'Don't give me that 'brother' crap, brother,' he growled. 'You always say that when you want something.'

'One reason you're such a good cop is your uncanny perceptiveness.'

Garth grunted. 'Perceptive? I read you like a book; make that a cheap pulp thriller.' 'Tut-tut. Compliments won't get you anywhere. I would like to find out a few things.'

'This isn't the public library, Mongo. You're a private snoop; you can't just walk in off the street and pump me for information'-he allowed himself a thin smile-'like you always do.'

'Now, don't get righteous on me. A retired cop working private could come in here anytime and get information.'

'You're not retired, and you're not a cop.'

'I'm a colleague, and I'm your brother.' I tried to put a little whine in my voice; that usually got to him.

He wasn't moved. 'I'm hungry, and it's my dinner hour.'

'You've grown callous, Garth. I'll buy you whiskey sours and a steak. Consider that an official bribe.'

'What the hell do you want, Mongo?' Garth asked wearily.

'Well, now that you mention it, I would like to see the file on-'

Garth shook his head determinedly. 'Uh-uh. You know I can't actually let you look at any files.'

'Then you look for me. See what you've got on the murder of a Dr. Arthur Morton. It would be early August, about five years ago, so you may get your uniform a little dusty.'

'Morton ask you to find his killer?' The question was a typical way of his asking what my concern in the matter was.

I filled him in on Victor Rafferty and Arthur Morton's relationship to him, emphasizing the fact that both had died violent deaths a few days apart.

Garth frowned. 'You think there may be some connection between the deaths?'

'Can't say, but I do think it's worth a little digging. Somebody else apparently got hurt in connection with Rafferty, and it upset some important people.' I showed him the Xeroxed copy of the photo taken outside Rafferty's home.

Garth studied it. 'They do look important.'

'And they had the juice to keep everybody away from whatever was happening. That's Rafferty's house. Quite a gathering, huh?'

'Which one is Rafferty?'

'He's not there,' I said. 'That picture was taken two days before his dive into the furnace. I'd like to find out where he was, and what those men were doing at his house.'

'Who's the creep in the winter coat?'

'Beats me. I'm just playing a hunch that there could be a tie-in with Morton's death. Morton was killed in his office- at three-thirty in the morning. What the hell was he doing in his office at that hour? And who would bother to break into a neurosurgeon's office in the first place? No money, and damn little chance of finding any narcotics. Now, isn't that enough to make a cop's nose twitch?'

'I'll pull the file,' Garth said seriously.


'First thing in the morning,' he said, starting to rise. 'Right now I'm going to take you up on that bribe offer.'

'Rain check, brother,' I said. 'I'm in a big hurry on this one. I plan to be in Acapulco on Thursday, and I want to earn as much of my client's money as I can before I leave.'

'You're going to roil the waters and then swim away? That doesn't sound like you.'

'I'm hoping there won't be a week's worth of mud. If there is-well, I need a rest and my colleagues need the work.'

'There goes the last of my illusions; I thought you were indestructible.'

'What time can I get to you tomorrow, Garth?'

He considered it, then said: 'Make it ten. And bring black coffee.'

Now I needed a phone directory. I stopped in a bar around the corner from the station house and ordered a corned beef on rye and a beer, which I took into one of the phone booths in the rear.

Harold Q. Barnes was the name of the watchman who'd seen Rafferty fall off the catwalk. But there was only one Harold Q. Barnes listed, and his name was in large, black type in front of the words FILM COMPANY. The address was near Washington Square. I finished my corned beef sandwich in the cab.

Harry Barnes's combination house-movie studio was a converted brownstone in a fashionable district where the remodeling costs alone started at around a hundred thousand dollars. The place was all glitter on the outside and blue funk on the inside; Harry Barnes made dirty movies.

A young, very gay male let me in the door, examined me with an air of jaded disbelief, then motioned me over to where a crowd of actors and actresses were waiting, shuffling their feet. Nobody else paid any particular attention to me. These people had their own problems; the room smelled of sour hope and anxiety.

I recognized a casting 'cattle call' when I saw one. The men and women were waiting in line for parts in an X-rated quickie that would probably be shot in forty-eight hours over the weekend. The men were uniformly good- looking and wore tight pants. Most of the women were well past whatever prime they might have had; many were young and just looked old-would-be discoveries on the run from places like Des Moines and Peoria. Or Nebraska. They'd come to New York to chase a star and had washed up, a thousand disappointments later, on the barren shores of the flesh trade.

I waited until the young man's back was turned, then made my way past the crowd, down a fluorescent- lighted corridor that looked as if it led to where the action was. There were now a few giggles from the women; they were speculating as to what role I was going to play in Harry Barnes's next film and what my qualification- singular-might look like.

Barnes was enjoying himself in a large, soundproofed studio deep in the bowels of the brownstone. He was gnawing on a hamburger as he directed a scene involving two big- breasted women writhing on the floor in the tepid embrace of an obviously bored, pimply-faced boy of nineteen or twenty. Again, nobody paid the slightest bit of attention to me: the people on the floor because they didn't care; Barnes because he was totally absorbed in his art.

Barnes was a big man with red hair, moustache, and goatee. He had small eyes that only looked red because of his hair and the bright lighting. Beads of sweat marched like drunken soldiers down his forehead. He turned and spotted me.

'Hey! What the-?' He almost choked on the last bite of his hamburger. He finally got it down, but the sight of a strange, uninvited dwarf standing next to him seemed to have short-circuited his vocal cords. He rose halfway out of his director's chair, his hands flapping nervously at his sides, and sputtered.

'My name's Frederickson,' I said quickly. 'I'm a private detective. I'd like to ask you some questions about a man named Victor Rafferty. I'll only need a few minutes of your time.'

Pay dirt. He stopped sputtering and his hands grew still as he tried on a variety of expressions and settled for surprise. He obviously recognized the name. The three people on the floor continued to writhe around one another as he came over to me.

'All right, dwarf, what did you say your name was?' Barnes's voice was deep, well modulated, pleasing; it clashed with the rest of the package.

'Frederickson.' I extended my hand, but he ignored it.

'You said you wanted to talk to me about Rafferty. I'm a busy man.'

'I can see that. This won't take long. You worked for Victor Rafferty five years ago. Is that right?'

Barnes turned to watch the fleshy tableau behind him. 'Yeah,' he mumbled. I seemed to be losing his attention.

'Mr. Barnes, is there someplace we can go to talk?'

He hesitated, then nodded in the direction of a closed door across the corridor from the studio. I followed him through it, leaving the two women and the boy alone in their curious circle of hell.

The cork walls of the spacious office were covered with glossy pornographic photographs. I shut the door of the office behind me as Barnes settled down behind a large oak desk and folded his hands across his ample

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