Gloria Stanford was very sexy, very rich and very, very dead. Found in her plush, city apartment, she had been shot twice in the heart. All her credit cards and i.d. were gone but apart from that there seemed no motive at all. It's only when the detective-in-charge, Steve Carella, starts to receive bizarre cryptic notes through the mail that he realises that something bigger than a simple homicide is going on. For it seems the 'Deaf Man' is back - a notorious crook and killer who has a morbid fascination with puzzles and anagrams. Long thought dead, he's back on the loose and wants his long-hidden millions back...Thus begins a roller-coaster ride of betrayal, double-bluff and violence with an enormous golden haul at the end of it...
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Ed McBain (1926--) was born Salvatore Lambino in New York. He changed his name to Evan Hunter and under that name is known as the author of The Blackboard Jungle and as the writer of the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. The 87th Precinct series numbers over fifty novels. McBain is a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America and is the only American writer to be awarded the CWA Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Gloria knew that someone was in her apartment the moment she unlocked the door and entered. She was reaching into her tote bag when a man's voice said, "No, don't."
Her fingertips were an inch away from the steel butt of a .380 caliber Browning.
"Really," the voice said. "I wouldn't."
She closed the door behind her, reached for the switch to the right of the door jamb, and snapped on the lights.
He was sitting in an easy chair across the room, facing the entrance door. He was wearing gray slacks, black loafers, blue socks, and a matching dark blue, long-sleeved linen shirt. The throat of the shirt was unbuttoned two buttons down. The cuffs were rolled up on his forearms. There was a hearing aid in his right ear.
"Well, well," she said. "Look what the cat dragged in."
"Indeed," he said.
"Long time no see," she said.
"Bad penny," he said, and shrugged almost sadly.
It was the shrug that told her he was going to kill her. Well, maybe that and the gun in his right hand. Plus the silencer screwed onto the muzzle of the gun. And their history. She knew he was not one to forget their history.
"I'll give it all back," she said at once. "Whatever's left of it."
"And how much is that, Gloria?"
"I haven't been frugal."
"So I see," he said, and with a slight arc of the gun barrel indicated her luxurious apartment. She almost reached into the tote again. But the gun regained its focus at once, steady in his hand, tilted up directly at her heart. She didn't know what kind of gun it was; some sort of automatic, it looked like. But she knew a silencer when she saw one, long and sleek and full of deadly promise.
"What's left of the thirty million?" he asked.
"I didn't get nearly that much."
"That was the police estimate. Thirty million plus."
"The estimate was high."
"How much did you get, Gloria?"
"Well, the smack brought close to what they said it was worth...."
"Which was twenty-four mil."
The gun steady in his fist. Pointing straight at her heart.
"But I had to discount it by ten percent."
"Which left two-sixteen."
Lightning fast calculation.
"If you say so," she said.
"I say so."
A thin smile. The gun unwavering.
"Go on, Gloria."
"The police sheet valued the zip at three mil. I got two for it."
"And the rest?"
"I'm not sure I have all this in my head."
"Try to find it in your head, Gloria," he said, and smiled again, urging her with the gun, wagging it encouragingly. But not impatiently, she noticed. Maybe he didn't plan to kill her after all. Then again, there was the silencer. You did not attach a silencer to a gun unless you were concerned about the noise it might make.
"The rocks brought around half a mil. The lucy was estimated at close to a mil. I got half that for it. The ope, I had a real hard time dealing. The cops said eighty-four large, I maybe got twenty-five for it. If I got another twenty-five for the hash, that was a lot. The gage brought maybe one-fifty large for the bulk. The fatties, I smoked myself." She smiled. "Over a period of time," she said.
"Over a long period of time," he said. "So let me see. You got two-sixteen for the heroin and another two for the coke. Half a mil for the crack and another half for the LSD. Twenty-five for the opium and the same for the hashish. Another one-fifty for the marijuana. That comes to two hundred and nineteen million, two hundred thousand dollars. The cigarettes are on the house," he said, and smiled again. "You owe me a lot of money, Gloria."
"I spent a lot of it."
"How much is left?"
"I haven't counted it lately. Whatever's left is yours."
"Oh, you bet it is," he said.
"Maybe two mil, something like that? That's a lot of cash, Sonny."
The name he'd used on the job was Sonny Sanson. Sonny for "Son'io," which in Italian meant, "I am." The Sanson was for "Sans son," which in French meant, "without sound." I am without sound. I am deaf. Maybe.
"Where's the money?" he asked.
"In a safe-deposit box."
"Do you have the key?"
"May I have it, please?"
"And then what? You kill me?"
"You shouldn't have done what you did, Gloria."
