Read Midnight Club Online

Authors: James Patterson

Midnight Club (4 page)

BOOK: Midnight Club
4.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

10

THE THREE MEN FROM THE
Escort knew which buzzer to press once they entered the vestibule of Allure. One important question, which wasn’t to be answered for some time, was how they were admitted into the front hall of the apartment itself.

The police theory was that they gained entry either through an open window that led into the garden, or by sneaking up from the cellar. Neither theory was correct.

They came in through the oak double doors in front.

They were wearing raincoats, ball caps, and high-top sneakers, yet they proceeded into the front hall as if they owned Allure.

They each carried an Uzi machine-gun pistol.

The two call girls had begun to undress Alexandre St.-Germain. They worked slowly and sensually, like an improvisational dance troupe.

Their fingers played musical scales up and down his spine. Then, the same fingers were like delicate airbrushes on his thighs, biceps, and genitals. The elaborate ritual reminded him of the finest geishas in Kyoto.

Naked, he was impressive, well muscled and firm. He worked on his physique with a private trainer, in New York, and had done the same for years in London. Like everything else in his control, his body was close to perfection.

Alexandre St.-Germain stood up suddenly. He waved the girls away. Instantly, his eyes seemed flat and cold. He was somewhere back inside his own mind again. Who knew where he went in his private thoughts?

He hurried across the bedroom without saying a word, entering a bathroom connected to the suite. The door closed and the water ran full force inside.

The three men—Jimmy Burke, Aurelio Rodriquez, Isiah Parker—separated once they were inside the downstairs area of Allure.

The two bodyguards were watching television on the first floor, and were easily dispatched. In a way, it almost seemed too easy so far.

When Alexandre St.-Germain returned, the two call girls understood that he was in complete control for the evening.

He was wearing a black leather mask, in keeping with the current trend of danger in the world of kinky sex in New York. The mask had zippers that looked like jagged scars running down both his cheeks. Polished metal studs jutted across his forehead and chin.

This was the Grave Dancer, just the way legend had him: exotic and mysterious.

The drugs consumed upon the Grave Dancer’s arrival began to take effect. His slurred sentences dominated their attempts at conversation; jumbled words ran into and over more jumbled words.

Expensive oils were poured, then smeared over the muscular curves of Alexandre St.-Germain’s body. High overhead, a network of mirror images ebbed and flowed across the ceiling. Shadows danced and fused with one another. A warm, lubricated finger slid into his rectum. Another entered his mouth.

Then something was wrong. Suddenly, in the midst of all the pleasure, something was happening, something completely out of symmetry.

“What’s that? The sound?”

They all heard it. Outside in the hallway. It began with a heavy footfall… Approaching footsteps that then seemed to trail away.

Voices were approaching upstairs. Several voices merged into a solid block of noise. Everything was happening too fast now.

St.-Germain sat upright, fully alert, but also trapped in silk sheets and too many pillows, in the jumble of bare legs and arms, silk stockings and garters thrown everywhere on the bed.

Both women were on their knees, their lovely mouths open in surprise.

“Who is it? Who’s out there?” St.-Germain demanded.

The bedroom door was flung open. A man holding a machine-gun pistol rushed inside. A black billed cap was pulled over most of his face. He was in a professional shooting crouch.

“What?… Are you from the Midnight Club?” Alexandre St.-Germain completely lost his composure as he spoke. A burst of words came tumbling out of his mouth in a voice that wasn’t quite his own.
“Are you from Midnight?”
he screamed again.

“Get out of here. Both of you,” the man with the gun said to the two call girls.

The women frantically ran from the mirrored bedroom, tripping over one another as they tried to get into the hallway.

At that same instant, a submachine-gun blast nearly ripped off the head of Alexandre St.-Germain. The shocked European crime boss was thrown back hard against the creamy white bedroom wall.

“Midnight?”
came a final gargled scream.

11

John Stefanovitch; West Ninety-ninth Street; Two
A.M.

NIGHTMARES.

There were these recurring nightmares that suddenly came true in his waking hours, John Stefanovitch had begun to think. It was happening to him right now.

The back of his neck was soaked with sweat, and his khaki sport shirt was sticking. His heart raced underneath the plastered-down shirt. He felt sick to his stomach, as if at any moment he could completely lose it.

The tires of his van squealed as it accelerated, then curled down the hill, speeding onto West Ninety-ninth Street.

Less than forty minutes before, he’d been awakened by the anxious voice of his captain in Homicide…

“There’s been a multiple homicide up on West Ninety-ninth Street. It looks like a professional hit. They used sub-machine guns, maybe Uzis… It’s Alexandre St.-Germain.”

“What about St.-Germain? What are you saying?”
Stefanovitch had asked. His voice was groggy, his brain only partially awake.

“He’s dead. Somebody got the scumbag tonight. I thought you’d want to know, Stef.”

Once he was on Ninety-ninth Street, Stefanovitch easily spotted his partner, Bear Kupchek. He saw the Bear as his van slowly rolled down the steep hill toward Riverside Park. It would have been difficult
not
to notice the six-foot-four, 260-pound detective.

