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Authors: John Lawrence Reynolds

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BOOK: Solitary Dancer
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“For awhile.” McGuire leaned back in his chair and folded his arms, avoiding the other man's eyes. “For a while I did.”

“And then?”

“Told you. I screwed up.”

“Lot of guys screw up, but they manage to land on their feet.”

The door swung open abruptly and Donovan was standing there, a sheet of paper in his hand.

“He's charged,” Donovan said.

Fox scowled at him. “What the fuck you talking about?”

Donovan waved the paper back and forth as though taunting a bull. “Higgins got a briefing from Fat Eddie, says there's enough to book him. All in here.”

“Higgins still P.A.?” McGuire asked calmly, and Fox nodded.

“It's a bullshit decision,” Fox said, half to Donovan and half to McGuire.

“Need your shoelaces and your belt,” Donovan said to McGuire as he entered the room, the sergeant and two whistles behind him.

McGuire bent over and began untying his shoes, Tim Fox watching sadly, McGuire fumbling with the laces.

McGuire was held on suspicion of the murder of Heather Arlene Lorenzo, age 38, resident of 206A Newbury Street, occupation: photographer's agent. He was ordered held in custody pending further investigation. He endured a strip search, a fitting for a pair of oversized blue coveralls and being locked into handcuffs and shackles. The young driver of the police van that transported him and two sullen black men in their twenties to holding cells in the jail on Nashua Street called him Pops, and McGuire smiled and ducked his head without responding.

Inside the brick walls of the jail reception area, McGuire emerged from the van and leaned unsteadily against the vehicle before retching violently while the black men watched blankly and the van driver made a joke about prison food.

He was photographed, fingerprinted and led down a narrow corridor to his cell, where he collapsed on the cot and listened to the slam of the cell door echo and decay.

In the cell facing him were two men, a large red-headed man whose oft-broken nose drifted at an angle across his face and who spoke with a strangely sibilant lisp, and a smaller older man who constantly moved a cigarette butt from one corner of his mouth to the other. Both stared at McGuire for several moments, the larger man blankly, the other with suspicion, until the red-haired man said simply, “Cop,” and turned away to lie on his bunk.

“Watch your ass, buddy,” the smaller one said to McGuire, who lay back with hands clasped behind his head. “'Cause it ain't worth shit in here. Me, I'd be proud as hell to do a few months in seg, just to say I offed a fuckin' cop. Wouldn't I, Red?”

The big man said, “Gimme a cigarette.”

When McGuire's food was brought to his cell he could eat none of it.

“Good move, cop,” the small man in the opposite cell said. “They know you're a cop, the trusties piss on your food. You know that? Ain't that right, Red?”

When McGuire finally fell asleep he began to dream of drifting in boats through pastureland where grazing cows would lift their heads in surprise as he passed by, and of his father, dead twenty years, watching him from behind a wooden fence, the bleached unpainted boards covered in writing McGuire could not read. He woke and lay rising and falling through clouds of pain and perspiration before closing his eyes.

Almost immediately he began to dream again, visions of ice water flowing down his parched throat, tasting its freshness and cold salvation, and of walking woodenly along a city street toward a corner where flatbed trucks were passing slowly by in a convoy of sorts. The cargo shifted back and forth and side to side as the trucks passed, their movement propelled not by the motion of the vehicles but by some inner agony. At the intersection McGuire looked into the trucks and saw flayed bodies with amputated limbs, the skin and stubs of arms and legs cross-textured in blue and white, and as one truck passed another arrived to take its place and others stretched down the avenue of the city, their passage unending, their cargoes identical and agonizing and horrific.

Someone began choking him, thrusting a weapon into his mouth to block his breathing. McGuire cried out at the sight of the trucks and their cargo and at the attack on him by someone unseen. There were cries in his ears, the cries of the mutilated men in the trucks and the cries of others, and McGuire woke to find his own hand in his mouth and a guard poking him with a broom handle. In the opposite cell the small dark man called out, “You don't shut the fuck up, somebody'll shove your dick in your ear,” while the big man with the red hair grinned across at McGuire and muttered something, and the small man laughed and lit a cigarette.

