Pamela Wechsler's enthralling series returns with The Fens, and promises to shock readers old and new.
Boston’s chief homicide prosecutor Abby Endicott hasn't had the easiest adjustment to normal life. Her wealthy family cut her off because they don’t agree with her dangerous career choice, her new apartment with her musician boyfriend is not up to standards, and her impending position as godmother is overwhelming. Abby's personal life, however, is about to be put on hold when the star catcher for the Red Sox goes missing on opening day.
Abby quickly realizes this is more than a case of one missing celebrity. Soon, another player turns up dead and the frantic search escalates. When Abby discovers greased baseballs and mysterious sums of cash, she knows that a lot more than the Red Sox's season is in danger.
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About the Author
PAMELA WECHSLER spent over fifteen years working as a criminal prosecutor at the local, state and federal levels. She has served as an assistant district attorney and assistant attorney general in Boston, and she was a trial attorney for the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.. She has investigated and prosecuted a wide variety of crimes, including: murder, witness intimidation, sexual assault, drug trafficking, stock market manipulation, and political corruption.
Pam moved to Los Angeles to work as a legal consultant and writer and producer for network television shows. Her credits include: Doubt; Law and Order; Law and Order: Criminal Intent; Law and Order: Trial by Jury; Conviction; and Canterbury's Law.
Pam grew up in the Boston area and is a graduate of Tufts and Boston University School of Law. She is now the author of Mission Hill, The Graves, and The Fens. Currently, she is a writer and producer of the CBS drama Bull.
Read an Excerpt
Boston hasn't had a murder in eighteen days. Most people in law enforcement kick back and enjoy a lull in crime. Not me. Whenever the homicide rate drops, my anxiety level skyrockets; my blood pressure surges and I develop a twitch in my left eye. It's not that I'm worried about job security — homicide prosecutors can always earn more in law firms, investment banks, or fast-food joints. It's that I know it won't last. At some point, there will be another murder, another crime scene, another victim.
The other assistant district attorneys make good use of the downtime. They're in their offices, drafting briefs and filing motions. My investigator has gone to the Cape for a few rounds of golf. And my victim witness advocate is at home, retiling her bathroom floor. I keep busy too — pacing around my apartment, checking and rechecking my phone.
I try to keep my neuroses under wraps, but there's no point hiding it from Ty. We've been together almost two years and he knows the drill, does his best to distract me. This week, we've been to two concerts — the Bach Society at Sanders Theatre, and the Psychedelic Furs at the House of Blues. We've seen two movies — Gaslight and Spotlight. And we've binge-watched all five seasons of Breaking Bad.
We also eat out a lot, spending far more than our budget allows. Yesterday it was dinner, oysters at the Glenville Stops in Allston. Today it's lunch, Szechuan shrimp at the Golden Temple in Brookline. While Ty pays the bill, I check my phone for the thousandth time. Still nothing. No calls, no texts, no murders.
Ty grabs the plastic bag of leftovers and we walk a couple of blocks up Beacon Street, to the side street where his Corolla is parked. When we reach the car, Ty opens my door, rubs my back, and kisses my neck. Ty is my Ativan, so calming and protective that I almost relax.
I climb into the passenger seat, drop my bag on the floor, and adjust my seat belt.
Ty yells out. "Hey. What the —"
Outside, there's a commotion — two loud thumps. A man has appeared out of nowhere and, without a word, he tackles Ty and slams him up against the hood of the car. Ty struggles to free himself but the man has him pinned. Stunned, I bolt out of my seat, race to Ty, and jump on the man's back.
"What are you doing? Get off of him. Leave him alone!" I say.
I grab at the man's neck, but he swats me away, elbows me in the face — hard. My jaw clicks and I see a flash of light as my butt hits the ground.
"Shut up and don't move," he says.
This man is determined. I have to do something. My cell phone and pepper spray are only a few feet away, in my tote. I inch away toward the passenger door, on my hands and knees, keeping an eye on the man. He takes a swing at Ty, hitting him on the shoulder.
The man shouts at me, "I said don't move."
