Fete / Cassiday
Synopsis of Fete of Death
A California senator is brutally slain. But that is only the beginning of the increasingly macabre murders of senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee. The CIA hire their termination specialist, Tyrone Quade, an ex-Weathermen infiltrator and current jailbird, to find the killer. Quade has to be pardoned from federal prison in Los Angeles, where he is doing time for blowing up a passenger jet. He maintains he did not commit the crime, and he once believed his employers at the CIA would exonerate him for it. It turns out that the crime hinges on the recently concluded Gulf War with Iraq. Quade wants nothing to do with the corrupt two-faced bureaucratic system that set him up, but working for the CIA again is his only ticket out of the joint. To gain his freedom and to clear his name, he agrees to find the serial killer, while a raft of adversaries have other ideas. In his search for the killer, he starts to doubt his own innocence and even his
sanity as his investigation into the lurid murders somehow keeps spiraling him back to his past involvement with the bombing of the jet and to its insidious nexus to the Gulf War. To his consternation, Quade discovers that the criminal mastermind behind the bombing is entrenched in the upper echelons of the United States government and is working hand in glove not only with the Mafia but with the serial assassin as well.
Fete / Cassiday
About the Author
Bryan Cassiday lives in Los Angeles.
Fete of Death
a novel by Bryan Cassiday
Copyright 2007 by Bryan Cassiday. All rights reserved.
Fete / Cassiday ISBN: 1-4241-7270-5 Published by PublishAmerica, LLLP www.publishamerica.com Baltimore Printed in the United States of America
Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. –Emerson
Know you not How your state stands i’ th’ world, with the whole world? Your enemies are many, and not small. –Shakespeare Henry the Eighth
Fete / Cassiday
“Where’s the rest of him?” Special Agent Parson rasped, his throat tight with anxiety. He thought he had seen everything in his line of work–until today. Before him, the upper half of US Senator Alexander Brockett sprawled in his own congealing blood. Some ten feet away, a young blond LAPD lieutenant, his face an ashen mask, pointed at the rest of the dead body, from the waist down, that lay next to the immaculately pruned shrubs. The drying blood had turned the green blades of grass around the corpse a muddy color under the relentless afternoon sun. “Did some nut take an ax to him?” asked Parson and coughed on the sulfurous smog. “That’s what we thought at first but hotel guests said they heard a shot.” The square-jawed lieutenant gestured toward the glitzy pink Beverly Hills Hotel that loomed behind him. He walked a few yards along the front lawn toward a squat palm. “Then we found this.” He stared at a bloody lump close to the palm’s bole. Parson eyeballed the lump. It did not look like anything recognizable. “What is
it?” He stooped to get a better look at it, his trousers cutting into his potbelly and eliciting a wince of discomfort. “Don’t touch it,” said the lieutenant. “Don’t worry.” “Forensics should be here any minute.” “I doubt you’ll get any prints off it.” “We’ll try anyway. We don’t want the media blasting us for incompetence,” said the lieutenant, his voice evincing the disgust he felt for the bloodsucking media ghouls that would descend on the scene in no time. Parson grimaced at the lump. “What the hell is it?” “I didn’t know either. The sergeant told me what it is.” “Yeah?” Parson impatiently waited for the lieutenant to tire of building the suspense. “He’s an arms buff. He collects antique weapons. Says it’s chain shot.” “Never heard of it.” The lieutenant nodded all-knowingly, as though he had expected Parson’s answer, and commenced his explanation. “Our guys used it in the Revolutionary War. You fire it out of a musket and it’ll cut a man in half at fifty yards.” The lieutenant sounded impressed, Parson decided, but he could not decide if the lieutenant was impressed with himself for his newfound knowledge or with the
Fete / Cassiday destructive power of the chain shot. “Can you use it on trees?” Parson asked.
The lieutenant ignored Parson’s feeble attempt at gallows humor. “If you look closely, you’ll see it’s a length of fine chain coiled there and coated with gore and spinal fragments.” Parson rose miserably. “I don’t plan on eating it.” His knees were killing him. “I’d say it’s about two feet long.” So what? Parson was thinking. “Why would anyone use chain shot to kill the senator?” Figure that out and you would be well on your merry way to catching the killer. The lieutenant shrugged. “You tell me. You’re the Bureau man. I’m just an overworked, underpaid cop.” “The CIA’s gonna butt in on this too. Senator Brockett was on the Senate Intelligence Committee.” “In the offing, an ambulance drove at speed down Sunset Boulevard, its siren shrieking in crescendo. Driven by paramedics, it keened toward the hotel lobby. Even as a camera crew in a TV news van tailgated the lurching ambulance, a cameraman trained a Minicam out the van’s open passenger window on the paramedics. Parson disappeared into the shadows. He did not want TV exposure till he had good news to report.
But there wasn’t any good news. For a week the homicide investigation went nowhere. As any law-enforcement officer worth his salt knew–if you didn’t ID a murderer within days after the murder, the trail would grow cold and the killer was apt to get away with it. The CIA, griping about the slowness of the investigation, busting Parson’s chops daily over the phone, decided to stick their collective nose into the nuts and bolts of the FBI’s fieldwork–much to Parson’s chagrin and distaste. He and Archibald Donaldson, the CIA’s donnish sixty-something deputy director of operations, now drove to the Los Angeles Harbor to pay a visit to the Terminal Island Federal Penitentiary. A guard with keys in his hand at their side, they ambled down the cell block to the solitary confinement cell. The cell block stank of human waste, sweat, disinfectant, and something gut-clenching. Fear? wondered Parson. “Why is he in here?” he asked. “A guard didn’t like the way he was looking at him,” said the stocky guard, his spine ramrod-straight. “How did he get in jail anyway?” It was Donaldson who answered, “They convicted him for a terrorist bombing of a passenger jet.” “You’re kidding.” “There was nothing we could do.”
Fete / Cassiday “Are you lawyers?” asked the guard, a leer in his opaque eyes. Donaldson said, “Yes.”
“Then how come the warden let you all the way down to the cell block? There’s a visitor’s room outside.” “It’s none of your business,” said Donaldson and adjusted his bow tie. The guard’s dull cretin eyes looked duller than ever. He hung his mouth open and bowed his head like a rummy then found the appropriate key and inserted it into the locked reinforced steel door. “We had to shoot Quade up with Thorazine a while ago to calm him down,” he said and turned the key in the keyhole.
In his pitch-black cell Quade sat, hating Donaldson for ratting him out, but there was nothing he could do. Behind bars he was helpless. The Thorazine had doped up his mind so he could not think clearly and had made him feel alienated from his body, which would not move when he wanted it to. His hand looked unfamiliar to him the way it lay motionless on the cement, the strange green worms on the back of it motionless too. Depression. They called him a paranoid schizophrenic. No matter what they called him and no matter how much they doped him, Quade decided, he knew the score: they were out to get him.
