Lacy is sure her husband has been wrongly accused -- but how to explain his mysterious behavior? Known as the Saint of Hollywood for his skill with a scalpel, Dan seems to be keeping a secret or two. Still Lacy won't lose her faith or her determination to find the real murderer.
With her best friend Molly Archer, a hot L.A. casting agent, at her side, Lacy tracks suspects ranging from a sleazy network TV star to an advertising exec who shoots Super Bowl commercials set on the moon. Is Tasha's loyal hometown friend really an enemy? Did an ex-con from her past return to destroy Tasha's new life? Lacy Fields will stop at nothing to protect her family -- whether it's searching for the person who framed her husband or keeping the black hair dye away from her fourteen-year-old daughter.
Cleverly pairing the day-to-day details of suburban life with delicious insider glamour, Looks to Die For marks the debut of a savvy and stylish new voice in suspense fiction.
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Looks to Die For
By Janice Kaplan
TouchstoneCopyright © 2007 Janice Kaplan
All right reserved.
The night the police came to arrest my husband for murder, I was upstairs, killing myself on the treadmill. If I kept up this pace, I'd finish my three miles in twenty-two and a half minutes, a personal best. So when I heard the doorbell ring, I ignored it, and then ignored it again. But whoever was chiming wouldn't go away and the noise was going to wake up the whole house. Annoyed, I hit the stop button, threw a Juicy Couture sweatshirt on over my pink running bra and matching shorts, kicked off my all-terrain cross-trainers, which were giving me blisters anyway, and headed downstairs. No personal best tonight.
The Chinese cloisonné clock in the front hall foyer registered ll:50 P.M., not a typical time for guests to arrive at our gated community in Pacific Palisades. I tried peering through the peephole in the door, but the artistically cut crystal sphere had been designed for beauty, not usefulness. I could vaguely make out two men who seemed to be cops, and when I tentatively called out "Hello?" they waved their identification cards, not knowing that from my side, those IDs could have been Picasso graphics. I made a mental note to check out more practical security systems.
Cops at my door? My first emotion was curiosity, not panic, since those I loved and worried about full-time were tucked in upstairs. Grant had turned in early to get some rest before ascience test tomorrow, Ashley had communed with two girlfriends until just after ten then gone straight to her own bedroom, and little Jimmy had heard monsters rumbling in his closet but managed to get to sleep after I read him three picture books and pretended to fall asleep first. Even my husband, Dan, had spent forty-five minutes reading medical journals and then set his alarm for dawn so he'd be up for early-morning surgery.
I twisted the ring on my right hand so that the big ruby and two small diamonds pointed into my palm, then opened the door, glancing first at the tall Hispanic cop who still gripped his identification awkwardly, then to the other cop, slightly older and shorter, dour and doughy-faced.
"We need Dr. Dan Fields, ma'am," the older cop said, his voice as rough-edged as his body.
"I'd like to explain that directly to the doctor."
I was sweaty and tired and not interested in conversing with cagey cops. But I had an idea what was going on here, since about a month ago, a three-car police escort had come to whisk Dan to the hospital to take care of a major actress who had sliced off her finger cutting a bagel. My husband was the Saint of Hollywood, the plastic surgeon whose skill at molding, reattaching, and reconstructing meant he could save any face or body part that was seriously endangered. This being Hollywood, he had also nipped and tucked some of the most famous faces on the planet, and the wait for a consultation at one point stretched to eight months. If you couldn't get an appointment, you could at least read fawning articles about him in Vogue or Elle. No doubt written by editors who figured that with enough sweet talk, Dan would move them to the top of the waiting list.
"Has somebody been hurt?" I asked the cop.
"Someone's been hurt real bad." He took a step toward me, edging in front of his buddy, a sneer contorting his features. "Now go get Dr. Fields for us."
His menacing style wouldn't work. "Look, Dan's gone to sleep already," I said, trying not to sound as intimidated as I felt. "Why don't you tell me what this is about?"
The Hispanic cop glanced back over his shoulder at his partner, who was pocketing his identification, then repeated, "Just get the doctor for us."
"If you're looking for a favor from Dan, you could ask a little more politely," I said.
The cops exchanged looks, then the Hispanic one said, "It's not a favor, ma'am. If you don't call him down, we'll go get him. We know he's in the house."
The guy was a genius. I say Dan's gone to bed and he figures out that he's in the house. "If you don't call it a favor to come by here at almost midnight and ask for Dan..." I stopped, because they were both looking at me oddly, and the message finally penetrated that I was off base. Way off base. Maybe not even in the right playing field.
