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Authors: Sheryl J. Anderson

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BOOK: Killer Heels
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“Pretty sweeping statement,” Detective Edwards countered, continuing his inspection.

“Unless the law has changed since I left my office, I’m entitled to my opinion.” It’s always an education to watch Cassady sizing up an opponent, deciding whether he can be consumed in one bite or two.

“Y’know, we tried really hard to take away everybody’s civil liberties today, but we couldn’t work it in, what with the murder rate climbing and all. So yes, you can have an opinion for another day or two.” He stopped inspecting and looked at us, waiting for a reaction.

Cassady was expressionless, hanging tough, so I seized the moment. “I happen to love Jasper Johns.”

Cassady rolled her eyes. Detective Edwards grimaced a little, so I could tell we weren’t going to bond on this one. But I could also tell he knew I was trying to help and that he appreciated it. Lord knows, I get tired of all the whining and shrieking that I have to listen to in the course of my job, and it’s all on paper or a computer screen. Imagine the stuff a homicide detective in New York City has to put up with in the course of a day, and I’m not counting having to actually solve the crimes. The least I could do was deflect a little of Cassady’s scorn. And I do like Jasper Johns.

“This area seems untouched, but I’ll have the forensic guys check it out. Thank you,” Detective Edwards said, gesturing us back to the bullpen. Cassady led the way and I hung back a little, not anxious to see Teddy again. Detective Edwards walked beside me, but he looked like he was concentrating, so I figured I should stay quiet. Especially since I couldn’t think of anything helpful to say. You gotta figure “How could this happen?” is something a homicide cop gets sick of hearing pretty early in the work week and I couldn’t push my bobblehead much past that.

Detective Lipscomb was waiting for us. Detective Edwards shook his head. Detective Lipscomb nodded. “No sign of struggle in the office. Blood spatter looks like it all happened out here. Wallet and watch are gone.”

Detective Edwards’ frown deepened. “Odd place for a robbery. Lots of locked doors between here and the street.”

“Security guys are pulling the records. We’ll see what that points to. Not much here otherwise.” Detective Lipscomb held up an evidence bag with the knife from Teddy’s throat in it. The inside of the bag was streaked with blood and did this weird stained-glass-window thing when Detective Lipscomb held it up to the light. “Kitchen knife.”

“It’s Teddy’s. He was trying to lose weight and ate a lot of fruit in the afternoon. Liked to slice the apples and said the knives in the kitchen weren’t sharp enough, so he kept that one in his desk.”

Detective Lipscomb glanced over to Teddy, who was being placed in a body bag. “Guess this one was sharp enough.”

Detective Edwards winced. “You’re buying breakfast.”

Detective Lipscomb was highly offended for some reason. “I am not.”

Detective Edwards shook his head at his partner and turned to us to explain. “If somebody starts to sound like a wisecracking TV cop, he has to buy breakfast.”

“You punish him?” I asked, not sure I saw the logic.

“Best way to break a bad habit,” Detective Edwards explained.

Detective Lipscomb wasn’t enjoying this and held the knife bag up again, refocusing everyone. “You’re sure this is his?”

“Yes. I borrowed it a couple of times. It really is better than anything we have in the kitchen.”

Detective Lipscomb walked over to stand in Teddy’s office doorway, bag still in his hand. “So he’s working late, hears a strange noise, grabs the knife to arm himself, walks out and …” We all looked down at the blood on the carpet and filled in the rest for ourselves. In my version, Teddy wrestled with a shadowy intruder twice his size, the intruder wrenched the knife away, and suddenly Teddy was on the floor, bleeding. I imagined the detectives’ version was a little less
noir
than that. And probably, given Teddy, closer to the truth.

Cassady’s face was expressionless. I think she’d had enough.

“Ms. Forrester, did Mr. Reynolds have enemies?” Detective Edwards asked after the silence had stretched on a little too long.

“Oh, sure.”

Detective Jankowski gave me a perturbed look. “Ma’am, you told me no.”

“You asked me if I knew anyone who’d want to hurt him. He asked me about enemies.”

Officer Jankowski opened his mouth to protest, but Cassady was quicker. “Definitely two different lists in my life. There’s a big difference between someone you’d like to see dead in the business sense and someone you’re willing to hurt literally.”

