Protocol for a Kidnapping - Ross Thomas - ebook
Opis

When his old boss is kidnapped, St. Ives reluctantly agrees to free him. Philip St. Ives loses his first job in journalism as soon as he realizes he hates the man who gave it to him. Chicago Post editor Amfred Killingsworth is a pompous blowhard, and fires his newest reporter for failing to fawn over him. St. Ives goes to New York, where he lands a daily column and the close friendship of an assortment of crooks. Killingsworth goes in a less respectable direction, becoming the US ambassador to Yugoslavia. By the time the ambassador gets himself kidnapped, the only man who can save him is his former cub reporter. The kidnappers demand the release of a Slavic poet in exchange for the ambassador, and St. Ives goes behind the Iron Curtain to arrange the hand-off. To protect a trove of ugly Washington secrets, he'll have to save the life of a universally disliked man. Review quotes. "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. "Ross Thomas is that rare phenomenon, a writer of suspense whose novels can be read with pleasure more than once." - Eric Ambler. 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

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

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About the Book

When his old boss is kidnapped, St. Ives reluctantly agrees to free him.

Philip St. Ives loses his first job in journalism as soon as he realizes he hates the man who gave it to him. Chicago PosteditorAmfredKillingsworth is a pompous blowhard, and fires his newest reporter for failing to fawn over him. St. Ives goes to New York, where he lands a daily column and the close friendship of an assortment of crooks. Killingsworth goes in a less respectable direction, becoming the US ambassador to Yugoslavia. By the time the ambassador gets himself kidnapped, the only man who can save him is his former cub reporter.

The kidnappers demand the release of a Slavic poet in exchange for the ambassador, and St. Ives goes behind the Iron Curtain to arrange the hand-off. To protect a trove of ugly Washington secrets, he’ll have to save the life of a universally disliked man.

Review quotes.

“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.  

“Ross Thomas is that rare phenomenon, a writer of suspense whose novels can be read with pleasure more than once.” - Eric Ambler.

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!"

Protocol for a Kidnapping

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 © 1971 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 978-3-95859-248-3

 

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

IT WAS SNOWING IN Washington and I was thirty minutes late when the cab let me out at the Twenty-first Street entrance of the seven-story atrocity of glass and what seems to be dried mud that shelters the U.S. Department of State from the elements, if not from Congress.

I had taken Eastern’s nine o’clock shuttle from La Guardia and despite the snow it had arrived only three-quarters of an hour late, which wasn’t bad, but the taxis had disappeared and it took another half hour to get one and the Washington motorists were, as always, astonished that it should snow so far south, but if you mentioned that Washington was about as far north as Denver, nobody believed you.

So I counted eleven wrecks on the way in from National Airport and remembered that when I’d last been there the thermometer had threatened to break all heat records for August. As I understand it, the nation’s capital is allotted two days of spring and three days of fall. After that it’s either winter or summer.

A Negro guard at the desk just inside the brown marble entrance wanted to know who I was and where I was going and who I wanted to see. If he had asked why, I would have turned around and gone back to New York. But he didn’t and a woman receptionist signed in my name beneath somebody called Emanuel Cory and I rode the elevator up to the third floor and got lost only twice before I found Room 3931. Some of the doors along the corridor had valentines pasted or Scotch-taped all over them and I found the sentiment oddly reassuring. Room 3931 had nothing on its door, not even a name, so I walked in without knocking. The door didn’t seem to deserve it.

The ash blonde sat behind a secretarial desk which was bare except for a blotter, a telephone, a calendar, and her folded hands. There was an electric typewriter behind her, but it was covered. She was around thirty and wore big, wire-framed tinted glasses, not much makeup, a gray tweed dress, and the patient expression of a person who has spent a lot of time waiting.

“Philip St. Ives,” she said, making it a remark rather than a question.

“Yes.”

“Won’t you please sit down.” She indicated one of the two chairs in the room. I sat down and glanced around as she picked up the phone and dialed a single number. There were the two chairs, a green carpet, and a framed picture of the flag blowing in the breeze. I didn’t find it as reassuring as the valentines.

