Killer Look (Alexandra Cooper)

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9780751560381: Killer Look (Alexandra Cooper)

New York Times bestselling author Linda Fairstein delivers a heart-pounding thriller that explores the dark secrets of Manhattan's iconic fashion scene in her latest Alexandra Cooper novel.
 
New York City is one of the fashion capitals of the world, well-known for its glamour and style.  Nowhere is this more apparent than on the runway, where American haute couture continually astounds with its creativity, daring, and innovation in the name of beauty.  Yet high fashion means high stakes, as Alex Cooper quickly discovers when businessman and designer Wolf Savage is found dead in an apparent suicide, mere days before the biggest show of his career. When the man's daughter insists Savage’s death was murder, the case becomes more than a media sensation: It is a race to find a killer in a world created entirely out of fantasy and illusion.
 
With her own job at the DA's office in jeopardy, and the temptation to self-medicate her PTSD with alcohol almost too strong to resist, Alex is not anyone's first choice for help.  But she is determined to uncover the grime—and the possible homicide—beneath the glitz.  Along with detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace, Alex must penetrate the twisted roots and mixed motives among the high-profile players in the Garment District.  The investigation takes the trio from the missing money in Wolf Savage's international fashion house to his own recovery from addiction; from the role of Louisiana Voodoo in his life to his excessive womanizing; and to the family secrets he kept so well-hidden, even from those closest to him—just as things are about to get deadly on the catwalk.
 
With Killer Look, Linda Fairstein proves once again why she is the “Queen of Intelligent Suspense.”*
 
*Lee Child

 
Linda Fairstein was chief of the Sex Crimes Unit of the district attorney’s office in Manhattan for more than two decades and is America’s foremost legal expert on sexual assault and domestic violence. Her Alexandra Cooper novels are international bestsellers and have been translated into more than a dozen languages. She lives in Manhattan and on Martha’s Vineyard.
From the Hardcover edition.

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About the Author:

LINDA FAIRSTEIN was chief of the Sex Crimes Unit of the district attorney's office in Manhattan for more than two decades and is America's foremost legal expert on sexual assault and domestic violence. Her Alexandra Cooper novels are international bestsellers and have been translated into more than a dozen languages. She lives in Manhattan and on Martha's Vineyard.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***

Copyright © 2016 Linda Fairstein

Killer Look

 

One

“Murder trumps everything.”

Mike Chapman turned his back and stared out the window, talking to me but unwilling to make eye contact.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

Darkness had enveloped my Vineyard landscape a bit earlier each evening as November crept up on us. The late fall also brought a bone-deep chill and the threat of a serious frost.

“Like you don’t know, Coop?”

“Of course I do, in general. But why did you say that now, Mike? Before we have dinner. Before we get into bed.”

It was six-fifteen and I was standing at the bar, refilling my glass with ice cubes and a couple of inches of Scotch. It had been three weeks since I’d been kidnapped and held by murderous thugs, out to exercise their revenge for an old grudge.

“That was the lieutenant who called,” he said, turning at the sound of the cubes dropping into place. “He’s ordered me back to the city on a case. Besides, I don’t seem to be doing much here for your post- traumatic stress.”

I sat the glass down and let the Scotch trickle over the ice to reach a good sipping temperature while I walked to Mike, wrapping my arms around his neck. “You’re doing everything for me that I need. You know that.”

“Really? And all this time I thought it was the alcohol getting you through the night,” he said. “I’m beginning to believe your view of things is that PTSD stands for Pour That Sweet Dewar’s.”

I let go of him and retreated to the bar. “A smack in the face instead of a kiss on my lips. Got that one loud and clear.”

“Then do something about it, Coop. Put the brakes on your extended cocktail hour.”

