The Melting Clock - Stuart M. Kaminsky - ebook

The Melting Clock ebook

Stuart M. Kaminsky

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Opis

A prank by a flamboyant Spanish artist could cost Toby Peters his life. An ax-wielding monk hacks at the door. Toby Peters is on the other side, running as fast as his recently broken leg will allow. Alongside him is Salvador Dalí, dressed in a rabbit suit, insistently muttering "grasshoppers" as they try to make their escape. Dalí insists on being carried across the lawn, so Peters hobbles along with the surrealist in his arms. They get in the car just as the monk chops down the front door. The car doesn't start, and the monk charges silently, the ax in the air. This is not the strangest thing that has happened to Toby Peters this week. Life has been odd ever since the call came from Dalí's wife. Peters, suffering from post - New Year's malaise, was happy to look into the theft of three of Dalí's paintings. He had no idea that the investigation might end with his face being turned into abstract art. 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

A prank by a flamboyant Spanish artist could cost Toby Peters his life.

An ax-wielding monk hacks at the door. Toby Peters is on the other side, running as fast as his recently broken leg will allow. Alongside him is Salvador Dalí, dressed in a rabbit suit, insistently muttering “grasshoppers” as they try to make their escape. Dalí insists on being carried across the lawn, so Peters hobbles along with the surrealist in his arms. They get in the car just as the monk chops down the front door. The car doesn’t start, and the monk charges silently, the ax in the air. This is not the strangest thing that has happened to Toby Peters this week.

Life has been odd ever since the call came from Dalí’s wife. Peters, suffering from post - New Year’s malaise, was happy to look into the theft of three of Dalí’s paintings. He had no idea that the investigation might end with his face being turned into abstract art.

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 Melting Clock

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 © 2011 by The Mysterious Press, LLC, 58 Warren Street, New York, NY. U.S.A.

 

Copyright © 1991 by Stuart M. Kaminsky

 

Project management: Lori Herber

Cover adaptation: Christin Wilhelm, www.grafic4u.de

Cover design by Mumtaz Mustafa

 

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

 

ISBN 978-3-95859-057-1

 

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.

To our good friends Carol Johnson and Richard Lilly on the Peniche Astrolabe

The secret lies in lucidly keeping a steady course between the waves of madness and the straight lines of logic.

—Salvador Dali

Chapter 1

Grasshoppers,” Salvador Dali whispered, shrinking back as I opened the door. He didn’t say “grasshoppers” exactly, it was more like “grah-zoppairs,” but I understood the word as he repeated it, his eyes open wide, his long, dark waxed mustaches curled upward at the end like sharp-pointed black surgical needles.

“A giant monk with an ax is coming through that door behind you in about ten seconds,” I said.

The door I was pointing to shuddered.

“Make that five, Sal. What’ll it be, a couple of grasshoppers outside or a split personality?”

Dali, dressed in a white rabbit suit, removed the deerstalker hat perched on his head and pointed at the splintering door with one hand. Then he did a little dance from foot to foot as if he had to find a toilet.

It wasn’t much of a room, a couple of mismatched chairs with a small round table between them. A table-top Philco radio was on and Martha Tilton was singing “From Taps Till I Hear Reveille.” The room looked as if it were set up for a seance or a sanctuary to worship the Blue Network. The room did have one thing going for it—a big window through which, by the light of the full moon and about forty yards away down the hill, I could see a party going on. Beyond the party, I could see the Pacific Ocean.

We were in Carmel, the house Dali and Gala were renting for the duration of the war. We’d just finished a whirlwind tour of the place. It had had to be quick. The ax wielder kept cutting it short.

“No, no, no, no,” Dali had shouted three rooms and a century ago, “Not the fish room.” We had run through an area apparently intended to comprise the living room. It had deep, overstuffed blue furniture, pale blue walls. On one wall a big fat blue fish was painted. The fish had been smiling.

As we stood now, only one door between us and the pebbled driveway where my Crosley was waiting to rescue us, a panicked Dali repeated “Grasshoppers” once more, emphatically, as if I were the town idiot who couldn’t understand that the possibility of encountering a grasshopper ranked right up there with being on the ground at Hickem Field when the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor.

The head of the monk’s ax hit the door behind us again and went through, sending a hefty splinter flying over Dali’s shoulder. The chunk of wood landed in my quiver of arrows. Bull’s-eye.

“We go,” said Dali, dashing past me to open the door to the grounds.

Once outside, Dali exploded in hysteria, and I looked back to see the head of the ax back out of the hole through which I could now see the monk’s robe and black hood.

