When ex-con Dave “Mace” Mason is hired by Paulie Lacotta, an old acquaintance and high-rolling crime boss, to watch his ex-girlfriend, Angela, he knows there's more to the job than he's being told. Angela has fallen in love with one of Paulie's competitors, Tiny, and Paulie wants to know if she's the reason a big deal recently went south. But Mace draws some unwelcome attention as he investigates, and when Tiny is found dead, Mace wonders if he will live long enough to uncover the truth.
“Lochte is just as fast-paced and funny flying solo as when he’s wingman for Al Roker or Christopher Darden, both of whom he's collaborated with in the past.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Lochte is a somewhat underappreciated writer. This solid, well-crafted thriller with a likable protagonist and an engaging cast of supporting players should remind readers that he is a dependable storyteller in his own right.” —Booklist
“Tense, fast-moving crime novel from Nero Wolfe Award–winner Lochte.” —Publishers Weekly
|Publisher:||Severn House Publishers|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||569 KB|
Read an Excerpt
'Jee-zus,' Wylie said. 'He's giving it to her good.'
Mace stared at the grinning young idiot sitting beside him at the window and wondered if he might be suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder. They were in darkness, in a room on the top floor of the Florian Apartment Hotel, a U-shaped, three-story building a block above Sunset Boulevard.
Wylie had his night vision binoculars trained on the wing of the building across the way. Mace guessed that he was barely into his twenties. Six feet tall, a couple inches shorter than Mace and maybe twenty-five pounds lighter at one-sixty-five to one-seventy. Greenish-blonde mop of hair showing black at the roots.
There was enough light from the moon and the Florian's glowing pool in the courtyard below for Mace to make out the head of a blue and red serpent tattoo poking above the neckline of Wylie's loud Hawaiian shirt.
At Pelican Bay prison, Mace used to watch an old con named Billy Jet stick needles full of dye into the flesh of some of the other cons. There wasn't much else to do there, except get tats or watch other guys getting tats. As far as Mace knew Wylie had never served time, so the snake didn't make any sense to him at all.
The second floor window occupying Wylie's attention wasn't the one they were there to watch, but that point seemed to be lost on him. He licked his slightly feminine lips and said, 'Oh, ba-bee, don't use it up all at once.'
Mace stubbed out his cigarette and picked up his binoculars. He aimed them at a set of windows directly across the way. The main room of the apartment was still empty. The subject was somewhere to the right, probably in the bathroom, since no light had gone on in the bedroom.
'Shee-it,' Wylie said, 'this waaay beats the beater flicks on cable all to hell. I'm ready for a little hormone fix, myself.'
'Whoa. Watch out for Mr Back-door Man.'
'If I didn't know better,' Mace said, staying focused on the subject's apartment, 'I'd take you for some snot-nose kid on his first trip to what they laughingly call a gentleman's club.'
'Oh, yeah?' Wylie said, obviously stung. 'Well ... go fuck yourself.'
'You're the one who's turned on,' Mace replied calmly.
'What turns you on, big man?' Wylie said heatedly. 'Little boys?'
Mace watched the subject enter her living room dressed in a robe, rubbing her blonde hair with a towel, her face shiny from night cream. She crossed the room and moved just past the wide window and out of view.
'Pro work,' he said. 'That turns me on.'
The subject walked back into his line of sight carrying a thick book. A coffee-table book. Probably an art book, Mace thought. He'd been told she was an art appraiser, an artist herself.
He liked the way she moved, a graceful glide. He couldn't see her feet, but he imagined they were bare, luxuriating in the soft texture of the carpet.
'You saying what? That I'm not a pro?' Wylie asked, more hurt now than angry.
'I'm saying you should concentrate on the job.'
The subject turned out the living room light. Mace started a countdown. One hundred. One hundred and one. One hundred and two. One hundred and —
A light went on behind the bedroom drapes.
Mace lowered his binoculars and placed them on the table. 'She's tucked in,' he said.
Wylie was glaring at him. 'So you don't think I'm a pro, huh?' In point of fact, Mace thought he was a hopeless jackass. He'd formed that opinion as soon as he'd laid eyes on him at LAX that afternoon. But he didn't know how long they'd be cooping, so he said, 'Right now, I'm jet-lagged, bone-tired and pissed off at the world in general. If Paulie Lacotta gives you a paycheck, you're a pro. OK?'
Wylie still wasn't happy. 'I'm pro enough to stay out of the joint,' he said, half to himself.
