<--Younger | The first New York Magician | Older-->
I'd gotten back home around nine in the evening. I was recovering, but not fully back, so I took another hot bath. Dressed in a robe, I went into the closet and pulled down the spare Desert Eagle before replacing the false ceiling. Then I checked it over and retrieved a couple of spare magazines from the unhidden lockbox in the closet, loaded them, and put the gun and magazines into my shoulder rig, which I left on the dining room table.
Pouring a glass of Bruichladdich (in moderation, it helps the thought processes, don't let anyone ever tell you different) I told the stereo to put on some Nineties techno at low volume and settled into my favorite chair, sipping and thinking. Mario was following the Erika Shearson lead and would let me know what happened there. The Raymond angle had just taken a fairly severe turn; I'd pretty much have to wait until DiCanzo had some information for me before following up that path. Where to go in the meantime?
I picked up the phone and dialled Kharan's number. He picked up on the third ring. "Hello?"
"Hello, Michel. Are you all right?"
"Thanks, yeah, I'm fine. You and Galina?"
"We are..." he paused, snorted. "Improving."
"I just wanted to let you know first, but you can't talk about it, okay?"
"Let me know what?"
"Somebody killed Raymond. The man who had Galina when I found her."
There was a pause. "Someone? Not you?"
"I didn't do it, no. I found him."
"Why must I keep this secret?" Kharan asked.
"Because I just tipped the cops off as to where the body was. If you talk about it, and the cops find out, they're going to be real interested as to how you knew he was dead. As soon as, or if they figure out he was the one who took Galina - and if her description of him comes up, they will - then you have a really strong motive for wanting him dead."
"Yes, I see. Thank you. May I tell Galina?"
"I'd rather you not, yet."
"Then why tell me?"
"Because when we last talked, you sounded unhappy enough to be thinking about ways you could get involved. I'm hoping this will make that unnecessary. You and she don't need to be caught up in whatever the hell is going on."
"But you are," he stated.
"Yeah, I am."
"That is my fault."
"No. I got into it because of you and Galina - but I'm still in it because of what I do."
He sighed. "This is the 'other thing' you do that you have not told me about."
"Exactly." I took another drink, felt the ice cubes click against my front teeth and the whisky massage my gums.
"Do you plan on telling me about it?"
"I'm not sure. There's no pressing reason for you to know, and some pretty good ones for you not to."
"My daughter-" the rage was still there, but choked off quickly- "has become involved."
"Kharan, she may be entirely out of it. I don't know yet what's going on. If it looks like she's still caught up in whatever all this is, I promise I'll tell you first thing."
"Okay." He hesitated. "Thank you, Michel. I'm sorry to push you."
"It's your daughter. I'd push everything I could find if it was mine."
"You...have no children, though."
I was silent for a bit. "No. I don't. But if I did, I can't imagine I wouldn't be doing everything possible. Just as you are."
"Then I will wait. Thank you again, Michel. Good night."
"Night." I sat there with the dead phone for a few minutes after that, thinking and drinking. The whisky was warming in my hands, the flavors changing as the ice melted into it.
Raymond had given orders to kidnap Galina. Not, if he was to be believed, harm her, but kidnap her. So he had wanted something from her. He had indicated that his 'principal,' whoever they were, wasn't directly involved, but I didn't know if that was true or not. I had to assume that the reason Galina was important was still extant, whether or not Raymond was in the picture. The only question was whether or not anyone else knew of it. I couldn't imagine that no-one did, or Raymond wouldn't have bothered to grab her unless there was something specific about her that would have benefited him. His willingness to see her leave under my protection made that unlikely - he appeared to have wanted her to prevent something. So whatever that something was...
I stood up, finished the whisky and went to bed.
* * *
Waking up around eight-thirty, I was out of bed and into the shower before my brain woke up enough to remind me that I was skipping work at the moment. I groaned, but followed through on the shower and emerged to fix myself a bagel-based breakfast and coffee. By nine I was sitting in my kitchen, munching and sipping while waiting for the calories and caffeine to boot my head into motion. Nothing happened immediately, so I settled for finishing breakfast, washing the dishes and moving out into the living room to my armchair.
I'd been there maybe a quarter of an hour when there was a knock at the door - an authoritative double thump. I stood and moved to the foyer, peered through the peephole. An extremely unamused face looked back, framed by a dark blue collar and cap. I sighed, and opened the door. "Officer DiCanzo."
"Wibert." The cop looked at me for a moment, poker-faced, then pulled a case from under his arm and held it out. "These are yours."
I took the case. "Oh. My carriage pistols?"
He slapped a receipt on top of the case. "And yer cannon. Sign here."
