Mary, Judy, and Lou walked through the first floor of the Newlins' elegant town house, taking notes on its layout for trial exhibits and trying to orient themselves, but after a thorough search of the living room, dining room, and kitchen, they hadn't turned up anything that would support their defense. Mary was especially troubled, and it wasn't her usual revulsion at crime scenes. Even the blood that had soaked into the dining room rug hadn't fazed her, because she was so preoccupied. Nothing about the scene was supplying any clues about how the murder had been committed, other than what Jack had told them. 'This is not going well,' she said aloud, though Judy was drawing the layout and Lou was walking around in a professorial way, his hands linked behind his back.
'We shoulda brought the dog,' Judy said, sketching. They'd left the dog tied up out front, on orders from the uniformed cop at the door. He'd been posted to keep out the reporters, but had made a spot ruling on golden retrievers.
But Mary was barely listening. It was odd, being in Jack's house and seeing no evidence of him. His presence was completely absent from the stone-cold living room, the overdecorated dining room, and the white kitchen that had no aroma whatsoever, a larger version of Paige's kitchen. Whenever Mary looked into this family, she kept seeing the troubled connection between mother and daughter, with Jack off to the side. She thought of the Swann Fountain in Logan Square, where she'd lurked all afternoon; the woman, daughter, and on the other side of the fountain,
the man. So what? She had psychology, but what she needed was evidence. Maybe upstairs.
She ascended the carpeted stair with Judy behind her, sketch pad in hand, and Lou taking up the rear. At the top of the stair was a small library, which she quickly assessed as being for show, so she left Judy there. The next stop down the hall was a small home office, and she knew from its chilliness that it had to be Honor's, so she foisted it off on Lou and moved quickly down the hall to the master bedroom. The white double doors at the hall's end were closed, and she reached them with an undeniable tingle of anticipation. She had to find something here. Jack would be dead without it. She opened the doors.
The room was bare. There was a king-size master bed with the sheets stripped, a bank of dressers with the drawers open, an alcove with a window seat with the seat pad gone and all the novels taken from the shelves. The cops must have seized Jack's things as soon as he was charged. Mary's heart sank and she walked into the room like a sleepwalker. She should have come here earlier. Was there nothing left? She scanned the room and it was completely empty. Off the bedroom was an open door, obviously a closet, and she went to it.
A double walk-in with long racks on each side, also empty, even of hangers; the wood cubbyholes for shoes were bare, as if in move-in condition. Damn. She left the closet and eyeballed the room. In the corner were another two doors and she went to them though she knew what she would find. Two bathrooms, empty. She shook her head. She had blown it. There was only one chance. Paige's room.
She left the empty bedroom and hurried back down the hall the way she had come. She had to bet Paige's bedroom would be on the other side of the stair, the way rich people lived. Keep the kids separate. It seemed so foreign. In her parents' house, Mary and her twin had shared the bedroom across from her parents, so close they used to call to each
other from bed. She hurried down the hall and to the end, where she opened the second set of white double doors and turned on the light.
The room had been left untouched. There were evidence tags on the dressers, but the cops hadn't seized them yet or hadn't given them the priority they'd given to Jack's belongings. She entered the room, which was the same size as the master bedroom, and it looked like every little girl's dream. A white four-poster bed dominated the space in the center of a large powder pink Oriental rug, and the bed linens were a custom white-and-pink-quilted pattern. White night tables flanked the bed and matching dressers lined the room on the left, near a closet.
On the right wall of the room stood white bookshelves and a white hutch, which caught Mary's attention. It was full of dolls, all of them six inches high with identically perfect faces, round eyes, and red cupid mouths. They were dressed in beautiful outfits, and she knew instantly what they were; she had seen them in the bedroom of one of her friends growing up. They were called Madame Alexander dolls, and the DiNunzios could never have afforded them. They cost fifty dollars apiece then; she couldn't imagine what they cost now.
She stood before them, momentarily enchanted. At least twenty dolls sat legs akimbo, in the top row, with their round Mary Janes in black velveteen, touching toe to toe. The German doll wore a dirndl, the French doll the French flag, and the Italian doll sported red and green ribbons flowing from her synthetic hair. In the center of the top row was a doll that was bigger than the rest, also a Madame Alexander but clearly the creme de la creme. Mary had to stop herself from picking it up. She was supposed to be working, not playing with dolls.
