The Disappearance - Collin Wilcox - ebook
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Searching for a missing society matron, Hastings finds danger amid the upper crust. In a glamorous part of San Francisco, a maid has been strangled to death. Frank Hastings stands over the body, knowing it will be a long day. But before finishing with the crime scene, he gets another call - an officer has been shot, and Hastings must lead the tactical squad. By lunchtime, the boy who shot the officer is dead, and Hastings is hungry for an easy assignment. When he gets it, he'll soon wish he were back in the line of fire. The wife of a thirty-five-year-old millionaire, Carol Connoly is lovely, fabulous, and not terribly exciting - a perfect star for the society pages. Her only hobby is acting, which she pursues in grubby little black boxes on the city's fringe. She's leaving rehearsal one night when she disappears. For this brutish cop, it will take a light touch to rescue the delicate missing lady.

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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

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About the Book

Searching for a missing society matron, Hastings finds danger amid the upper crust.

In a glamorous part of San Francisco, a maid has been strangled to death. Frank Hastings stands over the body, knowing it will be a long day. But before finishing with the crime scene, he gets another call - an officer has been shot, and Hastings must lead the tactical squad. By lunchtime, the boy who shot the officer is dead, and Hastings is hungry for an easy assignment. When he gets it, he’ll soon wish he were back in the line of fire.

The wife of a thirty-five-year-old millionaire, Carol Connoly is lovely, fabulous, and not terribly exciting - a perfect star for the society pages. Her only hobby is acting, which she pursues in grubby little black boxes on the city’s fringe. She’s leaving rehearsal one night when she disappears.

For this brutish cop, it will take a light touch to rescue the delicate missing lady.

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.

The Disappearance

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 © 1970 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 978-3-95859-577-4

 

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.

This book

is dedicated to Chris

1

AS I PULLED TO a stop and set the brake, the reporters came to cluster in a listless group around the cruiser. Dan Kanter, from the Bulletin, was yawning. Crime reporters weren’t accustomed to working in the morning, and as I glanced at my watch I saw that the time was only 9:15. It would be a long day.

I got out of the cruiser, automatically taking the count: two squad cars, a motorcycle, two cruisers, the crime lab truck, an ambulance and the assistant coroner’s car. It was the standard assortment, indicating a standard departmental homicide—nothing very dramatic, or puzzling, or very important. Yet the neighborhood was Sea Cliff, one of San Francisco’s best. Thus the larger-than-usual gaggle of reporters, so early in the morning.

“When’re we going to get a look, Lieutenant?” Kanter was asking.

“I don’t know. I haven’t had a look yet myself.”

“How’d the squeal read?”

“I don’t know. I got the call on my way to work. Just the call, no squeal.” I began pushing my way along the sidewalk. “You probably know more than I know.”

“They’re about ready to move the body,” someone complained, “and we haven’t got any pictures yet.”

“There might be a reason,” I answered shortly. “Anyhow, they won’t move it until I’ve had a look.”

“We understand it’s the family maid,” Kanter said.

Not replying, I nodded to the patrolman standing in the lushly planted entryway. As he opened the front door, I turned back to the reporters. “As soon as I find out anything, I’ll let you know. Before the body’s moved.” Then, ignoring the ritual rumblings of protest, I walked into the house.

Dick Culligan got to his feet, nodding. He’d been sitting at one end of a long brocaded sofa, talking to a slim, pale woman, a brunette of medium height, probably in her middle forties.

“This is Lieutenant Hastings,” Culligan said. “Mrs. Allingham, Lieutenant.”

She looked at me with large dark eyes. She was wearing a tailored silk housecoat. Her lips were pressed into a tight, prim line. Her face, without make-up, was creased with a network of small, well-bred wrinkles. She looked intelligent, rigidly self-possessed—and worried.

She nodded to me, then managed a low-voiced greeting. Her fingers, clasped in her lap, were fretfully twisting. As she swallowed, the cords of her neck tightened spasmodically. But she held my eyes steadily, determinedly.

I stared at her a last long, deliberate moment before Culligan said, “The lieutenant and I will be a few minutes, Mrs. Allingham. If you’d—” He paused, then said, “If you’d like to get something on—” He let it go unfinished.

Nodding, not replying, she got to her feet. Her walk was steady and self-possessed. She held her head straight and didn’t look back as she left the large living room.

As I followed Culligan down the rear corridor, I looked in at each room as we passed. The furnishings were elaborate and expensive. The Allinghams, I was thinking, must have paid a hundred thousand for the house and another thirty or forty thousand for the furnishings.

The corridor ended in a narrow flight of stairs. Culligan led the way down to a second level, obviously the maid’s quarters, laundry and utility rooms. A lab man was dusting the door handles, the doorframes and the opaque glass of an outside door. We squeezed past a big motorcycle patrolman, even bulkier in leather jacket, crash helmet and boots. As the lab man turned, I recognized Carl Estes, a young, breezy health-food fadist with a dumpy little wife and three dumpy little children.

