(continued from the last post)
“She’s gone,” Walsh said as he sank into the break room chair. Banks and Shraeger looked up from the file folder between them. “Hancock says she said goodnight to him around nine. When we called at 10:30, he went in and found her place empty.” Walsh glanced at the pages in front of Banks. “What’s that?”
“Zimsky’s school transcripts,” Banks said. “Kid went to college at sixteen – Texas Academy of Math and Science.”
“Mad scientist type,” Walsh said. “Great.”
“Says here he was expelled his junior year, though,” Shraeger said, scanning the file. “Forgery and counterfeiting. He was supplying all his friends with fake IDs—”
“—and using fake dollar bills in the Coke machines,” Banks said. “Enterprising little sneak.”
“Explains Ryerson’s false identity,” Walsh said. “You said Texas Academy..?”
“That’s right,” Banks said.
“Frank Lutz was from Texas,” Shraeger said. “Jesus, Walsh. How far back does this go?”
“I’m betting all the way to LaGrange,” he answered.
Banks asked, “What happened in LaGrange?”
“Yes, Jason,” Beaumont said from the doorway. “Please tell us...”
Walsh half rose from his seat, but Beaumont raised her hand. “Can you excuse us?” she said.
“I’ll uh...” Banks began.
“No, they can stay,” Walsh said. “It’s down to the four of us right now. We need to stick together.”
Beaumont folded her arms. “You knew,” she bit out.
“I did,” he answered.
Beaumont plowed over him. “You knew about Frank Lutz, about Navan...?”
“Yes,” Walsh answered.
“And Shraeger?” Beaumont asked.
Shraeger nodded. “I knew, too.”
“I didn’t,” Banks put in.
“But no one told me,” Beaumont asked, her voice growing smaller with each syllable. “Even after Frank shot me and tried to kill Henry?”
“All right, no,” Walsh snapped. “It wasn’t my place. He’s your partner, Allison. He looks up to you, more than anyone. He didn’t want you to find out.”
Beaumont dropped her gaze. Walsh got up to stand before her.
“Now you know,” he said. “But Cole’s devastated for a whole different set of reasons. That’s what we’ve gotta focus on. You can bust my ass later for what I didn’t tell you. Right now, we need to find Amy Burch.”
She swiped at the tear that slipped from her eye and said, “I already put Amy’s info on the wire. If she’s anywhere in this city, they’ll catch the bitch.”
“Allison...” Walsh said.
“Don’t.” Beaumont seemed to curl in on herself, a self-contained tornado. “Just don’t.” She rushed from the room, and Walsh, bewildered, looked from the empty doorway back to Shraeger and Banks.
“Well?” Shraeger said.
“What?” Walsh said.
“Dude,” Banks said. “Go after her.”
When he was gone, Shraeger turned to Banks. She said, “I called Eddie. Nicole’s asleep. He doesn’t want her disturbed.”
“She did spend the morning in a packing crate,” Banks said. “And Cole?”
“Amy’s place,” Shraeger said. “He’s helping the team search for a reason for why she left...” She spread her hands, at a loss for words.
“I know,” he said. “Look, I’m gonna make some coffee—”
“—I’d love some coffee,” Shraeger said.
“Great.” Banks went to the coffee maker and worried over the filters. “How long you gonna be at this?”
“Oof,” Shraeger said. “I’d like to transcribe the video, so, who knows? Anyway, we have sixteen hours before we have to pass this case to the Feds. How could I sleep?”
“Tell me about it.” He poured water into the carafe and within seconds the thick scent of coffee pressed in around them. “I’d like another crack at Zimsky, but he’s the Tombs til morning.”
“You think he’ll talk?”
“I think I can make him,” Banks gave her a tight grin.
“He hasn’t called for a lawyer?” Shraeger said. “That strike you as odd?”
Banks rubbed antibacterial gel over his hands. “The guy’s this whole sphere of weird. That’s the one thing he’s admitted.”
