Find Her a Grave

Find Her a Grave

by Collin Wilcox

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781480446519
Publisher: MysteriousPress.com/Open Road
Publication date: 10/01/2013
Series: The Alan Bernhardt Novels , #4
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Collin Wilcox (1924–1996) was an American author of mystery fiction. Born in Detroit, he set most of his work in San Francisco, beginning with 1967’s The Black Door—a noir thriller starring a crime reporter with extrasensory perception. Under the pen name Carter Wick, he published several standalone mysteries including The Faceless Man (1975) and Dark House, Dark Road (1982), but he found his greatest success under his own name, with the celebrated Frank Hastings series.
Hastings, a football player turned San Francisco homicide detective, made his debut in The Lonely Hunter (1969), and Wilcox continued to follow him for the rest of his career, publishing nearly two dozen novels in the series, which concludes with Calculated Risk (1995). Wilcox’s other best-known series stars Alan Bernhardt, a theatrical director with a habit of getting involved in behind-the-scenes mysteries. Bernhardt appeared in four more books after his introduction in 1988’s Bernhardt’s Edge.
Collin Wilcox (1924–1996) was an American author of mystery fiction. Born in Detroit, he set most of his work in San Francisco, beginning with 1967’s The Black Door—a noir thriller starring a crime reporter with extrasensory perception. Under the pen name Carter Wick, he published several standalone mysteries including The Faceless Man (1975) and Dark House, Dark Road (1982), but he found his greatest success under his own name, with the celebrated Frank Hastings series.
Hastings, a football player turned San Francisco homicide detective, made his debut in The Lonely Hunter (1969), and Wilcox continued to follow him for the rest of his career, publishing nearly two dozen novels in the series, which concludes with Calculated Risk (1995). Wilcox’s other best-known series stars Alan Bernhardt, a theatrical director with a habit of getting involved in behind-the-scenes mysteries. Bernhardt appeared in four more books after his introduction in 1988’s Bernhardt’s Edge.

Read an Excerpt

Find Her a Grave

An Alan Bernhardt Novel


By Collin Wilcox

MysteriousPress.com

Copyright © 1993 Collin Wilcox
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4804-4651-9



CHAPTER 1

1985


TUESDAY, JULY 9th


3:15 P.M., EDT


Bacardo leaned forward, tapped the driver on the shoulder. "Switch on the radio, Eddie. Remember, no rock and roll." Bacardo waited until the music came up, then turned to the man beside him. Both men wore dark suits, white shirts, ties, and black loafers. Bacardo's loafers were brass-buckled; Caproni's were tasseled.

"You've never done this before, right?" Even though music now filled the Lincoln's interior, Bacardo spoke quietly, discreetly.

Caproni shook his head. "Never."

"The way it goes," Bacardo said, "we leave the car in the parking lot. Eddie's done this before, he knows how it goes. When we're parked, Eddie gives you the car keys. You take the keys, open the trunk, take out the suitcase. Then—this is important—you keep the keys in your pocket. If Eddie has to move the car, which he won't, he's got a duplicate set of keys. Got it?"

Caproni nodded. His dark eyes were fixed on Bacardo's face. Waiting avidly for the rest of it:

"At the gate, you give up the suitcase. There'll be two guards—flunkies—and a lieutenant. Harrison, that's the lieutenant's name. A guy about fifty, about two-twenty-five, reddish hair, bald, with a pot that's just starting. If there's any question, give me a look. Harrison's the one that gets the suitcase. He also gets the keys. The way it works, we take everything out of our pockets, for the scanner. Harrison knows the keys he wants. He picks up the keys off the conveyor belt."

"So Harrison gets the suitcase and the keys, both."

