In His Blood
Harold R Daniels
Milton Raskob, Thursday, April 15
HE HAD LOOKED down at the knife not once but several times in the hour that remained of his working day at Hammersmith Chemical Company. Strange that he should be so aware of it, he thought. He had used the mill knife a hundred, or more likely, a thousand times in his job as color separatist, stripping the doughy mass of plastic from the steel rolls, returning the knife to its usual place behind the frame of the lab mill, then repeating the same operation again and again and again.
The knife was as familiar to his hand and as innocuous as a pencil, in spite of its razor edge. And yet earlier in the day he had closed his hand on the sharp edge and noticed with surprise that the steel had sliced painfully, if not seriously, into his palm. There had been a flow of blood, which he rinsed off at the sink, and afterward when he again picked up the knife to strip the mill, it felt different to him, almost like a personal possession, and he found himself gripping the wooden handle with a new and strangely pleasant familiarity.
A remarkably ordinary looking man in his early thirties, with somewhat coarse black hair and rounded shoulders, Milton Raskob recalled nothing very different about this day on the job than any other. Nearly forgotten was his intense anger earlier in the day when Alpen had humiliated him in front of the men, telling him he’d never be anything but an ignorant fool. Alpen was an old story with Raskob. There was the job of color-department head that Raskob should have had, and that Alpen took away from him. There were all the snide tales told to Cutler, the plant superintendent, to demean Raskob. But never before this public humiliation and display of contempt.
Afterward, Raskob had thought about what he should have said to Alpen, how he should have told him off about that college education, and reminded him that Milton Raskob knew more about colors than they could ever teach in books. But, as always, he had said nothing and done nothing—except accidentally slice his hand with the mill knife.
Now that it was quitting time, he put on his topcoat and opened the door of the lab to look up and down the corridor. Alpen was not in sight. Without thinking, he went back into the lab and slipped the mill knife into his pocket. There was little consciousness of the anger so strongly felt only hours before. Instead, a growing excitement, a sense of elation, and with it a knowledge of power.
The usual crowd was waiting at the bus stop outside the plant gate. He needed to be alone, at least to go somewhere different than his one room that waited for him every night. He stepped aboard the first bus to pull into the stop. It was a number 12, and he casually plotted the tactic that would get him to Argonne Street from Third Street, down which this bus traveled. Easy enough. Get off at Gano and take a cross-town bus.
At Gano he got off. The cross-town bus was not in sight and he leaned against a striped utility pole to wait. Across the street was a theater marquee and he noted idly that they were showing a rerun. A small girl paused in the lobby to look at the enticing pictures on display. Always the colorist, he amused himself by identifying the pigments in her clothing. The green sweater. Easy. A cheap oxide green. The plaid skirt was tougher. Blue background, probably synthetic indigo. The yellow overlay would be zinc chromate. As he watched her she slipped suddenly from sight into the theater. Raskob almost chuckled. Sneaking in, by God!
His right hand was in his coat pocket, and he was suddenly aware that he was grasping the handle of the knife although he could not remember reaching into his pocket. It was almost as if the knife had crept there like some small animal seeking a hiding place.
He found himself crossing the street, and loudly rapping the ticket seller’s window with a half dollar to get her attention.
Louise Hadley, April 15
THERE WAS NOTHING unusual in a small girl going to a movie by herself, especially a girl like Louise Hadley. The way it was in her neighborhood, you had friends and you played together except when you had a fight with one of the girls. Then all the other girls in the crowd would side with one girl or the other and the one that was sided against would be mad with all the others. After a day or two days there would be another quarrel and another girl would stalk home in solitary dignity or rush home in tears, and the former outcast would assume her place. Except that it was harder for Louise Hadley because her mother went to work at Spignoli’s Cafe at three o’clock and the third grade was dismissed at four. Her father didn’t get home until six so that for two hours there wasn’t anything much to do. Of course, now that it was spring she could go outside after she hung up her good clothes and put on her old plaid skirt and green sweater, but none of the other girls would speak to her because of the fight she had had yesterday with that old Marie LaClair. Today was Thursday, Uncle Al’s day off from the diner, and he might be over to visit. Sometimes he was fun but the last two times he had acted funny and Ma had been mad at him when she came home after the rush was over at Spignoli’s.
Home was the third floor of the old brick tenement on Elm Street and Louise skipped lightly up the stairs and down the dingy hall to the door that opened into the kitchen. Right away she knew that Uncle Al was in because the door was unlocked, the key gone from the nail in the side of the doorframe.
He was in the kitchen opening a bottle of beer and she knew that this wouldn’t be one of the times when he was fun. He would drink beer until Daddy came home and Daddy would sit at the kitchen table with him and he would drink beer too, and Daddy would forget to put the water on for the potatoes and Ma would be mad and they would fight.
Uncle Al looked up and smiled. “Hello, kid,” he said and he came over and put his arm around her. “Got a friend I want you to meet.”
Louise followed him into the living room, hanging back shyly. There was a woman sitting on the couch.
“This is Vicki,” Al said formally. “Vicki, meet my niece Louise. She’s quite a kid.”
The woman smiled at her with red red lips. “Hello, Louise,” she said.
Her lips were too red and the round spots of rouge on her-cheeks were ugly, Louise decided, but she curtsied in the way the sisters taught at St. Ignacio’s. “I’m pleased to meet you,” she said. “Excuse me, please. I have to change my school dress.”
“She’s just too cute,” she heard Vicki tell Al as she left the room. She laughed and even her laugh was too loud, but Uncle Al didn’t seem to notice.
She had her own room, which was more than that Marie LaClair had. In it she took off her dress and shoes and the long cotton stockings with the garters made of pieces of inner tube which she wore at school, hanging them neatly on the back of a chair. She put on her plaid skirt and green sweater, an old pair of shoes and ankle sox, and went back to the living room. “I’m going out now,” she said gravely.
Uncle Al was sitting next to Vicki on the couch. He was wearing an old sweat shirt and wrinkled pants and goofy looking sandals, and Louise thought it was too bad because he looked so neat when he got dressed up.
“Sure, kid,” he said. Vicki didn’t say anything.
She went outside and she guessed that all the kids were over at the park because there wasn’t anyone in sight but old Normy Bellman sitting on the stoop of his house. She turned the other way because Normy always wanted to play dirty games, wanting you to do bad things, and Ma said the cops would be after him some day and not to go near him.
For a while it was fun to see how many steps she could take without stepping on a crack in the sidewalk; it was hard not to cheat and pull your foot back just a little when you were going to spoil it and have to start all over again. She played this game until she was opposite the candy store on Third Street. Here there were pans of fudge in the window and she wished she had a dime. Usually Uncle Al gave her a quarter when he came to the house but she guessed that he’d been too busy with Vicki to think of it.
She crossed the street to the Rivoli. They were showing Snow White, and she spent a little while looking at the pictures in the lobby. From inside she could hear music and people laughing and then voices singing, “Hi Ho—Hi Ho.” That was the best part of the picture—where Snow White went to keep house for the seven dwarfs and all the animals came out of the woods to help her. She ached to see it again. It was then that she realized that Jacky, the ticket taker, wasn’t in sight, and before she could tell herself that it was a sin she had stepped inside and slipped into a seat in the third row from the back. Someone came in right after her and she was scared that it might be Jacky but it wasn’t because he—it was a man—took the seat beside her and started watching the picture.
Even though she had seen it twice before she was fascinated. She forgot that she had sneaked in. And there was a Donald Duck right after so that when she remembered that she wanted to be home before Daddy and rushed frantically outside, it was already dark. She began to run. She ran two blocks before a man caught up with her and grabbed her shoulder.
“All right, little girl,” he said gruffly, “I saw you sneak in to see the picture. I guess you’ll have to come along with me.”
She could find no words. Sobbing in fright, she tried to twist away but the grip was tight.
“Don’t make it any worse,” he said. “You can’t run away from a policeman. What’s your name and where do you live?”
“Louise,” she managed to say. “Louise Hadley. I live on Elm Street. Please, policeman, I’ll pay for my ticket. Oh, please! My mother will give me the money.”
“All right then. Stop crying. I’ll take you home and get the money.”
Numb with fear she hurried along beside him, skipping to keep up.
“I won’t ever do it again,” she said once, tentatively. He didn’t answer but hurried her along still faster. And she knew when he made a wrong turn at Waltham Street.
“We should go that way, policeman,” she said timidly.
He wasn’t kind and blustery like Officer Swenson—not at all like him. He squeezed her arm until it almost made her cry. “This is a short cut,” he said, “and don’t argue or I’ll take you right in to the jail.”
The real terror began when they turned off the street into the lots in back of the lace mill, but she was afraid now to protest again. They hurried through the dark until they came to the excavation where Marie LaClair had fallen yesterday and blamed her for pushing her. And the man stopped.
All of a sudden she knew and she accused him defiantly. “You’re not a policeman!” and started to run. One of his hands shot out to grab her wrist and she felt the other close over her face, shutting off nose and mouth so that she could not breathe.
She struggled frantically and she knew that he was scared too, now, because she heard him ask, “If I let you go will you tell?”
She made no answer but struggled more violently in a desperate effort to get air, kicking and squirming to escape the hand that was clapped over her face. The man took his hand away from her shoulder but there was still no escape because the hand across her face drew her back tightly, cruelly against his chest. She heard him cry out, “All right, then!” For the rest of it there was an awareness rather than recognition of what he held in his free hand. There was scalding pain in her chest and then—nothing.
Ed Tanager, Thursday, April 15, Friday, April 16
THERE WAS AN OLD-fashioned octagonal clock hanging opposite Ed Tanager’s desk. The dial was flyspecked and the movement sounded like a man grinding his teeth, but it kept excellent time. The hands pointed to ten o’clock, lacking perhaps two minutes, and Catherine wouldn’t reason it out that Judge Carver was a bachelor and lived at a private club. For that reason he invariably let his Superior Court sessions run late, particularly on first degree homicides. Still a man had to get his paper work done after court.
He stood up, a rangy man in his mid thirties with short cut black hair and quiet gray eyes over a wide mouth, wishing now that he had called Catherine to tell her he’d be late even though he’d warned her at lunch that it would probably work out like that. And he should have called, anyway, to ask about Agnes. She’d have liked that, he reflected. The duty nurse at St. Raphael’s had it in red crayon on her calendar pad. Call Lt. Tanager at once regarding any change in his daughter’s condition, but to Catherine, somehow, that was business, police business, and a man really concerned about a desperately ill daughter would be calling his wife every hour and spending more time at the hospital just waiting.
Tanager rubbed his jaw, a characteristic gesture, and wondered how it was that a woman couldn’t understand that it was better to be working when you were crazy worried over how a small girl was making it. He worked his shoulders into his topcoat, turned the light switch, and closed behind him the door marked Homicide Division. Lt. Edward Tanager. It wasn’t a real division or he’d have a night man. Because he didn’t he stopped at the duty sergeant’s desk in the shabby precinct office.
“I’m going home, Tom,” he said. “I let the wife have the car today. Can you get Greenberg to run me out in the stand-by car?”
Sergeant Birch rubbed his balding head and frowned. “Don’t know, Lieutenant,” he said. “You know what Hizzoner said about misusing City property. On the other hand, Greenberg will fall asleep if he doesn’t get a run every hour or so. So I’ll call him.”
The sergeant’s expression changed. “Joking aside, Ed, how is the little girl?”
Tanager said, “The same, Tom. They took a spinal tap today. They’re afraid of polio. All we can do is wait. Sometimes it takes a week for a diagnosis. Nice of you to ask.”
Sergeant Birch reddened. “You know how it is, Ed. Any of us in the department. Blood—dough—anything at all we can do—” His voice trailed off. “I’ll buzz for Greenberg.”
“You know how it is, Ed.” He knew. Indeed he knew. Old cops, new cops. Big cops, little cops. Good ones, bad ones; all of them rooting his little girl over the hump. That was one reason why a man could find a little relief in working when there were such men about him. That was also something that Catherine-any woman, probably —couldn’t understand—that there was that bond.
The telephone on the desk pealed shrilly and Sergeant Birch picked it up, reaching reflexively for a pencil. Tanager, not conscious of doing so, listened, not idly. When the phone rang in a precinct it could mean a thousand things. A hit-and-run victim gasping his life out in fear and terror in a gutter. A cat on a telephone pole. A prowler in a back yard. A short-changed wife wanting to know why the cops didn’t do something about the bookie who kept beating her to her husband’s pay check. Or, once in a while, one for the Homicide Division.
This one wasn’t.
“Yes, ma’am,” Birch said soothingly. “You try and be calm now. Hadley, the name is. Eight oh six Elm, third floor. Nine years old, Louise her name is. Do you know what she was wearing?”
Birch scratched frantically at a sheet of paper. Later he would enter the call with meticulous care in the blotter. Tanager listened, more alertly now. Here was another little girl, the same age as Agnes, and another frantic mother, her fear and panic faithfully echoed in the black receiver at the sergeant’s ear.
“Yes, ma’am,” Birch repeated. “We’ll have an officer check the movie theaters.” He added kindly, “Lots of little girls get lost every day, lady. You try to rest now and not worry too much and we’ll get in touch with you.”
He hung up the receiver and flicked the Talk button on the communications set behind him. “Harry,” he said, “put this out to all cars. Be on the lookout for a female child, age nine, last seen in the 800 block on Elm Street. She is wearing a plaid skirt and a green sweater. Name is Louise Hadley. Make any positive reports to the desk without delay.”
He turned to Tanager again. “I get a lump in my throat on this kind and it happens a dozen times a week.”
A patrolman appeared in the doorway that led to the reserve room.
Birch said, “Greenberg, run the lieutenant out to Chestnut Street. Then get on over toward Elm Street and start checking the movie theaters and drugstores for a little girl named Louise Hadley. Turn on your radio—Harry will be giving out the description on a Code Seventeen.”
The speaker beside him grated noisily as a beat cop checked in. Birch began repeating Louise Hadley’s description, looking up to flick a mock salute to Tanager as the lieutenant followed Greenberg out the front entrance and down the worn granite steps.
The squad car smelled of leather and tobacco. Tanager sat back wearily and filled his pipe. Greenberg, alert to his superior’s mood, flicked on the radio and said nothing while he skillfully tooled the sedan northward across the city to Chestnut Street, stopping in front of the two-storied, green-shuttered white frame house on which Tanager still owed more money than he liked to think about.
He grunted a good night to Greenberg and walked swiftly across the lawn, beginning to burgeon now with the green of mid-April.
She was in the kitchen with her hair pinned up, wearing an old flannel bathrobe, looking, Ed thought, ten years younger than the thirty-two claimed on her driver’s license in spite of the drawn and worried look that had become almost her permanent expression these last few days. There were, he knew, tiny wrinkles at the corners of her eyes and the struggle to keep her slender figure was becoming daily more uneven, and yet she became daily more beautiful in his eyes because she was a well-beloved woman. He wished in times like these that he could tell her so, but because he was in some ways, an inarticulate man he said instead, “I’m sorry I’m late. Suppose you could fix me something to eat?” He wasn’t hungry but it would give her something to do and something to do had become almost a fetish with him.
“There’s some of the pot roast left,” she said. “I could heat it with gravy. Do you want coffee?”
He pulled a chair out and sat down saying, “Fine,” thinking that she would sit down and have a cup, too, and it would be warm and companionable the way it had been before they took Agnes to St. Raphael’s.
She moved quietly and efficiently between the pantry and the stove and he watched her, not saying anything, hating this wall that had come between them.
Finally she said, “Mother came to the hospital with me. She’s making a Novena for Agnes.”
He read accusation in the manner in which she said it and he said, a little desperately, “I’m sorry I couldn’t be with you, Catherine, but I had to testify in the Bauer case. You knew that. I told you this morning. That’s why I left you the car. The hospital will reach me immediately if Agnes—” He hesitated, dreading to suggest why they might need to reach him. “If there’s anything to tell,” he finished lamely.
She put his plate before him and filled his coffee cup, filling a cup for herself as well, but she remained remote. She drank her coffee and rose.
“I’m going to bed. Leave your dishes on the sink. Good night, Ed.”
She was asleep or pretending to be asleep when he went upstairs, and Tanager undressed without turning on the light, not wanting to disturb her. He smiled ruefully in the darkness. Catherine, for all her wisdom and gentle understanding, couldn’t see why he buried himself—had to bury himself—in his work these days. To her the matter was black and white; he should spend all of his time with Agnes now—in case. Tanager set his jaw so that it ached. He had found no way to tell her that he could not stand the ordeal of watching the plump, rosy cheeks sinking; the laughing eyes hurt and bewildered. That he couldn’t stand the ordeal of watching their child die.
It was three a.m. by the luminous dial of his wrist watch —he glanced at it in trained reflex—when the telephone extension in the hall whirred. He padded out in his bare feet to answer it.
Sergeant Birch was at the other end of the wire. Usually, when it came at this time of night it was Birch.
“Lieutenant,” he said flatly, “you were standing by the desk when the report came in on a little girl missing? Well, we’ve found her. She’s yours now.” Tanager’s eyes narrowed. “Give it to me.”
“It’s a homicide; no question.” His voice was thick, bitter. “She didn’t cut herself into little pieces.”
“Gano Street, off Elm, where they’re building that slum clearance project.”
“Good enough. Send Greenberg for me and get Sergeant Hyde and Lieutenant Norris on out there.”
He hung up and strode quickly back into the bedroom. She was awake, he knew. She always woke up when the night calls came, but this time she gave no sign. He dressed quickly and took his Police Special from the dresser drawer. Then he called softly, “I’ll call back. Patrolman Greenberg is picking me up so you’ll have the car if you need it.”
She gave no sign that she heard him and he bit his lip and turned away.
He waited for Greenberg out on the front lawn, pacing up and down in the soft spring-smelling night. Once he stumbled over the garden hose and he reminded himself that he had been going to make a reel for it; one of those kind that threads right onto the water tap. There hadn’t been much heart in him these last days for such chores. He was relieved when he saw the lights of the police cruiser making a nimbus in the damp air as Greenberg swung into Chestnut Street a block from the house.
Milton Raskob, Thursday, April 15, Friday, April 16
IF RASKOB’S DINGY room was the rearmost on the third floor of a dingier tenement. There was one window. The upper sash was broken up into small panes; one of these had broken and been replaced by an opaque square of linoleum. Raskob sat on the floor beside the window, hugging his chest and rocking back and forth in an agony of fright, and yet even as he moaned he was aware of a secret, vestigial sense of elation. He had showed them, in his own way, that Milton Raskob was to be reckoned with.
Frightening the girl had been a whim, a spur of the moment impulse to bully on the part of Raskob who had been, through his years, more often bullied than bully. What had happened afterward—he did not want to remember what had happened afterward; he did not want to think about it. And yet—why not? What was there to be afraid of? No one would recognize him; could recognize him. The first full tide of panic began to ebb and the strange sense of elation grew to warm him. He had meant to run away. He had come back to the rooming house to get his small store of money from its hiding place. Now he told himself that it would be dangerous and foolish to run away and thus draw attention to himself. He stood up and walked across the room to stand in front of the littered bureau. The wavy glass of the cheap mirror reflected the portrait of a most ordinary man. Coarse black hair over an unprepossessing face. A sallow complexion and poor teeth. Surprisingly bright black eyes that made a good living for Raskob. Those eyes could discern the infinite gradations between the shades of a color. Except blue. He was weak on blues.
When Raskob had first rented the room three years ago he had found a fine pair of German binoculars hidden in the closet. They had been hung on a hook far in the rear of the closet and covered casually with a dirty denim jacket. For that reason they had escaped the predatory eye of the landlady. The former tenant was in no position to reclaim them since he owed the landlady more than their pawn value in back rent and the State some ten years in time.
An hour ago Raskob, in his great fear, had babbled to some vague deity that if he were not to be punished, was not to be dragged screaming to the gallows for what he had done to the little girl, he would change. He would become a model Raskob, saintly in deportment. He had a score of vices, most of them mean and petty. The field glasses and what he did with them came first to mind of all his transgressions during those minutes when he had fled through the streets, and he had promised his unidentified deity that he would throw away the glasses in token of his reformation. That was an hour ago. Now, slowly, warmly, he felt his courage returning to him. What was there to fear? He was cleverer than they were. Who could have seen him? Who could point and say, “Raskob did it”?
He could remember having been almost hysterical with horror at—something. Something best forgotten. Easier now to let the warmness grow. The warmness and a faint glow of pride, some inner fulfillment.
He brought out the glasses from their hiding place and trained them out the window. He did this in an almost defiant manner.
It was just eight and the Puerto Ricans would be getting ready to go out as they invariably did on Thursdays and Fridays. By and by, he knew, an old woman would pop into the room, witchlike, to peek at the baby. Raskob had an intimate knowledge of the workings of the family, for the Puerto Ricans—he never identified them otherwise— were the prizes in the gallery commanded by his glasses. The Puerto Rican girl was pretty and she was unaware of Raskob’s binoculars. As a consequence she never drew the shade, believing that the fact that her tenement faced an empty lot was sufficient safeguard to her modesty. The woman downstairs from the Puerto Ricans never drew her shade either, but she was older and slatternly. Raskob never watched her when the Puerto Ricans had their light on.
The light came on even as Raskob watched for it, and he dropped to his knees before the window sill in the position in which he had spent many hundreds of hours in obscene vigilance, and watched avidly as the girl came into the room. She wore only a slip and underthings. While Raskob watched she bent gracefully and pulled the slip over her head. This was the best part, he told himself.
She walked in her sheer underthings to the crib in the corner and bent over it for a moment. That had been a stupid time two and a half years ago when she was big and ungainly with the child Raskob might nearly have seen conceived from his vantage point. Fastidiously he had stopped watching her in the last months of her pregnancy.
The baby was apparently, asleep for she came back away from the crib, reaching behind her for the snap on her brassiere. Raskob watched her undress and dress again, elbows propped on the window sill that was littered with pigeon droppings, mouth slack, and eyes avid. There was the same blood surge that he always felt but with a difference. He could not define it but there was a lack; some of the thrill was missing or rather, the thrill way lessened in contrast to the greater thrill he had felt this very evening, even though it had been muffled and obscured by panic. He felt strong and ruthless as he put the glasses away.
Later, as he lay in the darkness with his head cradled in his linked hands, his thoughts drifted to Alpen. Alpen! He was aware of a growing regret that Alpen and all the others could never really know of this new feeling of power and importance. He wished that they could be with him now, here in his room, and see for themselves that the old Raskob was dead, that the new Raskob was a man of power, a man to fear. He remembered bitterly that morning three weeks ago when Cutler, the plant superintendent, had sent for him. The office boy had stuck his head in at the door to the laboratory and said. “Hey, Raskob. Up front.”
Not “Mr. Raskob.” Just “Raskob!” and with no more respect than a “Hey You!” He had resented that. The foremen rated a Mister and they were not as important to Hammersmith as he was. Once he had collared the office boy—his name was Billy—and told him that he expected more courtesy in future; that he should be referred to as Mister Raskob. The boy had pretended to be awed and readily agreed to adopt a more respectful attitude. That same day he had returned to the laboratory door and called deferentially, “Mr. Raskob?” When Raskob had turned, gratified, the imp had lip farted and run away.
On that day, in answer to Cutler’s summons, Raskob had gone in some fear to the front office. Alpen had been there; three years or so younger than Raskob, confident and breezy. His crew hair cut spelled college.
“Raskob,” (no Mister here either) “This is Mr. Alpen,” Cutler had said. “He’ll be the new head of the color department.”
It had been a thunderously shocking disappointment. He had assumed for weeks, ever since the old head of the department had died, that the job would be given to him. He had even planned a becomingly modest speech of acceptance. Instead there was Alpen with that fake grin of phony comradeship. Raskob had been too crushed to use the glasses that night. He had lain in the darkness alternately weeping and wildly cursing. He should, he reviled himself, have told Cutler where to put the job. He should have smashed at Alpen’s smug, grinning, baby face. Or he should have played on Cutler’s sympathy, reminding him of how he, Raskob, had devoted himself to Hammersmith, how hard he had worked. He had done none of these things. He had slunk—yes, slunk was the word—back to his paint mills and homogenizers, his fadometers and his Macbeth lights like a beaten animal.
At first it hadn’t been as bad as he feared. Alpen was an ignorant fool and he, Raskob, had trapped him time after time into making errors; errors that cost Hammersmith money. Someday, he had allowed himself to plan, Cutler would realize who really did the work of the department and there would be some changes. Then they would come to him and he would be generous in victory. And then Cutler had come unannounced into the color room while Alpen was out in the plant. His pale eyes had been bleak and baleful, his mouth set in a tight line, and he had said merely, “Cut it, Raskob.”
He had stopped setting his little traps then. As colorless himself as if the Valencia Oranges and Scarlet Lakes, the Molybdenate Yellows and Fast Violets with which he worked had sucked all the color from his own personality, absorbing it and leaving him neutralized, he had been for a time, self-effacing and mouselike. But he had never become, to himself, colorless or even timid.
Raskob thought again of the knife that now lay hidden in the bottom drawer of his bureau. Tomorrow he would return it to the ledge behind the lab mill and already he regretted that he would have to be without it, for the knife was, in its way, a symbol. There in the darkness he smiled to himself, a secret, sly smile. Alpen or Cutler or all the others might never know it, but Raskob with a knife was a dangerous man.
There was a foul-smelling shop in a foul-smelling building with a sign over the door that announced that I. Raskob sold poultry inside. Always there was the wet smell of feathers and the obscene smell of chicken dung and the ammonia smell of I. Raskob himself. There were always as well the young toughs of the neighborhood to chase him and to call after him, “Raskob plays with hisself!” Or, “Hey Sheeny! Why don’t ya let it grow?”
Sometimes they caught him and threw him down, bleating in terror. Once they “pants’ed” him; stripping him naked and painting his skinny buttocks with filth from the gutter. Sometimes there were periods of truce in which each side professed friendship. During one such period three of them had followed him into the shop of I. Raskob. I. Raskob had grunted, “Go down and dress three, four of them pullets.”
They followed him into the dim cellar and had watched as he had hauled three pullets from their slat cages, tying the horny yellow feet together and hanging them from nails driven into the supporting posts of the cellar. Then, deftly, he had slit their throats as they strained their necks upward, conducting the execution with neat and effortless precision with a sharp paring knife and then standing aside to avoid the blood spattering convulsions that followed.
Watching the great golden eyes glaze he had heard the others talking for moments before he became aware of what they were saying.
“Did you see Milton kill them goddam birds? Neat! Crrrk!” (This with a forefinger drawn across the throat.)
“I thought I’d puke! Boy, he sure knows what to do with that knife!”
It was the first time he had ever been admired and such was his gratitude and love for these gentle friends that he had killed three more pullets and then three more for their entertainment. He had dressed out four of them; the others he had later thrown into a dark corner, still later explaining to I. Raskob that the rats had got them to account for the decimation of the fowl.
A day or a week and they had chased him again as viciously as before. They had caught him on occasion. Once they had urinated close enough to his writhing body to spatter him. But they wouldn’t, he told himself and them, have dared to touch him if he had had his knife with him. Except that he was afraid to carry it.
Today he had been talking with Andrews, the first shift foreman; explaining about color variations and, he was certain, impressing him. Like about absolute black which reflected no light whatsoever and which, Raskob theorized, would look like a hole in space.
Alpen had heard part of the conversation; enough that he had shouted with laughter.
“Raskob,” he had laughed, “you’re a perfect example of how dangerous a little knowledge can be.”—
And Raskob had rushed back to the laboratory, and cut himself on the mill knife. He had taken that same knife with him without quite knowing why. Now, in his drab room, in all of his drab life, he knew.
Ed Tanager, Friday, April 16
THE BODY OF LOUISE HADLEY was bent awkwardly, face downward over a mound of topsoil. The thin little buttocks gleamed whitely in the glare of flash bulbs, and Tanager remembered that Agnes would sleep on her stomach in just that way with her tiny rear projected heavenward. Except that she would be in flowered pink pajamas and not naked except for one limply dangling ankle sock and if she had been naked her white skin would not be laced with red blood that looked black in the too-bright glare of Lieutenant Norris’s photographic equipment.
Norris was handling his end of it; he had Sergeant Hyde to help, and Tanager turned to the beat cop who was holding back a growing group of spectators who had been attracted by the lights. Greenberg had come up. Tanager made a silent gesture, a scooping motion of his left hand in the direction of the crowd and Greenberg nodded.
“Patrolman Greenberg will take it for you,” Tanager said, drawing the beat cop aside. “What have you got?”
He knew the patrolman; an old-timer and, he knew, a fine neighborhood cop. The patrolman shook his head.
“Not much here, Lieutenant. Sergeant Birch had a line out for a missing child. An hour ago he had a call from some people—Romagno, their name is—about finding the body of a little girl. Birch told me to check it out. I did. You saw what I found. I’ve got the Romagnos over to one side. The kid’s parents are here, too, but Lieutenant Norris said to hold them off until he gets what he wants and has a chance to cover the little girl up. Doc Starnes has already examined her and he’s given clearance to move the body when Norris is through. I’ve sent for the morgue wagon.”
Tanager nodded. The patrolman’s report had been clear and concise, devoid of trimmings or speculation. “That’s nice work, Joe,” he said. “What about the little girl? You ever see her on your beat?”
“I doubt it, Lieutenant. My shift starts at eight. More than likely a kid her age would be off the streets by then.”
Tanager’s lips thinned in a grimace that was almost an expression of pain. “She wasn’t off the streets tonight, Joe.” He turned and would have walked away. The patrolman detained him; in itself an indication of how deeply he had been shaken.
“Did you see her yet, Lieutenant?”
“What was left.”
The patrolman knuckled his forehead, shoving back his uniform cap. “I don’t get it, Lieutenant. He cut her throat. The rest of it—I don’t know. Makes you wonder why God made people like that.”
