Home > The Ex(2)

The Ex(2)
Alafair Burke

After what had happened to her mother, I wouldn’t blame the girl for being paranoid. But, once again, I wasn’t getting the connection between one sentence and the next. What news?

“I’ll go to the First Precinct and find out what’s going on. Do you have somewhere to go in the meantime?” It was June. Were kids still in school? I had no idea.

“I’m headed to Charlotte’s now.”

Now there was a name I hadn’t heard in a very long time.

The second I hung up, I made my way to the living room. My briefcase was on the sofa, exactly where I had let it drop while Ryan was pulling off my suit jacket last night.

I slid out my laptop, opened it, and Googled “New York City gunshots.”

Someone had opened fire this morning on the Hudson Parkway. The number of injuries and fatalities was unclear. And my ex-fiancé, Jack Harris, might or might not be at the First Precinct for reasons that might or might not have something to do with it.

AS I APPROACHED THE FRONT desk at the First Precinct, a uniform nudged his buddy, followed by a quick whisper. Maybe they recognized me, either as a relatively successful defense attorney or perhaps from precinct gossip. (Though I was by no means what the cops would call a “Badge Bunny,” you can’t spend ten years on the criminal court scene as a single woman without a thing or two happening.)

Or, more likely, I had the look of someone who didn’t belong in a police station. To any half-decent police officer, it would be apparent from my tailored suit and expensive shoes that I was either a prosecutor or a defense lawyer or a reporter or a high-maintenance victim: trouble whatever the story.

At forty-three, I knew by now that my natural expression when I was thinking—intense, brow furrowed, lips pursed—could be intimidating to most people. The Internet called it RBF: Resting Bitch Face. And, no question, I had it. But lucky for me, I also know how to turn that frown upside down. First impressions, as my mother always warned me.

“Hi.” As I gave the huddle of officers my best smile, I felt my hungover skin yearning for hydration. I told them I was looking for a Jack Harris.

I hoped for blank stares. Instead, the desk sergeant asked if I was Harris’s lawyer. I held the smile.

“I am,” I said coolly. “I also know Mr. Harris well personally. He’s a man of some significance in New York City. If he’s here, I assume you have an explanation.”

Police like to say that they’re straight shooters, all about the justice, color blind, fair and balanced, yada yada. But the truth is that they’re used to both victims and perpetrators who are poor and powerless. When someone rich and powerful collides with the criminal justice system, it’s a big fucking deal. No harm in flashing your feathers early and often.

But the desk sergeant who spoke up was unfazed. “You say you know Jack Harris? Well, I’ll be honest, I might’ve thought I did, too. It’s a damn shame what he’s gone through. Yesterday, I would have rolled out the red carpet if he walked in here. But now?” He made a pssshht sound.

Once again, I was a step behind, but I knew I wasn’t going to get information out of a glorified receptionist.

He picked up the handset of the nearby phone.

“I’m sure you know, Sergeant, that under New York’s right to counsel laws, you must immediately inform Jack Harris that a lawyer is here for him.”

He jiggled the phone in his hand. “Who d’ya think I’m calling? Ghostbusters?”

THE MAN WHO EMERGED MINUTES later from the stairwell was immediately identifiable as a multigenerational cop. Young but confident. The pale skin, red hair, and freckles of an Irish kid from the city. The introduction he offered sealed the first impression. His name was Jimmy Boyle.

“Wow, that’s a real name, or did the NYPD give it to you as a promotion?”

“One hundred percent authentic. Not James. Not Jim. Jimmy Boyle on the birth certificate.”

I told him I needed to see my client, and he told me that’s what he’d heard. I followed my gut and asked if Jack was here because of the Hudson River shooting.

Jimmy Boyle nodded. All business. “Likely to be three counts.”

That would be of murder, I surmised. Three counts of murder against a guy I could only imagine being arrested if he accidentally walked out of a Whole Foods with a raisin granola bar. Buckley Harris’s worst fears about her father’s situation were quickly becoming a reality.

I asked Jimmy Boyle if we were talking about the same Jack Harris. “The one I know couldn’t possibly—”

“Nice try, Counselor. You’ll hear the details eventually. But Harris? From hometown hero to bad guy zero, just like that.”

Chapter 2

AS I FOLLOWED Detective Boyle up two flights of stairs, through a squad room, and down a narrow hallway lined with interrogation rooms and holding cells, I tried to prepare myself mentally.

I hadn’t seen Jack in person for nearly twenty years, only pictures. The Sunday Styles announcement when he and Molly née Buckley got married (“Mrs. Harris, 25, is a substitute high school teacher. She graduated from Boston College. She is the daughter of Pamela and Daniel Buckley of Buffalo, New York.”) The author photos on three different novels, all typical fare for male literary writers—no smile, intense stare: the opposite of Jack. The annual Christmas card pictures on our friend Melissa’s refrigerator—pictures that would eventually turn up in all those “remembering the victims” retrospectives after Molly died.

I knew from all those photographs that Jack, like the rest of us, had aged. A little extra weight softened the angles of his thin face, and a few lines added character to his green eyes. Some flecks of gray lightened what was still a full head of messy brown waves. But despite the subtle changes, he looked in pictures like the boy I’d first met when we were eighteen. If anything, he was one of those people who’d grown more attractive with time.

The man I glimpsed through the one-way glass when Boyle paused outside an interrogation room was not what I had expected from all those photographs. Think of every beauty tip for looking one’s best: good sleep, plenty of water, no stress. Getting arrested means the opposite of all that. Jack looked tired and disheveled. Sweat marks pitted his plain white undershirt. Don called it getting hit by “custody’s ugly stick”—fear, exhaustion, bad fluorescent lighting: it wasn’t pretty.

Jack flinched at the sound of the interrogation room’s door opening. His eyes brightened as he recognized me.

I tried to reassure him with a quick smile, then turned to Boyle. “We’ll need a private room, please.”

“It’s private once I shut the door, Counselor. The recording equipment’s off.”

“Look at it this way, Detective. When your hard work and savvy investigative skills lead you to some nugget that could have been gleaned from the conversation I’m about to have with my client, do you really want me claiming that you got it through a Sixth Amendment violation? Judges know how easy it is to monitor these rooms with the touch of a button. And let’s face it, these days a lot of them aren’t big fans of the NYPD.”

I could see Boyle picturing a courtroom scene in the distant future. “No skin off my ass. Give me a second.”

Jack started to speak once Boyle was out of view, but I raised an index finger to my lips. He was staring at me like I might not be real, his eyes searching mine for something—comfort, an explanation, an apology, what? The room, already small, seemed to shrink with every second that passed in silence, and I finally had to look away. Two minutes later, Boyle reappeared, instructed Jack to stand, and handcuffed his wrists in front of him.

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