Dark room, p.1
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       Dark Room, p.1

         Part #2 of Pete 'Monty' Montgomery series by Andrea Kane
 
Dark Room


  ANDREA KANE

  DARK ROOM

  TO ANDREA CIRILLO, the ultimate professional gyroscope, whose instincts, energy, and integrity are incomparable, who always gives her all—and then some—and who can’t be fazed and can’t be foiled—not even by egg salad. Thanks, AC, for your guidance, your partnership, and your uncanny ability to keep me moving in the right direction.

  Contents

  ONE

  The nightmare crept through her like a slow-acting toxin, paralyzing…

  TWO

  Pete Montgomery swerved his car into the driveway, glaring at…

  THREE

  Jill looked baffled.

  FOUR

  Morgan sat alone in the conference room for a long…

  FIVE

  Dinner at the Shores’ Upper East Side apartment was Chinese.

  SIX

  As luck would have it, Hank Reynolds reached Lane before…

  SEVEN

  Charlie Denton sat in his cluttered office at the Manhattan…

  EIGHT

  Karly Fontaine was truly enjoying herself. The food at La…

  NINE

  The problem with the weekend was that it gave Morgan…

  TEN

  Morgan took the C train to Euclid Avenue in Brooklyn’s…

  ELEVEN

  Lane was unusually restless.

  TWELVE

  The early lunch crowd was already congregating at Lenny’s when…

  THIRTEEN

  The agency was hopping. Phones were ringing off the hook,…

  FOURTEEN

  Morgan glanced at her watch for the fifth time, this…

  FIFTEEN

  Lane and Monty were in the kitchen, finishing their take-out…

  SIXTEEN

  Getting the police report on the hit-and-run was the easiest…

  SEVENTEEN

  Morgan was a nervous wreck when she showed up on…

  EIGHTEEN

  With its rustic beamed ceilings and warm, low lighting, the…

  NINETEEN

  Wednesday morning couldn’t come fast enough for Monty.

  TWENTY

  The Manhattan branch of the Lairman Modeling Agency—a classy office…

  TWENTY-ONE

  It was just after one-thirty when Lane, Arthur, Jonah, and…

  TWENTY-TWO

  Fifteen minutes later they were inside Lane’s apartment.

  TWENTY-THREE

  The office was trashed.

  TWENTY-FOUR

  I’m fine,” Morgan told Lane as soon as they were…

  TWENTY-FIVE

  Morgan had definitely regained her strength, and her resolve, by…

  TWENTY-SIX

  The Friday-morning sky was clear. The Poconos made a great…

  TWENTY-SEVEN

  Monty read the Post-it, handwritten note, and business card—not once,…

  TWENTY-EIGHT

  Jonah wasn’t doing well.

  TWENTY-NINE

  Monty met Lane at the Second Street Café, a short…

  THIRTY

  Barbara Stevens came into the office on Sunday specifically to…

  THIRTY-ONE

  Monty’s adrenaline was pumping when he arrived at Lane’s.

  THIRTY-TWO

  Lane was distinctly uneasy.

  THIRTY-THREE

  Morgan’s face was sheet white when she hurried up the…

  THIRTY-FOUR

  Monty was sitting in a bar, nursing a Michelob, when…

  THIRTY-FIVE

  Monty stopped the server who was passing by, and helped…

  EPILOGUE

  Morgan stared out the passenger window of Lane’s car, watching…

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  OTHER BOOKS BY ANDREA KANE

  CREDITS

  COPYRIGHT

  ABOUT THE PUBLISHER

  ONE

  The nightmare crept through her like a slow-acting toxin, paralyzing her as it insinuated itself into the darkest recesses of her memory. There was no escaping the devastating finale, no looking away from the horror.

  She couldn’t bear to see them. Not their broken bodies. Not their vacant stares. And not the pools of crimson blood that kept oozing beneath them as their lives drained away.

  With a low moan, Morgan forced herself awake, jerking upright. Her muscles were rigid. She pressed back against the solid oak headboard, letting it cool her perspiration-drenched skin. Her heart was slamming against her ribs, her breathing fast and shallow.

