The Marine Corpse (Brady Coyne Series #4)

The Marine Corpse (Brady Coyne Series #4)

by William G. Tapply

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“One of the most likeable sleuths to appear on the crime scene in quite a long time.” —The Washington Post Book World
The man is found on the icy streets of Boston, vomit in his beard, alcohol in his system, and ice in his veins. The police assume he is just another in the dozens of derelicts whom the urban winter claims each year, but Brady Coyne knows better. Attorney to New England’s upper crust, he was the dead man’s lawyer, and he knows that Stuart Carver was no bum: He was a senator’s nephew.
An author whose last book was so lousy that it became a bestseller, Carver was planning a serious novel, and was doing research on homelessness in the metropolis when he was killed. The icepick wound on his skull suggests he learned something that someone didn’t want to see in print. To find out who murdered his client, Brady will delve into an underworld that is even more cold, dark, and deadly than Boston in winter.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781480427365
Publisher: Road
Publication date: 08/06/2013
Series: Brady Coyne Series , #4
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 229
Sales rank: 180,088
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

William G. Tapply (1940–2009) was an American author best known for writing legal thrillers. A lifelong New Englander, he graduated from Amherst and Harvard before going on to teach social studies at Lexington High School. He published his first novel, Death at Charity’s Point, in 1984. A story of death and betrayal among Boston Brahmins, it introduced crusading lawyer Brady Coyne, a fishing enthusiast whom Tapply would follow through twenty-five more novels, including Follow the Sharks, The Vulgar Boatman, and the posthumously published Outwitting Trolls.
Besides writing regular columns for Field and Stream, Gray’s Sporting Journal, and American Angler, Tapply wrote numerous books on fishing, hunting, and life in the outdoors. He was also the author of The Elements of Mystery Fiction, a writer’s guide. He died in 2009, at his home in Hancock, New Hampshire.  
William G. Tapply (1940–2009) was an American author best known for writing legal thrillers. A lifelong New Englander, he graduated from Amherst and Harvard before going on to teach social studies at Lexington High School. He published his first novel, Death at Charity’s Point, in 1984. A story of death and betrayal among Boston Brahmins, it introduced crusading lawyer Brady Coyne, a fishing enthusiast whom Tapply would follow through twenty-five more novels, including Follow the Sharks, The Vulgar Boatman, and the posthumously published Outwitting Trolls.

Besides writing regular columns for Field and Stream, Gray’s Sporting Journal, and American Angler, Tapply wrote numerous books on fishing, hunting, and life in the outdoors. He was also the author of The Elements of Mystery Fiction, a writer’s guide. He died in 2009, at his home in Hancock, New Hampshire.  

Read an Excerpt

The Marine Corpse

A Brady Coyne Mystery

By William G. Tapply

Copyright © 1986 William G. Tapply
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4804-2736-5


Homicide detective al santis hung up the phone and sighed. He jammed his forefinger into the styrofoam cup on his desk, frowned, and wiped it on the front of his shirt. "Cold," he muttered to himself. "Figures. Story of my miserable life. Cold coffee. Cold bodies. Cold trails. Cold women." He belched into his fist. "'Scuse me," he said. "My digestion ain't so hot these days, either."

He snapped the plastic cap back onto the cup and dropped it into the wastebasket beside his desk. He ran his fingers through what was left of his hair and peered at me. "I kept you waiting. Couldn't be helped. That damn shooting at Faneuil Hall's got us all jumping, you know?"

"That was a month ago," I said.

He shrugged and nodded, as if to say that he'd prefer to get on to more important things than an attempt on the life of a Deputy Secretary of State. "Jurisdictions, see?" he said. "You got your Secret Service, you got your FBI, you got your State cops, and then you got us City cops, all tryin' to figure out which of the other guys fucked up the worst. Spend more time these days fighting among ourselves than we do trying to catch bad guys." He put both hands to his head and pressed against his temples. "Driving me nuts, I'll tell you. Anyway, where were we?"

"Stuart Carver."

"Yeah. Right. The stiff we found New Year's. What was I saying?"

"You didn't say anything, actually. I came in and introduced myself and then the phone rang and then you got up and left and fifteen minutes later you came back in with your coffee and the phone rang again and you said 'Yes, sir' into it several times. Then you put your finger into your coffee."

Santis grinned. "And it was cold already. Yeah, yeah. Right. And you're the dead guy's lawyer or something. Coyne, it was, right?"

