The Whole Lie: New Excerpt

The Whole Lie by Steve Ulfelder
The Whole Lie by Steve Ulfelder
An excerpt from The Whole Lie, a thriller by Steve Ulfelder (available May 8, 2012).

Conway Sax, the no-nonsense auto mechanic with a knack for solving difficult problems for the Barnburners, the renegade AA group who saved his life, is back in The Whole Lie.  And for once, he thinks normalcy is within reach. He’s opening a new garage, and he’s finally moved in with longtime girlfriend Charlene. The end of his parole is finally in sight. Then along comes Savannah Kane: smart, smoky, and a pusher of men’s buttons. Seven years ago, Conway helped her disappear—but not before they had a sizzling, knock-down-drag-out affair. Now she’s returned with a shocking revelation: she’s the mother of a six-year-old boy. Savvy claims her son’s father is billionaire Bert Saginaw, but Conway (not to mention Charlene) knows she’s looking for more than just a family reunion. 

Saginaw wants to be Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts. Savvy wants to get paid. Conway wants nothing to do with either of them. But when Savvy turns up brutally murdered, he has no choice but to sort lies from trutheven though doing so may cost him his freedom, his lover, and his life.

Chapter 1

When Savvy Kane walked into my shop, I was wrestling the rotted muffler from a Maxima. It’s not a pretty job. Rust flakes, road crud, frozen bolts. Cursing is involved.

As I gave a final twist, the customer door swung open.

I looked.

I looked again.

My jaw dropped.

The muffler dropped.

It weighed thirty pounds, and every one of them landed on my right boot.

Her name was Savannah, but when I’d met her in a biker bar on the south side of Owensboro, Kentucky, all the Harley boys had called her Savvy.

It wasn’t hard to see why. She didn’t pay for a drink all night. And she drank a lot.

Me too. Back then.

“What the hell,” I said, stepping into the customer area.

“Some greeting,” she said.

“Close the door,” I said.

She stepped close, planning a hug until she saw the grime on my coveralls. I could smell her hair. No change: almost like apples, but no quite.

“You look the same,” I said.

“You don’t.” She took my face in both hands, brushing a fleck of something from my forehead. As she studied me I remembered her eyes: They were a gray that could look blue, green, brown, or nearly black, depending on the light. Depending on her mood.

Savvy thumbed my right cheek. “What happened?”

“Life. And lots of it.”

She shook her head. “Death.”

“Some of that, too.”

Her thumb was still on my cheek when the door whooshed and Charlene walked in.

I froze.

Charlene froze.

Savvy did not freeze. She stroked my cheek again, dropped her hand, turned, squinted, paused a long beat. “Darlene?” she finally said.

“Charlene,” I said. Quickly.

“Well knock me over,” Savvy said.

“Savannah Kane,” Charlene said, then curled her lip. “Savvy.”

“Are you two . . .” Savvy said.

“Hell yes,” I said. Quickly.

“How sweet,” Savvy said, then faced Charlene. “Come to keep an eye on your man?”

“On my business,” Charlene said. “I own the place.”

“Well,” I said.

“Or may as well,” Charlene said. “I hold the note.”

“True enough,” I said.

“My my,” Savvy said. “Business and pleasure.”

We stood there. From the work area, where I ought to be, came an Eagles song on the classic rock station. Then the whir of an air wrench as Floriano Mendes, my friend and only employee, took something off a Honda Pilot.

Savvy said, “Can you spare Mister Goodwrench here for a cup of coffee?”

“Ask him.”

“Pretty busy,” I said.

“Too busy to chat with an old Barnburner who’s got a problem?”

Barnburner. Savvy’d said the magic word, and Charlene knew it as well as I did. Charlene hit me with the ice-blue eyes, a stare that cut deeper than words could. Then she turned and walked to her desk. Didn’t say a goddamn thing.

Didn’t have to.

A long time ago, in a nineteen-dollar-a-night hotel room outside Paducah, Kentucky, Savannah Kane and I had swapped life stories.

She was born and raised in Virginia’s Roanoke Valley. Her father made nozzles for high-quality pressure washers and did well enough so the toughest choice his daughter ever faced was jumping or dressage. She majored in drunk at the University of Virginia, put together a rich girl’s cocaine-and-vodka habit. She never sniffed or drank any more than her friends did—but after college, when the friends dumped the cocaine and got jobs, Savvy didn’t. Couldn’t. That’s when her story turned ugly, the way they do.

