"You're there," Danny said it as if he was surprised that Clint picked up on the phone call. "You alone and home?"
"Yes, Danny, I'm on the line and home and alone. And unless I haven't opened my eyes yet, it's still dark out. What gives?" He rolled over to a sitting position in his bed and turned on the bedside lamp. It was barely 5:00 a.m.
"Got a big one this time. Not part of the serial killings, but it's at the Christopher again. Kahn is calling out all hands. Come on down. Just follow the line of cops up to the third floor."
"Not part of the serial killings? For sure?"
"Yes, for sure. It's a judge. Not blond, not all that good looking, not in his late twenties or early thirties--but died with his pants off in a gay hotel and with a dildo shoved up his ass. The mayor's office is trying to keep the lid on, but it won't be long before it's all over town, I'm sure."
"OK, OK, I'll be there as soon as I've showered and ladled in some coffee."
"You need to be sooner, I think, if I've read Kahn's summons correctly. For the good of all of us, take the shower and forget the coffee."
"Fuck you very much. You don't want me any sooner than those two things happen. Trust me on that. But I'll be there pronto."
Clint padded into the kitchen and got the coffee pot going. Then it was straight to the toilet and the shower. His decision to go with the five-o'clock-shadow look would pay dividends today. He was showered, toweled off, his teeth brushed, dressed, and a cup of coffee gulped down in one long, well-practiced, fluid motion, and then he was in his Camaro gliding through the only-now-awakening streets to the lower Manhattan docks area.
A judge. Must be more than just any old judge for the police to be revved up this fast.
Danny had been right; he had no trouble finding the room he was looking for at the Christopher. Cops were lined up three deep inside the building, trying to look concerned, but looking more amused. Outside of the building, though, you couldn't have told what was happening. All of the cop cars must be parked on other streets, he thought, as he came in. You wouldn't know anything was happening inside the hotel. He decided that this was the way the mayor's office wanted it, so this was the way the police were playing it. Most of the cops must have been pulled out of bed and had come down in their own cars, like he did, anyway.
He got looks all the way up the stairs. The beat cops knew about the Special Homicide Unit mostly in rumor, but most of them knew it to the extent that they recognized the detectives of the squad. Although most of the cops posted up the stairs knew little about the man found dead in the hotel room overhead, they knew he was important enough to pull the police out in force. And they knew what sort of hotel this was and that guys from the Special Homicide Unit were coming in by the ones and twos.
If they hadn't known what type of hotel the Christopher was before, they certainly knew it now--from the type of patrons who had been pulled out of their rooms and gathered in the lounge off the front lobby. The male rent boys congregated to one side, looking slightly irritated at the interruption of their work--well, mostly of their income stream. In the chairs and couches in the center of the room, however, were their johns--in various stages of undress--but all uniformly looking dejected, embarrassed, and worried. Most of them were doing their best to disappear into the wallpaper, but that just wasn't working in the glare of the hotel lobby lights. These men ranged in age from their twenties to their sixties and most looked like they were slumming over from Wall Street. The guys in their twenties and thirties who had nothing to hide in their sexuality were scattered around the periphery of the room, paired up as they had been when they came into the hotel, and looking either bored or curious about what had rousted them out of a night of pleasure.
Clint took the stairs two by two and moved swiftly down the third-floor corridor to one of the hotel rooms that must have been recently refurbished in Brunelli's renovation of the place. Danny, Neil Paxton, Burton Kahn, and a couple of other guys from the squad were gathered near the door, giving room for the forensic folks to do their preliminary work.
The body was still spread-eagled on the bed, on its back, its slightly flabby arms raised toward the headboard where the wrists were cuffed. The cock was flaccid but was sheathed by a condom. As Danny had said, the pistol handle of a black, rubber dildo was sticking out of the judge's ass. It was evident from what could be seen inside the condom that the man had had an ejaculation before dying. There was a plastic bag over his head, plastered to his face, a rather obvious indication that he'd died of asphyxiation. The dead man was a bit chunky and well-pelted, but not in all that bad a condition--other than being dead--for a man who must have been in his late forties or early fifties. No, this didn't look like it was connected to their current case at all--other than the Christopher being the same place the last victim had been found. But the last victim hadn't gotten this level of attention from the police in the aftermath.
