Authors: James Patterson
Sarah McGinniss; East Sixty-sixth Street
AT FOUR O’CLOCK
that morning, a successful writer named Sarah McGinniss had experienced an unmistakable ache gnawing into the tender walls of her stomach. It was the same dull pain she felt each time she dragged herself out of bed at that hour. She moaned and groaned, mocking herself like the Whiners on late-night TV.
Every morning between four and four-thirty, Sarah forced herself up to write, before her small son, Sam, was awake, besieging her for French toast, or maybe Belgian waffles, as if that sort of thing were the most common breakfast fare for every growing boy in America.
She was unusually tired this morning. Though she had tried, she hadn’t slept at all.
As she brewed a second pot of coffee, she alternated glances at grainy black-and-white photographs she’d once taken of Alexandre St.-Germain with vacant stares out the kitchen window, down onto deserted East Sixty-sixth Street.
Near the photographs on the kitchen counter was a draft of a seven-hundred-page manuscript on organized crime. The working title was
The book featured Alexandre St.-Germain, who had tried to usher the underworld into a new age. An hour before, she’d received a call from a friend at UPI saying St.-Germain was dead. One problem Sarah hadn’t solved was how to reconcile the life of a man who was both a crime lord and a well-known businessman. Now she never would.
Sometimes, when she was having trouble getting going with the early morning writing, she would scrawl
across the top of a page. It forced her to see and feel everything about the scene she was attempting to describe.
Somebody murdered Alexandre St.-Germain,
she thought now.
As Sarah moved around the kitchen, she couldn’t help think about how very far she had come, and how quickly. It was difficult for her to imagine that less than five years ago she’d been a reporter, virtually a stringer on the
in Palo Alto, California.
She had moved to Palo Alto with her husband, Roger, from San Francisco, where she had written for the
They had relocated because Roger had gotten a teaching job in creative writing at Stanford.
The notion of staying in San Francisco because she had a good job at the
hadn’t even been a consideration for Roger. Sarah had finally agreed to move, mostly because she wanted to have a baby, and Palo Alto seemed like a beautiful place to raise a child.
In the spring of 1984, Sarah wrote her best work to date, a vitriolic, deeply felt nine-thousand-word piece about corruption in northern California hospitals. She had written the article because she was personally outraged by the payoffs she had discovered going on between hospital suppliers and some staff doctors.
A twenty-three-year-old nurse by the name of Jeanne Galetta read the three-part feature in the
. She liked something about the writing style, something in Sarah’s ability to get the truth down in a straightforward way. The nurse decided to contact Sarah about a subject that was deeply troubling her.
Jeanne Galetta was employed by one of the private nursing services operating around Palo Alto. As recently as a month before, the nurse had been working at the Cavanaugh estate in nearby Woodside. During Jeanne Galetta’s ten-month relationship with Agnes Cavanaugh, a bedridden woman in her early fifties, she had become convinced that the wealthy woman’s two daughters were poisoning their mother.
Agnes Cavanaugh suffered a massive stroke and died soon after the nurse first talked to Sarah about her suspicions. An autopsy was requested, and performed. Traces of cyanide were found throughout Agnes Cavanaugh’s body.
Because of the wealthy Cavanaugh family’s notoriety, the series that Sarah wrote was carried in the
San Francisco Chronicle
and also picked up by the United Press. The two Cavanaugh daughters were indicted on first-degree murder charges. They were eventually convicted, right there in the downtown Palo Alto courthouse.
Because she’d understood the power of her story from the beginning, Sarah had been shaping the early interviews with family members and friends into a lengthy manuscript, which she decided to call
A Mother’s Kindness.
She had finished all but the last two chapters by the end of the court trial.
A Mother’s Kindness
was published the following fall. It almost immediately exceeded the publisher’s expectations, breaking out very big in California and all through the Far West. Ultimately,
A Mother’s Kindness
became the number-one best-seller in nonfiction, and the book was turned into a successful television mini-series that was kindly reviewed.