“Why? You’ve just announced that you’ll be leaving in the morning,” I said. “Did I get the message right? Murder trumps me, that’s for sure. My safety, my well-being, my comfort level, my—”

“‘ My, my, my.’ Sounding totally self-centered now, aren’t you?” Mike said. “The New York Post and the other tabloids are going to miss that I-can-nibble-on-barbed-wire-and-dance-barefoot-on-burning- coals-while-I’m-sending-those-predators-up-the-river-forever crusader for justice. That image gets benched in favor of a whining sex crimes prosecutor, who trades in her silk blouses for a strait-jacket. You’ll have the sympathy of every juror in the box.”

“I’m not looking for sympathy from anyone.”

“Alexandra Cooper, for the People,” Mike said, banging his fist on the dining room table like his hand was a gavel and he was a criminal court judge. “Tall and tough, sleek and shiny, loopy grin on her face when she ventures to smile, but she’s afraid of her own shadow now. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I’d advise you not to make any sudden moves cause she might freak out, and never, never frown in her direction because she takes everything very personally.”

“Cut it out, Mike.” I took another sip of the cool Scotch.

“Self-pity doesn’t become you.” He walked toward me, taking the glass from me and holding my face between his hands. “And you can lose that look in your eyes, too.”

“Fear? You’ve always told me that fear is healthy.”

“True when you’ve got something to be afraid of. That’s all over, Coop.” He pulled me against his chest and stroked my hair with his right hand. “Maybe you need to come back to New York with me. Come home.”

“This is my home.”

I bought this old farmhouse in the town of Chilmark on Martha’s Vineyard more than a dozen years ago, with my fiancé—a young doctor named Adam Nyman. When he died in a car accident on his way to our wedding weekend here, it became my refuge. The remote location and the serenity of this hidden hilltop made it a sanctuary from the stress of my high-profile work in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

“You think you’re ready to go it alone?” Mike asked, rocking me gently from side to side in his long arms.

“Sooner or later I have to, don’t I? Tomorrow’s as good as any other day.”

I had been taken hostage by a stone-cold killer and his accomplices a month ago, kept bound and sedated for several days, fed only oranges and bottles of water.

“You haven’t spent a night by yourself since—” “I know exactly when.”

“Snap at me? Kind of like a dog biting the hand that feeds it,” Mike said. “A mad dog.”

Once I was rescued from my abductors, the docs had kept me in the hospital for four days to examine and observe me. I flew up here the afternoon after my release with Nina Baum—my college roommate and one of my two closest friends—who had left her husband and young son in Los Angeles to be with me for a week. When she had to go back, my other best pal, Joan Stafford, had come up from D.C. to keep watch over me. I had no secrets from either of them, and it had been so easy to confide my every thought and feeling while they tended to my fragile emotional state.

I broke away and reached my arm out to grab the glass.

Mike beat me to it and dumped the drink down the drain. “I’ve got a nice Sauvignon Blanc for dinner,” he said. “Take a break from the booze and let’s enjoy the fire for an hour.”

“Then what?” I asked. “You’ll ration me?”

“Yeah. I’ll serve you out of a thimble,” he said. “That way you won’t be as likely to pass out on me as you did last night.”

There wasn’t a better homicide detective than Mike Chapman. We had partnered on cases from the time I’d been a rookie in the DA’s Office. He had covered my back more times than I could count throughout the past decade, and he teased me mercilessly to the point at which protesting was hopeless. Since late summer, we’d been lovers, neither one of us certain that we could make this new dynamic work for us because of the tension in the intervening weeks.

Paul Battaglia, the district attorney, had told me to take off as many months as I needed to restore my sense of security. I knew, when he said it to me, that my safety wasn’t an issue. He was referring to my sanity. Everyone seemed to think I’d become unbalanced by my victimization.

“I didn’t pass out, Mike. I just fell asleep.”

“In the middle of my best moves? Better for my ego if you go with passing out.”

I walked into the living room and stretched out on the floor, on the white rug that fronted the fireplace. Mike followed me in, placed two more logs on the fire, then lay down beside me. After Joan’s tour of duty as my keeper, the lieutenant had given Mike five days off to spend with me. I didn’t want it to end.

