. If any of the people on the list Mother gave you come in, would you hand them one and ask them to call?”

“Sure.”

"Give one to anybody who might have an idea,” Matt said. "Okay?”

“You got it.”

Matt took a small, stuffed-to-capacity card case from his pocket.

“These are old,” Matt said. “They say Special Operations. But the number I write on them will be Homicide. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“Tell them to ask for me or Detective Lassiter, but if neither of us is there, to talk to any Homicide detective, and leave a phone number and an address.”

“Got it.”

It took Matt and Olivia about five minutes to write her name and the Homicide number on all of the cards.

Then Matt asked for the check.

“On me,” Charley the bartender said.

“No,” Matt said, firmly, handing over his American Express card. “The one drink-between friends-we’ll take with thanks. The rest we pay for.”

Charley shrugged, but took the card.

Matt signed the receipt, looked at it, and said, “Mother, your half comes to fifteen-fifty, with tip.”

She dug in her purse and came up with a five and a ten and handed it to him.

“I owe you fifty cents.”

“I’ll remember,” he said.

He put out his hand to Charley.

“Thanks a lot,” he said. “You’ve been more helpful than I think you understand. I’ll probably come by again tomorrow, or Mother will. Okay?”

“Any time,” Charley said.

“What we’ll do, Mother, is go by the Roundhouse. I’ve got to get a property receipt for the sales slip I got in New York, and I want to pick up my car,” Matt said when they were in the Porsche. “You can take it home after we meet with Joe D’Amata.”

“I’m not so sure that’s a good idea,” Olivia said.

“Why not?”

“Because I’m not sure I should be driving. I’m not used to three drinks of scotch in forty-five minutes, and that third drink was really a double.”

He looked at her and smiled.

“Mother, are you plastered?” he asked, amused.

“Tiddly, not plastered,” Olivia said. “And I’m not your mother.”

His eyebrows rose.

“I didn’t mean that the way it sounded,” she said, and he saw that she was blushing.

“In vino veritas,” Matt said, softly.

“What the hell does that mean?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Matt said, and moved his head the six or eight inches necessary to kiss her.

She didn’t pull away.

“I really didn’t want that to happen,” she said, softly a moment later.

“Are you sorry?”

“Just drive the goddamn car, will you, please?”

He put the Porsche in gear and started off.

ELEVEN

As Matt approached Liberties Bar on North Second Street, he saw Martha Washington’s Mercedes parked in front, beside Peter Wohl’s Jaguar and a half-dozen unmarked cars.

Well, so much for Joe D’Amata’s noble attempt to bring me up to speed before Washington asks what I’ve been doing on my first day as a Homicide sergeant.

He pulled the Porsche to the curb beside one of the unmarked cars, turned off the key, and turned to Olivia.

“You all right, Mother?” he asked.

“Of course I’m all right,” she snapped.

“Hey, you’re the one who admitted she was too… ‘tiddly’… to drive.”

“You’re an arrogant sonofabitch, you know that?”

He looked at her a moment.

“I owe you that one,” he said. “But that ends it. I am not going to burn for my sin through all eternity. You could have turned your head.”

“You bastard!”

“What I’m doing right now-fully aware that no good deed ever goes unpunished-is trying to be a nice guy.”

“How?” she asked, thickly sarcastic.

“You go in there and they see you’re plastered and bitchy, you’ll be back at Northwest in the morning.”

“Who’s ‘they’?”

Why can’t I keep my mouth shut?

Why did I have to call him an arrogant sonofabitch? And a bastard?

Because I’m bitchy and plastered, that’s why.

Shit!

“The Mercedes belongs to Lieutenant Washington-or his wife, same thing-and the Jaguar to Inspector Wohl. There’s a new unmarked, which probably means Captain Quaire… You getting the picture?”

“Got it,” Olivia said. “Thanks.”

“Just sit there, pay attention, and speak only when spoken to, smile, and lay off the booze. Got it?”

“Got it.”

