Read Animal Appetite Online

Authors: Susan Conant

Tags: #General, #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Women dog owners, #Women Sleuths, #Winter; Holly (Fictitious character), #Dog trainers, #Dogs, #Maine, #Massachusetts, #Indian captivities, #Women journalists

Animal Appetite (10 page)

BOOK: Animal Appetite
Well, was I ever disappointed. Whoever this Randall Carey was, he’d known less than I did about Jack Andrews. It seemed to me he’d cared far less than I did, too. Maybe his middle name wasn’t Winter. Maybe he hadn’t grown up with golden retrievers. If Carey had ferreted out Jack’s hidden life, he’d kept Jack’s secret. The chapter said only that Jack’s dog was a golden retriever; it didn’t even give Chip’s name. According to the book, Jack had had a lot of style, and Claudia none. After her father’s death, Bronwyn had become increasingly masculine, the book said. The son, Gareth, was described as eccentric. For all I knew, he was. I did learn the names of some people who’d worked at Damned Yankee Press. At the time of Jack’s murder, his secretary, Ursula Pappas, had been on vacation in Greece. A temp named Estelle Grant was filling in for her. The chapter referred only to rat poison in the coffee; it didn’t specify sodium fluoroacetate. The only really new information was the suggestion that Shaun McGrath had forged Jack’s signature on the insurance policy; Claudia had not mentioned forgery, nor had Brat or Kevin.
The themes of the chapter, to the minor extent that it had any, were betrayal and, appropriately enough, disappointment. In the author’s view, Jack had betrayed his children by frittering away money needed for their private-school tuition. Claudia, who came across as lazy and feckless, had let her husband down by working in child care instead of pursuing a lucrative career. The masculine Bronwyn and the eccentric Gareth would’ve been a disappointment to their father, or so the author maintained. Even so, Shaun McGrath had cheated Jack of the chance to see them grow up. When Jack had founded the press, he’d duped everyone, including himself, into believing that he could run a publishing house. Discovering the sloppy way the business actually operated, Shaun McGrath had felt cheated. Even the vacationing Ursula Pappas came across as betraying Jack. If she’d stayed at work and not gone gallivanting off to the Mediterranean, the chapter implied, Shaun wouldn’t have dared to poison her caffeine-addicted employer. The hint was that Jack Andrews had betrayed even himself: If the man had refrained from coffee, he’d be alive today.
I dialed Kevin’s number at the station.
“Dennehy,” he bellowed, as if I’d charged him with being someone else.
“Kevin, Holly. The report about Jack Andrews: Was there anything in there about Shaun McGrath’s forging Jack’s signature on that insurance policy?”
“Hey, hey, so we’re on a first-name basis now,” Kevin replied.
“As it happens, we are. Was there?”
“No,” said Kevin. “Not a thing.”
With a growing sense of futility, I consulted the phone book in search of a number for Shaun McGrath’s parents. Boston is more Irish than Ireland. Seriously. I’ve heard that there are more Irish people here than in Dublin. Consequently, even in one of the suburbs, Arlington, I expected to find a few dozen J. McGraths. To my surprise, there was a listing for James and Shirley. The number got me an answering machine. I left a brief message asking to have my call returned. I hoped that the McGraths didn’t assume I was dunning them about a credit card payment or trying to persuade them to have their carpets cleaned.
Then I took another look at
Mass. Mayhem
. It wasn’t much of a book, but it was a hardcover, and the copy I’d bought still wore its dust jacket. On the back flap were a photograph of the author, Randall Carey, and a biographical sketch. The picture showed a bland-looking young man with a pipe in his hand. He wore a corduroy jacket. Behind him were shelves of books. The image was too small to let me read the titles. Maybe they weren’t scholarly books at all. Maybe they were nothing but junky would-be potboilers like
Mass. Mayhem
. According to the bio, Dr. Randall Carey had gone to Harvard College, held a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University, and taught at Newton North High School.
Around here, it’s not unusual to find a Harvard Ph.D. teaching in a secondary school, including a public school. Actually, in the Square, it’s not all that unusual to find a Harvard Ph.D. driving a cab. What does salary matter? Proximity is all that really counts. As these people see it, they’re like electric cars that can travel only a fixed distance; if they don’t keep going back to the power source all the time, they’ll sputter and quit. A call to Newton North High School told me that Randall Carey no longer taught there.
