Sledgehammer

Sledgehammer

by Walter Wager
Sledgehammer

Sledgehammer

by Walter Wager

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Overview

“A bust-em-up gutsy book” about an elite unit of soldiers, hand-picked for a mission behind enemy lines, on a quest for vengeance (Los Angeles Times).
 
Sledgehammer is the code name for the operation of an elite OSS unit behind German lines during World War II. Five experts in guerrilla warfare are concealed under identities as a crusading journalist, a Hollywood stuntman, a professor of psychology, a money man for a major casino, and a billionaire bachelor. Their mission is clear. Their training has prepared them for anything. But when the journalist is murdered, his four friends change the plan to one single purpose: get revenge.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626816428
Publisher: Diversion Books
Publication date: 02/06/2019
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 256
File size: 2 MB

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Shortly after 11 P.M. on the balmy evening of May 21, Mr. Edward R. Barringer, a slight white-haired man whose cunning and boldness were a matter of official record in certain sealed files of the Government of the United States, emerged from his gray stucco house at 54 Crescent Drive in Paradise City. He walked slowly, almost awkwardly, to his car at the curb. Mr. Barringer had a pronounced limp, a glass left eye, twenty-six false teeth, a battered tan attaché case and the keys to a green 1966 Ford convertible. In accord with the request of the local Chamber of Commerce, a fully ripe moon was shining over Paradise City, and Mr. Barringer nodded in approval as he got into his car. Then he placed the attaché case on the seat beside him.

"This is going to be easy," the fat-faced assassin in the doorway across the street thought cheerfully. He had no way of knowing that Edward R. Barringer had been a skilled practitioner of the violent arts himself, had adroitly slain three policemen with knife and wire garotte before finishing his senior year at Harvard. Mr. Barringer did not talk about his savage past, for as a working journalist he much preferred to write about the present.

So the white-haired little man with the limp retracted the canvas top of the convertible, sniffed the jasmine-scented evening and inserted the key in the ignition. He turned it, stepped on the gas pedal. Then he was dead. A jagged blast of fire and sound broke open the night, and smoke and flame erupted from the wrecked convertible as the bomb detonated. Mr. Barringer perished instantly, crushed and seared in the sudden savage convulsion of fatal force that hurled his corpse thirty feet down Crescent Drive. His long years of terrible nightmares were ended.

But that was not all that the four sticks of dynamite achieved. Nearby windows shattered, epithets soared and lights flashed on all through the comfortable residential neighborhood as outraged taxpayers reacted indignantly to this unseemly interruption of the Late Movie on WPAR-TV — one of those wonderful old Bette Davis films in which everybody has brain tumors and smokes a lot. Four blocks from the explosion, Mr. and Mrs. Arnold Fellows vigorously debated whether a Russian satellite had fallen on Paradise City, while across the street former Sanitation Commissioner Willy Ed Rawlins drafted a press release on teen-age hooligans. Four maiden ladies conducting a seance over on Stonewall Jackson Boulevard decided that it might just possibly be the end of the world and sensibly put in a person-to-person call to the Reverend Billy Graham. A sixteen-year-old blonde who was babysitting in a house on Magnolia Drive fainted, but at least nine sober citizens remained cool enough to telephone the police, the fire department and the local commander of the American Legion. Somebody even called the City Desk of the Paradise City Trumpet.

Then it was only minutes until the sirens sounded and the cars arrived and the photographers' flash guns cut away the darkness and any shreds of normalcy left on Crescent Drive. By this time, however, the stocky slayer of Edward R. Barringer was two miles away in a noisy tavern trying to make a telephone call over the combined din of the Jefferson Airplane and a roomful of dedicated bourbon drinkers. It was not easy to communicate above that wholesome American uproar, for the jukebox alone was putting out sound waves fierce enough to drill teeth.

"It's done," the man who had installed the bomb announced curtly.

He mentioned no names, places, deeds.

He was a professional and he knew all about wiretapping.

"That's what I said," he insisted. "There'll be no more trouble, because it's completely finished."

But it wasn't.

Not at all.

Mr. Edward R. Barringer was dead all right — but there was still Dr. Andrew F. Williston. Dr. Williston was not known in Paradise City, but he could be extremely violent and dangerous. As a matter of fact, he had once machine-gunned seven men before breakfast and then robbed an armored car of a $110,000 payroll that same afternoon.

As long as Dr. Williston was alive, it wasn't nearly finished.

CHAPTER 2

The letter reached New York City on the morning of May 28, but Dr. Andrew F. Williston didn't collect it until four that bright afternoon when he turned in the final grades to the Registrar. It was a lovely, lazy spring day on Morningside Heights, and pink Barnard girls in yellow miniskirts fluttered by in coveys like the plump pigeons that swooped over the domed Low Library in the warm May sun. They were fine, slim, young women, clean and open-faced and laughing and sure of the eventual triumph of folk-rock and educational television over the massed forces of evil. Restless and a little unsure of themselves, small lonely clusters of Columbia College seniors bravely joked and smoked and remembered on the stone steps of dormitories — wondering about the future "outside" as they waited out the last strange days until graduation. The final semester was over.