Shraeger scrubbed her stinging eyes. She said, “I just don’t get it. He can’t be a willing scapegoat. What is he getting from this?”
Banks joined her at the table. “This’ll sound strange, but... it seems like he’s enjoying it. Like it’s a game.”
“That can’t just be it, though. Can it? He’s facing real prison time here,” Shraeger said.
“Didn’t faze him,” Banks said. “Kept going on about friendship and belonging to something larger. It was all very Circle in the Sky, y’know?”
“That’s what the mugger told Cynthia Patronelli and Lupe Carbajal. That they were part of something larger,” Shraeger said. “What is this mystery large thing? Is it the game itself?”
“I have no idea,” Banks said. “All I know is that this sniveling geek-boy has hurt people close to us, emotionally and physically, and he’s gonna roast for it.”
Shraeger rubbed her brow. “Not us, though. Not you, not me, not Beaumont. Why? I mean, you’ve read the files, you’ve been here a while. What connects them but not us?”
“I’d say Kowalski,” Banks began. “Except for Eric. He hated the guy. We’re talking pure loathing. We didn’t work with him if we could help it.”
“But you did work with him?” Shraeger said.
“Back then wasn’t like it is now,” Banks said.
“Like, now we all collaborate on some cases. We help each other out. Back then, that was rare. But this one time, about five years ago, we did a stakeout for Kowalski. Low level crack dealer, Marcus Rothby. We wound up crawling through the sewers.” He dry-retched and shuddered. “It’s true what they say about the rats down there.”
“Did you get the guy?”
“Oh yeah, we brought him in,” Banks said. “He got off, though. Improperly catalogued evidence. Some rookie mislabeled the cache and the case was thrown out. Eric was... well, he was pissed. We did all the dirty work – and I mean that literally—”
“—Oh.” Shraeger stood up.
Banks gave her an odd look. “You all right?”
“You said five years ago?”
“Give or take a few months, yeah,” Banks said. “Hey, the coffee’s ready...”
“I’ll, uh...” Shraeger said. She gestured at the coffee maker, then hurried from the room.
Henry Cole drifted through Amy’s apartment. The uniforms who came in to sweep the place gave him plenty of room. Officer Hancock had apologized profusely when Cole had arrived, but Cole had numbly dismissed him and continued inside.
That was what he felt. Numb. On the way over, he thought he should feel angry, or mournful, or hurt. But he didn’t. Even as he moved through Amy’s third-floor walk-up, a place she’d only permitted him to enter twice in their entire year-long courtship, he felt nothing but a vague emptiness.
Probably for the best, he decided. Otherwise, the myriad of glass figurines arranged beside the computer on her dresser would have pained him. As would the stack of bridal magazines on her twin-sized bed and the veil draped like a cloud of mist over the corner of her headboard.
The remembrance of the bed in the video punctured through the layers of his malaise. Not this bed, of course, but one Cole recognized. He’d paid for Frank’s “furnished” one-bedroom on Avenue C.
The wrought iron bed was old and squeaked. Frank had made sure Cole knew it, too. The day Cole signed the lease, Frank had leapt onto the bare mattress and kicked the sagging old frame into a rust-shrieking frenzy.
“Hey, Navan!” he’d crooned. “Just like old times, ain’t it? Hey, remember that prostitute down in Ellinger, the one with the Aqua Net tattoo?”
No, Amy’s bed was decked in candy-striped sheets and a goose down duvet. But he had to wonder, had they done it here? Had they lay there together, when all the while, Cole had never touched her, had never gone beyond a reverent goodnight kiss?
Henry jumped at the sound of the voice. Officer Hancock held up a hand apologetically.
“Yes, go on,” Cole said.
“There’s evidence of a few items taken from the bathroom – toothbrush and the like,” Hancock said. “No signs of struggle or forced entry through the bathroom window. There’s access to a fire escape, which lets out to an alley. Ground unit didn’t see anyone come or go, so we think she went through the neighboring building. There are several abandoned units.”