I took a deep breath and, looking again at the doughy-faced cop, noticed that his badge said Detective Vincent Shields and that his buddy was Detective José Reese. Shields quietly said,
"I assume Dr. Fields is your husband. He's wanted for questioning."
I stood there, unable to move, and Shields added, "We're investigating a murder." He pointed to the intercom by the front door. "Can you call him down?"
I was suddenly so confused that the intercom might as well have been a moon rock that had dropped into my front hall. I cleared my throat. I pulled myself back together. "Uh, the thing is, we just remodeled the top floor and wiring it into the old system has been a problem, you know? The electrician kept saying he could do it, even though he couldn't do it, so we probably need a whole new system or at least a whole new electrician, if you know what I mean...." I paused, wondering if I could make myself stop babbling. Maybe some action would do it. I stepped over to the intercom, touched the talk button and the "Master Bedroom" light, and then said, "Dan? Honey? Can you hear me?"
For a response, I got static. I ran my fingers through my curly hair, pushing it back from my forehead, which was still sweaty from the treadmill. And getting even sweatier from the fear suddenly coursing through me.
"We need to go upstairs," Reese said. "You want to lead us?"
I didn't want to do anything of the sort. Having the cops in my marble foyer was horrifying enough. But it didn't really occur to me that I could say no to a man with a badge.
"Mommy? Is it monsters?"
I spun around and saw Jimmy standing at the top of the steps, peering down at us through a railing. His ankles stuck out of his too-short Superman pajamas at an odd angle, and he looked so skinny and vulnerable that I wanted to run right up the stairs and give him a hug. But the cops were eyeing me intently and sudden moves didn't seem like a good idea.
"No, honey, everything's fine. No monsters, just these nice policemen." I smiled bravely and tried to keep my lip from quivering. Jimmy had put on his old superhero pajamas tonight so he could fight any monsters who showed up in his room, but who knew that they'd take this form?
"Jimmy, sweetie, can you do Mommy a favor?"
He stepped back from the railing and eyed me carefully -- even at five, he wouldn't commit until he knew the dimensions of the request.
"Go to Mommy and Daddy's room and give Daddy a little shake. Tell Daddy that Mommy needs him to put on a robe and come down."
Jimmy ran off so quickly that I wasn't sure if he'd taken it in or was simply fleeing to hide under his covers. Slowly, I turned to the cops again, but they were muttering to each other. Detective Shields glanced at his watch and said, "I don't like this. In two minutes you go up."
"Lemme go now. No way the guy's coming down."
Shields nodded, and the two of them headed for the staircase, clambering quickly up the steps two at a time, their smooth-soled shoes slipping on the Italian marble. At the top landing they stopped short, peering at the hallways that headed off in three directions. Reese turned to glare at me as I dashed up the stairs behind them.
"Where do we find him?" he growled.
Trying to catch my breath -- lost to anxiety, not exertion -- I didn't answer.
"Which of these damn hallways?" he bellowed.
"Our bedroom's to your right," I said, gasping. Then, not meaning to scream, I did anyway. "Dan!" I hollered.
From down the hall, my husband appeared at the bedroom door, his blond hair rumpled, his face blank from interrupted sleep. He hadn't bothered with a robe, just a pair of sweatpants, and he took a moment to register that there were two cops approaching him. When he did, his deep blue eyes widened and he blinked hard.
"What's going on?" he asked groggily.
The cops moved closer, surrounding him as effectively as two people can.
"You're Dr. Daniel Fields?" asked Shields.
"Yes, I am. May I help you?" His refined accent grew more refined as the cops leaned in. Even bare-chested, he maintained his dignity. A well-toned, well-tanned chest can do that for you.
"Well, doc, you can come down to the station house with us. Right now. Quietly," said Shields, with a hint of threat in his voice.
"Would you like to explain why?"
Shields took a moment to answer, digging his toe into the fringe of the Persian rug, then looking at Jimmy, who had slipped out of the bedroom and was edging closer to his dad.
"We need you for questioning," Shields said, discreetly not elaborating while one scared Superman stared wide-eyed at him.
"And it can't wait until morning?" Dan asked.
"Help me out here, gentlemen. I don't have any idea what this is about or why you need to talk to me." Dan sounded composed and reasonable, as if he were sipping Chablis at his Princeton eating club, not confronting two LAPD cops.
Jimmy anxiously rubbed his hand over the big S emblem on his chest. But the shield wouldn't protect him, and neither would Reese.
"You're wanted for questioning in the murder of Theresa Bartowski," he said bluntly.
"I don't even know who that is. Why would you want to talk to me?"
"She's also known as Tasha Barlow."
