Authors: Sara Paretsky
Tony did, fixing up the wound. But he ordered him—unusual in a man usually so gentle—to leave the neighborhood and never come around to us again. The man was Andrew McGraw.
I’d never seen him again, never even connected him with the McGraw who was now president of Local 108 and hence, in effect, of the whole union. But he’d obviously remembered my dad. I guessed he’d tried to reach Tony at the police and, when he’d learned my dad was dead, had pulled me out of the Yellow Pages, assuming I would be Tony’s son. Well, I wasn’t: I was his daughter, and not the easygoing type my dad had been. I had my Italian mother’s drive, and I try to emulate her insistence on fighting battles to the finish. But regardless of what kind of person I was, McGraw might be finding himself now in trouble of the kind that not even easygoing Tony would have helped him out of.
I drank some more coffee and flexed my toes in the
water. The bath shimmered turquoise, but clear. I peered through it at my feet, trying to figure out what I knew. McGraw had a daughter. She probably loved him, since she seemed dedicated to the labor movement. Children usually do not espouse causes or careers of parents they hate. Had she disappeared, or was he hiding her? Did he know who had killed young Peter and had she run away because of this? Or did he think she’d killed the boy? Most murders, I reminded myself, were committed between loved ones, which made her statistically the odds-on favorite. What were McGraw’s connections with the hired muscle with whom the International Brotherhood lived so cozily? How easily could he have hired someone to fire that shot? He was someone the boy would let in and talk to, no matter what their feelings for each other were, because McGraw was his girl friend’s father.
The bathwater was warm, but I shivered as I finished my coffee.
You Can’t Scare Me
The headquarters of the International Brotherhood of Knifegrinders, Shear Edgers, and Blade Sharpeners is located on Sheridan Road just south of Evanston. The ten-story building was put up about five years ago, and is sided with white Italian marble. The only other building in Chicago built with such opulence is the headquarters for Standard of Indiana; I figured that put the brotherhood’s excess profits on a par with those of the oil industry.
Local 108 headquarters was on the ninth floor. I gave the floor receptionist my card. “Mr. McGraw is expecting me,” I told her. I was shunted down the north corridor. McGraw’s secretary was guarding the entrance to a lakeside office in an antechamber that would have done Louis XIV proud. I wondered how the International Brothers felt when they saw what their dues had built for them. Or maybe there were some beaten-up offices lower down for entertaining the rank-and-file.
I gave my card to the secretary, a middle-aged
woman with gray sausage curls and a red-and-white dress that revealed an unlovely sag in her upper arms. I keep thinking I should lift five-pound weights to firm up my triceps. Looking at her, I wondered if I would have time to stop at Stan’s Sporting Goods on my way home to pick up some barbells.
“I have an appointment with Mr. McGraw.”
“You’re not in the book,” she said abruptly, not really looking at me. I had on my navy raw silk suit, with the blouson jacket. I looked stunning in this outfit and thought I deserved a little more attention. Must be those sagging triceps.
I smiled. “I’m sure you know as well as I do that Mr. McGraw conducts some of his business on his own. He arranged to see me privately.”
“Mr. McGraw may sometimes take up with whores,” she said, her face red, her eyes on her desktop, “but this is the first time he’s ever asked one up to his office.”
I restrained an impulse to brain her with her desk lamp. “Good-looking lady like you in his front office, he doesn’t need outside talent…. Now will you please inform Mr. McGraw that I’m here?”
Her shapeless face shook under the thick pancake. “Mr. McGraw is in conference and can’t be disturbed.” Her voice trembled. I felt like a creep—I couldn’t find a girl or a murderer, but I sure knew how to rough up middle-aged secretaries.
McGraw’s office was soundproofed, but noise of the conference came into the antechamber. Quite a conference. I was about to announce my intention of
sitting and waiting when one sentence rose above the din and penetrated the rosewood door.
“Goddamnit, you set my son up!”
