Bronx Requiem

A Detective Jack Kenny Mystery


By John Roe

With Reed Farrel Coleman

Formats and Prices




$6.99 CAD


ebook (Digital original)


ebook (Digital original) $4.99 $6.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around November 6, 2012. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

The NYPD has a secret they’d like to keep in the past.
Detective Jack Kenny doesn’t like keeping secrets.
Conservative, stubborn, and frustrated by institutional red tape, Detective Jack Kenny solves crimes the old-fashioned way. If there’s anything that thirty-plus years in the NYPD–or being born into a family of Irish Catholic cops–teaches you, it’s that good police officers need little more than a badge, a six-shot revolver, and some seasoned street smarts to get the answers they need. Kenny’s partner, the young, beautiful, and technologically savvy Carmen Romero, believes that computers–not hunches–are the key to identifying and catching today’s toughest criminals. Together, Kenny and Romero make a pairing as fiery as it is effective. But when a new witness to the grisly, thirty-year-old “Bronx Barber” murder comes forward, linking the brutal slashing of a prostitute with an NYPD stag party gone wild, the duo’s skills and loyalties are put to the test like never before. Suddenly, Jack’s long-deceased first partner is implicated in the crime, and an unpaid debt drives the veteran detective to get to the heart of a secret that the NYPD would prefer to leave in its past. With pressure escalating and time running out, Kenny and Romero’s frantic search for truth will put their careers, reputations, and lives at stake. Along the way, they’ll learn just how strong the ties that bind New York’s Finest really are.


Chapter One—Harlem 2008

Jack drove. He usually didn't, but the rule was the driver was captain of the ship, and he wasn't in the mood for Carmen Romero's bullshit about parking. So far, so good. She was too busy fussing with her new iPhone to give him the speech. Fucking iPhones, just more bullshit, more toys. Sometimes he thought he would give anything to have been born a few decades earlier, when New York had three baseball teams, a working waterfront, and people had only each other to rely on. Was the world a better place because there were thirty-one flavors, men on the moon, and computers? Not the way Jack Kenny figured it. As he recalled, folks weren't any worse off with seven TV stations to choose from instead of seven hundred. You made do with what you had. That's what growing up poor Bronx Irish had taught him: how to make do.

"Pad thai or jerk chicken?" Romero asked, never looking up from the iPhone screen.

"You pick, Carm."

"Pad thai."

He glanced over at his partner without turning his head. Carm was thirty-two with light mocha skin, deep copper eyes, and shoulder-length hair so thick and black it almost didn't seem real. She had curves like other women, only more of them and in better places. She was, Jack was forced to admit, smoking hot. A fact which he was reminded of on a daily basis by at least half the males at the Two-Six, and some of the women, too. The thing was, he had never thought of Carm that way. Not from day one, not when they were out drinking and went a few past their limits, not ever. He supposed that was his upbringing, too. His cop upbringing, not the one he got at Visitation Catholic in Kingsbridge.

"Never shite where ya eat, lad," he remembered his grandfather Timothy saying. "It'll bring ya only troubles and we've troubles enough in this life."

Padraig Timothy Kenny was born on the other side and never lost his lovely lilting manner of speech. Not even thirty years on the job in uniform in the worst parts of the city could wrest it from him. His dad and uncle, both thirty-year men as well, had given Jack much the same advice, if spoken more plainly and with less romance: "Don't hump where ya dump."

Of course it was advice easier given in their days. There were almost no women on the job back then, certainly none with names like Carmen Romero or with her looks. Even when Jack had started in the seventies, women—white, black, red, or green, smoking hot or plug ugly—were few and far between. And the concept of a college-educated, female Puerto Rican detective would have been greeted with as much skepticism as the idea of openly gay men serving in the military. Go figure!

At first, it was hard for Jack to figure Carmen. Why would anyone who looked like her and who'd graduated top of her class at John Jay College of Criminal Justice become a street cop? A prosecutor? Maybe. A defense lawyer? Sure. A fed? Definitely. Some rich guy's trophy wife? Why not? But not ten years in uniform on the streets of Bed Stuy and the South Bronx, only to wind up as a detective-third in a concrete-block squad room that smelled like cheap pine disinfectant and old coffee, on the second floor of a precinct house in Harlem. Shit, Jack thought, she wasn't even from the city. She'd grown up in the burbs.

On Amsterdam Avenue they drove by Jamal Jackson's three-card monte game. Jamal was there every day, rain or shine, relieving suckers of their discretionary income. One of the things Jack and Carm liked about being out of uniform was that they didn't have to worry about petty stuff like Jamal's monte game.

