A stint as a bodyguard sucks Cuddy into a vicious divorce caseDivorce will not be easy for Hanna Marsh. Her drug-dealing husband, Roy, is a cruel man, whose greed makes him unwilling to part with anything he owns—including his money, wife, and daughter. Hanna’s lawyer is terrified of Roy, but has the sense to hire John Francis Cuddy, private detective, to protect Hanna during the negotiations. Cuddy doesn’t wait to get mean with Roy, and the result of his tough talk is clear as soon as they return to Hanna’s temporary residence: her daughter’s kitten slaughtered on the floor. Cuddy makes Roy pay for his vile behavior, humiliating the drug pusher in an attempt to set his wife free. But when Roy takes a headfirst dive out a hotel window, leaving behind a murdered prostitute and a missing shipment of cocaine, suspicion falls on Cuddy. To save his client’s life, Cuddy must put his own on the line.
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
By Jeremiah Healy
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1991 Jeremiah Healy
All rights reserved.
A breeze on a Thursday in June rustled the papers on my desk, but I was holding the only two pieces of afternoon mail that mattered. The first arrived in an envelope with the distinctive royal blue logo of the Boston Police, a reminder of my appointment at the department's pistol range the following Monday morning. In Massachusetts, you have to reapply every five years to retain a permit to carry a firearm, and in Boston that means requalifying on the targets. It's a good rule, and I called a friend of mine who's a police chief in the small suburban town of Bonham to see if he could meet me at his facility to practice. He and his wife were going away for the weekend, but he left word with the officer on duty to let me in on Saturday.
Next I read the annual form letter from the licensing section of the Department of Public Safety. It advised me that pursuant to General Laws, Chapter 147, Section 22, et seq., my present ticket as a private detective expired in forty-five days. Between now and then, I had to submit the enclosed application for renewal and accompanying paperwork.
I glanced over the renewal, my head telling me it was easier to fill it out now, my heart saying I was a little tired of playing with forms today. The liquid crystal on the cheap digital clock showed only 3:10, and my head won out.
Next to "Legal Name in Full," I block-printed "John Francis Cuddy." Above "Date of Birth," I told the truth. For residence, the Back Bay condo I was renting; for business address, the Tremont Street office with two windows and a door in which I was writing. The form for your original license has spaces to list similar prior employment, for me just the military police and the claims department of Empire Insurance. Neither form has a line for marital status, which saved my having to specify "widower."
I dated and signed the renewal, attesting separately to the truth of the statements and my honor as a taxpayer. Drawing a check for the $500 annual fee (and remembering when it was only $400), I called my surety company, getting their promise to send me a continuation of my $5,000 posted bond in exchange for another hundred bucks of premium. Then I went to the wall and took down my current license from the "conspicuous place" where the law requires it to be displayed. After my previous apartment/office had been hit by arson, I'd had to apply for a replacement certificate. Next to "Reason for Needing Replacement," I'd written "Burned out." Then I'd decided that sounded psychologically questionable and substituted "Destroyed by fire."
I turned the metal frame from Woolworth's glass-side down on my desk and niggled free the stubborn cardboard backing. I slid the license out and carried it down the hall to the nice receptionist in the CPA firm. She reminds me of aunts who bake cookies, and she photocopied the license for me when none of the accountants was looking.
Returning to my own office, I gathered up the junk mail that had blown off the desk in the draft I'd caused opening and closing the door. I put the original of the license back in the frame and on the wall. Paper-clipping the renewal to the rest of the documents, I dropped the package on top of the in box to await the bonding company's certificate.
This time, the clock said just 3:45. On a Thursday in June. A warm one at that. I thought about dialing Nancy Meagher at the district attorney's office, but I was already seeing her for dinner at her apartment in South Boston. We'd been back together, in my sense of the word, for only a few weeks, and I didn't want to push it. I also thought about driving to Southie a little early, but I'd visited the cemetery the day before, and Beth's hillside was just five blocks from Nancy's building.
