Kiss Me Once - Thomas Gifford - ebook

Kiss Me Once ebook

Thomas Gifford

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At the start of World War II, a football star fights gangsters on the home front. Brooklyn Bulldogs star defensive end Lew Cassidy is on his way to a touchdown when a nasty tackle snaps his leg and ends his career. When he wakes up in the hospital, he learns the Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, and America is at war. It's a shame his busted leg will keep him out of the army, because compared to New York, war is kindergarten. Cassidy's closest friend is Terry Leary, a homicide detective who's too slick for his own good. Just a few hours after Cassidy's injury, someone puts a bullet in Leary's spine. Cassidy leaves the hospital ready to avenge his friend - a fight that pits him against a gang of crooks who make him yearn for the comparative peace and safety of the gridiron. Review Quote: "An exciting story, not just a clever pastiche." - The New York Times "One of the most robust and intelligent thriller writers of the past two decades." - Publishers Weekly Biographical note: Thomas Gifford (1937-2000) was a bestselling author of thriller novels. Born in Dubuque, Iowa, he moved to Minnesota after graduating from Harvard. After eight years as a traveling textbook salesman, he wrote Benchwarmer Bob (1974), a biography of Minnesota Vikings defensive end Bob Lurtsema. The Wind Chill Factor (1975), a novel about dark dealings among ex-Nazis, introduced John Cooper, a character Gifford would revisit in The First Sacrifice (1994). The Wind Chill Factor was one of several books Gifford set in and around Minneapolis. Gifford won an Edgar Award nomination for The Cavanaugh Quest (1976). The Glendower Legacy (1978), a story about an academic who discovers that George Washington may have been a British spy, was adapted for the film Dirty Tricks (1981), starring Elliott Gould. In the 1980s Gifford wrote suspense novels under the pen names Thomas Maxwell and Dana Clarins. In 1996 he moved back to Dubuque to renovate his childhood home. He died of cancer in 2000.

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About the Book

At the start of World War II, a football star fights gangsters on the home front.

Brooklyn Bulldogs star defensive end Lew Cassidy is on his way to a touchdown when a nasty tackle snaps his leg and ends his career. When he wakes up in the hospital, he learns the Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, and America is at war. It’s a shame his busted leg will keep him out of the army, because compared to New York, war is kindergarten.

Cassidy’s closest friend is Terry Leary, a homicide detective who’s too slick for his own good. Just a few hours after Cassidy’s injury, someone puts a bullet in Leary’s spine. Cassidy leaves the hospital ready to avenge his friend - a fight that pits him against a gang of crooks who make him yearn for the comparative peace and safety of the gridiron.

Review Quote:

“An exciting story, not just a clever pastiche.” - The New York Times

“One of the most robust and intelligent thriller writers of the past two decades.” - Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Thomas Gifford (1937–2000) was a bestselling author of thriller novels. Born in Dubuque, Iowa, he moved to Minnesota after graduating from Harvard. After eight years as a traveling textbook salesman, he wrote Benchwarmer Bob (1974), a biography of Minnesota Vikings defensive end Bob Lurtsema. The Wind Chill Factor (1975), a novel about dark dealings among ex-Nazis, introduced John Cooper, a character Gifford would revisit in The First Sacrifice (1994). The Wind Chill Factor was one of several books Gifford set in and around Minneapolis.

Gifford won an Edgar Award nomination for The Cavanaugh Quest (1976). The Glendower Legacy (1978), a story about an academic who discovers that George Washington may have been a British spy, was adapted for the film Dirty Tricks (1981), starring Elliott Gould. In the 1980s Gifford wrote suspense novels under the pen names Thomas Maxwell and Dana Clarins. In 1996 he moved back to Dubuque to renovate his childhood home. He diedofcancer in 2000.

Kiss Me Once

Thomas Maxwell

 

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 © 1986 by Thomas Maxwell

“The Nearness of You” by Ned Washington and Hoagy Carmichael. Copyright © 1937 and 1940 by Famous Music Corporation. Copyright renewed 1964 and 1967 by Famous Music Corporation. “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To” by Cole Porter. Copyright © 1942 by Chappell & Co., Inc. Copyright renewed. International Copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved. Used by permission. “It’s Been A Long, Long Time” by Sammy Cahn and JuleStyne. © 1945 Morley Music Co. © Renewed 1973 Morley Music Co. International Copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

 

Project management: Lori Herber

Cover adaptation: Christin Wilhelm, www.grafic4u.de

Cover design by Michael Vrana

 

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

 

ISBN 978-3-95859-302-2

 

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.

For Elizabeth

Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright Page

Author’s Note

Prologue

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

Cassidy

Looking for more suspense?

