Vicki Leydig thought she was going to have a few drinks with her friend Mary. She didn’t expect Doug Stirnweiss to offer her a ride home, and she sure didn’t expect to watch a stranger blow Doug’s head off in the parking lot. Penns River police don’t have much to go on until Detective Ben “Doc” Dougherty interviews casino employees and learns of drug deals going down in and around the property. Leads show promise and fall apart with depressing frequency until the local prosecutor turns a minor charge into a statement that leads Doc and the rest of the police force to a surprising conclusion, though not before tragedy strikes one of their own.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh mob boss Mike Mannarino faces increasing pressure from his bosses in New York, so much so he’s thinking of reaching out to Chicago for protection. What the rest of his crew has to decide is whether Chicago is the only other organization Mike might make an arrangement with.
It’s another week in Penns River, with distractions that range from petty vandalism to a bridge jumper keeping the cops’ full attention away from the critical task at hand.
Praise for TEN-SEVEN:
“Consistently one of the best in the business. As good as any I’ve ever read. Dana King, to quote Don Kirkendall of Men Reading Books, is ‘top-shelf entertainment.’ Ten-Seven keeps that ball rolling.” —Charlie Stella
“Dana King’s latest novel Ten-Seven returns his readers to Penns River in a propulsive mystery thriller that showcases his ear for dialogue, penchant for wry humor, and mastery of the police procedural, all while his finger is firmly on the pulse of America’s Rust Belt. Ten-Seven is the perfect novel for fans of Elmore Leonard and Tana French and will leave his readers hungrily awaiting the next installment.” —Eryk Pruitt, Anthony Award-nominated author of What We Reckon
“Ten-Seven is a prime example of the kind of small-town procedural that tells you as much about the town and its denizens as it does the crime at hand. The kind of solid plotting and characterizations I love in another favorite Pennsylvania crime writer, the great KC Constantine.” —Scott Phillips, author of The Ice Harvest and The Walkaway
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Vicki Leydig didn't gamble. Drank a little, and the Allegheny Casino had the cheapest booze in Penns River. When Mary Zelesko asked if she wanted to go to the casino — oh, and Doug Stirnweiss would be there — Vicki thought a few beers might not be a bad idea, summer coming on after a miserable winter.
She and Doug maybe on the brink of becoming a couple. Mary — a primary source on all Doug-related scoop — said he would've asked her for sure if they'd met a few months earlier, before his divorce became final. Two years since the formal separation, Doug as checked out of that relationship as he'd ever be, the final decree hit him like a death in the family. Which it was, Vicki thought, in a way. The death of a family. Two little kids Doug adored. She liked that about him, that it meant something, the recognized end of what had been the focus of his life.
Doug not much of a gambler, either. Told her once he'd made the obligatory trip to the casino when it opened, lost five dollars in a slot machine, didn't make another appearance until table games came in last spring. Liked blackjack because it was quick and didn't require a lot of concentration like poker or craps. Left him free to bust stones with the other players, like he was now, Vicki and Mary on stools near the table, drinking beer and watching and listening.
"What's that on your hand, man?" Doug talking to the guy at the next stool, early thirties, hair, beard, and waist all in need of a trim.
"My ass. Let me see that thing." To the dealer: "Hit me."
Bust. The guy held out his hand. Doug took hold of it for a better look. "That is the sorriest Steelers logo I have ever seen. What'd they soak you for?"
The guy passed the other hand over his cards, sticking on eighteen. "To be fair, they didn't have much to work with."
"What, your hand the wrong shape for tattoos or something?"
"There was another tattoo there already." Dealer hit on fifteen, drew a six. Bastard. "They were covering it up."
"What was the old one?"
"Girl's name." Bets were made.
"Really?" Doug pulled the hand for a closer look.
"Can I have that back?"
"I'm just looking."
"How bad's your eyesight?"
Doug released the hand, checked his cards. "I'm good."
They played a couple of hands. Doug tried to start a conversation with the dealer, a real sourpuss more interested in checking out Vicki and Mary than blackjack.
Doug won a hand, turned to the other player. "What was it?"
"What was what?"
"The girl's name."
"The one with her name on your hand."
"You should know. She's your mother."
"Ohhhh. That's cold." Doug acted upset, putting it on, not mad for real. Stared at the hand. Squinted. "Can't be my mother. Her name's Samantha. No way that's big enough to use to be Samantha." Another close look. "Don't see how they could even make a Steelers logo out of Samantha. Gotta be your sister." The other player gave Doug a look. "Okay, okay, sorry. Cousin, maybe?"
