Introduction: This is fiction. There are no lawyers or judges like this, there’s no city like this, and especially no such District Attorney’s Office.
The red eye of the morning sun glared through the plate-glass window at Harry Gottlieb, attorney-at-law, as he lay sleeping on the battered sofa. He was dreaming that a judge was looking down from the bench at him, shouting an incomprehensible phrase over and over.
The phone was ringing.
He lunged for his desk, barking his shin on a low table stacked with papers, toppling over the congealed remains of last night’s Chinese takeout, and grabbed the phone.
“Gottlieb here!” A phone call at this hour meant someone had been arrested and was smart enough to call him instead of opening his heart – and mouth – to the cops.
“Daddy!” wailed an adolescent voice.
“Sammy?” His daughter hadn’t spoken to him in ten years.
“It’s Samantha, if you don’t mind. Mom’s been arrested. She shot Daddy last night. I mean Daddy-her-husband, obviously.”
About time somebody shot that sonofabitch.
“Where are you, honey?”
A martyred sigh. “What do you care? At Grandma’s, if you must know.” She burst into tears and hung up.
* * *
Harry threw a few sheets of yesterday’s NY Law Journal onto the puddle of moo goo gai pan on the floor. Some of the sauce had spattered onto the motion papers he had to hand into court today. Wiping them off as best he could, he saw that some of the pages were so faint they were barely legible. His printer must be out of ink. Oh well, judges never read motions anyway.
He picked up his suit pants from the floor where he’d dropped them last night and shook them out. Perfectly presentable. His shirt looked clean enough to wear to court so long as he kept his jacket buttoned. He could have gone home to change – it was only a few blocks away – but the empty apartment had become too depressing since the divorce. He’d never gotten around to throwing out the stuff Sammy and Camilla had left behind.
Badly needing a cup of coffee, he ran the hot water tap in the sink in the corner and took out the economy size jar of instant that was propping up the back window. The coffee had solidified to a rock. He jabbed at it with a letter opener but couldn’t dislodge a single grain.
He gathered up his motion papers, his Criminal Law & Procedure Annual and a paperback of War and Peace that he’d been carrying around for two years without getting past Chapter 1. He stuffed them into his briefcase and set off to court. Wonder what Sammy looks like now, he thought.
CHAPTER TWO: JUDGE THORNDYKE GETS A CALL
Five hours earlier, Judge Betty Thorndyke had been lying in bed reading Fisch on Evidence when the police called to say that her son, Assistant District Attorney Victor Thorndyke, had been shot dead and his wife arrested.
“Where’s the daughter?”
“She’s fine, Judge. We have her here at the precinct.”
“I’ll be there in an hour.” It normally took two hours to drive to the City, but this was no time to drive normally.
She dressed carefully despite the hurry. Victor’s murder would be news. She didn’t feel like opening up tomorrow’s Post and seeing a photo of herself looking like Harpo Marx.
The night highway was full of giant trucks lit up like ships. She maneuvered around them like a speedboat, leaving them lumbering in her wake. How could Victor possibly have been shot by Camilla, a dyed-in-the-wool gun control fanatic?
The road became blurry and she realized she was crying. She ordered the tears to stop but they kept rolling down her face, unheeding.
She pulled over to the side of the road. No sense adding another corpse to the situation.
When she thought of Victor, it was as a little kid, usually locked in combat with his brother. Being a big boy and not crying at their father’s funeral. Never complaining that she was out at work all day and going to school at night. Maybe the boys would have turned out better if she’d handled widowhood differently.
But I couldn’t have, she thought. Living the rest of my life as an underpaid secretary, clipping out coupons for Hamburger Helper. And who says Victor didn’t turn out well? Not the man his father was, but everybody seemed to like him, including his wife. It must have been an accident. An accidental shot in the back of the head. Right.
A motorcycle pulled up and a cop shined a flashlight into her face.
“Everything all right, lady?” He was ready to whip out the breathalyzer.
She knew the cop – he often testified in her courtroom, sometimes even truthfully. But of course the man wouldn’t recognize her off the bench. She showed him her judicial i.d. “My son’s just been shot. I’m on my way to the City.”
“Follow me, Your Honor, I’ll get you there in record time.” He revved up his machine, turned on all his flashing lights and sounded his siren top volume.
At least someone’s enjoying this, she thought, speeding after him.
CHAPTER THREE: THE SOLO PRACTITIONERS’ BREAKFAST CLUB
The back room of the 24-hour Paradise Deli was called The Dining Area, although there were hardly ever any diners except for deli staff on their break. Most would-be diners were put off by the chemical warfare-strength bug spray and the ever-present mop in a bucket of dirty water in the corner. It was therefore an ideal place for Harry and his friends to gather before court, trading news, gossip and opinions about the law. The law, that is, as it ought to be, not the bundle of prejudices and malevolent folk psychology that passed for law in the courtroom.
When Harry arrived, the regulars were already there: Barney Ridges who’d been around forever and knew everybody; young Freddie, just out of law school; and Evelyn Wu who juggled a busy practice with an actor husband and three children. Everybody was talking about the shooting of ADA Victor Thorndyke by his wife. Harry plunked his tray down on the table, removed his tie end from his coffee and sat next to Barney.
“Sorry to hear about Camilla,” said Barney. He explained to the others, “Thorndyke’s wife used to be married to Harry.”
There was an awkward silence.
“Water under the bridge,” said Harry. “Camilla left me for Thorndyke ten years ago after he accused me of witness tampering. Said she didn’t want our daughter raised by a crook. The charges were dropped but the accusation got me fired from my firm. I said the hell with them all and opened up my own practice.”
“Everybody knew you did nothing wrong,” said Barney. “It would have been ineffective assistance of counsel not to talk to those witnesses.”
“How old was your daughter?” asked Evelyn.
“Only five but she took after her mother. Wouldn’t have anything to do with me. Until this morning.”
“Omigod, did she see the shooting?” said Freddie.
“Didn’t say,” said Harry. “Barney can probably tell you. He knows everything.”
“That’s because I talk to everybody,” said Barney. “Meaning, I listen.” He took a slurp of coffee. “Here’s the story:
“Late last night somebody called 911 saying they’d heard a gunshot from next door. The address was on a street of brownstone townhouses. Not the kind of neighborhood where gunshots are normal. The cops rang the bell of Thorndyke’s place and Camilla answered it. Told them to come on in because she’d just shot her husband dead as a doornail.”
“That’s ridiculous,” said Harry. “Camilla would never say ‘dead as a doornail.'”
“Maybe not exactly those words, but that was the idea. They found Thorndyke sitting at his desk in his study, shot in the back of the head. The gun was on the floor beside him. Camilla told the cops she’d come home from the opera a few minutes earlier, had a fight with him, took out the loaded gun he had in his desk and shot him.”
“Couldn’t she keep her mouth shut and ask for a lawyer?” groaned Harry.
“Yeah, you’d think she’d have known better after being married to you, and then to a prosecutor,” said Freddie.
“Samantha, the 15-year old daughter, came home while Camilla was still talking to the cops,” said Barney. “That’s when Camilla finally invoked her Miranda rights and asked for a lawyer.”
“What was the fight about?”
“She wouldn’t say.”
“You’ll have to look after Samantha now, Harry,” said Evelyn.
“No way! I’m not getting involved.”
“You can’t just abandon your own daughter.”
“She’s not my daughter. Camilla wanted me to relinquish my parental rights when we got divorced, so I did. Sammy will be fine, she’s with Thorndyke’s mother.”
“That’s Judge Thorndyke,” said Barney. “Poor woman, she’s had bad luck with her sons. The other one went down for insider trading.”
“Everybody knows Judge Thorndyke is a Republican gun nut,” said Freddie. “How sympathetic is she going to be to the daughter of the woman who killed her son?”
“Camilla can afford bail and a white-shoe law firm,” said Harry. “She’ll go home by this afternoon.”
“Don’t be too sure,” said Barney. “They might freeze her bank account if she holds it jointly with Thorndyke. That’s what they do with my drug kingpin clients – all their assets are considered proceeds of a crime. Never mind they haven’t been convicted.”
“I told you, I’m not getting involved.”
“She’s being arraigned in front of Judge Gozzoli this morning,” persisted Barney. “Why don’t we just drop by and see what’s going on?”
“I can’t, I’ve got a case in front of Judge Johnson this morning.”
“Judge Johnson never comes in before 11:30,” said Barney. “You’ve got plenty of time.”
CHAPTER FOUR: CAMILLA IS ARRAIGNED
Dante’s Inferno, with its vision of damned, hopeless souls, might have been based on an arraignment courtroom. Shackled arrestees, some in tears, some coming down from drug highs, some in bloody bandages and torn clothes, are brought from the holding cells in the courthouse basement, aptly called the pens, to make their first appearance before a judge. Bewildered family members sit waiting in the audience.
Harry and Barney sat in the front row reserved for attorneys, cops and the press. In the well of the courtroom, the roped-off area in front of the judge’s bench, clerks, guards and miscellaneous court employees milled around waiting for Judge Gozzoli to come in.
They were all talking about the shooting.
“A terrible loss to the People of this State,” a woman at the prosecutor’s table was saying to some reporters. It was ADA Nigeria Jones, deputy chief of the homicide bureau. “As head of the District Attorney’s Truth and Triumph Exoneration Task Force, Victor Thorndyke was a true visionary. His tireless devotion to the cause of Justice will always remain an inspiration to us all.”
“Baloney,” murmured a lawyer in a toupee sitting next to Harry. “They created that job for him because he was such a screw-up as a prosecutor. Lost his witnesses, let his informants get killed. The few convictions he got were overturned because he ‘forgot’ to disclose exculpatory information.”
“I thought Thorndyke was in the Public Relations Bureau,” said another lawyer, a blonde woman in a pink suit. “He came to my son’s school and told the kids if they loved their parents they should report them for smoking pot so they can get treatment.”
“PR, that’s all their so-called Exoneration Task Force amounted to,” said Barney. “I’ll bet my law license they’ve never exonerated a single person and never will. To a prosecutor, ‘wrongful conviction’ is a contradiction in terms.”
They stopped talking as Judge Gozzoli entered from a door behind the bench. “Morning, Judge,” Barney called out from the front row. Barney was the only lawyer Harry knew who could get away with such informality. “What about those Knicks?” The judge smiled. “Howyadoin’, Barney.”
Camilla’s case was first. The sight of her being led out handcuffed behind her back hit Harry like a blow to the stomach. As Barney predicted, she had a court-appointed lawyer.
Harry let out a groan. “That’s Franklin McClean! How could they give her that incompetent stuffed shirt?”
“Shh!” said Barney. “No sense making enemies.”
“First time I’ve ever seen such a senior prosecutor at arraignments,” said Pink Suit looking at Nigeria Jones. “It’s usually a job for juniors.”
“They knew the press would be here,” said Toupee.
The judge called Jones and McClean up to the bench where they had a long, inaudible conference. The lawyers returned to their respective tables and stood facing the judge, who announced, “Defense consents to $800,000 bail,” and adjourned the case. Camilla was taken back down to the pens.
“Why not make it an even million?” sputtered Harry to Barney. “What do they think, she’s going to slaughter the rest of the DA’s Office?”
“Shush,” said Barney.
CHAPTER FIVE: HARRY CONFRONTS CAMILLA’S LAWYER
“Hiya, Franklin, good to see ya!” said Barney as Franklin McClean came out of the well. “You know Harry Gottlieb, of course.”
Franklin favored them with a distant nod.
“Tough case,” said Barney. “The lady’s lucky to have you.”
“Yes,” said Franklin. “Judge Gozzoli always calls on me in sensitive cases. As one of the most experienced and knowledgeable members of the bar I think I may say with some confidence that the case will be disposed of to the satisfaction of all, with a minimum of publicity and expenditure of judicial resources. Since there’s obviously no defense, there should be no problem complying with the People’s wishes to have the matter resolved expeditiously.”
“Harry was formerly married to your client,” said Barney. “He’s the father of their daughter.”
“I was unaware that the child was not the product of the union of my client and the victim,” said Franklin. “Excuse me, I have important matters to attend to.” He started to walk away.
Harry went after him. “What do you mean, ‘no defense’? Why didn’t you at least argue for reasonable bail?”
“Counselors, take the conversation outside!” barked a court officer.
Franklin rounded on Harry. “Don’t tell me my job, Mister. Who do you think you are? You look like you slept in the subway.” He marched out the door.
“Take it easy” said Barney putting his arm around Harry’s shoulder. “Like I always say, don’t get mad, get information.”
“No defense, what bullshit! There’s always a defense. I’m going to talk to her myself.”
Breaking free of Barney, Harry stormed through the well to the back door of the courtroom, flashed his attorney i.d. at the guard and was admitted to the staircase leading down to the pens.
Barney sighed. Franklin had a point: Harry should have had his suit pressed before coming to court.
CHAPTER SIX: HARRY AND CAMILLA IN THE PENS
As Harry expected, the guards knew him from his many counsel visits to the pens and assumed he was Camilla’s lawyer. He signed in and waited for Camilla to be brought out.
He could hear another lawyer yelling, “Mr. Delmar, don’t you understand? They have you on videotape!” Mr. Delmar was apparently being mulish about taking a plea.
Camilla looked so astonished to see Harry, he thought she’d refuse to speak to him. She hadn’t changed much in ten years except that her long red hair was now cut short into some professional-looking style. Well, you can’t wear a ponytail forever.
She glared at him. “What are you doing here?”
Harry was at a loss. What was he doing here? He wasn’t her lawyer or her husband or even, judging from her tone, a welcome visitor. He felt like saying, “Sorry to bother you,” and walking out, but his defense attorney instincts kicked in. He was used to hostile receptions from clients. The humiliation of being arrested, handcuffed, processed as a criminal, held in a filthy cage without sleep, often with dangerous or crazy people, did nothing to sweeten the disposition.
“How are you, Camilla?”
“Just peachy. What do you want?”
“I thought you might be wrongly accused.”
She only looked at him.
“I heard Thorndyke was found shot in his study?”
Harry tried to think of a question other than the obvious one.
“Was the door locked from the inside?”
“Of course not, what do you think this is, Agatha Christie?” She recited as if by rote, “I came home from the opera. We had a quarrel. I took his gun from the desk drawer, aimed at the back of his head and pulled the trigger.”
“I’m surprised you allowed a gun in the house.”
“It was licensed.”
“What were you quarreling about?”