“All right,” Cole said. “Let’s question the neighbors, see if anyone saw or heard anything.”
“Yes, sir,” Hancock said, and he left.
Cole hovered at the dresser. There was a framed photo of Amy’s Mom and her sisters, along with a menagerie of ceramic woodland creatures. There, beside the computer, stood a slender emerald figure of a cut-glass cat with a gold tiara on its head.
It was bigger than the knight they had in evidence, but it was from the same set. The Queen.
He pulled an evidence bag from his pocket and wrapped it. As he pulled his hand back, he bumped the mouse and the screen saver on the computer dissolved.
Two windows filled the screen. One was an email. Overlapping it was the video file he’d seen at the church, paused within the first few seconds of play, in the moments before they climbed into that wrought-iron bed.
Cole fought the urge to delete the email and trash the attachment. He would have, if he thought it would do her any good.
Then a terrible thought occurred to him. What if they sent the video to other people on her contact list? Everyone she cared about was listed in the address book of her phone: Her parents, her sisters, her cousins and friends.
With wooden fingers, Cole took out his phone and dialed Beaumont. It went to voicemail after the third ring.
“Allison,” he said. “It’s... Henry. I know why Amy left. They mailed the video to her. Probably got her information from her phone.” His throat tightened. He managed to say, “I pray to God they didn’t send it to anyone else, that it ends here with her and with me.”
A pervasive coldness coalesced around him. He felt untethered and adrift, cut away from the soft world that existed, he realized, only in his dreams. Frank had said some people live out in the cold. That was Cole’s reality now.
And he was relieved, because disconnected was the only way he’d get through this. It was the only way he could stay focused and do his job.
“Allison!” Jason called.
She walked with sharp, mincing steps across the parking lot, her coat pulled tight around her. He called to her again; she ignored him.
He jogged to catch her. And when he did, his heart broke at the sight of her tears.
“Hey.” He touched her arm and she whirled on him, one fist raised. He backed off a step, knowing full well she could take him if she chose to go that route. But the flash of her anger burned out as quickly as it flared, leaving her trembling, speechless, and chilled.
Jason smoothed the tears from her cheeks with his thumb. “I’m sorry,” he said.
She hugged her chest and sniffed. “Six months, Jason. It’s been six months since Henry shot Frank Lutz. All that time, you knew?”
“No,” Jason said. He tucked his hands in his pockets. “I knew before, from when Kowalski died. Casey, too. We found files in Burt’s storage unit.”
“Oh.” Allison wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “Eight months, then. Did he ask you not to tell me?”
“He didn’t,” Jason said. “But I gave him my word I’d keep his secret.”
“That he’s not even Henry Cole? That he’s someone else. Some... Navan Granger? Who is he?” Tears filled her eyes again. This time, she let them fall.
“Oh, no... don’t—”
“—It’s not that you didn’t tell me,” she said, tearing away from him. “I get that. It was Henry’s secret. He should have told me. But...”
She closed her eyes. Jason waited, gave her time. She finally drew a ragged breath and whispered, “She broke his heart.”
The words expended the last of her strength. She curled against him, her shoulders rigid as she struggled against her tears. A bitter breeze bore down on them, scattering them with stinging drops of rain. Jason brought his arms around her. He tucked her head under his chin and held her.
After a long while, Allison pressed her palm to Jason’s chest. She said, “Take me home, okay?”
Jason laced his fingers in hers. With a nod, he led her to the car, and then drove her to the diner, where she could lie in his arms and be still and quietly grieve.
Even though the hospital was well past visiting hours, Shraeger badged her way onto the floor and into the private suites where Eddie Alvarez stood guard over Nicole.
Standing guard was too light a term. Eddie was keeping vigil.
After a quick rap on the door, Eddie poked his head in the hallway.
