Were you a crank this week????
A crank is a person who calls Frederick 7-8024 and says, 'I don't want to have
to tell you about that Chinese laundry downstairs again. The owner uses a steam
iron, and the hissing keeps me awake. Now, will you please arrest him?'
A crank is a person who addresses a letter to the 87th Precinct and writes: 'I
am surrounded by assassins. I need police protection. The Russians know that I
have invented a supersonic tank.'
Every police precinct in the world gets its share of crank calls and letters
every day of the week. The calls and letters range from the sincere to the
idiotic to the sublime. There are people who have information about suspected
Communists, kidnappers, murderers, abortionists, forgers, and high-class
whorehouses. There are people who complain about television comedians, mice,
landlords, loud phonographs, strange ticking sounds in the walls, and automobile
horns that play, 'I'll be down to getya inna taxi, honey.' There are people who
claim to have been exhorted, extorted, duped, threatened, libelled, slandered,
beaten, maimed, and even murdered. The classic call at the 87th was from a woman
who claimed to have been shot dead four days ago, and why hadn't the police yet
found her murderer?
There are, too, mysterious and anonymous calls that flatly and simply state,
'There is a bomb in a shoe box at the Avon theatre.'
Crank calls can be terrifying. Crank calls and letters cost the city a lot of
time and expense. The trouble is, you see, that you can't tell a crank from a
non-crank without a programme.
Were you a crank this week????
It was Wednesday, 24 July.
The city was hot, and the muster-room of the 87th Precinct was probably the
hottest place in the city. Dave Murchison sat behind the high desk to the left
of the entrance doorway and wished that his underwear shorts would stop riding
up his buttocks. It was only eight o'clock in the morning, but the city had been
building a blast-oven temperature all the preceding day, and the night had
brought no relief. And now, with the sun barely up, the city was still wilted.
It was difficult to imagine any further wilting, but Dave Murchison knew the
muster-room would get hotter and hotter and hotter as the day wore on, and he
knew the small rotating fan on the corner of the high desk would not help to
cool the room, and he also knew his undershorts would continue to ride up his
At 7.45 a.m., Captain Frick, the commanding officer of the precinct, had
inspected the handful of uniformed policemen who had not relieved their
colleagues on post. He had then sent them out into the streets and turned to
'Going to be a scorcher, huh, Dave?' he had asked.
Murchison had nodded bleakly. He was fifty-three years old, and had lived
through many a suffocating summer in his day. He had learned over the years that
comments about the weather very rarely changed the weather. The thing to do was
sit it out quietly. It was his own belief that all this heat was caused by those
damn H-bomb explosions in the Pacific. Human beings had begun messing around
with stuff best left to God, and this was what they got for it.
Surlily Dave Murchison tugged at his underwear.
He barely looked at the boy who mounted the stone steps before the station house
and walked into the muster-room. The kid glanced at the sign requesting all
visitors to stop at the desk. He walked to the sign and stood before it,
laboriously working out the words.
'What do you want, sonny?' Murchison asked.
'You the desk sergeant?'
'I'm the desk sergeant,' Murchison said. He reflected on the virtues of a job
that made it necessary to justify yourself to a snotnose.
'Here,' the kid said, and he handed Murchison an envelope. Murchison took it.
The boy started out of the building.
'Just a second, kid,' Murchison said.
The kid didn't stop. He kept walking, down the steps, out onto the sidewalk,
into the city, into the world.
'Hey!' Murchison said. Hastily he looked around him for a patrolman. He had
never seen it to fail. There never was a cop around when you needed one.
Sourly he tugged at his undershorts and opened the envelope. He read the single
page inside the envelope. Then he folded the page, put it back into the
envelope, and shouted, 'Is there another damn cop in this building besides me on
the ground floor?'
A patrolman poked his head from behind one of the doors.
'Something wrong, Sarge?' he asked.
'Where the hell is everybody?'
'Around,' the patrolman said. 'We're around.'
'Take this letter up to the squad-room,' Murchison said. He handed the envelope
over the desk.
'A billet-doux?' the patrolman asked. Murchison did not reply. It was too hot
for half-assed attempts at humour. The patrolman shrugged and followed the
pointing DETECTIVE DIVISION sign to the second floor of the building. He walked
down the corridor, stopped at the slatted rail divider, pushed open the gate in
the railing, walked to the desk of Cotton Hawes, and said, 'Desk sergeant said
to bring this up here.'
'Thanks,' Hawes said, and he opened the letter. The letter read:
Detective Hawes read the letter, and then read it again. His first reaction was
His second reaction was 'Suppose not?'
Sighing, he shoved back his chair and walked across squad-room. He was a tall
man, six feet two inches in slipper socks, and he weighed one hundred and ninety
pounds. He had blue eyes and a square jaw with a cleft chin. His hair was red,
except for a streak over his left temple where he had once been knifed and where
the hair had curiously grown in white after the wound healed. His straight nose
was clean and unbroken, and he had a good mouth with a wide lower lip. His fists
were huge. He used one of them now on the lieutenant's door.
'Come!' Lieutenant Byrnes shouted.
Hawes opened the door and stepped into the corner office. A rotating fan swept
air across the lieutenant's desk. Byrnes sat behind the desk, a compact man in
shirt sleeves, his tie pulled down, his collar open, the sleeves rolled up over
'The newspapers say rain,' he said. 'Where the hell's the rain?' Hawes grinned.
'You bringing me trouble, Hawes?'
'I don't know. What do you think?' He put the letter on Byrnes's desk.
Byrnes read it rapidly. 'It never fails,' he said. 'We always get the cuckoos
when the temperature's in the nineties. It drives them out of the woodwork.'
'Do you think it's a crank, sir?'
'How the hell do I know? It's either a crank, or it's legit.' He smiled. 'That's
a phenomenal bit of deduction, isn't it? It's no wonder I'm a lieutenant.'
'What do we do?' Hawes asked.
'What time is it?'
Hawes looked at his watch. 'A little past eight, sir.'
'That gives us about twelve hours—assuming this is legit—to stop a potential
killer from knocking off "the lady", whoever she is. Twelve hours to find a
killer and a victim in a city of eight million people, with nothing more to go
on than this letter. If it's legit.'
'It may be, sir.'
'I know,' Byrnes said reflectively. 'It may also be somebody's idea of a joke.
Nothing to do? Time growing heavy on your hands? Write a letter to the cops.
Send them off on a wild-goose chase. It could be that, Cotton.'
'Don't you think it's time you started calling me Pete?'
Byrnes nodded. 'Who's handled this letter, outside of you and me?'
'The desk sergeant, I imagine. I didn't touch the surface, sir… Pete… if you're
thinking of latents.'
'I am,' Byrnes said. 'Who's on the desk?'
'He's a good man, but I'll bet his prints are all over this damn thing. How was
he to know what was inside the envelope?' Byrnes thought for a moment. 'Let's
play it safe, Cotton. When we send this over to the lab, we'll shoot a copy of
your prints, mine, and Dave's with it. It might save Grossman's boys a lot of
time. Time looks like the one thing we can use.'
'Yes, sir,' Hawes said.
Byrnes picked up his phone, pressed the intercom button twice, and waited.
'Captain Frick,' a voice answered.
'John, this is Pete,' Byrnes said. 'Can you—?'
'Hello, Pete,' Frick said. 'Going to be a scorcher, huh?'
'Yeah,' Byrnes said. 'John, can you relieve Murchison at the desk for an hour or
'I suppose so. Why?'
'And get a man set up with the roller and pad. I want some prints taken right
'Who'd you pick up, Pete?'
'Well, whose prints do you want?'
'Mine, Hawes's, and Murchison's.'
'Oh, I see,' Frick said, completely bewildered.
'I'll need a squad car with a siren, and a man you can spare. I'll also want to
'You sound pretty mysterious, Pete. Want to…?'
'We're coming down now to get printed,' Byrnes said. 'Will you be ready for us?'
'Sure, sure,' Frick said, mystified.
' 'Bye John.'
The three men were printed.
The prints and the letter were put together into a large manilla envelope, and
the package was entrusted to a patrolman. The patrolman was instructed to drive
directly to Headquarters downtown on High Street, using his siren all the way.
He would deliver the package to Sam Grossman, the lieutenant in charge of the
police laboratory there, and then he would wait while Sam's men photographed the
letter. He would bring the photograph back to the 87th, where the detectives
would study it while Grossman's laboratory technicians performed their various
tests on the original. Grossman had already been called and informed that speed
was essential. The patrolman knew this, too. When the squad car pulled away from
the curb in front of the station house, the tyres were squealing and the siren
was beginning its high wail.
Inside the precinct, in the detective squad-room, a cop named Dave Murchison was
being questioned by Byrnes and Hawes.
'Who delivered the letter, Dave?'
'A kid,' Murchison said.
'Boy or girl?'
'I don't know. Ten? Eleven? Somewhere around there.'
'What colour hair?'
'I didn't notice.'
'Average height for a kid that age.'
'What was he wearing?'
'Dungarees and a striped tee shirt.'
'What colour stripes?'
'That ought to be easy,' Hawes said.
'Any hat?' Byrnes asked.
'What kind of shoes?'
'I didn't see his feet from behind the desk.'
'What did he say to you?'
'He asked if I was the desk sergeant. I told him I was. He handed me the
'Did he say who it was from?'
'No. He just handed it to me and said, "Here."'
'He walked out.'
'Why didn't you stop him?'
'I was alone with the desk, sir. I yelled for him to stop, but he didn't. I
couldn't leave the desk, and nobody else was around.'
'What about the desk lieutenant?'
'Frank was having a cup of coffee. I couldn't stick with the switchboard and
also go chasing a kid.'
'Okay, Dave, don't get excited.'
'I mean, what the hell, Frank wants a cup of coffee, that's his business. He
only went upstairs to Clerical. How the hell were we supposed to know this would
'Don't get excited, Dave.'
'I'm not excited. I'm just saying there was nothing wrong with Frank getting a
cup of coffee, that's all. In this heat you got to make allowances. A man sits
behind that desk, he begins to—'
'Okay, Dave, okay.'
'Look, Pete,' Murchison said, 'I'm sorry as hell. If I'd known this kid was
going to be important—'
'It's all right, Dave. Did you handle the letter much?'
Murchison looked at the floor, 'The letter and the envelope both. I'm sorry,
Pete. I didn't think this would be—'
'It's all right, Dave. When you get back to the switchboard, turn on your radio,
will you? Give a description of this kid to all the cars in the precinct. Get
one car to cruise and alert every foot patrolman. I want the kid brought in as
soon as he's located.'
'Right,' Murchison said. He looked at Byrnes. 'Pete, I'm sorry if I—'
Byrnes clapped him on the shoulder. 'Forget it,' he said. 'Get those calls out,
The maximum pay for a patrolman in the city that cradled the 87th Precinct was
$5,015 a year. That is not a lot of money. In addition to that $5,015, the
patrolman received $125 for the annual maintenance of his uniforms. That is
still not a lot of money.
It becomes even less money when the various deductions are made every two weeks
on payday. Four bucks comes out automatically for hospitalization, and another
buck and a half is deducted for the precinct bed tax. This tax pays the salary
of police widows who make up the dozen or so precinct beds that are used in
emergencies when two shifts are on duty—and that are sometimes used by anyone
wanting to catch a little shut-eye, emergency or no. Federal income tax takes
another bite. The Police Benevolent Association, a sort of union for the law
enforcers, gets its cut. The High Street Journal, the police publication, is
usually subscribed to, hence another bite. If the cop has been decorated, he
donates to the Police Honour Legion. If he's religious, he donates to the
various societies and the various charities that visit the precinct each year.
His pay check, after it has been divided and subdivided, usually comes to $130
every two weeks.
That amounts to sixty-five bucks a week no matter how you slice it.
If some cops take graft—and some cops do take graft—it may be because they're
A police force is a small army, and as with any military organization, the
orders must be obeyed no matter how ridiculous they may sound. When the foot
patrolmen and the radio motor patrolmen of the 87th received their orders that
morning of 24 July, they thought the orders were rather peculiar. Some shrugged.
Some cursed. Some simply nodded. All obeyed.
The orders were to pick up a ten-year-old boy with blond hair who was wearing
dungarees and a red-striped tee shirt.
