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Authors: John Lawrence Reynolds

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BOOK: Solitary Dancer
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He turned away and covered his face with his hand, a barrier against the smell of hot grease. His hand trembled like a captured bird and he remained motionless for several minutes before rising unsteadily and walking to the bars, planning to fling the tray out into the corridor until he saw the envelope.

He palmed it quickly and returned to the corner of the cell. Inside were four tiny white pills and he swallowed two before replacing the remainder in the envelope and settling back on the floor, his eyes closed, his brow less furrowed.

When the trustee returned for the tray, McGuire rose, walked to the bars, reached through to touch the man's arm. “Who gave you that?” he asked in a hoarse whisper.

“Gave me what?” The guy, skinny and gray-haired, his skin the colour of old newspapers, avoided McGuire's eyes.

“The stuff on my tray, in the envelope,” McGuire hissed.

“Don't know what the hell you're talking about,” the trustee muttered.

A different trustee brought him lunch and he never saw the pasty-faced man again.

Stana Tomasevich sat nervously at her kitchen table, a cup of tea growing cold in front of her. There had not been a man of any kind in her apartment since her husband, Frank, departed with two plastic bags of clothing nearly ten years earlier, never to return.

And now there were three men here, the young red-haired one with blue eyes and a nose like a hawk's beak, smiling at her from across the kitchen table, and two policemen in uniform in the other room, searching through her belongings. She could hear the officers talking among themselves, quietly. She pictured them inspecting her room, touching, lifting, moving her possessions. She would have to clean everything when they finally left, wipe it all down.

The red-haired man was writing on the pad of paper he carried with him. “You ever meet anybody in her apartment?” he asked.

“Who?” Stana said. “Who would I meet there? Men? You think I meet men there?”

The red-haired man, Donovan, laughed aloud. “No, I meant friends of Miss Lorenzo. Anybody.”

Stana shook her head. “Sometimes men are there, for business. I don't talk, I don't see. I scrub floors, I do dishes, I wash windows, then I go.”

“So you wouldn't recognize anybody you met there if you saw them again.”

Another shake of the head.

“Any men stay overnight with Miss Lorenzo?”

Stana blushed and lowered her head. “Sometimes.”

“Recently?”

A nod. “Two, three weeks ago, Miss Lorenzo does not come downstairs when I finish kitchen, so I go upstairs, knock on door, say I am here. She comes, unlocks door. She is wearing blanket, no, sheet from bed around her body and she is laughing. She says, ‘Don't do bedroom today,' and she runs back in room, closes door. And all time I am cleaning, I hear her in there with man.”

“What were they doing?” Donovan sat back watching her, a wide smile on his face, tapping his teeth with a pencil.

She turned away again. “They laugh. And they make Ricky Chow.”

The pencil stopped. “Ricky what?”

“Ricky Chow.” Stana held her hands side by side in front of her, palms facing the floor, and moved them up and down. “You know, bedsprings go Ricky Chow, Ricky Chow, Ricky Chow . . .”

Donovan erupted in laughter, embarrassing Stana even more. His next few questions were interrupted by snickers and he mimicked her, muttering, “Ricky Chow, Ricky Chow,” over and over. “What'd she keep up in her bedroom, among the pottery?”

Stana blinked. “Pottery?”

“The vases in her bedroom, up on the shelf near the ceiling. Something was screwed into the shelf on the corner and it looks like something else was fastened along the wall near it. Whatever it was, somebody pulled it out recently. Might've been the guy who killed her.”

She shook her head. “I don't dust pottery, I don't dust ceiling. Too high.”

Donovan rose from his chair. “Thanks for your help Mrs., uh . . .”

Stana pronounced her last name for him, rising from her chair too. The police officers were waiting in the short hall near the apartment door.

“Anything else you want to tell us?” Donovan asked her, shrugging into his topcoat.

Stana held her hands together in front of her ample stomach and shook her head. Then, almost without thinking, she blurted, “She was not nice woman.”

Donovan looked back at her, waiting for her to continue.

“Not nice,” Stana repeated.

“That's no reason for somebody to kill her,” Donovan said. “Just because she wasn't the nicest person in the world, right?”

