The Highly Effective Detective Crosses the Line (Teddy Ruzak Series #4)by Richard Yancey
In this fourth installment of Rick Yancey’s touching and funny Highly Effective Detective Series, lovable but bumbling PI Teddy Ruzak is out of his league again, and this time, things are getting serious.
Farrell, one of Teddy’s old friends, is in desperate need of Teddy’s help. His daughter Isabella’s ex-boyfriend, locked up for… See more details below
In this fourth installment of Rick Yancey’s touching and funny Highly Effective Detective Series, lovable but bumbling PI Teddy Ruzak is out of his league again, and this time, things are getting serious.
Farrell, one of Teddy’s old friends, is in desperate need of Teddy’s help. His daughter Isabella’s ex-boyfriend, locked up for assault, is days away from being released from jail, and Farrell knows his first stop out of the slammer will be at his daughter’s door. Farrell enlists Teddy to keep any eye on Isabella.
But when the bad seed ex-boyfriend turns out to have associates even more alarming than he is,Teddy finds himself dealing with truly dangerous criminals. To make matters worse, Felicia, his secretary, is being threatened by mysterious men whom she can’t seem to shake.
Can Teddy keep Felicia getting hurt while still protecting Isabella? And do his strong feelings towards Felicia run deeper than just a friend looking out for a friend? This funny and engaging mystery starring Teddy Ruzak will delight and entertain his many devoted fans.
Praise for The Highly Effective Detective series
“Yancey deserves mention with the wackiest of today’s comic crime novelists...similar to Donald E. Westlake or Carl Hiassen.”--Booklist on The Highly Effective Detective Goes to the Dogs
"Move over, Sam Spade. A priceless nebbish has joined the private-eye ranks. An adorably quixotic adventure."--Kirkus Reviews
“Delightful…Yancey has given Teddy a distinctive voice – wry, rambling, and self-reflective – that will endear this surprisingly effective bumbler to all kinds of mystery readers.”--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“It is difficult to top an outstanding series debut, but Yancey does so here with great aplomb. For readers who enjoy humorous mysteries with quirky detectives in the tradition of Janet Evanovich.” --Library Journal
“A delightful and easygoing whodunit.” --The New York Post
Teddy Ruzak (The Highly Effective Detective Plays the Fool, 2010, etc.), whose most notable quality in his first three adventures was a winsome cluelessness, gets into a seriously disturbing case.
Now that Quinton Stiles, the ex-boyfriend who beat her to a pulp, is out of prison, Isabella Farrell needs protection. Not that she thinks so, of course; she's so adamantly against the idea that her father wonders if she's already in touch with Stiles. In order to protect her, though, he leans on Teddy, the unlicensed private detective who you could say ran White Knight Associates if it weren't actually run by his secretary and Girl Friday Felicia, who's passed the p.i. exam he failed three times. Stiles, everyone agrees, is not someone you want to run afoul of. And Teddy—whose way of protecting his unwilling client is to get himself squeezed between the cops and the White Aryan Nation, whose local minions Quinton had snitched on in order to win an early release—runs afoul of Quinton by any reasonable standard. The resulting spate of violence leaves few corpses and even less mystery in its wake. Yet Teddy's sensitive, noble, quixotic response to it will make a far more lasting impression on you than the next dozen fictional corpses you find.
Teddycontinues to grow and deepen as he charts a developmental path like no other in the genre.
Read an Excerpt
The Highly Effective Detective Crosses the Line
By Richard Yancey
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2011 Richard Yancey
All rights reserved.
I dumped the contents of the little plastic cup of creamer into my coffee, followed it up with two packets of sugar, swirled the concoction with my spoon, and said, "Dependent personality disorder."
"How's that?" Felicia asked. Her lips drew together as she blew on the surface of her coffee. Her blond hair was pulled back into a ponytail; her makeup was flawless. She was wearing a sleeveless white blouse and a khaki skirt that accentuated her hips and terminated about an inch above her equally flawless knees.
"Characterized by a lack of energy, passivity, the inability to make decisions, clinginess, fear of abandonment, and an overall reluctance to take responsibility."
She thought about it. When Felicia cogitated, a little line appeared between her eyebrows.
"Doesn't work for me," she said. "What about avoidant personality disorder?"
"What's that?" I asked, though I could have made a pretty good guess.
"Feelings of personal inadequacy, socially inhibited and withdrawn, extreme sensitivity to rejection, a strong desire for intimacy but stymied by an equally strong desire for noncritical acceptance."
"Or maybe this: schizoid personality disorder. Social withdrawal, the belief that things totally unrelated have some special personal significance, eccentric thoughts, speech, and/or beliefs, magical thinking."
"That sounds pretty close."
