Authors: John Lutz
Highest Praise for
“John Lutz knows how to make you shiver.”
“Lutz offers up a heart-pounding roller coaster of a tale.”
“John Lutz is one of the masters of the police novel.”
“John Lutz is a major talent.”
“I’ve been a fan for years.”
—T. Jefferson Parker
“John Lutz just keeps getting better and better.”
“Lutz ranks with such vintage masters of big-city murder as Lawrence Block and Ed McBain.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Lutz is among the best.”
San Diego Union
“Lutz knows how to seize and hold the reader’s imagination.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“It’s easy to see why he’s won an Edgar and two Shamuses.”
has everything: a dangerous killer, a pulse-pounding mystery, a shocking solution, and an ending that will resonate with the reader long after the final sentence is read.”
“A page-turner to the nail-biting end . . . twisty, creepy whodunit.”
Urge to Kill
“A solid and compelling winner . . . sharp characterization, compelling dialogue and graphic depictions of evil....
Lutz knows how to keep the pages turning.”
“Lutz’s skill will keep you glued to this thick thriller.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Superb suspense . . . the kind of book that makes you check to see if all the doors and windows are locked.”
Affaire de Coeur
In for the Kill
“Brilliant . . . a very scary and suspenseful read.”
“Shamus and Edgar award–winner Lutz gives us further proof of his enormous talent.... An enthralling page-turner.”
Chill of Night
“Since Lutz can deliver a hard-boiled P.I. novel or a bloody thriller with equal ease, it’s not a surprise to find him applying his skills to a police procedural in
Chill of Night
But the ingenuity of the plot shows that Lutz is in rare form.”
The New York Times Book Review
“Lutz keeps the suspense high and populates his story with a collection of unique characters that resonate with the reader, making this one an ideal beach read.”
“A dazzling tour de force . . . compelling, absorbing.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“A great read! Lutz kept me in suspense right up to the end.”
Midwest Book Review
Darker Than Night
“Readers will believe that they just stepped off a Tilt-A-Whirl after reading this action-packed police procedural.”
The Midwest Book Review
“John Lutz knows how to ratchet up the terror.... He propels the story with effective twists and a fast pace.”
The Night Watcher
“Compelling . . . a gritty psychological thriller . . . Lutz draws the reader deep into the killer’s troubled psyche.”
ALSO BY JOHN LUTZ
*Urge to Kill
*In for the Kill
Chill of Night
Fear the Night
*Darker Than Night
The Night Watcher
The Night Caller
Final Seconds (
with David August)
*featuring Frank Quinn
Available from Kensington Publishing Corp. and Pinnacle Books
FEAR THE NIGHT
Kensington Publishing Corp.
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
Table of Contents
For Michaela Hamilton, Doug Mendini,
and so many others at Kensington
I must become a borrower of the night
For a dark hour or twain.
. Act III. Sc.2. L. 404.
He flung open the service door and was on the roof and in the cool, dark vastness of the night. In the building beneath his feet people fought and loved and hated and dreamed, while he lived the dream that was real. He was the one who decided. Below and around him the Theater District glowed, as did the stars above. He was sure that if he tried he could reach up, clutch one of the stars, and plunge it burning into his pocket. The end and the beginning of a dream . . .
On the night he died, Marty Akim was selling.
Marty sold anything that would fetch a price, but he specialized in nineteen-dollar watches that he bought for ten dollars.
Warm evenings in New York would find him lounging outside his souvenir shop, Bargain Empire, just off West Forty-fifth Street in the theater district. Inside the crowded shop were lettered T-shirts, cheap umbrellas, plastic Statues of Liberty, Broadway show posters, glass snow globes that played New York tunes while dandrufflike flakes, swirled by shaking, settled among tiny replicas of the buildings Chrysler, Empire State, and Citigroup, towering inches over Rockefeller Center and Grand Central Station. There were plenty of cut-rate laptop computers, digital cameras, cell phones, recorders, and suitcases, many with brand names that seemed familiar at a glance.
Outside the shop, next to a rack of rayon jackets featuring colorful New York scenes, and a table with stacks of sports logo caps and pullovers, was the display of wristwatches. Alongside them, his seamed and friendly face bunched in a perpetual smile, sat Marty in his padded metal folding chair. Marty caught the eye, with his loosened silk tie and his pristine white shirt with its sleeves rolled up, his slicked-back graying hair, and his amiable keen blue eyes. Sitting there gracefully and casually, his legs crossed, a cigarette either wedged between yellowed fingers or tucked loosely in the corner of his mouth, he looked like a once-handsome, aging lounge singer taking a break between sets. A man with tales to tell and eager to tell them for the price of a return smile.
