Authors: Sara Paretsky
I flipped through it to the Political Science section. Their summer schedule filled a page. Class titles included such things as “The Concept of Citizenship in Aristotle and Plato”; “Idealism from Descartes Through Berkeley”; and “Superpower Politics and the Idea of
“ Fascinating. Finally I found one that sounded more promising: “The Capitalist Standoff: Big Labor Versus Big Business.” Someone who taught a course like that would surely attract a young labor organizer like Anita McGraw. And might even know who some of her friends were. The instructor’s name was Harold Weinstein.
I asked the youth where Weinstein’s office was. He hunched further into Marcuse and pretended not to hear. I came around the desk again and sat on it facing him, and grabbed his shirt collar and jerked his face up so that I could see his eyes. “I know you think you’re doing the revolution a great service by not revealing Anita’s whereabouts to the pigs,” I said pleasantly. “Perhaps when her body is found in a car trunk you will invite me to the party where you celebrate upholding your code of honor in the face of unendurable oppression.” I shook him a bit. “Now tell me where to find Harold Weinstein’s office.”
“You don’t have to tell her anything, Howard,” someone said behind me. “And you,” he said to me, “Don’t be surprised when students equate police with fascism—I saw you roughing up that boy.”
The speaker was thin with hot brown eyes and a
mop of unruly hair. He was wearing a blue work shirt tucked neatly into a pair of khaki jeans.
“Mr. Weinstein?” I said affably, letting go of Howard’s shirt. He stared at me with his hands on his hips, brooding. It looked pretty noble. “I’m not with the police—I’m a private detective. And when I ask anyone a civil question, I like to get a civil answer, not an arrogant shrug of the shoulders.
“Anita’s father, Andrew McGraw, hired me to find her. I have a feeling, which he shares, that she may be in bad trouble. Shall we go somewhere and talk about it?”
“You have a feeling, do you,” he said heavily. “Well, go feel about it somewhere else. We don’t like police—public or private—on this campus.” He turned to stalk back down the corridor.
“Well executed,” I applauded. “you’ve been studying Al Pacino. Now that you’ve finished emoting, could we talk about Anita?”
The back of his neck turned red, and the color spread to his ears, but he stopped. “What about her?”
“I’m sure you know she’s disappeared, Mr. Weinstein. You may also know that her boyfriend, Peter Thayer, is dead. I am trying to find her in the hopes of keeping her from sharing his fate.” I paused to let him absorb it. “My guess is that she’s hiding out someplace and she thinks she won’t be found by whoever killed him. But I’m afraid she’s crossed the path of an ugly type of killer. The kind that has a lot of money and can buy his way past most hideouts.”
He turned so that I could see his profile. “Don’t
worry, Philip Marlowe—they won’t bribe me into revealing her whereabouts.”
I wondered hopefully if he could be tortured into talking. Aloud, I said, “Do you know where she is?”
“Do you know any of her good friends around here?”
“Gee, you’re helpful, Mr. Weinstein—you’re my favorite prof. I wish you’d taught here when I went to school.” I pulled out my card and gave it to him. “If you ever feel like commenting, call me at this number.”
Back outside in the heat I felt depressed. My navy silk suit was stunning, but too heavy for the weather; I was sweating, probably ruining the fabric under the arms. Besides, I seemed to be alienating everyone whose path I crossed. I wished I’d smashed in Howard’s face.
A circular stone bench faced the college building. I walked over to it and sat down. Maybe I’d give up on this stupid case. Industrial espionage was more my speed, not a corrupt union and a bunch of snotty kids. Maybe I’d use the thousand dollars McGraw had given me to spend the summer on the Michigan peninsula. Maybe that would make him angry enough to send someone after me with cement leggings.
The Divinity School was just behind me. I sighed, pulled myself to my feet, and moved into its stonewalled coolness. A coffee shop used to serve overboiled coffee and tepid lemonade in the basement. I
made my way downstairs and found the place still in operation. There was something reassuring in this continuity and in the sameness of the young faces behind the makeshift counter. Kindly and naive, they preached a lot of violent dogma, believed that burglars had a right to the goods they took because of their social oppression, and yet would be rocked to their roots if someone ever required them to hold a machine gun themselves.
