Authors: Scott Turow
Tags: #Psychological, #Legal, #Fiction
They talked about her baby for a second. Larry had questioned her last time at her station, where a leather threefold with photos had been propped on the counter. Today, Larry told her he wanted to ask about money.
"Money?" replied Genevieve. "We don't know much about money. I wish we knew a little bit more."
"No," said Larry, "Luisa's money."
Genevieve found that even more confusing. She said that Carmine, Luisa's ex, shorted her most months and Luisa was always stretched. Luisa had lived with her elderly mother and her two daughters. About five years ago, she'd transferred out to DuSable from the big airport and worked alternating flex shifts with Genevieve, 8 p
. to 6 a
. one day, 6 p
. to midnight the next, the only agent on duty when the planes to and from Las Vegas turned around. The schedule enabled Luisa to get her girls off to school in the morning and see them when they returned, even to be home on odd nights for dinner. She slept during the day.
As described in Larry's interviews, Luisa came across as a spunky city girl, caught in a familiar pinch. She'd had Carmine's babies and then been ditched -maybe she'd put on a few pounds, maybe she reminded Carmine in the wrong way of his mother, or hers. Once he was gone, Luisa was left with a big-time mortgage on their four- bedroom dream house on the West Bank, but she was determined not to make her daughters suffer for their father's stupidity. The result was debt. Lots. Larry counted a $30,000 dent in her credit cards as of a year ago. Then she began sending her entire paycheck to the bank. So how was she paying for things like groceries and school supplies? Cash, it turned out. Luisa had cash in hand wherever she went.
If there was another Homicide detective who knew how to tear up somebody's finances, Larry hadn't met him yet, and he felt a certain amount of pride as he laid the documents he'd retrieved from the banks over a number of months 011 the desk in front of Genevieve. Luisa figured for Genevieve's wild friend -more bad words in Luisa s mouth, more nights in the clubs, more guys in her bed than Genevieve had ever dared. He suspected Genevieve had done a lot of listening, but now she shook her head in wonder.
"I never heard anything about this. 1 swear."
When you saw too much folding money, it figured to be something unholy and Larry had pounded the names of everybody in Luisa s address book into NCIC, the FBI's national criminal database, with no hits. But he tried out a less scandalous explanation on Genevieve. Was there, perhaps, an older gentleman in Luisa s life?
"If there was," Genevieve answered, "I didn't hear about it. She didn't have much use for men. Not after Carmine. Not for relationships anyway. You know, she'd party on Saturday night, but she never mentioned any sugar daddy."
"Any other activities or associates that might explain the cash?"
"Drugs?" Larry awaited any tell, but Genevieve seemed sincerely taken aback. "There's this item in her personnel jacket," Larry explained. In the name of aircraft safety, all TN employees were required to pee in a cup every quarter. Two months before her death, Luisa had come up dirty. Then, while TN Security was investigating, they'd received an anonymous tip that she'd been selling on the premises. The union steward was called in and Security demanded a pat-down search to which Luisa had succumbed only over furious objection. The search came up dry and, on second submission, her dirty result proved to be a false-positive. Yet once Larry saw her cash, he'd begun thinking there might have been something to it after all. An airport employee was in a unique position to help import drugs.
Genevieve had a different theory.
"It was a setup," she said. "I heard all about it. Lu was outraged. She didn't have a bad drop in ten years with the airline. Then they search her? How fishy is that?"
"Well, who set her up, then?"
"Luisa had a mouth. You know how that goes. She probably irritated somebody."
"Any guess who?"
