I found at a phone booth on Charles Street, close to De Luca's Market, the best groceries money could by, a little pricey, but it was the best. They had fruit that tasted as good as Veronica Lake looked. my call was to Maggie. She was the researcher for Department, a bookworm who knew how to find anything on anyone, dead or alive. Her office on the third floor of the downtown station was maze of directories archived editions of major newspapers. Departments from all over the Northeast would call on Maggie and within days, sometimes hours, she'd have the answers.
"Maggie, the love of my life, this is MacKenzie from homicide."
"Yes, Lieutenant. Skip the bull and tell me what you need."
"Maggie, I need whatever you can find on a James Blake, sometimes referred to as Buster. He works at the Brown & Keller law firm. He probably heads up their security. I'd say he's in his thirties. How long would that take you, Maggie?"'
"About two minutes."
"What do you mean?"
"I did a work up on him about two months ago for Galloway," Maggie said.
"Yep. I got the sense that he was testing the worth of some testimony he was offering in some money laundering case. Hold on, MacKenzie. Let me get that file."
I waited while Maggie took off to some box in her office, and while I waited, some lady with three poodles let one of them take a leak right on the phone booth. "Nice lady, Jeez!"
"Now I remember. James V. Blake. Well, it seems Mr. James V. Blake didn't exist six years ago. Before being hired by Brown and Keller, he just wasn't there."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, Lieutenant, take his Social security number. Keller and Brown has one, but according to Social Security that number is for a Mr. Jake Blair of Newark, New Jersey."
"Can you get away with that, Maggie?"
"Well, I suppose if you have a cooperative bookkeeper at your place of business, yes."
"Maggie, what about this Jacob ..."
'Yep, we checked him out too. Never married. No children. no graduation records. Then he shows up in the Navy in WW II, enlisting. Worked Shore Patrol. Then got out and worked as a security guard at one of the shipyards. He got in trouble for aggravated assault and resisting arrest. He did two years in the New Jersey State Pen, then got out on good behavior. Finished up his probation. And then vanished. He didn't renew his license. Nothing else."
"Well, Maggie, what about Blake's taxes?"
"According to the tax guys, he works for some company in the Bahamas."
"Did Blair change his name to Blake?"
"No record of it, MacKenzie. His legal paper trail just sort of disappears. Somebody with their fingers in the right places did something for this guy."
And of course, I thought, "What in the world is this about?"
By then it was time for coffee and pie. But it would be coffee and pie without sweet Mary. I needed to call her; I really did need to call her.