No Questions Asked - Ross Thomas - ebook
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With eviction looming, St. Ives searches for a big payday and a rare book. Philip St. Ives has no love for New York's drafty, broken-down Adelphi Hotel, but he is in no mood to be evicted from it. His cash dwindling, he is happy to learn about a job that calls for his specific talents as a mediator between thieves and their victims. It sounds like the set-up to a bad joke: A thief, an insurance salesman, and the Library of Congress call Philip's lawyer to ask about a stolen copy of Pliny's Historia Naturalis. To find it, Philip will risk becoming history himself. The book was stolen on its way from the Library of Congress to California, and the detective guarding it vanished as well. Mired in snow-choked Washington, DC, St. Ives must arrange for a pair of ransoms to avoid becoming a victim of book collectors who value a nice first edition over an investigator's life. Review quotes. "America's best storyteller." - New York Times Book Review. "Ross Thomas is without peer in American suspense." - Los Angeles Times. "What Elmore Leonard does for crime in the streets, Ross Thomas does for crime in the suites." - The Village Voice. Biographical note. The winner of the inaugural Gumshoe Lifetime Achievement Award, Ross Thomas (1926-1995) was a prolific author whose political thrillers drew praise for their blend of wit and suspense. Born in Oklahoma City, Thomas grew up during the Great Depression, and served in the Philippines during World War II. After the war, he worked as a foreign correspondent, public relations official, and political strategist before publishing his first novel, "The Cold War Swap" (1967), based on his experience working in Bonn, Germany. The novel was a hit, winning Thomas as an Edgar Award for Best First Novel and establishing the characters Mac McCorkle and Mike Padillo. Thomas followed it up with three more novels about McCorkle and Padillo, the last of which was published in 1990. He wrote nearly a book a year for twenty-five years, occasionally under the pen name Oliver Bleeck, and won the Edgar Award for Best Novel with "Briarpatch" (1984). Thomas died of lung cancer in California in 1995, a year after publishing his final novel, "Ah, Treachery!"

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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright Page

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Looking for more suspense?

Cover

Begin Reading

About the Book

With eviction looming, St. Ives searches for a big payday and a rare book.

Philip St. Ives has no love for New York’s drafty, broken-down Adelphi Hotel, but he is in no mood to be evicted from it. His cash dwindling, he is happy to learn about a job that calls for his specific talents as a mediator between thieves and their victims. It sounds like the set-up to a bad joke: A thief, an insurance salesman, and the Library of Congress call Philip’s lawyer to ask about a stolen copy of Pliny’s HistoriaNaturalis. To find it, Philip will risk becoming history himself.

The book was stolen on its way from the Library of Congress to California, and the detective guarding it vanished as well. Mired in snow-choked Washington, DC, St. Ives must arrange for a pair of ransoms to avoid becoming a victim of book collectors who value a nice first edition over an investigator’s life.

Review quotes.

“America’s best storyteller.” - New York Times Book Review.

“Ross Thomas is without peer in American suspense.” - Los Angeles Times.

“What Elmore Leonard does for crime in the streets, Ross Thomas does for crime in the suites.” - The Village Voice.

About the Author

The winner of the inaugural Gumshoe Lifetime Achievement Award, Ross Thomas (1926-1995) was a prolific author whose political thrillers drew praise for their blend of wit and suspense. Born in Oklahoma City, Thomas grew up during the Great Depression, and served in the Philippines during World War II. After the war, he worked as a foreign correspondent, public relations official, and political strategist before publishing his first novel, "The Cold War Swap" (1967), based on his experience working in Bonn, Germany. The novel was a hit, winning Thomas as an Edgar Award for Best First Novel and establishing the characters Mac McCorkle and Mike Padillo.

Thomas followed it up with three more novels about McCorkle and Padillo, the last of which was published in 1990. He wrote nearly a book a year for twenty-five years, occasionally under the pen name Oliver Bleeck, and won the Edgar Award for Best Novel with "Briarpatch" (1984). Thomas died of lung cancer in California in 1995, a year after publishing his final novel, "Ah, Treachery!"