'Good point,' Mace said, letting it slide. 'OK if I fade for a while?'
'Do what you want,' Wylie said, raising the binoculars. 'You're the pro.'
There were two beds in the room. One was filled with Wylie's crap; a black plastic shell, ear phones, a razor, a head set, various plugs and wires, candy bars, rubbers, a Dopp Kit bulging with colognes and creams.
Mace sat on the other bed and started taking off his shoes.
'Yo, Mace,' Wylie said, shifting moods gracelessly. 'We might as well make this as homeboy as we can. You stay off my back, I stay off yours. OK?'
'Sounds like a plan,' Mace said, stretching out. 'Give me a couple hours and I'll spell you.'
'The bitch isn't goin' anywhere. What's the harm if I grab some Z's, too?'
Mace stopped the sarcastic reply that came immediately to mind. 'You never know what a subject will do,' he said. 'If she cuts and runs while we're snoozing, Paulie will see to it we both get lots of rest.'
'You know Mr Lacotta a long time, huh?'
'Long enough,' Mace said, closing his eyes.CHAPTER 2
At roughly eight fifteen the next morning, Paulie Lacotta slipped his SL55 into a visitor slot in front of the Florian. He was about to open his door when he saw a yellow Mustang convertible departing from the bilevel parking garage to the left of the apartment hotel. The top was down and the driver's blonde hair flowed in the wind as the car zoomed past.
He'd be damned if convertibles weren't made for blondes to drive.
He wondered where she was headed at – looking at his watch – eight sixteen in the morning. Well, he figured he'd know soon enough. Wylie's company Lexus sedan had just emerged with screeching tires to follow after the Mustang.
He pried himself free of his car, a stocky guy wearing two-inch heels that almost brought him to six feet. He was wrapped in a Zegna suit worth a couple thou, cut to emphasize his shoulders and hide a thickening waist. His nut-brown face had once been slick-handsome, but it was starting to sag at the jowls.
That morning while shaving he was thinking it just might be Botox-and-tuck time. Youth must be served, after all.
He circled the front building at a jaunty clip, strolled past the pool where two wrinkled old duffers were puffing through their morning laps. No hot babes in bikinis that early, if ever. The Florian was not exactly a Girls Gone Wild operation. It was a well-run apartment hotel with some permanent guests who enjoyed its full-service facilities and close proximity to the stores and restaurants on Sunset Boulevard and transients – mainly theater actors, artists and musicians from the Other Coast – who prized its vaguely Bohemian atmosphere, the harmless eccentricities of its friendly staff and the fact that each 'suite' included kitchenettes for them to cook their own food.
Paulie, in his Sam Goldwyn-like way, had concluded that he wouldn't have been caught dead living there.
He took the rear stairwell at a brisk pace, paused before a door on the third floor and knocked. 'Me,' he said.
He heard the lock sliding away.
When the door opened, he stepped in to find Mace, dressed in clothes that looked like he'd slept in them, his feet bare. Holding a coffee mug. It had been nine years since he'd last seen the man. Dave Mason looked harder now. Tougher. A little weather-beaten, but that figured, him living in swampland.
Lacotta opened his arms. 'C'mere, you son of a bitch,' he said, grinning.
Mace put his coffee mug on a table and accepted the inevitable bear hug.
When Lacotta was through physically bonding, he took a backward step and gave Mace a head-to-toe. 'You're looking money, amigo.'
The tan. The hug. Now 'money' and 'amigo'. Jesus Christ! Mace bit his tongue and said, 'You too, Paulie. Really living la vida El Lay, huh?' Lacotta beamed proudly, as if Mace had paid him a high compliment. 'You know it, dude.' He turned to the windows. 'My girl been behaving herself?' he asked.
Lacotta scanned the room. He moved to the nearest bed and tested the mattress with a finger poke. 'We've seen worse, huh?' Mace supposed that was true. He took his mug over to the stove for a refill. 'Coffee?' he asked.
'Hell, no,' Lacotta said, wincing. 'That caffeine shit stains the teeth. Sours the stomach. Coffee'll kill you quicker'n cancer.'
Mace toasted him with his mug and took a sip.
'How's my boy Wylie doin'?' Lacotta asked.
'Out tailing the subject.'
'They were leaving when I got here. What I want to know is what you think of him.'
'The snake on his neck makes close shadow work a little tricky. People tend to remember things like that. You know, start to wonder, wasn't there a guy with a snake walking behind me this morning?'
