Authors: Janice Kaplan
Scowling, Detective Wilson sat back in his chair and played with his can of Dr Pepper. He’d offered me a Diet Coke, but other than that, we hadn’t exactly been playing canasta together.
“I haven’t answered anything,” I said to Jack. “I told them I needed to wait for you.”
I expected kudos but just got a curt nod.
“Detective, could we have five minutes, please?” he asked.
Detective Wilson made a face, slammed down his soda can, and stomped out of the small room.
“Give it to me fast,” Jack said.
I did. A quick outline that covered all the basic points of why I’d been at Billy’s boat. “But I don’t know how they connected me to this so fast,” I said, trying not to whine. “Or how Wilson and McSweeney got involved.”
“I found that out on the way over,” Jack said. “911 traced the call to your cell phone. The cops at Marina del Rey recognized your name and connected it to Cassie’s investigation. So your favorite pair got called in.”
“I didn’t know the LAPD could be so efficient.”
“They probably won’t be so prompt getting you out of here.”
I stood up. “Let’s just tell them you need to be back in time for the encore.”
Instead, Jack leaned against the edge of the table. He seemed calm, but tapped one shiny shoe against the floor.
“You ready?” asked Detective Wilson, pushing open the door. “I’d like to get the questioning started.”
“Come right in,” said Jack. “I know we’d all like to get home tonight.”
Three hours later, I wondered why Detective Wilson had been in such a rush to start when he didn’t seem in any hurry to finish.
“You getting tired?” he asked me finally.
“Sure. Aren’t you?” I stifled a yawn.
“I’m never tired of looking for the truth.”
In between asking questions, he’d left the room several times, each time coming back with new information. Or at least pretending to. Detective Wilson might be searching for the truth but he didn’t bother sticking with it himself.
“The toxicology reports are positive for cocaine and marijuana,” he said now. “So what happened after you and Billy got stoned?”
“You don’t have to answer that,” Jack said, parroting the comment he’d made a couple of dozen times already.
“I’ll answer,” I said, leaning back on my chair and crossing my legs. Unfortunately, channeling Sharon Stone in
wouldn’t get me out of here. “I don’t get stoned. I don’t know whether Billy did—and you don’t know either because drug test results take a lot longer than this.”
I gave a smug smile, knowing I’d scored in this round. But Jack didn’t look happy. Apparently you didn’t win this game by knocking out your opponent.
Detective Wilson folded his arms across his ample chest. If one line of questioning didn’t work, he’d go back to another. “So you’re sticking to the story that Billy had a necklace you once saw Cassie wear.”
“Of all the necklaces in all the world, you recognized this one. A little unbelievable, isn’t it?”
I didn’t bother pointing out that Officer McSweeney had recognized a pair of shoes. “I don’t see a lot of twenty-carat yellow diamonds in the course of a day,” I said instead.
“How did you know that’s what it was?”
Now Jack got restless, his foot tapping ever faster against the leg of the chair. “For heaven’s sakes, Detective, you know LA. The women don’t wear eyeglasses, they wear jeweler’s loupes.”
Detective Wilson looked at my eyes, as if expecting literal confirmation.
“Contact lenses,” I said. “I’ve been considering Lasik surgery, but I just don’t know.”
“I had Lasik,” said McSweeney from her perch across the room.
“Have you had a lot of dry eye? Halos? Trouble with night vision? I’m always worried about side effects,” I said.
“No problems,” she said amiably, renewing her role as friendly cop. Then moving on, she said, “But let’s say you’re right about the necklace. If Billy had something that valuable, why sell it at Christie’s?”
“Where else would he go? He’s not…I mean, he wasn’t…” I paused, unable to get the tenses right—or take in what I’d seen. I’d hardly known Billy Mann and I didn’t know if I trusted him. But dead? I cleared my throat. “Anyway, you don’t sell something like that on eBay, and he’s not the kind to have a lot of socialite friends who’d want to buy it from him.”
Detective Wilson shook his head. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Fields, but your story doesn’t add up. Not the socialite kind, fine. Then also not Cassie Crawford’s kind.”
“Wrong,” I said. “He is…was…everybody’s kind. Any woman would sleep with him. I would.”
Every head in the room swiveled around to stare at me.
