An American has vanished in Spain, and it’s his father, not his wife, who wants him found. When Chester Drum arrives in Iberia, legs aching from the three-thousand-mile flight, he finds Andrea Hartshorn not panicked, not mourning, but hosting the party of the year. World-weary expatriates mill about the villa, guzzling her liquor and dancing, without a thought for their missing countryman. Andrea is far from sober, but finally Drum gets her to open up. Of course she wants her husband back. But more than that, she wants her daughter. Robbie was last seen going south to Fuengirola, to confront a crippled bullfighter named Ruy Fuentes, who had been courting the Hartshorns’ toreador-mad daughter. Drum sets out to find the missing Hartshorns, and learns that in Spain, a bull’s horn is not the only romantic way to die.
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About the Author
Stephen Marlowe (1928–2008) was the author of more than fifty novels, including nearly two dozen featuring globe-trotting private eye Chester Drum. Born Milton Lesser, Marlowe was raised in Brooklyn and attended the College of William and Mary. After several years writing science fiction under his given name, he legally adopted his pen name, and began focusing on Chester Drum, the Washington-based detective who first appeared in The Second Longest Night (1955). Although a private detective akin to Raymond Chandler’s characters, Drum was distinguished by his jet-setting lifestyle, which carried him to various exotic locales from Mecca to South America. These espionage-tinged stories won Marlowe acclaim, and he produced more than one a year before ending the series in 1968. After spending the 1970s writing suspense novels like The Summit (1970) and The Cawthorn Journals (1975), Marlowe turned to scholarly historical fiction. He lived much of his life abroad, in Switzerland, Spain, and France, and died in Virginia in 2008.
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Jeopardy Is My Job
A Chester Drum Mystery
By Stephen Marlowe
A MysteriousPress.comCopyright © 1962 Fawcett Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
It was a nice, quiet party—the kind they throw on the last night of Carnival or when a war ends or if the human race has about twenty-four hours to live.
The one kind of party it wasn't was the kind you'd throw if you were expecting a private detective who had just flown in three thousand miles to find your missing husband.
I stood at the bottom of a long flight of stone stairs, hefted my B-4 bag, stared up through the moonlight at the big villa on the hill and said, because I didn't quite believe it, "Are you sure this is La Atalaya?"
"Sí, señor," the kid who had led the way from the town square answered. "The Watchtower. The villa of Señora Hartshorn." Her house, not his. Robbie Hartshorn already had been missing long enough for them to have him dead and buried. But if so, his widow had a peculiar idea of mourning.
Music drifted down the steep hillside. It was bullfighter music, a pasa doble searching in the night for a torero, and laughter and shouts of "Olé!" and "Quiero!" chased it down the steep stairs that were bone-white in the moonlight. I hefted the B-4 bag again and started climbing. The villa sat high on the edge of the hill like an eagle's aerie, but I had forty pounds of luggage instead of wings. There were sixty-three steps. I counted them for no particular reason as the music got louder. They brought me to a broad terrace that looked down over the whitewashed buildings of Torremolinos and the golden moon-track on the Mediterranean beyond, and I told myself—as I had told myself before and would tell myself again—I was a long way from home.
The double doors at the end of the terrace opened to disgorge a chunky woman who walked as if she'd had one or two too many but as if she knew how to handle the result. "A lady bullfighter just told me to go soak my head," she informed me and the moonlight in a husky voice. "Did a lady bullfighter ever tell you to go soak your head?" The husky-voiced, chunky woman looked me over. "No, she wouldn't. Though she might. She's a real horse's ass."
"Who?" I said.
"Come on. There's only one lady bullfighter in Torre."
"You wouldn't be Mrs. Hartshorn?" I asked.
"Don't be a horse's ass," she said indignantly. "Me? That horse's ass?" She laughed. It sounded like the other end of a horse whinnying. "Say, are you new around here? Maybe you've got the right idea, though, coming to one of Andrea Hartshorn's parties complete with baggage."
"Is Mrs. Hartshorn inside?"
"Who cares?" the chunky woman winked broadly. "I'm Nancy Huntington, all dressed up for a party and here it is only eleven-thirty and already my husband's fried to the eyeballs. How come you popped in so late?"
