Dr. Maxine Cassidy sat down behind the reception desk at Mercy Hospital Emergency Room. She pulled out the lower desk drawer and put her feet on it. Her legs hurt. It was 8:00 p.m. on a Saturday night in August and she had been working in the ER for five long hours. Maxine was wearing surgical greens — a green cotton shirt and trousers. Maxine's short brown hair curled in the humid heat. The ER was air-conditioned, but whenever the automatic glass doors opened, the August heat of the Midwest United States came inside. And on Saturday night in the inner city of Milwaukee the door opened for a lot of sick or injured people.
Shirley, the ER head nurse, handed Maxine a glass of iced tea. «Four more hours and we can go home and cool off,» she said.
Mercy Hospital was in the poorest, hottest, and most dangerous area of Milwaukee. Shirley owned a house in a neighborhood north of the inner city, where it was cooler because there were lots of trees. Maxine also lived in a neighborhood with lots of big trees. She rented an apartment on the northeast side, three blocks from Lake Michigan.
«I can't go home after work today,» replied Maxine. «I'm going downtown to an art show at the Art Space. Dr. Hochstedder's wife, Lillian, is an artist and her statues are in the show. I promised Leo Hochstedder I would go. I've never met Lillian, but I've known Leo for years.»
«After nine hours on your feet, you're going to stand around looking at art?» commented Shirley.
Maxine nodded. «Lillian's statues are very popular, according to Leo. Besides, a famous New York artist also has some work in the show and I want to see it. His name is Soren Berendorf.»
«Never heard of him,» said Shirley.
«Soren's collection is called Wood Shapes. I read in the newspaper that he attaches pieces of wood together into interesting shapes. One of them, Musical Chairs, costs a hundred thousand dollars.»
«Don't buy anything, even if it costs one dollar!» ordered Shirley. «You need a new car! Your old one will die any day now.»
Just then, Maxine's cellphone rang. She smiled when she read the caller ID: «Grabowski.»
Maxine knew Detective Grabowski because the previous year he had been hurt in a car chase and a police ambulance had brought him to Mercy ER. After that, Maxine had seen a lot of Grabowski — dinners, movies, even midnight snacks at Tony's Fish Fries after she finished work. As a police detective, Grabowski often worked nights, like Maxine.
«Are we meeting for a snack tonight after work?» Maxine asked Grabowski.
«Sorry, but not tonight,» said Grabowski. «I'm at the Art Space working as a private detective at a show. The owner wants to make sure that the art is safe. It's very valuable. I don't make much money as a police detective, you know, and off-duty work pays well.»
«What a coincidence! I'm coming to the Art Space after work,» said Maxine. «We can meet there.»
«Then you can meet a friend of mine too,» replied Grabowski. «That is, if he shows up. I'm worried about him. A week ago, he said he would meet me tonight. But he's not here yet and he hasn't called me either.»
«Maybe he's just late,» suggested Maxine.
«It's not like him. In fact, he hasn't called me in a week,» continued Grabowski. «We grew up together in Milwaukee, then he moved away for several years. He just came back. He stayed with me for a week, then he moved to his own apartment. I don't have his address or phone numbers. I'm worried that he's hurt or sick. I think I should call the hospitals in Milwaukee to see if they have any record of him. His mother is worried and so am I.»
«I'll check the Mercy Hospital computer,» said Maxine. «What's his name?»
Maxine checked the computer patient records. «No, Wyoming Syzinski hasn't come to Mercy Hospital.» She said goodbye to Grabowski and closed her cellphone.
Shirley smiled at Maxine. «Are you seeing that good-looking Polish detective tonight?»
«Grabowski is working as a private detective at the art show. I'll see him there, for a few minutes at least.»
«That's what you get for falling in love with a police detective. They're always working.» Shirley smiled.
«I'm not in love,» said Maxine, but she smiled back.
At that moment, the doors to the ER opened and Rolondo walked in. Rolondo was the leader of an inner-city gang. As usual, he was wearing expensive high-fashion clothing — blue silk shirt, yellow trousers, and Italian shoes.
Shirley didn't like Rolondo. She put her hands on her broad hips. «Get out of here, Rolondo! You don't look sick!» Shirley was a big woman who could handle any trouble, including the leader of a street gang.
«A woman who lives in my building is sick,» said Rolondo. «She's outside in my car. Remember Latoya Thompson, Dr. Maxine? She lives with my girlfriend, Rosa. Latoya has come to the ER several times.»
«I remember Latoya,» said Maxine. «Bring her inside.» «She's too sick to walk,» said Rolondo.
«I'll get a wheelchair,» said Shirley.
Shirley took a wheelchair outside, and she and Rolondo brought Latoya into the ER. Maxine and Shirley helped her to lie down on a bed. But before Maxine could talk to Latoya, the doors of the ER opened and an emergency medical technician from an ambulance hurried in.
«I've got two people in my ambulance who have been shot!» said the EMT. «They need help, fast!»
Maxine put a blanket over Latoya. She said to Rolondo, «I'm sorry, but Latoya will have to wait while I take care of these two people.»
Wyoming is hurt
Shirley and the EMT brought in the two people from the ambulance. The man was wearing jeans and a white T-shirt. The woman was wearing a red miniskirt and a tight purple blouse.
«Rosa!» shouted Rolondo. He grabbed the hand of the woman wearing the red miniskirt. «Dr. Maxine, this is my girlfriend, Rosa Jones.»
Maxine examined the girl. She had been shot, but she was awake. «What happened, Rosa?» she asked.
«I was standing in front of our building talking to our new neighbor. Two men drove by in a car and shot us!» Rosa replied.
«Did you see their faces?» asked Rolondo.
«Yes,» said Rosa. But then she closed her eyes.
«Talk later.» Maxine put a needle in Rosa's arm.
Shirley opened the man's shirt. «He's bleeding a lot, but he's still breathing,» she said. «What's this man's name, Rolondo?»
«I don't know. He moved into our building only last week.»
Shirley reached into the man's pocket and took out his wallet. «Wyoming Syzinski, it says on his driver's license.»
«Grabowski's friend!» said Maxine.
Shirley called the surgery unit to let them know that two patients with gunshot wounds were in the ER and needed surgery. Quickly two nurses arrived to take them to surgery.
Maxine and Shirley went to examine Latoya. Rolondo followed them.
«Latoya is getting worse,» said Shirley.
Maxine put her hand on Latoya's forehead. It was cold and damp with sweat. «Can you hear me?» Maxine asked.
Latoya didn't answer.
«When did she get sick?» Maxine asked Rolondo.
«About five o'clock this afternoon,» replied Rolondo.
Maxine put her hand on Latoya's wrist to feel her pulse. Her heartbeat was faint and she wasn't breathing well either.
«What's wrong with her?» Rolondo asked Maxine.
Maxine shook her head, worried. «I don't know. It's unusual for someone to get this sick so fast. What did she eat today?»
«I don't know,» said Rolondo.
Maxine and Shirley pumped everything out of Latoya's stomach. Shirley put some into a bottle and sent it to the lab to find out what Latoya had eaten. Then Maxine gave her drugs to raise her blood pressure. But suddenly Latoya stopped breathing and her heart stopped beating.
