Bloody River Blues (John Pellam Series #2)

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Overview

Hollywood location scout John Pellam thought the scenic backwater town of Maddox, Missouri, would be the perfect site for an upcoming Bonnie and Clyde-style film. But after real bullets leave two people dead and one cop paralyzed, he's more sought after than the Barrow Gang. Pellam had unwittingly wandered onto the crime scene just minutes before the brutal hits. Now the feds and local police want him to talk. Mob enforcers want him silenced. And a mysterious blonde just wants him. Trapped in a town full of ...
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2000 Mass-market paperback New. Mass market (rack) paperback. Glued binding. 368 p. Location Scout Mysteries. Audience: General/trade.

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Bloody River Blues (John Pellam Series #2)

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Overview

Hollywood location scout John Pellam thought the scenic backwater town of Maddox, Missouri, would be the perfect site for an upcoming Bonnie and Clyde-style film. But after real bullets leave two people dead and one cop paralyzed, he's more sought after than the Barrow Gang. Pellam had unwittingly wandered onto the crime scene just minutes before the brutal hits. Now the feds and local police want him to talk. Mob enforcers want him silenced. And a mysterious blonde just wants him. Trapped in a town full of sinister secrets and deadly deceptions, Pellam fears that death will imitate art, as the film shoot—and his life—race toward a breathtakingly bloody climax.

Hard luck, the bottle and a prison stretch ended John Pellam's promising directorial career--and now the ex-Hollywood insider has been reduced to location scout. But while scouting locations for a shoot-em-up in Maddox, Missouri, he gets perilously close to a real riverfront rub-out. William Jefferies is the pseudonym for Jeffrey Deaver. Original.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Movie location scout John Pellam is working in Maddox, Mo., when he goes out for a case of beer. This innocuous outing lands him in big trouble when his beer collides with the door of a parked car whose occupants subsequently commit a rubout. Next thing he knows, Pellam finds himself being pursued by the killers, who fear Pellam can identify them; by the local police, because a cop was shot during the rub-out; and by the FBI, who think the murder was related to a racketeering case. Vincent Gaudia, the man who was killed, had turned witness against his boss, Peter Crimmins, who is wanted on RICO charges. The official bag of tricks used by the feds and police against Pellam includes interrogation, threats of prosecution on false charges, disruption of Pellam's life and business and hints that the film he's working on could be shut down. Jefferies ( Shallow Graves ) adds a twist that gives Pellam the last laugh while he makes his point about the baseness of the so-called good guys. Although the book works technically, reading a tale so replete with unpleasantness is still no picnic. (July)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671047504
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Publication date: 12/1/2000
  • Series: John Pellam Series , #2
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: REVISED
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeffery  Deaver

Jeffery Deaver’s most recent #1 international bestseller is Carte Blanche, the new James Bond novel that brought Ian Fleming’s Agent 007 firmly into the modern age. After revealing his lifelong admiration for Fleming’s novels while accepting the Crime Writer’s Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for his thriller Garden of Beasts, Deaver was approached by the estate of Ian Fleming to write the next Bond thriller. It debuted on bestseller lists around the world.

The author of two collections of short stories and 28 previous suspense novels, Deaver is best known for his Kathryn Dance and Lincoln Rhyme thrillers, most notably The Bone Collector, which was made into a feature starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. His many awards include the Novel of the Year at the International Thriller Writers’ Awards in 2009 for his standalone novel The Bodies Left Behind. The latest entries in the Lincoln Rhyme series are The Cold Moon, The Broken Window, and The Burning Wire.

Deaver has been nominated for seven Edgar Awards by the Mystery Writers of America, an Anthony Award and a Gumshoe Award. He was recently short-listed for the ITV3 Crime Thriller Award for Best International Author. His books are sold in 150 countries and translated into 25 languages. He lives in North Carolina.

For further information, visit www.jefferydeaver.com.

Biography

Born just outside Chicago in 1950 to an advertising copywriter father and stay-at-home mom, Jeffery Deaver was a writer from the start, penning his first book (a brief tome just two chapters in length) at age 11. He went on to edit his high school literary magazine and serve on the staff of the school newspaper, chasing the dream of becoming a crack reporter.

Upon earning his B.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri, Deaver realized that he lacked the necessary background to become a legal correspondent for the high-profile publications he aspired to, such as The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, so he enrolled at Fordham Law School. Being a legal eagle soon grew on Deaver, and rather than continue on as a reporter, he took a job as a corporate lawyer at a top Wall Street firm. Deaver's detour from the writing life wasn't to last, however; ironically, it was his substantial commute to the law office that touched off his third -- and current -- career. He'd fill the long hours on the train scribbling his own renditions of the kind of fiction he enjoyed reading most: suspense.

Voodoo, a supernatural thriller, and Always a Thief, an art-theft caper, were Deaver's first published novels. Produced by the now-defunct Paperjacks paperback original house, the books are no longer in print, but they remain hot items on the collector circuit. His first major outing was the Rune series, which followed the adventures of an aspiring female filmmaker in the power trilogy Manhattan Is My Beat (1988), Death of a Blue Movie Star (1990), and Hard News (1991).

