I ve heard that song bef.., p.15

I 've Heard That Song Before, page 15

 

I 've Heard That Song Before
 


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  “Kay, I want you to divorce me and get on with your life.”

  That was when I broke down completely, sobbing uncontrollably, angry at myself that I was only making it worse for him. “Oh, Peter, oh Peter, don’t say that, don’t even think that.”

  He shushed me. “Kay, they’ll be here for me in a minute. Listen to me. I don’t want you alone in the house. Get your grandmother to stay with you.”

  I shook my head. “No!”

  That was when a sheriff’s officer came in. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Carrington, you’ll have to leave,” he told me.

  Still trying to stifle my sobs, I said to Peter, “I’ll find out when I can visit you. I’ll…”

  “Kay, you must take care of this immediately,” Peter said. “I want you to tell Vince to hire a security firm today. I want a twenty-four-hour guard around the house. You are not to be alone there without it.”

  It was the statement of a protective husband. Peter was afraid for me.

  I looked at him closely. The officer put his hand under my elbow to ease me out of the detention area. I didn’t budge. I had something I had to say, and it was perfectly okay for the guard to hear me. “Peter, I’m going to throw one hell of a homecoming party for you when this nightmare is over.”

  I was rewarded by a sad smile. Then Peter said, “Oh, Kay, would to God I could believe that would happen.”

  The next morning, the full contingent of Peter’s legal defense team gathered at the mansion. Walter Markinson and Conner Banks were there, of course. The other two chief counselors had flown in as well, Saul Abramson from Chicago and Arthur Robbins from Boston.

  Vincent Slater took his usual place at the dining table. The Barrs had set out the usual coffee and pastries and bottles of water on the sideboard. Everything was the same, except that Peter was not sitting at the head of the table. I took his place instead.

  If the atmosphere had been heavy the previous week, today it was positively grim. Conner Banks opened the discussion. “Kay, if there’s any comfort in all of this for you, the police report from the other night indicated that Peter was disoriented and dazed, that he had a blank expression in his eyes, and was unresponsive to their orders to move after they cuffed him. When they were in the squad car he started to ask them what happened and why was he there. He even said, ‘I’m not allowed to leave my property, I don’t want to get in trouble.’ They tested for drugs and there were none in his system, so at least I don’t believe they think he was putting on an act.”

  “He wasn’t.”

  “We’ve got to get his complete medical background,” Markinson said. “Does he have a history of sleepwalking?”

  Before I could answer, Vincent Slater said, “Yes, he does.”

  I could see beads of sweat on Slater’s forehead and upper lip. “Horses sweat; men perspire; ladies glow.”-Maggie would recite that old chestnut to me during my teenage years if I ever came in after a game of tennis and said something about sweating. To remember it at this moment made me think that I was the one who was in some kind of fugue state.

  “What do you know about Peter’s sleepwalking?” Markinson was asking Slater.

  “As you are aware, I’ve been working for the Carrington family since the day after I graduated from college. Peter’s mother died when he was twelve. At the time I was twenty-four and Mr. Carrington senior appointed me as a kind of big brother to Peter. Rather than have him chauffeured back and forth to prep school, I would drive him and help him get settled. That sort of thing. When there were school breaks, his father would often be away, and if Peter wasn’t invited to visit a friend, I would take him skiing or sailing.”

  I listened, my heart sick, to the story about the boy who had to have someone appointed to keep him occupied during the times when most kids came home to their families. I wondered whether Slater had enjoyed that job, or merely used it to ingratiate himself with Peter’s father and then, eventually, with Peter.

  “This is something I would never have discussed, except in the hope of helping Peter now,” Vincent said. “I witnessed at least three episodes of sleepwalking.”

  “How old was Peter then?” Banks shot the question at him.

