SEVEN

Mrs. Martha Washington was not surprised, when she woke up, that her husband was not in bed beside her. They had been married for more than a quarter century and she was as accustomed to finding herself alone in bed-even after a romantic interlude-as she was to the witticisms regarding her married name. She didn’t like either worth a damn, but since there was nothing she could do about it, there was no sense in feeling sorry for herself.

She was surprised, when she looked at her bedside clock, to see how early it was: twenty minutes past seven. She rarely woke that early. And then she had the explanation: the sound of a typewriter clattering in the living room. Her typewriter, an IBM Electric, brought home from the Washington Galleries, Inc., when IBM wouldn’t give her a decent trade-in when she’d bought new Selectrics.

“Damn him!” she said.

She pushed herself out of bed and, with a languorous, unintentionally somewhat erotic movement, pulled her nightgown over her head and tossed it onto the bed. Naked, showing a trim, firm figure that gave her, at forty-seven, nothing whatever to be unhappy about, she walked into the marble-walled bathroom and turned on the faucets in the glass-walled shower.

When she came out of the shower, she toweled her short hair vigorously in front of the partially steamed-over mirror. She had large dark eyes, a sharp, somewhat hooked nose, and smooth, light brown skin. After Matt had made the crack that she looked like the women in the Egyptian bas-reliefs in the collection of the Philadelphia Art Museum, she had begun to consider that there might actually be something to it, if the blood of an Egyptian queen-or at least an Egyptian courtesan; some of the women in those bas-reliefs looked as though they knew the way to a man’s heart wasn’t really through his stomach-might really flow in her veins.

She wrapped herself in a silk robe and went through the bedroom into the living room. Her red IBM Electric and a tiny tape recorder were on the plate-glass coffee table before the couch. Her husband, a thin earplug cord dangling from his ear, was sitting-somewhat uncomfortably, she thought-on the edge of the leather couch before it, his face showing deep concentration.

She went to the ceiling-to-floor windows overlooking the Art Museum, the Schuylkill River, and the Parkway and threw a switch. With a muted hum, electric motors opened the curtains.

“How many times have I asked you not to put things on the coffee table? Heavy things?”

“How many times have I told you that I called and asked how much weight this will safely support?” her husband replied, completely unabashed.

He was nearly dressed to go to work. All he would have to do to be prepared to face the world would be to put on his shoulder holster (on the coffee table beside the IBM Selectric) and his jacket (on the couch).

“Am I allowed to ask what you’re doing?”

“Ask? Yes. Am I going to tell you? No.”

“You can make your own coffee.”

“I already have, and if you are a good girl, you may have a cup.”

“You wouldn’t like me if I was a good girl.”

“That would depend on what you were good at,” he said. “And there are some things, my dear, at which you are very good indeed.”

The typewriter continued to clatter during the exchange. She was fascinated with his ability to do two things, several things, at once. He was, she realized, listening to whatever was on the tapes, selecting what he wanted to type out, and talking to her, all at the same time.

“I really hate to see you put the typewriter there,” Martha said.

“Then don’t look,” he said, and leaving one hand to tap steadily at the keyboard, removed the earplug, took the telephone receiver from its cradle, and dialed a number from memory with the other. “Stay in bed.”

She went into the kitchen and poured coffee.

“Good morning, Inspector,” she heard him say. “I hope I didn’t wake you.”

The Inspector, Martha felt, was probably Peter Wohl. Whatever Wohl replied, it caused her husband to chuckle, which came out a deep rumble.

“I have something I think you ought to see and hear, and as soon as possible,” she heard her husband say. “What would be most convenient for you?”

I wonder what that’s all about? What wouldn’t wait until he saw Wohl in his office?

“This won’t take long, Peter,” Washington said.

And then Martha intuited what this was all about. She walked to the kitchen door and looked at him.

“I’ll be outside waiting for you,” Jason said. Then he dropped the telephone in its cradle.

He looked up at her.

“Did you tape-record that pathetic woman last night?”

Jason didn’t reply.

“You did,” Martha said, shock and disgust in her voice. “Jason, she came to you in confidence.”

“She came to me looking for help. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

“That’s not only illegal-and you’re an officer of the law-it’s disgusting! She wouldn’t have told you what she did if she knew you were recording it!”

He looked at her a long moment.

“I wanted to make sure I really understood what she said,” he said. “Watch!”

He pushed the Erase button on the machine.

“No tape, Martha,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure I had it all.”

He stood up and started to put on his shoulder holster.

She turned angrily and went back to the stove.

He appeared in the kitchen door, now fully dressed. She recognized his jacket as a new one, a woolen tweed from Uruguay, of all places.