"The plane from Madrid to Malaga was delayed."
"Aren't they always? Say, you mean to tell me you flew all the way down from Madrid for one of Andrea's parties? The dirty liar told me it was a spur of the moment thing." Nancy Huntington gazed down at the moon-track and eased herself closer to me. Her perfume was musky and strong enough to have been applied by a roller. "Well, better late than never," she breathed huskily. "What's your name?"
"Chester Drum," I said. "I flew all the way from Washington, but not for a party. I'm one of Mrs. Hartshorn's hired hands."
The chunky woman froze where she stood, as if a shaft of moonlight or my words had impaled her. And what I had said finished her interest in me. "Your employer is inside," she said, grand-daming me. "Horse's ass," she mumbled under her breath.
I went through the double doors to join the other descendants of Eohippus.
A tall blonde leaning on thirty-nine hard enough to change its spots to forty was crouching in the center of a room not quite the size of a bull ring and making passes with a pink silk scarf like a bullfighter with a muleta. There were maybe fifty people in that room, most of them ignoring her with the completely casual indifference you find only at a big party and only at the expatriate watering places of the world, like St. Tropez or Palma de Majorca or Torremolinos on Spain's Costa del Sol. But two or three men were sycophantically egging her on as her bare feet moved to the rhythm of the pasa doble coming from a hi-fi in the corner. The invisible bull lunged, and she pulled back and lifted her makeshift muleta, and there were a couple of half-hearted shouts of "Olé!" The blonde flashed big teeth at them, and rolled baby-blue eyes. Then she took two more steps in time to the music, hit her shins on the edge of a cocktail table and sat down hard. She blinked and tried to smile again, but tears were bright on her cheeks. She brushed long blonde hair away from her face and tried to stand up. She couldn't make it. I realized then she was dead drunk.
"All of you," she cried, "you rotten stinking bastards, drinking my liquor, laughing at me behind my goddam back, Robbie would kick you all the hell out, didn't you ever see a girl trip before?"
There were some pained looks, but some half-hearted offers of assistance too. They were half-hearted enough for me to get there first. I caught the blonde under her shoulders. "Can you make it?" I whispered against her ear. "I'm going to take you outside for some air, Mrs. Hartshorn."
"I can make it clear down to the Club Mañana, if I want to," she said. "Who are you? I don't know you."
"Drum," I said. "Governor Hartshorn cabled you I was coming, didn't he?"
"I don't like my father-in-law."
"What does that have to do with anything? He wants to find Robbie. Don't you?"
"Of course I do," she said indignantly. Her weight was still on my arms. She had made no move to get up.
"Is throwing a party like this your idea of trying to find him?"
That made her snapping mad, which was what I wanted. She got to her feet, turned on me and cried, "What the hell can I do? I don't like my father-in- law, Mr. Drum, and I don't think I'm going to like you."
"You don't have to like me. You just have to tell me how he disappeared."
"I told the Guardia. I told the Consul in Malaga. He's still missing."
"That's why I'm here."
"You're very modest."
"The Governor thinks I'm a good detective," I said modestly.
"I don't like my father-in-law."
"Three strikes and out," I said. "Let's go." She didn't move. She was a blonde who had to be challenged. "If you think you can make it."
She snorted, and turned, and walked very steadily toward the double doors. "Where the hell are they hiding that bottle of Fundador?" someone bawled at the top of his voice as we left. "Hey, Andrea, where's the—now, where the hell did Andrea go?" An old woman in a maid's uniform smilingly asked him in Spanish what he wished. She was one of four patroling that bull ring of a room.
Mrs. Huntington had deserted the terrace. I took Andrea Hartshorn's elbow and guided her down the stairs.
We were sitting at a sidewalk table in front of the Club Mañana in the center of town. On the stucco wall behind us, a poster showing a bullfighter in his suit of lights, the kind they wear in Madrid but not in Andalucia, said that there would be four afternoons devoted to los toros at the iron bull ring at Fuengirola this week.