'The fucking kid's body looked like the Sunday funnies. We got most of it lasered off, but the doc said he couldn't do anything with the snake. Something about the ink. He offered to turn it into a birthmark, like the Russian guy, what's-his-name, had on his head. Wylie's not exactly up with that. What do you think?'
'I think you're losing it if you're coming to me for cosmetic advice.'
Lacotta ducked his head in a nod of agreement. 'What else about him?' 'If the subject decides to go for a stroll, he'll be OK, as long as it's on the Strip or Hollywood Boulevard. If it's Beverly Hills or Brentwood, that lousy hair-dye job and the beach-boy shirt might stick out more than the snake.'
'I don't suppose you could call shit like that to his attention?'
'You're beautiful, Paulie,' Mace said. 'Not only do you bring me in cold and saddle me with a green punk, you want me to play mentor.'
'The kid's a legacy. His old man was Leo Giruso.'
'Leo, huh?' Mace said. 'That figures.'
'Leo was goddamn loyal.'
'Get a dog. They're smarter.' Mace took a sip of coffee. 'How'd the kid wind up with the name Wylie?'
'I dunno. Read it in a book, maybe?'
Mace rolled his eyes.
'OK, so you don't like the kid,' Lacotta said.
'It's not him. I don't like this whole set-up.'
'Hey,' Lacotta said with a little heat behind it. 'You did me a good thing a while back, but I figure I kinda made up for it. Your old man kept his business going in Louisiana, right? Some kinda canning operation ... where exactly?'
'And didn't I put some dough aside for you every year you were at Pel?'
'That you did.'
'So now I ask you for a little help and you bust my balls?'
Mace moved to the window and frowned out at the bright morning. 'What's with this Lowell woman anyway?'
'Since when you start asking questions like that?'
'Since I started sitting around an empty apartment with a dim-bulb kid, peeping in windows like some bathroom idiot.'
Lacotta got to his feet, pouting a little. 'Yeah, well, like Bobby D used to say, we all gotta serve somebody.' He shifted from foot to foot. 'Aw, hell. Angie and me ... it's personal, OK? I wanna know what she's up to. Can you handle that?'
'What are you expecting her to do?'
Lacotta shrugged and shook his head. Not much of an answer.
'You wanna grab some breakfast?' he asked.
'No, thanks. I don't know what I do want, but it's not breakfast.'
'Well,' Lacotta said, 'you find out, you let me know.'CHAPTER 3
Wylie was at the window of the darkened room, presumably on guard. 'Damn,' he said, 'bitch dropped the blinds on me.'
Mace was in the kitchenette, washing down a cold Mexican dinner with a bourbon and water. He placed a half-eaten taco on its Styrofoam bed and hurried to the window, picking up his binoculars.
The subject was clearly visible in her apartment, standing before an easel, painting. 'What the hell are you talking about?' he asked Wylie. 'She's right there. No blinds.'
'Yeah, I know. She's cool. I was clockin' the naked biatch one window over. Full frontal, doing her Pi-lat-tease.'
Mace sighed and walked back to the kitchenette. He dumped the remains of his Tico Taco dinner into the dispose-all. 'Where's that list of places she went today?' he asked.
'Why? It's just bullshit stores.'
Wylie plucked a small pad from the pocket of his flowery shirt and held it out with thumb and forefinger.
Mace took it into the bathroom, closed the door and turned on the lights. He flipped the pages of the pad until he found what he wanted. Even in Wylie's crabbed handwriting, the names of three business establishments were clear enough.
He turned off the light and went back into the darkened bedroom. 'Tell me again what went on,' he said.
'Nothing went on. She had her errands. She parks the 'Tang and runs in. Comes out with her stuff. Cruises to the next place. Parks the 'Tang, goes in. Like that.'
'And you didn't see what she did inside the shops?' 'Christ, no. She was in and out like The Flash. I barely had time to park. Why you making such a big fucking deal of it?' 'Don't mind me,' Mace said. He pulled his jacket off the back of a chair and headed for the door.
'Were you goin'?' Wylie asked.
'I need some fresh air.'
'Fresh air? In this fucking city?'
'Keep watching the window,' Mace said. 'Hers.'
'Where you really goin'?'
'Cigarettes. You need anything?'
Wylie shook his head. 'You gonna be gone long?'
'Hour, maybe. You know what to do if the subject leaves her apartment?'
'I gotta tell ya. I'm so raked by your "the subject" bullshit. Use her fucking name or call her a bitch or whore or what the hell.'