“You had sex with Billy Mann?” Detective Wilson finally asked, speaking very slowly.
“No, of course not. I’m married.” I wouldn’t let myself wonder if Dan shared my fervor for fidelity. “Are you married, Detective?”
He gave a barely perceptible nod, his jowly chin hitting against his barrel chest.
He looked over at McSweeney, who raised an eyebrow, as if telling him to humor me.
“Good for you. Not quite long enough to be an applause line on
, but better than many. Decent marriage?”
He nodded again and shot a nasty look at McSweeney, whom he now clearly blamed for getting him into this conversation.
“I’m glad to hear it, but I bet you look at the occasional copy of
right? Daydream about someone else?”
“I only look at crime reports,” he grumbled.
“Really? Well trust me, Detective, your wife fantasizes now and then. Women do that. It’s usually about someone manly, the kind who has a motorcycle and tattoo and will give her a great orgasm.”
Detective Wilson turned bright red, a beach ball left too long in the sun. Across the room, Erica McSweeney snickered. Jack Rosenfeld turned away and propped his face against his hand so Wilson wouldn’t see him smirk.
“We’re not discussing org—orga—” Wilson cleared his throat, unable to say the word. “Sex,” he concluded instead.
“Of course we’re discussing orgasms. Cassie and Billy. Whether or not they hooked up recently, as the kids say.”
“Roger Crawford happens to be a rich, powerful man,” Detective Wilson said, finally.
“Rich and powerful are decent aphrodisiacs,” I admitted. “But maybe not everything.”
“You think his young wife would be unfaithful to him in the first year of marriage, just to have a good”—again the word caught in his throat—“a good roll in the hay?”
“Honestly, Detective, I don’t know what went on between Cassie and Billy. I don’t know how he got the necklace. And I don’t know if any of it is connected to the bullet in his back.”
Detective Wilson stood up. “Thank you for your insights, Mrs. Fields. We’ll have further questions another time.”
He left the room quickly, eager to get back to his wife before the Hell’s Angels did.
Ashley didn’t wake up until almost noon the next day, and I hung around all morning, waiting to talk to her. She finally came downstairs in frilly pink baby-doll pajamas that made her look more babe than baby.
“You’re not in jail,” she said snidely when she saw me. “What a shame.”
“Honey, I’m so sorry. I can’t apologize enough for ruining your night. I can imagine how embarrassing that was for you.”
“Having my mother hauled off by the cops? What’s embarrassing?”
She opened the refrigerator and took out two carrot sticks.
“Can I make you some breakfast?” I asked. “Pancakes? Scrambled eggs? Oatmeal?”
“You could,” she said. “But why bother? I’d just go to the bathroom and barf.”
Uh-oh. Go to the bathroom and barf? I had worried about this since she spit out her Gerber baby pears at eight months old. Eating disorders were like the common cold among privileged girls in LA—fast-spreading and hard to avoid. Now it had happened. I had to handle the problem right now.
I put my hands on her shoulders.
“I understand the pressure teen girls feel to be thin,” I said. “We’ll deal with it together. Thank you for telling me. That’s the first step to being cured.”
She took my hands off her shoulders and looked at me oddly.
“Being cured of what?” she asked.
“Bulimia, I assume.”
“Who said anything about bulimia?”
“If you eat, you’ll barf.”
She sat down and put a hand against her tummy. “I have an upset stomach. After you left last night, I kept trying to develop a taste for caviar. Too much Osetra doesn’t sit well.”
“Yuh-huh-uh,” she said, turning her affirmation into a singsong censure of parental stupidity.
I sighed. “What else happened after I left?”
“Apologize a little more first.”
My guilt returned almost immediately. “Oh, honey, I really tried to make it a special night for you. Better than Tara’s party could possibly be. The last thing I want is to drag you into any unpleasantness. You don’t deserve it.”
She let a moment pass. “Is that all?”
“Tell me how I can make it up to you. I’ll do anything.”
Clearly what she’d been waiting for. “I need a new iPod.”
“What’s wrong with yours?”
“I lost it.”
I grimaced. “You know the rule. Lose something and you have to replace it yourself.”
“You said you’d do anything,” she wheedled.
