The mayor of New York City grinned.
Rolled his eyes.
Patted his four guests on the back as they entered his office.
And before they sat down, he awarded each a two-fisted handshake and a singsong personal greeting.
“Glad to see you, Cecil. And again, my heartfelt congratulations . . . Senator.”
And: “Commissioner, why so glum? C’mon, smile.”
And: “Welcome, Lieutenant, long time no see.”
Then for his final grin: “Sergeant, how you doin’—looks like you’re losing weight.”
Homicide detective Lieutenant Florence Ott knew the mayor of New York often rationed with assiduous thrift his frat-boy charm and neon smiles of Times Square intensity, the two-handed grip and back pats. He reserved all of his full-fire charm offensive for four-figures-and-up donors, and for the president of the United States, for Hollywood celebs, for luminary newshounds from more-favored media like the New York Post, and of course for any television station no matter how small, including foreign crews. This mayor’s motto had to be “Never say no” to appearing on TV, or for a chance to grab some sex on the side, M or F or both simultaneously, or so the many rumors had it.
Detective Lieutenant Flo Ott wasn’t returning the mayor’s smile as she was well aware neither she nor her colleague, homicide detective Sergeant Frank Murphy, fit comfortably into a mayoral preference category.
A smile from the mayor only meant trouble for them.
But one of the mayor’s morning visitors returned a toothy, glow-in-the-dark marquee grin. And Flo would concede that Brooklyn District Attorney Cecil King had a great deal to beam about, recently elected the first African American senator from New York, trouncing hizzonah da mare—59 percent to 41 percent—in an upset victory that shocked the city, suburbs, and upstate, almost as much as the Knicks winning all their games last month after many losing seasons.
Waiting for the mayor to explain exactly why he called this morning’s meeting, Senator-elect Cecil King couldn’t stop grinning or, as the New York Post might have said, gloating.
The police commissioner, a Queens County Golden Gloves champion at age nineteen, sat rubbing his long-ago broken nose, his expression permanently pugilistic.
Homicide detective Sergeant Frank Murphy blew his nose.
And homicide detective Lieutenant Flo Ott tapped her right foot impatiently. Seven in the morning was the mayor’s favorite hour for calling emergency meetings, at which homicide detectives were a distinct rarity. She was hoping for breakfast but wasn’t surprised to find only coffee on offer, a help-yourself, cafeteria-style steel urn in the corner. Cardboard cups, powdered milk, packets of Sweet’N Low.
That the mayor already had his breakfast came as no surprise, not after a recent Page Six gossip column in the New York Post informed New Yorkers that . . .
His Honor, a no-nonsense, highly disciplined manager, tucks into his daily steak-and-eggs breakfast—mustard rubbed sirloin rare, fertilized eggs lightly scrambled—at six a.m. sharp in the Gracie Mansion dining room . . . scouring his morning newspapers at the table and finishing his reading with his personal advance copy of this newspaper . . . saving for last, he tells us, his favorite Page Six and your humble reporter’s column, a spirit booster for his speed-of-light limo ride downtown, a siren celebration, rooftop red light spinning, a soul-stirring sight all the way down the East River Drive straight to city hall . . .
The sort of less-than-imperfect commentary aimed at the half million or so readers whom the Post each day aimed to make as happy as if they’d seen a murder themselves.
This morning, Flo noted, the mayor was displaying his more magnanimous and resilient qualities. Next to the coffee urn, pretzels were also on offer, leftovers from a five boroughs spelling bee awards ceremony the afternoon before.
Senator-elect Cecil King, bouncy and benign, rose and filled coffee cups for the others. Flo enjoyed this small dig of noblesse oblige at the mayor’s expense. She harbored little respect for the city hall chief and only admiration for the district attorney, an indefatigable prosecutor who was, by any politician’s lights, an honest guy, the second African American to hold the office of Brooklyn DA. The best in the office, since all those years ago DA Liz Holtzman had her senate race sabotaged by a near-dead senator who insisted on running one miserable last time and, with his final breath and on a third-party ticket, split the Jewish vote to ensure Liz Holtzman’s defeat, even though the dying man himself had absolutely no chance of reelection.
A young assistant district attorney at the time and recent Fordham Law grad, Flo quit the DA’s office for the police force and criminal investigations, hoping for a politics-free career in law enforcement.
After the holidays, Cecil King was leaving Brooklyn for Washington, and the mayor would be certain to appoint a lickspittle loyalist to fill in as Brooklyn DA until the next election.
Settling into her chair in the mayor’s office, facing a less-than-joyous future, Flo felt depressed. No matter how dark the prospect of a new boss in the Brooklyn prosecutor’s office, it paled as the meeting’s purpose—so far unclear, unstated, unexpected—was gradually clarified.
“I got a response from the president,” the mayor began. “And of course he’s very understanding, Cecil, totally sympathetic, completely on your side . . .”
. . . on your side.
The smile disappeared from Cecil King’s face. If ever there was a kiss of doom, it was having this president on your side, a gift as promising as finding a cobra stoked on crystal meth curled up under your pillow.
“The president-elect signals her support, too, Cecil.”
More poison . . .
Cecil King’s face grew as long as death.
“But the current president is president until next January twentieth. And of course as we all know, he places security above everything else. Everything else. Which is why, Cecil, which is why . . .”
Which is why Cecil King’s face was losing color, his latte-brown complexion giving way to a bilious morning-after-the-night-before green, the color of nausea, the color of hangovers and snakebites and paralyzing fears.
Title: Fanatics (A Brooklyn Crimes Novel)
Author: Richard Hilary Weber
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
For fans of Kathy Reichs and Linda Fairstein, Richard Hilary Weber’s new Brooklyn Crimes Novel follows police detective Flo Ott as she crisscrosses the borough’s mean streets and lands in the crosshairs of a highly skilled assassin.
NYPD detective Flo Ott has rotten luck. First she’s put on bodyguard duty for U.S. Senator-elect Cecil King after a ultra-right-wing terror cell announces plans to assassinate him. Then she’s saddled with investigating the homicide of a hip-hop mogul. Ballz Busta was fatally rapped on his head outside his mistress’s Park Slope condo. The two jobs couldn’t be more different. Finding Busta’s killer takes Flo into the outrageous livin’ large margins of the Brooklyn music scene. Keeping Senator-elect King alive requires constant vigilance as well-trained assassins could strike anytime, anywhere. It’s only when these cases explosively collide that Flo realizes she’s finally caught a break.
What she doesn’t know is that she’s lit a fanatic’s fuse and now he has a new target: the woman cop with the nerve to try and stop his murderous schemes.
Richard Hilary Weber is a native Brooklynite, Park Slope born & bred. A Columbia grad, he’s been an English-language script writer for European filmmakers, and has written and produced documentaries in Latin America. He can now be found most often in France or London, where he writes plays, novels, and screenplays.
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Penguin Random House