With crooks to cuff and pimps to put behind bars, detectives Carella and Meyer of the 87th Precinct simply don’t have the time or patience to deal with a prank caller—even if he has phoned murder threats to two dozen local shop owners. What they fail to realize, however, is they aren’t dealing with a heckler who’s ringing round for kicks but rather a modern-day Moriarty known only as the Deaf Man—and these phone calls are just his first move in a calculated scheme to pull off the bank robbery of the decade. Further calls darken a lovely spring with suspicion and fear, before a brutal murder whips things into a frenzy, prompting Carella and Meyer to scour the town for clues to the Deaf Man’s identity. As the detectives grasp at a few tenuous threads of the larger plot, those targeted by the calls clamor for the cops to slam the case closed before more of them wind up stiffs. If they can find him in time, the 87th Precinct promises to shut down the Deaf Man for good.
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Ed McBain was one of the pen names of successful and prolific crime fiction author Evan Hunter (1926–2005). Debuting in 1956, the popular 87th Precinct series is one of the longest running crime series ever published, featuring more than 50 novels, and is hailed as "one of the great literary accomplishments of the last half-century." McBain was awarded the Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement in 1986 by the Mystery Writers of America and was the first American to receive the Cartier Diamond Dagger award from the Crime Writers Association of Great Britain.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
She came in like a lady, that April.
The poet may have been right, but there really wasn't a trace of cruelty about her this year. She was a delicate thing who walked into the city with the wide-eyed innocence of a maiden, and you wanted to hold her in your arms because she seemed alone and frightened in this geometric maze of strangers, intimidated by the streets and the buildings, shyly touching you with the pale-gray eyes of a lady who'd materialized somehow from the cold marrow of March.
She wandered mist-shrouded through the city, a city that had become suddenly green in exuberant welcome. She wandered alone, reaching into people the way she always does, but not with cruelty. She touched wellsprings deep inside, so that people for a little while, sensing her approach, feeling her come close again, turned a soft vulnerable pulsing interior to her, turned it outward to face the harsh angles of the city's streets and buildings, held out tenderness to be touched by tenderness, but only for a little while.
And for that little while, April would linger on the walks of Grover Park, linger like white mist on a mountain meadow, linger on the paths and in the budding trees, spreading a delicate perfume on the air. And along the lake and near the statue of Daniel Webster below Twelfth Street, the cornelian cherry shrubs would burst into early bloom. And further west, uptown, facing Grover Avenue and the building which housed the men of the 87th Precinct, the bright yellow blossoms of forsythias would spread along the park's retaining wall in golden-banked fury while the Japanese quince waited for a warmer spring, waited for April's true and warm and rare and lovely smile.
For Detective Meyer Meyer, April was a Gentile.
Sue him; she was a Gentile. Perhaps for Detective Steve Carella April was a Jewess.
Which is to say that, for both of them, April was a strange and exotic creature, tempting, a bit unreal, warm, seductive, shrouded with mystery. She crossed the avenue from Grover Park with the delicate step of a lady racing across a field in yellow taffeta, and she entered the squadroom in her insinuating perfume and rustling petticoats, and she turned the minds of men to mush.
Steve Carella looked up from the filing cabinets and remembered a time when he was thirteen and experiencing his first kiss. It had been an April night, long, long ago.
Meyer Meyer glanced through the grilled windows at the new leaves in the park across the street and tried to listen patiently to the man who sat in the hard-backed chair alongside his desk, but he lost the battle to spring, and he sat idly wondering how it felt to be seventeen.
The man who sat opposite Meyer Meyer was named Dave Raskin, and he owned a dress business. He also owned about two hundred and ten pounds of flesh which was loosely distributed over a six-foot-two-inch frame garbed at the moment in a pale-blue tropical suit. He was a good-looking man in a rough-hewn way, with a high forehead and graying hair which was receding above the temples, a nose with the blunt chopping edge of a machete, an orator's mouth, and a chin which would have been completely at home on a Roman balcony in 1933. He was smoking a foul-smelling cigar and blowing the smoke in Meyer's direction. Every now and then Meyer waved his hand in front of his face, clearing the air, but Raskin didn't quite appreciate the sublety. He kept sucking on the soggy end of his cigar and blowing smoke in Meyer's direction. It was hard to appreciate April and feel like seventeen while swallowing all that smoke and listening to Raskin at the same time.