It sounded simple.
At 9.15 a.m. the photograph of the letter came back from the lab. Byrnes called
a meeting in his office. He put the letter in the centre of his desk, and he and
three other detectives studied it.
'What do you make of it, Steve?' he asked. He asked Steve Carella first because
of many reasons. To begin with, he thought Carella was the best cop on his
squad. True, Hawes was beginning to shape up, even though he'd made a bad start
shortly after his transfer to the precinct. But Hawes, in Byrnes's estimation,
had a long way to go before he would equal Carella. Secondly, and quite apart
from the fact that Carella was a good cop and a tough cop, Byrnes felt
personally attached to him. He would never forget that Carella had risked his
life, and almost lost it, trying to crack a case in which Byrnes's son had been
involved. In Byrnes's mind, Carella had become almost a second son. And so, like
any father with a son in the business, he asked for Carella's opinion first.
'I've got my own theories about guys who send letters like this,' Carella said.
He picked up the photograph and held it to the light streaming through the
windows. He was a tall, deceptively slender man, giving an impression of
strength without the slightest hint of massive power. His eyes were slightly
slanted and, together with his clean-shaven look, they gave him a high-cheeked,
somewhat Oriental appearance.
'What's your idea, Steve?' Byrnes asked.
Carella tapped the photograph. 'The first question I ask is Why? If this joker
is about to commit homicide, he sure as hell knows there are laws against it.
The obvious way to do murder is to do it secretly and quietly and try to escape
the law. But no. He sends us a letter. Why does he send us a letter?'
'It's more fun for him this way,' said Hawes, who had been listening intently to
Carella. 'He's got a double challenge—the challenge of killing someone, and the
challenge of getting away with it after he's raised the odds.'
'That's one way to look at it,' Carella said, and Byrnes watched the interplay
between the two cops and was pleased by it. 'But there's another possibility. He
wants to get caught.'
'Like this Heirens kid in Chicago, a few years back?' Hawes said.
'Sure. The lipstick on the mirror. Catch me before I kill again.' Carella tapped
the letter. 'Maybe he wants to get caught, too. Maybe he's scared stiff of
killing and wants us to catch him before he has to kill. What do you think,
Byrnes shrugged. It's a theory. In any case, we still have to catch him.'
'I know, I know,' Carella said. 'But if he wants to get caught, then the letter
isn't just a letter. Do you follow me?'
Detective Meyer nodded. 'I get you, Steve. He's not just warning us. He's
'Sure,' Carella said. 'If he wants to get caught, if he wants to be stopped,
this letter'll tell us just how to stop him. It'll tell us who and where.' He
dropped the letter on Byrnes's desk.
Detective Meyer walked over to it and studied it. Meyer was a very patient cop,
and so his scrutiny of the letter was careful and slow. Meyer, you see, had a
father who was something of a practical joker. The senior Meyer, whose name was
Max, had been somewhat startled and surprised when his wife had announced she
was going to have a change-of-life baby. When the baby had been born, Max had
played his little joke on humanity and incidentally on his son. He had given the
baby the name of Meyer, which, added to the surname of Meyer, had caused the
infant to emerge as Meyer Meyer. The joke had doubtless been a masterpiece of
hilarity. Except perhaps to Meyer Meyer. The boy had grown up as an Orthodox Jew
in a predominantly Gentile neighbourhood. The kids on the block had been
accustomed to taking out their petty hatreds on scapegoats, and what better
scapegoat than one whose name presented a ready-made chant: 'Meyer Meyer,
Jew-on-Fire!' In all fairness, they had never put Meyer Meyer to the stake. But
he had suffered many a beating in the days of his youth, and faced with what
seemed to be the overwhelming odds of life, he had developed an attitude of
extreme patience toward his fellow man.
Patience is an exacting virtue. Perhaps Meyer Meyer had emerged unscarred and
unscathed. Perhaps. He was none the less completely bald. There are a lot of men
who are completely bald. But Meyer Meyer was only thirty-seven years old.
Patiently, exactingly, he studied the letter now.
'It doesn't say a hell of a lot, Steve,' he said.
'Read it,' Byrnes told him
' "I will kill The Lady tonight at eight," ' Meyer quoted. ' "What can you do
about it?" '
'Well, it tells us who,' Carella said.
'Who?' Byrnes asked.
' "The Lady",' Carella said.
'And who's she?'
'I don't know.'
'It doesn't tell us how,' Meyer said, 'or where.'
'But it does give a time,' Hawes put in.
'Eight. Tonight at eight.'
'You really think this character wants to get caught, Steve?'
'I really don't know. I'm just offering a theory. I do know one thing.'
'Until we get a report from the lab, we'd better start with what we've got.'
Byrnes looked at the letter.
'Well, what the hell do we have?'
'The Lady,' Carella answered.
Fats Donner was a stool pigeon.
There are stool pigeons and there are stool pigeons, and there is no law in the
city that prevents you from getting your information from whomever you want to.
If you like Turkish baths, there is no better stool pigeon than Fats.
When Hawes had worked with the 30th Squad, he had had his own coterie of
informers. Unfortunately, his tattletales had all been highly specialized men
who were hip only to the crimes and criminals within the 30th Precinct. Their
limited scope did not extend to the brawling, sprawling 87th. And so, at 9.27
a.m. that morning, while Steve Carella went to see his own preferred stoolie—a
man named Danny Gimp—and while Meyer Meyer checked the Lousy File for any female
criminals who might have used 'The Lady' as an alias, Cotton Hawes spoke to
Detective Hal Willis, and Willis told him to look up Donner.
A call to Donner's apartment drew a blank.
'He's probably at the baths,' Willis said, and he gave Hawes the address. Hawes
checked out a car and drove downtown.
The sign outside the place read:
Hawes walked in, climbed a flight of wooden steps leading to the second floor of
the building, and stopped before a desk in the lobby. The climb had already
brought perspiration to Hawes's forehead. He wondered why anyone would go to a
Turkish bath on a day like today, and then he further wondered why anyone would
go swimming in January, and then he thought the hell with it.
'What can I do you for?' the man at the desk asked. He was a small man with a
sharp nose. He wore a white tee shirt upon which the name REGAN BATHS was
stencilled in green. He also wore a green eyeshade.
'Police,' Hawes said, and he flashed the tin.
'You got the wrong place,' the man said. 'This is a legit bath. Somebody steered
'I'm looking for a man named Fats Donner. Know where I can find him?'
'Sure,' the man said. 'Donner's a regular. You got no beef with me?'
'Who are you?'
'Alf Regan. I run the joint. Legit.'
'I only want to talk to Donner. Where is he?'
'Room Four, middle of the hall. You can't go in like that, mister.'
'What do I need?'
'Just your skin. But I'll give you a towel. Lockers are back there. Anything
valuable, you can leave here at the desk. I'll put it in the safe.'
Hawes unloaded his wallet and watch. He debated for a moment, and then undipped
his service revolver and holster and put them on the desk.
'That thing loaded?' Regan asked.
'Mister, you better—'
'It's got an internal safety,' Hawes said. 'It can't go off unless the trigger
Regan looked at the .38 sceptically. 'Okay, okay,' he said, 'but I wonder how
many people accidentally get shot by guns that got internal safeties.'
Hawes grinned and headed for the lockers. While he was undressing, Regan brought
him a towel.
'I hope you got a thick hide,' he said.
'Donner likes them hot. I mean hot.'
Hawes wrapped the towel around his middle.
'You got a good build,' Regan said. 'Ever do any boxing?'
'In the navy.'
'Take a punch.' Regan said.
'Throw a punch at me.'
'Go ahead, go ahead.'
'I'm in a hurry,' Hawes said.
'Just take a swing. I want to see something.' Regan put up his hands in a
Hawes shrugged, feinted with his left, and then crossed a right at Regan's jaw,
pulling the punch just before it hammered home.
'Why'd you pull it?' Regan demanded.
'I didn't want to knock your head off.'
'Who taught you that feint?'
'A lieutenant j.g. named Bohan.'
'He taught you good. I manage a couple of fighters on the side. You ever think
of going into the ring?'
'Think about it. This country could use a heavyweight champ.'
'I'll think about it,'Hawes said.
'You'd make a hell of a lot more than the city pays you, you can bet your ass on
that. Even doing tankers, you'd make a hell of a lot more.'
'Well, I'll think about it,' Hawes said. 'Where's Donner?'
'Down the hall. Listen, take my card. You ever decide to take a whack at it,
give me a ring. Who knows? Maybe we got another Dempsey here, huh?'
'Sure,' Hawes said. He took the card Regan offered him, and then looked down at
the towel. 'Where do I put the card?' he asked.
'Oh. Oh, yeah. Well, give it to me. I'll catch you on the way out. Donner's
right down the hall. Room Four. You can't miss it. There's enough steam in there
to move the Queen Mary.'
Hawes started down the corridor. He passed a thin man who looked at him
suspiciously. The man was naked, and his suspicion was bred by the towel Hawes
wore. Hawes passed the man guiltily, feeling very much like a photographer in a
nudist colony. He found Room Four, opened the door, and was hit in the face by a
blast of heat that almost sent him reeling back down the corridor. He tried to
see through the layers of shifting steam in'the room, but it was impossible.
'Donner?' he called.
'Here, man,' a voice answered.
'Over here, man. Sittin'. Who is it?'
'My name's Cotton Hawes. I work on Hal Willis's squad. He told me to contact
'Oh, yeah. Come on in, man, come on in,' the bodiless voice said. 'Close the
door. You're lettin' steam out and draughts in.'
Hawes closed the door. If he had ever wondered how a loaf of bread feels when
the oven door seals it in, he now knew. He worked his way across the room. The
heat was suffocating. He tried to suck air into his lungs, found only heat
passing into his throat. A figure suddenly materialized in the shifting hot fog.
'Donner?' Hawes asked.
'Ain't nobody here but us chickens, boss,' Donner answered, and Hawes grinned
despite the heat.
Fats was truly fat in the plural. He was city-wide, he was state-wide, he was
continental. Like a giant, quivering bowl of white flesh, he sat on the marble
bench against the wall, languishing in the fetid air, a towel draped across his
crotch. Each time he breathed, layers of fat shook and trembled.
'You're a cop, ain't you?' he asked Hawes.
'You said Willis's squad, but that coulda meant like other things. Willis gave
me the nod, huh?'
'Yes,' Hawes said.
'Good man, Willis. I saw him dump a guy who musta weighed four hundred pounds
right on his ass. Judo. He's a judo expert. You reach for him and
push-pull-click-click! your arm's in a plaster cast. Man, we in danger.' Donner
chuckled. When he chuckled, everything he owned chuckled with him. The motion
was making Hawes a little seasick.
'So what do you want to know?' Donner asked.
'Know anybody called The Lady?' Hawes said, figuring it was best to come
straight to the point before he collapsed of heat prostration.
'The Lady,' Donner said. 'Fancy handle. She in the rackets?'
'I knew a dame called The Lady Bird in St Louis. She was a stoolie. Damn good
one, too. So they called her The Lady Bird. Pigeon, bird, you dig?'
'I dig,' Hawes said.
'She knew everything, but everything, man, everything! You know how she got the
'I can imagine,' Hawes said.
'Well, it don't take much imagination. That's exactly how she got it. She could
get information from the Sphinx, I swear to God. Right in the middle of the
'She's not in this city, is she?'
'No. She's dead. She got information from a guy it was very unhealthy to get
information from. An occupational hazard. Bam! No more Lady Bird.'
'He killed her because she stooled on him?'
'That, and also one other thing. Like it seems she also gave him the clap. This
guy was a very clean fellow, personal habits, I mean. He didn't appreciate what
she give him. Bam! No more Lady Bird.' Donner thought for a moment. 'Come to
think of it, she wasn't such a lady, huh?'
'I guess not. What about the lady we want?'
'You got a hint?'
'She's going to be killed tonight.'
'Yeah? Who's gonna kill her?'
'That's what we're trying to find out.'
'Mmm. A tough nut, huh?'
'Yeah. Listen, do you think we could step outside and talk there?'
'What's the matter? You got a chill? I can ask them to turn up the—'
'No, no, no,' Hawes said hastily.
