The Devil Knows You're Dead Page 35

 “No idea?”

 “None,” I said. “I assume he was prospecting, sticking his nose in where it didn’t belong. Someone must have tipped to what he was doing.”

 “And shot him.”

 “It’s a chance you take when you run around setting up dope dealers. You run less of a risk turning in relatives for cheating on their taxes. But sooner or later you’re going to run out of relatives, and dabblers like the lawyer in White Plains. When the other players are pros, you can wind up getting killed.”

 “An occupational hazard.”

 “I would say so. On the other hand, it’s still odds-on that it happened the way the police figured it from the start.”

 “George Sadecki.”

 “There’s a good chance he did it, and what difference does it make if he didn’t? Clearing his name’s not worth a dime to anybody. My guess is he’s innocent, but I couldn’t begin to back that up, let alone tell you who’s guilty. Glenn didn’t leave notes, or one of those traditional sealed en-velopes to be opened in the event of his death.”

 “Some people have no consideration. You want some more coffee?”

 I shook my head. “Somebody’s probably getting away with murder,” I said, “but that happens all the time.”

 “And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.”

 “I don’t know how bad a guy he was. On the one hand he was a paid rat, but you could make a case that he was an un-heralded yuppie hero, collecting a bounty on bad guys. However you look at it, I don’t have this sense of his ghost crying out for revenge.”

 “What about our mutual client? Can she sleep nights if her husband’s killer goes unpunished?”

 “I don’t see why not. You’re her attorney. What’s in her best interests?”

 He thought about it. “To let it lie,” he said.

 “That’s what I would have said.”

 “Put in another few days looking for hidden assets. But I don’t think we’re going to find any.”

 “No, neither do I.”

 “On the other hand, I don’t think we’re going to get any static from the IRS, either. I see her coming out of this with the deed to an apartment and a box full of money. That doesn’t sound so bad.”


 “You want it to come out neat,” he said. “Be nice to know who killed him and how and why. Be even nicer to see the killer go away for it. I have to tell you, though, the best in-terests of the client are served with the whole thing closed out on the spot. Make a case out of this, generate a little press, and you just know some schmuck from the tax office is going to turn up with a million questions, and who needs that?”


 “Never get a conviction anyway. Whoever did it, by now he’s sure to be alibied from here to St. Louis. Probably got proof he was playing pinochle with the pope and the Luba-vitcher rebbe when Holtzmann got hit.”

 “Must have been some game.”

 “Well, you know the pope,” Drew said. “No card sense, but he loves to play.”

 Chapter 22

 Afew days later I put on a suit and tie and went to the win-dow, trying to guess if the weather would hold. It was sunny now, cool and clear, and I hoped it would stay that way.

 Something drew my eye down to the benches alongside the Parc Vendôme, and I saw a familiar silhouette hunched over one of the stone cubes. I went downstairs, and instead of turning left for the subway I crossed the street and ap-proached the lean black man with the white hair. He had a copy of the Times folded open to the chess column, and he was working out the problem with his own board and chessmen.

 “You look nice,” he said. “I like your necktie.”

 I thanked him. I said, “Barry, they’re having a service for George this afternoon. I’m going out to Brooklyn for it.”

 “That right?”

 “His brother called and told me about it. Just family, but he said I’d be welcome.”

 “Be a nice day for it,” he said. “ ’less it rains.”

 “You’d be welcome, too.”

 “At the funeral?”

 “I thought maybe we could go together.”

 He looked at me, a long, appraising look. “No,” he said. “I guess not.”

 “If you’re thinking you won’t fit in,” I said, “well, hell, you’ll fit in as well as I will.”

 “Guess you’re right,” he said. “We’re both the same color, and dressed about the same.”

 “Oh, for Christ’s sake.”

 “Thing is,” he said, “it don’t matter, fitting in or not fitting in. I don’t care to go. You come back, tell me how it was. How’s that?”

 I rode out on the D train. They buried him out of a funeral parlor on Nostrand Avenue, and there were more people in attendance than I would have expected, close to fifty in all. Tom, his wife, his sister, their relatives. Neighbors, employ-ees, AA friends. The crowd was mostly white and a majority of the men wore ties and jackets, but there were a few black faces, a few gentlemen in shirtsleeves. Barry would not have been greatly out of place.

 The casket was closed, the service brief. The clergyman who officiated hadn’t known George, and he spoke of death as a liberation from the bondage of physical and mental in-firmity. The veils drop away, he said, and blind eyes can see again. The spirit soars.

 Tom followed him and said a few words. In a sense, he said, we’d all lost George a long time ago. “But we went on loving him,” he said. “We loved the sweetness of him. And there was always the hope that someday the clouds would blow away and we’d get him back. And now he’s gone and that can never happen. But in another sense we do have him back with us. He’s with us now and he’ll never lose his way again.” His voice broke, but he squeezed the last words out. “I love you, George,” he said.

 There were two hymns, “Onward, Christian Soldiers” and “Abide With Me.” A heavyset woman with dark hair to her waist sang them both unaccompanied, her voice filling the room. During the first hymn I thought of George in his army jacket, his pocket full of shell casings. The old soldier, fad-ing away. Listening to the second, I remembered a version on a Thelonious Monk album, just eight bars long, just the melody. Haunting. Jan Keane owned the record. I hadn’t heard it in years.

 After the service there was a procession of cars following the hearse to a cemetery in Queens, but I passed on that and caught a train back to Manhattan. I found Barry right where I’d left him. I sat down across from him and told him all about George’s funeral. He heard me through and suggested we play a little chess.

 “One game,” I said.

