Deadline: 2 A.M.

Deadline: 2 A.M.

by Robert L. Fish

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Overview

To save a fellow cop, a detective is asked to free a hardened thug 

For most of his life, Pop Holland has carried a .38 revolver. This afternoon, when he retired from the San Francisco police department, he said goodbye to the gun forever. But when he steps into his car on the way to his retirement party, he feels the familiar shape of a .38 pressed to his neck. The gun cuts into his skin, and blood runs down his back. Another man gets into the car, handcuffs Holland’s hands and feet, and takes him into the night.
 
A half hour later, homicide lieutenant James Reardon sips cognac, waiting for Pop to arrive at the party. The phone rings, and the kidnappers whisper the news: They have Pop, and he will be dead by morning if Reardon disobeys their instructions. They are willing trade Holland for one of their own, a criminal who deserves to spend the rest of his life behind bars. To save one life, Reardon must contemplate putting countless others at risk.

Deadline: 2 A.M. is the 4th book in the Lieutenant Reardon Mysteries, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504012706
Publisher: MysteriousPress.com/Open Road
Publication date: 06/16/2015
Series: The Lieutenant Reardon Mysteries , #4
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 184
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Robert L. Fish, the youngest of three children, was born on August 21, 1912, in Cleveland, Ohio. He attended the local schools in Cleveland and went to Case University (now Case Western Reserve), from which he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. He married Mamie Kates, also from Cleveland, and together they have two daughters. Fish worked as a civil engineer, traveling and moving throughout the United States. In 1953 he was asked to set up a plastics factory in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He and his family moved to Brazil, where they remained for nine years. He played golf and bridge in the little spare time he had. One rainy weekend in the late 1950s, when the weather prohibited him from playing golf, he sat down and wrote a short story that he submitted to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. When the story was accepted, Fish continued to write short stories. In 1962 he returned to the United States; he took one year to write full time and then returned to engineering and writing. His first novel, The Fugitive, won an Edgar Award for Best First Mystery. When his health prevented him from pursuing both careers, Fish retired from engineering and spent his time writing. His published works include more than forty books and countless short stories. Mute Witness was made into a movie starring Steve McQueen.
 
Fish died February 23, 1981, at his home in Connecticut. Each year at the annual Mystery Writers of America dinner, a memorial award is presented in his name for the best first short story. This is a fitting tribute, as Fish was always eager to assist young writers with their craft.
Robert L. Fish, the youngest of three children, was born on August 21, 1912, in Cleveland, Ohio. He attended the local schools in Cleveland and went to Case University (now Case Western Reserve), from which he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. He married Mamie Kates, also from Cleveland, and together they have two daughters. Fish worked as a civil engineer, traveling and moving throughout the United States. In 1953 he was asked to set up a plastics factory in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He and his family moved to Brazil, where they remained for nine years. He played golf and bridge in the little spare time he had. One rainy weekend in the late 1950s, when the weather prohibited him from playing golf, he sat down and wrote a short story that he submitted to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. When the story was accepted, Fish continued to write short stories. In 1962 he returned to the United States; he took one year to write full time and then returned to engineering and writing. His first novel, The Fugitive, won an Edgar Award for Best First Mystery. When his health prevented him from pursuing both careers, Fish retired from engineering and spent his time writing. His published works include more than forty books and countless short stories. Mute Witness was made into a movie starring Steve McQueen.

Fish died February 23, 1981, at his home in Connecticut. Each year at the annual Mystery Writers of America dinner, a memorial award is presented in his name for the best first short story. This is a fitting tribute, as Fish was always eager to assist young writers with their craft.

Read an Excerpt

Deadline: 2 A.M.

A Lieutenant Reardon Mystery


By Robert L. Fish

MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media

Copyright © 1976 Robert L. Fish
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-1270-6


CHAPTER 1

Friday—8:45 P.M.


Sergeant Michael Holland sat extremely still and tried to make out as much of the man's features in the rear-view mirror as he could. Night had fallen within the hour and the only illumination came from the reflected light of a streetlamp a few yards down the block, plus the occasional glow from the cigar tucked in one corner of the man's bearded mouth.