Not the slightest wave of recognition crossed Dan's face. "Is this a former patient of mine?" he asked.
"We can discuss it all downtown," Reese said.
"No, let's discuss it here. Or better still, why don't you call me at my office in the morning? I'll pull out my patient records and do whatever I can to help you. But right now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to bed. I have surgery scheduled for seven A.M. and I'm not eager to stay up all night talking."
Reese and Shields exchanged another look, and with a move too quick to allow either reaction or resistance, Reese whipped handcuffs out of his back pocket and snapped them on Dan's slender wrists. "You're under arrest in the murder of Tasha Barlow," he intoned. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in -- "
"What the hell are you doing?" Dan's voice, suddenly shrill, warbled through the hall.
" -- a court of law. You have the right -- "
"Get these off me!" Dan staggered back, holding his arms outstretched like oddities that no longer belonged to his body. Trying to spin around and make his case for release, he accidentally slammed his handcuffed wrists against Reese, who hastily stepped back and reached for his gun. Shields had his weapon drawn the moment his partner was touched, and it was trained on Dan.
Jimmy began wailing, a high-pitched, hysterical sound that perfectly mimicked what I was feeling. I rushed over and swooshed him into my arms, running down the hall with him, past the staircase, away from the police and guns, and into his room, which, even infested with monsters, seemed safer than where we had been. In a single motion, I slipped him into his bed and tucked in the covers, murmuring, "You're fine, honey. Everything's going to be fine." He stopped crying, more from surprise at suddenly finding himself under the cozy sheets than from any deeper comfort I'd supplied. I yearned to crawl in next to him and hide my head under his pillow. But as I stroked Jimmy's tear-streaked face, I could hear Dan's plaintive voice from down the hall calling, "Lacy? Lacy?"
My heart banged so furiously that I could hear the pounding in my ears. I'd been a G.I. Joe-banning, Second Amendment-doubting citizen long enough that the simple sight of a gun scared me beyond all reason. Having two of them aimed at my husband blasted me into total terror. I sat down on the bed trying to hide my shock. Jimmy lay suddenly still, as if monsters might be a welcome diversion from the real-life drama. His eyes were closed and his breathing placid, as if he had willed himself to sleep.
I pulled myself together and hurried back down the long hallway to the group in front of our bedroom. The cops' guns were back in their holsters, and Dan, still bound at the wrists, was trying to reason with Shields.
"I have to get dressed," Dan was saying quietly. "If you take off the handcuffs, I can be quick."
Shields looked skeptical for a moment but then nodded. "Okay, I'll give you three minutes to put on some clothes. But we're keeping you within eyesight. The door stays open so we can see you."
He nodded at Reese to unlock the cuffs, and the detective reached for the key reluctantly. "You want me to call for some backup to surround the house?" he asked, still holding the key. "Don't want him escaping while he's pretending to look for his Calvins."
"I think we're under control," Shields said.
But Reese pushed into the bedroom before Dan. "I'll just wait in here."
I stepped closer to Dan and touched his elbow. "What's happening?"
He turned around to look at me, and his face was tightly controlled, giving up nothing. "I have no idea. But apparently I'm going downtown with these fellows."
"Do you know what they want? Do you know who that woman is? Does this make any sense?" I asked, my questions tumbling on top of each other.
"No," said Dan, one firm negative covering it all. Then calmly, "I'll have to straighten it out."
"How do you straighten it out when they've arrested you?" I asked, practically screeching.
Dan picked up my panic, and anxiety briefly flickered over his face. "You should call Jack," he said, meaning Jack Rosenfeld, family friend and attorney.
We filed into the bedrooom together, and feeling awkward under Shields's gaze, I tripped clumsily against the edge of the rug. But I steadied myself, picked up the cordless phone on the night table, and dialed Jack's house. An answering machine beeped, and I left an urgent message for Jack to call me as soon as possible. I started to stutter out more details but then realized I couldn't figure them out myself.
When I hung up, Dan had pulled on crisp khakis and a navy blue polo shirt and was heading into the bathroom.
"Just a minute," Reese said. He pushed into the room ahead of Dan and jerked his head back in surprise, momentarily staggered by the gleaming marble and brass fittings of our high-tech bathroom. I used to cherish each fancy fixture, but now I couldn't care less. If it would only make the cops leave, I'd gladly trade my Kohler commode for an outhouse.
"A lot of windows in here," Reese called back to his partner, staring up at the arched glass ceiling.
"I'm not trying to escape," Dan said mildly. "I need to use the bathroom."
Reese peered out one of the oversized windows, contemplating the two-story drop. Then he sauntered to the other end of the bathroom. "What's through here?"