No Questions Asked

A Philip St. Ives Mystery

Ross Thomas writing as Oliver Bleeck

 

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

 

Copyright © 1976 by Ross E. Thomas

 

Project management: Lori Herber

Cover adaptation: Christin Wilhelm, www.grafic4u.de

Cover design by Jason Gabbert

 

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

 

ISBN 978-3-95859-249-0

 

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 1

THE ONLY THING IN the mail that day of any interest was the eviction notice. There was also a letter from The Wall Street Journal, which promised that I could get fairly rich if only I would subscribe for just six months, while down in Atlanta Julian Bond had written, wanting to know whether I wouldn’t like to send another $25 to help keep the Republic fairly honest.

I tossed The Wall Street Journal’s promise into the wastebasket, made a mental note to cut Julian Bond off with $10, and handed the eviction notice to Myron Greene, the lawyer, who had brought my mail up with him that morning.

Myron Greene read the letter slowly and suspiciously, the way lawyers read everything, even the close-cover-before-striking admonition on match folders. He read it once at arm’s length, then put on a pair of grey-tinted aviator glasses, and read it again. After that he shrugged and handed it back to me.

“It’s an eviction notice,” he said.

“I know what it is,” I said. “What I don’t know is what I can do about it.”

Myron Greene glanced around the room and although he must have tried, he couldn’t keep the small expression of disapproval from sliding across his face. He shook his head and said, “There’s really only one thing you can do about it.”

“What?”

“Move.”

I looked around trying to see it through the eyes of some benevolent Christian whom the Goodwill people had sent over and who was viewing it all for the first time. What I was being evicted from was a “deluxe” efficiency on the ninth floor of the Adelphi apartment hotel on East Forty-sixth Street. It was about 425 square feet of steam-heated space that contained virtually everything I owned in the world other than the $9,215.26 in a checking account over which the Chase Manhattan Bank was standing constant vigil.

I decided that even a benevolent Goodwill representative, who had shaped his career out of cheerfully collecting other people’s discards, might have gulped and sighed before agreeing to accept mine. There was a book-lined wall, but most of the books were worn paperbacks except for a leather-bound set of Dickens, although nobody reads Dickens much anymore. The bed was what I think they used to call a studio couch and it was beginning to sag a bit. There was also a leather wing-backed easy chair that I liked a lot and a small Sony color TV set whose predominantly yellowish cast made everyone, especially Sevareid, appear faintly choleric.

Then in front of the Pullman kitchen was the 121-year-old butcher block that I pounded the round steak on. Not far from it against the wall was the high-fidelity set that played just fine even though after I had put it all together there had been a couple of loose wires left over.

On the floor was a rug and on the walls were some prints that I still didn’t mind looking at and in the center of the room, surrounded by six mismatched, straight-backed chairs, was where I took my meals and sometimes laid my money down. It was a hexagonal poker table whose green baize cover was marred by a dark stain that had been caused when a Homicide South detective had got all excited after filling an inside straight and knocked over his Bloody Mary at 5:15 one Sunday morning.

Myron Greene and I were sitting at the poker table, he in his dark blue pin-striped vested suit and I in my terry-cloth bathrobe.

“You have to be in court today, don’t you?” I said.

“How do you know?”

“You’re either going to court or to a funeral. Otherwise you’d be wearing something more dashing. Maybe something in crushed velvet with a few posies appliquéd on the back.” Myron Greene liked to think of himself as a dandy, but he wasn’t too sure about his taste, and he liked me to encourage him.

He glanced down at his suit and brushed away some imaginary lint. “It’s five years old and it still fits perfectly.”

“You haven’t lost any weight in five years.”

“You can be awfully snotty in the morning.”

“I’m always snotty when I get up in the morning without any coffee and somebody hands me an eviction notice. You want some coffee?”

“Is it instant?”

“It’s always instant.”

Myron Greene shook his head. “Then I don’t want any.”

“How about some tea?” I said.

Myron Greene had to think about that because it was a decision, and he never made decisions without weighing the consequences carefully and even judiciously. His inbred caution, along with his brilliant grasp of the law, kept his corporate clients out of trouble and had made him wealthy, if not really rich, although he probably would be that in a few more years.

“All right,” he said. “Tea. No sugar. Lemon, if you’ve got it.”

“I’ve got it.”

I went over to the kitchen, filled the kettle, and put it on to heat. Then I turned, lost another battle with my willpower, and lit a cigarette. This time Myron Greene didn’t try to hide his disapproval.

