The detectives of the 87th Precinct have gotten a call threatening the life of the city’s parks commissioner unless a five-thousand-dollar ransom is paid. It seems like an obvious crank call. The deadline soon passes—and the parks commissioner is shot in the head as he leaves a concert.
Soon, another anonymous warning follows and the deputy mayor is blown up in his Cadillac. The next target is the young, charismatic Kennedy-esque mayor. It’s up to the precinct’s hardworking detectives to find this shrewd serial assassin before he can strike again.
The basis for a 1972 film, Fuzz is a suspenseful and darkly funny thriller in the long-running 87th Precinct series, which the Washington Post called “simply the best police procedurals being written in the United States today.”
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Oh boy, what a week.
Fourteen muggings, three rapes, a knifing on Culver Avenue thirty-six assorted burglaries, and the squadroom was being painted.
Not that the squadroom didn't need painting.
Detective Meyer Meyer would have been the first man to admit that the squadroom definitely needed painting. It merely seemed idiotic for the city to decide to paint it now, at the beginning of March, when everything outside was rotten and cold and miserable and dreary, and when you had to keep the windows shut tight because you never could get enough damn heat up in the radiators, and as a result had the stink of turpentine in your nostrils all day long, not to mention two painters underfoot and overhead, both of whom never would have made it in the Sistine Chapel.
"Excuse me," one of the painters said, "could you move that thing?"
"What thing?" Meyer said. "That thing."
"That thing." Meyer said, almost blowing his cool, "happens to be our Lousy File. That thing happens to contain information on known criminals and troublemakers in the precinct, and that thing happens to be invaluable to the hard-working detectives of this squad."
"Big deal," the painter said.
"Won't he move it?" the other painter asked.
"You move it," Meyer said. "You're the painters, you move it."
"We're not supposed to move nothing," the first painter said.
"We're only supposed to paint," the second painter said.
"I'm not supposed to move things, either," Meyer said. "I'm supposed to detect."
"Okay, so don't move it," the first painter said, "it'll get all full of green paint."
"Put a dropcloth on it," Meyer said.
"We got our dropcloths over there on those desks there," the second painter said, "that's all the dropcloths we got."
"Why is it I always get involved with vaudeville acts?" Meyer asked.
"Huh?" the first painter said.
"He's being wise," the second painter said.
"All I know is I don't plan to move that filing cabinet," Meyer said. "In fact, I don't plan to move anything. You're screwing up the whole damn squadroom, we won't be able to find anything around here for a week after you're gone."
"We do a thorough job," the first painter said.
"Besides, we didn't ask to come," the second painter said. "You think we got nothing better to do than shmear around up here? You think this is an interesting job or something? This is a boring job, if you want to know."
"It is, huh?" Meyer said.
"Yeah, it's boring," the second painter said.
"It's boring, that's right," the first painter agreed.
"Everything apple green, you think that's interesting? The ceiling apple green, the walls apple green, the stairs apple green, that's some interesting job, all right."
"We had a job last week at the outdoor markets down on Council Street, that was an interesting job."
"That was the most interesting job we ever had," the second painter said. "Every stall was a different pastel color, you know those stalls they got? Well, every one of them was a different pastel color, that was a good job."
"This is a crappy job," the first painter said
"It's boring and it's crappy," the second painter agreed.
"I'm still not moving that cabinet," Meyer said, and the telephone rang. "87th Squad, Detective Meyer," he said into the receiver.
"Is this Meyer Meyer in person?" the voice on the other end asked.
"Who's this?" Meyer asked.
"First please tell me if I'm speaking to Meyer Meyer himself?"
"This is Meyer Meyer himself."
"Oh God, I think I may faint dead away."
"Listen, who ..."
"This is Sam Grossman."
"Hello, Sam, what's ..."
"I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be talking to such a famous person," Grossman said.
"Okay, what is it? I don't get it."
"You mean you don't know?"
"No, I don't know. What is it I'm supposed to know?" Meyer asked.