Immediately Shirley called for help. Other doctors and nurses quickly arrived with emergency equipment and medicines, but they could do nothing to save Latoya.
«You waited too long to take care of Latoya!» Rolondo said to Maxine. «Latoya shouldn't have died!»
Maxine felt terrible. «I don't know why she died,» she said to Rolondo.
Then Shirley handed Maxine a paper. «This is from the lab — the test results from Latoya's stomach.»
Maxine read the report and told the others, «Latoya had eaten a lot of chocolate. And there was also medicine for TB — tuberculosis — in her stomach, INH.»
Rolondo looked surprised. «Latoya didn't have TB.» «Then why did she take INH?» asked Maxine.
Rolondo lifted his shoulders in a shrug. «I don't know.» «Could Latoya have died from taking too much INH?» asked Shirley.
«I'll ask Dr. Hochstedder,» said Maxine. «He's a specialist in lung diseases and has had many TB patients. He's at the Art Space now with his wife, but he always carries his cellphone.»
Maxine called Leo Hochstedder. «Can a person die from taking too much INH?» Maxine asked. She read the lab report to him.
«Yes, someone could die from taking that much INH,» Leo answered. «I hope this isn't one of my TB patients!»
«Her name was Latoya Thompson. She lived on Fifth Street and Center Street,» said Maxine.
«I don't remember that name,» said Leo. «Maybe she's a patient at the Milwaukee Health Department TB Clinic.» «Latoya's friend says that she didn't have TB,» said Maxine. «But I'm going to order an autopsy to find out.» She thanked Leo and closed her cellphone.
«An autopsy?» asked Rolondo. He had been listening to the conversation.
«The Mercy Hospital pathologist will examine Latoya's body to find the cause of death,» explained Maxine. «Autopsies aren't common because a lot of tests are done before a person dies, so the cause of death is usually known. But Latoya died too quickly to have many tests. I'll ask the pathologist to test for TB. But an autopsy doesn't always give the right answer to why a person has died. It would help the pathologist if we knew more about Latoya.»
«Such as what she ate today,» suggested Shirley.
«Rolondo,» said Maxine, «will you take me to Latoya's apartment tonight? I want to search for any food that had gone bad.»
«Sure,» said Rolondo. «It's not far. I'll take you in my Cadillac.»
Shirley frowned at Maxine. «You're crazy to go there, especially at night, and especially with Rolondo! There could be trouble!»
«I want to find out why Latoya died,» argued Maxine. «I want to make sure I did everything I could to help her.»
«Then I'm coming with you,» decided Shirley. «Nobody makes trouble with me. But we're not going in Rolondo's Cadillac because another gang might shoot at it. We'll take your old car and hope it doesn't die!»
Rolondo sat down in the ER waiting room. «I'll stay here until Rosa is out of surgery and I know she's OK.»
Shirley brought him a cup of coffee.
An hour later, the surgeon called. «Rosa and Wyoming are out of surgery,» he reported. «Rosa is doing well, but they are both still unconscious.»
Maxine hung up and told Rolondo the good news. «Rosa and Wyoming will be moved to the ICU now — the Intensive Care Unit,» she told him. «You can see Rosa there.»
«When Rosa wakes up, she can tell me who shot her,» said Rolondo. He got himself another cup of coffee.
«It was probably a gang shooting,» said Shirley. «Other gangs are always shooting at you and your friends.»
Rolondo nodded. «That's true. The police don't even investigate the shootings anymore.»
At midnight, Rolondo agreed to take Maxine and Shirley to Latoyas apartment. They went outside to the parking lot. Rolondo got into his white Cadillac. Shirley and Maxine got into Maxine's yellow Nissan.
«It's hot in here!» complained Shirley, as Maxine drove out of the parking lot. «Turn on your air conditioner!»
«It's broken. And now a red light is on,» said Maxine with a worried frown.
«That means that your engine is too hot,» said Shirley. «You need a new car.»
«I'm saving money to buy a house,» said Maxine. She watched the red light nervously as she drove behind Rolondo's white Cadillac through the dark streets of the inner city. Suddenly, a few blocks from Fifth Street, the engine died and smoke rose from the front of the car. It rolled to a stop.
«Don't stop here!» shouted Shirley. «We'll be robbed!»
Maxine pulled out her cellphone. «I'll call 911 and a police officer will come.» She was trying to remain calm.
But before Maxine could phone the emergency number, 911, Rolondo had backed up his Cadillac. «Get in,» he said. «Leave your car here. I'll tell my friends to steal everything out of it, and you can buy a new car with the insurance money.»
«Don't tell Grabowski,» said Maxine to Shirley.
The street where Rolondo lived had been beautiful many years before, when it was a middle-class neighborhood.
However, the area had gone downhill and now the people who lived there didn't have enough money to paint their houses. The steps to Rolondo's apartment building were broken and bottles lay where flowers used to grow. The lobby light had burnt out. Maxine and Shirley followed Rolondo up the dark stairs. He opened the door to an apartment on the second floor.
Maxine, Shirley, and Rolondo searched the apartment for bad food, but they didn't find any. In the bedroom, Maxine found a red box of chocolates. There were only three chocolates left.
«Where did these chocolates come from?» Maxine asked Rolondo.
«How should I know?» he replied. «Latoya was always eating chocolates.»
Maxine put the box under her arm. «Can you take me to the Art Space?» she asked Rolondo.
«And after that please take me home,» added Shirley.
«OK,» said Rolondo. «And then I'm going back to Mercy Hospital. I want to be there when Rosa wakes up. I want to know who shot her!»
Rolondo dropped Maxine at the Art Space. Hundreds of people were inside, talking, eating, and drinking. Maxine heard someone playing the piano. Everyone was wearing expensive clothes and jewelry. Maxine felt uncomfortable in her cotton dress and sensible shoes. But she was hungry, so she went to the food table and had some smoked salmon and olives while she looked around.
Soren Berendorf's collection Wood Shapes was arranged around the large room. They were smooth shapes of wood painted different colors. The largest shape hung by a rope over the center of the room. It was made of twelve chairs tied together. Each chair was painted a different color. A thick rope went up from the chairs to a large hook in the ceiling. Then the rope went down to the floor, where it was tied to a hook by the food table.
The chairs hung above a grand piano, where a man with black hair was playing. As he played, the chairs slowly turned. A blonde woman wearing a tight green dress was leaning against the piano drinking from a tall glass. Another glass sat on the piano near the man.
Just then, Maxine spotted her neighbor Louie. Louie lived in the apartment below Maxine and owned an antique shop next door to the Art Space. Louie was wearing yellow trousers, a pink shirt with a purple scarf and black shoes. He was standing near the man playing the piano and looking around the room as if he were searching for someone. He had a worried frown on his face.
«Louie!» Maxine called. She pushed through the crowd and put her hand on his arm.
«What are you doing here?» asked Louie, kissing her cheek.
«Leo Hochstedder invited me. He wants me to see his wife's statues. Also, I'm looking for Grabowski. Have you seen him?» Louie knew Grabowski because they had met at Maxine's apartment.
«Maybe Grabowski is with Helen. I need to talk to her. They might be upstairs,» Louie replied. He pointed at some wide steps that went up to the second level.
