McKenna was enjoying the beautiful spring weather when Cisco pulled up in front of his building. "Two Nineteenth Precinct cops just found the Mercedes," Cisco said as soon as McKenna got in. "East Eighty-fourth Street and the East River Drive, parked on a hydrant."
"Where's it being brought to?" McKenna asked.
"I'm waiting to hear," Cisco said, and the answer came a moment later from the radio dispatcher. She instructed Sector 19 Boy to guard the Mercedes and await the arrival of a department tow truck. The car would be towed to the 19th Precinct garage where it would be processed by the Crime Scene Unit.
"How long do you think it took them to dump the car?" McKenna asked.
"Not long at all," Cisco answered. "Less than a mile from the ambassador's building to the East River Drive. Sunday morning, light traffic, not too many people on the streets. Figure under five minutes. They probably dumped that car before the description on it was even broadcast."
McKenna agreed with Cisco's assessment, but didn't bother telling him so since Cisco automatically assumed that everyone with a brain agreed with everything he said. Then he told Cisco about the kidnappings of Carmen and the Spanish ambassador to France.
Cisco had also been instrumental in the case involving Carmen's husband, and he had met her after the funeral. His reaction to the news was typical. "Cisco likes Carmen very much, and he doesn't like people who kidnap people he likes."
"Meaning?" McKenna asked, just for fun.
"Meaning whoever has kidnapped Carmen has made a major mistake, and Cisco will make them suffer for their callous stupidity."
"What about the ambassadors? Aren't they important."
"In an incidental way. It's all the same case."
* * *
\ql Knowing that the vicinity of the crime scene would be crowded with police and press vehicles, Cisco parked on East 79th and Madison, two blocks from the Spanish ambassador's apartment building in one of Manhattan's most expensive neighborhoods. Since the kidnapping had occurred only an hour and a half before, the short walk gave McKenna and Cisco an opportunity to gauge the character of the neighborhood on an early Sunday morning.
It was as they expected. Rich people typically sleep late on a Sunday morning, but the people who work for them aren't permitted that luxury. Every doorman in every building they passed on East 79th Street was at his post in front of his building, and there were many limos pulled to the curb, with motors running and the chauffeurs waiting for the boss to wake up and come out to enjoy the day. There were also maids and houseboys walking the bosses' dogs, following their leashed charges and ready to pick up the mess.
To McKenna and Cisco, even that sparse street traffic meant there were witnesses to some part of the crimeeither the actual kidnapping and murders, or to the escape. Many of them probably didn't realize they had seen something important, but those witnesses should be found and interviewed. In a case as important as this one was shaping up to be, they all eventually would be.
As soon as McKenna and Cisco turned the corner onto Fifth Avenue, Cisco congratulated himself on his foresight in his choice of parking spot. Fifth Avenue was jammed with double-and-triple-parked police and press vehicles, so that southbound civilian traffic was restricted to the far lane running along the Central Park wall. Even so, traffic was still light, but very slow because people had to gawk at the commotion. From their cars, the motorists couldn't see the two covered bodies on the sidewalk outside the ambassador's building, but they stopped to gawk anyway.
Uniformed cops were there to push the curious motorists along, but it was an impossible task. On the sidewalk, police lines had been established on both sides of the building, but the civilian crowd there consisted of less than fifty people and they were easy to control. Uniformed cops stood on one side of the barriers, while the curious stood on the other. The public was far outnumbered by the police and reporters.
Cisco stopped for a moment to take in the scene. "What a wonderful day and what a beautiful sight!" he observed. "Thank God we're here to enlighten our subjects and guide them through their tasks."
McKenna knew just what was going through Cisco's mind. Although the rank of detective was not a supervisory rank in the NYPD, Cisco considered all cops, detectives, bosses, and even chiefs to be underlings at his beck and call. It amazed McKenna that, through sheer brass and force of character, Cisco usually got away with that attitude.
Then McKenna saw Heidi Lane, unfortunately a moment after she had seen him. Heidi was currently a Fox Five News anchorwoman, and no longer a street reporter, but McKenna knew she lived in the area and wasn't one to miss a story of this scope. She was also a good friend of McKenna's, but he wasn't yet in a position to give her a story. Fortunately, Heidi had been at the police barriers on the other side of the ambassador's building, but she was moving fast down Fifth Avenue toward him, weaving her way through the parked vehicles.