  “He was thirteen the first time. It was here, at the house. He had gone to bed, and I was watching television in the room that I now use as an office. I heard a noise and went out to investigate. Peter was in the kitchen, sitting at the table with a glass of milk and some cookies in front of him. His father had warned me that he’d had a few episodes of sleepwalking, and I guessed immediately that I was witnessing one of those episodes. Peter drank the milk, ate the cookies, put the plate and glass in the sink, and left the kitchen. He passed inches away from me and never saw me. I followed him upstairs and watched him get back into bed.”

  “Was there ever an episode during which he exhibited violence?” Conner Banks demanded.

  “When Peter was sixteen, he and I were in Snowbird, skiing during a school break. We had a two-bedroom suite in the lodge. We’d skied all day and went to bed around ten o’clock. About an hour later, I heard him moving around and looked into his room. He was fully dressed in ski clothes. I realized I shouldn’t wake him up, so I followed him to make sure he’d be okay. He went downstairs. There were still people at the bar, but he ignored them and went outside. I had thrown on a heavy jacket over my pajamas, so I followed him out-in bare feet. His skis were locked outside, but he had the key and unlocked them.”

  “He unlocked his skis when he was asleep?” Markinson asked, his tone incredulous.

  “Yes. Then he started to walk toward the lift. I couldn’t let him go. I was sure the lift was secured, but, on the other hand, I didn’t know what he might do. Remember, I was in my bare feet. I ran behind him and called his name.”

  I was afraid to hear what Vincent was going to tell us.

  “Peter spun around and, much as he attacked the cop last night, he attacked me. I managed to jump aside, but the tip of his ski caught me on the forehead over the eye.” Slater pointed to his left eyebrow. “This scar is proof of what happened that night.”

  “Were there any other episodes of Peter sleepwalking after that?” This time the question came from Arthur Robbins, the defense attorney from Boston.

  “None that I’m aware of. I’m only talking about this because maybe in some way it might show a pattern that would be helpful to Peter’s defense.”

  “Was he treated by a doctor after that alarming incident at the ski resort?” Conner Banks asked.

  “Yes, by an elderly doctor at Englewood Hospital. That was twenty-five or -six years ago, so I doubt he’s still alive, but maybe his medical records are stored somewhere.

  “From what I understand, boys are more likely to be sleepwalkers than girls, and I gather that it often starts in adolescence,” Markinson said. “However, I’m not sure that making the prosecutor aware of Peter having experienced a violent sleepwalking incident twenty-six years ago would necessarily help him in any way.”

  “There was another incident last week” I told them. “It was right after Peter got home from the first arraignment.” I explained how he had taken a nap, and when I went to check on him, I found him standing up with a suitcase open and partially packed on the bed.

  I did not tell them about Peter’s sleepwalking incident the night we came back from our honeymoon. I could not put into words the fact that his arm had been in the pool as though he was pushing or pulling an object. I reasoned that these lawyers were being paid handsomely to defend my husband, but also that my information might make them actually believe that he had been responsible for Grace’s death.

  I was afraid that, even as they worked to acquit him, in their minds they would be thinking, Guilty, as charged.

  44

  The lawyers are staying for lunch,” Jane Barr told her husband when he returned from the errands she had sent him to complete. “Wouldn’t you think three straight hours would be enough? Mrs. Carrington looks absolutely terrible. I swe
ar that girl is getting sick.”

  “It’s been a lot of strain on her,” Gary Barr agreed as he hung his coat in the closet by the kitchen door.

  “I made chicken soup,” Jane said unnecessarily. The aroma of simmering chicken and onions and celery was permeating the kitchen. “I’ll bake some biscuits and have a salad and cheese. None of them are vegetarians.”

  Gary Barr knew his wife. For the last two weeks, since Susan Althorp’s remains had been found, Jane had been unraveling. He watched as she went over to the sink and began washing lettuce. He came up behind her. “Do you feel okay?” he asked timidly.