Bacardo nodded. "Right. And then he disappears. That's the last we see of him. While we're inside, Harrison unlocks the suitcase and empties it out, checks off everything. It'll take him maybe fifteen, twenty minutes, no more. Meanwhile, we do our business, me and the don. While we're doing business, Harrison takes the suitcase out to the car, puts it in the trunk, gives Eddie the keys. And that's that." Bacardo smiled, spread his large, knob-knuckled hands. He was tall, gaunt, loosely made. Like his hands, his face was large and rough-cut. It was a peasant's face: heavy brow ridges, an outsize jaw, an amorphous mouth. The body, too, was peasant-bred, defying the efforts of even the most skillful tailor. Bacardo's complexion was mahogany brown, his ancient Sicilian heritage. His unruly hair was dark and coarse and thick. His eyebrows, too, were spiky-thick, and his jowls were dark with underlying stubble. His black eyes revealed nothing. Like all mafiosi, Bacardo was clean-shaven.

"After we're through the scanner," Bacardo said, "a guard'll take us to the administration building in a golf cart. The don'll be waiting for me in the warden's office. You'll be in a conference room right down the hallway. You'll probably talk to Gerald Farley. He's captain of the guard, maybe the number-four man in the prison. Maybe he'll have someone with him, maybe not. Maybe you'll be patted down for a wire, maybe not. This is your first time, so they probably will pat you down. Anyhow, you've got to figure that Farley'll be wearing a wire. Right?"

On cue, Caproni nodded. "Right."

"Mostly," Bacardo said, "what Farley'll give you is just a lot of shit to make him feel important. He's a windbag, but he's no dummy, so you've got to watch yourself. One thing you've got to remember, and that's not to talk about the suitcase."

Caproni nodded again. "Got it."

"What you'll get from Farley, the only thing you have to pay attention to, is how it's going with our guys. Usually there's no complaints. Our guys, the capos, they're all in one cellblock. Which, naturally, everyone calls 'Mafia Row.' There's eleven guys there now, including the don. In the rest of the prison, there's maybe twenty-five soldiers and button men. They're also our responsibility. If one of them fucks up, we take care of it. Us, not the guards. That's the deal. The guards don't fuck with us, we don't give them any problems. Our guys do their time, behave, get out, go back to work. You know all this."

Caproni nodded. The Lincoln was slowing, stopping for a red light. Even though there was no traffic in either direction, the driver came to a full stop, turned, then smoothly accelerated to a conservative forty-five. Looking at the sign on the light pole, Caproni saw FREDRICKSVILLE, 5 MILES. And, yes, in the distance the beige buildings of the prison were dimly materializing, built along the top of a bluff that was the landscape's only distinguishing feature; the rest was marshlands. Caproni glanced at the digital clock on the dashboard; the time was 3:25 P.M. The radio was playing something from the forties: a love song with mournful lyrics. Was it Sinatra?

"The way it works," Bacardo said, "just so you'll know, the don only talks to the warden or the captain of the guards. Nobody else—no guards, no inmates. And nobody talks to the don directly. Anything that's important enough for the don to make a decision, it goes to Augie first. He's the don's cellmate."

Caproni nodded, then decided to say, "Can I ask you something?"

Bacardo shrugged. "Ask."

"The don's been in for—what—five years?"

"Right."

"Out of—what—a fifteen-year sentence?"

"Right."

"So how come? I mean—" Perplexed, Caproni shook his head, spread his hands. "I mean, Christ, that was a frame-up, the don's trial. It was like Luciano and Genovese all over again. I went to the don's trial a few times. And those two guys the DA dug up, they could hardly remember their lines. The don, it looked like ten to one he'd walk on appeal."

Grimly, Bacardo looked straight ahead as he said, "In the first place, it wasn't the DA. It was the state's attorney. And the feds, if they want you bad enough, they'll get you. Christ, you talk about Luciano and Genovese. Those two, between them, who knows how many guys they had whacked. So the feds got Luciano for pimping, for God's sake—fixing Frederico up with a seventeen-year-old girl so stupid she didn't know enough to keep her mouth shut. And Genovese, Christ, convicted on a nickel-and-dime drug deal—street-corner stuff."

"And now Don Carlo."

Still staring straight ahead, Bacardo made no reply. The subject was closed.


