April didn’t feel like spring in Chicago. The sun shone, the buds were popping, the days were longer, and still it was hat and gloves weather.
“Goddammit,” Kay said as she stepped outside the Area Four headquarters. “I’m sick of this coat.” She shivered as her partner Adam led the way to their unmarked car.
“I’m sick of this fucking city,” he said.
They were both complaining in that way cops did. The words came out of their mouth without any real heat to them. It was midafternoon, close to the end of their shift, the worst time to catch a new case, especially when she had plans for the evening. They got in the car, Adam behind the wheel. Kay strapped in as he gunned the car west on Addison.
She wasn’t in the best of moods, nervous about her brother’s dinner party that night and the date he was setting her up with. She’d agreed to it reluctantly, hoping the woman would be less disappointing than the online dates she’d been going on. Those had been truly horrible. It was like a bait and switch scheme. A profile of a nice looking woman working in education would turn out to be a cafeteria worker living with three roommates. And so on.
“What’s the address?” Adam asked. It was noon on opening day at Wrigley Field, a couple of blocks from Area Four. He was forced to slow as Cubs fans holding red plastic cups swarmed the streets as if Addison were a pedestrian mall. He turned on the lights and siren.
“Great job traffic’s doing here,” he said.
“They don’t have enough officers. It’s hopeless.” Kay looked at the scrap of paper in her hand. “Clifton and Roscoe. Go left on Sheffield.”
“I know where I’m going, Kay.”
Adam was new to the Chicago police from Albany. He’d moved for a girlfriend and the relationship busted up almost as soon as he’d unpacked his boxes. He was thirty or so, tall with a stocky build, his hair a smidgen longer than a buzz cut, his suit slightly ill fitting. He’d shown he knew what he was doing and didn’t pull any macho crap, her minimum requirements for a tolerable partner. Everything beyond that was gravy. After three months together they’d started to find a groove.
“You can cool it with the lights and siren,” she said. “The call said the victim’s been dead for at least a day. The evidence isn’t what you’d call fresh.”
Adam killed the siren and turned right onto Roscoe. They pulled up at Clifton, where a cluster of patrol cars crowded the street corner. Crime scene tape cordoned off the sidewalk in front of an old apartment building. It was turreted at the corner with a carved cornice and decorative stone at the entrance, but black soot wept down the façade, and only a few chips of Dublin blue paint clung to the weather-beaten front door. She popped out of the car and strode toward the uniformed officers gathered in front. Adam trailed behind her.
“What’ve we got?” she said to the group. Officer Ed Carey stepped forward, notebook in hand. He was standard issue Chicago cop—an expanding midsection covered by a Kevlar vest, no hat, burly shoulders, meaty hands. She’d worked with him many times. “Tell me this is an easy one, Ed.”
“It’s pretty bad. Deceased female is in unit 312, top floor. Looks to be in early stages of decomposition. Someone cut her throat.”
“Sounds delightful.” Kay smiled at the group as if she were standing with them at a barbecue, which she had often enough.
Officer Carey continued. “The body was found by the landlord after he got a call from the vic’s mother. Said she hadn’t been able to contact her daughter for over a day.” He pointed to a man in shirtsleeves, standing inside the tape. “That’s him.”
“Thank you, Ed,” Kay said. “Will you tell the witness we’ll be with him shortly?”
“Do we have a name for the victim?”
Carey looked at his notebook. “It’s Nora Sanderson.”
She felt her gut drop. “Oh, shit. I think I know her.”
“How?” Adam said.
She looked up at the apartment building, debating what to say.
Officer Carey shifted his weight. “Do we start guessing who she is or what?”
She turned toward him. “She’s the sister of my ex-husband, if it’s the same Nora Sanderson.” All was quiet. This was the first anyone had heard of Kay Adler having an ex-husband. The fact that she’d ever been with a man probably shocked everyone there. A few feet started to shuffle.
“Ex-husband? You’ve never said anything about being married.” Adam sounded almost hurt.
She shrugged. “It’s not anyone’s business. At least not until now. I haven’t seen Nora in a long time.” She prayed it was a different woman, not the girl she’d known only slightly when she was married to her brother Griffin.
Everyone was silent for a moment, waiting for her orders.
“Did anyone find her phone?” she said.
“It was in her bag with her wallet and about a hundred in cash,” Carey said.
She turned to Adam. “Get the cell records ASAP. Ed, you’re in charge of the canvass.”
“Already in process,” Carey said.
“Excellent. Please sign Detective Oleska and myself in. Let’s go see if it’s the same woman. Is anyone up there with the body?” Kay said.
Officer Carey gave her a withering look. “Of course. Donovan’s there.”
“Well, Jesus,” she said. “If the corpse wakes up he’ll scare her to death.” Everyone laughed, the joke about Donovan’s homeliness being well known. She walked into the building with Adam and put on paper booties from a box by the door. “How squeamish are you?”
“I don’t think we ever got a decomposing body while I was in Albany. But I have a pretty strong stomach.”
“We’ll see.” Kay had seen too many dead bodies to be squeamish, but she wasn’t above dreading a slashed throat on a decomposing body.
There were two apartment doors at the top of the stairs, one of them open with an officer standing by. They stepped over the bloodstains on the carpeted landing. She could see several footprints pointed toward the stairs. It was going to be messy. They entered straight onto a living room. It was square except for the semicircular area where the turret was. Furniture crowded the room—a small seating area with large couch and coffee table near a startlingly huge TV. Next to it was a spindly dining table piled with books, papers, and a laptop. A couple of pairs of high heels lay under the coffee table, which was littered with Thai takeout. Clothes were thrown over the back of the sofa. She couldn’t understand living in such a mess.
The body lay several feet from the entrance, the wall next to it spattered deep red brown with blood. Thick streaks of it ran along the floor from the entrance to where the body lay on its back, the gash across her throat a gaping maw. Blood had pooled into viscous puddles on both sides of her body. She recognized Nora’s distinctive face, despite her contorted expression. She had tight red curls that spread in blood soaked clumps around her head. Her nose was broad and flat and her chin short and wide. She wasn’t a pretty girl, but it looked like she put work into making the best of things. She wore full makeup and elaborate clothing. She had on thick leggings under a plaid pencil skirt, a gauzy white shirt and bolero jacket, and more accessories than she could count—wide belt with ornate buckle, a brace of silver colored cuff bracelets, several long beaded necklaces, earrings pierced all the way up her ear.
Kay usually felt a momentary sense of rage when she first looked at a dead body. A sense of loss and fury followed instantly by an analysis of the sight before her. Now she thought back to the ten-year-old girl in pigtails who’d seemed afraid of her much older brother. She remembered how eager Nora had been to see Griffin when they first visited the family home as a married couple. She stood tentatively in front of him and handed him a record album of her favorite band. He glanced at it after giving her a terse hello and tossed it on the coffee table. She could see the disappointment in Nora’s eyes. It was the first time Kay had frowned at her husband’s behavior.
“He pulled the body farther in the room so he could close the door, as if he was standing behind her and struck the instant she opened the door to the apartment,” Kay said.
“Why would he risk being seen or heard by anyone in the building?” Adam said.
“The element of surprise, I think. Once he got inside it would be weird if he stood behind her. Or maybe he couldn’t wait.”
“And we don’t know whether he came in with her or she answered the door to let him in,” Adam said.
“But if they were face-to-face, I don’t think he would have struck her in the doorway. The cut tells us he attacked from behind.”
Kay squatted and touched her gloved hand to Nora’s. The corpse’s fingers were pliable. Rigor had come and gone.
“My guess is she’s been dead at least a day, probably longer. It’s late afternoon now. This most likely happened the night before last. She’s starting to ripen.” There was the early smell of decay coming from the body, which was starting to break down into the various gases and chemicals designed to eat the corpse from the inside out. Adam’s jaw was clenched tight and his eyes darted away from what remained of Nora Sanderson. He was acting like a rookie. “Hold a latex glove to your nose. It’ll help mask the smell.”
“I’m fine,” he said. He didn’t look fine.
She opened both of Nora’s hands to check for defensive wounds. There were no cuts or other markings on her hands or arms. Unless forensics found something she couldn’t see, it didn’t appear she’d had any chance to defend herself.
Standing farther in the living room was a huge man dressed in a uniform slightly too small for him. His head was long like a horse’s, with a jaw jutting toward his knees. He wore big glasses over small eyes and his blond hair stuck up in a wiry fringe.
“What’s the story, Donovan?” Kay said. She continued to stare at the body.
“You know what I know, boss. I’m making sure she doesn’t get up and walk away.”
“Well done, then. Hang tight here.”
She studied the deep gash across Nora’s throat. “Looks to be a left to right cut, so the killer’s right-handed. There’s no knife around the body, so it probably isn’t suicide.”
“Suicide?” Adam said. He was standing slightly behind Kay, the latex held to his nose. “Who would slash their own throat?”
“I don’t think it’s many people’s first choice of ways to kill themselves, but it can be done. The key is to have a very sharp knife.” Donovan snorted.
“You think she brought a stranger home?” Adam said.
“I don’t think anything yet. Nora falls forward after he makes the cut and now he has a body blocking the door. He drags her into the apartment, turns her over, and leaves her here. That’s the limit of my speculation at this point. She was wearing a lot of complicated clothing. It doesn’t appear she was raped.”
They stood there a moment longer, staring at the body. Part of her felt despair that this brutal murder had happened to Nora. The other part was anxious to get to work. She clapped her hands, as if breaking from a huddle. “Okay, let’s get this operation going. Adam, go downstairs and make sure Carey’s called in forensics and the ME, then interview the landlord so we can cut him loose. I’ll start poking around here.”
She moved into the bedroom to look around before the forensic team arrived. A woman’s bedroom revealed a lot. Nora’s was not the room of a woman with even a smidgen of decorating sense. The dresser had a thrift store look about it, the sea foam green walls were bare and needed paint, and there was no rug on the scuffed hardwood floors. The queen-size bed was unmade, and the sheets a dirty white. Kay liked a well made bed herself. It made climbing in at the end of a long day that much sweeter. Next to the bed was a rickety nightstand with two drawers. Sitting on top was a photo of her family, Nora and Griffin, along with their parents, all staring straight ahead without smiling. It was like a group passport photo. In the top drawer of the nightstand was lotion, manicure equipment, condoms, and a diary. The bottom drawer held a rather elegant vibrator. Kay contemplated it for a moment, wondering how much it cost and wasn’t she ready for a new model? Tucked underneath was a paperback porn novel with a stern looking man standing over a naked, collared woman. Interesting what you don’t know about people.
Kay opened the diary to the last entry, on Monday.
Another shitty day at work. That bastard Connelly was all in my face the entire day. I hate him. I wanted to go out tonight to get him out of my head, but I got home too late. Can’t wait for tomorrow night. It’s round one of the trivia tournament at Pinky’s. We’re going to kick ass.
She’d need to talk to this Connelly person. It didn’t sound like there was any love lost between him and the victim. And they’d swing by Pinky’s right after they informed the mother of her daughter’s death. There’d be heat from her lieutenant about working a case where she was related to the victim by marriage, but she’d do so as long as she could. She had no desire to be thrust into Griffin’s world again. It had been over fifteen years since she’d made her escape from it. But she also clung to every case she started. They were hers.
She moved around the room. There was a cardboard jewelry box that looked untouched. Bracelets and necklaces were slotted next to each other, no spaces in between. A strand of pearls looked like they had some value. She was ruling out robbery as a motive. The laptop and phone weren’t taken, the TV, the cash in Nora’s wallet. She checked all the dresser drawers and the small closet. Nothing unusual or noteworthy. The whole room would need to be dusted for prints, and she’d need to read the diary.
Adam came back into the room.
“Let’s turn this over to forensics for now and go talk to
some people,” Kay said. “You can tell me about the landlord on the way.”
Outside, a crowd had gathered, including the news trucks from the local network affiliates. She saw her lieutenant talking to the patrol officers and made her way over to fill him in. She didn’t mention that she’d known the victim. Then she and Adam walked through the crowd to their car. She looked at the time on her phone. Four o’clock. If they hustled, she’d still get to her brother’s dinner party on time. She’d broken many dinner dates with her family because work always came first. But she was ready to meet an interesting woman and this was the best way to do it, despite Tom’s poor track record. Her date was a new painting instructor at the Art Institute and Tom’s wife Louise had given her a thumbs-up. She was curious.
“I remember where the parents lived, but they could have moved. Griffin and I lived in Normal back then,” she said as they walked to their car on Roscoe.
“The ex-husband. And don’t ask me any questions.”
