Authors: Leonard Goldberg
Tags: #Medical, #General, #Blalock; Joanna (Fictitious character), #Mystery & Detective, #Fiction
In the parking lot Joanna’s fatigue became more noticeable, and she wondered if she had the energy to do a big number in the kitchen. Veal marsala and a spinach soufflé took time, and the nearest supermarket was out of her way. Maybe she’d just grab some fast food somewhere. She shook her head at the notion.
Do the damn veal
Joanna drove down Wilshire Boulevard toward Santa Monica. She decided to make the veal but to buy a frozen spinach soufflé rather than starting from scratch. That way she wouldn’t fall asleep on her feet while she was in the kitchen.
Up ahead she saw Flannigan’s, a cop bar that Jake had taken her to a number of times. It was a fun place where police people could really relax and tell their incredible stories.
Joanna stopped at a red light, smiling at the thought of one of the more famous stories to come out of Flannigan’s. A stupid, mean thug decided to rob the bar, not knowing it was a cop hangout. He made the customers empty their pockets. Then, to show how tough he was, he hit a waitress across her forehead with his gun, opening up a two-inch gash. He was almost to the door when the cops opened up. Eighteen slugs found their mark. The liberal newspaper and minority groups raised hell, claiming excessive police force was used. Jake tended to agree, telling anyone who would listen that seventeen slugs should have been enough. Joanna chuckled. Only Jake could get away with something like that.
The smile on Joanna’s face faded as she thought about Jake and where he might be tonight. He had told her that he had police business to take care of, and that usually meant he was on some dangerous assignment, like a stakeout. Joanna tried her best not to worry about Jake when he was in those situations, but she always did. For the hundredth time she wondered what life would be like if Jake were a doctor or a lawyer rather than a homicide detective. It would probably be secure but very dull. Because then Jake wouldn’t be Jake, and she’d miss out on all the high-profile crime cases. Joanna sighed to herself. Life was full of trade-offs.
Joanna’s stomach growled loudly, and her fatigue began to worsen. Now she was having trouble keeping her eyes open. Just get some fast food, she decided finally. Then go home and go to sleep. And try not to dream about blond hitters and dead babies.
Mervin Tuch exited the elevator on the tenth floor of the Century City Tower. The entire floor was occupied by the law offices of Matlin, Mason & Silverstein. Tuch strolled past the large reception desk where two receptionists wearing headsets were busily answering phones.
One of the receptionists called after him, “Mr. Tuch, Mr. Matlin needs to see you as soon as possible.”
“Right,” Tuch said, and walked down a long corridor lined with offices that housed the firm’s sixty attorneys. Mervin Tuch was one of ten senior partners. In addition, there were fifty associates and a dozen paralegals. There were so many in the group now that Tuch couldn’t remember all their names.
He entered his suite and stopped by the bubbling aquarium to sprinkle in some fish food. He checked the pH of the water and made sure ammonia wasn’t accumulating. That could kill exotic fish with remarkable rapidity.
His secretary hurried over. “Mr. Tuch, I—”
Tuch held up a hand. “Let me get settled first.”
“I’m not sure you’ll have time for that.”
“Oh,” Tuch said easily, “there’s always time for that.”
Tuch walked into his spacious office and went over to a wet bar where he poured coffee into a plastic cup. Then he stepped over to a large window and admired the view of West Los Angeles stretching out to the Pacific Ocean. It was a crystal-clear day, and Marina del Rey was visible in the distance. His mind drifted back to Lucy Rabb with her incredible body and the wonderful things she could do with her mouth.
“Mr. Tuch,” the secretary said gravely. “You really have some important matters to deal with.”
“Okay,” Tuch said, and reluctantly turned away from the window. “Fire away.”
“Mr. Matlin is on his way down now,” the secretary began.
“Did he say what it’s about?” Tuch asked.
“No, but it must be very important,” his secretary said. “They’ve been calling every five minutes to see if you had arrived.”
Tuch lit a cigarette, thinking. “It must be a new case they want me to handle.”
The secretary shrugged, but she knew it was more than that. Matlin’s secretary had told her that the old man had been furiously pacing his office all morning. And David Matlin, the founder of the law firm, was known for his even temperament. Tuch’s secretary looked down at her steno pad. “Are you aware that the police were up here all afternoon yesterday?”
