Death of a hockey player
More than a thousand people attended Boom Boom's funeral. Many of them were supporters of the Black Hawks ice hockey team. Boom Boom, one of ice hockey's biggest stars, was a player with the Black Hawks until he shattered his left ankle three years earlier. For a long time he refused to believe that he wasn't going to skate again. But in the end he accepted medical opinion and got a job with the Eudora Grain Company. It was Clayton Phillips, Eudora's vice-president, who found Boom Boom's body floating close to the wharf last Tuesday.
Boom Boom's father and mine were brothers, and we'd grown up together in South Chicago, closer than many brothers and sisters. His real name was Bernard, but his childhood friends had called him Boom Boom and the name followed him from childhood into his days with the Black Hawks and beyond. He loved the name and everyone used it.
I was out of town when Boom Boom died, and by the time the police managed to contact me, the funeral had already been arranged by our Polish relations. Boom Boom had made me his executor, but I knew he wouldn't care how he was buried so I didn't argue with the arrangements.
After the funeral, Lieutenant Bobby Mallory fought through the crowd to me, wearing his police uniform. My father had worked for the Chicago police and he and Bobby had been good friends.
'I was sorry about Boom Boom, Vic. I know how much you two cared about each other.'
'Thanks, Bobby.' A cool April wind made me feel cold in my wool suit. I wished I'd worn a coat. 'Are you going to the party? May I ride with you?'
Bobby agreed, and helped me into the back seat of his police car.
'Bobby, I couldn't get any information from the Eudora Grain Company when I phoned. How did Boom Boom die?'
Bobby frowned. 'I know you think you're tough, Vic, but do you really need to know the details?'
'I just want to know what happened to my cousin. He was young, strong; it's hard to imagine him falling into the water like that.'
Bobby's expression softened. 'You're not thinking he drowned himself, are you?'
I moved my hands uncertainly. 'He left an urgent message for me on my telephone answering machine. I wondered if he was feeling desperate about something.'
'I suppose you'll go on asking questions until you get an answer.' Bobby paused. 'A ship was tied up at the wharf and Boom Boom went under as she pulled away. His body was badly chewed up. It was a wet day, and that's an old wooden wharf — very slippery in the rain. I think he slipped and fell in. I don't think he jumped.'
We stopped in front of Aunt Helen's tidy brick house. The next two hours were difficult for me. The small house filled with cigarette smoke, with the smell of Polish cooking, with the noise of children. Some of my relations told me it was a pity I didn't have a family to keep me busy. Others told me I should go and help in the kitchen.
Boom Boom's grandmother, aged eighty-two, fat and dressed in shiny black, caught my arm. She told me that Boom Boom had been in trouble at Eudora Grain. 'People are saying he stole some papers from his boss,' she said.
My eyes burned. 'It's not true! Boom Boom never stole anything in his life, even when he was poor.'
Grandma stared at me with watery blue eyes. 'Well, that's what people are saying,' she repeated. 'They're saying he threw himself under the ship so that he wouldn't be arrested.'
I shook my head and pushed my way to the front door. I went out into the cold spring air. While I looked doubtfully along the street, wondering whether I could find a cab, a young woman joined me. She was small, with dark hair falling straight just below her ears, and gold-coloured eyes. She wore a fashionable grey silk suit, and I thought I'd seen her somewhere before.
'You're Boom Boom's cousin, aren't you?' she asked with a quick smile. 'I'm Paige Carrington.'
'I thought I recognized you. I've seen you dance a few times.' Carrington was a dancer with the Windy City Ballet.
She gave the triangular smile audiences loved. 'I'd been seeing a lot of your cousin the last few months. I think we were in love. I wanted to meet you. Boom Boom talked about you all the time. He loved you very much.'
'Yes. I hadn't seen him for some months… Are you driving back to the city? Can I beg a ride?'
I followed Paige Carrington down the street. She drove a silver Audi 5000. Either the Windy City Ballet paid extraordinarily well, or she came from a wealthy family.
She didn't say much on the drive back to town. I was quiet too, thinking about my cousin. I wished I'd seen more of him during the past few months.
Paige dropped me at my office. 'You're Boom Boom's executor, aren't you?' she asked.
'I'd like to go to his place and get some things I left there. I don't have a key.'
'Sure. I was planning to go there tomorrow afternoon to look at his papers. Want to meet me there at two?'
'Thanks. You're sweet… Do you mind if I call you Vic? Boom Boom talked about you so much that I feel I already know you. And you must call me Paige.'
My meeting with Boom Boom's lawyer was short, and I drove my Mercury Lynx over to Boom Boom's apartment soon after twelve o'clock. The Black Hawks had paid Boom Boom a lot of money to play hockey, and he'd paid over a quarter of a million for an apartment in a big glass building on Lake Shore Drive with a fantastic view of Lake Michigan.
I opened the door of the apartment and went through the hall into the living room, my feet soundless on the thick carpet. I looked at the view through the big window, and then realized that I could hear something moving. I wasn't alone in the apartment. I looked around the room for a weapon and picked up a heavy gold trophy from a magazine table. I moved cautiously down the hall to the other rooms. The door of Boom Boom's study was open.
Her back to me, Paige Carrington sat at Boom Boom's desk, looking through some papers. I felt both silly and angry. Quietly, I returned to the living room and put the trophy back on the magazine table. Then I went back to the study.
'Early, aren't you? How did you get in?'
Paige jumped in the chair and her face flooded with red. 'Oh! I wasn't expecting you until two.'
'I thought you didn't have a key.'
'Please don't get angry, Vic. I have to be at the theatre at two, so I persuaded the watchman to come up and let me in. I wanted to find some letters I wrote to Boom Boom. They're terribly, terribly personal and I don't want anyone to see them.'
'Find anything?' I asked.
'I've only been through two drawers, and there are six others with papers in them.'
I sat on the desk. 'I have to examine everything, so why don't you leave it to me? I promise you that if I see any personal letters I won't read them — I'll put them in an envelope for you.'
She nodded. 'I brought a suitcase with me. I'll pack up the clothes I left here and leave.'
She went into the bedroom and I looked around the study. Every wall was covered with hockey photographs. In the middle of one wall, looking odd among the hockey players, was a photo of me, taken years ago when I was at the University of Chicago.
I turned back to the desk. There were some sports magazines on it, and a newspaper called Grain News, filled with information about the grain business, and interesting, I suppose, if grain was important to you.
'Is that something special?' Paige came back into the room with her suitcase.
I hesitated. 'I've been wondering if Boom Boom jumped under the ship deliberately; but if he was reading a newspaper about grain, then maybe he had become really involved and happy with his job at Eudora Grain.'
'I think Boom Boom was happier after he met me.'
'If that's true, then I'm pleased.'
Her eyes widened, 'If that's true? Explain what you mean!'
'When I last saw Boom Boom in January, he was still depressed about his ankle. If your friendship helped him, then 'I'm glad… Did he tell you why he wanted to talk to me?'
