Page 16 of Rage of Angels

Adam Warner had known from almost the beginning that his marriage to Mary Beth had been a mistake. He had been impulsive and idealistic, trying to protect a young girl who seemed lost and vulnerable to the world.

He would give anything not to hurt Mary Beth, but Adam was deeply in love with Jennifer. He needed someone to talk to, and he decided on Stewart Needham. Stewart had always been sympathetic. He would understand Adam's position.

The meeting turned out to be quite different from what Adam had planned. As Adam walked into Stewart Needham's office, Needham said, "Perfect timing. I've just been on the phone with the election committee. They're formally asking you to run for the United States Senate. You'll have the full backing of the party."

"I - that's wonderful," Adam said.

"We have a lot to do, my boy. We have to start organizing things. I'll set up a fund-raising committee. Here's where I think we should begin..."

For the next two hours, they discussed plans for the campaign.

When they had finished, Adam said, "Stewart, there's something personal I'd like to talk to you about."

"I'm afraid I'm late for a client now, Adam."

And Adam had the sudden feeling that Stewart Needham had known what was on Adam's mind all the while.

Adam had a date to meet Jennifer for lunch at a dairy restaurant on the West Side. She was waiting for him in a rear booth.

Adam walked in, charged with energy, and from his expression Jennifer knew that something had happened.

"I have some news for you," Adam told her. "I've been asked to run for the United States Senate."

"Oh, Adam!" Jennifer was filled with a sudden excitement. "That's wonderful! You'll make such a great senator!"

"The competition's going to be fierce. New York's a tough state."

"It doesn't matter. No one can stop you." And Jennifer knew it was true. Adam was intelligent and courageous, willing to fight the battles he believed in. As he had once fought her battle.

Jennifer took his hand and said warmly, "I'm so proud of you, darling."

"Easy, I haven't been elected yet. You've heard about cups, lips and slips."

"That has nothing to do with my being proud of you. I love you so much, Adam."

"I love you, too."

Adam thought about telling Jennifer of the discussion he had almost had with Stewart Needham, but he decided not to. It could wait until he had straightened things out.

"When will you start campaigning?"

"They want me to announce that I'm running right away. I'll have unanimous party backing."

"That's wonderful!"

There was something that was not wonderful tugging at the back of Jennifer's mind. It was something she did not want to put into words, but she knew that sooner or later she was going to have to face it. She wanted Adam to win, but the Senate race would be a sword of Damocles hanging over her head. If Adam won, Jennifer would lose him. He would be running on a reform ticket and there would be no margin in his life for any scandal. He was a married man and if it was learned he had a mistress, it would be political suicide.

That night, for the first time since she had fallen in love with Adam, Jennifer had insomnia. She was awake until dawn battling the demons of the night.

Cynthia said, "There's a call waiting for you. It's the Martian again."

Jennifer looked at her blankly.

"You know, the one with the story about the insane asylum."

Jennifer had put the man completely out of her mind. He obviously was someone in need of psychiatric help.

"Tell him to - " She sighed. "Never mind. I'll tell him myself."

She picked up the telephone. "Jennifer Parker."

The familiar voice said, "Did you check the information I gave you?"

"I haven't had a chance." She remembered she had thrown away the notes she had made. "I'd like to help you. Will you give me your name?"

"I can't," he whispered. "They'll come after me, too. You just check it out. Helen Cooper. Long Island."

"I can recommend a doctor who - " The line went dead.

Jennifer sat there a moment, thinking, and then asked Ken Bailey to come into the office.

"What's up, Chief?"

"Nothing - I think. I've had a couple of crank calls from someone who won't leave his name. Would you please see if you can find out anything about a woman named Helen Cooper. She's supposed to have had a large estate on Long Island."

"Where is she now?"

"Either in some insane asylum or on Mars."

Two hours later, Ken Bailey walked in and surprised Jennifer by saying, "Your Martian has landed. There's a Helen Cooper committed at The Heathers Asylum in Westchester."

"Are you sure?" Ken Bailey looked hurt. "I didn't mean that," Jennifer said. Ken was the best investigator she had ever known. He never said anything unless he was positive of it, and he never got his facts wrong.

