Dead Winter

Dead Winter

by William G. Tapply

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Dead Winter by William G. Tapply

When a minister’s son is accused of murder, Brady doesn’t know whom to trust
Desmond Winters has had more trouble than a Unitarian minister deserves. Over six years ago, his wife disappeared with their fourteen-year-old daughter, promising to return someday. The daughter came back after six months; the wife never did. The experience scarred Desmond’s son, Marc, who acted out by getting involved with cocaine smugglers and marrying an exotic dancer. Through all his troubles, Des was counseled by Brady Coyne, a sensitive lawyer to Boston’s elite. But now something has happened that even Brady may not be able to fix: Marc’s wife is dead, and the minister’s son is the prime suspect.

Marc finds Maggie dead in their boat, and calls the police immediately. Brady doesn’t believe Marc murdered his wife, but he also knows that in this family, anything is possible. It could be drugs, it could be the missing mother—but a beautiful young girl is dead, and Brady Coyne needs to know why.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781480427341
Publisher: Road
Publication date: 08/06/2013
Series: Brady Coyne Mysteries , #8
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 230
Sales rank: 197,801
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

William G. Tapply (1940–2009) was an American author best known for writing legal thrillers. A lifelong New Englander, he graduated from Amherst and Harvard before going on to teach social studies at Lexington High School. He published his first novel, Death at Charity’s Point, in 1984. A story of death and betrayal among Boston Brahmins, it introduced crusading lawyer Brady Coyne, a fishing enthusiast whom Tapply would follow through twenty-five more novels, including Follow the Sharks, The Vulgar Boatman, and the posthumously published Outwitting Trolls.
Besides writing regular columns for Field and Stream, Gray’s Sporting Journal, and American Angler, Tapply wrote numerous books on fishing, hunting, and life in the outdoors. He was also the author of The Elements of Mystery Fiction, a writer’s guide. He died in 2009, at his home in Hancock, New Hampshire.  
William G. Tapply (1940–2009) was an American author best known for writing legal thrillers. A lifelong New Englander, he graduated from Amherst and Harvard before going on to teach social studies at Lexington High School. He published his first novel, Death at Charity’s Point, in 1984. A story of death and betrayal among Boston Brahmins, it introduced crusading lawyer Brady Coyne, a fishing enthusiast whom Tapply would follow through twenty-five more novels, including Follow the Sharks, The Vulgar Boatman, and the posthumously published Outwitting Trolls.

Besides writing regular columns for Field and Stream, Gray’s Sporting Journal, and American Angler, Tapply wrote numerous books on fishing, hunting, and life in the outdoors. He was also the author of The Elements of Mystery Fiction, a writer’s guide. He died in 2009, at his home in Hancock, New Hampshire.  

Read an Excerpt

Dead Winter

A Brady Coyne Mystery

By William G. Tapply

Copyright © 1989 William G. Tapply
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4804-2734-1


Desmond winter had first called me on a rainy November day back in 1977. I was slouched at my desk in my office in Copley Square feeling sorry for myself. It wasn't just the hard rain that ticked against the window behind me, threatening to turn to snow, or the premature gray dusk of the late afternoon. Nor was it entirely the prospect of a long winter with no trout fishing or golf or any of the other worthwhile things in life. And I couldn't truthfully blame Gloria for the mood I was in that day, even though we had begun to discuss the divorce that would within a couple years become a fact, and I was finding my home no more hospitable than my office.

It was all those things coming together at once, as they sometimes seem to.

What I needed was a man with troubles worse than mine to cheer me up.

"Florence Gresham suggested I call you," Desmond Winter told me on the phone.


"She said you were reliable and discreet."

"I am. Yes."

"She said you worked alone. She said that if you became my attorney, I could depend on your personal attention to my affairs."

"That's how I work."

"So I checked around."

"You sound like a discreet person yourself, Mr. Winter."

"I am. I am very careful. I have to be. I am a minister. And I am not without assets. Not that we ministers make a great deal of money, understand. My father was a banker. Very successful. I am his only heir." He cleared his throat. It conveyed an apology. "I have kept a Boston firm on retainer for many years. I have not been happy with the attention they have given me. You never know which one of those interchangeable gray people you're going to deal with. All this specialization. An expert for everything. Makes one feel as if nobody is paying any attention to the whole picture. You want something, they have to have a meeting of the partners. That style does not suit me. Anyway, I have informed them that I no longer need their services."

