Book one of the DiPino series, fast paced suspense.
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Detective Armand DiPino is investigating his wife’s hit and run. She died protecting a secret and the truth he discovers is more shocking than his worst fears.
Set at the time of the Euro conversion KILLER IN A BOX tells the explosive story of men desperate to launder millions in German currency before the money expires worthless. DiPino confronts the truth about the circumstances of Patti’s death while risking his life to expose a conspiracy that strikes closer to home than he could have ever imagined.
“I’ll have your Ball- Breaker special.” Armand DiPino drummed his fingers on the counter. Smells from the deep fryer beckoned. Plenty of fat, wanton and seductive. Two poached eggs, wheat toast. Breakfast at the All-Star offered the reverse polarity of indigestion, then food. It was the haven he’d chosen. Mornings were still awful. DiPino never lingered at first light, fearing his dreamscape would follow him out the door.
“Side of bacon?”
“You’re young, have bacon.”
“Just the Ball-Breaker. Don’t butter the toast.” He’d shed the weight years ago, but still saw himself as an overweight kid. Reaching six foot two helped. Working out kept him at two hundred pounds.
DiPino raised his book so Jerry could wipe the counter. The windows rattled as a bus braked to a halt on Sixth Avenue. He liked the sounds that the city made in the morning. The racket was reassuring; it hadn’t all vanished in the night.
“You want margarine? It’s two cents extra.” The counterman’s eyebrows lifted.
“I see why it’s called the Ball- Breaker,” DiPino said.
“You cops break mine. Why can’t you guys eat someplace else?”
“We love it here.” DiPino smiled at their morning ritual. “Hell, you’re here.”
“Yeah, you guys tip for shit. I don’t mind you detectives so much, but the uniforms drive me nuts. Half of them brown bag it and just take up space.”
“Write a letter, make a phone call. You’re a New Yorker; barricade yourself in the subway. We’ll come get you.”
“I don’t need you guys,” he gestured with his rag. “You’re killing me at the morning rush. Nobody comes into a joint full of cops.”
“That’s the first principal of law enforcement.” DiPino caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. “Do you think I need a haircut?”
“I’ll get your food,” the man sighed. “Yeah, I think you need a haircut. Go get one now.”
DiPino worried for Jerry glancing around at the smattering of regulars. A lot of them ordered oatmeal, the cheapest thing on the menu. He checked his PDA. It was lunch day with his father. Marco had called to move it up, and DiPino wondered why. His father kept to a rigid schedule. DiPino reflected on the years of conflict with his old man. Marco had boycotted the promotion party when DiPino made detective. They were closer now. A subtle role reversal had begun when his mother moved out, all the way back to California. DiPino knew Marco needed him, although they never discussed it. At age thirty, he didn’t take things for granted quite the way he used to.
The counterman was back. “What’s the book?”
The man shook his head. “You want me to stash it?”
“Yeah sure. I’ll pick it up when my tour ends. Give me one of your paperbacks.”
“Danielle Steele? Or I got something called Breathless Desire.”
“Sounds like a medical condition. I’ll take a western.”
“The cover has a picture of a half-naked woman.”
DiPino laughed. “So does Faust. Maybe I’ll just hang on to it.”
His father was a professor of Art History. His mother, Adele, taught Comparative Literature at Columbia, but now she was at UC Berkeley. Marco said the move was temporary but DiPino didn’t think so even though he hoped his father was right.
DiPino was the only detective in the Manhattan bureau who knew the Pre-Raphaelites. Some cop had found the poems of William Blake hidden in his desk. A lot of weird e-mail ensued. He figured it was a night shift guy because none of them liked the Romantic Period.
Today marked an anniversary. Four years since Patti died. He’d missed her all morning. Anniversaries were bad days. DiPino had cried in the bathroom trying to shave. She’d been killed in a hit and run. A small story in the big city. No arrest was made. Patti died on Canal Street, a long street that went river to river in lower Manhattan. He’d searched it many times, end to end. His irrational rage at every car had faded over time, but not the feeling of profound loneliness. Jerry sensed his moods and did his best to help on the bad days. DiPino saw Canal as a nothing street, a nothing-goddamned heartless street.
An insurance check for $10,000 had arrived one morning. The money sat in a bank untouched. His finances were a lively pastiche of credit card debt and bad planning. A lot of clothes hung in his closet. There had been expensive bouts of wining and dining. He saw the frenzy his life had been every time he opened the closet. As much as he tried not to, each morning he looked at the mirror where Patti left him notes before leaving for work.
At her funeral, Bill McCaffrey accused him of being responsible for Patti’s death. His father-in-law’s bleary-eyed rage hit the mark. That same night he’d been pulled over on the BQE with a blood alcohol way over the limit. Queens cops had driven him home. He’d taken a swing at one of the uniforms.
Over time he’d stopped punishing innocent women with his rage and grief. The anger seeped out, replaced by guilt.
His partner flew into the place banging the door hard, ringing its little chime in a way that sounded final. “Armand!” Mickey bellowed. The shout froze the other customers. The blind guy in the corner knocked over a saltshaker. A spoon clattered to the floor. Most of the civilians in the All-Star ate there once. Even in a city with millions of people word gets around.
“Ten–thirteen!” Mickey used jargon rather than saying, “We got shots fired!” He would only do that at Starbucks.
DiPino reached the door in seconds.
Outside, DiPino felt the adrenalin hit. Mickey grabbed his arm. “Where’s the Buick?”
“Three blocks away,” DiPino replied. His partner’s excitement surprised him. Mickey liked to keep his veteran cool.
“My truck’s around the corner,” Mickey said. “I was stuck in cross-town traffic. Some asshole shot a cop over on Tenth.”
“Tell me on the way.”
They sprinted to Mickey’s truck.