Matt got out of the car and stood impatiently, waiting for Olivia to figure out the seat belt and get out of it. He did not hold the door to the bar open for her, but once he was through it, he did hold it open long enough so that it didn’t close in her face.

Matt walked to the table holding Jason Washington, Peter Wohl, Joe D’Amata, Harry Slayberg, and-surprising him- Deputy Commissioner Dennis V. Coughlin and Captain Francis X. Hollaran; the new unmarked car was the commissioner’s. Matt stood there, sort of waiting for permission to sit down.

Coughlin smiled at Detective Lassiter.

“Matt been keeping you busy, Detective?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good work with the Williamsons, Detective,” Coughlin said. “I think-between you and the story Mickey O’Hara had in the paper-that fire’s now under control.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Sit down, and help yourself,” Coughlin ordered, nodding at the bottles on the table. “You, too, Matt.”

“Could I get a Diet Coke?” Olivia called to the bartender.

“You don’t drink?” Coughlin asked, making it a statement. “Sorry.”

“Sometimes, sir, not now.”

“Joe tells me you got the sales slip for the camera in New York?” Coughlin asked Matt.

“Yes, sir. Henry Ford of Detroit, Michigan, himself bought it.”

“You might call out there and see if they have something similar. Maybe there is a Detroit connection.”

“I’ve already done that, sir,” Matt said, and added, to Washington, “I gave a Homicide sergeant there your number. I didn’t have any other direct Homicide number.”

Washington nodded.

“How did you do at Halligan’s Pub?” he asked.

“The bartender said she was looking for Mr. Right to come riding in on a white horse,” Matt replied. “That so far as he knew, she didn’t play around. We left him cards to pass out to anybody who might know anything, specifically including the names of the guys Mother got from Mrs. Williamson.”

" ’Mother’?” Coughlin asked.

“I call Detective Lassiter that to remind myself this beautiful female is Detective Lassiter, and that sergeants aren’t supposed to notice the beautiful part.”

There was laughter and chuckles.

“Good thinking, Sergeant,” Coughlin said, smiling broadly.

Goddamn him!

Does he really think I’m beautiful?

“What we’re doing now, Lassiter,” Wohl said, “is waiting for another beautiful woman-”

“You’ll notice he used the word ’beautiful,’ ” Coughlin interrupted, “which suggests that war of the sexes is in the armistice mode.”

Wohl flashed him an angry look. The others chuckled.

“-Dr. Payne,” Wohl continued, “who has graciously agreed to provide her take on the Williamson doer.”

“Where is she?” Matt said.

“Where else, Matt? At the hospital. We were on our way here when her phone buzzed.”

What’s going on here? Is Inspector Wohl in a relationship with Matt’s sister? They had a fight, and everybody knows about it? That maybe they fight all the time?

“What did Amy give you so far?” Matt asked.

“Why don’t we wait and get it from her?” Wohl said.

“In the meantime,” Washington said, “we may have, using the term ‘lead’ in the broadest possible sense, finally come up with a lead in the Roy Rogers job.”

“Jason looked under the rock under the rock again,” Coughlin said, approvingly.

“The witness neglected to tell us,” Washington went on, “that the miscreant presently known, for lack of more precise information, as ‘the fat guy’ was wearing a visor-a crownless baseball cap, so to speak-when he sat down at the booth by the kitchen door. He was not wearing it when he left the scene.”

“How do we know that?” Olivia asked.

Washington’s look showed that he did not like to be interrupted.

And Matt told me to keep my mouth shut!

“While O’Hara’s digital image does not show the faces of the malefactors, Mother, it does offer rather sharp silhouettes of their heads. No visor-the witness said he was wearing the visor to the rear, over his neck-was visible fore or aft.”

He called me “Mother.” Goddamn it, now everybody will.

“I didn’t mean to interrupt you, sir,” Olivia said.

“Apology noted,” Washington went on. “We have such a visor cap among the unclaimed items at the crime scene. On it the lab, on its first look, found a rather poor print of what