American library books » Fiction » Nor Iron Bars a Cage.... by Randall Garrett (ebook reader with highlight function .TXT) 📕

Read book online «Nor Iron Bars a Cage.... by Randall Garrett (ebook reader with highlight function .TXT) 📕».   Author   -   Randall Garrett



1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Go to page:
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK NOR IRON BARS A CAGE.... *** Produced by Sankar Viswanathan, Greg Weeks, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net

Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from Analog Science Fact & Fiction May 1962. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

 

 

NOR IRON BARS A CAGE....

 

Iron bars do not confine a Man—only his body. There are more subtle, and more confining bindings, however....

 

JONATHAN BLAKE MACKENZIE

 

ILLUSTRATED BY SCHOENHERR

Her red-blond hair was stained and discolored when they found her in the sewer, and her lungs were choked with muck because her killer hadn't bothered to see whether she was really dead when he dumped her body into the manhole, so she had breathed the stuff in with her last gasping breaths. Her face was bruised, covered with great blotches, and three of her ribs had been broken. Her thighs and abdomen had been bruised and lacerated.

If she had lived for three more days, Angela Frances Donahue would have reached her seventh birthday.

I didn't see her until she was brought to the morgue. My phone chimed, and when I thumbed it on, the face of Inspector Kleek, of Homicide South, came on the screen. His heavy eyelids always hang at half mast, giving him a sleepy, bored look and the rest of his fleshy face sags in the same general pattern. "Roy," he said as soon as he could see my face on his own screen, "we just found the little Donahue girl. The meat wagon's taking her down to the morgue now. You want to come down here and look over the scene, or you want to go to the morgue? It looks like it's one of your special cases, but we won't know for sure until Doc Prouty does the post on her."

I took a firm grip on my temper. I should have been notified as soon as Homicide had been; I should have been there with the Homicide Squad. But I knew that if I said anything, Kleek would just say, "Hell, Roy, they don't notify me until there's suspicion of homicide, and you don't get a call until there's suspicion that it might be the work of a degenerate. That's the way the system works. You know that, Roy." And rather than hear that song-and-dance again, I gave myself thirty seconds to think.

"I'll meet you at the morgue," I said. "Your men can get the whole story at the scene without my help."

That mollified him, and it showed a little on his face. "O.K., Roy, see you there." And he cut off.

I punched savagely at the numbered buttons on the phone to get an intercommunication hookup with Dr. Barton Brownlee's office, on the third floor of the same building as my own office. His face, when it came on, was a calming contrast to Kleek's.

He's nearly ten years younger than I am, not yet thirty-five, and his handsome, thoughtful face and dark, slightly wavy hair always make me think of somebody like St. Edward Pusey or maybe Albert Einstein. Not that he looks like either one of them, or even that he looks saintly, but he does look like a man who has the courage of his convictions and is calmly, quietly, but forcefully ready to shove what he knows to be the truth down everybody else's throat if that becomes necessary. Or maybe I am just reading into his face what I know to be true about the man himself.

"Brownie," I said, "they've found the Donahue girl. Taking her down to the morgue now. Want to come along?"

"I don't think so," he said without hesitation. "I'll get all the information I need from the photos and the reports. The man I do want to see is the killer; I need more data, Roy—always more data. The more my boys and I know about these zanies, the more effectively we can deal with them."

"I know. O.K.; I've got to run." I cut off, grabbed my hat, and headed out to fulfill my part of the bargain Brownlee and I had once made. "You find 'em," he'd once said, "and I'll fix 'em." So far, that bargain had paid off.

I got to the morgue a few minutes after the body was brought in. The man at the front desk looked up at me as I walked in and gave me a bored smile. "Evening, Inspector. The Donahue kid's in the clean-up room." Then he went back to his paper work.

The lab technicians were standing around watching while the morgue attendant sluiced the muck off the corpse with a hose, watching to see if anything showed up in the gooey filth. Inspector Kleek stood to one side. All he said was, "Hi, Roy."

The morgue attendant lifted up one small arm with a gloved hand and played the hose over the thin biceps. "Good thing the rigor mortis has gone off," he said, "these stiffs are hell to handle when they're stiff." It was an old joke, but everybody grinned out of habit.

The clear water from the hose flowed over the skin and turned a grayish brown as it ran down to the bottom of the shallow, waist-high stainless-steel trough in which the body was lying.

One of the lab techs stepped over and began going through the long hair very carefully, and Doc Prouty, the Medical Examiner, began cleaning out the mouth and nose and eyes and ears with careful hands.

I turned to Kleek. "You sure it's the Donahue girl?"

He sighed and looked away from the small dead thing on the cleaning table. "Who else could it be? She was found only three blocks from the Donahue home. No other female child reported missing in that area. We haven't checked the prints yet, but you can bet they'll tally with her school record."

I had to agree. "What about the time of death?"

"Doc Prouty figures forty-eight to sixty hours ago."

"I'll be able to give you a better figure after the post," the Medical Examiner said without looking up from his work.

