After everyone else had gone, Myra lingered. The official double ceremony had gone off without a hitch late in the morning; and the hearse had proceeded to the private ceremony at Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Her sister had taken Jenny with her back to the house, where the caterers had no doubt long since set up. The hired limousine waited, its driver reading a much thumbed copy of The Metropolitan Examiner. The sun was getting low. Yet she couldn't bring herself to wrench her eyes from the raw rectangle of turned earth.
And still Nick put in no appearance. His own partner's funeral; and it had gone ungraced by his presence. She knew he had an allergy: Donny had told her so more than once, usually when irritated that he himself had once again had to do all the daylight legwork. Nevertheless, a mere allergy shouldn't keep her husband's partner from attending Don's funeral. There were medications, after all; there were sunblocks. She knew there were: she sold Skin Pretty products that could keep a vampire from sizzling in sunlight!
She turned finally as the sun dipped scarlet beneath the horizon, and made her way up the path to the parking lot, and the patient limousine.
The door to the Captain's office was open; and Schanke—whose desk was actually across the room—lingered outside with a mug of coffee in his hand.
“So, McCloskey, you've set the date,” he heard Stonetree say genially. “We'll miss you round here, you know.”
Schanke didn't need to peer round the door to know that his partner was grinning. "Ah, Joe, it was time and you know it,” he heard Dave say. “I could've collected my pension last year, after all.”
“So why didn't you?” countered the Captain. “No, don't tell me,” he added. ”You couldn't keep away, right? Once a cop, always a cop.”
“Ah, y'got me,” Dave said, a smile broad in his voice. “But once a cop's wife—now that's a whole other kettle of fish.”
The Captain, who wasn't married, murmured an affirmative nonetheless. He'd heard it before, and would doubtless hear it again. When it came time to move on, it was usually the wife who had the final say.
Having heard the worst, expected though it was, Schanke drifted back to his desk, mug in hand, and buried his face in the steam, pretending to gulp the hot liquid. Dave had been talking round the subject of retirement for months: first saying that, whatever his wife wanted, he'd no intention; then explaining, too often, that retirement would bore him till he'd shoot himself just for something to do. Finally, he'd begun to chat reminiscently of the small town in New Brunswick where he and his Mary had grown up. Schanke had listened with half an ear, preferring to ignore what he was being told.
He put the mug down on his desk, its contents barely sipped, and looked across to the open door of Stonetree's office. With the tapping of typewriters and hum of talk, he couldn't hear much; but he knew Dave was talking of his plans for retirement.
When he got home that night and broke the news to Myra, she was less surprised than he'd thought she'd be.
It was, Myra thought, the uncertainty that had Don rattled. It was not as though Dave were his first partner to transfer out. After they watched The Cosby Show, she supervised Jenny through brushing her teeth and saying her prayers, tucked her into bed, and kissed her forehead; yet, all the while, with some other part of her mind, she pondered what the best thing might be to say when she went back downstairs.
She found Don watching a trailer for the next night's episode of Street Legal. “Oh, switch it off,” she expostulated. “You don't even watch the show.”
“I'm waiting for the news,” he said mildly.
She glanced at her watch.
“Oh, all right, all right,” he said, reaching for the remote. “What is it?”
“When was the last time you heard from Patrick?” she asked. “We saw him a couple of times after he moved to Montreal; but, since he became a Private Eye down in the States, it's been—what? A phone call now and then?”
“It's not the same,” Schanke said.
“’Dogs go to the wall,’” she quoted. “Come on, Donny, you and Patrick had years more in common than you've ever had with Dave—who’s more your father’s age, as far as that goes, and I don’t think you're looking for a father figure.”
He snorted, then shrugged in feigned nonchalance. “Well, que séra, séra, I guess,” he said in his usual execrable fake-foreign accent. ”Someone will get transferred in.”
“Maybe they'll join the bowling league,” said Myra cheerily. “And why don't you invite them round for dinner: we wives need to stick together.”