A voice hissed through the shut judas in the door, “Feelin’ good, tough guy?” Quade knew it was the hack, getting his kicks, raising hob, rubbing it in, so he did not bother to answer. “How’s your jaw feel?” The guard giggled. Quade ran the tip of his tongue along a jagged, moist fragment of residual tooth rooted loosely in his gum. No dentists for cons in the joint. More giggles from the guard, who remained out of sight. “Those two cowboys did a number on you but good.” He paused. “How long ago was that? Let’s see. . . . Over a month.” Have I been in here that long? thought Quade. He had never seen the guard, only heard his voice with a Mexican accent. The guard said, “How did it feel to have your busted jaw wired?” “I wish I could let you know with my fist,” muttered Quade, but he could not even hear himself, so maybe he had not said it after all. “Those cowboys were big as lumberjacks. You know why it happened?” asked the guard. Quade was sick of the screw’s needling hiss and wished he would leave. The guard went on after Quade did not respond, “It happened because you got no juice. You’re nothing here. That’s why you’re in the hole. And you can’t even read your damn books in there.” How they hate me for reading books, thought Quade. It’s a means of defying them. The shrink had another term for it–antisocial sociopathic behavior: because I keep
Fete / Cassiday
my mouth shut and won’t confess to a crime I did not commit. Like a fool, I already did that in court. See where it got me. Now to hell with everyone, I’m not talking. “All the criminals say they’re innocent,” was the shrink’s pat response to his denial of guilt. After their session Quade had memorized the psychiatrist’s report word for word:
The patient, Tyrone Quade, shows marked sociopathic tendencies. He shows no concern for his fellow man. When asked why, Quade responded that his fellow man showed no concern for him. The patient mimics emotions that he really doesn’t feel. When asked why, he responded that he sounded like a politician, a lawyer, a businessman, an actor . . . The patient shows signs of megalomania and paranoia. It is our professional opinion that he feels he is better than everybody else. When asked why, he responded that others felt they were better than he. When asked why he feels people are out to get him, he responded that he was doing time for a crime that he did not commit and that he had been attacked many times in the “joint.” The patient displays suspicion and antipathy toward authority figures. When asked why, he responded that they were liars bent on manipulating him for their own ends.
The only thing that broke the monotony of the cell was the two-inch-wide hole that was his toilet in the center of the cement floor, which shelved toward it for drainage. They made you sit in your own stench to humiliate you. He did not blow up that jet. Not only that, he had nothing to do with it. He was standing on the tarmac near the explosion because Donaldson had ordered him to go there and meet a disembarking passenger. Afterwards Quade had racked his brains day in, day out trying to figure out the identity of the scumbag who had ordered the jet blown up, but he had never come up with the answer. It was hopeless. He would never be free again. Resigned to his fate, he could only sit and think and remember. When he had enlisted in the Agency he had never expected to wind up in the joint. In fact, he had never expected to enlist. He had attended college at UC Berkeley during the Vietnam War and had shared a room at a dorm with a member of the radical left-wing Weathermen. Quade had no idea of his roommate’s political affiliation. He barely ever saw him. It was the luck of the draw that the dormitory computer teamed them up as roommates. Inevitably, the CIA, suspecting the Weatherman student, hung a tail on him after the Weathermen claimed responsibility for an urban terrorist bombing. The CIA approached Quade in the guise of an avuncular history professor and confronted him with two options: go to jail as an accessory to the Weathermen bombing or prove his innocence by spying on his roommate for the Agency.
Fete / Cassiday Quade had worked hand and foot to get into college. He did not have rich
parents–they lived on the squalid outskirts of San Francisco’s Chinatown–so he could not pull strings to enter it. He had depended on his grades and SAT scores to get him into Berkeley. Then his parents died in a car accident precipitated by a drunk driver and left him alone in the world. His mother and father had been only children like him, so he had no immediate relatives. Going to jail on a trumped-up charge would taint his academic standing and maybe get him kicked out of the university. Then where would he be, without money and connections? He would end up pumping gas for the rest of his life. There was no middle ground. You were either for them or against them. Quade opted for the former: he joined the Agency. What could be wrong with serving your country? Anyway, spying sounded a lot more thrilling than burning the midnight oil. He had never endorsed the Vietnam War, and had in fact worn his hair long and smoked grass and hash and experimented with LSD like the hippies, but he was downright opposed to the terrorist tactics of the Weathermen. All told, he had no ethical objections to joining the Agency, though he did object to the way they had recruited him. And here he sat now fourteen years later at the age of thirty-six, notwithstanding his enlistment, in the joint for a crime he did not commit, embittered. It just went to show you: you could not escape your fate, no matter its injustice.
How long had he gone without eating? Something moist crawled over his arm. He could not even twitch it to move the thing off. Too small for a rat. Something from the toilet hole. The key in the keyhole screeched, scraping his eardrums like a needle. Was it time to eat? He had no idea whether it was night or day. Usually they left the bread and water in the door slot. Were the screws going to spray him with the hose again? That was how they got their kicks when they were bored–sprayed him with a high-pressure fire hose. Yuk-yuk. With the Thorazine in his veins, he would not be able to dodge the water. As the door creaked open, the flames of light that leaped at him from the hall blinded him. In response he shut his eyes, then squinted, while on the ceiling a living carpet of cockroaches dispersed. “Hello, Quade,” was the greeting of the skinny figure in the flames. It was Donaldson’s smooth voice. “You’re a good man,” he said. His voice sharpened and snapped when he added, “Stand up when I’m talking to you, you insubordinate bum.” Quade could not stand up if he wanted to. Donaldson looked smart in his Brooks Brothers suit. There was no denying he aged well. No facial wrinkles etched by worry or suffering. No crow’s-feet. Bright eyes. He did not look sixty, more like a youthful fifty. It was obvious that inherited wealth agreed with him. The patina of Harvard smugness never left his demeanor and appropriately for his background in corporate law he would quarrel at the drop of a hat.
Fete / Cassiday
His self-importance, based solely on his inheritance, did not impress Quade, and this dearth of reverence for him put out Donaldson no end. “He looks terrible,” said Parson. “What else is new?” said Donaldson. “Why doesn’t he talk?” said the guard and snickered. It wasn’t the Mexican’s voice, Quade realized. “I can get you out of here if you play ball,” Donaldson told Quade. Quade continued sitting on the floor silently, his legs outstretched before him, his back against the wall. His beard itched. Detached, stolid, he watched his visitors. “We got a job for you,” said Parson. Donaldson said, “You’ll get a presidential pardon if you take the job.” “Do you keep your word this time?” asked Quade. His voice startled him. He had not heard it in weeks. It came out hoarse, strange. Somebody else’s voice in his body. “You haven’t lost your sense of humor,” said Donaldson. “I kept up my end of the bargain and pleaded guilty, the way you said,” Quade murmured. “You promised I’d get probation.” “I told you we wouldn’t let you rot in here.” Donaldson moved closer to Quade and lowered his voice so the guard could not hear it. “The judge wanted a seat on the Supreme Court in return for your probation. We couldn’t swing that.” “What’s changed?”
