"Cut to the chase, Vance, and begin with her name."
Aware that his reputation had preceded him to the Pelican Club, Vance sighed the word "Ginny." He continued with, "A little black dress, sable hair, dark eyes-imagine a young Audrey Hepburn with a bit more meat on the bone."
I refused to imagine any such thing, but the reference and the black dress begged the question: "Givenchy?" When I got a blank stare, I explained, "Givenchy is the guy who designed all of Audrey's lovely black dresses."
"I don't think so," Vance said thoughtfully. "Ginny is strictly off the rack."
Priscilla arrived with our drinks and, fearing we would never see her again, I ordered my steak tartare, medium rare. "But that's a hamburger," Vance cleverly observed.
"Don't ask," I cautioned.
He ordered the tossed green salad with Leroy's special dressing, which I have long suspected to be Creamy Italian via Kraft. Tossed green salads and jogging after thong bikinis on our beach is what must keep Vance Tremaine "fit as a fiddle and ready for love." (If that sounds familiar, you saw Singin' in the Rain, MGM, 1952.)
"Off your feed?"
Vance downed his Scotch as if it were a tonic that would improve his appetite. "I'm off women," he answered with little enthusiasm for the proclamation.
I sipped my drink and encouraged Vance to tell me more.
He picked up Ginny (or vice versa) at Bar Anticipation in West Palm. In case you don't know the establishment, Bar Anticipation gives new meaning to the word "sleaze." Perhaps to justify his patronage, Vance interrupted his tale to say, "You'd be surprised at how many people we know bend their elbows at Bar Anticipation." He waved his hand around the now-crowded room to bring home his point.
Anticipation turned to fulfillment at a local motel, where Vance knew Ginny in the biblical sense-both Old and New Testaments, according to Tremaine. They dozed off; Vance awakened to the sight of a fellow, hard of muscle and soft of brain, looking through the viewfinder of a 35mm Nikon, the little blue bulb flashing pop, pop, pop.
"I get the picture, Vance."
"So did the guy with the Nikon, and if my wife sees them . . ." Vance polished off his drink and once again made like Satchmo with the handkerchief.
"How much in return for you in flagrante delicto, in glorious color?"
Just as I thought. Amateurs. A couple of punks who had cooked up a scam as old as a Milton Berle gag. Palm Beach, especially in season, is invaded by these con artists, and their scams run from the sublime to the ridiculous. My cases have included a self-styled financial consultant peddling a Fabergé egg and kidnappers who called in their ransom note to a phone line with caller ID giving me, and the police, the culprits' phone number and their exact location.
Ginny and friend needed to be taught a lesson and Archy McNally was the perfect teacher for the job. "Leave it to me, Vance," I said as Priscilla brought us our lunch. Vance was so relieved he eyed my hamburger-née steak tartare-with envy.
Upon returning home, I called my friend and occasional partner in fighting crime and pestilence, Sergeant Al Rogoff of the PBPD, then spent the remainder of the afternoon cataloging my beret collection.
That evening, I sacrificed cocktails with the Lord of the Manor and his mate, something I quite enjoy due to the fine quality of his Lordship's potables, in favor of Bar Anticipation. Ginny was there, as I knew she would be. You see, their type of sting is one that requires hitting two or three marks in quick succession and then scampering off with the loot. Word gets around fast, and even the proprietors of Bar Anticipation have their limits.
Sable hair, dark eyes, and a little black dress. If the hair and eyes were the ones she wore last night, so, I assumed, was the dress. I could see what Vance meant by "more meat on the bone." Ginny was more Elizabeth Taylor than Audrey Hepburn, but I'm not complaining.
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
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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