The Pariah - Collin Wilcox - ebook
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A pious killer stalks the Tenderloin, hunting streetwalkers in the name of the Lord. After years of turning tricks and shooting junk, Amy has reached the end of the line. Heroin has wrecked her body, and her pimp is contemplating cutting her loose when she takes a client to the Bayside Hotel. The john asks her to turn around and undress, and as she slips out of her clothes for the thousandth time, he places his hands around her neck and starts to squeeze. San Francisco Homicide does not rush to investigate the death of a hooker. Although Lieutenant Frank Hastings does his due diligence, he has no expectation of finding Amy's killer. But when the trail leads him to the son of a famous TV evangelist, he realizes that the case may be even tougher than he expected. Elton Holloway is a fanatically religious young man - but does he love God enough to kill?

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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

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15

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35

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Cover

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About the Book

A pious killer stalks the Tenderloin, hunting streetwalkers in the name of the Lord.

After years of turning tricks and shooting junk, Amy has reached the end of the line. Heroin has wrecked her body, and her pimp is contemplating cutting her loose when she takes a client to the Bayside Hotel. The john asks her to turn around and undress, and as she slips out of her clothes for the thousandth time, he places his hands around her neck and starts to squeeze.

San Francisco Homicide does not rush to investigate the death of a hooker. Although Lieutenant Frank Hastings does his due diligence, he has no expectation of finding Amy’s killer. But when the trail leads him to the son of a famous TV evangelist, he realizes that the case may be even tougher than he expected. Elton Holloway is a fanatically religious young man - but does he love God enough to kill?

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 Pariah

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 © 1988 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 978-3-95859-587-3

 

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.

This book is

dedicated to the

memory of my mother

who was a one-of-a-kind person

1

EARLIER IN THE DAY, in the afternoon, he’d walked this way, rehearsing. Already, he’d learned the importance of rehearsal. When he was only a child, watching his father—listening, learning—he’d been aware of the importance of knowing what would happen—when—how—in precisely what sequence. So that, now, he was walking without looking.

Yes—walking without looking …

It was necessary, absolutely essential, that his eyes make contact with no one, with nothing. Because the eyes were the windows of the soul, revealing everything: two tunnels, leading straight to his essence, deep within himself.

Everything, the trivial and the monumental, the good and the evil, came through the eyes, into the brain, deep into the brain, then into the soul, deep into the soul, his father’s playground: sight into sensation, translated into substance, flesh acting on flesh, good battling evil, the eternal struggle.

Past into present, day into night, all of it focused here, now, inside himself, sensation into sight, translated into action, good struggling against evil, God’s eternal struggle.

The hotel entrance was behind him. Without looking, without revealing himself, he knew the broad steps leading up to the ornate brass doors were behind him, three shop fronts behind. The corner was ahead. He was aware of the intersection, without revealing his awareness. That, too, was essential. Deliberately, he’d not allowed the names of the two streets that formed the intersection to register on his conscious. He’d learned the importance of that, too—of keeping the surface of his mind absolutely smooth, utterly unblemished, therefore invulnerable, good and evil in equilibrium, rendering him safe. Absolutely safe.

Because sidewalks, streets, intersections, all of them carried the feet, the legs, the bodies—the faces.

And the faces carried the eyes.

And it was the faces, registering or not registering, that could betray him. Their faces, and their eyes—nothing else could harm him but their eyes. He knew that now, knew how the eyes could find any blemish on his consciousness. Then they could look inside, see beneath the surface of his consciousness, look straight through the two twin tunnels to the center of his soul.

It was logical, a logic that only he possessed. Therefore, it separated him from the rest of them, left him free, accountable only to God.

At the corner now, he was allowing himself to turn to the right. His footsteps, he knew, were synchronized to the rhythm of those around him. This, too, was essential. They must never know, must never suspect, that he was walking among them. Because if they knew, then they could guess his mission.

And God would forsake him, leaving him helpless, exposed—surely dead.

Another corner was approaching. This was the crucial intersection, the last right angle remaining. He would turn left, and then begin walking slowly, steadily straight ahead. And because he’d already done it, walked this way earlier, he was no longer compelled to think about it. Instead he could concentrate on the moments to come, focusing his essence on the task before him as he listened for the words that he knew were coming, instructing him.

And, yes, he could feel it beginning. Through the traffic sounds, above the cacophony of voices surrounding him, he could hear the commands: God’s will, materializing in words, slowly taking shape, thickening, words that would soon guide him, displacing his own thoughts, his own desires, his own fears. He could feel it beginning, the miracle that would set him free.

But he mustn’t look. He must not allow the full, focused force of his essence to slip beyond constant, conscious control, therefore dissipating the force field that would draw her to him, a helpless captive of his dominant essence.

