Authors: Robert B. Parker
Tags: #General, #Fiction, #Detective, #Mystery, #Crime & mystery, #Mystery & Detective, #Fiction - Mystery, #Suspense, #Hard-Boiled, #Crime & Thriller, #Mystery & Detective - Hard-Boiled, #Mystery fiction, #Boston (Mass.), #Political, #Mystery & Detective - General, #Private investigators, #Spenser (Fictitious character), #Escapes, #Private investigators - Massachusetts - Boston
WHILE HAWK DROVE I CANVASSED THE briefcase. Allie’s gun was a Colt .45 automatic with a full clip. That gave us four guns, but no spare ammunition. And each gun took a different load. If this took long we’d have to reorganize the arsenal. I kept my .25, put the .45 and the police .38 with one round spent into the briefcase. Then I counted the money. We were back on 101 south of the airport when I finished.
“Eleven thousand, five hundred and seventy-eight dollars,” I said.
“Eight bucks?” Hawk said. “Who pays a whore eight bucks? `Give you round-the-world for thirty-eight big ones, honey.‘ ”
“The pocket money from Allie’s wallet, probably,” I said.
“He look like a guy carries eight bucks,” Hawk said. I put the money back in the briefcase. Then I looked at the credit cards and licenses. There were three American Express cards, a Visa, two MasterCards, all in different names. There were licenses to match each name and a picture of Leo on each.
“You get some horn-rimmed glasses,” Hawk said, “and shave off that five-day growth you might get by using those cards and licenses. You preppy like Leo.”
“I’ll leave the beard,” I said. “They’ll think I’ve grown a beard since the picture and it will cover up the fact that I have a strong manly jaw and Leo’s is weak and unassertive.”
I put the credit cards back in the briefcase. “Remember where Mill River Boulevard is?” I said.
“Jerry Costigan lives off it on something called Costigan Drive in something called The Keep.”
“The Keep?” Hawk said.
“The more money you honkies get,” Hawk said, “the sillier you get.”
“Wait a minute,” I said. “Didn’t you grow up in a place called The Ghetto?”
“Shit,” Hawk said. “You got me.”
“See, you intolerant bastard.”
Hawk drove quietly for a moment and then he began to laugh. “Maybe I move to Beverly Farms,” Hawk said, “buy a big house call it The Ghetto.” He made ghetto a two-word phrase.
“The Wasps would turn lime green,” I said.
“Match their pants,” Hawk said.
The sun was beginning to set as we pulled off Route 101 and the slant of its decline hit the rear view mirror and Hawk had to tilt his head to keep from being blinded. We went the wrong way on Mill River Boulevard on our first try and had to U-turn and head back before we spotted Costigan Drive. Hawk pulled over to the side of the road and we sat with the motor idling and looked.
There was a redwood sign that said PRIVATE DRIVE, in gold lettering. The road curved up past it into a canyon. There were no mailboxes, no evidence that anyone else lived up the road. The hill into which the canyon cut was wooded and quiet. Not even birdsong broke the silence.
“Let’s walk in,” I said.
“Might be far,” Hawk said.
“We got time to be careful,” I said.
Hawk nodded. He got out and opened the trunk and took out the jack handle. I stuck the .25 in my hip pocket. We began to walk up the road. The butt of the big .44 stuck out of Hawk’s side pocket. The weight of the guns tended to tug at our pants. They’d removed our belts at Mill River PD.
“Next stop,” I said softly to Hawk across the narrow road, “we gotta get belts.”
“Rescuing maidens suck if your trousers fall down,” Hawk said.
“Didn’t Sir Gawain say that?”
Hawk raised his hand and we froze. There was no one in sight but around the next bend of the road we could hear a radio playing: Fats Domino singing “Blueberry Hill.”
“A golden oldie,” Hawk murmured.
We stepped into the woods and slipped through the woods toward the sound of the music.