Tanager turned to search out Doctor Starnes, the medical examiner. He found him seated in the back seat of a patrol car; a balding, fiftyish man with deep-set brown eyes and a heavy jaw. He gestured Tanager in.
“Hello, Ed. Little chilly out there. Late spring this year.”
Tanager slid in beside him. He packed his pipe and lit it, knowing Starnes’s manner of approaching a subject obliquely.
Starnes said finally, “You see her?”
“A glimpse. Morris will get pictures for me and measurements. We work it that way. I look for people. What sort of a monster will I be looking for this time?”
Starnes shrugged his heavy shoulders. “You’ll have to see Art Roberts. The people I deal with are normal types. Dead, maybe, but normal.”
“Roberts? That’s the prison board psychiatrist?”
“That’s him. He’s a youngster but he’s good in his field. I can tell you that you’ll be looking for a real weird one. The girl was stripped and her throat was cut. There was some attempt at mutilation, but like nothing I ever saw before. Partial dismemberment. But as far as I can tell until I get her down to the morgue, she wasn’t abused sexually.”
Tanager knocked out his pipe and said bitterly, “That was decent of him.”
“Probable cause of death was loss of blood. Massive hemorrhage from the throat wound. I’ll run off a post mortem right away and I’ll stop by your office and let you know what develops.”
Tanager opened the door and got out, leaning back in through the window to say, “Thanks. One more thing—was there a positive identification?”
“Yeah. Brother-in-law I think. Norris kept the parents away.”
The Romagnos were standing together a little apart from the group that included the Hadley girl’s parents. Tanager introduced himself briefly. Mrs. Romagno, plump in a quilted wrapper drawn over a flannel nightgown, was voluble with self-importance. Romagno himself was quiet, self-effacing. In the diffused light reaching the group his face was white and stricken.
“I told Sam the minute I saw them that it didn’t look right. Isn’t that right, Sam? Isn’t that what I said? I said that it didn’t look right to me.” The Romagno woman’s expression was complacent. Tanager had encountered it before, this strange sort of pride that a certain type of witness took in having seen evil in one form or another.
He asked patiently, “The minute you saw them?”
“The man and the little girl. Cutting across the vacant lot they were and nobody crosses there any more since they started the project because it’s too muddy. And he was almost dragging her. Sam,” she continued accusingly, “said it was probably some father gone out to bring his kid home to supper, but I said it didn’t look right. Now isn’t that what I said, Sam?”
Sam Romagno said miserably, “That’s what you said, Anna.” He continued almost pleadingly, “I should have come out then, Lieutenant, but Anna is all the time seeing things that are none of her business. So I didn’t come and look.” His eyes were sick. “This time I wish I had come.”
Tanager, pitying the man, said, “If it weren’t for you we still might not know about it. What time did Mrs. Romagno see the child and why did you come out to look when you did come? That would have been about two in the morning.”
“Just after dark,” Mrs. Romagno said. “They cut across under the street light on the corner of Gano Street and Waltham and I could see them out the window over the sink. This man had on a dark coat and a gray hat, and he was sort of pulling at the little girl. Right away I told myself, ‘This don’t look right,’ and I hollered to Sam. Didn’t I, Sam?”
He said, “Please, Anna,” and turned to Tanager.
“Anna all the time sees things. Me, I try to mind my own business. Now I tell myself, ‘Why didn’t you run and see, Sam Romagno?’ But it is too late. Instead I finish reading the paper. I work hard, Lieutenant; everybody tells you Sam Romagno works hard. Nine o’clock it is bedtime for me. Anna watches the late movie show on the television.”
She interrupted him. “Let me tell it, Sam. Yes, I watch the late movie show and then there is five minutes of news and the man tells of how a little girl is missing.” There was a triumphant note in her voice. “Right away I know that this is the girl I saw and I wake Sam up.”
Romagno nodded. “I take the flashlight and come to see and I find the little girl.” He gestured with clenched fists. “Never have I seen such a badness. So I come back to the house and call the cops and the man tells me, ‘Sam Romagno, you go out there and wait for the officers to come.’ This I did.”
Mrs. Romagno repeated nastily, “This you did. But if you had come when I called you, Sam Romagno, the little girl might be home in bed this minute.”
Sam Romagno looked down at the ground. Wearily he said, “You must excuse Anna, Lieutenant. She is a good woman but she does not have enough to do. She can give me no children.”
Tanager, watching the Romagno woman, saw her flinch. Her hand went up to her mouth but she said nothing.
Romagno said, “If there is nothing else, Lieutenant, we will go home now.”
Tanager watched them go, Romagno leading, head down; his wife following by a pace or two. Then he turned, studying the Hadley group as he approached them, weighing them, sizing them up with a policeman’s eye. A Woman in her late thirties, eyes red with weeping in a numbed face, tense with emotion withheld. Rough hands; cheap clothing well kept. That would be the mother. Another woman; big and flashy looking. In her late twenties. Too much make up on this face—and not enough pity. He couldn’t fit her into this group. A relative of some degree perhaps. A big man, going to seed and going fast. The eyes bloodshot but not from weeping. Teeth missing, loosening the line of his jaw. The father, probably. Tanager knew the type. A drinker. Probably the veteran of a thousand reformations and a thousand new hopes for the woman but not much good underneath it all. The kind who would stop in at the neighborhood saloon on pay night and be a big operator; a loud talker among the loud talkers. Blow most of his pay and lie to his wife about where it went. Promise a farm or a cottage in the country. He’d know all the time and the wife would know, too, that they would never get out of the tenements. A someday sort of man.
The other man in the group would be the brother-in-law that Starnes had spoken of. The man who had made the identification. Not much man here, either. Hangdog look on a weak face. Eyes that couldn’t or wouldn’t settle. Nervous hands, the fingers of the right hand yellow with nicotine stain. A sloucher. They stood in a compact formation, not talking, watching in a sort of terrible fascination the dreadful work going on under Lieutenant Norris’s floodlights.
Tanager again introduced himself and added quietly, “I understand that the girl’s uncle made the identification.”
Hangdog look scrubbed his mouth with the back of his hand.
“I identified the kid. The other cop has my name. Al Miller. It’s Louise all right.”
Tanager turned to the older woman of the two in the group.
“I’ll need to know a few things,” he said gently. “Are you the girl’s mother?”
She nodded. “Then will you let me go to her?”
“Of course, Mrs. Hadley.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Who saw her last and what time was it?”
The big seedy man turned suddenly, sharply, pointing his forefinger at the uncle. “Ask this son-of-a-bitch here,” he cried out. “He was up in our flat trying to get a piece from this bitch here. He chased her out on the streets so he could get it!”
Tanager sensed the false note in the anger; the striving for justification for some self-lack that prompted this blame-laying.
The flashy woman’s crimson mouth trembled as if she were about to cry. “That ain’t so,” she protested harshly. “Al, you can’t let him say things like that about me.”
The Hadley woman turned to her husband. “Stop it, Bill,” she said dully. “You didn’t look for her when you came home so it’s your fault as much as his. My fault, too, I guess.” She turned to Tanager. “You’ll find the one who did it, won’t you?”
“I think we will, Mrs. Hadley. We’ll do all we can.”
She nodded. “I guess you will. I hope you will.”
“She came home from school then?” Tanager prompted.
“What time was that and where did she say she was going?” Al Miller shuffled his feet. “She didn’t say. All she did was change her clothes. It was maybe four-thirty or so.”
“Did she come back to the house for anything?”
Miller shook his head and gestured toward the flashy woman. “My friend Vicky and me were there all the time. She didn’t come back. Then Bill—the kid’s father—came in about six and the three of us sat out in the kitchen and drank a few beers.”
Drinking beer; not worrying about a small girl. He could tell them something about how precious a small girl was.
“Didn’t any of you miss the child?”
Bill Hadley, in an agony of shame, shook his head. “We were waiting for Margaret—my wife,” he mumbled. “She usually gets home a little after six and we eat then.”
The girl’s mother said absently, “I wait on table at Spignoli’s Cafe. There was a wedding reception tonight and we didn’t get through until ten. We don’t have a telephone so I couldn’t call and say that I would be late.”
“Then between four-thirty and ten, when the little girl’s mother came home, none of you were concerned with where she was? Did you let her run the streets that late every night?” His voice reflected honest amazement.
The uncle, Miller, said weakly, “Bill was bothered about her; kept saying she ought to be home. He went out to the street to look for her about nine. Then he figured she must have gone down to Spignoli’s to see Margaret.”
The flashy woman said sarcastically, “He went down to the corner to get some beer about nine. He wasn’t worrying about the kid.”
Mrs. Hadley said, almost as if she were speaking to herself, “Bill knows better than that. Louise never came down to the cafe.” She fumbled in her pocketbook with her work reddened hands. “I got nearly four dollars in tips tonight.”
She looked at the money as if it were some strange new substance. “Four dollars,” she repeated, and turned to her husband. “Here. Why don’t you take it? You can buy twelve quarts of beer for four dollars!”
“Don’t,” he pleaded.
There was a stirring in the group at the side of the pit and a man broke away to come striding toward Tanager who recognized him and said, “Hello, Dave. All right now?”
Lieutenant Norris nodded and Tanager said gently, “All right, Mrs. Hadley. You can go to her now.”
Five years previously a reform mayor had picked Sergeant Dave Norris from the traffic division, made him a detective lieutenant and sent him to school at Northwestern University. When he returned he had set up a crime laboratory. The subsequent administration had cut to the bone the appropriations available for the maintenance of the laboratory, and Tanager had more than a suspicion that most of Norris’s own funds went to sustain it. A small, quick-moving man with slender hands and snapping black eyes, he brought to his work a greater devotion than any man Tanager had ever known. Alone with Tanager Norris said, “It will be a tough one, Ed. I don’t have much to go on.”
“Not much here, either. She left her house at four-thirty. We’ll start backtracking in the morning to see where she went. We’ll put out a bulletin now for a man wearing a dark coat and a gray hat. We’ve got that much from-the Romagno woman’s description. We’ll ask for a check for bloodstains. But we can’t count very much on it. How many men do you suppose wear dark topcoats?”
Norris sighed ruefully. “How many men are there in the city? I’d say half of them.” He turned and looked toward the pit where Louise Hadley’s mother had dropped to her knees to cradle her daughter’s head. “We cleaned her up the best we could and put a blanket around her. The ambulance man put a bandage over her throat.”
Tanager asked curiously, “Over a wound like that?”
“It was an odd wound, Ed. Her throat wasn’t slashed. More of a puncture type wound or a stab. Once we got the blood off, the bandage covered it easily.”
“What about footprints?”
“Plenty. Size eight and a half or nine D, I’d say. Hyde made a cast. I’ve got the pictures and measurements.”
“We’ll add that to the bulletin. Are you finished?”
“All I can do here.”
“Then let’s get on in. You can develop the pictures while I start the wheels turning. Hyde can hold it down at this end.”
Ed Tanager, Friday, April 16
TANAGER HAD CALLED in the four second-grade detectives assigned to Homicide; he had ordered a house to house, store to store canvass of the Gano Street area. (Did you see a little girl, nine, ten years old, walking with a man, medium build, dark coat, gray hat?) He had given a sketchy resume of the murder to the night press-service stringer. The man had been diffident, not bothering to press for details. That was why he remained a reporter. The City Side desk men would recognize the compulsive human interest in the death of a little girl. The wire editors of the afternoon papers would shortly be coming into their cubicles; they would gather up the yellow teletyped sheets from the clattering machines, glancing casually at the accumulated material; they would pick out the paragraph or two filed by the night man and they would bolt for the city editor’s larger cubicle. Tanager had put out a bulletin citing the few facts that he had; the bulletin tied in the state police and the sheriff’s office. Now, in the sick dawn light he sat in Dave Norm’s laboratory drinking coffee and watching the criminologist make deft, accurate lines on a blackboard.
“They came across the lot from this direction,” Norris said. He made a blunt arrow. “They were walking together but the man was taking big steps, not holding back for the Hadley girl.” He made a neat, precise X. “From this point on she was trying to hold back.”
Tanager had a picture of it; the little girl skipping to keep up with the merciless strides of the man, remembering to be afraid, then, and trying to stop. Digging in her heels.
Norris continued. “They stopped here. The little girl turned and apparently tried to run back. He caught her in two strides. She tried to put up a struggle, but you saw her. Hardly more than a baby. And he stabbed her.”
Tanager drew up one knee and clasped it in his two hands. “Are you sure of the timing there or are you guessing just a little?”
Norris frowned, then nodded as understanding came to him. “You mean that you think it possible that he stabbed her later? No, Ed. There isn’t any guesswork involved. There was blood down the front of her sweater and a few drops on the ground where they were standing at that time —where she struggled. He stabbed her then, during the struggle and before he stripped her. The other wounds were made after she was naked and almost undoubtedly dead.”
Tanager reached for his pipe. “I included an alert for possible bloodstains in the bulletin. That’s normal procedure anyway. A wound like that—severing an artery; we have a good shot there, don’t we?”
Norris shook his head. “Not too good. Look at the diagram here. He stood behind her; the tracks show that. If he was careful—or even lucky—he shouldn’t have many bloodstains except on his hands and wrists and perhaps the cuffs of his coat sleeves.”
“Do you think he was careful?”
“There are indications that he was. The clothing was piled in a neat little heap. Sweater, skirt, little pants, socks —one sock—and shoes.”
Tanager sucked at his pipe. “Where do you think we should start?”
“I don’t know, Ed. I truly don’t know. Except for the obvious angle.”
“What the newspapers always call ’rounding up the known sex offenders.’“
Tanager grunted. “We’ve already started. But I don’t hope for much. For one thing, Starnes doesn’t think she was attacked. For another thing, Dave, I’ve got a feeling about this thing. It doesn’t fall into any pattern. I don’t believe any routine methods are going to be of much use.” There was a tap on the open doorframe and Doctor Starnes sidled in.
“Speak of the devil,” Norris said. “That the thanks I get for rushing a job? Next time I’ll know better. Where did you get the coffee?”
Norris pointed toward an electric plate. Starnes walked toward it and poured a cup before he asked, “Do you want a nice report in triplicate by about noontime or do you want it with rough edges right now?”
“All right. She died of hemorrhage as I surmised earlier. That would be the throat wound. The other wounds were inflicted after death. They include a shallow incision from the pleural cavity—say from the breastbone—to a point midway between the navel and the vulva. There were incisions under each armpit reaching to the collarbone. The latter wounds are quite deep; as a matter of fact, the left arm was nearly severed. The weapon used was about an inch wide and about four inches long at a guess. It is not a guess that it was extremely sharp. As I also indicated earlier, Ed, there was no sign of sexual abuse. Nevertheless I hope you find the son-of-a-bitch that did it, Ed, and I hope he hangs. Meanwhile I’d like to hang the kid’s old man.”
“How so?” Tanager asked. “He’s a rummy. I’d bet money on that but it’s not a hanging offense.”
Starnes snorted. “If he put what he spent on booze into the family pantry and onto the table the kid wouldn’t have had incipient tuberculosis. She wouldn’t have been undernourished. The child was half starved for decent food.”
Tanager remembered hearing Catherine say to Agnes a score of times, “You hurry and eat your nice lunch now and don’t leave your vegetables. Hundreds of little girls wish that they were eating a nice lunch like yours right this minute.” Catherine had undoubtedly been thinking of the wistful waifs that stared out at her from the television newsreel shots of other, more troubled countries. It seemed strange that in their own city there were kids without enough to eat. Louise Hadleys.
He said slowly, “I guess she didn’t get a fair shake anywhere along the line.”
“I guess not,” Starnes snarled. “Poor skinny kid. Enough to make you weep.”
“I’ll weep,” Tanager said, “after I make somebody else weep. I wish I knew better how to go about it. I’ve got just so many men available.”
“You’ll find a way,” Norris encouraged.
“You’d better,” Starnes growled. “You young fellas don’t know what it’s like when a whole city gets in a panic. Take an ordinary homicide; husband and wife sort of thing. Or a barroom stabbing. Nobody cares. Nobody worries. Or even a rape. But take and hurt a kid and it’s a horse of a different color. Nobody wants to see a kid hurt or killed. Add a freak angle like the mutilation—you’ll see. Remember the Elisabeth Short case in California? And she was a grown woman!”
“I don’t remember that one,” Norris admitted.
Tanager Stood up. “Somebody cut her in half,,” he said. “You’d remember her by the name the newspapers called her—’The Black Dahlia.’ Meanwhile I’m going home and shave and clean up and get some breakfast. Keep at it will you, Dave?”
He had called the hospital. No change, they had told him, and he tried to convince himself that that was a good thing. Now he let himself in at the front door of the house on Chestnut Street.
She was in the kitchen and he told her that there was no change and he would have cut an arm off to have been able to tell her that there was a change; that Agnes would be home any day now; that maybe in a week she would, with the most important air a small girl could assume, be helping her mother with the cooking instead of dwelling in a frightful land in a hospital bed. And he kissed the cheek that she turned to him because this was something between them that was apart from anybody or anything even when they quarreled. And, “I took out a car myself,” he said. “I’ve got Greenberg busy but I wanted you to have ours. I guess you didn’t hear when Birch called me last night,” he tacitly recognized her silence of the night before and his own awareness of it thus. “There was a homicide. A little girl.”
She put eggs and bacon before him. “A little girl?”
“About our Agnes’s age,” he said.
She bit her underlip with her small white teeth. “You’ll be busy today then. Too busy to go to the hospital with me. Ed—don’t you care about Agnes?”
He felt anger rise in him and he checked it with the thought that surely it was harder for her. He said quietly, “You know that isn’t fair.”
She put both hands to her cheeks. A little desperately she said, “I know, Ed. I’m sorry. It’s just that—” With a valiant effort she changed the subject. “What about the little girl?”
“It was pretty bad.” He told her about it even while he knew that her attention to a tragedy that normally would have been of absorbing interest to her was superficial. When he had finished he stood up and crossed over to her, putting his arm around her waist.
“It will be all right,” he said softly. “You’ve got to believe that.”
Briefly she rested her head on his shoulder. “Please God it will,” she said.
The Pariahs, Friday, April 16
TANAGER PUSHED THE buzzer on his desk and Sergeant Hyde put his head in at the door with one eyebrow raised and Tanager nodded. The head was withdrawn and a man of sixty years, give or take a year or two, shuffled in. His unkempt gray hair straggled in a limp duck-tail over the greasy collar of his ancient army-issue overcoat. His eyes were watery and red rimmed over a flaccid mouth. He held his gaze on his broken, laceless shoes as he sidled forward to stand in front of Tanager’s desk; he looked up only when Tanager said, “Your name is Ives?”
“Yeah,” he whined. “Cripes, Lieutenant, I wish you guys wouldn’t drag me down here every time anybody does something! That rap you got against me is ten years old.”
Tanager glanced down at the folder in front of him. “You were picked up for possession of pornography four months ago. You took a six month jolt for it. Time off for good behavior—you can’t be out more than a week or two.”
Ives grinned weakly through his toothless jaws. “That,” he said disparagingly. “Besides, you’re Homicide. Cripes, I ain’t ever killed nobody. Anyway,” he continued self-righteously, “I got an alibi for last night.”
Tanager glanced at Ives and as quickly looked away. “How do you know you need an alibi for last night?” He had lost interest. This obscene wreck of a man, whatever else he might have done, had not killed Louise Hadley. He was certain of that.
“I ain’t quite stupid, Lieutenant. I heard the radio telling about that little girl.” He sniffled. “I was booked for common drunk yest’day afternoon over to the Fourth Precinct. They don’t turn the drunks out ’til six in the morning over there. I was on my way home when your guys picked me up.” Ives rubbed his nose with his coat sleeve. In an injured tone he added, “I didn’t even have no breakfast.”
Tanager reached for the telephone and verified Ives’s story in brief monosyllables. When he hung up the receiver he looked again at Ives and said, “They check you. You can go. Keep your nose clean.”
Ives adopted a martyred expression. “I told you, Lieutenant.” The martyred expression became sly. “Say Lieutenant, I was just wondering could you maybe let me take two bits for coffee and doughnuts? The Sally will be all out of coffee, time I get over to the West Side.”
Tanager reached for a coin. Ives, he was certain, would make a pool with the necessary number of wrecked men like himself. They would buy a quart of cheap red wine to give them the energy to go out and panhandle enough money to buy cheap whiskey. A wheel turning to no purpose; with no meaning.
Ives shuffled out triumphantly and Tanager scratched a few notes on his pad. This phase of police work he detested even while he admitted its necessity. Men convicted of felonies paid the price exacted by the state and were freed but never completely. They might go, puppetlike, only as far as the strings that bound them would permit them to travel. Let a safe be robbed and the safe-cracker puppets would be reeled in by the safe and loft squad. Let a mark be swindled and all the grifters would be tugged from wherever they might be by the confidence men. Let a homicide be committed and any or all of them must answer his, Tanager’s, summons. Sometimes the puppets resisted and had to be searched for. It was not often hard to find them. The strings seldom broke. Strings of records and previous offenses and known haunts and companions. Since early morning the entire department had been pulling strings. Ives was one result.
There was a skirl of loud voices outside and Hyde, his blocky body straining, shoved a youth into the office. He was perhaps twenty years old and Latin in complexion. He wore long sideburns and his long black hair curled up at the back of his neck. Tanager cynically estimated that the gray worsted suit he wore had probably cost as much as his own three suits. Black shoes, a shade too sharply pointed,—a white shirt with a button-down collar and a black knit tie. Tanager reflected morosely on clothing in general. The young ones went through stages. Jeans, sometimes, and dirty sweat shirts. Then a cycle of sharpie clothes; peg-top pants and long watch chains. Always not normal. Too careless or too careful. No balance.
The youth pushed Hyde’s hand from his shoulder, shouting, “Keep your hands off of me, you goddam ape!”
Hyde’s homely face reddened and he looked appealingly at Tanager who shook his head silently. The youth wheeled to face Tanager.
“Look,” he shouted. “Who do you damn cops think you are? You got no right to drag me down here.”
Tanager stood up slowly. “Your name is Rolando Epaz,” he said quietly.
Epaz interrupted him. “You know f— well what my name is. And I know f— well I don’t have to listen to any of your crap!”
Tanager’s gray eyes blazed briefly and he moved out from behind the desk. Hyde caught the look and his own expression changed to one of malicious anticipation.
“Your name is Rolando Epaz,” Tanager repeated, still without raising his voice. “Your age is twenty-two. Two years ago you picked up a fifteen-year-old girl at a dance. She was just a kid trying to act grown up, Epaz, but you picked her up anyway, and you took her over to Sherman Park and raped her.”
Epaz backed up a step and started to interrupt. Tanager waved him into silence with a curt wave of his right hand.
“You raped her, Epaz, and left her to crawl out to the highway, hurt and scared to death. Your family must know somebody because you got off with a simple assault rap and a two year suspended sentence. But you and I and Sergeant Hyde here know what you should have got. So now, you zoot-suit son-of-a-bitch, keep your mouth shut until I ask you a question and then you answer me damned quick and damned truthful or I’ll let the sergeant here work you over. I’ll give you a piece of information, Epaz. The sergeant has a daughter. She’s about fifteen.”
Epaz’s face had gone dead white. He said, “Yes, sir,” out of a suddenly slack mouth as Tanager turned and went back to his desk.
“Where were you last night?”
“I went to a movie.”
“The Capitol. They were showing “From Here to Eternity.”
Tanager had long since noted the almost girlishly tiny feet of the youth before him and he had mentally eliminated him as a suspect in the Hadley murder. Not alone because of the size of his feet; he could have deliberately worn a pair of shoes too large for him. Epaz didn’t fit his conception of the knifer.
“What time did you get home?”
Epaz said, “Eleven-thirty,” and quickly slapped at his mouth in dismay while Hyde grinned a devil’s grin.
“Under the terms of your suspended sentence, you’re to be off the streets at nine,” Tanager said slowly, glancing down at the folder before him. “Sergeant, lock him up. Draw up an information for the sentencing judge for record purposes. It’s Judge Martin of the criminal division. I’ll talk to him on the telephone in the meantime.” Epaz began to whimper. “Jesus, Lieutenant, give me a break.”
Tanager looked away from him, staring out the window. “Like you gave that kid a break, I will.”
Hyde said cheerfully, “Come along, Epaz. You heard the lieutenant. When we get down to the cells you tell me again who’s a goddam ape.” He started for the door. “You want the next one?” he asked Tanager.
Tanager, when Hyde had gone, leading Epaz, felt the nudging of self disgust. He had been brutal with Epaz; had lost his dispassionate objectivity in contempt and loathing for the youth. He could be, when the occasion demanded it, brutal, even cruel. When he was cruel it was an assumed cruelty—an act, a character portrayal designed to serve a purpose. There was a type of criminal that reacted almost solely to brutality. His attitude toward Epaz had been genuine; he had lost his temper and he regretted it.
Hyde sent in a middle-aged man, dressed in an expensive gray suit. He came forward to stand before Tanager’s desk. His hands were inordinately small and immaculately kept; he kept rubbing the balls of his thumbs against the inside of his forefingers. Shame was plainly written in the slump of his shoulders; in his tired eyes, in the droop of his head.
Tanager said kindly, “I’m sorry to have to bring you down here, Barry. It’s necessary or I wouldn’t do it.”
Barry said almost inaudibly, “I understand.”
Tanager studied the file before him and wondered that so brilliant a man as the one who stood before him had been faulted by nature or environment. A bright, a brilliant record of achievement in his chosen career contrasted against a murky history of propositions to young men in parks and comfort stations, of beatings and humiliations suffered as a consequence. He got the interview over with as quickly and mercifully as possible. Barry was clear beyond any possible doubt. He had not seriously considered him as a suspect. The man was a homosexual and the torments he inflicted were directed only against himself, but there was a string on him and all the strings of the same color as Barry’s string were being wound in.
Tanager was relieved to turn the interviews over to Hyde toward noon when he received a call from the mayor’s secretary, requesting his immediate presence.
Tanager found the honorable Carl Price in conference with Chief of Police Ben Watkins. He had little liking for Watkins but a fair degree of respect for him as a capable politician. He respected him not at all as a police administrator. Watkins was small and quick-moving, with sharp, beady eyes. Price was his antithesis, a large man with a leonine mane of silver hair and a slow-moving, pompous manner. For Price, Tanager had a measure of respect as an official and a certain, somewhat quizzical liking as a man. Both men stood up to shake hands with him, and he reflected wryly that a politician apparently swore allegiance to the ritual of the handshake when he took the oath of acceptance to his first appointment. He had seen Watkins twice since ten o’clock. The little chief, he was certain, would offer his hand to the devil himself when he came to claim his soul.
Price said, “The chief tells me he is leaving the entire investigation of this terrible crime in your hands, Lieutenant. I’m sure that you are worthy of his confidence. I want to make certain that no stone is left unturned in hunting down the beast responsible.”
Tanager had not been surprised when Watkins earlier gave him full responsibility in the Hadley case. The chief had developed to a fine art the ability to dodge the curves and the fast balls, stepping in only when the trumpets sounded. He saw an advantage now.
“We’ll do everything we can,” he promised. “I’ll want to pull uniformed men in from traffic and patrol, of course. And we’ll have to pull men in from leave. We may have to bring in some supernumeraries, depending on what leads my people can pick up this morning.”
Watkins said acidly, “Now I don’t believe it will be necessary to disrupt the whole force, Ed. Pulling men in from leave doesn’t seem to me to be necessary. There will be a lot of hard feelings.”
That was the politician in him, Tanager understood. Keep everybody happy. He understood, too, that the chief had spoken up in part to establish his authority over Tanager even while he was openly ducking this one.
Mayor Price wheeled on Watkins before Tanager could speak. “This is no time to be worrying about personal feelings; yours or any member of this administration’s. You ought to know that, Ben. We’ll give Lieutenant Tanager anything he wants or needs.” He turned to the window, gesturing flamboyantly. “Out there are a quarter of a million people and one maniac. Wait until the papers come out this afternoon. There won’t be any people in the parks. Women won’t be out shopping for their husbands’ suppers. They’ll be hiding behind locked doors.”
“And they’ll be sending committees to wait on the mayor,” Tanager murmured, contemptuous of Price’s theatrics.
“What have you done so far, Ed?” Watkins wanted to know.
“I’ve got my four detectives out canvassing,” Tanager told him. “Norris, at the lab, is checking along with Doc Starnes but he doesn’t have much to go on. I’m going to talk with the parents again this afternoon. And we’re bringing in all the deviates and checking on their whereabouts last night.”
Watkins nodded sagely. “It sounds to me as if you were doing everything possible, Ed.”
There was another small advantage to be gained here. Tanager said, “I could use a little help in another direction.”
Mayor Price leaned forward. “What’s that, Lieutenant?”
“The newspapers. I’m going to have my hands full. At the same time, they’re going to be sitting on this thing. I can’t blame them.”
Mayor Price nodded. “Of course,” he said. “Well, refer them to the chief. That’s all right with you isn’t it, Ben?”
Watkins squirmed. “I don’t know about that, Carl. Tanager is in charge of the case.”
Price’s eyes narrowed. “You’ve been ducking for a long time, Ben. I guess you’ll have to take your turn this time.” Brady and Dahl were waiting for Tanager when he returned to his office. Brady, a good-looking blond youngster lately from the ranks, shook his head without waiting for a question. “Not a thing Lieutenant. Gano Street people don’t talk to cops.”
Dahl, a twenty-year man with thinning gray hair and tired eyes, sat down wearily. “You’ve got it wrong, Johnny. A man beats his wife down there, nobody talks. Rid sticks up a package store, nobody talks. On this thing they’d have talked if there were anything to tell. There just isn’t anything to tell.” To Tanager he continued; “We hit everything. The candy stores, movies, newsstands. Couple of people think they saw her but she was alone at the time. The way I see it, Ed, the kid was placed at home a little after four and placed again with her murderer about six-thirty. Where could a kid spend nearly three hours and not be noticed? It would have to be the movies. There are three movies houses in reasonable distance from her house. One of them is a foreign picture joint. One was showing a war picture. The third one, the Rivoli, was having a rerun of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It has a big appeal for kids. Something else.”