4:05 P.M., EDT


The wall behind the warden's desk was covered with pictures, most of them photographs in narrow black frames. Advancing a step, Bacardo looked closely at a snapshot of a cabin cruiser with—yes—Warden Donovan at the helm, one hand resting on the traditional oaken ship's wheel. Wearing, yes, a yachtsman's cap, Donovan was smiling, squinting into the sun. Two men and three women shared the cockpit with him. The men were bare-chested, rolls of middle-aged fat overhanging their belts. The three women matched the men: overweight, cheerful-looking, settled. Donovan and one of the men clutched cans of beer, raised in a salute. From the design of the cockpit and the lines of the woodwork, the boat appeared to be a Ranger.

How many suitcases full of money and dope had it taken to buy the Ranger? Donovan, they said, was only a few years from retirement. How much had he—?

From behind him Bacardo heard the click of a latch, the metal-on-metal sound of a door swinging on its hinges. He smiled as he turned to face Carlo Venezzio. The smile was genuine; more than anyone's, Venezzio's life was part of his own.

As always, Venezzio wore neatly pressed, dark-colored slacks, burnished loafers, and a white silk shirt, open at the neck. The feel of silk on his skin, Venezzio had once said, was half as good as sex.

As he pushed the door closed, he greeted Bacardo, gestured to the long leather sofa where they always sat, one at either end. A man of medium weight and height, sixty-five years old, Venezzio lowered himself slowly to the couch, bracing himself with both hands, one hand on the back of the sofa, one hand on the cushion. Watching the other man, Bacardo was aware of differences: a pallor of the face, an uncertainty of gesture, a tightening of the mouth, an underlying grimace about the eyes.

It had been two weeks since Bacardo's last visit. In those two weeks something had changed. Something significant.

But the voice, thin and reedy, was the same: "So. Caproni. How's he working out?"

Bacardo shrugged. "So far, so good."

"He's ambitious. Too ambitious, maybe."

"Sure. But he's smart. And he listens. He pays attention. I give him something to do, I know it'll get done."

"Okay." Venezzio nodded. "Let's see how he works out. You need a number one, Tony. Someone to take the load off."

Bacardo nodded in return. Between them, words had always been few. For a long moment, in silence, Bacardo covertly studied Venezzio. If the man in the street had to choose, "accountant" would be Venezzio's label, not "mafioso." Or, more like it, "CPA." With his narrow, pinched face, his small, compressed mouth, his mild stare, and his no-style glasses, Venezzio looked and acted like a quiet man, no ambition, no trouble to anyone. Only the eyes hinted at the truth: watchful, hard-focused eyes that saw everything, blinked at nothing. His only vanity was his thick head of brown hair, only lightly flecked with gray. When he passed a mirror, Venezzio almost always took a silver comb from his pocket, ran it through his hair, then turned his head from side to side, checking the result. Once a week, without fail, Venezzio had his hair trimmed, always by his personal barber.

"So," Bacardo finally decided to say, "anything?"

At the question, Venezzio's mouth briefly up-curved, the mockery of a smile. But behind the glasses with their tinted lenses, an optical necessity, Venezzio's eyes were steady, constantly registering small, significant calculations and corrections, the moment-to-moment pulsations of the machine within the man. Over the years, how many men had died when Venezzio's calculations had gone against them?

"How do I look?" Venezzio asked.

It was a puzzle of a question, a test, one of the don's little games—the game that never ended, loser beware.

Having expected the question, Bacardo decided to say, "You look tired, Carlo. And a little pale."

With his eyes fixed on Bacardo, Venezzio smiled again: the same hard, bitter smile. "Pale, eh? I look pale?"

Bacardo made no reply, and once more they regarded each other in silence, both men probing, balancing risk against gain, the endless game. Finally Venezzio looked away, let his eyes lose focus as he spoke in a voice Bacardo had never before heard:

"All my life, I've been healthy. I never had problems, except for that ulcer, thirty, thirty-five years ago. I always took care of myself, you know that. I quit smoking when I was— what?—twenty-five. Maybe thirty, no more. Okay, I used to drink, that's no secret. But nothing like most guys drink, nothing heavy. You know."

