“Why’d construction stop?”

“Guard asked about that, too, was told to mind his own business.”

I said, “An abandoned site would suit Backer if he liked to party here. With this woman, or others. Given the discrepancy between his clothing budget and hers, I’d start with lower-paid employees of his firm.”

“Office romance with the receptionist, unfortunately she’s got a possessive significant other. One thing: The guard says he’s never seen evidence of other trysts.”

“We’re talking the nervous-looking, skinny fellow with the limp.”

“Doyle Bryczinski. Applied to the department, got into a serious T.A., messed up his leg.”

“ Milo made a new friend?” I said. “What’s his favorite food?”

“Begrudging me the occasional helpful citizen?”

“God forbid.”

“Bryczinski came across nervous to you?”

“When I drove up, he watched me. When I made eye contact, he pretended he hadn’t been watching. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t point out that you just described Bryczinski as a wannabe cop who sounds extremely frustrated about the lack of control in his life. Guy like that, girlfriend throws him over for someone cuter, smoother, richer? In the exact spot you brought her, yourself?”

“The guy tries to help, all of a sudden he’s a prime suspect?”

“Like the song goes,” I said, “suspect the one you’re with.”

He took a long sour look at the bodies, made his way toward the rickety spiral staircase. “Let’s get to know ol’ Doyle a little better.”


Doyle Bryczinski said, “Oh, man, they look… worse.”

“Worse than when you found them?” said Milo. Bryczinski turned away. “They’re more like… people.”

“And less like…”

“I dunno, it was like… unreal. When I found them, I mean.”

“Helluva way to start your day, Doyle.”

“My day starts at four thirty,” said Bryczinski. “Take care of my mother before her attendant shows up at six, then I got to drive straight out here.” Head shake. “Then I find this.”

“Mom’s sick?”

“She’s all kinds of sick. Used to live with my brother then he moved to Nome. That’s Alaska.”

He licked his lips. Small, fragile-looking man, nervous as a rabbit. Without a gun, he’d have trouble controlling anything.

Before bringing him up here, Milo ran background. Bryczinski had accumulated several unpaid traffic tickets. The disabling traffic accident was a one-car, which usually means DUI, but Bryczinski’s blood alcohol had fallen short of the criterion.

When ask to come up for a second viewing, he said, “Sure.” Then: “How come?”

“We could use your help, Doyle.”

The guard’s limp turned the three-story climb into a plodding ordeal.

Milo let him stand there for a while, getting an eyeful of the bodies. Sweat beaded Bryczinski’s hairline. His back curved in an unhealthy way. Forty but he looked fifty, with wispy sandy hair gone mostly gray and a narrow face sunken in all the wrong places. Five seven, one thirty soaking wet. Small, cheap flashlight hanging from a belt drawn to the last hole. No one was serious about keeping this site secure.

“Anyway,” he said.

“You’re sure you don’t know them.”

Bryczinski’s eyes narrowed. “Why would I?”

“Now that you can see their faces, I mean.”

“I see ’ em but I sure don’t know ’em.” Backing away toward the wall. Just before he made contact, Milo took hold of his arm.

Bryczinski tensed. “Hey.”

“Sorry, Doyle. We need to print everything. I’m sure you know the drill.”

“Oh, yeah. Sure.”

Milo said, “This kind of situation, I have to ask all kinds of questions. You’re up here more than anyone. Meaning if anyone comes by, messes the place up, you’d be in the best position to know.”

“I’m here but I ain’t up here much.” The guard stamped his foot lightly. Plywood thrummed. “Once I check up here, I don’t come back.”

“Don’t like the view.”

“I’m working, got no time for views.”

“So no one ever messes around up here.”

“Like who?”

“Anyone,” said Milo.

“Like some homeless guy? You’re thinking it was one of those idiots, they surprised him, he went nuts?”

“Anything’s possible, Doyle.”

“Well, that hasn’t happened for a long time,” said Bryczinski, chancing another look at the bodies. “A homeless, I mean.”

“You’ve had problems with squatters?”

“Nah, not really. About a year ago-maybe longer, year and a half, I come in one morning and find dirt. Not up here, on the second floor.”

“Someone tracked in soil.”

“Person dirt. You know what I mean.”

“Someone used the place for a toilet?”

“Right in the middle of floor two, foot of the stairs. Gross. Also there was food wrappers-Taco Bell, wax cups, greasy paper. Beans and sauce stains on the floor. Someone was eating Mexican, then crapping all over.”

“What a mess,” said Milo.

“I called the company, they said clean it up. With what? There’s no water, one broken hose bib out back but no pressure. I said screw that. Why bother, anyway? What’s to stop the idiot from coming back the next day and doing the same thing?”

“Did he?”

“Nope. But a little later, maybe a month later, some Mexicans came in and ate again. Thank God they didn’t dump.”

“How do you know they were Mexicans?”

“Taco Bell wrappers. And too much for one person.”

“All kinds of people eat at Taco Bell.”

“Yeah, well,” said Bryczinski, “all kinds of people don’t leave behind Mexican money. Idiot coins, pesos, whatever. I checked them out, not worth a thing so I gave them to my niece, she’s four.”

“Any other intruders?”

“Nah, that’s it.”

“No evidence anyone ever came up here to fool around?”

“Nope. That second time, I figured some illegal working on one of the other rich-idiot houses

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