She walked over to check the rest of the bookshelves. The books looked like assigned reading and school textbooks; no novels otherwise. She always thought you could learn a lot about someone from their bookshelf, and this bookshelf
confirmed what she thought about Paige. In the shelf above the desk was a large Sony CD player, which Mary found strange. Paige hadn't lived here in a year. Why would she leave a C D player behind? It would be expensive to replace, even for a girl with bucks. Mary walked to the desk area to check.
The CD player looked brand-new, and there was a stack of CDs next to it. Weezer, Offspring, Dave Matthews Band; music that Mary had heard about but didn't know. How old were these CDs? She picked a few up and squinted at the infinitesimal copyright dates. All last year. Paige had left these behind, too. Why? Then she noticed something in the middle of the desk, on a blotter covered with teenage doodles. Paige's driver's license, with a picture of the girl, posing prettily even for the state's camera. What kind of teenager leaves her driver's license behind? CDs you can replace, even a CD player, but a driver's license? That was a headache. Paige wouldn't have left that behind. Not if she had a choice.
Mary looked around the room, her thoughts racing. The bedroom was too neat to have been left in haste, but it was left abruptly in some way. She crossed the room and peeked inside the closet. It was completely full; a double rack of skirts and tops, matching sweater sets folded in shelves, and fancy shoes in cubbyholes. What gives?
She constructed a scenario. Imagine that Paige told her mother she was going to move out, even that she already had picked out a condo at Colonial Hill Towers. What would have happened? What could explain what Mary was seeing? Then she realized it. Paige hadn't left abruptly, or in haste, but she must not have been permitted back in. That was it. The bedroom was just as it was the day that Paige had told her parents – or her mother – that she intended to move out. Her mother hadn't let her pack anything; it was all here. And she hadn't let her back into the house. All of it, even the driver's license, had had to be replaced.
Mary felt her heart quicken. So much for the facade of
the young model movin' on up. Maybe Paige had no hard feelings about moving out; her mother sure did. Mary was about to tell the others when she remembered she hadn't checked the bathroom. She should, just to be complete. She walked to it and flicked on the bathroom light, and looked carefully around. Nothing unusual except for too much makeup and a complete line of Kiehl's shampoos, conditioners, and 'silk groom,' whatever that was.
She left the bathroom and walked by the shelves, pausing again at the dolls. They were so pretty; so perfect. Especially the big one at the top, with a blue gown and matching train spread around her, glistening and satiny. Her hair was a beehive of blond plastic; Mary guessed it was Madame Alexander's version of Cinderella. She itched to hold it just once.
Oh hell. What was the harm?
Mary tugged her shirtsleeve down over her hands to cover her fingerprints, so the cops wouldn't indict her for murder. It seemed professional, especially if you were doing something as dorky as playing with dolls at a crime scene. Once her hand was covered, she scooped up the doll by the hair. Then she gasped. Not at the doll. At what lay hidden under the doll's satin gown.
'Lou!' she called. 'Judy! Come quick!'
A small, pink leather book sat on the shelf where the doll had been and its cover said 'MY DIARY.' The doll lay forgotten on the floor. Mary told them her theory of what had happened between Paige and her mother while the three of them gathered around the diary, deciding what to do.
'Let's take it and run,' Mary said, excited. 'Finders keepers, losers weepers. Isn't that a legal principle?'
'Shouldn't we tell the cop at the door?' Judy asked, but Mary shook her head.
'No, he'll seize it. He'll turn it in unopened, and we won't get to read it.' She turned to Lou for verification.
'That's right. The uniform at the door won't open it. He doesn't have the authority, and once it's bagged, it's theirs.' Lou's mouth set in the harsh bathroom light, emphasizing the deep lines of his jowls. Still he didn't look old to Mary, he looked experienced.
'If it helps Newlin's case, they have to turn it over to us, under the discovery rules.' Mary was remembering from her cramming. 'But I don't know when we'll get it. A lot of the cases suggest it could take months, if we ever get it back.'
Judy looked grave. 'It's true. I've read cases where they never turn it over.'
'I'm opening it,' Mary announced, reaching for the diary, but Lou stopped her arm.
'No. Let me, in case I gotta testify.' He reached into the inside pocket of his windbreaker, withdrew a white cotton handkerchief, and deftly wrapped his hand with it. Mary was impressed.
'You carry that to pick up evidence?' she asked.
'No, I carry it to wipe my nose,' he answered, and picked up the diary.