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1

I always thought I’d make a better mistress than a wife. Short, but sincere spurts of concentrated attention and mini-blocks of selfless devotion to someone else are my forte. I’m good with wine and roses, and the wine is optional. Sustained hanging in there when the going gets rough? Not so much. Nonetheless, when I was thirty-six and finally did marry, it was for overwhelming, take-your-breath-away, wave-crashing love. Although I was a mediocre wife in terms of my domestic skills, whenever I admitted this, Jordan always replied in his succinct, inscrutable Chinese way, “Quinnie, you suit me thoroughly.”

My marriage ended two days shy of the six year mark, not by divorce but by murder. That’s when my calling changed.

***

My calling before Jordan’s death was to be the best divorce lawyer in Manhattan. I hadn’t yet reached the top but I was climbing. My new calling was to be the best amateur sleuth in the city, and the fact that I had no talent in that direction was of no import. I’d master the skills I needed or siphon them off of more or less willing helpers.

I learned of the murder when the police showed up at my law office mid-afternoon just as I’d begun taking the deposition of my client’s husband’s paramour. Dressed in a tight red tank top, a second-skin black bandage skirt, and red stilettos, Carney James was straight from central casting as “the bimbo.” Even her name conjured the image of a seedy motel room, ceiling mirror, and pay-for-porn TV. This was too easy. As I began my inquisition about her recent surreptitious—she wished—trip to Anguilla paid for by my client’s philandering husband, my legal assistant, Inez, knocked on the conference room door, then poked her head in.

“Attorney Jones, may I have a word with you, please?” Inez had a delightful accent—part Barbadian, part Jamaican. It was lilt with attitude.

I blinked. Inez never interrupted a deposition and her usual smile was nowhere in evidence. I nodded, then asked the court reporter to take a five-minute break. Stepping out, I spied two men in suits standing in my waiting area. They loomed large in that snug space. The smaller one—blond, clean-shaven, cherubic—had just bent down to align a pile of children’s coloring books. He placed Green Eggs and Ham on top of the New York Times.

As I approached he straightened, and flipped out an NYPD badge: Detective David O’Connell. The other cop was nearing fifty, graying, also trim, but with tired-looking, watery blue eyes. He flashed his I.D.: Detective Donald Backus. Neither smiled.

I stepped forward tentatively. Was a client in jail? Jenny Li, maybe? A domestic assault? My mind flipped through my mental Rolodex of troubling cases. None leapt out as an obvious powder keg.

“Mrs. Chang?” said the tall one, Detective Backus.

“Mrs. Chang” meant it was something in my personal life, regarding something not really personal. All my friends knew I used my maiden name at work. I’d told Jordan when we married that “Quinn Chang” sounded more Chinese than his name, which could create problems. Prospective clients might actually expect me to be a real Chinese lawyer. Jordan had laughed out loud at the thought. “They’d just have to see that crazy hair and those blue eyes to be set straight on that notion. And then there’s your laugh,” he’d said.

“My laugh? What’s wrong with my laugh?” I’d asked, rising to the jibe.

“Nothing, but my mother would no more show all her teeth when laughing than do a fan dance naked on Canal Street for the tourists.”

Jordan always said I looked as if Courtney Cox and Carly Simon had merged into a halo-haired something. I’m five feet five, trim but no size two, with a mouth that’s too wide, robin’s- egg blue eyes, and dark brown hair reaching my shoulders. It’s never smooth even after liberal spritzing with thirteen products, and I’m just about blind without my Clark Kent industrial-strength glasses.

The detective broke in and I was brought back to the present. “Are you Mrs. Jordan Chang, ma’am?”

I looked up at them. “Oh, yes, sorry. I’m Mrs. Chang.” My nerves tightened. “What’s wrong? Has something happened?”

