"This is your case," the manual advised, "stick with the investigation." Stick with it in the pouring rain where a man lay with his open skull seeping his brains onto the sidewalk, stick with it in a hospital room reeking of antiseptic, stick with it in a tenement apartment at two in the morning, the clock throwing minutes into the empty hours of the night while a woman wept tears for her man who was dead. Search her closet for the clothing the killer wore. Get her to talk about her husband's possible infidelities. Be a cop.
Being a cop was something Steve Carella of the 87th Precinct knew a lot about. He knew about the careful, painstaking work of tracking down leads that could mean nothing or everything. He knew that cops like continuity even if it takes a couple of corpses to provide it and that right now he and his partner Meyer Meyer had all the continuity they could handle. They had two corpses shot within four hours of each other on the same rainy Friday night with the same.38 Smith & Wesson-one
a calypso singer from Trinidad who had just finished a gig. the other a hooker named C. J. who had just turned her last trick. Carella knew they had a case that was growing as cold as a slab in the morgue. He knew that they had a killer loose in the city who had killed once, twice, and perhaps would kill again if he and Meyer didn't follow the leads, didn't stick with the case, didn't get there first…
With this breathtakingly suspenseful novel Ed McBain shows us what the police procedural novel is all about. Whether you're one of the millions of faithful followers of the 87th Precinct or a fan-to-be, from the first terse page of
to an ending that will frighten you out of your skin, you'll know you are in the hands of a master.
This is for Jay and Connie Cronley
The city in these pages is imaginary.
The people, the places are all fictitious.
Only the police routine is based on established investigatory technique.
In this city, autumn is often wasted. There are not that many parks, there is never a riotous flame of leafy color sufficient to stun the senses. The skies are often sodden and gray with the afterbirth of tropical storms born in the Caribbean and swept far northward by raging winds. It is not until October that they turn constantly, achingly, intensely blue. It is then that the air comes briskly alive in a season of dying.
This September, as usual, there was rain.
The two men walking through the late night storm were autumn enough. The taller of the two had a warm cafe au lait complexion, and he was wearing under his raincoat a yellow silk blouse and red silk trousers. Yellow glowed in the V neck of the raincoat; red flashed below the hem and in the gap that opened with each long-legged stride he took. He was carrying a guitar case in his left hand. The case swung in counterpoint to his hurried steps. The shorter man had difficulty keeping up with him. His complexion was darker, a rich chocolate brown that glistened wetly in the teeming rain. He was wearing a green ski parka and trousers that almost matched the color of his skin. When he smiled, as he was doing now, a gold tooth gleamed at the front of his mouth.
"You were sensational," he said.
"Yeah," the taller man said without enthusiasm.
"You killed them, baby, I don't know what I got to say to convince you."
"Look at what the crowd was. A three hundred advance, another fifty at the door. That's a sizable crowd, George."
"That's skimpy. For a Friday night, that's real skimpy."
"No, no, that ain't skimpy. With capacity at four hundred? You almost filled the hall. Nossir, I don't consider that skimpy."
"None of them knew what I was doing, man."
"They caught it all, George. You were layin it down, baby, and they were pickin it up. Why you think they were yellin and screamin so? When you did the one-"
The shots came from a shadowed tenement doorway.
There was a flash of yellow paler than the tall man's shirt, and then a shocking explosion. The bullet entered the left side of his neck and blew out an exit wound on the opposite side, blood spattering in globules on the falling rain. He groped the rain for support, staggered, dropped the guitar case, and turned in time to see the second muzzle flash. The bullet shattered his left cheekbone, and veered wildly through the top of his skull, opening his head in a shower of gristle, bone, and blood.
The shorter man's reaction time was slow. He was turning toward the doorway when the muzzle flared yellow again. Lightning flashed above, there was the sound of the explosion and then a thunderclap that made it seem magnified and echoing. He winced in anticipation, and then realized the bullet had missed him. He began running. He heard another explosion behind him, and swerved like a quarterback dodging opposition, a futile reaction given the speed of the bullet. But the aim was wild again, he was still on his feet and running, and beginning to think he would get away clean. The fifth bullet caught him high on the left shoulder. It hit him hard, he felt only the pressure at first, as though someone had swung a sledgehammer at his back, and then he felt the searing pain as the bullet tore through flesh and bone, and suddenly he fell flat to the pavement. Up the street, he heard someone yelling. In the gutter on his right, he heard rushing water. And then he heard something that caused him to feel suddenly faint. Footsteps. Footsteps moving swiftly from the doorway to where he lay bleeding on the sidewalk.
He said, "Oh, Jesus, please," and lifted his head. He saw only the tips of black leather boots below the legs of narrow black trousers. He squinted through the teeming rain, raised his head a bit higher, and saw a black-sleeved arm leveled at his head, a hand clutching a black pistol. Lightning flashed again, he thought at first it was the flaring muzzle, heard the thunder, and mistook it for the explosion of the pistol. Instead, there was a click. It reverberated through the hoarse whisper of the rain. Up the street, there was more yelling, a chorus of voices approaching. There was another click, and yet another. He saw the tips of the black leather boots only an instant longer, and then they were gone. He heard the footsteps rushing away through the falling rain, and then more footsteps approaching from the opposite direction, voices above him and around him now. "Man, you see that?", "Call the police, man," "Somebody git an ambulance," "You okay, man?" and then he passed out.