Sergeant Holland's first thought at being accosted in his own car in his own driveway had been that some of the boys from the Hall of Justice were playing a practical joke on him on this, the day of his retirement from the force; but another look into the mirror revealed a strange, casually cruel, faintly smiling bearded face, cigar atilt, that instantly disabused him of the notion. Holland had no idea of how the man had managed to get into the rear seat of the locked car, nor when; but he recognized the authority of the cold muzzle against his neck and accordingly kept his hands pressed tightly on his knees. In addition to the sardonic cast of the full lips gripping the cigar, the small mirrored glass showed enough of the weapon held in the gloved hand to be instantly recognized. Mike Holland knew the gun well. It was a .38 caliber police positive, and until five o'clock that afternoon, one just like it had been as much a part of him as his right arm. Michael Holland had spent a portion of his career on the San Francisco police force teaching recruits how properly to use precisely this weapon. He knew the damage it could do to a two-inch plank in the ballistics lab, and in the course of the few years he had spent in Homicide before being shunted to Communications to work out his final years, he had also seen the damage it could do to the human body. That damage was considerable. It was not easy to forget.

He cleared his throat, surprised when he spoke that his voice was not even tighter than it was. "What goes on?"

"Relax," the man said amusedly. "Keep quiet and keep still." The voice was calm, detached. He took the cigar from his mouth, flicked ashes to the floor almost contemptuously, and replaced the cigar. The pistol never moved from Holland's neck.

"But—"

"I said, quiet."

Mike Holland sighed and glanced about, moving his head with extreme caution, feeling the muzzle scrape lightly against his neck, but being most careful in keeping his hands on his knees. From the house on the right, his own, he could see the faint glow of the lamp he always left lit whenever he went out evenings, for Michael Holland lived alone and had since his Katherine had died eight years before. And to the left the Horvath place was dark, as he expected, since Steve and Margaret were off someplace on vacation. Los Angeles, he remembered, and then thought how unimportant it was, any more than it was important that the other houses around held neighbors who were not on vacation. It would take quite a shout on his part to be heard over Walter Cronkite, or whoever—even assuming anyone would come if they heard him. Or if he'd even be alive when they got there. The man in the mirror, with that faint smile on his kisser, looked just wild enough, with all that hair, to use the revolver just to hear the bang.

Mike Holland wet his lips, and wondered what they were waiting for. He glanced into the mirror, read nothing in the steady eyes that stared back at him, and brought his attention to the closed garage ahead. Take it easy, he told himself. Don't let yourself get up-tight. This clown has to be making a mistake. And the guy in the mirror, despite that slightly offbeat smile, still didn't look like a hophead—although Mike Holland had to admit it was getting pretty hard to tell these days, what with the drug companies coming out with new pills every half hour, bless their little commercial hearts. He looked back up into the mirror.

"What's this all about? What are we waiting for? What do you want? Who are you?"

As if in answer to his questions, the door beside him suddenly opened and he saw that his assailant had not been alone. A second man appeared in the opening, thin to the point of emaciation, abnormally short, his face hidden in the shadows of an excessively wide hat brim. "Nobody around," the newcomer said in a deep gravelly voice that seemed odd coming from his stunted body. "Just what I like—a nice quiet neighborhood." He turned his head in Holland's direction. "Okay," he said. "Feet first."

Mike Holland stared, not understanding. "What about my feet?"

The thin man seemed to double over, and for a stunned moment Holland hoped it was with pain, but then he realized with sudden fury that while he had been staring at the weird-looking hat and hoping the little bastard had suffered a burst appendix, the skinny little son-of-a-bitch had clamped a set of cuffs about his ankles.

"Hey!" Mike Holland said, outraged, and started to reach. The gun instantly was thrust with force against his neck and Holland froze. This was no Saturday-night special, a four-buck job that maybe it went off and maybe it didn't. This one served for the police, and this one went off each and every time, without fail.

"Hands," the little man said evenly, and looked up at the large sergeant. In the reflected light from the streetlamp, Mike was able at last to make out the face. The eyes beneath that ridiculous hat brim were sunken, as were the nose and cheeks. The whole effect was like seeing two burned holes in a scarred and ravaged barrel stave, and somehow reminded Mike Holland of pictures he had seen one time of lepers. He looks like a very sick kid with his old man's hat on him, Mike thought with sudden anger; a fifty-year-old bastard kid who ought to have that stupid hat jammed over his stupid ears and then given a good healthy kick in the butt for luck.

"Hands," the little man repeated.

Mike fought down growing anger, knowing temper could only be a mistake.

