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Authors: Sara Paretsky

Warshawski 09 - Hard Time

BOOK: Warshawski 09 - Hard Time
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CONTENTS

Title Page

Dedication

Acknowledgments

1 - Media Circus

2 - The Woman in the Road

3 - House Call

4 - Searching for Wheels

5 - Diving into the Wreck

6 - Sigñor Ferragamo, I Presume

7 - Habeas Corpus?

8 - Poolside Chat

9 - Out of the Mouths of Babes

10 - Found in Translation

11 - Clean—On the Outside

12 - The Lion’s Den

13 - Saturday at the Mall

14 - Crumbs from the Table

15 - Family Picnic

16 - A Friend of the Family

17 - Spinning Wheels, Seeking Traction

18 - These Walls Do a Prison Make

19 - Power Dining

20 - Child in Mourning

21 - We Serve and Protect

22 - Night Crawlers

23 - A Run to O’Hare

24 - Annoying the Giants

25 - Reaching Out To—A Friend?

26 - If You Can’t Swim, Keep Away from Sharks

27 - Hounding a Newshound

28 - Friendly Warning

29 - Help Me, Father, for I Know Not What I’m Doing

30 - The Mad Virgin’s Story

31 - A Day in the Country

32 - Midnight Caller

33 - Thrown in the Tank

34 - Fourth of July Picnic

35 - A Little Game on a Small Court

36 - Bail? Why Leave Such Cool Quarters?

37 - In the Big House

38 - Prisoners in Cell Block H

39 - An Audience with Miss Ruby

40 - Sewing Circle

41 - Photo Op

42 - Slow Mend

43 - Planning Session

44 - Diving in with the Sharks

45 - Fugitive

46 - In the Church Militant

47 - For Those Who Also Serve

48 - Meet the Press

49 - Scar Tissue

Also by Sara Paretsky

Copyright Page

 

 

For Miriam

The footnote Queen, without attribution,
in the year you weren’t writing,
(Oh, except for this essay on Shanghai, that one on
Benjamin, a little piece on theory)

In the year you’re writing,
Let me have one back

 

 

THANKS

As always, many people provided help in creating this story. Dr. Robert Kirschner of the University of Chicago gave me much helpful forensic advice--even if his facts forced me to abandon an early draft of the manuscript and start over. Professor Shelley Bannister of Northeastern Illinois University explained much about Illinois prisons to me, including the law regarding prison manufacture. Attorney Margaret Byrne was helpful with specifics on treatment of inmates in the Illinois prison system. She also suggested the unique structure of my mythical prison in Coolis. Angela Andrews kindly and bravely shared her personal experiences with me.

On other technical matters, Sandy Weiss of Packer Engineering gave me much useful information, especially on the various cameras V. I. makes use of in this story. Jesus Mata provided Spanish translations for me; Mena di Mario did the same for Italian. Rachel Lyle suggested what became the main impetus to writing this novel. Jonathan Paretsky as always was most helpful with details on legal matters.

This is a work of fiction, and no resemblance is intended between any characters in it and any real people, whether living or dead or never known to me. The combined prison-jail complex at Coolis in this novel does not exist in reality anywhere in America as far as I know, but I believe it is a plausible one. However, details on treatment of prisoners in Coolis were drawn from the Human Rights Watch report
All Too Familiar: Sexual Abuse of Women in U.S. State Prisons.

1 Media Circus

Lacey Dowell clutched her crucifix, milky breasts thrust forward, as she backed away from her unseen assailant. Tendrils of red hair escaped from her cap; with her eyes shut and her forehead furrowed she seemed to have crossed the line from agony to ecstasy. It was too much emotion for me at close quarters.

I turned around, only to see her again, red hair artlessly tangled, breasts still thrust forward, as she accepted the Hasty Pudding award from a crowd of Harvard men. I resolutely refused to look at the wall on my right, where her head was flung back as she laughed at the witticisms of the man in the chair opposite. I knew the man and liked him, which made me squirm at his expression, a kind of fawning joviality. Murray Ryerson was too good a reporter to prostitute himself like this.

