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Authors: Warren Adler

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BOOK: Immaculate Deception
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She felt Greg stir beside her.

"Tell him to fuck off," he said. Apparently, he
had gotten the full import of the conversation from Fiona's reactions.

"Wait'll you hear, FitzGerald," the Eggplant
said.

"It's sadistic," Fiona snapped, although she knew
that there was no reprieve. The Eggplant rarely backtracked.

"One of your tribe, a congresswoman. Name of Frances
McGuire." He waited for her reaction.

"Talk about stereotyping people," she sighed,
knowing, of course, what he meant. A woman, Irish and, more to the point, a
politician. "My father was a senator, remember." It struck her as
facetious. But it probably reinforced his perspective that Frances McGuire was,
indeed, a member of Fiona's tribe.

"Tell the bastard to wait till Monday for
chrissakes," Greg said. He had raised himself on one elbow and started
twirling the nipple of her left breast. She let him for a moment, then slapped
his hand away.

"Murder?"

Harper's Ferry, once such a compelling idea, faded quickly.
She would have to pick another time to do the deed.

"That or suicide. We're not sure. Blake and Harris are
on the scene. I'm leaving in a minute. It's your meat and I want you on it,
FitzGerald. You call Cates and shake your ass."

"Where?"

"4000 Mass. Avenue. Apart. 4J."

She was already off the bed, standing naked in the faint
morning chill, locked into the idea, no longer the reluctant dragon. A
prominent congresswoman. Nothing routine about this one.

"Christ, Fiona. This is not just an intrusion on
your
time. What about me? And our weekend?" She put a hand over the mouthpiece
and offered a hurried explanation.

"I'm sorry as hell, Greg. We've got a dead
congressman." She paused and smiled to herself. "Woman," she
added. "Congresswoman." Normally, she rebuked fellow cops who made
the error, less on principle than to razz their machismo. "Feeemale, sans
Johnson, bro," she would tease. She looked at the pouting Greg and
shrugged apologetically.

"Give the stud a raincheck, FitzGerald," the
Eggplant quipped. "And move it. We want to get there before any press
party."

He hung up. What he meant, of course, was that he was going
precisely because there was bound to be a press party. The Eggplant, ever the
thespian, loved the role. Probably dressed to the ears in his brown striped
Sunday suit, shoes spit-shined, white shirt crisp, shiny gold tie clip pulling
together a high collar over a red silk tie. Hambone, she smirked.

"Only good legislators are the dead ones," Greg
said moodily.

She wasn't sure whether this remark was meant to be cranky
dark humor generated by pique or serious political comment. She decided on the
former.

"That's a sickee, Greg."

"I was speaking figuratively," he muttered.
"Who was the lucky lady?"

"Frances McGuire."

His reaction surprised her.

"Frankie McGuire," Greg mulled, shaking his head.
His face contorted into a sardonic smile which puzzled her. "So the bitch
bought it."

"You knew her?"

He seemed to be smirking. His reaction was baffling.

"Only in passing, which was more than enough."
She caught the hate in his voice. "Holy Roller, papist variety."

"My, the man is cryptic this morning," she said.
"You're talking gibberish."

"Right-to-Lifer, baby." He reached out and patted
her on the belly. "If it was up to them, you don't own this anymore. Plant
the seed of mankind in there and you're just a meat wagon. Only you're not
allowed to drive it yourself until the goods are delivered."

"What the hell are you talking about, Greg?"

"The corpse. Lady Goody-Good-Good. Abortion, Fi."
His vehemence shocked her, a real rant.

"That's politics. Not a motive," Fiona said.

"That was my wife Amy's big number. The Right-to-Life.
High sounding right? Moralistic. Self-righteous. God's work. Save the child. I
lived it all. Frankie was a combat general. Amy, a battalion commander."

Normally, Greg kept his enmity toward his wife repressed
most of the time. But occasionally the vitriol would spill over and seep out of
him like stagnating pus.

"Ticks me off," he sighed. He made a motion as if
he were symbolically brushing away the idea of it.

"I'd never have known," Fiona said, ruffling his
hair, trying placation.

"Stay away from causes," he said, grabbing her
fingers, kissing them, making an effort to recover their sexy loving mood.

"This is Washington, land of the cause of the month,"
she said, hoping the way she said it would lighten his mood. He continued to
kiss her fingers, but she could see his thoughts were drifting and he looked
pained and vulnerable.