“So what’s the case that’s taking you back to the city?” I asked, while he rubbed my bare legs. I was wearing one of his shirts, which practically covered me down to my knees.

“No reason to talk about it. Nothing special.”

“There’s a dead human being involved. Unnaturally dead. Of course it’s special.” “You’re off-duty, Coop,” Mike said. “And until tomorrow, so am I.”

“So I can’t talk about murder. I’m not allowed to drink. I’m useless in bed. What’s left?” I said, trying to make Mike laugh.

“Oysters first. Then lobster. Three pounder for me and smaller one for you.” “That’s my surprise? Sounds delicious.”

Unlike my girlfriends, Mike had tried to leave me alone in the house for a few hours each afternoon. I knew he was testing me, and it turned out I wasn’t as nervous as I feared I might be.

“I’ve got to put some meat on your bones, babe.”

After Columbus Day, all the stores and restaurants on my end of the island shut down for the winter season. The year-round population wasn’t enough to support their businesses. We always bought our chowder and fried clams at the Bite, our cooked and split lobster and shucked oysters from Larsen’s Fish Market, burgers and ice cream at the Galley. But they were closed till April.

“I can help you cook.”

“Not your best skill set, Coop. When I start the water boiling, you can bring out the dishes and silver, and light the candles,” Mike said. “Then all you’ve got to do is eat.”

I hadn’t regained much of an appetite since leaving the hospital. Waves of nausea would sweep over me from time to time for no reason at all.

I rolled over to get on top of Mike and shimmied my way up his chest so that I could put my mouth on his. I kissed him deep and long, then slid down onto the rug, on my back.

“Glad you can still chow down, Coop. You should save some of that for the lobster tail.”

An hour later, after some fireplace foreplay, I spread a towel a few feet away from the hearth while Mike shucked the oysters that were fresh out of Katama Bay. “Appetizers in here,” I said. “It’s much more romantic.”

We both inhaled the briny oysters to a mix of Sam Smith, John Legend, and Frank Sinatra. I was saving Smokey for the bedroom.

I kind of lost my way again while Mike was cooking. Not so much a function of the darkness and the wind that was picking up around the perimeter of the house and howling a bit, but the thought that tomorrow he’d be gone and I would be here alone to wrestle with my demons.

My mind wasn’t on the great-looking feast that Mike had prepared, but on the bottle of wine that he opened while I plated the lobster.

“Cheers, Coop,” he said, clinking his glass against mine. “You’re in much better shape than you were when I put you and Nina on the plane to come up here.”

I nodded my head. If that’s what it looked like to him, then so be it.

“And don’t be a hero. The minute you’re ready to come back to the city, I’ll be in charge.” “I don’t want Battaglia to know, Mike. I’m not ready to go back to work.”

“Screw him, kid. No need for him to know your business.” I held out my wineglass.

“Let me see you take a whack out of one of those claws first.”

“Hardball, is it? How about giving me a straw for the vino?”

We were both subdued throughout dinner. The great thing about lobster was that I could hide the parts I didn’t eat in the shells that would be discarded. I just wasn’t hungry.

By the time I did the dishes—seizing the chance to pour myself a nightcap—Mike was in the bedroom suite, showering. I stripped off my clothes and stepped in beside him, under the giant rain- shower head. I lathered up and shampooed my hair, eager to get the day’s anxiety washed away.

I crawled into bed next to Mike. He was on his back, one hand behind his head, staring up at the ceiling.

“Don’t worry about me,” I said. “About tomorrow.” “That’s not where I was, Coop.”

“Your victim, then?” “Yeah.”

“Who was he?” “She.”

“She? Do I know the case?”

“It’s not exactly a bedtime story.” “Try me,” I said.

“You’re doing well enough with your own nightmares, kid.” “I’m mostly over that, Mike.”

