Read The Death Dealer Online

Authors: Heather Graham

The Death Dealer (5 page)

BOOK: The Death Dealer
8.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

He visited St. Mark’s Square, where he paused, thinking that politicians, stars, geniuses, men of letters, heroes, patriots and enemies of the state had once walked this way. He closed his eyes and imagined a long-ago city.

What a beautiful, beautiful day. It was just good to be out. To love New York. To love the world.

To bask in pleasure.

Someone walked by him with a boom box blaring, gold chains making a strange clanking sound against the plastic casing. The man’s arm sported a tattoo.

Ah, yes. The gangs of New York. Ever present. Then and now.

A little Yorkie passed him, yapping shrilly. He was tempted to kick the tiny beast into the traffic. Instead, he paused and said something complimentary to the dog’s pudgy owner, who blushed and chatted. He moved on quickly then, afraid she was going to try to give him her phone number.

He passed a police officer strolling his beat, and nodded a greeting. The officer nodded and smiled in return.

As he walked at a leisurely pace, he passed an electronics store. A giant plasma screen took up most of the display window. The news was on, so he paused to watch.

His heart was filled with glee. He longed to laugh aloud. Instead, he watched gravely as other people grouped around him on the sidewalk.

The entire city was still pondering the death of Thorne Bigelow.

Philanthropist.

Icon.

Brilliant man of letters.

Like hell!

Bastard. Braggart. Glutton. Idiot.

“What a horrible way to die,” someone said.

“It’s that book he wrote. He was killed because someone didn’t like his book on Poe,” a young woman said solemnly.

Her boyfriend slipped an arm around her shoulders. She was hugging something that looked like a mop. Maltese, Pekinese, some kind of “ese.” What was it with people and their obnoxious little dogs ruining his Saturday morning?

“It could have been anything,” the boyfriend said. “I mean, the man
was
a billionaire.”

The man was a bag of hot air. Gas. He was one big fart.

“Tragic,” he said aloud.

The boyfriend was shaking his head. “Did you know that one of the guys who got hurt in that pileup on the FDR was some friend of Bigelow’s?”

The girl shivered. “And that psychic said somebody else is going to die.”

“Think psychics really know the future?” he asked, turning to the couple.

“Oh, yes,” the girl said, and turned to look at him. Maybe a little too closely. “There are real psychics out there. People who see things. Who knows if that woman, that Lori Star, is really one of them, though. I mean, I never heard of her. She hasn’t written a book or anything. Anyway, it’s all so tragic, don’t you think?”

“Tragic,” he repeated, shaking his head.

And he moved on somberly, his head lowered.

His grin wide.

Yes, it was a beautiful day.

His grin suddenly faded.

It was bull. There weren’t really people out there who could see the future, who had second sight, who could share experiences as if they were in another person’s body and just…
know
things.

Were there?

He kept walking, pensive.

Maybe it wasn’t such a beautiful day after all.

CHAPTER 4

“Thanks, guys, for taking the time to meet me,” Joe said.

They were at Gino’s Salads and Sandwiches, near One Police Plaza.

Times had changed. Once upon a time, Raif Green would have been wolfing down a hamburger anywhere that served up hot, greasy food. Tom Dooley would have chosen corned beef on rye.

But, as he had discovered when he called Raif, Tom Dooley had suffered a heart attack two years ago. No doughnuts for these cops anymore.

Raif had opted for the Greek salad, while Tom was nibbling his turkey, low-fat Swiss, lettuce and tomato on wheat, as if by taking small bites he could make the sandwich last longer.

Thomas Dooley was a big man. He’d lost weight since Joe had seen him last, but he was still six-four and just shy of three-hundred pounds. Raif wasn’t really all that small or thin—five-ten and one-eighty, maybe—but next to Tom Dooley, he looked like a midget.

Both men were in their early forties.

Both still had their hair.

They were like Laurel and Hardy in size and appearance, but there was nothing comedic about the work they did.