"The problem is, I don't fit neatly into any of them."
"How many are there?"
"You'd think you'd fit with that many."
"Maybe I'm sort of an amalgamation," I mused, looking at the two wadded-up sugar packets and the empty plastic creamer.
"A disordered mutt?"
"A dollop of dependent, a dash of avoidant, a pinch of schizo."
"Or maybe you're not any of them and you're playing armchair psychologist on yourself."
"Here's the distressing thing: People with personality disorders don't respond well to treatment, because they're personality disorders."
"Let me ask you something, Ruzak. Why?"
"Um. 'Know thyself'?"
"You know what happens to med students. They get every disease they study."
"Well, I'm pretty sure I'm not antisocial or borderline."
"Right. Those are the really interesting, sexy ones."
"As in edgy. Dangerous."
"Why is dangerous sexy?"
"Why are vampires?"
I thought about it. I don't get the cute little line when I think; I get the deep wrinkles in the forehead.
Our food came: three eggs over medium, bacon, hash browns, and toast for me; a western omelette and a fruit cup for her. The waitress topped off my coffee, throwing the proportions all to hell. A half cup of creamer, one sugar packet, stir. The metal spoon clinked against the sides of the porcelain cup.
"Teddy," she said. "Dump the freshman psych books. You're not qualified to diagnose yourself. If you really want an answer, go see a professional."
"What if I get hold of a bad one and they misdiagnose me? I could spend years in treatment for something I don't have."
"Get a second opinion."
"I could just learn to live with it, like somebody with a club foot."
"The fact that I am what I am."
"The Popeye solution."
"Maybe malaise is the price you pay for being human."
"Or at least the one you pay for being Ruzak."
The early breakfast crowd at Pete's had thinned out to a few elderly lingerers and some college kids with their books spread out on the Formica tabletops, white iPod cords dangling from their ears. Looking over Felicia's shoulder, I could see the traffic easing along Locust Street, past the old post office, toward the bank building, whose halls I used to haunt as the night-shift security guard before I got the bright idea to become a private detective. It was one of those warm early-summer days when allergies have eased off and the humidity hovered below 80 percent and girls' bare arms still dimpled in the shade. I had picked up the psychology books the week before on a whim, marked down to a tenth of their original price at the Friends of the Library semiannual sale. Those, and a couple of old VHS tapes, a Clint Eastwood and a Humphrey Bogart (both guys who wouldn't give a flying you know what about personality disorders), which were promptly eaten by my equally ancient player. I should have sprung for the Bourne Identity DVD and the Da Vinci Code paperback for fifty cents.
"What about that Dr. Fredericks?" she asked.
"What about her?"
"See, this sort of thing gives the impression you don't really want to get better. You want an excuse, something to hang your existential hat on, and that way you don't actually have to do something about it."
"You said it yourself. There's not much you can do about a personality disorder. Therapy isn't liposuction."
"Are you saying I need liposuction?"
"I don't think they do that above the neck."
"One thing I'm definitely not is narcissistic, so they're not really necessary, these jibes about my fat head."
"Oh, Teddy, lighten up. You're to earnestness what black holes are to gravity."
"There're times when I think that's what this detective business is all about. Trying to solve the mystery of me."
"Maybe you're just looking for a mystery greater than you."
I thought about that. Then I said, "Huh?"
"Maybe you're incomplete."
"I think that's the definition of psychological disorders."
"And you're searching for situations where you'll meet the greater mystery."
"You're talking about love, aren't you?" She smiled. I said, "You always think that. You think if I fell in love, all my problems would be solved."
"It tends to solve the really big ones."
She pulled out her compact to check her lipstick.
"I never knew you were such a romantic," I said.
"There's a physiological component. The release of dopamine in your fat head."
"Love as psychological liposuction? I'll have to think about that."
She laughed. "I'm sure you will."
She snapped her compact closed and said, "He's here."
"How do you know?"
"I saw him in my mirror."
He was wearing the same dark blue uniform I used to wear, with the gold star sewn into the shoulder of the jacket and the walkie-talkie hanging from his wide belt. As he made his way to our table, I said to Felicia, "How do you know so much about psychology anyway?"
"I was studying to be a nurse before I got pregnant and this terrific opportunity opened up in the service sector," she reminded me.
Farrell stuck out his hand and I took it.
"Teddy," he said. "How's it been?" He dropped into the chair next to mine and I made the introductions. Our waitress came over, greeted Farrell by name, and took his order: two slices of wheat toast and a cup of coffee.
"So you pulled my old shift," I said.
He nodded. Farrell was pushing fifty, but he looked older — lack of sleep, inadequate exposure to sunlight, plus he smoked. He needed a haircut; his nails were bitten down to the quick; his glasses were dirty.
