Authors: Janice Kaplan
Rachel rolled a green Cross pen through her fingers. “She’d authorized the sale at auction?”
“I don’t know if they had a notarized signature,” I said. “But she asked him to do it. Aboveboard. Maybe he didn’t look like it, but Billy was a reliable friend. Nothing more to it than that.”
“How about what you told Detective Wilson?” Rachel asked, her eyes twinkling and her lips twitching to keep from smiling. “About Billy Mann being every woman’s fantasy.”
“You heard about that?”
“It’s been the most forwarded e-mail in the office.”
I laughed. “It got me out of the interrogation room. And possibly gave Mrs. Wilson a couple of interesting nights.”
Rachel grinned. “I wish I’d met the guy.”
“You would have liked him. Billy took care of people. He’d always been there for his disabled brother, and he was there for Cassie when she needed him. I’m convinced now they weren’t doing anything illicit.”
“Looks can be deceiving,” Rachel agreed, glancing at one of the vases of flowers. I wondered what slick stud had sent them—and then turned out to be a creep.
“Billy wasn’t what he seemed. I sensed that the first time I met him. It’s why I went on his motorbike.”
Rachel looked at me dubiously. Maybe she didn’t know that part of the story—or maybe I’d given myself more credit than I deserved.
“Anyway, his parading me in that yellow dress made sense, too. Instead of protecting himself, he’d been preserving Cassie’s reputation.”
Now Rachel was completely lost. But she made a note to herself, and I knew she’d figure it out later.
“So you think Cassie and Billy were friends. She handed him the diamond to sell.”
Rachel tapped her pen against the desk. “At the risk of sounding like Jack, that’s all very well, but it doesn’t mean he didn’t kill her. If Cassie gave him the diamond surreptitiously, he had every reason to want her dead so he could keep the money.”
“It’s not who he was,” I said, frustrated. “We have to think differently. Molly Archer Casting is famous for casting against type. Let’s try it. Forget Billy and Roger. Forget me and Molly. Something else had Cassie’s attention just before she died. A professor of physics named Hal Bohr.”
“Really?” Rachel laughed. “Wasn’t there a famous physicist Niels Bohr? I remember that from high school, but don’t ask me anything more about him.”
“Different guy.” I paused. “Anyway, are you ready for a long story?”
Rachel smiled. “Not too long. I charge by the hour, you know. But I’m much cheaper than Jack.”
“And less judgmental, I hope. Especially when I tell you that I tried to take some papers from Cassie’s apartment the other day. Somebody attacked me on the way out and grabbed them. Then he tied my hands and locked me in a closet.”
Rachel blinked a few times. “For real?” she asked.
Rachel groaned. “Lacy, you know Jack has to hear this.” She got up. “Come on with me.”
We hurried down a hall and around a corner.
“Conference call over?” I asked, as we walked into Jack’s office.
He nodded. “And lunch was just beginning. Late lunch. Very late lunch.” He looked longingly at a pretty plate of lobster salad waiting on his round conference table. Another nice thing about being a partner at a fancy firm—an in-house chef.
“You can eat,” I said.
“And Lacy can tell you about her escapade the other night,” said Rachel.
Jack crossed to the conference table. “Is the story going to make me lose my appetite?” he asked.
I shook my head and launched into the relevant details. When I got to the part about the secret compartment in the book, Jack looked impressed. As I outlined the documents I’d seen, Rachel took furious notes. But once I began to describe the man with the gun dragging me to a closet, Jack put down his fork.
“Does Dan know about this?” he asked when I’d finished.
“No. And with attorney-client privilege, I assume he never will.”
Jack pushed away his plate. “Lacy, you’ve definitely given us something new to pursue. But I’m glad you’ve spent some time with Rachel because you see how competent she is. As you realized with the will, it works a lot better if we do the investigating.”
“Are you going to give any of this to the police?” I asked. “Maybe not my part in it. But just enough to get them on the right trail?”
Jack and Rachel exchanged a glance. “There’s not a lot of real evidence here,” Jack said finally. “Cassie could have hidden papers for reasons that had nothing to do with her death.”
“But after she’d been poisoned, she got on the ladder to get them,” I said. “As if she somehow knew.”
