Chapter 22

Detectives Roland Dimonte and Kevin Krinsky of the NYPD's homicide division arrived first on the scene, even before the uniforms. Dimonte, a greasy-haired man who favored hideous snakeskin boots and an over chewed toothpick, took the lead. He barked orders. The crime scene was immediately sealed. A few minutes later, lab technicians from the Crime Scene Unit skulked in and spread out.

"Isolate the witnesses," Dimonte said.

There were only two: the husband and the fey weirdo in black. Dimonte noted that the husband appeared distraught, though that could be an act. But first things first.

Dimonte, still chewing on the toothpick, took the fey weirdo  -  his name, figures, was Arturo  -  to the side. The kid looked pale. Normally, Dimonte would guess drugs, but the guy had tossed his cookies when he found the body.

"You okay?" Dimonte asked. Like he cared.

Arturo nodded.

Dimonte asked him if anything unusual had happened involving the victim lately. Yes, Arturo replied. What would that be? Rebecca got a phone call yesterday that disturbed her. Who called? Arturo was not sure, but an hour later  -  maybe less, Arturo couldn't be sure  -  a man stopped by to see Rebecca. When the man left, Rebecca was a wreck.

Do you remember the man's name?

"Beck," Arturo said. "She called the guy Beck."

Shauna put Mark's sheets in the dryer. Linda came up behind her.

"He's wetting his bed again," Linda said.

"God, you're perceptive."

"Don't be mean." Linda walked away. Shauna opened her mouth to apologize, but nothing came out. When she had moved out the first time  -  the only time  -  Mark had reacted badly. It started with bed-wetting. When she and Linda reunited, the bedwetting stopped. Until now.

"He knows what's going on," Linda said. "He can feel the tension."

"What do you want me to do about that, Linda?"

"Whatever we have to."

"I'm not moving out again. I promised."

"Clearly, that's not enough."

Shauna tossed a sheet of fabric softener into the dryer. Exhaustion lined her face. She didn't need this. She was a big-money model. She couldn't arrive at work with bags under her eyes or a lack of sheen in her hair. She didn't need this shit.

She was tired of it all. Tired of a domesticity that didn't sit well with her. Tired of the pressure from damn do-gooders. Forget the bigotry, that was easy. But the pressure on a lesbian couple with a child  -  applied by supposedly well-meaning supporters  -  was beyond suffocating. If the relationship failed, it was a failure for all lesbianism or some such crap, as though hetero couples never break up. Shauna was not a crusader. She knew that. Selfish or not, her happiness would not be sacrificed on the altar of "greater good."

She wondered if Linda felt the same way.

"I love you," Linda said.

"I love you too."

They looked at each other. Mark was wetting his bed again. Shauna wouldn't sacrifice herself for the greater good. But she would for Mark.

"So what do we do?" Linda asked.

"We work it out."

"You think we can?"

"You love me?"

"You know I do," Linda said.

"Do you still think I'm the most exciting, wonderful creature on God's green earth?"

"Oh, yeah," Linda said.

"Me too." Shauna smiled at her. "I'm a narcissistic pain in the ass."

"Oh, yeah."

"But I'm your narcissistic pain in the ass."

"Damn straight."

Shauna moved closer. "I'm not destined for a life of easy relationships. I'm volatile."

"You're sexy as hell when you're volatile," Linda said.

"And even when I'm not."

"Shut up and kiss me."

The downstairs door buzzer sounded. Linda looked at Shauna. Shauna shrugged. Linda pressed the intercom and said, "Yes?"

"Is this Linda Beck?"

"Who is this?"

"I'm Special Agent Kimberly Green with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I'm with my partner, Special Agent Rick Peck. We'd like to come up and ask you some questions."

Shauna leaned over before Linda could respond. "Our attorney's name is Hester Crimstein," she shouted into the intercom. "You can call her."

"You're not suspects in any crime. We just want to ask you some questions-"

"Hester Crimstein," Shauna interrupted. "I'm sure you have her number. Have a really special day."

Shauna released the button. Linda looked at her. "What the hell was that?"

"Your brother's in trouble."


"Sit down," Shauna said. "We need to talk."

Raisa Markov, a nurse who cared for Dr. Beck's grandfather, answered the firm knock. Special agents Carlson and Stone, now working in conjunction with NYPD detectives Dimonte and Krinsky, handed her the document.

"Federal warrant," Carlson announced.

Raisa stepped aside without reacting. She had grown up in the Soviet Union. Police aggression did not faze her.

Eight of Carlson's men flooded into the Beck abode and fanned out.

"I want everything videotaped," Carlson called out. "No mistakes."

They were moving fast in the hope of staying a half-step ahead of Hester Crimstein. Carlson knew that Crimstein, like many a natty defense attorney in this post-OJ era, clung to the claims of police incompetence and/or misconduct like a desperate suitor. Carlson, a rather natty law enforcement officer in his own right, would not let that happen here. Every step/movement/breath would be documented and corroborated.

When Carlson and Stone first burst into Rebecca Schayes's studio, Dimonte had not been happy to see him. There had been the usual local-cops-versus-feds macho-turf posturing. Few things unify the FBI and the local authorities, especially in a big city like New York.

But Hester Crimstein was one of those things.

Both sides knew that Crimstein was a master obscurer and publicity hound. The world would be watching. No one wanted to screw up. That was the driving force here. So they forged an alliance with all the trust of a Palestinian-Israeli handshake, because in the end, both sides knew that they needed to gather and nail down the evidence fast  -  before Crimstein mucked up the waters.

The feds had gotten the search warrant. For them, it was a simple matter of walking across Federal Plaza to the southern district federal court. If Dimonte and the NYPD had wanted to get one, they'd have had to go to the county courthouse in New Jersey  -  too much time with Hester Crimstein lurking at their heels.

"Agent Carlson!"

The shout came from the street corner. Carlson sprinted outside, Stone waddling behind him. Dimonte and Krinsky followed. At the curb, a young federal agent stood next to an open trash canister.

"What is it?" Carlson asked.

"Might be nothing, sir, but..." The young federal agent pointed down to what looked like a hastily discarded pair of latex gloves.

"Bag them," Carlson said. "I want a gun residue test done right away." Carlson looked over to Dimonte. Time for more cooperation  -  this time, via competition. "How long will it take to get done at your lab?"

"A day," Dimonte said. He had a fresh toothpick in his mouth now and was working it over pretty well. "Maybe two."

"No good. We'll have to fly the samples down to our lab at Quantico."

"Like hell you will," Dimonte snapped.

"We agreed to go with what's fastest."

"Staying here is fastest," Dimonte said. "I'll see to that."

Carlson nodded. It was as he expected. If you wanted the local cops to make the case a big-time priority, threaten to take it away from them. Competition. It was a good thing.

Half an hour later, they heard another cry, this time coming from the garage. Again they sprinted in that direction.

Stone whistled low. Dimonte stared. Carlson bent down for a better look.

There, under the newspapers in a recycle bin, sat a nine millimeter handgun. A quick sniff told them the gun had recently been fired.

Stone turned to Carlson. He made sure that his smile was off camera.

"Got him," Stone said softly.

Carlson said nothing. He watched the technician bag the weapon. Then, thinking it all through, he began to frown.