Cover

Begin Reading

Listen to me, Al.

The river is deep and cement is cheap.

Call me if you need me.

—Max Bauman to Alfred E. Smith, Democratic presidential candidate, 1928, over dinner at Locke-Ober in Boston

Author’s Note

READERS WITH A KEEN SENSE of historical detail may occasionally find themselves confronted with what seems to be historical error. You may be right, so rest easy. The responsibility is mine, whether I was playing with things a bit to make a point or was simply mistaken.

There are, however, a couple of details which I can explicate at the moment. There was a National Football League game played at the Polo Grounds on the date in question. The visiting team was the Brooklyn Dodgers, a moderately hapless franchise which endured through fifteen seasons, from 1930 through 1944. The home team was, of course, the New York Giants. Not surprisingly, the Giants dominated the rivalry, winning twenty-two times, tying three, losing but four. Oddly enough, on the date in question, the real-life Brooklyn Dodgers prevailed, 21–7.

One might also inquire as to how, at 1:05 p.m. in New York, it could be 7:35 a.m. in Hawaii. The answer is simple. In those days, time zones were divided into half-hour slices once you got out there in the Pacific.

In the course of creating a group of characters bearing some resemblance to their counterparts inhabiting all of our lives, an author risks cutting too close to the bone. However, it is usually a bone or two of his own, which is doubtless for the best. In any case, should you find any specific resemblance to any specific individuals, then I’ve done a pretty fair job. But of course the resemblance is basically coincidental. And, finally, a word about the title. I had been considering the idea of telling Lewis Cassidy’s story for some time when I was following my normal custom one Sunday morning, listening to the world’s best disc jockey cum raconteur cum cabaret singer, Jonathan Schwartz. And following his normal custom, he wasn’t just playing a record: he was making a prefatory observation or two about it. The recording—Louis Armstrong’s, I believe—was It’s Been a Long, Long Time which, I suspect, most people think of as Kiss Me Once. He was making the point that, contrary to the bouncy rendition the song usually gets, it carried a very potent, powerful message that long-ago summer of 1945 when it was the country’s big hit. It was a song about the war and coming home from the war to a world that would never be the same again, to a life—as well as the loves in your life—that had changed forever. A whole lot had happened to everyone during those years. It had been a long, long time. And maybe the most you could really count on was a kiss and a prayer. That was what the story of Lew Cassidy was all about. Mr. Schwartz had given me the title. Herewith, my thanks.

—Thomas Maxwell

New York, May 1986

Prologue

CASSIDY WAS READY TO START killing people.

It occurred to him as he crouched in the cold and the darkness, aware only faintly of her excited breathing somewhere behind him, that if you pushed a man hard enough, if you backed him into a corner, if you killed his pal—well, then you either broke him or turned him into a nasty, scary piece of work. He hadn’t been quite sure which way it would go with him until now, and now he knew. There was still one person left alive he cared for and that was what tilted the balance. Made him realize just who and what he was at the core, what he must always have been. Waiting in the darkness of a very cold four o’clock, he smiled to himself. It was a smile of recognition.

He waited, kneeling on the floor he couldn’t see, resting the barrel of the Purdey over-and-under on the back of the couch, pointed directly at the doorway. The pale moonlight, forcing its way through the clouds, reflected off the deep crusty snow and he knew they were out there, deciding how best to get inside and do the job. The wind whacked angrily at the windows, rattling them in their frames.

Then he heard the first creak of footsteps on the porch. The snow squeaked as someone came slowly toward the door. Slowly. Cassidy knew he had one advantage. They didn’t know they’d been spotted. They weren’t being quite careful enough. He had one advantage and it wasn’t going to last long but the first guy through the door was going to pay a hell of a price.

The footsteps stopped.

The storm door was pulled back, wheezing on its hinges. The doorknob began to turn, rattling ever so slightly. The door was easing open, inch by inch by inch …

Cassidy heard the footfalls in the darkness, one, two steps into the room, the shape black on black, too hard for him to center the barrels on. Snow blew noisily along the porch.

Now, now, he willed her to do it …

She hit the wall switch and all the lamps in the room came on in a blinding flash.

The man stopped dead, threw an arm across his eyes.

Just as suddenly the darkness engulfed them again, like the hood dropped over a parrot’s cage, but the after-image of the man hung suspended before him as he adjusted the barrels.

The man with the long pistol in one hand, wearing a black-and-red-plaid parka, a matching hat with the earflaps turned down …

Cassidy centered on the memory of the man imprinted on his eyeballs and squeezed off both barrels and took the kick.

