“ ’Mornin’. Thank you,” Fletch said into the bedside phone. It had rung and he assumed it was the hotel operator calling to tell him it was six-thirty.

“You’re welcome,” said the strong voice of The Man Who.

Fletch looked at his watch. It was only six-twenty.

“ ’Morning,” Fletch said in a voice that wasn’t too strong. He sat up in the bed. His shoulders and chest and stomach were wet with sweat. Steam was clanging in the radiators. The room had been cold when he went to bed. He had put on an extra blanket from the closet. Now he threw the blankets off

“You’re up early,” said Governor Caxton Wheeler.

“Am I?”


“Oh, yes,” Fletch said intelligently. “I must be.”

“Are you awake now?”

“Sure. Ask me a riddle. Never mind, you know the answer.”

“Look, Fletch, I’ve just called Lansing Sayer. Asked him to join me in the car on the ride out to the hospital.”


“I’m visiting the Farmingdale Hospital this morning.”

“Oh, yeah. I mean, oh, yes. Sir.”

“He can interview me in the car on the way out. I want you to come along. To keep me honest.”

“Okay. I mean, yes, sir.”

“We’ll leave about eight-thirty. Flash will drive us out.”

“Yes, sir.”

“See you out front at eight-thirty. Are you awake?”

“Like a snowman on …”

“What were you doing when I called?” There was laughter in the governor’s voice.

Fletch ran his thumb down his chest and stomach. “Sweating.”

“Great,” said The Man Who. “Nothing like exercise first thing in the morning. Do a push-up for me. I’ll feel the better for it.”

Fletch padded to the door, opened it, and saw the stack of newspapers a volunteer had left for him in the hotel corridor.

Newsbill was on top. The front page of the tabloid had nothing but the headline on it:


Fletch knelt on one knee and scanned the story, with many photographs, which began on page three:

Farmingdale—Presidential Candidate Caxton Wheeler and his staff have refused to answer questions about the murders of two young women which have happened on their campaign trail within the last week.

The second young woman, Alice Elizabeth Shields, 28, was found naked and beaten on the sidewalk just below Wheeler’s seventh floor hotel suite.

Campaign officials even refuse to state they have no knowledge of the women or of their murders….

The by-line read Michael J. Hanrahan.

“Well, well,” Fletch muttered into the empty hotel corridor. “The dam has broken. Somebody better get a mop.”