"I'm sure you'll find out," Grossman said.
"There's nothing I hate worse than a mystery," Meyer said, "so why don't you just tell me what you're talking about and save me a lot of trouble?"
"Ah-ha," Grossman said.
"You I need today," Meyer said, and sighed.
"Actually, I'm calling about a man's sports jacket, size thirty-eight, color red-and-blue plaid, label Tom's Town and Country, analysis of suspect stain on the left front flap requested. Know anything about it?"
"I requested the test," Meyer said.
"You got a pencil handy?"
"Blood negative, semen negative. Seems to be an ordinary kitchen stain, grease or oil. You want us to break it down?"
"No, that won't be necessary."
"This belong to a rape suspect?"
"We've had three dozen rape suspects in here this week. We also have two painters."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Forget it. Is that all?"
"That's all. It certainly was a pleasure talking to you, Mr. Meyer Meyer, you have no idea how thrilled I am."
"Listen, what the hell ...?" Meyer started, but Grossman hung up. Meyer held the receiver in his hand a moment longer, looking at it peculiarly, and then put it back onto the cradle. He noticed that there were several spatters of apple green paint on the black plastic. "Goddamn slobs," he muttered under his breath, and one of the painters said, "What?"
"I thought you said something."
"Listen, what department are you guys from, anyway?" Meyer asked.
"Public Works," the first painter said.
"Maintenance and Repair," the second painter said.
"Whyn't you come paint this damn place last summer, instead of now when all the windows are closed?"
"Why? What's the matter?"
"It stinks in here, that's what's the matter," Meyer said.
"It stunk in here even before we got here," the first painter said, which was perhaps true. Meyer sniffed disdainfully, turned his back on the two men, and tried to locate the filing cabinet containing last week's D.D. reports, which cabinet seemed to have vanished from sight.
If there was one thing (and there were many things) Meyer could not abide, it was chaos. The squadroom was in a state of utter, complete, and total chaos. Stepladders, dropcloths, newspapers, closed paint cans, open paint cans, used paint brushes, clean paint brushes, cans of turpentine and cans of thinner, mixing sticks, color samples (all in various lovely shades of apple green), rollers, rolling trays, rolls of masking tape, coveralls, stained rags were strewn, thrown, draped, scattered, leaning against, lying upon, spread over and balanced precariously on desks, cabinets, floors, walls, water coolers, window sills, and anything inanimate. (Yesterday, the painters had almost thrown a dropcloth over the inert form of Detective Andy Parker who was, as usual asleep in the swivel chair behind his desk, his feet propped up on an open drawer.) Meyer stood in the midst of this disorder like the monument to patience he most certainly was, a sturdy man with china blue eyes and a bald head, speckled now (he didn't even realize it) with apple green paint. There was a pained look on his round face, his shoulders slumped with fatigue, he seemed disoriented and discombobulated, and he didn't know where the hell anything was! Chaos, he thought, and the telephone rang again.
He was standing closest to Carella's desk, so he groped around under the dropcloth for the ringing telephone, came away with a wide apple green stain on his jacket sleeve, and bounded across the room to the phone on his own desk. Swearing, he lifted the receiver.
"87th Squad, Detective Meyer," he said.
"Parks Commissioner Cowper will be shot to death tomorrow night unless I receive five thousand dollars before noon," a man's voice said. "More later."
"What?" Meyer said.
The line went dead.
He looked at his watch. It was four-fifteen P.M.
At four-thirty that afternoon, when Detective Steve Carella got to the squadroom, Lieutenant Byrnes asked him to come to his office for a moment. He was sitting behind his desk in the two-windowed room, puffing on a cigar and looking very much like a boss (which he was) in his gray pin-striped suit, a shade darker than his close-cropped hair, a black-and-gold silk rep tie on his white shirt (tiny spatter of apple green on one cuff), college ring with maroon stone on his right ring finger, wedding band on his left. He asked Carella if he wanted a cup of coffee, and Carella said yes and Byrnes buzzed Miscolo in the Clerical Office and asked him to bring in another cup of coffee, and then asked Meyer to fill Carella in on the telephone call. It took Meyer approximately ten seconds to repeat the content of the conversation.
