Danger Is My Line - Stephen Marlowe - ebook

Danger Is My Line ebook

Stephen Marlowe

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Opis

Drum guards a killer against an assassin with diplomatic immunity. Everybody knows George Brandvik killed Jorgen Kolding. As soon as the jury acquits him, Brandvik sells his story to View magazine, confessing to the crime in exchange for a payday. Once the magazine hits newsstands, the death threats start rolling in - semi-literate garbage which nevertheless must be taken seriously. A reporter from View hires private detective Chester Drum to protect Brandvik, and an hour hasn't gone by before Drum saves the killer's life, disarming a Swedish blonde before she can plug Brandvik in the gut. She is the dead man's daughter, and her diplomatic immunity means she will be deported, not prosecuted. But before she leaves, her bloodlust must be sated. That afternoon, the reporter and his driver are killed by a car bomb, and Drum sees the Swedish girl fleeing the scene. Soon Brandvik is dead too, gunned down in his bathroom. Drum books tickets to Iceland, to learn if this waifish blonde is really as deadly as she seems. Review quote: "A steadily satisfying series of adventures." - The New York Times Book Review. "A cult author for lovers of noir fiction." - Mónica Calvo-Pascual, author of Chaos and Madness. "A great pulpster ... always one of my favorites." - Ed Gorman, author of The Poker Club. "Langton's sparkling prose and inimitable wit offer a delectable feast for the discriminating reader." - Publishers Weekly. "Like Jane Austen and Barbara Pym, Langton is blessed with the comic spirit - a rare gift of genius to be cherished." - St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Biographical note: Stephen Marlowe (1928-2008) was the author of more than fifty novels, including nearly two dozen featuring globe-trotting private eye Chester Drum. Born Milton Lesser, Marlowe was raised in Brooklyn and attended the College of William and Mary. After several years writing science fiction under his given name, he legally adopted his pen name, and began focusing on Chester Drum, the Washington-based detective who first appeared in The Second Longest Night (1955). Although a private detective akin to Raymond Chandler's characters, Drum was distinguished by his jet-setting lifestyle, which carried him to various exotic locales from Mecca to South America. These espionage-tinged stories won Marlowe acclaim, and he produced more than one a year before ending the series in 1968. After spending the 1970s writing suspense novels like The Summit (1970) and The Cawthorn Journals (1975), Marlowe turned to scholarly historical fiction. He lived much of his life abroad, in Switzerland, Spain, and France, and died in Virginia in 2008.

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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright Page

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About the Book

Drum guards a killer against an assassin with diplomatic immunity.

Everybody knows George Brandvik killed Jorgen Kolding. As soon as the jury acquits him, Brandvik sells his story to View magazine, confessing to the crime in exchange for a payday. Once the magazine hits newsstands, the death threats start rolling in - semi-literate garbage which nevertheless must be taken seriously. A reporter from View hires private detective Chester Drum to protect Brandvik, and an hour hasn’t gone by before Drum saves the killer’s life, disarming a Swedish blonde before she can plug Brandvik in the gut. She is the dead man’s daughter, and her diplomatic immunity means she will be deported, not prosecuted. But before she leaves, her bloodlust must be sated.

That afternoon, the reporter and his driver are killed by a car bomb, and Drum sees the Swedish girl fleeing the scene. Soon Brandvik is dead too, gunned down in his bathroom. Drum books tickets to Iceland, to learn if this waifish blonde is really as deadly as she seems.

Review quote:

“A steadily satisfying series of adventures.” - The New York Times Book Review.

“A cult author for lovers of noir fiction.” - MónicaCalvo-Pascual, author of Chaos and Madness.

“A great pulpster ... always one of my favorites.” - Ed Gorman, author of The Poker Club.

“Langton’s sparkling prose and inimitable wit offer a delectable feast for the discriminating reader.” - Publishers Weekly.

“Like Jane Austen and Barbara Pym, Langton is blessed with the comic spirit - a rare gift of genius to be cherished.” - St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

About the Author

Stephen Marlowe (1928–2008) was the author of more than fifty novels, including nearly two dozen featuring globe-trotting private eye Chester Drum. Born Milton Lesser, Marlowe was raised in Brooklyn and attended the College of William and Mary. After several years writing science fiction under his given name, he legally adopted his pen name, and began focusing on Chester Drum, the Washington-based detective who first appeared in The Second Longest Night (1955).

Although a private detective akin to Raymond Chandler’s characters, Drum was distinguished by his jet-setting lifestyle, which carried him to various exotic locales from Mecca to South America. These espionage-tinged stories won Marlowe acclaim, and he produced more than one a year before ending the series in 1968. After spending the 1970s writing suspense novels like The Summit (1970) and The Cawthorn Journals (1975), Marlowe turned to scholarly historical fiction. He lived much of his life abroad, in Switzerland, Spain, and France, and died in Virginia in 2008.