“Teddy could be nice, but he could also be really difficult,” I admitted. “All depending on what you wanted from him. You could probably split his Rolodex in half between the people who’d vote ‘sweetheart’ and the ones who’d go for ‘bastard.’ But I can’t imagine a single one of them doing this.”

Detective Lipscomb rubbed his forehead. “We’ll take that into account.” He turned to Jankowski and Hendryx. “Go get with the security guys. Make sure you get the full rundown on cleaning crews, night messengers, standard traffic.” The officers nodded to us and hurried out. Cassady waved Officer Hendryx’s business card at him in farewell.

“You think it was a stranger, an intruder?” I pressed. Cassady shot me a warning look.

“We see a lot of this. Somebody comes into the building on so-called legitimate business, then takes advantage of a situation.”

I was trying to picture the world in which killing someone was taking advantage of a situation. “So you think this was a robbery or something?”

“No, I think it was a murder,” Detective Lipscomb said quietly and Detective Edwards shot him a warning look. There was no breakfast at stake here. Detective Lipscomb was getting angry.

I plunged in anyway. “It’s just … the knife is so personal. You’d have to get close to him …” I wasn’t sure where I was going with this, but I got the sense that the detectives were about to veer off in a direction that wasn’t going to help Teddy much.

Detective Edwards took a step forward to distract me from his glowering partner. “We appreciate your input. I’m sure this is overwhelming for you and we don’t mean to keep you any longer than absolutely necessary.” He pressed his business card into my hand.

I had more to say, but Cassady grabbed my arm and almost bolted for the door. “I know an exit cue when I hear one. Thank you very much, gentlemen. You know where to reach us if you have any more questions.”

I leaned back, like a toddler resisting her mother’s efforts to put her to bed. “Wait.”

“No, Molly,” Cassady insisted, “it’s time to go.” She managed to walk me past where Teddy was being loaded onto a gurney for his trip to the morgue.

“But I want to help.” I hated how my voice sounded, all thick and unstable, but it stopped Cassady.

She gave me a pained smile and let go of my arm. “I know you do, Moll, but we should leave it to the professionals. You’ve done everything you can here.”

“No, I haven’t. I’ve been emotional and vague and made a miserable impression. I always thought that if I ever found myself in this sort of situation, I’d rise to the occasion, be brilliant and insightful. Maybe even get a feature article out of it.”

She dug her phone out of her purse and started dialing. “Even if you have been daydreaming about something like this, which is a whole separate problem, the reality is obviously very different. Trying to look at this as some sort of career opportunity is just your way of ignoring the pain of losing a colleague.”

Since I couldn’t think of a proper comeback, I asked, “Who are you calling?”

“Now I’m calling Tricia. I think we should meet her for many drinks. Don’t you?”

“I’m not sure I can.”

Wary that she was missing a joke, Cassady proceeded carefully. “Why? What else do you have to do tonight?”

“I need to solve this murder.”

2

“I come bearing shoes.” Tricia slid a shopping bag onto the table and me into her arms in one elegant move. Being momentarily engulfed in blue merino can be quite soothing. She smelled great, too. Chanel No. 5 since she was twelve years old. Tricia goes for the classics and makes them work.

“Oh, honey, honey, I am so sorry this happened to you,” she whispered in my ear. I squeezed her shoulder in thanks and she stood back. She blew a kiss at Cassady that was acknowledged with a twitch of the nose, then turned back to me, prepared to assess. I seemed to meet with her approval, at least given the circumstances, though I suddenly had an urge to brush my hair. But those sorts of urges come over you frequently when you spend time with Tricia. She’s one of those women who is always perfectly put together—hair, outfit, accessories. All the outside stuff, anyway. But with Tricia, it’s impressive rather than irritating, mainly because she doesn’t make a big deal about it. It comes naturally.

And she’s channeling that into her job with great success. Tricia Vincent’s an event designer. Have a good cause? She’ll design you a party that will fill your treasury and boost your media coverage. She started off doing events for her parents’ causes, but her reputation has been spreading and her client base is broadening. She still does a lot of Old Guard stuff, but she’s done some really cool political groups lately. Stuff we were actually interested in crashing.

Tricia pushed a strand of hair back from my face and seemed pleased with the result. Maybe I didn’t need a brush after all.

“How are you feeling? What can we do for you?”

I faltered because I honestly didn’t know what to say. Cassady stepped into the breach. “You brought shoes. A crucial first step.”

