Victims - Collin Wilcox - ebook
Opis

Investigating an ex-cop's death, Hastings gets drawn into a family conspiracy. It was just after he made lieutenant that Frank Hastings told Charlie Quade to resign. They had known each other at the academy, and Quade was a rotten cop from day one. Dogged by rumors of corruption, Quade left without protest, eking out a living doing security work. When Hastings hears Quade has been shot dead, he doesn't blink. The only surprise is the place the ex-cop died. Alexander Guest is one of the wealthiest lawyers in the city, and Hastings can't understand why he would hire a thug like Quade to protect his grandson from the father-in-law who wants to kidnap him. When Quade's body is found, the grandson is long gone, and the father-in-law is the natural suspect. But Hastings knows better than to trust the rich, and he refuses to accept the easy answer.

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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright Page

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

Fifteen

Sixteen

Seventeen

Eighteen

Nineteen

Twenty

Twenty-one

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Cover

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About the Book

Investigating an ex-cop’s death, Hastings gets drawn into a family conspiracy.

It was just after he made lieutenant that Frank Hastings told Charlie Quade to resign. They had known each other at the academy, and Quade was a rotten cop from day one. Dogged by rumors of corruption, Quade left without protest, eking out a living doing security work. When Hastings hears Quade has been shot dead, he doesn’t blink. The only surprise is the place the ex-cop died.

Alexander Guest is one of the wealthiest lawyers in the city, and Hastings can’t understand why he would hire a thug like Quade to protect his grandson from the father-in-law who wants to kidnap him. When Quade’s body is found, the grandson is long gone, and the father-in-law is the natural suspect. But Hastings knows better than to trust the rich, and he refuses to accept the easy answer.

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.

Victims

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 © 1984 by Collin Wilcox

 

Project management: Lori Herber

Cover adaptation: Christin Wilhelm, www.grafic4u.de

Cover design by Michal Vrana

 

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

 

ISBN 978-3-95859-585-9

 

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.

One

FROM THE KITCHEN I heard the sound of the refrigerator door closing, followed a few moments later by the sound of water running. Ann had drunk her half glass of nonfat milk and rinsed out the glass, a nightly ritual. The click of the light switch in the kitchen came next, followed by the rhythmical shuffling of her slippers on the hallway carpet. I opened my eyes as she came into the bedroom. She slipped out of her robe and draped it over the foot of the bed, then stood motionless in the darkness, silhouetted against the pale oblong of the room’s large single window. Her nightgown was sheer: soft, transparent gauze tracing the swell of her breasts, the curve of her stomach and thigh. Her hair was loose around her shoulders. She was standing with her chin lifted, back arched, as if she were trying to identify some distant sound in the night.

Did she know how erotic her body was, outlined against the pale window light? Had I ever told her that she excited me more when she wore her nightgown than when she was naked?

Did she know that, yes, I could feel myself tightening, sexually quickening?

“You have a chronic case of the weekend hots,” she’d once said, mischievously teasing me after we’d made love. And, yes, she was right. For as long as I could remember, Friday and Saturday nights were those special times for love.

But it was no longer Friday night. It was 2:15 A.M. Saturday morning. Beneath a blanket of fog blowing in from the ocean, San Francisco was finally falling silent. The theaters were dark, and the bars had just closed. Only the hookers and the bathhouses and the after-hours clubs were still doing business.

We’d gone to a small French restaurant in the neighborhood for dinner, then gone to a movie—a double feature. Driving home, yawning and laughing about it, we’d ruefully agreed that Friday night double features were for teenagers.

Now she was turning to sit on her side of the bed while she took off her slippers, bending down to align them perpendicularly to the bed. Ann is a precise person, a methodical person, a person who depends on order in her life. She teaches fourth grade at the City School for Boys, one of San Francisco’s few private schools. Once, visiting her in her classroom after school, I’d chided her about her pens and pencils, each one aligned so precisely in her center desk drawer.