But interesting and approachable as Marty seemed, it was the watches that drew customers, all the glimmer and glitter of gold and silver electroplate and plastic gemstones, colorful watch faces with bright green numerals and hands that looked as if they’d surely glow in the dark. There was something about all that bright, measurable time so closely massed, the tempo of Times Square, the chatter and shuffle and hum and shouts and roar of traffic and pedestrians, all of them moving to some raucous, frantic music punctuated by blaring horns. In the middle of all this happy turmoil was this ordered display of shining metal and geometric precision, and Marty, waiting.
Customers would come and he would talk to them, not pressuring them, not at first. Where were they from? What shows had they seen? Were they having fun? Sure, he could recommend a restaurant or direct them to the nearest subway stop. All the while they’d be sneaking peeks at the watches, the Rodexes, Hambiltons, Bulovis, and Mowados. (The cheap, illegal knockoffs bearing correctly spelled brand names were kept out of sight beneath the false bottom of a showcase inside the shop, sold only to customers who’d been referred to Marty and could be trusted.) Often Marty’s customers were a couple, a man and woman, and the woman would invariably find something that interested her, squint at it, pick it up, then hold it to her ear, like with this couple.
“They’re all quartz movement, ma’am.” Marty smiling wider and whiter, beginning to work his magic on the two of them. “Factory seconds of quality brands—I’ll leave you to guess which brands—some of them with flaws you’d need a microscope to see. But ordinarily they’re expensive and the people who buy them expect perfection. Perfect they’re not, but then neither are you and me, and I know these watches are closer to heaven than I’ll ever get.”
“They’re reasonably priced,” said the woman. She was about forty, short, with a chunky build and dyed red hair. The man was older, lanky, with rough hands and a lot of hair sprouting from his nostrils. He had sad eyes and a wheezy way of breathing.
“I notice the lady’s not wearing a watch,” Marty said to the man, trying to draw him into conversation.
“I left it in the hotel safe,” the woman said. “Bob warned me I might get robbed if I wore my good jewelry out on the streets.”
“Bob’s wise to advise caution,” Marty said, nodding sagely to Bob, both of them seasoned by wide experience. “What New York women do is wear their cheaper but still high-quality jewelry when they go out at night.”
“Makes sense,” said the woman.
“And they dress stylishly but discreetly, like you’re dressed. Attractive women need to be careful. Bob knows what I mean.” Marty wished Bob would mention her name. That would make things easier.
He’d get the woman’s name, he decided. And he’d sell her a watch. He could sell air to these two.
It was a challenge Marty enjoyed, selling watches on a fine warm night like tonight, practicing the basics of his trade. He stood up so he could point to a Rodex. “That one would suit Marie just fine,” he said to Bob, “with its dainty band.”
“He better not give it to anybody named Marie,” the woman said.
Marty looked confused. “I thought I heard Bob call you—”
“Forget this crap and let’s get going,” Bob said to the woman. Bob catching on.
“I dunno, Bob, Some of these—”
“We’re gonna be late.” Bob edged away, as if he might pull his companion along with some kind of magnetism.
Marty was still smiling. “I understand your cynicism, Bob.”
“It’s not cynicism, it’s reality.”
“Most of the time, I’m sure.”
Bob ignored him. “C’mon, Ellie.”
“If you’re not interested, that’s okay.” Marty still with the smile.
Fuck the both of you.
“Nice patter but no sale,” Bob said. He gripped Ellie’s elbow and guided her away from the watch display, almost getting tangled with a couple of teenagers in gangsta pants swishing past. Ellie glanced back at Marty and grinned and shrugged:
What’re you gonna do?
She didn’t mind being taken, if she was having fun and would come away with something.
Bob had been like a brick wall. Marty figured he must be some kind of salesman himself, big farmer type, maybe sold tractors in Iowa or some place where there were crops. He put the couple out of his mind and neatened up his display where Ellie had inadvertently rearranged some of the watches.
There was this
that didn’t belong. Louder than the din of the street, like a crisp clap of thunder that bounced and echoed down the avenue.
Marty would have wondered what made the sound, but that was when he had his heart attack.
At least that’s what Marty thought it was at first. A sudden sharp pain in his chest, a hard time breathing. Not heartburn. Too painful. So painful he could hardly move. It even hurt when he absently lifted his hand to massage the lump of pain in his chest.
