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Authors: John Lawrence Reynolds

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BOOK: Solitary Dancer
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“Big deal,” Donovan said. “Takes a doctor to say she died because she got the shit beat out of her.”

“Important thing is the time,” Fox said. “It throws everything off. If she'd died right away we'd have a fixed point, we'd know when the guy was there. Now all we have is a window. Doitch said she could have lived three, four hours, maybe more, maybe less. Makes it tough to call it down.”

The elevator arrived and the door slid open silently. Fox stepped in first. “We put this one away, either we're geniuses or we have horseshoes up our asses,” Fox said. “Fourth floor.”

Donovan pushed the button. “You know the best way we can get lucky on this one?” he sneered.

Fox looked at him blankly.

“Put the squeeze on your buddy McGuire.”

Tim Fox stared at Donovan until the younger man, still grinning, muttered something under his breath and turned away.

The cool gray walls of the building's upper corridors were broken by a series of evenly spaced white doors. Suite 403 featured double doors with the words Posner Studios traced in black strips of photographic film. Fox and Donovan entered, Fox leading the way.

They emerged in a small cluttered alcove with a reception desk, two chrome and leather sofas and a display wall lit by chrome track lighting and hung with framed advertisements for food products, clothing, appliances, restaurants and luggage. Directly ahead stood another set of white doors. One of them was ajar and through the opening they could hear a woman shouting in a vaguely European accent, her words echoing within a large and empty space.


I tell you and I tell you but you are never listening to me, Ziggy!
” the woman was screaming. Something shattered like glass on a concrete floor.

Donovan looked at Fox, his eyebrows arched.

“Chill, Chill.” The voice from within the studio was male and German, passive and patronizing in contrast with the woman's.


Well, I've had it! This time I've really had it!
” The woman was approaching the reception area, the sound of her high heels marking her advance with a staccato beat. “I spend all morning looking for just what you want and it's not good enough. It's never good enough! You are so stubborn. . . .”

The door flew open and the woman, whose face was screwed into an angry frown, glanced from Fox to Donovan in surprise. In less time than it took her to blink, a wide smile had replaced her frown. “Hello,” she said brightly. “Were we expecting you?”

She was somewhere south of fifty and her heavy body was wrapped in a dark brown shapeless dress that might have been a monk's robe. The plainness of the woman and her dress was offset by an excess of gold: heavy gold chains around her neck, gold rings on most of her fingers, dangling gold earrings, gold-framed harlequin glasses perched in front of narrow brown eyes and a gold-edged cap on one incisor that gleamed brightly when she smiled. The gold theme was continued in the short bobbed hair, more brass than gold, that framed her face. She was a woman intent on extending what little natural beauty she might have possessed in her youth through her middle age.

“We're here to see Mr. Posner,” Tim Fox smiled in return. He held his detective badge in front of him and she leaned forward to study it.

“It's about Heather, isn't it?” the woman said flatly.

Fox nodded. Donovan was peering through the open doorway into the massive studio beyond.

“Ziggy didn't do it, you know,” the woman said. “He's the gentlest man. He wouldn't hurt a fly.”

“And your name is?” Fox asked.

She extended an undersized hand to him. “Jill Beauchamps,” she said. “I am Ziggy's partner and assistant.”

“You gotta see this,” Donovan said from the open door. “They got enough equipment in here to light the Garden for a Celtics' game and a camera the size of a Honda, all to take a picture of a plate of bagels.” He looked back at Tim Fox and Jill Beauchamps, the woman smiling indulgently at him. “A plate of bagels, for Christ's sake!”

“I was a client of Heather's, yes.”

Ziggy Posner sat cross-legged in powder-blue coveralls on a low stool in a corner of the cavernous studio, a long-stemmed crystal glass of red wine resting on the palm of one hand, steadied by the other. He was perhaps forty-five years old and his body was slim and athletic. His long hair was silvery-straw in colour; a neatly trimmed Vandyke beard set off an angular face ready to break into a shy smile without notice. Softening his harsh German accent was a docile voice that seemed incapable of rising in anger.

“You talked to her answering machine the night she was murdered,” Phil Donovan said. He was fingering a strip of exposed film retrieved from the floor, and he rolled it back and forth between thumb and forefinger as he spoke. Tim Fox sat facing the back of a folding metal chair, his arms crossed, letting Donovan lead the way, watching the photographer's reactions.

