Dell Shannon

Streets of Death

Our Playwright may show

In some fifth act what this wild drama means

- -The Play, Alfred, Lord Tennyson


Mendoza came int0 the kitchen, hat in hand, and asked, 'Feeling better, cara?' Mrs. MacTaggart was just starting on the breakfast dishes. Alison was hunched over a cup of coffee at the kitchen table, her red hair slightly tousled, still in her robe. She gave him a glance of burning resentment.

'Ah, she’ll be fine,' said Mrs. MacTaggart.

'If I had ever,' said Alison, 'dreamed-hic-after I felt so fine all the time I was carrying the twins, that-hic-this time I’d develop morning sickness, I’d never have-damn-' She leaped up and fled precipitately for the bathroom at the end of the hall.

'Poor lamb,' said Mrs. MacTaggart. 'But she’s near three months along now, it should clear away in a bit.'

'I certainly hope so,' said Mendoza. 'I’m beginning to feel like an outcast around here, Mairi.' Mrs. MacTaggart laughed as he went out the back door.

The four cats were sensibly indoors this chill January morning, but the twins, now officially four, were tearing around the backyard with Cedric the Old English sheepdog galumphing after them. They both hung on to his collar helpfully as Mendoza went out the gate, and then hung over the fence to watch him back out the Ferrari. He waved back at them, thanking God absently for Mairi MacTaggart; Terry and Johnny were a lively pair these days, none the worse for their accidental kidnapping last August, and in her present state Alison wasn’t up to coping with them. He wasn’t worried about Alison; the doctor said she’d be fine once she got past the morning sickness. He hoped he wasn’t beginning to feel his age, with a forty-sixth birthday coming up, but he felt a little stale and tired as he slid down the winding road toward Hollywood Boulevard, thinking of the various business on hand at the Robbery- Homicide office of LAPD headquarters. The perennial violence, death, blood and guilt which had to be looked at and reduced to reports and filed away. Always more of it coming along, seemingly faster and more furious than ever. Of all the cases on hand right now, still being looked at or eventually to be filed in Pending, only two really interested him, and there didn’t seem to be much chance that either would be tidily cleared up soon. There was no handle at all on those queer rape-assaults, and as for the pretty boys- Mendoza’s mouth tightened, thinking of the pretty boys. Those three he’d like to catch up to, but there wasn’t any handle there either.

For once he was early; it was five to eight when he walked into the office, and found Sergeant Lake talking to an agitated-looking citizen in the anteroom. In the communal sergeants’ office Hackett, Landers and Palliser were in; Wednesday was Higgins’ day off and the others would be drifting in. He went on into his office and found the report from the night watch centered on his desk. Lake followed him.

'Look, this guy was waiting when I got here,' he said. 'I don’t think it’s anything, but I suppose somebody’s got to listen to him.'

'About what?'

'He says, about a murder going to be committed. I think he’s just got an imagination,' said Lake.

'Shove him off on Art. You’d better check with the hospital and see if that Beaver woman can talk to us.'

Mendoza picked up the report in one hand and his new cigarette lighter with the other, and Lake took a step back, eyeing it nervously.

'Shove who off on me?' Hackett came in, looming bulkily as usual, and added, 'If you don’t set fire to the building with that flame-thrower you’ll at least singe your mustache off some day. Where Alison found that thing-'

Mendoza regarded it rather fondly; he liked gadgets. It had been a Christmas present from Alison; it was an oversize revolver with a gleaming pearl handle and a fearsome-looking attachment on the barrel which emitted a flame like an acetylene torch when the trigger was pulled. He pulled it now, the flame belched, and he lit a cigarette.

'Jimmy has a nut-case,' he said. 'But we have to listen to the citizens.' Galeano and Conway came down the hall talking. Lake went back to the switchboard. Mendoza was glancing at the night report, and suddenly sat up and exclaimed, '?Mil rayos.; Es el colmo! '

'What’s up?'

'This damned-I’ll bet you, here they are again!' said Mendoza angrily, slapping Shogart’s report down on his desk. 'Same M.O., same general area, and for God’s sake-I’d better check with the hospital-Jimmy!'

Hackett scanned the report rapidly, and his eyes turned cold. 'Our pretty boys all right, a hundred to one.'

Over the last two months, the trio had been described, well enough to mark them as the same, by seven senior citizens who had been attacked, mauled and robbed on the street. None of them had had much to be robbed of; the biggest haul the thugs had got had been seven bucks. Two of the victims were still in the hospital. All the attacks had been in a radius of eight blocks, from Temple Street up to Beverly, and from the partial descriptions the men at Robbery-Homicide had pieced together a picture of the same three louts. All young, probably under twenty, one with long blond hair-'real handsome,' said three of the victims-tall and thin, and dressed in natty sports clothes: two others, not as tall, one heavier than the other, also dressed in flashy clothes-an oddity for the area. And for whatever reason or lack of reason, they had used the wanton violence on the old people they had jumped: kicking, gouging, and clubbing. To date there had been four women, the youngest seventy, and three men, all over eighty: old people living little quiet lives in the inner city, on pensions, on Social Security, all but one of them living alone in tiny apartments, rented rooms.

And now this report, devoid of description, but Hackett would take a bet it was the eighth victim: found on the street by a Traffic unit at nine-twenty, just up from the Union Station behind the church at the Plaza, an elderly man in clerical clothes, no I.D., apparently beaten. He was in Central Receiving.

Mendoza was on the phone, looking grim. Sergeant Lake came in again and said plaintively, 'Look, this guy is about to have kittens.'

'All right, all right, I’ll talk to him,' said Hackett.

Mendoza put down the phone and stood up abruptly, yanking down his cuffs. As usual he was dapperly dressed, in dark-gray Dacron, snowy shirt, a discreet dark tie. He said, 'Well, the hospital’s found out who he is-he came to a while ago. It’s Father O’Brien from the Mission Church.'

'I will be damned,' said Hackett.

'No, they will be,' said Mendoza. 'By the good God, Art, I’d like to get this unholy trio. I’m going over to see if he can give us anything.'

'They wouldn’t have got much from him either, I wouldn’t think.'

'They don’t seem to care. You go talk to the nut. And somebody’ll have to cover that Roundtree inquest.' Mendoza took up his hat.

In the corridor, Henry Glasser was talking earnestly to their policewoman Wanda Larsen; Jason Grace had just come in. Palliser was on the phone in the other office, Galeano swearing as he typed a report, Conway and Landers arguing about something. The switchboard was keeping Lake busy. Another day was under way for the Robbery-Homicide office, and it looked as if it was to be the usual kind of day.

Вы читаете Streets of Death
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату