By Paul Robertson
Charles Beale lives fortunately within the shadows of Washington, D.C., as a good rare-books broker. Or in general good. He has a streak of the gambler in him and whilst a loyal patron dies--a guy deeply attached to the Justice Department--Beale eagerly regains the man's publication collection...and quickly reveals himself with greater than he bid on. in a single quantity, Beale discovers records incriminating a number of significant political figures--blackmail fabric that will have ended in homicide. Weighing questions of justice and mercy--and with a bull's-eye on his back--Beale needs to untangle a sophisticated knot of lethal lies and hazardous secrets and techniques.
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There seemed not to be. Mr. Einstein from New York, with his wild white hair and black mustache, had bid last and now stared straight and smugly forward. “Thirty-four thousand. Going once, twice—” The auctioneer’s eyes darted, reacting to some new movement deep in the room. “Thirty-five, thank you. The bid is now thirty-five thousand. ” Heads turned and searched, but Mr. Einstein himself hardly reacted to this new unknown. He only raised his own paddle. “Thirty-six. ” He did, and everyone else did as well.
I got it. It’s the list of the stuff that got stolen. You’re supposed to keep an eye out for them, and if you see anything, call that number at the top. It’s the police, and that’s the detective to ask for, his name is Watts. ” “I see. ” “Oh. It’s from all the burglaries. I think Bastien was the fifth one. ” “What, the list? ” “Yes,” Charles said. ” “Huh? It’s all kinds of stuff. ” “So the burglar’s got good taste. And they’re all small and valuable. He breaks in, grabs stuff, and runs. ” “I have several customers up there,” Charles said.
Beyond, though, a few blocks of King Street brought Charles to the three-story scale of real west Alexandria, authentic and shabby from a century of pawn and secondhand existence, now getting better but still not good. Then another five blocks east and the buildings were solid and many were very good, and rents were high and the shop windows cleaner and the doors were appealing instead of simply peeling. Charles crossed noisy Washington Street and into the heart of crowds and crowds. At Market Square he turned right into quiet streets, then one more block, and finally up two steps, and into a place that was very, very quiet.