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Authors: John Lawrence Reynolds

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BOOK: Solitary Dancer
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Micki leaned forward in the chair. “Why were you so angry with her the night before she died? Tim played me the tape from her answering machine. You sounded ready to
kill
her, Joe.”

“Prob'ly was,” he slurred. He turned away to stare at the ceiling.

“Why?”

He shook his head. “Can't remember.” He lay his forearm across his eyes. “She wanted me to do her a favour, hold some money, something like that.”

“But she wasn't blackmailing you?”

“Said she could.” He remembered now, something drifting through the fog.

“About what?”

“Don't know. Didn't need blackmail to make me hate her. Jus' came naturally.”

“She was blackmailing other people,” Tim Fox said. “Had been for three or four years.”

“Who?”

“Different people,” Micki said. “Wealthy men with wives and families who wanted to save their marriages and careers.”

“What'd she have on them?”

“Pictures.”

“Of what?”

“Heather and the men. In bed together.”

McGuire lifted his arm from his eyes to stare at Micki. “Heather? Your sister Heather was running that old scam?” Micki nodded. McGuire smiled. “How'd you know?”

“She told me,” Micki said. “In Florida. She came to see me, gloating like she used to. . . .” She shrugged.

McGuire stared at her in silence.

“She came down to visit me and flashed all this jewelry, said she was going over to Tampa for a dirty weekend with some guy, and then she laughed and whispered how she was going to show him some pictures when they got back. The pictures had been taken the previous weekend in her apartment. She would sell him the negatives. ‘Never take less than five thousand,' she said. ‘They want to play, they gotta pay.' She said she'd rather take less from more men than go for the big kill, a hundred thousand. She said she usually got ten because after a hundred thousand, ten sounded like a bargain and they could hardly wait to put money in her hand for the negatives. She always gave them back the negatives. Always.”

“An honest businesswoman,” Tim Fox said dryly.

“S'what makes America great,” McGuire added.

“Figure somebody she was blackmailing decided it was cheaper to cash her in than a check,” Fox said. “We think she had a camera in her room mounted on a wall, peeking out from between some vases on a shelf in her bedroom. And an infrared flash. We found receipts for infrared film. Camera was probably set on a timer, she'd know how to do that. Crank the stereo up high to cover the sound of the camera, going click-click every couple of minutes. Probably kept the negatives and prints in a file cabinet that was ransacked.”

“Sounds like somebody made an astute business decision,” McGuire muttered. He turned back to Micki. “How many of these stunts did she work?”

She shrugged. “I think maybe six or seven a year. I don't think she did it just for the money. She always used to say, ‘Living well is the best revenge.' But I think Heather did it for the excitement too. And she said she always chose good-looking men. They had to be good looking, married and rich. She'd give herself a month with them. She said sometimes she was juggling two or three at a time and that was good, she said, because the others would get jealous or possessive and that's when she knew she had them.”

“This woman,” McGuire said. He swung his feet to the floor, steadied himself and sat upright, looking at Fox. “This woman, Heather, she was kind of like Miss Congeniality with hobnailed boots and a hard kick to the crotch.”

Micki smiled, a little embarrassed. “She was always a little wild, Joe. You know that.”

“Told me her only regret in life was not sleeping with her high school football team,” McGuire said. “S'true,” he added when he saw the expression on Fox's face. “Heather's the woman everybody had in mind when the sexual revolution started.”

“Sounds like we have ourselves a motive,” Fox said. “And it's not you. Thought we should let you know. When I report it, Eddie and Don Higgins'll have to burn the warrant.”

“You got a diary, appointment book?” McGuire asked Micki.

She shook her head. “They're gone.”

“Good luck, guys.” McGuire stood up and closed his eyes until the dizziness passed. He was thinking of noodles and shrimp, some of that Vietnamese molten metal hot sauce on it, a cold Molson's . . .

“If she was trying to blackmail you, it's a motive,” Tim Fox said.

McGuire leaned against the wall, his head down. “Never slept with her. Never would've. Be like sleeping with a porcupine.”

“Heather called me a week ago,” Micki said.

“Looking for a partner?” McGuire said.

“She was afraid,” Tim Fox said. He nodded at Micki.

“She thought she might have picked the wrong man to do business with this time,” Micki said. “She wouldn't tell me anything more. She just said she might be down in Florida soon to stay with me. ‘I might be over my head on this one,' she told me, and then she laughed like she did when she was nervous.”