She stared. 'Was he trying to contact you?'
'He left an urgent message for me on my answering machine but he didn't say what it was about. I wondered if he wanted my professional help because of trouble at Eudora Grain.'
She shook her head. 'I don't know. I had dinner with him the day before he died, and he didn't talk about you or about any trouble at Eudora Grain. Look, I must get back to the theatre now. I'm sorry if I upset you earlier.'
I stayed in Boom Boom's apartment all day, going through his papers. I was hoping to find a letter that said: 'Dear Vic, I've been accused of stealing some papers. Please help.' I've been a private detective for six years, and I expect to find secrets in people's desks. But I found no secrets, and no letter to me. I didn't find Paige's letters, either. On my way out of the building, I stopped to talk to the watchman. I explained who I was, and asked him not to let anyone into the apartment unless I was there.
On the way home, I was still wondering about the message Boom Boom left on my answering machine. Finally, I said to myself, 'You're a detective, Vic. If you really want to be sure about Boom Boom, try investigating what happened.'
On the waterfront
My North Side apartment is the large, inexpensive top floor of a grey stone building on Halsted. The next morning, I woke up around six to another cold, cloudy day. I put on my running shoes and did eight kilometres around Belmont Harbour and back. I had breakfast, picked up the Lynx from the front of my building, and drove to the Port of Chicago, which covers ten kilometres of the shore of the Calumet River. I got lost trying to find my way past some steel factories and a Ford warehouse, and it was nine-thirty before I found Eudora Grain's regional office.
It was a modern building with wide windows looking out on to the river. A dirty old ship was tied up to the wharf by heavy cables, and a railway ran from the wharf into a huge warehouse to the right of the office building.
Clayton Phillips, Eudora's vice-president, came to meet me. He was in his early forties, with pale brown hair and pale brown eyes, wearing a grey silk summer suit. I disliked him immediately, perhaps because he didn't offer me any sympathy for my cousin's death.
'Maybe you could show me exactly where my cousin went in,' I said.
A cold wind whistled around the river, and grain dust blew up at us. We walked to the end of the wharf.
'Your cousin was probably standing here. It was a wet day. We had to stop loading every few hours and wait for the rain to stop. The wooden wharf is old, and it gets slippery when it's wet. Boom Boom probably slipped and fell in. He did have that bad leg.'
'This isn't the ship that was here the day my cousin died, is it?'
'No, of course not,' Phillips said. 'The Lucella Wieser was supposed to be here, but she had an accident; so the Bertha Krupnik came up instead of the Lucella.'
'Where's the Bertha now?'
Phillips shook his head. 'She belongs to the Grafalk Steamship Line. You could ask there.'
'Where is their office? I'd like to ask if anyone on the Bertha saw Boom Boom go in.'
'I don't think anyone's going to be able to tell you anything. If anyone had seen your cousin go in, they'd have said something at the time.'
'I have a licence.' I fished my private investigator's licence out of my wallet. 'I've asked a lot of people a lot of questions with this.'
Phillips's wooden expression didn't change, but his face turned red. 'I'll go over with you and introduce you to the right person.'
I followed Phillips down the wharf and around the back of the office, to where his green Alfa sat shining next to a rusty truck. He started the car and turned on to 130th Street. I noticed his hands gripping the steering wheel tightly.
'Why do you feel you have to come with me?' I asked.
He didn't say anything for a few minutes. Finally, he said in his deep, tight voice, 'Who asked you to come down to the Port?'
'No one. Boom Boom was my cousin and I want to find out about his death.'
We drove through the entrance to the main Port. The Port of Chicago offices looked modern and efficient. The Grafalk Steamship Line offices were half-way along the wharf and Phillips was clearly a frequent visitor. He led me through the front office, greeting several people by name. Suddenly, we heard a terrible crash. I felt the floor shake, and then there was the sound of glass breaking and metal screaming. People began running outside.
At the north end of the wharf, a ship had crashed into the side of the wharf. A tall crane at the edge of the wharf turned and slowly fell. In a minute two police cars arrived, and the crowd in front of me moved back to let them through. I jumped to one side to avoid an ambulance, and then followed it quickly and came close to the accident.
The crane and a couple of trucks had been waiting on the wharf, and all three were chewed up by the ship which had broken off large pieces of the concrete wharf. The driver of the crane was trapped in a heap of metal, and the police ran to help. An ugly sight. I turned away and found a man looking at me with bright blue eyes.
'What happened?' I asked.
He shook his head. 'Someone made a mistake, and went full ahead instead of turning the ship. That ship weighs around ten thousand tones, and that's the result.'
A tall man with a sun-burned face and white hair pushed past me. 'Excuse me. Out of the way, please.'
'Who's that?' I asked the man with blue eyes.
'That's Niels Grafalk. He owns that heap of metal.'
Niels Grafalk, the man I wanted to see. I didn't think this was the time to ask him about the Bertha Krupnik.
'Is this ship the Bertha Krupnik?'
'No,' my new friend answered. 'Are you interested in the Bertha?'
I hesitated. Looking at the excited crowd around me, I felt that Phillips was right: if anyone had seen Boom Boom's accident, they would have been talking about it.
'Look, it's time for lunch,' my friend said. 'Let me take you to lunch at the private club for owners and officers here.'
I agreed, and as we walked away from the accident, I saw Phillips moving hesitantly through the crowd towards the damaged wharf.
The waiter brought our drinks.
'I'm Mike Sheridan, chief engineer on the Lucella Wieser.'
'And I'm V.I. Warshawski, a private investigator.'
'Are you related to Boom Boom Warshawski?'
'I'm his cousin… The Lucella was across from the Bertha when Boom Boom fell under the ship last week, wasn't it?' Sheridan nodded.
'I've been trying to find someone who might have seen my cousin die.'
Sheridan drank from his glass. 'Boom Boom was coming over to talk to John Bemis, the Lucella's captain, that afternoon. We were supposed to take on grain from the Eudora wharf, but someone put water in our holds and we had to dry them out. Your cousin said he knew something about the accident to our ship. He sounded serious, and of course, Bemis wanted to talk to him. You don't know what was on Boom Boom's mind?'
I shook my head. 'That's my problem. I hadn't seen Boom Boom for two or three months before he died. I was worried that he might have — well, he was terribly depressed about his ankle. I'd like to know if anyone on the Bertha or the Lucella saw him fall.'
Sheridan shook his head. 'It's true we were tied up near, but the Bertha lay between us and the wharf. I don't think anyone on the Lucella could have seen anything.'
The waiter came back to our table. 'Mr Grafalk would like to invite you and the lady to join him and Mr Phillips at his table.'
Sheridan and I looked at each other in surprise. We followed the waiter to a table in a corner of the room. Grafalk stood up and shook hands. He wore an expensive soft jacket and a white shirt, and looked like a man born with money, a man used to controlling things around him.
'Phillips here told me you were asking some questions. Maybe you can tell me why you're interested in Grafalk Steamship.'
I told Grafalk why I wanted to talk to the men on the Bertha.
