With an Introduction by Lee Child
When Travis McGee picks up the phone and hears a voice from his past, he can’t help it: He has to meddle. Especially when he has the chance to reunite Sam Taggart, a reckless, restless man like himself, with the woman who’s still waiting for him. But what begins as a simple matchmaking scheme soon becomes a bloody chase that takes McGee to Mexico, a beautiful country from which he hopes to return alive.
Deception. Betrayal. Heartbreak. When Sam left his girlfriend, Nora, and vanished from Fort Lauderdale, no one was surprised. But when he shows up three years later lying in a pool of his own blood, people start to ask questions. And his old friend Travis McGee is left to find answers.
But all he has to go on are a gold Aztec idol and a very angry ex-girlfriend. Is that enough to find his friend’s killer? And when the truth is as terrifying as this, does he really want answers after all?
Praise for A Deadly Shade of Gold
“Travis McGee is the last of the great knights-errant: honorable, sensual, skillful, and tough. I can’t think of anyone who has replaced him. I can’t think of anyone who would dare.”—Donald Westlake
“John D. MacDonald is a shining example for all of us in the field.”—Mary Higgins Clark
About the Author
Date of Birth:July 24, 1916
Date of Death:December 28, 1986
Place of Birth:Sharon, PA
Place of Death:Milwaukee, WI
Education:Syracuse University 1938; M.B. A. Harvard University, 1939
Read an Excerpt
A smear of fresh blood has a metallic smell. It smells like freshly sheared copper. It is a clean and impersonal smell, quite astonishing the first time you smell it. It changes quickly, to a fetid, fudgier smell, as the cells die and thicken.
When it is the blood of a stranger, there is an atavistic withdrawal, a toughening of response, a wary reluctance for any involvement. When it is your own, you want to know how bad it is. You turn into a big inward ear, listening to yourself, waiting for faintness, wondering if this is going to be the time when the faintness comes and turns into a hollow roaring, and sucks you down. Please not yet. Those are the three eternal words. Please not yet.
When it is the blood of a friend. . . .
When maybe he said, Please not yet . . . But it took him and he went on down. . . .
It was a superb season for girls on the Lauderdale beaches. There are good years and bad years. This, we all agreed, was a vintage year. They were blooming on all sides, like a garden out of control. It was a special type this year, particularly willowy ones, with sun-streaky hair, soft little sun-brown noses, lazed eyes in the cool pastel shades of green and blue, cat-yawny ones, affecting a boredom belied by glints of interest and amusement, smilers rather than gigglers, with a tendency to run in little flocks of three and four and five. They sparkled on our beaches this year like grunions, a lithe and wayward crop that in too sad and too short a time would be striving for Whiter Washes, Scuff-Pruf Floors and Throw-Away Nursing Bottles.
In a cool February wind, on a bright and cloudless afternoon, Meyer and I had something over a half dozen of them drowsing in pretty display, basted with sun oil, behind the protection of laced canvas on the sun deck atop my barge type houseboat, the Busted Flush, moored on a semi-permanent basis at Slip F‑18, Bahia Mar, Fort Lauderdale. Meyer and I were playing acey-deucy. He was enjoying it more than I was. He kept rolling doubles. He looks like the diarama of Early Man in the Museum of Natural History. He has almost as much pelt as an Adirondack black bear. But he can stroll grinning down a beach and acquire a tagalong flock of lovelies the way an ice cream cart ropes children. He calls them all Junior. It saves confusion. He is never never seen with one at a time. He lives alone aboard a squatty little cruiser and is, by trade, an Economist. He predicts trends. He acquired a little money the hard way, and he keeps moving it around from this to that, and it keeps growing nicely, and he does learned articles for incomprehensible journals.
At reasonable intervals one of the Juniors would clamber down the ladderway, go below and return with a pair of cans of cold beer from my stainless steel galley. I always buy the brands with the pull tabs. You stare at the tab, think deep thoughts about progress, advertising, modern living, cultural advances, and then turn the can upside down and open with an opener. It is a ceremonial kind of freedom.
