The Devil Knows You're Dead Page 22

 Of course the subway would have been faster and easier, and about fifteen dollars cheaper, but who in his right mind would take three hundred thousand in cash for a ride on the subway? You might as well toss it out the window.

 Drew Kaplan sat at his desk and listened attentively while I filled him in on who Lisa was and why we were there. I told him just about everything, but didn’t say anything about the contents of the metal strongbox I’d placed on his desk. When I’d run through it he went back over a couple of points, but he didn’t say a word about the box, either. Then he tipped his chair back and gazed up at the ceiling.

 “Needs a paint job,” I offered.

 “So? You could use a haircut, but am I insensitive enough to bring that up?”


 “Evidently. Mrs. Holtzmann, first let me offer my sympa-thies. Of course I read the press coverage of the case. I’m sorry for your loss.”

 “Thank you.”

 “On the basis of what I’ve just been told, I think you defi-nitely need someone to look after your interests. I gather you’d like to put that”—he indicated the strongbox—“in a safe place. You haven’t told me what’s in it and I don’t see any reason why you should, but perhaps Matt here would like to take, say, three wild guesses as to what it might con-ceivably contain.”

 “Three guesses?” I said.

 “Sure. Shot-in-the-dark time.”

 “Okay,” I said. “Well, there might be several tusks of poached ivory in the box, smuggled in from Tanzania.”

 “There’s a possibility.”

 “Or Judge Crater might be in there.”

 “Could be,” Drew said, enjoying himself. “He’s been missing a long time.”

 “What’s that, two guesses?”

 “Uh-huh. One to go.”

 “Well, I suppose there could be a substantial amount of cash in the box.”

 “And if by some wild coincidence there really was cash in there, would you like to take another wild guess where it came from?”

 “Uh-uh. Not a clue.”

 “As much of a mystery as the apartment equity, and everything else about this mysterious man. All right.” He laid a hand on top of the strongbox. “I’m going to take this for safekeeping,” he announced, “with the understanding that I have no idea what it contains, and that not only my custodianship of the box but its very existence are confiden-tial matters. I’ll give you a receipt for the box, Mrs. Holtz-mann, or should that be Ms.?”

 “On the receipt? I don’t care.”

 “On the receipt it will just say Lisa Holtzmann. I wanted to know how you preferred to be called.”

 “Lisa,” she said. “Call me Lisa.”

 “Fine, and I’m Drew. As I said, I’ll give you a receipt, but if this box disappears in a burglary you’ll have to understand that there’s no question of reimbursement or insurance cov-erage. I’d reimburse you for the strongbox, but not for what’s in it.”

 She looked at me. I nodded, and she told Drew she under-stood.

 “Set your mind at rest,” he said. “I don’t steal from clients, I just overcharge them. It’s a lot more lucrative in the long run and you spend less time in prison. Lisa, if this box here were all we had to worry about I’d take it and charge you a few dollars for storage. Or I might suggest you go around the corner and lease a safe-deposit box in your maiden name, or in some name you always thought you might like to use.” He sat up straight, clasped his hands. “But there’s more at stake here. You’ve got your apartment, which those nice folks at Internal Revenue might take an in-terest in if your husband happened to buy it with unlaun-dered funds. You’ve also got insurance proceeds, which they shouldn’t be able to attach, but might depending on the na-ture and ownership of the policies, and on just how Laugh-ing Boy filed or didn’t file his tax return.” He frowned. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to make slighting references to your late husband. There’s no disrespect intended, it’s just he’s left you in a tricky spot and that tends to inspire me to heights of sarcasm.”

 “But underneath it all,” I said, “Drew’s a prince.”

 He ignored me. “There’s also a good possibility of hidden assets,” he went on, “which might only come to you if you’re aware of them. What I’d like from you, Lisa, is a check for five thousand dollars as a retainer. That should cover the actions I undertake on your behalf.”

 Again she looked at me. This time I said, “That’s no good, Drew. She hasn’t got it.”


 “Not in the bank. She’ll get the insurance money eventu-ally, but for the time being all she’s got is a household ac-count with enough dough in it to cover her day-to-day expenses.”

 “I see.”

 I shot a look at the strongbox. His eyes went to it and back to me.

 “I’d like to get paid by check,” he said. “If I went down the hall for a minute and didn’t put that in the safe until I got back, and if she wrote out the check, maybe when she got back home she’d happen to discover five thousand dollars in the refrigerator, just enough to deposit in the bank so the check wouldn’t bounce. What do you think?”

 “I think that would leave a paper trail that wouldn’t do her a whole lot of good. One look from anybody and the first thing they pick up is the cash deposit.”

 “Yeah, you’re right,” he said. “Shit. Give me a minute.” He sat back and closed his eyes. After a full minute he opened them and said, “Okay, here’s how we’ll do it. You brought your checkbook with you, I hope? I’d like you to write out a check payable to Drew Kaplan, Attorney-at-Law, in the amount of two hundred dollars.”

 I said, “See? They’re all alike. They start out high, but you can generally Jew them down.”

 “I didn’t hear that,” he said. “Did you put the whole phrase, my name and Attorney-at-Law? Good.” He picked up the phone and pushed the intercom button and said, “Karen, draw a check on the office account payable to Matthew Scudder, with the notation that it’s for investigative services on behalf of Lisa Holtzmann.” He spelled her name for Karen, then covered the mouthpiece and said, “Investiga-tive? Investigatory? Which is right?”

 “Who cares?”

 He shrugged. Into the phone he said, “One hundred dol-lars, and hold on to it. He’ll pick it up when he’s ready to leave.”

 “I like that,” I said. “Are we partners? Do we split every-thing fifty-fifty?”

