Homicide Is My Game - Stephen Marlowe - ebook

Homicide Is My Game ebook

Stephen Marlowe

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When Drum picks up a hitchhiker, trouble follows her into the car. A monsoon is hammering Washington, DC, when Chester Drum spots Anita Sparrow on the roadside in the middle of the night. Sixteen, frail, and soaking wet, she is trying to find help for her brother, Donny, a photographer with cerebral palsy who was beaten nearly to death a mile up the road. Drum takes Donny to the hospital and drives Anita home, where he finds her house ransacked, her brother's darkroom destroyed. It seems Donny took a picture of something he wasn't supposed to see, and powerful men will kill to ensure the negative is never developed. On top of it all, Drum soon learns that the Sparrows have ties to some of the biggest names inside the Beltway, and Anita is not as innocent as she appears. Her family story simmers with pornography, corruption, and murder - not polite topics for dinner table conversation, but ones that make Chester Drum feel right at home. 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 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

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

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Cover

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About the Book

When Drum picks up a hitchhiker, trouble follows her into the car.

A monsoon is hammering Washington, DC, when Chester Drum spots Anita Sparrow on the roadside in the middle of the night. Sixteen, frail, and soaking wet, she is trying to find help for her brother, Donny, a photographer with cerebral palsy who was beaten nearly to death a mile up the road. Drum takes Donny to the hospital and drives Anita home, where he finds her house ransacked, her brother’s darkroom destroyed. It seems Donny took a picture of something he wasn’t supposed to see, and powerful men will kill to ensure the negative is never developed.

On top of it all, Drum soon learns that the Sparrows have ties to some of the biggest names inside the Beltway, and Anita is not as innocent as she appears. Her family story simmers with pornography, corruption, and murder - not polite topics for dinner table conversation, but ones that make Chester Drum feel right at home.  

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

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.

Homicide Is My Game

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 © 2012 by The Mysterious Press, LLC, 58 Warren Street, New York, NY. U.S.A.

 

Copyright © 1959 by Fawcett Publications, Inc.

 

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 978-3-95859-419-7

 

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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.

Chapter One

IF A JAGGED STREAK of lightning hadn’t illuminated the night just as I drove past, I never would have laid eyes on her.

She was jogging along the shoulder of the road through the rain, running the way a girl runs—her hands out and flapping like wings, her knees thrusting high in tight jeans, her feet kicking up gouts of muddy rain water. For a moment she was etched clearly against the night, then the thunder cracked and rolled, and the darkness swallowed her.

I stomped on the brake pedal and rolled back through the rain in reverse, my right arm on the backrest of the front seat of the car and my neck craned to spot her. It was almost two a.m. of a June night, and the first real thunderstorm of the season had been drowning the District of Columbia since nine o’clock. The girl had even less business running around out there than I had stopping to find out why, but, after all, other peoples’ trouble is my line of work, and when you’re at it long enough it gets to be a habit.

Pulling to a stop, I jabbed the button on the glove compartment, got out a flashlight, slid across the seat and opened the door. The rain and her footsteps drummed on the shoulder of the road. Far away, thunder rolled again. I snapped on the light, and she ran right into its beam. She wasn’t more than sixteen or seventeen, with her dark hair hanging in thick, drenched ropes to her shoulders and her mouth a wide O to take in all the air she needed. She wore a polo shirt with wide horizontal red stripes, and the rain had plastered it to her high young breasts. She cried out as the light struck her, and then I stood up into the rain.

She tried to stop fast and change her direction, but the slippery footing wouldn’t let her. She started to fall, and I grabbed her. Small wild fists flew at my face and chest, so I had to stuff the flashlight in my jacket pocket and grab her again. When I had both her arms pinned, she tried a knee on me.

“Hey,” I shouted, “cut it out.”

“Go ahead, mister,” she screamed. “Why don’t you beat me up too? You must be real proud of yourself, beating up a cripple.”

She tried to struggle free. I tightened my hold on her wrists. The drenched polo shirt came against my chest, writhing.

