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Authors: Susan Isaacs

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Magic Hour (4 page)

BOOK: Magic Hour
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But what I couldn't steer clear of was the fact that I thought he was a bad cop. And he thought he was
Suffolk
County
's anointed Good Guy. Days, even weeks, before the assistant D.A.s felt they had a case, Robby would be pushing to arrest, because he
knew
who the bad guy was. And he was going to get him.

The smiles and the crullers he handed out to cops disappeared for suspects; most of his interrogations turned into finger-jabbing accusations. Sure, he could intimidate some kid into spilling his guts. But he'd alienate suspects other detectives had softened up, and instead of agreeing to a videotaped confession, they'd be screaming for a lawyer.

One time, my best friend on the squad, Marty McCormack, and I had a young guy whose new wife had disappeared. I knew—Christ, everybody knew—that he'd killed her and dumped the body. But how could we find out where? We played it as if this guy was the anguished husband; Marty kept him looking for his wife, thinking of possibilities where she could be. I kept him talking. One night, we stepped out for a bowl of chili and asked Robby just to come into the interrogation room and baby-sit. In the half hour we were gone, he came on tough. Hostile. Aggressive. He knew this was a bad guy. Who didn't? But he almost ruined it.

And I'd lost it when I found out, banging walls, calling him a stupid piece of shit in the squad room. "You almost fucking blew it!" I yelled. He'd said, "Just cut it out, Steve," and even managed a boyish shake of the head that said: Jeez, that Brady and his darn ole temper.

It wasn't that I hated him. We were just oil/water, fish/fowl, day/night. And so without making a big deal over it, we'd pretty much arranged our lives—and our desks—so we stayed apart.

Until Sy.

"Steve Brady!" Marian Robertson, Sy's cook, exclaimed. Then she made a twirling motion with her index finger. Spin around, boy, it said. And, obediently, I turned around so she could get the three-hundred-sixty-degree picture. "I can't say you don't look a day older than you did in high school," she went on, "though you are that same boy—but with a man's face. I said to myself the minute you walked in: 'That's the boy who was shortstop on Mark's team,' although I went blank on your name. I do see your brother. Easton Brady's your brother, right?" I nodded. "Such a handsome boy. Could be a movie star himself."

Mrs. Robertson babbled away with the absolute self-confidence that came with the conviction that she was the South Fork's Most Unforgettable Character. In fact, I'd totally forgotten her until I walked into Sy's kitchen.

And what a kitchen—especially if you were a big eighteenth century fan. Strings of garlic, wreaths of herbs, copper pots and straw baskets hung from the walls and the beams. An iron kettle hung in a six-foot-high brick fireplace; it was so gargantuan Sy could have played hide-and-seek in it.

Mrs. Robertson turned away from me to finish cutting the crusts off the sandwiches she was making for the crime-scene crew and began arranging them in a perfect, intricate pile: some creamy-colored cheese on the bottom, pale-pink pate next, and then dark smoked ham, so the platter looked like a spiffy architectural model of a ten-million-dollar beach house. "Isn't this something?" she inquired. "One of my specialties. Anyway, Steve, the minute you showed me your badge, of course I remembered hearing you had become a policeman, although as you may imagine, between you and I and a lamppost, you were pretty near the last boy at Bridgehampton High I'd expect to see in uniform, so to speak." She gave me a nose crinkle that (I think) meant: You may have a gun and a badge, but to me you're still a teeno with Clearasil dots. "I see being a detective you can wear regular clothes. Rank does have its privileges, and that's nice, because you are looking fit."

Marian Robertson looked the same as when she sat in the first row of the stands at every high school baseball game: dark-brown skin, short, with rounded features and a cute, pudgy body, as if, through interracial marriage, she was half sister to the Pillsbury Doughboy. The only change I could see was her hair; it looked like she'd slapped a gray wig on her head as a seventh-inning joke to give the Bridgies a laugh. Back in high school, she'd acted Unforgettable too, bringing cookies for "you young fellows," handing each of us a chocolate-chip or a pecan sandy as we trotted off the field, calling out, There's more where that came from!

"Mrs. Robertson, I know you gave your statement to Sergeant Carbone, but I have a couple more questions. What does the maid look like?"

