Hope to die, p.21
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       Hope to Die, p.21

         Part #15 of Matthew Scudder series by Lawrence Block
Page 21


  "Well, its barely ticking," I said. "I think the main reason I took her money was to keep her from giving it to somebody else. "

  "You clever, though, way you work things out. Girl wants to hire us, thinks her cousin did this bad thing. You put her mind at rest, pat her on the head and send her on her way. Then you turn around and get the rich cousin to hire us. We gonna work for one of the cousins, might as well be the one with the money. "

  "Thats right, I almost forgot. Our client started out as the designated suspect. "

  "You happen to tell her that?"

  "It slipped my mind. "

  We were at the Morning Star. Id slept later than usual, and Elaine had left for the gym by the time Id shaved and showered. There was coffee left, and I poured a cup and called T J. "If you havent had breakfast," I said, "why dont you meet me downstairs in ten minutes. " Hed been up since six, he said, when a couple down the hall had a louder-than-usual drunken argument, and hed gone out and eaten, then went home and booted up his computer and got on-line. But hed gladly keep me company.

  I was working on an omelet, and he was keeping me company with a side of home fries and a toasted bagel and a large orange juice. He dabbed his lips with a napkin and said, "Slipped your mind. Probably a good thing. There any case left, now that we on it?"

  "Its hard to know where to go with it. I wish there was someone with a motive. Its a lot of trouble to go through for no reason. "

  "Stole some stuff," he said.

  "More like borrowing it. Moved it from Manhattan to Brooklyn, where the cops recovered it. "

  "All of it?"

  "Theres a thought," I said. "He might have held on to something, our mystery man. "

  "Might be why he did the job in the first place. Say he wants one thing, but he doesnt want anybody to know he took it. "

  "Like what?"

  "How I know, Beau? Something real valuable, some diamond, some priceless painting. "

  "It would be on the insurance schedule," I said, "and it would be evident it was missing. "

  "Something else, then. Some legal papers, some photos or letters, kind of thing people kill to get back. "

  "Why not just take whatever it was," I said, "and go home? Why kill the Hollanders?"

  "To keep everybody from finding out you took whatever it was. "

  I thought about it. "I dont know," I said. "It sounds too complicated. Whoever did this, he put it together carefully and didnt mind killing four people to carry it off. I cant think what the Hollanders could have had in the house that would have warranted that kind of effort. "

  "Guess you right," he said. "Just came to me is all. "

  "I wish something would come to me," I said. "Looking at the victims doesnt seem to lead anywhere. They led a blameless life, everybody adored and respected them, and they loved each other. I wonder. "

  "Wonder what?"

  "Maybe Ive been looking at the wrong victims. "

  "Only victims we got," he said.

  "I can think of two more. "

  It didnt take him long. "In the house in Brooklyn," he said. "Bierman and Ivanko. You sayin he went through all that to waste those two dudes?"

  "No, they werent the point, just the means to the end. "

  "Use em and lose em. But he had to find em first- that what you gettin at?"

  "There has to be a connection. Not so much with Bierman, whose role was essentially passive. "

  " Bout as passive as it gets," he said. "All Bierman did was get hisself killed. "

  "Bierman may not have known him at all. "

  "Dude comes to the door, tells Bierman hes the exterminator, come to spray for roaches. Bierman lets him in and its a done deal, Biermans chillin in the corner and the dudes out the door, wearin Biermans shirt an pants. "

  "But Ivanko was in on the play," I said. "Even if the last act came as a surprise to him. "

  "Dude comes to Ivanko, tells him hes got a deal lined up. "

  " Big profit, low risk, heres the key, heres the alarm code… "

  "Cant have that conversation with a dude less you know he be down for it. Hows he know that about Ivanko?"

  "He did three years in Green Haven for burglary. Maybe thats where they met. "

  "You think the dudes an ex-con?"

  I thought about it. "Somehow I dont," I said. "You pick up a few things in prison, but one you tend to lose there is the sense that the law cant touch you, because it already has. The guy who orchestrated all this still thinks hes bulletproof. "

  "Might have got his hands dirty, though. "

  "I dont think this was the first time he broke the law. Whether or not hes done time, he could know people who have. Ivankos got no living relatives, as far as I can tell, and his mothers old apartments his last known address. He must have been living somewhere when he broke into the Hollanders, but the police found him in Brooklyn before they could find out where he was staying. "

  "An then they stopped lookin. "

  "That might be a place to start," I said. "If were looking at Ivanko, you know who we ought to talk to?"

  "If you thinkin same as me, its too early to call him. He be sleepin. "

  "Danny Boy," I said. "Its his neighborhood, too. Poogans is two blocks from the Hollander house. Ill go see him tonight. "

  "And between now and then?"

