Ed Eagle continues to contend with his ex-wife, Barbara Eagle Keeler, in Woods's less than topnotch fourth thriller to feature the Santa Fe lawyer (after Santa Fe Dead). Keeler, who's incarcerated in Mexico's El Diablo Prison for Women, contrives to escape and return to the U.S. to finish off Eagle. Meanwhile, CIA agent Holly Barker, another Woods series lead, goes after renegade CIA agent Teddy Fay. Fay, who escaped Barker in Hothouse Orchid, wants to stay in Santa Fe, and figures that Todd Bacon, the young CIA agent dispatched to trace him, isn't a serious problem. In a third plot line, Eagle manages to free client Tip Hanks, a pro golfer suspected of murdering his wife, but Hanks will soon face other problems. With the bad guys at least as clever as the good guys and often more ruthless, the outcome is uncertain. Though not at his best, Woods provides plenty of not overly graphic sex and enough absurd contrivances for a slapstick comedy. (Sept.)
Santa Fe attorney Ed Eagle's murderous ex-wife and assorted lesser satellites continue to hatch plots at cross-purposes, all as inconclusively as ever.
In the nine weeks since she was sent to a Mexican prison for attempted murder (Santa Fe Dead, 2008), Barbara Eagle Keeler hasn't been wasting her time. She's been using the episodes of rape by Warden Pedro Alvarez to gather information that will help her escape and work more havoc back in the United States. Assisted more directly by James Long, the film producer who's not only her lover but the prospective colleague of Ed's new wife Susannah Wilde, she hatches a plan to kill Ed and his bride. When they get a whiff of Barbara's escape despite Alvarez's insistence that she was merely transferred to another prison, Ed's longtime private eyes, Cupie Dalton and Vittorio, decide that their best defense against her is a good offense. Not enough malfeasance for you? Soon after Ed gets the murder charges against his latest client, golf pro Tip Hanks, dismissed, Tip takes on a new personal assistant, Dolly Parks, who just happens to be the serial embezzler who killed Tip's wife. Meanwhile, Todd Bacon, the CIA's station chief in Panama, is hot in pursuit of Teddy Fay, the CIA agent turned assassin who's eluded every attempt made to catch him. None of this violent, weightless intrigue goes anywhere, of course, but the dialogue, reeking with obtuse self-assurance, is full of guilty pleasures, from Ed's admonition to Susannah ("If you keep on shooting people we're going to end up in court") to Barbara's prayer entreating a disputed legacy from the Almighty ("If you'll let me have this money, I'll never kill anybody again, not even Ed Eagle!").
In retrospect, Woods's endless rounds of dead-end scheming find an uncanny echo in contemporary reality TV. Think of this as one more installment in The Real Sexed-Up Felons of Santa Fe, with all the pleasures and limitations that title implies.
Read an Excerpt
Ed Eagle sat at his breakfast table and watched his new wife, Susannah Wilde, cook his breakfast. He was a lucky man, he thought.
She set down two plates of huevos rancheros and joined him.
“What are you doing today?” he asked. He was concerned that she might become bored, and he didn’t want that.
“I’m having lunch with a producer I worked with a few years back, Dan Karman. You remember that novel I bought a few weeks ago?”
“Danny’s written a screenplay based on it, and we’re going to talk about shooting it in Santa Fe.” Susannah was a well-known actress.
“Sounds great,” Eagle replied, and he meant it. He didn’t want her spending a lot of time in L.A., shooting a movie.
“What are you up to?” Susannah asked.
“The usual. I’m having a first meeting with a man who’s been charged with murdering his wife. It happened early this morning.”
“You meet such nice people in your work,” she said.
“Oh, this one’s quite a nice fellow, I’m told, and he might even be innocent.”
“I thought all your clients were innocent.”
“He’s not my client yet,” Eagle replied. “If he’s not innocent now, he will be by the end of the day.”
Susannah laughed. “That’s my Ed,” she said, pouring him a second cup of coffee. “Do you remember a film producer named James Long?”
Eagle put down his coffee. “I certainly do,” he replied. “He’s the guy who furnished Barbara’s alibi in her trial for murdering those people at the Hotel Bel-Air, when she thought she was murdering me.”
“Long has his own production company, backed by inherited wealth, and Danny thinks he might be a good choice to get this film made. How would you feel about that?”
Eagle shrugged. “I don’t have anything against the guy,” he said. “I suppose he’s as much Barbara’s victim as I. She drugged him, left the house, shot those two people, then returned before he woke up. He thought she was in bed with him the whole time, and testified to that.”
“Long might be the best way to go,” she said. “He puts up a big chunk of the production money, then raises the rest from private investors, so he doesn’t have to take any crap from a studio.”
“Sounds good, but how does he distribute?”
“He has a good track record for making successful films on moderate budgets, so the distributors look on him favorably. Shouldn’t be a problem.”
“I liked the novel,” Eagle said. “I hope you get a good screenplay.”
“You can read it tonight,” she said, clearing the table.
AN HOUR LATER Eagle sat in the attorneys’ visiting room at the Santa Fe Municipal Jail, waiting for his prospective client. He read through a single-page report put together by an associate in his firm.