A glint of metal catches my eye. It's coming from the man's waistband. Fearing the worst, I strain to see what it is. It's a gun, a Glock. For a moment, everything becomes a blur. I hold my breath and freeze as the man pulls out the pistol and presses it to Ty's right temple. The man turns to me.
"When I say don't move, I mean the both of you."
I try to memorize his face. Brown hair, buzz cut, green eyes. A tattoo is on his right hand: an American eagle.
"Get up," the man says.
I stand and raise my hands in the air, in surrender.
"What do you want?" I say. "Is it the car?"
"Take my key," Ty says.
Ty fumbles with his key, dropping it on the pavement. The man doesn't bend to pick it up. He isn't interested in Ty's Toyota. This is about more than a carjacking.
The man looks around. "Where's the bag?"
"My tote is in the car," I say.
"No, not that bag — the plastic one."
Keeping my hands in the air, I use my foot to point to the sewer grate, where the bag of Chinese leftovers landed when Ty was ambushed.
"Hand it to me," the man says. "Slowly."
I pick up the bag of food and pass it to him, but his hands are occupied — one hand on the gun, the other on Ty's throat.
"Open it," the man says.
My hands are shaking, making it difficult to untie the knot. After a couple of attempts, I give up and rip the bag apart; three small white cartons spill out onto the sidewalk.
"Where are the drugs?" he says.
Ty and I look at each other, confused.
"We don't have drugs," Ty says.
The man picks up a container and inspects the contents. "What's this?" He tosses the open box on the curb. Noodles and gooey brown sauce splash out, onto the toes of my suede pumps.
A siren blips in the distance. I hold my breath, willing it in our direction, hoping it's the police — not a fire engine or an ambulance — and that they're coming to help. Maybe someone saw the assault, heard my pleas, and called 911.
Ty and I lock eyes in solidarity. We just need to hang on a little longer. Soon, help will arrive and this maniac will be subdued and arrested. The man seems oblivious to the siren. He doesn't try to run, he doesn't even flinch.
"I want the drugs," he says.
"Look, man, there are no drugs," Ty says.
"But we have cash," I say. "I'll get my wallet."
"Stay where you are." The man waves his pistol in the air. "I don't want your money."
As the siren intensifies, the man knees Ty in the back of his legs and twists his arm. Ty grimaces in pain.
"You should get out of here," I say.
The man stops what he's doing, holsters his Glock, and turns to face me. "Why would I want to get out of here?"
"Can't you hear the siren?" I say.
"Yes. The police are coming."
He shakes his head back and forth in disbelief. "Lady, I am the police."CHAPTER 2
A marked Brookline police cruiser rounds the corner, its blue light flashing. The driver lets out two blasts of the siren and comes to a stop in front of Ty's car. I exhale. Finally, sanity will prevail. The uniform opens his door; gold chevrons, stitched on each sleeve, declare his rank.
"Sergeant," I say, "I don't know if this man is impersonating a police officer or if he really is a cop and he's completely lost his mind, but —"
"Stay back and keep those hands where I can see them."
"Me? But, I'm —" I want to tell the sergeant I'm a prosecutor and we play for the same team, but he won't give me the chance.
"If I was you, I'd stay quiet. Otherwise, I'm charging you with disorderly conduct, and both you and your cohort are going in the back of the cruiser."
"Cohort?" I say.
The man who attacked us looks Ty up and down. "Where are you folks from?"
"Where are we from?" My voice expands. "That's what this is about?"
Ty catches my eye, shakes his head. Not now. Let me handle this.
"We live a couple of miles away, in Brighton," Ty says.
I've been working in the DA's Office for over a decade, and I'm no stranger to allegations of racial profiling, but usually the complaints are about other jurisdictions, places far away. Ferguson, Chicago, Baltimore. Sure, Boston has a long-standing reputation for racism — in housing, schools, employment, and professional sports — pretty much everything but law enforcement. Other cities try to emulate our community policing model, with its close ties between law enforcement, the clergy, and neighborhood groups.
I never considered that crossing the city limits, from Boston into Brookline, would be a dangerous undertaking.