"Now, look, you characters," he said in as reasonable a tone as he could muster. "I got a sum total of maybe thirty bucks on me, and the car's practically worthless. I don't even carry theft insurance on her. She's damn near as old as I am." Or anyway, as I feel, he thought bitterly. You didn't retire out of the force one day too soon, Holland, he thought, getting picked up like a farmer his first night in a topless joint! "And there's not a thin dime in the house, either," Mike went on, "plus my son's in there asleep, a Medal of Honor winner, and if you wake him up over some nonsense like this, he'll take that toy pistol away from you and push it in one of your ears and pull it out the other!" And he would have, too, if Michael Patrick Holland, Jr., hadn't died at the age of four from what they called the croup in those days. "Take the lousy thirty bucks and leave me be," Mike Holland said wearily. "I got an appointment tonight."

The little man had been listening to this story with the air of a person who had gone into a jewelry store to buy a cheap watch strap and found himself the unwilling participant in an auction. He snapped out of his reverie.

"Hands," he said evenly. "Out in front of you. And keep them together."

"Now listen, you dumb baboons!" Mike Holland said furiously, no longer able to contain his ire. "I'm a police officer and you guys are asking for more trouble than you can handle! Sweet Mary and Jesus! Take the lousy thirty bucks and pray to your saints I don't never run into either one of you two again ...!"

There was the sudden wiping of the gunsight against the burly neck. The gunsight had either been given a poor tumbling job at the factory, or had been sharpened by its sadistic owner to serve as a weapon on its own. Holland felt the chilling pain, the sudden automatic cold tightening of the scrotum at the thought of flesh being parted by edged steel, and then the dampness of blood, warm blood, his blood, running down his collar. His first thought was that his nice new white shirt, bought especially for the occasion of the evening, would be ruined; but then he knew it really didn't matter. It didn't look as if he were going to get to any dinner tonight, anyway.

"Hands," the little man repeated for the third time in that oddly inconsistent rasping voice. His tone was not remonstrating, merely reminding. Mike Holland took a deep breath and brought his big hands forward slowly, fighting down the impulse to take the scrawny neck before him and wring it like a dishrag, but he had no doubt that the bearded bastard with the cigar behind him wouldn't hesitate to use the gun. Mike brought his hands together and felt the cold steel snap around his thick wrists.

"Over," the small man said in that same impersonal tone, and made a move to enter the car. Mike stared at the familiar dashboard as if seeing it for the first time, and then slowly edged his large body toward the other side of the car. He knew he should be making mental notes on the two hoods, burning details into his trained memory beyond the mere fact that one was skinny and had poor taste in hats, and the other was bearded, smoked cigars, and was nasty, but at the moment his anger blotted out the ability to act properly. Besides, his neck hurt, although not half as much as his pride. Taken like a child! The fact that he had climbed into his car quite naturally and suddenly found a gun put on him had nothing to do with the matter; somehow he should never have allowed himself to be suckered like that!

The skinny little man slid into the driver's seat, pushed down on the adjusting button and slid the seat closer to the steering wheel to accommodate his reduced size, reached up a skeletal hand to adjust the rear-view mirror to his satisfaction, reached out to do the same for the side-view mirror, and then squirmed into a more comfortable position. The skintight gloves he wore made him appear to have brown hands attached to pale thin wrists. The bearded man took his cigar from his mouth and leaned over, bringing his lips close to Mike Holland's ear.

"We can do this the easy way or the hard way," he said softly. "I can lay this gun barrel alongside your ear and put you to sleep, and then we'll just be two pals taking a drunken friend home. And you'll wake up with the large, economy-sized hangover. Or we can go along just the way we are without any big disturbance from you, and you may even live to see the grandchildren from that Medal of Honor son you don't have." The gun snaked forward, pressing cruelly against the cut, and then was partially withdrawn. Mike winced involuntarily. The quiet voice went on. "It's that simple. Take your choice."

Mike remained silent. The bearded man seemed to take it as acceptance.

"Good," he said pleasantly, and tucked his cigar back in place. He looked toward the small driver. "Let's get going. We're behind schedule, listening to Sergeant Holland, here, tell us how he's a policeman."

"Yeah," the little man said with a grin. "I thought he was a streetcar conductor without his uniform, myself." He turned on the ignition, listening to the steady purring of the old motor in appreciation for the obvious attention it had received, and then put on the lights, put the car into gear, and backed from the driveway. "Not bad for an old clunker," he said to no one in particular, and swung the wheel. He changed gears and started down the street, driving with obvious skill, but with equally obvious care.

