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Authors: Jane Haddam

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BOOK: True Believers
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In the back of the crowd, so far back that she found it difficult to hear exactly what the Cardinal Archbishop was saying, Mary McAllister was holding on to Chickie George's arm. Chickie was so excited, he looked feverish, feverish and triumphant,
as if he were liable to explode at any moment. It didn't help that he was not well, or that he was solving his problems—Mary was sure—by taking double the prescribed amount of his pain medications. It didn't help that it was so cold out here and he was wearing nothing but a cashmere sweater over a thin cotton shirt over good wool pants. Why was it impossible to get Chickie to take care of himself? Why was it impossible to get him to wear a coat?
“Listen,” she said, tugging desperately at his arm. “Listen, there's something I've been meaning to tell you—”
“Who would have believed it?” Chickie demanded—and it wasn't in that high-queen voice of his, either. Mary bit her lip. “The Cardinal Archbishop of Philadelphia. The old son of a bitch. On our side.”
“Oh, no,” Mary said. “I mean, I don't think—”
“I don't either,” Chickie said shortly. “I know the old fart will be back on television tomorrow talking about how gay sex is objectively evil or whatever it is he says. That's not what I mean. Listen to him. Listen to him. Old Roy is going to bust a gut.”
“Please
listen
,” Mary said, trying to brush hair out of her face faster than the wind was brushing it in. Roy Phipps had tried to go back into his house, but the door was blocked behind him. Two of the men from St. Stephen's had come up and got in his way. Chickie never used phrases like “bust a gut.”
“Listen,” she said again. “There's something I have to tell you. I should have told you before. I'm—I mean, you know, at the end of the school year—I'm going to go into the convent. Into the Sisters of Divine Grace convent. In New York. I mean, I talked to Sister Scholastica, and she said—”
“I know,” Chickie said.
“What?” Mary said.
“I know,” Chickie said again. “I've known for a year. Haven't you known?”
“No.”
“Well, it was obvious to everybody who cares about you. Which just goes to show that that idiot boyfriend of yours didn't give a damn about anything but getting in your pants, which I sincerely hope you haven't allowed him to do, because he isn't worth it and—”
“Chickie.”
“Sorry.”
“Do you mind?”
“No,” Chickie said. “I don't mind. If you invite me, I'll come up for that ceremony they have where they put the veil on your head. You know. I won't even, ah, be too obvious about, ah, things.”
“Be as obvious as you like. Just be yourself.”
“Right,” Chickie said.
Mary looked up at the town house again. The Cardinal Archbishop was still intoning in Latin. The words seemed to go on and on, and the crowd seemed to know how to answer—but Mary didn't. She didn't have the faintest idea what was going on, or why Chickie was so ecstatic. She wrapped her arms around her body and shivered.
“What's he doing up there?” she asked. “Is there something in particular that's supposed to happen?”
Chickie looked at her with wide eyes, momentarily shocked.
And then he burst out laughing.
Gregor Demarkian was in the offices of Brady, Marquis and Holden when news of the exorcism came, sitting in a large and expensively outfitted conference room with both Garry Mansfield and Lou Emiliani, a junior partner, and Delmark Marquis himself. The news was brought by a secretary who was running when she came, but Gregor was only momentarily surprised about that. Surely there were radios in these offices, and even small television sets, that belonged to the support staff and that were kept running, surreptitiously, throughout the day. Even more likely, everybody, senior as well as junior, management as well as staff, had computers that were plugged into the Internet for e-mail purposes. One way or the other, the news was out. Delmark Marquis demanded that the conference room's own television be taken out of the carved mahogany cupboard where it was hidden when it wasn't needed and turned on to the station that promised the most extensive coverage. How he knew which station this would be was anybody's guess. Gregor sat back and watched the set and the room together. He was neither surprised nor particularly upset. He had gotten past his simple personal distaste for the Cardinal Archbishop. Now he thought that the man was—complicated—to say the least, and where he wasn't complicated he might be unusual. But watching him on the screen, making the sign of the cross over Roy Phipps's balding head, Gregor still didn't much like him.