“Names?” McGuire asked.

Micki shook her head.

“You want to get involved?” Tim Fox asked, stepping aside as McGuire approached the door.

“Get what?”

“Help out. I can use you. Donovan's a jerk. I could use somebody to bounce things off.”

“Bounce things off?” McGuire stepped through the door. Christ, it was cold. He reached out to steady himself as he began descending the stairs. “Bounce things off?” he repeated over his shoulder. “The hell you think Fat Eddie's head's for?”

Chapter Six

“Three names,” Tim Fox said, avoiding Fat Eddie's eyes. “We nailed the names of the guys whose voices are on her answering machine. Plus we picked up some good leads and a couple more possibles.”

Fat Eddie's gas was back. He blinked and shifted his bulk in his chair.

“First caller is definitely the photographer,” Fox said. “One of her clients.”

“He's the kraut, sounds a little loose in his loafers,” Phil Donovan said. He was sitting in the chair facing Vance's desk, one leg over the other and a grin on his face, like he was having a beer at a buddy's house, waiting for the football game to start on TV.

“Name's Posner, the photographer.” Tim Fox flipped through the pages of his notebook. “Siegfried Posner, Ziggy for short. Runs a studio off Summer Street. He was her biggest client. Does a lot of work for ad agencies, here and out of New York.”

“Siegfried,” Donovan sneered. “Shit.”

“The other voice, besides McGuire's, belongs to her husband, guy named . . .” Tim Fox turned a page. “Steve Peterson. Her sister recognized it. He runs some kind of plumbing supply outfit on Lansdowne. They separated four, five years ago, never got divorced.”

“But she used her maiden name,” Fat Eddie said.

“Always did, even when she was married to this schmuck,” Donovan said. “An original feminist. You know, one of them broads hates men so much they wanta be one?”

“And McGuire's the third voice,” Vance said.

“Best lead of the bunch.” Donovan curled a lip and poked a thumbnail at something between his teeth.

“What other names do you have?” Fat Eddie asked.

“Some boyfriend,” Donovan said, inspecting the tip of his thumb. “Weiner, the landlord, says he met him a couple a times. Thinks they split up last month. He remembered this guy was smooth, a lot of talk. He's some big advertising dude. Gave his card to Weiner, said maybe they could do something together to promote his gallery. His name, the ad guy, is Hotchnik, Marty Hotchnik.”

“You talked to them yet?” Vance asked.

“I covered off the ex-husband,” Donovan said, taking over now, not letting Fox jump in. The black detective turned away, his arms across his chest, to stare out the window. “He admits he called her 'cause he was pissed at her. Apparently she promised to loan him some money or something and then welshed on it. He blew off some steam and went home to boink his common-law over in Cambridge. Soon's we leave here we're talkin' to the kraut and the ad guy.”

“What else do you know?” Fat Eddie said.

Donovan uncrossed his legs and stood up, his hands in his pockets. “McGuire's ex-wife says her sister was pumping some rich guy, got his own company. Sounds like this heavy-duty dude made her think she might be over her head on this one.”

“No name?” Fat Eddie raised his eyebrows.

“No,” Tim Fox said, turning from the window. He was annoyed at Donovan. Micki Lorenzo had given the information about the businessman to Fox in confidence and Donovan was spreading it around like he had unearthed it himself.

“When's the funeral?” Fat Eddie asked. “The victim's?”

“Tomorrow.” Donovan was up and pacing the floor. “We'll have an ID car, get everybody on tape. All laid on.”

“What about the guy she was afraid of?” Vance said. “The one the art gallery owner told you about?”

“Can't find a thing,” Tim Fox said. “Looks like she was the kind of woman who could piss off men pretty easily. But there's nobody special we know about. Except her ex-husband.”

“And McGuire.” Fat Eddie pointed a finger at Fox.

“McGuire's a non-issue,” Fox said.

Donovan exhaled noisily in disgust at his partner's comment and Tim Fox glared at him.

“How can you say that when he and the victim knew each other and he made a threat on her life the evening she was murdered?” Fat Eddie demanded.

“She wasn't blackmailing McGuire,” Fox said. “For one thing, the guy's broke. For another, there's nothing to put him at the scene. Nothing at all. Whoever did her, he'd be splattered with blood, there'd be something to tie him back to the victim.”

