The Devil Knows You're Dead Page 28

 “I’m sure that would be the official view.”

 “Be my view, too, Matt. Far as trying to clear his name, what’s the point? Wherever he is now, it can’t make a bit of difference to him. He’s at peace now, God bless him.”

 I called Joe right away. Before he could say anything I said, “Don’t start. I just now found out that Sadecki got killed last night.”

 “You must have been the last man in the city to get the news.”

 “I slept late and didn’t buy a paper. I read the headlines on the run but the story didn’t make the front pages. Every-body’s giving top billing to the senator and his bimbo. I wondered why you were so steamed before.”

 “And I wondered why you were beating a dead horse. Or giving it mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.”

 “There’s a charming image.”

 “Yeah, well, I’m a charming guy.”

 “I don’t know anything more than what I just got from my client. I gather another prisoner did it.”

 “Another nut case, in there for attempting to do his own mother. Confined to a wheelchair—I hope you got that part.”

 “I did.”

 “That’s the best part,” he said. “I was editing the Post, God forbid, I’d bump the senator’s secret nookie and spread the wheelchair across page one. He’s a skinny kid, too, looks like a bank teller, but I guess he’s a resourceful son of a bitch. Wheelchair, shit, he’d be a menace in a full-body cast.”

 “No question he did it?”

 “None whatsoever. He did it in front of guards, for Chris-sake. Makes ’em look stupid, something like that goes down in front of their noses, but what are you gonna do? Fucker was quick as a cobra.”

 “Why did he do it, do they happen to know?”

 “Why does anybody do anything? He and George evi-dently got into it a little at Bellevue. Maybe George said something about Gunther’s mother, something really nasty like she wasn’t worth killing.”

 “That’s his name? Gunther?”

 “Gunther Bauer, from a good German family in Ridge-wood. Here you got two guys, one kills the other, and they’re both of European extraction. How often does that happen? It’s like seeing two white kids facing each other in the ring.”

 “You see that.”

 “Yeah, on cable, and the fight’s taking place in the veter-ans’ hall in Bismarck, North Dakota. Does that cover it, Matt? Because I’m kind of busy here.”

 “I’ve got one more question,” I said, “but I’m afraid you’ll get mad at me if I ask it.”

 “I probably will, but why don’t you ask it anyway?”

 “Is there any chance at all that somebody could have set this guy up to take George out?”

 “Like the CIA? Controlling him through the fillings in his teeth? Next I suppose they’ll hit Gunther. You been watching a lot of Oliver Stone movies lately?”

 “From what you’ve said, Gunther Bauer makes an un-likely Jack Ruby.”

 “I’d say so, yeah.”

 “But so did Jack Ruby. I’m just trying to rule it out, that’s all.”

 “What are you looking to do, squeeze a few more dollars out of the brother? Get him to feed more quarters into the meter?”

 “I’ve got another client.”

 “No shit. You wouldn’t want to say who?”

 “I can’t.”

 “Interesting,” he said. “I still think there’s less to this than meets the eye, but I’ll make a phone call. What the hell.”

 I walked for a long time. Over an hour, certainly. I wasn’t re-ally aware of the time, and hadn’t been ever since I started the paper chase. There was something exhilarating about it, whether or not it yielded anything of substance.

 And I couldn’t tell what I had. There were pages of fresh notes in my notebook, data I’d run down and thoughts and fancies I’d wanted to commit to paper, but did they amount to anything?

 And did it matter at all whether they did or not? George Sadecki was dead, and his brother was right, there was noth-ing more to be done. Clearing the poor bastard’s name made as much sense as the efforts of those crackpots who spend their lives trying to restore the reputation of Richard the Third.

 Of course I had another client. I had five thousand dollars of her money in the top drawer of my dresser—if indeed it was her money, and if indeed it was still where I’d left it. I was in no mood to take anything for granted.

 I covered a few blocks just making certain in my mind that it had been Drew Kaplan’s idea for her to hire me, not something I’d brought about through manipulation. Not be-cause I wanted the money, but in order to wind up in her bed.

 Something else to think about, how I’d wound up in her bed. His bed, their bed, her bed. Our bed, for a couple of hours there.

 Jesus, I hadn’t called her. I wasn’t supposed to send her flowers, that was very clear, but I had to call her, didn’t I? If I hadn’t gone to bed with her I would probably have called her by now, but did our dalliance last night change anything?.

 Probably. It very likely changed everything.

 I hadn’t called Elaine, either. You’ll call me in the morn-ing, she’d said, but I hadn’t. It seemed to me that, while the evening had been strained and uncomfortable, we’d resolved it well enough and had parted on good terms, with no unfin-ished business.

 We had some now.

 I decided I’d call them both as soon as I got the chance, but not from the street, not with traffic noise for background music. Right now I didn’t want to talk to anybody, anyway. I just wanted to walk. It was the best exercise, walking. That’s what all the authorities were saying lately. Just get out there, forget your troubles, and walk.

 Right. It must have been around six when I walked into an Ital-ian-style coffeehouse on Tenth Street east of Second Av-enue. The place called itself Caffè Literati, and along with the usual bentwood chairs and marble-topped tables and Quattrocento reproductions they had a couple of floor-to-ceiling bookcases, with real books in them. A sign advised that the books were there for customers’ reading pleasure, but all were available for purchase as well at the marked prices.