Brady was looking at Dahl in a somewhat abashed admiration. Tanager suspected that the younger man had had a youthful, impatient contempt for the older detective and his methods. Brady asked, “What’s that, Tom?”
“He had to pick her up. You can’t just walk up to a kid on the streets and make her go with you. I think he got to her in the theater, but we’ll play hell trying to do anything with it. The girl that sells tickets is a student. She had her nose in her schoolbooks; wouldn’t know if the building was on fire. The ticket taker is a kid named Jacky. About the time the Hadley girl disappeared he was on duty, but from what I can put together he was spending most of the time ducking into the alley beside the picture house. There’s a saloon next door and he was watching the ball game on TV through the side window. Either this guy offered to take her in to see the picture or she sneaked in and he got to talking with her there, maybe.”
Brady asked, “Why do you say that, Tom? Why couldn’t she have paid her own way in?”
Dahl explained patiently. “Those are poor people, Johnny. Kids don’t have quarters to go to the movies on week days. I checked with that punk uncle of hers. He didn’t give her any money. Her mother says she didn’t have any.” He turned back to Tanager. “The ticket taker says he vaguely remembers a little girl running out of the theater, but he doesn’t make her as the Hadley girl. That was just about dusk.”
Tanager filled his pipe and lit it. “That’s a nice piece of figuring, Tom. I can’t fault you on it, but as you said, we’ll play hell trying to do anything solid with it. Go on back there; work on the ticket seller and this Jacky kid again and see if you can’t get a solid description if you can’t get anything else. I’ll give you another angle. The Hadley girl went to St. Ignacio’s—that’s a parochial school, of course. Maybe the killer watched her or followed her home from school once or twice before he actually moved in to kill her. Get on over there and talk with the sisters when you’re finished at the movie house.”
Brady and Dahl left. Tanager noted with a small grin that Brady stood aside almost obsequiously to let Dahl pass. It was a good thing; Brady had all the qualifications to make a good detective. He had to learn that some of the old-timers had a few qualifications of their own.
A few minutes after Brady and Dahl left, detectives Stein and Blucher, the remaining men in the division, checked in. Blucher, florid-faced and stocky, shrugged his shoulders mutely. Stein, a graying, heavy-set man in his fifties merely sat down wearily.
Tanager said, “Nothing?”
Blucher answered, “Nothing, Ed. We covered the whole neighborhood. One little kid saw her leave the house, he thinks. He doesn’t even know for sure which way she headed.”
“That’s about it, then,” Tanager said. “You boys get with Hyde. He’s checking alibis from the red file. After the city editions come out we’ll be getting tips. I’ll pull you out then to work with me.”
They left. Alone again Tanager put in a call to St. Raphael’s. Agnes, he was told, was holding her own. He called home, then, but there was no answer. When Dahl checked in, calling from St. Ignacio’s, Tanager, without knowing quite why he did so, asked the detective to find out when the Mass for Louise Hadley would be offered.
Milton Raskob, Monday, April 19
MOST OF THE TERROR had left Raskob after three days. Enough of it remained to infest some of his nights, but his mood was more often one of exaltation these days. He had started buying newspapers on the morning after the murder; he had seen the increasing criticism of the police for their failure to cope with the crime, and he was reassured by it. The change from his customary sullen mood was noticed. Miss Kane, the receptionist at Hammersmith Chemical even remarked on it. A pretty girl with the friendliest of manners and the emptiest of heads, she said, as he passed her desk whistling, “My! Aren’t you cheerful this morning.”
In the laboratory Raskob weighed the casual remark, holding it up and examining it from every angle like a curious ape with a mirror. He never had dates with girls; had never had them. From time to time he would visit cheap bars where he would drink cheap whisky until whatever amount of discrimination he possessed was drowned. Then he would accept the overtures of the first drab to accost him. There would be a brief, animal coupling in a smelly bedroom or even (it had happened twice) in an alley. That was the full extent of Raskob’s adventures into romance. As often as he could, when one of his amours was concluded, he would snatch back the money even if it were necessary to use his fists on his hostess.
Miss Kane, he reflected, chattered inanely to all the other front office men, so her remark to him didn’t indicate a personal interest necessarily. On the other hand, she had never ventured more than a “Good morning” before this morning, so perhaps after all she had become genuinely interested in him.
Raskob occupied himself with this figurative daisy petal pulling throughout the morning. He had often felt desire for a pretty woman, most often when he was occupied with his nightly ritual of watching the Puerto Rican woman through his binoculars. He had never tried to possess such a woman by charm or money because of a secret fear that he would be refused or, worse, laughed at. He was not unaware of his own lack of charm. This morning—since last Friday—he was not the Raskob who had run shrieking from the young hoodlums of his lonely childhood. He was the Raskob who had once excited their admiration by the use of a knife. (Did you see Milton kill them goddam birds?) And he still had the knife.
On the morning after that night—he always thought of it, identified it, thus—he had placed the knife conspicuously on the shelf that formed the side of the lab mill, a miniature replica of the big mills out in the plant. Then, afraid that Alpen might have looked for it there and would thus be curious at seeing it so slyly replaced, knowing that it had not been there earlier, he had surreptitiously knocked it to the floor and slid it with his foot into a corner. Each time the telephone had rung that morning he had almost been nauseated with fear that crushed his lungs and left him breathless. The Hammersmith Company, several years gone, had purchased Macbeth lights that duplicated perfectly the wave lengths of daylight. Raskob had scoffed at the instrument, not because it did not do what it was intended to do, but because to scoff put him in the position of an old hand. (Sure, them new lights are all right, but you take an old-timer like Milton Raskob. You won’t catch him using them while there is any real daylight around.) This pitiful attempt at self-assurance now gave him valid reason to stand at the window for hours at a time. He studied every automobile that drove up to the plant; when a taxi with a roof indicator that resembled a patrol car’s flasher turned into the driveway he had almost bolted.
His fears had subsided slowly, eroded by their own intensity as a coal is turned to ashes by the heat of its own combustion. Finally he had picked the knife from the floor casually and with a shake of the head as if at the carelessness of some people had idly tossed it onto his desk, glancing at Alpen out of the corner of his eye as he did so. Later he had put it into a drawer of his desk, covering it, as if accidentally, with a handful of color swatches. So he had it still, and if Alpen or Miss Kane or any of the foremen knew what he had done with it—what he could do again—they would be very careful about refusing him anything, let alone laughing at him.
Miss Kane did both.
Raskob had meant to be subtle, hinting that he might be interested in seeing her but leaving a loophole through which he could withdraw with his dignity unscathed at the merest suspicion of scorn or refusal. Instead, he cornered her at the Coke machine in the late afternoon, the daisy petals having said yes, and blurted doltishly, “How about seeing you after work some night, Miss Kane?”
Miss Kane had ascertained long ago the salary, prospects, and attitude toward marriage of every bachelor employee in the office division of Hammersmith Chemical—including Raskob, who was barely eligible from the standpoint of income and impossible in every other sense. When he issued his invitation she was drinking a Coke. A mixture of surprise and amusement made her giggle, made her choke on the drink so that she could only shake her head and sputter with laughter at her own predicament.
The shaking of her head was not negation, although she would have refused Raskob had she been able to speak. She meant only a tacit, “Wait a minute until I catch my breath.” Raskob saw the gesture, heard the mirth, both of them confirming what he had fearfully anticipated, and stalked away in embarrassed fury.
The elation was gone, its place occupied by an enormous hatred for Miss Kane, for Alpen, who would have laughed had he seen the incident, for all pretty women. At his desk he fumbled blindly for the knife. Only when his fingers closed on the smooth handle did the fear return briefly and with it a newer fear of this new and deadly Raskob armed with a knife and purpose. He would show them; he would redeem himself in his own eyes. The stronger of his emotions was the hatred, and he had the knife in his pocket when he locked the laboratory door— Alpen had played the big-shot and left early—and left the plant.
By eight o’clock he had drunk far more than his usual quota without being able to restore any part of his self-esteem. He straddled a bar stool with his shoulders bent, aimlessly tracing a wet path on the bar with his glass and hating Miss Kane. The bitch, he told himself. Wearing dresses cut low in the front and then bending over the men’s desks so that they could see clear down to her small round belly. He thought of Miss Kane’s small round belly and pretty round breasts and after a time he felt desire for a woman. The kind he usually picked up when he felt desire would no longer satisfy him. He wanted a pretty woman. He wanted one as nearly like Miss Kane as possible.
On this night he patronized a somewhat higher class of bar than usual. In his fourth such bar he found what he sought. She sat alone, a girl in her middle twenties, with the bar stool molding her green skirt to her so tightly that Raskob fancied that he could see the bas-relief welt of her panties. Her breasts were rather fuller than Miss Kane’s, but her face was attractive and her hair neat and cleanly shining.
When he ordered his next drink Raskob said, “Give one to the lady up there.”
The bartender nodded and went away to speak briefly to the girl. She turned and smiled at Raskob. After a while—he would not show his eagerness—he moved up to take the stool beside her. Had he been less drunk he would have marveled at his own daring, his own assurance in doing what he had always feared to do before tonight.
She smiled again. “Hello,” she said. “Thanks for the drink.”
“’S all right,” he answered morosely. “Have another.”
“All right. My name is Shirley, by the way.”
Raskob, after these opening gambits were concluded, found it becoming easier to sublimate his discontent in animal passion. In the booth to which they moved she tolerated his hand on her thigh; she allowed him to place his arm around her shoulders and stroke, with his finger tips the pneumatic overhang of her breast. She protested only that the waiter might see when Raskob slid his hand under her skirt and stroked the rough-smooth nylon column of her leg. She was by this time, he calculated, more than half drunk. He reflected that she should be. They had consumed in little more than an hour, more than five dollars in drinks, and he had cannily cut down on his own consumption when they moved to the booth.
She was breathing heavily now and squirming as she pushed his hand away. “You’ve got to stop,” she said nervously.
He replaced his hand and demanded boldly, “Haven’t you got some place we can go?”
“I guess it would be all right.” She pushed the exploring hand away again and giggled. “You’ve got me in a hell of a state. I’ll tell you what—I only live a couple of blocks away. I’ll get a bottle from the bartender and we’ll go to my room and have a party.”
Raskob had swelled with involuntary pride at her acknowledgment of the aphrodisiac quality of his fondlings and he could not now protest that it would be cheaper to buy the liquor in a package store. Perhaps these younger and prettier women came higher. He was prepared to pay the difference. He was himself tremendously aroused by this time and he protested only perfunctorily when she refused to let him go to the bar for the liquor, although he reflected cynically that she would probably hold back some of his change. He gave her a ten dollar bill and she stood up and smoothed down her skirt.
“I’ll have to go to the John first,” she giggled, and undulated away from the booth.
He became instantly wary, watching her with animal suspicion, but she walked straight toward the door that was preciously labeled, Fillies, and entered without hesitation.
Raskob fidgeted for three minutes, then four. When she did not return in five he stood up and became aware that the bartender was watching him and that his face wore a troubled expression. He walked hesitantly toward the bar, not obviously watching the door marked Fillies lest Shirley come out and resent his suspicion but enough so that he would know if the door opened again.
The bartender, a youngish man early going bald, asked worriedly, “Did she get any dough offa you?”
Raskob felt physically ill. “She didn’t borrow any—just to get a bottle of whisky. She didn’t go out—she’s still in the toilet.”
The bartender shook his head sadly. “Look, Jack, I’m sorry. That was Shirley. She’s pulled this before.”
People were beginning to stare toward them. Raskob demanded thickly, “What do you mean? Pulled what before?” He insisted wildly, “She’s in the toilet. I saw her go in the toilet!”
“It wouldn’t be so bad if she put out. I mean, like if she gave a guy a square shake. I’d keep her out of here if I had my say.”
Years before there had been a neighborhood girl, a wild-haired gypsy of a girl who would show young Raskob strange and terrible things in a tenement basement. The hoodlums of his childhood had promised to arrange this for him and all he had to do was give her a nickel. He had given her the nickel, stolen from the cigar box where Raskob, Sr., kept his poultry receipts, and followed her in dreadful anticipation into the basement. Her friends had been there to beat him. When he had finally broken away he screamed to her over his shoulder the most insulting words that he knew. “Hooer,” he had yelled. “Dirty Hooer!” He remembered this now as he became conscious of the staring eyes, the amused glances that were taking in the scene. A trickle of sweat coursed the length of his spine and a terrible humiliation clutched at his lungs.
“She’s still in the toilet,” he insisted. His tone was almost defensive as he tried desperately not to believe that she could have left.
“No she ain’t. There’s another door in there that leads to a hall that goes to the street. The owner lives across the hall. They use the bar toilets.” The bartender shook his head. “That Shirley! Like I said, it wouldn’t be so bad if she put out. She’ll tease the wrong guy some night, though, and they’ll find her in the alley with her head busted.” Raskob muttered, “You go look and see.” The bartender sighed. “I’ll look, Jack, but it won’t be no use.” He sidled from behind the bar and knocked softly on the door. When there was no answer he opened the door and put his head in, withdrawing it after a moment, not triumphantly at being vindicated by Shirley’s absence, but dejectedly as if he were saddened at this new example of human frailty. “Nobody in there, Jack,” he said.
Raskob thrust him aside and wrenched the door open. The sordid little room was empty. He turned and paused, glaring wildly at the staring faces that seemed to blur along the bar, and then he plunged toward the street entrance. The bartender followed, paralleling his course behind the bar and calling at the door, “Hey, Jack! Wait a minute, Jack!”
Outside, Raskob walked swiftly with his head down, almost running, his hands thrust deep into his pockets. He was sick with frustration and humiliation and the despairing, sudden thought that he had been running like this all of his life. It was at that moment that he felt the handle of the mill knife, almost as if it had insinuated itself into his hand, and he slowed his pace, remembering not the fear but the gratification the knife had brought him before.
He had been walking only a few minutes when he was suddenly buffeted by a soft human form hurtling at him from an alleyway. He cursed and then checked himself cunningly. A girl of ten years or so, a colored girl, sprawled at his feet. Her legs were outthrust and a pair of roller skates gleamed on her feet. He bent and picked her up.
“Did you hurt yourself?” he asked solicitously.
The girl smiled whitely and answered in a high, sweet treble. “No’m. Mister, I mean. Excuse me for running into you like that, mister.” She turned as if to skate away.
Raskob glanced quickly up and down the street. It looked deserted but not really private enough. Somehow he had to delay her. He said, finally and lamely, “Do you live around here?”
She looked at him warily, wanting to be gone and yet not wishing to be rude to this man who had so politely picked her up. “Yes, sir. I lives up the block. Well, I got to be go’n now. Time I was home.”
Raskob was frantic. “Wait,” he said.
She was openly suspicious. “Yes, sir?”
He looked! at her and knew that he could find no more words. Simultaneously the girl remembered the half listened to warnings her mother had given her about strange men. Looking at Raskob she knew instinctively that this was a strange man; the strange man who might do terrible, if incomprehensible, things to a small girl. Her mouth opened pinkly in a scream of utter fear and she began to run, forgetting the steel wheels on her feet so that she stumbled and fell.
The fall saved her. Raskob, lunging toward her with the knife in his hand, stumbled over her thin body. The knife clattered to the pavement and he had to grope for it so that by the time he arose she was already fleeing from him again. One of the skates had come loose and dangled from its strap so that she fled in a comical, lurching gait—a step and a glide, a step and a glide and not once did she stop screaming.
Raskob took a step, two steps, after her. Then he turned and fled in the opposite direction.
Ed Tanager, Monday, April 19
TANAGER HAD WORKED nearly the clock around for three days. Weary to the bone he sat across the table from Catherine, dawdling over a cup of coffee. She was still remote but not as remote as she had been. She had been spending her waking hours beside Agnes’s bed and with time now to talk to her husband she told him what the doctors had said, what the nurses had said, what the receptionist had said. She had the happy faculty of remembering each encouraging fragment of conversation; forgetting the warnings, the wary and always-contingent semioptimism of the doctors, the countless doleful case histories that she heard daily.
Tanager had himself visited the child. He had been brutally shocked by the growing pallor, the thin listlessness of the once exuberant little body. He was certain and glad that Catherine apparently had been unable to discern the change and he had fled the bedside as soon as he decently could, much as a man whose child is trapped in some conflagration, beyond his aid, will turn his head, unable to watch that child consumed. He was certain that Agnes was dying.
He watched Catherine as she spoke. She had had for years a habit, extending to their child, of measuring Tanager’s interest in anything by the amount of time he spent with it or at least speaking of it. Once, at Christmas, she had given him a wood-turning lathe. He had loved the tool, loved it still. He had, at first, spent many hours with it, liking the smell of pine and walnut and maple as the chips magically curled away from the shining steel blade. When he had made a chair or two and repaired all the furniture in the house that needed attention, he had left it untouched for a week. Catherine had worried aloud then that he didn’t really care for the lathe at all. Now, because he could not stand to watch their daughter drifting out of their reach, she could only assume that his love for the child was less than her own. Now that he was listening to her speak of Agnes she was content with his interest.
“They’re not sure yet,” she said. “There was a woman— I came down in the elevator with her. Her nephew had all the symptoms of polio but it wasn’t really. And she said that he got well almost overnight, almost like magic.”
Tanager nodded encouragement.
“If they could only let us know, one way or the other.”
The telephone in the hall tinkled. Tanager got up. “I’ll get it,” he said. So much he loved her that if the call were what he feared so much he wanted to hear it first so that he might tell her himself, although he had no slightest idea where he would find the courage if it should be necessary.
It was not. Sergeant Hyde, on the other end of the wire, gave him tersely a rundown on the attempted attack on the Negro, child. Tanager asked a few questions, making notes about the answers, hung up, and went back to the kitchen.
She had heard enough of Tanager’s conversation so that she was withdrawn again. “You’re going out?” she asked.
He said penitently, “I have to, Catherine. This is the first break of any kind that we’ve had.”
She agreed numbly. “I guess you have to.”
“There was an attempted attack on a little girl; a little colored girl. It may be the same man that murdered the little Hadley kid. I’ve told Hyde to have her at headquarters with her parents. I’ll talk to them there so if you need me you know where I’ll be.”
She nodded silently. He hesitated, then kissed her cheek swiftly and went out the back door to the garage. A soft saturating rain was falling and he switched on the windshield wipers as he backed out the driveway.
There was a drugstore a few blocks away from the house. He pulled in at the curb and went in and walked toward the telephone booth, fumbling for a coin as he closed the door behind him. The number he dialed connected him with St. Raphael’s and, after a moment, with the floor nurse in the children’s ward.
“She’s still the same, Lieutenant,” the nurse said after he had identified himself, anticipating his question.
Tanager gave brief instructions. Should anything go wrong she was to call him at headquarters and not under any circumstances should she notify Mrs. Tanager at the house on Chestnut Street.
He was impatient to be at headquarters now, but the traffic was heavy and slowed by the poor visibility. While he tooled the car along the glistening street, his thoughts drifted back to the morning. He hadn’t told Catherine about it because he could not understand himself why he had slipped into a back pew at St. Ignacio’s. The organ had been thundering the Agnus Dei when he arrived. The front rows had been occupied by Louise Hadley’s classmates—boys to the left, girls to the right—nervously shepherded by the Sisters in their black habits. Behind the children sat a pitifully small group of mourners. The Hadleys—the woman in black, and Hadley decently dressed in a blue serge suit that looked new. The uncle in a gray suit. The flashy woman was not with the group.
Tanager had stayed through the Requiem Mass but he had fled before the procession, telling himself that there was work to be done but without deceiving himself. The real reason for a quick departure was that he did not want to see Mrs. Hadley’s face. So he had pushed his way past the black-suited ghouls who waited in boredom at the back of the church for the ceremony to be over and done with so that they could do their part.
Now he pulled the car to a stop in front of headquarters, the tires making a sibilant hissing on the Wet pavement. Hyde was waiting for him in the anteroom that opened from his office. He said, “I’ve got them in there, Ed. The kid, her mother and father, and a neighborhood woman who saw part of what happened.”
Tanager said, “Fine. Did you let anyone talk to them?” When Hyde denied this he said, “Fine,” again and went on in.
The child’s father, a huge man with tremendous arms and hands like hams, held the little girl in his arms and glared at Tanager. There was a fine film of perspiration on his forehead. “Mister,” he rumbled. “This child is scairt. What you want us down here for?”
The little girl, safe now, as she knew herself to be against any possible harm, peeked quickly over her shoulder at Tanager and in shy panic pressed her face again against her father’s barrel chest. Tanager smiled.
“Don’t be afraid,” he said softly. “I guess your daddy wouldn’t let anything happen to you.”
The big Negro held the child more tightly and some of the belligerence left his face.
“When they’re scared,” Tanager continued, “they know the best place to be. I’ve got a daughter about her age. She’s a pretty sick girl right now. We’re pretty worried about her.”
The girl’s mother, a thin, brown-faced woman in her late twenties, moved toward Tanager from behind her husband. “That’s too bad, mister,” she said sympathetically.
Tanager glanced at his notebook. “Well, Mr. Dubois,” he said, “I guess we’d better get down to business. I want to ask your little girl some questions. I know that she’s had a bad scare and it’s past a little girl’s bedtime, but I need help—the kind that will be twice as valuable now as it will be tomorrow or the next day.”
“Can’t see how she can help,” Dubois rumbled.
Tanager spread one leg across the corner of his desk. “This man,” he said. “Can your little girl describe him?”
The small head against the big Negro’s chest was agitated frantically from side to side. Dubois patted the small behind. “Now you getting her all worked up again,” he growled.
Tanager filled his pipe and lit it, taking his time. He asked then, “Have you been reading the papers these last few days?”
Wariness narrowed Dubois’s eyes. “Don’t have much time for papers.”
It occurred to Tanager in a flash of insight that the big man was probably illiterate and that just as probably he would have suffered any torment rather than admit it, particularly in front of the little girl.
“A little girl, the same age as your little girl, was killed several days ago. It was a terrible crime, Mr. Dubois. I won’t go into detail in front of your child but I’ll say this much. We have to get the man who did it and we have to get him soon. We think it may be the man who attacked your daughter.”
The girl’s mother nodded. “I heard about that,” she said. She turned toward the child. “You don’t have to turn around, you so shy,” she ordered, “but you answer this man’s questions, hear me?”
The other woman in the room, a shapelessly stout figure in brown rayon, started to speak. Tanager halted her.
“Not now,” he said. “I’d rather talk to the little girl first. If she hears you she may be influenced by what you say since you’re a grown-up.”
He turned back to the girl. “Now then,” he went on, “was it a white man?”
The head bobbed up and down.
“Did you ever see him before?”
Violent sidewise motion.
“Was he young?”
Hesitation. Tanager asked patiently, “Was he younger than your father?”
A bobbing motion, slightly hesitant.
“How was he dressed?”
The head puzzled over this for a moment. Since there was no means of answering the question by motion it remained still.
Tanager asked, “Did he have a dark coat on?”
Again a violent bobbing.
“Was he as big as your father?”
Again the violent assent.
The head bobbed and Tanager grinned at the big man. “Did you ever meet a man your own size, Mr. Dubois?”
Dubois reluctantly smiled. “They is few,” he admitted.
Tanager relit his pipe which had gone out during the questioning. “Very few, I’d say. He probably did seem as big to her.” He was silent for a minute and the little girl in curiosity peeked around at him. Tanager smiled again. This time she giggled but she merely ducked her head, not turning it away.
Tanager said abstractedly, “I wish we knew what color his hat was.”
The little girl bent to whisper excitedly in her father’s ear. Dubois nodded and said, “Says it were gray.” He added proudly, “Say he weren’t quite as big as me, now she remembers better.”
Tanager knocked the ashes from his pipe. “We won’t try to push her too hard. You put her to bed now. I’ll get a car to take you home. In the morning I’d appreciate it if you’d talk to her; see if she can tell you anything at all that might help us. What he said; how he sounded; if she saw a knife. Whether or not she ever saw him before.” Tanager turned from the Dubois child’s parents to talk to the other woman. “I’d like you to wait for a few minutes if you don’t mind.”
He arranged for transportation for the Dubois family and then returned to his office, consulting his notebook as he entered. To the stout woman he said, “Your name is Mrs. Hattie Marsh?” making a question of it.
She nodded. “I can’t help you much. I was comin’ down the street when this child came toward me a runnin’ and a carryin’ on; one roller skate on and the other off and her knee all over bloody where she fell down and skin’t it. It were plain dark but I could see this man standing there about a block away looking after her. I picked up the child to comfort her and when I looked again the man was runnin’ the other way.”
“Did he have a dark coat on?”
“Some sort of dark. A hat, too, but I truthfully couldn’t say as to what color it were.”
“You couldn’t see his face, of course, but could you make a guess as to his size and possibly his age?”
Mrs. Marsh smiled. “Weren’t as big as he appeared to that child. Weren’t exactly small, neither. About medium build, I’d say, and he ran like an old man couldn’t run nohow. Same time, he didn’t somehow seem like no real young feller. Maybe he was a little bit younger’n you are.”
Tanager, when he had sent the Marsh woman home, when he had thrown all of his forces—the squad car cavalry, the beat-men infantry—into the search for a man in a dark coat and a gray hat, sat wearily at his desk. Across from him Dave Norris sprawled on his spine, his chair tilted at a dangerous angle against the wall. Starnes, the medical examiner, was present together with a man in his late thirties, a slender, tall figure with naive blue eyes set in an almost boyish face.
“I appreciate your coming over, Doctor Roberts,” Tanager said. “I assume that Doctor Starnes, here, has already told you that we’re at a dead end on this Hadley murder. As a matter of fact, Doctor Starnes suggested that you might be able to help us on the night the little girl was murdered. This new attack—attempted attack—may make enough of a pattern on which you may be able to make a few conclusions.”
Roberts nodded. “I’ve kept up with the case. As a matter of fact, Doctor Starnes had already mentioned to me that a psychiatrist’s slant might be a useful tool for you. I’ll do anything that I can, of course.”
Tanager sat forward. “Then lean back and tell me how you see this man. I have a rough idea what he looks like from the outside, to this extent: he’s probably about thirty years old, of medium build or perhaps a little bit on the slight side of medium.”
Norris took up the description. “Shoe size, eight and a half D. From the length of his stride and the depth of his footprints we feel that he’s five eight in height and weighs in the neighborhood of one hundred and forty-five pounds.”
Tanager said, “Thanks, Dave. Also he’s a white map, dresses modestly well. That, roughly, is what he looks like from the outside. You tell me what he’s like on the inside. Is he a mechanic or a plumber? Is he a cheerful guy with a lot of friends or is he a loner? Why didn’t he attack the Hadley girl sexually since he apparently wasn’t disturbed? Or, if he didn’t intend to attack her, why did he take her clothing off? And why did he fold it up in a neat bundle instead of throwing it aside?”
Roberts frowned. “I can give you a few of the answers— you understand that they aren’t much more than well-informed guesses. In the first place, I can’t tell you his occupation. I imagine you were being facetious when you asked me to. I can tell you this. He will turn out to be an introvert when you catch up with him. Maybe he’ll be hiding it, consciously or unconsciously by mingling with people or even by being the life-of-the-party type, but he’ll actually be what you call a ‘loner.’ A man who can commit a crime of that nature knows that he is different from other people whether he admits it or not and he instinctively recoils from close association with others. As for the attack—the failure to attack the Hadley girl sexually, that is—the answer is that the crime was not a sex crime in the strictest sense of the word.”
Roberts stood up and locked his hands behind his back. He began to pace back and forth in a narrow path as he continued. “Actually we don’t have enough data to establish a pattern or to try to interpret one. The folded clothing can be explained. It probably indicates remorse in a sense—the way a husband who has spent part of his pay in a barroom will scrub the kitchen floor for his wife to make atonement—or the way a child who has been bad will pick up his room without being told to do so.”
Roberts sat down again, studying his fingernails with a puzzled frown. “There’s something about the way she was cut—mutilated—that should mean something. It evades me, but there is a significance to it that I’ve tried desperately to understand.”
Starnes growled over his cigar, “If it wasn’t a sex crime, then what kind of a crime was it? Why did he do it?”
“I think I can answer that one. This is a revenge killing. The man who did it is carrying a fantastic grudge against the world. We are in no position to understand now what it is or what it was, but when he killed the little girl he was proving something to himself and to the world even as he was exacting revenge for whatever the world did to him.”
Tanager, who had been listening intently, said, “I gather from what you say that his choice of a little girl as a victim is meaningless.”
“I believe so with this reservation; it probably means that he is very much of a physical coward. Otherwise he would have selected grown men since presumably grown men are or were responsible for whatever wrong he thinks was done to him.”
Tanager asked, “With this behind him, will he be able to go about his normal routine as if nothing had happened or will he have to hide away?”
Roberts stood up and reached for his coat. “If I see him correctly, he will be going about his job in an apparently normal manner. If anything, I would expect to find him in a mildly elated state once the immediate fear of detection is gone.”
Tanager shook hands with the psychiatrist. “You’ve been a help, Doctor Roberts,” he said. “He’s beginning to take shape.”
Roberts hesitated at the door. “I hope so, Lieutenant. The elation is wearing off. That’s why he—if it was the same man and it probably was—attempted another attack tonight. He won’t be discouraged. Frightened, maybe, but not discouraged. He’ll try again.”
When Ed Tanager got home, hours later, Catherine was in bed, pretending, he was certain, to be asleep. She did not pretend to waken at his entrance and he accepted it, wishing again that he could in some way help her.
