Now and then - By Robert B. Parker


He came into my office carrying a thin briefcase under his left arm. He was wearing a dark suit and a white shirt with a red-and-blue-striped tie. His red hair was cut very short. He had a thin, sharp face. He closed the door carefully behind him and turned and gave me the hard eye.

“You Spenser?” he said.

“And proud of it,” I said.

He looked at me aggressively and didn’t say anything. I smiled pleasantly.

“Are you being a wise guy?” he said.

“Only for a second,” I said. “What can I do for you?”

“I don’t like this,” he said.

“Well,” I said. “It’s a start.”

“I don’t like funny either,” he said.

“Then we should do great,” I said.

“My name is Dennis Doherty,” he said.

“I love alliteration,” I said.


“There I go again,” I said.

“Listen, pal. You don’t want my business, just say so.”

“I don’t want your business,” I said.

“Okay,” he said.

He stood and walked toward my door. He opened it and stopped and turned around.

“I came on a little strong,” he said.

“I noticed that,” I said.

“Lemme start over,” Doherty said.

I nodded.

“Try not to frighten me,” I said.

He closed the door and came back and sat in one of the chairs in front of my desk. He looked at me for a time. No aggression. Just taking notice.

“You ever box?” he said.

I nodded.

“The nose?” I said.

“More around the eyes,” Doherty said.

“Observant,” I said.

“The nose has been broken,” Doherty said. “I can see that. But it’s not fl attened.”

“I retired before it got fl at,” I said.

Doherty nodded. He looked at the large picture of Susan on my desk.

“You married?” he said.

“Not quite,” I said.

“Ever been married?”

“Not exactly,” I said.

“Who’s in the picture?” he said.

“Girl of my dreams,” I said.

“You together?” Doherty said.


“But not married,” he said.


“Been together long?” he said.


We were quiet.

“You having trouble with your wife?” I said after a time. He glanced at the wedding ring on his left hand. Then he looked back at me and didn’t answer.

“The only person you could ever talk with is your wife,” I said, “and she’s the issue, so you can’t talk to her.”

He kept looking at me and then slowly nodded.

“You know,” he said.

“I do.”

“You’ve been through it.”

“I’ve been through something,” I said.

He looked at Susan’s picture.

“With her?” he said.


“You’re still together.”


“And you’re all right?” Doherty said.


With his elbows on the arms of the chair, he clasped his hands and rested his chin on them.

“So it’s possible,” he said.

“Never over till it’s over,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said.

I waited. He sat. Then he opened the thin briefcase and took out an 8×10 photograph. He put the photograph in front of me on the desk.

“Jordan Richmond,” he said.

“Your wife.”

“Yes,” Doherty said. “She kept her name. She’s a professor.”

“Ah,” I said, as if he had explained something.

I try to be encouraging.

“I think she thought it was low class,” he said. “To have a name like Doherty.”

“Too ethnic,” I said.

“Too Irish,” he said.

“Even worse,” I said.

“I don’t mean she’s snobby,” Doherty said. “She isn’t. She just grew up different than I did. Private school, Smith College.”

“Kids?” I said.


“Where do I come in?” I said.

He took in a big breath of air.

“I want you to fi nd out what she’s up to,” he said.

“What do you think she’s up to?” I said.

“I don’t know. She’s out late a lot. Sometimes when she comes home I can tell she’s been drinking.”

“Oh,” I said. “That.”


“You think she’s fooling around,” I said.

“I don’t think she’d do that to me,” he said.

“Maybe it’s not about you,” I said.


I shook my head.

“So what do you think?” I said.

“I don’t know what to think, it’s just not going well. She’s out too much. She’s sort of brusque when she’s home. I don’t know. I want you to fi nd out.”

There were a few questions I wanted to ask, but they were more shrink-type questions. And he wasn’t hiring me for my shrink skills.

“Okay,” I said.

“What do you charge?”

I told him. He nodded.

“And you’ll fi nd out?” he said.


“I don’t want her to know,” Doherty said.

“I’m pretty slick,” I said. “Where do you live?”

“No need to know that,” he said. “You can pick her up at school.”

“And tail her home,” I said.

He nodded.

“Of course,” he said. “Six thirty-six Brant Island Road in Milton.”

I looked at the picture.

“Good likeness of her?” I said.

“Yes,” he said. “She’s fifty-one, looks younger. Five feet, seven inches, a hundred and thirty pounds. She’s in good shape. Works out. Drives a silver Honda Prelude. Mass plate number ARP7 JD5.”

He reached into the slim briefcase again