Her red-blond hair was stained and discolored when they found her in the sewer, and her lungs were choked with muck because her killer hadn’t bothered to see whether she was really dead when he dumped her body into the manhole, so she had breathed the stuff in with her last gasping breaths. Her face was bruised, covered with great blotches, and three of her ribs had been broken. Her thighs and abdomen had been bruised and lacerated.
If she had lived for three more days, Angela Frances Donahue would have reached her seventh birthday.
I didn’t see her until she was brought to the morgue. My phone chimed, and when I thumbed it on, the face of Inspector Kleek, of Homicide South, came on the screen. His heavy eyelids always hang at half mast, giving him a sleepy, bored look and the rest of his fleshy face sags in the same general pattern. “Roy,” he said as soon as he could see my face on his own screen, “we just found the little Donahue girl. The meat wagon’s taking her down to the morgue now. You want to come down here and look over the scene, or you want to go to the morgue? It looks like it’s one of your special cases, but we won’t know for sure until Doc Prouty does the post on her.”
I took a firm grip on my temper. I should have been notified as soon as Homicide had been; I should have been there with the Homicide Squad. But I knew that if I said anything, Kleek would just say, “Hell, Roy, they don’t notify me until there’s suspicion of homicide, and you don’t get a call until there’s suspicion that it might be the work of a degenerate. That’s the way the system works. You know that, Roy.” And rather than hear that song-and-dance again, I gave myself thirty seconds to think.
“I’ll meet you at the morgue,” I said. “Your men can get the whole story at the scene without my help.”
That mollified him, and it showed a little on his face. “O.K., Roy, see you there.” And he cut off.
I punched savagely at the numbered buttons on the phone to get an intercommunication hookup with Dr. Barton Brownlee’s office, on the third floor of the same building as my own office. His face, when it came on, was a calming contrast to Kleek’s.
He’s nearly ten years younger than I am, not yet thirty-five, and his handsome, thoughtful face and dark, slightly wavy hair always make me think of somebody like St. Edward Pusey or maybe Albert Einstein. Not that he looks like either one of them, or even that he looks saintly, but he does look like a man who has the courage of his convictions and is calmly, quietly, but forcefully ready to shove what he knows to be the truth down everybody else’s throat if that becomes necessary. Or maybe I am just reading into his face what I know to be true about the man himself.
“Brownie,” I said, “they’ve found the Donahue girl. Taking her down to the morgue now. Want to come along?”
“I don’t think so,” he said without hesitation. “I’ll get all the information I need from the photos and the reports. The man I do want to see is the killer; I need more data, Roy--always more data. The more my boys and I know about these zanies, the more effectively we can deal with them.”
“I know. O.K.; I’ve got to run.” I cut off, grabbed my hat, and headed out to fulfill my part of the bargain Brownlee and I had once made. “You find ‘em,” he’d once said, “and I’ll fix ‘em.” So far, that bargain had paid off.
I got to the morgue a few minutes after the body was brought in. The man at the front desk looked up at me as I walked in and gave me a bored smile. “Evening, Inspector. The Donahue kid’s in the clean-up room.” Then he went back to his paper work.
The lab technicians were standing around watching while the morgue attendant sluiced the muck off the corpse with a hose, watching to see if anything showed up in the gooey filth. Inspector Kleek stood to one side. All he said was, “Hi, Roy.”
The morgue attendant lifted up one small arm with a gloved hand and played the hose over the thin biceps. “Good thing the rigor mortis has gone off,” he said, “these stiffs are hell to handle when they’re stiff.” It was an old joke, but everybody grinned out of habit.
The clear water from the hose flowed over the skin and turned a grayish brown as it ran down to the bottom of the shallow, waist-high stainless-steel trough in which the body was lying.
One of the lab techs stepped over and began going through the long hair very carefully, and Doc Prouty, the Medical Examiner, began cleaning out the mouth and nose and eyes and ears with careful hands.
I turned to Kleek. “You sure it’s the Donahue girl?”
