“Gloves,” Dot noted. “And not because it’s cold.”
“He doesn’t want to leave prints.”
“If he was just going out for another hot dog,” she said, “he probably wouldn’t care. Here he comes.”
He crossed the street, walked their way, and entered the building.
“I got a look,” she said. “The mustache is gone.”
“I don’t hear the elevator.”
“He’s probably taking the stairs.”
“It’s the middle of the night. Will she let him in?”
“He’ll have a story.”
“Suppose she doesn’t buy it. What kind of locks has she got?”
“I don’t remember.”
“You don’t remember?”
“I was just there a few times,” he said, “and I didn’t think I was ever going to have to break in, so why should I pay attention to the locks on her door?”
“I wonder how long it’ll take him.”
“He has to make it look like an accident.”
“That’s easy enough.”
“Will he leave right away? With the astrologer, I couldn’t seem to get out of the apartment.”
“You were searching the place.”
“I guess that was part of it.”
“All he has to do is set the stage and leave,” he said. “And he’s a pro, he’ll get out of there as quickly as he can. I don’t have time to waste.”
“Where are you going?”
“Outside,” he said. “I want to be out there waiting when he hits the street.”
“Roger’s probably watching the building. He’ll see you leave.”
“Can’t be helped. If he leaves first, how am I going to follow him?”
“Just be careful,” she said.
If Roger was out there, in his cap and windbreaker, Keller couldn’t spot him. He tried to scout around as much as he could without being obvious about it, then took a position in a doorway midway between Maggie’s building and the coffee shop on the corner. Maggie’s light was on, and he took that to mean that the man with the hat and muffler was in there with her. Of course she could have had the light on anyway, she could have been sitting up reading a book or making jewelry, but the odds were that the guy was in there with her.
Matter of fact, she was most likely dead by now. Once he was in the door, well, her life expectancy went way down. He wouldn’t have to confirm the identification, because he already knew what she looked like, he’d spoken to her on the street that first night. So he’d just do it. Loop that muffler of his around her throat, say, and make it swift and silent.
Well, maybe not the muffler. Hard to do it that way and make it look accidental. But there were plenty of ways, all of them quick and quiet and deadly.
Unless he was the kind of guy who liked to take his time. There were people like that, Keller knew. You didn’t find too many in the professional ranks, but there were a few. He’d heard stories.
He found himself remembering things about Maggie. The way she had of cocking her head. Other winning little mannerisms.
No choice, he thought. Couldn’t be helped.
He pictured her, looking sweet and saucy and desirable, and he willed himself to do the little trick he’d taught Dot. He turned the color level down, faded it all the way to black and white, then muted the contrast until it became shades of gray. He shrank the picture, moved it farther and farther away so that the image got smaller and smaller.
He was holding it in his mind like that, just a blur, really, invisibly small, when Maggie’s light went out.
Keller let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. For a moment he felt a slight sense of loss, but it gave way to anticipation. He was just about done with waiting. Now he was going to have a chance to do something.
He drew back into the shadows and kept his eyes on the front door, waiting for the killer to emerge. But something made him look up, and he saw a faint red glow in the top-floor window, saw it brighten as the man drew on his cigarette.
He was having a smoke, taking a long look out the window. Did he have the sense that someone was outside waiting for him? Keller figured he himself was invisible, but what about Roger? Was he around? Could the killer see him?
And had Roger noticed the glow of the cigarette?
The killer had a cigarette going when he emerged from the building. The same one, Keller figured. It was evidence, and he wouldn’t want to leave it behind. He flicked it at the curb, and sparks danced when it hit the pavement.
The man looked both ways, then turned toward Keller. As soon as he did, Keller left the shelter of the doorway and walked on ahead of the man, leading him, turning left at the corner, walking toward oncoming traffic. He hailed a cab and got in front, next to the driver, who gave him a look, then asked the destination. Keller didn’t say anything until the killer came into view, then pointed him out to the driver.
“See that man?” he said.
“Guy with the hat?”
“That’s the one. He’s going to get a cab, and we’re going to follow him.”
“This a gag?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Candid Camera, something like that? And I got news for you, he’s not even trying for a cab. He’s walking.”
“Follow a guy that’s walking?”
“Slowly,” Keller said. “Don’t get too close.”
The man walked east for three blocks, setting a brisk pace. Keller followed him in the cab, trying to ignore the driver. Then the man turned, heading north on a street that was one-way southbound.