It was apparent to McKenna that Heidi had rushed from her apartment to get the story without giving any thought to her appearance. She was a very attractive, tall blonde in her thirties who usually was always well dressed with never a hair out of place. Not this morning. Heidi was wearing shorts, old sneakers, and a loose fitting Grateful Dead T-shirt, with her hair in a ponytail and no make-up.
Still gorgeous, McKenna thought. Be polite and wait? he asked himself. No, he decided. Brusque and rude is called for at this point. Work first, apologies later. He ducked under the barriers, but Cisco was still in a state of ecstasy and didn't move.
"How about it, hot shot?" McKenna said. "Let's not keep your subjects waiting."
Cisco was never one to duck under barriers when he could show off and leap over them, and he did, placing one hand on the top of the wooden barrier and hopping over it in a fluid motion. He did it all the time, and McKenna had told himself a thousand times that he couldn't retire until he saw Cisco fall on his ass in front of his subjects.
Then came the moment that made McKenna's day. One of the young uniformed cops stood in front of Cisco and asked to see his ID. Cisco hated the fact that McKenna was more famous than he was, so McKenna decided to rub it in. "That's all right, officer. He's with me."
"If you say so, Detective McKenna, but he should have his shield out," the young cop replied, dutifully.
McKenna didn't think it was exactly the right time to point out that his own shield was still in his pocket, so he grabbed Cisco's arm and pulled him away to avert the explosion.
Cisco had been in a good mood, and he surprised McKenna when he took the incident in stride. "Can you imagine that? That kid must have come on the Job while I was having breakfast this morning," was all he had to say, and then he saw something else to frown about.
McKenna saw it too, saw Sheeran talking to Detective First Grade Joe Walsh from the Crime Scene Unit. It was an animated conversation, and it didn't look friendly. They were the only people directly in front of the apartment building, and their presence there told McKenna that the immediate crime scene had already been searched, photographed, and mapped.
Walsh was an old-timer, but another prima donna with a very high and frequently-proclaimed opinion of himself, and it galled most who came into contact with him that the opinion was accurate. He was, as he said to all who would listen, a consummate expert at processing crime scenes, and he always noticedand usually correctly interpretedthose small-but-important details everyone else had missed.
McKenna knew that Walsh was off weekends, so he had also been called in on his day off to lend his expertise to the case. He also knew that Walsh and Cisco were too much alike to respect each other's talents, so it was going to be a trying day for everyone, and especially Sheeran. The job had to be done, but the tender sensitivities of the two potentates would have to be assuaged to get it done right.
On the ground were the two covered bodies, one at the curb and the other in front of the building door. McKenna could tell from the shape of the covering that the body at the curb was in the fetal position, and he assumed it was the chauffeur. He had been shot, yanked out of the car, and left there by the kidnappers.
The body near the door of the building was stretched out under the blanket, but the covering was not large enough to conceal the pools of blood seeping out at the edges, near the torso and the head. There were no small white chalk circles near either of the bodies, which meant to McKenna that no shell casings had been recovered. He therefore assumed the kidnappers had used revolvers to kill the chauffeur and bodyguard, not automatics that eject the spent shells.
Sheeran saw McKenna looking at him, and he appeared to be happy to leave Walsh. He nodded toward the front of the building, so McKenna left Cisco standing there while he went to talk to the boss. He knew that Cisco wouldn't mind since the two of them always worked crime scenes from a different approach. McKenna preferred to hear all everyone else knew about what had happened before walking through the crime. Not Cisco. He preferred to examine the scene first and form his own initial opinion as to what had happened, free from the biases of any witnesses who described what they thought they had seen.
Sheeran led McKenna into the lobby, and McKenna noticed that he hadn't taken the time to shave before coming in. Then McKenna saw something he had missed from outside. There was a bullet hole in the glass of the front door, about six feet up. He looked around the large, marble-paneled lobby. Two brass-doored elevators were at the far end, and there was an unattended concierge desk on the left. It took McKenna a moment to find the spot where the bullet had hit on the marble panel between the two elevators. He stood at the spot, lined his eye on the hole in the glass door, and found that he was looking at the top wall running along Central Park on the other side of Fifth Avenue. "I'm assuming we've got the round?"
"We got it," Sheeran said. "Seven point six-two NATO round, armor-piercing. Went right through the bodyguard's head and through the glass, but the marble stopped it."
"Will it do us any good?"
"Don't think so. Too deformed."
"Is the concierge a witness?" McKenna asked.
