Fade Away Page 27

Myron moved down two steps. When he saw two young women approach the door from the inside, he slapped his pockets as though looking for keys. Then he walked purposefully up to the door, smiled, and waited for them to push it open. He need not have bothered with the dramatics. The two young women—college students, Myron guessed—went through the portal without looking up or decelerating their oral activities. Both were talking nonstop, neither listening. They paid absolutely no attention to him. Amazing restraint really. Of course from this angle they couldn’t see his ass, so their self-control was not only admirable but somewhat understandable.

He looked back at Norman, who thankfully waved him off. “You go yourself,” he said. “I don’t want to cause a problem.”

Myron let the door close.

The corridor was pretty much what he expected. It was painted off-white. No stripes or designs. There were no wall-hangings other than a huge bulletin board that read like a schizophrenic political manifesto. Dozens of leaflets announced everything from a dance sponsored by the Native American Gay and Lesbian Society to poetry readings by a group calling itself the Rush Limbaugh Review. Ah, the college life.

He ascended a stairway lit by two bare bulbs. All this walking and stair climbing were starting to take a toll on his bad knee. The joint tightened up like a rusted hinge. Myron felt himself dragging the leg behind him. He used the railing for support and wondered what the knee would be like when he reached arthritis age.

The floor plan of the building was far from symmetrical. Doors seemed to be placed in the wall as though at random. Off in a corner, a good distance from the other apartments, Myron found the door marked 2E. The positioning made the apartment look like an afterthought, as if someone had spotted some extra space in the back and decided to add an extra room or two. Myron knocked. No answer. No surprise. He checked the corridor. No one in sight. He was thankful that Norman was not here because he wouldn’t want someone to witness him breaking in.

Myron was not great at the lock-picking game. He had learned a bit over the years, but picking locks was a bit like playing a video game. You work at it enough, and eventually you move up levels. Myron hadn’t worked at it. He didn’t like it. He really didn’t have much natural talent for it. In most cases, he relied on Win to handle the mechanical stuff, like Barney used to do on Mission: Impossible.

He examined the door and felt his heart sink. Even for New York the dead bolts were nothing short of impressive. Three of them stacked intimidatingly from six inches above the knob to six inches below the top frame. Top of the line stuff. Brand-new, judging by the gleam and lack of scratches. This was a tad odd. Was Sally/Carla the extra cautious type, or was there a more aberrant reason for such security? Good question. Myron looked at the locks again. Win would have enjoyed the challenge; Myron knew that any effort he made would be fruitless.

He debated kicking in the door when he noticed something. He moved closer and squinted into the door crack. Again something struck him as being odd. The dead bolts were not engaged. Why buy all these expensive locks and not use them? He tried the knob. It was locked, but that one would be easy to get through with the ’loid card.

He took out the card. He couldn’t remember the last time he had used it. It looked pristine. Maybe never. He jammed it into the opening. Despite being an old lock it still took Myron almost five minutes to find the right spot to push the lock back. He gripped the knob. The door began to swing open.

It was open barely six inches when the odor attacked.

The bloodcurdling stench popped out into the hallway like pressurized gas. Myron felt his stomach dive and swoop. He gagged a little and felt a weight on his chest. He knew the smell, and dread filled him. He searched his pockets for a handkerchief and came up empty. He blocked his nose and mouth with the crook of his elbow, as if he were doing Bela Lugosi in Dracula. He didn’t want to go in. He wasn’t good at this type of thing. He knew that whatever image lay behind the door would stay with him, would haunt his nights and too often his days too. It would stay with him like a dear friend, tapping him on the shoulder every once in a while when he thought he was alone and at peace.

He pushed the door all the way open. The rancid smell permeated his meager protection. He tried to breathe through his mouth, but the thought of what he was sucking in made that option unbearable.

Fortunately, he didn’t have to travel far to find the source of the odor.

Chapter 12

“Whoa, Bolitar, new cologne?”

“Funny, Dimonte.”

NYPD homicide detective Roland Dimonte shook his head. “Christ, what a stink.” He was out of uniform, but you wouldn’t ever call him “plainclothes.” He wore a green silk shirt and jeans that were too tight and too dark blue. The bottoms were tucked into purple snakeskin boots; the color faded in and out with any angle change, like some psychedelic Hendrix poster from the sixties. Dimonte gnawed on a toothpick, a habit he picked up, Myron surmised, when he spotted himself doing it in the mirror and decided it looked tough. “You touch anything?” he asked.

“Just the doorknob,” Myron said. He had also checked the rest of the apartment to make sure there weren’t any other gruesome surprises. There weren’t.

“How did you get in?”

“The door was unlocked.”

“Really?” Dimonte raised an eyebrow and looked back at the door. “The door is set to lock automatically when you close it.”

“Did I say unlocked? I meant, ajar.”

“Sure you did.” Dimonte did a bit more gnawing, shook his head. He ran his hand through greasy hair. Ringlets clung to his forehead, refusing to give ground. “So who is she?”

“I don’t know,” Myron said.

Dimonte scrunched up his face like a closed fist. Displaying very skeptical. Subtle body language was not Dimonte’s forte. “Little early in the day to be pulling my hardware, ain’t it, Bolitar?”

“I don’t know her name. It might be Sally Guerro. Then again it might be Carla.”

“Uh huh.” Toothpick chew. “I thought I saw you on TV last night. That you were playing ball again.”

“I am.”

The coroner came over. He was tall and thin and his wire-rim glasses looked too big on the elongated face. “She’s been dead awhile,” he pronounced. “At least four days.”


“Hard to say for sure. Someone bludgeoned her with a blunt object. I’ll know more when I get her on the table.” He looked at the corpse with professional disinterest, then back at Dimonte. “They’re not real, by the way.”

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