"Jamal's good," Jack said to Carm, "but not nearly as good as this guy Mingas who used to work my patrol sector in the Four-O."

"Mingas the Magnificent? Little Puerto Rican guy? Used to be a jockey?"

Jack Kenny nodded. "That's him."

"He was still there when I worked the Four-O."

"I've seen a lot of guys run three-card monte, but Mingas was the master. One day we brought him into the station house and he put on a show for us. He did it sleeveless, in slow motion, and with only three cards and he still beat us. That was the deal: If he beat us, we had to kick him loose. We kicked him loose."

"Even when he was old he was the king," Romero agreed. "He's dead, you know?"

"No, I didn't. That's too bad. He told me once that the secret was not in your eyes, but in your head. 'People, they too fast to trust their eyes,' Mingas said. 'Smart man, he trust his head, not his eyes. Eyes is easy to fool. Head, not so easy.'"

Carm wasn't buying. "Sounds like a load of horseshit to me."

Jack shrugged and pulled to the curb in front of their favorite Thai restaurant, Yes Siam. That was his first mistake.

"You can't park here, Jack," Romero said, finally looking up from her iPhone. "You know that."

"Not this shit again, Carm. Besides, rule is, driver is captain of the ship. Right?"

She pointed up at the rectangular red-and-white parking sign with the following written on it:

No Parking Anytime

"Don't be talking to me about rules, Jack."

"Ah, Christ, Carm. We're cops. We have the damned parking plaque. We throw that in the window and we could park on the sidewalk by a fire hydrant and no one could say boo."

"Didn't your parents ever teach you the difference between could and should? Just because we can do it, doesn't mean we should do it."

Jack screwed up his still handsome face into a mask of false consternation. "I thought you were talking about could and should, now you're talking can and should. I'm old and confused."

"Fuck you, Jack. Don't give me that confused excuse. There's a reason the city doesn't want cars on this block."

"If there's a reason, I haven't figured it out yet. Since I been at the Two-Six, they've changed the parking rules on this street three times. The city just likes to screw with people so they can reap in all that ticket money. And don't even try to tell me that's not true."

Carmen had to confess that it did sometimes seem as if the powers that be were far more interested in collecting parking violation funds than in keeping the public safe or the traffic flowing smoothly. Still, right was right. She bent, but didn't break. "If we were here on a homicide, that's one thing. But we're here on suspicion of pad thai and chicken satay."

"My granddad, dad, and uncle had thirty years on. My brother Pete had thirty years on. My daughter DJ's got ten years on and Jack Jr.'s got six years on. I am almost at thirty-four and going strong. This city owes my family a lot more than letting me park where the—"

"Okay, Jack, I surrender." Carmen held up her palms. "If I have to listen to the litany of your sainted family's time on the job again, I'll lose my appetite."

Jack had finally won the argument, but he wasn't smiling. Carmen never surrendered. That was one of the things he admired about her. Her attachment to doing stuff by the book and her unshakable belief in technology may have driven him a little nuts, but he never questioned her resolve. She had a bigger set of cojones than most men he knew. He put the car in drive and stepped on the gas.

"Is it that thing?" he asked, pulling away from the curb.

She looked out the window. "I don't want to talk about it. We've talked it to death."

She was right. They had talked it to death. Carmen had made the mistake of being human, of giving in to a spur-of-the-moment impulse and had been suffering for it since. Last St. Paddy's Day, she'd hooked up with one of the bosses, Dominguez, a real up-and-comer from OCCB. He was the complete package: handsome, ambitious, aggressive, politic, charming, accomplished. Problem was the package also included a politically connected wife and kids. After a few months of motels and midnight meetings, Carmen had had enough. She wasn't going to be someone's side slice, but ambitious mothers like Dominguez didn't sacrifice political connections for love and they didn't like losing. Over the last several months, he'd tried every trick in the book to get Carmen to reconsider. First it was flowers and poetry. Now it was extortion. Dominguez was either going to have her back or have her badge. He'd even cornered Jack once when he was visiting his girl, DJ, at 1 Police Plaza.

"Someday soon, Detective Kenny, I am going to be a very powerful man in this department. You would do well to be my friend," Dominguez had said. "Your girl has a big future ahead of her and your son could make detective like that." Dominguez snapped his fingers. "On the other hand, things could get very tough on the kids."

"And all I have to do is what, pimp my partner to you? Get the fuck outta my face before I forget our ranks and religion."

That confused Dominguez. "Religion?"

