Right To Die - Jeremiah Healy (8 page)

BOOK: Right To Die - Jeremiah Healy
9.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

"Professor Andrus was offered the deanship?"

"And she said, 'Oh, no thanks, I have all these
other, more important irons in the fire. I couldn't possibly take on
the mundane task of guiding the institution that nurtured me.' My
God, can you imagine the regents offering her the job of
administering this law school? I mean, forget that Maisy snuffed her
own husband, the woman can't even keep up with her committee work!"

"What do the students think of her?"

" 'The Cunt That Belches Fire'?"

I thought about the notes.

Strock continued without prompting. "They love
her. There is no justice, is there? Of course, Maisy teaches nonsense
subjects like Law and Society or Sociology of Law. All of the
touchy-feely stuff is really just a cover for indoctrinating the poor
munchkins. The woman treats them like shit, then gives everybody A's
and B's, so they figure they learned something. All they ever learn
is how to be thankful for being manipulated into agreeing with her
theories."

I'd about had my fill of Professor Strock. "Well,
thanks for all your help."

He made a dismissive gesture. "Far be it from me
to discourage you from retaining Maisy, even indirectly, but you're
aware, are you not, that she is leaving us for a while?"

"Leaving?"

"Yes. A visitorship for the coming quarter.
Spared of the cruelest months of the winter by venturing to San Diego
with Bjorn."

"Bjorn?"

"Or whatever the tennis bum's name is. I've
never actually met him, but I hope he bleeds her dry. That would be
poetic justice, at least."

I stood up. "Thanks again."

Strock made no effort to rise. "Pleasure."

As I reached the door, he said, "Oh, Mr. Cuddy?"

"Yes?"

"One more thing. Maisy is participating in a
debate tonight."

"She mentioned it."

"You really ought to go. Get a sense of how she
comes across in a public forum."

"Will you be there, Professor'?"

Strock smiled like a man serving his kids roast
rabbit for Easter dinner. "Wouldn't miss it for the world."
 

=7=

AFTER LEAV1NG WALTER STROCK, I PICKED UP MY BOX OF
FILES from Inés Roja. By the time I got outside the school building,
I realized the load was going to be too heavy to carry under one arm
and too awkward to ferry in front of me under two. Since there were
no cabs, it seemed to make more sense to find a place for lunch.
Across the street and down from the school was Bandy's, a
burger-and-beer dugout owned by another Vietnam vet in my student
days.

Sometimes nostalgia is a bad emotion to indulge.

The interior was still dark and just a little dank.
The floor was still tacky from spilled beer, the vinyl in the booths
still taped at the seats. But instead of the Stones or the Doors, the
speakers blared Grace Jones doing a bad Katharine Hepburn imitation
as she recited rather than sang some lyric about walking in the rain.
The barkeep had a purple Mohawk and more pieces of metal piercing his
ears and nose than a shrapnel victim.

The only obvious holdover from the original Bandy was
a television monitor above the bar, showing a video of a
Celtics-Lakers game. Bird holding the ball on his hip, glaring at an
official. Kareem. with shaved head and goggles, a praying mantis
seeking just one more grasshopper before calling it a night. The
screen jumped to a clip of the Lakers slaughtering some team you
never saw play from a city that made you think of rodeos, not hoops.

I'd already lost my appetite when the Mohawk said,
"Help you?"

I started to say no, then recognized one of the
facial scars the artifacts couldn't quite hide. "Bandy?"

"Yeah. I know you?"

Maybe not from this incarnation. "John Cuddy. I
went to Mass Bay a long time ago."

"Cuddy? Cuddy, sure, sure." He stuck out a
hand. "Southie by way of Saigon, right?"

I rested the carton on the bar, and we shook. "Good
memory."

"Wish I could say the same about business."

I tried to look encouraging as I surveyed the room,
seeing only the backs of three other customers, one a woman,
scattered over twenty stools. "Lunchtime's bound to be slow."

"Tell me about it. Gave the cook a week off
because it just wasn't worth it, with Mass Bay out of regular
session." He flung a hand at the nearest stereo speaker. "This
punk shit's the only thing brings them in."

"I listen to their songs, but I just can't hear
the music "

"Aw, some of it ain't so bad. There's U2,
Talking Heads, Fine Young Cannibals. They got something to say."

"Oldies like you used to have just don't cut
it?"

"Shit, no. Held on as long as I could, but you
gotta be downtown with a big dance floor for the yups or out in the
burbs with parking  for the young parents. Around here it's new
wave or no wave. But kids today, they can't read, we probably
shouldn't figure they'll listen too good either. How's about a beer?"

I again started to say no when the female customer
turned on her stool. Nina, the student from Strock's office. Lifting
the box of files from the bar, I asked Bandy to bring us two drafts
and walked over to her.

"Mind if I sit with you?"

She barely looked up. "Sit. Don't talk and don't
touch."

I set the carton on the floor as the beers arrived. I
paid Bandy and took one, Nina draining the mug she'd had in front of
her.

"For you," I said, pointing to the second
full one.

She looked at me a little closer. "You're the
guy who was waiting to talk with Strock, right?"

"Right."

"I can pay for my own."

"I didn't mean to imply otherwise."

Nina cocked her head. "All right. Why does a man
who knows the difference between 'imply' and 'infer' want to buy me a
drink?"

I showed her my identification, which she had to hold
up to the light as Grace Jones finished on a warbled high note and
the radio station's deejay segued into a group called the
After-Births.

"I'd like to ask you a few questions about
Professor Strock."

Nina closed the ID holder and handed it back to me.
"You know a sergeant on the Mets named Nick Russo?"