He sighed and looked away from the small dead thing on the cleaning table. “Who else could it be? She was found only three blocks from the Donahue home. No other female child reported missing in that area. We haven’t checked the prints yet, but you can bet they’ll tally with her school record.”
I had to agree. “What about the time of death?”
“Doc Prouty figures forty-eight to sixty hours ago.”
“I’ll be able to give you a better figure after the post,” the Medical Examiner said without looking up from his work.
A tall, big-nosed man in plain-clothes suddenly turned away from the scene on the table, his mouth moving queerly, his eyes hard. After a moment, his lips relaxed. Still staring at the wall, he said: “I guess the case is out of Federal jurisdiction, then. We’ll co-operate, as usual, of course.” He looked at me. “Could I talk to you outside, Inspector Royall?”
I looked at Kleek. “O.K., Sam?” I didn’t have to have his O.K.; it was just professional courtesy. He knew I’d tell him whatever it was that the FBI man had to say, and we both knew why the Federal agent wanted to leave.
Sam Kleek nodded. “Sure. I’ll keep an eye out here.”
The FBI man followed me into the outer room.
“Do you figure this as a sex-degenerate case, Inspector?” he asked.
“Looks like it. You saw the bruises. Dr. Prouty will be able to tell us for sure after the post mortem.”
He shook his head as if to clear it of a bad memory. “You New York police can sure be cold-blooded at times.”
The thing that was bothering him, as Kleek and I both knew, was that the FBI agent hadn’t been exposed to this sort of thing often enough. They deal with the kind of crimes that actually don’t involve the callous murder of children very often. Even the murder of adults doesn’t normally come under the aegis of the FBI.
“We’re not cold blooded,” I said. “Not by inclination, I mean. But a man gets that way--he has to get that way--after he’s seen enough of this sort of thing. You either get yourself an emotional callous or you get deathly sick from the repetition--and then you have to get out of the job.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Sure.” He quit rubbing his chin with a knuckle, looked at me, and said: “What I wanted to say is that there’s no evidence that she was taken across a state line. Whoever sent that ransom note to the Donahue parents was trying to throw us off the track.”
“Looks like it. Look at the time-table. The note was sent after the girl was murdered, but before the information hit the papers or the newscasts. The killer wanted us to think it was a ransom kidnaping. It isn’t likely that the note was sent by a crank. A crank wouldn’t have known the girl was missing at all at the time the note was sent.”
“That’s the way it seems to me,” he agreed. The color was coming back into his face. “But why would he want to make it look like a kidnaping instead of ... of what it was? The penalty’s the same for both.”
My grin had anger, pity, and disgust for the killer in it--plus a certain amount of satisfaction. Some day, I’d like to see my face in a mirror when I feel like that.
“He was hoping the body wouldn’t be found until it was too late for us to know that it was a rape killing. And that means that he knew that he would be on our list if we did find out that it was rape. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have bothered. If I’m right, then he has outsmarted himself. He has told us that we know him, and he’s told us that he’s smart enough to figure out a dodge--that he’s not one of the helplessly stupid ones.”
“That should help to narrow the field down,” he said in a hard voice. He felt in his pocket for a cigarette, found his pack, took one out, and then held it, unlit, between the fingers of his right hand. “Inspector Royall, I’ve studied the new law of this state--the one you’re working under here--and I think it’ll be great if it works out. I wish you luck. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to call the office.”
As he went out to the desk phone, I gave him a silent thanks. Words of encouragement were hard to come by at that time.
I turned and went back towards the clean-up room.
She didn’t look as though she were asleep. They never do. She looked dead. She’d been head down in the sewer, and the blood had pooled and coagulated in her head and shoulders. Now that the filth had been washed off, the dark purple of the dead blood cells showed through the translucent skin. She would look better after she was embalmed.
Doc Prouty was holding up a small syringe, eying the little bit of fluid within it. “We’ve got him,” he said in a flat voice. “I’ll have the lab run an analysis. We’re well within the time limit. All we have to do is separate the girl’s blood type from that of the spermatic fluid. You boys find your man, and I can identify him for you.” He put the syringe in its special case. “I’ll let you know the exact cause of death in a couple of hours.”