I decided to lock up and go for a walk. Out into the sunshine across from the Park Street subway station at the corner of the Common. Past Old Granary Burial Ground, resting place of Samuel Adams and Paul Revere, where rubbings from the gravestones had to be prohibited because the copying also eradicates. Through Government Center, the utilitarian tower of the McCormack federal building in stark contrast to the massive, award-winning City Hall designed by I.M. Pei. And down into Quincy Market, Boston's refurbished waterfront, which has served as a model for a dozen such projects elsewhere.
The market area was vibrant as ever, the pillared and domed center building and cobblestoned walkways teeming with upscale urbanites drinking at the outdoor cafes and downscale tourists engaged in a perpetual feeding frenzy. You can hardly blame the tourists, given the variety of delights tactically placed around each corner they turn. Souvlaki stands, raw bars, fried dough counters. Mixed fruit on a stick, frozen yogurt atop a cone, shish kebab in a pita pouch. All elaborately festive and apparently successful, until you notice that a chocolate chip cookie costs as much as a loaf of bread in Omaha and that very few visitors wearing J.C. Penney shirts are toting bags from the tiny designer shops crammed into ten-by-twenty stalls.
I appreciate what the market area has done for the city, but I can take it only in small, infrequent doses. At least the folks there that afternoon were laughing and alive, which was more than I could say for many of the people I'd been around lately.
"What's that?" I said, looking down at the kitchen floor.
Nancy Meagher closed the apartment door behind me. "A friend of mine wanted to adopt a dog, so I went up with her to an animal shelter in Salem. When I saw this little fella, I knew there was something missing in my life."
The tiny kitten, a gray tiger with too-big paws and ears, just stared up at me.
Nancy said, "Don't you want to know his name?"
"I could never see naming something that doesn't come when you call it."
"Oh, John. You're going to love him. Isn't that right, Renfield?"
"Yes. Ring a bell?"
"In the Dracula movie with Bela Lugosi, Renfield is the Englishman who goes mad and begins eating small mammals for their blood."
I watched Renfield and wiggled my foot. He licked his chops and pounced, sinking his front claws and teeth into my sock, playing tug-of-war with the spandex.
"Why don't you two go into the living room. White wine okay?"
I dragged Renfield into Nancy's bay-windowed parlor and settled onto one of her throw pillows. Prying his grip off my foot, I hefted him in my palm. He was about the size and weight of a brandy snifter. He blinked at me once, then started gnawing on my thumb.
Nancy came in with our drinks. "Getting acquainted?"
"I think he senses you're running low on parakeets."
She set the glasses down and picked up a Ping-Pong ball. She tapped it with her fingernail, which got Renfield's immediate and undivided attention. Then she tossed it onto the hardwood floor at the edge of her rug. Renfield sprang from my hand and hit the ground with all legs pumping, catching up to the ball and whacking it till he and the ball skittered out of sight into the kitchen.
I reached for my drink and Nancy raised hers. We clinked as she said, "To a fresh start."
We cruised through the next half hour on simple, almost domestic small talk. I helped make a salad to go with the swordfish in the broiler, and we ate at her kitchen table. There was a persistent but erratic scratching at my pants cuff, like a determined novice lineman trying to climb his first telephone pole.
"Is it all right to feed him from the table?"
She smiled. "Softening already?"
I picked up a morsel of swordfish the size of my pinkie nail. "Just thinking of my wardrobe."
As soon as Renfield saw the treat, he sat up and begged. Well, as much as a cat will beg. I lightly dropped the food onto his nose, his pupils focusing crazily as he tentatively swatted and then gobbled it. I repeated the drill twice more.
"Why are you putting the food on his nose?"
"I like watching his eyes cross."
"Great," she said around a bite of tomato. "If the behaviorists are right, in two months I'll have a Siamese."
