Chapter 15

Luther Boyd followed the track of the Wellingtons and his daughter’s boots through stands of cut-leaf beech trees which made his task laborious and difficult because a luxuriance of foliage fell to the ground from masses of horizontal branches, and Boyd had to sweep them aside like coarse curtains to find the sign he was searching for. But when he reached the band shell, an open-air theater at the head of the Mall-he was north of Seventieth Street now-he came on a narrow, spongy strip of ground which circled the theater, and it was here, traveling east, that he again found sign of the Wellingtons and Kate’s small boots. Following their trail, he turned north at the eastern end of the theater and made his way past the Mall and band shell through heavy stands of giant sycamores, with mottled gray-white trunks, and huge exposed roots. There were heaps of fallen branches and scattered stacks of underbrush left by the park’s cleanup crews.

He ran a zigzag course, steadily extending its perimeters, but the exposed roots and heaps of windfall timber made an impossible tracking surface; the wood, hard as iron, would require an ax to so much as dent it. And here Boyd lost the Wellingtons.

Instinct told Boyd his quarry hadn’t doubled back on him, so he continued on a northern line until he came to the barrier of Seventy-second Street, brilliant and noisy with traffic. He looked toward Fifth Avenue and saw that the light had turned red against the east-west flow of cars. In seconds, he could cross this conduit and try to pick up the Wellingtons on the turf he could see on the opposite side of the street.

But while he was waiting, his muscles tensed and ready to run, a black sedan pulled up and parked directly in front of him, and from the front passenger seat a man with a huge chest and vivid scar along his cheek stepped out and said, “I’m Lieutenant Tonnelli, Colonel Boyd.”

At the wheel of the car was the young patrolman, Max Prima, whom Boyd had encountered only minutes before in the park. In the rear of the car was Boyd’s wife, Barbara, and he could see the tears in her eyes and the ravaged lines of fear in her face.

“I did what I thought best, Luther,” she said. “You must believe that.”

Recriminations were irrelevant now. She had cast the die, and he would not have to live with it. Whether Kate would or not was another matter. She had added chaos to his simple strategy, and that might destroy their daughter. Like most civilians, Barbara lacked control of her emotions, but none of these bitter thoughts was reflected in Boyd’s manner or expression.

“I know you did what you thought best,” he said. And because he knew Barbara, he added, “I think you did right.”

He could give her that. Maybe not Kate, but a sustaining lie at least.

Gypsy Tonnelli was not a notably tactful or patient man, but something about Luther Boyd, the clean, powerful lines of his body, the tough, cold intelligence in his eyes and face, warned him to proceed discreetly. He wanted and needed his cooperation, which meant he wanted him back in his apartment with his wife, out of the park, out of the search for the Juggler.

“Colonel Boyd, believe me. The best chance of getting your daughter back is to let the police handle it,” he said. “We’ve got the equipment, the manpower-”

Boyd cut him off with a headshake. “You’ve got work to do, and I expect you’ll do it. But I’ve also got a job, which is saving my daughter’s life.”

Tonnelli glanced at the Browning beneath Boyd’s waistband, then looked steadily at Boyd. “You got a permit for that?”

“Lieutenant, I’m not being hard-nosed, but I can’t waste any more time. I have a permit for this particular weapon, and every weapon issued by the United States Army up to and including AR-21’s. I’ll talk fast now-”

“Your wife told me about Fort Benning and the Rangers and-”

“Please give me the courtesy of listening, Lieutenant. I tracked my daughter from where she was grabbed by what I presume to be a psychopath. . ”

“Don’t presume, he is.”

“I’ve tracked him and my daughter this far, to Seventy-second Street.” Boyd pointed north past the streams of traffic. “He’s only a couple of minutes ahead of me. You want to help me take him, fine. Say no, I’m gone.”

There was a new element in Boyd’s tone and manner, and it sent a tiny chill down Tonnelli’s spine.