'The Lady, huh?' Donner asked, thinking. 'The Lady.'
It seemed to be getting hotter. While Donner sat and thought, the temperature in
the room seemed to mount steadily. Each second of thought seemed to bring a
corresponding second of increased heat. Hawes was gulping in air through his
mouth, gasping for breath. He wanted to take off the towel, wanted to take off
his skin and hang it on a peg. He wanted a glass of ice-cold water. He wanted a
glass of cool water. He would accept a glass of lukewarm water. He'd settle for
hot water, which, he was certain, would be cooler than the temperature of the
room. Sweating from every pore, he sat while Donner thought. The seconds ticked
by. The perspiration trickled down his face, poured from his wide shoulders,
streamed down his backbone.
'There was a coloured dancer at the old Black and White Club,' Donner said.
'She around now?'
'No, she does a strip in Miami. They called her The Lady. She did a very
delicate strip. For those who got the Shy Young Thing Fetish combined with the
Coloured Fetish. She was a big hit. But she's in Miami now.'
'I'm trying to think,' Donner said.
'Can you think a little faster?'
'I'm thinking, I'm thinking,' Donner said. 'There was a pusher called The Lady.
But I think she went to New York. That's where all the junkie money is these
days. Yeah, she's in New York.'
'Well, who's here?' Hawes asked irritably, wiping his sweaty face with a sweaty
'Hey, I know,' Donner said.
'The Lady. A new hooker on Whore Street. You familiar?'
'She works for Mama Ida. You know the place?'
'The boys on the squad will. Look her up. The Lady. At Mama Ida's.'
'Do you know her?' Hawes asked.
'The Lady? Only professionally.'
'Whose profession? Yours or hers?'
'Mine. I got some info from her a couple of weeks back: Jesus, I shoulda thought
of her right away. Only I never call her The Lady. That's for the trade. Her
real name is Marcia. She's a peacheroo.'
'Tell me about her.'
'Not much to tell. You want the straight story, or the story on the Street? I
mean, you want to know about Marcia—or about The Lady?'
'Okay. Here's the way Mama Ida tells it. She's parlayed this thing into a
fortune, believe me. Anybody comes down to the Street, they look for Mama Ida's
joint. And once they find it, they're itching to tackle The Lady.'
'Because Mama Ida's got a good imagination. Here's the legend. Marcia was born
in Italy. She's the daughter of some Italian count who's got a villa on the
Mediterranean. During the war, Marcia—against the wishes of her father—married a
guerrilla who was fighting Mussolini. She took about ten thousand dollars in
jewels with her and went to live in the hills with him. Picture this flower of
nobility, a kid who knew how to ride before she knew how to walk, living in a
cave with a band of bearded men. Well, one day her husband got killed in a raid
on a railroad. Second in command claimed Marcia as his own, and pretty soon the
entire band of cutthroats was getting in on the act. One night Marcia took off;
They chased her through the hills, but she escaped.
'Her jewels bought her passage to America. But she was an enemy alien and had to
stay in hiding. Barely able to speak the language, unable to get a job, she
drifted into prostitution. She's still in the racket, but she loathes it. Goes
about it in a ladylike fashion, and every time she's had, it's like rape. That's
The Lady, and that's the way Mama Ida tells it.'
'What's the real story?' Hawes asked.
'Her name's Marcia Polenski. She's from Scranton. She's been a hooker since she
was sixteen, has the shrewdness of a viper, and a good ear for dialect. The
Italian accent is as phony as the rape scenes.'
'Any enemies?' Hawes asked.
'How do you mean?'
'Anybody who'd want to kill her?'
'Probably every other hooker on the Street wants to kill her. But I doubt if any
of them would.'
'Hookers are nice people. I like them.'
'Well,' Hawes said noncommittally. He rose. 'I'm getting out of here.'
'Will Willis take care of me?' Donner asked.
'Yeah. Talk to him about it. So long,' Hawes said hastily. 'Thanks.'
'De nada,' Donner replied, and he leaned back against the steam.
After Hawes had dressed and listened to a dissertation by Regan on the big money
to be made in boxing, accompanied by Regan's card and an admonition to keep it
in a safe place, he went out into the street and called the squad. He got
'You back?' he asked.
'Yeah. I was waiting for your call.'
'What'd you get?'
'Danny Gimp tells me there's a hooker named The Lady working on the Street. She
may be our baby.'
'I got the same from Donner,' Hawes said.
'Good. Let's look her up. This may turn out to be simpler than we thought.'
'Maybe so,' Hawes said. 'Want me to come back to the squad?'
'No, I'll meet you on the Street. Jenny's, do you know it?'
'I'll find it,' Hawes said.
'What time have you got?'
Hawes looked at his watch. '10.03,' he said.
'Can you meet me at 10.15?'
'I'll be there,' Hawes said, and he hung up.
La Vía de Putas was a street in Isola that ran north and south for a total of
three blocks. Over the course of years, the street had changed its name many
times, but never its profession. It had changed its name only to accommodate the
incoming immigrant groups, translating 'Whore Street' into as many languages as
there were nations. The profession, as solidly economic a profession as
undertaking, had steadfastly defied the bufferings of time, tide, and policemen.
In fact, the policemen were in a sense part of the profession. Whore Street, you
see, was not a secret. Trying to keep the Street a secret would have been like
trying to keep the existence of Russia a secret. There was hardly a citizen, and
barely a visitor, who had not heard of La Vía de Putas, and many citizens had
first-hand knowledge of the practices plied there. And if the citizenry know of
something, the police—as slow-witted as they sometimes are—know of it, too.
It was here that the oldest profession clasped hands with the neophyte
profession. And during the clasping of hands, bills of various denominations
were exchanged so that the Street could continue its brisk trade without
interference from the Law. Things got difficult for the 87th's cops when the
Vice Squad decided to get puritanical. But even then, it didn't take cops long
to realize that the green stuff could be divided and then subdivided. There was
plenty of it to go all the way around, and there was certainly no reason to get
stuffy about something as universal as sex.
Besides, and here was rationalization of the most sublime sort, was it not
better to have most of the precinct's hookers contained in an area three blocks
long rather than scattered all over the streets? Of course it was. Crime was
something like information for a thesis. So long as you knew where to find it,
you were halfway home.
The uniformed cops of the 87th knew where to find it—and they also knew how to
lose it. Every now and then they would stop by and chat with the various Mamas
who ran the brothels. Mama Luz, Mama Theresa, Mama Carmen, Mama Ida, Mama Inez
(from the song of the same name), were all bona fide madams and could all be
counted on for the discreet payoff. In turn, the cops looked the other way.
Sometimes, on a sleepy afternoon when the streets were quiet, they dropped into
the cribs for a cup of coffee and things. The madams didn't mind too much. After
all, if you ran a pushcart you expected the cop on the beat to take an apple
every now and then, didn't you?
The detectives of the 87th rarely got a piece of the long green that shuttled
from customer to hooker to madam to patrolman. The detectives had bigger things
going for them, and everybody has to eat. Besides, they knew the Vice Squad was
getting its cut, and they didn't want the pie sliced too many ways lest the
bakery close shop altogether. Out of professional courtesy, they, too, looked
the other way.
On Wednesday, July twenty-fourth, at 10.21 a.m., Carella and Hawes looked the
other way. Jenny's was a tiny dump on the corner of Whore Street. Most of the
payoffs took place in Jenny's, but Carella and Hawes were not looking for
payoffs. They were discussing The Lady.
'From what I understand,' Carella said, 'we may have to wait on line to see
Hawes grinned. 'Why don't you let me handle this one alone, Steve?' he said.
'After all, you're a married man. I don't want to corrupt—'
'I've been corrupted,' Carella said. He looked at his watch. 'It isn't even ten
thirty yet. If this works out, we're nine and a half hours ahead of our killer.'
'If it works out,' Hawes said.
'Well, let's go see her.' He paused. 'You ever been in one of these joints?'
'We had a lot of high-class call-houses in the Thirtieth,' Hawes said.
'These ain't high-class, son,' Carella said. 'These are very low-class. If
you've got a clothes-pin, put it on your nose.'
They paid their bill and went into the street. Half-way up the block, a radio
motor-patrol car was at the curb. Two patrolmen were on the sidewalk talking to
a man and a woman, surrounded by kids.
'Trouble,' Carella said. He quickened bis pace. Hawes fell into step beside him.
'Now, take it easy,' the patrolman was saying, 'just take it easy!'
'Easy?' the woman shouted. 'Why should I take it easy? This man—'
'Pipe down!' the second patrolman yelled. 'You want the goddamn commissioner to
Carella pushed his way through the knot of kids. He recognized the patrolmen at
once, walked to the nearest one and said, 'What's up, Tom?'
The woman's face burst into a grin. 'Stevie!' she said. 'Dio gracias. Tell these
'Hello, Mama Luz,' Carella said.
The woman he addressed was a fat woman with alabaster-white skin and black hair
pulled into a tight bun at the back of her neck. She wore a loose silk kimono,
and her swelling bosom moved fluidly in the open neck. Her face was exquisitely
carved, angelic, patrician. She was one of the most notorious madams in the
'What's up?' Carella asked the patrolman again.
'This guy don't want to pay,' the patrolman said.
This guy was a little man in a seersucker suit. Standing alongside Mama Luz, he
seemed thinner than he actually was. He had a small paintbrush moustache under
his nose, and his black hair fell despondently on to his forehead.
'What do you mean?' Carella asked.
'He don't want to pay. He's been upstairs. Now he's tryin' to beat the check.'
'Get dinero first, I always tell them,' Mama Luz said, clucking. 'Dinero first,
then amor. No. This stupid, this new one, she forgets. So see what happens? Tell
him, Stevie. Tell him I get my money.'
'You're getting careless, Luz,' Carella said.
'Yes, yes, I know. But tell him I get my money, Stevie. Tell this Hitler!'
Carella looked at the man, noticing the resemblance for the first time. The man
had said nothing so far. With his arms folded across his chest, he stood beside
Mama Luz, his lips pursed beneath the ridiculous paintbrush moustache, his eyes
'Are you a detective?' he asked suddenly.
'I am,' Carella said.
'And you permit this sort of thing to go on in this city?'
'What sort of thing?' Carella asked.
'I don't see any prostitution,' Carella said.
'What are you, a pimp or something? A collection agency for every madam in the
'Mister—' Carella started, and Hawes gently touched his arm. There was imminent
danger in the situation, and Hawes recognized it immediately. It was one thing
to look the other way. It was another thing to openly condone. Whatever
Carella's relationship with Mama Luz, Hawes did not feel this was a time for him
to be sticking his neck out. An irate call to Headquarters and there could be
trouble, big trouble.
'We've got somebody to see, Steve,' he said.
Carella's eyes met Hawes's and plainly asked him to keep the hell out of this.
'Were you upstairs, mister?' he asked the little man.
'Okay. I don't know what you did up there, and I'm not asking. That's your
business. But I judge from that wedding band on your finger—'
The man pulled his hand back sharply.
'—that you wouldn't appreciate the idea of being hauled into court to testify on
the open prostitution permitted in this city. I'm busy as hell, mister, so I'll
leave the entire thing to your conscience. Come on, Cotton,' he said.
He started up the street. Hawes caught up to him. As they walked, Hawes glanced
over his shoulder.
'He's paying,' he said.
'You sore?' Hawes asked.
'I was only thinking of you.'
'Mama Luz is a cooperative madam. Aside from that, I like her. Nobody asked that
guy to come into the precinct. He came, he had a meal, and I think it's justice
that he should pay for it. The girl he was with isn't in this for kicks. She
works a hell of a lot harder than a five-and-dime clerk.'
'Then why doesn't she become a five-and-dime clerk?' Hawes asked logically.
'Touché,' Carella said, and he smiled. 'Here's Mama Ida's.'
Mama Ida's looked just like any of the other tenements lining the street. Two
kids sat on the front stoop playing tic-tac-toe with a piece of chalk.
'Get off the stoop!' Carella said, and the kids scattered. 'This is what burns
me up,' he said to Hawes. 'The kids seeing all this. What a way to be brought
'A little while ago, you sounded as if you thought it was an honest profession,'
'Are you looking for an argument?'
'No. I'm trying to find out what makes you tick.'
