Betraying the Brotherhood
I sat in Cramer's office, watching him pace in irritation. "Judge Thatcher threw out every single piece of solid evidence that we had," he complained, his jaw working furiously over a cigar.
I was used to seeing Cramer irritated, but it seemed to be worse than usual. "Why?"
"Thatcher said that our search was illegal." Cramer waved his arms. "It's a bunch of bull. I got that warrant from ADA Morris myself. I put it in Sergeant Winchell's hands and told him exactly what to do." He paused and stopped to glare out the window. "I should've went myself but I thought Winchell could handle it. He's been pushing me to give him a chance. Purley had to go on vacation exactly when I need him."
"So, where does that leave your case against Scarletti?"
"Dead," Cramer answered flatly. "We can't use the gun or the wire tap."
"I thought you had a witness."
Cramer's scowl deepened and his face managed to turn an even deeper shade of red. "We did, but the only thing that made West talk was that we had evidence linking him to a kidnapping. Thatcher threw that out, too. We lost our leverage and now West refuses to cooperate."
I didn't know what else to say besides, "That's tough."
Cramer sighed and ran a hand through his hair. He turned to me. "But this isn't over yet," he said stubbornly. "Morris has a few things he wants me to check into."
Cramer shook his head. "I can't tell you yet. He wants me to handle this on my own and report back to him. The less people who know, the better."
I grunted. There was no way to make him talk when he felt that he couldn't. "Fine. I'll read about it in the paper." I stood and walked over to him. "Are you going to be able to leave soon? It's almost eight."
Cramer's eyebrow rose. "Are you in a hurry?"
I looked over my shoulder to make sure that the door was closed. I took the cigar out of his mouth, tossed it into the trash can, and slipped my arms around his waist. "What if I am?"
Cramer grasped my chin and kissed me. It was gentle at first. He traced my lips with his tongue. Then, he pushed inside my mouth.
We both ignored the light knock on the door, hoping whoever it was would go away. We had no such luck and Cramer pulled away from me with a whispered curse. I sat back down while he went to the door. "There's always something," he muttered.
Cramer opened the door to see the new source of numerous headaches. "What is it, Winchell?"
Winchell was a middle-aged, short, pale man with thinning brown hair and pale blue eyes. He handed Cramer a large envelope. "DA Morris sent this over. He said it's very important and he'll be waiting to hear from you."
"Thanks." Cramer said shortly. He closed the door again before Winchell had another chance to speak. He threw it on the desk. "You'd better be going, Goodwin. It looks like I'll be here a while longer."
I stood up and gave him a quick kiss. "All right. I'll see ya later."
I went home and found Wolfe reading. "Good evening, Archie," he greeted politely.
"Evening," I answered easily and settled behind my desk.
"I did not expect you to be back so soon."
That was Wolfe's subtle way of being nosy. "Cramer's gotta work late," I explained.
Wolfe inclined his head an eighth of an inch and went back to his book, while I finished the Sports page that I'd been neglecting all day. A few hours later, Wolfe pushed himself out of his chair. "Good night, Archie."
Wolfe disappeared and I stood up and stretched. Then I checked all the doors to make sure they were locked and turned out all the lights. I went up to bed and it didn't take me long to fall asleep.
I woke up in the middle of the night. For some reason, I was sweating. It was odd. I didn't think I was having a nightmare. I looked around my dark room, listening to my heart pounding in my ears. I shook my head to clear it. "Get a hold of yourself, Archie." I rolled onto my side and buried my head in my pillow. The feeling that something was wrong stayed with me, but I tried to ignore it. I laid like that until I eventually drifted off again.
I got up in the morning, took a shower, dressed, and then went downstairs for breakfast. I walked into the kitchen and saw Fritz at the stove. His body was rigid and the movements of his arms were jerky. "Good morning, Fritz."
Fritz didn't stop what he was doing or look over his shoulder at me. "Archie."
"Is there something wrong?" I asked, hoping that there wasn't a crisis that early.
Fritz gestured to the newspaper on the counter. "There's something there that you should see."
I grabbed the paper and sat at the table. I rubbed my eyes and unfolded it. One headline caught my attention and I just stared at it.
"Archie," Fritz said in concern.
It took me a moment to find my voice. "Has Wolfe seen this?"
"Yes. Under the circumstances, he said that he would not mind if you felt the need to bother him in the plant rooms."
