Chapter 10


    Jessica and Byrne spent the next hour separately canvassing the neighborhood for a second time. They learned a great deal about cheating spouses, lazy landlords, illegal parking, possible international drug cartels, alien invasions, more illegal parking, and - a fan favorite - government conspiracies. In other words, nothing.

    At three o'clock Jessica met Byrne back at the corner of Fifth and Federal to compare notes.

    'Jess,' Byrne said, pointing down the street.

    Jessica turned and saw two figures sitting in a vacant lot, sandwiched between a pair of old row houses. The detectives were being observed.

    Jessica and Byrne walked a half-block up Federal. David Albrecht, who had just returned from getting some high-angle shots from nearby rooftops, followed, but kept his distance.

    Iwo older men sat on lawn chairs across the street from the ball field. They had racing forms on their laps, along with the sports sections of that morning's Inquirer. They were in their late seventies and had their chairs positioned in such a way that each could see what was approaching but still be close enough to converse. Jessica had the distinct feeling they didn't miss much.

    One of the guys wore at least three cardigans, each a slightly different shade of maroon. The other wore a fishing hat with a button saying Kiss Me I'm Italian on it, a button so old that most of the letters were rubbed off. Now, from a few feet away, it looked like Kiss It. Jessica wondered if that wasn't on purpose. She showed her badge, introducing herself and Kevin Byrne.

    When the men saw they were police officers they sat a little straighten

    Jessica asked: 'You fellows out here every day?'

    'Every morning, every afternoon,' Cardigans said. 'Rain or shine. 'Cept when it rains, then we sit over there.' He pointed to an old storefront with a metal awning.

    'In winter we meet at Mulroney's,' added Fishing Hat.

    Mulroney's was a tavern on the other side of the playground, a fixture that had been around since sometime during the Truman administration.

    Jessica asked the men what, if anything, they had seen the previous day. After a brief rundown of the day's events - a Philadelphia Inquirer delivery truck got a flat tire, some idiot on a cellphone was yelling at his wife or girlfriend and almost walked into the traffic on Federal, a dog came up and snatched one of their lunch bags right from under the chair - they got around to what they had seen at or near the crime- scene building.


    'You didn't see anybody doing anything suspicious, anybody you haven't seen in the neighborhood before?' Byrne asked.

    'Nah,' Cardigans said. 'We're the only suspicious characters around here.'

    Jessica jotted down the meager information.

    'You guys got here pretty quick earlier this morning,' Cardigans said.

    'We were on a donut run around the corner,' Jessica said. 'It was on the way.'

    Cardigans smiled. He liked her.

    'Not like the last time,' Fishing Hat interjected.

    Jessica glanced over at Byrne, back. 'I'm sorry?' she said. 'The last time?'

    'Yeah. That other one?'

    'The other one.'

    'The other dead one they found in there.' Fishing Hat pointed to the crime-scene building, saying all this like it was common knowledge, worldwide.

    'There was another victim found in that building?' Jessica asked.

    'Oh, yeah,' he said. 'Place is a slaughterhouse. A regular abbytwar.'

    Jessica figured he meant abattoir. She stole another glance at Byrne. ' This was getting better by the minute. Or worse. 'When was this again?'

    '2002,' Fishing Hat said. 'Spring of 2002.'

    'Nah,' Cardigans said. 'It was '04.'

    Fishing Hat looked over, as if the other man had just told him the pope was a woman. '2004? What are you, drunk? It was 2002. March 21st. Mickey Quindlen's grandson broke his arm on the playground. My wife's brother came in from Cinnaminson, rammed his fucking car into the house.' He looked at Jessica. 'Excuse my German.'

    'I speak German,' Jessica said.

    'Uniforms came around noon. Suits didn't show up until midnight. I believe I can say all this without fear of contraception.'

    Cardigans nodded, acquiescing.

    'Uniforms? Suits?' Jessica asked. 'Did you used to be a cop?'

