Don't Look for Me (Amos Walker Series #23)

Don't Look for Me (Amos Walker Series #23)

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by Loren D. Estleman, Mel Foster
     
 

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Amos Walker doesn't mean to walk into trouble. But sometimes it finds him, regardless. The missing woman has left a handwritten note that said, "Don't look for me." Any P.I. would take that as a challenge, especially when he found out that she'd left the same message once before, when having an illicit affair.

But this time it's different. The trail leads Walker

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Overview

Amos Walker doesn't mean to walk into trouble. But sometimes it finds him, regardless. The missing woman has left a handwritten note that said, "Don't look for me." Any P.I. would take that as a challenge, especially when he found out that she'd left the same message once before, when having an illicit affair.

But this time it's different. The trail leads Walker to an herbal remedies store, where the beautiful young clerk knows nothing about the dead body in the basement…or about any illegal activity that might be connected to the corpse. She is, however, interested in Walker's body, and he discovers he's interested in hers as well.

But he can't tarry long, for the Mafia could be involved…or maybe there's a connection to the porno film studio where the missing woman's former maid now works. But when two Mossad agents accost Walker—and then are brutally killed—he realizes he's discovered a plot far darker run by someone more deadly than either the Detroit Mafia or a two-bit porn pusher.

Who—or what—could be so viciously murderous? Walker has few clues, and knows only that with every new murder he is no closer to solving the case. When he finally gets a break, he recognizes the silken, deadly hand of a nemesis who nearly killed him twice before…and this time may finish the job.

In Loren D. Estleman's Don't Look For Me, Amos Walker's up to his neck in dames, drugs…and murder, again.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Marilyn Stasio
[Estleman's] latest Amos Walker mystery…is so old-school, with its world-weary private eye, cynical villains and sultry dames, that it's new again.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781480521568
Publisher:
Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
12/30/2014
Series:
Amos Walker Series, #23
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.50(d)

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ONE

 

 

I couldn’t see the building at first. It looked like a gap in the skyline and one more empty lot. Then a traffic helicopter passed in front of it, dragging its reflection across slate-colored glass standing nineteen stories tall against slate-colored sky. The architect must have hated birds.

WYN-WYN read the plate on a glossy black Porsche in a reserved space, the new model that got seventy-eight miles to the gallon; as if anyone who’d drop $800,000 on an automobile cared about the price of gas. A white-enameled sign with raised black letters said W. HOWARD belonged to the space next to it. I parked there. I figured if Howard hadn’t shown up by 10:00 A.M. he was either so important it would be someone else’s responsibility to have me towed, or too chronically late to risk attracting attention. Either way it gave me time to finish my business and skedaddle.

I’m often wrong about these things; but there are people in Stationary Traffic who owe me favors.

In the gray-and-silver lobby a Morlock in a formfitting uniform found my name on an electronic clipboard and poked a pass across his lectern. “Hang it on your pocket. Keep it in full view at all times.”

It had an aluminum clip and bore only the number 14 in bold black. “Thirteenth floor?”

“Fourteen. Can’t you read?”

“You should go outside sometime and count. Thirteen’s always fourteen in the plan, and a six-sixty-seven address is really six-six-six. There’s a jump for the superstitious.”

“You superstitious?”

“Of course not.” I knocked my knuckles against the top of his station.

“Well, don’t get off on any others, whatever the number.”

“You under a bomb threat or what?”

His tiny eyes straddled an icebreaker nose with white hairs twisting out of the nostrils. They looked like fiber-optic wires. “Standard operating procedure. Some people don’t like bankers for some reason.”

I was confident he didn’t include me among the anarchists. The suit was relatively new and I’d stood closer to the razor than usual that morning.

I rode a silent elevator to 14. The pass rode in an inside pocket. No one ever asked to see it. I still have it, a souvenir of a case I’d rather have gone to someone else.

*   *   *

When I got in to see Alec Wynn of Reiner, Switz, Galsworthy, and Wynn, the sun was well clear of the cityscape on the Detroit River. The Hiram Walker distillery glistened in Canada across the way; Walkertown, the neighborhood is called. I can’t claim ownership, although I’m one of its most loyal customers. Some daredevils were piloting sailboats among the ice floes, their sharkfin sails striped in bright bikini colors. Wynn sat with his back to the view and never turned to look at it. Why bother? On the wall across from him hung a big framed Monte Nagler photograph of bright-striped boats sailing the choppy surface of the Detroit River.

Wynn, when he got up to shake my hand, turned out to be a big neat man with a black widow’s peak trimmed tight to his skull. The graphite frame of his aviator’s glasses matched the gray haze where he shaved his temples and he wore a suit the color and approximate weight of ground fog. He had deep lines in his Miami-brown face and bonded teeth with incisors that came almost to a point. It was a predator’s face. He was an investment banker, and whatever that was, he seemed all of a piece with the way he kept up his payments on the Porsche. All that gray made sense with the blue walls and yellow-green carpet, like a shark cruising through the bright waters of the Gulf Stream.

“Walker, Amos,” he said, as if he were reading roll call. “Is it a nom de guerre?”

“I don’t know what that is, but it’s on my birth certificate.”

“I like it. It has a certain smoky strength.”

“So does bacon.”

“Speaking of that, have you had breakfast?”

“Not in years.”

“I can’t manage without it. I missed mine. Would you mind if we took this to the executive dining room? My treat, of course.”

So I rode the elevator again, two more floors, directly into a gray-shaded room that took up the entire length and breadth of the building. A well-seasoned party in a red jacket with gold buttons greeted him by name and sat us in a booth upholstered in blue leather looking directly across at the city of Windsor. It was late for breakfast but too early for brunch. We had the place to ourselves along with the waitstaff and four men in their twenties seated at a far table in their shirtsleeves and suspenders. Each had an ear-mounted cell phone, and the way they were conversing without looking at their companions made me wonder if they were talking to each other over the things.

“Conquering the world by microwave.” Wynn snapped the creases out of his linen napkin. “When I was their age, we did it on the golf course.”

“You have to wonder why the overhead.”

“This barn? It’s our answer to the Roman Forum. Those senators and philosophers didn’t need those Ionic columns to talk about taxes and whether animals have souls. It’s all set decoration.”

A young waiter in a red jacket with silver buttons arrived with our menus, each the size of a Shakespeare First Folio. He asked if we cared for coffee.

“Tea, please, Jason. The chef knows my preference.”

I asked for regular coffee and Jason drifted away. I browsed the light morning fare, decided on eggs Benedict, sausage links, and tomato juice, which Wynn wrote down on a blank piece of pasteboard with an onyx fountain pen, added some fruit and bran cereal for himself, and handed it to the waiter when he came with the tea and coffee. The setup was like the dining car of a train.

When we were alone again, Wynn folded his strong brown hands on the edge of the tablecloth. “I keep seeing your name on reports. The Reliance people employ your services often.”

“Only when the job involves people. Those big-box agencies are a whiz with computers and blood diamonds and those teeny little cameras you can hide in your belly button. When it comes to stroking old ladies who see things and leaning on supermarket stock boys who smuggle sides of beef out the back door, they remember us little shows.”

“How big is your agency?”

“About six-one and one-eighty.”

“Better and better. It means you’re in a good position to keep secrets.

“Honest, too; eventually. I lied about my weight.”

“The humor I can take or let alone.” He refolded his hands the other way. On one he wore a gold wedding band with a respectable diamond, matched closely to the watch on that wrist, heavy, with a diver’s dial. The shark resemblance increased by the minute. “I don’t like going behind Reliance’s back like this. Ernest Krell is an old friend—emphasis on old—and like many men who should have retired long ago, he’s sensitive about what he perceives as disloyalty among his shrinking circle. I’m being candid with you for a reason. If what I said gets back to him, I’ll know you’re not someone I can trust with my situation.”

I sipped from my cup. I missed smoking over my morning coffee. State law says you can only light up in a public place if it’s a casino. “Krell’s a dinosaur with a J. Edgar Hoover complex. If this meeting is a test, you owe me the five hundred dollars I could’ve earned working a real case, minus the cost of the eggs Benedict. I’d have had to eat one way or the other. If you trusted Reliance in the past, you trust what they said about me.”

Wynn pressed his lips together, deciding whether to get mad. The jury was still out when our food came. He dismissed the waiter’s obsequious inquiries, and the waiter himself, with a slashing movement of one hand. I’d thought of asking for ketchup, but he’d forgotten all about breakfast. Finally he jerked out a nod. “Fair enough. I take it this meeting is confidential, whether or not I decide to make use of your services.”

“That comes with the price of the meal.” I dug in. The eggs were perfect, even without ketchup. The tomato juice tasted like can, but the links were good. “Who’s missing, your wife or your daughter?”

He shot me a look he probably would have kept hooded in a meeting with competitors. “I suppose it’s not all that uncommon, although I don’t consider myself a common man.”

“No one does. Someone has to be, or the word doesn’t mean anything. I do other work, but my specialty is tracing missing persons. I have to think that came up when you were reading those reports. You aren’t the kind of man who takes his car to a veterinarian for service. I saw what you drive.”

“The thing’s a damned embarrassment. There are parking lots in this city I can’t use. I’m either barred outright or a Ford assembly worker takes out his key and—”

“We’re straining the metaphor, Mr. Wynn.” I poked at my hash browns, which I hadn’t ordered. In Michigan they’re like grits in Tennessee; they come with the territory. If I’m going to eat fried potatoes before noon I ought to be wearing deer-hunter orange.

“It’s my wife,” he said. “She’s left me. Not for the first time, it pains me to say.”

I laid down my fork and sat back with my coffee. Said nothing.

“Last time, it was with one of the apprentices here, Lloyd Debner. I fired him, naturally.”

“Naturally.”

He showed his incisors briefly. “Seems awfully Old Testament, I know. I tried to be modern about it. There’s really no sense in blaming the other man. We all wake up with hard-ons for a reason. But I saw myself hiding out in my ridiculously palatial office to avoid running into him in the hall, as if I were the one at fault. Grotesque. I gave him excellent references. One of our competitors snapped him up right away.

“Thing is,” he added, twitching another smile, “he wasn’t that good. I overcompensated on the side of forgiveness. In a perverted way, I guess you can say he slept his way to the top.”

“What happened this time? With your wife.”

“She left the usual note.”

“The usual note?”

“She left one the first time. I tore it up. She said again she was going away and I was not to look for her. I called Debner—a no-brainer, don’t you think? Also wishful thinking—but he assured me he hadn’t seen Cecelia since their first fling.”

“He said fling?”

“Something on that order. I don’t suppose this generation has any interest in the argot of ours. I’m assuming you and I are contemporaries.”

“I may have a head start on you.”

“What did Cicero say? ‘Not to have knowledge of what happened before you were born is to live forever as a child’?”

I didn’t swing at that pitch. He had a fixation on classical literature.

“However Debner put it, I believed him. But it’s been almost a week now and I’m concerned for her safety.”

“What about the police?”

His seamed face crumpled like butcher’s wrap. “I believe we covered that when we were discussing keeping secrets.”

“You’ve been married how long?”

“Six years. And, yes, she’s younger than I, by fourteen years. That was your next question, wasn’t it?”

“It was in there. Do you think that had anything to do with her leaving?”

“I think it had everything to do with it. She has appetites that I’ve been increasingly unable to fulfill. Why is it the fantasies of our adolescence only come true when we’re too old and worn out to do them justice?” His cheeks rusted orange under their tan. “I’m spilling my guts here, Walker. I—”

Poor Jason chose that moment to materialize, asking if there was anything else we wanted. Wynn swung on him like a great white. “Young man, I believe I made myself clear before that you weren’t to approach this table until I summoned you. Must I ask the maître d’ here to translate?”

“No, sir.” The waiter paled to transparency.

“Good.”

“You didn’t, you know,” I said, when Jason had stumbled away. “Make yourself clear, I mean. You just moved your hand. Not everyone understands sign language.”

“I’ll tip him a month’s wages. Satisfactory?”

“Until the revolution. You’d better hope they don’t make him a general. Let’s get back to Cecelia. You quarreled?”

“The normal amount. Never about sex. Which I suppose is revealing. I’m pretty sure she’s found a new boyfriend, but I’m damned if I can say who.”

“Do you have the note with you?”

He extracted a fold of paper from an inside breast pocket and passed it across the table. “I’m afraid I got my fingerprints all over it before I thought over all the angles.”

“That’s okay. I never have worked on anything where prints were any use.”

It was written on common drugstore stationery, tinted blue with a spray of flowers in the upper right-hand corner. A hasty hand full of sharp points and closed loops. It actually said, “Don’t look for me.” Signed with a C.

A melancholy melody drifted through my brain as I read the line. I couldn’t place it.

“There’s no date.”

“She knew I’d read it the day she wrote it. It was last Tuesday.”

“Reason I bring it up, if anything happens to her, even a dull prosecutor could make the case it was the same note she left the first time. He’d tell the jury you used it to cover her disappearance this time.”

He’d speared a square of pineapple while I was reading the note. It stalled halfway to his mouth. “Jury? You’re getting ahead of yourself, Walker. I said I was concerned about her. I said nothing about foul play.”

I pushed away my plate. “That never set well with me, ‘foul play.’ Sounds like a foot-fault at cricket.”

“I know a little something about the game. There are no foot-faults.”

“Murder’s something I know a little about. I’m trying not to become an expert.”

 

Copyright © 2014 by Loren D. Estleman

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