"Well, it's barely ticking," I said. "I think the main reason I took her money was to keep her from giving it to somebody else."
"You clever, though, way you work things out. Girl wants to hire us, thinks her cousin did this bad thing. You put her mind at rest, pat her on the head and send her on her way. Then you turn around and get the rich cousin to hire us. We gonna work for one of the cousins, might as well be the one with the money."
"That's right, I almost forgot. Our client started out as the designated suspect."
"You happen to tell her that?"
"It slipped my mind."
We were at the Morning Star. I'd slept later than usual, and Elaine had left for the gym by the time I'd shaved and showered. There was coffee left, and I poured a cup and called T J. "If you haven't had breakfast," I said, "why don't you meet me downstairs in ten minutes." He'd been up since six, he said, when a couple down the hall had a louder-than-usual drunken argument, and he'd gone out and eaten, then went home and booted up his computer and got on-line. But he'd gladly keep me company.
I was working on an omelet, and he was keeping me company with a side of home fries and a toasted bagel and a large orange juice. He dabbed his lips with a napkin and said, "Slipped your mind. Probably a good thing. There any case left, now that we on it?"
"It's hard to know where to go with it. I wish there was someone with a motive. It's a lot of trouble to go through for no reason."
"Stole some stuff," he said.
"More like borrowing it. Moved it from Manhattan to Brooklyn, where the cops recovered it."
"All of it?"
"There's a thought," I said. "He might have held on to something, our mystery man."
"Might be why he did the job in the first place. Say he wants one thing, but he doesn't want anybody to know he took it."
"How I know, Beau? Something real valuable, some diamond, some priceless painting."
"It would be on the insurance schedule," I said, "and it would be evident it was missing."
"Something else, then. Some legal papers, some photos or letters, kind of thing people kill to get back."
"Why not just take whatever it was," I said, "and go home? Why kill the Hollanders?"
"To keep everybody from finding out you took whatever it was."
I thought about it. "I don't know," I said. "It sounds too complicated. Whoever did this, he put it together carefully and didn't mind killing four people to carry it off. I can't think what the Hollanders could have had in the house that would have warranted that kind of effort."
"Guess you right," he said. "Just came to me is all."
"I wish something would come to me," I said. "Looking at the victims doesn't seem to lead anywhere. They led a blameless life, everybody adored and respected them, and they loved each other. I wonder."
"Maybe I've been looking at the wrong victims."
"Only victims we got," he said.
"I can think of two more."
It didn't take him long. "In the house in Brooklyn," he said. "Bierman and Ivanko. You sayin' he went through all that to waste those two dudes?"
"No, they weren't the point, just the means to the end."
"Use 'em and lose 'em. But he had to find 'em first- that what you gettin' at?"
"There has to be a connection. Not so much with Bierman, whose role was essentially passive."
" 'Bout as passive as it gets," he said. "All Bierman did was get hisself killed."
"Bierman may not have known him at all."
"Dude comes to the door, tells Bierman he's the exterminator, come to spray for roaches. Bierman lets him in and it's a done deal, Bierman's chillin' in the corner and the dude's out the door, wearin' Bierman's shirt an' pants."
"But Ivanko was in on the play," I said. "Even if the last act came as a surprise to him."
"Dude comes to Ivanko, tells him he's got a deal lined up."
" 'Big profit, low risk, here's the key, here's the alarm code…' "
"Can't have that conversation with a dude 'less you know he be down for it. How's he know that about Ivanko?"
"He did three years in Green Haven for burglary. Maybe that's where they met."
"You think the dude's an ex-con?"
I thought about it. "Somehow I don't," I said. "You pick up a few things in prison, but one you tend to lose there is the sense that the law can't touch you, because it already has. The guy who orchestrated all this still thinks he's bulletproof."
"Might have got his hands dirty, though."
"I don't think this was the first time he broke the law. Whether or not he's done time, he could know people who have. Ivanko's got no living relatives, as far as I can tell, and his mother's old apartment's his last known address. He must have been living somewhere when he broke into the Hollanders', but the police found him in Brooklyn before they could find out where he was staying."
"An' then they stopped lookin'."
"That might be a place to start," I said. "If we're looking at Ivanko, you know who we ought to talk to?"
"If you thinkin' same as me, it's too early to call him. He be sleepin'."
"Danny Boy," I said. "It's his neighborhood, too. Poogan's is two blocks from the Hollander house. I'll go see him tonight."
