Killer, Come Hither: A Novel by Louis BegleyKiller, Come Hither: A Novel by Louis Begley

Killer, Come Hither: A Novel

byLouis Begley

Paperback | January 12, 2016

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From the master observer of upper-crust New York life comes a taut thriller that takes readers from the office suites of Manhattan to the tidy elegance of Sag Harbor and the rough-and-tumble western plains of Brazil.

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Jack Dana, a star student at Yale, joins the military after 9/11—only to have sniper fire cut short his career as a Marine Corps infantry officer. While recovering at Walter Reed Hospital, he begins to write a novel about his wartime experience. Jack’s uncle Harry, a surrogate father to him, as well as a partner at a leading New York law firm, helps Jack secure a publisher. Jack is thrilled when his book becomes a huge success, but after a celebratory trip to South America, Jack returns home to shocking news: Uncle Harry is dead, found hanged in his summer home. Horrified and incredulous, Jack digs into the facts surrounding the tragedy and comes to believe that his uncle’s death was no suicide. Delays of law are not for Jack, so he takes matters into his own hands—embarking on a dangerous journey of justice and revenge.
 
Praise for Killer, Come Hither

“A stealthy, page-turning thriller.”Booklist
 
“Louis Begley’s award-winning fiction usually takes on bad behavior among the well-bred and prosperous. Killer, Come Hither ratchets up the intrigue—and the evil.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
“Begley writes clean, crisp, graceful prose, the kind that’s always rare and ever a blessing.”The Washington Post
 
Killer, Come Hither beckons.”—Vanity Fair
 
“Combines unexpected plot twists and narrative tension with Begley’s trademark elegant prose.”—Shelf Awareness
Louis Begley’s previous novels are Memories of a Marriage, Schmidt Steps Back, Matters of Honor, Shipwreck, Schmidt Delivered, Mistler’s Exit, About Schmidt, As Max Saw It, The Man Who Was Late, and Wartime Lies, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Irish Times/Aer Lingus International Fiction Prize. His work has been translated i...
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Title:Killer, Come Hither: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 7.98 × 5.17 × 0.57 inPublished:January 12, 2016Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0553392441