“O.K., Doc. Thanks,” said Inspector Kleek, closing his notebook. He turned to one of the other men. “Thompson, you notify the parents. Get ‘em down here to make a positive identification, and send it along to my office with the print identification.” Then he looked at me. “Anything extra you want, Roy?”
I shook my head. “Nope. Let’s go check the files, huh?”
“Sure. Can I ride with you? I rode in with Thompson; he’ll have to stay.”
“Come along,” I told him.
By ten fifteen that evening, we had narrowed the field down considerably. We fed all the data we had into the computer, including the general type number of the spermatic fluid, which Dr. Prouty had given us, and watched while the machine sorted through the characteristics of all the known criminals in its memory.
Kleek and I were sitting at a desk drinking hot, black coffee when the computer technician came over and handed Kleek the results at ten fifteen. “Quite a bunch of ‘em, Inspector,” he said, “but the geographic compartmentalization will help.”
Kleek glanced over the neatly-printed sheaf of papers that the computer had turned out, then handed them to me. “There we are, Roy. One of those zanies is our boy.”
I looked at the list. Every person on it was either a confirmed or suspected psychopath, and each one of them conformed to the set of specifications we had fed the computer. They were listed in four different groups, according to the distance they lived from the scene of the crime--half a mile, two miles, five miles, and “remainder,” the rest of the city.
“All we got to do,” Kleek said complacently, “is start rounding ‘em up.”
“You make it sound easy,” I said tightly.
He put down his coffee cup. “Hell, Roy, it is easy! We’ve got all these characters down on the books, don’t we? We know what they are, don’t we? Look at ‘em! Once in a while a new one pops up, and we put him on the list. Once in a while we catch one and send him up. Practically cut and dried, isn’t it?”
“Sure,” I said.
“Look, Roy,” he went on, “we got it down to a fine art now--have for years.” He waved in the general direction of the computer. “We got the advantage that it’s easier to sort ‘em out now, and faster--but the old tried-and-true technique is just the same. Cops have been catching these goons in every civilized country on Earth for a hundred years by this technique.”
“Sam,” I said wearily, “are you going to give me a lecture on police methods?”
He picked up his cup, held it for a moment, then set it down again, his eyes hardening. “Yes, Roy, I am! I’m older than you are, I’ve got more years on the Force, I’ve been working with Homicide longer, and I outrank you in grade by two and a half years! Yes, I figure it’s about time I lectured you! You want to listen?”
I looked at him. Kleek is a good cop, I was thinking, and he deserves to be listened to, even if I don’t agree with him.
“O.K., Sam,” I said, “I’ll listen.”
“O.K., then.” He took a breath. “Now, we got a system here that works. The nuts always show themselves up, one way or another. Most of ‘em have been arrested by the time they’re fourteen, fifteen years old. Maybe we can’t nail ‘em down and pin anything on ‘em, but we got ‘em down on the books. We know they have to be watched. We got ninety per cent of the queers and hopheads and stew-bums and firebugs and the rest of the zanies down on our books”--he waved toward the computer again--”and down in the memory bank of the computer. We know we’re gonna get ‘em eventually, because we know they’re gonna goof up eventually, and then we’ll have ‘em. We’ll have ‘em”--he made a clutching gesture with his right hand--”right where it hurts!
“You take this Donahue killer. We know where he is. We can be pretty sure we got him down on the books.” He tapped the sheaf of papers from the computer with a firm forefinger. “We can be pretty sure that he’s one of those guys right down there!”
He waved his hand again, but, this time, he took in the whole city--the whole outside world. “Like clock-work. The minute they goof, we nab ‘em.”
“Sam,” I said, “just listen to me a minute. We know that ninety per cent of the men on that list right there are going to be convicted of a crime of violence inside the next five years, right?”
“That’s what I’ve been tellin’ you. The minute--”
“Wait a minute; wait a minute. Just listen. Why don’t we just go out and arrest them all right now? Look at all the trouble that would save us.”
“Hell, Roy! You can’t arrest a man unless he’s done something! What would you charge ‘em with? Loitering with intent to commit a nuisance?”