Even with the plastic plastered to his face, the man looked familiar to Clint, and Clint wondered if he was someone he knew well from some court case he'd testified in.
"It's Judge Pendleton. Charles Pendleton, of the city court," Kahn said.
"Don't know the name. Think I sort of recognize the face--what I can see of it," Clint answered.
"You just saw him the other day," Danny said. "He's the judge in the current Brunelli trial. First the witness gone and then, when the judge wouldn't stop the case, he gets wiped out. And this is Brunelli's hotel. A few too many coincidences."
"Yeah, a lot of coincidences. And more than a few too many. Like anyone with brains would murder a judge in his trial in his own hotel," Clint said, mostly under his breath, but he knew that Danny heard him.
"Enough to bring Brunelli in again, don't you think, Lieutenant?" Danny continued, talking directly to Kahn and ignoring a scowling Clint. "Enough maybe, after grilling him, to make an arrest and get him processed and away from his bodyguards."
"You don't need much evidence, do you, Danny?" Clint asked. He was already running the previous evening through his mind. He'd been with Brunelli himself--and then the blond bartender, Greg, had been brought in. How much of the night did that engage Brunelli?
"Got that right," Danny said. "Best kind of justice for a guy like that. He's making a joke of the courts. So we let him be got in a more direct way. Save the courts time and money--and," he gestured to the bed as he said it, "bent judges."
Clint turned to Kahn, resisting the urge to snap back that the judge wasn't any more bent in that direction than Danny or he himself were. "Any idea on a time of death?"
"He's still warm, the medical examiner says," Kahn answered. "Must not have been more than a couple of hours."
"And we're right here, not long after it happened?"
"Got a call--an anonymous call that we'd find someone important here. Gave the room number and all."
"Ah, an anonymous call," Clint said. The expression he flashed for both Kahn and Danny showed what he thought about that call.
"So, can we go get him and bring him in for questioning?" Danny asked, ignoring Clint's expression of disbelief.
"Yes," Kahn answered. "The mayor's office wants to pull out all stops. This is Brunelli's hotel, and he's the target of a case the judge was trying. Nothing about this looks like a simple gay assignation gone bad. The medical examiner found a needle mark and will test for a drug that might have been given him to knock him out--although the way he's tied up, the plastic bag could have gone over his head without that. Other trace material was found on him too. We don't want anyone rushing to judgment on what the judge actually was involved in. With the mayor's offices' backing we've put a priority on the testing of that. I wouldn't be surprised if they find that trace going back to Brunelli and maybe his bodyguard as well, as with the Will Trent case--and maybe we can get that while we still have Brunelli in interrogation."
"That wouldn't surprise me a bit either," Danny said, his voice full of hope.
"It wouldn't surprise me either," Clint muttered, somewhat more sardonically.
"So, you wanna go help me with the arrest?" Danny said to Clint when they pulled out into the hallway to give more room for the gurney to get in to move the body. "It might rattle his cage more to see you as a cop. It might get him to say things he wouldn't otherwise."
"Maybe at the precinct," Clint answered. "I'd like to go over the reports on the court case files--including the ones on that guy who alibied Brunelli earlier--that Greg Garrison guy. Are those on your desk?"
"Well, when I first come face to face with Brunelli, I think I should have a very good grasp of the whole background, don't you? I think that would unnerve him the most."
"Yeah, maybe you're right. See you at headquarters, with our bird in a cage. And who knows what might happen while he's caged?"
"I'd be a lot happier if you didn't keep saying things like that, Danny. That's too much taking judgment in our own hands, and that's not our job."
Clint stood and watched Danny leave. He didn't know who was closer to this, Danny or him, but, although he wanted to see justice done, he didn't want it to be a stolen justice. And it seemed to Clint that this was what Danny wanted now. He wanted to get Brunelli any way he could. But if Brunelli hadn't done this--if someone else had done it--where would the justice for them come from? And where was the satisfaction if Brunelli wasn't being punished for something he actually did? If Brunelli wasn't behind the serial killings, wouldn't they just keep on happening?
