Chapter 30


    The addresses on Abingdon Road stopped at 7000, so this eliminated the chance of the address being 8180. Jessica and Byrne drove to the far end of the street, worked back from 5150. This was a body shop called D & K Motor Cars. No one inside knew anyone named Novak, nor a company called Marcato LLC.

    The address at 6160 was a gentrified apartment building called the Beau Rive, perhaps at one time a warehouse. The front had recently been stuccoed, and all four apartments in the front had leaded-glass bay windows.

    Byrne pulled over, cut the engine.

    'Hang on,' Jessica said.

    She got out of the car, walked up the steps to the apartment building. She walked into the small lobby and looked at the mailboxes. There were six suites. She scanned the names. The second to last name, in apartment 204, was Joseph Paul Novak.


    She tried the buzzer twice. No response.

    Jessica walked out of the building, across the street. She got back in the car. 'There's a Joseph Novak in apartment 204. I buzzed. Nothing.'

    Byrne checked his side mirror, then did a U-turn, pulling up on the opposite side of the street in front of a Thai takeout. They had not stopped for lunch and the aromas were enticing. He put the Taurus in park, cut the engine. 'Want to stake it out for a little while?'

    'Sure,' Jessica said.

    They watched the pedestrian traffic up and down Abingdon Road. After ten minutes or so Jessica got restless. She got out of the car, crossed the street, leaned against a light pole, took out her cell. She pretended to have a conversation. Cellphones were, hands down, the best surveillance prop ever invented.

    Finally the door to the Beau Rive opened. The first person to walk out the building was a woman in her sixties, well-dressed and accessorized. When she reached the sidewalk she stopped, rummaged through her purse, then turned around in disgust, stormed back inside. She'd obviously forgotten something.

    The second person to emerge was a man. He was black, in his late twenties, in a real hurry. He came out of the door buttoning a white chef's jacket. Jessica leaned back against the lamppost, called out:


    No reaction. He didn't even acknowledge her. A few minutes later the woman reemerged and walked the other way down the street, a little more urgency to her stride. As a woman who forgot something at home every day, Jessica sympathized.

    Jessica then crossed the street, leaned against the car next to Byrne's open window, went back to pretending to be on the phone. Ten long minutes later another man came out of the building.

    'This is him,' Jessica said.

    'How do you know?'

    'I know.'

    Jessica walked across the sidewalk, gave her hair a quick fluff. 'Is that Joseph? The man turned around. He was tall, broad-shouldered, in his mid-thirties. He had brown hair nearly to his shoulders, a fashionable one-day growth of beard. He wore a dark overcoat. His skin was alabaster pale.

    'Do I know you?' he asked. His posture betrayed neither aggression nor retreat. Instead, he looked pleasantly curious.

    Jessica continued toward him. 'We met last year. You're Joseph Novak, right?'

    The man offered a half-smile but not one that fully committed himself to this conversation. 'I am. But I must confess I don't remember your name.'

    'My name is Jessica Balzano.' She produced her ID, held it up. 'I just need to talk to you for a few moments.'

    Joseph Novak looked at her badge, then back into her eyes. In this light his eyes were a pale blue, almost colorless. 'We've never met, have we?'

    'No,' Jessica said. 'That was just a bold subterfuge on my part.'

    The man smiled. 'Well played. But I can't imagine what it is I could tell you.' He looked over her shoulder. 'Or your partner.'

    It was Jessica's turn to smile. She always had to remind herself that she and Byrne were not that hard to make as cops. 'It won't take a minute.'

    Novak held up a #10 envelope. 'I just need to post this.' He pointed a half-block away, at a mailbox on the corner. He turned back to Jessica. 'I promise not to run.'

    Jessica glanced at the envelope. It did not look like the paper found at the crime scenes. 'In that case, I promise not to chase you.'

    Another smile. 'If you'll excuse me.'

    'Of course.'

    Novak threw one more glance at Byrne, then turned on his heels and walked toward the mailbox. Byrne got out of the car, crossed the street.

    'That was good,' he said.

    'I know.'

    Novak mailed the letter and, as promised, began to walk back up the block. His size and bearing made for a striking silhouette in the afternoon light.

    'Why don't you call Josh, tell him where we are?' Byrne said.

    Jessica got on her cell, filled Bontrager in. She closed her phone just as Novak returned to the steps in front of his apartment building. Novak turned his attention to Byrne.

    'I am Joseph Novak.'

    'Kevin Byrne,' Byrne said.

    'How can I help?' Novak asked.

    Jessica pointed at the door to Beau Rive. 'Do you think we could chat inside? As I said, we won't take up too much of your time.'

    Novak did not answer right away. When he saw that these two police officers were not about to leave, he relented. He gestured to the door. 'Please.'

The Echo Man
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