Doctor, Lawyer . . . - Collin Wilcox - ebook
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Hastings chases a serial killer whose deranged letters hold a city for ransom. The doctor comes through his front door as he always does, a bundle of mail in hand. He's about to walk up the stairs when the bullet passes through his back, puncturing his heart and leaving him dead in his front hall. By the time Lieutenant Frank Hastings arrives, rigor mortis has set in, and the doctor's body rolls easily away from the wall. Pinned beneath him is a note that begins, "Doctor, Lawyer, Merchant, Chief ..." Pay $100,000, writes "the Masked Man," or a lawyer will be the next to die. There are too many lawyers in San Francisco to protect them all, and as Hastings and his team hunt for the Masked Man, the city is whipped into a frenzy of fear. As the killer╔s demands mount, the homicide department starts to wonder - after the merchant is killed, will the chief of police be next?

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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

Looking for more suspense?

Cover

Begin Reading

About the Book

Hastings chases a serial killer whose deranged letters hold a city for ransom.

The doctor comes through his front door as he always does, a bundle of mail in hand. He’s about to walk up the stairs when the bullet passes through his back, puncturing his heart and leaving him dead in his front hall. By the time Lieutenant Frank Hastings arrives, rigor mortis has set in, and the doctor’s body rolls easily away from the wall. Pinned beneath him is a note that begins, “Doctor, Lawyer, Merchant, Chief . . .” Pay $100,000, writes “the Masked Man,” or a lawyer will be the next to die.

There are too many lawyers in San Francisco to protect them all, and as Hastings and his team hunt for the Masked Man, the city is whipped into a frenzy of fear. As the killer’s demands mount, the homicide department starts to wonder - after the merchant is killed, will the chief of police be next?

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.

Doctor, Lawyer …

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 © 1977 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 978-3-95859-580-4

 

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.

Remembering all those hours of

gimlet-eyed literary criticism,

I dedicate this book to Joe Gores

One

“TURN LEFT AT THE next corner,” I said, pointing. “It’s in the thirty-two-hundred block.”

“Oh. Right.” Glancing hastily over his shoulder, Canelli wrenched the steering wheel. As I braced myself I sighed, glancing at Canelli’s broad, bemused face. At age twenty-seven, Canelli was engaged in a long, losing war with the machine. When our car’s engine stalled, he rolled his eyes skyward. Avoiding a constant succession of minor disasters, Canelli kept up a running commentary, darkly criticizing women drivers, teen-age drivers, taxi drivers and, most balefully of all, Chinese drivers. Canelli had been my driver for more than six months; he’d been in Homicide for almost two years. I’d originally picked him for Homicide because, on or off duty, Canelli looked more like a suety, overweight fry cook than a detective. Running down leads, he acted more like a stranger in town than a manhunter. Perpetually puzzled, yet always anxious to please, Canelli was the only man in the Detective Bureau who could get his feelings hurt. He’d been engaged to a girl named Gracie for almost eight years. Whenever Canelli and Gracie had a lovers’ quarrel, the squad room echoed with Canelli’s long, tragic sighs.

“The victim’s a doctor, eh?” Canelli asked.

“Right. Dr. Gordon Ainsley, according to the squeal.”

“I used to think I wanted to be a doctor,” Canelli offered. “That’s when I was a kid. But then, Jesus, I fainted one time when I saw Jimmy Klinger lay his hand open on a broken bottle. I fainted dead away, at the age of ten, or something. Jimmy used to live across the street from me.”

“How’d you come to be a cop?” I asked, “if you can’t stand the sight of blood?”

“Well,” he answered slowly, frowning as he earnestly considered the question, “I can stand the sight of blood, I guess. Or at least I don’t faint anymore. But I sure don’t like it.”

I nodded. I’d been a rookie patrolman—and an overage rookie, at that—when I’d seen a six-year-old Negro girl lying with her head completely crushed beneath the wheels of a bus. As the inevitable ring of onlookers gaped, I’d leaned against the side of the bus, helplessly vomiting. For days afterward I’d considered resigning.

“With me,” Canelli was saying, “it’s more the smell, I guess, than the blood.”

Again I nodded, wordlessly agreeing. In death, sphincters relax and bladders empty. The smell of excrement mingles with the sickly sweet odor of drying blood. The stench of death is overwhelming—and unmistakable. Searching for a victim, a policeman usually smells the corpse before he sees it.

“I never drive around here without wishing I was rich.” Canelli moved his head to indicate the big, handsome Victorian buildings lining each side of Jackson Street.

