Now and Then

by Robert B. Parker

A Spenser Novel

When a simple case turns into a treacherous and politically charged investigation, Spenser faces his most difficult challenge yet-keeping his cool while his beloved Susan Silverman is in danger.

Spenser knows something's amiss the moment Dennis Doherty walks into his office. The guy's aggressive yet wary, in the way men frightened for their marriages always are. So when Doherty asks Spenser to investigate his wife Jordan's abnormal behavior, Spenser agrees. A job's a job, after all.

Not surprisingly, Spenser catches Jordan with another man, tells Dennis what he's found out, and considers the case closed. But a couple of days later, all hell breaks loose, and three people are dead. This isn't just a marital affair gone bad. Spenser is in the middle of hornet's nest of trouble, and he's got to get out of it without getting stung. With Hawk watching his back, and gun-for-hire Vinnie Morris providing extra cover, Spenser delves into a complicated and far-reaching operation: Jordan's former lover, Perry Alderson, is the leader of a group that helps sponsor terrorists. But Perry doesn't like Spenser poking around his business, so he decides to get to Spenser through Susan. The Boston P.I. will use all his connections both above and below the law to uncover the truth behind Perry's antigovernment organization. But what Alderson doesn't realize is that Spenser will stop at absolutely nothing to keep Susan out of harm's way; nothing will keep him from the woman he loves.


"Parker's characters aren't always what they seem. For example, Spenser's sidekicks, Vinnie and Hawk, are not clear-cut tough guys, but carry soft souls within their depths. And Spenser and Susan—despite their banter—reveal a deeper complexity when they consider the failed relationship between Dennis Doherty and his wife; they begin to confront not only their past, but their future together. Now and Then is nutritious, hard-boiled comfort food, but Parker also blends in a bit of mental exercise...As always, the characters race wildly and uncontrollably to a violent confrontation. Hard-boiled fiction seasoned with mental acuity. Now and Then is a novel that satisfies on many levels."
The Strand Magazine

"[A] home-run novel...mesmerizing masterpiece."

"Parker's character, as always, is too good to be true, but he's a great fictional creation...There's hardly an author in the crime novel business like Parker, who can grab our attention in the first paragraph and hold it uninterrupted up to the last line."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"One of the prolific Parker's best books in a while...a pleasure."

"If weight is to be given to prolific output as well as to literary excellence, it would be no stretch to claim that America's greatest mystery writer is Robert B. Parker."
The New York Sun

"Spenser is often compared to classic hardboiled detectives like Sam Spade or Lew Archer or Philip Marlowe. But Spenser is nothing like them in one important respect: He has lasted longer than all of them put together...Now and Then proves that both Parker and his aging hero are still capable of peak performances."
New York Post

"Now and Then...finds Spenser as feisty and smart-alecky as ever. Despite a quarter century of getting shot at, and occasionally actually shot, both he and his friends are aging gracefully...Now amd Then is a return to form—one of the better Spenser novels in 20 years. The plot is unpredictable, the characters are richly drawn and the dialogue crackles...his best books deliver a quick, entertaining read in a crisp, unadorned style."
Associated Press, Bruce DeSilva

"...crime makes great foreplay."
Entertainment Weekly

"This is vintage Parker, filled with banter and repartee, swagger and rule-skirting...Opening the book is like settling into an evening with an's comforting to catch up with the old friend and see what the rascal's up an entertaining read, a page-turner."
The Boston Globe

"In his Spenser novels, when he's writing at the top of his game (which he is here), Parker is like a brilliant musician. From the opening chords—which, in just about every Spenser novel, comprise the staging of the first meeting between private-eye Spenser and a troubled client—you know you're listening to someone who has absolute command of his work. And it just gets better, as Parker builds his theme, with variations both comic and thrilling...Terrific."

