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Civilian conversations blended with the static of radio calls from police units, and yellow tape cordoned off the sidewalk in front of the apartment building. An ambulance and a meat wagon were parked at the curb, side by side, doors hanging open, awaiting the living and the dead. The man from the medical examiners office zipped up the body bag on his gurney. A cigarette dangled from his mouth as he accepted a light from the homicide detective. Dr Slopes standing by to crack the old man open. So whats the story on the other corpse?

Theres only one dead body, Riker corrected him. This one. He looked down at the remains of George Neederland, the missing department-store watchman.

The MEs man looked up to the sky and a departing police helicopter. Your guys just took another body off the roof. Whats the

Repeat after me, pal. Theres only one dead body at this crime scene. Riker turned to see another reporter approaching the police barricade. Nearby, a news van was unloading pole lights and camera equipment. He turned back to face down the meat-wagon man. One body. If the press hears a different story, Dr Slopes gonna fire your ass. Ill make sure he does.

In a less threatening mode, Riker turned to thank Alice White for the wet washcloth she pressed into his hand. He grabbed Mallory by the arm and forced her to stand still while he cleaned the red smears from her face. Then he stepped back to appraise the rest of her stains. Damn, you look worse than Deluthe. Youre sure none of that blood belongs to you?

Mallory turned away from him and walked toward a crime-scene technician, calling out, You! Stop!

Riker strolled back to the ambulance crew. Youre right, guys. No wounds on Mallory. He turned to watch his partner issuing orders and signing the evidence bags for her crime scene, unaware that her bloody clothes and hair were making the civilian onlookers sick.

A paramedic hovering over Deluthe said, Hes coming around again.

There was no need to shield the youngster from the reporters and their cameras. His own mother would not recognize that swollen bandaged face. More bandages covered his scalp. He was being stabilized with injections and portable machines to keep him out of the danger zone of deep shock.

Riker waited until Deluthes eyes flickered open, then continued the lecture where he had left off ten minutes ago. When you found Natalies address in the watchmans file, you shouldve come to me. Never go after a perp without back-up. And that door. That was a major screwup, kid. When you saw the open door, you shouldve known the scarecrow was still in the building.

The young cop was coughing. It was a fight to get the words out. Is this your way of telling me Im fired? The lame smile made his lip bleed again.

Naw, said Riker. I wouldnt waste time teaching you how to stay alive not if you were on the way out.

The medic unhooked the monitor. Okay, hes stable.

Give us a minute, said Riker. When the two paramedics had walked around to the other side of the ambulance, he said, One more thing, kid. Were promoting you to a stone killer just for a little while. He pointed at the uniformed officers seated inside the ambulance, both men he trusted. Wallers got your ID and your badge. Hell field all the questions at the hospital. Just keep your mouth shut. He turned around to look at his partner in her bloodstains. Oh, and Mallorys taking the credit for beating the crap out of you. But well clear that up tomorrow, okay?

Before the ambulance doors had closed on the baffled Deluthe, Charles Butler joined Riker on the sidewalk. Shouldnt Mallory see a doctor?

Right, said the detective. You talk to her.

Theres something not quite right with her.

Oh, yeah? Riker turned to watch her moving about the scene like an automaton. How can you tell?

Charles certainly caught the sarcasm, but he was selectively deaf to detrimental remarks about Mallory. Under normal circumstances, shes compulsively neat. Shed never tolerate a smudge on one of her running shoes. Look at her now. She doesnt even see the blood on her clothes and her

Yeah, shes not quite the little fanatic today. Riker smiled. But thats a good thing, isnt it? Progress?

Charles sighed. He pointed to the rectangular bulge in Rikers pocket. Are you ever going to give her that book?

I will when the time is right.

Mallory was walking toward them. Charles made himself scarce before she could order him behind the crime-scene tape again.

Riker grinned, so happy to see her alive and walking around in any condition. You missed your chance to tell Deluthe how bad he screwed up today. I filled in for you.

Did you tell him he killed an unarmed man the only witness to Natalie Homers murder?

No, kid, I saved that part for you. Waitll he gets out of the hospital. He wont be expecting an ambush. This was a joke, but she seemed to be considering it. So, Mallory, I hear you reamed out Geldorf.

He had it coming, she said.

Sure. Thats why you told him the scarecrow was a cop. Youd need a pretty good reason to give up a detail like that. You figured the old man was on the perps kill list, right? So you warned him. That was your twisted good deed for the day.

He could see that she was not about to admit any such human frailty. Maybe it was all wishful thinking on his part, a fantasy of what he wanted her to be. He looked up at the clouds that threatened rain. Not very satisfying this time, is it, Mallory?

No, he guessed not.

