DONNA SANCHEZ ENJOYED HER WORK AT the city morgue. Her friends and family couldn't understand it. "All those dead people. Aren't you creeped out?" Their reactions made Donna smile. A heavyset Puerto Rican woman with fat, sausagelike fingers and a round, doughy face, Donna had grown up in a big noisy family before starting a big noisy family of her own. Outside of work, the sound track to Donna Sanchez's life was screaming children, smashing crockery, beeping car horns, blaring television sets. Donna liked the dead because they were silent. The city morgue on Clarkson Avenue in Brooklyn was white, clean and orderly. It made Donna feel peaceful.
Of course, she still had bad days. Even after eight years, the sight of small children's bodies could make Donna choke up. Some of the accident victims were pretty gruesome, too. And the suicides. The first time Donna saw a "jumper," she had nightmares about the mangled corpse for weeks afterward: bones erupting through the skin, skull collapsed like a rotten melon. Normally, drowning victims were among the easiest to deal with. Immersion in cold, deep water tended to delay decomposition. Donna also noticed that many of the water-dead had a happy, almost beatific look on their faces.
Not today's body, though. The revolting, waxy hulk lying on the slab had no face. The fish had seen to that. All that was left beneath the ravaged stump of a neck was a great, bloated midsection. The left arm and hand were miraculously intact, but the rest of the limbs had gone, snapped off like crab claws. It was, as Donna's friends would have said, creepy.
"Are they really dragging his poor wife in here?" Like everyone else at the morgue, Donna Sanchez knew that the cops believed the body was Lenny Brookstein's. That's why it had been brought back to New York, almost two hundred miles from where it washed up on the Massachusetts coast. "No one should have to see their loved one like this."
Duane Tyler, the technician, sneered. A handsome black kid, fresh out of high school, Duane was a born cynic. "Save your sympathy, Donna. One thing Grace Brookstein ain't is poor. You know what they saying? This son of a bitch ripped off thousands of people. Ordinary people."
"I know that's what they're saying, Duane. It doesn't mean it's true. Besides, so what if he did? It's not his wife's fault."
Duane Tyler shook his head pityingly. "Don't you believe it, girl. You think the wives don't know? Those rich white bitches? They know. They all know."
HARRY BAIN AND GAVIN WILLIAMS WERE in the district attorney's office.
It was common knowledge that Angelo Michele's parents were two of the many New Yorkers facing ruin because of Lenny Brookstein. Angelo was the best legal brain in New York City, but Harry Bain wondered whether, in this case, his judgment might be clouded. The D.A.'s opening words did not reassure him.
"Well, I wanted Brookstein's head on a plate. Looks like I got the next best thing. His torso on a slab."
"It might not be him," said Harry Bain. "His wife's on her way to identify the body. What's left of it. Then we can autopsy."
It was the job of the FBI task force to find the missing Quorum money. But it was Angelo Michele's job to prosecute those responsible for the theft. Part of him was pleased they'd found a body. The possibility, however remote, that Lenny Brookstein might have somehow escaped and be living the high life on a private atoll in the South Pacific had been keeping Angelo awake at night for weeks. But another part of him felt robbed. If Lenny Brookstein was dead, he couldn't be punished. Somebody had to be punished.
"Have you got any further with Merrivale or Preston?"
"No." Harry Bain frowned. "Not yet." He had personally interviewed the two senior Quorum execs a total of six times, but was no closer to untangling the mystery of how Lenny Brookstein had managed to spirit away such insane amounts of money. Instinct told him that both men knew more than they were telling. But so far, he couldn't prove it. "Agent Williams has uncovered something interesting, though."
Angelo Michele looked at Gavin Williams. The man gave him the creeps. He was more like a robot than a human being. When he spoke, it was in a monotone, studiously avoiding eye contact.
"It appears that in the week before his death, Leonard Brookstein changed the company structure at Quorum. Effectively, he arbitrarily stripped John Merrivale of his partnership status."
"Damn it." Angelo Michele shook is head.