"Brady Coyne. Yes."

"Okay. I got it right here." He rummaged through a drawer in his desk and came up with a manila folder. He opened it and glanced through the papers in it. "See, we thought it was just another wino. Naturally. I mean, there he was, laying under some newspapers in the alley, frozen stiff as a haddock, wearing this raggedy old coat, and them eyes staring up at the sky. There was no blood or bruises. He was just laying there."

"Frozen," I said. "Sure."

"Hell, the Medical Examiner came and looked at him. You know, didn't really examine him. It was colder'n a witch's tit out and only like five A.M. in the morning. But the ME kinda tried to move his head around, felt of his fingers a little, went through his pockets. Routine, understand? Didn't find much, naturally. You don't expect to, these bums. No engraved gold watches or billfolds with credit cards or college rings. Okay, he coulda been rolled. Even so, those boys'll kill each other for half a jug of Guinea red quicker'n they'll say please, and those shitbum teenagers do it just for fun. But, you look at this one, you figure he just lay down and froze to death. Another dead bum. With that beard and them old clothes—shit, he had newspaper in his shoes, no socks—you know? First of the year, but there'll be plenty more. Cold weather's here now, missions're filled up, they go get boozed up so they feel warm, then they pass out in the alleys. Routine, you figure."

"You don't have to apologize," I said.

"I ain't apologizing," said Santis. "Explaining. See, every winter we get ten, maybe twelve, just like this one. Mostly old guys, though nowadays it's a little different. We get women too, now, and even young guys like this one, since they started letting them out of the nuthouses. The home-guard, they call themselves. Lots of 'em born right here in Boston. 'The homeless,' as the Welfare folks call them. But that ain't necessarily right. They are home. This is their home, the streets and the alleys, the parking garages, the subways. We get more in the summer, the tramps and the bindle stiffs. They come in on the freights from Atlanta, Phoenix, St. Louis. They like Boston. We got lots of churches and missions and clinics and whatnot. Nice weather here in the summer. Nice benches on the Common, lotta nice people to give 'em handouts, lotta nice squished vegetables down at the marketplace. Boston's a good city if you happen to be a bum, especially in the summer. Most of 'em tend to head south in the winter. Those that stay around tend to freeze to death in the winter. Like your friend there."

"Stuart Carver was my client."

Santis shrugged.

"Stu Carver wasn't a bum," I said.

"Well, that depends on your definition, I'd say. He damn well looked like one when we found him. Now, understand, this is technically a Medical Examiner's case. Unattended death. Usually they lay around in the morgue at City Hospital for a few days. Then Welfare buries 'em. Oh, they'll send the guy's fingerprints to Washington. That's routine. Maybe he was somebody. Usually not. Anyhow, coupla days later it comes back. He was the Senator's nephew. That changed things a little."

"I imagine that changed things a lot." I observed.

Santis nodded. "The Senator still pulls a lot of strings in this city. But, hey, it ain't our fault his nephew went on the skids."

I took a pack of Winstons from my shirt pocket, tapped one out, hesitated, and said, "Do you mind?"

He waved his hand. "Naw. Go ahead."

I lit the cigarette. "So when you learned it was Stuart Carver…?"

"When we learned it was Senator Woodhouse's nephew, somebody suggested that maybe the ME ought to do an autopsy."

"That's not done routinely?"

"Supposed to be, I guess. But they got stiffs piled up in there like cordwood, if you know what I mean, and I guess it's up to them who they want to cut open. Some wino who froze to death ain't high on their list of priorities."

"The nephew of the leading Republican in the Commonwealth ranks right up there, though."

"Sure. See, we've all got the same problem. Too many dead guys, not enough time." He scowled at me. "I mean, maybe with lawyers it's different."

"It's a little different, yes," I smiled.

"So, anyway, that's when they found the wound. When they did the autopsy."

"Tell me about that wound."

Santis shuffled the papers in the manila folder, glanced at one of them, grunted, and looked up at me. "You can read it, if you want," he said. "Amounts to this. Somebody stuck an icepick into his brain, is how he died."

"That," I said, "would do it."

"That would do it very nicely. See, the entry wound was in his left ear." He demonstrated on himself with his forefinger. "A wound like that won't bleed hardly at all, especially when it's like ten above out there. You'd never see it if you weren't looking for it. Puncture wound like that, inside of the ear. No blood, hardly."