“No. But we can--”
I was cut off by a uniformed cop who stuck his head in the door and said: “Inspector Royall, Dr. Brownlee called. Says they picked up Hammerlock Smith. He’s at the 87th Precinct. Wants you to come down right away if you can.”
I stood up and grabbed my hat. “Sam, you can sit on this one for a while, huh? I’ve been waiting for Hammerlock Smith to fall for two months.”
Sam Kleek looked disgusted. “And you’ll see that he gets psycho treatment and a suspended sentence. A few days in the looney ward, and then right back out on the street. Hammerlock Smith! There’s a case for you! Built like a gorilla and has a passion for Irish whisky and sixteen-year-old boys--and you think you can cure him in three days! Nuts!”
I didn’t feel like arguing with him. “We might as well let him go now as lock him up for three or four months and then let him go, Sam. Why fool around with assault and battery charges when we can wait for him to murder somebody and then lock him up for good, eh, Sam? What’s another victim more or less, as long as we get the killer?”
“That’s what we’re here for,” he said stolidly. “To get killers.” He scratched at his balding head. “I don’t get you, Roy. I’d think you’d want these maniacs put away, after your--”
He stopped himself, wet his lips, and said: “O.K. You go ahead and take care of Smith. Get some sleep. I’m going to. I’ll leave orders to call us both if anything breaks in the Donahue case.”
I just nodded and walked out. I didn’t want to hear any more.
But the door didn’t close tightly, and I heard Kleek’s voice as he spoke to the computer tech. “I just don’t figure Roy. His wife died in a fire set by an arson bug, and he wants to--”
I kept on walking as the door clicked shut.
I was in my office at nine the next morning, after seven and a half hours of sleep on one of the bunks in the ready room. The business with Hammerlock Smith had taken more time than I had thought it would. The big, stupid ape had been in a vicious mood, reeking of whisky and roaring insults at everyone. His cursing was neither inventive nor colorful, consisting of only four unlovely words used over and over again in various combinations with ordinary ones, a total vocabulary of maybe a dozen words.
It had taken four cops, using night-sticks, to get him into the paddy wagon, and Dr. Brownlee had finally had to give him a blast of super-tranquilizer with a hypogun.
“Boy, Inspector,” one of the officers had said, “don’t let anyone ever tell you some of these guys aren’t tough!”
I was looking over the written report. “What about this kid he accosted in the bar? Hurt bad?”
“Cracked rib, sprained wrist, and a bloody nose, sir. The doc said he’d be O.K.”
“According to the report here, the kid was twenty-two years old. Smith usually picks ‘em younger.”
The cop grinned. “Smith had to get his eventually, sir. This guy looks pretty young, but he was a boxer in college. He probably couldn’t’ve whipped Smith, but he had guts enough to try.”
“Think he’ll testify?”
“Said he would, sir. We already got his signature on the complaint while he was at the hospital. He’s pretty mad.”
Smith’s record was long and ugly. Of the eight complaints made by young boys who had managed to brush off or evade Hammerlock’s advances, six hadn’t come to trial because there were no corroborating witnesses, and the charges had been dismissed. Two of the cases had come before a jury--and had resulted in acquittals. Cold sober, Smith presented a fairly decent picture. It was hard to convince a jury of ordinary citizens that so masculine-looking a specimen was homosexual.
The odd thing was that the psychopathic twist which got Hammerlock Smith into trouble had been able to get him out of it again. Both times, Smith’s avowal that he had done no such disgusting thing had been corroborated by a lie detector test. Smith--when he was sober--had no recollection of his acts when drunk, and apparently honestly believed that he was incapable of doing what we knew he had done.
This time, though, we had him dead to rights. He had never made his play in a bar before, and we had three witnesses, plus an assault and battery charge. As Inspector Kleek had said, we get ‘em eventually...
... But at what cost? How many teenage boys had been frightened or whipped into doing as he told them and then been too ashamed and sick with themselves to say anything? How many young lives had been befouled by Smith’s abnormal lust?
