Three very different sleuths—an ex–NYPD cop, a psychic painter and vigilante, and a former priest—handle unusual cases in this collection from the “unlimited imagination” of George C. Chesbro, creator of the one-of-a-kind dwarf detective, Mongo the Magnificent (Publishers Weekly).
When a mad scientist injected him with a rare drug, former policeman Garth Frederickson—brother of Dr. Robert Fredrickson, aka Mongo—developed the power to sense the often-malevolent feelings of those around him . . .
Veil Kendry, ex–CIA agent, Vietnam War veteran, and devoted martial arts instructor, almost died at birth. The damage left him with powerful dreams that have made him a successful abstract painter—and a dangerous vigilante . . .
Brendan Furie was once a priest who carried a Bible, but after a mishandled exorcism forced him out of the church, he became a PI armed with a gun . . .
In Lone Wolves, these unconventional antiheroes take on deadly militias, doomsday cults, East German secret police, alien abductions, telepathy experiments, Chinese street gangs, ghosts, demonic possessions, and more.
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The substance that had once crippled his mind and body had been gone from his system for years, but Garth Frederickson had been permanently changed. Some layer of emotional insulation had been stripped from him, leaving him rawly sensitive to emotional and spiritual signals sent by others. He experienced others' anguish and need as physical discomfort, a shortness of breath, and in the presence of people who would do harm he experienced a taste in his mouth not dissimilar to bitter chocolate. The poison's strange legacy was a sometimes cruel gift that he didn't question and couldn't explain — not to Mary Tree, his wife, and not even to his brother, who tended to make jokes about his "nose for evil."
The Broadway actor in centerfield caught the fly ball hit by the ballet dancer and threw home, but he was too late to prevent one of the three local politicians on hand for the celebrity softball game to benefit the sloop Clearwater and its efforts to clean up the Hudson River from tagging up at third base and coming home. With two outs for Mary's team, one of the five film actors who lived in Cairn stepped up to the plate, while one of the two film directors who were his neighbors prepared to pitch to him. The rock star coaching at third base, virtually unrecognizable without his elaborate hairpiece, shouted encouragement.
From his seat at the top of a bleacher section on the west side of the high-school athletic field, Garth watched as a short, husky man, incongruously dressed in an ill-fitting tan suit and wearing a black leather beret, emerged from the bleacher section on the north side and made his way around the cinder track toward Mary, who had come off the field after her turn at bat and was standing on the apron of the field autographing copies of her latest album that people had brought with them.
Garth, tasting bitter chocolate, was out of his seat and heading down toward the field as the stocky man in the baggy suit and black beret roughly shouldered his way through the knot of autograph seekers. He said something to Mary, and then thrust the bulky manila envelope he had been carrying into the hands of the startled singer, who shied and backed away a step. As the man reached out for Mary's wrist, Garth grabbed his shoulder, pulled him back, and spun him around. He found himself staring into pale-green eyes that first registered shock, then rage. A dark flush spread from his thick neck to his fleshy face, highlighting the alcohol-ruptured veins in his broad nose. He cursed in German.
"Security," Garth said evenly, using his free hand to display the card that identified him as a member of Cairn's auxiliary police force. "Wait your turn and keep your hands to yourself."
"Mind your business!" the man shouted in English laced with a heavy German accent. "Get your hand off me!"
"If you have something for my wife to sign, line up and wait with the others. If not, get the hell back to your seat. She's here to play softball. If you want to meet her, buy a ticket to the reception after the game."
The man reached into the sagging left-hand pocket of his suit jacket, withdrew a black snub-nosed revolver with an elongated skeleton grip, and pressed the bore against Garth's sternum.
Garth slowly released his grip on the man's shoulder and dropped his hand to his side as he calmly stared at his death in the pale-green eyes. He had always had an aversion to dying by accident — a bullet meant for someone else smashing into his brain, or being run over by a drunk driver — or by degrees, his body and mind being slowly crushed by disease. Being shot by a psychopath at a fund-raising softball game was surely also an absurd way to die, but his instincts about the man had been correct. Now the man's instability and his potential for harm had been unmasked. With two Cairn policemen now flanking him, guns drawn and aimed at his head, Garth didn't think it likely that the man in the black beret would again be in a position to threaten Mary for a very long time, if ever.
Then the killing time passed, the murderous rage in the green eyes vanishing as suddenly as it had appeared, to be replaced by what might have been bemusement, and something else Garth couldn't identify. The man handed his gun by the barrel to Jake Goldberg, the Cairn policeman standing to his left. Instantly, Goldberg and Fred Searles, the second policeman, wrestled his hands behind his back, handcuffed him, and started to lead him away. Just before they disappeared around the end of a bleacher section, the man twisted his head around and smiled at Mary. "Please read what I gave you!" he called over his shoulder. "It will explain everything!"