How many people could possibly have sons who might have been set up in the last forty-eight hours and be connected with the Knifegrinders? Maybe more than one, but the odds were against it. With the sausage curls protesting loudly, I opened the door into the inner office.
Not as large as Masters’s, but by no means shabby, it overlooked Lake Michigan and a nice little private beach. At the moment it was none too peaceful. Two men had been sitting at a round table in the corner, but one was on his feet yelling to make his point. Even with his face distorted by anger I didn’t have any trouble recognizing the original of the picture in the Fort Dearborn Trust’s annual report. And rising to his feet and yelling back as I entered was surely my client. Short, squat without being fat, and wearing a shiny gray suit.
They both stopped cold as they saw me.
“What the hell are you doing in here!” my client roared. “Mildred?”
Sausage curls waddled in, her eyes gleaming. “I told her you wouldn’t want to see her, but no, she has to come barging in like she’s—”
“Mr. McGraw, I am V. I. Warshawski.” I pitched my voice to penetrate the din. “And you may not want to see me, but I look like an angel compared to a couple of homicide dicks who’re going to be after you pretty soon…. Hi, Mr. Thayer,” I added, holding out
a hand. “I’m sorry about your son—I’m the person who found the body.”
“It’s all right, Mildred,” McGraw said weakly. “I know this lady and I do want to talk to her.” Mildred gave me a furious look, then turned and stalked out, shutting the door with what seemed unnecessary violence.
“Mr. Thayer, what makes you think Mr. McGraw set your son up?” I asked conversationally, seating myself in a leather armchair in a corner.
The banker had recovered himself. The anger had smoothed out of his face, leaving it dignified and blank. “McGraw’s daughter was going out with my son,” he said, smiling a little. “When I learned my boy was dead, had been shot, I just stepped in to see if McGraw knew anything about it. I don’t think he set Peter up.”
McGraw was too angry to play along with Thayer. “The hell you say,” he yelled, his husky voice rising. “Ever since Annie started hanging around with that whey-faced, North Shore pipsqueak, you’ve been coming around here, calling her names, calling me names. Now the kid is dead, you’re trying to smear her! Well, by God you won’t get away with it!”
“All right!” Thayer snapped. “If that’s the way you want to play ball, that’s how we’ll play it. Your daughter—I saw the kind of girl she was the first time I set eyes on her. Peter never had a chance—innocent young kid, high ideals, giving up everything his mother and I had planned for him for the sake of a girl who’d hop into bed with—”
“Watch what names you call my daughter,” McGraw growled.
“I practically begged McGraw here to leash his daughter,” Thayer continued. “I might as well have saved my pride. This type of person doesn’t respond to any human feeling. He and his daughter had earmarked Peter for some kind of setup because he came from a wealthy family. Then, when they couldn’t get any money out of him, they killed him.”
McGraw was turning purple. “Have you shared this theory with the police, Mr. Thayer?” I asked.
“If you have, Thayer, I’ll have your ass in court for slander,” McGraw put in.
“Don’t threaten me, McGraw,” Thayer growled. John Wayne impersonation.
“Have you shared this theory with the police, Mr. Thayer?” I repeated.
He flushed slightly under his careful tan. “No, I didn’t want it blurted all over the newspapers—I didn’t want any of my neighbors to see what the boy was up to.”
I nodded. “But you’re really convinced that Mr. McGraw here—and/or his daughter—set up Peter and had him shot.”
“Yes, I am, damnit!”
“And have you any evidence to support this allegation?” I asked.
“No, he doesn’t, goddamnit!” McGraw yelled. “No one could support such a goddamn asshole statement! Anita was in love with that North Shore snot. I told her that it was a colossal mistake. Get involved
with the bosses and you get your ass burned. And now look what’s happened.”
It seemed to me that the bosses had been the ones to get burned in this case, but I didn’t think it would do any good to mention it.
“Did you give Mr. McGraw one of your business cards when you were here before?” I asked Thayer.
“I don’t know,” he said impatiently. “I probably gave one to his secretary when I arrived. Anyway, what business is it of yours?”