«Who's Helen?» asked Maxine.
«Helen Mueller is the business manager of the Art Space, and a very powerful woman. She talked Soren Berendorf into bringing his collection here. That's a real success!» Louie looked up at the chairs hanging above them. He waved at the man playing the piano. «Soren!» he called. «Come upstairs with me! Take a break from playing the piano.»
Soren shook his head. He kept playing.
Maxine stared at Soren. He closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against the piano, as if he were falling asleep. «He looks very tired,» Maxine said.
Louie looked worried. «Soren has been working hard.»
Maxine looked up at the slowly moving chairs. «I hope that rope is strong enough!» she joked.
Louie bit his lips. «I hope so too. It's made of three ropes twisted together.» He called again to Soren and the blonde woman. «Soren! Lillian! Come upstairs with me!»
The blonde woman looked at Louie, but didn't move. She took a drink from her glass, then put it down on the piano. But the glass was too close to the edge and it fell off.
«Is that Lillian Hochstedder, Leo's wife?» Maxine asked.
«Yes. Her work is upstairs,» said Louie. «Lillian, you should be near your statues. People will be asking questions about them.»
«Soren needs me,» replied Lillian.
Louie took Lillian's arm. «Then make Soren come upstairs with you.»
«He won't leave the piano. He says that the piano music is part of Musical Chairs.» Lillian looked up at the chairs.
Then she suddenly changed her mind. «OK, I'll come with you. I want to talk to Helen,» she said. «I think she's upstairs.»
Maxine followed Louie and Lillian, leaving Soren alone at the piano. The stairs to the second floor were crowded with people sitting on the steps, chatting, eating from small plates, and drinking from plastic glasses. On the second floor was a large room where people were looking at a collection of strange statues. The statues were twelve life- size heads sitting on tall platforms. Each head was painted white, brown or black.
«This is my work,» said Lillian proudly to Maxine. «The heads are made of clay. The eyes are glass and the teeth are shells.»
«They look like real people!» exclaimed Maxine.
Lillian smiled. «They do, don't they? They're very popular. But Soren says I'm not a real artist. Helen doesn't like them either. But I'm Helen's business partner and she has to put my statues in the show.»
Maxine spotted Lillian's husband, Leo Hochstedder, talking to a tall man with thick black hair. Maxine waved at Leo, but he didn't notice. He and the man left the room.
Louie pointed at a tall, beautiful woman with smooth black hair and a red dress. «Helen!» Louie hurried over and said something quietly to her.
Helen pushed Louie away. «That's impossible,» she said.
«Come downstairs and see for yourself,» said Louie.
Helen shook her head. Then Lillian grabbed Helen's arm and began whispering in her ear.
«Impossible!» replied Helen. She turned her back.
«Let's find Grabowski,» Louie said to Maxine. «I need to talk to him, but I don't see him up here.»
At the top of the stairs, Maxine paused to look for Grabowski in the crowd below and spotted him near the food table. She waved at him. Grabowski waved back and Maxine and Louie hurried down the steps. It was so crowded that it took them nearly ten minutes to reach the table.
«Grabowski, I found Wyoming!» Maxine called when she got near him.
But Louie pushed in front of her. «Grabowski, I have to talk to you!»
«Let's go where it's quiet.» Grabowski pointed toward the kitchen.
Maxine started to walk toward the kitchen, but her foot hit something. She nearly fell. At that same moment, she heard a loud sharp sound. «What's that noise?» she asked Louie.
«It's the rope!» Louie pointed a shaking finger at Musical Chairs. The rope that held the chairs up was breaking.
The three ropes twisted together were breaking one by one. Musical Chairs dropped a little.
«Get away from the piano!» Grabowski shouted to Soren. But Soren didn't even look up. He kept playing the piano. The sharp sound came again. Then the rope broke. With a huge crash, Musical Chairs fell onto the piano and onto Soren Berendorf.
The rope broke?
«Call an ambulance, Maxine!» shouted Grabowski. «I'm calling for more police.» He took out his cellphone.
Maxine took out her phone and dialed 911. She gave her name and the address of the Art Space. Then she knelt by Soren Berendorf.
Louie and Grabowski were helping people lift Musical Chairs off Soren. Maxine put her cheek near Soren's face. She could feel his breath on her cheek, but he was breathing very slowly. She put her fingers on his wrist. His heart was beating, although his pulse was weak. She didn't want to move him in case he'd injured his neck or back.
«Soren!» Maxine called loudly. «Can you hear me?»
Soren didn't answer.
Helen dropped to her knees next to Maxine. Leo Hochstedder knelt beside Helen. «He looks bad,» said Leo.
«His heart is beating all right,» said Maxine. «But his breathing is much slower than normal.»
Helen started to cry. «Soren will say Musical Chairs fell because of me! My insurance will be canceled! No other artist will bring their work here! The Art Space is ruined!»
«Don't worry,» said Leo Hochstedder, but he looked worried himself.
In a few minutes, an ambulance arrived and two EMTs lifted Soren into it. The driver took out his notebook. «His name?» he asked.
Louie answered. Tears ran down his cheeks. «Soren Berendorf. He's a famous artist!»
«And does this famous artist have health insurance?» asked the driver.
«I'll pay the hospital,» said Helen. She started to cry.
More police officers arrived. Grabowski called the Central Police Station and the captain put him on the case as the lead detective. He and the other officers began asking questions and taking names. A police photographer took photos of Musical Chairs and the rope, which had broken near the floor by the food table.
When the photographer had finished, Grabowski put the rope into a plastic bag. «Take this to the Crime Lab,» he told another officer. «Get them to find out why it broke. And tell the guests to leave, except the owners of the Art Space.»
Maxine looked at Grabowski. «Just before the rope broke,» she said, «I hit my foot against something. I think it was the rope. Maybe it broke when I fell over it.»
Louie was standing nearby. He shook his head. «You couldn't break that rope. It's new. I bought it yesterday.»
«Which store?» Grabowski took out his notebook.
«The hardware store on the corner,» said Louie.
«Who hung Musical Chairs up there?» demanded Grabowski.
«Soren, Helen, Lillian, Leo, and me,» Louie answered. «Soren put the rope through the hook on the ceiling. Then we all pulled on the rope to raise it to the right height. It was really heavy. Soren tied the rope to the hook on the floor himself.»
«Did you use all the rope that you bought?» asked Grabowski.
«No. The rest is in the garage,» answered Louie.
«Show me,» ordered Grabowski.
Louie led the way, followed by Grabowski, Maxine, and Helen. The door to the garage was in the office. Lillian was in the office lying on a couch and Leo was sitting by her. He looked at Grabowski. «I saw you here all evening,» he said. «I didn't know you were a police officer.»
Helen said, «I hired Detective Grabowski as a private detective to make sure that Soren's art was safe.»
«You didn't do a good job, did you?» said Leo to Grabowski. He looked at his watch. «Can we go home?»
«Not yet.» Grabowski opened the door to the garage.
He turned on the light and went down the stairs. Helen, Louie, and Maxine followed. Leo and Lillian went down the stairs too.
The garage was in the basement below the Art Space. Three cars were parked there: a blue Lexus, a silver Prius, and a small green Ford pick-up truck. Against the wall was a table with paints and brushes. Next to it were three big wooden boxes.