“Casey,” he said. “You get a break in the case?”
“Maybe. I need to talk to her,” Shraeger said.
“I already told you. She’s not talking to anyone until morning. I cleared it with Sergeant Brown,” he said.
“Eddie, it’s about the Blanch case, the one she’s prosecuting.”
Alvarez pushed through the door, pulling it closed behind him. “I said no,” he told her. He planted his feet and folded his arms like a Sultan.
Shraeger sighed. “Eddie, she’s not even injured—”
“—She’s traumatized, Detective Shraeger,” Alvarez said. His chin twitched, belying his stern facade. “When she’s awake – she can’t stop crying. She was scared, and I was supposed to protect her, and I failed. When she’s asleep, she’s okay. So please go away now so I can watch over my wife.”
“Good night,” he said, and went back inside.
She stood in the hallway, her hands knotted into fists, and after a long, long moment, she convinced herself that it could wait until morning.
Besides, she had a sex tape she had to transcribe...
He snapped awake and checked his watch. It was after five, and he’d dozed off in his desk chair. He awoke to one of those rare moments when the precinct office was empty. The damp air hung on him, smelling of plaster and old drunk. It was weird, especially since he’d just heard someone say his name, and he was fairly certain it was Eric.
Leo stretched. He closed the case files fanned out on his desk. He scrubbed a hand over his stubbly cheek and decided he could go home, get a shower, grab a quick bite, and get back by the time the Tombs opened at seven.
Then he could take another crack at Zimsky, work the wedding angle, see if that ruffled the guy’s feathers.
He peeled himself from his desk chair. His neck cricked. His bones ached. He felt ridiculous. True, he hadn’t wanted to go home last night, but he also hadn’t wanted to fall asleep at his desk.
Just as Leo’s thoughts were winging to the now-six-hours-old coffee in the break room, his telephone rang.
“Banks,” he answered.
“Hey I need a favor.” Eric.
“Well, a good morning to you, too—”
“—In my locker, there’s a shirt from the cleaners,” Eric said. “I need you to bring it to me.”
Leo scratched his head. “You told Beaumont you went home last night to change.”
“Could be I lied to Beaumont,” Eric said.
“Hold up, where are you?”
“At the Belvedere.” A pause. “With Monica.”
“I thought you needed rest...”
“C’mon, man,” Eric said. “You remember my combination?”
“Of course I remember your combination,” Leo snapped. “Need anything else? Espresso, maybe? Bananas Foster?”
“What’re you talking about, I just need a shirt.”
“Fine,” Leo said.
Leo hung up the phone. “At the Belvedere with Monica,” he muttered. So much for Leo’s shower and shave. He put his phone into his pocket and headed down to the locker room.
Shraeger met Sergeant Brown on the stairs on her way into the Precinct.
“Sir, Amy Burch slipped protective custody last night after we discovered a video recording of her with Frank Lutz. We found the video in the projection booth of First Chinese Baptist, and based on our preliminary search, it looks as though it was triggered to play when the door to the booth was opened. Pretty sophisticated system, by the looks of it. It was set up by someone who knew what he was doing.”
Sergeant Brown nodded. “That all?”
“No, sir. We also know that the equipment came from the Soho Camera heist back in March. Frank Lutz was tied to that robbery as well. We have a tech unit searching the church, and Cole had a team checking out Amy Burch’s place as well. I also have a potential lead on a connection to Nicole Alvarez. Right now I’m waiting for Eddie to let me speak with her.”
He mulled this over for a moment before he said, “Okay. Take a breath.”
“You’re lead on this.”
“Me?” Shraeger balked. “Why?”
“Two reasons. One, you’re the only one not tied into this—”
“—And two, as of this moment, you’re the only one here.”
“I am?” She checked her watch. 7 a.m. “Where is everyone?”
Sergeant Brown pursed his lips.
“But we have ten hours left before we have to pass off—”
“I’m well aware,” the Sergeant said. “Get your team together, Detective Shraeger. We’re running out of time.”