“Nice little place,” she said now, looking around the coffee shop. A girl on hidden speakers sang a slow song. Customers diddled with laptops.

“I like Dunkin’ Donuts better,” I said, “but this is closer. Where have you been? Why are you back?”

She laughed some. “You still don’t beat around the bush. I remember how much I liked that.”

I said nothing.

“I stayed put for seven years,” she said, “right where you and that weird little guy put me.”

“Moe Coover.”

“Yes! Such a great name, how’d I forget it?”

“So you’ve been in Greensboro this whole time?”

“North Carolina.” She said it Noff Caro-LYNE, exaggerating the accent. “And don’t sound so skeptical. I grew fond of the place, believe it or not. You were right about its being the perfect city to get lost in.”

“Moe was right,” I said. “Greensboro was his call. What did you do there?”

“I did just as you recommended. As Moe recommended, sorry. Some of this, some of that. McJobs. I waited tables in chain restaurants, stocked shelves at Staples, sold sofas in big furniture stores. Never hung around long enough to get funneled into management.” She sipped her coffee, a fancy thing with whipped cream and a cinnamon stick. “Not long enough to get close to anyone.”

I sipped too, looked her in the eye. “I don’t believe you.”

“Asshole!” She hissed it, slapping her coffee to the table.

“It’s not in you to work a square job,” I said. “Maybe for a month, for giggles. No longer than that. You need action. When you can’t find it, you make it.”

“If you’re so sure about that, why’d you help me run in the first place?”

“You were a Barnburner.” My AA group, the ones who saved my life. Savvy’d been a member of the group for a while. It’s where she met Charlene. “I help Barnburners. No questions asked.”

“You’re still running around with that crowd? They must all be a hundred and ten. What kind of super-sexy problems do you solve? Canasta cheating scandals? Misplaced hearing aids?”

I took it, both hands flat on the table. On the hidden speakers, a boy now sang a slow, sad song just like the one before it. Only with a higher voice.

Savvy hadn’t changed. She was smarter than you and didn’t mind letting you know it. She’d whip you up and down trying to get her way. But if you gave in, she lost respect and dropped you as whatever you were to her: friend, co-conspirator, lover.

Lover.

In her bedroom, I remembered, I’d wanted to do everything, tell everything, feel everything in a way I hadn’t known before or since.

I felt her hand on mine and snapped to, pissed that she could still read my mind. I was a simpleton to her, always had been.

“Why are you back?” I said. “And since it’s been seven years, maybe you can tell me why you needed to disappear.”

“Why’s your face red? What were you thinking about just now, Conway?”

“Why’d you need to leave all of a sudden? You wouldn’t tell me then. I didn’t force it. You seemed scared. But it’s seven years on.”

Savvy cut her eyes left and right, then put both hands in her lap so she could lean way in. With her chin nearly touching the table she said, “I don’t remember you being much of a political creature, but you do know y’all have a gubernatorial election a week from today. Right?”

“Okay.”

“And you know Betsy Tinker has been a lead-pipe cinch from the get-go?”

I said nothing.

“Name ring a bell?” she said. “The sweetheart of Massachusetts? The money, the senator hubby?”

“He died. She took his seat. More money than God.”

“Right. The whole world loves Betsy Tinker. Doesn’t matter what she says, doesn’t matter what her plans are. After this clown of a governor, the one who’s on his way out, voters want somebody uncontroversial, somebody nice. Three weeks ago, the polls had Tinker up twenty-six among likely voters. Do you pay attention at all, Conway?”

“Not to politicians. I keep hoping they’ll go away if I ignore them.”

“Betsy Tinker’s not going anywhere except the corner office. Thomas Wilton, her opponent, is a nothingburger, the Washington Generals.”

I smiled. Leave it to Savvy to throw in a Harlem Globetrotters reference. “For a North Carolina gal, you know plenty about Massachusetts politics.”

“Tinker’s lead has been shrinking,” Savvy said. “That’s natural. Nobody wins by twenty-six, not even in Massachusetts. However . . .” she leaned forward even more “. . . there’s a problem.”

I waited.

“Blackmail threats.”

I waited.

“There are, I’m given to understand, issues that could put a very big dent in Tinker’s lead.”

“Such as.”

“Such as me.” Her eyes danced as she said it.

“Tell me.”

“I have a history with Tinker’s running mate, the next lieutenant governor,” she said. “He’s a business guy, a charger. He was supposed to grab the blue-collar votes while Tinker focused on Morrissey Boulevard and Newton and the Berkshires. Any idea who he is, my strapping, not-as-dumb-as-he-wants-you-to-think friend?”

