Read Phantom Limb Online

Authors: Dennis Palumbo

Phantom Limb (3 page)

BOOK: Phantom Limb
8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

By this point, she was blinking back tears.

“I got busted. Twice, for dealing and using. My drug addiction meant losing custody of Gail to my ex. No irony there, eh? In and out of rehab, all the time trying get my daughter back. Which I finally did.”

“How?”

“Easy. Suddenly her father was engaged to some skank who wanted kids of her own, and didn't want a brat from somebody else's eggs messing up the Norman Rockwell family portrait.”

“Is that when you retired from films?”

Lisa gave me another of those withering looks with which I was quickly becoming familiar.

“Is that what you call it when nobody returns your calls, or can find time for lunch, or pretends they don't recognize you on the street? Then, yeah, I fucking retired.”

I was about to follow up with another question when I glanced at the table clock. Lisa's eyes followed mine.

“You're
shitting
me! Is that it?”

I nodded slowly. “I know, and I'm sorry. There's still so much we have to cover if I'm to help you. We never even got to the question of
why?
Why you want to end your life…”

“And whose fault is that? I said you had fifty minutes to talk me out of it, and you didn't.”

“Well, then we have a problem.” I looked at her as directly and intently as I could. “Because our time is up.”

She regarded me skeptically.

“So suddenly you're a hard-ass? You're going to just let me go home and
do
it? Without even finding out why? Thanks a lot.”

With that, she slowly got to her feet, straightening her clothes with great care.

“Wait a minute, Lisa.”

No reply. Glasses back on, she made a point of looking away from me, toward the door.

I took a breath. Actually, since Lisa was my last patient for the day, my next hour was free. But I was still going on pure instinct, plus a belief that she and I had made a real connection. And that the conventional structure of treatment scheduling was crucial to working with her. To providing a firm though supportive foundation. So I suggested something else.

“Lisa,” I asked gently, “would you like to come back tomorrow, same time, and die again?”

“Are you serious?”

“Absolutely.”

She considered this for a long moment. “What the hell, why not?” Followed by a wry, mirthless chuckle.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of our work together, but I'd take what I could get. I knew that what I'd done with Lisa was clinically outrageous, therapeutically questionable. Maybe even actionable. Yet as far as I could tell, she was no longer intent on killing herself.

At least, not today.

Still, as I walked her out through the empty waiting room, toward the hall door, I figured I'd call Lisa in a few hours to confirm tomorrow's appointment, and to assess again for suicidal ideation. But my clinical intuition—my gut—told me that my new patient was out of danger, at least for the foreseeable future.

My gut was wrong.

He was standing right there when I opened the door.

Big, taller than me. Filling the doorway. In a black jacket and jeans. Eyes hidden by dark glasses.

He had something in his hand. Raising it…

I thought I heard Lisa scream, though it could have been the soundless, panicked screech exploding from my brain as the thing in his hand came down.

And my head seemed to split open.

And then everything—my life, my world—was gone.

Chapter Three

An eternity or two passed. And then I heard the voice. Hard, gruff, commanding. With a smoker's rasp.

“Hey, looks like he's comin' around….”

A sudden nausea gripped me as I blinked, repeatedly, willing my eyes to open.

When they finally did, I found myself on the sofa in my office waiting room. Staring up into the ruddy, scowling face of Detective Sergeant Harry Polk.

“So, Rinaldi, you
are
alive….” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder, indicating a youngish EMT in hospital greens leaning in behind him. “Which means I owe Hornbeck here twenty bucks. I had you figgered for a goner.”

I managed a faint smile. “Tough break, Harry.”

Polk muttered something unintelligible and stood to his full height, rubbing the small of his back with both hands. As always, the veteran Pittsburgh PD detective looked aggrieved. Put upon. As though he always wished he were anywhere but here—no matter where “here” was.

I'd come to know Harry Polk pretty well, having first met him when I became involved in the Wingfield investigation some years back. Though he was uncomfortable with my being a psychologist, let alone a consultant to the Department, we had arrived over time at a kind of uneasy truce.

Polk was a burly, barrel-chested cop of the old school, with thinning hair and a drinker's bleary squint. Now, vainly trying to straighten the wrinkles from his ill-fitting gray suit, he gave me a last, dubious look before stepping back to let the EMT take his place at my side.