  This was a bad one.

  She squeezed her eyes shut, concentrating on the muted sounds of predawn Manhattan. The intermittent thump-thump of cars making their way down pothole-ridden streets. A distant siren. The hum of 24/7 just outside her brownstone window. It connected her to life, to the comfort of what was real and familiar. She drank it in, fighting to drown out the images of her nightmare before they engulfed her.

  It was an exercise in futility. The nightmares might be sporadic, but the vivid memories had been seared inside her head for the past seventeen years.

  She shoved back the covers and swung her legs over the side of the bed. Her nightshirt was damp and clinging to her body. Her hair was plastered to the back of her neck. She gathered it up, twisting its shoulder-length strands into a loose knot and pinning them to the top of her head with the clip she kept on her night table. A winter draft blew past her, and she shivered.

  She’d half expected tonight’s episode. It was that time of year. The nightmares always came fast and furious around the holidays. But exacerbating the situation had been her own damned fault.

  Morgan glanced at the clock on her night table: 5:10. No point in trying to go back to sleep. Not that she could if she tried. But it wasn’t even worth the effort; not with only fifty minutes until her alarm went off.

  She pulled on a robe and padded into the dimly lit hall, crossing over to the spare bedroom. The contents of the box she’d been going through were on the ottoman just as she’d left them—memorabilia in one pile, photos in another, and the working journals she’d only recently discovered off to a side.

  Still haunted by her dream, she flipped on the light and went straight for the photos, kneeling down beside the ottoman to peel back a layer of history.

  The top snapshot meant the most and hurt the most. It was the last photo of the three of them together. Wistfully, Morgan studied it. Her mother, gentle and elegant. Her father, intense and dynamic, one arm wrapped protectively around his wife’s shoulders, the other hand gripping the shoulder of the skinny little girl in front of him—a girl who had her mother’s huge green eyes and fine features and her father’s sharp, probing expression.

  Morgan turned the photo over. The handwriting at the bottom was her mother’s. It read: Jack, Lara, and Morgan, November 16, 1989.

  She’d penned those words a month before the murders.

  With a hard swallow, Morgan put down the snapshot and sifted through the others. Her mother in college, posing with her best friend and roommate, Elyse Shore—then Elyse Kellerman. Law school graduation day for Morgan’s father, both her parents standing in front of Columbia University, brandishing Jack’s diploma. Their wedding day. The day Morgan was born. Family photos of happy occasions, from Morgan’s first birthday to summers at the beach with all the Shores—Elyse, Arthur, and Jill. Last were the photos Elyse had developed for Morgan months after the funeral—photos taken at Daniel and Rita Kellerman’s lavish Park Avenue penthouse on Christmas Eve, where Morgan’s parents had dropped by for the holiday party being hosted by Elyse’s parents in honor of Arthur and those who’d contributed generously to his political campaign.

  Those were the final photos taken of Lara and Jack Winter alive. The next ones we
re snapped in a Brooklyn basement later that night by the crime-scene unit.

  With a shiver, Morgan put down the stack of photographs and rose, tightening the belt of her robe. Enough. She was allowing herself to be sucked into that emotional vortex all over again. Her mental health couldn’t withstand it. Dr. Bloom had cautioned her about this very thing.

  Time to listen to his advice. Be proactive. Focus on the present.

  She’d get a jump start on the day; brew a pot of coffee, shower and dress. Then she’d head downstairs to the office. She had a slew of early morning phone calls to make in the hopes of catching her clients before they left for work, and a mountain of paperwork to attack. At eight-thirty, it would be time for her therapy session—which worked out well since Dr. Bloom’s office was just a block away from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where she had an eleven o’clock new-client interview. After that, it was back to the office for a one o’clock follow-up appointment with Charlie Denton—attractive, forty-four, married to his job in the Manhattan D.A.’s office. With very specific criteria and a crazy-busy life, he was still looking for Ms. Right. And it was Morgan’s job to find her.

  She turned off the light and left the room—and her past—sprawled out on the ottoman behind her.

