Authors: Sara Paretsky
The fight died down in him a bit. “I wasn’t sure you’d do a job for me if you knew who I was.”
“But why Thayer? Why drag in the senior guy in Chicago’s biggest bank? Why not just call yourself Joe Blow?”
“I don’t know. It was just an impulse, I guess.”
“Impulse? You’re not that dumb. He could sue you for slander or something, dragging his name in like that.”
“Then why the hell did you let him know I’d done it? You’re on my payroll.”
“No, I’m not. You’ve hired me to do some independent professional work, but I’m not on your payroll. Which brings us to the original question: what’d you hire me for, anyway?”
“To find my daughter.”
“Then why did you give her a false name? How could I possibly look for her? No. I think you hired me to find the body.”
“Now, look here, Warshawski—”
“You look, McGraw. It’s so obvious you knew the kid was dead. When did you find out? Or did you shoot him yourself?”
His eyes disappeared in his heavy face and he pushed close to me. “Don’t talk smart with me, Warshawski.”
My heart beat faster but I didn’t back away. “When did you find the body?”
He stared at me another minute, then half-smiled. “You’re no softie. I don’t object to a lady with guts…. I was worried about Anita. She usually calls me on Monday evening, and when she didn’t, I thought I should go down and check up on her. You know what a dangerous neighborhood that is.”
“You know, Mr. McGraw, it continues to astonish me the number of people who think the University of Chicago is in an unsafe neighborhood. Why parents ever send their children to school there at all amazes me. Now let’s have a little more honesty. You knew Anita had disappeared when you came to see me, or you would never have given me her picture. You are worried about her, and you want her found. Do you think she killed the boy?”
That got an explosive reaction. “No, I don’t, goddamnit. If you must know, she came home from work
Tuesday night and found his dead body. She called me in a panic, and then she disappeared.”
“Did she accuse you of killing him?”
“Why should she do that?” He was bellicose but uncomfortable.
“I can think of lots of reasons. You hated young Thayer, thought your daughter was selling out to the bosses. So in a mistaken fit of paternal anxiety, you killed the kid, thinking it would restore your daughter to you. Instead—”
“You’re crazy, Warshawski! No parent is that cuckoo.”
I’ve seen lots of kookier parents but decided not to argue that point. “Well,” I said, “you don’t like that idea, try this one. Peter somehow got wind of some shady, possibly even criminal, activities that you and the Knifegrinders are involved in. He communicated his fears to Anita, but being in love he wouldn’t welch on you to the cops. On the other hand, being young and idealistic, he had to confront you. And he couldn’t be bought. You shot him—or had him shot—and Anita knew it had to be you. So she did a bunk.”
McGraw’s nerves were acting up again, but he blustered and bellowed and called me names. Finally he said, “Why in Sam Hill would I want you to find my daughter if all she’d do is finger me?”
“ I don’t know. Maybe you were playing the odds-figuring you’ve been close and she wouldn’t turn on you. Trouble is, the police are going to be making the connection between you and Anita before too long.
They know the kids had some tie-in with the brotherhood because there was some literature around the house created by your printer. They’re not dummies, and everyone knows you’re head of the union and they know there was a McGraw in the apartment.
“When they come around, they’re not going to care about your daughter, or your relationship with her. They’ve got a murder to solve, and they’ll be happy to tag you with it—especially with a guy in Thayer’s position pressuring them. Now if you tell me what you know, I may—no promises, but
able to salvage you and your daughter—if you’re not guilty, of course.”
McGraw studied the floor for a while. I realized I’d been clutching the arms of the chair while I was talking and carefully relaxed my muscles. Finally he looked up at me and said, “If I tell you something, will you promise not to take it to the police?”
I shook my head. “can’t promise anything, Mr. McGraw. I’d lose my license if I kept knowledge of a crime to myself.”
“Not that kind of knowledge, damnit! Goddamnit, Warshawski, you keep acting like I committed the goddamn murder or something.” He breathed heavily for a few minutes. Finally he said, “I just want to tell you about—you’re right. I did—I was—I did find the kid’s body.” He choked that out, and the rest came easier. “Annie—Anita—called me Monday night. She wasn’t in the apartment, she wouldn’t say where she was.” He shifted a bit in his chair. “Anita’s a good, levelheaded kid. She never got any special pampering
as a child, and she grew up knowing how to be independent. She and I are, well, we’re pretty close, and she’s always been union all the way, but she’s no clinging daddy’s girl. And I never wanted her to be one.