“We need you. You’re our last hope. You’re our expert in terminations. The job you did on Abu went without a hitch.” Through a Thorazine-induced haze Quade’s mind recalled Abu, a Libyan terrorist leader he had clipped for the Agency two years ago after undergoing intensive training for the mission for five months with a Seal-Six counterterrorist team. Off the Costa del Sol on the Spanish Coast, in his cigarette boat, he had donned a frogman’s wetsuit and scuba gear, swum under Abu’s yacht, attached a magnetized limpet mine to its hull, set the timer, swum back to his cigarette boat, cruised to Malaga, and from the quay watched Abu’s yacht explode into a smoking fireball. “Who do you want hit?” Quade asked. The interested guard tried to move within earshot but Parson held him back. The guard shrugged. “We don’t know his name yet,” said Donaldson. Quade asked, “What did he do?” “He shot Senator Brockett.” “Isn’t this a job for the FBI?” Quade could not understand the need for him. Maybe the Thorazine was impeding his thinking process. “They’re in on it too.” “On the hit?” Quade did not know that the FBI had ever hit anyone. “No. The investigation.” “Why does there have to be a hit?” “We suspect a conspiracy, so naturally we don’t want a trial. We don’t want the
Fete / Cassiday
public to know foreign spies can murder at will in this country. A trial would bring that out.” “Congress outlawed domestic hits,” Quade said. It felt strange talking to Donaldson, who seemed to be standing in some kind of fog. Quade felt no compunction about clipping the Libyan terrorist because Abu had murdered scores of American, as well as foreign, civilians. “Then we can count you out?” Donaldson said brusquely. “You’d rather rot here and feel sorry for yourself.” He stepped back toward the door. A major reason Quade had got into this line of work was to see action. He was not exactly an unwilling Agency recruit. When ordered to hit Abu, he had done it, nothing loath. He had attended college to better his impoverished lot in life, but after he joined the Agency for the same reason (with a little Agency sandbagging added for good measure), the death-defying thrills of espionage hooked him like a narcotic. He lost interest in becoming a professional paper pusher locked into the dryasdust nine-to-five grind. The prison psychiatrist said he had a death wish. Thanatos: the shrink’s sobriquet for him. “I’m in.” Then he could hunt down the terrorists who had ordered the jet blown up and clap them into the slam where they belonged and clear his name in the bargain. At least Donaldson had not tried to appeal to his patriotic spirit, which ws wearing
thin ever since his star-chamber trial. Quade tried to stand up but his legs would not budge. “What’s wrong with him?” Donaldson asked the guard. “What do you mean?” “He can’t move.” “It must be the Thorazine,” said the guard without interest. “Help him up.” The guard helped Quade to his feet and grunted loudly to let Donaldson know he should get a bonus for the extra labor that was not in his line of duty. “Let’s go,” Donaldson told Quade, then to the guard, “He’s been pardoned.” The guard groaned at the idea of hauling Quade to the jailhouse exit, then put Quade’s arm around his neck and trudged down the cell block. “Why did they drug him?” asked Donaldson. “He got paranoid,” said the guard. “He thought everybody was trying to kill him. A real psycho.” The guard shook his head, baffled. Even as he spoke, catcalls shrieked through the cell block while furious fists and heels hammered bass counterpoint against casehardened steel bars. “We gonna whack you, snitch!” a convict cried. “Who’d you fink on to get out o’ here, white bread!” “You’re dead meat! You’re dead meat!” rose the chant. “Whatever gave him that idea?” said Donaldson, who winced at the clamor. “I don’t know,” said the guard. “The doctors couldn’t figure it out either.” He
Fete / Cassiday
panted and strained under Quade’s dead weight, ignorant of Donaldson’s sarcasm. “If I get a hernia from this, I’ll know who to send the doctor’s bill to,” he said and glared at Donaldson.
The killer took the hooker to a tumbledown dive on Sepulveda Boulevard. She did not object. After all she had been standing in front of the roach motel when he first spotted her. She had what he liked–tits to die for and a wasp waist. D-cup
material for sure, he thought. She wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination but a woman’s face did nothing for him. In the motel room, he paid her and told her what he wanted to do. Reluctant at first, she changed her tune when he flashed more twenties in front of her. Her reluctance was just an act, he figured, to jack up the price. She looked Hispanic. He liked Hispanic women. They tended to be wellendowed, like this prostie. She unbuttoned her emerald satin blouse, shrugged out of it, peeled off her cafeau-lait stretch pants, and stepped out of her black bikini panties. Naked save for her black bra and white vinyl boots, she plumped down on the bed. “Want me to take off my bra?” she asked, and leered at his crotch–or was it his wallet, which he held before him? He nodded. “That cost ten dollars extra.” His wallet, he decided with a sigh. Oh well, the old bait and switch for the oldest profession, he thought as he flung the money at her. She took off her bra and he was not disappointed. She was even fuller than he had expected, and, indeed, her bra size said 34D. She lay back on the bed. “Take off your boots,” he said. “Men like me to keep them on.” He shook his head. “Not this man. Take them off.”
Fete / Cassiday She could not care less. She removed her boots and lay spread-eagled. He fished out four ropes from his jacket and tied her hands and feet to the bedposts.
Finished, he stripped and withdrew a two-foot-long wooden stick that looked like a miniature bat from inside the back of his jacket. The hooker’s eyes bulged as she watched him. “What’s that for?” “You’ll see, honey. Patience is a virtue. I’m sure you know a lot about virtue in your line of business. By the way, what’s your name?” “Raquel.” “Okay, Rocki, you’re making me hot.” He raised the stick and slammed it against her right sole. “Ow!” she cried. “Shhh! This is called bastinado.” He swung it at her sole again, more viciously this time. She squealed in agony. “Stop! Basta! Basta!” “Not basta–bastinado. This is bastinado, loud mouth.” She tried to break free from her bonds, squirming, kicking, and screaming for all she was worth. He grabbed her panties, balled them up, and stuffed them into her gaping mouth. “Shut up, Rocki!” He whacked her foot again, this time the left sole. Torture could be more fun than
sex, he decided, and it was a great tension reliever before he plotted the next murder in the mission entrusted to him by the Man. “Rocki, I think I love you.”
That night, Quade took a hack to the Brentwood mansion of a movie producer friend of Donaldson’s who lived on San Vicente Boulevard. Quade could not figure out why Donaldson had ordered him here. What did this Hollywood party have to do with Brockett’s murder? Two paunchy women joggers in grey sweat suits huffed and puffed as they jogged under the coral trees that lined the thoroughfare’s wide grassy median strip. The cab deposited him at the foot of a cement driveway that cut through a sixfoot-high privet hedge and then straightened out under a porte cochere. From there the drive swept toward a mansion designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Its white stucco, Japanese-style sliding planes blended naturally into the flowery pastel environment of jacarandas and camellias. A Chicano chausseur in a tight, short red jacket and black pants asked for Quade’s ID at the porte cochere. Freshly shaved and barbered, Quade held out his driver’s license and considered the flat mansion that sprawled before him. It was a far cry from the pen. Lucky he had rented a suit. The chausseur compared Quade’s name to a list of names on a notepad in his
Fete / Cassiday hand, said, “Okay,” and opened the arched, black-painted, steel-grilled gate. Still light-headed from the aftereffects of the Thorazine, Quade headed up the
long driveway to the mansion’s entrance, a custard yellow Mercedes coupe and a lowslung scarlet Ferrari with a whip antenna parked in front of it. A teenage valet oohed and aahed over the Ferrari Testarossa. Quade entered the lobby. He hoped he was dressed right for the party. He never knew how to dress in California. If you wore a suit, you sometimes looked out of place. However, he figured it was better to overdress than to underdress, especially at a party at a mansion. He did not want to stick out like a sore thumb. He guessed right. Most of the guests, including Donaldson, were wearing expensive suits. Feeling like the odd man out despite his new suit, Quade asked himself, how were you supposed to act at a party for the carriage trade? He should have a safe, secure job now and a wife and kids in a middle-class suburban house. Instead, he was being sucked into the vortex of a national conspiracy. His heart accelerated at the thought. Juiced up, he realized this was the reason he had gotten into this business in the first place: he got a bounce out of living on the ragged edge of danger. Nattily dressed in a pin-striped three-piece suit, Donaldson approached and greeted him. “You’re late.” “I had to rent this suit.”