Gravely, Bacardo nodded. "Yeah, I know."

"And when I turned fifty or so, I cut out the hard stuff. And I watch my weight. Two meals a day, that's it. You know."

"Sure."

"All that," Venezzio said, "that's on one side. And then there's the old man—my dad. He was never a drinker, either. And, Christ, he could bend iron bars, I bet, when he was fifty."

Remembering, Bacardo smiled. "Yeah—your dad. Nobody fucked with your dad."

"Yeah ..." Still with eyes gone blank, Venezzio spoke absently, from far away. Then, with infinite regret: "So then, when he was fifty-two, he had a heart attack."

"Ah ... yeah." But more than that, Bacardo knew, he must not venture.

"Probably now," Venezzio said, "these days, they could've saved him, all the equipment they've got, and the drugs, and everything. But then, back then—" Grimly, as if he were remembering an ancient grudge, Venezzio shook his head.

"Back then, yeah ..." As Bacardo said it, images returned: the limousines in the funeral procession, the church in the old neighborhood, packed. And, yes, Don Carlo, tears streaming down his cheeks. Maria had been with him then—Maria, the daughter of a don, beautiful in black. And their two children, so young, so round-eyed.

There was more, Bacardo knew... something more. Never would Venezzio speak of his dead father like this, not without a purpose, without a plan.

A heart attack ...

These days, they could have saved him.

The pallor of Venezzio's face, the effort it had taken, lowering himself onto the sofa. All of it meant something.

"I thought maybe you heard." As he said it, Venezzio's eyes were hard-focused, probing, boring in.

Careful to keep his own gaze steady, keep his hands at rest, under control, Bacardo spoke softly, cautiously: "I heard nothing, Carlo. Nothing."

There was a last uncompromising moment of scrutiny, the final test. Then, also speaking softly, as if admitting to something shameful, Venezzio said, "Five days ago, I had a heart attack."

"Ah ..." As if he, too, experienced the pain, Bacardo touched his chest over his heart. Then: "A small one, though. A warning."

Venezzio shrugged. "I guess that depends on who you talk to. The nurse said it was a warning. The doctor, he didn't say that. He said the next one—" He shrugged again. Venezzio was speaking as he always spoke: without inflection, revealing nothing. But, deep behind the eyes, something had gone dead—or, if it was fear, come alive.

As both men sat facing each other, the silence between them began to lengthen past the breaking point. Bacardo realized that he must be the first to speak.

"Lots of guys, you know, they have a heart attack and it's no problem. They just watch themselves, eat right, exercise, and they live forever."

No response. Nothing but the eyes, boring in.

Bacardo drew a deep breath, began again: "What we've got to do is get a good doctor to look at you. These prison quacks, what'd they know?"

As if to dismiss the subject, Venezzio gestured, an indifferent response. "Sure. But what'd any of them know? Something like the heart, it's a crapshoot." Then, a familiar mannerism, Venezzio took a ballpoint pen and a small notebook from his shirt pocket. They were about to do business.

"One thing," Venezzio began, "is that our guys inside here, they know what happened. You understand?"

Slowly, meaningfully, Bacardo nodded. "Yeah, I understand."

Venezzio clicked the pen, wrote in the notebook, turned the pad for Bacardo to see:

Tony G., written in Venezzio's cramped, precise hand.

"You want ...?" It was a question that would never be completed, not in words. Not here, in the warden's office, almost surely bugged. Venezzio nodded—once. For Tony Gallino, it was the death sentence.

"Soon?" It was the only question that was allowed. The meaning: would the council be consulted, one slim hope for Tony G?

"Soon."

Meaning that, no, the council would not be told—or asked.

