Unbreakable Bond - Chapter 4
I muted the TV and lunged for the phone, dialing Danny's number. Voicemail. Fab. Probably out with the Gumby twins. I hung up and dialed Levine.
He picked up on the first ring.
"Holy hell, Jamie, what's going on over there?"
"I take it you saw the news?"
"Saw it? I've had three heart attacks in the last five minutes. This was your big client? What the hell happened?" Levine demanded.
"I don't know. I guess she shot him."
I nodded at the air. "Oh this is bad, isn't it?"
"Well it certainly isn't good." Levine mumbled a few choice swear words under his breath. "We may be in the red, but taking on psycho clients isn't the answer, Jamie."
"For your information the wife was perfectly sane when she left my office," I shouted back.
"Yes, yes she was. That's your story, and you better stick to it. Jamie, this is huge."
No kidding. I took a deep breath. "I can't believe this. I can't believe I got someone killed."
My lawyer paused. Then his voice came slowly and deliberately on the other end. "Don't ever say those words again. Ever. You hear me?"
I nodded in compliance.
"She was a client. You did the job she hired you to do. When she left your office, you had no idea where she was going, or what her intentions were. Your professional responsibility terminated the moment she left you. Got it?"
I nodded again.
"What do the police think?"
"I don't know. News says no one's talking yet. The media's going to be relentless on this one, though."
"Then you better talk to the wife before she talks to them," he countered. "What the wife did after she left your office, she did of her own free will. But if she so much as breathes the name Bond to anyone, we're sunk. This goes way beyond firing an employee or two. This is testifying in a murder trial, police combing through our records, press all over our business. This is not the kind of publicity we need."
"Right." I nodded at my empty apartment again.
"How did she pay?" Levine continued.
"She have a lawyer involved?"
"I gave her footage on a flash drive."
"If she's smart, she's destroyed it. You have her sign a confidentiality agreement?"
I sat down on the sofa, the rapid fire twenty questions suddenly zapping my energy. "You know I always do."
"Good," he responded, and I could hear him sipping at something. Probably a double scotch. I suddenly wished I had something stronger than Corona in the house. "Remind her the confidentiality goes both ways," Levine said. Then paused. "Quickly." And he hung up.
I swallowed down that growing ball of dread and followed Levine's instructions, immediately dialing the number Mrs. Waterston had given me. No answer. I prayed that didn't mean she was in the county detention, and I left a cryptic message with a lot of call-me-backs in it. After I hung up, I called Maya and left her a message giving her the heads up and telling her that should anyone from the press call, we had no comment and should anyone from the LAPD show up, make sure to ask for a warrant. I left messages with both Caleigh and Sam saying much the same. Then I called Danny again. Still no answer. Of all nights, he had to pick this one to spend with twins.
When I ran out of people to call, I opened my laptop and cued up the video from last night again. I sat back on my leather sofa and watched it, silently sipping my third (or was it fourth?) Corona as I scrutinized my every word. It was a standard decoy play. I hadn't offered sex for money. I hadn't brought the wife along. And I hadn't made any threats whatsoever against the judge's person even when he squeezed my rear end like he was testing cantaloupes. Legally, there was nothing I could be cited for.
Morally, however, I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd just gotten a man killed. Not the greatest man that had ever lived but a human being nonetheless.
I leaned my head back against my sofa cushions and conjured up the image of Mrs. Waterston's perfect Hepburn face as she'd watched the footage just that morning. She'd seemed upset, but not overly so. Disappointed, but not angry. Sad, but not surprised. Nothing to indicate she was so unhinged as to actually kill the man.
I watched the muted TV playing a scene of the coroner's van pulling up to the hotel.
Apparently I knew men, but I had a lot to learn about women.
