The Devil Knows You're Dead Page 24

 “He’s managed to track down a witness. I probably ought to run over there and question her before she lights out again.”

 “So? You’re going, right?”

 “Well, we had plans.”

 “I guess we’d better change them, wouldn’t you say?”

 “Let me have the address,” I said to TJ.

 “Four eighty-eight West Eighteenth, ’tween Ninth and Tenth. No name on the buzzer, but you ring number forty-two. It’s up on the top floor.”

 “I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

 “We be waitin’, Dayton. Oh, ’fore I forget.” His voice dropped. “What I told her, I said there be a couple dollars in it for her. Was that cool?”

 “No problem.”

 “Because I know we on a tight budget.”

 “It’s a little looser than it was,” I said. “We got another client.”

 I hung up and got my topcoat from the front closet. Elaine asked me about my new client.

 “Lisa Holtzmann,” I said.


 “Glenn was sneakier than we thought. He bought that apartment of theirs for cash.”

 “Where did he get the cash?”

 “That’s one of the things she wants me to find out,” I said.

 “So you’ve got two clients now.”


 “And a witness. Things are really looking up.”

 “I guess. I don’t know how long I’ll be.”

 “Where do you have to go?”

 “Chelsea. I shouldn’t be gone much more than an hour.”

 “And then you’re planning to come back here?”

 “That was the idea, yes.”

 “Oh,” she said.

 “Is something wrong?”

 She was still holding the Lands’ End catalog. She threw it down and said, “We got off on the wrong foot tonight. I don’t know why. It’s probably my fault. But at this point it’s impossible to get back on track. You’ll rush through the ex-amination of this witness because you’ll feel you have to get home to me, and you’ll resent me for it—”

 “No I won’t.”

 “—and I’ll be pissed at you for staying out late, or for coming home with an attitude. And you’re really into your work right now, and there are probably other things you’d like to be doing tonight, after you get done with the witness. Am I right?”

 “I probably ought to talk to Danny Boy,” I admitted.

 “Among others. But all of that can wait.”

 “Why should it? Because we’re having so much fun to-gether? Call me in the morning. How’s that?”

 I told her it was fine. The address TJ had given me turned out to be a redbrick ten-ement three doors from the corner of Tenth Avenue. When I’d climbed four flights of stairs TJ called down, “One more, my man. You can do it, Prewitt.”

 The two of them were waiting in the doorway of a rear apartment on the top floor. TJ was beaming with a sort of self-conscious pride. He said, “Julia, like for you to meet Matthew Scudder, man I work for, man I told you about. Matt, this here is Julia.”

 “Matthew,” she said, extending her hand. “It’s so lovely of you to come. Won’t you step inside?”

 She led me into a room that had been done to a turn. The wide-board pine floors, sanded and painted and poly-urethaned, were a rich scarlet. The walls were a pale lemon yellow, and so thickly hung with art that little of their color showed through. The artwork had been professionally mat-ted and framed, and ranged from drawings and engravings a few inches square to a signed Keith Haring poster, and, over the daybed, a poster for the film Paris Is Burning. The light-ing was indirect, supplied by a variety of floor and table lamps, including two with black panther bases and several with leaded-glass shades. Beaded curtains screened a Pull-man kitchen and the doorway to the bathroom. Many of the beads were faceted glass, and sparkled like diamonds.

 “It’s much,” she said, “but it’s home. Won’t you have a seat, Matthew? I think you’ll find that chair comfortable.

 And I think I’m going to have a glass of sherry. May I bring you one?”

 “No, thank you.”

 “He don’t drink,” TJ said. “Told you that.”

 “I know you did,” Julia said, “but it’s only polite to offer. I also have Coke, Matthew. That’s Coca-Cola, of course.”

 “That would be fine.”

 “Over ice? With a twist of lemon peel?”

 She fixed it for me, and sherry for herself. TJ already had a Coke, but without the lemon twist. She seated herself on the daybed, folded her legs under her, and patted the place beside her. When TJ didn’t respond she gave him a look and patted the daybed again. He sat down.

 She was quite an exotic creature, with tawny skin that glowed as if lit from within. She had small ears, a long nar-row nose, a full red-lipped mouth. Her eyes and high cheek-bones lent a faintly Eurasian cast to her features. Her cheeks were downy, providing no sign that she’d ever had to shave. Her hair, cut à la Sassoon, was a streaky blond, quite becom-ing if genetically improbable. She was slender, and stood about five-eight, with most of her height in her legs. The harem pajamas she wore showed off her figure, full in the bust, slim at the waist, very trim in the rear. She wore lip-stick and nail polish and dangly earrings and beaded slip-pers, and she looked entirely elegant.

 I said the first thing that came into my mind. “You’d fool anyone,” I said.

 “Thank you.”

 “Your name is Julia?”

 “It was Julio,” she said, giving it the Spanish pronuncia-tion. “I used to be a male Hispanic. Now I’m a female of un-determined origin.”

 “How long have you been living as a woman?”

 “Five years, in the sense you mean. All my life, in another sense.”

 “Have you had the surgery?”

 “The surgery? I’ve had several surgeries. I’ll have more. But I haven’t had the surgery.”

 “I see.”