«This garage is for the Art Space and my antique shop,» Louie explained to Grabowski. «Helen, Lillian, and I park our cars here, and this is where I repair my antiques.» He went to the table and pointed to some rope. «That's the rest of the rope and the receipt from the store.»
Grabowski put both in a plastic bag. «How do you open the main garage door to drive inside?» he asked.
«It's an electric door that opens with a code.» Louie pointed to a keypad on the wall.
«Who knows the code?» asked Grabowski.
«Helen, Lillian, Leo, and me.» Louie typed four numbers into the keypad and the garage door rose. Outside, a narrow road went up to a side street. Louie pushed a button and the garage door closed.
Grabowski pointed to some stairs on the far side of the garage. «Where do those stairs go?» he asked.
«To the kitchen of my shop,» answered Louie. «Helen has a key to that door, and I have a key to the door to the Art Space.»
«Now can we go home?» repeated Leo Hochstedder.
Grabowski nodded. «But after you leave, I'm locking the Art Space. Nobody can come in until I say. A police officer will guard the door.»
«When can I get back inside?» demanded Helen. «Tomorrow the food company needs to get its tables.»
«I'll tell you tomorrow morning,» said Grabowski.
Leo and Lillian Hochstedder got into their Lexus, Helen got into her Prius, and Louie got into his little green Ford pick-up. They drove off and Grabowski closed the garage door. Then he took Maxine's arm and they went up the stairs and out the front door of the Art Space. A police officer locked the door behind them.
«Tell me about Wyoming while I walk you to your car,» said Grabowski.
«My car died tonight,» said Maxine. «I left it parked on the street.»
Grabowski took out his cellphone. «I'll call the police truck to get it. Where is it?»
«On Center Street, a few blocks west of Fifth Street,» Maxine said.
Grabowski looked at her sharply. «What were you doing there? You could have gotten into real trouble!»
«I was perfectly safe. I was with Shirley and Rolondo,» said Maxine.
«Are you crazy?» shouted Grabowski. «Rolondo is the leader of a gang!»
«I know,» said Maxine. «Can you give me a ride home? Where's your car?»
Grabowski pointed at a small red rental car. «My new Ford Taurus X was stolen yesterday,» he said, frowning. «From right in front of my house!»
Maxine got into Grabowski's rental car. She told him about Wyoming, Rosa, and Latoya.
Grabowski sighed. «Wyoming probably got shot in Rolondo's gang wars,» he said. «How badly is he hurt?»
«Badly. When I left the hospital, he was unconscious. But he was breathing well and his heart was beating normally. He's a strong healthy man, so he should recover quickly.» Maxine stopped talking. Many things could go wrong and it was better not to talk about them.
«I'll call his mother,» said Grabowski.
«Wyoming has lost a lot of blood,» Maxine continued. «He needs someone to give blood for him. It's safer if we know who's giving blood. It's also a lot cheaper.»
«I will,» said Grabowski. «I gave blood for Wyoming when he had a car accident, when we were teenagers. I'll go to Mercy Hospital now.»
Grabowski drove Maxine home through the cool, tree- shaded neighborhoods of the east side of Milwaukee. He kissed her, and watched her unlock her front door and go inside. Then he drove to Mercy Hospital to give blood for his friend.
Why is Louie so nervous?
The next morning was Sunday. Maxine was still sleeping at 10:00 when the phone rang. It was Grabowski.
«I'm at the Central Police Station,» Grabowski said. «Soren's dead.»
Maxine couldn't believe her ears. «I should have gone with him in the ambulance,» said Maxine. «His injuries must have been very serious. EMTs are well trained, but Soren needed a doctor.»
«You did the best you could,» said Grabowski.
«Grabowski, do you think that I damaged the rope? I hit my foot against something just before the rope broke.»
«You didn't damage the rope,» replied Grabowski. «I've read the report from the Crime Lab. The rope was cut — and with a very sharp knife. It wasn't an accident.»
«It was such a thick rope!» remembered Maxine.
«The rope was made of three smaller ropes twisted together. Someone cut one of the smaller ropes. The other two could have broken any time that evening.»
«Then that's murder!» Maxine said.
«Only if the person who cut the rope knew that Soren Berendorf would be sitting under Musical Chairs when the rope broke,» replied Grabowski. «I'm going to the Art Space now to search for sharp knives. I'll also search Louie's Antique Shop.»
«Louie didn't cut that rope. He talks too much to carry out a serious crime,» said Maxine.
«But several people saw Louie touching the rope during the show,» said Grabowski. «I phoned Louie and told him to meet me at his antique shop. He needs to explain why he was touching the rope. And I want him to show me how he, Helen, Lillian, and Soren hung the chairs above the piano. Maybe that's when the rope was cut.
»Isn't it strange that Soren Berendorf didn't move when the rope broke?" Maxine commented. «You shouted at him to get away from the piano, but he didn't move.»
«Soren had been drinking a lot, according to the people I talked to,» replied Grabowski. He then changed the subject. «Last night I gave blood for Wyoming. Then I went to see him. He's still unconscious. Why won't he wake up?»
«He lost a lot of blood so he's weak. And the medicine they're giving him for the pain is making him sleep,» Maxine explained. «How is Rosa?»
«She's conscious, but she sleeps a lot,» replied Grabowski. Maxine hung up the phone and went outside to get her newspaper off the front steps. There was an article about Soren on the front page. The shooting of Wyoming Syzinski and Rosa Jones was on the back page. There was no personal information about Rosa, but the article said that Wyoming was a well-known artist who had had many shows in California, Arizona, and other western states.
Just then, Louie tapped on her door. He was scratching his arms and his neck. The skin was red.
«What's the matter?» asked Maxine.
«I'm a sensitive person. Seeing Musical Chairs fall on Soren gave me an allergy. My skin itches.»
«I'll phone the drugstore and tell them to give you some medicine,» said Maxine. «But only take two pills every four hours.»
Louie dropped into a chair and held a handkerchief to his eyes. «Soren Berendorf died. Helen just phoned me.»
Maxine put her hand on his arm. «Grabowski told me. Did you know Soren well?»
«No, I only met him three days ago. But I helped him unpack his entire collection and arrange it in the Art Space. I helped him put Musical Chairs together and hang it over the piano. I even brought him drinks during the show!»
«You helped him a lot,» said Maxine.
«Soren never even thanked me!» Louie said angrily. He scratched his arms. «And now Grabowski wants to talk to me again. I'm being punished for being so nice to Soren!» Louie scratched his neck.
«Grabowski is only trying to find out why the rope broke,» said Maxine.
Louie bit his nails. «The truth is that Soren Berendorf hardly spoke to me. I wasn't important. Soren only liked money.»
After Louie left, Maxine thought about Wyoming and Soren. Both were artists born in Milwaukee, and both had returned to Milwaukee recently. Did they know each other? Maxine wondered. She looked at her watch. It was time to get dressed for work. But then she remembered that she had no car. She had to get to Mercy Hospital without one.