I followed a hunch and checked the phone book again. Dr. Randall Carey’s address wasn’t far from mine. As I’d done with the McGraths, I left a message on his machine asking him to return my call. I wanted to find out where Carey had heard that Shaun McGrath had forged his partner’s signature. I also wanted to hear anything Carey might have learned about Jack’s murder in the ten years since he’d published his book.
By now, my work life felt divided between the people I thought of as
murderer, Hannah Duston, and
victim, Jack Andrews, and I was learning to shift rather smoothly from the distant horror of 1697 to the horror of a mere eighteen years ago. As Kevin had noticed, Hannah, Jack, and I were now on a first-name basis. Or I was with them. Whether they called me or each other anything at all was, of course, the ultimate mystery that I certainly couldn’t solve.
While I waited for the McGraths or Randall Carey to return my call, I went over my notes about Hannah. Nowhere in anything I’d read was there a single indication of the particular group or tribe that had abducted her. Most accounts just called the people “Indians.” An alarming number used what I read as racist obscenities: “squaws,” “redskins.” Cotton Mather had had lots of names for Hannah’s victims: “idolaters,” “persecutors,” “formidable salvages.” Not that I myself would have called them, say, “lovely human beings.” In the raid on Haverhill, the attackers had killed twenty-seven people, including fifteen children. Hannah and Mary were two of thirteen people taken captive or, as the old accounts phrased it, “captivated by the salvages.” As far as I could tell, Hannah and Mary were the only two to survive. It was common practice among Indian captors to kill the very old, the very young, the weak, and the infirm: those who wouldn’t survive captivity anyway. Consequently, my wish to call these people something other than “Indians” did not stem from some romantic vision of Hannah’s captors as noble savages. Rather, although I knew almost nothing about particular tribes, I did understand that all tribes weren’t alike. To call all of them “Indians” made as much sense as using “European” to lump together the seventeenth-century English and French. Also, like Hannah, I had a pecuniary motive. If I wanted to sell whatever I wrote about Hannah to a magazine as well as to Rita, I’d do well to avoid a word that would bother people. The terminology of political correctness, however, did nothing to solve my problem. I could hardly write that Hannah had been “captivated by Native Americans.”
So that’s why I got in touch with Professor George Foley, who, in his own way, had captivated me. As he’d told me, he lived on Fayerweather Street, which, as it happens, crosses Huron Avenue conveniently near Emma’s and the Bryn Mawr Book Sale. His name was in the phone book. I dialed the number. He was at home.
After polite preliminaries, I posed my question.
“Coleman doesn’t say?” he asked.
“No, she doesn’t. And I can’t find it in anything else I’ve read.”
“Hmm. Well, to hazard a guess, I’d say they were Abenaki. Yes, I’d say there’s a ninety-five percent chance they were Abenaki.”
The Abenaki were once widespread throughout what is now Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts, he told me. Few survived the epidemics of smallpox, bubonic plague, and other diseases brought by the Europeans. I’d had no idea who they were. George Foley, I realized, must have been a wonderful professor, a gifted teacher. Instead of making me feel ashamed of my ignorance, he seized on my curiosity. He also invited me to tea. He promised that on Friday at four o’clock we’d have a long talk about Hannah Duston and the Abenaki. As I hung up, I made a silent vow that Professor Foley and I would also have a chat about Jack Andrews.
Afiter my conversation with Profiessor Foley, I put on my heavy leather boots, a wool shirt, and pigskin work gloves, and went out to split and stack wood. The sky was the blue of bleached denim, the sun was a pale buttery yellow, and the air was wintery. When I’d been out there for an hour or so, the phone rang, and I dashed inside to grab it. Dr. Randall Carey’s voice was even more supercilious than deep. I explained that I’d read his chapter about the murder of Jack Andrews and wondered whether he’d be willing to discuss the subject with me. According to the phone book, I said, we were practically neighbors. He lived on Walden Street, didn’t he? I was at the corner of Appleton and Concord. Yes, the red house next to the spite building. Smitten as I was with Professor Foley, I imitated him: I invited Dr. Randall Carey to tea.