“You’ll have to answer questions, Kay.” She didn’t look at him. “I got the mother’s number and address from the landlord. She’s out in Jefferson Park,” Adam said. “I don’t know whether there’s a dad or not.”
“There was. An incredibly antagonistic brute. I’ve no idea whether he’s alive or not.”
She got behind the wheel and pulled into traffic. “What did the landlord say?”
“He doesn’t live on the property so he doesn’t know much about Nora. Said she’d lived there a year and always paid her rent on time. Never got any complaints about her.”
“What did he say about finding her?” She got back on Addison and headed west for the Jefferson Park neighborhood on the northwest side.
“He got a call an hour ago from the vic’s mom. She was freaking out.”
“She convinced the landlord to open the door up,” Kay said.
“Yeah. He said he about puked when he saw the body. He slammed it shut and called nine one one.”
She frowned as they started to bog down in traffic. “There was a diary in the bedroom. She had a beef with her boss we’ll have to look into. We need to read the whole thing, so be sure to get that from forensics after they’ve dusted it. Also, contact the ME and see when they plan to do the autopsy. And then check on the uniforms to see if they found anything during the door-to-doors.”
“Are you going to start acting bossy?” Adam said. His look said he thought her capable of any monstrosity.
“You think that’s bossy? Were you raised in a commune or something?”
Adam looked offended. “Not a commune. More like a dictatorship. I’m sensitive to bossy.”
She laughed. “You’re in the wrong business then. What did you do when you were in uniform. Cry?”
Adam stared straight ahead. Kay didn’t know why he was bringing this up. She’d been ordering him around for three months. “You can’t be a cop and be sensitive at the same time.” She snuck a look at him. His lips were pinched together. “Why haven’t you brought this up before?”
“Too new. But now I feel you should treat me more like a partner.”
“You surprise me, Adam. I thought things were running smoothly between us.”
He shrugged. “They are. I don’t want to be treated like a subordinate, that’s all. I think I’ve earned that.”
“Well, guess what? You are my subordinate.”
Adam slumped back in his seat. “I don’t want to make a big deal out of this.”
Kay couldn’t understand where all this was coming from, but she didn’t have time for sensitive partners. “You’re my partner, okay? I’m sorry you doubted that. But I need you to follow my lead, and if you can’t do that, I’ll ask for a new partner, it’s as simple as that. I’ll try not to bark at you, if that’ll make you feel better. Do we understand each other?”
“Yeah, yeah. That’s not a problem. Sorry I even brought it up.” He stared straight ahead.
She let it drop and drove up Milwaukee Avenue to the side street Mrs. Sanderson lived on. It was the same street they’d lived on when she was married to Griffin, lined with identical brick houses and mature trees—the heart of Chicago’s bungalow belt. She glanced at the time again. They could talk to the mother and then the bartender at Pinky’s by six o’clock, easily. She should be able to make her dinner and come back to work after.
Theresa Sanderson was holding her screen door open as they pulled into her driveway. She’d aged since Kay last saw her nearly sixteen years earlier. The lean frame that once wore clothes so well was now tiny and bent. The salt had outrun the pepper in her short layered hair. She’d been an ally of sorts during Kay’s marriage. She seemed to disapprove of Griffin, her eyes narrowing when he said something self-serving, which was often. She would sit close to Kay during their visits and go out of her way to be kind, as if she was afraid Kay would think she was anything like her son. Kay hadn’t yet twigged on to the fact Griffin was a bully.
“Thank you for coming,” she said. “And so fast. I just called the police about my daughter.” Her face twisted in confusion as they approached the house. “Kay?”
“It’s me, Theresa. I hope I haven’t startled you. I’m with the police now.” She felt a sudden sadness. The time she was married to her son was one Kay wanted to forget, but she’d had a connection with Theresa. She took her hand and squeezed it gently.
“I just called the police minutes ago about my daughter. You remember Nora, don’t you?” Kay looked beyond Mrs. Sanderson’s shoulder into the living room. The TV was on with the sound off, tuned to a cooking show.
Kay was confused. “You called the police?”
“She’s missing. They wouldn’t listen to me before, not until she’d been gone twenty-four hours. They said they were sending someone.”
Kay took hold of her elbow. “Can we go in and sit down, Theresa?”
They followed her into the room. She’d only been in Griffin’s house a couple of times, but not a thing had changed. A sectional sofa took up most of the space, a huge curio cabinet dominated one corner of the room, crammed with Hummel figurines. Griffin had seemed embarrassed about his parents, his home, and she’d felt anxious when they’d visited. Adam sat on one end of the couch. Kay took a seat by Theresa on the other.
“We understand you called Nora’s landlord because you were concerned about her whereabouts,” she said.
“I’m expecting to hear back from him and I’m scared what he’s going to say. I asked him to look because I haven’t been able to get hold of her.”
Kay drew in a breath. “I’m afraid I have some terrible news. Your daughter was found dead when her landlord entered her apartment. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
Kay had delivered similar lines countless times, and it always felt awkward and inadequate. It felt especially cruel now. She couldn’t anticipate how the news would be taken. Some looked at her as if she’d murdered their loved one herself. Others broke down immediately. Some wailed. There’s no predicting how someone will respond when a few words change their life forever. Theresa simply stared at her, frozen in place.
Her eyes slowly shifted to Adam and back to Kay. Her hand reached for her throat. “She was murdered?”
“Yes, I’m so sorry. Is your husband out somewhere, Theresa? Can I call him and get him home for you?”
Theresa had the look of an automaton. It was as if she had no reaction at all. “My husband died a year ago. Heart attack.”
Kay wasn’t surprised in the least. The man always looked like he was about to blow a gasket. Theresa gave Adam her sister’s number and he stepped away to make the call. Theresa stared blindly at the wall.
“I know this is a shock, but I’m wondering if you’re able to answer a few questions. We’ll have an officer take you downtown to identify the body a little later, after your sister gets here.”
Adam nodded as he walked back to the sofa. “She’s on her way.”
“We need your help finding who did this to Nora. Will you tell us what you know?” Kay said.
Theresa shut her eyes for a moment, as if coming out of hypnosis. “I talk to my daughter at least once every day. Sometimes it’s only voice mail, but one of us always calls. I last talked to her on Tuesday while she was at work. Everything seemed normal. She complained about her boss, but she was excited about some trivia tournament she was going to be in that night. She plays every week with her friends. After that, nothing. I called her best friend last night and she was worried, too. I tried her at work this morning and they said she hadn’t been in since Tuesday. I was worried. But she’s an adult. There could have been something else going on, maybe a new boyfriend. I didn’t want to interfere.”
Adam got the names and numbers for the employer and best friend.
“Has that ever happened before? When she went silent because of a boyfriend?” Kay said.
“Once or twice.” She was quiet for a beat or two before her whole face dissolved and she started crying. And then sobbing. Kay wasn’t going to get anything more out of her. She wouldn’t try.
“Adam, how long before the sister shows up?”
“She said it’d be a few minutes. She lives a couple of miles away.”
Once the sister arrived, Adam and Kay got back in their car and called for a squad to take Theresa to the morgue to make the ID. They drove to Pinky’s, not far from Nora’s apartment. It wasn’t one of the pseudo-Irish bars that now sprinkled the city, serving gastropub food and craft beer. It was an old-school Chicago tavern, one block off a main street, surrounded by residential properties. It was home to two sets of regulars—tradesmen who knocked off work around three and drank until six. Then the younger crowd who came in later. Kay had been there a number of times with other police.
The inside was dark and smelled like the bottom of a keg of Old Style. She waited at the door for her eyes to adjust. She saw a few men hunched over the bar and a group of four huddled around one of the tables. Credence Clearwater played on the jukebox. The bar ran the length of the left-hand wall. A bartender stood at the far end, playing with his phone. They approached him and identified themselves.
“What do you want?” the bartender said. “If this is about the liquor license, you’ll have to talk to the owner.”
Pinky was long gone, and Kay didn’t know the new owner. She leaned across the bar toward him. He was in his thirties, portly, wearing the scruffy beard that was the fashion of the day along with a flannel shirt and skinny jeans that made him look fat. He was trying for hipster but fell about four feet short of the mark.
“We’re not here about your liquor license,” Kay said. She saw the three men at the bar watching her, but she was far enough away not to be heard. “What’s your name?”
He looked nervous, which almost everyone did when they talked to a detective. “Chris. Chris Steiber.”
“Okay, Chris. We’re here to ask you a few questions about one of your customers.” Adam showed Chris the photo of Nora he’d taken from her apartment. She was bundled up in ski gear, her arm flung around another girl’s shoulder. It wasn’t the best photo for identifying someone. “Do you recognize the woman on the left?”
He scrutinized the photo for a moment and handed it back. “Sure. That’s Nora. She’s here a lot.”
“When did you last see her?” Adam asked.
Chris chewed his lip, which was nearly hidden in his mountain man beard. Kay was pretty sure she saw some Dorito crumbs in there.
“It was Tuesday, because that’s when we have trivia night. She never misses that.”
“Were you tending bar?” Adam asked.
“Yeah. She hung out after the tournament ended. She was here until pretty late. I remember asking her if she had the next day off work,” Chris said.
“No. But she was talking with some guy. I think she was waiting to see how that would go. Usually she leaves with her friends.”
Kay glanced at Adam. “Let’s hold up there, Chris. Tell me more about this guy. Did you know him?”
“Never seen him before. He was drinking at the bar, had his stool turned around so he could watch the trivia game. I remember Nora coming straight over to the bar after it was done and climbing onto the stool next to him.”
“Yep. They started talking right away. I don’t know if they’d been sending smoke signals to each other during trivia or what.”
“Did it seem like she knew him?” Adam said.
“I don’t think they knew each other. That was the sense I had, anyway.” He wiped the bar with a gray rag. “I guess they hit it off. They talked for a long time and then they left together.”
She liked the direction this was going. “Did you get his name?”
“No. He didn’t introduce himself and I didn’t ask.”
“Could you describe him for me?” she said.
“He was probably six foot, blond hair in a ponytail, tinted horn-rimmed glasses, goatee. His eyebrows were huge.”
“Fat, skinny? Dark skin or light?” Adam said.
“He was a skinny white dude.”
“How old would you say he was?” she said.
Chris squinted. “It was dark. Maybe mid thirties?”
“What was he wearing?”
He paused and reached for his phone as if the answer was in his Notes app. She guessed it was an autonomic gesture, the iPhone as a security blanket. “I think he was wearing a black sweatshirt. I didn’t see anything below bar level.”
Kay turned to Adam and motioned him aside. “I want you to get him in to see the sketch artist ASAP. Tell him someone has to come relieve him at the bar. Then take a statement from him. Pump him for more.” She grinned at him. “Please.”
“Okay. What are you going to do? We still have to interview her teammates, right? Her best friend?”
“True, but first hook him up with the sketch artist so they can come up with a portrait. We may have a surprisingly dumb murderer. In the meantime, I need you to hold down the fort. I’ve got something at my brother’s I can’t get out of.” Adam opened his mouth as if to protest. “Don’t say it,” she said. “I’ll do the same for you. We’re partners, remember? I’ll be back in a few hours.”
“Is this the brother who teaches at the Art Institute?”
“I only have the one.” She brushed by him on her way out the door. She could see Adam had more questions. What was she doing at her brother’s? How come he didn’t know she’d been married before? Why didn’t she ever tell him anything? She knew it was the way of most partners to be like a second skin to each other. They not only knew all about the people in each other’s lives, but got the blow-by-blow on every moment in each other’s days. She wasn’t built that way. She liked to chat, but generally operated on a need to know basis. She was content listening to Adam prattle on—he was single, worked hard, and was a lifelong Mets fan and couldn’t abide the Cubs. He liked to tell her all about his disastrous dates from Match.com. She heard all about his breakup. She didn’t feel compelled to reciprocate.
She hailed a cab on Belmont, feeling mildly guilty about leaving the investigation for even a short time. The dinner party was at seven, which gave her plenty of time to get ready. She started to feel nervous. She knew Tom and Louise would be scrutinizing her, looking for her reaction to the woman they’d invited. Why had she been looking forward to this earlier in the day? She could use work as a way to get out of it, but that’s exactly what they expected. At least it gave her a good reason to leave if she wanted to bail out early.
Tom and Louise lived in a gigantic apartment in the Loyola University area, where Louise was a professor of art history. Tom taught painting downtown at the School of the Art Institute. When they buzzed Kay into the building, it was precisely six fifty-eight, two minutes by the clock, but three minutes late by Kay’s internal timekeeper.
“Get in here,” Louise said, pulling Kay into the living room. “We have lots to talk about.”