Danger Is My Line

A Chester Drum Mystery

Stephen Marlowe

BASTEI ENTERTAINMENT

 

Bastei Entertainment is an imprint of Bastei Lübbe AG

 

Copyright © 2014 by Bastei Lübbe AG, Schanzenstraße 6-20, 51063 Cologne, Germany

 

For the original edition:

Copyright © 2011 by The Mysterious Press, LLC, 58 Warren Street, New York, NY. U.S.A.

 

Copyright © 1960 by Fawcett Publications, In

 

Project management: Lori Herber

Cover adaptation: Christin Wilhelm, www.grafic4u.de

Cover design by Kathleen Lynch

 

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

 

ISBN 978-3-95859-189-9

 

www.luebbe.de

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.

1

IT MUST HAVE BEEN a pretty snazzy hotel once, say about the time Calvin Coolidge chose not to run. Now it sat behind its tired Victorian façade on Rhode Island Avenue like an old dowager writing her memoirs.

I went in past a sign that said transients were accepted and up to a long counter that ran along one wall in the dim, musty lobby. Behind it were the usual mail cubbyholes and keys hanging on hooks and a thin young guy in a shiny blue suit that had paid too many visits to the dry cleaner. He stood watching a couple across the counter from him and trying very hard not to yell.

The woman nudged her companion with an elbow. “Go ahead, Ralph,” she said. “Tell him.”

“Okay, okay,” Ralph said, not putting much heart in it. He added, looking at the lapels of the shiny blue suit across the counter: “Mr. Thwaite?”

“Yes, sir,” Mr. Thwaite said, attempting the weary bored politeness of his trade. “What can I do for you, Mr. Jackson?”

“Well, you see, the Missus feels—”

“We feel, Ralph. We feel,” Mrs. Jackson prompted.

“We have always felt,” her husband got out in a rush of words, “that the Central Arms was a nice quiet respectable apartment hotel, but now unless you can assure us that this man Brandvik will leave—”

“This week,” Mrs. Jackson said.

—“we will have to look for an apartment elsewhere. Because, you see.…” But Jackson was all finished. The rush of words trailed off.

“Because we won’t stay in the same hotel with a confessed murderer,” Mrs. Jackson supplied.

“Well, that’s it,” her husband said, looking pleased that it was all over.

Mr. Thwaite mopped his pale forehead with a crisp white handkerchief. “Our Mr. Congreve is taking the matter into consideration,” Mr. Thwaite said. “I assure you that you are not the first to register this, uh, complaint. It is a very delicate problem.”

“There, you see?” Mrs. Jackson said triumphantly, nudging her, husband again with an elbow. He nodded; she nodded and said, “Please let us know as soon as you can, Mr. Thwaite. We’re respectable, God-fearing people,” took her husband’s arm and tug-boated him out into the street and away.

“Yes, sir,” Mr. Thwaite said as his pale eyes found mine. “What can I do for you, sir?”

“Brandvik,” I said. “What did he do, steal their milk bottles?”

Mr. Thwaite showed me his teeth.

“I’d like to see him. Brandvik.”

Mr. Thwaite winced. “Oh no, sir. That’s quite out of the question. Quite. Mr. Brandvik isn’t seeing anyone. Are you a reporter, sir? Mr. Brandvik isn’t seeing reporters. Or anyone.”

I took out a business card, the one with the magnifying glass embossed in the upper lefthand corner, and dropped it on the counter. Mr. Thwaite tapped it with a long index fingernail.

“Mr. Brandvik isn’t seeing anyone,” he said.

“If you say it once more I may get the idea. But I’m not a reporter, I’m a sleuth. So why not let Mr. Brandvik decide for, himself? Tell him Wally Baker of View Magazine sent me.”

His eyes examined my card for the first time. It said I was Chester Drum, I did confidential investigations, I had an office in the Farrell Building on F Street in downtown Washington and could be seen with or without appointment or any way at all.

“View Magazine?” Mr. Thwaite chirped. “Why didn’t you say so, Mr. Drum? That may make a big difference.”

“Lucky me,” I said as he dialed a house phone and spoke into it with his back to me in a discreet, barely audible voice. After a while he hung up and turned around. “It’s 411, Mr. Drum. That’s the fourth floor. You may go up.”

As I was heading for the elevator, a businesslike old number in a starched dress rustled toward the counter, brandished a furled umbrella and shouted: “If that Brandvik fiend isn’t out on the street by nightfall, I’m leaving.”

Mr. Thwaite winced again. Maybe I should have got the idea.

I knocked on the door of 411 and waited. I didn’t hear any footsteps but a voice, very close, said, “Who is it?”

“Drum. Wally Baker of—”

“Slip it under the door.”

“Slip what under the door?”

“Identification. You think I’m nuts?”

Squatting on my hams, I shoved a business card between the bottom of the door and the doorsill. Unseen fingers snatched it all the way through.

