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Chapter One

Rage, psychosis — a smart murderer knows that some judges and juries buy an insanity plea. I evaluated
one guy who told me he couldn't remember a thing about shooting his girlfriend three times while she slept.
Claimed he'd been overwhelmed by rage and then blacked out. Another said voices in his head told him his
wife was a vampire. So he had to cut her open and drive a wooden stake into her heart.
Sometimes the rage or the psychosis is real, and sometimes the person is faking it — "malingering," in
forensic-speak. I'm a forensic neuropsychologist, so I'm supposed to be able to tell when someone's lying.
Contrary to popular belief, liars don't always fidget or blink more than the rest of us. They don't necessarily
avoid eye contact or skimp on descriptive detail. Even lie detectors can't always tell who's lying.
The liars I see in the judicial system do it to avoid punishment or to collect on bogus lawsuits. On the
Neuropsychiatric unit that I run at the Pearce Psychiatric Institute, patients do it to get drugs. The occasional
pathological liar lies because he lies.
Rex Destefano was another kind of liar entirely.

The beep from Mrs. Destefano came while I was conducting rounds on the unit. She used the emergency
code I give only to my patients. I called back from the nurses' station.
"Dr. Zak? Have you heard?" she asked, her voice querulous.
My stomach dropped. "Is it Jennifer?" A few months earlier, we'd pulled her 26-year-old daughter back
from a treatment-resistant, suicidal depression. She was out of the hospital now, and I'd transferred her to a
therapist in her hometown. Last I heard she'd been doing well, convalescing at home. But I knew you
couldn't let your guard down with patients like Jennifer — not with her history of toxic mood swings that
struck hard and fast.
"It's my husband," Mrs. Destefano said. I remembered Anthony Destefano. Though I'd met him only once
when he visited Jennifer during her in-patient stay — Mrs. Destefano visited Jennifer daily - he'd left an
impression. Like a successful politician, he'd swept through the unit trailing the heady scent of power.
"He's dead," she said, her voice cracking. "And they're holding my son Rex for murder."
I sat down. Had I met Rex? I thought I remembered a young man who'd accompanied Mrs. Destefano a
couple of times. But I couldn't come up with a face or even a body type. All I had was a general impression
of a kid, maybe twenty years old, who faded into the background.
"You work in the court system, don't you? Can you help him?" Mrs. Destefano asked. "I'm so worried about
what's going to happen in that … that place."
I pulled over a pad and began to take notes. She said he was being held at the Middlesex County Jail. I
didn't recognize the name of his attorney, and I knew most of the top-notch defenders who worked locally.
"You've hired a criminal attorney to represent him?" I asked.
"Our corporate attorney is handling — "
I sighed. The lawyer was probably a trusted friend but he'd be out of his league. The DA would make a meal
out of any corporate suit that ventured into his cage. "I'm sure he's extremely competent at handling your
business affairs, but a criminal case is another thing entirely."
"He's worked with the family for years," she said staunchly.
I gripped the phone and tried again. "You called me for help. And I'll do everything I can as a psychologist.
But I work in the courts all the time and I'm telling you, the number one thing you need is a lawyer who
knows his way around the criminal justice system. I can give you the name of someone I've worked with."
There was silence on the other end of the line. At the time, I wrote off her resistance to the tendency we all
have to circle the wagons when threatened.
"A criminal lawyer will not only be able to get me in quickly to see Rex, he also might convince the court to
transfer him here where we can evaluate him." Then I remembered how the Destefanos had checked their
daughter into the Pearce under a fictitious name. Nasty publicity might dislodge them from their hard-
earned berth among Boston's movers and shakers. I played what I hoped would be a trump card. "He'll also
know how to protect the family and your business from the media."

That evening I was at home, drinking the last glass from a bottle of Star Hill Zin and reading the story in the
newspaper. I knew Mrs. Destefano had taken my advice because that afternoon, attorney Chip Ferguson had
called. He'd thanked me for the referral and asked if I had time in the next day or so to go in and see his new
So it was with both personal and professional interest that I read: "Middlesex County District Attorney
Montgomery Sherman filed the charge of premeditated, first-degree murder against Rex Destefano in the
shooting death of his father, Anthony Destefano. The younger Destefano allegedly shot his father seven
times with a 9mm handgun."
I scanned the rest of the article. It said Mrs. Destefano had discovered her husband's body when she returned
to the house that morning. There was no mention of Jennifer. I wondered if she'd been home at the time.
The article featured a photo of Anthony Destefano. I would've expected them to run a photo of the son as
well. Maybe there hadn't been one on file. In any event, instead they'd run a picture of Dex, the doll that
launched what had at first been a family business and had now become much more.
The resemblance between Anthony Destefano the man and Dex the toy was uncanny. Dark wavy hair that
seemed more sculpted than grown. A strong, rugged profile. Anthony Destefano had to be at least 50, but
the face in the photograph was as smooth and flawless as plastic.
A sidebar to the article said, "Destefano's creation, Dex, was named for the son who now stands accused of
his murder. The action figure was introduced in 1985. In recent years, Dex has been threatening to overtake
GI Joe in popularity."
I flipped on my computer and got online. Dex Toys had closed for the day down eight points. I wasn't
surprised. It was the Martha Stewart syndrome — a company whose image was so closely aligned with its
CEO that it inevitably took a hit if the CEO so much as sneezed.
I drank the last of my wine and carried the glass to the kitchen. What had it been like, I wondered, having an
eight-inch doll named after you — one that cast an even longer shadow than your powerful businessman

Rex Destefano was lounging in the chair in the cell-like examining room of the Middlesex Jail, one leg bent,
his other stretched out. His arms were folded across his chest and his head rested to one side. Rex resembled
his father, but in Rex the rugged features had gone soft, the ramrod spine turned to rubber. He might have
been napping except that his eyes were open a slit.
I cleared my throat and sat down across from him. He opened his eyes. Before I had a chance to say
anything, he said, "So what happens now?" He gave me a sullen, bored look and clenched his fists. "I tell
you I'm innocent? Well I'm sorry to disappoint you. I did it." A smile spread over his face. "I shot him and
now he's dead."

