The Devil Knows You're Dead Page 27

 “When you called,” she said, “I was sitting in the living room watching The Fabulous Baker Boys on HBO. I was wearing what you saw me in this afternoon.”

 “Tan slacks and a green turtleneck.”

 “Exactly. When I finished talking to you I turned off the TV and took off all my clothes. I dabbed on a little more per-fume, freshened my makeup, and put on the nightie and the robe.”


 “Which probably makes me a slut, but who cares? I don’t.” She took my hand in both of hers. “Come back to bed, Great Detective. We’ll search for clues.”

 It was well after four when I left. The bars were closed, and I was just as glad.

 I walked home across Fifty-seventh Street, feeling too many things all at once even to take note of what they were. Rather than sort out the signals, I just wanted to turn off the set.

 I went straight to my room without even stopping at the desk, got out of my clothes and under the shower. Some-times there’s no hot water at that hour but this time there was plenty and I must have used most of it.

 I dried myself off and went straight to bed. I had a long list of things to think about but I was too tired to start. I closed my eyes and put my head on the pillow and I was gone.

 I did manage to set my clock first, and it jarred me loose from a dream at half past nine. By the time I had the alarm shut off, the dream was completely gone. All I could recall was that there had been a lot of people in the room with me, and that I didn’t have any clothes on.

 I took another shower and shaved and got dressed. On my way out I stopped at the desk for the messages I hadn’t picked up earlier, and there weren’t any. I thought that was odd, and I had one foot out the door before I realized I had never turned off Call Forwarding after I’d left Elaine’s. I had gone straight down to Chelsea, and never returned to the ho-tel until just before dawn.

 I went upstairs and did what you had to do. I thought about calling Elaine to check for messages, but if there’d been anything crucial she would have called the hotel desk directly. She’d done just that in the past, when I’d been sim-ilarly forgetful.

 Besides, she was probably toning her muscles at the gym. And if not, well, I didn’t feel quite ready to talk to her yet.

 I had plenty to do. I grabbed a quick breakfast around the corner, took the subway downtown to Chambers Street, and made the rounds of various city and state offices. I learned a few things about Glenn Holtzmann, the most interesting having to do with the ownership of the apartment where I had just committed what certainly felt like adultery. The original owner was a corporation called MultiCircle Produc-tions, which had purchased the unit three years ago from the builder. MultiCircle had evidently lost it to foreclosure, be-cause Glenn Holtzmann had acquired it a year and a half ago from an outfit called US Asset Reduction Corp. They deeded it to him on the thirteenth of April, a month before he and Lisa were married.

 That was before he’d proposed to her, and in order to close on that date he’d have had to enter negotiations before he even met the girl, which seemed odd. Maybe he fell for her because he already had a place for them to live. And maybe he bought it because the deal was too good to turn down, but what was the deal? I couldn’t find out what he’d paid for it. That was supposed to be a matter of record, but I couldn’t find the record.

 Around four I used a phone and caught Joe Durkin at his desk. I said, “You know, it’s the damnedest thing. I’m right around the corner from One Police Plaza and I don’t know a soul well enough to ask a favor.”

 “So you called me.”

 “I did. One quick question, won’t take a minute.”

 “Of my valuable time.”

 “Of your valuable time. Did Glenn Holtzmann have a record?”

 “Jesus Christ on stilts. What the hell are you jerking your-self off with now?”

 “Did he?”

 “Of course not.”

 “You know that for a fact? Your own personal knowl-edge?”

 “Come on, Matt. You don’t think somebody would have checked? Case generated more heat than anything since the Lindbergh kidnapping. You know how many people we had on it?”

 “Each of them assuming somebody else did the obvious thing.”

 “Come on.”

 “Humor me,” I said. “What does it hurt to check?”

 “What good could it do? Especially at this stage. I swear I can’t figure out why you’re still screwing around with this piece of shit. What’s the point?”

 “Take you twenty seconds. You just punch it up on your computer. It’ll tell you straight out and then we’ll both know.”

 “All it ever tells me straight out is Invalid Request, or else it tells me Access Not Authorized. You’re lucky you got out before these fuckers came in. The worst thing about it is the way kids fresh out of cop school pick it all up in about a minute and a half. Makes me feel like a fucking dinosaur. . . . Shit . . . Okay, here we go. No record. What a surprise.”

 “You’re sure?”

 “Yeah, I’m sure, at least as far as felony and misdemeanor arrests are concerned. Maybe he ran a red light once. Maybe he was a scofflaw, had a lot of unpaid parking tickets. I wouldn’t fucking know, and don’t tell me to get my com-puter to talk to the computer at the Parking Violations Bu-reau, because I don’t want to.”

 “He didn’t have a car.”

 “He could have rented one. You can get a traffic ticket in a rented car.”

 “Actually,” I said, “I don’t really care about traffic tickets.”

 “I don’t care about any of this. Seriously, what’s the mat-ter with you? Why are you still pursuing this?”

 “Joe, I’ve been on it less than a week.”

 “So? Look, I gotta go. Call me some day when you’re done playing with yourself, you can take me out and buy me a hamburger.”

 I bought myself a cup of coffee and wondered what had him in such a fierce mood. If I was starting with the victim, a perfectly traditional approach, why wouldn’t I want to make certain that the victim didn’t have an arrest record? It was more than odds-on that somebody would have checked, but why wouldn’t I double-check? And where did he get off being astonished, even contemptuous, of the fact that I was still on the case?

