Capt. M. L. Heimrich of the New York State Police may not have the flash of hard-boiled city detectives, but there’s no lead the intrepid investigator won’t follow until his every hunch is satisfied . . .
Lt. Nathan Shapiro of the NYPD would rather be anywhere else than rural New York investigating lawyer Stuart Fleming’s claims of bribes and point-shaving schemes involving football players at Dyckman University. He’s a city cop and the country makes him nervous.
When he arrives at the headquarters of New York State Police Troop K, Shapiro’s day goes from bad to worse as Captain Heimrich informs him that Fleming’s been shot dead. Now, with a homicide on their hands, the city lieutenant and the country captain must get in the game and investigate the crime together.
As they dig into the scandal, Shapiro and Heimrich uncover more than some football dirty dealings. Seems there’s an entire gambling racket that won’t hesitate to tackle any problems with unnecessary roughness . . .
Murder Can’t Wait is the 16th book in the Captain Heimrich Mysteries, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
“Under the steady hand of old pro Lockridge, this culminates in a murder that requires imaginative police treatment.” —Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Frances and Richard Lockridge were some of the most popular names in mystery during the forties and fifties. Having written numerous novels and stories, the husband-and-wife team was most famous for their Mr. and Mrs. North Mysteries. What started in 1936 as a series of stories written for the New Yorker turned into twenty-six novels, including adaptions for Broadway, film, television, and radio. The Lockridges continued writing together until Frances’s death in 1963, after which Richard discontinued the Mr. and Mrs. North series and wrote other works until his own death in 1982.
Read an Excerpt
Nathan Shapiro drove an unassuming police car north on the Saw Mill River Parkway and was certain that no good would come of it. It was warm for mid-April and he drove with the windows open — and with the windows open he could hear birds. The birds were noisy. Pigeons, with which Nathan Shapiro was reasonably familiar, since he lived in Brooklyn, were soft-spoken. Once you got into the country, birds made a racket.
When he was well along on the parkway, the slopes on either side were filled with golden yellow bushes. Pretty enough, Shapiro supposed, if you liked that sort of thing — that profuse, unregulated sort of thing. In Prospect Park, nature knew its place. Here — Shapiro shrugged his shoulders and his long, thin face drooped sadly. Nothing good would come of this. It was probably a foolish journey, and he, certainly, was the last man who should be making it. He would fumble around with it — end by fumbling it entirely. They should have known that.
Why they never quite seemed to recognize what to him was obvious puzzled Nathan Shapiro, and saddened him. He respected the police department of the city of New York. It, collectively, should know better than to send a fumbler on a job which might require quick perception; the ability, which he knew he lacked, to make decisive evaluation. And it sent a man who was only, as he couldn't really deny, fairly good with a gun.
This sort of thing it had been doing, now, for some years, always against Shapiro's better judgment. Because now and then he had been lucky, the department had got entirely the wrong idea. This last thing it had done — this last thing didn't really bear thinking about, if one wanted to keep respect for the department. Even Rose realized that, although she tried to pretend she did not — tried to pretend that the department had been a long time about it. Rose couldn't be taken in herself. After fifteen years, she knew the kind of man she'd married; couldn't help knowing. He sighed, in sympathy with his wife.
If this Stuart Fleming really had anything at all, which was doubtful, he might have something big-something big and unpleasant and likely to go on for a long time. Like the basketball thing had gone on; like the State Liquor Authority thing still was going on, that pleasant day in April. (It would, Shapiro thought, be good to be in the city on a day like this.) If Fleming was going to start something big, he should have had the opportunity to start it with someone a lot bigger than Nathan Shapiro. An assistant district attorney, at least. Perhaps with the chief assistant district attorney.
When he had been told about the department's mistake, he had looked even sadder than usual; had looked so sad that Captain William Weigand had said, "It isn't really anything to cry about, Nate," and had added that the reassignment, he hoped — was pretty sure — was only temporary. "Have you back here on homicide in no time, probably."