"And you want mine."

"Yes. Perhaps."

"Is there something specific?"

"As a matter of fact, there is. I wouldn't care to discuss it on the telephone. Can we meet?"

"We can meet," I said, "as long as you understand that I haven't agreed to take you on."

"I understand perfectly."

So I agreed to let Desmond Winter buy me lunch the following Tuesday at Locke Ober's—his choice—so we could size each other up. He turned out to be a lanky, doleful man with a shock of white hair that spilled carelessly over his forehead. He was, I guessed, close to sixty back then, a good twenty-five years older than I. He had a long neck and a protruding Adam's apple which bobbed nervously when he talked.

He drained one quick martini and made a good start on a second before I finished the single bourbon old-fashioned I usually rationed to myself at lunchtime. We shared Florence Gresham anecdotes by way of warming up for what he really wanted to discuss. When the waiter sidled deferentially up to our table, Winter waved him away. Then he leaned forward on his forearms.

"Mr. Coyne," he began, "this is a very delicate matter."

He hesitated. I nodded.

"You see, Constance, my wife, disappeared a little over six years ago."


He shrugged. "I don't know what other word to use. She was—she is, I mean—my true love. One day—it was back in '71—I came home from the church at lunchtime, as I always did. Connie and I usually had lunch together. It was a kind of ritual for us, a quiet time when Marc and Kat—they're our children—were in school. Connie would have sandwiches or maybe chowder all prepared. We might have a touch of sherry. I'd talk about my work. She'd update me on all of her volunteer activities. She was a great volunteerer, Mr. Coyne, not just in the church—she worked with the children's choir and the altar guild—but also for many of the commissions that were working to preserve the historical landmarks in Newburyport, and the environmental groups, and school things for the kids. She's a quiet person. Ladylike. But with a lot of backbone. You'd like her." He hesitated and appealed to me with his eyes. "Everybody liked her."

I cleared my throat and nodded, noting his use of the past tense in his last statement.

Winter smiled. "I could go on and on about Connie. I guess I tend to. You see, on this one day—it was May, a beautiful golden day, I remember distinctly, because I was going to suggest we take our sherry out onto the patio where we could look at the garden and smell the sea air—the lilacs were just coming into bloom—on this one day, Connie wasn't there. She left me a note. When I saw it lying there in the middle of the kitchen table, I didn't think too much about it. Sometimes she'd get called away, just as I would. She always left something for me to eat and a note when she wasn't going to be there."

He paused to drain his second martini. He snaked out the olive with his forefinger and popped it into his mouth. Then he looked around and caught the attention of our waiter, who hustled to our table. "Another, please," he said, holding up his glass.

"Sir?" said the waiter to me.

"What the hell," I said. It looked like it was going to be a long lunch hour. I glanced at the man sitting across from me. He was, I suddenly remembered, a minister. "Excuse my language," I said.

He smiled and waved his hand. "Please. No offense."

When the waiter left, Winter said, "The note. I will always remember what it said. 'Dearest Dizzy,' it began. It's what Connie called me, an ironic little joke between us. I am really the least dizzy person imaginable. I suppose it's a shortcoming. Connie always teased me for being so straitlaced and practical. 'Dearest Dizzy. Kat and I are leaving for a while. I know this will confuse and upset you. You must trust me that we will be back. I cannot say any more about this now except to implore you not to worry. We will be fine. Please do not try to find us or contact us. We will not contact you, either. I apologize for the mystery. When we return I will explain all. Until then remember I love you and never lose faith in me. Your Connie.'"

Desmond Winter recited this to me with the same feeling, the same resonant baritone, and the same instinct for phrasing and pausing as I subsequently observed in his sermons. It was moving to hear. I could tell that he was moved as well.

"That was six years ago?" I said.

He nodded. "Six and a half years ago, actually. Six years last May. Six painfully sad years for me."

"Kat is your daughter?"

He nodded. "Yes."

"And they still haven't returned?"

He shook his head. "Oh, Kat came back. Six years ago almost to this day. She was gone about six months. Connie wasn't with her."

"How old was your daughter then?"