The room was filled with pillows and throws, rugs and wall hangings, floor lamps and easy chairs. It wasn’t as much warm and cozy as it was like an overly dressed stage set. She admired it, but worried something would crash down from the walls or topple over whenever she moved around. Paintings covered the walls, everything from large abstract works to small, photo realistic portraits. It made her think of Gertrude Stein’s apartment, crammed with art from floor to ceiling.
Louise led the way into the enormous back room, where the couple spent most of their time. At one end was a couch and a frumpy old chair pointed toward a TV set. Books and papers littered the coffee table, with tea mugs perched on top. The other side of the room held the kitchen, where Tom was stirring a pasta sauce. Kay looked with dismay at his polo shirt and Dockers, wondering when such a well dressed man started looking like a suburban dad. His middle was thickening as he approached his fortieth birthday. Maybe he was giving up.
“My God, you’re here,” he said, glancing at her before adding something to the sauce. “I had a bet with Louise you wouldn’t show up.”
“I win,” Louise said. She looked smugly at Tom. She was tall and bony and looked completely urban. Her black tunic covered half her thigh, her boots half her calf. In between were her knobby knees. Kay had carefully dressed in her date uniform—slim black pants, a sensible heel, a long open knit sweater over a boat necked shirt—and shown up with a smidgen of hope Tom had got it right for once.
Louise handed her a beer. They sat on the kitchen stools and watched Tom put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. He poured a glass of wine and joined them at the island.
“Kay has come because she wants to check out Diane,” he said. “She’s wisely handed her love life over to those more qualified to manage it.” This had to have been a joke. Every woman he’d introduced her to had been inadequate in some way—no sense of humor (twice), limited conversational abilities, no ambition, or quirky in ways that didn’t amuse her, like the one who licked her lips repeatedly. How could Tom not have caught that? She was like a reptile.
“Her name’s Diane?” Kay said. “Tell me.”
“You’ll love her,” Tom said. “She’s a new instructor at the school and a fine painter. You’re here to help celebrate her appointment and, of course, to fall in love.”
“I’ve met her a few times,” Louise said. “Tom’s right—you’ll love her. She’s friendly, smart, and very funny.” She turned to Tom. “Would you call her cheerful?”
“I would, but that would scare Kay away.”
“I don’t scare that easy. I can handle cheerful.” Kay took a drink of her beer. “Does she know you’re setting her up with me?”
Tom went back to his sauce. “I thought you two could figure it out together.”
Kay turned to Louise. “I almost wasn’t able to come tonight. We caught a case this afternoon.” She didn’t mention who the victim was. The last thing she wanted was to bring up anything to do with Griffin in front of Tom and Louise. They’d disliked Griffin from the moment Kay first brought him home to meet her family. Their opinion only worsened with time.
“I’m surprised you’re here, then.”
“My partner’s covering for me. I’ll have to get back after dinner.”
Tom drank his wine. “Clever. An exit strategy lined up in case Diane’s not to your liking. That’s a page right out of Dad’s playbook.”
“Don’t compare me to him,” Kay said. “I don’t think Dad even likes people.”
“He doesn’t,” Tom said. “And that includes me and you.”
“Let’s concentrate on the business at hand,” Louise said. “It’s nothing but trouble when you two talk about your parents.”
“Do you really think that?” Kay said, surprised.
“It’s always the same. Always complaints. It’s not a good look on either of you.”
“Christ.” She felt deeply embarrassed.
“I’ve heard this before,” Tom said. “I keep telling Louise she wasn’t raised by our parents. She couldn’t possibly understand.”
They were silent for a moment. Maybe she needed to get into therapy. She didn’t realize how she and Tom might sound to others and didn’t want to come across as a complainer. She didn’t believe in that victim crap. “Okay. Let’s get back on track. Anything else you can tell me about Diane?”
“I don’t think we should influence you,” Louise said.
“Here’s one thing I know. A painter and a cop make an odd pairing,” Kay said.
“Yeah, but you’re not like a cop,” Louise said.
“What’s that supposed to mean? I’m totally like a cop.”
“I think she means you’re not a cultural Neanderthal, which is a terrible stereotype, I know.” Tom set the sauce to simmer and poured more wine. “Let’s move into the living room.”
The buzzer sounded as Kay settled into a deep, tomato red couch. She sprang up to stand behind Tom and Louise, waiting patiently while they greeted Diane. Finally, she walked into the room and Tom closed the door.
Kay was trying to find a posture that made her look politely welcoming and not as nervous as she felt. Or as surprised at what she saw. She was a gorgeous woman with thick wavy hair, startling blue eyes, and a crippling smile. Tom made the introduction and Diane closed the space between them to shake hands. Her grip was firm and lingered two seconds too long for a casual shake. She felt the extraness of it. Louise was right about her warmth. She put Kay immediately at ease.
“I’m so glad to meet you,” Diane said. “Tom’s said wonderful things about you.”
“Really? That genuinely surprises me. They’ve said wonderful things about you. Do you think they were setting us up?” Where the hell had that come from? It seemed all her misgivings were gone.
She laughed. “I wasn’t sure if that’s the direction they were headed, but for fun’s sake let’s say they were.”
“Excellent,” Kay said. She led her to the kitchen, leaving Tom and Louise staring after them. “I hear we’re celebrating your appointment to the Art Institute’s faculty.” She poured her a glass of wine. There was a slight tremor in her hand and the bottle knocked against the glass. “Congratulations.”
“It’s exciting. Are you interested in art?”
She certainly was now. “Yes. I love painting in particular.”
Diane stood at the corner of the kitchen island and Kay sat on a stool. They weren’t very far apart. She tried to slow her galloping thoughts, which were reckless and a little juvenile. She’d only heard two sentences from her, but if she had a diary she’d be drawing hearts around her name. She’d not had a visceral reaction like this in a very long while.
“You’re a homicide detective? I thought Tom was kidding,” she said.
“No, it’s true. I’m police. Have been for a long time.”
Her eyes glinted as she looked at Kay. “People probably tell you it’s kind of sexy, don’t they?”
She hoped that meant she thought so. “TV shows make people think that. You wouldn’t believe how mundane my job is in comparison.”
“What a relief. A modest cop. I don’t think I could have handled a boastful one. How could painting compete?”
“Quite well, I think.”
“I’d be happy to show you my work, though I don’t suppose you can show me yours. I’m not very good with dead bodies.”
Kay felt a little tug, that feeling of something falling inside her. This was trouble. She tried to determine how old Diane was. Maybe early forties? Not so large a gap from her own thirty-eight.
“I’d love to see your paintings sometime,” she said.
Diane was quite a bit taller than her and looked down with her killer smile. “Let’s find a day then.”
Tom and Louise came into the kitchen as Kay realized they’d just made a date. She knew she wanted to see more of her. The buzz she felt was growing by the moment. They all helped Tom get dinner on the table and sat to eat. They got through some art department gossip and looked at photos of Tom’s new paintings, figurative work clearly inspired by Hopper. All the while she could feel Diane’s eyes on her. They’d avert when Kay looked at her. Once, they exchanged a long glance that made her chest tight.
Conversation stopped as they finished their dinner. Kay knew Tom wouldn’t allow silence to last for any length of time. He held up his wine glass.
“To Diane, who’s a good sport to let herself be ensnared by my little sister.”
“I have not ensnared her,” Kay said, incredulous. She turned to Diane. “Have I?”
“Ensnared is not the word I’d use at all. Charmed, perhaps.” Diane tipped her glass toward her and drank.
“Shut up, Tom,” Louise said, her tone light with the hint of an edge to it. Tom ignored it. He drank more and looked at Diane.
“You don’t know much about Kay, so I thought I’d tell you a story,” he said.
“No, you won’t,” Kay said, trying to catch his eye to warn him off.
“Don’t worry. It’s not a bad story. Did you know Kay is a hero?” he asked Diane.
She started to protest again, but Diane spoke over her. “It doesn’t surprise me at all. I’d love to hear about it.” She looked at Kay with a mischievous grin.
“Oh, I love this story,” Louise said. She topped off her wine.
Kay looked down at the hands in her lap and bit her lip.
“There you go, Kay. You’re outnumbered,” Tom said. She shrugged in defeat.
He settled back in his chair, clearly happy to have center stage. “When Kay was a rookie cop, and I mean right out of the academy, she walked into a 7-Eleven while off duty. She was probably there for smokes since she was a regular chimney back then. It was at Belmont and Racine in Lakeview. A guy walks in while she’s in line, raises a gun, and shoots the ceiling. He screams for everyone to get facedown on the floor. He has the clerk lock the door. There were six people in the store—the clerk, two middle-aged women there for the lottery, an old man with a cane and a pint of Jim Beam, the Hostess deliveryman, and Kay. She’s lying there on the floor wondering what the hell she’s supposed to do. She’s a cop. It was her duty to take care of the people in the store.”
Kay snuck a look at Diane, who sat with her chin in her hand, staring at Tom with a faint smile on her lips. Tom carried on.
“The man works his way down the row of people, patting them down for weapons and cell phones. Kay always has a small gun at her ankle, both on duty and off.” Diane looked under the table at her ankles, and she lifted her pant leg to show her the revolver. Her eyebrows climbed up her forehead. “As the bad guy got closer, she sees that he’s not patting down their legs. She’s hopeful he won’t find the weapon, and he doesn’t.
“Now they’re all lined up in a sitting position, leaning against the Big Gulp station. He tells them to keep their hands on their knees. She worries about the old man, who could barely get down on the floor while clutching his pint. Once he was down, he cracked open the bottle. The gunman calls nine one one to get the attention of the police. He was there for the hostages, not robbery. Already there are a few people peering in the window, wondering why the door’s locked. He waggles his gun at them and they scatter.
“While he’s waiting for the first cop cars to arrive, the man addresses his hostages. He introduces himself as Luke Bandemere and tells them that they’ll be safe as long as they don’t try to do anything stupid. The usual. Then, as squad cars are pouring into the store parking lot, he starts lecturing them about some crackpot religion. It might have been Scientology. Who knows. Maybe Kay remembers what he was saying. Gobbledygook. But he goes on and on. The store’s phone is ringing, the building’s surrounded by an army of police, and he seems as unconcerned as if he were swinging in a hammock.
“Meanwhile, Kay’s sitting with her knees pulled to her chest. She’s inching her hand toward her ankle while keeping an eye on Luke. He’s marching back and forth in front of them in full rant. Finally, he notices the ringing telephone and when he goes behind the counter to answer, he turns to look out the window, trying to see if it’s someone in the parking lot making the call. Kay pulls her gun and shoots him in the shoulder. His gun leaps from his hand and skitters away. She’s up and has her own little gun trained on him as she kicks his out of reach. The clerk unlocks the door and the cavalry roars in. And there you have a hero, decorated before she’s even out of her training period.”
Kay buried her head in her hands as Diane and Louise applauded. Tom had embellished the story. There was no Hostess deliveryman there. But it was largely accurate, a story that had followed her throughout her career. She hated it. She was no hero.
Diane turned toward her and made a fanning motion in front of her face. “I don’t care what you say. That’s smoking hot.”
Tom looked satisfied with himself. “I can only imagine how many women Kay’s seduced with that story.”
“I have never…” Kay sputtered.
“Relax, I’m kidding. Kay’s modest to a fault. She’s a good egg, but there’s lots going on under the hood.” He looked affectionately at Kay.
Diane placed a hand on Kay’s arm and brought her glass to her lips. When Tom and Louise carried dishes to the kitchen, she leaned in. “Can we leave soon?”
“Like right now?”
“As soon as coffee’s done. We’ll drink fast.”
The talk over dessert and coffee seemed endless, but fifteen minutes later, they were out the door and pounding down the stairs to the street. She felt the first surge of real promise since she’d started dating again. She was so excited to see what the night would bring. They burst through the door of Tom’s apartment building and onto Albion Street. To the right was the dark of Lake Michigan. To the left the lights and bustle of Sheridan Road. They turned toward the lights, walked past the Loyola campus, and crossed the street. She looped her arm through Diane’s and pulled her close. When they got farther along Albion, Diane stopped and drew her close for a kiss. Kay was percolating.
“I’m parked a block away,” Diane said. “I couldn’t find anything closer.”
She looked up at her, ready to suggest they go to her place. Two streetlights were out. Only the full moon lit the street. Big apartment buildings lined both sides, interrupted by the el tracks overhead. A train pulled into the Loyola stop, drowning out any other sounds. As they kissed she felt hazy, as if they’d already made love. Diane pulled away suddenly with a curious look on her face. Kay felt something jam into her back.