"Fanaticism is corrosive, Fi. It eats away at a
person. I lived with it. A bitch, I tell you, a real downer. I saw how it
changed Amy. Forced vindictive reactions in me." He shook his head.
"After awhile even the pros and cons of the issue become obscured by the
obsession." Looking up at her, he reached out and embraced her around the
waist with both arms. She could feel the sprouts of his morning beard against
her flesh as she caressed his face.

"I get low marks on organized causes," Fiona
said. "And in my business I have only one cause."

"What's that?"

"The truth. That's as lofty as I get."

She pecked him on the cheek and maneuvered herself out of
his embrace. Then she moved with a saucy swing of her hips into the bathroom.
Jumping into the shower, she turned on the spigots, getting under the spray
before the temperature was comfortable.

"Ouch."

Greg was beside her under the shower just as she got the
taps right.

"Somebody really murder her?" he asked.

The Eggplant had said he wasn't sure, that it could be
suicide. But murder meant bigger grosses publicity-wise and greater glory. For
her as well. A suicide was a one-shot.

"Apparently there's some doubt about it," Fiona
replied, lathering the soap bar. "That's my job, Greg. Get at the
skinny."

She got a good lather going and began spreading it over her
arms. He grew suddenly reflective.

"Funny if they actually got to her, rubbed her out.
What gorgeous irony." She stopped soaping and looked at him directly.
"Some pro-choicer who got carried away. Show the world there's a real war
going on." He stuck his head into the shower stream. "Which side are
you on?"

"The side of justice," she said with mock
pomposity. On that issue, her defense mechanism was to straddle the political
issue. Aborting her own child would be a trauma. Perhaps it is for all women.
Beyond that, she refused to be judgmental.

He took the soap from her and started to lather her up. She
let him. It felt too good.

"Now that's a cause I can really get into," she
murmured, playfully biting an earlobe. He was soaping her in all the right
places. She took the bar from him and began to lather him where it counted.

"At least I know where you stand," she murmured.

"And I demand to be heard," he whispered placing
his tight athletic body where it would do the most good.

2

Blake and Harris were both scowling at her. A black odd
couple, Blake was fat and sloppy, his clothes always two sizes too small,
emphasizing his bulges. A huge tire of flesh hung over his low slung belt.
Harris was thin, ascetic looking, with tiny mice eyes and a patch of moustache
like Adolf Hitler's. He looked sinister while Blake normally wore a jolly face.
When they weren't torn by jealousy and hate, they were the perfect good guy,
bad guy pair.

"The white princess gets the caviar," Harris
snarled.

"Not my idea, bro," Fiona said, offering a smile.
She could understand their attitude.

"Eggplant's orders," Cates said in his lilting
Trinidadian English. Like her, he was a department mismatch with his jet black
shiny skin pulled tight over Caucasian features. Barely thirty with a degree in
criminology, he was marked Uncle Tom by appearances. He was still struggling
with winning respect on the basis of sheer competence and brains.

"Anyway, it ain't caviar. Just plain grits. The lady
iced herself," Blake said, showing a big shiny smile.

She offered no response and walked into the bedroom where
the Eggplant, dressed exactly as predicted, was conferring with Flanagan who
ran the technical team. But her eyes quickly concentrated on the bed where the
inert form of Frances McGuire lay in mock slumber. Her body, though, was positioned
for sitting, pillows propped, the quilt drawn neatly to her waist, its edges
tucked under the mattress. Her large full breasts jutted out under the bodice
of a lacy nightgown. She was not centered on the bed, more to the left,
probably to catch a better light from the lamp on the night table.

Coming closer, Fiona's nostrils quivered, picking up the
smell of wine and she noted a puckering of the quilt near her left hand, as if
something had spilled and dried. Fiona sketched a mental image in her mind.

The woman had one of those very Irish faces, light reddish
hair, sprinkles of reddish freckles everywhere on her face and arms. Fiona was
certain that the rest of her body was also covered with similar constellations.
The skin on the face had a curious polished look. Her nose was snubbed and,
although they could not be seen, Fiona was certain that her eyes were green.
This was a genuine redhead. Looking closer at the neatly brushed short-bobbed
hair, she could see the beginnings of grey among the radishy untinted strands.

Age, she figured, somewhere around late forties, although
she looked years younger.

The Eggplant approached the bed and held up a glass encased
in a plastic envelope.