Delmark Marquis was a small, round, neat man in the kind of suit that would have looked better on somebody who was tall and thin. It was so expensive, though, that it didn't look
ugly even on him. He raced back and forth in front of the television set, clapping his hands together in front of his face like a kindergarten teacher calling her class to order.
“This is extraordinary,” he kept saying. “Extraordinary. What does this man think he's doing? What can he possibly imagine is the advantage of this sort of behavior? I know it's the fashion these days to deplore the inadequacies of the old archbishop, but at least that man had a sense of decorum. A sense of dignity. He would never have gone in for—something like this.”
Lou Emiliani had gone out as soon as he had heard about what was happening on Baldwin Place. Now he came back in, looking relieved. “I called the precinct,” he said. “There's no problem. No fights. No vandalism. They're all just out there praying.'
“Which means, of course, we won't be able to say anything about it.” Delmark Marquis made a face. “You can't complain about a Cardinal Archbishop wanting to pray, now can you? Not even if it's right out loud and right in public. That man has been nothing but a problem since he came to the city of Philadelphia. Nothing. What the Vatican was thinking is beyond my comprehension.”
“Maybe,” Gregor said politely, “we could go back to these records for a moment. I'd like to get some sense of what happened here, and how much money was involved—”
“I thought I told you.” Delmark Marquis stiffened. “We can't possibly know the answers to those questions until we've done a thorough investigation. And it's going to take weeks. You can't expect us to simply jump in and make speculations about a client's affairs without—”
“The client has given his permission,” Gregor said.
Delmark Marquis made another face. “Ah, yes. Right off the cuff. Just like that. The man has gone off his head. He thinks it's Christmas morning, and this is Jerusalem. I detest dealing with religious people. I really do. They have no sense. They're always abandoning prudence for purity, and all purity ever gets them is trouble.”
“There they go,” Garry Mansfield said. “They're marching back down the street. Look, there's Roy Phipps. He looks like he ate a lemon.”
“Quite,” Delmark Marquis said.
Gregor looked down at the papers on the table in front of him. They were only his notes, not official documents, but they contained as much information as he needed for his purposes, if he could only get Marquis to answer questions instead of having fits. It was going to take weeks to get hold of the official documents, even with the Cardinal Archbishop authorizing their release, but Gregor thought he could manage to get enough of what he needed for his purposes, if only he could keep Delmark Marquis on topic.
“Mr. Marquis,” he said. “Try to concentrate. We have four people dead, that we know of—”
“That you
know
of? What in the name of God do you think you're dealing with? This is beginning to sound like a slasher movie.”
“We have four people dead that we know of,” Gregor repeated. “The one solid motive we have in any of this is the payments being made by the archdiocese to this office, so that this office may disburse those payments to the litigants in the civil suit in which several priests of this archdiocese were accused of sexually molesting several young boys in the 1960s—”
“I know what the case was about, Mr. Demarkian.” Delmark Marquis sniffed. “I've been at this firm for thirty years. I was one of the founding partners.”
“I just wanted to make sure we were clear.”
“Of course we're clear. We've been clear since you got here. I am trying to be cooperative, Mr. Demarkian, but as far as I'm concerned you're barking up the wrong tree. Ian Holden may be a thief—I suppose it's hard not to think of him as anything else, under the circumstances—but if the same person killed all four of those people, then Ian Holden isn't a murderer, and that takes care of that.”
“That's assuming you're right,” Garry Mansfield put in quickly. “You don't know that he was in court the entire day Harriet Garrity died. He could have said he was but—”
“Tut, tut, tut,” Delmark Marquis said. “It has nothing to do with what he said. It was the Bellwether Corporation bankruptcy. He's the head of the legal team in the Bellwether Corporation bankruptcy. For God's sake, man, there were clips of him marching around looking like he had egg on his face on the network news. Although why he took on Bellwether to
begin with, when anybody with any brains in his head at all could see that they had to be a pyramid scheme, I don't—”
“Please,” Gregor said. “I believe you. Ian Holden was in court when Harriet Garrity was killed—”
“Not that it matters,” Lou Emiliani put in. “This is poison we're dealing with. He could have planted the poison at an earlier time and then have been safely in court when the death occurred—”
Gregor sighed. “Could we, please? Let's see how this worked. The archdiocese paid a court-ordered amount of money every month, into a fund administered by you—”
“Administered by the firm,” Delmark Marquis corrected. “Yes, that's right. The actual amount of money was determined by the courts in a lump sum. Then we divide it up.”
