Authors: Warren Adler
Tags: #FitzGerald; Fiona (Fictitious Character), Homicide Investigation, Washington (D.C.), Fiction, Mystery and Detective, General, Women Sleuths, Political
BOOKS BY WARREN ADLER
Banquet Before Dawn
Death of a Washington Madame
The Casanova Embrace
The Children of the Roses
The David Embrace
The Henderson Equation
The Housewife Blues
The War of the Roses
We Are Holding the President
Jackson Hole, Uneasy Eden
Never Too Late For Love
New York Echoes
New York Echoes 2
The Sunset Gang
The Ties That Bind
The Witch of Watergate
by Warren Adler.
All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced
in any form without permission. This novel is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, places, incidents are either the product
of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.
THE PUNGENT AROMA of the awakening spring earth and the
manure of the hundred-odd horse entries of the Middleburg Hunt Races wafted
over the soft greening field. Spaces allocated to patrons of the races were
filled with elaborately decorated tables, some with candelabra, crystal and
silver tureens, colorful flower arrangements, linen tablecloths and exotic food
Some were tented and served by waiters in black tie and the
air was often punctuated by the sounds of champagne bottles popping. Others
were merely sumptuous tailgate parties complete with full bar and more rustic
food placed elegantly on checkered tablecloths.
As always, Fiona FitzGerald noted, there was less interest
in the races and more in the imbibing and socializing. Chappy Chapin's bash was
a case in point. There he was, ex-Ambassador to Switzerland, now a bachelor
man-about-town, holding forth alongside his yellow and black antique Rolls
complete with a horn that trilled "Pop Goes the Weasel" on command.
As a long-standing patron of the races he had a choice up-front location.
Chappy, although he did not ride, looked the part of the
gentleman horseman. His tall frame was ramrod straight and his clipped
moustache on a pink complexion gave him an outdoorsy look that belied his
sedentary life. His relaxed hosting of this little group of ten bespoke a
practiced social elegance. He wore a plaid deerstalker cap and matching cape,
which, on him, looked perfectly normal.
Chappy always had a good group to the hunt races, and he
was usually a patron of most of them in the Washington area. His menu was
invariable, made with his own hands in his lovely house in Georgetown: spicy
fried chicken, delicious syrupy baked beans and bacon, his own secret formula,
and lush chocolate brownies. And, of course, pitchers of Bloody Marys,
champagne and whatever else alcoholic his guests might desire.
"What race is this?" Harvey Halloran asked,
turning casually toward the field, where a number of horses were steeplechasing
around the track. Few of Chappy's guests paid any attention to the races,
except to place an occassional bet with the various gentlemen bookies that
collected slips near the official tent. Halloran was a lobbyist for the oil and
gas industry. The other guests included a Congressman and his wife, a State
Department Assistant Secretary and his girlfriend, the Peruvian Ambassador and
his wife and a stockbroker and his male live-in lover. To Fiona, they were
familiar Washington types, par for the course.
An invitation to one of Chappy's tailgating racing parties
was a hot ticket and Fiona was often invited as Chappy's date when he didn't
have a steady on his arm and she wasn't toiling in the Eggplant's homicide
Today she was here out of her own sheer therapeutic necessity.
Things downtown were depressing. Drug gang wars and the accelerating
introduction of automatic weapons had considerably raised the homicide body
count, putting unbearable pressure on the entire department. A hurricane of
death was sweeping through Washington and homicide was in its vortex.
The Mayor and his appointed Police Commissioner were being
harassed by the media, especially the
, which had dubbed Washington the "murder capital of the U.S.A.," and the Chief of Homicide, Captain
Luther Greene, called the "Eggplant" by his underlings, was taking
flak from all sides. Eggplant was, of course, a term of affectionate derision,
its origins murky, but its tradition tenacious.
Because of the pressure, Capt. Greene had become even more
irritable and subject to tantrums as he pushed the squad to find the
perpetrators. He also worried incessantly about the dangers that this new and
bloodier environment posed to the squad.
So far no one on the squad had been hurt, although cops in
other departments had been killed. Ironically, the Eggplant had become an
object of pity and, although it would seem less than macho to mention it, Fiona
knew that his troops were deeply worried about him.
The fact was that everyone in Homicide was edgy and nervous
and naturally disgruntled by the longer hours and often futile searches for
trigger-happy, ruthless drug gang members, many of whom were juveniles. It
simply meant that everyone had more on their plates than they could possibly
Thus, Chappy's invitation on one of her rare days off came
as a godsend and she was enjoying it immensely. Theirs was a kind of old-shoe,
nonsexual, but very intimate relationship. He was a widower, a friend of her
late father the Senator, and had a reputation as a womanizer.
Fiona, as Chappy's date, played the hostess role at this
outing, helping him load up and clean up, as well as making sure the guests
were properly fed and watered. Most of the other race patrons and their guests
were also less interested in the races than in socializing and groups of people
strolled by in a roundelay of cheery hellos and double-cheeker kisses.
There was a cachet, of course, in getting Washington's
version of a celebrity to be a patron's guest and, scanning the crowd, Fiona
saw any number of Senators, Cabinet Members, high-profile journalists,
Congressmen, Ambassadors and important Administration types. It was, as
everyone who attended knew, a place to show off, aside from horsemanship, the
colors of power and prestige.
