"I beg your pardon?" Danny was startled out of his lonely revery; he was really looking forward to the coffee Detective Varajian had promised, and was busy wondering what was taking the policemen so long.
"Don't you know better than to talk to cops without an attorney present?" the lawyer seated himself at the table, touched his somewhat extravagant coiffure and the perfect knot of his rather fat scarlet Sulka tie, "I'm sorry, I'm being rude. I am Rodney J. Casterman, Esquire... at your service."
"Danny Vandervere," he reached across and shook hands, noting as he did the excellent manicure, the strength of the long expressive hands, and the slightly loud but beautiful onyx-and-moonstone checkerboard cufflinks in the not-quite-oversized white cuff.
"I'm so accustomed to people knowing who I am that I have become quite lazy about introducing myself," the attorney struck an exaggerated magazine-cover pose; his face at three-quarter profile made one think of a predatory bird, his small blue eyes and prim mouth along with his sharply pointed and slightly recessive chin were all out of scale to the quite impressive nose and noble sloping brow.
"I know who you are, Mr. Casterman," Danny leaned back and smiled wryly, "I met you and your lovely wife Fiona at the opera. It was Don Giovanni."
"My dear boy, I never remember anything that happens at the opera. I only go to please Fiona, as pleasing Fiona is my true vocation. But though I have to cough up for Orchestra seats all season and am forced to escort her, I am not required to pay the slightest attention; I go into a trance the moment I step out of the car and stay there until I get home. Even a face as stunning as yours gets lost in the general fog."
"What I don't know is how you come to be here," Danny continued, trying to decide if he liked the lawyer; he was theatrical and amusing, but Danny sensed something false about him, as if the theatricality and amusement were merely a distraction from something else... until he knew what that something-else was, he would have to reserve judgement.
"Of course! I was so upset by the information that you had confessed and then recanted before I could arrive that I quite forgot my commission. The Baron de Seguemont sent me to represent you, and I must apologize to you as I did to him that it took me so long to get here; I was halfway to Carmel for the weekend when I received the call. And," he placed the shopping bag on the table with a magician's flair, "Mr. Willard-Wilkes sends these with his heartfelt compliments and the sincere hope that they fit."
"Oh, thank God!" Danny dove into the bag like a man dying in the desert might dive into an oasis, "this jumpsuit is driving me insane."
Without further ado, Danny got up and stripped off the uncomfortable garment before rummaging through the bag, pulling articles out and examining them closely; each item was fondled and hugged before being laid down on the table in the order that he would put them on.
"Not very shy, are you?" Casterman chuckled, casting a meaning glance from Danny's cock to the two-way mirror.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Danny paused and looked up from the task of wrestling the new t-shirt out of its plastic packaging, "I didn't think."
"I don't mind, I would probably do the same thing if I'd been wearing one of these ghastly things next to my skin," the lawyer looked Danny over as if he were a statue in a gallery; and, he thought, if I had a body like that, I'd show it off every chance I got.
"It was a little itchy, and I felt so vulnerable without underwear or shoes," Danny said after pulling on the t-shirt and boxer-briefs. They were smooth and soft and cool, comfortably form-fitting and wonderfully flattering, exactly the size and brand he usually bought. He pulled on the beige silk socks, which were thick and extraordinarily soft, then stepped into the soft straw-colored linen flat-front pants which fit like a dream, accentuating his crotch and ass but not binding him anywhere, "These fit exactly. How did Marquesa know my sizes?"
"Mr. Willard-Wilkes has a good eye for such things," Casterman opened his briefcase on the table and extracted a sleek leather note-pad folder and a gold Waterman pen, "And I believe you are not entirely unknown to the sales staff at Saks. A certain gentleman by the name of Andrew was extremely knowledgeable about your sartorial habits."
"Andrew is a good friend," Danny sat down and slipped on the buttery-soft caramel kidskin loafers, smiling at the memory of several encounters with the small, thin, fastidious but surprisingly flithy-minded salesman, then smoothed down the exquisite cashmere vee-neck sweater that was the exact same shade of warm choclate brown as his eyes, "he knows what I like."