'At the moment, the Bertha is going around the Great Lakes,' Grafalk told me. 'She'll stop at Pittsburgh, then Detroit, then on to Thunder Bay. She won't be back in Chicago for two weeks.'
I thanked Grafalk, but his eyes had turned away from me, to a short man in a grey business suit who had walked up to the table.
'Hello, Niels… Hi, Sheridan. Niels trying to get you to help with his damaged ship?'
'Hi, Martin,' Sheridan said. 'This is V.I. Warshawski, Boom Boom's cousin — down here asking us all a few questions about his death.'
Martin Bledsoe was introduced to me as the owner of the Pole Star Line, which included the ship the Lucella Wieser. Bledsoe sat down and joined us for lunch.
'Sorry about your ship, Niels. What happened?'
'She ran into the wharf. We'll be investigating, of course.'
I asked Grafalk about his company. It was the oldest and the biggest on the Great Lakes, started in 1838. Grafalk became quite enthusiastic, telling me about some of the great ships.
'Mr Grafalk's a fantastic sailor,' Phillips said. 'He still sails his grandfather's old yacht.'
'What about the Pole Star Line?' I asked Bledsoe. 'Is that an old family company?'
'No. I started it myself, eight years ago,' Bledsoe said. 'Before that, I used to work for Niels.'
'I felt deserted when you decided to compete with me,' Grafalk said lightly. 'By the way, I heard about the trouble on the Lucella.'
'The damage was minor, but we don't know who put the water in the holds,' Bledsoe said. 'At least the ship itself wasn't damaged.'
'You do have two smaller ships, don't you?' Grafalk smiled at me. 'We have sixty-three other ships to take the place of my damaged ship. My engineer made a mistake; it was an accident, not something deliberate.'
'I did wonder if this was part of your programme to get rid of your smaller ships,' Bledsoe said.
Grafalk dropped his fork. 'We're satisfied with the engineer's explanation,' he said. 'I do hope you won't have any further accidents, Martin.'
'I hope so, too,' Bledsoe said politely, picking up his wine glass.
Grafalk turned to me again. 'Martin went to a tough school. That's where he learned to be so self-controlled. Being from a wealthy family, I had an easier time.'
I heard glass shatter. I turned to stare at Bledsoe. He had crushed his wine glass in his hand and blood was pouring on to the tablecloth. As I jumped to my feet to send for a doctor, I saw Grafalk watching Bledsoe with a strange expression on his face, and I wondered why the two men disliked each other so much.
Watchman, tell us of the night
Martin Bledsoe went to hospital, Niels Grafalk and Clayton Phillips went back to their offices, and Mike Sheridan drove me across the Port to the Lucella.
'Why did Grafalk's remark about Bledsoe's school upset him so much?' I asked bluntly.
'I think Martin left school when he was sixteen. Maybe he doesn't like being reminded of that.'
'That's not really a reason to shatter a wine glass in your hand. Why do they dislike each other so much?'
'Oh, that's easy to explain. Grafalk Steamship Line is the only thing Niels cares about. If you work for him, he thinks you should stay forever. I know: I started work at Grafalk. He was furious when I left. John Bemis, too — the captain of the Lucella. But Niels found it impossible to accept Martin's departure, maybe because Martin is such a clever businessman: he knows how to make a profit.'
The Lucella was bigger than any of the ships I'd seen that day. Three hundred metres long, her red paint smooth, she was huge. I followed Sheridan up a steel ladder attached to her side.
We met Captain Bemis on the bridge. Through the glass windows on every side we saw the deck below us. Men in yellow jackets were washing out the holds. Captain Bemis was a short man with serious eyes and a calm manner.
'Someone deliberately put water in the holds of the Lucella,' Bemis began. 'Young Warshawski wanted to talk to us about it. I told him we thought the criminal was an angry seaman we'd got rid of a few days ago, but Boom Boom said there was more to it than that. I waited on the bridge until five on Tuesday, hoping to talk to him. Then we got news that he'd died.'
'Did anyone here see him fall?' I asked.
Captain Bemis shook his head. 'I'm sorry, but we didn't even realize there had been an accident; none of our men was on deck when the ambulance came.'
I felt disappointed. It seemed so — so unfair that Boom Boom had slid out of life without one person to see him do it. I tried to concentrate on Captain Bemis and the accident to his ship, but it didn't seem important to me. I felt stupid, rushing around the wharf, playing detective, just to avoid admitting that my cousin was dead.
I asked Mike Sheridan to drive me back to the Eudora Grain Company. I picked up the Lynx and drove home. The next morning I drove to Boom Boom's apartment. I stood again at the huge window and looked at the lake. The water was green, and in the distance a ship moved towards the other side of the lake. I stared for a long time before going to the study.
A horrific sight met me. The papers I had left in eight neat piles were thrown around the room. Drawers were opened. Pictures pulled from the walls. Worst of all, a body lay crumpled on the other side of the desk. The man was dead. I guessed his neck had been broken — I couldn't see any wounds. I lifted the head gently: it was the watchman I had spoken to the night before, when I was leaving the building. I ran to Boom Boom's bathroom.
I drank a glass of water from the tap and my stomach felt calmer. I used the phone in the bedroom to call the police. In the expect anyone to break into the apartment, but it had happened and I felt responsible.
At last the police finished with me and took the body away.
I took a last look round. What had my cousin hidden in his apartment? My mind jumped to Paige Carrington. Love letters? How well had she known Boom Boom, really? I needed to talk to her again.
I drove to the Windy City Ballet, stopping on the way for a sandwich and a Coke. The Ballet was an old building, but inside it had been modernized. Some dancers were practising on the stage, but Paige wasn't there. I went backstage, and no one stopped me. I waited, and a few minutes later, Paige came down the hall from the shower, a white towel wrapped round her head.
'Vic! What are you doing here?'
'Hi, Paige. I came to talk to you. When you're dressed I'll take you out for a coffee.'
Her gold-coloured eyes widened. 'I'm not sure I have time.'
'Then I'll talk to you here.'
She shrugged. 'I'll only be a few minutes.'
The few minutes stretched into forty. At last she appeared in a gold silk shirt and a white skirt. She wore a gold and diamond necklace and her make-up was perfect.
'Sorry to keep you waiting,' she said.
We went out into the cold spring air and ordered coffee at a little coffee shop around the corner.
'What were you looking for in my cousin's apartment?'
'My letters, Vic. I told you that.'
'How did you meet Boom Boom?'
'At a Christmas party. Someone interested in buying shares in the Black Hawks invited some of the players.' Her voice was cold. 'What are you thinking? I don't like these questions.'
'The watchman at Boom Boom's building was killed last night when someone broke into Boom Boom's apartment.'
'The night watchman? Henry? Oh, I'm so sorry. Was anything stolen?'
'Nothing was taken, but they tore the place apart. I can't imagine what they were looking for.'
She shook her head, her eyes troubled. 'I can't, either.' She put her hand on my arm. 'I know it sounds crazy about the letters, but it's true.'
