Authors: Lee Harris
“Mr. Koch, you’re a lawyer. You know that the way Arthur Wien was murdered wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment whim. You don’t walk around with an ice pick in your pocket if you’re not planning to use it.”
“That’s what I would argue if I were the D.A.”
“Someone hated him. Assuming it was someone in your group—or a wife—it’s hard for me to believe no one outside the victim and his killer knew what was going on.”
“I can tell you I didn’t know.”
“Then who would?”
“You’ve got me. What my wife said to you yesterday? That Art was having an affair with a wife of one of the group? That was the first I ever heard of it.”
“Then I guess it’s the wives I should be talking to.”
He looked at me and smiled.…
By Lee Harris
Published by Fawcett Books:
THE GOOD FRIDAY MURDER
THE YOM KIPPUR MURDER
THE CHRISTENING DAY MURDER
THE ST. PATRICK’S DAY MURDER
THE CHRISTMAS NIGHT MURDER
THE THANKSGIVING DAY MURDER
THE PASSOVER MURDER
THE VALENTINE’S DAY MURDER
THE NEW YEAR’S EVE MURDER
THE LABOR DAY MURDER
THE FATHER’S DAY MURDER
A Fawcett Gold Medal Book
Published by The Ballantine Publishing Group
Copyright © 1999 by Lee Harris
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by The Ballantine Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York
Fawcett Gold Medal and colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 98-96977
In memory of my aunt and uncle,
Sally and Max Shulman
With many thanks to Ana M. Soler and James L. V. Wegman and to my cousins, Martin Shulman, M.D., Cecille Shulman, and Irwin Shulman, for their time, their tales, and their wonderful memories.
At the beginning of the cask and at the end take thy fill, but be saving in the middle; for at the bottom saving comes too late. Let the price fixed with a friend be sufficient, and even dealing with a brother call in witnesses, but laughingly.
In the four years I had known my husband, he had been a daytime detective sergeant with the New York Police Department (NYPD) and an evening law student. Although I had never liked his four late nights a week during the academic year, I had gotten rather used to it, using the time alone to read, prepare the poetry course I teach, or correct papers. In a way that I have come to believe is typically me, I had more or less expected life to continue that way forever, although rationally I knew it would not.
So it came as something of a jolt when Jack announced that his last series of finals was coming up and, with luck, a graduation not long after that. His law school days were coming to an end, and our lives and routine would begin to change.
He worked as hard as ever to prepare for the finals, even taking a few of what the job calls “chart days,” a concept so complicated that I simply accept they’re time coming to him, to do his studying. The rest of his accumulated days would be used, God willing, to study for the bar exams.
And then one bright spring day I found myself standing on the campus in the sun with our year-and-a-half-old son, Eddie, and my in-laws, all of us dressed for the happy occasion of Jack’s graduation. It had really happened. All
those hours and nights, weeks and months, semesters and years had paid off. The day of recognition had come.
It was a wonderful occasion. There were as many smiles as people, and mine was surely the biggest and proudest. Jack was ten years older than most of the graduates, and all I could think of was how hard he had worked to achieve this, putting in full-time days at the Sixty-fifth Precinct in Brooklyn and dashing off to hours of evening classes, not eating dinner till he got home to Oakwood, our suburban town on the north shore of the Long Island Sound.
When the celebrating was over, Jack settled into his summer schedule, working five days a week with evenings free now, for studying for the bar. But a big change was in the works for him. The legal department of NYPD offered him a temporary position at One Police Plaza, New York’s police headquarters in Manhattan, where he would be on call to answer legal questions, a service provided around the clock for police officers. To start, he would work days, but this might change in the fall. What was so great was that he would have a law library at his fingertips and time to study. Later in the year, as the date for the bar exams drew near, he planned to take every second of chart time, lost time, and vacation time that he had earned and bury himself in his books. Like a monk, he said. His joke. I am an ex-nun.
He delayed the start of the job at One Police Plaza until early in July, feeling sentimental about the precinct where he had spent many of his years on the job, where he had developed firm friends and a good working relationship. Also, he had cases he wanted to clear, if possible, and a sense that he did not want to walk out on a lot of good people who would have to pick up what he left behind.
This was all fine with me. I never find change very easy, and easing slowly into something new seemed a good way to accomplish it.
This left me to finish teaching my own course at a local college in Westchester County, give my exam, mark my papers, say good-bye to my students, and adjust to a few months of leisure, time to spend with my nineteen-month-old son, get my garden planted, and swim in the nearby cove from the beach that a bunch of homeowners own jointly. I love spring and summer because they allow me to do all those things.
