A vigilante ex-cop avenges the murder of a friend in this fast-paced thriller from the New York Times –bestselling author of the Doc Ford series. When the police department told him to hold his fire, Hawker pulled the trigger anyway—and killed a dangerous terrorist. Since losing his badge, this hardnosed vigilante has been exiled from Chicago, the city he loves more than any other. He returns for the sake of one man: Saul Beckerman, a friend from the old neighborhood who has become one of the richest people in the city. Since Hawker began his nationwide war against organized crime, Beckerman has gotten into trouble with the wrong people, and even the nation’s most dangerous defender can’t save him now. Hawker arrives at Beckerman’s penthouse just as his cocktail party is transforming into an orgy. Avoiding the writhing flesh of Chicago’s most powerful, Hawker takes his friend onto the balcony. He’s about to ask what’s troubling the man when the air is rent by a gunshot. Beckerman dead, Hawker sets out on a mission for bloody vengeance. The author of Bone Deep and Night Moves “raises the bar of the action thriller,” and this entry in one of his early series delivers a relentless, suspense-charged ride (The Miami Herald). Chicago Assault is the 3rd book in the Hawker series, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
About the Author
Randy Wayne White was born in Ashland, Ohio, in 1950. Best known for his series featuring retired NSA agent Doc Ford, he has published over twenty crime fiction and nonfiction adventure books. White began writing fiction while working as a fishing guide in Florida, where most of his books are set. His earlier writings include the Hawker series, which he published under the pen name Carl Ramm. White has received several awards for his fiction, and his novels have been featured on the New York Times bestseller list. He was a monthly columnist for Outside magazine and has contributed to several other publications, as well as lectured throughout the United States and travelled extensively. White currently lives on Pine Island in South Florida, and remains an active member of the community through his involvement with local civic affairs as well as the restaurant Doc Ford’s Sanibel Rum Bar and Grill.
Read an Excerpt
By Randy Wayne White
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1984 Dell Publishing Co., Inc.
All rights reserved.
Just minutes before the assassin fired, James Thornton Hawker realized that, instead of arriving late for an exclusive penthouse party, he had arrived early for a flesh orgy.
It was a party hosted by Chicago's very rich for Chicago's very beautiful.
Hawker knew he didn't fall into either category. He wondered why in the hell he had been asked to attend.
He had been invited by Saul Beckerman. The multimillionaire Saul Beckerman. The Saul Beckerman who was the ruling fist behind a chain of jewelry stores that crisscrossed the nation. The short, portly Saul Beckerman with the expensive toupee, the gaudy clothes, the gaudy cars, the gout-red face, and the backslapper's guffaw.
Beckerman was an acquaintance. Not a friend.
Even so, Hawker had always found him open and likable. Beckerman had grown up poor on Chicago's tough South Side. A quick little Jewish kid who had learned the hard way to survive in a neighborhood ruled by poor Irish thugs.
Beckerman was no fool. Instead of trying to fight the bullies, he used his wits to prove himself invaluable to them. He was inarticulate, uneducated; but he was smart enough to know that hustle and hard work can make up for almost any shortcomings.
Beckerman had one goal as a kid: to work his way out of the ghetto. Money became his ticket, tough business deals his vehicle. He climbed over backs and stepped on faces.
Business ethics were a luxury of the rich.
Beckerman kept right on ramrodding until he had made it to the top.
Hawker had met Saul Beckerman about ten years earlier at the annual awards banquet where Hawker was presented the Lambert Tree Award for Valor, Chicago's highest honor for a cop.
Beckerman was considered wealthy even then. Even so, his ghetto background was easy to read. In his speech. His dress. His raw jokes. His loud laugh. Hawker remembered thinking that he tried way, way too hard to fit in with his more refined business associates.
There was something both comical and pathetic about him. He was like a kid in a candy store: nervous but happy.
Everything seemed to impress him out of proportion. He had a terminal case of a ghetto kid's sense of inferiority. The award impressed him. Hawker impressed him. And the ceremony had almost reduced him to tears.
