The Cost of Betrayal(9)

By: Dee Henderson

“Blueberry is fine.” Ann brought out glasses, poured orange juice, and set one by each place setting. She slid onto a stool. “What time is the car picking you up?”

It was telling that she simply assumed he’d be heading into the office. He glanced at his watch. “Forty-five minutes.” Work requiring some of Saturday was a fact of his life in December. “The New York matter is resolved if Sam can get the judge to take a new bribe and we get it on the record, preferably both audio and video. To our good fortune, a case got assigned to the judge this week that has organized-crime overtones. The defendant would have both the means and motive to offer a bribe. We just need to find a reason he would like to cooperate with us, unrelated to the case going to trial. We’ll be looking through his past for that leverage today.” He forked out a finished waffle and placed it on her plate.

“Thanks.” She reached for the syrup. “If you can connect him to anyone now in witness protection, there might be an avenue of information you can tap there,” she offered.

Paul nodded, pouring more batter. “I’ve already got Lori in mind. One has to approach carefully when asking her a question like that one. Risk the reward of taking down a federal judge versus protecting Lori’s past? It’s not even a close call.”

“Well, I wish you a quick answer, for when you get home today I’m thinking we take an hour and go build a snowman somewhere, freeze our fingers, maybe toss a few friendly snowballs at each other, with Black to umpire.”

Paul laughed at the image. “I’m game. Party number four is tonight?”

“It’s late, eight to whenever, at the Marriott. It’s mostly your parents’ friends, so I expect the party to go into the early hours of the morning, but we can duck out at a reasonable time.” Ann nodded toward the crime photos. “Switching cases—anything surprise you?”

He reached to pick up his orange juice. “If it were not for the fact Andrew was stabbed with a pocketknife, I could make a good argument this was simply an unfortunate Friday night for him. He breaks up badly with his girlfriend, stays stewing over it on that beach after she leaves, it gets dark, he gets robbed on the way back to his car, and rather than hand over his wallet he throws a punch because he’s in the mood to hit something. He gets stabbed once, stumbles back, and tumbles down that steeper set of stairs. The robber either already had his wallet and phone or hustled down the stairs after him and takes them.”

Paul plated his waffle, sat down beside her, reached for the syrup, and continued with his thought. “The injuries were not fatal. If Andrew hadn’t knocked himself out, his evening would have ended with a bad headache and some stitches. But the fall knocks him unconscious and he bleeds to death from the stab wound before he’s found. According to the ME, he’d been on a mild blood thinner since he was in his teens, and that stab wound wasn’t going to clot and close on its own since it had nicked his liver. It reads as mostly a very bad night. The problem is the stabbing . . . it’s with a pocketknife. No self-respecting robber is going to use a pocketknife as his weapon of choice. You bring a knife rather than a gun to a robbery so you don’t do a decade in jail if convicted of taking a wallet with forty bucks in it, but you do at least bring a decent knife.”

Ann nodded. “I see a pocketknife, I’m liable to just kick the guy, and I’m a girl. Andrew’s a young athletic man, tall, giving him good reach, from all accounts confident in himself. He would have gone for the fight that night.”

Paul sliced into the center of his waffle. “So . . . probably not a robbery.” He gestured with his fork. “Then there’s the blood on Janelle’s tennis shoes, and the fact we now have a pink pocketknife that has both Janelle’s name on it and Andrew’s blood. Which are also saying not a robbery.”

“There’s that too,” Ann agreed. She had finished her waffle and reached for her juice. “I think we’ve got a stage set for us, and a stage manager. Tanya stabbed her brother with Janelle’s pocketknife and sent him tumbling down the beach stairs. She confirms he’s dying satisfactorily fast, makes it look like a robbery, gets blood on a pair of Janelle’s tennis shoes, leaves him there, and goes to establish her alibi. She slips those tennis shoes into Janelle’s closet either before Janelle got herself home by taxi or while Janelle is out walking her dog that night, and then Tanya waits for it to be late enough in the evening she can go ‘find’ her brother dead.” She paused. “I think this was planned, premeditated for months.”