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فصل 05

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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Chapter five

Death by the Hudson River

It was midday before I got back to East 43rd Street. I picked up a snack at Grand Central Station before returning to the office. It hadn’t taken Stella long to find phone numbers for Van Zandts. There were over fifty in all of New York City.

“OK, Stella. We can share this job,” I said. “I’ll take the first phone book and you can start on the second. Say you’re an old friend of O’Neill’s and that you’re trying to find him.”

It was slow and boring work, but I felt it would be worth it in the end. “Good afternoon. Is this Mr. Van Zandt? If I could have a minute of your time?… You see, I’m trying to find an old friend of mine, Patrick O’Neill… Would you know him?… No? OK. Thanks for your time.”

As the calls continued, I wasn’t feeling too hopeful. Then I got an answering machine. I listened to the message: “I’m sorry I can’t get to the phone right now. Leave a message or phone 212-555-01230.”

I called the number. The phone was answered after a couple of rings. First the sound of jazz music, then a voice: “Frankie’s Cocktail Lounge.”

“Good afternoon. Is that Mr. Van Zandt?” I asked.

“Hold on…” I heard the guy shout above the noise, “Frank! Call for you.”

Could this finally be the right Van Zandt? I waited patiently.

“Frank Van Zandt speaking.”

“If I could have a moment of your time, Mr. Van Zandt,” I began. “I’ve lost the phone number and address of an old friend, Patrick O’Neill. Would you know how I could find him?”

“Oh yeah? I might. Who’s asking?” replied Van Zandt.

Not very welcoming, I thought. Time to tell another lie.

“The name’s Marley. I’m an old college friend. Patrick and I were at accounting school together.”

“If you’re so clever, mister, look in the phone book. And don’t call again,” he added, then put the phone down.

The line went dead - clearly this guy didn’t like me asking after O’Neill. This time I felt I was in luck. Perhaps I should visit Frankie’s Cocktail Lounge. Before I could organize anything, the phone rang. I picked it up and heard that voice from the past again - Captain Oldenberg.

“Marley!” he shouted. “Your line’s been busy for ages. Could I have a minute of your valuable time?”

“Sure. Go ahead.” I replied, holding the phone away from my ear.

“Get yourself to the 79th Street Boat Basin. I got something to show you.” He laughed.

When Oldenberg laughs, it usually means bad news.

“OK. But why? What’s going on?” I asked.

“It’s a surprise. But I want you here now,” Oldenberg ordered.

I told Stella what was happening. She gave me a smile and said, “Don’t get mad at Oldenberg. Remember, we may need his help.”

I was back on the subway again, this time to West 79th Street. I walked the two blocks from the subway station west toward the Hudson River, and crossed the Riverside Park to the boat basin. From here you could see across the river to New Jersey. The temperature had dropped and the sky was full of heavy gray clouds. A cold wind started to blow from the west.

All around the boat basin were houseboats. I’ve heard it’s the cheapest way to live in this city. Ahead I could see NYPD cars in a parking lot near the river. As I got closer, an NYPD cop stopped me and said, “Sorry, sir. You can’t enter.

“The name’s Marley. Captain Oldenberg’s expecting me,” I replied.

“OK. Come with me and we’ll find the captain,” said the cop.

Oldenberg was standing in the parking lot behind a Chevrolet Impala. He was smiling, which always made me feel uncomfortable.

“Take a look at this,” said Oldenberg, waving at the car.

Oldenberg moved to the back of the car and opened the trunk. Inside was a dead man.

Oldenberg called to the police doctor. “Could you show me his face again, Doc?” he asked. “OK, Marley, time for your surprise!

The NYPD doctor was wearing a suit of white material over her clothes, and white plastic gloves and shoes. She carefully took the dead man’s head in her hands and moved it round so we could see the face. His skin was gray and his mouth was open. Between his eyes was a hole.

“Marley, meet Ronald Steinmann. Doc, would you tell Mr. Marley what you know?” said Oldenberg.

“I’d say he’s been dead about two or three days. A single shot to the head. You see these cuts around his face? This guy was hit hard a number of times before he died. Can’t tell you much more just now,” the police doctor told me.

Heavy rain began to fall. I was feeling sick. Although I’ve seen dead bodies before, I still get that same horrible feeling.

“I just checked the license plate. This car belongs to Mr. Patrick O’Neill, Henry Street, Brooklyn. We need to talk, Marley,” said Oldenberg. “And I guess you need a drink. Let’s go somewhere warmer.”

Oldenberg took me to the Boat Basin Cafe, where he ordered me a double Scotch. The drink was just the right medicine.

“Marley, I got an idea and I think I may be right. Your client could be Patrick O’Neill, an accountant with Ocean Star Finance? Or one of his family?” he asked.

I nodded. The safest thing was to listen and see what Oldenberg wanted.

“Steinmann disappeared some time on Friday afternoon. I’ve been asking questions at Ocean Star. On Friday morning, people heard Steinmann and O’Neill arguing. This was no conversation between friends. People said it was more like a fight. It was behind closed doors so they couldn’t say what they were arguing about. Today Steinmann is found in O’Neill’s car, murdered. At the same time nobody seems to know where O’Neill is. You see where this is leading?”

I understood very well. The sick feeling in my stomach started to get stronger.

“I’m talking murder, Marley. I want to question Patrick O’Neill about the murder of Ronald Steinmann. I want to know why O’Neill was paying money into Steinmann’s account. Also, the reason why O’Neill had sent him an angry email. It began, ‘I didn’t think you could be so stupid.’ That means I have to find him and I believe you know where he is. You used to be a cop, Marley, so you know the way the police work. If you refuse to tell me, that’s a crime.”

I held my head in my hands. I could only tell Oldenberg the truth. That wouldn’t be what he wanted to hear.

“Believe me, Oldenberg, I’m being completely straight with you. I have no idea where O’Neill is. Yes, my client is his wife. All she knows is that her husband is hiding somewhere.”

“OK. Another thing, Marley. I have to question Mrs. O’Neill, but I can’t find her. I just get the answering machine every time I call. I need your help,” said Oldenberg.

“OK, Oldenberg. I’ll see what I can do,” I replied.

On the journey back to East 43rd Street, I thought about the information I already knew. I took a fresh page in my notebook and wrote down the facts I knew for sure and the questions that needed answers.

I knew O’Neill had disappeared sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning. He didn’t like his boss, Steinmann, and on Friday he’d argued with him. Also, he had sent an angry email to Steinmann. O’Neill had made large payments to Steinmann and Van Zandt. He was interested in poker. Someone had broken into his house and stolen the hard drive of his computer. Now the police had found Steinmann dead in the trunk of O’Neill’s car.

What was I less sure about? What did O’Neill know which put him in danger? Had Steinmann known the same thing? Had O’Neill lost heavily at poker? Was Ocean Star in difficulties? What could explain those payments to Steinmann and Van Zandt? And finally, could a guy like O’Neill kill? The more I thought about it, Ocean Star had to be the key to all the questions.

I called Mrs. O’Neill at her daughter’s apartment. “You said that your husband took his car when he disappeared,” I said.

“That’s right. It’s not parked in the street,” she replied.

“I’m afraid I have some terrible news. This morning, Steinmann’s body was found in the trunk of your husband’s car.

I heard a scream over the phone, then nothing.

“Are you still there?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied quietly. “This is just awful. I can’t believe it. So what happens now?”

“The police are now looking for your husband,” I explained. “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to talk to the police.”

“I realize I don’t have any choice,” replied Mrs. O’Neill. “But there’s one condition. The meeting should be at your office on East 43rd Street.”

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