We left after that, and I took myself home. I needed some peace and quiet after all that had happened that day. Over dinner I thought about things I needed to do next. Find out about Paige Carrington's background. Talk to Boom Boom's best friend, a star player with the Black Hawks called Pierre Bouchard. And get back to the Port of Chicago.
Learning the business
The next day, after my early morning run, I got dressed in dark blue trousers, a white shirt, and a dark blue jacket. Tough, but attractive. Then I drove down to the Port.
At Eudora Grain, I talked to the men as they came off the wharf for their mid-morning break. None of them had seen my cousin's death. They told me that Phillips and Boom Boom had had a terrible argument that morning about some papers, though no one had actually heard what they said.
I thanked them for their time, and went back to the office manager. I told her that I wanted to go through the personal papers in my cousin's office.
'Mr Phillips is out of the office, but Janet, Mr Warshawski's secretary, will help you.'
Janet was a quiet woman aged about fifty, wearing a simple dress and no make-up. She took me to Boom Boom's office, a small, tidy room with maps of the Lakes covering the walls. 'Can you tell me about Boom Boom's work?' I asked. 'Mr Phillips was training him,' Janet said. 'The idea was that he would be able to take over one of the regional offices in another year or so — probably Buffalo.'
'Did Mr Phillips like that idea?'
'It's hard to tell how Mr Phillips feels about anything. I think he was glad your cousin would be leaving soon. Your cousin was an impatient person and he wanted to do everything faster than Mr Phillips.' She hesitated. 'Mr Phillips seemed worried that if Mr Warshawski got too involved with the shipping contracts, then he might take some of the customers with him, when he moved to Buffalo.'
'So did they argue about the contracts? Or the customers?'
'Well, I'll tell you something. You see, Mr Phillips doesn't like anyone touching the contract files.' She looked over her shoulder, in case Phillips was standing there listening. 'It's silly, because we all have to use those files all day long. But he insists that if we take them out of his secretary's office, we have to write a note. Mr Warshawski refused to do that because he thought it was stupid.' She smiled, an amused smile. 'The week before he died, he took several months of contracts home with him.'
'What did he do with them?'
She shrugged. 'I don't know. But he did go and see Mr Phillips with one or two files.'
'Could I look at the files my cousin took home with him?'
She hesitated. 'Why?'
I looked at her kind face. She had been fond of Boom Boom. 'I'm not satisfied with the story of my cousin's death. He was a hockey player, in spite of his bad ankle. It would take more than a slippery wharf to get him into the lake. I'm wondering if someone pushed him in.'
She looked shocked. 'Why would someone push a nice young man like Mr Warshawski to his death?'
I didn't know, I told her, but it was possible those files might give me a clue. I explained to her that I was a private investigator, and she promised to get me the files while Mr Phillips's secretary was at lunch.
I sat at Boom Boom's desk and looked at his desk diary. His appointments were uninteresting, but he had drawn a circle round some of the dates. At the front of the diary there was a calendar of 1981 and 1982. Boom Boom had drawn circles round twenty-three days in 1981, and three in 1982. I put the diary in my bag and looked through the rest of the office. But I found nothing personal. Janet appeared with the files, packed in a large envelope.
'Please return them as soon as you can,' she said anxiously.
Interstate 94 back to the city was clear at that time of day, and I got back to my office around one-thirty. I phoned Murray Ryerson, crime reporter for the Herald-Star, and an old friend of mine.
'What do you want, Vic? Got anything for me on the murder at your cousin's apartment?'
'Nothing on that yet. But I want some background on Paige Carrington, a dancer with the Windy City Ballet. She was friendly with Boom Boom before he died. She was looking for some love letters at his apartment the other day, and then the watchman was killed while someone was searching the place.'
'Vic, whenever you want information like this, it's the beginning of some big story. Is this murder connected with Boom Boom's death?'
'I don't think so. But someone searched his apartment, and I'd like to know more about Paige.'
'OK, Vic. I'll call you in two or three days.'
I opened Janet's envelope and pulled out the files. There were three: June, July and August, showing Eudora Grain's shipments of grain during those months. Each computer report gave details of date and place of departure, names of carriers, weight of grain, cost, and date and place of arrival. Some showed more than one carrier. For example, I found Thunder Bay to St Catharines on 15 June via Grafalk Steamship Line, cancelled, via Pole Star Line, cancelled, and finally via a third carrier at a different price.
I looked at Boom Boom's diary, and pulled out the contracts that matched the dates in June, July and August which had circles drawn around them. Thirteen shipments on those dates had gone to Grafalk. Pole Star had lost seven shipments to Grafalk, but had got two shipments in August.
I tried phoning Pole Star Line, but no one answered. It was too late to do anything else tonight, so I called a friend, and we went out to dinner and then to watch a film.
The next day I called Bobby Mallory and asked him about the murder at Boom Boom's apartment.
'We did find a footprint on the papers. A size twelve Arroyo boot.' Bobby paused. 'You're not getting involved in this, are you?'
'I am involved: it happened in my cousin's apartment.'
'Don't fool around with me, Vic,' Bobby said. He didn't like me to get involved in police work, especially murder cases. 'Trouble just follows me, Bobby.'
I photocopied the Eudora Grain shipping contracts, and packed the files back in the envelope. I drove to the Port and dropped the parcel with Janet. As I left the office, I met Phillips. 'What are you doing here?' he demanded.
'Signing up for a water ballet class. How about you?'
His face reddened. 'Still asking questions about your cousin? You're wasting your time. I hope you find that out soon.'
'I'm moving as fast as I can. Water ballet can only help.'
He stared at me angrily and walked over to his green Alfa. I drove along the Calumet River to the Lucella and asked for the captain, John Bemis. The ship was enormous, held down by steel cables eight centimetres thick. I looked down at the still water. No one was on the wharf; no one knew I was here. I began to see how Boom Boom could have fallen in unnoticed. I climbed the steel ladder to the deck, where twenty people moved busily around, guiding the grain into the huge holds.
Clouds of grain dust rose above the deck.
No one noticed me at first, but at last someone took me to the bridge. Martin Bledsoe was standing with Captain Bemis, looking down towards the deck.
'Hello, Miss Warshawski.' They turned towards me. Bledsoe's hand was wrapped in bandages, and I asked how it was. He told me that it was beginning to feel better.
'I have a couple of questions for you, Mr Bledsoe, if you have the time.'
I pulled the photocopies of the shipping contracts from my bag and put them on a table. 'These are Eudora Grain's shipping contracts,' I began. 'I was hoping you'd explain them to me.'
'Well, there's no great secret to them. Look at this one. Three million bushels of grain in Peoria, to be moved to Buffalo. First of all, we offered to carry the grain for four dollars twenty-nine cents a tone. That was before we had the Lucella — we can go well under our old prices now because these big ships are so much cheaper to run. Now, in our business, contracts are made and cancelled routinely. Look at this. Grafalk came in to offer four dollars thirty cents a tone, but with a promise to get the grain to Buffalo a day earlier.'
