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A Lincoln Rhyme Short Story
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The Deliveryman A Lincoln Rhyme Short Story
A man is murdered in a back alley. Renowned forensic detective Lincoln Rhyme and his partner Amelia Sachs are left with a veritable mountain of evidence collected from the trash-filled alley, and their only lead is a young eyewitness: the man’s eight-year-old son, who was riding along on his father’s delivery route.
But the murder victim may have been more than just a simple deliveryman. Rhyme and Sachs uncover clues that he might have been delivering a highly illegal, contraband shipment–which is now missing. And someone wants it back…
Thursday, 8:30 p.m.
What’s the story, Sachs? How was the scene? Complicated? Difficult? Impossible?”
Lincoln Rhyme turned his motorized wheelchair from his computer, where he’d been reading an email, toward the arched doorway of his parlor.
Amelia Sachs was walking into his parlor-cum-laboratory on Central Park West. She deposited on a nearby evidence table the large gray milk crate she was lugging, then pulled off her black 511 tactical jacket. She was clothed in blue jeans and a T-shirt—off-white today—that were typical of what she wore beneath the Tyvek overalls when she walked the grid at a crime scene. Her pretty face, her former fashion model face, eased into a smile. “The scene? Challenging, let’s say. You’re in a good mood.”
“He is. It’s pretty disorienting.” This came from Rhyme’s aide just entering the room behind Sachs. Thom Reston, a slim young man, was impeccably dressed in dark gray Italian slacks and a solid taupe shirt. Rhyme was a quadriplegic—his spine damaged at the C4 level—and largely paralyzed from the neck down. Accordingly, and not surprisingly, he was given to swings of temperament that could be quite dramatic. (Of course, even before the accident that rendered him disabled, as head of the NYPD crime scene operation, he’d been dour to insufferable quite often, he’d been fast to admit.) Thom was in a good position to voice an opinion on the matter; after years of caregiving, he knew his charge’s emotional gravity quite well, the way one half of a long-married couple knows the other’s by instinct.
“My moods are hardly relevant. Why would they be?” His eyes were on the crate—containing evidence from the complicated, difficult and, if not impossible, then challenging homicide scene Sachs had just run in Manhattan.
Sachs seemed amused by the half-hearted denial. She asked, “The Baxter case?”
“If I were in a good mood—though again, irrelevant—that might be a source.”
The Baxter prosecution had been a particularly tough one, unique for Rhyme; he could not recall handling another purely white collar criminal case in his years as an NYPD detective or, more recently, a forensic consultant. Baxter, an Upper Eastsider/Long Islander, had been charged with scamming millions from other Upper Eastsider/Long Islanders (true, the vics came from all over the New York metro area but were all of the same pedigree). Most could probably afford to lose the money but, wherever your socialist or income inequality sympathies lay, one cannot take what belongs to others. The former stockbroker and bond trader devised exceedingly clever financial scams that had hummed away, undetected, for several years. An assistant DA had discovered the schemes, though, and she’d asked Rhyme to assist on the evidentiary side of the case. He’d had to bring all his forensic skills to the game to identify cash trails, drop sites, remote locations from which pay phone and other landline calls were made, meetings in restaurants and bars and state parks, physical presence on private jets, relevant documents and objets d’art purchased with stolen cash.
Rhyme had managed to pull together enough evidence for a conviction on wire fraud and larceny and other financial offenses but, not content with those crimes alone, he kept digging…and found that Baxter was more of a threat than it seemed at first glance. Rhyme had found evidence that he’d participated in at least one shooting and discovered an illegal pistol hidden in a self-storage unit. The detectives and DA couldn’t find any physical victims; it was speculated that he’d simply intimidated some poor mark with a well-placed .45 shot or two. The absence of a bullet-riddled victim, though, was irrelevant; possessing a handgun without proper license was a serious felony. The DA added the charge and, just today, the jury returned a guilty-on-all-counts verdict.
Lincoln Rhyme lived for the—okay—challenge of forensic work and once his contribution to a case was finished, he grew uninterested. Today, however, the ADA had just sent Rhyme an email in which she reported the verdict while adding a footnote: One of the victims scammed by Baxter out of her nest egg had tearfully thanked the prosecutor and “anyone else who helped in the trial.” The guilty verdict meant she would have a much easier path in suing Baxter to recoup some of the stolen funds. She’d be able to send her grandchildren to college, after all.
Rhyme regarded sentiment as perhaps the least useful of emotions, yet he was pleased at his contribution to People v. Baxter. Hence the, yes, good mood.
But Baxter was going into the system, Rhyme’s role was over and so: Time to get back to work. He inquired once more about the homicide scene Sachs had just run in Manhattan.
She responded, “Victim was thirty-eight-year-old Eduardo ‘Echi’ Rinaldo, worked as a deliveryman. Had his own company, legit. But he also did a little street dealing—grass and coke mostly—and transported whatever the crews needed moved, which was a little less than legit: stolen merch, drugs, even undocumenteds.”