“Wallets,” a hissing voice said. “Drop them to the ground.” He had the eerie sound of someone disguising their voice with a voice box. She froze, more shocked than fearful, though she didn’t doubt it was a real gun pressing on her spine.
“What the hell?” Diane said. She pulled on Kay’s arm, unaware the man had a gun and was holding her fast by the back of her collar.
“Step back or I shoot her in the spine. Your choice.”
“Diane, listen to me,” she said. She tried to maintain a level tone, but she knew anything could cause the man to shoot. “He has a gun at my back. Do what he says. Exactly what he says.” Diane looked torn, as if unwilling to let her go, but when the gunman yanked hard on Kay’s collar, she released her arm and slowly pulled her wallet from her jacket pocket and dropped it. Kay tried to turn around to face the man, but he pulled her even closer, his gun poking hard against her.
“My wallet’s in my front pocket,” Kay said, the pressure of her collar against her throat made her voice sound strangled.
The man’s mouth was against her ear. “Take it out. Slowly.” Kay slowly reached into her pocket. He was peering over her shoulder, watching every move. She could smell his cologne—not Old Spice, but something else on the drugstore shelves. Paco Rabanne? She used to buy it for her brother at Christmas. She pinched her wallet between her thumb and finger and slowly drew it out, hoping Diane would be quiet and still. She had no intention of trying any heroics, not with a civilian present. Reaching for her ankle gun would be suicide. Trying to flip him over from behind was a low percentage move. It worked much better on TV than in real life. The safest thing they could do was hand over the money. She let go of her wallet and stayed as still as possible.
He moved the gun from her back and shoved her toward Diane, who quickly stepped up and stood in front of her, apparently forgetting Kay was a police detective. She took a good look at the gunman. There was a silencer on his gun, which made it seem all the more likely he intended to use it. He wore a huge black sweatshirt with the hood up and baggy blue jeans. He had on red Converse Chucks that looked new. She couldn’t see his hair, but he had a full, dark beard, well cared for. He wore mirrored sunglasses in the dark. She saw from his ungloved hand he was white.
“Move back five steps,” he said. She tried to commit his tinny voice to memory. It sounded gravelly, almost intentionally so. She stepped backward and Diane followed suit, still standing in front of her.
“Quit with the chivalry.” He pointed at Diane. “Move to her side.” He waved the gun between them. As Diane stepped next to her, he scooped up the wallets. He was not a street person or a gangbanger, for whom the word chivalry rarely came up in a sentence.
As he stood straight and brought his gun arm up, Kay felt a frisson that told her everything was about to go to hell. She pushed Diane aside at the same instant the silenced shot was fired. She reached for her ankle gun as Diane crumpled to the ground without a sound, blood instantly blooming on the front of her white shirt. As the man took off running. Kay fired twice at his receding back, both shots missing as he zigzagged down the street as if he were on military maneuvers. He disappeared down an alley.
She dropped to her knees beside Diane and put her fingers to her neck. She felt a thready, weak pulse, but she looked more dead than alive. Her body was limp, her face pale in the dim light. Her eyes were barely moving. She grabbed her phone from her pocket and called it in. She tried to keep from screaming.
“This is a 10-1. Police involved shooting. I’m Detective Adler off duty from Area Four. My friend was just shot during a robbery. We’re on Albion just west of Sheridan. Victim has a serious wound to the chest and has lost consciousness. Please get fire rolling immediately. Offender is a white male, medium build, wearing a black hoodie, baggy blue jeans, and red sneakers. I fired several rounds as he ran from the scene, headed west on Albion and into the alley past Lakewood. Victim is in bad shape. All speed on this.”
She dropped the phone and crouched next to Diane. Blood was still pouring from her wound, which at least meant she was alive. She was almost unable to believe what had happened. She looked desperately around and saw several people staring down the street from Sheridan. A squad car screeched to a halt in front of them. She stood, holding up her star as they approached. She held her gun loosely in her right hand.
“Detective Kay Adler, Area Four. We need an ambulance. She’s been shot in the chest.”
“We heard the call. Other cars are in pursuit,” one of the officers said.
One officer studied her identification while the other kept his gun trained on her. “Lower your gun to the pavement, Detective.” Kay did as asked. The first officer came to her and picked up the gun. They were following protocol, but she knew they didn’t suspect her. Not another cop. Nor did she much care. She was rigid with shock, surprised at the hollowness she felt about a woman she didn’t even know. She heard sirens in the distance.
The other officer knelt beside Diane and felt for a pulse. He looked up at them and shook his head. She was gone.
Kay sat in an interrogation room facing two detectives. She was on the side of the table where people wore handcuffs. She was still dressed for the dinner party—her long sweater and pale blue shirt were rumpled, as if she’d wadded them up and thrown them in a corner. Three empty coffee cups sat before her, the only objects in the room not bolted to the floor.
The detectives said they only needed information from her, and it was true they didn’t seem to suspect she had anything to do with Diane’s death. Her backup gun was a revolver, and a shell casing from an automatic was found at the scene. Still, she wasn’t exactly free to go. She’d have to talk to the internal affairs detectives next. She kept her expression neutral to hide her disbelief that Diane was dead. She’d known her three hours, but the grief seemed so real. She stared at her hands pressing down on the table, the nail beds white from the pressure.
Detective Simpson was leaning toward her, his massive body covering half the table. His face looked doughy, his hands pudgy, and he wore a toupee that sat on top of his head like a yarmulke. “Let’s do this one more time before we cut you loose.”
Kay groaned. “This is stupid. I can’t believe I do this to people myself.”
Detective Arroyo leaned back in his chair, trying to avoid Simpson’s bulk. He was thin and anxious. He kept jumping up and moving around the room. “I still don’t get why this guy would shoot and kill your friend. It doesn’t make sense, especially the way you’ve described him. He doesn’t sound like a banger, or even an addict.”
“You expect me to know the answer to that? I’m not a mind reader. Why did he shoot Diane and not me? I wish I knew. I’ve told you this already.”
Simpson shrugged. “You know the drill. The lieutenant will make us come after you for another run-through if we don’t get it now. You’re doing great.”
“I’m not doing great.” She looked directly at him and turned to include Arroyo in her gaze. “Why are you sitting here instead of looking for the motherfucker who did this?”
“I’m going to get you more coffee, Kay,” Arroyo said. He left the room.
“The uniforms are still looking, but I doubt they’ll find him,” Simpson said. “The guy’s in the wind.”
“Are they doing a canvass?” She had to make sure of even this fundamental step.
“Of course,” he said. He sounded like his patience had run out. “We know what we’re doing.”
She said nothing.
“You’re not the only detective in the Chicago Police Department. I’ve been around the block a few more times than you.” He pushed away from the table and walked out the door. Arroyo walked in with a steaming cup of coffee that smelled like a newly tarred roof. He gingerly put the cup in front of her, as if afraid she’d reach out and grab him by the throat.
“Where’d Simpson go?” he asked.
“Probably for a smoke. It’s how he stays so thin.” Kay moved the cup back across the table to Arroyo. “Let’s get on with this. The sooner I’m out of here, the sooner I can find this piece of shit.”
Arroyo looked alarmed. “I don’t know about that, Kay. I’m sure your lieutenant won’t allow you to work this case.”
“I don’t care what he says, I’m working it.” Kay leaned back in the uncomfortable chair and glanced at her watch. It was just past midnight. She felt like she’d never slept before and never would again. “Did forensics find anything at the scene?”
“They’re still down there, but I don’t think so. No footprints anywhere, no cigarette butts, no dropped matchbooks. They’ll check for prints on the shell casing.”
She gave him a long look. “Get Simpson back in here so we can get on with it.”
Arroyo left the room. Kay rubbed her face in her hands, itching to get out on the street. Itching to do something. But what? What would she do that the assigned detectives weren’t doing? A disguised man pops up out of nowhere, robs and kills, and disappears without a trace. He wasn’t hopped up on anything, he stayed calm and in control, he kept his identity well hidden. He was not an amateur. His face was almost entirely obscured by his beard and sunglasses. The sketch artist used her description to draw a face that could be almost anyone’s. Why kill Diane? That was more the act of an out of control thug or a kid in a panic. There was no reason to shoot her, not after he’d gotten the wallets.
The detectives made her wait twenty minutes. She knew they were pissed at her. She didn’t care. But when they finally came back, Simpson looked apologetic. “IPRA is here to give you the once-over, the bastards.”
“Fuck me,” she said. No one liked the internal affairs cops, but they appeared like rats after every police involved shooting. She was more annoyed than worried.
“One thing I’m curious about,” Arroyo said. “You seem genuinely upset about this gal’s death. Didn’t you meet her a few hours ago?”
She didn’t answer. She couldn’t explain her feelings. She didn’t want to admit how out of touch with her surroundings she’d been while Diane was kissing her. A circus parade could have marched past and she wouldn’t have noticed. The killer had either been lying in wait for a random victim to walk by, or he’d been following her and Diane and waited until they got to a dark street to jump them. The latter seemed more likely to Kay, but why would anyone be following them?
“I know this has hit you hard,” Simpson said, “but fair warning. If you interfere with our investigation I’m going straight to your lieutenant.”
She gave him a pitying smile. She didn’t intend on interfering. She intended to find Diane’s killer. After another hour, IPRA cut her loose and she left the Area Three building. Her car was still in front of her brother’s place, so she took a cab for the long ride up to Rogers Park. The whole night seemed like a dream. She got her car and drove back south toward her Lakeview high-rise. The bright moon hung over the lake. It looked swollen, overripe. She called her brother on the way. Louise answered.
“Kay, it’s one in the morning.” She sounded more curious than irritated.
“I have some bad news. Is Tom there?”
“Tom’s passed out and won’t be waking anytime soon. What happened?”
Kay heard Louise gasp as she told her of Diane’s murder. “I don’t have any more information than that. She’s down at the morgue for an autopsy. They got the names of a couple of her relatives off her phone, so they’ll take care of her when the body’s released.” She sounded cool, as if she were saying these words to someone she didn’t know about a body she’d never seen. “I wanted to give you the heads-up. The detectives will want to talk to you both. They might be on their way now. Have Tom call me as soon as he wakes up.”
“I’ll do that. This is ghastly. Are you all right, Kay?”
“I’m fine,” she said and hung up.
When she walked into her dark condo, she could see lights twinkling in the harbor below. Some early birds had brought their boats out of storage, and a party was going on in one of them. She stared out the window, her body rigid, though she was exhausted and felt sick to her stomach. She was afraid if she sat down she would be overwhelmed. She was not on friendly terms with deep feelings of any kind. They were rarely pleasant. Diane had been the rare exception.
The last time she’d been this rattled she was a second-year uniformed officer, and she’d been no hero that time either. She and her partner Michael Hanson had taken a call at 2300 hours to backup narcotics detectives serving a search warrant in Uptown. They’d pulled up to the building—a rundown six-flat with crumbling front stairs and boarded up windows in half of the apartments. The entire building was dark. Another squad pulled up and then an unmarked sedan carrying the detectives. Their lights and sirens were off.
A tall, gangly man got out of the sedan, as relaxed as if he were poolside with a margarita in hand. His partner got out of the driver’s side and huffed his way to the front of the building, where the others were gathered. His gut flopped over his trousers. He lit a cigarette. Very old school, Kay thought. She looked toward the tall one.
He spoke quietly. “I’m Pendergast. That’s Nichols.” He jabbed his thumb toward his partner. “We’ve got a warrant and a fresh tip on a drug dealer named Kurt Becker.”
The name didn’t mean anything to Kay. She was itching to get underway, itching for action.
“We’re going to the third floor,” Pendergast continued. “Quietly. One of you get your battering ram.”
Hanson ran back to their squad and picked up their ram, carrying it on his shoulder as if it were rolled up poster board. He was overbuilt, his uniform straining at the seams.
“I don’t expect there to be other people inside. This is his place of business. He may or may not have a gun. Assume that he does.” He studied his small crew and sent two to the back of the building. “Let’s go up and get this done.”
Pendergast led the way silently up the stairs, with Kay and Hanson following and Nichols bringing up the rear. Everyone drew their weapons at the top of the stairs, and Hanson got in place to use the battering ram.
Kay felt the adrenaline flood her system, as it did every time she was called to something dangerous. She loved it. It made her feel intensely alive. She didn’t feel fear as much as hyper-awareness. Pendergast gave the signal, and Hanson hit the door with a thunderous clap. Kay stepped in front of Pendergast as the door swung open and jumped into the apartment’s living room, weapon raised in a two-handed grip. As she swung her arms from right to left, a man roared into the room, pointing a gun at her and screaming. She fired immediately. Her first shot missed and the second hit him in the stomach. Pendergast’s shot went over the man’s head. The police were generally terrible shots. She kept her weapon trained on him and could see it trembling at the end of her arms.
