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Authors: Howard Fast

Hunter and the Trap

BOOK: Hunter and the Trap
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The Hunter and the Trap

Howard Fast

For Jonathan Fast

because these are stories
that could not have been written
without the things
I learned from him
.

Contents

The Hunter

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

The Trap

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

The Hunter

1

Of course I went out to Kennedy to greet Andrew Bell. He had sent me a wire that he was coming in on the two o'clock plane, and he had also sent a wire to Jane Pierce, his public relations girl; so practically everyone in the world knew that he was coming into Kennedy at two o'clock. My going out there was of a particular nature, because sometimes I thought that I was his friend. Otherwise, why would he have sent me a wire?

I called my wife to tell her about it, and she asked me when I thought I might see her again.

“Well, tonight,” I said. “You know that.”

“Do I?”

“Come off it,” I said. “Andy Bell is my friend. What else do you want me to do?”

“He has ten thousand friends. He has friends in Istanbul and friends in Paris and friends in Madrid and friends in London and of course in New York. I'll bet he has friends in Albuquerque.”

“All right.”

“All right,” she repeated, and maybe she was sorry and had pushed it too far.

“It's just a funny damn thing about friends,” I told her.

“I know. And you're the only real friend Andy Bell has or ever had.”

“Maybe not even me,” I said. “I don't know.”

2

I drove out to Kennedy, and the traffic was bad, so by the time we got there, the plane had already landed. You could not miss Andrew Bell, but neither could you get very near to him, and from the number of reporters, cameras and microphones you would have guessed an ambassador, a king or a prime minister had just landed. It was that kind of a crowd. There were civilians, perhaps twenty or thirty, but for the most part the crowd was professional and the object of the crowd was news. Andy was news. He was always news.

Jane Pierce spotted me, broke out of the crowd to grab my arm, and told me to please go to him and let him see my face. She was a tall, competent blond, middle-thirties, polite, neutral and successful, and attractive in a hard way; and I was flattered that she felt that I should be with Andy. She had that manner of authority that brings importance wherever it is directed.

“He needs a hard friend,” she said in my ear. “Get over to him.”

If there was a distinction between hard and soft friends, there were enough in the second category. I saw Joe Jacobs, the columnist—tomorrow he would do an entire column on Andy Bell, possibly a second one the day after that; and Frank Farrell from the
News;
and Linda Hawley, the society protocol boss and party expert, who already would be contracting for Andy's delivery here and there; and pushing hard to break through, Lucy Praise, the actress, whom he had dated half a dozen times between two wives; and just behind her, Max Golden, the millionaire, who was content to be seen within shouting distance and to pick up any check that had no other takers—Andy took most of them; and Jack Minola, the punchy, ex-heavyweight fighter, who acted as a sort of Newfoundland dog to Andy when Andy was on base in New York, and who liked to think of himself as a bodyguard, self-appointed and tolerated because Andy never got over the fact that celebrities attached themselves to him—and never really comprehended what a celebrity he himself was.

But Jane got me through, and there Andy was, big and healthy and sunburned, his massive shoulders and six feet three inches of height topped by that graying mane of hair. His blue eyes crinkled with pleasure. His face was the face of a kid, and not the face of a fifty-three-year-old who had been married four times and had won the Pulitzer Prize—the face of a kid being fussed over and praised when he might have gotten a hiding instead.

The CBS man had taken the lead in the questioning, and he had just asked Andy where the safari had been this time.

“Kenya mostly. Then we flew into Somaliland.”

“Did you pilot the plane?”

“Like always.”

“What kind of a plane?”

“An old Piper Cub.”

“And is it true you shot a lion from the plane?”

“No. Hell, no. I'm a hunter, not a circus performer.”

“But you did go after lion?”

“I never hunt in Africa without thinking of lion. He's number one. I killed three lions—all male. One was a black-maned giant—the biggest lion I ever saw, possibly the biggest ever recorded there.”

“Did you shoot elephant?”

“We had a kill in elephant. We had a kill in leopard too. It was a good hunt and we had a good kill.”

“And are you pleased to be back in New York?”

“I am. I like New York. I like London and Paris and Madrid and Lisbon. I liked Havana once and maybe someday I'll like Havana again. And I'm glad to be in New York.”