Chapter Two
Most defendants I deal with are poor schnooks — in the wrong place at the wrong time, with the wrong
parents and the wrong brain chemistry. Rex Destefano didn't fit that mold. First off, he wasn't poor. His
family owned Dex Toys and could afford the kind of team that defended O.J. Second off, he wasn't a
schnook. The intelligence test I administered showed his IQ was in the top two percent.
Third off, he admitted that he'd killed his father. Admitted? The word was too pallid. Bragged. Boasted.
Most people who get indicted for murder did it. Despite that, I can count on one hand — on one finger, in
fact — the number of times I've evaluated a defendant who admitted his own guilt.
"I shot him and now he's dead," was the first thing Rex had told me with apparent nonchalance as he draped
himself over a chair in the examining room of the Middlesex County Jail. He seemed inordinately pleased
with himself.
I explained that I was there to help in his defense. My job was to evaluate his psychological state, not to
pass judgment. We quickly went through the standard mental status and cognitive tests I administer. Then I
began the interview: "Can you tell me about your relationship with your father?"
Suddenly we weren't talking multiple choice or right-wrong. A momentary look of wariness crossed his
face. He crossed his arms over his chest and hunched over. "My father." His mouth twisted into a sneer as
he said the words. "What relationship? He was a self-centered louse who noticed me the way he'd notice a
house pet. As long as I didn't piss on the rug, he left me alone."
"So you didn't argue or fight with him?"
"No point to it. Would've been like talking to a wall, or punching Jell-O." Rex picked at a pimple on his
chin. "Never gave me credit for anything I did."
I wondered what kind of credit Rex figured he was due. From the information attorney Chip Ferguson had
given me, Rex had never held a job. His school record had been ordinary — mostly Cs — and he'd dropped
out of college in his junior year. On the other hand, he wasn't into drugs. No arrests, no car accidents even.
His past, like his presence, was devoid of distinguishing features.
"So morning before last, what happened?" I asked.
Once again, a wary look crossed his face, replaced in an instant by complacence. "Guess I just got fed up.
He was upstairs in his office, door closed. He was on the phone. I waited for him to finish before I knocked.
'Not now,' he tells me.
"That ticked me off. I told him I had something to say and I needed to say it. Now. So I went in and we
talked. Then I shot him."
The sudden cut to the chase brought me up short. "What was it you wanted to tell him?"
He had an answer ready. "I wanted him to give me a chance. Show what I could do. I'm a lot smarter and
hipper than those assholes he's got working in development. In fact, last time I gave him one of my ideas,
next thing I know they're making this game. You think I got any credit for it? All I wanted was a chance."
"You wanted him to give you a job?"
"Yeah," he said. But just before he said it, a momentary look of confusion crossed his face. For a split
second, the look reminded me of the one my brother used to give my parents when he got home after
midnight and was about to tell them he'd been at the library studying. I filed away the thought as one of the
multiple pieces of information coming at me simultaneously — body language (protective, covert), facial
expression (smirk), and tone of voice (flat).
"I waited until he was off the phone and then I barged in there and told him off." Now Rex had his chin out.
"Told him he owed me." Rex blinked, his eyes moved back and forth as if forming a plan in his head. "He
laughed at me. Told me as far as he was concerned, I was nothing. A big zero." Rex squared his shoulders.
"Is that so? You lousy bastard …" Rex's face had turned red with anger, his shoulders heaving as he saw
himself confronting his father.
"I got the gun." Rex raised his arm, pointed his finger at me and took aim. "Blam!" His arm jerked. "Blam
blam blam!" He let his arm drift down to his side, affect draining from his face. "I just kept on shooting."
"The gun. Where did you get it from?"
There was an instant of hesitation. Then, "He keeps a gun in his desk."
"So let me see if I understand. Let's say I'm your dad. I'm over here, on this side of the desk, right?" I stood.
Rex nodded. He stood and faced me.
"So you're telling me off, right? So how does the gun come into it?"
"I was talking to him, like this" — Rex came around to my side of the table and jabbed a finger at my chest
— "and telling him I'm not a loser. And I reach around, open the drawer, and get the gun." Rex pantomimed
the action. "I hold it to his face. He backs away. Sits down in his chair."
I pushed back my chair and sat.
"He tells me to stop kidding around. Then I shot him."
"So he didn't take the threat seriously."
Rex returned to his chair. "He never takes me seriously."
"And that's how far away you were when you shot him?" I asked.
He hesitated. "Maybe." Rex looked down, brushed something invisible from his shirt front. "Each time I
pulled the trigger, I came closer to him. The last one I put right into his head."
I pulled over my yellow pad and made a few notes. "Thanks, Dex," I said.
"Don't call me that!" he thundered, his face suffused with rage. Now the resemblance to his father was much
more pronounced.
"Sorry," I said. "Really, it was just a slip."
"Right." He eyed me suspiciously. "I hate it when people call me that."
"Kids used to taunt you with that?" I asked.
Now he had the wary look of a cornered fox. "Yeah. All the time."
It was the first thing he'd said in about twenty minutes that I believed.