“What got into him? Or more to the point, what got into me, to let him turn my bar into this backslapping media circus?”

Sal Barthele, who owned the Golden Glow, had snaked through the Chicago glitterati packed into her tiny space to find me. Her height—she was over six feet tall—made it possible for her to spot me in the mob. For a moment, as she looked at the projection screens on her paneled walls, her relaxed hostess smile slipped and her nose curled in distaste.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe he wants to show Hollywood what a cool insider he is, knowing an intimate bar they never heard of.”

Sal snorted but kept her eyes on the room, checking for trouble spots—patrons waiting too long for liquid, wait staff unable to move. The throng included local TV personalities anxiously positioning themselves so that their cameras could catch them with Lacey Dowell if she ever showed up. While they waited they draped themselves around executives from Global Studios. Murray himself was hard at it with a woman in a silver gauze outfit. Her hair was clipped close to her head, showing off prominent cheekbones and a wide mouth painted bright red. As if sensing my gaze she turned, looked at me for a moment, then interrupted Murray’s patter to jerk her head in my direction.

“Who is Murray talking to?” I asked Sal, but she had turned away to deal with a fractious customer.

I edged myself through the crowd, tripping on Regine Mauger, the
Herald–Star’
s wizened gossip columnist. She glared at me malevolently: she didn’t know who I was, which meant I was no use to her.

“Will you watch where you’re going, young woman?” Regine had been tucked and cut so many times that her skin looked like paper pulled over bone. “I’m trying to talk to Teddy Trant!”

She meant she was trying to push her bony shoulders close enough for Trant to notice her. He was the head of Global’s midwest operations, sent in from Hollywood when Global acquired the
Herald–Star
and its string of regional papers a year ago. No one in town had paid much attention to him until last week, when Global unleashed its television network. They had bought Channel 13 in Chicago to serve as their flagship and brought in Lacey Dowell, star of Global’s wildly successful romance–horror flicks, to appear on the first “Behind Scenes in Chicago” segment—with host Murray Ryerson, “the man who turns Chicago inside out.”

Global was launching a “Behind Scenes” feature in each of their major markets. As a hometown girl made good and a Global star, Lacey was the perfect choice for the Chicago launch. Crowds of teenagers as excited as my generation had been by the Beatles lined up to greet her at O’Hare. Tonight they were waiting outside the Golden Glow to catch her arrival.

With the excitement of television and movies on hand, no one could get enough of Edmund Trant. Where he dined, how his mediagenic wife decorated their Oak Brook mansion, all were avidly covered by columnists like Regine Mauger. And when invitations were issued for tonight’s party, everyone in Chicago’s small media pond was anxious to find the silver–edged ticket in the mail.

Regine and the other gossip columnists weren’t of much interest to Trant tonight: I recognized the Speaker of the Illinois House and a couple of other state pols in the group close to him and had a feeling that the man he was talking most to was another businessman. Regine, peevish at being stiffed, made a big show of inspecting the hem of her black satin trousers, to show me I’d torn them or scuffed them or something. As I pushed my way through the melee toward a corner of the bar I heard her say to her counterpart at the
Sun–Times,
“Who is that very clumsy woman?”

I edged my way to the wall behind Sal’s horseshoe mahogany bar. Since my assistant, Mary Louise Neely, and her young protégée Emily Messenger had come with me, I knew I was in for a long evening. In her current manic state Emily would ignore any pleas to leave much before one in the morning. It wasn’t often she did something that made her peers jealous and she was determined to milk the evening to the limit.

Like most of her generation Emily was caught up in Lacey–mania. When I said she and Mary Louise could come as the guests my ticket entitled me to, Emily turned pale with excitement. She was leaving for France next week to go to a summer language camp, but that was bore–rine compared to being in the same room with Lacey Dowell.

“The Mad Virgin,” she breathed theatrically. “Vic, I’ll never forget this until my dying day.”

