About the Author
Robert K. Tanenbaum is the author of thirty-two books—twenty-nine novels and three nonfiction books: Badge of the Assassin, the true account of his investigation and trials of self-proclaimed members of the Black Liberation Army who assassinated two NYPD police officers; The Piano Teacher: The True Story of a Psychotic Killer; and Echoes of My Soul, the true story of a shocking double murder that resulted in the DA exonerating an innocent man while searching for the real killer. The case was cited by Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren in the famous Miranda decision. He is one of the most successful prosecuting attorneys, having never lost a felony trial and convicting hundreds of violent criminals. He was a special prosecution consultant on the Hillside strangler case in Los Angeles and defended Amy Grossberg in her sensationalized baby death case. He was Assistant District Attorney in New York County in the office of legendary District Attorney Frank Hogan, where he ran the Homicide Bureau, served as Chief of the Criminal Courts, and was in charge of the DA’s legal staff training program. He served as Deputy Chief counsel for the Congressional Committee investigation into the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He also served two terms as mayor of Beverly Hills and taught Advanced Criminal Procedure for four years at Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley, and has conducted continuing legal education (CLE) seminars for practicing lawyers in California, New York, and Pennsylvania. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Tanenbaum attended the University of California at Berkeley on a basketball scholarship, where he earned a B.A. He received his law degree (J.D.) from Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. Visit RobertKTanenbaumBooks.com.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
A HOWL OF FEMALE LAUGHTER REVERBERATED DOWN THE hallway of the loft to where Butch Karp sat at the kitchen table trying to accomplish the gastronomical feat of eating breakfast and reading the Saturday New York Times without upsetting his stomach. He was losing the battle, too, as he labored through yet another editorial posing as a news story on the front page, under the headline:
JURY HANGS IN MAPLETHORPE MURDER TRIAL
More laughter interrupted his reading further. He looked up, his gold-flecked gray eyes narrowing as he wondered what it might be about. Zak and Giancarlo were already off to Central Park to play football with their friends, and his daughter, Lucy, was...Hmmm, who knows where Lucy is these days...just “away” according to her voice mail.
So something else was tickling his wife’s fancy this morning. Another gale of mirth preceded Marlene Ciampi into the main area of the loft, which included a spacious living room, a kitchen, a library, and a foyer on an open floor plan. She followed close behind, holding up what appeared to be a letter.
“Look what I found going through those old papers,” she chortled.
“Nude photographs from our wedding night?” Karp asked with a wink.
“Now that would be funny.” Marlene smiled. “Especially because I was too drunk to remember it.”
“All you need to know is that you said I was the best ever.”
“Yeah, so you’ve told me. A regular Secretariat. But nah, this is real and it’s hilarious.” She laughed again and shook the letter at him.
Marlene had been fixing up the “den,” which is what they were calling Lucy’s former bedroom now that she’d more or less permanently relocated to New Mexico and parts unknown. His wife had decided that the space could be better used as a home office and that they didn’t need to keep renting a storage unit in Newark for old papers and forgotten memorabilia. So a dozen boxes at a time, she was bringing the flotsam and jetsam of their lives to the loft and going through it “to get rid of anything we don’t need.”
When she started, Karp had made the mistake of saying he thought it might be a good idea so that someday they could “downsize” now that Lucy was gone and the boys were close to entering high school followed, presumably, by their leaving for college. But that had only earned him an icy stare from his wife, who had apparently not been thinking in terms of becoming an empty-nester in a few years. “We’ll always need a big enough place they can come home to,” she’d replied, as if instructing a not-so-bright pupil. “I’m even going to put a daybed in the ‘office’ so that Lucy will have a place to sleep. I’m not pushing our children out of their home, just cleaning house a bit and making some work space.”
Having been dressed down for practically kicking their children to the streets, he’d been careful about what he said after that regarding her task and was happy to see her smiling now.
“So what’s so funny about a piece of paper?” He stood up from his chair and walked over to his wife, who held it away from him. At six feet five, he towered over her so that she had to look up, her dark brown eyes twinkling and her cupid’s-bow lips twisted into a smirk that said “The joke’s on you, buddy boy.”
That was okay with him as long as it made Marlene happy. She was looking good these days. Not that he ever thought she was unattractive. Since the day they met as young assistant district attorneys for New York County, he’d been drawn to her classic Italian features, the petite but curvy body, and the way her soft, molasses-colored curls framed her face. Not even when she lost an eye opening a letter bomb intended for him, way back when they were first dating, had he thought differently.
