Thanks to my friend, Anthony, for tipping me to this short story, "Surrogate," by Robert B. Parker. The story was apparently commissioned by Playboy magazine, but they rejected it because the editors thought it was too dark.
Back in the day, Playboy did publish a lot of fiction by Lawrence Block and others, including many of Block's original stories featuring Keller, the hit man. (I don't know this first hand, of course, but in reading collections of the Keller stories, I noted that they were first published in some magazine by that name. I assume that this was just another of those small academic journals that I've otherwise never heard of.)
The story is, admittedly, very dark, but I'm not sure that it's any darker than many of the Keller stories, and I can't imagine why the magazine would have been so prudish about this one. After all, being prudish was not something that Playboy was generally known for.
The other interesting thing about this story is that this was apparently the only rejection that Parker ever got, which certainly sets him apart from the vast majority of other writers. He then did sell the story to another magazine with a very small circulation. Later, it was reprinted in a limited collector's edition, but it has been almost unknown and very hard to find. Anthony sent me a link to the story, which you can find here:https://stchas.instructure.com/course....
The story involves Brenda Loring, who was one of Spenser's first girlfriends and who is the woman every fan of the series wishes Spenser had remained involved with, rather than hitching his star (or his whatever) to the insufferable Susan Silverman. Brenda has a problem and turns to Spenser for help. You really can't say much more about the problem without giving away the heart of the story, but Spenser will race to her side and help deal with the issue.
It's an okay story and will be of interest mostly to those ardent fans who insist on reading every one of Spenser's escapades. One of those people would be me and it was nice to have a fresh Spenser story to read for the first time, even if it was very short.
Thanks again, Anthony!