Read Richard Montanari Online

Authors: The Echo Man

Richard Montanari (4 page)

    He
leaned in, sniffed her hair.

    'You
don't smell cheap,' he said. 'You smell good.'

    A
shadow crawled slowly across the ground, pooling at their feet. Danny noticed,
spun around.

    Behind
him, a few paces away, stood the petite blonde from the AA meeting, the one
wearing the green Temple University hooded sweatshirt. In her hand was a Glock
17, pointed at the center of Danny's chest.

    'My name
is Nicci,' the blonde said. 'And I'm a police officer.'

    'Hi,
Nicci!' Detective Jessica Balzano responded.

    During
the previous three weeks, on her undercover assignment to catch the AA Killer,
Jessica had been Paulette. No last name. Just Paulette. She discovered early on
in the assignment that no one had a last name at AA.

    Behind
Detective Nicolette Malone stood two other detectives, as well as a veteran
patrolman named Stan Keegan. At either end of the alley were a pair of sector
cars.

    Danny
looked at Jessica, his hands trembling now. 'You're a
cop?'

    Jessica
stepped back, drew her own weapon from a holster at the small of her back,
leveled it. 'Put your hands behind your head and interlace your fingers.'

    Danny
hesitated, his eyes shifting from side to side.

    
'Do
it now
.''

    Danny
froze.

    'Suit
yourself,' Jessica said. 'But if you don't do what I tell you to do, you will
die where you stand. In an Ed Hardy T-shirt, no less.
With
your zipper
down. Your call.'

    The
suspect, whose real name was Lucas Anthony Thompson, seemed to realize his two
choices. He was leaving this alley either in handcuffs or on a gurney. In an
instant his will was broken. His shoulders sagged. He put his hands on top of
his head, fingers interlaced.

    Jessica
had seen it a hundred times. And it never failed to warm her heart.

    
Gotcha.

    Nicci
Malone stepped forward, pulled the weapon from the suspect's waistband, handed
it to Officer Keegan, who put it in an evidence bag. Nicci then swept the
suspect's legs from beneath him. He hit the ground hard, face down. An instant
later Nicci dropped a knee into the center of Thompson's back, cuffed him.

    'It's
almost impossible you're this fucking stupid,' Nicci said.

    Jessica
holstered her gun, stepped forward. Each grabbing an arm, the two detectives
pulled the suspect roughly to his feet.

    'You
are under arrest for the murder of Marcia Jane Kimmelman,' Jessica said. She
read him his Miranda rights. 'Do you understand these rights?'

    Thompson
nodded, still dazed.

    'You
have to answer out loud,' she said. 'You have to say "yes."'

    'Yes.'

    'Actually,
I want you to say, "Yes, I understand, Detective Goddess Balzano.'"

    Thompson
didn't say it. He was still a bit stunned.

    
Ah,
well,
Jessica thought.
Worth a shot.
She reached into her pocket,
pulled out the small digital recorder. She rewound the recording, clicked Play.

    
You
know that other girl? She gave me a hard time. She didn't have to die
.

    Jessica
clicked off the recorder. Thompson hung his head.

    They
had plenty with which to charge him. An eyewitness, a good sampling of DNA,
ballistics. The recording was just icing on the cake. The DAs office loved
recordings. Sometimes a recording made all the difference in the world.

    As
uniformed officers led Thompson away, Officer Stan Keegan leaned against the
brick wall, crossed his arms over his kettle-drum chest, a Cheshire-cat grin on
his face.

    'What's
so funny?' Jessica asked.

    'You two,'
he said, nodding at her and Nicci. 'I'm just trying to figure out which one of
you is Batman and which one is Robin.'

    'Batman?
Dream
on,
mortal,' Jessica said. 'I'm Wonder Woman.'

    'And
I'm She Hulk,' Nicci added.

    The
two women bumped fists.

 

    There
was a young man standing next to the sector car, talking to one of the
uniformed officers. He was tall, dark-haired, lanky, and had about him a
nervous energy. He carried an expensive-looking digital video camera. Jessica
soon realized who he was, and what he was doing there.

    She
had gotten the memo the week before, and had forgotten all about it. Somebody
from Penn State was making a documentary about the homicide unit - a
day-in-the-life sort of thing - and the directive from high on high was to
cooperate. The memo said the filmmaker would be there for a week.

    As
Jessica approached, the young man noticed her. He smoothed his hair with his
free hand, stood a little taller.

    'Hi,'
he said. 'I'm David Albrecht.'

    'Jessica
Balzano.'

    They
shook hands. David Albrecht wore a gold crucifix around his neck, along with a
Nittany Lions long-sleeved T-shirt. He was cleanshaven, save for a sparse
bleached-white soul patch beneath his lower lip. It was the only thing keeping
his face from being feminine.

    'I'd
know you anywhere,' he said. He pumped her arm with a little too much
enthusiasm.

    'Really?
And why is that?' Jessica asked, retrieving her limb before it was shaken off.

    Albrecht
smiled. 'I do my research. You were in that
Philadelphia

    
Magazine
feature a few years ago, the one about the "new breed" of female
detective. Remember that?'

    Jessica
remembered the article well. She had fought against it but had lost the battle.
She was not crazy about having details of her personal life made public. Police
officers, especially detectives, were big enough targets for crazies as it was.

    'I
remember,' Jessica said.

