The Watcher - Collin Wilcox - ebook
Opis

On a fishing trip with his estranged son, Hastings comes under attack. Lieutenant Frank Hastings checks his gun at airport security so he can meet his son the moment the boy gets off the plane in San Francisco. After a year apart, he finds Darrell to be as moody and withdrawn as any other teenager, and prays that a fishing trip will bring them closer together. He is unaware that he and Darrell are about to experience the sort of bonding that only terror can provide. Before setting off on their vacation, they arrive at Hastings's apartment to find that a prowler has been lurking, but managed to escape before the police got there. When they reach the lakeside cabin, The Watcher is already waiting, ready to take revenge on Hastings by targeting his child. To survive the ordeal, Hastings will have to trust Darrell in ways he never expected, and Darrell will have to become a man.

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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

Fifteen

Sixteen

Seventeen

Eighteen

Nineteen

Twenty

Twenty-one

Looking for more suspense?

Cover

Begin Reading

About the Book

On a fishing trip with his estranged son, Hastings comes under attack.

Lieutenant Frank Hastings checks his gun at airport security so he can meet his son the moment the boy gets off the plane in San Francisco. After a year apart, he finds Darrell to be as moody and withdrawn as any other teenager, and prays that a fishing trip will bring them closer together. He is unaware that he and Darrell are about to experience the sort of bonding that only terror can provide.

Before setting off on their vacation, they arrive at Hastings’s apartment to find that a prowler has been lurking, but managed to escape before the police got there. When they reach the lakeside cabin, the watcher is already waiting, ready to take revenge on Hastings by targeting his child. To survive the ordeal, Hastings will have to trust Darrell in ways he never expected, and Darrell will have to become a man.

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 Watcher

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 © 1978 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 978-3-95859-581-1

 

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.

This book is dedicated to

Bill and Bruni Pronzini …

Him because he helps me

untangle my own plots,

Her because she’s so nice

One

I PUSHED OPEN THE door marked AIRPORT SECURITY and found myself facing a girl I’d never seen before.

“Is Walter in?” I gestured to an inner door labeled WALTER FRAZER, CHIEF OF SECURITY.

“Not at the moment, sir.” She reluctantly touched her typewriter’s “off” button. She was a thin girl with a narrow face and a small, petulant mouth. The purple jersey of her blouse was drawn taut across pubescent breasts. Her complexion was acne-blotched. “Can I help you?”

I took the leather badge folder from my pocket and showed her my shield. “I’m Lieutenant Frank Hastings, San Francisco Homicide. I’m here to meet someone arriving from Detroit. Instead of checking my gun with the deputy at the metal detector, I thought I’d rather leave it with Mr. Frazer.”

“Well, Mr. Frazer won’t be back for at least a half-hour, I’m afraid.” She spoke with prim, perverse satisfaction, as if she enjoyed inflicting this small disappointment on me. “Why don’t you meet your friend at the scanner?”

“Because,” I answered deliberately, “it’s my son I’m meeting. And I want to meet him at the gate. Not the scanner.”

“Oh. Well.” Her pale eyes blinked. “Well, if you want me to, I guess I could keep your gun for you.”

“No, thanks. I’ll try the deputy. Tell Walter that I said hello.”

“Yes, I will.” She nodded, then frowned as she added, “Sir.” The effort had cost her more than the single syllable was worth.

As I walked down the long broad slope of the concourse leading to American Gate 6, I checked my watch. The time was twenty minutes after noon. Darrell’s plane was arriving at twelve-thirty. I chose a seat facing the gate, and unfolded the newspaper I’d gotten from a machine. Over the top of the paper I saw a towheaded boy looking at me with large, solemn eyes. I’d seen him at the scanner, when I’d surrendered my revolver and cuffs and badge to the deputy. Since that moment those solemn eyes had constantly followed me. I smiled at him, nodded, then raised the paper between us.

In less than ten minutes, Darrell would come through the gate. He would be taller than he’d been when I’d last seen him. He’d be heavier, too. At age fourteen, a year made a big difference. Next year, he’d told me on the phone, he hoped to go out for football.