Deaver's next series, this one featuring the adventures of ace movie location scout John Pellam, featured the thrillers Shallow Graves (1992), Bloody River Blues (1993), and Hell's Kitchen (2001). Written under the pen name William Jefferies, the series stands out in Deaver's body of work, primarily because it touched off his talent for focusing more on his vivid characters than on their perilous situations.

In fact, it is his series featuring the intrepid and beloved team of Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs that showcases Deaver at the top of his game. Confronting enormous odds (and always under somewhat gruesome circumstances), the embittered detective and his feisty partner and love interest made their debut in 1991's grisly caper The Bone Collector, and hooked fans for four more books: The Coffin Dancer (1998), The Empty Chair (2000), The Stone Monkey (2002), and The Vanishing Man(2003). Of the series, Kirkus Reviews observed, "Deaver marries forensic work that would do Patricia Cornwell proud to turbocharged plots that put Benzedrine to shame."

On the creation of Rhyme, who happens to be a paraplegic, Deaver explained to Shots magazine, "I wanted to create a Sherlock Holmes-ian kind of character that uses his mind rather than his body. He solves crimes by thinking about the crimes, rather than someone who can shoot straight, run faster, or walk into the bar and trick people into giving away the clues."

As for his reputation for conjuring up some of the most unsavory scenes in pop crime fiction, Deaver admits on his web site, "In general, I think, less is more, and that if a reader stops reading because a book is too icky then I've failed in my obligation to the readers."

Good To Know

Deaver revises his manuscripts "at least 20 or 30 times" before his publishers get to even see a version.

Two of his books have been made into major feature films. The first was A Maiden's Grave (the film adaptation was called Dead Silence), which starred James Garner and Marlee Matlin. The Bone Collector came next, starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie.

In addition to being a bestselling novelist, Deaver has also been a folksinger, songwriter, music researcher, and professional poet.

Deaver's younger sister, Julie Reece Deaver, is a fellow author who writes novels for young adults.

In our interview with Deaver, he reveals, "My inspiration for writing is the reader. I want to give readers whatever will excite and please them. It's absolutely vital in this business for authors to know their audience and to write with them in mind."

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    1. Also Known As:
      William Jefferies, Jeffery Wilds Deaver
    2. Hometown:
      Washington, D.C.
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 6, 1950
    2. Place of Birth:
      Chicago, Illinois
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Missouri; Juris Doctor, cum laude, Fordham University School of Law
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Bloody River Blues


By William Jefferies

Thorndike Press

Copyright © 2001 William Jefferies
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0783893094


Chapter One


All he wanted was a case of beer.

And it looked like he was going to have to get it himself.

The way Stile explained it, "I can't hardly get a case of Labatts on the back of a Yamaha."

"That's okay," Pellam said into the cellular phone.

"You want a six-pack, I can handle that. But the rack's a little loose. Which I guess I owe you. The rack, I mean. Sorry."

The motorcycle was the film company's but had been issued to Pellam, who had in turn loaned it to Stile. Stile was a stuntman. Pellam chose not to speculate on what he had been doing when the rack got broken.

"That's okay," Pellam said again. "I'll pick up a case."

He hung up the phone. He got his brown bomber jacket from the front closet of the Winnebago, trying to remember where he'd seen the discount beverage store. The Riverfront Deli was not far away but the date of his next expense check was and Pellam did not feel inclined to pay $26.50 for a case even if it had been imported all the way from Canada.

He stepped into the kitchenette of the camper, stirred the chili and put the cornbread in the small oven to heat. He had thought about cooking something else for a change. Nobody seemed to notice that whenever Pellam hosted the poker game he made chili.Maybe he would serve it on hot dogs, maybe on rice, but it was always chili. And oyster crackers. He didn't know how to cook much else.

He thought about doing without the beer, calling back Stile and saying, yeah, just bring a six-pack. But he did the calculation and decided they needed a whole case. There would be five of them playing for six hours and that meant even a case would be stretched pretty thin. He would have to break out the mezcal and Wild Turkey as it was.

Pellam stepped outside, locked the camper door and walked along the road paralleling the gray plane of the Missouri River. It was just after dark, an autumn weekday, and by rights ought to be rush hour. But the road dipped and rose away from him and it was deserted of traffic. He zipped his jacket tight. Pellam was tall and thin. Tonight he wore jeans and a work shirt that had been black and was now mottled gray. His cowboy boots sounded in loud, scraping taps on the wet asphalt. He wished he had worn his Lakers cap or his Stetson; a cold wind, salty-fishy smelling, streamed off the river. His eyes stung, his ears ached.

He walked quickly. He was worried that Danny -- the scriptwriter of the movie they were now shooting -- would show up early. Pellam had recently left a ten-pound catfish in Danny's hotel room bathtub and the writer had threatened to weld the Winnebago door shut in retaliation.

The fourth of the poker players was a grip from San Diego who looked just like the merchant marine he had once been, complete with tattoo. The fifth was a lawyer in St. Louis, a hawkish man with jowls. The film company's L.A. office had hired him to negotiate property and talent contracts with the locals. He talked nonstop about Washington politics as if he had run for office and been defeated because he was the only honest candidate in the race. His chatter was a pain but he was a hell of a good man to play poker with. He bet big and lost amiably.

Hands in pockets, Pellam turned down Adams Street, away from the river, studying the spooky, abandoned redbrick Maddox Ironworks building.