I followed Dali and kicked the door shut behind us. There was enough light from the windows in the room behind us for me to see Dali’s Sherlock Bunny face as he stood frozen, his eyes on the ground in front of us searching for the dreaded …

“Grasshoppers,” he gasped.

The giant behind us took another whack at the interior door. I heard a hinge give. I thought. My Crosley was about twenty yards away. Dali’s nearest neighbor was about half a mile away. I was no more than five-nine and 160 pounds on a good day. Dali was at least two inches shorter and no more than 130 pounds tops, even with the rabbit suit. But Dali was about forty, and I was looking at half a century in the calendar. Besides, I was recovering from a recently broken leg.

“I’m not carrying you,” I said, moving toward my car.

“Listen,” Dali whispered grabbing my sleeve.

“Grasshoppers, crickets, a bunch of tree frogs. Can we continue our nature studies in the car?”

A breeze came up from the ocean and billowed Dali’s loose white fur. It might have been kind of cute if an ax hadn’t just destroyed what remained of the inside door.

The hell with it. I picked Dali up in my arms like a baby and staggered to the Crosley. My back would make me pay for this later, but so would Dali if I lived to send him a bill and he lived to pay it. I could smell Dali’s mustache wax and hair cream. It’s Jarvis, I thought, putting him down near the passenger door. He didn’t want to go down but he didn’t have a choice. Somewhere between the house and the car he had lost the deerstalker and his slicked-back hair had started to rise like a frightened character in a Popeye cartoon. He let out a squeak appropriate to his costume and reached for the door. I grabbed his hand.

“Driver’s door’s broken, remember?” I said.

“No,” Dali squealed.

I didn’t answer. I pushed past him and did the twists and turns to get myself into the driver’s seat. Since the Crosley was only a little bigger than one of those midget cars the clowns squeeze into in the circus, it was no mean trick, especially with Dali almost on my back.

The unlocked back door of the house crashed open and a dull orange bolt of light came through the dirty rear windows of my car. Dali hyperventilated at my side as I reached for the ignition. The key was still where I’d left it. Fortunately, the monk with the ax was no Clifton Fadiman.

I turned the key. Nothing.

The orange bolt dulled with the approaching shadow of the mad monk.

“Vehemence,” said Dali, looking back over his shoulder. “Patti, avant, go.”

“It won’t go,” I said.

“Dali says it must go,” he demanded, holding up a single finger before my face as if he were a scolding teacher and I was the class dunce.

“It won’t go,” I repeated.

“Shoot him, Peters,” Dali demanded as the ax wielder moved in front of the Crosley.

“My gun’s broken,” I said.

“Then, then …” Dali stammered.

“Yeah,” I agreed.

“This is not happening to Dali,” he said, closing his eyes. “Where is Gala? She must do something.”

Since his wife was on the beach, surrounded by people in idiotic costumes, I didn’t think we had much chance of hearing from her in the next fifteen seconds. There was no way I could get past Dali and out the passenger door in time. I wouldn’t be able to run.

While I was considering all this, the ax blade came down on the hood of the Crosley about a foot from my face. Metal clanked against metal and the blade bit into the tinfoil hood of the car. Dali tried to climb backward over his seat but there was nowhere to go. The blade came out with the screech of a demon’s fingernail across a black heart.

The monk stepped back and looked from Dali to me, deciding who should lose his head first. I lost. The monk started around to my side of the car.

“Open the door,” I whispered. “And run like hell. Get help.”

The ax scratched across my window and I thought I saw a grin in the darkness of the hood. I didn’t grin back.

“Now,” I told Dali.

“No,” he said, behind me.

“Why?”

“Grasshoppers,” he whispered.

Chapter 2

It all started that Friday, New Year’s Day, 1943. Well, at least the year started that Friday. The things that led to me being nose-to-nose with an ax-carrying lunatic through the not-very-thick glass of my car window probably began when we were both born. Maybe a hell of a lot earlier.

It was sometime in the afternoon at Mrs. Plaut’s boarding house on Heliotrope in a not-so-bad area of Los Angeles not far from downtown. Mrs. Plaut had thrown a wild party the night before to welcome in the new year. To celebrate the occasion, she had put together a dress that looked like a shroud with lunatic flowers of every shape and color sewn onto it. There was very little of her in the first place. Eighty years of life had eroded her into a tough hickory cane lost in the enormity of that dress, the construction of which she had badly miscalculated, probably based on memories of a more matronly body.

Highlights of the Plaut festivities, in order, were:

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!