Authors: Scott Turow
Tags: #Psychological, #Legal, #Fiction
"Bad stuff," he said to Muriel after he got off the phone. "Good Gus just bought the farm. They found him and two customers dead of gunshot wounds in his freezer." He shook out his trousers and told her he had to go. The Commander wanted all hands on deck.
Tiny and dark, Muriel was sitting up straight on the stiff hotel linen, still without a stitch.
"Is there a prosecutor assigned yet?" she asked.
Larry hadn't a clue, but he knew how it went. If she showed up, they'd assume somebody sent her. That was another great thing about Muriel, Larry thought. She loved the street as much as he did.
He asked her again who the guy was.
"I mean I just want to move on," Muriel answered. "I think this other thing-I think it may go somewhere. I might even get married."
"Hell, Larry, it's not a disease. You're married."
"Eh," he answered. Five years ago he had married for the second time, because it made sense. Nancy Marini, a good-hearted nurse, was easy on the eyes, kind, and well disposed toward his boys. But as Nancy had pointed out several times recently, he'd never said goodbye to any of the stuff that had led his first marriage to ruin, the catting around or the fact that his principal adult relationship was with the dead bodies he scraped off the street. Marriage number two was just about past tense, but even with Muriel, Larry preferred to keep his problems to himself. "You've always said marriage was a disaster," he told her.
"My marriage to Rod was a disaster. But I was nineteen." At thirty- four, Muriel had the distinction of having been a widow for more than five years.
It was the Fourth of July weekend and the Hotel Gresham, in the early afternoon, was strangely silent. The manager here owed Larry for a few situations he'd handled-guests who wouldn't leave, a pro who was working the lounge. He made sure Larry got a room for a few hours whenever he asked. As Muriel drifted past him for the mirror, he grabbed her from behind and did a brief grind, his lips close to the short black curls by her ear.
"Is your new beau as much fun as I am?"
"Larry, this isn't the National Fuck-Offs where you just got eliminated. We've always had a good time."
Combat defined their relations. He enjoyed it maybe more than the sex. They had met in law school, seven years ago now, when both had started at night. Muriel became a star and transferred to the day division. Larry had decided to quit even before he won custody of his sons, because he didn't have the right reasons to be there. He was trying to bolster himself after his divorce, to stay out of the taverns, even to improve the opinions of his parents and brothers who saw police work as somewhat below him. In the end, Muriel and their occasional interludes were probably the best things to emerge from the experience. There were women in his life, too many, where you yearned but it was never really right. You both carried on afterwards about how terrific it had been, but there was a sad calculation to everything that had occurred. That had never been the case with Muriel. With her gapped teeth and pudgy nose, built narrowly enough to wash down a drain, Muriel wouldn't be on many magazine covers. Yet after marrying twice for looks, Larry sometimes felt like tightening a noose around his own throat when he was with her, just for knowing so little about himself.
While Muriel finished batting powder over her summer freckles, Larry flipped on the radio. The news stations all had the murders by now, but Greer, the Commander, had clamped down on the details.
Td really love to catch this case," she said. She was three and a half years on the job as a prosecutor and not even close to assignment to a capital prosecution, even as the second or third chair. But you never got very far telling Muriel to slow down. In the mirror over the dresser, her small dark eyes sought his. "I love history," she said. "You know. Big events. Things with consequence. When I was a little girl, my mother was always saying that to me: Be a part of history."
He nodded. The case would be big.
"Doin Gus," Larry said. "Somebody's gotta sizzle for that, don't you figure?"
The compact snapped closed and Muriel agreed with a sad smile.
"Everybody dug Gus," she said.
augustus leonidis had owned the restaurant called Paradise for more than thirty years. The North End neighborhood had gone to ruin around him shortly after he opened, when its final bulwark against decline, DuSable Field, the small in-city airport, had been abandoned by the major airlines in the early 1960s because its runways were too short to land jets. Yet Gus, full of brash immigrant opti--
mism, had refused to move. He was a patriot of a lost kind. What area was 'bad' if it was in America?