“You shouldn’t smoke before you’ve had breakfast,” he said.

“I shouldn’t smoke at all.”

“Then why don’t you quit? It’s not all that hard. I did it.”

“You quit five cigarettes a day, tops, and when you did you put on twenty pounds. I think I’ll stay svelte and cough a lot.”

Myron Greene sighed. He seemed to sigh often and deeply when he was around me. He sighed over my profligate ways, my slothful nature, and the company I kept. He sighed because I wasn’t more like him and then sighed again over the realization that if I were more like him, I wouldn’t be his client, and he would have lost his only contact with somebody who inhabited what he thought of as a netherworld peopled by latter-day Robin Hoods and their merry men who raced through life, knew a lot of blondes, and scoffed at their parking tickets because they knew how to get them fixed. If it weren’t for the wife and kids and the money, especially the money, Myron Greene would have liked to have been a slick criminal lawyer who wore flashy clothes and got his name in the paper all the time.

Instead, he settled for clients who had made him a millionaire before he was forty, which enabled him to live in Darien, maintain a summer home in Kennebunkport, drive a $20,000 Mercedes 450 SCL, and keep me on as a client. But I don’t think I was really ever a client of Myron Greene’s. I think I was his hobby.

I set the teapot and a cup and saucer in front of him, went back and got my coffee and the lemon, and sat back down at the poker table. He poured his tea, squeezed the lemon into it, tasted it, and smiled.

“It’s good,” he said.

“It’s Twinings Irish breakfast tea. It’s got a nip to it.”

“Why do you always go to the trouble of making a real pot of tea, but when it comes to coffee you drink that awful instant stuff?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. I suppose it’s because of that time when I lived in England.”

“When you were with the paper.”

“Yeah. When I was with the paper.”

“That must have been ten years ago now.”

“More like twelve or thirteen.”

I had once written a thrice-weekly column for one of those New York papers that had gone out of business in the mid-sixties. I had written mostly about the quaint ways of New York’s mountebanks and hustlers and con artists and of cops who were honest and brave and of those who were only partly so. Just before the paper folded there had been some talk of syndication, but nothing ever came of it, and largely through chance I found myself doing what I now do for a living, which is mostly waiting for Myron Greene to come calling.

He finished his cup of tea, used his breast pocket handkerchief to pat his lips, since I hadn’t thought to provide napkins, put it back carefully just the way it was, and pursed his lips, now that they were dry, in a thoughtful way, which meant that he felt that he had something important and even grave to say.

“I received three calls this morning,” he said. “Quite early this morning. Before seven.”

“That’s pretty early,” I said.

“I tentatively agreed for you to handle it although, of course, I said that I would have to check with you first.”

“How much?” I said.

“A quarter of a million.”

“My end’s the usual ten percent?”

Myron Greene nodded.

“Who’s going to pay it?”

“The insurance company has agreed to pay it, if you can get it back.”

“Then it must be worth a lot more than a quarter of a million, whatever it is, which you’re going to tell me about in due course, although at this rate due course is probably going to be late this afternoon.”

Myron Greene sighed again. It must have been either his third or fourth sigh, but I was no longer counting. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to present it in my own way. My own way is a logical, step-by-step presentation, which, I realize, is a bit foreign to you.”

“Don’t try to be sarcastic, Myron. When you try to be sarcastic you get all red in the face. You want some more tea?”

Myron Greene started to touch his face to see whether it was red, but realized what he was doing and stroked his moustache instead. The moustache was new. At least I hadn’t seen it before and I knew he was waiting for me to say something about it and I was trying very hard not to. We played little games like that with each other.

“I would like some more tea,” he said. “The first call I got was from the insurance company.”

“Have we done any business with them before?” I said as I poured.

He shook his head and gave his moustache another brush with a thumbnail. Actually, I thought the moustache made him look rather dashing, if somebody who stands five-nine and weighs close to a hundred and ninety-five pounds can look dashing.

“It’s a Los Angeles firm,” he said. “It’s comparatively small, but growing, and they’ve established quite a sound reputation for themselves despite the fact that they occasionally do some rather odd business.”

“How odd?”