“Yes, yes, I did.” The photographer bent his head and smiled. “Heather, she could be demanding at times. You ask Chill and she tells you, yes?”

“Explain demanding,” Donovan said.

“She would make promises and expect me to keep them.” The photographer raised the glass to his lips but continued speaking. “She would tell an advertiser, a magazine, somebody who wanted something, she would say, ‘Ziggy will have it for you tomorrow if it takes him all night,' yes? Then she would tell me, she would say, ‘I work hard for you, now you work hard for me,' but she would forget that I am an artist, I take my time.” He sipped the wine.

“You ever go to her place on Newbury?”

Posner sampled the wine again and nodded. “Sometimes, when I must, yes.”

“You ever hear Heather talk about a man named McGuire?”

A telephone rang somewhere in the far corner of the studio.

“Who?” Posner asked.

“McGuire. Guy named Joe McGuire,” Donovan said.

“No, I hear of him, I think, but I don't know where.”

Jill Beauchamps was speaking loudly into the telephone, her harsh voice echoing back from the other side of the studio.

“You ever process any infrared photos for her?” Fox asked.

Posner looked down and smiled sadly into his glass. “Yes, I make those pictures for Heather. I know what it is she is doing. I develop the film, I make the contact sheets for her. But I don't look at them, not close. I look at them the first time and I know what she is doing and I say never again will I look. And I give her back everything, film and prints, yes? Because she sends me lots of work, I am her favourite she tells me, and without her I don't get so much work, yes?”

“What's the big deal about infrared?” Donovan asked.

“It is so that no one knows,” Posner said. “She has an infrared flash near the camera. In the dark no one knows when it is on. You cannot see it, the light. Only the film sees. The men, they are surprised.”

“Did you take any pictures in Charlesbank Park a few weeks ago?” Tim Fox asked.

Posner turned to face Fox. “Yes, I take photographs there. For a fashion advertisement. I remember, it was very cold that day and Heather was there for some reason, I do not remember why.” He frowned into his glass. “I remember now, yes,” he said, nodding his head. “The photography was for an advertising agency and the man from the agency, I hear he was a very good friend, a boyfriend maybe, of Heather's. That is why she is there. Otherwise Heather would leave me alone to work.”

Tim Fox flipped through his notebook. “His name Hotchnik?”

The photographer nodded again. “Yes, Hotchnik.”

“What's he like?” Donovan asked.

Posner arched his eyebrows and tilted his head to one side. “He is not so bad, yes? Not so bad.”

“Do you remember Heather mentioning anybody else—” Donovan began, but before he could finish Posner snapped his fingers.

The click-click-clicking of Jill Beauchamps's heels was approaching.

“That is where she mentions his name,” Posner said. “This McGuire man. He is sitting on a bench watching us and she talks to him and she comes back laughing . . .”

“Ziggy!” Jill Beauchamps called in a pleasant sing-song voice.

“. . . and calls him names, some names. She is glad to see him and says he deserves to be there on a park bench. And then she says—”

“Ziggy, it's Saatchi and Saatchi on the phone,” the woman interrupted, ignoring the glares from Fox and Donovan. “I have to talk to you, it will take just a minute.”

Posner looked at Fox who nodded.

“What does she say?” Donovan asked.

Posner rose and set his wine glass carefully on top of the stool. “She tells me she must be careful with this man. She must be careful with him because she tells me and everyone else there, she tells us he is very mean and very violent, they never like each other, he would kill her if he got the chance. That is what she says. ‘He would like to kill me if he had the chance.'”

Posner excused himself and followed Jill Beauchamps across the studio floor, the woman leaning her body toward his to whisper in his ear.

“Bingo.”

Tim Fox looked over to see Donovan holding one hand thumb up and grinning back at his older partner.

Hunched over their glasses and long-necked bottles of beer, the men gave only passing notice to the white-haired woman who entered Chet's and stood in the doorway wearing a plain dark woollen coat, a red kerchief on her head, her dark eyes snapping from side to side, working their owner's gaze deep into the recesses of the smoky room. Then the eyes ceased their movement, the woman's chin rose and she began walking purposefully toward the table in the far corner.

“Gotta be a pissed-off wife,” one of the men at the bar muttered. “Somebody's gonna catch hell.”