“Is this Becker, Detective?” Kay said. Her voice was tight.
“Yeah, that’s the man.” Pendergast looked behind him and barked. “You three clear the rest of the apartment. Nichols, call this in.”
Kay and Pendergast approached the wounded man. He was alive, clutching his belly and struggling to sit up.
“My wife,” Becker rasped. “She’s in the bedroom.” He pointed to the wall behind him. There was a bullet hole in the drywall about two feet from the ground. Kay felt the first flush of fear.
One of the other officers called from the back of the apartment. “Detective, I need you back here.”
Nichols stayed with Becker as she and Pendergast walked a few steps into the hallway and turned into the bedroom adjacent to the living room. Someone had flipped on the bare light bulb overhead. Becker’s wife lay on top of a bare mattress, blood streaming from a bullet hole in the side of her head. Her eyes were fixed and staring at the ceiling.
“Oh, fuck,” Pendergast breathed.
Kay got to the bed in two strides and felt for a pulse, knowing full well there wouldn’t be one. On the floor next to the bed was a glassine envelope with what looked like heroin along with a needle, spoon, tourniquet, and lighter. Kay looked at Pendergast but said nothing, her heart pounding so loud she was sure he could hear it.
The other officers completed their sweep of the apartment and found an open brick of cocaine and a scale and other supplies for breaking it into smaller packets. There were more packets of heroin in the wife’s purse. A duffel bag was searched and rolls of cash were found tucked under a sweatshirt and jeans. They returned to the living room, where Pendergast put on gloves and picked up Becker’s gun. It was unloaded.
Soon the EMT, additional police, the area lieutenant, and a couple of brass descended on the scene. IPRA showed up within minutes. Kay stood still amongst the chaos. Pendergast came over and put his hand on her shoulder and told her it was a clean hit. Hanson and Nichols said the same thing. But none of them had just killed an unarmed woman.
Now she shook the memory loose and moved into her kitchen. She drank two fingers of bourbon, and then two fingers more before throwing up in the sink and stumbling to her bedroom. She fell asleep on top of her bed covers, fully clothed.
The Area Four detectives were housed on the second floor of 23rd District headquarters near Wrigley Field. The year before, an office furniture consultant had sold the brass on the idea the detectives would work most effectively if their space was designed like an insurance claims department. Cubicle desks ran in three parallel lines along the long axis of the room. They stopped at the south end, leaving enough open space for a conference room, the lieutenant’s office, a coffee station, mailboxes, and a large white board listing all the open cases and who was assigned to them. There was nowhere for detectives to sit down together other than the conference room, and the lieutenant strictly regulated its use. Nowhere for them to shoot the shit and find out who had shown up with the worst hangover, whose kid had won what medal, who had been shafted by the lieutenant, and what was going on in each other’s cases.
The lieutenant’s office was in the southwest corner of the room, its glass walls giving him a direct view onto the open area. He knew who was drinking the most coffee, who was loitering with others in front of the mailboxes, who was coming and going from the room. He was mostly an easygoing guy, but his gaze still prevented detectives from any bull sessions like they had when the room was open and littered with desks.
Kay entered the room at the start of her shift and walked up the narrow aisle to her cubicle. She didn’t glance to see if the lieutenant was in, didn’t stop to check mail or get coffee. She threw her long coat over the partial wall of her tiny space and dropped in her chair. Adam’s desk was across the aisle and one down from hers. He jumped up when he saw her pass and stood at the invisible door to her cubicle.
He reached over and patted her shoulder awkwardly. “Don’t you want to take some time off?”
“I don’t want time off. I want to get to work.”
He grabbed a chair from the empty cubicle next door and sat in the aisle. He looked cautious, as if the enormity of Kay’s story required a delicate diplomacy he wasn’t capable of. “Do you want to talk about it?”
She looked at him as if he were insane. “All I did last night was talk about it. No more talking. Time for action, so buckle up.”
Kay scribbled down some names on a piece of paper and handed it to Adam. “What I want is the contact information for these people. They’re colleagues of Diane’s in the painting department. I’m going to interview them.” Her brother had been near tears when they’d talked earlier in the morning and he’d given her the information.
Adam looked at her warily. “It’s not our case, Kay. I know you want to go after this guy, but we’ve got to work our own cases. You haven’t even asked for an update on Nora Sanderson and she’s your sister-in-law.”
“Ex-sister-in-law. Extremely ex.” She turned to her computer. It struck her that two people she knew were murdered within a couple of days of each other. Like a lot of cops, she wasn’t a great believer in coincidence. She felt the fog clearing a little, her detective mind reasserting itself. The suspect in Nora’s murder and the man who shot Diane were both wearing black sweatshirts, but they didn’t look alike. And why did the man from the previous night disguise his voice unless she may have recognized it? Her gut started to ache.
She opened a database. “I find it hard to believe this guy was following Diane. She’s a painter. Who wants a painter dead? And if he wanted one of us dead, why the ruse of a robbery? Why not shoot and run?”
“You think he was following you? Targeting you?”
“Yeah, I do. Think about how many people might have a beef with me. Lots. I’m going to find which of my arrests have been released from prison in the last six months. Make it a year. Then we’re going to contact each one of them.”
Adam leaned toward her and spoke in a loud whisper. “Kay, please. The lieutenant will kill us if he finds us working on this. Who’s caught the case?”
“Simpson and Arroyo out of Area Three.”
“Don’t know ’em.”
“They don’t do much to distinguish themselves. I’m not leaving this in their hands.” She continued to punch in search terms.
“What are we going to do about Nora Sanderson?”
Kay spared him a glance. “We work it, of course. There’re more than eight hours in the day.”
“So now you’re saying we’re going to work overtime to cover both cases?” He looked like he’d just been given extra laps at track practice.
“Off the clock, though. You won’t get paid for it.”
He tilted his chair backward and rubbed his face hard. “I don’t know.”
“Remember, you wanted to be treated as a full partner. I need backup. Someone murdered my—”
“Your what? I mean, she wasn’t even your girlfriend.”
She looked at him with narrowed eyes. “She would have been. She meant something to me.” Diane would have been her lover; she knew that. It felt as if she’d gotten a quick glimpse of happiness before the door clanged shut on her. She doubted she’d get another chance at it.
She hit enter on the computer and a list of parolees scrolled in front of her. “Christ. They’re seven names in the last year.”
She looked at their mug shots. She remembered each of them, but found it hard to believe any would be angry enough at her to seek revenge. The arrests themselves might have been made as far back as six years ago, when she became a detective.
“Get me that contact information,” she said. “I’m going out to interview some artists and ex-cons.”
“Do you even want to hear about Nora Sanderson?”
Kay started printing off the list and then gave Adam her full attention. “Sure. Fill me in.”
He opened a file and pulled out the artist’s sketch of the man who left Pinky’s with Nora. She looked it over for any resemblance to the man who shot Diane, but she couldn’t find any. A dimple or scar, something it would be hard to disguise. She knew those skilled in disguise were brilliant at diverting the eye toward the most obvious features—a scraggly beard, sunglasses, a unibrow, long hair. With a little putty, the brow could be made heavier, a cleft chin either invisible or prominent. The combinations were endless.
“Not much help there,” Kay said.
“It’s not a total wash. I showed it to a couple of people on her trivia team. They both said it looked like the guy at the bar, so at least we know it’s fairly accurate. They also said it was unusual but not unheard of for Nora to hook up with a guy.”
“She was in her twenties,” she said. “That’s what they do.”
“I got names of more of Nora’s friends and interviewed them last night. Nothing points to boyfriend problems or any other motive. No one else spoke to the guy at the bar. During the game Nora sat at the table facing the bar and she made a beeline to our man as soon as it ended. Her friends didn’t talk to her after that.”
Kay tossed the sketch onto her desk. “So what do you want to do next on your case?”
“It’s not my case, Kay. It’s our case.”
“Well, let’s say the next move’s up to you. What would you do?”
“We need to finish reading her diary. We need to get more from the bartender about who she was friendly with at Pinky’s. We need to talk to forensics and go to the autopsy. There’s a lot more.”
Kay was staring at her printout, trying to map out where the seven ex-cons were living. Three were in the city, the rest in far-flung suburbs or downstate. “Excellent thinking. Go do that.”
“On my own?”
“Take what’s her name, the rookie. Elise? I think that’s it. You can be her field training detective for the day. I think Wallace is off.”
“But what’ll the lieutenant say?”
“Tell him I’m still caught up in last night’s shooting. Ask him for the help.”
She folded her printout and stuck it in her pocket. When she stood, Adam was still in the chair, blocking her way. She placed a hand on his shoulder. “You need to act like you’re running a murder case. You look like you want to kill yourself.”
“Doesn’t it strike you that you had a connection with both Diane and Nora Sanderson?”
She looked at him. “I noted it. Don’t know if it means anything.”
She grabbed her coat and brushed by him. The lieutenant’s office was dark as she hurried past. She knew he’d want to see her about the shooting last night. She’d have to dodge him as long as possible.
When Kay crossed the parking lot, she saw rookie detective Elise Sokolov getting something out of the back of her car. When she straightened up and closed the trunk, she saw Kay and raised a hand in greeting. She was in her late twenties, a blonde with Slavic features, quite beautiful. She’d joined Area Four a couple of months earlier, but Kay had yet to talk with her, mainly because they’d been working different shifts. Elise held a shiny new briefcase and seemed a little embarrassed by it. Kay walked toward her on the way to her car.
“Good morning, Detective,” Elise said.
Kay stopped. She felt a tug of sympathy for the new detective. She remembered how nervous and awkward she’d been when she was brand new. She stuck out her hand. “Good morning. I’m Kay Adler.”
“Elise Sokolov. It’s an honor meeting you.”
Kay raised her eyebrows. “An honor?”
“Sure. I’ve already heard about what a great detective you are. The guys on overnights talk about you.” Elise stood a couple of inches shorter than Kay and looked up at her with deep brown eyes. She seemed completely without guile, unusual in a cop.
“Someone was pulling your leg, no doubt.”
“Would they do that?” A small frown creased her forehead.
Kay laughed. “Sounds like they’re taking it easy on you. Just don’t believe everything you hear while you’re getting your feet wet.”
Elise shifted her briefcase to her other hand. It was a heavy leather with the letters ELS monogrammed on the front. Kay wondered what she could possibly have in there. Elise took a deep breath. “This may be asking too much, but I was hoping I might get your advice from time to time. You have the highest closed case rate in the area and I want to learn from the best.”
Kay didn’t know whether to be flattered or annoyed, but she admired her straightforwardness. “Sure. For today at least you’ll be working with Oleska on one of my cases. Your FTD is out sick.”
“That’s fantastic. Can I have your phone number then?”
Kay gave her the contact information, impatient now to get going. “I’ve got to run, but don’t be shy about calling. Not that I think you would be.”
Elise flushed, the red that blossomed on her face a stark contrast to her pale complexion. Kay tried not to laugh as she walked across the parking lot. Her personal car, a used Audi she’d bought at CarMax, was pointed toward Halsted Street. As she opened the door, she saw a Zip rental car drive slowly south, the driver leaning over toward the open passenger window, lifting his hand in greeting. It was Griffin Sanderson, ex-husband and prime exploiter of her tendency to blame herself for everything. He was grayer than when she’d last seen him, but his face was instantly recognizable. It had so often been jammed inches from her own, contorted with rage, spittle flying from his mouth as he yelled at her. She shivered as he drove by, giving her a hopeful smile, as if they’d just had a spat and he wanted to make up. They hadn’t spoken since she left him sixteen years ago, though he’d called and sent dozens of texts and emails she didn’t respond to. Eventually, they stopped and she thought she was well rid of him. She shouldn’t have been surprised he was in town following his sister’s murder, but she felt shock shoot through her body, followed by rage. Diane, a woman who’d made her heart sing, had been murdered only hours ago. That was where her focus belonged, not once again hijacked by her jealous ex-husband.
She got in her car and tried to shake off the sick feeling he left behind. She needed to get to work. First on her list of ex-cons was Edward Ferris, who’d been released from Joliet Correctional Center the month before after serving five years on a robbery charge. Kay and her partner back then, Jimmy McTamany, had caught him in a nearby flophouse after he’d dropped his key in front of the Dollar Store he’d broken into. It seemed like the dumbest store to rob, but that was Jimmy. The key tag said “Imperial Hotel,” a name that belied the yellow brick, six-story building with torn window blinds and a metal gate at the door. They’d gotten his room number from the bored, porn addicted man at the front desk and knocked on Ferris’s door. He’d opened right up, as if he were expecting a pizza. He hadn’t seemed particularly upset to be arrested. She couldn’t imagine him plotting revenge on her. He wasn’t smart enough to track her movements, nor did he have enough motivation to try. But she needed to check it out.