“That doesn’t look like Brooks to me,” Donaldson sniffed, looking him over. Quade ignored the dig. “Why am I here?” “You’re a bodyguard tonight.” “What’s this got to do with Brockett?” “Senator Pineta from New York, over there”–Donaldson nodded at a distinguished-looking middle-aged white-haired man who was standing on the other side of the living room–“got a death threat, like Brockett. It may have something to do with Brockett. It’s not much to go on but it’s better than nothing. Pineta’s also a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.” Pineta was talking to a good-looking décolleté brunette who was obviously proud of her bust development and for good reason, decided Quade. Pineta looked like a wellto-do doctor, glib and comfortable in the presence of others, self-confident because of material success, a regular world-beater. “I get to watch him all night,” said Quade, not envying the prospect. “And another thing,” said Donaldson. “This party is supposed to be a charity fund-raiser. Don’t mention your assignment to anyone.” “My lips are sealed.” Quade wanted to fade into the woodwork chameleonlike. Used to having hardened convicts glaring at, insulting, and guffawing at him, he had somehow, incredibly, landed in a mansion teeming with beautiful, smiling millionaires. He felt selfconscious and did not know how to act. Donaldson drifted away and accepted a drink from a waiter.
Fete / Cassiday
Quade admired the pink Louis Quinze chairs scattered throughout the spacious living room and took in the Oriental arras on the wall opposite him. The movie producer had eclectic taste. Quade tried to mingle inconspicuously with the guests, keeping an eye on Pineta. Somebody tapped Quade’s elbow. Quade turned around and with a start recognized Al Bouchay, a former schoolmate at the CIA’s Camp Peary, who looked as incongruous and ill at ease as he. He had not seen Bouchay, a few years his senior, in a coon’s age but how could he forget him–the bullet head, the apricotlike ears, the close-cropped auburn hair, the squat neck, hard, lipless mouth, the rough-and-ready deportment. Bouchay shifted uncomfortably in his ill-fitting navy blue suit. “Surprise, surprise. Who invited you?” His voice sounded coarse compared to Donaldson’s dulcet notes. “I haven’t seen you in years, Al.” “I thought they shipped you to Lebanon.” Quade shook his head but said nothing. He did not want to tell Bouchay about his time in the joint. Bouchay must not have read about it in the papers because he had been stationed overseas. “You’re the only friend I got here,” said Bouchay and tossed his glass of bourbon. “Look at that Donaldson. What a prig. He hasn’t changed a bit.” Quade helped himself to a glass of Scotch on a young waiter’s tray of drinks.
Bouchay said, “Bourbon?” and clasped a full glass that the waiter pointed to on the tray. “Are you contributing to the charity?” asked Quade. Bouchay laughed. “Yeah, sure. A million bucks. Look at all these richies. What are poor slobs like us doing here? A lot of politicians here,” he added, surveying the guests. “Guarding the fat cats–that’s what.” “Who’s that guy with the ugly woman?” Quade nodded at a lantern-jawed, thickset forty-six-year-old handsome man with twinkling blue eyes who was speaking to a homely woman beside him. Wearing an unremarkable dress on her unremarkable figure, she looked older than he for her sagging face but probably was younger. Her pouched lower eyelids that slid halfway down her cheeks like the skin of stewed tomatoes betrayed her fondness for booze. “That’s Senator Garner from Georgia and his wire,” said Bouchay. “Two uglies made for each other.” He giggled. Quade did not agree with Bouchay’s assessment of Garner, who could have passed for a lead actor. “It’s amazing what type of people marry each other.” “I don’t think it’s amazing. What’s amazing is that they let Mrs. Garner out of the Betty Ford dry-out clinic. She’s a lush and she’s been in and out of it for years.” “You’ve boned up on your research. Why did he marry her? Wasn’t he worried about jeopardizing his career in politics?” “Hardly. She’s an heiress to a tobacco fortune. I don’t think she hit the bottle till
Fete / Cassiday after she married him.”
At that moment a blonde in her late twenties stormed into the living room like a simoom, her high heels clacking hard against the floor. She had fine, full blond hair that reached beneath her ears in a pageboy cut, an upturned nose, wide-spaced slate eyes, apple red cheeks, and generous lips, all on top of her narrow-waisted, wide-hipped figure. “Who’s that?” asked Quade. “I wish I knew,” said Bouchay. “What a cupcake.” He smacked his lips and took a swig of bourbon. “I bet she could suck the pain off a Mercedes SL.” The blonde studied the crowd, then spotted Donaldson in front of the French windows and approached him. Bouchay wandered away, spoke to a guest, and returned to Quade’s side. “She’s Heather Brockett, the senator’s daughter,” he told Quade. “I wouldn’t mind getting married if it was to someone like her.” He tilted his head up and raked his eyes up and down her figure that was clad in a loose mallow rose pongee dress. “How many spooks to you think are in this room?” he asked, changing the subject. Donaldson left Heather and made his way toward them. “My cue to leave,” said Bouchay under his breath. “I can’t stand sucking up to that . . .” Pretending to recognize a fat man that was nibbling a canapé, he sauntered off to his left. Donaldson halted beside Quade and said, “You’re going to have to catch
Brockett’s killer pronto. Brockett’s powerful relatives are turning up the burner under me.” “I saw her.” “By the way, the owner said you could sleep in the guest room tonight. Then move tomorrow to the motel room we rented for you.” Quade watched Heather stalk out of the room. “She’s convinced spies are tailing her,” said Donaldson. “Whose spies?” “She wouldn’t say.” “What about us?” “No. We’re not tailing her. She’s upset because of her father’s death and must be imagining them. Who in the world would be spying on her?” Quade and Donaldson edged closer to Garner, who was speaking to Pineta. “That was a terrible tragedy that happened to Senator Brockett,” answered Pineta. “He was a fine man and a shrewd businessman. I understand his tire company is making money hand over fist. Who could have wanted to harm him?” “Sometimes I think the sickies are taking over this country. Everything started going to pot during Vietnam.” Garner shook his head sadly. “Garner made his fortune from a chain of fast-food restaurants,” Donaldson confided to Quade. “What about Pineta?” “He’s one of those storied immigrants you hear about who come over here with a
Fete / Cassiday nickel and parlay it into a fortune. He built a shoe factory in New York.” “A lucky guy.”
“He didn’t win the lottery. He made his own luck. He worked for his living.” “Him and everyone else,” said Quade, annoyed at Donaldson’s espousal of the work ethic. Donaldson who had inherited his millions. “Sometimes I think you’re a Marxist-Leninist when you spew that agitprop,” said Donaldson, equally peeved. “We all can’t be millionaires, no matter how hard we work,” said Quade to explain himself. “If we were, it wouldn’t mean anything. Then we’d all want to be trillionaires.” Quade realized he sounded pedantic so he left off speaking and took a slug from his Scotch. “Let me give you a word of advice, Tyrone,” Donaldson said in his most patronizing voice. “Keep your mouth shut and you’ll make your way in this world. People don’t want to hear the truth, no matter how much they insist otherwise. They need something to believe in, and what we give them in this country is the dream that anybody can make good here.” “Are you running for office?” Stone-faced, Donaldson walked off. Quade contemplated an original Matisse and two Cezannes on the wall to his left as he nursed his Scotch. What would the cons say if they could see him now? he wondered.