“You ever hear about the ancient custom of killing the messenger who bears the bad news?” Jason replied. “Be kind to me, Martha.”

“Don’t try to be clever. Whatever it is, Peter Wohl won’t blame you.”

“I’m talking about the Mayor.”

She met his eyes for a moment, turned away from him, and then back again, this time offering a mug of coffee.

“Do you have time for this?” she asked. “Or is the drawing and quartering scheduled in the next five minutes?”

“It’s not a hearty meal, but the condemned man is grateful nonetheless.”

He took the coffee, took a sip, and then set it down.

“What’s all this about?” Martha asked. “What that woman said last night? Dirty cops in Narcotics?”

“We’re working on dirty cops elsewhere in the Department.”

“I thought Internal Affairs was supposed to police the Police Department.”

“They are.”

She considered that a moment.

“Oh, which explains why you and Peter are involved.”

He nodded.

“And now this. I think Mrs. Kellog was telling the truth. It will not make the Mayor’s day.”

Martha shook her head.

“Am I going to be honored with your company later today?” Martha asked. “At any time later today? Or maybe sometime this week?”

“I know what you should do. You should go back to bed and try this again. This time, get up with a smile, and with nothing in your heart but compassion for your overworked and underappreciated husband.”

“We haven’t had any time together for weeks. And even when you’re here, you’re not. You’re working.”

“I know. This will be over soon, Martha. And we’ll go to the shore for a couple of days.”

“I’ve heard that before,” she said, but she went to him and kissed his cheek. “Get that stuff off my table. Put the damned typewriter back where you found it.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Jason said. He put the typewriter back where he had found it, in a small closet in the kitchen, and then, carrying the tape recorder, left the apartment, pausing only long enough to pat his wife on her rump.

“Good morning, Jason,” Wohl said as Washington got into the front seat of Wohl’s car.

“I’m sorry about this, but I really thought I should get this to you as soon as I could.”

“What’s up?”

“About midnight last night, Matt and I walked up on a double homicide on Market Street.”

“Really? What in the world were you two doing walking on Market Street at midnight?”

“For a quick answer, the bar at the Rittenhouse Club was closed.”

“Tell me about the homicide.”

“Two victims. What looks like large-caliber-bullet wounds to the cranium. One victim was the wife of one of the owners of the Inferno Lounge…”

“I know where it is.”

“And the other the partner. It was called in by the other partner, who suffered a small-caliber-bullet wound in what he says was an encounter with the doers, two vaguely described white males.”

He didn’t call me here to tell me this. Why? Because he thinks that it wasn’t an armed robbery, that the husband was the doer? And the Homicide detective is accepting the husband’s story?

“We got there right after a Ninth District wagon responded to the call. Chief Lowenstein also came to the scene, and then got me alone. He knows what’s going on.”

I knew that he wouldn’t have bothered me if it wasn’t important!

“His finding out was inevitable. How much did you have to tell him?”

“Not much. He knows the names. Most of them. I told him I couldn’t talk about it. The only time he really leaned on me was to ask how much time he had.”

“What did you tell him?”

“Quote, not much, unquote.”

“That’s true, isn’t it?”

“Yes, sir. Peter, I told him that we didn’t have the conversation, that if we had it, I would have to report it.”

“Is that what you’re doing?”

“That’s up to you, Peter. I’ll play it any way you want me to.”

“I like Matt Lowenstein. There has been absolutely nothing to suggest he’s done anything wrong. What purpose would it serve to go to Carlucci with this?”

“You heard what the Mayor said, Peter. If anyone came to you or me asking-asking anything — about the investigation, he wanted to know about it.”

“The call is yours, Jason. Was Chief Lowenstein-what word am I looking for? — pissed that you wouldn’t tell him anything?”

“No. He seemed to understand he was putting me on a spot.”

“My gut reaction, repeating the call is yours, is that you didn’t talk to Chief Lowenstein about anything but the double homicide.”

“OK. That’s it. We didn’t have this conversation, either.”

“What conversation?” Wohl asked, with exaggerated innocence.

“I’m not through, I’m afraid,” Washington said.

“What else?” Wohl asked tiredly as he pulled the door shut again.

“Chief Lowenstein got rid of Matt, so that he could talk to me, by sending him to the crime scene-the victims were in a downstairs office-with Henry Quaire when Quaire came to the scene. I don’t know what happened between Matt and Milham, but Milham pulled the rule book on him and insisted on getting Matt’s statement that night-God, that’s something else I have to do this morning, get my statement to Homicide-so Matt went to the Roundhouse, and I went home, and when I got there the Widow Kellog was there.”

“The widow of the undercover Narcotics guy?”

Washington nodded.

“Who was found with two bullets in his head in his house. Detective Milham’s close friend’s estranged husband.”

