Hope to die, p.15
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       Hope to Die, p.15

         Part #15 of Matthew Scudder series by Lawrence Block
 
Page 15

 

  "I shouldnt have interrupted. "

  "Psychology aside," I said, "I let T J talk me into going uptown to see that girl because I didnt have anything better to do. And I needed something to do. We saw her and evidently put her mind at rest, and youd think I would have put my own mind to rest in the process. "

  "But you didnt. "

  "I went and looked at the house," I said, "and that didnt tell me anything new. And T J printed out the news stories for me, and pulled some other stuff off the Web, and that didnt tell me much, either. "

  "But you stayed with it. "

  "I did. "

  "Because it was something to do. "

  "I guess so. "

  "And now youre done?"

  "Not yet.

  "Youre staying with it? Because its something to do?"

  I shook my head. "Because its something that ought to be done," I said, "and who else is going to do it? The cops closed the case. "

  "And they shouldnt have?"

  "Im not saying they were wrong," I said. "But I dont think they got the whole story. "

  ELEVEN

  I called Iverson in the morning and left a message, and around eleven he called me back. "I was thinking about something you said," I told him. "How they carried everything back with them, the silverware and all. "

  "We recovered it," he said, "down to the last oyster fork. "

  "You happen to know how they made the trip?"

  "Made the trip?"

  "Did either of them have a car?"

  "Not that Motor Vehicles knows about," he said. "You saw the apartment, remember? And I told you how it was furnished. Bierman was lucky if he had a spare pair of jeans. How was he gonna have a car?"

  "So how did they get back to Brooklyn?"

  "Howd you come out here? The D train, isnt that what you said?"

  "Somehow the idea of those two carrying a couple of sacks of stolen goods on the subway…"

  "No, though God knows it wouldnt be the first time somebody did. Always a chance they flagged a gypsy cab, although thats not so easy in Manhattan, is it?"

  "No. "

  "So whats most likely is they stole a car. Hot-wired one, if they knew how, or found one with the keys in it. Drove it to the job, so it was there waiting for them when they came out. Then drove it home. "

  "Did you recover a stolen car in the neighborhood?"

  There was a pause, and he sounded a few degrees cooler when he said, "I dont believe so, no. "

  "I wonder what happened to it. "

  "If they left the keys in it," he said, "the odds are some other mope stole it, and drove it to some other precinct where it became somebody elses problem. Or how long did they have it, a couple of hours? Maybe they put it back where they found it, or close enough, and the owner never even knew it was gone. "

  "Maybe. "

  "You trying to make something out of this, Scudder?"

  "I was just wondering. "

  "Yeah, and its got me wondering myself. What are you trying to accomplish here, anyway?"

  "Just trying to get a clear picture," I said.

  "A clear picture. What it sounds like, youre poking here, poking there, next thing youre saying we fucked this up, we didnt look hard enough for the car. "

  "Thats not what Im saying at all. "

  "In the first place," he said, "it stopped being our case the minute we IDd the chest of sterling. All the same, we went ahead and pursued our end of the investigation. You think we didnt look for the vehicle?"

  "No, I think you probably did. "

  "Youre damn right we did, looked good and thorough for it. And we checked stolen car reports. We did everything we were supposed to do, including things nobody would have blamed us if we hadnt done them, because the fucking case was over and done with. We did this a hundred percent right. "

  "Thats exactly what I was hoping to hear," I said.

  "Hows that?"

  "Suppose there was a third man," I said. "The driver, drove them to Manhattan, waited for them, drove them back. "

  "And?"

  "And dropped them off in front of the house on Coney Island Avenue and then got rid of the car. Lost it in another part of town, if it was stolen. Or, if it was his own car, found a place to park it. "

  "Ran it through a car wash, if he had any sense. "

  "Meanwhile, Bierman and Ivanko are in the apartment, and Bierman shoots Ivanko. "

  "For reasons which remain to this day unclear. "

  He sounded a little like W. C. Fields, and his tone told me we were friends again. "And likely to remain that way," I said, "barring the discovery of a dying message. "

  "Morse code. Dots and dashes, gnawed into the floorboards by the dying Ivanko. "

  "Maybe thats why he bolts the door," I went on. "So the third man wont come back in the middle of things. "

  "Or he shoots Ivanko on impulse, and then he bolts the door while he figures out what hes gonna do next. "

  Or so the driver wouldnt walk in on him while he was doing it, I thought. Or bolting the door was automatic, something he always did when he entered the apartment, because he felt safer that way.

  "A third man," Iverson said. "I see where youre coming from here, and it does a lot to explain the car we never found, but do you have anything to back it up with?"

  "Not really. At this point all it is is a theory. "

  "Nobody saw a third guy on the scene in Manhattan. "

  "Not so far as I know. The trouble with a case thats closed- "

  "Yeah, I know. Theres things you would follow up otherwise. There was a guy visited Bierman a couple of times. Maybe it was the third man, the mysterious Mr. X. "

  "When was this?"