"So Marcia said to me, you work right in his own precinct, Meyer's," Raskin said."So what are you afraid of? You grew up with his father, he was a boyhood friend of yours, so you should be afraid to go see him? What is he now, a detective? This is to be afraid of?" Raskin shrugged."That's what Marcia said to me."
"I see," Meyer said, and he waved his hand to clear the air of smoke.
"You want a cigar?" Raskin asked.
"No. No, thank you."
"Good cigars. My son-in-law sent them to me from Nassau. He took my daughter there on their honeymoon. A good boy. A periodontist. You know what that is?"
"Yes," Meyer said, and again he waved his hand.
"So it's true what Marcia said. I did grow up with your father, Max, God rest his soul. So why should I be afraid to come here to see his son, Meyer? I was at the briss, would you believe it? When you were circumcised, you, I was there, me. So I should be afraid now to come to you with a little problem, when I knew your father we were kids together? I should be afraid? You sure you don't want a cigar?"
"Very good cigars. My son-in-law sent them to me from Nassau."
"Thank you, no, Mr. Raskin."
"Dave, Dave. Please. Dave."
"Dave, what seems to be the trouble? I mean, why did you come here? To the squadroom."
"I got a heckler."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't think I understand."
"I've been getting phone calls," Raskin said."Two, three times a week. I pick up the phone and a voice asks, 'Mr. Raskin?' and I say, 'Yes?' and the voice yells. 'If you're not out of that loft by April thirtieth, I'm going to kill you!' And then whoever it is hangs up."
"Is this a man or a woman?" Meyer asked.
"And that's all he says?"
"That's all he says."
"What's so important about this loft?"
"Who knows? It's a crumby little loft on Culver Avenue, it's got rats the size of crocodiles, you should see them. I use it to store dresses there. Also I got some girls there, they do pressing for me."
"Then you wouldn't say it was a desirable location?"
"Desirable for other rats, maybe. But not so you should call a man and threaten him."
"I see. Well, do you know anyone who might want you dead?"
"Me? Don't be ridiculous," Raskin said."I'm well liked by everybody."
"I understand that," Meyer said,"but is there perhaps a crank or a nut among any of your friends who might just possibly have the foolish notion that it might be nice to see you dead?"
"I'm a respected man. I go to temple every week. I got a good wife and a pretty daughter and a son-in-law he's a periodontist. I got two retail stores here in the city, and I got three stores in farmers' markets out in Pennsylvania, and I got the loft right here in this neighborhood, on Culver Avenue. I'm a respected man, Meyer."
"Of course," Meyer said understandingly."Well, tell me, Dave, could one of your friends be playing a little joke on you, maybe?"
"A joke? I don't think so. My friends, you should pardon the expression, are all pretty solemn bastards. I'll tell you the truth, Meyer, no attempt to butter you up. When your dear father Max Meyer died, God rest his soul, when your dear father and my dear friend Max Meyer passed away, this world lost a very great funny man. That is the truth, Meyer. This was a hilarious person, always with a laugh on his lips, always with a little joke. This was a very funny man."
"Yes, oh yes," Meyer said, and he hoped his lack of enthusiasm did not show. It had been his dear father, that very funny man Max Meyer who -- in retaliation for being presented with a change-of-life baby -- had decided to name his new son Meyer Meyer, the given name to match the surname. This was very funny indeed, the gasser of all time. When Max announced the name at the briss those thirty-seven years ago, perhaps all the guests, including Dave Raskin, had split a gut or two laughing. For Meyer Meyer, who had to grow up with the name, the humor wasn't quite that convulsive. Patiently he carried the name like an albatross. Patiently he suffered the gibes and the jokes, suffered the assaults of people who decided they didn't like his face simply because they didn't like his name. He wore patience as his armor and carried it as his standard. Omnia Meyer in tres partes divisa est: Meyer and Meyer and Patience. Add them all together, and you got a Detective 2nd/Grade who worked out of the 87th Squad, a tenacious cop who never let go of anything, who doggedly and patiently worried a case to its conclusion, who used patience the way some men used glibness or good looks.
So the odd name hadn't injured him after all. Oh yes, it hadn't been too pleasant, but he'd survived and he was a good cop and a good man. He had grown to adult size and was apparently unscarred. Unless one chose to make the intellectual observation that Meyer Meyer was completely bald and that the baldness could have been the result of thirty-seven years of sublimation. But who the hell wants to get intellectual in a detective squadroom?
