Desktop forgery, part two.

One after another, the cops in the room put on gloves and used the phone, and as a result more cops and technicians began showing up at the apartment. One man dusted for prints, another bagged the clothes in the hamper, a third was going through the closet. In the bathroom, a man I didn't envy at all got to take up the shower drain and fish out a wad of hair and unidentifiable crud, all of which went into a plastic bag, and not a moment too soon.

"He said it right there," Wentworth said. "The bit about tossing the Kleenex into the bucket. Maybe he wiped away prints, maybe he took back his hundred bucks, but do you think he went through her scum bucket looking for the wad he just shot?"

"Somehow I doubt it," I said.

"According to him," he said, "he shot a big load. Oughta be enough DNA to convict him six times over."

"He said it was satisfying," I said, "but something else within him was entirely untouched."

"When the system's done with him," he said, "my guess is he won't be able to make that claim. I want to get an all-points out, and you know what we don't have? A picture of the son of a bitch. He's got an ego the size of Montana, how come he hasn't got any pictures of himself anywhere in the place?"

"Maybe he figures everybody knows what he looks like."

"Do you? Know what he looks like?"

"No, but the building staff must."

"That's a point. Have to get a description from the doorman, sit him down with a police artist. That way the papers can print something that won't look a bit like him, but what the hell. You got any idea where we'll find him?"

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"I didn't know his name until earlier today. I couldn't even have proved he existed."

"I guess that's a no, huh?"

"I'd watch the Hollander house," I said.

"I've got men there."

"Oh? The authorization came through?"

He made a face. "I called in, told them to assign a couple of uniforms to sit in a car and stake the place out. If anybody approaches the house, they're to stop him and question him. As soon as I've got a description I'll give it to them, narrow it down a little."

"That's good," I said, "but tell them not to go inside the house. There's a man in there who'll take their heads off if they try."

"The Hollander house," he said. "Where else?"

"He had a place in the Village," I said, "on Broadway, but he got out of there when he moved in here. He left owing a lot of back rent. I don't think he'd be crazy enough to try going back."

"He got a girlfriend?"

"He had one at the massage parlor," someone else chimed in, "and look what happened to her."

"What about this house in Brooklyn?" Wentworth said. "Anything there?"

"Coney Island," somebody said, and Dan Schering said, "No, Coney Island Avenue. House itself is in Flatbush somewhere."

"More like Midwood," I said.

"I don't want to buy it," Wentworth said. "I'm just wondering if the son of a bitch is likely to use it for a bolt-hole."

"It's rented," I said, "as of the first of the month."

"But it's empty now?"

"I believe so."

"Be a place for him to hole up," he said.

"There's a cop I talked with out there named Iverson," I said. "At the Seventieth Precinct."

"Somebody should call him," Wentworth said.

"I'll give him a call," somebody said. "Which precinct was that?"

"The Seven-oh," Wentworth said. "Is that right, Matt? The Seven-oh?"

"That's right," I said.

"I know that station house," one of the Homicide cops said. "That's on Lawrence Avenue, isn't it?"

"I don't know," I said. "I met him at the location."

"Sure, the Seven-oh," he said. "Ugly-looking station house."

"Jesus," Schering said, "that'd make it the only one of its kind in the five boroughs."

Wentworth said, "The boyfriend. You mentioned something about him."

One of the others said, "This asshole's got a boyfriend? Then what's he doing in a massage parlor?"

"Not Breit," Wentworth said.

"Not bright at all," the other said. "Fucking stupid, you ask me."

"Not the perp who had the boyfriend," Wentworth said. "Are you pulling my chain or what?"

"Would I do that, Ira?"

"All day long," Wentworth said. To me he said, "Hollander had a boyfriend, right?"

"Broke up over a year ago."

"But you said something about counseling, that that's how Breit met her."

"Yes."

"And he's still counseling the boyfriend."

I nodded. "He might go there," I said. "It's out by Bushwick Terminal."

Someone wanted to know why anyone in his right mind would go there, and someone else said Breit wasn't exactly in his right mind.

I said, "Maybe you already did this, but why not station somebody downstairs next to the doorman?"

Wentworth nodded. "Right. Because the most likely place for Breit to turn up is right here, and it would be nice if someone would point him out to us when he does."

THIRTY-EIGHT

It's not difficult to buy a hunting knife in New York City.

It's very difficult, prohibitively so, to buy a gun. You need a permit, and that's not the easiest thing in the world to obtain, and you need to show two pieces of photo ID along with the permit. A knife is easier, because the movement for knife control has not made much headway. There are, he learns, certain kinds of knives you can't purchase, because they're illegal. Switchblades, for instance, or gravity knives. It's possible, however, to buy a knife which can be converted into a switchblade, and the same dealer who sells it to you can also sell you a simple kit with which you can make the conversion. That's evidently legal- but, should you use the kit and convert the knife, you're then subject to arrest for possessing an illegal weapon.