Chapter Three
I parked in front of the Destefano's home, a Tudor mansion in a gated, estate community in Westwood, a
bedroom town south of Boston. As I crossed the manicured lawn, I thought about Rex Destefano. It wasn't
the story he told so much as everything that went with it that didn't jibe.
He said he'd confronted his father, told him off, and in a fit of anger shot him seven times at close range. But
Rex's body language and facial expression were out of sync with his words. I needed to tease apart the
conflicting information. Seeing him for a couple of hours in an examining room at the jail wasn't cutting it.
I'd been stunned when the DA, usually an intransigent hardass, readily agreed to our request to transfer Rex
to the Pearce Psychiatric Institute where I could evaluate him more thoroughly. Chip Ferguson gave the
predictable explanation. "No miracle, I'm afraid. Just a wealthy defendant whose family can call in political
Rex was supposed to be transferred the next morning. I rang the doorbell and wondered about the family
that produced a son with homicidal rage and a daughter with suicidal depression.
A silver BMW 740i pulled up behind me in the driveway. Mrs. Destefano got out. She was a petite blond,
not a strand of hair out of place. The pale blue suit fit as if it had been poured on. She carried a bulging,
battered leather briefcase — definitely for business, not for show — and she held a cell phone to her ear.
"Sorry," she mouthed at me. She bustled past and unlocked the door. I followed in her perfumed wake.
I waited in the living room while Mrs. Destefano finished her call. The room was opulent, all deep reds and
blues with oriental rugs, brocade-covered furniture, and tasseled velvet drapes. A portrait over the fireplace
was of the family — a young Rex Destefano looking privileged and bored, and his sister Jennifer giving a
painted-on smile.
I heard Mrs. Destefano's heels clicking across the hallway's marble floor. "What can I get you to drink?" she
asked. She was carrying a cut-glass tumbler with what looked like scotch on the rocks.
"Whatever you're drinking is fine."
She came back a minute later with my drink. It turned out to be an excellent bourbon. She sighed and sank
down on the sofa.
"Long day?" I asked.
"Very. Anthony and I always worked very closely together, you know. I was more into marketing and
product development. He ran sales. Now it's all falling to me. There's a learning curve, but not as much as I
thought. Mostly it's a problem of getting them to take me seriously."
She wiped the corner of her mouth with a red lacquered fingernail. "They'll come around."
I wondered if she'd been like this since her husband's death — running on adrenaline, acting as if murder
were an inconvenience to be managed. She must have realized how she sounded because she added, "And
the work helps me keep my mind occupied. It's better than sitting around feeling sorry for myself."
I knew it wouldn't help to tell her that work and busyness only kept you going only so long. I'd learned the
hard way that eventually you had to confront the loss.
She added almost as an afterthought, "I'm worried to death about Rex and what's going to happen to him. I
didn't know who else to call. You were such a big help with Jennifer."
"Jennifer was with you when this happened?" I asked.
She nodded.
"How's she doing with her depression?"
Mrs. Destefano glanced toward the door as if she half expected Jennifer to appear. "She's holding her own."
"I'd like to at least say hello —"
"She's not here. She's - she's gone to the bookstore. She needed a book, and she said there was a magazine
she …" Mrs. Destefano's voice died out. She was probably wondering the same thing I was - why was she
giving me so much detail when a simple "She's out" would have sufficed?
"They're transferring Rex to the Pearce tomorrow," I told her.
"Thank God."
"Maybe you can tell me what happened?"
"Of course." She sighed heavily and set down her glass. The police had probably asked her to go over this
dozens of times. "It was Saturday morning. I was out shopping with Jennifer. At the Chestnut Hill Mall."
That surprised me. Jennifer had been quite outspoken about what she deemed crass consumerism. Maybe
she'd gone to keep her mother company. That didn't seem likely either, given how much Jennifer disliked
her mother.
"We'd just gotten back. We were bringing the bags in when I heard a shot. At first I thought it was a car
backfiring. But then there was another and another. I knew it was gunfire." Her face was composed, but she
held her hands clasped together in her lap, the knuckles going white. Despite the many times she'd repeated
this story, retelling still took its toll. "I ran up and found them. Anthony at his desk. Rex" — her voice broke
— "Rex was still shooting."
I waited a few moments for her to regain her composure. Then I said, "I hope you don't mind me asking, but
would you show me where it happened?"
I followed Mrs. Destefano up a curved staircase to a spacious dark paneled study. There was no chair at the
generous walnut desk. "The police took it and I'm getting it replaced," Mrs. Destefano told me, reading my
I surveyed the room. There was a Chesterfield sofa and a matching wing chair made of oxblood leather. The
wall behind the desk was covered with photographs of the Destefanos with various politicians, framed
letters, awards. On a shelf of its own in the center of the wall was an award, a pyramid of glass with the
words "TOTY 1995 Boy Toy of the Year" sandblasted into it.
I figured I was standing about where Rex had been when he told his father he wanted a real job at the
company. I walked around to the opposite side of the desk, where Rex said he'd confronted him. He'd
opened a drawer and gotten the gun, pointed it. Even with his father backing away, it seemed like awfully
tight quarters. And then somehow his father had ended up back in the chair? The logistics were
"So when you got up here, where was Rex?"
Mrs. Destefano was standing alongside a credenza. She was cradling a plastic figure — so that was Dex.
She looked up at me. "He was over there, about where you are. He was shooting the glass case where we
keep these." That's when I noticed a half-dozen more dolls lying in a heap on the credenza. "The original
prototypes," Mrs. Destefano explained. "When he ran out of bullets he twisted the heads off. Now I don't
know what to do with them. I can't throw them away." She lined up the mutilated dolls.
"I'm sorry," I said, not knowing what else to say. "I know this is difficult. Just one more question. Your son
said your husband kept the gun in his office?"
"He didn't …" Mrs. Destefano looked confused. "In his office?" A guarded look dropped over Mrs.
Destefano's face.
"Rex said your husband kept it in his desk."
Mrs. Destefano looked at the spot where her husband's chair should have been, then back at me. "Yes, he
"Which drawer?" I asked.
It was as if I'd just placed a pea under one of three walnut shells and shuffled them around. Now I was
waiting for Mrs. Destefano to pick.