The music came from a gatehouse, on the left side of an ornate wrought-iron gate from which extended on either side a ten-foot fieldstone wall with razor wire swirled along the top. Beyond the gate the road curved up through some dandylooking green lawn and out of sight again. Hawk squatted on his heels beside me. We listened to a disc jockey make a cash call to someone in Menlo Park. Through the open door of the gatehouse I could see the head of a man leaning back with his hands clasped as if he was in a swivel chair with his feet up.
“Name the amount and it’s yours,” the disc jockey said, his voice electric with excitement.
“I only see one,” I said to Hawk.
Hawk said, “Hard to be sure, though.”
“Ohhh, I’m sorry,” the disc jockey said, his voice trembling at the lip of despair. “But keep on listening, will ya. You never know, we may call you back.”
“Even if there’s only one, he’s inside and we’re outside. We try to bust in he’ll trip an alarm.” The radio played Lennie Welsh singing “Since I Fell for You.”
Hawk and I stayed still and watched. No one came in. No one went out. The head in the door of the guardhouse moved out of sight. Some insects made a small hum in the alder and scrub cedar around us. On the radio there was a commercial for a restaurant with a famous salad bar. Then Elvis Presley sang “Love Me Tender.”
“How come everybody like him,” Hawk said.
“He was white,” I said.
The guard appeared at the door of the gatehouse. He was wearing a straw cowboy hat, and a white shirt and chinos and cowboy boots. He had a handgun in a holster on his right hip. He looked at his watch, surveyed the road and went back inside the guardhouse.
“We need to get him out,” Hawk said. “But we don’t want to do it with a big ruckus ‘cause we only want him.”
“The tar baby,” I said.
“You speaking to me,” Hawk said.
“You ever read Uncle Remus?” I said.
“You gotta be shitting,” Hawk said.
“Br’er Rabbit and the tar baby,” I said. “ `Tar baby sit and don’t say nuffin.‘ ”
Hawk was quiet, watching the guardhouse. “I’m going to go out and sit in the road and wait for him to come out and see what the hell I’m doing.”
I took the .25 out of my pocket and palmed it.
Then I moved back through the woods to the road out of sight of the gate. I walked slowly up the road directly toward the gate, and when I was about ten feet from it I sat down in the road and folded my hands in my lap with the gun out of sight and stared at the gate.
The guard came out of the guardhouse and looked at me through the gate.
“What the hell are you doing,” he said.
He was a stocky man with a drooping mustache and a thick neck. When I didn’t answer he looked at me carefully. I didn’t move. I kept my eyes focused on the gate at about belt level.
“You hear me?” he said. “What are you doing out there?”
Tar baby sit and don’t say nuffin.
“Listen, Jack, this is private property. You’re on a private road. You understand? You’re trespassing. You keep sitting there and you’re subject to arrest.”
Nuffin. The guard took his hat off, and ran his hand over his nearly bald head. He put the hat back on and tilted it forward over his forehead. He pursed his lips and put one hand on his gunbelt and the other hand on the gate and looked at me.
“Espanol?” he said. Behind him the radio aired a commercial for a law firm that specialized in accident claims. “Vamoose,” the guard said.
I was sitting with my legs folded like Indians sit in the movies, and I was developing a cramp. I didn’t move. From the guard shack the radio played. It was the Big Bopper. “Chantilly lace, and a pretty face…” The guard took a big breath. “Shit,” he said, and opened the gate. As he walked toward me he took a leather sap from his righthand hip pocket.
When he got to me he said, “Okay, pal, last chance. Either you get on your feet and haul ass out of here, or I’ll put a knot on your head while you sit.”
I unfolded my hands and pointed the .25 straight up at him as he bent over me. “How dee doo, Br’er Bear,” I said.
The guard’s eyes widened and the rest of his expression went blank. He remained half bent over.
