The Stars Shine Down Chapter Thirty Five

Transcript of Interrogation of Howard Keller by Detective Lieutenant Sal Mancini.

M: You have been read your rights, Mr. Keller?

K: Yes.

M: And you have waived the right to have an attorney present?

K: I don't need an attorney. I was going to come in anyway. I couldn't let anything happen to Lara.

M: You paid Jesse Shaw $50,000 to attack Philip Adler?

K: Yes.

M: Why?

K: He was making her miserable. She begged him to stay home with her, but he kept leaving her.

M: So you arranged to have him crippled.

K: It wasn't like that. I never meant for Jesse to go so far. He got carried away.

M: Tell me about Bill Whitman.

K: He was a bastard. He was trying to blackmail Lara. I couldn't let him do that. He could have ruined her.

M: So you had him killed?

K: For Lara's sake, yes.

M: Was she aware of what you were doing?

K: Of course not. She never would have allowed it. No. I was there to protect her, you see. Anything I did, I did for her. I would die for her.

M: Or kill for her.

K: Can I ask you a question? How did you know I was involved in this?

End of Interrogation.

At 1 Police Plaza, Captain Bronson said to Mancini, ’’How did you know he was behind it?’’

’’He left a loose thread, and I unraveled it. I almost missed it. In Jesse Shaw's rap sheet, it mentioned that he took a fall when he was seventeen for stealing some baseball equipment from a Chicago Cubs minor league team. I checked it out, and sure enough, they were teammates. That's where Keller slipped up. When I asked him, he told me he had never heard of Jesse Shaw. I called a friend of mine who used to be a sports editor for the Chicago Sun Times. He remembered them both. They were buddies. I figured it was Keller who got Shaw the job with Cameron Enterprises. Lara Cameron hired Jesse Shaw because Howard Keller asked her to. She probably never even saw Shaw.’’

’’Nice work, Sal.’’

Mancini shook his head. ’’You know something? In the end it really didn't matter. If I hadn't caught him, and if we had gone after Lara Cameron, Howard Keller would have come in and confessed.’’

Her world was collapsing. It was unbelievable to Lara that Howard Keller, of all people, could have been responsible for the terrible things that had happened. He did it for me, Lara thought. I have to try to help him.

Kathy buzzed her. ’’The car is here, Miss Cameron. Are you ready?’’

’’Yes.’’ She was on her way to Reno to testify before the grand jury.

Five minutes after Lara left, Philip telephoned the office.

’’I'm sorry, Mr. Adler. You just missed her. She's on her way to Reno.’’

He felt a sharp pang of disappointment. He was desperately eager to see her, to ask her forgiveness. ’’When you speak to her, tell her I'll be waiting for her.’’

’’I'll tell her.’’

He made a second phone call, spoke for ten minutes, and then telephoned William Ellerbee.

’’Bill...I'm going to stay in New York. I'm going to teach at Juilliard.’’

’’What can they do to me?’’ Lara asked.

Terry Hill said, ’’That depends. They'll listen to your testimony. They can either decide that you're innocent, in which case you'll get your casino back, or they can recommend that there's enough evidence against you to indict you. If that's their verdict, you'll be tried on criminal charges and face prison.’’

Lara mumbled something.

’’I'm sorry?’’

’’I said Papa was right. It's the Fates.’’

The grand jury hearing lasted for four hours. Lara was questioned about the acquisition of the Cameron Palace Hotel &Casino. When she came out of the hearing room, Terry Hill squeezed Lara's hand. ’’You did very well, Lara. I think you really impressed them. They have no hard evidence against you, so there's a good chance that...’’ He broke off, stunned. Lara turned. Paul Martin had come into the anteroom. He was dressed in an old-fashioned double-breasted suit with a vest, and his white hair was combed in the same style as when Lara had first met him.

Terry Hill said, ’’Oh, God! He's here to testify.’’ He turned to Lara. ’’How much does he hate you?’’

’’What do you mean?’’

’’Lara, if they've offered him leniency to testify against you, you're finished. You'll go to prison.’’

Lara was looking across the room at Paul Martin. ’’But...then he would destroy himself, too.’’

’’That's why I asked you how much he hates you. Would he do that to himself to destroy you?’’

Lara said numbly, ’’I don't know.’’

Paul Martin was walking toward them. ’’Hello, Lara. I hear things have been going badly for you.’’ His eyes revealed nothing. ’’I'm so sorry.’’