Chapter Four
"I don't know which drawer he kept the gun in," Mrs. Destefano admitted.
We were in her husband's study and I was trying to figure out how her son had managed to come around
behind the desk, grab the gun, and shoot his father seven times at close range. Seemed like awfully tight
quarters. Now I was wondering why Mrs. Destefano didn't know where her husband kept his gun. A 9mm
handgun was a good-sized weapon.
"When you got upstairs, were you afraid your son might hurt you?"
Mrs. Destefano gave me a sideways look and smoothed the slim skirt of her powder-blue suit. "No. That's
odd, isn't it? I wasn't afraid at all. It was over."
The door to the room had pushed open. Mrs. Destefano's daughter Jennifer leaned against the doorjamb,
twirling a long strand of blond hair around her finger. Her skin was pale against the black outfit — a skinny
T-shirt and a long skirt. "You're such a hypocrite," Jennifer said. "Of course you weren't scared. You knew
Rex was afraid of his own shadow."
Mrs. Destefano whipped around. "I thought I told you to stay in your room," she said through clenched
Jennifer rolled her eyes, dismissing her mother's outburst as she'd been doing since she was eight. "Hey Dr.
Z," she gave me her hand, the fingers long, the nails bitten.
It had been more than a month since I'd had my last session with Jennifer. I first met her as an inpatient —
she'd taken an overdose of Valium and tied a plastic bag around her head for good measure. She survived
only because the bag leaked and a friend found her.
Jennifer had been severely depressed off and on since puberty. She'd been through cognitive behavioral
therapy, tried Prozac and most of the other clones, mood stablizers, and anti-anxiety medication. She'd taken
B-vitamins, St. John's Wort, and tryptophan. Nothing worked.
It wasn't any brilliance on my part that had come up with the answer. She'd undergone a battery of
neurological tests as part of a work-up for electro-convulsive therapy — once thought to be barbaric, ECT
was again in the ascendance as a last resort for people with intractable depression. Turned out Jennifer had a
mild form of epilepsy. When we put her on an anti-seizure medication, the depression began to lift and her
mood stabilized. We'd inadvertently tripped over the solution.
Now her father had been gunned down, right in this room, and her younger brother was incarcerated.
Despite the physiological aspect to her depression, a traumatic event like that could send anyone spiraling
"I'm okay," she said, noticing me eyeing her closely. "Really I am."
She didn't have the flat look of someone who was morbidly depressed. With her black clothes and pale
complexion, she looked more like someone who cultivated a bleak look, maybe a poet or artist - which is
kind of what she was. Between writing poetry and freelance graphic design, she'd managed to stay afloat
without help from her wealthy family. She'd reluctantly moved home to convalesce.
Mrs. Destefano lined up the mutilated dolls in a row on the credenza. Now she was matching heads to some
of the torsos. "I was telling Dr. Zak that you and I were at Bloomingdale's when Dad was killed," she said.
She gave Jennifer a meaningful look. Jennifer blinked and looked away.
"Do you mind if Jennifer and I talk?" I asked. "She might be able to give me some insight in preparing Rex's
defense. Maybe she could show me her brother's room?"