“Hi, Carl. How’re you doing?”

“I got a thousand prints, Lieutenant, and one lovely little bloody smear.” He pointed to a brownish smudge on the frame of the outside door, close beside a heavy barrel bolt, drawn back. Culligan examined the blood closely, then grunted, “That’s no print, Carl.”

“I didn’t say it was. I said it was a smear.”

Culligan grunted again, straightened and waited for me to look. Then we walked the twenty-odd feet to the maid’s room.

She was lying beside the bed, flat on her back. Charlie Benson, the assistant coroner, was kneeling over the body. He looked up, then silently straightened, standing back. The room was perfectly quiet. I walked slowly forward, taking Charlie’s place beside the body.

Her right arm was extended straight out from the body; her left hand clutched the covers of the narrow bed. Her long dark hair had fallen across her face, but among the heavy dark strands I could see her right eye, staring straight up. Her left eye was concealed. Her mouth was open wide; her swollen tongue protruded between clenched teeth. Her throat was bruised, and on the dark flesh beneath her jaw were several small, shallow scratches. Her legs were drawn up in the typical agony of violent death.

She was wearing a transparent pink nightgown, cheaply made. The nightgown had been ripped down to the waist. She’d been stabbed repeatedly, perhaps a dozen times, from the base of her throat to her navel.

She’d been short, compactly made. Her breasts were full and firm, her waist narrow, her hips wide. She’d probably been in her middle twenties and weighed about a hundred and ten pounds.

I glanced at Charlie Benson. He stepped forward to stand beside me, staring thoughtfully down at the body.

“How long’s she been dead, would you say?”

He shrugged. “Six to ten hours, maybe. We’ll know more when we take the temperature and cut the stomach open.”

“What about those scratches on her throat?”

“Fingernails, probably. Looks like she was strangled, then stabbed. She might’ve been dead from asphyxia, as a matter of fact, before she was stabbed. Unusual.”

“Has she been raped?”

Again he shrugged. “Can’t tell. Not until we get her downtown. If I had to guess, though, I’d say no.”

I nodded, then looked carefully around the room. A table was crumpled against a wall, broken like a balsa wood movie prop. A small chintz armchair was overturned. A lamp, an alarm clock and broken bottles of perfume littered the floor. The odor of cheap perfume somehow made the excremental stench of death even worse. The alarm clock, I saw, was still running; the time was correct.

“Have you got everything you need?” I asked the photographer.

“Not quite, sir. I had one job already this morning, and—”

“All right. When you’ve finished, check with Inspector Culligan, will you?”

I took a last look around, nodded to the silent detectives and patrolmen, then walked out into the hallway, followed by Culligan. The door to the laundry room was open. I found a light switch, and we went inside.

“Well?” I asked, leaning against a large table heaped with laundry. “How’s it look? Anything?”

“Nothing yet.” Culligan looked back over his shoulder, toward the open door, obviously anxious to resume his investigation unhampered. Culligan was only thirty-three, young for a senior homicide inspector. But he looked forty-five. He was tall, stooped and balding. His complexion was sallow, accentuated by heavy, frowning brows and a perpetual five o’clock shadow. His biggest professional problem was a kind of ill-tempered impatience. He sometimes jumped to the wrong conclusion, rather than take the time to check his leads, then check them again. But Culligan was a hard-working, conscientious cop, unconcerned about the time clock. If ulcers didn’t slow him down, or cynicism affect his judgment, he’d be a good homicide detective. Someday.

“What’s the rundown?” I asked.

“Well—” He sighed, then returned his gaze to concentrate reluctantly on me. Culligan wasn’t interested in impressing a superior officer. That was something else about him that I liked.

“Well,” he said, “the call came in about seven-thirty this morning. The victim, Maria Gonzales, was supposed to’ve been up by that time, fixing the Allinghams’ breakfast. When she didn’t appear, Mrs. Allingham came down here to get her up. Apparently the girl overslept once in a while. Anyhow, the girl’s door was closed. The outside door at the end of this hallway—the one with the blood smear on it—that was closed, too. Everything appeared normal. But—” Culligan shrugged, gesturing to the room across the hall.

“What happened then?”

“Well, Mrs. Allingham let out a squawk and ran upstairs. Her husband came down, looked at the body and then phoned in downtown. His name is Herbert Allingham.”

“Where’s Mr. Allingham now?”

“He, uh, left about nine o’clock.” Culligan’s eyes flickered up to meet mine. He’d exceeded his authority. But I didn’t comment or change my expression. “He’s a stockbroker, see. I questioned him from about eight-fifteen until quarter to nine. He said that he had a big, important deal that he couldn’t miss out on. He was on the phone to his office and everything. They even called him from New York during that time—all of them in a lather, apparently. So, finally, I let him take his kid and leave. They’ll both be back just after three P.M. And, hell—” He jerked his hand in a typically impatient gesture, frowning. “The guy’s a big shot. Obviously. He did everything he could to cooperate, but he said that if he didn’t get downtown by nine-thirty at the latest, his big deal would fall through. And I believed him.” Now Culligan’s narrow dark eyes were touched with a kind of defensive defiance. “I verified his employment and everything. It all checked.”