Milton Raskob, Wednesday, April 21
TWO DAYS HAD passed since Raskob had made his abortive attack on the Dubois child. This time he had known the extremes of terror for only a few short minutes and he had, in fact, resumed his vigil over the bedroom of the Puerto Ricans as soon as he had furtively gained the sanctuary of his room on that same evening. He had made no wild promises this time, had made no bargains for reprieve, for growing within him was the conviction that he was too cunning, too clever to be caught.
His surveillance of the tenement across the way proved fruitless. The child was apparently sick, and he had seen only a dull hurrying back and forth of father and mother and he felt a wholly irrational rage at the child. Cursing, he depressed the binoculars and turned to watching the antics of the slatternly woman in the tenement below as she entertained one of a long list of lovers. This scene he had watched a score of times. On this night the cavorting whore across the way could not arouse him. His mind drifted back to the encounter with the little Negro girl. Now that it was too late he could think of a dozen ways in which he could have detained her without arousing her suspicion, and he craftily filed them in his memory. There was no doubt within him that the occasion would arise again. He would make it arise and meantime he berated himself for not having persevered in his attack.
Now he sullenly defended himself to Alpen in the laboratory.
“I don’t care if we get the whole order back. That was a commercial color match. Christ sake, the sample is plain film and we made it up embossed in a taffeta pattern. You stretch the embossing out so that you get the same refraction and you’ll see that they’re identical.”
Alpen compressed his lips. “I’m not stupid, Raskob, and I’m not a child. I’m not questioning what you say. I am questioning your judgment. When you saw that they looked so different why didn’t you stop the run until we could send some samples out?”
He had learned how far he could go with this upstart with impunity, could gage to an undertone the exact amount of insolence he could employ.
“You’ve got foremen paid for that. My job is to match colors and I matched this one commercially.”
Alpen stared at him for a moment then wheeled and stalked out the door. Raskob snickered and forgot the incident, counting it another victory in the long campaign against Alpen.
If it was a victory it was Pyrrhic. In the early afternoon a laboratory copy of a plant notice came through. It stated, in coldly stereotyped phraseology, that henceforth the foremen would exercise their own judgment in running questionable material. What it implied, although it was not stated in so many words, was that Milton Raskob would not, in future, be entrusted with any decisions.
Alpen returned to the laboratory on the heels of the notice. Raskob, frantic with rage at the slight implicit in the new ruling, watched him as he went to his desk, reading smug complacency in the schoolboy face. He could bear it no longer. Flinging himself from his stool he cried out, “You didn’t have the right to do that, Alpen!”
Alpen studied him coolly. “In case you didn’t know it,” he said, “I saved your job for you. Mr. Cutler wanted to fire you for that boner you pulled on the taffeta run. If you wish, you can go and talk to him about it.”
Raskob turned away, a little frightened now at his own rashness. The fear was as nothing in comparison with the rage and hatred that now made the blood pulse at his temples so that his head felt as if it were caught in the jaws of a vise. He actually felt the brassy taste of vomit in his throat.
He could no longer concentrate sufficiently to finish the Elmendorf series he had been working on, and he turned from the laboratory bench and went to his desk. His stealthy opening of the drawer, his fondling of the mill knife in it, were completely involuntary acts. There was a tremendous need within him to reassure himself by touching the smooth handle, the cruel blade. With this knife he had proved himself a man to be reckoned with, a dangerous man.
Somewhat later he mumbled, “I don’t feel too good. Guess I’ll knock off early if it’s all right with you.”
There was enough of the tyrant in Alpen to make him look up at the clock after the manner of petty officialdom the world over. In reality he could not fault Raskob on the matters of tardiness or absenteeism. The glance was merely to establish Raskob’s position should there be any further doubt about it. Having established it he said solicitously, “Sure. I’m sorry you don’t feel well.”
Raskob saw the glance and correctly interpreted it; the poisonous fury it evoked this time suggested its own antidote. When he left the plant he was solaced by the bulk of the knife.
The small white dog had been a birthday present—Bobby Burgess’s eighth birthday—and his first dog, but although he loved him as only a small boy can love a dog, he did wish that he wouldn’t make messes on the floor and that he would behave a little better than he did. Mom was already against having him around; she didn’t think that a second-floor apartment was any place to keep a dog. Pop had had a dog when he was a boy, though, and he wanted his boy to have one.
“As soon as you get home from school,” he had said, “put him on his leash and take him over to the park.”
Mom hadn’t liked that, either. There was some bad man around who was after kids and so she had insisted that he not go into the park but that he stay near the edge so that she could see him from the living-room window. And he had meant to except that that darn Bullet dog had pulled the leash out of his hand and raced down the path toward the bird sanctuary. After a glance at the front window and a reassuring wave of the hand in case she was watching, he had plunged manfully down the path calling exasperatedly for Bullet.
Raskob, having walked the streets idly for an hour since leaving the plant at three, turned in at the park entrance out of casual habit. He walked here often although usually at a later hour, watching the couples who thronged here in the evening, and feeling a strange pleasure sharply tinged with contempt and hate.
It was unseasonably warm and he had left his topcoat at the plant. A few rods inside the park he passed a policeman. He nodded casually and strolled on. Realizing that there had been no twinge of fear, that there had been no quickening in his breathing, he marveled momentarily at his composure. He conjectured almost joyously at the picture of chagrin the policeman would later present if he could be told that Raskob had in his pocket at that moment the knife for which the entire department must now be turning the city upside down. There was a warm breeze and Raskob expanded to it. He found a bench and sat for a few minutes while he toyed with a plan for telling the policeman, for telling the police force in general. By means of an anonymous note, perhaps. He played with the idea and amplified it to include Alpen and Miss Kane, knowing even as he toyed with it that it was far too risky and that he would have to be content with the secret knowledge of his own power.
After a while he arose and strolled on. He had faith, of a kind, that a sacrifice would present itself to the mill knife as the lamb had been presented to Abraham on the mountaintop. Thus he was not surprised when, in the deserted hush of the bird sanctuary, he saw the boy coming toward him.
He was a small boy and at that moment his small fists were knotted and his cheeks tearstained.
“Have you seen a little white dog, mister?” he asked.
Raskob nodded. “About this size?” He gestured vaguely with one hand, calibrating the motion to the adjective the small boy had used. He had seen no such dog, but it would have been ungrateful to decline this particular gift.
Bobby Burgess nodded his head happily.
“That’s him, mister! The darn dog pulled the leash right out of my hand! Which way did he go, please, mister?”
Raskob touched the handle of the knife in his pocket. In a voice that was, for him, curiously deep and firm he said, “Come on and I’ll show you.”
When it was over and done with he hurried quickly from the park, pausing only to rinse his hands at a drinking fountain.
Ed Tanager, Wednesday, April 21
BY FOUR P.M. TANAGER had gone through a minor mountain of paper work. There had been a dozen phoned reports from dry cleaners and laundries. “I’ve got a shirt here with bloodstains on the cuffs.” (That particular shirt, it developed, belonged to a dentist who had made an emergency extraction without pausing to put on a smock.) For all of the bloodstains there were satisfactory explanations, but verifying the explanations had tied up three men since Friday, five days previous.
Three of the sorry lot with sex records had been detained for further investigation. These three were recent pick-ups and Tanager was inclined to believe that those men who had been detained during the time of the assault on the Dubois child were necessarily innocent of the Hadley murder. Sergeant Hyde did not agree, believing that two separate men were involved. There was the statement of the Marsh woman; no help there. The Dubois woman had been able to get no coherent details from the Negro child who now considered herself something of a heroine and would agree in a five minute period that her assailant was big, small, ugly, handsome, blond, dark. There were memoranda from Chief Watkins and Mayor Price. What steps are you taking, Lieutenant? The memoranda ‘ were prompted by the tremendous clamor set up by the newspapers which had already drawn their own parallel between the murder of the little Hadley girl and the attempted assault on the Dubois child.
He was relieved when Detective Dahl put his massive head in the doorway and asked, “Busy, Ed?”
Tanager shook his head. “Nothing that can’t wait if you’ve got something.”
Dahl sidled all the way into the office. “I don’t know what good it is. For what it’s worth I’ve got a rumble that a bartender down on River Street knows something. I think we’d do better if we went down there rather than bring him in. He’s on duty now.”
Tanager became alert. “What’s your source?”
The big detective lit a cigarette. “An informer,” he said. “He’s fed me stuff before. He’s taken a fall himself and he wants to be strong with me. I’d say he was about seventy per cent reliable.”
Tanager pushed the Talk button on the intercommunications set on his desk. Of Dahl he inquired, “What’s the name of the bar?”
“The Three Brothers. Don’t ask me why.”
Into the speaker Tanager said, “I’ll be at a joint on River Street called the Three Brothers with Detective Dahl.” He stood up and followed Dahl from the room.
There were two men at the bar when Tanager and Dahl strode purposefully in. These two, correctly guessing them to be police or other officials, finished their drinks with dignified haste and retreated. There were, on River Street, a score of barrooms. There was nothing to be gained by remaining in one where it looked as if there might be trouble. The bartender, abandoned, moved toward them. He had the developed faculty of bartenders anywhere of choosing between, “What’s yours, Jack?” and the questioning, less democratic, “Yes, sir?” The selection of the apropos salutation was based on a brief glance at his customer and a lightning fast interpretation of clothing, manner, demeanor, and half a dozen other factors.
To Tanager and Dahl he said, “Yes, sir?”
Tanager, ninety per cent of the time a gentle and considerate man, could be a Cossack when it might serve the purposes of the law. He brusquely flashed the miniature shield pinned inside his wallet in front of the man’s eyes and said, “We’re from downtown. What’s your name?”
“Green, Captain. Charlie Green. But I ain’t the owner. Wait—I’ll get him for you. He only lives across the hall.”
Dahl, picking up the tempo from Tanager, thumped his big fist on the bar. “You stay right there, mister. And we don’t need the owner. This isn’t any beef about selling after hours or serving minors. You didn’t look close enough at that badge. It says, ‘Homicide’ on it.”
Green’s eyes bulged and a thin film of perspiration greased his temples. “Homicide?” he repeated hoarsely.
Dahl was implacable. “That’s what I said.”
“But Christ sake, I didn’t kill anybody!” It came as a wail.
Tanager picked up the ball. Give the man no time now. Don’t let his resentment jell. Don’t let him think. “Dahl,” he said, “Lay it out for him.”
Dahl hunched forward, hands flat on the bar, his big face pushed close to Green’s. “You were shooting your mouth off in here last night. You said that the guy who killed that little girl over on Gano Street and tried to rape that colored kid was in here.”
Green’s face went chalk white. “I said that?”
Dahl was implacable. “You said that.”
Green’s voice broke. “Well, Christ, I was just talking. You know the way a guy will say something just to stir things up, don’t you?” he appealed.
Dahl stared at him. “You didn’t make a thing like that up out of nothing, Green.”
The bartender fumbled nervously with a beer tap. “Well, no. No, I didn’t. But it happened only four blocks from here, and the papers said the guy wore a dark coat; a medium-built guy. There was a guy in here that night, left only ten minutes or so before it happened. He was medium built and he had a dark topcoat. Not only that, he acted like he was crazy mad.”
Tanager scowled. “What do you mean, ‘that night.’ You mean last Thursday or do you mean Monday night?”
Green looked faintly surprised “Monday, Captain.”
Tanager said disgustedly, “Knock off that captain routine. You’re not in the deep south and the badge said ‘Lieutenant.’ What about this guy that acted crazy mad? Do you know him?”
Green shook his head.
Dahl’s turn to take the ball. “Did you ever see him before? Is he a regular?”
“No, I can’t say I ever saw him before. As far as I know he was never in here before. He sure wasn’t one of my regulars, anyway.”
“What did he look like? Hair? Eyes? Complexion?”
“Dark hair and eyes, that I remember. And sort of dark complected, too.” Green had recovered his composure enough to smirk. “You ought to get Shirley to describe him. He damn near undressed her over in the corner booth.”
“I don’t know. Just Shirley, that’s all I know her by. She hangs around here sometimes. Picks up guys and gets them to buy her drinks. Takes ’em for whatever she can. A hustler.”
“Where does she live?”
Green shrugged “I wouldn’t know. I haven’t seen her in a couple days now. She does like that, comes in a few nights and then we probably won’t see her for a couple weeks. She takes some guy and then stays away until it cools off.”
Tanager glanced across at Dahl who nodded. “That won’t be too tough, Lieutenant. I’ll get Johnny Brady on it. He’ll find her. You want me to take down a description now?”
Tanager shook his head. “Later.” He turned back to Green. “Why do you say this man acted crazy mad? Did he want to start a fight?”
Green looked puzzled for a moment, then his face relaxed in a smile of understanding. “You mean if that’s what it was then you won’t be interested. I get you, Lieutenant. We have fights in here about every night. Some guys get a few drinks and then—” His philosophizing shattered itself against Dahl’s iron stare. Green shook his head like a swimmer emerging from the water and began anew. “Look, Lieutenant, this was a mean guy. He came in alone and sat at the bar. You want to know what I mean by a mean guy? I can’t tell you. Just that he’s mean. Stand behind a bar as many years as I have and you get so you can tell ’em.”
Dahl growled, “All right. He was mean. We’ll take your word for it.”
“Like I said, he came in and sat at the bar. Pretty soon Shirley made a pitch at him. I was surprised that he took her up on it, but he did and they moved over to the corner booth there. They had quite a few drinks, at least he paid for quite a few. Right away I knew he was being cute about the way he drank his and that Shirley—she knows what the score is. She’s no liquor head. So anyway, Shirley teased him a while and then she beat him for a sawbuck arid ran out on him. I’ve seen other guys get sore when they’ve been taken, but this guy was really mad. First he acted like he didn’t believe it. He even made me look in the John to see if she was there. Then he didn’t believe me and he had to look for himself. Then he turned and ran out the door like a wild man. I started to go after him to try and cool him down. You know—tell him I’d try to get his dough back for him. I couldn’t get it back if it was only a dime, but I thought I’d try to cool him down, anyway, so he wouldn’t go to the cops. So anyway, I saw which way he went but I didn’t catch him. He was practically running, and I had customers waiting.”
Dahl growled. “So he was running. Which way was he running?”
Green said, “Uptown. And it was only four blocks that way like I said that somebody knocked down that nigger kid. So when I read about it in the paper and figured that it was only ten minutes or so after this guy left here I said to myself, I’ll bet he did it! But Christ, Lieutenant, I didn’t mean anything by it. I just told a couple of guys how I figured it, but how would I know for sure if it was the same guy?” He continued in some awe, “My God! You think it really was him?”
Tanager nodded. “It’s possible, Green. Why didn’t you let the police know about this? Even if you were just talking as you claim, you must have seen that you could make a pretty good case for it being the man we want.”
Green was instantly contrite. “I’m sorry, Lieutenant. People in this neighborhood don’t go to the cops because they want to, usually. Believe me, if I thought it would have helped I would have, sure. God, this guy is liable to kill some other kid if you don’t get him.”
The coin telephone on the wall behind Tanager pealed sharply, the sound loud and ominous in the abnormal quiet of the bar.
Tanager turned. “I’ll get it.” He recognized the desk sergeant’s voice when he held the receiver to his ear and he said quietly, “This is Lieutenant Tanager. Go ahead.”
He listened, jaw tightening, making few comments while Green and Dahl watched him. Green’s expression was fascinated. Dahl’s face was completely empty of any expression. Green passed a bar towel between his hands, back and forth.
After a minute or two Tanager said, “All right,” and hung up. He said, “Come on, Dahl,” and started for the door. Halfway there he paused and glanced back toward Green.
“You were right,” he said.
Green was pouring a rare drink for himself. He looked up in surprise. “How’s that, Lieutenant?”
“He killed some other kid.”
In the car he said to Dahl, “The night the Dubois kid was attacked I told Sergeant Hyde to get a detail in to make a canvass of the neighborhood.”
Dahl, following his line of thought, nodded. “He got two men from the Third Precinct.”
Tanager said bitterly, “Whichever one was supposed to work the downtown side, that one we’ll break.”
Ed Tanager, Wednesday, April 21
THE SCENE AT THE PARK held for Tanager the uneasy familiarity of a book long since read and now reopened, half remembered Norris’s mobile laboratory, Doctor Starnes’s car, and a pair of cruisers were parked at crazy, hurried angles beside the road. A uniformed patrolman was waving traffic along; he recognized Tanager and flipped him a salute. There were even the same familiar groups of people. Two groups. The one composed of the morbidly curious, attracted by the police activity; the other smaller and completely tragic. A group of two, husband and wife, Tanager assumed. He strode past them and past the larger group, restrained by a stony faced patrolman. He stopped abruptly and spoke to Dahl.
“Move around,” he said. “Ask questions. Find out what you can. Check any potential suspects in that mob over there. Hold anyone that even looks as if he might fit the description we’ve been working on.”
Dahl grunted and strode away. A good detective, a patient man. He would sift through the crowd of spectators swiftly. If there were anything there he would pick it up unerringly. Tanager stared after him for a moment and then swung back to where the body of the Burgess boy lay, face upward on a brown bed of pine needles. His clothing had been removed and thrown in a heap. No careful folding this time, and Tanager remembered grimly what the prison board psychiatrist had said in his analysis of the murderer. He reflected somberly that there was no longer any remorse. Only butchery.
Starnes, bent over the body, looked up. Seeing Tanager he said, “Gutted, Ed. Throat cut and then slashed from the navel to the lower half of the abdomen.” Starnes had lost more than a little of his professional sang-froid. “You’d better get this guy, Ed.”
Starnes stood up and nodded to Norris. “Yours,” he said. Norris moved in while Tanager stood aside, hands thrust deep into his pockets. After a while he asked, “What about it, Dave?”
Norris was squatted Indian fashion beside the pitifully small body, his thin fingers nervously sifting a handful of pine needles. “It’s going to be hard to get anything from these,” he said, tossing the brown slivers aside. “There are some faint depressions where his heels apparently came down. Working from that I’d say that the length of the stride is the same as we found in the mud where the Hadley girl was killed. Actually that’s incidental. There can’t be any question about it being the same man. The throat wound is like a trade-mark. It was made the same way; not exactly a stab and yet not a slash.” Norris shook his head in disgust. “The rest of it is the same.”
“Stay with it, Dave. Give me anything, anything at all that we can get started with. I don’t care how farfetched it is. We’re at a dead end until Brady turns up that Shirley woman. Did you hear from Hyde yet?”
Norris straightened. “He’s on the way. He was on his way home when we got the call. Birch had the radio dispatcher contact a squad car to try to head him off.”
Tanager absently reached for his pipe and as absently put it back in his pocket unlit. “I didn’t get any of the detail,” he said. “Dahl and I were checking out a lead downtown. Who reported it?”
Norris said, “A youngster on the park detail. Name is Ciannelli. He may be your lead, Ed.”
Tanager was instantly alert. “How is that?”
“He saw the killer. Thinks he did, anyway.”
Ciannelli was a youngster, his lean dark features and sturdy shoulders giving him a good police officer appearance. Talking to Tanager a few minutes later those features were set in a glowering frown.
“I’m a stupid so and so, Lieutenant, or I would have spotted him. Every cop on the park detail has had a copy of your bulletin since the other kid was killed and we’ve been watching for phony looking guys. The way it was, he passed me going the other way near the Cherry Street entrance just beyond the path to the bird sanctuary. I made him; just a little I made him. Guy about thirty, medium build. Had on a gray suit, no topcoat. You know the way it is with wrongos, Lieutenant. They’ll look at you as if they hated you or else they’ll look at you too nonchalant. Smile at you too quick.”
Tanager had repressed a smile at the manner in which the young officer larded his conversation with the tough idiom of the downtown squads. Now he made a mental note to remember this youngster. He himself knew what Ciannelli meant by the odd way that wrongos looked at you; he would have been hard put to describe it any more accurately. Not more than one uniformed man in twenty had the intuitive ability to recognize it. He said, “I know what you mean. What else have you got?”
“Well, like I told you, I could smell it there was something wrong with this guy. After he passed me I asked myself what he’d be doing walking down the path by himself. He didn’t look like a bird fancier and that’s for damn sure.” Ciannelli paused and struck his forehead sharply with the palm of his hand. “Jesus, Lieutenant, my old man was a beat cop for twenty years. He told me more than once that whenever I had a hunch about a criminal I should act on it without even stopping to think about it.”
Tanager soothed him. “Take it easy. You’re still just guessing that it was the same man. What could you have done? Made a pinch just on your hunch and then have to stand for a false arrest suit?” Years before and as a brand new patrolman he had done that same thing himself. There had been a wave of liquor store holdups. Tanager had, on his beat, passed a pair of well-dressed young men who fitted the vague description of the holdup men. One of the two men had said something in an aside to his companion as they passed Tanager and the two of them had laughed. It had been his first real experience with the wrongo look and attitude and he had made the arrest partly on a hunch and partly, as he privately admitted, from pique. They had proved to be well spoken, well educated young men, bitterly enraged at the arrest when he brought them in for booking and he had sweated it out until their denials finally gave way to admission.
Ciannelli was still angry with himself. “All right, I was just guessing but it was a good guess. I halfway turned around to follow this character. Then I told myself that I’d look silly, not having any real reason. But I stood there ten minutes or more watching a gang of teen-agers playing baseball. Nobody else came down this path.”
“There’s another end to the path. Where does it come out?”
“Western Avenue. He could have come down from there; the murderer, I mean, but he didn’t, Lieutenant. He came down this path. He walked right by me and I let him go by.”
A nice youngster, Tanager considered. Quick and alert and with the intuition that was a good cop’s most valuable weapon. Sore, now because he felt that he had done somewhat less than his full duty and that, too, was not a bad thing. “Who found the boy?” he demanded.
“That’s the tough part of it, Lieutenant.” Ciannelli’s fists knotted and he kicked at the turf in dull anger. “His own mother found him. That’s her over near the medical examiner’s car. The man with her is the kid’s father.”
“Fill me in.”
“After I watched the kids for a while I circled around the bridle path. We keep moving along toward dusk, shagging drunks and S.P.s,” Ciannelli said with the pride he took in his work apparent in his inflexion. “I was gone five, maybe ten minutes. Then I cut across toward the duck pond. That’s when Mrs. Burgess, the boy’s mother, came running up the path with her eyes all scared.”
There had been a day when Agnes had gone to a movie with a friend without telling Catherine. Tanager had come home to find her frantically combing the neighborhood for the girl. He knew what the policeman meant by eyes all scared. Afterward he had teased her about it, but he hadn’t admitted that he had been all scared too, but where it didn’t show. In the pit of his stomach.
“Go on,” he prodded.
“I knew the boy a little. Seen him walking his dog, and I knew that he hadn’t come up to that end of the park, so I told her I’d help her and we came on back here. I took this side of the path and I wish to God I’d taken the other. I didn’t, so it was her that found him. Just the way he is.”
Ciannelli’s own eyes were tortured. “I had to drag her away, Lieutenant. She screamed once when she first saw him and some people came. I sent a fellow to call the station and some neighbors of hers tried to take her home, but she wouldn’t go. They went and got her husband. That’s it, I guess.”
“I’ll talk to them now, then. Thanks for bringing me up to date. And Ciannelli—”
The patrolman said miserably, “What?”
“You did fine. One thing more. I’m not sure yet, but I think that you did see the boy’s murderer. Did you make him enough so you could pick him out? I don’t mean out of a showup. I mean out of a whole city.”
The lean face set. “Lieutenant, I could pick him out of Hell itself.”
Tanager nodded. “You may have to.” Turning, he walked toward the Burgess boy’s parents.
They stood apart, the man’s arm around the woman’s shoulder. Burgess was tall and thin; he wore horn-rimmed spectacles. A scholar’s face. His wife was small, eyes slightly exophthalmic. A warm, friendly face. Tanager went through the ritual of introducing himself. “At a time like this I hate to intrude but—”
Then, “Had the boy ever told you of being accosted or approached before?”
Mrs. Burgess shook her head. “I’d warned him,” she said dazedly. “He was just a little fellow. I couldn’t tell him why, but even before what happened last week to that little girl I’d warned him. I told him if anything like that ever happened he should run away as fast as he could and that he should tell me about it right away.”
“I understand that he came to the park often.”
Mrs. Burgess again. “Every night after school.”
Burgess said suddenly, thickly, “The dog.”
“What about the dog?”
Burgess walked a stride or two away, turning so that he faced away from them. “If I hadn’t bought him that damned dog and told him to walk it every night after school he wouldn’t have come to the park. It’s my fault.”
Mrs. Burgess took a step toward her husband. “No, Tom.”
“He had the right to have a dog,” I said. “So now he’s dead.” Without warning Burgess put his hands to his face and began to sob, ugly choking sobs that wracked his entire body.
Tanager started to speak and then held back as Mrs. Burgess went to her husband. There was nothing he could do or say now to help these people. They were in each other’s arms when Tanager heard a plaintive whine. Coming toward them was a smallish white dog trailing a leather leash. Burgess and his wife heard it, too. Burgess broke from his wife’s arms.
“A club,” he muttered. “I’ll kill that damned dog.”
His wife caught his arm.
Burgess stared at her briefly while the tension went out of his face. Then he put one arm back around his wife’s shoulders and with his free hand picked up the trailing end of the leash.
Tanager didn’t want to watch them leave, but he did. Hyde had come up to stand beside him. “You know,” he said, “times like this I think my old man had the right idea.”
Tanager asked absently, “How’s that?”
“He quit the force to raise chickens.”
Ed Tanager, Wednesday, April 21
SIX HOURS FROM THE time he had left his office to go to the River Street bar with detective Dahl, Tanager sat again at his desk. Across from him Dave Norris slumped in a chair, idly twirling a pencil between his slim fingers while Tanager completed a telephone call.
“That’s about all of it that we have so far, Doctor Roberts. I wouldn’t want you to go out on a limb but I’d like you to make any guess that you can,” Tanager was saying. Roberts, the psychiatrist, said something that Norris couldn’t make out from across Tanager’s desk, something that made Tanager smile wryly. When he hung up Norris raised one eyebrow.
Tanager shook his head. “He couldn’t help much. Said he hadn’t changed his thinking any in view of the Burgess case. Told me we should keep on looking for a mad rabbit. A rabbit that thinks like a tiger.”
“And carries a knife,” Norris added. “An odd knife, Ed. I’m going to have another talk with Starnes about that knife, then I’ll come to you with it if we agree.”
“How about something for right now?” Tanager asked.
“We know that it has an unusually stiff blade.”
“That’s all for now. Doc Starnes is making some measurements. When he’s finished we’ll tie it all up and I’ll give you the whole package. It may not amount to anything; I can’t be sure.”
Norris left, almost colliding with the stately figure of Mayor Carl Price as he went through the door. Price nodded to him and raised a hand as Tanager would have risen.
“Don’t get up, Lieutenant,” he said.
Price moved past Tanager’s desk to stand looking out the window, hands locked behind his back.
“A citizens’ committee just waited on me,” he said finally. “They wanted to have the Legion and the service clubs arm themselves and patrol the streets.”
Tanager said slowly, “I don’t like that. I’ve never seen it work out.”
“That’s the way I feel. I told them that the situation was being properly handled now.” Price, still staring out the window, continued absently, “I don’t think you have much respect for Chief Watkins or myself, Lieutenant.”
Tanager started to protest and Price turned from the window. “It’s all right,” he said. “Chief Watkins and I are politicians. You are a professional law enforcement officer —and a damned good one.” He turned back to the window. “Up in my office a few days ago I looked out my window and made a speech about women being afraid to let their kids out on the streets. I guess you thought it was pretty— what’s the word—corny?”
Tanager said nothing.
“I suppose it was pretty dramatic. After you’ve held public office long enough you seem to develop a habit of speaking in speeches.” Price turned from the window and walked back to sit in the chair that Dave Norris had vacated. He took a cigar case from his pocket and offered it to Tanager. When Tanager shook his head he took one for himself and lit up.
“I think you misjudge us, Lieutenant. You know and I know, for instance, that when there is a crime that rouses a public clamor, then Watkins runs like a thief leaving you or some other subordinate to handle it. That’s because he’s a politician, not a policeman. Nobody realizes that better than Ben himself does. That’s why he leaves’ it to someone who can handle it. That’s being realistic. Ideally speaking, Ben shouldn’t have the job if he can’t handle it, but this isn’t a realistic world.” Price stood up again and began to pace the floor restlessly.
“As for my own case,” he went on, slowly. “I’ve had a living from this city for thirty years. It hasn’t been a matter of all take and no put. I love the city. I love the people in it. I don’t want to see them frightened. I don’t like to see the playgrounds empty and the streets deserted. We have to get this man, Lieutenant. What does it take? What can I do to help you? Do you want me to ask the Governor for help?”
Tanager had never liked the mayor as well as he did at this moment.
“We can handle it with our own people,” he answered. “I’ve already asked the chief to double up on patrols. Beat cops are the best preventative until we get more of a lead. There’s one other step we’ll have to take.”
Price looked up. “What’s that?”
“We’ve rounded up all the perverts and the S.P.s. Now we’re going to have to start questioning any man on the streets, day or night, that even faintly resembles the description we’ve compiled of the killer. That means that we’re going to make a lot of people sore because a surprising number of men will fit a description like that. They’ll get sore and they’ll start complaining to you and the chief and the newspapers and the chamber of commerce. I don’t. want to have to bother with the complaints. I don’t want to be bothered at all.”
Price nodded. “We’ll take care of that. You do whatever you feel is necessary. I don’t quite see what good it will do, however. Questioning men, that is. Certainly you won’t expect a confession.”
“Look at it this way. The man is crazy—a lunatic. We have to make that assumption. If an officer approaches him and starts asking questions, he might be crazy enough to react in a way that shows. He might lie; he might even try to run. We don’t know that he will, but it is a possibility and possibilities are all we have to work on right now. This afternoon—we’re not sure of this, either, but I believe it—a young park detail officer by the name of Ciannelli probably saw the murderer when he was on his way to kill the Burgess youngster. Think about it for a minute. If Ciannelli had stopped him and asked him where he was going and what he was doing, he might very well have given himself away. Certainly he wouldn’t have gone through with the murder.”