'Okay. Crime isn't honest. Prostitution is crime, or at least it's crime in this
city. Maybe the law's right, and maybe it isn't, and it's not for me to question
it, it's only for me to enforce it. Okay. In this precinct, and maybe in every
damn precinct, for all I know, prostitution is a crime that isn't a crime. Both
those patrolmen are getting paid by every madam on the street. They keep trouble
away from the madams, and the madams in turn run things clean. No muggings, no
rollings. A clear act of commerce. But the guy who tried to cheat Luz was
committing a crime, too, wasn't he? So where does the cop go from there? Does he
turn his back on all crime, or just some crimes?'
'No,' Hawes said. 'Only on the crimes for which he's been paid off.'
Carella faced Hawes levelly. 'I've never taken a dime all the time I've been on
the force. Remember that.'
'I didn't think you had.'
'Okay,' Carella said. 'A cop can't do everything by the book. I've got a sense
of right and wrong that has nothing whatever to do with the law. I thought
Hitler was committing a wrong back there. No tickee, no shirtee. Basic. Maybe I
stuck my neck out, maybe I didn't. I say it's Spam, and I say the hell with it.'
'Okay,' Hawes said.
'Are you sore now?'
'Nope. Just enlightened.'
'There's one other thing,' Carella said.
'The kids surrounding that scene. Was it better to have them taking it all in?
Or better to break it up?'
'You could have broken it up without forcing the guy to pay.'
'You're a marksman today,' Carella said, and they entered the building. Only one
bell button in the hall panel worked. Carella rang it.
'Mama Ida's a bitch,' he said. 'She thinks she owns the street and the city.
You've got to be rough with her.'
The inside door opened. A woman with a hairbrush in her hand stood just inside
the jamb. Her black hair was hanging loose around her face. The face was narrow,
with piercing brown eyes. The woman wore a light-blue sweater and a black skirt.
She was barefooted.
'What now?'she said.
'It's me. Carella. Let us in, Ida.'
'What do you want, Carella? Are the bulls getting in the act now?'
'We want to see a girl you call The Lady.'
'She's busy,' Ida said.
'She may be a while.'
'Ida,' Carella said gently, 'get the hell out of that doorway.'
Ida moved back. Carella and Hawes stepped into a dim corridor.
'What do you want with her?' Ida asked.
'We want to ask her some questions.'
'Police business,' Carella answered.
'You're not going to take her away, are you?'
'No. Just some questions.'
Ida smiled radiantly. There was a gold tooth at the front of her mouth. 'Good,'
she said. 'Come in. Sit down.'
She led them into a small, cheerless parlour. There was the smell of incense in
the room, and the smell of perspiration. The perspiration won out.
Ida looked at Hawes. 'Who's this one?' she asked.
'Detective Hawes,' Carella said.
'Handsome,' Ida said unenthusiastically. 'What happened to your hair? How'd you
get that white hair?'
'I'm getting old,' Hawes said, touching the streak.
'How long will she be?' Carella asked.
'Who knows? She's slow. She's hard to get. She's The Lady, don't you know?
Ladies have to be treated gently. Ladies have to be talked to.'
'You must lose a lot of money with her.'
'She costs three times more than the rest,' Ida said.
'Is she worth it?'
She shrugged. 'If you have to pay for it, I guess she's worth it.' She looked at
Hawes again. 'I'll bet you never had to pay for it.'
Hawes studied her blandly. He knew the woman was only talking in terms of her
trade. He had never known a whore or a madam who did not discuss sex as simply
as the average woman discussed clothes or babies. None the less, he did not
'How old do you think I am?' she asked him.
'Sixty,' he answered flatly.
Ida laughed. 'You bastard,' she said. 'I'm only forty-five. Come around some
'Sixty,' she scoffed. 'I'll show you sixty.'
Upstairs, a door opened and closed. There were footsteps in the hallway. Ida
'She's finished,' she said.
A man came down the steps. He looked sheepishly into the parlour, and then went
out the front door.
'Come on,' Ida said. She watched Hawes as he stood up. 'A big one,' she said,
almost to herself, and then she led the detectives on to the stairway. 'I really
ought to charge you for her time.'
'We can always take her to the squad-room,' Carella said.
'I'm joking, Carella,' Ida answered. 'Don't you know when I'm joking? What's
your first name, Hawes?'
'Doesn't your friend know when I'm joking, Cotton?' She paused on the steps and
looked down at Hawes. 'Are those sixty-year-old legs?' she asked.
'Seventy,' Hawes answered, and Carella burst out laughing.
'You bastard,' Ida said, but she could not suppress the chuckle that came to her
throat. They passed into the upstairs corridor. In one of the rooms, a girl in a
kimono was sitting on the edge of her bed, polishing her nails. The other doors
along the corridor were closed. Ida went to one of the closed doors and knocked
A soft voice answered, 'Si? Who ees it?'
'Ida. Open up.'
'One minute, per piacere.'
Ida pulled a face and waited. The door opened. The girl standing in the
doorframe was at least thirty-two years old. Black hair framed a tranquil face
with deep-set brown eyes. There was sadness on the face and around the edges of
the mouth. There was nobility in the way the girl held her head, in the way she
kept her shoulders pulled back, one hand clutched daintily, protectively, to the
neck of the kimono, holding it closed over the thrust of her breasts. There was
fear in her eyes, as if she dreaded what was coming next.
'Si?' she said.
'Some gentlemen to see you,' Ida said.
She looked to Ida plaintively. 'Again?' she said. 'Please, signora, not again. I
beg you. I am so—'
'Knock it off, Marcia,' Ida said. 'They're cops.'
The fear left Marcia's eyes. The hand dropped from the neck of the kimono. The
kimono fell open, revealing the first rise of her breasts. All nobility left her
face and her carriage. There were hard lines about her eyes and her mouth.
'What's the beef?' she asked.
'None,' Carella said. 'We want to talk to you.'
'You sure that's all?'
'Some cops come in here and expect—'
'Can it,' Hawes said. 'We want to talk.'
'In here? Or downstairs?'
'Call your own shot.'
'Here,' she said. She stepped back. Carella and Hawes entered the room.
'You need me?' Ida asked.
'I'll be downstairs. Want a drink before you leave, Cotton?'
'No, thanks,' Hawes said.
'What's the matter? You don't like me?' She cocked her head saucily. 'I could
show you a few things.'
'I love you,' Hawes said, grinning, and Carella looked at him in surprise. 'I'm
just afraid the exertion would kill you.'
Mama Ida burst out laughing. 'You bastard,' she said, and she went out of the
room. In the hallway he heard her mumble chucklingly, 'The exertion would kill
Marcia sat, crossing her legs in a most unladylike manner.
'Okay, what is it?' she asked.
'You been working here long?' Carella said.
'About six months.'
'I get along fine,'
'Have any trouble since you've been here?'
'What do you mean?'
'Any arguments? Fights?'
'The usual. There's twelve girls here. Somebody's always yelling about using
somebody else's bobby pins. You know how it is.'
'How about anything serious?'
'Hair pulling? Like that?'
'No. I try to steer clear of the other girls. I get more money than they do, so
they don't like it. I'm not looking for trouble. This is a cushy spot. Best I
ever had it. Hell, I'm star of the show here.' She pulled the kimono up over her
knees. 'Hot, ain't it?' she asked.
'Yes,' Carella said. 'Did you ever have any trouble with one of your customers?'
Marcia began flapping the kimono about her legs, using it as a fan. 'What's this
all about?' she asked.
'Trouble with the customers? I don't know. Who the hell remembers? What's this
'We're trying to figure out whether or not somebody wants to kill you,' Hawes
Marcia stopped fanning her legs with the kimono. The silk dropped from her
fingers. 'Come again,' she said.
'You heard it the first time.'
'Kill me? That's crazy. Who'd want to kill me?' She paused, then proudly added,
'I'm a good lay.'
'And you never had any trouble with a customer?'
'What kind of trouble could I—' She stopped. Her face went pensive. For a moment
it took on the quiet nobility of her role as The Lady. When she spoke, the
moment was gone. 'You think it could be him?' she asked.
'What do you mean?'
'You're sure somebody wants to kill me? How do you know?'
'We don't know. We're guessing.'
'Well, there was this guy…' She stopped. 'Naw, he was just talking.'
'Some jerk. A sailor. He kept trying to place me all the while he was here.
Finally, he done it. Remembered me from New London. I was working there during
the war. The submarine base, you know. Good pickings. He remembered me and
claimed he got cheated, wanted his money back. Said I wasn't no Italian count's
daughter, I was just a plain phony. I admitted I come from Scranton, but I told
him he got what he paid for, and if he didn't like it, he could take a flying
leap. He told me he'd come back. He said when he came back, he'd kill me.'
'When was this?'
'About a month ago, I guess.'
'Do you remember his name?'
'Yeah. I don't usually, except this guy raised a fuss. They all tell me their
names, you know. First thing. Right off the bat. I'm Charlie, I'm Frank, I'm
Ned. You'll remember me, won't you, honey? Remember them! Jesus! I have a hard
enough time trying to forget some of them.'
'But you remember this sailor, do you?'
'Sure. He said he was gonna kill me. Wouldn't you remember? Besides, he had a
'What was it?'
'That's what I asked him. I said, "What is it? Mickey Mouse?" It wasn't Mickey
Mouse at all.'
'What was it?'
'Mickey Carmichael. I can remember him saying it. Mickey Carmichael.
Firecontrolman Second Class. That's just thew ay he said it. As if he was
saying, "His Majesty, the king of England." A nut. A real nut.'
'Did he say where he was based?'
'He was on a ship. This was his first liberty in the city.'
'I don't know. He called it a tin can. That's a battleship, ain't it?'
'That's a destroyer,' Hawes said. 'What else did he say about the ship?'
'Nothing. Except he was glad to be off it. Wait a minute. A strike? Something
about a strike?'
'A striker?' Carella asked. He turned to Hawes. 'That's a Navy term, isn't it?'
'Yes, but I don't see how it would apply to a noncommissioned officer. He did
say Firecontrolman Second Class, didn't he? He didn't say Seaman Second?
'No, no, he was a sergeant or something. He had red stripes on his sleeve.'
'Two red stripes?'
'He was a second-class petty officer,' Hawes said. 'She's right, Steve.' He
turned to the girl. 'But he said something about a strike?'
'Something like that.'
'Something like that. A strike or something.'
'A strike,' Hawes said, half to himself. 'Strikers, picket lines—' He snapped
his fingers. 'A picket! Did he say his ship was a picket ship?'
'Yeah,' Marcia said, her eyes widening. 'Yeah. That's exactly what he said. He
seemed pretty proud of that, too.'
'A picket destroyer,' Hawes said. 'That shouldn't give us much trouble. Mickey
Carmichael.' He nodded. 'Anything else you want to ask her?'
'So am I. Thanks, Miss.'
'You think he's really gonna try to kill me?' Marcia asked.
'We'll find out,' Hawes said.
'What should I do if he comes here?'
'We'll get to him before then.'
'But suppose he gets past you?'
'I know. But suppose he does?'
'Try hiding under the bed,' Carella said.
'Wise guy,' Marcia said.
'We'll call you,' Carella said. 'If he's our man and you're his target, we'll
let you know.'
'Look, do me a favour. Let me know even if I ain't, I don't want to sit here
trembling every time there's a knock on the door.'
'You're not scared, are you?'
'Damn right I am,' Marcia said.
'It should help your act,' Carella answered and they left.
The administration building for the Naval District that boundaried the city had
its offices downtown on Worship Avenue. When Carella and Hawes got back to the
squad, Hawes looked up the number in the phone book and dialled it.
'Naval Administration,' a voice answered.
'This is the police,' Hawes said. 'Let me speak to your commanding officer.'
'One moment, please.' There was a pause and then some clicking on the line.
'Ensign Davis,' a voice said.
'Are you the commanding officer?' Hawes asked.
'No, sir. May I help you?'
'This is the police. We're trying to locate a sailor from a-'
'That would fall into the province of the Shore Patrol, sir. One moment,
'Look, all I want to—'
The clicking on the line interrupted Hawes.
'Yes, sir?' the operator asked.
'Put this call through to Lieutenant Jergens in Shore Patrol, would you?'