“I live all the way out in Ridgewood, New Jersey,” Kupchek said in greeting. The meaning of the remark was that from almost thirty miles away, he had still beaten Stefanovitch to the Upper Manhattan crime scene.

Stefanovitch was too preoccupied to be insulted by the Bear. He was reaching and groping into the backseat of the van, making noises like someone searching through pots and pans in a cluttered kitchen.

“They didn’t call me right away,” he said into the backseat. “That figures, I guess.”

“You are some kind of paranoid asshole sometimes. I mean it, Stefanovitch. Stop thinking like that.”

“This isn’t paranoia. They didn’t call me until they found out they couldn’t get somebody else to schlep up here. They didn’t think I could handle this.”

Stefanovitch finally shoved open the van door. He nearly hurled the folded body of a specially designed twenty-two-pound wheelchair out onto West Ninety-ninth Street.

He then shimmied across the front seat, trying not to wince as a knife of pain pierced his lower spine.

Grasping the door with one arm, he pulled open the lightweight, foldaway wheelchair and sat down in it with a dull thud. The whole operation had taken a little less than twenty seconds. About average assembly time.

“Christ, you’re actually getting slower at that. I’d have thought a former farmboy-jock like yourself would have that knocked cold by now.”

Kupchek was still nagging and complaining at him from the sidewalk. He was really wound up tonight, Stefanovitch could tell. Kupchek had been Stefanovitch’s number two for nearly four years, since before the transfer to Homicide. He had learned not to help Stef unless the help was absolutely necessary, or explicitly requested.

Stefanovitch hit the sidewalk rolling, ignoring the stream of gibes from Kupchek. Both of his arms were pressed down hard against the rubber guards over the wheels of his chair. The tarnished silver vehicle seemed to fly, moving faster than it looked as if it ought to.

He aimed himself toward the general commotion, down where the dome lights on half a dozen police cruisers were rotating, shining emergency red and blue. The riot of bright colors caused him to squint both eyes.

“How many dead inside, officer?” Stefanovitch finally stopped in front of a well-kept brownstone. He questioned a bleary-eyed patrolman posted at the foot of the stairs.

The young patrolman recognized Lieutenant Stefanovitch from Homicide. John Stefanovitch’s controversial return to active duty had made newspaper and television reports around the city a year before. Since then, his reputation in the police department had shifted from “hard-charging,” to “tough and cranky,” to “presuicidal.”

“Three, sir, I think. Two on the first floor. Throats cut. One’s up on the second floor. The coroner himself’s inside.”

“Big deal.” Bear Kupchek seemed to let the words slide out the side of his mouth. “I’m here myself, aren’t I? Lieutenant Stefanovitch is here himself.”

Kupchek suddenly lifted Stefanovitch out of the wheel-chair. The sight was startling and completely unexpected, but the young patrolman didn’t allow himself to blink, much less smile.

“Don’t just stand there, bring along Lieutenant Stefanovitch’s chair,” Kupchek snapped back at the patrolman, who immediately obliged.

“Easy with the merchandise,” Stefanovitch said as he was hoisted up the front stairs like a bulky sack of grain. No matter how much he tried to rationalize it, being carried was humiliating. It made him feel like a freak. That was the word; it was exactly the way he felt, the way a lot of people in wheel-chairs were made to feel.

“All right, let the lieutenant through,” Kupchek called ahead in a loud, gruff voice.

Stefanovitch and Bear Kupchek passed through a crush of crime-scene regulars as they made their way into the brown-stone. The familiar jangle of guns and handcuffs surrounded them.

Officers nodded and muttered their hellos. Everyone seemed to know Stefanovitch and Kupchek. Necks stretched to catch the sight anyway.

Kupchek put Stefanovitch back into his wheelchair on the second floor.

“Thanks for the ride,” Stefanovitch said.

“All in the line of duty. Anyway, it helps keep me svelte.”

“Bear, I want you to wake up the Fifth Homicide Zone.” Stefanovitch then said to Kupchek, “Make it the Fifth and the Sixth Zone.”

“You want me to call
Good Morning America,
too?”

“Canvass every car between Ninetieth Street and One Hundred Tenth. We’ll need all the license plate numbers. Find out who might have been parking a car on the street late tonight. Maybe somebody saw something. Have them wake up the supers in all the buildings along Ninety-ninth… See if any garages are open late. Find me a witness, Bear. That’ll keep you svelte.”

12

THE TWO CALLS
girls who had been with Alexandre St.-Germain were being held for questioning. They were waiting inside a formal parlor on the second floor.

From the hallway, Stefanovitch saw a young, extremely beautiful blond woman, a heartbreaker of the first magnitude. She was wrapped in an expensive-looking brocaded silk robe, sitting with her face hidden in both hands.

Even in shock, she was stunning. Her hair was pulled back, tied in a red satin ribbon. She didn’t look as if she belonged at Allure. Maybe at some manicured estate in Westchester, or up on the Connecticut River.

