Briefly leaving the steering wheel unattended, Green threw his hands up in defeat. “Okay, okay, I’ll admit it: You were right, Lennie. The reason Sasha and I broke up was partly because she was getting pushy. I mean, I don’t have anything against settling down someday when the right woman comes along, but I don’t want to be rushed. The time and the lady have to be right.”
“I don’t like being an I-told-you-so kind of guy, but I do seem to remember pointing out some pretty obvious signs,” Briscoe reminded him with a self-congratulatory smirk. “So how long after the breakup did it take before you asked out Cordova?”
Green smiled broadly. “Hey, I’m a free man. And for your information, Ann made the first move.”
pulled into a parking lot crowded with rescue vehicles and came to a stop.
Setting the parking brake, Green opened the door and got out, joining Briscoe
as they headed across the worn grass of an obscure upper section of Battery
Park toward the taller reeds growing along the edge of the
“What about that woman who called you on your cell the other day? The one you ducked out of the diner to talk to?” Green continued as they walked. “Seems like you’ve been playing the field a little yourself, Old Man.”
“What makes you think that was a woman?”
Green shook his head and grinned. “I’m familiar with a few signs myself. There aren’t many reasons why a guy would walk away from a blue-plate special to take a phone call.”
Briscoe smiled slyly as he looked out over the cold gray water of the Upper Bay. “A man’s gotta keep his priorities straight. A blue-plate special can be reheated when it gets cold.”
They approached several figures milling around a conspicuous black bag lying on the ground near the water’s edge. Upon spotting the detectives, a man clad in a wet suit, with the face mask pushed up onto the top of his head, left the others to meet them.
“Hey, Lennie. How’s it going?”
“Can’t complain, Pete. What’ve you got?”
“A boater spotted something in the water a couple of hours ago. He called it in and we trolled for a while with no results, then went down to take a look. There are some shoals along the bank where the river flows into the bay. That’s where we found her, snagged on a submerged tree limb. If she had drifted around the point, with the way it drops off, we probably never would’ve seen her. It doesn’t look like she’s been in the water long,” he added, leading them to the body.
“You think she was dumped from here?” Green asked as they came to a stop.
“Could be. If she wasn’t, I don’t think it was from far away. The body isn’t scuffed up enough to have floated very far.”
As Briscoe crouched down beside the body bag, Green asked, “Have they finished canvassing the park?”
“Not quite, but I don’t think they’ve come up with anything yet.”
Briscoe reached to pull the heavy plastic back far enough to reveal the face of the victim. When he did, his eyes widened and he jerked his hand back as if it had been stung. Almost losing his balance, he quickly placed his hand on the damp grass to keep himself from falling flat onto his backside.
“Make sure they check the trash cans,” Green admonished, failing to notice Briscoe’s reaction.
“Already done,” the diver informed him.
Briscoe stared at the girl – round face framed by damp curls, full lips, and large brown eyes fixed lifelessly on the overcast sky. It was the face of a stranger, but at the same time, hauntingly familiar. He stood up slowly and took a step back.
“You might want to talk to the sarge over there,” the diver motioned. “He’s in charge of the land search.”
“We’ll do that,” Green replied as he bent to peer at the body. Straightening, he started to address Briscoe, then stopped upon noticing his partner’s expression. “You all right? You look a little pale.”
With a nod, Briscoe finally tore his eyes away from the face. “Yeah, I’m fine.” He took a deep breath of vaporous air and looked out over the bay once more. “Look, uh, why don’t you handle this and I’ll meet you at the car. You can fill me in later.”
Green regarded Briscoe with concern. It was obvious to him from his partner’s expression and abrupt change of mood that something wasn’t right. But he knew him well enough to refrain from pressing the issue at that particular moment. “Sure thing,” he agreed. “I’ll go see if the search has turned up anything.”
He watched as Briscoe began to trudge back across the grass with his head down. Taking a closer look at the victim, he frowned in puzzlement and then turned to join the others.
***Green returned to the cruiser a short time later to find Briscoe leaning back against the front fender with his hands in the pockets of his slacks. In the early afternoon light, the normal brown of his eyes reflected instead the color of the water as he stared across the river.
