It was shortly after 7 pm when Steve put his key in the lock of his apartment door. He was just about to go in when he heard his name called.
“Oh, Steven, Steven!”
He looked to his right. “Mrs. Neidermaier, how are you doing?”
“Oh, I’m doing just fine, just fine,” his elderly neighbour said brightly from her doorway. “How is that very nice partner of yours feeling? Is he getting better?”
“Yes, he is. He’s doing great.”
“Oh, that’s so good to hear.”
“Yes, I’ll tell him you asked about him.” Steve took a step into his apartment then stopped. Frowning, he took a step back and looked in her direction again. “Mrs. Neidermaier!”
She poked her head back out the door. “Yes?”
“Um, did you happen to come by last week and give Mike a newspaper?”
“The one with that article about you? Yes, I most certainly did. You know, he didn’t seem to know anything about it but he told me not to worry about you, that everything was going to be fine.”
With a dry chuckle, Steve smiled smugly. “Thank you, Mrs. Neidermaier, you’ve helped me solve a little mystery.”
“Oh,” she said, somewhat confused, “oh, well, I’m glad I could help. You have a good evening now.” She stepped back into her apartment and closed the door.
Steve tossed his keys onto the side table and, chuckling softly, took the stairs to the second floor two at a time. Mike, in his pajamas and robe, his left arm strapped up, was lying on the bed, reading. He looked over his glasses as Steve entered the room.
“You’re later than you thought. How’d it go?”
“Okay. They’re pretty sure Greenspan won’t be filing charges, he’s just sabre-rattling. But still… I really wish we could find those guns.”
Mike put the book down. “I’ll be happy when all this is over once and for all. So, what are we gonna do for dinner?”
“I was thinking of ordering Chinese. That sound okay?”
Steve wheeled around to leave then very deliberately turned back, almost as an afterthought. “By the way,” he began with barely contained glee, “I think I might have figured out where you got that newspaper from?”
“Really?” Mike took off his glasses. “Enlighten me.”
“Well, it did take me quite awhile, as you’re well aware, but in the end, it was just too obvious.”
“Really?” Mike said again.
With a wicked grin, Steve crossed to the door. “I think she has a crush on you,” he teased as he left the room. Mike’s laughter followed him down the stairs.
# # # # #
Steve finished filling the plate up with chop suey and chow mein and put it on the tray table on the bed in front of Mike, who picked up the chopsticks. “Thanks. This looks good.”
“Silver Dragon is always good,” Steve agreed as he filled his own plate.
“So,” Mike said, clearing his throat, “I want you to take another Valium tonight, alright? One night without a nightmare doesn’t mean anything and you know that, right?”
Steve took a deep breath. “Yeah, I know.”
“So, do me a favour, will you?” Mike continued. “I can’t sleep sitting up with you tonight and I don’t want you sleeping alone, so… for me, could you bring some of the couch cushions up here and sleep on the floor so I can keep an eye on you?”
Steve was half-tempted to object, but he knew how important it was to the older man to get back into guardian-mode. With a self-conscious smile, he nodded in confirmation as he sat and put his plate on his knees.
“We’re quite the pair, aren’t we?” Mike said with a wry laugh.
# # # # #
Steve tiptoed around the room, getting ready for work, trying not to disturb his still sleeping partner. The Valium had done its work again and he’d had a nightmare-free night and a good solid sleep. He wasn’t sure about Mike though, and fact that the older man was still dead to the world worried him a bit.
He left the room and went down to the kitchen, filling and plugging in the percolator. He glanced at the clock on the stove – 10:15. He was running late, but wanted to make sure there was coffee ready for Mike whenever he woke up. He’d grab something to eat on the way to Bryant Street.
He was rolling down his sleeves and doing up the cuff buttons when he heard a soft knock on his front door. He opened to door to find Mrs. Neidermaier standing there, newspaper in hand, and he had to stifle a chuckle.
“Good morning, Steven,” she said brightly, a twinkle in her eyes. “I’m just delivering the paper for your partner. I usually just leave it in your mailbox,” she leaned in and whispered conspiratorially, “but I saw you were still home and thought I’d just give it to you.” With that, she put the paper in his hand, turned and walked back to her apartment, leaving him standing in the doorway, not having uttered a word.
# # # # #
Haseejian tossed a report onto the desk. “Have a look at this,” he said eagerly.
Steve looked from the sheet of paper up into his colleague’s smiling face. “What is it?”
“It just might be the break we’ve been looking for.” He emphasized his point by tapping his finger on the report as he sat on the corner of the desk. “Some bright patrolman over in Traffic decided to check out a hunch. We’d gone through all the parking tickets and moving violations issued on that Monday, and hadn’t come up with anything to do with that Annenberg kid or the other two.
“But this young patrolman, he decided to do a little detective work – I think this guy deserves a promotion – and he checked out if there were any vehicles registered in Annenberg’s mother’s maiden name. And…bingo!”
Haseejian pointed to a name on the report. “A 1972 cherry red Pontiac Trans Am. It was parked too close to a hydrant. Twelve blocks from Bryant Street.”
