Read In the Midst of Death Online

Authors: Lawrence Block

Tags: #Private Investigators, #Police corruption, #Mystery & Detective, #Private investigators - New York (State) - New York, #New York (N.Y.), #Hard-Boiled, #General, #Mystery Fiction, #Fiction, #Scudder; Matt (Fictitious character)

In the Midst of Death (10 page)

BOOK: In the Midst of Death
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"Aw, come on, Matt."

"You don't have any hard evidence.None. It's all circumstantial."

"It's enough to nail the lid on. We got motive, we got opportunity,we got the woman dead in hisgoddam apartment, for Christ's sake. What more do you want? He had every reason to kill her.

She was nailing his balls to the wall, and of course he wanted her dead."

He swallowed some more of his drink. He said, "You know, you used to be a hell of a good cop. Maybe the booze is getting to you these days.

Maybe it's more than you can handle."

"Could be."

"Oh, hell."He sighed heavily. "You can take his money, Matt. A guy has to make a living. I know how it is. Just don't get in the way, huh? Take his money and string him for all he's worth. The hell, he's been on the other end of it often enough. Let him get played for a sucker for a change."

"I don't think he killed her."

"Shit." He took his cigar out of his mouth and stared at it, then clamped his teeth around it and puffed on it. Then, his tone softer, he said, "You know, Matt, thedepartment's pretty clean these days. Cleaner than it's been in years. Almost all of the old-style pads have been eliminated. There's still some people taking big money, no question about it, but the old system with money delivered by a bagman and distributed through an entire precinct, you don't see that anymore."

"Even uptown?"

"Well, one of the uptown precincts is probably still a little dirty.

It's hard to keep it clean up there. You know how it goes. Aside from that, though, the department stacks up pretty good."

"So?"

"So we're policing ourselves pretty nicely, and this son of a bitch makes us look like shit all over again, and a lot of good men are going to be up against the wall just because one son of a bitch wants to be an angel and another son of a bitch of a rug peddler wants to be governor."

"That's why you hateBroadfield but- "

"You're fucking right I hate him."

"- but why do you want to see him in jail?" I leaned forward. "He's finished already, Eddie. He's washed up. I talked to one ofPrejanian's staff members. They have no use for him. He could get off the hook tomorrow andPrejanian wouldn't dare pick him up. Whoever framed him already did enough of a job on him from your point of view. What's wrong with my going after the killer?"

"We already got the killer. He's in a cell in the Tombs."

"Let's just suppose you're wrong, Eddie.Then what?"

He stared hard at me. "All right," he said. "Let's suppose I'm wrong. Let's suppose your boy is clean and pure as the snow. Let's say he never did a bad thing in his life. Let's say somebody else killedWhat's

-her-name."

"Portia Carr."

"Right.And somebody deliberately framedBroadfield and set him up for a fall."

"So?"

"And you go after the guy and you get him."

"So?"

"And he's a cop, because who else would have such a goodgoddam reason to sendBroadfield up?"

"Oh."

"Yeah, oh.That'sgonna look terrific, isn't it?" He had his chin jutting at me, and the tendons in his throat were taut. His eyes were furious. "I don't say that's what happened," he said. "Because for my moneyBroadfield's as guilty as Judas, but if he's not, then somebody did a job on him, and who could it be but a couple of cops who want to give that son of a bitch what he deserves? And that would look beautiful, wouldn't it? A cop kills a girl and pins it on another cop to head off an investigation into police corruption. That would look just beautiful."

I thought about it. "And if that's what happened, you'd rather seeBroadfield go to jail for something he didn't do than for it to come out in the open. Is that what you're saying?"

"Shit."

"Is that what you're saying, Eddie?"

"Oh, for Christ's sake.I'd rather see him dead, Matt. Even if I had to blow his fucking head off all bymyself ."

"MATT? You okay?"

I looked up at Trina. Her apron was off and she had her coat over her arm. "Youleaving?"

"I just finished my shift. You've been putting away a lot of bourbon. I just wondered if you were all right."

I nodded.

"Who was that man you were talking with?"

"An old friend.He's a cop, a lieutenant working out of the Sixth Precinct. That's down in the Village." I picked up my glass but put it down again without drinking from it. "He was about the best friend I had on the force. Not buddy-buddy, but we got along pretty well. Of course, you drift apart over the years."

"What did he want?"

"He just wanted to talk."

