The voice, low pitched and seductive, ended in a mocking laugh. Preston Ives jerked awake, throat dry, heart
thumping. He glanced at the tousled blonde head of his wife Alicia, almost lost in a tangle of covers. She
snored softly, face turned to the wall. On the clock by the bed, black digits flipped to 3:18 a.m.
He had been hearing the voice for the past week, at work and at home. And now in his dreams. Ives stirred
restlessly and glanced at the clock again: 3:20 a.m. He needed to sleep. He had to be in court in less than
seven hours to conclude the prosecution's case in the serial murder trial of Daniel Murtson. Punching the pillow
in frustration, he exhaled sharply and shut his eyes.
The calls had begun on a spring morning after rain had electrified the air with ozone and created the brilliant
clarity Northern Californians take for granted. Mandy White, Ives' chief secretary in the district attorney's
office, had dumped the mail on his desk. She was a friendly, out-going African-American woman in her late 40s
who ran his office operations with corporate efficiency. He leafed through the pile of mail, stopping at an
envelope with a faintly embossed greeting card seal on the rear flap. Opening it, he found a Father's Day card.
It was signed, Your Daughter. The crooked letters looked as if they had been scrawled by a child learning to
“Somebody's a little early this year,” his secretary observed. “One of the boys? Don… Jim…?”
Ives studied the envelope. “I don't think so. The postmark is local. Probably a mistake.” He put the card aside
and returned to work.
That afternoon, he got the first telephone call: “DAD…dy…” The single word, drawn out, the first syllable
emphasized, was repeated once. Click.
At first, Ives dismissed the calls. Just some crank who saw my name in the newspaper, he thought. But the
caller--a woman--persisted, repeating the same word in a plaintive (accusing?) voice:
He lost patience quickly. Who was responsible? Someone that he had sent to prison? A political opponent? The
wife or girl friend of a golfing buddy at the club?
His secretary soon put a stop to the harassment at work. “I know your voice,” she barked into the phone one
morning. “You stop callin' and botherin' the man!”
But after the calls had ended at the office, they had begun at home. Ives discovered that even unlisted
numbers are obtainable. He and his wife used the answering machine as a screen. They disconnected the
telephone by the bed at night. But that didn't stop the dreams.
That morning, his sleep disturbed, Ives was irritable. He nicked himself while shaving. But he pushed thoughts
about the mystery caller out of his mind as he readied closing arguments in the Daniel Murtson murder trial. It
was high profile and media saturated, attracting reporters to Silicon Valley from San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Murtson was a sex-obsessed serial killer who had kidnapped, assaulted, slain, and dismembered five young male
The brush-cut, eerily disconnected defendant had been apprehended in the car of one of the victims. For him,
the trial marked the end of the road; for Ives, who had taken the case over personally when he calculated the
likely flood of radio, TV, and newspaper coverage, it loomed as an open road. He would use the spotlight
for…what? A shot at statewide office…a seat in the legislature…a run for Congress? Who knew? His options lay
When he worked in the office, Ives loosened his tie, removed his suit jacket, and bantered with his staff. But in
court, he cultivated a different image--that of a resolute, dedicated, defender of public safety. Still trim in his
early fifties due to careful diet and regular workouts at the gym, Ives radiated constrained energy. His nose,
slightly askew from colliding with the knee of an opponent in a rugby game at Cal, added interest to a face
dominated by penetrating blue eyes. He made a point of not smiling during court appearances, emphasizing his
awareness of the gravity of the proceedings. Dressed in custom-tailored Armani--blue, black, and gray suits
worn in rotation--he presented a reassuring image to jurors. When interviewed for television, he projected
competence and confidence.
During the trial, Ives had meticulously constructed a legal coffin for Daniel Murtson based upon eyewitness
accounts, physical evidence andmost damning of allDNA tests. He would know soon if he had been
A capacity crowd jammed the courtroom that afternoon as Ives rose to address the jury. The defendant, sullen
and disengaged, stared ahead. At an adjoining table, Clyde Arnheiser, the public defender representing the
accused, awaited his turn before the jury. He wore an off-the-rack brown suit shiny with wear, a faint patina
of dandruff flecking his shoulders. He shuffled notes nervously. A pudgy, abrupt man with a prominent Adam's
apple and prematurely receding hairline, Arnheiser had been with the Public Defender's office for four years.
