Cynthia Hatch

from the zine “The Hat on the Bench in Central Park” (1997)



That morning the snow had caused trouble, tying up traffic, sending pedestrians slipping down the sidewalks, and making commuters late for work.


Now it was merely beautiful.


Catherine hesitated at the corner of the Central Park drive-through, knowing she ought to continue on home--it was already past 8 p.m.--but tempted to make a detour.


True, Vincent wasn't likely to be there. He'd told her last night that he was part of a work crew scheduled to spend two days below Canal Street--literally. Con Ed would never know just how much work they'd been spared. It was the people in the Tunnel community who most closely monitored the vast labyrinth under New York City, along with the infrastructure contained there.


They had to. Any glitch in the system could send city workers scrambling below where they might stumble upon some proof of the secret world. So it was always the Tunnel dwellers themselves who responded to potential emergencies before anyone above even knew there was a problem.


Of course, it wouldn't hurt to check, just in case Vincent hadn't left yet. And the park was so lovely with fat snowflakes dancing in the glow of the street lamps. The sun had come out for a while this afternoon, but not persuasively enough to melt the layer of white frosting, and about two hours ago the snow had started again.


No self-respecting mugger would be hanging out in the park tonight. After all, who could he find to victimize, since no one in their right mind was likely to go there?


With that rationalization, Catherine smiled to herself and turned into the quiet street, where the snow was thick underfoot and soft as the sand on a Caribbean beach. It was easy walking. Around her the world seemed to glow. The cold air smelled unbelievably clean. .


Sounds from the surrounding city, eerily muffled, were soothing after the noisy atmosphere of the office, which had been even more chaotic than usual this afternoon. It was always like that when they were dealing with a politically sensitive crime, as if some unseen hand reached in and turned everyone's nervous system up a notch.


Actually, Joe was the one who was going to have to deal with it, and she didn't envy him the privilege. A South American metallurgist, arriving to take part in a conference on mining--at the U.N. no less--had been gunned down in broad daylight. Nobody'd seen the shooter, and speculation about a motive was rampant. The media was sure to jump into the game, which meant pressure would be coming from all directions, making it difficult for anyone in the office to do his job until the case was solved. Catherine had stayed late, helping to clear the decks for tomorrow, but she had no illusions that the days ahead would be easy.


These stolen moments in the park were, therefore, all the sweeter. Everything here had been transformed, simplified to a muted radiance. The serenity was contagious.


A bench hunkered down near the sidewalk just ahead, its rigid lines scalloped in pale little mounds that would have looked pleasantly symmetrical had it not been for a lump that rose up from the left side of the seat. Curious, Catherine stopped and poked at it with a gloved finger, then swept the snow aside, exposing something which she shook and held up to the street light.


A ski hat. Hand-knitted, too, from the look of it. Wide bands of beige alternated with smaller ones of peacock blue, both interrupted by ribbons of vivid red, with all three colors popping out at the top to form a jaunty pompom. It was cheerful, it was warm, and most of all it was an added excuse for going Below, where somebody could surely use it.


Catherine stuffed the hat in her pocket and crossed the street, heading for the amber light that glimmered in the pure, white distance.




"Thank God, I'm not due in court," Catherine murmured to herself as she rushed to get ready for work the next morning. Not only had she overslept, but the sun appeared to be shining full force, which might render the "weather defense" a little implausible. And she didn't even have the memory of a late-night visit with Vincent to make it all worthwhile.


She hadn't intended to stay long in the world Below, after learning that the work crew had, indeed, departed on schedule. And the hat had been claimed before she'd even reached the central tunnels.


"Need it," Mouse had explained succinctly, and he probably did. She couldn't imagine that helmet with the flashlights on it providing much warmth.


It was Father who was responsible for her prolonged visit. He'd been in an unusually garrulous mood, even for him, when she stopped by to say hello. No doubt he missed Vincent's companionship. Catherine really didn't mind stepping in as a substitute; the tea was warm and delicious, the conversation stimulating, plus she was flattered that he seemed to enjoy her company.


Staying on Father's good side could never be classified as a waste of time, except that now she was paying the price--gulping down a glass of orange juice while she tugged on her boots, grabbing her satchel and handbag just as the telephone rang. The machine picked up, and she almost made it to the door before a familiar voice drew her reluctantly back into the room.


"Hey, Radcliffe, aren't you supposed to be at work with the rest of us?"


Catherine picked up the receiver. "It's not that late, Joe," she said, failing in her bid not to sound defensive. "I'll be there in fifteen minutes."


"Don't be. I want you to make a stop first. We got a tip that a homicide they're working in the park could turn sticky. The detective in charge is Jack Dooley. You remember him-big guy, blond crewcut. He's down there now, just a block or two south of your place. You'll see the blue-and-whites. Connect with him and get a feel for where this is headed. Then see if you can show up here sometime before baseball season."


"I'll be there in time for the first pitch," she promised.


Traffic had churned much of the pristine snow to a dreary slush. Between the clouds a pale sun was picking out sparkles in the drifts that lay undisturbed on overhanging branches, on the cars hunched next to the curb, and on the low stone wall that bounded the park. Two patrol cars and a van, starkly free of snow, marked the place where yellow tape began its ominous journey into the trees. Catherine flashed her ID to the patrolman on duty, who helped her over the wall.


About twenty yards into the park, in a small clearing, lay the fully-dressed body of a woman, face down under a tumble of light brown hair. The medical examiner was already crouched at her side; a photographer circled, wordlessly clicking off pictures. There were at least half a dozen men on the scene, but it was easy to spot Detective Dooley, who loomed over the still figure like a heavyweight waiting for his opponent to get up again.


"Cathy Chandler," he greeted her brusquely. "That's my partner, Billy Perez." He indicated a stocky young man who was on his hands and knees sifting through the snow. "The victim's name is Greta Myer, thirty-six-year-old resident of Hamburg, West Germany. A guy throwing snowballs for his dog found her about an hour ago, which is just as well cause this isn't exactly a high traffic area. She might have been here for days before we found her. She was strangled with her own scarf, probably sometime before midnight. Her passport was in her purse, along with two hundred and change in American dollars and nearly a thousand in travelers' checks."


"So it wasn't a mugging?"


"Doesn't look like it. She's wearing a nice watch, couple of rings."


"Any possibility of sexual assault?"


Dooley shook his head. "Not for us to say, but there's no indication. According to her passport, she came into the country through Boston a week and a half ago. That's not much time to make personal enemies."


"You sound disappointed."


"Not half as disappointed as the mayor's going to be if this turns out to be a hate crime. Tough enough to promote the Big Apple as tourist-friendly in a good week, but yesterday we have a Peruvian gunned down practically on the doorstep of the United Nations, and now this. Start picking off random foreigners and the souvenir market bites the dust, dragging the rest of the economy down with it."