“She was at your place?” Wohl asked, surprised.

“Right. And she is convicted that her husband’s death is connected with drugs…”

“You don’t think Milham had anything to do with it, do you?”

“No. I don’t think so. But the Widow Kellog thinks it was done by somebody in Narcotics, because they-they being the Five Squad-are all dirty.”

“The Narcotics Five Squad, according to Dave Pekach, are knights in shining armor, waging the good war against controlled substances. A lot of esprit de corps, which I gather means they think they’re better than other cops, including the other four Narcotics squads. In other words, a bunch of hotshots who do big buys, make raids, take doors, that sort of thing. They’re supposed to be pretty effective. It’s hard to believe that any of them would be dirty, much less kill one of their own.”

“That’s what the lady is saying.”

“You believe her?”

“She said there’s all kinds of money floating around. She said she, she and her husband, bought a house at the shore and paid cash for it.”

“That could be checked out, it would seem to me, without much trouble. Did she tell Homicide about this? Or anybody else?”

“No. She thinks everybody’s dirty.”

“What did you tell her?”

“I told her I knew a staff inspector I knew was honest, and she should go to him; that I would set it up.”

“And she doesn’t want to go to him?”

“No,” Washington said. “Absolutely out of the question.”

“You believe her?”

“I think she’s telling the truth. My question is, what do we do with this?”

“If you take it to Internal Affairs…” Wohl said.

“Yeah.”

“Let me read this,” Wohl said, opening the envelope.

Wohl grunted twice while reading the three sheets of paper the envelope contained, then stuffed them back into the envelope.

“This has to go to the Mayor,” he said. “As soon as you can get it to him. And then I think you had better have a long talk with Captain Pekach about the Narcotics Five Squad.”

Washington nodded.

“Can I tell him I’m doing so at your orders?”

“Everything you do is at my orders. Dave Pekach knows that. Are you getting paranoid, Jason?”

“Simply because one is paranoid doesn’t mean that people aren’t really saying terrible things about one behind one’s back,” Washington said sonorously.

Wohl laughed.

“No cop likes the guy who asks the wrong questions about other cops. Me included. I especially hate being the guy who asks the questions,” Washington said.

“I know,” Wohl said sympathetically. “Please don’t tell me there’s more, Jason.”

“That’s enough for one morning, wouldn’t you say?”

At five minutes to eight, Sergeant Jason Washington drove into the parking lot of what had been built in 1892 at Frankford and Castor avenues as the Frankford Grammar School, and was now the headquarters of the Special Operations Division of the Philadelphia Police Department.

He pulled into a parking spot near the front entrance of the building marked with a sign reading INSPECTORS. He regarded this as his personal parking space. While he was sure that there were a number of sergeants and lieutenants annoyed that he parked his car where it should not be, and who almost certainly had complained, officially or unofficially about it, nothing had been said to him.

There was a certain military-chain-of-command-like structure in the Special Operations Division. Only one’s immediate superior was privileged to point out to one the errors of one’s ways. In Jason Washington’s case, his immediate superior was the head man, Inspector Peter Wohl, the Commanding Officer of Special Operations. Peter Wohl knew where he parked his car and had said nothing to him. That was, Jason had decided, permission to park by inference.

Sergeant Jason Washington and Inspector Peter Wohl had a unique relationship, which went back to the time Detective Wohl had been assigned to Homicide and been placed under the mentorship of Detective Washington. At that time, Jason Washington-who was not burdened, as his wife often said, with crippling modesty-had decided that Wohl possessed not only an intelligence almost equal to his, but also an innate skill to find the anomalies in a given situation-which was really what investigation was all about, finding what didn’t fit-that came astonishingly close to his own extraordinary abilities in that regard.

Washington had predicted that not only would Detective Wohl remain in Homicide (many detectives assigned to Homicide did not quite cut the mustard and were reassigned to other duties) but he would have a long and distinguished career there.

Homicide detectives were the elite members of the Detective Bureau. For many people, Jason Washington among them, service as a Homicide detective represented the most challenging and satisfying career in the Police Department, and the thought of going elsewhere was absurd.

Detective Wohl had not remained in Homicide. He had taken the sergeant’s examination, and then, with astonishing rapidity, became the youngest sergeant ever to serve in the Highway Patrol; a lieutenant; the youngest captain ever; and then the youngest staff inspector ever.

And then Special Operations had come along.

It had been formed several years before, it was generally, and essentially correctly, believed as a response to criticism of the Police Department-and by implication, of the Mayor-by the Philadelphia Ledger, one of the city’s four major newspapers.