“I never saw you before in my life,” I said, shouting it close to her ear above the sound of the rain. “I want to help you if you’ll stop fighting long enough to let me.”

She went limp then and started to cry. It was easy to get her into the car and shut the door. I ran around in front of the car and slipped in behind the wheel. The rain made the sound rain will make on the roof of a car. I lit a cigarette, but my hands were wet and it wouldn’t draw properly.

Brushing a lank rope of hair out of her eyes she said, “Give me a cigarette, please.”

I just looked at her.

“I’m eighteen, mister. What are you looking at me that way for?”

“You are like hell eighteen,” I told her, but tossed the pack at her anyway.

She lit up, her hands shaking. The rain had given her a bedraggled appearance, but in the glare of the match I saw she was quite pretty, with wide brown eyes, good color in her cheeks and a stubborn little chin. The faded wet jeans fit her thighs, still coltishly thin but holding the promise of firm maturing curves, like pale blue skin. “Well, I’m almost seventeen,” she said, dropping the match in the ashtray on the dashboard. “Do you really want to help me?”

“Date run out on you?” I asked. But then I remembered what she’d said about beating up a cripple.

“It’s my brother Donny. Come on.”

I started driving. She didn’t say anything else for about two minutes. She sat leaning forward, her hands on the dashboard, peering out through the windshield into the rain and darkness. Then she pointed. “Over there.”

A car was parked on the shoulder across the road, its headlights lit. This was flat truck-farming country, or what was left of it between Washington and suburban Jefferson Courthouse over the Virginia line. I’d spent the evening with Jack and Betty Morley in their new home in Jefferson Courthouse. The Morleys had seven rooms and a garage on a seventy-by-one-hundred strip of subdivided farmland, in a community of eighty or ninety identical houses at fifteen thousand bucks with a GI mortgage per unit. I had been driving back to Washington, where I live, when I spotted the girl.

I swung across the three-lane asphalt road and parked the wrong way on the other side, in front of their car. She got out before I stopped, tossed away her cigarette and started running. Setting the handbrake and reaching for my flashlight, I followed her.

There were deep tire-ruts in the mud of the road-shoulder, where another car had forced them off the asphalt. She was crouched over him when I reached them. The car was ten years old, at least, and looked it. He lay half in and half out of it, his head lolling against the front seat. The door hung open and the dome-light was on. Nudging her aside, I put the flashlight on him anyway.

He’d been beaten, all right. His nose was flattened against his face, one ear was puffy and red, and his lips were swollen and oozing blood. His right eye, swollen shut, was the size and color of a ripe purple plum. He was unconscious and breathing loudly and raggedly, as if he had trouble getting the air past his septum.

The girl sucked in her breath and whimpered. I got my hands under his arms and eased him onto the front seat of their car while she held the flashlight for me.

“You drive?” I asked her.

“Uh-uh. I was running to get help.”

I didn’t say anything. The nearest house must have been three or four miles down the road.

“What could I do? I tried to lift him like you did, but he was too heavy.”

“Okay. Get in.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Take him to the hospital in Jefferson Courthouse. It isn’t very far.”

Obediently she climbed in beside him. I went around behind the wheel. The keys were still in the ignition lock.

She sat with his head on her shoulder and her arms around him. He wasn’t much bigger than she was, a scrawny little guy in a light Windbreaker and a pair of suntans. I slipped the car into gear, and we lurched off the muddy shoulder and started to roll.

“You say he’s a cripple?” I asked her.

“Spastic. Cerebral palsy. He’s a photographer,” she added—a little proudly, I thought. Then: “Donny, poor Donny. We’re going to fix you up. It’s going to be all right. It’s going to be all right, Donny.”

