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Authors: James Patterson

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26

Isiah Parker; Cin-Cin

THE ONLY INDICATION
that 649 Spring Street wasn’t just another greasy, somber warehouse facade was an inconspicuous blue neon sign. “B
AR
” was all it said.

Neither the name of the after-hours spot—Cin-Cin—nor anything else that might attract attention was visible from the street. There was no clue that one of New York’s hottest clubs was inside the dreary warehouse.

Isiah Parker leaned against a chain fence across the street from the club’s entranceway.

He watched the usual doorman scene for a little more than an hour.

The caste system at Cin-Cin was based on money, looks, and what was described as “who you know, who you blow.” The two punk-beautiful doormen were arrogant and cruel, contemporary racists, Parker couldn’t help thinking as he watched them work, selecting one or two to be allowed inside, contemptuously rejecting others.

At three in the morning, Isiah Parker crossed the cobblestone street. Properly dressed, interesting enough, he was allowed inside Cin-Cin. He looked like he belonged, with his dark blue Paris blouse, loose black karate-gi trousers, black half boots, a diamond stud in his right ear.

Parker understood the scene at the Cin-Cin club. Friday night was
the
night here. Just as Monday was
the
night at Heartbreak, and Wednesday was
the
night at Area, and so on around the city.

Muscular bouncers were posted everywhere. They were mostly nasty weightlifter types who weren’t really all that tough.

The crowd milling around was the usual for a club of the moment. Commercial musicians and assorted Soho artists. Uptown fashion models, designers, famous athletes, trash from Queens, undercover police detectives who were actually a recognized part of the scene.

Parker found himself wondering how these people could do the scene—starting to party at one or two, often continuing until eight or nine. Then maybe breakfast at the Moonlighter, or the Empire Diner. Then what?

There was the usual crush of bodies mingling around the large horseshoe-shaped bar. Most of the men and women were dressed in black—black boots, black shoes and socks, black leather and buckskin vests, black turtlenecks and pants. Some of these people would casually drop four hundred dollars for a pair of black combat boots at nearby Comme des Garçons.

A few adventurers were outfitted in trash and vaudeville getups, pointy shoes from London, Betsey Johnson finery. Tattoos decorated an occasional cheek or forehead.

Isiah Parker’s brother, Marcus, had once said that New York’s night people were “living rock ‘n’ roll.” Marcus had meant that they were actually
living
rock and roll lyrics, not faking it for show. This was their life.

As he drifted away from the central bar, Parker found his body beginning to respond to the music: European disco mainly, not recognizable songs. Groups from the Netherlands and West Germany, from Italy, Sweden, and Norway dominated. Occasionally an American tune would break through, by experimental groups like Husker Du, the Blow Monkeys, Fine Young Cannibals.

“You want to dance? Dance with me, okay?” A tall slender black woman had come up to Parker. She wore a molded-to-the-body black leather dress with zippers at the neck and across her breasts. A Pomes Segli veiled hat completed the outfit.

Pickups were made by both women and men, but more often by women at Cin-Cin. Parker wanted to be friendly, but not to stand out tonight.

“Sure, let’s dance.”

They walked onto the dance floor and began to move.

“You’re a good dancer. Smooth. Nice,” she whispered, smiling shyly after the song had ended. “I have to go to the bathroom. Want to come
avec moi?

“Not right now. I’ll see you later, maybe.”

“Okay then. Ciao. Thanks for the dance. I like your diamond, the earring. It suits you.”

“Ciao.”

Parker moved on. The girl was pretty, at least in these party lights, but he couldn’t get connected tonight.

He passed into a smaller, more intimate chamber. Everything was glowing pink. Humorous, posturing flamingos were set into the walls.

Some of the club’s owners, plus a few heavy hitters, were clustered in the pink room. A well-known tennis player was giving audience. So was a famous rock singer. His fashion-model wife was at his side.

Isiah Parker couldn’t help thinking about his brother as he strolled around the room. He and Marcus had come to Cin-Cin in the glory days. He remembered a private room near the kitchen where crack was smoked in water pipes.

He noticed a clique of Oliver Barnwell’s associates congregated in the room. Barnwell’s group was the most territorial of New York’s narcotics gangs. They controlled Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and most of Soho. They were vicious about intrusions into their neighborhoods. Supposedly, Barnwell had been linked to Alexandre St.-Germain, to the sprawling syndicate currently invading the U.S. To the Midnight Club.

Parker spotted Oliver Barnwell comfortably ensconced beside the bar. Worth two hundred million in his stocking feet, the mob overlord was outfitted in a brown suede sport coat, beige silk shirt, and tan slacks. Oliver Barnwell liked white women, and Parker immediately thought back to Allure, the connection to sex.

