Read Right To Die - Jeremiah Healy Online
Authors: Jeremiah Healy
"And you figure Strock might have been like
"I don't know. But if he was, and he's not
getting the opportunities from practice anymore, maybe there've been
some other Kimberlys."
I thanked Nina Russo and
gathered up my box of files. As I said good-bye to Bandy, the deejay
promised his faithful listeners a program entitled "Throbbing
Gristle, a Retrospective."
* * *
I was able to hail a taxi on Columbus Avenue, giving
the driver the address for my condo because it was closer than my
office. I made a ham sandwich on rye and washed it down with more ice
water as I began reading the Andrus files. I decided to save the
anonymous folder for last, focusing first on the letters with
identified names and addresses. The tones ranged from fastidious
politeness to unintelligible harangue. Doctoral candidates expounding
from Ivy League schools to functional illiterates exploding in
Walpole State Prison. Every letter containing the buzz word "cunt"
or "slut" came from a man. Those using "bitch"
were all male except for a woman from Alberta.
It grew redundant quickly, so I started flipping
faster, pulling out the ones I wanted to read more carefully,
especially any repeat correspondents. Then I turned to the anonymous
file. None used snipped-out words or letters. Many of them were
block-printed with frequent misspellings.
After sifting and sorting, I was left with three
people who had written more than one signed letter, were reasonably
local, and had used one or more of the buzz words. The first was
named Steven O'Brien, a rabid pro-lifer from Providence, Rhode
Island. O'Brien believed Andrus to be part of an "international
atheist plot to overthrow all that is decent." He referred often
to the incident in Spain, calling Andrus a "slut" for doing
in her own husband.
The second repeater was Louis Doleman, showing an
address in West Roxbury. His letters, six over four months,
chronicled the decline and "premature" death of his
daughter from leukemia. Apparently "Heidi" had taken up the
"sudo-religion" that the "Devil's bitch" Andrus
"esposed." After reading the professor's "witchery,"
the daughter had taken her own life.
The third repeater's name was Gunther Yary. His
smudgy letterhead proclaimed him Grand Marshal of the American Trust,
some kind of skinhead group. The return address sounded like a
storefront in a white section of Dorchester. It seemed Gunther and
his "followers" believed strongly in "heterosexuity"
and not in the "preverted" hoax of "mercy death"
that "Zionists, Faggots, and Niggers" created to wipe out
the last "vesttiges" of native Aryan stock. Yary employed
all three buzz words and more.
I wedged the
correspondence of O'Brien, Doleman, and Yary into a waterproof
plastic portfolio and had copies made at one of the Copy Cops on
Boylston Street. Then I deposited the Andrus check in my client's
account at the Shawmut and continued toward police headquarters on
* * *
Even though the door was ajar, I knocked on the frame
before looking in. Lieutenant Robert Murphy was cradling the
telephone receiver on his left shoulder, signing a series of
documents while somebody on the other end of the line talked to him.
Murphy motioned me in. His black hand provided a photographer's
backdrop for the gold pen he held.
I didn't like it when Murphy smiled at me.
Into the receiver, he said, "No problem . . .
happy to help . . .right, right. Bye." As the receiver slid down
his chest, Murphy caught it in his left hand. "You must be
getting psychic, Cuddy."
"Who was it?"
"Don't suppose you know a Met sergeant named
"You're the second person who's asked me that
Murphy hung up. "Yeah, well, it seems he got a
call from that first person after she talked to you. Seems that first
person had second thoughts about your word being your bond."
"I plied her with strong drink."
"I bet you did. Think a cop's kid'd be smarter
than to talk with a P.I., even without law school and all."
"She will be next time."
"Suppose that's how everybody learns, all right.
You get your permit to carry back yet?"
"You ever hear the story, about Jesus and the
lepermen, and one of them come back to thank him for the cure?"
"I called to thank you. Three different days.
Left a message each time."
"Maybe some saviors, they get asked in person,
they like to get thanked in person."
"You're right, Lieutenant, and I appreciate what
you did for me."
Murphy let his lids get sleepy, showing about as much
eye as teeth. "That A.D.A.?"
"Which prosecutor is that?"
"You still seeing her?"
He kept watching me.
"Just getting into the Christmas spirit, Cuddy.
Not trying to pull anything."
"Or suggest anything."
Murphy made a face and shook his head. "Well,
it's obvious you got no feeling whatsoever for the holidays. And
you're back here in person. That means you'll be wanting another
"You know a detective over at Area A, William
"Neely? Yeah, from a time back. Why?"
"l'm representing somebody in his neighborhood.
The client got some threats, and I'd like to talk with him about
them. Wondered what kind of guy he is."
Murphy glanced out his window and then back. "This
client, he or she?"
"She go to Neely?"
"Her secretary got referred to him."
"Her tough luck."
"This between you and me, or you going to be
explaining it to real folks?"
"You and me."
"Neely, he fancies himself an old-time hard-ass
dick. Runs a few informants, reacts when the brass gets edgy.
Otherwise, low profile and count the days."
"To retirement time."
"I don't see what I've got jeopardizing his
"What do you got?"
I went through it, without names.
Murphy said, "Neely, he got the complaint to
start with, it'll stay with him unless somebody gets nasty enough
with a deadly weapon."
