Nick Polo is back in his eleventh adventure, once again helped along by his sidekick, the indomitable octogenarian self-described witch, Mrs. Damonte...
Billionaire vintner Paul Bernier sets San Francisco ex-cop, ex-con, private eye Nick Polo off on a hunt to find a kukri, a priceless golden jewel-encrusted 14th century dagger, designed by the Emperor of India. The dagger has a long, bloody history, passing between war lords throughout the ages, including Saddam Hussain.
The search has Polo bumping heads with Bernier's vindictive stepdaughter, his eccentric household staff, a Miami con man, a crooked private investigator, a drug dealing nightclub owner, a New York Mafia Don, and two viscous murderers.
When all seems lost, Polo gets help from Mrs. Damonte, a self-described Strega, a witch, who believes that a day without a wake is like a day without sunshine.
Praise for POLO'S LONG SHOT:
"Nick Polo is the Saul Goodman of private investigators. He's charming, persuasive, immune to adversity, and just dirty enough to get the job done. He never ceases to amaze and, just when you think he's been bested, always produces an ace in the hole. Not since James Crumley's C.W. Sughrue have I so avidly rooted for a fictional character." -Jonathan Ashley, author of South of Cincinnati
Praise for the Nick Polo mysteries:
"A California PI himself, Kennealy captures some of the classic Hammett/Ross spirit in the Nick Polo series." -Publishers Weekly
"Briskly written, and because Kennealy himself was a working private eye, most persuasive." -Philadelphia Inquirer
"The Polo series all have a strong tradition of tight plotting, crisp dialogue, and self-deprecating humor." -Booklist
"Kennealy writes crisply, brings alive the streets of San Francisco, and plots clearly and interestingly." -Washington Post
"The writing is simple and direct, the action nonstop." -The New York Times
|Publisher:||Down & Out Books II, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.66(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Polo's Long Shot
A Nick Polo Mystery
By Jerry Kennealy
Down & Out BooksCopyright © 2017 Jerry Kennealy
All rights reserved.
George Rigsdale hated me. Well, maybe hated is too strong a word, but despised might not be strong enough. Rigsdale was the in-house investigator for Feveral & Lenahan, one of the largest full-service law firms in San Francisco. They represented many of the major insurance carriers in the United States, Europe, and Asia, and handled everything from dog bite cases to litigation involving major airplane crashes, mergers, and acquisitions, as well as insurance and banking transactions for their clients. They also handled criminal matters, mostly of the type where the feds go after a bank or stock brokerage firm.
I was called in when Rigsdale and his staff of seven computer geeks couldn't get the job done.
I did feel a little sympathy for the guy. He had to go strictly by the book in his investigations — F&L did not want him doing anything illegal that might get them sued — while I, an independent contractor, could commit the types of misdemeanors and occasional felonies needed to get results.
Rigsdale was on the short side. He had a triangular-shaped face, wheat-colored hair, with a silver-dollar size bald spot at the back. He had a precisely trimmed mustache pasted under a ski-slope shaped nose. His eyes were pale gray, and whenever I spoke to him I focused on his eyes for a second or two and then moved up to his eyebrows. Rigsdale would adjust, tilting his head back to maintain eye-to-eye contact, and then I'd raise my focus again, and he'd follow suit. My objective was to have him tilt so far back that he'd fall backwards and land on his butt.
We were in his office, which was located on the seventeenth floor of the Steuart Tower Building. The floor-to-ceiling window had a view of the skyscraper across the street. The offices that overlooked the bay, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge were occupied by the company attorneys.
It was a good-sized room with a walnut-topped black metal desk, a black leather chair, a matching couch, and a table holding three computers, two printers, and several wireless routers, their monitors of red lights silently winking and blinking.
One wall featured a watercolor landscape with angry, foam-tipped waves crashing into a peppermill shaped lighthouse. A brass-printed tag the size of a bar of motel soap at the bottom of the frame identified the artist as Laura Feveral.
Rigsdale was usually a neat and trim dresser, but today his suit jacket was off, his shirt sleeves rolled up to his elbows, his tie at half-mast, and his collar undone. He reminded me of one of those TV weathermen, the ones who sit behind a desk in an air-conditioned office with makeup people at the ready. When there was a really big storm they liked to do the roll-up-the-sleeves bit and have their hair in slight disarray, while interviewing a reporter who was actually out in the storm, holding onto a streetlight for dear life.