ISBN - 13:9780553392449

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Read from the Book

IThis is a true story. I have changed the names of certain persons in order to protect them from harm. Other than that, I have concealed nothing. My conscience is clear. What I’ve done I’d do again without a moment’s hesitation. Some will think that I should have stuck to the rules—put my faith in criminal justice and let the murderer plea-bargain his way to a cushy sentence. So be it. I despise cowards and hypocritical pussies, and their holier-than-thou naïveté.My name is Jack Dana. I am a former Marine Infantry officer and Force Recon platoon leader. I am also the author of three successful books. The first of these I wrote at Walter Reed, undergoing surgeries to fix the damage done to my pelvis by the bullets of a Taliban sniper outside Delaram (a nasty spot in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province) in the minute or so before my team killed him. It may seem odd that someone like me—honor graduate of the Corps’ toughest combat schools, those where you learn to gun down enemies unlucky enough to be in range or, if they’re close enough, punch a blade between their ribs—should become a novelist. The truth is that to every thing there is a season. I put my training to use during deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and in the door-to-door fighting in the second battle for Fallujah I learned how easy it is to kill a man. You squeeze the trigger slowly; the round finds its target, and he crumples and falls to the ground. Easier yet, you throw a satchel charge through a window, and down comes the building. I would have gone on doing just that but, though the repairs of which the surgeons were so proud had put me into excellent shape, my new excellent wasn’t good enough for a Corps Infantry officer. Never mind. Writing books was a return of sorts to the life I expected to lead before we were attacked on September 11, 2001.I am the only child of a Harvard philosophy professor father and a flutist mother who played with a Boston-based chamber orchestra, and I was raised in a comfortable clap- board house off Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After graduating from a New Hampshire boarding school that my father and his younger only sibling, Harry, had also attended, I went to Yale. Why Yale instead of Harvard, my father’s and uncle’s alma mater? I didn’t want to be in my father’s ample shadow. For the same reason, while I planned to pursue an academic career, I shied away from philosophy, choosing instead ancient Greek and Roman history. Alas, before long I was to regret bitterly the decision that had taken me away from Cambridge. My beautiful and gifted mother fell sick during the spring of my freshman year. By the following Christmas she was dead, the victim of a furiously aggressive ovarian cancer. My father’s despair knew no bounds. I went up to see him on as many weekends as I could, but my efforts to help him shake off depression were mostly unavailing. He had never fully recovered from wounds and other traumas he’d suffered during the fighting in Vietnam. A massive stroke felled him in the winter of my senior year. Paralyzed from the neck down, he slipped into a vegetative coma, and it took all of Uncle Harry’s calm authority and legal skill to get the hospital to respect my father’s health directive and my wishes and disconnect him from life-support machines. We buried him alongside my mother in the Mount Auburn Cemetery.My mother had been an only child. Uncle Harry, now my only living relative, had never married and considered me the son he would have wished to have. Lest one draw unwarranted inferences or buy into the slurs that have been spread about him, I affirm that he was anything but gay—closeted or otherwise. But he’d been unlucky in love, attaching himself to married women who in the end could not bring themselves to leave their cuckolded husbands, and, in one case, to a woman who put her career ahead of him. She was a famous ballerina who had told him from the first that she didn’t think marriage and her art could be reconciled. Gradually, they drifted apart. His last great love was a much-younger Peruvian lawyer, a raven-haired beauty who laid claim to Inca blood. They met in Lima where she assisted him, as Peruvian local counsel, in the negotiation of a copper mine investment by Harry’s client, Abner Brown. The reclusive and eccentric Texas billionaire was not yet generally known to the American public as the embodiment of extreme right-wing politics. Harry had begun working for him a year or so earlier, having been recommended by a satisfied client. Harry was a man of perfect manners and unbending principles. Mixing professional dealings with romance was taboo so far as he was concerned, and he was convinced that his courtship of Olga began only at the barbecue Brown gave at his ranch outside Houston to celebrate the successful closing of the Peruvian transaction, which, he said in toasting Harry, had added a cool five hundred million dollars to his fortune. Harry, he gloated, took those Peruvian bureaucratic monkeys to the cleaners, ha! ha! ha! Fortunately, none of those scorned monkeys was present. Indeed, the only Peruvian in attendance was Olga. In the course of apologizing to her for Brown’s odious tirade, Harry discovered to his astonishment and joy that she hadn’t thought of being angry at him, and that she had seen through his carefully maintained policy of injecting no personal feelings into their professional relationship: his suit had been