“It’s open,” said Governor Caxton Wheeler. “Come in.”

Fletch had knocked softly on the ajar door to the governor’s suite. He had not known if the governor might be asleep. He doubted it. On the other hand he did not know the full magic in Dr. Thom’s little black bag. He had not even known if the governor was still in town.

“ ’Mornin’,” Fletch mumbled.

The electric lamps in the living room of the suite were still on. Their lights were fading fast in the dawn light coming through the windows.

Dressed as they had been onstage at Public Auditorium the night before, Doris and Caxton Wheeler were sitting on a divan. On the cushion between them they were holding hands. Two out-sized people, ridiculously dressed for that hour of the morning; two world-famous faces now wearing new expressions of utter dejection; two human beings devastated by tragedy.

“Is Walsh all right?” Caxton asked.

“Broken collarbone. Cut on his face,” Fletch answered. “Dazed. Deep in shock, I guess.”

“And the woman? Ms Ginsberg?”

“Severe concussion. No skull fracture. Cut on the back of her head. Broken nose. Some loss of blood. She’s in shock, too, of course.”

“I’m in shock,” said Doris Wheeler. Numbly, she was staring at the floor. “Do you believe Walsh killed all those women?”

“Yes,” Fletch said. “I believe he did.”

Fletch had to sit down. His legs ached with exhaustion.

“What in God’s name did we do wrong?” Doris Wheeler asked. “How could he do these things?”

Silently, Fletch waited for the governor’s reaction. Caxton Wheeler looked sympathetically at his wife.

Doubtlessly the two of them had been asking themselves those questions all night.

Finally, Fletch said: “We all thought Walsh was seamless. There is no such thing as a seamless human being. All the pressures of the campaign were coming down on him. Too much. Too long. He had to play Mister Competent, Mister Cool, take all the punches, roll with them, understand and forgive everybody else, but never forgive himself. He had no outlets himself, no way of blowing off steam. He was the one guy who couldn’t yell at anybody,” he said, looking at Doris Wheeler. Then he looked at the governor. “He wasn’t even getting any sleep. Everybody kept packing it into him. He had to blow off. Everybody has to, sooner or later, one way or another.”

“How did you know Walsh was doing these things?” the governor asked. “How did you know enough to find him last night in the basement, stop him?”

“I didn’t know, until just before. He had given me a stack of newspaper clippings to go through, to acquaint myself with the Wisconsin reporters. Out of the stack fell five articles, pinned together, reporting the deaths, the murders, of the five women.”

“Five …” Doris Wheeler said.

“Five. There was a woman in Cleveland, apparently, and a woman in Wichita, we didn’t know about.”

The governor said, “My God.”

“Up to that point, Walsh had been pretending to know nothing about these murders, the three he was questioned about. He said he didn’t know anything about them, didn’t care. He was aloof from all that. When I found his private collection of clippings, I realized he knew more than he was saying, more than we did. That he had a very real anxiety about them.”

“He knew he was committing these murders?” the governor asked.

“I’m not really sure,” Fletch said. “I think he had sort of a nightmare knowledge of them. I don’t think he really knew what he was doing. But the mornings after, he had enough knowledge, or nightmare sense of them, to tear these articles from the newspapers.”

The governor leaned forward, elbows on his knees, hands over his face. “My God.”

“When I saw his collection of articles,” Fletch said, “it suddenly dawned on me he hadn’t been wearing a necktie all day. He told me he had left it in a car somewhere. The woman the night before, Mary Cantor, had been strangled with some kind of a soft cord, such as a necktie. When I thought it might be Walsh doing this, doing these things, I felt perfectly sick.” Sitting in the chair, Fletch felt sick again. He waited for the moment to pass. “And there had been that incident overseas, I understand, of threatening a superior officer. A female superior officer.”

“Hit her,” the governor said, head still in hands.


The governor stood up and walked slowly to the windows. “He hit her. Several times.”

Fletch said, “I see.”