And Andrew Williston, a gifted Associate Professor of Psychology who'd be a full professor in another year, was very glad that school had ended. The tall, thin, crew-cut scholar was tired — wan from the Manhattan winter and vaguely bored with the comfortable but repetitive ritual of the academic life. As he strolled across the campus, he couldn't be sure whether this fatigue came from the monotony of lectures, quizzes, term papers and conferences — or was it the wild thing again? Was it the old hunger for excitement and danger? It didn't matter, he tried to reassure himself, for tomorrow he was leaving for the wooden farm house in Vermont — the quiet, airy place on the peak they called Terrible Mountain. He'd been born there, and because he was the last of the Willistons it was his. He knew that he would be safe there.

Dr. Williston smiled as he thought of the house on Terrible Mountain, looked up just in time to avoid bumping into two Japanese graduate students and walked on to his office in Schermerhorn Hall for a final check of the mail box. The letter was waiting, a square cream-colored envelope with no return address. He scanned it as he left the building, and then sat down on the steps to light a cigarette and open the letter.

But there was no letter, only three clippings from a newspaper named the Paradise City Trumpet.

The first announced that Trumpet columnist Edward R. Barringer had perished in an explosion caused by a bomb attached to the starter of his car.

The second reported that Captain Benjamin Marton, chief of the Paradise City Police Department, had personally searched the wreckage and Barringer's stucco ranch house at 54 Crescent Drive in an attempt to find some clue to the reasons for this shocking murder. Seven hours of meticulous and scientific examination had failed to produce a single shred of evidence as to who might have wanted to slay the journalist — or why. The authorities had no idea of who planted the dynamite, but the investigation would continue.

The third clipping was an editorial eulogizing Ed Barringer as a fine dedicated newspaper man and a splendid human being.

Williston stood up in the warm sun and shivered, suddenly remembering the night they had blasted their way into the police station to rescue Barringer. He closed his eyes and saw it all again — the snow-covered streets, the moonlit square — and four grim men huddled in the back of an ambulance. It was incredibly real with the coppery taste of fearful fury flooding his mouth in the moment of recollection. Now the fear turned to hate, not the blazing rage of the indignant academician but the cold focused enmity of the professional gunman.

Now he knew what he had to do.

The little man was dead.

The little man was dead — and somebody had to pay the bill.

Suddenly it was like the Old Days when he carried the submachine gun and was angry all the time.

Williston puffed on the cigarette as he looked into the envelope again, but there was no note and no clue as to the sender. Yet the message in the clippings was clear. Get the others, and come with your guns and knives and other implements. Come swiftly with bomb, bullet and blade to avenge the little man with the limp. Come to this strange place, where you must find them and kill them.

It was obviously not a one-man job. He would have to call the others. They were scattered now — living very different lives — and perhaps they wouldn't want to come. No, he had to believe that they would, to base his plan on that. The beginning of a plan was already forming as he slipped the envelope into his jacket pocket. First they would need weapons and money, he reasoned soberly, and that meant the smiling hunter.

That meant P.T. Carstairs.

CHAPTER 3

Parker Terence Carstairs, a household word like Drano and Elizabeth Taylor, was, is, internationally famous as an extremely rich and utterly handsome sportsman who commutes between Earl Wilson and Leonard Lyons via the men's room of the bar at the George V in Paris. "Sportsman" is a gracious phrase for males either too wealthy or too lazy — or too stupid — to work regularly. P.T. Carstairs is both bored and lazy, too blasé even to play at his role of jet-set celebrity with much passion. Nevertheless, because he has a vast fortune, wavy blond hair, excellent teeth, wonderful taste and almost no morals at all, he remains the joyful toast of the wire services and the second most eligible bachelor in the United States. He is actually the first most eligible because the supposed "champion" has been arrested three times in his mother's dresses and will obviously never marry, but the society columnists prefer to ignore this disconcerting idiosyncrasy.

P.T. Carstairs is, beyond doubt, a bonafide celebrity. Every patriotic American — and quite a few Britons, French, Japanese, Italians and Latins — knows that Mr. Carstairs inherited more than $26,000,000.45 from his late father and that P.T. collects fine old guns, beautiful young women and sleek Italian racing cars. He collects diligently and impressively, as Life and Esquire and Paris- Match have reported at length.

He collects superbly.

Some of his racing cars are beautiful and several of his women have been Italian, but all of his guns are really extraordinary. He keeps them in a spacious gallery in a large town house in Manhattan just off Fifth Avenue on 71st Street, and he shows them to good-looking females before dinner. This is a "bit" with him. Some men do the flowers-and-champagne bit, and some do the long-hair-and-sandals bit — with bells — and some do the social-karate-at-the-drive-in-movie bit. With P.T. Carstairs, it was "Come by for supper and look at my antique firearms" — and they usually came. He did a big breakfast business too, as might be expected.

