“Not a complete waste of time,” Lombardo says, clipping the dispatch radio microphone back onto its holder. Back inside Lombardo’s cruiser, Furor finishes writing an address in the margin of the list beside the name of the last of the eight retirees. After having the dispatch operator run the driver’s licenses of Cavanaugh and the others, they’d come up with only three names of men who fit the height description of being between five-foot-eight and an even six-feet tall. A short list, but still two too many.
“Read them back to me,” Lombardo says.
Max holds up the list. “Roy Cavanaugh, 69, former bioremediation specialist, Marc Stetson, 76, former crime scene analyst, and Lou Borsalino, 72, former homicide detective.”
“You know I once partnered with Borsalino?” Lombardo says. “Worked out of the 101st. A real lead weight kind a guy. Rough, rugged, and raw. The entire investigation was like a poorly scripted television cop show. We ended up in a three car chases, a handful of back alley shakedowns, one bar brawl, and a shootout.”
“Could he be our guy?”
Lombardo shrugs. “We’ve got experts in crime scene clean-up, forensics, and murder. Anyone of them would know how to sanitize a crime scene, leave no trace evidence behind. Why? Are you leaning more towards one than another?”
“I’m leaning towards whichever one signs their name with their left-hand,” Furor says, punching the men’s addresses into his phone. After arranging them by order of distance, he lays the phone on the dashboard for Lombardo to follow the GPS navigational voice prompts. The city passes rapidly as they make their way to the apartment of former crime scene analyst Marc Stetson.
As they’re driving, a light rain peppers the windshield. Lombardo activates the windshield wipers, but a dislodged blade causes it to thump across the windshield, smearing rather than clearing the rain.
“Damn thing,” he says. From the corner of his eye, he notices his partner staring blankly out the window. “Are you all right?” he asks.
“I just can’t see the justice in it. Even if we catch and convict this guy, he’s already in his seventies, in failing health. How long will this guy be in a cage? Two years, three, tops?”
“There’s no such thing as equitable punishment.”
“I disagree,” Max says.
Lombardo eases onto the brakes as they pull up behind a train of cars stopped at a red light. With the car braked, he shifts to look at his partner.
“What you’re talking about, it won’t bring the satisfaction you’re looking for. It’ll only fill your heart with rage, a rage you’ll revisit every time you think of her. And that’s not what you want.”
“Better rage than the helplessness I feel now.”
Lombardo’s voice is even, but holds a fierce challenge. “You take justice into your own hands, and you’ll destroy any beautiful memory you have left of her.”
Max doesn’t answer, continues to stare out the rain smeared windshield.
The light turns green.
The intervening fifteen minutes pass in restrictive silence. Several times Lombardo sneaks a glance at his partner, but Furor’s expression is cold, indecipherable. When they arrive at the home of Marc Stetson, Lombardo tries to say something, but Furor is quick to step out of the car.
Stetson’s apartment is located on the second floor of a flat-roofed, weatherworn brick building in a low-rise residential district. The outdoor intercom system has no numbers and no names. Furor presses one of them. After two audible rings, the line picks up. A woman’s raspy voice answers. Furor identifies himself as a police detective and asks to be let in. A buzzer sounds, followed by the release of an electric bolt lock.
They reach the second floor by elevator, which lets them out into a dark, unlit hallway. Lombardo tries the light switch on the wall, but it’s broken. The apartment they’re looking for is at the far end. They reach the door, but the button for the doorbell sits dangling from a series of exposed wires. Furor raises his fist to knock, but before he can the door opens behind a chain lock. In the two-inch space between the door and the frame a pair of shifty eyes peers out.
“Marc Stetson?” Furor asks.
“What do you want?” the man asks. His voice is sharp, grating.
Max introduces himself and Lombardo, asks if they can come in.
The man behind the door asks to verify the detectives’ badges.
Both men reach into his pocket, hold up the official shield.
“Can’t be too careful,” Stetson says, ushering the men into his home. Once inside, he scans the hallway, before locking the door.
As the men gather in the unlit living room, Lombardo asks, “Is everything all right here, Mr. Stetson?”
“Sure,” Stetson says, juddering back and forth, hands fidgeting. “Why?”
“You seem a little apprehensive, that’s all.”
“It’s not an easy thing to shake,” he says. “You spend your entire adult life fixated on the depths of human depravity, you develop instincts of cynicism and mistrust for just about everyone.”
“Is that why you left the One-Eyed Kings?”
Stetson moves a pair of bony shoulders. “I’ve seen enough mutilated corpses not to need to study them while I eat.”
Lombardo nods in agreement.
“Mr. Stetson,” Furor says, “Are you familiar with a string of unsolved serial killings targeting women that took place in this city a little over five years ago?”
Stetson offers a faint nod.