“Harry, stop interrogating me! I’m represented by counsel, in case you haven’t noticed. In fact, isn’t it unethical for you to be speaking to me?”
She’s just shot a man dead and she wants to talk about my ethics, thought Harry.
“Sammy called me this morning,” he said. “Or Samantha, I should say.”
“Oh my God, what did she tell you?”
“She asked if I could let bygones be bygones and help you in any way I could. I said, of course.”
“Harry, don’t make stuff up.” She attempted a smile but only managed a ghastly grimace. “I beg of you, beg of you not to bother Sammy. She’s got enough to deal with as it is, the last thing she needs is your interference when you’ve been out of her life for ten years. She was very close to Victor. He was a wonderful father.”
So why did you rub out this paragon? thought Harry. But he remembered Barney’s advice. Don’t get mad, get information.
“What opera did you see?”
“Die Valkyrie. At the last minute Sammy decided she didn’t want to go, so I invited Emily Broadhurst. You probably know her, she’s the Bureau Chief of Rackets and Frauds.”
“Why didn’t Victor go?”
“He hates opera. On my opera nights, he has his friends over for poker. We called it girls’ night out, boys’ night in.”
“Remember when we saw Valkyrie in Vienna?” said Harry. “We could only afford the cheapest seats, hanging like bats from the rafters?”
Camilla smiled faintly.
“Just tell me one thing,” said Harry.
“Was it a revolver or an automatic?”
“How should I know? I didn’t stop to look. Why are you asking me all this? I killed him, I’m pleading guilty and that’s that.”
“Camilla, just because you shot him doesn’t make you guilty of murder. There are all kinds of defenses. Accident, justification, extreme emotional disturbance, battered woman’s syndrome. You can’t just throw in the towel. What will happen to Sammy if you go to prison?”
“That’s not your business, you agreed to waive your parental rights. And it’s totally unethical for you to give me legal advice. I should report you to the Bar.”
Harry stood up. “Good thing we didn’t stay married or I’d have put a bullet in my own head.” As soon as he saw her reaction he regretted his words, but he wasn’t going to apologize. He stormed out.
CHAPTER SEVEN: ADA TERESA MALONE
Harry went back up the stairs and out through the courtroom. He saw Barney sitting on a bench at the end of the hallway, but before he could go over to him, he heard his name called. He turned to see an attractive young woman in a tailored black suit.
“I’m ADA Teresa Malone,” she said. “I urgently need to speak to you in private.”
“Of course. We’ll find a conference room. Which case is this?”
“I can’t be seen talking to you. Meet me by the brontosaurus at the Museum of Natural History.”
A prosecutor with a sense of humor. “Love to,” said Harry smiling, “I haven’t been there in years. But I have to get to Judge Johnson’s part.”
“Please, Mr. Gottlieb, it’s not a joke. I have evidence that Camilla Thorndyke is innocent.”
She hurried away without waiting for an answer.
“Who was that?” asked Barney, coming up to Harry.
“State secret.” He looked at his watch. He could get to the museum and back by 11:30 if he didn’t stay too long.
“How about meeting for lunch,” said Barney. “Shanghai Dumpling at 1? My treat.”
“Sounds good.” Barney had never invited him to lunch before.
CHAPTER EIGHT: THE MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
The area by the brontosaurus was dimly lit and full of screaming school kids. The perfect place for a clandestine rendezvous.
“Thank you for coming, Mr. Gottlieb,” said Teresa. “I knew you wouldn’t stand by and let an innocent person be convicted.”
“I’m not the slightest bit involved in the case,” said Harry. “Her lawyer is Franklin McClean.”
“Yes, I saw you arguing with him after the arraignment. I also noticed that you went to see Camilla in the pens afterwards. I’d say you were emotionally involved, if nothing else.”
“Not in the least. She and I haven’t been on speaking terms for the last ten years and this morning I remembered why. If you’re going to ask me what she said, forget about it.”
“I’m not asking you anything, Mr. Gottlieb. I’m here to tell you she didn’t shoot Victor. If you want to act all macho, that’s your business. But at least you can listen to me.”
Harry smiled in spite of himself.
“I’m listening.” They sat down on a bench.
“I was Victor’s assistant in the District Attorney’s Truth and Triumph Exoneration Task Force. You know what that is, don’t you? We investigate wrongful convictions and exonerate the innocent.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard of it. How many people have you exonerated?”
“None so far, but we started less than a year ago, and there were only the two of us. I don’t know what’s going to happen to it now, with Victor gone.” Her voice caught. “It was such a privilege to work with him. He was like a father to me.”
Harry grunted. This was the second time today he’d had to hear what a fatherly guy Thorndyke was. Hell, the man should have opened up an orphanage.
“Do you remember the Snowman Murders?” said Teresa. “It was about 25 years ago. A glamorous young couple known for throwing lavish cocaine parties, found on the observation deck of the Empire State Building with their throats cut. The killer left the knife behind and a scrap of paper with three circles, like a snowman.” She took out a legal pad, drew a large circle with a smaller circle on top and a smaller circle on top of that. She tore it off and handed it to Harry. “The police thought it was the symbol of a cocaine ring.” “Of course I remember it,” said Harry. “The killer was a cokehead who claimed he was so high he didn’t know what he was doing.”
“The man retracted his confession, saying it was coerced. Of course juries always believe confessions and he was convicted and sentenced to life. His appeals were denied but he finally got a law school innocence clinic interested. The police had never bothered with DNA testing because they had a confession, but the law school clinic got a court order to test the evidence and the results excluded him. It was on ’60 Minutes.'”
“So the man’s been released?”
“No, because the People’s position is that inconsistent DNA isn’t enough to prove innocence. There could have been a second perpetrator.”
“Yeah, that’s your standard comeback whenever DNA evidence excludes the suspect.”
“You’re being unfair. Victor was leaving no stone unturned to find the true killer. He told me he might have enough evidence to get a warrant, but he was murdered that same night. It can’t be a coincidence.”
“Why are you telling me all this? You should tell ADA Jones.”
“I tried. She said it was sheer speculation and she doesn’t need me telling her how to do her job. Said there’s no reason not to believe Camilla’s confession since there’s no question of a coercive interrogation. But I think Camilla saw the murder and was threatened by the Snowman. She figures she’s safer in jail than out.”
“You have to admit that’s pretty speculative.”
“But you know Camilla didn’t do it. Don’t you.” It wasn’t a question. “Even without being able to give a reason for your doubt, as they say.”
“Maybe so, but I don’t see what you think I can do about it.”
“You have clients in the drug world. Surely you can find out who the Snowman is.”
Harry glanced at his watch. “Holy shit, it’s 11:15!”
“I’ll drive you back to court, my car’s right outside.”
Her car was in a “no parking any time” tow-away zone.
“The cops never bother me,” said Teresa, indicating her official license plate. Next to it was a bumper sticker saying, “HAVE YOU HUGGED A DISTRICT ATTORNEY TODAY?”
“Victor gave me that,” she said. “He had a bunch of them printed up when he was in the Public Relations Bureau, but nobody wanted them. I think it’s cute.”
Teresa drove like a cabdriver, honking and weaving. “Are you from the City?” Harry asked.
“Yes. We moved to Florida when I was a kid, but I came back to go to law school. I never wanted to work anywhere but the DA’s Office.”
“Good thing we don’t have the death penalty like Florida,” said Harry. “Otherwise your wrongfully-convicted guy would be dead.”
“Nothing wrong with the death penalty when the evidence is certain,” said Teresa. “Confessions can be false and eyewitnesses mistaken. But thanks to DNA, we have certainty in more and more cases.”
“DNA isn’t infallible,” said Harry. “It’s only as good as the people who do the testing, and they can be just as sloppy or biased as anyone else. But even if guilt is certain, that doesn’t justify the death penalty. It’s nothing but state-sanctioned revenge.”
“It’s not revenge, it’s retribution. Revenge is a knee-jerk reaction and a threat to orderly society. Retribution is what distinguishes us as morally conscious beings.” She honked angrily at a stopped cab. The passenger door opened and an old man with a walker got out. “Unless we’re accountable for the consequences, our actions have no more meaning than a dog’s.”
“Whoa,” said Harry. “With a name like Teresa Malone, you were probably raised Catholic, right? Didn’t Jesus say forgive those who do you wrong? Turn the other cheek?”
“He understood that letting ordinary citizens hit back against each other undermines public order,” said Teresa. “But He made clear that in the end the good go to heaven and the wicked go to hell. The ultimate principle is retribution.”
She pulled over in front of City Hall. “I’ll let you off here. You can cut through the park.”
Harry looked at his watch. At the moment he was less worried about the Last Judgment than about what Judge Johnson would say when he came in late.
CHAPTER NINE: THE GREAT JURIST
Like the sheriff in William Tell who put his hat on a pole for the villagers to salute, Judge Johnson would leave her robe draped over her chair at the bench while everyone sat waiting for her to show up. At 11:30 or so, she’d sashay into the courtroom, have the clerk call out, “All rise!” and don her robe, leaving it fetchingly open to reveal her low-cut sheath dress.
Harry, having missed the grand entrance, tried to slip inconspicuously into the front row. “Nice of you to drop by, Mr. Gottlieb,” Judge Johnson called out. “I expect punctuality in my courtroom.” Harry humbly apologized.
“She has some nerve,” muttered a lawyer sitting next to Harry. “She’s only just arrived, and I’ve been sitting here since 9:30.”
“You must be new,” said Harry.
“I’m from Appeals,” said the lawyer. “In the Appellate Division, the clock strikes two and the judges file into the courtroom like figures in a glockenspiel.”
Meanwhile a lawyer from the Probation Department was indignantly arguing to the judge that a teenage boy should be remanded into custody for wearing an obscene t-shirt when reporting to his Probation Officer. The female P.O. had been mortally offended, if not actually traumatized for life.
“What did the t-shirt say?” asked the judge.
“Oh, I couldn’t possibly say it out loud in court,” simpered the lawyer.
“How do you expect me to make a ruling if you won’t tell me what it said?” snapped the judge.
The lawyer mumbled, “You Suck.”
Everyone burst out laughing except the teenager who stood beside his Legal Aid attorney looking defiant.
“Mr. Randall,” said the judge addressing the youth, “nobody will think you’ve compromised your right to self-expression if you turn your t-shirt inside out when you’re reporting to your P.O. You can turn it right side out after you leave. Understand?”
“It would be nice if you apologized.”
“I’ll convey your apologies to the officer,” said the lawyer sulkily.
“Probation wanted to throw the kid in jail for that?” whispered the appeals lawyer. “Unbelievable!”
Harry shrugged. He supposed he’d become hardened to the System.
CHAPTER TEN: YOU CAN’T SMOKE YOUR CRACK AND HAVE IT
After Mr. Randall’s case was finished, Harry slipped out to the holding area behind the judge’s bench where his client Mr. Mortimer and half a dozen other defendants were waiting for their cases to be called. Thaddeus Mortimer had been arrested the day before for having a “dirty” crack pipe, meaning the tarry residue of burned crack. He had the deeply lined face of a drug user, making him look even older than his 62 years.
“How are you today, sir?” said Harry.
“Can’t complain, counselor.”
Harry had spent the better part of yesterday afternoon going back and forth with the ADA on the case, who was demanding a year in jail.
“He has nineteen arrests for drug possession,” said the ADA, a prim young woman in a tight skirt who probably smoked pot at parties. “He’s failed to complete every drug program he’s been given.”
Harry had wanted to say that when you’re 62 you’re entitled to smoke whatever the hell you want, but realized this argument would fall on stony ground.
Instead he said, “According to the misdemeanor complaint, the pipe was in his pants pocket. That’s not plain view. Obviously the cop thought Mr. Mortimer looked like an addict and subjected him to an unlawful search. We’re moving for a suppression hearing.”
ADA Tightskirt had fumed, consulted with her supervisor, fumed some more and finally agreed to a conditional discharge and a sentence of time served, meaning the day and night Mr. Mortimer had spent in jail.
Harry now asked Mr. Mortimer if he wanted to go forward with the suppression hearing, which would most likely result in getting the charges dismissed.
“The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures,” Harry explained. “Under Terry v. Ohio, the police can’t search you without reasonable suspicion that you’ve committed or are about to commit a crime –”
“If you say so, counselor,” Mr. Mortimer interrupted politely. “But while you folks be working that out, I be sitting in jail for months. So let me cop out today and go home.”
“All right,” said Harry. “But conditional discharge means you could get jail time if you’re arrested again in the next six months.”
“I don’t understand why I got arrested in the first place,” said Mr. Mortimer. “I didn’t have no crack, I’d already smoked it up. So how could I be having it?”
“Because there was tarry residue in the pipe.”
“Well, tarry residue ain’t crack.”
“The law moves in mysterious ways,” said Harry. “By the way, have you ever heard of a dealer called the Snowman?”
“Everybody who sell coke call themself that.” Mr. Mortimer looked at the other men for confirmation. They nodded.
“But isn’t there one particular dealer, or maybe a gang called the Snowman?” Harry persisted. “Can anyone tell me what this means?” He took out Teresa’s drawing and held it up. They all peered at it.
“It’s a mystical symbol for the Universe,” said one of the men. “The big circle is the world, the middle one is the mind and the top is wisdom.”
“That don’t make no sense,” said Mr. Mortimer. “Wisdom be inside the mind and the mind be inside the world.”
“That’s a gang symbol,” said another man. “I seen it on tattoos. The bottom circle is the foot soldiers, the middle is the managers and the top is the boss.”
Now we’re getting somewhere, thought Harry. “Who’s the boss?”
“A Chinaman who lives in an underground palace with tunnels going all over the world.”
“They playing with you, counselor,” said another man. “I’ll tell you what those circles mean. I’m arrested for selling drugs, you know what I’m saying? Where do the drugs come from? The government. Where do they go? Back to the government.”
“Calendar number twelve, People v. Mortimer,” called the clerk.
“That’s us,” said Harry. “Here we go.”
CHAPTER ELEVEN: A CLOSE CALL AT THE SHANGHAI DUMPLING
After seeing Mr. Mortimer duly released, Harry did some more asking around about the Snowman but with no result. On his way out to meet Barney at the Shanghai Dumpling, he ran into Evelyn and invited her to join them.
As usual, there was a line of people outside the restaurant waiting for a table. Evelyn pushed past them and spoke authoritatively to the waiter in Chinese. The waiter spoke to another waiter. A family of tourists finishing their tea and opening their fortune cookies was shooed out and their table ceded to Evelyn.
