"If it's missing," I said, "how can you show me?"

"It's an earring," she said.

"Oh."

"And that's how I knew it was missing, because there's only one of them left."

"Yes, of course." I looked at my watch. I'd been thinking of going to a meeting, but the hell with it. "I'll be right over," I said. "And make sure it's me before you open the door."

"I will. Oh, Mr. Scudder? Do you think… no, never mind, it's silly."

"Say it anyway."

"Well," she said, "do you suppose you could pick up a pizza?"

I'd seen the stone before, in shop windows, but I'd never known what it was called. It was rhodochrosite, she told me, and it wasn't valuable, it was too soft and too fragile, but she thought it was pretty.

"Very pretty," I agreed, and turned the earring over, examining it from different angles. The stone was smooth, cool to the touch, the clip silver.

"I bought them for her," she said, "while I was still at Wellesley, but I bought them here in New York, in a little shop on Macdougal Street. They're not there anymore, I guess they went out of business. They weren't expensive. Maybe thirty-five dollars? Under fifty, certainly. I gave them to her for her birthday."

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"And she still had both of them when…"

"As far as I know. But, you know, it's real easy to lose an earring. Especially clip-ons. She'd had her ears pierced, and most of her earrings were for pierced ears, but these only came with clips, and I thought they were pretty, and she liked clips sometimes. But they're easier to lose. And she might not have wanted to say she lost one, because I gave them to her, you know? Or maybe she just didn't get around to mentioning it."

We were in the kitchen, a pizza box open on the table between us. She'd already eaten two slices and was working on a third. "When you want pizza," she said, "nothing else really does it."

It wouldn't have been my first choice, but I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast, aside from a few handfuls of the popcorn Elaine bought as an accompaniment to Adam Sandler. It wasn't bad pizza.

I said as much, then held the earring to the light. "May I take this?"

"Yes, of course. Do you think…"

"That he took it? Probably not. But if we pick him up wearing it, it'll be interesting to hear him explain it."

THIRTY-TWO

I called Wentworth as soon as I got home, and was assured that he'd get the message. I don't know when he got it, but it was the next morning when I heard from him.

There was something in his voice I hadn't heard before, but I chalked it up to the hour and gave him my news. He was silent for a beat, and then he said, "An earring."

"One of a pair. Maybe it's nothing, and then again maybe he wanted a souvenir."

"Nadler, you mean."

"Of course."

" 'Of course.' Thing is, there's a problem. Nadler didn't do it."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean Seymour Nadler's a perfectly respectable psychiatrist who never even got caught jaywalking."

"That's not surprising, is it? We know he'd have to have a respectable front, and- "

"He's also got a respectable alibi. I spoke to him yesterday, couple of hours after I talked to you."

"And?"

"I would have liked to talk to him face to face. Mano a mano, you know? But I didn't figure my lieutenant would authorize the plane fare."

"What plane fare?"

"To Martha's Vineyard, which is where he and Mrs. Nadler have been for the past eight days. I had one hell of a time getting the number there from his fucking service. I guess I must have sounded crazy enough to be one of his patients, but eventually I convinced them I was worse than that, I was crazy enough to be a detective with the New York City Police Department."

"He's been there all this time?"

"Since a week ago yesterday. They go up every year, him and his wife, the last two weeks in August. Most shrinks take the whole month, he said, but he just takes two weeks in August, and then in February he spends two weeks in the Caribbean."

"He came back," I said. "He must have. He caught a flight to New York, killed Lia Parkman, and caught the next flight back."

"You know, believe it or not I thought of that possibility. I didn't think it made much sense, but it was worth a couple of phone calls. There's this little airline, has a schedule of flights between Teterboro Airport and the Vineyard. They're very cooperative, I don't think their employees have a whole lot to do, and they checked the passenger manifests for me. Nadler and his wife flew up right when he told me they did, and they're scheduled to fly back a week from now. And that flight up a week ago yesterday is the only one he's been on."

"Unless he used another name."

"They want to see photo ID these days, even the little puddle-jump operations. And there can't be more than eight people in total who work for this outfit, so how could you fly on it a couple days apart under two different names?"

"Then he found some other way to get to New York," I said.

"Because he must have."

"Yes."

"Because he's the one who killed Parkman, and you happen to know that for a fact."

I didn't say anything.

"It sounded very good," he said, "when you were spinning it all out for me, with the kid on hand to nod in all the right places. It sounded so good it wasn't until I'd established that he couldn't possibly have done it before it hit me that there was no real reason to suspect him in the first place. What did you do, tie him to the gun? For Christ's sake, there was never any question that it was his gun. We knew that all along."

