Dead Aim - Collin Wilcox - ebook

Dead Aim ebook

Collin Wilcox

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A pair of murders leaves Hastings torn between following his orders and listening to his gut. After nearly a decade as a San Francisco cop, Frank Hastings is becoming something of a stranger to kindness. He feels perfectly at home in the Draper household - a rundown Victorian not far from the streets on which he grew up - where a social worker has been beaten to death by a man hiding in the bushes. The crime looks like a mugging, but something in the husband's manner tells Hastings there are secrets hidden in this shabby middle-class home. He's closing in on the answers when a double homicide in posh Pacific Heights draws his attention away. Fearing bad publicity, his superiors tell him to drop everything and focus on this new killing, but Hastings can't get his mind off the death of Susan Draper. As he divides his time between the two murders, Hastings finds that for a man at home with cruelty, kindness can be terrifying.

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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

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Cover

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About the Book

A pair of murders leaves Hastings torn between following his orders and listening to his gut.

After nearly a decade as a San Francisco cop, Frank Hastings is becoming something of a stranger to kindness. He feels perfectly at home in the Draper household - a rundown Victorian not far from the streets on which he grew up - where a social worker has been beaten to death by a man hiding in the bushes. The crime looks like a mugging, but something in the husband’s manner tells Hastings there are secrets hidden in this shabby middle-class home.

He’s closing in on the answers when a double homicide in posh Pacific Heights draws his attention away. Fearing bad publicity, his superiors tell him to drop everything and focus on this new killing, but Hastings can’t get his mind off the death of Susan Draper. As he divides his time between the two murders, Hastings finds that for a man at home with cruelty, kindness can be terrifying.

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.

Dead Aim

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 © 1971 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 978-3-95859-578-1

 

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

Addie Gilbert,

with the deepest thanks

1

FRIEDMAN SLUMPED INTO MY visitor’s chair, sighing deeply and shaking his head sadly as he sailed a departmental memo across my desk.

“At age forty-six,” he said heavily, “I’ve finally gotten used to the idea of being Jewish. When I was a kid, I used to get into fights about being Jewish—most of which I lost. When I was a struggling patrolman who never wanted to be a cop anyhow, I was edgy about being a Jew. When I didn’t advance in the department, I decided it was discrimination. I finally figured out, though, that the problem was really two kids, both in diapers at the same time, plus a wife who was too pooped to do much at night but sleep. So eventually I made detective, then detective sergeant. Then, lo, I made lieutenant. The kids, meanwhile, are growing up, and Clara is pinching me nights to keep me awake. I have money in the bank for the first time in my life. Whereupon I discover that all that time I wasn’t discriminated against like I thought. I was just broke, and up to my elbows in unpaid bills and kids screaming and nylons and diapers hanging in the bathroom. So now”—he flapped a hand—“so now, at age forty-six—a detective lieutenant with a locked-in pension—I discover that, by God, I’m being discriminated against. For being overweight.” He pointed to the memo, looked at me reproachfully, and then uttered the single word “jogging” as if it were an obscenity.

I moved the memo aside, searching for a particular lab report analyzing the contents of a suspect’s ashtray, large amber glass, File H-1843-B, Exhibit 7. My eyes burned and my arms felt heavy. There’d been two homicides in San Francisco the previous night. A hooker had been found knifed and robbed at about nine P.M.; a housewife had been found bludgeoned and robbed approximately four hours later. I’d just gotten the first investigation organized when the second call had come over the air. I’d gotten home at four A.M. I was up at eight A.M.; by nine A.M. I was dozing in a courtroom antechamber, waiting to testify in a fatal child-beating case. Now, at three P.M., I intended to empty my In basket, then go home.

“My informants tell me,” Friedman was saying, “that you and the captain are in collusion on this—this jogging thing.”

“Not true. He asked me what I thought about the idea. I said that it sounded fine.”

“There is nothing,” he said with solemn emphasis, “in either the California Civil Service Code or the San Francisco Police Department Manual that can get me jogging twice a week. Nothing at all.”

I shrugged, paper-clipping a sheaf of onionskin interrogation transcripts, still searching for the missing lab report. Finally I dropped the transcripts into my top desk drawer, along with the contents of my In basket. I slid the drawer shut and got my gun from another drawer, locking the desk. Then, yawning and leaning back in my chair, I smiled faintly as I clipped on the gun. Friedman’s bullfrog eyes were regarding me with an expression of betrayed accusation.

“You want the truth?” I asked.

He nodded.

“Well, the truth is, a couple of weeks ago I was having lunch with the captain. In the cafeteria. And it just so happened that both you and Canelli came in at the same time, and started loading up your trays. Now, you’ll have to admit that the sight of you and Canelli together, in profile, loading up on calories, was a lot for the captain to take. He’s supposed to be commanding a division of hard-bitten detectives. So when he looks up, halfway through his soup, and sees—”

“All right.” He held up a beefy hand. “I’ve heard enough. I’ll handle it myself.”

“How?”

“Never mind. Are you going off duty?”

“Yes.”