"What's our interest in the lady?" Ken asked.

"Someone thinks she's been framed into the asylum. I'd like you to check out her background. I want to know about her family."

The information was on Jennifer's desk the following morning. Helen Cooper was a dowager who had been left a fortune of four million dollars by her late husband. Her daughter had married the superintendent of the building where they lived and, six months after the marriage, the bride and groom had gone to court to ask that the mother be declared incompetent, and that the estate be put under their control. They had found three psychiatrists who had testified to Helen Cooper's incompetency and the court had committed her to the asylum.

Jennifer finished reading the report and looked up at Ken Bailey. "The whole thing sounds a little fishy, doesn't it?"

"Fishy? You could wrap it up in a newspaper and serve it with chips. What are you going to do about it?"

It was a difficult question. Jennifer had no client. If Mrs. Cooper's family had had her locked away, they certainly would not welcome Jennifer's interference, and since the woman herself had been declared insane, she was not competent to hire Jennifer. It was an interesting problem. One thing Jennifer knew: Client or not, she was not going to stand by and see someone railroaded into an insane asylum. "I'm going to pay a visit to Mrs. Cooper," Jennifer decided.

The Heathers Asylum was located in Westchester in a large, wooded area. The grounds were fenced in and the only access was through a guarded gate. Jennifer was not yet ready to let the family know what she was doing, so she had telephoned around until she had found an acquaintance with a connection to the sanatorium. He had made arrangements for her to pay a visit to Mrs. Cooper.

The head of the asylum, Mrs. Franklin, was a dour, hard-faced woman who reminded Jennifer of Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca.

"Strictly speaking," Mrs. Franklin sniffed, "I should not be letting you talk to Mrs. Cooper. However, we'll call this an unofficial visit. It won't go in the records."

"Thank you."

"I'll have her brought in."

Helen Cooper was a slim, attractive-looking woman in her late sixties. She had vivid blue eyes that blazed with intelligence, and she was as gracious as though she were receiving Jennifer in her own home.

"It was good of you to come and visit me," Mrs. Cooper said, "but I'm afraid I'm not quite sure why you're here."

"I'm an attorney, Mrs. Cooper. I received two anonymous telephone calls telling me you were in here and that you didn't belong here."

Mrs. Cooper smiled gently. "That must have been Albert."


"He was my butler for twenty-five years. When my daughter, Dorothy, married, she fired him." She sighed. "Poor Albert. He really belongs to the past, to another world. I suppose, in a sense, I do too. You're very young, my dear, so perhaps you're not aware of how much things have changed. Do you know what's missing today? Graciousness. It's been replaced, I'm afraid, by greed."

Jennifer asked quietly, "Your daughter?"

Mrs. Cooper's eyes saddened. "I don't blame Dorothy. It's her husband. He's not a very attractive man, not morally, at least. I'm afraid my daughter is not very attractive physically. Herbert married Dorothy for her money and found out that the estate was entirely in my hands. He didn't like that."

"Did he say that to you?"

"Oh, yes indeed. My son-in-law was quite open about it. He thought I should give my daughter the estate then, instead of making her wait until I died. I would have, except that I didn't trust him. I knew what would happen if he ever got his hands on all that money."

"Have you ever had any history of mental illness, Mrs. Cooper?"

Helen Cooper looked at Jennifer and said wryly, "According to the doctors, I'm suffering from schizophrenia and paranoia."

Jennifer had the feeling that she had never spoken to a more sane person in her life.

"You are aware that three doctors testified that you were incompetent?"

"The Cooper estate is valued at four million dollars, Miss Parker. You can influence a lot of doctors for that kind of money. I'm afraid you're wasting your time. My son-in-law controls the estate now. He'll never let me leave here."

"I'd like to meet your son-in-law."

The Plaza Towers was on East 72nd Street, in one of the most beautiful residential areas of New York. Helen Cooper had her own penthouse there. Now the name plate on the door read Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Hawthorne.

