The Woods, Page 21Harlan Coben
I REMEMBER ON A TRIP TO ITALY SEEING TAPESTRIES THAT seem to change perspective depending on where you stand. If you move to the right, the table appears to be facing the right. If you move to the left, the table follows you.
Governor Dave Markie was the human embodiment of that. When he walked into the room he had the ability to make every person feel as though he were facing and looking at them. In his youth I had seen him score with so many women, again not because of his looks, but because he seemed so interested in them. There was a hypnotic intensity in his gaze. I remember a lesbian friend at Rutgers who said, "When Dave Markie looks at you like that, heck, I'd switch teams for the night. "
He brought that into my office. Jocelyn Durels, my secretary, tittered. Loren Muses face flushed. Even the U. S. Attorney, Joan Thurston, had a smile on her face that showed me what she must have looked like when she had her first kiss in the seventh grade.
Most would say that it was the power of the office. But I'd known him before the office. The office was a power enhancer, not creator.
We greeted each other with a hug. I noticed that guys did that now-hugged as a greeting. I liked it, the true human contact. I don't have a lot of real friends, so the ones I do have are hugely important to me. They were specially picked, and I love every one of them.
"You don't want all these people here," Dave whispered to me.
We pulled back from the embrace. He had a smile on his face, but I got the message. I cleared everyone out of my office. Joan Thurston stayed behind. I knew her pretty well. The U. S. Attorney's office was right down the street. We tried to cooperate, help each other out. We had similar jurisdiction-Essex County had plenty of crime in it-but she was only interested in the big stuff. Right now that mostly meant terrorism and political corruption. When her office stumbled across other crimes, they let us handle it.
As soon as the door closed, leaving the three of us alone, the smile slipped off Dave's face. We sat at my conference table. I was on one side. They took the other.
"Bad?" I said.
I put my hands out and gestured with my fingers for them to bring it on. Dave looked at Joan Thurston. She cleared her throat.
"As we speak, my detectives are entering the offices of the charitable institution known as JaneCare. They have a warrant. We'll be taking records and files. I had hoped to keep it quiet, but the media already has ahold of it. "
I felt my pulse do a two-step. "This is crap. "
Neither one of them spoke.
"It's Jenrette. He's pressuring me to go easy on his son. "
"We know," Dave said.
He looked over at Thurston.
"So that doesn't make the charges untrue. "
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Jenrette's investigators went places where we never would. They found improprieties. They brought them to the attention of one of my best people. My guy did more digging. We tried to keep it quiet. We know what charges can do to a charity. "
I didn't like where this was going. "You found something?"
"Your brother-in-law has been skimming. "
"Bob? No way. "
"He's diverted at least a hundred grand. "
She handed me two sheets of paper. I scanned down them.
"Your brother-in-law is putting in a pool, right?"
I said nothing.
"Fifty grand was given to Marston Pools in various payments and listed here as a building expansion. Did JaneCare have a building expansion?" I said nothing. "Another almost thirty grand was given to Barry's Landscaping. The expense is listed as beautifying the surrounding areas. " Our office was half a converted two-house dwelling in downtown Newark. There were no plans to expand or beautify. We didn't need more space. We were concentrating on raising money for treatments and cures. That had been our focus. I saw too much abuse in the charity system, what with fund-raising expenses far outpacing the amount that went into the good works. Bob and I had talked about that. We had the same vision.
I felt sick.
Dave said, "We can't play favorites. You know that. "
"I do," I said.
"And even if we wanted to keep it quiet for friendship's sake, we couldn't. The media has been tipped off. Joan here is about to hold a press conference. "
"Are you going to arrest him?"
She looked at Dave. "He's in custody now. We picked him up an hour ago. " I thought about Greta. I thought about Madison. A pool. Bob had stolen from my wife's charity to build a goddamn pool.
"You spared him the perp walk?"
"No. They're going to run him through the gauntlet in about ten minutes. I'm here as a friend, but we both agreed we would go after cases like this. I can't play favorites. "
I nodded. We had agreed. I didn't know what to think.
Dave rose. Joan Thurston followed. "Get him somebody good, Cope. It's going to be ugly, I think. "
I flicked on the TV and watched Bob's perp walk. No, it wasn't carried live on CNN or Fox, but News 12 New Jersey, our local twenty-four-hour news station, carried it. There would be pictures in all the big Jersey papers like the Star-Ledger and the Bergen Record. Some of the local major network affiliates might run something, though I doubted it.
The perp walk lasted seconds. Bob was cuffed. He didn't duck his head. He looked, as so many do, dazed and childlike. I felt nauseous. I called Greta at home and on her cell. No answer. I left messages on both.
Muse sat with me throughout. When they moved on to another story, she said, "That sucked. "
"It did. "
"You should ask Flair to rep him. "
"Conflict of interest. "
"Why? Because of this case?"
