“Ah!” The concerned, consoling expression fell off the governor’s face when he saw the only one present in the private hospital room was I. M. Fletcher. The door behind the governor swung shut. “And what are you in hospital for?”

“Anxiety,” Fletch answered. “Acute.”

“I’m sure they’ll have you fixed up and home in no time.”

While the governor had toured the happier wards of the hospital— maternity, general surgery, pediatrics (he was kept away from intensive care and the terminal section)—Fletch had arranged with a hospital administrator to have the governor shown into an unoccupied private room. His excuse had been the governor’s need to use the phone.

More seriously, the governor asked, “What are you so anxious about? What’s up?”

“Hanrahan wrote his usual muscular piece for this morning’s Newsbill. ” Fletch took the tabloid’s front page and two of its inside pages from his jacket pocket and handed them to the governor. “I want you to see what all this looks like in print.”

Standing near the window, the governor glanced through the pages. “So? Who cares about Newsbill? They once reported I had been married before. As a law student.”

“I’m afraid Hanrahan has a point. In the third paragraph.”

The governor read aloud: “Campaign officials even refuse to state they have no knowledge of the women or of their murders….”

He handed the pages from Newsbill back to Fletch. “How are we supposed to comment on something we don’t know about?”

“Plus there was a woman murdered at the hotel last night. A chambermaid. Strangled. So Ira Lapin tells me. By the way, did you know Lapin’s own wife was murdered?”

“So he’s off murdering other women?”

“Maybe. Somebody is.”

The governor paced off as far as the hospital room would permit, and then back to the window. “Do you think someone’s out to get me?”

“I never thought of that.”

“Think about it. It is, or could be, the net effect of these murders. To bring this campaign to its knees.”

“It certainly increases the pressures …”

“Getting rid of me, casting a pall, a question mark over my campaign, is the only motive I can think of.” The governor shrugged. “Or maybe paranoia is an occupational hazard for a political campaigner. You think the murderer is someone traveling with the campaign?”

“Good grief, don’t you think so? It’s why Fredericka Arbuthnot, crime writer for Newsworld, is traveling with us. She’s not as careless and sensational as Hanrahan, but now that Hanrahan has blown the story, she’ll have to write something.”

“I’d better get Nolting to whip up some statements, figures on the high incidence of crime. I can say things like, ‘Everywhere I go, it seems like someone is getting murdered.’”

“Governor …” Fletch hesitated.


“I understand. You have to protect yourself. You have to protect the campaign. But making statements won’t make the matter go away.”

“What else can we do? The primary is in a couple of days.”

“The best way to make the matter go away is to find out who is murdering these women.”

“How are we supposed to do that? We’re at full gear here, traveling at high speed. How many people are traveling with us—fifty or sixty? Is someone trying to sabotage my campaign? Just when I’m beginning to say something that is at least of interest to me? Who? Upton? Unthinkable. Graves? This goes a bit beyond dirty tricks. Some foreign agent? That guy from Pravda—”


“That’s his name? Looks like a complete basket case to me. You know he’s never approached me with a single question? What’s he here for? The press. You said Andrew Esty left yesterday, and there was a murder last night. So that lets him off.”

“He came back. He was ordered back. Saw him in the elevator last night. Why do you mention him in particular?”

“That guy’s a nut. Did you ever see him smile? He’s as tight as a tournament tennis racquet. One of those guys who thinks he’s absolutely right. Anyone who thinks he’s absolutely right is capable of anything, including murder. Some kook among the volunteers. Lee Allen can’t do very thorough checks on their backgrounds. We’re traveling too fast, don’t have the resources. I trust everyone on the staff implicitly. Believe me, they’ve all been vetted. You’re the only one I don’t know well personally, and you weren’t with us at the time of the murder in the Hotel Harris. What the hell am I supposed to do? Go before the electorate, and say, ‘Hey, guys and gals, I’m not a murderer.’ Has an unfortunate ring to it. ‘I’m not a froggy-woggy; I’m a toaddy-woaddy.’”

“Yes, it’s time to say something,” Fletch said. “It’s also time to do something. I love what you’re saying about the ‘New Reality,’ but the true reality is that the people are going to be concerned about unsolved murders touching your campaign.”

The governor waved his hand at the pages from Newsbill still in Fletch’s hand. “Did you show that filth to Walsh?”

“He had already left his room when I called this morning.”

The governor looked at his watch. “I’m due at a television studio for a taping in twenty minutes. I will refer to these women’s deaths, and say I am appalled. We have got to do something about violent crime in this country. It’s affecting all of us. There’s the big rally in Melville tonight. I have to fly to New York to be on that network program, ‘Q. & A.,’ live tomorrow morning. Everybody tells me I’ve got to attend a church service somehow in the morning, seeing I’m accused of slurring Christianity in Winslow.”

For a moment the two men were silent. Recitation of schedule did not make the problem go away, either. “Damn,” the governor said. “It’s snowing again.”

Fletch said, “Now will you get some federal investigators to travel with us?”

“No.” The governor thought a moment, and then said: “Your job, Fletcher, is to make sure this doesn’t touch me. Doesn’t touch the campaign. That’s your only job.” The Man Who had fallen into the cadence of a public speech. “No matter who is doing this string of murders, for whatever reason, it is to have no bearing on my candidacy. The primary in this state is in a couple of days. No one can solve a string of far-flung murders in a couple of days. I cannot go into that primary election day with people thinking of murder, associating this campaign with the murder of women. Do what you have to do, but keep this away from me. Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“We’d better go.”

Fletch opened the swing door of the hospital room for the governor. “Do you know the President has announced a press conference for two o’clock this afternoon?”


“Saturday afternoon press conference. Most unusual.”

Going through the door the governor said, “I expect he’s going to speak well of Christianity and democracy and drop a bomb on me.”