“It's good to see the world again through Ross Thomas' cool, clear gaze.” Los Angeles Times
Ah, Treachery!by Ross Thomas, Joe Gores (Introduction)
Ah, Treachery!, the last novel Thomas wrote before his death, tells the story of one Captain Edd "Twodees" Partain, drummed out of the Army and hounded by rumors of his involvement in a secret operation in El Salvador. Twodees gets hired on to help a fundraiser for the "Little Rock folks" recover funds that were stolen from an illicit stash used to smooth/i>
Ah, Treachery!, the last novel Thomas wrote before his death, tells the story of one Captain Edd "Twodees" Partain, drummed out of the Army and hounded by rumors of his involvement in a secret operation in El Salvador. Twodees gets hired on to help a fundraiser for the "Little Rock folks" recover funds that were stolen from an illicit stash used to smooth over problems and pay off hush money. Meanwhile, Partain is involved in a storefront operation called VOMIT (Victims of Military Intelligence Treachery) trying to defend former intelligence operatives such as Partain from those who are trying to cover up the past permanently.
“It's good to see the world again through Ross Thomas' cool, clear gaze.” Los Angeles Times
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By Ross E. Thomas
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1994 Ross E. Thomas, Inc.
All rights reserved.
At 7:33 P.M. on Christmas Eve in 1992, the tall man with hair the color of pewter entered Wanda Lou's Weaponry in Sheridan, Wyoming, and pretended not to recognize Edd Partain, the cashiered Army Major turned gun store clerk.
Outside, which was exactly 21.8 miles south of the Montana line, the weather was cold and dry with both the humidity and the Fahrenheit down in the low teens. Yet the man with the short gray hair wore what some executive down in Denver or even Santa Fe might have worn — a lamb's-wool topcoat of springtime weight with raglan sleeves and a conservative houndstooth check. On his feet were a pair of black thin-soled loafers, well on their way to being ruined by Sheridan's two-foot accumulation of dirty snow.
Edd Partain let the gray-haired man look around for almost two minutes before offering a polite throat-clearing noise followed by an equally polite question: "Help you with something?"
The man nodded but still didn't look at Partain. "I need a last-minute gift or two," he said to a display of allegedly bulletproof vests. "Any suggestions?"
"Depends," Partain said. "For either Mom, the Mrs., or the girlfriend, you'd do well to consider the relatively rare and eminently collectible .25-caliber Walther PPK — the streamline nineteen-thirteen vest pocket model, of course. For dear old Dad, perhaps a bespoke Purdy shotgun, which we can order from London, although we'll need a five-thousand-dollar deposit and delivery might take two, three, even four years. But old Dad'll appreciate your generosity and enjoy the years of anticipation."
The man turned from the bulletproof vests, walked slowly to the counter, leaned on its glass top with both hands and stared at the ex-Major with eyes whose color and warmth, Partain noticed, still resembled river ice just before the thaw.
"I wasn't absolutely sure it was you, Twodees," the man said. "Not till you opened your mouth and the crap flowed out."
"And I scarcely recognized you, Captain Millwed, what with all that new gray hair."
"My God. The Army would never — but of course it would. And has. Congratulations."
Colonel Millwed ignored the suspect commendation and asked, "Wanda Lou around?"
"Wanda Lou, like Marley, has been dead these seven years. The Weaponry has passed on to Alice Ann Sutterfield, Wanda Lou's lovely daughter."
"Not until Boxing Day — Saturday."
The Colonel turned to give the gun store another quick inspection, then turned back to ask, "The lovely daughter pay anything?"
"Eight-sixty an hour," Partain said. "But since I usually work a sixty-hour week — with no time-and-a-half, I'm ashamed to admit — the pay's all right. For Wyoming. Besides, my wants are few and I serve them myself."
"Emerson on masturbation?"
"Or possibly Thoreau."
"So what did Alice Ann say after you told her about you and the Army and all?"
"She never asked and I never volunteered. But I knew they'd eventually send someone to tell her — maybe a freshly minted and slightly pompous second john who'd caught some colonel's eye. Or more likely, an overage-in-grade captain. That's why I wasn't surprised when you popped in, although I'm flattered they've sent a bird colonel to do the deed."
"Don't be flattered," Millwed said. "I volunteered."
"I should've guessed. But why now? Why not last year? The year before? Or even six months from now?"
"The New York Times get out here?"
"Yes, but I don't buy it. To keep au courant I rely on Sheridan's sprightly daily and the BBC world service."