"Anytime you need anything, anything at all, you just come see Saul Beckerman," he had told Hawker solemnly after the ceremony. "Anything I got is yours. We both come from the same shithole, eh? We both worked our asses off to get out. We both know the score, right? These other bozos, they know how to hold their teacups and that sort of shit, but guys like you and me know something more important. We know how to fuckin' survive."
Then Beckerman did something that had both touched and surprised Hawker. He had slipped his watch off his wrist, jammed it in Hawker's hand, then pivoted away, teary-eyed.
It was a slim gold Rolex. Even then it was worth a couple of grand. It was so beautifully made that Hawker rarely wore it.
Hawker had seen Beckerman off and on over the years. Never socially, though. So Hawker was a little surprised when he returned from a trip to the west coast to find the embossed invitation waiting at his little apartment in Bridgeport.
Along with the formal "You are cordially invited ..." was a scrawled note from Beckerman:
Hawk — I got some important business to talk about. May need your help. Saul
So on a Saturday night in September, Hawker climbed into his midnight-blue Stingray, the vintage classic he had rescued from police auction, and cruised down Archer through the old Irish section. He picked up the Stevenson Expressway, east into the city. On Lake Shore Drive he turned north, wheeling easily through the lights and noise of downtown Chicago.
There was an autumn balm in the wind off the lake. The wind mixed the musk of fallen leaves and Canadian streams with the industrial stink of asphalt and foundry stacks.
Souped-up cars loaded with teenagers weaved in and out of the suburbanite traffic. Late-night window-shoppers and club-hoppers roamed the sidewalks.
The party was at Beckerman's penthouse apartment. The apartment was a plush cell built into one of the marble and mirror-windowed skyscrapers that loomed over the city and Lake Michigan.
Hawker left his car with the parking attendant, then rode a sterile elevator to the twentieth floor. When he rang the bell, a black butler dressed in a white tuxedo swung open the double doors. The suite was done in marble and metal. Ultramodern. It was done so tastefully that Hawker knew Beckerman had either hired an interior decorator or left the furnishing up to his young and lovely wife, Felicia.
The room was crowded with a strange mixture of middle-aged men and young women. The women looked like they had driven straight over from Hefner's Playboy mansion.
There were blonds and brunettes, and one particularly sultry-looking negress. The punk look was in, and most of them wore their hair ratted or butch, styled in careful disarray. It was a night for formal attire, and their dresses were built to display, not cover. The girls seemed to be competing, to see who could show their breasts most spectacularly.
The men were big-business types. Expensive suits. Loud laughter through a plume of cigar smoke. Big glasses of bourbon being sipped through glazed smiles.
An army of Boise speakers pounded out gaudy jazz, and people yelled to converse above the din. Even so, Hawker could sense an awkwardness in the room, the uneasiness of strangers thrown together with unfamiliar plans.
The uneasiness didn't last long.
Hawker found the bar and took an iced Tuborg as far away from the speakers as he could get. There was still no sign of Saul or his wife, so Hawker sipped his beer and watched.
When the men at the party weren't belting down drinks, they were fetching drinks for the girls. Things were loosening up. There was the sound of wild laughter as the black girl climbed onto the shoulders of a chunky, balding man with a bright tie.
He paraded her around the room as she gulped a martini. When the drink was finished she tossed the glass away, then stripped her blouse up over her head and hurled it into the admiring crowd. Her breasts were heavy onyx, glistening with sweat.
The men clapped and cheered — and worked harder at their drinks as the other women began to step out of their dresses.
There were about a dozen females in the room, and soon they were all topless or completely naked. When the men began to huff and stumble out of their suits, Hawker knew it was time to find his hosts, give his regrets, and get the hell out.
The black girl had dismounted. She eyed Hawker from across the room, then padded through the staggering couples to the corner where he stood. She was down to sheer white bikini panties now, and her black pubic thatch was visible beneath them.
"How 'bout it, honey?" she challenged demurely, fingering the buttons on his sportscoat. "I'm all heated up and got no one to play with."
Hawker looked over her shoulder. "You're in luck. I think your friends are choosing up teams right now."
"Yeah," she said, pressing her bare breasts against him, "but I don't want to give these to anybody but you."