"You didn't hear? I'm taking circumcision lessons. You threaten my kids or my partner again and I'll perform one on you without a scalpel."

Jack hadn't mentioned the encounter to Carmen, though he suspected Dominguez made sure word got back to her. Jack opened his mouth to say something to comfort his partner, but thought better of it. If she didn't want to discuss it, it was better left alone. He found a legal spot around the corner from the eatery and pulled in. That seemed to get Carmen out of her funk. And when he stopped at a newsstand kiosk to buy the Post, she lit right back up.

"Christ, you're old, Jack. No one reads newspapers anymore. And the Post! It's like a paper for right-wing three-year-olds."

He winked. "My kinda people." Then he looked at the front page headline. That was his second mistake.

From New York Post

New Evidence in Bronx Barber Slay

By Park Kim

It's not only on our TV screens that police dramas play out. In a stunning development, a witness has come forward with new testimony that sheds light on a notorious case that held this city's attention for a brief while back in the Bicentennial Year of 1976. On the morning of Thursday, December 16, 13-year-old Jeffrey Talbot was out walking his family dog in an undeveloped area beneath the Bronx side of the Throgs Neck Bridge. Talbot's dog, a beagle named Olivia, broke free of her leash and ran howling into a nearby marsh close to the water's edge. When Talbot finally caught up to Olivia, he made a terrifying and grisly discovery. There, among the reeds and cattails, was the nude and mutilated body of a young Hispanic woman later identified as Angelina Reyes aka Angel Dancer. The medical examiner's report indicated Miss Reyes's death had been "… gruesome, slow, and painful," that nearly every bone in her body was broken, some pulverized, while she was still alive, and that the pattern of some of her other wounds indicated she had been tortured with a straight razor. "This same razor was, after the victim expired, used to severely mutilate the body." The use of the old-fashioned straight razor led the media to dub the killer "The Bronx Barber."

Miss Reyes, who had worked as an exotic dancer and prostitute, had last been seen by one of her neighbors leaving her South Bronx apartment at 9 PM the previous evening. A livery cab driver later gave testimony that he had dropped the woman at the corner of Powell and Zerega Avenues in the Union Port section of the Bronx. Until now, nothing had been known of Miss Reyes's movements between the time the livery cab driver reported dropping her off and the accidental discovery of her body.

Yet as shocking and bloody as the crime was, there were almost no leads in the case. Whatever trail there was quickly went cold. Then word came down to police sources late yesterday that after thirty years, a credible witness had surfaced who could and would shed light on both Miss Reyes's whereabouts on the night in question and the identity of her killer. Although the new witness is known to be an African American woman in her late 50s, her identity is being withheld at this time.

Chapter Two

Jack could not move. He was only conscious of his mouth being wide open because a sudden gust of cold air blew in and left him slightly breathless. Carmen couldn't believe her eyes. She'd never seen her partner so off balance.

"Holy shit, Jack. You're white as a sheet. Are you having a fucking stroke or something?"

"Or something," he said. "Let's get inside. I need to sit down and eat."

At their favorite corner table in Yes Siam, Carmen thumbed through the menu without really seeing. They always ordered the same things. She drank Diet Coke, Jack a Bud. She knew Jack would talk when Jack was ready to talk and not before. Chef Artie, a kind-faced man with a slight build, mischievous almond eyes, and a huge smile, came over to greet his two detective friends. He had their drinks in hand. Jack just sort of smiled back, some color returning to his cheeks … especially after his first gulp of Bud.

Chef Artie recited, "Beef pad thai for Detective Jack. Salad and chicken satay for beautiful Detective Carmen."

When Chef Artie left, Jack opened up the paper and showed his partner the headlines and the story on page three. Carmen was quick and zipped through the article in a few minutes.

"These the good old seventies you're going on about all the time?" she said. "How being a cop back then was the real deal? Doesn't sound like the golden age to me, not unless you're a Jack the Ripper groupie."

"It's not funny, Carmen."

He never called her that. Never. "What's got you spooked?" she wanted to know. "You were in uniform back in '76, right? In the Four-O? They didn't find what was left of Angel Dancer anywhere near the Four-O."

Jack seemed not to hear her. "Do me a favor, will you? Look on your phone and see if there's been anything new on the story since the paper came out."

You could have knocked her down with a feather she was so surprised. Jack detested her iPhone, tablets, Kindles—anything invented after the '64 World's Fair. In their almost two years together, this was the first time he had asked her to do anything like this. And if he hadn't looked about to stroke out before, she would have busted his balls mercilessly for asking. Instead, she did as he asked. As she worked, Chef Artie served the food.