"What do you mean, your brother is afraid of his own shadow?" I asked as Jennifer walked me down the
corridor. "And before you answer, remember, I'm not your doctor any longer. I'm not bound by doctor-
patient privilege. Whatever you say, I'm going to share with your brother's defense team."
Jennifer waved away the concern. "Just that. He's a rabbit-y kind of person. Under their thumb. I mean he's
still living at home at age twenty-four. What does that tell you?" I must have looked surprised, because
immediately she added, "Oh, I know, I'm living here too. But it's only temporary. And besides, he's a guy."
"So you don't think he killed your father?"
Jennifer pushed open the door to Rex's room. "He was angry enough, sure. But I didn't think he had the guts.
I'm just saying it's out of character." She chewed on a cuticle. "I mean, I could probably still get Rex to cry
by creeping into his bedroom at night with a flashlight under my chin."
From the look of his room, these days Rex enjoyed getting creeped out. The walls were hung with posters.
One of them was a graphic of a woman in a housedress, hanging infants by their toes on a clothesline that
stretched back across a green valley to the horizon. Painted across the sky in slashing letters was
YOUTHANASIA. Pretty morbid.
"He's got terrible taste in music," Jennifer said. I must have looked puzzled because she immediately
explained. "Megadeth. They're a punk rock group. That's one of their posters."
"The police searched in here?" I asked.
"They pretty much turned the room upside down. Took my mother most of a day to get it straight again."
I didn't comment, but it seemed odd that with all her money, Mrs. Destefano did her own straightening. I
knew firsthand, though, that something mindless like cleaning helps keep you going through the first stages
of grief.
"Did Rex get along with your father?"
"You didn't 'get along' with my father," Jennifer said, drawing quote marks in the air. "You stayed out of his
way. Rex kept getting in his face. After my parents started the business, Mom didn't have time for Rex
either. That's when things really started to go downhill for him."
"And recently? Did he and Rex fight?"
"Recently —" Jennifer closed the door to the hall. "I don't know what was going on with my father. In the
last weeks I've been home, he's been practically a recluse. Coming home, staying up here in his office. I
have no idea how long that's been going on."
I'd noticed a wet bar in the corner of the Anthony Destefano's study. "Drinking?"
Jennifer nodded.
"And your mother?"
"In denial. That's how she always is." Jennifer pushed the corners of her mouth up into a bright smile.
"Elephant in the living room? What elephant?"
"So you think your brother changed around the time Dex Toys launched?"
"He was eight years old. Know what his nickname was? Dex. Naming that doll after him - it was a
colossally stupid, narcissistic thing for my parents to do. They didn't think. Dex was this powerful superhero
and my brother was a wimp. It was pretty pathetic."
"He got teased a lot?"
Rex was into the latest electronics. He had a fancy stereo system with oversized speakers. A computer with
a flat-screen monitor. A green enamel electric guitar. Macho toys for big boys.
On a bulletin board over his desk were some clippings. The one that got my attention was an article entitled
"Kamikaze Kid." It was about the teenager who flew a light plane into one of the upper floors of a bank
building in downtown Tampa. The photograph showed the plane's fuselage hanging from the building,
people clustered in a window below looking up at it.
The article ended with a quote from a fifteen-year-old friend of the young pilot: "I think he did it to get
publicity, so people would know who he was when he died. And they do." I wondered if that sentiment
resonated with Rex.
I turned to face Jennifer. "So I thought you hated Bloomingdale's…"

Chapter Five
I knew I'd hit a nerve from the way Jennifer reared back. Her eyes darted back and forth as she scrambled
for something to say.
It had seemed very odd to me that she'd gone to Bloomingdale's with her mother the morning her brother
said he shot their father. "Shopping desiccates the brain," she'd once said when she was in treatment with
me. "You end up with a big grey prune up there."
The black outfits Jennifer wore came from Goodwill. She claimed she was allergic to the formaldehyde new
clothing was treated with — it would have given her hives to set foot in the Chestnut Hill Mall.

"So his sister was in the house when Rex Destefano killed his father," investigator Annie Squires said, her
eyes narrowing as she weighed the implications.
I was in Cambridge, near Central Square meeting with Annie and Chip Ferguson. Annie and Chip had been
business partners for almost ten years. They were the original odd couple, Chip in his corporate suit and
Annie in her jeans and leather biker jacket. Chip is nearly bald and Annie's got a mass of reddish curls. Over
the last year, Annie and I had become much more than business associates. But right now she was all
I'd been telling them about my visit to the Destefano home. "Jennifer didn't say that directly, but I'm
convinced that she was. The one thing she'd say was that when she got upstairs, her father was dead and Rex
was shooting up the doll prototypes."
"Dex, the doll that launched the family business," Annie said, wrinkling up her nose, which was sprinkled
with freckles, as were her shoulders, which unfortunately at that moment I couldn't see. "The company may
be in some hot water. Rumors about some financial shenanigans to make their numbers look good."
"Interesting," I said. "Jennifer told me her father had seemed despondent in the last few weeks."
"And something else," Annie added. "About a year ago, Dex Toys took out an insurance policy on Anthony
Destefano's life. The company stands to collect twenty million dollars. That will be more than enough to
bail them out of their financial crisis."
"Sounds like a pretty powerful incentive for murder," I said. "Though I doubt it would motivate Rex."
"You find anything else?" Chip asked me.
I described Rex's room — the electric guitar, the computer, the posters, and the newspaper clipping about
the young man who'd flown a small engine plane into a Tampa high rise.
"A suicidal fifteen-year-old? Odd role model," Annie said.
"Sane?" Chip asked. But from his tone I could tell he didn't expect to be able to hang a defense on an
insanity plea. "Competent to stand trial?"
"I'd say. But he's lying about something. I'm hoping the tests will help me figure out what."