"And between now and then?"
"The gun," I said. "Somebody stole it from a Central Park West psychiatrist's office."
"Maybe the gun was ready to be stolen."
I gave him a look. "The way it appeared on the surface," I said, "Bierman was the shooter, so it seemed logical to assume he brought the gun. Which meant either he stole it himself or someone else stole it and sold it to him."
"But all Bierman really got," he said, "was the bullet."
"Right, so somebody else supplied the gun, and it wouldn't have been Ivanko or it would have been in his hand during the burglary and not his partner's."
"Ivanko coulda had two guns. Didn't need both, so he kept one and gave the other to the mystery man."
"Ivanko didn't have a gun on him when they found him," I said, "but the killer could always have taken it off his body on his way out. Simplest explanation, though, is that there was only one gun, and the man who used it is the man who brought it along."
"The dude himself. Where'd he get it? From the shrink's office?"
"That's where it came from, and he must have been the one who took it."
"Why couldn't he buy it on the street? Not the hardest thing in the world to do, if you know your way around."
"The pillowcases," I said.
"Forgot about them. Same deal in both break-ins, at the shrink's and at the Hollanders'. Stripped the pillows, used the cases to carry off the goods."
"It's a fairly natural thing to do," I said, "and it saves hunting in the closet for tote bags, but when it pops up in both burglaries- "
"Likely the same person done both."
"Seems that way."
"If it was Ivanko, well, ain't burglary what he went away for? Maybe that's something he always did, strip the pillows an' turn the cases into sacks for Santa."
"Full of toys for girls and boys. I can't see Ivanko picking that apartment to break into. It's a doorman building facing the park. Ivanko was street-smart, but street's all he was. How would he get past the doorman?"
"Or even know about the shrink's place to begin with?"
"The burglar knew about the gun. That's the only thing he took from the office, and he took it out of a locked drawer. And he did it without making a mess, because the shrink didn't even miss the gun until a couple of days after the burglary."
"Burglar knew the shrink."
"I think so."
"Knew the office, knew how to get past the doorman. Knew about the gun."
"That's probably what brought him. He wanted a gun, so he broke in and took one."
"From the drawer where he already knew the shrink kept it. He knows the office, then he most likely knows the shrink."
"Stands to reason," I said.
"You tried with the shrink, didn't you? Called him or something?"
"I think a more imaginative approach might yield better results."
"Well," he said, "you imaginative, when you puts your mind to it. That what you gonna do today?"
"I think so."
"I disremember the doctor's name. Keep thinking Adler, but that ain't right."
"Nadler. There was an Adler 'round the time Freud started the whole thing. What's the matter?"
"The look on your face. You didn't think I knew that, did you?"
"It's surprising, what you know and what you don't."
He nodded, as if he could accept the truth in that. He said, "Psychoanalysis. Anything to it, you figure?"
"You're asking the wrong person. I think they've gotten away from that approach nowadays, though. Easier to write out a prescription than listen to neurotics all day long."
"Listen to Prozac instead. You don't need me to see Dr. Nadler with you, do you?"
"I think that might be counterproductive."
"All you had to say was no. What I'll do, I'll go to Brooklyn, take a look at that house."
"Talk to people, see what's shakin'."
"Maybe you'll find something I missed," I said. "You want the D train to Avenue M, incidentally. I got off a stop too soon."
"Wrong house. I was thinkin' I'd see how the boyfriend's doin' in Williamsburg. She tell you the address?"
"I didn't ask."
"Not like you. She at least mention the street?"
I searched my memory. "No," I said, "I'm pretty sure she didn't. She'd have to know the street, and probably the house number as well. She was thinking about moving there."
"Boyfriend's name's Peter Meredith?"
"Yes, and he's the original Mr. Five-by-Five and wouldn't kill a cockroach. Where are you going?"
"Don't go nowhere," he said. "Be right back."
He was gone long enough for me to drink another cup of coffee and call for the check, and I was waiting for change when he came back. "I had half of a half a bagel left," he said. "You eat it?"
"The waiter took it."
"Damn," he said. "How I look?"
He'd been wearing knee-length camo shorts and an oversize sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off, and he'd changed into the pants from a black pinstripe suit and a white shirt with short sleeves and a button-down collar. No tie. His black shoes were polished. There were four pens in his shirt pocket, and he was carrying a clipboard.
"You look like a city employee," I said.
"They're usually older," I said. "And thicker through the middle."