Beverly Cohen hurried upstairs. She hated to leave her guests and her oh-so-successful party but she had to get to the bathroom. The powder room in the foyer would never do.
She felt so strange. Her husband, Doug, would be angry that had she left him with all those guests, but she just had to get upstairs. It was as simple as that.
This party must be too much for her, she thought, although that didn't make sense. She'd handled other parties before, many of them, both in her home and at other locations.
Once Beverly reached the huge marble bathroom she considered splashing water on her face, which felt so warm. But she decided not to because it would ruin her makeup. She inspected herself from the many angles provided by the multiple mirrors. She didn't look bad. Her face was so pink she positively glowed. But all her lipstick was gone. She pursed her lips, wondering how long that sad state of affairs had existed.
A numb sensation seemed to extend from her lips to her tongue.
The bathroom was oppressively warm so Bev headed across her bedroom, aiming for her bed. Strangely, it almost felt as if she were walking through deep sand.
Doug should be able to handle things downstairs, she reasoned. Many of the people had already left, certainly all the important ones. It had been so wonderful having those movie stars in her home. It certainly showed everyone how important and successful she was, especially Janet. Her old friend had been nearly speechless with admiration, Bev was sure. Every time she caught her eye, Janet had looked away with humiliation at how much better her old roommate had done with her life. They may have been college roommates but they were very different; Bev was always destined for greatness and Janet was, well, Janet. What could she expect?
Most of the rest of Beverly?s guests, those dull and dreary people who were her neighbors in town, were on the way out the door when she ran past them up the steps. They had all smiled politely when she tried to stammer out a good-bye, which had been kind of frustrating and embarrassing.
She didn't usually have trouble talking.
In fact, she sometimes had the impression that people wished she wouldn't talk so much. But she had so much to say. Her life was so filled with fabulous and interesting events. Not being able to say a simple good-bye was weird. Luckily it hadn't been anyone important anyway.
Her legs felt leaden, as if she were dragging through the carpet. She had really overdone it, serving and cooking and everything, practically all by herself. Those witches the agency had sent had been so inappropriate she wasn't sorry that they left after only a few minutes. But then she was left with all that work! She'd had to cover her $1,500 Versace dress with an apron, one that advertised her catering business, of course, but still. Her $400 Manolo Blahniks hadn't exactly been the most comfortable shoes she could have worn, what with all that running around.
It was a good thing that she had reconciled with Nancy, since Nancy had really helped. Maybe, Bev thought, she shouldn't have let the partnership go, but Nancy wasn't on the same fast track. She didn't want to cater to the rich and famous. She'd settle for working for the semi-rich and very-boring.
Somehow Bev got across the palatial room to her king-sized satin-covered bed. It was good to lie on the down filled comforter. She reflected on the day. All those people, right there in her kitchen. And they had talked to her, shared with her, both stories and food. It was a dream come true.
Now that she was lying down she felt a little better, although for some reason she was having trouble breathing. Too much excitement, she told herself, calm down. Since her body felt so heavy and so numb and it was such a strain to move, she rested.
Time seemed to slide by and the room got dark while she floated along. Suddenly, however, Beverly started to shake uncontrollably. It was impossible to stop shaking, to catch her breath, to . . .
Blackness enveloped her.
Several hours after the Grosvenor, New Jersey, Rescue Squad and the doctors in the emergency room had made frantic attempts to revive her, Beverly Cohen, aged thirty-four, was pronounced dead at the hospital. She had never regained consciousness.
Nancy Goldstein, aged twenty-eight, a former partner of Mrs. Cohen, was arrested sometime later.
Six weeks earlier
Wally Morris heard people complaining as soon as she left the director’s office after the budget meeting.
?You?d think she?d have more sense than to park in the driveway when we have to get our kids home,? said a woman herding three children out the synagogue door.
?Who did that?? asked a man with a little boy who still wore his yarmulke, a rule for the boys in the school, since Jewish males were required to keep their heads covered.
Someone else pointed toward the synagogue kitchen. Wally saw the retreating figure, wearing jeans, boots, and a full-length mink coat, of Beverly Cohen.
?Oh, her,? said another woman. ?She doesn’t care about anyone but herself. If she doesn?t hurry, Marissa is going to be late for ballet. Her mother will kill me.?
The man said he would go talk to the director to get him to tell Beverly to move her car immediately. Wally turned to find that Marissa was the same child who had been in her nursery school class several years earlier and used the time to chat with her and three other former students. Two of them were already taller than she, but that was to be expected. Wally had to look up to see five feet.
