Nathan Shapiro might be the gloomiest member of Manhattan’s finest, but that doesn’t stop the dour detective from getting the job done when the going gets tough . . .
Manhattan banker John Hayward is newly engaged and feeling on top of the world—until the NYPD arrive on his doorstep and ask him point blank why he killed a certain Miss Nora Evans.
Hayward has never even heard of Miss Evans, but the investigators are convinced she was his secret paramour. Incriminating evidence has been found, including a rent check for Miss Evans’s apartment forged with his signature, meaning the incident isn’t a case of mistaken identity—it’s a frame job.
Out on bail, Hayward intends to uncover the truth by himself and is shocked when his fiancée, Barbara Phillips, claims she believes him and insists on coming along. As the couple conducts their own investigation, Det. Nathan Shapiro is never far behind. His intuition tells him there’s more to this case than meets the eye . . . and he soon finds out just how right he is.
The Faceless Adversary is the 1st book in the Nathan Shapiro Mysteries, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
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John Hayward was thirty-two years and some months old on the early morning of April twenty-fourth. He was five feet eleven inches tall; he weighed a hundred and sixty pounds; he had light brown hair, which was trimmed every two weeks and which he parted on the left side. He was a graduate of Harvard, a lieutenant in the army reserve, unmarried, and assistant to a vice president of the Cotton Exchange National Bank. He had a pleasant face about which there was nothing especially noteworthy.
At twenty minutes of one that Sunday morning John Hayward was, nevertheless, set apart from his fellows — from other well-established (and well set up), youngish executives of promising future and unexceptionable past who lived in Manhattan (and would one day live in one of the better suburbs) and who still, long after graduation, bought suits and shirts at Brooks Brothers. What set John Hayward apart glowed in him. He was happy.
He closed the taxicab door and whistled — not precisely on pitch — a tune from the musical comedy to which he had just taken Barbara. He said good night to the cab driver in a tone so unexpectedly cheerful that the cabbie, by no means a happy man, said, "'Night, Mac," and for a moment looked after him, shaking his head in wonder. Acted, the driver thought, like a man who had maybe just inherited a million dollars.
John Hayward crossed the sidewalk, still whistling softly, and went into the apartment house in which he lived. In the lobby, which was dimly lighted, he ceased to whistle, since one is considerate of sleepers, even if remote. A smile remained on his pleasant face and he thought, of course, of Barbara who, on being asked to marry him, had said she would like to very much. She had said this at a quarter of twelve, sitting beside John on a sofa in the library of her father's house in the East Sixties. John Hayward had not actually been surprised, since he was a man of perception. It was nevertheless astonishing how happy he had suddenly become. He had not known himself to be capable of so much happiness. He had not known he had it in him.
Harry, the night man, sat on a bench by the elevator and said, "Good evening, Mr. Hayward," when John spoke to him. He looked at John Hayward rather intently, but of this John was only vaguely conscious, although he was usually observant. (This had been noted, favorably, at the bank.) At the fifth floor, when Harry opened the door, John said good night and Harry, in a voice which seemed a little louder than was necessary, said, "Good night, Mr. Hayward." John did not notice the loudness of the voice.
John walked down the corridor to his apartment. Again, although without being aware of it, he whistled softly. He put his key in the lock and then, as if they had come out of nowhere, there was a man on either side of him. One of the men was rather short, and noticeably broad of shoulder. The other man was taller. He was thin and his face seemed to droop.
"You're John Hayward?" the shorter man said, in a conversational tone, and entirely without inflection. John, who had been bending a little toward the lock, straightened up. He looked at the shorter man, and then at the other.
"What —" he began.
"Police," the shorter man said. "We'd like a word with you."
A complete blankness invaded John Hayward's mind. He looked at the shorter man again, and then at the other.
"Inside, if you don't mind," the shorter man said. Then he waited. John turned the key in the lock and pushed the door open, and then stood back.
"Go ahead, Mr. Hayward," the shorter man said. "Go ahead in."
John went in, and the two men followed him.
"Probably wants to see our shields," the shorter man said, and held a police badge cupped in his hand. "Show him yours, Nate," he said, and the taller man showed him a badge. John looked at the badges, and then again at the men. He shook his head.
"My name's Grady," the shorter man said. "This is Detective Shapiro."
Both of the policemen looked at John Hayward.
"Well," Grady said, "what did you kill her for, Mr. Hayward?"
He did not speak dramatically, or harshly. He spoke merely as if the answer would be one he would find interesting.
The violence of this quietly asked question was like a tearing of the fabric of the mind. Once John Hayward had been standing in a train which slowed for a station and a coupling had broken in the brake hose between two cars of the train, so that at one moment the train was moving and in the same moment was not. John, like others standing in the aisle, had been hurled forward, as if the air had opened in front of him. He had flailed his arms, as others had, clutching for support. It was so now; almost physically so. For an instant he could not see the two men. In that instant the tendons in his hands tightened, as if to grab at some solidity.