I said nothing.

“Thought not. Nobody gives a rat’s ass about the second name on the ticket. Ever heard of Bert Saginaw?”

“Made a mint in fences,” I said. “Built himself a palace right here in Framingham.”

She mock-applauded me for finally knowing something. Like I said, she’s smarter than you and doesn’t mind if you know it.

I sipped. “What about him?”

Half a smile played across Savvy’s lips. “Bert Saginaw has a little John Edwards problem. And I’m Rielle Hunter.” She read my eyes, sighed, put both hands on mine. “I asked you and Moe to disappear me seven years ago because I was pregnant with what the tabloids call a love child.”

Chapter 2

Maybe ten seconds passed. “You were pregnant?”

“Everybody figured it out but you.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You would have gone crazy jealous on me.”

“Bullshit.”

“You feel a twinge even now,” Savvy said. “Even though Charlene’s got a ring through your nose. It might as well be stamped on your forehead.”

She was right. “We were close back then,” I said. “The way I remember it, we had something intense going. It felt. . . it felt exclusive, that’s for sure.”

“It was intense, you’ve got that part right.” She brushed my cheek with her fingertips. “Seven years. A long time. Besides, you’ve got grim little Charlene. She cleaned up nice, I’ll give her that. Back then she was a bitty bottle-blond crack ho, was she not? Social Services took her kids away, or am I misremembering?”

“She got her daughters back a long time ago,” I said, putting my hand on Savvy’s left forearm.

“I always figured you’d wind up with someone,” she said, ignoring my hand. “You’re a serial monogamist. You work the strong-silent-type routine and you work it well, but at day’s end you need a woman to fix your dinner and wash your boxer briefs. What good is Brando-hood without someone to tell you what a cool loner you are?”

“They’re eighteen and twelve, and I love them. Charlene built a good business from scratch. I live with her, moved in a while back. We’ve been through a lot together.”

She grabbed my hand with her free one. “You’re hurting my arm.”

“Yes.” I kept the pressure on.

“You’re hurting me.”

“Yes.” I held her eyes, held the pressure, watched fear bloom behind the pain.

Finally she said, “I’m sorry, ow, ow, I’m sorry, I’m sure Charlene is the cat’s meow, ow!”

I released, stood. Left the coffee shop, walked back toward the garage. The smart move would be to work my ass off the rest of the day and clear Savannah Kane from my head. Charlene would be frosty for a few days—who could blame her?—but we’d get past it.

Yup. It’d be a mistake to try to explain. Talking doesn’t always work out so well for me. I dig holes. Better to buckle down, work my tail off, let my actions show Charlene that Savvy was nothing to me.

She was nothing.

Right?

So why did I catch myself listening for footsteps? Why did I slow when I heard her trotting after me?

She grabbed my arm when I was half a block from the garage. “Some things never change,” she said, then held up an index finger and put hands on knees and panted.

“You still smoke,” I said. “Old Gold?”

“Seen the price of cigs lately? I smoke whatever’s on sale at the gas station.” She straightened, caught her breath. “I was thinking, as I staggered after you clutching my ticker, how quickly we fell into the old patterns.”

I said nothing.

“Me tormenting you over things you don’t know,” she said, rubbing the forearm I’d squeezed. “You hurting me back the way that comes naturally to you.”

“Charlene and I are a couple,” I said, fishing my cell from my pocket, flicking to the photos. “This is her younger daughter Sophie. The older daughter is Jessica, everybody calls her Jesse.”

“Cute. Quite a financier you found for the brand-new garage. I kid, Conway, I kid. I admit I wondered where you got the dough to launch this shop. Last I heard, banks weren’t loaning mucho dinero to guys with manslaughter two on their resume.” Pause. “So I Googled. Why wouldn’t I?”

“Why did you, though? Why are you here?”

“Brass tacks at last.”

“How’s this for brass tacks?” I said, riffing, thinking on the fly. “This Bert Saginaw knocked you up. He voted abortion, you voted child support. After all, you weren’t getting any younger. You had to play the long game. Saginaw must have looked like an ATM with legs.”

She slapped me hard.

I ignored it. “You made do with the child support, but it burned you up. When Saginaw went into politics, you couldn’t take it anymore. You had to make a run at the big payday. You’re here to squeeze him. Gold Digger One-Oh-One.”