She called Norma Merendez, Ferris’s parole officer, a surprisingly easygoing woman given her enormous roster of hard case clients.
“Yeah, he’s one of mine,” Norma said when Kay got hold of her. Her voice sounded like a truck bed of rocks over a bumpy road. “And if you’re looking for him, go to Twenty-sixth and California. He got picked up last night around nine.”
“What for?” Kay said.
“Armed robbery in Wicker Park. He dropped his gun during the commission and the guy he was robbing beat the shit out of him.”
“I’d laugh if it weren’t so pathetic.” Kay’s heart had tripped to hear Ferris had committed armed robbery last night, but he was already in custody when she and Diane were attacked.
“Ferris is hopeless on the street. He has a higher chance of survival in prison than he does outside. I don’t think he’s sad to be going back.”
Kay thanked her and crossed Ferris off her list. She started her car and drove out of the parking lot, anxious to get moving. She saw Elise and Adam heading toward a pool car in the back of the lot.
The next ex-con on her list was Terry Mitchell, released three months previously after serving six years on burglary charges. It was his second conviction. Kay had been instrumental in breaking up a burglary ring that was operating in the Gold Coast, land of upscale high-rises north of downtown. Mitchell had been the leader of a group of five men who managed to work their way past a shocking number of experienced doormen. Most owners were out during the daytime, and Mitchell and his gang picked their way into condos in their respective buildings. Pretty straightforward stuff. Still, Mitchell had enough brains to coordinate his staff of burglars, convert their hauls into cash, devise ways to get by the doormen, and pick a few locks himself. Maybe he hated her for bringing his empire down.
Mitchell’s parole officer directed Kay to an apartment building in Uptown, a rough neighborhood sitting in the midst of prime lakefront land. An ex-con would blend in easily in the area populated by addicts, the mentally ill, and young people buying up condo conversions. Kay pulled up to a large courtyard building two blocks from the lake. It stood between the most depressing retirement home she’d ever seen and a methadone clinic. She found Mitchell’s name scrawled by a cramped hand on the building intercom. It blared in her ear when she rang, followed by a loud voice asking who it was.
“Kay Adler. I’m a detective.”
A pause. “I know who you are. What do you want?”
“You’re not in trouble. I need to talk to you about something.”
There was a longer pause. Kay pushed the buzzer again.
“Do I have a choice?” The voice squawked out of the box. Kay knew he had a choice whether to talk to her or not, but all the better if he didn’t think he did.
“No choice, I’m afraid. Your PO sent me here.”
The door clicked open with another blare of the buzzer and Kay climbed to the third floor, making up something marginally plausible to question him about. When she reached the top floor, Mitchell let her into a studio apartment. He wore pressed jeans, a neat button-down shirt, and very white sneakers. They weren’t Converse sneakers, but Mitchell’s build could be that of the man who shot Diane. The room was spotless. Kay glanced around and saw an expensive stereo set, a tiny old TV, and a neat pile of books on the coffee table.
“I’d ask you to sit down, Detective, but I trust this is going to be a short conversation.”
She pulled out her notebook and a pen and made a show of opening it up to a new page. “I think we’d be more comfortable sitting down, but I promise to not take much of your time.”
Mitchell shrugged and motioned her to a cheap armchair sitting perpendicular to his futon sofa. They sat.
“I’m curious to see what this is about,” he said. “As far as I know, I haven’t violated parole.”
She leaned back and tried to look friendly. “As I said, you’re not in any trouble, Mr. Mitchell. I’m simply doing a follow-up for a project my district has taken on. We’re interested in knowing how ex-convicts do after they’ve returned to our area.”
“You’re kidding.” Mitchell looked amused.
“Not kidding. I want a brief—very brief—summary of how your time inside was and what your prospects are now that you’re out.” She poised her pen above her notebook.
Mitchell smiled. “It’s nice you take an interest, Detective, as strange as I find it. As you can see, I have a place to live. I’m employed as an oyster shucker at the new Mariano’s grocery store, and my prospects are as good as any poor, minimum wage fool’s are. What else would you like to know?”
“And your time inside? How was that?”
Mitchell burst out laughing. “Should I write my Yelp review? ‘A quaint, medium security prison in a great Illinois location. Warden Hughes was fantastic! Every question I had was quickly answered by one of his helpful and courteous staff. The only complaint I have about my stay in Pontiac is that it was too short!’”
Kay looked at him blankly. She was convinced he wasn’t her man. His height was about the same as the man who stood behind her, holding her by the collar. And he was smart enough to pull the murder off, but the motivation seemed insufficient.
“One last question, Mr. Mitchell. Where were you last night between nine and eleven?
Mitchell stopped smiling at his own joke and stood from the low-slung sofa. “I knew this was all bullshit. You think I’ve done something.” He walked to the door and opened it. “You can leave now. I’m not saying another word.”
She stayed where she was. “Actually, I don’t think you’ve done anything, but you can completely eliminate yourself from my list by telling me where you were. This shouldn’t be a problem for you.”
He was gnawing at his lower lip. Kay worried it would split open any second. Eventually, he quieted his mouth and shrugged. “What the hell. I was at an AA meeting.”
“What time was that?”
“The meeting was from nine until ten, and then I went out for a bite to eat with the others. There’s a lot of people who can vouch for me.”
“Then you won’t mind giving me a couple of names so I can verify.”
Mitchell shook his head. “No way. I can’t break their anonymity.”
“You’d rather go in for questioning than break someone’s anonymity?”
Mitchell looked relaxed. “Absolutely. I didn’t do anything. I’m not worried about any questioning.”
She stood and joined Mitchell at the door. “I’ll let that go for right now. I’m glad things are working out for you.”
“Need I remind you I’m an oyster shucker.”
She smiled. “Well, you’re not in prison.” She trotted down the stairs and out the door into the bright sunshine, slipped on sunglasses, and got into her car. Mitchell’s alibi had the ring of truth to it, and she didn’t have nearly enough to bring him in. For now, she was comfortable crossing him off her list. She checked her phone and saw messages from the lieutenant, her union rep, and her mother. She ignored the first two and called her mother back.
“What the hell is going on?” was her mother’s greeting. Her voice was vibrating. “Your brother told me what happened. Were you going to call me? I want to hear everything.”
It was no surprise to hear how excited Susan Adler was. Her exuberance had little to do with concern for Kay and everything to do with how shocking the event was. Her mother loved nothing more than a big story, something she could really chew over with her friends. She had a field day with 9/11. That was a story with real meat on its bones.
“I’m sure Tom filled you in on the basics, and it’s all over the papers, you’ll be happy to know.”
“Well, it’s unbelievable,” her mother said. “Who was the woman who got shot? Was she your date?” Kay could hear the slightest hint of sarcasm in her voice. She gave lip service to accepting she was a lesbian, but Kay always felt she thought her relationships a little less than. Her mother honestly couldn’t imagine life without a man.
“I don’t have time now for the details, and I’m fine, thanks for asking,” Kay said.
Her mother was silent for a second. “You always land on your feet, Kay. I don’t worry about you. Now spill.”
“I don’t want to talk about it, Mom.” She thought it might be nice to have her mother worry about her once in a while.
“I can’t imagine why not. Don’t you need to process this?” She sounded more cajoling than understanding. “I mean, this woman was shot to death right next to you. You must be in shock.”
Kay stalled. She put her headphones on and pulled out on the street. She wanted to hang up, but she’d not hear the end of it if she did. “I can’t talk right now.”
“Promise me you’ll call later. You have until two this afternoon. We’re leaving for that cruise later today so I won’t be reachable.”
Her parents now spent every vacation on a Holland America boat, and her mother came away from each one with ten new friends. The number would be higher but for the people her father alienated. Kay was charged with looking after their house while they were away. “I’ll try to call, Mom. I can’t promise anything. Happy cruising.” She hung up before her mother could say anything else. She’d only recently learned how to say no to her. Her pattern had always been to worry about her mother’s mood, which meant she usually accommodated her various intrusions into her life. Her mother always made it clear she wasn’t concerned about Kay, let alone her mood.
She steered toward the nearest Starbucks to get refueled and plan her next steps. So far she hadn’t crossed paths with Simpson and Arroyo. She wondered if they’d even considered this line of inquiry into the ex-cons. Probably not. She felt absolutely justified in poaching their case. Her case. She was pretty sure her lieutenant wouldn’t agree.
It was Friday afternoon, one of the first nice ones of the new spring, and cars jammed the neighborhood streets. Everyone was out, escaping work early, heading out of town. She felt her mood sink further as she sat in traffic, trying to keep her feelings at bay. She was sure there was some way she could have saved Diane. A nanosecond in which she moved the wrong way and allowed the bullet to hit her. No one would be able to convince her differently. One way or the other, she was responsible for her death.
From Uptown it was a short trip down Lake Shore Drive to the Art Institute, where she hoped to catch one or two of Diane’s colleagues. She rolled her window down and let the chilly lake air in. Piles of stubborn, dirty snow held firm where the city’s snowplows had created mountains of the stuff. Frigid rowers were in their boats on the Lincoln Park Lagoon. The lake itself sparkled, and as she drove farther south the great skyline of Chicago showed itself off. She guided her car around the curves of the Gold Coast and down by the city parks fronting the lake, west toward the Loop, and then down into the vast Monroe underground parking garage. She was glad to have a service weapon at her side as she made her way through the dark and somewhat sinister complex. She trotted up the stairs onto Michigan Avenue and popped up like a mole into the heart of the city. The Art Institute stood like a citadel on the east side of the street, its front stairs crowded with tourists. She walked to the Columbus Drive side of the building to enter the school.
Tom came to get her at the reception area and led her into a nearby conference room. He wore a somber suit and tie. He pulled Kay into a hug and sobbed, as if they’d been separated by war. For a moment she was annoyed by him calling attention to himself, as usual. Then she found herself holding back tears. She couldn’t afford to cry, not now. She took him by the shoulders and pushed him away.
“Tom, get your act together.” She held him stiff-armed as he hung his head and searched his pockets for tissue.
“How could this have happened, Kay?” he finally said. He may as well have said, “How could you let this happen?”
“I’m not here to rehash what happened last night. I’m trying to find the guy who killed Diane.”
He sat at the table and blew his nose. “She was just with us. I can’t believe it.”
“I know. I was there.”
“Tell me what happened.”
“Only if you promise to call Mom and relay it to her. I can’t tell you how much I’d love it if you’d do that for me.”
She filled him in on the details of the murder, speaking in a monotone. He looked incredulous, as if she’d told him Diane had been eaten by cannibals. “You’re a magnet for bizarre police drama,” he said. She couldn’t disagree.
He brought her up to the second floor, down a long hallway of painting studios, to a group of small faculty offices at the end. He tapped at the door of one and poked his head in.
“Charlie, I’ve got a police detective here to talk about Diane. She’s my sister. Don’t let her scare you.”
Kay walked into Charlie’s office as Tom returned down the hallway. A nervous young man sat at a small desk. She knew most people were uneasy around homicide detectives, the squeakiest of the clean included. They worried they’d say something stupid that would lead to all kinds of unspecified trouble. Charlie looked like he’d been to wardrobe and makeup for the part of a hipster art teacher. His hair was long and curly and bound at the top of his head in a fat knot. He wore a black T-shirt and skinny jeans. Kay checked for Doc Martens on his feet, but instead found black Converse Chucks, apparently the world’s most popular shoe. His thin arms displayed full sleeve tattoos. He was probably late twenties. He stood and extended his hand and Kay introduced herself. They both sat.
“I hope there’s something I can do to help,” Charlie said. “I’m totally bummed about Diane.” He cleared his throat.
“I’m gathering background on her. How well did you know Diane?”
Charlie shrugged. “She’s only been here a short while, but we hung out. Her office is next-door. Was next-door, I mean.”
“Do you know if anyone’s been through her office yet?”
He looked at her curiously. “Not that I’ve seen. Aren’t you supposed to know that?”
Kay ignored the question. She’d leave the office search to Arroyo and Simpson, assuming they’d be at the school sooner or later.
“Tell me about Diane,” she said, anxious to hear her described, to fill in detail she’d never learn from her.
“I dug her. She was a lot older than me, but that didn’t seem to matter. We hit it off, as it were. We had lunch together, grabbed a beer a couple times.”
“What would you talk about?”
