Mary felt Captain Walsh grip her arm and steer her toward an empty white-and-blue police cruiser. 'Step into my office, DiNunzio,' he said under his breath.
'It was Whittier who committed suicide, is that right, Captain?' she asked, as he placed her bodily into the passenger seat, slammed the door closed after her, and went around to the driver's seat. The legal term 'custodial interrogation' popped into her mind, but she shooed it away. Everything was happening too fast for her to process, but the suicide only confirmed Whittier's culpability. And it might have been the final key to Jack's freedom.
'DiNunzio, you are one royal pain, you know that?' Walsh climbed into the cold car and tore his hat off. 'First you get two of my best detectives in hot water, then you show up here. What were you doing with Reg? Did he help you?'
'Reg who? Now tell me about Whittier.'
'Reg who?' The Reg we tagged in your parents' house. That Reg.'
'Tall, black guy? Likes peppers and eggs?'
'That's the one.'
'Don't know him.' Mary would be damned if she'd incriminate Brinkley. 'Talk to me about Whittier. I need to know what happened.'
'No you don't. We got Brinkley and Kovich in custody because of you. You think that's good for the people of this city? You think it's easy to run a homicide squad with two detectives out? We're understaffed as it is.'
'I'm not talking to you about Brinkley or Kovich. I'm talking to you about Whittier. You don't want to talk about
him, I'm on my way.' Mary put a hand on the door handle and hoped she was convincing.
'You wanna talk about Whittier? Okay, explain to me what you're doing here and why you been calling him all morning.'
'How did you know that?'
'We interviewed the secretary.' Walsh glared at her from the driver's seat, which barely accommodated his burly frame. 'In fact, a big cheese like Whittier was, I came down and questioned her in person. What did you want him for? She said you told her it was important. You had to see him about Honor Newlin.'
'I was coming to confront him. Whittier was responsible for Honor Newlin's death. He blackmailed Trevor to do it. That's what the fight was about last night, in Whittier's office. The one Jack broke in on.'
'What? This a new theory? And it's Jack now?'
'Look, I swear it. Trevor sold drugs to Whittier's kid and Whittier must have known that I knew that.' Mary checked her urgency to convince him, but his eyes narrowed with trained skepticism. 'I was onto him, and he knew it was only a matter of time before it all came apart. It must be why he -'
Walsh cut her off with a chop. 'DiNunzio, don't give yourself so much credit. Whittier killed himself because you were on to him? Get real.'
Mary felt an undeniable pang of guilt. 'Not that I'm proud of it. But it proves that what I was telling you is true. Whittier knew it was over and he couldn't face it. This proves Jack Newlin is innocent.'
They all recant when they realize they can get out of it! As soon as they find a lawyer young and gullible enough to buy their rap. I saw you two in the interview room, makin' eyes.'
Mary ignored the slight. You get a crush on your client,
you have to take the heat. 'It's the truth, Captain. Honor Newlin's murder just got solved.'
'Oh please! You don't know what you're doing. You're pingin' around like a Ping-Pong ball, and in the end good people get hurt. Don't you get it? You're an amateur!' Walsh looked away, obviously trying to keep his temper, but Mary couldn't let his words hit home.
'Captain, I know this seems crazy to you. I know I haven't had it figured out from the beginning. I'm not a professional detective, I know that, too. But I'm right. I'm really right this time, and this suicide confirms it.'
'Please.' Walsh harrumphed audibly and his eyes scanned the scene around the squad car. Police officers milled around, controlling traffic and ushering in a snub-nose yellow truck with hoses to wash down the sidewalk. Walsh appraised their progress, then turned to Mary. 'You honestly think we're gonna let Newlin go, because this lawyer committed suicide?'
'It's proof! Didn't Whittier know I was coming?'
'Yeah, he got the messages, but so what?'
'How soon after my last message did he kill himself?'
'Fifteen minutes, okay?'
'So there. Not much time, is it? What happened?'
'He sent his secretary down to the cafeteria for doughnuts. When she came back, he had jumped. A lawyer down the hall heard the crash. He broke the window with a chair first.'
'What did the note say?'
'So we don't know the reason for sure.'
'Wrong again.' Walsh laughed, without humor. 'You think he's gonna write, "I'm a bad guy, I'm scared of DiNunzio, this is me jumping"?' Walsh shook his head, eyes focused again on the scene through the windshield. 'And we do know the reason for sure. The secretary told us Whittier came in late this morning and she smelled booze on his breath. He looked so low she asked him what was
the matter and he told her he was ashamed of being all over the newspapers. He thought he embarrassed himself and the firm. She said that Whittier had already lost four of his biggest clients. I'd jump outta the building, too!'
'But that's not the reason. He knew it was going to get worse, when I proved he killed his own client.'
'Come off it! You got proof of nothing! You can't have! Whittier didn't kill the wife, Newlin did.'
'Captain, hear me out,' Mary said, and told him the whole story, omitting the aid of Brinkley and Kovich. As she spoke, she experienced a sinking sense of deja vu. She had no credibility with Walsh and she knew, even as she tried to convince him to the contrary, that she had no hard evidence against Whittier. It sounded like supposition, especially without Trevor's record in juvenile. She knew it was true, she just couldn't prove it. 'Captain, you're holding an innocent man.'
'According to you. I'll pass it along to Davis. I hear he liked the one about the daughter and the bruises, too.'
'You want evidence, I'll get it.' Mary opened the passenger side door. 'I'll make you let him go.'
'Not with your track record, kiddo,' Walsh said, but Mary was leaving.
She hurried from the squad car and broke into a light jog, running upstream against the swarm of businesspeople, some of whom stared at her curiously as she ran by. She didn't know where she was running. She let her feet carry her away from the bloody tarp on the sidewalk and Walsh's words. Not with your track record, kiddo.
Her pumps clattered on the cold concrete. The sun was cold on her back. The chill stung her nose and made her eyes water, but still she kept running, her bag and briefcase flying at her side. Her emotions churned within her. Her chest felt bound with cold and fear, making it hard to breathe.
She had felt so close to the solution, right at Whittier's door, and now he was dead. She had succeeded in nothing
except forcing the man's hand. Driving him to end his own life. Fresh tears sprang to her eyes and she didn't pretend they were from the cold. As dreadful a man as Whittier was, he didn't deserve to die. She had wanted to bring him to justice, not suicide. And not that way. Not with your track record, kiddo.
She kept running, blinking wetness from her eyes. A woman hurrying toward the business district looked at her with a flash of recognition. Mary didn't care. Jack was back in jail, and with Whittier's suicide, his fate could be sealed. She didn't have the proof to free him, and with Whittier dead she was no closer to getting him out, but farther away. Now both conspirators, Whittier and Trevor, were gone. How could she prove dead men guilty of murder?
It made her run faster. Brinkley and Kovich were in custody, too. Could Judy keep them out of jail? Mary kept running, the gun in her briefcase. Would the police find out about that, too? Would that make it worse for Brinkley? Was Walsh right? Was Mary just an amateur, doing damage?
The crowd thinned as she fled the business district. The pavement grew emptier the farther south she went. She didn't know where she was going at first. She had nowhere to go. She couldn't go home and upset her parents. It wouldn't serve any purpose to go to the office or even to see Jack.
Her heels rang out swift and certain on the concrete. Her ears were filled with the sound of her own breathing. She was on her own. She couldn't call on Judy or Lou; she didn't want to. Mary was meant to get to the bottom of this, it would have to be her. She had to think, she had to plan. She had to keep moving and not give up. Most of all, she had to succeed.
And when she finally stopped running, she was only partly surprised at where she found herself.