Mr. Carstairs, whose chilling proficiency with a variety of single-shot and automatic weapons had once earned him the nickname of "The Widow Maker," was a very civilized man. In the twentieth century it is possible to be a homicidal marksman and still be considered a civilized man. Mr. Carstairs was a man of taste and breeding. He took a shower every day and saw his dentist twice a year, and he never invited girls under twenty-one no matter how pretty or hungry or animal they were. He never asked other people's wives or women who talked too much or those given to drink or irksome scenes, rules which eliminated 91 percent of the female population right there.

That made life simple and easy, and he liked it simple and easy. On the evening of May 28, the fair lady who had come to visit was a blond Swedish ballerina, a proud, healthy woman with large blue eyes and a dancer's body of supple steel. She'd met Carstairs at a wonderful party in Rio in February and immediately decided that it was highly desirable to see his guns. Now it was three months later and she had two perfect martinis glowing within her hard flat stomach — and the night was full of charm and promise.

It was five after eight; she had already seen twenty-six of the finest, rarest, costliest old pistols in the world. One of the six known Cookson repeating flintlocks made by Glass of London in 1775, a silver inlaid Battazanti of 1700, even a 1550 German over-and-under wheellock — each a museum piece. He had a Spanish miguelet lock flint blunderbuss, a Model 1777 Charleville French army pistol and even a .54 caliber 1806 Harper's Ferry model. There were also a number of wicked- looking little derringers and belly guns popular with riverboat gamblers of nineteenth-century America. He knew the history of each weapon, told it beautifully with a wealth of anecdote and jest that would shame a Southern senator.

"And this is the pride of my collection," the millionaire announced with an irresistible smile as he pointed to a battered old .44 caliber six-shooter in a glass case.

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Carstairs," the tall balding butler began from the doorway. The second most eligible bachelor in the United States nodded affably, confident that whatever it was it wasn't going to interfere with his plans for the evening.

"I'm sorry to interrupt, sir," the usually cool manservant continued uncertainly, "but there's just been a most extraordinary telephone message for you. The person who called claimed that it was a matter of life and death."

Carstairs grinned pleasantly like some good-humored tiger, finished his drink in a single gulp. The Swedish dancer could see that he was amused.

"And what is the message, Rodman?" the gun collector asked.

The liveried servant sighed, shook his head as he took the piece of paper from his pocket to scan it again. "It may be a game, sir, in which case I'm terribly sorry," he apologized. "If I got it correctly, it reads as follows. Quote: Uncle Charles has lost his pen. Come to the farm. Thursday at nineteen. Condition black. Close quote. I asked who was calling," the butler assured his employer, "and was told that I should say Marie Antoinette."

"But it was a man," Carstairs announced.

He wasn't guessing. He knew.

"Yes, a man. Is it a game, sir?" the puzzled butler asked.

"Well, I think it is," the millionaire gun collector replied slowly and thoughtfully, "but I don't suppose that very many people would agree with me — and most of those who would are dead."

The ballerina blinked, wondering when he would make sense of it all. Carstairs walked to the sideboard and poured two more of those martinis. He put down the Orrefors pitcher, paused for a moment, considered, smiled again. "Uncle Charles has lost his pen. Well, well, well," he reflected to nobody in particular as he carried the drinks to the lovely blond woman.

"Petie, Petie — what does this mean?" she asked.

The collector smiled that wonderful Life-Look-Paris-Match cover smile with all those excellent teeth, and then he shrugged those splendid shoulders disarmingly.

"As the man said, the matter is simply life and death, my dear," he replied. "That's all there is to it — nothing more."

He took three steps toward the wall, stopped. When the millionaire said "Thank you, Rodman," the butler departed on cue and Carstairs considered whether he should remove the green metal trunk. She wouldn't guess what it contained, he judged, so he pressed the molding on the paneled wall. Suddenly — just like the old movies — there was an opening. He reached into the hole, took out the dusty metal trunk as the woman watched.

"Let me explain," P.T. Carstairs proposed with an odd look that managed to combine grimness and mischief. "I don't have an Uncle Charles, but I'm extremely concerned about his pen. I thought that I'd lost it — forever — some years ago, but good old Marie Antoinette found it. That's why I'll be going away tomorrow."

"But you promised to come to see me dance tomorrow night," she protested.

This was going to require just a bit of handling; but it would be no problem, for if there were three things in the world that P.T. Carstairs could handle effortlessly, two of them were women. He knew precisely what to do.

"I'm sorry, dear," he said truthfully as he leaned over and kissed her. Then he looked into her luminous eyes, shook his head in unconcealed regret. There was no nonsense about this warm worldly woman, no nonsense and an unabashed animality that was clean and attractive. He kissed her again, much harder, pressing her tight and caressing her tenderly as her body started to move against his. Her eyes were wide open, remained that way throughout the next eighty minutes as they made love. They didn't get to eat until nearly 10 P.M., and when they finished their brandies shortly after midnight they made love again. The radiant smile on her face as she fell asleep beside him was still glowing the next morning at eleven when she awoke, saw him seated on the edge of the bed — watching her approvingly.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Sledgehammer"
by .
Copyright © 1970 Walter Wager.
Excerpted by permission of Diversion Publishing Corp..
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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