Price nodded again and stood up. “You know what you’re doing. Go ahead with it. We’ll back you up.”
Dave Norris entered the room a quarter of an hour after Price had left it, slumping gracelessly into his favorite chair. Tanager cocked an eyebrow at him.
Norris shrugged. “That knife,” he said. “It puzzles me. We’ve got pretty good measurements from the wounds on the body. The blade is four inches long and an inch wide. Think back a minute, Ed. Did you ever see a knife with those particular dimensions?”
“A hunting knife?”
Norris shook his head. “It won’t do. A hunting knife usually has a rather thick blade; sort of wedge-shaped. The one that was used on both the Hadley girl and the Burgess youngster has a flat blade, unusually thin. Also it’s extremely stiff considering the thinness of the cross section.”
Tanager frowned in concentration. “Sounds like it might be a kitchen knife. An out-size paring knife, perhaps.”
Norris shook his head again. “This one was stronger than we would expect any common paring knife to be. I’ve been talking to Starnes about it. He’s convinced from the way it deflected off bone that it’s more rugged than the usual run of kitchen knives. Besides, a paring knife is usually only about three quarters of an inch wide.”
“Perhaps it was homemade,” Tanager said. “A lot of men make their own knives from old hack-saw blades, chisels. Stuff like that.”
“I don’t think it was. There are several commercial knives that fit the bill. A linoleum knife, for instance. Or a mill knife.”
“What’s a mill knife?”
“They use them in rubber factories to cut stock with.”
“We’ve got a rubber factory. I’ll check it out in the morning.”
When Dave Norris left again, Tanager lit his pipe and plunged into the mass of detail work, of coordination, that had to be accomplished. It was past midnight when he got home. Catherine was up; she kissed him when he came in the door.
“I called the hospital before I left,” he said. “The nurse told me that she seems more comfortable tonight.”
She said, “She seemed better to me tonight.”
While she made sandwiches and coffee Tanager told her about the Burgess case. She listened with interest.
“Won’t that patrolman be able to identify him?” she asked when he had finished.
He sipped at his coffee. “I’m having him assigned to my division. He’ll spend as much time as it takes to go through every rogue file in the place. I’ll have him available to look at every man that’s brought in for booking. If that doesn’t work, I’m going to send him out with a cruiser just to ride and look.”
When they had finished the sandwiches he helped her clear away the table and it was almost the way it always had been with them.
Before they left the kitchen she stopped and looked squarely at him, her hands on her hips in a special way she had.
“You’re tired, Ed,” she said. “I know you’re working hard and I’m not much help to you now.”
“Don’t worry about it,” he said quietly. “Right now I don’t seem to be much help to either of us.”
Milton Raskob, Thursday, April 22
RASKOB, ON THE following evening, picked up the Zeiss binoculars and stared across the lots at his usual target. It had been a warm and humid day and with sundown a series of thunderstorms had marched and counter-marched across the sky. These had diminished to a lighter but a steadier rainfall which hindered his vision only slightly. There was some other obstruction that blocked his view into the room, however. When he had figured out the nature of the obstruction, he swore and beat his fist against the window sill in helpless frustration. The baby. The weather was getting warmer now and they had moved the crib up close against the window. He could discern the small mound beneath the blankets, unmoving. There was no sign of either parent in the dim light that filtered through from a hall door left open. When Raskob lowered the glasses to scan the tenement below, he found it also empty. He put the glasses down and prowled restlessly about the room. It had been a week since he had first used the mill knife, but already he had difficulty in remembering a time when he did not have it. He had hoped that now the mere possession of the knife would be enough, but was it? The thought terrified him. God! It had been only yesterday . . . the little boy in the park . . . the dog . . . and then the sensation of release and excitement, a sensation dimly remembered but now no longer felt. Just the restlessness, and angry, self-pitying thoughts about the crib they had moved in front of the window. The crib . . .
It was nearly nine when the telephone for which Hammersmith Chemical paid the bill rang shrilly. He picked it up and said sourly, “Raskob.”
The call was from the plant and the matter was, properly speaking, Alpen’s problem, but Alpen wasn’t available and would Raskob come in to the plant? A pigment had to be substituted and Raskob was the color man—
Patrolman Halvorsen, whose beat was Argonne Street, had reported in for duty that afternoon in spite of the tearing pain in his knee that was always worse in damp weather. When the thunderheads started to pile up in the late afternoon he had resigned himself to a bad night of it. He didn’t consider taking a night off.
They were calling men in from vacation and from the soft details like the ball park and the race track and he knew that his absence would have been resented. The sergeant wouldn’t like it if he went on sick list, either. The sergeant had noticed the limp, however.
“Halvorsen,” he had growled, “you can rest your butt in one of the cruisers. Swap off with Marcy; he can walk your beat for one night.”
Marcy didn’t like it. There was a dash and a glamour to the squads that was missing from the humdrum routine of pounding a beat. At the same time Halvorsen was a good guy, always willing to pull a trick for another guy, so he didn’t really mind. But Halvorsen, who knew Raskob as he knew every other regular on his beat, would never have stopped him in line with Lieutenant Tanager’s new order to interrogate every W.M. who even came close to matching the description that was read out at every formation. Marcy did. It was a few minutes after 9:00 p.m. when he walked up to Raskob, who was leaving the rooming house on his way to the plant.
“I want to ask you a few questions, mister,” he said.
Raskob was almost actively sick. Once, in the frightened years, he had lain chickie for a gang of hoodlums bent on robbing a pushcart. A cop had come on the scene and Raskob, without waiting to warn the gang, had started to run. The cop, a young one, instead of chasing the gang had come on after him. Raskob, looking over his shoulder at the red, straining face, the open, panting mouth, had tried to run faster. He couldn’t. When the cop finally reached out and clutched his shoulder, Raskob, in his fear, had wet himself; standing there white-faced and unable to control himself with the burning moisture running down his leg to make a puddle at his feet.
The cop had said disgustedly, “Oh, for Christ’ sake!” and turned away.
This time he did not soil himself. He managed even to say, “Certainly, officer.”
Marcy, cold eyed, reached for pencil and notebook.
“Raskob. Milton Raskob.”
“You live here?” This with a nod of his head at the bulk of the tenement. When Raskob again said yes, Marcy flicked his light at the entrance and copied down the street number.
“Room three C,” Raskob told him.
“Where are you going, Raskob?”
Raskob was no longer frightened. If they knew something, if they were looking for him specifically, they would not have had to ask where he lived.
“To work,” he said. “They’ve got some trouble at the plant where I work.”
“What do you do, Raskob?” Marcy was trespassing now and he knew it. He was just sufficiently irritated at being assigned to beat duty to be a little meaner, a little more arrogant than departmental orders specified. More important, Raskob knew it too, and he felt the dull and impotent fury of being bullied and not having the courage to resent it openly. The cop would have called another man mister rather than the unadorned and somehow insulting, Raskob.
“I’m a color chemist,” he said. It was a lie, of course. The matching of colors was a matter of perception, not of chemistry. Raskob lied to restore some of the dignity that Marcy had stripped from him by his arrogance.
Marcy wrote it down and then asked curiously, “What’s that?” He had not been at all impressed by Raskob’s sudden acquisition of a profession.
Raskob explained. Marcy listened idly at first and then with boredom. He said, finally, “Yeah. Well, I guess that’s Raskob. You’ll probably get stopped again.”
Raskob fenced with him. “Who are you after, officer?”
Marcy permitted himself to pose just a little. After all, he was a part of the manhunt. “This kid killer,” he said. “We’re going to get the bastard, too. Well, take it easy, Raskob.”
Marcy turned and strode away. He was not a bad police officer nor an exceptionally good one. He was described by his sergeant in his annual efficiency report as “aggressive.” In the morning he would write up the interview with Raskob; wanting his coffee he would make it impatiently brief. Sergeant Hyde, of Tanager’s division, would painstakingly Summarize Marcy’s report and all of the hundreds like it and place the summation on Tanager’s desk. Police work.
Raskob grunted to the guard at the main gate of the plant and stalked to the laboratory. The trouble for which he was summoned was inconsequential. He could have remedied it in five minutes but at overtime rate he drew it out to two hours, part of which time he used to compose a note to Alpen.
The note was brief, calling attention to a hazing in the sheet film being produced; the hazing due, in Raskob’s sarcastically worded opinion, to the addition of filler to the basic compound. Actually there was no real reason for writing a note. He himself would be in the laboratory in the morning before Alpen; he could tell Alpen. The writing of the note was in itself a Uriah Heepish gesture letting Alpen know that while he digressed, faithful Raskob had been on the job. He left the note on Alpen’s desk and went home.
Tony Ciannelli, Friday, April 23
TONY CIANNELLI AWOKE at 5:30 a.m. The alarm clock had been set for fifteen minutes later. He shut it off and went to take his shower. In his bathrobe and slippers he then padded to the kitchen and made coffee. He drank the first cup himself; when he had finished it he poured another cup which he took to the bedroom where his wife still slept. He stood there watching her for perhaps half a minute, admiring the warm tan of her shoulder against the pink of her nightgown; then he shook her gently. When she sat up, yawning, he handed her the coffee cup and lit a cigarette for her.
She glanced sleepily at the clock and back to him. “Why are you up “so early?” she asked.
He struck a ridiculously theatrical pose, thumbs in armpits and chest out. “You mean you’ve forgotten already? I’m not a sparrow cop any more, remember? Officer Ciannelli of Homicide, that’s me.”
She sipped at her coffee and then swung her feet to the floor, fumbling for her slippers. “For one week,” she derided him. “Then you’ll be back shooing the pigeons off the grass again.” She studied his face briefly and then added quickly, “I’ll bet you won’t though. I’ll bet that that Lieutenant Tanager you rave about will ask to have you permanently transferred to his department.” She took a step toward him and hugged him. “In case he doesn’t, I still say that you’re the best cop on the force, not to mention the handsomest.”
He swung her from her feet and kissed her. When he put her down he slapped her thigh smartly. “That,” he said, “is what all the pretty nurses and governesses tell me.” They walked to the kitchen arm in arm. Over a second cup of coffee she asked, “Did you tell Pop yet?” He shook his head. “No rush.”
She looked at him fondly as she started eggs frying, knowing the pride he would take in telling his father about the homicide assignment, knowing the casual way he would mention it as if it were a matter of small moment.
He dressed with extra care. When he was ready to leave she kissed him again. “What time will you be home?” she asked.
Standing in the door he said over his shoulder, “I don’t know. Depends on what turns up today. What’s for supper?”
She said brightly, “Chops. Maybe steak. Did you say that homicide cops make more money than park patrolmen?”
“Chops then. I won’t have to worry about keeping them warm in case you’re late.”
Ciannelli, striding toward the avenue, recognized a pride in her that was both becoming and endearing; pride in being a wife now after a few months of being a bride, pride in being a party to the problems of all wives—such problems as keeping the supper warm for the breadwinner.
There had been mornings when he faced the prospect of a day’s duty in the park with some boredom. Now he laughed to find himself setting his face in lines of stern grimness and staring suspiciously at the few passers-by he encountered walking down Third toward High Street. He reminded himself to tell Angie about it while they were eating the chops.
Third Street, at its lower end, resembled a cobbled river bed with banks of three- and four-storied tenements on either side. These were old buildings, once the residences of upper level bankers and doctors. Most had high redstone stoops from which kids were forever falling. There were sub-street entrances to many of them. These lower sections were given over to cobblers’ shops and pizzerias, down-at-heel dress shops and finicking millineries. Whistling, Ciannelli strode past, idly wondering how there could be a living in most of the shops. Once he sniffed pleasurably at the fragrance of someone’s breakfast coffee. A block later he sniffed again, stopped, sniffed for the third time, while the alarm bell that is circuited in the brain and heart and mind of every natural-born cop began to clang. Faintly there came to him the ominous, tarry smell of wood burning. He sorted it at once in his mind. It wasn’t the clean pungence of kindling or logs being burned in someone’s furnace to take the chill off the morning. There was paint in it, and varnish, and it carried with it a fear as old as mankind.
He located it almost at once. Gray tendrils of the smoke were writhing, snakelike, at the sills and doorframe of a substreet entrance to a three story tenement to his right. There was a wino, a shambling, runny-nosed old wreck of thirty sitting on the stoop of the adjacent building. Ciannelli paused just long enough to shout at him, “You! Get down to the corner and pull the fire alarm!” and then he was racing, not to the substreet entrance but up the high stoop and into the hall. Even as he raced toward the stoop he had seen the shimmer of heat eddies, like a slightly out-of-focus picture, swimming about the lower door. The fire inside must be barely contained; to open the door would make a draft for it. And there was the maxim in the Police Manual which took half a page to explain what the first duty of a police officer was in the event of discovering a fire. What it actually instructed was, Get the people out!
The top floors first, he decided, and he went up the wide staircase three steps at a time in all the splendid power of his youth and condition. All the way up he shouted, “Fire! Everybody out now!”
There were a dozen families in the old building. They were, variously, just sitting down to breakfast, turning over for a last cat nap, shaving, or plain sleeping. The third-floor rooms were smaller than those downstairs; they had been servants’ quarters in the days when these houses were stately and dignified. They were partitioned into units, all of them opening from the main hall. Ciannelli flung open the door of the rearmost room. If it had been locked he wasn’t aware of it, and the lock was now broken. There was a woman of perhaps sixty in the tenement; as Ciannelli threw the door crashing open she came scurrying from the kitchen in an old cotton wrapper, a few tea bags dangling incongruously from her left hand.
“Come on, Ma, the place is on fire,” Ciannelli ordered. “Anybody else in here?”
She was quick to understand. She said calmly, “Just Pa. My husband. I’ll get him. You hurry and see that everyone else is all right. There’s three kids in the tenement down the hall.”
He waved at her and turned away. She would be all right. He grinned at the memory of the tea bags as he raced for the next doorway. A man hurtled past, eyes staring wildly. They had heard him in this place; they were boiling out into the hall; a fat man followed by a fatter woman, the man sweating from fear and exertion. Ciannelli put out a hand and spun the man. He squealed and frantically tried to push by.
“Take it easy,” Ciannelli said. “Anybody else in there?”
The fat man was too frightened to speak. He shook his head mutely. Ciannelli pushed him toward the stairway, not gently, and surged toward the third and last door.
The door was opening as he reached it, a bright-looking twelve-year-old boy came out, a smaller child, five, Ciannelli would have guessed, holding trustingly to his hand, another child over his shoulder, the boy’s free arm cradling its tiny rear.
“There ain’t anybody else in there,” the boy shouted as Ciannelli would have gone by him. “Pa run out.” His voice was pathetic.
There was a tumult in the streets now, the wailing crescendo of a siren, a babble of shouting voices. There was another and more ominous sound; a muffled and mysterious roaring that Ciannelli made no effort to identify, There was a sudden, frightening odor of smoke, immensely acrid and strong for all its suddenness. Ciannelli snatched up the five year old, the child beginning to cry, now, and shooed the older boy toward the stairway. He had a glimpse of the old woman from the first apartment coming toward them; she saw that he had the children and sensibly hurried herself toward the stairs.
“Where’s your mother?” Ciannelli shouted.
“Ma didn’t come home last night. She stayed with some friends.”
At the stairway the smoke was stronger, a gray wall before them. Ciannelli snatched the smallest child from the older boy and shouted, “Grab onto my belt.” They plunged into the smoke, both of the smaller children crying by this time.
The engines were staggered in to the curb, three pumpers and a pair of spidery hook and ladders. When the alarm came from one of the old districts like this one, the battalion chiefs took no chances. Like Jeb Stuart they got there with all they had. There was a milling crowd clustered near the door. When Ciannelli staggered out with his burden they sighed in unison as a crowd will sigh when a Fourth of July rocket explodes. Eager hands reached for the children. Ciannelli, standing there taking great gulps of air into his lungs, saw from the corner of his eye a man break from the crowd across the street and burst through the crowd. Shielding his face against the heat with crooked arms he came straight on at and then past Ciannelli.
“My kids!” he was shouting. “My kids—I left them up there!”
Ciannelli shouted after him, “I brought them out. Come on back here!” The man didn’t hear him. He was gone even as Ciannelli wheeled and followed him.
The smoke had been thick and blinding before. Now it was superheated and poisonous. Gasping and shouting when he could find the breath Cianelli plunged after the man. He could see no farther than an arm’s length; he could hear nothing over the demoniac roar of the flames. As nearly as he could judge he was approaching the stairwell now, his lungs nearly seared. When his foot hit the bottom step he stumbled and went down. It took all the will power he could summon to rise and start up again. He stumbled again when he stepped on the outstretched foot of the man who had run in before him. Poor bastard, he thought. Left the kids to run to safety and then discovered that there were worse things than burning to death. He got an arm under the man’s shoulder; turning him was the hardest part of it. He managed to get him turned, however and he began to back down the stairs as fast as he could, but it was getting hotter and hotter. His uniform was blazing now, but there was no time to beat out the flames. He had to get down the stairs and away from the tunneling heat. In his pain he cursed the man for being so heavy and slowing him up; it did not occur to him to leave his burden. He was raving at him when his foot caught and he went down again. This time there was not strength enough left in him to get him to his feet. He began to crawl, still dragging the other man and he was still crawling—in the wrong direction, although he never knew it—when suddenly he wasn’t alone with his burden. There were other men beside him; he could hear them all right although he couldn’t see them. One said close to his ear”, “It’s all right now, cop. You done fine. Now let’s get to hell out of here before the roof comes down.”
There were strong hands to help him. There was a fast closing hole cut into the living flame by a hose, and finally, blessedly, there was cool air again for his lungs. After that there was a hypodermic needle and an ambulance. He fought against the needle that sought to pull him down to sleep, but it was a losing cause. The man he had pulled out of the building lay across from him in the ambulance. He was weeping from a combination of shock and pain. Ciannelli called across to him.
There was no answer but the weeping stopped.
“That nice kid of yours is going to be proud of you for going back in there after him and the other kids,” Ciannelli called to him.
There was no answer but the weeping didn’t begin again.
Sergeant Hyde brought the news to Tanager. “That park cop, Ciannelli,” he said. “We won’t be able to use him.”
Tanager asked why not and Hyde told him. “Maybe after a few days he can go over mug shots in the hospital. Or, if we get a hot one, we can bring him over there to see if we can get a make. Right now he’s got a half a mile of bandage over his face.”
It was characteristic of Tanager that his first thought was for the safety of Ciannelli; his bitter chagrin at losing his only potential witness as an active helper was secondary. When he asked Hyde if he had notified Ciannelli’s wife and arranged to get her over to the hospital and received a negative answer, he was curt with the sergeant.
Ed Tanager, Friday, April 23
TANAGER GAVE HIS CARD to the receptionist at the Crown Rubber Mill and explained his errand. He seldom used his badge; its use always seemed to him to be a trifle theatrical. The personnel director, a Mr. Parsons, was a fussy little man of fifty with balding hair carefully combed to effect the utmost in coverage. He shook hands with Tanager and shooed away the wide-eyed receptionist who had brought him in.
“Now then,” he said expansively, “what can we do for you, Lieutenant?”
Tanager, in a hundred investigations, had developed a natural knack for judging his man; Parsons was the type you could get a lot of help from by letting him be a partner. Drop him a little more information than the public had; these fussy, office-bound men more often than not had some of the policeman’s buff to them.
“You’ve beer reading about the two murders I’m working on, I’m sure,” he said. “We have reason to believe that a rather unusual knife was used; possibly the type that your people use. Mill knives, I think they’re called.”
Parsons sat forward. “Do you think one of our employees did it? Dreadful!”
Tanager smiled. “Not exactly; the fact is, Mr. Parsons, we’re at a dead end on this thing. We’re groping, trying to find any sort of a lead. The knife is a possibility.”
“I’ll do anything I can do to help, Lieutenant, it goes without saying.”
“Fine. How many men use such knives?”
Parsons ruminated briefly. “Mill men. Banbury men. Let’s see—about thirty counting two shifts.”
“How are the knives issued? Is any record kept?”
The little man frowned. “A partial record. The knives are issued to the foremen and the foremen give them out as needed. There’s a big turnover though. The men take them home to use for hunting and fishing knives. A lot of them are lost.”
“But your foremen could tell us if any man had drawn a knife recently?”
“I’m afraid that we’d find a dozen knives a week are requisitioned. We were discussing the matter only last week. Too many of them are lost or stolen.”
“So much for the knives for the time being. Could you tell me this, Mr. Parsons; do any of the men regularly using knives have prison records?”
Parsons flushed. “Our employees are carefully screened before they are hired, Lieutenant. We don’t, as a rule, hire men with records. We have a couple—one for failure to meet his alimony payments, one for assault.”
“He served six months for beating up a man he caught with his wife.”
Tanager grinned. “Hardly makes him a suspect here.” He shook his head. “You said you’d do anything you could to help us, Mr. Parsons. God knows we need help. I can’t spare a man to come in here, so I’ll sort of deputize you. Can you get me a list of all the men who drew knives in the last month?”
“Also, I’d like to know if any of your male employees were absent from work on the fifteenth, the nineteenth, or the twenty-first.”
“That won’t be difficult, Lieutenant, but I don’t quite understand. The murders all took place in the late afternoon or evening. If one of our day-shift employees were involved he wouldn’t necessarily have been absent from work.”
Tanager nodded. “That’s good deduction. There’s a chance though that the killer stayed away from work on the days of the murders. Drinking. Doping himself, maybe. You find a man who was absent on one of the days. It won’t mean anything. Find a man who was absent on all three days and who had access to a knife of the type used— that’s another story.” He stood up. “I’ll appreciate your help.”
Parsons shook hands. “You can rely on me, Lieutenant.”
When Tanager went out, the little man, with a steely glint in his eye, was pushing buzzers and demanding files.
Johnny Brady had Shirley in the interrogation room when Tanager arrived back at headquarters; in the warm morning light she looked seedy, seedy and scared. He could have walked past her and into his office. Sometimes you played it that way. You walked past and piled the arresting officer into the office, leaving the arrestee to sweat it out alone while you killed time for ten minutes or fifteen, talking about fishing or automobiles. Then you looked at each other and nodded and went on out again to a softened-up suspect. Instead Tanager exchanged a word with Brady and went directly to Shirley.
“You don’t have to be scared,” he said. He kept his voice low, almost gentle. “We don’t have a charge against you. We want some information. Will you help?”
She nodded mutely.
“Detective Brady says he picked you up in a rooming house downtown. He’s been checking the bars for two days. You haven’t been around. Why not?”
She defended herself weakly. “I don’t spend all of my time in bars.”
“You’ve been spending most of your time in bars. We know that you don’t hide out every time you hustle some chump for a few dollars; you just move around to some different neighborhood for a few days. What are you afraid of?”
She said nothing and Tanager continued. “The last time anyone saw you around was the night you clipped a man for ten dollars in a bar called the Three Brothers down on River Street. Is that the man you’re afraid is looking for you?”
This time she nodded shamefacedly.
“Why should you be afraid of him more so than any of the others?”
She fumbled nervously with her handbag. “I’m not a complete fool. I read the papers the next day—about that man that tried to kill a little colored girl—and I guessed it was the same guy.”
Johnny Brady scowled. “Don’t con us, Shirley. You better get it through your head that this is a murder investigation.” He turned to Tanager. “I can’t make this stick but I think that that bartender—Green, his name is—tipped her off. He was playing ball with her; him and half a dozen others. The way I figure it, she called him back to see how big a beef her chump made and if it was safe to come around. That was after you and Dahl talked to this bartender. Green tipped her off that we suspected her sucker might also be a killer and told her to lay low because he was afraid it would come out that he was helping her work her racket.”
Tanager asked, “Is that the straight of it, Shirley?”
She said in a low voice, “That’s close enough.”
“The harm’s done. Between you and Green you might have saved a little boy from being murdered. You think about that. Now about the man. Could you identify him?”
“I think so.”
“Did he give you a name?”
“Had you ever seen him around before?”
“I don’t remember. There are a lot of guys.”
Tanager turned to Johnny Brady. “Get a description from her. Get it as complete as you can, right down to the last wart. Then show her the collection.”
He turned to the girl. “We’re going to hold you for a few days to keep you available to make an identification if we need one.
She stood up quickly. “I’m not going to stay here. I said I’d help you and I will. I’ll give you a description and I’ll try to identify the guy for you, but I won’t stay.”
Brady said drily, “We could make a morals charge, Shirley. I don’t remember you having a job. Where do you get eating money?”
She sat down again. “All right,” she said dully. “You won’t have to make a charge.”
Brady asked, “That Green guy. Could we make a case against him? Obstructing justice maybe?”
Tanager shook his head. “I doubt if we could make it stick. And it wouldn’t be worth the trouble it would take. Dahl will go down and have a talk with him by and by.”
Brady grinned. Dahl’s “talks” were well known in the department.
Back in his office Tanager attacked the paper work that Hyde had sorted out for him, reading first the reports on men questioned by the patrol details. He ran down the lists swiftly. There were more than a hundred names.
Arthur Harris, age twenty-six. Address 34 Livingstone Street. Occupation, filling station attendant. Stopped at 10:15 p.m. on Oak Street and questioned. Answers satisfactory. Place of employment and address verified. Signed, Patrolman John Murphy.
Thomas D’Allesandro, age thirty-five. Address 1062 Maple Street. Occupation, factory worker, employed by Biever Tool Co. Stopped at 8:35 p.m. while entering alley. Questioned. Suspect was drunk, claimed he was going in alley to relieve self. Brought in to Third Precinct and held for further interrogation. Booked as common drunk. Signed, Patrolman Michael Vassilake.
Milton Raskob. Age thirty. Address, Room 3-C 1462 Ar-gonne Street. Occupation, color chemist employed by Hammersmith Chemical Co. Subject was on way to work when stopped. Answers were satisfactory. Signed, Patrolman Alphonse Marcy.
Under some of the names on the list Sergeant Hyde had made neatly penciled notations. Underneath the D’Allesandro entry he had written, Checked this out. Nothing here. Beneath the Raskob entry he had printed a brief okay.
Tanager leaned back with a sigh and fumbled with his pipe. He had had little hope of finding a lead in the re-ported interrogations. As he had explained to the mayor, he had issued the order in the hope that the murderer would react to the approach of a policeman in such a way as to reveal himself. There might be something here, but it would be difficult to isolate. He looked again at the list, paying special attention to the occupations specified. Factory worker. Did a factory worker have access to a knife of the description furnished by Dave Norris? Depended on what the factory made. Grocery clerk. Groceries had meat departments. There would be butchers’ knives available. Color chemist. Did a chemist use a knife? There again the problem of category. What did the chemical company make? Hyde had called the places of employment merely to verify the statements given. He could hardly do more. If it was necessary, every name on the list and on the lists to come would be thoroughly checked out, but that took time and men and there was a limit to the number of men he could assign to the job. He check-marked a few of the names. A carpenter. A percher. What in hell was a percher? Brady and Dahl could start checking them. He rejected the less likely occupations such as chemist and accountant. He shook his head. Live in a city all your life and still know so little about it. Know so little about the people in it. Like Green, the bartender. Probably a reasonably humane man who would not deliberately permit the murder of a child. But because he had felt it necessary to conceal his collusion with Shirley in her dreary little racket, a promising lead had been denied Tanager at a time when it would have done the most good. And the two cops from the Third Precinct who should have checked out the bar on the night the Dubois child was attacked. He had had them on the carpet. They hadn’t been derelict in their duty. But overzealous. Bull-headed. What they should have done was make a canvass of the neighborhood, including the bar. The resulting good descriptions of Shirley’s sucker should have been radioed in and made available to every policeman on duty in the city. Instead they had gone off on a wild, fruitless search of their own based only on the colored woman’s meager description of a man seen several blocks away.
Detective Brady knocked and entered. “I booked her on a Jane Doe,” he said. “She’s looking over the collection now. How about taking time to have a decent lunch, Ed?”
They ate in a grill a block away from headquarters; the grill was crowded and they sat on stools at the counter. At Brady’s right a fat man with a flashy tie was talking loudly to a neighbor.
“So this friend of mine started out to walk down to the package store down the street and the first thing he knows a squad car pulls up and two cops get out and start asking him who he is and where he’s going.”
The fat man paused to fork mashed potato into his mouth. Without waiting to swallow them he continued, “Was me, I’d have told them where to go. Cops! You’d think they’d get busy and find this killer instead of bothering innocent citizens.”
Brady, catching Tanager’s eye, winced extravagantly. After the fat man had left he questioned his superior. “What about that, Ed? Are we so bad off for leads? I mean, isn’t it pretty drastic, this new order of yours?”
“You mean about stopping citizens and asking them questions if they come close to matching the description we have of the killer?”
“Yeah. I’ve never seen it done before. Stopping guys on suspicion yes, but never wholesale like you’re doing.” Tanager finished his coffee and filled his pipe. “It’s not too unusual,” he said. “As a matter of fact they did some-thing even more drastic down in Florida last year. They had a wave of assaults on young girls. They finally set a sunset curfew on all males, regardless of age. Any man found outside after dark was automatically pulled in and investigated.” He stood up. “And we may have to set up the same system ourselves before we’re done.”
It had started to rain while they were in the grill. Not the gentle and soothing downfall of April, but a buffeting, pelting deluge that soaked them before they were half way back to headquarters.