We drove through the rain for fifteen minutes before we reached the outskirts of Jefferson Courthouse. The township had thirty thousand people, and like all suburban cities it had grown too fast. First the road cut through the marshaling yards where the big Chesapeake & Ohio freights were strung together before they headed south and west from the Washington area. Then it climbed a little hill and became Jefferson Street, flanked for a mile or so by a drab, dingy army of row-tenements that could have passed for a street in Baltimore on the wrong side of the tracks, where I was born. Then another hill and a left turn, and the sycamores and magnolias of James Madison Park came into sight, dark and dripping in the rain. Beyond them were the wide manicured lawns and big old antebellum houses where Jefferson Courthouse’s old families lived, trying to forget the War between the States had been fought and lost. In a big square stood the old courthouse that gave the city its name, behind a verdigrised bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson and two smoothbore Civil War cannons. The business district flanking the square on the south was dark and quiet at this hour, like a ghost city drowning in the rain. Then a dip in Jefferson Street and we were passing through the new sub-developments which housed five or six thousand civil servants and their families, and where Jack Morley, an Under Secretary in the State Department, lived with his wife and son. And finally, a mile or so beyond the last housing development and the big electric plant that gave Jefferson Courthouse its lights and power, we came to the Jefferson Courthouse Memorial Hospital.

I took the gravel driveway around the long, low white building and drove up the receiving ramp where the red emergency light gleamed in the rain over the big sliding doors. I parked near a Caddy ambulance almost as long as a Greyhound bus and got out. Through the rear window of the car I could see Donny’s crutches, the aluminum kind that brace on the forearm instead of under the armpit, leaning against the rear seat. The girl looked at me. Just then her brother’s head lifted, and he mumbled something that sounded like, “Sonsabitches, trying to whitewash th’ole thing.”

I ducked my head, pulled my hatbrim down and ran through the rain, which was coming down in buckets. I went inside through the little door that was beside the big sliding door. When I shut the door, I found myself in a large, almost empty room, with two corridors branching out from the far wall. There was a desk in the room, and a plump nurse was sitting behind it reading a magazine. Two interns in hospital whites were sitting at a folding table playing cards. One of them, who was smoking, quickly jabbed the cigarette out and turned around with a guilty look on his face.

I jerked a thumb toward the door. “Got a man outside who’s been pretty badly beaten up.”

The two interns pushed back from the table and stood up. One of them went behind the nurse’s big desk and came back with a stretcher, the portable kind with two poles and a rolled-up canvas. They followed me outside with it to the car, neither one of them saying a word. The nurse was reaching for a pad, probably of admission blanks, as we left.

I stood in the pouring rain and helped the interns get the injured man on the stretcher. One of them said, “Better park the car at the foot of the ramp, mister.” I got in and put the car in reverse while the girl followed them inside.

When I returned to the receiving room the plump nurse had it all to herself, but I could see the wet tracks that went across the room to one of the corridors. The nurse looked up at me. “His name, please?”

“I don’t know. Donny something. The girl’s his sister. She could tell you.”

She poised her pencil over the pad of admission blanks. “Who brought him in?”

“She did—his sister. I found them on the Jefferson highway almost halfway back to Washington.”

“Yes, but she’s obviously a minor.” She looked up at me expectantly. She wanted a name for the record, and I gave her one.

“The name is Chester Drum.”

She began writing. “And your occupation, Mr. Drum?”

“I’m a private detective.”

She arched her eyebrows and looked at me like an anthropologist looks at a buck-naked Arapesh blowing bubbles. Then she wrote it down and asked for my address. I gave her the business address, which was in the Farrell Building on F Street in downtown Washington, within wishing distance of the Treasury Building. She wrote that down, too.

“Are you, uh, on a case, Mr. Drum?”

“No. I just stumbled on them.”

A flash of lightning in the night, a pretty girl running, a man who’d been beaten up, a quick drive to the hospital and a form that had to be filled out.

And I was in it up to my crewcut, but I didn’t know that yet.

Chapter Two

I WATCHED THE DESK-NURSE put through a phone call to the cops. She said she thought they had an assault and battery victim and gave them the time of admission, adding that a private detective had brought the patient in. Then she held the phone away from her face. “Where do they live?”

“Search me.”

“He doesn’t know, sergeant ... Yes, of course.” She hung up. “They want you to wait here, Mr. Drum.”

I nodded and cooled my heels, smoking a couple of cigarettes and watching her watch me. In about ten minutes the cop came in. The police must have had a patrol car cruising nearby.

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!