Vicki wondered why the dealer didn't say something, keep their minds on the game. His interest focused on Mary fussing with the lace on her sneaker, taking advantage of her loose blouse for a look at the pair that had provoked many a wet dream among her students at Penns River High School.
Doug tried to double down on a soft eleven. The dealer not so engrossed in Mary's cleavage he forgot the Allegheny disallowed that small player's advantage. "Hard elevens only, sir."
"The Rivers lets you double down on any eleven."
"This isn't The Rivers."
"No shit." Doug said to the other player, "How come you didn't just have it lasered off? Your cousin's name."
Tatt man split a pair of eights. "Too expensive."
Doug nodded, like the mysteries of the world had been explained. "Attitude like that probably why you needed to have her name taken off."
They kept it up, back and forth, Doug scoring more verbal points than he lost. Most of an hour passed, Vicki half afraid a fight would start, not knowing why Doug kept pushing this guy. Knew Doug didn't have a mean bone in his body, this was how men talked to each other, but, damn. It seemed risky to her. Fun, too. Doug with no animosity in his voice, the other fella taking no obvious offense. Engrossed by their banter until her threebeer limit had been exceeded by at least two. Glad Mary drove them both until she saw the glaze in her friend's eyes and knew it would be Doug or a cab tonight, and asking Doug to give her a ride home because she was drunk a lot more forward than she'd wanted to present herself.
Tattoo Hand left at ten thirty and Doug lost interest with no one to talk to except the dealer, who didn't talk. Gathered his chips — tipped the prick a buck — swallowed the last of his drink. Turned to Vicki and Mary, said, "Ladies, I'm calling it a night."
"Do us a favor, Dougie," Mary said before Vicki had a chance.
"Sure. What do you need?"
"Give us a ride home. We both had a little too much to drink. Please."
"What about your cars?"
"I got it all figured out." Mary taught algebra and trig, every situation a solvable problem. "Take us in my car. Drop Vicki off, then take me home. It's only a few blocks for you to walk from there."
Doug had half a smile going. Vicki knew already he'd do it. "That leaves my car here. How am I supposed to get to work in the morning?"
"I'll come by and get you on my way to school. Won't take me five minutes to run you by here. You know I go in early enough."
Doug nodded toward Vicki. "What about her car?"
"She came with me." Mary not sloppy drunk, but Penns River police had developed a fetish about impaired drivers leaving the casino. "C'mon, Dougie. I'll pay for all your drinks next time we go out."
Doug laughed. "That's because you know I only drink one beer a night." He did, too. Vicki noticed it a few weeks ago. One beer, then iced tea or Arnold Palmers for the duration. Meant to ask him about it sometime.
Mary gave Doug a stagey up-from-under look. Batted her eyes like she was playing to the top row at Heinz Field. "Well, hell, Dougie. You know I did the math. It's what I do."
"All right. Vicki, you ready? Mary shouldn't get to make all the decisions here, even if the math does work out."
Vicki slung her purse over a shoulder. "Ready when you are."
They left through the Four-Leaf-Clover exit. Security man gave them a look, moved his eyes toward the Breathalyzer machine off to the side. Casino called a cab for anyone who blew more than point oh-eight, the police for anyone questionable who refused the test. Doug made eye contact with the guard, sober as a Mormon in the desert. Showed the keys. "They're with me."
The guard looked at Mary and Vicki and smiled. "Good night, ladies. Yinz have a nice evening."
They waggled their fingers at him, acting drunker than they were. If he wanted to think they were off to a hot threesome, let him. Doug walked between the two women, his arms linked with theirs. Mary guided them to her car, a month-old Malibu still waiting for its first scratch. Vicki pretty sure Mary more concerned about breaking the dent cherry than a traffic stop. Probably asked Doug to take her car so it wouldn't sit in the casino lot overnight.
Doug double-clicked the fob, opened both passenger doors. "Nice ride. You can afford this, maybe I should drink two beers when you pay me back. Live on the wild side."
"Dream on, Dougie. I can't afford this and pay to make you an alcoholic. We'd have to work something else out." Bumped him with her hip before she got in.
Everyone laughed. Mary and Doug grew up together, knew each other even before they started school. Sleeping with each other might as well be incest. Doug let the women get settled, closed the doors. Walked around front of the car while Mary leaned across to unlock his door. Giggled when she realized it was already open, adjusted the shoulder harness.