He felt wetness. Looked down. His hand was red. So was his tie and the front of his bright white shirt he’d bought just yesterday on sale at Filene’s Basement. His fingers danced over his chest, probed.
He’d been shot.
Shot! Oh, Christ!
Bob the farmer had shot him. That was all Marty could think of. He looked around. Bob and Ellie were nowhere to be seen. People had stopped streaming past the shop and were standing staring at him. He felt light-headed. And breathing was even more of an effort.
He sat down cross-legged on the sidewalk in front of his watch display.
Blood all over the concrete.
My blood ...
Marty was recovering from his shock enough to be terrified.
A doctor visiting from Toronto with a woman not his wife was walking past and saw what was happening.
He hurried to help Marty but it was too late.
Time had stopped for Marty.
A spring shower that was almost mist was falling the next evening when Assistant Chief Lou Melbourne wrestled his bulk out of a cab in front of Vincent Repetto’s residence on Bank Street in the Village.
Repetto, who’d gone to a living room window to see if it was still raining, noticed Melbourne crossing the street. The two men were about the same age—midfifties—but almost exact opposites. Melbourne was short and very much overweight, balding, with a pug face and clothes that were always a size too small. He had on a blue jacket that didn’t look water resistant, and he walked fast for an obese man and with an economy of motion.
Repetto was several inches over six feet, lean and with long arms and big hands. The progeny of a Dutch mother and an Italian father, he still had most of his dark hair, but it was fast turning a gunmetal gray. His eyebrows, graying but not as fast, were permanently arched in a way that gave him an expression of alert and aggressive curiosity.
I will get to the truth,
said his arched gaze. His clothes tended to black and gray and were well tailored, but tonight he was wearing faded jeans and a white pullover with NYPD on its chest.
Melbourne, crossing the street diagonally, saw him watching through the decorative iron bars on the window and raised a hand in a wave. Repetto nodded to him, then left the window to open the door. Two months ago, Melbourne had presented Repetto with an engraved silver platter at one of his many retirement parties. Repetto appreciated it. A man couldn’t have too many silver platters.
“Lou, you should have an umbrella,” Repetto said, as Melbourne took the concrete steps to the stoop, then hesitated.
“They bring bad luck.”
“Like making it rain?”
Melbourne grinned. “Like making it rain harder because you have an umbrella.” After wiping the soles of his shoes on the doormat, he shook hands with Repetto. “How you been in your brief retirement, Vin?”
“I haven’t quite figured that out yet.” Repetto used the handshake to pull Melbourne in out of the rain, then waited while Melbourne worked out of his jacket. Repetto draped the jacket on the antique brass coatrack and ushered Melbourne into the living room.
Repetto and his wife, Lora, lived in a narrow redbrick house that had been built over a hundred years ago. Lora, who was an interior decorator, had chosen almost all the decor and furnishings. The upper floor was her office and sometime storeroom. Living quarters were downstairs.
The living room, where Repetto invited Melbourne to sit on a soft Queen Anne sofa, was furnished eclectically, mixing traditional with Victorian and Early American. On the wall behind the sofa stood a tall nineteenth-century walnut secretary. A Sheraton library table with stacks of books was along another wall, a Cape Cod window seat nearby where Lora sometimes sat sipping tea and looking out at Bank Street. The house was on a quiet, brick-paved block in the West Village, a desirable piece of real estate.
Repetto had married into money. Lora’s mother and father had died young in a boating accident and left her well off. She wasn’t your usual cop’s wife, but then Repetto wasn’t your usual cop. He’d risen through the ranks by virtue of his own hard work and ingenuity. When he retired after catching a stray bullet in the lung during a hostage situation that went sour, then being kicked up to captain, he was considered the shrewdest—and toughest—homicide detective in the NYPD. His specialty was serial killers.
When Melbourne was seated, Repetto asked him if he wanted a drink. “Some good eighteen-year-old scotch?”
Melbourne smiled and shook his head no. “I’m on duty, sort of.”
Repetto settled down in a brown leather wing chair facing his old friend and superior officer.
Still smiling, Melbourne glanced around. “I don’t see any ashtrays. And I don’t smell tobacco. I guess for health reasons you gave up those Cuban cigars you used to smoke. The bad lung and all.”
“The lung’s pretty much healed. I still get winded too easy, though.”
“But still no cigars.”
