Chapter 13

Shauna and Hester Crimstein sat in Hester's swanky midtown law office. Hester finished up her phone call and put the receiver back in the cradle.

"No one's doing much talking," Hester said.

"But they didn't arrest him?"

"No. Not yet."

"So what's going on?" Shauna asked.

"Near as I can tell, they think Beck killed his wife."

"That's nuts," Shauna said. "He was in the hospital, for crying out loud. That KillRoy loony tune is on death row."

"Not for her murder," the attorney replied.


"Kellerton's suspected of killing at least eighteen women. He confessed to fourteen, but they only had enough hard evidence to prosecute and convict him on twelve. That was enough. I mean, how many death sentences does one man need?"

"But everyone knows he killed Elizabeth."

"Correction: Everyone knew."

"I don't get it. How can they possibly think Beck had anything to do with it?"

"I don't know," Hester said. She threw her feet up on her desk and put her hands behind her head. "At least, not yet. But we'll have to be on our guard."

"How's that?"

"For one thing, we have to assume the feds are watching his every step. Phone taps, surveillance, that kind of thing."


"What do you mean, so?"

"He's innocent, Hester. Let them watch."

Hester looked up and shook her head. "Don't be naive."

"What the hell does that mean?"

"It means that if they tape him having eggs for breakfast, it can be something. He has to be careful. But there's something else."


"The feds are going to go after Beck."


"Got me, but trust me, they will. They got a hard-on for your friend. And it's been eight years. That means they're desperate. Desperate feds are ugly, constitutional-rights-stamping feds."

Shauna sat back and thought about the strange emails from "Elizabeth."

"What?" Hester said.


"Don't hold back on me, Shauna."

"I'm not the client here."

"You saying Beck isn't telling me everything?"

An idea struck Shauna with something approaching horror. She thought about it some more, ran the idea over some test tracks, let it bounce around for a few moments.

It made sense, and yet Shauna hoped  -  nay, prayed  -  that she was wrong. She stood and hurried toward the door. "I have to go."

"What's going on?"

"Ask your client."

Special agents Nick Carlson and Tom Stone positioned themselves on the same couch over which Beck had recently waxed nostalgic. Kim Parker, Elizabeth's mother, sat across from them with her hands primly in her lap. Her face was a frozen, waxy mask. Hoyt Parker paced.

"So what's so important that you couldn't say anything over the phone?" Hoyt asked.

"We want to ask you some questions," Carlson said.

"What about?"

"Your daughter."

That froze them both.

"More specifically, we'd like to ask you about her relationship with her husband, Dr. David Beck."

Hoyt and Kim exchanged a glance. "Why?" Hoyt asked.

"It involves a matter currently under investigation."

"What matter? She's been dead for eight years. Her killer is on death row."

"Please, Detective Parker. We're all on the same side here."

The room was still and dry. Kim Parker's lips thinned and trembled. Hoyt looked at his wife and then nodded at the two men.

Carlson kept his gaze on Kim. "Mrs. Parker, how would you describe the relationship between your daughter and her husband?"

"They were very close, very much in love."

"No problems?"

"No," she said. "None."

"Would you describe Dr. Beck as a violent man?"

She looked startled. "No, never."

They looked at Hoyt. Hoyt nodded his agreement.

"To your knowledge, did Dr. Beck ever hit your daughter?"


Carlson tried a kind smile. "If you could just answer the question."

"Never," Hoyt said. "No one hit my daughter."

"You're certain?"

His voice was firm. "Very."

Carlson looked toward Kim. "Mrs. Parker?"

"He loved her so much."

"I understand that, ma'am. But many wife-beaters profess to loving their wives."

"He never hit her."

Hoyt stopped pacing. "What's going on here?"

Carlson looked at Stone for a moment. "I want to show you some photographs, if I may. They are a bit disturbing, but I think they're important."

Stone handed Carlson the manila envelope. Carlson opened it. One by one, he placed the photographs of the bruised Elizabeth on a coffee table. He watched for a reaction. Kim Parker, as expected, let out a small cry. Hoyt Parker's face seemed at odds with itself, settling into a distant blankness.

"Where did you get these?" Hoyt asked softly.

"Have you seen them before?"

"Never," he said. He looked at his wife. She shook her head.

"But I remember the bruises," Kim Parker offered.


"I can't remember exactly. Not long before she died. But when I saw them, they were less"  -  she searched for the word  -  "pronounced."

"Did your daughter tell you how she got them?"

"She said she was in a car accident."

"Mrs. Parker, we've checked with your wife's insurance company. She never reported a car accident. We checked police files. No one ever made a claim against her. No policeman ever filled out a report."

"So what are you saying?" Hoyt came in.

"Simply this: If your daughter wasn't in a car accident, how did she get these bruises?"

"You think her husband gave them to her?"

"It's a theory we're working on."

"Based on what?"

The two men hesitated. The hesitation said one of two things: not in front of the lady or not in front of the civilian. Hoyt picked up on it. "Kim, do you mind if I talk to the agents alone for moment?"

"Not at all." She stood on wobbly legs and teetered toward the stairs. "I'll be in the bedroom."

When she was out of sight, Hoyt said, "Okay, I'm listening."

"We don't think Dr. Beck just beat your daughter," Carlson said. "We think he murdered her."

Hoyt looked from Carlson to Stone and back to Carlson, as though waiting for the punch line. When none came, he moved to the chair. "You better start explaining."