“Bad,” Stana tried to explain. She looked away, searching for the words a man once used to describe Heather Lorenzo as he stormed from Heather's apartment, his words shouted in anger. “Wicked and vicious,” Stana blurted. Those were the words she had heard the man use. And they were true, Stana remembered. Heather had been wicked and vicious. When she had caught Stana on a ladder admiring the collection of pottery and the thing behind the pottery, black and shiny, she had shouted at Stana, telling her never to touch them again, the vases. “Wicked and vicious,” Stana repeated, turning to enter her kitchen again, leaving the men to find their own way out. She would make a fresh cup of tea and drink it, and then she would clean her apartment, ridding it of evidence of those men, the cruel-mouthed red-haired one and the two police officers who touched everything with their hands.

Gregory Weiner was perhaps forty years old. He wore his chestnut hair in a heavily sprayed, perfectly coiffed pompadour at the front and trimmed square across the back of the neck. His mustache looked as though it were shaped with a scalpel. His front teeth were oversized and his cheeks were round and full, giving him the appearance of a somewhat effeminate chipmunk, but his eyes were wary and conniving. He greeted Tim Fox by rising from the chair behind the oversized parson's table that served as a desk and extending a hand toward the black detective while his eyes scanned Fox's suit, shirt and tie in silent approval.

“This is terrible,” Weiner said, turning his fingertips under and rubbing them against the palms of his hands. “Perhaps if I had listened to Heather . . .”

“Listened to her?” Tim Fox sat in the ladder-back chair facing Weiner's desk. Behind the desk loomed a bleached oak armoire with carved pediment, the doors open, the shelves crowded with small ceramic figures, silk scarves, embroidered pillows and antique photographs in pewter frames.

“She was
frightened
,” Weiner said. “And yet she was laughing it off, as if it were a joke.” He shook his head. “I realize now, of course, that it wasn't. She really was quite terrified of this man the other day.”

“She didn't mention names?”

“Only that he was well-known.”

“For what?”

Weiner looked confused. “I don't understand . . .”

“Was he an athlete? Ball player maybe? Somebody on television? A politician?”

“She never said. Just that he was well-known, well-connected.” Weiner turned away. “She often bragged about her men friends that way but this time I could tell she was nervous and I asked what was wrong. She said she couldn't tell me but she asked if I might be working last evening or if Jonathan, that's the young man who comes in for restorations, if he might be here. I said no and asked why and she laughed in that nervous way she had and said she had been threatened, her life had been threatened. And I said, ‘For goodness sakes, go to the police, Heather.'”

“And that's it?”

Weiner nodded.

“What did she say about your warning?”

“That she couldn't. She said the police couldn't help her.”

“She have many men visitors?”

Weiner seemed amused by the question. “Oh, yes,” he said. “Heather never seemed to lack for male company. Heather was . . .” Weiner shifted his weight in his chair. “. . . unconventional. And a free spirit, I should think.”

Fox looked around the room at the paisley patterned wallpaper, the fancy cornices, the baroque brass ceiling fixture. “What's upstairs?” he asked.

“A small showroom, storage area. A restoration section. I have a refinisher who comes in when needed to perform simple repairs.”

“There's no access to Heather's apartment from your quarters?”

Weiner shook his head.

“What was she like?”

“Heather?” Weiner smiled; his cheeks grew round and his eyes narrowed into slits. “Like no one I have ever known. I don't expect to meet anyone quite like her again.”

“Did you like her?”

“Like her?” Weiner was surprised by the question. “Oh, I don't believe I liked her. She was, uh, a difficult person to like. Attractive in a, um, I suppose, carnal fashion, but . . .” He shook his head as though the gesture was enough to finish the sentence.

“Did you ever criticize her about her lifestyle?”

“Her what?”

“All the men she brought up to her apartment. You said she brought lots of them home.”

“Well, I never
saw
them you understand, not
all
of them . . .”

“She ever talk about your lifestyle?”

Weiner took a deep breath and smiled coldly. “How could my lifestyle have any bearing on your investigation, Lieutenant?”