Someone cut the rope
After Grabowski finished speaking to Maxine, he drove to Louie's Antique Shop. It was a quiet Sunday morning and the shops there were closed. Grabowski parked his rental car in front of the shop. He tried the front door. Locked. Grabowski banged on the door. Just then, Louie hurried up the sidewalk.
«Sorry I'm late, Detective,» Louie gasped. «I ran to the drugstore for medicine. I'm a sensitive person and my skin itches when I'm under stress. Look, my arms are all red!» Grabowski looked away.
Louie unlocked the door and turned on the air conditioner. «Would you like some cool mint tea?» he offered. «Perhaps an iced cappuccino?»
Grabowski ignored the offer. «Sit down, Louie,» he said. «I have bad news for you. The Police Crime Lab tested the rope that held Musical Chairs. Someone cut one of the three smaller ropes. That's why it broke.»
«Oh no!» Louie put his hand over his mouth.
«Do you know who might have cut that rope, Louie?» asked Grabowski.
«I have no idea at all!» Louie scratched his arms.
«Did you see anyone near the rope?» asked Grabowski. «Of course! Hundreds of people!» said Louie. «The rope came down to the floor right by the food table.»
«Some people told me you were touching the rope during the show,» said Grabowski. «Why?»
Louie scratched his arms even more. «I was checking that it was tied tightly,» he said.
Grabowski wondered why Louie was so nervous. «You helped put Musical Chairs together, you helped hang it, and you stood by Soren at the piano,» he said. «Why?»
Louie's eyes filled with tears. «I liked Soren, at first. But Soren ignored me and all I did for him!»
«So you got very angry at Soren. You cut the rope so Musical Chairs would fall on him,» said Grabowski. «That's why you were near the rope, and why you waited near the piano.»
«No!» Louie shouted.
«How many drinks did you bring Soren? Did you want him to drink so much that he would sit at the piano until the chairs fell on him?»
«No! No! I only brought Soren three drinks!» shouted Louie. «Ask Helen. She poured them and told me to take them to Soren.»
Grabowski wrote in his notebook. «Now tell me what you know about Helen and Lillian.»
Louie took a deep breath. «Helen and Lillian grew up in wealthy families on the northeast side of Milwaukee near Lake Michigan. They both married rich doctors. After about twenty years, Helen got divorced. Lillian is still married to Dr. Leo Hochstedder.»
«Why did Helen and Lillian open the Art Space?» asked Grabowski.
«Lillian used to be a good artist. She had many good paintings to sell and Helen is very smart with money. So Helen and Lillian opened the Art Space with Lillian as the artist and Helen as the business manager. At first, Lillian's paintings sold well. Then, about two years ago, Lillian's work went downhill and her paintings stopped selling. So Helen invited other artists to put their work in the Art Space. Helen moved Lillian's paintings upstairs. Lillian and Helen started having a lot of fights. I could hear them from the kitchen of my shop. They shouted at each other!»
«What were they fighting about?» asked Grabowski.
«Helen was tired of being partners with Lillian. She wanted to own the Art Space by herself. She wanted to have all the money the business made for herself and only pay Lillian fifty percent from the sale of her paintings.»
Grabowski wrote that in his notebook. «How did Helen and Lillian get along with Soren Berendorf?» asked Grabowski.
«Lillian hated him,» replied Louie immediately.
«Why?» asked Grabowski.
«Soren told Lillian that her statues of heads weren't art. He told her she should just be the wife of a wealthy doctor. Lillian cried.»
«But Lillian helped Soren hang Musical Chairs,» Grabowski commented.
«Helen told Lillian that she was a business partner and she had to help. Her husband, Leo, helped too.»
«I noticed that Lillian stood next to the piano near Soren for a long time,» said Grabowski. «Why would she stay there if she hated Soren?»
«It's a mystery to me, Detective,» said Louie, scratching his arms.
Grabowski shook his head, puzzled. «Soren was popular in New York and London. Why would he put his collection in a small show in Milwaukee?»
«Because Helen helped Soren when he was poor,» Louie explained. «When Soren was just starting out in Milwaukee, Helen and her rich friends bought his work. Then when she wanted good artists for the Art Space, Helen called Soren in New York. She begged him to bring his latest collection to the Art Space. Soren's work would make the Art Space a real success.»
«And Soren could sell more of his art,» said Grabowski.
Louie nodded. «So Soren came to Milwaukee. But three days before the show Soren and Helen had a big fight. I could hear them screaming at each other. Helen said she would kill him!»
«What was the fight about?» asked Grabowski.
Louie bit his nails. «Soren wanted to break the agreement he had signed with Helen. He wanted more money, but Helen refused. So Soren shouted that he would take his collection back to New York.»
«What did Helen say?» asked Grabowski.
«Helen screamed that she would stop him, no matter what she had to do.»
Soren had enemies
At that moment Helen walked in. «Morning, Detective,» she said with a cool nod.
Grabowski had been too busy to really look at Helen the previous night, but now he saw that she was very beautiful. Her gray trousers and pink jacket fitted her slim body like a glove. As she came nearer, he could smell the perfume from her smooth black hair. But her hands were shaking and she had dark shadows under her eyes. She looked exhausted.
Helen sat down and closed her eyes. «Louie, please bring me an iced cappuccino. I didn't sleep all night. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw Soren's body under those awful chairs.»
But now coffee was the last thing on Louie's mind. «Somebody cut the rope holding up the chairs,» he cried. «But how? We all checked the rope before the show. Remember? I checked, you checked, Lillian checked. Even Leo checked the rope very carefully.»
«And I thought things couldn't get any worse,» Helen groaned.
«I'm searching this shop and the Art Space again,» said Grabowski. «And your cars. You stay here.»
«Look wherever you want,» sighed Helen, handing over her car keys. Louie also gave Grabowski his car keys.
Grabowski searched Louie's kitchen first. He found several sharp knives, which he put in plastic bags. He went down to the garage. Louie's green pick-up truck and Helen's silver
Prius were there. So were the three large wooden boxes that had been there the previous evening. Grabowski opened them. They were all empty.
Grabowski unlocked the cars and looked inside. He found nothing sharp.
He went up the steps to the Art Space. In the kitchen were several large knives, which Grabowski put into plastic bags. Then he searched the rest of the rooms. Nothing had changed from the previous night, except that the leftover food smelled terrible. The police had roped off the piano and Musical Chairs so that no one could go near them. Grabowski went back to Louie's shop.
«You can go into the Art Space now,» Grabowski told Helen, «but stay away from the piano and the chairs.»
Helen went back to her office in the Art Space. Grabowski followed. She sat down at her computer. «Can I check my email? Or do you want to search inside my computer, too?»
«You can check your email,» said Grabowski. He sat on the couch and watched her. Through the office door, he could also see the food company employees arrive and take away their tables and chairs.
Finally, Helen turned off her computer. She took two aspirins from her purse and swallowed them.
«I have more questions,» Grabowski said, looking at his notes. «Who would want to damage Musical Chairs?»
«Many artists were jealous of Soren,» said Helen. «He was popular and made a lot of money. But I don't know anyone who would damage his work.»
«Who would want to ruin your business by causing the chairs to fall?» continued Grabowski.
Helen laughed. «All owners of art stores want to ruin each others' businesses. But I don't know anyone who would destroy an artist's work.»
