A reporter hires Cuddy to investigate her source’s suspicious deathAccording to its daily paper, Nasharbor is an idyllic seaside hamlet. But reporter Jane Rust knows better. Investigating a raid on a child pornography ring, she uncovers a web of police corruption built to protect the sickos behind the camera. She writes a story that should blow the lid off the Nasharbor police, but her editors scrub it clean of any reference to corruption, calling her accusations unfounded. Soon after, the cop who tipped her off to the story is dead. Rust hires Boston PI John Francis Cuddy to look into the murder and the cover-up. But prodding small-town cops is like kicking a hornet’s nest. By the end of his investigation, more good people will die, and Cuddy will wish he had never heard of sunny, tranquil Nasharbor.
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 © 1990 Jeremiah Healy
All rights reserved.
Elie said, "Now, you lift, John. Take two seconds, two seconds. Good. Now lower. Take four. Remember, count of two when you lift, count of four when you lower."
"Now again. Two up ... four down. Try to hold it for one second at the top. That's it."
This time I didn't answer him.
"Again. Two ... one ... four. You're jerking the weight a little. Try to be smoother."
"Two. Better. One. Now four. Except for the pause at the top, the muscles respond better when you lift and lower in a continuous motion."
Six more repetitions.
"Okay, stop. That was good, John, very good."
Kneading the knots just above my knees, I looked up at the mirrored wall reflecting Elie standing and me sitting, strapped into the leg machine.
He said, "How do the quadriceps feel?"
"Like I just had surgery on them."
Elie laughed the way they did before the time of troubles in his native Lebanon. "That's normal. This Nautilus equipment, it tells you about muscles you haven't used for a while."
Trim and tanned, he shifted a clipboard to his other hand, penciling an entry on the chart he'd begun for me. "John Francis Cuddy. You're what, about six-three?"
"Guy as big as you and your age, you're in pretty good shape already. What kind of work do you do?"
"It's not like they paint it on TV. For conditioning, I've mostly been running."
"What kind of distance?"
"Maybe three to five miles, three times a week."
"That's okay. Don't have to do more unless you're in training for something." He secured the pencil under the clip. "Next machine is the leg curl."
I lay flat on my stomach, knees just off the edge of the long, horizontal slat. I gripped the handles under the slat for stability, hooking the backs of my ankles under the padded rollers.
"You're going to use the hamstrings here like they were biceps, to bring the roller up, touching it to your buttocks if you can. Try it."
I did. "Too much weight, Elie."
"I'll drop it ten pounds." He fiddled at the front of the machine. "Now try."
I was able to do eight repetitions, faltering halfway up on the ninth.
"Good," he said, writing it down. "We go for twelve reps at the given weight each time, but as long as you can do at least eight, don't decrease the weight. Force your muscles to failure each time, each machine."
Elie put me through seven more machines, several of which had two functions. By the end, my tee shirt was drenched and draining into the elastic band of my gym shorts. He guided me to the front desk.
"We keep the air-conditioning on low. Better to work up a good sweat than risk a bad chill."
"I can believe the sweat part."
He reached beneath the desk and took out a rate sheet. "You get used to it. The designer of the system, he made each machine different, to make each muscle perform the way he wants. You come in three, four times a week. Always give yourself at least forty-eight hours' recovery time for the muscles between workouts. A lot of runners tell me they work out better if they run first, then do Nautilus." He positioned the rate sheet so that I could see the different periods and payments covered.
I said, "How about six months to start with?"
"Fine, but a year saves you money. Also, we can maybe work out a family plan. You married?"
I thought of Beth and almost said "widowed." Instead, I completed the paperwork as a single and went into the locker room to shower and change.
Elie's facility is three blocks from the condo I was renting in Boston's Back Bay. Nancy Meagher was coming over for dinner that night. I had two hours until a 2:00 P.M. client appointment at the office, so I stopped at one of the high-quality, higher-priced yuppie emporiums on the way home.
I picked up a pound and a half of filet mignon, a beefsteak tomato, and a fresh French baguette. At the cash register, the clerk rang it in and then whistled softly. "That'll be $25.28."
"Nope. It's the filet. Really runs it up."
I handed him three tens. He said, "I'll give you the receipt. So that your friends will believe you really paid that much for their dinner."
"Don't bother. I was here and I don't believe it."
Walking back to the condo, I felt loose and relaxed, as though I'd just had a soothing massage. I expected significant stiffness the next day.
The parking lot behind the building looked empty without my Fiat 124 in it. I hadn't liked the way the steering was fading, and the engine was running rough, so I had taken it over to Arnie's Garage that morning.
Retrieving my mail from the community lockbox in the brownstone's foyer, I climbed the stairs to the second-floor unit owned by a doctor on a two-year residency in Chicago. The apartment was bright, even in the deflected sunshine, thanks to seven stained-glass windows across its southern wall. My landlord's teak and burlap furniture lent a classy yet homey touch to the place.
I put the filet in the refrigerator and tried to straighten things a little. I'm more an Oscar than a Felix, but this was going to be Nancy's first time at my place, and I was nervous about her reaction to it. Or, to be honest, my reaction to her staying over.