“Don’t I know you?” Garner asked Quade by way of introducing himself, approaching Quade. “No.” “You look familiar.” “We’ve never met. Unless you were the short eyes in Block B.” “Excuse me.” Garner looked flabbergasted. “Nothing. It was a joke.” Quade decided Garner did not know prison slang for child molester. Just as well. “Oh.” Garner wasn’t laughing. If anything, he seemed tense. “This Brockett murder gives me the creeps. It’s damn ghoulish the way he died.” “A psycho could have done it.” “What if it’s political? I have to admit this is scaring us pols.” “Let’s hope he doesn’t strike again.” Garner nodded. “What’s your racket?” Nothing much, really. I kill people. “I’m a consultant.” “What kind of consultant?” “A security consultant.” Garner’s wife stood by Garner, her mouth clamped shut, practicing her Jackie O. impersonation, while he nodded. After he took leave of her he buttonholed Quade in a corner. “I don’t want her to overhear us,” said Garner. “Overhear what?”
Fete / Cassiday Garner did not beat around the bush. “Are you a dope dealer?” he whispered. “No. You don’t have to admit it. You don’t have to worry. I’m not a narc.” “I’m a consultant.” “Have it your way. I’m consulting you.” Garner leaned his head closer to
Quade’s. “Do you know where I can score a kilo of crack? I hear LA’s loaded with it.” “No.” If you keep your mouth shut everybody mistakes you for a dope dealer, thought Quade. That shoots down Donaldson’s advice about keeping quiet. “Come on. Everyone’s got a pipeline out here. You must know,” Garner all but whined, convinced that Quade was holding out on him. “No, I don’t.” Garner scanned the living room. “I wish the guy who owns this mansion was here.” “The movie producer?” “Right. He’d surely know.” “Where is he?” “In Cannes,” drawled Garner, lapsing into a Georgia accent for the first time since Quade had met him. “Then how come our fund-raiser’s here?” “Archibald is house-sitting for him for the time being.” Garner’s Georgia accent was gone now as though it had never existed. He adjusted the white silk handkerchief protruding from his jacket’s breast pocket. “You look like you work out a lot.” He
playfully slapped Quade’s shoulder. “Some.” Quade had done a slew of push-ups and other exercises at Terminal Island in order to burn off energy. “I’m going to take up jogging one of these days and ran a Ten-K. I’ll see you later.” Garner returned to his wife. Drink in hand, a pony bottle of Perrier in the other, Pineta neared Quade and asked, “Do you think conspirators assassinated Brockett?” “I don’t know.” Pineta downed his drink then chased it with the Perrier. “I wish I could find the Jacuzzi. I know a girl who wants to see it.” “Your wife?” “No. A real-estate agent. My wife couldn’t make it this trip. She’s back in New York.” Wary of further questioning, Pineta beat a hasty retreat from Quade. As he wondered if Brockett’s killer might be in the crowd, Quade spotted a bowl of popcorn on the walnut sideboard, grabbed a handful of the snack, and munched it contentedly. He swigged his Scotch and thought that this was the life. Too bad he could only watch on account of his cheesy income.
When he checked into a Los Angeles motel room the next day, he tossed the key, plastic tag attached, onto the bed’s counterpane and scoured the room for bugs. Still weak from his time in the hole, he unscrewed the phone’s two perforated
Fete / Cassiday
Bakelite covers that protected its transmitter and receiver. He found nothing suspicious. The he unscrewed the phone’s brass bottom, and again found no bug. He turned over the lamp. Clean. Then he got down on his hands and knees and examined the underside of the deal desk, removed its drawers, and inspected them inside and out. On his stomach he cast about under the bedstead, running his fingers under it. The room seemed clean. He scratched his chin in thought. He remarked a wall socket located under the desk. Removing the lamp’s plug from the socket, he noticed scraped paint in the indentation in the outlet’s screw head. He removed his Swiss army pocketknife from his trouser pocket and unscrewed the outlet’s metal face plate. Behind it was a bug. He replaced the plate. Who? he thought. Donaldson? Parson? Who else knew he would check into this room? Bureaucrats involved in the pardon? How many others? At least he knew somebody had him under surveillance. There was a knock on the door. Quade answered it. A short smooth-faced round-faced fortyish man in horn-rimmed glasses and a navy blue suit and vest stood on the aqua cement balcony of Quade’s second-story room, his chest out. No Donaldson. Not Harvard material. Loyola? “Tyrone Quade?” asked the man. “Yeah.” “I’m Lamar Smily, attorney at law for Smily, Smily & Smily,” said Smily, all
sweetness and light. “Congratulations on your pardon. I understand you’re going to sue the government for false imprisonment.” “Not that I know of.” “Then let me offer you my services. May I come in?” Smily stepped toward the door. “No.” Surprised, Smily halted and brushed imaginary dust off his jacket. Quade did not want the bug to pick up their conversation. He also did not want a conversation. “You look ill,” said Smily. “Are you having a nervous breakdown?” “No.” “It happens to the best of us. Don’t feel ashamed. After what you’ve been through, you’re lucky to be alive.” Smily’s voice oozed with commiseration. “What do you want?” “I want to represent you. Now that you’re having a nervous breakdown we’ll sue the government for damages to your health. They did this to you. You can confide in me.” Smily nodded and smiled disarmingly. Quade made to close the door. “I have a headache.” “Your breakdown will get you sympathy in the media. Juries love a sob story.” Smily did not understand the meaning of the word no. “You’re going to be the sob story if you don’t leave me alone.” “Well, I’ll come back later.” Smily handed Quade his business card.
Fete / Cassiday Quade shut the door. How did everyone know where he was staying? he wondered.
He reached for the phone on the tiny square desk near the bed’s headboard to call Donaldson but caught himself before he grasped the receiver, remembering the room was bugged. Then something that he had not spotted earlier caught his eye. He had not checked the wire that ran from the phone. You could not see it unless you scrutinized the black wire, he realized. The only reason he noticed it now was because he made out a space seemingly in the wire. On closer inspection he found that the “space” was actually a clear glue that attached a threadlike wire to the telephone wire. He traced the thin wire all the way to the jack in the wall. Another bug? He dug out his pocketknife and unscrewed the plastic face plate. His breath caught. It was not a bug. Inside the wall, gobs of it molded between the studs, under wraps was C-4 plastic explosive. He knew it on sight. He had used it hundreds of times at the Farm at Camp Peary in Virginia. He did not want to fool around with the explosive. Breaking into a sweat, he decided it was rigged to detonate when the phone rang. What if someone phoned him when he was trying to defuse it? What if it was booby-trapped? It was best to hightail it on the spot. At the door he halted, his hand on the doorknob. What if they were watching the
door? Somebody might have the room staked out. He retreated from the door gingerly then bolted toward the rear window. It was small but he could squeeze through it. He poked his head out it. It was a two-story drop to the garden of geraniums. Once he got out the window and hung from the sill, it would be about a ten-foot drop. The loam in the flowerbed was soft. That should help break his fall. In any case, a twisted ankle was better than getting blown into orbit. His pulse jacked up, ears alert for the fatal ring of the phone, he clambered out the window and clung, arms extended, to the wooden sill, then he let go. Bending his knees to break his fall, he slammed into the ground and rolled over the geraniums and over spalls of bark in the loam. Somehow his back struck the ground hard, which knocked the wind out of him. He lay on his back, paralyzed, unable to breathe, his mouth gaping,a nd thought he was going to die as he kept listening for the ring of the phone. Noticing before him a deserted cut that led to the street, he wondered if any of the neighbors saw him. Maybe they figured that he was a wino sleeping it off. With a painful grimace he thought, Of all the stupid ways to die. . . .