“Maybe he didn't do her himself,” Donovan suggested. “Maybe he got somebody to off her for him.”

“That's a fucking crock,” Fox said. He took two quick paces toward the door and stopped to stare angrily away from Donovan and Vance toward an empty corner.

“Hey, you gotta admit, McGuire's not exactly hangin' out with Eagle Scouts,” Donovan said. “He's mainlinin' something and he's dealing with pushers, hookers, pimps, known felons. . . . You don't think he's got the connections?”

“It's crap,” Fox said. “Total crap.”

“McGuire's warrant's suspended,” Fat Eddie said to Fox. “Only suspended. If I were you, I wouldn't dismiss McGuire quite so fast.”

“Crap,” Fox repeated, walking to the door, seizing the knob, slamming it shut behind him.

Donovan spread his arms, palms up, and shrugged his shoulders at Fat Eddie. Then he shook his head and followed his partner out of the captain's office and down the corridor to the cubicle he shared with Fox.

McGuire was clumsy with chopsticks and he had splashed too much fiery Vietnamese pepper sauce on his shrimp and noodles. Chewing his food, he looked around the storefront restaurant. The lighting was harsh and glaring, the tabletops were worn Formica and, except for two women dental students from Tufts University, he was the only Caucasian in the restaurant.

He had become a regular patron because he enjoyed the taste of the food and because it was both healthy and inexpensive. The restaurant, whose name McGuire had never bothered to learn and never would have been able to pronounce anyway, sold no beer. But Chet's, a working-class bar on Tremont near Essex certainly did, and after paying the small Vietnamese waitress whose face shone when she smiled, McGuire set off unsteadily through the door and into the gray afternoon chill.

He paused in the doorway of an empty pornographic movie theater, scooped two small tablets from his jacket pocket into his hand and swallowed them. The warm damp fog bank in his head, he knew, would linger for a few hours yet.

It had been twenty years since Martin Griswold crouched in the corner of the kitchen in the Dorchester apartment and watched his father shoot his mother. Martin Luther Griswold had squeezed his nine-year-old body against the wall at the first explosion of his father's rage and when his father withdrew a large and very ugly black pistol from his heavy topcoat and aimed it carefully at the woman who lay on the floor holding her head in both hands and crying, Martin swallowed once and forced himself to keep his eyes open, told himself that what was about to happen was natural and expected. His father fired two shots into Martin's mother. Then he returned the gun to his pocket and bellowed through the door at neighbours who wanted to know what in hell was going on in there, telling them to shut up and mind their own business, and walked to the refrigerator for a beer.

Martin remained in the corner, wedged against the side of the battered cupboard, and watched his father drink two Miller High Lifes while the blood from his mother's body ran toward Martin Luther Griswold in small crimson rivers.

“That's what you gotta do when they fuck wid you,” his father said to Martin when he had finished his first beer, for his father had known of Martin's presence all along. “They fuck wid you, they give you no respec', you teach 'em. One way or 'nother, you teach 'em.”

When he finished his second Miller High Life, Martin's father rose to his feet and tossed a five-dollar bill in the boy's direction. “Go buy yourself a pizza, some thin',” he said and left the room. “'Member what I tol' you.”

Martin never saw him again.

After waiting for the sound of his father's footsteps to fade beyond the din of the television set in the next room, Martin walked carefully around his mother's body and followed the same path his father had taken down the stairs and out into the summer air. He walked to a nearby park where he sat for an hour while dusk gathered and he wondered what to do.

Then he ordered two slices of double cheese and pepperoni and a large Pepsi from the takeout on the corner and went back to the park to eat it.

When he returned home the blood on the floor had hardened and dried. A neighbour stuck her head out the door of her apartment. “The hell goin' on there?” she asked Martin. “You all right?”

Martin said he was all right.

“Your mother all right?”

Martin said she was dead.

When the cops left, some social worker took Martin to a children's shelter and later to a foster family in another neighbourhood. Martin remained there until he was twelve years old, stood five and a half feet tall, and weighed a hundred and sixty-five pounds.

Martin Luther Griswold became simply Grizzly. And Grizzly, when he was fourteen years old, chased a teacher from the classroom, swinging a brass fire extinguisher in his hand and threatening to bury it in the teacher's skull.

Grizzly became a street person, scamming whatever was available, sometimes wondering what happened to the man his mother called her husband, who told Grizzly he should think of him as his father.