* * *
I pulled the trigger three times, popping off each round with a satisfying jolt that rippled through my outstretched arms. A Glock 27 isn't the biggest or baddest of guns. It's not made for show, and it doesn't pack as much of a recoil as, say, a .44 Magnum. But I liked it. It was sleek, small enough to fit in my purse, and packed enough of a punch that I could feel every shot vibrate through my body, from my index fingers, curled around the smooth trigger, to my toes, encased in pointy, snakeskin pumps and planted at shoulder width as I aimed for the target fifty feet away.
I pulled back, easing two more bullets down the lane, hearing the satisfying pop of them leave the barrel even through the thick padded ear coverings that were standard issue at Cisco's Range.
I lowered my weapon and hit the red button mounted beside me on the mortared safety wall. A sheet of paper bearing a head and shoulders target raced towards me from the end of the lane. Once it was close enough, I checked my accuracy. One shot to the head, two in the torso, and two more near the shoulder. Not bad. The shoulder shots would likely piss a guy off more than stop him in his tracks, but my first shot had been the head wound, so by that time the shoulders would be a moot point.
I pulled the target down and clipped a fresh sheet of paper to the line before sending it back to its position at the far end of the shooting gallery.
After spending a sleepless night being haunted by images of Judge Waterston's pudgy face, his wife's perfect trophyness, and a big red hole in the judge's forehead, I'd awoken cranky, exhausted, and needing to release some nervous energy. In short, I wanted to shoot something. I briefly considered targeting my phone when, after three more tries, Danny still wasn't picking up. But since my entire life was programmed into my phone, I opted for a morning at the gun range instead.
"Hey, that was pretty good," Sam shouted from the next lane over, gesturing to the mutilated target. "Three of those would have been deadly."
"Thanks," I responded. Though, I think she was just trying to make me feel better about the four shots that had gone wide and missed the guy altogether. I glanced at her target. Seven shots to the head. All in a neat little circular pattern. What did I tell you? The woman was an animal.
"So, any luck with Peters yet?" I asked her.
I watched as she squinted one eye behind her thick safety goggles, aiming at the paper target again. "No," she shouted. "I'm telling you, the man is clean. I went with Caliegh yesterday."
"We feigned car trouble outside his office. Caleigh even wore that little denim skirt, the one that's frayed up to her butt cheeks. And you wanna know what Peters did?"
"He called triple-A for us, waited till a tow came, then wished us a pleasant evening and left. Not even a whisper of a pass at either one of us."
"I'm starting to think you're losing your touch, girl."
"I'm startin' to think the man's gay!" Sam popped off five more shots.
"Well, leave him to Caleigh for now. I want you to take over with Shankmann. You're watching his place at noon with Danny."
"I thought you wanted this guy?"
I shook my head. "I think I'm going to lie low for a while."
She paused. "The judge thing?"
"Sucks," she offered.
"But it's not like it's your fault. The wife's the one that shot him, right?"
"Shh," I cautioned. Mornings at Cisco's meant trigger happy soccer moms and off duty police officers. The moms I didn't worry about so much. The cops, however, didn't exactly take talk of shooting someone lightly.
But Sam didn't give up. "You talked to Levine yet?"
I fired off three more rounds. All wild. "I can handle this. We'll be fine."
"Uh-huh." Only she didn't sound convinced.
"I called him last night," I conceded.
"And? What did he say?"
"He said our professional responsibility ended the moment she left our office. We're fine."
"Uh-huh." She didn’t sound any more convinced.
I smacked the red button, reeling my paper victim back in. A little better this time. Five rounds in the chest, two to the head.
I flipped the safety back on my gun and slipped it into my shoulder holster beneath my jacket.
Sam took her ear coverings off, shaking out her dark curls. "I don't know why you have to wear that thing," she said, gesturing to my gun. "It's like a hundred degrees outside, and you’re in a coat to cover it."
I looked down. A fine sheen of sweat was already dotting the inside of my blazer. "I don't mind."
"Mind? You're gonna get heat stroke."