Men both younger and older than the woman stepped aside in deference as she swept past them like a ship of state, neither pausing nor looking to either side until she reached the table in the corner where she pulled a chair out, sat herself on it and stared silently at the man across from her whose eyes were closed, his face relaxed, his lips toying with a smile.

When he opened his eyes and saw her he showed no surprise and only a hint of pleasure. “Hello, Ronnie,” McGuire said.

The woman softened her severe expression for the first time since entering the bar. “Hi, Joe,” Ronnie Schantz replied.

“Want a beer?” McGuire asked.

“You know I don't.”

“Right. You're here for the ambience.”

“No. I'm here for you.”

McGuire turned his head away. “Oh, shit,” he said, because he knew this woman well enough to understand that she would never leave without him.

Chapter Seven

“When you finally do something late in life like I did to get my driver's license, you should, do it as well as you can, don't you think?” Ronnie Schantz swerved the station wagon around a line of cars waiting to make a left turn and bounced down the curb lane, narrowly missing a parked panel truck.

“I mean, you'd better be damn near perfect at it.”

McGuire stared out the passenger window as the car sped past dusty storefronts where sullen young men huddled in the doorways and beaten old men stood near lampposts. “You're perfect, Ronnie,” he said. “You're a perfect driver.” He closed his eyes. The car sailed over the crest of an intersection and McGuire was nearly weightless for a moment with the rising motion of the vehicle and the effects of the meperidine.

“Ollie never thought I'd get my license,” Ronnie said. She sounded the horn at a driver who had begun to pull into her lane and steered around him sharply enough to toss McGuire against the side of the passenger door. “Neither did I. Neither did you, I'll bet.” The right front tire thumped against the side of the curb and Ronnie overcorrected to the left, causing the driver of an oncoming brewery delivery truck to honk his horn and glare at her as she passed.

“You're right. I didn't.” McGuire's eyes were still closed.

“Somebody told Ollie, somebody from Berkeley Street, you're taking drugs or something. Oh, shit.”

The car shuddered and screeched to a halt. McGuire threw his hands against the dashboard and opened his eyes long enough to stare back at several faces looking down at him from the windows of a tour bus sitting perpendicular to Ronnie's car, perhaps two feet from the front bumper.

“Now where in heaven's name did he come from?” Ronnie asked.

McGuire closed his eyes again.

Hodgson Slater Advertising occupied three floors of a chrome and glass building two blocks off the Common. The reception room was dimly lit and furnished in antique patio chairs covered with flower-print cushions. Fox and Donovan sat waiting for Marty Hotchnik. Fox read a newsmagazine while Donovan smiled and nodded at the receptionist whenever their eyes met until the receptionist rose from her chair. She walked to a coffeemaker where she bent from the waist to open a cupboard door, the fabric of her skirt tight across her buttocks.

Donovan leaned toward his partner. “You see the ass on that?” he asked Fox. “Jesus, how'd you like to come home to that every night?” Donovan grinned.

A door to their right swung open and Fox and Donovan turned to see a tall, stooped man approaching. He was in his mid-fifties, pink scalp shining through thinning gray hair. His eyes were downcast at the corners, giving the man's face a perpetually saddened look as though he habitually received and delivered tragic news, like an undertaker. He wore a gray sweatshirt, faded blue jeans and white canvas boat shoes.

Donovan glanced at the man and turned away, wondering where the hell this bum had come from, hanging around a big expensive advertising agency, until the gray-haired man stopped near them, thrust his hands in his pockets and asked if they were waiting for Marty Hotchnik.

“You him?” Donovan asked, and the man nodded and blinked and his lips tightened and spread into either a grimace or a smile, Donovan couldn't tell.

“You're here to talk to me about Heather, I expect,” Hotchnik said.

Tim Fox was already on his feet, his badge and ID out, but Hotchnik just glanced at it and turned to lead the way back through the same door, Fox behind him, Donovan at the rear looking at the receptionist still making coffee, her back to him, hoping she would turn around so he could wink at her.

“He's getting better,” Ronnie said, leading McGuire up the walk. “Better than the doctors thought he would be six months ago. One of them said he'd be dead by now, remember?”

“I remember,” McGuire said.

Ronnie Schantz paused at the front door of the small white clapboard house in Revere Beach and fumbled for her keys. The chill breeze off the bay, a block to the east, was like a burn on McGuire's cheek and he shifted his weight, uncomfortable about what he was about to encounter inside the house.