"Fourteen. She's twenty now. The apple of this old man's eye, I don't mind telling you. A junior at the University of New Hampshire, majoring in, of all things, business. Marketing. Accounting. Stuff I know little and care less about. She thinks she wants to be a banker like her grandfather. Anyhow, when she arrived that day she told me that Connie had put her on a train, gave her money for a cab, and said she'd be coming right along."

"Where had she been for those six months? What were they doing?"

He shrugged. "She didn't seem to know. She was—reticent about it. As if the memory was painful."

"Did she know why her mother didn't come home with her?"

Winter shrugged. "No. Just that she'd be coming."

"And she didn't."

"No. She didn't. She still hasn't. I haven't heard a word from her."

"Have you reported this to the police?"

He lowered his head and regarded me somberly. "She asked me not to. I have honored her request." He shrugged. "I suppose I'm a difficult man to love. I'm very set in my ways. Inflexible, some would say. Rigid, even. Not only in my routines, but in my values. I am judgmental. You may think this is a shortcoming. Nowadays, firm convictions are interpreted as a sign of intellectual shallowness. But you see, I know what's right and wrong. I mean, I know. I have little patience with moral relativism or those who preach it. I certainly don't preach it." He frowned at me. "It's not my ministry. We Unitarians aren't necessarily like that. It's me." He jabbed his chest with his thumb. "There are guidelines. Universal truths. They're as firm as stone. You can question them and debate them and philosophize about them. Men have been doing it since Plato. You always come back to them. They are as eternal and as lawful as gravity. I adhere to them. I expect others to do the same. I always thought Connie and I were of one mind on that. We tried to bring up our children the same way. It caused conflict, sometimes. Not between me and Connie, but with the kids. Well, with Marc, mainly, as it has turned out. The minister's son. Kat has always been good."

Our drinks arrived. Desmond Winter's third, my second. He took one third of his in his mouth, tipped his head back, and swallowed. He sighed deeply. "This is difficult for me, Mr. Coyne," he said.

"Call me Brady, please."

He nodded. "My friends call me Des. I hope we will be friends."

It was a question. I shrugged. This seemed to satisfy him.

I sat back and lit a cigarette. I peered at him through the plume of smoke I exhaled. "So you assume that your wife left you because she just didn't want to remain living with you. She got tired of you. Didn't like being a minister's wife. She wanted more excitement in her life than you gave her. Probably had a lover. She brought your daughter with her, and left your boy for you. An equitable arrangement. Then she changed her mind about that and sent the girl home. The girl tied her down, probably."

He stared at me. His mouth twitched. It was hard to tell whether he was fighting tears or a smile. "You are a candid one, aren't you," he said, neither smiling nor crying. I guessed I had underestimated him. "Florence warned me about that. 'Brady doesn't pull punches,' she said. 'He'll smack you right between the eyes when you're least expecting it.' I told her that was all right with me. I've had enough of those mealymouthed smooth-as-velvet Ivy types."

I shrugged. "I got my law degree at Yale."

"Yale Law School," he said, "doesn't count."

"She walked out on you," I persisted.

He nodded. "Something like that, I guess, yes. It happens, I understand. Even in the best regulated of families." He tried a smile. He didn't look like a man who practiced smiling. "I suppose she needed time and space. I felt stupid, not to have seen it, realized it. And I felt incompetent not to have been available enough to her that she could talk to me about it. I never had a clue, Brady. One day we are loving husband and wife. The next day she's gone. Forever, it now seems."

"In her note she said she'd be back."

He made a throwaway gesture with one hand. "So I wouldn't go looking for her, right?"

I shrugged.

He hitched himself forward in his seat and removed his wallet from his hip pocket. He opened it and slid out a photograph. He held it to me. It showed a somewhat younger Desmond Winter, his hair thicker, still black, smiling self-consciously. Standing in front of him, her head resting on his shoulder and tilted back to look up at him, was a freckle-faced woman grinning with apparent affection. She wore her hair long and loose in the manner of one who had not quite outgrown hippiedom. I imagined her playing a guitar. Joan Baez songs. Smoking pot. Flowers in her hair. Bare feet. Sleeping with all the longhaired young men. Protesting war and segregation and nuclear weapons. She appeared to be ten or fifteen years younger than Des, a slim, vivacious woman.

