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Laura Lippman

Charm City

The second book in the Tess Monaghan series, 1997

For John

I am fortunate to work at a place where my generous colleagues and conscientious editors bear little resemblance to the workers at the oh-so-fictional newspaper in this book. In particular, I am indebted to the following co-workers for their help and technical advice: Joan Jacobson, Mike James, Peter Hermann, Arthur Hirsch, Jon Morgan, Mike Littwin, Dan Rodricks, Kate Shatzkin, and William F. Zorzi. Any errors, deliberate and otherwise, are mine. Special thanks to Johnny Ketchum, king of the Baltimore malaprops.

I also want to thank Spike and Dulcie for their expert contributions.

1 ordinary man + 1 ordinary life = 0

1 ordinary man + 1 extraordinary adventure = News

1 ordinary husband + 1 ordinary wife = 0

1 husband + 3 wives = News

1 bank cashier + 1 wife + 7 children = 0

1 bank cashier – $10,000 = News

1 chorus girl + 1 bank president – $100,000 = News

1 man + 1 auto + 1 gun + 1 quart = News

1 ordinary man + 1 ordinary life of 79 years = 0

1 ordinary man + 1 ordinary life of 100 years = News

– George C. Bastian

'Editing the Day's News,' 1922

By choosing to share your life with a Greyhound, you are participating in an act nearly as old as civilization itself. These are the same dogs that slept alongside the pharaohs, hunted with the noblemen of the Middle Ages, and have inspired artists and poets for thousands of years. Without a doubt they are worthy of us. The question is, Are we worthy of them?

– Cynthia A. Branigan

'Adopting the Racing Greyhound'

Drive-bys are out. Executions are in.

– Baltimore Police Commissioner

Thomas C. Frazier in a 1997 interview on local crime statistics

Chapter 1

Nothing wet was falling out of the sky. No snow, no ice, no hail, no rain changing to sleet, no sleet changing to rain. And that was reason enough, Tess Monaghan decided, to feel celebratory. She would walk home from work instead of taking her usual bus, maybe stop at Bertha's and squinch up her nose at the tourists eating mussels, or nurse something warm and alcoholic at Henniger's. A March Monday night in Baltimore would never be Mardi Gras, or even Lundi Gras, but it could have its moments, for savvy natives inclined to seek them out. Tess was inclined. For the first time in more than two years, she had a full-time job and a full-time boyfriend. Her life might not have the party-all-the-time euphoria of a beer commercial, but it was definitely edging into International Coffee territory.

The first few blocks of her walk home were deserted. Downtown tended to empty out early. But as Tess approached the Inner Harbor, she suddenly found herself in the thick of a jazzed-up, happy crowd. Were those klieg lights up ahead? Tess might have left newspaper reporting behind, but her instincts could still be juiced. Besides, she had caught a whiff of food-hot dogs, popcorn, pretzels, something sweet and scorched. Cotton candy, one of those seductive foods that smelled so much better than it tasted.

'It's all free, hon,' a vendor said, holding out a hot dog slathered with mustard and relish. 'Courtesy of the Keys.' Tess had no idea what he was talking about, but she took the hot dog anyway.

What would draw so many people to the harbor on a usually dead Monday evening, she wondered, finishing off the free dog in three bites. Businessmen types, coming from work. Young men in athletic gear and polished- looking women in gabardine raincoats, high heels striking sidewalks only recently liberated from the last ice storm. Then there were the suburban moms, in leggings, oversize sweaters, and fluffy jackets, holding tight to the hands of small children, who held even tighter to small black-and-violet flags.

Carried along by the crowd and its feverish anticipation, Tess found herself at the small outdoor amphitheater between Harborplace's two pavilions. Hundreds of people were already there, massed in front of the small stage. A man with a bullhorn, a local television anchor, was leading a chant. It took Tess a moment to understand the blurred, electronically amplified words.

'Slam dunk! Jam one! Slam dunk! Jam one!'

Other men filed out, a ragtag basketball team in black-and-violet warm-up outfits. Some wore shorts, their legs all purple gooseflesh in the brisk evening. Who would be crazy enough to come out like that on a night like this? Tess recognized the governor. That figured; he had never met a costume he didn't like. But the mayor, not known for his sense of whimsy, was there as well in a black warm-up suit, his trademark Kente cloth tie peeking over the zipper. Tess spotted another television type, two state senators, and a few pituitary cases from the old Baltimore Bullets, now the Washington Wizards, renamed in deference to that city's homicide rate. Surprisingly, the name change hadn't done much to quell the capital's violence.

'Slam dunk! Jam one! Slam dunk! Jam one!'

Beneath the crowd's chant, Tess picked out a tinny recording, the city's onetime public service jingle, which had encouraged people to keep the streets clean by playing 'trash ball.' She remembered it vaguely. The city's orange-and-white wastebaskets had been decorated with slogans such as Jam One! or Dunk One! Then they'd ended the campaign and collectors of Baltimorebilia had stolen the trash cans before they could be taken off the streets and repainted.

Another man limped out on stage, an aging athlete whose cane gave his garish warm-up suit a strangely aristocratic look. 'Toooooooooooch. Toooooooooooch,' men yodeled and a few women actually screamed when he acknowledged the cheer with a thumb's-up. Yes, Paul Tucci still had his Loyola boy good looks and the build of the star athlete he had once been, although he was fleshier since his much-publicized knee replacement surgery earlier in the winter. Tess suspected the women were swooning not for the Tucci physique, but for the Tucci fortune, which had started in olive oil, then oozed into virtually every aspect of Baltimore life, from food importing

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