Welcome to Our Experiment to Serialize a
Warren Adler E-Sheet 38
from Death of a Washington Madame,
Fiona knew it would be counter-productive to
move too quickly and start down the wrong
path. All they had was that a person, probably
of small stature, had stabbed to death an old
woman and apparently raped her and stolen her
cross and, perhaps, nothing else. Motive,
motive. It was already a mantra going through
Suddenly they heard a commotion in front of the house.
Looking out, Fiona saw William Shipley and his
wife emerge from a black limousine. The
Governor looked pale and somber. Madeline, in
high Hollywood mourning style wore large
sunglasses and a kerchief on her head. Led by
a large burly black man, who performed
intimidating blocking maneuvers through the
crowd, the two moved silently through the knot
of chirping reporters.
"Donít put her in the bag," the Eggplant said to Flanagan.
"Get her downstairs quick. I donít want him to
see this mess."
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of a Washington Madame
By Warren Adler
"Oh to be in Washington now that April's here," Fiona said, sniffing the newly washed air, pungent with delicate cherry blossom aroma, the orange glow of sunrise rising above the glistening marble sheen of Memorial Bridge where beams of golden light bounced off the glazed haunches of the bronze horses that guarded its entrances.
She leaned against Hal Perry's tall hard form, his arms enveloping her as she caressed his hands. His breath felt cool on her cheek. Her glance roamed the spectacular sight of the cherry blossoms in full pink bloom along the rim of the Tidal Basin from the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. At that hour the tourists had not yet begun to arrive and the area was deserted.
Drinking in the beauty of the lush cherry blossoms was certainly contrasting, an antithesis of the violence to which she bore witness on her daily rounds as a homicide detective. From where they stood, they could see the former home of Robert E. Lee on its hillside overlooking the serene Arlington resting place of valiant soldiers and northward the creamy plantation home of the sitting President.
It was impossible to believe that this hallowed place with its spectacular view of the Capital's wedding cake Greco-roman buildings, its stunning obelisk memorial to the father of the country, and the two temples that anchored the giant stone images of the great Jefferson and the martyred Lincoln, could exist side by side with the bloody horrors that took place within it's diamond shaped boundaries.
"In a week, they'll only be a memory," Fiona said, meaning the cherry blossoms.
"And pop again in another year," Hal said, tightening his arms around her. "Let's not knock renewal, Fi."
"I'm renewal's biggest fan," Fiona sighed; certain he would get the sexual implication. Except for the dinner party at Daisy Hodges house, they had spent the past three days making love. No, she corrected, being in love, which was also renewal in a psychic sense. She had been on such a journey before and had tasted its ecstasy and betrayal. She was hoping this one was a "keeper."
After a few moments more observing the horticultural display, Fiona reversed herself in his arms and they kissed deeply. When they parted, he grasped her elbow and moved her gently forward.
"As green as an Irish Spring," he said, stooping suddenly, pausing again to study the color of her eyes, hazel but deep green now in this bright morning light.
"Only in the early sunglow," she laughed. "But still not the mesmerizing iridescent violet of dear Madeline Newton's orbs. I think she can create that color at will and make you men all go gaga. And not just the eyes' color. She can also inflate you with that practiced contrived look."
He shook his head and smiled.
"Didn't do a thing for me," he chuckled.
"You drooled over that gorgeous display of boobery." Fiona said, squeezing his hand. "She totally commanded your attention."
"You don't command a three-star General," he snickered. "Even a retired one."
"Alright then, a captain of industry."
"She's Madeline Newton, Fi, for crying out loud," he said going along. "She's an icon. She's been in our face for forty odd years, ever since she was a kid. She's been paid plenty of loot for those violet eyes and luscious breastworks. I kind of liked meeting her in the flesh."
"Much of it revealed. You appeared inspired by it." Fiona paused and let out a mock growl. "Both of them."
He lifted his head in a silent laugh.
