The Fala Factor - Stuart M. Kaminsky - ebook
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Hollywood PI Toby Peters looks for a kidnapped dog - with political connections. If he is surprised to find Eleanor Roosevelt waiting for him in his dingy little office, Toby Peters does not show it. Although this is his first time working for the First Lady of the United States, years of private investigations for the Hollywood elite have left him unfazed by a famous face. The First Lady comes straight to the point. Six months after Pearl Harbor, the only thing that keeps her husband from buckling under the pressures of the presidency is his dog, a sprightly black terrier named Fala. As America gears up for war, Mrs. Roosevelt has a secret domestic problem: She fears that Fala has been kidnapped and replaced by an imposter. As he investigates the dog's whereabouts, Toby learns that the dog is the linchpin in a fiendish plot against the White House. He must recover the real Fala quickly, for the fate of the free world rests in the terrier's paws. About the Author. Stuart M. Kaminsky (1934-2009) was one of the most prolific crime fiction authors of the last four decades. Born in Chicago, he spent his youth immersed in pulp fiction and classic cinema - two forms of popular entertainment which he would make his life's work. After college and a stint in the army, Kaminsky wrote film criticism and biographies of the great actors and directors of Hollywood's Golden Age. In 1977, when a planned biography of Charlton Heston fell through, Kaminsky wrote Bullet for a Star, his first Toby Peters novel, beginning a fiction career that would last the rest of his life. Kaminsky penned twenty-four novels starring the detective, whom he described as "the anti-Philip Marlowe." In 1981's Death of a Dissident, Kaminsky debuted Moscow police detective Porfiry Rostnikov, whose stories were praised for their accurate depiction of Soviet life. His other two series starred Abe Lieberman, a hardened Chicago cop, and Lew Fonseca, a process server. In all, Kaminsky wrote more than sixty novels. He died in St. Louis in 2009. Review quote. "Kaminsky stands out as a subtle historian, unobtrusively but entertainingly weaving into the story itself what people were wearing, eating, driving, and listening to on the radio. A page-turning romp." - Booklist. "For anyone with a taste for old Hollywood B-movie mysteries, Edgar winner Kaminsky offers plenty of nostalgic fun . . . The tone is light, the pace brisk, the tongue firmly in cheek." - Publishers Weekly. "Marvelously entertaining." - Newsday. "Makes the totally wacky possible . . . Peters [is] an unblemished delight." - Washington Post. "The Ed McBain of Mother Russia." - Kirkus Reviews.

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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

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

Looking for more suspense?

Cover

Begin Reading

About the Book

Hollywood PI Toby Peters looks for a kidnapped dog - with political connections.

If he is surprised to find Eleanor Roosevelt waiting for him in his dingy little office, Toby Peters does not show it. Although this is his first time working for the First Lady of the United States, years of private investigations for the Hollywood elite have left him unfazed by a famous face. The First Lady comes straight to the point. Six months after Pearl Harbor, the only thing that keeps her husband from buckling under the pressures of the presidency is his dog, a sprightly black terrier named Fala. As America gears up for war, Mrs. Roosevelt has a secret domestic problem: She fears that Fala has been kidnapped and replaced by an imposter.

As he investigates the dog’s whereabouts, Toby learns that the dog is the linchpin in a fiendish plot against the White House. He must recover the real Fala quickly, for the fate of the free world rests in the terrier’s paws.

About the Author

Stuart M. Kaminsky (1934-2009) was one of the most prolific crime fiction authors of the last four decades. Born in Chicago, he spent his youth immersed in pulp fiction and classic cinema - two forms of popular entertainment which he would make his life’s work. After college and a stint in the army, Kaminsky wrote film criticism and biographies of the great actors and directors of Hollywood’s Golden Age. In 1977, when a planned biography of Charlton Heston fell through, Kaminsky wrote Bullet for a Star, his first Toby Peters novel, beginning a fiction career that would last the rest of his life.

Kaminsky penned twenty-four novels starring the detective, whom he described as “the anti-Philip Marlowe.” In 1981’s Death of a Dissident, Kaminsky debuted Moscow police detective Porfiry Rostnikov, whose stories were praised for their accurate depiction of Soviet life. His other two series starred Abe Lieberman, a hardened Chicago cop, and Lew Fonseca, a process server. In all, Kaminsky wrote more than sixty novels. He died in St. Louis in 2009.

The Fala Factor

Stuart M. Kaminsky

 

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 © 1984 by Stuart M. Kaminsky

 

Project management: Lori Herber

Cover adaptation: Christin Wilhelm, www.grafic4u.de

 

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

 

ISBN 978-3-95859-166-0

 

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.

Once in 1945, when General Eisenhower came to lay a wreath on Franklin’s grave, the gates of the regular driveway were opened and his automobile approached the house accompanied by the wailing of the sirens of a police escort. When Fala heard the sirens, his legs straightened out, his ears pricked up and I knew that he expected to see his master coming down the drive as he had come so many times.