Lean and wiry, with a tuft of curly reddish-brown hair, Hornbeck unspooled his stethoscope and gave me a professional smile. Then he methodically checked my vitals, giving me another two or three minutes to come fully into consciousness.

Which may have been a mistake, because suddenly I was aware of the searing pain at the side of my skull. Aware, too, of the memory of the big man standing in the corridor outside my office when I opened the door.

Then I remembered something else. Lisa Campbell.

Gasping from the effort, I tried to get up on an elbow. Another mistake, as a second volley of nausea coursed through me. I struggled not to pass out.

Hornbeck raised his hand, as though to restrain me, but I batted it away.

“Harry! There was someone with me before. When I was attacked. A patient—”

“Yeah, we know, Doc. Lisa Campbell. Why the hell you think we're here?”

I looked past where Polk stood by the waiting room window, wearily shifting his weight from one foot to the other. Saw that the sky outside had grown dark, blue-black. Heard the whistling of an ominous wind as it threaded the trees below.

“Wait a minute. You
knew
Lisa had an appointment with me?”

“Her husband did. Charles Fuckin' Harland, for Christ's sake. So when she didn't come home by sundown, at least he knew the last place she'd been was your office.”

“The last…?”

“Lisa's missin', Doc. Harland says he tried all her phone numbers, then called the Department.” A wry look. “To be exact, he called the chief.
At home
. Precinct sent me over here. And what do I find? Your suite door open, and you lyin' on the floor here. Unconscious. That's when I got Dispatch to send an EMT.”

I shook my head, trying to clear it. Mistake number three. Even that small a gesture sent a spike of pain down my neck.

“I wouldn't make any sudden moves.” Hornbeck's voice was smooth, confident. “You got hit pretty hard, sir.”

I slowly reached up, gingerly running my fingers over the damp, raised lump.

“It's a real goose egg, all right,” Hornbeck went on. “It'll hurt like hell for a day or two, but you'll be okay.”

Polk suddenly cleared his throat. “Thanks for givin' him the once-over, Hornbeck. Appreciate it.”

The young EMT got the hint. Grinning, he shoved his coiled stethoscope in his coat pocket and made for the door.

“Gentlemen,” was all he said as he went out.

Polk took a step toward me again, at the same time putting on a pair of thin latex evidence gloves.

“Your patient—Lisa Campbell—looks like she was your last for the day.”

“That's right, Harry.”

“So what happened?”

I hesitated. Normally, of course, I wouldn't disclose the name of someone who was in treatment with me. But since it was clear that Harry already knew her identity, the point was moot.

“I was seeing her out. When I opened the door to the hall, some guy was standing there. Had something in his hand. Must've been what he hit me with.”

The sergeant nodded. Then, with a grunt, squatted and picked up a small leather pouch. I was still so out of it, I hadn't noticed it lying on the carpet a few feet away. Near the opened door.

Polk turned back to me, hefting it in the bowl of his thick, latex-gloved fingers. A small grin.

“Guy musta dropped it after he dropped
you
, Doc.”

“What is it?”

“Your basic sap. Real classic. Lead-weighted, most likely. My old precinct captain used to hand 'em out to us, back in the day. Made suspects a helluva lot more cooperative. Not bad when it came to breakin' up bar fights, either.” He gazed at it with something like affection. “Too
un
-PC for our modern Department now, o' course.”

Wincing, I once again traced the lump in my skull.

“Trust me, it still gets the job done.”

“Damn right. Ya see 'em around sometimes, even nowadays. Persuader-of-choice for hired muscle sent to collect for some loan shark. Good for knees, elbows. I mean, ya don't wanna kill the guy, ya just want him to pay up. Right?”

“If you say so. How long have I been out, anyway?”

“Three, four hours at least, given the time frame we're workin' from. Can you describe the guy?”

“Big. Leather jacket. Jeans. Dark glasses.”

“In other words, pretty much like every other goddamn perp in the world.”

“So I didn't get a good look at him before he clobbered me. My bad. Right now, I‘m more worried about Lisa.”

Just then, Polk's cell rang. He tugged it out of his jacket pocket, clicked it on.

“Yeah?…Uh-huh. Yeah, figgers…Okay, thanks, Jerry. Be right down.”

He hung up, sighed heavily. As I awkwardly got to my feet.

“What's happening, Harry? Is it about Lisa?”

Sergeant Polk's face had turned the color of wet sand.