Then, almost as abruptly as it had begun, the fairy-tale experience ended—crash-landed like a paper airplane in a wind tunnel. One month after she had been written up in
Roger left her.
He admitted he couldn’t stomach being referred to as “Sarah McGinniss’s husband.” Roger also confessed that there was a twenty-three-year-old graduate student at the university who had been “consoling” him. As Sarah later learned, the graduate student had been helping Roger “cope” during her pregnancy with Sam as well.
The more she heard about Roger’s girlfriend at Stanford, the angrier Sarah became. She had sacrificed, no strings attached, while he was getting his doctorate, and then when he decided they should leave San Francisco. Now he had shown that he couldn’t give even a little of himself for her. He had been calling her “the Shana Alexander of Palo Alto.” It was a pretty funny line, but damn him anyway.
She and Sam moved to New York City the next summer, partly because of research work she needed to do for her new book, but mostly because Sarah knew she had to be far away from everything that had happened in her marriage. She wanted no reminders.
More than anything now, she needed to write a very good book. She wanted to show that
A Mother’s Kindness
hadn’t been a one-shot. Sarah especially wanted to rub Roger’s face in each and every page.
A cigarette with a long ash dangled from her hand that morning in mid-June. It had gotten that bad: cigarette again; two pots of coffee before noon every day. Sarah quietly sat down and she stared at the blank sheet rolled into her old Smith-Corona.
On the very top of the bare white page she had written
But today it was more complicated than that.
John Stefanovitch; Allure
ALMOST ANY AUTOMATIC
car can be fixed to accommodate a handicapped driver. In Stefanovitch’s case, the mechanics were particularly simple, modifications he supervised himself.
A hand-operated throttle system was all that was necessary for him to drive again. The hard part was learning to ignore, then forget completely, the ingrained foot reflexes every time he had to hit the brakes, or accelerate. He was still working on that. The streets of New York were an interesting place to practice. As he turned down West Ninety-ninth Street in the daylight, Stefanovitch noticed that the four-story town house that held Allure was in mint condition. He sat in his car for a few minutes observing the street, but particularly the elegant, early-thirties building that housed Allure. He wanted all the turmoil in his mind to be manageable before he ventured inside again.
So far today he’d had his regular workout at the gym, then several hours of mental agony at Police Plaza, headquarters for the N.Y.P.D. He was baffled by almost everything about the St.-Germain killing.
Around eleven o’clock, he had visited the autopsy room at Police Plaza. He’d wanted to see St.-Germain one more time. He still didn’t understand the motive for the shooting, and without a motive there couldn’t be a solution.
The corpse was laid out among a host of other homicide victims from around New York. The Grave Dancer seemed less than imposing in the midst of rows of stainless steel trolleys, walls of refrigerator compartments, green-robed pathologists with sharpened blades and blasé expressions.
The Pathology chief, Thomas Yamada, had assigned himself to St.-Germain. He was gutting his star cadaver, while a police stenographer dutifully took notes.
“His testes weigh thirty-three and a half grams,” Yamada said to Stefanovitch as he wheeled himself toward the trolley. “Average.” He shrugged and seemed disappointed.
“That all you have for me, Tommy?” Stefanovitch asked. He wasn’t in the mood for Yamada’s dark humor.
“Vital stats have been checked with the Sûreté. I.D. by three ‘business associates.’ I’ll let you know if anything else comes up. Not a neat job. Vengeance style. Somebody didn’t like this buggerer a lot. Somebody besides you, Stef.”
WHEN MOST OF THE
confusion in his mind had subsided, Stefanovitch reached into his van’s backseat for the Chair. “Onward, Christian Soldiers” ran through his head. Onward, indeed.
Kay Whitley was being held in the same parlor where he had questioned her the night before, or rather, early in the morning. She had apparently “forgotten” to tell him a few details, so they were meeting again.
Kupchek and another Homicide detective, Harold Lee Friedman, were mooning around the parlor when he arrived. They looked like uncomfortable mourners at a wake. Nobody was talking.
