GRACE'S FIRST YEAR AT BEDFORD HILLS passed quickly.

Most long-term prisoners looked back on the first twelve months of their sentence as the worst. Karen described it to Grace as "like cold turkey, except you're not withdrawing from drugs, you're withdrawing from freedom." It was a good analogy, but Grace didn't feel that way. For Grace, the first year of prison was like awakening from a lifelong slumber. For the first time, she was seeing life as it really was. She was surrounded by women from ordinary backgrounds, poor backgrounds. Women who had grown up less than twenty miles away from where Grace grew up, but who lived in a world as foreign and alien to her as the rice paddies of China or the deserts of Arabia.

It was wonderful.

In her old life, Grace now realized, friendships had been a mirage: fragile, hollow alliances based solely on money or status. At Bedford Hills, she observed a different kind of female friendship, one born of adversity and strengthened through suffering. If someone said a kind word to you here, they meant it. Slowly, cautiously, Grace began to forge bonds, with Karen, with some of the girls she worked with in her new job at the children's center, even with Cora Budds.

Cora was a mass of contradictions. Violent, moody and uneducated, she could certainly be a bully, as Grace had learned to her cost on her second night at Bedford. But Cora Budds was also a loyal friend and devoted mother. After Grace's suicide attempt, Cora's maternal side took over. It was Cora, more even than Karen Willis, who had led the campaign to change their fellow prisoners' minds about Grace Brookstein. When a group of women at the children's center froze Grace out, refusing to talk to her or even eat in the same room, it was Cora who confronted them.

"Give the bitch a chance. She din' steal nuthin'. You kidding me? She wouldn't know how."

"She's rich, Cora."

"She ain't even a mom. How'd she get a job in here? The warden's showing her favors."

Cora Budds said, "Lemme tell you something. The warden wanted her dead. Tha's why he sent her to me. But I'm tellin' yous, Grace is okay. She ain't the way they made her out to be in court and on TV. Just give her a chance."

Slowly, grudgingly, the women began to include Grace in their conversations. Winning their acceptance, and later their affection, meant more to Grace than she could express. Society had labeled the women of Bedford Hills as criminals, as outcasts. Now, for the first time, Grace wondered if perhaps it was society that was criminal, for casting them out in the first place. Grace had lived the American Dream all her life. The fantasy of wealth, freedom and the pursuit of happiness had been her reality since the day she was born. Here, at Bedford Hills, she witnessed the flip side of that golden coin: the hopelessness of poverty, the unbreakable cycle of fractured families, poor education, drugs and crime, the iron grip of gang culture.

It's all just a lottery. Prison was these women's destiny, the same way wealth and luxury was mine.

Until someone stole it from me.

Grace was luckier than most inmates. She had something rare and priceless, something that other girls at Bedford would have given their eyeteeth for: a sense of purpose. Here, in jail, Grace finally had something to do, other than shop for designer clothes or plan her next dinner party. She had to find out what really happened at Quorum. It wasn't about freedom. It was about justice. About truth.

If Grace had to pick one word to describe how her first year in prison made her feel, it would have been liberated. That, perhaps, was the greatest irony of all.

FROM NINE TILL THREE EVERY DAY, Grace worked at the children's center. The work was rewarding and fun. Kids came in daily to spend time with their mothers, and though the bond between parent and child was usually obvious, both sides sometimes struggled to fill the hours in such an artificial environment. Grace's job was to make that easier by providing some structure: story time, reading lessons, art classes, anything that moms and kids could enjoy together without having to think too hard about where they were and why. The children's center was the only place at Bedford Hills where inmates were allowed to dress in "outside" clothing, provided for them by the Sisters of Mercy. Sister Theresa, who ran the facility, made a strong case to Warden McIntosh. "The children are frightened by the uniforms. It's tough enough rebuilding maternal relationships without making Mommy look like a stranger."