Despite the surroundings, Gus's business had prospered, due both to the eastbound exit from U
. 843 directly across from his front door and his legendary breakfasts, in which the signature item was a baked omelette that arrived at the table the size of a balloon. Paradise was a renowned Kindle County crossroads, where everyone was enthusiastically welcomed by the garrulous proprietor. He'd been called Good Gus for so long that nobody remembered exactly why-whether it was the freebies for unfortunates, his civic activities, or his effusive, upbeat style. Over the years, he was steadily named in the Tribunes annual poll as one of Kindle County's favorite citizens.
Out on the street, when Larry arrived, the cops from the patrol division had done their best to make themselves important, parking their black-and-whites across the avenue with the light bars atop the vehicles spinning. Various vagrants and solid citizens had been attracted. It was July and nobody was wearing much of anything, since the old apartment buildings nearby didn't have the wiring to support air-conditioning. The poor girls with their, poor-girl dos of straightened hair shellacked with fixer were across the way, minding their babies. At the curb, several TV news vans preparing for broadcast had raised their antennas, which looked like enlarged kitchen tools.
Muriel had driven separately, but she was lurking near the broad windows of the restaurant, waiting for Larry to edge her into the case. Strolling up, Larry pointed to her in vague recognition and said, "Hey." Even dressed casually, Muriel wore her Minnie Mouse high heels. She always wanted more height and, Larry suspected, also a chance to emphasize a pretty nice derriere. Muriel used what she had. Watching her blue shorts wagging in the wind, he experienced a brief thrill at the recollection of the flesh now concealed to everyone else.
He flipped his tin at the two uniforms near the door. Inside, on the left, three civilians were seated together on one bench of a booth-a black man in an apron, a wrung-out woman in a beige housedress, and a younger guy with rounded shoulders and an earring big enough to twinkle at Larry from thirty feet. The three seemed to be their own universe, isolated from the whirl of police activity around them. Employees or family, Larry figured, waiting either to be questioned or to ask questions of their own. He signaled Muriel and she sat down near them on one of the revolving soda fountain stools that grew up like a row of toadstools in front of the counter.
The crime scene was being processed by dozens of people-at least six techs, in their khaki shirts, were dusting for prints-but the atmosphere was notably subdued. When there was a crowd like this, there could sometimes be a lot of commotion, gallows humor, and plenty of buzz. But today, everyone had been hauled in off holiday leave in the middle of a four-day weekend, meaning they were grumpy or sleepy. Besides, the Commander was here. He was solemn by nature. And the crime was bad.
The Detective Commander, Harold Greer, had set up in Guss tiny office behind the kitchen, and the team of detectives he'd called in was assembling there. Gus, unexpectedly, was tidy. Above the desk was a Byzantine cross, a girlie calendar from a food wholesaler, and pictures of Guss family taken, Larry surmised, on a return trip to Greece. The photos, showing a wife, two daughters, and a son, had to be fifteen years old, but that was the time Gus, like most guys in Larry's experience, wanted to remember, when he was really pulling the sleigh, building a business, raising a family. The wife, smiling and looking pretty fetching in a rumpled bathing suit, was the same poor wretch sitting by the door.
Greer was on the phone, holding one finger in his ear as he explained the status of things to somebody from the Mayors Office, while the detectives around the room watched him. Larry went over to Dan Lipranzer for the lowdown. Lip, who had the slicked-back do of a i95os-style juvenile delinquent, was, as usual, by himself in a corner. Lipranzer always appeared cold, even in July, drawn in on himself like a molting bird. He'd been the first dick on the scene and had interviewed the night manager, Rafael.
Paradise closed only twice each year-for Orthodox Christmas and the Fourth of July, the birthdays of God and America, the two things Gus swore by. Every other day, there were lines out the door from 5 a
. until noon, with a slower trade in the remaining hours comprised of cops and cabbies and many air travelers coming or goin
rom DuSable Field, which had revived when Trans-National Air initiated regional service there a few years ago.
