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CHAPTER 19

Mallory looked less like a crime victim after removing the blazer torn by broken glass. The garment was neatly folded over one arm to hide her bandaged wound. And now her holstered revolver was on public display in a window on Fifth Avenue. She stood in full view of a sidewalk audience and watched the watchers. One of them picked up a small piece of glass from the litter on the pavement, and he slipped it into his pocket. Perhaps he prized this one above the other souvenir shards because of the small red stain. He was stealing a drop of her blood.

She turned to Ronald Deluthe. Take another look. Youre sure hes not out there?

The rookie detective shook his head. I dont see him. She pointed to three uniformed officers standing off to one side. What about them?

This startled him. You think the scarecrow is a cop? When I say look at everyone, that means cops too. No, hes not there. And now, sensing that she had no further use for him, Deluthe climbed out of the display window, giving the forensic expert more room to work.

Heller pulled down the rope that dangled from an exposed pipe in the chopped-away ceiling. Crude job for such a tidy killer.

And hes taking more chances, said Mallory. Heller, you said this woman fought back?

Better than that. Dr Slope found blood and skin under her fingernails.

Good for you, Stella Small.

What about store security?

They got everything, said Heller. Cameras, alarms, even guard dogs. But none of it was working, and the animals were locked in a utility closet.

Mallory lowered her sunglasses. This store doesnt have a nightwatchman?

Yeah, they got one. Riker climbed up on the raised floor of the display window. The watchmans a retired cop, sixty-four years old. Maybe he slept through the whole thing.

Mallory turned back to the crowd of ghouls on the sidewalk. And maybe the old mans dead.

Well, that theorys my personal favorite. Riker knelt down beside Heller. His basement office was wrecked. Broken glass everywhere, and theres blood on the floor. I didnt see any broken skin on Stella, so it might be the watchmans blood.

Without a word or even a nod to Riker, Heller closed his tool kit and climbed down from the display window. For the past hour, these two men had not traded one insult, and Mallory wondered about this sudden rift in an old routine.

Stella marked the perp with her fingernails, she said.

Thats my girl. Riker stared at the bits of hair on the floor. Not a very neat scalping this time, and you should see that basement office. The perps not so fussy about cleaning up his messes anymore.

Mallory nodded. The scarecrow was coming undone.



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