<--Younger | The first New York Magician | Older-->
Patrick was dead.
I'd seen his body very briefly. When the cop came out of the interrogation room and called for a medic, I had surged up from the floor, heedless of Polvani's pistol. Fortunately for me, she had seen that I wasn't even looking at her, and held her fire. I made it over across the bullpen, blundering around furniture that I couldn't see through eyes gone blurry, and moved to the door. By that time, two cops had grabbed me. I kept moving, dragging them along, and by hooking my right forearm around the doorframe managed to pull myself forward enough to see inside.
Patrick was huddled on the floor where I'd left him. My London Fog was still draped over his form. There were at least two milky-white fracture circles on the grille-covered window where bullets had hit. Around Patrick's head was a pool of blood. I couldn't see clearly, because the interrogation room table was in the way, and before I could move into the room the (now three) cops holding me wrestled me bodily back out of the doorway and along the wall. I fought them, screaming something incoherent while struggling to get back into the room, but there were too many of them and they were too well practiced in restraining irrational people. As I was pulled away from the room, I could see Erika Shearson's legs just inside the door. She had fallen left and lay inside the room. One of her shoes had come off, and she was wearing nylon stockings.
I was borne to the floor still screaming, and I felt a plastic zip-tie restraint close around my wrists, held together behind my back by the struggling police. The plastic tugged sharply at my hands; the sides of the strip of polymer cut into the outsides of my wrists and I sagged backwards, taken down both by the weight of the cops on me and by one or more of them kicking the backs of my knees. I think I was still screaming something, but at that point someone reached in and jabbed me with something. I turned my head to see a paramedic backing away with a syringe, and before I could react further the world went dark and I went away.
* * *
When I woke, I was lying on my back. Many points on my body hurt, my mouth and throat were dry, and my eyes gummed shut. I concentrated on trying to work up some saliva so as not to begin coughing, and managed by chewing my tongue slightly. After that, I blinked several times until the blur that I could see resolved into flourescent light ceiling fixtures. Although I figured it probably wasn't a good idea, I tried to roll over preparatory to sitting up, but nothing happened.
It took me around a minute to realize that this was because I was strapped down. Lifting my head showed me that I was strapped to a gurney with its built-in velcro restraints. Looking around showed me an interrogation room, the one with the smashed mirror. I tried to ignore the pounding headache that was beginning to make itself known. Part of this was chemically induced, I was sure, from whatever I'd been sedated with, but several of the cops had gotten in fairly good hits while I was being restrained. The headache and a soberer look back at the situation made it difficult for me to blame any of them, since I didn't think I hurt enough for any of those hits to have been intended to harm.
There was a lot of random noises outside the door, muffled by its soundproofing. People talking and moving around, as well as what sounded like either equipment or furniture moving. The window was still lit by the day outside, although it was still too clouded and grimy to see anything. Deciding I wasn't going anywhere, I closed my eyes and tried to remain as still as possible in supplication to the headache god. I couldn't tell if it was working.
Some minutes later, I heard the door open. I turned my head and opened one eye to see Polvani leaning into the room. She saw me move, nodded, and came all the way in, shutting the door behind her against the noise. "Wibert."
"Det..." I coughed. "Detective. Could you please take these off so I could sit up?"
She moved to the gurney and undid the restraints around my shins, then those around my forearms. I waited until she backed away from the gurney, because she looked like she was in no mood for sudden moves or surprises, and then slowly rolled to my right and moved my legs over the edge. That swung me into a mostly-upright position. I slid forward, felt my feet hit the floor, and staggered as my balance betrayed me. Polvani grabbed my arm and helped me to a chair, where I sank down. I looked up at her, squinting against the light. "Could I have some water?"
She looked at me expressionlessly for a moment, then nodded before crunching across the broken glass over to the smashed mirror window and reaching through. She came back with a pint plastic bottle of spring water, which she handed over before shoving the gurney into the corner, righting another chair and sitting down facing me. I fumbled the bottle open and took a swig, sluicing my mouth clean. Since I couldn't spit in here, I forced the stale mouthful down and took several more drinks, making myself cap the bottle when I'd drunk half of it.
"Detective." I figured I'd let her chart a course. I was trying to cudgel my brain up to speed. I'd never dealt with the cops directly involved in what DiCanzo called 'treyf', or obvious uses of Power, before.
"My partner's dead, Wibert." She was, I noticed, fiddling with the snap on her shoulder holster.
"I'm sorry, Detective. So's my friend. He was also my lawyer."
She cocked her head. I noted no tear tracks, only anger lines. I wasn't sure if they were directed at me, but decided it probably didn't make much difference. "You knew the shooter."