"Yeah, he's at the Nineteenth with the doorman."
"Has Ray been here yet?"
"Both him and Shields. They left to go take a look at the car a couple of minutes ago, and then they're going to the Nineteenth Precinct."
"How is this investigation gonna work?"
"We're doing the preliminaries, and then it goes to the Joint Terrorist Task Force for investigation."
That made sense to McKenna. The Joint Terrorist Task Force was comprised of FBI and ATF agents, NYC detectives, and state troopers, but the unit was under federal control. It was a good mix, and they had always operated effectively in the pastmost notably, after the World Trade Center bombing. "How about evidence?"
"We collect it, the FBI processes it."
"Is that what has Joe Walsh cranky?"
"Exactly. He thinks everything he finds belongs to him. Not exactly a team player, but he's already done some good work here."
"Hate to say it, but he always will. How about press?"
"Everything comes from the FBI, which is another thing that's galling Walsh."
"It's not going to make Cisco too happy, either," McKenna observed. "When he does something good, he wants immediate credit for it in the pages before the advertisements."
"Which is something you're going to have to help me out with. No secret calls from either of them to any of their reporter pals, and then I really owe you."
"Talk to them hard, and then I'll do what I can. Now, what do we know or surmise so far?"
"Well-planned operation, ruthlessly executed," Sheeran said. "Their chauffeur is in the car, waiting right out front. Number One kidnapper is on the scene, walking a dog. Number Two is out of sight, around the corner on Eightieth Street. Number Three is in the park, behind the wall with a high-powered rifle. Seven forty-five, the ambassador, his wife, and the bodyguard come out."
"Doorman?" McKenna asked.
"Just opened the door to let them out, but he's on the scene for the whole thing."
"Not bad. You're going to find that the bad witness is the wife. Very shaken up, so I think it's gonna be your job to get her to tell us something that makes sense."
"Fine," McKenna said. "Go on."
"First one to get it is the chauffeur. Number One drops the leash, pulls a gun, and runs to the car while Number Two runs from around the corner, also with a gun. Number One shoots the chauffeur in the head, but the bodyguard was good and in action. He was trying to get his gun out and push the ambassador back inside at the same time. Didn't make it. Shot from the park hit him in the back of the head, and then just about took his face off. As he's falling, Number One gives him another three rounds in the back for good measure."
"And what's Number Two doing?"
"Having a problem. I think he was the one who was supposed to take out the bodyguard, but the doorman and the ambassador's wife got in his way. She started screaming, and the doorman tried pulling her away, toward Eightieth Street. The ambassador made it inside and the elevator was right there, open. He went in, but didn't press any buttons. Just stood there."
"Because his wife was still outside?"
"Presumably, and then the ambassador asked the concierge if they had his wife. The concierge can see the action outside, and he gives the ambassador a bad answer: `Not yet.' Then he tells the ambassador to push a button and get away. No good.
"He's not leaving without his wife? Pretty brave man, I'd say," McKenna observed.
"Yeah. Brave, but stupid, and the kidnappers knew just what to do. Number Two conks the doorman on the head with his gun, then covers him while Number One runs over and puts his gun in the wife's ear. Drags her over to the front of the building to show the ambassador what he's got."
"And he gives up?"
"Just raises his hands and walks outside. Number One releases the wife, opens the back door of the Mercedes, and the ambassador gets in like it's his everyday ride. Number One then yanks the chauffeur out, and gets behind the wheel while Number Two covers the ambassador. Number Three hops the park wall, takes a spill, and drops his scope-mounted rifle. Picks it up, runs across Fifth Avenue, and he gets in the front. The ambassador moves over, Number Two gets in, and then we get into the dog nonsense."
"What was the dog doing while all the shooting was going on?"
"That's the strange thing. The dog took off toward Seventy-ninth when they were shooting up the bodyguard, but then she stopped, sat down, and watched the whole thing."
"The doorman saw her pee in the street before the ambassador came out. It's a female golden retriever. After they were all in the Mercedes, she came up and jumped on the driver's door."
"They were gonna leave the dog?"
"Probably, but they didn't. The driver got out, opened the back door, and the dog jumped in, right across Number Two and landed on top of the ambassador. Then they took off, moderate rate of speed. Stopped like good citizens for the red light at Seventy-eighth and Fifth, and then they're off again. Last seen southbound on Fifth."
"Any vehicles behind them?"