“Art most of the time. Personal stuff, too. I’m going through a breakup so I hit on her for advice. Called on her greater experience, so to speak.”
“Did she talk about herself?” Kay said, not in the least interested in Charlie’s breakup.
“Yeah. She opened up to me, which was cool. She was in a pretty good place, from the sound of it. Once in a while she’d mention the woman she was dating.”
Her stomach dropped, as if she were in a plane hit by a strong pocket of turbulence. She’d not had much time to speculate on Diane and her life, but it never would have occurred to her she was dating someone else. Why would she go on a blind date with Kay if she was already seeing somebody? Was she that type of woman? The thought depressed her.
She wasn’t sure how long she was silent, letting the news sink in. “Tell me more about this relationship of hers.”
“Don’t know much. She said they’d see each other for a while and then stop and then start up again. I think she’s a lawyer. They’d started up again recently, and Diane said she didn’t know if she could take it much longer.”
“It? What it?” Kay said sharply.
“I don’t know. Whatever it was that made them break up so much. That’s about all she said about her.”
“Did she ever express any fear or concern about this woman?”
Charlie paused. “No, I don’t think so. She threw a lot of tantrums, but I don’t think Diane thought she’d harm her.”
“Do you know her name?”
“Shelly. Shelly what, I don’t know. Do you really think she did it? Because I don’t see it, if you don’t mind me saying.”
Kay didn’t see it either. It was not Shelly who jumped them last night. She heard the clack of heels coming quickly down the hallway. Charlie peeked out the door as Kay turned her head.
“Oh, my God, it’s her. Shelly.” He looked alarmed.
“Has she ever been here before?”
“A couple times. She scares me, to be honest.”
A woman came striding toward them, her expression like one you’d have when you’re fighting with the cable company. She was in her early forties, wearing a bright red power suit and high heels. She was average in all ways except for the most glorious head of hair. A warm auburn, thick, brushed away from her face, touching her shoulders. Kay felt jealous for the hair alone. She stopped in front of Charlie’s door and pointed at him.
“You knew Diane, correct?” She completely ignored Kay. Charlie looked at Kay before speaking.
“Correct. I was talking to Detective Adler about her.”
Shelly swung her head sharply and appraised Kay up and down. Her eyes were like laser beams. She wasn’t a woman to fuck with.
“Detective. I’m Shelly Fineman. Maybe you can tell me what’s going on. All I know is what I heard on the news, which is a shit way of finding out your girlfriend’s been murdered.”
Kay winced at the word girlfriend. “I’m glad you’re here. I’d like to ask you a few questions.”
“I want answers, not questions,” Shelly said. Charlie was standing stock-still, as if he were a rabbit stopped in his tracks. “And I intend to get them.”
Kay turned to Charlie. “Do you think we could borrow your office for a few minutes? Is there something you can do elsewhere?”
Charlie quickly came around his desk and headed for the door. “No problem,” he said as he scooted away.
“Why don’t you have a seat?” Kay said as she moved to get the chair behind the desk. “I’ll tell you what I know, which isn’t much at this point.” Shelly perched on the edge of the guest chair. “Diane was in the company of a woman, apparently returning to her car around ten last night. They were jumped before they could get there. Diane was shot, the woman is okay. She gave a vague description of the assailant and that’s all.” Kay was almost tempted to tell her she was the woman Diane was with, but it didn’t seem the right tactic.
“What do you mean in the company of a woman?” Shelly said rather fiercely. “What woman?”
“We know they were coming back from a dinner party where they were both guests. The hosts say they seemed to hit it off pretty well.” Kay couldn’t help herself.
“What?” Shelly looked not so much shocked as furious. “Like on a date?”
“That’s what the party hosts report. Do you have any idea who may have wanted Diane dead?”
This sobered Shelly a bit, as if realizing that she was about to curse out a dead woman. “Absolutely not. Diane was a gentle woman, very mellow. We were a case of opposites attract. Or at least I thought we were.”
Kay could sympathize. “How long had you and Diane been seeing each other?”
Shelly opened her mouth as if to answer and then snapped it shut. “Are you asking me questions in an official capacity, Detective?”
“Then I elect to not answer them. I know well enough how the husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend are targeted by the police. I have no interest in you twisting my words.”
Kay put her hands on the desk and leaned forward. “I find it interesting that a murder victim’s girlfriend, as you claim to be, wouldn’t do what she can to help us find her killer. We’re gathering information. You can help.”
She flipped her hair back with a practiced motion. “I’m a lawyer. I’m trained to protect clients, which in this case is myself. When I retain a criminal lawyer we can talk.” She stood.
Kay leaned back. “As I say, your attitude is interesting. Calls attention to itself. You’ve managed to both not help this investigation and pique my curiosity.”
“Whatever you say. I came here to find out what happened, and I guess I have.” She walked out and tried to enter Diane’s office next door. The door was locked.
“Who do I have to see about getting into the office? I’m sure there are things Diane would want me to take for safekeeping.”
“You would need to talk to me, and I’m telling you there’s no way you’re getting in. It’s considered part of an ongoing investigation and you’re not authorized to be here.”
“We’ll see about that. I’ll talk to the dean.”
“You can talk to whoever you like. You’re not going to get your way. I bet that’s hard for you.” Shelly shot her daggers and turned to leave. “You’ll be hearing from me. We’ll need you to come in to answer some questions. You’re welcome to bring an attorney.”
Shelly retreated down the hall, her heels like a blacksmith’s hammer on the tile floor. Kay let her get to the stairs at the end of the hall before following her at a more leisurely pace. She was gone by the time Kay reached the ground floor lobby. Sun poured through the giant windows and she saw Simpson and Arroyo enter the lobby as she walked through. Unfortunate timing. Simpson was wearing a plaid shirt and capacious blue jeans, with a windbreaker and a White Sox ball cap on his head. Figures he was a Sox fan. Arroyo was sharply dressed in a suit. Both saw her and headed her way.
“What is wrong with you, Adler? Do you want to get suspended?” Simpson said. He didn’t sound hostile.
“Not particularly.” She was taller than Arroyo, dwarfed by Simpson. She tried to convey nonchalance, hoping to keep Simpson cooled down.
“What are you doing here?” Arroyo asked.
“My brother works here. He teaches painting. He’s upstairs if you’d like to talk to him.”
Arroyo looked at Simpson. “We probably should. He can give us some other names.”
“That’s bullshit. You’re here for the same reason we are—getting background on the victim.”
“Is that such a terrible thing?” Kay said.
Simpson pulled his phone out of his jacket pocket and hit a number on speed dial. “I’m calling our lieutenant. You’re not poaching our case.” He walked a few steps away and talked into the phone. Kay looked at Arroyo.
“You’ll want to talk to a painting teacher here named Charlie. My brother can direct you. I also just met the victim’s girlfriend, Shelly Fineman. She’s a lawyer and refused to answer questions. Maybe you’ll have more luck with her.”
“Thanks, Kay. I’ll try to get Simpson to be more cooperative, but you know you’re not going to be able to work on this. You’re involved.”
“We’ll see.” She left the school and walked back to the parking garage, unsure of what step to take next. There was a new voice mail from Lieutenant Sharpe. Time to go face the music before she got suspended.
Lieutenant Jack Sharpe was a former defensive linebacker at the University of Illinois. Now in his forties, he managed to stay at his fighting weight through a grueling schedule of workouts. If you couldn’t find him in his office, you could always find him in the station’s fitness center.
Kay walked into the fug of the gym, her nose crinkling in protest. There were five cops working out, including Lieutenant Sharpe, who was lifting a tremendously heavy barbell. Kay approached when he lowered the weights and reached for his water bottle.
“You wanted to see me, Lieutenant?”
He turned his head toward her and scrunched his brow. “Adler! I wondered when you’d show up.”
“Your message said it was urgent, sir.”
Sharpe put the barbell on its rack. “Walk with me.”
She followed as he headed for the water cooler in a far corner of the gym. The other police were out of eavesdropping range. “First of all,” he said, “I want to say I’m sorry about what happened last night. You should have called me. I’d have gladly given you some personal time.”
“There’s no need, sir. I’d rather work.”
“I haven’t seen much evidence of you actually working today. Do you remember what I like to say, Adler?”
As if she could forget.
“Teamwork.” He looked at Kay enthusiastically.
“Teamwork is everything. We’re part of a team here, the Area Four team, and we need everyone pulling together to close our cases and make our stats shine.” He pulled his soaked T-shirt away from his body and fanned himself. Kay prayed he’d be brief.
“Now, the detectives in Area Three are on another team. I got a call a little while ago from their lieutenant saying you’ve been trying to investigate their case.”
“I think of it as my case, Lieutenant.”
“There’s where you’re wrong. It’s not your case when you’re one of the victims.”
She watched him as he drank more water and unconsciously reached for his crotch to readjust himself. “The thing is, Adler. If you’re trying to play for the other team, you’re not pulling your weight on your own team.”
“Yes, sir,” she said. He nodded approvingly.
“You’re too important to the team to have you off on your own. If you keep working the murder from last night, you can be suspended, and we don’t want that. Go help your partner on your own case. Remember, teamwork.” He clapped his hand on her shoulder.
Kay escaped and took the stairs up to the detective’s room on the second floor. She knew she’d gotten off easy. The question now was how much further she wanted to push it. She walked by the coffee machine where Adam was pouring himself a cup and crooked her finger for him to follow. Elise came into the room and she motioned to her too. She threw her coat over the wall of her cubicle and settled into her chair before turning to them. Adam seemed wary, while Elise was eager. They both looked so young.
“Did you talk to the lieutenant?” Adam said.
“Yes, we had a nice chat.” She motioned for them to pull up a couple of chairs. “Now. What’s the latest on Nora Sanderson?”
Adam and Elise looked at each other. He nodded for her to go ahead.
“We talked with Nora’s mother and got the names of more of her friends. She was a wreck. I’m not sure she’s able to think clearly now about anything.”
“That’s okay. I’ll talk to her again later. I don’t think she’s going to know much about her daughter’s sexual habits.”
“Right,” Adam said. “So we went to see Nora’s best friend Jenny. She was pretty distraught too. She found out about the murder when she called Nora’s mom to try to find her. It was unusual for her and Nora not to talk every day.”
“The last time she’d seen Nora was when they went to a movie last weekend,” Elise said. She spoke with ease and confidence, not like a rookie at all.
“Did she recognize the man in the sketch?”
“No, unfortunately,” Elise said. “She said Nora would occasionally pick up men in bars when she’d had too much to drink, and she always felt bad about it the next day. She wasn’t that surprised to hear Nora had brought a man back to her apartment. She hadn’t had a steady boyfriend for at least a year.”
“Did you get the name of the ex-boyfriend?”
“We checked him out,” Adam said. “He’s an actor in one of the rinky-dink theater companies on the north side. He was onstage and then out to dinner the night Nora was killed.”
“Follow up with the mother and friends to see if her ex has been showing up lately. It sounds like a solid alibi, but you never know.”
“Got it.” Elise jotted in her notebook.
“Try to find out from the bartender at Pinky’s whether there was anyone else at the bar who might have seen our guy or overheard him talking with Nora. And give me the forensics reports. I want to know what the blood says.”
She scanned the fingerprint analysis and saw the only prints found were Nora’s and a few others in the living room, kitchen, and bathroom. They were probably irrelevant. She didn’t believe the killer had moved beyond where the body lay near the door. If he had, he would have left a trail of blood throughout the apartment. Forensics had picked up some trace evidence, along with a small square piece of paper found by the door. It said “Inspected by No. 18.” Fibers were attached to it. If they found the same fibers somewhere else it would be helpful. For now, they told her nothing.
The blood spatter report was straightforward. The spray of blood on the floor and walls was consistent with a slashing injury over a major artery. The drip pattern showed the suspect, who would have been covered in blood, had turned away from the victim and left the apartment. Dripping blood made a trail out the door, leaving footprints on the floor and carpeted landing. Those trailed off after a few steps.
Kay turned the page to read more about the footprints and froze. The experts were able to come up with the style of shoe worn by Nora’s killer. Converse sneakers, the same Chuck Taylor style Diane’s killer wore. Holy Mother. It was the same man who killed Diane. She didn’t doubt it.
“What’s wrong?” Adam said. He was staring at Kay as she sat motionless in her chair.
“We’ve got the same sneaker at both scenes. I saw red Chucks on the man who jumped us last night. What did the other witnesses at Pinky’s say about what that guy was wearing?”
They both started flipping through their notebooks. Elise stopped before Adam did. “One of her trivia teammates thought he was wearing low top red Converse. She noticed them when she came to the bar for a drink and checked out the guy Nora was flirting with.”