I took a Coke and retired to a dark corner with it. The chairs weren’t comfortable, but I pulled my knees up to my chin and leaned against the wall. About a dozen students were seated around the wobbly tables, some of them trying to read in the dim light, most of them talking. Snatches of conversation reached me. “Of course if you’re going to look at it dialectically, the only thing they can do is—” “I told her if she didn’t put her foot down he’d—” “Yeah, but Schopenhauer says—” I dozed off.
I was jerked awake a few seconds later by a loud voice saying, “Did you
about Peter Thayer?” I looked up. The speaker, a plump young woman with wild red hair, wearing an ill-fitting peasant blouse, had just come into the room. She dumped her book bag on the floor and joined a table of three in the middle of the room. “I was just coming out of class when Ruth Yonkers told me.”
I got up and bought another Coke and sat down at a table behind the redhead.
A thin youth with equally wild but dark hair was saying, “Oh, yeah, the cops were all over the Political
Science Office this morning. You know, he was living with Anita McGraw, and she hasn’t been seen since Sunday. Weinstein really told them off,” he added admiringly.
“Do they think she killed him?” the redhead asked.
A dark, somewhat older woman snorted. “Anita McGraw? I’ve known her for two years. She might off a cop, but she wouldn’t shoot her boyfriend.”
“Do you know him, Mary?” the redhead breathed.
“No,” Mary answered shortly. “I never met him. Anita belongs to University Women United—that’s how I know her. So does Geraldine Harata, her other roommate, but Geraldine’s away for the summer. If she wasn’t, the cops would probably suspect her. They always pick on women first.”
“I’m surprised you let her into UWU if she has a boyfriend,” a bearded young man put in. He was heavy and sloppy—his T-shirt gaped, revealing an unlovely expanse of stomach.
Mary looked at him haughtily and shrugged.
“Not everyone in UWU is a lesbian,” the redhead bristled.
“With so many men like Bob around, it’s hard to understand why not,” Mary drawled. The fat youth flushed and muttered something, of which “castrating” was the only word I caught.
“But I never met Anita,” the redhead continued. “I only started going to UWU meetings in May. Has she really disappeared, Mary?”
Mary shrugged again. “If the pigs are trying to put
Peter Thayer’s death off on her, I wouldn’t be surprised.”
“Maybe she went home,” Bob suggested.
“No,” the thin youth said. “If she’d done that, the police wouldn’t have been around here looking for her.”
“Well,” Mary said, “I, for one, hope they don’t catch up with her.” She got up. “I have to go listen to Bertram drone on about medieval culture. One more crack about witches as hysterical women and he’ll find himself attacked by some after class.”
She hoisted a knapsack over her left shoulder and ambled off. The others settled closer to the table and switched to an animated discussion of homo- versus heterosexual relationships. Poor Bob favored the latter, but didn’t seem to get many opportunities for actively demonstrating it. The thin boy vigorously defended lesbianism. I listened in amusement. College students had enthusiastic opinions about so many topics. At four the boy behind the counter announced he was closing. People started gathering up their books, The three I was listening to continued their discussion for a few minutes until the counterman called over, “Hey, folks, I want to get out of here.”
They reluctantly picked up their book bags and moved toward the stairs. I threw out my paper cup and slowly followed them out. At the top of the stairs I touched the redhead’s arm. She stopped and looked at me, her face friendly and ingenuous.
“I heard you mention UWU,” I said. “Can you tell me where they meet?”
“Are you new on campus?” she asked.
“I’m an old student, but I find I have to spend some time down here this summer,” I answered truthfully.
“Well, we have a room in a building at fifty-seven thirty-five University. It’s one of those old homes the university has taken over. UWU meets there on Tuesday nights, and other women’s activities go on during the rest of the week.”
