maandag 28 september 2015
The first day of spring. Cold, rainy. Ten a.m.
Coltrane, a giant saxophone-playing rodent wearing a red beret, hung from the ceiling of Mocha Mouse, a kind of coffee shop–deli that had become my hangout. I had just finished reading an article in about the most recent collection of rubber stamps given to the new mayor—the one who promised a city free of bookkeeping ploys or sleight-of-hand political maneuvers—when I looked up to see a kid standing in front of the door, shaking the water off his leather jacket and scanning the room. His T-shirt clung to a severely chiseled physique. He was slim, about five-nine, and his shaved head and baby face reminded me of the screaming man in that famous painting. When his gaze reached the far corner of the room, he looked at me squint-eyed for several seconds, then advanced. His swagger meant business. As he approached, I recalled eyeing my holstered gun as I left my apartment. Alas, I’d left it behind.
“Are you Mr. Landau?” he said in blue-collar New Jersey.
“I might be,” I said, unable to keep a straight face. My humor escaped him.
“Oh. I thought maybe—”
“Sorry. I’m Landau. What can I do for you?”
The kid took a seat and folded the jacket on his lap. “Mr. Kalijero told me to see you.”
“First, tell me who you are.”
“Uh, I’m Eddie Byrne.” Eddie offered his hand. I took it. A spiderweb tattoo stretched between thumb and forefinger.
“How do you know Detective Kalijero?”
“I don’t know Detective Kalijero. But he’s friends with a cop I know back East. Kalijero said you’re good at findin’ people.”
“Tell me what Kalijero looks like.”
“I just talked to him on the phone.”
I folded the newspaper shut and pushed it aside. “Are you searching for birth parents?”
The kid screwed up his face. “No, no. My girlfriend, Tanya Maggio.”
He handed me a photo taken in a booth where you sat on a stool while the camera flashed rapid-fire then spit out a strip of pictures. She bordered between cute and pretty, with straight dark hair and a perky nose.
“How old is this picture?”
“It was a while ago,” he said. “But that’s what she looks like.”
“When did you last see her?”
“Over a year ago.” He started scratching the back of his neck. A bear claw of black ink graced his left forearm.
“Okay, if you want me to help you, then you need to tell me a story about Eddie and the gal he hasn’t seen in a year. Let’s start with where been the last year.”
“Yeah, yeah. Sorry, I ain’t never talked with a guy like you before. I’ve been away. So me and Tanya haven’t been seein’ each other so much but now I’m back and I heard she came to Chicago.”
He was starting to annoy me. “You were away, like away in the Peace Corps?” I was pretty sure that wasn’t it.
Eddie looked confused. “No, no. I don’t know no Peace Corps. I just had some business out of town for a while.”
I stared at him then took a calculated risk. “Just say it. ”
Eddie scratched his neck again then looked at me with a sheepish, mea culpa face. “Yeah, okay, I was, but more like three years. She stopped visitin’ me over a year ago. I got my last letter six months ago. And then nothin’. She knew I was gettin’ out. And we was all excited because I was gonna make a new start with her, you know? And then she takes off.”
“Hang on. She came to Chicago a year ago, after her last visit to you in the can? Or six months ago, after her last letter?”
“I dunno. Her last letter had no return address or nothin’.”
“You didn’t even get an email?”
“Ain’t no email in East Jersey State Prison.”
“What about the postmark on the letter?”
More confusion. “I don’t remember.”
“What did the letter say?”
Eddie shrugged. “Nothin’ special. Nothin’ about leavin’.”
“What about her friends?”
“Nobody knows nothin’ except she took off for Chicago. And she was workin’ at some fancy wine bar.”
“And nobody knows why she left without telling you ?”
Eddie turned his head away just enough to indicate he was about to lie—then he looked back at me and nodded.
“Well, I don’t think I’m your guy. But it was nice meeting you.” I picked up .
“What? Why? I got money.” From under the leather jacket he took a folded wad of cash in a rubber band, then reached across the table and dropped it in front of me. General Grant and the troops looked pretty well worn, like they’d just retreated from Cold Harbor. I looked around the room. “That’s five large,” Eddie said quietly.
“You got balls, Eddie. I mean, this isn’t a tough neighborhood, but if you go tossing 5K bankrolls around, it’s only a matter of time.”
Suddenly, his eyes narrowed, turning the nice kid into a serial killer. Just as quickly, he softened. “Yeah, well, I guess this is how I know to do business. It’s just a down payment to show you I ain’t full a shit. And I got plenty more. I really gotta find Tanya. She’s been at my side my whole crappy life. She’s never let me down. I don’t care what it costs, Mr. Landau. I’ll pay it.”
He slouched in his chair, staring at the table. His lower lip quivered a few times. I picked up the cash and fingered the beat-up bills. Then I took two cards out of my jacket pocket and tossed them to Eddie. “Write your number on one of them. And tell me about this wine bar.”
Eddie wrote down a number. “I don’t got the name of the bar, except it’s on the North Side and they serve the fancy stuff to yuppies.”
“Maybe they don’t drink wine in Jersey, but the North Side’s a big neighborhood with a lot of fancy wine bars.”
Eddie rubbed his temples. “It’s near the river.”
Actually, that narrowed my search significantly and I took this as a good sign.
Author: Marc Krulewitch
In Marc Krulewitch’s gritty new mystery, perfect for readers of Robert Crais and Marcia Muller, a beautiful missing woman and a mysterious wine lead Chicago shamus Jules Landau straight toward a killer with very bad taste.
Jules Landau’s father was mobbed up, as was his father before him. Jules takes a different path: He’s a licensed private eye, currently collecting his paycheck in cash from a young ex-con looking for his missing girlfriend, Tanya. But as Jules scours Chicago’s North Side, he realizes that any number of people might want to make sure Tanya stays gone. At the heart of her disappearance seems to be a thriving black market for expensive French wine—a vintage so lucrative that Tanya may have paid for it with her life.
Following a trail of cash and power with more twists than a corkscrew, Jules traces a criminal conspiracy back to a corrupt New Jersey cop. With nobody telling the truth, Jules knows he has to act fast . . . because a perfect crime only gets better with age.
Marc Krulewitch’s Jules Landau mysteries take place in Chicago, where he was born and where his family has lived for generations. He now resides in Colorado.
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Marc-Krulewitch/e/B00494ET3W
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