The Professional

by Robert B. Parker

The Spenser Series

Boston P.I. Spenser returns in a flawless addition to New York Times-bestselling author Robert B. Parker's flagship series.

A knock on Spenser's office door can only mean one thing: a new case. This time the visitor is a local lawyer with an interesting story. Elizabeth Shaw specializes in wills and trusts at the Boston law firm of Shaw & Cartwright, and over the years she's developed a friendship with wives of very wealthy men. However, these rich wives have a mutual secret: they've all had an affair with a man named Gary Eisenhower—and now he's blackmailing them for money. Shaw hires Spenser to make Eisenhower "cease and desist," so to speak, but when women start turning up dead, Spenser's assignment goes from blackmail to murder.

As matters become more complicated, Spenser's longtime love, Susan, begins offering some input by analyzing Eisenhower's behavior patterns in hopes of opening up a new avenue of investigation. It seems that not all of Gary's women are rich. So if he's not using them for blackmail, then what is his purpose? Spenser switches tactics to focus on the husbands, only to find that innocence and guilt may be two sides of the same coin.

With its eloquently spare prose and some of the best supporting characters to grace the printed page, The Professional is further proof that "[t]here's hardly an author in the crime novel business like Parker" (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

Reviews

"Is there a more promising opening in contemporary crime fiction than Boston PI Spenser opening his office door to a new client? Instantly we get Spenser's clear-eyed view of the client, what his or her dress and stature have to say, and the rat-a-tat-tat of Spenser's wise-guy answers to the client's queries...a series of unflagging excellence...Great plotting, clever dialogue, and Spenser's mouthwatering cooking all make for a fantastic time."
Booklist (starred)

"Not even Spenser's formidable gifts are equal to the problems posed by a charming blackmailer who kisses and threatens to tell."
Kirkus Reviews

"Bestseller Parker makes producing snappy banter look easy in his 37th Spenser novel...He also manages to draw new readers into the Boston PI's major personal relationships."
Publishers Weekly

Buy the book

paperback | Putnam | 2009 | ISBN: 9780425236307

Excerpt

1

I had just finished a job for an interesting woman named Nan Sartin, and was happily making out my bill to her, when a woman came in who promised to be equally interesting.

It was a bright October morning when she walked into my office carrying a briefcase. She was a big woman, not fat, but strong-looking and very graceful. Her hair was silver, and her face was young enough to make me assume that the silver was premature. She was wearing a dark blue suit with a long jacket and a short skirt.

I said, "Hello."

She said, "My name is Elizabeth Shaw. Please call me Elizabeth. I'm an attorney, and I represent a group of women who need your help."

She took a business card from her briefcase and placed it on my desk. It said she was a partner in the law firm Shaw and Cartwright, and that they had offices on Milk Street.

I said, "Okay."

"You are Spenser," she said.

"I am he," I said.

"I specialize in wills and trusts," she said. "I know little about criminal law."

I nodded.

"But I went to law school with Rita Fiore," she said.

So the silver hair was premature.

"Ahh," I said.

She smiled.

"Ahh, indeed," she said. "So I told Rita my story, and she suggested I tell it to you."

"Please do," I said.

Elizabeth Shaw looked at the large picture of Susan that sat on my file drawer near the coffeemaker.

"Is that your wife?" she said.

"Sort of," I said.

"How can she be 'sort of'?" Elizabeth said.

"We're not married," I said.

"But?"

"But we've been together a considerable time," I said.

"And you love her," Elizabeth said.

"I do."

"And she loves you."

"She does."

"Then why don't you get married?" Elizabeth said.

"I don't know," I said.

She stared at me. I smiled pleasantly. She frowned a little.

"Was there anything else?" I said.

She smiled suddenly. It was a good look for her.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I guess I was trying to find out a little about your attitude toward women and marriage."

"I try to develop my attitudes on a case-by-case basis," I said.

She nodded, thinking about it.

"Rita says there's no one better if the going gets rough."

"Uh-huh."