"Rotating off next week," he said. He sounded hoarse, as if his throat had been sandpapered. He looked at Felicia and said, "It's hell."
"It drove Ruzak to the brink of madness," she said.
Farrell gave me a sideways glance and said, "Thought you kind of liked it."
"I got used to it."
"But you quit."
"There was a part of me that never got used to it."
"I was surprised you did. Didn't think you had that much ambition."
"It may have had more to do with desperation. There was this uncomfortable sort of hard knot of dissatisfaction in my chest and a nagging feeling in my gut, as if life itself was going on in another room, this theme park–like anxiety that I was going to miss something while I was waiting in line for the flume ride."
Farrell said to Felicia, "Never could figure why he talked like that."
"Probably an amalgamation at play," she said.
"I've had this habit, since I was a kid, of reading the dictionary in the bathroom," I admitted.
"What's that got to do with flume rides?"
The waitress returned with his coffee and toast, rescuing me from my own obscure metaphor. Farrell emptied two creams and a sugar into his cup. Clink-clink went his spoon. His fingers quivered as he tugged at the plastic wrap on the packet of the strawberry jam. The waitress topped off my cup without my asking. Now I'd never get it perfectly balanced.
"Can't thank you enough for your help," he said.
"I haven't helped yet," I said.
He gave me a startled, fearful look.
"You're not gonna help me?"
"You haven't told me what kind of help you need."
"You want to know if it's legal."
"That's a huge factor, Farrell. I won't lie to you. There've been times when I've walked right up to the line, but I never crossed it."
"This ain't about committing any crime; it's about stopping one."
"I'm all for that," I said.
"I'd do it myself, but I can't be there twenty-four/seven."
"Be where?" Felicia asked.
Farrell sipped his perfectly balanced coffee and took a delicate bite of his toast, its surface glimmering red under the fluorescents. His prominent Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed.
"I need somebody to look after her till I'm off the night shift."
"Look after who?" Felicia asked.
Sip. Bite. Bob.
"You need a baby-sitter?" I asked.
Sip. Bite. Bob. Nod. "Only Isabella ain't no baby. She's twenty-three."
"Then why does she need a sitter?" Felicia asked.
"I told you. I can't be there nights."
"Why does anybody have to be there?" I asked.
"He's out and nobody knows where he's gone to."
"Let's back up," I said.
"It's a boyfriend," Felicia said. "And he's out of prison."
Nod. Sip. Bite. Bob. "Brushy Mountain."
"And you think your daughter's in danger therefore."
" 'Therefore'?" I asked.
"Thirty-six months. Assault," he said.
"Lemme guess who the assaultee was," she said.
"That's right," he said.
"And the star witness for the prosecution," she said.
"Right," he said.
"Does she have a protective order?" she asked.
"Like that's worth the paper it's printed on," he said.
"He's sorry. He wants her back. It'll never happen again," she said.
"Not even that. They ain't talked in three months," he said. "Then he's let out and drops off the face of the planet."
"I'm clear," she said. "Ruzak?"
"Someone new in the picture?" I asked, trying to hold my own.
"There's always someone new." He didn't sound happy about it.
"What's his name?" Felicia asked.
"Stiles. Quinton Stiles." He pulled a photograph from his breast pocket and dropped it on the table between Felicia and me. It looked like a prom picture: the guy in a cheap-looking tux, the girl in a long blue gown, her hair whipped around her head in a style of over-the-top complexity, both wearing awkward smiles.
"They been off and on since high school," he said.
"You said he's disappeared?" she asked.
Nod. "Even his momma doesn't know where."
"How do you know she doesn't know?" I asked.
"I asked," he said.
"Maybe he's moved away," I suggested. "A fresh start."
"I don't like not knowing where he is. Somebody knows, but I don't."
"Who?" I asked. "Momma? You think she's lying?"
Shrug. "She's his momma."
"Right," Felicia said.
"So you want me to keep an eye on your daughter till you come off the night shift," I said.
Nod. Then another nod. His coffee was gone. The toast was gone.
"Kinda would like to know where he is, too. Just for my own peace of mind."
"This is backward," I said. "I should look for Quinton and you should watch Isabella."
Felicia sat in the visitor's chair and slowly, in an unconsciously Sharon Stone-ish kind of way, crossed her long, tanned legs.
"What are you implying, Ruzak? I can't handle myself?"
"I'm the detective," I said.
"No, I'm the detective," she said, and pointed at the license framed on the wall.
"I thought we agreed that was just a technicality," I said.
"I'm not stupid, Teddy. I'm not going to confront him."
"I'm worried about the opposite happening."
"I'll be discreet. I promise."
"I can do both," I said.
"Not if legwork's involved," she said, swinging one of hers.
