"Her condo overlooks the grounds of Larchmont Hall. One of the grand mansions, big grounds. It's been empty for a year--the original owners were the Drummond family. The heirs sold the place three years ago, but the new buyers went bankrupt. Felitti was talking about buying, so he could keep more developers out of the area, but so far that's fallen through."
He stopped. I waited for him to get to the point, which he is never shy about, but when a minute went by I said, "You want me to find a plutocrat to buy the place so it doesn't get divided up for the merely affluent?"
He scowled. "I didn't call you in for ridicule. Mother thinks she sees people going in and out of the place at night."
"She doesn't want to call the police?"
"The police came out a couple of times, but found no one. The agent that manages the place for the holding company has a security system in place. It hasn't been breached."
"Any of the neighbors seen anything?"
"Point of the area, Vic: neighbors don't see each other. Here are the houses, and all this is hundred years' worth of trees, gardens, so forth. You could talk to the neighbors, of course." He snapped his finger on the map again, showing me the distances, but his tone was uncertain--most unlike him.
"What's your interest in this, Darraugh? Are you thinking of buying the place yourself?"
"Good God, no."
He didn't say anything else, but walked to the windows to look down at the construction on Wacker Drive. I stared in bewilderment. Even when he'd asked me to help his son beat a drug rap several years ago, he hadn't danced around the floor like this.
"Mother's always been a law unto herself," he muttered to the window. "Of course people in her--in our--milieu always get better attention from the law than people like--well, than others. But she's affronted that the police aren't taking her seriously. Of course, it's possible that she might be imagining--she's over ninety, after all--but she's taken to calling me every day to complain about lack of police attention."
"I'll see if I can uncover something the police aren't seeing," I said gently.
His shoulders relaxed and he turned back to me. "Your usual fee, Vic. See Caroline about your contract. She'll give you Mother's details as well." He took me out to his personal assistant, who told him his conference call with Kuala Lumpur was waiting.
We'd talked on a Friday afternoon, the dreary first day of March. On Saturday morning, I made the first of what turned into many long treks to New Solway. Before driving out, I stopped in my office for my ordnance maps of the western suburbs. I looked at my computer and then resolutely turned my back to it: I'd already logged on three times since ten last night without word from Morrell. I felt like an alcoholic with the bottle in reach, but I locked my office without checking my e-mail and began the forty-five-mile haul to the land of the rich and powerful.
That westward drive always makes me feel like I'm following the ascent into heaven, at least into capitalist heaven. It starts along Chicago's smoky industrial corridor, passing old blue-collar neighborhoods that resemble the one where I grew up--tiny bungalows where women look old at forty and men work and eat themselves to early heart attacks. You move past them to the hardscrabble towns on the city's edge--Cicero, Berwyn, places where you can still get pretty well beat up for a dollar. Then the air begins to clear and the affluence rises. By the time I reached New Solway, I was practically hydroplaning on waves of stock certificates.
I pulled off at the tollway exit to examine my maps. Coverdale Lane was the main road that meandered through New Solway. It started at the northwest corner of the township and made a giant kind of quarter circle, opening on Dirksen Road at the southeast end. At Dirksen, you could go south to Powell Road, which divided New Solway from Anodyne Park, where Geraldine Graham was living. I followed the route to the northwest entrance, since that looked like the main one on the map.
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