Partain frowned. "Really think I should buy a set?"
"Only if you're crazy about fires and jackkniffed semis. Stick with the BBC. They'll have it soon enough."
Partain looked up at the old building's stamped tin ceiling, as if in search of a leak. "So it's all coming out," he said to the ceiling, then let his gaze resettle on Colonel Millwed. "But the sanitized version, I suppose, with some kind of respectable imprimatur."
"It'll come out in Spanish first, with the U.N.'s seal of approval," the Colonel said. "The U.N. believes — or pretends to anyway — that it's dug up all the real bad shit, but you and I, Twodees, we know better."
"And you come in the guise of what — a friendly warning?"
"Are warnings ever friendly?" the Colonel asked, obviously expecting no answer. "But if warnings give you the hives, think of my visit as the gentle nudge, which sure as shit's better than the hard shove."
Partain nodded thoughtfully, then brightened and gave Millwed a patently false smile. "Sure I can't sell you a little something now that you're here, my Colonel? Perhaps a nice cheap just-in-case throwdown?"
Millwed returned the false smile tooth for tooth, revealing his to be a peculiar off-white. Even his teeth are going gray, Partain thought as the Colonel said, "Just looking, Twodees. That's all. Just looking."
Only one customer dropped in after the Colonel left, but she bought nothing. At 9 P.M., Partain activated the alarm system; lowered the outside steel shutters; made sure the steel back door was locked and bolted; switched off the lights; locked the front door, and walked the three blocks to his one-room apartment atop his landlord's two-car garage.
Inside, Partain inspected and discarded his mail that included a Christmas card from a local bank where his checking account at last look was $319.41. He drank some bourbon and water, heated and ate a frozen Tex-Mex dinner, then sat up until midnight reading Freya Stark's The Valleys of the Assassins for the third time. He went to bed with the realization that, save for the Stark, this had been a virtual replay of all his Christmas Eves since 1989.
On Christmas morning the pounding on Partain's door awoke him at 7:02. He rose slowly, put on a shabby plaid robe, went to the door and said, "Who the hell're you?"
A woman shouted the reply. "It's me and you're fired."
Partain opened the door to reveal the too-thin, too-blond, 39-year-old Alice Ann Sutterfield. She stood shivering on the landing in the 11-degree temperature despite her gloves, sweater, flannel-linedjeans, boots and a heavy three-quarter length car coat. Her throat and mouth were hidden by a green and white wool scarf. Left exposed were crimson cheeks, glowing nose, squinty hazel eyes and dark brown eyebrows that betrayed the provenance of her butter-yellow hair.
She examined Partain warily, as if expecting some sort of violent reaction, but when he merely said, "And Merry Christmas to you, Alice Ann," she sniffed and brushed past him into the apartment.
After closing the door, Partain turned to find her, the scarf now loosened, standing slightly hipshot in the middle of the room. She was trying to glare at him with those squinty hazel eyes but her attempt only confirmed Partain's theory that squinty eyes, regardless of color, are incapable of really good glares.
"I don't want you in my store ever again, Edd, and I want my store keys right now."
Partain picked up the keys from the breakfast-dining-everything table and handed them over. "Been talking to the Colonel, have you?"
"That man sacrificed Christmas with his family to fly all the way out here and warn a poor widow woman of all that terrible stuff you did down there in — in, well, in Central America someplace."
"The Colonel has no family, Alice Ann, and you owe me one week's pay and two weeks' vacation."
"Think I don't know that? Think I didn't rush all over town last night, ruining my Christmas Eve, just to get the cash together and pay you every last cent you got coming? Here."
She thrust a white No. 10 envelope at him. "Go on. Count it. It's all there."
"Then there's no need to count it," Partain said, accepting the envelope and shoving it into the pocket of his old robe.
"Well, I don't know, maybe you didn't do everything Colonel Milkweed says you —"
"— everything he says you did, but I just can't take the chance of some, well, of some wildman loose among my guns. No telling what might happen."
"No telling," Partain agreed.
"I know you're gonna try and talk me out of it because you know what a softie I am. But this time I won't change my mind. So don't try and talk me out of it."
"Okay," Partain said. "I won't."
There wasn't much to pack. There were a few books, the small Sony shortwave, the clothing and toilet articles, some personal papers, a camera and one and a half bottles of fair whiskey — just enough to fill an Army duffel bag and most of the old Cape buffalo overnight bag he had bought cheaply in Florence years ago.
