Authors: Ed McBain
“Raw and realistic…The bad guys are very bad, and the good guys are better.”—
Detroit Free Press
“Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series…simply the best police procedurals being written in the United States.”—
“The best crime writer in the business.”—
“Ed McBain is a national treasure.”—
“It’s hard to think of anyone better at what he does. In fact, it’s impossible.”—Robert B. Parker
“I never read Ed McBain without the awful thought that I still have a lot to learn. And when you think you’re catching up, he gets better.”
“McBain is the unquestioned king…light years ahead of anyone else in the field.”—
San Diego Union-Tribune
“McBain tells great stories.”—Elmore Leonard
“Pure prose poetry…It is such writers as McBain who bring the great American urban mythology to life.”—
The London Times
“The McBain stamp: sharp dialogue and crisp plotting.”
“You’ll be engrossed by McBain’s fast, lean prose.”—
“McBain redefines the American police novel…he can stop you dead in your tracks with a line of dialogue.”—
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“The wit, the pacing, his relish for the drama of human diversity [are] what you remember about McBain novels.”—
“McBain is a top pro, at the top of his game.”—
Los Angeles Daily News
An 87th Precinct Novel
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Text copyright ©1974 Ed McBain
Republished in 2011
All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by Thomas & Mercer
P.O. Box 400818
Las Vegas, NV 89140
This is for Yvonne and Jamie Hamilton
The city in these pages is imaginary.
The people, the places are all fictitious.
Only the police routine is based on
established investigatory technique.
It was August, and the temperature outside was ninety-six degrees, and the squadroom was not air-conditioned, and Detective Steve Carella was hot. The three rotating electric fans did little more than circulate air that was stale and moist, and there was a hole in one of the window screens (put there by some fun-loving, rock-throwing youngsters) that allowed the entrance of all kinds of flying vermin. A pusher was asleep in the detention cage in one corner of the room, and the phones on two vacant desks were ringing, and Cotton Hawes was talking to his girlfriend on another phone at another desk, and Carella’s shirt was sticking to his back and he wished he was still on vacation.
This was Wednesday, and he had come back to work on Monday, and half the 87th Squad (or so it seemed) had in turn gone on vacation, and here he was sitting behind a typewriter and a pile of paperwork, a tall, wide-shouldered man who normally looked athletic and lean and somewhat Chinese, what
with brown eyes that slanted downward in his face, but who now looked wilted and worn and weary and beleaguered, like a man whose undershorts are slowly creeping up into the crack of his behind, which his were most surely and inexorably doing on this miserable hot day in August.
The man sitting opposite him was named Roger Grimm, no relation to the brothers Jakob and Wilhelm. He looked cool and crisp, albeit agitated, a dumpy little man in his late forties, conservatively dressed in a seersucker suit, pale blue shirt, blue tie of a deeper tint, and white shoes. He was holding a lightweight summer straw in his hands, and he demanded to know where Detective Parker was.
“Detective Parker is on vacation,” Carella said.
“So who’s handling my case?” Grimm asked.
“What case is that?” Carella said.
“The arson,” Grimm said. “My warehouse was burned down last week.”
“And Detective Parker was handling the case?”
“Yes, Detective Parker was handling the case.”
“Well, Detective Parker is on vacation.”
“So what am I supposed to do?” Grimm asked. “I had five hundred thousand worth of wooden goods in that warehouse. My entire stock was lost in the fire.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Carella said, “but I don’t know anything about the case because I just got back from vacation myself. Monday. I got back Monday, and this is Wednesday, and I don’t know anything at all about your warehouse.”
“I thought you people worked on cases in pairs,” he said.
“Sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t.”
“Well, who was Detective Parker’s partner on the case, would you know that?”
“No, but maybe I can find out for you,” Carella said. He turned from his own desk to where Cotton Hawes was sitting not five feet away, still talking on the telephone. “Cotton,” he said, “have you got a minute?”
“Okay, Christine, I’ll see you at eight,” Hawes said, and then whispered something further into the mouthpiece, and hung up and began walking toward Carella’s desk. He was a big man, six-two and weighing 190 pounds, with a straight unbroken nose, a good mouth with a wide lower lip, and a square, clefted chin. His red hair was streaked with white over the left temple. He looked very mean this morning of August 14. He wasn’t particularly mean, he just looked that way.
