Authors: Sara Paretsky
It was only four blocks from the hospital to the Ritz. The night was clear and warm and caressing. I needed a mother just now, and mother night felt like a good companion, folding dark arms around me.
The lobby of the Ritz, plush and discreet, hovered twelve stories above the street. The rich atmosphere jarred on my mood. I didn’t fit in too well with it, either. In the mirrored walls of the elevator riding up, I’d seen myself disheveled, with blood on my jacket and jeans, my hair uncombed. As I waited for Murray, I half expected the house detective. Murray and he arrived at the same time.
“Excuse me, madam,” he said urbanely, “I wonder if you’d mind coming with me.”
Murray laughed. “Sorry, Vic, but you earned that.” He turned to the house detective. “I’m Murray Ryerson, with the
This is V. I. Warshawski, a private investigator. We’ve come to pick up a guest of yours, and then we’ll be gone.”
The detective frowned over Murray’s press card, then nodded. “Very well, sir. Madam, I wonder if you would mind waiting near the desk.”
“Not at all,” I said politely. “I understand that most of your guests never see any more blood than is contained by the average steak tartare…. Actually, maybe I could wash up while Mr. Ryerson waits for Miss McGraw?”
The detective ushered me happily to a private washroom in the manager’s office. I scrubbed off the worst of the mess and washed my face. I found a brush in the cabinet over the sink and got my hair shaped up. On the whole I looked a lot better. Maybe not material for the Ritz, but not someone to be thrown out on sight.
Anita was waiting with Murray in the lobby when I got back. She looked at me doubtfully. “Murray says I’m out of danger?”
“Yes. Smeissen, Masters, and Smeissen’s gunman have been arrested. Do you want to talk to your dad before he’s arrested, too?” Murray’s mouth dropped open. I put a hand on his arm to keep him from talking.
Anita thought for a minute. “Yes,” she finally said. “I’ve been thinking it over today. You’re right—the longer I put it off the worse it will be.”
“I’m coming along,” Murray announced.
“No,” Anita said. “No, I’m not showing all that to the newspapers. Vic will give you the story later. But I’m not having reporters hanging around for this.”
“You got it, Murray,” I said. “Catch up with me later on tonight. I’ll be—I don’t know. I’ll be at my bar downtown.”
Anita and I started for the elevator. “Where’s that?” he demanded, catching up with us.
“The Golden Glow on Federal and Adams.”
I called a cab to take us back to my car. A zealous officer, possibly one who’d been left guarding the lobby, had put a parking ticket on the windshield. Twenty dollars for blocking a fire hydrant. They serve and protect.
I was so tired I didn’t think I could drive and talk at the same time. I realized that this was the same day that I’d made the three-hundred-mile round trip to Hartford, and that I hadn’t slept the night before. It was all catching up with me now.
Anita was preoccupied with her private worries. After giving me directions on how to get to her father’s Elmwood Park house, she sat quietly, staring out the window. I liked her, I felt a lot of empathy with her, but I was too drained to reach out and give her anything at the moment.
We were on the Eisenhower Expressway, the road that runs from the Loop to the western suburbs, and
had gone about five miles before Anita spoke. “What happened to Masters?”
“He showed up with his hired help to try to blow me and Ralph Devereux away. They had Jill Thayer with them—they were using her as a hostage. I managed to jump the gunman and break his arm, and disable Masters. Jill is all right.”
“Is she? She’s such a good kid. I’d hate like hell for anything to happen to her. Have you met her at all?”
“Yes, she spent a few days with me. She’s a great kid, you’re right.”
“She’s a lot like Peter. The mother is very self-centered, into clothes and the body beautiful, and the sister is incredible, you’d think someone made her up for a book. But Jill and Peter both are—are …” She groped for words. “… Self-assured, but completely turned out on the world. Everything always is—was—so interesting to Peter—what makes it work, how to solve the problem. Every person was someone he might want to be best friends with. Jill’s a lot the same.”
“I think she’s falling in love with a Puerto Rican boy. That should keep things stirred up in Winnetka.”
Anita gave a little chuckle. “For sure. That’ll be worse than me—I was a labor leader’s daughter, but at least I wasn’t black or Spanish.” She was quiet for a while. Then she said, “You know, this week has changed my life. Or made it seem upside-down. My whole life was directed to the union. I was going to go to law school and be a union lawyer. Now—it doesn’t seem worth a lifetime. But there’s a big empty hole. I
don’t know what to put there instead. And with Peter gone—I lost the union and Peter all at the same time. I was so busy last week being terrified that I didn’t notice it. Now I do.”
“Oh, yes. That’s going to take a while. All mourning takes a long time, and you can’t rush it along. My dad’s been dead ten years now, and every now and then, something comes up that lets me know that the mourning is still going on, and another piece of it is in place. The hard part doesn’t last so long. While it is going on, though, don’t fight it—the more you poke away the grief and anger, the longer it takes to sort it out.”
She wanted to know more about my dad and our life together. The rest of the way out I spent telling her about Tony. Funny that he should have the same name as that stupid gunman of Earl’s. My father, my Tony, had been a bit of a dreamer, an idealist, a man who had never shot another human being in all his years on the force—warning shots in the air, but no one killed because of Tony Warshawski. Mallory couldn’t believe it—I remember that, as Tony was dying. They were talking one evening, Bobby came over a lot at night those days, and Bobby asked him how many people he’d killed in his years on the force. Tony replied he’d never even wounded a man.
After a few minutes of silence, I thought of a small point that had been bothering me. “What’s with this fake-name business? When your father first came to me he called you Anita Hill. Up in Wisconsin you
were Jody Hill. I can see he gave you a false name in a not-too-bright effort to keep you out of things—but why’d you both use Hill?”