"I know what you're thinking," said Winter to me as I examined the photo.

He arched his eyebrows, asking for my response. I handed the photo back to him. "People aren't necessarily how they appear in photographs."

He nodded. "Exactly. If Connie was that way, she surely hid it well. I never suspected. But," he said, shaking his head, "evidently I was naive in my own case."

"Your daughter. What did she tell you?"

"Not much. Nothing, really. Kat seemed traumatized by the experience, to tell you the truth. She didn't want to talk about it. She cried easily for over a year after she got back. Wouldn't even talk to her brother. I assumed she was missing her mother. They were very close. That's why Connie took Kat with her, I guess. Anyhow, I didn't push her. It really doesn't matter where they went. What matters is that Connie chose not to come back to me. And"—he spread his hands in a gesture of helplessness—"she still hasn't."

"It must have occurred to you that something has happened to your wife."

He nodded slowly. "Sure. Of course. What can I do about that? I assume that if Connie got into trouble, got injured, or—or died or something—I would be notified." He looked at me, imploring me to agree with him.

I cooperated. "Of course. Makes sense."

"Since I haven't heard anything, I assume…"

"That she has chosen not to return."

He nodded. "Yes."

"I'm sorry."

"Thank you. Anyway, that's the background, Brady."

I tilted up my empty glass and looked in at the yellow dregs. "Maybe we should order some food."

"I'm sorry. Of course." He lifted his head and looked around, which brought our waiter instantly.

"Gentlemen," he said. He was swarthy and somber and spoke with a Middle Eastern accent I couldn't place.

"I'll have the scrod and Bibb lettuce salad," said Winter.

The waiter nodded his approval and looked at me. I shrugged. "Sounds good. Me too."

The waiter bobbed his head and slipped discreetly away.

"This way I can say I got scrod today," said Winter. He tried a smile to let me know he had made a joke. He seemed uncertain about how I would take it.

I gave him a grin. "Let me see if I understand," I said. "Your wife has been missing for six and a half years. Now you want to track her down."

He shook his head. "No, no. That's not it. You misunderstand. It's painfully clear to me she's decided to make it permanent. If so, I must accept and respect her decision, as much as it hurts. If she should by some miracle decide to come back to me sometime in the future, I will welcome her with open arms, no questions asked. No, it's nothing like that. Last month, Brady, I received a communication from the Boss." He hesitated. "God, that is."

"I figured that's who you meant."

"A myocardial infarction. Minor, they tell me. But I'm fifty-nine years old. A small lesson on mortality is not lost on me; Do you see?"

"You want to put your affairs in order, so to speak."

"Yes. Should the Boss decide to give me the pink slip, Marc and Kat would be left with a terrible mess. Connie, of course, is the beneficiary of all my insurance. Virtually all my assets are in our joint names. I want the kids to have what's coming to them when I die without a protracted legal hassle. And I want to get this squared away without a protracted hassle from my attorney. Protracting hassles is what Flynn and Barrows are best at. Florence Gresham said that this sort of thing was right up your alley."

"It is. It's the sort of thing I do."

He held out his hands, palms up. "Well?"

I frowned. "It's kind of interesting, actually." I looked up at him. "Easiest thing would be to get yourself a divorce."

He recoiled from this as if I had shaken a fist at him. "Never. Absolutely not." He sighed. "I guess I've made a mistake. I'm terribly sorry to have bothered you, Mr. Coyne."

I smiled at him. "Ah, take it easy, Des." I reached across the table and put my hand on his wrist. "I was testing you."

He blinked. "I don't get it."

"You have insisted that you continue to love your wife. That you'd accept her back, no questions asked. I assume that if she should return upon hearing of your death, you'd want her well taken care of."

He nodded. "I thought I told you that."

"You did. And if you were telling me the truth, you would refuse a divorce."

"Which I did." He frowned for an instant, then widened his eyes at me. "You doubted my veracity." There was a note of incredulity in his voice, as if the idea was inconceivable.

"Your sincerity, Des. I'm big on sincerity. It's not something that is necessarily required between a lawyer and his client. But it is required between this particular lawyer and his clients. Of course," I added, "it works both ways."


Excerpted from Dead Winter by William G. Tapply. Copyright © 1989 William G. Tapply. Excerpted by permission of
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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