Doug opened the driver's door, tried to slide in. "Jesus Christ, is this how you make sure it don't get stole? No one bigger than you can get in." Reached under the seat from outside, pushed it all the way back.
Mary made an exaggerated face. "Take it easy there, Shaquille O'Neal. You ain't that tall."
"I'll pull it up when I get in. Easier to get settled pulling it up than pushing it back."
"No comment," Mary said and everyone laughed again.
Doug closed the door, made a production of getting comfortable. Took three tries to get the shoulder harness where he wanted it. Adjusted mirrors. Adjusted them again. Mary slapped his arm and he said, "Oh, no. No way am I getting the first ding on this thing. I'd carry it on my back if I thought I could lift it."
Mary called him a smartass, but stopped slapping him.
Everything as he wanted it, Doug about to crank the ignition when a knuckle rapped on his window. Vicki looked over, saw the question on Doug's face, not who had knocked. A hand gestured to wind down the glass. Doug pressed the button, the window slid down. The man said, "This your car?"
"No." Doug jerked a thumb toward Mary. "Hers." Vicki saw the stranger's hand come up and didn't even have time to scream before he shot Doug in the face.CHAPTER 2
"Name's Doug Stirnweiss. White male, early thirties. Sitting in his car and some asshole shot him."
Officer Sean Sisler and Detective Ben Dougherty — "Doc" to all but immediate family — the only people inside the crime scene tape. Two other officers kept the gathering crowd back. Crime scene tech on the way.
"He gonna make it?" Doc said.
"I don't see how. Half his face is shot off. I saw them taking him out, looked like it caught him in the neck on its way by. There's blood everywhere in there."
No exaggeration. Blood on the upholstery, seatbelt, steering wheel, dashboard, console.
Christ, there was blood on the outside of the driver's door, below the window. Doc pointed. "Must've hit an artery. He's a goner if they can't get him to Allegheny General downtown."
Sisler had done two tours in Afghanistan, shook his head. "Not with all the blood he's lost. They'll be lucky to get him across the river to Allegheny Valley."
Doc rubbed his chin, thinking. Small, economically depressed towns like Penns River weren't supposed to get whodunits. Why not a nice clean domestic gone wrong, with the killer sitting in the living room, waiting. "I didn't mean to kill him, just get him to stop hitting me/the kids/the dog." Hell, Doc would've settled for a "Yeah, I killed the bitch and I'd do it again." Quintuple shotgun murders last winter and now this. Doc hated the idea of killers walking his streets, no one knowing who they were, wondering who might be next on the Pittsburgh news, after the first commercial but before the weather.
"Anyone call Neuschwander?" Rick Neuschwander another Penns River detective, doubled as the evidence tech.
"He's on the way."
"Two woman passengers. They're in my unit."
"Scared shitless, is all."
"Well, I guess so. I better find out what they saw while it's fresh in their minds." Took three steps that direction, turned back to Sisler. "Where's Rollison? I expected to see him raising hell when I got here." Daniel Rollison, head of casino security.
"Gone home for the night. They called him, but he lives in Shaler Township or Fox Chapel. Somewhere down there. Be a few minutes before he gets here."
"He does not cross that tape. This is our crime scene. He wants a report, he can wait for me in his office."
"Copy that," Sisler said.
Two women sat in the passenger side of Sisler's cruiser, feet on the pavement. Both pale as newsprint. Doc stopped twenty feet short, gestured for the closest uniform. Handed her five dollars. "Do me a favor. Run in there and get a couple bottles of water for these two. I'll watch the perimeter." The young female officer took the bill, left at a brisk pace.
Back with the water not three minutes later and Doc said, "Hey, no offense sending you on an errand. I didn't pick on you because you're the FNG. I wanted a few minutes to think of how the hell I'm going to approach these two."
The woman early to mid-twenties, looked like the mother in a baby product ad. Handed Doc his dollar change. "FNG?"
The situation kept Doc from laughing out loud. "The new guy."
A second, then a nervous giggle. "No offense taken, Detective."
"How long you been here now ... Burrows?" Damn, he shouldn't have had to read her name tag.
"I don't know what they teach at the Commonwealth's academy, but you can knock off the 'detective' shit right now. We're not that formal. Call me Doc."
"What do you prefer? Katherine? Kathy?"