Grabowski continued: «Louie told me that Lillian and Soren hated each other. But during the show Lillian stayed by Soren at the piano. Why would Lillian stand there?» Helen raised her eyebrows. «Maybe Lillian knew the rope was going to break! Maybe she wanted to make sure that Soren wouldn't leave until the chairs fell on him!»
«You don't like Lillian, do you?» asked Grabowski.
«No. We used to be friends, but then we went into business together. It ruined our friendship,» replied Helen. «Why?» asked Grabowski.
«Lillian used to be a good artist. But now her work doesn't sell. I need better artists and Lillian doesn't understand that. So we have fights.»
«You also had a fight with Soren Berendorf,» said Grabowski. «You told him that you would kill him.»
Helen put her head in her hands. «Louie always talks too much. Three days before the show Soren told me that he was going to take his collection out.»
«Why?» asked Grabowski.
«Soren wanted me to give him more money. I reminded him that he had signed an agreement with me — I would get fifty percent from each work of art of his that I sold. Soren said he would break that agreement. He said he would take his collection back to New York.»
«What did you do then?» asked Grabowski.
«I hired guards to stay in the Art Space twenty-four hours a day until the show. I even slept here myself.»
«What happens to Soren's collection now?»
Helen shook her head. «I don't know yet. My lawyer thinks that the people who will get Soren's money will keep the agreement. I'll find out tomorrow.»
At that moment, Lillian and Leo Hochstedder walked in. Lillian's eyes were red. «We came to get the clay heads that people bought yesterday,» Lillian said to Helen. «I need to send them to the buyers.»
«Bad news,» said Helen. «Detective Grabowski says that someone cut the rope holding Musical Chairs. That's why they fell.»
«Are you sure?» Leo Hochstedder asked Grabowski. «Positive,» said Grabowski. «Someone wanted to break the chairs, or maybe to injure or kill Soren.»
Lillian gasped. She put her hands over her mouth. Grabowski looked at Leo. «The rope was cut with a very sharp knife, near the floor by the food table. Did you see anyone touching the rope there during the evening?»
«Lots of people were near that rope all evening,» said Leo. «But I'll bet that Soren cut the rope himself.»
«Why would Soren damage his own work?» asked Grabowski, surprised.
«To ruin Helen,» said Leo. «He wanted to break his agreement with her and Helen wouldn't let him. Isn't that right, Helen?»
«But Soren didn't need to damage his own work to break his agreement,» commented Grabowski.
Leo explained: «If Soren broke Musical Chairs, Helen couldn't make money from selling it. So she would let him break the agreement. Also, Soren would get the insurance money, and Helen would have to pay him something too.
After such a terrible accident, no good artists would bring their work to the Art Space.»
Helen put her head in her hands. «I would be ruined.» Grabowski turned to Lillian. «You stood by Soren and the piano for hours. Why? You hated him, didn't you?»
Lillian bit her fingernails. «These art shows are boring. I didn't want to talk to anyone, so I stood by Soren.»
«What did you talk about?» asked Grabowski.
«We didn't talk. Soren played the piano. Louie brought him drinks,» said Lillian.
Grabowski said, «Lillian, you weren't at the piano when the chairs fell.»
«So?» interrupted her husband, Leo, sharply.
«That was too lucky,» answered Grabowski. «Why did you eventually move away from the piano, Lillian?»
Lillian paused. She looked at Louie and at Helen. Then she said, «Louie told me to go upstairs and stand next to my statues because people were asking questions about them.» «No, Lillian,» said Helen. «You stepped away from the piano because you cut the rope!»
Lillian jumped to her feet. «I didn't cut it, but I knew the rope was breaking!» she screamed. «I told you, Helen! But you said it was impossible! You cut the rope, Helen! You hated Soren. You said you wanted to kill him! And you did!»
Leo put his arm around his wife. «Calm down, Lillian. Are you sure, you knew the rope was breaking? You had a lot to drink last night. Maybe you don't remember well.»
Lillian started to cry.
«Sit down, Lillian!» said Grabowski. «Tell me the truth. Did you know that the rope was breaking?»
Lillian sat down on the couch. «Yes. Early in the evening I'd been standing by the food table and I looked down and I saw that the rope was starting to break. I went over to Soren and told him to move away from the piano because the rope was breaking. But he didn't listen to me. So I stayed with him all evening. I thought I could pull him away from the piano if the rope finally broke. But I checked the rope again and I saw it was getting worse. So I went upstairs to tell Helen. She had to stop the show! But Helen wouldn't believe me!» Lillian began crying again.
«Liar!» said Helen.
Grabowski wrote all this into his notebook. «I'll be asking all of you more questions,» he said to Lillian, Leo, and Helen. «And I'll be searching everywhere for very sharp knives.» He left.
Grabowski drove to the Police Crime Lab on the south side of Milwaukee with the knives from the Art Space and Louie's Antique Shop. To reach the south side, Grabowski drove down 27th Street past the smoking chimneys of the factories of the industrial valley.
The industrial valley divided the north side of Milwaukee from the south. The north side was where people from Germany had settled in the 1850s. Lillian and Leo and Helen lived on the northeast side, near Lake Michigan.
Grabowski owned a little house on the southeast side across the street from a beach on Lake Michigan. People from Poland had settled on the south side of Milwaukee in the early 1900s. There were many Polish churches, schools, clubs, and restaurants. Grabowski's family was Polish. So was Wyoming Syzinski's.
The Police Crime Lab was a one-story brick building inside a high metal fence. Several police cars were parked inside the fence. Grabowski held up his badge to the camera at the gate. The gate opened and Grabowski parked his car inside. He showed his badge to the police guard at the door of the building and the officer opened it.
Another police officer brought out the rope from the Art Space. He showed it to Grabowski. «See? One of the small ropes has very even ends. It was cut with a sharp knife. The other two ropes just broke. Whoever cut the rope pushed the cut ends together. It wasn't obvious at first.»
Grabowski handed the officer the knives from Louie's Antique Shop and the Art Space. «If there are any pieces of this rope on these knives, can you match them?»
«If the knives haven't been washed,» replied the officer.
About that time, Maxine was getting out of a taxi at Mercy Hospital. It was shortly before 3:00 and she had a few minutes before she started work, so she went to the ICU to visit Wyoming. He was still unconscious. Maxine read the notes written by the doctors and nurses. Grabowski had visited him twice that day and so had Wyoming's mother.
Maxine sat down beside Wyoming and held his hand. She knew that even when people are unconscious they can sometimes hear people talking. «You're going to be all right,» Maxine told Wyoming. «Soon you will be painting again.» Then she went to visit Rosa Jones. Rosa was almost asleep, but she opened her eyes when Maxine came in. «I'm Dr. Maxine Cassidy,» Maxine said. «I knew Latoya.»
«Latoya died. Rolondo told me,» Rosa said. A tear rolled down her cheek. «Why?»
«She took too much of her TB medicine, I think,» said Maxine.
Rosa shook her head. «Latoya didn't have TB.»
«Did Latoya have any allergies, like to chocolate? I found a box of chocolates under Latoya's bed,» said Maxine. «Where did she get them?»