Mr. Arthur J. Nelson, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of the Daye-Nelson Corporation, which owned the Ledger and twelve other newspapers, had never been an admirer of the Hon. Jerry Carlucci, and both the Ledger and the Daye-Nelson Corporation’s Philadelphia television and radio stations (WGHA-TV, Channel Seven; WGHA-FM 100.2 MHz; and WGHA-AM, 770 KC) had opposed him in the mayoral election.

The dislike by Mr. Nelson of Mayor Carlucci had been considerably exacerbated when Mr. Nelson’s only son, Jerome Stanley Nelson, had been found murdered-literally butchered-in his luxurious apartment in a renovated Revolutionary War-era building on Society Hill.

Considering the political ramifications of the case, no one had been at all surprised when the job had been given to Detective Jason Washington, who had quickly determined the prime suspect in the case to be Mr. Jerome Nelson’s live-in companion, a twenty-five-year-old black homosexual who called himself “Pierre St. Maury.”

When this information had been released to the press by Homicide Unit Lieutenant Edward M. DelRaye-who shortly afterward was transferred out of Homicide, for what his superiors regarded as monumentally bad judgment-it had been published in the Inquirer, the Bulletin, and the Daily News, Philadelphia’s other major newspapers, and elsewhere.

Mrs. Arthur J. Nelson suffered a nervous breakdown, which Mr. Nelson attributed as much to the shame and humiliation caused her by the publication of their son’s lifestyle as by his death. And if the police had only had the common decency to keep the sordid facts to themselves, rather than feed them to the competition in vindictive retribution for his support of the Mayor’s opponent in the mayoral election, of course this would not have happened.

Almost immediately, the Ledger ’s reporters had begun to examine every aspect of the operation of the Philadelphia Police Department with a very critical eye, and on its editorial page there began a series of editorials-many of them, it was suspected, written by Mr. Nelson himself-that called the public’s attention to the Department’s many failings.

The Highway Patrol, a special unit within the Department, were often referred to as “Carlucci’s Commandos,” for example, and in one memorable editorial, making reference to the leather puttees worn by Highway Patrolmen since its inception, when the unit was equipped with motorcycles, they became “Philadelphia’s Jackbooted Gestapo.”

A splendid opportunity for journalistic criticism of the Police Department presented itself to Mr. Nelson and his employees at this time with the appearance of a sexual psychopath whose practice it was to abduct single young women, transport them to remote areas in his van, and there perform various imaginatively obscene sexual acts on their bodies. The Department experienced some difficulty in apprehending this gentleman, who had been quickly dubbed “the Northwest Philadelphia Serial Rapist.”

The Ledger, sparing no expense in their efforts to keep the public informed, turned up a rather well-known psychiatrist who said that there was no question in his mind that inevitably the Northwest Philadelphia Serial Rapist would go beyond humiliation of his victims, moving into murder and perhaps even dismemberment.

A lengthy interview with this distinguished practitioner of the healing arts was published in the Ledger ’s Sunday supplement magazine, under a large banner headline asking, “Why Are Our Police Doing Nothing?”

The Monday after the Sunday supplement article appeared, Police Commissioner Taddeus Czernich summoned to the Commissioner’s Conference Room in the Police Administration Building the three deputy commissioners and six of the dozen chief inspectors. There he announced a reorganization of certain units within the Police Department. There would be a new unit, called Special Operations Division. It would report directly to the Deputy Commissioner for Operations. It would deal, as the name suggested, with special situations. Its first task would be to apprehend the Northwest Philadelphia Serial Rapist. Special Operations would be commanded by Staff Inspector Peter Wohl, who would be transferred from the Staff Investigation Bureau of the Internal Affairs Division.

That was the first anomaly. Staff inspectors, who ranked between captains and inspectors in the departmental hierarchy, were regarded as sort of super-detectives whose superior investigative skills qualified them to investigate the most complex, most delicate situations that came up, but they did not serve in positions of command.

Staff Inspector Peter Wohl had recently received some very flattering press attention-except, of course, in the Ledger — following his investigation of (and the subsequent conviction of) Superior Court Judge Moses Findermann for various offenses against both the law and judicial ethics.

And Highway Patrol, Commissioner Czernich announced, would be transferred from the bureaucratic command of the Traffic Division and placed under Special Operations. As would other elements and individuals from within the Department as needed to accomplish the mission of the Special Operations Division.

Among those to be immediately transferred, Commissioner Czernich announced, would be newly promoted Captain David Pekach of the Narcotics Bureau. He would replace Captain Michael J. Sabara, the present Highway Patrol Commander, who would become Staff Inspector Wohl’s deputy.

