The big boys figure a little blackmail will put her husband out of the race. Until Spenser hops on the candidate's bandwagon.
But getting back the tape of the lady's X-rated indiscretion is a nonstop express ride to trouble--trouble that is deep, wide and deadly.
About the Author
Date of Birth:September 17, 1932
Date of Death:January 18, 2010
Place of Birth:Springfield, Massachusetts
Place of Death:Cambridge, Massachusetts
Education:B.A. in English, Colby College, 1954; M.A., Ph. D. in English, Boston University, 1957, 1971
Read an Excerpt
I was nursing a bottle of Murphy’s Irish Whiskey, drinking it from the neck of the bottle sparingly, and looking down from the window of my office at Berkeley Street where it crosses Boylston.
It was dark and there wasn’t much traffic down there. Across the street there were people working late in the ad agency, but the office where the brunette art director worked was dark. The silence in my office was linear and dwindling, like an art-perspective exercise. The building was pretty much empty for the night and the occasional faraway drone and jolt of the elevator only added energy to the silence.
I sipped a little whiskey.
When you thought about it, silence was rarely silent. Silence was the small noises you heard when the larger noises disappeared.
I sipped another small swallow of whiskey. The whiskey added a little charge to the silence. Irish whiskey was in fact excellent for thinking about things like silence.
A car came slowly down Berkeley Street and parked up on the curb below my office window by a sign that said TOW ZONE NO PARKING ANYTIME. A bulky man with a large red nose got out. I knew who he was.
Across Boylston Street, on the Bonwit’s corner, a man and woman stood arms around each other waiting for the light to change so they could cross Berkeley. She had her left hand in his hip pocket. He had his arm over her shoulders. Was it love or was she lifting his wallet? The light changed. They crossed. Her hand still in his hip pocket. Love.
Behind me I heard the office door open. I turned away from the window and there was the bulky man with the red nose.
He said, “You Spenser?”
I said, “Yeah.”
He said, “You know who I am?”
“Fix Farrell,” I said.
“F.X.” he said, “I don’t like that nickname.”
I said, “You want a slug of Murphy’s Irish Whiskey?”
I handed him the bottle. He wiped the neck off automatically with the palm of his hand and took a slug. Then he handed me back the bottle.
“You a lush?” he said.
“I can’t do business with no lush.”
“Wouldn’t that depend on the business?” I said.
Farrell shook his head. “Never mind that shit,” he said. “I woulda heard if you was a lush.”
I had a little more whiskey and offered him the bottle. He took it and drank some more. He had on a light gray overcoat with black velvet lapels and he was wearing a homburg. The hair that showed around the hat was gray. The shirt that showed above the lapels of the overcoat was white, with a pin collar and a rep stripe tie tied in a big windsor knot.
“I had you checked out, Spenser. You unnerstand? I had my people look into you pretty thorough, and you come out clean.”
“Yippee,” I said.
“We’re going to hire you.”
He gave me back the bottle. What made his nose red was a fine network of broken veins.
“The city council?” I said.
He shook his head impatiently. “No, for crissake, the Alexander campaign committee. We want you to handle security for us.”
“Meade Alexander? The congressman?”
“Yeah. They told me you were smart as a whip. Meade’s running for the Senate, or don’t you read the papers?”
“Only the funny stuff,” I said. “Tank MacNamara, and the City Council proceedings.”
I drank a little more whiskey.
“Sure, sure,” Farrell said, “you want the job?”
“Security,” I said.
“Security. We’ve had some death threats and they’re probably some left wing crackpot, but Browne’s connected, so you gotta pay some attention.”
“Browne? Alexander’s opponent?”
“Yeah, Robert Browne.”
“He’s got mob affiliation?”
“Oh, yeah, sure.” Farrell said. “Been in the bag for years.”
“And you think the mob’s trying to put a hit on Alexander?”
Farrell shook his head. “No. But you can’t be sure, and we gotta have somebody to handle security anyway. Every campaign has to have security. Why not get the best.”
“A gentleman of discerning sensibility,” I said.
“Yeah, sure. You want the job?”
“Who’s doing it now?”
“Couple of Fitchburg cops on temporary duty to the campaign staff. They’ll stay, but you’d be in charge.”
“Alexander’s from Fitchburg?”