“Of whom there were sixty-two real plaintiffs,” Gregor said.
“Yes,” Delmark Marquis said.
“But Ian Holden divided the money into seventy one payments. Is that right?”
“Yes,” Delmark Marquis said again. “At least, that is what appears to have happened from the documents you've brought me and the information we've managed to retrieve. We're not really going to know what happened until we can get into Ian's computer, and I don't think that will happen until we find Ian. I hate these new computer systems. They make everything impossible. They're nothing but trouble.”
“Let's go through how it could have happened,” Gregor said. “The archdiocese sent Ian Holden a check in the amount necessary to pay the monthly lump sum restitution installment. Then Ian Holden paid the real plaintiffs. Then—what? He just took the rest of the money out of the account on his own?”
“One way or another,” Delmark Marquis said. “I suppose that when we really get into it we'll find that he had shell accounts in the names of the imaginary plaintiffs, and then other shell accounts from there. You have to go through a certain amount of silliness to hide financial tracks, but it can be done. Of course, the real experts would never be caught at all. This is something more in the way of an amateur effort.”
“Fine,” Gregor said. “So that's how he got the money. What did he do with it?”
“What do you mean, what did he do with it?” Delmark Marquis looked blank.
“Did he spend it?” Gregor asked. “Did he drive expensive cars, keep up an expensive apartment, buy all his clothes custom-made from Brooks Brothers? What?”
“Oh. Well, most of the partners buy custom suits. Ian's remuneration would have covered that.”
“What about the rest of it?'
“I don't think he spent more than any of us did, in any obvious way,” Delmark Marquis said. “We're not undercompensated here, Mr. Demarkian. He lived on his income, as we all do, but I don't remember there being anything unusually lavish about the way he lived.”
“What about gambling?” Gregor asked. “What about drugs?”
“Don't be ridiculous.” Delmark Marquis was appalled. “The man was a lawyer, for God's sake.”
“Lawyers have been known to gamble,” Gregor pointed out. “And lawyers have been known to work themselves up to right royal cocaine habits.”
“Well, Ian didn't have a cocaine habit here,” Delmark Marquis said. “If he had, we would have noticed. He was an efficient and conscientious attorney. He came in on time. He worked weekends. He showed no signs of … mental disintegration.”
“What about the gambling?”
“I wouldn't know,” Delmark Marquis said. “But I can hardly see where he would have had the time. We work very long hours here, Mr. Demarkian. We don't have time to play the horses or attend illegal poker games.”
Gregor wanted to say that there were many more ways to gamble than those, ways that did not require someone to take time off work, at least in the early stages. He didn't because there was no point to making the comment. He already knew what had happened here, or he thought he did. He wanted only to confirm some things that needed confirmation.
“If he wasn't spending the money,” he said carefully, “what do you suppose was happening to it?”
Delmark Marquis sighed. “He's got it stashed somewhere, I'd expect. At least I hope he has. If he's got it stashed, we can get it back. If we can't get it back, we'll be liable for it.
We're a partnership. There's a mess, for you. God, if I get my hands on that man, I'll kill him myself. You won't have to wait for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to ask for the death penalty.”
“I thought you said you didn't think he was guilty of murder,” Garry Mansfield said.
“I don't,” Delmark Marquis said.
Gregor looked over at the television set, which was still on, only turned down low. It had gone back to soap operas.
“If you had to guess where Ian Holden had hidden this money,” Gregor said, “where would you guess? He isn't married. You told us that. So there isn't a wife. Is there a girlfriend?”
“Of course there is. Several girlfriends. The man was awash in girlfriends.”
“No girlfriend in particular?”
Delmark Marquis shrugged. “Ian liked them young. As young as he could legally get them. Eighteen, nineteen. They had more on their chests than in their heads, and he never saw any of them for longer than a few weeks. But he always had a mother on the side, if you know what I mean.”