“Fucking A,” Kay breathed. “And both killers were wearing black sweatshirts. I’m going to the lieutenant.”
“But how could they be the same? The guy you saw was medium build and the one who left with Nora was thin.”
“The guy I saw wore baggy clothes. It’s possible he was thinner than he looked.” She slipped between their chairs and started to walk away before stopping and looking back. “You can come with.”
They scrambled up and followed her. Lieutenant Sharpe was just back from the gym, his hair wet from his shower, leaning back in his chair drinking Gatorade. A giant canister of protein powder stood on the corner of his desk. He waved them in.
“Back already? What do you need?”
She entered the office and left Elise and Adam standing at the door. “I need bodies and I need that case transferred to me. I just found a link between Diane’s murder and the Nora Sanderson case.”
The lieutenant raised his eyebrows. “What kind of link?”
“It’s solid. The man who killed Nora Sanderson and the one I saw last night wore the same color sweatshirt and the same type of sneaker.”
“Converse. The old basketball ones.”
“Chuck Taylors,” Adam said.
“A witness at Pinky’s says our suspect’s were red,” Kay said. “Forensics confirmed they were Converse. The shoes I saw on the guy last night were red Converse. Can’t be coincidence, right? How likely is it that this would happen with two people I know within forty-eight hours? The only hitch is the description of the man at Pinky’s is different than the man I saw.”
“So you think he’s wearing disguises?” He drank more Gatorade.
“I don’t think there’s any other explanation. Lieutenant, this is the first bit of useful evidence turned up in either of the cases. We can’t ignore it. And we can’t have two completely separate investigations. We’re going to miss too much. Arroyo and Simpson are already blocking me out.”
She could hear Adam shuffling behind her. He was probably hurt she wasn’t including him in the conversation. She pointed her thumb at them. “I want these two with me.”
“That’s your team?” Sharpe asked. He leaned forward and folded his hands on his desk. “Isn’t Sokolov a rookie?”
“Yes, sir, but she’s sharp. I can act as her FTD. She’ll learn a lot.” She saw a slight frown on Adam’s face.
“Okay. What else?”
“I need bodies to start calling shoe stores. The shoes I saw looked new. The report on the other pair said they were new also. I’ll need them for other leads as well. Give me two more.”
Sharpe was looking up at Kay with a smile. “And you also want me to get the case transferred to you? That’s not going to happen. Officially, you’re working the Nora Sanderson case. I’m going out on a limb even doing that.”
“Understood, sir. Perhaps the detectives from Area Three could at least share information with us?”
“I’ll call Benson over at Three and see if we can cooperate. And you’ll have to make do with the two on your team. I’m not convinced we have multiple murders.”
Kay guessed this was the arrangement she’d have to live with. The thought of cooperating with Arroyo and Simpson, especially Simpson, was galling, but she’d make it work.
“Thank you, sir. I’ll wait to hear the status from you.”
Sharpe picked up the phone as Kay led her small posse back to her desk.
“Jesus, Kay. The shoe thing is huge,” Adam said.
“It’s a huge tease right now.” She plopped into her chair. Adam and Elise moved as if to sit down also. “Don’t sit. Adam, I want you to figure out an approach to finding where the shoes were bought and get on it. Elise, you get back with your witness who identified the shoes at the bar and nail her down on it. Take a statement. Get in touch with everyone else who was there and see what they say. And talk to the bartender about the guy’s voice. We need to know what he sounded like.” She turned toward her desk. “Go.”
Elise quickly left. Adam lingered. “Kay…”
“No. Don’t start. Don’t even think about it. There’s no time or space for your feelings, Oleska.”
“I was going to say we have to get someone looking into your ex-husband. He’s a legitimate suspect, don’t you think?”
The thought made her shoulders sag. “For killing his sister? I don’t know. Let me deal with that.”
When Adam left, she blew out a breath and put her head in her hands. There seemed no doubt that the two cases were linked, and the link was not only the Converse sneakers and sweatshirt but herself, too. The killer was taunting her. Wearing the same clothes at two different crime scenes was amateurish, but he was smarter than that. He wore different disguises and he did it to tease her, to make her play catch-up when he had an impossibly long head start. The only thing that was certain was that Diane and Nora would be alive if it weren’t for her. She felt as guilty as if she’d done the murders herself.
It was nearly midnight when Kay pushed her way through the revolving door of her high-rise. Gerald, the shockingly old doorman, sat at his desk and stared at Kay from slitted eyes. His features drooped alarmingly, as if the force of gravity had defeated the resistance of his facial bones. She didn’t know why he hadn’t retired, or been forced to retire. It wasn’t because the owners in the building loved him. He was notoriously ill-tempered. His normal expression was a scowl.
“Not so fast, missus. I’ve got a couple more envelopes for you. You running numbers up there?” His voice sounded like gravel being raked.
She approached the desk. “That’s right. If you ever want into the craps game, knock on my door four times.” The lines grew deeper in his face. He didn’t have a terrific sense of humor.
“Smarty-pants,” he said. Kay would have laughed if she’d had the energy. He shoved a letter-sized white envelope and a larger manila envelope across the desk. Her breathing hitched as she saw Griffin’s handwriting on the smaller of the two. She recognized its sharp angles. Her name was typed on the second envelope, with no indication who it was from. She took them upstairs and locked her door for the night. She was exhausted. She needed a drink. She needed to get out of the tailored trousers and button-down shirt. The clothes seemed to be grasping her and she felt claustrophobic.
When she’d changed into T-shirt and shorts, she lay propped up on the sofa with a tumbler of Four Roses and stared at the envelopes. She had no desire to read what Griffin had to say, but she ripped it open to get it over with. The sixteen years since their divorce had been almost enough to forget him. Now that time seemed to have collapsed, as if she’d never passed through it.
I knew you were working at the old Town Hall station, but
I didn’t expect to see you there when I drove by this morning. Don’t worry, I’m not stalking you. I’m not like that. I’m a different man. I hope you’ll allow me to apologize for my past behavior when I see you at Nora’s wake. It runs from noon until eight on Sunday, but I’ll be there the whole time. Isn’t it time we let go of the past?
A dread she remembered well fell over her like a cloak. His calm and reasonable words were so often followed—sooner or later—by pure vitriol. He would fly into a rage over the most banal things she said or did. There was no way for her to anticipate and avoid his wrath when anything could provoke it. She hunched her shoulders as the scene of his last tantrum came back to her, the one that finally caused her to flee the house and not return.
They’d been married a year. They were still living in Normal, where Griffin was an assistant professor at ISU and Kay was taking a graduate class the summer after she’d gotten her bachelor’s. It was the first week of class and she’d joined a group of students for coffee with their adjunct professor. When she got home before dinner and told Griffin where she’d been, he politely asked what they’d talked about. She was pleased that he seemed genuinely interested and chatted on about the book they were reading in class—Sister Carrie—while she pulled pots and pans out to start dinner. He stepped aside as she took food out of the refrigerator and leaned back against it as soon as she closed the door. She could feel his gaze following her. She’d always loved how he looked at her as if she were something exquisite, but that wasn’t what she felt from him now. It was harder to read what was going on behind his bright green eyes. She’d made the mistake several times of mistaking interest for rage—rage that came out of nowhere and seemed to be unattached to anything she’d said or done. Rage that made her terrified.
“It was a great discussion. I had fun,” she said.
“Tell me about your teacher. He sounds amusing.”
She started washing vegetables in the sink, her back to Griffin. “Oh, he’s totally amusing, which is what makes these coffees so fun. Everyone likes him.” She didn’t think he could object when she was in a group.
“How old is he?” His voice remained conversational.
She glanced over her shoulders. “I’m not sure. Probably around your age.” She turned back and starting tearing up lettuce for a salad.
“Maybe he’s a little like me, then,” he said. “It wasn’t that long ago I was your teacher.”
She hesitated. When she glanced at him again, his eyes were hooded. He made her think of a cobra about to strike. “No, he’s not like you at all. You’re much more a presence in your field. More of a presence, period. I thought of you in an entirely different way when I was your student.”
“Oh, I doubt that very much. I’m certain you were looking for the same kind of fun from him that you got from me, weren’t you, Kay?” He was using his teacher voice, the one that demanded agreement with everything he said.
She threw things into the salad bowl, trying to pretend there wasn’t anything wrong, hoping he’d snap out of it. He sometimes did. He pushed himself away from the fridge and took two steps toward her. His voice trembled with barely contained fury. “Are you seducing him the way you seduced me?”
She kept her back to him. “Of course not. There were four other people there.”
Griffin grabbed a skillet and slammed it on top of the range so hard it dented the cheap burner. She flinched. She knew he saw it and fed off it.
“Will you fool him the way you did me? Covering up what a stupid whore you are?” He grabbed the skillet again and brought it down on the countertop, chipping the Formica, screaming at the top of his lungs. “Did you fuck him in the café bathroom?”
She’d backed up so she was leaning against the kitchen door. Something clicked. Something told her things were never going to get better. Griffin would never change. As he flung the skillet across the room, Kay slipped out the door and starting running as fast as she could to her friend Alice’s studio. And this time she didn’t come back.
And now he says he wants to apologize? She wasn’t fooled. He wanted something she didn’t want to give. She’d told him she was a lesbian. She’d discovered it herself the year after she left Griffin, when she’d met a woman and all the pieces fell into place. But he’d never acknowledged it. She took a deep breath and threw the note back on the coffee table. She needed to go to Nora’s wake, but seeing him was a big price to pay for it. And why approach her now? Because he happened to be in town for his sister’s funeral? Or was he in town for something else?
The other envelope contained a single sheet of white copy paper. The large, bold type leaped off the page at her.
I know everything about you. Where you live, where you work, who you know. What fun this has been, and there’s more to come. Sit tight.
She dropped the paper onto the coffee table as if it were on fire. The killer was letting her know that Diane and Nora’s killer were one and the same person. It wasn’t paranoia on her part. And now he was baiting her, promising more death to lay at her feet. She scrambled into some blue jeans and raced downstairs.
Gerald’s midnight shift replacement was helping him push the revolving door as he left for the night. Kay went through a side door and met him outside.
“Jesus Christ on a crutch. What’s the matter with you?” He stood in front of the door, bent at the waist and drowning in a long woolen coat.
“Gerald, were you at the desk when those envelopes were delivered? It’s important.”
“Everything’s always important to you people.”
“I’m talking to you as a cop now. This is official business. Were you here or not?”
He gummed his toothless mouth as if working his way up to words. “Yes, I was here. The first came from a guy who kept trying to talk to me. I don’t want anyone talking to me.” That would be Griffin.
“I know. What about the other envelope?”
“That one came in not too long ago.”
“And?” Kay was clinging to whatever last bit of patience she could summon. “What was the person like who delivered it?”
He closed his eyes as if conjuring up a picture. “Tall fellow. Wore a ball cap way down on his head. He had a ponytail.”
“What color hair?”
“Couldn’t tell you. Dark.”
“Do you remember anything else about his face?”
He sighed as if expelling the last breath in his body. “The only thing I saw was a bandage across his nose. Must have broke it.”
“Was it like a Band-Aid across the bridge of his nose or a big bandage covering his nose?”
“Big. It covered most of his face.”
“Was he heavy or thin?”
“Thin, I’d say.”
Kay was scribbling in her notebook. “What was he wearing?”
“Cripes, I don’t know. Clothes.”
“Did he have a jacket on?” She expected him to cut her off at any moment.
“Sweatshirt, I think. And I guess he had blue jeans on. I only saw him a second.”
“Did you see what shoes he was wearing?”
“No, I didn’t see his goddamn shoes. I’m going now.”
Kay opened her phone to the two artist’s sketches. “Did he look like either of these men?”
He screwed his face up tighter and peered at the small screen, shaking his head. “I don’t want any trouble.” He looked over at a car idling in the circular drive. “That’s it, I’m going.”
She put her hand on his arm. “Is there any way the same man could have delivered both envelopes?” She didn’t believe Griffin would have killed his sister, but she had to look at all angles.
“Not unless he got his nose broken between deliveries.”
“So other than that they could have been the same man?”
He stared at her with watery eyes. “I’m lucky I can tell it’s a man standing in front of me. Other than the bandage over the nose, I couldn’t tell you a thing.”
He shambled over to his ride. Her heart was beating fast as she rode the elevator up. She’d still had hope she’d been wrong about her being the real target of the killer. Now there was no doubt.
She arranged for a forensics technician to pick up the envelope. By the time she got to bed she felt wired. She stared at the ceiling, waiting for the release of sleep. It didn’t come easily.