“What mob has Browne in its pocket?” I said.
Farrell shrugged. “Who knows?”
“If you don’t know who bought him, how do you know he’s bought?” I said.
Farrell took the bottle from me again without asking and drank. Then he passed it back. I drank a much smaller swallow than he had.
“What the fuck are you, the editor of The Boston Globe? It doesn’t matter what I can prove. We’re talking politics, asshole.”
“You don’t know me well enough to call me pet names, Fix.”
Farrell paid no attention. He looked at his watch.
“What d’ya say. You want the job or no? Money’s not a sweat. We can get together on the money.”
I turned away from Farrell briefly and stared out my window at the dark street and the darkened window of the art director and listened to the sounds of my office. Did I have something better to do? I did not. Could I use the money? Yes. Would it kill time for me better than drinking Irish whiskey and looking out the window? Maybe.
“You have any trouble with Alexander’s politics?” Farrell asked my back.
I turned. “I have trouble with everybody’s politics,” I said.
“So what’s the problem?” Farrell said.
“No problem,” I said. “I’ll take the job.”
Meade and Ronni Alexander were holding hands when I met them. He was tall and sort of rural looking with a good tan. His gray-blond hair was combed straight back. He wore a dark blue three-piece suit of miraculous fiber, a maroon tie with tiny figures, and black boots that closed with a zipper up the side.
His wife was smaller, with long blond hair styled the way Farrah Fawcett used to wear hers. She had very large blue eyes, long eyelashes, a wide mouth, and a small straight nose. Around her neck she wore a black velvet ribbon with a cameo brooch in front. Her blouse was white, pleated, and lacy at collar and cuffs. Her skirt was black; her shoes had very high heels. She smelled of good perfume and looked twenty years younger than her husband. She wasn’t. He was fifty-one. She was forty-six.
We were in their suite at the Sheraton-Boston along with Fix Farrell and the two Fitchburg cops and a guy named Abel Westin, who was Alexander’s media consultant. We all sat down, except Ronni, who got coffee from the room service wagon and began to serve it. I was speculating whether when she wrote her name she dotted the i with a little heart. I thought it was likely.
Alexander accepted a cup of coffee from his wife and said to me, “Are you a religious man, Mr. Spenser?”
“Were you raised in a Christian faith?”
“My people are Irish. I was raised Catholic.”
“But you no longer believe.”
“Do you believe in almighty God?”
“Why, does he want to hire me?”
Alexander sat back so abruptly that he spilled some coffee.
“Or she,” I said.
Ronni Alexander got a napkin from the room service table and dabbed at her husband’s trouser leg and at the rug, tucking her skirt carefully under her as she crouched. Alexander patted her shoulder.
“Thank you, Ronni,” he said, still looking at me speculatively. “Mr. Spenser, whatever stereotype you have of politicians will not suitably characterize me. I am a Christian. It is the most important thing about me. I believe absolutely in a set of very clear imperatives. I will not at this time debate those imperatives with you. But do not take them lightly. It is in the service of Christ that I run for office, in the interest of implementing those imperatives. This country is desolate and needs to be redeemed.”
I looked at Fix Farrell standing by the window with his hat on. His face remained impassive. Alexander continued.
“I do not require that you be a Christian. But I do require that you understand my faith and its power. We will be together often and sometimes continuously for some time. My wife and I are in earnest.”
Farrell said, “Okay, Meade, cut the shit. We ain’t hiring him to pray for you.”
“Please be careful of your language, Francis, in front of Mrs. Alexander.”
“Yeah, sure,” Farrell said. “But Spenser is what we need in this job. My people checked him out real thorough. Yeah, he’s a royal pain in the ass; but he’s got the stuff. So let’s get to it and stop frigging around.”
Alexander smiled and shook his head slightly. He looked at me a moment.
“Do you have the stuff, Mr. Spenser?”
“So far,” I said.
He smiled again and nodded. Everyone was silent. Westin looked at his watch. The two Fitchburg cops sat stolidly in their chairs. You don’t have to be a cop long to get good at waiting.
Ronni Alexander said, “Are you married, Mr. Spenser?” Her smile when she asked me was very bright.
She kept smiling and nodded as if she had confirmed a suspicion. If I’d been married, I’d have had better manners.