“No,” Garry Mansfield said, “I don't know what you mean.”
“He means that Mr. Holden always had an affair running with a relatively older woman who provided him with more stability and more extensive nonsexual services,” Gregor said blandly. “And this woman, this time, was named Edith Lawton.”
Delmark Marquis blinked. “Good God. How did you know that?”
“Do you mean Edith Lawton helped kill them?” Garry Mansfield said.
“I told him he was a fool to have anything to do with her,” Delmark Marquis said. “It's not that I'm prejudiced about atheists, mind you. Half the lawyers on the planet are atheists. But that woman is abrasive. She's worse than abrasive. And she doesn't know how to behave in company. He brought her to the Christmas party a couple of months ago. I thought the wives were going to die of embarrassment.”
“Damn,” Lou Emiliani said.
Gregor stood up. “I want to go out to Bernadette Kelly's
trailer,” he said. “I want to talk to Marty Kelly's mother. Can we do that?”
Of course they could do that. They would work overtime as long as they had to. That was what they were paid to do. Gregor only wanted to get out of Delmark Marquis's conference room and back into real life.
He had no way to tell, at this moment, whether there was going to be another murder or not.
The trailer park where Marty and Bernadette Kelly had lived was well out of the city, in some township whose name Gregor never was able to catch, but it didn't matter. Garry and Lou made the arrangements with the local police, who were more than happy to have them all out questioning witnesses on their own. The real problem the surrounding townships had with the city of Philadelphia was the city's tendency to want them to perform services without compensation: question suspects and witnesses; search for discarded weapons; verify dates and times. There might be an economic boom, but many of the townships hadn't seen the best of it. There was too much in Pennsylvania that was still mired in rust-belt technology and rust-belt thinking. There were too many people who could not seem to move into the new century. Hell, Gregor thought, watching the landscape deteriorate around him into scrub brush and discarded vehicles, there were too many people who couldn't seem to move out of the century before last. It was shocking, in a way, how much of a difference it made, which way you went when you left the city, and how far you traveled. On the Main Line and in Bucks County, there was money to spare—so much of it, sometimes, that it got wasted on ostentation and silliness. Out here there were seats torn out of the backs of cars, their fake leather upholstery ripped to tatters, their metal frames rusted at the edges. There were also shopping strips, which was a form of urban development Gregor had never understood. God only knew, he wasn't green, or anything close to it. He wasn't opposed to stores or restaurants or even malls. He just didn't understand how shopping strips made any money, when they were so hard to get in and out
of from the traffic that passed them by. He watched Burger King melt into Taco Bell and Taco Bell melt into Arby's, and thought that Father Tibor could eat here for a week and be perfectly happy. It wasn't true that people only liked fast food because they didn't know anything better. Some people seemed to like fast food
because
they knew something better.
Garry turned in at a tube metal frame gate with an arched sign over the top of it that said: BLUE HAVEN SHORES. There was no water around that Gregor could see, and no access to water, either. Pennsylvania was not an oceanfront state. They drove far down the center drive that started at the gate and parked in between two trailers that looked like trailers, rather than like the prefab houses that were so common in trailer parks these days. Double wides, Gregor thought. That was what they called them. None of these trailers were double wides. Instead, they were narrow and seemed flimsy, as if their walls were too thin for this weather. Maybe they were. The state had regulations for trailers, Gregor was sure, but he was also sure it was one of those things. The people who lived here could not afford to be squeaky wheels. If the regulations were inadequate, they wouldn't be the ones to report them.
Garry stopped the car and got out. Lou got out of the front passenger seat. Gregor, who had been sitting in the back, hesitated only a moment. Then he climbed out of the car and looked around. The drive the car was standing on was dirt. Nothing in this trailer park was paved, even in the places where lack of paving left ruts so deep and so hard-edged, they were dangerous to tires. There were a lot of cars, and just as many motorcycles, but everything there was ancient. Gregor saw makes and models that he was sure had been discontinued years ago. Most of the vehicles looked as if they would not be able to move no matter how hard anyone tried to make them. Nobody was out and around. One or two of the trailers had lights showing from inside them, and one or two of the others showed flickering in the windows that meant a television set was playing somewhere inside. Otherwise, the place seemed deserted.