“Harland just got a call with the ransom demand. Like I knew goddamn well he would. Lisa Campbell's been kidnapped.”

Chapter Four

After locking away my patient files, I followed Harry Polk out of my office just as three CSU techs were stepping from the elevator. All wearing blue jumpsuits and gloves, the lead guy carrying a large zippered case. His name tag read “Rizzo.”

He and Polk exchanged greetings in the middle of the hallway, after which Harry handed over the sap. Rizzo slid it smoothly into a small plastic evidence bag.

Polk indicated the trio with a dismissive wave.

“Is this everybody?”

Rizzo shook his head. “Naw, we got another team in the building's parking garage. Workin' the lady's car.”

One of the other techs whistled appreciatively. “I seen it, Sarge. Porsche Turbo Carrera. Silver, fully loaded. Sweet!”

Polk stifled him with an icy stare. “Just keep your mind on your job, okay? 'Cause in case you clowns haven't heard, this is high-profile shit. As in, our asses are on the line.”

Rizzo sniffed. “Not for nothin', Harry, but our captain already read us the riot act. So don't you worry 'bout it.”

Polk nodded glumly, obviously unconvinced, then headed down the hall toward the elevator. I was right on his heels, only glancing back to watch the three CSU techs entering my office suite. Soon, I knew, the door would be crisscrossed with crime scene tape.

I tried to get Polk to say more about Lisa Campbell as we waited for the elevator. But he merely peeled the latex gloves from his hand and rolled them into a ball.

Then, turning, he made a point of showing me his fist as he squeezed the latex tight.

“See, Doc? Hand strength's comin' back.”

“Glad to hear it.”

Harry Polk had been wounded some months back, during the manhunt for that renegade shooter in the Jessup case, and his recuperation had been slower than his doctor had promised. At least that was the scuttlebutt coming out of the Old County Building, headquarters of the Pittsburgh PD.

Though I hadn't seen Harry since that time, Angela Villa-
nova—my distant cousin, and the Department's community
liaison officer—always kept me up-to-date with the latest news and gossip. This was in addition to her official role, which included referring certain crime victims to me for treatment. People who may have survived the crime itself—the carjacking, rape, home invasion—but who still suffered the psychological after-effects of the experience. Symptoms usually associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. Anxiety, depression, recurrent nightmares of the horrific event. As well as a pervasive dread about some future violence. A kind of ongoing, soul-deadening vigilance…

As Lisa Campbell had correctly pointed out, reading from her notes during our session, people like that are my specialty.

I rode in silence with Polk in the elevator down to street level. I knew it was my reputation with this type of patient that had drawn Lisa to me in the first place. Though I didn't know what personal trauma had brought her to my door, it had obviously triggered enough emotional pain to prompt thoughts of suicide. Serious thoughts, according to Lisa herself. She'd had a plan, the pills, even a deadline—seven p.m. Tonight.

I glanced at my watch. Two hours ago now, I thought.

When I'd walked her out of my office, I felt confident I'd bought myself—and Lisa—some time. That I'd managed to forestall, at least for one more day, her threat of suicide.

The awful irony was that now something new, perhaps far more emotionally and physically devastating, had happened. Something neither of us could have anticipated.

Now my concern wasn't about her possible suicide. It was my fear of what might happen to her at the hands of her kidnapper.

Lisa was the wife of one of the state's richest, most powerful men. Regardless of the size of the ransom, abducting her in broad daylight was a risky, audacious act. By someone who was either foolish or desperate, perhaps both. Or else coldly, dangerously bold.

From my years of consulting with the police, I'd learned at least one thing about such kidnappings.

They rarely ended well.

***

Polk and I stepped through the double doors of my building's front entrance and out onto the sidewalk. The night had deepened, laced with a cool, assertive wind. Tree branches sawed each other overhead, and some loose pages from today's
Pitt News
skipped along the pavement.

A few passersby—mostly students in Panthers sweatshirts and shiny windbreakers—gave us wary, suspicious glances as we crossed to where Polk's unmarked sedan waited at the curb. The CSU van was parked behind it, in a red zone, while a black-and-white unit had its nose lodged between the two vehicles. A lone patrolman stood out in the middle of Forbes Avenue, directing traffic around the scene.