“Ma’am, could we go to a private area?” asked the cherub. I stared at him, then led the way to my office with its cream walls, mahogany desk, and pomegranate Tabriz rug. They quietly took the two client chairs, and I sat at my desk. The older one cleared his throat.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but we have some bad news. Your husband . . .” Detective Backus pulled a pad from his inside pocket and read. “Your husband, Jordan Chang, was found dead outside your home. He appears to have jumped off the balcony sometime this morning, between ten and noon.” He looked back at me, as if his part were done, then fidgeted with the neck of his shirt. He added, “I’m very sorry, ma’am, for your loss.”

I stared at him for a moment and stopped breathing. My anchor, the man I’d waited thirty-six years for, couldn’t be gone. I touched my throat and drew in a ragged breath. Moments passed but I couldn’t find my voice.

Jumped off the balcony? Just a few hours ago, Jordan and I had shared the last sesame-seed bagel, with a little peanut butter on each half. We’d leaned on the kitchen counter and talked about the day ahead. I dribbled peanut butter onto my blouse—a not altogether uncommon occurrence—and had to hustle upstairs to put on a fresh top.

I usually worked from home on Mondays, but that Monday I’d had to spend the morning in court, and the afternoon was slated for taking Ms. James’ deposition. Jordan had his own late morning meeting. We’d agreed I would get home early enough to walk Tink, our big, fuzzy Bouvier des Flandres, before getting takeout from Thai Won Kitchen on the next block.

A lapsed Presbyterian, I began a silent prayer. No. Please God, no. Not Jordan. Make it me, not him. He’d make it without me. I can’t make it without him.

I started to stand, but my knees buckled, and I lowered myself back into the chair. I looked out the window, then at the policemen, then said slowly, “I don’t understand. Are you saying there was an accident? That Jordan fell?”

The cops exchanged a look. Now the younger one cleared his throat and said, “Well, ma’am, it appears to be a suicide based on the fact that your brownstone balcony has such a high ledge. I mean, your husband would have had to purposely climb up there and . . . basically, dive off to hit the way he did. Our people are in there now—forensic team, you know. Checking for a note. Maybe for evidence of a struggle, any other possible victims, any sign of a perpetrator or of a theft or a break-in, just to be sure. But, ma’am, it looks for the moment like a suicide. Your house is sealed off.”

I stared. “Suicide?” I whispered.

Jordan Chang, master strategist, National squash champion, Harvard Business School scholar, Annapolis grad and Captain in the Marine Corps, problem solver, my best friend, my lover, my husband—suicide?

As my mind careened down dark paths, the detective continued. “And I think you have a dog, right?” He looked at me for confirmation.

Jordan and I thought of Tink as a full-fledged family member. “Yes, yes—Tink.”

He nodded. “The team put her in one room. She wasn’t too friendly when they arrived, so the canine unit was called in. They had to tranquilize her, but I think she’s okay otherwise.”

I began to nod, then I shook my head again. I studied the floor as if it had answers, then looked at O’Connell and Backus.

“No. Something’s wrong here. Jordan would never kill himself. My God, he’s Chinese! They don’t do that. It lacks dignity, decorum. No. He would never leave Tink and me voluntarily. Not ever.” I paused, my mind running in reverse to rethink the past several weeks. “And Jordan went to work today. He had a meeting at eleven, and he’s leaving tomorrow on a business trip. I left before him, but he was dressed, planning to review his file, then head to his office.” I raised my chin. “I’ll call him. He’ll be there.”

I picked up my phone and began to dial. The two officers turned to each other and seemed at a loss. Jordan’s number rang and rang and then voicemail kicked in. The blood drained from my face and I lowered the receiver. Jordan always answered my calls—if he could. “He’s probably in a meeting,” I said softly to no one.

My eyes moved from one man to the other. Both glanced down and crossed their legs in synchrony worthy of an Esther Williams routine.

“Ma’am, the medical examiner is doing an autopsy. Maybe that will give us some answers.” Detective Backus spoke as if soothing a stubborn child.

I continued without listening. “Jordan wasn’t depressed. My God, we’re getting a puppy this fall. We’re . . .” I stopped, then looked up again. “What was he wearing? What was the dead man wearing?”