The desk sergeant signaled to Tanager as he went by. “Got a call for you, Lieutenant. I tried to reach you at the restaurant but you’d just left. A Doctor Reed at St. Raphael’s. He wants you to call him as soon as you come in.” Tanager felt weak, physically weak as he waited for the call to go through. He spoke to the hospital switchboard operator and asked for Reed, forcing himself to keep his voice steady and calm even as he asked himself, Why, for God’s sake? Why should I be calm? He stared at the wall, at the old-fashioned clock with its flyspecked dial. He saw neither the clock nor the wall. Instead he saw Agnes, sleeping, her little hind end sticking up, her hair damp with the warmth of her sleeping.
Doctor Reed asked, “Is this Lieutenant Tanager?” Without waiting for an answer he added quickly, “Don’t be alarmed. It’s bad, but it could be worse. We have a positive diagnosis.”
Ed Tanager asked in a level voice, “Polio?”
“If it has to be, it’s a relief in a way to know finally. I’ll come right over.”
Reed’s voice was brusque. “We can’t go by guesswork sometimes these things take time. And I’d rather you didn’t come now. You couldn’t see her, anyway. She’s in very little danger. The respiratory tract isn’t badly affected.”
“When can we see her?”
“Tonight. At seven. Ask for me first.” Tanager, in his days as a patrolman had gone to the scene of a hundred panics. A fire, a gas explosion, a mad dog. There had been a mad dog scare in the old Reservoir district long ago. The dog, a huge brute, had cornered half a dozen school kids in the corner of a fenced in playground. Their teacher, a wisp of a girl, was standing in front of them, shielding them, when Tanager had arrived. She was saying, “Shoo. Shoo now!” in a voice that sounded more angry than frightened, but after Tanager shot the brute she had said, “God bless you, officer!” and promptly fainted.
When things were out of control people felt that way about cops, trusting and utterly dependent. In a way Tanager felt some of that same dependence on Doctor Reed. “Whatever you say, Doctor,” he said. He paused before asking, “You say the respiratory tract isn’t seriously affected. Does it mean she’ll be—”
Doctor Reed interrupted brusquely. “Crippled? We can’t tell now, Lieutenant. In a day or two, perhaps.”
When he had hung up Tanager sat with his head in his hands for a full minute. He should have told Reed that it didn’t matter if she couldn’t walk or use the small arms with the dimples at the elbows just so she lived. Didn’t really matter. He hadn’t even thanked him, now that he thought about it, for calling.
After a while he picked up the phone again. He had to call Catherine before she left for the hospital.
Milton Raskob, Friday, April 23
RASKOB WAS at the laboratory bench, busy with an Elmendorff series when Alpen came in; he pointedly did not look up as Alpen went to his desk and picked up the note that Raskob had left the previous night.
Alpen had been aware of the change in his helper in these last few days. Raskob had been sullen and resentful when he, Alpen, had first taken over the department. The resentment he could understand. After the showdown when Cutler had stepped in—that had been without Al-pen’s connivance or even his knowledge—Raskob had become overnight almost obsequious. Of the two attitudes Alpen had preferred the sullen one. Now he had assumed still another attitude. He was almost indifferent—no, scornful was the word. As if he no longer feared Alpen or worried about his good opinion.
Now Alpen picked up the note on his desk and read it. It was sarcastically worded and he felt a flush of helpless anger.
“Raskob,” he said.
Raskob turned slowly from his bench. The inference to be clearly drawn from his attitude was that Alpen was interrupting his work for some, doubtless, trivial and frivolous matter.
“Yes?” he said.
“About this note. The one about the hazing in the film. Did you take any samples?”
“Sure I took samples, for Christ sake. I always do, don’t I?”
“Did you run a gloss meter test on them?”
“Sure I did.”
Alpen said furiously, “Well, don’t make me drag it out of you. What readings did you get?”
“Twelve per-cent variation.”
“What’s the allowable range in the S.P.I., standard?”
Raskob was tempted to tell Alpen to look it up if he didn’t know it, but he controlled the impulse. Compared to him, Raskob, Alpen was become a nonentity. For instance, if he knew about the knife he would probably run screaming from the laboratory. Or if he should take the knife from his desk now and tell him what he had done with it, Alpen would almost certainly get down on his knees and beg to be spared. He could afford to be magnanimous; he could let Alpen live in his fool’s paradise all unaware of Raskob’s real stature!
“Fourteen per cent,” he said.
“Then what are you getting upset about? The calendar was matted last week, wasn’t it?”
It was one thing to let Alpen think himself superior as long as one could gloat secretly. Raskob retained a sort of pride in the fact that he knew his job even if Alpen and Cutler and all the rest of them couldn’t understand, but now he felt openly challenged and a dull rage begin to grow within him.
“The variation after matting never runs more than eight or ten per cent,” he said sullenly. “It’s the alumina hydrate you put in that’s making it hazy. We tried putting ethyl-cellulose in two years ago and the same thing happened.”
Alpen stood up. “The alumina hydrate costs six cents per pound. Resin costs thirty-six. If we can substitute even five per cent and we use an average of twenty thousand pounds of resin a day—well you can figure it out for yourself..”
Raskob shrugged indifferently. “You’re running the laboratory,” he said. “Only don’t blame me when we start getting the stuff thrown back in our laps.”
Alpen flared up. “You’re damn right I’m running the laboratory, and I can do without any more smart-aleck notes from you. You just match colors and do what you’re told!” He stared at Raskob, feeling an immense revulsion. The coarse black hair, the strong teeth were repellent to him. After a minute he looked away, angry at Raskob and impatient at his own lack of self control.
After he had killed the Hadley girl Raskob had lived between the peaks of elation and the absolute depths of fear. Time had eroded the peaks and leveled the valleys so that his mood was now more constant; he had felt no need of the knife since the patrolman had stopped him the previous evening and he had demonstrated to himself his cool cunning. But when Alpen had finished, the knife inserted itself again into his consciousness. He concentrated halfheartedly on his work, but the thought of the knife infiltrated maddeningly into his concentration. At two-thirty he went out into the plant. The choice of time was not accidental; Cutler always went out him self shortly thereafter to be on hand when the second shift took over at three, and Raskob lived with the conviction that one day Cutler would look up and notice him and realize suddenly that Milt Raskob was always on hand, that he was what the workmen called a company man, loyal and hard working. Thinking of himself as self-sacrificing, an apostle of the Hammersmith plant, Raskob invariably put on a hangdog expression which, had he known it, Cutler had many times noticed and for which he could cheerfully have kicked Raskob.
There was also the matter of the workmen. Raskob was confident that they admired him. He often invented fanciful conversations between them in the locker room.
“Sure, Andrews is a good foreman. But that Raskob! There’s a guy that really knows his stuff.”
Or; “They gave him a dirty deal when they brought in that kid, Alpen.” ,.
Or; “I wouldn’t have blamed him for quitting. He’s the one that really runs the color department.”
Raskob, on these safaris into the plant, dressed the part. From the breast pocket of his smock the tops of half a dozen colored pencils protruded. He wore a frown of intense concentration, and he invariably carried a slide rule in his hand. The slide rule was window dressing; actually Raskob could only perform the simplest multiplication function with it, and that only after setting up a simple two times four problem for a guide. He could never remember which scale to use for his multiplier otherwise. He knew nothing of the more complex functions of the instrument.
Cutler was already in the plant. He was leaning against the frame of Attilio Tomaselli’s mill talking to Andrews, the day-shift foreman. He was in his shirt sleeves and as he talked he had his head tilted back as if he were studying the ceiling. He looked down and saw Raskob and called to him.
“Raskob. Take that education-stick and work me out cubic area of this bay. Figure a hundred and twenty et by eighty by twenty-four and knock off five per cent for equipment.”
Raskob mentally computed desperately, fumbling with the slide rule and nodding. One hundred and twenty times eight was easy enough. Ninety six hundred—times twenty four— He bogged down. That son-of-a-bitch Cutler Start again now. Ninety six hundred times twenty four— Oh God, why didn’t something happen to distract Cutler. He looked up—he had to look up by this time—and saw Cutler staring at him curiously.
“Well, what about it, Raskob?”
Cutler had idly begun a discussion of air conditioning with Andrews; his interest in the cubic area of the bay was hardly more than academic at this point and he had asked Raskob to make the calculation merely because he had noticed the slide rule. Now his eyes narrowed as Raskob looked down again at the fragment of white-enameled wood.
“I’ll be damned,” he said. “I believe you’re bluffing Raskob. I’ll bet five bucks you don’t even know how to use that thing!”
Raskob mumbled something indistinguishable. Cutler, his face puzzled, took the slide rule from Raskob’s hand and made a swift, deft calculation before he handed it back.
“Here,” he said. “Don’t let me see you with it again unless you know how to use it.” Turning his back to Raskob he said to Andrews, “Jesus. What a phony.”
Raskob, his face burning with shame and confusion, was aware of Tomaselli’s grin, and he writhed. Tomaselli would tell the whole plant, and he knew that for a month at least, whenever he saw two or more of the men talking together, he would shrink from them lest they be talking about him, laughing at him. And they would jeer and call him “Slide Rule Raskob.”
He turned away to seek the sanctuary of the laboratory. As he did so his foot slipped on some greasy substance on the floor and he fell backward. Andrews caught him before he lost his balance completely. He steadied him briefly and said, “Easy.” Raskob fled from the look of pity in his mild eyes.
Fleeing, he heard Andrews upbraiding Tomaselli, the millman. “That pigment costs money, ‘Tillio. Keep it on the mill, not on the floor.”
They arrived at St. Raphael’s, Ed and Catherine Tanager, at ten minutes to seven; Doctor Reed had correctly gauged their strained anxiety and he was waiting for them in the lobby, a big blocky man with white hair and a brusque manner. He shook hands perfunctorily with Tanager, nodded to Catherine, and led the way to the elevator.
“She won’t know you,” he said. “She’s comatose. I’ve got to tell you that there is more danger than there was when I called you this afternoon. I wasn’t worried then. I’m worried now. You’re going to have to stay here because some time in the next thirty-six hours she may need to hear a familiar voice to keep her going. We’ll have a room for you here. I’m going to tell you right now that it looks ugly. The way she is, I mean. I’ve got her in the Trendelenburg position to help her breath and her throat to drain. We had to do a tracheotomy a couple of hours ago.”
The elevator slid to a stop and Reed opened the double door. Without stepping aside for Catherine he plunged ahead like a fullback, his loose white uniform napping at elbows and knees.
Ed Tanager looked down at his wife as they followed the doctor. Her face was numb, expressionless, and he knew that at this time, in this place, he could not reach her to help her but he said gently, “It’s going to be all right.” And knew that he lied.
In spite of the warning Reed had given he was shocked when they reached Agnes’s bedside. A gaggle of nurses and interns had taken station beside the bed which was tipped oddly so that the foot was higher than the head. They had in common the fact that they were busy and an expression. An odd expression, Tanager thought. Only their eyes were visible over their gauze masks. And all of the eyes had a set to them of determination, of indomitable purpose. Here was a pair of blue eyes in a young face. Tanager assumed the youth from its contours under the mask. An hour ago they had widened in a smile, perhaps, as their owner flirted with one of the interns. Now they were narrowed and grim as she fought for Agnes Tanager.
All of the eyes softened in sympathy as their owners became aware of Tanager and his wife standing there, and Tanager knew that this scene was part of no new play.
Reed grunted something to blue-eyes and she broke away from the group to give them masks and to help adjust them. “Don’t mind him if he growls at you,” she whispered. “He hasn’t been to bed in two days and he can’t stand to see children in pain anyway.”
Reed stalked over. “You can help,” he said to Tanager. “I can’t tie up the whole staff here.”
Tanager knew that this man was deliberately arranging that he, Tanager, would have something to do, something specific to busy himself with, and he found himself thinking that when everything was all right again he would like to have this man for a friend.
There was a black rubber bag that he was to squeeze rhythmically and a gauge that he was to watch. “More reliable than a mechanical respirator at this stage,” Reed growled, and Tanager knew that he was actually breathing the breath of life into his daughter’s lungs, knew this and was desperately sorry for Catherine who also needed to be helping.
The little girl’s eyes were nearly closed; there remained only a gap where the whites showed, glazed, reflecting the white light overhead. Her face was livid gray, her mouth distorted by the drain that one of the interns tended. There was a neat patch of adhesive tape at her throat covering the tube that led to the black rubber bag. Tanager gave all his attention to the job Reed had given him so that he was hardly aware that blue-eyes led Catherine away after a time.
Reed came to him after a long time and said, “Come on out for a smoke.” He walked out to the hall, not waiting for Tanager. When they had lit up he said, “I was rough this afternoon. People think we can look at a child and say what’s wrong just like that. Polio can be hard to diagnose. Take a test; take a half dozen tests. Sometimes you still don’t know. I get mad. Meanwhile kid’s in pain. Sorry, Tanager.”
“That’s all right. I think I understand.”
Reed gestured with a jerk of his head down the corridor. “She’s taking it hard, that one. Your wife, I mean. The white, numb-faced ones are the worst.”
“I haven’t been able to help her much,” Tanager said. He explained why.
When he was finished Reed grunted. “You ever hear of a shock treatment?” When Tanager nodded he continued, “I’m going to give her one by and by. I’m going to get her mad. I’m going to be rough on her, give her something to think about besides what might happen to the little girl in there. Point is, don’t you get sore. You’re thirty years younger than me.”
They went back into the room with Agnes.
Milton Raskob, Friday, April 23 —9:00 p.m.
THERE WAS A BAR ON Argonne Street that Raskob patronized often, a dingy cavern of a room, smelling of urinals and sweaty bodies. When he walked in at nine the place was already crowded. The clientele were, for the most part, men. There was a sprinkling of blowsy crones, habitues, these. The night was young and they were being arch, coy. Later they would be raucous and obscene, indescribably foul-mouthed.
Raskob had four drinks of the cheap bar whisky in the course of half an hour. He had not eaten; the liquor loosened his already slack mouth.
He was known in this place. The time came when a tallish man in a frayed gray suit elbowed in beside him and ordered a drink.
“And give my buddy one,” he said, dropping his hand on Raskob’s shoulder.
This man was called Duke, Raskob remembered. He had, in his more cynical moods, studied the man, sneering at him from the shelter of his glass. Tonight he had money; he bought drinks. Tomorrow he would order beer and he would drink it slowly. He would carefully count his change and he would pay for what he drank with silver. He would probably not have enough money for cigarettes. If this were the case he would slap his pockets with an expression of sham dismay and say, “God damn. Left my smokes at home.” He would not say this to any one in particular. He would make the statement generally, taking care however, to make it within earshot of someone who had cigarettes on the bar. If this gambit failed—and it usually did—he would abandon his subtlety and ask outright, “You got a spare cigarette, buddy?”
Raskob made it a practice, as a rule, to avoid such overtures. Duke and his like were adept at making a production of the transaction when they bought; by careful maneuvering they usually managed to receive much more than they gave. He had had enough whisky to dissolve his caution to a degree; he nodded to Duke when the bartender had sloshed whisky into his glass and Duke had flamboyantly tossed a bill on the bar. The bartender picked up the money without expression. He knew Duke, knew that he would be panhandling for beer money by morning.
Raskob said, “Thanks. I need it. The bastards I work for—”
Duke, shook his head in sympathy. “You have to take a
lot of s—to make a living these days.”
Raskob drank his whisky and signaled to the bartender for refills. “Alpen,” he said morosely. “He’s the worst of the bunch. I can take the others but that Alpen.”
Duke expressed polite interest.
“He’s a young college snot they put in over my head,” Raskob said. “He’s a relative of the big shot in the plant.” He used the lie as a preface to a long recital of Alpen’s shortcomings salted with numerous glowing examples of his own devotion to the company. Duke was a sympathetic audience—Raskob was convinced that he was thoroughly impressed—and the whisky came fast. Raskob kept track through a blur of alcohol. Duke was buying in turn, thus far. A small corner of his consciousness noted this and was conciliated but remained wary. He had expected Duke to take advantage. Duke seldom listened for free.
At ten o’clock the bartender switched on the television set that was mounted on brackets above the bar. There was the crackle of static and a blurring pyrotechnic across the picture tube before the tubes warmed and the audio output leveled off dissolving the static into a familiar theme.
Duke, who was showing signs of restiveness, glanced at the set and inquired of the bartender, “Who’s fighting, Mac?”
The bartender shrugged. “Couple of punks. Lightweights. The books got it six to five and pick if you want a bet.”
A stranger had come into the bar to stand at Raskob’s right hand, a swarthy, stocky man of twenty-five or so, Latin looking. He prodded Raskob with his elbow. “Take the right-hand corner for five bucks,” he said.
Raskob seldom gambled. Here was Duke, though, saying, “Go ahead! Bet with him. The right-hand corner won the last two fights in a row. The left-hand corner is due!” Duke had been his ally. He had listened to the long roster of Alpen’s shortcomings with understanding, agreeing with each indictment. Now it was Raskob’s turn to demonstrate that the alliance was not one-sided.
“All right,” he said reluctantly. “I’ve got the left-hand corner.”
“Call me Joe,” the stocky man said. “How about putting the dough up?” He placed a five dollar bill on the bar.
Raskob was beginning to regret that he had become involved. Duke had got him into this thing. Still, since he could not now withdraw with any semblance of dignity, he fumbled for a bill and put it on top of Joe’s.
Toe now bought drinks for himself and Raskob, ignoring Duke. When it was Raskob’s turn he, too, bought only two drinks.
When this happened Duke stared at him for a moment before he said, “Well screw you, Jack,” and walked to the other end of the bar.
The television picture blurred; there was too much contrast, but Raskob could make out through the whirling action on the screen that his man was getting the better of the fight. He had identified the fighter through the senseless chatter of the announcer and he turned to the man named Joe.
“That Kaplan looks pretty good in there,” he said. His attitude was vaguely patronizing as if he had chosen Kaplan through the skill acquired in long years of studying fighters instead of having the choice forced on him by Joe’s arbitrary selection of a corner. Joe only grunted.
In the fourth round the referee stepped between the two men to shield Kaplan’s opponent from further punishment. Raskob, the boxing expert, reached for the bills on the bar. As he did so, the man named Joe knocked his hand away.
“Just a second, bud,” he said. “What the hell ya think ya doing? Kaplan was my boy. You had the guy in the right-hand corner.”
Raskob could not believe what he heard. “No,” he explained. “You said, ‘I’ll take the right-hand corner,’ remember?” He reached for the money again. This time Joe knocked his hand away and picked up the money himself.. Desperately Raskob looked around the bar.
“Wait,” he cried. “Ask Duke. He was here! He heard what you said!” Seeing Duke at the far end of the bar he scurried to him.
“Hey Duke—you heard the bet,” he appealed. “He said, ‘I’ll take the right hand corner,’ didn’t he?”
Duke looked away. “It ain’t any of my business, Jack,” he said.
Raskob, still unable to believe that the man could be so mistaken, hurried back to where Joe stood stolidly waiting. He clutched at Joe’s arm. “Come on now,” he pleaded. “You know you’ve got it wrong.”
Joe jerked away. “You sheeny bastard,” he said, “get away from me or I’ll drop you.”
Then and not until then Raskob realized what he would have sensed at once if it were not for the whisky he had drunk. Joe was not mistaken. Joe would have picked up the money regardless of which fighter had won. Joe, then, knew his secret; knew that he was too afraid to strike back. Joe was one with all the vaguely remembered bullies who had terrorized him. Joe was one with Alpen who could bully him because of his position. With Miss Kane who frightened him with the prospect of her laughter. With— Shirley? Was that the name? The one he had given a ten-dollar bill to? She wouldn’t have dared walk out on another man, but he was different; anybody could do anything to poor, scared, miserable Raskob. An immense bubble of frustrated, helpless rage rose within him so that it seemed as if his head would burst, and he clapped both hands to his ears.
Some of the men at the bar snickered. Others turned away. Raskob was barely conscious of them. One hand went to his pocket to clutch the handle of the knife. He wanted to pull it out and flourish it at them, to slash and rip Joe with it, but caught between fear and rage he did nothing. “All right, keep the money you dirty crook,” he said, and rushed into the street.
Ed Tanager, Friday, April 23 —11:30 p.m.
DOCTOR REED HAD COME and gone a half dozen times; Ed Tanager was vaguely aware of this although time and arithmetic were now encompassed by the symmetrical face of the manometer dial and the distorted face of his daughter. On Reed’s sixth visit he brought Catherine back with him. Her face was expressionless, like that of the manometer. Watching her as she approached, though, Tanager could measure her tension by the rigidity of her back and the stiffness of her facial muscles.
Reed tapped an interne on the shoulder and pointed to the black bladder. He gave no order or made no further sign, but the interne slid quietly into position beside Tanager and took the bladder from his hand without changing the rhythm of pulsation, his eyes narrowing over the gauze mask as he studied the pressure gauge.
Reed explained gruffly, “She wasn’t resting, anyway.” This with a jerk of his thumb toward Catherine. “Since she feels that she has to be here you might as well get a little rest.”
Tanager nodded. He would not rest. He was certain of that, but perhaps it would help Catherine to be here alone, and responsible. He felt this obscurely, not reasoning it.
Reed continued. “The nurse will show you a room,” he said. He frowned in momentary concentration. “One other thing. Sergeant—Hyde is it?”
Tanager said, “Yes,” making a question of it.
“He wants you to call when you get a chance. No hurry about it.”
There was a telephone on the desk of the duty nurse in the corridor. Tanager picked it up, asked for an outside line, and was through to Hyde within the minute.
Hyde’s first words were, “How’s she making it, Ed?”
“Can’t tell yet. Something’s got to give soon.”
Hyde’s voice was hugely sympathetic. “We’re all rooting for her.” His inflection became apologetic. “I hated to bother you, Ed, but you had a call from a Mr. Parsons. He wanted to talk to you. I told him I’d take the message, but he said he wanted to talk to you. Who is he, Ed?”
“Personnel man at the Crown Rubber Company. He’s checking on knives for me. Did he leave his number?”
“Yeah.” There was a pause and Tanager could hear the rustle of papers before Hyde came on the line again. “Here it is. Chestnut, 12761.”
“Thanks. I’ll be here if you need me. If you were on overtime now you’d be a rich man.” Tanager made a joke of it. Hyde was putting in almost double tours of duty now. He was holding down the office now that Tanager had to be at the hospital—because Tanager was at the hospital—shielding him from as much of the routine as he could. Tanager was aware of this. He could not thank Hyde in so many words. The joke made the point that he was appreciative.
Hyde answered ruefully, “Chief Watkins would have a stroke. One thing, Ed.” He chuckled. “Next time I ask for an afternoon off to go to the ball game, you’ll look like an awful chump if you don’t fix it up. ‘Night, Ed.”
Tanager said good night and hung up. He glanced at the clock at the end of the corridor, made his decision, and asked for the Chestnut number that Hyde had given him.
From the speed with which Parsons answered the telephone, Tanager guessed that he had been sitting beside the instrument waiting for the call. Tanager identified himself.
“I was sorry to hear about your little girl, Lieutenant,” Parsons said. “I hope she will be better soon. I wouldn’t have called you except that you said you could use any kind of help.”
“That’s all right, Mr. Parsons. We can use the help.”
“Well, then. I had all the timecards of our male employees checked. There were six men absent on the days that you wanted to have checked. Three on the fifteenth, one on the nineteenth, and two on the twenty-first.”
Tanager interrupted. “Any duplication?”
Parsons sounded regretful. “None. None of the men were out on any two of the days. I checked pretty thoroughly, Lieutenant, and it would seem to me that all of them had truly legitimate reasons for not showing up for work. As a matter of fact they had all called in as required by company regulations to notify us they would be out.”
Tanager frowned. “That would seem to eliminate them. Had any absentees drawn mill knives within the month?” “One. But he had broken his old one. He turned in the broken pieces so he wouldn’t be charged for the new one.”
“But I did get you a list of all the men who did draw knives. I mailed it to your office on my way home.”
“How many were there?” .
“Oh, half a dozen, say. But that isn’t why I called, Lieutenant. The reason I called is that I got to thinking this afternoon about the mill knives. I found out from our purchasing department who we buy the knives from. There is only one local distributor. I called him up.” Parsons sounded shyly proud.
Tanager could condone the pride. “That was first-class detective work, Mr. Parsons,” he said and meant it.
“There are a surprising number of local firms that use mill knives. Plastics companies. Tire retreaders. More than a dozen firms. I sent you a list along with the other list I spoke of. Then tonight I got to thinking about it again and I decided that maybe you should know now without waiting for the mail tomorrow.”
Tanager thanked Parsons again and hung up. He made a mental note to have Chief Watkins send him an official letter of appreciation. The chief was good at that sort of thing and the letter would mean a lot to Parsons. (Oh yes—that letter. Well, it was during that wave of murders a few years ago. I helped the police in the investigation—) After he had completed the call to Parsons, Tanager followed the nurse to the room where he was to rest. It was a small room with a single bed. He took off his shoes and stretched out, hands locked behind his head. Somewhere in his consciousness a tiny bell began to jangle frantically.
Milton Raskob, Friday, April 23 — 11:40 p.m.
IN HIS ROOM RASKOB lay back on his bed with his arms folded under his head in a pose oddly similar to that assumed by Ed Tanager in the hospital a few miles away. He surrendered himself to fear and self-pity. Earlier he had been unable to abandon himself in this manner because of the shuddering fright that had possessed him with the realization that he had very nearly drawn the knife on Joe and the crowd in the Argonne Street bar. The stupendous nature of such a catastrophe was twofold. Joe and the crowd—so soon he did not now admit this to himself—would have torn him to pieces. And yet the terror that he had inspired to cast a mantle of fear over the entire city was not now lost on Raskob. He was beginning to feel an awareness that he might translate it to his own ends. Until now his secret triumphs had been concerned with individuals. If Alpen knew, or Cutler, or that bitch Shirley! Dimly he was including in the them who persecuted him, and whom he wished to punish, the entire city, and it was being borne in upon him that he was in this successful.
When he had rushed from the bar, his one thought had been to return to his warren, there to console himself with fantastic imaginings of what he would do to Joe; of the manner in which Joe would cringe and plead and beseech if he knew. Not entirely maddened he had fought for his composure and regained it not too soon. Patrolman Halvorsen had approached him from far down the street, his big, weary body appearing in the light of the street lamps and alternately disappearing in the intervening pools of blackness; always growing in size like a trick cigarette commercial until he was directly in front of Raskob.
Halvorsen, back on his beat although his knee was bothering him, said, “Hold it.” He flashed his light in Raskob’s face. After a second he took the light away. “You live up in the fourteen hundred block?”
Raskob nodded, not trusting his voice.
“Thought so. Seen you coming and going.” The familiarity of the man’s face had stilled the alarm bells in Halvorsen’s brain that might otherwise have set up a clamor at the sight of Raskob’s drawn and sick expression. He reached perfunctorily for his notebook, decided not to bother, and put it back in his hip pocket. “Mind telling me who you are and where you’re going?”
“My name is Raskob. I worked late and then I had a few drinks. Watched the fight on television. Now I’m on my way home.”
“Yeah. I’ve seen you late other times,” Halvorsen said. He stood aside, unblocking Raskob’s path. “Well—see you again.” He moved on up the street.
Raskob watched him go, feeling none of the triumphant elation that he had felt on the night when Patrolman Marcy had stopped him. He was still too bitterly mindful of the injustice of Joe and the treachery of Duke for elation.
Now as he lay on the bed with its stained mattress and sagging springs he could find no peace. Abruptly he got up and walked to the window.
There was half of a moon diffusing a thin light through the misty, pregnant spring air. Barefoot and round-shouldered in his undershirt Raskob shambled to the closet for the Zeiss binoculars and returned to the window. There would be but little to spy on. He swept the full field of his vision, pausing wherever a lighted window stained the darkness and encountering only drawn, frustrating shades. Even the whore across the lot was gone, her window a black and unseeing eye. The glasses paused and swept upward to where yet another window gaped. This one had no shade and it gave a faint light. The Puerto Rican’s room. Raskob could make out the slatted silhouette of the crib that had been placed against the window to spite him, and its tiny occupant was no longer a baby but a thing purposely left to frustrate and defeat him. As he watched, an old crone popped into view like a puppet in a children’s play to stoop over the crib and vanish again. He had long ago deduced that she must be a neighbor of the Puerto Ricans. On nights when the young couple were out she made these occasional visits. He knew further that if she adhered to custom this would be the last visit. Raskob felt his breathing quicken. He put the glasses down and began to hunt for his shoes.
The hallway of the rooming house was poorly lit by a single twenty-five-watt bulb set in the high and dingy ceiling. Each doorway was a black patch in the chipped and gouged red-painted plaster walls. Raskob let himself into the hall stealthily and walked silently to the stairway at the end of it. The stealth was unnecessary; these were numb and unseeing people who lived in this house, and the comings and goings of the roomers excited no comment, drew no attention. Nevertheless, Raskob was careful. If Halvorsen the cop were to see him now, if he were caught— He paused in fright for a moment. There was no one in the lower hall. When he eased out the front door there was no one on the street in either direction and he slipped quickly into the alley that led to the back of the building.
There was a fence between the back yard of the tenement and the littered vacant lot that abutted it. Raskob paused here. He had studied the windows of this building across the lot a thousand times and more from his own third-floor room. Now, from ground level it seemed strangely distorted, out of focus so that he had to orient himself carefully. The one dimly lit window in the Puerto Rican’s tenement was reference point enough. Raskob stared at the window, crouching in the dark while one hand sought the handle of the mill knife in his pocket. Like Antaeus drawing strength from contact with the earth, he gained confidence and fixity of purpose from the feel of the smooth wooden handle. After a moment in which he stood like a dog casting about for the scent of game, he slipped through a rotted paling in the fence and crossed the vacant lot.
There was another fence enclosing the back yard of the Puerto Rican’s tenement. It too lacked palings; it showed gaps like the near toothless jaw of an old man. Inside it Raskob found himself in a cemented area where rubbish cans stood here and there like sentinels. There was a stench of garbage and half-incinerated trash. He paused again, refocusing his eyes.