  "The gun," I said. "Somebody stole it from a Central Park West psychiatrists office. "

  "Maybe the gun was ready to be stolen. "

  I gave him a look. "The way it appeared on the surface," I said, "Bierman was the shooter, so it seemed logical to assume he brought the gun. Which meant either he stole it himself or someone else stole it and sold it to him. "

  "But all Bierman really got," he said, "was the bullet. "

  "Right, so somebody else supplied the gun, and it wouldnt have been Ivanko or it would have been in his hand during the burglary and not his partners. "

  "Ivanko coulda had two guns. Didnt need both, so he kept one and gave the other to the mystery man. "

  "Ivanko didnt have a gun on him when they found him," I said, "but the killer could always have taken it off his body on his way out. Simplest explanation, though, is that there was only one gun, and the man who used it is the man who brought it along. "

  "The dude himself. Whered he get it? From the shrinks office?"

  "Thats where it came from, and he must have been the one who took it. "

  "Why couldnt he buy it on the street? Not the hardest thing in the world to do, if you know your way around. "

  "The pillowcases," I said.

  "Forgot about them. Same deal in both break-ins, at the shrinks and at the Hollanders. Stripped the pillows, used the cases to carry off the goods. "

  "Its a fairly natural thing to do," I said, "and it saves hunting in the closet for tote bags, but when it pops up in both burglaries- "

  "Likely the same person done both. "

  "Seems that way. "

  "If it was Ivanko, well, aint burglary what he went away for? Maybe thats something he always did, strip the pillows an turn the cases into sacks for Santa. "

  "Full of toys for girls and boys. I cant see Ivanko picking that apartment to break into. Its a doorman building facing the park. Ivanko was street-smart, but streets all he was. How would he get past the doorman?"

  "Or even know about the shrinks place to begin with?"

  "The burglar knew about the gun. Thats the only thing he took from the office, and he took it out of a locked drawer. And he did it without making a mess, because the shrink didnt even miss the gun until a couple of days after the burglary. "

  "Burglar knew the shrink. "

  "I think so. "

  "Knew the office, knew how to get past the doorman. Knew about the gun. "

  "Thats probably what brought him. He wanted a gun, so he broke in and took one. "

  "From the drawer where he already knew the shrink kept it. He knows the office, then he most likely knows th
e shrink. "

  "Stands to reason," I said.

  "You tried with the shrink, didnt you? Called him or something?"

  "I think a more imaginative approach might yield better results. "

  "Well," he said, "you imaginative, when you puts your mind to it. That what you gonna do today?"

  "I think so. "

  "I disremember the doctors name. Keep thinking Adler, but that aint right. "

  "Nadler. "

  "Nadler. There was an Adler round the time Freud started the whole thing. Whats the matter?"

  "Nothing, why?"

  "The look on your face. You didnt think I knew that, did you?"

  "Its surprising, what you know and what you dont. "

  He nodded, as if he could accept the truth in that. He said, "Psychoanalysis. Anything to it, you figure?"

  "Youre asking the wrong person. I think theyve gotten away from that approach nowadays, though. Easier to write out a prescription than listen to neurotics all day long. "

  "Listen to Prozac instead. You dont need me to see Dr. Nadler with you, do you?"

  "I think that might be counterproductive. "

  "All you had to say was no. What Ill do, Ill go to Brooklyn, take a look at that house. "


  "Talk to people, see whats shakin. "

  "Maybe youll find something I missed," I said. "You want the D train to Avenue M, incidentally. I got off a stop too soon. "

  "Wrong house. I was thinkin Id see how the boyfriends doin in Williamsburg. She tell you the address?"

  "I didnt ask. "

  "Not like you. She at least mention the street?"

  I searched my memory. "No," I said, "Im pretty sure she didnt. Shed have to know the street, and probably the house number as well. She was thinking about moving there. "

  "Boyfriends names Peter Meredith?"

  "Yes, and hes the original Mr. Five-by-Five and wouldnt kill a cockroach. Where are you going?"

  "Dont go nowhere," he said. "Be right back. "

  He was gone long enough for me to drink another cup of coffee and call for the check, and I was waiting for change when he came back. "I had half of a half a bagel left," he said. "You eat it?"

  "The waiter took it. "

  "Damn," he said. "How I look?"

  Hed been wearing knee-length camo shorts and an oversize sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off, and hed changed into the pants from a black pinstripe suit and a white shirt with short sleeves and a button-down collar. No tie. His black shoes were polished. There were four pens in his shirt pocket, and he was carrying a clipboard.

  "You look like a city employee," I said.

  "Buildings Department. "

  "Theyre usually older," I said. "And thicker through the middle. "

  "And lighter-complected. "

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