Lacey got the nickname from her lead in a series of horror flicks about a medieval woman who supposedly died in defense of her chastity. She periodically returned to life to wreak vengeance on the man who tormented her—since he kept reappearing through time to menace other young women. Despite the pseudofeminist gloss on the plot, Lacey always ended up dying again after defeating her agelong foe, while some brainless hero cuddled a vapid truelove who had screamed herself breathless for ninety minutes. The films had a cult status among Generation X–ers—their deadly seriousness turned them into a kind of campy self–satire—but their real audience was Emily and her teenage friends, who slavishly copied Lacey’s hairstyle, her ankle boots with their crossed straps, and the high–necked black tank tops she wore off the set.

When I got to the end of the bar near the service entrance, I stood on tiptoe to try to spot Emily or Mary Louise, but the crowd was too dense. Sal had moved all the barstools to the basement. I leaned against the wall, making myself as flat as possible, as harassed wait staff rushed by with hors d’oeuvres and bottles.

Murray had moved to the far end of the bar from me, still with the woman in silver gauze. He seemed to be regaling her with the tale of how Sal acquired her mahogany horseshoe bar from the remains of a Gold Coast mansion. Years ago when she was starting out, she got me and her brothers to climb through the rubble to help her haul it off. Watching the woman tilt her head back in a theatrical laugh, I was betting that Murray was pretending he’d been part of the crew. Something about the shape of his partner’s face or the full–lipped pout she gave when she was listening was familiar, but I couldn’t place her.

Sal stopped briefly by me again, holding a plate of smoked salmon. “I have to stay here till the last dog dies, but you don’t—go on home, Warshawski.”

I took some salmon and explained morosely that I was waiting on Mary Louise and Emily. “Want me to tend bar? It would give me something to do.”

“Be better if you went in the back and washed dishes. Since I don’t usually serve food here at the Glow my little washer is blowing its brains out trying to keep up with this. Want me to bring you the Black Label?”

“I’m driving. San Pellegrino is my limit for the evening.”

Murray maneuvered his way across the bar with his companion and put his arm around Sal. “Thanks for opening up the Glow to this mob scene. I thought we ought to celebrate at some place authentically Chicago.”

He kept an arm around Sal in a protective hug and introduced her to his companion. “Sal Barthele, one of the truly great Chicago stories. Alexandra Fisher, one of the truly great Chicago escapees. And you know V. I. Warshawski.”

“Yes, I know Vic.” Sal extricated herself from Murray. “Stop showing off, Murray. Not all of us are swooning because you sat in front of a camera for fifteen minutes.”

Murray threw back his head and laughed. “That’s what makes this a great town. But I was talking to Alex. She and Vic were in law school together.”

“We were?” The name didn’t ring a bell.

“I’ve changed a little.” Alex laughed, too, and squeezed my hand in a power shake.

I squeezed back, hard enough to make her open her eyes. She had the muscle definition of a woman who worked seriously with weights, and the protruding breastbone of one who survived on lettuce leaves between workouts. I have the muscles of a South Side street fighter, and probably matching manners.

I still couldn’t place her. Her hair, dyed a kind of magenta, was cut close to her skull at the sides and slicked back on top with something like Brill Creme, except no doubt pricier. Before I could probe, a young man in a white collarless shirt murmured a few apologetic words to Alex about “Mr. Trant.” She waggled her fingers at Murray and me and followed the acolyte toward the power center. The wizened gossip columnist, still hovering on the perimeter, stopped her for a comment, but Alex was sucked into the vortex and disappeared.

“So—what did you think, V. I.?” Murray scooped half the salmon from Sal’s platter and downed it with a mouthful of beer.

It was only then that I realized he had shaved his beard for his television debut. I had watched the beard go from fiery red to auburn to gray–flecked in the years he and I had collaborated and competed on financial scandal in Chicago, but I’d never seen his naked jaw before.

Somehow it made my heart ache—foolish Murray, anxiously decking himself for the media gods—so I said brusquely, “She has beautiful deltoid definition.”