"She's a movie star, Fi. Everybody loves to see movie stars in person. And she's a super star."
"An aging super movie star," Fiona corrected, then quickly amending the remark. "Now that was unkind."
"I'm also fifty-something, Fi," he reminded her gently.
"Ah, but you are a chronological miracle. No surgeon's knife nipped and tucked you to preserve that youthful look. Besides, you have a teenage libido. I'll sign papers on that." She moved closer to him as they walked and reached up to kiss his cheek. He was darkly handsome in that craggy way of athletic men, tanned, muscular, a focused lover, virile, exciting. He was also every inch the General, as they say, ramrod straight, a man of authority and charisma.
"And from what I hear she is supposed to be quite artful in that category," Fiona continued, deliberately rumor mongering, suddenly feeling herself move into darker emotional territory, from teasing satire to petulance.
"I wouldn't know."
"What did you talk about?"
"Politics. Mostly she asked my opinion on various subjects. You know...where is the country going internationally. Are we losing our edge in the new world disorder? She did call it disorder. Oh yes...she asked if all that treasure dispensed for compassion had worked?"
"And you answered?"
"Disorder is the natural political condition of man and dependency debilitates motivation."
"How profound. That's her expertise, making men feel important by asking them the "big" questions. Batting her violets, flapping her lashes, exhibiting her mounds."
"Mounds? That's a candy bar."
"Bet she hung on every word. Showed you what a great listener she was."
"She seemed quite intelligent for a...."
"...big boobed superstar. And no movie talk, right? Too trivial for her new role as political hustler, trying to get her man into that mansion across the pond."
"In Washington everyone has an agenda," he sighed.
"Just so long as it doesn't include you," she said finally. Her jealousy was partly sincere, but it deflected attention from what he often called "the matter at hand," meaning his matrimonial pursuit.
"You're my agenda, Fi."
She had been on too many agendas to take the remark seriously.
It had been a game of banter between them since Daisy's dinner party, where he had been seated next to the super star. Fiona had drawn Madeline Newton's husband as her dinner partner, William Shipley, Jr. the sitting Governor of Virginia. She remembered when he was merely Billy Shipley, only son of Deb Shipley, Washington's once hostess with the mostest in the days when Fiona's father was the powerful senior Senator from New York.
When Billy Shipley was a Marine, his mother's connections had got him to be a White House "walker", one of those handsome young uniforms on hand at State social occasions to escort and dance with the unaccompanied ladies, one of whom, a rich one, he eventually married and divorced. He had once, very briefly, escorted Fiona up the spiral marble staircase to the State Dining room at a White House event when she was sixteen.
"Of course, I remember," Shipley had told her as he dipped into the soup course. Fiona doubted his allegation of memory. It was a knee-jerk reaction of blatant cynicism. She invariably doubted politicians, to whom election and re-election were, in her mind, their only real priorities. "I certainly remember your father."
"And I remember your mother," she had countered. How could one forget Deb Shipley who dominated an era and played hostess to the world's elite in her mansion off 16th Street? Invitations to her parties were the only real validation that one had finally arrived into the cozy club of America's movers and shakers. Apparently she had dropped out of sight years ago.
"Mother doesn't go out these days," he had said, as if to preempt what might be coming next.
"Does she still live in that grand house?"
Fiona knew what he meant. The neighborhood had changed significantly since the days of Deb Shipley's greatest glory. Her grand house, still an impressive landmark, was the centerpiece of a neighborhood in decay, a haven for drug dealers, prostitutes, crack houses and killers.
"Is she well?"
"Health-wise yes. She's still the Grande dame," he replied. "A bit arthritic, but her mind's still razor sharp."
"What does she do with her time?" Fiona asked, conscious suddenly of allowing her professional bent for interrogation cross the line of polite conversation.
"Prays mostly. She's become a Catholic."
He shrugged, as if in resignation, a discreet signal that further interrogation was not welcome.
"She did have her moment on the stage," Fiona said, an appropriate exit line.