Special Agent Parson climbed the aqua-painted cement steps to the front balcony of Quade’s motel room at that very moment and was thinking how he hated working with the Agency. Having one sadistic director, at the Bureau, was bad enough and now, to
Fete / Cassiday double his misery, he had another one from the Agency. He had endured six years of college so he could graduate with an MBA and
firsthand watch crooks get away with murder, pimping, and dope dealing, and making megabucks to boot. He worked himself to death while they had the times of their lives. These steps are murder, he thought, breathing hard, then mounted the landing with a loud sigh of relief. When he reached Quade’s door he knocked three times. At that instant the phone rang once, twice, then, as it started to ring for the third time, Parson’s thoughts were obliterated as well as his body and the motel room. Black smoke unfurled upward, great banks of it. Debris rained down on the kidney-shaped swimming pool in the courtyard. An unidentifiable clump of bloody flesh and bone fragments, a charred vein dangling out it, landed on the poolside with a thud like that of a mud pie striking the ground.
The blast deafening him, choking, Quade hobbled down the alley under the flying shivers of wood from broken furniture and under the pelting gouts of human flesh.
Three hours after the explosion, his ashen-haired head held high, an arrogant Donaldson entered the verdigris green office of the Bureau’s LA Field Office chief, Hannibal Buddy, a stout man in his fifties with bulldog jowls, close-cropped hair, and a businessman’s dark suit. Beneath his unbuttoned jacket the butt of his .38 special peeked out its web leather shoulder holster. He looked like a jerkwater cop, decided Donaldson. He did not like cops. No panache. Halfwits. “They blew up Quade,” said Donaldson. “I want to talk to Special Agent Parson.” “So do I,” said Buddy, square hands folded on the cluttered desktop. “I want him to investigate the explosion but nobody can find him.” He’s probably got a quart of Jack Daniels stashed in his drawer, thought Donaldson. “Where is he?” “He got a call from Quade according to a note we found on Parson’s desk
Fete / Cassiday
calendar. A neighbor saw Parson leave his apartment about an hour before the explosion. That’s the last anybody saw of him.” “Do you have any idea who planted the bomb?” “No. The motel room was demolished root and branch. No clues.” From his desktop Buddy picked up a cigar, unwrapped its cellophane cover, which he tossed aside, stuck the cigar into his mouth, and chewed its end with his gnashing molars, which further tarnished his already-stained teeth and lips with nicotine. “Damn. We go to all the trouble of freeing Quade from jail and now he’s dead just like that.” Buddy removed his cigar from his mouth and for answer resumed his bulldog expression.
Jimmy Dupree was a twenty-three-year-old with a stylish two-day beard and a narrow snub nose, which would have looked girlish except that it had been broken in a fistfight in the slammer and as a result skewed to his left. He lowered his binoculars from his glittering mud brown eyes and laughed, which rattled the necklace of Hawaiian puka beads on his chest. He had watched the whole shebang from his motel room across the street from Quade’s death trap. The explosion and then the firemen hosing down the fire were out of this world,
he mused with glee. Over three hours of fun watching the gargantuan lizard tongues of crackling, burnished copper flames lick the sky. He would not have missed a minute of it for all the world. He removed a package of Marlboros from under the short sleeve of his sky blue T-shirt, flicked out a cigarette, lit up, and took a deep, refreshing drag. He was a pro. He always stayed and watched his handiwork if at all possible. The true pro remained to the end, as far as Dupree was concerned, no matter how dangerous and hopeless the assignment. That was why contractors hired him: because he personally rode herd on his work. He left nothing to chance. And besides, he stayed because he enjoyed watching the fireworks. Both of them were dead, as ordered: the FBI flatfoot and the con resh from Terminal Island. Nobody could have survived that blowout. Dupree had impersonated Quade’s voice when he phoned the flatfoot an hour before the explosion and told him to meet him at Quade’s motel. Wised up about Quade’s release, the boss suspected Quade and Parson were a little too palsy-walsy so they both had to go–kaboom! Dupree swallowed speed without water and danced a jig in his motel room, laughing. Tonight he would drop windowpane acid and celebrate with Luscious Luella, a redheaded stripper who worked the strip joints near LAX Airport. ***** The next day at eleven o’clock in the morning, Donaldson strode through the LA
Fete / Cassiday CIA station’s code room and watched the clerks punching buttons on the computer consoles. The thick-piled carpet helped muffle any noises in the soundproof room.
As soon as he left it, the clerks relaxed, slumped in their white contoured plastic chairs, and told each other what they really thought of the DDO, the SOB. In the office lobby of the chief of station, who had moved elsewhere for the duration of Donaldson’s sojourn in LA, Donaldson found Hannibal Buddy standing in front of the secretary’s desk. The brassy secretary, her face impassive, looked as if she was busy thinking up lies to tell Buddy, who stood fuming. As he turned and saw Donaldson, Buddy’s face became livid. “I want to see you,” Buddy growled. “I guess I can make time for you,” Donaldson said shortly. Buddy stamped after Donaldson into the chief of station’s office, a much more expensively appointed office than Buddy’s. From his jacket pocket Buddy removed a crumpled white cotton cloth and slammed it down on Donaldson’s desk, amidst the papers and manila folders. One of the papers flew off the desk and oscillated down to the plush carpet. “What’s this all about?” Donaldson demanded, his spine stiffening at Buddy’s amateur theatrics. Buddy had all the finesse of a bull in a china shop, he observed. “Open it.” “We’re too old to be playing show-and-tell.” Donaldson wondered what the old so-and-so was trying to pull. Donaldson had no time for it.
“We’re not playing anything.” Donaldson unfolded the cloth to humor Buddy so he would leave Donaldson alone. At first Donaldson did not recognize the cloth’s contents, as it was out of context, but when he did he gasped at the gruesome sight. “What kind of sick joke–” “That’s what my men found at the bomb site.” “Why bring it here?” snapped Donaldson, not in the least amused. “It’s proof.” “Proof of what?” Talk about tasteless pranks, thought Donaldson. Inside the cloth lay the bloodless top joint of a finger. “We checked the prints on that,” said Buddy. “By the way, we had a devil of a time getting copies of your Quade’s prints!” Buddy roared to make a point of the fact. “Is that why you’re so worked up?” Donaldson sniggered. “If you’d let me finish. That’s not his finger.” Buddy sized up the snickering Donaldson. “You think you’re so smart, huh?” Surprised, Donaldson cocked his head up. “Then whose is it?” he asked, ignoring Buddy’s hick irony manqué. “Parson’s.” Buddy seethed with rage. “Your son of a bitch blew up my man!” Beside himself, he looked as if he might explode. Donaldson stared at the fingertip but did not say anything. “Why? What are you spooks trying to pull?” Donaldson collected himself. He reassumed his Harvard, Wall Street corporate lawyer’s supercilious mien. “You have the gall to accuse me?”
Fete / Cassiday “Well?” Buddy blustered. “Why did you terminate my man?”
