Authors: Lee Goldberg
Mark sighed, suddenly feeling every minute of every hour of sleep that he'd missed. "There has to be a simple explanation."
"Why does it have to be simple?"
"Because if it's hard," Mark said, "it's just too hard."
Jesse looked at him. "All this stuff about Winston Brant is very interesting, Mark, but you still haven't answered the question I asked you an hour ago in the ICU. What were you doing here at four thirty in the morning?"
"I was checking on Rebecca Jordan," Mark said.
"I know," Jesse said. "Why were you doing that?"
"I couldn't sleep."
"That's what TVs were invented for. Why do you think there are
reruns on three different cable networks every night?" Jesse said. "You're supposed to watch Matt Dillon and Chester and Festus and Doc and Miss Kitty until you're unconscious. You don't get in your car and go to work. So why did you?"
Mark shook his head and sighed. "I don't know."
"I think I do," Jesse said.
"I hope this doesn't involve a modified crossbow," Mark said.
"What was that problem you wanted my advice on yesterday?"
"Just something with a patient," Mark said.
"What something?" Jesse prodded. "What patient?"
Mark sighed again and told him about Lenore Barber, her two brushes with lung cancer, and her continued smoking.
"I can't get her to quit," Mark said. "She's going to kill herself."
"Uh-huh," Jesse said.
"That's really catching on," Mark said.
"What is?" Jesse asked.
"Nothing," Mark said. "Forget it."
"I'm no shrink, but I think Lenore Barber and Rebecca Jordan are connected," Jesse said. "Both women are trying to kill themselves. You can't save one, so you glom on to the other."
"Glom?" Mark asked.
"You can't save Lenore, so it's imperative that you save Rebecca," Jesse said. "She is your surrogate Lenore Barber!"
Jesse smiled, clearly quite pleased with himself. Mark glowered, which was something Jesse had never seen him do before. He'd seen Steve glower plenty of times and now he knew where his friend picked it up.
"I saw a woman try to kill herself and I'm concerned about her health and well-being," Mark said. "The way I am about all my patients."
"When was the last time you came in to check on a patient at four a.m.?"
Mark's glower got much more glowerful. Before he could respond to Jesse's question, Steve strode up to their table. Steve looked tired and irritable and was working on a good glower of his own.
"You could have left a note for me or at least turned your cell phone on," Steve said. "I woke up and you were gone."
"And you deduced I was here," Mark said.
"I didn't deduce anything," Steve said.
"Why start now?" Jesse muttered.
Steve shot him a look, though he was tempted to shoot him with a bullet, then turned his attention back to his dad. "I'm here because I'm supposed to get Amanda's autopsy report. What are you doing here?"
"That seems to be the question of the day," Jesse said.
Mark told Steve all about how he'd witnessed Rebecca Jordan's suicide attempt and brought him up-to-date on her current condition.
"So you had two jumpers in one day, Rebecca Jordan and Winston Brant," Steve said. "That has to be some kind of record."
"I forgot about that other connection," Jesse said. "It's fascinating how everything that happened to Mark yesterday is thematically and emotionally connected. No wonder he can't sleep."
"There's more?" Steve asked. "What else happened to you?"
"Earlier in the day I met with a patient who, you could say, is killing herself and I haven't been able to stop her," Mark said. "Jesse believes I'm focusing on Rebecca's case because I couldn't save my other suicidal patient."
Steve glanced at Jesse. "I see what you mean."
"You do?" Mark said.
"You don't have to be a detective, or a doctor, to see what's going on here," Steve said, shaking his head. "It's obvious. You're in deep trouble, Dad."
"Thanks," Mark said.
"But I think I can help solve your problem," Steve said.
"Do tell," Mark said.
"Forget about Lenore, let Jesse deal with Rebecca, and you concentrate your attention on the compelling mystery surrounding Winston Brant's murder," Steve said. "Narrow your focus, and you eliminate two-thirds of your troubles."
"Which, coincidentally, means I'd be focused entirely on helping you with your case," Mark said.
"I bet you feel better already," Steve replied.
"Ordinarily, you'd be telling me to do the opposite," Mark said.