 “I’ve had facial surgery and breast enhancement.” She cupped her breasts. “Silicone completed what hormone treatments began. I’ve had a couple of moles removed. My next surgery, when I’ve raised the money and got up the courage, will be right here.” She touched a finger to her throat. “They shave the Adam’s apple. It’s a dead giveaway, but they can reduce it dramatically. It’s scary, though, to think of them cutting there. But I think it’s worth it, and you won’t even be able to see the scar.” She sipped the amber sherry. “And it’s not as nervous-making as the surgery.”

 “I can imagine.”

 She laughed. “Well, I guess you can,” she said. “And there’s something so irreversible about it. You can’t go and tell the doctor you changed your mind, please sew them back on. Look at TJ, it makes him squirm when I even talk about it.”

 “Don’t bother me none,” he said.

 “Oh, is that right? Matthew, don’t you agree that TJ would make a lovely girl?”

 “Stop that.”

 “I thought it didn’t bother you? See, TJ’s a good height, not ridiculously tall like some TS’s. A little broad in the shoulders, but we can work with that.” She turned to him and put a hand on his chest. “You’ll love it, TJ,” she said. “We can be girls together. We can play with each other’s tit-ties, we can rub pussies.”

 “Why you gotta talk like that?”

 “I’m sorry,” she said. “You’re right. It’s not ladylike.”

 “Just stop that shit.”

 I said, “Julia, I understand you were on the street the night Glenn Holtzmann was shot.”

 “Getting down to business, are we?”

 “I think we’d better.”

 She sighed. “Men,” she said. “Always rushing through foreplay. What’s the hurry? Why not take time to smell the, uh, flowers?” When I hesitated she laughed throatily and leaned over to pat me companionably on the knee. “Forgive me,” she said. “Sometimes I work a little too hard at being outrageous. Yes, I was there.”

 “What exactly did you see?”

 “I saw Glenn.”

 “Did you know him?”

 “No. Oh, because I called him by name just now? Well, the man’s dead, so why be formal? But no, I never met him.”

 “Had you seen him before that night?”

 “On the street, you mean? I don’t think so. Have you spent much time yourself on Eleventh Avenue? Because I don’t think I’ve seen you there.”

 “I live nearby,” I said, “but I haven’t been there much, no.”

 “Nobody has. There’s not much pedestrian traffic, not of the sauntering sort. Except for those of us with something to sell. Prospective buyers rarely show up on foot. They’re apt to be in cars. Or vans, but you’re taking your life in your hands getting into a van. I paid entirely too much for these tits to let some psychopath cut them off. That actually hap-pened to a girl on the East Side last year. You probably read about it.”


 “He was walking,” she said. “Glenn. An attractive man, nicely dressed. At first I took him for a john, but he wasn’t looking at the girls. Even the shy types, the ones scared to come up to you or say anything, they’ll look. They may be sneaking peeks rather than staring, but at least they’re look-ing at you.”

 “And he wasn’t.”

 “No. Which suggested that he wasn’t interested in moi, which in turn diminished my interest in him. I had a living to earn and I put my mind to that and didn’t pay him any more attention. Then I happened to look over there, and he was on the phone.”

 “I don’t suppose you noticed the time.”

 “Please,” she said. “I know it was night because it was dark out.”

 “Got it.”

 “Then I got a date,” she said. “A gentleman I’ve dated be-fore, although I wouldn’t call him a regular. Drives a Volvo station wagon with Jersey plates. One of your secret swingers. We went around the corner and parked.” She put her index finger in her mouth and sucked on it, her eyes on me all the while. “It didn’t take long,” she said.

 I glanced at TJ. His face was as expressionless as he could make it.

 “Then,” she said, “I was back in my usual spot. Let’s see now. I was on the opposite side of the avenue from him, and closer to the corner of Fifty-fourth Street. He was at the cor-ner of Fifty-fifth, in front of the Honda showroom. Did I see him then? I don’t think so. I don’t believe I had any reason to look over there.”


 “And right about then a car pulled up and a man rolled down the window and we entered into a discussion. Before long we broke off negotiations, but while they were still on-going someone fired a gun.”

 “Across the street.”

 “That’s what it sounded like, but I couldn’t tell for sure. I couldn’t be positive it was gunfire, although that’s what I took it to be.”

 “How many shots?”

 “Three, but I know that from the news. I wasn’t counting at the time. In fact I wasn’t paying attention, I was busy with negotiations that were fast breaking down. This admirer of mine wanted to fuck me without benefit of condom. ‘I’m not worried,’ he said. ‘I can tell you’re clean and healthy.’ Right, and determined to stay that way, thank you very much. So I had more on my mind than gunshots. Then we agreed to dis-agree, and I stepped back and he drove off, and just then there was a fourth shot.”

 “How long between the third and fourth shot?”

 “I don’t know. What went through my mind when I heard the fourth shot was something along the lines of, oh, right, there were shots before. They had registered, but I wasn’t thinking about them.”

 “What did you do?”

 “Looked toward the sound of the shot. But the car was still in front of me when the shot rang out, and then there was other traffic on the avenue that blocked my view of the corner. By the time I could see over there, all I saw was Glenn lying on the sidewalk. Except I didn’t know it was him.”

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