"You thinking a back-up vehicle?" Sheeran asked.
"I'm thinking they had lots of back-up, just in case anything went wrong on themjust like in France. They were gonna get the ambassador today, no matter whator die trying."
"Even if he would've made it back up to his apartment?"
"I think they would've blown his door and grabbed him. We should be looking for seven to ten people, just like they had in Paris. And right now, I'm thinking it worked out for us the best way it could've."
"Sure. Getting the ambassador out of that apartment would've taken them a while, enough time to generate a police response while they were still in the buildingand you know what that means."
"Sure. Stand-off, hostages, and the world press here while we try negotiating with them," Sheeran said.
"Yeah, they'd get plenty of media attention for their cause. Add in that we'd probably have some dead cops as well by then, because they would've shown us their back-up team when the first unit rolled up."
"So what else do you think we should be looking for?"
"Like I said, back up vehicles, and more of their people close to the set than we know about now," McKenna said. "Going further, I'd say one of their back-up vehicles was a van."
"To put the ambassador in when they switched cars?"
"You might be right on the money. There was a white van behind them at the lightold, American make. The doorman didn't see where it came from, but it passed him right after they pulled off in the ambassador's car. There was also another car in front of the ambassador's car at the light on East Seventy-eighth. Three cars waiting for the light in a row, with no other traffic."
"Then there you have it, but here's another reason we know there are more than the three who grabbed him. How would they know the ambassador goes to the eight or nine o'clock mass every Sunday?"
"Which means a lot of hanging around in front of the building for however long it takes them to get the ambassador's routine down," McKenna said. "I'd say we're talking weeks."
"I was thinking the same thing, but it makes me feel better to hear you say it," Sheeran said.
"Now I'll tell you a few things you probably know, but didn't mention."
"About seven-forty the bodyguard comes out, looks around, and sees everything is clear. Then he calls the chauffeur, and the chauffeur pulls up a minute or two later. That's when the bodyguard goes up to get the ambassador."
"True, but how'd you know that?"
"Because you said he was good, and it sounds to me like he was. But when he goes back in, that's the signal for the bad guys to jump on the set. They couldn't have been hanging around before that, because the bodyguard or the doorman would have seen them."
"That means that Number Four was there from the beginning to put everybody in place. That'll probably be the boss, the one who set this whole thing up."
"What makes you say that?" Sheeran asked.
"Because that's the way I would do it if I were running this kidnapping. I couldn't be right on the set to watch the action, and I sure couldn't take part in it because my picture is hanging in every post office in Spain. Eventually, I'd be identified for sure."
"The police there have the whole ETA leadership identified?"
"Every one. I always make a point of talking to the local cops when I travel, and the Guardia Civil tells me that those who aren't in jail are fugitives."
"How about the three who did the grab? Will the Guardia Civil have pictures on them?"
"Maybe, but I don't think so. Were they all young?"
"Recent cadre, I'd bet. This is a hot one, and they can't risk any of them being identified. But the boss would still want to supply direction as it was going down. Any of the witnesses see any radios on that crew?"
"Long enough to cover their ears," Sheeran said. "I guess they could've had radio receivers tucked in their ears under that hair."
"How were they dressed?"
"All the same. Black pants, and green shirts. You know the kind, those shirts with all the pockets they wear up in Spanish Harlem."
"Like the jacket from an old leisure suit, square bottom, worn outside the pants, good for covering a gun in the summertime?"
"That's what it sounded like to me from the doorman's description."
"Didn't he tell you it was a guayaberra?"
"Maybe, but I've got no ear for Spanish."
"So they were all dressed alike. Look alike?"
"Same hairdo, same height and weight, same mustache. We had to go through the story with the doorman and the concierge three times before we knew who was doing what."
"Tommy McKenna and I."
That was also good news to McKenna, and it was another thing that made sense. Tommy was in the Manhattan North Homicide Squad, and the 19th Precinct was in Manhattan North. McKenna had only worked with Tommy once before, but that case had worked out well. In contrast to Cisco and Walsh, Tommy was never a prima donna, and he would be the last one to brag that he was the best homicide detective the NYPD hadbut he was, and everybody knew it. "What's Tommy doing now?"
"Canvassing this building with his team, door to door. I figured he's the one to do it, because rich people never like to get involved by admitting they saw anything."
"If any of them saw anything, Tommy will get it out of themand before they even realize they're telling him. Who else do we have here?"
