The dead man lay on his face in his bed, the sheets and blankets pooled around his feet. The back of his head was a bloody mush. He had on a pair of baggy white shorts and his skinny legs were quite hairy. The apartment smelled of old clothes and dusty air and something else. Carl Landry recognized that third smell. It was the odor of a body, brutally violated, giving up its life. It was a smell that had intrigued him once. Then it had saddened him. Now, it was just something he was used to. Just part of the job.
Carl was a reporter with the Boston Globe and he stood at the dead man's bedroom door, notebook in hand, carefully recording everything he could see, writing in a cramped style that had seen him through high school and the Army and four years of newspaper work.
Detective Paul Malone caught his eye and separated himself from the chattering group of cops. He and Carl were friends, sort of. As much as a cop and reporter can be. Malone was in his late forties, overweight, and wore a tan coat that flapped about his shins. There was a faint patch of gray stubble on his chin where he had missed shaving that morning, and his thick gray-black hair was combed to one side with some wet-looking goop.
"C'mon, Carl, get out, will ya?" he said, shooing him backward. "I let you see the stiff and that's fine. Any more and when the Herald shows up, they'll expect the same treatment, and we can't have none of that. Turn this freakin' place into a freakin' circus, you will."
Carl smiled his best buddy smile and said, "Come along, Paul. Chat with me for a second or two, will you? Deadline's coming up and I want to phone this in. Make the morning edition."
"And beat the pants off the Herald, right?"
"You got it."
Two steps and they were in the kitchen. A younger detective was dusting the countertops for fingerprints. There was a flash of light from the police photographer in the bedroom.
The apartment was small and cluttered and to Carl's practiced eyes it had been tossed. Drawers were open, closet doors were ajar, and clothes and dishes were scattered across the floors and on top of the furniture. The kitchen floor was linoleum and an empty metal bowl was on the floor, jammed up in the corner. The breakfast dishes were still in the sink. One cereal bowl, one coffee cup.
A tiny prewar TV set and a bunch of newspapers and magazines were in the living room. A jet screamed overhead, going toward the landing strips at Logan Airport. The carpet was light brown and threadbare along the edges, with a faint pattern of flowers that had been trampled away by years of foot traffic.
The door had three locks, a sensible precaution, especially during the winter, when supermarket shelves emptied by ten every morning and the prostitutes in the Combat Zone bartered their wares for cans of beef stew. But none of the locks appeared broken.
During the past couple of years at the Globe, Carl had run into Paul Malone on a fairly routine basis. Carl's job was general assignment reporter. Because of his military experience, his editors thought he'd be used to seeing dead bodies, so more often than not, he was sent out on crime stories. He and the older detective had a cautious but respectful relationship. Malone was relatively straight when it came to news, and Carl was equally polite when it came to asking the questions.
"What we have here is one Merl Sawson. Age sixty. Apparent gunshot wounds to the back of the head." Malone's accent was pure Boston.
Carl scribbled away. "Looks pretty apparent to me."
"Sure it does, young fella, but I ain't putting my name to it until he's at the morgue. Would look pretty funny if we turned him over and found a knife to his heart, now, wouldn't it?"
"Yeah. A laugh and a half. You wondering who might have done the shooting?"
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