Grady had me barricaded in my office with an amazingly good cup of coffee and the large wipe-off chart we use for jury exhibits. The chart rested on an easel and contained the names of all of R amp; B’s associates, with a grease-pencil grid to the left. I took one look at it and saw what Grady had learned, but he wanted to explain it to me anyway.
“Are you listening, Bennie?” he asked. Wielding a long, rubber-tipped pointer, in his violet-covered necktie and fresh white shirt, Grady looked more kindergarten teacher than lawyer.
“Of course I’m listening,” I said, but I wasn’t, because I already had a chart of my own in my head. I needed him for the legal end, not for this. I was the one who had to find Mark’s killer.
“You don’t look like you’re listening.”
“No, I am. I’ll be a good defendant, I promise.” I smiled in a way I hoped was convincing and took another sip of coffee. I felt stronger since I had eliminated Sam as a murder suspect, and the coffee was tasting better and better. “Who made this? It’s good.”
“I did, I cross-examined each of them on the phone. I finished the last phone call, with Renee Butler, at one thirty. Except for Wingate, I went over and talked to him. He’s real upset.”
“Why? He didn’t even like Mark. I meant the coffee, though. Who made it?”
“I did. Look at this.” He pointed to Jennifer Rowland’s name. “Jenny says she was working at home the night Mark was killed, editing a section of the brief in the
Latorno matter. She said it was for you and it was due next week. Is it?”
“Yes. Did you use the Maxwell House?”
“Whatever was there.” He made a neat check with a grease marker in the blank marked ALIBI. “I want to see Jenny’s time records, though she could have lied on them, too.”
“She wouldn’t be the first lawyer to write fiction.” I wanted to ask him how much water he put in, but it would be futile. The coffeemaker at work was a Bunn, the one at home was a Krups; it would never translate, English to German. At least not when I spoke the language.
“Amy here,” he said, pointing to the line that saidAMY FLETCHER, “was with Jeff Jacobs that night. It checks out from both sides. They’re seeing each other, did you know that?”
He made purposeful checks byFLETCHER andJACOBS. “They could both be lying to me, but I don’t think so. Wingate says he was online in the Grateful Dead chat room. Do you know he goes in the teen rooms and tells them he’s Jon Bon Jovi?”
“Perfect. And I pay this kid?”
“He said he logged off at two in the morning the night Mark was killed. I’d like to check the AOL records, but Wingate has two housemates and they could have logged off for him.” He made a question mark in theWINGATE box, next to a “WW” in Renee Butler’s box.
“What’s WW mean, in Renee’s?”
“Weight Watchers. She didn’t want to tell me at first. She took Eve with her, to get her out of the house. Eve’s taking Mark’s death pretty hard, you know. She’s convinced you did it.”
I ignored the twinge and gulped my brew. “What kind of filters do you use, Grady?”
He sighed, his gaze running up and down the chart. “That’s everybody. They all have some sort of alibi, but I have to double-check Wingate’s.”
“Except for the secretaries and Marshall. Did you call Marshall?”
“Marshall? You suspect Marshall?” He looked surprised behind his glasses.
“No, I don’t suspect any of them yet. I go slow before I point a finger, especially now. Tell me which filters. I bet you used the brown ones.”
His eyes widened in frustration. “Lord, you are the strangest woman! I couldn’t find the filters, so I used a paper towel, all right?”
“Apaper towel? Is that even possible?”
He dropped his pointer, so I shut up about the coffee and let him go on, repeating everything and pointing with his pointer. When he ran out of lecture, he went to see if Marshall was in yet. And I went to the heart of the matter.
Sitting right in front of me, next to my traumatized jade plant. The police would probably take the computers when they came back today, if last night’s seizure at my apartment told me anything. I didn’t have much time.
I stopped, fingers poised over the whitish keyboard. As I saw it, I had to know what Mark had been doing lately to understand why anybody would want to kill him. I thought I knew, but evidently I didn’t, since I was completely blindsided by his desire to break up R amp; B. But the computer knew.
I hitLIST FILES. R amp; B’s files-time records, correspondence, memos, briefs, client information, and our personal files-popped onto the screen. The police had taken hard copies of R amp; B’s client and time records, and I could reprint them if I needed to, but I didn’t need to. Mark kept his own cyber-daybook in a hidden file and generated a cleaned-up version of his time records from that. It was secreted under his password: Mook. What his father always called him. Thank God for pillow talk.
I typed it in and revealed the hidden files:CALENDAR, DAYBOOK, CHECKBOOK. The same directories as always, he hadn’t changed them yet. I had Mark’s most intimate information at my fingertips and I didn’t have to leave my coffee. Our old firm investigator used to say anybody who thinks sleuthing starts with a magnifying glass is behind the times. It happens in front of microscopes and computers, in labs and test tubes. You could get cellulite from detective work nowadays.