“Tuesday night I hardly recognized her. She was pretty damn near hysterical, yelling a lot of half-assed stuff which didn’t make any sense at all. But she didn’t mention the kid’s murder.”
“What was she yelling?” I asked conversationally.
“Oh, just nonsense, I couldn’t make anything out of it.”
“Same song, second verse,” I remarked.
“Same as the first,” I explained. “A little bit louder and a little bit worse.”
“Once and for all, she didn’t accuse me of killing Peter Thayer!” he yelled at the top of his lungs.
We weren’t moving too quickly.
“Okay, she didn’t accuse you of murdering Peter. Did she tell you about his being dead?”
He stopped for a minute. If he said yes, the next question was, why had the girl done a bunk if she didn’t think McGraw had committed the murder? “No, like I said, she was just hysterical. She—Well, later, after I saw the body, I figured she was calling because of—of, well, that.” He stopped again, but this time it was to collect some memories. “She hung up and I tried calling back, but there wasn’t any answer, so I went down to see for myself. And I found the boy.”
“How’d you get in?” I asked curiously.
“I have a key. Annie gave it to me when she moved in, But I’d never used it before.” He fumbled in his pocket and pulled out a key. I looked at it and shrugged.
“That was Tuesday night?” He nodded. “And you waited ‘til Wednesday night to come to see me?”
“I waited all day hoping that someone else would find the body. When no report came out—you were right, you know.” He smiled ruefully, and his whole face became more attractive. “I hoped that Tony was still alive. I hadn’t talked to him for years, he’d warned me off good and proper over the Stellinek episode—didn’t know old Tony had it in him—but he was the only guy I could think of who might help me.”
“Why didn’t you call the cops yourself?” I asked. His face closed up again. “I didn’t want to,” he said shortly.
I thought about it. “You probably wanted your own source of information on the case, and you didn’t think your police contacts could help you.” He didn’t disagree.
“Do the Knifegrinders have any pension money tied up with the Fort Dearborn Trust?” I asked.
McGraw turned red again. “Keep your goddamn mitts out of our pension fund, Warshawski. We have enough snoopers smelling around there to guarantee it grade A pure for the next century. I don’t need you, too.”
“Do you have any financial dealings with the Fort Dearborn Trust?”
He was getting so angry I wondered what nerve I’d touched, but he denied it emphatically.
“What about the Ajax Insurance Company?”
“Well, what about them?” he demanded.
“I don’t know, Mr. McGraw—do you buy any insurance from them?”
“I don’t know.” His face was set and he was eyeing me hard and cold, the way he no doubt had eyed young Timmy Wright of Kansas City Local 4318 when Timmy had tried to talk to him about running a clean election down there. (Timmy had shown up in the Missouri River two weeks later.) It was much more menacing than his red-faced bluster. I wondered.
“Well, what about your pensions? Ajax is big in the pension business.”
“Goddamnit, Warshawski, get out of the office. You were hired to find Anita, not to ask a lot of questions about something that isn’t any of your goddamned business. Now get out and don’t come back.”
“You want me to find Anita?” I asked.
McGraw suddenly deflated and put his head in his hands. “Oh, jeez, I don’t know what to do.”
I looked at him sympathetically. “Someone got you in the squeeze?”
He just shook his head but wouldn’t answer. We sat it out in silence for a while. Then he looked at me, and he looked gray. “Warshawski, I don’t know where
Annie is. And I don’t want to know. But I want you to find her. And when you do, just let me know if she’s all right. Here’s another five hundred dollars to keep you on for a whole week. Come to me when it runs out.” It wasn’t a formal apology, but I accepted it and left.
I stopped at Barb’s Bar-B-Q for some lunch and called my answering service. There was a message from Ralph Devereux at Ajax; would I meet him at the Cartwheel at 7:30 tonight. I called him and asked if he had discovered anything about Peter Thayer’s work.
“Look,” he said, “will you tell me your first name? How the hell can I keep on addressing someone as ‘V.I.’?”
“The British do it all the time. What have you found out?”