"Apparently: that outfit absolutely sings on you. I'm afraid I had to remove the belt and the watch Mr. Willard-Wilkes bought from the bag, they were quite lovely and matched the shoes exactly, but they might have been confiscated; fortunately the shoes are soft-soled and laceless. We must be prepared for the unpleasant possibility that you might have to remain in custody for some little time."
"I figured I'd be here for a while," Danny admitted, running his fingers through his hair and plucking his curls into better order with the help of his dim reflection in the false mirror, "but do you think they'll really keep me? I thought we cleared up the misunderstanding about me killing Marshall."
"Hardly 'cleared up,' my dear," Casterman extracted a slender high-tech digital recorder from his briefcase and set it in the middle of the table, "I lurked in the hallway and eavesdropped on the detectives conferring outside this room as long as I could; the older gentleman, Varajian I believe his name is, seems convinced of your innocence; but everyone else in the Division is looking for a way to keep you for booking and trial. The forensics team is right now being asked to produce sufficient evidence to charge you."
"But I told them the truth!" Danny objected.
"My poor benighted child, I'm sure you did; but these detectives are not automatic truth-detecting machines. At least two of them believe you are lying."
"I never lie!"
"You just did, dear boy. Everybody lies, they can't help it, they don't even know they're doing it half the time. Now, let's leave the lofty realms of Truth-with-a-capital-T to the philosophers; we shall focus our attentions on the much more attainable issue of Proof-with-a-capital-P," Casterman turned on the recorder, opened his leather note-pad folder, uncapped his gold fountain-pen, and poised himself to interrogate his new client, "I need for you to tell me exactly what you said to these detectives, and what they said to you, as best as you can remember, word-for-word if at all possible, starting from the moment they entered Baron de Seguemont's apartment."
Detective Varajian remained in the outer room as his partner and his captain went off on their various errands, watching Danny and his lawyer talking... ostensibly to monitor their activities and make sure nothing untoward happened, but really because he was completely enchanted with Danny and couldn't tear himself away.
When Danny suddenly shucked off the orange jumpsuit, Varajian thought for a brief moment that he might actually have a heart-attack, but decided that it was more like being hit in the chest with a two-by-four: the breath was knocked out of him, he got the first spontaneous erection he'd had in a good twenty years, and the sight of Danny standing innocently but shatteringly naked with a cashmere sweater pressed against his cheek burned itself permanently into Varajian's memory.
After Danny was dressed again and seated opposite his lawyer, Varajian managed to pull himself together; but he was still riveted to the spot, unable to take his eyes off of Danny's face as he talked. He didn't really think he was falling for the suspect, but many of the signs were there... Varajian felt a sort of painful happiness in his heart, and he was entirely entranced by watching him: the way his hands and eyes and mouth moved as he told his story to the lawyer, the panoply of expressions his face assumed, all that beauty animated and alive, hypnotic and invigorating at once.
"You're in love with him," Spevik accused, leaning in the doorway with a bundle of manila folders and a sheaf of evidence bags clutched in his arms.
"Don't be ridiculous," Varajian replied automatically; but when he looked over at Spevik he noticed the clock on the wall above his head, discovering that nearly an hour had passed; he hadn't moved an inch or once taken his eyes off the suspect in all that time.
"You've got the hots for Pretty Boy," Spevik continued, "That's why you're fighting me on this arrest. You want him to go free so you can have a shot at him."
"You're way off base, Spevik, and you should think carefully before you accuse me of impropriety," Varajian said warningly; but it started him wondering, Is my attraction clouding my judgement? He didn't think it was possible, but then he hadn't thought it was possible that he could still get a spontaneous erection at his age.
He'd never before been so attracted to a suspect, so he had no basis for comparison, no way of knowing if a powerful emotional and sexual attraction was sufficient to short-circuit his ability to read character. The doubt Spevik introduced started to nag at him, and he found himself questioning every assumption and decision he'd made since bringing Vandervere in.