"Come on, Dool, does this look like Miami to you?" Perez joined them, brushing the snow from his knees. "Even down there they don't pick on tourists for the fun of it. It's cause they're easy marks, they got money, they don't know what's up. We're not seeing any robbery here."


"We're not seeing much of anything," Dooley said grimly. "We don't even know where the actual murder took place."


"There's no sign of a struggle?" Catherine asked.


"No, but that doesn't mean a lot. It snowed most of last night, so wherever it happened, we might not be able to spot anything. I'm just sure she wasn't attacked here. Even if she was stupid enough to go into the park alone--at night--in a snow storm, this is a long way from any road or even a path."


"So that's good, right?" Perez said. "Not much chance she got dumped out of a car. The whole thing must have gone down in the park."


Catherine shivered, and Dooley said, "Great, we narrow it down to 840 acres."


"We can turn her over now."


At the M.E.'s words, Dooley knelt beside the body, and the little clearing fell silent except for the persistent whirring and clicking of the camera.


As murder scenes go, this one didn't present a particularly gruesome sight. The hair that straggled across the woman's face concealed the worst of her unnatural expression. There was no blood, and so when Catherine let out a gasp, Dooley looked up at her sharply.


"You recognize her?"


"What...? No…no, I've never seen her before."


Everyone was looking at her now, and Catherine felt the blood creeping back into her face. "Listen, I need to get going," she said, gathering what composure she could. "I appreciate your help, Detective. We'd like a copy of the autopsy as soon as it's available."


"Sure thing." Dooley rose to his feet, his expression oddly sympathetic. "Don't worry. I'll keep you posted along the way. Victim's got a hotel key in her pocket, so that's our first stop. You'll hear from me soon as we've got anything."


As she moved away, Catherine heard Perez mumble, "Kind of squeamish for a D.A., isn't she?"


Dooley's low voice came back to her over the crunch of her boots. "It was before your time. Chandler was assaulted herself. Hacked up, face and all, and left for dead in the park. This has gotta be tough duty for her."


"You're kidding." Perez sounded genuinely shocked. "Good-looking girl like that?"


Back on the street Catherine took a deep breath and tried to order her thoughts. It was probably just as well that Dooley had come up with an explanation for her odd reaction, even though he was mistaken.


No one would guess the truth: that it wasn't so much the end result of the assault that had shocked her as the means, the instrument by which murder had been accomplished. It was the woman's scarf that had triggered her response, invisible until the body was turned, but there it was--beige and red and peacock blue, an obvious mate to the hat she'd given Mouse.


Try as she might, she couldn't come up with a scenario for that hat being left on a bench--a quarter mile away--after the murder. Obviously, Greta Myer had lost it there, perhaps in a struggle with her assailant, and just as obviously, she, an officer of the court, had unwittingly tampered with an important piece of evidence.


A taxi swung into the curbside lane, sending a spray of dingy ice across the sidewalk. The driver looked at her expectantly, but she shook her head and started back up the street, her mind racing. The police were already stymied by the heavy snow fall that had obliterated the killer's tracks. Without the hat to draw them, they might never trace his path or find any clues, if clues existed.


Logic dictated the obvious solution--retrieve the hat from Mouse and put it back where she'd found it before the police scanned this area.


Minutes after rounding the sidewalk into the Central Park drive-through, the logical approach lost its appeal. The road had been sanded, and cars were snaking slowly past the crucial spot. Two children tugged an old-fashioned, wooden sled up the slope behind the bench; across the road, three others were building a snowman, despite the fact that this was most certainly a school day.


The bench itself was unoccupied, still mounded with snow. Even the spot where the hat had lain was now indistinguishable. Catherine approached the area cautiously, looking for anything that might provide further proof that Greta Myer had been here. If the assault had taken place this close to the drive-through, the murderer might have wanted to conceal his crime for as long as possible by carrying the body up the slope and through the trees to the isolated spot where it had been found. Still, in the dark, in the snow, there might be countless places where the same thing could have happened. What were the odds that the police would fasten on this location without the telltale hat?


Catherine brushed at the snow-covered slats until the bench seat was clear. There was nothing to see, not on the bench or between the slats. She knelt and fingered the snow underneath, coming up with a rusty bottle cap, a piece of wilted cellophane and remnants barely recognizable as cigarette butts. It all looked like it had been there a long time.


Her probing next to the bench's right side produced nothing of interest, but moving to the left, where the hat had been, she caught a flash of brilliant color. Gingerly, she whisked the snow away from the base to reveal a flattened yellow film box. The color was unfaded, the printing sharp as new: Kodak, 35 mm. Even more significant, there was snow underneath as well as on top of the box. Surely, it had been discarded sometime during yesterday's storms.


Nothing else turned up and, after a moment's hesitation, Catherine flicked a thin layer of snow back over the box and rose to her feet. She wasn't about to remove another possible piece of evidence, and while there was nothing specific to connect this piece of cardboard with the murdered woman, its presence had given her an idea.




Detective Dooley called, as promised, later that morning.


"The victim was on a pleasure trip. Spent a week with relatives in Boston, then came here and checked into the Penta three days ago. The cousin says she didn't know a soul in New York--just came for the sights. We questioned the staff at the hotel and came up with nothing except that she took a half-day city tour Tuesday morning; the sightseeing bus does a regular pick-up there. You'll have the coroner's report tomorrow, but in a nutshell, there were no injuries aside from the obvious. He must have come up behind her, taken her by surprise before she knew what was happening. This was earlier than we might have figured-sometime between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m."


Catherine had been thinking about her approach all morning. Now she said, "Would you mind telling me what other items you found in the victim's possession?"


"I got a list here some place...just a second." There was a rustling sound, and a moment later Dooley began to read off the contents of Greta Myer's purse and pockets: "Lipstick, compact, hairbrush, passport...."


Catherine was listening less to what he said than for what she expected him not to say. The list went on and on and still the word hadn't came up.


"...Chamber of Commerce map, two postcards, brochure from the Empire State Building, one envelope, a handkerchief and five stamps. That's about it. Nothing unusual."


"What about a camera?" she asked.


"No, no camera, film--nothing like that."


"Doesn't that seem a little strange? You said the victim was in New York to see the sights. Surely, she wouldn't do that without taking pictures."


"At night?"


"Possibly, or she may have been out all day and not had a chance to get back to the hotel. It could also explain the robbery motive."


"You mean she got mugged for a camera?" Dooley didn't sound like he was buying it. "Why kill somebody over a camera and leave cold hard cash? Even a junkie or a real stupid perp's gonna go for the shiny things--the rings, the watch."


"What if he wasn't stupid? What if she had a very expensive camera and he recognized that. Maybe it was what he was after all along, and he got scared off before he could bother with the other things."


"You mean one of those German jobs, like a Hasselblad?"


"Right. It's worth checking, isn't it? Someone at the hotel could have seen her with it, or the cousin might know."