"Probably cynanide. Has an almondy smell," the
Eggplant said.

"You think suicide?" Fiona asked.

"No way," a voice boomed, directing her gaze to a
darkened corner. A rotund man rose from a chair. He was balding with a chinless
face, all fat, with no neck visible. Instantly she was reminded of a childhood
toy, a Shmoo, fat and weighted at the bottom. Impossible to kick over. She
chuckled at the sudden recall of this random image.

He needed a shave and had large buck teeth that made him
seem as if he were perpetually offering a smile. As he moved toward her, she
noted that he was one of those people whose fat grew only in front. From the
rear, he probably looked like a thin man.

"This is Harlan Foy, the congresswoman's
administrative assistant."

Fiona put out her hand. The man ignored it.

"I can't believe it. She had everything to live for.
Besides, I was with her until seven last night. We had a speech scheduled on
the floor Monday. It's, it's just so unbelievable."

The man was sweating profusely, his puddled chins
quivering.

"People's minds snap," Fiona said, remembering
scores of other explanations to unbelieving friends and relatives. She turned
to the Eggplant.

"No note?"

"You see," Foy said. "That proves it."

"Sometimes it turns up in the mail in a letter to a
close relative or the authorities, often the police." Fiona observed the
woman's hands, which looked like they had been sculpted in wax. There was a
wedding ring on the finger of her left hand, a simple gold band. "Or to a
husband. Or a child."

"She did not kill herself. I'd stake my life on
it," Foy said.

"One death is quite enough," Fiona said,
instantly regretting the rejoinder. She must curb these little wisecracks, she
rebuked herself, keep them inside. No sense offending people needlessly. Cates
had shot her his Mother Hen look of admonishment. The Eggplant shrugged above
it all. He wouldn't have been here in the first place if he hadn't smelled
press. They'd be here, sure enough, at just about the time the body was being
hauled away. Information seepage. She always marvelled at the timing. Hoping
for a clear case of murder, she knew he was disappointed.

"It is our job to determine," the Eggplant said
with an unmistakable air of rebuke. Also an obvious twinge of disappointment.

"We don't jump to conclusions," Fiona said, true
to the tribal instinct. When attacked from outside, the Homicide Division
circled the wagons. The subtext here was that the poor bastard was a very
unreliable source. By taking her life, Frankie had fired him. Worse, she had
done it without consulting him, hardly the proper behavior for a member of
Congress toward her administrative assistant.

"It was Mr. Foy who called us," the Eggplant
said, offering a tiny sop to compassion.

Foy nodded, chins quivering like pale gelatin. The effort
seemed to wind him and he suddenly turned ashen.

"Why not sit down in the other room, Mr. Foy,"
Fiona told him. "We'd like to talk to you in a few moments." She had,
after all, been assigned by the Eggplant to supervise the crime scene. This
meant absolute take-charge and despite the boss's presence that was exactly what
she intended to do.

Foy, forlorn and bent, like a man twice his age, shuffled
out of the room, but gathered enough strength to throw them an exit line.

"No way it was suicide," he muttered.

Blake and Harris had followed her into the room, watching
the byplay with Foy as they slumped against the walls as Flanagan's boys went
about their professional business, gathering potential evidence, dusting for
prints, taking photographs of the crime scene. A uniformed cop was posted at
the door.

She turned toward Blake and Harris who looked at each
other. Since the boss was present, they had little choice other than to pull
out their notebooks. Blake began.

"Harris and I arrived at the scene at five-thirty. Foy
had called fifteen minutes earlier from the apartment."

"This apartment?" Fiona asked.

Blake's leer told her her answer. The Eggplant seated
himself on the chair vacated by Foy and listened. After all, he needed to bone
up for his impending television appearance.

"You don't mean to imply that they were lovers?"
Cates asked. A year under his belt and still impetuous, Fiona sighed. Blake had
looked at him with the contempt an old pro reserved for a perceived amateur.

"He probably had a key," Fiona piped, choosing to
give Cates the put-down herself. "Perfectly logical. AA's are everything
to a congressman. Chief honcho, valet, bottle washer, rabbi, the whole nine
yards."

"Foy had gotten a call from the congresswoman's
husband, John J. McGuire, a contractor in Boston. Couldn't get the wife on the
phone. Called all night. Called Foy twice. Foy had dropped her off at the
apartment building the night before. Finally, when McGuire called again, Foy
got worried and came up here. The guard in the lobby knew him and he let
himself in and found this." Blake pointed vaguely to the body. "We
found her just as you see her, except that the wineglass has been
removed."

