The Professional - By Robert B. Parker

For Emma, who arrived; and for Gracie, who left.

Chapter 1

I HAD JUST FINISHED a job for an interesting woman named Nan Sartin, and was happily making out my bill to her, when a woman came in who promised to be equally interesting.

It was a bright October morning when she walked into my office carrying a briefcase. She was a big woman, not fat, but strong-looking and very graceful. Her hair was silver, and her face was young enough to make me assume that the silver was premature. She was wearing a dark blue suit with a long jacket and a short skirt.

I said, “Hello.”

She said, “My name is Elizabeth Shaw. Please call me Elizabeth. I’m an attorney, and I represent a group of women who need your help.”

She took a business card from her briefcase and placed it on my desk. It said she was a partner in the law firm Shaw and Cartwright, and that they had offices on Milk Street.

I said, “Okay.”

“You are Spenser,” she said.

“I am he,” I said.

“I specialize in wills and trusts,” she said. “I know little about criminal law.”

I nodded.

“But I went to law school with Rita Fiore,” she said.

So the silver hair was premature.

“Ahh,” I said.

She smiled.

“Ahh, indeed,” she said. “So I told Rita my story, and she suggested I tell it to you.”

“Please do,” I said.

Elizabeth Shaw looked at the large picture of Susan that sat on my file drawer near the coffeemaker.

“Is that your wife?” she said.

“Sort of,” I said.

“How can she be ‘sort of’?” Elizabeth said.

“We’re not married,” I said.


“But we’ve been together a considerable time,” I said.

“And you love her,” Elizabeth said.

“I do.”

“And she loves you.”

“She does.”

“Then why don’t you get married?” Elizabeth said.

“I don’t know,” I said.

She stared at me. I smiled pleasantly. She frowned a little.

“Was there anything else?” I said.

She smiled suddenly. It was a good look for her.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I guess I was trying to find out a little about your attitude toward women and marriage.”

“I try to develop my attitudes on a case-by-case basis,” I said.

She nodded, thinking about it.

“Rita says there’s no one better if the going gets rough.”


“How about if the going isn’t rough?” Elizabeth said.

“There’s still no one better,” I said.

“Rita mentioned that you didn’t lack for confidence.”

“Would you want someone who did?” I said.

I must have passed some kind of initial screening. She shifted in her chair slightly.

“Everything I tell you,” she said, “must, of course, remain entirely confidential.”


She looked at Susan’s picture again.

“That’s a very beautiful woman,” she said.

“She is,” I said.

She shifted again in her chair.

“I have a client, a woman, married, with a substantial trust fund, given to her by her husband as a wedding present. We manage the trust for her, and over the years she and I have become friendly.”

“He gave her a trust fund for a present?”

Elizabeth smiled.

“The rich are very different,” she said.

“Yes,” I said. “They have more money.”

“Well,” she said. “A literate detective.”

“But self-effacing.”

She smiled again.

“My client’s name is Abigail Larson,” Elizabeth said. “She is considerably younger than her husband.”

“How considerably?”

“He’s sixty-eight. She’s thirty-one.”

“Aha,” I said.

“ ‘Aha’?”

“I’m jumping to a conclusion,” I said.

“Sadly, the conclusion is correct. She had an affair.”

“Lot of that going around,” I said.

“You disapprove?” Elizabeth said.

“I guess it’s probably better if people can be faithful to each other,” I said.

“She’s not a bad woman,” Elizabeth said.

“Affairs aren’t usually about good and bad,” I said.

“What do you think they’re about?”

“Need,” I said.

Elizabeth sat back a little in her chair.

“You’re not what I expected,” she said.

“Hell,” I said. “I’m not what I expected. What would you like me to do?”

“I’m sorry. I guess I’m still testing you.”

“Maybe you could test my ability to listen to what you want,” I said.

She smiled at me.

“Yes,” she said. “In brief, the man she had the affair with took her for some money and ditched her.”

“How much?” I said.

“Actually, just enough to hurt her feelings. Restaurants, hotels, car rentals, a small gift now and then.”

“And?” I said.

“That was it,” Elizabeth said, “for a while. Then one day she saw him, in a restaurant, with a woman whom she knew casually.”

“Nest prospecting,” I said.

“Apparently,” Elizabeth said. “Anyway, she talked to the woman the next day to tell her a little about her experience with this guy. . . .”

“Whose name is?” I said.

“Gary Eisenhower,” Elizabeth said.

“Gary Eisenhower?” I said.

Elizabeth shrugged.

“That’s what he tells them,” she said.


“The two women talked, and then they networked, and one thing led to another, and in ways too boring