Among the nicest compliments my writing has ever received came from the redoubtable Charlie, via Facebook, re The Man in the Window:
“[Character’s name redacted]? You killed [same character]? YOU PRICK!”
(I can’t very well tell you which character prompted this, can I? It being the prime turning point in Nick Forte’s descent from well-meaning Everyman to remorseless administrator of justice as he sees it. Buy the book, you cheap bastard. It’s only $9.95 in paper, $2.99 for Kindle. Skip Starbucks for a day, for Christ’s sake.)
Charlie went on to say, “I went back to the start and saw the epigraph and it all made perfect sense.” (Bless that man.) I
stole borrowed it from Joseph Roux:
“We call that person who has lost his father an orphan; and a widower that man who has lost his wife. But that man who has known the immense unhappiness of losing a friend, by what name do we call him? Here every language is silent and holds its peace in impotence.”
So it’s no spoiler to say one of Nick’s friends dies. The question is, “Which one?” Here are the candidates, listed alphabetically to leave all conjecture to the book itself:
Vanessa Jordan – Divorced mother of two, works in the Chicago Symphony offices. Beautiful, smart, funny, and a quick enough wit to keep Nick interested. The attraction between them is clear from their first meeting.
Delbert McCrae – Former Texas Ranger, badly wounded when executing a fugitive warrant and the escapee’s partners tried to take him back. Delbert met a nurse while recuperating and works for Nick part-time while looking for more regular work, the nurse’s continued affection having made Chicago winters preferable to Texas summers.
Tom McManus – Principal trumpet of the Chicago Symphony and Nick’s best friend from his trumpet playing days. Tom is a brilliant musician and inveterate hound who meets Nick once a month for wings and female appreciation at Hooters.
Sonny Ng – Nick’s Field Training Officer when he started on the Chicago police. Now a respected lieutenant running the Violent Crimes unit in the area that includes Nick’s office.
Eddie Riefsnyder – Retired Chicago cop now working as a security guard at Symphony Center. Eddie drove a patrol unit in the Second District when Nick and Sonny worked there. Nick rode with him when Sonny was off duty, and the friendship extended beyond both Eddie and Nick leaving the force.
Jan Rusiewicz – A detective working under Sonny; Nick’s former girlfriend. Most of the resentment of a love gone sour is past and they’ve reached a level of friendship they’re both comfortable with.
Walter Alston “Goose” Satterwhite – Goose is Hawk to Nick’s Spenser. Also a bit of a mentor, helping to steer Nick through the minefields his cases tend to become. Largely responsible for setting up the situation whereby Nick would have been able to get the drop on a mobster who wanted him dead, had not Nick’s own reticence almost screwed the pooch.
Sharon Summers – Nick’s secretary/office manager/conscience. An eye-catching beauty, she occupies a position in Nick’s life he can’t quite describe, more than either friend or lover.
(At least) one of them dies. Why Charlie’s comments meant so much to me has to do with the effect of that death on Nick. As I’ve noted before, I always viewed Forte as an Everyman with skills sufficient to keep himself alive, though inadequate to make things to come out as he’d like. The loss he suffers must make the beginning of his conversion believable as more than just an excuse for an author who wants to make his series protagonist more of a badass. Straight-up badasses are fun; they’re not particularly interesting. I hoped to make Forte both. Did I succeed? You tell me.