"Now wait a minute- "

"No, you wait a minute. What somehow slipped my mind is the fact that there's never been a damn thing to tie him to the people he's supposed to have killed. Why should he pick on the Hollanders? Because they've got money? He's got money himself, he's doing fine. Two weeks on the Vineyard, two weeks in Virgin Gorda- the guy's not living hand to mouth."

"That doesn't mean he doesn't want more."

"Still, make the connection for me, will you? Did he know the Hollanders? Did he know the two mopes in Brooklyn, I forget their names…"

"Bierman and Ivanko."

"Well, did he? Did he know Lia Parkman? Somebody did, somebody knew all those people and had some kind of reason to kill them, but I don't see any reason to figure it was Nadler. Because he picked a dead shrink's name for an alias? And only a shrink would do that, and he's a shrink, so it's gotta be him? Am I getting through here at all?"

Loud and clear, I told him. I didn't ask him what he wanted me to do with the earring. I was afraid he might tell me.

Every once in a while Elaine and I rent a car and drive somewhere, and the last time we did that I picked up a Rand McNally road atlas. Usually I forget and leave that sort of thing in the car, but I'd kept this one, and I found the Massachusetts map and looked at Martha's Vineyard, right off the coast alongside Nantucket. It struck me that a person wouldn't have to fly there. You could take a ferry to the mainland and pick up a car.

Because it had to be him, didn't it?

I put the atlas back and got a fresh cup of coffee. I couldn't get past the fact that Wentworth's objections were perfectly sound. There had to be a connection, there had to be something that had led Nadler to select the Hollanders. Money was the motive, I was almost sure of that, but why their money? What made him look at that particular brownstone and translate it into dollars? What made him think he stood a chance to get it for himself?

I reached for the phone and called Kristin. She must have been standing right next to it, because she picked up almost as soon as I said my name.

"He called again," she said, before I could get a word out.

I had nobody but Nadler on my mind, so what I said was, "From Martha's Vineyard?"

"Huh?"

"I'm sorry," I said. "Who called again?"

"Peter, and he called from Brooklyn. I felt really mean, listening to him leave a message and not picking up. In fact I thought it was him just now."

And would she have picked up the phone if it had been? I left the question unasked, perhaps because I was afraid what the answer would be.

Instead I said, "I may have asked you this before, but I want you to think about it. Do you know a Dr. Nadler?"

"That name's familiar," she said.

"Take your time, Kristin."

"Oh, I remember, and yes, you did mention it. He's the original owner of the gun, right? The gun they used."

"And that's the only time you heard the name?"

"The only time I can remember. Why?"

"I don't mean to be intrusive," I said, "but did you ever have occasion to see a psychiatrist? Did you ever have any psychotherapy?"

"I had a consultation my freshman year at Wellesley," she said. "I was screwing up in one of my courses, and they had a policy where you had to see the school shrink to stay off academic probation. But it was a woman, and her name wasn't Nadler."

"What about your parents? Did either of them consult a psychiatrist?"

"Not that I know of. I suppose they would, if they felt the need. And I know my mom had something prescribed for her after Sean's death. Antidepressants or tranquilizers, I don't know what they gave her. But I think that was just our family doctor."

I found other ways to cover the same ground, and got nowhere. Then she asked again about Peter, and whether she could talk to him.

That sent me off in another direction. "The person you went to for counseling," I said. "Remember the name?"

"At Wellesley? I can't possibly remember her name, and what difference- "

"No, the person you and Peter went to."

"Oh, him. I can't remember his name. I know it wasn't Nadler, though."

"You're positive?"

"Absolutely. What was his name? Peter just called him Doc. I could call Peter and ask him."

"No, that's all right. Was his office on Central Park West?"

"No, nowhere near there. It was this office building on Broadway and about- oh, I don't know. Somewhere below Fourteenth Street. We walked there from where we lived, and we were in Alphabet City, so it was a fairly long walk, but it wasn't like walking all the way to Central Park West."

"I see."

"I can't remember his name," she said, "or his address, but I'm sure Peter would know them both."

"Never mind," I said. "It's not that important."

"But of course I remember you," Helen Watling said. "You're the man who paid for my bran muffin."

"I guess it's even better than ginkgo."

"Better than… oh, for memory! Well, as for what a bran muffin's best for, let's not even go there."

That was fine with me. "Let's try your memory," I said. "You mentioned that your son was seeing a counselor."

"Well, he saw a counselor. I don't know that it was ongoing."

"But it helped him."

"Well, that was certainly the impression I got. I honestly think he was getting back on the right track. Of course as a parent you want to believe that, but- "