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Retribution, p.12
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       Retribution, p.12

           Jilliane Hoffman
 

  Yeah, go figure, Manny. A guy with a matching tie that doesn’t have a cartoon character or a football player on it. Now that’s suspicious, alright.’ Bowman kept his spot by the TV.

  ‘Hey, what can I say? I’m a loyalist. Besides, Bowman, you’re the one who wanted to borrow my Bugs Bunny tie, and everyone in this room heard you ask.’

  ‘That was for Halloween, you moron. It was a joke. I was going dressed as Oscar from The Odd Couple.?

  Dominick pulled out the latex gloves from his pants pocket and opened the wood vanity doors under one of the sinks. Neat rows of shampoo and conditioner, racks of Dial soap, toilet-paper rolls, a hair dryer. In the next, a basket of combs and hairbrushes, more rolls of toilet paper, a box of condoms. ‘Hey, Eddie, Chris,’ he called out. ‘What has Crime Scene done in the master bath so far? They haven’t bagged anything yet, have they?’

  Chris Masterson called back, ‘Just prints. After the tapes I was going to do the closet and the bath. Fulton said he was coming up after the shed to help out, but I haven’t heard from him in a while.’

  Manny stuck his head out of the closet again. ‘You two lazy shits. We’ve been working long and hard all day to put this fucking nut job behind bars, and you’re sitting around watching pornos. Let me ask ya: Did you both need to inventory the tapes, or could that have been handled by Larry, while Moe did something else besides wait for Curly?’

  ‘Give me a break, Bear,’ Bowman yelled back. ‘We took a commercial break from the porno and watched the hearing live on TV, so we know it was all of twenty minutes. You were probably at the Pickle Barrel for the last hour and a half having a café con leche and getting the phone number of Señora Alvarez number four.’

  ‘Alright, kids, let’s not fight now,’ Dominick yelled from the bathroom. He opened the medicine chest. Bottles of Advil, Tylenol, and Motrin stood in neat rows alongside a jar of Vicks VapoRub, a tube of K-Y jelly, and a bottle of Mylanta. Tweezers, toothpaste, mouthwash, dental floss, shaving cream, and razor blades lined the next two shelves. All the labels were turned facing out, perfectly straight and aligned, like a pharmacy display shelf. Two slim brown prescription containers faced out. Nothing too interesting, though. One was written in February of 1999 for the antibiotic Amoxicillin by a doctor in Coral Gables. The other was from the same doctor in June of 2000 for the nasal decongestant Claritin.

  Dominick pulled out the vanity drawer. A small brown basket filled with cotton balls sat next to lined-up tubes of facial cleanser and moisturizer. Neatly folded washcloths placed in stacks of cream and black lined the back of the drawer. He reached his hand in back behind the washcloths and pulled them out. There, underneath the two neat stacks was yet another clear brown prescription bottle. This one was more than half filled.

  ‘Pay dirt,’ Dominick whispered aloud, cradling the brown bottle containing William Rupert Bantling’s prescription of Haldol in his gloved palm.

  22

  She slipped quietly out of the elevator and across the dull pink-and-gray lobby of the Graham Building, the home of 240 prosecutors and now crowded with people at the start of lunch hour. Other Assistant State Attorneys milled about, chatting and waiting for friends and associates to return from court so they could go to lunch. It was all C.J. could do to nod in their direction as she passed them on the way to the parking lot.

  She hoped that she looked normal, that some of the color that had washed away from her face that morning in court had returned. She also hoped that if she did look outwardly different – anxious, nervous, or God-knows-what-else – that people would blame it on lack of sleep and the stress of the Cupid case, and not speculate, as lawyers loved to do. Gossip and rumor ran rampant down every hall in the five-story building, and news of divorces and pregnancies often made the office rounds before the intended divorcée was served with papers or the lines on the EPT test turned purple. She hoped that it was only Dominick’s probing eyes that had seen her fear that morning; that it was not otherwise apparent to all around her that something had just gone suddenly, terribly wrong in her life. She flipped on her sunglasses as she rushed out, heading into the bright sunshine. No one seemed to notice a thing. Several prosecutors waved to her as she left, then, just as quickly, resumed their conversations.