Thinking, it's damp, it may rain.

Thinking, would the filming in this damn town go much over schedule?

Would the chili burn, had he turned it down?

Thinking about a case of beer.


"All right, Gaudia is walking down Third, okay? He works most of the time till six or six-thirty but tonight he's going for drinks with some girl I don't know who she is."

Philip Lombro asked Ralph Bales, "Why is he in Maddox?"

"That's what I'm saying. He's going to the Jolly Rogue for drinks. You know it? Then he's going to Callaghan's for the steak."

As he listened, Philip Lombro dipped his head and touched his cheek with two fingers formed into a V. He had a long face, tanned. The color, though, didn't turn Lombro bronze; he was more silvery, like platinum, which matched his mane of white hair, carefully sprayed into place. He said, "What about Gaudia's bodyguard?"

"He won't be coming. Gaudia thinks Maddox is safe. Okay, then he's got a reservation at seven-thirty. It's a five-minute walk -- I timed it -- and they'll leave at quarter after."

Ralph Bales was sitting forward on the front seat of the navy-blue Lincoln as he spoke to Lombro. Ralph Bales was thirty-nine, muscular, hairy everywhere but on the head. His face was disproportionately thick, as if he were wearing a latex special-effects mask. He was not an ugly man but seen straight on his face, because of the fat, seemed moonlike. Tonight he wore a black-and-red striped rugby shirt, blue jeans and a leather jacket. "He's on Third, okay? There's an alleyway there, going west. It's real dark. Stevie'll be there, doing kind of a homeless number."

"Homeless? They don't have homeless in Maddox."

"Well, a bum. They've got bums in Maddox," Ralph Bales said.

"Okay."

"He's got a little Beretta, a .22. Doesn't even need a suppressor. I've got the Ruger. Stevie calls him, he stops and turns. Stevie does him, up close. I'm behind, just in case. Bang, we're in Stevie's car, over the river, then we're lost."

"I'll be in front of the alley then," Lombro said. "On Third."

Ralph Bales didn't say anything for a moment but kept his eyes on Lombro. What he saw was this: a hook nose, kind eyes, trim suit, paisley tie...It was odd but you couldn't see more than that. You thought you could peg him easily as if the silver hair, the tasseled oxblood loafers polished spit-shine, and the battered Rolex were going to explain everything about Philip Lombro. But no, those were all you could come up with. The parts and the parts alone. Like a People magazine photo.

Lombro, who was calmly looking back into Ralph Bales's eyes, said, "Yes? Do you have a problem with that?"

Ralph Bales decided he could win the staring contest if he wanted to and began to examine the swirl of hair on the back of his own hand. "Okay, I don't think it's such a good idea, you being there. But I told you that already."

"Yes, you did."

"Okay, I still don't think it's a good idea."

"I want to see him die."

"You'll see pictures. The Post-Dispatch'll have pictures. The Reporter'll have pictures. In color."

"I'll be there from seven-fifteen."

Ralph Bales was drumming his fingers on the leather seat of the Lincoln. "It's my ass, too."

Lombro looked at his watch. The crystal was chipped and yellowed. Six-fifty. "I can find somebody else to do the job."

Ralph Bales waited a moment. "That won't be necessary. You want to be there, that's your business."

"Yes, it is my business."

Without response Ralph Bales swung the car door open.

That's when it happened.

Sonofabitch...

A thud, the sound of glass on glass, a couple of muted pops. Ralph Bales saw the man -- a thin guy in a brown leather jacket -- standing there, looking down, a sour smile on his face, a smile that said, I knew something like this was going to happen. Foamy beer chugged out of the bottom of the cardboard case, which rested on its end on the sidewalk.

The man looked at Ralph Bales, then past him into the car. Ralph Bales slammed the door and walked away.

The man with the rueful grin said, "Hey, my beer..."

Ralph Bales ignored him and continued along Adams.

"Hey, my beer!"

Ralph Bales ignored him.

The man was stepping toward him. "I'm talking to you. Hey!"

Ralph Bales said, "Fuck you," and turned the corner.

The tall man stood staring after him for a moment, his mouth twisted and indignant, then bent down and looked into the window of the Lincoln. He cupped his hands. He tapped on the window. "Hey, your buddy...Hey..." He rapped again. Lombro put the car in gear. It pulled away quickly. The man jumped back. He watched the Lincoln vanish. He knelt down to his wounded carton, which was pumping beer into the gutter like a leaky fire hydrant.


Maddox Police Department Patrolman First Class Donald Buffett watched the last of the beer trickle into the street, thinking that if that had happened in the Cabrini projects on the west side of town you'd have a dozen guys lapping it out of the gutter or knifing each other over the unbroken bottles.

Buffett leaned against a brick wall and watched the guy -- Buffett thought he looked like a cowboy -- open up the case and salvage what he could, like a kid picking through his toys. The cowboy stood up and counted what looked to be maybe twelve, fifteen surviving bottles. The cardboard box was soaked and disintegrating.

Buffett had expected him to take a swing at the man who stepped out of the Lincoln. There was a time, before the service, before the academy, when going for skin was what Buffett himself would have done. He watched the cowboy lining up all the good bottles in the shadow of a Neuman furniture warehouse, hiding them. He must have been planning to go back to the store. He dumped the box in the trash and wiped his hands on his pants.