In response to the question “What the hell is that all about?” posed by Chief Inspector Matt Lowenstein of the Detective Division, Commissioner Czernich replied:

“Because the Mayor says he thinks Mike Sabara looks like a concentration camp guard and Pekach looks like a Polish altar boy. He’s thinking public image, OK?”

There were chuckles. Captain Sabara, a gentle, kindly man who taught Sunday school, did indeed have a menacing appearance. Captain Pekach, who until his recent promotion had spent a good deal of time working the streets in filthy clothing, a scraggly beard, and pigtail, would, indeed, shaved, bathed, and shorn, resemble the Polish altar boy he had once been.

Chief Lowenstein had laughed.

“Don’t laugh too quick, Matt,” Commissioner Czernich said. “Peter Wohl can have any of your people he thinks he needs for as long as he thinks he needs them. And I know he thinks Jason Washington is the one guy who can catch the rapist.”

Lowenstein’s smile had vanished.

The assignment of any detective outside the Detective Bureau was another anomaly, just as extraordinary as the assignment of a staff inspector as a commanding officer. Lowenstein looked as if he was going to complain over the loss to Special Operations of Detective Jason Washington, whom he-and just about everyone else-considered to be the best Homicide detective, but he said nothing. There was no use in complaining to Commissioner Czernich. This whole business was not Czernich’s brainstorm, but the Mayor’s, and Lowenstein had known the Mayor long enough to know that complaining to him would be pissing in the wind.

The next day, Detective Washington and his partner, Detective Tony Harris, over their bluntly expressed objections, had been “temporarily” transferred to Special Operations for the express purpose of stopping the Northwest Serial Rapist.

They had never been returned to Homicide.

Peter Wohl had treated both of them well. There was as much overtime, without question, as they had in Homicide. They were now actually, if not officially, on a five-day-a-week day shift, from whenever they wanted to come in the morning to whenever they decided to take off in the afternoon.

They were each provided with a new unmarked car for their sole use. New unmarked cars usually went to inspectors and up, and were passed down to lesser ranks. Wohl had implied-and Washington knew at the time he had done so that he believed-that the investigations they would be assigned to perform would be important, interesting, and challenging.

That hadn’t come to pass. It could be argued, of course, that bringing down police officers who were taking money from the Mafia in exchange for not enforcing the law was important. And certainly, if challenging meant difficult, this was a challenging investigation. But there was something about investigating brother police officers-vastly compounded when it revealed the hands of at least a captain and a lieutenant were indeed covered with filth-that Washington found distasteful.

The hackneyed phrase “It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it!” no longer brought a smile to Washington’s face.

Washington got out of his car and entered the building. He first stopped at the office of the Commanding Officer, which looked very much as it had when it had been the Principal’s Office of the Frankford Grammar School.

Officer Paul Thomas O’Mara, Inspector Wohl’s administrative assistant, attired in a shiny, light blue suit Washington suspected had been acquired from the Bargain Basement at J. C. Penney’s, told him that Captain Mike Sabara, Wohl’s deputy, had not yet come in.

“Give me a call when he does come in, will you, Tommy?” Washington asked, left the Principal’s Office, and climbed stone stairs worn deeply by seventy-odd years of children’s shoes to the second floor, where he entered what had been a classroom, over the door of which hung a sign: INVESTIGATION SECTION.

There he found Detective Matthew M. Payne on duty. Payne was attired in a sports coat Jason knew that Detective Payne had acquired at a Preferred Customer 30 % Off Sale at Brooks Brothers, a button-down-collar light blue shirt, the necktie of the Goodwill Rowing Club, and well-shined loafers.

He looked like an advertisement for Brooks Brothers, Jason thought. It was a compliment.

“Good morning, Detective Payne,” Jason said. “You need a shave.”

“I woke late,” Payne said, touching his chin. “And took a chance you wouldn’t get here until I could shave.”

“What happened? Did Milham keep you at Homicide?”

“I was there. But he didn’t keep me. He let me sit in on interviewing Atchison.”

Washington’s face showed that he found that interesting, but he didn’t reply.

“We can’t have you disgracing yourself and our unit with a slovenly appearance when you meet the Mayor,” Washington said.

“Am I going to meet the Mayor?” Payne asked.

“I think so,” Jason replied, already dialing a number.

There was a brief conversation with someone named Jack, whom Detective Payne correctly guessed to be Lieutenant J. K. Fellows, the Mayor’s bodyguard and confidante, and then Washington hung up.

“Get in your car,” he ordered, handing Matt Payne the large envelope. “Head for the Schuylkill Expressway. When you get there, call M-Mary One and get a location. Then either wait for them or catch up with them, and give Lieutenant Fellows this.”

“What is it?”