"A vampire mask," Rex said when I showed him the first inkblot. They'd transferred him from the jail the
day before. His mother had brought over the baggy jeans and well-worn T-shirt, along with his CD player
and a laptop computer. When he wasn't hooked up to the Internet, Rex had been spending his time listening
to CDs. "Here are its eyes" — he pointed to a pair of white spots on either side — "and teeth" — two jagged
outcroppings along the bottom — "and some dripping blood" — miscellaneous splatters below.
The Rorschach test gives me a way of peering sideways into someone's personality. A vampire mask was a
pretty standard response to this particular card. People usually saw bats, or masks — or combine the two as
Rex had done. When an accused murderer looks at a card like that and says, "Looks like a birthday cake,"
you know he's malingering — trying to con the test.
"It's a rocket ship taking off," Rex said, pointing to the white space in the center of the next inkblot. "Maybe
it's going off on a mission to fight the space invaders," he added giving me a smirk. "Pod people. Invading
the earth. There's smoke coming out of the back." He pointed to a smudge below the white space.
Fighting space invaders — a fantasy of power. That was consistent with everything else I knew about Rex.
But it was very unusual for someone to see the salient image in the white space between the inkblots. We're
conditioned to see pictures in color on white backgrounds — when someone focuses on the opposite, it
suggests some negativity, perhaps an antisocial personality.
"Looks like a moose that's been hit by a car," Rex said when I showed him a later card. "There's broken
antlers here" — he pointed to the bottom part of the inkblot that sometimes reminds people of fingers —
"here's blood. The smoking hulk of the car with pieces falling off."
"What else can you tell me?" I asked.

Rex ran his tongue over his lower lip. "The guy driving the car saw the moose and decided it was either him
or the moose, and he wasn't going to get out of the way."

This was about what I'd expect of an antisocial young man trying to regain control of his life. Rex saw
himself as the driver, the moose as the obstacle to be removed at any cost.

In the next card, Rex saw dismembered limbs. The one after was a burning building, the walls dripping
blood. Over and over through the remaining half-dozen, Rex's saw blood, smoke, dead and injured animals,
dismembered limbs, all the stuff the literature says should set off blinking red lights.

I handed him the next to last one, the one clinicians refer to as the "father card" because the ink blot
suggests a massive masculine figure.
Rex gave it an offhand glance. With a bored sigh he said, "It's a teddy bear."

Whiplash. This was the opposite end of the spectrum from his other responses. I made a note. "What makes
you say that?" I asked, keeping my voice even.

"Here's its nose, and eyes, and ears. And here are its arms. They're stretched out." Rex stretched out his own
arms to demonstrate. "He wants to be hugged."

"Hmm," I said, taking another note.

Rex watched me writing. He folded his arms in front of him and slouched. "But it's not a real teddy bear. It's
just supposed to look like one. It's really filled with nails. And nobody in his right mind would ever hug a
teddy bear like that."

Nice try, but it was too late. For just a moment the shade had slipped and I'd seen what Rex sought to hide
— a glimmer of real affection for his father. His cover-up was telling as well.

As the Rorschach test proceeds, people tend to let down their guard. Well-defended responses that yield
relatively little to interpret at the beginning give way to richer, more spontaneous responses. However,
rarely did I find such a drastic contrast — it was more than could be explained by Rex simply letting down
his guard.

Chapter Six
Rex's Rorschach test results confounded me, the way they boomeranged on the "father card." I'd evaluated
many defendants who I thought were malingering, trying to "cheat the test," but never in quite this way.
Except for the one place where he'd slipped, Rex had tried to make himself look like a murderer. I wondered
if while surfing the Web, he hadn't found his way to one of the many sites that give the inside scoop on how
to interpret inkblots.
I told Annie this when she called to tell me she'd been to the Destefano home. "Place makes my teeth itch,"
she'd said. I laughed. Annie came from Somerville, she and her sister the only girls in a family full of cops
and firefighters. She was unimpressed by affluence. "Hell of a place to have to grow up," she added. "No
wonder the kid ends up bent."
Annie told me Mrs. Destefano was sticking to her story that she and Jennifer had been out shopping when
Anthony Destefano was killed.
"That's how she'll testify. Makes it look as if Rex was the only one who was in the house besides his father."
"I still don't think he did it," I said.
"Peter, he was found with the gun in his hand. He admits —"
"And the whole thing smells. It couldn't have happened the way Rex says it did. There isn't enough space
behind that desk for Rex to confront his father and kill him, not unless the guy just sat in that chair and said,
'Shoot me.'"
"So why admit to a murder he didn't commit?"
There were two possible explanations. I gave the most obvious one. "Maybe he's protecting someone."
"Which one is he protecting?" Annie asked. "His mother or his sister?"
"The only thing I know is that all three of them are lying."
"How can you be so sure?"
Annie was right to be skeptical. Most people can't tell when someone's deliberately lying to them. There's
just too much information coming at you too fast — words, intonation, body language, facial expression.
"In this case, I'd go out on a limb," I said. "Rex is making up the details of the confrontation with his father.
Mrs. Destefano and Jennifer are lying about where they were that morning. The only thing I know for sure
is that Anthony Destefano is dead."
"And somebody put seven bullets into him," Annie added. "Peter, if this kid is innocent, then I've got to find
the evidence that proves it. The DA's only going to have to lay out the facts — they speak for themselves,
and they make Rex look guilty."
"There's something I'm not seeing," I said. "Maybe if I could get the three of them together …" While I
talked, a plan formed in my head. A family meeting. Would they allow me to videotape it? I'd been trained
to read faces, to analyze the action units that go into expression - but it wasn't something you could do on
the fly. Invisible to the naked eye, true feelings often reveal themselves in a fleeting moment before the will
to deceive shuts them down.