In spite of my advice—in spite of the surgeon’s scars on both my knees—he hoped to go out for football.

Or, more like it, because of my advice.

Darrell had been two years old when I’d left Detroit. When my cab had pulled up at the front door and sounded its horn, he’d started to sob. Carolyn had picked him up in her arms and held him with his face buried in the hollow of her shoulder. Released from the look in his eyes, I’d picked up my suitcase and left the house without a word. As the cab pulled away from the curb, I’d seen the curtains part in Claudia’s room upstairs. She’d refused to say goodbye to me—refused to open her bedroom door. Claudia had been four years old. For more than a year, she would not talk to me when I called.

Of the two children, Claudia was the tough one.

Darrell was the vulnerable one—the one who would always be searching.

At that moment, Darrell’s 747 was doubtless on its final approach to San Francisco. The FASTEN SEATBELTS sign would be switched on, and the NO SMOKING sign.

What was Darrell thinking, strapped in his seat? Did his thoughts match my own? Did we share the same hopes for our next two weeks together—the same hopes, and the same misgivings?

Was he remembering Disneyland, last summer? We’d checked into the Disneyland Hotel, and ridden the monorail to Disneyland. I’d bought two books of “A” tickets—the best, most expensive pleasure packet.

But the tickets had promised more than they delivered. The laughter of others had accented the awkward, lengthening silences between us. The ingeniously designed fun machines had mocked us. I especially remembered the time we’d spent waiting our turn for the submarine ride. We’d been confined by a system of back-switched chromium rails that duplicated exactly the herding pens used by the Chicago stockyards. We’d had nothing to say to each other—but we couldn’t escape each other. Whenever our glances touched we smiled perfunctorily, then looked quickly away. Darrell had been almost fourteen then. Now he was almost fifteen …

“Ladies and gentlemen, American Airlines Flight 230 from Detroit is arriving at Gate 6, and passengers will soon be deplaning. Thank you very much.”

I folded my newspaper and got to my feet. Across the aisle, the towheaded boy was still staring at me. Already, the first passengers were emerging from Gate 6. I stepped forward, hesitated, then decided to leave my newspaper on a table. I wanted both hands free. A squat man wearing a double-knit blue suit and an orange tie was coming out of the gate, followed by a beautiful girl wearing fashion-faded Levis and a skintight beige sweater. The jeans clung brazenly to the contours of her hips and crotch; the sweater outlined perfectly proportioned breasts. A Qantas flight bag swung jauntily at her side. Unable to deny myself a rear view, I turned as she passed me—then shifted my gaze back to the passenger gate. Darrell was walking slowly toward me, smiling gravely. He wore a blazer and a soft white shirt. His shoes were brightly shined; his dark hair was earlobe long, freshly combed. He carried a white plastic shopping bag in one hand and a cased fishing rod in the other.

This summer, I’d told him, we would try fishing.

Hand outstretched, I stepped toward him.

“Hi. How was the flight?”

“It was great. Just great.” He shifted the shopping bag awkwardly from his right hand to his left, with the fishing rod clamped under his arm. We shook hands. His grip was tentative, his hand was quickly withdrawn. His eyes met mine briefly, then quickly fell away. The top of his head came almost to my eyebrows. He’d grown. Next summer he’d be my height, or taller.

“Have you got your baggage checks?” Now we were walking side by side up the incline that led past the metal detector.

“Yes. Do you want them?”

“No, that’s all right. Just a minute”—I pointed to the deputy—“I’ve got to get my things.”

Surreptitiously, the deputy handed over my revolver, my cuffs and my badge.

“That’s a gun that looks like it’s seen a lot,” the deputy said cheerfully. He was an overweight black man with a broad, easy smile and quick eyes.

“It has. Thanks.” I clipped on the holstered revolver and looped the cuffs over my belt, at the same time slipping the badge folder into my inside pocket.

“How come they didn’t let you take your gun?” Darrell asked.

I smiled. “They wouldn’t let the President on an airplane with a gun.” We were walking again. Ahead, I saw the girl in the beige sweater kissing a squat, swarthy man. It was a long, intimate kiss; his hands moved confidently down from the small of her back to the first swell of her buttocks.