Dr. Randall Carey refused, and not very graciously. He was very busy. He worked at home, but he
work. He did not say what he did. I worked at home, too, I announced. I was a writer. I did not inform Dr. Randall Carey that I wrote about dogs. Not that I’m ashamed of being a dog writer; on the contrary, I’m proud. It’s just that around here, when I say what I do, people get this funny look on their faces. I wished I’d had credentials of some sort to present to him. Dropping Professor Foley’s name would probably have worked, but it would also have felt like a betrayal of my harmless infatuation. So I fell back on the reliable skills honed by a lifetime of training dogs. I’d made the beginner’s mistake of asking a question:
Come, Rover? Rover, come? Come to Mommy?
I corrected my error: “I’m taking my dogs for a walk late this afternoon,” I informed Dr. Randall Carey. “I’ll be passing right by your house. We’ll stop in.”
Life with malamutes has sharpened my sensitivity to power plays. When I encountered Dr. Randall Carey, I intended to emerge one up. Consequently, I dressed for success in a uniquely Cantabrigian manner: I wore my same old jeans, wool shirt, and heavy boots. At the highest levels of academe—Harvard, where else?—the So-and-So Professors of Such-and-Such are always getting mistaken for maintenance workers. Dr. Randall Carey would take one look and decide I was brilliant and eminent—unless he wrote me off as an unemployed lumberjack with the bad manners to go around inviting herself places she most definitely wasn’t welcome.
Rowdy and Kimi were already dressed for success. Under the streetlights, their wolf gray coats gleamed. On the block between Appleton and Walden, a neighbor greeted them by name. As we waited for the traffic light at Walden, two little boys admired the dogs, who dropped to the sidewalk and rolled on their backs so the kids could scratch their furry white tummies. On the first block of Walden, we paused while I chatted with a fellow dog walker, and Rowdy and Kimi exchanged full-body sniffs with her greyhound, Gregory, a retired racing dog adopted off the track. Rowdy sometimes gets tough with other males, but never with Gregory. As Kimi checked out the gentle dog, her face wore an expression of motherly accusation: “Just where have
been? And what have
been up to?” Not much, she decided. Nothing to get alarmed about. Where Walden crosses Garden Street, Kimi snatched a discarded paper cup from the leaf mush in the gutter and paraded along showing off her trophy. Rowdy pretended to ignore her. From behind a chain-link fence, one of Rowdy’s neighborhood enemies, a black cocker, yapped out a challenge. Kimi dropped the cup. Rowdy’s hackles rose. “Leave it!” I told him. “That dog is none of your business.” I felt guilty. As a convert to positive methods, I should have found a way to reward him for behavior I wanted.
Although Walden Street is perfectly pleasant, it isn’t grand. Even so, Randall Carey’s resonant Harvardian tones led me to scan the street numbers in expectation of a comparatively august residence, perhaps a majestic Victorian divided into renovated condos. To my surprise, I found the number on a three-story house with weathered brown shingles. The bare yellow bulb of a bug light illuminated a sagging porch crammed with paper grocery bags and recycling bins in which newspapers, glass, milk bottles, metal cans, and other discarded items had been carefully sorted. The thick black paint on the three mailboxes was chipped to reveal a hideous aqua. The one marked DR. RANDALL CAREY was empty. His name appeared again on a hand-printed card under one of three door bells: DR. RANDALL CAREY. I rang the bell. “Sit,” I told the dogs. Correctly sizing up the porch as something other than an AKC obedience ring, they obeyed.
A door with alligatored paint opened inward. The temptation to address Carey as “Mr.” almost got the best of me. Alternatively, I could’ve asked him to remove my appendix. But I behaved myself. “Hi!” I said. “I’m Holly Winter. Dr. Carey?”
In person and a decade after the publication of
Mass. Mayhem
, Randall Carey looked just as nondescript and academic as he had when the photo was taken. He hadn’t aged much. In his hand he held what may have been the same pipe. His brown hair was longer than in the picture and cut in an English-schoolboy style reminiscent of the early Beatles. His eyes were a washed-out hazel. He wore khakis, a cream-colored turtleneck, and a tweed sports jacket with leather elbow patches. The main difference between the image on the dust jacket and the man who opened the door was that this guy looked uncomfortable. Also, he seemed vaguely familiar. In response to my greeting, he raised the pipe to his thin lips and puffed. You can always tell who’s gone to Harvard and who’s gone to Dale Carnegie.
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