Kay Whitley looked even more startling without the exotic makeup she had been wearing with St.-Germain. She had on a blue cardigan sweater, a chic Claude Montana T-shirt, tight faded jeans. She wore scuffed and stained black leather boots that reached up near her thighs. Sunlight from the windows behind wrapped around her nicely.
Stefanovitch wanted to talk to her alone this time. They had to reach some kind of understanding. He asked Bear Kupchek and the other detective to leave the room.
When they were alone, the expensive call girl did something that startled Stefanovitch. Without saying a word, she leaned forward and put her hand lightly over his wrist.
He could feel her softness, her body’s warmth, and he had no idea what she was up to.
“Before we start, Lieutenant, I want to thank you for last night,” she said. “I know you could have been a lot tougher on us. I feel badly about leaving some things out.”
“Maybe I should have been tougher,” was all that Stefanovitch said for now. He had to admit, though, she’d thrown him a beauty of a change-up curve, absolutely caught him leaning the wrong way in the batter’s box.
“Anyway, I’m sorry.” She pulled back her hand, but held him with her eyes. Her cheeks were flushed a soft pink. If it was an act, it was a good one. “I had to think a lot of things through first. I had to choose sides carefully.”
“Kupchek said you had something to show me?” Stefanovitch finally said. “Anything you give me now might be considered a peace offering. We’ll see.”
“All right, Lieutenant.” Kay pointed toward a mirror that took up half of one wall of the sitting room. “We can start over there.”
She stood and walked to the mirror. She stooped down and pressed something metallic at the bottom of one pane of glass. Then, she straightened up and pushed on the upper-right corner of the glass.
The mirror opened outward like a free-swinging door. Stefanovitch craned his neck to see inside.
Kay flicked on fluorescent lights, and then he could see everything. It was a peace offering, all right.
A small compartment, about six by eight, was hidden behind the mirror. Stefanovitch followed her across the longer room and inside the smaller one. He whistled softly as he entered.
“They could make movies in any of three master bedrooms from here,” Kay said, answering two of his questions right away.
Stefanovitch nodded as he peered around the compact room. He had quick eyes in a new place, taking everything in, making connections and mental notes.
There were two sleek, black Sony videotape cameras. One wall was covered with stacks of videocassettes, hundreds of cassettes in black boxes. The blue-movie history of Allure? A complete library of tender and touching moments?
He asked the $64,000 question next. “Was this room being used last night?” There was nothing like having a homicide filmed to help catch the murderer.
“I don’t know, Lieutenant. I don’t remember seeing Johnny around all last night. Johnny D.’s the guy who usually runs the cameras. He’s one of the managers.”
“But last night
have been filmed by this guy Johnny D.?”
“Sure…we’ve been filmed a lot. Sometimes they told us they were going to be in here. Sometimes they didn’t. That was supposed to keep us in line, I guess. Actually it did, a little. You never knew who was watching, or why they were watching.”
Bear Kupchek had entered the parlor again. He was standing in the doorway of the room, a huge shape looming behind Stefanovitch’s chair, something like a big brother, something like a friendly gorilla.
“Hmmm? What have we here? Did they get last night on film?” he asked with a frown. “
at all the home movies. What’s this, the New York porn-film festival?”
Stefanovitch looked back over his shoulder. “We don’t know if they filmed last night or not. You’d better get the lab techs here again.”
“This might even be where the hitters hung out.”
“We’ll check that, too. Let’s get all the cassettes packed up and shipped down to Police Plaza in the meantime. We’ll need a private screening room. I don’t want word to get out until after we’ve looked at some of the tapes ourselves.”
Stefanovitch’s gaze returned to Kay. He thought that she’d lost a little of her city-cool look, the confident slickness he’d seen the night before. She kept changing, and he couldn’t figure her out.
“We owe you one,” he finally said to her. “You can go home now. Like they say in the movies, though, don’t try to leave town. We’ll be in touch.”