April 23, 2015 at 9:34 am #6425
Lisa and Laura Roecker’s The Liar Society, and Jordan Cray’s danger.com are internet-themed mysteries for younger readers. Switch protagonist for an adult female defense attorney with a stunning career, and a past she’s hidden herself from for seven years, and the Marjorie Gardens mysteries corner a niche within the popular bakery, tea garden, and animal cozy markets.
Defense attorney Isis Ferrelli represents low-end mobsters through VoIP calls and emails via a rerouted network—a bail ticket here and there and she springs them from jail. Her obscure procedures (reasons known only to a trusted few) simply works, until one day she’s hornswoggled into receiving evidence for a case, and learns her client, Norman Kane has been murdered. In finding his killer, she risks opening a backdoor to her clandestine lawyering, and revealing her true identity to the mafia.
Her covert pastime as Marjorie Gardens on her crime blog, My Thug Shot.com engages amateur sleuths in decrypting how someone altered Kane’s QR code software, framed him for pharmaceutical theft, and then erased him entirely. Not only is Isis determined to find his killer, but convinced she would’ve won the theft case in court, she aims to clear her dead client’s name. She discovers his competitor (a young programmer with interchangeable identities) is responsible for hacking antivirus software to steal the medicine. But since his rival was already on trial for the crime, what could be gained in murdering him? Colluded names and a handful of suspects have Isis chasing her cursor, until a new My Thug Shot.com member appears at the Kane estate. She recognizes ModuCode Killer, a man who not only holds the key to this mystery but the power to expose who she really is.
In the Pemberton Square area, avenues were stringed with trees budding green in early spring, and vendors and shoppers crowded the sidewalks. I’d returned from the courthouse around three o’ clock, and was now at a hot dog stand where other customers ignored my harassment.
“Hey, lady, you wanna buy it or not?” The homeless man shoved a leather loafer in my face. “It’s brand new, and cost a pretty penny, too.”
“Look…” I grimaced and smacked it from my line of sight. “I already told you. No.”
He pressed for my attention and held the footwear in his gloved hands as if he were presenting me a Fabergé egg. “You don’t get quality like this at Payless. This here’s Norman Marcus.”
I paid for my chilidog and cola then rotated toward him fully. He resembled a young Lieutenant Columbo, dated trench and all. “What am I supposed to do with one shoe? And, it’s a man’s shoe. I’m not interested, no matter how shiny or new and expensive it is.” I walked off with my lunch and peeked over my shoulder.
He pursued me toward the tall, mirrored building of McCarter & French LLP. “Why don’t you give it to your boyfriend then?”
I halted at the entrance. “If I ever get a boyfriend with an amputated foot, I’ll be sure to come and see you.” I tugged the glass door open and threw in for good measure, “It’s Nieman Marcus, by the way.”
“Nieman, Norman…” He puffed. “They all got money in the bag.”
I rolled my eyes and marched inside. ‘Hey, buddy, you can’t come in here.’ I pirouetted toward the demanding voice.
“Ms. Ferrelli, is he with you?”
“Absolutely not, Thomas.”
The guard struggled to evict him, while I’d continued on toward the droves of suits at the elevator. The button blinked green, a chime dinged, and passengers unloaded. I contemplated the homeless man’s fortitude. A couple seconds before boarding, I whipped around and hurried toward reception, dropped my belongings off at the counter then darted outside.
“Hey, wait a minute!” Usually people did what I told them, but my single-shoe salesman raced onward to the intersection of Chestnut and Park Street. “Christ.” I flung off my Jimmy Choos and scooped them up.
He was fast, healthy and fit, not the normal qualities of someone destitute in downtown Boston. Also out of character was his advice I give the shoe to my boyfriend. True, I didn’t wear a ring, but I was of age by which most people assumed I was married. He was so more observant.
On Beacon Hill, I saw him turn left for Morris Meats’ loading bay, a dead end. I reached the maw of the alley and sidled the wall. On the other side were large dumpsters, piles of crates, and a delivery van, plenty of hiding places. I had no idea if this was a setup, if someone else would join this party, or if my host intended to do me harm. I strode a few feet in and he came out in the open.
“Man…” He panted and chuckled. “Aren’t you a thick one?”
“Who are you?” My lungs heaved as I inched near. “What do you know about Norman Kane?”
“Well, she caught on after all.”
Also, true. It took me a while to realize the clever play on the name of my client, hence the expensive shoe for the charade. His reference “money in the bag” alluded to rumors Norman Kane was hired to sabotage his family’s business.
Once I pieced it together, I had one—
“Uh-uh!” He stretched out a gloved hand and reached inside his trench with the other. “Close enough.”
I stifled my movement. A cold iced my spine despite the fair April weather and my sight locked on the breast of his coat.
His voice came low and threatening, “A gift from your uncle Lou.” I balled fists and my fingernails dug into my palms. “Work quickly.”
