Read Alex Ames - Calendar Moonstone 02 - Brilliant Actors Online

Authors: Alex Ames

Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Jewelry Creator - Cat Burglar - Hollywood

Alex Ames - Calendar Moonstone 02 - Brilliant Actors (9 page)

BOOK: Alex Ames - Calendar Moonstone 02 - Brilliant Actors
6.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Terrence whispered to me, “There has been some kind of last-minute development. The district attorney has managed to make it a closed hearing. Very strange.” He gave me a look over his half-moon glasses. “You know anything?”

I shook my head. I didn’t even need to fake it because, for the first time in my life, I was in front of a criminal court. Terrence’s bullshit sensors were still blinking brightly, but being an old professional, he just shrugged and sorted his papers.

“Everybody, rise for the honorable Judge Lawrence,” the Deputy shouted in his courtroom voice reserved for packed and loud rooms. Astonished by the echo fading in the empty room, he mumbled, “Sorry.”

Judge Lawrence strode out of his chamber, a large black man in black robes and white hair who looked like a former football pro. He sat down, we sat down, and the judge fussed a minute with the sheets of papers in front of him. He finally put them aside and looked at us with interest, this case clearly out of the ordinary. “As we are among ourselves,” he began with a deep, guttural actor’s voice that could enlighten any “save the children” spot on TV, “I would suggest that we skip the formalities, as both parties presented paperwork of impeccable quality. Before we come to all the motions, I would like to clear up some very confusing things.”

Despite the informality, the court stenographer ticked away on his little machine.

Judge Lawrence looked at me. “Mrs. Calendar Moonstone, you are aware of the charges brought against you?”

I nodded and, after a slight rib nudge from Terrence, said, “Yes, your honor.”

“And despite this stack of heavy evidence against you, you plead ‘not guilty.’” He patted the stack of papers beside him.

“That is right, your honor. Not guilty.” What else could I say?

He then looked at the assistant district attorney. “Mr. Palmeri, now to your motion to close out the public, a motion that usually comes from the defense. Enlighten me, please.”

Ned Palmeri, middle thirties and slicked back straight black hair, was getting up but sat back as Judge Lawrence waved the formalities aside. “Yes, your honor. You have read the facts. The defendant was found in possession of one of the stolen pieces on the premises of the crime….” Palmeri did a quick shortcut when he saw Judge Lawrence’s circling index finger. “However, we have the statement from a renowned insurance detective, Mr. Fowler Wynn, who has real doubts about the involvement of the defendant.”

Judge Lawrence glanced at the paperwork. “And Mr. Wynn is present?”

“He is waiting outside. We can call him up if needed.”

“He is needed,” ordered the judge.

The deputy walked out and came back with Fowler at his side. Fowler was motioned toward a chair between our two tables and looked seriously at the judge.

“Mr. Wynn, your resume is impressive,” the judge said, looking over one of the folders on his desk. “Maybe you can answer some questions for me.”

“Your honor,” Fowler simply said, completely at ease. He probably ate court appearances for lunch dessert.

“When I read your statement, I learned that you suspect the defendant of about two kazillion jewelry thefts, cat burglar style, over the last six decades. Is that so?”

The judge’s sarcasm was lost on Fowler. “That is right, your honor. To be exact: twenty-four cases within six years. I have reason to believe—” Fowler started, but the judge interrupted him because Fowler had given himself away by falling into his fanatical searcher-for-the-truth voice that always crept over him whenever Calendar Moonstone was the subject.

“And in this instance, where the evidence looks pretty clear cut, you don’t think she is involved?” Judge Lawrence inquired.

Fowler looked slightly deflated but nodded. “No, your honor. The defendant is among the most clever criminals I have ever encountered. I know her style of work inside out, and this theft is not her work … as much as I would like to see her behind bars.”

Judge Lawrence gave Fowler a very long look. “Lieutenant Graves, what is your take on this strange development? It is your case, too.”

Graves, too, started to get up automatically and was waved down again. “Your honor probably knows that we have been working on a series of jewelry thefts for the last nine months now. The thief or thieves have hit about a dozen mansions in the LA area; some of the victims are high-profile celebrities, just like Mrs. Collins and Mrs. McAllister.”