Buffett pushed off from the wall and walked across the street.

"Evening, sir," he said.

The cowboy looked up, shaking his head. He said, "You see that? You believe it?"

Buffett said, "I'll keep an eye on them, you want to get a bag or something."

"Yeah?"

"Sure."

"Thanks." He disappeared down the empty street.

Ten minutes later, the cowboy returned, carrying a plastic shopping bag, which held two six-packs. He also carried a small paper bag, which he handed to Buffett.

"I'd offer you a Labatts but they probably got rules about you being on duty. So it's a coffee and doughnut. A couple sugars in the bag."

"Thank you, sir," Buffett said formally, feeling embarrassed and wondering why he did. "Didn't have to."

The cowboy started to pick up the beers and loaded them in the shopping bag. Buffet did not offer to help. Finally the cowboy stood up and said, "John Pellam."

"Donnie Buffett."

They nodded and didn't shake hands.

Buffett lifted the coffee into the air, like a toast, and walked off, listening to beer bottles clink as the man headed toward the river.


At seven-twenty that evening, Vincent Gaudia looked down the low-cut white dress of his blond companion and told her, "It's time to eat."

"What did you have in mind?" she asked breathily, smiling tiny crow's-feet into the makeup that was laid on a few microns too deep.

Gaudia was addicted to women like this. Although he viewed them as a commodity he tried not to be condescending. Some of his dates were very intelligent, some were spiritual, some spent many hours volunteering for good causes. And though he did not pursue them for their minds or souls or consciences he listened avidly as they spoke about their interests and he did so with genuine curiosity.

On the other hand, what he wanted most from this girl was to take her to his co-op, where he would tell her to shut the hell up about spirit guides and climb onto her hands and knees, then lift her garter belt with his hands and tug on it like reins. He now eased a strategically placed elbow against her breasts and said, "For the moment, I'm talking about dinner."

She giggled.

They left the Jolly Rogue then crossed River Road and walked up Third Street, toward downtown Maddox, past foreboding warehouses, storefronts filled with blotched and decaying used furniture, ground-floor offices, dingy coffee shops. The woman squeezed closer to him against the cold. The chill air reminded Gaudia of his boyhood in Cape Girardeau, when he would walk home from school shuffling leaves in front of his saddle shoes, working on a toffee apple or Halloween candy. He had pulled some crazy stunts at Halloween, and he could not smell cold fall air without being stirred by good memories. Gaudia asked, "What'd you do on Halloween? When you were a kid?"

She blinked then concentrated on her answer. "Well, we had a lot of fun, you know. I used to dress up mostly like princesses and things like that. I was a witch one year."

"A witch? No way. You couldn't be one if you tried."

"Sweetheart...And then we'd go for tons of candy. I mean, like tons. I liked Babe Ruths, no, ha ha, Baby Ruths best, and what I'd do sometimes is find a house that was giving them out and keep going back there. One Halloween I got twelve Baby Ruths. I had to be careful. I had a lot of zits when I was a kid."

"Kids don't go much anymore. It's dangerous. Did you hear about that guy who put needles in apples?"

"I never liked apples. I only liked candy bars."

"Baby Ruths," Gaudia remembered.

"Where're we going? This is a creepy neighborhood."

"This is a creepy town. But it's got the best steak house in the state outside of Kansas City. Callaghan's. You like steak?"

"Yeah, I like steak. I like surf and turf." She added demurely, "But it's expensive."

"I think they've got surf and turf there. You want surf and turf, order it. What you want, you can have."

Ralph Bales stood on the street corner, in the alcove of Missouri National Bank, watching the couple stroll under a dim streetlight, three of the four bulbs burnt out. The girl was glued on to his arm, which probably was more a plus than anything, because if Gaudia was carrying a weapon she'd tie up his shooting hand.

Philip Lombro's dark Lincoln Town Car, boxy as an aircraft carrier, exhaust purring, sat across the street. Ralph Bales studied the perfect bodywork, the immaculate chrome. Then he looked at the silhouette of Lombro behind the wheel. That man was crazy. Ralph Bales could not understand his wanting to watch it -- watching the act of the shooting itself. He knew some guys who got off on doing people, got off on it in some scary sex way. He sensed, though, that this was something Lombro felt he had to do, not something he wanted to do.

A voice fluttered over the cool air -- Stevie Flom, Ralph Bales's partner, was doing his schizoid homeless routine. "There's what it is, I mean, there's it! I read the papers...I read the papers I read them forget what you read forget what you read..."

Then Ralph Bales thought he heard Stevie pull the slide on the Beretta though that might have been his imagination; at moments like this you heard noises, you saw things that were otherwise silent or invisible. His nerves shook like a dragster waiting for the green light. He wished he didn't get so nervous.

Tapping, leather soles on concrete. The sound seemed very loud. Tapping and scuffing along the wet, deserted sidewalk.

Giggling.

Tapping.

Light glinted off Gaudia's feet. Ralph Bales knew Gaudia's reputation for fashion and figured he would be wearing five-hundred-dollar shoes. Ralph Bales's shoes were stamped "Man-made uppers" and the men who had made those uppers had been Taiwanese.

The footsteps, twenty feet away.