“When I got home last night, Officer Kellog’s widow was waiting for me. There is no question in her mind that her husband’s death has something to do with Narcotics. She also made a blanket indictment of Five Squad Narcotics. She says they’re all dirty. That’s a transcript, almost a verbatim one, of what she said.”

“You believe her?”

Washington shrugged. “I believe she believes what she told me. Wohl said to get it to the Mayor as soon as we can.”

Washington dialed the unlisted private number of the Commanding Officer, Highway Patrol from memory. It was answered on the second ring.

“Captain Pekach.”

“Sergeant Washington, sir.”

“Honest to God, Jason, I was just thinking about you.”

“I was hoping you could spare a few minutes for me, sir.”

“That sounds somehow official.”

“Yes, sir. Inspector Wohl asked me to talk to you.”

“You’re in the building?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Come on, then. You’ve got me worried.”

When Washington walked into Captain Pekach’s office, Pekach was in the special uniform worn only by the Highway Patrol, breeches and boots and a Sam Browne belt going back to the days when the Highway Patrol’s primary function had been to patrol major thoroughfares on motorcycles.

Washington thought about that as he walked to Pekach’s desk to somewhat formally shake Pekach’s offered hand: They used to be called “the bandit chasers”; now they call them “Carlucci’s Commandos.” Worse, “The Gestapo.”

“Thank you for seeing me, sir.”

“Curiosity overwhelms me, Sergeant,” Pekach said. “Coffee, Jason’?”

“Thank you,” Washington said.

Pekach walked around his desk to a small table holding a coffee machine, poured two mugs, handed one to Washington, and then, waving Washington into one of the two upholstered armchairs, sat down in the other and stretched his booted legs out in front of him.

“OK, what’s on your mind?”

“Officer Kellog. The Narcotics Five Squad,” Washington said. “The boss suggested I talk to you about both.”

“What’s our interest in that?”

“This is all out of school,” Washington said.

Pekach held up the hand holding his mug in a gesture that meant, understood.

“The Widow Kellog came to my apartment last night,” Washington said. “She is convinced that her husband’s death is Narcotics-related.”

“She came to your apartment?” Pekach asked, visibly surprised, and without waiting for a reply, went on: “I think that’s a good possibility. Actually, when I said I was thinking about you just before you called, I was going to ask you if Homicide had come up with something along that line. I figured you would know if they had come up with something.”

“She is also convinced that Officer Kellog was, and the entire Narcotics Five Squad is, dirty,” Washington went on.

This produced, as Washington feared it would, an indignant reaction. Pekach’s face tightened, and his eyes turned cold.

“Bullshit,” he said. “Jerry Kellog worked for me before he went on the Five Squad. A good, smart, hardworking, honest cop. Which is how he got onto the Five Squad. I recommended him.”

“How much do you know about the Five Squad?”

“Enough. Before I got promoted, I was the senior lieutenant in Narcotics…no I wasn’t, Lieutenant Mikkles was. But I filled in for Captain Talley enough to know all about the Five Squad. Same thing-good, smart, hardworking, honest cops.”

Washington didn’t reply.

“Christ, Jason, the Narcotics Five Squad is-” He looked for a comparison, and found one: “-the Highway Patrol of Narcotics. The best, most experienced, hardworking people. A lot of pride, esprit de corps. They’re the ones who make the raids, take the doors, stick their necks out. Where did Wohl get the idea they’re dirty?”

“From me, I’m afraid,” Washington said.

Pekach looked at him in first surprise and then anger.

“I’m not saying they’re dirty,” Washington said. “I don’t know-”

“Take my word for it, Jason,” Pekach interrupted.

“What I told the Boss was that I believed Mrs. Kellog believed what she was saying.”

“She’s got an accusation to make, tell her to take it to Internal Affairs.”

“She’s not willing to do that. She doesn’t trust Internal Affairs.”

“I suppose both you and Wohl have considered that she might be trying to take the heat off her boyfriend?” Pekach challenged. “What’s his name? Milham?”

“That, of course, is a possibility.”

“What I think you should do-and if you don’t want to tell Wohl, by God, I will-is turn this over to Internal Affairs and mind our own business.”

Washington didn’t reply.

Pekach’s temper was now aroused.

“You know what Internal Affairs would find? Presuming that they didn’t see these wild accusations for what they are-a desperate woman trying to turn the heat off her boyfriend-and conducted an investigation, they’d find a record of good busts, busts that stood up in court, put people away, took God only knows how much drugs off the street.”

“We can’t go to Internal Affairs with this right now,” Washington said.

“Why not?” Pekach demanded, looking at him sharply. “Oh, is that what you’ve all been up to, that nobody’s talking about? Investigating Internal Affairs? Is that why you can’t take this to them?”

“You’re putting me on a spot, Captain,” Washington said. “I can’t answer that.”