And if Smith spent a year or two in Sing Sing, how many more would there be between the time he was released and the time he was caught again? And how long would it be before he obligingly hammered the life out of his young victim so that we could put him away permanently?
That was the “system” that Kleek--and a lot of other men on the Force swore by. That was the “system” that the boys in Homicide and in the Vice Squad thought I was trying to foul up by “babying” the zanies.
It’s a hell of a great system, isn’t it?
I called the hospital and talked to the doctor who had taken care of Smith’s victim. Then I called Kleek to see if there had been any break in the Donahue case. There hadn’t.
Finally, I called my son, Steve, at the apartment we shared, told him I wouldn’t be home that night, and sacked out in the ready room.
By nine o’clock, I was ready to go back to work.
At nine thirty, Kleek called. His saggy face looked sleepier and more bored than ever. “No rest for the weary, Roy. I got a call on a killing on the Upper East Side. Some rich gal with too much time on her hands was having an all-night party, and she got herself shot to death. It looks like her husband did it, but there’s plenty of money involved, and the Deputy Commissioner wants me to handle it personally, all the way through. I’m putting Lieutenant Shultz in charge of the Homicide end of the Donahue case, but I told him you were the man to listen to. He’ll report directly to you if there’s any new leads. O.K.?”
“O.K. with me, Sam.” As I said, Kleek is a good cop in spite of his “system.”
“The boys are out making the rounds,” he went on, “bringing in all the men with conviction records and questioning the others. And we’re combing the neighborhood for the kid’s clothes. They might still be around somewhere. Shultz’ll keep you posted.”
“Fine, Sam. Happy hunting in High Society.”
“Thanks, Roy. Take it easy.”
At fifteen of eleven, the Police Commissioner called. He spent ten minutes telling me that I was going to be visited by a VIP and giving me exact instructions on how to handle the man. “I’m depending on you to take care of him, Roy,” he said finally. “If we can get this program operating in other places, it will help us a lot. And if you need help from my office, grab the nearest phone.”
“I’ll do my best,” I promised him. “And thanks, sir.”
The Commissioner was a lawyer, not a cop, so he wasn’t as tied to the system as Kleek and the others were. He was backing me all the way.
I punched Sergeant Vanney’s number on the intercom. “Inspector Royall here, Sergeant. Do me a favor.”
“Go down to the library and get me a copy of Burke’s ‘Peerage.’”
“Burke’s which, sir?”
I repeated it and spelled it for him. He didn’t waste any time; he had it on my desk in less than twenty minutes. When the VIP arrived, I had already read up on Chief Inspector, The Duke of Acrington.
Here’s how he was listed:
_ACRINGTON, Seventh Duke of (Robert St. James Acrington) Baron
Bennevis of Scotland, K. C. B.: Born 7 November 1950, B.S., M.S.,
Oxon., cum laude. Married (1977) Lady Susan Burley, 2nd dau.
Viscount Burley. 2 sons, Richard St. James, Philip William._
_Joined Metropolitan Police (1975); C. I. D. (1976); dep. Insp.
(1980); Insp. (1984); Ch. Insp. (1990). Awarded George Medal for
extraordinary heroism during the False War (1981)._
Author Criminal Law and the United Nations, The Use of Forensic
Psychology (police textbook), and The Night People (_fiction;
under nom de plume R. A. James_).
Clubs: Royal Astronomical, Oxonian, Baker Street Irregulars.
Motto: Amicus Curiae.
I had to admit that I was impressed, but I decided to withhold any
judgment until I had met the man.
He was right on time for his appointment. The car pulled up to the parking lot with a sergeant at the wheel, and I got a bird’s eye view of him from my window as he got out of the car and headed for the door. I had to grin a little; the Commissioner had obviously wanted to take the visitor around personally--roll out the rug for royalty, so to speak--but he had had a conference scheduled with the Mayor and some Federal officials, and, after all, the duke was only here on police business, not as Ambassador from the Court of St. James. So he ended up being treated just as any visitor from Scotland Yard would be treated.