"I can't accept any gifts that won't fit in my pocket," said Hawker. "And those definitely will not fit."
Across the room, he had spotted Saul Beckerman's wife, Felicia. She wore a sleek white evening dress, and her raven-black hair tumbled spectacularly over her shoulders. Felicia's jaw was clamped tight, and her eyes blazed. She did not look happy.
Hawker handed his empty Tuborg bottle to the black girl. "Sorry," he said. "Company rules."
The bottle crashed to the floor as Hawker walked away.
He had met Felicia Beckerman only once before, at some civic function where everyone was too busy being polite to have a good time. She had struck him then as being an unlikely partner for Saul. For one thing, she seemed too bright. Too sure of herself. Too confident in her role of the modern woman to waste her time on a guy as crass as Saul.
Saul had money. And men with money usually end up with beautiful women. But Hawker had always expected Saul to end up with one of the brassy beauties. A gum chewer. A bleacher of hair and master of profanity. A loud dresser and louder talker.
But Felicia was Ivy League. She was quiet dinner parties and tasteful clothes. She was ballets and charity balls. She was everything Saul wasn't, which was no doubt why Saul had selected her as his mate.
The puzzle was, why had she selected Saul?
Hawker was at her elbow before she noticed him. There was a quick look of recognition in her eyes as he held out his hand.
"James Hawker, Felicia," he said. "We met —"
"Yes, Mr. Hawker. I remember our meeting well." Her face was tight and she seemed preoccupied. She released his hand quickly and kept her back to the activities in the living room.
"Is Saul around?"
There was an edge to her laughter. "Yes, what has happened to dear Saul?" She sipped at the martini she held. "But, really, Mr. Hawker, don't feel obligated to stand on formalities." She shrugged toward the people behind them. Someone had switched out the lights, so all you could see were ghostly tangles of bare thighs and breasts, and the sweating, heavy faces of straining men. "It's not required that you greet your host before jumping out of your clothes. Please feel free to enjoy yourself. After all, these are modern times. And we're all modern adult people, no?"
Hawker took her elbow and turned her toward him. She refused to meet his eyes. "Save the tone of contempt for your bare-assed friends in there, Felicia —"
"They're not my friends —"
"I got an invitation to a party. From your husband. On the invitation was a note saying Saul might need my help. That's why I'm here. I don't like parties to begin with. And group sex interests me about as much as a piece of communal toilet tissue. So spare me the glib rejoinders."
Taken aback, her eyes widened slightly. "Oh ... I'm sorry ... but —"
"And it's your party to begin with, Felicia. So if you don't like what's going on, the last place you should make your feelings known is to one of your guests." Hawker pivoted to go. "Tell Saul I've had a grand time —"
"Wait," she said quickly. "I'm sorry. Don't go."
She grabbed Hawker's elbow. Her lovely lips opened as if to speak, but then she lost control. Her face crinkled, she shuddered, and then the tears began to flow. Hawker stood for a moment, feeling awkward and stupid. Finally, he did the only thing a man can do when a woman begins to bawl. He pulled her head onto his shoulder and patted her gently.
"I shouldn't have snapped at you like that," he said lamely.
"No, I deserved it," she said, sniffing. "Christ, everything has gone so rotten. I don't even know what I'm saying half the time anymore." She turned away from him, rubbing her fists at her doe-brown eyes.
"The party was Saul's bad idea?" Hawker offered.
"Yes. And his ideas seem to be getting worse and worse lately. But this tops them all. He invited his most important business connections from across the country. He wanted to impress them. He read an article in one of those tawdry men's magazines of his that sex parties were the rage. It was an accepted way for wealthy businessmen to relax. Saul has never been what you would call tasteful, but at least he had good business instincts. Most of the men in there are married. Maybe even happily married. They're going to wake up in the morning feeling cheap and silly. They're going to hate themselves for weeks to come — and they'll end up hating Saul for much longer than that." She shook herself as if trying to awaken from a bad dream. She smiled weakly at Hawker. "How about escorting a lady out onto the balcony? I could use some fresh air."
Hawker smiled. "Sure. It's beginning to smell a little sweaty in here."