expected and was welcome. It did not take them long to decide they would be married as soon as Olga had completed work on her pending legal cases or transferred them to other lawyers in her firm. They planned a Lima wedding in September of 1992. Fate had other plans. Olga was one of the twenty-odd victims killed by a truck-bomb attack launched in July of that year by the Shining Path insurgency in what became known, after the street down which the truck rolled, as the Tarata bombing. A week of violent attacks followed, paralyzing Lima. The capture of Shining Path’s supreme leader, Abimael Guzmán, two months later knocked the wind out of the insurgency’s sails, but that was no consolation to my uncle. He considered himself a widower and spent the rest of his life mourning his lost Inca.My Christmas and spring vacation trips to visit Harry, which I made alone as soon as I went to boarding school, were treats to which I looked forward all through the school year. He practiced law in Manhattan as a leading corporate partner in the powerful Jones & Whetstone firm. His apartment on Fifth Avenue was steps away from the Metropolitan Museum. At his urging, I explored its galleries, sometimes accompanied by a young curator. Harry knew everybody, and that sort of thing seemed easy for him to arrange. In the evening—and whenever he was free at lunch—he’d invite me to his club or to one of the French restaurants he liked best. Other evenings we went to the opera, theater, or ballet, and it’s no exaggeration to say that Harry formed my taste in art and music. There were also family visits. Those had usually taken place in the summer, when my parents and he were all on vacation. We’d spend a long weekend at his Long Island home in the part of Sag Harbor that escaped the conflagration of 1845, which destroyed much of that once-important port. His house was an early-nineteenth-century structure, a warren of small rooms, many of them strangely shaped, complemented by a barn that had been converted into a high-ceilinged studio with its own bathroom. The studio was officially Harry’s office, but when I was finally allowed to visit him in Sag Harbor alone he told me to consider it my bedroom and my private domain. As it turned out, however, I hardly ever slept in it after that first summer. I preferred to be in the guest bedroom across the corridor from Harry’s bedroom and realized he rather liked his postprandial naps on the sofa in the studio.That our family visits to Sag Harbor were never longer, in spite of the comfort of Harry’s house and the allure of his sailboat and the bay and ocean beaches, was due to the tension between him and my father. On the surface, their relationship was as affectionate as befit two brothers separated in age by not more than three years, and the difficulty was never alluded to by them. But it was there: a black storm cloud visible in a brilliant summer sky. The explanation was given to me by my mother, the person who was closest to Harry, at a time when she knew she was dying. She wanted me to understand both him and my father better. The rift—for it was really that, not a quarrel—could be traced to Harry’s not having served during the Vietnam War. He had waited for the draft board to call him up and in the course of the preinduction medical examination was classified 4F on a basis he never disclosed. Since he was an avid, expert, and indefatigable swimmer and tennis player, it seemed inconceivable that he had been turned down on account of a physical condition. Had the psychiatric part of the exam revealed a psychosis that had gone until then unnoticed? Or had he, as my father and grandfather suspected but would never say, led the doctor to the erroneous—of that they were convinced—conclusion that he was gay? It didn’t matter. Since he had not expressed an insurmountable objection to the war, their own conclusion, intolerable to my warrior father and his and Harry’s warrior father, was that Harry had weaseled out of serving, that he was a coward. My mother didn’t care. All that mattered to her was the conviction that Harry had a heart of gold and could be trusted to look after my welfare.Indeed, I cannot imagine what would have become of me without Harry during the dreadful spring when my father was dying. His steady and unobtrusive help let me keep my emotional balance and complete my senior year’s work successfully enough to graduate with highest honors and be awarded a Yale scholarship for study at Balliol College at Oxford. All the tasks connected with closing and selling my parents’ house and settling my father’s estate were likewise lifted from my shoulders, so that once again I was able to concentrate on my studies. The result was far beyond my hopes. Just before Easter, I was invited to join the Society of Fellows at Harvard as a Junior Fellow. It was an academic honor with important practical implications. The stipend I would receive during the following three academic years would allow me to pursue my studies in my own way, without the need to enroll in a Ph.D. program or to start looking immediately for a teaching position. I would be free to find my own way. Harry was the trustee of the small trust my father had set up for me under his will. I wrote to him about the Society of Fellows and asked whether he thought I could afford a four-to-six-week summer vacation in Italy. With a guest, I specified, an English girl I’d met at Oxford and hoped to convince to do graduate work at Harvard. Harry’s answer came by phone. After he had finally finished congratulating me, he gave me his answer: Money isn’t a problem, but the canicular heat will be. Don’t be a cheapskate and make sure you and the young lady are at the beach or have access to a swimming pool.  