  Jane swung around, her face contorted with guilt and rage. “There never was a finer human being in the world than Peter Carrington, and he’s in jail right now because-”

  “Don’t say it, Jane,” Gary Barr ordered, his own face mottled with anger. “Don’t say it, and don’t think it. Because it isn’t true. I swear on my immortal soul that it isn’t true. You believed me twenty-two years ago. You’d better keep believing me now, or else we both may be living under the same roof as Peter Carrington again, and I don’t mean on this estate.”

  45

  I did not find any mention in the file of the magazine Grace Carrington had been reading before her death, Nicholas Greco told Barbara Krause as he sat in her office.

  “From what I understand, it had been thrown out,” Krause told him. “Grace had torn one page from it because she wanted to remember to order tickets to a one-woman show that had just opened on Broadway.”

  “Yes, so I understand. I have met with the Hammonds, the couple who were at the dinner that night, and we talked about this.”

  “We questioned them at the time,” Krause replied. “In their statements, they both confirmed that Grace had been drinking and that Peter arrived home and made a scene. The Hammonds left shortly after that. It’s just unfortunate that Philip Meredith did not tell us four years ago that Grace was involved with another man, even though she never told him who it was.”

  To Greco it was obvious that Barbara Krause did not share his suspicion that Jeffrey Hammond had been the “other man” Grace had been planning to marry, and it was nothing that he intended to share with her. There was no need to drag Hammond into this. At least not now. His guess was that the man was in his own private hell if he believed that Peter Carrington had learned about the affair, and that knowledge might have contributed to his reason for killing his wife.

  “Mrs. Hammond is absolutely positive that the magazine was on the coffee table when they left,” Greco told Krause. “I took the liberty of calling Mrs. Barr, the housekeeper, this morning. She distinctly remembers that she did not dispose of the magazine, and she says she and her husband went to their residence in the gatehouse before the Hammonds went home. In the morning, she was the one who found the body in the pool. She dialed 911 even before she woke Peter Carrington.”

  “He would have had time to dispose of the magazine before the squad car got there, but what would be the point of doing that?” Krause asked. “It would be easy enough to get another copy of it. I don’t get the significance.”

  Greco could see that the prosecutor was becoming irritated. He got to his feet immediately. “I must not detain you,” he said. “I simply wanted to be sure I had the facts straight.”

  “Of course.” Krause stood up and reached out her hand. “Mr. Greco, you’ve pulled one rabbit out of the hat. I don’t mind telling you that we are following every possible lead to see if we can track down Grace Carrington’s lover. Even if we find him, his testimony won’t be enough to convict Carrington of her murder, but it certainly gives him a strong motive. The more we know about that situation, the better the chance we have of making Peter come clean, and negotiate a plea.”

  This isn’t about who the lover was, Greco thought. It’s about the magazine. He had come to this office today for one reason only-to confirm the fact that the magazine had disappeared either just before or just after Grace Carrington had drowned.

  46

  It’s a time when Kay needs me most, yet she’s distancing herself from me, Maggie thought as she aimlessly puttered around the house. If only she’d listened to me and not married Peter Carrington in the first place. Thank God he’s in jail, where he can’t hurt her. It just made me sick to see the tape the cops made of him when he was outside the Althorps’ house, and especially the way he leaped up and attacked that police officer. I hope they put him away for the rest of his life.

  It’s nine o’clock, Maggie thought. Kay’s an early-morning riser-I’ll give her a call. Yesterday when I phoned, the lawyers were there, but then she didn’t call me back later.

  Heartsick at the distance growing between her and her granddaughter, Maggie dialed Kay’s cell phone. There was no answer. Maybe she’s with the lawyers again, she decided. I’ll try the house. This time Jane Barr answered. “Mrs. Carrington stayed in bed this morning,” she told Maggie. “I went upstairs to make sure she was all right, and she said she hadn’t felt well during the night. The lawyers aren’t going to be here today.”

  “Tell her whether she likes it or not, I’m coming over for dinner,” Maggie said firmly.

  The front doorbell began ringing as she replaced the receiver. Through the glass panel of the door she could see two men standing outside. When they saw her, both held up IDs identifying them as detectives from the prosecutor’s office.