However, the past few years had been rough on her and the rest of the family. After leaving the DAO, Marlene tossed aside her lawyer’s shingle and gave the private sector a shot as a gumshoe for hire. Fate, karma, circumstances—whatever you wanted to call it—had taken her down a road in which she found herself dispensing vigilante justice on behalf of abused women, and then again when her family was attacked—a not uncommon experience. All of her behavior could be justified in an “eye for an eye” way, but she’d found herself caught up in a web of violence that she couldn’t seem to extricate herself from. And it had taken its toll on her physically and emotionally, and on their marriage. As the district attorney for the County of New York and a man who believed in “the system,” for all of its failings and imperfections, he opposed vigilante justice on principle. That his wife was in the middle of it had strained their relationship to the breaking point.
But they managed, he thought. He’d watched her making focaccia the other night, kneading the dough, lost in her own thoughts. She’d looked up and caught him gazing at her, then smiled and went back to her bread.
Lately, she just seemed...What’s the word I’m looking for...satisfied?...Yes, she seems satisfied.
And yet, it had only been a few weeks since she had almost single-handedly stopped a terrorist attack on the New York Stock Exchange. If the terrorists had succeeded, the nation’s economy could have collapsed, ruining lives and throwing the country into pandemonium. She’d killed several men to prevent it from happening, but it would have been hard to argue that every drop of blood wasn’t justified. Still, there was the added trauma of nearly dying with her daughter...and the old bugaboo about people she loved getting caught up in the violence that hovered around her.
Of course, Karp worried that some new incident would push her back down the stairs of mental health. She’d get a taste of some act of violence and like an alcoholic who’d been on the wagon for many years and then tries “just a sip,” she’d be hooked again. So he’d watched for some sign of distress—a warning that the old addiction was kicking in again. But after she’d taken a few days to hang out with their friend John Jojola in the New Mexican desert, she’d seemed to bounce back to her new normal as devoted wife and mother.
Maybe it’s been too easy, he thought, but then chided himself for doubting that she was coming to peace with who she was and her role in the world. Her present mischievousness seemed genuine enough. He smiled and held out his hand for the letter. “Come on, give it up, gorgeous.”
“Hmph, well, if you’re going to say nice things like that, you will spoil all my fun,” she said, pretending to pout. “Anyway, I was going through a box with some of your old law school papers and found this...I guess you could call it a letter of recommendation, from Robert H. Cole.”
“My torts professor?” At the mention of his old Boalt Hall law professor at UC Berkeley, Karp smiled. He recalled many a fine classroom debate with Cole; he’d realized only after the fact that the professor was using those debates to push his headstrong and occasionally overly emotional pupil to perfect his use of reason and logic in order to win the argument.
“Good old Bob Cole...what a mentor that guy was for me,” Karp said. “He was a master at the art of logic and persuasion. I learned more about how to problem solve from him as anybody before or since, except maybe Garrahy.”
“Well, the man certainly had you pegged.” Marlene giggled. “The letter’s addressed to Francis Garrahy.”
Karp perked up. New York District Attorney Garrahy was already a legend by the time Karp arrived as a snot-nosed, wet-behind-the-ears assistant district attorney out to save the world by locking up all the bad guys. The old man had seen something in him, a raw, hardworking Jewish kid from Brooklyn who aspired to a career in the Homicide Bureau, and he’d taken him under his wing.
The DAO required applicants to have three letters of recommendation, so Karp had asked Cole for such a letter and was glad he’d kept a copy of it. “So if you’re not going to let me read it, what’s it say?”
“‘Mr. Karp is an able and intelligent man,” Marlene began lightly. “He is highly motivated toward law and public service, and well trained. He is competent and fully qualified for excellent service in any law office.’”
“That’s what had you laughing like a lunatic? Have you been hitting the cooking sherry again?”
Marlene stuck her tongue out at him. “I’m getting to it if you’ll allow me to continue. ‘He has had a remarkable career of extracurricular activities, which testify to his energy, well-roundedness and complexity of interests, a principled devotion to public service, and his ability to do a great deal of work successfully. In college he was a star varsity basketball player...’”
Karp winced. His promising basketball career had ended with a blown-out knee that had required major reconstructive surgery and finished any thoughts he’d entertained of playing pro ball.
“‘...and a major student leader on a campus of over 25,000 students.’”
“I still don’t see what’s so humorous. If you ask me, it’s a rather dry recitation of these extraordinary facts as they pertained to me.” Karp grinned with a raised eyebrow and an “I gotcha” wink.
Marlene rolled her eyes. “Yeah, Saint Butch. Anyway, what I was laughing about was what Cole wrote in the last paragraph. ‘He is a forthright, strong-willed, outspoken man, and his combination of aggressiveness and determination has no doubt made him controversial at times and has occasionally annoyed people.’”