"That's what you want to ask me about? Whether I knew the woman who killed Patrick?"
"That's what I'm asking you about right now." Her eyes hardened noticeably for a bit, and she glared at me. I looked back at her, and then slowly leaned back in the chair, not speaking, nor taking my eyes off her. She nodded almost imperceptibly and some of the steel left her gaze.
"I wasn't acquainted with her, no. I'd never met her."
"But you knew who she was. Why?"
"Detective..." I hesitated. She made a 'continue' gesture. "Detective, I'm trying to determine if I should have counsel present."
"Wibert, if there's one thing in the world I'm sure of, it's that you didn't kill her, and you didn't kill your lawyer. In fact, I have at least six cops who, together, can pretty much account for all the time you spent in the bullpen, and other than some funny things we're going to have to talk about, everyone is pretty much agreed none of the bodies we have sitting outside are your doing." She forced herself to stop toying with her holster and crossed her arms, trying to force relaxation by conscious effort.
I thought about that. I had certainly shot something, something that looked like a person, in the bullpen. Before leading Patrick out of the observation room on the other side of that window I'd smashed, I'd fired at one of the gray men and seen my rounds pass through his/its clothing. It had gone down, disrupted by the cast I'd put on the bullets. But Polvani was telling me they had no body outside with my name on it, which likely meant that the gray men had vanished when they were taken down either by my rounds or, in the cops' case, likely by Tasers. "So I'm not being charged with anything?"
"I'm not sure yet."
"If you're not sure, then I'm not sure I want to talk to you without a lawyer."
Her right fist clenched, probably without her noticing, but she relaxed it and waited a few seconds before speaking. "Wibert, I have three dead cops. I have a dead suspect, killed by police officers, and I have a dead member of the New York State Bar, in good standing, who was supposed to be under our protection. I have no idea why he was shot, nor do I know why the shooter did it - or even how she got in here. I'm trying to figure these things out." She paused to rub her temples, then dropped her hand and looked back up at me. "What do you want?"
"I..." I broke off. I couldn't go home, because my home was burnt. "I'd like to go somewhere and sleep for half a day, to be honest. I don't know where, right now."
"Right. Your house is burned out. There are too fucking many weird things going on with you, Wibert. I want to figure out why."
I thought about what to tell her. "Have you spoken to Officer DiCanzo?"
She looked at me for a moment. "Why?"
"I'm trying to decide how to help you, Polvani. Humor me."
"I've spoken to him about his going to your apartment, and about the body on the bridge."
"What else should I be talking to him about, Wibert?"
I took a moment to rub my own temples. "That's...not something I can tell you. Maybe he can. Look. Ask me questions. I'll answer whatever I can."
"Why wouldn't you be able to answer?"
"For one thing, Detective, I might not know the answer. For another, it might be one of those questions that makes me want my lawyer. I'm telling you I'm willing to answer what questions I can, truthfully of course, without pressing for counsel, if you can accept those limits."
"Limits aren't yours to set, Wibert."
"This one is. I'm telling you that if you don't push, I won't insist on counsel, but I do not waive my right to it." She regarded me for a few moments. I waved around the room. "I notice you didn't bring anyone else in with you."
Anger sparked for a second on her features. "My partner-"
"That's not what I meant, Polvani. I mean, no witnesses. I know the gear in the next room isn't working, because I smashed it on the way out. You don't have a notebook out. So what's the purpose of this?"
We looked at each other for a bit. Then she nodded, acquiescing. "I'm trying to figure this out, Wibert, and I want your help." She held my eyes while saying it.
I nodded without breaking our gazes apart. "Okay then. Ask, like I said." I uncapped the water, took another sip.
"Who was the woman, Wibert?"
"Don't you guys know?" I asked, surprised.
"I want to know what you know, Wibert. Give."
"Okay. I knew her as Erika Shearson. She was an employee of the Parks Department. She lived on Seventeenth."
"Why did you know who she was?"
"You know about my partner's daughter being abducted. Shearson had been scheduled to interview her, and had told her father she never showed. Interview her for a job before she disappeared, I mean."
Polvani's features gave me nothing, reminding me that I was an amateur at this. Polvani was a professional. Patrick (damn it, Patrick) had been a professional. "Why would she want to kill your lawyer?"
"I have no idea, Detective."
"Okay then, why would she want to kill you?"
"Patrick," Polvani said patiently, "was lying against the back wall of the room, and he was covered with your trenchcoat. Which, I might add, seems to be bulletproof, because had he not been hit in the back of the head with one round, he probably would have survived." I turned away and held back a snarl and tears. Polvani gave me time.