Haseejian smiled. “So, as of this morning, we have a bunch of guys out looking in every nook, cranny and manhole for those damn guns, from here to there, and four blocks in all directions. If those guns are out there, we’ll find ‘em.”
# # # # #
It was late afternoon in the Homicide bureau and Steve was working on some paperwork at his desk when the phone in Mike’s empty office rang. With a tiny pang of melancholy, he entered the room and sat at his partner’s desk, picking up the receiver.
“Homicide, Stone’s office,” he announced crisply.
“Steve, I’m glad you answered,” came Gerry O’Brien’s clipped and hurried voice. “Listen, ah, I know it’s getting late in the day, but I was wondering if you could find your way over to my office. There’s, ah, there’s something I want to let you know about.”
“Okay,” Steve answered slowly, a little nonplussed by the district attorney’s abnormally hesitant manner. “I’ll get over there as soon as I can.”
“Great.” O’Brien hung up without a parting salutation, another aberration that Steve found disconcerting. He actually looked at the receiver as he hung it up, then crossed back to his desk, put his paperwork away, snagged his jacket and left.
# # # # #
“Come in,” O’Brien called in answer to the knock and Steve opened the office door. “Steve, thanks for coming. You know Eric Karlson, right?”
“Yeah, of course.” Steve shook the young ADA’s hand as he entered the office.
“Steve,” acknowledged Karlson, half-standing. “Good to see you.”
“Ah, Steve, could you shut the door please,” O’Brien asked, and as the cop did so, he opened his desk drawer, took out the small tape recorder and placed it on his desk.
Steve turned from the door and took a seat beside Karlson across the desk from O’Brien. He looked quizzically at the tape recorder but held his tongue.
“Steve, something has fallen into our laps, metaphorically speaking of course, that could have a huge impact on the Annenberg…situation. It has the potential to be very explosive, if we use it in the right way, but also very controversial and incendiary.”
At Steve’s apprehensive stare, the district attorney paused, as if deciding to try a different tack. “Let me backtrack a minute. A cassette tape came into my possession recently that has presented us with an ethical dilemna. If we choose to use it, and legally we have no qualms about doing so - its provenance, so to speak, is without question – then we have to be absolutely sure that we do so in the strictest confidence. Very few people will know if we do, but I want to make sure that all the parties that are involved in this…situation…are aware of the possible consequences if we decide to go ahead and use it.”
Steve leaned back and took a deep breath. “Gerry, what the hell is going on?” he asked, glancing at Karlson.
O’ Brien sighed and shook his head slightly. “Steve, how well do you know Morris Greenspan?”
“Personally, I don’t know him at all. I know he’s Annenberg’s lawyer and he’s one of the best, but that’s it.”
“I’ve known Morris for over ten years,” said O’Brien amicably. “He’s not only a great lawyer, he’s a great guy. I sometimes question his choice of clients, but hey, he’s the one with the million dollar house and chauffeur-driven Mercedes, so who am I to question his ethics, right?” He chuckled dryly then pushed the tape recorder closer to Steve.
“Walter Annenberg Junior belongs to a lot of private clubs, one of which is the Bohemian Club. There are some members of that club, who also happen to have a strong moral code and a conscience, who are, shall I say, less than happy to have a fellow member connected with the ‘tragedy’ that occurred last month.
“It seems that our Mr. Annenberg arrogantly believes that his views and his values are shared by his fellow club members, and maybe they are by some …but not all.”
O’Brien paused, looking down at his desk and carefully choosing his next words. “What you are going to hear doesn’t leave this room if and until we decide how we are going to use it, if we use it at all. And that will be a decision we will come to as a group, unanimously.”
O’Brien pressed the play button on the tape recorder and sat back. The sound was slightly muffled and there was a lot of background noise of what sounded like ice cubes tinkling in glasses and other conversations, but the loudest voice was quite audible and intelligible.
There was a loud and belligerent laugh.
“That’s Annenberg,” said O’Brien, pointing at the tape recorder.
The recording continued. “Yeah, so they’ve got my kids ass in a sling right now, but not for long. That Jew lawyer of mine, he’s as sharp as they come. That’s why you always hire a Jew lawyer right?” Another grating belly laugh. “A Jew lawyer, a Chink to do your laundry, a Kraut to fix your car, and a bean-eater to take care of your lawn, right?” More raucous laughter. “Oh yeah, I almost forgot, a darkie to answer your front door!” The laughter reached an uncontrolled, terrifying pitch.
O’Brien snapped the recorder off. The silence in the small office was deafening.
Steve had a hand over his mouth. Slowly he looked up from the recorder to meet O’Brien’s steady but unreadable gaze. He inhaled deeply then let his breath out in a loud sigh. “Jesus, Gerry, I really didn’t think people like that existed anymore,” he said shakily.
O’Brien nodded slowly. “I had to listen to it a few times before I could get through it without exploding.” He glanced at Karlson. “So, the decision we have to make is – do we take this to Morris, or do we bury it?”