  Reluctantly, Maggie opened the door and invited them in. “Mrs. O’Neil,” the older detective began politely, “we understand that at the time Jonathan Lansing disappeared, the contents of his home were moved here. By any chance, were there any records or files from his office included in that move, and, if so, do you still have them?”

  Maggie thought of her cluttered attic. “I gave away his clothes,” she hedged. “The furniture I used. It was better than mine, and after all, his daughter, Kay, was living with me. It made it a nicer home for her.” I wonder if they think I stole the furniture, she asked herself nervously. Maybe I should have paid taxes on it.

  “Of course, we can understand that,” the younger detective said reassuringly. “Were there any business records or personal files belonging to Jonathan Lansing that you may have kept?”

  “That’s the same thing Kay asked me about. There is one of those old three-drawer steel cabinets that was in the room Jonathan used as an office. It’s on the floor of the attic now with my old couch on top of it. Kay says she is going to come over and take a look through it, but I’ll have to get someone strong to move things around so that there’s room for the couch someplace else, and then he’ll have to stand the file upright.”

  “If you’ll give us your consent to examine the contents of that file, we’ll be happy to place it where it’s convenient for Mrs. Carrington to go through it. You don’t have to consent, but we would like to see it.”

  “I don’t see anything wrong with that,” Maggie said.

  She led the detectives upstairs, then apologized at the mess and the dust. “I always mean to get up here and get rid of things,” she explained, as, with minimal effort, they cleared the space around the file and righted it, “but you know how it is. There are some things you never get around to doing. Kay says I’m a pack rat, and she’s right.”

  The detectives did not respond. Each man had taken a folder from the top drawer and was flipping through the contents.

  With growing unease, Maggie watched them, wondering if she had done the right thing in letting them come up here. Maybe I should have checked with Kay, she thought. I don’t want her to have another reason to be upset with me. On the other hand, if Peter Carrington was the one who killed her father, and they find some proof here, she’d be crazy to waste another minute of her life worrying about him.

  “Look at this,” the older detective said to his partner as he handed him a sheet of paper. It was a copy of a note and a landscaping sketch sent to Peter Carrington by Jonathan Lansing. The note read:

  Dear Peter,
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  It seems a pity not to complete the project. As you probably know, your father and I discussed creating a simple plan for the grounds beyond the fence. Since I am no longer in his employ, and since I believe Mrs. Elaine Carrington does not care to have me in contact with your father, I wonder if you would be so kind as to pass on this design to him. I enclose the card of a landscaper I know who could execute this plan to your father’s specifications.

  I have enjoyed our conversations very much, and I wish you well.

  Jonathan Lansing

  As the younger detective read the note, the older one looked at Maggie. “Never apologize for being a pack rat, Mrs. O’Neil,” he said.

  47

  Conner Banks sat across the table from his client in the small room reserved for lawyer-inmate conferences in the Bergen County Jail. He had been the member of the legal team chosen to review Peter Carrington’s options with him.

  “Peter, this is what we’re facing,” he said. “The good news is that while you’ve been a ‘person of interest’ in the death of your late wife, Grace, that is a separate issue. It will not be allowed to be mentioned at this trial since they can’t connect it to the earlier deaths. However, the fact that the remains of both Susan Althorp and Jonathan Lansing were found on the grounds of your estate means that the prosecution will attempt to try the cases together. Even so, the bottom line is that we think they will not be able to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

  “What constitutes ‘reasonable doubt,’ given everything that is piling up around me?” Peter asked, quietly. “I was the last person to see Susan alive. Maria Valdez is going to testify that the shirt I swear I put in the hamper was never there, and that my father paid her to keep her mouth shut. Now you tell me that Kay’s father sent me a note with a landscaping design for the area beyond the fence, where Susan’s body was found. If I had been guilty of killing Susan, I would have been terrified, because executing that design would have meant her body would be found. That would give me reason to get rid of Jonathan Lansing. There’s no way out for me.”

 
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