Two spectacular-looking women were talking to him, whispering and posing. One of them toyed with the gold necklace around Barnwell’s throat. She had long, nervous fingers. Isiah Parker thought that she was definitely drug-sick.

There were several possibilities. Parker carefully began to roll them around in his mind. Somehow, he had to get Barn-well out of the pink room.

He decided to work under the worst assumption: that the bodyguards had already noticed him. Maybe they remembered when he used to drop into Cin-Cin with his brother.

Suddenly, the small details didn’t matter. Oliver Barnwell had separated himself from the group. He was heading out of the womblike room. Parker watched Barnwell discuss something with his bodyguards, then wave them away. He seemed to think of himself as the original macho man from central Harlem, the optimum smooth operator. He could solo if he wanted. Anywhere, anytime.

Isiah Parker followed the powerful drug dealer out of the barroom. It was easy to be unobtrusive in Cin-Cin, staying back fifteen or twenty feet.

Oliver Barnwell turned into a shiny black and white corridor leading to the bathrooms.

Isiah Parker followed behind. He tried not to think about what he had to do next. He couldn’t deal with that now. He thought about being a soldier again, the times back in Cambodia and Vietnam.

He watched Barnwell’s back disappear into one of the doorways along the corridor—the ladies’ room, which usually had as many men as women inside.

27

THE LADIES’ ROOM
at Cin-Cin was more crowded than the dance floor, or the main bar area. The musk of expensive colognes, mixed with liquor, created a fruity and exotic scent.

Oliver Barnwell sat on the edge of one of the shiny porcelain sinks, laughing with a couple of wild-looking ladies.

Parker’s eyes took in the heavily made-up faces. Thin, pouty slashes for mouths. Oliver Barnwell tapping a Jamaican cigar against the table surface, lighting up.

Gloves were hot right now.

Azzedine Alaia fashions were, too.

Anything black and white.

Pomes Segli.

Armani still held his own with some of the more traditional men.

Cheap chic still had a following.

All kinds of sniffing and snorting were going on toward the rear of the cavernous bathroom. No sex seemed to be in progress, but Parker knew that sex wasn’t unusual in the bathroom stalls of the ladies’. At three forty-five, it was still early; the night was full of promise.

Oliver Barnwell finally wandered back toward the smaller, interior room where all the toilet stalls and a few more sinks were located.

Parker moved smoothly now, edging up quickly from behind. All of his senses were alert. He was aware of almost everything that was going on in the bathroom.

For a moment, the two men could have been dancing a samba in the bathroom. It seemed as if the taller black man, Parker, simply needed to pass by to get to a toilet in a hurry.

“You piece of shit. Pusher,” he whispered.
“Pusherman!”

At first, Oliver Barnwell thought that Parker had punched him in the pit of his stomach. The pain and surprise in his eyes were sudden and extreme.

When he looked down, he saw the stiletto stuck in his abdomen. An awful gush of blood was spurting. His eyes registered chaos and confusion. He seemed unable to believe he had been stabbed right there in the bathroom.

Isiah Parker hurried out of the crowded ladies’ room. Clutching his coat to his body, he let the knife drop as he walked.

Parker didn’t feel much of anything as he pushed his way outside. Oliver Barnwell sold heroin and other drugs to thousands of men, women, and children on the streets of Harlem. That was all he wanted to think about right now. All he needed to know.

That, plus getting out of Cin-Cin as quickly as possible. Get to the elevator, get to the doorway, and out.

“Somebody’s real sick in there. Hey, tell them somebody’s sick. There’s a bad overdose inside, man.” He spoke to anyone who would listen.

The usual sickies in the crowd wolf-whistled and clapped. Everybody else seemed to take it calmly. The word was passed around, messengered along routinely. Someone had overdosed in the ladies’ room. A man was dead in there.

Parker waited for the freight elevator going down. He was trying to look like part of a group of seven or eight leaving the club. The rock music thundering inside was deafening.

He felt nothing as he finally descended to the street. Maybe a coldness in his stomach.

Out on Spring Street again, in the blue and black shadows across from Cin-Cin, Isiah Parker doubled over. He threw up against the cyclone fence. He held the thought inside—
murderer.

Less than thirty minutes later, John Stefanovitch was riding up in the same groaning warehouse elevator to view the remains of Oliver Barnwell.

Invisible men.

28

John Stefanovitch; One Police Plaza

STEFANOVITCH SPENT ALL
day Saturday working by himself at One Police Plaza. He enjoyed the relative quiet and the solitude.

The Organized Crime Task Force now included more than sixty detectives cooperating in all the boroughs of New York. There were briefings every day, including a progress review with the commissioner and several precinct captains.

On Monday, visitors from Interpol, Scotland Yard, and the French Sûreté would arrive in New York. During the past week, related killings had occurred in Palermo, Amsterdam, and London, where police officials maintained that organized crime wasn’t the problem.