"I don't get it. You never wanted to help before."
"I mean in the detecting."
"I mean, you've been great for bouncing the hypotheticals off and everything...."
"You feel threatened. What is it with men? So territorial."
"Genetic memory. Anyway, I'm just trying to figure out why all of a sudden you want to get your hands dirty."
"Maybe for the past two years I've watched from the sidelines how thrilling detective work is and I can't stand it anymore. Maybe getting the PI license has whetted my appetite and I want a piece of the action."
I thought about it. "It could be more personal than that."
"We have a deal, Ruzak, remember? We don't talk about our personal lives."
"Well, I don't pretend to have the best memory in the world, but it seems to me it's what we talk about the most."
"That's your personal life." She changed the subject. "The girl should be yours. She's the one in peril and you're the one with the firearm."
"Except I can't hit the broad side of a barn."
"Just be careful, if it comes up, not to let the bad guy in on that."
"The main concern is Isabella," I said. "Keep her safe till the handoff to Farrell, and lover boy's whereabouts are a moot point."
"Let's compromise," she said, which meant she was about to suggest the same thing, only in a different way. "I make a few discreet inquiries, and if things get the least bit dicey, I call in the big strong man to help me."
"Something could happen," I said. "I don't know if I could handle that."
"Well, at least you're admitting it really is about you."
She shot out of the chair and left my big strong self behind my big desk, with the PI license with her name on it hanging on my wall, and I was thinking I didn't even ask for her to take the test; she took it without my knowledge in order to save her job as my secretary, only now she was officially the president of White Knight Associates and I was a junior officer, so the chain of command was all screwed up and our roles had grown somewhat fuzzy — disconcertingly fuzzy, in my opinion. I'd touched on something, though, because she'd never volunteered to this extent in the past. In the past, she had been content with more traditional secretarial duties, with the exception of keeping regular office hours and taking my phone calls at 1:00 A.M. to discuss my latest theories on a case or the fact that I had just read something disturbing about a recent breakthrough in neuroscience or the not-so-irrational 1:00 A.M. fear of the new supercollider creating a mini black hole that could suck all creation down into it. The question was, What was it about this particular case that sparked her emotional tinder? I had a guess but nobody to run the hypo by, since the hypo involved her.
Isabella lived on the near west side of town, in an apartment complex that lay literally in the shadow of the interstate. Her building was at the back of the complex, second floor, which was good, facing the woods across a narrow, ill-lit pathway or walking trail, which was bad. Farrell answered on the fifth knock, wearing a robe, looking very hound doggish. Glancing over his shoulder, I could see a young woman in a pair of cutoffs sprawled on the sofa, smoking a cigarette.
"Sorry I'm late," I said to Farrell. "Traffic's horrible."
"This is Knoxville," he said. "Traffic's always horrible."
She barely looked at me as Farrell made the introductions. She leaned forward and her T-shirt, a baggy thing, puffed out and I could see she wasn't wearing a bra. She stabbed out her butt into the overflowing ashtray, like she hated cigarettes. I squeezed out a hello through a half-closed-up throat.
"Just got up," Farrell said. "Want some coffee?"
"Sure," I said. "Cream and sugar."
"I know," he said. He shuffled into the kitchen. It wasn't a large apartment; he didn't have to shuffle far. Isabella lit up another, sucking the smoke in deep, like she loved cigarettes. I slid into the chair in the little eating area next to the kitchen, about twelve feet away from the smoke, but not far enough; I stifled a cough.
She wasn't a bad-looking girl. She was just a not-bad-looking girl who wasn't taking very good care of herself. A bit fleshy, but not unpleasantly so. Pale. Bags under the eyes. A touch of brattiness, something about her puffy lower lip and the slightly upturned nose. Nice eyes, though, big and brown and depthless. Somebody once said blue eyes you look at and brown you look into, but I couldn't remember who.
"This is bullshit," she said, glaring at her father's back as he poured the coffee.
Farrell didn't say anything. He prepped our coffees and brought them to the table and then he sat down in the empty chair across from me and we drank without looking at her.
"Just a week," he said finally.
"I don't need a fucking baby-sitter," she said.
"Bodyguard," he said. "Think of it that way."
"He ain't gonna do anything," she said. "He's done with me."
"How do you know?" I asked.
"Shut up," she said. "You shut the fuck up."
"Hey," Farrell said. "Don't talk to Ruzak that way. He's my friend."
"I don't give a shit." Her chin had a way of coming up when she talked. When she paused to drag on the cigarette, her chin came down again. "I don't even know this guy, Farrell. How do I know he's not going to try something when you're gone?"
Excerpted from The Highly Effective Detective Crosses the Line by Richard Yancey. Copyright © 2011 Richard Yancey. 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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