Gallagher’s two-bedroom apartment on Havermeyer Street was as spacious and airy as any tenant could wish. It was located in a high-rise condo that, like many of the other buildings in the neighborhood, had been hastily erected to take advantage of the real estate boom that had accompanied Williamsburg’s renaissance. The materials used in its construction had been second rate, and the entire interior would need to be gutted in a few years. By then, though, the developers would have long ago pocketed their gains and retired to Florida. In the meantime, the apartment looked as though it were ready to be photographed for some newspaper’s Sunday supplement.
“Nice digs,” Connor had remarked to his friend the only time he had visited there. “I don’t know how good it will be as a long term investment though.”
“It doesn’t have to be, my man,” Gallagher had cheerfully replied. “A couple of years from now I’ll sell it for double what I paid and clear a huge profit. Let the next owner worry how he’s going to get his money back.”
“You’ve got expensive tastes,” Connor had observed as he looked about. “It can’t be that easy to make the mortgage payments on a paralegal’s salary,”
Gallagher had exploded. “What the hell business is that of yours?” he demanded. “Just because you live in a dump doesn’t mean I have to. What counts is that right now I’ve got a great place to show off to all the women I meet. As soon as they get a glimpse of what a palace I’m living in, they can’t wait to hop into bed. That’s good enough for me.”
Connor had shrugged and let the matter drop. He had never returned for a second visit. Surrounded by the same ostentation he saw on display everywhere else he went in the city, he had been too put off to be comfortable sitting there for very long.
Today Gallagher was alone in the apartment. He’d met a redhead the night before in a Tribeca club’s V.I.P. room and for a while had been confident she’d come home with him for a taste of coke if nothing else, but in the end she’d left him and taken off with a film producer. It was just as well, he comforted himself, as he had important things to attend to.
Wearing a designer silk jacket draped over his shoulders, Gallagher sat erect at the marble topped dining room table. In front of him he had placed a chemist’s scale accurate to a tenth of a gram, a container of talc baby powder and a plastic bag filled with several ounces of cocaine. Methodically, he weighed out grams of cocaine onto the scale and then added to each an equal weight of baby powder. He would have liked to have cut the coke even more, but when he had sampled it earlier he had found it had already been stepped on.
Gallagher allowed nothing to distract him from his work. Downloaded music played in the background, but he paid no attention to it and instead concentrated on the task at hand. He knew if he made a mistake it might cost him money later on.
It was a little after noontime and Gallagher had almost finished when he heard the front doorbell ring. He cursed loudly. “Fuck,” he complained. “How do people get to my front door without having me buzz them into the building in the first place?” Aloud, he yelled out, “Hold on, whoever you are. I just got out of the shower and need to put some clothes on.” Even as he said this, Gallagher scooped up everything that was on the table and carefully placed it out of sight in a nearby cabinet. “I’m coming,” he shouted.
When Gallagher opened the door to his apartment he found two men waiting impassively outside. The younger was dressed in jeans and a silk shirt that had been left open at the collar to show the heavy gold chain he wore over his chest. The other was middle aged with a stocky build; his grizzled hair had been cropped close to his bullet shaped skull.
Gallagher took in the older man’s polyester tie and wrinkled gray sports jacket. “If you guys are Bible salesmen, I’m not interested.”
Without saying a word, the younger man reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a gold shield. He held it up for Gallagher to see.
“Police,” said the older man.
Gallagher’s attitude changed instantly. “I’m so sorry. I had no idea you gentlemen were officers of the law. Please come inside.” He held the door wide open.
The two detectives followed Gallagher into the apartment and took seats at the dining room table without having waited be asked.
Noticing a speck of white powder on the tabletop, Gallagher brushed it away with the sleeve of his jacket. “Damn dust,” he said. “Never seem to get it all no matter how often I clean.”
“Maid’s day off?” asked the younger man pleasantly.
Gallagher laughed a trifle too loudly at that. “Can I get you gentlemen anything? A glass of soda or a cup of coffee maybe?”
The older man ignored the offer. “I’m Detective Stone and this is my partner, Detective Klinger,” he said.
Gallagher took the hint and sat down. “What can I do for you?” he asked.
“We have a few questions we’d like to ask if you don’t mind,” said Klinger.
Gallagher glanced from one face to the other. “Really? I can’t imagine what questions you’d have for me.”
“Of course,” interjected Stone, “if you do mind, we can always bring you into the station and ask our questions there.” He loosened his tie as he spoke.
“He’s the bad cop,” thought Gallagher. “It’s the young guy who’s going to pretend he’s Mr. Softee and wants to play nice.”
“Well?” asked Stone.
“Ask away,” said Gallagher breezily. “I’ve got nothing to hide. I’m happy to assist the police in any way I can.”
Stone smirked at him. “That’s very nice of you.”