    'Cop? Nah. I worked the docks, forty-one years. I just like that Law and Order show. The guy with the big teeth says that kind of stuff all the time.'

    'He's dead now,' Cardigans said.

    Fishing Hat looked at his friend. 'He is? Since when?'

    'Long time now.'

    'He ain't dead on the show.'

    'No. Not on the show he ain't. Just in real life.'



    A respectful silence fell over the group for a moment.

    'He was a longshoreman, too,' Fishing Hat said then, crooking a thumb at his buddy. 'Back in the day, we were all over. All over. Oregon Avenue, up to South Street, Front Street, Third Street. Not like now. Now I got a lawyer living next door to me. A lawyer. There goes the neighborhood.'

    Jessica made a few more notes as Cardigans looked closely at Byrne. 'You look familiar,' Cardigans said. 'You ever work the docks?'

    'My father did,' Byrne said. 'Thirty-five years.'

    Cardigans snapped his fingers. 'Paddy Byrne.'

    Byrne nodded.

    'You look just like him.' He turned to Fishing Hat. 'Did you know Paddy?'

    Fishing Hat shook his head.

    'This guy was a legend on Pier 96.' He turned back to Byrne. 'How is he these days?'

    'He's good,' Byrne said. 'Thanks for asking.'

    'So how come you didn't follow in his footsteps? Get an honest job?'

    'The docks are too dangerous for me,' Byrne said. 'And I prefer a higher class of criminal.'

    Cardigans laughed. 'Yeah. You're Paddy's boy.'

    'So, what else can you tell me about this other victim?' Jessica asked, trying to bring the conversation back around.

    Both men shrugged in tandem. 'Not much, 'cept that it was a woman,' Fishing Hat said. 'They locked the place up for years. Guy who owned it couldn't even go back in there. Said he was afraid of ghosts or something. He sold it to some guy from Pittsburgh, who sold it to someone else.'

    Jessica looked around. 'What's the neighborhood, guys?'

    'Some say Queen Village but they don't know shit.'

    'What do you say?'

    'We say Pennsport. Because it is Pennsport. We're south of Washington, for Chrissake.'

    'Did a detective talk to you guys about that case back in '02?' Jessica asked.

    'Just me,' Cardigans said.

    'Do you remember their names? The detectives?'

    Cardigans shook his head.

    'He don't remember his kids' names,' Fishing Hat said. 'And he's only got four of 'em.'

    'Did you know the victim?'

    'No. I heard she was a real hot number, though. Damn shame.'

    The information would be easy enough to find, but probably wasn't relevant. Jessica thanked the two men, got their contact information - names, addresses, phone numbers - and gave them both a business card, along with the standard request for them to call if they thought of anything else.

    'You come back anytime,' Fishing Hat said. 'We always have time to talk to pretty young girls.'

    Jessica smiled. Pretty young girls. She'd come back tomorrow.


    Jessica and Byrne returned to the Roundhouse, collated their witness statements, putting them in the binder. While they waited for the coroner's preliminary reports, as well as any forensic findings, they turned their attention to other matters of importance.

    They each had a case on which they were working. Both cases had stalled, and there was no worse feeling for a homicide detective than the sense that an investigation was slipping away from them. While Byrne made calls to the four witnesses he needed for the grand- jury probe of Eduardo Robles, just to keep the pot simmering, Jessica looked up some addresses, trying to align the witnesses in another case.

    Two weeks earlier a gun had been left at the scene of a drug- related homicide. The weapon had been traced back to a woman named Patricia Lentz, a known drug addict and prostitute.

    The Lentz apartment was on North 19th Street near Cecil B. Moore. When Jessica and Byrne arrived, they found the door open, TV blasting, something burning on the stove. The first floor was a haze of vile smoke, a landfill of soiled mattresses, broken furniture, spent crack vials and empty liquor bottles.

