It was an upscale apartment that managed to look elegant and spacious despite the clutter that a bunch of cops working a crime scene brought with them. Murphy, the uniform first on the scene met us at the elevator. She’s a good cop, young but keen.
“What you got Murph?” Martinez, my partner, asked.
“Two fatal shootings in the study, Detective, but neither of them are as cold as the guy on the balcony: David Reynolds. His wife’s lying dead in there, shot with his gun and all he says is, ‘Tell me when someone with rank arrives, officer,’ and goes out to look at the view.”
I walked past Murphy into the study. I’d get to the bodies later; first I wanted to get the flavour of the place. It was less of a study, more of a media room: Bang and Olufsen sound system, plasma TV, DVD player, commercial quality VCR and two computers, one with a webcam. Very cool, very minimalist, very tidy. The only personal touch was the ego-wall, set behind the desk so visitors got a good view: photographic evidence of the success of Mr David Reynolds, award-winning maker of TV commercials and friend to the rich and famous.
I moved from photograph to photograph. Reynolds had a smile that never reached his eyes. There was only one “family” photograph, Mr and Mrs Reynolds on their wedding day. She was pretty and looked younger than him. The body language screamed trophy-wife. That’s why she was on the ego-wall for others to look at and not on the desk for him to see.
I turned to what was left of Mrs Reynolds. The body was slumped against the wall. What used to be her face was splashed in an arc of colour behind her, like a satanic halo. I squatted to take a closer look. ‘If those breasts are real there is no God’, I thought.
“The gun must have been right up against her chin,” Martinez said.
I hate the way he creeps up behind me like that and he knows it.
“Yeah, seems almost malicious doesn’t it?”
“Not as malicious as what was done to Mr Young-and-Handsome over there. Hey, Claire, you think it’s true that you can’t get into heaven if you’ve had your genitals shot off?”
“That’s what killed him?” I asked.
“Nope, I reckon the two shots through the heart at close range have to take the blame for that.”
“OK, Murphy, take us to see the grieving husband,” I said. I’d had enough of dead bodies for one evening.
“There’s something else you should see first, Detective,” Murphy said. “There’s a tape in the VCR. I checked on it because the player was still warm when we arrived.”
She looked like she wanted my approval. I smiled at her and she pressed PLAY on the remote.
The first shot was a close up of a very aroused man forcing his way into an asshole that looked way too small to take him. I glanced at Martinez and we both looked at Murphy who was actually blushing.
“It gets better,” Murphy said, “I mean it gets relevant.”
It sounded like the way the New York Times might review porn flicks but I soon saw what Murphy meant. The next shot was Mrs Reynolds sucking Young-and-Handsome. I learnt that Mrs Reynolds was a swallower, not a spitter and that the shot to Young-and-Handsome’s groin had blown away a substantial endowment. The film continued as a series of fast cuts of Mrs Reynolds and her lover in an imaginative variety of positions.
“Switch it off Murphy, we’ve seen enough,” Martinez said.
“Well done for finding this, Murphy,” I said. “What do you think it tells us?”
“Apart from the fact that Mrs Reynolds dyed her hair?” Martinez asked sarcastically.
Murphy and I both glared at him.
“Well, the picture quality is strictly amateur, all the shots are fixed camera, the lighting is poor, but the editing is very professional.”
“You watched this tape with these bodies in the room and that’s what you noticed?” Martinez said.
“That and the fact that the tape started from the beginning, so if someone watched it tonight they rewound it afterwards,” Murphy replied.
“Maybe you should be doing my job,” Martinez said, with just an edge of irritation.
“Maybe she already is,” I said and he laughed. Martinez never manages to be in asshole-mode for long.
When we got to the balcony, Reynolds was on his feet, taking in his expensive view over Manhattan. I doubt that he was pleased by what he saw; it was probably just another kind of ego-wall.
He turned to face us and said, “I take it that the absence of uniform means that you are the ranking officers?”
His accent was very Brit and his question seemed more like a put-down.
“I’m Detective Claire Jardin, this is Detective Raul Martinez,” I said, flashing my shield.
He ignored Martinez but offered me his hand with such confidence that I found myself shaking it. His grip was light and dry. No macho squeezing. No smile either.
He made sure that I saw him checking me out from toe to head, then he smiled and said, “So you are a Detective, Ms Jardin? How sad to have one’s illusion’s punctured. It would have been nice to believe that in real life homicide detectives are as young and as pretty as the ones on ‘NYPD Blue’.”
Martinez bristled with hurt macho pride on my behalf. Absurdly, I was struck by how sexy my name sounded when he pronounced it the French way. Clearly, he knew how to be charming and had chosen to be insulting. I wondered what he wanted to gain by making me mad at him. I decided to give him some space to see if I could find out.
“You’re certain you want to talk about this now, Mr Reynolds?” I said, “You’ve been through a significant trauma. You could talk to us later, with your lawyer present if you want.”