June was almost a lazy month when I finished my teaching. Jack was not yet hyper about his coming exams, although he spent an awful lot of time studying, and Eddie and I enjoyed his company and his fairly relaxed manner.
Jack and I could hardly have come from more different backgrounds. At the age of fifteen, having lived with my aunt and uncle since the death of my mother a year before, family problems produced a second upheaval in my life. I went to live at St. Stephen’s Convent, not as a novice but as someone who needed a stable home, someone who wanted eventually to become a nun. In my twenties I took my vows, and I remained a committed nun until, at age thirty, after much thought and consideration, I was released from them. It was a few weeks after that that I met Jack at the station house in Brooklyn where he was working. My life has changed a lot more than his since that moment.
On Father’s Day we drove into the city to spend the afternoon with Jack’s family. Since I was orphaned as a teenager, the Brookses are all the family I have, and I love them all. It was a great day. Jack’s sister, Eileen, was there, and she had arranged for a catered dinner, courtesy of the
small catering company she and her mother run. Eileen just gets better at what she does and the food was superb. And my father-in-law was absolutely ecstatic.
I had picked up my cousin Gene, who lives in a home for retarded adults not too far from where our house is, and after mass we took him along to celebrate the day with us. He and Eddie have a great relationship, and they kept up a giggly banter in the backseat as we drove to Brooklyn. It was as though they shared secrets and jokes in a language only they could understand. I don’t remember doing anything like that with Gene when we were children, but something about Eddie appeals to Gene, who is a sweet person in any circumstance and has loved Eddie since he came into the world.
After Father’s Day, Jack had only a couple of weeks left at the Six-Five. Each evening he came home with a few things from his desk—a pen that belonged to him; snapshots of him and several buddies, one of them now dead; a box of stale crackers; a small solar calculator that I immediately took possession of when he said he had no use for it; and a number of other small treasures he had not remembered were there. His notebooks were the property of NYPD and would be returned to his lieutenant on his last day, but he had some file folders with notes on cases he had worked on which he still had questions about or which hadn’t been solved or which had something interesting about them he wanted to remember.
I watched him move slowly toward his first change in years, the first since we had met. I sensed his eagerness to move on and his reluctance to give up what he knew and loved. I tried to help him in any way I could, to be around when he wanted to talk or to make myself scarce when he wanted to study or whatever else he did in that room upstairs
that we kept as an office. I was free till September and available anytime, and I made sure he knew it.
All that ended just before the end of June with a phone call.
The call came at nine in the morning as though the caller had been sitting by the phone waiting for a polite time to call. After I answered, a girlish voice asked tentatively, “Ms. Bennett?”
“This is Janet Stern?” She said it like a question I might be able to give her an answer to.
“Janet, yes. How are you?” She had been a student in my poetry class and I wondered how she had gotten my phone number. Jack is very particular about not giving it out and I use my maiden name to teach.
“Uh fine. It’s just—I have a problem.”
“Grades are in, Janet. And I think you did very well in the course.”
“It’s not that. It has nothing to do with school. I’m sorry. I’m a little nervous. Uh, I’m calling about something else. The student paper did a write-up on you last fall?” Again she said it like a question.
“Yes, it did.” It had been a nice article, well written, complete with a picture. It was a profile of me and included a description of a murder I had had a hand in solving last summer on Fire Island.
“We have a terrible problem in my family. It’s my
grandfather. Somebody he knows was murdered and he’s—well, the police used the word
. Could we talk about it?”
More things rushed through my mind than I could count or consider. I should say no because Jack would be coming home to dinner every night and I wanted his life as comfortable as possible. I should say no because I had gardening to do and books to read, because I had put in two semesters’ worth of work and I wanted a little time to indulge my whims. But murder is serious, and this girl was nervous and scared and it wouldn’t hurt to talk to her and find out what was going on. “I’d be glad to talk about it with you,” I said.
I could hear her exhale. “Thank you. Thanks a lot. Could we meet for lunch?”
“Today would be great.”
“I have to make arrangements for my son, Janet. Can I call you back?”
“Sure.” She gave me a number, and I called my mother’s friend Elsie Rivers, my number one sitter, and asked if she was free. Elsie always makes me feel as though I’m doing her a big favor by leaving Eddie with her. I hadn’t left him for some time so I didn’t feel too guilty about asking, and she was thrilled. She had some small errand that could easily wait and she knew Eddie would love to play in her garden. All in all, I was very grateful.