'So these records are quite ordinary?'
Bledsoe's grey eyes were intelligent. 'What made you think something might be wrong with them?'
'Boom Boom was particularly interested in these files just before he died. I wondered if the fact that these Pole Star contracts ended up with Grafalk was important.'
Bledsoe looked at the contracts again. 'No. Either they promised earlier delivery, or they offered lower prices.'
'My other question is about some dates this spring. The twenty-third of April is one.'
Bledsoe and Bemis looked at each other. 'That's the date we found water in the Lucella's holds.'
'No further accidents are going to happen on this ship,' Captain Bemis said.
Bledsoe nodded. 'I think I'll come with you this time, John. I want to see the Lucella unloaded at St Catharines.'
I picked up my papers. I was getting tired of all the work which didn't lead anywhere. Bledsoe walked down to the deck with me.
'We've finished loading for the day. I feel I owe you an apology, for cutting my hand at lunch yesterday. Can I persuade you to eat dinner with me? There's a good French restaurant about twenty minutes from here.'
I agreed, and we had an enjoyable meal together. Bledsoe told me amusing shipping stories, and I told him about my childhood on Chicago's South Side.
It was ten-thirty when Bledsoe took me back to the Lucella to pick up my car. 'Thanks for introducing me to a great new restaurant, Martin. Next time I'll take you to an Italian place on the West Side.'
'Thanks, Vic. I'd like to do that. I'll call you when I get back from St Catharines.'
I drove the Lynx on to 130th Street. The night was clear but the air was cold and I kept the car windows up. I drove along Interstate 94 and back on to the Dan Ryan. I was near the University of Chicago exit when I heard a tearing in the engine. I slammed on the brakes. The car didn't slow. I pushed again. Still nothing. The brakes had failed. I turned the steering wheel to move towards the exit. It turned loosely in my hands. No steering. No brakes.
In the mirror I saw the lights of a truck close behind me. Another truck drove beside me on the right. My car was moving to the right, and I couldn't stop it. My hands trembled and I felt sick. I put my hand on the horn and kept it there. The truck to my right pulled out of my way.
The Lynx was going thirty, slowing down, and the truck behind me was going at least seventy. I couldn't stop. I couldn't do anything.
At the last second, the truck behind me moved to the left. I heard a horrible shattering of glass and metal on metal. A car shot into the lane in front of me and turned over. Metal on metal. Glass shattering on the street. A violent crash. A pool of warm wetness on my arm. Light and noise shattered inside my head. And then quiet.
My head ached. I forced my eyes open, but the light stabbed them. I shut them again.
'You're all right now,' a woman's voice said.
'What happened?' My voice was thin and tired.
'You're in Billings Hospital. I want you to sleep now.'
When I woke up again, I was alone. The pain in my head was still there. My left arm was attached to the ceiling by a pulley.
I stared at it dreamily. What had I done to my arm? I remembered. My car. The brakes failing.
A nurse came into the room. 'Oh, you're awake now. That's good. We'll take your temperature.'
'I don't want my temperature taken. I want to see the police.'
She smiled brightly. 'Just put this under your tongue.'
I began to feel angry. 'Will you kindly get someone to call the police for me?'
'Now calm down. The doctor will be here soon, and she'll tell us if you can start talking to people.'
I shut my eyes. My body was still weak. I went back to sleep.
When I woke for the third time, my mind was clear. I sat up in bed, slowly and painfully. I wanted to go home, and use the phone. Carefully, I took my arm out of the pulley. My shoulder moved, and the pain was so strong that tears ran down my cheeks. I shut my eyes and rested for ten minutes. Then I got out of bed, trying not to move my shoulder. At that moment, the doctor came in.
'Glad to see you're feeling better, Miss Warshawski,' she said dryly.
'I thought I'd go home now, since the nurse won't call the police.'
'You must stay here another day or two. You must keep your shoulder still, so that the tear on the muscles is rested,' the doctor said firmly. 'You hit your head against the door as your car turned over. It's badly cut, and you were unconscious for six hours. You mustn't take risks with your health.'
I sat on the bed. 'But I've got so many people to talk to.'
'I'll bring a phone in and you can make your calls.'
Tears filled my eyes. My head was aching. I lay back on the bed and let the doctor reattach my arm to the pulley. I hated to obey the doctor, but I was glad to be lying down.
The doctor brought a phone to me, and I phoned the Port. But the Lucella had already sailed.
Drinks with Grafalk
The next day I had a stream of visitors. Lieutenant Bobby Mallory, my old friend from the Chicago police, came — carrying a plant from his wife — to talk to me about the accident. He told me that the truck that came up behind me had hit a car when it moved left to avoid me. The driver of the car was killed and his two passengers were seriously injured.
'They weren't wearing seat belts,' Bobby told me. 'It might have helped. Yours certainly saved your life. We've arrested the truck driver — not a scratch on him, of course.'
'Did you inspect my car?'
He looked at me curiously. 'Someone had emptied all the brake fluid. And cut through the steering cable… Now who would do a thing like that? Where had you parked your car?'
I told him. He shook his head. 'A lot of vandals down in the Port. You're lucky you got out of this alive. Why can't you stay home and get a husband and some kids?'
Someone brought in an enormous armful of spring flowers. They were from Paige Carrington. Murray Ryerson, crime reporter, came himself. Murray is a big guy with thick reddish hair and a loud voice.
'Vic! Tell me about your accident.'
'Is this a visit or an interview?' I asked crossly. Murray and I have been friends for several years, but our relationship never develops because we are always competing in our work.
'How about an interview as payment for the story on Paige Carrington?'
I brightened up considerably. 'What did you find out?'
'Ms Carrington has one older sister. Mother lives in Park Forest South. Her family doesn't have a lot of money, but she lives in an apartment on Astor Place. She may have a rich friend helping her out. There was some talk about her and Boom Boom the month before he died. But the other hockey players thought she was running after him — he wasn't so interested.'
I felt a stab of pleasure at that. Perhaps I was jealous of Boom Boom's love for the perfect Paige.
'You talk now.' Murray's eyes were bright with interest.
I told him everything I knew about the accident.
'Vandals? I don't believe it. You got someone mad and they cut your steering cable. Someone at the Port. Someone connected with Boom Boom. I'm going to follow you around, Vic. I want to see this happening before it happens.'
'Murray, you get out of here before I ask the nurse to throw you out.'
He laughed. 'Get well soon, Vic. I'd miss you if you didn't...'
I drank some water and slept for a while. When I woke up, a young man was sitting in the visitor's chair watching me with an expression of concern on his smooth, round face. It was Boom Boom's friend, Pierre Bouchard.
'Pierre! How nice to see you.'
He smiled. 'I've just seen the story of your accident in the paper. I'm so sorry, Vic. First Boom Boom, and now this.'
I smiled. 'My shoulder will get better.'
'I've come with a message from Boom Boom.' Pierre paused.