There were no dishes, glasses, cutlery, pots, pans, furniture or bedding. All that belonged to Neal, the landlord, who said he was sorry to lose Partain as a tenant and thought being fired on Christmas Day was one for the fucking books. Partain agreed, said goodbye over the phone, then called a number in Washington, D.C. that was answered on the third ring by a man's voice reciting the last four digits Partain had just dialed.
"It's Partain," he said. "They sent Millwed yesterday and I got fired this morning. My Christmas bonus."
"If you were Greek Orthodox like me, the true Christmas would still be two weeks away and your self-pity would be considerably lessened. Millwed, huh? Ralph Waldo Millwed, our jumped-up colonel now said to be a comer."
"Rumor, of course."
"Any suggestions?" Partain said.
"As a matter of fact — and no little coincidence — there is a possibility. But it's more of a feeler than a definite offer." "Let's hear it."
"A wealthy aged person of sixty-two years lies dying in Los Angeles. Needs bright aggressive go-getter to help solve one final problem. You interested?"
"What's the problem?"
"I don't know, but it pays one thousand a week and found."
"How many weeks?"
"Till death do you part, I suppose," the Greek said.CHAPTER 2
With his next-to-last $50 bill, Partain paid off the driver of the gypsy cab he had hailed and haggled with at LAX. As the cab sped away, he pocketed the $25 in change and turned to inspect the private hospital that was on the north side of Olympic Boulevard a few blocks east of Century City.
It was just past 6 P.M. and dark on the January Tuesday that was Twelfth Night. Partain found himself wondering whether the hospital had already taken down its holiday decorations or just hadn't bothered to put any up. He didn't care either way but regarded his mild curiosity as surprising, perhaps even encouraging.
As Partain studied the hospital, he began to suspect its architect had been enamored of long slabs of pale granite, and that its landscape designer had been equally smitten by drought-resistant plants — the expensive kind that still look thirsty even in a hard rain. Significant money also had gone into the hospital's outdoor security lighting system and Partain, who knew about such things, could find little fault with it.
He entered the hospital, carrying his Cape buffalo bag, avoided the reception desk, rode an elevator to the top floor, the sixth, and slipped into a spacious corner room where the Greek had told him his prospective employer lay dying of some rare but undiagnosed ailment.
Partain found her sitting cross-legged on a hospital bed, wearing a Chinese-red silk robe decorated with numerous small gold dragons who were either yawning or roaring at each other. She had just finished a slice — the last slice, he noticed — of a small pizza, eating it out of the box it had been delivered in, and was now washing the last bite down with what little remained in a bottle of Beck's beer.
She lowered the bottle, stared at him for a moment with clever-looking, not quite gray eyes and said, "Edd-with-two-ds Partain, I hope and trust."
"They sometimes called me that — Twodees," he said. "In grade school mostly."
"Then I'd almost bet the Partains were Cajuns and probably in the oil bidness down around where — Opelousas? Lafayette?" She gave him a quick grin, showing off perfect teeth that Partain took to be perfectly capped. "Sorry," she said, "but I do like to make up tales about fellas I've just met."
"My folks moved from El Paso to Bakersfield right after the war," he said. "My old man was an over-the-road hauler and my mother ran a beauty shop out of their living room. I suspect the Partains were French Huguenots way back, but I never asked."
"Well, you already know I'm Millicent Altfford or you wouldn't be here," she said, laying the empty beer bottle on its side in the empty pizza box. She then removed both box and bottle from her lap, placed them on the bed, slipped gracefully from her cross-legged perch to the floor and asked, "Want a beer?"
Partain said yes, thanks, and thought her come-and-go Red River Valley drawl must have originated at least 40 miles northeast of Dallas and not much less than 190 miles south of Oklahoma City. When the drawl went away, it was replaced by something cool and crisp out of Chicago, where, the Greek said, she had spent four years at Foote, Cone and Belding before signing on as a fund-raiser for the second Adlai Stevenson presidential campaign in 1956.
Altford glided barefoot to a small built-in bar that provided gin, Scotch and vodka but no bourbon. There were also some glasses, a tiny stainless-steel sink and, below that, a miniature refrigerator sheathed in a grainy brown Formica that looked nothing at all like walnut veneer.
Bending from the waist, she opened the refrigerator door and, with legs still straight and eyes now almost at knee level, peered inside and offered to fix Partain a real nice pastrami on rye with stuff the Stage Deli had sent over. Partain thanked her but said he had eaten on the plane.