The telephone rang. I sank into the couch and answered it. "John Cuddy."
"John, this is Arnie."
"Great. You have my estimate?"
"Yeah. You sitting down?"
"Better lie down."
"A one and a five with—"
"What the hell can be that wrong with a fourteen-year-old car?"
"Jesus, John, with a fourteen-year-old car there ain't much that's still right. You got a steering column with arthritis, an engine block with the emphysema there ..."
When Doctor Doom finished his list, I said, "What are my options?"
"None. Scrap the Fiat's what I'd do."
"Arnie, where's your soul?"
"You want soul, soul costs fifteen hundred. You want brains, bag the coupe and get something that'll last you."
"Well ... yeah. I got this Honda Prelude, 'eighty-two. Last year of their earlier model. Silver with red seats, only thirty thousand miles on it. Stockbroker out in Lincoln used it as his station car, but the silly fuck can't drive a shift anymore on account of he cracked his leg skiing in Utah last month."
"Skiing in May?"
"Yeah. Deserves it, don't he?"
"How much for the Fiat?" I said.
"You mean the Honda?"
"No, I mean how much will you give me as trade-in on the Fiat?"
"Trade-in? Tell you what, I won't charge you a dime for diagnosing this terminally ill shitbox of yours I got standing in the corner of my garage, and I'll give you the Prelude for three and a half."
"Thirty-five hundred dollars?"
"That's right. It's mint, oughta be in a glass case somewheres instead—"
"I'll have to get back to you, Arnie."
"By tomorrow, okay? I gotta get your Typhoid Mary outta here before it infects the cars around it."
I took out the checkbook. The infusion of cash from my old apartment being burned was down to six thousand and change. God knew what the jump in insurance might be for the "new" car. The rent due on the condo and the check I'd just given Elie would wipe out the money coming in from existing cases.
I hoped the potential client at 2:00 P.M. was solvent. If not, I might have to return the filet.
I looked up from my desk at the woman in the doorway. I'd left the door open to encourage cross-ventilation from the two windows behind me in the office, my air conditioner being on the fritz again.
"Ms. Rust, come in."
About five-four in low heels, she wore a gray skirt and a blue blazer. Her hair was light brown and would have been long if she didn't part it in the center and pull it back into a bun. Her eyeglasses were big and round, her shoulder bag the size of a briefcase. As she approached me, I could see she used a little too much makeup, as though she were twenty-five and insecure trying very hard to look thirty-five and confident.
We shook hands, and she sat across from me. "Professor Katzen said you were a good detective."
It was hard for me to imagine anyone calling Mo Katzen at the Herald anything but a dinosaur reporter, but I said, "I hope I'll be able to help you."
"Did he ... did he tell you why I need help?"
"No. He just telephoned and left a message that a Jane Rust might be contacting me. Other than your call setting up this appointment, I don't know anything."
She nodded, as though the absence of prior information meant she could somehow speak more freely. "I'm a reporter, Mr. Cuddy. On the Nasharbor Beacon. Are you familiar with it?"
Her accent said central midwest, but she pronounced the seaport like a lifelong resident. Nush-ar-burr.
"I don't think I've ever seen the paper. Nasharbor's just south of Fall River, right?"
"Between Fall River and the Rhode Island border. Population 125,000, most of them conservative, working class, and Catholic. Portuguese fishing poor, Irish industrial poor."
Rust spoke in a podium voice, as though she expected me to challenge her demographics.
I said, "Does the paper figure into this?"
"Yes and no. Do you know much about newspapers?"
"Just through Mo/Professor Katzen."
"Well, the Beacon is a typical small city daily with typical attitudes about who to protect and expose. It doesn't like its reporters looking into certain things."
"Pornography. Not pleasant, but also not illegal."
She sucked in her cheeks and said, "How about kiddie porn, Mr. Cuddy. That strikes even the Supreme Court as illegal."
"Kiddie porn in Nasharbor. Is this what we're talking about here?"
"Look, do you want to hear what my problem is or don't you?"
"I'm sorry. Why don't you tell me without my interrupting."
Rust took a deep breath and broke eye contact. "About three months ago, I was covering a Saturday night. They give the younger ... the newer reporters the weekends. There was a state police raid just outside the city limits. The staties turned up some videocassettes and 'photo essays.' The weekend editor was swamped, and I volunteered to go out on the story. I interviewed one of the men they arrested, and he told me that a Nasharbor cop was on the take and had protected the clearinghouse for all the stuff."
When she didn't continue, I said, "Did the Beacon ever run your story?"
She laughed, a bitter edge on it. "Sure. They ran a story under my byline about how the state police had busted up a ring of porn peddlers at the outskirts of Nasharbor and wasn't it wonderful that all this filth hadn't penetrated the best little city on the eastern seaboard."
"What about the corruption angle?"
"They buried it. Said they wouldn't print it unless I revealed my confidential source."
That didn't sound right. "The paper wouldn't run the story without the name of the guy you talked to in it?"
