Ceepak and I spend the rest of Sunday afternoon tracking down Joy Kochman and Revae Dunn.
We finally draw a bead on Joy Kochman thanks to the folks at the AtlantiCare Home Health Aide Agency. She has taken a live-in position with a wealthy couple up in Lavallette. That’s about an hour north of Sea Haven. You have to leave the island, head up the Garden State Parkway, exit at Tom’s River, cross over another causeway to Seaside Heights, then drive a few miles north.
So we call our friends in the Lavallette Police Department. Ask them to keep an eye on 323 Bayview Drive, the waterfront home where Ms. Kochman is currently working and living, until we can run up and conduct a proper interview.
As for Revae Dunn, we learn she lives and works in Avondale, the same town where Mainland Medical is located. We need to talk to her, too. Find out what’s up with her and Michael Rosen. How come she was able to swing a job for her sister, Monae, not to mention a shiny new Z car, too.
But both Revae Dunn and Joy Kochman have to wait till Monday.
Because Sunday evening we get a call from Steven Robins, a senior partner at Bernhardt, Hutchens, and Catherman. He is the executor of Dr. Rosen’s estate.
“I know this is highly unusual,” says the lawyer, who Ceepak puts on speakerphone in his office, “but I was able to pull some strings at Surrogate Court and move Dr. Rosen’s will through probate, post haste.”
“On a Sunday?” says Ceepak, sounding impressed.
“Indeed. The judge is an old friend. From law school. Harvard.”
Now the lawyer sounds impressed. With himself.
“Since this will might, I suspect, have some bearing on your current investigation into the manner of Dr. Rosen’s death, I think it only prudent to invite you, or your duly authorized representative, to join me and the other interested parties at my law offices this evening. Seven P.M. Will that be convenient?”
“Of course,” says Ceepak.
The law offices of Bernhardt, Hutchens, and Catherman are pretty swanky.
For one thing, the air conditioning doesn’t smell like recycled mildew. For another, the walls are made out of real wood, not that paneling they used to give away on TV game shows back in the 1960s, which was the last time most of the office buildings in Sea Haven were redecorated.
A very impressive executive assistant (who’s probably making double overtime for working at 7 P.M. on a Sunday and for wearing such a short but tasteful skirt) ushers Ceepak and me into an even more impressive conference room. The shiny wooden table in the center is bigger than most fishing boats. There are bottles of Fuji water and notepads in front of every seat. The water looks like it’s free, too.
Since we’re basically here as observers, Ceepak and I grab swivel chairs against the wall, leaving the padded table seats and free beverages for the family and other interested parties.
A few minutes later, an entire Agatha Christie novel walks into the conference room.
Michael, David, and Judith Rosen. Christine Lemonopolous and Monae Dunn. All our suspects (except the wild cards Joy Kochman and Revae Dunn) file in and find seats around the table, eager to hear the late Arnold Rosen’s last will and testament. Those rewrites he made recently? Tonight the mystery shall be revealed!
Michael and Monae sit on one side of the massive mahogany table directly across from David and Judith.
Meanwhile, Christine is seated on Michael’s side of the table but three chairs down, putting her at the greatest possible diagonal distance from Judith and David.
Christine shoots us a little finger wave when she sees Ceepak and me.
I wish she hadn’t.
Because Judith saw her do it.
Then, she narrows her piglet eyes so tight I have to wonder if the plastic surgeons who gave her those liposuction treatments also implanted bionic laser beams inside her tiny eyeballs to give her death-ray super powers like in the comic books. If so, stand by to see my head explode.
Steven Robins, a dapper little lawyer in his sixties, enters the room. He’s dressed in a very nice gray suit, which is never anyone’s first wardrobe choice on a Sunday night in June. Everyone else around the table is wearing what I’ll call their Sunday schlub clothes. Lots of plaids, short-sleeved shirts, and frumpy pullovers.
Well, everybody except Michael. He seems to have packed the right outfit for every possible occasion. Tonight, it’s another black-on-black ensemble-a black polo shirt on top of black linen pants. It’s the kind of country club casual outfit you might wear to the golf course. If you were Zorro.
“Good evening, everyone,” says the lawyer. “Thank you all for coming here on such short notice.”
“Mr. Robins?” Judith shoots up her hand.
“Yes, Mrs. Rosen?”
“Why are Christine and Monae here?”
“They are mentioned in Dr. Rosen’s revised will.”
Now Judith trains her laser beam eyes on her husband. “I knew it.”
“Relax, Judith,” whispers David.
“Don’t you dare tell me to relax,” Judith whispers back. But it’s a loud whisper. The kind everybody can hear.
“And the police?” asks Michael.