I asked her about their women’s center. It was clearly not large, but better than nothing at all, which was what we’d had in my college days when even women radicals treated women’s liberation as a dirty phrase. They had a women’s health counseling group, courses on self-defense, and they sponsored rap groups and the weekly University Women United meetings.
We had been moving across campus toward the Midway, where my car was parked. I offered her a ride home and she flung herself puppylike into the front seat, talking vigorously if ingenuously about women’s oppression. She wanted to know what I did.
“Free-lance work, mostly for corporations,” I said, expecting more probing, but she took that happily enough, asking if I would be taking photographs. I realized she assumed that I must be a free-lance writer. I was afraid if I told her the truth, she would tell everyone at UWU and make it impossible for me to find any answers about Anita. Yet I didn’t want to tell glaring lies, because if the truth did come out, these
young radical women would be even more hostile. So I said “no photographs” and asked her if she did any photography herself. She was still chattering cheerfully when we pulled up in front of her apartment.
“I’m Gail Sugarman,” she announced as she struggled clumsily out of the car.
“How do you do, Gail,” I replied politely. “I’m V.I. Warshawski.”
“Veeyai!” she exclaimed. “What an unusual name. Is it African?”
“No,” I answered gravely, “it’s Italian.” Driving off, I could see her in the rearview mirror, scrambling up the front steps of her apartment. She made me feel incredibly old. Even at twenty I had never possessed that naive, bouncing friendliness; and now it made me feel cynical and remote. In fact, I felt a bit ashamed of deceiving her.
Lake Shore Drive, long one, large pothole, was being dug up and repaired. Only two northbound lanes were open and the traffic was backed up for miles. I decided to cut off onto the Stevenson Expressway going west, and then back north on the Kennedy, which went up the industrial North Side toward the airport. The rush-hour traffic was exacerbated by the load of people trying to get out of town on a stifling Friday night. It took me over an hour to fight my way to the Belmont exit, and then fifteen blocks east to my apartment. By the time I got there, all I could think of was a tall, cool drink and a long, soothing shower.
I hadn’t noticed anyone coming up the stairs behind me, and was turning my key in the lock when I felt an arm on my shoulder. I’d been mugged once before in this hallway. Whirling reflexively, I snapped my knee and kicked in one motion, delivering directly onto my assailant’s exposed shinbone. He grunted and backed off but came back with a solid punch
aimed at my face. I ducked and took it on the left shoulder. A lot of the zip was gone, but it shook me a little and I drew away.
He was a short, stocky man, wearing an ill-fitting plaid jacket. He was panting a little, which pleased me: it meant he was out of shape, and a woman has better odds against an out-of-shape man. I waited for him to move or run away. Instead he drew a gun. I stood still.
“If this is a holdup, I only have thirteen dollars in my purse. Not worth killing for.”
“I’m not interested in your money. I want you to come with me.”
“Come with you where?” I asked.
“you’ll find out when we get there.” He waved the gun at me and pointed down the stairs with his other arm.
“Beats me why well-paid hoods always dress so sloppily,” I commented. “Your jacket doesn’t fit, your shirt’s untucked—you look like a mess. Now if you were a policeman, I could understand it; they—”
He cut me off with an enraged bellow. “I don’t need a goddamn broad to tell me how to dress!” He seized my arm with unnecessary force and started to hustle me down the stairs. He was holding me too close, though. I was able to turn slightly and bring my hand up with a short, strong chop under his gun wrist. He let go of me but didn’t drop the gun. I followed through with a half-turn that brought my right elbow under his armpit and made a wedge of my right fist
and forearm. I drove it into his ribs with my left hand, palm open, and heard a satisfying
that told me I’d hit home between the fifth and sixth ribs and separated them. He yelled in pain and dropped the gun. I reached for it, but he had enough sense to step on my hand. I butted him in the stomach with my head and he let go, but I was off balance and sat down hard. Someone was clattering up the stairs behind me and I only had time to swing my foot and kick the gun away before turning to see who it was.