Aftershock - Collin Wilcox - ebook
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For the sake of his lover, Hastings risks his career and chases a stalker. For the past few weeks, Lieutenant Frank Hastings's girlfriend has sensed that she was being watched. They are on their way home from a too-chic party when Hastings spots something moving in the bushes - a shadowy figure who appears to have a gun. He should call for backup; he should stay in the car. But to protect Ann, this detective is willing to risk everything. After a chase, Hastings apprehends the lurker, but what he thought was a gun turns out to be a shotgun mike. Is someone recording Ann? Shut out of the case because it concerns his girlfriend, Hastings focuses on the murder of Flora Esterbrook Gaines - a seventy-year-old woman found murdered in her garage. Greed is the obvious motive, but finding a suspect proves tricky. Hastings divides his energy in a desperate attempt to uphold the law while at the same time protecting his beloved.

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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

Fifteen

Sixteen

Seventeen

Eighteen

Nineteen

Twenty

Twenty-one

Twenty-two

Twenty-three

Looking for more suspense?

Cover

Begin Reading

About the Book

For the sake of his lover, Hastings risks his career and chases a stalker.

For the past few weeks, Lieutenant Frank Hastings’s girlfriend has sensed that she was being watched. They are on their way home from a too-chic party when Hastings spots something moving in the bushes - a shadowy figure who appears to have a gun. He should call for backup; he should stay in the car. But to protect Ann, this detective is willing to risk everything. After a chase, Hastings apprehends the lurker, but what he thought was a gun turns out to be a shotgun mike. Is someone recording Ann?

Shut out of the case because it concerns his girlfriend, Hastings focuses on the murder of Flora Esterbrook Gaines - a seventy-year-old woman found murdered in her garage. Greed is the obvious motive, but finding a suspect proves tricky. Hastings divides his energy in a desperate attempt to uphold the law while at the same time protecting his beloved.

About the Author

Collin Wilcox (1924–1996) was an American author of mystery fiction. Born in Detroit, he set most of his work in San Francisco, beginning with 1967’s The Black Door - a noir thriller starring a crime reporter with extrasensory perception. Under the pen name Carter Wick, he published several standalone mysteries including The Faceless Man (1975) and Dark House, Dark Road (1982), but he found his greatest success under his own name, with the celebrated Frank Hastings series.

Aftershock

A Lt. Hastings Mystery

Collin Wilcox

 

BASTEI ENTERTAINMENT

 

Bastei Entertainment is an imprint of Bastei Lübbe AG

 

 

Copyright © 2015 by Bastei Lübbe AG, Schanzenstraße 6-20, 51063 Cologne, Germany

 

For the original edition:

Copyright © 2013 by The Mysterious Press, LLC, 58 Warren Street, New York, NY. U.S.A.

 

Copyright © 1975 by Collin Wilcox

 

Project management: Lori Herber

Cover adaptation: Christin Wilhelm, www.grafic4u.de

Cover design by Michel Vrana

 

E-book production: Jouve Germany GmbH & Co. KG

 

ISBN 978-3-95859-594-1

 

www.bastei-entertainment.com

 

All rights reserved, including without limitation the right to reproduce this e-book or any portion thereof in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

This book is dedicated to Lee Wright, friend of the family

One

FOR THE PAST SEVERAL blocks, sensing that the silence suited our mood, we’d made no effort to make conversation. The time was late, almost an hour after midnight, on a Tuesday night. Tomorrow morning we’d both be up early, preparing for our separate day’s work. A little wryly, I realized that neither of us had even hinted at the possibility of “my place.” I’d known Ann for less than four months. Was complacency already working against us? Or were we just tired after a party that neither of us had enjoyed?

The party had been given by a hip-talking radiologist, recently divorced. Repeatedly, the host had loudly proclaimed himself an ex-friend of Ann’s ex-husband. Therefore—now—he was an admirer of Ann’s. But Ann’s ex-husband had also been a doctor: a sadistic, supercilious society psychiatrist. She didn’t like doctors.

Discovering that I was a policeman, the host had immediately become patronizing. All evening he’d quipped about “the police mentality,” and “I-can-get-it-for-you-wholesale law.” When he also discovered that I’d once played professional football, mostly as a second-stringer, I’d gotten our coats.