She saw her husband brighten. “It'll be just your luck,” he informed her, “he'll be unmarried.”
“I'll invite my cousin Jill,” she said promptly.
Always the last word, he thought. Always the last word. And having met the cousin, he reckoned his next partner'd be better off twice married—with six kids to boot!—for his own safety, poor bastard.
It was not the first dead body Officer Obregon had seen: there'd been O.D.s and heart attacks. Nor the worst: there'd been a bloody traffic pile-up once on the Gardiner that still gave him the grues. This was different: this was murder. Toronto the Good had one of the lowest homicide rates in Canada; and he didn't regret the statistics a bit. He lurked at the far end of the alley, standing by the parked squad car. There he could still keep a squint on the corpse out of the corner of his eye, while he waited for the paramedics to arrive and declare the obvious.
The man's throat was slit from ear to ear.
Okay, okay! Obregon had looked closely enough to know the slice didn’t run literally from one ear right across to the other. Still, he'd had to will himself down to check for a pulse. He'd smelled the raw meat, and the gash gaped—
Obregon swallowed hard, and fished in his pocket for a breath mint, hoping it would settle his stomach. He hadn't thrown it in reverse…yet…and didn't want to have to explain to Ident that the scrambled eggs in the corner were his own fresh vomit. A cop has his pride.
To distract himself, he made a bet: two beers after work if the ambulance got here before the suits; a shot if it was the other way round. (Home early to the wife if he did disgrace himself, he thought wrily. Maybe that incentive would quell the queasies.)
How long had it been since he'd called in? He glanced at his watch.
Then straightened, as he heard sirens.
Stonetree looked out of his office in a routine sweep of the squad room, checking to see who was in or out. McCloskey and Schanke, he noted, were typing up their reports: it was shift change, the overlap hour; and they'd be heading home soon. Out in the hall, he could hear the sound of Knight's voice—always unmistakeable—as he greeted the desk sergeant on his way in.
Stonetree looked at Schanke thoughtfully, then returned to his desk, leaving the door open. The field of vision just allowed him a glimpse of Knight sauntering past the other men's desks, and then turning lithely to say something.
He saw Schanke straighten his shoulders, pull at the lapels on his smart, cheap suit, and swagger slightly—as much as a man can when he's sitting at a desk with a typewriter in front of him. “You should try a little splash. The ladies love it!” he heard him say.
Knight grinned down in a too-familiar, irritating way that he must have mastered years ago. “I can smell it across the room!” he declared. “Let me tell you Schank: perfume on guys went out a couple of centuries ago. You should keep up with the times.”
Stonetree smothered a smile: if he could see them, they could see him.
“Aftershave,” he heard Schanke protest. “It's aftershave, Knight.”
“It's cologne,” Knight said firmly. “And cheap cologne at that. Where’d you get it? Honest Ed’s?”
Stonetree saw him wait a moment for a comeback; but then the phone on his desk rang. Knight backed towards it, still keeping a grin on his face and an eye on Schanke, even as his hand reached unerringly to grab the receiver. Then, as he said, “Detective Knight, 27th Precinct,“ his attention finally drifted sideways.
Schanke turned with slow deliberation to show him his back, and returned to his typing.
Stonetree allowed his smile to show now no one could see it, and got down to the inevitable paperwork. A few minutes later, Knight darkened the doorway. He knew it was Knight—knew his step—but, quite deliberately, didn't respond till the other man rapped lightly on the wood with his knuckles.
“You need something, Knight?” he asked, and finally looked up.
“Dispatch called. There's been another homeless person discovered dead down an alley. You want me to go take a look, or send someone else?”
“Why'd they call you?”
“Throat cut, just like the other one.”
Ah. Stonetree pushed his chair back and got up. Yeah, he remembered the first case. He'd passed it to Knight, the golden boy who needed to deal with his rightful share of the routine unsolveables like everyone else.