"Parker's 35th snappy Spenser adventure...The repartee is up to Parker's high standards, and the detection is hands on and straight-forward...This briskly paced cat-and-mouse game offers Spenser fans exactly what they've come to expect from the reliable Parker—no-nonsense action and plenty of romantic give-and-take between Susan and Spenser."
Publisher's Weekly

"Spenser...hijacks the red-hot political plot."
Kirkus Review

Buy the book

paperback | Putnam | 2007 | ISBN: 9780425224144



He came into my office carrying a thin briefcase under his left arm. He was wearing a dark suit and a white shirt with a red-and-blue-striped tie. His red hair was cut very short. He had a thin, sharp face. He closed the door carefully behind him and turned and gave me the hard eye.

"You Spenser?" he said.

"And proud of it," I said.

He looked at me aggressively and didn't say anything. I smiled pleasantly.

"Are you being a wise guy?" he said.

"Only for a second," I said. "What can I do for you?"

"I don't like this," he said.

"Well," I said. "It's a start."

"I don't like funny either," he said.

"Then we should do great," I said.

"My name is Dennis Doherty," he said.

"I love alliteration," I said.


"There I go again," I said.

"Listen, pal. You don't want my business, just say so."

"I don't want your business," I said.

"Okay," he said.

He stood and walked toward my door. He opened it and stopped and turned around.

"I came on a little strong," he said.

"I noticed that," I said.

"Lemme start over," Doherty said.

I nodded.

"Try not to frighten me," I said.

He closed the door and came back and sat in one of the chairs in front of my desk. He looked at me for a time. No aggression. Just taking notice.

"You ever box?" he said.

I nodded.

"The nose?" I said.

"More around the eyes," Doherty said.

"Observant," I said.

"The nose has been broken," Doherty said. "I can see that. But it's not flattened."

"I retired before it got flat," I said.

Doherty nodded. He looked at the large picture of Susan on my desk.

"You married?" he said.

"Not quite," I said.

"Ever been married?"

"Not exactly," I said.

"Who's in the picture?" he said.

"Girl of my dreams," I said.

"You together?" Doherty said.


"But not married," he said.


"Been together long?" he said.


We were quiet.

"You having trouble with your wife?" I said after a time.

He glanced at the wedding ring on his left hand. Then he looked back at me and didn't answer.

"The only person you could ever talk with is your wife," I said, "and she's the issue, so you can't talk to her."

He kept looking at me and then slowly nodded.

"You know," he said.

"I do."

"You've been through it."

"I've been through something," I said.

He looked at Susan's picture.

"With her?" he said.


"You're still together."


"And you're all right?" Doherty said.


With his elbows on the arms of the chair, he clasped his hands and rested his chin on them.

"So it's possible," he said.

"Never over till it's over," I said.

"Yeah," he said.

I waited. He sat. Then he opened the thin briefcase and took out an 8x10 photograph. He put the photograph in front of me on the desk.

"Jordan Richmond," he said.

"Your wife."

"Yes," Doherty said. "She kept her name. She's a professor."

"Ah," I said, as if he had explained something.

I try to be encouraging.

"I think she thought it was low class," he said. "To have a name like Doherty."

"Too ethnic," I said.

"Too Irish," he said.

"Even worse," I said.

"I don't mean she's snobby," Doherty said. "She isn't. She just grew up different than I did. Private school, Smith College."

"Kids?" I said.


"Where do I come in?" I said.

He took in a big breath of air.

"I want you to find out what she's up to," he said.

"What do you think she's up to?" I said.

"I don't know. She's out late a lot. Sometimes when she comes home I can tell she's been drinking."

"Oh," I said. "That."


"You think she's fooling around," I said.

"I don't think she'd do that to me," he said.

"Maybe it's not about you," I said.


I shook my head.

"So what do you think?" I said.

"I don't know what to think, it's just not going well. She's out too much. She's sort of brusque when she's home. I don't know. I want you to find out."

There were a few questions I wanted to ask, but they were more shrink-type questions. And he wasn't hiring me for my shrink skills.

"Okay," I said.

"What do you charge?"

I told him. He nodded.

"And you'll find out?" he said.


"I don't want her to know," Doherty said.