Harry Bain cocked his head to one side. "That's bad?"
"Sure. If Lenny Brookstein was the only legal partner, it'll be almost impossible to indict, much less prosecute, the other players. Short of seventy billion showing up sewn into Merrivale's suit pants, we're fucked."
"He wasn't the only partner."
"But I thought you said..."
Gavin Williams sighed, like a grade-school teacher explaining something painfully simple to a seven-year-old. "I said, Lenny stripped John of his shares. I didn't say he was the only partner. He didn't keep that equity. He transferred it."
Angelo Michele's heart was racing. "To who, for God's sake?"
Gavin Williams smiled.
"To his wife."
DONNA SANCHEZ SAID GENTLY, "ARE YOU sure you're ready, Mrs. Brookstein?"
Grace nodded. It doesn't matter. This is all a dream, a nightmare. When she pulls back the sheet, I'll wake up.
"We'll do this very quickly. Try to focus on the hand. If you recognize the wedding ring, that's all we need."
Donna pulled back the sheet.
Grace threw back her head and screamed.
JOHN MERRIVALE STARED AT THE DOCUMENTS in front of him, rubbing his eyes with exhaustion.
"There must be some m-m-mistake."
Harry Bain lit another cigarette. The smoke made John Merrivale feel nauseous. "No mistake, John. This is Lenny's signature. And this is Grace's. You don't think we had them checked?"
The documents were legal instructions, changing Quorum's ownership structure. They transferred John's entire equity stake in the fund to Grace. They were dated June 8, the day before the Quorum Ball. Both Lenny and Grace had signed them.
"Face it, John. The Brooksteins ripped you off. They were planning to grab what was left of the money and run."
"No. Lenny wouldn't d-do that. N-n-not to me."
"Read it, John! It's right there in black and white. He did it. They did it, together. Don't you think it's time you stopped protecting them?"
John squeezed his eyes shut tight. It was so hard to think. How long have I been in this room? Three hours? Four? He thought about Grace, alone at the morgue. The police had refused to let him go with her. The poor girl would be terrified.
"Lenny had a l-legal right to restructure the company any way he chose. Quorum was his business."
Harry Bain looked at him in disbelief. "You're saying you don't mind that Lenny Brookstein robbed you blind?"
"I'm saying he didn't rob me."
"But he did. It's right here in black and white."
"He m-must have had his reasons then. Lenny's dead. He's not here to explain, to d-defend his good name."
"His good name?" Harry Bain laughed out loud. "Lenny Brookstein? The man was a crook, John. So was his wife. That much we know. The question is, what don't we know? What are you hiding from us?"
"I'm not h-hiding anything."
"Why are you protecting him?"
"He was my friend." My only friend.
"He wasn't your friend. He used you, John. He used you from the beginning. Why do you think a brilliant guy like Lenny needed a schmuck like you on the team, huh? D'you ever ask yourself that question?"
All the time.
"Because you gave him legitimacy, that's why. Because you were dumb and adoring and blindly loyal. Like a dog."
John looked up. It was Harry Bain's face sneering at him, but the voice was Caroline's. You're a lapdog, John. You're pathetic! Stand up and be counted!
"No. I wasn't Lenny's d-d-dog. It wasn't like that."
"No? What were you, then? Because the way I see it you're either a fucking moron who couldn't see what was going on right under your nose. Or you knew."
"No. I d-didn't know anything."
"I don't believe you. Where's the money, John?"
"I don't know."
"Where'd you stash it, huh? You and your good friend Lenny Brookstein. The guy who trusted you so much. Who relied on your advice. Where'd you put the cash?"
"I've told you. I don't - "
"Maybe it's Andrew Preston we should be talking to. Was Preston the one Lenny really trusted?"
"Of course not. Lenny was always much c-closer to me than to Andrew."
"So close that he gave your shares to Grace?"
A high-pitched whistle in John's head was getting louder, like a boiling kettle.
"Where is it, John? Where's the money? If you weren't Lenny's little dog, prove it."