"I wasn't trying to go over his head here,
"Sure you were, Cuddy. And once you meet Neely,
you'll realize you were right to try too."
"Any suggestions on how to approach him?"
"Neely ever took a promotion exam, he got stuck
on name and address. Play up to the man, let him talk."
I was at the door when Murphy said, "Oh, and
"Neely's got a nickname. 'Beef'."
"Yeah. Don't say it to him, but use it, huh?"
"Use it how?"
"Take the man to lunch."
I looked at my watch. "But I thought I'd go over
"Won't matter to old Beef."
"Thanks again, Lieutenant."
"One more thing."
"You'd best visit a
bank somewheres first."
* * *
"Pass the Worcestershire, will ya?"
"And maybe some more of that A-1 too."
I put both bottles in front of Neely. He spritzed the
Worcestershire on his second cut of prime rib. The meat lapped two
inches a side over the platter.
Victoria Station was done in a railroad car motif. It
was the one restaurant Neely had said would have prime rib for sure,
that time of afternoon. I had offered to cab it, but he said, "It'll
look better, I sign out a unit." We were the only people in the
room except for our waitress, and even she left, probably to call
Central Supply and tell them to butcher another dozen head for the
"My hand to God, I love this joint."
At least, I think that's what Neely said.
"They got — " The tongue wasn't quite
quick enough to catch a dribble of jus cascading down his chin and
onto his tie. Which was wider than the napkin he'd cornered into his
"They got real food here, you know? The kinda
stuff we fought wars to eat."
Neely had stopped the beer after one stein, switching
to tonic water. About six feet tall, counting crew cut, I couldn't
even guess his weight. The knot of his tie was only an article of
faith under the jowls. He rocked his head after every third or fourth
bite, as though he were positioning the food to slide down a
different chute. Small eyes were squinched up under the brows, a
piece of toilet paper on a shaving cut near his right ear.
Neely generously rested his knife to point at my
salad bowl. "That all you're eating?"
"Diet," I said.
He nodded like he'd heard the word but never studied
the language that spawned it. I waited until he finished the slab and
was tricking with the little veins of meat marbled in the fat.
"About these threats?"
"Yeah, sure. What about them?"
"What do you think?"
"Think." He put down his utensils, rolled
his rump as if to fart, then just wallowed deeper into the booth. "I
think this broad's asked for it, what I think."
"Can you tell me what you found out on the
"The notes? Jesus, everybody but Jimmy Hoffa
handled the things and the envelopes before the little secretary
brought 'em in to me. Even so, I followed routine. Had 'em run
through the lab."
"You take elimination prints from Andrus's
"Nah. Just sent the notes on through. They even
did that Sherlock thing, the computer search out to 1010 Commonwealth
Neely suddenly straightened a little. "Look,
Cuddy, I'm no brain trust, but I know what's what, okay? I keep up
with things the best I can. The staties didn't find no match with any
of the prints they got on file."
"I give you some names, will you run them
"See if anybody's got a sheet?"
"Sure, I'll do that. Sure." He rifled his
pockets for a pad and pen. I gave him O'Brien, Doleman. and Yary from
the threat files, then Walter Strock as well.
Neely scratched his forehead. "Strock?"
"Not sure. I'll run it. You got social security
numbers on any of these guys?"
"How about D.O.B.s?"
"Just the addresses."
"Even so, gonna get a hell of a list for the
O'Brien, although thank Christ it ain't 'John' or 'James,' computer'd
be burping all fuckin' night. I'll still give it a try for you."
The waitress came over with a bowl of salted peanuts.
Neely thanked her, his fingers plowing through the nuts like the
blades of a backhoe.
He said, "Anything else you need?"
I decided to follow Murphy's advice. "You get
many of these threat things, Neely'?"
"Aw, you know how it is. Runs in cycles. Broad
like this Andrus, though, she probably could hire a stevedore, haul
them away for her."
I told him about the drawerful of folders.
"That's my point. I get one of these, I end up
chasing after scumbags write the kinda fan mail you wouldn't wish on
Geraldo there. Jesus, Cuddy, every day some shithead sees somebody
new on the tube, he decides to make the lady his personal project,
you know? Guy can barely read the labels in a Seven-Eleven writes a
love poem. I then jerks off into the envelope before he licks it.
Whaddaya gonna do?"
"Okay if I follow up on the names? Go talk to
"Fine. Let me just tell you, think about what
you want to have happen here."
"What do you mean?"
"Start with the Secret Service, okay?"
The Secret Service. "Okay."
"Now, they got thousands of guys, no shit, got
nothing better to do than guard a couple of big shots like the
President and all, maybe total with the Kennedy kids and Truman's
widow, total twenny, twenny-five."
The Kennedy children were now over-age, and Mrs.
Truman left us in the early eighties, but I didn't want to wreck
Neely's train of thought.
"And even the Secret Service can't keep track of
all the scumbags writing letters and making phone calls. The calling,
I gotta admit, that's gonna slow down some, now they got these
computers, you can see the number the guy's at with this little
screen thing on your phone there. 'Course, soon's the scumbag union
finds out about the screens, they'll just call from some pay phone
and a different one every time.