I’d drawn back the blanket for her, as I always did. She slid beneath the covers, sighed once, deeply, then turned toward me—as I turned toward her. I slid my left hand between the pillow and her neck. I felt her body responding, moving closer to mine.

But it was a tentative response, gently temporizing. She kissed me: a light, noncommittal kiss. The message was clear. Tonight—this particular Friday night—she was too tired. She hoped—believed—that I would understand.

Confirming it, she buried her face in the hollow of my shoulder, whispering: “I’m pooped. Aren’t you?” As she spoke, I felt her body come tentatively closer. But, like the kiss, it was a confirmation of affection, not an invitation to make love.

“Well—” I moved my right hand, lightly caressing the small of her back, exploring that particular mystery of flesh between the cleft of her buttocks and the base of her spine. My message, I knew, was equally clear: Yes, I understood that she was tired. But, no, I couldn’t quite forget that it was, after all, Friday night.

“How about tomorrow night?” she whispered, still with her head tucked into the hollow of my shoulder.

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

“We’ve got a deal.” I tilted her head and kissed her. She kissed me in return, patted me companionably on the rump, sighed, then turned away from me to lie on her back, settling herself with small, sinuous shiftings of body and limbs.

“Good night.” I turned on my side, yawning as I let my eyes close.

The weekend hots …

To myself, I smiled. I’d first met Ann in the line of duty, standing on her porch in the dead of night with my shield in my hand. My first impression of her had been accurate. “Quiet.” “Reserved.” “Sometimes shy.” Those were the adjectives that described Ann. Plus the old-fashioned adjective “ladylike.”

Her older son Dan, a teenager, had been a witness to murder, and briefly a suspect. My second interrogation had confirmed that Dan had no guilty knowledge. But, as long as the investigation continued, I found excuses to call at Ann’s large, tastefully furnished Victorian flat on Green Street—the flat we now shared, together with her two sons. When the investigation terminated, I knocked on her door again, to tell her about it. Then, with great effort, I asked her to dinner. She’d accepted with a smile that made me feel like a euphoric, erotic teenager. During that first dinner, we exchanged our life stories. She’d been born in Cleveland, where her father practiced high-stakes law and her mother raised prize-winning roses. But the father was a compulsive philanderer, and her mother began secretly drinking, to forget. College had been Ann’s first chance to escape from an unhappy home, and she chose the University of California at Berkeley because it was farther from Cleveland than the eastern colleges. In her junior year she met Victor Haywood, a sophomore medical student. They were married at the end of Ann’s junior year, when Ann was two months’ pregnant. She dropped out of school, raising her child and working part time while Victor took a residency in psychiatry. As the years passed, she had another son, went back to college, graduated, and got a teaching certificate—while her husband bought Porsches and collected pre-Columbian art. Most of Victor’s patients were neurotic society matrons, many of whom he slept with. When their younger son, Billy, was ten years old, Ann decided to. …

On the nightstand, the telephone rang. Muttering a muffled obscenity, I picked it up on the first ring. Beside me, Ann’s body jerked convulsively; she’d been asleep.

“Yes?” I spoke softly, at the same time swinging my legs over the side of the bed to sit with my back turned to Ann.

“It’s Canelli, Lieutenant Hastings. Jeeze, I’m really sorry to bother you. I know how late it is, and everything, and I thought about it long and hard before I figured that I just had to—”

“Wait, Canelli. I’m going to hang this phone up and pick up the one in the living room. If we get cut off, call again in two minutes. Clear?”

“Yessir, that’s clear.”

I cradled the phone, found my slippers, slipped into my robe and walked reluctantly to the living room, closing the hallway door behind me. Canelli was still on the phone. As soon as I answered, he began talking.

“Maybe you won’t even want to take a look, Lieutenant. But, like I already said, I just figured that I had to at least touch base with you, especially seeing that Lieutenant Friedman is still in Sacramento, I guess, and won’t be up on the roster until tomorrow. So, when I thought about it, I figured tha—”

“Canelli. Get to the point. What happened?”