“The two detectives are here at my invitation,” says Mr. Robins. “Since a cloud of suspicion lingers over the circumstances surrounding your father’s death, I thought it best that Detectives Ceepak and Boyle join us this evening. The particulars of Arnold’s last will and testament may prove beneficial to their investigation. The sooner they know about them, the better.”
Content with that answer, Michael eases back in his seat. The lawyer continues.
“Now then, we don’t really read the will out loud like they do in the movies. However, should you wish to delve into the details, the whereofs and wherefores, I will gladly provide a hard copy of the document for each of you.”
Judith shoots her arm up.
“Yes, Mrs. Rosen?”
“These ‘recent changes’ to the will. Was my father-in-law of sound mind when he made them?”
Boom! She just blurts it out. Guess now that the guy is dead there’s no reason for her to be subtle.
“Rest assured, Mrs. Rosen,” says the lawyer, “whenever Arnold and I met to discuss estate planning issues, I was quite cognizant of his advanced age and, therefore, administered an MMSE test.”
“What’s that?” asks David, who always seems like the most confused person in any room. “What’s an MMSE? That like the SAT’s?”
“No, it’s the Mini-Mental State Examination test,” explains Robins. “A brief questionnaire we use to screen for cognitive impairment. Suffice it to say, despite his age, Arnold Rosen’s mental state was quite sound. If you’d like to see proof, I can supply you with his MMSE scores.”
“Gosh, no,” says Judith, sounding all sugar-frosted corn-flakey again. “I just didn’t want anybody around this table raising red flags.”
“Now then,” says the lawyer, before he does a good throat clearing. “To the particulars of his estate. As I said previously, Arnold’s will is neither complicated nor complex. He left two specific bequests of monies to be drawn from the sale of all his investments and assets and asked that they be cited as a mitzvah. To his devoted caregivers, Monae Dunn and Christine Lemonopolous, he bequeaths fifty thousand dollars. Each.”
Christine and Monae both sort of gasp.
Hey, I don’t blame them. I would, too.
Then Monae starts flapping her hand in front of her face like she’s about to faint. “Fifty thousand dollars?” she squeals. “This is better than hitting the Lottery!”
Judith Rosen? She’s fuming.
“The remainder of his estate,” says the lawyer, “which, given current market positions, land values, and comparable real estate sales in Cedar Knoll Heights, our accountants conservatively estimate at two point two million dollars, Dr. Rosen leaves to David and Judith Rosen in trust for his quote living legacy end quote Arnold David Rosen.”
Little Arnie. The smiling blonde kid in all the photographs is an instant millionaire. Unless, of course, his parents blow it all on guitar lessons, Bart Simpson watches, and liposuction before he hits twenty-one.
This is why Judith wasn’t pleased when Christine and Monae scored their fifty thousand dollars each. That little mitzvah cost her family one hundred thousand dollars. Still, two point one million dollars is nothing to sneeze at. It’s better than beer and pretzels rich. It’s practically Adele Ceepak rich.
“This isn’t fair,” protests Michael, his voice trembling.
“Really?” says the lawyer. “I’m surprised to hear you say that, Michael. Surely you can’t begrudge your nephew his inheritance. You earn nearly that much in two weeks.”
“This isn’t about money.” Michael says with a laugh even though I can tell he is spitting mad. “This is about fairness. This is about family.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“My partner Andrew and I recently adopted a child. An African-American boy we named Kyle.”
“Was your father aware of this?”
“I told him Friday night. At dinner.”
“That was his ‘big announcement,’” says David.
Michael? He looks like he could weep. Or explode. Maybe both.
“I’m so sorry, Michael,” says the lawyer. “Perhaps, had he lived longer, your father would’ve once more amended his last will and testament to include your son as well.”
“No,” says David. “He wouldn’t have. We talked about it at dinner on Friday night. Dad thought Michael and his ‘partner’ pretending that they were parents was stupid. Dad didn’t believe in adoption. He believed in bloodlines. And legitimate heirs.”
“Dad was all about
“You, Judith,” says Michael, sounding completely heartbroken, “are a fat, repulsive bitch.”
“Watch your mouth, little brother,” snaps David. “That’s my wife you’re talking about.”
“I know who and what she is-a hideous and heartless cow.”
“Gentlemen?” says the lawyer, banging the table with his fist like it’s a gavel.
Michael storms out of the room.
David and Judith shake their heads as if to say, “Poor, poor Michael.” Then they smile a little to savor their triumph.
Christine? She’s looking at me with a very nervous expression on her face.
I’m kind of looking at her the same way.
Because I have to wonder: Did the last elderly patient she took care of, Mrs. Mauna Faye Crabtree, also leave her a little sumpin’-sumpin’ in her will like Dr. Rosen did? Are deathbed bequests the bonuses of the home health aide trade?
If so, Christine might’ve had a solid motive for helping ease another one of her patients out the exit door.