This was his first big-time capital punishment case, and he knew that he was going to lose it.
Ives took center stage, walking over to the jury box with calculated deliberation. He paused, sweeping the
rows of jurors with his eyes, willing their complete attention.
“Daniel Murtson is a cold-blooded killer,” Ives began, his voice resonating in the hushed courtroom, “and his
heinous crimes deserve only one punishment--death.” As he recounted the damning sequence of testimony and
evidence, he emphasized that there could be no doubt of Murtson's guilt because DNA tests had tied him
directly to four of the five victims. “And…” he said, stepping closer and resting one hand on the railing of the
jury box, “DNA never lies!”
Ives turned then to the other jury, the spectators. Filling every seat was a mix of the victims' family and
friends, housewives bored with watching soap operas on TV, and retirees whose days contained too many
hours. Among them, paying avid attention, were the usual sensation seekers, people who slowed down
hopefully at highway accidents and gawked from behind yellow tape at crime scenes.
His eyes met those of a young woman wearing a beret who sat in the last row. He stopped, startled by her
expression of disdain and scorn. Murtson's girl friend? A relative? She noticed his surprise, and the anger in her
face intensified. Ives' eyes slid past her. He put her out of his mind, continuing his carefully prepared
summation. The defense followed half-heartedly. The jury took less than an hour to find the defendant guilty of
five counts of first-degree murder.
With the trial ended, Ives returned to his regular routine, supervising a busy office of attorneys, paralegals, and
secretaries. Penciled in on his calendar for the next week was a Tuesday night dinner with his party's movers
and shakers, the people who selected and financed candidates for higher office. To make up for the long hours
he had put in during the trial, he took his wife to Morro Bay for the weekend. They walked on the beach, hand
in hand, enjoying the bracing ocean air. At sunset, they watched majestic great blue herons swoop down upon
towering eucalyptus trees, landing gracefully for the night in precarious nests woven from branches. After that,
they donned plastic bibs decorated with lobster claws and gorged on seafood cioppino and catch-of-the-day,
washed down with a good Chardonnay.
Weeks passed and Ives forgot all about his crank caller. On one occasion, coming out of the barbershop, he
thought he caught a glimpse of a young woman wearing a beret. But when he looked again, she was gone.
Ta Ta Ta Tum…! Ta Ta Ta Tum…!
The familiar chords of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony echoed insistently as Ives threaded his Mercedes through
rush-hour traffic. Switching to one hand on the wheel, he maneuvered the cell phone to his left ear.
“I'm here,” he repeated. “Alicia… Mandy…”
His temper boiled over. “Who is this? How did you get this number? I'm not your father, you nitwit! Leave me
alone or I'll report you to the police, I swear it!”
Static enveloped the line, distorting the response. “Yes…are my dear “DAD…dy…”and…prove it.” Click.
Ives switched off the phone and slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting an SUV that had stopped suddenly in
front of him. He swallowed and gnawed his lower lip. He'd have to notify the police about the calls even though
the press would find out. Even though the caller was a woman, she might be dangerous. As a prosecutor, Ives
knew that women rarely committed violent acts. But he didn't want to become an anomaly in crime statistics.
Sunday-Father's Day. Don called from Salt Lake City and Jim from Atlanta to wish Ives well. Don had sent a box
of his favorite cigars, and Jim had mailed a gift certificate for an expensive bottle of wine. Ives and his wife
settled in to watch Letterman, TiVoed two nights before.
The front door chimes rang.
“Don't look at me,” said Alicia. “I'm not expecting anyone.”
Ives opened the door, keeping the chain in place. A sallow-faced young woman in jeans and tennis shoes, thin
wrists and neck protruding from a bulky turtleneck sweater, stood on the doorstep. Wisps of brown hair poked
defiantly from under a blue beret, and unblinking gray eyes seemed to be committing every detail of his face to
memory. She studied Ives as if he were a new and interesting virus discovered under a microscope.
“Yes?” he said impatiently.
She gave him a crooked smile. “DAD…dy…”
He recoiled. And then he lashed out. “So you're my mystery caller, the nutcase on the other end of the line.
You've just upgraded your crime from harassment to stalking. And that can be a felony.” He debated whether
to slam the door shut and call the police right away, but she didn't look dangerous.
