Hope to die, p.43
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       Hope to Die, p.43

         Part #15 of Matthew Scudder series by Lawrence Block
 
Page 43

 

  I hung up, and T J said, "Aint that a crime, Sime? Sayin you a cop when you aint?"

  "It is," I agreed, "and by using criminal methods Im revealing myself as no better than Adam Breit. "

  "Adam Breit, Arden Brill," he said. "Subtle pattern here?"

  "Maybe. If we could find him we could ask him. "

  "You want to make some more calls," he said, "use this. " He handed me his cell phone and did something with his computer, and it made that weird sound they make when they hook up somewhere in space with all the other computers in the world. Then a friendly voice told him he had mail, and he said, "Yeah, well, itll have to wait," and set about tapping keys and frowning and making nerdlike clucking noises with his tongue.

  I picked up a Classic Comic version of A Tale of Two Cities- required reading for his French Revolution course, no doubt- and was getting reintroduced to Madame Defarge and her knitting needles when he said, "Seven twenty-four Broadway. "

  "What about it?"

  "Goes with that phone number. "

  "What have you got there, a reverse directory?"

  "Sort of an everything directory," he said. "An I didnt have to lie to no operator. "

  "She said he had an office on Broadway," I remembered. "Down below Fourteenth Street. That sounds about right. "

  "Just a minute," he said, and came back with the information that 724 Broadway would be somewhere around Waverly Place. I asked if he could find anybody else at the same address, and he wanted to know who we were looking for. Anybody who might know where Adam Breit had gone, I told him.

  I wound up with a dozen phone numbers. Five went unanswered when I called, and the others were about as useful; four of the people I reached had never heard of Adam Breit, two recalled the name vaguely, and one said hed moved, but couldnt say when or where to.

  I said, "Youre near Waverly Place, right?"

  "Between Waverly and Washington," he said, "but Im on my way out, pal, so theres no point coming over. "

  "Thats all right," I said. "Ive got no further use for you. "

  "Well, the hell with you too," he said, and hung up.

  T J had some other ideas of how to find Breit, so he stayed at his computer while I caught a subway downtown. I came up to the surface at Broadway and Astor Place and walked a block and a half to a narrow building with a cast-iron front. Most of its eight stories of commercial loft space had been turned into residential units. All the mailboxes had names on them, and Breit was not among them, but that was no surprise.

  A sign directed me two doors south to the super, and I managed to find him in the basement, a light-skinned black man with a long oval face, a pencil-line mustache, and just a trace of the West Indies in his speech. I said I was looking for a man named Adam Breit, and he laughed as if that was the funniest thing hed heard in days.

  "It would be very helpful if he left a forwarding address," I said.

  "Oh," he said, "that would be helpful for everyone, wouldnt it? When he left here Mr. Breit had the better part of two years to go on his lease, and he was a full three months behind in his rent. The landlord would be very happy to know where he is, and so would Mr. Edison and Mrs. Bell. "

  "Mr. Edison and- "

  "Mr. Conrad Edison," he said, enjoying himself, "and Mrs. Alexander Graham Bell, best known as Ma. He didnt pay the light bill or the phone bill. "

  "When did he move out?"

  "Now theres a question. It seems to me it was sometime after the first of the year when his absence became evident, but as to when he quit the premises, I dont really know. The landlord was after him about the rent, and finally brought a locksmith over to open the door, and it was Old Mother Hubbard all over again. "

  "Hows that?"

  "When she got there, the cupboard was bare. He took his clothes, left his furniture, and lit out for the Territories. "

  "Just like Old Mother Hubbard. "

  "Exactly. "

  "Furniture worth anything?"

  "He owed money on it, and it must have been worth something, because the firm that sold it to him sent people to fetch it back. Whats your business with him, if I may be so bold?"

  "Thats a good question," I said. "Speaking of business, was he running one here?"

  "Speaking of business," he said, "I was busy minding my own, so Id be hard put to say. He lived here, and people came to see him during business hours, and during nonbusiness hours as well, but whos to say what a mans hours of business may be?"

  "Who indeed?"

  "I dont think he was trafficking in illegal substances, if that was going to be your next question. "

  "It wasnt. "

  "And you never answered my question, now that I think about it, aside from declaring it a good one. Did our Mr. Breit owe you money, too?"

  "No," I said, and I could have let it go at that, but something about this gentleman made me want to say more. "I cant be a hundred percent sure," I said, "but it looks as though he killed five people. "

  "Oh, my," the man said. "Five, you say?"

  "It looks that way. "

  "Well, thats just terrible," he said. "Why on earth would he want to go and do something like that?"

  I went back the way Id come, on the subway, and when I got to the Northwestern T J was downstairs, in what passes for the lobby. He said, "Thought Id save you a trip upstairs. I been all over the Internet, and the man dont exist. "

  "Adam Breit. "

  He nodded. "Spelled either way, E-I-T or I-G-H-T. He a psychiatrist, a psychoanalyst, a psychologist, any damn kind of a shrink, he gotta be listed somewhere. "

  "You couldnt find a thing?"