"Okay. Come in. I don't have a pen." I backed up. He stepped into my apartment, removing his cap in unconscious reflex. I stifled a grin and closed the door. I moved into the dining room with him in tow, put the case down on the table and opened it. All three of my guns were there; the two carriage pistols, and the Desert Eagle resting between them. The magazine for the Desert Eagle was there, empty, as were all the weapons. I closed the case, rummaged around in a side drawer for a pen, and signed the receipt, handing it back to DiCanzo. He silently split the carbon off and handed it back to me. We looked at each other for a moment.
I sighed again. "What?"
"I saw your little scene, Wibert. Didn't like it."
I shook my head. "Wasn't my scene. I didn't like it either."
He moved to a chair and looked at me. I nodded, and we both sat. "Tell me about it," he suggested.
"Should I have a lawyer here, Ian?"
"Naw. But I need you to tell me about it. What you saw." He took out his notebook.
"Okay." I stood, went into the kitchen and came out with the last of the coffee in two mugs. I handed one to DiCanzo without asking and sat back down. "I went up the stairs. Had to climb the fencing. When I got to the top, I could smell it before I came level with the floor. When I came up, I saw this puddle of blood on the decking."
"Was the door open?"
"It wasn't locked. I opened it with my sleeve."
"I looked in. Then I had to go out and puke over the railing."
"What was where?"
"I saw the head sitting on the control board. There were...parts...all over; they didn't look right."
"Did you go in?"
"No. I left. And went home. Then I called you."
DiCanzo scribbled, and frowned. "You didn't see anything else."
"Not that looked out of place. I saw a couple of chairs in there, a telephone on the counter, board, whatever. There was a fan. Stuff like that, that I'd expect to see."
"Okay. So let me be clear here. You went up the stairs, saw a puddle of blood, and opened the door without going in, then left."
"Okay." He looked at his notes and shook his head. "I buy it. I don't like it. But I buy it."
"Why don't you like it?" I asked. I picked up the carriage pistols, identified the firing one by Dreaver's mark, and went into my office for my powder kit. Coming back, I sponged the gun clean, started the now-familiar sequence of loading it. DiCanzo watched me for a bit.
"Who was that guy?" he finally asked.
He gave me a dark look. "The vic. The dead guy."
I paused, looked at him. "Ian, is this you asking? Or again, should I have my lawyer?"
His face darkened further. "Look, Wibert, if I come at you for that, I'm not a detective. I'm a beat cop. I'm gonna start by putting bracelets on you and telling you to get your lawyer, you with me?"
I sat back. "Okay, Ian. I'll take your word on it."
"You damn better. Who was the vic?"
"He was involved, somehow, with a kidnapping."
"You partner's daughter?"
I looked at him in surprise. He grimaced. "Aw, fuck you, Wibert. Just 'cuz I'm a beat cop doesn't mean I'm an idiot."
I raised my hand. "Sorry, Ian. Yeah. He didn't snatch her. But he had her when I found her."
"Yeah. She's home. I don't know if she's going to go to you guys, I told her to do what she thought was right."
He rubbed his jaw. I resumed loading the carriage pistol. "So," he finally said, "you found her. When he had her. That's the last time you saw the vic? When was this?"
I paused while I thought about it. "Four days ago? Something like that." I nodded. "Yeah." Then I selected a cloth patch from the plastic bag they were stuffed into and fitted it to the end of the miniature ramrod.
I put the rod down and looked across the table at him. "I think you should go talk to Galina, Ian." He looked back at me, frustration visible on his face. I shook my head. "Look, you came here for the department to return my guns. If they'd actually wanted a statement from me, they'd have sent a detective. You're asking me because you want to know for you. I'm not going to tell you, because I think it would make things worse at this point. But you can talk to Galina. I told her to tell the police whatever she wanted them to know."
"Make things worse for who?" he asked grimly.
I stuffed a bullet down the barrel of the carriage pistol and rammed an oiled patch down after it to hold it in place. Then I shook some powder into the pan, closed it, and got up to hang both pistols on the wall again. "Make things worse in general. There's something going on, but I don't know what. I think that guy was part of it. But I don't know, and I'm not going to load you or you guys down with my guessing."
Ian finished his coffee and stood. "Okay. I'll talk to Sharansky and his daughter. But I'm telling you, Wibert, that it's likely we'll be back. And it won't be me."
"I understand." I saw him to the door. "Good luck."