Directly after Labor Day, I flew from Rome to Boston and went about organizing my new life in Cambridge, my lovely Felicity having promised to join me during her winter break. I thought we’d surprise Harry by spending Christmas with him and then try powder-snow skiing in Alta. To my delight, the small apartment on Craigie Street that the university had recommended was exactly what I wanted. I signed the lease, arranged to have some pieces of my parents’ furniture delivered from storage, and had electricity and telephone and Internet service turned on. Then on September 10, I took the shuttle to LaGuardia and went straight to Harry’s office, getting there by midafternoon, to wish him a happy birthday. Making a fuss was a better decision than I had realized. His secretary had given him a present—cuff links, he showed me—and a couple of younger partners he worked with had taken him to lunch at a sushi restaurant, but he had no plans for the evening.It’s my own decision, he told me. My law school classmate and best friend at the firm, Simon Lathrop, and his wife wanted to have a small dinner, but I wasn’t up to it. Olga and I were going to be married this very weekend, nine years ago. Spending the evening with four or five apparently happy couples ... I just couldn’t do it. Even if some of them are people I genuinely love. That’s why I usually celebrate my birthday by getting away. But this week and the next I’m stuck in the city. I should tell you that I had another, special reason for not accepting the Lathrops’ invitation. I was secretly hoping you’d show up.My present consisted of taking Harry out to dinner. It being Monday evening, his favorite French restaurant was closed, and I told him that if we were to have a meal up to his standards he had better pick a replacement.There is an Italian restaurant I like a lot, he said, that serves food from the Trieste region. If you’re not sick and tired of Italian food, let’s go there.We met at the restaurant and treated the dinner with the seriousness it merited, finishing off a bottle of old Barolo and lingering after the meal over a single varietal grappa. It was past eleven when we left the restaurant. To clear our heads, an effort that in my case didn’t entirely succeed, we walked the twenty-odd blocks to Harry’s apartment. At some point mild inebriation gave me the necessary courage, and I asked whether he had really decided to live out his life alone. Could it be that his love for Olga excluded the possibility of another attachment? He was silent for a long while, and I feared that I had made him angry. His answer reassured me.It’s not that simple, he told me. Olga wouldn’t have wanted me to be so lonely. But something like a wall of ice has built up around me, and it’s harder and harder to break a passage through it. Strangely, finding my work as satisfying as I do, having deep relationships with people in the firm, especially younger partners and associates who work for me, liking my clients, have had a perverse effect, reinforcing my isolation. My igloo is very comfortable! And don’t forget, there is also my adorable Plato....I had to smile at that, and to conceal my delight. Plato was Harry’s Burmese kitten, a tomcat almost small enough to hold in my rather-large hand when I gave him to Harry for his birthday a year ago, just before flying off to England. It turned out to be love at first sight and had only grown more solid. Letters and emails brought me news of Plato’s exploits—in the New York apartment they played an elabo- rate game of marbles, Harry rolling them to Plato and Plato batting them back with his paw, and in Sag Harbor, once Harry decided he could allow Plato the run of the garden, the kitty proved to be a redoubtable hunter, the scourge of mice and chipmunks—and ever since Harry had learned to email photos, he circulated images of Plato with the pride of a new father. I had spent only a few hours with Plato that afternoon, but, having been brought up with cats, I didn’t need more to be conquered once again by the little fellow’s intelligence and elegant manners.We said good night as soon as we got home. Harry told me that he had to be at the office early and would be leaving the apartment before eight. He didn’t expect that I’d be awake or that he’d see me at breakfast. If I were you I’d get a real night’s sleep. I’m having lunch with a client, he added, so you’re on your own during the day, and the ballet and the opera seasons haven’t begun, but it’s my turn to take you to dinner. At my French restaurant if that suits you.That suited me just fine, but plans, both trivial and weighty, were upended, and the texture of the days, months, and years that followed was irremediably changed when next morning four hijacked planes toppled the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center, plowed into the western side of the Pentagon, and crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I had followed Harry’s advice and gotten up late and was having my first cup of coffee when the telephone rang. It was Harry, telling me to turn on the TV. A couple of hours later he called again and said his office was closing. He would walk home along Fifth Avenue. We agreed I’d meet him halfway.  