Karp’s wife, his darling companion, his one and only, burst out laughing and had to wipe the tears from her eyes before she could speak again. “Boy, this guy Cole was a master at the understatement. ‘Has occasionally annoyed people.’ Oh, that’s rich!”
“Yeah, well speaking of annoying...is that it?”
“No, he goes on, ‘Moreover, his manner is not entirely suave....’ He sure got you right, baby boy,” Marlene chortled.
“Give me that,” Karp growled, snatching the document from her hands. He read silently for a moment before smiling and reading aloud: “‘Yet, I would consider these attributes as more desirable than not. They suggest a kind of earthy ability to understand ordinary people and a willingness to see even the unpopular jobs through to the end. I recommend him to you without hesitation.’ I suppose you were going to leave that out?”
“I was getting to it,” Marlene replied, grabbing the letter back. “Give me that...I’m going to have it framed.”
“Simple minds, simple pleasures,” he suggested.
“Uh, I wouldn’t talk, big boy. If I remember correctly, simple pleasures were about all you had on that extraordinary mind of yours last night.”
“I beg your pardon? I am a very emotionally complex man with a great variety of needs and am quite capable of multitasking.”
“Don’t I know it, Romeo.”
Karp grabbed for his Juliet, who deftly avoided his grasp. “What’s next week look like for you?” she asked. “The usual Monday morning meeting, I assume.”
“Yeah, but I have two others before that,” he said.
“Your mistress and who else?”
“She couldn’t fit me in...so to speak,” he replied, which caused his wife to make a gagging sound. “So instead, I’m going by Moishe’s shop. The old geezers in the Breakfast Club are looking for a new place to meet now that the Kitchenette moved, so I was going to introduce them to Moishe and Il Buon Pane.”
“I should have known. You’ve been mumbling about cherry cheese coffeecake in your sleep.... So what’s the other meeting?”
Karp held up a hand. “Guilty as charged on the coffee cake.” Then he frowned and tapped the front page of the Times. “After that I’m sitting down with Tommy Mac to talk about where to go now with the Maplethorpe case.”
Marlene nodded. Tommy “Mac” McKean was a longtime friend at the DAO who’d recently been made chief of the Homicide Bureau by her husband. “I still can’t believe the jury hung and that scumbag’s walking around town like he’s been vindicated. I read that ‘news story.’ It said he’s even going ahead with his new show, Putin: The Musical, if you can believe that. And how poor Maplethorpe has been persecuted because he was trying to help out some nutcase who offed herself in his living room.... You’re going to retry him, aren’t you?”
“Without a doubt, kiddo,” Karp replied. “We’ll be asking Judge Rosenmayer to put us on the calendar for a new trial forthwith. But we’d better figure out where we went wrong, or the next time the jury just might acquit.”
“How’s Stewbie taking it?”
Karp thought about the question. Stewart “Stewbie” Reed was the assistant district attorney who had tried F. Lloyd Maplethorpe for the murder of Gail Perez. Stewbie was one of the most experienced and professional prosecutors in the Homicide Bureau. He’d won and lost cases before, but this one had been different—with all the publicity and scandal surrounding a famous Broadway producer, and up against a legendary defense attorney. There were a lot of pitfalls in such a case, and one of them was to get caught up in the hype and allow one’s ego to get involved. A hung jury could mean a loss in Reed’s confidence and the objectivity necessary to retry the case.
“That’s one of the things I want to talk to Tommy Mac about,” he replied. “I haven’t said anything about it to Stewbie, except that no one was blaming him. But he’s probably taking it pretty hard. It’s been what...seven, eight months since Maplethorpe’s arrest? He put a lot of time and energy into the case.”
“And if I know Stewbie, a lot of his soul, too,” Marlene added. She had once been the chief of the DAO Sex Crimes Bureau and had known Stewart Reed for many years, even working with him on several homicide cases that also involved sexual assaults. “He’s a good man, Butch.”
Karp nodded. “Yeah, I know, and a great prosecutor. He probably just needs a pep talk, and an extra set of eyes to help him plug any holes. Then he’ll be good to go again.”
“That’s my guy,” Marlene replied, and blew him a kiss as she turned to go back to the office. “So where are you off to now?”
“Thought I’d catch the train to Central Park and watch the boys. Maybe treat them to a hot pastrami and corned beef at the Carnegie Deli on the way back.”
“Sounds nice. Do try to avoid annoying anyone if you can help it.”
Karp laughed. “If I don’t know that I’m doing it, how can I help it?”
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