“I allow myself one every few days. The doctors said it’s okay as long as I don’t inhale.”
“Sure they did.”
“Other than that, I don’t smoke. For Lora.”
“She make you lighten up?”
Repetto didn’t bother to answer.
“So it’s true what they say about life after you retire and you’re home with the wife.”
“What do they say?”
“She takes over the company.”
“Yeah, that’s true. She’s been a cop’s wife over twenty years, Lou. If she doesn’t want me to smell up the house with cigar smoke, I won’t. She deserves to be spoiled.”
“She doesn’t want you dying of lung cancer.”
Melbourne focused his flesh-padded gray eyes on Repetto. “How’d you and Lora manage it, staying married all this time, you doing the kinda work we do?”
Repetto had to give it some thought. “I don’t know for sure. Maybe somewhere along the line we learned how to stay out of each other’s way.”
“That’s an unsatisfactory answer,” Melbourne said with a touch of bitterness. Twice-divorced Melbourne.
“Lora’s at a meeting with a client,” Repetto said. “You wanna come back to my den and we can smoke some cigars?”
Melbourne cocked his head to the side. “You won’t get in any trouble?”
Repetto laughed and stood up. “I haven’t had a smoke in two days. Haul your ass outta that sofa and come with me.” He didn’t tell Melbourne the den was the only place he smoked in the house, and he had to make sure there was plenty of ventilation.
Repetto’s den was large, carpeted in deep red with thick red drapes, a quiet room, considering it was at street level. There were commendations on the walls, a mounted trout Repetto had caught in Vermont, and several signed and framed publicity photos of Broadway stars.
Repetto walked over to his desk and opened a small mahogany humidor near the green-shaded lamp. He gave Melbourne a Venezuelan cigar and a cutter, then chose a domestic brand for himself. Before lighting the cigar, he went over and opened a window, letting in some dampness and cool night air. Within a few seconds he could feel cross ventilation from the already cracked window on the adjacent wall stir the hairs on his bare forearms.
When he returned to sit in his black leather desk chair, Melbourne had already seated himself in one of the upholstered chairs angled toward the desk and lighted his cigar.
Repetto settled down behind his oversize cherry-wood desk. “You mentioned you were on duty.”
“Sort of. Here to ask you about something.”
Repetto smiled. “Am I a suspect?”
“I don’t believe you lead an exciting enough life now to get in any trouble.” Melbourne puffed on his cigar. “This is great. Cuban?”
“Aren’t those illegal?”
“A rhetorical question, I’m sure.” Melbourne might have winked. He knew Repetto favored and could obtain Cuban cigars. He took another draw and seemed to roll the smoke around in his mouth before exhaling. “What exactly
you do these days?”
“Lora and I go to the theater, dine out with friends, plan on doing some traveling. Things we never had time to do when I was on the job.”
“Sounds nice, actually. You always had it good for a cop.”
Repetto was getting the idea Melbourne was hesitant to bring up whatever he’d come to discuss. “Get to it, Lou.”
“I’m asking you back to the NYPD, or at least to work for us.”
Repetto didn’t hesitate. “Nope. Lora wouldn’t stand for it.”
“You’d please her before me?”
“I don’t sleep with you.”
“You wanna hear the deal?”
“Okay, here it is. Last night a guy named Martin Akim was shot to death outside his shop in the theater district.”
“Marty Akim? Watches?”
“The very Marty.”
“No. Shot from a distance. Relatively small-caliber bullet, misshapen by bone and the wall it hit after tumbling through Akim. People heard the shot, but the way sound echoes around all those tall buildings and concrete and glass, nobody knows where it came from. Far away, though, not close by.”
“Stray shot, maybe.”
Like the one that caught me in the lung.
“We don’t think so.”
“Yeah. Here’s the thing. Akim wasn’t the first victim. He was the third in the last six weeks. The first was a sales rep from Cincinnati, in town on business. The second a prostitute down in the Village.”
Repetto leaned back in his chair and drew on his cigar, then exhaled and watched the smoke drift toward the ceiling and make a slow turn toward the open window.
“A serial killer. Your specialty, Vin.”
“Not that you need the money, but we’d like to put you back on the payroll while you track down this sicko.”
Repetto sat forward and looked directly at Melbourne, then removed the cigar from his mouth. “I wasn’t the only competent homicide detective in the department.”
“You were sure as hell the best.”
“And now somebody else is. I’m sorry, Lou, the answer’s no.”