"Got the Seventeenth and the Nineteenth Squads canvassing the buildings on each side of this one, but that's just the beginning. When the rest of our squad and the feds get here, we'll have enough manpower to question everyone for blocks."
"No feds here yet?"
"Just three. Shields broke them up, has one with our people in each of the buildings to lend that good old federal presence to this."
"Besides the wife, the doorman, and the concierge, what have we got in the way of witnesses so far?"
"Sparse. Got a professional dog walker. She was walking four dogs near the wall across the street, but on the other side of Eightieth Street. Heard the shot when they whacked the chauffeur, but didn't see it. Then she saw the guy with the rifle on the wall, and she dropped the dogs and ran like hell when he shot the bodyguard. She put the first call into nine-one-one from her cell phone, and was outside looking for one of her dogs when the first unit got here."
"Is she also at the Nineteenth?"
"Yes, with the dogs, and very unhappy. She has more dogs to walk, and she says they won't wait for their nature calls."
"Any other calls to nine-one-one?"
"Two. Second call came from the concierge, third came from a pay phone on East Eighty-first and Fifth. Spanish accent, wouldn't identify himself, so we've got at least one witness we don't know about."
"Walsh got here just fifteen minutes before you did, but he's already got a few things everyone else missed. He started with the dog piss, blotted some up."
"The dog piss?" McKenna asked.
"That's what I said, but he's right when you hear him tell it. We ever find that dog, we can prove it was the one here through DNA testing. Find it in the company of a Basque terrorist, and we've got him."
"Possibility of fingerprints from Numbers One and Two. Both held the ambassador's wife around the waist, and she was dressed her best. Nice two-piece yellow outfit, and the skirt had a belt with a..."
"A brass buckle!" McKenna said.
"Right, a brass buckle. Walsh went up and got it from her, hit it with his magnifying glass, and said he might be able to get some prints from it."
"If he says might, that means he can."
"He goes further than that. He says he might be able to get some prints from it, but he's sure nobody in the FBI Lab could. Calls them a bunch of college-trained amateurs with good press agents."
"Sounds like something he would say. How are you gonna handle it?"
"I'm going to have to talk to Shields first, but I'd rather have Walsh go for the prints on it. Only problem with that is, if he gets a good lift, I'm gonna have to listen to him talk about it for the next five years."
"At least," McKenna agreed. "When am I gonna get to talk to the wife?"
"Not sure, yet. That's up to Shields, but I think it'll probably happen when he lines up a federal presence to be with you while you question her."
"Is she going to the Nineteenth?"
"I'd say no. She's upstairs with her doctor and the deputy ambassador. I don't think she features going to either the Nineteenth Precinct or Federal Plaza."
That's fine, I can talk to her just as well upstairs, McKenna thought, and then he looked outside. The morgue wagon had arrived, and the attendants were standing out front, waiting for permission to pick up the bodies. "Let's walk through it," he said, and Sheeran followed him outside.
There was no sign of Cisco, but Walsh was sitting on a park bench next to the wall across the street, wearing that smug I'm-so-great smile McKenna knew so well. Walsh had found something else, McKenna knew, and he was waiting for his public to showcase his miraculous find.
Later, McKenna decided. This first. He took a deep breath, then bent down and pulled the blanket off the bodyguard. It was a photo opportunity that none of the press photographers at the barriers missed.
The man was lying face down, with his head turned toward McKenna. The high-velocity, armor-piercing round had exited at the bridge of his nose, and both eyeballs were distended and hanging from their sockets. He was tall, and had been well built before most of the blood in his torso had seeped onto the sidewalk. "What's his name?"
"Jorge Dominguez," Sheeran answered.
"They both are. Thirty-four years old, he's been here with the ambassador for two years."
"Officially on leave of absence while they were serving in this assignment, but they're both Guardia Civil. He's a sergeant, the chauffeur's a corporal."
"I don't know," Sheeran admitted.
I'll find out, McKenna vowed as he fixed Dominguez's distorted face into his memory. In murder investigations, he always did, and the picture of Dominguez devoid of life when he should still be alive would keep him going whenever prospects in the investigation looked bleak. Finding the killer was the last debt government owed to the victim, and McKenna believed it should always be paid.
McKenna replaced the blanket on Dominguez, and went on to the chauffeur. He was lying curled up on his left side, and the bullet that had entered his brain as he sat behind the wheel hadn't exited. Death had surprised him; his eyes were wide open, but his face showed no pain.
