Authors: Marc Strange
Tags: #Fiction, #Crime, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #FIC000000, #FIC022000
A Joe Grundy Mystery
Copyright Â© Marc Strange, 2009
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise (except for brief passages for purposes of review) without the prior permission of Dundurn Press. Permission to photocopy should be requested from Access Copyright.
Project Editor: Michael Carroll
Copy Editor: Allison Hirst
Design: Courtney Horner
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Body blows : a Joe Grundy mystery / by Marc Strange.
Â Â Â Â Â I. Title.
PS8637.T725 B63 2009Â Â C813'.6 Â Â C2009-900497-6
1 2 3 4 5 Â Â Â 13 12 11 10 09
We acknowledge the support of The Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council for our publishing program. We also acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program and The Association for the Export of Canadian Books, and the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Book Publishers Tax Credit program, and the Ontario Media Development Corporation.
Care has been taken to trace the ownership of copyright material used in this book. The author and the publisher welcome any information enabling them to rectify any references or credits in subsequent editions.
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s much as I might like to think that I accomplish these things on my own, it is essential that I thank the following people: Fred Petersen, Sarah Strange, Lisa Murray, and Ian Sutherland, without whose continuing support and encouragement very little would ever be completed.
To a large extent, a series such as this is a leap of faith, and it is of immeasurable help when one isn't the only person who thinks it's worth doing.
he fifty-million-dollar renovation of the Lord Douglas Hotel is complete, only nine months behind schedule and twelve million dollars over budget, which, I'm told, isn't all that bad these days. With the scaffolding gone, the venerable inn once again faces the public with dignity and grace. An elegant awning shelters the arriving guests, a new red carpet paves the way to the famous brass doors (
new, always gleaming), and it's even better inside. All the SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE signs have been removed, the Gabriola Ballroom has been reopened, Floor Eleven has a new floor, the Champagne Baths swimming pool, spa, fitness, and pampering centre is now fully operational, PROVIDING RELAXATION AND REJUVENATION â 24 HOURS. The elevators are swifter, the rooms are Internet-friendly, and the Lower Mall has added a six-screen Multiplex, a Gap, a dojo, and a chiropractor. The Lord Douglas has reclaimed her time-honoured reputation as a bastion of refinement while adding those embellishments so vital to the modern traveller. That's a direct quote. There are brochures everywhere.
It is in recognition of this effort that Leo Alexander will receive the Hotelier of the Year Award â an honour that isn't necessarily bestowed every year. The tribute is overdue but Leo keeps a very low profile and has managed to avoid personal publicity for some time. This evening's arrival at the Royal Lotus Ballroom on the other side of town will mark his first public appearance in eight years, at least as far as I know. Wallace Gritchfield is happy to point out that I don't know everything, but if Gritch has other information, he isn't saying. On the subject of our boss we all tend to be discreet.
There is a Toronto woman, very stylish, name of Hiscox, who's been trying to get some of the staff to open up about Leo Alexander. She claims to be writing a biography.
“Authorized?” I ask her when she finally tracks me down.
“It's meant to be a surprise,” she says. We're sitting in the Street Level Sports Bar; she's drinking a martini. She would have been better off having Barney make it for her down in Olive's. Barney is a traditionalist; his martinis are stirred, not shaken.
“So Leo doesn't know about it.”
“Are you a guest of the hotel?” I ask.
“Oh,yes,” she says. “Nice little suite, not wild about the wallpaper, but then I wasn't consulted.”
“I really don't have much I can give you,” I say.
“You'd think he was Sicilian,” she says, “the way people clam up around here.”
Roselyn Hiscox is a long-legged blonde with a flawless manicure. She isn't taking notes and I don't see a tape recorder.
“Truth, Ms. Hiscox,” I say, “not many people in the hotel really know him. He hasn't been seen below the fifteenth floor for quite a while.”
“Is he like Howard Hughes up there, growing his fingernails and saving his urine?” She laughs, stylishly, but without mirth.