Andrea Hartshorn stared across the wide plaza. I stared at the poster. From a bodega across the plaza came the sound of gypsy music: rhythmic clapping in an oddly disturbing tempo and a man wailing at the top of his voice to his lost love. We were drinking hot Spanish coffee, as black and as strong as a good fighting bull. "Come on," I urged, "let's hear it." When she failed to respond, I tried needling her again. "I didn't fly three thousand miles for you to clam up on me."
"We flew three thousand miles fifteen years ago for a few months in the sun. Robbie needed it. We've been here ever since." She smiled with just her mouth. "Robbie is a remittance man. I'm a remittance woman. We're paid a monthly stipend to keep out of the family's hair. Remittance men. The polite word is expatriate."
"Sure," I said, "that's why you don't like the Governor."
It was another needle, but the wrong one. She drank her black coffee, cocked an ear to the flamenco wail and pretended I was three thousand miles away. I looked at the poster again and asked, because I wanted to break the silence, "Where's Fuengirola?"
"Nine miles down the Malaga-Cadiz caretera toward Gibraltar." She finished her coffee and added unexpectedly, "The last time I saw Robbie he was on his way there."
"To do what?"
"I—I'd rather not say."
"Would you rather I didn't find him?"
"You seem very confident you will."
"If a private detective doesn't handle divorce cases, and I don't, a lot of his business is bound to be skiptracing. Every Missing Persons Bureau in every police force in the States is overworked and understaffed, which is one reason the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Virginia license guys like me. And plenty of times when a man disappears there are reasons why his family can't or don't want to call in the police. These cases usually form a pattern, Mrs. Hartshorn. A man turns up among the missing for two reasons basically: money and sex. So if you're called in and you're given the facts, you can usually see a pattern. I'm not confident, I'm hopeful. But you could disappoint me. It isn't my spouse who's missing. You haven't told me anything yet which indicates you want him found. Maybe you don't."
"That's pretty brutally frank."
"You didn't hire me. Your father-in-law did."
"I want Robbie found. We love each other. Ours is a perfect marriage."
"Congratulations. Why was he on his way to Fuengirola?"
"You don't understand. We—someone else is involved."
"Someone else is always involved. What's the pattern, Mrs. Hartshorn? Money or sex?"
"You're so smug. I hate smug men."
I wasn't smug. I was trying to establish a client-investigator relationship with her, trying to build her confidence in me even if she wound up hating me the way a patient hates his analyst in the beginning, and getting nowhere fast. "Who else is involved?"
"That's none of your business. I wish you hadn't come here." She lit a cigarette. "The Guardia will find him."
"He's been missing how long? Two weeks? You were worried enough to write the Governor about it."
"No I wasn't. Robbie always cashes his remittance check on the first of the month. When he didn't this month, the Governor wrote us. When I didn't answer, he got in touch with the Consul in Malaga. That's why you're here."
"Then you're not worried? Has Robbie up and disappeared like this before?"
"No. We're always together. Always. I'm worried. I'm frantic. But—" She let her words trail off. The gypsy clapping across the plaza seemed louder.
"But someone else is involved. Who?"
The other sidewalk tables outside the Club Mañana had begun to fill. There was talking and laughter. I recognized some of the faces I had seen at the Hartshorn villa.
"Party's breaking up," I said.
"That's the first round. They'll be back."
At the table next to ours a woman's husky whisky-voice said, quite distinctly, "I want your husband." I wasn't only smug, I was rude. I did some staring. Four people sat at the next table. One was the chunky woman I had met on the terrace: Mrs. Huntington. Next to her sat a tall man, solidly built but with narrow shoulders. He wore his gray hair in a crewcut and leaned his jowly face on a big soft hand. He had small, stubborn, close-set eyes. He looked drunk enough to be indifferent or indifferent enough to be drunk. I decided he was Mr. Huntington. Across from them and with their backs to us sat a man and a woman.
"I said, Marcia, that I want your husband," Nancy Huntington repeated.
The other woman laughed. "Well then don't let me stand in the way, dear," she said, and her accent was north-country English. "Take him."
The man whose back was turned laughed uncertainly and asked in Spanish, "What does she wish for? Is she very drunk?"
"She pretends to be drunker than she is," the woman replied in Spanish.