Jennifer had telephoned ahead to the daughter, Dorothy, and when Jennifer arrived at the apartment, both Dorothy and her husband were waiting for her. Helen Cooper had been right about her daughter. She was not attractive. She was thin and mousy-looking, with no chin, and her right eye had a cast in it. Her husband, Herbert, looked like a clone of Archie Bunker. He was at least twenty years older than Dorothy.

"Come on in," he grunted.

He escorted Jennifer from the reception hall into an enormous living room, the walls of which were covered with paintings by French and Dutch masters.

Hawthorne said to Jennifer bluntly, "Now, suppose you tell me what the hell this is all about."

Jennifer turned to the girl. "It's about your mother."

"What about her?"

"When did she first start showing signs of insanity?"

"She - "

Herbert Hawthorne interrupted. "Right after Dorothy and me got married. The old lady couldn't stand me."

That's certainly one proof of sanity, Jennifer thought.

"I read the doctors' reports," Jennifer said. "They seemed biased."

"What do you mean, biased?" His tone was truculent.

"What I mean is that the reports indicated that they were dealing in gray areas where there were no clear-cut criteria for establishing what society calls sanity. Their decision was shaped, in part, by what you and your wife told them about Mrs. Cooper's behavior."

"What are you tryin' to say?"

"I'm saying that the evidence is not clear-cut. Three other doctors could have come up with an entirely different conclusion."

"Hey, look," Herbert Hawthorne said, "I dunno what you think you're tryin' to pull, but the old lady's a looney. The doctors said so and the court said so."

"I read the court transcript," Jennifer replied. "The court also suggested that her case be periodically reviewed."

There was consternation on Herbert Hawthorne's face. "You mean they might let her out?"

"They're going to let her out," Jennifer promised. "I'm going to see to it."

"Wait a minute! What the hell is goin' on here?"

"That's what I intend to find out." Jennifer turned to the girl. "I checked out your mother's previous medical history. There has never been anything wrong with her, mentally or emotionally. She - "

Herbert Hawthorne interrupted. "That don't mean a damn thing! These things can come on fast. She - "

"In addition," Jennifer continued to Dorothy, "I checked on your mother's social activities before you had her put away. She lived a completely normal life."

"I don't care what you or anybody else says. She's crazy!" Herbert Hawthorne shouted.

Jennifer turned to him and studied him a moment. "Did you ask Mrs. Cooper to give the estate to you?"

"That's none of your goddamned business!"

"I'm making it my business. I think that's all for now." Jennifer moved toward the door.

Herbert Hawthorne stepped in front of her, blocking her way. "Wait a minute. You're buttin' in where you're not wanted. You're lookin' to make a little cash for yourself, right? Okay, I understand that, honey. Tell you what I'll do. Why don't I give you a check right now for a thousand dollars for services rendered and you just drop this whole thing. Huh?"

"Sorry," Jennifer replied. "No deal."

"You think you're gonna get more from the old lady?"

"No," Jennifer said. She looked him in the eye. "Only one of us is in this for the money."

It took six weeks of hearings and psychiatric consultations and conferences with four different state agencies. Jennifer brought in her own psychiatrists and when they were finished with their examinations and Jennifer had laid out all the facts at her disposal, the judge reversed his earlier decision and Helen Cooper was released and her estate restored to her control.

The morning of Mrs. Cooper's release she telephoned Jennifer.

"I want to take you to lunch at Twenty-One."

Jennifer looked at her calendar. She had a crowded morning, a luncheon date and a busy afternoon in court, but she knew how much this meant to the elderly woman. "I'll be there," Jennifer said.

Helen Cooper's voice was pleased. "We'll have a little celebration."

The luncheon went beautifully. Mrs. Cooper was a thoughtful hostess, and obviously they knew her well at 21.

Jerry Berns escorted them to a table upstairs, where they were surrounded by beautiful antiques and Georgian silver. The food and service were superb.

Helen Cooper waited until they were having their coffee. Then she said to Jennifer, "I'm very grateful to you, my dear. I don't know how large a fee you were planning to charge, but I want to give you something more."

"My fees are high enough."

Mrs. Cooper shook her head. "It doesn't matter." She leaned forward, took Jennifer's hands in hers and dropped her voice to a whisper.

"I'm going to give you Wyoming."