    They found Patricia Lentz passed out beneath a pile of clothing in the basement. At first Jessica did not think she was going to find a pulse. But the woman had just passed out and, once she'd been revived by paramedics, was taken into custody without incident.

    Whereas the suspect was in custody, her apartment had not yet been cleared. Jessica was quite familiar with the layout of these row houses and knew there were two more rooms upstairs. While Byrne turned the barely coherent woman over to the uniformed officers for transport to the Roundhouse, Jessica continued upstairs. She cleared the first small bedroom, and the bathroom. When she walked into the second bedroom she found there was a closet. She eased open the door.

    Jessica froze. There, on the floor in front of her, partially hidden by a plastic garbage bag bursting at the seams with rotting trash, was a little boy. No more than two years old. A dark-haired little boy dressed in a ragged T-shirt and diaper. It appeared that he had crawled beneath the garbage for warmth.

    Reaching down into the closet, she picked up the boy. He was shivering with fear, miserable in his soiled diaper. There were rashes on his arms and legs.

    'It's okay, little man,' Jessica said. 'It's okay.'

    On the way out of the house, Jessica found a pile of papers on a card table near the front door. They were mostly unpaid bills, flyers for pizza and Chinese takeout, shut-off notices. Also on the table was a photograph of an infant lying on a dirty bed sheet. Jessica could not mistake those eyes. It was the little boy she had in her arms. She flipped the picture over. It read Carlos age three months.

    His name was Carlos.

    Jessica brought the boy back to the Roundhouse to await a representative from the Department of Human Services. She had stopped along the way and bought diapers, wipes, lotion, powder. It had been a long time since she had done these things with Sophie, but it was like riding a bike: she hadn't forgotten.

    Cleaned up, shiny and combed, Carlos sat at one of the desks, on top of a pile of phone books, secured to the chair with an empty ammunition belt. Someone found a Philadelphia Eagles child's sweatshirt. It was a little too big, so they rolled up the sleeves and Scotch-taped them gently around the boy's wrists.

    The boy's mother, Patricia Lentz, was booked on first-degree murder charges, and the case was a lock. They had the murder weapon, ballistics matched, and Lentz would not be coming back for a long time. Carlos would have children of his own by the time she got out.

    'What's going on with Carlos?' Byrne asked, bringing Jessica back to the present and the new case at hand.

    Jessica had to take a second. The last thing you wanted to do in this room, even with your partner, who knew you better than anyone in your life, was display any emotion besides anger.

    'Nothing,' Jessica said. 'They still haven't been able to find Patricia Lentz's sister. Word is that she's an even bigger crackhead.'

    Jessica knew it was no secret, especially to Kevin Byrne, that she and Vincent had been trying for two years to have another child. Sophie was now seven, and the longer they waited, well, all the books said you really didn't want too much of an age gap between siblings. The very notion of undertaking the monumental task of adopting Carlos was, of course, a ridiculous idea. During daylight hours, anyway. But when Jessica lay awake in the middle of the night it all seemed possible. Then the sun would come up again and she realized it would never happen.

    'How is he doing?' Byrne asked.

    'Good, I guess,' Jessica said. She really didn't know if that was true or not, but it was the only answer she had.

    'If you want, we can stop in at the Department of Human Services and check on him.'

    The sooner Jessica let go, the better it would be. Still, she knew what she was going to say. 'Sure. That would be good.'

    Before they could discuss it further, Nicci Malone poked her head into the duty room. 'Kevin, you have a call.'

    Byrne crossed the room, hit a button, answered. A few moments later he pulled out his notebook, wrote something in it, punched a fist through the air. It was clearly good news. Jessica needed some good news.

    Byrne hung up, grabbed his coat. 'That was the ID Unit.'

    The ID Unit processed latent fingerprints.

    'Are we on?' Jessica asked.

    'We are,' Byrne said. 'Our cleanshaven dead man has a name. Kenneth Arnold Beckman.'

The Echo Man
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