“You might not enjoy being rich, Canelli. It’s not for everyone, you know.”

“Just try me, Lieutenant.” His swarthy, untroubled face broke into a cheerful grin. Then, tentatively: “Someone told me once that you were rich, or something.”

“It wasn’t me, Canelli. It was my ex-wife. There’s a difference.”

He nodded soberly. “Yeah, I can see that, all right. Gracie and me talk about it, every once in a while—how it would be to have a lot of money, and never have to worry about—”

“You’d better find a parking place,” I interrupted, pointing ahead toward the predictable gaggle of official vehicles, most of them parked at odd, officious angles.

“Yeah. Right.” Canelli aimed our cruiser haphazardly toward the curb, parking at the most officious angle of all.

“The way it looks to me,” Culligan was saying, gesturing toward the body sprawled on the gleaming parquet floor of the town house entryway, “he’d just come in the door when the shot was fired.” Culligan pointed to a ring of blood-spattered keys lying beside the body. “He still had his keys in his hand, apparently. And the mail—Saturday’s mail—is under the body. Which squares with what the neighbors say, and the victim’s wife. She went to Los Angeles for the weekend. She left Friday night, and didn’t get home until this morning about ten o’clock.”

“How about his wallet?”

Culligan held up a clear plastic bag containing an alligator wallet, credit cards and a sheaf of currency. “A hundred thirty-four dollars. Nothing missing, apparently.”

“Who discovered the body?”

“His wife did.”

“Is she here?”

“Yeah. Upstairs.”

“Will she talk to us? Can she talk?”

“Is she in shock or anything? Is that what you mean?”

I nodded.

Culligan’s long, dolorous face registered prim disapproval. Tall and stoop-shouldered, with sad eyes and a mouth permanently drawn down into lines of displeasure, Culligan was Homicide’s doomster. When he wasn’t laconically talking shop, his conversation alternated equally between his ulcer, the lingering Communist menace and his long-haired son who grew organic marijuana in the backwoods of Oregon.

“All I can say, Lieutenant, is that she’s one of the cool ones. When she talks about him”—Culligan gestured toward the dead man—“it’s like she’s talking about a stranger, I swear to God.”

“So she left Friday night and got back this morning,” I said. “And he could’ve been out of town too, judging by the fact that he hadn’t picked up Saturday’s mail. Is that how you see it?”

“As far as I know, that’s it,” Culligan answered cautiously. Then, self-defensively, he added: “But I’ve only been here for a couple of hours, you realize.” Without all the facts, Culligan never committed himself. “One neighbor, though, says she’s sure she saw the victim’s car parked out in front of the house at eleven o’clock last night—Sunday. So, if I had to guess, I’d say that he left the house Saturday morning and came back last night, sometime before eleven.”

I glanced up at Roger Tate, the medical examiner, standing patiently on the landing four steps above the level of the entryway. We nodded to each other, and I asked for his estimate of the time of death.

“Sometime last night,” came the crisp answer. “Six hours ago, at least.” Tate was a small, precise man, always in restless motion, even when compelled to stand in one place. Now his eyes were busily blinking, his hands were fidgeting. “I’ve got everything I need, Frank,” he said. “And there’s another one down in the Fillmore.”

I looked inquiringly at Culligan, who nodded indifferent agreement. I dismissed Tate, then turned back to the body. So far, I knew, the body hadn’t been moved. That was my responsibility.

“Is the lab finished?” I asked.

“Yes,” Culligan answered.

“Pictures?”

“All done. They’ve left for the Fillmore one already.”

“How about the weapon?”

“We’re waiting for Canelli.” Culligan permitted himself a brief, pinched smile. It was a standard squad-room joke: the Canelli luck. Whatever Canelli lacked in technique, he compensated for with a continuous run of improbable good luck. The entire police department could be searching for someone while Canelli was standing beside the fugitive at a bus stop.

