The prospect of doing some actual detective work on this case had Me oddly invigorated . . . I sat down and wrote out a to-do list:
1. Find Squids and see if he's heard anything
2. Get Astro's address from his PO
3. Go see Astro
4. Call Arty -- get details of what they know
5. Interview the girls at Madame Annika's
6. Dinner with King @ Soixante-treize
It's an ambitious list, especially for someone as easily distracted by shoe stores and handbagoutlets as I am. I'm about to leave for the subway when I get a text. It's Arty:
Again. 170 Market. Ernie's.
That Arty even knows how to text is impressive in and of itself. The short message is more than descriptive enough. Our psycho killer is at it again.
I run outside and grab a cab.
* * *
Normally, I do some of My best thinking sitting in taxicabs. But this time all I can think about is the fact that this case, in Blog City PD lingo, is officially "off the rails."
Blog City cops describe a case as off the rails when, to put it simply, the bad stuff is piling up faster than anyone can make it go away. In this case, the bad stuff in question is dead bodies, and there is no worse stuff than dead bodies. All anyone can hope right now is that the killer left a little more to go on this time.
Market Street runs the entire length of downtown Blog City, predating the grid, running parallel to the newer streets at times and cutting across them at angles other times. 170 Market is in the neighborhood known as Indiana West; Market, Indiana, and Western Boulevard create a rough semi-triangle that gives the neighborhood its name.
Ernie's is a busy old-school pool hall. The clientèle is 80% ex-cons who are having trouble finding gainful employment, 10% serious pool players and old neighborhood types, and 10% suburban kids slumming. It's another one of King's holdings . . . this place I think King must have some sentimental attachment to. Or it's a tax write-off. For King, of course, the two were not really different things.
I make My way through the crowd. This place hasn't had this many cops in it since Prohibition.
I find Arty and he leads Me over to the body. Where the first job was clean to the point of antiseptic, this one was very messy. The victim had been killed on the roof, it appeared, and the body thrown through the skylight 20 feet down onto Table #5. Cause of death is anyone's guess at this point -- take your pick.
The poor bastard looked almost peaceful laying there. One might even be tempted to think perhaps it was an accident and not murder, except for the slip of paper pinned to his shirt:
Cop murders lady in tears (4,7)
The answer to this one didn't leap right out at Me. My mind wandered and it occurred to Me that the media was going to have to ditch the nickname "Fetish Killer" . . . there was absolutely nothing sexual, kinky, or remotely titillating about this crime scene, although the geek from the ME's office did seem to be a little too fascinated.
As often happens with cryptic clues, you stare at them a long time and get nowhere. You leave it alone a few minutes, look back, and wham! the answer is suddenly very obvious.
I think about this clue again for a moment, and then I realize, gasping involuntarily. I pull Arty aside.
"Arty -- that clue. 'Cop murders lady in tears (4,7).' 'Murders' is typically a word that signals an anagram, a rearrangement of some of the words in the clue. We know the answer is 4 and 7 -- eleven letters. So the answer is the words 'lady in tears' rearranged. And 'Cop' is the definition."
It's not an obvious anagram . . . I write it out for him -- "LADYINTEARS" rearranged = "ARTY DANIELS."
I look at Arty and I'm not sure what his look means. But I am sure that whatever we need to talk about we don't need to talk about in room full of cops and other official types.
"Come on, Arty. I'll buy you a cup of coffee."
* * *
Blog City is blessed (some would say cursed) with a lot of places to kill time over a cup of coffee. They range from rank to regal . . . you can get away cheap or you can spend $5 for a concoction with four names and five flavors.
Arty and I walk a reasonable distance from the crime scene and into a place called Pat's Luncheonette. Pat's is the middle of the road, an old-fashioned "coffee shop" that's neither a slave to trends or a health code violation waiting to happen. I look around; it's not crowded and there are tables. For us, right now, it's perfect.
We sit down and order coffees. The slightly Goth waitress senses that we'll be declining the menus or pastry selection and brings the coffees in short order and then disappears.
I look at Arty.
"I was going to come see you to find out the official story, Arty. Seems like I need to know a lot more than that, now." I'm trying to even-keel it, but I want to yell at him. Or something.
Arty looks at Me like he has no idea what's going on. I open My mouth to start to rip up one side of him and down the other when he starts talking, thankfully.