“Her name’s Kimberly Victoria Manion,” Kupchek confided. “She does some modeling, some acting. She only does special numbers here at Allure. Calls them dates. That’s what she said, Stef. Originally, she’s from Lincoln, Nebraska.”

“She should have stayed out there in Nebraska,” Stefanovitch said.

“The other one is Kay Whitley.”

The second call girl waiting in the parlor was even more interesting to Stefanovitch. She had already changed into a yellow slip of a dress, with cream-colored stockings and expensive, conservative high heels.

“She’s from Poughkeepsie originally. She tells everybody, all her clients, that she’s from Boston. Very proper way of speaking. Lots of long
a
’s.”

Stefanovitch finally entered the parlor. His voice was quiet at first, almost soothing.

Both of the women looked up. They were obviously surprised by the wheelchair, but also by the good-looking and virile man sitting in it.

“My name is John Stefanovitch. I’m a lieutenant with the Homicide Division. The man in the clip-on tie is Senior Detective Kupchek. As you already know, there’s been a murder here. Three murders, actually. Both of you are material witnesses.”

The girls nodded without saying anything. Kimberly Manion’s cheeks were streaked with mascara. Stefanovitch felt sorry for her, but he figured she was probably tougher than she looked.

She was, he found out over the next two hours. Both girls were tough.

By the end of the question-and-answer session, it was four in the morning. Stefanovitch hadn’t learned nearly enough. He didn’t have a description of the hit team, not even agreement on their number. Or how they’d gotten inside Allure.

“I’d like to see where he was shot. Bear?”

Stefanovitch twisted his body around in the wheelchair, and spoke to Kupchek. He had been putting off the final step, but the time had come.

His partner nodded, but he didn’t seem too happy about Stefanovitch’s decision.

“The medical examiners are still there. The coroner’s wagon is parked out on the street. I’ve already taken
beaucoup
notes in there, Stef. Leave it alone.”

“Go ask them to take ten. I have to see the bedroom. Just the way it is. Just the way
he
is.”

“Why do you want to go down there? I took enough notes for
Crime and Punishment II.
They’re doing forensic sketches. Don’t do this to yourself.”

John Stefanovitch pushed himself out of the parlor without saying anything else to Kupchek.

Once he was in the hallway, Stefanovitch realized that he felt more drained than he’d thought. His mouth was dry. A dead weight was pushing down on him, making his shoulders sag.

Stefanovitch passed inside the high-ceilinged master bedroom. He closed the paneled, heavy wooden door behind him.

Alexandre St.-Germain was laid out alongside an unzippered gray body bag on the bed.
The Grave Dancer was right there.

The shock of the brutal murder finally struck Stefanovitch with a physical jolt. Bile rose in his throat.
Someone had gotten to the Grave Dancer before he had.

The attack had exposed jagged bone on both sides of St.-Germain’s chest. The mobster’s head and most of his neck had been savaged by the machine-gun volley. The body looked desecrated, smaller than life, smaller than the grandiose reputation, certainly. Still intact on one of the gang leader’s fingers was an immense diamond and onyx ring, easily fifteen carats, a marquise cut.

At the moment of death, Alexandre St.-Germain seemed to have suffered intense pain. Stefanovitch knew the feeling. He’d experienced everything about the moment, except the release of death itself.

Stefanovitch moved closer to the bed, which was still draped in silver satin sheets. His mind was moving back and forth through time, flashing too many images for him to absorb.

Part of him was inside the West Side town house—but part of John Stefanovitch was in Long Beach, two years ago. Another part of him was holding his wife, Anna, cradling her in his arms, sobbing his hopelessness. He could remember what Anna’s touch had been like. The scent of Bal de Versailles, her favorite perfume. These memories never dimmed. Sometimes their intensity was a comfort and sometimes it was horrible torture.

All of the agony and physical suffering during the past two years seemed compressed into this moment. He felt an indescribable rage. A burning had settled in his chest.

Stefanovitch leaned forward in his wheelchair, careful not to topple it over and find himself in a state of helplessness. He stared at the remains of Alexandre St.-Germain, the Grave Dancer, wearing his million-dollar diamond ring.

Then he made one final gesture he would remember long after everything else had faded.

John Stefanovitch leaned forward and he spit onto St.-Germain’s bloodied corpse. “Welcome to hell,” he whispered, not even recognizing the sound of his own voice.
“Rot in fucking hell!”

When he turned to leave, the Bear was standing in the doorway. The detective frowned and slowly shook his head. “Yeah, you’re just fine, Stef. See everything you needed to see?”

BOOK: Midnight Club
4.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Foe by J.M. Coetzee
Center of Gravity by Ian Douglas
Henna House by Nomi Eve
The Enchanter by Vladimir Nabokov
Norton, Andre - Novel 15 by Stand to Horse (v1.0)
Return to Marker Ranch by Claire McEwen
The Lost Prince by Edward Lazellari