The murmur of the Lincoln's exhaust.

The beating of Ralph Bales's heart.

Stevie talking like a crazy drunk. Arguing with himself.

The blonde giggling.

Then Stevie said, "A quarter, mister. Please?"

And son of a bitch, if Gaudia wasn't stopping and stepping forward with a bill.

Ralph Bales started across the street, holding the Ruger, a huge gun, barrel-heavy in his hand. Then: the woman's shrill scream and a swing of motion, a blur, as Gaudia swung her around as a shield putting her between him and Stevie's. One pop, then two. The blonde slumped.

Gaudia was running. Fast. Getting away.

Christonthecross...

Ralph Bales lifted the heavy gun and fired twice. He hit Gaudia at least once. He thought it was in the lower neck. The man stumbled onto the sidewalk, lifted a hand briefly, then lay still.

Lombro's Lincoln started away, accelerating with a sharp, gassy roar.

Silence for a moment.

Ralph Bales took a step toward Gaudia.

"Freeze!"

The scream came from only five feet away. Bales almost vomited in shock and the way his heart surged he wondered if he was having a heart attack.

"I mean you, mister!"

Ralph Bales's hand lowered, the gun pointed down. His breath flowed in and out in staccato bursts. He swallowed.

"Drop the weapon!" The voice crackled with a barely controlled hysteria.

"I'm dropping it." Ralph Bales did. He squinted as the gun fell. It didn't go off.

"Lie down on the ground!" The cop was crouching, holding his gun aimed straight at Ralph Bales's head.

"Okay!" Ralph Bales said. "Don't do anything. I'm lying down."

"Now!"

"I'm doing it now! I'm lying down now!" Ralph Bales got on his knees then lay forward on his stomach. He smelled grease and dog piss.

The cop circled around him, kicking the Ruger away and talking into his walkie-talkie. "This's Buffett. I'm in downtown Maddox, I've got a 10-13. Shots fired and two down. Need an ambulance and backup at -- "

The Maddox police and fire central radio dispatcher did not find out exactly where Donnie Buffett needed the backup and ambulance -- at least not at that moment. The cop's message ended abruptly when Stevie Flom stepped out of the alleyway and emptied the clip of the Beretta into his back.

Buffett grunted, dropped to his knees, and tried to reach behind him. He fell forward.

Ralph Bales climbed to his feet, picked up the Ruger. He walked over to the unconscious cop and pointed the big gun at his head. He cocked it.

Slowly the heavy blue muzzle nestled itself in the cop's damp hair. Ralph Bales covered his eyes with his left hand. His heart beat eight times. His hand tensed. It relaxed. He stepped back and turned away from the cop, settling on one head shot for Gaudia and one for the blonde.

Then, as if they were a couple of basketball fans eager for some beers after the game, Ralph Bales and Stevie Flom walked briskly to a stolen black Trans Am with a sporty red racing stripe on the side. Stevie fired up the engine. Ralph Bales sat down in the comfortable bucket seat. He lifted his blunt index finger to his upper lip and smelled sour gunpowder and primer smoke. As they drove slowly to the river Ralph Bales watched the aura of lights rising up from St. Louis, to the south, thinking that all he would have to do now was take care of the witness -- the guy with the beer -- and that would be that.

Continues...


Excerpted from Bloody River Blues by William Jefferies Copyright © 2001 by William Jefferies. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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First Chapter

Chapter One

All he wanted was a case of beer.

And it looked like he was going to have to get it himself.

The way Stile explained it, "I can't hardly get a case of Labatts on the back of a Yamaha."

"That's okay," Pellam said into the cellular phone.

"You want a six-pack, I can handle that. But the rack's a little loose. Which I guess I owe you. The rack, I mean. Sorry."

The motorcycle was the film company's but had been issued to Pellam, who had in turn loaned it to Stile. Stile was a stuntman. Pellam chose not to speculate on what he had been doing when the rack got broken.

"That's okay," Pellam said again. "I'll pick up a case."

He hung up the phone. He got his brown bomber jacket from the front closet of the Winnebago, trying to remember where he'd seen the discount beverage store. The Riverfront Deli was not far away but the date of his next expense check was and Pellam did not feel inclined to pay $26.50 for a case even if it had been imported all the way from Canada.

He stepped into the kitchenette of the camper, stirred the chili and put the cornbread in the small oven to heat. He had thought about cooking something else for a change. Nobody seemed to notice that whenever Pellam hosted the poker game he made chili. Maybe he would serve it on hot dogs, maybe on rice, but it was always chili. And oyster crackers. He didn't know how to cook much else.

He thought about doing without the beer, calling back Stile and saying, yeah, just bring a six-pack. But he did the calculation and decided they needed a whole case. There would be five of them playing for six hours and that meant even a case would be stretched pretty thin. He would have to break out the mezcal and Wild Turkey as it was.

Pellam stepped outside, locked the camper door and walked along the road paralleling the gray plane of the Missouri River. It was just after dark, an autumn weekday, and by rights ought to be rush hour. But the road dipped and rose away from him and it was deserted of traffic. He zipped his jacket tight. Pellam was tall and thin. Tonight he wore jeans and a work shirt that had been black and was now mottled gray. His cowboy boots sounded in loud, scraping taps on the wet asphalt. He wished he had worn his Lakers cap or his Stetson; a cold wind, salty-fishy smelling, streamed off the river. His eyes stung, his ears ached.