He was shown directly to my office, and I gave him a quick once-over as he came in the door. Tall, about six feet even; weight about 175, none of it surplus fat; light brown hair smoothed neatly back, almost no gray; eyes, blue-gray, with finely-etched lines around them that indicated they’d been formed by both smiles and frowns: face, rather long and bony, with thin, firm lips and a longish, thin, slightly curved nose. He wore good clothes, and he wore them well. His age, I knew; it was the same as mine. It was the first time I had ever seen a man who looked like a real aristocrat and a good cop rolled into one.
He had an easy smile on his face, and his eyes were taking me in, too. I stand an inch under six feet, but I’m a little broader across the shoulders than he, so the ten more pounds I carry doesn’t make me look fat. My face is definitely not aristocratic--wide and square, with a nose that shows a slight bend where it was broken when I was a rookie, heavy, dark eyebrows, and hair that is receding a little on top and graying perceptibly at the sides. The eyes are a dark gray, and I’m well aware that the men under me call me “Old Flint-eye” when I put the pressure on them.
“I’m Chief Inspector Acrington,” he said pleasantly, giving me a firm handshake.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Your Grace,” I said. “I’m Inspector Royall. Sit down, won’t you?” I gestured toward one of the upholstered guest chairs, and sat down in the other one myself, so we wouldn’t have the desk between us. “Have a good trip across?” I asked.
“Fine. Except, of course, for the noise.”
“Noise?” I knew he’d come over in one of the Transatlantic Airways’ new inertia-drive ships, and they’re supposed to be fairly quiet.
His smile broadened a trifle. “Exactly. There wasn’t any. I’m rather used to the vibration of jets, and these new jobs float along at a hundred thousand feet in the deadest silence you ever heard--if you’ll pardon the oxymoron. Everybody chattered like a flight of starlings, just to keep the air full of sound.”
I chuckled. “Maybe they’ll put vibrators on them, just to make the people feel comfortable. I read that the men in the moon ships complain about the same thing.”
“So I’ve heard. But, actually, the silence is a minor thing when one realizes the time one saves. When one is looking forward to something interesting, traveling can be deadly dull.”
It was beautiful, the way he did it. He had told me plainly that he wanted to get down to business and cut the small talk, but he’d done it in such a way that the transition was frictionlessly smooth.
“Not much scenery up there,” I said. “I hope you’ll find what we’re trying to do here has a few more points of interest.”
“I’m quite sure it will, from what I’ve heard of your pilot project here. That’s why I want to, well, sort of be a hanger-on for a few days, if that’s all right with you.”
Before I could answer, the phone blinked. I excused myself to the Duke and cut in. The image that came on the screen was almost myself, except that he had his mother’s mouth and was twenty-odd years younger.
“Hi, Dad,” he said, with that apologetic smile of his. “Sorry to bother you during office hours, but could I borrow fifty? Pay you back next week.”
I threw a phony scowl at him. “Running short, eh? Have you been betting on the stickball teams again?”
He cast his eyes skyward, and raised the three fingers of his right hand. “Scout’s Honor, Dad, I spent it on a new turbine for my ElectroFord.” Then he lowered his hand and looked down from the upper regions. “I really did. I forgot that I was supposed to take Mary Ellen out this evening. Car-happy, I guess. Can you advance the fifty?”
I threw away my phony scowl and gave him a smile. “Sure, Stevie. How’s Mary Ellen?”
“Swell. She’s all excited about going to the Art Ball tonight--that’s why I didn’t want to disappoint her.”
“Slow up, son,” I told him, “you’ve already made your pitch and been accepted. You’ll get your fifty, so don’t push it. Want to come down here and pick it up?”
“Can do. And have I told you that you’ll be invited to the wedding?”
“Thanks, pal. Can I give the groom away?” It was a family joke that we’d kicked back and forth ever since he had met Mary Ellen, two years before.
“Sure thing. See you in a couple of hours. Bye, Dad.” He cut off, and I looked at the Duke.
“Sorry. Now, you were saying?”
“Perfectly all right.” He smiled. “I have two of my own at home.