Sheeran knew the drill by then. "Roberto Hernandez, thirty-one, been assigned here four years. Sorry, don't know about his family, either."
Hernandez's jacket was open, and McKenna could see the empty shoulder holster, and knew that the pistol had been removed during the official search of the body.
McKenna took a long, last look at Hernandez's face, replaced the blanket, and stood up. "Whatever the politics, there's no right reason for this," he said, more to himself than to Sheeran.
But Sheeran had heard. "We'll make them pay," he answered.
Can we? McKenna wondered. Not much to go on, so far. Then he saw that Walsh had stood up, and was waiting for him across the street. There was still no sign of Cisco.
McKenna left Sheeran, and was crossing Fifth Avenue when Heidi caught up to him and grabbed his arm. "When are you going to talk to me?" she asked.
McKenna stopped and concentrated on putting the most serious look on his face he could muster. "Sorry, Heidi. The muzzle's officially on," he answered. "Everything has to come from the feds."
"C'mon, Brian," she pleaded. "Are you trying to tell me I'm wasting my time here?"
"Exactly what I'm trying to do, Heidi. Now, please get back on the sidewalk so I can get back to work."
"I'll do that, but only if you promise to call me later," Heidi said.
"Can't, but there's one thing I'll tell you if you cooperate. Might be something none of the other reporters here know yet."
"Okay, I'll be good," Heidi promised. "What is it?"
"Have you heard that the Spanish ambassador in Paris has also been kidnapped?"
"Yeah, everybody's got that. It's been on the wires, big gunfight."
Should I tell her about Carmen? McKenna wondered. Heidi also knew Carmen, and it was her coverage of Hector's case that had gotten her promoted to anchorwoman. Since it was going to come out anyway, McKenna decided that Heidi should be the one to get the scoop if the kidnapping wasn't already public knowledge. "Have you heard that they kidnapped Carmen in Spain this morning?"
It was apparent to McKenna that Heidi hadn't heard that. Her eyes went wide with shock. "Our Carmen?"
"Yes, our Carmen."
"They must be out of their minds," Heidi observed.
"Apparently they are."
"Thanks, Brian. Gotta go, but I'll give you a call later," Heidi said. And go she did, running back to the sidewalk as she pulled her cell phone from her pocket. McKenna watched her until she turned the corner onto East 80th Street, and knew that she would be calling her producer from a location where she couldn't be overheard by any of the other reporters.
Walsh was still smiling smugly when McKenna reached him. He was a big man in his late fifties, sixty pounds overweight, with a full mane of curly gray hair that belied his age. As usual, Walsh looked unkempt, wearing a checkered sports coat, baggy pants with no sign of a crease, unshined brown shoes, and he had his top shirt button open and his tie at half-mast. It was a look McKenna didn't like in a detective, but in Walsh's case he made an exception. Walsh left no stone unturned at a crime scene, and he didn't mind getting dirty as he did his job.
"I thought we weren't supposed to be talking to the press on this one," Walsh said as he shook McKenna's hand.
"We're not. I just told Heidi about Carmen to get her off my back for a while. Otherwise, you'd be showing me your treasures with her looking over our shoulders," McKenna explained. "What have you got?"
"Maybe some prints from the guy with the rifle," Walsh said, then reached into his coat pocket and removed a small, clear plastic evidence bag. There was a shiny, new quarter in it, one of the commemorative series coins."
"Where did you find it?"
"Under this bench," Walsh said. "When he jumped over with the rifle, he landed hard and went down to his knees. Must have kept his change in the bottom shirt pocket, and this one fell out."
"I don't know, Joe. No way of proving that quarter came from him. Anybody could have dropped it."
"Oh, yeah? Well, how about this one?" Walsh asked. He again reached into his pocket for another clear evidence bag, and this one contained a Spanish one-hundred-peseta coin. "Spanish terrorists kidnapping the Spanish ambassador, and here I've got a Spanish coin found two feet from where one of the terrorists fell. Think maybe you could make a case out of this one?"
"You think you'll be able to get prints off it?"
"If there are prints on either of them, and I'm allowed to process them, then sure I'll get them," Walsh stated. "Maybe you should tell Sheeran that."
God! This man is insufferable, but he's probably right, McKenna thought. "I'll tell him."
"You might also remind him that there's no such thing as a perfect crime once Joe Walsh shows up on the scene."
"Why don't you tell him that yourself?" McKenna asked.
