Chapter 10 – Epiphany
False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil. ~ Plato
December 24, 2005, Manhattan
The events following my husband’s murder remain a foggy haze of sporadic visions, which flash in my brain like a child clicking through a Classic Viewmaster, unable to capture a lucid image. My soul for all intent and purpose was physically drained of all energy. The onslaught of police questions was as preposterous as was their persistence. Accusations suggesting it were I who was responsible for the maliciously killing of not only my husband, but my colleagues. And to top it off had the audacity to accuse me of ridding the evidence lockers of all evidence pertaining to each case, as well as the bodies – the nerve as if I could feasibly commit such crimes. In case they forgot I was locked up. And to think this was where my tax money goes, not to mention the many fundraisers the entire Covington family had contributed over the years. This was how the police treated me. Trust me when I say their lack of policing skills and manner left little to be desired.
My interrogation dragged on for an eternity. I nearly had given up all hope I would ever see the light of day let alone my attorney, Stuart Beckington. When he finally showed his face the lieutenant was forced to release me because a) the evidence miraculously vanished, b) I wouldn’t speak to them anymore, and c) Stuart posted my bail.
The lieutenant’s final words to me were crass and indignant “Mrs. Covington, you can bet we will be watching you. But for now you are ‘free’ to go. But, I wouldn’t leave town if I were you.” As in ‘we are not convinced of your innocence.’ “Oh, and one last thing: have a nice Christmas!”
I gave Stuart a piece of my mind for taking so long to arrange for my release. I didn’t care that he had represented the Covington family for years. He could have been more prompt. While I never questioned him, I wondered if he had something to do with the evidence mysteriously disappearing along with Michael’s body, and those of my colleagues.
Stuart was the classic personification of a Manhattan attorney – thousand dollar designer suits, equally expensive Italian leather shoes, gold cuff links, silk tie, insignia ring on his right hand, and cell phone permanently glued to his ear. And of course, the blonde trophy wife, Jenny, whose tall leggy figure stepped right out of a Victoria Secret catalog. While his legal brilliance won him esteem in the courtroom, his antics outside left much to be desired. I never trusted the man, and couldn’t understand how he had managed to worm his way into the lives and business dealings of the Covington’s. They loved him. I saw him for the arrogant jerk he was and who on more than one occasion had seen in an array of indiscretions.
Stuart swept me out of the courthouse in quick fashion, which was somewhat of a feat considering the number of press and lookie-lou’s that had gathered like wolves around the courthouse. I couldn’t bear the notion of cameras and flash bulbs, inquisitive reporters’ questions, or my face posted all over the evening news. Now it seemed I owed Stuart more than just my life. I hoped he never collected on that debt. I thought with a cringe.
With Stuart by my side the two of us stood unnoticed at a concealed rear exit of the precinct; I was still dressed clad in the orange designer jumpsuit. The police hadn’t allowed me the decency to change into the fresh clothes Stuart had brought for me – the bastards. My thoughts and cruel words were very uncharacteristic given the circumstances I no longer cared what God thought of me now. My soul was charred. I couldn’t fathom how the God I worshiped and held reverently in my heart my entire life could be so cruel as to murder my Michael in such a deplorable act of violence. Or allow the police to treat me as those I was a common criminal. The thoughts filled my heart with anger.
As we headed for the car, Stuart handed me what I presumed to be a copy of the preliminary postmortem exam, which he had somehow acquired. He must have removed the evidence. I glimpsed briefly at the open page – ‘Cause of death: broken neck, severe lacerations consistent with large animal bites, and extensive internal injuries.’ I practically shoved the report back into his hands. I couldn’t continue to read the details. I had lived through it. I didn’t need to read about it in some report. My eyes instead were drawn to the whiteness of the ground; which seemed as empty as my soul. I was unable to grasp that in a fraction of a second, my life changed forever. I inhaled the frigid air. It seized my lungs like frozen cubes of ice and slowly exhaled an undying wisp of frost. Unimaginable emotions constricted my body – my life would never be the same.