He leaned laboriously forward in his chair, retrieved the memo, then sank back with a sigh. “When the captain hand-delivered this to me,” Friedman said, “he told me to take over the Moresco case from you, on the theory that two cases in one night is too much for one man, even if he does have a thirty-four-inch waist. I suppose,” he added heavily, “that Moresco is the hooker. Right?”

“Right.”

“Who’s got the file?”

With difficulty, I kept my face straight. “Canelli had it this morning, as a matter of fact. He’s out in the field, so the file is probably back in Records.”

He studied me for a long, sardonic moment before saying, “What you’re telling me, then, is that Canelli is on the case.”

“Count your blessings. Canelli is the luckiest man in the history of the Inspectors’ Bureau. You’ve said so yourself. Not the smartest. Not the most ambitious, or the slimmest. But the luckiest.”

“Well, next time you see Captain Kreiger, reporting on the progress of your devious little jogging scheme, no doubt, you can say that Canelli and I will—”

My phone rang.

“Lieutenant Hastings,” I answered, watching Friedman extract a cigar from an inside pocket, then heave himself laboriously from side to side, grunting and frowning as he rummaged for a match.

“Anything look promising on those two new ones, Frank?” It was Kreiger’s voice: crisp, neutral, controlled. As always.

“Not much, I’m afraid.”

“I promised the reporters I’d meet with them in a couple of hours—five o’clock. If you get anything new, be sure and give it to me.”

“Right.”

“Have you given Pete the Moresco case?”

“Yes.”

“Is he there with you?”

“Yes.”

“Tell him what I told you, then. About the news conference.”

“Yessir.” I hung up, eying Friedman as he lolled belly-up in my visitor’s chair, puffing on the cigar and absently brushing at his ash-spotted vest.

“I’d offer you a cigar,” he said, “but it’d be bad for your wind.”

I glanced at the clock, then took ten minutes to outline the Moresco case, finishing with the admonition that the captain wanted something newsworthy by five P.M.

Friedman grunted. “The captain has one failing. He expects us to write his press-conference material for him.”

I thought about it, then slowly nodded.

“He’s also been saying too much to the reporters lately. One of these days he’s going to get himself socked with a libel suit. Whereupon he’ll lose his clear shot at the deputy chiefs job.” Friedman aimed the soggy end of his cigar at me, his shrewd, narrowed eyes suddenly serious. “You should tell him, Frank. You’re old football buddies—army buddies. You should buy him a drink and pick the right time and tell him to let the reporters work a little harder. Christ, Kreiger’s usually about as talkative as a cowboy sucking on a straw, and until just recently he was the same way with the press. Now, though—the past few weeks—when those reporters start working on him, he sings like a stoolie raising muscatel money.”

“He’d agree with you,” I said shortly. “I’ve already mentioned it.”

“What’s he say?”

“He says that the chief wants it this way. Public relations. Part of the new departmental image.”

He grimaced. “And the chief, no doubt, has been talking to our brand-new mayor-elect. Mr. Public Relations himself.”

I shrugged, abruptly dropping a paperweight on a stack of miscellaneous unclassified documents and letters.

“You’re not going off duty after all,” Friedman said, examining his cigar’s precarious ash. “You’re going to tough it out—dig up a news item. With three hours’ sleep.”

“I’m going to tough it out until five o’clock. Just like you are.”

“How’s your case look?”

“Not as good as yours. All you’ve got to do is find the Moresco girl’s pimp, and you’ll come up a hero.”

“You don’t have any leads on that housewife thing, eh?”

“Not yet.”

“What was her name, anyhow?”

“Draper. Susan Draper.” I got to my feet. “Which is where I’m going: the Draper house. Are you going to sit there and smoke, or do you want to walk down to the elevator?”

Not bothering to reply, Friedman heaved himself to his feet and followed me out of the office, trailing cigar ashes.

2

I PULLED TO A stop, set the brake, then checked my watch. The time was 3:50 P.M. I had exactly an hour in which to concoct a news item for the captain’s news conference.

I sat behind the wheel for a moment, surveying the scene of the Draper murder: a narrow one-story stucco row house, one of thousands built during the late thirties and early forties. I’d lived my first seventeen years in San Francisco. I could remember watching those row houses slowly, inexorably propagating themselves like long, segmented worms, finally covering the wide, rolling sand dunes, my own private wonderland. As a small child, I’d chased howling, war-painted Indians across those dunes. As a teenager, parked on a freshly paved, sand-dusted street, surrounded by the bare nighttime skeletons of half-finished houses, I’d first touched the warm, secret flesh of Jacqueline Grant. We’d been fifteen. Earlier in the day—a Sunday—I’d first seen my name in print. As a sophomore fullback, I’d made the varsity squad, second string. Derek Rawlings had come by for me in his wheezing, chugging Model A. Both wearing our letter sweaters—mine two days old—we’d picked up Derek’s girl friend, then Jacqueline. The four of us had spent the long, sunny Sunday together, riding in the Model A, sprawling on the beach, chasing each other, prancing through the surf. Later, as we awkwardly, ardently strained together in the anonymous darkness of the car’s rear seat, I’d been conscious of the smell of salt water and sweat and the urgent musk of love—Jacqueline’s and mine, mingled.

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!