“That may sound a little, um…mystical to someone like Detective Wilson,” Rachel said.
“We’ll do what we think is best,” Jack said appeasingly.
I stood up and tugged at the drawstring of my sweatpants. With all this anxiety, I’d lost some weight. Though maybe the cabbage diet would have been easier.
“I’ll do what I think is best, too,” I said, done for the day with my condescending legal counsel. “But just so you know, my new goal is harmony and tranquility.”
omebody must know!” I screamed.
, I bolted upright in bed, my silk Natori nightgown clinging to my sweaty back and the sheet tangled around my legs. I’d thrown one pillow to the floor and had another clutched against my chest.
Dan turned over in bed and put a hand on my knee. “You okay?” he asked groggily.
“I guess so.” I held the pillow tighter, trying to calm down.
“You must have had a nightmare.”
“Mmm,” I said, my mind still foggy. “Sorry I woke you.”
“No problem. Let’s go back to sleep.” A moment later, Dan had done just that. After all those years as an intern and resident, working twenty-four-hour shifts in hospitals, he could return to REM sleep after any interruption.
But not me. I lay back and tried to recall the images from my nightmare. I’d been running down a dark tunnel that had no exit. Leering skeletons dangled from the ceiling, laughing at me. Cassie suddenly appeared and held out her arms, begging me to help. But as I got near, she morphed into a two-headed creature and gave a blood-curdling scream as another skeleton swayed between us.
Now I shuddered and reached down to retrieve the goose-down pillow. I tucked it under my head and straightened out the sheets around me. None of the horrors had happened, I reminded myself. Only the sweat was real.
I closed my eyes, but the vision of a morphing Cassie wouldn’t go away. Back when she’d asked me to decorate her penthouse, I figured I had a handle on just who she was. I could sum her up simply: pretty girl who married the rich older guy. But the more I learned, the more complicated she seemed. Wasn’t that true with all of us? Peel back one layer and find another.
So the nightmare had a kernel of truth. My subconscious had changed the complex Cassie into a morphing form. And the inscrutable people from her past became the dangerously dangling bags of bones. Skeletons of death. Skeletons in the closet. Thank you, Dr. Freud.
Conundrum solved, I could get back to sleep.
Only I didn’t. I lay staring at the ceiling, my eyes wide open. Too bad I hadn’t gone to medical school. I didn’t want to be a doctor, but I wouldn’t mind sleeping like one.
As the first whispers of dawn crept around the curtains, I gave up any thoughts of sleep and tiptoed into my study. Might as well catch up on my e-mail. As usual, my inbox was crammed with shopping offers. My spam filter kept out most of the Viagra scams, but every vendor in America seemed to have something to sell me. I mindlessly followed some links and got engrossed by the sale at J. Crew. Pretty polo shirts on sale, two for forty-five dollars. Great colors. I picked bright sherbet and strawberry ice—both sounded yummy—and pressed
. Oh gosh, snookered again. Did I really need more tops? Not a surprise that the Internet economy was growing. So was insomnia.
Exhausted, I leaned back in my chair and stared out the window, letting my thoughts circle back to Cassie. What had I screamed as I woke up?
Somebody must know.
Well, true enough. Maybe I should listen to my unconscious for once. Freshman year in college, away from home and upset by Derek’s death, Cassie must have shared her fears with a friend. Paige had been far away, but girls typically needed a soul mate. I thought of Ashley, whose friendships waxed and waned over the years, but who always found a current BF—best friend—to share secret thoughts.
At 7:30, I picked up the phone and dialed Lydia Taylor.
“It’s Lacy Fields. I hope I’m not waking you up,” I said when she answered.
“Not at all. I don’t sleep much lately.” Her voice sounded weary, but not from the hour.
“Listen, I just wondered if you knew Cassie’s freshman-year roommate.”
If it seemed an abrupt question for before breakfast, she didn’t balk. Nothing could be shocking to her anymore.
“She had two roommates,” Lydia said evenly, “but she only stayed close to one of them. Judi Murphy. Lovely girl. She flew in for the memorial service. And she’s called me several times. It helps so much to hear from Cassie’s friends.”
I could imagine what a call like that would mean. A young voice, a connection to her daughter.
“Maybe Judi knows something about an incident from freshman year.” I hesitated. “I could call her. But she might be more comfortable talking to you.”