According to what the night manager had told Lipranzer, Gus had come in to pick up the cash and send his employees home right before midnight on Wednesday, July 3. Each worker received $100 from the register. As they were about to hang the Closed sign, Luisa Re- mardi, who worked for Trans-National as an airport ticket agent, had walked in. She was a regular, and Gus, who had a thing for every female customer, sent Rafael, the fry cook, and the busboy on their way, and took over the kitchen himself. Sometime in the next hour or two, Gus, Luisa, and a third person had been murdered. The last victim was a white in his late thirties, tentatively i
.'d as Paul Judson, based 011 both a run of the plates of one of the cars still absorbing the July sun in Guss lot and yesterday's missing-person report from his wife. Mrs. Judson said Paul had been scheduled to arrive July 4 on a 12:10 a
. flight at DuSable Field.
Rafael had returned to reopen at 4:30 a
. today. He hadn't thought much of the disorder he found, assuming that once Gus got rid of his patrons, he'd walked out quickly rather than turn away new customers. Near five this morning, Mrs. Leonidis, Athena, phoned in distress because Gus hadn't shown up yesterday at their cabin near Skageon. Searching around, Rafael noticed Gus's Cadillac still in the lot, and began to worry that the trail of blood near the register wasn't from thawing meat Gus had dragged upstairs to the kitchen. When the fry cook arrived, they called the cops and, after some debate, finally pulled the handle on the freezer in the basement on the chance someone was still alive. Nobody was.
It was close to 3:30 p
. when Greer put down the phone and announced to the twelve detectives he'd summoned that it was time to get started. Despite the heat, near ninety, Greer had worn a wool sport coat and tie, realizing he was destined for TV. He had a clipboard and began announcing assignments, so each cop would know his or her angle while examining the scene. Harold was going to run the case as a Task Force, receiving all reports himself. That would sound impressive to the reporters, but Larry knew' the result would be six detective teams bumping into each other, covering the same leads and missin
thers. A week from now, Greer, for all his good intentions, would have to start dealing with everything else piling up on his desk, and the dicks, like cats, would wander away.
Larry tried to make his face plaster when Greer announced he was teamed with Wilma Amos. Wilma was your basic affirmative-action item whose highest and best use was probably as a hat rack. Worse, it meant Larry wasn't getting anywhere near the lead on this case. Instead, Wilma and he were delegated to background the female vie, Luisa Remardi.
"Guided tour," said Harold and walked out through the kitchen. Harold Greer was an impressive guy to most people, a good-sized, well-spoken black man, calm and orderly. Larry didn't mind Harold- he was less of a politician than most of the ranking officers on the Force, and he was able, one in the small cadre of officers Larry thought of as being as smart as he was.
The techs had taped off a path and Harold instructed the dicks to go single file and keep their hands in their pockets. Somebody with a degree in criminology would say Harold was a lunatic for taking a dozen extra people through a crime scene. It risked contamination, and even if everybody wore toe shoes, a defense lawyer would make the viewing sound like Hannibal's trip over the Alps with elephants. But Harold knew no investigator would feel like he owned a case unless he'd surveyed the scene. Even bloodhounds had to have the real scent.
"Working theories," said Harold. He was standing behind the cash register, which rested on a plateglass case whose angled shelves held stale cigars and candy bars. On the exterior, bright purple fingerprint lifts now stood out like decorations. "Theory number one, which is pretty solid: This is an armed robbery gone bad. The cash register is empty, the bag for the bank deposit is gone, and each victim has no watch, wallet, or jewelry.
"Second theory: Today I'm saying a single perpetrator. That's soft," said Harold, "but I'm liking it more and more. The bullets we've recovered all look like .38 rounds, same bunter marks. One shooter, almost for sure. Could be accomplices, but it doesn't seem to play that way.