More clicking. Hawes waited.
'Lieutenant Jergens, Shore Patrol,' a voice said.
'This is Detective Cotton Hawes,' Hawes answered, figuring he'd throw a little
rank around among all this brass. 'We're looking for an enlisted man named
Mickey Carmichael. He's aboard a—'
'What'd he do?' Jergens asked.
'Nothing yet. We want to stop him before—'
'If he didn't do anything, we wouldn't have any record of him. Is he connected
with this building?'
'Just a moment, I'll get you Personnel.'
'I don't want—'
The clicking cut him off again.
'Operator?' Jergens said.
'Put this through to Commander Elliot in Personnel.'
'Commander Elliot's office,' a voice said.
'Is this Commander Elliot?'
'No, sir. This is Chief Yeoman Pickering.'
'Let me talk to the commander, Pickering.'
'I'm sorry, sir, he's not in right now, sir. Who's calling, please, sir?'
'Let me talk to his superior, will you?' Hawes asked.
'His superior, sir, is commanding officer here, sir. Who's calling, please,
'This is Admiral Hawes!' Hawes shouted. 'Connect me with your commanding officer
'Yes, sir, Admiral. Yes sir!'
The clicking was frantic now.
'Yes, sir?' the operator asked.
'Put this through to Captain Finchberger,' Pickering said. 'On the double.'
The clicking clicked again.
'Captain Finchberger's office,' a voice said.
'Get me the Captain! This is Admiral Hawes!' Hawes said, enjoying himself
'Yes, sir!' the voice snapped.
The voice that came on to the line wasn't having any damned nonsense.
'Admiral who?' it shouted.
'Sir?' Hawes asked, recalling his Navy days and remembering that he was talking
to a Naval captain, which is very much different from an Army captain, a Naval
captain being a very high rank, indeed, full of scrambled eggs and all sorts of
highly polished brass. Considering this, Hawes turned on the oil. 'I'm sorry,
sir, your secretary must have misunderstood. This is Detective Hawes of the
Eighty-seventh Precinct here in the city. We were wondering if we could have the
Navy's assistance on a rather difficult problem.'
'What is it, Hawes?' Finchberger said, but he was weakening.
'Sir, we're trying to locate a sailor who was in the city a month ago, and who
is perhaps still here. He was off a picket destroyer, sir. His name is—'
'There was a picket destroyer here in June, that's right,' Finchberger said.
'The U.S.S. Perriwinkle. She's gone now. Left on the fourth.'
'All hands aboard, sir?'
'The commanding officer did not report anyone A.O.L. or A.W.O.L. The ship left
with its full complement.'
'Have there been any other picket destroyers in port since then, sir?'
'No, there haven't.'
'Any destroyers at all?'
'We've got one scheduled for the end of the week. Coming up from Norfolk. That's
'Would it be the Perriwinkle, sir?'
'No, it would not. It would be the Masterson.'
'Thank you, sir. Then there is no possibility that this sailor is still in the
city or scheduled to arrive in the city?'
'Not unless he jumped ship in the middle of the Atlantic,' Finchberger said.
'The Perriwinkle was headed for England.'
'Thank you, sir,' Hawes said. 'You've been very kind.'
'Don't pull that admiral routine again, Hawes,' Finchberger said, and he hung
'Find him?' Carella asked.
Hawes replaced the phone in its cradle.
'He's on his way to Europe,' he said.
'That lets him out,' Carella said.
'It doesn't let our hooker friend out,' Hawes answered.
'No. She might still be the target. I'll call her and tell her not to worry
about the sailor. In the meantime I'll ask Pete for a couple of uniformed men to
watch Ida's joint. If she is the target, our boy won't try for her with cops
Hawes looked up at the white-faced clock on the squad-room wall. It was exactly
11 o'clock in the morning.
In nine hours, their killer—whoever he was—would strike.
From somewhere across the street in Grover Park, the sun glinted on something
shiny, blinking its rays through the grilled window of the squad-room, flashing
momentarily on Hawes's face.
'Draw that shade, will you, Steve?' he asked.
Sam Grossman was a police lieutenant, a laboratory technician, and the man in
charge of the Police Laboratory at Headquarters on High Street, downtown.
Sam was a tall, loosely jointed man who moved with angular nonchalance and ease.
He was a gentle man with a craggy face, a man who wore glasses because too much
reading as a child had ruined his eyesight. His eyes were blue and mild,
guileless eyes that denied the fact that their owner used them to pry into the
facts of crime and violence—and very often death. Sam loved lab work, and when
he was not busy with his test tubes in an effort to prove the lab's
effectiveness in crime detection, he could be found talking to the nearest
detective, trying to impress upon him the need for cooperation with the lab.
When the letter from the 87th Precinct had arrived by messenger that morning,
Sam had put his men to work on it immediately. The phone call preceding it had
urged speed. His men had photographed the letter and sent the photo back to the
87th at once. And then they had begun the task of scrutinizing the letter and
the envelope for latent fingerprint impressions before beginning their other
The original letter was handled with the utmost care. Sam sourly reflected that
half the cops in the city had probably handled it already, but he had no desire
to compound the felony. Carefully, methodically, his men put a very thin,
uniform layer of a ten per cent solution of silver nitrate onto the letter,
passing the sheet of paper between two rollers that had been moistened with the
solution. They waited while the sheet of paper dried, and then they put it under
the ultraviolet light. In a few seconds, the prints appeared.
This is what the letter looked like:
There were a lot of fingerprints all over the letter. Sam Grossman had expected
as much. The letter had been created by snipping words from newspapers or
magazines and pasting them to a sheet of paper. Sam expected that the pasting
process would have left fingermarks all over the page, and such was exactly the
case. Each snip of paper had been pressed to the page so that it would stick.
Each word on the page carried its own full complement of prints.
And each print on the page was hopelessly smeared or blurred or overlaid with
another print—except for two thumbprints. These thumbprints were on the left
hand side of the page; one close to the top, the other just a little below
centre. Both were good prints.
Both—unfortunately—belonged to Sergeant Dave Murchison.
Sam sighed. It was a crying shame. He always had to make his point the hard way.
Hawes took the call from Grossman in the Interrogation Room, where he had gone
to study the photo of the letter. The call came at 11.17.
'Hawes?' Grossman said.
'Sam Grossman at the lab. I've got a report on that letter. Since there's a time
element on this, I thought I'd give it to you on the phone.'
'Shoot,' Hawes said.
'Not much help on the prints,' Grossman said. 'Only two good prints on the
letter itself, and they're your desk sergeant's.'
'This is the front of the letter?'
'How about the back?'
'Everything smeared. The letter was folded. Whoever folded it ran his bunched
fist along the crease. Nothing there, Hawes. I'm sorry.'
'And the envelope?'
'Murchison's prints—and yours. Nothing else except some good prints left by a
child. Did a child handle the envelope?'
'Well, I've got a good batch of his prints, in case you need them for
comparison. Want me to send them over?'
'Please,' Hawes said. 'What else have you got?'
'On the letter itself, we dug up a few items that might help you. The paste used
was five-and-dime stuff put out by a company called Brandy's. They manufacture
it in ajar and in a tube. We found a microscopic blue-metallic-paint scraping
stuck to one corner of the letter. Their tube is blue, so chances are your
letter writer used the tube. That's no help, though. He could have bought the
paste anywhere. It's a common item. The paper, though…'
'Yes, what about that?'
'It's a good-rag-content bond, manufactured by the Cartwright Company in Boston,
Massachusetts. We checked our watermark file. The catalogue number on the paper
is 142-Y. It costs about five and a half bucks a ream.'
'But it's a Boston company, huh?'
'Yes, but distributed nationally. There's a distributor in this city. Want the
'Eastern Shipping. That's on Gage Boulevard in Majesta. Want the phone number?'
Hawes jotted it down. 'Anything else?'
'Yes. We know where the letter writer got his words.'
'The tip-off was the T in the word tonight. That T is famous, Hawes.'
'It's the New York Times, isn't it?
'Exactly. Distributed here, as in every city in the country. I'll confess our
newspaper and magazine file doesn't go back too far. But we try to keep abreast
of the major dailies and all the big publications. We sometimes get parts of
bodies wrapped in newspapers or portions of newspapers. Every once in a while it
helps to have a file.'
'I see,' Hawes said.
'This time we were lucky. Using that New York Times was a springboard, we looked
through what we had and pinpointed the sections of the Times he used, and the
'And they were?'
'He used the magazine section and the book section of the Times for Sunday, June
twenty-third. We've located enough of the words he's used to eliminate
coincidence. For example, The Lady came from the book section. Snipped from an
ad for the Conrad Richter novel. The word can was from an ad in the magazine
section for Scandale. That's a woman's undergarment trade name.'
The figure eight was obvious, again from the magazine section. An ad for
'The word kill was easy. Not many advertisers use that word unless it's
pertinent to their product. This ad said something about killing bathroom
odours. "Kill bathroom odours with—" and the name of the product. In any case,
there's no doubt in our minds. He used the June twenty-third Times'
'And this is July twenty-fourth,' Hawes said.
'In other words, he planned this thing as long as a month ago, made up his
letter, and then held it until he'd decided on the date for the murder.'
'It would seem that way. Unless he used an old paper that was around.'
'It would also seem to eliminate a crank.'
'It looks legit to me, Hawes,' Grossman said. 'I was talking to our psychologist
upstairs. He didn't seem to think a crank would wait a month between composing a
letter and delivering it. He also feels the delivery of the letter was an act of
compulsion. He thinks the guy wants to be stopped, and he further thinks the
letter will give you a clue about how to stop him.'
'How?' Hawes asked.
'He didn't say.'
'Mmmm. Well, have you got anything else for me?'
'That's it. Oh, wait. The guy smokes cigarettes. There were a few grains of
tobacco in the envelope. We tested them, but they could have come from any of
the major brands.'
'Okay, Sam. Thanks a lot.'
'Don't mention it. I'll send that kid's prints over. So long.'
Grossman hung up. Hawes lifted his copy of the letter from the desk, opened the
door, and started for Lieutenant Byrnes's office. It was then that he noticed
the chaos in the squad-room.
It was the noise that first attracted him, the sound of shrill voices raised in
protest, speculation, and wonder. And then his eyes were assailed with what
seemed like an overly patriotic display, a parade for the dead-and-gone Fourth
of July. The squad-room was bursting with red, white, and blue. Hawes blinked.
Crowding the slatted rail divider, lined up against the desks and the file
cabinets and the windows and the bulletin boards, slouched into every
conceivable corner of the room, were at least eight thousand kids in blue
dungarees and red-and-white-striped tee shirts.
'Shut up!' Lieutenant Byrnes shouted. 'Now, just knock off all this chatter!'
The room modulated slowly into silence.
'Welcome to the Grover Park Nursery School,' Carella said to Hawes, smiling.
'Jesus,' Hawes said, 'we sure as hell have an efficient bunch of patrolmen in
The efficient bunch of patrolmen had followed their orders to the letter,
rounding up every ten-year-old kid wearing dungarees and a red-striped shirt.
They had not asked for birth certificates, and so the kids ranged from seven to
thirteen. The tee shirts, too, were not all tee shirts. Some of them sported
collars and buttons. But the patrolmen had done their job, and a hasty count of
the kids revised Hawes's earlier estimate of eight thousand. There were only
seven thousand. Well, at least three dozen, anyway. Apparently there had been a
run on red-striped tee shirts in the neighbourhood. Either that, or a new street
gang was forming and they had decided upon this as their uniform.
'Which of you kids delivered a letter to this precinct this morning?' Byrnes
'What kinda letter?' one kid asked.
'What difference does it make? Did you deliver it?'
'Naw,' the kid answered.
'Then shut up. Which one of you delivered it?'
'Come on, come on, speak up,' Byrnes said.
An eight-year-old kid, obviously impressed by the Hollywood effort, piped, 'I
wanna call my lawyer.'
The other kids all laughed.
'Shut up!' Byrnes roared. 'Now, listen, you're not in any trouble. We're only
trying to locate the man who gave you that letter, that's all. So if you
delivered it, speak up.'
'What'd he do, this guy?' a twelve-year-old asked.
'Did you deliver the letter?'