It had happened so quickly that only the knot of autograph seekers had actually seen the confrontation, but these people were now talking excitedly to one another, and as word of the incident spread more and more heads began to turn in their direction. The action on the field had stopped and a few of the players were heading toward them.
Garth leaned close to Mary, who was white-faced with shock and breathing hoarsely. "You have to pull yourself together and get your team back on the field, love," he said in a gentle tone as he took the manila envelope from her trembling hands. "You don't want that guy interfering with what you all came here to do, and publicity about what happened will only encourage others like him. It's over. Go on now."
The tall, lithe woman with the long whitish-blonde hair and piercingly blue eyes swallowed hard and nodded. She took a deep breath, then turned and, shouting and waving her arms, led her teammates out onto the playing field.
Garth headed back up to his seat in the bleachers, thinking that if living was a dangerous business that nobody survived anyway, it was even more dangerous for celebrities, where in any of the crowds constantly surrounding them might be the one person who would murder for no other reason than that his victim was famous and he was not — as if the act of killing was some kind of mystical rite that would somehow magically confer the fame and power of the slain upon the slayer. A quick inspection of the contents of the manila envelope served to confirm Garth's suspicion that the man who had been taken away in handcuffs posed a very real threat to his wife.
During the reception that followed the game, Garth stayed back in the dim light of an alcove near the auxiliary bar of the Hudson Shore restaurant, closely watching the many well-wishers who had paid for the privilege of being there as they flocked around Mary's table to speak to her or ask for her autograph. In a way, Garth thought with a grim smile, he could almost sympathize with the man in the black beret, for he, too, had been obsessed with the transcendent beauty and sensuality of Mary Tree for more than twenty years before they had actually met and fallen in love.
When the others were finally gone, he went over to the table, sat down next to his wife, and brushed his lips against her cheek. "You all done good, babe," he said. "Counting the proceeds from the reception, you and your friends netted more than three thousand for the Clearwater." He paused and stroked her long hair with the back of his hand. "What did he say to you, Mary?"
Mary put her arms around her husband's waist, rested her head on one of his broad shoulders, and shuddered slightly. "I know things like that happen to other people, but I never thought it would happen to me. God, Garth, when he pulled that gun and pointed it at you, I — If he'd killed you, it would have been because of me!"
"That's nonsense. What exactly did he say?"
She straightened up, shrugged. "He told me he'd been a fan of mine for a long time and he had some things to give to me that would prove it. He was starting to make a few obscene suggestions when you came along." She took Garth's hand and looked into his eyes. "His threatening you with that gun should mean that he'll be locked away for a time, right?"
"I hope so," Garth said, but in fact he was experiencing a distinct sense of foreboding.
Mary pointed at the manila envelope her husband had placed on the table. "I don't want to read any of that."
"It's filled with love letters, lousy poetry, and even some song lyrics — most of it very sexual, and all of it meant for you, sweetheart. This man's had you on his mind for a long time."
Mary shook her head and brushed a strand of hair away from her eyes with a hand that had again begun to tremble. "You know I get stuff like this in the mail all the time. If he was going to go to the trouble to write to me, why hang onto it for years?"
"Maybe because he was in a place where it wasn't safe to send fan letters to a pacifist folk singer. As soon as I get you home, I'm going over to the station to talk to Jake and Fred about our friend in the beret."
Michael Gannett, the soft-spoken owner of the Hudson Shore, suddenly appeared at his side. "There's a phone call for you, Garth."
"He wouldn't identify himself. He says it's about what happened earlier, and that it's important."
Garth hurried back to the alcove between the dining room and the auxiliary bar where there were pay telephones. One of the receivers was off the hook. He picked it up. "Frederickson."
"Kill him before he kills you." The voice was flat and oddly muffled, as if the man was making an effort to disguise it. "He will leave you no choice. Don't let happen to you what happened to the man in Orlando. Strike first."
"Who are you?" Garth asked, but there was a click and the line went dead. He hung up the phone and, determined to mask his sudden sense of urgency from Mary, walked back to the table and calmly asked her to wait for him in the restaurant until he returned.
He stepped out into the evening and then ran the two and a half blocks to the Cairn police station, where he found Jake Goldberg standing beside the doorway leading into a back room where there were two holding cells.
The policeman's face was flushed with anger, and he seemed startled to see Garth. "You must be able to read minds," he said as Garth approached him. "I was just getting ready to call you. Your guy got sprung."
Garth glanced at his watch. "How could he have made bail so soon? No lawyer —"
"It wasn't a lawyer who got him out. The Feds took him."
"About thirty seconds ago. They walked out the back just as you were coming in the front."
Garth wheeled and ran out of the office. He went out the door of the station house, vaulted over the iron railing to his left, and landed in the center of the narrow asphalt driveway directly in the path of the car coming out of the parking lot in the rear.