"No, no. The editor wouldn't run the story without me telling him, that editor, the name of the source."
I watched her for a minute.
"What's the matter?" she said.
"I guess I'm thinking that if I'm the editor involved, I might want to know your source's name before I let fly at the local cops."
The cheeks imploded again. "Maybe I'm wasting my time here."
"Ms. Rust, I just don't see where I fit in."
She toned down. "He's dead."
"My source. They killed him to shut him up."
"Who killed him?"
Her eyes glowed fanatically. "The cops, who else?"
Uh-oh. "Ms. Rust, cops don't—"
"I am wasting my time."
"Ms. Rust, hear me out, okay? Reciprocal courtesy?"
She folded her arms but remained rigid in the chair. Rust was going to hear me out alright. She just wasn't going to listen. I decided to give it a try anyway.
"Cops don't have to kill people like your source to shut them up. Guys like your source are usually involved in action the cops know about. It's risky to kill somebody, especially when there's a motive to kill. It's a lot safer just to pressure the guy, tell him if he rolls over on us, we turn up some new 'evidence' and nail him for something that sends him away for heavy time. Like maybe to Walpole State Prison or Cedar Junction or whatever the hell they call it now, where all sorts of bad things happen to guys who rat on other people."
She smiled sarcastically. "You said 'we.'"
"When you were talking about cops just now, you used 'we' and 'us.' You identify with them, don't you?"
"I was military police, and I've worked with all kinds of law enforcement over the years. I suppose I do identify with them. That doesn't mean I think they're all good scouts. It does mean I don't easily see even the bad scouts doing something stupid."
She unfolded her arms and hunched forward. "Look, Mr. Cuddy, I've gotten no support on this. None! From anyone! My editor thinks I'm a loose cannon, I can't sleep, my personal life's a mess. All I want to do, all I ever wanted to do, is be a good reporter, and now you won't help me either."
Rust turned sideways, snatching off the glasses with her left hand and clamping the right to her face to dam the tears. I opened three drawers before I found the Kleenex box I knew I'd bought weeks ago. I pushed it toward her. She crumpled one, then came back for another. The tears and tissues savaged her mascara.
Putting her glasses back on, she said, "I need somebody to look into the man's death, Mr. Cuddy. I understand it'll cost money, but I owe him that much."
She looked up at me with the defiant dignity of a high school girl who doesn't have a date for the prom but decides to go anyway. Wrecked makeup and all, it gave her a surprising air of attraction.
"Please, call me Jane."
"Jane. I'm not saying I'll accept the case. Police anywhere take a dim view of a private investigator poking into a killing. But I'm willing to hear more first if you're willing to tell it."
She nodded. "The head porno guy is named Gotbaum. I can write all this out for you with first names and addresses and all. My source ... my source's name was Coyne, Charlie Coyne. He was kind of a messenger, carrying some of the stuff. He ... they found him in an alley behind one of the bars in the part of town ... the part we call The Strip. Kind of like your Combat Zone up here."
"Topless bars, peep shows, that kind of thing?"
"Right, right. When the city fathers, and I emphasize the gender, decided that it would cost more to close them down than hem them in, a decision was made to sacrifice three blocks down near the cannery. It was called The Strip long before I ever came to town."
"When was that?"
"When you came to town."
"Oh, about two years ago. I worked in Florida, then South Carolina, then New Jersey before I came up here."
I thought it sounded like a lot of stops for someone so young, but I let it go. "How was Coyne killed?"
Rust bit her lip, and then I thought the tears might be back on the way. "Knifed. And robbed. Hagan said Charlie was mugged by a derelict and closed the book on it."
"He's the detective captain. In line for chief."
"And you don't believe him because
She regained a little fire. "I don't believe him because his ex-partner is a guy named Schonstein, or 'Schonsy,' as he is affectionately called." Rust made the last sound like the deepest insult one could inflict. "And, surprise, surprise, guess who the cop is that Coyne told me was on the take?"
"Right. But not Schonsy."
"I don't get you."
"The cop with his hand out is Detective Mark Schonstein. Schonsy's son. Hagan's old partner's son. Smell anything now?"
"Schonsy Senior still on the force?"
"Retired. Disability pension a while ago."
"And you figure one of the cops killed Coyne to keep him from ..."
"From talking to me."
"But he'd already talked to you, right? The night of the raid, I mean?"
"Yes, but I kept after him on it. I wanted to have a story so well documented that even the cops couldn't sweep it under the rug. And if my editor wouldn't run it, I'd find somebody who would."
"How did the cops know that Coyne was your source?"
"I don't know. That's one of the things I need you to find out."
When I didn't go on, Rust fidgeted. Finally I said, "Who did you tell, Jane?"
She shook her head.
"Come on. How am I supposed to find the leak if you won't—"
"I can't, I just can't! I have to know if one of them ... I have to know without telling you. It probably wasn't even professional to tell ... Look, if I was ... if Charlie was betrayed that way, I want to know you found it out independently. Don't you see?"
Excerpted from Yesterday's News by Jeremiah Healy. Copyright © 1990 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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