He didn't have much time to think about this problem, though; the room started filling up as the various people attached to the case arrived for a conference. Dr. Griggs turned up first with another bundle of evidence-bags and folders, followed closely by Captain Morris and District Attorney Clarice Gratton.
Varajian always thought the Homicide DA looked exactly like a female Homicide DA should look, as if she'd been chosen from a casting agency rather than a law-school: neither pretty nor ugly but simply nice-looking, with severely bobbed chestnut hair and a slim but not svelte figure, dressed in a no-nonsense blue suit, white blouse, and oxblood pumps. Her only jewelry was a plain stainless-steel watch and two small pearls in her earlobes, and her makeup was carefully neutral and natural. She appeared a good deal younger than she actually was, but was for all rights and purposes a generic blank.
"So let's get everything on the table," Gratton started the meeting in her clipped, unexceptional voice, "What have we got? Griggs?"
"We have an enormous amount of evidence placing Vandervere on the scene, but since he admits to being on the scene, it's not very useful except to impress a jury."
"I will worry about what impresses a jury, you worry about giving me the evidence," Gratton loathed the ME's rambling style and did not intend to suffer it, "I heard something about a video-tape?"
"Digital video recording, actually, or DVR as it's commonly known. It is particularly interesting and may be either damning or exculpatory, depending on how it's viewed; but, if I might venture another legalistic assumption, a judge might allow the defense to supress the video, since it is essentially pornographic."
"That'll depend on the judge. What about the murder weapon? Prints? DNA?"
"Well," Griggs settled in to lecture, leaning against a cupboard and crossing his arms and ankles, "the murder weapon was a large chef's knife with an oak handle, of high quality German manufacture but rather old; the lacquer had worn off and the wood expanded slightly, I would assume from being washed in a dishwasher, a criminal abuse of fine cutlery. Therefore the wood handle would of course hold no prints. Sometimes you can get a partial print on the rivets, and frequently DNA evidence can become trapped in the porous wood grain, but..."
"Get to the point," Gratton cut into the lecture impatiently, "Prints or no prints?"
"If you would allow me to present the evidence in the order by which..." Griggs started to protest.
"Don't fuck with me, Griggs," Gratton warned sharply, "I'm not in the mood. Just tell me without the bullshit, are there fingerprints or DNA on the knife?"
"A clear index print on the blade and a tiny shaving of skin on the handle," Griggs admitted, deflating like an untied balloon; he bade a sorrowful farewell to the masterful speech he had prepared, the disquisition on the nature of the vegetable oil as a preservative and the general impossibility of getting prints off a wood-handled knife, the story of how he'd masterfully referenced the prints and DNA from Vandervere's clothing and effects to the evidence at the scene, the gripping narrative of how he had proven that it was possible and even probable for the index-print of a hand the precise size of Vandervere's to be left on the blade of the knife even though one doesn't ordinarily handle knives by the blade.
"Excellent, that's quite enough to bring him to trial," Gratton wrote down the evidence in one-word bullet-points on her clip-board, "Thank you. That wasn't so hard, now, was it?"
Bitch, Griggs thought to himself.
"What else? Spevik? Please tell me Vandervere has a rap-sheet?"
"No, he's officially clean as a whistle," Spevik tried to reorder his evidence for brevity, hoping to impress the impatient DA, "But I talked to a cop in Vandervere's home town, and he indicated that even if the suspect had engaged in criminal activity, he wouldn't have a record. Vandervere's father is the mayor, his third-cousin is the police chief, his uncle is the president of Vandervere Paper Mills, the only large-scale employer in the county, and his family owns the newspaper. Nobody named Vandervere has a criminal record in Vandervere, California, and the cop I talked to dropped a lot of hints that the Vandervere kids run wild all over that town."
"Lack of records is tiresome, but we can make the circumstances work in our favor. Did you find anything else about him?"