"I supposed, if you think it will help with Rex's defense," Mrs. Destefano had said when she'd reluctantly
agreed to be videotaped. Now I was running the tape of the family meeting for Annie and Chip. The lens
was focused on Rex, Jennifer, and Mrs. Destefano sitting in a semicircle. I was just in the frame with my
back to the camera.
Mrs. Destefano sat to my left, perched at the edge of her chair, her legs crossed at the ankle. She wore a
perfectly tailored navy pantsuit. "Dresses like a stewardess" was how Jennifer had once described her
mother to me.
Jennifer was in the middle, wearing her usual nondescript black pants and top. She didn't seem quite settled
in her chair, uneasy between mother and brother.
Rex was to my right. Grudgingly, he'd removed his CD player headset. It hung around his neck. He had his
arms crossed and he was facing slightly away from the others, his body language screaming, I'm not one of
"I'd like each of you to tell me about your relationship with Mr. Destefano," I'd said.
Before anyone else could say anything, Mrs. Destefano jumped in. "Anthony was a loving husband. We
were married for twenty-eight years. He was a brilliant businessman. He never hurt anyone." It sounded like
the Cub Scout pledge.
Jennifer was giving her mother a sour look. "I once wrote a poem about him," she said. "Know what I called
it? Cipher. Because as a father, that's what he was. A big nothing." She glanced at Rex. "To me anyway."
"My father," Rex began. He'd hugged his arms around himself tighter. "My father was a bully. He made me
feel like … what's that word you used?" he said, looking to Jennifer.
"A cipher," she whispered.
"Right. He made me feel like that. A big goose egg. Nothing I could do was good enough. I hated him."
"Now watch," I said to Chip and Annie as I rewound the tape and started it again, this time at half-speed
with the sound turned off.
Mrs. Destefano started to speak, her face tense, forthright. She said something. Something more. And then
her eyes shifted to her lap, and for an instant her expression dissolved. "There," I said, stopping the tape.
Annie and Chip were leaning forward. Mrs. Destefano's mouth had turned down at the corners, her brow
knitted. "Guilt," Chip said, putting a name to the expression that, as a lawyer, he'd seen many times. "She's
feeling remorse for something."
I agreed. "That was right before she said her husband was a brilliant businessman who never hurt anyone."
I continued the tape, running slowly forward until it was Rex's turn. He glared into the camera, his face
masked with contempt. He said something and for a moment his expression dissolved. "Oh my," Annie
cried, seeing the transformation. "He looks like a little baby. Like he's yearning for something."

"He's talking about his father," I said. "His words express disdain. But the emotion that's leaking out is
something else entirely. I believe Rex felt a real longing and affection for his father."

I fast-forwarded through the next part of the family meeting, slowing down when I got to the part where I'd
asked them to talk about the murder. Mrs. Destefano was sticking to her version of events — she and
Jennifer had gone shopping. As her mother spoke, Jennifer turned away from her and picked at a thread in
her pants.
Mrs. Destefano described going upstairs and finding Rex still shooting. Now her outrage seemed genuine.
Likewise, her grief over her husband's death.
Then Rex spoke. Said he'd waited for his father to get off the phone. "Then I marched in there and
confronted him. Told him he was being stupid. I wanted to prove myself."

"Now look," I said. "Look at his mother and sister while he's saying this." I reran the last bit of tape, slowly.
Their outward differences melted as Jennifer and her mother struck similar poses, bodies pulling away from
Rex, heads tilted, hands hovering over their mouths.

"They don't believe him," Annie said. "They don't believe a word he's saying."
I ran the tape at regular speed again and heard my voice asking, "So what were you thinking when you were
out in the hall, waiting to go into your father's office."

There was a brief pause. Then Rex said, "I was thinking how much I hated him."
"There!" Annie said. "I saw it that time. Right after you asked the question, before he started to talk."

I backed up the tape and ran it slowly forward. We watched Rex hear my question. Then, for an instant, his
face was utterly transformed. His mouth drew taut, eyes widened. Then the muscles in his cheek went slack
and his eyebrows rose to meet one another. It was fear morphing into sadness.
"I'll be damned," Chip said.