"I resemble that remark," Nancy Huntington said. "But I meant what I said. I want your—"
"I said you could take him, love. Please do. You're boring me, you know. But on the other hand if he understood English better, you'd be boring him too."
Mr. Huntington frowned. Mrs. Huntington said spitefully, "I hear you got gored by a bull before you retired. In the wrong place. I hear you can't have children."
"If I could have children, love," North-country said, "and if they looked like your children, I wouldn't want any."
Mrs. Huntington had been drinking a gin-and-tonic. She raised her glass and hurled its contents in the other woman's face. Mr. Huntington got up, looking pained. Mrs. Huntington got up too. North-country rose too. She was big. She wore tapered slacks and she was built mannishly and she must have been six feet tall in her low-heeled sandals. She leaned across the small table and swatted Mrs. Huntington indelicately across the chops. Mrs. Huntington went over backwards and landed across a chair, which promptly splintered the way breakaway chairs do in the movies. The gypsies went on clapping across the plaza. There wasn't another sound.
Mr. Huntington crouched near his wife. Her eyes blinked. The left side of her face was red from hairline to jaw. "Maybe we'd better get on home," Mr. Huntington said in a dead voice.
"I'll get you, you Maltese bitch," Mrs. Huntington told the lady bullfighter. The Spanish-speaking man hadn't left his seat. "What has happened?" he asked. I realized then that he was blind.
It was over a minute after that. Mr. Huntington dropped two hundred-peseta notes on the table, helped his wife to her feet and walked off into the darkness with her. The lady bullfighter told Andrea Hartshorn, "It started at your party, you know."
"I know, Marcia. I saw."
"Fernando wouldn't spit on the best part of her. But then, she really oughtn't to have hurled her drink at me."
Then the blind man got up. He looked about forty-five with long dark hair going gray, a handsome broad-cheekboned face, and shoulders like a weight-lifter's. His eyes had the blank stare of the blind.
"Me gusté la fiesta," he told Andrea Hartshorn.
"Me alegro mucho," she said automatically. I'm very glad. Then the blind man and his bullfighter wife left, his hand on her forearm. I heard the buzz of conversation at the tables around us again.
"I like your friends," I told Mrs. Hartshorn.
"Marcia and Fernando are nice. She was born on Malta, her parents were Yorkshire and she used to be a bullfighter at the local férias like the one in Fuengirola. She was gored, and that ended it. Fernando is a local product. He was an artist, and not at all bad. He went away for a year—let me see—about three years ago, and came back to Torremolinos blind. No one knows how. He isn't talking. He turned to sculpture, and he makes a pretty good living at that too. Marcia married him two years ago."
"No. I meant the other ones."
"They claim to be independently wealthy. Huntington's an old New England name, and they claim a bloodline clean back to the Mayflower. Talk is he's really on a government pension. But they do manage to live well. Half the time she's as snooty as a duchess and the other half she chases anything in pants. Not that Fernando isn't attractive." Liquor or the scene we had witnessed finally had loosened Andrea Hartshorn's tongue. "Lots of women are attracted to that combination of virility and helplessness. Anyhow, Stu Huntington wears the biggest pair of horns in Torremolinos, and they grow them pretty big around here as you may have guessed. There's talk he gets his kicks that way and is a stallion in bed after one of Nancy's sordid little escapades. Or am I shocking you?"
"I'll never be the same," I said. "Aren't there any secrets around here?" I answered my own question, "Yeah, there's one. Why, how, and where your husband vanished."
"Maybe now you can see why I don't want to talk."
"Then that's your mistake. If a private eye didn't respect his clients' confidence, he wouldn't be in business very long."
Mrs. Hartshorn looked at me. "I can use a drink. Fundador. A double."
I ordered two of them. She put hers back in one enormous gulp while I savored mine and watched the expression change on her face. Fundador was Spanish brandy, mellow and smooth. The blonde's expression changed from worried to doubtful to certain in as much time as it took me to finish my drink.
"The other person involved," she said, "is Tenley."
"That's the Governor's granddaughter, right?"
Excerpted from Jeopardy Is My Job by Stephen Marlowe. Copyright © 1962 Fawcett Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of A MysteriousPress.com.
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