"Kathy it is, though it'll probably be Burrows in front of civilians. Listen, a guy's going to be here in a few minutes. Late fifties or so, thin, high forehead he tries to comb over. He'll act like he owns the joint, and he'll try to push you around to get inside the tape. Name's Rollison. He does not cross that tape under any circumstances. That's an order. He gives you any grief, call Sisler. He's handled him before."
Having postponed the inevitable as long as conscience allowed, Doc dismissed Katherine Burrows and walked to his witnesses.
"Ladies." Squatted in front of them, handed each a bottle of water. "You look like you could use these."
Both women attractive in a Penns River sort of way. Not models or trophy wives. Pretty girls who grew into women who worked regular jobs, had regular appointments at Hair Necessities on Leechburg Road, and bought their makeup at Walgreens. Neither wore much. Whatever had been around their eyes now washed across their cheeks, smeared like a high school football player's eyeblack. Both in their thirties, though the one in front with the Ivy League-caliber endowment looked ready for the next milestone.
Doc gave them time to wet their throats and make peace with the idea they were going to have to talk about what had happened. "Can I get your names, please?"
"Vicki — Victoria — Leydig."
Doc wrote in his pad, said, "How do you know the — Mr. Stirnweiss?"
"He's a friend. Just a guy we know from hanging at Mogie's, you know?" Mary. "He has a group of friends, we have a group of friends, and some of our group knows some of his group and we kind of started running into each other when we were out, you know?"
Doc made a note. "Ms. Leydig? Same with you?" The younger woman nodded, more shaken than her friend. Doc had the impression she'd hoped to do more than just run into Doug Stirnweiss.
"Were you in the car when it happened?" Nods. "You all came to the casino together?"
Two head shakes. Mary said, "I drove Vicki. Doug was already here. Me and her had too much to drink" — both sober as Carrie Nation now — "and I asked Doug to give us a ride home 'cause he never has more than one drink when he goes out. I think he had a problem when he's younger and likes to test himself. You know, I can have one drink and that's all?"
"So this is his car?"
"Uh-uh. Mine. I just live a few blocks away from his place. He was gonna drop us off and I'd give him a ride back on the way to work in the morning."
"Okay. You come out of the casino and get in the car. Who's sitting where?"
"Doug and me in front, Vicki in back."
"Did you see anyone approach the car?"
"No. We were kinda jagging around, you know, teasing. I didn't notice anything till I heard him knock on the window."
"Yeah, like twice, I think." A pause. "Right. Two knocks. Then he made a signal like he wanted Doug to roll down the window, and then —"
Her face and eyes froze so hard Doc felt tempted to turn and look. No tears, not a sound, Mary Zelesko locked up tight as Scrooge's vault. Doc worried about shock or PTSD or whatever the hell it could be, tapped a knee to bring her back to the here and now. "Did you see the man? Are you sure it was a man?"
"Yeah." Mary's stare a thousand yards and growing. "He said something. It was a man's voice."
"What did he say?"
The stare remained undiminished. "He asked Doug if this was his car."
"Doug said no, said it was mine, and — and —"
Doc knew what came next, saw her start to unwind. "That's okay, I have everything I need for now. Drink some water." Tapped the bottle, moved her wrist up an inch or two until she raised it to her lips. Turned to the back seat. "Ms. Leydig, did you see anyone approaching the car?"
Commotion near the crime scene distracted everyone. Doc recognized Sisler's voice, then another he'd been expecting. "Excuse me a minute, ladies. I'll be right back."
Doc recognized Rick Neuschwander's ass hanging out of the Malibu. Neuschwander a Penns River detective, doubled as the crime scene team. Good at it, too; had a standing offer of a job in Pittsburgh. That would mean working shifts, not a requirement for the four-time father in Penns River, with exceptions for callouts to the latest act of random violence.
Far side of the car, Sisler and another man in the midst of a heated discussion in which neither party raised his voice. Daniel Rollison — head of casino security, former private investigator, suspected retired black ops agent — used disdainful tranquility to keep adversaries uncomfortable, and, make no mistake, whoever he spoke to was an adversary. Sisler served in Afghanistan as a sniper, made a point of being no more excitable than a cat lying in a shaft of sunlight. Doc didn't have to hear to know the topic. Stopped behind Sisler's left shoulder, said, "Mr. Rollison."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Ten-Seven"
Copyright © 2019 Dana King.
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.
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