She raised her face to his, and he saw his Kathy, only ten, all played out at the end of a bad day, and he wanted to kill somebody to make her world right again. His hate was growing, going out to the man who murdered Natalie Homer. That worthless bastard had done so much damage. Twenty years later, the dead could not be officially tallied until Sparrow was taken off life support. And then there was Mallory, altered in ways that worried him.

Riker reached into his pocket and pulled out a brown paper bag containing a book. Here, a consolation prize. He handed her the final installment in the saga of Sheriff Peety and the Wichita Kid. You might like the inscription.

He had marked the page with a matchbook so she would find the brief message from her biggest fan, a love letter written before Louis Markowitz and Kathy had been properly introduced.

Riker walked away as she opened her present. He was heading for Mallorys car, planning to sabotage it so she could not drive home by herself. Also, she would not forgive him if he saw her cry, and he did not want that additional burden. He was still paying for all his old crimes against the child she used to be. Riker! she called after him. Were not done yet! So much for his grand idea that she could be moved to tears. Perhaps his fantasy life was getting out of hand.

The decor of the Manhattan condo was expensive and spartan, though the living room had the smell of Brooklyn ghosts, Louis and Helen Markowitz. Their old house had reeked of the same canned-pine-tree air freshener. Riker supposed this was Mallorys idea of memento, for the room was bereft of family photographs or keepsakes. She must believe there was nothing here to give away any clue to her personality. Untrue. The white carpet had a low tolerance for dirt; chrome and glass gleamed from the toil of a cleaning fanatic; the dark leather chairs and the couch had severe right angles and hard straight lines. It was all black and white no compromises all Mallory.

And so it was easy to spot the small item that did not belong here. Evidently, he had not been the only one to rob a crime scene, and Mallory had been careless with her stolen goods. He knelt down on the rug and reached under the glass cocktail table to retrieve a delicate ivory comb. It was memorable for the elaborate carving and the look of money. Sparrow had worn it in her hair each time they met. And he had always been curious about this precious comb, this favorite possession of a junkie that should have been sold for a drug buy long ago. When Sparrow finally died, would the comb become Mallorys keepsake or her trophy?

He turned to see his partner enter the room, towel-drying her hair as she walked toward him in a long white robe. Mallory was resilient, and she cleaned up well.

Riker folded a cell phone into his pocket. Dr Slope cracked the nightwatchmans chest. The old guys been dead about two weeks. Natural causes. You figure the scarecrow planned his last murder that far in advance?

No. He made friends with the old man years ago. He wanted to spend time in the building where his mother died. That place was his idea of home. She accepted a glass of bourbon and soda from his hand.

Riker had been surprised to find the makings in her kitchen cabinet, and he wondered if she drank alone. Of course she did. She would never drink in public and risk losing control in front of witnesses. So thats what triggered the hangings? The watchmans death?

Well never know thanks to Deluthe. Mallory stared at the pocket that hid his cell phone. What did you hear from the hospital?

If you mean Deluthe, hell live. Just busted up is all. Riker watched her finish the medicinal whiskey and soda. Hes got a broken nose, a hairline skull fracture and a dislocated shoulder. Oh, and hes gonna have a wicked scar on his face, lots of stitches. But the doctor says he doesnt seem to mind that. In fact, he seems real happy about it. He picked up the remote control for the television set. But if you mean Sparrow the doctor says shell be gone before morning. He could not tell if this made any impression on Mallory. At least she did not smile.

And now for the good news. Riker switched on the television and killed the sound of the broadcast, preferring to give his own narrative. We got a very confused press corps with an inaccurate body count. They think the scarecrows still alive, but badly wounded. He pointed to the image of a teenage witness being attacked by microphones. Thats all the girl could tell them.

Mallory nodded. She was only on the roof for a few minutes.

And the young girl was still shaking on camera as Riker leaned closer to the set. Here, watch this her fathers gonna deck a reporter. The punch was thrown. Good job. And now the picture changed to three small boys all talking at once. Oh, but these kids they were great!

They didnt see anything! said Mallory. Their mother took them off the roof before they could

Yeah, but in their version, you shot the poor bastards legs off. Then you pistol-whipped him and shot him some more. But they knew he was still alive cause they saw him try to crawl away from you. Bless their lying little hearts.

I need something to rattle a suspect. Mallory stood before the rear wall of the incident room, pinning another array of photographs to the cork surface. We have to wrap Natalies murder tonight.

Understandable. Come the morning, every fact of the scarecrows death would be public knowledge. All right, said Charles. There were two stalkers. Only Natalies killer would know that.

She said nothing aloud, but he knew that smirk so well. Yeah, right.