The whistle was so loud, he thought his eardrums would shatter.
"WHERE'S THE FUCKING MONEY, JOHN?"
"I DON'T KNOW!" Slumped over the table, John Merrivale broke down in sobs. "For G-God's sake, what's the matter with you? I don't know."
On the other side of the two-way glass, Angelo Michele turned to the psychologist.
"What do you think?"
"I think he's telling the truth. He doesn't know anything. When he saw that partnership document, it blew him away."
Angelo Michele nodded. I agree.
I wonder if that automaton Williams is having any more success with Grace?
"WHERE WERE YOU WHEN YOU SIGNED these documents?"
Grace tried to focus. Still reeling from the shock of seeing Lenny's body, she found it hard to remember where she was. The gruff, gray-haired man sitting opposite her was from the FBI. He'd arrested her as she left the morgue and driven her somewhere, but she couldn't remember where, or how long it had taken. Now she was in a white, windowless room. Images of Lenny's mutilated corpse flashed through her mind like a horror movie. The man kept talking.
"They're dated June eighth."
Lenny's skin, waxy and white, like the stuff that covers the skin of a newborn baby.
"Mrs. Brookstein, these documents prove that you knowingly made yourself a partner in Quorum International LLC, with a view to profiting illicitly from illegal trades, made between 2004 and 2009."
Lenny's swollen finger, the skin bursting around his wedding ring.
"What do you know about the whereabouts of the profits from the following transactions: 2005, Innovation Management's six-year fund of funds, executed in Grand Cayman?"
"I don't know anything." Grace's voice was barely a whisper.
Gavin Williams leaned across the table till his face was millimeters from hers. Grace smelled his sour breath. "Don't lie to me, Mrs. Brookstein. You will regret it."
Grace looked up and saw the compassionless void in his eyes. A cold stab of fear ran through her. "I'm not lying."
"You were a partner in your husband's fund."
"A partner? No. You're mistaken. I was never a partner. I don't know anything about business. It was Lenny and John."
"Do you deny this is your signature?"
Angrily, Gavin Williams shoved a piece of paper across the table. Grace recognized her own writing. But she couldn't for the life of her remember what the document was, when she'd signed it or why. Lenny handled all of that.
"I don't deny anything. I...I'm confused."
Gavin Williams was shouting. "Two thousand and five, Innovation, Grand Cayman!"
"I want my attorney present." Grace was shocked to hear the words come out of her own mouth. I sound like a bad episode of Law & Order.
"I...I said I need a lawyer."
Gavin Williams seethed with frustration. He'd hoped that by catching Grace at such a vulnerable moment, he'd be able to bully her into a confession, get her to break down. But if she wanted a lawyer, he could not deny her one. Bitch.
"Interview terminated. Turn off the tape."
With a look of disgust, Gavin Williams left the room.
THE FOLLOWING MORNING, NEWS OF GRACE Brookstein's arrest and the recovery of Lenny Brookstein's body was splashed all over the papers.
Honor Warner shook as she read the report. "They've found Lenny's body."
"Yes, I know," said Jack, deadpan. "I can read."
"How can you be so calm about it? The FBI has arrested Grace. Have you seen the list of charges? The things they're accusing her of: securities fraud, money laundering...Grace can barely add two plus two! What are we going to do?"
Jack smiled. "Do? We're not going to do anything."
"But Jack, what? We're going to wash our hands of your little sister and walk away."
Honor looked horrified. Jack laughed at her.
"Oh, please. Don't try to pretend to me that you care about Grace. It's a little late for that, darling. Did you think I couldn't see through you all these years?"
"What do you mean?"
"You think I don't know how much you hate your sister? How much you've always hated her?"
Honor looked away, ashamed. It's true. I do hate her. But to let her go to jail? She tried another tack. "All right. Let's forget about Grace. What about us, Jack? If Grace goes on trial, there'll be questions. Questions about Lenny's business affairs, his associates, what happened the day he disappeared. What if the police find out?"
"But what if they do?"