"Then it proves I really am looking out for your best interests," Steve said.
Amanda didn't usually open for business so early in the morning, but now that the murder of Winston Brant had be come "the Case of the Dropped Dead Skydiver" on every TV station in town, she was feeling some pressure to move fast. She met with Mark, Steve, and Jesse in the pathology lab, which doubled as the adjunct county medical examiner's morgue.
"Here's my autopsy report," she said, handing a file to Steve and a copy to Mark.
"Where's my copy?" Jesse asked.
"All you need are the headlines," she said, "which I'm about to tell you."
"You all have reports," Jesse said. "It's not fair. I should have a report."
"Fine." Amanda snatched a file from her desk and slapped it into his hands before continuing. "The cause of Winston Brant's death was a knife stabbed directly into his heart. There were no other wounds or injuries, unless you want to count the nick on his chin from shaving."
"Wait a minute," Jesse said, flipping through his file. "This isn't Winston Brant's autopsy. This is a report of your office supply expenditures."
Amanda ignored Jesse and continued. "From what I can tell, Brant was in great shape. He was obviously a man who led an active, athletic life."
"Did you find anything unusual at all?" Steve asked.
She shook her head. "I checked his stomach contents and ran a full tox screen. He had eggs Benedict and a little Prozac for breakfast, well within therapeutic levels."
"The eggs or the Prozac?" Steve asked.
"Both," Amanda said.
"You go through an incredible amount of paper clips," Jesse said, studying his file. "Have you considered stapling papers instead? It's a lot cheaper."
Amanda acted as if Jesse wasn't even there. "It may seem like a complex case to you, but that's if you're looking at how the murder was accomplished. If you look at what actually killed Winston Brant, this is a no-brainer. He was stabbed in the heart. My job is done."
"Want to switch jobs?" Steve asked.
"Sure." Amanda motioned to a gigantic body bag on a gurney across the room. "You can start with the autopsy on the three hundred and twenty-two-pound guy found dead in his bathtub this morning. He's only been in the tub for a few days."
Steve grimaced. "Never mind."
Mark closed the report and handed it back to Amanda. "Thanks, Amanda."
"You've been awfully quiet this morning," she said. "Anything wrong?"
"Everything's fine," Mark said. "I didn't ask any questions because your autopsy found exactly what I expected you to find."
"Nothing," Amanda said.
"Nothing," Mark repeated.
"So where do we go from here?" Steve asked. "We don't know any more about this murder than we did when we found the body."
"I'll make you a deal," Mark said. "I'll talk to Brant's wife if you'll do a little checking on Rebecca Jordan."
"Rebecca Jordan hasn't committed any crime," Steve said.
"She tried to take her own life," Mark said. "I want to find out why."
"To satisfy your curiosity?" Steve asked.
"To stop her from trying again," Mark said. "Maybe I can if I know why she wanted to die."
Steve sighed. He knew if he didn't do it, his father would just do it himself, taking time away from investigating Brant's murder.
"Okay," Steve said. "You've got a deal."
"I've got to get back home, shower, shave, and put on some fresh clothes," Mark said. "Let's talk again around lunch."
And with that, Mark and Steve left the lab. Amanda glanced at Jesse, who was still standing there, looking at her.
"Can I help you with something?" she asked.
"I have a plan," he said. "And I'm going to need your help."
Before leaving the hospital, Steve decided it would probably be a good idea to visit Rebecca Jordan. Maybe she'd be awake from her coma and could answer all his questions, saving him the trouble of investigating something that didn't merit any investigation in the first place. And if she wasn't awake, at least he'd know what the woman looked like.
When he walked into the ICU, he found a short man in suspenders sitting sadly beside her bed, holding four pink bakery boxes and a couple of wax paper bags.
The little man looked like an overgrown hobbit, only without the hairy feet. Startled, he jumped up from his seat the instant he saw Steve standing at the end of the bed.
"I didn't know she already had a visitor," the man said, rising from his seat. "I'll come back later. I brought some day-olds. I'll just leave them."
The man set the boxes on a tabletop.