* * * *
The paperwork piled in front of Clint was confusing. It wasn't just because there was a lot of it but also because, as he read through it, he could see patterns emerging. Unfortunately, he could see more than one pattern emerging, each almost, but not quite, holding together as a pattern. And each not that much better as a definitive explanation than the next one. It was enough, however, that he wanted to slow today down--for them all to just pull back in the squad room and talk it all out. But if they did that, and all of the relevant information came out, which he felt would need to, he would be admitting to multiple infractions of their code. Not only did he have a relationship with their target, but, more important, he had kept it and other facts in this investigation to himself. He didn't even have Danny to fall back on for support. He'd kept some of it from Danny too. No one would be more angry and hurt by what Clint hadn't said than his partner would be. He'd seen this happen between partners before, and it had put them dangerously off balance. Nothing could be the same again between them, or between Clint and the rest of the squad. Nobody could fully trust anyone else to have their back anymore, and if your partner didn't have your back out on the street, you were as good as dead.
He felt it was something he had to do soon, though. The pattern here was so much more complex than they were permitting for in their rush to get Brunelli nailed.
He was about to rise and go to Burton Kahn's office when Danny entered from the corridor and, with a triumphant expression marching across his face, announced that Brunelli and his lawyer were down in the tombs, in Interview Room B.
"And the bodyguard, Jack Wilde?" Kahn asked when he came out of his office.
"Haven't nabbed him yet, but we have a search out for him," Danny said.
Paxton came in at that point and said, "A couple of the detectives have gone to pick Greg Garrison up. When we took Brunelli, he was saying he was with Garrison last night. He didn't even wait for us to ask--or to tell him more than that we were arresting him for the murder of Judge Pendleton--before he was claiming an alibi."
"OK, Neil and I will take Brunelli," Kahn said. "Danny, you and Clint can take Garrison when he comes in. You know what to ask--and what not to lead him with."
"What about the assistant D.A.?" Paxton asked. "He wants to be in on all of this. Is he on his way?"
"Couldn't get hold of him," Kahn answered. "His office doesn't know where he is. He hasn't come in yet today and should have. Anyway, I'm just as glad he's not going to be in on this interview--and don't ask me why."
Ah ha, Clint thought as he contemplated the absence of Hodgkins. A thread for that pattern maybe.
They started out by all gathering around the one-way mirror looking into Interview Room B. Kahn liked to build in these moments where just the suspect and his or her attorney were in the room alone, because what they had to say--or not to say--to each other without the cops present often was the most revealing testimony to come out of the interview. The lawyers knew it wasn't a safe place to talk, of course, but their clients often felt so bottled up and ready to explode that the lawyer couldn't contain them.
It was clear that Brunelli was unhinged--more so than Clint had ever observed before. And he was after his attorney with the repeated question, "Where is he? He should be here. I need out of here. Now. I can't go to prison. Even for an hour."
The attorney kept trying to shush him, obviously knowing they were being watched, and he eventually pulled Brunelli's ear to his mouth. What he told Brunelli made the mobster look straight at the one-way mirror and then subside in a deflated, "not-used-to-being-powerless" state. He turned his head from the wall with the one-way window, but as there was a mirror on the other wall too and cameras beyond that to provide video to the "watch" room, his frustrated, helpless expression wasn't lost on the detectives.
That didn't stop him from murmuring, "Not even for an hour. Can't be locked up for even a minute."
"He wondering where his bodyguard is?" It was Danny who asked.
"Maybe," Kahn answered. But he was looking at Clint, who was looking back at him. Their shared guess was that Brunelli had expected Assistant D.A. Henry Hodgkins to sweep in and somehow get him out of this mess.
The interrogation didn't go well with Brunelli. The mobster clammed right up and wouldn't even acknowledge who he was. He was trembling enough to please all of the cops watching, though, and to keep a big frown on his lawyer's face.
When Greg Garrison was brought in to the station, Danny and Clint agreed that Danny would take him alone--that it would be best for Clint to remain something other than a cop on the case toward all parties in the investigation for now. And Danny was delighted with what Garrison told him.
"Last night? I was tending bar until about 8:00 and then I took in a movie--sure, I have the ticket stub somewhere if you want to see it--and then I just went back to my place and sacked out. Busy day."
"He said what? Brunelli said I was with him last night. What is this about? A judged murdered?"
