About the Author
Jeremiah Healy (1948–2014) was the creator of the John Cuddy mystery series and the author of several legal thrillers. A graduate of Rutgers College and Harvard Law School, Healy taught at the New England School of Law before becoming a novelist. He published his first novel, Blunt Darts, in 1984, introducing John Francis Cuddy, the Boston private eye who would become Healy’s best-known character.
Read an Excerpt
So Like Sleep
By Jeremiah Healy
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1987 Jeremiah Healy
All rights reserved.
I sipped the Stroh's and stared at the roller in the aluminum pan. The door to the hall and both windows in the office were open, but the breezeless May afternoon still sealed in the paint smell. I was wearing a red T-shirt and the khaki shorts I had wine-stained the week before. The edge of the desk was hard on my rear end, the clear plastic drop cloth squeaking each time I squirmed to get comfortable. The landlord had said a two-year lease would be four hundred a month, three-eighty if I painted it myself. My former apartment-office had been burned out, and I decided the time had come to have one of each.
I turned my head and took in the view of the Boston Common, our answer to Central Park, that had hooked me on this place for the office part. At my corner of the Common is the Park Street subway station, a human kaleidoscope. In the early morning you get the rush-hour crowd, lawyers and bankers in two-piece suits, secretaries in half-salary outfits. In late morning come teachers and parent assistants leading field trips of fourth graders, lunchboxes clanking and name-tags fluttering. At midday, young management trainees and salespeople picnic on the grass with sausage sandwiches, fresh fruit, or salads bought from wagoned vendors. At all hours, the Hare Krishnas chant, the past-prime folk singers strum, the bullhorn evangelists exhort. Only the winos are quiet, lying on their sides like half-opened, human jack-knives. All in all, a view that could keep you sane. At least by comparison.
I swallowed another mouthful of the Stroh's and wondered for the hundredth time what "fire-brewed" means. I looked up at the half-painted walls and down again at the roller and pan. I finished the beer, flexed my rolling arm, and went back to work.
"Good to see a man with a trade." A deep, familiar voice from the doorway.
"You the guy from the lettering company?" I said without turning. "I've decided on 'John Francis Cuddy, Confidential Investigations.'"
He snorted a laugh, rapping a knuckle on the lavatory-glass section of the door. "Maybe you'd do better to leave 'Avery Stein, Tax Preparer' up here."
I laid the roller back into the pan and gestured toward the Lil' Oscar cooler on the desk. "Have a beer, Lieutenant?"
"No, thanks." Murphy came slowly into the room, careful of his clothes around the shiny walls. Shorter and heavier than I am, Murphy was the first black lieutenant detective on the force, appointed when an otherwise bigoted city councillor mistook surname for race.
I pulled a drop cloth from one of the chairs I had bid on at a liquidator's auction. "Sit."
He lightly touched the arms, seat, and back for wet spots, then settled in. "This is a pretty nice setup."
Murphy fidgeted a bit. I hadn't known him long, but I had never seen him ill at ease before.
"Can I help you with something, Lieutenant?"
He frowned, rested his elbow on the chair arm, and bothered his teeth with an index finger. "I don't like asking favors," he said.
I thought back a few months. "I figure I owe you one."
"The shotgun thing."
"I guess you're right, but I still don't like asking."
I shrugged. We waited.
Murphy made up his mind. "A woman I dated a long time ago. Her son is in deep shit, and I want you to check it out."
"As in 'get him out'?"
"Or maybe just confirm that he belongs there."
"In the deep shit."
"What's the situation?"
"The name William Daniels mean anything to you?"
"Yes," I said. "But I don't place it."
"About three weeks ago. Young black shoots his white girlfriend, then confesses to their therapy group."
"The kid under hypnosis."
I thought back to the television reports. The arraignment, Massachusetts allowing cameras in the courtroom for some years now. Daniels, a college student, his mother holding back tears. The dead girl's father, sitting stoically, his wife back home under sedation. Ironically, the father was a TV station manager who had fought for coverage of court proceedings.
"I remember some of it," I said. "Daniels had the gun on him, right?"
"The therapy witnesses say he reached into his pocket and laid it on his lap. Papers said Ballistics made it as the murder weapon."
I thought back again. "The shooting was out in Calem?"
