“I need an order of protection,” she said quietly, stammering a little as she stood at the doorway.
Police Chief Kai Goodman looked up from his desk and saw a trim woman in her late 20s, dressed simply in jeans and a cream T-shirt. The attire contrasted with her exotic face, dark piercing eyes, and shoulder-length jet black hair. Though none of her features seemed remarkable, together they formed a package with unusual appeal. She carried a brown pocketbook over her left shoulder, and held a coffee mug in her right hand.
She must have seen Kai's eyes when they finally made their way to the mug. “One of the guys outside was kind enough to get me some coffee,” she explained.
Of course they were, Kai thought. “Come in. Sit down,” he said, gesturing with his right hand toward a chair facing his desk.
She walked slowly toward him and seated herself.
“The courts issue orders of protection, not the police,” Kai said. “But tell me what's going on, and we'll see what we can do.” He found a pen and pad on his desk and got ready to write.
The woman took a tiny sip of coffee and placed the mug on Kai's desk, spilling a little as she did.
“This is so embarrassing,” the woman said.
“I'm sure it's not,” Kai reassured her. “Let's start with the easy parts. What's your name?”
“Jessica. Jessica Murray.”
“Date of birth?”
“Your birthday's next month?” Kai asked, writing.
“Yeah. Happy birthday to me,” she said sadly. “I'll be 30.”
Only seven years younger than me, Kai thought as he wrote. “And just because it's procedure, I need some I.D., if you have any.”
She reached into her purse, found a wallet, and pulled out a New York State driver license.
Kai looked it over and confirmed what the woman had said. She lived in Albany, about two hours north, and the photo didn't nearly do her justice. “Why are you here, Ms. Murray?” he asked.
“I told you. I need an order of protection.”
“I'm being harassed.”
“This is the embarrassing part.”
Kai didn't respond.
“Mike Holloway,” she said at last.
“Michael Holloway, the governor?” Kai asked.
“Yes. We had an affair — a really short affair — it was a mistake, I know, and I called it off right away. He was just so... Anyway, I called it off. And he didn't like that. And now he won't leave me alone.”
Kai had stopped writing. The governor of New York was married, but everyone knew that it was a marriage of convenience. Still, the man was an overweight, balding man in his 50s. What could convince a young beauty to sleep with such a man?
The governor was also a man of considerable influence. It wouldn't be hard for him to harass a woman.
“You won't get involved, will you?” Murray asked.
“Why wouldn't I?”
“Because he's the governor.”
“I don't work for him,” Kai said. As chief of police in the small suburban town of Warwick, N.Y., Kai Goodman was in the governor's jurisdiction, but he was directly answerable only to the people of Warwick.
In his first job, Coyote “Kai” Goodman wouldn't even have taken a call from a governor, not without a good reason, anyway.
Details of that job were closely guarded. He told people he'd been an enlisted man in the army. He had an official cover story, technically a secret, that involved something about the Secret Service. That myth, too, had been invented, to save him from revealing the truly secret things he'd done before retiring in his mid 30s to run the police in Warwick.
Jessica Murray nodded. She looked Kai over again, as though seeing him for the first time. Six feet tall and weighing about 200 pounds, he was leaning back in his chair with the relaxed, confident look of someone who knew that he was completely and totally safe.
“I know this is a rude question, Ms. Murray, but I have to ask,” Kai said. “Do you have any proof?”
“You don't believe me.”
“It's not my job to believe you. And you don't need any proof. But if you have any, it will be easier, that's all.”
“I have a photo,” she said.
“A photo,” Kai repeated.
“Nothing like that. It's not... Well, it's a little... Here.” She opened her purse again and pulled out a cell phone. She fumbled with the screen before handing it to Kai.
Kai took the phone and saw a snapshot, a self-portrait she had taken by holding the device at arm's length and pointing it at herself. The lighting was dim, but the image was clear enough. She was wearing just her underwear, and she was seated on the lap of the governor, who was either wearing very little or nothing at all. They both looked pretty happy.
“Well now I have to ask you another question, ma'am, and I have to advise you that you're under no obligation to answer. You don't have to say yes, and you don't have to say no. But if you do answer, you may be admitting to a crime. Did any money ever exchange hands? Did the governor ever pay you, in any—”
“No!” Murray was surprised. “Why would you even think—?”