It was the first time I had heard anything about this, a burglar stealing expensive jewelry from the rich and famous of Hollywood—which, in retrospect, explained Fowler Wynn’s presence in LA. He helped the police and now had found a nice way of delegating the dirty work. To me.

“As much as I would like to close this case for good,” he gave me a look, “I must admit that the style of Monday’s crime
very different from the other crimes.”

“So, in your detective opinion, did she do it or not, Lieutenant?” the judge asked and shook his head at Terrence’s attempt to object.

Graves exchanged looks with Palmeri, who in turn looked at Fowler, who did nothing because he still felt duped by the judge.

“Lieutenant, we are waiting. Did she or didn’t she?”

“We found no additional evidence of Mrs. Moonstone’s involvement at her home or in her jewelry shop,” Graves said, “but I can’t just ignore the fact that she had Mrs. McAllister’s necklace in her possession and tried to hide the fact from us. If not for some observant party guest, she would have gotten away with it.”

“Please answer my question, detective.” The judge’s impatience was clear.

Palmeri answered for his detective. “The reason we asked for a closed hearing is that we don’t want the investigation to blow up on us. We kept the media successfully out so far, and we think we made good progress. By indicting Mrs. Moonstone of the crime, we would need to go public—and we don’t want that right now, not until we are sure that there is someone else behind the earlier thefts.”

Judge Lawrence glanced at our small assembly with a tired look. “Basically, you want the cake but don’t want to break the egg. Am I getting this right?”

Palmeri looked at the judge with a sheepish smile. “Your honor, I hoped that we could find a solution to my dilemma. If you decide that we cannot leave an unresolved dagger hanging over Mrs. Moonstone, I am willing to go forward and charge her for Monday’s theft with the risk of compromising my other investigation. On the other hand, if you should give us some time in the investigation of the whole series of thefts and enable us to hold back Mrs. Moonstone’s indictment, I would leave this courtroom much happier.”

Judge Lawrence looked at Palmeri for a second as if he planned to have him for dinner that night. He looked at Terrence and me. “What does the defendant have to say about that matter?”

Terrence held up one hand. “Could I have a minute with my client, your honor?”

“A minute you get, Mr. Peters.”

Terrence turned to me. “I don’t know what to make of this,” he whispered.

“I have no clue what all of this means. Is it always that … unstructured?” I asked, feeling totally lost at the exchange.

“Did you know about the other series of thefts?”

I shook my head. “Not a word. And to answer your next question beforehand: I didn’t had anything to do with them, either.”

Terrence gave me
the look
and sighed. “This is totally out of order. If you want my opinion, we should ask for a speedy trial toward a clear and defined indictment. The evidence is pretty weak, and because of the other thefts, there is a strong element doubt involved.”

“But in that case, it would be a public affair. Everyone would know that Mrs. Moonstone from Redondo is an alleged thief, and because of the prominent victims, I would be tabloid fodder for weeks.”

“That is right, but I don’t see the alternative,” sighed Terrence, glancing over to Judge Lawrence, who was beginning to grow restless behind his desk. “If Palmeri gets more time, he could build an even better case against you and maybe, with the help of that British gentleman, even find some more good solid evidence pointing to you. Hell, you don’t even know if you have alibis for the other break-ins.”

“Mr. Peters?” Judge Lawrence ended our powwow.

Terrence got up. “As we stand by our ‘not guilty’ plea, we ask the judge for a dismissal of the People’s case. As Mr. Palmeri has concluded quite rightfully, it is very likely that another serial thief has conducted the other crimes and simply had slipped the McAllister necklace into the purse of my client in order to confuse the authorities. Sounds to me like the most likely explanation.” Terrence sat down.

“Mr. Palmeri?”

“Out of the question, your honor. We cannot drop the charges. The expert says that Mrs. Moonstone is suspected in several more cases of jewelry theft outside our jurisdiction. We found the necklace in her possession. She tried to get away unnoticed. No way will I let her go without a trial. I will burn my other investigation for an indictment of Mrs. Moonshine.”

Judge Lawrence growled at both parties for a minute, mumbling to himself. Then he played with his gavel.

