The Naked Face

Chapter Twenty-One


IN THE SOUNDPROOFED, neon-lit communications center at Police Headquarters, a dozen shirtsleeved police officers manned the giant switchboard. Six operators sat on each side of the board. In the middle of the board was a pneumatic chute. As the calls came in, the operators wrote a message, put it in the chute, and sent it upstairs to the dispatcher, for immediate relay to a substation or patrol car. The calls never ceased. They poured in day and night, like a river of tragedy flooding in from the citizens of the huge me tropolis. Men and women who were terrified...lonely...desperate...drunk...injured...homicidal...It was a scene from Hogarth, painted with vivid, an guished words instead of colors.
On this Monday afternoon there was a feeling of added tension in the air. Each telephone operator handled his job with full concentration, and yet each was aware of the number of detectives and FBI agents who kept moving in and out of the room, receiving and giving orders, working efficiently and quietly as they spread a vast electronic net for Dr. Judd Stevens and Detective Frank Angeli. The atmosphere was quickened, strangely staccato, as though the action were being staged by some grim, nervous puppeteer.
Captain Bertelli was talking to Allen Sullivan, a member of the Mayor's Crime Commission, when McGreavy walked in. McGreavy had met Sullivan before. He was tough and honest. Bertelli broke off his conversation and turned to the detective, his face a question mark.
"Things are moving," McGreavy said. "We found an eyewitness, a night watchman who works in the building across the street from Dr. Stevens' office building. On Wednesday night, when someone broke into Dr. Stevens' office, the watchman was just going on duty. He saw two men go into the building. The street door was locked and they opened it with a key. He figured they worked there."
"Did you get an ID?"
"He identified a picture of Angeli."
"Wednesday night Angeli was supposed to have been home in bed with the flu."
"What about the second man?"
"The watchman didn't get a good look at him."
An operator plugged in one of the innumerable red lights blinking across the switchboard and turned to Captain Ber telli. "For you, Captain. New Jersey Highway Patrol."
Bertelli snatched up an extension phone. "Captain Bertelli." He listened a moment. "Are you sure?...Good! Will you get every unit you can in there? Set up roadblocks. I want that area covered like a blanket. Keep in close touch... Thanks." He hung up and turned to the two men. "It looks like we got a break. A rookie patrolman in New Jersey spotted Angeli's car on a secondary road near Orangeburg. The Highway Patrol's combing the area now."
"Dr. Stevens?"
"He was in the car with Angeli. Alive. Don't worry. They'll find them."
McGreavy pulled out two cigars. He offered one to Sullivan, who refused it, handed one to Bertelli, and put the other one between his teeth. "We've got one thing going for us. Dr. Stevens leads a charmed life." He struck a match and lit the two cigars. "I just talked to a friend of his - -Dr. Peter Hadley. Dr. Hadley told me that he went to pick up Stevens in his office a few days ago and found Angeli there with a gun in his hand. Angeli told some cock-and-bull story about expecting a burglar. My guess is that Dr. Hadley's arrival saved Stevens' life."
"How did you first get on to Angeli?" Sullivan asked.
"It started with a couple of tips that he was shaking down some merchants," McGreavy said. "When I went to check them out, the victims wouldn't talk. They were scared, but I couldn't figure out why. I didn't say anything to Angeli. I just started keeping a close watch on him. When the Hanson murder broke, Angeli came and asked if he could work on the case with me. He gave me some bullshit about how much he admired me and how he had always wanted to be my partner. I knew he had to have an angle, so with Captain Bertelli's permission, I played along with him. No wonder he wanted to work on the case - he was in it up to his ass! At that time I wasn't sure whether Dr. Stevens was involved in the murders of Hanson and Carol Roberts, but I decided to use him to help set up Angeli. I built up a phony case against Stevens and told Angeli I was going to nail the doctor for the murders. I figured that if Angeli thought he was off the hook, he'd relax and get careless."
"Did it work?"
"No. Angeli surprised the hell out of me by putting up a fight to keep Stevens out of jail."
Sullivan looked up, puzzled. "But why?"
"Because he was trying to knock him off and he couldn't get to him if he were locked up."
"When McGreavy began to put the pressure on," Captain Bertelli said, "Angeli came to me hinting that McGreavy was trying to frame Dr. Stevens."
"We were sure then that we were on the right track," McGreavy said. "Stevens hired a private detective named Norman Moody. I checked Moody out and learned that he had tangled with Angeli before when a client of Moody's was picked up by Angeli on a drug rap. Moody said his client was framed. Knowing what I know now, I'd say Moody was telling the truth."
"So Moody lucked into the answer from the beginning."
"It wasn't all luck. Moody was bright. He knew Angeli was probably involved. When he found the bomb in Dr. Stevens' car, he turned it over to the FBI and asked them to check it out."
"He was afraid if Angeli got hold of it, he'd find a way to get rid of it?"
"That's my guess. But someone slipped up and a copy of the report was sent to Angeli. He knew then that Moody was on to him. The first real break we got was when Moody came up with the name 'Don Vinton.' "
"Cosa Nostra for 'The Big Man.' "
"Yeah. For some reason, someone in La Cosa Nostra was out to get Dr. Stevens."
"How did you tie up Angeli with La Cosa Nostra?"
"I went back to the merchants Angeli had been putting the squeeze on. When I mentioned La Cosa Nostra, they panicked. Angeli was working for one of the Cosa Nostra families, but he got greedy and was doing a little shakedown business of his own on the side."
"Why would La Cosa Nostra want to kill Dr. Stevens?" Sullivan asked.
"I don't know. We're working on several angles." He sighed wearily. "We got two lousy breaks. Angeli slipped the men we had tailing him, and Dr. Stevens ran away from the hospital before I could warn him about Angeli and give him protection."
The switchboard flashed. An operator plugged in the call and listened a moment. "Captain Bertelli."
Bertelli grabbed the extension phone. "Captain Bertelli." He listened, saying nothing, then slowly replaced the receiver and turned to McGreavy. "They lost them."