Luther Boyd’s spirit had been hardened and tempered by the habit of command; it had been drilled into him by his superiors and, more significantly, by the necessity of saving lives, including his own, in combat. It was elemental to the construct of his character; it was not that he was convinced of the inevitable rectitude of his decisions, but he knew that any decision was preferable to indecision in warfare, and he believed this so strongly that it never occurred to him, even fleetingly, that anyone in his command would disobey his orders.

It was this projection of granitic authority that struck Gypsy Tonnelli with the impact of a fist.

The Gypsy traced the vivid scar on his cheek with a fingertip. “Let’s take him,” he said.

Pulling a police whistle and red-beamed flashlight from the pocket of his topcoat, Tonnelli ran to the middle of Seventy-second Street, leaping nimbly from the path of a station wagon of blacks who left streams of curses trailing on the air with their exhaust fumes.

Tonnelli blew a half dozen piercing blasts while the red beams of his flashlight cut wide and brilliant arcs through the darkness.

“Police! Hit your brakes! Halt!” he shouted at the onrushing streams of traffic.

Luther Boyd went to Tonnelli’s car and put his hand on Barbara’s cheek.

“I’ll get her back. That’s a promise. Hang in there.”

And then he was gone, running through a corridor formed by stopped cars to join Tonnelli on spongy ground north of Seventy-second Street.

In less than a minute, Boyd had once again picked up the prints of the Wellingtons and his daughter’s small boots.

He asked Lieutenant Tonnelli, “Did you post a skirmish line across the park between Sixty-ninth and Seventieth?”

“That was done five minutes after your wife called us. Except that I put them on Transverse One at Sixty-sixth Street. It’s a wall of cops. I figured the Juggler had to be on one side or the other of it.”

Tonnelli flicked the switch on his two-way radio. “This is Tonnelli. I want Rusty Boyle.”

After a few seconds, Boyle’s miniature voice sounded from Tonnelli’s radio.

“Ten-four, Lieutenant.”

“Rusty? I want you to move our line from Sixty-sixth up to Seventy-second Street. Make damn sure the men are in voice contact with each other. Make goddamn sure nobody goes south through that line without being stopped and questioned.”

“Roger, Lieutenant.”

“Then let’s move out,” Luther Boyd said.

Searching the ground with narrowed eyes, he went off at a pace which forced Tonnelli to break into a half run to keep up with him.

“We’ve got to take the north end of the park away from him,” Luther Boyd said.

“Any idea how we do that?”

“Yes,” Luther Boyd said. Then: “You call him the Juggler. Why?”

“You’d be better off not knowing, Colonel.”

“It’s not what I want to know. It’s what I need to know, Lieutenant. . ”

They were moving swiftly through a shadowed meadow on which the first traces of hoarfrost were gleaming under the moonlight, an expanse bordered with the dramatic green of Austrian pines, and it was against this background of fairy-tale beauty and tranquility that Gypsy Tonnelli told Luther Boyd what he knew of the creature the New York police called the Juggler.

“To win battles, you do not need weapons, you beat the soul of the enemy. . ”

Patton was more often right than wrong, Luther Boyd believed, and believed from his own experience that to know the enemy was half of victory.

He had seen the man they called the Juggler, he realized, standing stock-still in nighttime traffic on Fifth Avenue, staring up at their apartment. That fact was no help to him, but knowing who and what the Juggler was did give him a certain hope. A psychopath, corroded with guilt and fear. They could use that to their advantage. .

To confuse him without frightening him, that was essential, so that his panic would be tinged with uncertainty rather than defensive anger.

Destroy his orientation, but without threatening him. Make him believe he had lost direction or taken a wrong turning; never make him feel cornered or trapped.

Kate must have sensed what he was. . At eleven, she was a highly perceptive and intelligent child. She might well have realized that if she could summon up the nerve to conceal her fears and stand her ground, this could conceivably deflect and disrupt the Juggler’s monstrous needs.

She was walking beside him, and that fact gave him additional hope.

As long as she was not under physical restraint, it could be inferred that the Juggler had a destination in mind and was heading for it.

And where would that be? Far north of here, beyond the Receiving Reservoir, beyond the upper Nineties, where Central Park became a true jungle, an area where not only the laws of the city but the laws of humanity had long since been suspended.