"I have no idea why she would want to kill me either, Detective. Like I said, I'd never spoken with her. Nor been introduced, nor met her." Thought frantically as I spoke, but those statements were, indeed true. If not the whole truth. "I knew her name because my partner had given it to me, and I verified who she was by visiting her office. They didn't let me in to see her."
"How do you know where she lived?"
"I followed her home from work. I had a description of her, and I made sure it was her by matching her name to a mailbox in her building."
Polvani nodded. "Okay. Is it possible she saw you following her and didn't let on?"
"Sure it's possible. Would that be enough for her to walk into a police station during a riot and try to kill me? I have no idea. Maybe she was crazy."
"Is your coat bulletproof, by the way?"
I hesitated, a bit whipsawed by the topic change. "Yes. I paid a lot of money for it." Again, both true, but...
"I bet. Okay. Let's back up. You were here, with your lawyer, to talk to me and Massengill about the hand they found in your fridge."
"Yes. I'd never seen it. Still haven't, because I haven't been home since it was placed there. I haven't been home since I saw DiCanzo in my place."
There was a knock on the door. Polvani got up, keeping her eyes on me, and opened it a crack. Someone outside spoke to her, with some urgency in his voice, and I heard the murmur of her reply. She closed the door and came back in. "Wibert, if I let you go, and tell you not to leave town, where will you go?"
"I'll find a hotel."
"Are you willing to have a uniform go with you and verify where you're staying? And will you promise me you'll stay there until I call you?"
"I promise you I won't leave town. I can't promise you I'll stay in a hotel room until you call me, but I'll give you my phone number, and I promise I won't check out of the hotel without informing you." My traitor body, hearing a hint of possible sleep and maybe even a hot bath, started sending increasingly desperate signals of exhaustion.
"Okay, I'll take that. We're keeping your cannon, downstairs."
"I figured that, Detective."
"Let me ask you one more thing. Are you armed? Right now?"
"I presumed you'd searched me."
"Answer me," she said, annoyed.
"No, Detective, I'm not armed right now. There are some weapons in my apartment, or there were, which I presume you guys have. There's a single black powder pistol at my office, and I give you my word I won't go there without telling you, or have anyone get it for me. I have a Leatherman tool, which has a blade, somewhere, but that's it."
"I'm asking you this," she said, standing and speaking carefully, "because I want you to understand that your weapons are being treated as evidence."
Interesting. She hadn't said anything about my license. "I understand, Detective."
"Okay." She turned, waving me to follow, and opened the door. A young cop turned, having been apparently standing guard over it. She gestured to me for his benefit. "Wollensky, this is Mr. Wibert. He's going to check in to a hotel, his choice. I want you to take him where he wants to go, and then I want you to come back and tell me exactly where he is."
"Should I stick with him, Detective?" asked Wollensky, eyeing me. I tried to look harmless.
"No. He's told me he understands he's not to leave town. Just tell me where he hangs his hat." She turned to me. "Your lawyer's body is at the coroner's. We'll be contacting his firm and family for instructions. Your coat is evidence."
I nodded. Wollensky gestured, and I followed him out of the bullpen. We passed several areas with crime scene tape around them, and there were lights set up around piles of clothing where I presumed the gray men had been disrupted. Chalk spray highlighted several bullet scars in the walls and floor which each had a label stuck next to them. Photographers were still working around the room. I didn't look across the bullpen, not wanting to see where Patrick had died; we moved down the staircase and out onto the street.
As we came through the doors, I saw a thin crowd of what looked like curious New Yorkers. Made sense; there had been gunfire inside the police station, and it had stopped; people would wonder what the hell was going on. Wollensky indicated a patrol car several slots up to the left, and I turned towards it. As I did, glancing around me, my gaze passed across the crowd on the other side of the street, behind a police cordon, and I saw that one of them was Mario. He was staring at me. I didn't acknowledge him, but got into the back of the car. Wollensky shut the door behind me, but didn't lock it, and got in front. "Where to, Mr. Wibert?"
I thought about it, then pulled out my wallet to make sure I had credit cards and ID (and, although I didn't want him to know, that they matched my real name, since he was going to check my room). I had a stack of cash, and I remembered that I'd gone with Patrick to get my original wallet, so there was no need to expose my mailbox drop to Wollensky. "Uh, the Sheraton Towers, Seventh and Fifty-Third?"
"Okay." He pulled out, and I leaned back against the seat, letting my eyes close, trying not to think about the friend I'd lost.
<--Younger | The first New York Magician | Older-->