Chapter Seven
Where a Barbie might have come with a purse and a pink sedan, Dex came with an Uzi and a parachute. I
took Dex out of his box and left him on the table in the therapy room. Then I stepped into the adjoining
observation room.
A few minutes later Rex slouched into the doorway. He looked tired, like he'd aged well into his thirties
over the last week.
"Shit," he said when he saw Dex. He glanced up at the one-way glass, suspicious. Then he sat at the table
and stared at the doll. Slowly he reached out, poked it with his index finger and nudged it closer. There was
no mistaking his expression now. Grief. I left the observation room.
"Looks just like your dad, doesn't he," I said from the doorway.
Rex hurled the doll against the wall. "Why are you doing this to me?" he cried. "I've admitted that I killed
him. What more do you want?"
I picked up the doll. "I want to know what happened before you say you went into your father's study."
"He was on the phone, I told you," Rex said, his voice ragged.
I sat across from Rex and lay the doll on the table. "Who was he talking to?"
Rex shrugged. "Dunno."
"I thought you were right outside his door. What he was talking about?"
"Hello?" said a tentative voice from the doorway. It was Mrs. Destefano. "The nurse said I'd find you in
here." She looked at Rex but he avoided eye contact.
I offered her a chair. Mrs. Destefano sat and put her purse on the floor — it was the same red as her high-
heeled shoes and the trim on her black suit.
"Bankruptcy," Rex said. His mother gave him a startled look.
"I was just asking Rex about the phone call your husband made while Rex was waiting in the hall to talk to
him," I explained.
"He sounded upset," Rex added.
"Dex Toys was having financial problems?" I said, addressing the question to Mrs. Destefano.
She shifted in her seat, nylons hissing as she re-crossed her legs. "Some. We'd misstated some earnings.
Anthony thought we should go public. Start over. We'd done it once from scratch, why not again?"
"But you didn't agree?"
"He was wrong," she said flatly. "Thought things were worse than they were. He had a tendency to do that.
Blow things out of proportion. It's what made him a great salesperson and a lousy manager. He didn't really
understand …" She broke off. "There were other ways."
"Why didn't you tell the police about the company's financial problems?"
"They didn't need to know. Besides, I had to protect the business. I wouldn't expect a man to understand. I'm
a woman, alone now. I have two children who depend on me. Without Dex Toys, I'd have nothing."
Rex gave a harsh laugh. "The company. That's all either of you ever cared about."
"But things are fine now, aren't they?" I said. Mrs. Destefano swallowed. She didn't say anything. "I mean,
the company's financial problems — they've disappeared."
"You're making connections where there are none," said Mrs. Destefano.
"I'd say twenty million dollars is a pretty powerful connection."
"What are you suggesting?" She gave me a stony look.
"Nothing. Just noting that the company wouldn't be collecting on a very large life insurance policy if your
husband were alive. And I'm wondering why you said Jennifer was shopping with you when she was at
"You don't think Jennifer could have —?" Mrs. Destefano began.
"I don't," I said.
She shrugged off my look. "I didn't want the police questioning her. Thinking maybe she had something to
do with it. After all she's been through."
I shifted my attention to Rex. "But you didn't confess to protect your sister, did you?"
Rex returned my look with a vacant stare, a muscle working in his jaw.
I went on. "You were out in the hall, planning what you were going to say when your father got off the
phone. But then something happened. What was it?"
Rex looked at his mother, then at me. Then he gazed down at the Dex lying face up on the table.
"Mrs. Destefano," I said, "how can let your son spend his life in prison for a murder you know he didn't
"I —" Mrs. Destefano stammered.
"Let me do this, Mother!" Rex shouted, gripping the table top. "For once in your life, will you just let me do
this one thing by myself, my way. I killed him. It happened just the way I said —"
"I wonder if you know how a standard life insurance policy works," I said cutting him off. "Suppose I take
out a policy on someone's life. Less than two years later that person kills himself. Then the payout is limited
to the premiums paid in. No twenty million dollar windfall." I paused. "The policy on your father's life was
barely a year old."
The leg of Rex's chair scraped as he sat up and pushed away from the table.
"Was it your intention to save Dex Toys? Because by saying that you killed your father, that's exactly what
you've done."
Rex narrowed his eyes at me. "Is it true about the insurance?" he asked his mother.
Mrs. Destefano opened her mouth but nothing came out.
Rex took a breath and held it. Then he exhaled slowly. "It is, isn't it?"
Mrs. Destefano put her head in her hands.
"I should have known there'd be something like that," Rex said, his eyes drilling holes into the top of his
mother's head. Then he looked at me. He was at the tipping point — either he'd dig in, or he'd tell what
really happened.
I waited. Finally he said, "I was out in the hall. He was on the phone. I heard a gunshot." Relief surged
through me. "I didn't know what had happened. I went in. He was in the chair. Bleeding." Rex touched his
trembling fingertips to his forehead. "He was still holding the gun.
"I didn't know what to do. I was so … so" — Rex's face twisted into grief, then hardened — "angry. So
many times I'd dreamed about how I wanted to kill him. I took the gun and I fired. Then I fired again and
again. In the chest, in the head. I kept on going, shooting up their precious prototypes."
I could almost hear the gunshots echoing under Mrs. Destefano's quiet sobs. "But this isn't news to you, is it
Mrs. Destefano?" I said.
There were tears on her face when she looked up. "It was me on the phone," she said. "We were arguing. He
said he couldn't live with himself. He'd failed. We should file for bankruptcy before the newspapers got a
hold of the story. I told him to please, please, wait until I got home. I was in the car, on my way."
"The receiver was on the desk," Rex said, his voice hollow. "You were still on the phone?" He blinked,
standing slowly, absorbing the enormity of it. "You knew all along that he killed himself?"
Mrs. Destefano reached out for Rex. He yanked himself away with a look of disgust. "You knew?" he
"I thought you took the blame to save us, to save the business. I never wanted you to go to prison."
"Yeah, right," Rex said still holding onto the bravado. "As if I ever gave a rat's ass about the business."
"That's why I asked Dr. Zak to help," Mrs. Destefano said. Was the anguish in her face genuine, I wondered,
as she watched Rex crumple and the toughness fall away and he began to cry — a twenty-year old crying an
eight-year-old's tears. "Don't you understand? I thought he could —"
She didn't need to finish. It was perfectly clear now what she'd wanted from me - to get Rex off with an
insanity defense. That would have been a win-win — the business survives and Rex avoids prison.
I gaped at her, appalled that she could find any rationale for allowing her son to take the blame for his
father's death. Could she really have stood by, mute, while he wasted his life in a hospital for the criminally
Anthony Destefano's death had destroyed three people — himself, his wife and his son. I knew that as Mrs.
Destefano began to fathom what she'd been prepared to do, her guilt and grief over almost sacrificing her
only son would overwhelm her. It was a cliché almost — that old Freudian Oedipal stuff all over again. The
son kills his father, or at least claims to, in order to become a man and win his mother's respect. Only this
time he finds his mother ready to sacrifice him on the altar of greed.
I walked out of the room, back to the nurses' station. Someone else would have to salvage these souls. I was
just too damned tired.

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