Gloria drove the car around behind the garage, popped the trunk lid, and sat for a few minutes watching tall, shadowed grass dance rhythmically in the breeze.
“Place is as deserted as the moon,” she said.
“Time for the astronauts to get to work,” David said beside her, then unclipped his seat belt and opened the door. (He would continue to think of himself as David until they were finished with their work here.)
He was always in a good enough mood if not downright cheerful, Gloria thought. Always optimistic, no matter the situation. No doubt that was part of his appeal to women.
They walked around to the open trunk.
The two of them carried four bulky black plastic trash bags down a grassy slope and about twenty feet into the woods. The bags contained the clothing and remains of Shellie Marston, except for her heart-shot torso, which they’d left next to a construction Dumpster on the Upper West Side.
They chose a spot in the darkening woods and laid down the bags. David returned to the car to get the shovels.
While he was gone, Gloria used the side of her foot to clear away last year’s leaves. It took her four or five minutes. Satisfied, she scraped mud off her shoe, then tapped her back pocket to make sure her small leather-bound Bible was still there.
She heard a sound and looked over to see that, besides the shovels, David was coming back with a rusty, long-handled pickax he’d found somewhere. That would make digging a lot easier, as it hadn’t rained in three or four days and the ground was hard. Gloria smiled.
God was easing their task.
Pearl exhaled, inhaled, and said, “God, that was good!”
It was apparently what Milton Kahn wanted to hear. He turned back toward her on her perspiration-soaked mattress and nuzzled his head between her breasts. Kissed her precisely there, then kissed both nipples. Pearl wasn’t sure she was in love with this guy, but it wasn’t bad having him around.
Milt was, in a way, a gift from Pearl’s mother and her friend Mrs. Kahn at the Golden Sunset assisted-living apartments in Teaneck, a sort of arranged affair if not marriage. Mrs. Kahn was Milt’s aunt. Under duress, Pearl had agreed to meet the elderly women and Milt for lunch in Golden Sunset’s bleak dining room, and Pearl was surprised to find that she actually liked the guy. He was short, like she was, and good looking in a dark way, with a tiny imperial beard on the tip of his chin that tickled in the right places and made him look more like a magician or renowned psychiatrist than a struggling dermatologist.
Pearl discovered that he was a good conversationalist with a sense of humor, a funny guy for a dermatologist. After their second date, he’d removed some bumps from Pearl’s neck. She’d somehow found that very intimate. To Pearl’s mother’s delight, the spark had struck and now there was flame if not a raging inferno. Flame was better than nothing. It was cold out there.
Pearl sat up and used both hands to smooth back her hair so she wouldn’t look insane. She was aware of Milt watching her and smiling as she swiveled on the mattress. She felt his fingertips brush the curve of her right buttock.
“Got someplace to go?” he asked. He had a deep voice for a small man, husky. He wasn’t husky himself, but lean and muscular. Tan, with a lot of dark hair on his chest. Some hair—maybe too much—on his back.
“The shower,” Pearl said. “Gotta get outta here.”
“You live here,” Milt reminded her.
“But I don’t work here.”
He sighed. “Your job. Always your job.”
“You sound like a lot of cops’ wives.”
“Sexist thing to say.”
“And husbands,” Pearl amended. She stood up and padded barefoot across the bedroom toward the bathroom.
“You know you’re beautiful,” Milt said huskily behind her.
“And your job’s okay with me except for the danger.”
“Well, if I could be chief of police I would be.”
“This Torso Murders case you’re on, how do you know you won’t become one of the killer’s victims?”
She paused at the doorway and turned to face him. “That guy wants to stay as far away from me as possible, Milt.”
He was propped up on his elbows, grinning as he gave her an up-and-down glance. “Hard to believe.”
“That’s not the only thing that’s hard,” she said and continued her sleepy, sex-sated trek into the bathroom.
By the time she’d showered and dressed, her hair still glistening wet, he had toast, orange juice, and coffee waiting for her on the kitchen table. The toast was slightly burned, the way she liked it, and along with the freshly brewed coffee made the kitchen smell great. Milt was barefoot and bare chested, but he had his pants on and was actually wearing one of Pearl’s old aprons that she’d received as a gift from her mother. Pearl thought she’d thrown the thing away, but here it was in her kitchen on a man she’d just had sex with. Good sex. She’d never seen Quinn wearing an apron and couldn’t imagine it.
“Cops’ wives,” Pearl said. “They’re saints.”
“And cops’ husbands,” Milt added, as he sat across from her at the table.
Domesticity, Pearl thought. It can’t be beat. Until it beats you.
They were in Renz’s office at One Police Plaza. It didn’t look like a working cop’s office because it wasn’t. No clutter, no bulletin board with rosters and notices, no visible file cabinets. Harley Renz had risen way above all that and, like many before him, regarded the position of police commissioner as primarily political. Not surprising, as he’d gotten there more through politics than police work.
The office was carpeted in a deep maroon and had oak-paneled walls. Requisite trophy plaques, commendations, and photographs were arranged on the wall behind the desk. The desk itself was a vast slab of speckled dark granite. Whatever electronic equipment was in the room was concealed in a huge, many-doored oak hutch that almost perfectly matched the paneling. Two brown leather armchairs faced the desk. There was a small table with four chairs off to the side, for miniconferences, and what looked like an antique table with a cut-glass vase on it stuffed with colorful flowers.
Quinn guessed that fresh flowers were brought in every day. Harley Renz, bureaucratic climber, living the high life. Wanting to climb still higher. Quinn had heard that cockroaches did that, inexorably climbed upward in a building. He wondered what they did when they reached the roof.
Along with Quinn and his team, Helen the profiler was there. She was wearing a green blazer and gray slacks, with high heels that made her even taller than her six feet plus.
Pearl had on a lightweight navy blue business suit that made her features and hair appear darker. She looked vital and alive this morning, Quinn thought. Healthy and glowing in a way that was wholesome and beautiful. Health had a lot to do with sex appeal, Quinn was beginning to realize.
She caught him looking at her and he looked away. At the same time, he was sure she’d abruptly looked away from him.
Renz pulled a City Beat from somewhere below his desk and laid it on a granite corner. “Cindy Sellers is asking why the killer doesn’t conceal the entire body. Why leave the untraceable torsos where they’ll surely be found.”
“We’ve been wondering the same thing,” Quinn said.