"You seemed upset after he left."

I looked up at her. I said, "The thing is, murder is different. Taking a human life, that's something completely different. Nobody should be allowed to get away with that. Nobody should ever be allowed to get away with that."

"I don't follow you."

"He didn't do it, damn it. He didn't, he's innocent, and nobody cares. Eddie Koehler doesn't care. I know Eddie Koehler. He's a good cop."

"Matt- "

"But he doesn't care. He wants me to coast and not even make an effort because he wants that poor bastard to go to jail for a murder he didn't commit. And he wants the one who really did it to get away with it."

"I don't think I understand what you're saying, Matt. Look, don't finish that drink, huh? You don't really need it, do you?"

Everything seemed very clear to me. I couldn't fathom why Trina seemed to be having difficulty following me. I was enunciating clearly enough, and my thoughts, at least to me, flowed with crystalline clarity.

"Crystalline clarity," I said.

"What?"

"I know what he wants. Nobody else can figure it, but it's obvious.

You know what he wants, Diana?"

"I'm Trina, Matt. Honey, don't you know who I am?"

"Of course I do. Slip of the tongue. Don't you know what he wants, baby? He wants the glory."

"Who does, Matt? The man you were talking to?"

"Eddie?" I laughed at the notion. "Eddie Koehler doesn't give a damn about glory. I'm talking about Jerry. Good old Jerry."

"Uh-huh." She uncurled my fingers from around my glass and lifted the glass free. "I'll be right back,"

she said. "I won't be a minute, Matt." And then she went away, and shortly after that she was back again. I may have gone on talking to her while she was away from the table. I'm not too certain one way or the other.

"Let's go home, Matt. I'll walk you home, all right? Or would you like to stay at my place tonight?"

I shook my head."Can't do that."

"Of course you can."

"No. Have to see DougFuhrmann . Very important to see old Doug, baby."

"Did you find him in the book?"

"That's it.The book. He can put us all in a book, baby. That's where he comes in."

"I don't understand."

I frowned, irritated. I was making perfect sense and couldn't understand why my meaning was evidently eluding her. She was a bright girl, Trina was. She ought to be able to understand.

"The check," I said.

"You already settled your check, Matt. And you tipped me, you gave me too much. Come on, please, stand up, that's an angel. Oh, baby, the world did a job on you, didn't it? It's okay. All the times you helped me get it together, I can do it for you once in a while, can't I?"

"The check, Trina."

"You paid the check, I just told you, and- "

"Fuhrmann'scheck."It was easier to talk clearly now, easier to think more clearly, standing on my feet.

"He cashed a check here earlier tonight. That's what you said."

"So?"

"Check would be in the register, wouldn't it?"

"Sure. So what? Look, Matt, let's get out in the fresh air and you'll feel a lot better."

I held up a hand. "I'm all right," I insisted. "Fuhrmann'scheck's in the register. Ask Don if you can have a look at it." She still didn't follow me. "His address," I explained. "Most people have their address printed on their checks. I should have thought of it before. Go see, will you?

Please?"

And the check was in the register and it had his address on it. She came back and read off the address to me. I gave her my notebook and pen and told her to write it down for me.

"But you can't go there now, Matt. It's too late and you're not up to it."

"It's too late, and I'm too drunk."

"In the morning- "

"I don't usually get so drunk, Trina. But I'm all right."

"Of course you are, baby. Let's get out in the air. See? It's better already. That's the baby."

Chapter 8

It was a hard morning. I swallowed some aspirin and went downstairs to the Red Flame for a lot of coffee. It helped a little. My hands were slightly shaky and my stomach kept threatening to turn over.

What I wanted was a drink. But I wanted it badly enough to know not to have it. I had things to do,places to go, people to see. So I stuck with the coffee.

At the post office onSixtieth Street I purchased a money order for a thousand dollars and another for forty-five dollars. I addressed an envelope and mailed them both to Anita. Then I walked around the corner toSt. Paul 's onNinth Avenue . I must have sat there for fifteen or twenty minutes, not thinking of anything in particular. On the way out I stopped in front of the effigy of St. Anthony and lit a couple of candles for some absent friends. One was for Portia Carr, another forEstrellita Rivera, a couple others for a couple of other people. Then I put five fifty-dollar bills in the slot of the poor box and went out into the cold morning air.