A tall, big-nosed man in plain-clothes suddenly turned away from the scene on the table, his mouth moving queerly, his eyes hard. After a moment, his lips relaxed. Still staring at the wall, he said: "I guess the case is out of Federal jurisdiction, then. We'll co-operate, as usual, of course." He looked at me. "Could I talk to you outside, Inspector Royall?"

I looked at Kleek. "O.K., Sam?" I didn't have to have his O.K.; it was just professional courtesy. He knew I'd tell him whatever it was that the FBI man had to say, and we both knew why the Federal agent wanted to leave.

Sam Kleek nodded. "Sure. I'll keep an eye out here."

The FBI man followed me into the outer room.

"Do you figure this as a sex-degenerate case, Inspector?" he asked.

"Looks like it. You saw the bruises. Dr. Prouty will be able to tell us for sure after the post mortem."

He shook his head as if to clear it of a bad memory. "You New York police can sure be cold-blooded at times."

The thing that was bothering him, as Kleek and I both knew, was that the FBI agent hadn't been exposed to this sort of thing often enough. They deal with the kind of crimes that actually don't involve the callous murder of children very often. Even the murder of adults doesn't normally come under the aegis of the FBI.

"We're not cold blooded," I said. "Not by inclination, I mean. But a man gets that way—he has to get that way—after he's seen enough of this sort of thing. You either get yourself an emotional callous or you get deathly sick from the repetition—and then you have to get out of the job."

"Yeah," he said. "Sure." He quit rubbing his chin with a knuckle, looked at me, and said: "What I wanted to say is that there's no evidence that she was taken across a state line. Whoever sent that ransom note to the Donahue parents was trying to throw us off the track."

"Looks like it. Look at the time-table. The note was sent after the girl was murdered, but before the information hit the papers or the newscasts. The killer wanted us to think it was a ransom kidnaping. It isn't likely that the note was sent by a crank. A crank wouldn't have known the girl was missing at all at the time the note was sent."

"That's the way it seems to me," he agreed. The color was coming back into his face. "But why would he want to make it look like a kidnaping instead of ... of what it was? The penalty's the same for both."

My grin had anger, pity, and disgust for the killer in it—plus a certain amount of satisfaction. Some day, I'd like to see my face in a mirror when I feel like that.

"He was hoping the body wouldn't be found until it was too late for us to know that it was a rape killing. And that means that he knew that he would be on our list if we did find out that it was rape. Otherwise, he wouldn't have bothered. If I'm right, then he has outsmarted himself. He has told us that we know him, and he's told us that he's smart enough to figure out a dodge—that he's not one of the helplessly stupid ones."

"That should help to narrow the field down," he said in a hard voice. He felt in his pocket for a cigarette, found his pack, took one out, and then held it, unlit, between the fingers of his right hand. "Inspector Royall, I've studied the new law of this state—the one you're working under here—and I think it'll be great if it works out. I wish you luck. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to call the office."

As he went out to the desk phone, I gave him a silent thanks. Words of encouragement were hard to come by at that time.

I turned and went back towards the clean-up room.

She didn't look as though she were asleep. They never do. She looked dead. She'd been head down in the sewer, and the blood had pooled and coagulated in her head and shoulders. Now that the filth had been washed off, the dark purple of the dead blood cells showed through the translucent skin. She would look better after she was embalmed.

Doc Prouty was holding up a small syringe, eying the little bit of fluid within it. "We've got him," he said in a flat voice. "I'll have the lab run an analysis. We're well within the time limit. All we have to do is separate the girl's blood type from that of the spermatic fluid. You boys find your man, and I can identify him for you." He put the syringe in its special case. "I'll let you know the exact cause of death in a couple of hours."

"O.K., Doc. Thanks," said Inspector Kleek, closing his notebook. He turned to one of the other men. "Thompson, you notify the parents. Get 'em down here to make a positive identification, and send it along to my office with the print identification." Then he looked at me. "Anything extra you want, Roy?"

I shook my head. "Nope. Let's go check the files, huh?"

"Sure. Can I ride with you? I rode in with Thompson; he'll have to stay."

"Come along," I told him.

By ten fifteen that evening, we had narrowed the field down considerably. We fed all the data we had into the computer, including the general type number of the spermatic fluid, which Dr. Prouty had given us, and watched while the machine sorted through the characteristics of all the known criminals in its memory.

Kleek and I were sitting at a desk drinking hot, black coffee when the computer technician came over and handed Kleek the results at ten fifteen. "Quite a bunch of 'em, Inspector," he said, "but the geographic compartmentalization will help."

Kleek glanced over the neatly-printed sheaf of papers that the computer had turned out, then handed them to me. "There we are, Roy. One of those zanies is our boy."

I looked at the list. Every person on it was either a confirmed or suspected psychopath, and each one of them conformed to the set of specifications we had fed the computer. They were listed in four different groups, according to the distance they lived from the scene of the crime—half a mile, two miles, five miles, and "remainder," the rest of the city.

"All

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Go to page:

Free e-book: «Nor Iron Bars a Cage.... by Randall Garrett (ebook reader with highlight function .TXT) 📕»   -   read online now on website american library books (americanlibrarybooks.com)

Comments (0)

There are no comments yet. You can be the first!
Add a comment