'I've been playing hockey in Quebec for two weeks, and when I got back last night there was a letter from him! He mailed it the day before he died.' He pulled a letter from the pocket of his jacket and passed it to me.
I thought I saw Howard the other day in a very odd place. I tried calling him, but his wife said he was in Quebec with you. Give me a ring when you get back and let me know. Boom Boom
'Who's Howard? Howard Mattingly?'
Pierre nodded. Mattingly was another ice hockey player with the Black Hawks, though not on the first team. Boom Boom never liked him — he couldn't even play hockey.
The letter seemed unconnected with the problems I was trying to solve. But it had been important to Boom Boom. He had written the letter on the twenty-sixth. When had he seen Mattingly? The Lucella's holds had been filled with water on the twenty-third. Could Mattingly have been involved in that?
On Monday, the doctor allowed me to leave the hospital and I went back to my apartment. I got out a bottle of Black Label whisky and sat down in the living room with the telephone. I was going to talk to everyone who might have damaged my car and tried to kill me. My anger had disappeared as my shoulder had got better, but I was determined to discover the truth about my accident.
Pole Star Line told me the Lucella had delivered her grain in Buffalo and was on the way to Erie. The ship wouldn't be back in Chicago until June. I phoned Eudora Grain and got Phillips's address from Janet.
My insurance company had provided me with another car, a Chevette, and I drove up to Lake Bluff. The town is a tiny pocket of wealth, and the houses were huge, with beautiful gardens. The weak spring sun shone on trees which were just showing their first pale green leaves.
The Phillipses lived in a house on the shore of Lake Michigan, with a three-car garage. A woman in her early forties answered the door. She was wearing a simple dress which probably cost 250 dollars. Her make-up was perfect, and diamonds hung from her ears.
'Good afternoon, Mrs Phillips. I'm Ellen Edwards with Tri- State Research. We're interviewing wives of important businessmen and I wanted to talk to you. Do you have a few minutes?'
'Is this going to appear in a newspaper?'
'Oh no. We're talking to five hundred women, and no names will be used.'
She agreed, and I asked her a few questions. They had lived in Lake Bluff for five years. Before that they lived in Park Forest South which was much closer to the Port. Lake Bluff was a wonderful place to live. They could sail on the lake and play tennis at the Maritime Club.
'Let's take a normal day and go through it — say last Thursday. What time did you get up?'
I heard all the details of her life. The hours at the tennis club, the shops. At last she gave me the information I'd come for: Clayton hadn't got home that night until after nine o'clock.
'Well, thank you for your time, Mrs Phillips. We'll mail you a copy of the report when we complete it.'
As I said goodbye, I asked who owned the enormous house down the road.
'That's the Grafalks. They're terribly wealthy.'
'Do you spend much time with them?'
'Oh well, Clayton sails with Niels sometimes. And they recommended our names to the Maritime Club. But Claire's not very friendly.'
We said goodbye and I drove down the road. I stopped the car outside the Grafalks' house. It was an enormous, red brick house, with a huge garden. Suddenly, a dark blue Ferrari came round the bend, turned in at the gates, and stopped. Niels Grafalk came up to my car before I had time to disappear.
'What are you doing in front of my house, lady detective?'
'Looking at the view.' I started the car, but he put his hand through the window and grabbed my arm. A stab of pain went through my shoulder.
'I want to know why you were spying on my house.'
'I wasn't spying, Mr Grafalk. If I were, I wouldn't stop outside your front door like this. I'd hide myself and you'd never know I was here.'
The anger in his eyes died down and he laughed. 'What are you doing here, then?'
'Passing through. Someone told me you lived here and I wanted to have a look. It's quite a place.'
He looked amused. 'How about a drink?'
We went up to the house. The garden was green with spring and spring flowers provided bursts of colour at the corners of the house.
'My father built the place back in the nineteen twenties. My wife likes it, so I've never changed it.'
We went in through a side door and then to the back of the house, overlooking the lake. The garden went down to a sandy beach.
'Don't you keep your boat here?'
Grafalk laughed. 'The water is too shallow here. I keep my yacht at the harbour in Lake Bluff.'
I sat down and Grafalk brought me a glass of sherry. I tasted it. It was as smooth as liquid gold.
'If you weren't spying on me, you must have been spying on Clayton. What did you find out? We carry a lot of grain for Eudora. I'd like to know if something is wrong with the company.'
I drank some more sherry. 'I don't know about any problems at Eudora Grain. My main concern is that someone tried to kill me last Thursday night.'
'Kill you?' Grafalk's blue eyes widened.
'Someone cut my steering cable when I was parked at the Port, and I was in a serious accident on the Dan Ryan.'
'And you think Clayton might have done it?'
'Well, it's just possible. But why should he? Any more than you, or Martin Bledsoe or Mark Sheridan?'
'You're sure the damage was done at the Port? Could it have been vandals?' Grafalk got up for more drinks.
'I don't think so. Vandals would damage the tyres or break the windows, not cut the steering cable.'
Grafalk poured me some more sherry. 'How much do you know about Martin Bledsoe?'
I stiffened. 'I've met him a few times. Why?'
'He didn't tell you anything about his background at dinner on Thursday?'
I put the expensive glass down. 'Now who's doing the spying, Mr Grafalk?'
He laughed. 'The Port is a small place and news about ship owners travels fast. I knew about your accident, too, but I didn't know someone had deliberately damaged your car.'
'Tell me about Bledsoe's background.'
'It's buried deep. I've never told anyone about it, but if someone tried to kill you, then you should know.'
I didn't say anything. Outside, the house threw a long shadow on the beach.
'Martin grew up in Cleveland. He never knew his father and when he was fifteen he ran away and started sailing the Great Lakes. When he was eighteen he began working in our Buffalo office. He was involved with money, and he stole some of it. I wanted to give him another chance, but my father refused, and Martin spent two years in Cantonville prison. My father died before he came out, and Martin came back to work for me.'
'You must think something is seriously wrong to tell me this.' Grafalk shook his head. 'If there is something wrong at Eudora Grain, it must involve money. I do sometimes wonder where Clayton Phillips gets his money. But I'm afraid I must ask you to leave now, Miss Warshawski. We're expecting visitors and I have things to do before they arrive.'
He showed me to the front door and watched until I went through the gates and drove off. As I left the wealth of Lake Bluff, I felt confused. Grafalk's sherry and Grafalk's story had clearly been provided for a reason. But what?
The next morning I phoned Janet at Eudora Grain and asked her to find out how much Phillips earned. Then I phoned Pole Star Line and found out that the Lucella would be in Thunder Bay — Canada's westernmost port on Lake Superior — on Thursday and Friday. I wanted to find out if Grafalk's story about Bledsoe was true, and whether the captain or the chief engineer had damaged my car. I wanted to talk to those guys now. So I booked a flight from Chicago to Toronto and then on to Thunder Bay that afternoon. I packed jeans and a shirt, and my Smith and Wesson gun, in a small bag and put my wallet in my jeans pocket.