Didn't make a helluva lot of sense to Grizzly. Man sleeps with a woman, doesn't make him her husband. Woman's got a kid, doesn't make her man the kid's father.

They arrested Grizzly for the first time when he was sixteen after he organized a pay-off three-day gang rape of a fifteen-year-old girl who had told Grizzly she loved him, keeping her tied up in a back alley shed and charging local kids five bucks a go. Some adults came around too, fathers of some of the boys who were Grizzly's customers, grown men who heard about it while he kept the girl there. They slipped Grizzly the money, went inside the shed, came out maybe five minutes later, the young boys laughing and talking, their fathers and their fathers' friends skulking away in shame. For three days Grizzly fed the girl, slapped her when he had to, and made a pile of money.

Until somebody squealed.

Grizzly spent two years in a reformatory where he acquired enough formal education to expand his street smarts.

Nobody had more street smarts than Grizzly. When Grizzly learned about marketing in prison, when he grasped the concept of keeping both demand and prices high, he rose head and shoulders above everybody else when it came to dealing narcotics.

“Make it scarce an' you makes it valuable,” he told Django once. “So you wanta sell, you sell the scarce stuff, hear me?”

Django nodded but he didn't understand completely. The more you sell the more you make, he believed. If something's scarce, there ain't much of it so how can you sell more? Didn't make sense. But disagreeing with Grizzly made even less sense.

“You always gotta be either the first on the street or the last on the street sellin' your stuff,” Grizzly added. “Guy in the middle don't make shit.”

Django nodded again. It's safer in the middle, Django wanted to say. But he didn't.

The first man Grizzly killed was a street tough named Bones, a bully who claimed to have downtown connections and who made the mistake in a bar one night of reaching across Grizzly to stroke the breast of a girl Grizzly was with. It was a year after Grizzly came out of reformatory.

When Grizzly raised an eyebrow at Bones, the older man slapped Grizzly's face with one open hand and showed him a knife in the other. “Don' say a word, pussy,” Bones sneered, and Grizzly nodded and slid off the stool, leaving Bones laughing and groping and the girl crying in fear.

Ten minutes later Grizzly returned with a .357 Magnum revolver inside his jacket. Bones had his arm around the girl and when Grizzly walked up to him, Grizzly said, “Show me yo' knife.”

Bones said, “You got one?”

Grizzly said, “No.”

Bones said, “Knew it. Pussies don' carry steel.”

Grizzly took the gun out and shot Bones through his left eye. Then he turned the gun on the girl and shot her too. Twice.

“She shoulda left,” Grizzly said when he told a friend about it the next day. “She shouldn'ta been there so long.”

No one in the bar could identify Grizzly. None of the investigating police officers felt the incident was worth more than a day's investigation.

Only fools challenged Grizzly again. And they only challenged him once.

Grizzly finished his whispered conversation behind the bar with Dewey and returned to the table where Django and the Gypsy waited.

Dewey was more than the Flamingo's bouncer. He was also assistant manager, talent scout and Grizzly's bouquet man. Bouquet men profited from drug sales but never carried, never used, never sold the product themselves. They functioned as conduits of information and directors of traffic. When sweeps occurred and arrests were made, Dewey and the handful of other bouquet men would be questioned and released for lack of sufficient evidence. “Come out smelling like a bouquet of roses,” one of them had boasted, and he and others were dubbed bouquet men from that day forward.

Now Grizzly settled his massive black bulk in the chair between Django and the Gypsy. “Heat's on,” he said, watching the tiny stage set against the far wall of the room. He extended an arm to the Gypsy, his index and middle fingers spread in a V sign. His lidded eyes remained on the small brown girl who was prancing back and forth across the stage, strutting her stuff in a long green satin skirt open on one side all the way up to her tiny waist. The Gypsy quickly pulled a pack of Camel Lights from a pocket of her red and black plaid woollen shirt.

“Heat?” Even when sitting, Django moved with the music, his shoulders swinging, his head bobbing, like a featherweight boxer watching for a jab, waiting for an opening. “Hell, ain't no heat,” Django laughed. “World's colder'n a witch's tit. No heat at all. Put your peeker out the door, Grizz, it be a chocolate popsicle faster'n Sienna up there can aim her money-maker at you.”

BOOK: Solitary Dancer
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