The older cop pulled out the pad again, and a pair of glasses this time, then consulted his notes. “Uh, lemme see. He was in jeans and a pale blue polo shirt.” He glanced up at me over the top of his glasses.

I was triumphant. I slapped my open hand on my desk, then shoved my glasses up. “There! That’s it. It wasn’t Jordan. He would never wear jeans with a pale blue polo shirt. Never. A silk T-shirt maybe. He doesn’t even own a polo shirt.” I stopped, then said in a firm voice, “You have the wrong man. Not his style. No, not at all. Someone else jumped off our balcony.”

The cops exchanged another look. The young one exhaled and said, “Ma’am, I know this is hard, but the man had his wallet on him, and it identified him as Jordan Chang. The photo on the license matched the deceased. The deceased also had a tattoo of two Chinese characters on one of his upper arms. One of your neighbors recalls Mr. Chang having such a tattoo. Is that correct, Mrs. Chang? Did your husband have such a tattoo?”

My elation was short-lived. And now Jordan wasn’t even Jordan anymore. He was now “the deceased.” And yes, he did have a discrete black tattoo on his upper right arm: the Chinese characters for “honor.” He and Harry Chin, his best friend, got the same tattoo the night they graduated from Annapolis.

I stood shakily, walked to my floor-to-ceiling window and stared at the throngs on the sidewalk five floors below. I then turned to face the detectives, but I could no longer support my weight. My back leaned against the window for support, then I slid down to the floor. My navy pantsuit crumpled with me, and the hope that had kept me fighting skittered out of Dodge.

I bent forward, face to knees, arms wrapped over my head. My voice became muffled as I tried to say something. Sobs weren’t far behind—sobs that would drain every drop of denial and would stop only when nothing was left inside. You always had all of me, Jordan, to the very end and then some.

Detective O’Connell recrossed his legs awkwardly before asking, “Uh, Mrs. Chang? Ma’am? Do you mind telling us where you were between ten and noon this morning?”

I looked up in surprise, and like a bolt, it struck me as the funniest thing I’d ever heard. I began to laugh the laugh of an hysteric, the cackle of a crone howling at the moon, until a wail of hopelessness began to rumble, then blossom into a roar, all the while covering my mouth with my hand, Chinese in my grief, with despair so thick and unending that I couldn’t imagine the sun ever showing its face again or the sea rushing in again after its moon pull.

2

Jordan and I lived in a brownstone in the West Village in New York City on a street lined with them. Ours was friendly, with pots of pink petunias lining the stairs in the summer, and red-bowed evergreen wreaths hanging on the carved mahogany double doors in winter. Ten steps led from the wide entry stoop to the sidewalk, and in the summer, Jordan and I often sat with iced tea, wine, or margaritas taking in the street scene, and exclaiming over the few visible stars in the brightly-lit Manhattan sky.

Our main floor had a front-to-back living room to the right of the front entry, and a parallel dining room across the hall to the left. The living room was all cherry paneling, equestrian prints, fabric splotches of reds, golds, and browns. The kitchen sat at the rear, stainless steel, gray granite, and pale maple, separated from the living room by only a soapstone counter. A double set of French doors formed the back wall of the kitchen and led to a balcony that overlooked a central brick garden that we shared with our neighbors.

Upstairs, Jordan’s office spanned the entire left side of the second floor, while our bedroom took up the entire right side. The third floor held two more bedrooms, and the basement served as a gym. Some of the brownstones had elevators, but ours didn’t. We had stairs, lots of stairs.

When I arrived with the two detectives, there was yellow tape everywhere and I sprinted up the front steps and stopped in the entrance hall, ditching my purse on the front table. The house had been invaded by the NYPD’s forensic teams, swarming and loud.

“Joe!” yelled one. “Need you here to bag a specimen.”

“Got some blood here! Hurry up, Ramon. Do ya think this is our only crime scene to hit this afternoon? Vamanos!”