He removed a manila envelope, let it drop to the ground, then whirled and hopped onto a wire fence. He climbed over in a parkour style and landed upright on the opposite side. A tenacious smirk, then in a less than garish exit, he shot off through the side street.
I had to admit I didn’t see that coming. I breathed normally at last, put on my high heels, and picked up the delivery from Louis Fernoza.
For the past seven years, I dodged family, old friends, and ex-colleagues, leaving no trace to my former life. Needless to say, help from Uncle Lou was the last thing I needed (or wanted) during these early days of the Norman Kane trial.
I returned to McCarter & French LLP and stopped by the visitor’s desk, where the lobby reeked of onions. A group of lawyers departed, and the receptionist gave me my purse and lunch bag stained with chili grease. I thanked her for holding my belongings (apologized for smelling up the place) and then boarded an elevator.
My hair was tormented, skirt did a creepy-crawl toward my hips, and my silk blouse showed perspiration stains. “Dear Lord.” I quickly spruced myself up, and without further embarrassment, made it to my office on the fifth.
I unwrapped a chilidog that had turned to mush, opened a warm can of soda, and ate while I reviewed case notes. On this Tuesday, the second day of trial went pretty well. Assistant DA Jason Shahaman (who I lovingly call the Shaman behind his back) claimed my client manipulated a patented QR system to obtain prescriptions for the black market. It was software Kane Code & Technology supplied for Mercy General.
True, Norman wrote the program and had access to the barcode application. He and other hospital staff used this system to scan patient files and distribute medicine accordingly. But by the same argument prosecution presented in court, anyone in ICU tech-savvy enough could scan doses repeatedly and pocket the extras.
A couple hours later, I unlocked my cell phone and dialed the Shaman, confident the evidence presented to the jury was circumstantial at best. No priors, a fairly model citizen, and not a whisper of substance abuse—the charge of pharmaceutical drug trafficking against Norman Kane would never hold up.
“Isis, you were supposed to ring me when you got back.”
“Sorry, I had to chase down a lead.”
“Anything I should know?”
While I couldn’t verify Norman (or anyone else at Mercy General) was affiliated with the Fernoza Family, I feared details I could now learn from Uncle Lou would prove detrimental to my case.
He made a scraping sound with his throat. “Ms. Ferrelli, why don’t I believe you?”
“Believe what you want, Mr. Shahaman.” I shut down my computer and tidied my desk. “Oh, I will tell you though. The weirdest thing happened earlier.” I told him the story, up to a point and absent certain details. “He then had the gall to say ‘Nieman, Norman… they all got money in the bag.’”
He laughed. “My sentiments exactly.”
“Oh, whatever,” I grumbled. “Anyway, he followed me to work and security kicked him out.”
“Sounds like you had a fun afternoon.”
“Yeah, well, it never stops around here. Gotta go.”
“Me too. Talk to you later.”
I placed the phone on the desk then crumpled the food wrapper and bag; a nasty glob of chili dripped. “Christ.” I searched a drawer for a napkin, found one, and cleaned the toe of my shoe.
Voices of the five o’ clock exodus hightailing it from work passed my room and the elevator dinged in the hall. The bell seemed to have chimed in my brain. I realized what I missed during my recap to Jason and sprang from my seat, packed the Norman Kane file in my briefcase, and tucked the envelope from Uncle Lou under my arm.
I boarded an elevator and rode down to the second floor where it seized and pinged. The doors opened and the security guard stepped in. “How are you, Ms. Ferrelli? That bum didn’t upset you too much, I hope.”
“No, Thomas. I’m fine.”
“If that wasn’t the darnedest thing I ever came across… crazy.” It had been the strangest encounter for us both. Thomas now bridled the opened door on the ground floor. “Going to get pretty nasty outside. Got an umbrella?”
“No, it’s all right. I drove.”
“You have a good night.”
“Wait, Thomas.” I held the elevator from proceeding to the garage. “Did he happen to leave something for me?”
“Who?” He came back. “That guy? Not anything I thought you would’ve wanted, but he dropped a shoe when I was throwing his butt out.”
“Where is it?”
“I threw it away.”
We proceeded to the reception area and then behind the counter where the office trash brimmed to the top. I lowered my belongings then removed the garbage bag and gave it to him to hold. Underneath were clean sacks the janitor left for the next time he emptied the can. I tore off one and used it to fish out the loafer then bagged it without leaving prints.
Thomas set the trash back in the bin. “I guess it’s important?”
“Hey, sorry about that.”
“It’s all right. It might be nothing at all, but I have to make sure.” I bade him a good night, picked up my effects, and walked downstairs to the garage.
Uncle Lou exhausted great efforts to make sure I got his “gift”, especially since he wasn’t supposed to know I was here. What I couldn’t unravel was why his deliveryman made good on the envelope but hadn’t asked about the Nieman Marcus loafer.
Maybe in the tussle with Thomas, he figured I retrieved it before I hunted him down. Or, it was simply a prop to lure my participation in a scheme I had yet to discover.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.