I asked about Bierman and Ivanko. Had Byrne Hollander ever represented either of them, or had any dealings that involved either man? Harding recognized the names and was shaking his head before I could finish asking the question. "Ours is an exclusively civil practice," he told me, and he didn't mean they were polite to one another, although I suppose that went without saying. "None of the partners or associates handle criminal cases."

"Even crooks draw wills," I said, "or get named in other people's. I'm trying to find a connection between either of the two killers and the Hollander family- or to rule it out."

"My feeling is that you can do the latter. Rule it out."

Just by force of will, evidently. "What I'd like you to do," I said, "is run a global search of Hollander's hard drive." I'd memorized what T J had suggested earlier, and I could rattle it off, even if I didn't entirely understand what I was saying. "Not just file names but within the files, looking for either of the two names, Bierman or Ivanko."

He swore he couldn't do that. The files were confidential, first of all, their contents subject to attorney-client privilege. On top of that, Hollander's computer files were protected by Hollander's password. I told him he'd obviously found the password or he'd be too busy to talk to me, with all of Hollander's unfinished work clogging the system. And I told him I didn't want to violate attorney-client privilege, just to look for two names. If he couldn't find them, it would be no violation to tell me so. If they showed up, he could always tell me he'd changed his mind and I should go to hell.

In the end, I guess it was easier for him to enter a few keystrokes and click his mouse a few times than to explain to me all that was wrong with my reasoning. And, as I'd anticipated, he didn't have occasion to strain his ethical conscience. Neither name, Bierman or Ivanko, appeared anywhere in Byrne Hollander's files.

When I talked to Ray Gruliow, I'd also made it a point to ask him about the two killers. They didn't strike me as likely clients for him, but you never knew. If there was a way to paint the violation of the Hollanders as a political act, a blow against the system struck from the left or right, Hard-Way Ray could have done what he does best- i.e., put the system on trial, confuse the hell out of everybody, and win an acquittal for his loathsome clients.

He'd never represented either of them, or so much as heard of them until they turned up dead on Coney Island Avenue. Drew Kaplan, who has a one-man general practice in Brooklyn, hadn't had any contact with them, either, but he said Bierman's name was familiar, though he couldn't say why. "You ought to be able to find out who represented them in their court appearances," he said. "It's a matter of record. Whether the attorneys will feel free to talk to you is something else, but finding them ought to be easy."

I'd already worked that out myself. Ivanko had had Legal Aid lawyers the several times he'd been brought up on charges, and I called the one I could track down- one of the others had died and another had quit and moved out of state. She said she couldn't tell me anything, that a client's death didn't end privilege. Anyway, she said, there was nothing to tell me. She'd been the one who represented Ivanko on the attempted rape charge, when the witness blew it at the lineup, and she'd been on the scene and able to move for a dismissal, and got it. That was as much contact as she'd had with him, and I got the impression it was more than she wanted. The next time she drew an accused rapist, she volunteered, she'd switched with a male colleague. "Because I wasn't confident I could represent the client effectively," she said.

I called around, and had trouble getting Bierman's record. I don't think anybody was holding out; it was more that they didn't have the information on hand. I could understand that. By the time Bierman's name had come up, he'd already had a tag on his toe. He was down for two murders in Manhattan and a murder and suicide in Brooklyn, and he'd been dead for a couple of days, so how important was it to assess his prior record?

It had been of interest to the press, so what I did know was what was in the papers- that he'd been arrested on a batch of minor charges, but had never drawn any prison time. He'd been held overnight on a drunk and disorderly charge, picked up and released during a raid on a Brownsville crack house, cited for jumping a subway turnstile, and all in all showed the typical profile of a low-level fuckup.

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Burglary, assault, multiple homicide, murder- it was quite a step up. Of course Ivanko had been the rapist, Ivanko the artist with the fireplace poker, and it was very likely Ivanko who'd cut Susan Hollander's throat. But Ivanko certainly hadn't shot himself three times. That would have been Bierman's work, and it seemed reasonable to assume he'd also been the one to use the gun earlier, in the house on West Seventy-fourth Street. He'd fired three shots both times, before something made him send a seventh bullet up through the soft palate and into his brain.

It was the same gun both times, I knew that. A.22 auto, and what model was it? How many cartridges did the clip hold, and how many were left after he killed himself? Had he had to reload?

So many things I didn't know.

I stayed busy that week, even when I wasn't bothering cops and lawyers. I made a trip to the storage warehouse for Elaine, and spelled her at her shop one afternoon when she had an auction she wanted to go to. Didn't make any sales, but I didn't break anything, either, so we figured it was a wash.