The door swung open and for a moment McGuire waited there, absorbing the aromas of home baking, spices and coffee wafting down the hall from the kitchen, and then he followed her inside.

“You got him?”

Ollie's voice, sharp and edgy, sounded from his room at the back of the house.

“I've got him,” Ronnie said, still shrugging out of her coat in the hallway.

“Send the horse's foot in,” Ollie barked.

Ronnie smiled at McGuire. “I'll bring some coffee,” she said, and McGuire edged past her down the hall and into the room with its window over-looking Massachusetts Bay and its paralyzed occupant, McGuire's former partner, Ollie Schantz.

She's right, McGuire thought as he entered Ollie's room. He does look better. More weight, more colour to his skin.

Before McGuire could speak, Ollie's face became a fist. “What've you been doin' down there, the city?” Ollie demanded, and his one good hand waved in McGuire's direction as though making a feeble attempt to strike the other man. “And what's eatin' at you? You look mean enough to start a fight in an empty house.”

“I'm okay.” McGuire sat in a wooden chair next to Ollie's bed.

“Yeah, right, and I'm Carl Lewis. You still playin' landlord for a herd of hookers?”

“It's a living.”

“Don't be a smartass with me.”

“I said it tongue in cheek—”

“And no brain in head. The fuck's gotten into you?”

“It's a bad time, Ollie.”

“Yeah, tell me about bad times.”

Ollie Schantz had not left this same small room for three years. Surgery and physiotherapy had restored his nerves and muscles enough to permit him to swing his head in a small arc from left to right and his right hand to move, like a seal's flipper, across his bed to grip a remote control for his wall-mounted television set or slap a button to summon his wife for food, for drink, for the warmth of her company and devotion.

McGuire could tell Ollie nothing about bad times that Ollie Schantz failed to experience day by day, so he shrugged and avoided the other man's eyes.

“Heather and I began dating last summer, but it was usually, uh, a sometime thing, you know?”

Marty Hotchnik leaned on the large, badly scarred pine table that served as his desk. Across from him Tim Fox sat hunched forward, watching the advertising man carefully while Donovan slouched in a restored Windsor chair with his legs crossed, pencil and notebook in his hands. One wall of Hotchnik's office displayed reproductions of advertisements for beer, packaged snacks, fur coats and imported cars. Another wall, the one behind Hotchnik's desk, bore framed certificates, advertising awards and several photographs of Hotchnik with groups of people, the women young and artificially attractive, the men older and intense, all of them with their arms about each other.

“How'd you meet her?” Fox asked.

“We'd known each other for years, through business.” Hotchnik stretched his arms above his head. “Then I was on a shoot up in the Berkshires and she dropped by and um . . .” He shrugged his shoulders.

“You married?” Fox asked.

“Three times. Divorced three times.”

Donovan held Hotchnik's business card up and looked from it to the advertising executive. “You really a senior vice-president in this outfit?” Donovan asked.

Hotchnik nodded.

“Sure don't dress like one. How big is this company anyway?”

“We billed a hundred million last year,” Hotchnik said. “Might do a hundred twenty this year.”

“And you can't afford to wear a fucking
suit
?” Donovan said. He laughed and looked across at Fox.

“Why should I if I don't have to?” Hotchnik said. He seemed amused.

“Why should you if you don't have to,” Donovan echoed, and wrote something in his notebook.

“Where were you, night before last?” Fox asked.

“I was working here on a presentation until about ten o'clock. There were three other people with me, a writer and two art directors. We all went out for something to eat and a couple of drinks in a bar on Stuart Street and I left there sometime after eleven o'clock, caught a cab back to Cambridge.”

“What time'd you get to Cambridge?”

Hotchnik searched for the answer on the ceiling. “I'd say between eleven and midnight.”

“Anybody see you come in?”

Hotchnik closed his eyes and shook his head slowly.

“How about the next morning?”

“I was in here at seven o'clock. The presentation was at nine.”

“You got names of these people who were with you that night?” Donovan asked.

Hotchnik nodded. “I'll write them out if you'd like.”

“I'd like,” Donovan said.

Tim Fox released a long breath, noisily.

Hotchnik began writing on a sheet of lined paper.

“She ever talk about a guy named McGuire?” Donovan said. “Joe McGuire?”

“Not that I recall.” Hotchnik flipped through a diary of names and addresses, copying them on the sheet of paper. “Although it sounds familiar.”