Grace loved the feel of ordinary cotton against her skin. She loved the cheerful routine of the work: planning activities, laying tables with jars of paint, brushes and paper, playing games with the kids that she remembered from her own childhood. Most of all, she loved the kids themselves. When Lenny was alive, she'd never felt the desire to have children. But now that he was gone, it was as if a switch had flipped inside her. All her natural, maternal feelings came flooding out.

Working at the center, Grace was aware of a feeling of inner peace, a sort of low hum of contentment that followed her everywhere. It was the only place she could shut out thoughts of Lenny, and John Merrivale, and how he had betrayed them. In her simple cotton blouse and long wool skirt, it was hard to distinguish Grace from the nuns who ran the center. It occurred to her that prison life was not so unlike the world of the convent: enclosed, ordered, the days made up of a repeated series of simple, satisfying tasks. At the children's center, Grace felt the same deep peace of a nun fulfilling her vocation. Except that she had not found God. Hers was a mission of a different kind.

The only downside to Grace's work at the center came in the form of Lisa Halliday. Another A-Wing lifer, Lisa had been sent to Bedford Hills after an armed robbery that left a store clerk permanently paralyzed. An aggressive bull dyke with close-shaven blond hair and a livid scar across her chin, Lisa Halliday was viewed as a leader by the prison's white inmates, a small but vocal minority. Inmate leaders played an important role in the running of any prison, something Warden McIntosh understood only too well. He had given Lisa Halliday a cushy work detail, and the job at the children's center had appeased her for a while. Until Grace Brookstein showed up. Lisa Halliday made no secret of her loathing for Grace, whom she considered to be Cora Budds's "pet" and a traitor to the white girls at Bedford. Not to mention a stuck-up bitch who'd somehow gotten the warden wrapped around her little finger. Lisa never missed an opportunity to bully Grace, or to try to get her into trouble.

The real work of Grace's days began after three, when she was allowed two hours in the prison library. Davey Buccola had promised to help her, but Grace had heard nothing from Davey in months. Impatient to make some progress, she devoted all her free time to researching Quorum. There was a lot to learn. Following Davey's advice, she had started at the beginning. She read about the stock market, what it was and how it worked. She discovered for the first time what a hedge fund actually did - it had never occurred to her to ask Lenny. She researched endless articles on the economy. In the past, terms like credit crunch and bailout had washed over her. Grace had no idea what they actually meant. Now she made it her business to know. She wanted to understand why companies like Lehman Brothers had failed. Why so many people had lost their jobs and their homes because of Quorum. The first few months were like painting the background to a huge canvas. Only once she'd finished the sky and the stormy sea could Grace begin work on the ship itself: the fraud that had brought her here. That, of course, was the most intricate, difficult part of the picture.

The main problem with hedge funds, Grace learned, was that they operated behind a veil of secrecy. Top managers like Lenny never gave away their investment strategies, let alone specific details about individual trades. And that was perfectly legal.

Karen Willis asked Grace, "So how did people know what they were buying into? If it was all such a big secret."

"They didn't," said Grace. "They looked at past performance and took a bet on future performance."

"Like betting on a horse, you mean?"

"I suppose so. Yes."

"Kind of a big risk, don't you think?"

"That depends on how much you trust the manager."

People had trusted Lenny. They had trusted Quorum. But something had gone terribly wrong. The more she studied the press reports, the more Grace understood why the FBI had failed so singularly in their attempts to trace the missing money. With so much secrecy and funds passing between countless different accounts, onshore, offshore, all over the planet, it was like combing a beach for a specific grain of sand. Shares were sold before they had been bought, creating "phantom" profits that were then leveraged, multiplied three, four, ten times before being reinvested in derivative structures so complicated they made Grace's eyes water.

DAVEY BUCCOLA FINALLY CAME TO VISIT HER. From the look on his face, Grace could tell he had news. She could barely contain her excitement.

"It was John Merrivale, wasn't it? He stole the money. I knew it."

"I don't know who stole the money."

Grace's face fell. "Oh."

"My investigation took a different turn."

Davey's expression looked sober, his lips pressed together in a grim line. Grace's stomach began to churn.

