Rough Weather

by Robert B. Parker

The Spenser Series

A hurricane hinders a kidnapping and Spenser goes on a search for the man responsible—the infamous Gray Man, who has both helped and hunted Spenser in the past.

Heidi Bradshaw is wealthy, beautiful, and well connected—and she needs Spenser's help. In a most unlikely request, Heidi, a notorious gold digger recently separated from her latest husband, recruits the Boston P.I. to accompany her to her private island, Tashtego. The reason? To attend her daughter's wedding as a sort of stand-in husband and protector. Spenser consents, but only after it is established that his beloved Susan Silverman will also be in attendance.

It should be a straightforward job for Spenser: show up for appearances, have some drinks, and spend some quality time with Susan. But when Spenser's old nemesis Rugar—the Gray Man—arrives, Spenser realizes that something is amiss. A storm, a kidnapping, and murder tear apart what should be a joyous occasion, and Rugar is seemingly at the center of it all. The only thing is that the sloppy kidnapping is not Rugar's style—as Spenser knows from past encounters. With six dead bodies and more questions than he can process, Spenser begins a search for answers—and the Gray Man.

With its razor-sharp dialogue, crisply etched characters, and high-wire narrative tension, Rough Weather once again proves that "Robert B. Parker is a force of nature" (The Boston Globe).

Reviews

"Spenser, like Ol' Man River, just keeps rolling along. The Boston-based private eye is up to his old tricks (which thanks to the skill of his creator, appear to be new tricks) in this latest addition to Robert B. Parker's venerable series...With the Spenser novels, the reader always knows what he's getting: a fast-paced story, filled with piquant characters and seasoned with crisp and witty dialogue...expect to be royally entertained."
The San Diego Union-Tribune

"Parker's trademark blend of tough action, rapid-fire dialog, and sarcastic wit keeps the story moving. The unpleasant truths that Spenser uncovers, the parallels between Spenser and his quarry, and his reaction to those parallels add a thought-provoking chapter to the series' ongoing contemplation of the ethics of formidable men who deal in life and death, whose actions are limited by the codes of honor they set for themselves and the needs of those they respect and protect."
Library Journal Online

"The opening is a complete wow...the reader is treated to all the familiar pleasures, the "ah"-inspiring comfort food of this series: Spenser sitting in his office overlooking Berkeley Street in Boston; the knock on the door announcing a client; Spenser's rapier repartee with client and suspects; the return of his love, Susan, given a larger role here; the always amusing interplay with the mercurial Hawk, Spenser's muscle; and Parker's graceful descriptions of interiors, meals, and clothes."
Booklist

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paperback | Putnam | 2008 | ISBN: 9780425230176

Excerpt

1

If I rolled my chair back into the window bay behind my desk, I could look up past the office buildings and see the sky. It wasn't exactly overcast. It was kind of grayish, with the sun pushing weakly through the thin clouds. Below on Berkeley Street the young women from the insurance companies were starting to show fall fashions. I took some time to evaluate them, and concluded that fashionable dress was heavily dependent on who was wearing it. I looked at the calendar. September 13. Technically it was still baseball season, but the Sox had dropped out of contention at the beginning of August, leaving me with nothing else to think about but sex...which was, I thought, considerably better than the other way around.

I was thinking about sex when there was a delicate knock on my door. Immediately after the knock, the door opened and a woman came in for whom I was in the perfect frame of mind. She was a symphony of thick auburn hair, even features, wide mouth, big eyes, stunning figure, elegant clothes, expensive perfume, and what people who talked that way would call breeding. She came to my desk and put her hand out as I got to my feet.

"Hi," she said. "I'm Heidi."

I said, "I recognize you, Ms. Bradshaw."

She had a firm handshake, as if she had practiced.

"And you are Mr. Spenser," she said.

"Was it the name on the door, gave me away?" I said.

She nodded happily. And sat down in front of my desk and crossed her legs. Wow!

"I rather expected that it would," she said. "And you certainly look right for the part."

"Valiant?" I said.

"Valiant," she said. "And quite large."

"You ain't seen nothing yet," I said.

She looked at me for a moment and then said, "Really?"

I was too valiant to blush.

"In a manner of speaking," I said.

"I would like to hire you," she said.

"I was hoping," I said.

She smiled again and let the smile linger. Baseball traveled even further from my mind.

"I am a strong woman," she said. " Self-possessed, wealthy. I am also divorced, from someone who richly deserves it, and find myself occasionally insecure without a man."

"Anyone might," I said.