"The maid? She's very plain." Mrs. Robertson opened one of the glass doors of the giant restaurant-style refrigerator, eyed the melons and took out an enormous beige ball that was probably a twenty-five-dollar, genetically engineered cantaloupe.

I glanced at my pad. "There's only the maid, Rosa?"

"That's right."

"Is she black, white, Hispan—"

"Portuguese." Marian Robertson cut me off. "Short, but taller than me. Maybe five foot two. You know, there used to be a song." She cleared her throat: " 'Five foot two / Eyes of blue / But oh what those five two can do...' Oh, Lord! Steve, that I'm singing! I apologize. How it must look! But I've been working for Mr. Spencer for fourteen summers, and it's so ... Murdered!"

"Listen, you're upset. You have every right to be." I paused. "Were you very fond of him?"

"Well ... fond enough. I mean, he was so polite. That's what everyone said: 'Sy is so divinely polite.
So
courtly.' You know how those Yorkers talk." I nodded; all of us who were born here shared the knowledge that we were more decent and more down-to-earth than the slickers from New York City. When you really came down to it, we knew we were better human beings. "Let me tell you, you can double the phoniness in spades for movie types. But Mr. Sy Spencer himself seemed to be genuine silk stocking—not at all flashy or fresh."

"But did you like him?"

"Well ... now that I think about it, I'm not sure. He was one cool cucumber."

"Was he cold? Withdrawn?"

"No. Very toned down, but decent enough. Smiled a lot. Didn't laugh. Never treated me any different the first summer or the fourteenth. But it was like he had a script of how to act with a cook, and that was that. Teasing, like about how he was going to have to mortgage the house to pay for my chickens; I make a
very
rich chicken stock. But the same joke for fourteen years.

"And let's see. He was indeed polite: a compliment after every dinner party, and if he didn't like something, which was hardly ever, he wasn't rude. He'd just say, 'I am not entranced by chocolate-dipped fruit.' " She opened a plastic container and handed me a cookie. "Viennese almond wafer."

"Thank you. Getting back to the maid, Mrs. Robertson. What does she look like?"

"Short, like I told you. Yellowish skin, but with pockmarks, poor baby."

The cookie was good. I smiled. "What color is her hair?"

"My, are you handsome when you smile! You should smile more often. It lights up your face like a Christmas tree."

"Rosa's hair, Mrs. Robertson?"

"Originally, only the good Lord and her mother know, although my guess is your basic brown. For all the time she's worked here"—she shook her head sadly—"fire-engine red."

"And you and Rosa were the only people who work here? I expected valets or chauffeurs or butlers."

"No. He hired waiters and bartenders for dinners and parties. He had a driver in the city, but he took a helicopter out here and drove himself around in that Italian sports car of his."

I held out my hand for another cookie. As she gave it to me, I asked: "Who was in the guest bedroom today with Sy Spencer?"

"What?" She looked startled.

"Someone used the guest bedroom."

"Besides Mr. Spencer?"

"Yes."

"Really? I have no idea, Steve. You know, he and Lindsay Keefe were living together. But they're in the master suite. What makes you think someone was in the guest bedroom?"

I took another bite of the cookie. "Just some indications," I answered. "Did you hear anyone upstairs?"

"Only Mr. Spencer. He was here all afternoon, packing to go to Los Angeles, on the phone. He had been supposed to leave this morning, but then he had to go over to the movie set, so I guess he was changing a few plans."

"No one with him?"

"No." She thought for an instant and then added: "I mean, I won't cross my heart and hope to die, because to tell you the truth, you can count the times on one hand that I've been on the second floor of this house. But as far as I know, he was alone."

"Where was Rosa?"

"She cleans and does a laundry every morning, then goes home for the afternoon ... she has a little girl. Takes whatever ironing. She comes back about six, to tidy up from my cooking—scours pots, damp mops the floor, takes out trash, that sort of thing. Then she stays through dinner and does the dishes and sets the table for breakfast."

"Mrs. Robertson, I don't want to embarrass you, but in a police investigation we have to ask some pretty direct questions."

"Go ahead."

"Was there any indication that Mr. Spencer had sexual relations in any other room beside the master bedroom?"

"I go home after dinner. So for all I know, he could be making hay in the sauna or in the screening room or in the wine cellar. All I can vouch for is not in my kitchen, because I would know in two seconds flat.
Nobody
, not the boss, not God himself, is allowed to mess with my kitchen. Got that, Steve?"

