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Malcolm MacNiff’s annual Tennis Everyone!fundraiser is the high point of the Palm Beach season. But the glittering A-list event hits rock bottom when a waiter is found floating face down in the pool. Archy McNally instantly suspects foul play. No sooner are his fears confirmed than he has another mystery to solve. Society’s abuzz over the recent arrival of Lance Talbot from Switzerland to claim his half-billion inheritance from his grandmother’s estate, but some claim that Talbot’s a fraud. It falls to McNally to sift through the clues and uncover a murderous scam that stretches from the snowy Alps all the way to sunny Florida.
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About the Author
Lawrence Sanders (1920–1998) was the New York Times bestselling author of more than forty mystery and suspense novels. The Anderson Tapes, completed when he was fifty years old, received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for best first novel. His prodigious oeuvre encompasses the Edward X. Delaney, Archy McNally, and Timothy Cone series, along with his acclaimed Commandment books. Stand-alone novels include Sullivan's Sting and Caper. Sanders remains one of America’s most popular novelists, with more than fifty million copies of his books in print.
Read an Excerpt
McNally's DareAn Archy McNally Novel
By Vincent Lardo
G. P. Putnam's SonsCopyright © 2003 Lawrence A. Sanders Enterprises, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI am lying facedown on the leather-padded massage table clad immodestly in my heather-gray briefs while a curvaceous masseuse in a rather abbreviated nurse's uniform strokes my left hand, one finger at a time. Seductive music-Ravel's Bolero, I believe-floats on the jasmine-scented air.
Lest you think you walked in on an opiate-induced pipe dream, let me state that I am in the offices of Touch Therapy-A New-Age Approach to Subliminal Relaxation and Human Bonding. This enterprising establishment is located on a pricey stretch of Via Bethesda in pricey Palm Beach, Florida. My auburn-tressed bonding therapist is called Bunny. Probably no relation to Mr. Hefner's crew, but in her Florence Nightingale attire she looks ready to join the warren.
We are in the converted family room of a former dwelling that has been stripped of all amenities except for a plush rug, the table, a couch that becomes a bed at the flip of a lever, and the type of screen one finds in doctors' offices. Bunny instructs me to undress behind the screen, stretch out on the table and concentrate on my navel. Well, I think she said navel. With that she leaves the room.
I note the room has another door behind the screen, and it is from this door Bunny emerges, materializing from behind the screen like a benevolent specter. She takes hold of my hand, raises my arm, then releases her grip. My arm remains rigid.
"Tense, tense, tense, Mr. Davis. That will never do. Go limp, go limp," she implores.
Again she raises my arm and lets go. This time I allow it to sag somewhat.
"Better," she sighs, "but not much. We have a long way to go, Mr. Davis."
She fiddles with my fingers then runs a cool hand down my spine, vertebra by vertebra; when she reaches the bottom she giggles. "Oh, Mr. Davis, you naughty man."
I assume she has just noticed the elastic waistband of my shorts, which are embroidered with the famed biblical scene of Eve being tempted by the serpent. Quite adorable, actually.
I sense the moment has come. If Bunny is a licensed masseuse, I am Linus Pauling. "Your lovely receptionist told me you offered three human bonding techniques to achieve total subliminal relaxation," I tell her.
"That's correct, Mr. Davis. Her name, by the way, is Honey. For three hundred dollars we perform the standard hands-on bonding. For double that sum, we offer a more intense approach wherein the therapist interacts with the client in the buff, so to speak."
"In the buff? You or the client?"
"For a thousand dollars, Mr. Davis, I open the specially designed therapy couch and it's your call. Honey, by the way, is also a skilled therapist. For two thousand dollars we work as a team. Now if you'll roll over ..."
"Oh, I couldn't do that, Bunny."
"Come, come, Mr. Davis. No need to be shy. I'm here to relieve the tension. We'll begin with a simple hands-on and work up from there."
"Well, if you insist, Bunny." I roll over, she gawks, then screams. "There, there, Bunny, nothing to be afraid of." I reach into my shorts and pull out the transmitter. "Welcome to Candid Radio. We're on the air to several witnesses in my office and being recorded as well. Would you like to give us a few choruses of Love For Sale?"
"Why, you ..."
"Easy, Bunny. The technicians must bleep all expletives."
"What the hell do you want from me?"
"Glad you asked," I say. "For starters, I want the snaps you took of Mr. Randolph Seymour as the two of you bonded on the Castro convertible. You remember, Bunny, the ones you wanted to sell to Mr. Seymour for ten thousand bucks or, should he refuse, give to his wife for free. I would strongly advise you and Honey to fold up your massage table and move on. I intend to give your radio performance, which includes the Touch Therapy menu, to the police in twenty-four hours."