“A significant trauma, Detective? Is there another kind?”
I could see Martinez making a fist. He hates being patronized.
Reynolds smiled and said, “I’m sorry, that was rude of me. I appreciate that in this demonstrative, litigious society my restrained emotional reaction and my aversion to lawyers are regarded as deviant. Let’s just attribute that to me being an inscrutable Brit and get on with it, shall we? I don’t want this to take all night. I have an important meeting in the morning.”
The Brit thing was clever, it made it much harder for me to read him and being nasty is so much easier to sustain than being fake nice. The evening was getting interesting.
“Why don’t you tell me what happened here, Mr.Reynolds?” I said, trying to sound as dumb as he thought I looked.
“Please, take a seat. Would you like a coffee? I’m afraid I don’t have any doughnuts but I could send out for some?”
I let the jibe slip by and took a seat. If Reynolds was in the mood to talk I didn’t want to distract him.
“I didn’t kill my wife, Detectives but to substantiate that I need to take you through some rather tiresome details. You see, although I am a very successful man, I am not a very nice one. People pretend to like me because I am successful. I think I am successful because I don’t waste time being nice. I am not without emotions but I’m selective about who I let see them.
“My wife, Heather, was one of the few people I let inside the circle as it were. She knew what I needed and she gave it to me. Frankly, she was never a very adventurous lover but she was beautiful, obedient and faithful and for me, that was enough.
“We had our fourth wedding anniversary last April. Things had settled down very well. I was pleased with her and I had told her so. I even increased her allowance. Then one day I forgot my wedding ring. I returned home to retrieve it and found Heather sweating under some toyboy she’d picked up. I watched for a while, unseen. The boy wasn’t particularly talented and Heather seemed a little desperate to me. I could almost have felt sorry for her but you see, she wasn’t inside the circle anymore. She had betrayed me. For me, she had ceased to be real at that point.”
“Did your wife know that you had seen her that day?” I asked.
“Good question, Detective. It must be all that training you received at the taxpayers’ expense. I assure you that we will get through this much faster if you just shut your mouth and listen.”
“Are you always this aggressive to women Mr Reynolds?” Martinez asked. “Did you have to teach your wife to shut her mouth?”
“Ah, you must be the bad cop then. So Ms Jardin here must be the one I’m supposed to want to please. Perhaps that technique works on the American MTV generation, I just find it irritating. If you will both be quiet, I will give you my statement and you can be on your way to whatever bar it is that you wash away the memories in.”
He was good. I wondered if he’d ever been an actor. He was certainly being one now.
“Your partner is almost right, Ms Jardin. I did indeed set out to teach my wife a lesson. One that she learnt tonight in fact. The dead young man littering my study works under the name Lance Strong. Apparently, he felt the name would get him into soaps. Unfortunately, his coke habit made it hard for him to remember his lines and even soaps demand that of their actors these days. He auditioned for one of my commercials. Instead, I hired him to have sex with my wife. Actually, his brief was two-fold: to broaden her sexual horizons to the point where she needed his particular kind of action and to make her fall in love with him.”
“You hired a man to have sex with your wife?”
“Oh, do keep up, Detective Martinez. I hired him to turn her into an emotionally vulnerable slut. There was, of course, one further condition of his employment. He had to do all of this on film. It was the best role of his young life. I’d fed him the material he needed to seduce her: her favourite films, the music she liked, the things she thought were romantic. I baited the hook and she swallowed it live on film. Lance turned out to be a better name for him than I had thought. He had enormous stamina as a lover and he got poor Heather to want things that I knew she would be embarrassed to ask future lovers for. There’s a tape in my study if you need the details. I’m sure it will be a success at Precinct parties.”
“So how do we end up with the dead bodies in your study, Mr Reynolds?” I asked, wanting to see what happened if I pushed.
“Ah, that was most unfortunate actually. Not at all how things were meant to resolve themselves. In this case, real-life deviated from my script.”
There was something different in the way he made that comment. I got the impression it was the first completely honest thing I’d heard him say.
“You see, at my suggestion, Lance proposed to Heather last week. The poor girl was so grateful. And she had such creative ways of showing her gratitude by then. It produced some remarkable footage.”
He licked his lips. I’m sure he wasn’t conscious of it. I knew then that he had watched every moment of his wife’s betrayal many times, savouring it. Getting off on it. He was right; he wasn’t a very nice man.
“So this evening they came into my study together so that Heather could ask me for a divorce. It was a poor choice of venue as it turned out. It is the only room in which I keep a gun. It is licensed of course. I just wish I’d kept the desk drawer locked. Still, guns don’t kill people, people kill people, don’t you agree?”
Not a nice man at all.
“After Heather told me of her new-found love, I showed her the tape. I thanked Lance for a job well done and told him that I intended to give him a bonus. I should have been paying attention to Heather, not Lance. The tape affected her more profoundly than I had expected. It was too much of a shock for her. While I was shaking Lance’s hand, Heather took my gun from the drawer and shot him between the legs. Before I could react, she shot him twice more in the chest. Poor Lance.