“Just trying to get a handle on the victim, that's all.”

“Well, as a matter of fact, Heather could be
very
caustic at times. A great many people found that difficult to take.”

“Including you?”

“Sometimes.” Weiner picked a gold-plated letter opener from his desk, holding it by the handle as though it were a knife.

“She call you names?”

Another cold smile. “Lieutenant, I've heard all the names. She didn't invent any new ones.”

Fox placed his card on the desk. “Call me if you think of anything else.”

He left Weiner toying with the letter opener and staring at Fox's card as though wondering if it were safe to touch.

Chapter Four

“Not enough,” Don Higgins said, jutting out his bottom lip like a small boy pouting. “Not nearly enough. I thought you'd have more for me.”

Fat Eddie Vance rolled a yellow pencil between his fingers and blinked at the prosecuting attorney across the pristine top of his desk. Tim Fox sat next to Higgins, his arms folded. He had not spoken a word since entering the captain's office ten minutes earlier. Phil Donovan leaned against the wall next to the window, staring out at a weak early morning sun obscured by high clouds, working hard at looking bored.

“It's borderline, I admit,” Fat Eddie said as Higgins returned the various police reports to his briefcase. “But there's a link between them, McGuire and the victim. He can't account for his whereabouts—”

“Neither can we,” Higgins said. “Everything I heard about threats against the victim, including one made within hours of the murder, sounded solid enough.” He turned to Fox. “But there's nothing from the interrogation, nothing from forensics that moves the case forward.” Higgins shrugged. “You haven't given me anything new.”

“She said somebody might do her,” Donovan said. “She told her landlord she was afraid of somebody heavy. What's that worth?”

“Nothing on its own,” Higgins replied. “You'll have to give me more than that. Or we take another route, maybe a just cause restraining order, incarceration for his own protection, something to stick with for a few days until a lawyer files a habeas corpus.” He jutted his bottom lip out again. “Faced with a habeas, I can't see any judge agreeing to extend a charge against McGuire based on what's here.”

Vance swung his eyes to Tim Fox. “What do you think?”

“I got a fax an hour ago,” Fox said. He reached for an inside pocket of his sports jacket and withdrew three sheets of paper. “Bahamas Police, Nassau.”

Higgins shifted sideways in his chair, watching Fox intently. Fat Eddie Vance rested several of his chins on one hand, his elbow on the desk. Phil Donovan muttered something under his breath and turned back to the window.

“McGuire was deported from the Bahamas as an undesirable alien in July,” Fox said, handing the report to Vance. “That was after he spent a week in the hospital recovering from a beating.”

“What in God's name happened to the man?” Higgins asked with concern.

“He got himself involved with some rich guy's wife is what happened,” Fox said, watching Vance as the captain read the Bahamian police report. “She was living on their yacht while her husband was back home making his next hundred million. One of the crew members called his boss in Chicago, told him about McGuire cutting the man's grass and the husband flew down with some muscle. They got McGuire on board and put the boots to him, apparently. Bruised all over, cracked ribs . . .” Fox shrugged and spread his hands. “They threw him overboard, the water revived him, some people in a boat saw him thrashing around and pulled him out.”

“And what happened to the husband?” Higgins asked.

“What happened? The husband got McGuire deported, that's what happened. You've got money and influence, you can get that kind of thing done down there. And this guy has it. They never laid a hand on him. The next month the same guy, the Chicago millionaire, signs a deal with the government for some resort development in the outer islands. He's called a hero, a few palms get greased, it's all a tax write-off.” Fox grinned coldly. “By the way, a couple of weeks after McGuire left the island the wife got drunk one night, fell overboard and drowned. Way of the world, right?”

“What else?” Fat Eddie asked, handing the report back to Fox. “Anything on this Lorenzo woman?”

Vance glanced at Donovan, who shook his head. “No appointment book, no telephone directory. Gone.”

“Bank records?” Fat Eddie said. “You got her bank records?”

Fox nodded. “She was doing all right financially. Over thirty thousand in cash, another hundred and fifty or so in investments, blue-chip stocks. Lots of good jewelry, none of it touched. Drove a nice little BMW, all paid for.”