I nodded. I couldn't take my eyes off that headline. District Attorney and Head of the Homicide Squad shot. I made myself read the article. Cramer and Morris had been working late. They were in Morris's office. An unknown assailant slipped into the building and attacked them. They both took two shots. Morris died in the ambulance. There was no work about Cramer's condition.
Fritz set a plate in front of me. The apple fritters smelled good but I pushed it away. "No thanks, Fritz."
"Archie, you must eat."
I knew Fritz meant well, but my gut had just been twisted into knots. "I can't."
I got up from the table and went to the office. I sat on the edge of my desk, grabbed the phone, and called Lon Cohan. "Lon, it's Archie."
"Hey, Archie. What do you want?" Lon asked suspiciously.
"I read that story about Cramer and Morris. I want the details."
"The Commissioner himself asked me not to print the details until a little further along in the investigation."
"And you're doing that out of the goodness of your heart," I said sarcastically.
"Yes," Lon replied. "And he promised me an exclusive interview when all of this is over."
"Well, I'm not the public, so spill."
Lon sighed. He owed me a favor. "The shooter caught Morris and Cramer in Morris's office. He fired four times. Morris caught one slug in the shoulder and one in the throat and died on the way to the hospital. Cramer got it in the shoulder and chest. He's alive but I don't know any more than that."
"Do the police have any leads?"
"The Commissioner's office has clammed up. I think they know something, but aren't willing to tell. Now, let me ask you a question. What's your interest in this?"
"Just curious, Lon. Just curious," I answered.
"That's a bunch of bull, Archie."
I smiled. "Prove it."
"I gotta go. Thanks, Lon." I hung up and then went up to the plant rooms to see Wolfe.
Wolfe turned his head to look at me. "I am sorry, Archie."
I jammed my hands into my pockets. "Me, too."
"What did Mr. Cohen have to say?"
"Not much more than he printed. Cramer took one shot to the shoulder and the other to the chest and he's alive. Lon thinks the police have an idea who did it but aren't saying."
"And what do you think?"
I shrugged. "I'm not sure. Cramer and Morris have their share of enemies."
"What were they working on last night?"
I stared at Wolfe for a minute. "They were trying to salvage the case against Scarletti. Judge Thatcher threw out all the crucial evidence but Cramer said that Morris had a few leads for him to check out. Morris wanted him to do it personally and get back to him. Morris wanted to keep information of their ongoing investigation from leaking until the right time."
Wolfe turned back to the orchid in front of him. "Someone may have gotten wind of what they were doing. That would be a good starting point."
"Starting point for what?"
"You want to get the person responsible for shooting Mr. Cramer, don't you?"
Of course, I did, but Wolfe didn't like to do any more work than he had to. "Yes, but so do the police. they won't like us poking our noses in."
Wolfe didn't look at me. "Has that ever stopped you before?"
"No," I admitted.
"But first I suggest you go to the hospital and ascertain Mr. Cramer's condition. You will not be able to focus until you are sure that he is stable."
"The hospital's gotta be swarming with cops. What do you suggest I do about them?" It's not that I didn't want to see Cramer, but I didn't want the problem of having to explain my presence. There were only four people who knew about me and Cramer - Wolfe, Fritz, Saul Panzer, and Purley Stebbins. That was enough.
Wolfe would have normally just barked at me to go. This time he said reasonably, "I am sure you will think of something if you have to. Go."
I nodded and left. I took a taxi to the hospital. A nurse told me what floor Cramer was on. When I stepped into the hall from the stairs, I saw two cops sitting outside of a door to the room that I figured was Cramer's. Then I heard Purley's voice behind me. "I was wondering when you'd get here."
I turned. I wasn't surprised to see Purley. He was the very definition of loyal to Cramer. "I thought you were on vacation."
Purley grunted. "I was, but I came back as soon as I heard what happened. I couldn't leave Lieutenant Rowcliff with Sergeant Winchell."
It was well-known that Rowcliff and I hated each other but he was temporarily in charge at Homicide. Even I felt sorry for him only having Winchell to rely on. From all that Cramer said about Winchell, I was surprised that Winchell was still on the force.
"Any idea who did this to him?" I asked.
Purley stared at me, hard, for a long moment. He wasn't supposed to share details about an ongoing investigation, especially the shooting of a cop and a DA. But he also knew how I felt about Cramer, even though we'd never actually talked about it.
