“Get your damned ass up here.” It was clear from Walsh’s voice that he meant to be taken seriously.

“Yes, sir, Lieutenant, sir,” Fletch said into the hotel room phone. “Please tell me where I’m to get my damned ass up to, sir.”

“Room 1220.”

Instantly the phone went dead.

Fletch tripped over his unopened suitcase in his scramble for the door.

Fletch had spent the afternoon popping back and forth between the press bus and the campaign bus.

Using the phone on the press bus, he had spent a long time talking with the governor’s advance man, Willy Finn, in California, about the arrangements made for that day in Spiersville, that night in Farming-dale, the next day in Kimberly and Melville. Finn had nothing to say about the governor’s Winslow speech, although he had already heard of it. He seemed sincerely upset by the death of Victor Robbins.

With the others Fletch visited Spiersville. He grabbed a bag of stale donuts from a drugstore, ate four of them, spent time with the local press, provided them with whatever material they requested. On the wall of a warehouse was scrawled: LIFE IS NO FUN. Fletch had first seen that message, in English, on walls and sidewalks in northern Europe in the early 1980s. After the Spiersville visit, it was discovered that someone had broken a window of the press bus with a rock.

During the hour-long ride to Farmingdale, Fletch played poker with Bill Dieckmann, Roy Filby, and Tony Rice. He won twenty-seven dollars.

In the corridor of the Farmingdale hotel, the doors to an elevator were open.

Hanrahan was in the elevator. He either smiled or grimaced at Fletch.

“Up?” Fletch asked.

Hanrahan didn’t answer, just kept whatever that facial expression of his was.

A lady on the elevator finally said, “No, we’re going down.” She was wearing a purple cocktail dress and brown shoes.

Fletch pushed the button for the next elevator.

Walsh flung open the door of Room 1220 immediately Fletch knocked on it. “What’s going on?” he asked.

Door closed, they stood in the short, dark corridor outside the bathroom. “Okay,” Fletch answered. “I’ll give the twenty-seven dollars back.”

“Some foul-smelling, crude, filthy-looking reporter was in my room before I ever got here. He was in here when I arrived.”

“A foul-smelling, crude, filthy-looking reporter?”

“Said he was from Newsbill, for Chrissake.”

“Oh, that foul-smelling, crude, filthy-looking reporter. Hanrahan, by name. Michael J.”

“He was waiting for me when the bellhop let me in. Sitting in that chair.” Walsh stepped into the bedroom and pointed at one of the chairs near the window. “Smoking a cigar.” The ashtray on the side table had a little cigar ash in it. “Bastard. Wanted to show me how very, very resourceful he is, I suppose. Privacy, locked doors don’t mean a thing to Mr. Newsbill. ”

“He was trying to intimidate you.”

“He doesn’t intimidate me. He makes me damned mad.”

Walsh was saying he was mad, but his eyes were not particularly angry. They appeared more restless, as if he would have preferred thinking about something else. His voice was not hot with anger, but more cold with annoyance.

Fletch was hearing a complaint being lodged more as a matter of form rather than from emotion.

“Michael J. Hanrahan is a foul-smelling, crude, filthy-looking bastard,” Fletch agreed. “He writes for Newsbill I wouldn’t dignify him by calling him a reporter.”

“I thought we had someone else from Newsbill—that thoroughly stupid woman, what’s her name?”

“Mary Rice.”

“Is she any relation to Tony?”

“No. Mary is writing for Newsbill. On the campaign supposedly, but I see her reports seldom get above the blatantly sensational. I mean, one report she did reported that one of Lee Allen Parke’s great-great-great-grandfathers was a slave owner.”


“Meaningless stuff.”

“Does Newsbill ever report from anywhere but the bedroom?”

“Bedrooms, bars, police courts. Runs pages of horoscopes. Stars on the stars. As news.”

“Not only that,” Walsh said, “but while I was downstairs I was attacked by some gorgeous broad who said she was a reporter for Newsworld.”

“Oh? What did she want?”

“A complete list of the names of everyone who was in my father’s suite last night. Plus a complete list of names of all the people who might have had access to his suite last night. What’s she looking for?”

“That’s Fredericka Arbuthnot.”

“Yeah. Arbuthnot. Since when is Newsworld raking smut?”

“You gotta understand, Walsh. Hanrahan and Arbuthnot are crime writers. That’s about all they have in common, but that’s what they are. That’s their job. They report on crime.”

“So what are they doing on our campaign bus?”

“A woman was murdered last night at the motel we were in.”

“Aw, come on.”

“Another woman was murdered at the Hotel Harris in Chicago while the campaign was there. She was found in a closet off a room being used by the press covering this campaign.”

Walsh sighed. “Can’t we deny campaign credentials to crime writers?”

“I’ve thought of it. Frankly, I think it would get their wind up. Make them more persistent. You can’t deny there is something here, Walsh.”

“Not much.” Walsh glanced at his watch. “Dad wants us in his suite to watch the national news with him.”

“What were Hanrahan’s questions?”

“Didn’t give him a chance to ask many. I yelled at him, yelled at the bellman, started to phone hotel security, yelled at him some more, called you.”

“So what did he ask you?”

“Said he wanted to ask me about my military record.”

“Your military record? What’s that got to do with the price of beans?”

“I told him he could ask the Department of Defense and get my whole record in black and white.” Walsh had straightened his greenish necktie and was putting on his greenish suit jacket. “Bastard. I didn’t shove him through the door, but I had my fingers firmly on his back.”

“Not a whole lot I can do about this, Walsh.” Fletch opened the door. “The press has the right to inquire.”

When they were in the corridor, Fletch tried the knob of the door to Walsh’s room. The door was locked.

“Tell that bastard,” Walsh said, heading for the elevator, “that if I ever find him in my room again, or the rooms of either of my parents, or of any staff member, I’ll have him thrown in jail.”

“Walsh,” Fletch said, “he’d love that.”