"It can't hurt to ask," Dooley conceded before saying good-bye.


He called back two hours later. "I got some good news and some bad news on your camera theory. The victim's cousin confirms that she did have one, took several rolls of film in Boston and left them with him to be developed, but it didn't turn up among her personal effects at the hotel."


"That all sounds like good news," Catherine said cautiously. "So what's the bad?"


"The bad is that it was an old, beat-up point-and-shoot. Not only was it worthless, but it looked worthless. I don't care how spaced-out he was, a mugger's gonna go for the handbag first."


Inwardly, Catherine had to agree, especially knowing that the murderer had the time to move the body a considerable distance. Certainly, he'd had time to determine what the victim had in the way of valuables. "That doesn't explain what happened to the camera," she said.


"No, and it's a long shot, but that could turn out to be the last piece of good news. My guess is she lost it in the attack. If we could find that camera, we'd have our murder scene and maybe something that would lead us to this guy. I've got men all over the park, but unless it's fairly well concealed somebody's probably made off with it by now."


"I thought you said it wasn't worth stealing."


"Stealing, no. Taking that's a different matter. Your average person's a natural klepto. They'll pocket anything if they think it's up for grabs--the finders-keepers syndrome. You'd be surprised."


Not really, Catherine thought, picturing the world's foremost authority on taking-vs.-stealing in his new finery.


At this point she hoped Dooley was right--that the missing camera would turn up along with a host of clues leading to the killer. The film box proved nothing, but the hat…what were the odds that a woman would remove her hat in a snow storm and leave it behind?


Catherine forced herself to turn back to the work at hand. As usual, there was more than enough to do without worrying about a police investigation that might lead nowhere, though the knowledge that she'd helped to send them in that thankless direction kept nagging at her conscience.


It was slow going, and only the fact that he wasn't lugging a new supply of case files allowed her to smile civilly when Joe appeared at her desk.


"Anything new on the murder in the park?" he asked.


"Not yet, but Dooley's promised to keep us up to date. I hear your shooting victim--Alvarado?--survived the surgery. Is he going to be all right?"


"As a matter of fact, it actually looks like he will be."


"I'm glad. That should make the powers-that-be ease up a little."


"Oh, sure, Radcliffe. Nothing but smooth sailing from here on out. I can see the bumper stickers now-'Give us your tired, your poor. We'll shoot 'em, but we won't finish' em off.' "


"Your cynicism is dripping all over my desk, Joe."


"Nah," he said, running a hand through his already ruffled hair, "that's just steam. We're talking about two murders here, a drop in the bucket, only half the cops in town are running around U.N. Plaza and the other half are in the park. That looks real good to the tourists."


"Dooley's convinced it's important to determine exactly where the murder occurred," Catherine told him, "though I can't imagine what forensic evidence would be left at this point--outside in a public place, after all the wind and snow."


"To hear the lab boys tell it, they can perform miracles." Joe shrugged. "Sometimes it's even true, but I wouldn't lay any money on the line, not under these circumstances."


"Exactly. So in a situation like this, finding the actual crime scene isn't that big a deal."


"Now, wait, I didn't say that. It may be useless as far as physical evidence, but find the murder site and you've got a shot at coming up with a witness, somebody who saw the victim or the killer or both. Without that you're just chasing your tail."


On that encouraging note, Joe returned to his office, and the cloud of guilt descended again. If only Vincent weren't out of reach. She had a feeling that if they discussed the problem together, the solution would present itself. As it was, she could only try to imagine what he'd say, which wasn't half as effective as hearing the words in his. incomparable voice, gazing into those extraordinary eyes, drawing on his quiet strength to steady her resolve...


Follow your heart?


That's what she'd been doing when she took the abandoned hat to the Tunnels. What had resulted was a problem of logistics. Facts were what mattered in a murder investigation, and the fact was that Greta Myer's hat had been left on that bench. Strange, how the truth seemed suddenly the only option. She'd simply tell Dooley the facts, that she'd run across the hat by sheer coincidence, picked it up and given it to….


A homeless person? That wasn't exactly true.


Someone very poor? That didn't sit right either.


Cold. She'd simply given it to someone who was cold and needed it. With a little luck, Dooley would assume she'd just now made the connection between the handmade hat and scarf. The police could stop wasting their time running all over the park and focus on the bench as the place where Greta had met her attacker, and whether it helped in the investigation or not, she could get back to work with a clear conscience.


Catherine was reaching for the phone when Dooley's words came back to her, like a perfectly timed sucker punch: A woman stupid enough to go into the park, alone, at night in a snowstorm.


How was she going to justify her own presence in the park last night? Not exactly a piece of cake considering the detective's opinion of the idea. And there was no sense in complicating things further by pretending she hadn't been alone; so far, the only saving grace of this dilemma was that she hadn't involved anyone else.


Would the police consider it more plausible if she admitted to cutting through the park in the daylight? Maybe, but the lie could defeat the confession's whole purpose by throwing off the timeline for the murder. It was like struggling through a maze, but no matter which way you turned--toward the truth or deception--you could never quite get to where you were supposed to be.


The phone rang, and she picked it up, hoping not to hear Dooley's voice; not yet, when the way out still wasn't clear.


"Miss Chandler, this is Detective Perez over at the 19th--Dooley's partner? I figured he'd want you to know we've got a break on the Myer case. Jack's bringing the guy in now, so if you want to come over here while he does the interview, we can bring you up to speed."


"Where did this suspect come from, Detective? Did he confess?"


"Not yet he hasn't. In fact, when I talked to Jack he wasn't even giving up his name, but this one's definitely hot. One of the Central Park uniforms who was at the crime scene-name's Jesse Solter-spots a dude messing around the maintenance shed, figures he might be looking to steal something, right? So he comes up on him and all of a sudden this sensation hits him-like deja vu. You probably didn't notice, cause I understand it was upsetting for you seeing that poor woman in the park like that, but the fact is her scarf was handmade, you know, like somebody knitted it special? Well, here's Jesse about to hassle a vagrant when he notices the guy's wearing a hat that's a dead ringer for the murder weapon-same colors, same design. So instead of running him off, he brings him into the CP station and calls us. Jack says it couldn't have been more than half a mile from where the body was found. How lucky can you get, huh?"


Catherine realized she wasn't breathing. She forced herself to do so and said, "You say the suspect is a vagrant?'


"Well, that's what it looks like. He didn't have any money on him or ID. Solter thinks he's seen him hanging around before, and the guy's plenty scared about something to clam up so tight."


"I'll be right there."


The cab ride uptown seemed to take hours and yet no clear plan for dealing with the situation came to mind. Maybe she should have cautioned Mouse about wearing the hat Above, where he was bound to venture no matter how many times he was advised against it. Once before she'd had to extricate him from one of his topside adventures, but that had been in Elliot's hands; this was a police matter. Mouse was already caught up in a system from which there were no easy exits.