He walked quickly. He was worried that Danny — the scriptwriter of the movie they were now shooting — would show up early. Pellam had recently left a ten-pound catfish in Danny's hotel room bathtub and the writer had threatened to weld the Winnebago door shut in retaliation.

The fourth of the poker players was a grip from San Diego who looked just like the merchant marine he had once been, complete with tattoo. The fifth was a lawyer in St. Louis, a hawkish man with jowls. The film company's L.A. office had hired him to negotiate property and talent contracts with the locals. He talked nonstop about Washington politics as if he had run for office and been defeated because he was the only honest candidate in the race. His chatter was a pain but he was a hell of a good man to play poker with. He bet big and lost amiably.

Hands in pockets, Pellam turned down Adams Street, away from the river, studying the spooky, abandoned redbrick Maddox Ironworks building.

Thinking, it's damp, it may rain.

Thinking, would the filming in this damn town go much over schedule?

Would the chili burn, had he turned it down?

Thinking about a case of beer.


"All right, Gaudia is walking down Third, okay? He works most of the time till six or six-thirty but tonight he's going for drinks with some girl I don't know who she is."

Philip Lombro asked Ralph Bales, "Why is he in Maddox?"

"That's what I'm saying. He's going to the Jolly Rogue for drinks. You know it? Then he's going to Callaghan's for the steak."

As he listened, Philip Lombro dipped his head and touched his cheek with two fingers formed into a V. He had a long face, tanned. The color, though, didn't turn Lombro bronze; he was more silvery, like platinum, which matched his mane of white hair, carefully sprayed into place. He said, "What about Gaudia's bodyguard?"

"He won't be coming. Gaudia thinks Maddox is safe. Okay, then he's got a reservation at seven-thirty. It's a five-minute walk — I timed it — and they'll leave at quarter after."

Ralph Bales was sitting forward on the front seat of the navy-blue Lincoln as he spoke to Lombro. Ralph Bales was thirty-nine, muscular, hairy everywhere but on the head. His face was disproportionately thick, as if he were wearing a latex special-effects mask. He was not an ugly man but seen straight on his face, because of the fat, seemed moonlike. Tonight he wore a black-and-red striped rugby shirt, blue jeans and a leather jacket. "He's on Third, okay? There's an alleyway there, going west. It's real dark. Stevie'll be there, doing kind of a homeless number."

"Homeless? They don't have homeless in Maddox."

"Well, a bum. They've got bums in Maddox," Ralph Bales said.

"Okay."

"He's got a little Beretta, a .22. Doesn't even need a suppressor. I've got the Ruger. Stevie calls him, he stops and turns. Stevie does him, up close. I'm behind, just in case. Bang, we're in Stevie's car, over the river, then we're lost."

"I'll be in front of the alley then," Lombro said. "On Third."

Ralph Bales didn't say anything for a moment but kept his eyes on Lombro. What he saw was this: a hook nose, kind eyes, trim suit, paisley tie...It was odd but you couldn't see more than that. You thought you could peg him easily as if the silver hair, the tasseled oxblood loafers polished spit-shine, and the battered Rolex were going to explain everything about Philip Lombro. But no, those were all you could come up with. The parts and the parts alone. Like a People magazine photo.

Lombro, who was calmly looking back into Ralph Bales's eyes, said, "Yes? Do you have a problem with that?"

Ralph Bales decided he could win the staring contest if he wanted to and began to examine the swirl of hair on the back of his own hand. "Okay, I don't think it's such a good idea, you being there. But I told you that already."

"Yes, you did."

"Okay, I still don't think it's a good idea."

"I want to see him die."

"You'll see pictures. The Post-Dispatch'll have pictures. The Reporter'll have pictures. In color."

"I'll be there from seven-fifteen."

Ralph Bales was drumming his fingers on the leather seat of the Lincoln. "It's my ass, too."

Lombro looked at his watch. The crystal was chipped and yellowed. Six-fifty. "I can find somebody else to do the job."

Ralph Bales waited a moment. "That won't be necessary. You want to be there, that's your business."

"Yes, it is my business."

Without response Ralph Bales swung the car door open.

That's when it happened.

Sonofabitch...

A thud, the sound of glass on glass, a couple of muted pops. Ralph Bales saw the man — a thin guy in a brown leather jacket — standing there, looking down, a sour smile on his face, a smile that said, I knew something like this was going to happen. Foamy beer chugged out of the bottom of the cardboard case, which rested on its end on the sidewalk.

The man looked at Ralph Bales, then past him into the car. Ralph Bales slammed the door and walked away.

The man with the rueful grin said, "Hey, my beer..."

Ralph Bales ignored him and continued along Adams.

"Hey, my beer!"

Ralph Bales ignored him.

The man was stepping toward him. "I'm talking to you. Hey!"

Ralph Bales said, "Fuck you," and turned the corner.

The tall man stood staring after him for a moment, his mouth twisted and indignant, then bent down and looked into the window of the Lincoln. He cupped his hands. He tapped on the window. "Hey, your buddy...Hey..." He rapped again. Lombro put the car in gear. It pulled away quickly. The man jumped back. He watched the Lincoln vanish. He knelt down to his wounded carton, which was pumping beer into the gutter like a leaky fire hydrant.