Because if free will was compromised, vengeance was denied. It was a given, divinely ordained, as certain as eternal judgment.

Ahead, another intersection was coming closer, a third waypoint, the final guide. He’d known—he’d heard—that it would happen here, must happen here, between the second and the third—

“—about a date?”

The words released him. Therefore, if he chose, he could look at her, make his decision, leaving himself free to speak.

She was dressed in a skintight purple sweater, red plastic miniskirt, black stockings, red plastic boots, spike-heeled. She carried a large black handbag slung over her shoulder. Her eyes were magenta-shadowed, her full lips were painted red. Her skin was black.

There was, therefore, no need to speak. No longer seeing her, he could move on, gathering to himself his essence, God’s decree, his shield, invulnerable.

“Hi …”

It was a soft, unevenly spoken word, hardly more than an exhausted whisper. The face, too, was exhausted, its skin pale, almost translucent. The blue eyes were sunk deep in darkened sockets. The painted mouth was defeated, twitching as she said something meaningless, the obscene litany of her trade.

Without looking at her, he knew he could see her, therefore knew that, yes, he’d found her.

Dancer Browne yawned, rotated his head, flexed his shoulders, adjusted the volume of the Cleo Lane tape. On a warm September evening, sitting in a white-on-blue Continental that still smelled new, listening to his favorite singer, parked in his favorite parking place, The Dancer was aware that, at age twenty-seven, he had it all. The Continental was paid for, the new sergeant on the Tenderloin beat was coming around, and IBM was up more than forty points on the year. Dancer’s new girl, Jill, only nineteen, the daughter of a Milwaukee doctor, was earning more money than any of Dancer’s other girls, after less than a month in the life. He’d found her in the airport, sitting on her suitcase, frowning as she studied a map of San Francisco. One look into her eyes and Dancer saw dollar signs. It was all there: the anger, the defiance, the urge to self-destruct. He’d taken her home, bought her a twenty-dollar dinner and a hundred-dollar pair of boots, given her a fifty-dollar toot and shown her around his circular bed. A week later she turned her first trick.

Five more like Jill, and he could retire.

But five more like Amy, working just across the street, and he’d be old before he turned thirty. From the first, he’d known Amy would cost him. Junkies always cost him. By now he should have learned. Like tonight. It was already ten o’clock, and Amy hadn’t scored yet. And tonight, he’d promised himself, was the big one—Amy’s final exam. If she didn’t score, turn a profit for him, she was out. He’d shoot her up, load her into the Continental and take her down to Stockton, to Jerry Holmes. Jerry would know what to do with her.

As Dancer watched, Amy was moving into the glare of Teddy Parker’s FIGHTING GIRLS sign. She was hitting on another one: a man in his middle or late twenties, medium tall, dressed like a tourist, dark blond hair, empty eyes, pale, blank face. This one had stopped, at least, and was listening to Amy’s halfhearted pitch. Close by, Jill was coming out of the Bayside Hotel; already she’d turned three tricks, even on a slow Tuesday night. When Jill talked to them, they listened. Dancer looked at his watch, yawned again, adjusted the balance on the stereo. Cleo’s voice was like fine, mellow wine, like a woman’s fingertips soft on his bare skin. She was—

Across the street, Amy was scoring, moving the tall young trick out of the light from the sign, toward the Bayside. To Dancer, the trick seemed like an odd one: the way he looked, frozen-faced; the way he moved, like a stiff-legged, arm-locked zombie. But he was going along, letting Amy lead him inside the hotel. The Dancer nodded, mentally added another fifty dollars to the night’s cash flow: twenty-five for Amy, twenty-five for him.

As he walked behind her down the narrow, dimly lit hallway, he was aware of the gathering force, an invincibility so certain that the sights and sounds that surrounded him were fusing into a single aura of the eternal celestial presence, his invisible cloak, his invincible protection from evil, his armor against temptation.

Because the Devil was here, lurking unseen in this hallway of hell, crouching behind the door just ahead, where she was stopping now, stooping, fitting her key to the lock, allowing the door to swing slowly inward, revealing the cavern of depravity beyond.

Yet, if the Devil was here, God was here, too, on guard, guiding the placement of his feet upon the threadbare carpet, positioning the angle of his hands, the inclination of his head, the rotation and counterrotation of his head, his torso. Because God had entered the interior of his brain, and was touching His fingertips to the brain’s countless synapses, those millions of switches that controlled his thoughts, his feelings, his eternal destiny.

Still his vigilance must be constant. Because the Devil’s fingers could find the synapses, too. Once it had happened. Now, just about now, it had happened, as he was passing through a door like this door, entering a room like this room, preparing himself for God’s call, listening for the tiny voice of command.