Guilt and fear vied with sheer frustration, as the taxi bogged down in traffic, then broke away just long enough to hit a pothole at thirty miles per hour. Catherine drew a calming breath and tried to think of a way to proceed. She wasn't overly worried about a murder charge; the hat alone wasn't enough to go on, and nothing else was likely to develop that would connect Mouse with the crime.


No, it was the prospect of an interrogation, that would terrify the young man and jeopardize the whole Tunnel world, that made her blood run cold. His very refusal to disclose a name, an address, a history, would spell guilt--of something--to the police, but for now it was the only option.


Just don't say anything till I get there, Mouse.


Detective Perez came to meet her when she entered the station.


"Has he said anything?" she asked, as he led her down a narrow hallway to the interrogation room.


"Nothing important, but he's starting to talk some. Dooley's good at this." Perez stopped in front of a battered door.


Through the window Catherine saw the ill;-starred hat lying on a table and the husky figure of the detective leaning over a slight young man. . . with long black hair and a pencil mustache.


The relief was so intense, that it was several moments before she realized that what the two men in the room were saying might be important.


"My old auntie made it for me, okay? What do you care where it came from?"


"I care cause I think you're lying about it, and that makes me wonder what else you ve been up to.


"Nothin'. I was just looking around, all right, so what's the charge here? You got some new law about wearing hats?"


"No, but we've got an old one about trespassing, so just sit tight. You sure you don't want a lawyer, 'cause we'll be glad to get you one before this goes any further."


The offer set off a series of twitches along the young man's jaw line. "How much farther can it go, man? I told you, I didn't do nothin'."


"But you didn't tell me your name and that makes me wonder what you're hiding." Dooley's tone was perfectly pleasant. "On the other hand, it tells me we're not wasting our time running your prints, and that's good, 'cause I hate wasting time when this isn't the only murder on my plate."


The man's pasty complexion suddenly flushed crimson. "What do you mean murder? You said this was about trespassing."


"It's about a lot of things, but if you want to start small and work our way up, that's fine. Let's start with the hat. Where'd you get it?"


"I found it."




"I don't remember--over by the reservoir, I tjink. It was just lyin' there so I took it. "


"The only thing that's lying is you, friend. We happen to know you took it off somebody, somebody who wound up dead."


"That's crazy. I never laid a hand on him!"




"Him, her, whatever. I mean, I don't know nothin' about a dead body. The hat was there and I put it on, that's all. You want it so bad, take it, but you're not pinnin' some bogus murder rap on me."


"You own a camera?"




"Think about it," Dooley said with a smile. "Think about everything while I go check and see if the computer's spit you out yet. Then we'll discuss what I'm going to pin on you."


He stepped out into the hallway and greeted Catherine with a nod. "He's lying about something, but it's too soon to say what."


The feeling of relief had been short-lived. "I appreciate your letting me know," she said in the grip of a new fear. "I'm late for an appointment, but I'll check with you when I get back."


Out on the street, she headed straight to the park. Snow was coming down again and a bitter wind whipped its way up Fifth Avenue. How had the hat gotten from Mouse to the man in custody? Why had the suspect said "him" when Dooley accused him of killing its owner?


She left the sidewalk and ran through snow that sucked at her boots like the perverse gravity in a nightmare, altering her speed to a surreal slow motion. Air knifed icily at her lungs as she stumbled up to the tunnel entrance and made sure no one was looking before ducking inside.


Catherine's hand was shaking as she picked up the rock and tapped out a message summoning Mouse. For a minute or two she stood motionless, waiting for an answer, but her pounding heart wouldn't allow her to remain still. She punched the lever and waited impatiently for the steel door to open wide enough to get through. By the time it closed behind her she had already reached the end of the tunnel and could see a flickering light traveling up the left-hand passage.


"Jamie!" she gasped. "I was trying to reach Mouse."


"I know. He isn't here. I thought maybe I could help you."


Something was wrong. She could see it in Jamie's face, the way she didn't quite make eye-contact. "What do you mean he's not here? Where is he?"


"I'm not sure."


Catherine grabbed the girl's shoulders. "I need to know--it's important. When was the last time you saw him?"


Jamie's startled expression faded into petulance. "Oh, the heck with it. It's stupid anyway--he's hiding."




"Yeah, he's embarrassed cause he already lost the hat you gave him last night. Well, he didn't actually lose it...oh, hell, I'm not going to do his dirty work. He can just explain it to you himself. I'm sorry, Catherine."


"It's okay," Catherine said, meaning it. "Can you take me to him?"


"Yeah, I'd love to."


Ten minutes later, they ducked beneath a laundry line in a low-ceilinged cavern near the kitchens. Mouse was sitting cross-legged on the floor trying to interest Arthur in a length of dangling rope. His mouth dropped open when he saw them and stayed there when Catherine rushed over and leaned down to give him a hug.


"I know about the hat, Mouse, and it's okay. In fact, you're much better off without it, but I need you to tell me exactly what happened."


"Supposed to be a secret," he reminded Jamie, too confused to work up a scowl. "Just wanted to play in the snow--good hat for snow."


"When was this?" Catherine asked.


"After breakfast. Went up to make a snowman for the castle and whoosh--hat's gone."


"The wind blew it off?"


"Not the wind, somebody bad."


"A man with dark hair and a little mustache?" Catherine prompted. Mouse nodded dismally.


"Did he hurt you at all?"


He considered a moment. "Hurt my feelings. Laughed, ran away, but it wasn't funny. You should put him in jail, Catherine."


"I have a feeling somebody might. Don't worry about it, Mouse. I'll get you another hat-better than the one he took. I'm just glad you're all right. And don't be mad at Jamie," she added as she ducked back under the clothes line and headed for the door.


"Didn't take it," Mouse called after her. "Stole it!"




"So how was your walk in the park?" Joe greeted her.


"Excuse me?"


"That's where you went, wasn't it--the Central Park station?"


"Oh...no," Catherine said. "They're holding the suspect at the 19th, but I'm not sure it's going to develop into anything."


"No, how come?"


"I don't know, Joe, just a feeling, but I think we're probably back to square one. What about Alvarado?"


"He's off the respirator, doing a lot better. They might be able to start questioning him as early as tonight. You ready to talk to the guys from vice?"


"Sure, I'll be right there. Just let me check with Dooley one more time." She dialed the precinct and once again it was Perez who came to the phone.


"They're still in there," he said, "except now it's more a two-way conversation. The guy's got a rap sheet, loitering, petty theft. His name's Michael Huff. Looks like he started hanging around the park a week or so ago when things got hot for him in Jersey. They like him for a couple of B&Es. Only thing is there's nothing violent on his record, strictly sneaky stuff, you know? Swears he copped that hat off some kid building a snowman. How low can some people get? Makes you think twice about bringing kids into the world. The bottom line is, Miss Chandler, we don't think this is our guy. Sorry it couldn't be better news."