Melbourne stood up. He walked slowly over and looked at Repetto’s commendations, then stood staring at the mounted trout. “You catch this thing?”
“Yeah. Only kinda thing I’m gonna catch from now on.”
“This killer’s been in contact with us. He’s bursting with ego and thinks he’s smarter than we are.”
“Don’t they all think that?”
“Some of them
“A few. The ones we never heard of.”
“Talk to me and not to the fish, okay?”
Melbourne turned to face him. “I didn’t come here on my own. I was asked.” He looked at his cigar now and not at Repetto. “He asked me. Told me, actually.”
“The killer. He musta seen all the publicity about you when you stepped down. How you were like a combination bloodhound and avenging angel when it came to tracking serial killers. He wants you on the case. He said you were the only one of us who was a worthy adversary.”
Repetto stared dumbfounded at Melbourne, then laughed. “Cease the bullshit, Lou. The answer’s still no.”
“You think I’m kidding?”
“I don’t care if you are. I don’t dance just because some maniac plays a tune. And I know you don’t either.”
Melbourne removed the cigar from his mouth. “This one’s different, Vin. If you’d heard him on the phone . . .”
“The answer’s still no. I mean it. I’m not some pro athlete that can be talked into thinking he might have a little more gas in his tank. I’m retired.”
“You might get winded a little easier and be a little grayer, but you’re not suited for retirement. You’re gonna go crazy without the job.” Melbourne pointed with the cigar. “You’re gonna rot.”
“I’m rotting happily. I told you my situation. I’m not gonna double-cross Lora to work on one more case. Put Delmore on it.”
“The killer laughed at Delmore. Called him up and laughed at him. He wants you, Vin. Only you.”
“ ‘Only You.’ Isn’t that a song?”
“Your song. Yours and the killer’s.”
Repetto knew what Melbourne meant. When Repetto was thirteen years old in Philadelphia his mother had been murdered by a serial killer. It was what had made an older Repetto join the police force, then become a homicide detective. His mother had divorced his dad, a Philadelphia cop, and had custody of him, so Repetto was the one who’d found her in her bedroom when he came home from school. She was lying nude on the bed with her legs spread incredibly wide. There was the blood on the wall, his mother’s blood, the bloody numeral 6 indicating she was the killer’s sixth victim, the blood pooled beneath her body, the blood on her pale flesh and between her thighs.
With his father gone, Repetto was the man of the house. He should have protected his mother. Somehow. Should have been there. Somehow. Even at thirteen he knew it wasn’t logical, but guilt still wrapped itself around his heart. Somehow, he was partly to blame for his mother’s death. He couldn’t get the image of all that blood,
blood, out of his mind.
He remembered the word it had brought to his lips. Not
or an expression of rage. Simply,
Almost a year passed before he again spoke that or any other word. His father had died in a robbery shoot-out only a month after the death of his mother. For the young Repetto it was like being struck by speeding trains coming and going, and being left to die alone.
Two of his aunts took him in and brought him back to being human again, raised him with kindness and love, saved him. Mar and Mol, short for Marilyn and Molly. Mol had died ten years ago. Mar was still alive, and would be in town for Repetto and Lora’s daughter Amelia’s twenty-first birthday next week.
Mar and Mol, the blood ... So long ago and still so vivid.
Repetto swallowed. He thought he’d gotten past this kind of reaction, the thing that had made him stalk serial killers in a way that was legendary in the NYPD. The reason why Melbourne was sitting across from him now.
“Jesus, Lou!” Repetto said. “So this guy doesn’t get what he wants. He’ll get over his disappointment.”
“He’s not gonna quit, Vin. Not this one.”
“I didn’t say he was gonna quit. Delmore can shut him down.”
Melbourne seemed about to say something more, then plunked his cigar back in his mouth as if it might prevent him from speaking imprudently.
“Sure you don’t want a drink, Lou?”
Melbourne stood up. “No, thanks. This excellent Cuban cigar’s more’n enough.” He moved close to the desk and looked down at Repetto. “Listen, you’re probably right. You deserve a rest. Have a good retirement. Food, shows, booze, travel. Enjoy, old friend. I mean that.” He offered his hand.
Repetto shook with him, standing up to show him out. He propped his cigar in an ashtray and walked around the desk.
“Still raining,” Repetto said, when he opened the door to the street. “Take an umbrella. You can keep it as long as you want.”