And then he saw the men clearly, and knew them to be waiting and John breathed deeply, but without letting that be seen, and said, "I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about." He said this quite steadily, in a tone no more emphatic than Grady's had been. With that said, he was no longer whirling in unresisting air; with that he was, again, John Hayward, a man well trained to composure, as a banker has need to be. He thought of adding to what he had said, and did not. And now he waited.
"Doesn't know what we're talking about," Detective Grady said to the taller detective. "Just like that, Nate. No idea at all what we're talking about."
They both looked at John Hayward. John made himself say nothing. It was a way one learned. It was a mistake to speak too quickly. It was better not to speak at all. He had said what there was to say and — But then, suddenly, there was a great fear in his mind; a fear which screamed so loudly that he could not hear what Detective Shapiro said in answer, although he could see Shapiro's lips move.
A name screamed in John's mind — Barbara! Barbara!
"Thought of something, Mr. Hayward?" Grady said, in the same tone he had used before. "Remembered something?"
He had left her an hour ago — less than an hour ago. She had gone with him to the door of the house. She had kissed him at the door. She had said, "Run along now. But — don't run far." She had held her arms out to him and they had kissed again, not lightly as before. She had held tight to him. She had said, "Don't ever run far," and then, suddenly, pushed him away and looked up at him —
"Who has been killed?" John Hayward said, in an entirely steady voice. "Who are you talking about?"
He knew, from their faces, that they had been waiting for that. He knew that his asking of the question was gratifying to the policemen.
"Who?" he repeated.
Detectives Grady and Shapiro looked at each other. They were evidently satisfied, although Shapiro's face was sad.
"That's a reasonable question, Nate," Detective Grady said. "You can see a man would want —"
"Tell me!" John Hayward said. His voice was harsh, strained. "Who has been killed?"
"All innocent," Grady said. "Doesn't even know her name. Think he's —" He did not finish. He shook his head. He spoke in a new tone; almost an angry tone. "Nora Evans, Mr. Hayward," he said. "Who'd you think?"
The train started again. The air was palpable again.
"I never heard of Nora Evans," John said.
They looked at him very carefully. They waited, very evidently, for him to go on.
He let them wait.
"Looks like he's going to make it hard for everybody," Detective Grady said. "Look that way to you, Nate?"
Detective Shapiro nodded his head, gloomily.
"Nora Evans," Grady said. "Red head. Pretty — up to maybe two-three o'clock. Sure you know her, Mr. Hayward. Well as anybody could."
"No," John said. He kept his voice quite steady. "I didn't know her, officer."
Grady made sounds of tongue and teeth, as at arrant stupidity, or childish stubbornness.
"O.K.," he said. "Any way you want it, Mr. Hayward." He paused. It appeared, quite unconvincingly, that a new method of approach had occurred to him. "Tell you what," he said. "Maybe we can refresh your memory. Think we could do that, Nate?"
"We can try," Detective Shapiro said. "We can always try." But there was no optimism in his voice.
He took a step toward John Hayward. He took hold of John's right arm, pressing the arm hard.
They took him back down the corridor, one walking on either side. They took him down in the elevator, and Harry said, "Jeeze, Mr. Hayward. They —" and was told, abruptly, to hold it. Harry held it, but he shook his head, slowly, from side to side.
Grady sat beside John Hayward in the back seat of a small sedan. It was not far from the apartment house in the Murray Hill district to the city mortuary at Bellevue.
It was warm for April in New York. Even into the New York air some of the freshness of spring had filtered. It was cold in the morgue, and there was a smell of many chemicals mingled. "Evans," Grady said to the uniformed man in the anteroom; who merely nodded, and opened a door, and led them down a corridor — cold, seemingly damp — into a good-sized room. There were several metal tables in the room, and on one there was a body covered by a sheet. The sheet clung a little to the body. Shapiro's hand was heavy, hurrying, on John's arm. It stopped him, with a kind of jerk, by the table. Grady pulled the sheet part way back.
The girl had, as Grady had said, been pretty. She had had red hair — brownish red. The eyes were closed. The face was a little discolored. On the slender throat there were several small wounds, little more than scratches.
"Well?" Grady said. "What d'you say now?"
"No," John said. His voice was steady. "I never saw her before. Is this —" He hesitated. "Was this Nora Evans?"
"That's right," Grady said. "Let's see your hands, Mr. Hayward."
John held his hands out. They were thin, strong hands, long fingered. Grady looked at them.
"About right, I'd say," he said. "Wouldn't you, Nate? Nails about right, too. Marked her up, see, Mr. Hayward? Nails cut into her skin a little. Do that, you know."
"I didn't," John said. "You mean she was strangled?"
Grady sighed, very deeply, lengthily. He shook his head.
"I never saw her before," John said.
"Keep looking," Grady said, and pulled the sheet from the body.
Nora Evans's face had been pretty. Her body was beautiful. It was defenseless under their eyes.
"That ought to help," Grady said.
John looked from the slender, defenseless body. He looked at Grady.
"No," he said. "I never saw her before."
Grady looked at John Hayward across the white body of the murdered girl. He told John to look again, and John looked again. He said, again, "No."