Officer Maynard slotted the card key into the door and rapped lightly before opening it.
Leo stepped into the sunny vista of a standard Belvedere hotel room. The gauzy sheers diffused the sunlight into a radiant glow around a table laden with pastries, fruit, and orange juice. There sat Eric, unshaven, black-eyed, and rumpled in his trousers and undershirt. Across from him sat Monica Crumb, all crisp and petite in her lavender button-down shirt and purple cardigan. She looked smug.
“Leo!” Eric said, far more exuberant than... ever. Eric stood and gestured to him. “You know Monica. Monica, Leo.”
“Doctor Crumb,” Leo said flatly.
“Detective Banks,” she said back. He didn’t like her tone.
Leo passed the shirt to Eric, who immediately pulled it on.
“Thanks, man, I owe you,” Eric said.
Eric began to search around the room. “Hey, you seen my...?”
Seeming to read his thoughts, Dr. Crumb got up and rummaged through the bedclothes. She found his tie under the pillow and Leo watched in mute bewilderment as she stood on tiptoe to loop it around Eric’s neck. Then she busied herself with straightening his collar, adjusting the knot, and smoothing his sleeves. All the while, Leo was thinking, They’ve been together for twenty-four hours and suddenly they’re June and Ward Cleaver?
“Okay,” Eric said. He slipped on his coat, his gun, his badge. “Stay put, okay?”
“Where will I go?” Dr. Crumb deadpanned.
Eric squinted at her. She smirked. He kissed her.
“I’ll see you,” he said. He squeezed her hand before he left.
Fifty paces down the hallway, Leo finally managed words. “Well,” he said. “That was... domestic.”
They continued to the elevator. Leo stabbed the down button. “No. You know what, I’m entitled. Whole precinct’s falling apart and you’re shacking up—”
“—Look, she asked me to stay, I’m not gonna deny her. She’s the mother of my child.”
Leo stammered. “Don’t say that. You know how you sound?”
Eric gave a light shrug.
Leo punched the elevator button again. “You haven’t seen proof.”
“Will you stop? She has proof. She took tests. She confirmed with her doctor. Also, morning sickness—” Eric shuddered. “—It’s like the Exorcist revisited. Why anyone would willingly subject themselves to—”
“—I cannot believe you got her pregnant.”
The elevator doors parted and they stepped in. Eric said, “It’s my brain that’s fouled up, Leo, not my male parts.”
Leo shook himself. “I can’t talk to you.”
“All right, it’s fair,” Eric said. “I went out last night and didn’t come home. You have reason to be angry.”
“Damned right I do,” Leo groaned.
They stepped out into the lobby and then crossed out to the street. The city bustled around them, loud and bright and brash. A haze of mist hung in the air, carrying with it the mingled scents of pastries and street grease. Strangely, it made Leo hungry. Then he remembered he hadn’t eaten since lunch yesterday.
Oh, but Eric had breakfast... probably at tax payer’s expense. And Leo couldn’t really pinpoint why it was that it made him so upset.
Leo steered them to a vendor cart, where he ordered coffee and a kolache that would probably give him trichinosis. They continued in silence while Leo scarfed his pastry.
Eric said, “Hey, I ran into Hannah Kowalski last n—”
“—How long?” Leo cut in.
Leo halted. “How long do you have?”
“Really? This is information you need?”
“Yes. Tell me now. How long?”
Eric gestured with one hand. “Six months—”
“—Six months is...” Leo’s face clouded with a series of muddled emotions before he landed on, “It’s not good but—”
“—That was eight months ago,” Eric finished. “So I have... negative two months. Does this better things up for you? Hm. Does this make you happy?”
“No,” Leo said. “No, I’m not happy.”