Meaning that, for Don Carlo's heart attack, Tony G. must pay. It was coincidence, nothing more. To prove that Don Carlo was still capo di tutti, it was necessary that an example be made of someone. For years, systematically, Tony G. had been skimming, mostly gambling receipts. So Tony G. had drawn the short straw, bad luck for Tony.

Acknowledging the order, Bacardo nodded—once. Signifying that he would pick one man and do the job himself.

Many years ago, still in their teens, they'd tried to hijack a Puerto Rican poker game, he and Tony G.—the "two Tonys." They'd carried switchblades and iron pipes wrapped in friction tape. One of the players had pulled a gun, an enormous long-barreled revolver, the first gun Bacardo had ever faced. He'd run—and stumbled. And fell. Tony G. could have gotten away clean, but instead he'd turned, come back, shouted something in Spanish to the Puerto Rican with the gun. The Puerto Rican had started, staring at Tony G. Then, amazingly, the Puerto Rican had begun laughing, a wild, loud laugh. Then, with the gun, the Puerto Rican had—

"—something else," Venezzio was saying. Still he spoke quietly, evenly—all business. Expectantly, Bacardo looked at the other man. Awaiting orders.

Once more, Venezzio wrote on the pad.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Find Her a Grave by Collin Wilcox. Copyright © 1993 Collin Wilcox. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com.
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.

Table of Contents

Contents

1985,
TUESDAY, JULY 9th,
3:15 P.M., EDT,
4:05 P.M., EDT,
FRIDAY, JULY 19th,
2:20 P.M., EDT,
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 22nd,
8:20 P.M., EDT,
1986,
WEDNESDAY, MAY 14th,
3:45 P.M., EDT,
4:10 P.M., EDT,
MONDAY, MAY 19th,
1:10 P.M., EDT,
2:20 P.M., EDT,
TUESDAY, MAY 20th,
8 A.M., EDT,
WEDNESDAY, MAY 21st,
11:57 P.M., PDT,
TUESDAY, MAY 24th,
10:15 P.M., EDT,
1990,
THURSDAY, APRIL 12th,
10 A.M., PDT,
TUESDAY, APRIL 17th,
11:15 A.M., EDT,
12:40 P.M., EDT,
2:40 P.M. EDT,
FRIDAY, APRIL 20th,
6 P.M., PDT,
7:05 P.M., PDT,
7:20 P.M., PDT,
9:45 P.M., PDT,
SATURDAY, APRIL 21st,
10 A.M., PDT,
2:15 P.M., PDT,
5:30 P.M., PDT,
6:10 P.M., PDT,
7 P.M., PDT,
10:15 P.M., EDT,
7:20 P.M., PDT,
7:50 P.M., PDT,
8:10 P.M., PDT,
9:40 P.M., PDT,
10:20 P.M., PDT,
11:05 P.M., PDT,
1:10 A.M., PDT,
1:50 A.M., PDT,
SUNDAY, APRIL 22nd,
8:30 A.M., PDT,
9:20 A.M., PDT,
12:05 P.M., PDT,
1:25 P.M., PDT,
2:40 P.M., PDT,
5 P.M., PDT,
5:50 P.M., PDT,
8 P.M., PDT,
9:30 P.M., PDT,
9:40 P.M., PDT,
10:20 P.M., PDT,
11:10 P.M., PDT,
11:40 P.M., PDT,
11:45 P.M., PDT,
11:59 P.M., PDT,
2 A.M., PDT,
3:15 A.M., PDT,
4:20 A.M., PDT,
MONDAY, April 23rd,
8:25 A.M., PDT,
8:40 A.M., PDT,
12:05 P.M., EDT,
10 A.M., PDT,
10:32 A.M., PDT,
12:12 P.M., PDT,
12:35 P.M., PDT,
2 P.M., PDT,
5 P.M., PDT,
5:50 P.M., PDT,
8:30 P.M., PDT,
10:20 P.M., PDT,
11:05 P.M., PDT,
1:10 A.M., PDT,
1:50 A.M., PDT,
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