“Hey, cut me some slack. I’m checking the lock,” said a fellow in a navy blue windbreaker. He was fiddling with the bolt on the front door,

Our house usually had a very Zen quality. It was serene, orderly, happy, and as clean as a house with a super-sized shaggy dog could be. Now it was the scene of a tragedy. Through the kitchen, I could see a red-headed, small woman taking measurements out on the balcony. I stumbled in that direction, but a hand came from behind me, gripping my arm. It was Officer Backus.

“No, ma’am. Not out there. The M.E.—medical examiner—is down with the body. You don’t need to see that.”

I felt panic rising and hoped not to repeat the collapse at my office. Tink. I had to find Tink. My eyes darted around the living room. No sign of her. I spun, pulled off my pumps, and flung them into a corner of the front hall, then ran up the carpeted stairs two at a time to find her.

I pushed first into our bedroom—empty—then flung open the door to Jordan’s office. She was asleep, snoring lightly. I lowered myself onto the couch and brushed back the hair covering her eyes. Her eyelids fluttered, then shut.

“It’s okay. I’m here, Tink.” I murmured, my mind racing, then slowing, then racing, then stalling again. Harry, I needed to reach Harry. Harry Chin had been Jordan’s best friend since they were two. He would know what to do. He and Jordan were like two sides of the same coin. I hurried to the desk and picked up the phone, then replaced the receiver. I didn’t yet know what to say.

I slumped back in the desk chair and gazed around the room: pens still on the desk, day calendar open, a pile of papers for the morning meeting. I could almost hear Jordan teasing, as I stood in the open door making fish faces at him just to make him laugh. Quinn, stop distracting me. Be a good girl and get me my dinner, huaji nuhai!” Funny girl, he was saying as he chuckled. I didn’t mind being ridiculous if it made him laugh. I looked around and the room’s normalcy felt like a betrayal.

“He’s gone, they say,” I whispered to Tink, eyes dry. Then a wave of nausea swept over me and I lunged for the bathroom, where I sank to my knees, and threw up into the bowl. I stayed there for several minutes, then struggled up.

Leaning against the sink, I splashed cold water on my face, rinsed my mouth with cold water, then, opened the medicine cabinet and downed a Xanax. Just as I returned to Jordan’s office, a blonde woman in NYPD garb stepped in.

“Ms. Chang? Detective O’Connell sent me up to check on you. You okay?”

“I . . . I’ll be down in a minute. Thank you. Thank you for checking.” She looked uncertain but nodded and closed the door. Tink looked peaceful, so I quietly got up, and slipped downstairs, where the activity had intensified.

I slid into in a red velvet armchair in the living room, waiting to be dealt with, hands folded in my lap. The Xanax had begun to work. I felt no better but I’d stopped shaking.

“Ma’am? Mrs. Chang?” I looked up. It was Detective Backus. “Ma’am, can I call someone for you? Mother? Sister maybe? Friend?” I shook my head. My mother and father were both gone. My brother, Mark, was away on business in Hawaii, and the only one of my large circle of friends I wanted now was my old college roommate, Archer Loh, but she lived on a ranch outside Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Detective Backus nodded uncertainly.

“Maybe a doctor?” I shook my head again. “Okay, then.” He stood awkwardly in front of me, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. “The M.E. won’t have any conclusions today, and we haven’t found a note. No evidence of forced entry. We haven’t found any obvious evidence of theft—no drawers pulled apart, no jewelry box ripped open, no closets ransacked—but you’d know better, Mrs. Chang.” He took a breath. “And, you shouldn’t be alone here tonight, ma’am. It’s still a crime scene.”

I saw his mouth moving and his hands gesturing, but I couldn’t put it together. I wanted to talk to Jordan, wanted to tell him about this crazy, horrible day I was having. Jordan would know what to do.

After a few more minutes, a different policeman, also in plainclothes, came over to me. He pulled up an ottoman and sat across from me, forearms resting on his thighs, ringed hands hanging loose. He cleared his throat, then said, “Mrs. Chang, may I have a word?”

I jerked my head up to look at him. “Yes. Yes, of course.”