“No, thanks. Listen, I sincerely gotta advise you, if you don’t want a troubled conscience, better avoid reading the papers or watching TV news. This sicko’s deeply dedicated to his calling.”
“Forget the umbrella offer,” Repetto said.
“Kidding,” Melbourne said with a smile. “Don’t rot.” At the base of the steps, the rain already spotting his jacket, he looked back and up at Repetto. “Really. Don’t rot.”
“That didn’t sound at all sincere,” Repetto said.
He stood at the open door, watching Melbourne until he’d crossed the street and lowered himself into his car.
Then he remembered the open den door, sniffed the air, and went back to extinguish his cigar propped in the ashtray.
“You said no?” Lora asked, after Repetto told her about Melbourne’s visit.
“Sure I did.”
She leaned forward and kissed him lightly on the lips, then, after sniffing his breath, looked up at him with mock seriousness. Well, not completely mock. “Cigar?”
“Half of one. With Melbourne. Being a good host.”
“Ah.” She walked over to the window and stared outside. Repetto studied her. The beige dress she was wearing complemented her long, honey-blond hair. Lora was trim not from exercise, other than her daily walks, but from genetic good fortune.
He thought she might say something else about Melbourne’s visit, but when she turned around to face him she smiled. It was what had first attracted Repetto, that smile. It changed her cool, blue-eyed impassive features into a warm and engaging signal to the world: I’m approachable and up for adventure. Repetto had learned it wasn’t a sexual invitation, but occasionally men took it for such. Lora was used to that response and knew how to fend them off without making enemies.
“It’s still raining,” she said. “How ’bout I make us some tea?”
“Fine.” The Melbourne matter was closed. If a maniac was murdering people one after another and might soon be terrorizing the city, that wasn’t Repetto’s problem. He was off the force for good. And it felt good.
Lora must have guessed what he was thinking. “Thanks.”
“Meaning what you said to Melbourne.”
She went into the kitchen to brew the tea. Repetto walked over and stared through the rain-distorted window out at the street. New York. The city he’d spent his life protecting. His city. A young couple who’d moved in last month exited the building across the street, laughing. The woman, a skinny brunette, ducked her head at the first raindrop, while her bulky, bearded husband squinted up at the sky and opened an umbrella. Watching them, Repetto remembered when he and Lora had moved here almost twenty years ago. It was odd, how the street didn’t change but the people did, generations playing out their lives on the same stage.
It occurred to him that Lora, who was six years younger than Repetto and not carrying a partially collapsed lung, would almost certainly outlive him. Would she remain here? Wouldn’t she be lonely in this house that was too large for one person? Might she be afraid without him, a single woman living at street level in Manhattan? Their daughter and only child, Amelia, who was in law school and lived on the Upper West Side, might move in with her. Though probably not. Amelia was fiercely independent. Maybe Amelia would marry. Repetto and Lora had their ideas about whom they’d like as a son-in-law. Repetto smiled.
Hopeless to expect that kind of wish to come true. But Dal Bricker—
The woman beneath the shelter of the umbrella glanced over and saw him, and Repetto raised a hand in an understated wave so she’d know he wasn’t spying on the couple, simply happened to be at his window when they were going out.
He stood awhile longer looking out at the drizzle and lowering light. A lamp came on behind him, and he saw Lora’s reflection on the windowpane and turned.
She’d placed a tray with a tea set on the heavy table by the sofa. Repetto watched as she poured cream in her cup, part of the set that was Bavarian china, antique but not particularly expensive. They’d bought it together ten years ago at a shop in SoHo. She added a lump of sugar and stirred. He walked over, added a dollop of cream to his tea, then sat down on the sofa and sipped. The tea wasn’t quite hot enough to burn his tongue.
Lora remained standing. She’d put on her old blue cardigan sweater over her dress and looked an odd combination of sophisticate and homebody that Repetto found strangely appealing.
She sipped her tea appraisingly and smiled. “The critics like the new play at the Westside,
“Internet or newspaper critics?”
“Both. Not rave reviews, but uniformly good. It’s about expatriates in Paris in the twenties, then later when they return to the U.S.”
“It’s not. George Kearn plays the old Hemingway.” Kearn was one of their favorites. And the Westside Theatre, off Broadway but not far off, was also one of their favorites.
“Sounds okay,” Repetto said. “You working tomorrow?”
“Meeting a client for breakfast, then a display house tour.”
“Maybe I’ll see if I can pick us up some tickets.”
She took another sip of tea, then leaned down and kissed him on the forehead. Her lips were still warm from the tea. “I love you,” she said simply.