“That’s right. Well, live ones.” She shrugged. “He was freelance, worked for anybody who paid, but mostly the Latino crews. GT had next to nothing on him.”
The Organized Crime Division’s Gang Taskforce, operating out of NYPD headquarters at One Police Plaza, was unequaled in tracking crews in the metro area. If GT didn’t have info on the late Echi he was insignificant indeed.
“So gangs’ve taken to outsourcing,” he mused.
“Why pay benefits and retirement plans, you can avoid it?” She smiled and continued, “He was slashed to death in an alley and I mean slashed. Don’t have the weapon but I’d say serrated blade. Jugular, wrists. He tried to crawl to the street but didn’t get very far. Bled out, ME says, in two, three minutes.”
The perp must’ve known what he was doing. The vast majority of stab wounds are superficial, and quick death from a sharpened edge requires attention to important veins and arteries.
Rhyme’s eyes had turned to the milk crate she’d brought in. “That’s all you collected?”
The doorbell sounded and Thom went to answer it. Rhyme noticed Sachs give a faint—and, it seemed to him, wry—laugh.
He saw why a moment later. Two ECTs walked into the lab wheeling hand trucks on which were bungeed a dozen milk crates similar to the one Sachs had just carried in by herself. Each crate was filled to overflowing.
“Ask and ye shall receive,” Sachs said.
“That’s from one scene?” Rhyme asked.
“You wanted impossible.”
“Not that impossible.”
She’d collected, by his count, perhaps five hundred items of evidence from the Rinaldo killing. As every criminalist knew, too much evidence was as troublesome as not enough.
She said, “We’ve got cigarette butts, roach clips, food wrappers, coffee cups, a kid’s toy, beer cans, broken bottles, condoms, scraps of paper, receipts. It was one messy alley.”
Sachs greeted the evidence collection techs—both women, Latina and Anglo—and directed them to place what they’d brought on examination tables. The darker-skinned woman cast a worshipful gaze toward Rhyme. Not many evidence collection techs—entry level at CSU—got a glimpse of the legendary criminalist.
Rhyme gave a neutral tip of the head; he had as little need for reverence as he did for sentiment, probably less.
Sachs, however, thanked them and referred to some social get-together with one or both or someone else that was in the works and they left.
Her phone hummed and she took a call, stepped aside to speak for a moment. Her face was grim. Rhyme deduced, though he wasn’t certain, that the call was personal. Her mother had been having serious health issues lately—cardiac surgery loomed—and Sachs, both his professional and romantic partner, had been preoccupied with the woman’s condition lately.
She disconnected. He glanced at her and received a noncommittal shake of the head in response. Meaning: Later. Now, the case. Let’s move on.
He said to her, “Rinaldo? The details?”
“He was driving a panel truck, a sixteen footer. Six p.m. he parked outside a bodega on West Three-one, for cigarettes. When he came out there was some altercation. Not sure what, exactly. Argument. Shouting. The witness couldn’t hear the words.”
“Witness.” This didn’t encourage Rhyme much. He believed in the cold science of evidence and deeply distrusted accounts of those present at a crime, whether participants or observers.
“His son. Eight years old. He was in the truck, waiting.”
“So he saw it happen.” Rhyme could reluctantly accept that an eyewitness to the actual incident might make some contributions to investigators—if they remained suitably skeptical.
But Sachs said, “No. The killing happened in the back of an alley beside the store. The boy never got out of the cab of the truck. He says he saw a form—a man, he thinks, in a hat, but no other ID—run from the alley into the street, behind the truck. He flagged a cab. The boy said it was a regular car that pulled over. So, a gypsy.”
“Not so far. Some detectives’re canvassing but I don’t hope for much more.”
Gypsy, or unlicensed, taxi companies kept few records and the owners and drivers were reluctant to assist the police, since they operated just below the surface of the law. “But the boy—his name is Javier—thinks he heard the perp tell the driver ‘the Village.’ He didn’t hear anything else. Then the car took off.”
Greenwich Village embraced many blocks and hundreds of acres. Without more to narrow down his destination, the killer might have said “Connecticut.” Or “New England.”
“Funny, though,” Sachs said, “with Rinaldo’s job—deliveryman for the crews? What was the perp’s connection with the Village?”
The colorful and quirky neighborhood was not—had never been—known for gang activity. Although the Village had been settled largely by Italian immigrants, the organized crime families did not live or work there; they were centered in Little Italy—south of the East Village—and in Brooklyn and, to some extent, the Bronx. Today the only “underworld” crew living on Bleecker and Greenwich and West Fourth worked on Wall Street and represented too-big-to-fail-whatever-nonsense-we-get-up-to banks and brokerage houses.
- On Sale
- Feb 2, 2016
- Page Count
- 68 pages
- Grand Central Publishing