“I’d be delighted,” Lydia said quickly. She seemed grateful for something to do, a way to fill the morning that didn’t involve sad thoughts.
“It’s pretty vague,” I admitted. “But here’s the outline. Cassie dated a guy named Derek Howe in her freshman year. Doogie, the kids might have called him. He died unexpectedly from a cardiac arrhythmia.”
Lydia waited. “You want to know more about his death?” she asked.
“Or his life. He did physics research with a professor named Hal Bohr. And he’d been a member of a secret society called Delta ij.”
“Delta,” Lydia said immediately, her voice breaking. She hadn’t forgotten Cassie’s last word. How could she?
We hung up and I went back to the bedroom. Dan had gotten out of bed, and I knocked gently on the closed bathroom door.
“Can I come in?”
“Sure.” He swung open the door, and I smiled at the sight of my handsome husband, a navy Polo towel wrapped around his waist, his face covered in thickly lathered shaving cream.
“You look good this way,” I said. I leaned in to kiss him and giggled as I came away with a white mustache. I wiped my face. “Smell good, too,” I said.
“Art of Shaving. Sandalwood,” Dan said. “You bought it for me.”
“Then I have very good taste. In shaving cream and men.”
He finished lathering with the boar-bristle shaving brush, then picked up the ivory-handled razor I’d also bought him. Definitely better than the disposable Bic and can of Colgate he used to use.
I sat down on the Carrara marble bench behind the flowered ceramic vessel sink. I’d redecorated the bathroom a couple of years ago, and it had turned into the best room in the house. As good a place as any to have a conversation.
“Honey, how likely is it that a healthy college kid would die from a cardiac arrhythmia?” I asked, looking at Dan in the mirror as he shaved.
“Not likely, but it happens,” he said. He didn’t ask why I wanted to know. “You hear about it with athletes from time to time. A football player collapses during a practice and dies for no obvious reason. The autopsy shows a thickening of the heart wall. Or only one vessel supplying the heart instead of three. Some kind of heart defect that had gone undetected, probably since birth.”
I nodded. “So it’s a physical finding after death?”
“Not always. Often it’s a diagnosis of exclusion. The heart stopped, so something must have been wrong with the heart. More specifically, the heart started beating so fast that it couldn’t refill between beats. No blood gets pumped to the brain or body, and death is pretty rapid.”
Dan finished shaving the right side of his face, then switched the razor to his left hand to continue. As always, I felt a little thrill at watching my perfectly ambidextrous husband. Maybe he had a few flaws, but he had no weak side. Literally.
“Is there a way you could kill someone and make it
like he’d died of an arrhythmia?”
Dan’s razor-holding hand stopped in the middle of a down-stroke. Oops. I hoped he hadn’t cut himself. Maybe I should have waited until the splashing-on-aftershave portion of the ritual to ask.
But he quickly recovered. “Have I mentioned that I’m a doctor? I don’t usually try to figure out how to kill people.”
“Well, if you can save them, you can kill them,” I said cheerfully. “It’s just the inverse, right? Simple math. Like the numerator and denominator.”
Despite himself, Dan laughed. He turned around and looked at me affectionately. “You’re the smartest woman I know, but you’re completely clueless about math, aren’t you.”
“Guilty as charged.” I grinned. “Grant definitely didn’t get his science talent from me. I’m not sure I’m even the real mother.”
“He got his good nature from somebody. That would be you.”
We smiled at each other. I had the feeling we’d finally gotten over our minor blip. Somehow, both of us remembered again the endearing little things that had made us fall in love.
Dan turned back to the mirror. “I don’t know how you’d mimic an arrhythmia,” Dan said. “But you can cause one. The most obvious way would be with a shot of potassium.”
Interesting, but I didn’t want to show too much excitement. Oh, heck, why not? “Would the potassium be evident in an autopsy? I mean, could you ever prove it?”
Dan shook his head. “No. It would just get absorbed into the body. The blood chemistry changes pretty dramatically after death. The cells break down and potassium is released. You couldn’t tell what had been there before.”
An excellent way to kill someone. Easy and undetectable.
“So you could put some extra potassium into the potato salad and nobody would be the wiser?” I asked.