A Farewell to Legs
had started playing racquetball when it was the hot new sport in
the mid-eighties, and had been playing, on and (mostly) off, since
then. We’d taken it up again recently, having separately despaired
of our waistlines and inability to run up the stairs the way we
imagined we used to. Of course, my waistline was more an issue than
Mahoney’s, since he gets some sort of exercise or another running
around New Jersey fixing broken transmissions and other automotive
ills for a large car rental agency based at Newark Liberty
International Airport (EWR).
    The racquetball itself was immaterial, anyway.
Especially to me, since I always lost. What was important was the
time I got to spend with my closest friend, letting him needle me
until I wanted to jam a racquet down his throat, handle last. There
are friendships, and there are friendships.
    I was driving, so the cassette deck, and not
Mahoney’s ancient 8-track player, was ruling the musical choices.
Mahoney was always interested in new music, but it never failed to
compare unfavorably in his eyes to his Sixties and Seventies
favorites. Still, he was willing to listen to the A.J. Croce album
I had on, particularly after he heard A.J. is the late Jim’s
    “He’s not bad, but he doesn’t sound like his old
man,” he said, adjusting the volume from dominating to audible.
“He’s got that gravelly voice, like Rod Stewart.”
    “Not sounding like your old man can be a real plus,”
I said. “Think how it’ll help Steph’s kids if they don’t talk like
    Mahoney sat back and sighed. “I can see this is
going to be a theme evening.”
    “I’m trying to work it out.”
    “So you’re obsessing. That’s how you work things
out.” Mahoney played with the fan button on the heater, then
noticed the heater wasn’t turned on, and forgot about it.
    “If you’ve got a better method, I’d like to hear
about it,” I said. The guy in the BMW ahead of me had decided turn
signals weren’t necessary for those with upper six-figure incomes,
and I’d nearly plowed into him, swerving at the last second.
Mahoney hadn’t batted an eye.
    “It’s whatever works for you,” he said. “Me, I like
to take stock. What do you know for sure?”
    I was trying to remember which right turn I was
supposed to make. “Almost nothing. I know Legs had become some kind
of right wing lunatic and somebody stuck a big knife into him just
when he was done playing Hide the Cocktail Frank with his latest in
a series of blond secretarial school drop-outs.”
    “It’s nice you’re not taking this story personally,”
Mahoney said.
    “You’re not helping.”
    “And you’re not trying. You’re letting a 25-year-old
crush on Stephanie Jacobs cloud your judgment.”
    I found the correct turn, but had to jam on the
brakes to make it. Looking at Mahoney, you’d have thought he was
watching an unusually slow-moving game of chess. “What judgment?” I
asked. “I’m not letting any crush do anything, since I haven’t got
anything to go on yet.”
    “When a man gets himself killed in the apartment of
his mistress, the first place to look is. . .”
    “. . . With his wife, yes, but you and I
both know Steph was two hundred and fifty miles away when it
happened, because we were standing in the same room with her.” I
pulled into the parking lot at the Hillsborough Racquet and Fitness
Club, and quickly found a space.
    Mahoney got out of the car and pulled his gym bag
from the back seat. “We know she was there when the cops called
her, because we saw her take the call,” he said. “How long had
Crazy Legs been dead before they called her?”
    “I don’t know.”
    “Exactly. Were there fingerprints in the room other
than Crazy Legs’ and the blonde’s?”
    “I don’t know.”
    “Even more exactly. Did Stephanie make a big
withdrawal from her bank account recently, maybe to pay somebody
who might like to stick a knife into her cheating husband?”

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