Tuch waved away the information, unconcerned. “They were looking through Edmond Rabb’s file. Right?”
The secretary shook her head. “They were examining our record of your phone calls. They also had a printout from the phone company that listed all calls you made.”
“Goddamn it,” Tuch growled, irritated. “Did they have a warrant for all that?”
The secretary nodded and then referred back to her steno pad. “They kept asking me about a call to a place called Club West.”
Tuch’s face paled. “Wh-what?”
“A place called Club West,” the secretary repeated. “We don’t have any file on them.”
Tuch remembered making the phone call to Club West to set up a meeting with David Westmoreland.
! It would have been smarter to have used a pay phone. He’d have to make an excuse for that call. It was a good bar in a respectable part of Los Angeles. He could have called to find out what time they opened so he could meet a client there for drinks.
“All right,” Tuch said finally. “What else have you got?”
“Your banker called. He needs for you to send him information on the stock you own in Bio-Med.”
Tuch almost choked on his coffee. “What did you tell him?”
“That I’d bring it to your attention.”
Tuch held his expression even, but his gut was twisting and churning. The Bio-Med stock was the one asset he’d managed to hide from the bank and his other creditors. Everything else was gone or mortgaged. All he had was the Bio-Med stock, which one day would be worth millions. Although it had never shown a profit, its potential was mind-boggling, particularly with the discoveries that were about to come to fruition. My God! The ability to make people’s organs young again. How much was that worth? But now his Bio-Med stock would be gone. The bank had somehow found out about the stock, and they would easily find a buyer for it. And the money would all go to his creditors and he’d be left flat broke. Tuch felt the acid burning in his stomach.
There was a sharp rap on the door, and David Matlin entered.
“You’ll excuse me,” Matlin said formally to the secretary. “Make certain we are not disturbed.”
David Matlin watched the secretary close the door behind her; then he sat on the edge of Tuch’s desk. Matlin was a tall man with chiseled features and wavy gray-white hair. He was impeccably dressed in a dark pin-striped suit. “We have some important matters to discuss.”
Tuch poured himself more coffee. “So I hear.”
“We had a meeting of the partners yesterday afternoon,” Matlin began. “Apparently you were unable to attend.”
“I was tied up with the Rabb estate,” Tuch explained.
“There were extenuating circumstances.”
“The police now believe Edmond Rabb was murdered.”
Matlin’s eyes narrowed. “But he fell overboard.”
“With someone’s help, according to the police.”
“Do they know who did it?”
“I don’t think so,” Tuch said. “But everyone who was on the yacht that night is a suspect, and that includes me.”
“Is that why they’re looking through your phone records?”
Tuch nodded. “I think they’re digging into everything and everybody associated with Edmond Rabb.”
Matlin studied his manicured fingernails. For a tall man, his hands were remarkably small. “Do you think Lucy Rabb is involved?”
“I doubt it,” Tuch said. “The money might be tempting, but I believe she really loved the guy.”
“Well . . .,” Maitlin said, letting his voice trail off, always suspicious of young, beautiful women who marry old men. “Let’s return to the partners meeting yesterday. It seems that your draw is now substantially higher than the amount of money you generate for the firm. After calculating overhead, you are at least twenty percent off.”
“It’s the high-profile cases,” Tuch told him. “As you know, one spends a lot of time doing things in those cases that you can’t bill for.”
“We took that into consideration.”
“Maybe we should assign someone else to the high-profile cases,” Tuch suggested, knowing that no one in the firm could handle such cases nearly as well as he could. “That way I could concentrate on more lucrative matters in the practice.”
“We’ll leave things the way they are for now,” Matlin said. “But you must generate more income if you expect to continue receiving your current draw.”
“Fine,” Tuch said, glancing out the window to the ocean and wishing he were aboard the
with Lucy Rabb. “Is there anything else?”
“I’m afraid so,” Matlin said, his voice very somber. “Our accounting firm has gone over all of our books, including your old escrow accounts. They’ve found some serious irregularities.”
Tuch felt a streak of fear shoot through his body. He strained to keep his expression even. “Regarding what?”