  She climbed in the Jeep Cherokee, threw the file boxes and her purse on the passenger seat, and desperately searched her glove compartment for the emergency pack of stale Marlboros that she kept hidden behind useless stacks of road maps and packs of Kleenex tissues. A cigarette had never before been as welcome. Or as necessary. Today, of all days, was not the day to have run out. She had then been foolish enough to think, when she stubbed out her last one at 5:00 A.M., that maybe she should just try quitting again.

  The flame on the match head danced and jumped in her fingers, which had yet to stop shaking. Finally, the fragrant snippets of brown tobacco kissed the match and the tip burned a smoldering orange, and the familiar and comforting smell filled the car. C.J. leaned back in the driver’s seat, still in the Graham Building parking lot, closed her eyes, and inhaled the smoke deep into her chest, exhaling slowly. The nicotine found her lungs and raced quickly through her bloodstream, finally reaching her brain and her central nervous system, and, like magic, immediately relaxing all those frayed, tense nerves it had met along the way. It was a sensation that non-smokers would never – could never – understand, but, she imagined, other addicts could. The alcoholic who tasted his first scotch of the day, the junkie who finally got his fix. And even though her hands still shook, for the first time that morning, a sense of calm came over her. She blew a smoke ring through the steering wheel and realized, once again, that she would never be able to quit smoking. Never. She pulled out of the parking lot and turned the Jeep on to the 836 West ramp toward I-95 and Fort Lauderdale.

  Dominick. She saw his face at her door, the crease lines from the worried frown he wore etched deep across his brow. She remembered his hand, hesitant on hers, then the surprised look of hurt that had briefly flickered in his eyes when she tensed at his touch, and his intuitive final words to her. I think there’s more than what you’re telling me.

  She had turned him away. Unintentionally, but it was still a fact. And she didn’t know how to feel about that. Since the moment she had first recognized Bantling in court, an emotional shock wave had washed over her and left all of her feelings numb. Welcoming Dominick’s touch in her office seemed wrong at that moment, out of place. Time had stopped again. It was almost like it had been twelve years ago: a dull and exciting and wonderfully normal life with a dull and exciting and wonderfully normal future ahead and then bam! – an instantaneous repositioning of life’s priorities. Bantling had robbed her yet again. In one tiny slice of time in that bedroom, in that courtroom, her world was no longer the same.

  Twelve hours earlier she would not have moved away from Dominick’s touch. Perhaps she would have even moved closer, or met his touch with her own. For the past few months, when they worked together on task force matters, there had existed between them this unspoken flirt, this potential for something more. A sweet, delicious tension that seemed to grow, and no one knew when or where or how or even if it would manifest itself. She noticed that he had called her a few times more than was necessary on legal matters and she had, in turn, called him a few more times than was necessary on police matters. Some pro forma question would be asked, and then the conversation would turn light and airy and a little more personal each time. She had felt the attraction, the strong chemistry that existed between them, and had wondered ‘what if more than a few times. And if she had been unsure before of his feelings for her, she certainly knew now. The look of alarm on his face in the courtroom, and then concern in his voice when she had returned from court, the probing questions, and the touch at the door.

  But she had pulled away and he had left and that was it. In his eyes she had first seen the hurt, and then the mix of surprise and confusion on his face at having misread the situation, having misun
derstood their relationship and where it might have been headed. So the moment had passed. Maybe forever. She supposed she shouldn’t even be thinking about Dominick now, but here she was anyway. She lit another cigarette and tried hard to force those thoughts right out of her head. Now was not the time for the angst of a relationship. Particularly one with someone as complicated as Dominick Falconetti. And especially with anyone who was even remotely involved in the arrest and prosecution of William Rupert Bantling.

  At the palm-tree-lined entrance to her condo complex she gave a half wave in the direction of the security guard who sat reading a book in his air-conditioned cubby. He half-waved back, barely looking up from his book, and opened the gate. For the most part, security guards in gated communities in Florida were like cheap car alarms on a Camry in a crowded Home Depot parking lot: useless. She could have been dressed in a ski mask with a sack of burglar’s tools on the hood, and a shotgun in the backseat next to a map marked ‘Victim’s Home: The Loot Is Here’ and he still would have waved her in.

