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Authors: Walter Walker

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Crime of Privilege: A Novel

BOOK: Crime of Privilege: A Novel
7.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Copyright © 2013 by Walter Walker

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House
Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

Walker, Walter.
Crime of privilege : a novel / Walter Walker.
pages cm
eISBN: 978-0-345-54154-3
1. Upper class—Fiction. 2. Murder—Investigation—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3573.A425417C75 2013b
813′.54—dc23          2013004332

Jacket design: Carlos Beltrán
Jacket art: Carlos Beltrán and James Wang



Crime of Privilege
is a fictional work about invented characters and the glamorous world they inhabit.
Although much of the action of the novel takes place on Cape Cod, where I have a home
, Crime of Privilege
is no more or less than an imagined story


PALM BEACH, March 1996


on Ocean Boulevard, but very few had been there. A large part of the reason I had
agreed to go to Florida, to spend my spring break with McFetridge, was simply to get
inside. We were staying at his parents’ place, down the road in Delray, but every
night we were invited to a party or a gathering somewhere, and this was the crowning
event, cocktails at the iconic Spanish Revival house on the beach, where, it was promised,
the Senator himself would be present.

I would speak to him as a guest of a guest in his house.
Senator, yes, George Becket here. I admire your work on …
What did I admire his work on? Any liberal cause, I suppose. I was twenty-two and
filled with grandiose ideas. And then I was there, in his house, surrounded by people
wearing silk and linen for a supposedly informal gathering where everyone acted as
though it was normal for men in white jackets to park your car and women in black
pinafores to serve champagne in crystal flutes carried on silver trays; and I had
no opportunity to say anything more than, “Hello, Senator, thank you for having me.”

I had entered in McFetridge’s wake and we had been greeted by several family members
who were not so much stationed in the foyer
as conversing in its vicinity. I stood to the side while McFetridge went about kissing
women’s cheeks and shaking men’s hands.

McFetridge seemed to know everyone. He knew them from a sailing race he did each May
between Hyannisport and Nantucket, from Christmas-week ski trips to Aspen, from clubs
to which his parents belonged, from prep school. “Nan … Eastie … Harlan … this is
my friend Georgie.”

I had gone to prep school, too, but not Hotchkiss, St. Paul’s, Groton, or even Milton.
In my brief exchanges with his friends, I found myself mentioning the dominance of
my school on the athletic fields, courts, tracks, and pools of New England. We didn’t
even play their schools. We played Andover, Exeter, Choate, Deerfield, and beat them
all. I caught looks that said,
You want to talk about that?
And I would scramble for something else to say. “You guys always had a good crew
team, didn’t you? Going to Henley this year?” Sometimes I would be ignored, sometimes
abandoned. George thought he was having a conversation one moment; George was all
by himself the next.

I wandered through large rooms with red tiled floors, nodding at everyone who caught
my eye and smiling at those who seemed to be wondering who I was. There were pictures
on the walls, pictures in bookcases, pictures on shelves and on top of the grand piano.
Pictures of members of the family with the pope, Churchill, Desmond Tutu. I wondered
if Desmond Tutu had the same picture in his house. I wondered if the pope did.

Eventually I found myself standing next to a striking young woman who seemed similarly
out of touch with everyone else at the party. She had thick black hair that swept
past her shoulders and green eyes that probably sparkled when they weren’t so glazed
with drink. Kendrick Powell, she said her name was, and she was a student at Bryn
Mawr. I had been there once, for a mixer, and I knew just enough about the school
to keep the conversation going. And then one of the cousins appeared holding two very
large cocktails in his hands. Palm Beach Specials, he said they were, and he had just
made them.

He handed a drink to each of us and then he was gone, and we were left sipping fancy
combinations of liquor and fruit juice out of tall frosted glasses. “Are you part
of the family?” she asked, and I told her
no, I was a friend of a friend. She looked as though she had to consider that, whether
it was worth her time to continue talking to me if I was only a friend of a friend
of the family, and then the friend himself appeared. Paul McFetridge, with his dangerous
smile and his air of knowing exactly what was going on, delivering yet another Palm
Beach Special to the already intoxicated Ms. Powell. He rather absently handed me
one as well, and now I stood with a Palm Beach Special in each hand, feeling rather
like McFetridge’s butler, his man George, as he shouldered his way between Kendrick
and me. Elliot was here, did she know Elliot? She didn’t know Elliot. Wonderful squash
player, Elliot. She didn’t play squash.

I finished one of the drinks in a single long swallow and put the glass down on whatever
surface I could find. It was immediately scooped up by one of the waitstaff, who was
gone before I could even say “Sorry.”

And then McFetridge, too, was gone, replaced by two more of the cousins, Peter Gregory
Martin and Jamie Gregory, and I was pushed to the outskirts of the conversation once
again. It had been Kendrick and me. Then Kendrick and McFetridge and me. Then Kendrick
and Peter and Jamie, and I was left with no one to talk to, nothing to do but hold
my place while Peter chatted her up.

What had they talked about? What do rich girls discuss when they are at the homes
of even richer people whom they do not know personally, but whom they know all about?
Peter had offered her things. You ever Jet Ski? We’ve got a couple, you want to go
out on the ocean with us? Maybe tomorrow. Oh, wait, there’s a polo match. Have you
ever been to a polo match? Jamie, half a head shorter, had chimed in, telling her
what a hoot they are, spread out a blanket, get a couple of bottles of champagne.
What did I have to offer? I had no place to go tomorrow. No place to go even while
they were talking to her.

Maybe that was why I agreed to join the tour when Peter and Jamie offered to show
Kendrick the rest of the house. They said, “C’mon,” and I went. Tagged along. Not
to have done so would have meant standing alone.


, and he had many of them, he was an incredibly nice guy. He was also very polite.
When he saw what was happening—when he opened the door and stuck his head into the
room, saw that the girl was not protesting, saw that her eyes were open—he simply
pulled his head back and shut the door. This was no place for him.

The thing about me was that I wasn’t doing anything, which was both my saving grace
and my ultimate shame.

I had thought we were going to look at pictures, such as the ones I had seen already.
Oh, my, look. There’s Jacques Cousteau! Willy Brandt! James Earl Jones! I had been
thinking that we were going to visit rooms where important people had gathered: statesmen
and politicians, artists and actors and writers and singers, educators and generals,
industry leaders and social activists. That we were going to stop to admire mementos
given by one celebrity to another. But instead we went directly to the far end of
the house, down a long hall and away from the rest of the revelers to the library.
Where it was quiet. Where we shut the door behind us.

Except the door did not quite shut before Peter stopped in his tracks and looked rather
blearily at me. He was a fairly large man, his face pink, his eyes light blue, and
for a moment he seemed uncertain who I was or what I was doing there. And then it
came to him, I was
McFetridge’s friend. “Georgie,” he said, as though he was responding to a quiz.


“Why don’t you go and get us another round of those specials?”

I still had one in my hand. I didn’t need another round. I had done nothing but drink
since I arrived. I looked at Kendrick. Her glass was empty except for the ice. She
had drunk two to my one, and neither Peter nor Jamie seemed to have anything. I tilted
my glass to my mouth and for the second time drained everything in it in one very
long swallow. “Okay,” I said.

When I left, Kendrick was standing in a corner of the library, staring at a painting.
When I returned, she was on the couch. Both shoes were off. Her feet were up on the
cushions. Her knees were up and her black dress had slid a fair way down her thighs.

BOOK: Crime of Privilege: A Novel
7.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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