The Empty Trap, one of many classic novels from crime writer John D. MacDonald, the beloved author of Cape Fear and the Travis McGee series, is now available as an eBook.
Lloyd Wescott is a big boy, and he understands that big money doesn’t smell like roses. When he’s hired to build and run the Green Oasis resort, he dosn’t know too much about the pedigree of its owner—and he doesn’t want to. He won’t ask any questions. Just as long as the place is legit and he can run it clean as a whistle. But when trouble checks in, skimming from the casino’s tills is the least of Lloyd’s concerns. The quiet elegance of the hotel lobby turns out to be crawling with contract guns. And after one look from a beautiful woman, Lloyd realizes that he’s about to get some hard answers to the questions he never asked.
Features a new Introduction by Dean Koontz
Praise for John D. MacDonald
“The great entertainer of our age, and a mesmerizing storyteller.”—Stephen King
“My favorite novelist of all time.”—Dean Koontz
“To diggers a thousand years from now, the works of John D. MacDonald would be a treasure on the order of the tomb of Tutankhamen.”—Kurt Vonnegut
“A master storyteller, a masterful suspense writer . . . John D. MacDonald is a shining example for all of us in the field. Talk about the best.”—Mary Higgins Clark
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||2 MB|
About the Author
Date of Birth:July 24, 1916
Date of Death:December 28, 1986
Place of Birth:Sharon, PA
Place of Death:Milwaukee, WI
Education:Syracuse University 1938; M.B. A. Harvard University, 1939
Read an Excerpt
The clouds were low over the mountains. The two cars had climbed the graveled road up out of the night into the first light of dawn. At times there would be a break in the cloud level and through them he could see the brown peaks above timberline touched with the gold and pink of the rising sun.
He was in the lead car, the dark blue Chrysler with Nevada plates. Tulsa Haynes drove slowly, big hands on the wheel. The world had been black shadows, with yellow headlights moving cautiously ahead. Now first light brought color into the world, a bronze to the backs of Tulsa’s hands, a blue gleam to the car hood. Tulsa turned the lights off and, moments later, the lights of the Pontiac that followed closely went off and the two cars moved up the mountain curves of the grey road.
He was in the middle, between Tulsa and Valerez. He sat awkwardly, wrists bound behind him, ankles lashed together, both tied tightly with a sheer nylon stocking, gossamer thin, unbreakably strong. Valerez, at Tulsa’s order, had unknotted the gag shortly after they had driven away from the Motel Montañas, had pulled the strip of toweling out of Lloyd’s mouth and dropped it out the side window. It was cold up in the dawn mountains. He could smell the dried acid of the perspiration on his clothing, the sweat of pain and fear. And he could smell the stink of his burned chest.
Valerez had just lighted another cigarette. Back in the motel Lloyd had seen the name on the packet. Delicados. Valerez held the cigarette to Lloyd’s lips. The paper had a sugary taste. The smoke was raw and strong when he sucked it down into his lungs.
Tulsa had been going more slowly, watching the drop at the right side of the road. He stopped. “You think it’s okay, Giz?”
“It is wild country. But we should look, maybe.”
Tulsa turned off the motor, took the key out, set the parking brake hard. Lloyd knew he took no chances. At no time had he left any opening. He was a professional. They got out and walked up ahead of the car, walked fifty feet. Benny, who had been driving the Pontiac, hurried to join them. There was no need for Benny to take precautions. Sylvia, his only passenger, was dead.
Lloyd Wescott watched them. They pointed over the drop. It was very still in the mountains, with no sound of bird or insect. They talked together and he could not hear them. Tulsa stood with his big hands on his hips. Had he not been beside the others, his breadth of shoulder would have made him look shorter than his six feet. He wore tailored khakis, skin-tight at the waist, taut around lean hips. The short stiff black hair was like a cap, and when the sun broke through, Lloyd saw a pink highlight on Tulsa’s quarter profile, on the high hard cheekbone. Benny, the squat little man with the clown face, pranced and gesticulated as he talked. Valerez, the stranger, had put his dark suit coat on over the pink shirt, the dark maroon knit tie with the ruby pin. His black hair gleamed above the pale, narrow, handsome face, and he stood a little apart from the other two.
Careful selection of grave, Lloyd thought. And I can be grateful to them for one thing. There isn’t any room in me for fear, or regret or remorse. No room for anything but hate. Life ends here. The lights go out. I should be thinking about eternity, and remembering, in this last time left to me, all the bright days of my life. And all I can think about is how I want to see them dead.
Tulsa made a gesture of impatience, of decision, then sent Benny back to the Pontiac. Tulsa returned to the Chrysler, leaned on the window frame on the driver’s side and looked in at Lloyd.
“I’ll make it easy,” he said.
“Thanks.” The word was blurred by Lloyd’s broken mouth.
“You got more guts than I figured, boy. Harry said make it rough for both of you. She got it rough. But the way I figure, she knew what she was doing, and you got suckered along. This wasn’t your league, Lloyd. So I’ll make it easy. You won’t know about it.”
“Don’t … do me any favors.”
“I’ll let Harry know you took it good. And she took it bad.”