After an hour in Toronto's bright modern airport, I boarded the small plane to Thunder Bay. We arrived at ten p.m. We were a thousand kilometres north of Chicago and it was still winter. I took a cab to the Holiday Inn and slept late after the long flight. My shoulder felt much better in the morning and I ate a good breakfast. I bought a local newspaper which listed the ships in port. The Lucella was at Wharf 67, the Manitoba Grain Company.
I took a cab to Wharf 67. The Lucella's red paint shone in the late morning sun. Above her floated a cloud of white smoke. Grain dust. The Lucella was loading. I climbed the steel ladder to the main deck. I stopped to look at the men working on the deck and then I climbed up to the bridge. Only Mike Sheridan, the chief engineer, was there. He looked up in surprise when I came in, recognizing me at once.
'Miss Warshawski! Is Captain Bemis expecting you?'
'I don't think so. Is he around? And what about Martin Bledsoe?'
'They're in Thunder Bay this morning. They won't be back until late afternoon. Not until just before we sail, I'm afraid.'
'You're sailing today? Your office said you'd be here tomorrow.'
'No. We got here a day early, and we'll finish loading around four and sail at five, to St Catharines, at the other side of the lakes.'
I rubbed my forehead. 'Do you stop anywhere on the way where I could get off?'
'We stop at the locks at Sault Ste Marie.' Sheridan was getting annoyed. 'If you're thinking of sailing with us, you'll have to ask the captain.' He returned to his papers and I left the bridge.
I went back to the Holiday Inn, repacked my little bag, and had some lunch. I loaded my gun and pushed it in my belt. At three-thirty I went back to Wharf 67 and once more climbed the ladder to the Lucella's main deck.
The grain was loaded and the men were covering the holes in the deck with steel lids. As I watched, I felt the ship begin to shake. The engines had been turned on. I turned to look at the wharf and I thought I saw someone swimming away from the side of the ship. I stared at the water, and finally I saw a figure rise from the water twenty metres away, close to the shore.
When I turned back, Bledsoe was just coming on board. He went towards the bridge without seeing me. I was just going to follow, when I thought I would hide until the ship left the shore. I moved behind a pile of huge oil drums and sat down on a metal box. After about forty-five minutes, the Lucella slowly pulled away from the wharf. I waited until we were a good kilometre or two from land, and then I made my way to the bridge. I checked my gun, my heart beating fast.
Captain Bemis was at the wheel, but he turned when I came in. 'Ah, Miss Warshawski. The chief engineer said you'd appear.' He was serious, but not angry.
'You're a stowaway, Vic.' Bledsoe gave the shadow of a smile. 'We could lock you in the holds until we get to Sault Ste Marie.'
I sat down at the round table. Perhaps these two men were killers, but now that I was here my anxiety disappeared; I felt calm.
The captain gave the wheel to another officer and he and Bledsoe joined me at the table.
'I'm trying to find out if someone on this ship tried to kill me,' I said.
For ten seconds there was no sound in the small room but the distant noise of the engines.
'Explain that, Miss Warshawski.'
'Gladly. Last Thursday night Martin took me out for dinner. I left my car at the Port. While we were gone someone cut the steering cables and emptied the brake fluid. When my car crashed on the Dan Ryan I escaped with minor injuries. An innocent driver was killed, though.'
'My God!' Bledsoe exclaimed. I watched him carefully. He tried to say something else, but no words came out. His surprise looked real, but...
The captain looked at me through narrowed eyes. 'Could I talk to the Chicago police about this?'
At last, Bledsoe found his voice. 'Why do you think someone on the Lucella might be involved?'
'Only a few people knew I was at the Port. Only a few knew my car.'
'There are a lot of vandals down at the Port,' the captain said.
'I see a lot of vandals in my work, and vandals don't have the tools to do that kind of damage… Captain, I'm sure that Boom Boom was killed. And a watchman was killed in his apartment. The killer is connected with this ship or with Eudora Grain. You've got a big machine shop here. I'm sure you've got cutting torches -'
'No!' Bemis exploded. 'Mike Sheridan isn't involved in this. We've been sailing together for twenty years.'
'Anyway,' Bledsoe said, 'there's no reason for Mike — or for any of us — to want to kill you.'
I rubbed my forehead tiredly. 'If I knew what my cousin had found out, then I'd know who the killer was. I thought it was connected with those contracts, Martin, but you told me they were perfectly normal. Perhaps it had something to do with the water in your holds?'
'But we all need this ship. Why would we damage it?'
I looked at Bledsoe. 'Someone might be threatening to tell your secret, Martin.'
Bledsoe's face turned white. 'How dare you!'
'Do you have secrets in your past?'
Bledsoe banged the table. 'If I had a secret, who told it to you?'
Grafalk had told me the truth, Bledsoe's anger told me that. 'I'm only guessing,' I said. 'I just wondered why you smashed a wine glass because Grafalk talked about where you went to school.'
'I see.' Bledsoe gave a short laugh.
'Did you tell Sheridan to damage my car while we were at dinner?'
Bledsoe pushed back his chair. 'Ask him yourself!' He left the bridge, banging the door behind him.
Bemis looked at me coldly. 'I won't allow you to disturb my ship.'
My head ached. 'Very well,' I said tightly. 'I won't disturb your ship. I would like to talk to the chief engineer, however.'
Bemis nodded. 'You may question the chief at dinner.'
I went down to the main deck and breathed the afternoon air thankfully. We were well away from the shore and it was quite cold. I collected my bag from behind the oil drums, and pulled out my coat. I walked down the deck and found a little bench. I sat down and looked at the sun shining on the green-black water.
I reached inside my bag for the Smith and Wesson as Bledsoe came up beside me. He looked surprised when he saw the gun. 'Put that away. I came out here to talk to you.' He sat down beside me. 'Did Grafalk tell you about my crime?'
He nodded to himself. 'I thought so. No one else knows about it, or cares. I was eighteen years old when I stole that money. And for twenty years Grafalk never talked about it. But when I left to start my own company, Niels started telling me I was still a criminal. But he never told anyone else about it. So why did he tell you now?
It was a good question. 'I was talking to Grafalk about Clayton Phillips. What do you know about Phillips?'
'Not much. His main job is to act as the controller. He should leave the sales to his salesmen but he wants to be involved in all the shipping contracts, and since he doesn't know all the details, he gets left with expensive contracts occasionally. I noticed that when I was with Niels, and I see it now with my own business.' It didn't sound criminal, just stupid. 'Can Phillips be cheating Eudora? You told me those shipping contracts were perfectly normal.'
Bledsoe looked at me seriously. 'If you want to be sure, you'll have to look at the invoices. The contracts themselves appear fine, but you want to see what Phillips actually paid.'
I rubbed my shoulder which was beginning to hurt.
'Are you getting off in Sault Ste Marie?' Bledsoe asked. 'I'll fly you down to Chicago — my plane is there and I'm planning to get back to the office this week.'