“What did little ADA Malone want?” asked Barney.
“We had the most amazing conversation,” said Harry. “She thinks Camilla was threatened into making a false confession by the guy who – get this – not only killed Thorndyke, but is the true perp of the Snowman Murders.”
“What Snowman Murders?” asked Evelyn.
“You’re too young to remember,” said Harry. “A couple of Beautiful People murdered on top of the Empire State Building. And this was the clue.” He unfolded Teresa’s sketch and put it on the table.
The waiter came over with a pot of tea.
“She thinks the guy who got convicted is innocent and the real Snowman is a big drug kingpin that Thorndyke was on the verge of exposing. The Snowman shot him as a pre-emptive measure.”
“‘No kidding,” said Barney. “So Thorndyke was a martyr to exonerating the innocent. They ought to put up a statue. What did Camilla tell you?”
“Tea?” said Evelyn, picking up the pot. “Oh, I’m so sorry!” She’d poured it right into Barney’s lap. “Yeow!” he cried, jumping up. He stormed off to the men’s room.
“What are you trying to do, geld the guy?” said Harry.
“It wasn’t that hot,” said Evelyn. She lowered her voice. “Good grief, Harry, you’re like a sieve! Look how Barney’s trying to pump you. For all you know, this Snowman is his client.”
“I always talk to Barney about my cases,” Harry protested. “He’s one of the best lawyers around.”
“Exactly, which means his own clients come first. Don’t you think it’s strange that some ADA is telling you it’s a false confession in a case her office is prosecuting?”
“She’s a maverick,” said Harry. “She knows her office won’t investigate so long as they have a confession.”
“How many people have you shown that drawing to?”
“Only a dozen or so in the courthouse.”
“Only a dozen? Don’t forget all the waiters and customers who’ve been walking past this table for a good look.” She folded up the paper and handed it back to Harry. “I think you should avoid Barney and his questions until you know what’s what. If this Snowman is as dangerous as your maverick informant says, she could be the next victim.”
“You think Barney’s going to call up his client the Snowman and tell him to get rid of her?”
“He’s certainly calling up somebody at the moment.”
Barney was outside with his back to them, talking earnestly on the phone.
“Tell him I had an urgent call from a judge,” said Harry. He slipped out of the restaurant and walked back towards the courthouse.
Barney had taken the waiter’s advice to stand in the sun for a few minutes to dry out his pants. Never one to stand around doing nothing, he was phoning Ludmilla Tolstoy.
Ludmilla, affectionately nicknamed the KGB, had a reputation among defense lawyers as one of the best investigators in the city.
“Everything is written down somewhere,” she’d say. “Especially in America where you’re all so eager to share your personal information. Investigation means getting the files, not skulking around in a rubber nose.”
“I need somebody checked out right now,” Barney told her. “If you can’t find anything in the files, skulk around in a rubber nose.”
CHAPTER TWELVE: AN INTRUDER IN HARRY’S OFFICE
The man had been told that the door to Harry’s office was on the street next to a Cuban restaurant, with a sign saying “Harry Gottlieb, Attorney at Law, Abogado, Wills, Divorces, Immigration, Criminal.” It was locked, but he opened it easily. There was a flight of stairs to the second floor where there was another door with the same sign. This one had a triple lock but only one of them was working. Careless guy.
As soon as he opened the door, he saw someone moving towards him. He reached for his gun, then realized it was his own reflection in a giant mirror covering the entire wall. Opposite was a plate-glass window with faded gold lettering reading “Madame Olga’s Imperial Academy of Ballet and Cha Cha.”
The place smelled like old food. Something was soaking through some newspapers on the floor. Papers scattered everywhere. What a slob.
He took a look around, opening drawers and file cabinets. The phone rang and an answering machine picked up. Christ, the guy was still using an answering machine? He hadn’t seen one of those in years. “Yo! Mr. Gottlieb!” said an indignant voice. “Where the fuck are you, yo?” Lovely clients the guy had. He himself had always made a point of being polite to his lawyers – they do a better job if they like you. He unplugged the phone.
There was small sooty window in the back facing an airshaft with a jar of Nescafe on the sill. He seized the jar, nearly guillotining his hand as the window slammed shut and sniffed suspiciously at the brown rock inside.
He sat down at Harry’s desk to wait.
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: HARRY IS ABDUCTED
After sneaking out of the Shanghai Dumpling unobserved by Barney, Harry walked back to the courthouse and bought a couple of hot dogs with onions and extra sauerkraut from the cart out front. He found a sunny bench not too covered with pigeon droppings and sat down. A man in a blue suit came and sat next to him. Harry moved over, only to find a man in a grey suit on his other side.
“Finish your lunch, counselor,” said Blue Suit. “We’d like you to come with us.”
“Am I being kidnapped?”
“Who do you think you are, the Lindbergh baby? The boss wants to meet you. We got a car right here.”
At lunch hour the plaza in front of the courthouse was usually teeming with people. Suddenly there was nobody around but pigeons.
“My mother told me never get into a car with strangers,” said Harry.
Grey Suit shrugged. “Up to you.”
Harry somehow felt it wasn’t.
Blue Suit held the rear door open. Harry got in with Grey Suit beside him. Blue Suit took the wheel.
“Aren’t you going to cover the windows?” Harry asked as they sped uptown. “Or blindfold me?”
“You watch too many movies,” said Grey Suit. “But we’d appreciate if you’d turn off your phone.”
“I saw Lucky Luciano last night,” said Blue Suit, turning around to face Harry as he drove. “The guy had all the rival bosses in the country gunned down. He made a deal with the DA’s office and they sent him back to Italy where he ran more rackets until he died a natural death. Those were the days.”
“I suppose it’s no use asking who your boss is,” said Harry.
“He’ll introduce himself.”
They pulled up in front of Harry’s office.
“Go on in,” said Blue Suit. “We’ll see that you’re not interrupted.”
Harry took out his keys to the street door and found it unlocked. At the top of the stairs the door to his office was wide open. There was a man sitting at his desk who looked vaguely familiar.
“Thank you for coming, Mr. Gottlieb,” said the man, as if Harry were the visitor. He waved Harry to a chair. “I hear you’ve been asking about me.”
“Are you the Snowman?”
“Just call me Snow.”
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: WHO IS THE SNOWMAN?
“Couldn’t you have just phoned for an appointment?” said Harry.
Snow smiled. “I’ll be sure and do that next time.” He looked about Harry’s age, but in better shape. He got up and walked around the room. “This is the strangest law office I’ve ever seen. I expected you to come through the door wearing a tutu.”
“It was like this when I moved in. Never got around to redecorating.”
“Isn’t it inconvenient being so far uptown in this crummy neighborhood? Why don’t you get something nearer the courthouse?”
“Can’t afford it. Anyway, it’s convenient for my clients who’re mostly from the neighborhood. You’d be surprised what complicated legal problems people without money can have.”
“Not surprised at all. I’m sure you improve their lives.”
“I just try to defend them against the juggernaut,” said Harry. “The rest is their own business.”
“Very sensible. We all have the inalienable right to go to hell in our own way. But enough with the chitchat. Why were you asking about me? What do you need? Besides a cleaning lady.”
“Are you going to shoot me too?”
“What do you mean, ‘too’? I don’t shoot people. Except when necessary. I just need to know why you’re interested in my business.”
Harry showed him Teresa’s sketch.
“Is this your symbol?”
Snow took it from him. “What the hell is this?”
“It’s the clue to the Snowman Murders. The young couple murdered on top of the Empire State Building?”
“I didn’t see anything on the news.”
“It was about 25 years ago.”
“Are you serious? You’re going around asking every punk in town about me because of something that happened 25 years ago? Twenty-five years ago, I was – – in a different business.”
“My wife – my ex-wife – is accused of shooting Victor Thorndyke.”
Snow’s easy manner dropped away.
“Accused? I heard she confessed.”
“People can confess to things they haven’t done. Over 200 people confessed to kidnapping the Lindbergh baby.”
“They were nuts. I never heard Victor’s wife was nuts.”
“You knew Victor?”
“Yeah, but we preferred not to advertise it. What made you connect me to him?”
“I told you, the Snowman Murders. DNA evidence has shown it was a wrongful conviction. A man has been in prison for 25 years for a murder he didn’t commit. It was on ’60 Minutes.'”
“Thorndyke was head of the DA’s Truth and Triumph Exoneration Task Force. He was re-investigating the case and was about to identify the real Snowman who committed the murders.”
“And you think it’s me? That I killed Victor to keep him quiet?” He laughed. “I might have known that a guy who keeps his office in a ballet studio would be a little strange. Who gave you that crazy idea?”
A courageous maverick in the DA’s Office, Harry wanted to retort, but he remembered Evelyn’s lecture on discretion. He wasn’t going to give Teresa away, no matter what.
“You must be very attached to your ex to be grasping at straws like that,” said Snow.
“Not at all! We’ve been divorced ten years. Water under the bridge. But as a defense attorney, I can’t stand by and see an innocent person convicted.”
“No, indeed.” Snow pulled a sober face. “That would be terrible.”
“I can’t believe Camilla would gun down a guy in cold blood. She’s just not the type. Plus, she doesn’t know anything about guns. Couldn’t even say whether she used an automatic or a revolver.”
“It’s hard to shoot somebody without noticing what kind of gun you’ve got,” Snow conceded. “But there’s no type of person that won’t kill with the right provocation. Maybe she had battered women’s syndrome.”
“Not as ridiculous as your bogeyman theory. You obviously didn’t know Victor. Nice guy, but lazy as hell. He had a way of messing up trials and investigations that even the DA’s Office found embarrassing.”
“Nice guy? He destroyed my marriage!”
“What I’m trying to tell you is that he’s been nothing but a PR guy for years. The exoneration outfit was a gimmick to make it look like they’re taking these wrongful conviction claims seriously. But he was no more re-investigating old cases than your Madame Olga was running the Bolshoi. “But still–.” He got up again and started to pace. “It never occurred to me to doubt the wife’s confession. You really don’t think she did it?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Then why did she say she did?”
“She might have been threatened.”
“Must have been some threat.” He sat down. “Mr. Gottlieb, with all due respect, I think your judgment is warped by the obvious fact that you never got over your divorce. Ten years later and you’re still carrying a torch-”
“Listen to me, I’m telling you for your own good. You don’t realize what you’re putting your foot into by poking around suggesting it wasn’t a domestic tragedy. Personally, I see no reason for doubting the wife’s confession – you’re a criminal lawyer, you know this stuff happens all the time.
“But there are people who might misunderstand and think you’re trying to investigate Victor. People who don’t want Victor investigated.”
“What’s to investigate if he was nothing but a PR man?”
“Do I have to spell everything out? He was doing a little business with me that would embarrass some very important people if word got out. Capisce?”
“Camilla might be innocent. I can’t just stand by and do nothing.”
“Did I say you should? If she didn’t kill Victor, I need to know who did. If it’s somebody trying to muscle in on my business, for example. You have to find out why she confessed.”
“How do I do that?”
“By asking her, how else?” He strode out slamming the door behind him.
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: HARRY COMPROMISES
Harry reclaimed his desk with a sigh and plugged the phone back in.
So Victor the pillar of integrity was involved in drug dealing. What a riot. Camilla had divorced one crook to marry another. He imagined her coming home from the opera and finding Victor at his desk weighing out cocaine and spooning it into little plastic bags. Camilla taking a loaded gun out of the drawer, telling him it was her duty to rid the world of a dangerous criminal and blowing him away.
Turning on his cell phone, he found a text from Barney asking where the hell he’d disappeared to. There was also a furious voicemail from Franklin who’d somehow found out about his visit to Camilla in the pens.
Franklin’s message went on for a good five minutes about how unprofessional, disrespectful and unethical it was to talk to another lawyer’s client. He threatened to file a grievance with the Bar.
Having dealt with Franklin before, Harry knew he was easily soothed upon a proper showing of deference. He called Franklin back, apologizing profusely for his inexcusable breach of professional etiquette, explaining that the shock of seeing his ex-wife in handcuffs and concern for their daughter had made him lose his head. He praised Franklin as a jurist comparable to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Franklin was graciously magnanimous. “I accept that you acted with good intentions, albeit in violation of the ethical canons of professional conduct,” he said. “Indeed, I seem to recall an incident in your past -”
“You’re a great man, Franklin. Let me stand you to a Friday afternoon drink. I need your advice.”
“I am not in the habit of leaving my office before five o’clock, even on Fridays, and I’m catching a plane to DC this evening. A professional commitment. I can, however, spare you a few minutes in my office.”
“Fine, I’ll come by around five.”
On the crowded subway downtown, Harry worried about Teresa. If the Snowman had killed Victor for being on his trail, he might also go after her. On top of that, she’d taken an extraordinary risk by suggesting to her superiors that Camilla’s confession was false. It was as if one of the Hebrew slaves had suggested to Pharaoh that they should build something more practical than a pyramid.
And as if that weren’t enough, Teresa might also be in danger from “the people who don’t want Victor investigated,” as Snow so delicately called his co-conspirators. How could he warn her? She was so insanely devoted to Victor, she’d never be persuaded that he was involved in a drug conspiracy.
Teresa reminded him of Camilla as she was when they first met. How idealistic they’d been, so convinced that their generation would create a world of peace and tolerance. Now it was their generation that was steering the world into oblivion, while the ideals of peace and tolerance were as extinct as the brontosaurus.
When he got out of the subway by the courthouse he called Teresa’s cell but got only her voice mail. He called her office. A man curtly informed him that ADA Malone was not available.
CHAPTER SIXTEEN: A FRANK EXCHANGE OF VIEWS
Franklin, like Barney and Evelyn, had an office in the New Amsterdam Building, a decaying relic a few blocks from the courthouse. The elevator had a clock over it indicating which floor it was stuck on. Harry took the stairs.
The offices still had wooden doors with the upper half of frosted glass and chicken wire. It was the kind of place you might expect to see Joe Cairo slinking down the hallway in search of the Maltese falcon.
Franklin opened the door himself, saying his secretary had to leave early. This was also what Harry told his clients. Who can afford a secretary?
The walls and just about every flat surface of Franklin’s office were covered with photos of him posing with assorted dignitaries and groups. The most prominent was a photo of a much younger Franklin in an afro receiving an award from Constance Baker Motley. Harry started to ask about it, but Franklin, in an ebullient mood, steered him to an armchair and poured him a glass of scotch.
