I was at my desk, in my office, with my feet up on the windowsill, and a yellow pad in my lap, thinking about baseball. It's what I always think about when I'm not thinking about sex. Susan says that supreme happiness for me would probably involve having sex while watching a ball game. Since she knows this, I've never understood why, when we're at Fenway Park, she remains so prudish.
My focus this morning was on one of those "100 greatest" lists that the current millennium had spawned. In the absence of a 100 greatest sexual encounters list (where I was sure I would figure prominently), I was vetting the 100 greatest baseball players list and comparing it to my own. Mine was of more narrow compass, being limited to players I'd seen. But even so, the official list needed help. I was penciling in Roy Campanella ahead of Johnny Bench, when my door opened and a man and woman came in. The woman was great to look at, blond, tight figure, nice clothes. The man was wearing aviator sunglasses. He looked like he might have a view on Roy Campanella, but I was pretty sure she wouldn't. On the other hand, she might have a view on sexual encounters. I could go either way.
Good morning," I said, to let them know there were no hard feelings about them interrupting me.
"Spenser?" the man said.
"That's me," I said.
"I'm Walter Clive," he said. "This is my daughter Penny."
"Sit down," I said. "I have coffee made."
"That would be nice."
I went to the Mr. Coffee on the filing cabinet and poured us some coffee, took milk and sugar instructions, and passed the coffee around.
When we were settled in with our coffee, Clive said, "Do you follow horse racing, sir?"
"Have you ever heard of a horse named Hugger Mugger?"
"He's still a baby," Clive said, "but there are people who will tell you that he's going to be the next Secretariat."
"I've heard of Secretariat," I said.
"I was at Claiborne Farms once and actually met Secretariat," I said. "He gave a large lap."
He smiled a pained smile. Horse people, I have noticed, are not inclined to think of horses in terms of how, or even if, they kiss.
"That's fine," he said.
Penny sat straight in her chair, her hands folded in her lap, her knees together, her ankles together, her feet firmly on the floor. She was wearing white gloves and a set of pearls, and a dark blue dress that didn't cover her knees. I was glad that it didn't.
"I own Three Fillies Stables. Named after my three daughters. We're in Lamarr, Georgia."
"Racehorses," I said.
"Yes, sir. I don't breed them, I buy and syndicate."
Penny was wearing shoes that matched her dress. They were conservative heels, but not unfashionable. Her ankles were great.
"In the past month," Clive said, "there has been a series of attacks on our horses."
"Someone is shooting them."
"Some die, some survive."
"Do we have a theory?" I said.
"No, sir. The attacks seem entirely random and without motivation."
"Nothing so crude as shooting the horse," Clive said.
He was tall and athletic and ridiculously handsome. He had a lot of white teeth and a dark tan. His silver hair was thick and smooth. He was wearing a navy blazer with a Three Fillies crest on it, an open white shirt, beige linen trousers, and burgundy loafers with no socks. I approved. I was a no-socks man myself.
"Eliminate the competition?"
Clive smiled indulgently.
"Some of the horses who've been shot are barn ponies, not even Thoroughbreds - to think you could do anything constructive for your own horse, by eliminating other horses . . . not possible."
Reprinted from Hugger Mugger by Robert B. Parker by permission of Putnam Pub. Group, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by Robert B. Parker. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Blood at the Root
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