“Hey,” Raif said. “It’s Saturday, we should be off, but here we are—working. You know, this may be a democracy but Joe Schmo in the streets gets knocked off and it’s nine to five. Bigelow…well, he was a big cheese. No one is off until we solve this one.” He cast Joe a crooked grin. “At least we can eat light and fit, with you picking up the tab. There’s the problem with heart-healthy. It’s expensive.”

“I’d kill for a fry,” Tom said. His round face was deceptive. He looked so amiable, but in an interrogation room, he was about as amiable as King Kong on steroids.

“So, one day, order some fries,” Raif said.

Tom shook his head. “My wife would kill me.”

“Is your wife here, Tom?” Raif demanded.

“I swear, that woman should be the detective. She’s got surveillance everywhere,” Raif said, shaking his head. “Hell. She’s got eyes in the flipping lettuce, I swear.”

“We’re getting old. Talking about food,” Raif said to Joe.

“The way of the world,” Joe assured him. “Your wife just wants you alive, Tom.”

“Yeah,” he said sheepishly. “Man, this is rabbit food, though.”

Joe nodded sympathetically, and asked, “What’s your take on the Poe angle? Motive or smoke screen?”

“So far?” Raif wiped his mouth with his paper napkin. “So far, we don’t have a hell of a lot to go on. What you saw in the papers is pretty much what we have. I wanted to conceal the note, but there was a leak—not a big surprise, there were uniforms all over the place before we got there. The crime-scene guys had a nightmare, trying to figure it all out. First the son gets there and gets hysterical, then the sister-in-law…and the butler, to boot. Everyone decides they’re going to save him. People calling 9-1-1, med techs all over. It looked like he’d had a heart attack or something.”

“What’s the deal on the butler?” Joe asked.

Raif shook his head. “You think it might be as easy as
the butler did it?
I don’t think so. He’s a skinny old English guy, and he was totally shaken. His name is Albee Bennet. He was in tears when we interviewed him, and he didn’t know a thing. He has his own little apartment in the building, and he was there napping when it happened. Never saw or heard anything.”

“You believe him?” Joe asked.

“Yes,” Raif said.

“I believed him, too. You know, it’s that sixth sense you get about people after doing this job for so many years,” Tom said.

“So, he was there. And the son?”

“First one on the scene. He’d been out. But he lived there—came and went all the time,” Tom told him.

“What’s your take on him?” Joe asked.

Raif shrugged. “His tears seemed real, too. Young guy, early thirties. We asked around, and it seems he and his dad didn’t have any major problems.”

“The sister-in-law?” Joe asked.

“Mary Vincenzo. His late-brother’s wife,” Tom said.

“You’ll interview her, I’m sure,” Raif said dryly. “But I don’t see it. She’s real thin, one of those nervous types. Wealthy in her own right. The brother left her part of the family fortune already.”

“You should have seen them wiping their lips when they heard it was poison,” Tom commented, shaking his head.

The concept of poison didn’t in the least deter him from his enjoyment of his sandwich.

“Sorry, I just want to hear it beginning-to-end. The med techs were there? How soon did they discover that it was a crime scene, if everyone thought it was a heart attack?” Joe asked.

“Pretty darned quick, thanks to one of the bright boys with fire rescue,” Raif informed him. “He stopped them from moving the body when he noticed it was cold. But, actually, they were right to think it. I mean, say your grandmother or someone in your house dies in the middle of the night, and you call 9-1-1. They’re taught to try mouth-to-mouth. Even if you’re sure they’re dead. Anyway, the body is cold, and this kid is bright. And because it’s an unexplained death, he tells the head guy on his team that they need the cops. The cops come, and then the medical examiner’s office gets out there. Doc Arbitter is on, and he figures out it could be poison in the wine. So at least there’s photo documentation of just about everything. Everything
after
the family and EMTs have moved everything to hell and gone.”

“So was the note found?”

“Right on his desk. Just one piece of paper among a bunch of others—no one even noticed it at first. Looked like—and forensics proved—it had come right out of his own printer. Computer was dusted, of course, and there weren’t any prints, so it had been wiped down,” Tom told him.

