‘Right,’ said the man. ‘But I’m not just the messenger here. You gotta appreciate that. I’m how it all begins. I’m what sets it all in motion. I’m, like, bang. And the future I see will start from right here in these nine stitches.’

Joe nodded slowly.

The man reached up and adjusted the purple crocheted hat on his head, pulling the ear flaps around so one of them hung in front of his face. He rotated it again, then looked back at their hands.

‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘I’m seeing things. I definitely am,’ said the man. ‘My name is One Line, by incident. One Line. King of Madison Avenue. Your product in one line. Your brand in one line-’

‘You were a copywriter?’ said Joe.

‘Your future in one line,’ said the man, staring at the hands in front of him.

‘OK,’ said Danny. ‘So what is it?’

The bell chimed and the elevator doors opened on the sixth floor. Joe and Danny got out. As the doors slid together, One Line pushed his face close to the gap.

‘One line: you’re fucked, both of you. Is that two lines? Could that be two?’ The doors closed.

They laughed.

‘Another EDP for the HPD,’ said Danny. An EDP was an Emotionally Disturbed Person. The HPD was the Department of Housing Preservation and Development – one of their jobs was to give out Section 8 housing subsidies.

‘Let’s send him into Internal Affairs, let him tell them they’re fucked,’ said Danny.

‘I’d like him to come up with a whole jingle for that,’ said Joe.

Sixteen detectives worked in three teams out of Manhattan North Homicide, a modern open plan space with a small glass-walled office in the corner, shared by the sergeant and the lieutenant. The NYPD was one of the only law enforcement agencies in the country whose officers weren’t put through regular fitness checks, leaving Sergeant John Rufo free to work his way up to 230 pounds and into his current predicament of trying to work his way back down.

‘Your mental agility is being impaired,’ he said, pointing at Joe and Danny with something beige speared on a fork.

‘Is that tofu?’ said Danny.

‘No it is not tofu. It is marinated steamed chicken. Tofu. Gimme a break.’

Joe and Danny exchanged glances.

‘It’s eleven o’clock in the morning,’ said Danny.

‘Eat little and often,’ said Rufo. ‘Them’s the rules.’ He pointed to his plate. ‘Vegetables, protein…’

‘Yeah, boss,’ said Danny. ‘Tomato sauce, meatballs: I got it covered already.’

‘How do you stay so trim?’ said Rufo.

‘You mean, “Have I been working out?”’ said Danny.

Rufo rolled his eyes. Then poked his fork through his salad. ‘Who’s up today?’

‘Me,’ said Joe. ‘And I eat well, by the way.’

‘You gotta watch that French food,’ said Rufo, looking up at him. ‘It’s tasty…’ he raised a finger in warning, ‘… because it’s rich. Your wife is genetically wired for it. You might not be. You’re in shape now, but who knows down the line…’

Joe laughed. ‘Yeah, Sarge, thanks for looking out for me.’

‘A varied diet,’ said Rufo, ‘that’s what-’

The phone interrupted him. ‘Ruthie, yeah – put him through.’ He nodded. ‘How you doing? OK. Yeah. OK.’ He listened, then scribbled on a notebook in front of him. ‘Right away. Detectives Joe Lucchesi and Danny Markey. Yeah. Uh-huh. Take care.’ He put down the phone. ‘Gentlemen, we have a homicide on West 84th Street. Here’s the address. Guy found in his apartment.’ He ripped out the page and handed it to Joe. ‘The Two-Oh is at the scene already.’


Joe and Danny crossed Broadway to the parking lot under the railway bridge.

‘Who says “trim”?’ said Danny.

‘People who aren’t,’ said Joe.

‘It’s unbelievable,’ said Danny, ‘we get sucked into food talk every time we go in his office. I wind up starving.’ Danny was short, wiry and had no extra weight. He’d been wearing the same suit size since he was eighteen. He had pale skin and fading freckles, light brown hair and blue eyes. Joe was six-three, dark and broad.

Joe stopped. ‘Aw, shit…’

‘What?’ said Danny.

‘Would you look at that?’ Joe walked over to a silver Lexus. ‘That fucking shit.’ He pulled his keys out of his pocket and opened the door of his car, popping the glove box. He took out a cloth and started rubbing at a lump of tar on his windshield.

‘I’ve a pain in my fucking ass with that crap,’ he said. He looked up at the bridge from where the tar dripped in the heat.

‘Least it was a fresh one,’ said Danny. ‘How come you don’t have the ghetto sled?’ The ghetto sled was a detective’s B-team car, the one he could park two blocks from the projects and not have to worry about.

‘We got a meeting at Shaun’s school today, I’m going straight there. Or at least I would have been. Anna’s going to have to go it alone.’ Shaun was Joe’s eighteen-year-old son.

‘She won’t like that,’ said Danny. ‘What’s he been doing now?’

Joe shook his head. ‘You name it.’

‘He’s been through a lot.’

‘Yeah, but it’s fucking wearing me down. And Anna doesn’t need this kind of shit, going up to the school every month to answer to this asshole teacher fifteen years younger than us.’

‘Shaun’s a good kid,’ said Danny. ‘He’ll be in college next year, you won’t have to worry. Try having four under ten. I love them, but, man…’ He breathed out. ‘Now, come on. Say goodbye to the nice car and get into the shit one.’ There was a pool of five cars at Manhattan North. Any damage during a tour and the driver was left to face a bawling out by Rufo. The newer the car, the more likely Joe would take the wheel. Today, they had the oldest car – a grey Gran Fury; ‘You get a scratch on it, who gives a shit?’ said Danny. They pulled out and joined the traffic heading south on Broadway.

‘Can I ask what happened with Dr Mak?’ said Danny.

Joe grunted. ‘I staggered in, I got more Vicodin, I walked out.’

‘That’s it?’

‘That’s it,’ said Joe.

‘You mean that’s all you let it be, right?’

‘Who are you? Psych services?’

Danny ignored him. ‘I’m guessing you went in, told him you were real busy, just needed a prescription, gotta go.’

‘What else am I going to do?’ said Joe.

‘Let him treat you,’ said Danny.

Joe had TMD – Temporo Mandibular Joint Dysfunction. The least it would do was make his jaw crackle when he opened his mouth, the worst – spark excruciating pain all over his head. For years, Danny had watched him pop over-the-counter painkillers and decongestants. He’d recently moved on to Vicodin.

‘It’s getting worse,’ said Danny.

‘Yeah, so are you.’ Joe turned away. Yesterday’s phone call had jerked him back too far – to events he had spent wasted months trying to forget: the botched rescue of an eight-year-old kidnap victim and the near- destruction of his family. The little girl had been returned to her heartbroken mother and the two clung to each other, happily, desperately. Seconds later, the scene turned to graphic, bloody images he still couldn’t shake – the kidnapper had blown them up in retaliation for calling the cops. Joe confronted him moments later and pumped six bullets into his chest. His name was Donald Riggs.

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