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Authors: Margaret Truman

Murder at the Watergate

BOOK: Murder at the Watergate
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More praise for Margaret Truman and
Murder at the Watergate

“Truman ‘knows the forks’ in the nation’s capital and how to pitchfork her readers into a web of murder and detection.”

—The Christian Science Monitor

“In
Watergate
, Truman again proves she belongs in the first rank of mystery writers. And she proves she knows her way around the nation’s capital. One thing is for sure: Mystery buffs will be waiting for her next Capital Crimes adventure. And many will be pleased if the lovable Smiths are again involved.”

—Flint Journal

“Truman has settled firmly into a career of writing murder mysteries, all evoking brilliantly the Washington she knows so well.”

—The Houston Post

“Truman has done it again—combined her insider’s knowledge of life inside the Washington beltway with a credible mystery story line. She has a literate and pleasant writing style, but it is the setting, the cast of characters from the world jet set, and the knowledgeable name-dropping that gives this and all of her Capital Crimes mystery novels an intriguing flair.… Truman blends reality and fiction with ease. Using the Watergate, a famous and infamous Washington address, as a backdrop is a stroke of genius, and the author’s description makes the reader feel right at home in its plush apartments, restaurants, and offices.”

—Baton Rouge
magazine

A Fawcett Crest Book
Published by The Ballantine Publishing Group
Copyright © 1998 by Margaret Truman
Map copyright © 1998 by David Lindroth, Inc.

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by The Ballantine Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.

Fawcett is a registered trademark and Fawcett Crest and the Fawcett colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.

www.randomhouse.com/

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 99-94295

ISBN 0-449-00194-6
eBook ISBN: 978-0-8041-5278-5

This edition published by arrangement with Random House, Inc.

First Mass Market Edition: August 1999

v3.1

“We thank Mr. Nixon every day!”
—A longtime Watergate employee

1
A Saturday
The South Building—the Watergate

“… and so Annabel and I decided it was time to make the move, although not, naturally, without months of debate.”

Mackensie Smith, tenured professor of law at George Washington University, stood on the terrace of the three-bedroom co-op apartment he and his wife, Annabel, had recently purchased at the prestigious albeit infamous Watergate complex.

The terrace afforded a magnificent view of the Potomac River, ripples of water like crinkled aluminum foil, whipped up that evening by a brisk breeze. A few boats, manned by diehards refusing to acknowledge that summer was effectively over, added their V-shaped wakes to the scene as they headed downriver, the spires of Georgetown University behind them as their Gothic scrim.

“I know what really tipped the balance,” said a guest at Mac and Annabel’s housewarming party.

“What’s that?” Mac really didn’t want to hear but
played the conversational game with his colleague from the law school, whose penchant for putting a negative spin on everything was as entrenched as his love of cognac and cigars. The latter vice had kept him out on the terrace for most of the party.

“You sold your house over on Twenty-fifth Street before your employer
—our
employer—could gobble it up.”

The university had made a recent and, some said, aggressive move to buy up as much of surrounding Foggy Bottom as possible to accommodate its growing student population. GW was already the second largest landowner in Washington, trailing only the federal government, and its land-grabbing frenzy, as its detractors saw it, had dramatically begun to change the look and character of Foggy Bottom, home to the Kennedy Center, the State Department, the university, and the venerable Watergate complex.

“The Watergate is the last bastion of escape,” Mac’s colleague added. “Pretty soon they’ll dig a moat around it and raise the drawbridges.”

Mac grunted. He was not about to debate the issue. The fact was that he and Annabel had decided to sell their neat little row house on Twenty-fifth Street a year before GW launched its expansion project. And he hadn’t exaggerated about months of debate before making the decision.