"What do you mean? What sort of a turn."

Davey thought, When I walked in here, she looked so happy. I'm about to blow her world apart. And what if I'm wrong? Then he thought, I'm not wrong. He leaned across the table and took Grace's hand.

"Mrs. Brookstein."

"Grace."

"Grace. I'm sorry to have to tell you this. But I believe your husband was murdered."

"I'm sorry?" The room began to spin. Grace clutched the table for support.

"Lenny didn't kill himself."

"I know that. It was an accident. The storm..." Her words trailed off into silence.

"It wasn't an accident. I spent months looking into Merrivale's activities at Quorum," said Davey, "but I found I was chasing my tail. So I decided to look at your husband instead. I went back over his disappearance, the investigation, what happened on Nantucket the day of the storm. Finally I looked at the autopsy."

Grace swallowed. "Go on."

"It was a shambles. A joke. Death by drowning was assumed because the cadaver was washed up and because there was water in the lungs. When all this Quorum shit came to light, they ruled suicide because they figured there was a motive. But water in the lungs doesn't necessarily mean the person drowned."

"It doesn't?"

"That body had been in the water for over a month. Of course the lungs were saturated. The question you need to ask yourself in a death like this is how did the person get into the water in the first place, and was he alive or dead when he got there."

"So you think..."

"I think your husband was dead before he hit the water. There was no blood in the lungs. Drowning at sea, in a heavy storm like that...the pressure of so much water entering the lungs so suddenly would almost certainly cause a hemorrhage."

"Almost certainly?"

"It wasn't just the lungs. There were other signs, the bruises to the torso. Scratches on the fingers and upper arms that could have been indicative of a struggle. And the way the head was severed. I saw the pictures. Just look at the vertebrae. That wasn't fish. Not unless the fish had a guillotine. Or a meat cleaver."

Grace put her hand over her mouth and retched.

"Oh, shit, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be so graphic. Are you okay?"

Grace shook her head. She would never be okay again. She took a deep breath, struggling to control her emotions.

"Why didn't any of this come out at the inquest?"

"Some of it did. The bruising was mentioned, but dismissed. No one wanted to see the truth. Not at that time. You have to remember, your husband was the most hated man in America. Maybe it was just easier to think of him as a suicide, a coward, rather than a victim?"

"Easier?" Grace's head was spinning. It was all too much to take in.

Davey said, "I wanted to tell you first. I know it's a hell of a shock, but this is actually good news. I think we have enough here to ask to have the inquest reopened, Grace. It would be the first step toward launching a murder investigation."

Grace was silent for a long time. At last she said, "No. I don't want the police involved."

"But, Grace..."

"No."

Someone had killed Lenny. Butchered him like an animal and tossed him into the waves. What use were the police, or the courts, or the whole corrupt, disgusting so-called justice system? What justice was there for Lenny, or for me? America damned us both, for no better reason than that it was "easier." They let Lenny's killer walk away and left me here to rot. Well, damn America. The time for justice is past.

Davey was confused. "What do you want me to do?"

"I want you to find out who did it. If it was John Merrivale or someone else. I want to know who killed my husband. I want to know how he did it, and why. I want to know everything and I want to be sure. I'm not interested in reasonable doubt."

Davey said, "Okay. And then?"

"And then we'll think about next steps."

And then I'm going to kill him.

AFTER LIGHTS-OUT, GRACE LAY AWAKE, HER mind racing.

Whoever murdered Lenny had to have been on Nantucket the day of the storm. It could have been a stranger. But she knew that was unlikely. It was someone close to us. It had to be. Someone close to Quorum. To the missing money.

She thought back to the vacation, to their houseguests.

Connie and Michael.

Honor and Jack.

Maria and Andrew.

Caroline and John.

The Quorum family. Except they weren't family. They weren't friends. All of them had abandoned Grace in her hour of need.

One of them had killed Lenny.

Grace no longer wanted justice. She wanted vengeance. She would have vengeance.

That night, Grace Brookstein began planning her escape.




Line : 77

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