"My name is Steve Sloan, I'm—"
The man interrupted Steve with a nervous rush of words. "The name's Tucker Mellish and believe me, you don't have to explain anything. I always knew Rebecca must have someone special. I'll just be a moment longer."
Mellish gave Steve a quick glance, then busied himself with the bakery boxes, opening them and arranging the pastries on paper plates.
"I don't really know Rebecca, I'm—"
Mellish didn't let him finish. "You don't have to explain anything to me. If she wanted me to know about you, she would have told me. Of course, she hasn't really told me anything about herself."
He looked at Steve with puppy eyes. "Does she ever mention me?"
Steve shrugged. Why bother trying to get a word in? He figured he'd let Mellish keep talking. Maybe the guy would finally spit out whatever was making him so nervous.
"I knew she didn't," Mellish said. "Why should she? We're just buddies. Hardly that, acquaintances really. She comes into my bakery every morning when I open up. I don't even know why I came here today. I just thought she might like something sweet. She likes sweet things. Want a pastry?"
"Sure," Steve said, taking a bear claw. Now that he thought of it, he was hungry. He'd skipped breakfast that morning.
"Listen," Mellish said. "Don't tell her I was here, okay? I'm not anybody, really."
Steve's mouth was full of bear claw, so he just nodded.
"And you, well, you're the better man," Mellish said, going towards the door. "Take care of her."
Steve swallowed what he was eating. "I've never met Rebecca Jordan."
Mellish stopped, a confused look on his face. "You haven't?"
"This is the first time I've ever laid eyes on her," Steve said, licking some frosting from his lips.
For a moment, Mellish looked relieved, even hopeful. But only until Steve flashed his badge.
"I'm LAPD," Steve said, holding up his ID in one hand and taking another bite of the bear claw he held in the other.
Mellish narrowed his eyes at him and took a protective stance beside Rebecca's bed, drawing Steve's attention to the woman for the first time. She looked pretty good to him for a woman who'd fallen five stories.
"She hasn't done anything wrong," Mellish said.
"I know," Steve said. "My father is her doctor. He thought maybe if we knew why she wanted to kill herself, we could prevent her from trying again. Did you make this bear claw?"
"Yeah," Mellish said.
"It's tasty," Steve said. "I could eat a bunch of them." Steve was trying to put Mellish at ease. He was also trying to get another bear claw. His strategy worked on both fronts. Mellish picked up another pastry, put it on a napkin, and offered it to him.
"Have another one, while they are still warm," Mellish said. "They're not really day-old. I just said that when I thought you were her boyfriend."
Steve waved it off, snatched another bear claw, and took a bite. After chewing for a moment, he asked, "Do you have any idea why she jumped?"
"We don't talk about her personal life. Her choice. She like to talk about ideas. She picks out a book and we buy two copies. Then we talk about it in the mornings."
"It sounds nice," Steve said, but he was really thinking about how good his bear claw was. So warm, so satisfying, so sweet.
"Last night, I had a theory on who killed old Karamazov. I couldn't wait to tell her. When she didn't show up, I called office and they told me what happened."
Steve didn't know who Karamazov was, but perhaps she so distraught over his murder, she leaped out a window. If that was her reason, then this was definitely a problem his father could solve for her—after he figured out who stabbed Winston Brant in midair.
"What was her relationship to Karamazov?" Steve asked. "Was she hit hard by his death?"
Mellish stared at Steve. "It's
The Brothers Karamazov
Steve stared back at him, finished the bear claw and was contemplating a third, when Mellish finally spoke again.
"He's a character in a book, written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, in 1880," Mellish said.
"Right, I knew that," Steve said, trying to hide his embarrassment by wiping his face with a napkin. "I was wondering if maybe she was one of those really intense readers who gets emotionally involved in what she reads."
"You mean someone who'd read
and then leap in front of a train?" Mellish said.
"Yeah," Steve said. "It happens."
"I don't think it happened this time," Mellish said. "But I don't know what was bothering her. She didn't tell me."
"Do you know anyone she might have told?"
"She mentioned her roommate Lissy sometimes," Mellish said. "Lissy works the graveyard shift as a telephone customer support technician for a software company. They don't see each other much, but they did live in the same apartment."