Reese opened the sliding door, and the wall of mirrors on the other side reflected his astonishment as he took in the huge Jacuzzi whirlpool and natural-wood hot tub. "Nice setup you've got here," he said acidly. "I'll just wait on this side while you do your business."
The bathroom door clicked shut, and I edged toward the bed, reeling from this bizarre alternate reality in which I'd suddenly landed. Shields kept his back to me, not encouraging conversation, and I rubbed my finger back and forth on the duchesse quilt. If I were dreaming, would I be able to feel the silk fabric sliding against my fingers? I blinked hard a few times and then the bathroom door opened again to reveal Dan back in handcuffs, with Reese at his elbow.
"We're ready," Reese said.
Shields nodded. "Let's go."
Dan took a few steps toward me. "Will you come with me?" he asked. His hooded eyes held mine, needing me.
I thought of the kids down the hall, asleep. Jimmy would likely wake up again, which meant that if I left, Grant or Ashley should be warned.
"No, she won't come," Reese said. "It's not a party. No extra room in the squad car."
"I'll follow in my own car," I said with sudden certainty, his hostility solving my quandary. "Where are we going?"
"Downtown," he snarled.
"There's really nothing for you to do down there, Mrs. Fields." Shields spoke flatly but without anger, the senior man getting the job done. "But here's the address if you really want to go." He handed me a card, and as I glanced at it, the partners soundlessly whisked Dan out of the room. From the hall, I heard my husband calling, "Lacy!"
"I'll be there, honey!" I hollered. "I'll follow you and be there."
I raced to Grant's room, then, remembering that he needed a night's sleep before the test, I moved on to his sister's sanctuary. Fourteen-year-old Ashley, curled up under the flowing canopy on her bed, didn't move when I burst in, so I shook her gently, telling her that Daddy and I had to run out and she needed to get up if Jimmy called. Only half awake, she didn't ask any questions, and before she could think of any, I sprinted downstairs, slipping into the Lexus and pushing the button for the garage door to open. I gunned the car down the block and by the second stop sign -- where I definitely didn't bother to stop -- I had the squad car within sight. I felt a surge of relief that at least the night wouldn't end with my turning back.
The cop car was going fast but not recklessly, no sirens blasting or lights flashing, and I managed to keep the red taillights within easy view. They knew the neighborhood, winding their way through the dark streets without any hesitation. I kept expecting the squad car to stop suddenly and pull a U-turn in the middle of the road. I'd look in the window and see the faux cops laughing uproariously at getting away with a prank like this. Maybe they represented a medical fraternity doing a grown-up form of hazing. Or they had the starring roles on Cops 911, that new Fox show shooting on a nearby soundstage. We'd watch the tape tomorrow and laugh, and Dan would sign the waiver so the episode could air.
But the car kept going steadily forward. We turned onto Sunset Boulevard and suddenly, even at midnight, the traffic was thicker. A red Ferrari slipped in front of me, but I could still track the cops, and when we all turned onto the highway, the Ferrari zoomed ahead and I inched closer to the unmarked LAPD car. As I drove, a name kept repeating over and over in my head. Tasha Barlow. Tasha Barlow. Tasha Barlow. I waited for some bells to ring, but got resounding silence. I'd been married to Dan since we were kids just out of college, long enough to read his facial expressions pretty accurately, and nothing had registered when he'd heard the name, either. If this wasn't all a joke, it must just be a case of mistaken identity. Dan was right. The whole mess would get cleared up as soon as he got to headquarters.
From my car phone, I dialed Jack Rosenfeld again, got the same message, and this time left my cell phone number, too. If only I knew his. I flicked on the radio to an all-news station, wondering if I might hear something about Tasha Barlow. But no, just more of the usual -- mud slides in Malibu, a loss for the Lakers, and a Brinks truck overturning on the 110 freeway and spilling a million nickels on the road. How to get rich in L.A. I turned the radio off, and when we exited the highway, I focused on negotiating the now unfamiliar back streets.
After some fast turns, the cops pulled into a spot marked police vehicles only, and I realized we had arrived at headquarters. Of course I didn't see any place to park, so I rolled down the window. "Okay if I leave it here?" I shouted to Shields, who was pulling himself out of the passenger seat of the squad car.
"No, ma'am. Police cars only. You'll have to find parking around the other side of the building."
