William Fitzgerald at Work

It hadn’t taken long for William Fitzgerald’s leatherette book to fill again with the names and the sins of the powerful and the wealthy. Although he wasn’t well-known — being unpleasant and aggressively, unremarkably ugly — he was reliable, and poised in the useful borderland between respectable and cheap. Rumour, vague and unspecific, bruited him about, and his clients found him. He worked for wifebeaters, for philanderers, for panderers and seducers, for dopers and killers and whores, running their errands and bullying their marks and remembering, and remembering. This was his only indispensable strength.

The best time for him was in the summer. The sun and the humidity pulled all the poison to the surface like the pus in an abscess stirring at the touch of a hot compress. At those times William Fitzgerald moved through the city as a plowsman does through a field of ripe ears, tasting and picking and plucking. He respected no Sabbaths in the hot months. He discovered and then recovered two murders (for a fee), found the house of a young man who subsequently disappeared, tracked innumerable spouses to identical motels by the freeway, took pictures, bugged phones, lifted evidence. He was in his element.