Anywhere in Boston outside of sports bars and Fenway
Park "the Mets" means the Metropolitan District Commission
Police, a force that patrols major roads, parks, and waterways.

"Never met him."

"He's my father. Just so we know where we
stand."

"Fine."

Nina Russo took at gulp of the beer. "Why are
you interested in Strock?"

"I can't tell you."

She considered that, nodded. "Why should I talk
to you about him?"

"Because you don't like him, and I won't tell
anybody else what you tell me."

A tired smile. "Maybe I ought to cover the
beer."

"You don't believe me?"

"Mister, law students get trained not to believe
a lot of things. Especially things some stranger promises them in a
bar."

"You know Lieutenant Robert Murphy, Boston
Homicide?"

Russo perked. "No."

"How about Sergeant Bonnie Cross, also Boston
Homicide?"

"No. Why, could they vouch for you?"

"Uh-huh. How about Officer Drew — "

"Enough." She took a little more beer, then
rearranged her fanny on the stool. "Let me tell you a few
things, okay? Then you can decide if you want to talk to me."

"Okay."

"I'm not the first person in my family to go to
college, but a lot of them had to do school off-shift or weekends. I
am the first one to go past college, which kind of makes me the
center of attention that way. The flag bearer, get it?"

"Yes."

"Well, I want to specialize in Family Law,
Domestic Relations. That means mostly divorce, but it also gives you
adoptions, appointed work for abused kids, the chance to do some good
for people who are in the worst time of their lives and really need
the help. Strock teaches Family Law here. Before that, he was this
big-time divorce lawyer. Doesn't talk about it, but I think he got
tired of the hassle and decided to sort of retire to teaching. He
maybe consults for some of the dom/rel firms in town, to keep his
hand in, but mostly he's just a teacher and a . . . mentor."

"What kind of mentor?"

"The kind that can make or break your résumé."

"Like by who he chooses for research assistant?"

"And he chooses the assistants with a critical
eye."

I was beginning to get it. "As in eye of the
beholder?"

"The student who beat me out of the job is named
Kimberly. She has long hair that I actually heard her call 'flaxen'
once. If Strock's sitting down, she has to tuck some of that hair up
and over her ear when she leans forward to look over his shoulder and
glance at him sideways."

"Sexual harassment?"

"No. At least not the way you mean it. Kimberly
was angling for the job more than Strock was angling for her, I
think."

"But on the merits, you should have been
picked?"

"Hands down. I know, that doesn't sound real
modest, but I got the highest grade in his family law course last
quarter and was the best performer in class."

I didn't say "as opposed to after class,"
but I did picture the couch in Strock's office. "All right, Ms.
Russo. I understand the context. What can you tell me about the guy
otherwise'?"

"Otherwise. Well, he's pretty insecure."

"In what way?"

"He's not a very good teacher — not just my
opinion, by the way. Student evaluations as well as anecdotal
comments by the other kids. He tries to get by on his reputation, but
I don't think he's been inside a courtroom in ten years. He takes the
simple law school administrative stuff and kind of blows it out of
proportion. Probably makes him feel like a big man."

Something clicked. "Strock ever shoot for the
deanship himself?"

"Yeah. At least that's the rumor. But he didn't
get it. Don't know why, but maybe that's part of the insecurity."

"Sounds to me as though you shouldn't feel too
bad, not having to work closely with the guy."

"Give me a few days."

"How about Strock's relationship with the rest
of the faculty?"

"Hard to say. They're all kind of a blank to us
about how they feel toward each other, unless one mentions another in
class."

"Has Strock ever done that?"

"Once in a while. The only one he seems to have
it in for is a woman named Andrus."

No surprise so far. "Maisy Andrus?"

"You've heard of her."

"Some."

"Well, she's got this thing about the right to
die, but she also makes her students stand when they participate in
class, so Strock always refers to her as She-Who-Makes-You-Stand,
like that's the way he believes we think of them all."

"Of the faculty?"

"Yeah. Like He-Who-Has-Dandruff, She-Who-Smokes,
like that." Russo drank some beer. "You know, you're right.
He really is a dork most ways."

"You said Strock does consulting work?"

"I said maybe he does."

"You think that brings in much money?"

"That's what I meant by maybe."

"Go on."

"Well, just looking at his suits and car and
all, I get the impression he might be hurting for cash. He's supposed
to have this great house over in Cambridge, but he's sure around the
school a lot more than the professors who consult in the corporate
and tax areas. Also, I never really see people coming to see him,
although I guess he could do a lot of that over the telephone."

"Anything else?"

"About the money thing or Strock in general?"

"Either."

Russo took a little more beer, then pushed it aside.
"God, I hate to drink in the afternoon. Makes me worthless for
the rest of the day." She shifted around to me. "About the
money, I guess all I know is that Professor Andrus is supposed to be
really rich, and Strock's jibes at her go beyond the usual joking.
Makes you think he really resents something about her."

"What about Strock in general?"

Russo closed her eyes, then opened them. "I
don't want you to think I'm fixated on this Kimberly thing."

"But?"

"Well, if somebody like Strock has the eye now,
it wouldn't surprise me that he's had it for a while."

"And not for just law students?"

"There are a lot of stories you hear, about how
. . . how well a divorce lawyer can do sexually with all the
distraught people who come to him, or her, I suppose, as a client."

BOOK: Right To Die - Jeremiah Healy
9.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Pyramid Quest by Robert M. Schoch
Dragon's Heart by LaVerne Thompson
Justice Hunter by Harper Dimmerman
A Long Way to Shiloh by Lionel Davidson
The Counterfeit Lady by Kate Parker
Dead Lions by Mick Herron