"No, you're right, he doesn't sound like our man, but thanks for your help, Detective."


Catherine hung up and dug through the pile on her desk, coming up with the files on their ongoing drug investigation, then made a beeline for the conference room. Considering some of the places her imagination had taken her today, square one didn't seem such a bad place to be.




There was an editorial in one of the papers the next day about the city being dangerous for foreigners.


"Real shame," Joe remarked, "Considering how the rest of us can leave our doors unlocked and walk the streets without a care in the world. Do you know how many homicides this office has pending, not to mention what the P.D.'s working on?"


"Moreno's been pressuring you," Catherine guessed.


"Like a ton of bricks. Alvarado didn't give us much last night. He was still a little fuzzy, but he was positive about not seeing who shot him. A couple of his embassy pals are playing up the security factor, threatening lawsuits. They're going to keep this thing in the media."


"Greg Hughs is good, Joe. I'm sure he'll come up with something soon. In the meantime, Dooley called a while ago with an intriguing tidbit about the Greta Myer case." She shuffled through the pile of papers in pursuit of her notes.


"Let me guess. Germany and Peru have declared war, and Myer and Alvarado actually killed each other."


"We should be so lucky." She drew out a single sheet of legal paper. "One of the lab tests came back this morning. Apparently, there were a lot of fibers on Greta Myer's coat, particularly on the right side. They weren't noticeable since it was a dark navy and the fibers are black, but the coat was a wool/polyester blend; the fibers are cashmere."


"Cashmere?" Joe's eyebrows shot up. "As in what your typical mugger isn't gonna be wearing?"


"Unless he mugged somebody for the coat. Dooley has no idea where this takes us, but you have to admit it's interesting."


"Interesting's not gonna cut it with Moreno, Radcliffe, not with the mayor breathing down his neck. Listen, the boys in vice have a possible eyewitness to our mysterious drug dealer. They're putting a line-up together for tomorrow at ten. I may have to be in court, so can you handle it?"


Catherine took a quick look at her calendar and said she could, hoping Joe wouldn't notice the wreath of roses she'd doodled around today's date.




Darkness was at last closing in when Catherine arrived home. She lost no time in sweeping the melting snow from the terrace, then rummaged through the hall closet for her old sleeping bag. She couldn't remember the last time she'd gone camping; now, the bag with its down filling and waterproof shell would serve a much nobler purpose, spread out on the cold tiles of the balcony.


Hunger was not a big priority at the moment. She forced herself to down a cup of instant soup and took up her post on the love seat. When the gentle tap finally came, she had only to slip on her coat and rush through the balcony doors into Vincent's embrace.


For a long moment he held her close while the tension of the last few days melted like yesterday's snow. She had the oddest feeling that this--here in his arms--was the true center of the world, where everything came into balance, and as long as she kept her eyes closed and listened to the beating of his heart, it would all stay in harmony. Even the smell of him worked its way through her with an elusive magic. She felt as though she were the one who'd been away for two days and just returned home.


He moved back a step to look at her. "Catherine?"


The single word contained a multitude of questions. She wondered if he'd sensed some of the emotions that had gripped her in his absence. "I hope you don't plan to go away again anytime soon, Vincent. While you were gone I nearly managed to get Mouse arrested for murder, and I've made a mess of an important investigation."


To her relief, he didn't look shocked or troubled. He looked...interested, and she found herself recounting everything that had happened in his absence; all the gruesome details that had been weighing on her mind.


"You did nothing wrong, Catherine," he said when she had finished.


"Maybe not intentionally, but I feel responsible; I don't know whether it would have helped the police to learn the victim had been on that bench. I just know I'm the one who kept them from finding out about it, so it's important to me that this killer be found quickly. Only I don't have any idea where to start."


"Perhaps you do."


He led her over to the waiting sleeping bag, and they sat down together, resting against the warm bricks of the chimney. "You made a start when you discovered that this woman owned a camera."


"I really just raised that possibility because the film carton may have been hers. It didn't lead anywhere."


"But you said the camera is missing, Catherine."


She frowned and leaned her head against his shoulder. "That's true, but, since everyone maintains it wasn't worth stealing, I can't see the significance, can you?"


"No...but it is missing."


"Well, that is about the only fact we have to work with," she sighed, "but I'd hate to have to rely on it for probable cause."


"A great man once said, 'When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.' "


She smiled up at him. "That doesn't sound like Shakespeare."


"Sir Arthur Conan Doyle."


"Ahh. Unfortunately, I don't see myself as Sherlock Holmes."


"And fortunately, I don't see you as Watson, but it doesn't mean you can't find the truth, Catherine."


She felt a little hop, skip of pleasure that had nothing to do with probability but everything to do with possibilities; and furthermore, she was suddenly a lot more confident about the case.




Somebody in the tiny room really enjoyed their garlic, Catherine noted unhappily as she huddled against the two-way glass with two detectives, their lieutenant, a portly defense attorney named Stuart Klein, and Mrs. Rosa Galloway, who just might be able to identify a major player in their drug investigation.


"I'd have to say number three. Yes, he looks very familiar."


"Take your time, Mrs. Galloway," Catherine cautioned. "It's important you be absolutely sure."


"She sounds sure to me." Klein aimed a faint smile in her direction.


"Well, I can't say I'm completely certain, but if I had to vote, he'd be my first choice."


"Anyone else?" Catherine asked, just to wipe the smile off of Klein's face.


"It's possible. They really look very much alike, don't they?"


"Thank you, Mrs. Galloway. We appreciate your coming down." Catherine pushed the button opening the intercom to the line-up room. "Everyone can go."


"Better put a tail on number three," Klein quipped as they filed back out into the hall.


Right. What better cover for a drug czar than to spend his days pushing a sandwich cart though the Criminal Courts Building?


"Hey, Counselor!"


Catherine turned to see Greg Hughs motioning her toward the stairwell. "I just talked to your boss," he said as she joined him. "He's on his way down, but maybe you want to pinch hit till he gets here. We brought in a guy for questioning in the U.N. shooting. He's downstairs now."


"That's great, Greg. I didn't realize you were even getting close." She followed him quickly down the stairs. "How bad is it likely to get?"


Hughs knew exactly what she meant. "About as good as you could hope for. The suspect's Alvarado's ex-brother-in-law, lives in Philly. Seems there's been bad blood between them for years over the way Alvarado treated his wife--this guy's sister. She left him a year ago and returned to this country, but by then it had escalated into some macho-honor thing. The brother finds out Alvarado's coming here for the conference and decides to settle the score. The way I read it this was strictly personal--no politics, no hate crime, no random sniping to terrify the tourists."


"The mayor will be relieved."