“We didn’t do it. What kind of a jackass do you take me for? This is something you flatfoots would pull.” Buddy sneered. “Yeah, sure. I wasted my own man.” “Quade must have arranged an appointment with Parson. That explains Quade’s phone call to him.” Buddy nodded, jaw set, agreeing, yes. “Then Quade must have set him up,” concluded Donaldson. “Quade blew away my man,” Buddy said in a singsong voice. “Did you finally figure that out?” he snapped. “Haven’t you been listening to what I’ve been telling you? The question is, why did he do it?” “I don’t know. Maybe jail scrambled Quade’s brains. He wasn’t following orders.” Donaldson reached in pain toward his right ear, fed up with Buddy’s ranting and raving that were making his eardrums throb. Buddy turned to leave. “I wish you guys would tell us what you’re doing once in a while so we wouldn’t get our signals crossed.” “Bug my office, or did you already do that?” Buddy nodded, gloating at Donaldson’s paranoia. “You spy guys are all alike.” “What’s that supposed to mean?” “Nothing. I’m going to nail this butcher Quade if it’s the last thing I do. Spooks can’t get away with murder in the US of A. He’s the kind who end up dead resisting
arrest.” Donaldson could not resist a Parthian shot. “I bet that’s your specialty.”
At five o’clock Quade hopped out of an articulated RTD bus in front of the Hollywood apartment house of a professional torch he had met in the joint. They once shared a cell. His name was Johnny Burell. He specialized in arson but also dabbled in explosives. His big-eyed hatchet face, which resembled nothing so much as a fly’s, perched on a twenty-eight-year-old sinewy body, expressed amazement when he set eyes on Quade at his front door. “I thought you were still in the slammer,” said Burell. “Come in.” He scratched the tank top on his belly. “How’s freedom?” said Quade and took stock of Burell’s room, a dusty fleabag with thick, blackened spiderweb strands festooning its corners. “Not so hot.” Burell sat down at his kitchenette table and resumed eating the pepperoni pizza that he had ordered from Pizza Man. “Have a piece,” he said, offering the pizza box to Quade. Quade detected the insincerity in Burell’s voice and declined. “I just need a place to sit down.” He did not like pepperoni anyway. He sat on the edge of the unmade bed. “Times are rough,” said Burell. “I can’t pay next month’s rent and I got a retarded
Fete / Cassiday
kid to support. I broke up with my wife and she took the kid. What can we do with him? He’s a nice kid but how will he ever get a job? How will he ever be able to support himself? He can’t even tie his shoes. How can I pay Betty child support when I don’t got a steady job?” He wolfed down the pizza, venting his frustration on it, lips red with tomato sauce. Quade wondered if Burell could see the three-inch-long scab on his head. A flying shard of glass from the explosion must have cut his scalp. Burell was too engrossed with his pizza to notice anything. “I don’t have a place to stay yet,” said Quade, thinking Burell might let him stay there awhile, but Burell did not respond to the cue. “I could work my ass off doing dishes at Denny’s but what’s the point? The pay stinks. I can’t support me and my kid on that. The kid needs to go to a special school. That costs extra bucks.” “Do you keep in touch with any bomber boys?” “I’m staying away from that shit. What burns me is I see these guys, rummies and bums, with less brains than me and they got good jobs, making thirty grand a year. How do they get those jobs? I don’t get pin money.” “Somebody tried to blow me up. Have you heard anything on the street about it?” Burell licked tomato sauce off his fingers. “Damn. Are you hot?” “Not that I know of.”
“Somebody’s after you. The big guys use bombs, Tyrone, not little guys. I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes.” “Could be a nut,” Quade suggested, looked at the pizza, and regretted his decision to decline it. “There aren’t many mad bombers running around. You been watching too many movies.” Burell chewed the toasted crust of another pizza wedge. “Goddamn those dishes! Why should I break my back for two bits while some rich lazy Bel Air kid cruises around in a Jag?” Quade had no answer for that. “If you know any bomber boys in town, tell me.” “I don’t know.” Burell threw up his hands in anguish. “I don’t want to know!” “Somebody wants me dead. I want to know who, before it’s too late.” “If I screw around with that junk again, they’ll yank my parole.” “I’m not asking you to hit anyone.” Quade could not understand Burell’s reluctance to help him. “Why does all the shit rain down on me! I’m sitting here minding my own business, being Goody Two Shoes, thinking about my retarded kid, and then you come along full of bad news. Why can’t you just leave me alone?” Burell flung a half-eaten pizza wedge into the grease-mottled cardboard box. “I’m not asking you to do anything,” said Quade. “If you happen to hear anything, tell me. That’s all. The parole board can’t jump on you for that.” He headed toward the door, which had the Miss April centerfold from Playboy tacked to it.
Fete / Cassiday
“Do I got a sign on me that says, Fuck me over?” said Burell. “This pizza’s cold. Why does everything stink so bad?” He shoved the pizza box across the tabletop with revulsion. A brown two-inch cockroach scuttled over the box, trying to escape before the box collided with the kitchenette wall that abutted the table. Burell ignored the roach as though it was part of the table and with noncommittal eyes watched Quade go out the door.
After Quade left the ramshackle apartment house he entered a plate-glass phone booth at the 76 gas station on the street corner, opposite a newspaper kiosk, and dialed Donaldson’s emergency number. “Hello,” said Donaldson. “Hello. Is it safe to talk? Are you alone?” Donaldson paused then said suspiciously, “Yes. Who is this?” “Quade.” “It’s good to hear from you,” Donaldson said. “You’re alive after all.” “Just barely,” Quade said with relief as he recalled his exploding motel room. “Where the hell have you been! I want to see you on the double!” Quade flinched from the receiver. He had forgot to prepare himself for Donaldson’s access.
A true sadist, Donaldson buttered you up in order to induce you to relax and feel comfortable with him so he could catch you flat-footed that much easier and thrust the knife into your spine. As soon as he thought you liked him and could trust him, you were done for. He could not abide anybody on an equal footing, hence the knife in the back. Only when you realized you were inferior to him would he compose himself and carry on the conversation. “Where do we meet?” asked Quade in a neutral voice. Donaldson paused, obliging Quade to wait, obliging him to feel inferior–like a lackey awaiting orders from his master. “At the A&C auto supplies warehouse on Sepulveda in two hours,” Donaldson said at last. He hung up.
Fete / Cassiday
Over two hours later, Quade got off an RTD bus at an ecru clapboard warehouse that sorely needed a new paint job. He crossed the abandoned railroad track that angled in front of the building and strode toward its open side door. The vapory night air smelled smoky for the smog. He edged into the warehouse. It was dark inside and he could not see his way. Groping along the wall for a light switch, he blundered over a jack that lay on the floor. He wondered how he was going to find Donaldson. It seemed darker than before. Quade turned around and realized the door was now shut. He sniffed gasoline. A flashlight’s beam from behind him swept across the warehouse and revealed rows of automobile tires that stood on racks. Truck tires lined the high walls. “Quade?” a voice whispered. “Here.” The beam of light cut a swath across him. Then a familiar sound sang by his ear. A flying bullet. The gun had a silencer. He ducked behind a row of tires as the light picked him out of the darkness. He did not have his automatic. It had been blown up in his motel room. The assassin must
have followed him to the warehouse. Quade figured whoever it was did not turn on the lights for fear of drawing attention to the warehouse from outside. Quade sprinted around the tires to the large metal accordion garage door. He leaned over and tried to yank it up. To no avail. It was operated electronically by a worm gear and would not budge. The hit man must have heard Quade’s footsteps for he headed toward the garage door, flashlight beam swaying in front of him, and jacked Quade like a deer in the forest. Quade stole through the warehouse. In military confrontations it was best to seek the high ground. His eyes more accustomed to the night and aided by moonlight percolating through a skylight, he marked a gantry above him. To his right stood the metal ladder leading to it. He reached the ladder and noiselessly scaled it. The hit man would not be hunting for him above. He would be concentrating his efforts on the floor, expecting Quade to make a mad dash to the side door. Quade reached the gantry and stole along the ironwork. Windows lined the top of the warehouse wall but were out of his reach. He spotted the skylight farther ahead. It too was out of reach. However, he might be able to climb the side of the gantry to haul himself through the skylight. The flashlight beam glided below him. A breeze coming from the direction of the skylight blew across his face and caressed his cheek. That meant the skylight must be open. His heart skipped a beat in his anticipation. He would not have to break open the glass, whose noise would have alerted the hit man.
