Why were the photographs sent to the victims?
February 3, 2014
A VG Serial: ToxiCity
Stone sifted through three boxes labeled “Meadow City” in Ricki’s office the next morning. Between partnership agreements, memos, sales contracts, and plat surveys, he came across a series of photographs.
The third print stopped him. A barren field with a line of trees in the background, a steeple poking up in back. Cranes and earthmovers occupied the foreground. Stone thumbed through the other shots. In another the trees were gone, and the church and its steeple were plainly visible. In yet another, houses, sidewalks, and even the playground, had appeared. He fanned them on the table.
In the second box he found a list of names in a manila folder. Opposite each name was a percentage. Stuart and Gloria Feldman headed the list with thirty-nine per cent. Next came Louis and Charlene Simon, with twenty-five. Over a dozen other names followed, a few of whom Stone recognized. Politicians. Judges. A former governor. Each name had one percentage point or less across from their name. At the bottom of the list was Ricki’s name with half a percentage point.
Matt showed up an hour later with Ricki. Stone knew something had changed as soon as they came in. A current flowed between them, like the tail end of a thunderstorm still emitting weak bolts of lightning. He eyed them both, discomfited.
“I fired Dorman,” Matt said, his voice carefully neutral.
“He was useless.”
“Who you ‘‘gonna use instead?”
“Off-duty cops,” Matt answered. “Brewster’s posting a detail in the roll-call room.”
“I see.” He made a show of checking his watch. “So are you on or off?” He didn’t wait for an answer. He turned to Ricki. “Any change in your father?”
“He’s lapsing in and out of a coma.”
Stone frowned. This was a major setback. Feldman could have supplied the answers they needed. If they were going to move the case forward, he would have to work through Ricki. He stole a look at Matt and massaged his temples. This had turned into a mess. But he couldn’t deal with it now. He picked up one of the prints and handed it to Matt.
“Take a look.”
Matt studied it, then dug into his backpack and pulled out copies of the prints from Romano and Simon. Placing them side-by-side, he bent over the table.
“What do you think?” Stone asked.
“It’s the same location,” Matt said after a pause, “But it’s not the same photographer.”
Stone leaned in. Matt was right. The Feldman shots were sharper, more panoramic. The prints from Romano and Simon were a little better than a Polaroid, but not by much.
“Someone was photographing the construction at Meadow City,” Matt said. “Besides the official photographer.”
“And sending them to the victims twenty years later.”
Stone glanced at Ricki, who was hovering behind Matt. Her eyes darted nervously from the photos to Stone and Matt. He’d been a cop long enough to know that look. “Okay, Ricki. Why didn’t you tell us about Meadow City?”
She stared at the floor. “I—I didn’t know much about it. I wasn’t around.”
“But you’ve had years to find out. Weren’t you the one who told us Meadow City put your father on the map?”
She didn’t answer.
Ricki leaned against her desk, planting her hands on it for support. Ripples of uncertainty played over her face. Matt gathered the photos and stuffed them into his bag.
She took a breath. “It started when I was ten. My mother was dying. I was scared all the time. I hated coming home from school. My mother would be in bed, and my father would be shut up in his den. I ate dinner with the cook.” She raised sad eyes to Stone.
“But one night was different. Daddy came home with a bottle of champagne. He poured glasses for everyone, including me. He was so excited I thought they must have found a cure for cancer.” The memory of a happier time flickered on her face. “He said he’d gotten a piece of land, and he was going to build houses on it. He said they’d sell like hotcakes— there was so much demand. He was right; it was the go-go Seventies. He told Mother she had to get strong so he could take her out to see the lots. She’d be so proud.” Her voice cracked. “But she never did.”
Episodes in the novel will be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Please click the following title,ToxiCity, to read more about Libby Fischer Hellman’s books on Amazon.