In the morning McGuire lay on his bunk with his forearm across his eyes. The two men in the opposite cell were escorted away, and as they passed McGuire's cell the small man hissed, “You're gonna get it, cop,” and the other man said in his strange lisp, “Can't stop it happening, buddy. Can't stop what's gonna happen to you.”

Half an hour later, McGuire was still motionless when he heard footsteps tread the corridor toward his cell and halt just beyond the bars. He raised his arm from his eyes and looked across the few feet separating him from an olive-skinned compact man in a brown suede windbreaker, faded jeans and white sneakers who stood watching him with concern. “Mother of God, I didn't believe it,” the man said.

McGuire stared back at the man's dark eyes and curly black hair, the body slim and taut.

“Jesus, Joe, it's me, Scrignoli.” The black-haired man shook his head and a nervous grin revealed white and shiny teeth in a handsome Italian face. “It's been a while, but hell . . .”

McGuire nodded and closed his eyes. “How you doin'?” he said. He remembered Scrignoli, an undercover cop, once Bernie Lipson's partner before Bernie joined forces with McGuire to replace Ollie Schantz. Bernie's retired and Ollie's paralyzed, McGuire reminded himself. A generation gone and I'm in jail. McGuire pieced it together. Bernie retired. Kavander dead. Ollie crippled. Me in jail. On the whole, I'd rather be in Worcester. . . .

What the hell was Scrignoli's first name? The pain like a knife . . .

“Bunch of us back on Berkeley, Stu Cauley and the others, we heard about it and couldn't believe it.” Scrignoli spoke in the broad accents of North Boston, a scrod-and-spaghetti accent Ollie Schantz used to call it. “This is horseshit, Joe. This is Fat Eddie at his worst.”

McGuire nodded his head again. What's his name? Dave? Dominic? Something like that.

“So I got elected to come over and make sure you're okay, let you know we're with you, we're not gonna let nothin' happen to you. I mean, even some of the guys here, some of the guards, the older ones, they're wonderin' what you're doin' in here. So I came just to let you know you're gonna be all right, okay?”

“Sure.” McGuire lay his forearm across his eyes again. Dell? Daryl? No, not Daryl. Maybe Darren . . .

“Anything you need? Anything we can get you?”

“Out,” McGuire said.

“We're workin' on it. I mean, one of the guys's been talking to Higgins and you know what? Even Higgins, even he's not behind it a hundred percent, okay? He told the guy right up front, he said it's not gonna stick, the charge. You're outta here and you and me, the day you're out, the two of us'll go over to Hanover Street and suck up some clams, maybe pick up some broads.” Scrignoli's voice dropped in volume and acquired a weight, a sense of everyone's daily sadness. “My wife and I, we split last year. Don't know if you heard.”

Scrignoli's wife, McGuire recalled. Her name was Sue, plump, blond hair . . . the hell's
his
name . . . ?

A long pause, then, “Anyhow, you got problems, I can see that. But you got friends too, Joe, and we all know this is a chickenshit thing of Fat Eddie's, so hang in there, okay? Okay?”

Danny. Yes. “Thanks, Danny.”

“You're all right,” Danny Scrignoli said, and his voice almost choked with emotion. “You're gonna be all right,” and he slapped the bars with his hand, in anger or frustration, and walked quickly, almost silently, away.

Listening to the details of McGuire's transfer to Nashua Street from one of the cops who accompanied the prisoner, Tim Fox absorbed it all with sadness. McGuire was more than an ex-cop not only to Fox but to an entire generation of police officers who had managed to rise from street duty to detective status.

Joe McGuire and Ollie Schantz had shown the way for a decade, working like guerrillas within an often incompetent system. Bending the rules to achieve success, they earned citations from the police commissioner in the morning and bought rounds of drinks for the duty cops that same afternoon, laughing at the pretentiousness of the award ceremony, knowing they had earned and deserved it but mocking it anyway, mocking everything except the reason they pinned on a badge each day: without daily encounters with the scum of life, without the silent trust handed to them to protect citizens who thanked them by sneering at their very existence, they would lack both identity and purpose.