“There.” Ann pointed to a space between a driveway and a four-door Buick. “Can’t you get in there?”

“Maybe.” I pulled up, put the car in reverse, and backed until my bumper made gentle contact with the Buick. Moving a few inches forward, I realized that my front bumper overhung the driveway by at least a foot. Shrugging, I switched off the lights and the engine. I wouldn’t be long.

She turned toward me, smiling. “I never realized that policemen break so many laws.”

“That’s because you’ve never known any policemen.” I slipped my right arm around her shoulders. “Have you?”

“You know I haven’t.” Her clothing rustled as she moved closer. “But I never asked you—how many school teachers have you known?”

“Hmm—” I pretended to think about it, at the same time lightly caressing her hair. The ash-blond hair was soft and fine, exciting to touch. Moving my hand, I traced a slow, sensual line down the curve of her neck, seeking the hollow of her throat. At the touch, she drew a long, lingering breath.

“No fair, Lieutenant Hastings,” she whispered. “I’ve got my children. You’ve got your career. And it’s one o’clock in the morning.”

“Hmm—” Moving my hand beneath her chin, I tilted her mouth up to mine. As she kissed me, I felt the lift of her breasts against my chest. Aroused, she was breathing quickly. But finally she drew back, murmuring, “Don’t, Frank. We’re just making it more difficult.”

“It’s only five minutes to my place.”

“I wouldn’t get home until three in the morning. I wouldn’t be able to function tomorrow.” She wedged a small, determined elbow against my chest and levered us apart. “Teaching fourth grade is nothing like running a squad of homicide detectives, you know. If I’m off my game, they make it miserable for me.”

“What about my game?”

She smiled. “Which game is that?”

“The game of love. What else?”

“You’re very poetic. But you’ve never faced a classroom of fourth graders.”

“True. But I’ve—”

“Besides, I have a proposition for you.”

“Let’s take one proposition at a time. We can—”

“Victor is taking the boys to Palm Springs for the weekend. They’re leaving Friday afternoon. Did I tell you?”

“You said he might be taking them.”

“Well, it’s definite. And I was thinking—” She hesitated. “I mean, I was talking to Marcie Williamson. And she’s going to Portland this weekend. Her mother’s sick. So she asked me if I’d like to use her cabin at Stinson Beach.”

“And you’re asking me.”

“Can you get away?”

“Definitely.”

With her elbow still firmly wedged, she skeptically smiled. “You’ve said that before.”

“And I always mean it.” Making a game of it, I began to draw her toward me, testing her strength.

“I’ve handled bullies before,” she whispered, squirming. “All it takes is a little—”

Suddenly I felt her stiffen. As she’d glanced over my shoulder, her eyes had involuntarily widened.

“What’s wrong?” Twisting in the seat, I followed her stare.

“I—” She blinked, then sharply shook her head. “It’s nothing, I guess.” But still she stared. Across the street the skeletal girders of a large, half-finished townhouse rose two stories high against the sky.

“Did you see something?”

First she sharply shook her head. Then, plainly impatient with herself, she nodded.

“Where?”

“Over there.” She pointed to the construction site.

Taking my arm away, I turned to examine the area. Nothing stirred. I turned back to her. My voice dropped to a note of unconscious authority as I said, “What’s it all about, Ann?”

“I—I thought I saw someone there—a shadow. Just a shadow.”

“Why’re you so worried, though?”

“Well, I—” Eyes still straying over my shoulder, she bit her lip. Finally facing me fully, she admitted, “I didn’t mention it to you, but lately I—I’ve had the feeling that someone’s been watching me. I’ve seen—”

“Wait here.” I reached across to lock her door, then took my flashlight from its clip beneath the dash.

“Frank. Don’t—”

“Just stay put. I’ll take a look. Keep the doors locked.” Without waiting for a reply, I got out of the car, locked my own door and stood for a moment beside the car, looking and listening. The street was quiet. It was a good, semi-affluent neighborhood. But the ghetto was less than ten blocks away. Street crime was common here.