Genevieve looked to Larry as if she might have had a name or two in mind, but she wasn't about to make Luisa's mistake of speaking out of turn. He tried several ways to get her to spill, but she maintained that pleasant little smile and kept rolling her eyes. It was getting late. He didn't want to miss Erno, so he let Genevieve go, saying he might contact her again. She did not appear especially excited by the prospect. It was an unfortunate aspect of his job that he often antagonized people like Genevieve who he actually thought were all right. Did Genevieve know where Luisa's cash came from? Seventy-three percent of Americans in our poll said, Yes. But she was clearly convinced it had nothing to do with Luisa's murder. One way or the other, Genevieve was probably guarding her friend's memory, and Larry actually respected her for that. Maybe a mobbed-up uncle was helping out. Maybe Luisa's mom, an Old World type, was running numbers in her former neighborhood in Kewahnee, or, more likely, bailing out her daughter with cash Momma had long kept in her mattress.
He spent a few minutes circling a potted plant outside Erno's door before the secretary showed him in. TN's Head of Security was stationed out at the big airport, making Erno the honcho here, and he had one of those offices too big for the furniture they gave him. The light from the large windows glazed his desk on which nothing rested, not even dust.
"Can I ask?" Erno said, when they were settled. "The suits in Center City always like to hear it first, if they're gonna read about anybody around here being naughty."
Erno had been smuggled out of Hungary in 1956, after the Russkies hanged his father from the lamppost in front of the family house, and a trace accent still played through his speech like incongruous background music, elongating certain vowels and sticking other sounds far back in his throat. It was essential to Erno's character to act as if nobody would notice. He was one of those guys who alway
anted to sound like he was on the inside, and given that, it figured he'd be scratching around to find out what Larry had come up with. But his curiosity gave Larry leverage. Instead of answering, Larry flipped open a small spiral-topped notepad and said he wasn't getting the skinny on the narcotics search referenced in Luisa's personnel file. Considering the price of admission, Erno wiggled his mouth around and finally scooted forward so he could place both elbows on his desktop.
"I wouldn't want you to write this down," he said, "but I think my boys got a little rambunctious. This young lady, Luisa, from what I hear, she was Excedrin headache number 265. You've seen her evaluations in the file. You know, insubordinate.' It's misspelled several times. I think she got pretty ornery when she come up dirty, enough to make a suspicious guy more suspicious."
Erno offered the last with a wry look. He was suggesting his guys had made up the 'tip' as an excuse for the search. It happened on the street all the time. Genevieve had this one right: Luisa had talked her way into trouble.
"So that's a zero?"
"Dry hole," said Erno authoritatively. He reached into a desk drawer and placed a toothpick in the side of his mouth. Erno was nervous and slender. He had a narrow face, a long thin nose, and eyebrows so pale you could barely see them. To Larry, he'd always been a hard man to like. There was an edge to Erno and a frequent sour frown, like he'd smelled some stink, which might well have been you. He probably would have made an all-right cop, smart enough and serious about the job, but he never got that far. While he was still in the Academy, he got into a domestic situation where he shot and killed his mother-in-law. The coroner's inquest had included testimony from Erdai's wife, who confirmed that the old lady had come after Erno with a knife, but the brass on the Force would not bring on a guy who'd killed with his service revolver even before he had a star.
In the strange way things go, this had been an okay break for Erno. Some coppers from the Academy hooked him up with the security department at TN. He kept peace at the airport, helped Customs nab smuggled drugs, and tried to make sure nobody stole a free ride on an airplane. He went to work in a suit and tie. These days, he had a nice house in the suburbs and a pension plan and airline stock, and a large staff of ex-coppers under him. He'd done fine. But for years heel remained a wanna-be, hanging around at Ikes, the Tri-Cities' best- known cop bar. He craved the weapon and the star and the stamp of a certified tough guy. He'd nibble at a beer, taking in the coppers' stories with the same look of middle-aged woe about things he'd missed out on that a lot of people showed at this stage, maybe, even, including Larry.
"What's your angle with the dope, anyway?" Erno asked. "I thought Greer was figuring she's popped by Stranger Danger. Wrong time, wrong place."