For Joe McGuire, it all ended the day Ollie Schantz became eligible for his pension and decided that his identity and purpose now lay along the banks of a salmon pond. He retired leaving McGuire alone and bitter to manage without him.

Two weeks later, in one of those ironies of life that prompt some people to discover salvation in the Bible and others to seek it in a shotgun, the muzzle in their mouth, Ollie Schantz returned from his first fishing expedition almost totally paralyzed from the neck down. And soon after, McGuire escaped the complex politics and machinations of Fat Eddie Vance by retreating to the Bahamas for two years.

What brought him back? Fox wondered. What screwed him up so badly? What happened to the old McGuire, the tough son of a bitch who carried his anger like a junkyard dog with a toothache?

Fox didn't know. But he knew something had to be done about Fat Eddie.

He strode down the corridor to Vance's office and burst in on the captain who quickly closed the top drawer of his desk and looked back at Fox, startled.

“You're interfering, Eddie,” Fox said, drawing deep breaths and glaring at the round pink face of the man who had once been his partner and was now his superior.

Vance blinked and raised his eyebrows.

“You don't like the way I'm handling a case, okay, tell me,” Fox said. “But no more getting between me and Donovan, all right? Telling him to send out a P.Q. order while I'm still out there looking for the man. No more of that, okay?”

Fat Eddie smiled, closed his eyes and shook his head slowly from side to side.

“What's the deal?” Fox demanded. “I'm pissed and you think it's funny?”

“A little,” Vance said when he opened his eyes. “You know who you just reminded me of? When you came in right now, so self-righteous and angry? McGuire, that's who. When he was still a cop, he'd be in here complaining all the time, to me, to Kavander, to everybody. McGuire acted like he carried all the rules and regulations around in his hip pocket and it was his duty to educate people about them. You sounded a lot like him just now.”

“Thanks,” Tim Fox said, turning for the door. “I'll take that as a compliment, Eddie.”

“A compliment?” Vance called after him. “Are you nuts? Look where McGuire is now, Fox. You think being told you're acting like him is a
com
pliment?”

Ten minutes later Fox told himself Fat Eddie wasn't worth the spit it took to say his name and swung around in his chair to snatch Mel Doitch's autopsy report from Donovan's desk and scan the contents.

Heather Arlene Lorenzo had been in excellent physical condition with no visible scars except for the two crescent-shaped surgery marks beneath her breasts, marking silicone implants. Her injuries had been inflicted by a cylindrical wooden weapon, swung with substantial strength. Small samples of the wood had been removed from body tissues that had absorbed the blows and they were currently being subjected to laboratory analysis. . . .

The phone jangled at his elbow. He snatched the receiver from its cradle and barked his name into it.

The voice on the other end was deep and modulated. “Are you the gentleman who is investigating Ms. Lorenzo's death?”

“That's me,” Fox said.

“My name is Gregory Weiner,” the man said. “I own the building here. Heather was my tenant. I apologize for being absent this morning but I left early to do an appraisal of some watercolours in Cambridge—”

“We'll send somebody out to interview you,” Fox interrupted.

The cultured voice faltered somewhat. “Uh, you
are
the detective heading the investigation, are you not?”

Fox assured the man he was.

“Then I would prefer to speak directly with you, if I may.”

Fox frowned. “Look, we got maybe a dozen officers working on this—”

“Heather Lorenzo feared for her life,” the voice interrupted. “She told me, just yesterday, when she asked me if I might be working late downstairs.”

“We can take a statement . . .”

“That might be a good idea,” Gregory Weiner said. “Heather told me a man might be trying to kill her. Somebody well-known and powerful. The gentleman apparently frightened her because he could get out of control. She had seen him that way.”

“I'll be over,” Tim Fox said.

When he hung up he thought about telling Donovan, then wondered what the younger detective could really offer. “Probably nothing,” Fox muttered. “I'll tell him later.”

It was there on his tray next to the powdered eggs, a small white envelope not much bigger than a postage stamp. The trustee slid his breakfast through the opening of the bars while McGuire watched from the corner of the cell where he lay on the floor, his stomach about to heave from the aroma of food, the pain in his head like a deep cleft through his skull.

BOOK: Solitary Dancer
12.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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