“I had friends in the Pentagon. Well, I had pull. Enough pull to get him out of there quick, get him home, get him assigned to some statistical job in Washington. To keep the incident off his record. I guess I shouldn’t have.”

“There was so much at stake, Caxton,” Doris Wheeler said.

“Yes,” the governor said. “There was a lot at stake.”

Cautiously Fletch asked: “Did you suspect Walsh? Were you protecting him by refusing to permit an investigation?”

There was a long moment before the governor answered. “It was a dreadful thought. I didn’t really let myself think about it. It was inconceivable.”

“But you did conceive of it,” Fletch said.

Another long moment before the governor said, barely audibly: “Yes.” He turned around. Even with the light behind him from the windows, tears were visible on the governor’s cheeks. “He really went berserk when he beat up that major overseas,” he said. “So the witnesses said.”

“He had been under pressure then, too,” Fletch commented. “More pressure than a man should bear.”

“There is no such thing,” Doris Wheeler said, “as ‘more pressure than a man can bear.’”

Fletch ignored her.

He said to the governor: “I thought you might have been protecting Flash.”

“Flash?” The governor shrugged. “Never thought of him, to tell the truth. Oh, I guess the idea did cross my mind. You know, I’ve watched that man harvest nuts for squirrels and chipmunks.” The governor smiled. He wiped the tears off his big face.

“The primary election system,” Fletch said. “It’s too much pressure for everybody. It’s too long. It goes on for six, eight months. It’s crazy. Even one of the reporters, Bill Dieckmann, is in the hospital this morning with some kind of a nervous disorder. What’s it all supposed to prove?”

“Just that,” the governor said easily. “That one can take the pressure. It seems strange for me to say it this morning, but the system is good. If the candidate, and his family, and his team, can’t take the pressure, it’s better that it show up on the campaign trail than on Pennsylvania Avenue.” He had gone to a sideboard. He picked up some papers beside an open briefcase. He dropped them into a waste-basket. “I must say, though: I think I was beginning to say some interesting things. Even if I didn’t win, I was beginning to voice some interesting questions.”

On the divan, Doris Wheeler shifted uncomfortably. She held a wet handkerchief to her face. “Oh, Caxton, can’t we go on? Isn’t there some way …?”

“I will resign the governorship. I plan to be with Walsh through this. Try to see he gets whatever treatment he needs to make him whole again, in hospital, in prison, whatever, now and forever, I guess.” The governor’s voice was low, but strong. “I’ll do anything I can to try to make restitution to the families and loved ones of those women….”

On the divan, Doris Wheeler sobbed into her handkerchief.

There was a kind of an animal noise from the governor’s throat, or his chest.

Fletch said: “There isn’t much of anything you can do for Walsh right now. The judge who was on the platform with you last night did the unusual thing of opening his court at three o’clock this morning. To avoid a three-ring circus, he said. He sent Walsh away for thirty days psychiatric observation. Walsh has already gone.”

“Psychiatric observation,” the governor repeated from across the room. “Walsh …” When he turned around, fresh tears glistened on his cheeks.

There was a tap on the door.

Flash entered the little hall. In one hand he carried his own suitcases and his black topcoat.

In the other hand he carried a sheaf of yellow telegram sheets.

“I still can’t figure out precisely what I’m doing here,” Fletch said. “I can’t figure out whether Walsh asked me to join the campaign to protect him—you know, when the first crime writer, Freddie Arbuthnot, showed up? Or whether, way deep in his mind somewhere, he had the idea I might rescue him again.”

Doris Wheeler stood up. “Either way,” she said, “you didn’t do a very good job, did you?”

Flash said to the governor, “I’ve got a car. A comfortable car. I rented it myself. I figured we wouldn’t want to go through any airports.”

“That’s right, Flash,” the governor said.

Flash held out the telegrams. “These are from the President, the other candidates …”

The governor pointed at the wastebasket. “Put them in there, Flash.”

Flash dropped the telegrams in the wastebasket.

Caxton Wheeler took his wife’s arm.

“Come on, Mother,” he said. “It’s time we went home.”