I looked at Stuart curiously. What had he been thinking, to think or assume I wanted to read my husband’s autopsy? Now of all times? I wasn’t even sure if I ever wanted to read it, truth be told. His mouth continued its banter ad nauseam I barely paid attention. I seem to recollect him mention something about Michael being a prominent New York businessman and the details of his death would be conveyed to the media in a joint press release from Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. That thought provoked a disconcerting look on my face I was certain.
My eyes drew blank as I stared into nothingness and my pace slowed. While I recognized that of course the police would announce to the media Michael’s death, I thought it a bit overkill to have the Police Commissioner and Mayor involved. What really puzzled me, and completely took me off guard was Stuart’s unsympathetic and audacious remarks which were followed by him reading select entries of the autopsy report, which he held irreverently in his hands. His oratory bizarre, something along the lines of ‘the world would not learn Michael was savaged and partly consumed, or that his body was completely drained of blood with his throat and heart viciously extracted from the body, or the fact the body was now missing.’ The viciousness with which Stuart spoke hung over my head like a blackened cloud. His insinuations were remarkable and his actions unfathomable. I shook my head in utter disbelief.
I held my gaze low as I carefully descended the slippery stairs; the diffused afternoon sunlight emanated a beautiful effervesces over the snow covered ground revealing a glow of tiny ice crystals of freshly fallen whiteness. The sidewalk glistened as did the heaps of snow methodically piled high again the courthouse façade. Stuart’s words reflected as coldly as the snow.
It was preciously that moment I realized the police likely no longer held in their possession the entire report and somehow Stuart replaced the autopsy report with what he wanted the police to keep. My skin turned white. I could barely move. Stuart was involved only I had no idea why.
Stuart’s judicious voice continued to ramble; to me his words were incoherent. I cocked my head toward him as I thought I heard the word bodyguard come flying from his mouth.
“Bodyguard! Stuart, why on earth would I need a body guard?” I stopped dead in my tracks my eyes widened as they peered into Stuarts soul.
Before he uttered a word fear swallowed me whole; in fact it descended over my body like the portentous cloud, smothering what diminutive existence remained of my soul as my brain processed the enormity of his implication. Stunned, I staggered down the sidewalk as overwhelming refutation gnawed my insides. The notion of a body guard terrified me. It meant without a doubt I remained in danger – a target.
Stuart ignored my question.
“Lexi?” Stuart asked while simultaneously silencing his cell phone, which buzzed louder than a billion bees swarming their hive. “You alright?”
Dumbfounded at the absurdity of his inquiry, my eyes stared vehemently at him and I lashed out with a nervous chuckle: “how could I possibly be alright Stuart? My husband and I were viciously attacked. Somehow I survived, he is dead and his body has mysteriously disappeared. I spent the last God only knows how many hours in hell, and now you are suggesting I hire a bodyguard? No Stuart, I am not okay. How you could remotely believe I’m okay is beyond words” My words spat rage as I tried to prevent impending tears from escaping down my morose face.
“I certainly didn’t mean to upset you further. I’m merely concerned for your safety that’s all. Lexi please understand I’m only looking out for your best interests.”
“Really Stuart, because I thought perhaps you were looking out for yours.” I snapped scornfully, deciding he was more concerned about the potential of losing a billion dollar client.
“Lexi don’t be absurd, and I won’t take offense at your last remark as I understand how difficult all of this must be for you.”
“Stuart, you’ve got to be kidding me.” I scoffed. Once again I stopped in my tracks. I turned faced him and screamed at his corpulent shape. “You have no freaking idea how I’m feeling, let alone understand how difficult all of this is for me!”
“Lexi, of course I didn’t mean to sound disrespectful,” he said, as he took my hands in his trying to ease my pain. “I’m sorry I offended you. Perhaps we can talk again, in a couple of days, after Christmas when you’ve had some time to adjust. Please reconsider the bodyguard, there are two missing murderers roaming the city and you are the only witness to their crime.”