Just as Meyer got all the way around, blocked me out and began taking off with exquisite care, smirking away to himself, humming, rolling good numbers, I heard my phone ring. It surprised me. I thought I had the switch at the off position, the position where you can phone out, but anybody phoning you thinks it is ringing, but it isn’t. And that is another kind of freedom. Like throwing away mail without looking to see who it’s from, which is the ultimate test, of course. I have yet to meet a woman who has arrived at that stage. They always have to look.
Perhaps if Meyer hadn’t been making everything so disagreeable, I would have let it ring itself out. But I went on down to my lounge and answered it with one very cautious depersonalized grunt.
“McGee?” the voice said. “Hey, McGee? Is this Travis McGee?”
I stuck a thumb in my cheek and said, “I’m lookin affa things while he’s away.”
The voice was vaguely familiar.
“McGee, buddy, are you stoned?”
Then I knew the voice. From way back. Sam Taggart.
“Where the hell are you,” I said, “and how soon can you get here?”
The voice faded and came back. “. . . too far to show up in the next nine minutes. Wait’ll I see what it says on the front of this phone book. Waycross, Georgia. Look, I’ve been driving straight on through, and I’m dead on my feet. And I started thinking suppose he isn’t there, then what the hell do you do?”
“So I’m here. So hole up and get some sleep before you kill somebody.”
“Trav, I got to have some help.”
“Listen. Seriously. You still . . . operating like you used to?”
“Only when I need the money. Right now I’m taking a nice long piece of my retirement, Sam. Hurry on down. The little broads are beautiful this year.”
“There’s a lot of money in this.”
“It will be a lot more pleasant to say no to you in person. And by the way, Sam?”
“Is there anybody in particular you would like me to get in touch with? Just to say you’re on your way?”
It was a loaded question, about as subtle as being cracked across the mouth with a dead mackerel. I expected a long pause and got one.
“Don’t make those real funny jokes,” he said in a huskier voice.
“What if maybe it isn’t a joke, Sam?”
“It has to be. If she had a gun, she should kill me. You know that. She knows that. I know that. For God’s sake, you know no woman, especially a woman like Nora, can take that from anybody. I dealt myself out, forever. Look, I know what I lost there, Trav. Besides, a gal like that wouldn’t still be around. Not after three years. Don’t make jokes, boy.”
“She’s still around. Sam, did you ever give her a chance to forgive you?”
“She never would. Believe me, she never would.”
“Are you sewed up with somebody else?”
“Don’t be a damn fool.”
“Why not, Sam?”
“That’s another funny joke too.”
“She’s not sewed up. At least she wasn’t two weeks ago. Why shouldn’t her reasons be the same as yours?”
“Cut it out. I can’t think. I’m dead on my feet.”
“You don’t have to think. All you have to do is feel, Sam. She’ll want to see you.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I was the shoulder she cried on, you silly bastard!”
“God, how I want to see her!”
“Sam, it will tear her up too much if you walk in cold. Let me get her set for it. Okay?”
“Do you really know what the hell you’re doing, McGee?”
“Sam, sweetie, I’ve been trying to locate you for three years.”
He was silent again, and then I heard him sigh. “I got to sack out. Listen. I’ll be there tomorrow late. What’s tomorrow? Friday. What I’ll do, I’ll find a room someplace . . .”
“Come right to the boat.”
“No. That won’t be so smart, for reasons I’ll tell you when I see you. And I’ve got to talk to you before I do anything about seeing Nora. What you better do, Trav, tell her I’m coming in Saturday. Don’t ask questions now. Just set it up that way. I . . . I’ve got to have some help. Do it my way, Trav. I’ll phone you after I locate a place.”
After I hung up, I looked up the number of Nora Gardino’s shop. Some girl with a Gabor accent answered, and turned me over to Miss Gardino.