“No, of course you can’t,” Pekach said sarcastically. “But let me tell you this, Jason: If anybody just happened to be investigating Internal Affairs, say, for example, the Mayor’s personal detective bureau, I’d say they have a much better chance of finding dirty cops there than anyone investigating the Narcotics Five Squad would find there.”

Washington was aware that his own temper was beginning to flare. He waited a moment.

“Captain, I do what the Boss tells me. He told me to have a long talk with you about the Narcotics Five Squad. That’s what I’m doing.”

“Oh, Christ, Jason, I know that. It just burns me up, is all, that the questions would be asked. I know those guys. I didn’t, I really didn’t, mean to jump on you.”

Washington didn’t reply.

“And I’ll tell you something else, just between us,” Pekach said. “I guess my nose is already a little out of joint. I’m supposed to be the Number Three man in Special Operations, and I don’t like not knowing what you and your people are up to. I know that’s not your doing, but…”

“Just between you and me, Captain Sabara doesn’t know either,” Washington said. “And also, just between you and me, I know that the decision to keep you and Sahara in the dark wasn’t made by Inspector Wohl, and he doesn’t like it any more than you do.”

“I figured it was probably something like that,” Pekach said. “But thank you for telling me.”

Washington shrugged.

“What else can I do for you, Jason?”

“I’m a little afraid to ask.”

“Don’t be.”

“I don’t know the first thing about how the Narcotics Five Squad operates. You do. Would you give some thought to how they could be dirty, and tell me?”

“Jesus Christ!” Pekach said bitterly, and then: “OK, Jason, I will.”

“I’d appreciate it,” Washington said, and stood up.

“Jason, I hope you understand why I’m sore. And that I’m not sore at you.”

“I hope you understand, Captain, that I don’t like asking the questions.”

“Yeah, I do,” Pekach said. “We’re still friends, right? Despite my nasty Polish temper?”

“I really hope you still think of me as a friend,” Washington said.

When Matt Payne went out the rear door into the parking lot, he saw that it was shift-change time. The lot was jammed with antenna-festooned Highway Patrol cars, somewhat less spectacularly marked Anti-Crime Team (ACT) cars, and a row of unmarked cars. Almost all of the cars were new.

There was more than a little resentment throughout the Department about Special Operations’ fleet of new cars. In the districts, radio patrol car odometers were commonly on their second hundred thousand miles, seat cushions sagged, windows were cracked, heaters worked intermittently, and breakdowns of one kind or another were the rule, not the exception.

The general belief held by most District police officers was that Inspector Wohl was the fair-haired boy of the Department, and thus was able to get new cars at the expense of others who did not enjoy his status. Others felt that Special Operations had acquired so many new vehicles because it was the pet of Mayor Carlucci, and was given a more or less blank check on the Department’s assets.

The truth, to which Matt Payne was privy-he had been then Staff Inspector Wohl’s administrative assistant before becoming a detective-had nothing to do with Inspector Wohl or the fact that Special Operations had been dreamed up by the Mayor, but rather with the Congress of the United States.

Doing something about crime-in-the-streets had, about the time the Mayor had come up with his idea for Special Operations, been a popular subject in Congress. It was a legitimate-that is to say, one the voters were getting noisily concerned about-problem, and Congress had reacted in its usual way by throwing the taxpayers’ money at it.

Cash grants were made available to local police departments to experiment with a new concept of law enforcement, This was called the Anti-Crime Team concept, which carried with it the acronym ACT. It meant the flooding of high-crime areas with well-trained policemen, equipped with the very latest equipment and technology, and teamed with special assigned prosecutors within the District Attorney’s Office who would push the arrested quickly through the criminal justice system.

The grants were based on need. Philadelphia qualified on a need basis on two accounts. Crime was indeed a major problem in Philadelphia, and Philadelphia needed help. Equally important, the Hon. Jerry Carlucci was a political force whose influence extended far beyond the Mayor’s office. Two Senators and a dozen or more Congressmen seeking continued employment needed Jerry Carlucci’s influence.

Some of the very first, and most generous, grants were given to the City of Philadelphia. There was a small caveat. Grant money was to be used solely for new, innovative, experimental police operations, not for routine police expenditures. So far as Mayor Carlucci was concerned, the Special Operations Division was new, innovative and experimental. The federal grants could thus legally be, and were, expended on the pay of police officers transferred to Special Operations for duty as Anti-Crime Team police, and for their new and innovative equipment, which of course included new, specially equipped police cars. Since it was, of course, necessary to incorporate the new and innovative ACT personnel and equipment into the old and non-innovative Police Department, federal grant funds could be used for this purpose.