“Nothing. I’m not looking—there’s nothing to find. That kid wasn’t working on sensitive stuff. And you know why—V.I.? Because insurance companies don’t run to sensitive stuff. Our product, how we manufacture it, and what we charge for it are only regulated by about sixty-seven state and federal agencies.”
“Ralph, my first name is Victoria; my friends call me Vic. Never Vicki. I know insurance isn’t your high-sensitivity business—but it offers lots of luscious opportunities for embezzlement.”
A pregnant silence. “No,” he finally said, “at least—not here. We don’t have any check-signing or authorizing responsibility.”
I thought that one over. “Do you know if Ajax handles any of the Knifegrinders’ pension money?”
“The Knifegrinders?” he echoed. “What earthly connection does that set of hoodlums have with Peter Thayer?”
“I don’t know. But do you have any of their pension money?”
“I doubt it. This is an insurance company, not a mob hangout.”
“Well, could you find out for me? And could you find out if they buy any insurance from you?”
“We sell all kinds of insurance, Vic—but not much that a union would buy.”
“Look,” he said, “it’s a long story. Meet me at the Cartwheel at seven thirty and I’ll give you chapter and verse on it.”
“Okay,” I agreed. “But look into it for me, anyway. Please?”
“None of your goddamn business.” I hung up.
stood for Iphigenia. My Italian mother had been devoted to Victor Emmanuel. This passion and her love of opera had led her to burden me with an insane name.
I drank a Fresca and ordered a chef’s salad. I wanted ribs and fries, but the memory of Mildred’s sagging arms stopped me. The salad didn’t do much for me. I sternly put french fries out of my mind and pondered events.
Anita McGraw had called up and—at a minimum—told her father about the murder. My bet was she’d accused him of being involved. Ergo, Peter had found
out something disreputable about the Knifegrinders and had told her. He probably found it out at Ajax, but possibly from the bank. I loved the idea of pensions. The Loyal Alliance Pension Fund got lots of publicity for their handling, or mishandling, of Knife-grinder pension money, but twenty million or so could easily have been laid off on a big bank or insurance company. And pension money gave one so much scope for fraudulent activity.
Why had McGraw gone down to the apartment? Well, in the first place, he knew whatever discreditable secret Thayer had uncovered. He was afraid that Anita was probably in on it—young lovers don’t keep much to themselves. And if she called up because she’d found her boyfriend with a hole in his head, McGraw probably figured she’d be next, daughter or no daughter. So he went racing down to Hyde Park, terrified he’d find her dead body too. Instead she’d vanished. So far, so good.
Now if I could find Anita, I’d know the secret. Or if I found the secret, I could publicize it, which would take the heat off the girl and maybe persuade her to return. It sounded good.
What about Thayer, though? Why had McGraw used his card, and why had this upset him so much? Just the principle of the thing? I ought to talk to him alone.
I paid my bill and headed back to Hyde Park. The college Political Science Department was on the fourth floor of one of the older campus buildings. On a hot summer afternoon the hallways were empty.
Through the windows along the stairwell I could see knots of students lying on the grass, some reading, some sleeping. A few energetic boys were playing Frisbee. An Irish setter loped around, trying to catch the disk.
A student was tending the desk in the department office. He looked about seventeen, his long blond hair hanging over his forehead, but no beard—he didn’t appear ready to grow one yet. He was wearing a T-shirt with a hole under the left arm and was sitting hunched over a book. He looked up reluctantly when I said hello but kept the book open on his lap.
I smiled pleasantly and told him I was looking for Anita McGraw. He gave me a hostile look and turned back to his book without speaking.
“Come on. What’s wrong with asking for her? She’s a student in the department, right?” He refused to look up. I felt my temper rising, but I wondered if Mallory had been here before me. “Have the police been around asking for her?”
“You ought to know,” he muttered, not looking up.
“You think just because I’m not wearing sloppy blue jeans I’m with the police?” I asked. “How about digging out a departmental course list for me?”
He didn’t move. I stepped around to his side of the desk and pulled open a drawer.
“Okay, okay,” he said huffily. He put the book spine up on the desktop.
Capitalism and Freedom,
by Marcuse. I might have guessed. He rummaged through the drawer and pulled out a
list, typed and
mimeographed, labeled “College Time Schedule: Summer 1979.”