And listening, too, for what she would say, also commanding him: “How’s this?” she asked, gesturing to the bed as she placed her oversize handbag on the bureau. “Okay?”

He knew that he was nodding. Did she expect him to speak? Didn’t she realize that, should he speak, contact would be shattered, leaving him helpless, a prey for the Devil?

Of course she realized. They were so incredibly diabolical, scheming to save themselves, twitching, turning, laughing, smiling. Didn’t she realize that only he could offer salvation once she’d surrendered?

No, she didn’t realize.

Of course she didn’t realize.

So it was essential that he smile. Once. Just once. One smile, one nod. No more was permitted.

“Just drop the fifty in the handbag, okay?” She gestured. “It’s open. Right?”

Lowering his eyes, he saw the fifty-dollar bill held between thumb and forefinger—his thumb and forefinger, guided by God’s fingertips, on the synapses. Yes, the money was dropping into the open maw of the handbag, itself an obscenity. Now, turning, he willed his eyes to focus on her face, only on her face. And, yes, he could see that they were beginning: he could see it in her face, the beginning of the final rites.

“So what’d you want to do?” The painted face twisted into an obscenity of a smile; the eyes leered, the mouth taunted him. “Time’s passing, you know.” The unclean smile widened. “And time’s money. Right? Money, and fun, it’s all the same. Right?”

It was important now, overwhelmingly important, utterly essential that his words reach her without his actually speaking. Because God controlled him now. God’s mind, God’s will—God’s hands on the synapses. Controlling him.

And, yes, listening, he heard. It was God, speaking with his voice. A miracle:

“Turn around. Don’t look at me. Just turn around.”

Indifferently, she shrugged, mutely moving her thin shoulders. Soon, she would have died, a victim of the streets she prowled. Without salvation, fallen from grace, she would have gone to eternal damnation, unsaved.

Did she know?

Did she feel the presence, acknowledge the divine power? Salvation was coming closer, saving her from eternal fire. The power was palpable now, enfolding them, a single aura, pulsing with the power. In his hands, upraised, the instrument of salvation would materialize, the means of liberation.

“Stay like that.” Yes, the voice was his: calm, steady, commanding. “Just like that.”

“Whatever …” Once more, indifferently, she shrugged.

Now, still with upraised hands, himself a supplicant, he took the final step forward. It was the moment of touching, the decisive moment, the moment upon which all else balanced. He must touch his body to hers, must master the obscene sensation, must liberate mind from body as his will merged with God’s cosmic consciousness … Now. Finally, unequivocally, incredibly now, his body upon hers. Enabling him finally to close his eyes, awaiting the delivery. He could hear her voice, but the words were lost in the roar of the cosmos. He must remain like this, controlling this moment of final grace, suspended between heaven and earth, eyes closed, hands raised, fingers extended—awaiting the touch of God’s fingers upon his, delivering the instrument.

One breath of eternity …

And another breath—the final, eternal breath.

And, yes, as his eyes opened, he saw it in his hands: the instrument, a length of miraculous golden cord, his gift from God.

“Hey. What the fuck you—”

The rest of it was lost in a gurgle of sound as the cord disappeared from sight. Her body had gone wild, writhing against his. He must close his eyes now, witnessing with his body her passage, allowing himself this one moment of animal response, purifying the liberation of her body, taking its corruption unto himself, his sacrifice. To accomplish it, her body must slacken as his slackened, together, his final gift to her—

—finished.

With God as his witness, finally finished.

2

“YOU WANT ANYTHING FROM the machines?” Culligan asked. “Coffee? Anything?”

“No, thanks,” Canelli answered. “I’m not drinking coffee anymore after ten o’clock at night. Besides, the more you read, coffee’s no good for you. My dad, you know, has heart problems. And the doctor said, right after cigarettes, cut out the coffee. So I figure, what the hell, I might as well—”

On his desk, the telephone warbled. Waving to Culligan as the other detective left the squadroom, Canelli lifted the receiver, punched the blinking button.”

“Homicide. Inspector Canelli speaking.”

“This is Bernie Penziner. Hi.”

“Oh, hi, Bernie.” Canelli’s broad, swarthy face softened into a sly smile. “How’re you enjoying the Tenderloin beat?”

“I didn’t know when I was well off. Safes and Lofts might be boring, but this is the pits, down here. I mean, it’s a goddamn zoo.”

“So what’s doing? I don’t suppose this is a social call.”

“There’s a dead hooker at the Bayside Hotel. It’s at Mason and—”

“I know where it is.” Canelli leaned forward, put a paperweight on an unfinished interrogation report. “I was there …” He frowned, calculating. “It was less than six months ago, I bet it was, that I was there. Another hooker, in fact.”