Her eyes flashed. “You get in trouble when you try to act smart,” she said. “You obviously don’t realize Bert’s famous for blowing fortunes. He wasn’t rich when I was with him, and my child-support checks prove it.”

“So you’re here to renegotiate. And if talks don’t go your way, you parade your kid for the reporters.”

She slapped my face again. “I would never do such a thing, and you’re a prick for saying I would! Max is back home with his . . . in very good care.”

We stood. Traffic rolled. My face stung.

“You guessed partly right,” Savvy said, and I noticed she’d molded herself to me, breast pressing my arm, thigh on thigh. From face-slap to this in two seconds. Typical. “I did come to renegotiate. But a funny thing happened.”

“What?” I said, looking at the Shell station across the street.

“Bert and I hit it off. Rekindled, if you get my drift. And believe it or not, the campaign has kind of . . . adopted me, no, absorbed me. I’m part of Team Tinker-Saginaw.”

“They’re hugging you close til the campaign’s over. Then they’ll brush you off.”

“No. I thought that too at first, but there’s more to it. Trust me, I’m part of the sanctum sanctorum.”

“What’s that?”

“Never mind. It was my idea to get your help. We were talking in the war room last night, and I mentioned the kind of thing you do for Barnburners.”

“Saginaw’s not a Barnburner.”

“But I am.”

“I need to get back to work.”

“Please, Conway. Old times’ sake.”

I stared across at the Shell. “What were you talking about in this war room?”

“Blackmail.”

“Not your blackmail? Other blackmail?”

“You bet. Weird, isn’t it?”

What was weird, I thought, was the pencil-necked kid staring at us from the Shell. He stood by a red Lumina. He was looking death rays at me. Trying to puff out his chest, but he didn’t have much of one.

I wouldn’t have noticed him, but the Lumina had North Carolina plates.

Huh.

I filed the car away and took Savvy’s elbows. “We had a thing a long time ago. You were a Barnburner. You asked for help, I helped. But you were supposed to vamoose and stay vamoosed.” She tried to interrupt, but I shook my head and something in my eyes told her to keep quiet.

“You made your deal, and you’d best stick to it. Here’s your smart move: call a cab, go to Logan, and grab the next flight south.”

“That’s exactly what I’ll do,” Savvy said. I said nothing, knew there was more coming. “All I ask,” she said, “is that before I go, you come see Bert in action. He wants to meet you. Just watch him, shake his hand, hear him out. Then give a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down. You won’t hear a peep out of me.”

I checked my watch, looked at the shop. Between a newspaper feature and some e-coupons, we’d gotten off to a good start. We were hip-deep in boring Japanese cars that needed boring service.

“When?” I finally said.

“Right now! Bert’s doing a rally downtown.”

I sighed and led her to my truck.

Chapter 3

“Now some people,” Bert Saginaw said, leaning toward the microphone like he was having a neighborly talk with a pal, “some people, even some people whose names are on ballots this year . . .” He waited for hoots and applause that didn’t come. “Some people would defund the programs I’m talking about, programs that are helping Framingham bootstrap its way back, programs that help good people find good jobs at good wages . . .” He thumped the podium on each “good,” working himself into the Martin Luther King-wannabe rhythm that politicians love.

I stopped listening to the words. People who listen to the words of a man running for office deserve what they get. I looked around instead, knew I’d learn more that way.

Saginaw stood at the top of the steps to the Memorial Building, Framingham’s city hall, speaking to maybe a hundred bored citizens.

Framingham’s a funny place. A little too big to be a town, a little too small to be a city. Route 9, an east-west road that may be the original strip-mall hell, cuts it in half. North of 9, Framingham’s a solid little suburb full of Boston commuters. South of 9, it’s more of a has-been city. Railroad tracks, a long-closed GM plant, old-school small industrial, two-family homes. Salvation Army, methadone clinics, halfway houses, oldsters who missed their chance to move out.

And wall-to-wall Brazilians, some of them legal. Fine by me: Every Brazilian I know works as hard as three of anyone else. If Saturday night knife fights and crazy soccer parades don’t bother you, Brazilians make good neighbors.

We were on the south side of town. The Memorial Building squats on a three-way intersection whose rotary screws up traffic all day, every day. The rally was making things worse. Background noise: horn honks, siren-blats from ambulances forcing their way over to the hospital. Behind Saginaw stood a dozen people with signs reading SAGINAW—LT GOV in red, white, and blue.