Leaning against the trunk of Polk's car, tie fluttering in the wind, was a twenty-something man in a smart suit, making notes on an iPad. He was about my height, with a shrewd, narrow face and close-cropped black hair.

“Hey, Banks!” Polk's tone had more than its standard gruff authority. “Come and meet Dan Rinaldi. That guy I been tellin' ya about.”

The plainclothes cop pocketed his iPad and sauntered over. His handshake was firm, though perhaps a bit more forceful than it had to be.

“So you're the famous Dr. Rinaldi.” His grin was broad, assured. “Heard a lot about you from Sergeant Polk. Funny, you don't
look
like a pain in the ass.”

I shrugged. “First impressions can be deceiving.”

Polk laughed. “Doc, this here's Jerry Banks. Detective, second grade. My new partner.”

I must have stiffened involuntarily, for Banks gave a short chuckle. “It's just temporary, Doctor. While Detective Lowrey's on leave. Family issues, from what I hear.”

“That's right,” I said. “Eleanor took some personal time.”

I glanced over at Polk, who was giving me a significant though unreadable look. He knew that my relationship with his former partner had become intimate this past winter, during the harrowing weeks of the Jessup case. Though whether he knew
how
intimate, or how quickly—and why—it had ended, I couldn't guess. God knows I wasn't about to discuss it with him.

“Yeah,” Polk was saying, absently, “Lowrey took six months off. Just long enough for me to break in Banks here, turn him into a real cop. And then he moves on, makes some other precinct sergeant look good.”

Banks' grin remained intact. “Sorry, Sarge. I know it's not fair. But, hell, what is?”

“Enough bullshit, Detective. First off, did you talk to the parking valet?”

“Yeah. Didn't get much. He says Lisa Campbell pulled into the lot at 3:45 this afternoon. His valet ticket has the time stamp. He also admitted that she gave him a twenty-buck tip to park her Porsche in
two
spaces on the top floor, to make sure no other cars dinged it. Or scratched the paint.”

“Fascinatin'. What about the canvass of the area? I know it's early yet, but anything turn up?”

“You mean, like eyewitnesses? Somebody who saw the perp dragging the lady to his car? Who maybe got the license plate? Something like that?”

“Now that ya mention it, Detective, somethin' like that would be just swell.”

Banks spread his hands. “What can I say? I got a pair of uniforms going door to door. Asking street vendors, store clerks, the usual drill. Nobody's seen anything. Nobody heard screams, or a car peeling off. Zip.”

“Well, they couldn'ta just vanished.” Polk turned to me. “Is there a back way out of the building?”

I nodded. “Emergency exit door, leads to an alley. He could have taken Lisa out that way. The alley's narrow, but I think you could just fit a car in. Maybe he had one waiting. Maybe with a driver, too.”

Polk considered this. “Okay, Banks, when CSU gets done up in Rinaldi's office, have 'em do that alley. Prints on the exit door, tire tracks. The works. And call in some more uniforms. Canvass a wider area, at least five blocks in every direction. Somebody musta seen a car, maybe drivin' too fast, or goin' the wrong way down a one-way street. Who the hell knows, we could get lucky.”

Banks shook his head. “All due respect, Sarge, I believe we make our own luck in life.”

“Ya do, eh, Detective? Thanks for the tip. Now how 'bout goin' upstairs and seein' how CSU is doin'?”

With a quick mock-salute to his superior, Detective Jerry Banks strode across the pavement and went into the building.

Watching him go, I said, “This kid for real, Harry?”

He grunted unhappily. “His
uncle
is. Jerry Banks is the assistant chief's nephew.”

“So that explains it.”

“Not all of it. City budget's tight, Department's stretched thin. So either way, you end up with mooks like Jerry Banks. Two years in Parks and Rec, one in Vice, and suddenly he's kicked up to junior detective. Fuckin' Jimmy Olsen with attitude.”

He took out a pack of Camels unfiltered, tapped it against the side of his hand. Oddly unhurried, given the circumstances.

I didn't hide my impatience. “Jesus, Harry, are you gonna tell me anything more about what's going on? About Lisa?”

“Nope.”

Turning his back to the brisk wind, he carefully lit a Camel. Took a few deep, grateful puffs.

“Even though we just met,” I said, “Lisa Campbell is still my patient. She came to me for help.”

“Yeah, well, I don't think needin' therapy's her biggest problem right now.”