Damn. If this turned into some serial killer case, it would just confirm Knight’s Midas touch.
“Yeah, you better head over there,” he said, smothering regret. “See what the M.E. says.” He paused. “Check back with me before the end of shift. If the case is not related, I'll pass it on to one of the other teams.” Belatedly, he heard what he'd said: the squad’s lone wolf was hardly a team by himself. He ignored the faux pas and went on, “You've enough on your plate. Three unsolveds, isn't it.” It was not a question.
Knight looked at him closely.
“I mean it,” Stonetree warned. “Don't waste your time on a no-hoper. Resources are limited: we've got to prioritize.” Pointedly, he added, “How're you coming along with the Ibrahim case?”
“Got a couple of leads.”
“Good, good. Dr. Ibrahim’s family want answers; and I don’t blame them.” Stonetree strolled over to the window. ”You’ve got the Vassos case, too,” he added.
“I think the husband's good for it.”
The slats of the Venetian blinds flattened, shutting out the night. “Well, the Crown can't prosecute without evidence,” Stonetree pointed out. “You better go get it.” He walked back, standing just a little too close, and added, “Yeah, okay, take a quick look down that alley.”
Knight nodded, and turned to go; but Stonetree wasn’t about to let him off that fast.
“Knight,” he said, his voice only slightly raised, but enough to halt the detective. “I mean it: get a good look at the crime scene; talk to the M.E. See what they—who's on nights right now? Is it Lambert?—find out what she has to say. But prioritize, Knight.”
He met the detective's cool, level gaze.
“They’re citizens, too, Cap’n.”
Not challenging, but firm. Stonetree almost liked that: Knight never backed down far. (Yeah, stand up for what you believe, the Captain thought. But live in the real world, Knight: ideals will only take you so far.)
Aloud, he said only, “And they pay their taxes,” letting the merest hint of sarcasm slip through. Knight would get the point, he knew. God, the young detective was probably the brightest man in the squad room. Certainly, his clearance rate was phenomenal.
“Right,” said Knight shortly. “I'll talk to Dr. Lambert, then.”
He strode off.
Stonetree sighed, and sat down heavily. Well, if he had to choose, he supposed he’d rather have the idealist than the cynic; but a healthy mix of both would be even better.
Natalie had no problem finding the crime scene. The denizens of the night were keeping clear; and the street was marvellously empty. The squad car stood out, its blue and white livery gleaming in the white glow of the streetlight. Even two blocks away she could see the uniformed officer straighten and turn.
She pulled up at the curb and got out, reaching back to collect her bag.
“Where is it?” she asked.
With a wave of his hand, the man sent her down the alley. The light was bad, the lamp situated just far enough down the street that only the first few yards were clear in sight. She reached in her pocket for a flashlight, and picked her way carefully.
As soon as she played the light along the corpse she knew the paramedics had made the right call. No hospital could help this guy; and the cops would not want their crime scene disturbed. The dark gash at the throat caught her attention: she squinted close and played the light round the ground, then squatted.
Behind her, she could hear a car pull up, a door open, someone get out, and the uniformed officer speak. It was Nick’s voice that answered; and she swivelled round to call, “Down here!”
“Dr. Lambert!” he called back, more formal than usual in front of the cop. “Be right with you.” But instead, he lingered on the sidewalk.
“Officer Obregon, isn’t it? This is your beat: you recognize him?”
The obvious question. Natalie continued her routine on-site examination; but more than half her attention was up at the mouth of the alley. It was quiet enough, despite the background hum of traffic, that she could hear everything that was said.
“He’s a familiar face,” Obregon answered. “I've had a word once or twice; but no particular reason to hassle him. He panhandles, mostly. I don’t know his real name: they call him Loney Lonzo. Keeps to himself mostly, you see.” He added, “During the day, he has a patch down on King; but I think he slept in Cardboard City under the Gardiner.”
“Right,” said Nick.