A switchblade is illegal because, just by pressing a button, you can convert it into a weapon. But a regular hunting knife that doesn't fold to begin with already is a weapon. You don't even have to press a button. But it's legal.

On the other hand, you can't carry it on your person if the blade is over a certain number of inches in length. Then it's a deadly weapon. You can buy it, and play mumblety-peg with it in the privacy of your own home, or take it in the woods with you to skin out big game. But if you carry it around within city limits, you're breaking the law.

He is breaking the law.

The knife is a Bowie-type, ten inches overall, with a six-inch blade. The handle is wrapped in dark brown leather, and the sheath that comes with it is of black leather reinforced with steel. The design tooled into the sheath shows two crossed flags, one the stars and stripes, the other the Confederate stars and bars.

The sheath is now attached to his belt, and as he walks along, his arm at his side, he can feel its comforting presence. His jacket is long enough to conceal it, but it's easy to reach under his jacket, easy to get his hand on the handle. There's a little strap that snaps closed, securing the knife, but he can leave it unsnapped if he wants, to make it that much easier to get at.

It's a beautiful piece of workmanship. The manufacturer is located in Birmingham, Alabama, and much is made of this in the article's packaging. The clerk at the sporting goods store made a point of telling him the knife was American-made. Are the best knives those made in America? Or is it that customers for hunting knives like to support American industry?

He doesn't know, or much care. It pleases him to have the knife, even as it pleased him to have the gun. Long before he was ready to use it, almost from the day he took it from that Freudian idiot's desk, he'd enjoyed carrying it concealed on his person, in a pocket or wedged under his belt, where he could touch it whenever he felt like it.

It's very satisfying, walking about armed, carrying a concealed weapon. You know something no one knows. You're empowered, secretly empowered. Sitting in a subway car, you look at the man opposite you, knowing you can draw your gun and shoot him dead and there's nothing, nothing at all, that he can do about it.

Once, in a darkened movie theater, he'd taken out the gun and pointed it at the back of the neck of the person sitting directly in front of him. Bang, he'd thought to himself, and put the gun back in his pocket.

By the time he finally got to use the gun, on that fool Bierman, he'd anticipated the moment a thousand times.

And where shall he go now, with his beautiful new knife? He has the whole day to himself, to use as he wishes. Shall he collect his car from the garage and go for a ride in the country? Go home, stretch out, curl up with a good book?

He could return to the house. His house, his future home. The giant, the Irish thug, must have moved on by now. If not, he can see how the man does against six inches of steel, honed to razor sharpness and hardened to 400 on the Rockwell scale, whatever that's supposed to mean. It's evidently a selling point, as the manufacturer trumpeted it on the box and the salesman troubled to point it out.

No doubt it means it's hard, as you'd expect steel to be. He imagines the big man dismissing him, telling him to fuck off, then the green eyes widening at the sight of the knife in his hand.

Then again, he thinks, perhaps not. A knife blade, whatever its numerical degree of hardness, might snap like a twig against that one's rough hide. More to the point, he can envision the man's hand darting out, quick as a cat, and taking the knife away from him…

He wants to try it out.

In a restaurant where he eats a sandwich and drinks a cup of coffee, he locks himself in the men's room and practices drawing the knife, practices thrusting at an imaginary opponent. There's a mirror, and he can watch himself as he goes through his moves. It seems to him that he has a natural feeling for the weapon. He'd been quick to master the gun (and, the job finished, sick at the thought of abandoning it) but it seemed to him that there was nothing to learn with the knife, or, more accurately, that his knowledge of the weapon was intuitive and innate, dormant and unsuspected for years, activated the moment he took the thing in his hand.

Perhaps he'd been a knife fighter in a previous life. Perhaps he'd been Jim Bowie himself, the man who'd invented the damn thing. Died at the Alamo, didn't he? Went out in a blaze of glory.

With a favorite knife in his hand? Why not?

Someone tries the door. It's locked. And if it were open? A man walks in, starts to apologize, sees the knife, tries to back away…

And he sees himself wiping the blade on the man's shirt, returning it to the sheath, and walking coolly out of the bathroom, drawing the door shut after him. Walking past the balding Korean attendant, down the stairs…

No, that was earlier, that was at the massage parlor. He's in a restaurant now, he's just eaten, just gone to the bathroom, and it's time to pay the check and leave.

On the street, he tells himself it was just imagination, that's all. A fantasy sideslipping into a memory. Nothing untoward in that, nothing to be alarmed about.

Now what? Another massage parlor?