“Not at all,” I say. “He lives a very comfortable, normal life.”
“Comfortable, yes,” she says. “Normal? People with money and power live on a somewhat more elevated plane than the rest of us.” She inspects the olive. “He's been a major player in some very big deals.” She has good teeth; the olive pit is immaculate when she produces it. “But careful to stay in the shadows.” She smiles.
“I will go on record as saying that Leo Alexander is a good boss and I'm happy to be in his employ. How's that?”
“Very helpful.” She stares off into space and I see something in the set of her jaw, determination perhaps. “This isn't a hatchet job, Mr. Grundy,” she says, not looking at me, still watching something playing out in her mind. “Your boss has had a very interesting life. I have material that goes back as far as 1959. The only section that's skimpy is the time that he's been hiding out in his hotel.”
“I think he's just enjoying the fruits of his labour,” I say. “A comfortable semi-retirement.”
“Fine,” she says. “I just want some details â what's the penthouse like, state of his health, people he's still in contact with.”
“Why don't you give him a call?”
“I told you,” she says, “it's going to be a surprise.”
“One thing I can tell you without breaking any confidence,” I say, “Leo doesn't much care for surprises.”
Gritch had a turn with her as well.
“I told her he was up there changing lead into gold and plotting world domination,” he says. He's following me through the lobby. I'm headed in the general direction of our offices and my personal quarters on the far side of Accounting.
“More interesting than the story I gave her,” I say.
“Yeah, well you were probably trying to be gracious. It's one of your failings.”
“I'm not telling her what brand of soap he uses, even if I knew, which I don't.”
“She's not the first,” he says. “Your pal GormÃ©'s paper tried to do a piece on him a few years back. I think the
got a case of libel chill.”
That stops me briefly. “A piece about the hotel?”
“Nah, something to do with his ranching days. Before your time.”
“Everything's before my time,” I say. I'm trying to decide whether I need to check into the office or forego the pleasure in favour of a hot shower. “If it doesn't involve the hotel, I don't want to know.”
“Invincible ignorance,” Gritch says. “Can't beat it.”
“It's invincible,” I say.
“If you'll excuse me, I need a shave and a shower.”
“Oh, yeah,” he says, “you've got a big date.”
Leo's tailor is a man named Han Chuen Chu who is about the same age as Leo and has been making fine suits in Vancouver for forty years. I have three presentable suits in my closet but Han Chuen Chu didn't build them and it's easy to tell the difference.
About a month ago Mr. Han measured me for a tuxedo. He did it at the same time he was measuring my employer. Leo and I stood side by side, in his penthouse high atop the Lord Douglas Hotel, in our underwear, while Mr. Han called out measurements to an assistant. Leo insisted that our outfits be of the same quality. Not the first time he's done that. I've learned to be careful about complimenting Leo on anything as it usually means that the same model, in my size, will be delivered within twenty-four hours.
“We'll be sitting at the head table, Joseph,” Leo explained. “Can't have my XO looking like he doesn't belong.”
“At least I'll be wearing the right uniform,” I said.
“Never underestimate the power of good tailoring,” he said. “A Han Chuen Chu tuxedo is as potent as four stars on a general's epaulets.”
“Five stars,” said Mr. Han.
My “soup and fish,” as Morley Kline used to call evening wear, arrives in a royal blue garment bag with a gold chop which probably translates as “if you have to ask, you can't afford it.” Maurice brings it back to my office personally. Maurice has been recently elevated from bell captain to concierge and he's taking a while to settle in to his new position. As bell captain, he knew a hundred ways of skimming the surface of anything flowing his way. Learning how to exploit his new title to its fullest extent will take him a while. I'm sure he'll figure it out.
“Hope that thing came in a Brinks truck,” says Gritch. He's sitting in the corner fondling an unlit cigar and counting the minutes until Rachel Golden goes off shift and he can light up.
“Two of them,” says Maurice. “I just took the other one up to the old man. Tonight's the night, right?”