“Most auspicious news, Harry!” he said. “I’ve been in communication with ADA Jones. The People are offering Camilla lifetime probation if she agrees to plead guilty on Monday. Numerous conditions attached of course, but no incarceratory time. I believe we can celebrate a job well done.”
“Monday? The People couldn’t even have the crime scene reports yet.”
“There was no necessity to call in the Crime Scene Unit,” said Franklin. “The confession rendered further investigation superfluous. It was clear that the deceased was killed by a bullet from his own gun.”
“No autopsy? Isn’t that required by law?”
“I assume there’ll be one, but I fail to see what useful information would be gleaned from it. In any event, I’m confident that ADA Jones has disclosed all the relevant information. She and I have an excellent professional relationship, which needless to say greatly inures to the benefit of my clients.” He leaned back and sipped his scotch. “I flatter myself that there are few if any attorneys who could have negotiated such a favorable plea when Camilla was facing 25 to life if she’d gone to trial.”
“If she’d gone to trial and lost,” said Harry. “Why are the People in such a hurry? They’re not the ones who have to sit waiting in jail.”
He was afraid he’d offended Franklin again, but the man was in an unflappable good humor.
“To avoid scandal and speculation, of course,” he answered. “When a wife kills her husband, the reaction is always, ‘What did he do to deserve it?’ Naturally, the People don’t want to see ADA Thorndyke’s sterling character tarnished.”
“When there’s that much difference between what the People offer and what they could supposedly get at trial, that means there’s something wrong with their case,” said Harry.
“Not necessarily. What you fail to realize, Harry, is that in the eyes of the courts, going to trial is a crime. It’s like resisting arrest – an independent offense on top of the underlying charge. When you lose at trial, your client gets three or four times the sentence than if he’d pled guilty. Obviously, it’s not because the trial revealed evidence of three or four additional crimes. It’s because courts naturally resent a criminal who adds to their crushing workload. That’s why, if you want to do what’s best for your clients, you urge them to take a plea. It’s known as client-centered representation.”
“I disagree. People who go to trial don’t always get convicted.”
“People who play Russian roulette don’t always get killed. But it’s your duty to convince your clients not to take risks. You know the consequences and they don’t.”
“In other words, an accusation as good as a conviction.”
“Isn’t that how it is in the real world? As I recall, you had a promising career that was cut short because of an accusation. It made no difference that the charges were dropped for lack of proof. But I shouldn’t be bringing up such a painful subject. How do you like the scotch?”
“Tastes like peat moss.”
“That means it’s top quality. It was a gift from a client. I’d rather he’d paid my fee, but what could I do? He won’t be earning much where he is now.”
“I get presents like that too,” said Harry. “Last one was a live chicken from a client’s mother. I told her to bring it back cooked.”
“No, she didn’t have a stove. When did you talk to Camilla last?”
“The only time we talked was just before the arraignment. She wouldn’t tell me any more than what she’d already told the police.”
“When will you tell her about the plea offer?”
“I’ll be away all weekend, but I’ll explain it to her first thing Monday morning before court.”
“She won’t take a plea, Franklin.”
“What? Did she tell you that?”
“Yup. She’s dead set on going to trial. She’s ready to take a life sentence so long as she can expose Thorndyke for what he was. She wants her day in court to tell the world about the cruelty, the abuse, the unspeakable horrors -“
“You mean Thorndyke was – was – abusive?”
“Especially with the 15-year old daughter. If you know what I mean.”
Franklin leaped from his chair. “This is unacceptable! Camilla expects me to collude with her in smearing Thorndyke? To publicly portray a tragically murdered senior prosecutor as a batterer and a – a sex offender? Can you imagine what that would do to my relations with the DA’s Office?”
“You’ll just have to talk her out of it,” said Harry.
“How can I? She won’t talk to me. Maybe I could get her declared mentally unfit.”
“What, for trying to protect her child’s innocence? For waging a desperate, solitary battle against a domestic predator who violated their trust relationship? She’ll have the support of all kinds of women’s groups and victim advocates.”
“Dammit!” exploded Franklin. “You talk to her. Yes, go see her first thing tomorrow! Explain that a day in court isn’t worth a lifetime in prison. You’re the child’s father, she’ll listen to you.”
“How can I? The canons of professional ethics-”
“The hell with – strike that. I’ll get you appointed co-counsel.” He looked at his watch. “I have to catch my plane.”
“I’ll need the file,” said Harry.
“Yes, of course, take it. Call me after you’ve seen her. I’m counting on you.”
He steered Harry to the door. “Thanks for the scotch,” said Harry, but the door had already slammed shut.
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: AN ASTONISHING DISCOVERY
I’ve probably violated fifty ethical canons by inventing that conversation with Camilla, thought Harry, but how ethical is it to agree to a guilty plea without investigating a defense? Might as well dispense with trials and lawyers and just leave it to the cops to decide who’s guilty.
He couldn’t wait to read the file. He went to the Paradise Deli, bought a bag of potato chips, sat down in the Dining Area and opened the folder.
He was surprised that the People had turned over the police reports so quickly when it usually took weeks or months. ADA Jones had apparently counted on inducing an immediate plea by showing how overwhelming the evidence was.
The first report was by the arresting officer P.O. Sanchez. It read:
At or about 23:32 hours, responded to report of gunshot fired at above address. Door opened by suspect, white female identified as CAMILLA THORNDYKE. Suspect stated in sum and substance: I LEFT THE HOUSE AROUND 5:00 PM. VICTOR WAS ALIVE. HE WAS EXPECTING FRIENDS OVER FOR POKER. I DON’T KNOW THEIR NAMES. I WENT TO THE OPERA AT LINCOLN CENTER. I WAS WITH EMILY BROADHURST. SHE IS AN ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY. WE STAYED TO THE END. AFTERWARDS WE CAUGHT A CAB. I DROPPED HER OFF AT HER ADDRESS. I PROCEEDED TO MY ADDRESS. I ARRIVED HOME A FEW MINUTES AGO. VICTOR WAS ALIVE. WE HAD A VERBAL QUARREL. I TOOK A GUN FROM HIS DESK DRAWER. I KNEW IT WAS LOADED. I SHOT HIM IN THE BACK OF THE HEAD. Victim identified as VICTOR THORNDYKE bullet wound to back of head, appeared dead. Undersigned recovered pistol from floor next to victim.
P.O. Sanchez’s second report read:
On or about 23:46 hours, white female minor identified as SAMANTHA THORNDYKE approached front door of above address, stated she resided at said address, ascertained to be daughter of suspect and victim. Witness stated in sum and substance: I LEFT THE HOUSE WITH MY MOM AROUND 5:00 PM. DAD WAS ALIVE. HE WAS EXPECTING FRIENDS FOR POKER. I DON’T KNOW THEIR NAMES. I WENT TO SUZY JACKSON’S HOUSE. I WAS THERE ALL EVENING. HER PARENTS WERE THERE. I DON’T KNOW WHY MOM WOULD SHOOT HIM. Witness provided phone number of Jackson family.
A third report read:
At or about 00:23 hours undersigned telephoned the number provided by witness, Samantha Thorndyke. Phone answered by male identifying himself as DR. GILBERT JACKSON, professor of competitive literature and father of Suzy Jackson. Confirmed that Samantha Thorndyke was present at their house all evening.
How would this Dr. Jackson know whether Sammy was there all evening? thought Harry. It’s only in sitcoms that teenagers sit around the living room exchanging witty repartee with the parents. In real life they disappear. And what the hell is competitive literature?
A fourth report stated that a call to ADA Emily Broadhurst had confirmed that she and Camilla had stayed to the end of the opera and shared a cab afterwards.
Also in the file was a teletype of the radio transmissions between the 911 dispatcher and the police. The call reporting a gunshot had come in at 11:03, a good half hour before the police arrived. Shocking that they’d taken so long.
More to the point, the gunshot was reported long before Camilla could have returned home from Die Valkyrie.
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: HARRY TO THE DA’S OFFICE
Harry was stunned. Had no one noticed that Camilla had a solid alibi? Die Valkyrie was nearly four hours long, not including intermissions. If Camilla had stayed to the end, she couldn’t possibly have been home by 11.
He badly wanted to talk to Barney, but remembered Evelyn’s warning not to be a sieve.
Who were these three poker players whose names Camilla and Sammy claimed not to know? Surely the cops would have tried to track them down. Harry had never played cards except for Go Fish at summer camp, but he knew from Westerns that poker games frequently give rise to fatal shootings.
Franklin had written ADA Jones’s phone number on the front of the folder. It was nearly 7 o’clock, but she might still be in her office. Sure enough, she picked up the phone right away. Harry explained that he was co-counsel in Camilla’s case.
“Yes, I saw you at the arraignment. What can I do for you?”
“Did you find out who the three poker players were?”
“Yes, they came forward this morning after hearing about the shooting on the news. They stated that the victim was alive when they left the house.”
“Could I have their statements?”
“I don’t see how they could be relevant, since your client has agreed to plead guilty.”
“We haven’t discussed the offer with her yet.”
After some back and forth, Jones agreed to let Harry come by and pick up the statements. Her office was in the same building as the courthouse with its own entrance on the side. When the guard phoned from the lobby to announce Harry, Jones brought the papers down herself.
“As I said on the phone, these statements add no relevant information.”
“No ballistics report, no crime scene investigation?”
“We have a confession, Mr. Goldstein.”
“Gottlieb, sorry. You should know I’m really going out on a limb by offering this plea. Many people in my office including the Chief aren’t at all happy with it. They strongly feel that the cold-blooded shooting of a distinguished senior prosecutor in his own home deserves the maximum punishment.”
“Of course. We’re deeply grateful that you’ve decided to temper justice with mercy.”
“The plea offer is only good until Monday.”
Harry went across the street and sat down on the same bench where he’d been abducted that afternoon. It had grown dark but there was enough light from the street lamp to read.
According to the police reports, the three poker players said they went to the victim’s house to play poker every month or so. On the night of the shooting, they’d arrived separately between 5:30 and 6. The victim appeared to be alone.
After the game, they’d shared a cab to Grand Central Station, arriving a few minutes after 11. One of them had to run to catch the 11:10.
None of them had seen anything suspicious in the house or noticed anything unusual about the victim’s demeanor. The game had been amicable. They played for limited stakes and no one ever won more than $50 in an evening.
The names of the players were Judge Cornelius Lesser (Ret.), Judge Gerald Basingstoke (Ret.) and Barney Ridges.
CHAPTER NINETEEN: HARRY CONFRONTS BARNEY
Harry phoned Barney without a second thought. “You were there last night!”
“Yeah,” said Barney. “I would have told you at lunch if you hadn’t brought Evelyn. Where’ve you been all afternoon?”
Harry was not to be diverted. “You’ve been playing poker with Thorndyke? At his house? You were pals with that jerk and you never told me?”
“I wouldn’t say we were pals, but I knew him from way back. Those poker games were a great source of information. You’d be surprised what retired judges will tell you. Naturally I didn’t want to broadcast where I was getting the information from.”
“I wouldn’t have broadcast it.”
Barney laughed. “You’re a great guy, Harry, but not exactly the soul of discretion. Look at how you went running around this morning asking everybody if they knew the Snowman.”
“How’d you hear about that?”
“That’s my point. Word gets around. I assume it was ADA Malone who told you about the poker game?”
“No, I saw your statement in the file. That’s another thing, how did you know who Teresa was before I told you?”
“‘Teresa,’ is it now?” Barney chuckled. “How’d you get hold of the file?”
“From his highness Franklin McClean. He granted me permission to come in as co-counsel.”
“That’s why you’re so edgy, you’ve been drinking his poisonous scotch. Why don’t you pick up some sandwiches and brewskis and come on over to my office. We’ll do a brainstorming session.”
“Barney, tell me straight up. Is the Snowman your client?”
“Hot pastrami on rye, hold the mustard.” He hung up.
CHAPTER TWENTY: HARRY INTERROGATES BARNEY
“Holy cow, you’ve brought enough food for ten people,” said Barney. “What do I owe you?”
“Fuggetaboutit. Take the pastrami while it’s hot.”
“Nothing like food to stimulate the brain.” Barney unwrapped the sandwich, discarded the pickle and took a ravenous bite. “I was watching a t.v. special about the DA’s Sex Crime Bureau? Shows them at a lunch meeting where they have nothing but salads and bottled water. Then the girl prosecutors go out and eat frosted donuts. That’s their mentality in a nutshell.”
“You mean going from one extreme to the other?”
“I mean blowing a trumpet about change while consuming the same junk.”
Harry handed Barney a bottle of Beck’s. “Now that your brain is stimulated, can you answer my question?”
“Ha! You think if you wine and dine me I’ll spill my secrets. You want to know is the guy who killed two people on top of the Empire State Building 25 years ago my client? Answer: none of my clients have mentioned it. Or been suspected of it, as far as I know.”
“What about a guy who calls himself Snow? Tall white guy, late 40’s, maybe older, well-spoken, looks like the type who plays tennis and has a young second wife. Runs a drug racket.”
“I have lots of white-collar clients who look like that. Insider trading, fraud But my drug dealer guys look more like the spectator sportsman type. And they’re not well-spoken, at least not in English. Where’d you come across this high-class kingpin?”
“This is frustrating, man. I have the feeling you know a whole lot that you’re not telling me. I need to find out who this Snowman is.”
“Are you the same guy who was swearing up and down this morning that you’re not getting involved? I had a feeling you’d change your mind as soon as you saw what kind of defense Camilla was getting.”
“That’s why you dragged me to her arraignment?”
“You didn’t say no. How’d you get Franklin to make you co-counsel?”
“I gave him a song and dance about how Camilla insists on going to trial so she can tell the world what an evil man Thorndyke was. Franklin got so upset at the idea of going to trial, he assigned me to talk her out of it and persuade her to take a plea on Monday.”
Barney laughed. “What else was in the file? Besides that I was at Thorndyke’s house last night?”
“Dammit, Barney, every time I ask a question, you answer me with two. That’s why I left at lunch. Evelyn thought you were pumping me.”
“Evelyn’s stunt didn’t fool me for a minute. That lady could pour tea into a thimble from a moving roller coaster without spilling a drop.”
“Okay, so I’m involved. I’m trying to save Camilla from pleading guilty to something she didn’t do. I have the proof, but I’m not telling you what it is if I have to worry the moment I’m gone you’ll pick up the phone and tell your buddies in the DA’s Office.”
