Social Death: A Clyde Shaw Mystery

Social Death: A Clyde Shaw Mystery by Tatiana Boncompagni Read Free Book Online

Book: Social Death: A Clyde Shaw Mystery by Tatiana Boncompagni Read Free Book Online
Authors: Tatiana Boncompagni
argue that he’d made the right decision, given the facts available at the time. A month later, when Panda cracked the case and the killer admitted to sexually assaulting and strangling the girl, Panda’s error in judgment was swiftly forgotten. Still, he remained grateful to me for coming to his defense, and had repaid the favor several times over by acting as my best source on the NYPD.
    Since Panda was on the street, shooting the breeze with a bunch of patrolmen, and not upstairs studying the crime scene, I could surmise two things: First, that his partner, John Ehlers, had been teamed up with the detective from North Homicide; and second, that Panda was miffed about not catching the case himself. At sixty years old, he was nearing retirement and wouldn’t have too many more shots at solving a blockbuster case like this one. Selfishly, I was glad Panda hadn’t. This meant he’d have access to all the case information and plenty of time to share it with me.
    I got his attention. He shook his head once. I knew what that meant: Not now. Five minutes later, my phone rang. “You eat yet?” he asked when I picked up.
    I hadn’t. I suggested our usual spot.
    “Meet you there in 10,” he replied.
    Pastrami Queen was a little hole-in-the-wall near Lenox Hill Hospital on the Upper East Side. There was a counter displaying all manner of pickles and cole slaw, knishes, brisket, corned beef, pastrami, and the like. The floors were covered in white tiles and there was a mounted flat-screen television tuned into ESPN. Panda had introduced me to Pastrami Queen’s corned beef on rye, extra juicy, and most of the times we met up, we did it there, over root beers, half-sours, and massive, artery-assaulting sandwiches. By the time I arrived, he was already there. Two root beers sat unopened on the plastic-covered table in front of him.
    I plopped down and popped open one of the drinks, taking a sip straight from the can. Slipping my arms out of my trench, I glanced around the small room. No cops. No media. We could talk. “I need to know everything.”
    “Holy smokes, Clyde, I thought you’d at least comment on my tie before pumping me for information.”
    Panda was a good twenty pounds overweight, with a goofy grin and balding pate, and although he could probably afford better, he favored off-the-rack suits to the designer ones some of the detectives on the force wore. He also had a soft spot for kitschy ties, like the one featuring cigarette-smoking bass he was wearing that day.
    “Smoked fish,” he said.
    “Funny,” I acknowledged.
    “What’s wrong? I thought I’d at least get a smile.”
    “I knew the victim. She was my—” I couldn’t finish.
    “I know, kid.” He patted me on the back of the hand. Panda had lost friends on the force, a child to leukemia. I knew he understood what I was going through. “You sure you’re up for this?”
    I nodded, shaking off the tears that were threatening to break loose. “They’ve paired me with a new guy.”
    “You’re not covering the case for Georgia?”
    “Not per se. I’m working with one of our new correspondents. We were both the first ones on the scene.”
    He leaned back in his chair as our sandwiches arrived in a pair of parchment-lined red plastic baskets. “This gotta be a tricky one for FirstNews.”
    “You can say that again.” I didn’t touch my sandwich. My appetite was still gone and showed no signs of returning.
    Panda bit into his pastrami and rye and chewed in silence for a good minute as I nursed my root beer. Wiping the mustard from the side of his mouth, he pushed my basket an inch closer to me. “You not eating?”
    “I’m not hungry.”
    “That’s a first.”
    I shrugged.
    “Eat, Shaw. You need your strength.”
    Reluctantly, I took a bite, chewed. Took another bite, chewed some more. Auto-eat, I called it.
    Panda looked to the back of the restaurant. “Forgot I wanted to wash my hands.” He laid a brown paper evidence bag face down

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