I highlightedCALENDAR and hitENTER. A grid appeared on the screen, this month’s calendar with the appointments typed in. Mark used our old Grun code; CO stood for conference out of the office; CI for conference in the office; CD for client development; and TC for telephone call. Entries with notations filled the days, ending abruptly the day Mark was killed. I tried not to think about it and looked at the first week of the month.
Wellroth Chemical Trial.
I went backwards a week. Wellroth Chemical Trial.
A month earlier, and the picture changed. I scanned the screen. Lots of COs at Wellroth, lots of CIs with Dr. Haupt and E. Eberlein. Then a flock of CD, client development, with E. Eberlein and an array of area drug companies. SmithKline, Wyeth, Rohrer, McNeil Labs, and Merck. They were all there, in meetings that usually lasted an hour. Apparently, Mark had been pitching them during the day and courting them over dinner at night. It would be worth plenty of business, but it wasn’t planned to enrich R amp; B’s coffers. It was planned for Mark’s new firm.
I sat back and tried not to feel entirely betrayed. He hadn’t breathed a word, nor had he put it on his official time sheets where I would have seen it. I bit my lip and punched the page up key, scrolling backward in anger.
I stopped at another surprise entry. CO G. Wells. Mark had a conference out of the office with Grady? It was listed on last month’s schedule. I searched the other calendar pages under Grady’s name. Another CO popped up the week before Mark was killed, but there were no explanatory notes with it. I couldn’t imagine why Mark would be meeting with Grady. They never worked together. Grady worked for me and the high-tech clients he was developing himself. He had a growing corporate practice with the new software companies out by Route 202, in the suburbs.
My coffee sat untouched, growing cold. Why was Grady meeting with Mark? For an hour at a stretch, at the end of the day, out of the office? I squinted at Grady’s grease-pencil chart. There was no Wells listed on it. Where was he the night Mark was killed? I trusted Grady, but it nagged at me.
I didn’t have time to puzzle it out. I got out of theCALENDAR file and printed it, then hitPRINT for each of the other hidden files. I hated to make a hard copy of something only I knew existed, but I couldn’t count on having the computers a minute longer.
Then it occurred to me. How was Mark funding all this client development? It had to cost thousands, yet I hadn’t noticed any irregularities in the books or in any memos from Marshall, who managed them.
I highlighted Mark’sCHECKBOOK file and a new menu materialized;R amp;BACCOUNT andPERSONAL ACCOUNT. I hitR amp;B first. A check register appeared on the screen, its entries machine-neat. I skimmed this month’s withdrawals. Nothing unusual; DHL, FedEx, Staples, Bell Tel, Biscardi Enterprises, the holding company that owned the building. Everything was in order, strictly kosher. I remembered Mark’s will with a pang. It wasn’t my money he wanted. I pushed my emotions aside and got out of the R amp; B file, then hitPERSONAL ACCOUNT.
The entries were to Acme Markets, Bell Mobile, and the like. Small amounts, frugal amounts. Mark never spent money on anything, which is why I never knew he had any. Then I saw them. Payments to American Express and Visa in three and four thousand dollar amounts, starting about the time the client development had. So it was true, and he’d funded it himself. Next to the credit card payments were bills posted to a local printer and graphic designer, undoubtedly for new business cards and a hipper logo. I spotted a payment to Philoffice Realty, in the amount of twenty thousand dollars. Earnest money for my sunny new office space.
Then another entry caught my eye. Cash. The withdrawal was for two thousand dollars, last week. The memo line readSAM FREMINET, for legal fees.
What? Sam? In cash?
I scrolled backwards to last month. A list of routine entries, and another one to Sam. Cash, two thousand dollars. Three weeks before Mark was killed. Again,LEGAL FEES on the memo line.
I sat back in the chair, a hard knot forming in my chest. Why was Mark paying Sam? What legal fees and why in cash? It made no sense. I printed the checkbook files, then hit another key.
ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO DELETE THESE FILES?Y OR N? the computer asked.
I hitY. I would’ve hitDAMN STRAIGHT if I could. The files held the solution to this puzzle, and I wanted it to myself. In twenty-four hours the system would delete them automatically from backup. I’d have the only copies.
Copies? Shit! I’d forgotten. The copies printed. They’d be spitting out of the laser printer in the secretaries’ area, in full view of any cop who happened to be standing around. I leapt from my chair, tore open the door, and scrambled out of the office.
“My brief!” I yelped for show, but it was already too late.