"Come on, Purley," I urged.
Purley sighed. "Come on." We began walking. "I'm afraid that we actually don't have much right now. The crime scene was a complete mess, papers scattered everywhere, a cabinet overturned. We're still trying to sift through everything. We're starting from the point that this had something to do with the case they were working on."
"Cramer got an envelope from Morris yesterday evening. He said it was some stuff to check out."
Purley nodded. "That might help."
"I think it was about the Scarletti case."
"Judge Thatcher killed that one."
"But that doesn't mean Cramer and Morris were going to give up. We all know how stubborn the Inspector can be," I pointed out.
"I'll see what I can dig up on that," Purley said thoughtfully. He stopped. "Don't stick your nose in where it doesn't belong on this one."
"I'd never think of it," I lied.
Purley folded his arms across his chest. "I mean it, Goodwin. This is police business."
It was also personal business for both of us. Cramer was his boss, friend, and fellow cop. Cramer was my favorite nemesis and Purely knew that I wouldn't let it go. "I realize that, Purley."
Purley grunted in frustration. "Just make sure you stay out of our way."
He took me to Cramer's room and told the two guards that I could have a Few minutes. They stared at me suspiciously.
"Sergeant Winchell ordered us not to let anyone in," one of them protested.
Purley swallowed an angry outburst. "It's all right, Classen. If Winchell gives you any static, tell him to come talk to me."
The two guards let me go inside. They said something more to Purley and he told them that it was none of their concern.
I walked over to the bed and saw that Cramer was unconscious. His skin was pale from the blood loss. I could see the heavy bandaging over his should and chest through the hospital gown. I took his hand and felt his steady pulse. For the first time in my life, no words came to me. All I could do was stand there and stare at him, searching for more outward signs of life.
I swallowed. I knew there was nothing I could do for him there. I laid Cramer's hand back down at his side and went out to join Purley again. Purley and I walked back to the stairs. I let out a long sigh. "What did the doctors say? Will he make it?" The second question was almost a whisper and I hadn't consciously realized that I'd lowered my voice.
Purley didn't comment. He walked me down the stairs. "They think the Inspector will recover. He survived last night. He survived the surgery. That was the hard part. And like you said, he's stubborn."
Wolfe was in the office when I got home. He looked up from his book.
"Cramer's alive," I stated. "Purley said that doctors think he'll make it."
Wolfe put the book down. "Did Sergeant Stebbins mention any suspects?"
I shook my head. "The case is a mess right now. The shooter ransacked the room and the police are still sifting through it all."
"Did they find the envelope DA Morris sent to Inspector Cramer last night?"
"Not yet. But, if the shooter was working for Scarletti, they won't find it. Scarletti will want to bury whatever else Morris and Cramer had on him," I pointed out.
"Perhaps," Wolfe said, picked up the book again, and buried his nose in it.
I stared at him. What did he mean by that, but he wasn't ready to tell me. I decided to try and prod him anyway. "Any instructions?"
I waited through lunch and most of the afternoon for Wolfe, but all he did was read. I was stuck and that is a position that I rarely find myself in. I wanted to do something to find the shooter. I still thought of Scarletti as a prime suspect but I knew that he wasn't going to talk to me. So, I waited, waited until I got a call from Purley. "We found that envelope, Goodwin."
I sat forward in my chair. "And?"
"And DA Morris asked the Inspector to look into Judge Thatcher's financials. Morris thought Thatcher was on the take from Scarletti. The Inspector found large payments to Thatcher from ATC Corp, which is a shell company owned by Scarletti to launder money."
"Did Thatcher know what Cramer found out about him?"
"Possibly," Purley answered. "The Inspector just confirmed it last night but he'd been looking into Thatcher for a few days. We're going to go have a little talk with him right now."
"You're welcome," Purely said gruffly and hung up. I put the receiver on the hook and turned to Wolfe. "Apparently, Cramer found out some interesting things about Judge Thatcher."
"Interesting enough that Thatcher may have decided that Inspector Cramer and Mr. Morris were too big of a problem to be ignored."
"Maybe. The police are going to have a talk with him now. We may not have to poke our noses into this after all."
Wolfe adjusted his large frame and there was something going on in his head. "Perhaps."
Later that night, I got another call from Purley. "What have you got?" I asked eagerly.