“At any rate, I was saying that the Criminal Investigation Department of New Scotland Yard has become interested in this experiment of yours, so I was sent over to get all the first-hand information I can. Frankly, I volunteered for the job; I was eager to come. There are plenty of skeptics at the Yard, I’ll admit, but I’m not one of them. If the thing’s workable, I want to see it used in England.”
Here was another man who wasn’t tied to the “system.”
“D’you mind if I ask some questions?” he said.
“Go ahead, Your Grace. If I can’t answer ‘em, I’ll say so.”
“Thanks. First off, I’ll tell you what I do know--get my own knowledge of the background straight, so to speak. Now, as I understand it, the courts have agreed--temporarily, at least--that any person convicted of certain types of crimes must undergo a psychiatric examination before sentencing. Right?”
“Then, depending on the result of that examination, the magistrate of the court may sentence the offender to undertake psychiatric therapy instead of sending him to a penal institution, such time in therapy not to exceed the maximum time of imprisonment originally provided for the offense under the law.
“His sentence is suspended, in other words, if he will agree to the therapy. If, after he is released by the psychiatrists, he behaves himself, he is not imprisoned. If he misbehaves, he must serve out the original sentence, plus any new sentence that may be imposed. Have I got it straight so far?”
“As I understand it, you’ve had astounding success.” He looked, in spite of what he had said about skepticism, as though he thought the reports he’d heard were exaggerated.
“So far,” I said evenly, “not a single one of our ‘patients’ has failed us.”
He looked amazed, but he didn’t doubt me. “And you’ve been in operation for how long?”
“A little over a year since the first case. But I think the record will stand the same way five, ten, fifty years from now.
“You see, Your Grace, we don’t dare lose a man. If one of our tame zanies goes haywire again, the courts will stop this pilot project fast. There’s a lot of pressure against us.
“In the first place, we only work with repeaters. You know the type. The world is full of them. The boys that are picked up over and over again for the same kind of crime.”
He nodded. “They’re the ones we wait for. The ones we catch, convict, and send to prison--and then wait until they get out, and then wait some more until they commit their next crime, so that we can catch them and start the whole cycle over again.”
“That’s them,” I said. “When they’re out, they’re just between crimes, that’s all. And that puts the police in a hell of a position, doesn’t it? You know they’re going to fall again; you know that they’re going to rob, or hurt, or kill someone. But there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re helpless. No police force has enough men to enable a cop to be assigned to every known repeater and follow him night and day.
“In this state, if a man is convicted of a felony for a fourth time, a life sentence is mandatory. But that means that at least four victims have to be sacrificed before the dangerous man is removed from society!“
The Duke nodded thoughtfully. “‘Sacrifice’ is the word. Go on.”
“Now, the type of crime we’re working with--the kind we expect future laws to apply to--is strictly limited. It must be a crime of violence against a human being, or a crime of destruction in which there is a grave danger that human lives may be lost. The sex maniac, the firebug, or the goon who gets a thrill out of beating people. Or the reckless driver who has proven that he can’t be trusted behind the wheel of a car.
“We can’t touch the kleptomaniac or the common drunk or the drug addict. They’re already provided for under other laws. And those habits are not, by themselves, dangerous to the lives of others. A good many of our kind of zany do drink or take drugs--about fifty per cent of them. But what they’re sentenced for is crimes of violence, not for guzzling hooch or mainlining heroin.”
My phone chimed. It was Lieutenant Shultz, of Homicide. His square, blocky face held a trace of excitement. “Inspector Royall, Inspector Kleek told me to report to you if there was any news in the Donahue case.”
“What is it, Lieutenant?”
“We’re pretty sure of our man. Scrapings from the kid’s fingernails gave us his blood type. The computer narrowed the list down quite a bit with that data. Then, a few minutes ago, one of the boys found the kid’s clothes stuffed in with some trash paper in the back stairwell of a condemned building just a couple of blocks from where we found her last night.
“And--get this, Inspector!--she was wearing a pair of those shiny patent-leather shoes, practically brand-new, and they have prints all over them! His are over hers, since he was the last one to handle them, and there’s only the two sets of prints! We just now got positive identification.”