Its a matter of style, he said, undaunted. The first stalker was the ex-husband. Im sure Lars was right about that. So perhaps he could be forgiven for

No. One look at Mallory and he knew that forgiveness was never coming from that quarter. Charles unpinned one of the stalker notes and held up the aged yellow paper. Erik Homer was a wife beater, short on patience. I dont see him spending hours tracing individual letters of magazine script just to make this beautiful for Natalie. Rather artistic, isnt it? He read the words to her, I touched you today. More like poetry than a threat. Not Erik Homers style. When he met his second wife, the stalking ended, and Natalie had no more use for the police. That explains the two-week gap in her complaints. It was the second stalker who left her these notes, who loved her and killed her.

All right, Ill buy that. Mallory stepped back from the wall to give him a clear view of her rogues gallery, five men as they had appeared twenty years ago. Lars Geldorf s portrait came from a newspaper archive. Head shots of two other detectives and one patrolman were made from Mallorys computer enhancements of the crime-scene Polaroids. And another patrolmans picture was taken from a personnel file. Next problem, she said. We know the perp was a cop, but which one?

How can you be sure it was one of these men?

Because one of the uniforms called in the hanging as a suicide -and three detectives showed up.

Apparently Mallory was picking up cryptic bad habits from Riker.

Just guessing, said Charles. You dont usually send so many detectives out for a suicide call? What was he missing here? He stared at the pictures of the men in suits. So youve narrowed it down to these three because they all signed off on Natalies stalker complaints? Is that it?


Of course not. Miles too easy.

Youre right about one thing. Mallory pinned up a portrait of Natalie Homer smiling for her photographer. He loved her. He was obsessed with her. She was the prettiest thing he ever set eyes on.

And you are beautiful. Had he ever told her that? No, never.

But he was nothing special, said Mallory.

Far from special, far from beauty.

Not in her class, said Mallory. All he could do was watch her and follow her. He probably figured shed laugh if she knew how often he thought about her about the two of them together. She was unapproachable, unattainable.

As far away as the moon. You would never -

He was my best suspect. Mallory tapped Lars Geldorf s photograph. The old man has an attachment to Natalie that just wont die. He was on the top of my list.

Was, said Charles. And now?

When Natalies son looked through that bathroom door, if hed seen a detective in street clothes, he wouldnt have known the hangman was a cop.

Though relieved that Lars was no longer in her sights, Charless good logic held sway. Youre not forgetting that Junior saw that man a second time two days later outside the crime scene. The boy had to know that all the men in that room were police.

Three detectives turned out for a suicide call, said Mallory. And it wasnt the address that got their attention. One of the uniforms gave the victims name. No patrol cop was ever dispatched to Natalies apartment while she was alive. I checked. She always made her complaints at the station. You read Deluthes interview with Alan Parris. The uniforms were in that room for two seconds before they shut the door and called in the report. They saw a scalped corpse on a rope. It was bloated with gas and maggots, face wrecked beyond recognition.

But they knew it was Natalie, said Charles. They knew that was her apartment.

One of them did. She tapped the photographs of the uniformed officers. Can you tell Loman from Parris?

Thats easy, said Charles, though he knew neither man on sight. Loman is the only one in the crime-scene photos. Parris wouldnt go back inside that room. Oh, I see. They are rather alike. Even Lars Geldorf had confused one for the other. Both in their early twenties, the patrolmen had the same regular features, dark hair and eyes beneath the brims of their caps. When the boy was in the hall with Alice White, that second encounter should have reinforced his identification. But he saw two men in uniform.

Its the uniform he remembered best, said Mallory. If the boy couldnt tell them apart, how do we

I suggest you flip a coin, said Charles, for logic could not take him everywhere.

Riker leaned toward the window by his desk in the squad room. News vans on the street below were double-parked at the curb. A few men with microphones assaulted the police entourage surrounding and concealing the wounded detective, whose head was covered by a white helmet of bandages. The rest of the reporters were looking up at the second-story windows, mouths open like dogs waiting to be fed. Nothing like a good hungry mob to jack up the fear.

When Officer Waller and his partner came through the door, they were supporting Ronald Deluthe on both sides. Nursemaids could not have been more tender than these large men slowly walking him across the squad room and watching his face with grave concern. The dividing wall between detectives and uniforms came down when one of New Yorks Finest was wounded in the line of duty.

An angry rope burn circled Deluthes neck, exposed stitches ran down one cheek like a dueling scar, and the dislocated shoulder was covered with a sling supporting his left arm. Riker saw the dead-white face as a sure sign that the boy had not taken any recent medication to block the pain.

Had that been Mallorys idea?

The wounded mans honor guard was dismissed. Riker did not want the uniforms to see what would happen next. When the stairwell door had closed behind the departing officers, Mallory undipped a pair of handcuffs from her belt and manacled Deluthes good hand to the one that dangled from the sling.

| Crime School | CHAPTER 23