In Loren D. Estleman's hardboiled American Detective, Amos Walker returns for his nineteenth outing in his most challenging case yet. Ex-Detroit Tigers pitcher Darius Fuller wants Walker to break off his daughter's engagement to Hilary Bairn, a man he believes is after her two million dollar trust. Walker goes to Bairn's apartment, only to be ambushed by cops. A murder has taken place, and the victim is Fuller's daughter. Walker and the cops assume that Bairn is the murderer, but Walker has no idea what he is getting into.
Walker is led to a meeting with a casino owner, who tells him Bairn owed money to a loan shark. The loan shark tells Walker that he is not the only one after Bairn. Soon Walker finds himself on the run from crooked cops and vile gangsters. Every time Walker thinks he's solved the case, he finds out he is farther from the truth than when he started. This case will take all of Walker's cunning, and will prove to be his greatest trial ever!
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Loren D. Estleman is the author of more than fifty novels (all of which were written on a manual typewriter), including the private eye Amos Walker series. His novels include Retro, City of Widows, and Little Black Dress, a Peter Macklin novel. His work has earned him three Shamus Awards, four Golden Spur Awards, and three Western Heritage Awards thus far. He currently resides in Michigan with his wife, author Deborah Morgan.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter One The driveway was white stone, like a spill of salt between polished granite posts. A square of teal-colored lawn lay on either side, with furniture arranged on it in suites no decorator would approve: sectional sofas next to six-burner ranges, gold-plated bathroom fixtures among patio chairs carefully lichened with blobs of verdigris, stereo components deployed on top of plate-glass aquariums with no fish inside. A life-size statue of the property’s owner cast in bronze stood on a carved mound with one foot raised, winding up to pitch a baseball. With a realtor’s red-white-and-blue sign stuck in front of the quasi-neoclassical-Greco-Roman-Gothic-Art-Moderne house sprawled in the center of the lot, it was the most expensive yard sale since they put Soviet Russia on the block. Small platoons of people, dressed casually and expensively but always appropriate to the blue eye of Lake St. Clair across the street, drifted from one set of objects to another, swigging from their personal bottles of water and commenting on the owner’s taste or lack of it. I’d thought to take a drink from the tap before I left home, and so wandered empty-handed through spaces in between until I came to the statue. The baseball in the loose split-finger grip was real, common cowhide packed with horsehair and zipped up with thirty-three stitches, scuffed and dirty, with an illegible signature scrawled on it in indelible blue ink. “Sculptor got it wrong,” said the person who had stepped up from behind me, quiet as dew. “I knuckleballed the last three pitches in that game. But it looked too good to complain.” “That’s the actual ball?” I asked. “The one and only.” “Expensive setting.” “Not so much as the ball. I turned down a quarter million for it five years ago. How many no-hitters you see pitched by a man past forty?” I turned his way then. Darius Fuller at sixty looked fit enough to suit up and open for the Tigers that afternoon. He was tall and rangy, with gray eyes in a thoughtful brown face that seemed to look down at me from a mound he carried around with him. His hair was a silver haze mowed close to his skull, but aside from that he could pass for thirty, which was still old for a ballplayer, and ancient for a hurler. He’d hung up the glove after that no-hitter at age forty-two, at the end of his third best season since he’d graduated from reliever to starter. The sportswriters had called him “the Fuller Brush Man” for the way he swept aside the top of the order. He changed hands on a tall glass of something pale green and frosty and shook my hand. His grip was strong, with a punishing torque courtesy of a misshapen wrist—a feature not uncommon among longtime screwballers. It took a twist that turned the palm out when he let it hang at his side. “You’re Walker.” He made it sound like the end of an argument. I tipped my head toward the house. “Why couldn’t I be an interested buyer?” “You aren’t dressed for it.” “It’s a new suit.” “That’s what I mean. Rich folks dress like shit. They got nobody to impress.” “You’re dressed okay.” His navy polo shirt and putty-colored khakis fit him as snugly as the old uniform. He had on hundred-dollar sneakers and a clump of gold and diamonds glittered on his left hand. He twisted it with his right without spilling his drink. “I’m po’ folks now, ain’t you heard? Everything today brings in goes