“What was up on that shelf that interests you guys so much?” Vance asked.

“Still don't know,” Fox said. “Or what was in the file cabinet either. But it wasn't forced. Unlocked, key still there, her prints on it.”

“How about the other men on the answering machine tape?” Vance looked back and forth between Fox and Donovan. “You identified their voices?”

“We think one's a photographer, client of hers,” Donovan said. “The other might be her ex-husband, runs some plumbing or hardware outfit. There's a boyfriend too. I'm talking to the husband today, check him out.”

“What've you done about her landlord saying she feared for her life?” Fat Eddie asked. “She ever report it?”

Fox shrugged. “Nothing in the records about it. She told her landlord the police couldn't help her.”

Fat Eddie raised his eyebrows and pulled at his mustache, lost in some private thought.

Higgins was on his feet. “McGuire's getting a court-appointed lawyer this morning,” he said. “Whoever it is, they'll make a motion for release.” He shook his head. “I can't oppose it.”

Vance's telephone rang. He nodded at Higgins, picked up the receiver and barked his name into the mouthpiece. “Who?” he said, then turned to Fox. “It's McGuire's ex-wife, the victim's sister, came in from Florida last night. She wants to talk to you.”

“I'll take it at my desk,” Fox said, standing.

Vance nodded, a Buddha serene on the surface, his indigestion simmering like a stew within, but his mind fastened on something else for a change.

They took McGuire from his cell after breakfast. The guards clumped down the concrete corridor in heavy black boots with soles thick as watermelon rind. McGuire shuffled unsteadily between them, his feet flip-flopping in his sneakers with no laces.

They led him to a room with gray plaster walls that were cracked and peeling and gray metal furniture that was dented and bent. Harvey Hoffman, McGuire's appointed lawyer, lifted his head from the stack of legal documents he had been reading and nodded to McGuire, who sat facing him in the only other chair in the room. The guards retreated to the corridor, leaving the prisoner with his counselor.

“You okay?” Hoffman asked McGuire through his massive gray beard. The lawyer's bald head shone in the glare of the single overhead fluorescent light fixture. It was just after nine in the morning but already Hoffman looked as though he had run a marathon in his three-piece suit. Running any distance would have been a remarkable feat for this man, who carried his nearly three hundred pounds like an armful of inflated balloons, folds of it spilling out here and there. A pair of delicate gold-rimmed half-frame spectacles spanned his broad face. His salt-and-pepper beard sprouted untrimmed and untamed from the lower half of his face like shrubbery.

“I'm all right,” McGuire said.

Over the years McGuire and Hoffman had encountered each other in various Suffolk County courtrooms, earning a grudging respect for each other, like sparring partners who know nothing of the other man's life except the sight of him crouching, jabbing and darting away.

“This is a crappy move, what they did,” Hoffman said, suppressing a belch. He reached up and began unbuttoning his vest. “They couldn't even stick a charge of threatening on you. Can't threaten an answering machine.” He chose a sheaf of papers from the stack and slapped it with the back of his hand. “Nothing in here, in your statement, constitutes a felony, not even sufficient grounds for suspicion.” He removed his glasses. “Only reason you're here is that Eddie Vance doesn't like you very much, does he?”

McGuire smiled.

“Well, I've already talked to Higgins's office, told them I'd be filing a writ to get you in front of a judge and out of here. Word is, they won't fight it.” He twisted his body and glanced around the room, the exertion causing him to wheeze. “Shouldn't even be here, short-term. Could've kept you downtown, in the courthouse holding cells. Didn't you raise hell about being sent here? Didn't you say this was a breach of your rights?”

“No,” McGuire said.

“Why not?”

“Didn't give a damn.”

Hoffman watched his client intently for several seconds before leaning as far forward as his girth would permit and asking, “You sure you're all right?”

McGuire looked at the man as though he didn't understand the question. He was still staring at Hoffman when a knock at the door caused the lawyer to raise his head and motion one of the guards into the room. The guard handed Hoffman a note, studying McGuire's face as though imprinting it on his consciousness for a future test of his memory, before leaving and closing the door behind him.