Benny swung the Pontiac around the Chrysler, brought it to a precise stop aimed at an angle toward the drop. Tulsa said to Valerez, “How soon before anybody finds them?”
“One cannot say. A week, a month, maybe one hour. But it does not matter.”
“What the hell do you mean?”
“These people, you think they call the policia? There will be things of value, perhaps pieces of the car to be taken to a village, sold for a few centavos.”
Tulsa snapped his thick fingers. “God damn. I nearly forgot. Harry woulda chewed me good. Benny!”
“Get those rings off her.”
“Rings? Sure.” He dived back into the Pontiac. After a few moments he called to Tulsa, “They’re on tight.”
“Those rings are worth three grand,” Tulsa said. “Harry told me before he married her.”
“Thirty-six thousand pesos,” Valerez said wistfully.
Benny came back with the rings and gave them to Tulsa. Benny looked in brightly at Lloyd. “How they breaking, pal?”
“Cut his ankles loose, Giz,” Tulsa said. Valerez leaned in and, with quick blade thrust, deftly slit the nylon at his ankles. Tulsa pulled him out the other side of the car and set him on his feet. Lloyd’s knees sagged. Tulsa cursed and bent as though to carry him over his shoulder. Lloyd felt there might be one slim chance if he kept on his feet. Not a chance to save himself. It had gone far beyond that.
“Can walk,” he said, and locked his knees. The pain of the burned feet was excruciating.
“A gutsy guy,” Benny said admiringly. “He maybe was in the wrong business, Tuls.”
They held his arms, Tulsa on his left, Benny on his right, and walked him toward the Pontiac. He walked as steadily and as strongly as he could, forcing himself with what was left of strength and will. Tulsa did not relax his hold, but Benny did. He felt the slackening of the grip. He timed his steps, summoned up the last bit of explosive energy in deadened muscles, then lunged hard to his right. Tulsa hauled him back. But his shoulder had slammed hard into Benny’s. Benny lost his grip and staggered toward the brink, giving a shrill yelp of fright. He fell, scrabbling at the gravel, half over, sliding further, yelling again. Valerez reached him at the last instant, caught his wrist. They were both poised there and Lloyd tried to dive at them, to take both of them over with him, but Tulsa held him. All energy gone, Lloyd sagged to his knees. Valerez pulled Benny back onto the road. Benny sat, his face grey, cursing thickly. He got up slowly, came over and kicked Lloyd in the side.
“God damn, Tuls,” he said. “I’m shakin’ all over. Jesus!” He kicked Lloyd again, heavily.
“Cut it out,” Tulsa said. “Get him on his feet.”
“I’ve always been scared of falling off something high.”
When they stood him up, Lloyd thought he wouldn’t be able to speak, but he managed to say, “Then … that’s the … way you’re … going to die … Benny.”
“What the hell do you mean?”
“Everybody … dies the way … they’re scared of.”
“Hey, is he kiddin’ me, Tuls? Is he?”
“Shut up. Get the door open there.”
Tulsa put him in the car, behind the wheel. Sylvia was slumped against the door on the far side, body slack in death, black hair wreathing the side of the empurpled face. Benny had dressed her after death, dressed her in the yellow short-sleeved sweater, the pistachio flannel skirt. Tulsa gave an order, and Valerez and Benny Bernholz went over the car, wiping it clean.
“When I say go, push with your shoulders,” he said. “Don’t touch it.”
Tulsa reached a heavy arm through the window, a spring-handled sap in his hand. “This’ll make it easier,” he said. He snapped the lead end of the sap against Lloyd’s forehead with a backhanded twist of his wrist. Lloyd moved instinctively, and just quickly enough so that it glanced off the side of his forehead, just ahead of the temple. One of the familiar pain-flowers bloomed and burst in gaudy blue and white and at the other end of an echoing tunnel he heard Tulsa yell, “Push!”
He could not move, but he could see straight ahead. “Wait,” Tulsa yelled and he held the car back with his great strength. Lloyd was only partially aware when Valerez reached in, cut the nylon from his wrists. Again they pushed. The car moved forward. The right front corner dropped first. It happened so very slowly. Now, he thought, that thing they talk about is happening!
I argued with the salesman about this car, about his offer. The red and white hardtop convertible. He wanted fourteen hundred difference and I wanted to trade for a thousand. When I went into the sales manager’s office, the air conditioning was turned very low. There was an award certificate on the wall. We could not get anywhere until I told him I was the manager at the Hotel Green Oasis, and then the atmosphere was more cordial and we traded for eleven fifty and I drove it back, and it smelled new and it ran well, and that was the week Harry Danton brought Sylvia back from Los Angeles and they moved into the hotel.
It dropped on the right side, and he was thrown against Sylvia’s body and for one moment he could look down the long cruel slant of steep brown rock, at small wiry trees that grew out of the rock, and then the roll and fall continued a clanging and crashing and a steep sickness, and then he spun high and free and he saw the car and the mountains turn around him and knew he was apart from the car. Then, in the turn, the brown rocks came up to a smash of whiteness against his face, a floodlight whiteness that dwindled down and away like the last white spot on a cooling TV picture tube.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Hey idk y i got locked out i didnt say anything bad?!