Instead of dumping the car and telling them to tow it if they damn well wanted, I drove off and wasted five minutes cruising around the ugly block, squeezing my car into a too-small space in front of what had once been a deli and was now a boarded-up storefront. Courage is not exactly my middle name, but I hardly thought about the unsavory characters lurking around as I slammed my car door shut and clicked the remote lock. I started running back to the station house, my shoes making an eerie, clinking sound against the broken sidewalk. I looked down and realized that in my haste to grab footwear as I left the house, I'd slipped into a pair of purple snakeskin Manolo Blahnik mules with high, spindly heels. My Wild Berry Chanel-manicured toenails peeked through the open toes. Above the ankles, I was still wearing pale pink Lycra workout gear. Charging down the street in this getup, I was probably pretty safe -- anybody would assume that some pissed-off pimp was chasing me.
Inside the station house, everything seemed surprisingly quiet. A sleepy-eyed cop at the front desk munching take-out from Taco Bell stared at me when I walked in, and when I told her I was looking for my husband, Dr. Dan Fields, she waved toward some chairs at a far wall.
"Better siddown," she said, sounding like a transplant from Brooklyn.
"Can I join him, please?"
"He is here, correct? I'm in the right place?"
She shrugged. "I guess so."
"I told the policemen who took him that I'd be following in my car," I said, persisting. "I'm sure they're expecting me."
"Yeah, they set an extra place," she said snidely. She swung her beefy jowls around until she was barely a taco's length from my face. "Siddown, lady. Or leave. I don't care which."
I sat. Antsy, I crossed and uncrossed my legs. My shoes stuck to the floor and made an odd sucking noise as I tried to pull them up. There weren't any magazines around, and the only newspaper was four days old. I ran my fingers through my hair and contemplated the gouges in the wooden floor, trying not to think about what could be making it so sticky. I stared at the policewoman, wondering how much tighter her LAPD uniform would be after that taco. She caught my eye and sat back heavily in her chair, chewing thoughtfully on the taco and gazing at my Manolos. I got up and approached the desk.
"Listen, this is all a misunderstanding," I said, trying to sound calm and friendly. "Please, please tell me where my husband is."
She shrugged without putting down the taco. "Don't really know."
"Your detectives have the wrong person. He doesn't know anything about what they're investigating."
"Heard that one before." She laughed through her nose and took another big bite.
"No, really." I took a deep breath, trying to win her over. Maybe if we became friends, the taco lady could send Dan home. "My husband is Dr. Dan Fields. Maybe you've heard of him?"
"He's a plastic surgeon. He's in the newspapers a lot." Impress her, but still sound modest. "Actually, he's pretty well known."
"Right. Everybody in L.A.'s so important. I'll add him to my list. Let me guess -- your husband gives second-rate actresses first-rate boobs."
"Not at all," I said, slightly offended. Then, trying to get back on her good side, I added, "Actually, he spends most of his time doing reconstructive surgery on people who've been seriously hurt."
"Yeah? So he's a good guy?" She looked up, vaguely interested.
I nodded eagerly. "A very good guy. He does facial reconstructions and skin grafts on burn victims. Last week he reattached a teenager's finger after a car accident, and the boy's going to be able to play hockey again -- or maybe lacrosse. Whichever he did before, I can't remember," I said, talking faster and faster. "Oh, and cleft palates. Did I tell you about cleft palates? Two years ago Dan went to Chile and started a free clinic and taught all the doctors there how to do the surgery. He's so good, really good."
I paused in the midst of my rant -- running out of breath and coming to my senses at almost the same time. If the cop wanted Dan's résumé, she could click onto his website. But probably all she wanted was to finish her shift and go home to her own husband -- whose fingers were all attached, and who wasn't in jail tonight.
I kicked off my shoes and sunk about four inches. The cold tile floor of the police station stung my bare feet. "Look," I said, "my feet hurt. I have blisters. My husband's back there somewhere when he shouldn't be. My kids are home alone. I want all this to be over. What do you think I should do?"
"Go home, Mrs. Fields."
For a moment, I wondered how the taco lady had managed to say that without moving her lips from her synchronous chewing. Then I realized that the voice was from the other side of the room, and I got into my shoes again and spun around to see Detective Reese standing there. From across the room, he looked a little like Jimmy Smits in his NYPD Blue days, but there was a hardness around his eyes that no actor could simulate.
"I'm not going home without my husband," I said firmly.
"I'm afraid you'll have to." The detective gave me a lazy, contemptuous smile. "He's been arrested, ma'am. Not going anywhere until his arraignment."
"Which is when?"
"Within forty-eight hours, usually."
"Forty-eight hours? That's two days." I was seething, trying not to scream. "You have no right to do that."
"Oh no? Tell it to the judge, as the saying goes. But just to calm you down, a good lawyer can probably get the case heard in the morning."