“Yeah, well... Thing is, Monica and me,” Eric said. “Maybe it’s not the great tragedy you imagine. Maybe it’s one of the few things in my life that doesn’t feel like a dry popsicle stick jabbed in my eye—”
“—Dude,” Leo protested. He tried to stalk away, but wound up sort of listing to port.
“Leo, look at me,” Eric said.
Leo did, but with difficulty. It wasn’t easy, looking into the face of your closest friend and knowing that his days were numbered.
Eric nodded, both grateful and grave. “Let me have this, all right? Don’t... Don’t judge it. Don’t pull it apart. Don’t question. Just. Let me have this. Whatever this is.”
Anger boiled in Leo again. His stomach twisted into greasy knots and he thought he just might lose his kolache, so he stalked off, nearly bowling people over as he passed, and how could Eric ask him to just be okay with these things? Such sweeping changes needed to be pondered and prodded, and that was what Leo did. He thought things through. He was careful. He was cautious. He studied death, was appropriately fearful. But he wasn’t the one who was dying.
It wasn’t fair. Eric was younger than him. He had no warning. No predisposition. No family curse. Eric was dying and Leo was furious.
Leo turned back to find Eric standing where he’d left him, his eyes closed, his hand pressed to his forehead. The crowd parted around him, as New Yorkers always did, as if he wasn’t there at all.
Leo couldn’t leave him like that. He couldn’t leave him at all. So he returned to where Eric stood and tried to think of something wise and clever to say.
Instead, he said, “I’m sorry, okay?”
Eric opened his eyes. He lowered his hand. Leo caught a faint glimmer of relief in his expression.
Leo said, “So you spent the night with Doctor Crumb?”
“Yes I did,” Eric said.
“How’d that go?”
“It’s Monica,” Eric said.
“Yeah, don’t push it,” Leo said. He pressed his lips into a thin smile. “You ready to go a few rounds with the new ME?”
“Zimsky?” Eric asked. “What’d he do this time?”
“So many things,” Leo said, shaking his head. “It’s just better to show you.”
Walsh met Shraeger at the front entrance of Memorial Hospital.
“How’s Beaumont?” she asked as they entered the building.
“Not good,” Walsh said. “She and Cole are checking with Amy’s parents. No one’s heard from her. Tech unit says that the moment Cole used the key to the projection room, the computer emailed copies of the video to Amy’s contact list. It was sent out as a blind CC, too, so it’s fair to assume Blanch knows we found the video. It’s uh,” Walsh scrubbed his forehead. “It’s a nightmare.”
They showed their badges at Admission and took the elevator to the fourth floor.
“Walsh,” Shraeger said as they entered the floor bound for Nicole Alvarez’ room. “I’ve been thinking about why these guys are targeting us.”
“Kowalski got Ryerson the job at Attica, right?”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“So then, why would Ryerson work with Noel Blanch against Kowalski?” Shraeger asked.
“Maybe Blanch had something over Ryerson?” Walsh suggested.
“Or... what if Blanch thinks we’re all like Kowalski?” Shraeger said.
“Crooked, you mean,” Walsh said.
“Right,” she said. “I talked with Banks last night about a case he and Delahoy worked with Kowalski five years ago – a stakeout for a guy named Rothby—”
“—Yeah, I remember that,” Walsh said. “Guy got off on a technicality.”
Shraeger lowered her voice. “Think about it. From an outsider’s perspective... Banks and Delahoy helped Kowalski with the botched investigation that let Rothby off in the first place. You were Kowalski’s partner with your own ties to Blanch. And Cole’s past is so checkered he might as well be a NASCAR driver. What if Blanch thinks we’re all crooked cops?”
“And he wants to take us all down,” Walsh said.
Shraeger nodded. “Maybe Ryerson even knew enough about Kowalski and Cole to corroborate Blanch’s suspicions...”
“...And Blanch persuaded Ryerson to help him out. It’s possible,” Walsh said. “But it doesn’t help us find him.”
