FOR THREE DAYS, GRACE LAY LOW. She found a new place to stay, another studio, this time in Brooklyn. Where the room in Queens had been shabby but welcoming, this place could only be described as squalid. Grace didn't care. She drew the curtains, locked the door and crawled into bed. Depression washed over her in slow, lapping waves.
This is worse than prison. This is hell.
In prison, Grace had had Karen and Cora. There was Sister Agnes and the kids at the center. Visits from Davey Buccola. Davey. Grace ought to be used to betrayal by now but what Davey had done shocked her to the core. She'd really believed he was on her side. More important, he'd held the key to all her hopes of finding Lenny's killer. Grace had put her faith in another human being for the last time. The only person I trust is gone forever, betrayed and murdered for his money.
The way she felt now, Grace wouldn't have trusted her own shadow.
She wept. When she could cry no more, she got dressed.
For the first time in three days, she went out.
IT WAS A CRAZY RISK. INSANE. But Grace didn't care.
Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn overlooked Jamaica Bay. It was nondenominational, although much of its upkeep in recent years had been funded by Jewish charities. Grace remembered the outcry when Lenny's remains were buried there.
"That son of a bitch betrayed the Jewish community. We trusted him because he was one of us. Now he wants to rest among us? No way."
Eli Silfen, head of the Beth Olom Benevolent Fund, was particularly strident. "A memorial to Lenny Brookstein? At Cypress Hills? Over my dead body."
But Rabbi Geller had stood firm. A soft-spoken, deeply spiritual man, Rabbi Geller had known Lenny for most of his life.
"Actually, Eli, it will be over his. This is a religion of forgiveness. Of mercy. It's for God to judge, not man."
Grace had never forgotten the rabbi's compassion. She wished he were here now as she picked her way through the gravestones and angel statues, her breath white in the freezing winter air. The cemetery was huge. Tens of thousands of graves, maybe more, stretching as far as the eye could see. I'll never find it. Not without help.
An elderly groundskeeper was tending to a plot a few yards away. Grace approached him.
"Excuse me. I was wondering, are there any...any notable people buried here?" It seemed safer than asking outright.
The old man laughed, revealing a mouthful of rotten teeth.
"Any? How long've you got. It's like People magazine down there." He banged the frozen earth with his hoe, cackling again at his own joke. "We got Mae West. Jackie Robinson. We got some bad pennies, too. Wild Bill Lovett. Know who that is?"
"He was a gangster. A killer. Leader of the White Hand Gang."
"I'm sorry. I don't know much about criminals," said Grace, forgetting that officially at least, she was one.
"We got one criminal here I'll bet you know about. Leonard Brookstein. Mr. Quorum. You'd heard of him, ain't you?"
Grace blushed. "Yes. Yes, I have. Do you know where he's buried?"
He started to walk. Grace kept pace with him for almost ten minutes, the two of them like a pair of drill sergeants inspecting a parade ground of silent, wintry dead, the gravestones standing to attention like soldiers. Eventually they reached the top of a hill. Grace froze. Less than two hundred yards ahead, two armed policemen stood yawning beside a simple white stone. Or at least, it had once been simple and white. Even from here Grace could see it had been covered with graffiti, blood-red messages of hate that no one had bothered to erase. Of course there are cops here! They're probably waiting for me to make a stupid mistake. Like this.
"What's the matter?" asked the groundskeeper. "We ain't there yet, you know."
"I know, I...I've changed my mind." Grace's heart was pounding. "I don't feel well. Thank you for your help."
He looked at her strangely, studying her features as if for the first time. Hoping to distract him, Grace hurriedly pressed a twenty into his arthritis-stiff hand, then turned and fled back down the hill.
She didn't stop running till she reached the subway, slipping into a nearby cafe to catch her breath and collect herself. How could people deface a man's grave? What sort of a person did that? She'd been too far away to read any of the graffiti, but she could imagine the poisonous things that had been written. Her eyes brimmed with tears. None of them knew Lenny. What a decent, loving, generous man he had been. Sometimes even Grace felt that that man was slipping away from her. That the reality of who Lenny was had already been lost, crushed beneath a mountain of lies and envy and loathing. People called him wicked, but it was a lie.