'You don't want to use names,' Mace said. 'And you do want to keep it impersonal. So, with your permission, she's "the subject". OK?'
Wylie shrugged. 'It's so fucking spy movie.'
'Call her what you want,' Mace said. 'Just keep your eye on her.'
'Yeah, yeah,' Wiley said.CHAPTER 4
Although walking seemed to be frowned on in LA, Mace thought it preferable to getting the rental out, bucking traffic and then trying to find a parking place. Actually, the Sunset Strip had changed so drastically since he'd last seen it, he didn't even know where you could or couldn't park any more. Too many signs. 'One Hour Parking, 8 am – 6 p.m.' 'No Parking 6 pm – 10 p.m.' 'No Parking Anytime.' The address he wanted wasn't more than five or six blocks away.
He moved with purpose down the Strip, maneuvering around the late-night dawdlers – hookers, pimps, members of the glitterati who'd dined fashionably late, tourists looking slightly lost and anxious, slackers with nothing better to do.
He put himself in the tourist camp.
His destination was an address in the middle of the block. Nine years ago, when he'd been a resident of the city, it had been home to a vegan health restaurant called 'The Elegant Eggplant'. Now there was nothing elegant about it. Or remotely healthy. The building had been painted black long enough ago for wind and weather to have softened the color to an ugly mottled gray. A red neon sign identified it as 'Honest Abe's Coffee Empourium'. A cardboard sign, stuck in the display window added, in hand lettering: 'Tonight: Jerry Monte, Saturday: Super Slam.'
A youthful crowd, mainly female, formed a line that continued down the block as far as he could see, not too many of them listening to the poetry and jazz blaring from a pair of speakers attached just under the club's roofline. Thanks to a groping couple, Mace found a narrow gap in the queue and headed to the entrance where a closed door was being guarded by a giant with arms like tree trunks hanging from his muscle Tshirt. He was the standard-brand bald bouncer except for the five precious stones weighing down his right ear lobe and the heavily mascaraed eyes, which he turned on Mace with some suspicion.
'I'm an old friend of Abe's,' Mace said.
'So are they,' the bouncer said, indicating the queue.
'Tell him Mace wants to see him.'
The bouncer studied him for a beat. He took a few extra seconds to look past him to prove he was no pushover. Then he turned, opened the door and ducked inside the club.
The people in line glared at Mace. He ignored them and did his best to ignore the blather coming from the speaker.
When the bouncer reappeared, he said, 'Abe's at the rear.'
The night air had been cool enough, but inside the shadowy club it was freezing, even with the place packed with young customers. They didn't seem to notice their chattering teeth as they stared reverentially at a pale poetess who was sharing the tiny stage with a poodle. The poetess was rapping about the beauty of watching dogs fuck.
Mace headed for a table at the far end of the room where a gaunt man sat grinning at him. Back in the day, Honest Abe Garfein had pushed his resemblance to the sixteenth president of the USA to the max by wearing chin whiskers, a stovepipe hat and a black suit. Having moved past Lincoln's longevity by at least a dozen years, with the sagging flesh and wiry gray hair to prove it, Abe had evidently decided to drop the im–personation. Clean shaven and wearing a Tommy Bahama shirt that provided nearly all the color in the room, he had morphed into another familiar figure, the crazy neighbor from the old Seinfeld TV show.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Blues in the Night"
Copyright © 2011 Dick Lochte.
Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Limited.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I like the books Lochte writes with Al Roker, but they didn't quite prepare me for this one. It's not as flat-out funny as the Billy Blessing novels or Lochte's SLEEPING DOG, but makes up for that with suspense and surprising twists and turns. And very dark humor. The hero's an ex-con, David "Mace" Mason, who returns to Los Angeles after a long absence and finds that the town and the people he knew have changed, not for the better. Before long,he's being chased, shot at, kidnapped, and seduced by an assortment of characters who are as unusual and surprising (and dimensional) as any we should expect from the inventive author. Included are Mace's probably duplicitous old friend, Paulie, a pair of brotherly hit men, a Russian mobster who's very vain about his hair, a pimp who looks like Abraham Lincoln, a paparazzo with his own private harem, an entertainment mogul who's a combination of Tom Cruise, Eminem and Mark Zukerberg and a beautiful art appraiser who may be moonlighting at something a bit less wholesome. They're all looking for a missing coin that's extremely valuable and holds a very dangerous secret. It's a fast, entertaining read, written in Lochte's uniquely smart and sardonic style.