The man in the back seat spoke, a small edge to his voice. "A little faster, Harry, if you don't mind?"

"What's the difference we're a couple minutes late?" Harry asked, but nevertheless he pressed the accelerator a trifle. The car responded, moving a bit faster.

"We made a schedule, let's stick to it," the bearded man said, and lapsed into silence, sucking silently on his cigar.

In the front seat, Mike Holland tried to remember, in recent months—or even years, for that matter—whom he might have so enraged as to account for being picked up and treated in this manner. From his personal life? But he had never been a mixer, had never had trouble of any kind with his neighbors, and had spent nineteen out of twenty evenings watching television, with an occasional night out for the movies to break the monotony. And it certainly could be nothing connected with women. Before Katie's death Mike had felt no need even to look at another woman, and since her death, he had felt no desire to.

From his professional life? Well, in Communications one scarcely played any role in an important case serious enough to warrant revenge; and his days in Homicide were so far back that Mike doubted these two were more than kids in those days. Besides, even when he was in Homicide, as Mike Holland himself would have been the first to admit, he had never done anything startling; it was one of the reasons he was still a sergeant when he had been retired that afternoon after over forty years of service. The sad fact was that nobody whom the other men called "Pop"—some damn near as old as he was—had ever done anything he could recall that could possibly result in such demonstrated enmity. So what in the name of sweet Mary and Jesus could be the reason for picking him up?

The bearded man rolled down the window on his side of the car, tossed out his cigar, and rolled the window back in place. He leaned his wrist against the glass, trying to read the time by the light of a passing lamppost. He finally managed to see the watch hands and looked up at the driver with a frown.

"Let's get a little more speed out of this wagon, shall we, Harry?"

"Let's not get picked up for speeding," the little man said, and then added hastily, "That's what you told me, remember?"

The bearded man accepted this recognition of his leadership.

"I know what I told you," he said with a touch of impatience. "Now I'm suggesting we don't get stopped for loitering, or for obstructing traffic. Move it!"

"Right." The thin man speeded the car up again. He glanced over at their prisoner. "He's bleeding all over the car," he said conversationally.

"So let him bleed," the bearded man said indifferently. "It's his blood. And his car." He leaned back, the revolver dangling indolently from one finger, his other hand stroking his full beard thoughtfully. His eyes were fixed on the blood welling from the cut on Mike Holland's neck, but his thoughts were already on step two of his daring scheme.

CHAPTER 2

Friday—9:20 P.M.


Lieutenant James Reardon, nursing a brand of cognac he normally would never have considered ordering, primarily for economic reasons, sat back in his chair at the head table and thought that if noise made an affair a success, then the party being thrown for the retirement of Sergeant Michael Patrick Holland had to be the achievement of the year. Some clown on the entertainment committee—as Reardon recalled, that had been the responsibility of Burglary—had managed to locate a jukebox, and the lieutenant only hoped they hadn't swiped it. In fact, he wished they hadn't found it at all; but they had, and they had dragged it into the sacrosanct precincts of the back room of Marty's Oyster House, and some other clown had fed the monster a fistful of quarters, and if the thing had a volume control, nobody had located it. Or, more likely, nobody had even bothered to look for it. At the moment, fortunately, the machine was delivering itself of a Hawaiian love song, so the racket was less deafening, although the difference in decibels was easily made up for by the loud guffawing of a group from Traffic who were over at the temporary bar probably telling Polish traffic jokes, if there were such things.

Lieutenant Reardon was in the Homicide Division of the San Francisco police, and as a general rule enjoyed his work very much. He was a stocky athletic-looking man in his early thirties, with thick russet hair, a rugged yet remarkably sensitive face, and with sharp intelligent gray eyes. At the moment a deep groove between those eyes outlined a frown. Where the devil was Pop Holland? Reardon was not worried that the meal would be spoiled because the guest of honor was late; Marty's Oyster House, whose front dining room boasted the finest cuisine in all San Francisco, had a standard dinner for affairs held in the back room, apparently designed to discourage people from ever holding an affair there again. But what might well happen, the lieutenant knew, was not a question of whether the rubber chicken with plastic peas was up—or down—to standard; the problem was that any further tardiness was apt to result in the guests being too far gone with liquor to partake of the fare. Which, thinking about it, might not be such a tragedy at that.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Deadline: 2 A.M. by Robert L. Fish. Copyright © 1976 Robert L. Fish. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
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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