Scroll down for scenes from Buzz Killer!
All excerpts and photos © 2017 Tom Straw. Photo credit: Andrew Straw.
Wild drove herself in a fog of disbelief to Bellevue where the ambulance had rushed her client. She called ahead to Soledad Esteves Torres, and her team’s social worker was waiting for her in the center of the huge glass atrium that formed the modern entrance where IM Pei had encased the old hospital in a St. Elsewhere snow globe of grief and miracles.
Macie Wild parked herself on an ass-worn oak bench in a hallway of the Criminal Courts Building to set about managing her day and deploying her team. ... It was common practice for the PDs to handle each other’s cases when pressing circumstances called for it, and nobody disputed—or envied—the uphill road with Wild’s tabloid client, the Buzz Killer himself.
Climbing the stairwell of any New York City apartment building is pretty much like taking an olfactory core sample. You know what was for lunch and what’s for dinner, who’s cleaning and who needs to take out the garbage. Macie Wild scaled the cracked steps of the walk-up in Spanish Harlem, picking up the ghost specimens: onions, cumin, fried fish, old fish. A Dr. Seuss take on lives being lived in dense proximity.
They found themselves in a kitchen supply store. It was well after hours, and the lights were off, but there was sufficient illumination seeping through the storefront to make out the gleaming pots and pans and gourmet gadgets on the aisles of shelving. They sprinted along a line of coffeemakers and fondue pots to the front door to make their escape. It was locked.
The architecture froze storybook New York in time: plenty of brick and stone, more old wood than brushed steel, and fire escapes unabashedly zigzagged the fronts of buildings instead of being hidden on the side... In just one block she passed two art galleries, a farm-to-table diner sharing a wall with a coal-oven pizzeria, and a vintage clothing boutique marketing irony.
She lost sight of the bird when it bisected the only Manhattan skyscraper visible from where she stood, the controversial new condominium tower recently built on West Fifty-Seventh. Between the coils of razor wire, Macie could make out the top ten of its eighty-eight floors. She turned toward the jail complex and wondered if the inmates had a view of the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere, with a penthouse that went for ninety-five-mil, something even Manhattan’s own wealthiest couldn’t afford. Maybe, she thought, people had it wrong. Maybe New York was actually a Tale of Three Cities.
Ten minutes later they sat alone on a sofa in the conversation area of Orem Diner’s corner suite, sipping coffee and looking down at the dome of Saint Bart’s while he finished a meeting. “Check out who he’s with,” said Cody. She turned from the skyline to the glass wall that gave onto the partners’ offices. A cluster of attorneys filed out of the conference room with a future Hall of Fame quarterback who was taking the NFL to court over a suspension resulting from some controversial body part Tweets.
They met the next morning for a stand-up breakfast at the Café Europa on Lex then walked to Park Avenue for their appointment with the Angolan stud’s attorney. ... The wide sidewalk was typically immaculate and ablaze with the end of the season’s red tulips and a border of blue Dutch hyacinths.
The Ajax, a spire of cobalt blue glass, looked as if it hadn’t so much been built up from amid the tight cluster of luxury high-rises off the southwest corner of Central Park as inserted down into it by the hand of some unseen god from another galaxy.
Cody was right where he said he’d be, sitting outside the Irving Roasters at Seventy-Ninth and Broadway when Wild came up from the subway. He ditched his empty espresso cup and said, “I’d offer you a latte, but I think we should just get there and do this.”
New York is a city sculpted by sound as much as sight, and the whisper of a jet far above the clouds was the only intrusion except for fading taxi horns as she left Columbus Avenue behind. With each step into the residential block of West Seventy-Eighth Street, Macie progressed into a refuge of calm. It was as if every sycamore growing out of its sidewalk planter marked another buffer against urban noise.
Joggers huffed by now and then as they strode the blacktop path alongside the Harlem River where it flowed into Hell Gate, the channel where it joined the East River. A windless afternoon, the water to their right lay flat, with the only disturbance created upstream by an asphalt barge getting a tug push south. Just a few blocks to its stern, the vessel’s wake slapped against the piles of the East Harlem Fishing Pier. But Wild and Cody weren’t watching waves; they were looking for signs of life on the wharf.
“No offense, but this is where you people fall short.”
“Tell me what you mean, and I’ll let you know if I’m offended.”
“You can’t accept pushback from a dickhead. That’s just the opening move.” He took out a pair of compact binocs and trained them on the fishermen. While he watched, he continued, “Tell me. Do you make me out as a cop? Do I really put that out there?”
The Barksdale, an exclusive luxury address off Sutton Place South, sat dwarfed yet dignified, a quiet piece of art framed between precast brick facing on the left and tempered glass stacked twenty-five and thirty stories skyward on the right. To her it held fast as a lonely sentinel against the changes surrounding it.
“Looks like he’s working his way to the Williamsburg Bridge.” Cody glanced at his dash. “Fine with me, I’ve got a full tank.”
Up ahead, a box truck made a sudden lane change for a right onto Delancey then brake checked for a couple pushing a stroller in the crosswalk. Tires squealed and the white sedan rear-ended the truck. With Cody closing in, their perp abandoned his car and raced off around the corner.
Two hours later, parked outside a flophouse in the Bowery, they sat at the console in the rear of Cody’s van listening to Fabio Mir place a cell phone bet from his room. In a pause while the bookie looked up the over-under, they made out the unmistakable sound of their subject urinating in the toilet. “Hear that? That’s why I insist on Bose speakers,” said Cody.
Peering across Centre Street over a rack of Citi Bikes, she reflected, as she often did, on George Washington’s quotation chiseled into the granite frieze: “The True Administration of Justice is the Firmest Pillar of Good Government.” Then a lone figure in a navy-blue power suit appeared from behind one of the Corinthian colonnades under the Founding Father’s inscription. Macie regarded Theresa Fontanelli and wondered if the ADA ever noticed it.
He seemed to have a destination in mind, and so she just stayed at his elbow as they wove past the window shoppers and cafés until he gestured through the gate of the little pocket of a park on Elizabeth Street. The Gothic statuary made the small patch of urban greenery a small cemetery without the bodies.
Wild stepped through a nondescript door beside a pop-up vegan chocolatier and, for the second time that day, found herself searching a directory in a vestibule. It showed a Cody, G., but no business listing. She pressed the call button. After a brief pause, the speaker filled with the tinny background sounds of a TV or, perhaps, a radio talk show, followed by a man’s voice. “Not today, thank you.” Click. Silence.