Fete / Cassiday
Escape seemed possible now. He would still have to reach the skylight though. The beam was rising higher. Christ! He quickened his pace. If the hit man spotlighted him up here, he would be a sitting duck. There was no place to hide on the gantry. The thin ironwork grate frame provided the merest protection, next to useless against hurtling slugs. The gantry creaked. That was all he needed. He froze. He watched the beam. It did not change course and continued roaming over the massive, deeply treaded truck tires that lined the wall. The hit man must not have heard the creaking. “There’s no way out,” the voice stage-whispered. “I locked the door.” Quade crept toward the skylight, careful to stay out of the faint moonlight that diffused through it. Where the hell was Donaldson? It was well past two hours since their phone call. Quade could not waste time thinking about it. He had to get out of the warehouse. He mounted the latticed side of the gantry. There was enough space between the interstices for him to plant his feet and find purchase. He reached the ceiling without trouble, inched to the very edge of the moon ray, halted, peered down at the flashlight, and waited for its beam to point away from him. It seemed to take forever but it eventually aimed at the door. Now was as good a time as any. He took three deep breaths to calm his nerves. He reached toward the skylight and swung his left leg under it. He had to act rapidly. He maneuvered his body square under the window frame, scrutinized the
partially open pane, then tried to press it higher with the palm and heel of his hand. The glass did not give. Damn! What was holding it? He squinted. It was difficult to see in the faint light. He also had to assume an awkward leaning position, for the gantry’s grated side did not line up flush beneath the skylight but a few feet askew. From his angle he could not thrust his hand at the window with sufficient force to open it. Dangling precariously from the grate by one hand, Quade spotted the metal lever that braced the window, grabbed the lever’s knob, and wound it counterclockwise. The window rose another inch then stopped. He could not open it any father. Past his ear, a slug sang into the pane and bore a hole through it. Quade’s heartbeat jackhammered. There was nothing for it. He clenched a fist, swung dynamically upward, and with it cracked the pane, which shattered. He struck it twice more with his bloody knuckles to clear away enough glass for him to fit his body through the hole. Another shot whistled past his head. He swung all his weight onto he skylight’s frame and hoisted himself upward, sweating, teeth clenched, grunting. His body blotted out the moonlight, obscuring the hit man’s view of him. He caught sight of the flashlight’s beam as it played across his body. The hit man was using the flashlight to direct his gun’s aim. Quade continued yanking himself up until he hurled himself through the broken pane. Slashed by jagged glass fragments still in the frame, he bolted up, cleared the window, and rolled onto the tarred roof.
Fete / Cassiday Spent, he lay supine and gasped for breath, chest heaving, the stars white-hot overhead. When he heard the sound, his breath caught. The sound of clanging metal. The hit man was clambering up the metal ladder to the gantry.
Quade hopped to his feet, stole to the edge of the flat roof, and peered over the eaves. It was at least fifty feet to the alley below. Light-headed, he backed away, then skulked to the side of the roof on his left, saw no way down, inspected the remaining sides of the roof, with the same observations, and considered his next move. He approached the skylight. The hit man would be at his most vulnerable when he poked his head through it. Hearing him walking along the gantry below, Quade stood stock-still so as not to betray his presence and listened to him climb toward the skylight. When the hit man’s fingers grabbed the window sash, Quade stepped on them. The hit man cried out and fired a shot, which went wild. He could not see Quade from his vantage point. Quade stepped back. The crunched fingers jerked out of sight. What would the hit man do next? It looked like a Mexican standoff. Out of the corner of his eye, Quade caught sight of the silencer as it poked over the window frame. The gun spat in his general direction. He reared his foot back and kicked the silencer. The automatic skittered across the tar-paper roof. He heard the hit man fleeing across the gantry, heading for the ladder. Quade retrieved the automatic, crouched over the skylight, and tried to make out the hit man. It was too dark.
Quade descended through the skylight, hands gripping its sash, swung to the grate, and climbed down onto the gantry. Gun in hand, he darted toward the ladder. Scrambling down it, he noticed a flame that was flying through the air. The flame turned out to be a Molotov cocktail, which smashed beside a tire and commenced burning it. The overwhelming stench of burning rubber charged the warehous.e He jumped off the ladder and pelted toward the side door, which the hit man slammed shut as he left. Quade knew there was gasoline in the warehouse. He had to get out before it exploded. At the side door, choking onthe thick smoke, he grasped the doorknob. Behind him a can of gasoline ignited and burst. The hot blast hurled him facefirst against the door. The clothes on his back singed, he tugged on the doorknob. It yielded. He bolted through the door. The instant he cleared the warehouse he felt witha sixth sense rather than saw something coming down on him. The hit man wielded a tire iron at Quade’s head. Quade ducked. The tire iron grazed his shoulder and ripped through muscle. He somersaulted, then righted himself into a crouch, and ranged the automatic on the hit man, who was already fleeing. The hit man scooted over the railroad track’s ballast and ties and ducked behind a boxcar. Aiming the automatic lower, Quade peered under the boxcar’s floor in search of the hit man’s legs but it was too dark for him to make them out.
Fete / Cassiday
He debated with himself whether he should wait for Donaldson. When he eyed the flaming warehouse that was roaring like the surf in crescendo, he sensed it was about to explode. It was high time for him to split, he decided, since the firemen would arrive any second.
In his Beverly Hills Tudor-styled mansion’s well-appointed living room, a flute of cognac in his hand, Donaldson received the hit man’s phone call, which was rerouted from the chief of station’s office. “He got away,” said the hit man. “Damn.” Donaldson hung fire, letting the ramifications of the hit man’s words sink in. He set his flute down on a coaster on the teak coffee table in front of him, massaged his temple, then said, “The situation must be neutralized.” “The hit’s still on?” “Don’t bungle it this time. We can’t let him get away with blowing up FBI agents.” “That reminds me,” the hit man said, his voice tense, scarcely bitting his wrath at Donaldson’s slight. “I thought the CIA didn’t do domestic hits on American civilians.” Donaldson knew the hit man was trying to get back at him with that little dig but Donaldson had an answer. “Quade isn’t a civilian. He’s a rogue agent who is a murderer
and is therefore expendable. We police our own kidney.” “How about that?” the hit man said dully. Donaldson smashed the handset down into its cradle. What a jerk this guy was, he decided. A blue-collar cretin. What Donaldson could not understand was why Quade had terminated Parson. Did it have anything to do with Brockett’s murder?
Quade managed to stanch his bleeding shoulder but he needed to change his bloodstained shirt. The blood had not seeped through his jacket. He also needed a place to stay that night. Shivering, he could not believe how cold he felt. He entered a Robinson’s-May Company department store and bought a shirt and a gym bag. In a toilet stall in the men’s room while changing shirts he glanced at his wound. He would tend to it later. He stuffed the blood-soaked shirt into the gym bag.