IT DIDN'T TAKE Wendy long to put it together.

Michele Feisler helped. She already had plenty of background on sex criminal Arthur Lemaine, including a family tree. Wendy was impressed with the work Michele had put in already. And okay, maybe Michele's head was a little on the large side, but that was probably accentuated by the fact that she had really narrow shoulders.

"What now?" Michele asked her.

"I think we should get in touch with Sheriff Walker. He's in charge of the Dan Mercer murder."

"Okay, why don't you make the call? You know him." Wendy found Walker's cell phone number and hit send. Michele sat next to her. She dutifully took out her little reporter pad, pen poised. Walker answered on the fourth ring. Wendy heard him clear his voice and say, "Sheriff Mickey Walker."

"It's Wendy."

"Oh, uh, hi. How are you?"

Oh, uh, hi? His voice sounded stiff. And now that Wendy thought of it, wouldn't he have seen it was her on his caller ID?

"I see you've heard those new stories about me," Wendy said.

"Yep."

"Super." This was not the time to go into it. It didn't matter anyway-screw him, right?-but she still felt the pang. "Have you heard about this case of Arthur Lemaine? The guy who got shot in both kneecaps?"

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"Yes," he said. "But it's not my jurisdiction."

"Did you hear that Arthur Lemaine is a convicted child pornographer?"

"I think I heard that, yes."

"Did you also hear that Arthur Lemaine is Ed Grayson's brother-in-law?"

There was a brief pause. Then Walker said, "Whoa."

"Whoa indeed. Want more whoa? Lemaine coached his nephew's hockey team. For those who aren't good at family trees, that would be E. J., Ed Grayson's son, the victim of child pornography."

"That is another whoa," Walker agreed.

"And-maybe 'whoa' here-whoever shot Lemaine's knees did so from a distance."

"The work of an expert marksman," Walker said.

"Isn't that what the owner of the Gun-O-Rama said about Grayson?"

"He did indeed. My God. But I don't get it. I thought you saw Grayson kill Dan Mercer because Mercer took the pictures of his son."

"I did."

"So he shot both guys?"

"Well, yes, I think so. Remember how Ed Grayson showed up at Ringwood State Park to help find Haley McWaid's body?"

"Yes."

"He said I didn't get it. But I think I do now. The guilt is haunting him, because he killed an innocent man."

Michele was steadily taking notes-on what, Wendy couldn't imagine.

"Here is how I think it went," Wendy continued. "Dan Mercer is freed. Ed Grayson goes nuts. He kills Mercer and gets rid of the evidence. When he gets home, his wife, Maggie, sees what he's done. I don't know what happens then exactly. Maybe Maggie freaks out. Maybe she says, 'What did you do, it wasn't Dan, it was my brother.' Or maybe E. J. now tells him the truth about his uncle. I don't know. But imagine what must have gone through Grayson's mind. For months he has shown up at every hearing, talking to the media, putting a face to the victims, demanding that Dan Mercer be punished."

"And then he finds out that he killed the wrong guy."

"Right. Plus he now knows that Arthur Lemaine, his brother-in-law, will never be brought to justice. And if he is somehow brought to trial, well, that might destroy his family."

"The scandal of that," Walker said. "Putting his family through it all again. Having to admit to the world that he'd been wrong this whole time. So, what, Grayson maims him instead?"

"Yes. I don't think he was strong enough to murder again. Not after what happened the first time."

"And like it or not, it's his wife's brother."

"Right."

Wendy looked across the table at Michele. She was on her cell now, talking low into the phone.

Walker said, "Word is, Grayson's wife left him. She took the kid."

"Maybe it was because of what he did to Dan."

"Or maybe because he shot her brother."

"Right."

Walker sighed. "So how do we prove any of this?"

"I don't know. Lemaine probably isn't going to talk, but maybe you guys can push him."

"Even so. He was shot in the dark. No other witnesses. And we already know that Grayson is damn good about getting rid of evidence."

They sat in silence. Michele hung up. She took some more notes, drew big long arrows. She stopped, looked at the pad, and frowned.

Wendy asked, "What is it?"

Michele started writing again. "I'm not sure yet. But there's something wrong with this theory."

"What?"

"It might not be a big deal but the timeline is off. Lemaine was shot the day before Dan Mercer."

