Authors: Donald E. Westlake
Acclaim for the Work of
“Dark and delicious.”
—The New York Times
“[A] book by this guy is cause for happiness.”
“Donald Westlake must be one of the best craftsmen now crafting stories.”
—George F. Will
“Westlake is a national literary treasure.”
“Westlake knows precisely how to grab a reader, draw him or her into the story, and then slowly tighten his grip until escape is impossible.”
—Washington Post Book World
“A wonderful read.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“A brilliant invention.”
—New York Review of Books
“A tremendously skillful, smart writer.”
—Time Out New York
“Suspenseful...As always, [Westlake] writes like the consummate pro he is.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Westlake remains in perfect command; there’s not a word...out of place.”
—San Diego Union-Tribune
“Westlake is one of the best.”
—Los Angeles Times
In the fifth week, they came for him.
It was Friday night. It was too cold now to be autumn anymore, but the snow hadn’t started yet. He was walking along the tilted slate squares of sidewalk, past the barren trees and the streetlights; it was just past midnight, and the street was deserted. He was a block from home when the highly polished new black car rolled slowly past him, going in his direction, and crept to a stop a few doors away. The passenger-side door opened, and a man climbed out. He was hard-looking. He stood on the sidewalk with his hands on his hips and squinted at Cole, the squint making the corners of his mouth turn up like the beginning of a snarl.
“Paul Cole?” The man’s voice was harsh, but soft, as though there were no strength in it and he had to strain his throat to make any sound at all.
Do I know him? Maybe he knows me from somewhere, and his is one of the faces I’ve forgotten. But if we already know each other, why did he ask me if I was me?
He moved his head and said, “Yes. I’m Paul Cole.”
The man’s right hand slipped with surprising speed into his hip pocket, and came out with a wallet, which he flipped open, saying, “Police. Get in the car...”
SOMEBODY OWES ME MONEY
by Donald E. Westlake
NO HOUSE LIMIT
by Steve Fisher
by John Farris
by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr
THE FIRST QUARRY
by Max Allan Collins
by David J. Schow
by Charles Ardai
by Lawrence Block
THE DEAD MAN’S BROTHER
by Roger Zelazny
by Donald E. Westlake
by E. Howard Hunt
by Peter Blauner
by Jason Starr
PASSPORT TO PERIL
by Robert B. Parker
STOP THIS MAN!
by Peter Rabe
LOSERS LIVE LONGER
by Russell Atwood
HONEY IN HIS MOUTH
by Lester Dent
QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE
by Max Allan Collins
THE CORPSE WORE PASTIES
by Jonny Porkpie
THE VALLEY OF FEAR
by A.C. Doyle
A HARD CASE CRIME BOOK
First Hard Case Crime edition: April 2010
A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd
144 Southwark Street
in collaboration with Winterfall LLC
If you purchased this book without a cover, you should know that it is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”
Copyright © 2010 by the Estate of Donald E. Westlake
Cover painting copyright © 2010 by Glen Orbik
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Print edition ISBN 978-0-85768-345-8
E-book ISBN 978-1-78116-104-3
Cover design by Cooley Design Lab
Design direction by Max Phillips
Typeset by Swordsmith Productions
The name “Hard Case Crime” and the Hard Case Crime logo are trademarks of Winterfall LLC. Hard Case Crime books are selected and edited by Charles Ardai.
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After the show, they went back to the hotel room, and to bed, for the seventeenth time in three weeks. He had chosen her because, being on the road with him, she was handy; and additionally because she was married, had already clipped the wings of one male, and could therefore demand nothing more from him than he was willing to give. Why she had chosen him he neither knew nor cared.
He was deep in clench-faced sweaty blindness of physical passion when the hotel room door burst open and what could only be the husband stormed in, topcoat flaring behind him like Batman’s cloak. He rose up from the mounded woman, smiling idiotically at the enraged face rushing toward him, thinking only
What a cliché!
and so unable to take it seriously. Till the husband reached out one flailing hand and brought it back lifting a chair, the legs pointing at four spots around his head as though to frame him there symmetrically for eternity, and then he scrambled back and away from the woman, his hand slipping on her rubbery breast, and he cried out, “What are you
And the nurse dressed all in white said, “Ah, there you are!” She was smiling, looking down at him, pleased by his presence. Her teeth were wide and shiny, like enamel kitchen cabinets all in a row. The pale lips were an oval smile around them, but then the oval reversed to the comic exaggeration of a frown, and she said, “
, no. Don’t fade away again.”
The teeth aren’t real
, he thought.
There was nothing between the two thoughts,
what are you doing
the teeth aren’t real
. No transition, no time lapse, no going to sleep and waking up, no explanation.
The nurse had a face of leather, like a cowboy, but with a soft round nose. She said, “The doctor will want to talk to you. Now don’t fade away again.”
“I won’t,” he whispered, because whispering was all he dared until he found out whether or not he was real.
She went away, and his eyes looked at the ceiling, which had no character at all. It was featureless, lifeless, blameless white. He thought,
Something must have happened in between. He must have beat me up, and I must be in a hospital
. But there was no memory to go with the necessity. Not even a memory of time-lapse, such as comes when waking up from sleep. Waking up from sleep, there is the knowledge in the brain that a black form of time has been going on. But this was nothingness and less than nothingness. The four pointed chair legs, and then the nurse, and nothing in between.
A soft decayed face came into his vision, trying to look stern. It wore glasses, in which he could see twin reflections of himself, very small, being nothing but a head on a pillow. This must be the doctor.
It was. He introduced himself as such: “I am Doctor Croft. Are you awake enough to answer questions?”
“Do you have to whisper?”
“I don’t know.” But he whispered it. He moved his tongue within his mouth, collecting saliva, and swallowed. “I don’t have to whisper.” His voice was rusty, like something long unused.