Rick Jennings came awake with a start, his head pounding, his stomach sour and churning. Staggering away from his bed he made his way to the bathroom. By now his entire body was thumping like a vast heart. More than a year without booze and he knew he had poisoned his entire system. He went to his knees hugging the bowl as the wretched undigested whiskey spewed up from the center of his being like liquid fire. He hated puking. He hated whiskey. On this morning he hated everything and everybody, but mostly he hated himself.
It was past nine by the time he reached the office. Rosemary stared balefully at him as he staggered past her desk on the way to his office. He’d cut himself six times while trying to shave. His face was a battleground.
A moment later there came a knock on his door. He was sitting with his head in his hands. “Come in,” he said, trying to compose himself.
Rosemary came in, gave him a reproachful look but never said a word about it. He saw the disapproval and the disappointment, however. It was all over her face, like a dripping mask.
“It was De Roché’s jet that picked up Doug and Annie yesterday morning,” she said.
Jennings nodded and accepted the sheet of paper she offered him. It was a schedule of the flight plan from Tampa to Portland and back again.
“And by the way, Annie’s mother was murdered.”
Jennings jaw dropped. “Oh, Jesus Christ,” he said. “When?”
“Yesterday morning. About two hours before Doug and Annie’s house blew up.”
That was it, Jennings knew now that the shit had definitely hit the fan. They killed De Roché’s wife and simultaneously tried to kill his daughter. Things were starting to make a little more sense. But he still didn’t know why, or how. He didn’t know anything about anything. “Where?”
“Where was she killed?”
“At their home in Florida. It’s all over the news. Evidently an intruder somehow got past security. That’s the story the police are telling anyway. No motive was given. Of course there’s a lot of speculation.”
“What town do they live in?”
“A little place called Palm Harbor, Pinellas County, just north of Clearwater on the Gulf Coast. A small Greek community. They have no listed phones.”
“Greek?” Jennings said. “I thought De Roché was a French name.”
Rosemary looked at Jennings askance. “What the hell does that have to do with anything?”
“I don’t know. Why would a Frenchman be living in a Greek community?”
Rosemary threw her hands up in frustration. “Maybe he liked the view. Just because he has French ancestry doesn’t mean he’s French. He was born in the United States. He’s as American as you and I.”
Jennings ignored Rosemary’s sarcasm. Just the same, something didn’t feel right. “I want you to look into his past, find out everything you can on him.”
“You mean like official, on the record?”
“Whatever. I want anything. Go as deep as possible, see what kind of dirt you can dig up.”
“You say his wife’s murder is all over the news,” Jennings said. “You mean local?”
Rosemary shook her head. “I mean the news, big time, CNN, Fox, the big three.”
Rosemary could see that Jennings was confused. She decided to give him a few minutes to stew. “You want some coffee?”
He nodded. “Yeah, thanks.”
She marched smartly from the room and was back in a minute with a steaming cup. He took a careful sip. It was good, black and strong, just the way he liked it. Deciding it wasn’t going to make him puke, he took another sip, and then another. Rosemary sat in the chair opposite his desk, her legs crossed, glaring at him.
“I don’t get it,” Jennings said, and it was the truth. “Why is the national news media covering a local story? Why do they even care?”
“Have you been living under a rock, Rick?”
Jennings reddened. “What are you talking about?”
“In financial circles, De Roché is one of the most powerful men in the world.”
“I know he’s a businessman, but—”
“Not only that,” Rosemary interrupted, “he’s done diplomatic work for several presidents, all the way back to Ford. They say he’s very effective, very persuasive.”
“You didn’t know any of this, huh?”
Jennings frowned. “I knew they were rich but . . .”
Jennings bristled. “Listen, Annie never talked about her family. Just an occasional passing remark that led me to believe they had money and a certain amount of influence. Doug didn’t talk about them either. He didn’t care, so why should I? According to Doug Annie hated her father. So did Doug. Her parents didn’t even attend their wedding. I know, I was there.”
“Wow, that’s some estrangement.”
“So she never mentioned . . .”
Jennings stared at Rosemary. She had a coy look on her face. “No, I told you, I know nothing about them.”
“You didn’t know that De Roché is on a very short list of Republican presidential hopefuls? He’s about as right wing as they get.”
Jennings was stunned. “Jesus Christ,” he said, “no.”
Rosemary shot Jennings an intensely annoyed look. “It’s been all over the news for the past six months.”
“I don’t watch the news.”
“No shit, Dick Tracy.”
“Jesus, this explains a lot.”
“The jet landed in Tampa four hours after leaving Portland yesterday morning,” Rosemary said.
“So when’s the funeral?”
“They’re not wasting any time. According to the news it’s today.”
“Today? Christ. Book me on a flight.”
“I’m way ahead of you. Only problem is I can’t get you out of Portland until tomorrow morning.”
“What? You’re joking?”
Rosemary shook her head. “Spring break. Those flights have been booked for six months.”
“What about Manchester?”
“God damn it!” Jennings raved. He knew that Spencer would beat him to the punch. There was no doubt about that. The son of a bitch didn’t need airline tickets. The FBI had helicopters, and fucking jets. Evidently he hadn’t given Spencer what he’d wanted so he was out.
“Oh, and by the way, your friend Spencer called,” Rosemary said, as if reading his thoughts.
“He’s no friend of mine. What did he want?”
“To talk to you as soon as possible. He gave me this number.” Rosemary handed it to Jennings. He stared at it. It looked like a cell phone number. She stood up as if to leave but spoke to him over her shoulder. “You knew she was pregnant, right?”
Jennings cocked his head at Rosemary. “Pregnant? Who?”
She turned back around now, facing him. “Damn, Rick, you have been living under a rock. For a couple you’re so close to, you sure don’t know much about them.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Your friend Doug, his wife, Annie, she’s pregnant.”
Jennings almost fell out of his chair. “How the hell do you know that?”
Rosemary stuck her nose haughtily in the air. “Woman’s intuition,” she said. “Last week when they came in to take you to lunch, well, it was written all over her face. A woman just knows these kinds of things. And him, well he was about as proud as a new daddy can be.”
“Well I’ll be damned,” Jennings said. “Are you sure?”
“Trust me, she’s pregnant.” Rosemary turned and marched out of the office.