“What about the President’s bodyguards, though? What about their guns?”

“The problem wouldn’t come up, because the President doesn’t travel on commercial flights. He travels on Air Force One. His own plane.”

“How about his children, though?” he insisted. “Don’t they have their own guards, if they go on regular flights?”

“Yes,” I answered slowly. “Yes, they do, as a matter of fact.” I glanced at him. Was he seeking information—or a contest? Was this a friendly discussion, or the opening gambit in a tough new game—a man-to-man disputation aimed at finally making me pay for taking that taxi, so long ago?

Briefly he met my gaze. His eyes revealed nothing—neither malice nor friendship.

“I suppose,” I said, “that if the President’s children travel—if they go by commercial airliner—then their bodyguards get permission to carry guns. The Secret Service would arrange it with the airline security people.”

Satisfied, he nodded. “That’s what I thought.”

Ahead, the passengers of American Flight 230 were already clustered around the baggage carrousel, watching the chute for the first suitcases.

“Here—” I gestured. “Let’s go this way.” He followed me down the curve of the carrousel, and we stood side by side against the knee-high barrier. With a low grumble, the interlocking metal sections began to move. A black plastic suitcase emerged and slid down toward the barrier. As Darrell turned toward the chute, I had my first chance to assess him.

Over the years, approaching manhood, he’d come to look more like me. His thick brown hair grew low on a broad forehead. His eyes were hazel, set wide beneath full, level brows. His nose was short and broad-bridged; his chin was slightly cleft. His mouth was small, with the upper lip extended over the lower. It was a vulnerable mouth, still unformed. The eyes, too, were vulnerable, moving uncertainly now as he watched for his luggage. He was a big, solidly built boy, but his wide shoulders were slightly hunched as he stood beside me. His stance was tentative, narrowly braced.

Was he unsure of himself—or of our next two weeks together?

Was he remembering last summer?

“There”—he pointed—“there’s my backpack.” He handed me the cased fishing rod, braced himself and swung a big orange nylon backpack effortlessly over the carrousel barrier. He moved easily, economically. Properly coached, he’d do well on the football field—if he could hit hard enough.

He propped the backpack on the carrousel and reached for a big brown valise. This time, he grunted when he heaved. But the valise cleared the barrier cleanly.

“Is that it?”

“That’s it.” He shrugged into the backpack and held out his hand for the fishing rod.

“This way, then.” I lifted the heavy valise and pointed toward an exit. “The car’s in the garage.”

“When’re we leaving for vacation?”

“I don’t think we can leave until Friday. I have to be in court on Thursday afternoon. But if we leave by Friday noon, we’ll be all right. It’s only a four-hour drive.” We’d reached the movable sidewalk that led to the parking garage. Gratefully, I lowered the valise to the black rubber matting that carried us along.

“Where’re we going for vacation, anyhow? All you said was ‘just fishing.’ ”

“A friend of mine has a cabin in Lake County, about a hundred fifty miles north of here. Her family’s had the cabin for years, and my friend guarantees that we’ll catch our limit, every time out.” I hesitated, then decided to say, “I want you to meet her. Her name is Ann Haywood. We’re … good friends.”

He glanced at me, but said nothing. Had I told him about Ann? I couldn’t remember.

“How about some seafood tonight?” I asked as I swung the valise to another movable sidewalk. “Feel like some Crab Chappino?”

“I don’t like seafood much.”

“How about Italian food, then? Spaghetti. There’s a place just a few blocks from my place. Best spaghetti in town.”

“All right.” It was a diffident response. His mouth was pursed, subtly pouting. He was disappointed. Already, he was disappointed.

“Is there something you’d rather have than spaghetti?” I asked. “How about Chinese food?”

He shook his head. “Spaghetti’s fine,” he answered shortly. “Besides, I don’t like Chinese food, either.”

Two

“HOW’D YOU LIKE THE spaghetti?” As I said it, I gestured for Darrell to turn right at the next corner. I was surprised that he’d forgotten the way we’d come, walking to the restaurant.

“It was okay.”

“Tomorrow night, maybe we can go to a movie.”

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!