Maddox Police Department Patrolman First Class Donald Buffett watched the last of the beer trickle into the street, thinking that if that had happened in the Cabrini projects on the west side of town you'd have a dozen guys lapping it out of the gutter or knifing each other over the unbroken bottles.

Buffett leaned against a brick wall and watched the guy — Buffett thought he looked like a cowboy — open up the case and salvage what he could, like a kid picking through his toys. The cowboy stood up and counted what looked to be maybe twelve, fifteen surviving bottles. The cardboard box was soaked and disintegrating.

Buffett had expected him to take a swing at the man who stepped out of the Lincoln. There was a time, before the service, before the academy, when going for skin was what Buffett himself would have done. He watched the cowboy lining up all the good bottles in the shadow of a Neuman furniture warehouse, hiding them. He must have been planning to go back to the store. He dumped the box in the trash and wiped his hands on his pants.

Buffett pushed off from the wall and walked across the street.

"Evening, sir," he said.

The cowboy looked up, shaking his head. He said, "You see that? You believe it?"

Buffett said, "I'll keep an eye on them, you want to get a bag or something."

"Yeah?"

"Sure."

"Thanks." He disappeared down the empty street.

Ten minutes later, the cowboy returned, carrying a plastic shopping bag, which held two six-packs. He also carried a small paper bag, which he handed to Buffett.

"I'd offer you a Labatts but they probably got rules about you being on duty. So it's a coffee and doughnut. A couple sugars in the bag."

"Thank you, sir," Buffett said formally, feeling embarrassed and wondering why he did. "Didn't have to."

The cowboy started to pick up the beers and loaded them in the shopping bag. Buffet did not offer to help. Finally the cowboy stood up and said, "John Pellam."

"Donnie Buffett."

They nodded and didn't shake hands.

Buffett lifted the coffee into the air, like a toast, and walked off, listening to beer bottles clink as the man headed toward the river.


At seven-twenty that evening, Vincent Gaudia looked down the low-cut white dress of his blond companion and told her, "It's time to eat."

"What did you have in mind?" she asked breathily, smiling tiny crow's-feet into the makeup that was laid on a few microns too deep.

Gaudia was addicted to women like this. Although he viewed them as a commodity he tried not to be condescending. Some of his dates were very intelligent, some were spiritual, some spent many hours volunteering for good causes. And though he did not pursue them for their minds or souls or consciences he listened avidly as they spoke about their interests and he did so with genuine curiosity.

On the other hand, what he wanted most from this girl was to take her to his co-op, where he would tell her to shut the hell up about spirit guides and climb onto her hands and knees, then lift her garter belt with his hands and tug on it like reins. He now eased a strategically placed elbow against her breasts and said, "For the moment, I'm talking about dinner."

She giggled.

They left the Jolly Rogue then crossed River Road and walked up Third Street, toward downtown Maddox, past foreboding warehouses, storefronts filled with blotched and decaying used furniture, ground-floor offices, dingy coffee shops. The woman squeezed closer to him against the cold. The chill air reminded Gaudia of his boyhood in Cape Girardeau, when he would walk home from school shuffling leaves in front of his saddle shoes, working on a toffee apple or Halloween candy. He had pulled some crazy stunts at Halloween, and he could not smell cold fall air without being stirred by good memories. Gaudia asked, "What'd you do on Halloween? When you were a kid?"

She blinked then concentrated on her answer. "Well, we had a lot of fun, you know. I used to dress up mostly like princesses and things like that. I was a witch one year."

"A witch? No way. You couldn't be one if you tried."

"Sweetheart...And then we'd go for tons of candy. I mean, like tons. I liked Babe Ruths, no, ha ha, Baby Ruths best, and what I'd do sometimes is find a house that was giving them out and keep going back there. One Halloween I got twelve Baby Ruths. I had to be careful. I had a lot of zits when I was a kid."

"Kids don't go much anymore. It's dangerous. Did you hear about that guy who put needles in apples?"

"I never liked apples. I only liked candy bars."

"Baby Ruths," Gaudia remembered.

"Where're we going? This is a creepy neighborhood."

"This is a creepy town. But it's got the best steak house in the state outside of Kansas City. Callaghan's. You like steak?"

"Yeah, I like steak. I like surf and turf." She added demurely, "But it's expensive."

"I think they've got surf and turf there. You want surf and turf, order it. What you want, you can have."

· · ·

Ralph Bales stood on the street corner, in the alcove of Missouri National Bank, watching the couple stroll under a dim streetlight, three of the four bulbs burnt out. The girl was glued on to his arm, which probably was more a plus than anything, because if Gaudia was carrying a weapon she'd tie up his shooting hand.

Philip Lombro's dark Lincoln Town Car, boxy as an aircraft carrier, exhaust purring, sat across the street. Ralph Bales studied the perfect bodywork, the immaculate chrome. Then he looked at the silhouette of Lombro behind the wheel. That man was crazy. Ralph Bales could not understand his wanting to watch it — watching the act of the shooting itself. He knew some guys who got off on doing people, got off on it in some scary sex way. He sensed, though, that this was something Lombro felt he had to do, not something he wanted to do.