“Didn’t Wally Baker call?” I asked.

“Sure he called.” The voice moved up slowly from floor level. “This looks legit. You alone?”

I said I was alone.

Lock tumblers fell, the doorknob turned and the door opened about four inches to show me a pair of nervous blue eyes in a fleshy face that needed a shave and had probably needed one yesterday. The eyes blinked and shifted sideways, and the door opened another four inches to reveal a man my own height but heavier, wearing a rumpled seersucker suit on his body and an anxious, wary expression on his face. His right arm hung down stiffly, the wrist and hand hidden by the doorjamb, as if holding something moderately heavy and trying to hide it. Such as a gun.

“Do I come in,” I said, “or do you shoot me through the door?”

His mouth opened. “Jesus, that’s a laugh,” he said. “Shoot you through the door.” But he wasn’t laughing. Opening the door wider and stepping back, he dropped a big automatic, probably a .45, in the side pocket of his seersucker jacket.

“You read View?” he said with pride and fright in his voice, sidling around behind me as I entered the room and then shutting and locking the door.

“No. I haven’t read it.”

“You’re kidding! Got a circulation of five and a half million, almost as much as Life. I’m on the cover this week.”

I looked at his tired, worried face with the sagging blueish pouches under the eyes and the lines of fatigue bracketing the thick-lipped mouth. “Congratulations,” I said.

“You really mean you haven’t read it?”

“That’s right. I was down in South America on business. I just got back yesterday.”

Disbelief widened his tired, blood-shot eyes. “And Mr. Baker didn’t tell you what this is all about? He’s doing the series on me. You know, one of those ‘by George Brandvik as told to Wallace Baker’ things. Mr. Baker even takes the pictures himself. He won a Pulitzer prize once.”

“There was a note waiting in my office from Wally Baker,” I said. “All it told me was a man named Brandvik at the Central Arms needed a private detective.”

“That was mighty white of Mr. Baker,” Brandvik said, nodding piously. “Telling you nothing in advance he couldn’t prejudice you. He’s a right guy, huh?”

“Prejudice me in regard to what?”

Brandvik didn’t say anything right away. I sat down in a standard apartment hotel overstuffed chair and watched him standing there with his broad back against the door and his big right hand in the pocket of his seersucker jacket over the butt of the .45. I looked around the room: it had a sofa-bed, made up untidily, probably by Brandvik himself, a night table, a small desk with a pair of rumpled pajamas on the blotter, a closet, the chair I was sitting on, Brandvik and me. Through an open door I could see the bathroom. The single window behind the desk framed a breathtaking view of an air-shaft. It did not seem the sort of room, not by a few country miles, where you’d find a man who had made the cover of View Magazine.

“Well, I need a bodyguard,” Brandvik said finally. “You do that kind of work, don’t you?”

“I do any kind of work that’s reasonably legal except divorce work,” I said.

“Mr. Baker told me you like to work with celebrities.”

I let that one float out into the airshaft.

“Me, I’m a celebrity.”

“Why do you need a bodyguard?”

“Why? That’s a laugh,” Brandvik said again, not laughing again. “Man, you really have been out of touch.”

I got out a cigarette and lit it. The motion frightened Brandvik: I saw his big right fist, under the thin seersucker of his jacket pocket, clutch convulsively over the butt of the .45.

“Well, why?” I said.

Brandvik showed me a smile as fleeting as a pawnbroker’s, or a tax-collector’s, or an undertaker’s.

“Because I killed a man,” he said. “Because I’m a murderer. Because five and a half million copies of View Magazine say so.”

The fleeting smile again, then a glare of can-you-top-that defiance in his eyes. I couldn’t top it. I couldn’t even come close.

“Because I’m a killer,” Brandvik said.

2

IT WAS A HALF HOUR LATER, 11:30 of a Wednesday morning on Rhode Island Avenue in Washington. Summer, with cooking smells wafting up the airshaft and the shower hissing and drumming beyond the closed bathroom door because George Brandvik, murderer, had now decided it was safe to attend to his toilet, though I hadn’t said anything one way or the other about taking the job.

He had left me at the desk with a bundle of threatening fan-mail, most of them obviously from semi-literate cranks, and a copy of View Magazine dated 12 July. Except for, the logos, the date and the price, his face had the cover all to itself, the narrow eyes balanced on their pouches of sleeplessness, the lines of fatigue and worry, the expression half of pride and half of fear that Wally Baker had caught so perfectly with his Rolleiflex.

Saving the copy of Magazine for last, I pawed through the threatening letters. None of them were the kind that would raise the hackles on the back of your neck, not even if your name was George Brandvik and you had admitted in five and a half million copies of Magazine, despite the fact that the people of the District of Columbia had exonerated you in a fair and public trial, that you had killed a man. A typical example, post-marked in Laramie, Wyoming, was penciled in a childish scrawl and read:

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!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!