The landlord had disobeyed a direct order to remain downstairs with his wife. He had silently followed Mallory to the top-floor apartment, and now it was too late to threaten the man – and unnecessary. John White quickly backed down to the lower landing when she drew her.357 Smith and Wesson, a cannon among revolvers. She favored it above all others for its drop-dead stopping power.
The door was ajar by the crack of a bare inch. She kicked it dead center, and it flew back with a bang and the sound of plaster crumbling where the knob had crashed into a wall. Fresh wet blood was splattered across the rug, and some of it stained a baseball bat. Mallory only glanced at the body on the floor. Ronald Deluthe had a rope knotted around his neck. She entered the apartment, aiming her gun at every piece of furniture that might give cover to the scarecrow. The bathroom was empty. She kicked open another door – no one there.
Upon returning to the front room, she found John White crouching on the floor and holding the wrist of the fallen detective.
Deluthe’s left arm was twisted in an unnatural attitude. His nose was smashed to one side and still gushing blood, the only sure sign of a beating heart and life.
‘I’ve got a pulse,’ said White, ‘but it’s thready.’
Mallory knelt beside the unconscious man, then put one finger between the rope and his neck. It was a tight fit. His oxygen had been completely cut off, but his lips were not yet blue. The scarecrow could only be a minute away.
John White was also working at the rope, but to a different purpose; he was trying to clear the man’s air passage, saying, ‘I was a volunteer paramedic back in Wisconsin.’
Mallory was not listening, nor did she watch as White performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. She stared at the open closet and its contents for a moment, then reached down and ripped back the lapel of Deluthe’s suit jacket. His shoulder holster was empty.
The scarecrow has a gun.
She was rising, moving quickly toward the door and the inconvenient obstacle of Alice White. Mallory pushed the woman aside, shouting, ‘Call 911!’
‘I did. You told me – ’
‘Call again). Tell them an officer’s down!’
The last staircase at the end of the hall would lead her to the roof, and Mallory was running toward it. She had climbed to the door at the top of the stairs when she heard a scream from the apartment below. Apparently, Alice had noticed the moldy corpse on the floor of the closet.
Riker spoke into his cell phone, ‘Repeat that. An officer down?’
Charles was pulling over to allow an emergency vehicle to pass, when the detective yelled, ‘Follow that ambulance!’