The next day, Wednesday, was when I had intended to leave, but flights had been canceled across the nation, and trains weren’t running. I remained  at Harry’s apartment, glued to the television. A conviction had grown by the evening that Osama bin Laden, a name I had never heard before, was responsible for the attacks; he had commissioned and masterminded them from his lair somewhere in Afghanistan. There were reports of explosions in Kabul, but the Pentagon denied rumors that we had attacked the city. Harry and I had dinner at his French restaurant. We ate the postponed grand meal, drinking too much, and both of us feeling we were at a wake. When I mentioned the explosions, Harry said that even if it were true that we had not yet moved against bin Laden we’d be doing so soon.You heard Bush, he continued, hunt them down and punish, making no distinction between those who committed the acts of terror and those who harbor and support them. That’s quite a brief! Lord knows what the country will get into. Look, he added after a pause, it doesn’t seem to me that you need to try to move heaven and earth to be in Cambridge tomorrow or any other day this week. You aren’t teaching or taking courses you shouldn’t miss. Why not stay here until things quiet down? Having you with me is a wonderful serendipity. It may not be repeated. I want to take the good with the bad.I agreed gratefully.The drumbeat of war continued implacably all that week, gaining in force. Colin Powell issued his own warning to foreign nations: You’re with us or against us. NATO invoked the common defense clause of the treaty, laying the ground for intervention. A couple of days later President Bush promised to lead the world to victory and declared that states that support terrorism would be “ended.” Reading the press compulsively, I came across an article filed by Tony Lewis, a New York Times columnist, that spoke bluntly about the president’s inexperience in war and statecraft and the danger that retaliatory action by the U.S. would trigger unintended consequences—such as those that followed from our arming the mujahideen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan in 1979 and the early eighties. We woke up to find we had handed over that country to anti-Western extremists. But his was a voice crying in the wilderness. On September 14, Congress passed a resolution allowing the president to attack nations, organizations, and persons suspected of being involved in the 9/11 terrorist acts, or harboring such organizations and persons, and to prevent future acts of terror by such nations, organizations, or persons. The House voted for it 420 to 1; the Senate 98 to 0. The ground had been well prepared: a national poll taken the following Monday showed overwhelming public support for military action.Harry worked at the office during that first post-9/11 weekend. The weather being beautiful, I divided my time between Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum. In reality, wherever I was I brooded about the impending war, my cho- sen work—a revisionist study of the Athenian campaign in Sicily—that awaited me in Cambridge and that I was eager to complete, my family history, and the moral quandary I faced. By the time my father was my age, the pace of the Viet- nam War had picked up. Conscription was in effect. When the notice from the draft board came, you had to report for duty unless you had secured a deferment or had avoided the issue by joining the National Guard or, like Harry, had been deemed unfit for service. My father didn’t wait to be drafted. Far from seeking a deferment for graduate studies—he had already been accepted by the Harvard graduate school and a deferment would have been his for the asking—upon graduation from Harvard College he applied for a commission in the Marine Corps and was accepted for training. As platoon leader and eventually company commander, he took part in some of the most vicious fighting of the Vietnam War, including the Battle of Khe Sanh. For bravery in that action he was awarded the Navy Cross; he had previously received the Silver Star. He had not had any particular desire to fight in Vietnam; although he loved France, he had deplored her colonial policy and thought it was a mistake for the U.S. to try to fix the mess the French had left behind when they lost Indochina. He joined the marines because he thought that if his country was at war he had a duty to serve. Consciously or not, he was emulating my grandfather—his father—also a volunteer who had fought his way across Europe with Patton and twice received the Silver Star in addition to the Distinguished Service Cross and the French Croix de Guerre. The abolition of the draft and the conversion of the U.S. military to an all-volunteer professional force had dismayed my father. So far as he was concerned, the obligation to bear arms and serve was an intrinsic attribute of citizenship, which he thought, surprisingly for a philosopher, must be fulfilled in the spirit of my-country-right-or-wrong.I asked myself what those brave men—warriors without a trace of bellicosity in them—would think of my saying to myself that this new war is different, that since there is no draft, no legal obligation to serve, it can be left to those who see no great future ahead of themselves, listen to the recruiter’s siren song, and enlist, and to the service academy meatheads appointed to lead them. Would they nod approvingly and say that times do change, and while I should, of course, be ready to answer the call to arms if it came, in the meantime my less showy, but just as important, obligation was to honor the terms of my fellowship at Harvard and get on with my research? It was not an unlikely result. My grandfather and father, both of them reasonable men, both opposed to reckless