I’d never seen a sign for a lieutenant governor that didn’t mention the candidate for governor. I wondered what Betsy Tinker, his running mate, thought about that.

The sign holders were props for the TV news cameras, nothing more. I recognized a few of them. There was the gal who runs a soup kitchen, the preacher who shows up every time a kid gets shot in the projects, a couple guys with purple union T-shirts. Like that.

One woman behind Saginaw, jammed in with a half-dozen handlers in suits, looked so familiar it bugged me. Sandy hair, squared-off jaw, beet-colored suit that didn’t do her any favors. I asked Savvy who she was. “Bert’s sister Emily,” she said. “Faithful assistant, gal Friday, cast-iron-bitch gatekeeper. Take your pick.”

I looked from sister to brother, and saw it. They could just about be twins. Hell, maybe they were. I felt for Emily: The face she shared with her brother, with its compass-arrow nose and its Dudley Do-Right jaw, suited a man more than a woman.

I recognized a bunch of folks around me in the crowd, too. Half of them were Brazilian illegals—their bosses must have shooed them over to make a pretty TV picture.

Add it all up, you came away with an impression of a half-assed rally, a place nobody wanted to be. Except Bert Saginaw.

He was rolling now, wrapping up I hoped, doing dime store MLK until his voice cracked and his fist had to hurt from podium-thumps. Finally, in a nice touch, he snapped a white handkerchief from the breast pocket of his suit and wiped his forehead like he’d worked up a sweat. The crowd waited half a beat too long, wondering if he was finished, then finally clapped. A two-fingers whistle cut through. It was one of the handlers, a twenty-something boy whistling and stomping like he’d just heard the Gettysburg Address.

Savvy leaned into me, her breast pressing my arm. “Warning,” she said. “Potential disaster looms.”

“What do you mean?”

“Bert’s supposed to lead a spontaneous march through town. Pressing babies, kissing flesh, primo telegenic shit. But the adoring masses appear to be sprinting back to work.”

“They don’t look all that adoring.”

“Or that massive. Look. He’s pissed.”

She was right. Saginaw had continued the man-of-the-people routine by taking his coat off even though it was late-October chilly. He now one-fingered the coat over his left shoulder, leaving his right hand free to wave and shake. But there was nobody to shake with, and the only thing to wave at were illegals’ backs as they hustled to their shops or apartments.

Wearing what he probably thought of as a TV grin, but which looked to me like that old Life magazine photo of some poor sap riding a rocket sled, Saginaw whispered to handlers. One in particular gave off a boss-man vibe. He was letting Saginaw’s rant roll off his back.

I checked my watch. “Well,” I said.

“You’re not getting off that easy,” Savvy said, pulling me by the arm. “I said you need to meet him, remember?” We tucked into the hind end of Saginaw’s parade, which now consisted of him, his handlers, the two guys with union T-shirts, and a pair of gals I recognized from the Brazilian bakery a block down.

As we crossed Concord Street, Saginaw pretended the cars were honking for him, not at him. Sure enough, the two gals slipped into the bakery—their manager flipped green aprons to them before the door even closed. Now I was three steps behind Saginaw.

You could plunk him down in any town, any state, and nobody’d be surprised when they heard he was running for office. He had that born-winner look. Straw-colored hair cut almost in a Boys’ Regular, but not quite, like he’d been using the same barber since he was eight. High forehead, that unapologetic nose, smart blue eyes.

But something was off.

It hit me when I compared Saginaw to the campaign manager he was reaming out. The campaign manager—at least I assumed that was his job—looked a lot like Saginaw, a born winner. But he was a full seven inches taller.

Bert Saginaw was a shrimp.

I looked harder, first at him and then at the manager, and I saw he was a shrimp in an odd way: He had the torso and shoulders of a six-footer, but it looked like someone had sawed four inches out of his legs.

Huh. I’d known guys like that who developed complexes, resentments. A few of them would have been taller but for childhood sicknesses. I wondered if that was Saginaw’s deal. Looking at his jacketless back, his expensive shirt that had to be custom made, I saw he had a hell of a V shape. Easy guess: He was a fitness guy, a junkie for it. An overcompensator.

Leading his sad little parade through downtown Framingham, the locals avoiding his smiles mostly out of pity, Bert Saginaw was giving the campaign manager hell. He waved, he shook hands with anybody who wasn’t quick enough in clearing out of his way, he maintained the grin/grimace. But he was hissing in the ear of the taller man, occasionally grabbing his upper arm in a way that had to hurt. I caught snippets.