I smiled. “I’m a private investigator, Mr. Thayer, and I’m investigating a private matter for Mr. McGraw here. He showed me one of your business cards the other night, and I wondered where he got it.”
McGraw shifted uncomfortably. Thayer stared at him with a look of disbelief. “You showed her one of my cards? Why the hell did you do that? For that matter, why were you talking to a private investigator at all?”
“I had my reasons.” McGraw looked embarrassed, but he also looked mean.
“I bet you did,” Thayer said heavily. He turned to me. “What are you doing for McGraw?”
I shook my head. “My clients pay for privacy.”
“What kinds of things do you investigate?” Thayer asked. “Divorces?”
“Most people think of divorce when they meet a private detective. Frankly divorce is pretty slimy. I do a lot of industrial cases…. You know Edward Purcell, the man who used to be chairman of Transicon? ”
Thayer nodded. “I know of him anyway.”
“I did that investigation. He hired me because his board was pressuring him to find out where the disposable assets were going. Unfortunately he didn’t cover his tracks well enough before he hired me.” Purcell’s subsequent suicide and the reorganization of a badly damaged Transicon had been a ten-day wonder in Chicago.
Thayer leaned over me. “In that case, what are you doing for McGraw?” He lacked McGraw’s raw menace, but he, too, was a powerful man, used to intimidating others. The force of his personality was directed at me and I sat up straight to resist it.
“What business is it of yours, Mr. Thayer?”
He gave me the frown that got obedience from his junior trust officers. “If he gave you my card, it’s my business.”
“It didn’t have anything to do with you, Mr. Thayer.”
“That’s right, Thayer,” McGraw growled. “Now get your ass out of my office.”
Thayer turned back to McGraw and I relaxed slightly. “You’re not trying to smear me with any of your dirty business, are you, McGraw?”
“Watch it, Thayer. My name and my operation have been cleared in every court in this country. In Congress too. Don’t give me that crap.”
“Yeah, Congress cleared you. Lucky, wasn’t it, the way Derek Bernstein died right before the Senate hearings began.”
McGraw walked right up to the banker. “You SOB. You get out of here now or I’ll get some people
to throw you out in a way that’ll pop your high-and-mighty executive dignity for you.”
“I’m not afraid of your thugs, McGraw; don’t threaten me.”
“Oh, come on,” I snapped. “Both of you are tough as all get out, and you’re both frightening me to pieces. So can you cut out this little-boy stuff? Why do you care so much about it, Mr. Thayer? Mr. McGraw here may have tossed a business card of yours around—but he hasn’t tried to smear your name with his dirty business—if he’s got dirty business. You got something on your conscience that’s making you so upset? Or do you just have to prove you’re the toughest guy in any crowd you’re in?”
“Watch what you say to me, young lady. I’ve got a lot of powerful friends in this city, and they can—”
“That’s what I mean,” I interrupted. “Your powerful friends can take away my license. No doubt. But why do you care?”
He was silent for a minute. Finally he said, “Just be careful what you get into with McGraw here. The courts may have cleared him, but he’s into a lot of ugly business.”
“All right; I’ll be careful.”
He gave me a sour look and left.
McGraw looked at me approvingly. “ You handled him just right, Warshawski.”
I ignored that. “Why did you give me a fake name the other night, McGraw? And why did you give your daughter a different phony one?”
“How’d you find me, anyway?”
“Once I saw the McGraw name, it began stirring in the back of my mind. I remembered you from the night you were shot—it came back to me when Lieutenant Mallory mentioned the Knifegrinders. Why’d you come to me to begin with? You think my dad might help you out the way he did back then?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Oh, can it, McGraw. I was there. You may not remember me—but I remember you. You came in absolutely covered with blood and my dad fixed up your shoulder and got you out of the building. Did you think he’d help you out of whatever trouble you’re in this time, until you found out he was dead? Then what—you found my name in the Yellow Pages and thought maybe I was Tony’s son? Now, why did you use Thayer’s name?”