"What's the sense of this?" Grady asked him. "You keep saying the wrong thing. Why don't you just say you didn't kill her?" He looked at Detective Shapiro, beside John. "That's good advice, isn't it, Nate?" Grady said. "Be some sense in that."
Shapiro didn't say anything.
"Well," Grady said, "it's your neck, Mr. Hayward." He pulled the sheet back over the naked body of the girl named Nora Evans. He said, "All right, let's get going." They went out of the morgue and in the car, across town, to a police station. They took him into a fair-sized room with a wooden table and several wooden chairs, and told him to sit down, and went out and locked the door behind them. There was one window in the room — high up, and barred. After a few minutes Grady came back, carrying a large envelope. "Just put what you've got in your pockets in here," he said, and put the envelope on the table. "We'll keep it for you."
John took things out of his pockets — a billfold with a little over a hundred dollars in it, a key container with five keys, less than a dollar in silver, two subway tokens. He took a fountain pen out of his jacket pocket and a small notebook. He took a folded handkerchief from the breast pocket of his jacket, and a crumpled handkerchief from his right hip pocket. "Never mind," Grady said of the handkerchiefs, and pushed them back. "Might catch cold." John took an almost full package of cigarettes from a pocket, and a Zippo lighter. "You can keep those," Grady told him. "You can keep your watch." He went behind John and ran his hands quickly, not at all roughly, over John's clothing. He was satisfied; he said, "O.K." He said that they'd give him a receipt when they saw what they had, and carried the envelope out of the room, and locked the door after him. John Hayward lighted a cigarette. It tasted of disinfectant.
John looked at his watch. It was still not two o'clock. It had not been an hour, since he had put his key in the lock. (It had been only two hours or so since Barbara Phillips had said that she would like very much to marry him. You were whistling a tune and stepped out and — and there was nothing there. And that was senseless.)
It was, of course, a colossal — an indefensible — mistake on the part of some one, or on the part of several. Grady and Shapiro had, he supposed, done only what they had been told to do. The mistake lay elsewhere, lay higher up. Somehow, somewhere, things had got out of order. Since the world was an orderly place, things would, of course, be straightened out. At a few minutes before two o'clock on the morning of Sunday, April twenty-fourth, John Hayward knew that order was persistent in human affairs — he was not convinced of it; he knew it. Mistakes did occur. They were rectified. This one would be. Otherwise, the world became preposterous, and all things in it meaningless, and that, John Hayward knew, was simply not the case.
With a few exceptions so rare as to be unimportant — loose objects falling from tops of buildings was the only example which came at once to mind — the unexpected did not happen to people one knew. (He had not, in fact, known anyone who had been hit by an object falling from the top of a building.) Men and women became ill and died of illness, which was in order, if not in pleasant order. In war — of which John had learned in Korea — men were killed suddenly. But that was part of order, also — hideous, but not unarranged for. In short, the unexpected did not happen.
It had not, at any rate, until that time happened to John and what was happening now, since it was preposterous, would of necessity be brief. What before had happened to John Hayward had been planned, and had occurred according to plan — to his parents' plan first, afterward to his own. He had been sent to Andover; he had gone to Harvard. He had played baseball at Harvard. After graduation, he had spent a summer in Europe with his parents. The following autumn, he had gone to work at the bank. There are few things more orderly than a bank; no place in which mistakes are more painstakingly corrected. In a bank — particularly, of course, in such a bank as the Cotton Exchange — events to come may be anticipated. In a bank, one thing leads, impassively and inevitably, to another, and mistakes of reckoning are made only by depositors.
John was a little surprised, as he waited in the largish room with the barred window for the error which had brought him there to be discovered and corrected, to find the reassuring thoughts as to the orderliness of things invading his mind. The obvious went without saying. Up to that time it had also gone without thinking.
He heard a sound at the door and sighed slightly in relief. (Until then he had not realized that he was uneasy — annoyed, certainly; in a sense shocked; by a girl's violent death humanly saddened.) The door opened and several men came in. Grady was one of them. A large man with a fat red face, and sharp blue eyes sunk in it, was another. A much younger man with a lean face and a noticeably sharp nose was a third. The lean-faced man wore a sports jacket and a tattersall vest. The fourth man was in uniform.
It wouldn't, John realized at once, take four men to tell him that someone had made a mistake.
The big man with the fat face had an unexpectedly soft voice.
"Now that you've had time to think it over, Mr. Hayward," he said. "Why did you kill the girl?"
"I told Detective Grady —"
The big man shook his head. He said he knew that Mr. Hayward had told Grady.
"What it comes to," he said, "is that you're wasting everybody's time. You're an intelligent man. You ought to see that. Two-timing you, wasn't she?"
"I never saw her in my life," Hayward said. He found that his voice was quite steady, and his mind entirely alert. "Until I saw her body at the morgue," he added.
"No," the big man said. "You shacked up with her. That's the way the army puts it, isn't it? Shacked up with her last — when was it, Tom?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Faceless Adversary"
Copyright © 1956 Frances and Richard Lockridge.
Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
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