The Police Administrative Aide at Communications Division was wearing a telephone headset with a single earphone, the mouthpiece close to her chin. She was sitting before a console that looked like a television screen with a typewriter keyboard under it. To her right was another console with thirty-two buttons; it was this console that would be activated by a 911 call from any of the city's five separate sections. At twenty minutes to midnight, the ISOLA button flashed, and she immediately said into the mouthpiece, "This is Operator Seventy-Four. Where's the emergency?"
From a phone booth on the comer near where the two men lay bleeding on the sidewalk, a man said in an excited voice, "There's two guys been shot here. They layin on the ground here."
"Where's that, sir?"
"Culver Avenue, near South Eleventh."
"Hold on, please."
Her hand flashed to the typewriter keyboard. Her index finger punched first the I key and then the Q key. On the screen above the typewriter, in glowing green letters on a darker green background, a two-hour sector summary flashed:
IQ/3 CULVER SOUTH ELEVENTH
**NO INCIDENTS FOUND**
The computer had just told her that the telephone caller was not reporting an emergency already reported within the past two hours. Into the mouthpiece, she said, "Sir, is there any shooting going on at the moment?"
"No, he run away. Man with the gun run away. They layin here on the sidewalk, the two of them."
"What is your name and the number you're calling from, sir?"
There was a click on the line. This was the city. It was one thing doing a good turn, it was another getting involved with the fuzz. The aide, unsurprised, hit four digits on her telephone console and began typing as her call went through to Centrex.
"Ambulance Receiving," a woman's voice said. "Two men with gunshot wounds, sidewalk on Culver and South Eleventh."
"Rolling," the woman said.
There was another click on the line. The aide continued typing. As she typed, her words appeared in bright electronic letters on the console screen:
IE/1A GUNSHOT ASSAULT PAST/TWO
VICTIMS SIDEWALK CULVER
SOUTH ELEVENTH/AMBULANCE CASE
She reached for the enter button on her keyboard and hit it at once. Instantaneously, in another part of Communications, a green light flashed on an almost identical console in the Emergency Dispatchers' room. The dispatcher sitting in front of the console immediately hit his Q button. The message the aide had just typed and entered appeared on his screen. He hit the transmit button on the console to his right. As he spoke into a microphone hanging over the unit, he was already beginning to type.
"Adam Two," he said, "are you available?"
"Ten-twenty-four, two men with gunshot wounds on the sidewalk on Culver and South Eleventh."
On the screen, the words "ES ADAM 2" appeared. Adam Two was the emergency service van covering that section of the city. The dispatcher knew that an ambulance was already on the way; the aide taking the call had indicated this was an ambulance case, and he knew she would have contacted Ambulance Receiving at once. It was his guess that the Adam Two van would get there before the ambulance did. If this had been a jumper on one of the city's bridges, or a man pinned under a truck, or a bomb scare, or any one of a dozen other emergencies requiring heavier equipment than that carried on the van, he would have radioed Truck Two as well, and asked them to respond if they were available. As it was, he knew Adam Two could handle it alone. He hit two digits on his telephone console now, opening communication with one of the Mobile Unit Dispatchers elsewhere on the floor.
"Emergency," he said. "Ten-twenty-four, two men with gunshot wounds on the sidewalk at Culver and South Eleventh."
"Got it, Frank."
The radio frequency used by the Mobile Unit Dispatcher and every radio motor patrol car in Isola was not the same one used by the Emergency Dispatcher. In the Adam Two van, the driver and his partner would be monitoring
frequencies, but the men in the separate r.m.p. cars would be tuned only to the Mobile Unit band. The dispatcher knew the whereabouts of every r.m.p. car in Isola; there were four other dispatchers on the floor, separately controlling the cars in River-head, Calm's Point, Bethtown, and Majesta. The Isola dispatcher knew that Culver and South Eleventh was in the 87th Precinct. He further knew that Boy car up there had responded to a 10-13-an Assist Police Officer-not three minutes earlier, leaving its normal sector to join Adam car at Culver and South Third. Charlie car had just responded to a 10-10-a Suspicious Person call-and had radioed back with a 10-90-Unfounded. Into the mike, the dispatcher said, "Eight-Seven Charlie, ten-twenty-four, two men with gunshot wounds on the sidewalk at Culver and South Eleventh."
The man riding shotgun in the Charlie car was undoubtedly new on the job. He said at once, and with obvious excitement, "Ten-thirty-four, did you say?"
the dispatcher said impatiently, distinguishing for the rookie a past crime from a crime in progress.
"Ten-four," the rookie said, acknowledging. He sounded disappointed.
Five minutes later, in response to a police call box report from Charlie car to the station house, Detectives Steve Carella and Meyer Meyer of the 87th Precinct arrived at the scene. Five minutes after that, Detectives Monoghan and Monroe of the Homicide Division were standing on the pavement looking down at the dead man in the yellow shirt and the red pants.
"Must be some kind of musician," Monoghan said.
"A guitar player," Monroe said.
"Yeah, that's a guitar case," Monoghan said.
"Did a nice job on his head there," Monroe said.