You weren't wicked, my darling. It's this world that's wicked. Wicked and greedy and corrupt.
In that moment Grace realized that she had a choice. She could give up. Turn herself in, accept the rotten hand of lies that life had dealt her. Or she could fight.
Rabbi Geller's words came back to her: It's for God to judge. Not man. Perhaps Grace should leave the crushing of her enemies to God? Let him right the wrongs the world had done to her and to her darling Lenny?
Grace knew what her next move would be.
DAVEY BUCCOLA FUMBLED WITH THE KEY to his hotel room. He was very, very drunk.
When Grace slipped through his fingers, so did the money. He'd betrayed her, and she knew it, and it had all been for nothing. Too depressed to face going home to his mother's house, Davey had hung around the city, spending what was left of his savings on strippers and booze.
"Stupidfugginthing." He tried the key again twice, before it dawned on him: I'm on the wrong floor. As he staggered back down the hall to the elevator, the walls lunged toward him and the floor moved up and down, up and down, like a ship on the high seas. Davey remembered the fun house at the Atlantic City amusement park his dad used to take him to as a kid. He felt nauseous. It was a relief to step into the elevator.
The woman had her back to him. Even in his drunken state, the PI in Davey took note of her long auburn hair and shiny black trench coat. Or was it two trench coats?
"What floor?" she asked again. Davey couldn't remember.
"Third," he guessed. The woman reached forward and pressed a button.
Then she pressed a gun into the small of Davey's back.
"Make a move and I will kill you."
UP IN HIS HOTEL ROOM, DAVEY sat on the edge of the bed, stone-cold sober.
"I know how it looks. But I can explain."
Grace raised the gun and pointed it directly at his head. "I'm listening."
GETTING HOLD OF A GUN WAS a lot easier than Grace had thought it would be. She'd assumed it would be a complicated, dangerous process, but it turned out you could buy them on the street. Like chestnuts. She'd noticed the man loitering in the alleyway, exchanging money with neighborhood kids in what Grace assumed must be drug deals. Yesterday afternoon she walked right up to him.
"I need a gun. Do you know anyone who can help me?"
The guy looked Grace over. With her shaven head and baggy masculine clothes, he put her down as a dyke, probably fresh out of prison. He wasn't a fan of carpet munchers, as a rule. On the other hand, she certainly wasn't a cop, and he could use the money.
"That depends. How much you payin'?"
They agreed on a price that was twice what the pistol was worth. He instantly regretted not having held out for more.
As Grace walked away, he called after her: "D'you know how to use that thing?"
Grace stopped, thought about it, shook her head.
"Fifty bucks, I'll give you a private lesson. I'll even throw in some ammo, how's that?"
"Twenty," Grace was amazed to hear herself saying.
"Thirty-five. Tha's my final offer."
"OH GOD, GRACE, PLEASE! DON'T SHOOT!"
Davey Buccola was sobbing. Grace felt oddly detached. It was almost distasteful, listening to him beg for his life, rivers of tears and mucus streaming down his contorted, terrified face. As if any words of his could change her decision.
"Give me the file."
"The information you promised me. The information you were going to give me in Times Square, remember? Before you got greedy and decided to turn me in for two hundred grand."
"It wasn't like that, Grace. I was trying to protect you."
Grace moved her index finger over the trigger. "One more lie out of your mouth and I swear to God I will blow your head off."
Davey whimpered with fear. She meant it. This was not the Grace Brookstein he'd met at Bedford Hills. This was a totally different person. Cold. Ruthless. Reckless.
"There is a file, isn't there, Davey? I hope for your sake you weren't lying about that as well."
"No, no, it's here. I have it."
He'd missed out on the reward, but Davey had still hoped to find a bidder for his gold mine of secrets. So far no magazine editors had taken his call, but he was working on it. He reached under the bed.
"Stop!" Grace commanded.
"Keep your hands where I can see them. On top of your head."
