It was early morning when Mary hit the sidewalk outside the Roundhouse and waded into the throng of media. Despite the cold, their numbers had swelled from the night before. Trevor's death and Jack's arrest had whipped them into a frenzy. They mobbed her, clicking motor drive cameras, screaming questions, and thrusting videocams and bubble microphones into her face. They fogged the air with steam and filled it with noise and action.
Mary put her head down and barreled ahead, remembering TV footage she'd seen of her boss, Bennie, running the same gauntlet. Odd to think she was doing it now, too. Was this really her? And was it progress? Wasn't she really better off whining about her job? Reading the classifieds? Daydreaming about the life of a manicurist? At least on this case, she knew the answer.
She ran to the corner. She knew she couldn't get another cab and she hadn't convinced the one that had brought her here to wait. Brinkley couldn't risk coming out in daylight to pick her up, and so she'd had to plan ahead. She had, by checking the schedule. The white SEPTA bus rumbled by, this one spray-painted all over with DEGAS AT THE ART MUSEUM, and she ran for it, her briefcase bumping at her side.
The bus genuflected at the bus stop, a misnomer if there ever was one, but the pause did give her time to be seen in the driver's rearview mirror. The sight of a passenger running flat out usually cued SEPTA buses to zoom away, but this one stayed put. Either it took pity on her because of the media after her like a swarm of killer bees, or the driver didn't know the rules. She caught up with the bus, her
chest heaving in the cold air. Its doors folded apart with a familiar rattle-and-slap, and she grabbed the steel handrail and leapt aboard. In Philly, real lawyers rode buses.
Mary watched two of the news vans take off after the bus, but the morning rush had started and in time one got lost in it. She slipped into a knit cap she had in her pocket, picked up a transfer slip, and got off the bus at the stop, then transferred to the C to get home. Nobody would suspect she was on the C. Nobody would bother with the C. It was the least suspicious bus route in Philadelphia. She watched the remaining news van get stuck in traffic, following the wrong bus, and she headed home. It would take her a little longer by bus, but it gave her time to think.
Jack had said that Paige's inheritance was the reason the cops thought he had tried to kill her. Mary had been pretty good at wills and estates in law school, and unlike criminal law, remembered it well. So the effect of Honor's will and Paige's trust must have been to have the Buxton money revert back to Jack. Mary knew that was almost boilerplate in wills. Whittier was the executor of both estates, a service generally performed for two percent of the total estate yearly, as Mary recalled. If it were a large estate, even two percent could amount to several million dollars, but it obviously wouldn't be collectable until after the deaths.
The bus chugged ahead, as did her thoughts. So Whittier would have wanted Honor and Paige dead for two reasons; either Honor was changing executors and he was in danger of losing the fees, or he simply wanted to hasten the day of collection, by killing them both. She shuddered. The bus hissed to a stop, taking on passengers as it approached the business district, and a young man in a tan baseball cap climbed on and wedged into the seat next to her. He let a heavy book bag slip from his shoulders and set it on his lap.
Mary returned to her thoughts. Only one thing didn't make any sense; Donovan's question. How were Whittier
and Trevor connected? One was an important law partner, the other was a high school kid. Like the one next to her on the bus. Mary glanced over at him, for field research. Close-up, he reminded her of Trevor, either that or the outlandish possibility that all teenagers were dressing alike. His baseball cap had a bright red A on it, which she assumed stood for Abercrombie and not Adultery. He wore a hoop earring in one ear, and she speculated that they issued the earring at Abercrombie's. He was about sixteen or seventeen and he wore jeans, a T-shirt, and only a light jacket, to prove he wasn't cold.
She smiled. Boys hadn't changed much. He had clear blue eyes, looked clean-cut, and was obviously on his way to school in town. Maybe he even went to Trevor's school. 'Excuse me,' she said, 'which school do you go to?'
'Pierce,' he answered.
She nodded. Or not Trevor's school. But maybe he knew him. Philly was a small town. 'You know anybody named Trevor Olanski? He goes to Philadelphia Select.'
Of course not. So much for coincidences that broke the case. Mary had bad karma. She hadn't been to confession in eighty-five years. She gave up, looking out the window.
'What's your name?' the teenager asked, and she turned back to discover he was smiling at her.
'Uh, Mary,' she told him, and he nodded as if she had said something incredibly interesting.
That's a nice name.'
'What's your last name?'
'Mary DiNunzio. That sounds good together.'
'I had nothing to do with it,' she said, and he laughed warmly. She suppressed her smile. Was he trying to pick her up? The only time men looked at her like that was when a model was walking behind her. And he wasn't even a man, he was a man-child.
'Where do you go to school, Mary?' he said, and maybe it was her fatigue, but the first thought that popped into her mind was:
I'm old enough to be your mother. In fact, she wasn't, but she felt old enough to be his mother. And it gave her an idea about Trevor and Whittier, even though the kid didn't go to Trevor's school. She remembered something she'd heard in the last crazy days. Where had she heard it? Who had said it? We've had our eye on Olanski… He moves lots of drugs to kids in private school… He sold to the wrong kid a few months ago…
Could that be it? Mary had found a connection between Whittier and Trevor, at least a possible connection, if it panned out. It shook her from her reverie. The bus was almost at her stop. She had to go. She couldn't wait to tell Brinkley. She could be right. She could break the case, all by herself. Anything was possible. It was America. She picked up her briefcase from the bus floor and jumped to her pumps.
'Mary?' asked the teenager, whom she'd forgotten. His face was flushed with embarrassment, and his eyes looked hurt. She couldn't do that to him. Scarred at such a tender age, he could turn into a lawyer. She bent down and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.
'I'm taken, but thanks for asking,' she told him, and made her way to the front of the aisle, where the driver steered the bus to a slow and safe stop. She didn't even have to hold on to the pole to avoid mortal injury. Definitely a rookie, she thought, and thanked him before she got off. It was the first time she meant it.
Mary hustled down Broad Street and when she turned the corner onto her block, broke into a run. She was so excited. She had figured it out. All they had to do was see if it was true. Brinkley could help.
She ran by brick stoops and marble stairs, past front windows with leftover plastic creches and porcelain Christmas trees. Christmas lights were still strung across the street,
rooftop to rooftop; they swayed in the stiff wind and glowed faintly against the morning sky, making a crayon canopy of red, blue, green, and yellow. Mary loved the lights. She loved life. She ran toward her house.
I'm old enough to be your mother. It was possible. She would find out if Whittier had a teenage son or a daughter. They would be roughly the right age. If Whittier had a kid, then maybe Trevor, drug dealer to preppies, had sold the kid drugs. And maybe that was the connection. It was possible, distinctly possible, especially in Philly". It was such a small town in many ways, and in her experience, the rich kids hung together and knew each other, even if they went to different schools. They went to the same exclusive camps, parties, even cotillions. This was Philadelphia, still.
Mary was going to free Jack, once and for all, and the certainty powered her to her front door. She reached the stoop panting, unlocked the door, and hurried inside. But she did a double take when she hit the kitchen.
She hadn't counted on the extra guest.