Why
had
they decided to give up the house for an apartment at the Watergate? Primarily, it had to do with wanting to get out from under the demands the house made on them. There was always something to be repaired, torn down, shored up, added to, or painted, and they simply did not have the time to keep pace with it.
Mac had become increasingly busy. Not only did he have his classes to teach, he’d accepted an invitation by his good friend Joseph Aprile, vice president of the United States, to join a special commission to study relations between the United States and its important southern neighbor, Mexico. When Mac signed on to the commission, the position was presented as involving minimal time and work.

But it had turned out to be more than that, like being on everyone’s mailing list once you’ve made a purchase from a catalog. In Washington, one commission invariably led to another, and so he’d ended up also as part of a group of American citizens and quasi-government officials who would be traveling to Mexico to join delegations from other countries to monitor the nation’s upcoming elections, hosted by Mexico’s Civic Alliance, and sponsored by the United Nations and the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy. Fortunately, Mac’s dean at the law school saw the public relations value of having one of his esteemed professors engage in such important, visible acts of public service, and assured him he needn’t worry about missing as many classes as necessary. “You make us all proud,” said the dean, ever the sycophant.

Mac’s schedule wasn’t the only crowded one. Annabel’s Georgetown gallery, which featured pre-Columbian art, had recently expanded into an adjacent empty store, and she’d been traveling more than usual, seeking new pieces for the added space.

“Isn’t the view wonderful?” Annabel said, joining them on the terrace. The setting autumn sun caught her
auburn hair, spinning it into a burnished copper work of art.

“Nice view,” their guest said, “although I wouldn’t have bought an apartment in the south building. Yes, I know, you paid a premium for the view of the river. And don’t misunderstand. I appreciate a pretty sunset as much as the next guy. But you’ll never be able to use this terrace in the afternoon in the summer, not with the sun setting on this side.”

A jet on its final approach to National Airport came screaming up the river, the whine of its powerful engines rendering conversation difficult.

“That, too,” said their nihilistic friend. “I would have bought something over on the east side. They say the apartments in the east building are bigger.”

Mac and Annabel glanced at each other.

“I imagine the parking space downstairs set you back a pretty penny.”

“It came with the apartment,” Mac said.

“Lucky you. How much did it boost the price?”

None of your business, Mac thought. I’d like to boost you over the side. The parking space in the underground garage, the previous owner’s property and included in the purchase price, had increased what they’d paid for the apartment by forty-five thousand dollars.

“I think Elfie is about to leave,” Annabel said to Mac. “Come say good-bye.”

They stepped through the open French doors into the spacious, and more positively charged, living room and went to where three people were in animated conversation.

“Mac, darling, I was afraid you’d fallen off the terrace,”
Elfie Dorrance said, placing long, delicate, bejeweled fingers on his arm.

“Not ready to take the leap yet,” Mac said. “But I was thinking of doing a little pushing.”

“Elfie was just telling us about the fund-raiser tonight for Joe Aprile.” Herman Winkler was a career State Department employee in the Latin American division.

“Convenient for you two,” Winkler’s wife, Helen, said to the Smiths, “being so close to Joe Aprile’s campaign headquarters.”

“And close to Bernie, our dentist,” Mac said. “Never have to worry about a midnight toothache.”

“To say nothing of the hotel.” Annabel smiled. “They’ll send us room service any time we want it.”

“Did they cater this little gathering?” Elfie asked.

“No,” Mac said. “
We
catered it.”

“You ought to go into the business.”

Elfie Dorrance was sixty-four years old, a tall, physically fit woman with a perpetual tan whose ranking on Washington social and power lists never strayed far from the top. Married four times, three of the four to wealthy, politically consequential men, she often seemed to dominate the District’s social scene, spearheading charity events for the opera, the symphony, the National Theater, a home for battered women, the Washington Canoe Club, and the tony St. Albans School, which was part of the National Cathedral. But perhaps most intriguing was her magnetic fund-raising for politicians with whom she chose to align herself, most recently Joseph Aprile, whose chances to garner the next Democratic presidential nomination were considered secure, or as secure as anything can be in politics.

BOOK: Murder at the Watergate
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