Until investigators from the General Accounting Office had put a stop to it, providing the Highway Patrol, in its new, innovative, and experimental role as a subordinate unit of the new, innovative, and experimental Special Operations Division, with new cars had been, in Mayor Carlucci’s opinion, a justifiable expenditure of federal grant funds.

More senior police officers, lieutenants and above, usually, the “white shirts,” who understood that money was money, and that if extra money from outside bought Special Operations and Highway cars, then the money which would ordinarily have to eventually be spent for that purpose could be spent elsewhere in the Department, were not as resentful. But this rationale was not very satisfying to a cop in a district whose battered radio patrol car wouldn’t start at three o’clock in the morning.

Detective Payne went to a row of eight new, unmarked Ford sedans, which so far as the federal government was concerned were involved in new, innovative, and experimental activities under the ACT concept, and got in one of them. It was one of four such cars assigned to the Investigation Section. Sergeant Jason Washington had one, and Detective Tony Harris the second, on an around the-clock basis. The two other cars were shared by the others of the Investigation Section.

He drove out of the parking lot and headed up Castor Avenue toward Hunting Park Avenue. He turned off Hunting Park Avenue onto Ninth Street and off Ninth Street onto the ramp for the Roosevelt extension of the Schuylkill Express way, and then turned south toward the Schuylkill River.

At the first traffic light, he took one of the two microphones mounted just about out of sight under the dash.

“Mary One, William Fourteen.”

“You have something for me, Fourteen?” Lieutenant Jack Fellows’s voice came back immediately.

“Right.”

“Where are you now?”

“Just left Special Operations.”

There was a moment’s hesitation as Lieutenant Fellows searched his memory for time-and distance.

“Meet us at the Zoo parking lot,” he said.

“On the way,” Matt said, and dropped the microphone onto the seat.

Then he reached down and threw a switch which caused both the brake lights and the blue and white lights concealed behind the grille of the Ford to flash, and stepped hard on the accelerator.

The Mayor is a busy man. He doesn’t have the time to waste sitting at the Zoo parking lot waiting for a lowly detective. This situation clearly complies with the provisions of paragraph whatever the hell it is of Police Administrative Regulations restricting the use of warning lights and sirens to those clearly necessary situations.

There were a number of small pleasures involved with being a policeman, and one of them, Matt Payne had learned, was being able to turn on warning lights and the siren when you had to get somewhere in a hurry.

He had thought of this during dinner the previous evening, during a somewhat acrimonious discussion of his-their-future with Miss Penelope Detweiler.

It was her position (and that of Mr. and Mrs. Chadwick Thomas Nesbitt IV, who allied themselves with Miss Detweiler in the Noble Cause of Talking Common Sense to Matt) that it was childish and selfish of him, with his education, potential, and background, to remain a policeman, working for peanuts, when he should be thinking of their future.

He had known that it would not have been wise to have offered the argument “Yeah, but if I’m not a cop, I won’t be able to race down Roosevelt Boulevard with the lights on.” She would have correctly decided that he was simply being childish again.

There were other satisfactions in being a policeman, but for some reason, he seemed to become instantly inarticulate whenever he tried to explain them to her. In his own mind, he knew that he had been a policeman long enough so that it was in his blood, and he would never be happy at a routine job.

He reached the Schuylkill River, crossed it, and turned east toward Center City. Then he reached down and turned off the flashing lights. The traffic wasn’t that heavy, and if Mary One, the mayoral limousine, beat him to the Zoo parking lot, he wasn’t entirely sure if the Mayor would agree with his decision that turning on the lights was justified.

From what he’d heard of the Mayor’s career as a police man, he’d been a really by-the-book cop.

When he got to the Zoo parking lot, he stopped and picked up his microphone.

“Mary One, William Fourteen, at the Zoo.”

“A couple of minutes,” Lieutenant Fellows’s voice came back.

Matt picked the envelope off the floor, and got out of the car and waited for the Mayor.

Two minutes later the limousine pulled up beside him. Matt walked to the front-seat passenger door as the window whooshed down and Lieutenant Fellows came into view.

“Good morning, sir,” Matt said, and handed him the envelope.

“Thank you, Payne,” Fellows said, and the window started back up. Then the rear window rolled down and he heard the Mayor of the City of Philadelphia order:

“Hold it a minute, Charley,” and then the rear door opened and the Mayor got out.

“Long time no see,” the Mayor said, offering his hand. “How are you, Matt?”

“Just fine, Mr. Mayor. Thank you.”

“Good to see you, Matt,” the Mayor said. “And say hello to your mother and dad for me.”

“Yes, sir. I will. Thank you.”

The Mayor patted his shoulder and got back in the limousine, and in a moment it rolled out of the parking lot.

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