Garrison paled at that point and said, "No, I wasn't with Brunelli last night." And then when pressed, with two murders and a possible charge of being an accessory to murder dangling before his eyes, he owned up to not having been with Brunelli on any of the dates he'd said he was.
He was very convincing, but he made Clint's brow knit. Clint knew Garrison had been around Brunelli a couple of those evenings, including the previous night. Yet another thread for the competing patterns Clint was seeing. They all needed to fit together somehow. This was the one that made the least sense to Clint--at least for now.
Clint left the interrogation and went back to the reports on his desk that he had been reading through. There would be video of the questioning, and he could take his mind off the reports he had been reading. That's where Danny found him when he returned to the squad room from the tombs. The triumphant look Clint saw in his partner's eyes was explanation enough of how the interview with Brunelli had gone.
"He's on his way to Riker's now," Danny said as he sat down at this desk.
"Just like that?" Clint asked.
"The results on the DNA trace on the judge's body came in while Brunelli was still here. It was all the D.A. needed. Both Brunelli and his bodyguard were with the judge before he died."
"Because their DNA was found on his body? You don't find that a bit strange? That a mobster would kill a judge in his own hotel and leave his trace on him?" Clint was trying to keep his cool.
"That's what arrogance gets you. Now the countdown starts. We should do a pool among the guys on how long Brunelli lasts at Riker's. You should of seen him. I thought he was going to shit his pants when we arrested him and told him where he was going to be processed and held."
"Did he confess?" Clint asked.
"Of course not. His kind never do. He probably thinks he can wriggle out of it. His lawyer was looking a little sick too, though."
"How closely did you check out these background reports on Greg Garrison?" Clint asked, holding up some of the paper he'd taken from Danny's desk.
"I know they paint him as an unreliable witness," Danny answered, "but we're getting much more evidence than that on Garrison. And it was Brunelli who said he was with Garrison on the occasions of the murders."
"Did you see what happened to Garrison in that trail he was a witness in? That he was thrown out as a character witness because he was put on trial himself for forceful sodomy?"
"Yeah, I saw that. So?"
"Did you see that the prosecuting attorney in both Garrison's case and that of his friend was Charles Pendleton, who wasn't a judge yet?"
"No. I didn't see that." Danny was beginning to be exasperated. "What are you trying to do here, Clint? We got the guy. It isn't complicated."
"And did you read his testimony?" Clint continued as if Danny hadn't interrupted, "that he not only thought his friend was innocent of that murder, but that both he and his friend said that it was a mob hit--by Brunelli's people? And did you see that Garrison was convicted of his crime but was released early--with Charles Pendleton, now a judge, signing the release order?"
"Where is this coming from, Clint? And where are you going with it?"
"It's both coming from and going to everything here being just a little too conveniently pointing to Brunelli and Garrison's involvement with both Brunelli and Pendleton being just a bit too coincidental."
Danny stared at Clint with a face full of stubborn resistance.
"Greg Garrison lied to you about not being with Brunelli last evening, Danny. Brunelli or his bodyguard--or both of them--could have killed Pendleton this morning, but Garrison lied about not being with him last night."
"And how do you know this?"
Clint didn't answer. He just sat there and looked intently at Danny.
"It's because you were there last night too, isn't it?" Danny suddenly was close to exploding. This was what Clint was afraid of; this is why he had spiraled down so much into being too closely involved in this investigation--having to hack it alone, because he knew the reaction Danny would have to anything he did with Brunelli. And, damn it, he didn't even know the guy was Brunelli when it had gotten started.
"Garrison was at Brunelli's house on Long Island last night, Danny. Now just calm down. It isn't just that's he's lying about that. Why is he with Brunelli at all, given this old court case of his? And what's this about a Pendleton angle? There's just too much overlapping here, Danny."
"You continued to see Brunelli? And let him fuck you as recently as last night?" Danny couldn't get off that subject.
And then they both were interrupted. Neil Paxton and a few of the other detectives who had been out on assignment were streaming into the room.
"Gather around, ladies," Paxton was bellowing. "Can't rest on our laurels on getting Brunelli behind bars. We have news on the serial killings case."