"Sure," I said. "But now it's a homicide."

Santis's laugh startled me. "Well, now, it don't exactly look like an accident, does it? Probably not what you'd call self-inflicted, either. I mean, we don't want to go out on a limb or anything, but we're guessing it was maybe a homicide. That, I imagine, is how come you're here talking to me."

"That's part of it, yes. What can you tell me about your investigation?

He stared at me for a moment. Then he sighed, leaned back in his chair, and tilted his head to study the ceiling. "Mr. Coyne," he said softly, "you gotta understand. First, we've got this assassination thing. This little Spic goes running up to the Deputy Secretary of State yelling 'Free Haiti,' or something, and starts shooting, which means already our security was shitty, and then the little Spic gets killed so nobody can ask him any questions. Mickey Gillis at the Globe won't leave it alone. Every goddam day, an editorial, seems like. And Internal Affairs is going bananas trying to pin the blame on somebody, and the Commissioner is trying to keep a lid on the whole damn thing." He shook his head.

"What are you trying to tell me?"

"Look. Whatever this Carver guy used to be, he was a bum when he died. When that icepick went into his brain, he was drunk. Not just legally drunk, understand, but absolutely shitfaced. So says the ME, even though I expect Senator Woodhouse didn't like to hear it. He had probably passed out. He wasn't wearing socks, Mr. Coyne. He didn't have on any underwear. He was filthy dirty. Sores all over his body. He had about two weeks' beard on his face, and there were pieces of dried-up puke caught in it. You know what I'm trying to say?"

I stubbed out my cigarette in the big glass ashtray on Santis's desk. "You're trying to say that the death of a wino isn't worth investigating."

"You tell me something," said Santis quietly.


"Was Carver a drunk?"

I hesitated. "He got drunk from time to time. But he wasn't an alcoholic, if that's what you mean."

"What I mean is this," he said. "He certainly looked like a drunk to us. A bum, a derelict, is what he looked like. And he looked like a bum to everybody else, no matter whose nephew he was. You want me to investigate the murder of old Ben Woodhouse's nephew, and I'm telling you that we're trying to investigate the murder of an anonymous bum. Because that's what whoever stuck that icepick into his head thought he was."

"That's your theory."

He sighed. "Okay, then. It's a theory. You got a better one?"

"No. I don't have a theory. But I don't believe it was just a random, arbitrary killing, either." I shrugged. "I guess you know more about this sort of thing than I do. What have you found?"

He shook his head. "Found? What we'd expect to find. Which is to say, not much. Listen. It was three days before we even realized he'd been murdered, you know? Three days before we knew who he was or anything. We got no suspect, no weapon, no motive, no witness. Nothing. Just a theory. We checked the missions. Showed his photo. Couple people recognized him. Know what they called him?"

"Cutter, probably."

Santis squinted at me. "Yeah. That's it." He shrugged. "Anyhow, he started showing up in the middle of October, near as anyone could recall, though none of them like to talk to cops. Best we can tell, he had no friends to speak of. No enemies, either. Just a few folks who recognized his face is all. They'd say, 'Oh, yeah, that's Cutter,' and we'd tell 'em Cutter was dead, and they'd say, 'Yeah, that happens.'" Santis shrugged again.

"This is not very encouraging," I said.

"You got any reason to think somebody wanted Ben Woodhouse's nephew dead? You think this is political or something? If you think we're on the wrong track, let me know."

I shook my head. "I can't help you there."

"Well," he said, spreading his hands palms down on the littered top of his desk, "we haven't given up. Look. You wanna know something?"

"Tell me."

"I'll bet some day soon we find another bum with a little hole inside of his ear. And then another and another. And then we'll put some cops out there in raggedy clothes, with radios in their pockets, pretending to be passed out in the alley. And eventually we'll catch some crazy guy with an icepick, who gets a big hard-on when he pulls it out of his pocket, and who creams his jeans when he sticks it into somebody's ear." He nodded, as if he had persuaded himself. "That's my personal idea."

"That's a neat theory," I said, smiling so that Santis wouldn't think I was mocking him. "They didn't find anything in Stu's pockets, then?"

"Like clues, you mean?" Santis's grin did mock me.

"Specifically, a notebook."