Fox scanned the advertisements mounted behind Hotchnik's desk, and his eyes lighted on a photograph of three women modelling furs in a park setting. “Where was that picture taken?” he asked.

Hotchnik twisted his neck. “That one, with the trees? Down by the Esplanade.”

“Ziggy Posner take it?”

“Yeah, as a matter of fact he did.” Hotchnik grinned up at Fox, impressed. “How'd you know that?”

“Were you there that day?”

“For a while.”

“With Heather?”

“I drove her over.”

“Do you remember her talking to some man sitting on a bench near the band shell . . .”

“That's him,” Hotchnik said. “McGuire. That's right. She came back laughing about it. Said he was a drunk or a doper, a big-time loser anyway. Said he was her . . . what? Ex-brother-in-law? Something like that. Anyway, I remember her saying she had something on him.”

“What?”

“I don't know.” Hotchnik resumed making notes. “It just seemed to please her that this guy, this McGuire fellow, was so down and out.” He shook his head. “Heather had quite a mean streak in her, I'm telling you.”

“How often did you see her?” Tim Fox asked.

“Couple of times a week,” Hotchnik said. “For dinners, usually. She might drop in here on business, maybe we'd go for lunch.”

“Were you in love with her?”

Hotchnik folded the paper once and handed it across the desk to Donovan. “Hardly.” He lowered himself into his chair. “It was mostly physical or business, one or the other. Heather was attractive and lively and we enjoyed each other's company. But like I say, she could be tough and mean.”

“You know anything about a scam she was pulling?” Donovan said.

“Scam?” Hotchnik looked from Donovan to Fox and back again.

“She may have been blackmailing people,” Fox said. “There's some evidence of that. Did you know anything about it?”

“No.” Hotchnik turned away to the window for a moment and lowered his eyes. “No, I knew nothing about a blackmail scheme, but . . .”

“But what?” Donovan demanded.

A sample of a smile. “But I wouldn't be surprised. She wasn't blackmailing me, but I wouldn't be surprised by anything Heather was doing. Not a bit.”

“You know how I found out about you, where you were, what kinda shit you'd gotten yourself into?” Ollie Schantz rasped.

“Never thought about it,” McGuire said. Ronnie Schantz entered with coffee, fluffed Ollie's pillow and departed, touching McGuire's shoulder with affection as she passed.

“Don't think about much anymore, do you?” Ollie said after his wife closed the door. “Well, it was Danny Scrignoli came by to see me, tell me about you.”

“He was at the jail too,” McGuire said. “Nashua Street. The guys on Berkeley elected him.”

“That right? Well, Danny's concerned. Says a bunch of people down there are. He wants to talk to you, soon's you're ready.”

“Whenever that is,” McGuire said.

“How about tonight?”

“Aw, hell, Ollie . . .” McGuire said.

“I told him, come by about six o'clock, pick you up.”

McGuire stared back at the paralyzed older man, who returned his stare with a pale smile.

“'Course, you don't have to be here, you don't wanna be,” Ollie Schantz said. “But Ronnie's sure as hell not gonna drive you back downtown and you don't look ready to haul your ass that far on your own.”

“You mind staying out of my life?” McGuire said.

“Yeah, I mind.” Ollie's good hand flapped twice in McGuire's direction. “I mind a hell of a lot. Ronnie and me, we've got an investment in you. You wanta stick your ass in a meat grinder, you can go ahead and do it, I guess. But you think Ronnie and me are gonna sit around and watch you act dumber'n a barrel of hair and not say anything, not try to keep you out of your own way, you're nuts.”

McGuire's hands began to shake and the hollows of his head filled with angry ghosts and rusting nails. The last of Django's pills remained in his pocket and he feared they would be insufficient to hold back the flood of pain poised on the horizon.

“Danny'll be here in an hour, take you down to North Boston and feed you some of that good pasta and Valpolicella he likes, introduce you to a bunch of his Italian buddies. Get you half alive again. Shit, your eyes're so tight, they look like the assholes of two eagles in a power dive.”

“Okay,” McGuire said weakly, wondering how long he would be able to remain where he was without vomiting. “Okay.”

“Do a check on Hotchnik,” Tim Fox was saying. “Talk to those people who were with him that night and the next morning, see what they remember about him, how he acted.”

BOOK: Solitary Dancer
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