“Maybe it does,” she said. They stopped in the hall across from Nicole’s room. “All this time, we’ve been on the defensive. Blanch moves, we react. But what if we turn the tables, set up a play of our own?”
Walsh frowned. “Would if we could, Case. How’re we gonna draw them out?”
Shraeger folded her arms. “We have Zimsky,” she said.
Walsh looked doubtful. “Yeah... but we have to figure Zimsky’s right where Blanch wants him. Zimsky could’ve run when we cut him loose, but he stayed.”
“Exactly,” Shraeger said. “Blanch wants Zimsky near the precinct. So he can hear what our plays are and report back.”
“Zimsky’s a watcher,” Walsh said. “So. We set up our meeting with Rothby, then let it slip to Zimsky—”
“—Who can let it slip to one of our many recidivists,” Shraeger said.
“And then we stage a play of our own,” Walsh said. “So that’s what we’re here for...”
Shraeger nodded again. “After talking with Banks last night, I had a thought. What if Rothby worked for Noel Blanch? And, just maybe, Rothby worked an outside deal with Kowalski. Rothby got off and Kowalski used the evidence to frame Noel Blanch.”
“That’s a stretch,” Walsh said. “But the time frame fits. Maybe Kowalski traded up the food chain to get to Noel.”
“Exactly. And if Nicole has a witness that can convict Jeff Blanch, maybe it’s the same guy who sold out Noel Blanch five years ago,” Shraeger said.
“Markus Rothby,” Walsh said, nodding his agreement.
Shraeger grinned, her hand poised to knock on Nicole’s door. “Henceforth known as the bait,” she said.
“Allison,” Cole said. “Are you gonna talk to me, ever?”
She opened the door to the church and stepped from the stinging brightness of the morning into the solemn semi-dark of the chapel. The place looked different by daylight, shabbier and less sinister. The tech team was busy photographing and cataloguing the camera equipment from the projection booth, and at the altar, Reverend Chin was speaking with Ms. Anjum and a uniformed officer about what had happened the night before.
Beaumont stared up at her partner. His face seemed so open and honest. Even with all he’d lost in the last twelve hours, he still looked hopeful, almost serene. But it was a lie. He was hiding behind that tranquil facade, and she had to wonder what kind of person could so easily slip behind that mask when everything was falling down around him.
“I haven’t decided,” she said.
The uniformed officer motioned, and he and Reverend Chin came over to meet them.
The officer said, “Rev. Chin says there was a break-in eight months ago. They didn’t report it because all that was taken was a small collection box and a crate of donated toys.”
“Donated toys?” Beaumont asked.
“Yes,” Rev. Chin said. “Stuffed animals, games. We don’t keep an inventory because we give most away quite quickly. Anyway, a few days later your friend came in and volunteered to change the locks for us, free of charge.”
“My friend,” Cole stated flatly.
“Yes, the one who came to see you and Amy that first day we met to speak about your wedding.” Reverend Chin bowed his head. “I am very sorry about what happened...”
Cole shook his head. “Frank changed the locks,” he said. “Frank – my friend.”
“It’s all right, Reverend,” Beaumont said. “We thank you for your time.” She guided Cole back outside.
They were halfway back to the precinct when Cole began to mutter, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word. I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.”
Beaumont gripped his arm and swung him to face her. “Stop it,” she hissed. “Just stop.”
“This is my fault,” Cole said. “I brought this upon us. I’m being punished for the wickedness of my youth and the lies of my present life.”
“You haven’t brought this on us,” Beaumont spat. “They are the bad guys—”
“—And I was Frank’s protégé,” Cole interrupted. “He was trying to sway me to his side.”
She took his shoulders and gave him a good shake. “You didn’t take his side. Now his friends are out to hurt you, to hurt us because of that choice. But you have friends, too. Henry.”
Cole’s mask of calm crumpled for the barest second before he straightened again. “Thank you, Allison,” he said.