I put my hands on my hips. "Did you put on panties this morning, Sam?"
She grinned. "Are you hitting on me, boss?"
Only I'm pretty sure the look on my face told her I wasn't kidding.
"Yes," she said, "I'm wearing panties. Lacey red ones, if you must know."
"Right, because even if no one sees them, you feel naked without them."
Sam shook her head. "Okay, I get it.” Then she grinned. “But just for the record, sometimes, my panties do get seen." She winked. "I got a life, you know."
"TMI, Sam." I grabbed my purse, making for the exit.
"Hey," Sam called after me, "so, what are we gonna do about the judge?"
"We are going to do nothing. You are going to nail Shankmann," I said, pointing a finger at her. "And I am gonna go talk to the wife and make sure she keeps her pretty little mouth shut."
* * *
As soon as I stepped outside I dialed Mrs. Waterston again. And got no answer, my call going straight to voicemail. Again. I left another message, asking her to please call me back, and hit the End button.
But no way was I giving up that easily.
I hopped into my roadster (fire engine red—if you're buying a car for show, may as well go all out, right?) and drove over the hill to the Waterston's address in Beverly Hills. It was a large white-columned affair that spoke of someone's obsession with Gone with the Wind. Singularly out of place in sunny California. And crawling with press.
I parked my car down the block, scanning the line of reporters for any way to slip inside unnoticed. They were two and three deep near the driveway, a few even going so far as to set up camp on the Waterston's front lawn. I had a sinking feeling if there was any way to get in or out, Mrs. Waterston had already taken it.
I flipped open my glove box and pulled out a plastic laminated press pass. Or at least, a really good replica of a press pass that had served me well on more than one occasion. I looped the lanyard around my neck and hopped out, jogging over to the line of vultures waiting to prey on Mrs. Waterston's media carcass.
Near the front drive I spotted a guy wearing a windbreaker emblazoned with the Channel 4 logo.
"Hey, Bob, right?" I asked, coming up behind him.
He turned, giving me a view of his jowly cheeks and sprayed-in-place hair. "Chip."
"Right, sorry. Chip. I'm so bad with names.” Especially when I’ve never heard them and am lying through my teeth. “But I recognize you from Channel 4. You work with Soledad, right?" I asked, pulling out the name of the reporter I'd seen on TV last night.
Chip gave me a quick up and down. "And you are?"
"Jamie Gonzales. Telemundo." I flashed my fake press pass.
"Right. Hi, how are you?"
"Great. Listen, our news van got caught in traffic, and we just got here. Any chance you could catch me up? Is the wife in there?"
Chip shrugged. "I think so. The only people in or out all day have been crime scene techs and plainclothes."
I looked toward the front door. A group of said plainclothes officers was huddled there now, their backs to the press as they bent their heads together.
"They come out with anything new this morning?" I fished.
"Not that they're sharing."
"Any comment from the family?"
Chip shook his head. "Sorry."
"Hmm. Well, thanks for the update."
I turned and was about to head back to my car, relieved at least Mrs. Waterston hadn't been seen being escorted out in handcuffs, when one of the plainclothes broke free from the rest, and walked toward the side of the house. He was dressed in a tailored grey suit, way beyond the financial confines of a cop's salary, and, as he moved around the corner, I got a glimpse of his face. Tanned skin, green eyes, blond hair gelled into place.
I froze. I knew that face.
What was Brooks Brothers doing here?
"Chip!" I barked.
I gestured to my admirer from the fundraiser as he crossed the lawn. "Who is that?"
Chip followed my line of sight. "Grey suit?"
I nodded, my gaze still pinned to the man.
Chip chuckled. "Lady, are you new or just been living under a rock the last six months?"
I clenched my jaw, tearing my eyes away from Brooks Brothers long enough to shoot Chip a look. "Humor me, okay? Do you know him?"
He grinned. "Yeah, I know him. He's Aiden Prince. The ADA."