He spoke the way he wrote, and I did not know whether to laugh or to cry. He had his entourage with him, Jose Peretz and Diva. Peretz was a small, dark, tight-muscled little man with polished hair and button eyes. He carried two knives and he had been known to use them. No one knew anything about him. Some said that he had been a bad matador and others said he had been a run-of-the-mill male whore, but no one really knew anything about him except that he spoke Spanish with a Portuguese accent—when he spoke, which was not often. That was about as much as Diva spoke. She was a tall, beautiful, black-haired woman of thirty or so, and nothing at all was known about her—that is, just a little less than was known about Peretz. That was the entourage. Somehow, they made arrangements and looked after the baggage and cleared away obstacles. Now and then a pretty and young stenographer joined them: this one, that one, the girl changed. But this time there were only two.

Andy saw me. “Hey, Monte!” he boomed. “Hey, Monte, goddamn you!” And then almost without pause, he was answering a question, and he said that No, he had never killed a Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Then he embraced me, and I could feel the iron-hard muscles of his arms biting into me. No fat and no soft. “But I will,” he added, referring to the bighorn.

Some young kid who worked for one of the TV networks asked another who I was, and the reply came, “That's Monte Case, his friend.”

3

I drove him back to New York in my car, just the two of us. In the time since he had last been here, the airport had changed; the roads had changed. I think it was before the Fair, and now the Fair was over; and I was not even sure that the new stadium for the Mets had been here. But he didn't notice such things, or maybe he could not admit that anything had changed since his last visit. He closed his eyes, stretched his long length, and said, oh, my God, he was tired and beat up and felt every one of his fifty-three years.

“You're young,” I said inanely. I never made good or sharp conversation with him, and I was always conscious of the awkwardness of my comments.

“Balls, Monte. I am old as the hills and goddamn tired of it. Why do I keep chasing my tail?”

“That's your problem, Andy.”

“Another hunt. The chase and the kill. That's it. That's really it. That's the one sweet taste. I could give up the rest of it, the booze and the girls and all the status and celebrity horse-shit, but not that. Where are we going?”

“Where did your luggage go?”

“The hell with the luggage. That's at the Carlyle.”

“The Carlyle?”

“That's right. Jane got me the suite there. It's the place, isn't it?”

“I suppose so. It's the place.”

“I mean—since Jack's time. My God, I can't believe he's dead. I haven't been back since then. But the hotel is still in, isn't it?”

“Very much.”

“But Jack is dead.”

He had only met Kennedy once and briefly, but he was not name-dropping or trying to impress me. All the “great” names that flashed in and out of the press were his peers. If he was not intimate with them, it was only because time and circumstances had prevented such intimacy from developing.

“You don't want to go there?” I asked him.

“No.”

“You said you were tired.”

“The hell with that! I'm always tired.”

“Then where?”

“Pete's—Christ Almighty, that's still there, isn't it? Pete didn't die or anything like that, did he? Or go broke?”

“It's still there, and he didn't go broke.”

“Monte, let me tell you one thing—one small, crowded fact of life. Suppose I needed twenty grand. Now. This damn bloody minute. No collateral—nothing except my marker. Where would I go?”

“Make it a smaller price and come to me.”

“Balls. You know goddamn well that there's only one person in the world I can go to. There's only one person in the world that will write me a check for twenty grand and never ask why or how.”

“Pete?”

“That's right.”

“Did you ever try it?”

“You're a cynical bastard, Monte.”

“Good, we'll go to Pete's.”

“You don't mind?” he asked, concerned suddenly that he might have hurt my feelings.

“Mind? My word, Andy, this is your day, your place, and it seems to me that it is maybe your city too.”

4

The doorman at Pete's had only been there a year and a half or so, and he didn't recognize Andy. Afterwards, he was filled with remorse; he had the attitude of a man who wants nothing so much as to throw himself under a truck, and he pleaded for Andy's forgiveness. “You got to understand, Mr. Bell, that I'm new here. That's no excuse. But that's the way it is, that's the way the cookie crumbles, that's the way it is.” Andy gave him five dollars, and the doorman swore up and down that he would never forget him again, and I suppose he didn't.

But if his welcome from the doorman was less than effusive, Pete made up for it, engulfing Andy in his three hundred pounds of fat and soft muscle and kissing him. Pete was the one man in town who could kiss another man and get away with it. They embraced and hugged each other, and then Pete yelled to the bartender:

“Mike, get the hell down to the cellar and bring up that keg of black rum that has Mr. Bell's name on it. Do it yourself. I don't want any lousy, grimy busboy hands touching that keg of rum.”

BOOK: Hunter and the Trap
12.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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