'No. I just wanna know what he done, this guy.'
'Any of you deliver the letter?' Byrnes asked again. The boys were all shaking
their heads. Byrnes turned to Murchison. 'How about it, Dave? Recognize one of
'Hard to say,' Murchison said. 'One thing for sure, he was a blond kid. You can
let all the dark-haired kids go. We've got a couple of redheads in there, too.
They're no good. This kid was blond.'
'Steve, keep only the blonds,' Byrnes said, and Carella began walking through
the room, tapping boys, telling them to go home. When he'd finished the culling
process, the room had thinned down to four blond boys. The other boys idled on
the other side of the slatted rail divider, watching.
'Beat it,' Hawes said. 'Go home.'
The boys left reluctantly.
Of the four blonds remaining, two were at least twelve years old.
'They're too old,' Murchison said.
'You two can go,' Byrnes told them, and the boys drifted out. Byrnes turned to
one of the remaining two.
'How old are you, sonny?' he asked.
'What do you say, Dave?'
'He's not the kid.'
'How about the other one?'
'Well, that's—' Byrnes seemed suddenly stabbed with pain. 'Hawes, stop those
other kids before they get past the desk. Get their names, for Christ's sake.
We'll put them on the radio. Otherwise we'll be getting the same damn kids in
here all day long. Hurry up!'
Hawes went through the railing and sprinted for the steps. He stopped some of
the kids in the muster-room, rounded up the rest on the sidewalk, and sent them
all back into the precinct. One kid sighed reluctantly and patted a huge German
shepherd on the head.
'You wait, Prince,' he said. 'I gotta handle this again,' and then he walked
into the building.
Hawes looked at the dog. The idea clicked into his mind. He ran into the
building, climbed the steps, and rushed into the squad-room.
'A dog!' he said. 'Suppose it's a dog!'
'Huh?' Byrnes asked. 'Did you stop those kids?'
'Yes, but it could be a dog!'
'What could be a dog?'
'Lady! The Lady!'
Carella spoke instantly. 'He could be right, Pete. How many dogs named Lady do
you suppose there are in the precinct?'
'I don't know,' Byrnes said. 'You think the nut who wrote that letter…?'
'It's a possibility.'
'All right, get on the phone. Meyer! Meyer!'
'Start taking these kids' names. Jesus, this place is turning into a madhouse!'
Turning, Byrnes stamped into his office.
Carella's call to the Bureau of Licenses revealed that there were thirty-one
licensed dogs named Lady within the precinct territory. God alone knew how many
unlicensed dogs of the same name there were.
He reported his information to Byrnes.
Byrnes told him that if a man wanted to kill a goddamn lady dog, that was his
business and Byrnes wasn't going to upset his whole damn squad tracking down
every bitch in the precinct. They'd find out about it the minute the dog was
killed, anyway, and then they might or might not try to find the canine killer.
He suggested that in the meantime Hawes call Eastern Shipping in an attempt to
find out whether or not any shops in the precinct carried the paper the letter
was pasted on.
'And close the goddamn door!' he shouted as Carella left.
It was 11.32a.m.
The sun was climbing steadily into the sky and now was almost at its zenith, its
rays baking the asphalt and the concrete, sending shimmering waves of heat up
from the pavements.
There was no breeze in the park.
The man with the binoculars sat atop a high outcropping of rock, but it was no
cooler there than it was on the paths that wound through the park. The man wore
blue-gabardine trousers and a cotton-mesh short-sleeved sports shirt. He sat in
cross-legged Indian fashion, his elbows resting on his knees, the binoculars
trained on the police precinct across the street.
There was an amused smile on the man's face.
He watched the kids streaming out of the police station, and the smile widened.
His letter was bringing results. His letter had set the precinct machinery in
motion, and he watched the results of that motion now, and there was a strange
pulsing excitement within him as he wondered if he would be caught.
They won't catch me, he thought.
But maybe they will.
The excitement within him was contradictory. He wanted to elude them, but at the
same time he relished the idea of a chase, a desperate gun battle, the
culminating scene of a carefully planned murder. Tonight he would kill. Yes.
There was no backing away from that. Yes. He had to kill, he knew that, there
was no other way, that was it, yes. Tonight. They could not stop him, but maybe
they would. They could not stop him.
A man was leaving the precinct, coming down the stone steps.
He focused the binoculars tightly on the man's face. A detective, surely. On
business his letter had provoked? His grin widened.
The detective had red hair. The hair caught the rays of the brilliant sun. There
was a white streak over one temple. He followed the detective with his
binoculars. The detective got into an automobile, an unmarked police car,
undoubtedly. The car pulled away from the curb quickly.
They're in a hurry, the man thought, lowering the binoculars. He looked at his
They haven't got much time, he thought. They haven't got much time to stop me.
The bookshop was unusual for the 87th Precinct neighbourhood. You did not expect
to find a store selling books in such a neighbourhood. You expected all the
reading matter to be in drugstore racks, and you expected sadistic mysteries
like I, the Hangman, historical novels like See My Bosom, dramas of the Old West
like Sagebrush Sixgun.
The shop was called Books, Incorporated. It huddled in one of the side streets
between two tenements, below street level. You passed through an old iron gate,
walked down five steps, and were face to face with the plate-glass window of the
shop and its display of books. A sign in the window said, 'We stock
Spanish-language books'. Another sign said, 'Aquí habla Español.'
In the right-hand corner of the window, lettered onto the glass in gold gilt,
were the words CHRISTINE MAXWELL, PROP.
Hawes walked down the steps and opened the screen door of the shop. A bell over
the door tinkled. The shop instantly touched something deep in his memory. He
felt he had been here before, had seen the dusty racks and shelves, had sniffed
of the musty bookbindings, the intimate smell of stored knowledge. Had he
browsed in such a shop on a rainy day in the side streets fringing The Quarter
downtown? Was this The Haunted Bookshop come to life, a stationary 'Parnassus on
Wheels'? He remembered the Morley books from his youth, and he wished he had
time to browse, wished that time were not so important right now. There was a
friendliness and warmth to the shop, and he wanted to soak it up, sponge it into
his bones, and he wished his visit were not such an urgent one, wished he had
come for information that had nothing to do with sudden death.
'Yes?' the voice said.
He broke off his thoughts abruptly. The voice was gentle, a voice that belonged
in the shop. He turned.
The girl stood before the shelves of brown-backed books, stood in an almost
mistlike radiance, fragile, tender, gentle, against the musty cracked brown. Her
hair was blonde, whisperlike tendrils softly cradling the oval of her face. Her
eyes were blue and wide, the soft blue of a spring sky, the delicate blue of a
lilac. There was a tentative smile on her full mouth, a mouth kissed by the
seasons. And because she was a human being, and because it was a hot day in
July, there was a thin film of perspiration on her upper lip. And because she
was a human being and not a memory and not a dream and not a maiden from some
legendary Camelot, Hawes fell in love with her instantly.
'Hello,' he said. There was surprise in his voice, but it was not a wise guy's
'Hel-lo!' It was more an awed whisper, and the girl looked at him and again
'Perhaps you can help me,' Hawes said, reflecting on the fact that he fell in
and out of love too easily, musing upon the theory that all true love was love
at first sight, in which case he had been truly in love a great many times, but
nonetheless studying the girl and thinking, I love her, so the hell with you.
'Were you looking for a book, sir?' the girl asked.
'Are you Miss Maxwell?' he asked.
'Mrs Maxwell,' she corrected.
'Oh,' he said. 'Oh.'
'Was there a book you wanted?'
He looked at her left hand. She was not wearing a wedding band. 'I'm from the
police,' he said. 'Detective Hawes, Eighty-seventh Squad.'
'Is something wrong?'
'No. I'm trying to track down a piece of stationery. Eastern Shipping says
you're the only store in the precinct that carries the paper.'
'Which paper is that?' Christine asked.
'Oh, yes,' she said.
'Do you carry it?'
'Yes?' She made it a question.
'Run this shop with your husband, do you?' Hawes asked.
'My husband is dead,' she said. 'He was a Navy pilot. He was killed in the
Battle of the Coral Sea.'
'I'm sorry,' Hawes said genuinely.
'Please don't,' she said. 'It's been a long time. A person can't live in the
past, you know.' She smiled gently.
'You don't look that old,' he said, 'I mean, to have been married during World
'I got married when I was seventeen,' she said.
'Which makes you?' .
'Thirty-three,' she said.
'You look much younger.'
'I'd say you were barely twenty-one.'
'Thank you, but I'm not. Really.'
They looked at each other silently for a moment.
'It seems strange,' Hawes said. 'To find a shop like this. In this
neighbourhood, I mean.'
'I know. That's why it's here.'
'What do you mean?'
'Well, there's enough deprivation in this neighbourhood. It needn't extend to
'Do you get a lot of people coming in?' Hawes asked.
'More now than in the beginning. Actually, the stationery supplies are what keep
the shop going. But it's better now than it was. You'd be surprised how many
people want to read good books.'
'Are you afraid of the neighbourhood?'
'Should I be?'she asked.
'Well… a pretty girl like you. I mean, this isn't the best neighbourhood in the
The girl seemed surprised. 'The people here are poor,' she said. 'But poor isn't
necessarily synonymous with dangerous.'
'That's true,' he said.
'People are people. The people who live here are no better, no worse, than the
people who live in swanky Stewart City.'
'Where do you live, Miss—Mrs Maxwell?'
'Why do you want to know?'
'I'd like to see you sometime,' Hawes said.
Christine was silent for a moment. She looked at Hawes penetratingly, as if she
were trying to read his mind aid his motives.
Then she said, 'All right. When?'
'Tonight?' he asked.
'Wait a minute,' he said. He thought for a moment. 'Well, it'll be over by eight
o'clock either way,' he said. 'Yes, tonight is fine.'
'What'll be over by eight?'
'A case we're working on.'
'How do you know it'll be over by eight? Do you have a crystal ball?'
Hawes smiled. 'I'll tell you about it tonight. May I pick you up at nine? Is
that too late for you?'
'Tomorrow's a working day,' she said.
'I know. I thought we'd have a drink and talk a little.'
'All right,' she said.
'Where?' he asked.
'711 Fortieth Boulevard. Do you know where that is?'
'I'll find it. That's lucky. Seven-eleven.'
Christine smiled. 'Shall I dress?'
'We'll find a quiet cocktail lounge,' he said. 'If that's al1 right with you.'
'Yes, that's fine. Air-conditioned, please.'
'What else?' he said, spreading his hands.
'Are you sensitive about the white streak in your hair?'
'Not at all.'
'If you are, I won't ask.'
'You can ask. I got knifed once. It grew back this way. A puzzle for medical
science to unravel.'
'Knifed? By a person, do you mean?'
'Sure,' he said.
'Oh.' It was a very tiny 'Oh.'
Hawes looked at her. 'People do… well, people do get knifed, you know.'
'Yes, of course. I imagine a detective…' She stopped. 'What was it you wanted to
know about the stationery?'
'Well, how much of it do you stock?'
'All my paper supplies come from Cartwright. The 142-Y comes in reams and also
in smaller packages of a hundred sheets.'
'Do you sell a lot of it?'
'Of the smaller packages, yes. The reams move more slowly.'
'How many smaller packs have you sold in the past month?'
'Oh, I couldn't possibly say. A lot.'
'And the reams?'
'The reams are easier to check. I got six reams at the beginning of June. I can
count how many are left.'
'Would you, please?' he asked.
She walked to the back of the shop. Hawes pulled a book from the shelf and began
leafing through it. When Christine returned she said, 'That's one of my
favourites. Have you read it?'
'Yes. A long time ago.'
'I read it when I was still a girl.' She smiled briefly, putthe book out of her
mind, and said, 'I have two reams left. I'm glad you stopped in. I'll have to
'That means you sold four, correct?'
'Would you remember to whom?'
'I know to whom I sold two of them. The others I couldn't say.'
'Who?' Hawes asked.
'A young man who conies in here regularly for 142-Y. He buys at least a ream a
month. He's one of the chief reasons I keep it in stock.'
'Do you know his name?'
'Yes. Philip Bannister.'
'Does he live in the neighbourhood?'
'I imagine so. Whenever he's come into the shop, he's been dressed casually. He
came in once wearing Bermuda shorts.'
