"Over a dozen Western journalists have been murdered since the war began," I wrote at one point. "Every time I turn on the television, I brace myself for the worst."
His e-response zipped back within minutes: "Victoria, my beloved detective, if I come home tomorrow, will you faithfully promise to withdraw from every investigation where I worry about your safety?"
A message which made me angrier because I knew he was right--I was being manipulative, not playing fair. I needed to see him, though, touch him, hear him--live, not in cyberspace.
I took to wearing myself out running. I certainly wore out the two dogs I share with my downstairs neighbor: they started retreating to Mr. Contreras's bedroom when they saw me arrive in my sweats.
Despite my long runs--I'd go ten miles most days, instead of my usual five or six--I couldn't wear myself out enough to sleep. I lost ten pounds in the six months after the Trade Center, which worried my downstairs neighbor: Mr. Contreras took to frying up French toast and bacon when I came in from my runs, and finally bullied me into going to Lotty Herschel for a complete physical. Lotty said I was fine physically, just suffering as so many were from exhaustion of the spirit.
Whatever name you gave it, I only had half a mind for my work these days. I specialize in financial and industrial crime. It used to be that I spent a lot of time on foot, going to government buildings to look at records, doing physical surveillance and so on. But in the days of the Internet, you traipse from website to website. You need to be able to concentrate in front of a computer for long hours, and concentration wasn't something I was good at right now.
Which is why I was wandering around Larchmont Hall in the dark. When my most important client asked me to look for intruders who might be breaking in there at night, I was so eager to do something physical that I would even have scrubbed the crumbling stone benches around the house's ornamental pond.
Darraugh Graham has been with me almost since the day I opened my agency. The New York office of his company, Continental United, had lost three people in the Trade Center disaster. Darraugh had taken it hard, but he was flinty, chalklike in grief, more moving than the bluster we were hearing from too many mouths these days. He wouldn't dwell on his loss or the aftermath but took me to his conference room, where he unrolled a detail map of the western suburbs.
"I asked you here for personal reasons, not business." He snapped his middle finger onto a green splodge northwest of Naperville, in unincorporated New Solway. "All this is private land. Big mansions belonging to old families out here, you know, the Ebbersleys, Felittis, and so on. They've been able to keep the land intact--like a private forest preserve. This brown finger is where Taverner sold ten acres to a developer back in 'seventy-two. There was an uproar at the time, but he was within his rights. He had to meet his legal fees, I think." I followed Darraugh's long index finger as he traced a brown patch that cut into the green like a carrot.
"East is a golf course. South, the complex where my mother lives." At the best of times, Darraugh is a wintry, distant man. It was hard to picture him in normal situations, like being born.
"Mother's ninety-one. She manages on her own with help, and, anyway, I don't want--she doesn't want to live with me. She lives in a development here--Anodyne Park. Town houses, apartments, little shopping center, nursing home if she needs medical help. She seems to like it. She's gregarious. Like my son--sociability skips generations in my family." His bleak smile appeared briefly. "Ridiculous name for a development, Anodyne Park, offensive when you think about the Alzheimer's wing at the nursing home--Mother tells me the word means something like 'soothing' or 'healing.'
From Blacklist by Sara Paretsky. Copyright Sara Paretsky 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Putnam Publishing.
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The Angel of Losses
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