“What was the timing? And why did the sister-in-law show up?” Joe asked.

“The son showed up first to tell his dad it was time to go. And he’d already been to get his aunt. They were all going to some dinner party. The butler didn’t come out until after the son and sister-in-law arrived,” Tom explained.

Raif continued the report. “When the son walked in, it looked like the old man had been drinking his special vintage wine, and then just keeled over.”

“There was just one wineglass?” Joe asked.

“Just one,” Raif said.

Tom waved what was left of his turkey-and-Swiss in the air. “In a nutshell, we think Bigelow was alone. He was due at that dinner party at eight, and he’d been dead about an hour when he was found. He had a visitor earlier, though. He last spoke to the butler around five and told him someone was coming before closing himself into his office. But whoever it was must have come and gone, because Bigelow was drinking alone.”

Joe shrugged. “Either that, or the killer took his wineglass with him. Anyone check to see if a glass was missing?”

Tom flushed and looked at Raif.

“I don’t know,” Raif admitted, reddening.

“No one saw anyone come or go?” Joe asked.

“No one. The chauffeur was waiting for them out in the garage, sleeping behind the wheel, by his own admission,” Tom said. “And, yes, we canvassed the neighborhood. No one saw anything.”

“What about the—the other Ravens?” Joe asked.

“We’ve spoken with them. They all claim to have alibis, but we have a lot of legwork to do, checking them all out.”

“Anything you can tell me about the family?” Joe asked.

Raif looked at Tom.

“Come on, you know I’m licensed, and I’ve been hired by an interested party,” Joe said.

“Yeah, okay. We’ve got some files on the rest of the board. I’ll fax ’em to you,” Raif said. “I’d just as soon you not mention it around, though. Some guys on the force aren’t all that fond of outside interest, you know?”

“I do know. And thanks,” Joe told him. He hesitated, then asked. “What do you think about that woman on TV, the one who claimed to be psychic?”

Raif and Tom exchanged glances again.

Joe groaned softly. “Oh, Lord. You two believed her?”

Tom laughed softly.

Raif’s lips twitched.

“What?” Joe demanded.

“Jerry Grant in vice has picked her up at least three times,” he said.

“For fraud?” Joe suggested.

“Hell, no,” Raif said. “Vice doesn’t handle fraud.”

“He picked her up for prostitution,” Tom said. “I noticed that last night she was going by Lori Star. When the cops picked her up, she was going by Candy Cane.”

“She did say she was an actress,” Joe said dryly.

“Yeah. She’s put on a few innocent acts at the station, all right,” Raif said. “Still, we’re going to talk to her.”

“When?”

“Now, as soon as Tom Turkey here finishes his sandwich,” Raif said.

“Mind if I tag along?” Joe asked.

“What the hell, we’re on your dime today,” Tom said.

Raif was staring at him. “You don’t think it would bother you?” he asked. “Your cousin’s fiancée…that Leslie MacIntyre. She was supposed to be the real deal.”

“I should definitely go. I’ll know the real thing when I see it.”

 

Sam Latham was an all-around good guy. Thirty-six years old, married and the father of two young children. He worked in the editorial department of one of the major publishers, and he simply loved books, especially mysteries, and joined scholars everywhere in considering Edgar Allan Poe to be the father of the detective novel. Genevieve had met him through her mother, and though she couldn’t say she knew him well, she had always liked him, his wife and their kids, Vickie, eleven, and Geoffrey, fourteen.

When she arrived at the hospital, she expected something more than what she found: a quiet hallway; Dorothy, Sam’s wife, in the room with him; and a woman who introduced herself as his mother, Stella, returning with coffee from the hospital cafeteria.

No cops in the hallways, no one on guard.

Because apparently no one believed that Sam had been the intended victim of a killer. Despite the so-called psychic.

“Genevieve!” Sam said with pleasure, seeing her at the door. He had a cut below one eye, and the bruising that accompanied it, but other than that he appeared to be fine, though the sheets could have been covering other injuries.