The car's brakes screamed in protest as the driver slammed his foot on the brake pedal and the car came to a halt with the front bumper less than four inches from Garth's knees. Garth took a step backward, shielded his eyes from the glare of the headlights, and noted the car's license-plate number. Then he stepped forward again, leaned on the hood, and peered through the windshield at the three startled occupants of the car. Two men in suits and ties sat in the front. The driver was a young, solidly built man with blond hair closely cropped in a crew cut. The other man, heavyset and with a swarthy complexion, looked to be about fifty. The man with the black beret sat in the rear seat, unattended and without handcuffs.
The heavyset man jumped out of the car. "What the hell's the matter with you! You want to get killed?"
"My name's Frederickson," Garth said. "What I want is to know who you are, the identity of the man in your back seat, and where you're taking him."
The big man reached into the inside pocket of his suit jacket and withdrew a thin leather wallet which he flipped open to reveal a photo I.D. card and metal shield. "I'm Special Agent Baker, F.B.I. This is Special Agent Walker with me. You're interfering with Federal officers in the performance of their duty and risking arrest and prosecution. Now do yourself a favor and get out of the way!"
Garth heard footsteps behind him. He turned his head as Jake Goldberg came up on his left, and then casually leaned against the brick wall of the precinct station and crossed his arms over his chest. The policeman's dark eyes were impassive, but there was the slightest hint of amusement on his face — he looked like a man who had stopped by to see a show. "As a police officer and your friend, Garth," he said, "I have to advise you that you should do what the man says. They're the real McCoy — I checked them out with the New York bureau before I released that joker into their custody. I had no choice, and you don't, either. I have everybody's names on the receipt I made them sign."
Garth shook his head. "Not good enough. Their passenger's name could be a phony, and I'll bet anything it is."
"Get out of the way!" Baker shouted, his face flushed and his eyes flashing. "This is your last warning!"
"That man harassed my wife and threatened me with a gun," Garth said, addressing himself now to the agent identified as Walker, who had also stepped out of the car. The man in the black beret was following the conversation intently, his head halfway out of the open back window. "He's broken the law as well as shown himself to be a threat to my wife and me — and you're chauffeuring him around like he's your honored guest. I intend to press charges against this man, and as a citizen I have a right to know exactly who he is and where you plan to take him."
"He's in Federal custody," Baker said. "And you're overreaching. Get out of the way."
Garth decided to fire the only real weapon he had in his arsenal, even if it turned out to carry only a blank. He might never have another chance to confront any of these men and he was determined not to let the man in the black beret vanish. "Maybe if his victim in Orlando had overreached, he'd still be alive."
Baker exchanged a startled glance with his younger partner.
"Make him go away!" the man in the black beret shouted out the car window. "What's the matter with you people! Just make him go away!"
"Are you going to make me just go away?" Garth asked. "The gun that man pulled on me was a weapon of choice for many members of the officer corps of what used to be the East German Staatsicherheit. I have no idea what he's doing in this country or why you think he deserves such royal treatment, but I guarantee that I'm going to try to find out if you spirit him away from here. The chances are he's a killer, just like the other Stasi who have disappeared from Germany, along with their leader. He's dangerous and I don't want him coming at my back on some dark night."
Walker shook his head and spoke to his partner. "Well, we're sure as hell going to have to take him in now."
Baker nodded curtly, then strode around the open car door, pulled his gun, and pointed it at Garth's head. "You're under arrest. Turn around, lean against the wall, and spread your legs."
Garth did as he was told. Baker patted him down and, removing the wallet from Garth's rear pocket, he handed it to Walker. "Check him out," he said. When Walker returned to the car and picked up the radio, Baker handcuffed Garth, turned him around, and then leaned close to his face. "Where the hell do you get your information, mister?"
"The newspapers," Garth replied evenly.
"That's not good enough. How do you know what weapons were issued to the Stasi?"
Garth glanced at Jake Goldberg, who smiled thinly.
"Hey, Avery," Walker called from the car, an odd note to his voice, "you'd better get over here. The Chief wants to talk to you right now, and he wants you to take the cuffs off Frederickson."
Garth turned around and saw Avery Baker look at his partner as if the man, or their superior, had committed some unspeakable gaffe. The Special Agent strode back to the open car window on his side, reached inside and took the radio handset from his partner. He spoke into it, listened for a few moments, and then quickly got into the car, shut the door, and closed the window. The younger agent was staring at Garth through the windshield, his eyes betraying both hostility and strong interest.
Goldberg moved closer to Garth. "My money says those FBI boys are being told in no uncertain terms not to hassle Garth Frederickson. I'm glad you got here when you did. Pulling this guy out of our jail may be legal, but it's outrageous."
"It wasn't you who called me, Jake?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Lone Wolves"
Copyright © 2003 George C. Chesbro.
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.
Table of Contents
- First Strike
- The White Bear
- Lone Wolf
- The Problem with the Pigs
- The Lazarus Gate
- Unmarked Graves
- Model Town
- About the Author