“You're out of here,” Hoffman said after glancing at the note. “But they're only going halfway. They've got some charges pending on other stuff and demanding you're not to leave the state without informing Berkeley Street.” He tossed the note in front of McGuire who looked at it curiously. “I'll get that lifted this afternoon. It's another crappy move, got Eddie Vance's prints all over it.” He stood up and gestured to the guard through the window. “I've got a couple other clients to see,” the lawyer said. “Take about an hour which'll give you time to gather your belongings. You want a ride downtown?”

McGuire said yes and when the guard entered the room again he shuffled away, leaving Hoffman frowning and shaking his head, comparing the subdued man he had just met with the explosive homicide cop he once dreaded tangling with in a courtroom or jail corridor, a man with the same name and face but with something else in his eyes, something this man, this new McGuire, was lacking.

“I hope you don't mind meeting me here. But I just didn't like the idea of setting foot in Berkeley Street again.”

The woman facing Tim Fox in the corner booth of the Gainsborough Pub was perhaps thirty-five years old, maybe younger. She wore a camel-coloured cashmere sweater and brown tweed skirt. Her silken hair framed a startlingly expressive face, one that leaped between extremes of joy and sadness, rarely pausing between the two. Her eyes were large and dark and when her lips parted in a smile, deep dimples formed in her cheeks, soft-edged like craters in meringue. Her name was Michelle Lorenzo. It had once been Micki McGuire.

“Don't blame you,” Fox smiled. “When I walk out of Berkeley for the last time, I don't ever plan to go in again.” A waiter brought him coffee. Micki's sat cold and untouched in front of her. “How long were you and Joe married?” Fox asked.

There it was, the quick smile, the dimples. “Nearly five years. Plus a year and a half we lived together before that.” Her hands, small and delicate, toyed with a coffee spoon as she spoke, and the smile faded. “He was so intense. It took me a long time to get used to it, how intense he was about things that mattered to him. I'd almost forgotten about it. Then I saw him earlier this year. I'd written to him, care of Berkeley Street. Just to see how he was doing, what he was up to. They sent the letter to Ollie Schantz and his wife who passed it on to Joe, over in the Bahamas.”

She sat back in the booth, toying with the coffee spoon.

“I'd been involved in . . .” She halted again, looked across the almost deserted restaurant and started over. “I was working for an air conditioning company, they did repairs, installations.” Then she added, like an afterthought, “Before that, I'd met some rough people, hung out with them for a while. It's not something I'm proud of. And when I found myself all alone I kept thinking about Joe so I wrote him . . .”

She reached to pat the back of her hair. “Anyway, I came out of work one day and there he was waiting for me, sitting in some car he'd rented.” A smile that stayed this time, glowing with the memory of him. “He looked good. He looked really good. He'd lost some weight, had a great tan, smiled and laughed a lot. We had dinner and, um . . .” A shrug. “Went down to the Keys that weekend, stayed in a motel on the gulf side. It was nice. It was really nice.” Still smiling. But crying now too. “And then, just like that, when Sunday came he took me back to Coconut Grove and caught a plane to Nassau. I haven't seen him since.”

“He's changed,” Tim Fox said. He told her about the Bahamian police report, McGuire's near-fatal beating on the yacht, the hospital stay, the deportation and the tiny room over the strip club whose patrons came to do more than just look at the young women.

She listened with her mouth partially open and her eyes darting back and forth. “That doesn't sound like Joe,” she said. “God, that's not Joe, that's somebody else.”

“Like I said, he's changed.”

Micki stared down at her coffee before lifting the cup to her lips. “You don't really think he killed Heather,” she said in a low voice.

Fox shook his head. “But some people would like to.”

She set the cup down without drinking from it and said, her head lowered, her eyes avoiding Fox's, “Some people will be happy to know my sister is dead too. Happy and worried at the same time.”

Fox sat back, folded his arms and raised his eyebrows, urging her silently to continue.

She flashed her smile at him in embarrassment. “I know what my sister's been up to for the past couple of years,” she said. “She didn't make all of her money from being a photographer's agent. Not by a long shot.”

BOOK: Solitary Dancer
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