"That she did," Shipley had replied.
"Now you're having yours," Fiona said.
"You might say that."
"And it's not over."
"You might say that, too."
She was struck by his boyish charm and the polished pleasantness of his evasion.
It was no secret that William Shipley's political ambitions went much further than the Richmond statehouse. With his high profile world renowned film star wife by his side, a fact that had raised his celebrity status a hundred fold, he was a good bet to throw his hat in the ring for a Presidential run, still one year away. For Shipley and his wife, Fiona observed, becoming President was perfect casting, Camelot revisited.
With his tall slim figure and sandy hair peppered with flattering gray, his easy white-toothed smile and crinkles at the edges of his sky blue eyes, he could stir nostalgic memories of the martyred young President. Of all the Governor's in America, he was, thanks to Madeline Newton, the best known, most photographed and talked about politician in America.
Daisy Hodges, who Fiona had known when they were both the terrors of the Mount Vernon School for Girls, was unabashedly working to become one of Washington's premier hostesses, knew the media drawing power of the Shipleys and was willing to exploit it to the fullest. Her father had been a member of the Nixon cabinet and her husband had made a fortune in real estate giving her both the cachet and wherewithal to ply her ambitions.
"What else can I do?" she had confided to Fiona, who loved her self-deprecating disarming charm, an asset that had served her well in her drive for social dominance. She could make every remark she uttered sound like a private confidence meant solely for the recipient. "I can't cook worth a damn. I'm rarely inspired in the sack and I don't play golf, tennis or bridge. The only thing I do well is give good party."
Fiona agreed and liked to be included in Daisy's events when the press of chasing murderers allowed, especially when she had a new man in tow. Despite her profession as a Homicide Detective with MPD, Fiona enjoyed and continued to foster the social life she had always known.
All her old friends characterized her career as a kind of exotic anomaly, a distorted form of Joan of Arcism, a call from God to don a blue collar and 38 instead of sword and armor and do battle with the infidels. Most agreed it was, despite nearly ten years of service, merely a temporary stage she was going through. Her new friends and associates in police circles, light years away from the others, came to a remarkably similar conclusion.
None of these opinions mattered to her. She had stubbornly opposed the pacifism of her adored father, a factor which tumbled his career. Evil, she had argued, had to be confronted, fought and conquered by force, if necessary. In Fiona's hawkish mindset, crime was a vicious war and, as a homicide cop, she was a soldier in the bloody trenches. How she chose to fight the concept and stand by her principles, however aberrational it appeared to others of her social realm, was her own business, militantly defended.
"You make such an exotic guest," Daisy told her often. "That gun you carry. I love it. And the thing you call it. A piece. So sexy." Daisy was not reticent to advertise to her guests what Fiona did, pointing out that they had better behave because she was armed, ready for combat and had the power of arrest.
Hal Perry, although obviously enjoying the event, had made her promise that they would leave early. During coffee and after dinner drinks in the parlor, they discreetly made their exit.
"I'm working in a tight time frame," Fiona told Daisy in a farewell embrace.
"Horny bitch," Daisy had whispered, then turning to Hal.
"Rub her in the right places and a genie will emerge," she said, tapping Fiona on the shoulder.
"Daisy!" Fiona cried in mock rebuke.
"It already has," Hal said, his arm around Fiona, pulling her closer.
"Well then, children," Daisy said. "Attend to your business."
They went back to Fiona's bedroom and attended to it.
Still on the subject of Madeline Newton, mostly an obvious ploy to avoid the more serious subject that hung between them, Fiona's car headed out of the Jefferson Memorial parking lot and turned into the highway leading to the Fourteenth street Bridge, heading toward the airport where Hal's company jet was waiting.
"She's absolutely perfect for the part," Fiona persisted. "Don't you think?"
"Good casting," he nodded.
"Playing her role as Governor's wife to the hilt, a role created by an unfortunate accident that befell the competition." Fiona paused and shook her head. "That, too, was unkind."