There was a fire escape lacing the tenement with rusty iron. It leveled to a platform with a swinging section some eight feet above the ground. This section was counterbalanced so that in theory a child could swing it down. Raskob, standing beneath it, jumped clumsily once and once again. On the second try he grasped a rung, but the rusted iron would not give with his weight. He cursed wetly and obscenely and looked around him. He saw what he wanted—a galvanized iron trash container with its lid still on it. Moving quickly he dragged it beneath the fire escape. As he did so the metal bottom of the container grated hideously against the cement, and he froze, fear stricken. No window was thrown open, no one called out, and after a time his panic subsided. Breathing heavily he climbed up on the can. Now he could reach the fire escape without having to swing down the counterbalanced section. Like some antediluvian lizard he pulled himself upward; his torso, then his legs until he was sprawled, all of him, on the cold metal. Shortly he began to climb. The second floor, the third. He was silhouetted for a few seconds against the one window that was illuminated. Then the silhouette disappeared.
When he had killed Louise Hadley, when he had butchered the Burgess boy, Raskob had been silent. This time, as the mill knife rose and fell, he said in a hushed, furious voice, “You. You, you, you!”
When it was over he was suddenly more terribly frightened than he had yet been. He bolted for the window, careless of any noise he might make and fled into the night. But he kept the mill knife.
Ed Tanager, Saturday, April 24 — 3:00 a.m.
TANAGER HAD NOT SLEPT. He had got up from the bed and wandered down the corridor to smoke a thoughtful pipe. The second call for him came when he was again in relief of Catherine; she had surrendered the vigil and gone, wooden-faced, to the room where Tanager. had failed to sleep.
Nurses and interns had come and gone with quiet efficiency so that he was not certain that he had seen this one before. She touched his shoulder.
“There’s a call for you, Lieutenant,” she said. “I told them that you shouldn’t be bothered at this time but they —he, I mean—said that you would want the call. It’s a Sergeant Birch.”
The interne on duty slid over and wordlessly took the black bladder from Tanager’s hand to continue the job of pumping air into the sick child’s lungs. Tanager strode into the hall with the duty nurse almost running to keep up with him.
“On the desk,” she said.
Tanager thanked her and picked up the telephone. He said, “All right, Tom. Let’s have it.”
Tom Birch, on the other end of the line, wasted no time in apologies. “Another one, Ed,” he said grimly. “Humble Street. That’s down near Argonne. I got the call ten minutes ago. Parents came home and discovered the kid cut to pieces. I got hold of Hyde and Norris. Hyde said he’d pick up Doc Starnes. And Greenberg is on his way out to the hospital now if you want the squad car. I figured you would.”
“Greenberg has the address?”
“All right. Now get hold of Brady and Dahl; send them on out there. And get Stein and Blucher into the precinct. Tell them to stand by until they hear from me.”
“I got it, Ed.”—
“That’s it then. I’ll go with Greenberg when he gets here.”
Tanager put the telephone down and straightened up. What he had to do now was going to be as hard as anything he had ever done in his life. He turned away from the desk. As he did so he caught the thin wail of a siren in the distance. Greenberg probably. Or perhaps an ambulance on the way in.
Catherine was not asleep. When Tanager entered the room she sat up on the bed and switched on the light.
“Ed!” she cried out in fear. “She isn’t—”
“No,” he said. “She’s still the same.” He moved over to sit on the edge of the bed, his big hands dangling between his knees. “Listen to me, honey. I have to leave now. I couldn’t go without telling you.”
She stared at him, her eyes wide and rounded. “You wouldn’t, Ed. Not now you wouldn’t.”
“It’s my case. Another kid has been butchered. A little boy—a little girl—I don’t even know that yet.” He tried desperately to reach her.
“Catherine—look. Supposing it were Agnes.”
She stood up and backed away from him so that her shoulders touched the wall. “It isn’t Agnes. She is here, here in this hospital and she needs you. I need you now. Ed, you can’t really mean that you’d leave us now.”
Tanager stood up. “It’s my job, honey. It’s my job, but it’s more than that. I never could make you see it all the years we’ve been married. In a way it’s for you. In a way it’s for Agnes. Do you think other parents don’t love their kids the way we love her? Do you think that that Burgess woman didn’t love her little boy?”
Her face was set in stoic, hard planes.
“You don’t love Agnes,” she said dully, “or you wouldn’t leave now.”
A shadow fell from the threshold. Doctor Reed stood there, a big, bear-like figure, his eyes red-rimmed with fatigue.
“Woman,” he said scathingly, “That is the Goddamned-est statement I ever heard in my life.”
He shambled into the room. “Now sit down,” he growled, “and I’ll try and see if I can’t straighten you out just a little bit.”
Catherine involuntarily moved out from the wall. Her knees collapsed against the high side of the bed. Tanager, watching her face, saw her mouth open in an “O” of surprise and her eyes widen. He’s cracked her! he thought. He broke through!
Reed fumbled for a cigarette. Lighting it he turned to Tanager. “Another one?” he asked.
“Argonne Street district.”
“Probably a Spic kid. No matter. God made ’em all.” He turned to Catherine. “Now then. Your man is a detective. He’s on a case; a particularly nasty one. I’m a taxpayer. I’ve got grandchildren to be protected. What’s he doing here? You think that that doesn’t make sense. That’s because you’re a woman and you don’t know what his job is to a man—any man. You’ve got a kid in there. I’ll be honest with you. She’s in a bad way. Now she’s my job. You think I could live with myself if I didn’t tend to that job? Christ sake, Mrs. Tanager, I’m sixty years old! I’m an old man. If it weren’t my job I’d damn well be in bed getting a decent night’s sleep. Whatever gave you the idea that you know better than your man the things that have to be done in this world?”
Catherine had raised her hand to her mouth, pressing the knuckles against her teeth. She hasn’t been talked to that way since she was a schoolgirl, Tanager thought.
Reed wasn’t through. He jerked a thumb at Tanager. “He ever get drunk and blow his pay check?”
She shook her head.
“Beat you up?”
The hand came away and she smiled in spite of herself.
“Then he’s probably a good husband as husbands go. I’ll tell you something. I know for a fact that he’s a good detective. Let him go work at it.” Reed turned. “See you,” he grunted to Tanager and left the room.
Tanager walked to his wife. He put one hand on her shoulder and squeezed it lightly. “Greenberg is waiting,” he said. “I’ll be in touch.”
He turned away and she called to him. “Ed—” He turned again and she came forward to put her arms around him, leaning against him. “I didn’t know, Ed,” she said. “I didn’t know.”
He stroked her face. “It’s all right.”
She pushed him away. “You go do your job,” she said. “Doctor Reed’s orders. I’ll stay here and try to do mine.”
Greenberg had the patrol car parked in the circular driveway in front of the main entrance, the two red lights on the fenders winking monotonously. He got out to open the door for Tanager.
Tanager slid in and filled his pipe. There was peace in him now that superimposed itself on the sick worry for Agnes. To Greenberg he said, “You know the address. We’ll go right out there. Don’t go back by headquarters.” He bent to turn up the volume on the radio. It crackled and sputtered with the sound of frying grease but there was no signal transmission.
Greenberg kicked the gas pedal and the heavy car shot away from the hospital entrance. He said, “Sergeant Birch said to give you a fill in.”
Tanager grunted. Greenberg was a nice youngster but he had to be kept in his place or he’d talk an ear off. “Let’s have it.”
“The kid’s parents came home and found him. The wife passed out. The husband got her out of there and down to the street. The beat cop heard the racket and came running up. Halvorsen, it was. He’s out of the second precinct. He went upstairs and checked and it was him that called in.” Greenberg’s voice lowered impressively. “He told Sergeant Birch that it was the most horrible thing he ever saw in his life. Said he couldn’t stay in the room till the homicide men got there.”
Ahead of them was the familiar gaggle of official cars. Tanager recognized a private car—Sergeant Hyde’s new Oldsmobile—as Greenberg deftly curbed the patrol car. He was out and around and opening Tanager’s door almost before they were fully stopped, and Tanager grinned wryly. Greenberg could not be accused of apple polishing. He actually liked to pretend that Tanager was an inspector or some other similarly highly placed official. It increased his own importance by a process of reflection.
There was a cluster of spectators on the sidewalk, lured by the wail of the sirens like moths to the flame of a candle. They were a nondescript lot dressed, for the most part, in bathrobes and slippers. Tanager scanned them quickly from long habit. None of the dozen or so came at all close to the Dubois description which had been supplemented by that of the girl Shirley and the park patrolman, Ciannelli. He would have moved on, but a sensitivity to the moods of crowds halted him. These were in an ugly humor. He could hear the growling mutter.
“There he is. Big shot. Rides around with a chauffeur with kids getting slaughtered.” And again, “—cops are only good for pushing people around. Why don’t they do something?”
He would have moved, but this time he was blocked by a harridan in a flannel wrapper. She shook a gnarled finger under his nose.
“People aren’t even safe in their beds any more. When are you going to do something about it?”
Greenberg shoved his way forward. “Lieutenant—you want me to—”
Tanager shook his head. “Let it go. I know how they feel.”
They moved ahead into a musty-smelling hall. “Third floor,” Greenberg said.
There was a uniformed man posted at the third-floor stairway. Recognizing Tanager he stood aside. Tanager glimpsed his face, white and set-jawed, and he paused.
“I’m Tanager,” he said. “Homicide. You’re Halvorsen?”
“Yes, sir. I called this in from the box at the end of my beat.”
“Did you see anyone suspicious near this building on your earlier rounds?”
“Nobody suspicious, Lieutenant. Just run of the mill drunks; a few cleaning women on their way home. No one to fit your bulletin. I pass here every hour and ten minutes. It was two-forty when I saw the little boy’s mother and father on the sidewalk, and that was on my regular beat so the last time I passed here would have been about one-thirty. The woman was bad off. The father, too. After I went up the stairs to their flat and looked—” Halvorsen grimaced. “Well I knew how they felt. When I called up I had the desk send an ambulance. Not that it would do the kid any good. There wasn’t any way he could be helped. But the woman was hysterical and the man wasn’t much better off. I figured I’d get them over to Mercy hospital. God knows, they couldn’t go back up there to stay tonight.”
“Did you get anything at all out of them?”
“From the woman, no. From the husband that they got home about two-thirty. They usually left the kid alone but with a hall door open. There’s an old lady has the tenement next door to them and she looks in from time to time to see if the kid is okay—” Halvorsen glanced at his notebook, tilting it so that it caught enough of the sick light from the ceiling fixture to make it possible for him to read. “Her name is Lopez. The kid’s name is—was— Miguel Barbella. Father, Ramon. Mother, Angelique. They ain’t hardly more than kids themselves.”
Tanager said, “All right, Halvorsen. You did fine. I want you to report to me in the morning. Tell your sergeant that I ordered it.” He moved on up the stairs. To Greenberg, heeling him, he said, “Stick with him. Get started knocking on doors. You know what I want. Names. Who saw anything, heard anything. Get with it.”
Greenberg saluted. He would, Tanager reflected, and wheeled away.
Doc Starnes was the center of a small group in the third-floor hallway. With him were Sergeant Hyde and detectives Brady and Dahl. Brady looked as if he had been sick; he had been, Tanager learned later. Dahl the phlegmatic had an oily sheen of perspiration on his forehead.
Starnes said around his cold cigar, “The son of a bitch did it this time, Ed. Take a look.”
Tanager stepped past the quartet. Hyde broke away from the group to follow him in. Dave Morris was already in the room. He had rigged a thousand-watt light that cast black shadows in the corners of the room and illuminated everything else starkly. Norris was busy with a tape measure. He nodded to Tanager but said nothing.
Hyde gestured toward the crib that stood in front of the window. It was pushed out from the wall at an angle. One of the thin cotton blankets that covered it was pulled down through the slants of the crib. There were bloodstains on it; they appeared black in the artificial light. Tanager moved in closer to stand near the crib. An immense fury rose up in him at what he saw.
The little boy had been black-haired. Rosy-cheeked in his sleeping, doubtless. Now the little body was sprawled in sleep-tossed pajamas that were as wet with blood as if they had been dipped in it. There was a tremendous slash in the abdomen and two similar gashes at the collarbone. One arm had been nearly severed. Tanager, who seldom swore except for a purpose, heard someone cursing horribly and realized that it was himself.
Beside him Hyde said in a choked voice, “Why, for God’s sake? Like he was cutting up a chicken.”
Tanager asked sharply, “What do you mean?”
Hyde said, “It came to me, looking at this one. There was something about those others but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Used to work a beat with poultry shops. I got some nice birds for the wife, too. You see that throat wound?”
“I see it.”
“That’s the way you kill a chicken. Yon don’t exactly cut its throat. It’s more of a cross between a stab and a slash. Then you pluck it and cut it like—that.”
“Does everybody kill chickens the same way?”
Hyde shrugged. “Everybody I ever knew that kept ’em.”
Tanager’s interest subsided. You can’t investigate everybody that ever kept chickens. Maybe the poultry dealers, though— The dangling blanket caught his eye. There was a pattern on it, a vague outline not characteristic of the random spattering of blood where a corner of the sleazy fabric curled on the floor. He called sharply, “Dave. He stepped on the blanket here. Part of a footprint.” He bent closer. A fragment of the pattern had an irridescence to it. It appeared black, as black as the bloodstains. Up close it looked green.
Norris bent down, his eyes intense.
“What do you make of it, Dave? Paint?”
“No. It’s not opaque enough. It’s almost translucent. I’ll have to use a spectrograph.”
“Have yon got one?”
“Have to make one. Takes a spectrophotometer and I haven’t got one.”
“Whatever made that stain, Dave, he had it on his shoe. I want you to find out what it was. Put it ahead of everything else. Maybe he picked it up in the street. Maybe he picked it up wherever he works. In any case, I want an analysis. You get on out to the university as soon as you’re squared away here. Break in if you have to. Want me to call someone on the faculty and square it for you?”
“I can arrange it myself, Ed. We’ve got an agreement.”
Tanager straightened. Hands in pockets he strode toward the open window. “He come in here?”
“I’d say so. There are marks on the fire escape. The bottom section had been pulled down part way.”
“Then someone who knew the family did it. Somebody who knew they made a habit of going out and leaving the little boy alone. I can’t see even a maniac climbing up three floors on the off chance of finding a victim.”
He stared out into the black-velvet night. Across the vacant lot the even blacker hulks of a score of tenements bulked against the nimbus of the sky line, picked out here and there by a light left burning. He called suddenly, sharply, “Brady. Dahl. In here!”
They grouped themselves beside him. “Get Stein and Blucher; they’re standing by at headquarters.” He waved a hand at the buildings across the way. “I want you to canvass those buildings. Work it out for yourselves. I know it won’t be easy with what we have. Be smart about it. I’m interested in those rooms from which you can see into this room. That throws out the first floor rooms. Take binoculars with you. I want you to check every room that meets the one requirement of overlooking this one. I want you to check for bloodstained clothing, and I want you to check for field glasses or telescopes. And I want you to look for shoes with a green stain on them. The stain will probably be on the instep. It will look like paint. Tell Sergeant Birch I said for him to round up every available man to help you and I don’t care how many tricks they’ve pulled in the last two days. Dahl—you are in charge. You’ve got the picture?”
Dahl’s eyes narrowed shrewdly. “I’ve got it, Ed. Come on, Brady.”
Tanager wheeled to Hyde. “Go with them. Get a radio bulletin out on this as fast as you can. You know what to do. You men—move!”
The three men left in a lumbering rush nearly knocking down Starnes who was on his way back into the room. He stared after them in mock indignation.
“Ain’t seen Hyde move that fast in ten years. You got something going for you, Ed?”
“I might. You release us here yet?”
“Sure. I’ll post it, but I can give it to you right now. Just like the others. Cause of death, massive hemorrhage. Multiple stab wounds. I’ll lay six to five it’s even the same knife. Did you talk to Norris about that knife, by the way?”
“Yes. We may have something going on that, too.”
There was a knock on the doorframe. Greenberg stood there.
Tanager growled, ”Come in.”
“This lady lives on the floor below, Lieutenant. I thought you would want to hear this.” He stood aside. The woman who sidled past him was in her early forties, slatternly in a cotton wrapper. The face glistened with cold cream. Her eyes roved about the room and then kept sliding toward the crib. Tanager moved to block her view.
“This policeman knocked on my door and asked me if I’d heard or seen anything unusual tonight.” Her voice was raucous, grating, even pitched low. “I was trying to get to sleep about one-fifteen or one-thirty. I had a headache.” She was close to Tanager and he caught the pungent sweet odor of gin. “I’d almost swear that I heard someone on the fire escape.”
“What did you do then?”
She shrugged. “Anything can happen in a firetrap like this. It could have been someone trying to beat his rent. That’s happened before. What could I do? I went back to sleep.”
“Get notes on it, Greenberg. Thank you, lady. That’s all for now.”
Tanager turned to Morris. “That about cinches it for the fire escape and it pinpoints the time.”
He sent next for the Lopez woman whose duty it had apparently been to look in occasionally on the Barbella child. She was incredibly old, her face wrinkled and brown as a walnut under a cap of blue-white hair. She was dressed in a flannel bathrobe which she hugged tightly to her. Beneath it the hem of a nightgown showed, immaculately clean.
“I hear the noise, senor, and I listen and I hear what has happen and I know you will wish to speak with me so I am ready when this policeman,” she pointed to Greenberg, “came for me.”
“Then you know that the little boy was murdered,” Tanager said. “That would have been about one-thirty, Mrs. Lopez. Did you hear anything from this room? Any noise, any outcry?”
She shook her head. “No, senor. I am an old woman. Old people do not sleep like the young. If the boy cry out I hear him. I do not hear this. I hear maybe some other noises—footsteps, perhaps, or the striking of a blow. In this house—” She shrugged. “These sounds I do not listen for and so I do not hear. I listen only for a small boy crying and this I do not hear.”
Milton Raskob, Saturday, April 24—2:00 a.m.
SANITY OF A SORT returned to Raskob as he fled across the vacant lot to his own tenement so that he became cautious. From a flight of sheer headlong abandon—he was fleeing the crime and not its punishment—he slowed to a standstill in his own back yard. There in the darkness he stood stock still while he listened with animal acuity for any sound of pursuit. There was none. There was no outcry, no alarum, no hue and cry. Shortly he sidled to the shelter of the building and began to creep stealthily around to the front. He made no noise other than that of his heavy breathing; and he was at the door before he realized that he still carried the knife in his hand. In a return to panic he thrust it into his coat pocket and hurried up the steps to the front door. He was in terrible fear and he could not surrender himself to the fear. Not yet.
There was no one in the hall or on the stairway. Climbing the stairs silently and as rapidly as he could, he at length gained the sanctuary of his own room. He closed the door behind him and stood with his back against it in the attitude of crucifixion for more than a full minute.
Now he could surrender. He stood still, his loose mouth partly open while his breath came in rapid, noisy pantings. His yellow, oddly short teeth alternately clenched and unclenched.
The fear could not maintain such a crescendo and eventually it abated to the point where his mouth closed and his breathing leveled off to a more normal rate. He had not turned on the light when he came in. Now he crossed silently to the window and drew the shade down so that it hung, below the level of the sill. It was safe then to turn on the light, and he did so.
In the glow of the sixty-watt bulb he surveyed himself carefully. There was blood on his coat and on his hands. A thought came to him and his expression became sly, cunning. He turned to the window again. “The dirty bastards,” he muttered.
He realized now that a connection would be established between the location of the Puerto Rican’s tenement and those within view of it, and the enormity of his mistake began to appall him. Moving quickly he stripped himself down to the skin. From the closet he took an old bathrobe and a pair of felt slippers. Putting these on, he made a bundle of the clothing he had removed, first taking the knife from the pocket of the coat and his other possessions from their respective pockets. He debated for a moment and then added the shoes he had removed to the bundle. He put the bundle on the bed and sidled to the radiator that stood against one wall. He felt it. It was cold. He thought furiously for another moment and then pulled the cord, putting out the light. In the darkness he let himself into the hall again. There was a steep and narrow staircase opening off the end of the hall and leading to a hatchway that in turn opened onto the flat center section of the mansard roof. Cautiously he crept to the staircase and tried the latch of the hatchway. It was unlocked. He returned to his room and picked up the bundle of clothing.
He emerged from the hatchway onto the roof. There were chimneys here, three of them. They would not be used until fall; he was almost certain of that. By standing on tiptoe he was able to cram the bundle of clothing into the furthermost of the chimneys, pushing it down so that no telltale corner of cloth protruded to betray the hiding place. This done he descended again to stand in his room. Without putting on the light he sat on the edge of the bed and considered what he had done, what must yet be done before he would be safe.
The binoculars! The most stupid policeman would question their presence here in view of what had happened in the tenement across the vacant lot. Still without turning on the light he retrieved them from the closet, not without a deep and abiding regret. They were valuable glasses and would have brought a good price even at a pawn shop. He scuttled for the stairs again and put them in the cache that already held his clothing.
The bathroom which served his floor was small and dank and odorous. He stood on the worn linoleum in front of the basin and scrubbed himself. He had forgotten his towel. He dried himself sketchily on the skirt of his bathrobe and went back “to his room. Still he did not put on the light, but he did raise the shade and crouched in the darkness. After a long long time he saw a light—too bright a light in the Puerto Rican’s tenement.
There was still the mill knife and the instinct of self-preservation gnawed at him to destroy it. He picked it up and made a tentative movement toward the door. Halfway there he stopped in his tracks and stood uncertainly, his eyes turning from side to side almost as if he could see in the darkness. An even stronger compulsion anchored him. To destroy the knife would be to destroy Raskob in a sense. He hurried to the window and pulled the shade down again and turned on the light.
Behind the radiator? They would look there, certainly. In the dark depths of the closet? But were the depths dark enough or deep enough to hide the knife? But then, they might not come at all. Raskob groaned in indecision.
The toilet! It was an old-fashioned toilet with a zinc-lined wooden tank mounted on rusty brackets high on the wall over the water closet itself. He wrapped the robe more tightly about his squat body and slipped into the hall again to shuffle back to the bathroom. Oh Christ! The door was closed. A thin slice of light showed at the gaping crack between the door and the sill. Who? The drunk from down the hall perhaps. Or the filthy old man who came up here sometimes from the second floor when his own bathroom was occupied. He had no right, damn him. Raskob in his frustration threw back his head and howled without making a sound before he returned to his room to pace back and forth, his hands pressed against his temples.
When, after a time, he went back, the bathroom was empty again. He wiped the knife carefully and stood on the edge of the tub to drop it into the tank. It made a faint splash, and a few drops of icy water licked his fingers. Jumping down from the edge of the bathtub he returned again to his room.
Again in the darkness he lay on his back to consider. What had he to fear now? He had reasoned that the police would deduce that only a person with access—if only by means of vision—to the Puerto Rican’s tenement could have carried out the murder, could have known of the existence of such a victim. But were the police that clever? He had fooled them before. The cop in the park that day. The snotty one who had stopped him on his way to the plant that time. And even tonight. “Yeah, I’ve seen you late other times.”
If they were smart enough, there must be a hundred rooms that would have to be searched. If they searched this room they would find nothing to incriminate him. The clothes and the binoculars were safely hidden away. There would be no fire in the furnace until fall and he would have a thousand opportunities to retrieve them before then. And the knife. Safely hidden but in a place where he could get it when he needed it.
Raskob got up and went to the window again. The too-bright light was still on in that room. He went back to the bed and lay down again. After a time he even slept.
Gray light was stealing around the edges of the drawn shade when a peremptory knocking at his door awoke him. He sat up, remembering nothing for an instant. Then recollection returned and a knowledge of who it had to be outside his door, and he hugged himself in panic, unable in this moment to reason, to plan or even to speak. He had a flashing memory of that incident years ago when another cop had chased young Raskob the Sheeny and he had wet himself, all control lost. This time he managed finally to croak, “What is it?”
“Police. Open up in there.”
He got up and turned on the light before he walked slowly toward the door, his bathrobe flapping about him. Surprised. He must look surprised. And stupefied with sleep. And—not too soon—he should be indignant. Not nasty but irritated to the point of severe annoyance. The annoyance of a man awakened from sleep for no apparent reason. He unlocked the door and pulled it to him.
Second grade detective George Dahl had worked out the plan of search with Sergeant Hyde and young Johnny Brady. There were fourteen tenement buildings, rooming houses most of them, that could conceivably have provided a vantage point from which to overlook the Barbella tenement on Humble Street. Most of them were three story buildings with a few aspiring to four floors. They had divided it up with Stein and Blucher, making up teams with uniformed men from the precincts. George Dahl and his partner had drawn the building numbered 1462. Now, his paunchy body slack with lack of sleep, he faced Milton Raskob in the dingy hall from which room 3-C opened.
Raskob stared at him stupidly. This was the way a man suddenly awakened from sleep would react, he told himself.
Dahl stared back, taking in this picture, this man. He had awakened a dozen men within the hour; he saw nothing in Raskob’s dazed expression that differed from those he had seen earlier. He said again, “Police, mister. Detective Dahl,” and thrust his way into the room, brushing by Raskob. He said nothing further to Raskob at this time but went directly to the window. He raised the shade and leaned on the sill staring into the greasy half-light of the dawn. Across the lots the too-bright light in the Barbella tenement made a nimbus in the damp air. Already the light had a sick cast to it as the sky lightened.
Dahl turned, finally. He said to the patrolman, “Let’s have those glasses.” When he had them he turned back to the window and focused them, looking briefly toward the lighted tenement before he turned back again. To Raskob he said, “You can look right into those flats over there. Bet a man can see a lot of things that way. Where are your glasses?”
Raskob said—he made it sound vague—“What glasses?” He had to restrain an impulse to snicker. Stupid, stupid cops with their stupid, stupid traps. Most of his fear left him.
Dahl, if he was disappointed, hid it. “Let it go,” he grunted, and handed the binoculars back to the patrolman. He wheeled and opened the closet door. “Get those clothes out here on the bed,” he ordered the patrolman.
The patrolman began to pile clothing on the bed. Dahl, meantime, looked under the bed, grunting as he straightened. Next he began opening the drawers of the scarred dresser and ruffling through their contents.
Now was the time, Raskob decided, to show indignation. He had been standing with his back to the wall thus far. Now he moved out a stride. “Hey, what the hell is this?” he demanded.
Dahl turned his head. “I already told you. Police.” “Police. Okay, police. But that doesn’t mean you can come in here and start pushing people around.” That was just the right tone. Not nasty but irritated. An innocent man didn’t have to suffer indignity.
Dahl shoved his weight back from the dresser. For the first time he stared directly at Raskob while he said calmly, “Nobody’s leaning on nobody. What’s in here that you don’t want us to see?”
Now retreat a little. Just a little. Enough to show a willingness to be conciliated, mollified. “There ain’t anything in here I care who sees it. But what the hell—you bust in here—”
Dahl’s voice was ominously quiet. “Hold it right there, Jack. We didn’t bust in. You want a warrant, I’ll get one —and I’ll throw you in the can on suspicion while I get it.”
Mouselike, fear crept back to gnaw at Raskob. If they were to take him away, lock him up while this search went on, he would go mad. He said, “You don’t need a warrant. What are you looking for anyway?”
Dahl started sorting through the clothes on the bed. To the patrolman he said, “Get his shoes out here, Graves, then start looking around. Find his laundry and dump it out here on the bed.” He didn’t answer Raskob’s question.
Raskob licked his lips. “I took my laundry out yesterday. All I got here is the empty bag.” He was sweating profusely. The moisture trickled clammily from his armpits.
Shoes, for God’s sake! Why the shoes? He said, “Not those. The brown ones.” And hugged himself for having hidden those he had put on yesterday.
Dahl picked up the brown pair and looked at the soles before he put them down again. He picked up the others and examined them again before he lined them up meticulously on the floor beside the bed. Still without speaking he glanced at Graves who mutely shook his head. Raskob caught the byplay and almost sighed audibly in relief.
Dahl’s shoulders slumped. “Guess you’re clean, mister. Give the officer your name and any other information he wants.”
“Sure. But what’s it all about?”
Dahl headed for the door. “Read the papers,” he said. “Graves, I’m going on to the next one. Get the book on this guy and then come along.” He went out, leaving the hall door open.
Graves’ questions were perfunctory. Where do you work? Ever been arrested? Where were you last night? It was almost amusing to answer them. What could they prove? Not a thing. When Graves left, Raskob went back to bed and to sleep.
Ed Tanager, Saturday, April 24 — 6:00 a.m.
DAVE NORRIS WAS finished in the Barbella tenement by the time Tanager had completed his interview with the Lopez woman. Starnes had gone on ahead, taking Hyde’s car. They left a uniformed man posted in the bedroom and clumped tiredly down the smelly stairway into the moist clean morning air. Norris was burdened with his equipment and the soiled bedding from the boy’s crib. The ambulance detail had already taken the body; it made a pitifully light burden for two big men.
Norris hesitated to light a cigarette. “So now?” he asked.
“You get on over to the university and get me an analysis of that stain. I’m going by Mercy Hospital and see if I can get anything from the boy’s parents. There’s a possibility that it might have been an enemy of the family. It could be that this murder isn’t related to the other two.”
Norris shook his head. “It’s the same, Ed. No possible doubt about it. Same knife, same type of wounds.”
“Yeah. Still it has to be checked. I’ll start on it while you get me that analysis.”
“Where’s your car? You want a lift?”
“Greenberg left the squad car for me.”
“See you, then.”
Tanager watched Norris drive away before he moved down the block to the city car. He lit his pipe as he got into the car but there was no satisfaction in it. He was uneasy, fretful. He didn’t start the car immediately, but instead he sat quietly trying to put his finger on the source of his unease. It was like trying to remember the name of a song or of a person, having it on the tip of your tongue but not being able to recollect it fully. After a time he knocked out his pipe and switched on the ignition and the radio.