I said, “Put the sap back in your pocket, and straighten up and I’ll get up and you and I will walk to the side of the road, just like I’m doing it because you told me to.” I thumbed the hammer back on the automatic. “Anything goes wrong I’ll shoot you in the head.”
The guard did what I told him to. I kept the gun near my body and the guard between me and the gate in case someone came down and saw us. At the edge of the road I said, “Step ahead of me into the woods.” Five feet into the woods Hawk was leaning against a tree. When we reached him he hit the guard across the back of the head with the jack handle. The guard grunted once and fell forward. He lay still except for his right leg, which twitched slightly.
“Br’er tire iron,” Hawk said.
HAWK AND I WALKED THROUGH THE OPEN GATE and closed it behind us. The radio was playing something I’d never heard by a group I didn’t recognize. In the guard shack was a desk, a swivel chair, a phone, what appeared to be a remote electronic opener for the gate.
I opened the top drawer of the desk.
“Nice to find some ammo,” I said. “Too many pieces, too few bullets.”
There was no ammo in the desk. I put the guard’s gun in and closed the drawer.
Hawk had left the tire iron in the woods. The loop of the guard’s blackjack hung from his left hip pocket.. The .44 stuck out of his right-hand side pocket.
The sun was down and it was getting dark as we walked up Jerry Costigan’s curving drive with his immaculate green lawn spreading silently out on either side. At the next curve there was a stand of evergreens, and past them, though still a hundred yards away, was the house. It was brightly lit with concealed spotlights.
If the folks who built Disneyland had been asked to design a home for a reclusive and unsavory billionaire, they would have built Jerry Costigan’s house. Hawk and I stood in the carefully tended stand of trees and stared. The trees we stood in were obviously planned serendipity. Here and there across the infinite lawn were other groves. The house itself looked, more than anything else, like an English country house. Family descended from the Normans. There was an enormous terrace skirting the tall square fieldstone house with a mansard roof. At each corner there were small round towers with tall narrow windows in them. Good for pouring hot oil on Vikings. The drive curved around out of sight behind the house.
“Be dark in another ten, fifteen minutes,” Hawk said.
I nodded. We stood quietly in the serendipitous trees. Lights were on in the house and the windows glowed with a slightly yellower warm than the white gleam that the spotlights created. Two men walked easily around on the apron terrace, pausing to talk then moving on, making a slow circle of the house. Even a hundred yards away I could smell the cigarette smoke on the soft evening air. At the two visible corners of the house television cameras were mounted under the eaves. They moved slowly in an arc, panning left and right.
“Cameras,” Hawk said.
“I see them.”
“Security like this,” Hawk said, “they going to find the gate guard pretty quick.”
“I know,” I said. “I’m surprised they don’t have both surveillance systems tied together.”
“If they had they be shooting at us now,” Hawk said.
“Dumb,” I said. “Dumb to put together this kind of security and allow it to be breached by taking out one man.”
“Good to know they dumb,” Hawk said.
A black Ford Bronco with a whip antenna on the rear and a 4 X 4 lettered in white on the side appeared from behind the house and drove down toward the gate. Two men sat in the front.
“They’re getting smarter,” I said.
I looked at the house. Nothing had changed. I looked back at the Bronco, its taillights red in the new darkness.
“Time to move,” Hawk said.
“Let’s get the truck,” I said.
We left the trees and ran back down the curving drive after the Bronco. Hawk had taken the .44 from his pocket and held it in his left hand as he ran. Our feet, in running shoes, made very little sound on the driveway. Ahead the Bronco was parked by the guard shack, its motor idling, its doors ajar, its interior lights on. In the headlights, one man was examining the gate. The guardhouse radio made no sound.
“Take him,” I said to Hawk. “I’ll take the guardhouse.”
The man in the guardhouse stood with his back to the door looking down at the log sheet on the desk. He had his hands flat-palmed on the desk and his weight was forward on them. He heard me behind him barely in time to stiffen and not in time to straighten up. I pressed the muzzle of the .25 into his neck under his earlobe and just behind his jaw hinge.