"Is that it?" Carella asked.
"What do you think, Steve?" Byrnes asked.
Carella was sitting on the edge of Byrnes' scarred desk, a tall slender man who looked like a vagrant at the moment because as soon as it got dark he would take to the streets, find himself an alley or a doorway and lie there reeking of wine and hoping somebody would set fire to him. Two weeks ago, a real vagrant had been set ablaze by some fun-loving youngsters, and last week another bum had supplied fuel for a second bonfire, a fatal one this time. So Carella had been spending his nights lying in assorted doorways simulating drunkenness and wishing for arson. He had not shaved for three days. There was a bristly stubble on his jaw, the same color as his brown hair, but growing in sparsely and patchily and giving his face a somewhat incomplete look, as though it had been hastily sketched by an inexpert artist. His eyes were brown (he liked to think of them as penetrating), but they appeared old and faded now through association with the scraggly beard and the layers of unadulterated dirt he had allowed to collect on his forehead and his cheeks. What appeared to be a healing cut ran across the bridge of his nose, collodion and vegetable dye skillfully applied to resemble congealing blood and pus and corruption. He also looked as if he had lice. He made Byrnes a little itchy. He made everybody in the room a little itchy. He blew his nose before answering the lieutenant's question, and the handkerchief he took from the back pocket of his greasy pants looked as if it had been fished from a nearby sewer. He blew his nose fluidly (there's such a thing as carrying an impersonation too far, Meyer thought), replaced the handkerchief in his trouser pocket, and then said, "He ask to talk to anyone in particular?"
"Nope, just began talking the minute I said who I was."
"Could be a crank," Carella said.
"Why us?" Byrnes said.
It was a good question. Assuming the man was not a crank, and assuming he did plan to kill the commissioner of parks unless he got his five thousand dollars by noon tomorrow, why call the Eight-Seven? There were a great many squadrooms in this fair city, none of which (it was safe to assume) were in the midst of being painted that first week in March, all of which contained detectives every bit as hard-working and determined as the stalwart fellows who gathered together now to sip their afternoon beverages and while away the deepening hours, all of whom doubtless knew the commissioner of parks as intimately as did these very minions of the law — so why the Eight-Seven?
A good question. Like most good questions, it was not immediately answered. Miscolo came in with a cup of coffee, asked Carella when he planned to take a bath, and then went back to his clerical duties. Carella picked up the coffee cup in a fifth-encrusted hand, brought it to his cracked and peeling lips, sipped at it, and then said, "We ever having anything to do with Cowper?"
"How do you mean?"
"I don't know. Any special assignments, anything like that?"
"Not to my recollection," Byrnes said. "Only thing I can think of is when he spoke at that P.B.A. thing, but every cop in the city was invited to that one."
"It must be a crank," Carella said.
"Could be," Meyer said again.
"Did he sound like a kid?" Carella asked.
"No, he sounded like a grown man."
"Did he say when he'd call again?"
"No. All he said was 'More later.'"
"Did he say when or where you were supposed to deliver the money?"
"Did he say where you were supposed to get it?"
"Maybe he expects us to take up a collection," Carella said.
"Five grand is only five hundred and fifty dollars less than I make in a year," Meyer said.
"Sure, but he's undoubtedly heard how generous the bulls of the 87th are."
"I admit he sounds like a crank," Meyer said. "Only one thing bothers me about what he said."
"Shot to death. I don't like that, Steve. Those words scare me."
"Yeah. Well," Carella said, "why don't we see if he calls again, okay? Who's relieving?"
"Kling and Hawes should be in around five."
"Who's on the team?" Byrnes asked.
"Willis and Brown. They're relieving on post."
"Those car snatches. They're planted on Culver and Second."
"You think it's a crank, Meyer?"