"Thatcher's dead," Purley stated flatly.
"We found him on the floor of his office. It looks like he shot himself in the head. He left a note claiming responsibility for shooting Morris and the Inspector. The gun we found is the same caliber as the one used them," Purley explained. "Of course, it won't be official until we get word from the lab."
"Okay, thanks Purley."
We hung up and I turned to Wolfe. "Thatcher's dead. They think it was a suicide. He left a note saying that he shot Morris and Cramer."
"Because they were getting too close to him," Wolfe said. He pursed his lips. "I do not believe it."
"Murder is a long way from taking a bribe."
"But if he knew that Cramer was on to him, he probably panicked. Then, when he got home, he realized that he'd dug his hole even deeper and decided not to face it."
Wolfe laced his fingers over his ample stomach. "A panicked man would not have ransacked Mr. Morris's office. He would have dropped the gun and ran. Whoever shot Mr. Morris and Inspector Cramer planned it. No, I do not believe Judge Thatcher could be that man."
I sighed. Wolfe was a genius after all. He had a tendency to be right.
"It was probably someone working for Scarletti, but he's got a big organization. He never has to get his own hands dirty. Any ideas as to who the man is?"
"I know of a way to find out."
Wolfe outlined his idea to me. When he was finished, I shook my head.
"The police won't go for it, especially if they think they have their man already."
"I am sure their forensic evidence will prove that Thatcher did not kill himself. He was murdered by the same man who shot Inspector Cramer," Wolfe said with complete certainty. Then he told me to get Saul Panzer on the phone, but wouldn't let me in on the conversation.
"What was all that about?" I demanded when Wolfe was finished.
"I have an errand for Saul," Wolfe said simply and left it at that. No amount of my prodding made him open up.
Purley didn't call again but I met him at the hospital a couple days later. I'd gone there to se if there was any change in Cramer's condition. Unfortunately, there wasn't. The same two guards let me in Cramer's room. That told me that the police weren't convinced that Thatcher was their man.
When I came out of Cramer's room, I saw Purley arguing with Winchell. Purley grabbed Winchell's arm, lead him to the elevator, and pushed him inside. I walked down there to see what was going on. "What was that all about?"
Purley glared at the closed elevator. "Nothing, just a little disagreement."
"I guess Sergeant Winchell sees things your way now."
"I don't give a damn if he does. He'll be transferred out soon enough." I'd seen Purley angry before, but it reached a whole new level with Winchell. I decided to change the subject. "So, do we have a verdict on Thatcher?"
Purley grunted and nodded. "It wasn't a suicide. There was no gunpowder on his hands. His prints were on the gun, but he didn't fire it. The killer put it in his hands after he was dead."
"And it was the same weapon that was used on Cramer and Morris?"
There was the shock of the century. Wolfe was right. "Mr. Wolfe figured as much."
"And what would Wolfe suggest we do now?" Purley asked sharply.
I kept my tone neutral. I was not here to fight with Purley. I understood his frustration all too well. "He does have a plan to catch the killer. It would save you the trouble of questioning Scarletti, which would get you nowhere, and combing through all of Cramer's and Morris's cases."
Purley gave in. "What's the idea?"
"Bring Lieutenant Rowcliff over to the house tonight and he'll explain." I didn't relish the idea of dealing with Rowcliff, but in Cramer's absence, he was in charge and he would have to okay a course of action. "All right, Goodwin, but it had better be good."
"Do you really expect us to do that?" Rowcliff spluttered, while Purley scratched his chin thoughtfully.
"It could work," Purley admitted.
"I don't like it," Rowcliff bristled.
"I do not like it either," Wolfe stated. "But it would be a sure way to draw the killer out. He will act to keep from being identified."
"Nothing will happen to the Inspector," Purley said earnestly. "I'll be there."
Rowcliff still didn't like the idea but gave in. "All right. But how can you be so sure that this is our guy?"
Wolfe regarded Rowcliff with a level gaze. "Mr. Panzer brought me some interesting evidence that points to his relationship with Scarletti. I am certain that Mr. Cramer was investigating him along with Judge Thatcher."
"Then, Cramer would've picked him up."
"Not necessarily, not if Mr. Cramer only had strong suspicions and no proof. We know that Mr. Cramer had strong evidence against Thatcher. He would have been able to use Thatcher to get to the man who became the shooter."