“That’s because there’s nothing but hookers at the Bayside. They rent rooms by the hour.”

“Anyone in custody?”

“No.”

“Any suspects?”

“No.”

“Any idea how long ago it happened?”

“Not long, I would say. I touched her. She was warm.”

“Okay. I’ll turn out the troops, and come down. What’s the room number?”

“Three twenty-five. Shall I stay here? In the room?”

“Just make sure it’s secure, any way you want to do it. I’ll be there in a half hour or so. Okay?”

“Yeah. Okay. Jesus, what a business. First I’m bored in Safes and Lofts. And now I feel like I’m going to puke all the time. Every year, I say I’m going to quit, take early retirement. Every goddamn year.”

“I used to say that, too. But I don’t anymore. And I’m not even thirty, yet.”

“Hmmm …”

Canelli parked the cruiser beside a fireplug, scribbled “Bayside Hotel, Rm. 325” on his card, put the card on the dashboard, locked the car and began making his way along the crowded sidewalk. He was a big, lumpy, diffident man who moved more like an amiable tourist on vacation than a policeman on duty. Ahead, he saw a squad car pulled up in front of the Bayside Hotel. One of the uniformed men sat in the car, monitoring the radio; the other stood beside the entrance to the hotel. Recognizing the man on guard, Canelli smiled, waving a beefy hand.

“Hi, Fergie. How’s it going?”

“No complaints, Joe.” Answering Canelli’s amiable smile, the patrolman pushed open the hotel door and stood aside. The door was all metal, with a single small, wire-reinforced window at shoulder height. The red-painted BAYSIDE logo beneath the window was badly chipped. Inside, the lobby was less than twelve feet wide, with a narrow flight of stairs at the far end. An unevenly lettered NO CHECKS, NO CARDS sign was tacked to the Formica counter that guarded the stairs. Sitting behind the counter, as high and as hostile as a precinct sergeant, the muscular black desk clerk glowered at the shield Canelli offered for his inspection.

“Your other guy’s upstairs,” the black man grated. “Third floor.”

“There’ll be others along,” Canelli said. “Technicians, and guys from the coroner’s office.”

Without moving, without changing expression, standing with his big-knuckled brawler’s fists braced wide on the counter, the desk man nodded. “I know how it goes.”

“How long you been on duty?” Canelli asked.

“Since nine o’clock tonight.”

“You work regular here?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay. You hang around. Don’t go anywhere without you talk to me.”

“I’m on till six. Where’m I going?” The blue-black lips twisted into a weary cop-hater’s sneer.

Penziner had taken a straight-backed chair from a vacant room and was sitting in the hallway. One uniformed man stood beside the door to 325, another stood at one end of the hallway, beside the staircase. From one end to the other, the hallway was lit with a line of red bulbs. Seeing Canelli, Penziner got to his feet.

“A half hour exactly,” Penziner said. “I’m impressed.”

“You want to hang around?” Canelli asked, “or would you just as soon go?”

“I’d just as soon go. I already told you, this doesn’t agree with my stomach, all this. Especially the goddamn smell.”

“No problem.” Canelli took a notebook and ballpoint pen from the pocket of his tan windbreaker. “What’ve you got for me?”

“Her name was Amy MacFarland. I never talked to her, never busted her. She was from out of town, though, I know that. But that’s all of them, out-of-towners, runaways.”

“Who’s her pimp?”

“A black guy named Dancer Browne. He was parked right across the street when I got here, cool as shit.”

“Will he stay put?”

“Oh, sure.” Penziner’s long, lean face registered grudging admiration as he said, “Dancer’s—what—the king of Mason Street. He went to San Francisco State for a couple of years, on a basketball scholarship. He’s tall, about six five. And smart, too, smart as hell. He only works white girls—four, five of them. He won’t run anywhere, take my word. He’s got too much going on here.”

“Anything else?”

“Nothing. I’ll ask around, though, see what I can turn up. She came in with a trick, I think. So it’s probably him that did it.”

Canelli nodded, pocketed his notebook. “Keep in touch, okay?”

“Yeah, okay. See you, Joe.” Penziner nodded and walked down the garishly lit hallway to the staircase. Canelli drew a deep breath and turned to face the door of room 325. He would make his preliminary examination, then call the duty lieutenant.

3

ON THE TV SCREEN, the president was making hard eye contact with the camera at the conclusion of a rebroadcast speech that had warned of Communism’s new menace to the Western Hemisphere. Sitting beside Ann on their living room sofa, Hastings yawned, lifted his arms high above his head, flexed his fingers, then touched Ann on the forearm. She turned, smiled at him.

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!

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!