I have an odd relationship with churches, and it's one I do not entirely understand myself. It started not long after I moved to myFifty-seventh Street hotel. I began spending time in churches, and I began lighting candles, and, ultimately, I began tithing. That last is the most curious part of all. I give a tenth of whatever money I make to the first church I happen to stop in after I receive payment. I don't know what they do with the money. They probably spend half of it converting happy pagans and use the rest to buy large cars for the clergy. But I keep giving my money to them and go on wondering why.

The Catholics get most of my money because of the hours they keep. Their churches are more often open. Otherwise I'm as ecumenical as you can get. A tenth ofBroadfield's first payment to me had gone to St. Bartholomew's, an Episcopal church in Portia Carr's neighborhood, and now a tenth of his second payment went toSt. Paul 's.

God knows why.

* * *

DOUGFuhrmann lived onNinth Avenue between Fifty-third and Fifty-fourth. To the left of the ground-floor hardware store there was a doorway with a sign over it announcing the availability of furnished rooms by week or month. There were no mailboxes in the vestibule and no individual buzzers. I rang the bell alongside the inner door and waited until a woman with henna-bright hair shuffled to the door and opened it.

She wore a plaid robe and had shabby bedroom slippers on her feet.

"Full up," she said. "Try three doors down, he's usually got something available."

I told her I was looking for DouglasFuhrmann .

"Fourth floor front," she said. "He expectingyou?"

"Yes."Although he wasn't.

" 'Causehe usually sleeps late. You can go on up."

I climbed three flights of stairs, making my way through the sour smells of a building that had given up along with its tenants. I was surprised thatFuhrmann lived in a place like this. Men who live in broken-down Hell's Kitchen rooming houses don't usually have their addresses printed on their checks. They don't usually have checking accounts.

I stood in front of his door. A radio was playing, and then I heard a burst of very rapid typing, then nothing but the radio. I knocked on the door. I heard the sound of a chair being pushed back, and thenFuhrmann's voice asked who it was.

"Scudder."

"Matt?Just a second." I waited and the door opened andFuhrmann gave me a big smile. "Come on in,"

he said. "Jesus, you look like hell. You got a cold or something?"

"I had a hard night."

"Want some coffee? I can give you a cup of instant. How'd you find me, anyway? Or is that a professional secret? I guess detectives have to be good at finding people."

He scurried around, plugged in an electric tea kettle,measured instant coffee into a pair of white china cups. He kept up a steady stream of conversation, but I wasn't listening to him. I was busy looking over the place where he lived.

I hadn't been prepared for it. It was just one room, but it was a large one, measuring perhaps eighteen by twenty-five feet, with two windows overlookingNinth Avenue . What made it remarkable was the dramatic contrast between it and the building it was situated in. All of the drabness and decay stopped atFuhrmann's threshold.

He had a rug on the floor, either an authentic Persian or a convincing imitation. His walls were lined with floor-to-ceiling built-in bookshelves. A desk a full twelve feet in length extended in front of the windows. It too had been built in. Even the paint on the walls was distinctive, the walls themselves-where they were not covered with bookshelves- painted in a dark ivory, the trim set off ina glossy white enamel.

He saw me taking it all in, and his eyes danced behind his thick glasses. "That's how everybody reacts," he said. "You climb those stairs and it's depressing, right? And then you walk into my little retreat and it's almost shocking." The kettle whistled and he made our coffee. "It's not as though I planned it this way," he said. "I took this place a dozen years ago because I could afford it and there wasn't much else I could afford. I was paying fourteen dollars a week. And I'll tell you something, there were weeks when it was a struggle to come up with the fourteen bucks."

He stirred the coffee, passed my cup to me. "Then I got so I was making a living, but even so, I was a little hesitant about moving. I like the location, the sense of neighborhood. I even like the name of the neighborhood. Hell's Kitchen. If you're going to be a writer, where better to live than a place called Hell's Kitchen? Besides, I didn't want to commit myself to a big rent. I was getting ghostwriting assignments, I was building up a list of magazine editors who knew my work, but even so, it's not a steady business and I didn't want to have a big monthly nut to crack. So what I did, I started fixing this place up and making it bearable. I'd do a little at a time. First thing I did was put in a full burglar alarm system because I got really paranoid about the idea of some junkie kicking the door in and ripping off my typewriter. Then the bookshelves because I was tired of having all my books piled up in cartons.

BOOK: In the Midst of Death
12.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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