"What are you people doing around here?" the sergeant says.
"Ty, you don't have to answer." I turn to the man who started this. "What's your name, Officer?"
"Detective," he corrects me. "Detective Mike Chase."
"Detective Chase, what's the basis for your stop?"
He ignores me and the sergeant speaks up. "Mike, did you do a pat down of the suspect?"
Ty and I lock eyes. Pat down? Suspect?
Detective Chase kneels and frisks Ty; Chase runs his hands up one leg and down the other. Ty remains still as his pants pockets are turned inside out. It's invasive and humiliating. This has gone too far.
I plant myself in front of them, arms crossed, impossible to ignore. "I'm an assistant district attorney."
They stop what they're doing, try to look unimpressed, but I can see the sergeant's eyes dart around as he contemplates his next move. He gives me the once-over and watches as I slowly reach into my jacket pocket and take out my credentials. I flip open the top, exposing my badge.
"Abigail Endicott, chief homicide prosecutor, in the Suffolk County DA's Office," I say.
Detective Chase blanches. The sergeant reddens.
"There must've been a misunderstanding," Detective Chase says.
"No, I think we understand each other," I say.
He starts to backpedal. "I was conducting an undercover operation. There have been complaints of drug activity in the area. It was an honest mistake."
"What if I had a gun? What if Ty fought back? Someone could have been killed."
"Your boyfriend fits the description." Chase shows me a text on his phone: Black male, approx. 5'10?, wearing dark hoodie, possibly armed, accompanied by white non-hispanic female.
"Ty is six feet two, and he's wearing a leather jacket," I say.
Detective Chase ignores the comment, turns to Ty. "I'm sorry, sir. No hard feelings, I hope."
Chase extends his hand and, to my surprise, Ty accepts.
"This has been a learning experience, a teachable moment," the sergeant says.
I want to ream them out, but Ty looks at me, then at his car, signaling he wants to get out of here. They watch as we get in the Corolla and close the doors. I'm jacked up with anger. Ty seems numb, expressionless.
I take out my phone and scroll though my contact list.
"Babe, what are you doing?"
"I'm calling the police commissioner, and then the mayor. After that I'm going to leak it to The Globe and the Herald. 'African-American Male Attacked by Rogue Brookline Police Officer While Walking with Assistant District Attorney.' It'll be tomorrow's headline."
Ty turns on the ignition. "Let's slow down. Please, don't do anything right now."
"I want to figure out the best way to handle it. In the meantime, the cops can sweat it out, worrying about what we're going to do."
Ty and I are proof positive that opposites attract. I'm white, he's black. I'm from a Brahmin Beacon Hill family, his parents are aging hippies and he was raised in rural Vermont. I'm a homicide prosecutor, he's a jazz musician. I'm an adrenaline junkie, hard charging and battle ready. He's cool and measured.
"Let's take a beat; we can talk about it tonight," he says.
He pulls onto Beacon Street, toward Brighton. Before we reach the next traffic light, my phone vibrates. I look at the screen and hesitate. Taking the call will only make things worse, but I don't have a choice.
Ty stops at the red light and turns to look at me. Boston Police detective Kevin Farnsworth is a constant source of tension between us. "Doesn't that guy ever take a day off?"
"It's probably a new murder." My heart races with a combination of excitement and dread as I slide the accept call button. "Afternoon, Detective, what do you got?"
"Meet me at Fenway Park?"
"Seriously? There was a murder at Fenway?" I glance at Ty, who is fiddling with the radio, pretending not to listen.
"Not exactly. No one died, but I know you're going to want in on this from the jump."
"Don't be so sure. Tell me what happened."
"It's opening day and the Sox's starting catcher, Rudy Maddox, never showed up for the game."
My heart sinks. This is not the murder case I've been waiting for. My vigil isn't over. I bite my lip and chew at a piece of loose skin, until I taste blood. "Since when do we take missing persons investigations?"
"The starting catcher for the Boston Red Sox doesn't show up on opening day, and no one has seen or heard from him — trust me, this is gonna be big."
