So Long As You Both Shall Live (87th Precinct)

BOOK: So Long As You Both Shall Live (87th Precinct)
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Praise for Ed McBain & the 87th Precinct

“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.”


Washington Post

“The best crime writer in the business.”


Houston Post

“Ed McBain is a national treasure.”


Mystery News

“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.”

—Tony Hillerman

“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.”


Miami Herald

“You’ll be engrossed by McBain’s fast, lean prose.”


Chicago Tribune

“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.”


Philadelphia Inquirer

“McBain is a top pro, at the top of his game.”


Los Angeles Daily News

SO LONG AS YOU BOTH SHALL LIVE

 

AN 87TH PRECINCT NOVEL

Ed M
c
Bain

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 © 1976 Ed McBain
Republished in 2011
All rights reserved.

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

ISBN: 978-1-61218-182-0

This is for Jack Scovil

 

The city in these pages is imaginary.
The people, the places are all fictitious.
Only the police routine is based on established
investigatory technique.

The photographer’s name was Alexander Pike, and he was doing the job free of charge because Augusta Blair was a good friend of his and this was Augusta’s wedding day. It was also Bart Kling’s wedding day, but Pike hadn’t met Kling until 4:00 this afternoon, shortly before the ceremony—and whereas he naturally wished the groom all sorts of happiness, any real feelings of affection were reserved for Augusta.

Pike had never seen so many cops in his life.

The groom was a cop, of course, a tall blond fellow who seemed a bit bewildered by everything that was going on. This explained why there were so many cops of different stripes and persuasions at the ceremony and now at the reception. All of them were in plainclothes, but Pike would have known what they were even if they’d all come to the wedding naked; he had once done a photographic documentary on law enforcement, and had got to know policemen very well indeed. Actually he liked cops, even if at 4:00 this afternoon one of them had married Augusta Blair, whom Pike had loved with undiminished passion for three and a half years now.

He had met Augusta shortly after she’d come to this city from Seattle, Washington. He’d been at a cocktail party in the Quarter, when suddenly the front door opened, and all conversation stopped. The girl standing in the doorway was tall and slender, with auburn hair that fell loosely to her shoulders. She had high cheekbones, and eyes so intensely green they seemed fierce. Her nose tilted gently away from her mouth, lifting the upper lip slightly, so that her even white teeth were partially exposed. She had good breasts, and long legs, and hips perhaps too wide for fashion modeling, and she moved directly and with swift smiling grace toward a knot of people she recognized. Pike followed her across the room, introduced himself to her, and then took her over to meet Art Cutler, who ran a modeling agency with his wife Leslie. That had been the start of Augusta’s career, and also the start of their long friendship.

Pike was now sixty-four years old, happily married and the father of three sons, so presumably his love for Augusta was strictly paternal. And yet, at 4:00 this afternoon he had felt a faint twinge of jealousy when the minister asked, “Do you, Augusta Blair, take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?” and then went on to intone the love, honor, and cherish routine and the health, sickness, prosperity, and adversity stuff, ending with the words “so long as you both shall live?”—and damn if Augusta hadn’t answered, “I do.”

Ah, well.

The wedding reception was being held in a midtown hotel, in what was called its Green Room. Pike would have preferred a better backdrop for his black-and-white photographs, the green being somewhat murky, but he certainly wasn’t lacking for subjects. In addition to his darling Augusta and her good-looking (he had to admit) new husband, there were a great many models at the reception, Augusta’s friends consisting largely of people in that profession, just as Bart’s friends were people in the law-enforcement business. There were other photographers there, too (naturally), all of whom had Nikons slung around their necks, all of whom were taking pictures, but
none
of whom was the
official
photographer. Augusta had asked
Pike
to be the official photographer, and had of course offered to pay him; he had accepted the job joyfully and had refused to accept a dime in recompense.

He didn’t know how many rolls he’d exposed during the ceremony itself, but he knew he’d kept the shutter release clicking and the strobe light flashing every few seconds. Most of his angles had favored Augusta, but that was forgivable. He had taken pictures of Budd standing at the altar (was
that
his name?) with another cop who was his best man, both of them looking up the aisle as though they were expecting an imminent burglary. And he had photographed Augusta’s long walk down the aisle on her father’s arm, caught every step of it, Augusta looking radiantly ecstatic, her father looking like a paper-mill executive (which was what he was) dressed up in a monkey suit for only the second time in his life, the first time having been his own wedding. Pike had got good reaction shots of the people sitting in pews on either side of the aisle, too, and then he’d caught the anticipatory look on the minister’s face, and he’d kept the shutter and the strobe going all through the brief ceremony. Later he’d caught Augusta and Boyd getting out of the limo, and going up the hotel steps, and then he’d got some great shots of the receiving line, and some equally marvelous shots before and during dinner. He was now roaming the room, taking candids of the guests.