'Bermuda shorts?' Hawes asked, astonished. 'In this neighbourhood?'
'People are people,' the girl reminded him.
'You don't know where he lives, though?' Hawes said.
'No. It must be close by, though.'
'What makes you say that?'
'He's often come in with shopping in his arms. Groceries, you know. I'm sure he
lives close by.'
'I'll check it,' Hawes said. 'And I'll see you tonight at nine.'
'At nine,' Christine said. She paused. 'I'm—I'm looking forward to seeing you
again,' she said.
'So am I,' he answered.
'Good-bye,' she said.
The bell over the door tinkled when he left.
The telephone directory listed a Philip Bannister at 1592 South Tenth. Hawes
called the squad to let Carella know where he was going, and then he drove to
South Tenth was a typical precinct street, crowded with tenements and humanity,
overlooked by fire escapes cluttered with the paraphernalia of life. The fire
escapes were loaded today. Today every woman in the neighbourhood had said to
hell with cleaning the house. Today every woman in the neighbourhood had put on
her lightest clothing and stepped out on to the fire escape in the hope of
catching any breeze that might rustle through the concrete canyon. Radios had
been plugged into extension cords that trailed back into the apartments, and
music flooded the street. Pitchers of lemonade, cans of beer beaded with cold
sweat, milk bottles full of ice water, rested on the fire escapes. The women sat
and drank and fanned themselves, their skirts pulled up over their knees, some
of them sitting in shorts and halters, some of them sitting in slips, all of
them trying desperately to beat the heat.
Hawes pulled the car to the curb, cut the engine, mopped his brow, and stepped
from his small oven into the larger oven that was the street. He was wearing
lightweight trousers and a cotton sports shirt open at the throat, but he was
sweating none the less. He thought suddenly of Fats Donner and the Turkish bath,
and felt immediately cooler.
1592 was a dowdy grey tenement set between two similarly dowdy and similarly
grey tenements. Hawes climbed the front stoop, walking past two young girls who
were discussing Eddie Fisher. One of them couldn't understand what he'd seen in
Debbie Reynolds. She herself was built better than Debbie Reynolds, and she was
sure Eddie had noticed her that time she'd got his autograph outside the stage
door. Hawes went into the building wishing he could sing.
A small neatly-lettered white card told him that Philip Bannister lived in
Apartment 21. Hawes wiped sweat from his lip, and then climbed to the second
floor. Every door on the floor was open in an attempt to produce a cross-current
circulation of air. The attempt failed miserably. Not a breeze stirred in the
hallway. The door to Apartment 21 was open, too. From somewhere inside the
apartment, Hawes heard the unmistakable chatter of a typewriter. He knocked on
'Anybody home?' he called.
The typewriter continued its incessant jabbering.
'Hey! Anybody home?'
The clatter of the keys stopped abruptly. 'Who is it?' a voice shouted.
'Police,' Hawes said.
'Who?' The voice was utterly incredulous.
'Just a second.'
Hawes heard the typewriter start up again. It went furiously for some three and
a half minutes and then stopped. He heard a chair being scraped back, heard the
pad of bare feet through the apartment. A thin man in undershirt and striped
under-shorts came into the kitchen and walked to the front door. He cocked his
head to one side, bis bright brown eyes gleaming.
'Did you say police?; he asked.
'Yes, I did.'
'It can't be Grandfather because he's dead. I know Dad drinks a bit, but what
kind of trouble can he be in?'
Hawes smiled. 'I'd like to ask you a few questions. That is, if you're Philip
'The very same. And you are?'
'Detective Hawes, Eighty-seventh Squad.'
'A real cop,' Bannister said appreciatively. 'A real live detective. Well, well.
Enter. What's the matter? Am I typing too loud? Did that bitch complain about
'My landlady. Come in. Make yourself homely. She's threatened to call the cops
if I type at night again. Is that what this is?'
'No,' Hawes said.
'Sit down,' Bannister said, indicating one of the chairs at the kitchen table.
'Want a cold beer?'
'I can use one.'
'So can I. When do you think we'll get some rain?'
'I couldn't say.'
'Neither could I. Neither can the weather bureau. I think they get their
forecasts by reading yesterday's forecast in the newspapers.' Bannister opened
the icebox door and pulled out two cans of beer. 'Ice melts like hell in this
weather. You mind drinking it from the can?'
'Not at all.'
He punctured both cans and handed one to Hawes.
'To the noble and the pure,' he toasted, and he drank. Hawes drank with him.
'Ahhhhh, good,' Bannister said. 'The simple pleasures. Nothing like them. Who
'You live here alone, Bannister?' Hawes asked.
'Entirely alone. Except when I have visitors, which is rarely. I enjoy women,
but I can't afford them.'
'Sort of. I'm a freelance writer.'
'I am currently working on a book,' Bannister said.
'Who's your publisher?'
'I have no publisher. I wouldn't be living in this rat trap if I had a
publisher. I'd be lighting cigars with twenty-dollar bills and I'd be dating all
the high-class fashion models in the city.'
'Is that what successful writers do?'
'That's what this writer is going to do when he's successful.'
'Did you buy a ream of Cartwright 142-Y recently?' Hawes asked.
'Yeah,' Bannister said. 'How the hell did you know that?'
'Do you know a prostitute called The Lady?'
'Do you know a prostitute called The Lady?' Hawes repeated.
'No. What? What did you say?'
'Are you kidding?'
'A prost—Hell, no!' Bannister seemed to get suddenly indignant. 'How would I
know a prost—? Are you kidding?'
'Do you know anyone called The Lady?'
'The Lady? What is this?'
'The Lady. Think.'
'I don't have to think. I don't know anybody called The Lady. What is this?'
'May I see your desk?'
'I don't have a desk. Listen, the joke has gone far enough. I don't know how you
found out what kind of typing paper I use, and I don't particularly care. All I
know is that you're sitting there drinking my good beer which costs me money Dad
works hard to earn, and asking me foolish questions about prost—Now, what is
this, huh? What is this?'
'May I see your desk, please?'
'I don't have a goddamn desk! I work on a table!'
'May I see that?'
'All right, all right, be mysterious!' Bannister shouted. 'Be a big-shot
mysterious detective. Go ahead. Be my guest. The table's in the other room.
Don't mess up anything or I'll call the goddamn commissioner.'
Hawes went into the other room. A typewriter was on the table, together with a
pile of typed sheets, a package of carbon paper, and an opened box of typing
'Do you have any paste?' Hawes asked.
'Of course not. What would I be doing with paste?'
'What are your plans for tonight, Bannister?'
'Who wants to know?' Bannister asked, pulling back his shoulders dignifiedly,
looking the way Napoleon must have looked in his underwear.
'I do,' Hawes said.
'Suppose I don't care to answer you?'
Hawes shrugged. The shrug was very meaningful. Bannister studied the shrug and
then said, 'Okay. I'm going to the ballet with Mother.'
'The City Theatre.'
'It starts at eight-thirty.'
'Your mother live here in the city?'
'No. She lives out on Sand's Spit. The East Shore.'
'Is she well-fixed, would you say?'
'I would say so, yes.'
'Would you call her a suburban lady?'
'I would,' Bannister admitted.
Hawes hesitated. 'Do you get along with her?'
'With Mother? Of course I do.'
'How does she feel about your writing?'
'She feels I have great talent.'
'Does she like the idea of your living in a slum neighbourhood?'
'She would rather I lived home, but she respects my wishes.'
'The family's supporting you, is that right?'
'Sixty-five a week.'
'Mother ever oppose this?'
'The money, you mean? No. Why should she? I spent much more than that when I was
living at home.'
'Who paid for the ballet tickets tonight?'
'Where were you this morning at about eight o'clock, Bannister?'
'Anybody with you?'
'Anybody see you here?'
'The typewriter was going,' Bannister said. 'Ask any of my neighbours. Unless
they're all dead, they heard it. Why? What am I supposed to have done at eight
o'clock this morning?'
'What paper do you read on Sundays?' Hawes asked.
'Any out-of-town papers?'
'Like the New York Times?'
'Yes, I buy the Times.'
'Yes. I like to see what pap is on the best-seller list each week.'
'Do you know where the station house is?'
'The police station, you mean?'
'It's near the park, isn't it?'
'Is it, or isn't it?' Hawes asked.
'Yes, it is. I still don't understand—'
'What time are you meeting your mother?'
'Eight,' Bannister said.
'Eight tonight. Do you own a gun?'
'Any other weapon?'
'Have you had any arguments with your mother recently?'
'With any other woman?'
'What do you call your mother?'
'Sometimes I call her Carol. That's her name.'
'Ever call her The Lady?'
'No. Are we back to that again?'
'Ever call anybody The Lady?'
'What do you call your landlady, the bitch who said she'd call the cops if you
typed at night?'
'I call her Mrs Nelson. I also call her The Bitch.'
'Has she given you a lot of trouble?'
'Only about the typing.'
'Do you like her?'
'Do you hate her?'
'No. I hardly ever think about her, to tell the truth.'
'A detective will probably follow you to the ballet tonight. He'll be with you
'What do you mean? What am I supposed to have done?'
'—when you leave this apartment, and when you meet your mother, and when you
take your seat. I'm telling you this in case—'
'What the hell is this, a police state?'
'—in case you had any rash ideas. Do you understand me, Bannister?'
'No, I don't. The rashest idea I have is buying Mother an ice-cream soda after
'Good, Bannister. Keep it that way.'
'Cops,' Bannister said. 'If you're finished, I'd like to get back to work.'
'I'm finished,' Hawes said. 'Thank you for your time. And remember. There'll be
a cop with you.'
'Balls,' Bannister said, and he sat at his table and began typing.
Hawes left the apartment. He checked with the three other tenants on the floor,
two of whom were willing to swear (like drunken sailors!) that Bannister's damn
machine had been going at eight o'clock that morning. In fact, it had started
going at six-thirty, and hadn't stopped since.
Hawes thanked them and went back to the squad.
It was 12.23.
Hawes was hungry.
Meyer Meyer had raised the shade covering the grilled window facing the park, so
that sunshine splashed on to the desk near the window where the men were having
From where Carella sat at the end of the desk facing the window and the park, he
could see out across the street, could see the greenery rolling away from the
stone wall that divided the park from the pavement.
'Suppose this isn't a specific lady?' Meyer asked. 'Suppose we're on the wrong
'What do you mean?' Carella asked, biting into a sandwich. The sandwich had been
ordered at Charlie's Delicatessen, around the corner. It nowhere compared with
the sandwiches Carella's wife, Teddy, made.
'We're assuming this nut has a particular dame on his mind,' Meyer said. 'A dame
called The Lady. This may not be so.'
'Go ahead,' Hawes said.
'This is a terrible sandwich,' Carella said.
'They get worse all the time,' Meyer agreed. 'There's a new place, Steve. The
Golden Pot. Did you see it? It's on Fifth, just off Culver Avenue. Willis ate
there. Says it's pretty good.'
'Does he deliver?' Carella asked.
'If he doesn't, he's passing up a gold mine,' Meyer said. 'With all the fressers
in this precinct.'
'What about The Lady?' Hawes asked.
'On my lunch hour he wants me to think, yet,' Meyer said.
'Do we need that shade up?' Carella asked.
'Why not?' Meyer said. 'Let the sunshine in.'
'Something's blinking in my eyes,' Carella said.
'So move your chair.'
Carella shoved back his chair.
'What about—' Hawes started.
'All right, all right,' Meyer said. 'This one is eager. He's bucking for
'He's liable to make it,' Carella said.
'Suppose you were pasting up this damn letter?' Meyer asked. 'Suppose you were
looking through the New York Times for words? Suppose all you wanted to say was,
"I'm going to kill a woman tonight at eight. Try and stop me." Do you follow me
'I follow you,' Hawes said.
'Okay. You start looking. You can't find the word eight, so you improvise. You
cut out a Ballantine-beer thing, and you use that for a figure eight. You can't
find the words I'm going, but you do find I will, so you use those instead.
Okay, why can't the same thing apply to The Lady?'
'What do you mean?'