“Not a sound,” I said.
He stayed as he was. This guard was tall and fleshy. He wore a short-sleeved white shirt and a handgun in a clip-on holster pressed against the roll of fat that pressed over his belt. Another .357. Costigan issue. I unclipped the gun, holster and all, from his belt and stuck it in my hip pocket. Hawk came into the guardhouse. He was smiling.
“Man had a world-class belt,” he said. I glanced down: Hawk was wearing it. It was buckled up tight and too long for him. The end stuck out from the buckle like an anteater’s tongue. The .44 was stuck in the belt in front. The blackjack strap still hung from his back pocket but now it was in the right-hand pocket.
“Put your hands back on the desk,” I said to the guard, “and back away and spread your feet apart.”
I patted him down, and came up only with a pocket knife. A good one, a buck knife with a two-and-a-half-inch blade. I gave the knife to Hawk and he cut off the loose end of the belt. He closed it, handed it back, and I put it in my pocket.
“Neatness is important,” I said.
Hawk reached over and took hold of the back of the guard’s shirt collar and pulled him upright and put his face close to the guard’s.
“Let’s talk about the security here,” he said. “Aside from how it sucks.”
“I’m not talking about shit,” the guard said. He had a haircut with no sideburns, and a lot of skin showing above the ears.
I hit him with my right forearm, bringing it up along his jaw. He would have fallen but Hawk held him up.
“Tell me about security,” I said.
He started to shake his head and I hit him again with my forearm. He almost went limp and I could see the muscles bunch slightly in Hawk’s neck as he increased the force to keep the guard upright.
“Last chance,” I said. “If you don’t tell me this time, I’ll kill you and find out for myself.”
“Twenny-five men,” the guard mumbled. “Three shifts of six on the grounds and seven for Mr. Costigan when he travels.”
“What’s the surveillance setup?”
Hawk still held the back of his shirt, but the guard was standing now. Hawk wasn’t holding him up.
“Cameras on the perimeter. Monitors in here. Cameras on each corner of the house, monitors in the security room.”
“What brought you down here?”
“Gate guard is supposed to call in every fifteen minutes.”
“Somebody waiting to hear from you?”
The guard shook his head. “I’m in charge of the shift.”
I put the .25 hard against the tip of his nose. “There’s the gate guard, you two, and the two guys walking around the house. That makes five. You said there’s six on a shift.”
Hawk said, “Tell me ‘fore you shoot. I don’t want his brains all over me.”
“Awright,” the guard said, “awright. Bob’s in the security room. We’re supposed to report in.”
“Do it,” I said. “Call in and say you caught two prowlers and you’re bringing them up to security. Tell him your partner is going to stay with the gate guard for a while, make sure that’s all there was.” I moved the gun from his nose and Hawk let go of his collar. There was a line of sweat on his upper lip, and his face was pale except for a reddish streak along his right jawline where I’d hit him.
He picked up the phone and punched out two numbers with the same hand that held the receiver. Then he put the receiver to his ear.
“Hello, Bob. It’s Rocky. Yeah, it’s all right. We got two prowlers. Slade’s going to stay here with Mickey for a while. Make sure. I’ll bring the two prowlers up… Yeah. Be up in a minute… Okay. Bye.”
He hung up. Hawk said, “Rocky?”
I took Rocky’s gun off my hip and emptied it, and put it back in its holster and clipped it back onto his belt. I put the shells on the desk. Hawk pulled his shirt out and let the shirttails hang over the .44, stuck in his belt. We went out of the guard shack and walked to the Bronco. Rocky’s partner lay at the edge of the guardhouse in the shadows, his neck turned at an odd angle. He wasn’t moving, and wasn’t going to. There was a bench seat in the front of the Bronco, and we sat three across, Hawk and I slouching like cowed felons, Rocky driving.