"Can't we get it heard right now?" I asked, picturing the dank cell where Dan was probably cowering right this minute.
"I don't think we could find a judge who'd consider this an emergency worth getting up for."
"So why did you arrest him at midnight? He told you he'd try to help you out in the morning. He doesn't know anything about this case. This woman. Whoever she is."
Again, the contemptuous smile. "We knew where we could find him at night. Now as I said, Mrs. Fields, you'd better leave. Your husband is being photographed and fingerprinted and we're running a check on his criminal record."
"He doesn't have a criminal record," I said. "You can't count the parking ticket from last Sunday because it was my fault. Dan always puts in plenty of quarters. He's the most honest man you've ever met."
Reese cleared his throat. "Then he'll have a clean rap sheet." He turned and began strolling away, but his studied casualness was interrupted by a door flying open and a commotion erupting in his face as two cops dragged in a grotesquely bloodied creature, barely recognizable as human. Howling like an animal, he flailed his emaciated arms and legs, then collapsed in a heap, quite literally at Reese's feet. Reese tried to step back, but two blood-caked hands grabbed at his ankles.
"Let go!" Reese hollered, but the man's own wailing drowned out the words, and suddenly the other two cops descended on him with nightsticks, beating him away from Reese. Blood spurted onto the floor and Reese leaped away as the other cops pinned their prey. The howls changed in intensity from plaintive to pained, and the dissipated mess on the floor writhed like a half-dissected frog pinned to the table for a seventh-grade biology class.
"Get him to the back," Reese yelled, and with stunning viciousness, the cops yanked their victim out the opposite door, in the very direction I'd been staring since I arrived.
"No!" I shrieked, running after them. "My husband's back there!"
The door slammed with a convincing thud, locking in the bloodied, the victimized, and the criminal. I crashed against the handle with wild fury, but a lock had snapped into place, and nothing budged. I kicked at the door with the piercing high heel of my left mule, pounding until something seemed to give, but it was the heel, which I felt break away from the sole, dangling like a half-amputated limb.
Reese. Maybe he had a human side. Tears streaming down my cheeks, I twisted around to face him. I would have thrown myself at his feet if I thought it would help -- but I'd just seen how much good that did. "Officer, I need you to help me. Whatever you can do, just get my husband out of there. Please, I beg you." My terrified plea ricocheted around the squad room with such high-pitched anguish that Reese actually stopped in his tracks and turned slowly to look at me. He blinked a few times, as if trying to figure out who I could be.
"I can't release your husband," he said finally. "He's in jail. A very serious crime, okay?"
"No, it's not okay! Please don't lock him up all night!" Maybe the room turned humans into wild animals, because my bellows suddenly sounded identical to the cries of the creature who had just been dragged away. Reese didn't bother answering me this time; he just disappeared out the door where he had first come. Despite my broken shoe, I charged after him, but the taco cop stood up with more speed than I would have thought possible and planted herself in front of me.
"Sorry, lady. Nobody leaves this area."
"I've got to help my husband," I said, my voice suddenly shaking.
"Ya not gonna help him here." An edge of sympathy had crept in under her Brooklyn accent. "Look, just get home. Come back first thing in the morning."
"Do you think Dan's in a cell with..." I gestured vaguely, indicating the wild man who had just come in.
"Nah. That was probably a drug charge. Your husband's in on murder. Much bigger deal. Probably in seclusion."
My shoe chose that moment to give up completely, the torn heel collapsing and my ankle twisting as I sunk to the floor. My husband was more dangerous than a bloody, drug-crazed maniac. I got up and without another word half crawled, half stumbled to my car.
Driving home, I wanted to think out the situation properly, preparing for constructive action, but instead I kept hearing a mocking voice scream in my head, Dan's in jail! Dan's in jail! Dan's in jail! like some endlessly repeated child's tape from the Brothers Grimm. My only images of jail came from TV shows and bad DVDs: I pictured a hostile cell mate, a smelly toilet, and a shaky, lice-infested cot. I tried not to think about the worst -- Dan the doctor being beaten up by some nothing-left-to-lose killer, who'd turn his face into a bloody pulp and force needles into his arm.
The highway was empty and I revved the motor, driving eighty most of the way home. Forget the treadmill -- my personal best tonight was going to be set in the car. I half hoped I'd get stopped so I could tell my story to some other cop, but nobody came near me. Maybe all the cops in L.A. were busy arresting innocent people tonight.