He knew why she was saying it now. Because he’d refused Melbourne. He lifted her free hand and kissed it. He didn’t tell her he loved her, too. It didn’t seem quite the time, but he knew he should tell her more often and promised himself he’d do exactly that in his retirement.
He watched her walk to the window with her tea. She sat down at an angle on the window seat so she could look out through the glass at the rainy street. She appeared comfortable and contented. Repetto was sure that if she were a cat, she’d curl up in the window and go to sleep.
If she were a cat, he’d pamper her.
The next morning, after Lora had left to meet her client, Repetto walked to the Bonaire Diner on Fourteenth Street and had eggs and a grilled corn muffin for breakfast. He liked the Bonaire for more than its food. It was brightly decorated, with red-vinyl-upholstered booths and stools, and a dark counter made out of the kind of granite that sparked silver when the light hit it just right. A lot of the customers were from the neighborhood, or were people who worked nearby. Regulars. Business drones, artists, tradesmen, along with tourists, and mothers with their kids.
Carrie the waitress cleared away the dishes, then poured Repetto a second cup of coffee.
He settled in to scan the
There was another favorable review of
. Nothing about a sniper shooting last night. Apparently Melbourne’s serial killer was still between murders.
Why am I even thinking about this?
He turned to the sports section and read about the latest Yankees acquisition, an expensive free agent pitcher who was almost a guarantee that the team would make the playoffs. Repetto read on about the pitcher and felt himself relax. When he was on the job, he’d always found solace in this part of the paper. The only murderers’ row in the sports section was the ’27 Yankees.
The breakfast rush was falling off, so there was space at the counter and empty booths. Repetto took his time with the paper, then left Carrie the usual tip and paid the cashier on the way out.
It was a great morning. The sky was clear and the air had been cleansed by last night’s rain. Repetto decided to stroll around for a while before returning to the house. Then he’d . . .
What would he do?
How would he occupy his time?
He felt suddenly alone. Lost and without purpose. He noticed that his mouth was dry and he felt slightly unsteady.
Some kind of retirement panic, he told himself. Not to worry. There was plenty to do that was unconnected to police work. He grinned to reassure himself. Other people retired and found ways to spend their time. So could he.
Melbourne was about to leave his office when his assistant, Lieutenant Mike Mathers, knocked twice, then opened the door. There was excitement on his flushed, Irish face.
“For you on line two, sir. It’s him.”
Melbourne didn’t have to ask who. He sat back down behind his desk, taking as much time as he dared before picking up the receiver. Not that it would help; this killer was aware that the police were tracing his call and knew exactly how long it was safe to stay on the line.
When it was time, Melbourne lifted the receiver and identified himself.
“You know who this is?” came the answering voice. Neutral, sexless, perhaps filtered through something that might disguise it.
“I know. What do you want this fine morning?”
“What did he say?”
“Don’t play tricks to try keeping me on the line. That might cost somebody their life, and that would be on your conscience.”
“He said no.”
A laugh, as cold and neutral as the voice. “He’ll change his mind. I know him. Know about him. Captain Vincent Repetto. Hero and legend. Know him as well as I know myself.”
“I’d say there’s a lot of difference between you two.”
“Only the twists and turns of fate.”
“Hardly. I know Vin Repetto.”
“But you don’t know me.”
“So tell me about yourself.”
“I’ll tell you what I want,
I want, and that’s Captain Vincent Repetto. The only worthy opponent in your entire incompetent bureaucracy.”
“He’s no longer part of the bureaucracy.”
“He can be again.”
“I told you, I asked him. He said no.”
“Then ask him again. Be persuasive. Give him the third degree. I’ll accept no one other than Repetto.”
“The choice isn’t yours to make.”
“But it is, and I’ve made it.”
“Better think of some way to give me what I demand, and soon. I’m patient, but I won’t wait forever.”
Melbourne replaced the receiver and looked at his watch. He knew the killer had cut the connection soon enough.
Mathers stuck his head back in the office. “The call was from a cell phone, sir.”
“Sure,” Melbourne said, knowing that if the phone were ever found, it would turn out to be stolen and wiped clean of prints. “We record the call okay?”
Instead of leaving his office, Melbourne sat behind his desk for a long time, thinking of ways to be persuasive.
At ten the next morning, Repetto was seated at his desk cleaning his father’s old .38 police special revolver, when the doorbell rang.