“You can see the trailer where Bernadette lived with Marty,” Garry said, “but it won't do you any good. It was clean as a whistle when we found it, and it's been gone over thoroughly since then. There was a report on it in those papers
we sent you when you started to work with us. Did you see it?”
“I saw it,” Gregor said. “I don't want to see Bernadette's trailer. I don't think it's necessary. Are we all agreed that she must have died here?”
“We're agreed, but it won't do us any good,” Lou said. “We can't prove it.”
“I know. Sometimes that's just the way it is. But look at this place. She could have died on the ground anywhere around here, and nobody would have noticed. Even if somebody had seen her, I doubt if they would have noticed. How many times do you think the people around here have seen somebody collapse on the ground while being thoroughly sick to their stomach?”
“Drunks,” Garry Mansfield said solemnly.
Gregor pointed a toe in the direction of the nearest trailer. It was up on cinder blocks, and peeking out from under it were dozens of beer cans and wine bottles. The wine was of the sort that came with screw caps and had names like Strawberry Nectar.
“Mrs. Kelly is down the line here,” Garry said, chugging off between the trailers. “We call her Mrs. Kelly because we don't want to get accused of prejudice. I'd bet you anything you want she's never been married.”
“I hope you're right that we didn't need to call before coming,” Gregor said.
“She'll be here,” Lou Emiliani said. “And if she's not, there's only two other places she could be—the pawnshop or the liquor store. You can walk to both of them from here. She lost her license years ago, and she never has enough money for a car, which is good news for the innocent motorists of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. She had fourteen convictions for DWI between 1964 and 1973. That was when she lost her license—1973. She was still hooking then. It must have been a hardship.”
“Cars are how the hookers operate on this stretch of road,” Garry Mansfield said. “They drive out to the less particular parts of the strip and just sort of sit on their hoods. Maybe we shouldn't have been so worried about being prejudiced, though. I mean, she's white, this woman. It's not prejudiced to think some white woman is trash, is it?”
“Jesus Christ,” Lou Emiliani said.
They had reached the door of a trailer that actually looked to be in somewhat better shape than the ones around it. Gregor started out to be surprised, and then he remembered that one of the notes he had been given had said that Marty and Bernadette had looked after Mrs. Kelly's trailer, out of Bernadette's apparently boundless sense of duty. That was the most important thing to remember about Bernadette. She took the idea of duty very seriously, and she expected her husband to take it seriously, too.
Garry Mansfield knocked on the trailer's narrow door and stood back. The three of them listened while somebody inside banged and rattled against what must have been furniture. Garry knocked again.
“Fucking hell,” somebody said, and then the door was opened and an old woman was standing in front of them, wearing a dress that seemed to be longer on one side than it was on the other and a cardigan sweater whose buttons were done up unevenly. Other than that, she was wearing nothing at all. Her legs and her feet were bare. Her head was not only bare, but nearly bald. What hair she had left was half-grey and halfginger, as if she had dipped pieces of it in dye and let the rest of it go.
“Shit,” she said, looking at the three of them. “Cops. More cops. What do I want with cops?'
“There's just a couple of things we wanted to check out with you,” Garry Mansfield said politely. “If you wouldn't mind. This is Mr. Gregor Demarkian—”
“I know who it is. I got a TV set just like anybody else. I don't got cable, but I got a TV set. And I don't got any extra in the liquor cabinet, either. I'm not entertaining guests. So you can just pack up and get on out and leave me alone.”
“Maybe if we could come in for a minute, Mrs. Kelly,” Garry said. “There are just one or two things we need to ask. We won't take up much of your time.”
Mrs. Kelly looked from one to the other of them, then stepped back from the door. She didn't go very far. There wasn't very much room. Gregor went in first, and as soon as he did he was overwhelmed with the smell. Walking between the trailers outside, he had been afraid that their walls were too thin to keep the cold out. The walls of Mrs. Kelly's trailer
not only kept the cold out, but the heat in. It was as hot as a greenhouse, and the atmosphere was thick and moist and acrid, the smell of stale vomit, left where it was to rot. Gregor blinked. Lou Emiliani flinched.