"Not necessarily," she said. "And I am working with my therapist to resolve that issue. In the meanwhile, I will indulge my insecurity if I must. I have a home on Tashtego Island. Do you know it?"

"The island, yes. The home, no."

"Aren't you precise," she said. "The home, too, is called Tashtego. My husband was a great fan of Moby Dick. I am having an event there in late October, which will be attended by some of the most important and glamorous people in the world."

"And naturally, you want me to be one of them," I said.

She smiled that smile again. It was obvious that she knew what she could do with that smile.

"In a way," she said. "I would like to employ you as a kind of balance to my insecurity."

"An insecurity guard?"

"Exactly," she said. "I want you to be the man I can turn to if I need something."

"Will you want me to provide security in the more conventional sense as well?"

"No. The island has its own security patrol. You are there to support me."

"Unless your therapy kicks in before October," I said.

"Unless that," she said. "Or a whirlwind romance."

I nodded.

"May I bring a guest?"

"What kind of a guest?" she said.

"A stunning Jewess, with a Ph.D. from Harvard."

"Wife?"

"Not exactly," I said.

"Girlfriend?"

"Sort of," I said. "Think of her as The One."

"Why do you want to bring her?"

"I miss her when I'm not with her," I said. "And it'll make me feel less like a gigolo."

She laughed out loud.

"You're so cute," she said. "Of course, bring The One."

"Would you like to talk costs?" I said.

She took a green leather checkbook out of her purse.

"Not very much," she said. "May I pay you a large retainer?"

"Good start," I said.

2

I was having dinner with The One at a new place called Sorellina.

"You know, of course, who Heidi Bradshaw is," Susan said.

"My client."

"Besides that," Susan said.

"She's famous," I said.

"Do you know for what?"

"Besides being my client?" I said.

"Besides that," Susan said.

"I guess she's famous for being famous," I said.

The room was large and not loud. The tables were well spaced. There were windows where you could look out at Copley Square. The service was good. I was paying with a small part of Heidi Bradshaw's swell advance...And I was with the girl of my dreams.

"She has been married to some of the richest men in the world," Susan said.

"And profited from each marriage," I said.

"Any girl would," Susan said. "How did she find you."

"Maybe she Googled stud on the Internet?"

"I've tried that," Susan said. "You're not listed."

"Damn," I said.

"So, how did they end up with you?"

"Somebody called somebody," I said. "And one thing led to another?"

"Okay, and if it worked that way, what would be the basis for recommending you?"

"I'm a great husband substitute?" I said.

"Probably not," Susan said.

"That I'm a tough guy, and I own a gun?" I said.

"Probably so," Susan said.

We were quiet for a moment. Susan had some sort of exotic fish. She took a small bite. Susan always took small bites. She ate slowly, and rarely ate all of what she ordered. I had pasta, all of which I guzzled.

"I thought of that," I said.

"Me, too," Susan said.

"So why do you hire a guy with a gun to hang around your party?"

"Because you're afraid," Susan said.

"Even though the island has its own security." "Even though," Susan said. "Maybe you're afraid of the security," I said. "Maybe she thinks they're incompetent." "For crissake," I said. "It's her island. They are her security." Susan shrugged and nibbled on her fish. I finished the last meatball. Susan took a small sip of wine. "Well, whatever the reason," she said. "She feels the need to augment it." "With one guy?" "Apparently," Susan said. "Which is why the one guy is you." "Shucks," I said. "Which means they went looking for you," Susan said. "Or someone like you." "Which means maybe I should bring two guns?" "One should be enough," Susan said. "You are, after all, bringing me."

3

Tashtego Island had its own ferry service, a high-speed catamaran that shuttled people to and from the island every day. The trip took about forty minutes from New Bedford. The island rose like a single black rock from Buzzards Bay, and the house gleamed on top of it. White marble among the hardy trees softened the hardness of the stone.

"I think I hear the theme from Camelot," Susan said.

She had brought enough luggage for the weekend to sustain Cirque du Soleil. But the number of servants meeting the boat was more than sufficient to the task, and I walked ashore unencumbered. There was a small dock house made of the same white stone as the big house. Parked beside the dock house was a white Jeep. In the white Jeep were two guys in safari jackets, wearing aviator glasses and carrying sidearms in polished cordovan-leather holsters. In front of the dock house was an open carriage. The two big horses in harness were white. The driver had a blond crew cut. He wore a blazer and white slacks, and looked like a big college kid. Maybe a middle linebacker. I patted one of the horses on the flank.

"Clydesdales?" I said.

"Belgians," he said. "In medieval times they were warhorses."

