Read Trophy Widow Online

Authors: Michael A Kahn

Trophy Widow (9 page)

But that was ultimately her decision, not mine. And it was purely conjectural at this point, I reminded myself. Angela had no decision to make—her appeals had run out and it would be years before she was eligible for parole. Talk of freedom was purely academic. But if she hadn't killed Michael Green—if she'd been unjustly convicted—then I owed it to her to try to make an academic choice a real one.

So I'd meet with Stanley Brod in the morning, and I'd give the names of Beverly's three suspects to one of my investigators for a quick background check. If that uncovered anything, I'd follow the leads. And if not, then I'd worry about my other cases and wait for the circus train to arrive with Hefty Harvey, the Silver Fox, Hammerin' Hank, and the rest of the clown patrol.

Chapter Nine

None of them,” I repeated, shaking my head in outrage. “Not even a telephone interview.”

“Can you blame them?” Benny took a long pull on his beer and reached for another handful of Welsh chips. “Would you want to spend time around a guy with a dick that looks like a Tootsie Roll pop on steroids?”

“No, but I'm not a cop investigating a homicide, Benny. These were people with serious grudges against Michael Green. No one talked to them.”

It was two days after my night jog with Ozzie. Benny and I were at Llywelyn's Pub in the Central West End, where we'd met for drinks after work. I was headed to a dinner meeting at the Jewish Federation and he was going downtown for a date with a woman lawyer from L.A. named Sheila who was in town for a closing. They'd met at a Practicing Law Institute program last summer, where Benny was supposed to participate in a panel discussion on recent developments in antitrust law. He claimed the two of them remained in his hotel room for all but one of the next thirty-six hours—the lone hour away being for his panel discussion. Of course, Benny claimed a lot of things, especially in the realm of his amatory abilities.

“Hey, Rachel, there are people out there with serious grudges against me, but no cops are talking to them.”

“That's because you aren't dead.”

“I guess that's a good point. So what's your investigator found on Beverly's three suspects?”

“Not much yet.” I watched as he grabbed another enormous handful of Welsh chips and stuffed them in his mouth. “Benny, aren't you supposed to be taking this woman to dinner first?”

“And your point is?”

“This is your second basket. Save a little room, boychik.”

He washed the chips down with a drink of beer. “Just stoking the old furnace.”

He was dressed to kill, Benny style: red Converse high-tops, baggy chinos, and a black T-shirt with the legend I Am an Endomorph—Please Help Me. He gave me a wink. “I'm going to need endurance tonight.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Oh?”

“Sheila may hail from L.A.,” he said, “but inside a hotel room that woman becomes the Boston Marathon of Love.”

“The Boston Marathon of Love?” I rolled my eyes. “Who writes your material? Barry White?”

He grabbed some more chips, pausing to ask, “What about his accountant? Cops talk to him?”

“Nope.”

“You met him, right? Stanley something-or-other.”

“Brod. Stanley Brod. We met yesterday. I went back to his office this morning to look through some boxes of records he retrieved from the storage warehouse.”

“What's the story with him?”

“Seems like a decent guy. Decent enough to get embarrassed and admit ignorance when I asked him about an odd overlap in the records that he'd never spotted before.”

“What do you mean?”

“After Michael Green started dating Samantha Cummings, he had Stanley handle the books and records for her art gallery.”

“Is that place still around?”

“No, it closed less than a year after Michael died. From the records, it looks like the gallery's revenues dried up almost immediately after his murder. She ran it at a loss for several months before her creditors finally forced her to close it down and liquidate the assets.”

“What's she do these days?”

“She works in that fancy jewelry store at Plaza Frontenac.”

“Have you met her?”

“Not yet, but I'm sure we'll be taking her deposition before long. Why? You don't know her, do you?”

He shook his head. “I don't think so, but she looks awfully familiar for some reason.”

“Were you ever in her gallery?”

“No.”

“She was on TV during the trial.”

“She looked familiar back then, too. She's a babe.”

I took a sip of my ale and nodded.

Benny said, “So you mentioned an odd overlap in the records. What is it?”