“I don't have time to pick up around here the way I'd like,” Mrs. Kelly said. “And I don't give a shit anyway. You knew that, didn't you. I never thought I'd say it, but I miss Bernie the Saint. Did you know Bernie was a saint? Fucking sanctimonious asshole, but a saint.”
“Yes,” Gregor said. Garry and Lou had left the trailer's door open, and he didn't blame them. To breathe the smell of this place with no air coming in from the outside would be lethal. He looked around and saw that the kitchen was right behind him. The sink was full of dishes that seemed to have been left where they were for days. They all had food encrusted on them. To his left there was a living room, but he couldn't imagine himself going in there to sit down.
“It's about the day your daughter-in-law Bernadette died,” Gregor said.
Mrs. Kelly shook her head. “Nobody knows what day she died. The police said that. It's a mystery.”
“Let's talk about the day your son died, then,” Gregor said.
“That was six o'clock in the morning,” Mrs. Kelly said. “I wasn't even awake. I don't get up early in the morning. There's no point to it.”
“What about the twenty-four hours right before that,” Gregor said. “Do you remember anything about them?”
“I might.”
“Well, good.” Gregor rubbed his face. Thank heaven for small favors. “What I want to know is, was Bernadette here during that time? That day before Marty died.”
“She might have been,” Mrs. Kelly said. “But she might have been dead, too. How am I supposed to know?”
“She quit work, didn't she,” Gregor persisted. “She wasn't going to work anymore because of the diabetes—”
“That's right.” Mrs. Kelly looked triumphant. “Fucking sanctimonious saint. Didn't do her any good, did it, all that praying? The diabetes would have killed her quick enough even if nobody else did. I'm not surprised somebody did. I wanted to, a million times. There's people can't keep their noses out of other people's business.”
“Yes, fine.” Gregor nodded encouragingly. Lou Emiliani had gone into the tiny living room and was standing over the couch, watching in fascination as a couple of roaches moved around on a square couch pillow that seemed to be encrusted with mud. Gregor turned away, to make it possible for him to concentrate.
“Now,” he said. “She wasn't going to work anymore, and she hadn't been, for a while. So if she was alive, then she must have been at home.”
“Or at the doctor's,” Mrs. Kelly said. “She went to the doctor's a lot, and not to the cheap charity clinic at the hospital, either. She had health insurance. From her job. Isn't that a fucking hoot?”
“Yes,” Gregor said. “But the police talked to her doctors, and she'd had no appointments for two weeks before Marty brought her body to St. Anselm's. Did she do the shopping?”
“Not after she got sick. Marty did that.”
“Fine. Do you remember anything at all about the last time you saw Bernadette? What she was doing? How she seemed, if she was sick, if she was tired—”
“She was sick. Of course she was fucking sick. What the fuck did you expect? She was talking to that priest from the church she went to. He came out to visit her.”
“Father Healy?”
“I don't know. A priest. In a collar. They were standing right out there in the road talking to each other, and I watched them, too. You know what priests are like. They stick it in any port they can find, they're so desperate for it. I thought they'd go into Bernie's trailer and then I'd give it a minute and go over and catch them at it, the fucking sanctimonious saint, but they stayed outside.”
“Do you know how long they talked?”
“Nope.”
“And you're sure it was Father Healy you saw.”
There was a bottle of beer on the edge of the kitchen sink. Mrs. Kelly got hold of it and drank whatever was in it, which didn't seem to be much. Then she made a face and dropped the bottle in the sink. It cracked.
“I don't know who it was I saw,” she said, with exaggerated patience, “because I can't tell one fucking sanctimonious saint from another. Got that? It was a priest, with a black priest suit
on and one of those collars. Tall. Christ, what difference does it make? They were always coming out here, the people from that church of hers. They were some kind of fucking support group. Christian community. You should have heard that fucking sanctimonious saint talk about Christian community.”
“Do we mean Father Healy now, or Bernadette?”
“Bernadette. I don't talk to priests. They meddle too much. I don't talk to nuns too much, either. There were nuns over there all the time.”
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