"Meaning Middlesex County."
"Not your jurisdiction."
Murphy cleared his throat. "Right again."
"But you must have official contacts out there?"
"Yeah, and if I got contacts there, why do I need do drag in a PI to tell me what I can find out myself."
"That's what I was wondering."
Murphy leaned forward, elbows on knees, hands working a little on each other. "How many black cops you think work Calem?"
"That's right. A rookie patrolman. Two, if you count a uniformed dispatcher."
"So if you call out there, it looks like professional big-city black cop checking up on small-town white cops?"
"To see if they're 'roading a black defendant through their white, suburban system." Murphy sat back, not quite relaxed.
"He must have a lawyer by now," I said.
"Private, but he used to be a Mass Defender"—meaning an attorney from the Massachusetts Defenders Committee, the old name for the Commonwealth's public defender system.
"I'd have to start with him."
"Start with the mother instead. She approves of you, she'll tell William, and he'll okay it with the lawyer."
"You know the kid?"
"Met him once in a supermarket, maybe ten years ago."
I didn't ask the follow-up question, but Murphy answered it for me.
"Yeah, I think he did it. But I want Willa to think so too."
"Willa's his mother?"
"You have her address and telephone?"
He pulled a folded paper from inside his coat and handed it to me. Willa Daniels, home and work. Robert J. Murphy, home and work.
"Thanks, Cuddy," said Murphy, rising.
"Yeah. I can't be the only private detective you know."
"Cuddy, you're the only white private detective I know who owes me a favor. I hate asking for favors. I hate owing them even more."
He slammed "Avery Stein, Tax Preparer" on the way out.CHAPTER 2
My watch was in my sports jacket on the coat tree. Rather than wipe my spattered hands, I leaned out the window. The clock on the Park Street Church tower said 2:20 P.M. It was typically five minutes slow. I already had a phone in the office, but I decided to finish the paint job and call Mrs. Daniels later.
By four-thirty, I was in the men's, scrubbing my fingers with a small brush and turpentine. A white-collar worker came in, relieved himself, and thought better of telling me I was in an executive washroom. He left without rinsing his hands.
By four forty-five, I was out of the painting clothes and back into my buttoned-down yellow shirt, tweed coat, and khaki pants. I made sure I had the piece of paper Murphy had given me and used the stairs down to the street.
I crossed Tremont and slipped sideways through the crush of federal and state employees beating everyone else's office workers to the subway entrance. Once I was past the station, the Common sprawled green in front of me. I walked toward home.
The case that destroyed my old apartment had landed me in the hospital. After I got out, a friend suggested I call his sister. The sister, a doctor, was taking a two-year program in Chicago and needed a tenant for her condominium in Back Bay. Fortunately, the case also provided me with a chunk of money, which, when added to the insurance proceeds from the fire, allowed me to afford the rents on both the condo and the office. I could afford time, too. Time to think about Nancy Meagher.
Nancy was an assistant district attorney for Suffolk County, basically meaning Boston. She was also the first woman I'd felt close to, felt anything for, since my wife, Beth, died of cancer.
At Charles Street I took the Commonwealth Avenue extension through the Public Garden. The Common is for ball-playing and dog-running. The Garden is for swan-boating and love-walking. Nancy and I hadn't walked through the Garden yet. I hoped we would. But first she would have to call me. At the hospital, Nancy had said she needed time to think, as well. Time to think about having killed a man.
I started up Commonwealth for two blocks, shifting to Marlborough for two more, and then onto Beacon for the last block to Fairfield. If there is a better way of commuting than walking through an historic neighborhood to and from work, I can't imagine it.
The condo is one of eight one-bedroom units in an old, corner brownstone. It occupies the rear of the second floor on the left-hand side of the street, which means southern exposure. The living room has seven stained-glass windows across its south wall and a polished oak-front fireplace along its east wall. High-ceilinged and airy, it's the nicest place I ever lived in alone.
I took off my sports jacket and glanced at the new telephone tape machine. The Calls window displayed a fluorescent green "0," meaning no messages.
Fishing out Murphy's paper, I called Willa Daniels at both work and home. No answer at either.