"Thanks for the coffee." He put his cap back on and left. I shut the door behind him thoughtfully, then went back into the kitchen and opened the case again. My Desert Eagle sat between the padded cutouts where the carriage pistols had ridden; I inspected it. They'd test-fired it for ballistics, and it looked like they'd cleaned it afterwards. I stripped it down while sitting at the table thinking, making sure it was in good order, then reassembled it and dry-fired it once. The click was reassuring, so I picked up the magazine from the case, noted that it was empty, snorted and went to get a box of rounds from the closet. Reloading the empty magazine, I loaded the gun and slid it into my shoulder rig, slightly disturbed by how reassuring the weight felt, and slipped a spare loaded magazine from the closet into its pouch on the outside of the holster.
Then I put my bandolier and London Fog back on and headed downtown for the office.
I was confused by why the lobby of my office was so empty until I realized that it was Saturday. Reaching my own desk, I closed my eyes and retrieved the carriage pistol from its resting place in the air and placed it in the drawer of my credenza. That done, I checked messages - but there weren't any. Mario hadn't reported in yet. Given that, there was really only one thing I could do to move forward. With Mario handling Erika Shearson, and Raymond dead, there weren't many threads I could pull on. But I could beat the bushes of the Elder community and see if Raymond's death was causing any chatter.
I checked with Kevin again. It took a couple of hours to find him, but when I tracked him down in Brooklyn where he was skulking around the workings of Water Tunnel Three in Bushwick. He professed to have heard nothing about Raymond's demise. Hapy told me that he had felt a disturbance above the rivers, but that he hadn't any idea what it had been. I couldn't find Baba at all, nor was Malsumis anywhere to be seen. I debated going to talk to Shu, but decided that even I should probably let those waters lie for the moment. All in all, in between those rendezvous, I shook the trees and checked in with twenty or thirty less ruminant members of the Elder community, and got identical answers - none of them had known Raymond, and none of them had heard anything about his death.
Around five in the afternoon, I got a call from the NYPD, who wanted to know where the carriage pistol I'd bought was. Although I was pretty sure I could get Patrick to quash any attempt on their part to get hold if it, I thought it might be better to be cooperative. I told them where they could find it in my office, and told security at the WFC to let them in.
After hanging up, I looked around. I was in Alphabet City. I couldn't stop thinking about Shearson, Raymond and Galina. Shearson had been involved in hiring Galina. She had some form of strange power linked into her apartment through her landline phone, and unknown bodyguards her which appeared to be using the same power. Raymond had had Galina kidnapped, but (he claimed) not for his own direct gain.
The most probable answer, if he had been keeping tabs on Galina as he said, was that he'd had her snatched to keep her from meeting with Shearson. But if he hadn't intended to kill her, then it was hard to see how that would have prevented her from eventually meeting up with Shearson and possibly then being hired.
Unless, of course, Raymond hadn't known why Shearson or her sponsors wanted Galina in the first place, and his kidnapping had been a desperate attempt to figure it out.
And, naturally, I wanted to know who had killed Raymond. I had been assuming that Raymond had set up the diorama murder in the Bronx involving the bartender and what was probably his other human minion, which had taken suspicion for the bartender's disappearance off me. But I didn't know that; it might have been another party, perhaps the same one who had killed Raymond himself. If this other party wanted the whole affair tied off, then it would make sense.
I sighed and started west towards home. It took around twenty-five minutes to walk across the island. When I reached Washington Street I turned to head downtown. When I reached my block and turned right, I saw the cyclone lights immediately, but it was a few seconds before I realized that they were clustered outside my building.
I stopped, dead, and crossed the street before continuing down the block. There were two engines, a supervisor's SUV and two NYPD patrol cars. I looked up, and a row of windows at the corner of the building were discolored black and broken out. I counted up from the ground, but it only confirmed what I already knew - that was my apartment.
As I drew level with the building, I heard another car turn into the block and accelerate, stopping roughly behind the last fire engine. I looked casually and saw an anonymous late-model sedan with a police light flickering behind the front grille. A man and a woman, both in cheap civilian clothes, got out and hurried into the building. Detectives. I began to reconsider my initial intention of hurrying in as a concerned homeowner and instead eased my way behind the thin crowd of curious New Yorkers who were standing around on the other side of the street. After a few minutes, two uniformed cops came out of the building. One of them looked around, looking worried; DiCanzo. He saw me across the street but didn't say anything, just waited until I locked eyes with him.
Then he shook his head slightly, and jerked his chin once towards Washington Street.
I looked at him for a moment, then nodded as shallowly as I could. I turned and walked steadily away from my childhood, my weapons, my tools and my home, flipping my collar up as I trudged towards whatever anonymity the interior of Manhattan could offer and wondered what the hell was going on.
<--Younger | The first New York Magician | Older-->