“Shit,” Keller said, and paid off the cab. He got out on the opposite side of the street from his quarry and scanned the area, trying to determine if either of them was being followed. He couldn’t see anybody, but that didn’t necessarily mean there was nobody there.
They walked for a couple of blocks, Maggie’s killer on the left-hand side of the avenue, Keller on the right. Then, at the corner of a westbound street with a fair amount of traffic, the man stepped to the curb and held up a hand. Keller did the same, and snatched the cab the man had been trying for. This time he got in back and leaned forward, pointing out the man to the driver.
“He was tryin’ to flag me,” the driver said, “but you were first. You want to give him a ride?”
Keller was tempted, but only for an instant. “No,” he said. “I want you to wait here, and when he gets a cab I want you to follow it.”
“Good tip, right?”
“Plus the meter?”
“You drive a hard bargain,” Keller said. “Here we go. No, hang on. Wait a minute.”
A cab had stopped, but pulled away after a brief conversation. “Maybe he didn’t like the guy’s looks,” the driver suggested.
“Why not? He’s dressed decently.”
“So maybe your guy didn’t like the cabby’s looks. Maybe the cab’s a mess, maybe some drunk puked in it.”
“Maybe he wanted to go to the airport,” Keller thought aloud.
“No,” the cabby said. “Brooklyn, maybe. Here’s another one stopping for him. Well, it’s his lucky day. He’s getting in.”
“Don’t lose him,” Keller said, “but don’t get too close to him, either.”
“You got it.”
Keller sat forward, his eyes on the cab in front of them. After a moment he said, “Why not the airport?”
“Maybe he travels light.”
“You figure he’s going to the airport?”
“Which airport, you happen to know?”
“I could narrow it down to three.”
“ La Guardia and JFK’s okay, but I get double the meter if it’s Newark.”
“Double the meter,” Keller said.
“For out of town.”
“Plus the fifty we agreed to.”
“Plus the fifty, and plus the tunnel toll.”
Keller was silent, watching the cab in front of them, and the driver took it for resistance. “You want a cheap ride to Newark,” he said, “they got a bus at Port Authority’ll take you there for ten, twelve dollars. No tip and no tolls, but don’t point out some asshole with a hat and expect the driver to follow him for you.”
Keller told him the money wasn’t a problem. Anyway, it didn’t look as though they were headed for Newark. They were on Eighth Avenue now, headed uptown, and they’d passed the turnoffs for both the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels. If the killer’s destination was one of the other two airports, what was his cab doing this far west?
“Here we go,” Keller’s driver said, slowing to a stop. “Hotel Woodleigh, a touch of Europe in Old New York. Didn’t I tell you he wouldn’t go to the airport without luggage?”
“Your very words,” Keller said.
“He’ll be out in a minute, carrying a suitcase. Or more likely it’ll have wheels on it and he’ll be rolling it. Those Rollaboards are taking over the world.”
“He’s paying off his cab.”
“So I think he’s got the right idea,” Keller said, and drew three twenties and a ten from his wallet. The cabby seemed satisfied-he damn well ought to be, Keller thought-but would have preferred to stick around for the rest of the operation.
“He’ll be out in five minutes, and you’ll wish you had me waiting,” he said. Keller figured he was probably right, but all the same he got out of the cab and walked into the hotel lobby.
He found a chair where he could watch both entrances and the bank of elevators, but barely got settled into it before he sensed that someone was taking an interest in him. He looked around and caught the desk clerk looking his way.
A few hours from now, he thought, a man like himself, presentably dressed and groomed, could sit for an hour with a newspaper without attracting any attention. But at this hour, with the sky still dark and the city as close as it got to sleep, he was conspicuous.
He walked over to the desk, took out his wallet, flipped it open as if to show a badge. “Fellow who just came in here,” he said. “Had a hat on.”
“You know,” the clerk said, “I had a feeling about him.”
“Where’d he go?”
“To his room,” the clerk said. “Well, to somebody’s room. He went right up on the elevator. Didn’t stop at the desk for his key.”
“You happen to know the room?”
“Never saw him before. I wasn’t on when he checked in. If he checked in.” He leaned forward, lowered his voice. “What’d he do, anyway?”
He killed a friend of mine, Keller thought. “I’ll just have a seat,” he said. “I don’t know how long he’ll be, but I wouldn’t want him to slip past me. You don’t have newspapers for sale, do you? So I don’t look too obvious sitting there.”