Back inside the house, I peeked in on Jimmy, but his bed was empty. I dashed down the hall to Ashley's room -- where my daughter was sound asleep, with Jimmy curled at the foot of her bed like some loyal golden retriever. I carried him gently back, grateful that he didn't wake up. Making a final stop in Grant's room, I found my oldest son also asleep, his long hair flung across the pillow, a small silver earring glinting in the moonlight that crept in from the edges of the shade. He looked like a Hollywood surfer boy, but under the golden tan was a smart student who had a physics midterm tomorrow. I somehow had to get him off to school in the morning without prattling on hysterically about the police. No use upsetting him before his test. With college applications coming, he needed good grades, and nothing mattered more. I took a deep breath. Nothing mattered more? If only. Whether Grant ended up at Stanford or Swarthmore suddenly didn't seem as serious as Dan's ending up at Sing Sing.
Heading back to my own bedroom, I decided I'd try Jack again at 6:30 A.M. or so. He should be answering by then -- Los Angeles is an early-morning town. I lay down on the bed, trying to muster the energy to undress and wash my face, but instead I just closed my eyes.
And then opened them again.
Who cared about the time? With my husband stuck in a cell, I couldn't worry about waking his lawyer. I fumbled in my closet for a pair of no-blister Hogans to replace the broken-heeled mules, then crept quietly down the stairs and back to my Lexus.
Jack lived in Beverly Hills, just north of Sunset on elegant Roxbury Drive, and at this hour, zipping along at a conservative seventy miles per hour, I was there in ten minutes. A thick hedge of trees blocked the neo-Colonial mansion from the quiet street, but Jack, less pretentious than his neighbors, had no gate. I pulled into the driveway, marched up to the front door, and rang the bell.
Nothing. Could they be away? No, his son attended the same private school as Grant, and no self-respecting family with Ivy League aspirations would leave town in March, during midterms of junior year. I rang again. And again. From where I stood on the front porch, I saw the faint glow of a light going on in a distant window, and then a woman's voice over the intercom -- at least theirs worked -- saying uncertainly, "Who's there?"
"It's Lacy Fields. I need Jack. There's an emergency."
"Lacy?" The voice -- Jack's wife, Gina -- seemed to perk up. "Hang on, I'll wake him up." The intercom went dead long enough for me to wonder if he was a sound sleeper or in a different bed, but then the front door was opening and Jack was there, tying on a thick terry robe.
"Geez, Lacy, what's going on? Are you all right?"
Jack put his sturdy arm around me, and I felt myself trembling, ready to cry. But I held it together, sensing that if I collapsed now, I'd never get up again.
"I'm okay," I said. "But Dan's in jail."
"What?" His voice ripped through the quiet night, and I envisioned neighbors bounding up from their beds, thinking they'd heard a shot. Jack recovered quickly enough to grab my arm and pull me over the threshold, closing the heavy door behind us with a thud. In the dim light of the foyer, he looked at me uncertainly.
"I want to hear this. Come on in. Do you need a drink? Should I have Gina put on some coffee?"
"Just water," I said. Jack looked dazed, and since he was now dealing with a woman who had shown up unannounced at his doorstep at three in the morning, I couldn't really blame him. We walked down a hall, past the sleekly modern dining room, and then Jack flipped on an overhead light in the kitchen. Gina had been calling me for months to get my professional opinion as a decorator on her room renovation. She had a good eye herself, and now that the kitchen was finished, I could practically picture Martha Stewart coming in to whip up some cream puffs. Good manners demanded I rave about the stainless steel stove and free-form granite counters, but in my current state, I simply wasn't capable of making kind comments about custom cabinetry.
Jack opened the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of lemon Poland Spring. "What do you mean Dan's in jail?" he asked, saving me from any small talk.
I took a deep breath. "Short version or long?"
"Two cops showed up at midnight, crashed through the house to find Dan, and then put handcuffs on him. One of them drew a gun and pointed it right at him." I started shaking, my voice quavering at the memory. I sniffled a couple of times and put my fingers over my lips to stop the trembling. "They took him down to a squad car and to the precinct house downtown, where they locked him up. They won't let me see him."
Jack, still holding on to the Poland Spring, wandered over to the other side of the kitchen and slid onto a bar stool. I followed him like a puppy.
"What's the charge?"
I tried to form the word, but my lips wouldn't do it. Instead, a shudder went through my whole body. "Some woman named Tasha Barlow," I whispered.
Jack furrowed his brow. "She's bringing charges against Dan? What are we talking about here, Lacy? Harassment? Sexual harassment?"
I felt my cheeks getting warm, but I just shook my head. Jack thought he was helping, offering the most dramatic charge he could imagine so I could just nod and not have to say the words. "Worse," I said, my voice barely a croak. "She's dead."
Now Jack glowered at me as if I'd started spouting obscenities. "Murder?" he asked.