“Sometimes there are cases that remind me of a scene from the Bible where a fair and honest judge has to find an elegant, humane, Solomonic judgment for a complex situation of just and unjust. But, as you may know, I am not such a judge. I believe in proceedings and rulings and the process of trial that our forefathers established in our country. That’s why I have no inclination to help anyone out of the mess you got yourselves into.”

Palmeri and Terrence stared at the judge. Fowler, Graves, and I had no idea what he was talking about, but we stared nonetheless.

“Mrs. Moonstone, you are accused of a serious crime; I have to support Mr. Palmeri there. Motion to dismiss is denied, Mr. Peters.” Terrence started to rise to object or to do whatever lawyers do but again was waved down by a stern look on Judge Lawrence’s face. “Listen, everyone, here come my wise two cents: in about four weeks, we will reassemble in my chamber.” He glanced at his docket calendar. “Make that thirty days. Then I will make my final ruling. This enables you to find out more and position your case better, Mr. Palmeri. The case records will be sealed for now. We will keep this session and our little deal to ourselves, so Mrs. Moonstone’s privacy will not be affected by the pending investigation. However,” Lawrence turned to me and Terrence. “it will not come for free: bail will be set at one-hundred-thousand dollars.”

You could hear a pin drop. Judge Lawrence made a cutthroat sign at the stenographer and whispered sharply, “If any one of you makes any objection or says a single word now, I will open the public case right away with expedited proceedings—which is the worst case scenario for both parties.”

We all held our breath for about five seconds in order not to say something accidentally.

“Court is adjourned. Get out of my face.” We started breathing again and scrambled to our feet as Judge Lawrence strode out of the courtroom and into his chamber.

“What happens now?” I asked Terrence.

“You have to go back to your cell until bail is processed. I will start with it right away.”

“How long will that take?”

“Two, three hours most.” He patted my shoulder and got up.

“Thanks, Terrence,” I said and waited for my warden to reappear.

Fowler came over. “Hope the result suits you.”

I shrugged. “To be honest, I have no clue what happened. I am tired and want to go home.”

He looked down at me. “Can we meet as soon as possible?”

“Make an appointment with my assistant,” I replied and got up, held out my hands for the chains, and followed the fat lady into the dungeon.

True to Terrence’s word, I was set free two hours later. I collected my personal belongings; Terrence was accompanying me through the last official proceedings and signatures. Around eight o’clock in the evening, we were leaving the jail building. Terrence led me to a waiting limousine parked at the curb, but I motioned him to wait for a minute and stepped away, breathing in the mild spring air, aimlessly taking a few steps.

I wish, at that point of time in my life, I was able to swear to do everything in my power and in my action never to return to that place. Help the good guys to get the bad guys. But, of course, life was a little more complicated, especially my life. I had only thirty days of grace to find the real culprit, and the chances couldn’t really be counted as good for us good guys. And then there was that other thing that sometimes drove me out into the night to steal jewels of other people—that strange talent that Uncle Mortimer had raised so many years ago and that had never led me into danger before. Fowler Wynn suspected me of many jewelry thefts, and most of his suspicions were even true. I wasn’t the only cat burglar in the US but one of the most successful. Well, come to think of my situation, maybe not that successful anymore. Everything is relative. But being caught with a necklace I hadn’t even stolen had bruised my ego. Heavily!

Terrence leaned against his limousine and waited for me patiently. He wordlessly handed me a handkerchief, and I dried away my tears of frustration that had formed while I bathed in my self-pity.

We rode toward Redondo Beach in silence. I felt dead tired and like I could sleep for a hundred years. Plus, I had a murderous headache coming, my head growing larger to split open any minute.

The ride in the evening had taken about forty minutes, and Terrence led me into my home. I live in the reworked garden house of former TV diva Mimi Gardener who had retired in Redondo Beach in the seventies and had never left. We rarely met as she took to herself and I had my own entry door to the small estate, right in the middle of Redondo Beach in a more affluent single home area.

Terrence opened the car door and helped me out, leading me all the way through the garden side door, along the backyard pool, and to my bungalow door.

BOOK: Alex Ames - Calendar Moonstone 02 - Brilliant Actors
6.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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