I spotted my driver Pete, who was standing tall at the end of the block leaning up against a black limousine. He was dressed in his usual warm onyx colored overcoat which sheltered his dark suit, white shirt, black tie, and a black hat perched atop his bald head. Pete faithfully served as my driver since I had married Michael.
Acknowledging me, Pete began to open the door as I gestured I would be right there. I shifted my attention to Stuart, and glared deeply into his forest green eyes. I saw evil. Raw untamed evil, it swam viciously through his veins and his soul. I was taken aback. Never before had I seen such a vile creature, except in my nightmares; or in the back alley. But, I didn’t want to think of the back alley now. I wanted to escape from Stuart. I did not trust him. I knew he was no friend of mine.
“Certainly Stuart, you can’t possibly believe I was the target of the attack? Or, that those monsters survived? What motive would they have to kill me?”
An, infinitesimal part of me ‘realized’ I was the target – First Abdul, then Robert, Adele, and now me. I wanted, no, I needed to see Stuart’s reaction when I asked him if he had heard any more about Michael’s missing body. But it suddenly I backed up my thoughts as it occurred to me I never mentioned to anyone there were two assailants. And yet Stuart knew this. How was that possible? It was obviously knew a lot more than he was letting on. I was not being paranoid. I did not believe in coincidence therefore all points were directed at me. My insides flipped. Lexi, be calm. My inner voice was losing its battle. Don’t let Stuart see you panic. I could do nothing to control the tiny goose bumps, which suddenly surfaced on my skin, not from coldness but out right fear.
I was the intended target – because of my knowledge of the tablets. I still hadn’t figured out what the connection was, only that one existed. I felt horrible Michael had suffered at my expense – guilty even. The assailants were after me and would continue to be until they had what they were after – the tablets and me dead.
“Lexi, sometimes you can be so naïve.” Stuart said critically, as he removed his coat and wrapped it around my shivering body.
What had he meant by that comment? I acknowledged his gesture with a nod. “Is that what you think? I am being naïve? Why was Michael killed? And who took his body and all of the evidence?” my voice quivered. You believe I was the target don’t you Stuart?
“I don’t know Lexi, do you?” he said as if he were prodding me for information.
“Of course I don’t Stuart. How could you even ask such a question?”
“I am merely covering all the bases. I see that I have offended you again.” He replied his lips pursed. “I’m sorry. I certainly have no idea why Michael was killed or what happened to his body. Bad business dealing perhaps, but regardless he is dead and the fact remains that you were the only one to see the killers Lexi. You are a threat to them, as you know their identity. That is the only reason I suggested you consider obtaining a bodyguard. I can arrange one for you if you like?”
My mind was elsewhere. Stuart’s words – blah blah blah. I contemplated his involvement and why someone was trying to silence me. The assailants had failed. And since they had, they would try again. I was no idiot. Even I could figure that one out. ‘Free’ to go, was never further from the truth. My mind mulled the endless scenarios. I would definitely not be having a Merry Christmas, of that I was certain. I could not get to the car quickly enough. Pete stood with the door open for me.
“I will give you a call later to check on you. Are you sure you wouldn’t want me to go with you home?” he questioned, as his cell phone buzzed from his breast pocket.
“No. I think…I think I want to be alone for a while. The staff is at the house,” I stuttered, which was a lie. I had given them time off to spend time with their families over the holiday. The truth was being alone frightened me considerably, yet being alone with Stuart terrified me.
“Alright, if you’re sure. However, I refuse to allow you to stay alone. I can’t stress to you the importance that you need a bodyguard. I will not take no for an answer. I will arrange for someone to watch your house. I would hate to have to attend another Covington funeral.” he stated with his cell phone suddenly adhered to his ear.
“I am. Thank you Stuart, I will give you a call later if I change my mind.” With my words he gingerly reached over and kissed my cheek goodbye. Repulsed by his gesture, I handed him his coat and stepped in the car. I couldn’t wait to get home shower and get out of the horrendous orange jumpsuit.