Again his voice was loud, and it was all I could do not to cover my ears so I didn't have to hear him. I offered a barely perceptible nod and felt my eyes fill up with tears. "There's an arraignment within forty-eight hours. But the cop said maybe we could get it in the morning."
"Jesus Christ. You know I'm not the one to handle this, Lacy."
"So tell me who is."
"Dave Liggett comes to mind. He's defended a couple of big sex suits lately."
"And you're thinking what?"
"I don't know. False accusations by a woman. This Tasha Barlow..." He paused and shook his head. "Forgive me, I'm not completely awake. I guess if she's dead she's not making any false accusations against Dan. Those had to come from somewhere else."
"Of course. False accusations. That's what's going on. Or mistaken identity. I've thought of that one, too." That Dan could be anything less than one hundred percent innocent hadn't yet crossed my mind.
"Chauncey Howell," Jack said suddenly, snapping his fingers "Best criminal lawyer I know. The best."
I liked the name. He sounded like he was from an old New England family, the kind that sailed over on the Mayflower. "Can I call him now?"
Jack didn't bother to look at a clock, he just picked up the cordless phone on the counter and punched in a number. We both waited.
"Chauncey? Jack Rosenfeld. Sorry to get you at this hour on your private line. But I need your help on a murder case."
Murder case. Uttered coldly into the phone in the middle of the night, the words hit me like exploding land mines. I clutched my chest and reeled back. With panic rising, I grabbed my bag and pulled out my cell phone.
Jack, done outlining the situation to Chauncey, looked up and furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. "You don't need your mobile," he said. "You can talk to Chauncey on this line."
Jack held out the receiver, but instead of taking it, I frantically pushed the menu buttons on my Motorola until the small screen displayed my cache of digital photos. Dan hugging me at the beach. Dan and Jimmy lying on the grass. Dan playing tennis with Ashley. Dan -- my husband who couldn't be a murderer. He'd eaten lasagna tonight with me and the kids, said I looked sexy in my workout clothes, and kissed me gently before he got into our antique four-poster bed.
I snapped my cell phone shut. Next time I was able to curl up next to Dan, I'd know that according to the cops, I was sleeping with a killer.
Copyright 2007 by Janice Kaplan
Excerpted from Looks to Die For by Janice Kaplan Copyright © 2007 by Janice Kaplan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Looks to Die For!!!! This was a fun book to read! Great author / plot / etc. This book is really hard to put down - always something going on whether suspenseful or funny. Hope this author starts turning out more books - one of my favorite authors and I love to read. This book was fantastic from the first to last page - ENJOY!!!!
Janice keep writing. If you like these try books by pat ondarko & deb lewis latest is too much at stake, great characters. If youre like always looking for a new series.
I found 'Looks to die for' a very fun and mysterious page turner. I absolutely loved the final ending as much as I did throughout the novel.
this book was good fast paced and fun! i am not always crazy about mystery but i like how this has some like chic lit i guess they call it along with mystery so it held my interest! i was also happy the author didnt carry over the story for her next book it will be a completely diffrent mystery. that would of drove me nuts! waiting for the other book!
If you want to read a real page-turner, this is the one for you. It's suspenseful until the end -- there's never a dull moment. This is the first 'Lacy Fields' mystery and if this book is any indication of what's in store, then this series will be a definite winner. Don't miss this one -- you'll love it.
Plastic-surgeon Dr. Dan Fields makes his money insuring the Hollywood super-crowd looks beautiful or handsome however, the ¿Saint of Hollywood¿ also provides his skills to the less fortunate as he helps those scarred and maimed, who could not afford a talent like him. Thus it a stunner when LAPD arrests Dan for the homicide of starlet Tasha Barlow.------------- Dan¿s devoted wife interior decorator Lacy refuses to believe her spouse would strangle anyone. After consulting with his lawyer Chauncey Howell, who believes is client committed murder and knowing the police and thus ergo the prosecution do too, Lacy decides to investigate Tasha in order to learn who had a motive. Her best friend casting director Molly Archer joins her as they seek the dirt on the dead Tasha not expecting to be choked, handcuffed, and roughed up by the live men in the late starlet¿s life.----------- The investigation takes a back seat to the heroine as she manages to get into one problem after another (not all involving her inquiries) while ruining her Prada shoes and her designer label clothing. Lacy is the star as her amateur sleuth bumbling is sincere but amusingly pathetic as she seeks who would have the motive and opportunity, but finds several nasty males whom fit the description. LOOKS TO DIE FOR is a lighthearted Hollywood fluffy whodunit.--------------- Harriet Klausner