'Til Death (87th Precinct) - By Ed McBain

This is for Margie and Fred

The city in these pages is imaginary.

The people, the places are all fictitious.

Only the police routine is based on established

investigatory technique.

Detective Steve Carella blinked at the early Sunday morning sunshine, cursed himself for not having closed the blinds the night before, and then rolled over onto his left side. Relentlessly, the sunlight followed him, throwing alternating bars of black and gold across the white sheet. Like the detention cells at the 87th, he thought. God, my bed has become a prison.

No, that isn’t fair, he thought. And besides, it’ll all be over soon—but Teddy, I wish to hell you’d hurry.

He propped himself on one elbow and looked at his sleeping wife. Teddy, he thought. Theodora. Whom I used to call my little Theodora. How you have changed, my love. He studied her face, framed with short black hair recklessly cushioned against the stark white pillow. Her eyes were closed, thick-fringed with long black lashes. There was a faint smile on the full pout of her lips. Her throat swept in an immaculate arc to breasts covered by the sheet—and then the mountain began.

Really, darling, he thought, you do look like a mountain.

It is amazing how much you resemble a mountain. A very beautiful mountain, to be sure, but a mountain nonetheless. I wish I were a mountain climber. I wish, honey, oh how I wish I could get near you! How long has it been now? Cut it out, Steve-o, he told himself. Just cut it out because this sort of erotic rambling doesn’t do anyone a damn bit of good, least of all me.

Steve Carella, the celebrated celibate.

Well, he thought, the baby is due at the end of the month, by God, that’s next week! Is it the end of June already? Sure it is, my how the time flies when you’ve got nothing to do in bed but sleep. I wonder if it’ll be a boy. Well, a girl would be nice, too, but oh would Papa raise a stink, he’d probably consider it a blot on Italy’s honor if his only son Steve had a girl child first time out.

What were those names we discussed?

Mark if it’s a boy and April if it’s a girl. And Papa will raise a stink about the names, too, because he’s probably got something like Rudolpho or Serafina in mind. Stefano Luigi Carella, that’s me, and thank you, Pop.

Today is the wedding, he thought suddenly, and that makes me the most inconsiderate big brother in the world because all I can think of is my own libido when my kid sister is about to take the plunge. Well, if I know Angela, the prime concern on her mind today is probably her libido, so we’re even.

The telephone rang.

It startled him for a moment, and he turned sharply toward Teddy, forgetting, thinking the sudden ringing would awaken her, and then remembering that his wife was a deaf-mute, immune to little civilized annoyances like the telephone.

“I’m coming,” he said to the persistent clamor. He swung his long legs over the side of the bed. He was a tall man with wide shoulders and narrow hips, his pajama trousers taut over a flat hard abdomen. Bare-chested and barefoot, he walked to the phone in nonchalant athletic ease, lifted the receiver, and hoped the call was not from the precinct. His mother would have a fit if he missed the wedding.

“Hello?” he said.


“Yes. Who’s this?”

“Tommy. Did I wake you?”

“No, no, I was awake.” He paused. “How’s the imminent bridegroom this morning?”

“I…Steve, I’m worried about something.”

“Uh-oh,” Carella said. “You’re not planning on leaving my sister waiting at the altar, are you?”

“No, nothing like that. Steve, could you come over here?”

“Before we go to the church, you mean?”

“No. No, I mean now.”

“Now?” Carella paused. A frown crossed his face. In his years with the police department, he had heard many anxious voices on the telephone. He had attributed the tone of Tommy’s voice to the normal pre-conjugal jitters at first, but he sensed now that this was something more. “What is this?” he asked. “What’s the matter?”

“I…I don’t want to talk about it on the phone. Can you come over?”

“I’ll be right there,” he said. “As soon as I dress.”

“Thank you, Steve,” Tommy said, and he hung up.

Carella cradled the phone. He stared at it thoughtfully for a moment and then went into the bathroom to wash. When he came back into the bedroom, he tilted the blinds shut so that the sunshine