Before I have a chance to say thanks but no thanks, my phone beeps. The screen shows that my new boss, District Attorney Stan Alvarez, is on the other line. Stan was appointed a couple of months ago, after the former DA was elected mayor. At the time the governor tapped Stan for the position, he was an FBI agent. Stan knows little about politics and even less about local prosecutions — but he's a huge sports fan.
I hang up with Kevin and grab the call.
Stan speaks first. "Did you hear about Rudy Maddox?"
This is the perfect opportunity to assert my independence and set the tone with the new boss. "I'll supervise the case, keep a close eye on it."
"I don't want you to supervise it. I want you to handle it."
I push back. "It's not a murder. It doesn't even sound like a kidnapping."
"I don't care if it's a frigging dognapping. I just got off the phone with the team owner. He's worried that his MVP has disappeared without a trace. The baseball commissioner has reached out too. And reporters are sniffing around. This could be huge and I want my top prosecutor on it."
I look at Ty, make a circle with my finger, cuing him to turn the car around.
"I'm on my way," I say. "I'll be at Fenway Park in ten minutes."CHAPTER 3
I spent much of my youth behind home plate in Fenway Park. My brothers and I sat in the Endicott family box, in the front row, under the protective netting. We each had our own game-day rituals. Charlie, the oldest, would position himself near the dugout; he collected autographs, which he later sold on eBay. No surprise, now he's a venture capitalist. George, the youngest, snuck sips of beer from stray cups under the seats. No surprise, he died of a drug overdose almost ten years ago. I kept track of the scorecard, penciling in the abbreviations for each play, as though the outcome of the game depended on it. The Red Sox had an abysmal record in those years, but like most Bostonians, we were die-hard fans, always hopeful that they would turn things around.
The landmark red, white, and blue Citgo sign winks as we cross over the Turnpike, toward Kenmore Square. On Brookline Avenue, we pass a line of hot dog carts, T-shirt vendors, and ticket scalpers. When we reach Lansdowne Street, Ty pulls up behind the thirty-seven-foot-high Green Monster.
Kevin is across the street, peeling peanuts from their shells and popping them in his mouth, one by one.
Ty eyes him with suspicion. "You're not going to say anything to him about what happened, right?"
It's near impossible to make Ty jealous — I know because I've tried. There's one thing, however, that gets under his skin: Kevin. I've told him time and again that nothing has ever happened between us, and it never will. Kevin is happily married to his high school sweetheart; I'm in love with Ty, and my days of cheating are over. Still, Ty seems unconvinced. I can't blame him, given my past.
"I promise. I won't say a word." I kiss him, then once more, and get out of the car.
Kevin sees me approach, gives me a nod and a smile, and holds out the brown paper bag. "Nuts?"
"I prefer Cracker Jacks."
He tosses the bag into a trash can. "I got us a sit-down with the team manager. We might as well catch the tail end of the game while we wait."
We make our way to Gate E, where we badge the ticket taker. Inside the ballpark, I exchange nods of recognition with a plainclothes detective and a patrol officer in full tactical gear. I stopped coming to Fenway years ago, after George died; it wasn't the same without him. A lot has changed: the Sox won a couple of World Series; the park installed Wi-Fi; and bomb-sniffing dogs became fixtures at the games.
We wind our way up the ramp, past the lines at the refreshment stands: craft beer, lobster rolls, and gluten-free cookies. I prefer the old concessions: warm Bud, cold pizza, and soggy Fenway Franks.
Outside, the park is a sea of green: the field, the walls, the seats, and the drunken fan who is vomiting on his neighbor. A group of strangers are occupying our old box; my father gave up the seats years ago, opting instead to watch the game from the indoor clubhouse, where there's climate control and a full bar.
Kevin clocks me as I shade my eyes against the glare of the afternoon sun. He flags down a hawker, gives him a twenty, and grabs a dark blue Red Sox cap. He sticks the hat on my head and adjusts the visor. "Don't want you to miss any of the action."
I look over at the scoreboard. It's the bottom of the seventh and the Sox are down by five. "I'm not sure I want to see this train wreck."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Fens"
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