She nodded and let him go. When they started walking again, she said, “I don’t know how you’re doing this. How you can have suffered so much loss and still be standing and talking and not falling apart.”
“Sometimes we have to fall apart so we can be remade,” Cole said.
“Oh, Henry...” Beaumont smiled. “You really believe that crap?”
“Yes,” he said. “Yes I do.”
Beaumont sighed. “I’m so sorry. About Amy—”
“—She doesn’t even know what she’s lost.”
Cole blinked to clear his eyes.
“Let’s go catch these jerks, huh?” Beaumont said.
He nodded and followed her into the precinct.
“Hey, hey, the gang’s all here,” Walsh said when Cole and Beaumont entered the briefing room. He and Shraeger had shoved two hexagonal tables together so that they could all sit and puzzle over the various pieces of the case.
Banks and Delahoy spread the Zimsky files between them. They argued quietly and incessantly over what interrogation tack to take when Zimsky returned from the Tombs.
Cole added the cut-glass chess piece from Amy’s apartment to the list of catalogued evidence. He and Beaumont joined the group, and for a moment, they simply looked at each other, doing what they did best: Sizing people up.
Yeah, Walsh thought. They didn’t look so good.
“All right,” Shraeger said, distributing copies of a new document around the table. “This is our plan. Read it once through, decide whether you’re on board, and then we’re shredding these pages.”
Delahoy skimmed the first page, flipped to the second, and then blew a thin stream of air from his lips. “You realize this is insane, no?”
Banks looked up from his packet as well. “And that all these connections are circumstantial.”
“Unless we can draw them out. We’ve got connections for Zimsky, but we’re still short on bringing this home to Noel Blanch,” Walsh said. “Which is what this is all about.”
“And if we can’t,” Shraeger added. “We lose and the FBI picks up where we left off. We’re running out of options...”
Delahoy scrubbed his forehead. “Forced into a corner, you mean.”
Banks nudged him. “C’mon, man,” he whispered.
“No, it’s uh—it’s risky,” Delahoy said, massaging his scalp. “Clandestine meeting in a parking garage, we’re talking poor lighting, too many exits, not enough ground coverage... But hey, it’s the job, right?” He uttered a nervous laugh. “No, no, it’s fine. Continue.”
“Oh...kay?” Shraeger cast a worried look at Banks. He grimaced in response, and she decided to carry on. “We need to round up some of our regulars, get them in the hallways and in holding. We don’t want to use CIs, though, because we have to figure Zimsky’s already got a tap into that network.”
“I’ve got a few leads there,” Beaumont said. “Couple of newbie thugs who owe us a thing or two.”
“Good,” Walsh said.
Cole, who until then had been reading his briefing packet, lifted his hand. When Shraeger acknowledged him, he asked, “You watched the tape?”
Shraeger’s face colored. “Uh. Yes,” she stammered. “I, uh, transcribed the whole thing.”
“Did she know?” Cole asked.
“About Blanch or Zimsky or any of this? Was she connected to this?” Cole asked.
Shraeger shook her head. “There’s no indication. It seems—” She cleared her throat. “—It seems that Frank was a – a wild oats, final fling kind of deal for her. He seduced her, Cole. And he recorded it. I don’t think she knew anything.”
“She was a pawn,” Delahoy said.
“Jesus,” Banks said.
Officer Donovan rapped on the door and Walsh motioned him inside.
“Your guy’s up from the Tombs,” Donovan said. “I put him in Interview Five.”
“Thanks,” Banks said, and they collected their files.
Delahoy passed the briefing packets to Shraeger. “Shred ’em,” he said.
“Eight hours, guys,” Walsh reminded them.
Delahoy acknowledged this with a dismissive wave, and he and Banks left.
“Okay,” Walsh said. “We all understand what’s at stake here, right? We all know our roles in this?”
Beaumont nodded. A few seconds later, Cole did as well.
“All right, then,” Shraeger said. “Let’s make our move.”
END OF PART FOUR