I popped a steak into the broiler and took a half-full bottle of cabernet sauvignon out of the fridge to warm back down to room temperature. As dinner cooked, I drank some ice water with a twist of lime while I read most of the New York Times, which I had delivered each morning but usually didn't read until evening.
After I ate, I got Mrs. Daniels at home. She asked if I could come right over. She gave me an address in Roxbury and detailed directions. I said I would see her in half an hour.
I usually wear a handgun over my right buttock, but that night I undid my belt and slipped on a holstered Smith & Wesson Chief's Special so that it rode at my left front. A car carrying whites had been stoned at a traffic light in Roxbury the prior week, and if necessary, I wanted to be able to cross-draw easily.
I followed Tremont Street deep into Roxbury, making the two right and one left turns to Millrose Street. On the Danielses' block were four beautifully kept houses, three burned-out shells, and six that fell in between. The Daniels house was an in-betweener.
I spotted a parking space and maneuvered my old Fiat 124 around some barely identifiable trash and intact but empty wine bottles. The container law in Massachusetts rewards scavengers a nickel for each beer or tonic receptacle, whether glass, plastic, or aluminum, but nothing for wine jugs. A pity.
As I got out of the car, I saw three young blacks on a stoop between me and the Daniels house. All wore sleeveless athletic shirts, racing-stripe gym shorts, and sneakers. Two had socks, one didn't. They had a blaster radio turned down low on an R-and-B tune I didn't recognize.
As I drew even with them, the biggest of the three stood up and took a step toward me. Not threatening. Just an approach.
"Five bucks," he said.
"To watch your car, man."
"So no harm comes to it?"
"Well," I said, "I'm doing a favor tonight. Ms. Daniels' son is in some trouble, and I told a friend I'd stop by and try to help."
One of the other kids on the stoop spoke. "Figured you here about Willieboy."
"William Daniels is the name I was given."
"Ten bucks," said the original negotiator.
"Ten?" I said.
"Fifteen," said the negotiator.
I folded my arms. "You got something against young Daniels?"
"Yeah," said the stooper. "We got something against him."
"What?" I asked.
The third guy spoke for the first time. "You the Man?"
Negotiator said, "That wreck ain't no cop car."
"Could be his private wheels," said the third, defensively.
I said, "Cops are better paid than that. I'm a private investigator, just trying to help."
"What for?" said Negotiator.
"For a friend, like I said. Now, what do you have against Daniels?"
"He try to be white," said Stooper.
"Try hard," said Third.
"Suburban white pussy and all," said Stooper.
"All the good it done him," said Negotiator.
"Well," I said, "I'm not doing him much good here." I continued toward the Daniels house.
"Hey?" said Negotiator.
"Hey what?" I said over my shoulder.
"What about our bread?"
"Yeah," said Third.
"Our ten," said Stooper.
"Our fifteen," corrected Negotiator.
"Fellas," I said, climbing the Daniels steps, "it's been great talking with you." I tried the outer door. It opened. "But I'm not paying you a dime to watch my car."
"The fuck you ain't," said Negotiator.
"You're young yet," I said. "You'll get over it."
I entered the building's foyer.
The inner door cracked ajar after my second knock. Through three lock chains, a middle-aged black woman with a pretty face gave me an uncertain smile.
"Please come in."
Mrs. Daniels led me into a small living room. The exterior of the house didn't do the interior justice. The wood furniture was old, solid, and polished. The upholstered furniture was bright and doilied. There was a marble mantel, with pink, cherub tile around the hearth. A tray with china cups and saucers, a matching teapot, and a glass Chemex coffee pitcher was centered on a l930s inlaid coffee table.
"Please sit down. Would you like tea or coffee?"
I don't usually drink either, but given her trouble, I said, "Tea, please. Sugar, no milk."
We remained silent while she poured. Mrs. Daniels took coffee. Her hands trembled a little, but she didn't spill any.
I tasted my tea, complimented her. She told me the name, but it was nearly unpronounceable and immediately forgotten.
I said, "Lieutenant Murphy asked me to speak with you."
Mrs. Daniels sipped her coffee, put it down. "It ... He's good to ask you, but it ... it's just so hard to talk about it."
"Maybe it'd be easier if you could tell me something about your son. Do you call him William?"
