“And,” Jessica says, rattling the ice in her glass, “since we were supposed to be in the Hamptons, Mom gave the staff the week off—”
Patricia Cartwright holds her empty martini glass imperiously at her outspoken daughter, not even glancing in Jessica’s direction. Jessica, getting the message, takes the glass and walks over to the bar at the end of the kitchen counter to mix her mother’s drink.
“Heather,” Mrs. Cartwright says, reaching up to stroke a loose strand of hair away from my face. “It’s been so long. Too long. I’m so sorry about what happened between you and Jordan. I won’t speak to any of that unpleasantness except to say that it was such a blow to me personally. I really did feel as if I’d lost a daughter.”
I notice that Cooper is making himself a drink in the background, putting ice in a low glass and reaching for the vodka bottle his sister used to make our pink greyhounds. He doesn’t bother with the grapefruit juice.
“Thanks so much, Mrs. Cartwright,” I say.
“You know, Mother,” Jessica says as she fills a silver martini shaker with ice, “you may not have lost Heather as a daughter after all. Maybe your other son might—”
The next thing I know, Cooper has his sister in a headlock.
“While Jessica and I are refreshing everyone’s drinks, Mother,” he says casually, as if it’s not unusual for him to walk around with Jessica’s head trapped in the crook of his elbow, “why don’t you and Heather go out onto the deck and join Dad and the others?”
“Ergh,” Jessica says, struggling to set herself free. I notice she can’t be in that much distress, however, since she’s holding the martini mixer carefully aloft and hasn’t spilled a drop.
“Yes, of course,” Patricia Cartwright says. She takes my arm and begins to lead me toward the floor-to-ceiling glass doors to the penthouse terrace. “I’m sure you’re anxious to see the rest of the apartment. You haven’t been here since we renovated. We used Dominique Fabré, do you know him? He’s a simply fabulous architect. We had quite a lot of trouble getting the plan through the board, of course. Oh my, how soft your skin is. What products do you use, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“The tears of homesick college students,” I reply gravely.
Mrs. Cartwright looks up at me sharply—in my heels, I’m quite a bit taller than she is.
“Oh, you’re joking,” she says. “I see. Yes, you were always clever, I remember now. I often wondered what you saw in Jordan, because though I love him dearly, I’m well aware he isn’t my brightest child. That would be Cooper, though he’s always been his father’s biggest disappointment. So talented, so bright, he could have done anything, but he decides to become a private detective.” She gives a rueful laugh. “You should hear what our friends say when we try to explain. What kind of person becomes a private detective?”
It’s an idle question, tossed off casually as she pulls open one of the glass doors and we step out onto the roof deck. I’m sure she doesn’t expect an answer, but I give her one anyway.
“Someone who wants to use his gifts to help people who are in trouble. In a different era, I think they were called knights in shining armor.”
Mrs. Cartright glances at me in surprise. “Yes,” she says, her tone no longer casual. “He certainly rescued you, from what I hear.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” I say, flushing. “I just do his client billing.”
“Of course,” she says, her smile catlike. “His billing. Why not? Well, come along and say hello to everyone.”
The Cartwrights’ roof deck is a great deal longer and wider than the Allingtons’ terrace. A helicopter could easily land on the putting green that Grant Cartwright has had planted at one end, and the pool, while not Olympic size, could fit enough Victoria’s Secret models to make even a celebrity nightclub promoter happy.
The members of the Cartwright family, including Tania, are sitting on luxuriously cushioned lounge chairs ranged around an outdoor firepit, the gas flames set low because it’s so warm outside. I can see that Mr. Cartwright is texting busily away, completely ignoring the beautiful sunset before him, but Jordan is giving it his full attention. Tania is curled on a lounge chair not far from Jordan’s, looking even smaller than when I saw her last time, “Baby” in her lap. Even from where I stand, her skin tone looks off. Her eyes are hidden behind dark sunglasses.
On the opposite side of the firepit, a girl I recognize as Nicole—a decade older than when I’d last seen her—is strumming on a guitar. She resembles her twin in only the most basic ways. Her long hair is the same chocolate brown, but she’s twisted it into twin braids. She isn’t wearing the slightest bit of makeup, and instead of silver bangles, she has on beaded leather twists. She’s about fifty pounds heavier than Jessica, and instead of all black, she’s wearing a white vintage dress dotted with cheerful red cherries. On her feet is a pair of red flats, and thick-framed black glasses are balanced on her nose.
“Oh God,” I hear Patricia murmur when the notes from the guitar drift toward us. “Not again.”
“Why?” I ask. I cock my head, straining to catch more of the sound. The wind on the thirtieth floor is warm, but not gentle. I’m keeping a careful hold on the hem of my skirt. “She sounds great.”
“Oh, Jesus Christ,” I hear Jessica snarl as she comes up behind us. She’s holding her pink greyhound in one hand and her mother’s drink in the other. “Mom, I thought you said you were going to make her stop.”
“What do you want me to do, ” Mrs. Cartwright asks, “gag her?”
“You will if you want to keep me from jumping,” Jessica says and barrels past me. “Nic,” she shouts angrily as she strides toward the firepit, “give it a rest already. Daddy’s not going to buy your stupid songs.”
I follow Jessica, having to be extra careful with my drink since the path to the firepit is made of real grass and my high heels are sinking into the soil.
“Here,” a masculine voice at my elbow says. “Allow me.”
It’s Cooper. He’s carrying a tray of assorted drinks in one hand. With the other, he takes my arm, helping me maneuver the tricky pathway to the firepit.