We got up and went down the long deck. The sun had gone and the sky was turning dark. The first stars were coming out. In the city one doesn't see too many stars.
At dinner I talked to Sheridan about my accident. The chief engineer agreed that he had cutting torches in the engine room. 'But we don't keep tools under lock and key.'
'Were you in the engine room that night?' I asked.
He looked me straight in the eye. 'Yes, I was. And my first engineer was with me.'
'Not out of each other's sight all evening?'
'Not long enough to damage a car.'
Around ten-thirty, they brought a narrow bed and some blankets into the dining room for me. I climbed under the blankets in my jeans and shirt, put the Smith and Wesson beside me, and went to sleep almost immediately. The cooks woke me before six as they started preparing breakfast.
After breakfast I packed my little bag for a quick departure: Bledsoe told me we'd have about two minutes to climb over the side of the Lucella on to the shore before they opened the lock gates and she went on to Lake Huron. I put my wallet into my jeans pocket and put the Smith and Wesson into the bag. Then I put the bag on the deck and went up to the bridge to watch the Lucella slide into the lock.
There were four locks closing the seven-metre drop between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. Only one lock, the Poe Lock, was big enough for the three-hundred-metre ships. We were the second ship into the Poe.
Canada's Sault Ste Marie lay on our left, the huge Algoma steel factory on the shore. After forty minutes, Captain Bemis was told by radio to move into the lock. Slowly we moved forward and the enormous wood and steel gates shut behind us. I went with Bledsoe down to the deck.
It takes about fifteen minutes for the lock to empty its seven million plus litres of water into Lake Huron. A few tourists were watching the ships in the locks from the American side. I watched a man with bright red hair pick up a pair of binoculars and look at our ship through them. I walked across the deck to pick up my bag. I was almost there when I was thrown to the ground, the air knocked out of me. I thought at first that someone had hit me. But when I tried to stand up, I realized the deck was shaking underneath me.
The head cook was standing at the edge of the ship, trying to hold on to the steel cables. I watched in horror as she was thrown backwards and fell over the side of the ship. I didn't understand why we were rising again when there was no water to push us up. I felt horribly sick. Bledsoe was standing near me, his face grey.
Sheets of water rushed up between the sides of the ship and the lock. Thirty metres above us the water rushed, before falling on to the deck, knocking me over again. I wanted to shut my eyes, to shut out the disaster, but I couldn't stop staring. A great cry sounded above the noise of the water. The wood tore and the ship broke in two. We fell again into the lock, falling down into the forward gates. Wet grain poured out of the holds, covering everyone with gold mud. The deck moved sharply down and I held on to the steel cables so that I wasn't thrown into the centre. The broken ship lay still.
The air was quiet following the explosion. My legs were shaking. I rubbed the aching muscles of my shoulder. Bledsoe still stood next to me, his eyes glassy, his face grey. I wanted to say something to him, but no words came. An explosion. Someone blew up a sixty-thousand-tone ship. I saw Captain Bemis come down from the bridge.
'Martin. Our ship. What happened?'
'Someone blew up your ship, captain.' The words came from far away. Bemis was looking at me strangely: I realized I had spoken the words.
Bemis shook his head. 'No. Not my ship.'
I started to argue, but I felt too tired. I suddenly remembered the figure swimming away from the ship at Thunder Bay. That was the person who had planted the explosives. I opened my mouth to tell them, then swallowed the words. No one would be able to accept such news at the moment.
'Martin needs some help,' I said. 'Get him to sit down.'
I needed to get away from the crowd on the deck. There was some important information in my mind, somewhere hidden. If I could get away, stay awake… I started towards the bridge, to look for my bag. On my way I passed the chief engineer. He was covered with mud and oil. His eyes stared at me in horror.
'How are things below?' I asked.
'Several men dead. Water everywhere. It was a bomb, you know. It must have been set off by radio signal. But why?'
I shook my head, helplessly, but I suddenly remembered the man with bright red hair and a pair of binoculars. Howard Mattingly, the hockey player Boom Boom had seen in an unusual place, had red hair.
I forgot the ache in my shoulder. I needed to find Mattingly.
Before he got away. I turned away from Sheridan and looked for my bag. I didn't want to follow Mattingly without the Smith and Wesson. The bag was gone. Two shirts, a jacket, a pair of jeans, and a three-hundred dollar Smith and Wesson were all lying hidden in fifty thousand tones of grain.
It wasn't difficult to get off the Lucella. The emergency team were arriving, followed by a television news team. I pushed my way through an enormous crowd of people enjoying the disaster. But Mattingly was not there. I went across the street to a little coffee shop and drank a cup of hot chocolate. I'd had a shock and I needed a hot drink and sugar. Slowly I began to feel better. Mattingly was probably on his way back to Chicago by car, unless he had a private plane waiting for him at Sault Ste Marie's little airport.
I took a cab to the airport. The daily flight for Chicago left in two hours and I booked a seat on it. Sault Ste Marie is even smaller than Thunder Bay. A few private planes, Cessnas and the like, stood at the edge of the field, and I went over to them. A man was lying on his back under a tiny plane.
'Does Martin Bledsoe keep his plane here?'
The man looked up at me. 'It was here. His pilot flew it out about twenty minutes ago. Some guy came along, said Bledsoe wanted Cappy to fly him to Chicago.'
I was too tired to feel anything — surprise, shock, anger. 'Guy have bright red hair?'
'He had red hair all right. Cappy was expecting the guy. Bledsoe phoned last night and told him.'
I went back to the airport building and boarded the plane for Chicago. I thought I would sleep on the flight, but my mind was too busy. Why would Bledsoe put a bomb on his own ship?
That grey face was real. Perhaps Mattingly gad used too much explosive. Why had Bledsoe, offered to give me a ride on his plane, if Mattingly was going to use it? I didn't understand and I felt bitter. I liked Bledsoe, and last night I had believed him. Had I misjudged his character completely?
Dance for a dead hockey player
When I got home, I slept for ten hours. The phone woke me: it was Janet, from Eudora Grain. She had found out Phillips's salary: ninety-two thousand dollars. That was a lot of money — for me or for Janet. But for Phillips? That huge house, the Alfa, expensive schools for the children, expensive dresses for his wife, the Maritime Club… He needed more than ninety-two thousand.
I sat up in bed, still feeling tired. I phoned Pierre Bouchard and asked him if he had seen Mattingly.
'That man! I avoid him if I can.'
'Did you go to a Christmas party, where Boom Boom met Paige Carrington?' I asked. 'Someone interested in the Black Hawks gave the party. Do you know who it was?'
'Oh yes. That party was given by a man called Niels Grafalk.'
'I see,' I said weakly. 'Thanks very much, Pierre. Let me know if you hear from Mattingly.'
So Grafalk had given the party where Boom Boom met Paige. I wondered who had taken her to the party.
I got up and drove over to Boom Boom's apartment. I collected his important papers for the lawyer, picked up the gold trophy from the living room and some of the photos from the wall of the study. I looked at