“If you need music, I could teach you to whistle,” I joked. “Or I could sing. I was the only one in my sorority who knew the entire score to
Kiss Me, Kate.
Ashley sat back and crossed her arms in front of her stomach. “My life can’t get much worse,” she moaned. “Number one, my mother gets dragged off by the police and I’m humiliated.” She raised a finger. “Two, I’m practically dying from eating bad caviar.” Another finger raised. “And three, I had to beg a ride home after the party.” She waggled the raised digits and groaned again. “Shame. Embarrassment. All of it your fault. And you won’t buy me a crummy iPod?”
I put my fingers against my temples and gently massaged. Wasn’t this what they should really teach in Lamaze class? All that time spent learning how to breathe during delivery, when talking to a teenage daughter turned out to be what took your breath away.
“All I can tell you is how sorry I am,” I said, repeating my mantra.
“You can also buy me an iPod,” she said, near tears.
I know bad parenting when I see it. I know no mother ever bought her daughter’s good opinion with a checkbook. Children need love, support, and good values—not designer dresses and electronic toys.
“Sure, honey, an iPod. Any color you want.” Why make a fuss? Every kid had an iPod. Maybe she’d teach me how to download Jon Stewart.
The tears disappeared and Ashley smiled. “Thanks, Mom. Phat.”
“I am?” I ran my fingers down my hips.
“The other kind of phat. The one that’s good.”
“Sounds like we’re back on eating disorders.”
She laughed. “So after you left the party, I was mortified.”
“And probably worried about me,” I said, prompting.
“Mortified,” she repeated. Her tears had disappeared, and she looked triumphant. “For about five minutes. Until Lindsay Lohan came over and said she knew how I felt to have a parent wanted by the police. Her dad had been in jail—whole big scandal—and she knows it’s humiliating and I must want to die and she gave me a hug. Then Macaulay Culkin—remember him from
?—joined us to commiserate about
awful parents.” Her eyes sparkled. “I mean, Mom, thank you
much for getting arrested.”
“You’re welcome,” I said, completely confused by the turn the conversation had taken. I could have mentioned that I hadn’t been arrested, but I’d hate to lower her status with the Kids of Bad Parents club.
She did a little pirouette. “It turned out to be the best night of my life! Hanging out with Lindsay Lohan and Macaulay Culkin, and all because of you.”
“All that and an iPod, too,” I muttered.
“Lindsay and Mac both ended up in rehab because of their parents,” Ashley continued, unfazed. “But I had one glass of Sprite and called it a night.”
Thank goodness for small things. I didn’t look forward to visiting my daughter at Betty Ford. I took a deep breath. On the other hand, I could definitely use a Lamaze refresher.
Since Ashley would survive, I didn’t cancel my appointment with a new client named Paige Hardy, who’d called and asked me to meet her at an auction showroom. I arrived early to survey the objects on display. And what a display! The pieces all dated from the Ming dynasty and seemed in as near-to-perfect condition as sixteenth-century chests, chairs and paintings could be. I could barely stop staring at an intricately engraved cabinet that glistened with rich reds and searing gold in an intricate mélange of dragons and phoenix decorations. I glanced at the auction price sheet and gasped. We’d practically have to sell our house to afford it, and while the elaborate drawers were exquisite, they didn’t offer a lot of living space.
My client came in wearing short shorts and wedged espadrilles that showed off her long, tanned legs. With her blond hair pulled back in a simple barrette and a face that glowed despite minimal makeup, she looked like the captain of the college pep squad. But in LA, age is always inscrutable. No use trying to guess the vintage of anything more complex than a Napa Valley merlot.
“Nice to meet you,” I said, shaking her hand. No nail polish, but neatly rounded fingernails and well-kept cuticles.
“You too,” she said.
“You picked an incredible place to browse,” I said, gesturing around the room. “Are you interested in buying, or are we just looking?”
I kept my tone even, because who knew? The only thing riskier to judge than age in LA was net worth. A beautiful twentysomething in short shorts had as good a likelihood of writing a check for a million bucks as anyone else.
“Oh, I don’t know,” she said vaguely. “A friend of mine had been looking forward to the auction. But she never made it.”
I looked at her quizzically. “Are you bidding as her agent?”