Wendy's phone vibrated. Call waiting. She checked the incoming number. It was Win. "I have to go," she said to Walker. "Another call coming."

"I'm sorry about my tone before."

"Don't worry about it."

"I still want to call you when this is over."

She tried not to smile. "When this is over," she repeated. Then she clicked over to the other line. "Hello?"

"Per your request," Win said, "I looked into the matter of Phil Turnball's termination."

"Do you know who set him up?"

"Where are you?"

"Home."

"Come to my office. I think you may need to see this."

WIN WAS RICH. Superrich.

Example: "Win" was short for Windsor Horne Lockwood III. His office was located on Forty-sixth Street and Park Avenue in the Lock-Horne high-rise.

You do the math.

Wendy parked in the lot in the MetLife Building. Her father had worked not far from here. She thought about him now, the way he always rolled up his sleeves to the elbow, the act doubly symbolic-he was always ready to pitch in and never wanted to be thought of as a suit. Her father had tremendous forearms. He made her feel safe. Right now, even though he'd been dead for years, she wanted to collapse in her father's big arms and hear him tell her that everything would be all right. Do we ever outgrow that need? John had done that too-made Wendy feel safe. That may seem antifeminist-this warm feeling of security coming from a man-but there it was. Pops was great, but this wasn't his job. Charlie, well, he would always be her little boy and it would always be her job to take care of him, not the other way around. The two men who had made her feel safe were both dead. They had never failed her, but now, with all the trouble swirling around her, she wondered whether a little voice wasn't whispering that she had failed them.

Win had moved his office down a floor. The elevator opened up to a sign reading MB REPS. The receptionist said in a high-pitched squeal: "Welcome, Ms. Tynes."

Wendy nearly stepped back into the elevator. The receptionist was the size of an NFL nose tackle. She was squeezed into a coal black unitard that was like the nightmare version of Adrienne Bar-beau's in Cannonball Run. Her makeup looked as though it had been layered on with a snow shovel.

"Uh, hi."

An Asian woman in a tailored white suit appeared. She was tall and slender and model attractive. These two women stood next to each other for a moment, and Wendy couldn't help but picture a bowling ball about to crash into a pin.

The Asian woman said, "Mr. Lockwood is waiting for you."

Wendy followed her down the corridor. The woman opened the office door and said, "Ms. Tynes is here."

Win rose from behind his desk. He was a remarkably good-looking man. Though he was not really her type, what with the blond locks, the almost delicate features, the whole pretty-boy persona, there was a quiet strength there, an ice in his blue eyes, a coil in his almost too-still body, as though he might make a deadly strike at any moment.

Win spoke to the Asian woman. "Thank you, Mee. Would you mind telling Mr. Barry that we're ready?"

"Of course."

Mee left. Win crossed the room and bussed Wendy's cheek. There was that small delay, that awkward hesitation. Six months ago, they had knocked boots and it had been beyond awesome and pretty-boy features or not, that always stays in a room.

"You look spectacular."

"Thank you. I don't feel it."

"I gather that you're going through a rough spell."

"I am."

Win sat back down, spread his arms. "I'm willing to offer comfort and support."

"And by comfort and support, you mean...?"

Win made his eyebrows dance. "Coitus with no interruptus."

She shook her head in amazement. "You're picking the worst time to hit on me."

"No such thing. But I understand. Would you care for a brandy?"

"No thanks."

"Do you mind if I have one?"

"Suit yourself."

Win had an antique globe that opened up to reveal a crystal decanter. His desk was thick cherrywood. There were paintings of men on a foxhunt and a rich Oriental carpet. An artificial putting green covered the far corner. A big-screen TV hung on one wall. "So tell me what this is about," Win said.

"Is it okay if I don't? I really just need to know who set up Phil Turnball."

"Of course."

The office door opened. Mee entered with an old man wearing a bow tie.

"Ah," Win said. "Ridley, thank you for coming. Wendy Tynes, meet Ridley Barry. Mr. Barry is the cofounder of Barry Brothers Trust, your Mr. Turnball's former employer."

"Nice to meet you, Wendy."

Everyone sat. Win's desk was clear except for one huge pile of what looked like files. "Before we begin," Win said, "Mr. Barry and I both need to know that nothing we discuss here will leave this room."

"I'm a reporter, Win."