"Already did, of course. Many times."
McKenna was certain of that. "You have any idea where Cisco is?" he asked.
"In the park."
McKenna was happy to leave Walsh. Using the bench as a ladder, he hopped over the wall into Central Park, but saw no sign of Cisco. However, he did find the place where Number Three had hid while awaiting the signal to go into action. The area was wooded, and dead leaves were matted down at a spot four feet from the wall. McKenna searched the ground near it, and it took only a few seconds to find the ejected 7.62 mm shell. He was about to pick it up when he again heard from Walsh. "Don't pick the shell casing up. I'll get it later."
"You knew about it?" McKenna asked.
"Yeah, Cisco told me. There's an unfiltered cigarette butt in the leaves behind you. Leave that there, too."
McKenna looked behind him and saw the half-smoked, dry, unfiltered butt on the ground. "Why don't you just come get them?"
"I told you, I'll get it later," Walsh said, and McKenna understood. Cisco had found the shell casing and the butt, and had told Walsh about them, but Walsh didn't know whether or not he could make it over the wall. If he couldn't, he wasn't going to let Cisco see him fail.
There was still no sign of Cisco, so McKenna walked through the woods to the road that circles the interior of the park. It was closed to vehicular traffic on weekends, and there were kids on skateboards taking advantage of the smooth asphalt roadway. The road sloped up at the point McKenna exited the woods, and it was there that he saw Cisco, standing at the top of the hill, surrounded by kids.
Cisco saw McKenna at the bottom of the hill. "Watch this, Brian," he yelled down, and then he performed one of those Cisco-feats that always amazed McKenna. First, he buttoned his coat. Then he did a handstand on a skateboard one of the kids was holding for him, and he came down the hill on it, zigzagging in sharp turns back and forth on the roadway by shifting his weight on his hands.
All the kids on the top of the hill hooted and applauded Cisco, and two of them followed him down riding piggyback on one skateboard. They managed to make every turn Cisco made, and stopped behind him when he reached McKenna.
Cisco put his feet on the ground and stood up in one fluid motion. Then he put his foot under the skateboard and snapped it into his hands.
"How long you been practicing that stunt?" McKenna had to ask.
"Believe it or not, first time I ever tried it."
McKenna did believe. He considered himself to be in excellent shape for fifty, running three marathons a year and working out whenever he could, but he knew that he had never in his life been in the shape Cisco was in. Cisco was just one of those natural athletes, and feats-that- amaze came easy to him. "Not bad, for a beginner, Cisco. Once again, you've managed to impress me and your fans."
"Not bad?" the bigger of the two kids asked, protesting. "Our man Cisco is awesome."
"Yeah," the smaller one agreed. "Awesome."
McKenna took a moment to measure Cisco's two new, ardent fans. He guessed that the older one was ten, and the younger one eight. Both were dressed skater-style in sneakers, long sleeve tee shirts, and baggy jeans that hung low to expose their patterned boxer draws. They had short, black hair, looked as if they could be brothers, and if McKenna had to guess, he would say they were Hispanic.
"This is my pal, Brian," Cisco told the boys in Spanish. "He tries hard to be just like me, so he's a pretty good guy. Do me a favor, and say something nice to him in Spanish."
"Does he speak Spanish?" the younger one asked, also in Spanish.
"Sure he does. Try him out. Be polite, and then tell him something about yourselves."
"I am Gabriel, and this is my brother Steven," the older one said in Spanish. "We're very pleased to meet you."
McKenna recognized the lisping accent peculiar to central Spain, and he suspected that Cisco, despite all outward appearances, might actually have been working on the case in his own way. "And I am Brian McKenna. I'm very pleased to meet two of Cisco's other deputies," McKenna replied in Spanish. "Are you guys from Madrid?"
"Used to be. Now we're from the Bronx."
"From the Bronx? You came all the way down here just to skateboard?"
"Every Sunday. Our mom works on Sundays, so our dad brings us to his job."
"Tell him where your father works," Cisco said.
"He's a doorman at a building over there," Gabriel said, pointing toward Fifth Avenue.
McKenna was ready to take a guess. "Is the building at Eighty-first and Fifth?"
"Yeah, that's it. Nine-twenty Fifth Avenue."
"Now tell him about all the bird-watchers," Cisco instructed.
"Yeah, tell him about the Basques."
"They've been here every Sunday for a while, watching all the birds around here with binoculars."