«Latoya didn't have allergies. She liked chocolates. I don't know where she got them,» Rosa whispered. She closed her eyes. Maxine left quietly, leaving Rosa to sleep.
During her evening break, Maxine again went upstairs to visit Wyoming. She found Grabowski sitting by his bed. He looked depressed. «I searched Wyoming's apartment today,» Grabowski said. «I was trying to find out why he was shot, but I found nothing.»
«You don't think it was a gang shooting?» asked Maxine.
Grabowski shook his head. «Rosa told me that she saw the man who shot her, but she didn't recognize him. She didn't recognize the driver of the car either. So she's sure that they aren't from a Milwaukee gang.»
«Then who shot Rosa and Wyoming?» asked Maxine.
«I'll find out,» said Grabowski with an angry frown. «Wyoming is my friend and I want to know who did this. I'll talk to him when he wakes up.»
«If Wyoming wakes up...» Maxine thought to herself. «Have you found out who cut the rope?» she asked.
Grabowski frowned even more. «Helen says that Lillian cut the rope, and Lillian says that Helen did,» replied Grabowski. «Soren wanted to ruin Helen, so Helen hated him. And Soren told Lillian she wasn't an artist, so Lillian hated him too. Either of them could have cut that rope!»
Grabowski woke early Monday morning feeling tired and depressed. He hadn't slept well. He made a pot of coffee and phoned Mercy Hospital. Wyoming was still unconscious, the nurse reported. Grabowski hung up feeling even more depressed. He took his breakfast outside and sat on the front steps of his little house to eat the scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and coffee.
It was a beautiful morning. The sun was rising and the sweet-smelling air was cool. White birds flew above the blue waters of Lake Michigan and there were a few people walking along the sandy beach. The paperboy rode by on his bicycle and threw Grabowski the morning newspaper.
Grabowski took a drink of his coffee and opened the paper. The front page had another story about the broken chairs and Soren Berendorf. There was a photo of Grabowski himself coming out of the Central Police station. There was also a photo of Louie. Under the photo it read, «The owner of Louie's Antique Shop says the rope was cut so that Musical Chairs would fall on Soren Berendorf.»
Grabowski threw the paper on the grass. «Louie talks too much,» he said to himself. Louie should keep his mouth shut, at least until Grabowski had more information. Grabowski only knew that Lillian and Helen hated Soren Berendorf. Lillian said she knew the rope was breaking during the show. Helen said that Lillian had cut the rope, and Lillian said Helen had cut it. The two women were giving him a headache.
Grabowski had some more coffee and thought about beautiful Helen. She was smart and wore nice perfume. She said that Soren could have ruined her by taking away his collection. Was that true? Helen had divorced a rich doctor. Grabowski wondered how much money she had got in the divorce and how much money she made at the Art Space. Money and crime often went together.
Grabowski finished breakfast and drove to an art store near the Art Space. The owner had been at the show. He was a man in his forties wearing light brown trousers and a green shirt that looked expensive.
«What was your opinion of Soren Berendorf?» asked Grabowski.
«Soren was an extraordinarily talented artist, but I didn't trust him,» said the storeowner.
«Why not?» asked Grabowski.
«Soren often broke his agreements. Two friends of mine in New York lost a lot of money because Soren took his work out of their stores when he got popular. He sold his work from his home instead, so he got all the money from the sales.»
«Agreements are important,» agreed Grabowski.
«Especially in the art business,» said the man. «For example, I get fifty percent from the sale of an artists work that I sell in my store. But I work hard for that fifty percent — I find the clients, I pay for the art shows, I pay the taxes. Basically, I pay all the costs of selling a work of art. If artists don't keep their agreements, my business can't stay open.»
«Why didn't your friends take Soren to court when he took his work away?» asked Grabowski.
«Lawyers are too expensive,» replied the man.
«Did Helen know that Soren had broken these agreements?» asked Grabowski.
The owner of the store nodded. «I told Helen myself when I heard that Soren was bringing Wood Shapes to the Art Space. But Helen said that she could force Soren to keep his agreement with her.»
«How?» asked Grabowski.
«She didn't say,» said the owner. «But Helen is a powerful woman. She built the Art Space into a good business — all by herself. Lillian used to be a good painter, but for the last two years she has only made ugly statues of heads.»
«Soren did try to break his agreement with Helen,» said Grabowski.
The owner nodded. «I know all about it. Soren came here three days before the show. He wanted to move his collection here. He showed me the agreement he had signed with Helen and asked me to help him break it.»
«What did you tell him?» asked Grabowski.
«I told him that Helen was a colleague of mine and I wouldn't do that to her. I told Soren that a smart lawyer might be able to break the agreement. Soren laughed. He said he knew a cheaper way to break his agreement.»
«What was he planning to do?» asked Grabowski.
«He didn't tell me,» replied the man. «But the next day Helen had guards at the Art Space. They stayed there twenty- four hours a day. Helen was obviously making sure that nothing would go wrong. Helen is desperate for money.
She needs the fifty percent she will get when she sells Soren's Wood Shapes''
»Helen isn't rich?" asked Grabowski.
«No. Helen's husband was rich, but when they got divorced, Helen didn't get much. Her husband had a better lawyer than she did. Helen got a few thousand dollars, her clothes, jewelry, and her car. She lost millions of dollars, the big house on Lake Michigan, the boat, the vacation house, and the other two cars.»
Grabowski made a note in his notebook, thanked the man and left the store.
At noon, he drove to the Art Space. Helen was in her office talking on the phone and looking at her computer. She was wearing a black suit with a soft purple blouse and a matching handkerchief in the jacket pocket. Her nails were bright red. She was wearing a different perfume. Helen waved hello at Grabowski and said into the phone, «I'll open the Art Space tomorrow for business as usual. You can interview me then.» She hung up.
«Newspaper reporter?» asked Grabowski, sitting down on the couch.
Helen smiled. «Yes! Reporters from newspapers, radio, and TV from all over the world are phoning me! They want to know all the details. Do you know who cut the rope yet?»
«Lillian says that you did,» said Grabowski.
Helen frowned. «I'll tell you a secret about Lillian: she doesn't see very well. Her sight is bad and getting worse, and she doesn't want anyone to know. She may have seen me checking the rope during the show to make sure it was OK. I wasn't cutting the rope.»
«I need to talk to Lillian again soon. I'll go and see her at home,» said Grabowski. He made some notes and looked up at Helen again. «Soren wanted to break his agreement with you. How were you planning to stop him?»
But before Helen could answer, the phone rang again. She spoke briefly into the phone, then hung up with a smile. «The owner of an office building in Chicago wants to buy Musical Chairs!»
«But it's broken!» said Grabowski, surprised.
«The buyer doesn't care. He says the work is famous,» said Helen.
«You'll make a lot of money,» said Grabowski.
«Maybe yes; maybe no,» replied Helen. «It depends on the people who get Soren's money. Will they keep the agreement he signed?» She looked at her watch. «My lawyer is coming now to advise me. Can you come back at two o'clock? We'll have lunch at the restaurant across the street. I'll turn off my cellphone and you can ask all the questions you want.» She turned off her computer.
Grabowski got up to go. «Do you know a man named Wyoming Syzinski? He lives on Fifth Street and Center Street.»
