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Bad Business
by Robert B. Parker
Putnam, 2004


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Do you do divorce work?" the woman said.

"I do," I said.

"Are you any good?"

"I am," I said.

"I don't want likelihood," she said. "Or guesswork. I need evidence that will stand up in court."

"That's not up to me," I said. "That's up to the evidence."

She sat quietly in my client chair and thought about that.

"You're telling me you won't manufacture it," she said.

"Yes," I said.

"You won't have to," she said. "The sonovabitch can't keep his dick in his pants for a full day."

"Must make dining out a little awkward," I said.

She ignored me. I was used to it. Mostly I amused myself.

"I always have trouble convincing people that any man would cheat on a woman like me. I mean, look at me."

"Unbelievable," I said.

"My attorneys tell me you are too expensive," she said. "But that you are probably worth it."

"The same could be remarked of Susan Silverman."

She frowned.

"Who the hell is Susan Silverman?" she said.

"Girl of my dreams."

She frowned again. Then she said, "Oh, I see. You're being cute."

"It's my nature," I said.

"Well, it's not mine," she said. "Do you want the job?"

"Sure."

"My attorneys will want a strict accounting of what you spend," she said.

"I'll bet they will," I said.

She was good-looking in kind of an old-fashioned way. Sort of womanly. Before personal trainers, and StairMasters. Like the women in Life Magazine when we were all much younger. Like she would look good in a small-waisted white polka-dot dress, and a huge straw hat with a white polka-dot band. In fact, of course, she was wearing a beige pantsuit and big pearls. Her reddish blond hair was long and thoroughly sprayed, and framed her face like the halo in a mediaeval religious painting. Her mouth was kind of thin and her eyes were small. I imagined cheating on her.

"I'm represented by Frampton and Keyes," she said. "Do you know the firm?"

"I don't."

"You'll do all further business through them. The managing partner is Randy Frampton."

"Why didn't you let them hire me," I said.

"I don't let other people make judgments for me. I wanted to look you in the eye."

I nodded.

"Do you have pictures of your husband?" I said. "Names of suspected paramours? Addresses? That sort of thing?"

"You can get all that from Randy."

"And a retainer?"

"Randy will take care of that as well."

"Good for Randy," I said. "Will he tell me your name, too?"

"I'd rather keep that confidential for now," she said. "This is a very sensitive situation."

I smiled.

"Ma'am," I said. "How long do you think it will take me to find out your name once I know who your husband is?"

"I . . ."

I smiled my sunny good-natured smile at her. I could melt polar ice caps with my sunny good-natured smile. She was no match for it.

"Marlene," she said. "Marlene Rowley. My husband is Trenton Rowley."

"How do you do," I said. "My name is Spenser."

"Of course I know your name," she said. "How do you think I got here?"

"I thought you looked up handsome in the phone book," I said. "And my picture was there."

She smiled for the first time that morning.

"Well," she said. "Maybe you are a little bit handsome in a rough sort of way."

"Tough," I said. "But sensitive."

"Perhaps," she said. "Will you speak with Randy?"

"Right away," I said.

Excerpted from Bad Business by Robert B. Parker. Copyright © 2004 by Robert B. Parker. All rights reserved. Posted with permission of the publisher. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.









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