I went to three meetings, two at St. Paul's and one noon meeting at the West Side Y. And Elaine and I got to two concerts, the second a Baroque ensemble that flew in from Bratislava. Elaine couldn't think of anyone she knew who'd been to Bratislava, and I told her I used to know a guy who'd been born there. I met him years ago at a meeting in the Village, but he'd come here as a child, and his earliest memories were of the Lower East Side, around Pitt and Madison. All those buildings were gone now, he'd told me, and it was just as well.

We didn't go to Bratislava, but walked out of the concert hall and cabbed down to the Village, where we caught an extended set at a basement jazz club off Sheridan Square. The audience was as respectfully attentive as the crowd at Lincoln Center, although they tapped their feet more and applauded at the end of solos. We didn't say much, and went straight home afterward.

At the kitchen table I said, "I had a dream the other night."

"Oh?"

"I don't remember how it started. Does anybody ever remember how dreams start?"

"How could you? Your mind would have to remember what it was doing before it started dreaming. Like remembering before you were born, although there are people who claim they can do that."

"Hard to prove."

"Or disprove," she said, "but I didn't mean to change the subject. You had a dream."

"Anita was in it. She was dying or she was dead, I don't remember which. I think she was dying at the start of the dream, struggling to breathe, and then it shifted and I realized that she was dead. She was looking at me, but I somehow knew she wasn't alive."

She waited.

"She was blaming me. 'Why didn't you do something? I'm dead and it's your fault. Why didn't you save me?' Those aren't the words, I don't remember the words, but that's what she was saying."

She stirred her tea. I don't know why, she doesn't put anything in it. She took the spoon out, set it in the saucer.

"Then she disappeared," I said.

"She disappeared?"

"She sort of faded," I said. "Or maybe she melted, like the Wicked Witch of the West. She just gradually wasn't there anymore."

"And?"

"That's it," I said. "I woke up. Otherwise I probably wouldn't have remembered the dream. I hardly ever do, you know. I suppose I dream, they say everybody does, but I don't often remember them."

"If we were supposed to remember them," she said, "we'd be awake when they happened."

"Sometimes," I said, "I'll wake up in the morning with the feeling that I dreamed, and the sense that I could remember the dream if I just tried hard enough."

"How would you go about trying to remember something?"

"I have no idea. It never works, I'll tell you that much. The dream never comes back to me. But that sensation of having dreamed, it can be very convincing."

"And you've had it a lot lately?"

I nodded. "And I have a feeling it's always the same dream."

"The one you had the other night, and did remember."

"That or a variation on it. I don't have any evidence of this, but I'm not sure 'dream' and 'evidence' belong in the same sentence to begin with."

"She dies and there's nothing you can do."

"She dies and there's nothing I can do, she's dead and I should have done something."

"Do you remember the feeling that went with it?"

"What you'd expect, I guess. Helplessness, guilt. A desire to do something and a complete inability to think of anything to do."

After a moment she said, "There really wasn't anything you could do."

"I know that."

"Or anything you should have done. You didn't even know she was ill, and how could you? Nobody told you."

"No."

"But I suppose it goes back farther than that, doesn't it?"

"Thirty years," I said, "or whenever it was that I walked out."

"Still blame yourself?"

I shook my head. "Not really. I did all the crap they teach you in AA, I sorted it out, I made amends. I'm not proud of every decision I made during the drinking years, if you can even call them decisions. But I don't have trouble living with any of it, and I wound up in the right place. Sober, and married to the right woman."

"But sometimes you think you should have stayed married to the wrong one."

"No, I don't think that."

"Not that you'd be happier, or better off. But that it would have been the right thing to do."

"Maybe when I'm dreaming," I said. "Not when my mind's working. It's just…"

"Everything," she supplied.

"She died," I said, "out of the blue, and that was a shock, and then the funeral, and the happy horseshit afterward with Michael and Andy. Did I tell you about the bar where I met the two of them?"

"Bowls full of miniature Hershey bars."

"That's the one. I wanted a drink."

"I would have wanted a candy bar."

"I didn't have a drink," I said, "or think seriously about it. But the desire was as strong as it's been in a while."

"Part of the deal, isn't it? And you didn't have a drink, and that's what counts."

"I know."

"That's why you're looking into what happened to the Hollanders, isn't it?"

"One way or another," I said. "I needed something to do. And if I were inclined to play amateur psychologist- "

"Which God knows you're not."

"Which I trust God knows I'm not, I'd say I was reenacting my dream, trying to save Susan Hollander when it was already too late."

"Just her?"

"Hell, make it both of them. I'm reliving my childhood and trying to save both my parents. Do you like that better?"