We finished dinner and moved into the parlor, dawdling over the rest of the wine as we watched the evening news. About halfway into the broadcast, the male anchor warned that the following scenes might not be suitable for young children. After a pause short enough to retain viewers but not long enough to shoo any kids out of the room, the female anchor introduced the videotape of a courthouse shoot-out involving me a few weeks before.
Nancy started to get up. "I'll change it."
She looked at me questioningly.
"No, Nance. I want to see it."
The video was disjointed, the camera operator near the witness stand obviously and understandably jumping and bumping the tripod as the gunfire erupted. The tape showed the situation from an angle I hadn't had in person.
Nancy said, "You're studying it, aren't you?"
I kept my eyes on the screen, the station rolling the footage in Sam Peckinpah slow motion. "Yes."
"To see if there was anything I could've done, anything I missed."
"So you're better next time?"
"In a manner of speaking." The program dissolved to a commercial. "Think it's crazy?"
"Yes. And no, I guess. I do the same thing after a trial, whether I get a conviction or not. I rerun the case in my head, to see if I can spot something I can use again. What I can't see is how you can do it when you were so emotionally involved."
"I can't explain it in words. It's more like I don't feel the emotion now, the incident separates from the lesson."
Nancy nodded, but I think less from being persuaded than from wanting to close the subject. To avoid her own similar memories of a wintery night in the graveyard around the corner. Instead she came over to me, resting her head on my shoulder.
I said, "You know, you're the best thing that's happened to me in years."
She moved her face very slowly, left to right, nuzzling me softly just above the collar. "I'd like to be more than that."
I tilted my head back just enough to see her. Bangs of short black hair and freckles sprinkled just right against a field of widely spaced blue eyes. "If our luck holds out, I think you're going to be."
"Would the smart money be on tonight?"
I sighed, and Nancy went back to my neck, where she pecked me once and said, "I didn't think so."
"No." She pulled away, a little sheepish. "I'm sorry, I keep doing that. I meant that no, I understand. I was just looking for a status report, not trying to put on any pressure."
"I know. And I appreciate it."
She put both her hands on my shoulders and squeezed. "Boy, I just hope we're both worth waiting for."
We laughed. I said, "How about dinner tomorrow?"
A frown. "I can't. I promised a friend of mine from New York that I'd fly down on the shuttle tomorrow afternoon and stay the weekend with her."
"I'll pick you up at your office, and we can eat at Locke Ober's."
"Percy Plunger. Are we celebrating?"
She smiled. "Make it about six-fifteen. Whenever I break away early on a Friday, things pile up."
After the network news, I kissed Nancy goodnight and drove home to the eight-unit brownstone on Beacon Street. I parked my Fiat 124 in the assigned space behind the building, the lamp pole's light supposedly discouraging the car strippers that are a constant of downtown living. A couple of years ago, our state legislature passed a Home Defense bill, which basically gives a resident the right to shoot an intruder who the resident believes might cause serious injury or death. Now some of the gentry wanted a Blaupunkt Defense bill, which would allow the owner of a BMW to shoot any thirteen-year-old breaking into the car for the radio. I wouldn't bet against it.
Walking around to the front of my building, I got my mail from the entrance foyer and climbed the stairs to the condo. My landlord, a doctor on a two-year residency program in Chicago, had decorated the place with Scandinavian Design furniture. In daytime, the pieces were cheerily set off by the ultraviolet rays flooding through the seven living room windows. Now, however, I had to use the lights.
My home answering machine glowed one message in fluorescent green-on-black. I rewound the incoming cassette while I called my office answering service. The service said a friend of mine from college, a lawyer in Peabody, needed to speak with me. He was on the tape too as it replayed.
"John, Chris Christides. Jeez, I hate these things, you know, you never know how much ... Anyway, they had you on the news, from the courtroom thing again. I'm in kind of a tight spot with one of my cases tomorrow, and I'd really appreciate your giving me a call tonight, anytime. Thanks."