Lara remembered Howard Keller's words. ’’He's Sicilian. They never forgive, and they never forget.’’ He had been carrying this burning thirst for vengeance inside him, and she had had no idea.

Paul Martin started to move away.

’’Paul...’’

He stopped. ’’Yes?’’

’’I need to talk to you.’’

He hesitated a moment. ’’All right.’’

He nodded toward an empty office down the corridor. ’’We can talk in there.’’

Terry Hill watched as the two of them went into the office. The door closed behind them. He would have given anything to have heard their conversation.

She did not know how to begin.

’’What is it you want, Lara?’’

It was much more difficult than she had anticipated. When she spoke, her voice was hoarse. ’’I want you to let me go.’’

His eyebrows were raised. ’’How can I? I don't have you.’’ He was mocking her.

She was finding it hard to breathe.

’’Don't you think you've punished me enough?’’

Paul Martin stood there, stone, his expression unreadable.

’’The time we had together was wonderful, Paul. Outside of Philip, you've meant more to me than anyone in my life. I owe you more than I could ever repay. I never meant to hurt you. You must believe that.’’

It was difficult to go on.

’’You have the power to destroy me. Is that really what you want? Will sending me to prison make you happy?’’ She was fighting to hold back her tears. ’’I'm begging you, Paul. Give me back my life. Please, stop treating me like an enemy...’’

Paul Martin stood there, his black eyes giving away nothing.

’’I'm asking for your forgiveness. I...I'm too tired to fight anymore, Paul. You've won...’’ Her voice broke.

There was a knock on the door, and the bailiff peered into the room. ’’The grand jury is ready for you, Mr. Martin.’’

He stood there, looking at Lara for a long time;then he turned and left without a word.

It's all over, Lara thought. It's finished.

Terry Hill came hurrying into the office. ’’I wish to God I knew how he was going to testify in there. There's nothing to do now but wait.’’

They waited. It seemed an eternity. When Paul Martin finally emerged from the hearing room, he looked tired and drawn. He's become old, Lara thought. He blames me for that. He was watching her. He hesitated a moment, then walked over to her.

’’I can never forgive you. You made a fool of me. But you were the best thing that ever happened to me. I guess I owe you something for that. I didn't tell them anything in there, Lara.’’

Her eyes filled with tears. ’’Oh, Paul. I don't know how to...’’

’’Call it my birthday present to you. Happy birthday, baby.’’

She watched him walk away, and his words suddenly hit her. It was her birthday! So many events had been piling on top of one another that she had completely forgotten about it. And the party. Two hundred guests were going to be waiting for her at the Manhattan Cameron Plaza!

Lara turned to Terry Hill. ’’I've got to get back to New York tonight. There's a big party for me. Will they let me go?’’

’’Just a minute,’’ Terry Hill said. He disappeared inside the hearing room, and when he came out five minutes later, he said, ’’You can go to New York. The grand jury will give its verdict in the morning, but it's just a formality now. You can return here tonight. By the way, your friend told you the truth. He didn't talk in there.’’

Thirty minutes later Lara was headed for New York.

’’Are you going to be all right?’’ Terry Hill asked.

She looked at him and said, ’’Of course I am.’’ There would be hundreds of important people at the party to honor her that night. She would hold her head high. She was Lara Cameron...

She stood in the center of the deserted Grand Ballroom and looked around. I created this. I created monuments that towered into the sky, that changed the lives of thousands of people all over America. And now it's all going to belong to the faceless bankers. She could hear her father's voice so clearly. ’’The Fates. They've always been agin me.’’ She thought of Glace Bay and the little boardinghouse where she had grown up. She remembered how terrified she had been on her first day at school: ’’Can anyone think of a word beginning with f?’’ She remembered the boarders. Bill Rogers...’’The first rule in real estate is OPM. Never forget that.’’ And Charles Cohn: ’’I eat only kosher food, and I'm afraid Glace Bay doesn't have any.’’...

’’If I could acquire this land...would you give me a five-year lease?’’...

’’No, Lara. It would have to be a ten-year lease.’’...

And Sean MacAllister...’’I would need a very special reason to make this loan to you!...have you ever had a lover?’’...

And Howard Keller: ’’...you're going about this all wrong.’’...

’’I want you to come to work for me.’’...

And then the successes. The wonderful, brilliant successes. And Philip. Her Lochinvar. The man she adored. That was the greatest loss of all.

A voice called, ’’Lara...’’

She turned.