Well, Bill Weigand could persist in faith, believe that before too long the department would realize that Nathan Shapiro wasn't the type to be assigned to the district attorney's staff. From somewhat trying experience, Shapiro knew better. The department simply did not learn.
A large gray squirrel came out of nowhere in front of the car. Shapiro simultaneously checked his mirror, stepped hard on the brakes, and sounded an explosive horn. The squirrel stopped and shook and decided to go back where it had come from. Shapiro swerved left and the squirrel reversed. Shapiro said, loudly, "You damfool animal," and jogged right. By that time the squirrel was out of sight. Probably, Shapiro thought, under the car; probably squashed on the roadway. The poor, insane little —
The mirror showed him the squirrel. The squirrel was sitting in the middle of the lane and seemed to be staring, in resentment, at the receding car. All right, there were squirrels in Prospect Park. But the squirrels in the park knew their status, which was that of mendicants. Here — here nature was in disarray. Shapiro sighed deeply and drove on somewhat more slowly. For all he knew of these environs, the next impediment might well be a deer.
At the traffic circle he bore right and, after a short distance, turned right again up the long drive which led to Hawthorne Barracks, headquarters of Troop K, New York State Police. It was a place to start. Something might be known there of one Stuart Fleming, attorney. Of Stuart Fleming, by his own statement possessor of information about bribes offered, and in some instances perhaps paid, to football players of Dyckman University, points-having being the product bought. Which meant gamblers and another fix. Which meant tedium for those associated with the office of the District Attorney of New York County, since the offers — and perhaps the payments-had been made in a hotel in Manhattan.
Stuart Fleming was also, again by his own statement, laid up with a broken leg, achieved during spring skiing. Which was why one Nathan Shapiro was going to some place called North Wellwood, supposing he could find it. It appeared that Fleming, for reasons inexplicable — but anything might be expected of a man who went in the spring to northern mountains, and slid down them on skis — chose to live in a place called North Wellwood.
Shapiro parked his car and got out of it. He was a long, thin man, in a gray suit which fitted loosely. He went into the barracks building. He went up to a desk and the uniformed sergeant behind it, who said, "Good morning, sir. Something we can do?"
"I'm detect —" Shapiro began, and realized it was no good. "Lieutenant Shapiro," he said. "City police. Wondered whether someone here might have a little information about a man named Stuart Fleming? And a place called North Wellwood which seems to be the other side of the ..."
He stopped, because the sergeant did not seem to be listening very closely. The sergeant said, "You said Stuart Fleming, lieutenant?" "... county," Shapiro said, finishing his sentence. "Yes, Stuart Fleming."
"Just a moment," the sergeant said, and picked up the telephone. After a moment he said, "Captain? Jenkins on the desk. City police, a lieutenant, asking about Fleming." He waited a moment. Then he said, "Right away, captain," and put the telephone back in its cradle and said, "Captain'd like to see you, lieutenant. You go along that corridor and...."
Shapiro went along the corridor and farther, as directed; and came, again as promised, to a door lettered CAPT. M. L. HEIM-RICH, B.C.I. He had walked into something, Shapiro thought. The emphasis on the name Stuart, so pointedly singling it out from other Flemings. A captain, Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Shapiro knocked on the door and was told to come in and went in. A tall, solid man stood up on the far side of the desk. The man had extremely blue eyes, and a deeply tanned face. Probably spent a lot of time on horseback, Shapiro thought, briefly, and then remembered that the state police hadn't spent much time on horseback, hereabouts anyway, for years.
"Heimrich," the solid man said. "You're?"
"Shapiro. Nathan Shapiro." He did not speak his name with any special emphasis. He merely laid it on the desk. Heimrich would be German — someplace back would be German. No reason to think that because of that —
Captain M. L. Heimrich came around the desk and held out his hand. He said, "Morning, lieutenant. It is lieutenant?"
"Yes," Shapiro said sadly. "Only a couple of weeks, as it happens."