Helen thought for a minute. «I don't remember that name. Why?»
«He was supposed to meet me at your show. He's my best friend,» said Grabowski.
As Grabowski drove back to the Central Police Station, he thought about the beautiful Helen, and how pleasant it would be to have lunch with her. When he got to the station, the captain of detectives called him into his office.
«What have you got so far on the Soren Berendorf case?» the captain demanded.
«Someone cut the rope holding the chairs, but I don't know who did it. Nobody in Milwaukee liked Soren Berendorf, especially Helen and Lillian, the owners of the Art Space. I found some knives at the Art Space and Louie's Antique Shop and took them to the Crime Lab yesterday. I haven't got the report yet.»
The captain said, «While you're waiting for the report, I'm giving you another case. Officer Koranda has disappeared. Find him.»
«Koranda? The night guard at the Crime Lab?» asked Grabowski.
«Right. Koranda doesn't answer his home phone or his cellphone.»
«Then he's at his fishing cottage,» said Grabowski. «He turns off his cellphone when he's fishing.»
The captain shook his head. «I called the police in the town near his cottage. No one has seen Koranda there for two weeks. And this morning we found his car parked on Water Street. That's a long way from work or home.»
«How long was Koranda's car parked there?» asked Grabowski.
«Two days, probably. Koranda had two days off, then yesterday he didn't come to work. He starts work at eleven o'clock at night.»
«Do Koranda's neighbors know where he is?» asked Grabowski.
«Ask them.» The captain handed Grabowski a paper with Koranda's address and phone numbers.
«Do you want me to investigate the shooting of Wyoming Syzinski and Rosa Jones?» Grabowski asked.
«No. That was a gang shooting, I'm sure,» said the captain. «It was in the inner city and Rosa is the girlfriend of a gang leader. Rolondo's gang and the other gangs keep on shooting each other no matter how many times we put them in jail. Don't waste time on that.»
«But Wyoming is my best friend,» argued Grabowski.
«Sorry,» said the captain. «Wyoming was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Your job is to find Koranda.»
Grabowski looked at his watch. It was 12:30. He was having lunch with Helen at 2:00 so he had time to drive to Koranda's house on the west side. He went out to his car. The weather was getting hotter. Grabowski turned on the air conditioner in his car, then took out his handkerchief and wiped the sweat off his forehead.
Officer Koranda lived in a house similar to Maxine's — a two-story building with one apartment on each floor. Koranda lived upstairs. Grabowski rang Koranda's doorbell. No answer. He rang the doorbell of the downstairs apartment. A young woman answered the door. She was holding a baby. Grabowski showed her his police badge.
«Have you seen Officer Koranda recently?» he asked.
«Not for a few days. I thought he'd gone fishing. What's wrong?» asked the woman.
«Officer Koranda has disappeared. Do you have a key to his apartment?»
«Sure. I'll let you inside.» She unlocked Koranda's door and followed Grabowski upstairs.
Koranda's apartment didn't have much furniture, just a couch and an armchair in the living room, and a bed in the bedroom. The bedroom closet held two police uniforms and some fishing clothes. Grabowski went into the kitchen. There was a table with two chairs. The refrigerator held eggs and milk.
«Has anyone visited Officer Koranda recently?» Grabowski asked the young woman.
She shook her head. «Officer Koranda hardly ever has visitors. He works nights and comes home about eight o'clock in the morning. He sleeps until late afternoon, then sometimes he cuts the grass or washes his car. Then he sits on the front steps and reads the newspaper. He doesn't go out much. I don't think he has much money. On his days off, he goes fishing and he usually brings me back some fish.»
«Does Koranda have any women friends?» asked Grabowski.
The young woman thought. «Several times during the last year a blonde woman has come here. She always waited outside. Each time Koranda gave her a white box — a cooler like the ones he keeps his fish in.»
«Can you describe the woman?» asked Grabowski.
«Blonde hair. Tight jeans. Expensive sunglasses.»
«Would you recognize her if you saw her again?» asked Grabowski.
«Maybe,» answered the woman.
Grabowski found several white coolers in the kitchen. He called the Central Police Station and told them to send fingerprint specialists to test for prints on the coolers. He might be able to find out who Koranda's visitor was. She might know where Koranda was now.
He looked at his watch — already 1:30. He was going to be late for lunch with the beautiful Helen.
Man in box
Maxine woke up late on Monday. She got the morning paper off the front steps, made coffee and sat on the couch to read it. When she saw the photos of Louie and Grabowski, she sighed. Grabowski was probably angry at Louie for telling the newspapers about the rope. Maxine hoped Grabowski wouldn't shout at Louie, because he got upset when people shouted at him. Once Louie had taken a lot of sleeping pills after a fight with a friend.
Maxine went downstairs and knocked on Louie's door. There was no answer. She checked the garage. His car was gone. She telephoned his shop. The phone rang six times. No answer. Maxine got dressed and called a taxi to take her to Louie's Antique Shop.
While she was waiting for the taxi, Maxine called Mercy Hospital Pathology Lab. «Is the autopsy report on Latoya Thompson done? This is Dr. Maxine Cassidy from the ER.»
The pathologist replied, «Latoya Thompson took too much INH. Overdose.»
«I knew that from the tests done on her stomach in the ER,» said Maxine. «Did Latoya have TB?»
Outside, the taxi driver sounded his horn and Maxine hurried out the door.
When Maxine got out of the taxi in front of Louie's Antique Shop, she spotted Grabowski's little rental car. Was Grabowski inside the shop right now, shouting at Louie?
Maxine hurried over and opened the door. «Louie!» she called.
No answer. Maxine went into the kitchen and opened the door to the garage. Louie's car wasn't there, only Helen's Prius. Maxine returned to the front door. She was just opening it when she saw Grabowski and Helen coming out of the Art Space. Maxine closed the door quickly. She watched them through the window. Helen was wearing a high fashion black suit and a big black summer hat. Her red lipstick matched her fingernails. Helen locked the door to the Art Space, then she took Grabowski's elbow. Grabowski smiled at her as they crossed the street to a restaurant.
Maxine couldn't believe her eyes. That restaurant was expensive! Why was Helen holding Grabowski's arm? And why was Grabowski smiling? Maxine looked down at her own blue cotton skirt, white blouse, and comfortable shoes. Not high fashion.
Maxine looked at her watch. She still had an hour before she started work at 3:00. She was worried about Louie. Maybe Grabowski had already spoken to Louie and upset him. Louie might have taken some sleeping pills.
Maxine wanted to find him, so she went back into Louie's kitchen and opened the door to the garage. She went down the steps and crossed the garage, passing Helen's Prius. But as she passed the wooden boxes, she paused. One of them was slightly open. She lifted the lid.
Inside the box was a man. He was wrapped in a blanket, showing only his face and neck. He looked dead.
Maxine put her fingers on the man's neck to feel his pulse. His heart was beating, but his skin was very cold.
Maxine reached for her cellphone and called 911. Quickly she described the man's condition and gave the address of Louie's Antique Shop. Then she ran up the stairs, through the shop, out the door, and across the street to the restaurant. Grabowski and Helen were seated at a small table in the corner.
«Grabowski!» Maxine said. «Come over to Louie's