"How about if the going isn't rough?" Elizabeth said.

"There's still no one better," I said.

"Rita mentioned that you didn't lack for confidence."

"Would you want someone who did?" I said.

I must have passed some kind of initial screening. She shifted in her chair slightly.

"Everything I tell you," she said, "must, of course, remain entirely confidential."

"Sure."

She looked at Susan's picture again.

"That's a very beautiful woman," she said.

"She is," I said.

She shifted again in her chair.

"I have a client, a woman, married, with a substantial trust fund, given to her by her husband as a wedding present. We manage the trust for her, and over the years she and I have become friendly."

"He gave her a trust fund for a present?"

Elizabeth smiled.

"The rich are very different," she said.

"Yes," I said. "They have more money."

"Well," she said. "A literate detective."

"But self-effacing."

She smiled again.

"My client's name is Abigail Larson," Elizabeth said. "She is considerably younger than her husband."

"How considerably?"

"He's sixty-eight. She's thirty-one.">

"Aha," I said.

"'Aha'?"

"I'm jumping to a conclusion," I said.

"Sadly, the conclusion is correct. She had an affair."

"Lot of that going around," I said.

"You disapprove?" Elizabeth said.

"I guess it's probably better if people can be faithful to each other," I said.

"She's not a bad woman," Elizabeth said.

"Affairs aren't usually about good and bad," I said.

"What do you think they're about?"

"Need," I said.

Elizabeth sat back a little in her chair.

"You're not what I expected," she said.

"Hell," I said. "I'm not what I expected. What would you like me to do?"

"I'm sorry. I guess I'm still testing you."

"Maybe you could test my ability to listen to what you want," I said.

She smiled at me.

"Yes," she said. "In brief, the man she had the affair with took her for some money and ditched her."

"How much?" I said.

"Actually, just enough to hurt her feelings. Restaurants, hotels, car rentals, a small gift now and then."

"And?" I said.

"That was it," Elizabeth said, "for a while. Then one day she saw him, in a restaurant, with a woman whom she knew casually."

"Nest prospecting," I said.

"Apparently," Elizabeth said. "Anyway, she talked to the woman the next day to tell her a little about her experience with this guy..."

"Whose name is?" I said.

"Gary Eisenhower," Elizabeth said.

"Gary Eisenhower?" I said.

Elizabeth shrugged.

"That's what he tells them," she said.

"Them?"

"The two women talked, and then they networked, and one thing led to another, and in ways too boring to detail here, they discovered that he had exploited four of them, often simultaneously, over the past ten years."

"Have you met this guy?"

"No."

"Well, if you do," I said, "be careful."

"I think I'll be all right," she said.

"So the seduced and abandoned have joined forces?" I said.

"Yes."

"And what do they want?"

"They'd like to see him castrated, I'm sure, but that's not why I'm here."

"Oh, good," I said.

"They came to me as a group because I was the only lawyer that any of them knew, and we agreed that pursuing him for the money would cause them embarrassment. Their husbands would find out. It might make a great tabloid story. So they agreed to move on, sadder but wiser, so to speak."

"But," I said.

"But he has returned. He has contacted each of them. He says he has proof positive of each adultery and will expose them to their husbands and the world if they don't pay him."

"What kind of evidence?" I said.

"They thought they were being discreet," Elizabeth said. "These women are not stupid, nor, I guess, inexperienced."

"No letters," I said. "No e-mails, no messages on answering machines."

"Yes."

"Hidden cameras, hidden tape recorders?"

Elizabeth nodded.

"Uh-huh," she said. "I guess he was planning on shaking them down all along."

"Maybe," I said. "Sometimes people like to keep a record. Allows them to revisit these special moments, when things are slow."

"So," Elizabeth said, "maybe shaking them down was an afterthought?"

"Maybe," I said. "They don't want to pay."

"Don't want to, and can't. Their husbands control all of the substantial money."

"So you want me to make him cease and desist, without causing a stir," I said.

"Can you?" she said.

"Sure," I said.