Confess, Fletch

TO

Judy and Lew, Susie and Chuck, Stuart,

Karen and Rupert, Jennette and Alan,

HoRo, HoHo, Susi, Chris and Doug

I

F L E T C H snapped on the light and looked into the den.

Except for the long windows and the area over the desk, the walls were lined with books. There were two red leather wing chairs in the room, a small divan, and a coffee table.

On the little desk was a black telephone.

Fletch dialled “O”.

“Get me the police, please.”

“Is this an emergency?”

“Not at the moment.”

The painting over the desk was a Ford Madox Brown—a country couple wrapped against the wind.

“Then please dial ‘555-7523’.”

“Thank you.”

He did so.

“Sergeant McAuliffe speaking.”

“Sergeant, this is Mister Fletcher, 152 Beacon Street, apartment 6B.”

“Yes, sir.”

“There’s a murdered girl in my living room.”

“A what girl?”

“Murdered.”

Naked, her breasts and hips full, her stomach lean, she lay on her back between the coffee table and the divan. Her head was on the hardwood floor in the space between the carpet and the fireplace. Her face, whiter than the areas kept from the sun by her bikini, eyes staring, looked as if she were about to complain of some minor discomfort, such as, “Move your arm, will you?” or “Your watchband is scratching me”.

“Murdered,” Fletch repeated.

There was a raw spot behind the girl’s left ear. It had had time to neither swell nor bleed. There was just a gully with slim blood streaks running along it. Her hair streamed away from it as if to escape.

“This is the Police Business phone.”

“Isn’t murder police business?”

“You’re supposed to call Emergency with a murder.”

“I think the emergency is over.”

“I mean, I don’t even have a tape recorder on this phone.”

“So talk to your boss. Make a recommendation.”

“Is this some kinda joke?”

“No. It isn’t.”

“No one’s ever called Police Business phone to report a murder. Who is this?”

“Look, would you take a message? 152 Beacon Street, apartment 6B, murder, the name is Fletcher. Would you write that down?”

“156 Beacon Street?”

“152 Beacon Street, 6B.” Through the den door, Fletch’s eyes passed over his empty suitcases standing in the hall. “Apartment is in the name of Connors.”

“Your name is Fletcher?”

“With an ‘F’. Let Homicide know, will you? They’ll be interested.”

II

F L E T C H looked at his watch. It was twenty-one minutes to ten.

Instinctively he timed the swiftness of the police.

He returned to the living room and mixed himself a Scotch and water at the sideboard. He would not bother with ice. He concentrated on opening the Scotch bottle, making more of a job of it than was necessary. He did not look in the direction of the girl.

She was beautiful, she was dead, and he had seen enough of her.

Sloshing the drink in his glass as he walked, he went back into the den and turned on all the lights.

He stood at the desk, looking closely at the Brown. The cottage behind the country couple was just slightly tilted in its landscape, as if it, too, were being affected by the wind. Fletch had seen similiar Browns, but never even a reproduction of this painting.

The phone made him jump. Some of his drink splashed on to the desk blotter.

He placed his glass on the blotter, and his handkerchief over the stains before answering.

“Mister Fletcher?”

“Yes.”

“Ah, good, you did arrive. Welcome to Boston.”

“Thank you. Who is this?”

“Ronald Horan. Horan Gallery. I tried to get you earlier.”

“I went out to dinner.”

“Your letter mentioned you’d be staying in Bart Connor’s apartment. We did some restoration work for him a year or two ago.”

“It’s very good of you to call, Mister Horan.”

“Well, I’m very excited by this Picasso you mentioned in your letter. You