Lucy called Jane, and they made the arrangements. By the time Jane came down to let them in, Lascovich’s workers had cleaned up the shattered glass and stuck a plywood panel onto the door. He and his wife were back upstairs in their office.
They trooped up to Jane’s place—the elevator remained unfixed—and went in. Her place was cluttered with paintings of dogs, for that’s what she did. Painted dogs. She did lovely dog portraits for uptown ladies, and street drawings of mutts for downtown dudes. But her floor layout was much the same as Lucy’s: at the far northwest corner, three steps rose to a door that led out onto a fire escape that hung off the north side of the building, overlooking Broome Street. A row of tall windows ran the length of that side of the building on each floor. Theoretically, they could go out on this level and go up one flight and from the fire escape somehow break into Lucy’s place. Lucy had never installed alarms, the glass was ancient, the window-locks even more ancient. Harold had not a bat but a small crowbar, just in case the mysterious Sandra Green was there and had some muscle around. You never knew.
After checking to make sure Lascovich wasn’t down on the corner where he could spot them, they went out and quietly ascended the fire escape from the fourth to the fifth floors. They found the shades up on all the windows, on both north and west sides. They looked in. No one moving. They tried the access door. Unlocked, weirdly enough. They opened it and went in to Lucy’s home.
“Oh no,” she cried out, for they had walked into a place that had been utterly destroyed. Furniture broken, papers strewn, food thrown and smeared, shit everywhere, stench overwhelming, the scene was complete, hideous chaos—and there was no one to be seen. “Oh my God, Harry, she’s ruined my house.”
“What a fucking mess,” he said. “Let’s check the kitchen and bath. And keep it down, Lucy. She might–”
“You know she’s gone, Harry. She did this and left,” Lucy said. Just then her computer chimed it’s you’ve got mail chime. She opened it and read.
I hope this note finds you well. I must say, I did enjoy my stay in your lovely loft, and I hope that you appreciate just how lucky you are to have such a large and pretty home here in New York. Had you not shown up—the best-laid waves—oops, I mean plans–don’t always work out exactly right–I might have enjoyed living here for a while.
As for me, I’ve been living “south of the border” since, well, since we last saw each other, but I do manage to get back home to the good old USA every now and then. By the way, did you not in all your years here learn about how you can get out of the building by going up on the roof and onto the building behind, on Crosby street, and then into their stair well and down to the street? They never lock their roof door, it seems…oh, but why would you need to know that?
Oh, by the way, I, too, know a good hacker, and so, well…about that money that Bobby Schamberg paid you, that you put in your LA bank account? You can kiss it goodbye. I’ve been having a lot of work done in Brazil, and I found myself in need of a fresh infusion of funds.
I’ll see you one of these years, Lucy Ripken, for I am not done with you yet.
One last thing: In case you hadn’t figured this out, I have been working in “The Industry” for the last year or so, and in The Industry I am known as Sophia Greenberg. Does this come as a complete surprise? After Sayulita, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to pay homage to our late, great, surfer girl, Sandra Darwin, and so this is farewell,
Love and Kisses,
Your friend Maria “Sandra Green” Verde
“Man, I had no idea she was that diabolical. Harry, we have got to–”
“To what? You know she’s long gone, Luce. But at least you got your place back.”
“Until Lascovich gets wind of us.”
“Her lease ain’t worth shit if she’s not here, Lucy. Especially since the name she used is completely bogus.” He frowned. “God, what is that woman’s name, anyways?”
“Way back when, down Jamaica way, I heard she was once called Sophie Potts.”
“That’s what Mickey told me.”
“Well, that name isn’t on any lease, that’s for sure. There’s no way that lease has any legal standing.”
“Hope you’re right, Harry. But I don’t have one either, do I?”
“No but you’ve got a documented history of living here, right?”
“Shit,” she said, and hurried back into the other room to look in her smashed-up desk. “It’s gone.”
“What?” He followed her.
“My documented history, Harry. I had a box of papers locked in this drawer.”
“Jesus, Lucy, why didn’t you take that stuff with you?”
“Harry,” she said, and burst into tears, “Don’t blame me for–” she waved at the horrid mess that had been her home—“for this. Please, Harry.”
He came to her, and held her. “I’m sorry, Lucy. That was lame of me.” They hugged quietly for a moment, until she calmed down. She let go of him.
“Well, I’m going to keep cleaning up. But first, I need to make a few phone calls. I have got to put this thing together.”
“Harry, Maria Verde or Sandra Sophie Greenberg Green or whatever she calls herself was working on the same TV show I was on. Don’t you want to know how this happened?” Lucy flipped open her cell and speed-dialed an 800 number for a bank in LA. She punched in assorted codes, and then listened to her available balance, read to her by a computer: Twenty-three dollars and forty-seven cents. She’d been robbed of nine thousand four hundred dollars. Next she called Bobby Schamberg.
“Hi Bobby, this is Lucy. Lucy Ripken, remember me?”
“Lucy! Remember you!? How could I forget you, baby? Hey, I’m sorry about the, ah, employment termination, but after what happened I didn’t think you’d want to be working with my partners any more, and–”
“Forget about that, Bobby, its just sludge under the bridge at this point. But listen, I was wondering, I mean I know you said you read my book and I know that I came highly recommended by our mutual pal Teresa, but I really need to know who it was that first suggested that you hire me to work on the show.”
“It was Terry, I’m sure–no, you know what, to tell the truth, I’m thinking back, and I remember Judy had a copy of your book before I even talked to Terry about it. And I think she said something about how you would be a good person to hire because you weren’t a TV writer but you seemed tuned in to womens’ sports and also knew your way around Mexico. So yeah, I guess it was Judy. Why? What’s up?”
“So how did you and Judy find Sophie Greenberg and Ruben Dario, your producer partners?”
“Judy knew Sophie from way back, she said. They met when Sophie was working as a writer and had interviewed her for a story on womens’ sports for one of those ladies’ magazines. Then she’d been in and out of Latin America for a few years, and she’d made some great connections. That’s how we found Ruben. Hey, he had money to throw at us, what was I going to say? I mean to this day I’m not sure if you and Teresa got it right with your murder conspiracy thing, but it makes for a great subplot and I think we’ve got a hell of a show to open with as a result. Doncha think so?”
“I guess, Bobby. I’m glad it worked for you. Oh, just one other thing. Who does your books? You know, payroll and such, for Schamberg Productions?”
“That was part of Judy’s gig.”
“Right. That makes sense.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing, nothing.” She would have had Lucy’s personal and financial information right at her fingertips. That money was gone for good.
“Cool.” He paused. “So, ah, anything else?”
“Nope.” She stopped. “I’ll see ya, Lucy.”
“Sometime or other. Bye Bobby.” She clicked shut, stood, took a deep breath, and then joined Harold, who’d already started cleaning up. Judy and Maria, old friends.