“Mr. St. Ives is here,” she said into the phone, listened a moment, hung up, and turned toward me. “Right through that door,” she said with a small gesture.

“Had I but known what lay behind it,” I murmured.

“Yes,” she said, smiled brightly, folded her hands, and placed them back on the desk blotter. I assumed that she was through for the day.

The office that I entered had only a single window that offered a view of C Street and the snow and not much else. The man behind the desk wore the brooding face of one of those small, compact loners who stand by themselves at the far end of the bar on Saturday night, nursing their boilermakers and counting up their injustices. When the boilermakers and the injustices reach the proper ratio, there’s usually a quick turn, a black glower, and a roundhouse right that’s thrown at whoever’s handy.

He didn’t rise when I came in. He just sat there behind his green metal desk looking as if the delicatessen once again had sent pastrami when he’d ordered corned beef. There was a phone in the room, two chairs in front of the desk, a carpet, and another picture of the flag rippling in the breeze. I didn’t bother to look for any valentines.

“You’re late,” he said.

“I’m always late.”

“Sit down. Anybody tell you about me?”

I sat down and took out a cigarette. He frowned at that and said, “I don’t smoke,” but reached into a drawer and brought out a round black ceramic ashtray which had “U.S. Department of State” printed on it in white letters.

“I also drink,” I said.

He nodded, a little glumly, I thought “I know what you do,” he said. “I know how you live. I even know how much money you made last year. You made more than I did, but I’m beginning to believe that so did everybody else. My name’s Coors and no, I’m not related to the beer people.”

“What beer?”

“Coors beer. They make it out West.”

“Nobody told me about you,” I said, finally getting around to his first question.

“Hamilton Coors,” he said, “if you want to make a note of it.”

“I think I can remember it all.”

“You didn’t know him really well, did you?” Coors said.

“Who?”

“The ambassador. Killingsworth. Amfred Killingsworth.”

“Not well.”

“You worked for him.”

“A long time ago.”

“Thirteen years,” Coors said. “Killingsworth hired you in Chicago. It was your first job. First newspaper job anyway.”

“And fired me a year later.”

“Why?”

I shrugged. “Incompetency, let’s say. Slipshod work. No nose for news. Things like that.”

“I’ve heard you were pretty good.”

“Killingsworth didn’t think so.”

“What’d you think of him?”

“Professionally?”

“Any way you care to tell it.”

“He was a better promoter than he was managing editor. He didn’t like to offend anyone—at least not anyone important—so he didn’t and the paper got a little bland. Even dull. He married the old man’s daughter and after a while the only thing to do was to make him associate publisher and then publisher when the old man died. I suppose you had to make him an ambassador because of services rendered and money contributed, but I still think it was a sorry trick to play on—”

The phone rang, interrupting me, and Coors picked it up. When he learned who was on the line he stiffened into a kind of seated attention and used his lids to half hood his large gray-blue eyes. It gave him something of a secretive look which he may have felt would keep me from eavesdropping. The eyes were the only thing large about him. The rest was spare and small-boned. Even his face didn’t have enough flesh for middle-aged sag and Coors must have been close to fifty. His chin formed a blunt, bony point, a wide, bloodless slash served for a mouth, and the base of his nose started close to his lip and then flared up and out so that you got a good view of his nostrils. His hair was the color of a cigar’s ash, a cheap cigar, and it was thinning a little and he brushed it straight down so that it formed raggedy bangs across a high, pale forehead. His tweed suit was good, I noticed, but nothing spectacular, although he might have gone as high as fifteen dollars for his tie.

Coors said, “Yes, sir,” into the phone, so I assumed that he was talking to at least an Under Secretary of State. He didn’t much look as if he would say “Yes, sir” to anything less.

“He’s here now,” Coors said. “Yes, sir … I understand.” Then there was an audible click and Coors hung up. He turned back to me, unhooded his eyes so that I could hear again, and unnecessarily explained, “That was about you.”

“What about me?”

“Some had grave reservations. So did I.”

“I still do,” I said.