The place was packed with dazzlingly beautiful girls who, like Augusta, were used to being photographed, and used to seeing their faces and figures in national magazines, on television screens, and (in the case of at least one girl here today) on motion picture screens. Each knew with unerring accuracy just when to toss her head back, or break into a wide smile, or step out with her skirts flaring, or gesture with her hand, or raise her eyebrows. An instant before Pike pressed the shutter-release button, the pose was struck. A girl could be stuffing an olive into her mouth just before Pike raised the camera to his eye, but by the time he clicked the shutter release, by the time the strobe flashed, she had swallowed the olive whole, lifted her chin, turned her head over her shoulder to give Pike her best profile, and smiled tantalizingly and promisingly into his lens.

He wandered across the room to the bar now, asked the bartender for a bourbon on the rocks, and then sipped at it quietly while he listened to the conversations everywhere around him. Shop talk. Crime and fashion, a great combination for a bleak Sunday in November, your only daughter’s wedding day. My only
what?
Pike thought and grinned, and raised his glass in a silent toast.

“It was a medical ad, you see,” a beautiful brunette at his elbow was saying to a husky redheaded cop with a frightening white streak in the hair over his left temple. “I got to the sitting at three o’clock, and the photographer led me inside, and explained that this was an ad about cancer and about getting checkups and all that, and he asked me if I knew it was a nude sitting. I said, ‘What do you mean
nude,
what is this?’ He said he thought the agency had told me. The idea was the model would be shot nude and the copy would run right across her body, but you’d still of course be able to see her. I told him I didn’t do nude work, that I’d rather get shot with a gun than get shot nude, and he said, ‘Okay then, I guess that’s that,’ and we shook hands and I rode off into the sunset.”

The fellow who’d been Boyd’s best man was an Italian detective whose face Pike found interesting. He watched the man now as he danced cheek to cheek with a woman presumably his wife. The man’s hair and eyes were brown, the eyes much darker than the hair. The eyes slanted downward, and they combined with rather high cheekbones to give him the look of an amused Oriental. He was a tall man with the easy grace of an athlete, and he held his wife close as they danced toward where Pike was standing at the bar. The wife was extraordinarily beautiful. Black hair, and eyes so brown they appeared black too. She was wearing an off-the-shoulder gown, and as they came closer, Pike saw to his surprise that a small, lacy black butterfly was tattooed on her right shoulder. The man turned to him and smiled lazily, and Pike nodded and smiled back, and then took a picture of them as they danced off to the strains of “Always,” a waltz Pike found sickening but which was played at every wedding he’d ever attended, flying in the face of statistics that promised divorce for one out of every three married couples.

“…I’d ever seen in my life. Tell the girl, Hal. Did you ever see so much blood in your life?”

“That was a lot of blood, miss.”

“Call me Annie.”

“So the minute we saw the blood in the hallway, we drew our revolvers and went tiptoeing into the apartment—am I right, Hal?”

“I
always
tiptoe in. I’m the world’s biggest coward.”

“Don’t believe him, he’s been cited three times for bravery.”

“Who, me?”

“Anyway, we go in there, Miss…”

“Call me Annie.”

“We go in there, Annie, and guess what?”

“Nobody’s in there.”

“That’s right. How’d you know that? How’d she know that, Hal?”

“I don’t know, Bob. Maybe her father’s a cop. Is your father a cop, Annie?”

“My father’s a photographer. That’s how I
got
in this lousy business.”

Pike sipped at his bourbon and looked across the room to where a detective who’d been one of the ushers was dancing his wife—Pike automatically assumed that any couple over the age of twenty-five
had
to be man and wife—toward the bar. He was easily as tall as the Italian cop who’d been best man, but he was burlier and probably older, unless the baldness was premature. Premature or not, it was the
baldest
baldness Pike had ever seen in his life. Moreover, there was not the slightest trace of five-o’clock shadow on this glistening dome, oh, no. This man did not shave his pate to curry current favor; this man was a natural cue ball. He danced with all the grace of an ox-drawn cart, leading his wife around the floor in something that resembled a cross between a lindy hop and a fox trot, though the band was still playing a waltz. Pike raised his camera and started shooting.

“Are you getting some good pictures, Mr. Pike?” the man standing on his right asked. He was a compact man with a craggy nose, iron-gray hair, and flinty blue eyes. Pike guessed he was in his late fifties or early sixties. “I’m Peter Byrnes,” he said. “We met earlier. Before the ceremony.”

“Oh, sure,” Pike said, and extended his hand. “I’m sorry, I’ve been introduced to so
many
people today…”

“That’s okay,” Byrnes said.

“You’re the lieutenant in charge of the squad, right?”

“Right.”