"I know. And I'm sorry. Put down the gun. Let's have a drink, share a joint."
"No, I don't think so. The key, please. And let me see your hands at all times."
He followed her into a lavishly decorated bedroom, a four-poster bed, a silk coverlet, a chest that looked antique Italian, silk drapes to match the bedspread. From a drop-leaf desk that also looked Italian, hand-painted with flowery scrollwork, she removed a black-lacquered box, and from it took a small, red snap-button envelope. The printing on the envelope read FirstBank.
"Open it," he said.
She unsnapped the envelope, took out a small key, showed it to him.
"Fine," he said. "Put it back, and let me have it."
She put the key back into the envelope, snapped it shut, and held it out to him. He took it with his left hand, the gun steady in his right, and slipped it into his jacket pocket.
"So here we are in my bedroom," she said, and smiled.
"Took me a long time to find you, Gloria."
"Thought you'd never get here," she said. Still smiling.
"Didn't even have a last name for you," he said.
"Yes, I know."
"All I knew was you'd been a driver since you were sixteen, that your end of a bank job in Boston enabled you to buy a house out on Sand's Spit...."
"Sold it the minute I came into some money."
"Well, actually the ill-gotten gains from narcotics the police were going to burn anyway."
"Still my money, Gloria."
"Well, yes, it was your plan, so I suppose the dope was rightfully yours. And we all got paid for what we did, so it wasn't really right of me to...well...run off with the stash, I know that, Sonny. The plan was a brilliant one, oh, God, what a plan! First the diversion in the Cow Pasture...."
"I see you remember."
"How could I forget? And then the heist itself, at the Department of Sanitation incinerator...."
"Houghton Street on the River Harb Drive," she said. "Remember, Sonny? Me driving the truck, you sitting right beside me?"
"Went off like clockwork," he said.
Still smiling, remembering.
"Like clockwork," she said. Smiling with him now. Beginning to feel this would go all right after all.
"I found the house you used to live in, Gloria. Took me a while, but I found it."
"What took you so long?"
"Recuperating. You almost did me in. A doctor named Felix Rickett fixed me up. Dr. Fixit, I called him," he said, and smiled again.
"Yeah, well, like I said, I'm sorry about that."
"I'm sure you are," he said, and glanced knowingly at the gun in his hand. "The present owner of the house told me he'd bought it from a woman named Gloria Anstdorf."
"Yep, that was me, all right."
"I suppose so. I know the dorf part means 'village' in German. My grandmother thinks the anst may have come from 'badieanstalt,' which means 'baths' in German. A village where they had thermal baths, you know? She thinks the Customs people at Ellis Island shortened it when her parents got to America. To Anstdorf, you know?"
"But that's not the name in your mailbox, Gloria."
"No, it isn't."
"You bought this apartment as Gloria Stanford."
"Yes. What I did was rearrange the letters a little. From Anstdorf to Stanford. Made the name a little more American, you know?"
"A lot more American."
"Never hurts to rearrange the letters of your name here in the land of the free and home of the brave, does it? Especially when someone might be looking for you."
"It's called an anagram, Gloria."
"Rearranging the letters to form another word."
"Is that right?"
"Anstdorf to Stanford. An anagram."
"Is that what I did? An anagram? I'll be damned."
"Never hurts to use anagrams here in the land of the free and home of the brave."
"I suppose not."
"But I found you anyway, Gloria."
"So you did. So why don't we make the most of it?"
"Was that your German ancestry, Gloria?"
"Tying me to the bed that way?"
"I thought you liked that part."
"The Hamilton Motel, remember, Gloria?"
"Oh, how I remember."
"In the town of Red Point. Across the river."
"And into the trees," she said, and smiled.
She was feeling fairly confident now. She sat on the edge of the bed, patted it to indicate she wanted him to sit beside her. He kept standing. Kept pointing the gun at her chest. She took a deep breath. Never hurt to advertise the breasts here in the land of the free and home of the brave. He seemed to notice. Or maybe he was just searching for a spot on her chest to shoot her.
"Was that German, too?" he asked. "Little bit of Nazi heritage there?"
"I don't know what you mean, Sonny."
"Shooting me twice in the chest that way?"
"Leaving me tied to the bed that way?"
"Speaking of beds..."
"Leaving me there to bleed to death?"
"I'm really sorry about that, I truly am. Why don't you let me show you just how sorry I am?"
"Turnabout is fair play," he said.
"Come over here, honey," she said. "Stand right in front of me."
"Fair is foul, and foul is fair," he said.
"Unzip your fly, honey," she said.
"Macbeth," he said. "Act One, Scene One."
And shot her twice in the chest.
Copyright © 2004 by Hui Corp.
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