"I suggest you do a little research into the life and times of Mr. Tremaine before the meeting, Archy."
After our coffee and chat, I retreated to my micro third-floor suite: bedroom, sitting room, dressing room, and bath, tucked beneath our copper mansard roof. You can't beat the rent: the big O, and I don't mean Jackie.
I called Lolly Spindrift, gossip columnist for one of our local rags, who could tell me everything I wanted to know about Vance Tremaine, most of which was none of Lolly's business-or mine. Lolly is a man of vitriolic tongue who fills his Mont Blanc with acid and his bed with men.
"Lolly? Archy McNally here."
"Archy, what can I do for you? It had better be something naughty, or you can stop wasting my precious time. Lady Cynthia gave one of her charity benefits yesterday that was about as interesting as watching paint dry, and I still have to find a way to make it all sound gushingly chic for the late edition. But I have a feeling you had a reason for calling. Tell me, Archy, what do you want to know?"
"A few intimate facts re: Vance Tremaine."
"Size thirty-four boxer shorts and he dresses on the left."
"Good grief, Lol, not that intimate. Just the facts, please."
Vance Tremaine was from old money, so old the well had run dry. Penny Brightworth was from new money, so new it bordered on the vulgar. Daddy founded a fast-food franchise that enabled the Brightworths to dine elsewhere. Vance graduated from Yale some twenty-five years ago, a young Adonis forced to choose between going to work or marrying money. Penny graduated from Sarah Lawrence at about the same time, a plain Jane with marriage to an Adonis as her post-graduate goal. Theirs was a match made in heaven.
Vance had an eye that roved with the speed of the Concorde; it was said he cheated on Penny two days after the wedding, his amore being the stewardess on the flight that took the honeymooners to romantic Roma. This, to be sure, is PBR, Palm Beach Rumor, as opposed to PBF, Palm Beach Fact. "However, the only PBF I would swear to in a court of law," Lolly once admitted, "is the one that decrees the sun rises over the Atlantic and sets behind West Palm."
Penny doesn't like sharing her husband or her bank account, and for twenty-five years has been threatening divorce every time Vance is caught with his size thirty-four boxers on the wrong side of his knees. Penny has vowed that Vance's next bimbo will also be the proverbial straw. One more time and Vance will be tossed out of their faux Spanish hacienda-ten acres, ocean view-and onto the A1A with nary the proverbial pot in which to wee-wee.
"Why the interest?" Lolly asked, poison pen surely in hand.
"I think he's in hot water, Lol."
Lolly laughed. "Last I heard it was cold water that was Vance Tremaine's undoing. Want to hear about it, Archy?"
Vance arrived ten minutes late. A slim, handsome man with a Palm Beach tan, he looked a good ten years younger than a guy approaching the half century mark. He sat, pulled out a white handkerchief and wiped his forehead, despite the fact that it was cool for November. Vance Tremaine was up to his cojones in cow dip, and I had no doubt that it was them cojones that had gotten him there. He wore a lightweight blue suit and rep tie. I wore jeans, Bally loafers (no socks), a lavender button-down dress shirt, open at the collar, and my tweed blazer with bone toggles instead of buttons.
When Priscilla decided to pay her respects I ordered a Bloody Mary and Vance went for a Scotch on the rocks. "Rather lethal for high noon," I preached.
"I need it, Mr. McNally."
"That bad, eh? And if you're going to bare your soul, the name is Archy."
There is something pathetic about watching a grown man squirm in his chair. "Do I start from the beginning, Archy?"
Reprinted from McNally's Dilemma by Vincent Lardo by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 1999 by Lawrence A. Sanders Enterprises, Inc. 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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