—Eleanor Roosevelt, On My Own

Chapter 1

THE LITTLE BLACK DOG on my desk wanted to play, but with a corpse sitting in the corner and a murderer on the way up to my office on the elevator I just wasn’t in the mood. I patted his head, tried not to smell his breath, and said, “Maybe later.”

This didn’t please him. The Scottie lay down, covering the letter telling me where I was to pick up my sugar ration stamp book, put his head on his front paws, and looked up at me sadly. I checked my .38 automatic to be sure it was loaded, aimed it tentatively at the door to my office and hoped that I wouldn’t have to use it, and, if I did, that it would work. It had never proved particularly reliable in the past.

Somewhere far below, the elevator of the Farraday Building ground its way upward. When I was a cop in Glendale back in 1933 or ’34, I’d been on a call with my partner, a guy named John Thompson, who was short, dark, like a floor model Philco radio. He had a few months to go before retirement when we saw a couple of guys running out of a cigar store looking a little excited. We would have paid no attention if one of them hadn’t been holding a shotgun.

Thompson had sighed, “Oh shit,” pulled our car over, shuffled out, and, with me backing him up, stepped in front of the two guys, who were so busy looking back at the cigar store they didn’t see us till we were no more than a ten-foot pole apart.

“What seems to be the discrepancy?” Thompson had said in his beer-grated voice. One of the two stopped and turned to us with his mouth open. He was about thirty and needed a shave and a good dentist. The other guy, the one with the shotgun, was older, maybe forty, and apparently slow of mind and body. His shotgun came up in an arc that would have brought its barrel in line with my stomach in the time between two heartbeats. I didn’t, couldn’t move. Next to me I heard Thompson let out the start of a weary little puff of air, but I didn’t hear the end of it. It was covered by the shot that John took at the shotgun holder. My left ear went temporarily deaf but my right ear caught the sound of the shotgun clattering to the sidewalk.

The gun skittered toward us, sending up sparks. The sound went down my back like false teeth on a wet blackboard. That was the sound that the Farraday Building elevator always reminded me of, but that wasn’t the reason I seldom took the elevator. The elevator was just too damned slow for transportation. If it weren’t for the noise, it would have been great for thinking, but I couldn’t think of anything but that shotgun when I rode in the Farraday elevator.

So, there I was, May 1942, a little black dog on my desk, a Tuesday night when I was supposed to have been with Carmen watching Henry Armstrong take on two guys in an exhibition at the Ocean Park Arena. If the dog and I made it through the next hour, I might still be able to pick Carmen up and catch the match. I knew I had at least four bucks left. So, with a buck for the tickets I could … The dog whined. He either needed a walk, sensed my fear, or had some moment of dog magic that told him something was about to happen.

The elevator ground up past the first floor. My office, really a closet inside the offices of Sheldon Minck, D.D.S., was on the fourth floor. So, considering the speed of the elevator and the way things seemed to be slowing down, I had plenty of time. I glanced over at the corpse in the corner. He looked like a guy who just fell asleep waiting in Union Station for the next train to Anaheim. His hands were folded in his lap and his chin was resting on his chest. His eyes were closed. I had closed them. A whisp of hair dangled over his forehead and down past his nose. If he were a cartoon character, he’d have blown the wisp of hair away while still asleep and the audience would have laughed. But he wasn’t blowing and he wasn’t funny.

The dog whined again and I looked down at him. His brown eyes looked up at my face. What he saw was a private detective named Toby Peters who was closer to fifty than forty-five, had more than a few gray hairs in his sideburns, sweated too easily, and lived with an always sore back and memories bought with hard time. Standing up, which I seemed to be doing less and less, I was close to five nine. My face was dark and most notable for the piece of flesh in its center, which could only charitably be called a nose. God began to remold my nose when I was about thirteen. God used my older brother Phil as his instrument and my brother used a baseball. Later God, without too much creativity, remolded the nose some more with an automobile windshield. Still not content, he let my brother put the final touches to the job with his fist.

That God/sculpture explanation isn’t mine. It was given to me a few years back by my landlord at the Farraday, Jeremy Butler, ex-pro wrestler, present poet. I didn’t see the work of God in my nose when I looked in the mirror or at my reflection in a store window on Main Street. I saw a tough-looking, surprisingly amused man who needed a new suit and a shave.

“Dog,” I said aloud. “why am I happy?”

The dog whined again, but it wasn’t heightened animal awareness. I was now sure he needed a walk I looked around and decided that he couldn’t relieve himself anywhere in my office. I could let him out into Shelly’s office and pretend I didn’t know what he was doing. Given the recently scrubbed state of Shelly’s lair, even Shelly might notice.

“Dog,” I whispered, patting his head, “you’ll just have to hold it. Think about something else.”

The dog had no intention of thinking of something else. He stood up again on his stumpy legs and looked toward the window and downtown Los Angeles. There was an alley out there but it was four stories down.