"Well, we're a long way from proving it. He was carrying a duffel bag when we picked him up, but the weapon wasn't in it. They're tossing his room at the Plaza now,     so keep your fingers crossed."


"Is that him?" Catherine asked as they entered the booking area.


"Luis Velasco, yeah. Looks like a respectable business man, doesn't he?"


Looks can be deceiving, Catherine thought, as she surveyed the suspect. He was tall and slender, with a well-trimmed fringe of dark hair; his immaculate clothes looked expensive. Hughs excused himself, and she stood back out of the way while the contents of a small black duffel bag were inventoried.


Joe arrived minutes later. "This our guy?" he panted. "Any sign of a weapon?"


"Uh-uh. Greg says they're still searching his hotel room. I hope they find something significant. They'll heed it to convince a jury he's the kind of man who would kill out of passion.


"Looks pretty cool, all right."


"And he's obviously successful. Jurors will have a hard time believing he'd throw it all away for a personal vendetta. Just look at his stuff," Catherine said. "Gucci notebook, Cartier lighter. The pen's a Mont Blanc."


"Bad news," Hughs said, joining them. "No weapon in the hotel room."


"No weapon, no witnesses," Joe said. "Exactly what have you got, Greg?"


"We've got the right man, dammit. We have confirmation from Lima that he's been sending threatening letters to Alvarado for three years, and he suddenly decides to spend a few days in New York just when the guy sets foot in this country for the first time."


Joe shrugged. "Why a few days? Why not come in, pop Alvarado, and high-tail it back to Philly before anybody even knows he's gone?"


"Probably cause that's what you'd expect him to do. He isn't stupid. He dumped the gun, managed to avoid witnesses--"


"Don't look now, Greg, but you're losing this argument," Catherine said sympathetically. "I better get back to work."


"Yeah, watch your back, Chandler. Your boss is a real hard-nose."


She took a last look at Velasco who, with the proof of his affluence spread out for all to see, wore a faint air of smugness. The message was clear. These men might hold the upper hand for now, but none of them would ever be able to afford the little luxuries he took for granted. He was above them.


Catherine started toward the stairs, then paused and turned back, frowning. She walked toward the counter and stared at the last item removed from the duffel.


Velasco was being processed at a nearby table. His back was to her when she looked at him again, but it didn't matter. It didn't matter at all.


In less than a minute she was urging a surprised Joe up to the counter. "Look at these things. What's wrong with this picture?"


He dutifully scanned the collection. "I don't know. What's the criteria?" He took a second survey and slowly shook his head. "All I see is a guy with expensive tastes who could use a new camera."


"Exactly. Does that even look like something a man like Velasco would own?"


The object in question was a small single-reflex in a badly scuffed vinyl case. One end of the narrow strap, which was frayed in several places, had broken away. "Joe, I want it examined. I want Jack Dooley to come down here and look at it before they lock it up. I think it may have belonged to Greta Myer."


"Oh, now wait a minute." He pulled her aside, checking to see whether anyone was paying attention to them, as if she'd committed an embarrassing social blunder. "Cathy, you do realize I was kidding when I said Myer and Velasco might be connected? It was a joke. Coincidences like that just don't happen. It would be nice if they did, but they don't."


"All right," she said obstinately. "Which is the bigger coincidence-that these two attacks should turn out to have a connection or that a homicidal suspect, who just happens to have a camera fitting the description of Greta Myer's, comes in here wearing a black, cashmere overcoat?"


Joe's adamant expression faltered. He glanced over at Velasco. "That's cashmere...are you sure?"


"Positive. Look, I don't see the connection either, but we'd be crazy not to check it out. Who knows how long they're going to be able to hold Velasco, and once he's out we'll have lost our chance. Tell Greg to question Velasco about the camera, and let me get Dooley over here."


Hughs was already herding the suspect toward the corridor where they would disappear together into an interview room. "All right," Joe conceded. "I'll see what I can do. Hey, Greg, wait up a minute."


Catherine lost no time in calling the 19th precinct, only to be told Dooley was out on assignment.


"He's at the morgue," Detective Perez elaborated, when he came to the phone a few minutes later. "The victim's cousin flew in this morning to look into arrangements for when they release the body. Jack went down there with him to make the formal identification. You can probably catch him if it's important."


It was, and she did. Dooley sounded surprised to hear from her, but there was no hesitation in his response. "I'll be right there, and I'm going to bring Mr. Hartz with me."


"Dooley's on his way," she told Joe when he returned.


"Okay. Greg's going to work the camera in right away and let you know what Velasco says about it, but I got to get back to the office and try to convince Moreno we're making progress. You're on your own, Radcliffe."


Tell me about it. It seemed as if she'd spent the last two days out on the limb of a very tall tree, alone, and so far the exhilaration usually associated with tree-climbing had yet to materialize.




When Dooley arrived, he was accompanied by a balding middle-aged man whom he introduced as Greta Myer's cousin, Carl Hartz.


"This last week is the first time I meet Greta. She's a nice woman, very excited to be in the United States."


"I understand she took pictures while she was in Boston," Catherine said. "You saw the camera she was using?"


"Oh, yes. I told her she should get a new one while she was here, but she said the pictures it took were good. They were okay. Everyone takes a picture of the Old North Church. They don't look as good as the postcards." He shrugged philosophically.


"And she left some film with you to be developed?"


Hartz nodded. "I'm a pharmacist. The store where I work develops pictures, so I offered to take care of it for her. She was anxious to know that they turned out before she went back to Germany. Next week she was supposed to return to Boston to fly from Logan Airport. Now…."


"I'm very sorry, Mr. Hartz," Catherine said, "but we're going to do everything we can to bring the person who did this to justice. I'd like you to take a look at a camera that's being held in evidence here and tell us if you've seen it before."


Joe had persuaded the desk sergeant to leave the item in question in plain view. They approached the counter and Hartz peered over at the camera. "Yes," he said immediately. "I tell Greta that strap is going to break and you see it has, but she says it was a gift when she was a little girl and so she keeps it."


"Thank you, Mr. Hartz." Her eyes met Dooley's.


One comer of his mouth lifted in a smile. "Fiber samples?" he said.






It was late afternoon before Catherine had another chance to talk to Joe. "So what did Hughs get out of Velasco?" he asked as she entered his office and sat down.


"Not much. He took the easy way out and simply said he didn't know how the camera got there. Nobody' s going to believe him, but as long as he sticks with the story we have nothing to follow up. The lab's promised to put a rush on the fiber samples from Velasco's coat. Dooley says it would be consistent with someone carrying Greta's body in his arms since most of the foreign fibers were on one side of her coat."


Joe leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head, the picture of relaxation. Catherine knew better. She could also have made a pretty good guess about what was coming next.


