Today's Reading

Chapter Two

The Liberty Hotel, née the Charles Street Jail, is a massive granite structure, built in 1851. Thousands of pretrial detainees, including Malcolm X and the Boston Strangler, have done time here. Now it's a luxury destination for tourists and business travelers, willing to pay upwards of $400 a night to sleep in refurbished jail cells. Real police mug shots of celebrities hang in the lounges: Clink, Alibi, the Yard. The place makes me feel right at home.

About a hundred well-heeled women and besuited men are lined up outside the hotel. I sneak to the front of the queue, prepared to badge my way inside, until I see Jimmy Vickers, stocky and balding, stationed at the front door. Jimmy and I met a couple of years ago when he was impaneled on one of my grand juries.

"Ms. Endicott, long time no see." He clocks my knees. "You're all cut up."

"It's nothing." I stretch the fabric of my skirt to cover the scrapes. "I'm clumsy."

"Someone came in here a while ago, asked me to keep an eye out for you. A black guy, about six foot two."

"That's my boyfriend, Ty. He's playing a gig."

"He said he'd be upstairs, in the Catwalk."

Jimmy unhitches the red velvet rope from the metal stanchion and steps aside. I go into the hotel; a steep escalator leads to an expansive atrium, underneath a ninety-foot-high rotunda, where a frenetic pickup scene is in progress. A thirty-something, in a navy-blue blazer and gray flannel slacks, blocks my path.

"Buy you a drink?" he says. "Hey, wait, aren't you that—"

I cut him off before it becomes impossible to deny.

"No, I look like her, but I'm not."

He starts to challenge me, but gets distracted when a willowy brunette, in a slinky silver bridesmaid dress, glides by. I take the opportunity to disappear in the crowd.

Upstairs, Ty is seated at a table, drinking an Anchor Steam. He's wearing a black leather jacket and white button-down shirt. No matter the venue, Ty is always the most handsome man in the room.

He sees me walking toward him and stands.

"Babe, what happened?" he says.

"I fell," I say. "It's nothing."

I don't even try to sell the lie, and, kindly, Ty pretends to buy it. He wraps his arms around me and gives me a kiss. I relax for a moment, feel safe in his embrace.

There's a glass of red wine on the table; I take a sip, then quickly put the glass down.

"We can't afford decent wine anymore?" I say. "This tastes like something I'd pick up at the Clinique counter."

"Sorry, babe," he says. "The reds you like go for over twenty bucks a glass."

"We have twenty dollars."

"Not for a glass of wine."

Cash never used to be a problem. My family has plenty of money, too much money, and they've always been more than generous—until last year, when my life was threatened and Ty was almost killed. They
issued an ultimatum: quit my job or forfeit my wealth. My parents never approved of my career choice. My mother called it unbefitting, and my father deemed it unsafe. The incident was the final straw.

It was an easy decision. I love what I do, can't imagine doing anything else, but it's been an adjustment. Living off my salary is no easy task, since I'm committed to a ridiculously expensive lifestyle. My condo fee alone eats up most of my income.

Ty moves to the ballroom to set up and do a sound check. He's a musician, a brilliant tenor sax player, and he's worked with some of the best, in clubs like the Blue Note and Ronnie Scott's. Tonight, however, it's not about art. It's about paying the bills.

As soon as the coast is clear, I flag down the waitress, order a better glass of Pinot and an expensive cheese platter. She returns a few minutes later and hands me back my Visa.

"Sorry, it was rejected," she says. "Want to try another one?"

I have other credit cards, but the result will likely be the same.

"No, thanks," I say.

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