Looking around, I added, "By the way, where is your photographer? I'm guessing behind the screen. Hi, Honey, come out, come out, wherever you are."
"Who the hell are you?" Bunny cries, still slightly dazed. A transmitter is the last thing she expects to see popping out of my shorts.
Honey comes flying out from behind the screen waving the business card she had no doubt taken from the wallet I had foolishly left in the inside pocket of my jacket.
"His name isn't Davis," Honey bellows, "it's McNally. Archy McNally, Discreet Inquirer."
Chapter Two(From the Palm Beach Daily News) JACKET REQUIRED Interview and Photography by Michael Price
Editor's Note: This is a weekly series of question-and-answer portraits of Palm Beach notables by freelance photographer Michael Price. The subjects will all be photographed wearing the vintage Lilly Pulitzer blazer Price rescued from a thrift shop 10 years ago.
Archy McNally is one of Palm Beach's most eligible bachelors. He is employed by the prestigious law firm McNally & Son, located in the McNally Building on Royal Palm Way. Archy attended Yale University, swims two miles every day (weather permitting), considers himself an avant-garde Beau Brummell and a connoisseur of wine, women and song, not necessarily in that order. His clubs include the Pelican and he was once invited for a drink at the Everglades.
What is the best thing that has ever happened to you? Being interviewed for JACKET REQUIRED.
What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you? Being photographed in a Lilly Pulitzer blazer my father donated to a thrift shop forty years ago.
Who is your favorite screen actress? Lila Lee.
Who is your favorite living screen actress? Living screen actress is an oxymoron.
What do you like best about Palm Beach? Thong bikinis.
What do you like least about Palm Beach? People in thong bikinis who should know better.
What do you do at McNally & Son? Everything but windows.
What is your favorite sport? Watching other people play.
Do you have a pet? Yes.
Cat or dog? Oh, that pet? Sorry. His name is Hobo and he's a canine of blended heritage.
Who is Georgia? None of your business.
Thank you, Archy McNally. My pleasure.
Chapter ThreeTennis Everyone!
It was the height of the season in Palm Beach, where anyone knows a benefit a day keeps ennui away. After the previous night's encounter with Bunny and Honey and their traveling circus, a bit of good clean fund-raising was just what I needed to restore my faith in humankind.
Malcolm MacNiff's Tennis Everyone! has long been the town's premier fund raiser for those who can afford to fork over five thousand bucks for the privilege of donning their tennis togs (white only on the court, please) to strut their stuff across MacNiff's courts-one clay, one grass.
Nifty, as he was called at St. Paul's and still is because boys who prep together stick together, opens his courts once a year for his private scholarship fund benefiting deserving high school graduates who would otherwise never see the inside of a college lecture hall. Nifty's backyard courts cover five prime acres on the west side of S. Ocean Boulevard.
The downside of being on the west side of the Boulevard is that you have to cross it to get to the beach. The upside is that were you wise as well as rich, you tunneled under the highway, thereby proving the mathematical axiom about a straight line being the shortest distance between two points. The gates to the tunnel were invitingly open on this tropical winter day, but no one seemed eager to leave the party for a stroll on the beach.
Tennis Everyone! redefines "exclusive." Only one hundred check writers in white can indulge in an afternoon of doubles involving both mixed couples, and ladies only and gentlemen only, all drawn by lots. I would like to report that those chosen to participate in Nifty's tennis marathon are summoned by a higher power but, alas, this being Palm Beach they are summoned by a coveted invitation from Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm MacNiff.
That's correct. By invitation. So popular is Nifty's fund-raiser that only those carefully selected by the MacNiffs can give them five grand for the privilege of whacking the hell out of a Spaulding wrapped in fuzzy wool. The uninvited don't dare show their faces in town on the day of Nifty's event. The boutiques on Worth Avenue are empty of shoppers and the ladies who lunch are stricken with the vapors or suddenly remember pressing engagements in Nepal and Zimbabwe.
The event's main attraction is usually a tennis superstar, and today's chosen was none other than the enfant terrible of the pro circuit, Jackson (Jackie) Barnett. The six-foot-two blond with the looks of a comic strip hero and the temper of a two-year-old was garnering all the attention of the stargazers this afternoon and basking in the adulation.
At Wimbledon he had been cheered, then chased all over London by a titled lady who did or did not catch him, depending on the tabloid you read. He had been offered a million dollars for a five-minute cameo in the film version of this year's best-selling novel and, most notably, he was applauded by spectators when he flung to the ground the racket that bore his name when it, not the player, failed to answer an opponent's volley.