 It didn’t take him long to beat me. When I tipped my king over he suggested a toast to George’s memory might be fit-ting. I gave him five dollars and he came back with a quart of malt liquor and a cup of coffee. After several long swallows he capped the bottle and said, “See, I don’t never go to fu-nerals. Don’t believe in ’em. What’s the point?”

 “It’s a way to say goodbye.”

 “Don’t believe in that either. People come and people go. Just the way of the world.”

 “I suppose so.”

 “Matter of what you get used to, is all it is. George came around and I got used to him. Got used to him being around. Now he’s gone and I’m used to that. Get used to anything, if you give yourself half a chance.”

 Early the following week they finally released Glenn Holtzmann’s remains. I think they might have done so ear-lier if his widow had asked. I made a few calls for Lisa and arranged to have the body picked up at the morgue and cre-mated. There was no service.

 “It seems incomplete,” Elaine said. “Shouldn’t there be some sort of service? There must be people who would come.”

 “You could probably round up a contingent from his of-fice,” I said, “but I don’t think he had any friends as such. The easiest thing for her is a quick private cremation and no service.”

 “Will she have to attend? Do you think you ought to go with her?”

 “She seems to have it all under control,” I said, “and I’d just as soon start letting go.”

 So I didn’t keep Lisa Holtzmann company when she picked up her husband’s ashes. A day or two later, though, I left an AA meeting at ten o’clock and felt a restlessness I couldn’t walk off, or talk myself out of.

 I picked up the phone. “This is Matt,” I said. “Do you feel like company?”

 The following morning I walked over to Midtown North. Joe Durkin wasn’t around, but I didn’t need him for the task at hand. I talked to several different cops, explaining that I was working for Holtzmann’s widow and that the personal effects returned to her had been incomplete. “She never got his keys back,” I said. “He definitely would have had his keys with him, and she never got them back.”

 Nobody knew anything. “Well, shit,” one cop said. “Tell her to change the locks.”

 I went through the same thing at Manhattan Homicide, and at Central Booking. I spent most of the day bothering people who had more important things to do, but by late af-ternoon I walked out of a police station with a set of keys in my pocket. It wasn’t hard to establish that the keys were Holtzmann’s—one of them fit the door to his and Lisa’s apartment. It was easy to pick out the key to his safe-deposit box, and an officer at my own bank had a chart which en-abled us to determine the bank and branch where we would find that box.

 Drew Kaplan obtained authorization to open the box, and he and Lisa did so, accompanied by the inescapable repre-sentative of the Internal Revenue Service. I suppose every-one was hoping for cash and Krugerrands, but there was nothing inside to quicken anybody’s pulse. A birth certifi-cate, a marriage license. Old snapshots of unidentified per-sons, school pictures of Glenn.

 “The prick from the IRS couldn’t stand it,” Drew reported. “Why have a box if he didn’t have anything to keep in it? And why not have the smallest size? There must have been some-thing else in there, he said. Obviously we got into the box, scooped the cash, and then called Uncle Sam. I suggested he look at the bank’s records and confirm that no one had ob-tained access to the box since the boxholder’s death. Which he already knew, the irritating little bastard, but he figured one way or another the government was getting screwed.”

 “Which they must have been.”

 “I would say so,” he said. “If I had to guess, I’d say the money she found in the closet used to live in the safe-deposit box. Their records put him there a week to the day before he got hit. I’d say he went in there and took out his money and put it in a tin box and stuck it in his closet. Now why would he do that?”

 “In case he needed it in a hurry.”

 “That’s one. For a cash transaction, or just because he wanted to be able to cut and run. The other thought comes to me is maybe he had a premonition.”

 “I like that the best,” I said. “He realizes he’s in danger and wants to make sure she gets the money. That would ex-plain why there was nothing else in the box that could em-barrass anybody. He was already imagining the IRS, looking over his widow’s shoulder.”

 “And we know he knows all about the IRS, ever since he sicced them on Uncle Al.”

 “And we know he had good feelings toward her,” I said, “because he picked their wedding anniversary for the strongbox combination.”

 “I didn’t know that.”

 “Five-eleven,” I said. “May eleventh.”

 “Nice touch,” he said. “And nice job finding the keys.”

 “Oh, they’d have turned up sooner or later.”

 “Don’t bet on it,” he said. “You ever want to hide where you’ll never be found, check into a police department ware-house and stretch out on a shelf. They got Peter Stuyvesant’s wooden leg there, and you can use Boss Tweed’s wallet for a pillow.”

 That should have been the end of it.

 I’d done what I’d been hired to do. I hadn’t established who’d pulled the trigger, but that had not been my assign-ment. I’d signed on to protect the financial interests of Lisa Holtzmann, and it seemed as though I’d done that. The last act I performed on her behalf consisted of accompanying her once more to Drew’s office, where we collected the strong-box. We cabbed back to Manhattan and went to a bank on Second Avenue where she still had an account in her maiden name. She rented a safe-deposit box there and stowed the cash in it. It could stay there forever if it had to, or until someone figured out a good way to launder it.

 I had been generously paid for my time, but it wasn’t the most I’d ever earned for the least amount of work, and I don’t think I felt grossly overpaid.

 Anyway, it averages out. A week or so after I helped Lisa stash her money, I did some work for a woman who lived in a housing project in Chelsea. The job came to me through someone I knew from AA; this woman was the friend of a sister, or the sister of a friend, something like that. The woman had thrown out her live-in boyfriend when she found out he was molesting her nine-year-old daughter. The boyfriend didn’t want to stay thrown out. He’d come back twice and beaten her up. After the second time she got an or-der of protection, but that’s only useful after the fact; he’d promptly violated it, and violated the daughter while he was at it. She reported this, and the police had a warrant for the guy’s arrest, but no one knew where he was living and they weren’t about to launch a major manhunt over what the cops were inclined to categorize as a domestic disturbance.

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