“Bullshit,” he said. “You were thrashing around like a dervish night before last.” “That was then, Detective. Maybe I can help. What case?”

“You don’t know it. The body was found two weeks ago, while you were up here.” “I read the newspapers every day.”

“Some vics don’t make the headlines, Coop. They just lay on a slab at the morgue, waiting for someone to come along and claim them.”

“How’d she die?”

“Blunt force trauma, we think.” “How come you don’t know?”

“The body was pulled out of the East River, south of the Triborough Bridge.” “Who was she?”

“I heard you the first time you asked,” Mike said. “We didn’t have a clue at the time. There was no ID on her, and the sea creatures had done a pretty good job gnawing on her face and fingers. But that’s why I’m going back to work.”

“You mean you don’t even know her name?”

“Lieutenant Peterson just got a confirmation on that at three this afternoon.” “Thank God someone finally claimed her. I hate to think of—”

“Nobody’s claimed her yet.” “So how was she identified?”

“The broad had silicone breast implants, Coop. Seems that one of them survived intact during her submersion in that floating cesspool they call a river.”

“What did that give you?”

“Every implant has a manufacturer’s serial number on it, so it can be tracked for quality assurance or defects.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah. An implant is a medical device, kid, just like a pacemaker or defibrillator. So Tanya Root— that’s the broad’s name—had her breasts enhanced last year at a clinic in Rio. Now all I have to do is find out who wanted her dead.”

 

Two

Morning fog, a common occurrence on the Vineyard, delaye d Mike’s seven-thirty flight to White Plains. The major airlines didn’t run this time of year, so he was on a single-engine nine-seater Tradewinds flight to a small airport just north of the city.

“So what will you do to figure out who Tanya Root is?”

We were on our third cup of joe in the Plane View coffee shop, in the terminal at the edge of the airfield. I was trying to distract Mike, whose cloud-gazing was a hopeless attempt to gauge the turbulence of his flight off the island. He had an intense fear of flying—just about the only thing I knew, other than commitment to a personal relationship, that scared him.

“The usual,” Mike said. “The lieutenant put Jimmy North on the case with me.”

“He’s that new kid in the squad who worked with you to—well, to find me, isn’t he?” “Yeah. Whip-smart. Great cop.”

“He must know something by now,” I said.

“Ran a background check on the name and came up with one hundred thirty seven African-American Tanya Roots in the USA.”

“But there must be more specifics in the medical record from the clinic. Date of birth? Home address?”

Mike checked the email on his iPhone—the last case convinced him that his vintage flip had obvious drawbacks—and read from it. “The address Miss Formerly Flat-chested gave was a flophouse hotel in Rio near the clinic.”

“No help there,” I said.

“The medical history lists her as saying she was from the States, but nobody cared about the GPS coordinates as long as she was paying cash. And the doc noted that he guessed her DOB was phony. She used one that made her twenty-three, but he figures she was closer to thirty.”

“Weird that he would make a note about that.”

“Not so much,” Mike said. “He did it in the context of encouraging her to come back for work on her eyes, and to think about a first facelift before she was forty. So he did his own professional estimate of when she might plan those events.”

Instinctively I reached for my chin. I was thirty-eight, and not the plastic surgery type. I liked what nature did to faces of those who lived interesting lives. But I checked to make sure my jawline was still firm. I couldn’t imagine a facelift at this age.

“Don’t worry, Coop. You flap your mouth too much to develop any flab under there.”

I could hear the engines of the small plane before I saw its white fuselage break through the low clouds. Its wings were tilting left to right, fighting the wind and weather as the pilot struggled to set it down on the runway.

“So why all the talk of work on her face and body?” I asked. “Because she told the good doc that she was a model.”

“A model?”

“That’s what we’ve got to go on. A name that may or may not be legit. A phony date of birth. No address. And we know that somebody crushed her skull and threw her...

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