"Yes, William. His full name is William Everett Daniels—my father's name was Everett. My husband left us when William was just four. He was already smart enough to be hurt by that, but at least I had a good job, secretary in an insurance agency. They went broke, but I got another job right away, insurance again. I've been with them, Craig and Bulley, for thirteen years now."
I remembered the name from my time as an investigator at Empire Insurance. I looked around the room for effect. "You've done well."
"Oh, this?" Mrs. Daniels fluttered her hands. "It's all from my parents, really. This was their home. When my husband left us, my father and mother took William and me in. My brother—I had a brother, Thomas, but he was killed in Vietnam."
I wondered which unit and where, but only said, "Go on."
"Well, William really looked up to Thomas. He was a marine and brought William little souvenirs and things. There wasn't a lot of anti-war stuff here in Rox', too many folks had relatives in, you know, so William really got into the military stuff, said he was gonna be a marine, too. Then ..."
Mrs. Daniels sighed. "Then Thomas got killed. His second tour, right near the end when everything over there just seemed so, I don't know, hopeless."
"That affected William, did it?"
"Like losing his father all over again. This time, though, William went street, started hanging out with bad kids."
"I think I met a few of them on my way in."
"Yeah. I had the impression they were in the insurance business, too."
"Car insurance. Vandalism protection."
"Oh," she said, upset. "I'm sorry, I hope everything's all right. I should have come to your office.
I held up a palm. "The car is old, and my office stinks of wet paint. Everything will be fine. Please go on."
"Well, the kids got William into a lot of trouble, police trouble, but nothing big. Shoplifting, loitering, some fights. He never hurt anybody bad, but it got to my father; he died of a heart attack. My mother, too, but because of Dad, not William, you know?"
"Well, William's stuff was small-time, but I was still scared for him, only there's just so much a woman can do alone."
"It's a big jump from street gangs to Calem."
"Oh, yes. When William was in high school, he scored very high on the standard tests. So high his friends got mad, and he got embarrassed, so he started to intentionally miss things, questions, I mean, to level himself off a little, not stand out so much. Well, one of his teachers noticed this, and she was real good with him and got him to try going to U Mass out at Columbia Point. He went and saw a psychologist there for free a lot and straightened out. It was like a salvation."
Excerpted from So Like Sleep by Jeremiah Healy. Copyright © 1987 Jeremiah Healy. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
William Daniels is a Black college student who, under hypnosis has confessed to his therapy group that he just killed his white girlfriend. He has the gun to prove it. While two members restrained him, the therapist and two other group members go to the basement of the building and find the body.Daniels' mother, of course, doesn't believe that her son could kill anyone. A smart student who is attending a top university, he is trying to extricate himself from his lower/middle class origins. Lt. Murphy, a friend of Ms. Daniels enlists John Cuddy, private investigator and friend, to either convince Ms. Daniels of her son's guilt or prove him innocent. Since Cuddy owes Murphy a favor, he takes the case, probing into the hypnosis, the therapy group members and the therapist's background.I've always liked Jeremiah Healy's writing. It's easy going but not like a cozy mystery. It keeps you interested. There's action and thought. Cuddy is a person. He lost his wife to cancer but goes to her gravesite to talk to her. He seems like a really nice guy. Healy points out Boston landmarks and those of us who have been there can visualize them.I highly recommend Healy to any mystery and/or Boston buff. His books are a great way to spend some time.
Okay. But the ending a little implausible.
PLOT OR PREMISE: John Cuddy gets asked by a friend to look into what appears to be an open-and-shut case -- a young impoverished black man tries to get ahead at university, dates a white co-ed, and then after she turns up dead, he confesses to the crime while holding the murder weapon. Everyone thinks he's guilty, including him. But Cuddy finds a strange group of people involved -- a whacked psychiatrist with strange ideas, an elderly fitness nut, a sports fan, seductive patients, and asundry lovers. . WHAT I LIKED: The main people were all well-characterized, although a few of them were a bit one-dimensional. Cuddy does a good job of detecting, pulling at a variety of strings until they unravel. Good back-stories for some of the other series characters. . WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Some old characters show up, kind of predictable. . BOTTOM-LINE: You'll stay up late if you start reading this! . DISCLOSURE: I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I was not personal friends with the author, but I did follow him on social media.