“I spent two hours looking through the files for the art gallery,” I explained. “I'm going to spend some more time next week, too. The records I reviewed showed that she paid six thousand dollars to an outfit called Millennium Management Services for every painting sold by an artist named Sebastian Curry. The payments were listed as ‘agency commissions.'”

“How many payments we talking about?”

“According to the financial records, over a two-year period the 309 Gallery paid one hundred thirty-eight thousand dollars in commissions to Millennium.”

“That's a lot of dough.”

“That's also a lot of paintings by one artist. Twenty-three altogether, which is far more than any other artist during that period. They weren't cheap, either. Almost all of the Sebastian Curry paintings sold for fifteen thousand dollars.”

“That Millennium outfit got a six grand commission off of that?”

“Looks like it. She'd pay the artist seven thousand, Millennium six, and keep the other two as profit.”

“Any other payments to Millennium?”

“No, just the Sebastian Curry paintings.”

“Must be his agent.”

“That's what I assumed, too.”

“But?”

I frowned. “That's where the overlap comes in. Guess who else was paying money to Millennium Management Services?”

“Another gallery?”

I shook my head. “Gateway Trust Company.”

“Huh?”

“That's where Michael Green had all those trust accounts for minors when he settled that big class action against the drug company. Gateway was paying Millennium Management Services an annual ‘consulting fee' of one-third of a percent on every trust fund he established there.”

“How much we talking?”

“According to Stanley Brod, the total settlement amount was about thirty million, which means that the fees had to be running about a hundred thousand dollars a year.”

“How did you find out Gateway was paying those fees?”

“Because Stanley maintained a file for Michael on each of those trust funds. The payments to Millennium show up on the annual statements from Gateway.”

“So this Millennium outfit represents artists
and
provides consulting services to trust companies. What's the story with that?”

I shrugged. “That's what I'm hoping Billy Berger can tell me. He's the chairman of Gateway Trust Company. I'm meeting with him tomorrow morning.”

“But what does Brod say?”

“He doesn't. He knew about the trust company's fees, but Michael never talked to him about them. He'd never made the connection with the art gallery commissions to Millennium until I pointed it out to him. He seemed kind of embarrassed about it. Felt he should have spotted the overlap himself.”

“Why didn't he?”

“It really wasn't his fault. One of his assistants handled the books for the gallery. I don't think Stanley paid much attention to them. He was doing it mainly as a favor to Michael Green. When I was showing him the entries I could tell he wasn't familiar with the records.”

“Have you talked to anyone at Millennium?” Benny asked.

“I have to find them first. They're not in the phone book and I don't have an address for them. I've got Jacki working on it.”

We paid the bill and stepped out into the late afternoon summer air. Benny walked me to my car, which was parked half a block north on Euclid.

“So when's your next meeting with the rebbe?” Benny asked with a grin.

“We meet tonight,” I said. “After the dinner thing at the federation. Actually, I'm meeting with the rabbi's wife again.”

“Oh, great. Is this going to be chapter two in the joys of Jewish life on the rag, or is tonight the night she turns you into a
balabusta
?”

Balabusta
is the Yiddish expression for “mistress of the house.” It's the term of affection and admiration for the classic Orthodox Jewish woman who functions in the role of chairman and CEO of the household.

“Actually, neither. Believe it or not, tonight the topic is sex.

“No shit? Jewish sex?”

I held up my hand. “Don't start.”

“Me?” he asked, feigning innocence.

“Yeah, you. Good luck on the marathon, Barry White.”

He grinned. “Wait until you see me charge up Heartbreak Hill.”

“I think I'll pass.”

***

I miss you, too, sweetie,” Jonathan said.

I was lying on the couch in my bathrobe and white socks, the phone cradled between my neck and shoulder. Al Green was on the stereo and Ozzie was curled on the floor below me, his big brown eyes watching my face. I'd been reading
Daniel Deronda
when Jonathan called from the mid-town Manhattan law office he was using during the trial. It was close to midnight for him—another late night of preparations in a securities fraud prosecution that was getting daily front-page ink in the
New York Times
. The good news: the defense was going well for Jonathan's client. The bad news: the government was still weeks from resting, which meant the trial would last longer than expected.