"There's gonna to be a press conference in a little while, but nothing other than that," Carmen said. "So, you wanna tell me what's going on here or what?"

Jack finished slurping in a mouthful of noodles, chewed. "Well, I suppose the shit's gonna hit the fan now, so I might as well tell you."

"Might as well," she agreed. "Tell me what?"

"That article there about the girl … it's wrong. The reporting's not wrong, not as far as it goes."

"Look, partner, you gonna make me extract this from you like a wisdom tooth? Just fucking tell me. I'm a big girl. I cut my own meat, tie my own shoes, and wipe my own—"

"I get the picture, Carm. I'm eating here, for chrissakes!"

Carmen blew an impatient breath through her full lips. "So what part of the article is wrong?"

He leaned forward and whispered, "The part where it talks about no one knowing anything about her movements between the time she got dropped off by the livery driver and when the kid found her body. A lot of people knew where she was, at least part of the time."

"A lot of people like who, for instance?"

"Like me, for instance," he answered, looking over both shoulders, "and every other cop, boss, and detective at the Four-O."

She was confused. "Unless the NYPD switched precinct locales and switched them back again while I wasn't paying attention, neither the place where the livery guy dropped Angel off or where they found her body is even close to the Four-O."

"We were at a party, Carm."

She was skeptical. "A party. All of you?"

"Every guy who was off-duty and who wasn't sick, yeah."

"Whatever, but that doesn't explain about the girl, about Angel Dancer."

"She was at the party with us," he said.

Then it clicked. "Holy shit, Jack! Angel Dancer was—"

"—servicing some of the guys. Her and another hooker … a black chick."

"And you think the other hooker is the new witness," Carmen said.

"Who else? It fits." Jack stood, took two twenties out of his wallet, and tossed them on the table. "Come on."

She was curious. "Where we going?"

"A place called the Castle Harbour."

"I've heard of it, but where's it at?"

"In the past, Carm. In the past."

Chapter Three

It hadn't taken as long as he'd anticipated for their Chevy Impala to make it from Harlem to here, nor had stripping away thirty years of history taken a time machine. This part of the Bronx was like fifty other neighborhoods in the five boroughs—a working class area with its charms and warts, tidy two-family houses, and prewar apartment buildings. At night you could hear the rumble from the local elevated subway line, and bored kids could go up on their roofs and watch a constant stream of jets coming from or headed to LaGuardia. Jack drove down Havemeyer Avenue and pulled over at the corner of Haviland. Carmen Romero hadn't said a word since they'd gotten in the car, and Jack had been quiet as well. He put the car in park and pointed across the street like the ghost of Christmas yet to come.

An unremarkable building, the Castle Harbour Casino wasn't much to write home about when it was a thriving business. It was even less to look at now—desolate and covered in graffiti. Its brick façade was like the skin of an unimaginative chameleon, because depending upon your point of view and the time of day, it could seem to be any color in the narrow range from pale gray to dark beige. It was sort of a dull gray at the moment. The only exterior feature that gave the place any character at all was the rounded brick corner where the side walls met at Havemeyer and Haviland. On his previous visits, Jack Kenny had never wasted much energy contemplating the appearance of the place. Then again, he didn't recall ever seeing it in the light. All his prior trips had come under cover of dusk or at the fall of night.

"I've heard about this place." Carmen repeated what she'd said when they left the restaurant. "Some old-timer would mention its name in front of me and some other guy would laugh, but that was it. They would never talk about it. It was like an inside joke."

Jack shook his head. "They wouldn't talk about it, not in front of you. I guess partially because remembering the old days is like being in a club."

"Boys and their clubs."

"I said that was only part of the reason."

"What's the other part, Jack?"

"Maybe they were a little embarrassed by what used to go on here."

"And what was that?" she asked. "Draw me a picture."

He didn't hesitate. "Back in the day, we used to have our Christmas parties here. Hell, all the Bronx precincts and half the Queens precincts did, too. Except in those days, they were stag parties, strictly for the boys."

"I know what stag means, partner. I went to college and everything. You're the one who barely made it through DeWitt Clinton High School."

"Point taken." Jack continued. "The few women who were on the job back then either didn't want to come or knew to curry favor with the bosses by not making waves by complaining about it. So there was booze, music, dinner, and we'd give out stupid awards. You know, a roll of toilet paper to the guy who was always in the head when you needed him. A box of condoms to the precinct stud. An apron to the most henpecked husband. Shit like that. Then we'd drink a little more and gamble. Some guys would play poker, some blackjack, some would shoot craps .... Then the girls would show up."