He took the very firm brown hand held out to him. His own hand was thin — hard and quick, but thin. Sometimes men as big as this captain, B.C.I., liked to prove how strong their hands were. There were tricks to answer that, and Shapiro knew the tricks. But this big man's hand was merely firm-a solid, unag-gressive hand.
"Sit down, won't you?" Heimrich said, and watched the long, thin man sit in a chair at the end of the desk. Very depressed about something, the New York City lieutenant of detectives appeared to be. Might be only about his digestion. Or, of course, because he had to live in the city. That necessity would depress anyone, naturally. Very intelligent brown eyes, the long man had, and somehow there was no real depression in the eyes.
"You were asking at the desk about Stuart Fleming," Heimrich said. "Mind telling me why, lieutenant?"
"A squeal," Shapiro said and was somewhat surprised to see the solid man behind the desk close his very blue eyes. Sleepy? But he hadn't looked sleepy; had not moved around the desk like a sleepy man.
"I listen better sometimes with my eyes closed," Heimrich said, and Shapiro was conscious that he had, after saying that it was a squeal, hesitated as a man will who wonders whether he is being listened to. Sensitive to that sort of thing, this Captain Heimrich apparently was. Shapiro was mildly surprised.
"Wrote a letter to the D.A.," Shapiro said. "Said that a friend of his — younger, I gather; apparently a football player at Dyckman University — had been approached with a bribe offer. Said that he thought others on the squad had been approached. The point-shaving racket, if he's right. And you know how things like that spread out, captain. If they're trying it at Dyckman, they're probably trying other colleges. Universities. The way they did a few years back with basketball."
"Bribes offered in Manhattan, naturally," Merton Heimrich said, and opened his eyes.
"So Fleming says. The hotel-room routine. Kick a goal or not kick a goal, I suppose. Or fumble or not fumble. Not anything I know much about. You'd know. Probably played it."
"Not for a long time," Heimrich said. "Not in the big leagues. You're working out of the D.A.'s office, lieutenant?"
"Temporarily," Shapiro said. "Been on homicide last few years." He remembered something; something from a number of years back. There had been a case then which had taken him into the country; a case into which, according to a precinct detective named Miller, a state police captain named Heimrich had put an oar. Homicide man himself, that Heimrich had been, Shapiro gathered. Something about evidence gathered without benefit of search warrant, as he remembered Miller telling —
"The D.A. didn't ask Fleming to come in? Wanted somebody to go up and see him in North Wellwood?"
Shapiro didn't remember having mentioned North Wellwood to Heimrich. To the desk sergeant, yes. But the desk sergeant hadn't, on the telephone, said anything. "Hm-m-m," Shapiro thought.
"Seems this Fleming is a skier," Shapiro said. "Goes and slides down mountains." He said this with his own incredulity faintly reflected in his voice. "Seems he's got a broken leg. Hard for him to get around."
"Yes," Heimrich said. "It's hard to get around with a broken leg. It's harder, naturally, when you're full of holes. Bullet holes. Your Stuart Fleming is, lieutenant. Died of it, nat —" He broke that off. He was learning. Not that Susan made too much of a point of it. Or of anything. But —
"They got to him first," Shapiro said.
"Looks like it," Merton Heimrich said. "Leads in this letter?"
"Nothing really specific. He was circumspect." Briefly he looked at the ceiling over Heimrich's head. "Not, apparently, circumspect enough."
"No," Heimrich said. "It looks as if he hadn't been. I was about to take a run over there. You'll want to come along, probably. Might be something around this house of his which would help with your end of it."
The thing, of course, was to call in and report what had happened. But they'd have that, or would soon have it. And if there was anything lying around which would help his end of it, the state boys would pick it up and send it along. They didn't miss much, from what he'd heard. Not as much as he'd miss, probably. "Yes," Shapiro said, "probably I'd better tail along, captain. Try not to get underfoot."