“We have reason to believe a member of the One-Eyed King’s Society may have been involved in those murders and are asking all members, current and former, to submit a writing sample for exclusion.”
“Handwriting analysis, huh? I wasn’t aware the killer left a note,” Stetson says.
“He didn’t,” Max says.
Stetson wrinkles his eyes, nods. “I see. You know the killer is lefthanded and because you believe it’s a member of the One-Eyed Kings who did it, you want to know if I’m lefthanded or not.”
“How do you know the killer is lefthanded?” Lombardo says, arching his eyebrow.
“Don’t act so surprised, detective. A case with no trace evidence was and still is a forensics nightmare. It’s the type of case forensic scientists like myself study in their free time. Of course, the one piece of circumstantial evidence, the lefthanded throat laceration, was noteworthy.”
“Then you wouldn’t mind indulging us?” Furor says, handing him a pen from his coat.
Stetson takes the pen, removes a piece of stationary from a nearby drawer stand. Meanwhile, Lombardo, having activated his Kindle E-Reader, pulls up a page from Jo Nesbo’s Headhunter and lays it out on the coffee table, watching as Stetson copies out the first paragraph in both cursive and block lettering, then again with his left. Despite a shaky hand, the first two paragraphs are written out with ease, while the other reflects the type of herky-jerky rhythm that’s nearly impossible to fake.
It’s only an eight-minute drive from Stetson’s apartment to Roy Cavanaugh’s midtown loft. When they arrive, Furor pounds the door three times with the side of his fist. It takes a moment before they hear movement, and a moment after that before the locks slide back and the door opens.
A fit looking woman with short, white-hair, an angular face and warm, blue eyes answers the door in a black mesh top and gold bead necklace.
“May I help you, gentlemen?” she asks.
“Yes ma’am,” Lombardo says. “We’re looking for Roy Cavanaugh.”
“I’m afraid my husband isn’t well.”
“We’re homicide detectives, Mrs. Cavanaugh,” Furor tells her. “If we could, we’d just like to ask him a few questions.”
The woman smiles. “I wish you could,” she says, “but my husband suffered a stroke ten days ago. He’s been in the ICU for nearly a week and was only released last night. The doctors tell me he’s suffering from global aphasia, meaning he can neither speak nor understand speech.”
“Our deepest sympathies,” Lombardo says.
“Is there anything I can help you with?” the woman asks.
“I believe you already have,” Lombardo says. “Thank you so much for your time.”
After verifying Cavanaugh’s admittance to the hospital one week earlier, the men cradle back inside the car where Max pulls up the directions to Lou Borsalino’s apartment.
As they pull away from the curb, Lombardo takes out his own phone, hands it to Furor. “Let’s see how the others have fared.”
Furor takes the phone, dials the number. Masterson picks up on the second ring, “Hey chief—”
“Lombardo’s driving, it’s me,” Furor says. “How are y’all getting on?”
“We’ve been pouring over the victim’s financials and phone records since last night, nothing yet.”
“Where are they now?” Lombardo asks.
“Where are you now?” Furor says.
“We’re here at tech. Royce had the idea of using their recognition software to run a scan of all the images in the victim’s social media library on the off-chance Cordell Anthony is in one of them.”
“They’re at tech running a digital scan of the victim’s social media photos,” Furor says. “In case the suspect features in one of them.”
“That’s a little like looking for a drop in the ocean, isn’t it?” Lombardo says. “Have them find out if the suspect is lefthanded.”
“Find out if Anthony is lefthanded,” Max says, relaying Lombardo’s instructions. “Also, try and find out if he has any association with a group known as the One-Eyed Kings.”
“The One-Eyed Kings?” Masterson says. “Who are they?”
“A group of retired cops turned cold case investigators.”
“What’s the connection?”
“It’s a long story. I’ll fill you in later.”
“All right, we’re on it,” Masterson says.
Next, Max dials Slade and McCloud.
“Put this one on speaker,” Lombardo says.
Max presses the loudspeaker button, holds the phone middle distance between them. It’s Slade who picks up.
“You guys manage to get ahold of the prison release records?”
“We got a list of all Class A & B felons released during the past year and a half from all over the state. We started by eliminating everyone incarcerated before the date of the last killing. Next, we excluded all non-white offenders, parsed out a few more by height, sorted them by regional proximity, and came up with ten names. We’ve met with six of them already. So far, every one of them has provided a solid alibi for the most recent murder. We’re on our way to interview number seven right now.”
Lombardo turns to Max, shrugs his eyebrows.
Slade continues. “If that blind witness of yours is correct and the suspect we’re looking for weighed two hundred and twenty pounds, I think we’re running headlong into a dead end.”
“What makes you say that?”
“You know McCloud, once we had our list of ten suspects, he called over to the prisons, organized our list by height and weight approximations. The last four names on the list all checked in under two hundred pounds.”