Tricia reached into the bag and pulled out a glorious pair of Giuseppe Zanottis, corset-laced sandals I had only coveted since the now-ruined Choos had blown my shoe budget for several months. “I forgot to ask Cassady what you were wearing and these go with anything,” she said, pitching her voice a little louder as a group behind us started guffawing. Cassady had decided backtracking through our evening might give us a sense of comfort, so we were huddled at a table in Django. They have literally millions of pink beads strung like curtains and there’s something very soothing about them, but the crowd was a little too perky. We should have gone to a jazz club. They mute everything. Nothing against Django. It’s a wonderful hunting ground, but I didn’t feel like hunting.

“Put them on,” Cassady suggested. “You’ll feel better.” I took the shoes and held them in my lap while I tried to discreetly remove the plastic sandals Cassady had purchased for me at the 24-hour Rite Aid our cabbie found. She had insisted that I sit in the cab and wait, listing with a certain relish the number of diseases to which I had already exposed myself by walking from the office to the cab barefoot.

When we first stepped out of the office building, I was struck by the beautiful simplicity of fresh air. Not that I normally think of the air on Lexington Avenue as being fresh, even in October, but in contrast to what we’d been breathing for the last hour, this was like a morning breeze blowing across acres of newly mown hay. Not that I’ve actually ever smelled newly mown hay, being a city girl, but I can appreciate the contrast nonetheless. I breathed in as deeply as I could, as often as I could, until Cassady grabbed my arm in concern.

“Are you hyperventilating?” She didn’t seem to approve.

“Would it help?” I was feeling a little lightheaded, but I actually welcomed the new sensation.

“Help what?”

“This.” I rubbed at a spot on my chest, right in the center of my breastbone, that was so tight I figured she could see it pulsing. Coming down in the elevator, it had felt like some malevolent little creature had crawled into my chest and was gnawing at the spot, making itself a nest. Now it felt like the little wretch was trying to claw its way back out. Somehow, I’d become Sigourney Weaver in
Alien
, dreaming of monsters exploding out of my chest. Thinking about the movie for a minute actually distracted me from the pain. That, and imagining myself with Sigourney Weaver’s cheekbones. But it only helped for a minute.

“Scream,” Cassady suggested.

“Excuse me?”

“Scream. A great, big, deep one. From your toes.” I hesitated and Cassady gestured around us. “Come on. This is Manhattan. Unless you scream more than once or scream ‘Fire,’ you’re not going to bother anyone. And you’ll feel much better afterwards.”

The nasty creature was about to rupture my sternum from the inside out, so I decided to give it a shot. I took a deep breath, rocked up on my stockinged toes a bit, and screamed. The force of the scream ripped that little sucker right out of his nest and blew him about two blocks away. It was raw and uncomfortable where he’d been digging, but Cassady was right. I did feel better.

I wasn’t sure about Cassady, though. She was looking at me with this odd mixture of respect and fear. I think she’d been expecting something a little closer to my mild sound of concern from upstairs. “Wow,” she said finally and stepped to the curb to hail a cab. “Want to call your therapist now or wait till morning?”

“I’m better. I’m okay.” I really was better and the okay thing was going to be a matter of time. I knew that. There was still a disconnected quality to everything that had happened and it was going to be a while before I got it all sorted out. But then again, I’m not sure I want to be the kind of person who can see a dead body and take it in stride.

Now, in the bar with Cassady and Tricia, the creature was trying to worm its way back into its nest. I thought about screaming again and decided it would draw a little more attention in this setting. I settled for another deep breath, trying to get my glass to my mouth without spilling, while picturing great cheekbones.

“Cassady, how are you doing? You experienced this horror, too.” Tricia moved her stool so it was directly between Cassady and me.

“Thanks, but this is Molly’s deal. She’s the one who knew him and she’s the one who lost the shoes.”

“Still.” Tricia climbed up onto her stool. Tricia’s the small, delicate one in our trio. Too tall for gymnastics, too short to model, was her mournful cry in college. Not that she was really committed to either field. She’s always been a behind-the-scenes type, and her impulse for orchestrating people’s lives keeps the two of us on our toes. Tricia’s quiet, but she’s cunning, and you can find yourself talked into anything from a blind date to a charity pledge before you realize what she’s done to you.

BOOK: Killer Heels
12.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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