“Sam, Dorothy…Mrs. Latham,” she said after introductions were made.

His mother was probably around sixty-five. She had stunning silver hair styled to set off her tiny features. She immediately looked apologetic. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know Sam was expecting visitors. I could have gotten you a coffee.”

“It’s all right, but thank you so much for the thought,” Genevieve said. She’d stopped downstairs for a flower arrangement, which Dorothy came forward to accept.

“How are you?” Genevieve asked Sam, as Dorothy added the flowers to the others filling the room.

“Fine,” Sam said.

“He’s such a liar,” Dorothy said, distressed. “He goes into surgery tomorrow. For his leg.”

“Oh, Sam, I’m so sorry,” Genevieve said.

His mother cleared her throat. “Are you going to be here for a while, dear? I thought Dorothy and I might go grab something to eat.”

“They won’t leave me alone,” Sam said with a groan.

Genevieve glanced quickly at Dorothy, who tried to appear impassive. Apparently Dorothy was more worried than the police were. Maybe she’d seen the psychic on TV.

“I’ll be happy to stay and chat with Sam until you return,” Genevieve said.

His mother flashed her a grateful smile; Dorothy gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Sam,” Dorothy asked, “will you be okay?”

“Honey, go eat. Genevieve will guard me. She has a black belt now.”

Gen didn’t have a black belt. But she didn’t contradict him.

The other two women left, and Genevieve took the chair by the bed. She looked at the IV drip, and the various tubes to which he was attached.

“Well, other than the hardware, you do look good,” she told him.

He showed her a little clicker which had been hidden in his hand. “Morphine,” he said, with a dry grin.

“Wow, Sam, I’m so sorry. It must have been a horrible accident.”

“Yeah. A horrible accident,” he repeated.

“But it
was
an accident,” she said. “Right?”

He looked at her, as if suddenly realizing she had come for more than a simple visit. “I guess,” he told her. “Genevieve, I didn’t see anything. I was driving along, thinking about a new manuscript we’d just paid a small fortune for, and then…”

She could have chatted a while, talked more about his kids, pretended. But Sam wasn’t about to pretend, so she wouldn’t, either.

“Then…bang.”

“Yep. Then…that sound. That awful impact,” he said, shaking his head.

She inhaled deeply. “Well…you look good,” she said, trying to sound cheerful.

He shook his head. “Genevieve, you’re full of bull. I look like shit. And you’re a nice person, and I’m sure you’d visit me no matter what, but you’re worried because of Thorne Bigelow. You think someone wants to kill all the Ravens. Including your mother.”

She didn’t attempt to deny it. “What do you think?” she asked him.

“I don’t know what to think,” he said. “A couple of people reported a car driving erratically. The cops wanted to know if I had seen it, too.”

“And did you?”

“I didn’t. I was driving, then…wham. I was out. The air bag saved my life—that’s why the bruises. But I was knocked out. The next thing I knew, I was on a stretcher with a microphone in my face while I was being stuffed in an ambulance. And they were shooting stuff into me, and I was grateful, because I managed to break a leg, despite the air bag.”

She nodded, reached for his free hand and squeezed it. “I’m so sorry, Sam.”

“I’m having a tough time seeing how anyone could have planned to murder me on the highway like that. He couldn’t have any idea who he might kill, and he obviously didn’t succeed in killing
me,
if that was even his plan.”

“That’s true.” She hesitated. “But what if…?”

“What if…what?” Sam pursued.

“What if he didn’t care if he killed a dozen other people at the same time?” she asked.

 

Lori Star. Candy Cane.

She lived in a rent-controlled building in Soho. When she opened the door to their knock, she kept the chain on as she looked out. Her eyes were wide, hopeful.

“Are you with another news station?” she asked.

BOOK: The Death Dealer
8.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Left-Handed Woman by Peter Handke
Wicked by Jill Barnett
The Cross of Iron by Willi Heinrich
The Levant Trilogy by Olivia Manning
On My Knees by Stone, Ciana
Westlake Soul by Rio Youers
Dark River by John Twelve Hawks