Walking slowly, holding the unlit flashlight down at my side, I crossed the silent street. On the far sidewalk I paused, standing motionless. From somewhere deep inside the rectangular hatchwork of girders and darkness I heard a small, furtive scrape of movement. I drew my service revolver, careful that Ann didn’t see. Slowly, step by step, I moved forward, uncertain of my footing on the debris-strewn ground. What did I expect to find? A dog rooting in the rubble? A prankster? Waywardly, I was thinking that I was doing a patrolman’s job—after hours, for love. Literally for love. I was—

Another rustle of movement. Something—someone—was in there. Crouching low, with my revolver in my right hand and the still-darkened flashlight in my left, both probing forward, I was moving close to the concrete foundation buttress, keeping to its shadow. Just ahead I made out the pale oblongs of plywood sheets, lying on the ground. If I walked on the sheets, and they shifted, I would reveal myself. I would …

A shadow distorted the geometric symmetry of a thick upright pillar. Instantly I drew back the revolver’s hammer, at the same time clicking on the flashlight. “Hold it right there.”

Leaping, the figure of a man vaulted a low wall, tumbling on the far side. Gone. As he’d leaped over, I’d seen the unmistakable outline of a gun clutched in his right hand—a sawed-off-shotgun shape. A submachine-gun shape.

Clicking the flashlight off, I was scrambling for the pillar he’d just left. My feet slid wildly on the plywood oblongs. Falling to one knee on the wood, I heard fabric rip. It was my newest suit. Two hundred dollars. Up again, jinxing, I dodged behind the pillar, safe.

Would a blast from his gun rip through the darkness?

Panting, fighting the throat-clogged hammering of my heartbeat, I looked quickly back to my car. Inside, I could see Ann’s head. Could she see me? Had she heard the chase—seen his gun? Desperately, I willed her to go into her flat, call Police Dispatch, send me help. But I’d told her to stay inside the car, doors locked. I’d …

From the far side of the low wall came a soft, furtive scuttle of movement, drawing away. He was frightened, then—ready to run. I should let him go. Without reinforcements, I should let him go.

But, silently, I was stepping away from the safety of the pillar. Bent double, head below the level of the wall, I was duck-waddling toward the movement I’d heard. The sound had come from the far end, where the wall joined the foundation buttress. Deliberately, I scraped my feet, making noise. If I could …

Footsteps were running, leaving the wall, escaping. I placed my flashlight on top of the wall, vaulted over, grabbed the flashlight.

“Police officer. Halt, or I’ll fire.”

I saw his shadow wildly running. Momentarily his silhouette was streetlight-limned. I could see both his arms, flung wide as he ran. I could clearly see his hands, empty. Straightening, I was running—fighting for footing in the debris. He was …

The running silhouette pitched forward, falling heavily. I heard him grunt, then softly swear. A dozen strides, and I was standing over him. In the glare of my flashlight beam his eyes were wild.

“Roll over.” Easing the revolver’s hammer off, I jammed the barrel into his neck, below the ear. “Now.”

“Don’t shoot. I haven’t done anything.”

“You’ve got a gun. Where is it?”

“What gun?” His anguished voice was high, fear-cracked.

“Roll over.”

When he obeyed, I jammed my knee in the small of his back, slipped my revolver into my waistband and quickly cuffed him. “All right. On your feet.” I jerked him up, shining the light full in his face.

“What’re you doing, anyhow?” he shrilled. Standing with spindly legs braced wide, he tossed his greasy, half-long hair back from his eyes. He was in his early twenties. He wore faded Levi’s and a torn leather jacket, mud-stained down the front. His twitching face was blotched and pale; his eyes blinked away from the flashlight, their pupils enlarged. He was a junkie.

Holstering my gun, slipping the flashlight into my jacket pocket, I glanced back over my shoulder. Ann was still inside the car. On the street nothing stirred. The brief, silent chase had gone unnoticed. We were standing close beside a tall pile of lumber, still metal-banded. Suddenly I grabbed the front of his jacket, jamming him back against the wood. His head bounced—once, twice. His protests were rattling in his throat, suddenly panic-choked.

“Where’s the goddamn gun?” I sunk my fingers into his exposed throat.

“It wasn’t a gun. There’s no gun.”

“What’d you have in your hand, then?”

Desperately shaking his head, eyes wild, he began to sob.

“All right,” I said. “It’s your ass. What’s your name?”

“Bl—Blake. Sonny Blake.”