“Because New York is a funny place, especially with this governor. In a lot of places, a photo like this could end a politician's career, but not here, not now. No disrespect, ma'am, but this isn't the first time Mr. Holloway has, um... strayed. So this photo isn't even news.” Except that MY GOD do you look good in it, Kai thought.
“But if there was any payment involved, well, that would make Mr. Holloway a criminal. If there was—”
“I'm sorry, I still don't—”
“If there was any payment involved, then Mr. Holloway would need to get this photo back from you. Otherwise, I don't think he would care. But when I asked for proof, I didn't mean proof of the affair, I meant proof that he was harassing you.”
“Oh,” she said, looking at the phone with the revealing picture still in Kai's hands. “I don't know about proof. There's evidence. I don't have all of it, but he does. There is evidence.”
“His police keep harassing me. They keep stopping me. Sometimes they give me a ticket, sometimes they don't even bother. I'm scared.”
Kai was writing again.
“And he keeps phoning,” she continued. “But that will be harder to prove. He uses a cell phone that no one else knows about.”
Kai looked up, questioning.
“I bought it for him,” she said, smiling almost nostalgically, “so when we couldn't see each other we could, you know... And no one else would know. But I don't care about the phone calls. I mean, I do, but the police are the real problem. That's how I ended up here. I was just trying to get away, and they kept harassing me, so I knew I had to stop and get help. I just pulled off the highway and stopped at the first town I could find. Except for a few times in school, I've never gotten speeding tickets, and now I have two tickets just from today I can show you. I just don't—”
“Okay,” Kai said.
“We have a small court here in Warwick. As I told you, they issue orders of protection, not the police. I'll call over, tell them we're coming, then I'll drive you over. I'm inclined to think that they'll help, especially if you received any threatening phone calls here in Orange County. If they do help, my department can enforce the order of protection as long as you're in Warwick. They'll recommend some local hotels, but—” Kai cut himself off mid sentence. “Do you have money for—”
“Money isn't my problem,” she said.
“Okay. They'll recommend some hotels. The one you want is on Linden Place. It's a bed and breakfast.”
“Whatever you say.”
“Before we go,” Kai said, “I'd like to make a copy of this photo.” Kai raised the phone that was still in his hand. “It may become evidence.”
“Whatever you want.”
Kai reached for a cable attached to the computer at the side of his desk, hooked it up to the phone, and typed a few keys. After he copied the photo, he e-mailed it to a friend who could make sure it wasn't doctored.
“Okay,” he said a minute later as he disconnected her phone. “Let's go.” Kai returned the phone and stood.
As they walked out of Kai's office and through the main hall, five pairs of eyes all followed Murray. Four belonged to the policemen staffing the place. The fifth pair belonged to a civilian who had just come in.
Two of the policemen stood and walked over.
“More coffee?” one of them asked Murray.
It was Kai who answered. “No, thank you, Sergeant. You can go back to work. Both of you.”
“Yes, sir,” they said, staying where they were.
“Come on,” Kai told Murray. “Let's go.”
Three hours later, at 4:45pm, Kai was back at his station house.
Ms. Jessica Murray, armed with a temporary order of protection from His Honor Clifford Hall, had checked in to the local bed and breakfast. A Warwick patrol car was parked outside for her protection.
Kai checked his e-mail. His expert had sent him an answer about the photo of Murray with the governor. It was genuine.
As he leaned back to consider what that meant, he noticed the coffee mug Murray had left. Except for the few drops she had spilled, it was still full to the brim. Kai looked around for a tissue, which it turned out he didn't have.
“Sergeant!” he yelled. “Come in here for a moment, will you?”
The sergeant walked in.
“Are we running a diner here?” Kai asked, smiling. He gestured toward the coffee mug.
“I know, sir. I just thought that she might—”
“I know what you thought, Sergeant.”
“Yes, sir. I'll get—”
“Son of a bitch,” Kai suddenly said to himself.
“What?” the sergeant asked.
Kai now had a pen in his hand, which he was wagging at the coffee mug.
“Sir?” the sergeant asked.
Kai didn't answer.
“Sir, I'm sorry about the coffee, okay?” the sergeant said. “It's just... Do you want me to clean that up for—”
“Sergeant,” Kai said, “radio the guys watching Murray and tell them not to let her leave the jurisdiction.”
“Are you kidding me? Why would she—?”
“And tell them to treat her as armed and dangerous.”
“What the hell?”
“Just do it.”
“You want to tell me what's going on?”
“I don't know,” Kai said truthfully. “But there's... I don't know. Make the call.”