Jack looked at her coldly. "Do you want to be first lady, Honor?"
Honor did want it. More than anything.
"Do you want to see me in the White House?"
"Of course. You know I do."
"Then stop panicking. Keep your mouth shut and your head down. Lenny's dead. He can't hurt us anymore. But Grace could. God knows how much the old man may have told her."
Honor shivered. She hadn't thought of that.
"Your sister going to jail could be the best thing to happen to us. Now pass me the coffee, would you? It's getting cold."
MICHAEL GRAY WAS HORRIFIED WHEN HE heard the news. Instinctively he put his arms around Connie. "I'm so sorry, honey. Is there anything I can do?"
Connie shook her head. "What can anyone do, Mike? Obviously, Lenny and Grace were not who we thought they were."
Michael Gray looked surprised. "You don't seriously think Grace is guilty of these charges, do you?"
Connie shrugged. "I don't know what to think anymore. The world's gone mad."
"Yes, but money laundering? Grace?"
"I don't see what's so impossible about that. After all, look at Lenny. We all loved and respected him. But it turns out he was nothing but a thief and a coward."
There was a venom in Connie's voice that Michael had never heard before. It frightened him.
"We all know Grace was obsessed with Lenny. Who knows what she might have done to protect him, or to help him?"
MARIA PRESTON TREATED GRACE'S ARREST LIKE an exciting episode in one of her soap operas.
"The police are saying that Grace stole John Merrivale's partnership. That she and Lenny were planning to rip him off as well as the investors and run off with all the money! 'Grace Brookstein is the Quorum Fund's only living partner,' that's what it says here. 'That makes her legally responsible for all of Quorum's losses.' Can you believe that?"
Andrew couldn't believe it. He couldn't believe any of it. Since that fateful trip to Nantucket, he'd barely slept.
I've been lucky so far. The FBI has bigger fish to fry. But the knock on the door will come eventually. I know it will.
It wasn't exposure itself that scared him, or even prison. It was losing Maria. Everything he'd done, he'd done for her. And she thinks the whole thing's a game!
"I think I'll wear my new Dior to the trial. The fuchsia one."
"We're not going to the trial."
"Not going? But, Andy, everyone will be there."
"Jesus, Maria, it's not a fucking Broadway show!" It was so rare for Andrew to lose his temper, Maria just stared at him. She rather liked this new, macho Andrew. "Billions of dollars are missing. The feds are all over us like a rash. Everyone at Quorum's under suspicion."
"Well, they won't be anymore," said Maria cheerfully, cutting herself another slice of panettone. "It looks like the FBI has found its sacrificial lamb. Sweet little butter-wouldn't-melt Gracie is going to jail."
Andrew thought, I hope so, then realized what a terrible thought that was.
When had he become so callous, so coldhearted?
I don't recognize myself anymore. Oh, Maria! What have you done to me?
"YOU'RE NOT GOING TO JAIL, GRACE. Let's get that straight from the get-go. You're innocent, and you're going to plead innocent. Okay?"
Grace nodded weakly. It was all so confusing.
Frank Hammond seemed so upbeat. Not like her first lawyer, Kevin McGuire. Kevin was an old friend of Grace's parents from East Hampton. Grace called him the day she was arrested. She wanted him to rescue her from the bullying agent with the dead eyes, and he had. But once they were alone, he didn't pull his punches.
"As a full partner in Quorum, you're legally liable for Lenny's actions, whether you actually made any decisions or not," Kevin told her. "You have to plead guilty."
"But I never even knew I was a partner."
Kevin McGuire was sympathetic, but firm. Ignorance might be a moral defense, but it wasn't a legal one. "You signed the contract, Grace. If you don't take responsibility, the judge may be even harsher at sentencing." He was firm about bail, too. "My advice is not to seek it."
Grace couldn't believe it. "You mean...you want me to stay in jail? But it could be months before the case gets to court."
"It will be months. And I know it's tough. But believe me, Grace, you're safer in there. I don't think you fully appreciate the anger people feel toward you and Lenny."