She heard his steps, and saw him silhouetted against the light from the street as he came up the alley towards her. He did not need to pick his way as carefully as she had; and she knew that it was not because her little flashlight showed him the way.
“What've we got?” he said, coming to a stop a few feet away.
“Body dump, I think,” she said briskly. “There's no blood to speak of—” Unnecessarily, given his eyesight, she played the light around. “—and with a wound like this there'd be a pool of it, quite apart from spatter.”
Nick stepped closer, looking over her shoulder, and then squatted beside her. He was careful not to touch the body; but he gave it a close eye, even as he slid gloves out of his pocket and put them on.
“Is it the same as Hernandez?” he asked. “Looks it to me, but—?”
“In this light, I can’t be sure till I get him back to the morgue,” she replied. “Superficially, though, I'd say you’ve got a repeat, yes.” She got to her feet, pulled her cellular phone from her bag, and left him carefully looking through the corpse’s pockets while she went up to the road to get a clear signal. She was still giving Eddie directions for the body pick-up when Nick joined her.
“No I.D.,” he said.
“You want to follow me back?” she asked.
He shook his head. “I have a few questions to ask first,” he said, and added soberly, "Just so you know: I do take this case seriously."
“Well, give me an hour,” she said, giving him a curious look. “Eddie should have brought the body in by then. I’ll give it the once-over-lightly, just for your benefit.”
She patted the sleeve of his leather jacket and headed for her car.
“I don't know,” Don replied to his wife’s question. “Dave's last day was Monday, what can I say? Whoever it'll be, he's not transferred in yet, and the Captain hasn't told me anything.” He forked some fried egg onto a nicely browned piece of sausage, and added, “These things take time, “ as he popped them into his mouth.
“Well, at least you're going back on days,” Myra observed. She rarely complained directly when his schedule put him on swing shift. Nevertheless, she took care to let him know in little ways—as though he liked it any better. He left for work before Jenny got in from school and came in to kiss a sleeping mound of small daughter. Indeed, Myra herself was usually yawning by the time he arrived home. For a third of his life, he basically only saw them on his days off; he liked it as little as she did. They both knew it came with the job.
“Oh! That reminds me,” she said, and got up from the table.
Faced with—from his perspective—a non sequitur, her husband could only wait until she came back from the living room with the morning newspaper.
“Hey, if you've finished with that,” he said, “I'll take it with me and read it on break.”
“Sure, sure,” she said, leafing through it. “And make sure you read this, Donny.” She laid the open paper on the table in front of him. “There,” she said, pointing to a story spread over most of two facing pages.
“What?” Schanke asked, putting down the plate of breakfast that he’d barely had time to snatch to safety. He flipped the Examiner closed for a moment to see that it was the Arts and Entertainment section. Then he reopened it, expecting a movie review: they’d a date night set for the weekend. To his surprise, the story was about an exhibit just about to open at the R.O.M.
“Mayan art?” he said incredulously, wondering if this was Myra's latest weird hobby.
He looked more closely at the article. There were photos, quite a few of them: the excavation in Mexico, the archaeologist (quite a looker, he thought), some of the artifacts. Nothing he could afford to buy, that was sure. Maybe Myra wanted to go on one of those ”digs”.
He looked up, about to expostulate about this hijacking of their annual holiday, when she made the suggestion that they take Jenny to the exhibition after it opened.
In some relief, he said, “Well, I don’t know what the ticket price will be, but sure. Yeah, we’ll go. It’ll be very educational for her.”
So he read the story during his coffee break. Thus, when the call came through that a museum guard had been found dead at the R.O.M., he decided to drive over there and see what was happening, even though it was the end of his shift and, by rights, he should be heading home. (And it wouldn’t be his case, anyway: he had no doubt of that even before he saw the body: given the hour, some team on night shift would get the call.) No, it was pure curiosity that took him to the R.O.M. That the investigator proved to be Knight, sarcastic as usual, simply meant that Schanke started home immediately instead of lingering to chat.