“Oh, not collusion. But Joe Hill has always been a big hero of ours. Jody Hill just came to me subconsciously. He probably picked it for the same reason.”
We had reached our exit, and Anita started giving me detailed directions. When we pulled up in front of the house, she sat for a bit without speaking. Finally she said, “I couldn’t decide whether to ask you to come in with me or not. But I think you should. This whole thing got started—or your involvement got started—because he came to you. Now I don’t know whether he’ll believe it’s over without your story.”
“Okay.” We walked up to the house together. A man was sitting outside the front door.
“Bodyguard,” Anita murmured to me. “Daddy’s had one as long as I can remember.” Aloud she said, “Hi, Chuck. It’s me, Anita—I’ve dyed my hair.”
The man was taken aback. “I heard you ran off, that someone was gunning for you. You okay?”
“Oh, yes, I’m fine. My dad home?”
“ Yup, he’s in there alone.”
We went into the house, a small ranch house on a large plot. Anita led me through the living room to a sunken family room. Andrew McGraw was watching television. He turned as he heard us coming. For a second he didn’t recognize Anita with her short black hair. Then he jumped up.
“Yes, it’s me,” she said quietly. “Miss Warshawski here found me, as you asked her to. She shot Yardley Masters, and broke the arm of Earl Smeissen’s hired gunman. They’re all three in jail now. So we can talk.”
“Is that true?” he demanded. “You disabled Bronsky and shot Masters?”
“Yes,” I said. “But your troubles aren’t over, you know: as soon as Masters has recovered somewhat, he’s going to talk.”
He looked from me to Anita, the heavy square face uncertain. “How much do you know?” he finally said.
“I know a lot,” Anita said. Her voice wasn’t hostile, but it was cold, the voice of someone who didn’t know the person she was talking to very well and wasn’t sure she’d want to. “I know you’ve been using the union as a front for collecting money on illegal insurance claims. I know that Peter found that out and went to Yardley Masters about it. And Masters called you and got the name of a hit man.”
“Listen, Annie,” he said in a low, urgent tone, much different from the angry bluster I’d heard before. “you’ve got to believe I didn’t know it was Peter when Yardley called.”
She stayed in the doorway to the room, looking down at him as he stood in his shirt-sleeves. I moved over to one side. “Don’t you see,” she said, her voice breaking a little, “it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether you knew who it was or not. What matters is that you were using the union for fraud, and that you knew a killer when Masters needed one. I know you wouldn’t have had Peter shot in cold blood. But it’s
because you knew how to get people shot that it happened at all.”
He was silent, thinking. “Yes, I see,” he said finally, in that same low voice. “Do you think I haven’t seen it, sitting here for ten days wondering if I’d see you dead, too, and know that I had killed you?” She said nothing. “Look, Annie. You and the union—that’s been my whole life for twenty years. I thought for ten days that I’d lost both of you. Now you’re back. I’m going to have to give up the union—are you going to make me do without you as well?”
Behind us an insanely grinning woman on TV was urging the room to buy some kind of shampoo. Anita stared at her father. “It can never be the same, you know. Our life, you know, the foundation’s broken.”
“Look at me, Annie,” he said hoarsely. “I haven’t slept for ten days, I haven’t eaten. I keep watching television, expecting to hear that they’ve found your dead body someplace…. I asked Warshawski here to find you when I thought I could keep a step ahead of Masters. But when they made it clear you’d be dead if you showed up, I had to call her off.”
He looked at me. “You were right—about almost everything. I used Thayer’s card because I wanted to plant the idea of him in your mind. It was stupid. Everything I’ve done this last week’s been stupid. Once I realized Annie was in trouble, I just lost my head and acted on crazy impulses. I wasn’t mad at you, you know. I was just hoping to God you’d stop before you found Annie. I knew if Earl was watching you you’d lead him straight to her.”
“Maybe I should never have known any gangsters,” he said to Anita. “But that started so long ago. Before you were born. Once you get in bed with those boys, you don’t get out again. The Knifegrinders were a pretty rough bunch in those days—you think we’re tough now, you should have seen us then. And the big manufacturers, they all hired hooligans to kill us and keep the union out. We hired muscle to get the union in. Only once we were in, we couldn’t get rid of the muscle. If I’d wanted to get away, the only way I could have done it was to leave the Knifegrinders. And I couldn’t do that. I was a shop steward when I was fifteen. I met your mother when I was picketing Western Springs Cutlery and she was a kid herself screwing scissors together. The union was my life. And guys like Smeissen were the dirty part that came along with it.”
“ But you betrayed the union. You betrayed it when you started dealing with Masters on those phony claims.” Anita was close to tears.
“Yeah, you’re right.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Probably the dumbest thing I ever did. He came up to me at Comiskey Park one day. Someone pointed me out to him. He’d been looking for years, I guess—he’d figured out the deal, you see, but he needed someone on the outside to send the claims into him.
“All I saw was the money. I just didn’t want to look down that road. If I had… It’s like some story I heard once. Some guy, Greek I think, was so greedy he begged the gods to give him a gift—everything he
touched would turn to gold. Only thing is, these gods, they zap you: they always give you what you ask for but it turns out not to be what you want. Well, this guy was like me: he had a daughter that he loved more than life. But he forgot to look down the road. And when he touched her, she turned to gold, too. That’s what I’ve done, haven’t I?”
“King Midas,” I said. “But he repented, and the gods forgave him and brought his daughter back to life.”
Anita looked uncertainly at her father; he looked back, his harsh face stripped and pleading. Murray was waiting for his story. I didn’t say good-bye.
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Copyright © 1982 by Sara Paretsky
Introduction copyright © 1990 by Sara Paretsky
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