"I'm pretty slick," I said. "Where do you live?"

"No need to know that," he said. "You can pick her up at school."

"And tail her home," I said.

He nodded.

"Of course," he said. "Six thirty-six Brant Island Road in Milton."

I looked at the picture.

"Good likeness of her?" I said.

"Yes," he said. "She's fifty-one, looks younger. Five feet, seven inches, a hundred and thirty pounds. She's in good shape. Works out. Drives a silver Honda Prelude. Mass plate number ARP7 JD5."

He reached into the slim briefcase again and brought out a printed sheet of paper. He put it on the desk beside her photograph.

"Her teaching schedule," he said. "Concord College, you know where it is?"

"I do."

"Her office is in Foss Hall," Doherty said. "English department. It's on the schedule."

"How about you," I said. "How do I reach you?"

"I'll give you my cell phone," he said.

I wrote it down.

"Where do you work?" I said.

"You don't need to know that," he said. "Cell phone will get me."

I didn't press it.

"You want regular reports?"

"No. When you know something, tell me."

"If she's doing anything out of the ordinary," I said, "it shouldn't take long to catch her."

He nodded.

"I don't think she's having an affair," he said.

"Sure," I said.

"When can you start?"

"I'm away for a couple of days," I said. "I'll start Tuesday."

He didn't move. I waited.

"She's not..." he said finally. "I can't see her having an affair...she's not that interested in sex."

"I'll let you know," I said.

He nodded and turned and headed for the door. The way his jacket fell, he might have been carrying a gun behind his right hip.


It was late September on Cape Cod, and the summer people were gone. Susan and I liked to go down for a couple of nights in the off-season, before things shut down for the winter. Which is how we ended up on a Sunday night, eating cold plum soup and broiled Cape scallops, and drinking a bottle of Gewürztraminer at Chillingsworth in Brewster.

"When someone says that their mate is not interested in sex," Susan said, "all they can really speak to with authority is that their mate is not interested in sex with them."

"I've never made that statement," I said.

"And with good reason," Susan said.

"It sounds like sex to me," I said.

"And it sounds like he fears that it is," Susan said.

"He fears something," I said.

"And he's reticent about himself," she said. "Didn't want to tell you where he lived. Won't tell you where he works."

"Lot of people are embarrassed about things like this," I said.

"Are you?" she said.

"No more than you are, shrink girl."

She smiled and sipped her wine.

She said, "We both uncover secrets, I guess."

"And chase after hidden truths," I said.

"And people are often better for it," she said.

"But not always."

"No," she said. "Not always."

We ate our plum soup happily and sipped our wine.

"You don't like divorce cases, do you?" she said.

"Make me feel like a Peeping Tom," I said.

Susan smiled, which is a luminous sight.

"Is that different than a private eye?" she said.

"I hope so," I said.

"You feel intrepid, chasing bad guys," Susan said.


"And sleazy, chasing errant mates."


"But you do it," she said.

"It's work."

"It's good work," Susan said. "The pain of emotional loss is intense."

"I recall," I said.

"Yes," she said. "We both do. Half my practice comes from people like that." "Despite similarities, our practices are not identical." "Mine requires less muscle," she said. "But the point is, you can rescue people in different ways. Leaping tall buildings at a single bound is not the only way." "I know," I said. "Which is why you'll work divorce cases," she said, "even though they make you feel sleazy." "Heroism has its downside," I said. "It has its upside too," Susan said. Susan's eyes had a small glitter. "Speaking of which..." I said. "Could we maybe finish dinner?" she said. "Of course," I said. "The upside is patient." "And frequent," Susan said.


I knew Doherty's name and address. It would not be very hard to find out more about him. He had not, however, hired me to find out anything about him. So I decided to find out about his wife.

Concord College was not in Concord. It was in Cambridge. Three recent high-rise buildings with a lot of windows, just across the Longfellow Bridge in Kendall Square. A software tycoon with a streak of vestigial hippie-ness had endowed the place with a sum larger than the GNP of several small countries. And the college, perhaps respectful of its fi nancial base, was an exfoliating swamp of unusual ideas. It cost about $40,000 a year to go there.