  "Oh, I found all kind of things," he said. "Broader you make your search, more useless shit you turn up. Put in Adam Bright an you get some news story, some politician predictin a damn bright future for the farmers of Schuyler County. You narrow it down enough to be useful, aint no Adam Breit to be found. "

  "Well, hes not at Broadway and Waverly," I said, and told how Breit had pulled up stakes and disappeared.

  T J said, "Maybe he did light out for the Territories. Or he was the first person killed. "

  "The man were looking for killed Adam Breit and took his identity. "

  "You dont like that?"

  "Not a whole lot," I said, "since youve just established he didnt have an identity to take. "

  "Slipped my mind. "

  "And hes still around, because Peter Meredith and his friends are still seeing him. I gather hes some kind of guru, the spiritual leader of their little commune. "

  "The Buddha of Bushwick," he said. "You want to find him, you start right there. "

  "On Meserole Street? I dont know. If they think hes the closest thing to God, how much are they going to give out about him? All wed do is run into a brick wall. "

  "An exposed brick wall," he said.

  We needed a place to start, and I didnt think Meserole Street was it. I thought for a minute and said, "Seymour Nadler. "

  "You think him an Breit the same person? He sets up this other identity, goes down an lives on Broadway an Waverly an meets with Peter Meredith an the rest of them, an then- " He stopped, shook his head. "That dont make no sense," he said.

  "Thats not where I was going. "

  "Good thing, too. "

  I said, "The burglary. When we figured Nadler was our guy, there were two possibilities. He faked the whole burglary, or it was legit and a day or two later he made a false report about a missing gun. "

  "One or the other. "

  "But if Nadlers in the clear- "

  "Then the burglary was legit, an the burglar took the gun. "

  "Right. And how did Adam Breit wind up with it?"

  "He was the burglar. "

  "Right again," I said, "which would explain the similar MO in both burglaries. They were similar because one man committed both of them. "

  "Now that we know that," he said, "what do we know? The burglar did it, but are we any closer t
o finding him?"

  "Think about it. "

  He thought about it. "He did it to get the gun. "

  "Thats my guess. "

  "Howd he even know the gun was there?"

  "There you go," I said.

  Some years ago, back when I lived in the room that is now T Js, a couple of computer hackers, David King and Jimmy Hong, spent an evening on my behalf deep in the innards of the phone companys computer system, digging out records that were supposed to be unobtainable. Theyve gone on to bigger and better- and far more legitimate- things, but one legacy they left me was a lifetime of free long-distance calls. I dont know exactly what they did or how they did it, but out-of-state calls made from that telephone never showed up on a bill.

  I suppose stealing is stealing, whether its the phone company or a blind newsboy youre ripping off, and Im sure moral relativism is philosophically unsustainable, but what the hell, nobodys perfect. If I had to call all over Marthas Vineyard looking for Seymour Nadler, I was just as happy to do it from T Js room, secure in the knowledge that nobody was ever going to have to pay for it.

  When I finally got him I said, "Dr. Nadler? Im sorry to disturb you. I believe you spoke yesterday with Detective Ira Wentworth?"

  "Yes?"

  "I have a follow-up to that interview, Doctor. I wonder what you can tell me about any connection you might have had to a man named Adam Breit. "

  "I cant talk about patients," he said. "Im sure youre familiar with the principle of doctor-patient confidentiality, and- "

  "As I understand it," I said, "that would only apply if Adam Breit were a patient. "

  "If hes not a patient," Nadler said, "then why are you calling me?"

  "We thought he might be a colleague. "

  "A colleague. "

  "A psychiatrist, or therapist of some sort, and- "

  "Breit!"

  "You know him, then?"

  "Adam Breit," he said. "Hes not a close friend, we never worked together, never studied together. But yes, I know him. Not well, but I know him. "

  "How do you- "

  "In the most casual way, yes, I know him. Adam Breit. A pleasant enough young man. What about him?"

  "How did you happen to know him?"

  "Didnt I just tell you that? Casually, very casually. I smile, he smiles. I say hello, he says hello. One day we get to talking, and I say, Breit, youre a good fellow. You must come over for drinks. Bring your wife. I dont have a wife, he says. So bring somebody elses wife, I say, which is of course intended as a joke, and he laughs, showing he has a sense of humor. "

  "And he came over for drinks?"

  "Yes, and by himself, needless to say. Very personable fellow, told some wonderful stories. I dont know what exactly his field is, but I suppose you would class it as reality-oriented therapy. He told about a patient of his, oh, it was a charming story, how she was allergic to dogs so he had her switch to stuffed animals instead, with perfectly satisfactory results. " He chuckled. "I suppose a traditionalist like myself would want to know first why she was allergic, but Breit seems to have found an effective and humane solution. "

 
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