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The Final Detail

The Final Detail

Page 14

dye; purple and yellow streaks had dried on the front and back of her neck. Her makeup, always applied in amounts thick enough to make a plaster bust, had also suffered under the rain's onslaught, her face now resembling multicolored menorah candles left too long in the sun.

In some major cities, murder arraignments were commonplace and handled in factory-line fashion. Not so here in Hackensack. This was big time-a murder case involving a celebrity. There would be no rush.

The bailiff started calling cases.

"I had a visitor this morning," Myron whispered to Win.

"Oh?"

"FJ and two goons."

"Ah," Win said. "Was the cover boy for Modern Mobster voicing his usual medley of colorful threats?"

"Yes."

Win almost smiled. "We should kill him."

"No."

"You're just putting off the inevitable."

"He's Frank Ache's son, Win. You just don't kill Frank Ache's son."

"I see. Then you'd rather kill somebody from a better family?"

Win logic. It made sense in the scariest way possible. "Let's just see how it plays out, okay?"

"Don't put off until tomorrow what must be exterminated today."

Myron nodded. "You should write one of those life-instruction books."

They fell into silence. Cases went by-a breaking and entering, a couple of assaults, too many car thefts. Every suspect looked young, guilty, and angiy. Always scowling. Tough guys. Myron tried not to make a face, tried to remember innocent until proven guilty, tried to remember that Esperanza too was a suspect. But it didn't help much.

Finally Myron saw Hester Crimstein sweep into the courtroom, decked out in her best professional civvies: a sleek beige suit, cream blouse, and a tad overcoiffed, over-frosted hair. She took her spot at the defense table, and the room fell silent. Two guards led Esperanza through an open door. Myron saw her, and something akin to a mule kicked him in the chest.

Esperanza was dressed in a court-issued fluorescent orange jumpsuit. Forget gray or stripes-if a prisoner wanted to escape, he was going to stick out like a neon light in a monastery. Her hands were cuffed in front of her. Myron knew that Esperanza was petite-maybe five-two, a hundred pounds-but he had never seen her look so small. She kept her head high, defiant. Classic Esperanza. If she was afraid, she wasn't showing it.

Hester Crimstein put a comforting hand on her client's shoulder. Esperanza nodded at her. Myron tried desperately to catch her eye. It took a couple of moments, but eventually Esperanza turned his way, looking straight at him with a slight, resigned, I'm-okay smile. It made Myron feel better.

The bailiff called out, "The People versus Esperanza Diaz."

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"What's the charge?" the judge asked.

The assistant district attorney, a fresh-faced kid who barely looked old enough to sport a pubic hair, stood by a pedestal. "Murder in the second degree, Your Honor."

"How do you plead?"

Esperanza's voice was strong. "Not guilty."

"Bail?"

The fresh-faced kid said, "Your Honor, the People request that Ms. Diaz be remanded without bail."

Hester Crimstein shouted, "What?" as if she had just heard the most irrational and dangerous words any human being had ever uttered under any circumstance.

Fresh Face was unfazed. "Miss Diaz is accused of killing a man by shooting him three times. We have strong evidence-"

"They have nothing, Your Honor. Circumstantial nothings."

"Miss Diaz has no family and no real roots in the community," Fresh Face continued. "We believe that she presents a substantial flight risk."

"That's nonsense, Your Honor. Miss Diaz is a partner in a major sports representation firm in Manhattan. She is a law school graduate who is currently studying for the bar. She has many friends and roots in the community. And she has no record whatsoever."

"But, Your Honor, she has no family-"

"So what?" Crimstein interrupted. "Her mother and father are dead. Is that now a reason to punish a woman? Dead parents? This is outrageous, Your Honor."

The judge, a woman in her early fifties, sat back. "Your request to deny bail does seem extreme," she said to Fresh Face.

"Your Honor, we believe that Miss Diaz has an unusual amount of resources at her disposal and very good reasons to flee the jurisdiction."

Crimstein kept up with the apoplectic. "What are you talking about?"

"The murder victim, Mr. Haid, has recently withdrawn cash funds in excess of two hundred thousand dollars. That money is missing from his apartment. It's logical to assume that the money was taken during the commission of the murder-"

"What logic?" Crimstein shouted. "Your Honor, this is nonsense."

"Counsel for the defense mentioned that Miss Diaz has friends in the community," Fresh Face continued. "Some of them are here, including her employer,

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