We talked about his trial and his daughters and his parents and then he said, “Tell me about Angela Green.”

I described what I'd learned so far, including my initial review of the accounting records at Stanley Brod's office. I was relieved to be finally talking to a former prosecutor and thus someone with more experience in this area than me.

He listened quietly. When I was through, he said, “It's still a long shot.”

I sighed. “I realize that.”

“But you may have stumbled across a money trail. If you have, that could change everything.”

“How so?”

“Most murders are about anger or revenge, and this one fits that profile. Whether the killer was Angela Green or one of Michael Green's angry ex-clients, the odds are that the murder was a crime of passion.”

“But what if it wasn't?”

“Then there'll be a money trail.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because if it wasn't a crime of passion, then he was killed over money.”

“I don't know, Jonathan. He doesn't seem to have had much money.”

“Maybe he did and maybe he didn't, but trust me on this. Somebody's money—his or someone else's—will hold the key to his death if it wasn't a crime of passion. He'll be connected to that money somehow. Just follow it.”

“I'm trying to.”

“Stay on the money trail and you'll up end at the killer's doorsteps.”

“Yes, sir.”

He paused and then chuckled. “Sorry. I tend to get a little carried away at this time of the night.”

“How about at
any
time of the night or the day?”

He laughed.

“Poor thing,” I said, glancing at my watch, “it's really late for you. Are you almost ready for bed?”

“Soon. I have maybe an hour of preparation for a cross-examination tomorrow.”

I groaned. “I wish that trial would end already.”

“I know.”

Jonathan Wolf was New York City-born and -bred. He'd been raised an Orthodox Jew, and as a child attended a Jewish day school steeped in bookish traditions. Somehow, though, he fell in love with boxing. From his bar mitzvah on, he fought in every Golden Gloves competition in the area. At the age of seventeen, he won the Brooklyn title and traveled to Madison Square Garden to compete against the title holders from the other four boroughs. Jimmy Breslin tagged him “the Talmudic Tornado.”

He started his legal career in the U.S. attorney's office in St. Louis, his wife's hometown. During his prosecutor days he'd been a classic intimidator—stalking criminal defendants in the courtroom as if they were prey, boring in on them with rapid-fire questions. Six years ago his wife died of ovarian cancer, leaving behind two adorable little daughters, Leah and Sarah. He resigned from the U.S. attorney's office and hung out a shingle as a criminal defense attorney. It was an astounding career change, and astoundingly successful. Although one might think that a Brooklyn accent and an embroidered yarmulke would be a drawback in front of a St. Louis jury, he'd become a preeminent defense attorney with a growing national practice. He was in his early forties now, his close-trimmed black beard flecked with gray. He was also drop-dead gorgeous and the sexiest man in the world, although I might have been a little biased on the subject.

“I almost forgot,” I said, smiling, “I had another session tonight.”

“With the rabbi?”

“No, his wife again.”

“And?” His tone was guarded.

“Very interesting.”

“That sounds a little more promising. What did you two cover?”

“Sex.”

“Ah, yes. The laws of
onah
.”

“I'm pleased to report that things are finally starting to look up, big guy.”

“That's good to hear.”

“You never told me about the sex part.”

“You never asked me about the sex part.”

“Never asked? How would I have ever guessed? All those pious Jewish men in their beards and yarmulkes and dark suits. How was I supposed to know what was going on behind those bedroom doors.”

He was laughing.

“According to Mrs. Kalman,” I said, “one of the fundamental commandments of Jewish law is a husband's duty to sexually satisfy his wife. You never told me this.”

“You never asked.”

“When a wife is ready for some hanky-panky, her husband better be ready, willing, and able to perform—and he better do a good job, too. Otherwise, she has grounds for divorce. The whole thing is right there in the marriage contract.”

“I never read the fine print.”

“You better, big boy. You would not believe all the official guidelines.” I sat up on the couch. “It's like the Jewish
Kama Sutra
. First the husband has to have a nice loving conversation with his wife. Then he has to do lots of hugging and kissing. And he has to be naked. In fact, if the husband refuses to get naked with his wife, it's grounds for divorce.”

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