“What were you talking about when you said the lad threw you a red herring?” Harry asked.
“He said the guy just stood across the platform and stared at him for a while,” Mac said.
“He spotted the boy?” Harry asked with a side glance.
“Yeah,” Mac said.
“Why didn’t the guy jump him?” Harry said puzzled.
“You got me. Maybe the kid just didn’t fit into his plans or something. Maybe he wanted to get out of there to throw us off guard with what we’re about to see,” Mac said.
“Maybe he got scared off, thinking the cops were close on his tail,” Harry concluded.
“No, that doesn’t fit. Besides they didn’t arrive for another five minutes. That gave him plenty of time to do in the kid,” Mac corrected.
“So? What gives?” the sergeant asked.
“Beats me, Harry. It really does,” Mac said, confused even more. Harry just watched him and saw the frustration on the Lieutenant’s face and the puzzled look in his eyes. Then glanced away.
What they did see, upset the apple cart even more. Now there was a cop killed to boot. Mac and Harry talked to the investigating teams’ leader, and after a few minutes discovered what must have happened.
“Apparently, this guy Donnello happened on the scene a few minutes after the officer was killed,” the detective said. “The killer must have still been around. Perhaps, even waiting below on the tracks until after he heard the guy come down the stairs. When he walked over to investigate the body, the killer came back onto the platform and did him in.”
Mac turned from the detective to Harry and then back to the detective again.
“How long was the officer’s partner gone?” Mac asked.
The detective looked down and then looked straight into the Lieutenant’s eyes. “Maybe twenty thirty minutes.”
Mac said nothing. He just grunted and nodded his head, filing the statement away to be brought up at a more convenient time.
“Why so long?” It was Harry that kept it open. He’s been on the force too long, Mac thought seeing the angry expression on Harry’s face. Harry knew that on a deathwatch with a situation this ticklish, you didn’t leave a partner to hang alone for so long.
“He was getting some dinner for the two of them from a local greasy spoon,” the detective answered reading Harry’s thoughts.
“Dinner!” Harry mumbled.
“We’ll take this up later,” Mac assured Harry. “Right now let’s find out all we can about the killer.”
They were told that both victims were done in either by a meat cleaver, or small hatchet, and that each was killed by one powerful blow to the skull.
“The officer’s gun had been fired as well,” the detective informed them.
“How many rounds?” Mac said looking sharply at him.
“Two,” the detective responded.
“Any other bloodstains?” the Lieutenant asked.
“None,” was the response.
“Then I want your people to comb every inch of the area for slugs.” Mac ordered.
“Yes, sir,” the detective replied.
“And another thing . . .” Mac said.
“Lieutenant?” the detective queried.
“Check for witnesses,” Mac finished.
“Already did, sir. None around at the time. Apparently, the civilian would have been the witness,” he answered.
“I see,” Mac said. “Well then, check the street to see if anyone heard shots or saw the guy leave.”
“Right,” the other man replied.
“What about his partner?” Harry asked with a more professional candor.
“He’s up in one of the patrol cars,” was the answer.
“Did he hear any shots?” Harry said stifling his anger once more.
“Apparently not,” the other officer said with a deadpan expression which would not betray his own feelings. “He was in the diner when both incidents occurred.”
There was silence now with no response from Harry or Mac. Sensing that the question and answer session was over, the detective motioned the visiting officers over to where the two bodies lay. Neither would be removed on the detectives previous order because he wanted to try to re enact the scene to more closely scrutinize the crime, as if from the killer’s point of view. He hoped to gain a lead or two that way, seeing as how everything else the department followed up fizzled out.
Mac thought it was a good idea. He watched in earnest and when the re enactment was over, the idea struck him all at once, why the killer wasn’t seen topside by anyone else. “How could he?” Harry blurted. “He had to use the tunnel or he would have been spotted by the returning officer.”
They all stared at him when he made the statement because they were coming to the same conclusion at about the same time.
“He must have been using the tunnels all the time,” Harry concluded.
“All except the two times on the open platforms. The one time in Forest Hills and the other time up in the Bronx,” said Mac. “Right, but he could have run down along the trestles,” the other detective said.
With this, they all turned to stare down the black, gaping maw behind them.
“He’s been using them as a highway right under our noses,” said a voice behind them.
As they all turned, they saw Police Commissioner Gordon who entered quietly during the time of their re enactment.
“All this time he’s been traveling unscathed below us as we were searching the streets above. Some bunch of detectives we are,” he said loudly more to himself.
“Everybody clean up here after you find the slugs,” the Commissioner bellowed. “There’s a meeting back in my office immediately. The Mayor’s been on the phone with me all the way down here, and let me inform you, gentlemen, it hasn’t been a pleasant trip.” With this he turned on his heels and made his way back up the stairs to his car.
The three detectives stared at each other and shrugged, then Mac and Harry proceeded to follow the Commissioner back up to the street, leaving the team leader to finish up his work at the scene.
The meeting at the office was all but congenial. The men were tired and it was late. A late night call from the Mayor made Joe Gordon that much more irritable.
All the avenues that were normally open to the patterns of a killer seemed closed and the only thing they had to go on was the fact that their unknown assailant must have used the tunnels as an escape route. It was not much hope, but at least with this slender thread to work on, there might be a lead.
Gordon ordered several detectives to search the city records for anyone fitting the killer’s description who might have worked in the tunnels, and would have the knowledge of how to use them. The Transit Authority did likewise with an all night search into the personnel records of all its’ divisions of past or present employees, and especially centering on those who were let go or might hold a grudge for one reason or another.
By early morning, they drew a blank and were ordered to search the records again with the same result. By late morning, the Mayor ordered the commissioner to send teams of men to any former contractors the city did business with, to enlist their help on the same line of reasoning. They drew a blank.
With less than eight hours to go before night settled in, the Mayor ordered the police and the Transit Authority to double up their men on the station platforms with no less than four visible patrolmen per station area. The overtime results would be staggering to the city’s budget, but with the constituency hounding the city administration, driving the Mayor up a tree, he had no choice. Commuters on the late trains were down and everyone and his brother were writing letters of their discontent in the handling of the situation.
The Mayor wanted the guy caught, and the word was passed on that heads would roll if he was not. The grapevine also buzzed with the story that the Mayor was also making personal spot checks all over the city, just looking for anyone who was goofing off on patrol. This kept the guys on their feet.
Coupled with this, the Commissioner sent a visiting sergeant and a uniformed officer to take any late dinner or coffee orders to assure that another incident, like the one that happened at the twenty third street station, would not re-occur. The commissioner’s orders stood at ‘four visible uniforms at all times’. Low and to behold to those who disregarded them.
With the Mayor’s rumored spot checks came actual ones by gold shielded brass. It started looking like an underground reoccurrence of the situation evolving around the transit strike it the earlier part of nineteen-eighty when more uniforms could be seen than ever was imagined.
Now, everyone waited with baited breath to see what would happen the first night, after darkness finally fell. It was the only thing to do, unless something emerged from the research being done by the teams of detectives.
Tags: Night Trains