“I know I should have been afraid for my own life but at the time I didn’t think about that, I just wanted to get the gun away from Heather. Then I realised she was about to shoot herself. We struggled. The gun went off. I was unable to stop her. She literally lost her head.
“I’m afraid that means that I will test positive for gunpowder residue and you may even find my prints on the gun. I realise it puts me in a bad light, Detectives but I like to be honest. I can supply tapes covering every encounter between my wife and her paid-for-lover, plus a copy of Lance Stone’s contract. I’m sure that a competent lawyer would have no difficulty convincing a jury to see this for the murder/suicide that it was.”
We asked him questions for another thirty minutes but his story didn’t change. He even wrote it down for us. I was certain Reynolds was lying but there was so much truth in what he said that I couldn’t find my way to the lie.
Reynolds stayed on his balcony when we finished with him. He asked to be informed when the bodies had been removed. He made it sound like a request to get rid of the leftovers from a room service meal, but I wasn’t completely buying the calm and in control act. I figured he was in no hurry to go back into his bloodstained study. I told Murphy to keep an eye on him. It would have been embarrassing if we had had to scrape him off the pavement because I’d misread how stiff his Brit upper lip really was.
In the elevator, on the way down to the lobby, Martinez said, “He’ll get away with it you know. The jury will watch that tape and condemn her not him. I bet they ask for a copy to watch overnight. I bet they won’t want to miss a moment.”
I saw the lie and the truth then. We didn’t get out of the elevator when it reached the lobby, we went straight back to Reynolds’ apartment.
The camera was in the ceiling of the study. We played the tape on his plasma TV. Things went just as Reynolds described them until he switched on the tape of his wife and her lover. Heather Reynolds laughed.
“God, Lance, you were so big and so hard I thought you were going to split me wide open.”
The camera was fixed on Heather so I couldn’t see Reynolds’ face, but I suspected this was where reality parted company with his script.
Heather was rubbing herself up against Lance now, both of them watching the screen. “Mmm, I do love the taste of fresh meat in the morning,” Heather said, her hand stroking Lance’s crotch. Lance kissed her.
Heather broke the embrace and turned towards Reynolds. “What’s the matter, David? Things not going as you planned? Lance told me about your pathetic little plan on the first night we met.”
Heather leant forward, her hands on Reynolds desk. The tape played on, unregarded behind her.
“You were right, David, after four years of lying under a dried-up emotional cripple, I wanted to be taken by a real man. But do you know what the best part was? Do you know what used to make me scream with pleasure? It wasn’t that you’d chosen such a stud, or that you were paying for me to get properly serviced for a change, it was the thought of you watching Lance taking me and getting off on it because you love the size of him, because you wanted it to be you he was in, not me.”
Reynolds was only just on camera but I could see him reaching for the desk drawer.
“I don’t want a divorce, David. You and I are going to stay married and if you ever try to change that I’ll expose this twisted little plot and take you for every penny you have.”
Heather turned to Lance.
“Why don’t we give him one last thrill Lance? Let’s do it on his anally-tidy desk.”
Lance stepped towards the desk. He was reaching for his fly when the first shot hit him. Reynolds moved into camera-shot, placed the gun against Lance’s chest and fired twice. The camera was on his face as he turned towards Heather. There was nothing in his eyes except hate.
Heather backed against the wall. She didn’t shout or struggle. She seemed mesmerised by Reynolds’s eyes. He placed the gun under her chin and fired.
For a few moments, he stood over the body. Then he put the gun in her hands. His movements were calm. He switched off the tape and rewound it. Slowly he moved to the phone. He dialled 911. He gave his name and his address and reported two deaths by gunshot. Then he sat on the desk, looking up at the camera until Murphy arrived at the scene.
“So how did you know the camera was there?” Murphy asked.
We were at Raj O’Rielly’s, home to Irish booze and Indian food and beloved of every cop in the Precinct.
“It was what Raul said about not missing a moment. Reynolds photographed everything. He wasn’t going to miss the last chapter in his wife’s humiliation.”
“But why leave the tape there for us to find?”
“Maybe he thought we’d need a search warrant to search a crime scene,” Martinez said.
“Or maybe he thought we were too stupid to figure it out.”
I was remembering Reynolds’s behaviour on the balcony. The way he had provoked me. The performance he had given.
“I think,” I said, “that he wanted to get caught”.
“Claire,” Martinez said, “to almost quote the great Ozzy Osbourne ‘I love you to bits but you’re completely nuts.”
I laughed it off and went to get some more Guinness to go with the Rogan Josh, but even in the middle of all that noise and life, I was haunted by Reynolds looking up at the camera as he sat on his desk. There had been nothing at all behind his eyes. Not even hate.