"I may have an assignment for you, Polo."
He liked to pronounce my name as PowwLoww.
"That's Italian isn't it?" he'd asked at our first meeting.
"Sicilian," I'd told him, causing his frown to deepen. George claimed to be a direct descendent of one of the families that came to America on the Mayflower. He hadn't liked it at all when I'd pointed out that an Italian by the name of Christopher Columbus had beat the Mayflower by a couple of hundred years.
"Who's the attorney that asked for me?" I said. The only assignment Rigsdale would hand me would be sweeping the parking lot.
He sank down into his chair and leaned forward with his elbows on the desk. "Mr. James Feveral."
Jim Feveral was the senior member of the firm, and a fan of mine. I had helped him out in several cases. He seemed to get a vicarious pleasure in having me run down difficult witnesses or serve subpoenas on people who reacted violently to those kinds of things.
Rigsdale leaned back in his chair, sighed, then leaned forward and opened a drawer slowly, as if afraid of what was inside.
He withdrew a thick manila envelope and placed it carefully in the middle of the desk.
"We want you to locate someone." He slid a grainy black and white photograph from the file, rested his index finger on the corner and slowly pushed it toward me. "This someone."
The man in the photo was tall, with a full head of dark curly hair. He had a trench coat draped over his shoulders like a cape and was glaring in the direction of the camera, as if he didn't appreciate having his picture taken.
He was leaning against the wall of an outdoor café, holding a cup of coffee in one hand, a cigarette in the other. It was impossible to know from the photo where it was taken, but the cobblestone street and table umbrellas had a European flair.
"Who is he, George?" I asked casually, knowing that it irritated him to be called by his first name by those he considered underlings.
"Al Lamas is the name he's using. It wouldn't surprise me if there are others."
"What's Jim Feveral's interest in him?"
Rigsdale coughed into his fist and gave me what he must have considered a hard look. "Mister Feveral merely wants you to find the man. I'll handle the rest."
I picked up the photograph. The café Lamas was standing in front of had a canvas awning, but the name wasn't visible.
"When and where was this taken?"
Rigsdale stirred in his chair, as if to relieve an aching muscle. "Rome, Italy. Approximately six months ago."
"Who took the photo?"
"What difference does it make?" Rigsdale said, his voice hoarse with anger. "We think Lamas is here — in the Bay Area."
"The more I know about him, the easier it will be for me to find him, George."
He responded by shoving the envelope across his desk. "Take it. There are more photos in there, along with some of my reports." His voice softened. "There is some urgency. If you cannot devote full time to the case —"
"I know. You'll get someone else. What's your interest in this Mr. Lamas?"
"We believe he's.. .taken something that doesn't belong to him. The owner wants it back."
"What did he take?"
Rigsdale chewed that over — literally, his teeth riding over his lips. "An object of art. A chauri, a flywhisk, with a carved ivory handle and yak's tail brush."
"You're kidding me, George."
He made a waving motion with his right hand. "It was allegedly used to keep the flies off some prince in India in the fifteenth century. There are a few photos of it in the envelope."
"I know that you and your staff have worked hard on this, covered all the data bases, ran him through social media, civil filings and motor vehicle records, and haven't come up with anything, which means Lamas is going to be difficult to find. Why is he so important to Feveral? I have to know the details."
Rigsdale raised an eyebrow as he considered the request. "All right, but this is a very confidential situation, understood?"
"Lloyd's of London is the insurance carrier. Mr. Paul Bernier, a highly valued client of ours, is the owner of the chauri. We do a great deal of legal work for him. He's a former international banker and has a home in Nicasio, over in Marin County, a penthouse apartment here in San Francisco, and a villa in France. He has many business interests, including wine. He owns more than a thousand acres of vineyards in prime Napa Valley and Sonoma County locations, as well as throughout France. And he is a volunteer curator at the city's Asian Art Museum."
Rigsdale glanced over to see if I was properly impressed.
"Until right now, I've never heard of the gentleman. Do we know what Al Lamas does for a living?"
"He described himself to Gloria, Mr. Bernier's adopted daughter, as being a stressrelief consultant."
Ah, consultant — one of those delusive words. You don't have to be licensed to be a consultant. You could describe yourself as a brain surgeon consultant, but have no real knowledge of medicine or surgery — you're just a consultant. Stress relief could mean anything from yoga, to massage, to drugs.