She straightened as effortlessly as she had bent over — a bottle of Beck's in either hand — and turned to stare at him with an expression of what he assumed was sympathy. "You eat on planes?"
"An economy measure," he said, lowering his overnight bag to the floor.
"Well, we'll have to fix that, won't we?" she said and shut the refrigerator door with a backward kick of her bare left foot — a movement Partain suspected of being practiced and maybe even choreographed.
After crossing the room to hand him a beer, Millicent Altford turned and sank down onto a dark blue three-cushion couch, giving its center one a couple of invitational pats. Once both were seated, a cushion between them, Partain tasted his beer and said, "They told me you were dying. I assume they lied."
"I told 'em to lie. That way, if I didn't take to you right off, I could say: 'Sorry. Forget it. I'm just too busy dying.'"
"Since you're neither sick nor dying, it might be suspected you're hiding from something or somebody." He again looked around the large private corner room. "Although this has got to be one hell of an expensive place to hide."
"It'd cost anybody else or their insurance company at least two thousand a day — plus."
"Gourmet meals. The hospital went and hired itself a French chef with a yard-long menu, and now you can lie abed of a morning and spend an hour or so figuring out what you're gonna eat for the rest of the day and on into the night. But to me it's all free-gratis-for-nothing."
"Because when they first started planning this thing back in 'eighty-three, they needed a million or so in seed money. I raised it in four days, didn't charge a dime for my services and now, well, now I've got myself sort of a permanent due bill."
"They actually cure anything here?"
"They're said to be hell on the clap."
To Partain she looked more like 52 than 62 despite the cap of thick short-cropped hair that had the color and sheen of old silver newly polished. Block out the hair, he thought, or dye it back to what must've been its original honey-blond, and she might, with the light behind her, pass for 41 — your age.
Altford moved her legs around beneath the long red silk robe until they were back in their cross-legged position. She had a swallow of beer from the bottle and stared at Partain for a moment before she said, "Tell me about you and Nick Patrokis and all those renegade ex-spooks who call themselves BARF or VOMIT or some such."
Excerpted from Ah, Treachery! by Ross E. Thomas. Copyright © 1994 Ross E. Thomas, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Ross Thomas is ranked as one of the very top thriller writers by his fellow authors, and his readers loudly agree. Two Edgar Awards, and other prizes, only complement the abundant praise that Thomas has received.
Thomas died in 1995, and since then all but one of his twenty-five novels have gone out of print. This should never have happened to the man of whom The New Yorker has said "Very few...are as consistently entertaining...even fewer can match him for style and power." Minotaur is proud to remedy this situation by reissuing Thomas's novels. So start reading, and prepare to join Ross Thomas's legions of admiring fans.
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Fun, fast read.
Hello, <br> It makes me so happy that I have so many readers. I love all of you. Anderson the Unicorn is awesome. Don't forget that Anderson is one of the great story writers. <P> As a writer, and other writers too. Some of us have a hard time thinking of storys, others have a easier time. I am one of those people who find it harder to write storys. <P> So with that being said, I came up with an Idea. My Idea is that, I will write a book with someone. I will have one characters point of veiw on the story, the other person has the other point of veiw. <P> Like, I will write a part to the story, then the other person will write the next part of the story. But I will give the a character, so it will be there person. So the headline will look kinda like this, <P> ~Name of Story~ -Name of the character- What part it is <P> Okay, so thats mostly it. Here are some ads for my storys <P> MLP Fanfic : <br> Rainbowfall ~Part 1~ at 'i will' res 1-2 <P> Warriors Fanfic : <br> ~The Secret Quest~ Part 1 at 'tah' res 1 <P> Other Storys : <br> ~Tha Last~ Chapter 1 at 'green' res 1 <br> &starf <br> Story at 'story' res 1 <P> Thank you. <P> ~ Rainbowfall
Rules: i will post a line from a kid's show every wensday. First one to name the movie and the name of the character gets to have an ad posted in there favor at the first five 'warriors' results! If its a series, the name of the series and the episode. I will say the winner on the next wensday after when i posted the line. When i post the winner, i post the next line at the next result! If you are the winner, you must tell me what ads you want within the next 48 hours (2days) of you being said a winner, or i will not give out your ads. Go to the next result for the first line!
The main character, Edd Partain, is clearly a close replica of Lee Child's main character, Jack Reacher.