 There was only one other customer in the place, a fellow in his thirties who already had one of those horse-player faces you see in the OTB parlor. He had a folded newspaper on the table in front of him and he was working something out on a pocket calculator.

 The room smelled of cigarettes and fresh-ground coffee, and the faint but unmistakable trace of one of those little De Nobili cigars hung in the still air.

 Classical music played. It sounded familiar but I couldn’t guess what it was. I asked the waitress who brought my dou-ble espresso. She looked as though she’d be likely to know, dressed all in black, with her long blond hair in a braid and her no-nonsense glasses.

 “I think it’s Bach,” she said.


 “I think.”

 I sipped my coffee and tried to figure out what the hell I was doing. I dug out my notebook and paged through it, making what I could of it.

 What was the US Asset Reduction Corporation? Liquida-tors of foreclosed properties, most likely, and there were plenty of those lately, given the state of the economy. Why would Glenn Holtzmann, a single fellow comfortably en-sconced in a studio apartment in Yorkville, make a private deal with a liquidator? It had very likely been a bargain, but how did he happen to be in the market? And where did he get the money to pay for it? And why wasn’t there any record of the transaction?

 Assume he had cash. Maybe US Asset Reduction had a profitable sideline as a money laundry. You paid them with a suitcase full of green money and then you sold the apart-ment, or mortgaged it for the maximum and walked away with legitimate reportable money. Maybe you mortgaged it with them, and they could foreclose again, run the same game over and over.

 Would that work?

 Even if it would, why weren’t the numbers a matter of public record? Wouldn’t anybody trying to make dirty money look clean want to be on the record?

 Of course they would have given him documentation, pa-per that would say whatever he wanted it to say, paper that would look just fine at an IRS audit. But how did they do that and at the same time manage to keep it out of the city records?

 And where did he get the money, the son of a bitch? I still didn’t have a clue where he got the money.


 I looked up, puzzled.

 “Not Bach,” she said. “Boccherini. I like walked away and listened to it for the first time, and I’m like, That doesn’t sound like Bach. So I checked, and it’s Boccherini.”

 “It’s pretty,” I said.

 “I guess.”

 I tried to think about Holtzmann some more but I had lost the thread. No go. I sipped my coffee and listened to Boccherini. There was a pay phone on the wall across from the rest room, and my eyes kept being drawn to it. Boc-cherini was still playing when I gave up and made my calls.

 “Thank God,” Elaine said. “I’ve been worried about you. Are you all right?”

 “Of course I’m all right. Why were you worried?”

 “Because last night was a mess. Because I thought you were going to call this morning. Because George Sadecki was killed.”

 I explained how I’d only found that out a couple of hours ago. “The detective,” I said, “is always the last to know.”

 “I was afraid of how you might take it.”

 “Afraid it would drive me to drink?”

 “Mostly just concerned that you’d feel bad.”

 “I felt pretty stupid,” I admitted, and told her about the conversations I’d had with Joe Durkin and Tom Sadecki. She agreed that the whole thing was pretty embarrassing.

 “But if you think about it,” she said, “all it really shows is how dedicated you are to your work. If you’d been sitting around in your underwear watching TV, or if you just took time to eat a decent breakfast and read the paper—”

 “I might have known what everybody else in town knew. That’s pretty good spin control you’ve got there, but I still don’t think this is something I’m going to trot out years from now to impress prospective clients.”


 “Anyway, I’m not walking around racked with guilt. I didn’t contribute to George’s death. I just took a long time to find out about it.”

 “It’s sad, isn’t it?”

 “It’s sad but it’s not tragic, except in the sense that his whole life was tragic. I’m sorry for Tom, but he’ll get over it. And this simplifies his life, and he’s enough of a realist to know it. He loved his brother, but George must have been a hard guy to love. It’ll be easier to love his memory.”

 I told her what Tom had told me, about his recollection of George having been changed by the fact of his death, with brighter early memories supplanting the later ones. We talked about that some.

 She said, “You know, you caught me on my way out the door. There’s a lecture at Town Hall. In fact you could meet me there, I’m sure there are still tickets available, except you’d be bored to tears. Do you want to meet afterward? But not at Chien Bizarre.”

 “You’ll be coming from Town Hall, and I want to get to a meeting. Paris Green? Say a quarter after ten?”


 “I’ve had a busy day,” I told Lisa. “George Sadecki was stabbed to death by another prisoner, but I suppose you knew that.”

 “It was on CNN this morning.”

 That figured. I told her a little of what I’d found and hadn’t found in various government records. She said she’d heard from Drew, but as far as I could tell his call had been designed just to keep the client happy.

 Maybe you could say the same for my call.

 “I’m going to be busy tonight,” I said. “I’ll talk with you tomorrow.” While I was on the phone, one of the library books caught my eye. It was an anthology of twentieth-century British and American poetry, and I’d recognized the volume because Jan Keane owned a copy. I thought I might be able to find the Robinson Jeffers poem about the wounded hawk, but it wasn’t in there. There were half a dozen others by Jeffers in-cluded. I read one called “Shine, Perishing Republic” that suggested he had a low opinion of human beings, Americans in particular.

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