He had big hands. I remembered that. I fixed my eyes on the chunky ring with a square red stone on his right hand, and the thick matte gold wedding band on his left. The hands clenched, released, spread, and pointed. They were raised in the air, palms up, palms down, then rested on his knees. He had matching dark hair and eyes, both a rich coffee bean color, and wore a rumpled dark brown suit with a mustard-colored shirt.

“I’m Detective DeLeon, head of our unit.” He pronounced it “de-Lee-on.” “Could you tell me everything that happened this morning, please, Mrs. Chang?”

I stared at his rings and repeated what I’d already told his colleagues. He took his own notes. “Does your husband have any enemies, anyone he’s mentioned having a problem with?”

I shook my head. “No one. Jordan got along with everyone. I don’t understand any of this.”

Detective DeLeon nodded. “Any depressions? Setbacks lately? Anything your husband said that suggested some discouragement?”

“Nothing like that. Nothing. He was fine. Jordan was never depressed,” I insisted. I felt just a shade better answering questions, like something I add might help get to the bottom of this nightmare.

“Any friends we can talk to? Colleagues who knew him well? Family?”

I gave him Harry Chin’s name and phone numbers. I then supplied Jordan’s parents’ and sister’s addresses and phone numbers.

Jordan’s parents. How in the world to tell them? A wave of horror swept over me that was so strong, I started to lose consciousness. I dropped my head, and began to keel over, fingertips touching the floor.

“Salts!” Detective DeLeon barked over his shoulder, and he snapped his fingers at one of the other workers, who stopped scraping the counter. “Derek, smelling salts! Pronto! She’s going down!”

Someone thrust a bottle under my nose, and the whiff of ammonia jolted me back to alertness. I felt Detective DeLeon holding my arm and someone else was on my other side as they righted me. The thought of Jordan’s parents having to bear this news brought sobs so deep and desperate that I buried my face in my hands.

“You okay?”

My cries slowed and someone handed me a tissue that I pressed to my eyes. I stared dully at Officer DeLeon, and said, “No. I’ll never be okay again.”

I began to shiver. I needed to get out of these clothes, this place, away from these people. They were just doing their job, but I couldn’t be here.

“I have to go, Detective,” I said, standing abruptly, then digging into my purse and shoving my card into his hand. “Here’s my cell phone number if you need me. I have to get out of here. Your other two guys already know that I was at a court hearing today from nine until one.” The widow—what a sad word—had an airtight alibi. The thought that I needed one made me so sick I almost capsized again, but I steadied myself with a death grip on a chair back.

I ran upstairs to check on Tink and change clothes. She must have rallied, because she was now on the office sofa. She raised her head when I entered, and stepped off the couch and walked over to me, tail wagging just a little. I bent down to pet her, to scratch behind her ears.

“Hey, girl. Hey, girl,” I cooed. “Wanna get out of here? Do you? Okay, Tink. Me, too—let’s go. Let’s go outside, big girl.”

No time to change clothes. I pivoted, went into our bedroom across the hall, grabbed a pair of jeans, T-shirt, and pair of sandals, put them in a small nylon duffel, dashed into the bathroom for some pills, and headed out, with Tink on my heels. She was shaky but keeping up. At the bottom of the stairs, I shoved on my shoes, and grabbed the pink flowered leash from a basket near the front door. I attached it to Tink’s collar, slung the duffel over my shoulder, and walked out, stumbling on the top step.

“Mrs. Chang?” Detective DeLeon called from the top of the stoop. He raised an arm to beckon me back. “Please, Mrs. Chang, come on back. You shouldn’t be alone. Not now. Not tonight. Where are you going?”

I turned around and stared at him woozily, still in my navy work suit. “I don’t know, but don’t worry. I’m not leaving town. I’ll leave my cell phone on, Detective. I promise I will.” And I had to call Harry. Harry would tell them it wasn’t a suicide. Harry would fix this botched scene.

After that, all went to shadow for the next two days.