Terrence Hanks, known as Tip, is a twenty-nine-year-old golf professional, born in Delano, Georgia, a small town, and educated in the public schools and on a golf scholarship at Florida State University. He got his PGA Tour card six years ago and moved to Santa Fe two and a half years ago, building a house out at Las Campanas.
Ten months ago he married Constance Clay Winston, the ex-wife of another golf pro, Tim Winston. She and Hanks were having an affair while she was still married to Winston.
Yesterday, Hanks returned home after uncharacteristically missing the cut at a tournament in Dallas. His story is that he found his wife in their bed, dead of a gunshot wound to the head. He called 911.
The police found a handgun near the bed that had Hanks’s fingerprints on it and charged him with murder. He was referred to you by his personal attorney, Earl Potter, who, as you know, doesn’t do criminal work.
Hanks is a relatively successful tour player, earning an average of a little over a million and a half dollars a year since getting his card, so he can afford representation.
Precious little information, Eagle thought, but it was a start. He looked up to see a young man being escorted into the room, and he waited while he was unshackled. He was maybe six-one, a hundred and seventy, tanned and freckled, with a mop of sun-bleached hair that reminded Eagle of a younger Jack Nicklaus.
Hanks stuck out his hand. “I’m Tip Hanks, Mr. Eagle,” he said, and his handshake was cool, dry and firm.
Eagle shook the hand. “Call me Ed,” he said, “and have a seat.”
“Earl Potter speaks highly of you,” Hanks said.
“Earl’s a good lawyer and a good fellow,” Eagle replied. “Tell me how you ended up in here, and please remember, everything you say to me is privileged—that is, I can’t disclose what you say to anyone, and no court can force me to do so, unless I believe you intend to commit a crime, in which case I’m bound to report that to the court.”
“Earl has already explained that to me,” Hanks replied. “I’d like you to represent me, if you’re available.”
“Did Earl also explain that if you admit guilt to me, I can’t put you on the stand to testify that you’re innocent?”
“He did, and I understand that, too. For the record, I’m not going to admit guilt, because I’m completely innocent of killing my wife. Will you represent me?”
“Tell me what happened this morning, and then we’ll talk about representation.”
“I played in a charity tournament in Dallas, starting with the pro-am on Wednesday. I played badly, and I missed the cut. Do you know what that means?”
“Yes, I’m a golfer.”
“I had planned to fly home yesterday, but I had a couple of drinks with two other guys who also missed the cut, and that turned into an early dinner. We finished about seven, and I went to my room, called my wife and told her I’d be home around noon today. Then I got into bed and turned on the TV. I woke up about three A.M. with the TV on, and I couldn’t get back to sleep. Finally, around four A.M. I got up, got dressed and went to the airport.”
“I don’t know it,” Eagle said. “I usually fly into Signature.”
“You’ll save money on fuel by going to Vitesse.”
“What do you fly?”
“A Piper Meridian.”
This was a single-engine turboprop, similar to the JetProp Eagle had once owned. “What time did you take off?”
“About five twenty. I was lucky with the winds, and I landed in Santa Fe at eight fifteen. My car was there, and I got home about eight forty.”
“Did you notice anything unusual when you arrived?”
“No, everything was normal, except my wife had been shot in the bed. She still had a pulse, but she had taken a bullet to the right temple, and it seemed obvious that she wasn’t going to live long. I called nine-one-one, and it took the ambulance about eight minutes to get there. Sometime during that eight minutes, she died.”
“Was there anything unusual about the bedroom?”
“It was pretty neat, and my wife’s clothes were on a chair.”
“Was that where she usually left them when you went to bed?”
“No, she has a dressing room, and she undresses in there, unless . . . we’re in a hurry.”
“Something else: She was on my side of the bed. I always sleep on the left side, and she sleeps on the right, even when I’m away.”
“Had both sides been slept on?” Eagle asked.
“Do you think she started sleeping on her usual side, then shifted to your side?”
“I’ve never known her to do that,” Hanks replied.
“Did you see the gun?”
“Yes, it was on the floor beside the bed, and the bedside-table drawer was not quite closed. That’s where I keep the gun.”
“Did your wife know it was there?”
“Yes, and she knew how to use it.”
“What sort of gun was it?”
“It was a Colt Government .380.”
“I kept it in the drawer with the magazine in and a round in the chamber, cocked, but with the safety on.”
“Were you expecting trouble?”
“I had a burglary right after the house was finished,” Hanks replied. “I suspected it was somebody who worked on the house.”
“Tell me about that.”
“It was a Saturday afternoon. I went out to the Santa Fe flea market, gone about two hours, and when I came back I went into my dressing room and found a jewelry box turned upside down. I was missing a Rolex watch, a couple pairs of cuff links and my old wedding ring. I was divorced at the time.”
“How did they get in?”
“I believe by the bedroom door opening to the outside. I had put the alarm on but hadn’t locked the house. The transom window over the door was open, and it turns out that deactivates that part of the alarm, something I didn’t know before. I think the guy came in through that door, went straight to the dressing room, emptied the jewelry box and got out in a hurry. There’s a dirt road that cuts across my property behind the house, and he could have driven in there without being seen.”