“Stop calling me that!” he exploded. “I'm not your father!”
She smiled again, a loopy, languorous, unfocused look in her eyes. “Oh, yes you are! And I've brought a picture
of mummy to prove it.” She held up a creased and faded color photo of an unsmiling woman in a tie-died shirt
“Who is it, Preston?” Alicia appeared at his side. Her eyes dropped to the picture and she stiffened.
“See! Your wife recognizes mummy!”
Ives looked closer. The woman did seem familiar, but…
“Is your mother Sally…Krebinski?” Alicia asked in a low voice.
The woman at the door flashed an “I told you so!” smiled at Ives. “Johnson, not Krebinski. Krebinski was her
married name. She gave it up when my other daddy left.”
Ives looked at his wife, puzzled. “I don't understand….”
Alicia unfastened the chain and pulled open the door. “Come in,” she said.
Ives stepped aside in surprise as the woman entered. Once inside, she glanced about the living room, taking in
the plush gray carpet, white-painted brick fireplace, elaborate entertainment system, and comfortable
furnishings. “Nice place,” she said enviously. “Mummy and I never had anything like this.” She sank into a couch
and ran her fingers, the nails of which had been chewed to the quick, over the nubby red fabric.
Ives looked at his wife. “Will someone explain what this is all about? Whose picture is that?” Alicia said nothing.
He turned his attention to his unwanted visitor. “Who are you?”
“My name is Jennifer,” the woman said. “But you can call me Jen or honey or even sweetie pie since I'm your
He bit off a reply and looked at her more closely. “You were at the trial, weren't you? Seated in the back.”
She nodded. “And at The Knife and Fork Restaurant, around the corner from the courthouse, where you had
lunch last Friday. I was your waitress.”
Ives frowned. “I don't remember you.”
The loopy smile vanished and the hot wave of anger that had washed over him in the courtroom blazed in her
eyes. “Why should you?” she said bitterly. “Nobody remembers waitresses-unless they spill something or screw
up an order!”
Hard lines smoothed in her face “But you did leave a generous tip. That was nice although it was the least you
could do for the little girl that you abandoned.”
Ives ignored the accusation and shook his head. “I'm surprised that I don't remember you from the restaurant. I
eat there frequently.”
Jen laughed, her voice off-kilter and shrill. “Oh, I was only there a few days. They let me go after they saw
these.” She rolled up the sleeves of her sweater to reveal wrists scarred by ugly red slash marks. “Bad for
business. You can't hide your past in a waitress's uniform.”
She glanced at two pictures on a side table. “Are those your children?”
Alicia nodded warily. “Don is an engineer and Jim is a lawyer.”
Jen cocked her head, agate-hard eyes unreadable. “How nice. I'll bet they both went to college. I never got to
go to college. I got to be a waitress like my mother, serving rude, sloppy, cheap people who expected me to
smile when I picked up their dirty plates.”
Ives turned to his wife. “Who's Sally Krebinski, Allie?”
His wife didn't answer.
“Aren't you going to tell him, Al-lie? Jen taunted. She turned to Ives. “Sally Krebinski was my mother, the
woman that you gifted with your sperm in 1984. The result was me.” She leaned back, savoring their shock.
“Mummy told me all about it. What do they call it…in vitro fertilization? I looked it up,” she continued. “So cold.
So mechanical. I wish that you and mummy could at least have had some fun out of it. She's gone now, but at
least you're still here, darling Daddy.”
“No,” Ives objected, “I don't know any Sally Krebinski.” He looked to his wife for support, but she looked away.
“Allie…” his voice trailed off. And then he stopped. “Not your friend from that marriage and family class! Not the
one you asked me to…”
“See!” crowed Jen. “You do remember!”
Recollection came slowly for Ives. Not in a flood, but in fragments, like overlooked pieces of a puzzle: San
Francisco... Law school… Right after he and Allie had been married. While he had spent long hours in the library,
Alicia had taken night classes at a local community college.
“Sally Krebinski was the woman who couldn't have a baby, wasn't she?” he said quietly. “The woman that you
persuaded me to
Alicia looked away.
Ives turned to Jen, his expression cold and dismissive, the look he directed at felons in court. “There's no proof
that I'm your father…only the word of a dead woman.”