"Yes it was," he said patiently as she headed the car to the airport turnoff.
She had referred to the unfortunate plane crash that had killed the front-runner in the Virginia Gubernatorial election. Experts had investigated and ruled that the crash that took place on a stormy night was accidental. Naturally, those wags that believed in conspiracies thought otherwise and whispered about Madeline Newton's secret pact with the devil to make her husband President of the United States.
But as they neared the airport, there was no escaping the subject of their relationship and its future.
"I'm sorry Hal. I get jealous and bitchy when you leave."
"That's correctable, Fi," he muttered. His MO on their periodic parting was to get morose.
"We've been over that ground before General," Fiona sighed.
Indeed they had, ever since Hal Perry had declared his love and proposed marriage. A widower with two grown sons, he was CEO of Seven Continents, a high tech conglomerate with offices in thirty countries, which kept him on a grueling schedule circling the globe. They had met at a party at the Greek Embassy six months ago. He had taken her home and, after talking until
dawn, it was apparent that there was nowhere for the relationship to go except to bed, which it had...explosively.
Since then she had seen him every two months for two or three days at a time, a paltry budget of private moments to feed their passionate attraction. She had, of course, agonized over his offer, trying to be as sensible and coldly analytical as possible.
"I couldn't be a corporate wife, Hal," she told him, remembering her mother's sacrifice and self-imposed subjugation to the glory of her father.
"We'd be partners, Fi."
"Not really. It's your show Hal. I just couldn't be a full-time social director. Not to mention the abandonment of my own career. I know...blue collar...lower class...harm's way. I've heard it all."
"Not from me, Fi."
That was true.
"I'm sorry, Hal. I'm so used to defending my position, I do it by rote. Downtown I'm the crazy white Princess, who gets her jollies slumming with the brothers and the killers. Uptown I'm an eccentric idiot having fun in the lower depths. You'd think I'd be used to it by now. The fact is I love my work. I love being part of the thin blue line. Hell, we're holding back the jungle." She clicked her tongue. "There I go again."
"I'll say only this and you've heard me say it before. That job's a burnout Fi. You'll get a belly-full of blood and guts. That's not a put down. It's like combat. It distorts your perspective about the human race. I was there Fiona. A daily dose will take its toll."
"I'm not ready to quit, Hal. Let's leave it at that. But that's only one aspect of my refusal."
"We'd be creative. Find a way. That's my expertise, finding a way to solve any problem."
She knew he was the kind that would never give up. If one strategy didn't work he would try another. His first wife had died three years ago of cancer. Pressed by Fiona, he had told her that in his marriage he had been devoted and ever faithful. He had stressed, too, that although he was away often, she never complained.
He had married her on his graduation from West Point and she knew exactly what she was taking on, segueing comfortably from the military to the similar corporate life without a blip in their marriage.
"Let's leave it like this, Hal," Fiona had decided, knowing the pressure would not go away. "For the moment, think of me as your faithful mistress." She had been that, discarding all the other men in her life.
"I'm too old fashioned for that," he had contended, although he had not rejected the idea outright. She wondered how long the arrangement would be acceptable to him and steeled her for the inevitable moment when he would declare the relationship too painful to endure.
She headed the car into Page Aviation where his Gulfstream and retinue of staff and colleagues waited. She parked the car and he leaned over and embraced her, kissing her deeply.
"That's a lover's kiss," Fiona said when they had disengaged, "not a husbands."
"You're the light of my life, Fi," he said.
"I try harder," she said, feeling the welling begin, the genuine physical pain of parting. She kissed him again. He opened the car door.
"And remember. You have my central number...if you ever need to reach me anytime, anyplace."
"I need you always," she said.
"So you say. In the meantime, go get the bad guys," he said blowing her a last kiss. Turning, he strode toward the building entrance, every inch the General.
"Am I mad?" she asked herself, blinking away the tears and heading the car back to the city.
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