“Of my show, Warshawski.”

I kept my eyes on the mahogany bar. “I thought you brought the same attention to Lacey that you did to Gantt–Ag and the Knifegrinders and all those other stories we worked together.”

“Sheesh, Warshawski, can’t you ever give a guy a break?”

“I wish you well, Murray. I really do.”

My glance flicked to his face. Whatever he saw in my eyes made him look away. He gave Sal another exaggerated grin and hug and headed in his companion’s direction. As I watched him walk away I realized someone had been pointing a camera at us: he’d been embracing Sal for tape.

“Something tells me Murray picked the Glow to show all those Hollywood types he hangs around with black people,” Sal said, frowning at his retreating back.

I didn’t want to admit it out loud, but I thought sadly she was probably right.

“That Alex Fisher is part of Global’s legal team,” Sal added, her eyes still on the room. “They brought her out from California to mind the shop here. I had to deal with her a few times on liability questions about Lacey—I actually had to buy insurance to cover the event tonight. The studio wasn’t even going to cover the cost of that until I told them the city health department was raising so many questions about food in the Glow that I’d have to shut down the event.”

“Why’d they care? They could go anywhere.”

“They’re paying for the catering, and I only told them this morning. I hear they say in Hollywood that no one kicks Global’s ball, but they’re out–of–towners here.” She laughed and disappeared into the minute kitchen.

Around midnight there was a flurry at the door. I hoped it was Lacey making her dramatic appearance so that I could collect Emily and leave, but it was only a couple of Bulls players—bore–rine to Emily Messenger and her friends. As the crowds shifted for them I made out Mary Louise and Emily, stationed where Emily could get an autograph as soon as Lacey cleared the entrance. Emily was in Mad Virgin uniform: the black tank top, stretch pants, and platform shoes that were sold through the Virginwear label Global owned.

Mary Louise must have worked something out with one of the officers assigned to cover the event. She had been a cop herself for ten years, and when she quit the force two years ago she’d done it in a way that didn’t lose her any friends. The guy on duty tonight had placed Emily behind the velvet ropes set up to create the illusion of an entrance hall. He’d even found a barstool for Emily to perch on. I was envious—my calves were aching from hours of standing.

“Are you waiting for Lacey, too?”

I turned to find a stranger addressing me, a compactly built man several years younger than me, with curly brown hair and the hint of a mustache.

“I’m a friend of the groom,” I said, “but I have a young guest who won’t leave until she gets Lacey’s autograph.”

“A friend of—oh.” His eyes twinkled in appreciation. “And I’m a friend of the bride. At least, we grew up in the same building, and she squeaked with excitement when she told me she was coming back to Chicago.”

“Is she really from here? When actors say they’re from Chicago, they usually mean Winnetka and New Trier, not the city.”

“Oh, no. We grew up in Humboldt Park. Until we were twelve we hung out together, the only nerds in our building, so that the bigger kids wouldn’t pick on us. Then she got a role on television and whoosh, off she went like a rocket. Now all those kids who used to corner her in the stairwell are trying to pretend they were her buddies, but she’s not a fool.”

“She remembered you?” I wasn’t really interested, but even idle talk would help get me through the evening.

“Oh, sure, she sent me one of her fancy cards to this event. But she won’t meet with me alone.” He reached across the bar for a bottle of beer and shook himself, as if shaking off a train of thought. “And why should she? Which groom are you a friend of? Do you work for the television station?”

“No, no. I know Murray Ryerson, that’s all.”

“You work for him?” He grabbed a plate of tiny sandwiches from a passing waiter and offered it to me.

I don’t like to tell people I’m a private investigator—it’s almost as bad as being a doctor at a party. Everyone has some scam or some time that they’ve been robbed or cheated that they think you’ll sort out for them on the spot. Tonight was no exception. When I admitted to my occupation, my companion said maybe I could help him. Something rather curious had been happening in his plant lately.

BOOK: Warshawski 09 - Hard Time
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