“C'mon, Harry.
Talk
to me.” I turned, got in his face. “Because this whole thing doesn't make sense.”

“What do ya mean?”

“I mean, why kidnap someone right outside her therapist's door? In a busy office building, in the middle of the day. Why not wait in the nice, dark parking garage 'til she was getting in or out of her car?”

“I don't know. When we catch the prick, I'll ask him.”

“And another thing: how the hell did the kidnapper
do
it? How did he get Lisa away after assaulting me? Did he knock her out, as he did me? If so, then what? Drag her unconscious body down the hall? Use a fireman's carry to take her down the elevator and out the emergency exit? Because if he did, he took a real risk of being seen.”

“Okay, so he didn't knock her out. Probably threatened her with a gun. Stuck it in her ribs, told her to keep her mouth shut. Then he walks her down the hall, down the elevator, out the exit door. And she doesn't scream or call for help or nothin' 'cause she's terrified.”

“But that's my point. If he had a gun, why not use it on me? He could've used it instead of the sap to hit me. Hell, he could've just
shot
me with it.”

“Maybe he didn't wanna risk the noise.” Polk took another long pull on his cigarette. “How the fuck do
I
know? Maybe he's some kinda humanitarian and didn't wanna kill nobody if he didn't have to. Or maybe he figgered, hey, if things go wrong and I get caught, who needs a murder beef added to kidnappin'?”

“Which might be a good sign.” I thought about it. “Perhaps you're right, Harry, and this guy
doesn't
want to hurt Lisa. Doesn't want to kill
anybody
. Just wants money. What did the kidnapper say on the phone to Harland?”

“Even if I knew, Rinaldi, I sure as shit wouldn't tell ya.”

“Why not?”

He exhaled slowly, acrid smoke blowing back in his eyes.

“Man, I gotta get the hell outta this wind.”

Without another word, Polk opened the driver's side door and slid heavily behind the wheel. Cigarette dangling from his lips, he slammed the door shut.

Glowering, I went around to the passenger side and got in. Then, snatching the cigarette from his mouth, I tossed it out my side window.

He gaped, unbelieving. “What the fuck—?”

I stared at him. “Is this the part where you tell me to keep my nose out of it? To just go home and wait 'til I'm called to give my statement?”

To my surprise, Harry Polk started to laugh. A thick, hoarse drinker's laugh.

“Not this time, Doc. Thing is,
I'm
the one's been put on the bench. Me and Banks are just supposed to supervise the crime scene. Do the scut work on this thing.”

“What? I don't get it.”

“Then let me explain it…so even a PhD can understand. See, all of a sudden, this case is way above my pay grade. But not yours.”

Before I could even try to make sense of his words, Polk's cell rang. He picked up.

“Yeah, Lieutenant, he's right here. But he's havin' a hard time understandin' the facts o' life.”

Polk said “Uh-huh” a few more times, then handed his cell to me. “Lieutenant Biegler wants to speak to you.”

I stifled a groan. Lieutenant Stu Biegler was Polk's boss at Robbery/Homicide. A thin-skinned, officious jerk, at least as far as I was concerned. From our many heated encounters in recent years—primarily due to his objection to my involvement in some prominent cases—it was clear he was no fan of mine, either.

“Rinaldi?” Though nearly forty, Stu Biegler had the reedy, almost petulant voice of someone much younger.

“What's going on, Lieutenant? I assume that, like everyone else, you know Lisa Campbell had an appointment with me this afternoon.”

“Of course I do. I also know she was snatched while she was with you. Right under your nose.”

I felt my cheeks flush. “Look, Biegler—”

“No,
you
look. Lisa Campbell is married to Charles Harland.
The
Charles Harland.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Then you also know he's scary rich and deeply connected. Hangs out with the mayor, the governor. Very influential.
Very
political. A real king-maker, you get me?”

“Loud and clear.”

BOOK: Phantom Limb
8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Tails of Spring Break by Anne Warren Smith
Battle Earth by Thomas, Nick S.
Retorno a la Tierra by Jean-Pierre Andrevon
Seeds: Volume Two by Kin, M.M.
Rule of Vampire by Duncan McGeary
Alex by Adam J Nicolai
Dante's Dilemma by Lynne Raimondo
Tempting the Heiress by Barbara Pierce
Ascent of the Aliomenti by Alex Albrinck
Secondhand Bride by Linda Lael Miller