Patiently now, having learned over the years that hating his father wasn't going to change his name, having in fact felt a definite loss when his father died, the loss all sons feel when they are finally presented with the shoes they've wanted to fill for so long, forgetting the malice he had borne, patiently reconstructing a new image of the father as a kind and gentle man, but eliminating all humor from that image, patiently Meyer listened to Raskin tell about the comedian who'd been his father, but he did not believe a word of it.
"So it isn't a man trying to be funny, believe me," Raskin said."If it was that, do you think I'd have come up here? I got nothing better to do with my time, maybe?"
"Then what do you think, Dave? That this man is really going to kill you if you don't get out of the loft?"
"Kill me? Who said that?" It seemed to Meyer in that moment that Dave Raskin turned a shade paler. "Kill me? Me?"
"Didn't he say he was going to kill you?"
"Well yes, but --"
"And didn't you just tell me you didn't think this was a joke?"
"Well yes, but --"
"Then apparently you believe he is going to kill you unless you vacate the loft. Otherwise you wouldn't be here. Isn't that correct?"
"No, that's not correct!" Raskin said with some indignation."By you, maybe, that is correct, but not by me. By me, it is not correct at all. Dave Raskin didn't come up here he thinks somebody's going to kill him."
"Then why did you come up, Dave?"
"Because this heckler, this pest, this shmuck who's calling me up two, three times a week, he's scaring the girls who work for me. I got three Puerto Rican girls they do pressing for me in the Culver Avenue loft. So every time this bedbug calls, if I don't happen to be there, he yells at the girls, 'Tell that son of a bitch Raskin I'm going to kill him unless he gets out of that loft!' Crazy, huh? But he's got the girls scared stiff, they can't do any work!"
"Well, what do you want me to do?" Meyer asked.
"Find out who he is. Get him to stop calling me. He's threatening me, can't you see that?"
"I see it, all right. But I don't think there's enough here to add up to extortion, and I can't -- This guy hasn't made any real attempts on your life, has he?"
"What are you gonna do?" Raskin asked."Wait until he kills me? Is that what? And then you'll make a nice funeral for me?"
"But you said you didn't think he was serious."
"To kill me, I don't think so. But suppose, Meyer. Just suppose. Listen, there are crazy people all over, you know that, don't you?"
"So suppose this crazy nut comes after me with a shotgun or a butcher knife or something? I get to be one of those cases in the newspaper where I went to the police and they told me to go home and don't worry."
" 'Dave, Dave!' Don't 'Dave' me. I remember you when you was in diapers. I come here and tell you a man said he's going to kill me. Over and over again, he's said it. So this is attempted murder, no?"
"No, this is not attempted murder."
"And not extortion, either? Then what is it?"
"Disorderly conduct," Meyer said."He's used offensive, disorderly, threatening, abusive, or insulting language." Meyer paused and thought for a moment."Gee, I don't know, maybe we have got extortion. He is trying to get you out of that loft by threatening you."
"Sure. So go pick him up," Raskin said.
"Who?" Meyer asked.
"The person who's making the calls."
"Well, we don't know who he is, do we?"
"That's simple," Raskin said."Just trace the next call."
"Impossible to do in this city," Meyer said."All our telephone equipment is automatic."
"So what do we do?"
"I don't know," Meyer said."Does he call at any specific time?"
"So far, all the calls have come in the afternoon, late. Just about closing time, between four and five."
"Well, look," Meyer said,"maybe I'll stop by, this afternoon or tomorrow. To listen in on the calls, if any come. Where's the loft?"
"Twelve thirteen Culver Avenue," Raskin said."You can't miss it. It's right upstairs over the bank."
In the streets, the kids were yelling"April Fool!" as the punch line to their first-of-April jokes. And they chased each other into Grover Park the way kids will always chase each other, leaping the stone walls and cavorting along the path and ducking behind trees and bushes.
"Watch out, Frankie! There's a tiger on that rock!" and then they shouted"April Fool!"
And then dashing off again to duck behind another rock or another tree, the punch line old and clichÃ©ed by this time, but delighting them nonetheless each time it was shouted.
"Over your head, Johnny! An eagle! April Fool!"
Running over the close-cropped grass and then one of the boys ducking into the trees again, and his voice coming from somewhere in the woods, a voice tinged with shock and awe, reaching out for the path.
"Frankie! There's a dead guy in here!"
And this time no one shouted"April Fool!"
Copyright © 1960 by Ed McBain Copyright renewed © 1988 by Evan Hunter
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Descrizione libro Berkley, 1982. Mass Market Paperback. Condizione libro: New. book. Codice libro della libreria M0451139011