"Is Gloria Bernier dealing with some kind of stress?"
"Not that I know of."
"Does she have an idea as to where he lives, or where his office is located?"
"She told me that they had a social relationship, however, she never visited his residence or office."
"Where'd she meet him?"
"At a nightclub called Noche on Townsend Street. I've been there. No one at the club knew of Lamas."
"You've told me about Gloria. Are there other children?"
"A son, Andre, who was killed in Iraq in 2003."
"No," Rigsdale said wearily. "His death has nothing to do with the case, but if you must know, Andre Bernier was civilian, an art advisor for UNESCO, the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization, at their Paris office. He went to Iraq to help in finding their lost art treasures."
"What about a wife?"
"Mr. Bernier is a widower. Twice. His first wife was born in India, where they lived for several years. She died many years ago. His second wife, Gloria's mother, also passed away. If any word of this leaks out, Polo, you'll never get another assignment from Feveral and Lenahan, I can promise you that."
"How does Lamas tie in with the missing flywhisk?"
"He was ... friendly with Gloria. She invited Lamas to the Nicasio residence while Mr. Bernier was away on a business trip. The chauri was kept in a buffet cabinet in the dining room. When Mr. Bernier returned, the chauri was gone. Now Lamas has disappeared."
"But there's no proof that he actually took it, is there?"
"No, but he's the obvious suspect."
"How much was it insured for, George?"
Rigsdale picked up a ballpoint pen and began popping the point in and out. "One million dollars." He stabbed the pen into the manila envelope. "Don't get any ideas of a finder's fee, Polo. Your job is to locate Lamas. Nothing more."
Rigsdale was still smarting over a thirty-thousand-dollar finder's fee I'd received for retrieving a stolen painting by renowned artist Cy Twombly. At a recent auction at Christie's, one of his works went for sixty-nine-point-six million dollars. To the uneducated eye, mine included, some of his graffiti-like scribblings look like they could have been done by a child freewheeling with crayons.
I had found the missing painting in a home belonging to a museum janitress, a hardworking Filipino lady who juggled three part-time jobs. She had taken it from a rack of artwork stored in the basement of the San Francisco Modern Museum of Modern Art.
"I thought it was junk," she'd told me. "That they were going to throw it away. I wanted to show it to my granddaughter. She could draw better that that."
I believed her, about why she took the Twombly, not her granddaughter's drawing talents, so I'd simply returned the painting to the museum — with no questions asked.
"There's one more important item to discuss, Polo. The police have not been brought into this. Mr. Bernier wishes to have it handled discretely. Understood?"
"So if Lamas has this flywhisk, you want to make a deal with him, right?"
"That is not your concern. I've interviewed everyone who resides in the Bernier residence, and every worker and visitor that was there when the chauri went missing. The cook, Yves Dupree, took advantage of Mr. Bernier's absence by taking a vacation, so he was gone when the theft took place. The property has a state of the art security system, so I do not believe a burglar could have gained entrance. Mr. Feveral insisted that I involve you, against my judgment."
He shoved the file across his desk so hard it nearly dropped in my lap.
"I'll going to need an advance, George. Five thousand dollars should work for now."
"Five thousand dollars!"
It had taken me a while to understand the business world. Work cheap and you get a lot of work — lousy work. But if you charge a lot of money, and here's the kicker, you're really good at what you do — then you end up making a lot more money doing a lot less work.
He dry-washed his hands, then picked up one of the phones on his desk and barked at his secretary. "Cut Mr. Polo a check for five thousand dollars."
"Satisfied?" he asked after he'd set the phone back on its cradle.
Without waiting for an answer, he added, "And don't bother Mr. Feveral. Report directly to me."
Poor George. Subtlety was not his strong suit. I picked up the file and then decided that it would be a good idea to head right to my bank.CHAPTER 2
I had parked my car, a four-year-old beige Ford sedan, dubbed the Polomobile by a lady friend, in a red zone on Spear Street, and was happy to see that there wasn't a parking ticket under the wipers.
The city fathers have a plan to make San Francisco free of automobiles. They want us all using city buses, walking, biking, or riding skateboards as we go about our daily chores. To implement the plan they decided to make it difficult, and very expensive, for anyone driving a car.