  She pulled into her reserved spot at the Port Royale Towers and took the elevator up to her apartment on the twelfth floor. Tibby II met her at the door with a series of hungry and indignant meows, his big white furry belly sagging beneath him on the tile, tinged brown from the dust balls it collected sweeping up the floor.

  ‘Okay, Tibs. Give me a minute. Let me get in the door and I’ll get you a little snack.’ ‘Snack’ was a comfort word to Tibby, and his woeful meows were momentarily silenced. He watched with the bored curiosity that only a cat can master as she locked the door behind her and reset the alarm, then he followed her into the kitchen, rubbing little white and black cat hairs on her freshly dry-cleaned pantsuit legs. She dropped the files and her briefcase on to her kitchen table and poured out a cup of Purina Cat Chow into Tibby’s red bowl. The smell immediately awoke Lucy, her ten-year-old deaf basset hound who meandered from her pillow bed in the bedroom and scuffled across the tile floor into the kitchen, all the while sniffing in the air. A short, happy howl later, Lucy crunched on her own bowl of half-mushy kibble next to Tibby, and all was right with the world. At least for them. The next big decision facing each would be where to continue their afternoon naps, the bedroom or the living room?

  She put on a fresh pot of coffee to go with the new pack of Marlboros she had picked up on the way home. Then she headed into the guest bedroom.

  In the top of the closet, forced in the back behind the rolls of wrapping paper, gift bags, bows, and boxes was the plain cardboard box with the lift-off lid. She threw the wrapping paper and boxes on the daybed and pulled out the half-empty box. The contents inside shifted. She sat on the floor next to it and, with a deep breath, pulled off the lid.

  It had been ten years since she had even looked inside. A musty smell greeted the air. She grabbed the three manila file folders and the fat yellow envelope and headed back to the kitchen. She poured herself a fresh cup of coffee, gathered the folders and envelope and her Marlboros, and went outside on her small screened-in balcony that overlooked the blue sparkling waters of the Intercoastal Waterway below.

  She stared at the manila folder with the words POLICE REPORTSscribbled across it in her handwriting. Stapled to the outside corner was the business card of Detective Amy Harrison of the NYPD. She nibbled on the tip of her pencil and thought for a moment about what she would say, how she would say it. God, she wished she had a script. She lit a fresh Marlboro and dialed the number.

  ‘Detective Bureau, Queens County.’ There was intense background noise. Rushed, hurried voices in different pitches, telephones ringing, sirens wailing in the far distance.

  ‘Detective Amy Harrison, please.’

  ‘Who?’

  ‘Detective Amy Harrison, Sex Crimes.’ It was hard to get those words out – Sex Crimes – strangely enough, even though she must have called the Sexual Battery Unit of every South Florida police department at least a few hundred times over the course of her career.

  ‘Hold on.’

  Thirty seconds later a gruff voice with a thick New York accent. ‘Special Victims, Detective Sullivan.’

  ‘Detective Amy Harrison, please.’

  ‘Who?’

  ‘Amy Harrison, she works Sex Crimes out of Bayside, the One-Eleven?’

  ‘There’s no Harrison here. How long ago was that?’

  A deep breath. A slow exhale. ‘About twelve years ago.’

  The gruff New York voice let out a long whistle under his breath. ‘Twelve years, Jesus Christ. No one here now by that name. Hold on a sec.’ She could hear him hold his hand over the phone and yell out, ‘Anyone here heard of a Detective Harrison, Amy Harrison? Used to work Special Victims twelve years ago?’

  A voice in the back. ‘Yeah – I knew Harrison. She retired. Left the department maybe three, four years ago. Went to the Michigan State Police, I think. Who’s looking for her?’

  The gruff voice began to repeat the information, but C.J. cut him off. ‘I heard. Okay, how about Detective Benny Sears? He was her partner.’

  ‘Sears. Benny Sears,’ the gruff voice yelled. ‘She wants to know about a Benny Sears.’

  ‘Jesus,’ said the voice in the background. ‘Benny’s been dead maybe seven years now. Dropped of a heart attack on the Fifty-ninth Street Bridge in rush hour. Who wants to know all this shit?’