“We might yet use our own people,” Coors said.

“No. If you could, I wouldn’t be sitting here and you’d be back in your real office, the one with your name by the door. Seventh floor?”

“Sixth,” Coors said and then began a close inspection of the fingernails on his left hand. They looked to be nicely bitten. “So you’re none too eager?”

“You know I’m not.”

“It’s all really quite simple.”

“No, it isn’t,” I said. “If it were simple, there wouldn’t be any question about using your own people. Or even the CIA. Kidnapping American ambassadors still isn’t as popular a pastime as hijacking planes to Cuba, but it’s getting there. I’d even bet that there’s a form memo tucked away in every embassy safe that’s headed, ‘What to Do After the Ambassador’s Kidnapped,’ so you wouldn’t call me in if it were just the simple chore of ransoming the Chicken.”

“The what?”

“The Chicken,” I said. “That’s what they used to call Killingsworth on the paper, because he was. Chicken.”

Coors frowned carefully and it may have been the same frown that he employed when the new African ambassador’s tart of a wife chose the wrong fork in the Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room. “You weren’t exactly our first choice, Mr. St. Ives. You weren’t even our second, and if it weren’t for the time factor, we would—”

“Why don’t you?” I interrupted. “Why not get a bright young Harvard or Yale man from one of those ever so discreet Washington-New York-Paris law firms. You know what I mean. The kind with five or six grand old names strung together that probably got its start sixty years ago when it handled one of those banana revolutions for you and United Fruit down in South America. They don’t charge much. Not more than ten or fifteen times what I do and nobody’s ever complained about their manners.”

Coors hooded his eyes again. “You think you’re an extremely clever person, don’t you?” he said and managed to make person sound like son of a bitch. But there was no venom in his tone despite the reptilian look. There was only a kind of resigned weariness as if his lot in life were to put up with an endless series of jaspers who felt that they were extremely clever sons of bitches.

“I only asked a question,” I said.

“I know you did. You want to know why we picked wonderful you. First of all, you were logical because you’ve had a measure of experience in this kind of business.”

“It’s how I make a living.”

“Secondly, you could become readily available.”

“That only took the threat of a Congressional investigation,” I said. “I liked that. You had to have someone who’d lose if he said no, so whoever remembered me and the African shield fiasco must have gone around chuckling about it all morning.”

“The last, but not least of our considerations, is that you’re an outsider and as such will have a controlled, strictly limited access to others in the department.”

“How’s that an advantage?” I said.

“Security,” Coors said.

“You don’t trust your own kind?”

“Not with this.”

“What about the CIA? There’re days when they don’t talk much. Fridays, I think.”

“It’s our own dirty linen,” Coors said and looked mildly pleased with the cryptic flavor of the worn phrase.

“How dirty?”

“Filthy.”

“What makes you so sure I won’t gossip down at the corner laundromat?” I said, poking a flicker of life into the dying analogy.

“If you did,” Coors said slowly, “you might find yourself in a rather embarrassing position.” He shook his head decisively. “No, you won’t ever talk about our dirty linen, Mr. St. Ives.”

“I’ll ask again. Why?”

The smile that he gave me had a fine chill in it which fully matched the snow and slush outside. “You won’t talk about it,” he said, “because before you’re done, you’ll be wearing it.”

Chapter 2

IT HAD ALL STARTED the day before in one of those cold, drafty halls that you can hire by the hour over on West Thirty-ninth Street and the canvas banner that hung above the platform spelled out CHEAPAR in fat Gothic letters and also portrayed a cuddly-looking rat with mellow blue eyes.

The audience consisted of nearly three-dozen men and women whose common denominator was a warm, misty expression and a prosperous, even rich appearance. I estimated that at least three of them had yet to celebrate their sixty-fifth birthdays.

The audience just escaped being outnumbered by members of the New York press who, as usual, had nothing either warm or misty about their expressions. We had drawn three local television news teams, four radio reporters, three photographers, a brace of wire service men, and accredited representatives from the Times, the Daily News, the Post, and The Village Voice. The Wall Street Journal had failed to show.

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