The United States Navy used to have a catchphrase: "If it's not moving, paint it!"
Our uncivil servants have updated that to if there's an empty space, put in a parking meter with fees up to ten bucks an hour and then move on to the lucrative seventy-six-dollar fine for an expired meter.
Even at those prices, you can seldom find an open space, which leaves red zones, bus stops, and in front of fire hydrants.
The Ford is eternally dusty, has a whip antenna, twin spotlights, numerous dings, scratches, and a cracked windshield. It looks like an unmarked police car, even to a meter maid. The SFPD HOMICIDE sticker on the visor adds to the pretext, so I seldom get a ticket.
I actually felt a little guilty about this until I noticed that when I couldn't find an illegal parking spot it was because they were filled with cars belonging to the Mayor's Office, the City's Planning Department, the Environment Commission, the Ethics Commission, the Entertainment Commission, Public Works, and my favorite, the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force.
There's a .38 snub nose revolver concealed in the passenger side headrest. I know that a lot of people now want to have concealed weapons permits, but believe me, packing a gun around is highly overrated. They're bulky, heavy, and, if you wear a hip holster, extremely uncomfortable. Then there's the problem if you're of the male persuasion and you have to answer a call to Mother Nature. Dropping your pants in a public toilet can be quite an adventure. I had a friend who did just that and blew off three of his toes.
I'd decided to carry a Kimber pepper spray blaster that weighted four ounces and resembles a kid's water pistol, but is powerful enough to drop an NFL linebacker in his tracks.
There's a spare pepper spray in the glove compartment, along with binoculars and some burglar tools. All the necessities for modern urban living.
I deposited the check at the bank, kept a thousand dollars in cash, and then drove home. I was anxious to go over the reports Rigsdale had stuffed into that envelope. Home and office was the upper unit of a pair of spacious flats in the North Beach area of the city. I'd inherited the flats when my mother and father were killed in an airplane crash.
I'd also inherited their hard-earned lifetime savings and a considerable cash settlement from the airline's insurance carrier — the pilot had been intoxicated when he flew into a mountain during a flight from Reno to San Francisco.
It seemed like a fortune to me at the time — enough money for me to retire from the police department and enjoy the good life. I quickly found out that I had a talent. A talent for changing a fortune into misfortune. My financial advisor wasn't Bernie Madoff, but he was close.
So, I had to go back to work — as a private investigator.
Luckily, I'd held on to the flats. I'd also held on to the lower unit's tenant, Mrs. Damonte. She'd been living there from the day my parents had purchased the property.
As best I can figure, Mrs. D is somewhere between eighty and a hundred-and-twenty. She's under five feet tall, with iron gray hair pulled back in a bun and secured with knitting needles. I couldn't even guess at her weight, because rain or shine she's always bundled up in thick black clothing from her wattle neck to her toes, which were usually encased in black Converse high-topped tennis shoes.
The black isn't a fashion statement for Mrs. D. She just likes to be ready to go to a wake or funeral. A day without a wake is like a day without sunshine to Mrs. Damonte. She was born in Genoa, Italy, and speaks Italian most of the time. Her favorite words in English are "Nopa" for no, "Shita" and "Bingo." That one she shouts out in perfect diction when the need arises.
Her one piece of jewelry is a large brass whistle that hangs from a gold chain around her neck. She uses it to scare away birds from her vegetable and herb garden and to frighten the hell out of the butcher when she thinks he's laid his thumb on the scale while weighing her veal shanks. She is, without a doubt, the best cook I've ever come across. A Nob Hill banker sends his chauffer to her door three or four days a week to pick up one of her special dinners. Mrs. D doesn't charge a set price for these goodies, she always says, "Ascio a vostra discrezione," I leave it to your discretion, with all of the humility and piety of the pope's confessor.
Excerpted from Polo's Long Shot by Jerry Kennealy. Copyright © 2017 Jerry Kennealy. Excerpted by permission of Down & Out Books.
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
ContentsPolo's Long Shot: A Nick Polo Mystery,
About the Author,
Also by the Author,
Other Titles from Down & Out Books,
Preview from Back to Brooklyn, the sequel to My Cousin Vinny by Lawrence Kelter,
Preview from Blacky Jaguar Against the Cool Clux Cult by Angel Luis Colón,
Preview from American Static by Tom Pitts,