  ‘Did ya get that? Detective Sears died a few years ago. Is there something I can help you with?’

  Retired. Dead. For some reason she had not anticipated that. Her silence was met with a sigh of impatience on the other end. ‘Hello? Can I maybe help you with something?’

  Who would handle their old cases then? I need some assistance on a, a… case that they handled together back in eighty-eight.’

  ‘Do you have a case number? Was there an arrest?’

  She opened the folder and began to shuffle quickly through the yellowed papers for a case number. ‘Yeah, somewhere here, I have a number. Hold on, just give me a sec … No, there was no arrest, though, as far as I know. Oh, here’s what looks like the numb –’

  ‘No arrest? Then you need the Cold Case Squad. Let me transfer you. Hold on.’ The line went silent.

  ‘Detective Bureau. Detective Marty.’

  ‘Hello, Detective. I need some help on an unsolved sexual assault case from 1988. I was transferred to the Cold Case Squad by Special Victims.’

  ‘John McMillan works cold sex crimes. He’s off today, though. Can I have him call you, or you want to call back tomorrow?’

  ‘I’ll call him back tomorrow.’ She hung up. That had been totally unproductive.

  She picked the phone back up again and dialed.

  ‘Queens County District Attorney’s Office.’

  ‘Extraditions, please.’

  The line went silent, and classical music filled the phone.

  ‘Investigations Bureau, Michelle speaking. Can I help you?’

  ‘Hello. Extraditions, please.’

  ‘Extraditions are handled out of this bureau. How can I help you?’

  ‘I need to speak with the attorney who would handle felony extraditions back to the State of New York.’

  ‘That would be Bob Schurr. He handles all extraditions for our office. But, I’m afraid he’s not in at the moment.’

  Doesn’t anybody actually work in the city that never sleeps? ‘Okay. When do you expect him?’

  ‘He went to lunch, and then I think he has a meeting after that. He’ll probably be back in the late afternoon.’

  She left the name Townsend and her home phone number. She hung up the phone and stared out at the water. The sunlight danced off the lapping waves, creating reflections that sparkled like diamonds. A beautiful light breeze blew through her balcony from the east, making her wind chimes tinkle. More than a few boats were out today, in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon, their bikini-clad passengers tanning themselves on small towels spread across the bows, while the proud captains in their bathing briefs, with beer in hand, stee
red their course. Even better were the bathing beauties slathered in tanning oil lying in lazy lounge chairs off a stern that could easily fit ten lazy lounge chairs. Those, however, were no longer called boats, but rather, yachts. On the yachts, both the bikinis and the briefs tanned together on the stern, martinis in hand, while the crew handled the steerage. And the cooking. And the cleaning. The waves left in their wake splashed the beach-towel bow bikinis and caused the otherwise-proud captains to spill their beers. C.J. watched the rich natives with their healthy, relaxed tans and cool martinis, and the flashy tourists with their Speedos and piña coladas and burned skin, float by without a care in the world. A familiar tinge of envy at the easiness of their lives rose like a lump in her throat, and she fought it back down where it belonged. If life as a prosecutor had taught her any lessons at thirty- six, it was that things were not always what they seemed. And as her dad used to say: Just be sure to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before buying ‘em, Chloe. Chances are you wouldn’t make the purchase.

  Her thoughts ran then to both her parents, still living in quiet northern California, still afraid for their Chloe, all alone in yet another metropolitan, unforgiving city, full of strangers, full of madmen. Worse yet, now she works with them, among them, every day of her life, the absolute scum of the earth – murderers, rapists, pedophiles – trying her hardest to win in a system where no one really can. Because by the time the horrible cases reached her, everyone had already lost. C.J. had not heeded their advice, their warnings, and it was painful and tiring for them to keep worrying about her, placing herself like a suicidal fool directly in harm’s way. As far as C.J. was concerned, it was really better, this emotional distance that had grown between them since the incident. She had enough memories of her own to drag around; she certainly didn’t need to share anyone else’s. The same was true for all her old relationships from once-upon-a-lifetime ago, no matter how solid they had been at one time. She had not spoken to Marie in years.

 
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