"Then you'd be familiar with the phrase 'off the record.' "

"Fine. It's off the record."

"And," Win said, "as a friend, I want your word that you won't divulge anything we say to anyone else."

She looked at Ridley Barry, then slowly back toward Win. "You have my word."

"Fine." Win looked toward Ridley Barry. Mr. Barry nodded. Win put his hand on the tall pile. "These are the files on Mr. Phil Turnball. He was, as you know, a financial adviser for Barry Brothers Trust."

"Yes, I know."

"I spent the last several hours going through them. I took my time. I also examined the computer trades made by Mr. Turnball. I studied his trading patterns, his buying and selling-his ins and outs, if you will. Because I hold you in high regard, Wendy, and respect your intelligence, I diligently scrutinized his work history with an eye toward how Phil Turnball may have been set up."

"And?"

Win met her eyes, and Wendy felt the cold gust. "Phil Turnball did not steal two million dollars. My estimate would be that the number is closer to three. In short, there is no doubt. You wanted to know how Turnball was set up. He wasn't. Phil Turnball orchestrated a fraud that dates back at least five years."

Wendy shook her head. "Maybe it wasn't him. He didn't work in a vacuum, did he? He had partners and an assistant. Maybe one of them..."

Still meeting her eye, Win picked up a remote control and pressed the button. The television came on.

"Mr. Barry was also kind enough to let me go through the surveillance tapes."

The TV screen lit up to reveal an office. The camera had been placed up high, shooting downward. Phil Turnball was feeding documents into a shredder.

"This is your Mr. Turnball destroying his clients' account statements before they get mailed out."

Win hit the remote. The screen jumped. Now Phil was at his desk. He stood and moved toward a printer. "Here is Mr. Turnball printing out the fake replacement statements, which he will subsequently mail out. We could go on and on here, Wendy. But there is no doubt. Phil Turnball defrauded his clients and Mr. Barry."

Wendy sat back. She turned to Ridley Barry. "If Phil is this big-time thief, why hasn't he been arrested?"

For a moment, no one said anything. Ridley Barry looked toward Win. Win nodded. "Go ahead. She won't tell."

He cleared his throat and adjusted his bow tie. He was a small man, wizened, the kind of old man some might call endearing or cute. "My brother Stanley and I founded Barry Brothers Trust more than forty years ago," he began. "We worked side-by-side for thirty-seven years. In the same room. Our desks faced each other. Every single working day. The two of us managed to build a business with gross outsets that exceed a billion dollars. We employ more than two hundred people. Our name is on the masthead. I take that responsibility very seriously-especially now that my brother is gone."

He stopped, looked down at his watch.

"Mr. Barry?"

"Yes."

"This is all very sweet, but why isn't Phil Turnball being prosecuted if he stole from you?"

"He didn't steal from me. He stole from his clients. My clients too."

"Whatever."

"No, not 'whatever.' That's much more than a question of semantics. But let me answer it two ways. Let me answer as, first, a cold businessman and, second, as an old man who believes that he is responsible for his clients' well-being. The cold businessman: In this post-Madoff environment, what do you think will happen to Barry Brothers Trust if it gets out that one of our top financial advisers ran a Ponzi scheme?"

The answer was obvious, and Wendy wondered why she didn't see that before. Funny. Phil had used that question to his advantage, hadn't he? He kept using that as proof he'd been set up-"Why haven't they arrested me?"

"On the other hand," he went on, "the old man feels responsible to those who put their trust in him and his company. So I'm going through the accounts myself. I will reimburse all clients from my personal finances. In short, I will take the hit. The clients who were defrauded will be compensated in full."

"And will be kept in the dark," Wendy said.

"Yes."

Which was why Win had sworn her to secrecy. She sat back and suddenly more pieces came together. Lots of them.

She knew now. She knew most of it-maybe all of it.

"Anything else?" Win asked.

"How did you catch him?" she asked.

Ridley Barry shifted in his seat. "You can only keep up a Ponzi scheme for so long."

"No, I get that. But what made you first start looking into him?"

"Two years ago, I hired a firm to examine the background of all our employees. This was a routine thing, nothing more, but a discrepancy in Phil Turnball's personal file came to our attention."

"What discrepancy?"

"Phil lied on his resume."

"About?"

"About his education. He said he graduated from Princeton University. That wasn't true."