Something about verifying Herbert Allingham’s employment struck me as funny, but I didn’t let it show.

“All right. What about the kid?”

He nodded, anticipating the question. “Darrell Allingham. He’s—” Culligan fished out his notebook. “He’s seventeen, a senior at Farnsworth School. That’s a private high school for boys, not too far from here. He usually leaves with his father in the morning, and both the mother and father seemed anxious to get him out of the house. So, again, I didn’t see any harm.”

“Did you talk to the kid?”

“Just to get a statement on his movements last night and cross-check his parents’ movements.”

“Does it all add up?”

“So far it does.”

“What’s the story?”

“Mr. and Mrs. Allingham went out about six-thirty P.M. They got home late, about two A.M. It was—” He glanced again at the notebook. “It was one of those museum openings, at the De Young. Mr. and Mrs. Allingham went to a cocktail party first, then to dinner, then to the opening. Then they went to another big party afterward. Apparently it was a big social occasion—tuxedos and all. Like opening night at the opera or something.”

“What about the kid?”

“Maria—the victim—gave him dinner about seven P.M. He says he did his homework and watched TV until eight-thirty, then went out.”

“Where?”

“To a movie. He got home about midnight. And—”

“On a Thursday night?”

Culligan nodded, then shrugged.

“All right. What about—”

The photographer stuck his head in the door. “All set, Lieutenant. I’m leaving. Prints in an hour and a half, downtown. Mr. Benson wants to know whether it’s all right with you if he moves the body.”

I looked at Culligan. He shrugged again, then nodded.

“All right,” I said. “He can take it away just as soon as Inspector Culligan gets there to witness the removal. Five minutes. Tell him, will you?”

“Check. See you later, Lieutenant.”

I said good-bye to him, then turned back to Culligan. “What about the maid’s movements last night? Anything on that yet?”

“We haven’t had a chance to check. But Mrs. Allingham says the girl had a couple of friends in the neighborhood—other servants, including a chauffeur just down the street that the victim used to date.”

“Okay, so far so good.” I glanced at my watch. “I’ve got to go downtown. You canvass the neighborhood and look around for the weapon. I think you should be able to handle it with the men you’ve got. I’ll get the lab findings and the coroner’s report, then get back out here sometime between three and five. If I can’t make it, I’ll call you. And if I leave for anywhere but here, I’ll let you know. Okay?”

“Yessir.”

“I’ll talk to the reporters on my way out and tell them they can’t come inside. It’s too close quarters, don’t you think?”

“Definitely.”

We were standing in the narrow hallway. Estes, the lab man, was carefully sweeping the floor, a square yard at a time. Marking the squares, he emptied the contents into separate plastic envelopes, tagging the envelopes to correspond to the floor areas swept.

“Anything else turn up?” I asked him.

“Not that I can see, Lieutenant. It’ll take hours, I’d say, to sort out those prints and eliminate the members of the household.”

Not replying, I looked thoughtfully up and down the hallway. Beside me, Culligan was doing the same.

“That bolt on the outside door,” I said finally. “It was found open. Is that it?”

“Right. But the door was closed, on a spring lock.”

“Was she in the habit of bolting the door?”

“Most of the time she did, but not all the time, according to Mr. and Mrs. Allingham.” Culligan hesitated, then decided to say, “I haven’t been able to pin it down yet—I was just starting to interrogate Mrs. Allingham, for instance, when you came—but I get the feeling that both she and her husband are holding something back, where Maria’s concerned. For instance, I asked them whether Maria entertained men in her room. And Mrs. Allingham especially didn’t seem willing to give me a straight answer.”

“What about her husband?”

“Well, he—” Culligan hesitated again, searching for the thought. “He’s kind of a high-powered, big businessman type. You know: used to asking the questions instead of answering them. So it was hard to pin him down, especially about Maria’s habits. But I just get the feeling that both of them are holding back, like I said.”

“Maybe the old man visits Maria downstairs once in a while. It’s happened before. Or the boy. He’s seventeen, you say?”

Culligan nodded, frowning. Benson came out into the hallway. “Hey,” he said, “I haven’t had breakfast yet.”

“You’re not the only one,” I answered. “Tell you what: you get the body moved, and I’ll talk to the reporters. Then I’ll toss you for ham and eggs.”

“Beautiful. I know a good place just a few blocks from here. Ten minutes?”

“Ten minutes.” I jumped over one of Estes’ unswept squares, stared one last time at the blood-smeared door and then went upstairs.

2

BY 10:45 BENSON AND I had finished a hurried breakfast and gone our separate ways. It was a warm October morning, and I was driving down Pine Street with the windows open, heading for the Hall of Justice. I’d turned the radio low and didn’t catch the call the first time. The second time, though, the urgency in the dispatcher’s voice caught my attention, just in time.

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!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!