  "Who knows? Bierman was pretty mysterious himself, far as his neighbors were concerned. Kept to himself, just went out to buy beer and pizza. Word is he had a guy who dropped in a couple of times, but nobody could say just when. We more or less assumed the guy was Ivanko. "

  "The description fit?"

  "Description? Dude was wearin a baseball cap. Or, hey, wait a minute, maybe he wasnt wearin no baseball cap. Maybe it was some other dude was wearin a cap. "

  "Maybe the third man gave them the gun. "

  "Hey, if it was his car, why shouldnt it be his gun, too?" He laughed. "I always more or less figured the gun was Ivankos. "

  "Bierman didnt own one?"

  "Not that anybody knew, but would they? My guess is it came from a burglary. Thats the way most crooks get guns, especially small-time skells like these two. Some concerned citizen buys one for his protection, and theres a burglary, and thats the last he sees of it. Unless hes home at the time, the sad bastard, in which case the last he sees is its pointed at him, and the last he hears is bang. "

  "A little Italian twenty-two," Schering said. "Pellegrino ten-shot automatic. I bet you thought they only made soda water. "

  "Diversification is everything. "

  "Isnt that the truth? Gun was registered to a psychiatrist at 242 Central Park West, reported stolen in a burglary back in March. Shrink and his wife were at the theater, came back to find the place tossed, some jewelry and valuables missing. Well, this is cute. "

  "Whats that?"

  "In the list of whats missing- two white linen pillowcases. That tell you anything?"

  "That the psychiatrist and his wife were lucky they didnt get home early. "

  "Sounds like Bierman and Ivanko, doesnt it? Pillowcases slung over their shoulders like theyre on their way to do their laundry. Gun wasnt in the initial report. "

  "Oh?"

  "Reported everything else, the jewelry, the pillowcases. Three days later he called back about the gun. It took him that long to think of it and remember the locked desk drawer he kept it in, and guess what? The drawer wasnt locked anymore, and the gun wasnt in it. Why keep a gun under lock and key?"

  "For safety reasons, I guess. "

  "But why have it at all, if its going to be that complica
ted to get to it? A locked drawer in his office. "

  "The office where he saw his patients?"

  I heard him shuffling paper. "It doesnt say," he reported, "but it makes more sense that way, doesnt it? Hes seeing patients all day long, and theyre not coming to him to have their tonsils out. Some of them have got to be real nut jobs. "

  "That must be the technical term for it. "

  "Hes got someone coming in that hes a little worried about, he takes out the key and unlocks the drawer. Any problem, he can get to the gun in a hurry. "

  "It must be comforting for the patient," I said, "to have a shrink who can pull a gun on you if you start acting out. "

  Schering laughed aloud. "Youre on the verge of this major breakthrough," he said. "Really getting in touch with your anger, or remembering what really happened when your uncle came into your bedroom that night. And you look up from the couch, and theres Dr. Nadler, and hes pointing a gun at you. "

  Dr. Nadler wouldnt talk to me, and I couldnt really blame him. Doctor-patient confidentiality aside, what did I expect him to tell me? That hed had Bierman or Ivanko as a patient, stretched out on his couch for an hour every Thursday, reliving childhood trauma and recounting dreams? That he knew who broke into his apartment and stole his gun, but hadnt seen fit to mention it to the police?

  I put the phone down and decided it was just as well hed brushed me off. If hed welcomed me warmly Id have had to think up some questions to ask him, and I wouldnt have known where to start.

  I kept finding things out, but what I learned was barely worth knowing. Thats not an uncommon feeling in an investigation. You knock on a thousand doors and ask ten thousand questions, and the scraps of information you amass just pile up until something fits with something else. You learn to keep going, and you try not to listen when a little voice says the whole enterprise is pointless.

  But this time the voice was hard to ignore. I didnt see how I could keep working my way around the edges, picking at loose threads here and there. I knew what I had to do.

  I reached for the phone, then changed my mind and left it where it was. Rain, the forecast had said, and the skies looked dark enough. I went outside, headed uptown, and decided I should have taken an umbrella. It felt like rain, all right.

  Well, maybe it would clear the air.

  TWELVE

  The ground-floor antique shop looked to be open. The lights were on, the window gates drawn back. But I couldnt see anyone inside. The door was locked, and there was a button to push for entry. I pushed it, and after a moment a woman appeared at the rear of the shop and squinted at me, holding her hand to her brow as an eyeshade. She gave a little shrug, as if it didnt matter whether I was a customer or a holdup man, and buzzed me in.

  Her stock ran to small rural landscapes in elaborately gilded frames, French bronzes, mostly of animals, Royal Doulton figurines, Art Deco lamps. One shelf of an ?tag?re was given over to cameos.

  She was a dumpling, her hair an unconvincing red, her cheeks heavily rouged, her billowy print dress flowing. Her smile was guarded, and something about her stance suggested she was keeping close to whatever device she could use to summon help.

 
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