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No more date rapes, Jackie Flowers swore as she flung her bomber jacket over a chair and kicked her briefcase under her desk. No matter who called or how big the retainer. Slipping off her hiking boots, she closed her eyes and tried to block out everything but the sound of the copy machine down the hall. When all extraneous stimuli had been reduced to a rhythmic whoosh and thump, the image behind her eyelids began to take form and she switched on her microcassette to record her impressions of the witnesses she'd interviewed in Boulder. Having found the missing piece to her client's defense, she wasn't about to lose it. "Courtney Briggs, eighteen, freshman from Grand Junction . . ." Elfin face and ragged cuticles, the little match girl staring through the window as the banker carved the Christmas goose. But the setting was an ivy-covered sorority house on the University of Colorado campus and not a fairy tale. . . . The phone rang two doors down and a burst of laughter from the estate planner across the hall sent the match girl scurrying back into the cold. Concentration shot, Jackie padded across the floor to the window. Her second-floor office was one of the smaller units in the converted mansion of a silver baron who'd gone bust a century before. The suites on the first floor had bars on the glass, and when you looked out you were as likely to catch a man urinating against the dumpster in the parking lot as a whiff of lilac and forsythia. The mansion on Denver's Capitol Hill was now home to a band of solo practitioners who enjoyed an easy camaraderie no downtown sweatshop could match. And far fewer financial entanglements. Gazing across the street at the egg-carton high-rise that partially obstructed her view of the mountains, Jackie spotted one of the few reliable signs of spring: dusty ficuses and elephant ferns crowding the screened balconies, hauled outside to bask in the sun. But the brilliant rays masked a nip to the air and the trees couldn't decide whether to trust the calendar. Three inches of wet snow had fallen earlier in the week, and the cherry blossoms outside the window had turned to wax. In her own yard the dwarf irises had come and gone, the crocuses that pushed through the earth in March like grape and lemon lollipops were but a memory, and now the daffodils were struggling to . . . With a sigh she realized she was projecting her own ambivalence about the date-rape case onto the weather. Spring storms always threw her. Back at her desk, she unsnapped the waistband of her stone-washed designer jeans and flexed her toes in the Ragg socks she hadn't worn since college. Regression had paid off; Courtney Briggs's sorority sisters had told her everything she needed to know.
Or, more accurately, shown her. Prom queens though they may have been in high school, these children with their professional manicures and cover-girl smiles were nonetheless novices at the art of deception. A dip of the chin and sudden hesitation, the momentary drop in pitch—Jackie caught it all and was about to memorialize every gesture and phrase to use against them if any of them pulled a one-eighty on the stand. Freeing her honey-colored mane from its leopard-print scrunchie, she punched the rewind button and started over. "
Courtney Briggs, a very young eighteen, at the Delta Kappa—" "Cute outfit. Takes me back to a place I never was." The smell of freshly brewed coffee hit Jackie before she looked up. Pilar Perez, built like a desktop computer but four times more efficient, gazed enviously at the getup that made her boss appear no older than the girls half her age she'd gone to Boulder to meet. "Figure out your opening statement yet?" "Peer pressure." The coffee's earthy scent dispelled the vision of bloodred nails and perfect teeth. "Too bad they can't charge Courtney's sorority sisters." As Jackie gratefully sipped her coffee, the afternoon sun embraced her wall of books in its mandarin glow. AmJur legal treatises with pebbled covers the color of jade, maroon Colorado statutes with gold lettering across fat spines, an entire set of calfskin Colorado Reporters she'd bought at auction from a law firm that rode the energy boom of the early '80s to crash just as spectacularly a decade later. A fitting library for the long-dead silver baron. Like her own immaculate desk, those rows of books provided a queer comfort. "Gonna knock off a bank with Vinnie and the boys?" Jackie asked Pilar. In her man-tailored pinstriped suit and snap-brim hat, her fifty-five-year-old investigator resembled a Mafia don. "Just drinks with that silver fox from Dispatch," Pilar replied. "Maybe place a couple bets at the dog track. He got paid today, sky's the limit." "I thought he was history." "Springtime in the Rockies." Pilar treated Jackie to a lewd wink. "
Speaking of which, when's the last time you had a date?" "Longer ago than either of us can remember." They both laughed, and Pilar switched on the television set on the shelf behind Jackie's desk. The Channel 9 logo flashed across the screen, quickly replaced by the five-o'clock anchorwoman. The generic blonde who'd almost been canned the year before for pronouncing "Deutschemark" as if it were a feminine hygiene product. "I hate to be rude," Jackie began, "but I've got to dictate my—" "Haven't you heard?" "Heard what? I've been in Boulder all day, squeezing blood from adolescent barracudas—" "Shush!" Pilar turned up the volume. "They found the body of that woman from Castle Pines. You know, the divorcée . . ." The story had made every edition of the papers and each nightly broadcast for the better part of a week. It had all the right ingredients: ex-wife of a wealthy developer, abducted without a trace from her home off the fifth hole of the most exclusive golf course in the state. Nothing stolen, no enemies or ransom note. Every clerk at the supermarket checkout stands had a theory, and there was nothing Pilar relished more than sinking her teeth into a juicy murder. The camera moved in for a close-up of three squad cars beetled nose-in by the railroad tracks, then cut to a cluster of uniformed men kneeling over something in a slushy patch between two fences a hundred yards away. "—Rae Malone," the man in the Channel 9 windbreaker was saying, "missing since last Friday from her exclusive estate in Douglas County. For complete coverage of this breaking story, we now return to—" "My money's on the ex," Jackie said. "With a spread in Castle Pines, he must be paying alimony up the wazoo." "What's a million here or there?"