It was Jerry Townsend. ’’Carlos told me you were here.’’ He walked up to her. ’’I'm sorry about the birthday party.’’

She looked at him. ’’What...what happened?’’

He was staring at her. ’’Didn't Howard tell you?’’

’’Tell me what?’’

’’There were so many cancellations because of the bad publicity that we decided it would be best to call it off. I asked Howard to tell you.’’

’’To tell you the truth, I've been having some problems with my memory.’’

Lara said softly, ’’It doesn't matter.’’ She took one last look at the beautiful room. ’’I had my fifteen minutes, didn't I?’’

’’What?’’

’’Nothing.’’ She started to walk toward the door.

’’Lara, let's go up to the office. There are some things that have to be wound up.’’

’’All right.’’ I'll probably never be in this building again, Lara thought.

In the elevator on the way up to the executive offices, Jerry said, ’’I heard about Keller. It's hard to believe he was responsible for what happened.’’

Lara shook her head. ’’I was responsible, Jerry. I'll never forgive myself.’’

’’It's not your fault.’’

She felt a sudden wave of loneliness. ’’Jerry, if you haven't had your dinner yet...’’

’’I'm sorry, Lara. I'm busy tonight.’’

’’Oh. That's all right.’’

The elevator door opened, and the two of them stepped out.

’’The papers that you have to sign are on the conference room table,’’ Jerry said.

’’Fine.’’

The door to the conference room was closed. He let Lara open the door and as she did, forty voices started to sing out, ’’Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you...’’

Lara stood there, stunned. The room was filled with people she had worked with over the years - the architects and contractors and construction managers. Charles Cohn was there, and Professor Meyers. Horace Guttman and Kathy and Jerry Townsend's father. But the only one that Lara saw was Philip. He was moving toward her, his arms outstretched, and she suddenly found it difficult to breathe.

’’Lara...’’ It was a caress.

And she was in his arms, fighting to hold back the tears, and she thought, I'm home. This is where I belong, and it was a healing, a blessed feeling of peace. Lara felt a warm glow as she held him. This is all that matters, Lara thought.

People were crowding around her, and everyone seemed to be talking at once.

’’Happy birthday, Lara...’’

’’You look wonderful...’’

’’Were you surprised...?’’

Lara turned to Jerry Townsend. ’’Jerry, how did you...?’’

He shook his head. ’’Philip arranged it.’’

’’Oh, darling!’’

Waiters were coming in now with hors d'oeuvres and drinks.

Charles Cohn said, ’’No matter what happens, I'm proud of you, Lara. You said you wanted to make a difference, and you did.’’

Jerry Townsend's father was saying, ’’I owe my life to this woman.’’

’’So do I.’’ Kathy smiled.

’’Let's drink a toast,’’ Jerry Townsend said, ’’to the best boss I ever had, or ever will have!’’

Charles Cohn raised his glass. ’’To a wonderful little girl who became a wonderful woman!’’

The toasts went on, and finally, it was Philip's turn. There was too much to say, and he put it in five words: ’’To the woman I love.’’

Lara's eyes were brimming with tears. She found it difficult to speak. ’’I...I owe so much to all of you,’’ Lara said. ’’There's no way I can ever repay you. I just want to say’’ - she choked up, unable to go on - ’’thank you.’’

Lara turned to Philip. ’’Thank you for this, darling. It's the nicest birthday I've ever had.’’ She suddenly remembered. ’’I have to fly back to Reno tonight!’’

Philip looked at her and grinned. ’’I've never been to Reno...’’

Half an hour later they were in the limousine on their way to the airport. Lara was holding Philip's hand, and thinking, I haven't lost everything after all. I'll spend the rest of my life making it up to him. Nothing else matters. The only important thing is being with him and taking care of him. I don't need anything else.

’’Lara...?’’

She was looking out the window. ’’Stop, Max!’’

The limousine braked to a quick stop.

Philip looked at her, puzzled. They had stopped in front of a huge empty lot, covered with weeds. Lara was staring at it.

’’Lara...’’

’’Look, Philip! Look!’’

He turned his head. ’’What?’’

’’Don't you see it?’’

’’See what?’’

’’Oh, it's beautiful! A shopping mall over there, in the far corner! In the middle we'll put up luxury apartment houses. There's room enough for four buildings. You see it now, don't you?’’

He was staring at Lara, mesmerized.

She turned to him, her voice charged with excitement. ’’Now, here's my plan...’’


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