The next day, he was not desperately surprised when Stonetree told him to stick around after shift to meet his new partner. But he was shocked to hear who it would be.
“Ah, you’ll find it’s not as bad as you think,” said the Captain, obtuse to all his reservations. “Knight’s a good cop.”
“But a lousy imitation of a human being,” Schanke retorted.
“Give him a chance,” said Stonetree. “If it doesn't work out, so be it.”
“And he’s night shift,” Don added. “Always night shift, I mean.”
Stonetree budged a bit and opened his mouth.
“Yeah, yeah,” Schanke forestalled him. “I know about his allergy.” (The whole squad knew about the damn allergy.) “The point is that—hell, Cap'n, I'm a married guy! I can’t go working Knight's hours! Anyway,” he pointed out, “I switch back to days tomorrow. What’ll I tell the wife?"
“Work it out between you,” said Stonetree, unhelpfully. Then, seeing Schanke's face, he leaned forward a little from his perch on the desk. “Look, Don,” he said, in a confidential tone, “I really only need you guys to work this one case together. You’ve seen the papers, seen the news on TV. Basically, it’s just too high profile to be left to a guy who works nights. Needs round-the-clock investigation.”
Schanke sat back in the chair, his eyes close on Stonetree's face. “Just the one case,” he said warily.
“That's all I need,” said Stonetree expansively. “Solve this one for me. Then we’ll see.”
At that point the phone rang; and Stonetree reached out to pick it up.
Schanke could hear the faint voice of the desk sergeant. “Knight’s here,” said Stonetree, hanging up. “I’m going to go have a word with him.”
He shifted to his feet. “Play nice,” he warned Schanke as he opened the door.
Norma was in the back filing room when Detective Knight came in. She turned her head to sneak a peek. He was worth a look, she felt: not only one of the best-looking guys at the precinct and single, but going places. And a nice guy, too: he seemed to appreciate the civilian staff, and always stopped to talk, even during a heavy case.
They were interrupted, briefly, by the desk sergeant. “Thought I heard you around,” he said. “You call in your lunch order yet?” But, as he left immediately, Norma assumed he was simply checking up who was in the building.
“So, where were we?” asked Nick, with a smile.
“I think you were about to ask me out for a spin in that fancy old car of yours,” she said, with a twinkle.
“You like the Caddy?” His smile broadened.
“It’s a real collector’s item,” she said, knowing from his reaction that she’d found the right hook. “You fix it up yourself?”
“I have a guy,” he said, with a self-deprecating wave of his hand.
“Well, your ‘guy’ knows convertibles. That car’s really impressive, if you know what I mean. Now, with the top down, parked under the stars....“ She was enjoying the flirty banter, though she suspected it wasn’t really going to lead anywhere.
And she was right. This time, though, it was the Captain who came in. Norma turned quickly to the filing cabinet.
“Want to talk to you,” she heard Stonetree say, as the door closed behind them.
Stonetree had left the door closed; and Schanke didn’t get up to open it again. He suspected that his fellow detectives had a fairly good idea why he’d been called into the office; and, right now, he didn’t want to field their questions or hear their remarks. He wanted to ponder his fate in privacy.
He needed no announcement when Stonetree and Knight came into the squad room. He knew instantly from the relative hush. The case was high profile enough that people wanted to hear developments; and, if they’d guessed that the Captain had picked Knight to be his new partner, they no doubt were keen to hear how the lone wolf took the news.
The wood didn’t fully muffle what went on in the other room; and Schanke could hear the voices, if not all the words. Stonetree evidently had a preamble to get through; and Knight was not being entirely cooperative.
The delay gave Schanke time to compose himself and what he'd say when they came in.
The door opened, and Schanke looked up at Knight’s appalled face. For once, the squad’s golden boy was at the disadvantage. With a dawning inner delight, Don said brightly, “Well, howdy, Pardner!” And saluted his future.
Hell, maybe this would work out, after all.