“Take it easy, guy. If you say Camilla didn’t shoot Victor, I couldn’t be happier to hear it.”
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: HARRY ASKS AN EMBARRASSING QUESTION
“You know,” said Barney, “I never saw Camilla again after you guys got divorced, partly because it was awkward and then I got so busy taking care of Lily until she passed. But I’ll never forget that time – it was before Lily got sick – the four of us went out to Coney Island. You were showing off your rifle skills and won the biggest, ugliest teddy bear I ever saw in my life.”
“I remember,” said Harry, “but it was you that was showing off. You were the ex-Army sharpshooter, I’d never touched a rifle before. You won the bear and gave it to Camilla and me because we were expecting Sammy.”
“No, you got it wrong. I remember distinctly watching you pick off that row of ducks and thinking, this is not a guy to be messed with.”
“No, it’s you that’s wrong, because I still have that ugly bear.”
“That proves you’re the one who won it.”
“No, it proves you won it and gave it to us. Otherwise, I’d have thrown it out.”
“What were we talking about? Oh yeah, my nosiness. Okay, I admit I did a little asking around about your ADA Malone.”
“Why, for God’s sake?”
“Something didn’t seem right. I saw her buttonholing you after you’d been talking to Camilla. When I asked you who she was, you got all mysterious and ran off, which isn’t like you. I asked a court officer, he told me she’s in the DA’s exoneration bureau. I looked up their website and there was a great big picture of her and Victor showing off their teeth.
“Then you announce at lunch that your new ADA friend says Camilla’s innocent and the true perp is some guy from 25 years ago that Victor was investigating. This was obviously bullshit, but you were swallowing it hook, line and sinker.”
“How do you know it’s bullshit?”
“You heard this morning what kind of reputation Victor had. The idea that he went out and solved an old murder? Fuggetaboutit.” Barney took an emphatic swig of beer.
“The other thing that made me want to know more about this Teresa, as you so chummily call her, is that she claimed to be speaking to you on her own. That doesn’t fit what I know about that office, which is that you can’t even take a poop without asking your supervisor first, and even then you might have to wait until your supervisor’s checked with his supervisor. The idea of a junior assistant going out and telling a defense attorney that it’s a false confession in a case that the office is prosecuting is as unthinkable as – as-”
“I get the idea,” said Harry. “But she’s an unusual lady and that’s what she did. She must have known what a risk she was taking, but thought it was more important to save an innocent person. And now she’s going to lose her job because I told you about it.”
“Will you let me finish? All I’m saying is I had reasonable suspicion. Fortunately, it was dispelled by my reliable informants. The consensus is that she’s a bright but naive kid who’s a little too starry-eyed about innocence. She could have been doing trials by now, but instead she volunteered to be in the Exoneration Task Force, writing press releases and doing errands for Victor. Not only did she never see through him, she thought the sun shined out of his ass. In sum, to be perfectly fair-”
“Meaning biased as hell,” said Harry.
“As I was saying, to be perfectly fair, it was probably Victor who handed her all that crap about re-investigating the Snowman Murders. She probably believed every word she told you.”
“Did you tell your reliable informants that she’d talked to me?”
“Not in so many words-”
“But enough words to put her in deep shit.”
“Aw, Harry, she’s in the wrong job. You go to into prosecution to throw people in jail, not exonerate them. To them, ‘wrongful conviction’ is an incoherent concept, like ‘married bachelor.’ Your friend was like somebody peddling ham sandwiches in a shul.”
“Let me ask you a question,” said Harry.
“Sure.” He took a swig of Beck’s.
“Are you involved in Victor’s drug racket?”
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO: THE TRIAL EXHIBIT RE-SALE RACKET
Barney nearly choked. “Holy cow, you shouldn’t spring questions like that on a man when he’s drinking beer.”
“Well? Are you?”
“If I were, would I say so? As it happens, the answer is no. How’d you hear about it?”
“From Mr. Snow. He didn’t go into details.”
“The guy you say looks like a tennis player with a trophy wife? Who is he? How’d you meet him?”
Harry described his abduction by Blue Suit and Grey Suit.
“You have cojones, pal. I’d never gotten into that car in a million years.”
“Just the opposite, I was too chicken to refuse. So Victor told you he was involved in a drug racket?”
“Of course not, he wasn’t stupid. Not in that way.”
“Don’t make me drag it out of you, Barney. How did you know about it?”
“From my clients. They’ve been telling me for years that confiscated cocaine was being re-sold. I put two and two together – actually it was more like algebra than arithmetic – but I figured it out. As you know, when somebody goes to trial for coke dealing, all the jury sees is some packets of white power and a lab report. It’s easy for somebody with access to the trial exhibits to remove the cocaine, substitute baking soda or whatever, and re-seal the packet. Then they sell the real stuff back to dealers who are happy to get police lab-certified cocaine without having to import it from Thailand or Oklahoma or wherever.”
“Shouldn’t you have said something?”
“Who to? Lots of people in that office are involved. I might end up taking a one-way ride to Jersey with Blue Suit and Grey Suit.”
“There has to be a connection to Victor’s murder.”
“Aren’t you forgetting, Harry? The killer was someone that Camilla made a false confession to protect. I’d say that leaves only one person. Your daughter.”
“I thought of that too. Sammy must be some kind of monster to kill her stepfather and let her mother go down for it.”
“Don’t take it so hard. They say adolescents don’t have a fully developed moral sense. Has to do with brain growth.”
“Bullshit, the moral sense isn’t in the brain.”
“Then where is it? In the elbow?”
Harry’s phone rang. It was Teresa.
“I desperately need to talk to you,” she said. “I’m still at my office, where are you?
“At Barney Ridges’ office. In the New Amsterdam building.”
“I know the building. Can you meet me? I can pick you up and we could go somewhere for a drink.”
“Invite her here,” said Barney, eavesdropping. “We got plenty of food and drink.”
“Meet you downstairs,” said Harry into the phone.
“Girls ruin everything,” said Barney. “We were having such a nice party. What are you going to tell her?”
“That she was right. It’s a false confession.”
“And what are you not going to tell her?”
“That her beloved boss was a crook.”
“Have a good weekend,” said Barney. “Maybe you’ll get laid.”
After Harry left, Barney was finishing off the second pastrami sandwich when the KGB phoned and gave her report. “That’s all I got for now,” she said. “On Monday I go check more records.”
“We don’t have until Monday,” said Barney. “But you’ve given me enough to go on.”
CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE: A DATE WITH TERESA
Despite Barney’s lewd and utterly inappropriate suggestion, Harry couldn’t help feeling like Humphrey Bogart, walking into a trendy bar on a Friday night with a good-looking girl. But glancing at their reflection in the mirror behind the bartender, he saw that he looked like an out-of-town father visiting his just-moved-to-the-city daughter. “Let’s get a table,” he said.
The place was unbearably noisy, but Teresa snagged a quiet corner where they could talk without shouting in each other’s faces. She ordered a cocktail that came in a mason jar and looked like an ice cream soda, all pink and orange.
“Gives me a hangover just to look at,” said Harry.
“I’m from Florida. We drink these for breakfast.” She took a sip. “I needed that. I’ve spent the whole afternoon being yelled at by various supervisors for suggesting that Camilla made a false confession. I don’t understand it at all. Why don’t they want to find the truth?”
“Do they know you talked to me?”
“Not unless the brontosaurus ratted us out. They were furious that I could even suggest we were prosecuting an innocent person and accused me of interfering. They’ve relegated me to the Appeals Bureau. That’s the rubber room where they send the so-called “problem prosecutors.”
Clearly someone in that office was afraid Teresa was sniffing too close to the trial exhibit racket. Maybe it was all for the best that she’d been sidelined into Appeals.
“You were right about the false confession,” said Harry. He explained how the police reports showed that Camilla couldn’t have been home when the shot was fired. “The only reasonable explanation is that she was covering up for Sammy.”
Teresa was horrified. “That couldn’t be! Have you talked to Sammy?”
“I’ll have to go see her this weekend.” He took a sip of beer. “She has to own up before Camilla pleads guilty on Monday. As you know, a guilty plea is almost impossible to undo, no matter what new evidence comes out.”
“That’s terrible, your own daughter!”
Harry wasn’t sure whether she meant it was terrible that his daughter had killed Thorndyke or terrible that Harry was going to have to make her admit it. He supposed it was his fault that Sammy had grown up into such a warped person. Maybe he should have tried to maintain a relationship over her objection. Sent her birthday presents or something. But that was water under the bridge. Camilla was his client and he wasn’t going to let her sacrifice herself, not even for their daughter.
“Sammy’s staying with her grandmother up in Westchester,” he said. “Any idea how I can get Judge Thorndyke’s home number?”
“It’s probably somewhere in Victor’s office. We can take a look.”
“Can you still get in?”
“They might not have invalidated my pass yet, but we should go right now just in case.”
CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR: TO VICTOR’S OFFICE
For the second time that evening, Harry found himself at the DA’s Office. “I hope we don’t run into ADA Jones.”
“Homicide is on a different floor.”
“I’ve always thought it was a violation of Separation of Powers for the DA to have their office in the courthouse,” said Harry. “The prosecution should be separate from the judiciary.”
Teresa laughed. “You should have the ACLU file a lawsuit.”
Her pass still worked for the lobby turnstiles. She said a few words to the guards who waved Harry through without making him sign in.
“What did you tell them?”
“I said you’re a secret confidential informant. You look just right for the part. Like you were brought here in the trunk of a car.”
“Okay, my suit’s a little wrinkled, it’s been a long day.”
“It was wrinkled when I saw you this morning.”
“It’s what’s inside that counts.”
They took the elevator to the top floor and walked down a long corridor to a glass door with the lettering DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S TRUTH & TRIUMPH EXONERATION TASK FORCE, VICTOR A. THORNDYKE, BUREAU CHIEF.
“Shit,” said Teresa waving her card over the beady red electric eye without result. “Wait here. Look innocent.”
She returned a few minutes later with a burly guard who gave Harry a stern glance. He waved his card over the sensor and held the door open for Teresa.
“Thanks so much, Vernon.”
“No problem, Terry. Give a shout if you need me.” He gave Harry another look.
“I can’t stand being called Terry,” muttered Teresa. “And where do they get off, locking me out of my own office? They only told me about my so-called re-deployment two hours ago.”
“That’s more notice than you’d have in a firm,” said Harry. “I didn’t know I was fired until two bruisers came into my office, told me to take my personal effects and ‘escorted’ me to the street.”
“Why were you fired?”
“Long story. I’ll tell you next time we go out for a soda.”
Victor’s office had already been packed up. “Shit,” said Teresa again. “You can wait in my office while I go through the boxes. Hopefully the Rolodex is somewhere on top.”
“Victor still used a Rolodex?”
Teresa shrugged. “He was an older guy.”
But still quite a bit younger than me, thought Harry, as Camilla hadn’t hesitated to point out. He looked around Teresa’s office. On her desk was a photo of her in a cap and gown, flanked by a beaming older couple, with some palm trees in the background. Another photo showed her with a swimming team holding a trophy. Her bookshelf had a few reference books on criminal procedure and a large collection of thick paperbacks on true crime.
Teresa came out of Victor’s office with a box marked “personal.” On top was Victor’s framed law degree and a studio portrait of a man in a double-breasted suit with wide lapels.
“Who’s that, Al Capone?”
“Victor’s father. He died of a heart attack when Victor was five.”
Underneath were some framed snapshots of Victor and Camilla on a yacht – presumably their honeymoon – and a school portrait of Sammy. Harry picked it up. “So that’s what Sammy looks like.”
“I can’t believe you went ten years without seeing her.”
“I’m dreading having to see her now. Our first adult conversation and I have to get her to admit she shot her stepfather.”
“Want me to talk to her? I’m good with kids. We could take my car up to Judge Thorndyke’s tomorrow.”
“That would be great,” he said. “Teresa.”
The Rolodex was under the pictures. A worn card under “T” had “Mom” written in faded ink with a phone number and “Richard” with a number crossed out.
“The one who went to jail?”
“He didn’t go to jail. He jumped bail before he was sentenced. He’s probably living it up on some tropical island.”
“Victor confided in you?” Harry felt a jealous pang.
“It’s public knowledge. Just google ‘Richard Thorndyke junk bonds.’ You’d better call the judge now, it’s nearly ten.”
Harry was unsure what kind of reception he’d get, but Judge Thorndyke sounded relieved to hear from him. She briskly gave directions to the house, said she’d expect him tomorrow afternoon and hung up.
Vernon appeared at the door with a walkie talkie in his hand. “You’re no longer authorized to be in this office,” he said. “I need you to come with me.”
“Oh, Vernon, I’m so sorry,” said Teresa sweetly. “I just wanted to take some personal things from my desk.”
“Can’t let you take anything.”
“At least the picture of my late father. It’s the only one I have.” She took a photo from her desk drawer. It was of a young man in an Army uniform.
“Please,” she said.
“All right, but that’s it. Let’s go.” He took them down to the lobby and saw them out to the street.
“I had a feeling he’d call someone to see why my pass didn’t work,” said Teresa. “But I’m glad I got my father’s picture before they tossed it in a box like they did with Victor’s things.”
“It must mean a lot to you.”
“Papa was killed when I was a kid. The photos on my desk are my mom and stepfather.”
“It’ll probably take me all morning to see Camilla at Rikers,” said Harry. “I’ll call you when I get out and we can arrange a meeting place.” He declined Teresa’s offer of a lift home and took the subway, reading over the file again. He took out a legal pad and wrote down the possibilities.
CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE: HARRY PONDERS THE EVIDENCE
“Theory #1,” Harry wrote. “Camilla is telling the truth.” Objections: she couldn’t have been home at 11 when the shot was reported. Also, she couldn’t say whether the gun was a revolver or an automatic when the difference would have been obvious if she’d used it.
“Theory #2:” Thorndyke was having an affair with this ADA Broadhurst who’d convinced Camilla to conspire with her in killing him. They had ample opportunity, since it was only their word for it that they’d stayed to the end of Die Valkyrie. They could have left while Brunhilde was arguing with Wotan, waited outside the house for the poker players to leave, and gone in and shot Thorndyke. If Broadhurst was the shooter, that would explain why Camilla didn’t know what kind of gun it was. They’d agreed that Camilla would take the blame and Broadhurst would use her influence to get her a sentence of probation. As Bureau Chief of Rackets and Frauds, Broadhurst undoubtedly knew about the trial exhibit re-sale scam and had leveraged the office into agreeing to the deal by threatening to expose those involved.