“They insure such things as movie actresses’ legs and smiles and tits and things like that. But the firm’s sound. Very sound. I suppose they do it for the publicity.”

“What have they insured that we’re interested in?”

“A book.”

“A book? Just one?”

Myron Greene nodded. “That’s right. Just one. Now the second call I received this morning, again quite early, I might add, was from Washington.”

“Ah,” I said.

“What does ‘ah’ mean?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I suppose it means that the plot thickens. That’s what a call from Washington can mean, especially if it’s from the CIA or the State Department or somebody jazzy like that.”

“It was from the Library of Congress.”

“Well, that’s where they keep books. In fact, they keep some pretty valuable ones there.”

“Valuable and rare. The call was from the Chief of the Rare Book Division.”

“He’s missing a rare book, I take it.”

Myron Greene shook his head. “No, that was the principal reason he called. He wanted to make it quite clear that the book in question had only been on deposit with the Library and that the owner had insisted on withdrawing it, using his own security measures and not those of the Library or of the federal government for that matter.”

“So somebody stole it after it left the Library?”

“Apparently so. However, the man I talked to, a Mr. Laws, while insisting that neither the Library nor the government had any responsibility for the book’s theft, also wanted me to know that they would cooperate in any way that they could in securing its retrieval.”

“You mean getting it back.”

“That’s what I said.”

I shook my head. “You said securing its retrieval. Five minutes on the phone with Washington and you start talking the way they do down there.”

“It must be contagious,” he said. “Now then. The third call. It must have been long distance, too, but I’m not absolutely sure. It had that funny kind of hum that long distance has. It was from a woman or a man who was trying to sound like a woman who was trying to disguise her voice.”

“Tricky,” I said. “And also a new wrinkle. Nobody’s ever used that one on me before. What did he or she want?”

“We’ll make it she. She said that you had been recommended by the insurance company, but she didn’t know anything about you. She wanted to know somebody she could talk to about you who was in her line of work.”

“What’s her line of work?”

“She said she was a thief.”

“What did you say?”

“I said that most of the people whom you knew who were in her line of work were in jail—although through no fault of yours. Then I thought of somebody.”

“Who?”

“Bingo Bobby.”

“Good Lord,” I said. “Bingo Bobby Bishop. I haven’t thought of him in years. I also thought he was doing ten to twenty down in Oklahoma. McAlester, wasn’t it?”

“It was,” Myron Greene said, “but he got out. He called me about a month ago and wanted to know if I could recommend some young, really smart lawyer who was just starting out in practice and didn’t charge too much.”

“For himself?”

“He said for a friend. I took his number and then called him back and gave him the name of a kid I know who’d just got out of law school. He thanked me and told me to tell you hello. So I gave his number to the woman.”

“The one who called you this morning. Well, if she wanted to talk to a thief, he’s a good one.”

Myron Greene sipped his tea. “He must have given you a good reference because she called me back.”

“The thief?”

“Yes.”

“What’d she say?”

“She said she thought she’d be able to work with you. I told her that I would have to talk with you first, but that I felt sure that you’d be interested. You are interested, aren’t you?”

“I’m interested.”

“Then you have to be in Washington this evening to meet with the insurance company’s representative who’s flying in from Los Angeles. He and the Chief of the Rare Book Division will brief you on the book.”

“You mean they might even mention its name.”

“I didn’t forget to mention it, if that’s what you mean. They wouldn’t tell me. All they would say is that it’s old and rare and extremely valuable.”

“How old?”

“A little more than five hundred years old, they said. Oh, yes. The thief wanted to know one more thing. She wanted to know what to call you. I said she could call you Mr. St. Ives or Philip or even Phil, if you grew really chummy. She said she didn’t mean your name, she meant what you did for a living. I told her that she could think of you as a professional intermediary.”

“You shouldn’t try to pretty it up,” I said. “Professional intermediary is what you put down on my tax returns. You should have told her what I really am, since she says she’s a thief, which almost makes her part of the family.”

“You mean go-between?”

“That’s right, Myron. Go-between.”

Chapter 2

THE ADELPHI APARTMENT HOTEL that they were going to tear down and evict me from, although not in that order, had been built back in the early twenties about the time that the claw-footed bathtub was beginning to disappear from the American scene.

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

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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!

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Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

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