"I did," Spevik preened a little at the success of his first folder-full of information, then went on to the next, "I pulled his bank records and credit history, tax rolls, all that. He has an allowance on a family trust, about eighty thousand a year paid quarterly, but he inherited seven million from an aunt two years ago; he spent it already, mostly on real-estate... two apartment buildings, a small one that he lives in and a larger one nearby.
"With the exception of some overdrafts early last year that were paid off by the Trust as advance on the allowance, he appears to live within his income; however, I noticed large payments to an insurance company, so I tracked it down and found that Vandervere has a lot more property insured than he ever bought. About ten million, all told. They wouldn't tell me what was insured without a warrant, but the insurance company specializes in jewelry, antiques, and art, so I think it's worth following up. I talked to the suspect's cleaning-lady and she tells me his apartment is like a museum, and he paid to have her bonding insurance increased to a million dollars."
"You got all that in the last hour?" Gratton was impressed. Varajian was impressed, too, finally understanding how the impossible young man had been promoted into the prestigious Homicide Division; Captain Morris beamed at Spevik as if he were something she'd hatched from an egg.
"I also did a websearch and pulled up a lot of pictures, mostly from society magazines. Vandervere goes to all the big parties and fundraisers in town, and he hangs out with a lot of very rich men. Rich old men, in particular," Spevik shot that directly at Varajian, who bristled irritably, "I was curious, so I got his PDA, it's one of these cell-phone mini-computers, and hacked into the address book and calendar. I think there's pretty good evidence in there that he's a hustler. High-end hustling, but still prostitution. There were some famous names in there, too, names that might not like being publicly connected to Vandervere in this light."
"How did you get his PDA?" Griggs demanded, shocked that physical evidence had been taken out of his basement realm.
"I worked on some of this with Dr. Griggs's assistant, Charlie Putnam," Spevik pronounced the name clearly to everyone, making sure the DA knew where credit would be due, "He was dealing with Vandervere's clothes while Dr. Griggs worked on the body and the murder-weapon. The jacket and pants had Marshall's blood and hair on them, as well as Vandervere's hair and other DNA. There were also a wallet and the PDA in the jacket, along with some keys and a lot of quarters, all with Vandervere's fingerprints. There was a thousand dollars in hundred-dollar bills in the bottoms of the boots, and another couple hundred in small bills in the wallet."
"Putnam is my trainee, not my assistant," Griggs corrected, furious to find himself so thoroughly undermined and the credit for obtaining the reference DNA and fingerprints assigned (however correctly) to an underling.
"You said 'hacked into,'" Gratton ignored the fuming ME, "Does that mean it was password-protected?"
"Yeah," Spevik admitted with the perfect balance of rue and pride, "It was too easy... I noticed his initials are also Roman numerals, and his password turned out to be 1505-4, that's what MDV-IV translates into. I know it's technically invasion of privacy, but if you don't use the information, it's a no-harm/no-foul; and if you do need it, you can subpoena the device."
"True," Gratton allowed, "but I don't think we'll use it. We're talking about murder here, not prostitution. It is suggestive, though, and we might be able to use some of those rich old men as pressure-points. Good work, Spevik. Do you have anything to share with us, Detective Varajian?"
"No," Varajian was caught off-guard, but managed to rally smoothly, "This is Spevik's collar, I'm just co-piloting."
"Varajian thinks Vandervere is innocent," Spevik pointed out maliciously.
"Any reason, Detective?" Gratton asked.
"Call it a hunch," Varajian wanted to throttle Spevik, the little bastard had so neatly made him look a fool; he was nevertheless awed by this display of Spevik's real skills... who knew such a Machiavellian mind lurked beneath that musclebound, knuckledragging exterior? "The kid just looks innocent."
"He is awfully pretty," Gratton allowed, turning to the two-way mirror and studying the suspect, "I think I'm going to find myself on television with him in the near future. I'd better get my hair done."
"Well, darling boy," Casterman capped his pen and took a deep breath when Danny reached the end of his story, "You have a wonderful narrative style and an admirably retentive memory. Your impressions of Spevik and Varajian were masterful. But you are, and I say this in all kindness and consideration, a blinking idiot."