As for motive – it was the same as in that old French movie – what was the name of it? Where the wife and mistress of the abusive headmaster join forces to drown him, but he comes back to life, rising out of the bathtub fully dressed in a suit and dripping wet. The wife dropped dead of fright and Harry nearly did too. That was one scary movie. Hopefully Thorndyke wouldn’t come back to life.
“Theory #3: Conspiracy by the 3 poker players.” They too had ample opportunity, since it was only their word for it that Thorndyke was alive when they left.
They could have had any number of motives. Perhaps they were the Snowman, one circle symbolizing each of the three members. Or they were a conspiracy to seize control of the trial exhibit re-sale scam and Thorndyke’s murder was only the first of a Lucky Luciano-type massacre.
Or Thorndyke could have been cheating at cards. Even if they’d only been playing for small amounts of money, it was the principle of the thing that led to shootings in poker games, or so Harry understood.
When the Harry got to his stop, he crumpled up what he’d written and threw it in the trash. Who was he kidding? The only realistic suspect was Sammy. She had to own up. He felt some misgivings at asking Teresa to question her. But it was the only way to clear Camilla.
CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX: HARRY DISCARDS HIS CLUTTERED PAST
Harry stood in the doorway wearily surveying his depressing apartment. He’d lived here all his life with his parents until they retired to Florida. When he got married, Camilla had moved in and Sammy had spent her first five years here. The place was full of their relics.
Suddenly he’d had enough. He went out to the all-night bodega on the corner and bought up all the large trash bags they had. He marched through the apartment like Sherman through Georgia, ruthlessly emptying the closets of toys, chewed-up picture books, children’s clothes, women’s shoes, creams and makeup, dried-up lipsticks, the ugly teddy bear.
He swept through the kitchen emptying the cupboards of cans and jars that had been untouched for the last ten years. Spices, flavored vinegar, chutney, pickled tomatoes, dried lima beans, things no one living alone ever eats. Into the bags went the wooden coffee grinder with the hand crank, the yogurt making set, bread pans, pie plates, cake tins, humorous mugs. Out went the souvenir jugs from their trip to Florence. Savonarola has nothing on me, thought Harry. Anybody can make a bonfire of other people’s stuff. It’s throwing out your own stuff that takes guts.
After hauling the bags out to the street, he made a second sweep, filling the rest with his youth: bell-bottom jeans, tie-dyed t-shirts, witty sweatshirts, Pink Floyd records, debating club trophies. He ripped down the John Lennon poster saying “Give Peace a Chance,” exposing the original white color of the now very off-white wall.
He glared at the overfilled bookcases. The books seemed to tremble. “All right, you can stay,” he said. He satisfied himself with throwing out The Moosewood Cookbook, Journey to Ixlan and Criminal Law & Procedure 1988.
He took the second round of bags down to the street. Although it was the middle of the night, there were already people going through the first batch. A woman had her shoes off and was trying on Camilla’s clothes as if this were Bloomingdale’s fitting room. An earnest boy about Sammy’s age said, “Mister, you could sell those records on eBay. They’re worth a lot of money.”
“You take them, kiddo. Just remember, money doesn’t buy happiness.” It was his mother speaking through him.
Congratulating himself on something attempted something done, he slept as peacefully as the Village Blacksmith until the alarm rang at 6.
CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN: THE PICTURE CHANGES
On Saturday mornings, the city bus to Rikers Island was full of women and young children for whom this was their regular visit to daddy. The families went to a reception area where they would be searched and kept waiting, sometimes for hours. Attorneys visiting their clients went to a different reception area where they exchanged their id’s for passes. Old school buses shuttled visitors and staff from there to the different jails.
In the women’s jail, the bars were painted pink.
Camilla had sunk into a listless passivity that was more alarming than her hostility of the day before. She only nodded when Harry explained that he was now her co-counsel and that their conversation was protected by attorney-client privilege. She didn’t react when he confronted her with the police reports and 911 call showing that she couldn’t have been home from the opera at the time the shot was fired.
“You took the blame for Sammy, didn’t you,” said Harry.
“She’s got her whole life ahead of her.”
As if that explained everything.
“What made you think it was Sammy?”
“She’s a troubled child. Happy and laughing one minute, in tears the next. Impulsive as a mosquito. Terrible tantrums, especially with Victor. I wanted to take her to a psychiatrist, but she wouldn’t hear of it.”
“Is she violent? Does she attack people?”
“No, but she knows about guns. Victor’s mother used to take her to a shooting range up in Westchester. I disapproved but never said anything.”
“That’s a very circumstantial case.”
“There were other reasons. After I dropped off Emily, I stopped by the Jackson’s to give Sammy a ride home. Suzy Jackson came to the door and said Sammy had already left to make her 11 o’clock curfew. But when I got home, it was nearly 11:30 and Sammy wasn’t there, even though the Jacksons live only a few blocks away.
“The only possible explanation is that she went home, got into a fight with Victor and shot him. She knew he kept a loaded gun in his desk. She was probably in shock, left the house and came back after the police arrived.”
“And let you take the blame?”
“She may have blocked out the memory. What made me sure it was her is that she’d left a note under the gun.”
“The police didn’t find any note.”
“I hid it in a book when I heard them at the door.”
“What did it say?”
“It was a crude drawing of a snowman. I don’t know what she was trying to say. Maybe that Victor was cold – or brainless. I don’t know.”
“What book did you put it in?”
“A thick law book nobody’s likely to look at. It was called Fisch on Evidence.”
So the Snowman theory wasn’t nonsense after all.
Harry assumed his most candid expression and said, “The cops checked out Sammy’s alibi. After leaving the Jacksons’, she stopped off at that place near you that’s open late – I have the name written down somewhere.” He started going through his notes.
“You mean the gelato place around the corner? Yes, they’re open till midnight.”
“That’s it, the gelato place around the corner. Witnesses confirmed she was there at 11.”
Camilla came to life for the first time. “Are you sure?”
“Absolutely. She’s got a cast iron alibi.”
“But the snowman drawing?”
“A doodle by one of the poker players. We have their statements.”
“They shot Victor? He told me they were a couple of retired judges and a broken-down old lawyer.”
“They’re being carefully investigated. But we know it wasn’t Sammy.”
“Oh, Harry, thank God!”
“So you didn’t shoot Victor?”
“Of course not, why would I do such a terrible thing?”
There was a long pause.
“And you won’t plead guilty?”
“Surely they’ll drop the charges once we explain everything.”
“Yeah, right,” said Harry. “It’s that simple.”
CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT: HARRY RE-THINKS HIS STRATEGY
It took Harry nearly as long to get out of Rikers as to get in. The door behind him had to be locked before the door in front could be opened, each involving a different guard with a different set of keys. He was thinking so hard, he scarcely noticed the wait. The whole picture had changed. Now that Camilla had retracted her confession, she’d almost certainly have to go to trial. Harry could no longer confide in Teresa who was now an adversary, even if she was only in Appeals.
Camilla’s finding the Snowman drawing had also changed everything. It was no longer so certain that Sammy was the killer. He couldn’t let Teresa talk to her. The last thing he needed was another false confession.
“Counselor, step out.”
The last of the doors was open. When Harry retrieved his i.d. from the reception desk, the guard told him that ADA Malone was waiting for him in the parking area.
He recognized Teresa’s car right away from the bumper sticker.
“You didn’t have to come all the way out here,” he said. “I could have met you somewhere.”
“No big deal.” She looked tired.
“I told you those sugary cocktails give you hangovers.”
She smiled. “I’m fine. Just worried about my job. Glad to see you’re all spruced up this morning. Your daughter will be impressed.”
“The thing is,” said Harry, “I’m sorry to have put you to this trouble, but I’ve changed my mind about asking you to talk to her. Just drop me off at the 125th St. Station. There must be a train to Westchester I can catch.” He wished he could tell her about the Snowman clue.
“I understand,” she said. “I was also thinking I shouldn’t interview her since I’m not on the case. I’m in enough hot water already. But it’s a beautiful spring day, I have nothing else to do and I’m happy to drive you up there. I’ll just drop you off and leave.”
Harry accepted. It would be a lot easier than waiting for a train. He was suddenly overwhelmed with fatigue. He leaned his head back on the seat and the next thing he knew, Teresa was shaking his shoulder. “We’re almost there. I need directions.”
He’d been sleeping for an hour and a half!
“I hope I didn’t snore.”
“Not very loudly.”
CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE: BARNEY GETS NOSEY
In the meantime, Barney had made the long journey out to St. Anthony’s Home and Hospital in Queens. Holding an offering of flowers, he approached the nurses’ station, picked out the least surly-looking aide and asked her about Mrs. Bettina Cappelli. The aide thought Mrs. Cappelli had most of her marbles, but what with being old and having had a stroke, was sometimes confused.
“I hope my goddaughter’s been visiting,” said Barney. He described Mrs. Cappelli’s niece, Teresa. The aide didn’t know.
Mrs. Cappelli was sitting in a wheelchair reading Cosmopolitan. She gave a friendly smile. “Always glad to have a visitor,” she said. “I hope you’re not selling something.”
“I’m a friend of your niece Teresa,” said Barney.
Mrs. Cappelli looked at him critically. “You’re a little old for her, but better than nothing. You can still have children, can’t you?”
“Um-” said Barney.
“Does Viagra make men fertile, or does it just keep them hard?”
“I wanted to know about her father -” said Barney.
“Of course,” said Mrs. Cappelli. “Don’t worry about the vendetta. The killers have long since died and gone to hell.”
“How do you know?”
“From the Bible, where else? The wicked go to hell. When’s the big day?”
“Well, actually -”
“Don’t put it off too long. Your clocks are ticking.”
The aide came in. “Time for physical therapy, Mrs. Cappelli. Oh, I see you have a gentleman caller.”
“My niece’s fiance,” she answered. She turned to Barney. “I’m so glad Teresa finally found somebody. Women should get married and have families, not try to be men. Write down your name so I don’t forget it.”
Barney gave her his card.
“Come back soon,” she said as the aide wheeled her away. She took out her cell phone.
* * *
Evelyn enjoyed coming to the office on Saturday mornings when there was hardly anybody around. She was thinking she could probably get her work done in time to be home for lunch with the kids when she heard the jingle of keys and the sound of a door opening down the hallway. She hoped it wasn’t Barney, who had a way of dropping in to chat just when you’re trying to get something finished and leave. The trouble with these frosted glass doors was that you couldn’t pretend not to be there unless you wanted to work in the dark. It was no use telling him you’re busy with a case. He’d only ask what it was about and it always reminded him of one of his own past cases which he would tell you about, even though it wasn’t at all like your case. He was evidently lonely, still missing his late wife.
Evelyn thought no more about it until she heard someone in the hallway and what was unmistakably Barney’s voice calling, “Come in, it’s open.”
This was immediately followed by a gunshot.
There was the sound of excited voices. Evelyn opened her door a crack and looked out. People were coming out of their offices to see what happened. Barney’s door was wide open. “Be careful!” Evelyn called. One should run away from gunshots, not towards them.
A young man, ignoring Evelyn’s warning, looked into Barney’s office. “Dios mio!”
Everyone rushed in. Barney was hunched over his desk with his back to the door. His head was covered in blood.
CHAPTER THIRTY: HARRY MEETS HIS DAUGHTER
Judge Thorndyke’s precise directions took them to a pleasant street lined with thick maple trees. A spry lady in a battered straw hat was energetically trimming a hedge while a young woman in jeans raked up the clippings.
The lady came over to the car. “Mr. Gottlieb, I presume. I’m Betty Thorndyke.”
Sammy was utterly self-possessed. “Hi, Harry. Thanks for coming.”
Meanwhile Teresa was introducing herself to the judge and explaining that she was only dropping Harry off. “Come in and have some coffee,” said the judge.
Maybe she thinks Teresa’s my trophy wife, thought Harry.
“Hi, Samantha,” said Teresa as they walked towards the house. “I’m Assistant District Attorney Malone. I’m so sorry about Victor. I was his assistant in the Exoneration Task Force.”
“I know,” said Sammy. “You’ve been to our house.”
“Not me. You must be thinking of someone else.”
The living room faced a spacious lawn sloping down to a grove of birch trees. Sammy, acting the gracious hostess, asked everyone how they took their coffee and disappeared into the kitchen.
“Nice view,” said Harry.
“I’m on the edge of a nature preserve,” said the judge. “You can walk through those woods to a beautiful little pond. I thought you and Sammy might take a stroll down there while I fix some lunch and ADA Malone can tell me all about Victor and his Exoneration Task Force.”
Sammy returned with a tray, distributed the coffee and settled herself on the sofa by Harry, tucking her long legs under her. “How’s Mom?”
“Not too bad, considering. I’m representing her with another lawyer named Franklin McClean.”
Sammy frowned. “Why does she need lawyers? She murdered him, didn’t she?”
There was an awkward silence.
“It’s more complicated than that, honey,” said Harry.
“Don’t ‘honey’ me! You grownups always say everything’s so complicated. I don’t see what’s complicated about blowing Daddy’s brains out!” She burst into tears and ran out of the room.
Teresa stood up as if to follow.
“No!” barked Harry. “Sorry, Teresa, I didn’t mean to shout at you.”
“She’ll be all right,” said the judge. “At least she didn’t throw anything. She’ll have a good cry, put on a lot of makeup, and come back as if nothing happened. ”
“This is tough for her,” said Harry.
“She was always a difficult child,” said the judge. “While she’s out of the room, this might be a good time to discuss her future, Mr. Gottlieb.”
“Please call me Harry, Judge.”
“And you can call me Betty. Like it or not, we’re family now.”
Teresa offered to fix lunch while they talked.
“Would you, dear? Everything’s in the fridge, you can just set it out on the dining room table.”
“Now, Harry,” she said as soon as Teresa was gone. “It appears that you’re Sammy’s only relative besides her mother. I’m happy to have her here for a few days, but I’m in no position to raise a teenager. What exactly was the custody agreement?”
“I signed away my parental rights. She’s legally Victor’s daughter.”
“That can be changed. She’s your flesh and blood.”
Harry opened his mouth to protest that he was no more equipped than Betty to raise a teenager, especially not this little psychopath, but Sammy had returned. “I’m really, really sorry,” she said. “I’m acting like I’m the only one in the world, when you guys are grieving too.” She’d powdered her face so heavily she looked like a Kabuki ghost.