North Wellwood, New York, is a cluster — a widely spaced cluster — of houses, most of which are large and old; some of which are small and new and shining. It has a small shopping center, which is most discreet. (Even the First National achieves a degree of discretion.) North Wellwood is about as far east in Westchester County as it is possible to go without tumbling into Connecticut. It took more than half an hour for Heimrich to drive them there in an unmarked car, distinguishable from any other unmarked car only by its long radio antenna.
Heimrich did not drive fast, but he drove with assurance — the assurance of a man who knows his way. After a short time, Nathan Shapiro was very glad he had not, unaided, tried to find this place called North Wellwood. It was, it seemed, reached by a succession of roads, branching from one another, each more narrow, more twisting, than the one before. After the first few, the roads were not numbered; signposts became infrequent and none directed to North Wellwood. Ridgefield, Conn., yes. Brewster, N. Y., yes. Road commissioners, if they were responsible, as Shapiro vaguely assumed they might be, had no signs to spare on North Wellwood. But Heimrich did not hesitate at any fork.
"Not a village, officially," Heimrich said, as if he had been sharing Shapiro's thoughts. "Not anything officially, for all it has a post office. One rural route. Most of the people have lived around there for years. Retired, some of them. Others — nothing actually to retire from. Never needed to work. What they call the rural character pretty well kept up. Know the sort of thing I mean, lieutenant?"
"No," Shapiro said. "Brooklyn, yes. I live in Brooklyn. Was born in Brooklyn." (In a cold-water flat, five flights up, but there was no need in going into that. That was a long time ago.) "Manhattan, yes. I work in Manhattan."
When you meet a man — a man you are going, for however brief a time, to work with — you lay a little trail of facts about yourself, a trail for the man to follow, if he wants to follow. It is easier to work with other men if they know something about you, and you something about them. What you know does not need to be important; little things will do.
"My father was a rabbi," Nathan Shapiro said.
He did not carry a lance, nor did he especially carry a shield. And he was, he supposed, laboring the obvious. Still, this large and apparently amiable man did have a Germanic name.
"Mine was a farmer," Heimrich said. "Upstate a ways. I used to shoo cows across a road in the morning and shoo them back at night. With a lop-eared farm dog, who was supposed to help. You've got a copy of the letter Fleming wrote the D.A.?"
"Yes," Shapiro said, and thought that he and this large man had come from far apart to meet with murder. "As I said, very circumspect. Nothing to indicate he was worried. That he expected trouble. That he had talked too much, to the wrong people. Which it looks like he did."
"Which it looks like he did," Merton Heimrich said. "Only. ..." He did not finish; he went left at a fork.
"No reason this friend of his shouldn't have told his story to somebody else," Shapiro said, and lighted a cigarette. "But they don't mind wasting bullets, the pros don't. The more the deader, and it's all right with them. He didn't give us the name of the boy who told him about this bribe offer. So we'll have to comb it out."
"If there's time, naturally," Heimrich said. "They got him early this morning, apparently. Midnight to around six, at a guess. The M.E. will maybe guess closer. Through his bedroom window. Nearest house almost a mile away — his brother's house. Five bullets-probably what the clip held. Empty shells outside the window where you'd expect. Stood on a flagstone terrace, Forniss says. Forniss is a sergeant I work with. So no nice convenient footprints. Footprints ever get you anywhere, lieutenant?"
"Not that I can remember. Hard to leave in town."
They passed a square white house, some distance back from the road.
"Friend of mine lives there," Heimrich said. "Retired professor. Used to be on the Dyckman faculty."
Nathan Shapiro said, "Oh."
"Coincidence," Heimrich said. "Not a fat one. Still — the old boy's lived here most of his life. Parents lived here most of theirs. If it were a local killing now. But it doesn't look like being, naturally. From what you say; what Forniss says. They do use automatics."
"They," Shapiro said sadly, "use whatever comes handy. But we both know that, captain."
Excerpted from "Murder Can't Wait"
Copyright © 1964 Richard Lockridge.
Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
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