"The weather is glorious," the wife of the
"Nothing like a delicious Washington spring,"
Fiona commented. It was true. The air was pristine and refreshing, the odor
rich with awakening fecundity, the sky a seamless royal blue.
A roar went up from the crowd as the horses passed close to
the rail and headed over the flat to the finish line.
"Who won?" the Peruvian Ambassador asked.
"Who cares?" Chappy said, laughing as he poured
champagne into proffered flute glasses.
"Don't you love all this decadence?" Halloran,
the lobbyist, said.
"Makes you want to throw off your clothes and ride
naked over the field in glorious abandonment," the stockbroker's lover
"Interesting image." Chappy said with a laugh,
raising his eyebrows.
There was an air of good feeling here, helped along by both
the alcohol and the weather. It was, therefore, surprising to Fiona to see
Chappy's face suddenly become gloomy. He was staring toward one of the more
elaborate spaces about thirty feet away, guests crowding around a long table
groaning with food and covered with a lace tablecloth on which, at either end,
stood two silver candelabra.
"I can never look at that cunt without my stomach
doing flip-flops," Chappy said.
She recognized the object of his anger. Polly Dearborn, who
did those long bitchy pieces in the
that laid bare enough deep and
dark secrets to impale whoever it was she chose to assassinate. In a city where
image often surpassed substance, Polly Dearborn could eviscerate the vulnerable
or, at the least, make the invulnerable appear impotent.
Everyone knew that the
editors and management
treated her with kid gloves and it was rumored that she had enough on the
editor and owner to neutralize any efforts, short of libel, to stop her
stiletto stories. But the fact was that her work was enormously popular, a real
circulation booster. Washington newspaper readers loved to see blood as long as
it wasn't their own.
"It was a long time ago, Chappy," Fiona said.
"Not to me."
Chappy had allowed Polly Dearborn to interview him and she
had effectively ruined his diplomatic career, suggesting that he made
profitable investments in Switzerland while he was Ambassador, based on
information that was accessible to him only because of his position. The
accusation was oblique and subtle enough to escape a libel action. But it was
coupled with the revelations of his so-called womanizing, told in such a
humorous way, with just enough sarcasm to subject him to ridicule, that he was
never able to recover the image that he had carefully projected as a man of
integrity and sterling character. He was never again offered a diplomatic post.
Or, for that matter, any other government job.
Polly Dearborn was tall, mid-fortyish, with a slender neck
that was far too long and gave her face a horsey look. Her hair was cut short,
bobbed close to the head. She was dressed in a tweed suit with a single
discreet strand of pearls around her neck. Her shoes were low-heeled and
sensible. All in all she was properly attired for the occasion, exuding a kind
of arrogant, country aristocratic look, quite appropriate to her role as a
fawned-over, but ever-feared darling of the Washington elite.
She was surrounded by "powerful" figures, some of
whom were recognizable to Fiona. Chester Downey, the Secretary of Defense for
one, and the Senate whip, Allen Farr. She had her arm under Downey's and they
were laughing uproariously over something said between them.
"Watch them all play kissy assy," Chappy said.
"As if that would make a difference if she ever chose to drag any of them over
the coals. Listen carefully and you can hear the ice cubes in her blood
"She does pile up the body count," Fiona sighed.
"Amazing she has the guts to appear in public."
"And without bodyguards."
Of course, Fiona read every word of Polly Dearborn's bitchy
stories. She, too, was not above vicarious thrills, although she was deeply
sympathetic to Chappy, whose attempt to have the record corrected had met with
Actually, there was a core of truth in the accusation.
Chappy had made some clever investments in Switzerland, but, he assured
everyone, they were not made on any basis other than his instincts and good
business sense. She believed Chappy. Besides, he was already rich when he took
the Ambassador's job.
"I'd like to personally add one more to the
massacre," Chappy muttered. "Her."
"That would create a business relationship between
us," Fiona joked.
"In my mind it's a serial crime with a single victim.
You'd be surprised how creative my imagination has been in stringing out the pain,
killing her over and over again. And in my heart there is never remorse."
"Shop talk again. And I've come here to get away from
it all," Fiona bantered. "Frankly, I'd like to keep our relationship
on the pleasure side."
"So would I," Chappy said, the gloom beginning to
fade. He turned away from contemplating Polly Dearborn and moved toward Fiona,
kissing her lightly on the lips.
"How long must I be kept at bay?" he whispered.
"I'll say this for your tenacity, Chappy. It's
world-class." It was the way in which she fended him off, little jokes and
Over the years, it had become a game between them, a verbal
joust. He never crossed the bounds of propriety. Nor did she ever let down her
guard. Not that such a possibility was distasteful. He was not unattractive and
he was certainly well preserved and, by all accounts, quite virile.
What she feared most was a change in their relationship.
After a period of sexual intimacy, he always severed relationships irrevocably
with his girlfriends, as if he feared commitment more than anything. They had
discussed this together often, analyzing it quite seriously, even touching on
the idea that he was either still committed to his dead wife or guilt-ridden
about his continuing to live on after she was gone. These discussions, however,
did not stop him from his verbal pursuit.
But their little exchange did not completely shift his
attention from Polly Dearborn. Before coming back to his guests, he glanced at
her once again. He seemed to mumble a curse word under his breath.
"Sticks and stones," Fiona said, grabbing him
forcefully under the arm, pulling him toward the group huddled around the back
of the Rolls.
"That would be a delight," Chappy muttered,
managing a smile and letting her lead him to his guests.