Jen rummaged in her purse. “Oh, yes there is, DAD…dy. And we can get our new relationship off to a good start
by you taking care of this.” She handed him a piece of paper. It was a bill for $280 made out to Erickson &
He heard the mocking laugh that had begun to lacerate his nerves.
“It's for a DNA test. I've been following you around to see how my Daddy and his wify lived. When you went to
the barbershop I collected a snippet of your hair. I had your DNA tested. Guess what? It's the same as mine!”
Her voice rose in triumph and then turned bitter. “The barber thought I was crazy--just like that doctor who
stitched up my wrists in the emergency room after...”
She left the sentence unfinished and glanced around the living room, stopping at the silver-framed pictures on
the table. “I didn't grow up in comfy surroundings like this. My other daddy had a test after mummy told him
she was expecting. When he found out he didn't have any little fishes swimming in his tank, he split before I
“Jennifer,” Alicia began, “I'm sorry if your life has been hard, but it's not our fault. Your mother was my friend.
Her marriage was failing. She thought that a child...”
“Shut your mouth!” hissed Jen. “That's not all you did and you know it! You turned your back on my mother and
me when we were down and out, living in a rat-infested hovel in Sacramento. She was sick and broke, and
there was a slimy old man who followed me around the apartment building, waiting to get me alone. I was eight
Ives looked at his wife in bewilderment. “What is she talking about?”
Alicia grasped his left hand and squeezed it hard. “Sally called up years ago, Preston. She wanted money. I…I…
hung up on her. You had just made partner in the law firm, and I was afraid it would come out and hurt you.”
He pulled back his hand.
Jen watched in fascination, like a cat contemplating a selection of mice. “Mummy died of breast cancer six
months ago. But she told me your name before she died and said you had been a law student. I didn't know
where to start looking for you but I picked up a newspaper one day and there you were! On the front page-the
brilliant prosecutor in a serial killer case! So here I am, DAD…dy…”
Bile rose in Ives' stomach. He had held frequent press conferences and “photo ops,” capitalizing on the trial's
notoriety. He looked at this stranger-his daughter-hoping to find a shred of understanding, if not sympathy. He
didn't find it.
All right, he thought, time to cut a deal. He had cut lots of them as a prosecutor, trading lesser charges for
guilty pleas to avoid trials. Not that he had much choice. Bad publicity now would turn off the spigot of
campaign contributions he needed to finance a run for higher office.
“Understand I have absolutely no legal obligation here,” he said. “But I'll concede there may be a moral one,
however limited. It's money you want, right?”
Jen smiled, her left index finger twirling twists of hair. “Oh, yes, money is a good start. Waitressing is crappy,
really crappy. But I want more. I want to be a member of the family. I've never had a real family. You can
introduce me to Don the engineer and Jim the lawyer.” She paused, enjoying their discomfort. “Do they have
children? I'll bet they do. Why, that'll make me an auntie! Family reunions will be so much fun!”
“It'll never happen,” Ives snapped, his patience ended. “I'll get a restraining order. If you persist in stalking me,
you'll get jail time.”
Jen's eyes widened. “Stalking? Oh, I don't need to stalk you, Daddykins. All I need is to go down to the
newspaper with my lab results and my tragic tale of an innocent child betrayed by a heartless, ambitious
politician and his BMW-driving, bitch-goddess of a wife.” She pretended to wipe tears from her eyes.
Her voice hardened. “How would that play at the country club, Daddy dearest? Or when judges get together
and chat over martinis? Or on the front page of the morning paper?” Her laugh, shrill and unnatural, grated on
his ears. “Go ahead and call the cops on me!” she challenged. “After the next election, you'll be lucky to be
hustling DUI cases outside night court!”
Alicia sat white-faced, lips parted in disbelief. Ives glared. His hands knotted into fists, the knuckles white
under taut skin.
“I can't wait to meet my brothers,” Jen rattled on. “It's too bad they're out of town for Father's Day, but don't
you worry. I'll be around. We'll have lots of Father's Days to catch up on all the good times that we missed.”
Her features morphed into the twisted caricature of a smile that he had come to loath. “And if anyone wants
proof that you really are my father, I've got it. Remember what you said in court, DAD… dy?"
“DNA never lies!”
by: Arthur C. Carey