3

Jordan and I met at a Starbucks outdoor café in Soho. I had my laptop open and was working on some client e-mails and Jordan was already seated, sipping an espresso at a little round table kitty-corner from mine. I noticed him a few minutes after I sat down, because he was elegantly gorgeous in the way that Chow Yun-Fat was gorgeous in Anna and the King: mid-forties, high sharp cheekbones, almond-shaped dark eyes, short black hair, longer than a crew cut but not by much. Regal, self-contained, mysterious, yet I sensed that the mysteries were good ones.

He was overdressed for Starbucks, in a three-piece gray pin-striped suit with a red rep tie. On his feet were incongruous, heavy black-laced shoes with thick gum soles. He was engrossed in his Chinese-language newspaper, legs crossed, long fingers periodically turning a page. I thought he must be a diplomat or United Nations representative of some sort, a bit far from his home territory but perhaps slumming in Soho, planning a stop in Chinatown after his coffee. With another few minutes to burn, I would have created a whole biography for him—totally erroneous but convincing in my fantasy land.

I nursed a gargantuan cappuccino while my hundred-pound puppy, Tinkerbelle, draped my feet like a thick fleece rug. She was eleven months old, and at that stage where her legs were too long for her body, but she had to fold them somewhere. Tink was a shaggy black Bouvier des Flandres, whose life mission was to herd and guard. Failing sheep or cattle, anything herd-able would do: cats, small dogs, a group of cans, a gaggle of feet. As for guarding, while on our morning jaunt recently, entranced by the scent of bones and beef bits, she’d propelled herself into a dumpster in the meat-packing district. She then proceeded to guard it from NYC’s finest sanitation workers. Suffice it to say, it did not end well.

Anyway, while I was responding to client e-mails about late child support payments and kids getting arrested for shoplifting, Jordan got up to toss his espresso cup. As he strolled by our table, Tink, apparently torn between her herding and guarding instincts, decided to do both. She self-propelled just as he was passing, and butt-slammed him—a famous and little understood herding technique—causing Jordan to careen hard into me and my unsteady table.

My paper cup with the little green Starbucks logo leapt out of my hand into the air in a graceful grand jete. In slow motion, the cappuccino was airborne, spraying five or six smooth waves of mocha brown into charming arcs. I watched, fascinated, as if I had no part in this little caffeine ballet. The swirl of motion mesmerized me for a moment, until I saw my laptop teetering on the edge of the table. With a gasp, I lunged for it at the last instant. Jordan, apparently unsure whether he had stepped on the dog, or the dog was fundamentally insane, also grabbed for the laptop, and we jointly got it back onto the table. He then began retrieving coffee-spattered papers from the floor, apologizing profusely all the while.

“Oh! You speak really good English,” I said. “And without an accent.”

He stopped his gatherings and looked at me, amused. “Of course, I do. I’m American. I was born three blocks from here.”

“Really?” I was confused now. “Sorry. It was the shoes mostly. Look, don’t apologize. My dog lunged. It’s her nature.

I noticed, though, that he was petting Tink and telling her she was a good girl—a surefire line drive to my heart . Love my animals, and I might just love you.

He was quiet for a few seconds, organizing the pages into neat piles, and placing them on my table. Then he stood up straight. He was taller than I’d thought—ruler straight and at least six feet. His suit fit his trim frame perfectly. “What’s wrong with my shoes?”

“Nothing . . . really.” I stopped to check my conversational footing, then continued. “It’s just that they’re a bit stodgy for someone your age. That whole thick-soled thing with the stubby toe and laces.” I shrugged as if to say, isn’t it obvious?

“Really? I just thought they were solid. I do a lot of walking.”

“Yeah, they’re that, too. But hey, don’t go by me—look what I’m wearing.” I lifted my foot up to table height for him to see. I had on pink Converse sneakers with red laces. “Comfort.”

I lowered my foot. My wavy shoulder-length hair had fallen into my eyes, so I pulled it back and over to one side, hoping I looked like Angelina Jolie when she did that. It fell right back over my eyes, and I was pretty sure that in this humidity it must look like some sort of unclipped rainforest shrub. I silently cursed myself for not wearing the round prescription sunglasses in my pocketbook, since I had no eye makeup on and only a light cherry gloss on my lips.