I went into Foss Hall, which was the middle high-rise, and up to the fourth floor. Aside from my adulthood, I was too neat to be mistaken for a student. Most of them wore very sloppy clothes that had cost a lot. Chronologically, I could have passed for faculty, but once again the neatness factor gave me away. The faculty was no neater than the students, but their clothes had cost less. Hoping to pass anyway, I was carrying a green book bag. Deep cover.

According to the schedule Doherty had given me, Jordan Richmond's office was in room 425, and her office hours began in ten minutes. I strolled past the office. It had an oak door with a window. There was no one in there. I wandered past the door and stopped to study a bulletin board, beyond the next office. Crush Imperialism...Film Festival: Jean-Luc Godard...Stop the Murders for Oil...Roommate Wanted, M or F...Wage Peace...No Welfare for the Wealthy...Keg Party at MIT...African-American conference...Concordian Lecture Series: "Apollonian Despair in the Poetry of Sara Teasdale"...Equal Work, Equal Wage...Gay & Lesbian Coalition...Intelligent Design Is Neither...Maybe it wasn't such a hothouse of new ideas. Except for Apollonian Despair. As I studied the notices, Jordan Richmond strolled past me down the hall toward her office.

Her picture didn't do her justice. There was a time in my life when I would have thought that admiring the butt of a fifty-one-year-old woman was exploiting the elderly. I had not entertained that conceit in some years, but if I had, Jordan Richmond would have ended it. She had brown hair with blond highlights. By the standards of her colleagues she appeared to be vastly overdressed. Glimpsed covertly as she passed, she seemed to be wearing makeup. She had on black pants and a jacket with a faint chalk stripe. Under the jacket was a pink tee. By the sound they made on the hard floor, I could tell she was wearing heels.

I hung around the hallway, trying to look inconspicuous, until she finished her office hours at 4:30 and, carrying a black leather briefcase, she headed out of the building. I went with her. We stood so close in the elevator that I could smell her perfume.

On the street we turned right and she went into the Marriott hotel. I took a baseball cap out of my book bag and put it on. Spenser, master of disguise. Then I put the book bag in a trash basket out front, waited for a moment, and went in after her. She was in the lobby bar. At a table with a man. I sat with my hat on, at the far end of the bar, where it turned. It put her back to me, and I could look at her companion. He appeared to be tall. His mustache and goatee were neatly trimmed. His nose was strong. His dark eyes were deep-set. His dark hair was curly and short with touches of gray. He wore an expensive dark suit with a white shirt and a blue silk tie. He was sipping a martini.

As soon as she was seated he spoke to the waitress. She took his order and brought Jordan a martini. Jordan picked it up and gestured with it at the man. He raised his glass and they touched rims. I ordered a beer. The bartender put down a dish of nuts. I ate some so as not to hurt his feelings.

Jordan and her companion gave some evidence that Doherty's fears were not groundless. They sat close together. She touched him often, putting a hand on his forearm, or on his shoulder.

Once, laughing, she leaned forward so that their foreheads touched. All his movements were languid, not as if he was tired, more as if he was happily relaxed about everything. And very pleased to be him.

They had two drinks. He paid the check. They got up and went out. I left too much money on the bar and went after them. They walked back to Concord College together. Got into a Honda Prelude in the parking lot and drove out. I was parked down Main Street a way. By the time I got to my car they were out of sight. So instead I went over the Longfellow Bridge and drove down to Milton.

It took about a half hour to get to Brant Island Road. I parked on the corner with a view of the house where Dennis and Jordan lived. It was a white garrison colonial, with green shutters. The lights were on. There was a Ford Crown Vic in the driveway. At ten after eleven Jordan pulled the Prelude into the driveway next to the Crown Vic. She got out, straightened her pants a little, fluffed her hair for a moment, then took her briefcase from the car, closed the car door, and walked carefully to the house.