“Three of your dormant escrow accounts,” Matlin went on. “In particular, the accounts of Mary Marshall, Benjamin Stone, and the Charles Warring Trust. There is over four hundred thousand dollars missing.”
“And that’s been double-checked?”
“There must be some mistake,” Tuch said, and walked over to refill his coffee cup. “Or perhaps some funds were transferred into other, special accounts.”
“Do you recall doing that?”
“Let me think back.”
Tuch lit a cigarette, his hand shaking despite his efforts to control it. He stared up at the ceiling as if concentrating to remember. But he remembered all too well. Tuch had gone into the accounts to cover his stock market losses. The escrow accounts had been dormant for so long. No one had touched them in years. So Tuch had stuck his fingers in, fully intending to return the money he had taken. But his losses and debts continued to mount, and he found himself taking more and more from the accounts. But he hadn’t realized he had taken so much. “I think I do recall some transfers,” Tuch said finally.
“Give me the particulars,” Matlin demanded.
“I—I’d have to review the files,” Tuch stammered.
Matlin pushed himself off the edge of the desk. “Then review them. Today being Friday, you’ll have the entire weekend to do it. I’ll expect your answers Monday morning. Ten o’clock sharp in my office.”
Tuch waited for the door to close, and then he ran over to the wet bar. He held his head over the small sink and began to retch, bringing up bile and coffee-tinged vomit. And when there was nothing more to bring up, he dry-heaved over and over again. Finally it stopped.
Tuch rinsed out his mouth and splashed cool water on his face, trying to compose himself. His whole world was collapsing. And it wasn’t just the money. It was his whole life. Tuch was guilty of embezzlement, and for that he could be disbarred and lose his livelihood. It was also possible he would spend time in jail. Unless he could come up with the money.
Four hundred thousand
, he thought miserably,
might as well be forty million
. He had nowhere to go for the money. His Bio-Med stock would probably have covered it, but that, too, was gone now. The banks would suck it up like a vacuum cleaner. He wouldn’t see a dime from it. And he couldn’t transfer funds out of other escrow accounts, either. The accountants would be watching those accounts like hawks. “Where the hell do I find four hundred thousand dollars?”
Tuch went over to the window and looked out at the blue Pacific.
Enjoy the view while you can
, he told himself.
You won’t have it much longer
. His gaze drifted over to the marina in the distance. The good life, he thought, with Lucy Rabb and yachts would soon be a thing of the—
Suddenly his eyes brightened. Lucy Rabb and the Rabb millions! Lucy would be his way out. Oh, yes! Easy as pie. She’d do exactly as she was told. And if she refused, Tuch knew how to make her change her mind. A little fear could work wonders.
Tuch quickly rinsed his mouth out with mouthwash. He straightened his tie in the mirror behind the wet bar; then he ran a hand through his hair and patted it in place. He smiled at his reflection in the mirror.
You’re one clever son of a bitch, aren’t you?
Tuch left his office and hurried past his secretary’s desk.
The secretary looked up. “Is everything all right, Mr. Tuch?”
“Couldn’t be better.”
Lucy Rabb was putting on diamond earrings when Tuch walked into her bedroom aboard the
. She was wearing faded jeans and a white turtleneck cashmere sweater.
“We have to talk,” Tuch said.
“I’m kind of in a rush, Merv,” Lucy said, reaching for a blue blazer. “I’ve got a luncheon date in Ancien.”
Lucy smiled at his jealousy. “With a girlfriend.”
“She’ll have to wait.”
Lucy looked over and studied his face. “Is something wrong?”
“I’ve run into some financial problems,” Tuch said. He sat on the side of the bed and lit a cigarette. “I need a loan, and I need it now.”
“How much are we talking about?”
“A half-million dollars.”
“Ha!” Lucy exclaimed. “What the hell do you think I am, a bank?”
“You’ve got it.”
“Not until my husband’s will clears probate.”
“There are ways around that.”
Lucy eyed him carefully. “What do you need that kind of money for?”
“To cover a bad investment,” Tuch lied easily. “And since my wife owns over half of everything, I’d have trouble hocking anything without her permission.” He suddenly realized his mistake and backtracked. “But to be totally honest, there’s not much left to hock. Except for my Bio-Med stock.”