“Right, I remember now.” Pike lifted his glass. “Here’s to the happy couple,” he said.

Byrnes raised his glass, and said, “Here’s to them.”

Both men drank. Byrnes put his glass down on the bar top. Pike put his glass down beside it.

“Never thought I’d see this day,” Byrnes said.

“Me, neither,” Pike said.

“That boy’s had more damn trouble with the women in his life—”

“What kind of trouble?” Pike asked immediately.

“Well, I don’t want to bore you,” Byrnes said. “I’m just happy he finally—”

“No, go ahead, you won’t bore me,” Pike said. He felt a strange sense of foreboding, as though Byrnes would in the next moment tell him something horrible about the man Augusta had married. Trouble with women? What
kind
of trouble? Pike had to know, if only for Augusta’s sake, and yet he dreaded hearing the answer.

“This was quite some time ago,” Byrnes said. “Kling was engaged to a girl named Claire Townsend. They planned on getting married as soon as she’d got her master’s. Make a long story short, she got killed in a bookshop up on Culver Avenue. Young girl,” Byrnes said, and shook his head. “Some crazy bastard came in and shot up the place, killed three other people besides Claire. I didn’t think Kling would ever get over it. Took him quite some while.”

“But he
did
get over it, huh?” Pike said, and waited, dreading the worst, and still expecting it. Byrnes lifted his glass and sipped thoughtfully at his drink. Pike waited.

“Didn’t go out with
any
girls at all for the longest time,” Byrnes said, and Pike thought, Oh my God, Augusta’s married a reformed pansy faggot queer!

“Then,” Byrnes said, “I forget which case he was investigating, he met this very nice girl named Cindy Forrest, went with her for quite some time. But she broke off with him. Told him she’d fallen in love with a doctor at the hospital where she worked. Just like that. Good-bye, it’s been nice knowing you.” Byrnes shook his head again. “Thing like that can shake a man up all over again.”

“But he’s all right now, huh?” Pike prompted.

“Huh?” Byrnes said.

“He
did
finally get over it.”

“Oh, yes, he’s fine now. He’s got Augusta now,” Byrnes said, and grinned, and raised his glass. “Here’s to both of them,” he said.

“Here’s
to
them,” Pike said, enormously relieved.

“I sometimes feel as if that boy’s my own son. Both his parents are dead, you know. I sometimes feel he’s one of my own.”

“I feel that way about Augusta sometimes,” Pike said.

Both men drank solemnly.

“Is this a wedding or a wake?” someone behind them asked.

Pike turned. It was the Italian cop, Boyd’s best man. “Getting some good pictures, Mr. Pike?” he said, and then asked the bartender for a scotch and soda, and a canadian on the rocks. “We met earlier,” he explained. “Before the ceremony. Carella. Steve Carella.”

“Right,” Pike said, and took the extended hand. “I’m sorry, I’ve been introduced to so
many
people today…”

“Right, right, don’t worry about it,” Carella said. “Why the long face?” he asked Byrnes.

“Weddings make me sad,” Byrnes said.

“Me, too,” Pike said.

“Ceremony,” Byrnes said.

“Ritual,” Pike said.

“You guys sound like Monoghan and Monroe,” Carella said.

“Who’s Monoghan and Monroe?” Pike asked, thinking they might be an old vaudeville team. “Are they an old vaudeville team?” he asked aloud.

“Almost,” Carella said. “They’re Homicide cops.”

“They’re pains in the asses,” Byrnes said. “I don’t like Homicide cops.”

“Neither do I,” Carella said.

“Never
have
liked Homicide cops,” Byrnes said.

“Neither have I,” Carella said.

“If you look at it one way…” Pike said dolefully.

“Huh?” Byrnes said.

“I was saying, if you look at it one way, you could say I’m gaining a cop.”

“Not a
Homicide
cop, I hope,” Carella said.

The band was playing a medley of tunes reminiscent of the forties, and some of the younger models were now trying to dance rock-style to the likes of “Moonlight Serenade,” “Star Eyes,” and “I Had the Craziest Dream.” Pike watched the girls and listened to the two cops congratulating themselves on finally getting Kling married off to a “nice” girl, which Pike felt was a somewhat understated way of describing his darling Augusta. In the next ten minutes half a dozen
other
cops—all in various stages of intoxication—wandered over to the bar to join them, and it suddenly seemed to Pike that someone had called in a 10–13, an “Assist Officer,” and every cop in the vicinity had responded to it. Pike wondered who was watching the store. But one of the cops explained to Pike—had he asked the question out loud?—that there were sixteen men on the squad altogether and that some of them were still back there at the station house taking care of the citizenry, though most of them were right here at old Kling’s wedding.

BOOK: So Long As You Both Shall Live (87th Precinct)
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