Luther Boyd stopped and checked Tonnelli with a hand on his arm.

“Hold it a minute,” Boyd said.

“What is it?” Tonnelli asked him quietly.

Boyd stared ahead into the darkness and listened to the sounds of winds in the crowns of giant oak trees.

“A hunch. He knows we’re after him.”

“What makes you think so?”

Boyd thought fleetingly of classrooms at Fort Benning where he might have answered Tonnelli’s question in some detail. . He would have explained intangibles, such as the inferences to be drawn from the sounds and smells and “feels” of battlegrounds. He might advise him of Mao Tse-tung’s famous Three Rules and Eight Remarks, a code of military and civilian principles adopted by the Red Army, whose applications had broken the combined might of the Japanese imperial forces and the U.S.-bolstered troops of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. Arise in the east, but attack from the West. . destroy confidence in terrain. . confuse the enemy’s rear. . feint reserves into chaos.

He couldn’t pin down what was alerting him now. It was pure instinct, and he couldn’t explain that to the lieutenant any more than he could explain why soldiers were comfortable with the expected sounds of combat, but that something unexpected like screaming banzai charges or the wild, thrilling music the North Koreans had used so effectively could turn seasoned troops into disorderly mobs.

It was hard to explain things like that unless you’d experienced them.

“For one thing, his strides are longer now,” Boyd said.

Then he noticed something that gave support to his previous instinctive anxiety. He moved swiftly but silently to a twisted thorn-studded Japanese angelica tree and from one of its spikes picked off a strand of coarse brown wool. Even though the cluster of threads was small, no larger than a fingertip, they exuded a rank, animal-like odor.

“Brown sweater,” Boyd said.

“The Juggler,” Tonnelli said.

“And one other thing,” Boyd said. “He wouldn’t have walked into that tree, unless he was looking over his shoulder, worried about something behind him.”

“What could have stirred him up?”

“Psychopaths usually have physical compensations.”

“Better eyes, better ears?”

“Right. So far, he’s made only one mistake. When I found my daughter’s Scottie, that gave me a direct fix on him. When I heard Kate scream, I ran toward the sound. But I could have missed it by a hundred yards or more if the dog’s body hadn’t given me the line.”

“Jesus Christ,” Gypsy Tonnelli said softly. “Colonel, compared to you, an iceberg would look like a blast furnace. How can you just stand here?”

“Because I must,” Luther Boyd said. “Let him calm down. I want my daughter alive.”

Boyd began to consider options, a tactical administration of his simple strategy. They stood presently on the east-west line of Seventy-third Street. Transverse Three to the north ran a curving course from Fifth Avenue at Eighty-fourth Street to Central Park West, Eighty-sixth Street.

“Lieutenant, do you have fifty officers in your reserve?”

“We got a hell of a lot more than that, and I’m taking a hell of a responsibility not committing them.”

Central Park was about a half mile wide. Fifty times fifty would cover it.

“Then commit fifty patrolmen to Transverse Three with transistor radios. Post them at fifty-foot intervals. Tell them to take positions north of the transverse, to take cover in shrubbery or shadows, and to turn their radios onto rock stations at full volume.”

“That going to stop the Juggler?”

“Lieutenant, we learned a bitter lesson from North Koreans on the psychology of sound in combat. We paid a stiff price for not doing enough research into troop response to unexpected audio impacts. A soldier expects artillery fire, braces himself for it. But if silence is broken by something unexpected, laughter or singing, for instance, it can bring a column of troops to a full halt.

“You used the phrase ‘a wall of cops.’ I’m proposing a wall of music. It may not stop him, but it will confuse him. He’s bracing himself for sirens, flashing dome lights, police whistles. Not music. It’s a chance to destroy his game plan, take away the north end of the park. Then we’ve got him in a box. And when we make visual contact, you can take him out with one shot.”

Tonnelli made up his mind with a figurative finger snap. Putting the two-way radio to his lips, he flipped the switch and asked quietly for Sergeant Rusty Boyle.