straight to Uncle Sam. I done got traded from the private sector for three ex-wives and a business manager to be apprehended later.” “A lot of people would be bitter about it.” His face, which had stiffened with controlled rage, cracked apart then to let out a grin. He’d had a lot of work done on his teeth since he’d stopped a line drive with his mouth in ’69. “Oh, hell,” he said. “So I do a couple seasons of fantasy camp and slap my name on a ballpoint pen that writes under six feet of goose grease and split down the middle with D.C. Broke and famous aren’t the same thing as being just plain broke.” “You should’ve taken the quarter million.” “It wouldn’t pay the interest.” He took a drink, watching me over the top of the glass. He appeared to be shaking off signals from the catcher, then nodded snappily and lowered the glass. “You’re like a priest or a lawyer, right? Whatever I say stays with you.” “I look at it that way. The cops don’t. I’ve been traded from the private sector a couple of times myself.” A short-haired blonde woman in shorts with a tennis bracelet came up on us holding a leather-bound book and a gold pen. He took them from her and twisted out the point. “This for you or a friend?” “It’s my checkbook. I want to buy the dining room set.” He stuck the items back at her. “You need to wait for the bidding, and then you don’t pay me.” She left. He frowned. “What the hell was I saying?” “Something about being broke but famous.” He’d started to raise his glass again. He lowered it. “You suck up to all your customers this way?” “Sorry. I see a hole and I drive on through. It cost me a business degree.” “Don’t apologize, it ruins it. A man that’ll insult you to your face is a man that’ll tell you the truth. I can tell you now I lied about that being the ball I threw in the no-hitter. I’ve got a dozen of them rolling around. When the auditor left I came damn close to selling every one as the ball and taking off for some island.” “What stopped you?” “I can’t swim and I don’t tan.” I grinned. He didn’t. “Anyway, the real ball goes with me. Everything I ever bought may belong to the government, but the best moment in my career, that’s mine and nobody else’s. You can buy ten new suits with what they’ll pay you to pass that on to them.” “My closet’s only big enough for two and my gun. Where can we talk? Sound travels on the lake.” “The playhouse. It’s out back.” I followed his long stride around an east wing held up by columns and walled with glass into a backyard with a crescent-shaped pool sunk in green tile. Keeping pace was a challenge; I was younger, but not by enough to make much difference, and I’d taken a bullet through my thigh last November that hadn’t done anything for my running game. He unlocked the door to a miniature version of the house’s center section, nine feet high and eleven wide, and let me into a room just big enough to stretch out in on the hardwood floor. The walls were hung with school pennants, pictures of a gangling teenage ballplayer in a succession of unfamiliar uniforms, and shelves of tall trophies with brass athletes writhing on top of them. The place smelled like old magazines and was built solider than my three-room refrigerator box in Hamtramck. “This was my daughter’s,” Fuller said. “First wife. Gloria did it all up in pink and rag dolls; Raggedy Anns and Andys up the ass. I never liked ’em, their faces are like skulls. I liked ’em better after Dee-dee made a slingshot and took the head off every one. We swept up sawdust for a week. Had us a regular tomboy on our hands.” His chuckle died out like a motor stalling. “After Gloria left and took her with her I put up all my school stuff and made it my thinking room. I thought my way through two more marriages out here.” “You must think on your feet.” There wasn’t any furniture. “Everything’s out on the grass. The rest goes next. I guess the feds will put the trophies and shit up on eBay and clean up. You’d be surprised how much some yutz will drop in his own home on something he wouldn’t look twice at in a junk shop. You know, I had a chance to invest in Amazon at the start. They came to me. Know what I said? ‘Bookstores don’t make money.’” “My old man told the same story about Xerox. He put his trust in carbon paper. His old man sold horse fodder across the street from the first Ford plant in Dearborn. I was born running out of the money.” Fuller wasn’t listening. That part of the conversation had been over for a week. “I got your name from my ex-brother-in-law; third wife. He’s with security at the library.” “Emory Freemantle. He lets me in the back door when they lock the front. A lot more detective work gets done at reading carrels than you see in the movies.” I’d sprung Freemantle’s nephew from a bum carjacking charge a couple of years ago. “We still...
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