"I don't see how. They're unconnected. "
"His clients father, EJ Jenrette, started the investigation. "
"Oh, right. " She sat back. "Damn. "
I said nothing.
"You in the mood to talk about Gil Perez and your sister?"
"I am. "
"As you know, twenty years ago they found their ripped clothes and blood in the woods. " I nodded.
"All the blood was O positive. So were both of the missing. Four out often people are, so it's not that surprising. They didn't have DNA tests back then, so there was no way to know for certain. I checked. Even if we rush it, the DNA tests will take a minimum of three weeks. Probably longer. "
I was only half listening. I kept flashing to Bob, to his face during that prep walk. I thought about Greta, sweet, kind Greta, and how this was going to destroy her. I thought about my wife, my Jane, how this namesake charity was about to be leveled. I had set it up as a memorial to the wife I'd failed in life. Now, again, I had failed her.
"Plus with DNA tests, we need something to compare it to. We could use your blood for your sister, but we'd need a member of the Perez family to cooperate too. "
"You don't really need the DNA on Perez. "
"Farrell Lynch finished the age progression. "
She handed me two photographs. The first was the morgue shot of Manolo Santiago. The second was the age-progression shot derived from the photograph I'd given her of Gil Perez.
A total match.
"Wow," I said.
"I got you the address for Perez's parents. " She handed mea slip of paper. I looked at it. They lived in Park Ridge. Less than an hour from here. "Are you going to confront them?" Muse asked me.
"You want me to go?"
I shook my head. Lucy had already insisted on joining me. That would be enough.
"I also have a thought," she said.
"The technology in finding buried bodies is much better now than it was twenty years ago. Do you remember Andrew Barrett?"
"Lab guy at John Jay? Talkative and strange. "
"And a genius. Right, that's him. Anyway, he's probably the country's top expert with this new ground-penetrating radar machine. He pretty much invented it and claims he can cover a lot of ground quickly. "
"The area is too large. "
"But we can try some of it, right? Look, Barrett is dying to try this new baby out. He says he needs the fieldwork. " "You already talked to him?" "Sure, why not?" I shrugged. "You're the investigator. " I glanced back at the TV. They were already replaying Bob's perp walk. He looked even more pathetic this time. My hands tightened into fists.
I looked at her.
"We gotta go to court," she said.
I nodded, rose without speaking. She opened the door. A few minutes later, I spotted EJ Jenrette in the lobby. He was purposely standing in my path. He was also grinning at me.
Muse stopped and tried to steer me. "Lets move to the left. We can go in through-"
I kept walking straight. Rage consumed me. Muse rushed to catch up with my steps. EJ Jenrette stayed still, watching my approach.
Muse put a hand on my shoulder. "Cope. . . "
I didn't break stride. "I'm fine. "
EJ kept grinning. I met his eye. He stayed in my path. I walked up and stopped so that our faces were inches apart. The idiot was still grinning at me.
"I warned you," EJ said.
I matched his grin and leaned in very close.
"The word has been passed around," I said.
"Any inmate who gets Little Edward to service him receives preferential treatment. Your boy is going to be the bitch of his block. " I walked away without waiting for a reaction. Muse stumbled after me.
"That was classy," she said. I kept moving. It was a false threat, of course - the sins of the father should never fall to the son-but if that image stuck when EJ laid his head on his goose-down pillow, so be it.
Muse jumped in front of me. "You gotta calm down, Cope. "
"I forget, Muse-are you my investigator or my shrink?"
She put her hands up in a surrender gesture and let me pass. I sat at my seat and waited for the judge. What the hell had Bob been thinking? Some days, court is about sound and fury signifying nothing. This was one of them. Flair and Mort knew that they were in deep trouble. They wanted to exclude the pornographic DVD because we hadn't produced it earlier. They tried for a mistrial. They made motions and handed in findings and research and papers. Their interns and paralegals must have been up all night.
Judge Pierce listened, the bushy eyebrows low. He had his hand on his chin and looked very, well, judicial. He did not comment. He used terms like "under advisement. " I wasn't worried. They had nothing. But a thought began to worm its way in and gnaw. They had gone after me. They had gone after me hard.
Might they not do the same with the judge?
I watched his face. It gave away nothing. I looked at his eyes, looked for some sort of telltale sign that he wasn't sleeping. There was nothing there, but that didn't mean anything.
We finished up by three p. m. I went back to my office and checked my messages. Nothing from Greta. I called her again. Still no answer. I tried Bob's cell too. More nothing. I left a message.
I looked at those two photographs-the aged Gil Perez, the dead Manolo Santiago. Then I called Lucy. She picked up on the first ring. "Hey," Lucy answered. And unlike last night, there was a lilt in her voice. I was thrown back again.
There was a weird, almost happy pause.
"I got the address for Mr. and Mrs. Perez," I said. "I want to take another run at them. "
"Now. They don't live far from you. I can pick you up on the way. "
"I'll be ready. "