"Let me get this straight," he said. "We've got a motive for Velasco shooting Alvarado, but no evidence, and we got evidence connecting him to the Myer murder but no motive. You know what that's called? Apples and oranges. And you know what that means? Velasco's back in the City of Brotherly Love before you can say 'habeas corpus.' The man's got no priors, Cathy. By all accounts he's a successful businessman and a very cool customer. He's not about to crack under questioning when he knows we got zilch."


"That's just it, Joe. He's not a cool customer. Not really, not underneath. There's another side to him or he wouldn't have spent years writing vicious letters to Alvarado. It's the kind of repressed rage that could have erupted if somebody interfered with his plans, somebody like Greta Myer."


"Good theory, Professor Chandler. Now would you mind telling me just how this woman interfered with his plans? He managed to shoot Alvarado in the back without a single witness and get away clean. Granted, Alvarado didn't die, but I don't think the Myer woman sneaked into St. Vincent's and nursed him back to health. Where's the connection?"


"I thought I had it," Catherine confessed with a sigh. "Greta was touring the city. One of the things they found on her body was a tourist map, so it's perfectly plausible that she would go to the U.N. I don't think she actually witnessed the crime or she would have reported it, but it occurred to me that she might have accidentally caught something on film that could incriminate Velasco, or at least that he was afraid she had. That would explain why he wanted her camera. He could have followed her, waiting for the opportunity to get her alone. Central Park is on her tourist map. She goes there just before dusk, and he gets his chance. He kills her in case she saw something and he steals the camera in case she photographed it. Why he kept the camera, I don't know. Why not just throw it away?"


"Cause he's an arrogant S.O.B. who thinks we'll never connect him to Myer," Joe said, straightening up in his chair. "He figures it's safer to keep it with him till he gets out of the city. That way there's no chance of anybody finding it and checking for prints."


Catherine smiled wanly at his sudden interest. "Only there aren't any incriminating pictures," she said.


"Maybe he destroyed the film. We still can't prove a damn thing, but at least we have a scenario to follow."


"Actually, we don't. The camera wasn't empty. There was film inside, so I asked the guys in photo to process it, and the whole roll was perfectly blank."


"So Velasco opened the camera to overexpose the film. Or the thing was old maybe it quit working."


"That's not it, Joe. They said the film in the camera was new, that no shots had been taken yet.


"I don't follow."


"Well, even if Velasco took a roll out of the camera, there's no earthly reason for him to put another one in, and if Greta did it, then what happened to the previous roll? There was no undeveloped film on her body or anywhere in her personal effects."


"He took it," Joe said simply. "Probably took a bunch of them. If she'd been sightseeing for two or more days she must have used up more than one roll, and you can bet they ended up in the nearest trash can fire. It's not hard to find one on a night when it snows a couple of inches."


"Wouldn't you expect at least some of the film to be at the hotel? Why would she drag it all around town with her?"


"Maybe she didn't. Maybe she took it to one of those fast-photo places."


"That could account for some of the rolls, but not the one she hypothetically shot at the U.N. If Velasco was following her, he would have seen her drop it off. He'd have known there was no point in killing her for the camera."


"So we're back to the obvious--he took the exposed roll when he killed her. Hey, Radcliffe, in case you haven't noticed, I'm starting to buy into this fairy tale, so why do I get the feeling you're out to sabotage your own theory?"


"I'm just trying to cover all the bases," she said.


The phone rang and Joe answered. Catherine rose to leave, grateful for the excuse, but he waved her back into the chair and began jotting down notes in what promised to be a rather one-sided conversation.


The truth was, there was something he didn't know, something that she couldn't tell him. The film box under the snow haunted her like a skeleton peaking out of a closet. She could picture Greta walking the short distance into the park, sinking gratefully onto the bench after a long day on her feet. Perhaps she sat for a while, enjoying the illusion of peace that had settled over the lawns and groves with the blanket of white the morning had left behind.


Dusk was falling, but no snow yet; a perfect time to change the film in her camera. She opened a fresh carton and took out the little gray canister, probably not even noticing when the box slid to the ground. The used film went into the can, the new roll into the camera, ready for the next day's adventures. Had Greta intended to walk back downtown, or was she planning to flag down the first available taxi that passed, not realizing how hard such a thing would be to come by at rush hour? Had she glanced up when the sophisticated-looking man in the black coat approached the bench?


For he must have been watching her, waiting for a break in the traffic, a little more darkness, the most opportune time to make his move. He would have seen her changing the film and known that the incriminating roll was now in her pocket or her purse. He would have had no reason to take the camera.


Joe was worried about proving their theory, while she couldn't get past the secret knowledge that there was something inherently wrong with it.


"That was Greg," he said as he hung up the phone. "Alvarado's alert enough now to remember that Velasco hates his guts. Of course, we already knew that, and he doesn't have anything new to add. He hadn't seen or heard from Velasco since he arrived in New York, and doesn't know how Velasco found out he was coming."


"I wonder how he did," Catherine said.


"Are you kidding--an obsessive character like that? He could be paying somebody in Lima for information, probably subscribes to Popular Mining just to keep tabs on the guy."


"Thank you, Professor Maxwell," Catherine said with a smile.


"Velasco still claims to be here on R&R, doing the tourist act, which is just loose enough to make our job difficult. Says he was appreciating art at the Metropolitan when the shooting occurred, and that's going to be hard to disprove since half the tourists in Manhattan were in there keeping warm. Personally, I suspect he stayed on just to make sure Alvarado really croaked, in which case we've loused up any bright ideas he might have about finishing the job. Hughs is running a check to see if Velasco owns any guns legally, and he's got people digging up background in P A. So far the only person willing to say he's a jerk is an ex-wife. Big surprise there, so I told Hughs to bring in Dooley. Maybe between the two of them they can put something together, but the clock's running out."


"That reminds me, Joe. I'll be glad to stay late tonight. Things have been pretty scattered around here, and I know we've been falling behind."


"Whoa-aren't you the same person who nearly blind-sided a U.S. Marshall getting to the elevator last night?"


Catherine shrugged. "I was in a hurry It just so happens that I don't have any other plans for tonight. Are you sticking around?"


"Only long enough to outlast Moreno, which means I've got a good chance of seeing the sunrise over Brooklyn. All right, Radcliff, let's buckle down and catch up on the current backlog, keep on top of the Velasco thing and send out for pizza."


"Not necessarily in that order?"


It was the first time she'd seen his boyish smile all day. "Prioritizing," he said. "That's why they pay me the big bucks."




The coffee had gotten as cold as the single crust of pizza lying forlornly in her saucer. It was after nine and Catherine hadn't spoken to Joe in over an hour, but she knew he was still in there, slogging through endless paperwork, just as she was. He'd had the phones rerouted through his office; amazing how many calls were still coming in this late at night. He was taking one now, and she jumped when her own phone rang.


"Dooley, here. I just had a very interesting call from Carl Hartz."


"A phone call?"