“Well, Jeez, Lieutenant—” As I listened to Canelli gulping for breath, I could visualize him. Because Canelli always perspired whenever he reported to a superior officer, his broad, swarthy, olive-hued face would certainly be slightly sweat-sheened. His forehead would be earnestly furrowed, his dark eyes anxious as he struggled to organize his thoughts. At age thirty, at a suety two hundred forty pounds, Canelli was the squadroom innocent. He didn’t look like a policeman or act like a policeman or think like a policeman. Result: He was constantly scoring accidental coups. On stakeout, he was always the last one to be recognized. Making an arrest in cooperation with other officers, Canelli sometimes found the suspect running toward him, trying to escape. No one took Canelli seriously—until it was too late.

“What happened,” he was saying, “is that Charlie Quade got shot, for God’s sake. Killed. Just about an hour ago, maybe a little longer.”

Charlie Quade …

We’d gone through the ranks together, made detective together, went into Homicide together, years ago. I’d never liked Charlie, never trusted him. Soon after I made lieutenant, he’d been suspected of taking money from a pimp in exchange for concealing evidence against one of the pimp’s girls when she’d been accused of murder. I’d given Quade a choice: resign or talk to the D.A. The next day, he’d resigned.

“If Charlie got killed,” I said, stifling a yawn, “he probably deserved it.” But then I remembered that Quade had resigned while Canelli was still in uniform. To Canelli, my remark might have seemed brutal. “Did you know him?” I asked.

“Just a little bit,” he answered. “And I heard that he was a crook, which didn’t surprise me. I mean, I never really thought much of him. But that’s not the reason I’m calling, Lieutenant. I mean, if it was just a—you know—an ordinary homicide, and everything, I wouldn’t call you like this, in the middle of the night, even if Quade was a cop. No way. I’d handle it myself, if that’s all there was to it.”

“Canelli. You still haven’t told me what happened.”

“Oh. Sorry, Lieutenant. Well—” He drew a deep, portentous breath. “Well, the reason I’m calling, see, is that Charlie Quade was killed at Alexander Guest’s house, for God’s sake. You know, the big shot lawyer. And, what’s more, it turns out that Quade was working for Alexander Guest.”

I sat up straighter.

“And Mr. Guest, he wants to talk to you,” Canelli was saying. “He insists on talking to you, if you want to know the truth. Or, at least, he wants to talk to whoever’s in charge, whoever calls the shots. So I—you know—I thought I should at least fill you in, before you talk to him. I mean, he’s what you’d call a pretty powerful personality.”

“Are you on the scene now?”

“Yessir. I’ve been here for almost an hour.”

“Can you talk?”

“Yessir.”

“What’s it look like to you?”

“Well, it looks like Quade was inside the house, guarding the premises. And it looks like someone might’ve broken in, although I didn’t see anything jimmied, or anything. But, anyhow, shots were fired, no question about that. Several shots.”

“Do you have a suspect?”

“Well—” He hesitated. “Not really.”

“What’s that mean?”

“Well, Mr. Guest, he thinks he knows who did it. But I thought I should talk to you before I acted on his information. I mean, I figured I’d be exceeding my authority, see, if I—”

“Is Mr. Guest there now?”

“He’s upstairs, Lieutenant. In his bedroom. I’m down in the kitchen. Like I say, he wants to talk to you, privately—or, anyhow, someone in command, like I said. So that’s why I—”

“Let me talk to him.”

“Yessir. I’ll go tell him.”

“When we’re finished talking, you come back on the line.”

“Yessir.” The line clicked dead. I looked at the antique brass-and-glass clock on the mantelpiece, one of Ann’s heirlooms. The time was 2:35 A.M. Would I have to get dressed and go to work? With no sleep? At the thought, I realized that I was slowly, hopelessly shaking my head. The answer to the question was grimly self-evident. A homicide that involved Alexander Guest couldn’t be handled over the phone.