  THE DEAL WAS cut.

  No one in the Brooklyn D.A.’s office was happy about it. Another scumbag who’d turned on a fellow inmate to save his own neck. Another case where the rule of law converged withcut Darwin’s survival of the fittest.

  Having to go easy on that drug-dealing punk, Kirk Lando, was a rotten break. But they had no choice. He’d given them a cop killer in exchange for a lighter sentence. The NYPD was happy; Nate Schiller would pay for killing one of their own.

  Schiller would probably have his throat slit once word got out at Sing Sing why he’d lied about shooting Sergeant Goddfrey. Normally, killing a cop would have made him a hero there. Not this time. Schiller had screwed himself—bad. When he’d tracked Goddfrey down in Harlem and blown him away, he’d also blown away the perp Goddfrey had been cuffing at the time, figuring he was eliminating the sole witness to his crime.

  Bad move. That perp had been gang leader Pablo Hernandez. Once the gang members inside Sing Sing got this news, Schiller could kiss his ass good-bye.

  The whole trade-off sucked—for bigger reasons than leniency for Lando or the inmates taking out Schiller. Lando’s story was true. It had been corroborated by a couple of neighborhood teens, now adults, who’d spotted Goddfrey’s killer fleeing the scene. Originally, they’d provided a description. Now they’d each picked Schiller out of a lineup. So there was no doubt that Schiller had killed Goddfrey and Hernandez. Which meant he couldn’t have committed the double homicide in Brooklyn he’d been convicted of as part of his killing spree.

  The ripple effect was going to be felt far and wide. The daughter. The congressman. The staff over at the Manhattan D.A.’s office.

  And one really pissed-off retired cop.

  TWO

  Pete Montgomery swerved his car into the driveway, glaring at the semi-attached house that served as his office as if it were the enemy. He was in one foul mood. He’d purposely left Dutchess County at eight forty-five to avoid rush hour. Still, it had taken him three hours to get to Little Neck. It should have taken half that time. Except that it had started snowing—just a dusting with the threat of an inch or two to follow. But that was enough to transform all the drivers on the road to pitiful, scared-shit wimps who drove with their noses pressed to the windshield and crawled along at a snail’s pace.

  He hopped out of his faded maroon 1996 Toyota Corolla, which had a hundred thousand miles on it and had been put back together again more times than Humpty Dumpty. Still, Monty—as everyone called him—insisted that it had another good decade of life left in it. Besides, it was the perfect car for a private investigator—ordinary, unpretentious, the kind of vehicle that could blend in anywhere.

  His phone was ringing as he unlocked the office door, and he strode over to grab it. “Montgomery.”

  “Hey, Monty.” It was Rich Gabelli, his old partner at the Seventy-fifth Precinct in Brooklyn. They’d worked together for a dozen years, right up to Monty’s retirement at age fifty. Gabelli was younger—and more tolerant—so retirement for him was still a ways off.

  “Yeah, Rich, what’s up?” Monty was already shuffling through his files, putting his cases in priority order.

  “You working half days now? I called your cell three times, and there was no answer. I guess being a newlywed takes up lots of time. And energy.”

  Monty grunted. He’d been taking good-natured flack from his buddies since he’d remarried his ex six months ago. “I wasn’t home with Sally. I was on the Cross Island, cursing out the other drivers. Besides, I saw your number pop up. I ignored it. It’s time to get a sex life of your own and stop living vicariously through mine.”

  “That’s easy for you to say,” Gabelli retorted. “Sally’s still a babe. Have you taken a good look at Rose lately? She’s put on twenty pounds.”

  “And you’ve put on thirty. That gut of yours needs its own desk. So be grateful Rose doesn’t dump you. Now what do you want? I’ve got work to do.”

  “I called to give you a heads-up.” There was a somber note in Gabelli’s voice that Monty couldn’t miss.

  “About?”

  Gabelli blew out his breath. “The D.A. cut a deal with Lando. He gave them the name of Goddfrey’s killer.”

