An excerpt from The Devil's Quota


DiMaggio could count on one hand the number of times during his career when he briefed the mayor at City Hall. This whole “dead judge” affair smelled funny and this was just another whiff of the weirdness Although this judge was a fed, it wasn’t like he was a Supreme Court guy. Yet the Mayor wanted to be personally briefed by the lead detective on the case. Weird.

DiMaggio was in the middle of making his preliminary report. The conference room was packed with suits and brass. A huge portrait of LaGuardia, before he was an airport, loomed over the conference table, his beefy countenance reflected in the furniture’s highly polished surface. The Mayor was not pleased and made that known to the room. “Not a single lead?”

DiMaggio was confused by the question; he looked to one of the multi-starred uniforms and got the go ahead nod. “A lead, sir? So far, there isn’t anything to suggest foul play. As best as we can piece it together, the Judge was having a matinee when his pump stopped.”

The Mayor’s Chief of Staff, Walters, with his crisp shirt, Florida tan and perfectly styled hair, hadn’t been paying attention to who was talking and suddenly perked up. “Who are you?”

“I am Michael DiMaggio, Manhattan Homicide, lead senior detective on the Jenkins’ death.”

“Senior? What grade?” probed Walters in an unfriendly tone.

“Made first grade with fourteen years in, sir.”

“Does this whole affair make sense to you?”

The brass shifted in their chairs, as looks of consternation to control DiMaggio’s answer flew at him.

DiMaggio looked up at old Fiorello LaGuardia, an immigrated Italian and his dad’s favorite mayor. The “Little Flower’s” eyes were soft and friendly, seemingly urging him to be brave. Since it was still a free country, he ignored the enlarged eyeballs underneath the scrambled-egg brimmed hats of his superior officers that were trying to will him to silence. He opted in favor of LaGuardia’s. “Honestly sir, no. But I have no idea which part is out of whack. The room we found him in was, to be kind, a shit hole. There’s evidence of a sex act, which may have contributed to his cardiac arrest. If Jenkins paid for it, we may have a case against the hooker, if we can find her, on a possible leaving the scene charge.”

That got an eyeball conversation going with the man at the other end of the table, Chief of Detectives Grimes and another man in a black suit sitting by the wall behind him.

“Anything else?” Walters said.

“I am also looking into the doctor’s offices on the top floors above the room where the body was found. There’s some inconclusive evidence the body may have been moved from another location.”

The unknown man then leaned over and spoke in low tones to Grimes. To DiMaggio it looked as if they were debating whether to have steak or fish at a restaurant. Suddenly Grimes addressed the room. “Well, that’s all there is for now. Thank you gentlemen for your time. We’ll convene again next week if the situation warrants.”

Everyone got up to go. There were handshakes and small conversations. Grimes caught DiMaggio leaving. “My office in five minutes.”

DiMaggio let out a deep breath as he thought, looks like they decided on skewered pig.

-§-

DiMaggio stepped out of City Hall into beautiful crisp day. The kind of day that, years back, would have instinctively triggered a reach into his pocket to pull out a Marlboro and light up. Instead, he folded a stick of spearmint gum into his mouth and decided to walk over to One Police Plaza. Six minutes later, he entered Grimes’ office. Obviously, Grimes and the man in the black suit had been driven over in the chief’s car and were already seated at the small table to the right of the chief’s desk. DiMaggio noticed a single birthday card on the credenza behind the desk—the large, flowery kind with sentiments of love usually sent by a wife to her husband.

“Take a seat Mike.” Grimes said.

DiMaggio waited to be introduced to the other guy but it never happened.

“Mike, do you really think the doctor’s office upstairs is linked to this in anyway?”

“Just a hunch, Chief.”

“A hunch?” The man in the black suit asked.

DiMaggio offered his hand. “We haven’t been introduced, Mike DiMaggio.”

His hand stayed on the tabletop. “Smith.”

The chief continued, “So you have nothing solid linking the offices upstairs?”

DiMaggio was thrown off guard. What is the agenda here? he thought. Why are they interested in this doctor? Even though he knew that bristling the chief of detectives was a surefire way to suddenly find yourself working for the Chief of Patrol, with the accompanying transfer to the Far Rockaway precinct, he decided to throw career caution to the wind. “What’s this about? Why are you so interested in where I am going?”

“Mike, Mike. Listen. All we are saying is if you don’t have to go there, DON’T GO THERE! Copy?”

“Is that an order?”

“Mike, consider it strongly suggested.”

DiMaggio looked over at Smith. “I think I understand, sir.”

“Good, good. By the way, there’s a joint anti-terrorism task force in Paris looking for a liaison officer…in Paris, coming up soon. I’d like to award that to someone I can trust.” Then the Chief just sat there and DiMaggio could almost feel his eyes bore right through him.

The moment stretched on until it became uncomfortable so DiMaggio said, “Well, if there is nothing else, I’d better get back to the squad.” He then turned and walked out. In the elevator, just one thought kept reverberating off the walls of his brain: they care more about the shrink than the judge.

on October 8 • by

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