Lora was upstairs selecting paint samples to show a client. Usually she didn’t hear the doorbell there. Repetto put down the container of bluing he was holding and wiped his hand on the rag the gun had been wrapped in, then made his way to the front door and peered through the peephole.
A tall woman with long red hair stood on the concrete stoop. Repetto opened the door to get a less distorted look at her.
Since it was a sunny April morning, she wasn’t wearing a coat. She had a good figure beneath a brown blazer with a matching skirt. Her face was angular, her eyes green and pink-rimmed beneath strands of hair the breeze had laid across her face. She appeared to have been crying, but he suspected her eyes were always like that, in the manner of some redheads. Her makeup was sparse but it was there, pale lipstick, paler green eye shadow. Repetto guessed her age at about forty.
She smiled. Straight teeth, nice smile. She said, “Only an ex-homicide detective could size up a woman like that.”
Repetto grinned, embarrassed. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to stare. It wasn’t . . .”
“No. I mean, yes, it wasn’t.”
“So what did you decide about me?” She cocked her head to one side as she asked the question, almost the way Lora did.
“We haven’t met,” Repetto said. “You’re educated—that word lascivious—and well enough off financially but not wealthy.”
She raised her eyebrows. There wouldn’t have been much to them were it not for eyebrow pencil.
“Your clothes,” Repetto explained. “A good cop can judge clothes like a fashion expert, at least when it comes to price. Yours are in good taste, and medium-priced except for your shoes. They’re expensive.”
“You can’t be too kind to your feet,” the woman said.
“You’ve got a job, maybe a profession, that pays you well enough. You’re unmarried.” He saw her glance at her ringless left hand. “You’re well adjusted and reasonably happy, ambitious, and you want something.”
She smiled. “What makes you think I want something?”
“You’ve managed to stir my interest and keep me talking while
“You can learn a lot about people from what they think about you,” she said.
“If they’re honest.”
“A former NYPD detective would be honest.”
“Different kind of honest,” Repetto said.
She seemed to think that over but didn’t say anything.
“You don’t strike me as the type who’s selling something, so what do you want?” he asked.
“My name’s Zoe Brady,” she said.
“I wondered when we’d get around to that. You obviously know things about me, including my name, I’m sure.”
“You’re Vincent Repetto. The legendary Repetto. Tough cop and true. Smart and every kind of honest.”
“Now I know you want something.”
“I’m a profiler in the NYPD,” Zoe said.
“And I know what you want.” Repetto stepped outside and closed the door behind him; it wouldn’t do for Lora to hear any of this. “Lou Melbourne sent you.”
“He okayed it. Coming here was my idea.”
“Whoever came up with the idea, it wasn’t a good one. I’m not going to change my mind about the sniper.”
“The thing is,” Zoe said, “he’s not going to change his mind about you. I’ve worked to get inside this guy’s head, and I’ve got some small idea of how he reasons—or thinks he reasons. He’s not going to give up on something he wants, and he wants you to engage in a contest with him.”
“He isn’t going to get what he wants.”
“Well, we want it too. Because we know how dangerous the sniper is. And we understand why he wants you as his nemesis. You’re legendary, and in his mind, he soon will be.” She stared earnestly at Repetto. “Have you at least given the matter any thought since Captain Melbourne talked with you?”
“I have,” he said. “I haven’t changed my mind. The game this sicko wants is one I’m finished playing.” He smiled at her. There was something he liked about her despite her mission, despite the fact she wasn’t really a cop. If only he didn’t have to get professionally involved with her. He’d never been crazy about profilers. In his experience they were more often wrong than right. And when they were right, it was about the obvious—male, certain age bracket, poor or unemployed, tough childhood ... “I’m sorry, Zoe, but I’m not subject to threats from a psychotic killer. Next time the sniper contacts you, tell him I said no, I don’t want to play.”
She shrugged. “Okay, I tried and failed. The AC was right about you. You’re a hard man.”
“Was I just insulted?”
She backed down the steps gracefully and grinned up at him. “Not by me. I like hard and proud. That way I know where I stand.”
“You’ll tell Melbourne what I said?”
“I’ll tell him.” She nodded to Repetto, then started to stride down the sidewalk. After a few steps, she stopped and turned. “I’ll also tell him that the way I size you up, I don’t think you’re likely to change your mind.”
“You’ve got me profiled.”
“Sure. You’re a cinch.”
Repetto smiled at her, nodded good-bye, then opened the door and went back inside to his wife and his new life and his father’s gun.