"I'm sorry," Danny apologized, feeling stupid for confessing and guilty for his misguided nobility in determining to cooperate with the police despite lack of representation.
"No use crying over spilt milk," Casterman shrugged, then consulted his notes, "You said that Spevik used your full name when he arrested you?"
"Yes, he did. He even pronounced it the way I would," it finally occurred to Danny how odd this was, that the cops knew his whole name long before he told it to them.
"Then, unless you dropped your wallet in Marshall's apartment, they must have audio or video evidence of your encounter with Marshall," the attorney pointed out, "I assume you said your name in full to him for some perfectly rational yet entirely idiotic reason."
"I did, right before I left to mess up his living-room. I left the apartment a couple of minutes later. And I know I had my wallet, I checked it when I was waiting for the elevator. If the time I spent in that stupid playroom was recorded, they must know I didn't kill him!" Danny smiled triumphantly.
"If they knew that, my dear, you and I would be having this conversation at a charming little bistro I know, about two blocks from here. Divine rabbit cassoulet. No, Marshall must have had that room bugged, but the killing itself can't be on the tape. Now, did you touch anything in Marshall's apartment besides his cocaine stash?"
"I touched pretty much everything," Danny admitted, "When I was looking for the handcuff key."
"Well, hopefully you didn't touch the murder-weapon. You say Marshall was stabbed? Did they say what with? Did you touch any knives or letter-openers or swords or spears or curtain-rods in his apartment?"
"I don't think so," Danny giggled slightly at the absurd image of a man being stabbed with a curtain-rod, "I looked through a drawer full of knives in the kitchen, and there was a letter-opener on the desk in the study, but I didn't pick a knife up or anything."
"Ah, well, this is just useless conjecture until we know what the cops are working with. Shall we see what our jolly chums in blue have to say for themselves?" Casterman got up from the table and crossed over to the door, which he opened and called out, "Our conference is concluded, my dear friends. Please do come in."
The DA and the two detectives came into the little interview room, crowding it to capacity, while the ME went back to his basement and Captain Morris watched from the outer room. Danny looked from one to another fearfully, and Varajian watched him closely as the lawyers talked... he looked so innocent, but Spevik's accusation of lust-suspended judgement, along with learning about Danny's finances and social habits, as well as Spevik showing his own unexpected true colors, made Varajian deeply uneasy in his surmises about the boy's character.
"Mr. Vandervere," Clarice Gratton addressed Danny formally, "these detectives will take you now for booking."
"I am authorized to make bail in any reasonable amount on behalf of the Baron de Seguemont," Casterman cut in, "so you may deliver him to the rear entrance when you're done taking fingerprints and whatnot."
"The People will be requesting remand," the DA informed him, "Initial investigations indicate a flight risk."
"Well then, Ms. Gratton, I will see you at Mr. Vandervere's bail hearing... which you will no doubt wish to expedite. In the meantime, my client wishes to claim the hospitality of Protective Custody."
"What does that mean?" Danny panicked when Spevik cuffed his hands together in front of him, then took him by the elbow and led him out of the interview room, "I'm going to jail?"
"Be brave, child," Casterman called out behind him, "We'll have you out as fast as humanly possible."
"I can't go to jail," Danny pleaded with the uncaring Spevik as he was led downstairs to the booking area, "I'm innocent!"
"That's what they all say," Spevik laughed at him, then handed him over to the officers in charge of booking, "This one goes to Protective Custody, make sure you don't dent him... his owners are very picky. See ya, Pretty Boy."
Danny was very tempted to weep at this point, his rage and confusion and fear cresting dangerously behind his eyes; but he simply refused to give that odious young gorrilla Spevik the satisfaction of seeing him cry again. Instead, he raised his head up as high as he could and turned to face the booking department with the cheerful equanimity of a young chevalier on his way to the guillotine, "Well, gentlemen, lead me to it!"