The shell casings ejected onto the floor and he slid two more into the chambers while the man was being sprayed back out into the night. Wood splintered, glass exploded, and he heard the corpse smack heavily onto the porch, slide across the slippery snow dusting, and crash off the edge, through the thick crust. The door had been blown off the hinges. It banged noisily, clattered off a wooden pillar, and pitched off into the snow. A blast of cold air poured in and the sound of the blast echoed and slammed off the walls and then after a while it was silent again.

She came and knelt beside him.

“They’ve got to come inside to get us,” he said. “It’ll be a war. We’ve got to dig in.”

They pushed the couch over to the stairwell and got in behind it, hunkered down in the nook below the stairs. They sat with their backs to the wall and she shivered against him. He kissed her hair and wondered if he’d ever see her face again.

The tommy gun began its unmistakable burping and the room was full of slugs and flying glass. It made a hell of a racket. Bullets chewing at the wall, slivers of wood and chunks of plaster spraying everywhere, splintering the knotty pine. He saw the flash of muzzle fire, like live electricity darting out, tongues of flame in the darkness beyond the holes in the walls where the windows had been only seconds before. Slugs thudded into the couch. He pulled her down onto the floor. Slugs were ricocheting off the stone fireplace. It sounded like a Panzer division rolling through the farmhouse …

He tried to pull the world in over their heads. She was grabbing at his hand, frantic, fingers icy cold. The guns just kept chattering and ripping.

Somewhere they were coming inside now, under cover of all the racket …

It was going to be over pretty soon and Cassidy held her tight, wondering what it all had meant, wondering if it had been worth it …

Behind the deafening din of the machine-gun fire he remembered how it had all begun, a Sunday afternoon a thousand lifetimes ago, a football game. It seemed like yesterday, watching the ball climb through the air and hang almost forever before it began to come down and the ground all around him started shaking and, hell, he’d been scared then, too …

Chapter One

LEW CASSIDY WAS TWENTY-NINE that year. An old twenty-nine because of a couple of things built into the core of his life. One was his occupation, the other was his wife, Karin. Together they’d put some years on Cassidy.

When he came jogging through the echoing tunnel from the locker room, the cleats chattering on the runway like a bad case of pregame nerves, and was funneled out onto the grass at the Polo Grounds, he felt as if he’d spent all twenty-nine years with a hangover. Which wasn’t of course the objective truth. The hangover that Sunday was strictly the result of Saturday night with Terry Leary. And it was a beaut, big and dark and mean, like a Cuban girl Terry had introduced him to at a New Students Mixer before the Bucknell game in 1933. Alicia had been her name and for a while there she’d been a lot more fun than this hangover.

But that was all old news now and Alicia had become a memory by the time they’d played Harvard two weeks later. The funny thing was, though, Terry was still running around with the prettiest girls in town and Lew Cassidy was still absorbing a weekly shit-kicking on the football field. One of the pretty girls was on Terry’s arm right there in Max Bauman’s box as Lew trotted past, lobbing a football to Frankie Sharansky, who actually caught it—something he’d never be able to do once the game started.

“Hey, Lew, howsa boy? Come on over here—hey, baby, how ya feeling? Howsa head?” That was Terry, standing at the box railing, beckoning with a pigskin-gloved hand. A flask bulged in the pocket of the soft caramel-colored polo coat with the belt like a bathrobe and a huge collar flopped up against the December wind. With his pencil-thin moustache and slicked-back black hair he looked like a cross between a movie star and the highest-priced gigolo in New York. He was a cop. NYPD, working homicide. With his looks, his personal manner, and the hot cases he kept getting, Terry was a star of sorts, certainly in his own circle, as Lew was in his, and Terry loved living up to the role he’d created for himself.

“Lew, listen, I’d like you to meet Naomi. She’s a big fan of yours, right, Naomi?”

Naomi was the kind of girl you never get to her last name. She was a redhead with too tight a permanent but Terry’s hair was cut well enough for both of them. The rest of her, so far as Cassidy could tell, was okay, though one beauty mark would probably have been enough. He figured she was wearing a little gold ankle bracelet, too. Terry had a collection of them in his jewelry box, said they always came off in the heavy going.

“You’re just swell, Mr. Cassidy.” She batted her eyes and looked at Terry to see if she’d read the line right. “Terry’s told me what pals you are—”

“Sign her program, will ya, Lew? Sign it, ah, ‘Billy, I hope you’re out of the hospital soon and back to football—Your friend, Lew Cassidy.’ Kid’s dying, some damn thing, it’s her brother—”

“He’s not dying, Terry. He’s got polio …”

“Whatever’s the matter with the Kid, thatsa boy, Lew, Billy will love it.”

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!