"I don't remember any notebook. If there was a notebook, I guess I'd remember it. That," he said, his eyes twinkling, "would be a clue, huh? There were a few odds and ends, as I remember it. Hang on. There's a list in here somewhere." He peered into the manila folder and extracted a sheet of paper. "Okay. One matchbook. One meal chit for supper at the kitchen at St. Michael's. Two nickels and a quarter, which might or might not eliminate robbery as a motive. A pencil. Handkerchief. Probably not freshly laundered or pressed. That's it." He closed the folder and placed his hand on top of it. "No notebook. So listen, Mr. Coyne. Tell me. What the hell is this Stuart Carver, who calls himself Cutter, and who happens to be the nephew of Senator Ben Woodhouse himself, doing, passed out in an alley on New Year's Eve, anyway?"

"Research," I said. "He was working on his new novel."


Ben woodhouse had introduced me to his nephew two years earlier. Ben and I were sitting on the patio outside the men's lounge at Ben's country club in Dover, sipping vodka tonics and watching the afternoon's last foursome straggle up the sloping fairway toward the eighteenth hole. Ben slouched down in his white wicker chair, his long legs propped up on the low brick wall that fronted the patio, his shoulders hunched up against his ears. Ben had served one term in the United States Senate during the Eisenhower years. Since then, he preferred to wield his considerable political clout from behind the scenes. But he was still called "The Senator"—as if he were the only Senator—by most people in Massachusetts.

"My sister Meriam's boy, Stu Carver," he was saying to me. "The family black sheep. I'm rather proud of him, myself, but then, I've always been a bit out of step with the rest of the clan."

Ben had ascended gracefully into his seventies, with his unruly shock of slate-colored hair still as intact as his political influence, and his patrician nose as long as his memory and as straight as his ethics. "It wasn't bad enough, he grew a beard and marched around Washington carrying a candle during Vietnam. Hell, Chub Peabody's mother did that, too, though my brother and sisters didn't think that should absolve Stu. After all, Peabody was a Democrat, so that sort of misbehavior might be expected. But it wasn't dignified for a Woodhouse. And, of course, moving in with that Jewish girl—well, his mother admitted that it could have been worse." Ben chuckled.

"He could have married her," I said.

"Yes, I've mentioned that to you before, haven't I, Brady?" He gazed out over the rolling fairways. "Stu thinks this place here"—he waved his hand, taking in the green sweep of the golf course and the big rambling clubhouse "—is a shameful example of conspicuous consumption. Of course, he's right."

I nodded absently. The golfers had reached the green. By the way they squatted behind their putts, dangling their putters in front of their faces and squinting along some imaginary line of sight, I supposed large sums of money rested on the number of strokes it would take them to knock the balls into the holes. I was thoroughly relaxed in Ben Woodhouse's company, and not the least bit concerned about consumption, conspicuous or otherwise.

"He'll be late," said Ben. "He's always late. It's his way of protesting."

"Protesting what?" I asked.

Ben grinned. "Doesn't matter. In this case, I imagine he'll rant and rave against the tyranny of time. He likes to say that the wristwatch was the invention of a fascist mind. 'You're never free,' he says, 'when you have your arm shackled onto one of those things.' But if it isn't one thing, it's another. That's why I admire him. He holds his principles firmly, even if they're silly."

"And the closest you ever came to protesting was hiring a lawyer from Yale," I observed.

"I've got to admit, Brady, my boy, the family didn't take too kindly to it. We're all Harvard, as you know. But that wasn't it. You were the only one who wouldn't let me beat him at golf. I can't trust a man who won't try his damnedest, and accept the consequences of victory as graciously as those of defeat. It's blasphemy, I know, but I find those Harvard Law School types mealy-mouthed at best."

"Well, Ben," I murmured, "I've enjoyed our relationship."

"And well you might. Ah, here he is now."

Ben unfolded himself from his chair, and I stood up beside him, as a dark-haired man of middling height approached us. He wore baggy corduroy pants, a blue dress shirt open at the neck, and a broad smile. He was, I guessed, in his early thirties. He moved with the quick grace of a gymnast to shake Ben's hand. "Uncle Ben," he said. His ice-blue eyes narrowed impishly. "I'm surprised that you risked permanent ostracism from the Woodhouse clan to do this for me." He looked at me. "You must be Mr. Coyne."

I extended my hand. His grip was firm. "At your service."

"You know what you're getting yourself into here, Mr. Coyne?"


Excerpted from The Marine Corpse by William G. Tapply. Copyright © 1986 William G. Tapply. Excerpted by permission of
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