 It had been Saturday afternoon when I sat across a table from Tom Sadecki and took a thousand dollars from him. It was Thursday now. I had been on it four days. I didn’t get it.

 That reminded me, though, that I’d been planning on call-ing my client. I checked my notebook and tried him at the store. A woman answered, and called him to the phone with-out asking my name.

 I said, “Tom, it’s Matt Scudder. It occurred to me that I ought to be giving you a progress report.”

 “What do you mean?”

 “Just that I was reluctant to take the case initially, but now it’s beginning to look as though there’s a very real possibil-ity your brother is innocent. I don’t have anything to take to the D.A., but I feel a hundred percent more hopeful than I did Saturday.”

 “You do, huh?”

 “Definitely,” I said, “and I figured you would want to know about it.”

 There was a lengthy pause. Then he said, “First thing I thought, I thought this is your idea of a joke. But how could you possibly think it was funny? Next thing, and it’s inter-esting how a person’s mind works, next thing I thought is Je-sus, the son of a bitch isn’t sober, he’s been sneaking drinks all along, and it’s made him nuts and that explains it. The thought just flashed through my mind, it was that sudden.”

 “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Tom.”

 “You don’t,” he said. “You really don’t. It was on the late news last night and it was in all the papers this morning, but I guess you didn’t look at the news or read the paper.”

 I felt sick. “Tell me,” I said.

 “George,” he said. “My brother George. They transferred him, Bellevue back to Rikers. Last night somebody stuck a knife in him, the poor bastard. He’s dead. My brother George is dead.”

 Chapter 18

 “Tom,” I said, “I’m sorry. I’m terribly sorry.”

 “Yeah, I know you are. First I heard, I got a call from my sister last night, she seen it on Channel Four. We weren’t of-ficially notified for another half hour. You imagine that?”

 “What happened?”

 “Aw, Jesus. Another guy, an inmate there. Also in Belle-vue, where he and George had an argument. Then this guy’s returned to the psychiatric wing or block or whatever they call it at Rikers, and a day or two later so is George. And the guy goes for him and stabs him.”

 “That’s awful.”

 “Get this. Guy’s in a wheelchair.”

 “The man who—”

 “Yeah, the guy who stabs him. Paralyzed from the waist down, can’t wiggle his fucking toes but he can stab George. Not the first time, either. He’s in there for stabbing his mother. Difference is she lived.”

 “How’d he get the knife?”

 “It was a scalpel. He stole it in Bellevue.”

 “He stole it in Bellevue and smuggled it back to Rikers Island?”

 “Yeah, taped to the bottom of the wheelchair. And he had tape wrapped around the base of the blade so it wouldn’t be brittle. I mean, some of these people are crazy as a shithouse rat, but that don’t make ’em stupid.”


 “My sister said the oddest thing. ‘Now I don’t have to worry about him.’ That he’s getting enough to eat, that he’s in trouble, that he’s got someplace to sleep. Same as she said it was a relief having him locked up, now it’s even more of a relief to have him dead. The thing is, I know what she means. He’s safe now. Nobody can hurt him, and he can’t hurt himself. And do you want to know some-thing?”

 “What, Tom?”

 “He’s gone less than a day, and already it’s changed how I remember him. My grandmother on my mother’s side got Alzheimer’s. By the time she finally died she was this pa-thetic creature. You know how they get.”


 “We all told each other that the cruelest thing about it was the way it changed how we saw her. This was a strong woman, came over from the old country, raised five chil-dren, spoke four languages, cooked and cleaned like she had a black belt in housework, and all you saw was this woman drooling and wetting the bed and making noises that didn’t even sound human.

 “But then she died, and it had a magical effect, Matt, be-cause overnight I remembered what she used to be like, and that was all I remembered. When I picture my grandmother now she’s always in the kitchen wearing an apron and stir-ring something on the stove. I have to work at it to picture her in bed at the nursing home.

 “And already it’s starting to be the same way with George. These memories have been flooding in, things I haven’t thought about in years. Before he went in the service, before he started to lose it. Back when we were boys together.”

 After a moment he added, “It’s sad, though.”


 “What you were saying, that he might be innocent. What an irony, huh?”

 “It seems like a real possibility.”

 “My first reaction is to be angry about it. Like if they hadn’t locked him up this wouldn’t happen. But that’s bull-shit, isn’t it? I mean, look how he died, stabbed to death by a guy in a wheelchair. That happens to you, you got to say it was meant to be. Fate, karma, God’s will, whatever you want to call it, it was just plain in the cards.”

 “I see what you mean.”

 “You want to hear something’ll make you sick? I got calls from two different lawyers telling me how I gotta bring suit against the city of New York. I’ve got a legitimate action for wrongful death, on account of there’s my brother in their custody and he gets killed through no fault of his own. You see me suing the city over this? What do I do, claim loss of services? And how do they figure what his life was worth, add up the cans and bottles he might have redeemed over the remainder of his anticipated lifespan?”

 “Everybody sues nowadays.”

 “Tell me about it. I had a customer last year—well, the hell with that. Put it this way, average American gets hit by lightning, ’stead of giving thanks he lived through it, he runs to his lawyer and sues God. I don’t want to live that way.”

 “I don’t blame you.”

 “Anyway,” he said, “I want to thank you for taking a shot at it. If I owe you anything on top of what I already gave you, just let me know and I’ll send you a check.”

 “No question of that. And if I find out anything further—”

 “Why would you? My brother’s dead. Case closed, right?”

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