 He ignored me again. He said, “Now here’s what I’m go-ing to do. I’m going down the hall for a minute, and when I get back I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Lisa has ten thou-sand dollars in her purse that she completely forgot about. And no, there hasn’t been a sudden price increase. I’ll be back in a moment.”

 When he had left the room I opened the box and removed two stacks, each of fifty bills. She put them in her purse and I closed the box and spun the dial. We waited in silence until Drew returned with my check. “A hundred dollars,” he said. “Now you can buy that Cadillac.”

 “You’ll never guess what Lisa found in her purse.”

 “Tanzanian ivory would be my guess, but I’m willing to be proved wrong.”

 A glance from Lisa, another nod from me. She drew out both stacks of bills and placed them on his desk.

 He sighed and said, “You try to do it by the book, you try not to take cash, but how can you operate that way and serve the best interests of the client? This is how lawyers get in trouble.” He thought about that and said, “Well, it’s one way. There are other.” He picked up one packet of bills, weighed it in his hand, tossed it to me. He took the other, riffled the edges, sighed again, and put it in his inside breast pocket. To Lisa he said, “Do you understand what just took place?”

 “I think so.”

 “If there’s anything you don’t understand Matt will be able to explain it. You have a lawyer now and you have a de-tective, and because I wrote out the check retaining our friend here, anything you tell him or he finds out on his own is privileged information. He can’t be compelled to divulge it. Not that he would anyway, but this way his ass is covered, if you’ll pardon the plain speech.” He hefted the strongbox. “You forget how heavy ivory is,” he said. “Especially the poached kind. Lisa, I’ll be in touch. Call me if anything hap-pens and refer all matters to me. Don’t answer any questions from anybody about anything. Don’t allow anyone access to your apartment without a warrant, and call me if anybody shows up with one. Matthew, always a pleasure.”

 There was a cab at the hack stand down the block and the driver was untroubled by our destination of Tenth Avenue and Fifty-seventh Street. “That’s Manhattan,” I said, and he assured me it was not a problem. Lisa wondered why I had specified the borough; did Brooklyn have a Tenth Avenue and a Fifty-seventh Street? Indeed it did, I said, and they in-tersected near where Sunset Park and Bay Ridge abutted one another. She said she didn’t know Brooklyn at all, that she’d been to Williamsburg where some artists she knew had lofts, but we weren’t anywhere near there now, were we? No, I said, we weren’t.

 What conversation there was stayed at that level until we had reached our destination and gone on up to her apart-ment. “I’m going to have a drink,” she announced. “I got out of the habit while I was pregnant, but there’s no reason not to, is there? I think I’ll have a scotch. What about you?”

 “A little of that coffee, if there’s any left.”

 “You don’t drink?”

 “I used to.”

 She took this in, started to say something, and changed her mind. She went into the kitchen and came back with cof-fee for me and what looked like a very weak scotch and soda for herself. We each picked a couch to sit on and went over what had taken place at the law office on Court Street. Drew hadn’t wanted to take cash, I explained, because that was a good way for a lawyer to get in trouble. Several defense at-torneys had run into problems when they accepted cash fees from drug dealers. The government had tried to impound the fees on the grounds that they were the proceeds of illegal traffic in narcotics, and had sometimes been able to pull this off even when the original case against the defendant wound up being dismissed.

 “Was Glenn trafficking in drugs?”

 “Who knows?” I said. “At this point no one can say what the hell he was doing, but the money is pretty likely to be dirty one way or another. At the very least it’s untaxed in-come. And it’s about to become untaxed income all over again, because Drew can’t very easily enter it in his books and deposit it in his bank account without leaving it an open question as to where it came from. He has to keep it off the books.”

 “I thought people preferred income off the books.”

 “Not always. In this case the money he’ll save in taxes is offset by the fact that he’s going to be breaking the law. More to the point, two people will know he’s broken the law.”

 “And the two people are—”

 “You and I. He doesn’t think we’re likely to turn him in or he wouldn’t have taken the cash, but he bought himself a lit-tle insurance by making sure I took five thousand dollars myself in his presence. Now my hands aren’t any cleaner than his. Incidentally, I’ll give that money back to you if you want.”


 “It’s a lot of money.”

 “I was going to throw the whole kit and caboodle out the window a few hours ago, remember?”

 “You wouldn’t have done that.”

 “No, but I wanted to. I didn’t know that money existed until a few days ago. Ever since I found it I’ve been afraid someone would take it away or kill me for it. Now there’s a chance I may be able to keep some of it, and even if I don’t I can at least stop worrying about it. If one of those packets of bills goes to you and the other to a lawyer in Brooklyn, what do I care?”

 She punctuated the question with a long sip from her drink. It triggered a flash of sense memory—the faintly me-dicinal taste of scotch, cooled by the ice cubes, diluted by the soda, the tongue tingling from the soda’s bubbles, from the whiskey’s alcohol. Jesus, I could damn near hear the background music, Brubeck or Chico Hamilton, say. Or

 Chet Baker, playing a trumpet solo, then putting the horn down and singing in that voice as thin as her drink, as cool, as enduring in memory.

 “I have to make a couple of calls.”

 “All right,” she said. “Do you want to use the phone in the bedroom? You’d have more privacy.”

 “This is fine,” I said.

 I called Elaine. “It’s been a long day,” I said, “and it’s not over yet.”

 “Do you want to skip it?”

 “No, I don’t. I’ve got a few things to take care of, and then I want to go home and shower and lie down for half an hour. Suppose I came over around eight? We can eat at that little place around the corner.”

 “Which little place? Which corner?”

 “Your choice.”

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