A voice fluttered over the cool air — Stevie Flom, Ralph Bales's partner, was doing his schizoid homeless routine. "There's what it is, I mean, there's it! I read the papers...I read the papers I read them forget what you read forget what you read..."

Then Ralph Bales thought he heard Stevie pull the slide on the Beretta though that might have been his imagination; at moments like this you heard noises, you saw things that were otherwise silent or invisible. His nerves shook like a dragster waiting for the green light. He wished he didn't get so nervous.

Tapping, leather soles on concrete. The sound seemed very loud. Tapping and scuffing along the wet, deserted sidewalk.

Giggling.

Tapping.

Light glinted off Gaudia's feet. Ralph Bales knew Gaudia's reputation for fashion and figured he would be wearing five-hundred-dollar shoes. Ralph Bales's shoes were stamped "Man-made uppers" and the men who had made those uppers had been Taiwanese.

The footsteps, twenty feet away.

The murmur of the Lincoln's exhaust.

The beating of Ralph Bales's heart.

Stevie talking like a crazy drunk. Arguing with himself.

The blonde giggling.

Then Stevie said, "A quarter, mister. Please?"

And son of a bitch, if Gaudia wasn't stopping and stepping forward with a bill.

Ralph Bales started across the street, holding the Ruger, a huge gun, barrel-heavy in his hand. Then: the woman's shrill scream and a swing of motion, a blur, as Gaudia swung her around as a shield putting her between him and Stevie's. One pop, then two. The blonde slumped.

Gaudia was running. Fast. Getting away.

Christonthecross...

Ralph Bales lifted the heavy gun and fired twice. He hit Gaudia at least once. He thought it was in the lower neck. The man stumbled onto the sidewalk, lifted a hand briefly, then lay still.

Lombro's Lincoln started away, accelerating with a sharp, gassy roar.

Silence for a moment.

Ralph Bales took a step toward Gaudia.

"Freeze!"

The scream came from only five feet away. Bales almost vomited in shock and the way his heart surged he wondered if he was having a heart attack.

"I mean you, mister!"

Ralph Bales's hand lowered, the gun pointed down. His breath flowed in and out in staccato bursts. He swallowed.

"Drop the weapon!" The voice crackled with a barely controlled hysteria.

"I'm dropping it." Ralph Bales did. He squinted as the gun fell. It didn't go off.

"Lie down on the ground!" The cop was crouching, holding his gun aimed straight at Ralph Bales's head.

"Okay!" Ralph Bales said. "Don't do anything. I'm lying down."

"Now!"

"I'm doing it now! I'm lying down now!" Ralph Bales got on his knees then lay forward on his stomach. He smelled grease and dog piss.

The cop circled around him, kicking the Ruger away and talking into his walkie-talkie. "This's Buffett. I'm in downtown Maddox, I've got a 10-13. Shots fired and two down. Need an ambulance and backup at — "

The Maddox police and fire central radio dispatcher did not find out exactly where Donnie Buffett needed the backup and ambulance — at least not at that moment. The cop's message ended abruptly when Stevie Flom stepped out of the alleyway and emptied the clip of the Beretta into his back.

Buffett grunted, dropped to his knees, and tried to reach behind him. He fell forward.

Ralph Bales climbed to his feet, picked up the Ruger. He walked over to the unconscious cop and pointed the big gun at his head. He cocked it.

Slowly the heavy blue muzzle nestled itself in the cop's damp hair. Ralph Bales covered his eyes with his left hand. His heart beat eight times. His hand tensed. It relaxed. He stepped back and turned away from the cop, settling on one head shot for Gaudia and one for the blonde.

Then, as if they were a couple of basketball fans eager for some beers after the game, Ralph Bales and Stevie Flom walked briskly to a stolen black Trans Am with a sporty red racing stripe on the side. Stevie fired up the engine. Ralph Bales sat down in the comfortable bucket seat. He lifted his blunt index finger to his upper lip and smelled sour gunpowder and primer smoke. As they drove slowly to the river Ralph Bales watched the aura of lights rising up from St. Louis, to the south, thinking that all he would have to do now was take care of the witness — the guy with the beer — and that would be that.

Copyright © 1993 by Jeffery Wilds Deaver

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 25, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Bloody River Blues

    I read the last book in this three book series first, then I read the first and second. I am so pleased that is how I read them because the first and and third books are so much better than the second. Deaver has a style all his own. I find his books enjoyable, fast and at times very funny. He does know how to write a gripping story. It just does not show in this book I am sad to say. Dont let that stop you from reading it though.... everybody has a bad day.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2004

    Not too good

    This book was very slow & I was almost tempted not to finish it. I did b/c I wanted to see how it would end, but I didn't find it too satisfying. I wouldn't recommend this.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2001

    One star is one too many

    Like several of the re-releases I've read, this is another horrible Deaver effort -- if I were Mr. Deaver, I'd stop releasing these books. I haven't found a good one yet. Bring back Lincoln!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2001

    Enjoyed it!!!

    Mr. Deavers is very talented and Bloody River Blues is well written, exciting, and I am looking forward to reading his next. His style is unique, moving, and as I enjoy reading many authors' works, Deavers is right up there with the best of them.

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    Posted May 10, 2011

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    Posted February 17, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2011

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