She chuckled weakly. "I'm going to have the place sterilized in the morning. If I'm still here in the morning."
Hawker took her arm and led her through the shadowy tangle of bodies. The record had stuck, and the stereo hammered out the same buzzing bass chord over and over again.
A feverish silence had fallen over the participants. There was a pile of naked bodies in the middle of the room. One man's eyes bugged slightly as a blond girl knelt over him, her head sliding up and down in rhythm to the record. The negress had found two playmates. She lay on the couch, her head thrown back, eyes in glassy ecstasy as the men sweated over her.
Hawker slid open the glass doors, and they went outside into the chilly September air.
Below, city lights twinkled. Toy cars and toy people moved through the streets. Lake Michigan was a deeper darkness between sky and horizon. White running lights and an amber flasher pulsed through the night as a tug pushed a barge toward Canada.
"God," Felicia Beckerman whispered. "It feels good out here. Clean." She took a cigarette from her handbag. The perfect lines of her nose and high cheeks were outlined in the flare of the lighter. She exhaled deeply, as if ridding herself of tension. "For the first time in a while, I think I might be able to survive the next month or two."
"More sex parties, you mean?"
"Not if I have anything to say about it." She allowed herself to smile briefly. "But it's more than that. It's Saul. Something's wrong with him. Something seriously wrong."
"You mean Mr. Beckerman hasn't been on his best behavior?"
She studied Hawker in silence for a moment. "Don't patronize me, James. I know what Saul is. I knew when I married him. He's rough and he's crass. I didn't love him. I told him that, but he said it didn't matter. But I did like him. Below that rude exterior of his is a truly kind and gentle person. Ours was a marriage of convenience. I'm the only child of two very dear people who have both suffered very serious health problems. It ruined them financially. I was desperate to help my parents, but I didn't have the way or the means. And then Saul came along. Dear, dear Saul. He courted me like a lovesick teenager. I told him my troubles. He made me an offer. Almost a business offer. If I married him, neither I nor my family would ever have to worry about money again. He was both kind and convincing. I thought it over for a long, agonizing twenty seconds. If I had to be a whore, I at least wanted to be a highly paid whore." She smiled thinly. "But the joke was on me. Saul had no interest in me ... that way. I think he wanted to try on our wedding night, but he just couldn't bring himself to risk ... failure, I guess. He was like a scared little kid. Maybe that's why he shows such bad taste with his crude jokes. And this party. Sex terrifies him. He has no idea of what's acceptable and what isn't."
She looked deeply into Hawker's eyes. "So I've been a kept woman these last four years. And I've never regretted it." She hesitated for a moment, as if slightly embarrassed. "Not from the business standpoint, anyway."
Hawker nodded, wondering why she had chosen to tell him all of this. Maybe it was because she felt he deserved some explanation. Or maybe it was the empty martini glass on the railing.
"You said, was a marriage of convenience. Why the past tense, Felicia?"
She studied the glowing eye of her cigarette for a moment. "Because, for the last two months, it's as if the man I married no longer existed. Something is seriously wrong with Saul. He won't talk to me. He keeps telling me that I'm safer if I don't know. He can't be involved in anything illegal. He has too much money to bother with taking risks. But he's scared, James. I can see that. Someone or something has scared him terribly —"
The glass doors slid open, and a voice interrupted. "So this is where you two guys have been hiding!"
Saul Beckerman pushed the doors closed and stood grinning at them. The plump, swarthy face bulged above the tuxedo. "James, God damn it, it's about time you visited your old buddy!" Beckerman pumped his hand as Felicia studied the Chicago skyline, ignoring them. "Hey, James, you ain't out here trying to steal my best girl, are you?" The little man winked and exploded with nervous laughter. "I got a dozen of Chicago's finest inside. Yours for the asking."
"Those ladies are a little too open for my taste, Saul."
Beckerman laughed loudly. He seemed anxious and ill at ease. He made small talk for a while. Hawker noticed that he was sweating. It couldn't have been more than forty-five degrees outside, and the wind was colder. Beckerman also kept checking his watch.
Excerpted from Chicago Assault by Randy Wayne White. Copyright © 1984 Dell Publishing Co., Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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