He was right. Grace didn't. Apart from the small crowd who heckled her when she left her apartment to stay with the Merrivales, she'd had little or no direct contact with the outside world since she returned to New York. John refused to let her watch the TV reports, and did not allow newspapers in the house. The day after the coroner officially ruled Lenny's death a suicide, Kevin McGuire had shown Grace some of the headlines she'd been shielded from.
BROOKSTEIN TOOK COWARD'S WAY OUT
"DESPICABLE" CON MAN COMMITS SUICIDE, CHEATS JUSTICE
BROOKSTEINS "MOST HATED COUPLE IN AMERICA"
A week ago, the headlines would have shocked her. Now, having been through the horror of identifying Lenny's body, Grace doubted anything would have the power to shock her ever again. Instead she felt numb. Dissociated.
Are they talking about Lenny? About me? How can people hate us? We haven't done anything wrong.
As for the idea of Lenny committing suicide, well, that was just ludicrous. Anyone who had ever met him knew that Lenny loved life. He would have clung to life to the bitter end, no matter what. It was an accident, a freak storm. No one could have predicted what happened that day.
Kevin McGuire kept trying to get her to focus on the present, to acknowledge the fact that she may well be sent to prison. But Kevin didn't understand. Prison didn't frighten Grace. It didn't matter what happened to her. Without Lenny, nothing mattered anymore. The world could hold no joy for Grace, no hope. They may as well lock me up. My life's already over.
Once again, it was John Merrivale who had ridden to her rescue and made her see sense. The whole world was accusing Grace of betraying him, of conspiring with Lenny to "steal" his stake in Quorum, but John's loyalty remained unwavering. "It's a mistake, Grace, all right? A mistake. I don't know why Lenny d-did it, but he must have had his reasons."
"You know he would never have tried to cheat you John. Neither of us would."
"Of c-course I do, sweetheart. Of course I do."
When John heard the advice Kevin McGuire was giving Grace, he forced her to fire him on the spot.
"But Kevin's an old friend," Grace protested.
"I daresay. But he's talking nonsense. P-plead guilty indeed! That's insanity. We need to get you Frank Hammond. He's the best."
John was right, as usual. Frank Hammond burst into Grace's life like a cyclone. From the moment she met him, Grace felt her hope returning. She began to see light at the end of the tunnel. Here, at last, was her champion, a strong man, an advocate, someone who believed her and would fight for her. Just being in Frank Hammond's presence made Grace feel better.
She asked shyly, "What about bail? Do you think there's any chance...?"
"I've already applied. The hearing's tomorrow. I'm going to get you out of here."
"You do realize I...I don't have any money. I can't pay you."
Grace was embarrassed, but Frank Hammond was unfazed.
"Forget it. It's taken care of. Now I want you to listen to me. Can you do that?"
"Forget about the charges against you. Forget about the trial, forget about what people out there are saying. It's my job to straighten all that out. Understood?"
"Understood." He's so reassuring. I feel like I'm talking to Lenny.
"Your job is to hold on tight to the truth. You did not steal any money. Lenny did not steal any money. The fact that a whole bunch of money has gone missing means that someone must have stolen it. Whoever that person is framed you and your husband. That's our case."
"But who would do that?"
Frank Hammond smiled, revealing a row of jagged, yellowing, old man's teeth. Clearly he did not spend any of his astronomical fees at the dentist's office.
"Who would steal seventy billion dollars? Ninety-nine percent of Americans, if they thought they could get away with it."
"All right, then. Who did steal it?"
"I have no idea. It doesn't matter. All we need to do is establish reasonable doubt. The D.A. has to prove that you and your husband were responsible."
Grace was silent. After a few moments, she asked, "Mr. Hammond, do you believe my husband killed himself?"
Frank Hammond looked his client directly in the eye. "No, Mrs. Brookstein. I do not."
From that moment on, Grace knew she could trust Frank Hammond implicitly. He's going to win the case. He's going to set me free. And when he does, I'm going to find out who stole that money and clear Lenny's name.