"Big," I said.

"Yes, sir."

Beside the carriage was a square-jawed woman in a

mannish-looking white shirt and gray flannel slacks. There was a cell phone on her belt. She was too old for college by now, and she wasn't actually so big, but there was a hint of linebacker about her, too. I wondered if Smith had a team.

"Mr. Spenser," she said. "I'm Maggie Lane, Mrs. Bradshaw's assistant."

We shook hands. I introduced Susan. They shook hands. One of the horses looked over his shoulder at us without interest. Maggie Lane gestured toward the carriage.

"Please," she said.

"Luggage?" Susan said.

"It will be delivered to your rooms," Maggie Lane said.

For Susan, the thought that her luggage was in alien hands was nearly life-threatening. But she simply smiled and got into the carriage. Her clothes fit her well, and I admired her agility as she stepped up into the carriage. Also her backside. I followed, and Maggie Lane stepped up beside the driver.

"Except for the patrol Jeeps," she said, "there are no cars on the island."

"How lovely for the ambience," Susan said.

"And the atmosphere," Maggie Lane said.

"Good source of fertilizer, too," I said.

Maggie Lane nodded with a smile, though I didn't think the smile was terribly warm. The ride from the dock wasn't steep enough to bother the big Belgians, that I could tell. It wound slowly around the rising rock, with the ocean on our right and the south coast of Massachusetts still visible on the horizon behind us, until we leveled out on the flat top of the rock where the house was, surrounded by trees and gardens, beneficiaries, no doubt, of the horses' largesse. Such greenery

hadn't settled on top of this rock by accident, and it had not exfoliated so richly without help.

The house itself looked like it had been constructed by Cornelius Vanderbilt. It looked like someplace you could catch a sleeper train for Chicago. There were columns and friezes and arched windows twenty feet high.

"We have a small suite for you in the northeast corner of the house," Maggie Lane said. "Not far from Mrs. Bradshaw's private quarters."

I sort of thought everyone's quarters were private but decided not to raise the question.

"And the luggage?" Susan said.

"It should be there waiting for you," Maggie Lane said. "Unpacked, and carefully hung up."

Susan blanched slightly. But Maggie Lane was looking toward the house and didn't notice. I knew that the thought of anyone opening Susan's luggage and carefully hanging up her stuff was unbearable.

With her lips barely parted she said, "Oh, how lovely."

The crushed-shell driveway gleaming white in the morning sun curved in front of the vast marble pile of a house and under a two-story porte cochere. Another young guy in a blazer and white pants, maybe an outside linebacker, came to help us from the carriage. Susan hated that. She jumped down briskly before he was able to get there. I dismounted more sedately but no less athletically. In front of us, and closer to the house, was another white Jeep with two guys in it wearing safari shirts and sunglasses and gun belts. Like the two guys at the dock, they had inconspicuous earpieces.

Maggie Lane took us in through a front door that could accommodate a family of giraffes. We stood in a foyer that would have accommodated the Serengeti Plain, at the foot of a vast curving staircase that probably went to heaven.

"Stay close," I murmured to Susan.

We went past the staircase and down the corridor, which narrowed to maybe thirty feet behind the stairs. There was a pair of huge French doors at the far end, and the light poured in happily. On the wall were well-framed oil paintings of people who were almost certainly rich, and pleased about it. Halfway down the corridor, Maggie Lane stopped, took out some keys, and opened a door on the left.

"Here we are," she said, and handed me two keys. "I'll let you freshen up a little."

She took a card from the pocket of her shirt.

"Everything should be provided for," she said. "But if you need anything you don't have, anything at all, call me and I'll make it happen. The butler will be by to take your lunch order."

I took the card. We went in. Maggie Lane closed the door behind us. We stood and looked at each other for a moment, then we explored. It took a while. It is not inaccurate to say simply that there was a living room, two bedrooms, two baths, and a kitchenette. It is also not inaccurate to say that Niagara is a waterfall. The living room was a sufficient size for basketball. A polished mahogany bar divided the living room from the kitchenette. A hall with a black-and-brown tiled floor led to a couple of bedrooms, each with its own bath. The wall of arched windows opposite the door gave us a twenty-foot-high view of the sloping lawn behind the house and, past that, of the Atlantic Ocean stretching toward Europe. The room itself was sand-colored: walls, ceiling, rugs, sofas, upholstered chairs. The wood was mahogany. The accent colors were mahogany and black.

We looked around for a while in perfect silence. When we got back to the living room, Susan turned to me.

"Sweet Jesus," she said.