Pilar parked her square butt on the arm of Jackie's chair. "But my source says it's a sex crime. The bedroom was a mess and they found blood in the drive—" "—eminent forensic psychiatrist," the anchorwoman intoned, "Dr. Richard Hanna, Jr." To her right sat a man in his mid-forties with pale skin and a shock of black hair. "As some of you may recall, Dr. Hanna testified in the case of convicted killer—" "A hunk." Pilar sighed with the resignation of a wo- man never too old to look. "Of course, he only bats for the prosecution. . . ." The camera zeroed in on the psychiatrist. Hanna's aquiline features and startlingly blue eyes would have qualified him for a GQ cover, and the conservative cut of his suit seemed calculated to mute an attractiveness of which he was surely aware. The camera moved to a close-up of his left hand to capitalize on the Channel 9 logo on his coffee mug. No ring. "—suspects in the most heinous crimes in recent memory." The anchor ended her fifteen-second recap of a two-decade career with a smile that was positively kittenish. "Working with these people must be fascinating. Tell me, doctor, have you ever felt in danger?" "My job tends to be more frustrating than dangerous.
" Hanna shrugged with an appealing modesty and Jackie leaned forward. "Modern psychiatry and the legal system are frequently at odds. Courts are geared toward absolutes, yes-or-no answers to questions that are inherently uncertain, whereas psychiatry is ambivalent. We're more concerned with internal motivation, emotional truth—" "I'm sure you're very good at what you do." The anchor licked her whiskers. "Now, what can you tell us about the man who killed Rae Malone?" "Not much, I'm afraid. It would be unethical to provide a real diagnosis for someone I've never met." His voice was low, almost intimate, the diction curiously without inflection, and Jackie wondered where he was from. Was it that soft-spoken tentativeness or Hanna's unwillingness to allow himself to be reduced to sound bites that made you not want to miss a word? "But I will say this. Whoever killed Ms. Malone is almost certainly a psychopath." "Does that mean he's insane?" "Not necessarily. Psychopaths mimic sanity." His eyes were close-set but they drew you. Trust me, they said, I'm here to listen. "They construct a mask of self-control, live a life of deceit while acting out fantasies to deal with a sense of impotence and need for revenge originating in childhood. But inside they're hollow." His tapered fingers spread as if to pluck an image from the air. "You might call them empty suits." "Speaking of suits," Pilar whispered, "he must have a hell of a practice to afford threads like those. And I'd give anything for that head of hair." But Jackie was mesmerized by the vision he had conjured. A walking husk. A hollow man . . . Her gaze wandered to the neat row of AmJurs across from her desk. What would the good doctor say about her if he knew those spines had never been cracked? "Will he strike again?" The anchorwoman leaned forward expectantly. Thirty seconds to kill and the ratings signs in her eyes were dimming. "Who knows?" Hanna shrugged again with mute eloquence. Not too slick or folksy, a nice note to end on— "But I'd venture a guess Ms. Malone wasn't his first victim." The anchor pounced. "Why do you say that?" "I—well, violent patterns are often established early in life. From what I've been told of Ms. Malone's death—" "The decapitation?" she asked sweetly, and Hanna gave a start. She'd sandbagged him; he walked right into it. "We have it from an inside source that body parts were left at two locations north of Coors Field. . . ." "Jeez-us!" Pilar exclaimed. "I'm afraid I can't go into detail," Hanna replied. But his failure to deny that Rae Malone had been beheaded had given the anchor her lead for that night's broadcast, and Jackie couldn't help feeling sorry for him. "Tune in at ten for the latest," the woman purred. Pilar switched off the TV and Jackie settled back in her chair. As she reached for her dictaphone she was still picturing a husk in shiny black wingtips. "The barracudas bite?" Pilar asked sympathetically, but her boss was lost in thought. "In Boulder," she prompted. "We have a solid consent defense. Courtney Briggs bragged to half the sorority the next morning that she had sex with our guy. When he didn't call that weekend, she had to cry rape." "She told you that?" "Didn't have to. She comes from Grand Junction and still wears a training bra, for God's sake! Of course she wants their approval." "But why did her sorority sisters turn on her?" Pilar persisted. "It was a one-night stand. When those girls bag a tight end on the football team, they make sure he's good for a couple of dates. Blaming our guy was the only way for Courtney to save face." "Great!" "Yeah." A guilty victim and a semi-innocent client . . . Richard Hanna had it right. In the courtroom there were no shades of gray, and no place for an attorney who was ambivalent about her work.
Jackie stuffed the recorder in her briefcase and reached for the clunky boots. "I thought you were going to stay and dictate your interviews," Pilar said. "Have to stop at the dry cleaner's before it closes." A white lie, but Pilar wouldn't hold it against her. She'd been claiming she was thirty-nine years old since the day Jackie met her. "
Nothing wrong with Lily, is there?" Pilar demanded. On target as usual, but there was no sense worrying her. "
Of course not," Jackie replied. "Know what you need?" "Besides getting laid?" "A nice, clean murder. Maybe when they bust that guy—" "The Hollow Man?" "Yeah, the Hollow Man." Pilar patted Jackie's arm reassuringly.
"Maybe he'll call." "His brand of deceit would be refreshing," Jackie said, and meant it.