Harry’s heart melted.
“Let’s go for a walk,” he said.
CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE: HARRY AND SAMMY GO FOR A WALK
Harry had never seen the point of walking in the woods when there were perfectly good sidewalks leading to anywhere worth walking to. But he gamely followed Sammy through snagging thorn bushes and spider webs stretched across the path, escorted by a cloud of gnats.
“Watch out, that’s poison ivy,” said Sammy.
The path emerged onto a pond like a picture book, the trees perfectly reflected along the shore. There was a dock with half a dozen canoes tied up. Sammy sat down dangling her legs over the edge.
“Do you go swimming here?”
“No. I’m afraid to get in the water. I’m a pretty good canoer though.”
Harry, carefully checking for goose poop and rotting fish bait, sat down beside her.
“Your mother didn’t shoot Victor,” he said. “She wasn’t home from the opera when the shot was fired. I can show you the proof if you want. The reason she confessed was that she thought you’d shot him. She was trying to protect you.”
Sammy looked at him aghast. “She thought I’d murder Daddy and let her take the blame?”
Harry feared another outburst, but she stayed calm.
“And she was ready to go to jail for the rest of her life for me?”
“She thought it was worth the sacrifice.”
“But why? What made her think I did it?”
“Here’s what she told me: You have a terrible temper, especially with Victor. You know about guns. And you weren’t at Suzy’s when she came to pick you up.”
“Wow, that’s some indictment. I don’t know where to begin.”
“Start with the easiest: where were you at 11 that night?”
“With Bob. He’s a cool guy but Daddy said I couldn’t go out with him because he’s too old. So I had him pick me up at Suzy’s.”
“You’re seeing an older man? How old is this pedophile?”
“How old is Bob?”
“Almost seventeen. He walked me home before 11, but I saw that the poker game was still going on, so we went to a cafe around the corner and tried to get a drink. But the bartender recognized me because I’ve been there with my parents. He took away Bob’s fake i.d. and gave us non-alcoholic pina coladas with little parasols. I could have died.”
Harry reached into his pocket for Teresa’s drawing but he’d left it in the other jacket. He drew three circles on the palm of his hand. “Do you know what this is?”
“I give up. Frosty the Snowman?”
“Did you leave a drawing like that on Victor’s desk?”
“Of course not, I’m not a child.”
“Honey – Samantha – do you have any idea who might have shot Victor? Did he ever mention being threatened?”
“You mean like by somebody who swore revenge because Daddy got him convicted? He wasn’t that kind of prosecutor. He just made speeches about how the DA’s Office defends us from being murdered in our beds by crazed Colombian drug dealers. He came to speak at our school once when I was in seventh grade. Some of the kids started laughing. I could have died.”
“What about the Exoneration Task Force? Could Victor have been about to expose the real perpetrator of a crime that someone had been wrongly convicted of?”
“Daddy said there was no such thing as a wrongful conviction. Maybe down South back in the ’30’s, but now we have fair trials and modern methods of investigation. Nobody in the DA’s Office here would ever prosecute an innocent person.”
“Uh huh,” said Harry.
“I didn’t say I agreed with him, I’m just saying your theory doesn’t hold water.”
“You’re very bright.”
“I know, intellectually. But I’m emotionally retarded.”
“Who told you that?”
“Bob. He’s taking Advanced Placement psychology.”
They were interrupted by distant clanging sound.
“That’s Grandma calling us for lunch. She has one of those triangles, like in cowboy movies. We can walk back along the highway, it’s not that much longer. You’re not really dressed for hiking.”
CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO: LUNCH WITH JUDGE THORNDYKE
The way back was far easier.
“I hear Betty taught you how to shoot.”
“Mom must have told you that. She’s so hysterical about guns, she thinks all you have to do is look at one and it goes off. That’s why I was so amazed when she said she shot Daddy. I would have expected her to brain him with a lamp or something.”
They approached the front of the house where Teresa’s car was parked.
“It’s funny Ms. Malone said she’d never been to our house.”
“Why? Have you met her before?”
Betty came to the door. “Oh, there you are, I thought you’d be coming back by the path. Sammy, you’d better change your clothes, those woods are full of ticks.”
It was apparently a matter of indifference whether Harry was covered with ticks.
“It’s just us three for lunch. Ms. Malone has to get back to the city.”
“Where is she?”
“Upstairs freshening up. Come into the dining room and help yourself. It’s buffet style.”
Harry was filling up his plate when Teresa came in to say goodbye.
“Good luck with everything, Harry. A pleasure meeting you, Judge.”
“Likewise,” said Betty. There was a distinct chill in her tone. Harry wondered what they’d been talking about.
“Food!” cried Sammy, bouncing into the room and spearing at the cold cuts.
“Bye, Samantha,” said Teresa.
“Bye,” she answered without turning around. “Grandma, can I take my plate upstairs? I want to watch the Yankees’ opening game.
“What a little barbarian you are,” said Betty. Sammy laughed and ran up the stairs.
“Just imagine what she would have said if I’d asked her to leave so we could talk alone,” said Betty.
CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE: JUDGE THORNDYKE’S FAMILY PHOTOS
“The situation grows curiouser and curiouser,” said Betty as they ate. “You say you’re representing Camilla. I’ve always been given to understand that you two were completely estranged.”
“I had to get involved. She had a crummy lawyer.”
“Then it’s even more puzzling why you brought ADA Malone with you. I saw through her right away, of course.”
What in the world had Teresa said? “She was just offering me a lift,” said Harry. “She was going to turn around and leave, but you insisted that she come in.”
“Ah, the Trojan Horse. She told me you think Camilla’s innocent.”
“I’m sure of it. I’ve already told Sammy.”
“I’m very glad to hear it. I must say, I had a hard time picturing Camilla shooting a gun. I would have thought she’d put arsenic in his coffee or something like that.”
Nobody seemed to doubt that Camilla was capable of murdering Victor.
“Speaking of coffee, can I offer you some? Sans arsenic? Or perhaps you’d rather have whisky. Let’s adjourn to the living room.”
While Betty was pouring the whisky, Harry looked at the photos on the mantlepiece. He recognized the one of Victor’s father that he’d seen last night. Next to it was a snapshot of the father and Betty squinting into the sun with two boys who looked about 5 or 6 years old. Next to that were two studio portraits of the boys as young men. One was unmistakably Victor. Harry picked up the other one. No doubt about it, it was Mr. Snow.
CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR: JUDGE THORNDYKE IDENTIFIES THE KILLER
“That’s my other son, Richard,” said Betty, handing Harry a glass of whisky. “A fugitive from justice. I gathered from Ms. Malone that the DA’s Office is hoping he’ll come to Victor’s funeral so they can arrest him.”
“She told you that?”
“Not directly. She spun some ridiculous story that Victor’s death was connected to the Snowman Murders. She must take me for a complete fool.”
“There’s some support for her theory,” said Harry. “You know, she deeply admired Victor.”
“Nonsense. She was planted by the DA’s Office to see if he’d lead them to Richard. My law secretary is a spy too, although not a very competent one. Every now and then I spot her driving slowly past the house. If I have a visitor, she copies down the license plate number.”
It sounded paranoid but plausible.
“I met Richard yesterday,” said Harry.
“Is that so? I haven’t seen him in 15 years. That’s five more years than he would have served if he’d taken his sentence like a man instead of running away. What did he have to say for himself?”
“Go ahead, tell me. I know he’s living a criminal life.”
Harry told her about the conspiracy of substituting white powder for cocaine in trial exhibits.
“How very clever. It’s true, nobody every asks to analyze the exhibits once the trial starts. Although I did once have a jury who wanted to test out the marijuana exhibits during deliberations.”
“What did you tell them?”
“That jurors aren’t allowed to conduct their own experiments, naturally. You can’t have a jury puffing away at the evidence. I trust you reported the cocaine scam to the authorities. No? Not even to ADA Malone? I suppose she could be in on it too.” She refilled their glasses. “So Richard’s been in touch with Victor all this time. That explains why Victor kept assuring me he was fine. I wouldn’t have called being a drug dealer fine. But better than being dead, I guess.”
Harry could think of nothing to say.
“That explains who killed Victor,” said Betty.
“Of course. Brothers have been killing each other since Cain and Abel.”
CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE: REPORT FROM THE KGB
Harry’s phone buzzed. “Excuse me a moment,” he said. “It’s the KGB.”
“Mr. Gottlieb,” said Ludmilla, “Mr. Ridges told me last night to report to you if I couldn’t reach him this morning. He’s not picking up his phone. Poetomu I’m giving you the news.”
“About what? The Snowman?”
“Kakoi Snowman? He asked me to check out a Ms. Teresa Malone, top priority. I reported back to him late last night. He didn’t tell you?”
“No, I haven’t spoken to him.”
“Okay, so yesterday I make a record search and find out that her given name is Caruso, her parents were Giuseppe and Carlotta Caruso, address Mulberry Street. I go down to Little Italy, sit in cafes drinking overpriced cappuccinos for hours and finally find some people who remember them.
“They tell me this Giuseppe Caruso, also known as Joe, was a big hero in the neighborhood. He ran a candy store, the kind of place you used to see old men sitting outside in their undershirts listening to baseball on the radio. Like all the storekeepers down there, he was being bled by the Mob demanding so-called protection money. Mr. Caruso got fed up and started co-operating with the DA’s Office, testified in the Grand Jury. One day he was found beaten to death in his store. It was the kid Teresa who found him. Everybody knew he’d been betrayed to the Mob.”
“Yes, yes, go on.”
“Okay. A year or so later, Mrs. Caruso marries a retired cop named Malone, they all move to Florida. Only relative left in New York is Joe Caruso’s sister, a Mrs. Bettina Cappelli, now in St. Anthony’s Nursing Home and Loony Bin in Flushing, Queens.”
“You told Barney all this?”
“Da, last night. Mr. Ridges said he’d go talk to the aunt himself, so maybe that’s where he is now. This morning I pay a visit to a retired detective friend who remembers the case.
“He tells me the investigation was handled by a young idiot, only he used a different word, from the DA’s Office, name of Victor Thorndyke. This Thorndyke actually told one of the guys under investigation that Joe Caruso was giving information. Said it was some kind of strategy.”
“My God, Thorndyke was responsible for Caruso’s murder!”
“That was the opinion of the neighborhood.”
Harry had a terrible premonition. “Sammy!” he yelled. He ran up the stairs. The door to her bedroom was open and the TV playing. He ran from room to room, opening the doors, yelling, “Sammy!” He ran back to the living room.
CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX: SAMMY IN PERIL
“What’s wrong?” asked Betty.
“I think Sammy’s sneaked out to meet Teresa. She’s in danger.”
“Get in the car, we’ll try the pond,” said Betty. “That’s where Sammy usually goes.” She took out her phone. “I’ll call the police and you can explain on the way what this is all about.”
Harry jumped into the car, barely having time to close the door before she took off.
“Did Victor ever tell you about an informant named Caruso who was found murdered in his store in Little Italy?”
“I certainly remember him bungling that case,” said Betty. “He was nearly fired. That was years ago. Why?”
“Teresa is Caruso’s daughter.”
“She’s going to hurt Sammy because of that?”
They heard the shrieking before they saw what was happening.
Sammy and Teresa were standing up in a canoe in the middle of the pond. Sammy was desperately dodging Teresa, who was swinging at her with a paddle. The canoe capsized.
Betty ran to the dock, unhitched a canoe and pushed it toward Harry. “Go get Sammy, she can’t swim. I’ll take care of the other one.” She pulled out an automatic.
“I don’t know how to handle a canoe.”
“No? Then get in the bow. The front. Quickly.” She got in behind him and picked up a paddle. “Here, take the gun. Hold it in both hands, arms outstretched.”
“I’ve never fired a gun. I might hit Sammy.”
“Do as I say. Hold your arms straight out.”
Betty paddled steadily but a strong wind had sprung up against them. She tacked back and forth making slow progress. It was like running in a dream.
Sammy was thrashing wildly, gasping and choking. Teresa, as calm as a dolphin in the water, was holding the capsized canoe with one hand and a gun in the other.
“Keep back, or I’ll shoot Sammy,” she yelled.
Betty stood up, seized the gun from Harry, racked the slide and fired. The recoil rocked their canoe so violently that Harry fell overboard.
He shed his suit jacket and swam to Sammy. Holding her head above the water with one hand, he grasped the capsized canoe with the other.
“It’s all right, honey, Daddy’s here,” he repeated over and over. Sammy continued coughing and choking but stopped thrashing. Harry’s heart was thumping so hard he was afraid he’d burst.
Teresa was swimming towards the dock, leaving a trail of blood in the water.
Betty called to Harry. “You have to right the boat. Quickly. Get on opposite ends so you balance each other.”
“Can you hang onto the canoe?” Harry asked. Sammy nodded. He made his way to the other end.
“Now lift it over your heads,” yelled Betty. “When I say flip, you’ll flip it over to the right.”
“I can’t, I’m going to sink!” wailed Sammy.
“Yes, you can,” said Betty. “Push it up. That’s right.” The water poured out as Sammy and Harry held the canoe over their heads. “Now, flip!” The boat hit the water right side up.
“Go to the middle on opposite sides and get in at the same time.” Betty had reached them by now and held the boat steady. When Sammy got one leg over, Betty gave her a push while Harry pulled himself in from the other side.
The canoe rocked violently, but they made it.
The paddle had floated out of sight.
Betty threw Harry a line from the stern of her canoe. “Hold onto this and I’ll tow you in. I hope you know first aid as well as lifesaving.”
“Yup,” said Harry.
CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN: MORE SHOCKING NEWS
With the wind at their backs it took only a few minutes to reach the dock. Teresa was lying face down with her injured right arm outstretched and her left arm under her.
“She might still have the gun,” said Harry. “Can a wet gun fire?”
“Yes.” Betty hoisted herself onto the dock with one hand, holding her gun in the other. “Throw away the gun,” she yelled. Teresa didn’t move. Betty jerked Teresa’s arm out from under her and took the gun. Teresa was bleeding heavily from her right arm and appeared to have fainted.
“I need dry cloth to make a tourniquet,” said Harry.
Betty took off her blouse. “Here, you can tear this up.”
The sheriff’s car pulled up.