The elevator ground past the second floor and the corpse slumped a little further in his chair, probably from the vibrations of the approaching elevator. Maybe it was a warning. Whatever it was, it scared the dog, which stood up on the desk and proved that he couldn’t think about something else. I jumped up and back, but my office is just big enough for my desk, my chair, and one other chair jammed behind the door. There was no place to escape but out the window. His leg was up and he was aiming at the telephone.

“No,” I said calmly. “Don’t. Wait. For Chrissake, is a little bladder retention too much to ask after all I’ve done for you?”

I didn’t expect him to understand me, at least not the words. When I was a kid, I had had a dog named Murphy. I used to talk to Murphy a lot, and he always pretended that he understood, which is what dogs learn to do early when they discover that they’re really too stupid to understand. Sometimes you can fool a dog that way. The dog in my office was smarter than the average dog. He put his paw down and whined.

I reached over to the desk and into the bag of Fritos I’d picked up earlier at Safeway and offered a handful to the dog. He sniffed at them, forgot his problem for a second, licked a Frito, took one in his mouth, and sat down to chew on it.

I had lost track of time. Maybe it was the grinding of Fritos in dog teeth that had covered the sound, but I suddenly realized that the elevator had stopped. I tried to listen but the dog had gone for the Frito bag and was pushing paper and grinding, his black nose turning Frito orange. The door to the outside office opened, and then the inner door. All that was left for the killer was to take six or seven stops across the room and open my office door. Above the sound of the distracted dog on my desk I counted the steps and watched as the shadow fell across the pebbled glass of my door.

A hand reached for the door, hesitated, and turned the knob. I reached for my gun on the desk, but it wasn’t where I had just put it. The dog had probably kicked it to the floor, where it lay somewhere in darkness.

The door began to open, and I had no time to come up with a plan that didn’t include a gun in my hand. I sat back as the door pushed cautiously forward and did my best to look like a dangerous man who has aces full. I said, “We’ve been waiting for you. Sorry I can’t offer you a chair but the only one I’ve got is occupied by a corpse.”

The killer, whose gun I was trying not to look at, stepped in and with a smile said, “Then both chairs will soon be occupied by corpses.”

“I don’t think so,” I said, grinning and reaching slowly to pat the damned dog that might be responsible for getting me permanently punctured. “I’ve got a few things to tell you.”

“Have you?” said the killer with some amusement, closing the door and stepping in. The gun was now leveled at my belly, about where the shotgun would have pointed a decade earlier if Thompson hadn’t put a not-too-neat hole in that robber in Gleadale. But Thompson couldn’t help me now. He had retired to a hardware store in Fresno.

“I have,” I said, hoping to catch a glimpse of that damned gun from the corner of my eye.

“Then tell them. I’ve always liked The Arabian Nights, Mr. Peters,” said the killer with smart-ass amusement, leaning back against the wall. “You like Scheherazade, will live as long as your tales amuse me and are relevant to our present situation.”

“What I have to say you’ll find interesting,” I said with a lopsided grin.

“Begin,” said the killer, and since I had no idea what I was going to say, I cursed the moment one week earlier on a May day when I had entered the Farraday Building feeling sorry for myself but expecting more than a week of time left on earth.

Chapter 2

NORMALLY, I PARKED my ’38 Ford coupe behind the Farraday. But “normally” didn’t exist any longer. There was a war on and car parts were hard to get, especially tires. The best source for fenders, running boards, bumpers, and tires was your friendly neighborhood garage mechanic, who might have a deal with some enterprising youngsters or oldsters who could strip a defenseless car in three minutes. If the war went on more than a few years, I suggested to No-Neck Arnie, the mechanic who had sold me the car, we’d get to the point where there would be only a few cars left, each one a monster combination of Fords, DeSotos, Caddies, and whatever.

“You’re a philosopher,” Arnie had said, shifting his body around to look at me, since he had no neck. “Like that guy on the radio, what’s his name, Fred Allen.”

I had a deal with Arnie. I parked my car in his garage, where he stopped his people from taking it apart. He also kept it running. In exchange for this, he charged me more than the usual war budget, which, considering the times, was quite fair. I looked back at the Ford, whose bumper sagged and whose right headlight looked bloodshot.

“A beauty, Arn,” I said before going out through the open garage door. I was in no hurry. I had nothing waiting for me in the office besides a list of phone calls to make to see if I could pick up some fill-in for hotel detectives who might be going on vacation. I also had a lead on some guard work at Grumman’s. A guy I had once worked with at Warner Brothers told me they were beefing up their night staff now that they had government contracts, and maybe I could get on part-time.

That was going to be the last call on my list. The Grumman lead was desperation, a confession that I was up against it. I had told myself five years earlier that I was not going to put on a uniform again, not no time, not never. I’d made my vow after wearing the Glendale cop uniform and the uniform of the security staff at Warners. There was no way I was going to put on a uniform again unless there was nothing else to do. Not never comes sooner than you think when you have to come up with the rent and enough cereal and eggs to stay alive.

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!