foreign adventures, might well have given me that advice or some near-enough variation on its theme. But I wasn’t comfortable with it, and wondered what misgivings they would have felt once they had given it. How likely were they to think that it was small wonder that Harry thought of me as his son.Harry was out with clients that Saturday evening, but on Sunday he got home around seven—which for him was on the early side—and announced that after he’d taken his bath and changed he’d cook pasta for our dinner. Spaghetti aglio e olio, a garlicky specialty of his laced with crushed red peppers, which I remembered fondly from visits to Sag Harbor. But first we’d have drinks. Over gin martinis, which were another one of his specialties, he told me he’d been meeting with Abner Brown and his second-in-command. The work he was doing for Abner continued to expand in a manner that was flattering to him and was naturally very much appreciated by the firm. The conglomerate of which, except for a small number of joint venture partners, Abner was the sole owner, and also Abner as an individual, had become very important clients. In fact, he worried about the weight of the Brown matters in the firm’s business mix, and what he considered the overly optimistic assumptions his partners made concerning its continued growth and even the nature of the relationship itself.Never rely on the favor of kings or excessively rich men, he said shaking his head. They’re heartless and fickle.In any event, spending more and more time with Abner and being treated by him as an intimate friend, as well as his principal outside counsel, however flattering, was no bed of roses. Harry had made it clear at the outset, when Abner first asked him to represent him and his businesses generally, that while he wasn’t active in politics he was a registered Democrat, and the only Republican candidates he’d ever voted for were Nelson Rockefeller and John Lindsay.As you might expect, he continued, Abner didn’t bat an eye. Considering that he’s somewhere to the right of the John Birch Society and Attila the Hun, it isn’t just proof of good manners. I think it also means either that he’s intelligent enough not to need to surround himself exclusively with fellow true believers—Lord, how I hate that expression!—or, more probably, that he considers the views of someone like me, who doesn’t have money to back them up, completely devoid of importance.Beyond that discomfort, he said, the breadth of Abner’s convoluted affairs was such that he feared being swept away in an avalanche of problems without having the time or detachment necessary to grasp the entire background and all the ramifications. He had to beef up his team, but he hadn’t figured out yet what mix of skills and personalities he needed. These questions were nagging at his mind, and he was nowhere near a resolution.Uncle Harry, I broke in, that’s a fascinating and difficult situation. I’m really interested, but I have something urgent I must talk to you about. Would you forgive me if I changed the subject?Of course, he answered, go right ahead.Over the weekend, I told him, I came to a decision of which I think you’ll disapprove. Perhaps you’ll think I’m totally fucked up. Here it is. We both see that a war is coming, and I don’t think people like me should say, Let’s leave the fighting to the other guys, the kids who don’t go to Harvard, Yale, or Princeton, or Saint Paul’s, the kids who are lucky if they make it through high school, who enlist because other doors are closed and they’ve been watching fancy television commercials about military training. That’s too easy. I want to be in there with them. So unless you talk me out of it I’ll do what Dad did: get into the U.S. Marine Officer Candi- dates School and take it from there.That’s quite a piece of news, he replied. It calls for another batch of martinis. Back in a moment.It was a suspiciously long moment, lasting five minutes or more, but finally Harry emerged from the pantry with the shaker, refilled my glass and then his, and said very solemnly, Let’s drink to your undertaking. You’re a nut, but so was your father. And your grandpa. As for me ... You probably know some version of the story. I was deemed unfit to serve in Vietnam, unfit to cover myself with glory like your father. Well, he got back ... All I ask is that you don’t get yourself killed and do your best to come back in one piece. If possible in better shape than your papa. You’re the only person I have left in this world.Plato, pretending he was a lion, lay in repose on the coffee table, a practice that I had a suspicion Harry didn’t just tolerate. He actively encouraged it. Just then the little Burmese raised his head questioningly.Yes, of course, Harry said, laughing, I have you and thank the Lord I have Plato, who has the good sense not to go off to war. He’ll look after his old pal Harry. All joking aside, take good care of yourself and be sure to write a nice letter to the Society of Fellows people. That’s a lawyer speaking. You may want to be welcomed back when you return.

Editorial Reviews

“A stealthy, page-turning thriller.”—Booklist   “Louis Begley’s award-winning fiction usually takes on bad behavior among the well-bred and prosperous. Killer, Come Hither ratchets up the intrigue—and the evil.”—The Wall Street Journal   “Begley writes clean, crisp, graceful prose, the kind that’s always rare and ever a blessing.”—The Washington Post   “Killer, Come Hither beckons.”—Vanity Fair   “Combines unexpected plot twists and narrative tension with Begley’s trademark elegant prose.”—Shelf Awareness