“Yeah, Steve?” he said.
“This is Roger Grimm,” Carella said. “Detective Hawes.”
“How do you do?” Hawes said.
Grimm merely nodded.
“Parker was working on an arson for Mr. Grimm, and I’ve just explained that he’s on vacation now, and Mr. Grimm was wondering if anybody was on the case with Parker.”
“Yeah,” Hawes said. “Kling was.”
“Then may I please talk to Kling?” Grimm said.
“He’s on vacation,” Hawes said.
“Is the entire Police Department on vacation?” Grimm asked.
here,” Hawes said.
“Then how about giving me some help?” Grimm said.
“What kind of help do you want?” Carella asked.
“I’m having trouble with the insurance people,” Grimm said. “I want you to understand that my warehouse was protected with a burglar alarm system hooked into a central station, not to mention two night watchmen and an elaborate sprinkler system on every floor of the building…”
“What kind of burglar alarm?” Carella asked, and moved a pad into place and picked up a pencil.
“The best. Very sophisticated. Combination open- and closed-circuit. The arsonist cross-contacted one set of wires and cut the other.”
“How’d he get by your watchmen?” Hawes asked.
“Chloral hydrate. Drugged them both. He also smashed the water main in the basement of the building, so the sprinklers didn’t work when the fire got going.”
“Sounds like he knew the layout pretty well.”
“Got any enemies in the wooden-goods business, Mr. Grimm?” Carella asked.
“I have competitors.”
“Did you tell Detective Parker about them?”
“What does that mean? Nothing?”
“In Parker’s opinion, nobody had a good enough reason for committing a crime that would net him forty years in jail.”
“How about personal enemies? Got any of those?” Hawes asked.
“Everyone has personal enemies,” Grimm said.
“Any who might be capable of something like this?”
“The only one I could think of was a man whose wife I began dating shortly after they were divorced. He’s since married again, and he has two children by his new wife. When Parker questioned him, he could barely remember my name.”
“Uh-huh,” Carella said, and nodded. “What kind of trouble are you having with the insurance company?”
There’s a pair of them involved. Five hundred thousand is a big risk; they shared it between them. Now they’ve gone to one of these giant adjustment bureaus and asked them to handle the claim. And the bureau told them to hold off settlement until the arsonist is caught or until the Police and Fire Departments are sure
didn’t set fire to my own damn place.”
you set fire to it, Mr. Grimm?”
“Of course not,” Grimm said, offended. “There was five hundred thousand worth of merchandise in that building. I would have shipped it two days ago…that was the twelfth, am I right?”
“Right, Monday the twelfth.”
“Right, I was supposed to ship on the twelfth. So somebody set fire to the warehouse on the seventh, last Wednesday. I usually send out my bills the same day I ship, payable in ten days. If I’d have shipped Monday, when I was supposed to, I’d be getting paid sometime next week, you understand?” Grimm said.
“Not completely,” Carella said. “You paid five hundred thousand for the stuff that went up in the fire, is that it?”
“No, I paid about
that. Four Deutschemarks for each unit, about a buck and a quarter apiece, including the duty.”
“Then you paid approximately two hundred fifty thousand, is
“That’s right. And I insured it for five hundred thousand because that’s what I would have got from my customers ten days after I shipped the stuff. Five hundred thousand. That’s the fair market value, with firm orders to back it up, and that’s what I insured the stock for.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“I’ve got another batch coming from Germany on the twenty-eighth of this month. But I’ve got nothing to sell now, and if the insurance companies won’t reimburse me for my loss, how am I going to pay for the new stuff when it gets here?”
“This new stuff,” Carella said. “Is it the same as the old stuff?”
“These little wooden animals, right,” Grimm said. “Four hundred thousand little wooden animals that I’m supposed to pay half a million dollars for, cash on delivery. But if I haven’t got the money, how can I pay for the merchandise?”
“Why don’t you just cancel the order?” Hawes suggested.
it?” Grimm asked, appalled. “I’m into a gold mine here, why would I want to cancel? Look, let me explain this to you, okay? Are you good with figures?”
“I got a ninety in algebra,” Hawes said.
“What?” Grimm said.
“In high school. A ninety in algebra.” Hawes was quite proud of the accomplishment, but Grimm seemed unimpressed. Grimm had money on his mind, and money and mathematics were only distant cousins.