"Probably. But your girl Luisa, she had some big money comin
That seemed to pep up Erno. Erno, in Larry's experience, was one of those hunkies with a strong interest in money, especially his own. He didn't really boast; when he talked about his stock options, he was more like a guy telling you about his low cholesterol. Ain't I lucky? He reminded Larry of some of his elderly Polish relatives, who could give you the case history on every dollar they'd ever made or spent. It was an Old World thing, money equaling security. Being a Homicide dick taught you two things about that. First, people died for money; the only thing they died for more often was love. And second, there was never money enough when the bogeyman rang your doorbell.
"From where s she getting money?" Erno said.
'That's what 1 wanted to ask you guys. She stealing something?"
Erno turned sideways to consider the question. Across the street, on the north-south runway, a 737 was settling down like a duck onto a pond. The plane, a screaming marvel of rivets and aluminum, sank toward the tarmac a few degrees off center, but alighted uneventfully. Larry figured Ernos windows for triple-pane, because there was barely a sound.
"She wasn't ripping tickets, if that's what you're thinking," Erdai answered.
"I was wondering more whether she had her hand in the till."
"No chance. Accountings way too tight when we get cash."
"And why not tickets?"
"Tickets? That's the best thing around here to steal. One piece of paper can be worth a thousand on the street. But people always get caught." Erno outlined procedures. Agents issued tickets, usually by computer or sometimes by hand. The ticket wasn't valid unless the issuing agent was identified, either by way of a personal computer code or, for the hand tickets, through the agent's own die, a metal plate which fit in a machine like a credit card imprinter that was used to validate blank ticket stock. "Anytime somebody travels, accounting matches up the flight coupon with the payment. No payment, my phone rings. And the issuing agent, that's the first door you knock on."
"So? Your phone ringing?"
"One, two tickets now and then. But you know, nothing that's gonna make thousands for somebody, if that's what we're talking. No missing die. That'd be a biggie. The airline's a bear on this stuff. Lock you up and sue you, they don't care if it's a buck ninety-five. Zero tolerance. It works, too. They got everybody scared shitless. How'd your talk go with Genevieve? She got any clue where Luisa was hiding her money tree?"
Larry grunted. "Three monkeys."
"Really?" Erno made a face.
"Really. Any chance she was into the same shit as Luisa?"
"Never say never-but I'll say it anyway. Too goody-goody. Follows every rule. Why not lay a grand jury subpoena on her? Somebody like that won't stiff you, once you make her swear an oath to God. I bet if you squeeze her, you'll find out what Luisa was up to."
It was an idea, and Larry wrote it down in his notebook, but Muriel and Tommy Molto wouldn't sign off. The grand jury meant defense lawyers who'd start howling about busting on nice white people for no better reason than a hunch.
Erno asked what else Larry was thinking.
"Well, there isn't that much left, right?" Larry said. "I don't see Luisa keeping a book-especially with half the people coming through here on their way to Las Vegas."
Erno acknowledged the logic of that.
"So what kind of problems do you have?" Larry asked him.
"Right now, this is still a small town. Our biggest issue is the bums in the winter. You know, these pooches who're on the street in the North End want a warm place to hide out. We got these guys everywhere-in the johns, hiding in back on the baggage claim carousels. They steal, they scare people, they puke on the floor."
There were a lot of lonely travelers looking for company. A young lady like Luisa, in her airline attire, might pass for somebody's fantasy of a flight attendant-lunchtime, coffee break, after work, the dead of night when nothing was doing anyway. But as Erno pointed out, there was barely any hotel space around here for a young lady in that line of work to ply her trade.
"I wouldn't say you've been a fuck of a lot of help," said Larry.
Erno pushed his tongue into the side of his mouth, which in his case was what passed for a smile.
"Actually," he said, gesturing with the toothpick, "I may have one thing for you. I don't even know if I oughta be mentioning it. There's a kid -well, he's no kid -there's a guy I know. Well, not a guy, not just a guy. To be straight with you, Larry, he's my fucking nephew. You wouldn't necessarily know that when you see him."