He smiled and stuck out his hand. “Jordan Chang. Nice to meet you.”

I tilted my head up, shaded my eyes from the sun with my left hand, and shook his hand firmly with my right. “Aquinnah Jones. Nice to meet you, too.”

“Aquinnah. Not a name you hear much—or ever, actually.”

“Yeah, I know. My parents met on Martha’s Vineyard, Aquinnah Beach. They were romantic hippies, so . . . the only girl gets the weird name. Everyone calls me Quinn.”

He looked at his watch. “Well, Aquinnah, I have to run, but do you have a card? Maybe we could have coffee sometime . . . without all the drama.”

“Hmm,” I said, pretending to weigh the offer. “I don’t really know you, but you do get a few points for not yelling at my misguided dog.” I patted Tink on the head. She was sitting perfectly at attention now as if completely under my control. Looks can be so deceiving. “Tell me something fast so I know you’re not an ax murderer.”

Jordan thought a second. “I’m the first son of a first son from Beijing, and the Han Chinese are known for being scholars and men of honor. I graduated second in my class at Annapolis, where we believe in law and order, and first in my class at Harvard Business School, where we believe in order. I work for Geller Reed, own a brownstone near Bleecker, play squash every Wednesday with my best friend from the womb, Harry Chin, and have never had so much as a parking ticket in any of the five boroughs. I’ve never been married, have no children, have had lunch with President Reagan twice, and believe in love at first sight.”

Whoa! I was bowled over but not about to show it. I screwed up my dignity and tried to sound like Queen Elizabeth, who, I assumed, must be hard to impress with credentials. Speaking as if he had just barely squeaked past my minimum requirements for a coffee date, I stammered in some sort of faux English accent that even I didn’t know I had, “Well, then, yes, yes, indeed. Quite right. I suppose a coffee in a public venue in the daytime would be safe enough, then. Righto.”

He smiled broadly as I handed him my business card. He glanced at it.

“You’re a lawyer?” He sounded incredulous.

“Yes. Is that a problem?” I answered, defensively.

“No, ma’am. Just didn’t see that coming.”

He smiled again, and that was the beginning of the end. His face in repose had been dignified, intelligent, thoughtful. The smile added another dimension altogether: mischievous, fun, and kind. Oh, boy, Quinn, watch out.

“Okay, then. I’ll call you.” He held out his hand again. I took it and gave it my second firm shake of the day. He smiled with white, straight teeth, then turned toward Delancey Street and ambled away, his back to me as I watched, enthralled. Then, as if he knew I were watching, his right arm shot into the air, holding my card between thumb and forefinger, and pumped it a little, like a winning ticket. Like a promise.

“And bring the dog,” he called back without turning. I felt his warm smile, and maybe a chuckle, without seeing them.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

I get my best ideas in the barn as I groom my horse, Nifty. The dogs keep a careful distance as I lift a hoof and scrape it out. I begin to dream of women like me: restless women on the edge, women who have been wounded but want to believe that love can last forever, and that being sentimental sometimes is not contemptible, and that good men are not so hard to find if you keep slogging along, seeking a melody to fit your words. So that’s who and what I write about: restless women searching.

Q. Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from this book?
A.
Quinn is smart, but quirky and funny. In a "fish out of water" tale, I see Drew Barrymore playing her as a high-spirited lawyer caught in circumstances far outside her experience, but determined to find the truth. Drew's genuine sweetness but dogged intent would be fun and convincing to watch.
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
My website www.christinewhitehead.com details my first book, Tell Me When It Hurts and its progress. My blog www.theblogalsorises.com talks about my next book, Hemingway's Daughter. I am a lawyer, writer, and animal accumulator! Horses and dogs always play key roles in healing in my books.
Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
I write always about women in crisis and coping. They may drink to manage; they may be in denial; they may retreat from the world, but they make it. With help from their animals and good men and friends, they survive, damaged yes, but with hope of a new path, work, love. Restless women searching.

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