Follow the Money - By Fingers Murphy


“There was blood everywhere.” Jim Carver leaned back in his chair, chewing a mussel cooked in saffron. “At least that’s how the papers described it. Apparently he was covered with it when they found him, out in his front yard, stammering like an idiot about someone killing his wife.”

Each time he moved, the luxurious blue fabric of his shirt shimmered in the soft light. I’d never seen a shirt so well tailored, so textured. It practically screamed the word money. I wanted to come right out and ask him how much it cost, but I’d known him less than an hour.

We were eating lunch at an overpriced restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. I, of course, had never been there before, but the staff knew Carver by name when we walked in. The cheapest thing on the menu was the soup du jour, at fourteen dollars a cup. Between Carver, Tom Reilly, and me, lunch was well north of a hundred bucks. While he sat there and told me about a gruesome murder and the trial that followed — which I remembered watching on television when I was a kid — all I could think of was the cost of the lunch. Somewhere in the middle of it I realized I had $87.13 in my checking account. Good thing lunch was on Carver. I would have had to borrow money to pay for it, if my credit was even any good anymore. It made me smile. My life was ridiculous.

I had been employed by the international law firm of Kohlberg & Crowley for all of four hours. I was one of twenty second-year law students who started my summer job with the firm that morning. “Summer associates,” we were called, as opposed to real associates, like Tom Reilly, and partners, like Carver. It was the beginning of a three month job interview that all began with projects the firm had picked for us on our first day. Mine involved a murder, a former United States senator, and a jumble of procedural nonsense that I couldn’t even begin to understand. So I sat and listened and nodded my head and tried not to do or say anything stupid. I couldn’t believe I would be working on a case that had once been so famous, or infamous, I should say. Jim Carver went on.

“You remember the story, of course.” Carver was right about that. “James Steele was a United States senator at the time. A U.S. senator claiming someone broke into his house and stabbed his wife in the bathtub. Nothing stolen, no apparent motive. He says he didn’t hear anything until it was too late because he was in another part of the house. When he finally hears a scream, he runs upstairs, down the hall, and, as he’s going into the bathroom where his wife is, someone else is running out. The person running out slashes at him with a knife and pushes him back. Steele falls, hits his head on the baseboard, and by the time he’s out of his daze the intruder is long gone.” Carver pried a mussel open with a tiny fork and glanced at Reilly.

Reilly continued the story. “So Steele sees his wife in the tub. Apparently she’s still struggling, but the tub’s full of water.” Reilly drank some iced tea. His tone was casual, like he was describing a football game he watched on television. Twenty years Carver’s junior, and not yet the multimillionaire many times over that Carver surely was, Reilly’s shirt did not captivate me in the same way. It was obviously down an order of magnitude. Reilly set his tea down and leaned back in his chair.

“Then, at 8:52, Steele calls 911. Turns out, Steele is flustered and transposes the numbers in his address so there’s a mix up and the cops aren’t sure exactly where to go. During the 911 call, Steele sets down the phone for a few minutes. He says he’s checking on his wife. He comes back to the phone and the 911 operator suggests to Steele that he pull the body out of the tub so he can administer CPR. Steele says he will and he’s gone off the phone for a few more minutes.”

I broke in. “So he admits handling the body and moving it?”

“Right. That’s why he’s covered in blood when the cops get there.”

“So he completely messed up the crime scene?”

“Exactly.” Reilly poked the air with his cocktail fork. “Now, it isn’t until Steele comes