“On the 8th of last month you were in the Fifth Precinct on Elizabeth Street,” said Klinger. It wasn’t a question.
“I’m not sure if that was the date – I’d have to check my office calendar – but yeah, I was there all right,” replied Gallagher carefully. “The law firm I work for sent me down to talk with Joe Pirandelli. You guys were holding him on an assault rap, and I was supposed to discuss our fees with him and find out if he had sufficient funds to make bail.”
“Nice guys your firm does business with,” Stone informed him. “Your client Mr. Pirandelli is once supposed to have beaten a man to death with his bare hands. That was down in Florida when he was working as a bouncer at a lap dance club.”
“I don’t know anything about that. I just do what my boss tells me.”
“Is that so?” asked Stone.
“Everyone’s entitled to competent legal representation,” Gallagher replied. “It’s a constitutional right. I’m sure you know that as well as I do.”
Stone smiled at him pleasantly. “Suppose you don’t tell us what we’re supposed to know. Ok?”
“Do you remember being in the precinct’s evidence room while you were down there?” It was Klinger asking the question.
“Not me.” Gallagher shook his head emphatically. “I had no business there at all.”
“You’re telling us,” Stone said. He was smirking again. “That’s why we’re wondering why we have you on video surveillance in the corridor right outside.”
“It’s on the second floor,” Klinger added helpfully. “Mr. Pirandelli’s holding cell was on the ground floor.”
“Is the second floor where the men’s room is?” Gallagher asked. “I told the desk sergeant downstairs that I had to take a leak. He was the one sent me up there. You can check with him if you don’t believe me.”
“We already did that,” said Stone.
“Then you know I’m telling you the truth.” Gallagher breathed more easily. He was sure that if the cops had had video of him entering the evidence room, they’d already have put the cuffs on him.
The two detectives said nothing.
“I’m always happy to help the authorities in any way I can,” Gallagher repeated, “but I’m afraid we’ll have to wait on any more questions until I’ve spoken to my boss.”
“What’s your boss got to do with this?” asked Stone.
“Why, he’s one of the top criminal and litigation attorneys in the city. In fact, he won a huge suit against the city only last month. His client was awarded damages of over two million.”
“Is that so?” asked Klinger.
“Yes, you probably read about the case. That was the one where the police pushed a senior citizen to the ground for allegedly jaywalking across an empty intersection. The poor old fellow was completely traumatized by the experience.”
“Yes, I do remember reading about that,” said Stone slowly. “Your boss is Klopenstock, isn’t he? I knew him back when he was an ambulance chaser out on Long Island.”
“That’s the guy.” Gallagher smiled brightly. He stood up. “If there’s nothing else, I guess you gentlemen will be leaving now.”
“In a minute.” Stone’s expression was grim as he waved Gallagher back down to his seat. “First we want to finish telling you our story about the evidence room.”
“Take your time, detective. I’m all ears.”
“The reason we’re trying to find out who was in the evidence room is because something valuable was stolen from it.”
“Evidence, no doubt.” Gallagher laughed at his own wit.
“Yeah, exactly,” said Klinger.
“Six ounces of coke to be exact. We’d picked up a bagman from one of the Chinatown gangs, the Pale Horsemen. He was carrying it in his underwear. We had the fucker dead to rights. Now, without the evidence, the case will fall apart and he’ll walk.”
“Oh, that’s too bad,” said Gallagher. He drew his brows together in commiseration. “I’m sure your missing drugs will turn up somewhere though.”
“The Pale Horsemen are one tough bunch,” Stone observed. “They don’t give a shit about the bagman one way or the other, but I’m sure they’re sore as hell to have lost all that dope. It’s worth a pretty penny on the street.”
Gallagher spread his hands. “I have no sympathy for criminals.”
“We have a fairly good idea who took the coke from the evidence room,” said Klinger. “If one of our snitches ever leaked word onto the street who we think did it and it got back to the Pale Horsemen, that poor guy would be in a world of trouble.”
“He might want to consider buying himself a life insurance policy,” Stone said. His expression was blank. “I doubt he’s going to live long enough to see old age.”
The blood drained from Gallagher’s face.
“We’ll be going now.” Klinger stood up. “You happen to think of anything, any suspicious person you might have seen while you were on your way to the men’s room, you’ll be sure to let us know, wont’ you?”
“Yes,” Gallagher stammered out. “Of course.”
Stone stood up as well. He turned to look at Gallagher. “Hey, what happened to that shit eating grin you were wearing a minute ago? You look now like you’re ready to piss in your pants.”
Gallagher said nothing.
The two detectives walked to the front door and prepared to let themselves out. “It’s been nice knowing you,” said Stone over his shoulder.
Gallagher sat down at the table and put his head in his hands. He could hear the sound of the detectives’ mordant laughter as they waited in the hallway for the elevator to arrive.