"The one I showed you," the Eggplant said.
Flanagan's boys would have taken their pictures exactly as the scene had looked
before anything was touched.

"Then you got here," Harris hissed, meaning that
he and Blake had put everything on hold. "You got it now, white
princess."

"Hey, Harris," the Eggplant said. "None of
that here."

"You know what I mean," he muttered.

"Go play with your Johnson," Fiona sneered,
hurling it at him. She had learned how to deal with these men. Good men with
fragile egos, conditioned to the female put-down. Work was a good place to get
even with what they got at home and from the beginning she had had to fight
back. She was a prime target, a white upper class woman, a honky princess.
Later she would have to have a talk with both Harris and Blake, bring them
back, restore egos. Cupping their Johnsons, both men pimp-walked away showing
their contempt for her.

When they had gone, the Eggplant stood up, pointed a finger
at Fiona's nose.

"You wire me in on everything, FitzGerald. Everything.
I want to know all theories. I want to be apprised. You get it?" He lapsed
deliberately into black talk. "Apprahzed" was the way he drawled it.

"Apprahzed," she mimicked.

He ignored the mimicry and turned to look at the dead
woman, studying her as he rubbed his chin. He was, of course, easy to satirize,
with his obvious ego, his love of publicity, his sometimes toadying reaction to
harassment by those above him in rank, his insistence on absolute loyalty,
fealty and protection by those in his command below his rank and his naked
ambition to be police commissioner which explained everything else.

At times he could be so transparent it was infuriating. He
knew, of course, that he was called "the Eggplant" behind his back
and it probably puzzled him as much as them.

In fact, he had the one talent without which a homicide cop
was functionally a detective illiterate. He had instinct. And he had it in
awesome abundance. She could tell it was operating at full throttle now as he
studied the dead woman. Finally, he shook his head.

"Not what it seems," he muttered.

"Maybe," she said, offering no judgment but
glancing at Cates whose expression told her clearly that he did not agree with
the Eggplant's assessment.

"There has never been a murder of a congressman within
the boundaries of the District of Columbia in the history of the
Republic," the Eggplant mused.

"You really think murder?" Her eyes cut to the
dead woman in the bed.

"You tell me, FitzGerald," he shrugged. "The
ball is in your court." She felt butterflies of doubt flutter in her
stomach.

The absence of a note beside the body left open a small
window of speculation. Every homicide rookie learns in his first week that not
all suicides leave notes, although those who took poison averaged out the
statistics of say, jumpers, who were the least prone to give their reasons for
checking out on life.

Certainly it had all the obvious earmarks of suicide. Like
most women, Frankie, as she referred to her now in her mind, had groomed
herself for her planned exit. Combed hair, clean nightgown primly drawn to her
ankles, a neatly made bed, no clothing carelessly discarded, the room spotless
and neat. What about her own detective instincts? Fiona wondered. So far no
messages received. Not yet. Give it time, she assured herself.

On cue, just as Flanagan wrapped, a uniformed policeman
came in to tell the Eggplant that the press were in the lobby.

"Done?" the Eggplant asked rising from his chair,
beginning the preening process.

"Fini," Flanagan said. "And the meat wagon
awaits downstairs," he added. He'd been on enough murder scenes to know
how to set the props for the Eggplant. Show the body being wheeled into the
ambulance. Good picture opportunity for the lead-in.

The Eggplant straightened his tie, drew back his shoulders
and patted his jacket. Fiona turned to allow him a private look in the mirror.
The technicians from the ambulance brought in a wheeled stretcher and
skillfully transferred the body, covered it and strapped it down.

"Benton been notified?" Fiona asked Flanagan,
referring to the medical examiner, who was also her closest friend in the
department.

"He's sharpening his knives."

She smiled at Flanagan then winked as the Eggplant strutted
toward the door. His was not quite a pimp walk, more like black cool, but it
did send out its message that Luther Greene was one important dude, indeed. As
he walked, he snapped a look toward Fiona, made a mock gun out of his finger
and pointed.

"What will you say?" she asked, looking for
guidance. Grudgingly, she trusted his instincts.

"Well..." He rubbed his chin. "I'll call it
a mystery."

"Everybody loves a mystery," she said, feeling as
if she had entered into a conspiracy.

BOOK: Immaculate Deception
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