"Girls like Angel Dancer, you mean."

"Yeah, and they'd entertain us."

Carmen raised her eyebrows. "Entertain you how?"

"Usually they'd do a little strip show together, maybe a little girl-on-girl stuff. It wasn't like today. Girl-on-girl action wasn't as commonplace. That really fired the guys up. They'd be throwing tips up at the girls. After that, they'd bring the shyest guy in the precinct up, tie him to a chair, and have a little fun with him."

"Enough," Carmen said. "I just ate lunch. Let me guess the rest. After the girls were done with the show, they got entrepreneurial, offering their services for a few extra bucks to anyone who was willing. And given that they were in a room full of drunk cops flush with gambling money who'd just watched their little show, they didn't lack for customers."

His smile was a wistful one. "You sure you weren't there, Carm?"

"Thank God, I wasn't. I'd still be throwing up. So I get these sorts of parties weren't the department's proudest moments, but a woman was murdered, Jack. She was butchered and left to rot in a swamp."

"Don't you think I know that!" he barked back. "I've been on the job for a long time. I've done some things I'm damned proud of and some others that maybe weren't strictly kosher, but in my whole career there's only ever been one thing I've been ashamed of. This. What was I supposed to do? I was on the job for less than two years when it happened. I'm not making excuses, Carm, but we were ordered to keep our mouths shut."

"Ordered? You mean the brass stymied a homicide investigation. That doesn't make any sense."

"Maybe not by today's standards it doesn't, but it was a different world back then. The city was on the verge of financial collapse. I mean President Ford basically told Mayor Beame to go fuck himself when he asked for loan guarantees. The roads and bridges were collapsing. The subways were filthy and dangerous. And there were war zones safer than some of the neighborhoods in this city. People would light fires in the housing projects just so they could throw TVs, piss-filled balloons, bricks, shit-filled plastic bags down at the responding cops and firemen. We used to call it air mail. Son of Sam had already started killing, though he didn't have that name yet. The department had just gotten over the fallout from the Knapp Commission. The last thing the city needed was some scandal involving a dead hooker and a whole police precinct. I didn't like it. None of us liked it, but no one asked us for our opinions."

Romero wasn't buying it. "And what, for thirty years all you guys have just lived with it?"

"That's what people do, Carm. They live with bad things. You stay on this job long enough and you'll be living with some yourself. Look, this thing you're going through with Dominguez, it's not right, but because he's a powerful man with juice and ambition … Sometimes you just eat the crap that's on your plate and move on. Time passes. Memories dim. Days, months, years go by and you don't even think about it. Eventually it's like it never happened."

"But it did happen, Jack, and all the years that passed won't change or undo it."

"I know that. I guess I thought this was in the past." His eyes remained fixed on the Castle Harbour.

"No such thing as the past. Have you ever heard of William Faulkner?"

"He was an author, right?" Jack said. "Why?"

"I'm impressed. Well, I had to read him and write a paper on him in college. He once said that the past is never dead. That it isn't even past."

Jack nodded in agreement. "Smart man."

They just sat there for a few more minutes in silence. There wasn't anything else to say, really. They both knew how things would go from here. Although the shit would hit the fan, there probably wouldn't be much blowback. It would be a story without legs. Most of the guys who were at the Castle Harbour that night were retired or dead. The ones who were still reachable would either say they didn't know anything about it or would claim not to even remember it ever happened. Others would say that word had come down from the bosses not to talk, but orders like that are never put in writing. They're like smoke. That kind of order gets whispered and passed on by go-betweens. Besides, Angel Dancer wasn't killed at the Castle Harbour or anywhere near it. So it would go down as a thirty-year-old tragedy that was made worse by an alleged bureaucratic fuckup. Still, Jack didn't like it. Carmen liked it even less.


On Sale
Nov 6, 2012
Page Count
288 pages
Hachette Books

John Roe

About the Author

Detective John Roe joined the New York Police Department as a trainee in 1968 and began his career on patrol in the South Bronx’s 40th Precinct. During the course of his forty-plus years on the force, he served in street crime, narcotics, and sex crimes units, and he performed more than 1,000 arrests. Upon his retirement in October 2012, he was at the top of the NYPD’s longevity list. He currently resides in Rockland County. This is his first book. Called “a hard-boiled poet” by NPR’s Maureen Corrigan, Reed Farrel Coleman is a three-time recipient of the Shamus Award for Best PI Novel of the Year and is a two-time Edgar Award nominee. His last novel, Hurt Machine, was named one of 2011’s Best Mysteries by Publishers Weekly.

Learn more about this author