“They’ve almost covered this whole end of the park and they haven’t come up with anything,” Green said as he stood in front of the car. “They’re going to extend the search for three or four miles upriver.” When Briscoe turned to open the passenger door, he continued to the driver’s side. Before he buckled up, he placed a Polaroid of the victim’s face on the dashboard of the car. “She didn’t have any clothes on and the sergeant said there were bruises around her neck, presumably from being strangled. He doesn’t think she was much more than eighteen or so. Maybe the coroner can determine the age for us.” He paused before starting the car. “Is something wrong?”
“It’s nothing,” Briscoe responded curtly. “She didn’t look eighteen to me. I’m thinking she was younger than that. After we finish giving our depositions for the Ballard case over at One Hogan Place, we should check out the missing persons’ reports back at the station house.”
Green nodded as he turned the ignition. “Sounds like a good place to start. I told them to put a rush on the autopsy. I doubt if they’ll get to her today, but maybe we’ll have something in the morning.”
As they headed uptown, they drove in silence for a while. Green wondered what was eating Briscoe but kept any further questions to himself. He was familiar enough with his partner to know that when and if he was ready, Briscoe would speak up.
“Sorry about what happened back there,” Briscoe offered moments later.
“No problem,” Green assured him. “Anything you want to talk about?”
Keeping his eyes focused on the street ahead, Briscoe was silent for a few minutes before explaining gruffly, “The girl looked like someone I knew. It threw me for a minute, that’s all.”
“I’m sorry; I didn’t know.” Green thought for a moment before asking, “So do we want the case or not?”
“Any reason why we wouldn’t?” Briscoe snapped. “You think I can’t cut it just because I got rattled for half a second?”
He shook his head. “Hey, I’m just saying I feel for you, Lennie. If it’s going to be too difficult, we can pass it on to someone else. It’s no big deal. I’m cool either way.”
Briscoe turned to him, intending to blast him for his patronizing attitude. But seeing that Green was sincere, his defensiveness abated. “Let’s just concentrate on nailing the s.o.b. that did it, okay?”
“I’m with you, Partner,” Green concurred whole-heartedly.
***Lieutenant Van Buren looked up as the detectives made their way to her office. She removed her reading glasses and rubbed the bridge of her nose as they came to a stop in front of her desk.
Green dropped into a chair and said, “I’m always amazed when I run those things just how many names pop up, even when the search is as limited as we specified. There must’ve been fifty girls reported missing in the last two months, most of them presumed runaways. We’ve got a list of six possibles to check out that match the general description of the girl they pulled out of the water.”
Van Buren nodded. “The sooner we identify this girl, the better our chances of tracking down her killer. Maybe by morning the M.E. will have some clues that will narrow down the list of possibles and help you I.D. the girl more quickly. And just so you know, I’ve already gotten a call from the borough chief. With the mayor’s new program on keeping kids safe, the higher ups are taking an interest in this case.”
“Then let us work this one exclusively,” Briscoe quickly suggested. “If we’re not being pulled in a dozen different directions we can give this one our full attention.”
“You’ve still got the Jenkins case and last week’s arson on the burner,” Van Buren argued. “I don’t have enough manpower to let you work an exclusive.”
“The Jenkins case is almost done. Olson and Barilla can finish it up. And we’re waiting for the fire marshal’s report on the arson. Hopefully, by the time we get that, we’ll have this case wrapped up. Just give us a few days and let us see what we can come up with,” he suggested persuasively.
Van Buren contemplated quietly. “I’ll give you a week. If you haven’t made any headway by then, you’ll have to split your time between cases, like always.”
As the detectives returned to their desks and prepared to leave for the day, Green observed, “It’s almost 6:30. I’m starving. Want to go grab something to eat? My treat.”
“Some other time. It’s been a long day. I think I’m just gonna go home and hit the sack,” Briscoe replied despondently.
Green looked at his partner curiously. After his impassioned appeal to the Lieutenant, it was as if he had simply deflated. “You sure? I’ve never known you to pass up a free meal.”
“I’m sure,” he insisted.
“Okay. I’ll see you here in the morning, then.”
Briscoe didn’t bother responding as he plodded to the door.