Davey did as he was asked.
"Good. Now walk into the middle of the room and kneel down."
Davey felt his stomach turn to liquid. Oh God. The classic execution pose. She's going to put a bullet in the back of my neck.
"Be quiet!" Cautiously, keeping the gun trained on Davey, Grace squatted down on her haunches and reached under the bed herself. She pulled out a brown manila folder.
"Is this it?"
Davey nodded. "Once you were safe, I was going to take it to a lawyer, I swear to God! I would have helped you launch an appeal."
Grace pressed the folder to her chest like a lover. Then she released the safety catch on the gun. "Have you shown this to anyone? The police, or the press?"
Davey shook his head vehemently. "No one. The only people that know this exists are you and I."
It was the right answer. Grace smiled. Davey felt relieved. She's going to let me live.
Grace picked up a pillow from the bed. Holding it in front of the gun, she said coolly, "You betrayed me. Do you know what the punishment is for traitors, Davey?"
Before he could answer, he heard the muffled sound of the shot, followed by a warm, wet sensation in his lower body.
After that, there was nothing.
MITCH CONNORS SURVEYED THE SCENE. THE hotel maid who made the call had such poor English, and was so terrified and hysterical, he hadn't known what to expect. But it definitely wasn't this.
Despite himself, Mitch burst out laughing.
"It's not funny!"
Davey Buccola was in the middle of the room, naked and trussed up like a chicken with the cord from the window blinds. Literally like a chicken. After he'd passed out, someone - Grace - had tarred and feathered him. Feathers from the hotel pillows had been stuck to his limbs with hair gel, and the word traitor written across his forehead in permanent marker. The same permanent marker, Mitch presumed, that was sticking out of Davey's asshole now like a poultry thermometer.
"From where I'm standing, buddy, it is a little funny." Mitch was starting to like Grace more and more.
A single bullet was lodged in the wall next to the window. Below it, in a pile on the floor, lay Davey's soiled clothes. Buccola must have been so terrified when Grace fired the shot into the pillow, he'd lost control of his bowels.
"She's psychotic!" Davey sobbed. "She could have killed me! I want police protection."
"Yeah, and I want Gisele BĘ╣ndchen to lick whipped cream off my balls but it ain't gonna happen," said Mitch wryly. "Untie him, somebody, would you? If I have to look at that ass crack for one more second, I'm gonna need some serious therapy. I may never eat chicken again."
"Shouldn't we take some pictures first, boss? Document the crime scene?"
"Who for?" Mitch laughed even harder. "Colonel Sanders?"
"You're not taking this seriously!" Davey Buccola did his best to sound indignant, not an easy thing to do with a Sharpie stuck up your ass. "Grace Brookstein threatened me at gunpoint. That's armed robbery! Don't you care?"
"About you, Buccola? No, I don't care. And what do you mean 'armed robbery'? Robbery of what? What did she steal?"
"Either you tell me, or I'm gonna leave you here like this."
"If I tell you, will you give me police protection?"
Mitch walked toward the door.
"Wait!" Davey yelped. "Okay, okay. There was a file. Information about her husband's death. We think...we believe that Lenny Brookstein was murdered."
"I was working with Grace. Investigating the case. That's why she broke out of Bedford. She doesn't care about the money. All she wants is to find who killed her husband. Who set her up. She wants vengeance."
Mitch could understand about wanting vengeance. He thought back to the day Grace had called him. "I didn't steal any money, Detective. I was framed and so was my husband." Was it possible?
"Why the hell didn't you tell me this earlier?" he shouted. But as soon as he'd said the words, he knew the answer: "You were going to sell the information, weren't you? You greedy little shit."
Davey Buccola was silent.
"So you gave her this file?"
"I had to! She had a gun..."
"You have a copy, right? Tell me you have a copy."
LESS THAN THREE MILES AWAY, GRACE lay in a bathtub, rereading Davey's information for the hundredth time.
Suddenly she sat bolt upright. There it was, in black and white.
I know who killed Lenny.
At last, the hunt was on.