"It could be. We'll have to see."
"Should we call Cowper?"
"What for?" Carella said. "This may turn out to be nothing. No sense alarming him."
"Okay," Byrnes said. He looked at his watch, rose, walked to the hatrack in the corner, and put on his overcoat. "I promised Harriet I'd take her shopping, the stores are open late tonight. I should be home around nine if anybody wants to reach me. Who'll be catching?"
"Tell him I'll be home around nine, will you?"
"I hope it's a crank," Byrnes said, and went out of the office.
Carella sat on the edge of the desk, sipping his coffee. He looked very tired. "How does it feel to be famous?" he asked Meyer.
"What do you mean?"
"Carella looked up. "Oh, I guess you don't know yet."
"Don't know what yet?"
"About the book."
"Somebody wrote a book."
"It's called Meyer Meyer."
"Yeah. Meyer Meyer. It was reviewed in today's paper."
"Who? What do you mean? Meyer Meyer, you mean?"
"It got a nice review."
"Meyer Meyer?" Meyer said. "That's my name."
"He can't do that!"
"She. A woman."
"Her name's Helen Hudson."
"She can't do that!"
"She's already done it."
"Well, she can't. I'm a person, you can't go naming some character after a person." He frowned and then looked at Carella suspiciously. "Are you putting me on?"
"Nope, God's honest truth."
"Is this guy supposed to be a cop?"
"No, I think he's a teacher."
"A teacher, Jesus Christ!"
"At a university."
"She can't do that!" Meyer said again. "Is he bald?"
"I don't know. He's short and plump, the review said."
"Short and plump! She can't use my name for a short plump person. I'll sue her."
"So sue her," Carella said.
"You think I won't? Who published that goddamn book?"
"Okay!" Meyer said, and took a pad from his jacket pocket. He wrote swiftly on a clean white page, slammed the pad shut, dropped it to the floor as he was putting it back into his pocket, swore, stooped to pick it up, and then looked at Carella plaintively and said, "After all, I was here first."
* * *
The second call came at ten minutes to eleven that night. It was taken by Detective Bert Kling, who was catching, and who had been briefed on the earlier call before Meyer left the squadroom.
"87th Squad," he said, "Kling here."
"You've undoubtedly decided by now that I'm a crank," the man's voice said. "I'm not."
"Who is this?" Kling asked, and motioned across the room for Hawes to pick up the extension.
"I was quite serious about what I promised," the man said. "Parks Commissioner Cowper will be shot to death sometime tomorrow night unless I receive five thousand dollars by noon. This is how I want it. Have you got a pencil?"
"Mister, why'd you pick on us?" Kling asked.
"For sentimental reasons," the man said, and Kling could have sworn he was smiling on the other end of the line. "Pencil ready?"
"Where do you expect us to get five thousand dollars?"
"Entirely your problem," the man said. "My problem is killing Cowper if you fail to deliver. Do you want this information?"
"Go ahead," Kling said, and glanced across the room to where Hawes sat hunched over the other phone. Hawes nodded.
"I want the money in singles, need I mention they must be unmarked?"
"Mister, do you know what extortion is?" Kling asked suddenly.
"I know what it is," the man said. "Don't try keeping me on the line. I plan to hang up long before you can effect a trace."
"Do you know the penalty for extortion?" Kling asked, and the man hung up.
"Son of a bitch," Kling said.
"He'll call back. We'll be ready next time," Hawes said. "We can't trace it through automatic equipment, anyway."
"We can try."
"What'd he say?"
"He said 'sentimental reasons.'"
"That's what I thought he said. "What's that supposed to mean?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Fuzz"
Copyright © 1968 Ed McBain.
Excerpted by permission of RosettaBooks.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The grey fox vixen adjusted her black sweatshirt and glanced aound.
In Ed Mcbain's 'Fuzz' we find the ever welcome detectives of the '87' facing their archenemy. Matching a fast, agile, and clever prose, Mcbain, achieves a page turner that its impossible to put down since page one.