“Grab him and bring him in,” I said. “I’ll be right down. I want to talk to him.”
His face fell a little. “Well, it isn’t going to be as easy as all that, sir. You see, we’d already checked at his last known address, earlier this morning, before we got the final check on the blood type. This guy left the rooming house he was staying in--checked out two days ago, just a short time after the girl was killed. I figured that looked queer at the time, so I had two of my men start tracing him in particular. But there’s not a sign of him so far.”
I untensed myself. “O.K. What’s his record?”
“Periodic drunk. Goes for weeks without touching the stuff, then he goes out on a binge that lasts for a week sometimes.
“Name’s Lawrence Nestor, alias Larry Nestor. Twenty-eight years old, six feet one inch, slight build, but considered fairly strong. Brown hair, brown eyes. Speaks with a lisp due to a dental defect; the lisp becomes more noticeable when he’s drinking.” He turned the page of the report he was reading from. “Arrested for drunkenness four times in the past five years, got off with a fine when he pleaded guilty. He molested a little girl two years ago and was picked up for questioning, but nothing came of it. The girl hadn’t been physically hurt, and she couldn’t make a positive identification, so he was released from custody.
“Officers on duty in the neighborhood report that he has frequently been seen talking to small children, usually girls, but he wasn’t seen to molest them in any way, and there were no complaints from parents, so no action could be taken.”
Lieutenant Shultz looked up from the paper. “He’s had all kinds of jobs, but he can’t hold ‘em very long. Goes on a binge, doesn’t show up for work, so they fire him. He’s a pretty good short-order cook, and that’s the kind of work he likes, if he can talk a lunch room into hiring him. He’s also been a bus boy, a tavern porter, and a janitor.
“One other thing: The superintendent at the place where he was staying reports that he had an unusual amount of money on him--four or five hundred dollars he thinks. Doesn’t know where Nestor got the money, but he’s been boozing it up for the past five days. Bought new clothes--hat, suit, shoes, and so on. Living high on the hog, I guess.”
I thought for a minute. If he had money, he could be anywhere in the world by now. On the other hand--
“Look, Lieutenant, you haven’t said anything to the newsmen yet, have you?”
He looked surprised. “No. I called you first. But I figured they could help us. Plaster his picture and name all over the area, and somebody will be bound to recognize him.”
“Somebody might kill him, too, and I don’t want that. Look at it this way: If he had sense enough to get out of the local area two days ago and really get himself lost, then it won’t hurt to wait twenty-four hours or so to release the story. On the other hand, if he’s still in the city or over in Jersey, he could still get out before the news was so widespread that he’d be spotted by very many people.
“But if he’s still drinking and thinks he’s safe, we may be able to get a lead on him. I have a hunch he’s still in the city. So hold off on that release to the newsmen as long as you can. Don’t let it leak.
“Meanwhile, check all the transportation terminals. Find out if he’s ever been issued a passport. If he has, check the foreign consuls here in the city to see if he got a visa. Notify the FBI; they’re back in it now, since there’s a chance that he may have crossed a state line--unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
“And tell the boys that do the footwork that they’re to say that the guy they’re looking for is wanted by the Missing Persons Bureau--that he left home and his wife is looking for him. Don’t connect him up with the Donahue case at all. Have every beat patrolman in the city on the lookout for a drunk with a lisp, but tell them the same story about the wife; I don’t want any leaks at all.
“I’ll call the Commissioner right away to get his O.K., because I don’t want either one of us to get in hot water over this. If he’s with us, we’ll go ahead as planned; if he’s not, we’ll just have to call in the newsmen. O.K.?”
“Sure, Inspector. Whatever you say. I’ll get right to work on it. You’ll have the Commissioner call me?”
“Right. So long. Call me if anything happens.”
I had added the bit about calling the Commissioner because I wasn’t sure but what Kleek would decide I was wrong in handling the case and let the story out “accidentally.” But I had to be careful not to make Shultz think I was trying to show my muscles. I called the Commissioner, got his O.K., and turned my attention back to my guest.
He had been listening with obvious interest. “Another one of your zanies, eh?”