“Here’s the history of it,” Grimm said. “I came into a little cash last year, and was looking for an investment that would give me a good return, you follow? So I happened to be in West Germany just before Christmas, and I spotted these little wooden animals—dogs, cats, rabbits, crap like that, about two inches high, all hand-carved. They were selling for a buck and a quarter each, so I took a gamble, I bought a hundred thousand of them.”
“Cost you a hundred twenty-five thousand,” Hawes said quickly, still determined to show Grimm that a ninety in algebra was a feat not to be dismissed so easily.
“Right, they cost me a hundred twenty-five thousand.”
“That’s quite a gamble,” Carella said, trying to figure how long it would take him to earn $125,000 on his salary of $14,735 a year.
“Not as it turned out,” Grimm said, smiling with satisfaction. “I sold them here for two hundred fifty thousand—doubled my money. And I began getting reorders like crazy. So I took the
entire two hundred fifty thousand and bought
batch of little wooden animals.”
“With two hundred fifty thousand you were able to buy…”
“Two hundred thousand of them,” Grimm said.
“Two hundred thousand, right, right,” Hawes said uncertainly.
“And that’s what went up in the warehouse fire,” Grimm said.
“The problem as I see it,” Hawes said, “is that you had all these little wooden animals ready to ship…”
“For which your customers would have paid you five hundred thousand…”
“Which money you would have used to pay for
batch coming in on the twenty-eighth of this month.”
“Four hundred thousand of them,” Grimm said.
“Four hundred thousand,” Hawes said. “That’s a lot of little wooden animals.”
“Especially when you realize I can
the little mothers for a
“Well, you’ve certainly got a problem,” Hawes said.
“Which is why I came up here today,” Grimm said. “To put a little pressure on Parker.
got a desperate situation here, and
sitting on his ass in the sun someplace.”
“What do you want us to do, Mr. Grimm?” Carella asked.
“Catch the arsonist. Or at least vouch for me. Tell the adjustment bureau I’m clean, I had nothing to do with the fire.”
“I don’t know any police officer in his right mind who’d do that, Mr. Grimm. Too many people
set fire to their own businesses. Your stock was insured for five hundred thousand. That’s a lot of money. I’m sure Detective Parker was considering the possibility that you did the job yourself.”
“Why would I? I had firm orders for the entire stock. It was waiting to be
“I’m merely trying to explain why Detective Parker wouldn’t go out on a limb.”
“So what am I supposed to do?” Grimm asked, and wet his lips and looked suddenly thoughtful. “How long will Parker be gone?”
“And his partner, whatever his name is?”
“Kling. Two weeks also.”
“That’s impossible. Look, you’ve got to help me.”
“We’re helping you, Mr. Grimm,” Carella said.
“We’re helping you,” Hawes echoed.
Grimm looked at them skeptically. “I know if I put a little pressure on the insurance companies, they’ll pay me in three, four weeks, maybe a month the latest. But that’s not soon enough. I need the money in fourteen days, when the boat gets here from West Germany. Otherwise they won’t release the cargo, and I’m up the creek. You’ve got to catch this guy before my shipment arrives.”
“Well, it’s Parker’s case,” Carella said.
“So what? Don’t you ever help each other out on cases?”
“Sometimes. But usually, we’ve got our own case loads, and we…”
“This is unusual,” Grimm said, and then repeated it, as though the detectives had not heard him the first time. “This is unusual. There’s a time element involved here. I’ve got to get that insurance money before the boat gets here. Can’t you help me? Are you so damn busy up here that you can’t give a little help to an honest citizen who’s been
and who’s trying to get back on his feet again? Is that too much to ask of the Police Department?”
“You don’t understand the way it works,” Hawes said.
how it works. You’re supposed to protect the
too, you know. Instead of running around the streets busting teenagers for smoking pot, why don’t you earn your salaries?”
“I haven’t busted a teenager in at least two hours,” Hawes said dryly.
“All right, all right, I’m sorry,” Grimm said. “I know you guys work hard, I know you’ve got to have some sort of organization up here, or the job would get overwhelming. I realize that. But I’m begging you to please help me with this. Bend the rules a little, take Parker’s case while he’s away. Help me find the son of a bitch who burned down my place. I’d go to a private detective, but I simply haven’t got the money. Please. Will you please help me?”