"OK. Stiff # 2 is one . . . " He pulls out a notebook and continues.
" . . . Eddie Donovan. They ran him -- a couple priors, stupid stuff. Answering the phone for bookies, running games, crap like that. No connection to Ernie's -- no one there ever saw him before, so they claim. That makes sense -- the ex-cons who hang out at Ernie's tend to be more the armed robbery type. No connection to Stiff # 1 that we can find . . . " His voice trails off and I think he can feel Me about to start up again.
He looks at Me. "And no connection to ME. None." I stare at him a long time. With people I know even slightly well, I can see everything in their eyes -- truth and lies and love and hate and passion and pain . . . even murder. With someone I know as well as Arty I might as well be inside his head. And looking into his eyes I can see . . . and feel it: he's telling the truth. If he's connected to this case in some way he honestly doesn't know what that connection is.
Finally I look away. I think of Catherine Chambers and I wonder why I never saw murder in her eyes. I shake My head, hard and fast, to shove those thoughts aside.
The coffee isn't bad here at Pat's. I'm trying to figure out why Arty's name would be the answer to the murderer's clue if he's not involved, when I hear Frankie Boots in My head:
"Doll -- take the piece you don't get yet and put it aside. When there's only one piece left t you know where it fits." I laugh to Myself -- Frankie had a marvelous way with the obvious and could make you laugh at the stupidest things.
I pull out My notebook. "OK, Arty. I believe you. The Department and the papers, though . . . "
"The 'clues' are being kept out of the media for now. The Department I can handle . . . I'll volunteer to go over all my old cases and look for a connection." He laughs. "Hey, it beats workin'!"
Arty was a good cop but he wasn't obsessed with right and wrong, justice and retribution, like most are. Arty was more philosophical about it -- the ones he doesn't catch either met some other form of justice or were meant to get away with it, was Arty's ethos. This stance afforded Arty the luxury of being really pretty lazy, in traditional cop terms. Lazy, but not sloppy. What he did, he did perfectly. He just wasn't one of these TV cops who was going to get obsessed with a case and work it doggedly for years. I wondered sometimes how he had succeeded in the Department, got promoted, etc. I ended up realizing that as lazy as he could be about going on 3-day stakeouts, he was highly attuned to how things worked in a large hierarchical organization like the Blog City PD and a master at working that system. Yet he came off as a very likable, regular guy, not a political weasel at all. An odd, odd, man. But one I felt a great deal of affection for and who had done Me countless favors, even when as far as he knew it wouldn't benefit him at all.
I drag Myself back to focus. "Tell Me everything BCPD officially knows about this case so far, Arty." Arty's cup is almost empty and so is Mine. Goth Girl has a waitress' natural sense of timing -- she was headed over with the pot just as we both realized we needed more coffee. I decide that I will just leave her a nice tip and not mention that's she's a natural at waiting tables, since I'm sure her career aspirations are considerably grander.
Arty lets out a little resigned sort of laugh. "That won't take long, X. We have, in scientific terms . . . a big fat zero. The first victim -- typical, normal guy. No criminal record, not so much as a parking ticket. Never went to Madame Annika's before. We checked into some other Houses -- you know these guys often go to a new place when they mess up in one place -- nothing. No other vices, no wife, no girlfriend, no exes, no nothing. He worked at home for Feeley's Greeting Cards. No one from his job had ever actually met him."
"The clue was printed on generic white copy paper on a generic laser printer. Not going to get much there." I nodded. It was difficult explaining to clients that unlike on CSI, it wasn't actually possible to sniff the paper and determine the date and time it was purchased and the name of the Staples checkout girl who rang up the order.
"As for the door. The killer knew the code or hacked it. Chances are he knew it -- King doesn't skimp on security. The Matsui 990 is known as more or less unhackable among the people who know about this stuff. We ran down the installer, all the contractors and service people. Delivery people. Nothing. The girls. No one unhappy. Not that unhappy, anyway. No crazy boyfriends husbands ex-boyfriends ex-husbands etc. We're running down King's associates, past and present but as you well know there's lot of them . . . and you probably are closer to that aspect of the case anyway."
Arty stared at his coffee as if the answer was going to appear up out of it like the Lady of the Lake. "And now . . . "
He didn't have to finish the sentence. And now, another body.
This case was way off the rails.