"You don't want to go in there."
"I know I don't," I said. But I pushed on past Lieutenant Kahn and entered the hotel room.
I saw the young man who purported to be Matt Dent first. His body was huddled in the corner directly across the room from the entrance, crouched down and arms up as if he could protect himself from the vicious slashings of the knife. He, of course, could not.
I barely glanced at the bed, knowing what I'd find--Brad spread-eagled and cuffed at all four points. I turned away and moved back out of the door. Blood. So much blood. I was amazed that the human body could contain so much.
I was hyperventilating. Danny came out of the room and tried to fold me into his arms. I shrugged him off.
"We were supposed to meet at 7:00," I muttered. "I was with you at 7:00. If I'd been there--"
"Then it would have been both of you like that," Danny said. "It was a setup. You'd probably be dead now too if you'd made that meeting."
"Still," I said. I couldn't say anymore. I turned and fled to the elevators. I turned back around, waiting for the elevator, and saw Danny standing there, looking at me still. He had a pained look on his face. I couldn't blame him. None of this was his fault. If he'd gone too--along with me--as backup, we probably would have managed. But we didn't include him. We kept him in the dark.
Outside the entrance of the hotel, I stood leaning up against the wall and took several heavy breaths, trying to get control of myself. I was looking wildly around the street, trying to find something to focus on, something that would stop my world from spinning.
My eyes stopped on a figure standing across the street. My feet knew who it was before my brain did, and I started running toward him, dodging cars as I crossed the street. He turned to run, but stopped just long enough to not be able to melt away when I yelled the name "Wolfgang."
I cornered him in an alley. I saw the flash of light on metal as he drew a gun. But I was faster.
It was a kill shot to the gut--but not one with immediate effect.
"Who did it?" I demanded, as I crouched down over his body.
He grimaced and looked up at me with a questioning look.
"Yeah, you're going to die, and I'm sorry I can't make it more painful," I answered, brutally. "Tell me who killed those men up there."
"When I left, Bruno was there. I'd done Stan, but not the cop. I just made sure he was all ready for Bruno. I did nothing but get him strung up."
"Stan? the guy we knew as Matt Dent?"
He just groaned, but he didn't contradict me. So, I went on. "Bruno? Bruno Meister? He's here in New York?"
It was useless to wait for an answer on that, though. Wolfgang was dead. I took out my cell phone and made the necessary call, and then I was on the move again.
* * * *
It wasn't just Bruno I was after. There was something else. Brad had been working on something else. There had to be a reason why he and I had been targeted--why someone had gone to the effort to set us up with a fake brother of Marcus Dent and put us where we could be swept up and dealt with. There had to be someone in the department--someone who was threatened by our unauthorized investigation. It had to be someone who knew we were still snooping around a case that had been buried nearly two years ago. Someone who could get the case buried in the first place.
Brad had been working on this. He had to have notes hidden somewhere. And it couldn't be at his precinct office or even on his personal computers. It had to be somewhere well hidden. I knew where.
I raced back to our apartment. As soon as I opened the door, I knew that I'd been right. The place had been tossed. Everything we owned was out on the floor and had been ripped to shreds. I didn't care about that. That was good. They'd done me a favor. I could never live here again. I couldn't use anything we'd ever shared again.
I went into the kitchen, behind the island, and stooped down. The pots and pans had been pulled out of the cupboard under the island and were strewn around on the floor, but I felt around in back of that and was assured that the false backing was still there and in place. I grabbed a steak knife and started prying at the edges of the plank. I was sure Brad had had a more elegant way of getting his secret compartment open, but I didn't have the time or patience to figure it out. I had to know.
His notes were there. I quickly read through them and then picked up my cell phone and dialed a number.
"Where are you, Clint? We found a body in the alley, just as you reported. Wolfgang, did you say?"
"Yes, Lieutenant. He pulled a gun on me. I wanted him alive, but he didn't give me a choice."
"Where are you?"
"Brad's apartment. It's been ransacked, but I found what they were looking for. Lieutenant, the link. The missing link between the Meister gang and the police. It's what Brad was working on--why he got killed. It's Brad's lieutenant, Chuck Steele."
"I'm not surprised. I've thought that for some time. You got evidence?"
"Brad almost had it all together. There's enough here to pin Steele down, I think."
"Stay right there. No going after him yourself. And, Clint, I know what Brad was to you. I'm putting you on leave. You've talked about going to Montana to fish. This is the time for that. Leave the cleanup to us here. You hear me?"
"Yes, Lieutenant," I hear you. Hearing him and following his instructions were two different things. I'm sure he knew that. I'm sure he realized that my mind was already locked on tracking Bruno Meister down.
He was right about this not being the time to go after anyone, though. I was exhausted and completely played out. I sank to the floor and waited there until Lieutenant Kahn and other team members showed up, took possession of the notes Brad had compiled, and made a cursory effort to put the apartment back in order.
"Don't bother," I said weakly. "I won't stay here any longer. Just leave it." Then I turned to the lieutenant and asked, "Where's Danny?"
"He's gone home. He said you wouldn't want to see him."
The lieutenant was diplomatic enough not to pursue that any further.
Two hours later I was standing in the street outside Danny's apartment. I had been standing there for more than an hour--fighting with myself. Not knowing what I wanted, and yet knowing.
He answered the door in just his sleeping shorts. Magnificent as always.
"You want to come in?"
"Just hold me," I murmured. "Yes, I want to come in, but just hold me."
"Whatever you want," he answered.
He knew, though, that I didn't just want to be held. And he gave me what I needed most just then. I was so weak in the world of men. There was no denying that anymore. But I was a damn good detective. I couldn't remain faithful to Brad, but I sure as hell could track down his killer and make him pay.
[Note: This series continues with the already-posted Book Three, "Death on the Rhine."]