Taking a deep breath—and involuntarily holding it against the odor—I knelt down beside the body, automatically making a final assessment of Dr. Gordon Ainsley. It was easier, I’d learned long ago, to think in departmental officialese: Weight, approximately a hundred sixty. Medium height. Well dressed in casual clothes: expensively stitched leather jacket, elegant whipcord slacks, fifty-dollar sport shoes, boldly patterned silk shirt, pulsar-style gold watch. Judging by his clothing, the victim had considered himself a swinger. Age—I glanced at the texture of the skin at hands and neck, at the grey-flecked hair, at the lightly lined face in profile—early forties, I decided. Brown hair, modishly barbered to medium length. He lay on his stomach, with his head jammed hard into the angle of the first step and the wall of the foyer. The wall, I noticed, was papered in a richly textured fleur-de-lis pattern; the steps were thickly carpeted in an oyster-colored wool. A thin trail of dried blood was smeared on three of the four stairs. A single small circle of blood was centered between the victim’s shoulder blades. His left hand, tightly clenched, was cocked beside the head, the arm rigor-locked in a Fascist-style salute. The right hand lay concealed beneath the body. The legs were drawn up, probably crooked by death’s last spasm. His keys lay approximately eighteen inches from his clenched left hand. I counted eight pieces of mail scattered across the polished floor. Six of the letters were obviously either bills or circulars. Two of the letters were personal, one addressed to “Dr. and Mrs. Gordon Ainsley,” the other addressed simply “Gail Ainsley.”

My legs were aching from my squatting position. I rose to a half crouch, taking a final moment to fix the death scene in my mind—searching always for some small, significant bit of physical evidence, so far overlooked. Then, gritting my teeth, I grasped the slack of the leather jacket at the shoulder, braced myself and heaved.

The body was limp and boneless as a bundle of discarded clothing heavily weighted with some strange, nonhuman mass of liquefied flesh. Rigor mortis had come and gone.

As the body flopped on its back the legs straightened, crossing at the ankles, grotesquely casual. A six-inch circle of blood was caked almost exactly in the center of the torso. He’d bled very little; the bullet had probably pierced the upper part of the heart. Staring full into his face, I continued my dispassionate assessment: Features regular, eyes brown, hairline slightly receding. No visible scars or marks. I could have added: Lower lip bitten through, mouth gaping. Tongue swollen, also badly bitten. Mouth and chin bloody. Eyes very wide, pupils rolled up to expose the whites.

He’d been shot in the back, probably killed by a single bullet. The force had thrown him forward against the stairs. He’d struck his chin on the topmost of the four stairs, biting his tongue and lip. It was the blood from the mouth that had streaked the oyster-colored carpeting; the blood on the chest was unsmeared. As he’d died, he’d slumped down the stairs, one at a time.

“What’s that?” Culligan asked, pointing to a folded sheet of paper that had been concealed between the body and the wall. It was ordinary unlined paper, neatly folded in quarters. I could see the impression of typewriting.

I lifted the paper by a corner, carefully unfolding it until I held it by two corners, suspended by thumb and forefinger above the victim’s body. Leaning together, Culligan and I read:

Doctor, Lawyer, Merchant, Chief …

This is your first chance. If the City of San Francisco pays $100,000.00 there won’t be a dead lawyer. If you want to pay, call Patrick’s Attick. The message is, “We have seen the light. We repent. Hallelujah!” Call between 7 A.M. and 8 A.M. You will be contacted.

THE MASKED MAN

“Jesus,” I heard Culligan mutter, “that’s a new one, all right.”

In unison we reread the extortion letter. “The Masked Man,” Culligan said, slowly shaking his head in soured wonderment. “Now I’ve heard everything.”

I read the message for a third time, slowly. It was a carefully typed letter, neatly centered on the page. The paper, I knew, would be almost impossible to trace. Without doubt, the note was written on a rental typewriter, in a public place.

“Doctor, Lawyer, Merchant, Chief,” Culligan snorted. “Christ, that’s a nursery rhyme, isn’t it?”

Two

“CANELLI’S LUCK IS HOLDING,” Friedman announced. “He found the Masked Man’s gun an hour ago. In some bushes. It figures.” He allowed a moment of silence to pass, watching me as I leafed through a sheaf of expense vouchers. Then: “It’s an army-issue .45, as you may or may not already know. Canelli phoned me the serial number, and I put it in the works. When the print-out comes through, I told Intelligence to give you the call.”

“Good.” I initialed the vouchers, dropped them into my Out basket and swiveled to face Pete Friedman, my senior co-lieutenant. A few minutes ago, Friedman had knocked once on my door and entered uninvited, as always. He’d come down the hall to theorize—as always. It was a ritual that had evolved during the year since I’d made lieutenant. I’d taken over the job as outside man, in charge of investigations in the field. Friedman was the inside man: coordinating, analyzing, allocating manpower—and theorizing. And it was Friedman’s firm contention that he could best theorize in my visitor’s chair—the only chair in the bureau, Friedman maintained, that could properly accommodate his two hundred and forty pounds in suitable style and comfort.

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!