I hadn't seen Chris in maybe four years. He was a third-string offensive guard on our Holy Cross team back when ability and heart meant a little more than size. He was only about five nine, but at two hundred he hit like a bowling ball with legs, blocking on sweep plays and specialty teams. Dialing his number, I thought also, and painfully, about his wife, Eleni.
"Hello?" said a familiar accented woman's voice.
"Yes? Who is this?"
Her words were more slurred than I remembered, but only a little more. A good sign, I hoped.
"Eleni, it's John Cuddy. Chris called me."
"Oh, John! It is good to hear the voice. How are you?"
"I'm well, thanks."
"John, I know Chris need to see you, but he is not here now. Can you come his office tomorrow, nine o'clock?"
"Do you have any idea what it's about?"
"No. I know Chris is very worried on this case, and if he talk to you, he could tell why."
I thought of asking her to have Chris call me back, but then I pictured her, the way she looked the last time I'd seen her, and pushed away an image of what further progression of the multiple sclerosis had done to her by now. "I'll be there. He still in the building on Lowell Street near the courthouse?"
"No, no. He give that up, John. He have the office here in the house now. We fix up the garage."
I caught myself estimating mentally what Beth's last few months with the cancer would have done to our finances without Empire's hospital plan. I didn't want to think how Eleni's illness might have drained them. She gave me directions I half recognized, and we said good-bye.
Talking with her on the phone had quashed most of the good spirits left over from dinner with Nancy. I read more bad news in the New York Times for another hour or so, then went to bed early.CHAPTER 2
I was up by 6:30, thumping over Storrow Drive on the Fairfield footbridge by 7:00. I headed downstream, favoring the waterside path over the roadside one.
People who say they can't stand running must never have jogged along the Charles River. I passed the giant layered bust of Arthur Fiedler, the late conductor of the Boston Pops. The mustached granite face eternally watches the Hatch Shell stage from across the field where thousands, over half a million at Fourth of July, would cheer for the orchestra and him. Near a scullers' boathouse, I almost collided with Robert Urich, practicing a firing stance with his .45 while filming a "Spenser for Hire" sequence on location. In the water, geese were landing, mallards were swimming and cormorants were diving. What more can you ask from a sport?
I forded the river courtesy of the Museum of Science and turned upstream on the Cambridge side, recrossing at the Massachusetts Avenue bridge. I went in the Bildner's food emporium near Commonwealth for muffins and orange juice. Back on the street, I saw a throng of well-dressed office workers waiting outside a shuttered video store. The air was chilly, and they were stamping around, flapping their arms and checking their watches like a line of addicts outside a methadone clinic.
At the condo, I showered, shaved, and debated what to wear. When I was an investigator at Empire, I talked with another classmate in Legal about throwing some simple cases Chris's way. Unfortunately, Chris was the kind of lawyer that dressed in nubby polyester sports jackets and ill-matched slacks. His files were coffee-stained and never contained the right documents in the proper order. In the words of the guy in Legal, it was one thing to wish Chris well but quite another to refer him an insured as a client.
I rummaged through the closet. While I didn't want to outshine Chris by wearing a suit, I also figured there was at least a chance I'd have to be in court with him that morning. I pulled out gray slacks, a blue blazer, and a conservative striped tie.
Excerpted from Swan Dive by Jeremiah Healy. Copyright © 1991 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
Over the last few months, I've become addicted to Jeremiah Healy's John Francis Cuddy series, a Boston-based P.I. Each book in the 13 story series is an entertaing, page-turning suspense novel with a hero that that makes it tough not to root for him. SWAN DIVE is no exception. Written in the late 80's, its plot of cocaine dealers and crooked lawyers is fitting for its time, but not yet dated. There are plenty of coverups and twists, making it a great whodunnit with an ending that is well worth the read. The Cuddy series has yet to disappoint me and I would recommend them to anyone. Although a series, they do not have to be read in order, but once you read one, like me you'll want to go back and start from the beginning. There's nothing groundbreaking here, just enjoyable, well-written mysteries by a clever author.