"Got it."

"Good."

Local cops—in this case the Southampton Village P.D.—secure the perimeter of a crime scene. One of them, a gangly kid my grandmother would have called a long drink of water, came into the tent on the far side of the pool where we were inhaling Marian Robertson's sandwiches. He called out: "Is there a Steve Brady on duty tonight?" I put down my mug of coffee. "A guy's out front.
Real
shook up about the murder. Says he's your brother." So I went over to Ray Carbone to tell him about Easton's connection to Sy, even though I had to interrupt Carbone while he was lifting up a triangle of sandwich and eyeing it suspiciously, clearly having deduced that it was, in fact, pate. "Can we talk outside for a minute?" I asked. He slid the sandwich back on the platter.

The green-and-white-striped tent we'd been in was a three-sided thing. I guess it was either for changing, if you were an exhibitionist, or for just lying out of the sun and wind. It was about ten feet away from the shallow end of the pool, a perfect distance for a police snack—far enough from the crime scene so that you wouldn't have to pretend Sy's body was a scatter rug while you were woofing down his food.

"Listen, Ray, my brother—his name is Easton—he's out front. He wants to see me."

"Let him come back, take a look," said Carbone. In the shadow of Sy Spencer's house, he'd suddenly become Long Island's most gracious host. He even did a be-my-guest sweep with his arm. Then he added: "Easton?"

"Yeah."

"What kind of a name is Easton?"

"My mother's from this Yank family up in Sag Harbor. It was her maiden name. They do things like that."

"I thought you were Irish."

"My father was Irish. About my brother—"

"What does he do?"

"A little bit of everything. Classy stuff."

"Like what?"

"He sold Jaguars. I bought mine from him. Then he sold expensive real estate. Worked in a bunch of hot-shit boutiques around here."

"Sounds as if he never settled into a defined role. How come?"

"I'm a borderline personality myself. How the hell should I know what's wrong with anybody else?" Over in the tent, the men were still swarming around the table laden with Sy's food. "Ray, put a lid on the psychoanalysis for now. I want to get this over with. It has to do with the case."

"The case? Your brother?"

"Yeah. I mentioned the connection when Headquarters called, but I forgot to tell you. Easton was working for Sy. Listen, about three, four months ago he was out of a job: not exactly news. Anyway, he heard about how Sy was going to be making a big part of
Starry Night
in East Hampton, so he wangled an invitation to some jazzy charity party. To make a long story short, he got introduced to Sy and made a big pitch about how he'd been born and raised here and knew everybody and could be helpful. Sy liked him and hired him to be a kind of liaison with the locals—I guess to spread a little money around and keep things happy and get things ready for filming. He did so well that Sy kept him on for the movie."

"Any problems?"

"No. It was really working out. That's the shitty thing; my brother finally seemed to have found something he was enthusiastic about, plus something he was actually good at. Sy had even made him one of the assistant producers, with his name right up there. Not at the beginning, but at the end when you see all those names. Anyway, sooner or later someone will be taking his statement. I'm just letting you know about him because the department's so big on all that ethics crap."

"Well, maybe let Robby take it." I guess he saw my face. "Steve, Robby's not a bad kid. Okay, too bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for your taste."

"He has no balance."

"He has enough, and if not, you'll make up for it. Robby is with you on this one. You'll see, it'll work out. He's really gung-ho. Anyway, it looks better if someone who isn't your closest friend takes care of your brother. But listen, I have no objection if you want to sit in the background. Quietly." He paused. "Is your brother, you know, a stable guy?"

"No. He's a demented twit who took a .22 and blew Sy Spencer away because Sy had become his mentor-father figure and Easton has such a low sense of worth that anyone who respected him and helped him self-actualize was ipso facto worthless and had to die."

I'm not bad. Easton is handsome. Although we resemble each other, I look like an Irish cop and he looks like an Episcopalian lawyer. In other words, my brother is a WASPier, more refined version of me: his eyes a truer blue, his jaw more squared-off, his hair shinier, plus he actually is six feet. I'm just a shade under, which has always annoyed me because girls—women—always ask "How tall are you?" and if I say six feet I feel like a fraud, but if I were to say five eleven and five-eighths, I'd feel like a buffoon.

BOOK: Magic Hour
6.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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