'You want to say a woman. You search through the damn paper, and you can't find
those words. You're looking through the book section, and you spot the ad for
the Conrad Richter novel. Why not? you say to yourself. Woman, lady, the same
thing. So you cut out The Lady. It happens to be capitalized because it's the
title of a novel. That doesn't bother you because it conveys the meaning you
want. But it can set the cops off on a wild-goose chase looking for a
capitalized Lady when she doesn't really exist.'
'If this guy had the patience to cut out and paste up every letter in the word
tonight,' Carella said,'then he knew exactly what he wanted to say, and if he
couldn't find the exact word he created it.'
'Maybe, maybe not,' Hawes said.
'There are only so many ways to say tonight,' Meyer said.
'He could have said this evening,' Carella said. 'I mean, using your theory. But
he wanted to say tonight, so he clipped out every letter he needed to form the
word. I don't buy your theory, Meyer.' He moved his chair again. 'That damn
thing is still blinking in the park.'
'Okay, don't buy it,' Meyer said. 'I'm just saying this nut may be ready to kill
any woman, and not a specific woman called The Lady.'
Carella was pensive.
'If that's the case,' Hawes said, 'we've got nothing to go on. The victim could
be any woman in the city. Where do we start?'
'I don't know,' Meyer said. He shrugged and sipped at his coffee. 'I don't
'In the Army,' Carella said slowly, 'we were always warned about…'
Meyer turned to him. 'Huh?' he asked.
'Binoculars,' Carella said. 'Those are binoculars.'
'What do you mean?'
'In the park,' he said. 'The bunking. Somebody's using binoculars.'
'Okay,' Meyer said, shrugging it off. 'But if the victim is any woman, we've got
about a chance in five million of stopping—'
'Who'd be training binoculars on the precinct?' Hawes asked slowly.
The men fell suddenly silent.
'Can he see into this room?' Hawes asked.
'Probably,' Carella said. Unconsciously, their voices had dropped to whispers,
as if their unseen observer could also hear them.
'Just keep sitting and talking,' Hawes whispered. 'I'll go out and down the back
'I'll go with you,' Carella said.
'No. He may run if he sees too many of us leaving.'
'Do you think—?' Meyer started.
'I don't know,' Hawes said, rising slowly.
'You can save us a lot of time,' Carella whispered. 'Good luck, Cotton.'
Hawes emerged into the alley that ran behind the precinct just outside the
detention cells on the ground floor. He slammed the heavy steel door shut behind
him, and then started through the alley. Idiotically, his heart was pounding.
Easy does it, he told himself. We've got to play this easy or the bird will fly,
and we'll be left with The Lady again, or maybe Anywoman, Anywoman in a city
teeming with women of all shapes and sizes. So, easy. Play it easy. Sprinkle the
salt on to the bird's tail, and if the bastard tries to run, clobber him or
shoot him, but play it easy, slow and easy, play it like a 'Dragnet' cop, with
all the tune in the world, about to interrogate the slowest talker in the United
He ran to the alley mouth and then cut into the street. The sidewalk was packed
with people sucking in fetid air. A stickball game was in progress up the
street, and farther down toward the end of the block, a bunch of kids had turned
on a fire hydrant and were romping in the released lunge of water, many of them
fully clothed. Some of the kids, Hawes noticed, were wearing dungarees and
striped tee shirts. He turned right, putting the stickball game and the fire
hydrant behind him. What does a good cop do on the hottest day of the year? he
wondered. Allow the kids to waste the city's water supply and cause possible
danger should the fire department need that hydrant? Or use a Stillson wrench on
the hydrant and force the kids back into a sweltering, hot inactivity, an
inactivity that causes street gangs and street rumbles and possibly more danger
than a fire would cause?
What does the good cop do? Side with the madam of a whorehouse, or side with the
good citizen trying to cheat her?
Why should cops have to worry about philosophy, Hawes wondered, worrying about
philosophy all the while.
He was running.
He was running, and he was sweating like a basement cold-water pipe—but the park
was dead ahead, and the man with the binoculars was in that park somewhere.
'Is he still there?' Meyer asked.
'Yes,' Carella said.
'Jesus, I'm afraid to move. Do you think he tipped to Hawes?'
'I don't think so.'
'One good thing,' Meyer said.
'With all this action, my sandwich tastes better.'
The man in the park sat cross-legged on the huge rock, the binoculars pointed at
the precinct. There were two cops seated at the desk now, eating sandwiches and
talking. The big red-headed one had got up a few minutes ago and leisurely
walked away from the desk. Perhaps he'd gone for a glass of water, or maybe a
cup of coffee? Did they make coffee inside a precinct? Were they allowed to do
that? In any case, he had not come out of the building, so he was still inside
Maybe he'd been called by the captain or the lieutenant or whoever was his
superior. Maybe the captain was all in a dither about the letter and wanted
action instead of men sitting around having lunch.
In a way, their having lunch annoyed him. He knew they had to eat, of
course—everybody has to eat, even cops—but hadn't they taken his letter
seriously? Didn't they know he was going to kill? Wasn't it their job to stop
someone from killing? For Christ's sake, hadn't he warned them? Hadn't he given
them every possible chance to stop him? So why the hell were they sitting around
eating sandwiches and chatting? Was this what the city paid cops for?
Disgustedly, he put down the binoculars.
He wiped sweat from his upper lip. His lip felt funny, swollen. Cursing the
heat, he pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket.
'It's gone,' Carella said.
'The bunking. It's gone.'
'Can Hawes be there already?' Meyer asked.
'No, it's too soon. Maybe the guy's leaving. Goddamnit, why didn't we—'
'There it is! The bunking, Steve. He's still there!'
Carella sighed heavily. His hands were clenched on the desk top. He forced
himself to pick up his coffee container and sip at it.
Come on, Cotton, he thought. Move!
He ran along the park's paths, wondering where the man with the binoculars was.
People turned to look at him as he hurried by. It was strange to see a man
running at any time, but especially strange on a day as hot as this one.
Invariably the passers-by looked behind Hawes to see who was chasing him, fully
expecting a uniformed cop with a drawn gun in hot pursuit.
A high spot, he figured. If he's able to see the second floor of the precinct,
it has to be from a high spot. The brow of a hill, or a big rock, but something
high, something close to the street where the park ground slopes up to meet the
Is he armed?
If he's going to kill someone tonight, he's probably armed right now, too.
Unconsciously, Hawes touched his back, hip pocket, felt the reassuring bulge of
his .38. Should he take the gun out now? No. Too many people on the paths. A gun
might panic them. One of them might think Hawes was on the opposite side of the
law and get heroic, try to stop an escaping thief. No. The gun stayed where it
was for now.
He began climbing into the bushes, feeling the slope of the ground beneath his
feet. Somewhere high, he thought. It has to be high, or the man can't see. The
ground was sharply sloping now, gently rolling grass and earth giving way to a
steeply pitched outcropping of rock. Is this the rock? Hawes wondered. Is this
the right rock? Is my bird up here?
He drew his .38.
He was breathing hard from the climb. Sweat stained his armpits and the back of
his shirt. Small pebbles had found their way into his shoes.
He reached the top of the rock. There was no one there.
In the distance, he could see the precinct.
And off to the left, sitting on another high rock, he could see a man crouched
over a pair of binoculars.
Hawes's heart unexpectedly lurched into his throat.
'What do you see?'Meyer asked.
'He's still there?'
'The sun's still on the binoculars.'
'Where the hell is Hawes!'
'It's a big park,' Carella said charitably.
Sitting on the rock, the man with the binoculars thought he heard a sound in the
bushes. Slowly he turned, lowering the glasses. Barely breathing, he listened.
He could feel the hackles at the back of his neck rising. Suddenly he was
drenched with sweat. He wiped beads of perspiration from the swollen feel of his
There was an unmistakable thrashing in the woods.
Was it a kid?
Or a cop?
Run, his mind shrieked. The thought ricocheted inside his skull, but he sat
riveted to the rock. They'll stop me, he thought.
But so soon? So soon? After all the planning? To be stopped so soon?
The noise in the woods was closer now. He saw the glint of sunlight on metal.
Goddamnit, why hadn't he taken the gun with him? Why hadn't he prepared for
something like this? His eyes anxiously scanned the barren surface of the rock.
There was a high bush at the base of the stone surface. Crawling on his belly,
the binoculars clutched in his right hand, he moved toward the bush. The
sunlight caught at something bright, something non-metallic this time. Red. Red
hair! The cop who'd left the desk! He held his breath. The thrashing in the
woods stopped. From where he crouched behind the bush, he could see the red hair
and only that. And then the head ducked, and then reappeared. The cop was
advancing. He would pass directly in front of the bush.
The man with the binoculars waited. His hand on the metal was sweating. He could
see the cop plainly now, advancing slowly, a gun in his right hand.
Patiently he waited. Maybe he wouldn't be seen. Maybe if he stayed right where
he was, he wouldn't be discovered. No. No, that was foolish. He had to get out
of this. He had to get out of it, or be caught, and it was too soon to be
caught, too damned soon.
Hefting the binoculars like a mace, he waited.
From where Hawes advanced through the bushes, he could hear no sound. The park
seemed to have gone suddenly still. The birds were no longer chattering in the
trees. The sound of muted voices, which hung on the air like a swarm of insects,
drifting over the paths and the lake and the trees, had suddenly quieted. There
was only the bright sun overhead and the beginnings of the sloping rock, a huge
bush on Hawes's left, and the frightening sudden silence.
He could feel danger, could sense it in every nerve ending, could feel it
throbbing in every bone marrow. He had felt this way the time he'd been knifed,
could remember the startling appearance of the blade, the naked light bulb
glinting on metal, the hurried, desperate lunge for his back pocket and his
revolver. He could remember the blurred swipe of the blade, the sudden warmth
over his left temple, the feel of blood gushing on to his face. And then, unable
to reach his gun before the slashing knife was pulled back, he had struck out
with his fists, struck repeatedly until the knife had clattered to the hallway
floor, until his assailant had been a blubbering quivering hulk against the
wall, and still he had hit him, hit him until his knuckles had bled.
This time he had a gun in his hand. This time he was ready. And still, danger
prickled his scalp, rushed up his spinal column with tingling ferocity.
Cautiously he advanced.
The blow struck him on his right wrist.
The blow was sharp, the biting impact of metal hitting bone. His hand opened,
and the .38 clattered to the rock surface. He whirled in time to see the man
raise the binoculars high. He brought his hands up to protect his face. The
binoculars descended, the lenses catching sunlight, glittering crazily. For a
maniacal, soundless moment he saw the man's frenzied, twisted face, and then the
binoculars struck, smashing into Hawes's hands. He felt intense pain. He
clenched his fists, threw a punch, and then saw the binoculars go up again and
down, and he knew they would strike his face this time. Blindly he clutched at
He felt metal strike his palms, and then he closed his hands and wrenched at the
glasses with all his strength, pulling at them. He felt them come free. The man
stood stock-still for just a moment, surprise stamped on his face. Then he broke
into a run.
Hawes dropped the glasses.
The man was in the bushes by the time Hawes retrieved the .38.
He picked up the gun and fired into the air. He fired into the air again, and
then he thrashed into the bushes after the man.
When Carella heard the shots in the squad-room, he shoved back his chair and
said, 'Let's go, Meyer.'
They found Hawes sitting on a patch of grass in the park. He'd lost their man,
he said. They examined his wrist and his hands. There didn't seem to be any
broken bones. He led them back to the rock where he'd been ambushed, and again
he said, 'I lost him. I lost the bastard.'
'Maybe you didn't,' Carella said.
Spreading a handkerchief over his palm, he picked up the binoculars.
At the police lab, Sam Grossman identified the glasses as having been made by a
firm named Pieter-Vondiger. The serial number told him the glasses had been
manufactured sometime during 1952. The air-glass surfaces were not
anti-reflection coated, and so the binoculars had not been made for the Armed
Forces, as many of the firm's glasses had been during that time. A call to the
company assured Sam that the model was no longer being sold in retail stores,
having been replaced by more recent, improved models. None the less, he prepared
a chart on the glasses for the cops of the 87th, while his men went over the
glasses for fingerprints. Sam Grossman was a methodical man, and it was his
contention that the smallest, most insignificant-seeming piece of information
might prove valuable to the men investigating a case. And so he wrote down every