فصل 02

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فصل 02

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CHAPTER TWO

‘Why would anyone want to steal radio parts?’

Douglas King’s house lay just within the 87th Precinct. It was on the edge of the Precinct, in Smoke Rise, the most expensive area of the city.

The River Harb lay to the north of Smoke Rise. To the south was Silvermine Road, the home of people who, although they were rich, were not rich enough to live in Smoke Rise. Anyone walking south from Silvermine Road came first of all to a noisy area of brightly lit all-night restaurants and stores, then to Ainsley Avenue, where it was still possible to imagine that it had once been fashionable to live. Then came Culver Avenue, and now it was clear that the walker was arriving at the poorer parts of the city. After the short burst of colour of the Puerto Rican area around Mason Avenue, Grover Avenue looked grey, dirty and very poor.

The 87th Precinct building was on Grover Avenue.

Detective Meyer Meyer was at his desk on the second floor, making notes as the man sitting opposite him spoke. The man was called David Peck. He owned a store on Culver Avenue which sold radio parts, he told Meyer.

‘I sell mainly to hams,’ Peck said.

‘Hams?’

‘Yeah, hams. Not like hams you eat. By hams I mean people who build their own radios as a hobby. They use them to talk to other hams. You’d be surprised how many hams we’ve got in this city. It’s a good business to be in.’

‘I guess so, Mr Peck,’ Meyer said. ‘So what’s your problem?’

‘Well,’ Peck said, ‘someone busted into my store.’

‘When was this?’

‘Last week.’

‘Why did you wait until now to report it?’

‘He didn’t take much. I thought I’d just forget it.’

‘What makes you report it now?’

‘The crook came back.’

‘When?’

‘Last night.’

‘And this time he stole a lot of equipment, is that right?’

‘No, no. This time he took even less than last time.’

Meyer Meyer breathed out slowly. He was a very patient man. Growing up with parents who had given him that name, he had had to learn to be patient. Being the only Jewish boy in the area, he had had to learn to fight with his intelligence, not with his hands.

Patiently, now he asked, ‘Tell me, Mr Peck, what did the thief steal the first time he broke into your store?’

‘An oscillator,’ Peck said.

‘What does an oscillator cost?’

‘I sell them for fifty-two dollars and thirty-nine cents.’

‘And that’s all he took the first time?’

‘Yes.’

‘And what did he steal last night?’

‘Little things. More bits of equipment. Batteries. The whole lot isn’t worth more than twenty-five dollars.’

‘So why are you reporting it this time?’

‘Because I’m afraid he’ll come back a third time and clean out the store. It’s possible, you know.’

‘I know it is, Mr Peck,’ Meyer said. ‘Thank you for reporting this to us. We’ll keep a special watch on your store.’

A crime involving radio equipment worth seventy-five dollars does not appear to be a very important crime. In the 87th Precinct crimes like that happen every day of the week. Why get excited about this one? - unless you are a very patient detective called Meyer Meyer, who has a very good memory.

Meyer studied his notes, and then walked over to a desk on the other side of the room. Steve Carella was sitting there, typing up a report.

‘Steve,’ Meyer said. ‘I just had a guy in here who …’

‘Shhh, shhh,’ Carella said, and continued typing until he had finished the page. Then he looked up.

‘Okay?’ Meyer said.

‘Tell me.’

‘I had a guy in here who owns a radio parts store on Culver Avenue. It’s been broken into twice. The first time the thief stole an oscillator, whatever that is. The second time he stole a few other small radio parts. Now, I seem to remember …’

‘Yeah,’ Carella said, searching through the piles of paper which covered his desk. ‘Where the hell’s that list?’

The list gave details of five break-ins at radio parts stores. Each time only a few pieces of equipment had been stolen.

‘Think it’s the same thief?’ Carella asked.

‘Sure as hell looks that way to me,’ Meyer said.

‘Anyway, it’s not very serious.’

‘I suppose not.’ Meyer paused and scratched his head. ‘You don’t think he’s a Russian spy? Why would anyone want to steal radio parts?’

‘Never try to understand crooks,’ Carella said. ‘You’ll go crazy if you try to do that.’

‘Still,’ Meyer said, ‘all that equipment. Seven break-ins. What does it mean, Steve?’

‘Search me,’ Carella said, and he began typing again.

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