"I keep telling you," Danny turned from Clint and called out to Paxton. "Brunelli's good for those too. You'll see that I'm right."
"We have this other avenue we're pursuing," Paxton retorted, "and unless we can link Brunelli to the Larnaka Star, he might not be on this pathway."
"The Larnaka Star?" Danny said. "That's half way to Bermuda now. We've got several days before we pick up on that freighter."
"Not so. You weren't there when we learned from the Bermuda end that the freighter wasn't expected there this week. The port authority belatedly told us the freighter didn't leave for Bermuda at all. It just went up to Boston to take on some cargo. It returned this morning. These guys here served the warrant and searched the ship after the crew got off. They got the crew lists and schedules we wanted. But, more important, they found what could be the kill site."
"The kill site?" Clint asked.
"Yes," Paxton said. "There's a locker down in the bowels of the freighter with a cot and cuff attachments. And some blood. We took samples, but then we got out of there. It's up to Kahn to decide where we take it from here."
As if on cue, Burton Kahn was coming out of his office. He had a serious, concerned expression on his face.
"They got him," Kahn said in a subdued voice. "He didn't even have time to get processed and to his cell. When the bus pulled into receiving at Riker's, he was already dead on the bus. Knifed."
"Brunelli?" Paxton asked.
"Yes," Kahn answered.
Clint looked into Danny's face. The look of supreme satisfaction in his face made Clint want to puke. "Just tell me that this wasn't your doing, Danny--that you didn't arrange it."
"No. I didn't have to," Danny said. "Didn't I tell you that all that needed to be done was to get him away from his people."
"I heard that," Kahn said. "And I don't want to hear any more of it. And I don't want to hear it coming back from the outside, either. What is done is done. We're not going to stop following leads on the docks serial killing investigation, either. We don't want to spook the killer, if it's someone on the freighter crew--and if it wasn't Brunelli. I don't think for a minute that it was, though. So, we'll leave the locker you found unprocessed for now. I trust you have the ship's captain buttoned down, Neil?"
"Yep. He's not going to talk to any of the crew about this."
"OK, so, divvy up the crew member names among teams and tomorrow we'll round them up and start working on them." Kahn turned to go back to his office.
"What about the Wilde guy, Brunelli's bodyguard?" Paxton asked. "Brunelli's history, but Wilde is in the wind, and his trace was on the bodies of the judge and the witness as well."
"Oh, I forgot. The call on Brunelli knocked that out of my mind," Kahn answered. "I got that call just before I got the call on Brunelli. They picked up Wilde--down in Maryland, on I-95. And, surprise, surprise, they picked up Assistant D.A. Hodgkins with him."
When he said this, Kahn was giving Clint a look.
"What's that all about?" Danny asked.
"We'll have to see," Kahn answered. "Wheels within wheels. I wouldn't be surprised to know that Brunelli had Hodgkins in his pocket. I've seen some evidence of that. But putting the two together that we picked up may mean this was all a power play to get Brunelli out of the way."
Wheels within wheels was certainly what Clint was thinking too, as he reached for his share of the sailor files Paxton was handing out.
When everyone was settling down, he looked over at Danny, who wasn't as euphoric as he had been when he heard that Brunelli was dead. Clint was afraid he was brooding again about Clint not having stopped seeing Brunelli. Not that he had had a choice, Clint thought. Brunelli had always just taken what he wanted. Somehow Clint had to make Danny understand that. It just happened the first time, when Brunelli was just a thuggish-looking guy. Clint knew that wouldn't fly with Danny though. He'd counter with "a thug with a bodyguard, so guaranteed bad news."
What, Clint wondered, would have happened if he'd told Brunelli right off the top that he was a cop? It could have gone several ways then, and not too many of them good for Clint. But he knew he was kidding himself. He, Clint, wouldn't have called it off. He wanted what Brunelli had had to give.
"Danny," Clint said in a low voice.
"I was thinking that I might come back to your place with you for tonight."
"I don't think that would be wise," Danny said in a voice that was half choke and half growl. "I know you like it rough, but I don't think I could control my temper with you tonight."
There was no more conversation between the two. And in the silence Clint's mind raced on all that was happening in these investigations and on that phrase: wheels within wheels. This wasn't even close to being over where he was concerned.