Wolfe's plan involved Purley letting it slip to our suspect that Cramer was awake and wanted to talk to the DA. Then all we had to do was wait. We were sure that our guy would show up to finish Cramer off before he could incriminate him.
Later that evening, Purley and I waited in the bathroom adjacent to Cramer's room. We had to be quiet and all I could think about was nailing the guy. I wouldn't open the door to look at Cramer. He still hadn't regained consciousness and if I focused on that, I was more than likely to shoot the guy.
Suddenly, we heard muffled voices. "That'll be him dismissing the guards," I whispered.
Purley grunted and the front door opened. Our guest came in quietly and closed it behind him. I opened our door enough for me to and Purley to see out.
As Wolfe predicted, Sergeant Winchell stood over Cramer. "You just couldn't die with Morris, could you?" he asked with scorn. "You couldn't leave well enough alone." He reached for one of the pillows. That was enough for Purley. He barged past me and pointed his gun at Winchell. "Just give me an excuse."
Winchell didn't bother trying to protest his innocence. He knew we had him. He thought about reaching for his own gun but stopped when he saw mine leveled at him, too.
Purley took Winchell's gun and motioned for me to get the other cops waiting outside. He cuffed Winchell "As you look back on it..." He snapped the restraints tight. "...did Scarletti really pay you enough to betray your brothers and go to jail?"
Winchell scowled. "I'm not saying a word until I get a lawyer."
After the cops took Winchell away, the nurses shooed me out and I went home to report to Wolfe. "It happened just like you said. Winchell came to kill Cramer because he thought Cramer would identify him."
"And Mr. Cramer will," Wolfe agreed. "When he wakes."
I nodded. I wanted Cramer to be awake already. "What made you suspect Winchell?"
"Inspector Cramer's comments about him. Winchell was the one who executed the warrants in Scarletti's home and bungled it even though he had specific instructions. Plus, it had to be someone that could move throughout the DA's office without arousing too much suspicion. Winchell testified in his share of cases. He would not seem out of place." Wolfe paused. "I sent Saul to try and find where Winchell kept the money Scarletti paid him."
"Winchell put it in a bank account under his nephew's name."
"I didn't know he had a nephew."
One end of Wolfe's mouth quirked up. "He does not."
I sighed. "Now that the cops have Winchell, they should be able to get Scarletti."
Wolfe inclined his head an eighth of an inch. "I don not see Winchell taking all of the blame. He will get the best deal that he can."
I just wished that I could have shot Winchell. Winging him would have been good enough. I'm sure that Purley felt the same.
Wolfe stood up. "Satisfactory. Good night, Archie."
I went back to Cramer's room the next day. The guards were gone and the nurses let me in. I walked over to the bed. "Inspector, it's about time for you to wake up now. We caught Winchell. He tried to kill you again last night and you just laid there. What would have happened if Purley and I weren't here?"
Under normal circumstances, Cramer would have glared at me and crunched a cigar between his teeth before letting me have it. That's the reaction I was hoping for. But he didn't stir. I took a couple steps back and pointed at him. "Stop being a pain in the ass and wake up!"
"There's no need to yell, Goodwin."
Cramer's voice was low but I still heard it clearly. I quickly stepped to his side. His eyes were still closed. "Inspector."
Cramer looked at me, slightly irritated. "Goodwin," he rasped.
I couldn't stop the sigh of relief that passed through me. "It's about time."
Cramer ignored my sarcasm. "Winchell."
"We got him last night when he tried to finish you off."
I covered his hand with mine. "He killed Thatcher and made it look like he did it."
"What about Morris?"
"Died in the ambulance," I answered sadly.
Cramer moved his fingers and closed his eyes for a moment. "He was a good guy."
"His death won't be in vain. You can get Scarletti now."
"That's the one good thing."
I wanted to stay with him, but Wolfe had errands for me to run. I straightened up. "Well, I'd better go. You need rest and everyone will want to hear that you're awake."
Cramer grabbed my wrist. "Wait."
Cramer managed a tired smile. "Thanks."
I grinned. "For what?"
"It's no problem. Besides, where else would I be?" I rolled my eyes. "I don't have a job or anything."
Cramer laughed quietly and winced. "Get outta here."
"Okay, but I'll be back," I told him.
"I know. I can't get rid of you."
"Never," I said, grinned again, and left.
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