“In the nick of time, as always,” said Betty. “Call an ambulance,” she yelled at the phlegmatic officer who was slowly ambling out of his car. He stared at the old lady in her brassiere and ambled back in, making code noises over the radio.
Teresa opened her eyes. “I’m sorry,” she said.
“Don’t try to talk, you’ve lost a lot of blood,” said Harry.
“Papa’s waiting in heaven.”
“I’m sure he is. Just concentrate on breathing.” He finished tying the tourniquet.
“Take Sammy back to the house,” said Betty. “I’ll wait for the ambulance.”
They got into Betty’s car and Harry took the wheel. He saw he’d left his phone on the front seat. Sammy was shivering. Neither of them spoke.
Harry pulled up in front of the house. “Run inside and get into a hot shower.” Sammy went upstairs and came down with a pile of towels and blankets. “You can wrap yourself in these.”
“Thanks. Now get into that shower.”
There was a message from Evelyn saying Barney had been shot. Harry called her back.
“It was horrible,” she said. “I was in my office and heard a shot. His door was open and he was slumped over his desk with his back to us. But he wasn’t dead, his eyes were blinking. He couldn’t speak, just stared at us. He’s being operated on now.”
“Oh, Barney!” Harry moaned.
“There was something really weird. The shooter left a drawing of three circles, just like the one you showed us in the restaurant.”
When Sammy came back downstairs, Harry was wrapped in a blanket like an Indian chief, sitting with his head in his hands. Sammy awkwardly put one arm around his shoulder. “Are you worried she’s going to die?”
“No. I’m worried that she’s killed my best friend.”
CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT: HARRY SUMS UP
Three days later, Barney was holding court from his hospital bed, surrounded by Harry, Camilla, Sammy, Betty and Evelyn. His room was full of flowers, balloons, teddy bears and get-well cards. He was wearing a t-shirt saying, “MY LAWYER WENT TO THE HOSPITAL AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS CRUMMY T-SHIRT.”
Everybody told Barney he looked wonderful. “First time anybody ever told me that,” he said. “I should get shot in the head more often.”
“I’m confused,” said Sammy. “Everybody keeps asking me what happened, but nobody explains it.”
“We’re all confused,” said Betty. “Harry, I think you should sum up the evidence.”
“Ladies and gentlemen,” said Harry. “We have the brutal murder of Victor Thorndyke, the attempted murder of Barney Ridges and the non-fatal shooting of Teresa Malone.
“Teresa shot Victor to avenge – or as she’d say, in retribution for – the murder of her father, Joe Caruso, a courageous storekeeper who stood up against the local Mob. Everybody in the neighborhood knew about the protection racket, but when the DA’s Office tried to investigate, it met a wall of silence. Only Mr. Caruso dared to co-operate.
“Unfortunately, Victor, who was in charge of the investigation wasn’t as careful as he should have been.”
“You don’t have to mince words,” said Betty. “He blew it.”
“Victor tried to induce other storekeepers to co-operate by telling them that Joe Caruso, whom everyone respected, had done so without any repercussions. Inevitably, word got back to the Mob, with the result that Joe was brutally murdered in his store.
“To add to the horror, it was his young daughter Teresa who found him.
“The neighborhood saw Victor’s actions as a deliberate betrayal. They believed he’d been bribed or co-opted into giving up Joe. Whether or not it was true, that was the perception. Teresa, although only a girl, swore to avenge her father.”
“What do you mean ‘only a girl’?” said Sammy.
“I believe vendettas are customarily carried out by the men of the family,” said Harry. “But Joe had no sons or brothers, so Teresa took it on.
“Although her mother re-married and the family moved to Florida, she returned to New York where she graduated from law school. She got a job in the DA’s Office where she made a point of getting to know Victor. Since she’d taken her stepfather’s name, Victor had no idea who she was.
“Victor probably told her about his ‘boys’ night in, girls’ night out’ evenings when Camilla and Sammy would go out and he’d have his friends over for poker. Teresa calculated that this would be the best time to find him home alone – after the poker players left and before the girls came home.
“Teresa wasn’t such a fanatic as to openly kill Victor and go to prison. But she was ethical enough not to want an innocent person blamed. She saw her chance when a law school clinic re-investigated the Snowman Murders and found that the supposed killer had been wrongfully convicted and the real killer had gone undetected.”
“The court vacated the conviction yesterday,” said Evelyn. “But the DA’s Office won’t consent to dismissing the charges. They refuse to admit that he made a false confession.”
“That’s what I was telling you, Harry,” said Barney. “They blow a trumpet about reform, but when it comes down to it, they fight tooth and nail for the status quo.”
Harry went on. “Teresa must have had access to the Snowman Murder file with the drawing of three circles. She made one like it and left it in Victor’s study to look like a clue.”
“You’ve skipped over the actual shooting,” said Sammy.
“I don’t know exactly how it happened,” said Harry. “Except that Teresa somehow got into Victor’s study and shot him with his own gun.”
“I know some of it,” said Betty. “The sheriff questioned her while we were waiting on the dock for the ambulance.”
Barney sat up. “Did he give Miranda warnings?”
“No,” said Betty. “I suppose you’ll say she was in custody, so her statement has to be suppressed.”
“Damn straight she was in custody,” said Barney. “Bleeding from a gunshot wound with a judge and a sheriff standing over her? No reasonable person would feel free to end the questioning and leave. That’s custody.”
“I wasn’t standing over her in my judicial capacity.”
“Grandma, get to the point. What did she say?”
“She said she was watching the house from her car. When she saw the three poker players leave, she waited a few minutes, then rang the doorbell and told Victor he was in terrible danger. He took her into his study where she gave him a made-up story that Joe Caruso’s brother had just been released from prison and was coming to get him.
“Victor didn’t even remember who Joe Caruso was. Even after Teresa explained, he remembered only that an informant had been killed. He was in total denial about being in any way responsible.
“Teresa was incensed. She’d dedicated her life to avenging her father’s murder and here Victor had forgotten all about it. Maybe if he’d expressed the slightest bit of guilt or remorse, she would have forgiven him. But he only laughed and showed her the gun he kept in his desk and told her not to worry, he could take care of himself.”
“I don’t believe that,” said Camilla. “Victor might have convinced himself it wasn’t his fault and put it out of his mind, but he’d never have laughed at the victim’s daughter.”
“It’s obviously Teresa’s biased version,” said Betty. “But the rest seems credible. She’d brought her own gun, but when Victor put his gun down on the desk, she grabbed it and shot him with it. She left a drawing of a snowman, hoping the shooting would be blamed on the unknown perpetrator of the Snowman Murders.”
“She must have been frantic when Camilla confessed and no one found the drawing,” said Harry. “What a quandary! She couldn’t very well go to ADA Jones and say, ‘There’s a drawing of a snowman at the crime scene.'”
“Yeah, she must have thought Harry was heaven-sent,” said Barney. “Camilla’s ex-husband to the rescue.”
“If Teresa hadn’t accosted me with that story about the Snowman, I’d never have gotten involved,” said Harry. “I fell for it and started asking around about the Snowman. As one of my clients told me, snowman is a common nom de guerre for cocaine dealers. I was abducted by a dealer who called himself Snow and thought I was looking for him. Now I know why he looked familiar. He was Victor’s brother, Richard.
“Snow persuaded me, somewhat forcefully, that the key to it all was to find out from Camilla why she’d confessed. I realized that the only way to have a confidential conversation with her was by persuading her lawyer Franklin McClean to let me come in as co-counsel.”
“How’d you do that?” asked Camilla.
“I told Franklin you were determined to go trial and testify that Victor was a batterer and a sex offender.”
“Harry! How could you?”
“Sure enough, Franklin said he’d get me appointed as co-counsel so I could talk Camilla into taking a plea. But soon as I saw the case file, I realized she couldn’t have been home from the opera when the shot was fired.”
“Very sloppy of the People not to notice that,” said Betty.
“They weren’t familiar with Die Valkyrie,” said Harry.
“You should have come to the opera with me,” said Camilla to Sammy. “Then I’d have known it wasn’t you who shot Daddy.”
“Okay, you’re a hero, Mom,” said Sammy rolling her eyes. “It’s not like I asked you to cover up for me.”
“Don’t be a pill, dear,” said Betty. “You’ve never explained why you went sneaking off with Teresa like that.”
“She was just coming out of the bathroom when you sent me upstairs to change out of my tick-infested clothes,” said Sammy. “She asked if we could secretly meet somewhere because you guys didn’t want her talking to me.”
“A forbidden meeting! Like catnip to a teenager,” said Harry. “She told me she was good with kids.”
“I told her how to get to the pond,” said Sammy, “and sneaked out while Grandma and Harry were sitting around drinking whisky. It was Teresa’s idea to go out in the canoe after I said I couldn’t swim. I didn’t know she was going to try to drown me. Actually, I still don’t understand why she did.”
“Because when you first met her, you said she’d been to the house before,” said Harry. “She realized you must have seen her car near the house on the night of the shooting.”
“Yeah,” said Sammy. “I noticed the corny bumper sticker. Dad designed it himself and couldn’t understand why nobody wanted to put it on their car. When I saw it that night, I assumed the car belonged to one of the poker players. And when Teresa came to Grandma’s house, I knew it had to be the same car.”
“What time did you see it that night?” asked Barney.
“It had to be before 11, because I was trying to make curfew. But when I saw the car I figured the poker game was still going on, so Bob and I had time for a drink.”
“A drink?” said Camilla. “And you were out with Bob when we told you in no uncertain terms -”
“It’s thanks to Bob that Sammy had a solid alibi,” said Harry. “The bartender remembered it was just 11 when he confiscated Bob’s fake i.d. because the waitresses were going off duty.”
“Fake i.d.?” gasped Camilla. “Young lady, we need to talk.”
“Oh, honestly,” said Sammy. “You were ready to forgive me for murdering Daddy and now you have kittens over a fake i.d.”
“Let’s stay focused here,” said Betty. “Why did Teresa shoot Barney?”
“Because he’d discovered her motive to kill Victor,” said Harry. “He was suspicious of her and had the KGB investigate her background.”
“Barney’s certainly well-connected,” said Betty.
Harry didn’t stop to explain. “Barney found out who Teresa was and that her father’s sister was in a nursing home in Queens. The next morning, he went out to see the old lady and got the whole story of the vendetta.”
“But how did Teresa find out I knew?” asked Barney.
“The aunt isn’t as confused as she pretends,” said Harry. “I went to see her myself yesterday. She told me she called up Teresa as soon as you left.”
“Why, was she suspicious of me?”
“Not at all. She was just trying to get Teresa to come and visit too. But of course Teresa knew what you were after. She somehow guessed you’d go to your office afterwards.”
“It wasn’t a guess,” said Barney. “She phoned me for an urgent appointment, giving a fake name. I said I’d meet her at my office. Last thing I remember is sitting at my desk.”
“She knew you’d be on your guard as soon as you saw her,” said Harry. “She fired right away and only hit the side of your head. She heard people coming and had to leave without checking whether you were dead. She dropped the ‘Snowman’ drawing by the door, hoping it would convince me of her Snowman theory. Then she went to pick me up at Rikers. What a cool customer!”
“I still fail to understand why you brought her to my house,” said Betty.
“We’d arranged it the night before,” said Harry. “When I realized that Camilla couldn’t possibly have shot Victor, that left only Sammy. I wanted Teresa to help me get her to admit it.”
“Oh, great!” said Sammy. “You brought Teresa to get me to confess. Your own daughter!”
“We do terrible things to defend our clients,” said Evelyn.
“I knew Camilla would never retract her confession so long as she thought Sammy had done it,” said Harry. “So I told her that Sammy’s alibi checked out, even though I didn’t know if it did.”
“You lied to me?” said Camilla.
“It wasn’t a lie since it turned out to be true,” said Harry. “And if I hadn’t cleared Sammy, at least in your mind, you’d never have told me about finding that drawing and hiding it in Fisch on Evidence.
“I had tunnel vision about Teresa. She seemed so devoted to Victor and there seemed to be no possible motive for her to kill him. Until I found out who she was.”
“And she wasn’t bad looking,” said Barney.
“Thanks for saving me,” said Sammy. “It was awesome that you knew lifesaving and first aid.”
“Well, it was your grandmother who kept you from being shot.”
Sammy turned to Betty. “I’m glad you didn’t kill Teresa. Even though you knew she’d killed your son and was trying to kill me. Revenge is so medieval.”
“Yes, that was lucky,” said Camilla.
“Not lucky at all,” said Betty. “I aimed for her gun arm and that’s where I hit her. Guns are perfectly safe if properly -”
“Are you in the clear now, Camilla?” Barney interrupted smoothly.
“Yes, and they’ve unfrozen my assets. I’m no longer indigent.”
“We’re going to sell the house and move to Berkeley,” said Sammy. “Mom says it’s a more enlightened culture.”
“I’m going to pull up stakes too,” said Betty. “I don’t see how I can be a judge when both my sons are criminals.”
“Oh, you mustn’t punish yourself,” said Evelyn.
“Who says I’m punishing myself? Barney and I are going to see the world.”
CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE: THE END
Betty gave Harry a lift home. “You must have known Barney before,” said Harry.
“He was a friend of my husband’s. He knew the boys when they were small, which I suppose is why he never blew the whistle on Victor. Men can be so sentimental.”
“Won’t you miss being a judge?”
“I can’t waste my last few years on meaningless activity. Judging is what Freud called an impossible profession. Which he defined as where ‘one can be quite sure of unsatisfying results.’”
“Having unsatisfying results doesn’t make the profession meaningless.”
“It does when the profession insists that the results are satisfying. Nothing rivals the judiciary for unwillingness to admit its mistakes, let alone fix them or make any changes to avoid them in the future. It’s a deadly combination of smug ignorance and extraordinary power. We know too little of ourselves and others to justify the harm we inflict.”
“What’s the alternative? Anarchy?”
“I don’t have any answers,” said Betty. “I just want to go to hell in my own way.”
“This is where I live,” said Harry. “Would you like to come up for a drink?”
“Another time, thanks.”
Harry got out of the car and stood on the sidewalk looking at the sky. The sun was setting and the air was an orange color that he was convinced was unique to this city. It covered the stone buildings like a translucent veil and set the windows on fire. The light evoked – not exactly memories – but a connection to this time of day, this day of the season, this season of the year, from when he was a child walking on this same street between his parents, a young man pushing Sammy in a stroller, and now – whatever he was now. He felt awakened as if from a long dream.