"Where did they hang out?"
"They were always in the woods over there," Gabriel said, again pointing toward Fifth Avenue.
"How many of them were there?" McKenna asked.
"I don't know. Sometimes maybe five, sometimes more."
"Were they here this morning?"
"Yeah, but not too many. Just the lady and two others."
"Yeah, the lady. She was the teacher, or the leader, or something. She always tells the other ones where to go to find the birds."
"She's very pretty, and very nice," Steven added.
"What makes her so nice."
"Because she gave us twenty dollars this morning to go buy breakfast and ice cream."
"And did you?"
"No, we weren't hungry. We made believe we were going to buy breakfast, but we just went and hung out at the fountain for a while."
"Do you still have that twenty dollars?"
"No, he's got it," Steven said, nodding to Cisco. "Good deal for us. Gave us thirty dollars for a twenty dollar bill."
Might not be such a bad deal for Cisco, either, McKenna thought. "Were there any other kids here when she gave you the money?"
"No, too early. Just us," Steven said.
"Yeah, way too early," Gabriel agreed. "There was just us and the Basques."
"How do you know they were Basques?" McKenna asked.
"Because they had a big bird book with lots of pictures, and we saw it was in Spanish," Gabriel said. "We asked her about it, and she said they were a bird-watching club from Spain."
"She told you that in Spanish?"
"Yeah, Spanish, but she had some kind of an accent."
"Maybe Basque accent?" McKenna asked.
"No, not Basque. They sound like us when they speak Spanish," Steven explained. "We asked her about the book in Spanish, and she told us in Spanish."
"Then one of the others talked to her in Basque, and she told him to shut up in Basque," Gabriel added.
"How do you know that? Do you guys speak Basque?"
"No, but our grandmother does. She used to tell us to shut up in Basque all the time."
"Not all the time," Steven said, correcting his brother. "Not when papa was home."
"Your father doesn't like your grandmother?" McKenna asked.
"He doesn't like any Basques," Gabriel replied. "Says they think they're so great, but all they really are is bomb-throwers and murderers."
"So your grandmother who speaks Basque is your mother's mother?" McKenna surmised.
"Did you ever tell your father about the Basques in the park?" McKenna asked.
"No," Gabriel said.
"He'd tell us to stay away from them. He says they're always trouble."
"Did you ever understand anything else the Basques said when they were talking to each other?"
"No, but we know one of their names," Gabriel said proudly.
"What is it?"
"Elodi? Is that a Basque name?"
"Uh-huh. We once had a Basque boy in school named Elodi, so it must be. Sometimes they have funny names."
"In school in Madrid?"
"And how do you know one's name was Elodi?"
"Because that's what the lady called him last week when she was yelling at him over something. She said stupid, too, in Basque when she was yelling at him."
"Is that another word your grandmother taught you?"
"Uh-huh, but she doesn't call us that."
"Who does she call stupid?" McKenna asked, already knowing the answer.
"Papa!" both boys replied at once.
"I see," McKenna said. "Do you boys know what happened on Fifth Avenue this morning?"
"Sure," Gabriel answered. "Some people got killed."
"Were you around here when it happened?"
"No, we were at the fountain."
"So how do you know?"
The two boys looked at each other, but didn't answer. Instead, Cisco did. "Their father always tells them they should stay away from trouble. If they see a bunch of police cars at one spot, they should go the other way."
"So you guys went across Fifth Avenue to have a look when you got back from the fountain?" McKenna asked.
"Yeah, but only for a minute," Gabriel said.
"Does your father know?"
"We didn't see him see us, but maybe."
"What makes you think maybe?"
"Because we heard him calling us right after we got back into the park."
"Yeah, calling. He comes over to the wall and yells for us."
"But you didn't answer?"
"What time are you supposed to meet him?"
"Twelve o'clock. He gets us lunch, and we eat in the basement."
McKenna had many more questions he wanted to ask the boys, but he thought it had already gone on too long. To avoid any legal problems if the case ever made it to court, he wanted a parent present before he grilled them on details.
Cisco was thinking the same way "How about this? We have to talk to your father anyway, so why don't we all meet at his building for lunch?" he asked.
"Are you gonna tell him we went to see the bodies?" Steven asked.
"Of course not, but I think you guys should do that. Don't forget, you two are going to be very important in this case. He's gonna find out, sooner or later."
"Then we'll tell him later," Gabriel said.
"Yeah, later," Steven chimed in.