"Yeah, he's back in Boston. We put him on a plane this afternoon. When he got home he found an envelope in his mailbox from Greta--I think it spooked him a little bit. There was a brief note along with three rolls of film in it, and he wanted to know if he should have them developed. Needless to say, I'm having them couriered down here. Should be here first thing in the morning."


"That's fantastic!"


"Let's hope so. Could be pictures of the Statue of Liberty, but it was postmarked the day she died, so there's a chance here. I've alerted the boys in photo to be ready to run them as soon as they arrive. Thought maybe you'd want to come by."


"I'll be there, but what about the note? Was there anything significant there?"


"Only that it was in German. I've got Hartz' translation right here-'Carl, Having a wonderful time. I'm sending these from Grand Central Station. It's huge. See you soon. Greta.' Not exactly an accusing finger from the grave. If she saw anything, doesn't sound like she was aware of it."


"No," Catherine agreed. "But maybe a picture will prove to be worth a thousand words."


Joe was equally optimistic when Catherine relayed Dooley's news, and she would have shared it except for the nagging image of Greta Myer sitting on a bench in the park, changing the film in her camera.


She could follow the two of them in her mind's eye--Myer and Velasco--both at the U.N. Plaza, then Greta making her way west on 42nd street to the next interesting sight--Grand Central. It would have been easy enough for Velasco to keep an eye on her there, easy to blend in with the constant stream of train and subway passengers. So why didn't he notice when she removed the incriminating film from her camera and put it in an envelope?


Joe came out of his office, but Catherine remained lost in thought, absently tapping on her saucer with the now petrified pizza crust. Velasco might have observed Greta dropping something in a mail slot without thinking a thing bf it. He had no reason to suspect that the film he was after was in the envelope, but how could he miss seeing her stop somewhere, open a new roll and exchange it for the one in the camera? Where could


"The restroom!" she blurted out. "She did it in the restroom."


"I'm not even going to ask," Joe said, rocking on his heels in front of her desk. "I was going to suggest you call it a night and go home. Now I think I better insist on it."


"No, listen. I just figured out why Velasco still thought she had the film. They've both been out all afternoon. They've come up from the U.N. to Grand Central where it ought to be easy to watch someone unobserved. Only Greta probably had to use the ladies' room by this time, and it was as good a place as any to change film, stick the used one in an envelope with a couple of others, and then head for the mail slot when she came out. Velasco wouldn't have known, and he continued to follow her when she left and headed up to the park."


"So they go from the worst place in the world to try to kill somebody without being noticed to one of the best places," Joe finished her train of thought. "Works for me."


Catherine wished it worked for her. Unless Greta Myer had shot an entire roll of film between 42nd Street and the park, she had no reason to reload as she sat on that bench. And in any case, Luis Velasco had no good reason to kill for that camera.




After a night filled with troublesome dreams involving the bombing of a photo kiosk, Catherine arrived early at the 19th precinct. She was nervously sipping coffee when the courier arrived. Inside the large manila envelope was a smaller padded one, addressed to Carl Hartz in Greta Myer's own hand.


"You know, this is the same kind of envelope we found on her body. Should have thought about that a little more," Dooley said. "You want to do the honors?"


Catherine declined. "It's your case," she said, watching as Dooley tore open the envelope and dumped its contents onto the desk.


"Here you go. I don't have to tell you to be careful, but get the contact sheets out here A.S.A.P., or there'll be one more slimeball going back on the streets." He thrust the film at an earnest-looking young man, who rushed off in the direction of the dark room, then turned back to Catherine. "Talked to Hughs earlier, and Velasco hasn't budged an inch. He's registered for two guns, both of which are still in Philadelphia, like it's real tough to pick up a spare when you've got his kind of money. The Philly P.D. hasn't coughed up so much as a parking ticket-"


"Detective," Catherine interrupted, slightly dazed. "That film...it was in cartridges...made out of plastic...."


"Yeah, that's the old 126 stuff. You don't see it much any more."


"Was all Greta's film like that?"


Dooley gave her a curious look. "Sure. That's what her camera took. Why, is it important?"


It was, if you'd been assuming all along she used 35 mm. The box in the park--it: had nothing to do with Greta Myer. She hadn't changed film while sitting on the bench, and that meant Velasco still believed it was in the camera. It gave him a motive for taking it.




The elation she felt abated only long enough for Dooley to pore over the proof sheets.


"Rockefeller Center... St. Pat's...Wall Street...Trinity Church" He continued mumbling under his breath till he got to the last page of contacts. "Bingo!...not just one but two, no, three portraits of Senor Velasco in front of the Dag Hammarskjold Library, the Secretariat--and you can just barely make him out coming up on the Conference Building."


"I don't suppose he's waving a gun around," Catherine said hopefully.


"No, no sign of a gun, but it doesn't matter. See for yourself."


He handed her the magnifying glass, and she found herself looking at a tiny, but perfect likeness of Luis Velasco crossing the plaza. Greta had snapped him three times as she tried to chronicle every angle. It wasn't till Catherine looked at the pictures preceding and following the U.N. series that she saw what Dooley meant. Shots taken from a sightseeing bus, Greta's Tuesday morning tour. The last six photos were all of Grand Central Station.


"Velasco was too smart for his own good," the detective said. "He was so anxious to distance himself from Alvarado that he claimed he was up at the museum that day. It wasn't a bad choice. In case a witness came forward who'd seen him in the park, it gave            him an excuse for being in the area."


"Only we know what day Greta took these pictures. They prove he was lying."


"And put him at the scene," Dooley said, stuffing the proof sheets into an envelope. "Better catch up with Hughs before they cut Velasco loose. You want to come along?"


"I'd love to."


"You know, I have to admit. ..." The big detective shook his head. "I thought you were way off-base with this camera idea, but it turned out to be the key to the whole thing. A pleasure working with you, Counselor: You've been a big help."


And an even bigger hindrance, Catherine thought ruefully. On the other hand, here she was about to put in another full day without a prayer of getting overtime pay, and it was Saturday. That should count for something.




"I think I felt so guilty about interfering with the evidence that I got fixated on the film box," Catherine told Vincent that night. "In trying to help, I almost misled the police."


They were sitting on the bridge in the Whispering Gallery, enjoying a private time together after an evening of impromptu entertainment in Father's study. .


"And yet you arrived where you needed to be."


"Yes. That's funny, isn't it? But I was right about Velasco. When Greg confronted him with the fiber match and the pictures and started insinuating that he was stupid for being so careless, Velasco lost it and said far too much for his own good. Formal charges were filed this afternoon. I guess all's well that ends well."


Vincent tilted his head to look at her. "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?" he asked.


"Uh-uh." Catherine grinned and wrapped her arms around his neck. "But he was a pretty decent writer. I'd love to tell you all about him when we have the time."


Even in the torch light, she could see the twinkle deep in his eyes. "Catherine," he assured her, "we have all the time in the world."




Posted for Winterfest Online, January 2005