“You’re going to spend the night in jail. Do you know that, Sonny?” As I spoke, I relaxed my grip on his throat. He sagged toward me, almost falling. I turned him around, pushing him toward the street. “All right, walk.” I hooked the fingers of my left hand into the handcuffs. “Slow and easy, Sonny.” With my right hand I drew the flashlight, searching the littered, mud-puddled ground as I walked. I saw a short length of conduit, but no gun. Could it have been the conduit that I’d seen? Was I arresting a harmless vagrant? It had happened before.

I threw him into the back of my car and watched him while Ann called Dispatch. A black-and-white car arrived in minutes. I ordered that Blake be booked and that the construction site be searched for a gun the next morning. I watched the patrol car clear the area. Then I softly knocked on Ann’s front door.

“Come in the living room,” she whispered. “I don’t want to wake the children.” She was still wearing her coat, but she’d slipped off her shoes. Her eyes were wide and somber.

I followed her into the living room and sat close beside her on the couch, taking her hand. She’d lit a single lamp, dim in a far corner. Like a frightened child’s, her fingers worked within mine, seeking silent comfort.

“Have you ever seen him before?” I asked quietly.

“No. Wh—who is he, Frank?”

“His name is Sonny Blake. To me, he looks like a small-time hustler. Possibly a drug addict.”

“But what does he want?” As she asked the question, her voice faltered.

“I don’t think it’s anything serious, Ann. Are you absolutely sure somebody’s been watching you?”

“Well—” She hesitated. “It’s been more of a feeling, I guess. But last week Billy said that he saw someone looking over the back fence.”

“Billy’s only ten, Ann.”

“I know. Still …” Suddenly she shivered, snuggling closer.

“Did Billy describe the person he saw?”

“Yes. Vaguely. And—” She bit her lip. “And it fits this Sonny Blake, Frank. Dirty-looking, longish brown hair, slim.”

“Did Billy see him more than once?”

“No.”

“Did anyone else see him?”

“I—Marcie might have. When we were talking about my taking her cabin this weekend, she mentioned that she saw someone in the parking lot at school, watching me.”

“Same description?”

She nodded. Her eyes had fallen, fixed on my trousers. “You’re all muddy,” she said. “And your pants are torn.”

“I know.” I put my arm around her shoulder. “I don’t want you to worry about this, Ann,” I whispered. “It’s nothing. We’re going to check it out—make certain. But I can tell you—it’s nothing.”

Meekly, she nodded. “Yes.” Her eyes were still cast down.

Speaking firmly, I said, “I’m going home. You’ll be all right. To make sure, I’ll have a radio car check the house. Tomorrow morning, first chance you get, I want you to call me at the office. Will you?”

I could feel her gathering herself. “Yes,” she answered steadily. “Yes, I’ll call you.”

Together we rose. Side by side, with our arms circling each other’s waist, we walked through the dimly lit entryway to the front door. Gently, chastely, we kissed goodnight, then gravely looked at each other, at arm’s length.

“I saw you fighting with him, Frank,” she said finally. “I saw you throw him against that stack of lumber.” Her eyes faltered, then fell. “It—it frightened me. The violence, I mean. It frightened me. Do you”—she raised her eyes, mutely pleading—“do you know what I mean?”

“Yes,” I answered softly, “I know what you mean. I know exactly what you mean.”

“I—I’m sorry. I know you—you did it for me.”

I considered a moment, still holding her. Then, speaking deliberately, I said, “I only did it partly for you, Ann. Partly I did it because it’s my job. It—it’s not something I can really explain. But it’s my job.”

Still with her eyes raised, seeking mine, she said softly, “I can’t explain it, either. My—my reaction, I mean. That’s what I can’t explain.”

Not replying, I took her face in both hands, kissing her. “You go to sleep now. Have a brandy and go to sleep. Don’t worry. And remember, phone me in the morning, between classes. Promise?”

She promised. We kissed one last time, then said goodnight.

Two

AS I UNLOCKED MY office door the next morning, I heard the clump of a familiar step behind me. Turning, I saw Pete Friedman, my senior co-lieutenant. Pointedly, he glanced at his watch as he motioned me into my own office with the long-suffering gesture of a grammar school teacher shooing his flock ahead. “It’s lucky,” he said, “that one of us is an early riser.”

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!