On Sunday morning, John Stefanovitch’s black van entered the Queens Midtown Tunnel at six-fifteen. At the end of the long, gray tunnel, beyond the sleepy rows of tollbooths, he began his ride east on the Long Island Expressway. The sky overhead was pink, rolling up into a crisp blue that was peaceful and gorgeous.

For an hour and a half, everything was right with Stefanovitch’s world. He could feel a slight tingle, an overall pleasant sensation sweeping through his body, even down into his legs.

He arrived at the outskirts of East Hampton, Long Island, at seven-fifteen. He ate a homemade sausage and cheddar cheese omelet at Gilly’s Wharfside, where he also performed his Sunday ritual of reading the
Times:
news, sports, theater, “The Week in Review,” books, and the magazine.

When he had been recuperating from his gunshot wounds in New York Hospital, he had read the
Times
cover to cover for forty-five straight Sundays. He had also read books, hundreds of them: fiction and nonfiction, more than he had read during the first thirty years of his life combined. One of his favorites,
A Fan’s Notes,
by Frederick Exley, was about a screwed-up high school teacher who wound up with nothing in his life except reading the Sunday
Times
and watching the Giants play football. Every Saturday the guy would drive forty or fifty miles away from his hometown and go on a rip-roaring toot. On Sunday it would be even more drinking, plus the
Times,
and the pitiful “Jints” on TV. Always in some anonymous, down-and-out tavern where nobody knew who he was. Then it was home again, home again, to teach school on Monday morning.

After his breakfast, Stefanovitch entered East Hampton proper. Soon, he was passing comfortable old houses of no great distinction, sighting the broad fairways and monster greens of the Maidstone Club Golf Course, which flanked the road on the right. The imposing bulk of the clubhouse faced the ocean like a fortress-castle.

Three quarters of a mile beyond the golf course, entrances to impressive summer estates began to appear. Long, curling driveways led to improbably small sand dunes. Behind them, sprawling beach houses were quietly settled into the earth.

The short stretch along the beach road was exhilarating. He turned up the car radio, letting it blare and become an almost physical presence. He sang along with a Tina Turner song called “Private Dancer.” He opened both front windows, and the sea breeze whipped his brown hair around his ears and across his forehead.

29

THE HOUSE HE
was looking for had a modest driveway that curved gracefully at the end, to begin a turnaround. The turnaround broadened into a circle for parking cars. The house itself was dominated by weathered gray shingles with white latticing. All the window frames on the two-story house were neatly trimmed in white. Glossy, bright blue shutters were already catching sparkles of sunlight.

Stefanovitch was a little in awe. He hadn’t been properly prepared for Sarah McGinniss’s
beach cottage.

She was sitting out on the back porch, waiting for him to arrive, or maybe just sitting on the porch for no reason at all.

They agreed to meet and spend Sunday wading through her confidential notes, the files on Alexandre St.-Germain, Oliver Barnwell, and John Traficante. They would try to connect the murdered crime figures with somebody on the videotapes, or perhaps someone in Sarah’s files. The change of venue to the beach house seemed like a good idea. Stefanovitch figured it was like playing a home-and-home series in sports.

A steaming mug was cradled in the lap of Sarah’s bright yellow sundress. She looked different again. Prettier, but also more carefree.

“Good morning, Lieutenant.” Sarah rose and came walking toward his car. Her bare, bony feet balanced on the driveway’s shiny white gravel and broken shells. The yellow sundress ballooned slightly with the sea breeze. He caught every detail.

“Morning, ma’am.” Stefanovitch smiled like a local Johnny Law. “Which way to the servants’ entrance?”

“Don’t be a wise guy, Lieutenant. After the book hit, I had a few choices—investing in shopping centers in places like Bloomington, Indiana. Or maybe something like this house. I thought the house might be a little more fun than the Stop and Shops.”

Stefanovitch nodded. His eyes continued to survey the beachfront house and property.

“I’ll show you where we’re going to work. C’mon.”

He followed her along a bleached slat walkway that led toward the oceanfront.

It was a luminous day. The air was clear, thick with salt, and the sky was the brightest blue. Gray and off-white seagulls were flapping overhead, as if someone had thrown them handfuls of bread crumbs. Somewhere down the beach, a halyard rang softly against a sailboat mast.

Sarah had set up a long wooden worktable on the first extension of the front porch. It was covered with papers, shaded by a navy blue awning.

Stefanovitch could imagine her sitting out there, writing her books.

“Where would you like to set up shop?” She spoke over the hiss of the wind. “I thought maybe that porch over there.”

“The porch looks great to me. It beats Police Plaza on a day like today. All kidding aside, this is very special.”

“All kidding aside, thank you.”

BOOK: Midnight Club
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