I was in Chinatown when they called me about the body in Brooklyn.
“They just pulled a woman out of a scrap pile in Gowanus,” says Mike, my editor.
“Lovely,” I say. “So I’m off the school?” I’ve spent the past two days pacing in front of a middle school, trying to get publishable quotes from preteens or their parents about the brothel the cops busted in the back of an Internet café around the corner.
“You’re off,” says Mike.
The rest of the press is on the scene when I arrive at the gas station across from the scrap yard. Pete Calloway from the Ledger is baring his crooked teeth at the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Public Information, or as reporters call him, DCPI. DCPI is six inches taller and seventy pounds heavier than Pete. It’s barely twenty degrees out and Pete’s got his hoodie up, his shoulders hunched against the cold, but DCPI is hatless, scarfless, gloveless, coatless. His uniform jacket collar is pulled up, two inches of starched wool-blend against the icy wind.
“We’re hearing she was found without clothes,” says Pete. “Can you confirm that?”
DCPI looks over Pete’s head and rubs his hands together. Behind him, in the scrap yard along the canal, two excavators stand frozen against the sky; the grapples attached to their long arms sway slowly, thin scraps of metal hanging from their teeth.
Pete stares up at the cop, who is ignoring him. Both of them are ignoring me. I’ve seen Pete at multiple crime scenes, but we’ve never introduced ourselves. Mike and the rest of the editors think Calloway is some kind of crime-reporting savant. But it seems to me, after just a few months at scenes with him, that all he is is single, dogged, and nosy. I catch his eye and smile a smile I mean to indicate camaraderie, but he doesn’t respond. Drew Meyers from Channel 2 slides up, cashmere coat to his shins, leather gloves, wine-colored scarf. DCPI loves him.
“Drew,” he says, grasping his hand like an old friend.
“Cold enough for you?” says Drew. DCPI’s ears are absurdly red. His nose and cheeks and neck glow pink. “So what’s going on?”
DCPI lowers his voice. “Female.”
“Is she still in there?” asks Drew. Pete and I step in to listen.
“Don’t have that,” says DCPI.
“The M.E. van hasn’t been here,” says Pete.
Drew looks at DCPI, who confirms Pete’s statement with silence.
“Was there a 911 call?” asks Pete.
“Yes,” says DCPI.
“What time?” I ask.
DCPI looks down at me. “Can you let me finish, please?”
“A call came in to emergency services this morning, reporting that workers loading a barge on the canal had found what they thought was a female body. We are in the process of determining identity.”
“It’s definitely female?” asks Pete.
Drew furrows his brow, doing a good impression of someone empathizing. He folds his notebook shut, though he didn’t write down a word of what DCPI said, shakes the cop’s hand, then turns and walks to the Channel 2 van, his coattails flapping behind him.
DCPI stays put, and so do I. There are several DCPI cops that work crime scenes. I know two or three by sight, and have one’s name, but I’ve never seen this man before. “Can I get your name?” I ask.
He looks down at me. “Can I see your press card?”
I dig my stiff fingers—exposed by the fingerless gloves that note-taking necessitates—into my coat and manipulate the laminated New York Tribune badge from beneath several layers of clothing. My skin scrapes against the metal zipper as I pull it out and present it.
Excerpted from Invisible City by Julia Dahl. Copyright © 2014 by Julia Dahl. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Minotaur. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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