Jackie's name was tossed into the hopper, just like the common folks, so his partners or opponents were strictly the luck of the draw and, to be sure, it was a great party booster each time Nifty pulled the names out of the hat to arrange the foursomes. Ladies who teamed with Jackie screamed when their names were called; the gentlemen, similarly honored, were obliged to square their shoulders and stiffen their upper lips. Losers could look forward to the next lottery, keeping all in a state of happy expectation.
Me? I'm Archy McNally, the only person here by the grace of a higher power, namely, my father, the CEO of McNally & Son, Attorney-at-Law. As representatives of the MacNiff interests we are always on the invited list. Like most firms doing business in Palm Beach, we are forced to subscribe to several charity events each season, though Tennis Everyone! is one of the few I would be sorry to miss. Although my serve leaves something to be desired and my backhand has been referred to as weak, I have a great pair of legs-and in Palm Beach it's the visuals that matter.
When not at play, guests are invited to nosh at the enormous catered smorgasbord featuring the alpha and omega of party food: grilled filet mignon, sliced by a master carver before your very eyes; poached salmon; pheasant; fried chicken; foie gras; caviar; deviled eggs; every garnish, dip and crudité known to man, including ketchup and mustard for the burgers and hot dogs. Who said the rich aren't catholic in their tastes?
There were, of course, several portable bars strategically positioned on the property so that one was never out of sight of a gin and tonic or the young lads and lassies who serve, bus and look so splendid in their black pants, white shirts and black bow ties. Among them I spotted Todd, who waits tables at the Pelican Club on busy Saturday nights. Todd was christened Edward but redubbed himself in anticipation of a career on the silver screen. I don't think Todd is any improvement over Edward, but it beats Jeb, Rock or Rip. Like many young folks in the surrounding communities, namely Lake Worth and West Palm Beach, Todd survives by toiling for the caterers and restaurants that abound in our upscale resort.
While I hadn't yet been paired with or against Jackie Barnett, I did get called for the mixed doubles and found myself with a very attractive lady introduced as Holga von Brecht. The von made me wonder if she was a titled lady of German descent, though her accent was strictly New England Yankee. I guessed her age at forty, give or take, but these days she could have been a decade older and either well preserved or well connected to a surgeon with hands of gold.
We were opposite a young man named Joe Gallo and his partner, Vivian Emerson, who was a good deal older than Joe but, like Holga, a looker with a figure to match. Why the name Joe Gallo struck a chord I had no idea and, chosen to serve, didn't have time to ponder the mystery. We played the allotted three sets and Holga and I took two of them. When we shook hands across the net I believe Vivian shot daggers at Holga. This being Palm Beach I immediately jumped to the conclusion that Joey belonged to Vivian and Holga was trying to make some points that had nothing to do with tennis. Ho-hum and pardon my lack of interest.
Later I drew an all-male foursome and was paired with Lance Talbot, a young man of sudden great wealth, due to his maternal grandmother's demise. Grandmama was the daughter of a Detroit pioneer who had been on a first-name basis with the Fords, Chryslers, Dodges and Fishers. I recalled that Lance and his grandmother were estranged for years but it seems they kissed and made up just in time to keep Lance a member in good standing of the jet set. Palm Beach is chock-full of such heartwrenching tales.
We were opposite Nifty himself and, if I had heard correctly, a man Nifty introduced as Darling. This I believe was the gentleman's surname unless, of course, Nifty was taking liberties with the guy, which I doubted. Nifty and Darling took all three sets.
"I liked your interview in 'Jacket Required,'" Lance complimented me when we parted company.
Dark crew cut, blue eyes and a physique that bespoke a personal trainer, Lance Talbot was the answer to a working maiden's prayer. I was also amazed that he took notice of the likes of me. "Thanks. I assume you'll be tapped for the honor in the near future," I told him.
"I would refuse," he said. "I'm not as clever as you, Mr. McNally."
With that he pulled a cell phone out of the pocket of his tennis shorts and proceeded to make a call. Really!
Not sure if I had been praised or panned by young Talbot I beckoned to Todd, who proffered his tray of goodies. "Juice?" he asked.
"No, thanks, I hear it can rust your pipes," I answered, reaching for a gin and tonic. "How goes it, Todd?"
"Working my tail off, Mr. McNally. Jeff is supposed to be bussing this station with me but he went for a smoke a half hour ago and I haven't seen him since."
An ex-smoker myself, I imagined Jeff had most likely escaped via the tunnel and was now on the beach, happily puffing away. "When he gets back, take a break," I advised the aspiring thespian. "You certainly deserve it."
I saw a familiar figure at the dessert table and ambled over to Lolly Spindrift to hear all the news that's not fit to print. Our resident gossip columnist is a small guy with the appetite of a giant.
Excerpted from McNally's Dare by Vincent Lardo Copyright © 2003 by Lawrence A. Sanders Enterprises, Inc.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.