“How long you figure it take us to pick off the whole twenty-five?” Hawk said.
“More time than we got,” I said. “But not much. Were you guys in charge of security at Pearl Harbor?”
Rocky swung the Bronco around the house and pulled to a stop in front of the brass-studded oak door on the basement level. There were two other identical black Broncos parked in the wide turnaround, and a bright green light gleamed over the entrance.
I palmed the little .25 again.
“You take each of us by the arm,” I said to Rocky, “and walk between us into the security office. You let go of either one and I’ll kill you. You got that.”
“Let’s go.” I reached over and took the keys from the ignition. We got out of the car and Rocky came around and took each of us by the arm, grasping firmly just above the elbow. At the door we turned sideways and Hawk went in first, and then Rocky and then me, with Rocky holding on to each arm for dear life. A portly red-haired man wearing a western-style gun belt with a pearl-handled revolver in the holster was sitting on a high stool looking at four television monitors in a bank along the far wall. Below the monitors was a twoway radio rig, and three telephones.
Without taking his eyes off the monitors he said, “Sit them over there. Do I need to talk with them before we call Mill River PD?”
Hawk took the sap out of his pocket and hit Rocky at the base of the skull with it. Rocky’s legs went limp and folded beneath him and he fell the way a building implodes from a wrecker’s blast. Bob heard the thud and turned from the monitors, his hand going toward the pearl-handled gun on his hip. He stopped half turned and stared at the small unwinking eye of the .25 an inch from him. Hawk stepped across Rocky’s prone position and sapped Bob. Bob lurched forward off the stool and took a staggering step and Hawk hit him again and he pitched forward, toward the monitor panels. I caught him before he hit them and guided him onto the floor.
“Twice?” I said.
“It’s an unfamiliar blackjack,” Hawk said. “Ain’t got the feel quite right.”
I looked at the monitors. There was nothing on them except the still lawn and the two guards slowly making their intersecting circles of the house, appearing on one screen then another as they moved. I looked around the security room. There were some canvas-backed director’s chairs and a Formica-topped table with a Mr. Coffee machine on it and some mugs lined up on a shelf beyond it. There were newspapers scattered around and a cardboard box that donuts had come in. On the wall opposite the entrance there were two doors. The first was locked. The second opened into a full bath. On Bob’s belt was a set of keys hanging from a belt loop by one of those slipcatch hooks with a ring on it. Hawk was squatting beside Bob looking at Bob’s gun.
“Ruger .357 Max, single-action,” Hawk said.
“Man must be expecting a rhinoceros to charge in here. Got the grip customized, too.”
“Keys,” I said.
Hawk unsnapped them and tossed them to me. “Better kill them,” Hawk said. “You got that knife. Better cut their throats. Leaving people around like leaving a bomb ticking,” Hawk said.
“We killed the pimp and his gunny.”
“He’d have killed the two whores,” Hawk said. “Like you said, we got them into it. We got them out.”
“These dudes will kill us, if they can,” Hawk said.
“If they can,” I said.
“If they do what happens to Susan?” Hawk said. I shook my head and started sorting through the keys to open the second door.
“You spent your life in a mean business, babe, trying not to be mean. And so far you got away with it mostly. But there’s stuff on the line that never been on the line before.”
I found the right key for the last door. “I know,” I said.
“Gimme the knife,” Hawk said.
“No.” I turned from the door. “Letting you do it is like doing it, only worse. It’s doing it and pretending I didn’t.”
“We after Susan,” Hawk said. “That makes this your show. But I ain’t along on this just ‘cause I care about you.”
There was no sound in the room except a faint hum from the TV monitors that only underscored the silence.
“I know,” I said. “I know that. It’s the way I know you’re human.”
“She make both of us human, babe,” Hawk said. “I don’t want to lose her much more than you do.”
I unlocked the door. Beyond it there were stairs. “Let’s go up there,” I said. “See if Costigan can help us find her.”