“ . . . couldn’t even round up a couple dozen teachers, for Chris-sake?” Saginaw said.

“ . . . Good call. I’ll take that bullet,” the man said.

“ . . . Tinker’s talking to three hundred goddamn people in Brookline right now,” Saginaw said.

“ . . . Worcester promises they’ll have ’em hanging from the rafters tomorrow,” the man said.

This went on for the better part of a block. Finally, seconds after the last diehard camera crew dropped away—unable to resist the smells from a churrascuria that would pile meat on your plate until midnight for $9.95— we came to a mini-caravan just north of a Salvation Army where I’d bunked a long time ago. Leading was a BMW X5 SUV, black. Behind it, a brand-new Chevy Malibu in the same color.

Saginaw made for the right rear door of the BMW, but the campaign manager spoke in his ear and guided him to the Malibu, with sister Emily right behind. The manager and his flunkies doubled back to the SUV. Savvy and I stood on the sidewalk.

“Take shotgun,” Saginaw said to Savvy, pointing at me. “I want to talk to this one while we ride.”

Me, Emily, and Saginaw made for a tight backseat fit.

“What kind of car is this?” Saginaw said, looking around the gray cloth interior.

“Chevy Malibu,” I said, “the new one. Supposed to be pretty decent.”

“Piece of shit,” he said. “Krall says I have to ride around in American cars during the campaign. Probably after, too.”

“Krall?”

“Campaign manager. Costing us a mint, soul of a vampire, but he’s been around the block a few times.”

“He makes you drive American,” I said, “while he rides in your BMW. Pretty ritzy deal for him.”

“Good point,” Saginaw said, half-laughing. “Am I a sap or what?”

“Way I hear it,” I said, “you’re nobody’s sap. What do you want with me?”

“You were right, Savvy,” Saginaw said. “He does have a short tolerance for talk.” Then he leaned across and forward, putting a blue-sleeved arm through the gap between the front seats, and twined his fingers in hers.

It wasn’t a move I expected from Saginaw. It made him look awkward and needy.

It made him look like he cared about Savvy.

A lot.

Huh.

Meanwhile, sister Emily was looking at her brother’s arm like she wanted to cut it off.

Double huh.

“Savannah tells me,” Saginaw said, “you’re some kinda miracle man for the local AA crowd. Robin Hood for drunks.”

“Did she tell you I’m a convicted felon?”

“She mentioned it. Why?”

“I couldn’t vote for you even if I wanted to,” I said. “So stop blowing smoke up my ass and tell me why I’m here.”

Long pause. Saginaw’s eyes went stormy.

Then cleared, and he laughed like hell. “You were right!” he said to Savvy, squeezing her hand, still leaning. “You were sure as hell right about this cat.”

“So tell him,” she said. Annoyed? She worked her hand free of Saginaw’s and folded her arms.

“Yes,” Emily said. “Tell him.”

“You know the gist of the situation,” he said after a few seconds.

“Savvy had your kid,” I said. “She holed up in North Carolina for a long time, cashing your checks. Now she’s back.”

“There’s more to it.”

“She came north to squeeze you for more dough.”

“Asshole,” Savvy said.

“She’s not,” Saginaw said.

“Of course she is,” Emily said.

“At first, maybe, yeah,” Saginaw said. “Not anymore. But somebody’s squeezing, all right. Somebody’s running all sorts of games to push me out of the race.”

“Isn’t it a little late for that?” I said.

“Not too late, not with this state’s screwy laws.”

“Okay,” I said, “you should know. But let’s get down to it. I assume you’re talking about the guy Betsy Tinker’s up against. What’s his name?”

“Thomas Wilton,” Emily and Savvy said at the same time.

“What I don’t get,” I said, “is why’s this Wilton working on you instead of Tinker?”

The car went quiet.

“Tell him,” Emily said.

“Yes, tell him,” Savvy said. “In for a dime.”

Saginaw leaned forward so he could look across his sister at me. “I’m pretty sure the squeezer is my bosom-buddy running mate. Sweet Betsy Tinker, the next governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Ulfelder


Steve Ulfelder is an amateur race driver and co-owner of Flatout Motorsports, a company that builds race cars in Bellingham, Mass. He was a business and technology journalist for 20 years.  In addition to trade and automotive magazines, he wrote for the Boston Globe, Boston magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, and many others. His first novel, Purgatory Chasm, was an Edgar Award Finalist. 

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