    'And
I followed the Rosary Killer case pretty closely.'

    'I
see.'

    'Of
course, I was in high school then,' Albrecht said. 'I went to a Catholic
school. We were all pretty mesmerized by the story.'

    
High
school,
Jessica thought.
This kid was in
high school
then.
It
seemed like yesterday to her.

    'By
the way, that was a great photo of you on the cover of the mag,' he added.
'Real Lara Croft. You were kind of a pinup for a lot of the guys at my school
for a while.'

    'So,
you're making a movie?' Jessica asked, hoping to get off the subject of the
article.

    'Gonna
try. Making a feature is a lot different from making a short. I've done mainly
webisodes so far.'

    Jessica
wasn't really sure what a webisode was.

    'You
should stop by my site and check some of them out,' Albrecht said. 'I think
you'll like them.'

    He
handed her a card bearing his name and a website address.

    Jessica
did the polite thing, scanning the card before putting it into her pocket.
'Well,' she said. 'It was great meeting you, David. Anything you need.' She
didn't mean it, of course. She pointed at the just-arrived police transport
van. 'I've got to get this started.'

    Albrecht
held up a hand. 'No sweat. Just wanted to introduce myself.' He smoothed his
hair again. 'I'll be around, but you won't even notice me. I promise not to get
in your way. I'm a mouse.'

    
A
mouse,
Jessica thought
. We'll see about that
.

 

    Two
hours later, with paperwork completed, reports filed, and suspect delivered to
the police administration building at Eighth and Race Streets - commonly known
as the Roundhouse - the team met at a restaurant called the Hot Potato Cafe on
Girard Avenue.

    In
addition to Jessica and Nicci Malone there was veteran detective Nick
Palladino, as well as a relatively new detective in the unit, Dennis
Stansfield. Stansfield was in his early forties and was God's gift to women, at
least in his own mind. His clearance-rack suits never quite fit, he wore too
much cologne and, among his many annoying habits, he seemed to be in constant
motion, as if he always had somewhere else to be, something else to do that was
far more important than talking to you.

    He
had only been with the unit for a few months and had yet to make a friend. No
one wanted to work with him. His abrasive personality was only one of the
reasons. His sloppy work habits, and his uncanny ability to get a witness to
clam up immediately, were two others.

    Jessica
and Nicci held down one side of the table, while Stansfield and Nick Palladino
sat on the other.

    Nick
Palladino - whom everyone called Dino - was a lifer, a South Philly boy with a
knack for sniffing out con men and thieves, two categories of criminal of which
the city of Philadelphia had no shortage.

    They
were all on duty for a few more hours, so it was coffee and Cokes for now. They
lifted a glass to their day.

    Lucas
Anthony Thompson, 26, late of Port Richmond, currently a guest of Hotel
Homicide, stood accused in the aggravated murder and sexual assault of a young
woman named Marcia Jane Kimmelman. According to witnesses, the two had met at
an AA meeting in West Philly but, because last names were never used, no one
knew who Thompson was. They had a general description, but that was about it.

    Marcia's
body had been found in a vacant lot on Baltimore Avenue near 47th Street. She
had been sexually assaulted, shot once in the head with a .38 at close range.
Three months later Thompson met and attacked a young woman after a meeting in
Kingessing, but the woman, a secretary for Comcast named Bonnie Silvera,
survived. DNA found in semen left behind by her attacker matched that of Marcia
Kimmelman's killer. Bonnie Silvera gave police a highly detailed description of
Thompson, and there began an undercover operation that ultimately involved a
dozen detectives and brought them to more than six districts.

    'So
how'd you ID him?' Dino asked.

    Nicci
deferred to Jessica. 'Talk to the mastermind.'

    'Well,
we had a little help from the Audio Visual Unit on this one,' Jessica said.
'But when Thompson and I were sitting in that coffee shop I took his picture
with my cellphone. Then I sent the photo via SMS to Nicci's phone. Nicci and
two uniforms were out in the van, about half a block away, with Bonnie Silvera.
A few seconds later Nicci got the photo, opened it, showed it to Bonnie. The
witness made the positive ID, Nicci sent me a text, letting me know we were on,
and we knew we had him.'

    'That
was
your
play?' Dino asked.

    Jessica
blew on her nails, buffed them dramatically on her blouse.

    'My
God, you are a dangerous woman,' Dino said.

    'Tell
the world.'

    'I should
tell your husband.'

    'Like
he doesn't know,' Jessica said. 'Right now he's painting the fence behind our
house. I'm going to let him draw me a bubble bath later.'

    Detective
Dennis Stansfield, perhaps feeling left out, piped in. 'You know, I read in a
recent survey that, in her lifetime, the average American woman receives 26.5
miles of cock.'

    If
there was one thing Jessica hated, it was a cop who found a way to make a sex
joke after hearing about a rape. Even worse, a rape/murder. Rape had nothing to
do with sex. Rape was about violence and power.

    Stansfield
glanced over at Jessica. It seemed that she had gotten the assignment to be the
flustered, blushing female officer in his presence, the one ill at ease in the
wake of his shabby jokes. Was he kidding? Jessica had been born and raised in
South Philly, and had grown up around cops. She was swearing like a
longshoreman by the time she was five. She had even gotten to like the taste of
soap.

    'Twenty-six
miles, huh?' Jessica asked.

    'Twenty-six
point
ftve,'
Stansfield replied.

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