“Lieutenant Hastings?” The voice in my ear was brisk, crisply authoritative.

“Mr. Guest.”

“That’s correct, sir. Has Inspector Canelli filled you in?”

“To some extent. He wanted me to talk to you. He says you’ve got a suspect.”

“I do. Definitely. Are you coming here?”

To myself, I sighed. “Yessir, I am. But Inspector Canelli thought I should talk to you first. He says that—”

“He was right, of course. Superficially, he looks like a bumbler. But, watching him work, it’s apparent that he knows his job.”

I smiled. Alexander Guest didn’t mince words—and didn’t miss anything, either. “He does know his job,” I said. “No question.”

“The man you want,” Guest said, “is Gordon Kramer. He’s thirty-six years old. Dark hair, dark eyes. Medium build. Regular features. He’ll be well dressed. And, most important, he’ll be traveling with a young boy, age six. If I were you, Lieutenant, I’d put out an all points bulletin for Gordon Kramer. Right now. In particular, you should get the airports covered. Immediately. Because I can guarantee—absolutely guarantee—that, right this minute, he’ll be trying to get on an airplane, bound for New York.”

“Are you prepared to give us a signed statement that you’re accusing Gordon Kramer of murder, Mr. Guest?”

“Absolutely.”

“Did you see him do it? Were you an actual witness?”

“No, not an eyewitness,” he answered impatiently. “But I know he did it, and when you get here, I’ll give you details. But, for now, you’d better get it on the radio, Lieutenant. It’s been more than an hour since the murder was committed. He could be at the boarding gate now. And, to be perfectly frank, thinking down the line, it won’t look very good for you if the record shows that you didn’t act on the information I’m giving you.”

My first reaction was a flash of momentary anger. Whenever anyone threatened me with his “influence,” my first reaction was to let him try. But I’d learned, the hard way, that people like Alexander Guest could do a lot of damage. So I let a long, deliberate beat pass while I tried to sort it out. Guest was a lawyer, therefore an officer of the court. If he wrote out a complaint, in front of witnesses, I would protect myself from a charge of false arrest because of insufficient evidence. If I took proper precautions, I couldn’t lose, doing as he asked.

“Well?” he demanded, his voice harshly sarcastic. “What’s the problem, Lieutenant? Haven’t you the authority to have him picked up?”

“Yessir, I have.” I let another deliberate silence pass, then said, “After I talk to you, I’ll talk to Inspector Canelli. I’ll order him to witness you writing out your statement. He’ll have a third party witness it, too. Then I’ll tell Canelli to put out the A.P.B., on my authority.”

“That’ll be fine. You’re a cautious man, Lieutenant. That’s commendable.”

“Thanks,” I answered wearily, at the same time reaching for a scratch pad and pencil. “Where’re you located, Mr. Guest?”

“I’m in Sea Cliff. 270 El Camino Del Mar.”

I wrote it down, then asked, “This Gordon Kramer—is there a connection between him and you?”

I heard a sharp, bitter exhalation. “There was a connection. He used to be my son-in-law.”

“And the boy. Who’s he?”

“The boy,” he answered, “is John Kramer. My grandson.”

Two

THE GUEST MANSION WAS Tudor style, three stories high, built of brick and cut stone, with a slate roof, lead-paned windows, and heroic chimneys. A magnificent round medallion stained glass window was set above the front portico, illuminated from within. The premises were entirely surrounded by a wrought iron fence topped by small, sharp fleur-de-lis. A driveway led along the right side of the building to a large garage built to resemble an old English timber-and-stucco carriage house. No gate secured the entrance to the driveway, and the pedestrian gate across the flagstone walkway leading to the mansion’s entryway opened to the touch. As I walked through the gate I wondered whether the gate was equipped with a warning buzzer that sounded inside the house.

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