He could see neither of the Barbellas at Memorial Hospital. They were, in the words of the house interne, under heavy sedation. Tanager was not sorry. He had dreaded the prospective interview with the dead baby’s parents. He got back into the car and headed back toward his office, the wheels making a ratcheting noise as they spurted the driveway gravel back against the undersides of the fenders.
Hyde was at his desk, his shoulders slumped. There was a gray haze of beard on his chin and jewels. Tanager tried to remember when he had seen Hyde other than immaculate and could not recall a single instance. He asked, “Anything from Dahl yet?”
“Not much. Johnny Brady got one with a bloody shirt; claims he got it in a saloon fight. Brady thinks it’s a straight story, but he’s bringing him in anyway. And Chief Watkins wants to see you. He’s got Hizzoner up there with him and all the press and radio guys. From what I hear, they’re giving him a fit.”
Tanager had forgotten the newspapers, the reporters. Halvorsen’s report on the Barbella murder had come in too late for the morning papers who usually pulled their men in and closed the forms by two a.m. “What does the chief want?” he asked.
Hyde grimaced. “A whipping boy, probably. They’ve got him treed up there and he’s got to pass the buck. Who’s he got? He can’t slip it to the mayor. That leaves Lieutenant Tanager.”
Tanager cursed the chief. He needed time to think and to organize now. The best way to handle it would be to get up there and get it over with.
“I’ll get on up there,” he said. “The hospital didn’t call?”
Hyde, in some manner, expressed sympathy with a head-shake of negation. “Nothing, Ed.”
“Well, let me know. And if Norris comes in before I get through, come up and spring me out of there.”
There was an excitement in him, an anticipation that had exultation in it and vindication. He had felt it before toward the end of a case when the threads were being pulled together. This time he felt it but he could not justify it in the light of progress made.
There were a dozen men in Watkin’s office when Tanager walked in. Unnoticed for a moment, he had time to sense their mood and to know that it was, for this group, a strange one. There was resentment and outrage in these men. He knew most of them. He had known them to be angry in times past at some break or at some restriction that they felt to be unjustified. This was a different anger.
A wasp of a man in a wrinkled gray suit—he still had sleep in his eyes—was snarling at Watkins. “Why don’t you cut out the bull, chief. You don’t have a damn thing that you didn’t have the night that the little Hadley girl was killed. Now you’ve got the guts to stand there and ask us to take it easy. Don’t con us. We know you’re a phony and we’ve gone along with it for years but don’t con us. Get Tanager in here and let him tell us what he’s doing— if he’s doing anything at all.”
Mayor Price stood up. His magnificent white hair was rumpled. He glanced down at Watkins who looked completely beaten and shook his head contemptuously. The first real anger that Tanager had ever seen on his face was faithfully reproduced in his voice. “That’s completely unfair, Wilson, and I will not stand here and let you malign men who are doing their best. You are probably not aware that Lieutenant Tanager has been working the clock around since Thursday a week ago in spite of the fact that his daughter is in very grave condition in the hospital.”
Wilson scowled. “What’s he want? Sympathy? Christ sake, Mayor, do you want the whole city wiped out?”
Price reddened. “Wilson,” he said, “You ought to get a punch in the jaw.” He stepped a pace forward. “And by God, I’m going to do it!”
Tanager grinned. The old boy was willing to toss away a dozen wards. He said loudly, “You wanted to see me Chief Watkins?”
The men in the room turned to face him in comic unison. Watkins’ voice was rich with relief. “Yes, Lieutenant,” he said. “These men want to ask you some questions.”
They began to batter him with questions, to clamor at him.
“Do you have any new leads?”
“Can we expect an arrest soon?”
He couldn’t say.
“Have you asked the F.B.I. for help?”
They didn’t have jurisdiction.
“Why not have vigilantes patrol the streets?”
The program had doubtful value.
And one question; it was Mannix of the Post who asked it. “How’s your little girl doing, Ed?”
After fifteen minutes he left them to Watkins and Price. Soothed now and a little mollified.
Norris was in the laboratory when Tanager went downstairs. He had obviously just returned. Still in his topcoat he was frowning at a series of slides of various colors. He nodded toward the coffeepot, not speaking. Tanager poured a cup and waited. Norris looked up after a few moments.
He smiled. “You’re going to have to square me with the “university. I called up one of the chemistry professors and he fixed it up for me to use their equipment, but I ran into a pigheaded watchman. He didn’t want to take the responsibility of letting me in until the professor came down to identify me.”
Tanager said thoughtfully, “You haven’t been an hour. I don’t know how long it takes to set up a spectrophotometer but it must take a little time. You didn’t wait for the professor to come down and identify you then. That leaves one question and I might add that it’s tough to square a murder rap. What did you do with the watchman?”
Norris said laconically, “The damn fool turned his back to me. I pulled a gun on him. Then I couldn’t work and keep my eye on him so I took his keys and locked him in a supply closet. You want to call the protective bureau and have them let him out?”
Tanager laughed outright. Norris, who looked almost like a student himself, was a man of purpose. “Watchmen have to ring clocks every half hour, Dave. If they don’t ring in, the protective bureau goes out to see why. You can bet that they’re there already. Tell Hyde about it when we get through here. He’ll fix it up with the bureau. I’ll fix it with the university later.”
Norris nodded. “Now then,” he said. “That green stain.”
“What about it?”
“Lead. Lead silicate. That’s not what makes the green. The lead is a stabilizer used by paint houses. The green is a pigment. Probably a pyrazylene derivative. My chemistry is a little rusty so I wouldn’t say for sure. And poly-vinyl chloride. That’s a resin.”
“Who’d use it?”
“Polyvinyl chloride? That’s plastics. The kind they make upholstery with. And table cloths, raincoats, shower curtains. That sort of thing.”
Tanager put down his coffee cup abruptly and bolted to the door.
“Hyde!” he called. “Let me have that list of names, the interrogations the beat men have been reporting!”
Hyde’s voice was aggrieved. “Jesus, Ed,” he complained, “I ain’t had a chance to put them together yet.”
Tanager said impatiently, “Not last night. The back reports.” When Hyde had handed them to him he came back into the room, thumbing through the pages. “Color,” he said. “I know damn well—here it is. Milton Raskob. Age thirty. Occupation color chemist. Hammersmith Chemical Company. Hammersmith Chemical Company, Dave. What about it?”
Dave Norris was standing as if transfixed. His head was nodding, he kept nodding it slowly while he said softly, “Hammersmith Chemical. Hammersmith Tough Tex, the luxury vinyl plastic. Of course. That’s the way they advertise in the magazines. Ed, if I were to try and think of a company that would use dye in the lead and resin compound we found on that blanket I wouldn’t have to go beyond Hammersmith.”
Tanager’s eyes were cold. “I didn’t finish, Dave. This reads, ‘address, room three-C, 1462 Argonne Street.’ You spent three years in the traffic division. Do I have to tell you where Argonne Street is?”
Norris was still nodding his head. “Argonne Street? Let’s see—that’s the only street that runs in back of the Barbella flat.” He thought swiftly. “Three-C would be the third floor, that’s high enough. The 1400 block? My God, Ed, that would have to be almost directly behind the tenement where the kid was killed!”
Tanager raced to his own/office. He opened the desk and took out his short barreled detective special, checking the action and the loads. The wise thing to do now would be to get the precinct men in; let them make the arrest. He considered this course and rejected it and it was through no sense of vainglory. Raskob would be dangerous; as dangerous and as unpredictable as a blasting cap. He stopped at Hyde’s desk.
Keeping his voice casual he said, “Want to come along on a pinch?”
Something in his expression was altered, enough so that Hyde, after glancing at him, said nothing as he reached for his own gun. Only when he had slipped on his tunic did he ask, “The big one?”
Tanager nodded. “The big one. Remember when you called me at the hospital to give me a message from a guy named Parsons?”
“Do you still have his phone number?”
Hyde, the meticulous, produced his notebook. “Chestnut 12761.”
Tanager asked for an outside line and called the Chestnut number. He heard the instrument at the other end of the line buzz a half dozen times while he drummed on Hyde’s desk with his long fingers. When Parsons finally said, “Mr. Parsons here,” his voice was faintly querulous. Tanager smiled at that.
“This is Lieutenant Tanager, Mr. Parsons. Sorry to call you at such an hour.”
Parsons’ voice became warm and eager. “No trouble at all, Lieutenant. I’m glad to help.”
“I just want to ask one question. To your knowledge, would the Hammersmith Chemical Company use mill knives?”
“Why, yes. As a matter of fact they are on the list I sent you.” His voice was surprised. “But you couldn’t possibly have received it yet.”
Tanager grinned. “A matter of deduction, Mr. Parsons. You’ve been a big help and we appreciate it. Between the two of us we’ve got this thing pretty well sewed up.”
Parsons almost squeaked. “Between the two of us?”
“That’s what I said.” Tanager hung up. He would almost have bet that the little man would now be explaining to Mrs. Parsons, if such there were, that he, Parsons, had been helping out with a case.
He turned to Hyde. “Stein or Dahl check in yet?”
“Dahl called in. They shook down every room overlooking the Barbella flat. No dice. Then they went back and checked out all the other rooms in case somebody used a hall window to spy from. Still no dice. Dahl says they’re going to get some breakfast and then cal in.” They walked toward the corridor. Hyde continued. “So either somebody with a personal knowledge of the Barbella family did it or else the psycho went up that fire escape on a whim. That or else he maybe lives in one of the rooms the boys checked out and was smart enough to figure we’d work out what we did work out and unloaded before we got there.”
Tanager nodded. “And where does that leave us?”
Hyde said ruefully, “Where we started. It’s time, Ed.”
“Time to give. Who are we pinching and what have you got?”
They stopped at the desk. Tanager was guiltily aware that he had not thought of Agnes in half an hour. He asked for St. Raphael’s and, when he got the number, for Agnes’s Ward. There was, he was told, no change. For a moment he considered asking to speak to Catherine. He thought better of it and went out the door and down the granite steps with Hyde.
They took a cruiser, Hyde driving and Tanager explaining. Hyde listened without speaking as he wheeled the city car through streets that were at this hour almost deserted. When Tanager was finished, Hyde nodded his head.
“It figures,” he said. “None of it means much alone. The address. The green stain. The fact that he worked where they use mill knives and probably could have got hold of one. Put it all together though, and you make a case. By the way, our girl Shirley had a look at Brady’s pinch. No make. I let him out. About this one—how do you want to handle it? Want some precinct men?”
“I’d rather we handled it ourselves. If we bring in men it will attract attention. Raskob’s been checked already by Dahl’s bunch. He probably figures he got away with it again—if he’s our man. We’ll park a block or so away and walk in quietly. With luck we’ll get him in his room. If we flushed him and he started running someone might get hurt. Something else.”
“Best we don’t make a production of this. If the citizens knew who we had they might try to take him away from us.”
Hyde snorted. “I’m like the village whore. I wouldn’t put up much of a struggle.”
Hyde curbed the cruiser in the 1200 block. They didn’t get out immediately. Tanager said, “You’re in uniform. You stay downstairs out of sight.”
Hyde protested. “Hell with that. You’re not going to take him alone. What if something happened?”
“He’ll still have to get by you.”
Milton Raskob, Saturday, April 24 —8:00 a.m.
HE AWOKE WITH THE SUN streaming in the window, raising golden dust motes in that shabby room and for a blessed moment before memory returned he could lie unthinking and unafraid in the sway-backed bed. Memory would not long be denied, and when it came, his squat and unlovely body went rigid so that he lay as if paralyzed for a full minute before he sprang awkwardly from the bed and shuffled to the window. He could see nothing out of the ordinary, nothing he might not have expected to see. Why should he expect to see anything? The police, the stupid o police, had come and bullied him. Now they were gone, satisfied. Yet were they? They were crafty and sly. No, the thing to do was to be craftier and more clever than they. To get up now because this was the time for getting up on a Saturday. And to walk to the diner on the corner for coffee. Stop in at the neighborhood tavern for a beer; watch the shuffleboard players; kill time until the movies opened at eleven.
He walked down to the bathroom. He locked the door, dropping the steel hook into its eyebolt. Here, where no one could see, it would be safe to stand on the rim of the leprous and scaly tub and reach into the zinc-lined wooden tank. Not to take the knife out. That would not be safe. But to be sure it was there, that was safe.
He climbed up and probed the cold and slimy tank with his fingers. Oh yes, it was still there. Hard and smooth and a power in the hands of Milton Raskob. He let it drop into the depths again. It made no sound.
Raskob stepped down again to splash water on his face. He considered shaving and rejected the idea.
Someone—the part-time waiter who had the room down the hall—rattled the door furiously. “Whatd’ya say! You don’t have to take all day in there!”
The dirty bastard—who did he think he was? Raskob deliberately slowed his washing. When he was finished he wiped the rim of the tub with his towel and stepped into the hall. The waiter was gone, probably downstairs to the second-floor bathroom. He went to his room and dressed, taking his time. There was no hurry. When he stepped again into the hall and turned to lock the door, Ed Tanager was coming up the decrepit stairway to the second floor.
He heard the footsteps. Don’t be stupid. Don’t panic as you always did in those bygone years. What is there to fear? They don’t know. The steps could be those of any of the roomers. But why not be sure? Why not hide in the bathroom. Why not pull the door partway closed and look out—just to be sure.
He could no longer rationalize, and with the flight of reason panic returned so that he actually trembled. Who would have reason to be coming up the steps at this hour? And if you were this much frightened at the mere sound of footsteps—and unidentified footsteps at that—what would you do if the cops came back?
He backed into the bathroom. There was one thing that could give him courage. He stepped up on the rim of the bathtub again and retrieved it. Calmer now. Put it into your pocket. Milton Raskob, going out for a cup of coffee.
Tanager was by now on the third floor. He could hear the steady click of heels. Relentless, implacable heels. Raskob saw him through the partially open door.
This was what he had feared, what he had known would come to pass from the moment he had followed that little girl into the theater. He knew. This man knew all about him, Milton Raskob, and all about the knife and all about the rest of it. Raskob controlled with horrible effort the desire to scream, to beat his head against the wall.
The man who knew walked down the hall. Never taking his eyes from the retreating back, Raskob slipped from the bathroom and onto the stairway, moving furtively, back against the wall so that his weight fell where the stair treads were nailed to the studding and there was less danger of creaking. In this crab-like fashion he reached the second floor. Now he could hear the man who knew knocking at a door upstairs. His door! Run now! He went down the final flight of steps three at a time.
In that long ago he had wet himself when the policeman clutched at his collar: Now, at sight of Sergeant Hyde waiting in the hall he felt the same loss of volition; the same complete surrender to fear. The very completeness of the surrender saved him; without consciously planning the action he plunged at Hyde, head down, bowling into the man.
Hyde had been prepared for gunfire, for action of almost any kind of description except this headlong heedless charge. He had his gun drawn and leveled but so abrupt was Raskob’s appearance that he tried to make too quickly the decision to beef the fleeing man with the gun barrel rather than shoot him as he could easily have done. The result was that he did neither; Raskob’s charge caught him off balance. One leg buckled under him and his head hit the newel post with stunning force.
Raskob did not slow down. Blindly he ran for the hall door, through it, and into the street.
Ed Tanager knocked thrice at Raskob’s door. When there was still no answer he dropped his shoulder and lunged. The door was heavy and well fitted to its casement. When it did not give, Tanager drew his gun and fired two shots into the lock mechanism. The gray smoke drifted upward, a lethal mist smelling of nitre-cellulose, while the flat and heavy reports of the shots rolled down the hall. When he kicked the door this time it gave, swung slowly, sullenly open. He wasted no time searching the room. A brief glance and he was racing down the hall again shouting, “Hyde! Watch it!” with all the urgency he could express put into the alarm so that it was as if he hurled the warning words like projectiles.
Sergeant Hyde had taken the full shock of Raskob’s charge in his middle at that dangerous and vulnerable moment when he had expelled his breath and before his diaphragm had tensed with inhalation. The collision had nearly stunned him. As he went backward the lower part of the back of his head had struck the square-cut corner of the newel post so violently that he was almost impaled on it. He was completely unconscious, and yet so great was his compulsion to get Raskob that he was very nearly able to squeeze off a shot even as he slumped to the floor.
Raskob, open-mouthed and mewing wordless sounds, ran two blocks. His flight was without direction and with-out purpose save that of getting away from the man who knew at any cost. After two blocks his pounding heart made him slow down; when he glanced over his shoulder and saw no one in pursuit he slowed still more. When he came to a cross-street he turned into it. There was a bus pulling out from the familiar yellow-striped utility pole, a blue and lumbering elephant of a bus. Raskob flagged the driver. There was a hiss of compressed air as the pneumatic door opened. He threw a coin into the fare box and fell, all asprawl, into a seat. Now that he was, however briefly, safe, the almost equally powerful emotion of self-pity struggled with his fear. The cops. The brutal, cruel, bullying cops. Jesus God! They hadn’t even left him a place to go! What could he do now? Where could he go? What would happen to him?
He realized vaguely that this was the bus line that went past the Hammersmith plant. How many times he had traveled this same route, safely, routinely, and, if not greatly respected, at least expected for his day’s work. If it could only be that way again! Raskob wildly conjectured wilder bargains that he would make with his unknown but powerful entity whereby he would exchange past transgressions for a placid future.
Tanager, plunging wildly headlong down the stairs, saw Sergeant Hyde crumpled on the floor and swore. He bent over Hyde, seeing the dark and ominous seep of blood at the hairline. In this moment he shook Hyde half gently, half roughly in a queer mixture of pity and urgency.
“Hyde,” he demanded. “Hyde—could you see which way he was headed?”
Hyde could not answer. His graying head slumped on his chest. Tanager felt for a heart beat. When he detected it his facial expression changed. That part of it which had reflected his worried concern for his sergeant drained itself, became blank, and the blank expression itself then changed to one of almost feral deadlines of purpose. Catherine, could she have seen him in that moment, would scarcely have recognized him. He straightened, glanced again at Hyde, and raced for the door. In the street he glanced to right and left. There was no sign of Raskob and after a moment he ran to the squad car that Hyde had parked a block away.
He switched on the radio and waited impatiently for the tubes to warm up; when they did he put in a call to the dispatcher.
“This is Lieutenant Tanager,” he said. “Get this fast and get it right. Sergeant Hyde is hurt—sapped, I think. Get an ambulance out to Argonne Street. Hold it—”
A boy of eleven or so had halted his bicycle beside the car, his eyes round with excitement. Tanager said, “Son— you want to help us out?”
The boy, too excited to speak, nodded violently. Tanager turned back to the microphone. “The 1400 block on Argonne,” he said. “There will be a boy with a bicycle standing outside. He’ll show them where. Get Hyde taken care of, then get a call out to pick up Milton Raskob. Age thirty, white male, stocky build. Possibly armed and extremely dangerous. He’s on the run. Hyde and I flushed him.”
Excitement crept into the dispatcher’s laconic voice. “This the big one, Lieutenant?”
“I’d make book on it. Now get this. Raskob is crazy scared. I think he’ll run to habit now. He works at the Hammersmith Chemical Company. I’m going to line out for there now. Converge all the cars you have in that area. You know your business. Get on it.”
Tanager clipped the microphone to its hook and turned back to the boy.
“You see that house, son?” He pointed to Raskob’s tenement. The boy nodded his head. “There’s a police officer in there. He’s hurt. In a couple of minutes an ambulance will show up. You show them where he is. Right?”
The boy managed to stammer, “Yes sir.” Tanager flipped his hand at the boy and turned on the ignition key.
He turned the car in a U, the right front wheel brushing the far curb, and swept back past the building where Hyde lay. A cigar store with a red and gold front took up space a block beyond. It was a start; the only store that he could expect to find open this early in the morning, and he braked the car at the curb.
A youngster in a gray smock gaped at him from behind the counter. Tanager said, “Police. Did you see a man running down the street a few minutes ago?”
The youngster nodded, mouth half open, and Tanager exhaled in relief. It was turning now. Raskob could have gone the other way. Or he could have been clever enough not to run. He hadn’t and he wasn’t and the probability strengthened that he would now go to earth like a hunted animal.
“Do you know him? Ever see him before?”
“Yes, sir. He lives in the neighborhood somewhere. He comes in for cigarettes sometimes, but I don’t know his name.”
“Did you see where he headed?”
“He must have gone up Fourth Street. I was sweeping up out front when I saw him run by. I looked out the front door, thought there must have been an accident or some-thing the way he was running, but when I got there I couldn’t see him so he must have turned off on Fourth.”
Tanager was in the patrol car again, making a squealing turn into Fourth Street and braking again in front of a parked bus. The driver saw him jump from the cruiser and opened the door. Tanager, in spite of the urgency that now drove him, noticed that the man held a cigarette cupped in his hand in such a manner that a passing inspector could not have spotted it. This time he didn’t say, “Police.” It was written plainly enough on the cruiser. Instead he said, “What bus goes out by the Hammersmith Chemical Company?”
The driver said, “Grove Street, Number 68 goes out there. So does the City Line, Number 74. Cripes, you just missed a City Line bus by about three minutes.”
“Were you here when it pulled out?”
The driver tossed his cigarette aside. “I just pulled in. He’d be halfway there by now. There ain’t any traffic this time on a Saturday. Not many passengers, either.”
As he started the cruiser again Tanager made a decision after a swift debate with himself. Raskob might not have been on the bus. He might have dodged into an alley or taken shelter of a sort in a saloon or a greasy spoon. But Tanager was riding a hunch now and he stayed with it. He steered with one hand and reached for the microphone with the other.
“Tanager,” he said. “He’s running hard. Head off two cruisers and send them to Argonne and Fourth. Have them beat the bushes; every bar, every building he might have ducked into all the way uptown. I’m going on out to Hammersmith now. How about your routings?”
“I’ve got four cars headed out to the Hammersmith Company now, Lieutenant. I estimate I’ll have one car there in another five minutes.” The mechanical voice became apologetic. “I didn’t have anything within five miles when you called in, Lieutenant, and besides, that’s the dead time. The two nearest cars had checked out for coffee.”
Tanager said, “Let it go,” and explained that Raskob might be getting off a bus if the cruisers got there in time. He replaced the microphone. He needed both hands for the wheel now. He had the cruiser racing, diving in and out of the traffic that grew heavier as he hit the center of town and diminished again as he roared into the industrial section the siren wailing in an ululating banshee cry.
Far ahead he caught sight of a bus; almost simultaneously a mammoth red trailer truck pulled out of a factory yard loading platform, filling the entire street. Tanager swore and hit the brakes hard. The patrol car came to a standstill with its bumper almost touching the big dual wheels of the truck. He jumped out and ran to the cab, seeing the driver’s face reflect anger and then fear.
It was a difficult thing to do but he managed to keep the furious and driving impatience from his voice as he stepped to the running board. The driver had already stalled the big machine. If he became rattled he might flood the engine. “Look,” he said, “get me room to get by as fast as you can will you? I’m not going for coffee.”
The driver, relieved, said, “Yeah. Yeah, Mac.” Nevertheless he had to back and fill twice before there was room for the cruiser to squeeze by with two wheels on the sidewalk. Tanager, waiting, could hear the far-off wail of other sirens over the staccato voice of the dispatcher.
He sat in the rear of the bus, the knuckles of his left hand pressed against his teeth. Once, absently, his right hand slid into his pocket and touched the handle of the mill knife. He recoiled from it as if it had been hot and slid lower in the rattan-covered seat. Elm Street. The big A & P. The High School. He had liked this stop on the return trips from the plant. The young girls with their young breasts pushing against their sweaters and their pretty legs and bright red mouths. Monday afternoon they would be getting on again like so many chirping sparrows just as if nothing had happened and where would he be? Who would care or even notice that Milton Raskob was not on the bus?—
He was fully aware now that this was the end to it. There could be nothing more. They were closing in. The choice of the plant as a last desperate sanctuary had not been voluntary. The bus had been the motivating factor in its selection, but he had not resisted it. He had accepted it in a striving to pretend to the last moment that nothing was changed, nothing was altered. Normal, normal, normal, and the cops weren’t hunting Milton Raskob down.
He pulled the cord at the usual stop and lurched against the swaying of the bus to the front door.
The plant was closed for the week-end but the guard let him in through the woven wire gate. He had admitted Raskob on a score of Saturdays. He had been reading the race results when Raskob approached. His only reaction was a fleeting irritation at being interrupted.
Raskob was numb, exhausted of emotions so that when he discovered that he had forgotten his key to the laboratory he could not even swear. He could have gone back to the gate and asked the guard to let him in, but a strange lassitude had come upon him. Still he wanted to be inside and one door was always open. He walked from the laboratory to the boiler room.
He had been in this building but once. That once had been when he came to work for Hammersmith and conscientious personnel assistant had taken literally his instructions to show the new man around the plant. There was no one in sight. The fireman had rounds to make, gauges to read. It was a tremendously high-ceilinged room with a floor of iron plates, immaculately clean. It was filled with a maze of piping and pumps, dominated by two tremendous boilers. It had frightened Raskob on that first day. It was a place of strange noises, of mysterious rumblings and hissings as relays cut in, pumps started and stopped and blowers were activated. This time he wasn’t frightened. Not, at least, of these inanimate pieces of machinery.
There was an iron stairway leading to a gangway that crossed the brick tops of the boilers. Raskob climbed it slowly, pausing at each step. The gangway led to a surge tank mounted on the boiler top. He crept behind the tank. It was warm here and dark. He sat down. Over the clickings and the hissings and the rumblings he heard the moan of a siren. With tears welling in his eyes he reached into his pocket for the mill knife.
Tanager pulled the cruiser to a halt at the main gate of the Hammersmith plant nose to nose with a cruiser coming from the opposite direction. The gate guard saw him get out and wave the two men who got out of the second vehicle to him.
Tanager said, “Open up. Did you let anyone in a few minutes ago?”
The guard said puzzledly as he fumbled with the lock, “Only Mr. Raskob. He works here.”
Tanager said dryly, “I know.” There was some exultation in him. Until now there had been nothing sure other than the fact that a man had run, a man from Raskob’s neighborhood and presumably Raskob himself. Now there was a sure identity for the runner.
The guard got the gate open finally and they surged inside. Tanager demanded, “Where did he go?”
The guard frowned. “I don’t even know I should let you guys inside,” he began.
One of the uniformed men from the cruiser growled, “Answer the lieutenant, Bud. Fast.”
“Don’t start pushing me around. Raskob works in the lab. That low building.”
A thin man in overalls had lounged up to join the group, attracted by the sirens and the blue uniforms of the patrolmen. He leaned against the guard’s shanty and spat. “He ain’t in there,” he said.
Tanager wheeled on him. “Where is he? What do you know about it?”
“I know where Raskob is, He went into my boiler room. Saw him from the administration building. I was gonna go ask him what he wanted when I saw you guys come barreling up. You can go ask him now. I don’t want no part of this.”
Tanager, as they moved in, gave orders succinctly. “You men,” he said, “one of you cover me.” He turned to the fireman. “Any back door?”
“Nope. Couple of windows on the north side.”
“All right. The other man can cover the side. I’ll go in. I don’t think he has a gun.”
One of the patrolmen protested. “Let me go in, Lieutenant. We heard about your kid over in the Second Precinct.”
Tanager shook his head. “I’ll get it. Just don’t let him get by you if he breaks for it.”
He opened the door to the boiler room. Behind him the first patrolman drew his pistol; behind him the fireman and the gate guard watched from a distance of a few paces.
Tanager had his own gun drawn as he stepped down into the room. There was no great difficulty in the search on the main floor. The boilers took up most of the space. The pumps offered no opportunity for cover. Raskob was not there. Tanager felt a tremendous frustration; a self-doubt. He should have brought a squad to Argonne Street instead of trying to make the arrest with Hyde. Hyde was hurt—he had no idea how badly. And Raskob was—where? It was at that moment that he saw the iron ladder.
The patrolman at the door watched him climb. One hand was needed for the gun, with the result that Tanager’s progress was curiously jerky and spasmodic.
Tanager was to remember always what he found behind the surge tank. Raskob crouched there, hugging himself. His face was devoid of expression and marked by the runnels of tears through the soot that smeared his cheeks. His left wrist was bleeding. Moving in, Tanager saw a shallow gash on the inner part of the wrist. Beside Raskob, its blade stained, was the mill knife. Looking down Tanager could see that he had soiled himself.
Tanager bent and picked up the knife. “You couldn’t do it,” he said softly. “But you should have.”
He walked to the ladder. “He’s—here,” he said. “Get an ambulance. He tried to do the Dutch.”
Later he drove the squad car downtown. Slowly now. No siren. No urgency. He was emptied and bone tired. At a traffic light he picked up the microphone and called the dispatcher. “Did you put out a recall?”
The mechanical voice was respectful. “Yes, Lieutenant. Got ’em all in.”
“Good. Any word on Sergeant Hyde?”
“He’ll be all right. Bump on the head. Possible concussion but he wouldn’t stay at the infirmary. He’s here now, raising hell because he wasn’t with you when you made the collar.”
Tanager grinned. “Tell him he can go home half an hour early. Tell him—”
The dispatcher cut in. “Wait a minute, Lieutenant. I’ve got a message for you from a Doctor Reed. He wants you to get to St. Raphael’s hospital as soon as you can—”
There was a burst of static as an electric bus went by.
Tanager, literally in agony, strained to catch the dispatcher’s words.
“Says your daughter is wide awake and trying to sit up —and hollering. She wants to see you.” After a few seconds when Tanager did not answer he asked anxiously, “Lieutenant? Did you get that all right?”
Tanager flipped on the siren switch and cut north toward the hospital in a screaming turn.
“Sure,” he said. “It came in fine.”
He felt a vast relief, but curiously no elation, no excitement. He wondered why, until he thought of some people named Hadley and Burgess and Barbella, and the human wreck that had put their lives in a permanent shadow.