  “Good. It sucks about Lando, but Goddfrey’s killer deserves to rot.”

  “I agree. But there’s more.”

  “I’m listening.”

  “The guy who shot Goddfrey—it was Nate Schiller.”

  “Nate Schill…Shit.” Monty ground out the word. “Are you sure?”

  “Yeah. Schiller was bragging at Sing Sing about popping a cop. He was dumb enough to mention it was Goddfrey. Which means he killed Hernandez, and figured out who he was too late. There’s evidence to corroborate it, so he’d confessed to killing Jack and Lara Winter. Killing an A.D.A. would mean rotten treatment at Sing Sing, but killing a gang leader would mean being carved up like a chicken. And since Goddfrey was killed that Christmas Eve in Harlem around the same time as the Winters were murdered in Brooklyn, Schiller couldn’t have killed them.”

  “Son of a bitch.” Monty slapped his file on the desk.

  “You were right all along.”

  “I didn’t want to be. I still don’t. But I won’t lie and say I’m surprised. The Winter double homicide didn’t follow Schiller’s pattern. The crimes felt too personal. And the Walther PPK? Not exactly Schiller’s style.”

  “You know he loved throwing us off track. Anyway, the Manhattan D.A.’s pushing to reopen the Winter case.”

  “Big surprise. Jack Winter was their golden boy. They’ll want to nail his killer’s ass. Problem is, the ball was dropped the minute Schiller confessed. Now it’s seventeen years later. No matter how much noise the Manhattan D.A. makes, who’s gonna jump? With no leads, no witnesses, and a skimpy list of potential suspects—most of whom are either dead or vanished into the woodwork—they might as well try pulling a rabbit out of their ass. Talk about a cold case.”

  “You’re right. We already dug out the file. There’s nothing. But the captain wants us to go through the motions.”

  “Of course he does,” Monty agreed drily. “He’s got his ass to cover. Man, he must be thrilled I’m gone. He knows I’d be all over this if I were still on the force.” Abruptly, Monty broke off, his voice taking on a rough note. “What about the daughter—Morgan—has she been told yet?”

  “That’s the reason I’m calling. This whole deal just went down. The D.A.’s office is scrambling to get their shit together. They’re not looking forward to the fallout. But they can’t risk a leak. So they’re notifying her today.” A pointed pause. “As soon as our precinct finishes dotting our i’s and crossing our t’s to give them the okay. Which I’m doing as we speak.”

  Mon
ty got the message. “That gives me time to get to her first.”

  “Right. If that’s what you want.”

  “It’s what I want.” Monty fell silent. He could visualize the hollow-eyed child who’d grown old in the space of a heartbeat just like it was yesterday. Even now his gut wrenched when he pictured the scene he’d walked in on.

  Most cases didn’t get to him. This one had.

  And still did.

  “She was in bad shape,” Gabelli murmured. “You were the only one who was able to reach her.”

  “Yeah, well, I was in pretty bad shape myself at that time. That’s why she and I connected.”

  “I remember.” Gabelli cleared his throat. Partners or not, there were still some subjects he shied away from. That bumpy time in Monty’s life was one of them. “You’d better move fast. I can only hold up the process so long. And I don’t need to tell you that you didn’t hear this news from me. The captain would hand me my ass on a platter.”

  “Not a problem. We never spoke.” Monty grunted. “But between you and me, I’m doing him a favor by being the messenger. I might be able to do some damage control.”

  “With Congressman Shore, you mean.”

  “Hell, yeah. He’s going to have a cow. When the murders went down, I’m the only one he didn’t threaten to sue.”

  “He wanted answers. I can’t blame the guy. He and his wife had just lost their best friends, and been handed custody of their kid.”

  “Blame him? He was more controlled than I would have been under the circumstances. Seeing that poor little girl, what she was going through—hell, I would have resorted to more than threats to get my answers.” Monty shoved his pile of paperwork aside and grabbed a pad and pen. “What’s Morgan Winter’s address? I want to get to her before anyone, including the press, does. She’s going to be freaked out enough by this news without being ambushed by reporters.”

 
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