“All right, well, follow up with them anyway and we’ll meet back up with you guys at the office to see where to go from here.”
“Sure thing, boss,” Slade says as Max hangs up the phone.
A few minutes later, Lombardo parks beside a chain link fence outside Lou Borsalino’s address, another three-story walk-up. They press the buzzer, wait for an answer. A woman coming down the stairs opens the door, asks who they’re looking for. They tell her they’re trying to get ahold of former homicide detective Lou Borsalino. She suggests they try the bar around the corner.
A neighborhood bar, the Speakeasy, caters to locals who prefer beer to cocktails and peanuts to caviar. The trappings are typical, a mahogany bar counter, dark, walnut-stained tables, and brown leather booths pushed back against brick walls. In the corner, a man leans over a billiards table. Tie unloosed, his shirt tucks out at random intervals as though he’d gone to sleep fully clothed and not bothered to reconcile himself in the morning. There’s a three-day’s growth of hair on his face along with a soured expression and alcohol-inflamed eyes. On the other side of the table a man with stubby legs and narrow shoulders stands throttling his cue stick with both hands. In overcompensation of his stature or due to some inner-conceitedness, he stands chin raised, smiling as though that were the natural state of his face at rest. Against the wall to the left there’s a piano. Hunched over it is a man draped in a patched elbow jacket. The suit is twice his size and sags loosely from his wrists and shoulders. The other patrons, mostly couples, are made up of middle-age men and women their own age in casual dresses and practical shoes. At the bar, Lombardo spots Borsalino stooped over the counter nursing a bottle of Jameson.
“Long day?” Lombardo asks as he and Furor saddle up beside him.
Borsalino’s eyes spark with recognition as he peers across at the man beside him. “Hey, don’t I remember you?”
“Vince Lombardo,” he says. “We helped bust up a cocaine ring back in the early 80s.”
The man smacks the counter. “Operation Citizen Cane,” he says, raising his shot glass with his left hand. “Now, that was some real police work.”
“I’ll say,” Lombardo says.
“Hey Pop,” Borsalino hollers to the bartender, “I think my friends here would like a drink.” Then, throwing a crooked arm around Lombardo’s shoulder, says, “What are you drinking?”
“I’ll pass,” Lombardo says.
“What’s the matter, you taken the cure?”
“I don’t want to embarrass the rookie,” Lombardo says, tossing his head in Furor’s direction.
Borsalino leans back, stares over Lombardo’s shoulder at Furor. “Suit yourself.”
“Listen Lou, I don’t know how to break this to you, but—”
“You’ve narrowed down the suspects in your serial killer investigation to an affiliate of the One-Eyed Kings, someone matching my physical description and left-handed,” he says, raising his glass with his left-hand as if to say, ‘well done, you caught me’.
Furor steps back, wraps his hand around the butt of his gun.
Borsalino downs the shot, pours himself another. “Watch it there, cowboy,” he says, without turning his head. “This here’s a civil establishment. They don’t look too kindly on rowdiness, if you catch my drift.”
“Lou Borsalino,” Lombardo says, reaching in his coat for the pair of handcuffs. “I’m afraid you’re going to need to—”
“You know the trick to getting out of handcuffs?” Borsalino says, tossing a glance sideways across his shoulder at Furor.
Furor monitors Borsalino’s movements, especially his hands, which sit palming the bottle in one, the shot glass in the other. “Tell me.”
“You never let them put ’em on you.” Again, he tilts back his head, finishes another shot.
Elbow locked at a ninety-degree angle, Furor pulls his gun, trains it on the suspect.
“You’ll never make it stick,” he says, turning the shot over, laying it upside on the counter.
“What makes you say that?” Lombardo asks, rotating into the blind spot, just over Borsalino’s left shoulder.
“Your evidence is weak.” Saying this, he raises his hands so that they stand poised, hovering just above the counter. Again, he cocks his head in Furor’s direction, gives the detective a look as if asking permission before reaching his right arm slowly down to the foreleg of his pants. Clutching the material, he raises the hem of his pants over the thick bulge around his lower calf to reveal a large, black, electronic ankle monitor. “I got a call ten minutes ago from Robert Hightower. Told me, you guys might come knocking around. Didn’t want me over reacting.”
“And the jewelry?” Furor asks.
“Caught a local dealer peddling crystal to kids in the neighbor. Judge seems to think I didn’t ask nicely that he stop.”
“What’s your radius.”
“One hundred and feet meters, encompassing the bar, the grocery store, and the pet shop.”
A quick call to Borsalino’s probation officer clarifies his whereabouts on the night in question. He’d been right there on that same stool during Katherine Knox’s entire kill window. A fact, substantiated by the bartender and two other patrons.