By the time she got outside, she saw a huge line of cars waiting for the Hebrew school students. Shaking her head, Wally pulled out of her parking spot, and took her place behind them.
It was nearly five-forty and she wasn't done with her evening's errands. Luckily, she had partially defrosted the frozen manicotti that she'd made the week before. It was now in the oven, and the automatic timer had started it at five-fifteen. It would be ready when she returned. All she needed to do was pick up a French bread and throw together a salad. If she timed it right, her husband, Nate, might even get the salad done before she got home.
Never one to sit idly, Wally tried to use the time to sort through some balls of yarn she had picked up. But it was difficult in the dark. She gave up and flicked on an all news radio station, hoping to catch a weather report.
A female voice crooned about a benefit scheduled for later that evening. “Hollywood will be turning out in New York tonight,” she said, “as the world of film takes time off from its busy pre-Christmas rush to release those holiday movies we've all been waiting for. They’ll be just in time to be in the running for this year's Oscars. Tonight's event is a benefit for AIDS research and all the big names will be there: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Michael Douglas, Steven Spielberg, Heath Maxwell, and Melanie Jensen. This glittering gala will be held in the Waldorf Astoria where the thousand dollar a plate dinner promises more than just salad. We'll have an update on this later, and I promise to tell you absolutely all about it tomorrow. This is Maggie Faulkner, in New York.”
The voice of the regular radio announcer thanked Maggie, as if she were listening, and went into another story. ?People in the little New Jersey town of Grosvenor will be rubbing elbows in a few months with several of the guests at tonight?s benefit. Covering that story for us is Peter Marsh. What have you got, Pete??
?Well, Harry, it seems that the New Jersey film commission has been successful in packaging Grosvenor as the perfect place to shoot director Skip Runyon’s next film, Stalking Sunrise. Shooting is scheduled to begin in February and run through spring.?
?That?s good news,? Harry said. “I’m sure the people in that town will be very excited to hear it. Thanks, Pete.?
Wally got goose bumps. She had heard there was a possibility of the movie being filmed in town, but hadn’t really believed it. She felt a huge sense of pride and couldn’t wait to talk about it with Nate. Unfortunately, that didn’t look like it was going to happen any time soon.
The line of cars still wasn?t moving. Wally was directly behind a mini-van which was nearly bouncing due to the five unattended children inside rapidly decompressing from two hours of Hebrew school.
After several more minutes the car pool line finally began to move. It was almost six o'clock and Wally had visions of blackened manicotti.
Beverly Cohen?s diamond studded watch said that it was almost eight o'clock and Doug still hadn't come back to his posh Park Avenue office. Beverly was supposed to meet him there a half hour earlier so he could take her to the benefit. Nearly beside herself with excitement, especially since she?d heard the news about her town being the location site for that new movie, she was having a tough time not picking at her $75 manicure. She would have sat on her hands, but there was also the little problem that she didn?t want to sit down, because then her incredibly tight, floor length, fire-engine-red dress might wrinkle.
She knew she had the body for it. At five-foot eight, one hundred ten pounds, she looked pretty good for thirty-four. Her legs went from the floor to just below her ears, or so Doug always joked. Well, used to joke, anyway. It seemed like now he was just too busy for everything, including jokes. Where was he anyway?
The phone buzzed, and Beverly picked it up. It didn't matter at all to her that this was Doug's office, not hers. She pretty much did what she wanted in there.
“Yes?” she said into the receiver.
“Oh, Bev,” said Doug's voice, slightly out of breath. “I'm glad you're there. I was worried that you'd be late.”
After what she went through to get there on time, she was miffed with his implication. “Why would I be late?”
“Well, I, uh, I thought you might have trouble parking the car. The traffic in the city is so bad right now.”
“I took a limo.”
There was a significant pause on the line. Too bad if he doesn't like it, thought Bev. I make enough money to afford it. Not, of course, that I'd take the expense out of my own money. Doug could afford it too, considering the only patients he saw were terrifically rich. None of that Medicaid or even Medicare for him.
“I'll be there in fifteen minutes,” Doug said evenly.
“Where are you? And why aren't you here now? The benefit starts in less than half an hour and I do not--do you understand me, Douglas--do not want to be late.”
“I'll get there faster if you let me get off the phone,” said Doug.
Before Beverly could ask him another question he had hung up. She looked around her husband?s office for a magazine but all she saw were patient files. Sighing, she sat down to read.