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The Fala Factor
     

The Fala Factor

by Stuart M. Kaminsky
 

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Hollywood PI Toby Peters looks for a kidnapped dog—with political connections
If he is surprised to find Eleanor Roosevelt waiting for him in his dingy little office, Toby Peters does not show it. Although this is his first time working for the First Lady of the United States, years of private investigations for the Hollywood elite have left him

Overview

Hollywood PI Toby Peters looks for a kidnapped dog—with political connections
If he is surprised to find Eleanor Roosevelt waiting for him in his dingy little office, Toby Peters does not show it. Although this is his first time working for the First Lady of the United States, years of private investigations for the Hollywood elite have left him unfazed by a famous face. The First Lady comes straight to the point. Six months after Pearl Harbor, the only thing that keeps her husband from buckling under the pressures of the presidency is his dog, a sprightly black terrier named Fala. As America gears up for war, Mrs. Roosevelt has a secret domestic problem: She fears that Fala has been kidnapped and replaced by an imposter. As he investigates the dog’s whereabouts, Toby learns that the dog is the linchpin in a fiendish plot against the White House. He must recover the real Fala quickly, for the fate of the free world rests in the terrier’s paws.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The year is 1942, and America is starting to feel the pinch of wartime deprivation. For gumshoe Toby Peters, "doing without" is no big deal; he scrapes by as a private eye by doing the oddest of odd jobs, and he seems to be surrounded by a coterie of curious characters. This time, it's none other than Eleanor Roosevelt. The First Lady is convinced that the president's little dog, Fala, has been kidnapped and seeks the aid of Toby to track down the real First Dog. The fun begins: Toby finds himself uncovering a plot to overthrow the government by a crackpot political party known as the New Whigs, dodging whacks from a cop who dislikes him intensely, and being framed for a murder he can't prove he didn't commit. As usual, reader Tom Parker gives all characters distinctive low-life voices (except for Eleanor, of course), and his vocal gymnastics adds immensely to the overall enjoyment of another Peters adventure. Recommended for all libraries. Joseph L. Carlson, Lompoc P.L., CA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781453251447
Publisher:
MysteriousPress.com/Open Road
Publication date:
04/10/2012
Series:
Toby Peters Series , #9
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
178
Sales rank:
710,714
File size:
1 MB

Read an Excerpt

The Fala Factor


By Stuart M. Kaminsky

MysteriousPress.com

Copyright © 1984 Stuart M. Kaminsky
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-5144-7


CHAPTER 1

The little black dog on my desk wanted to play, but with a corpse sitting in the corner and a murderer on the way up to my office on the elevator I just wasn't in the mood. I patted his head, tried not to smell his breath, and said, "Maybe later."

This didn't please him. The Scottie lay down, covering the letter telling me where I was to pick up my sugar ration stamp book, put his head on his front paws, and looked up at me sadly. I checked my .38 automatic to be sure it was loaded, aimed it tentatively at the door to my office and hoped that I wouldn't have to use it, and, if I did, that it would work. It had never proved particularly reliable in the past.

Somewhere far below, the elevator of the Farraday Building ground its way upward. When I was a cop in Glendale back in 1933 or '34, I'd been on a call with my partner, a guy named John Thompson, who was short, dark, like a floor model Philco radio. He had a few months to go before retirement when we saw a couple of guys running out of a cigar store looking a little excited. We would have paid no attention if one of them hadn't been holding a shotgun.

Thompson had sighed, "Oh shit," pulled our car over, shuffled out, and, with me backing him up, stepped in front of the two guys, who were so busy looking back at the cigar store they didn't see us till we were no more than a ten-foot pole apart.

"What seems to be the discrepancy?" Thompson had said in his beer-grated voice. One of the two stopped and turned to us with his mouth open. He was about thirty and needed a shave and a good dentist. The other guy, the one with the shotgun, was older, maybe forty, and apparently slow of mind and body. His shotgun came up in an arc that would have brought its barrel in line with my stomach in the time between two heartbeats. I didn't, couldn't move. Next to me I heard Thompson let out the start of a weary little puff of air, but I didn't hear the end of it. It was covered by the shot that John took at the shotgun holder. My left ear went temporarily deaf but my right ear caught the sound of the shotgun clattering to the sidewalk.

The gun skittered toward us, sending up sparks. The sound went down my back like false teeth on a wet blackboard. That was the sound that the Farraday Building elevator always reminded me of, but that wasn't the reason I seldom took the elevator. The elevator was just too damned slow for transportation. If it weren't for the noise, it would have been great for thinking, but I couldn't think of anything but that shotgun when I rode in the Farraday elevator.

So, there I was, May 1942, a little black dog on my desk, a Tuesday night when I was supposed to have been with Carmen watching Henry Armstrong take on two guys in an exhibition at the Ocean Park Arena. If the dog and I made it through the next hour, I might still be able to pick Carmen up and catch the match. I knew I had at least four bucks left. So, with a buck for the tickets I could ... The dog whined. He either needed a walk, sensed my fear, or had some moment of dog magic that told him something was about to happen.

The elevator ground up past the first floor. My office, really a closet inside the offices of Sheldon Minck, D.D.S., was on the fourth floor. So, considering the speed of the elevator and the way things seemed to be slowing down, I had plenty of time. I glanced over at the corpse in the corner. He looked like a guy who just fell asleep waiting in Union Station for the next train to Anaheim. His hands were folded in his lap and his chin was resting on his chest. His eyes were closed. I had closed them. A whisp of hair dangled over his forehead and down past his nose. If he were a cartoon character, he'd have blown the wisp of hair away while still asleep and the audience would have laughed. But he wasn't blowing and he wasn't funny.

The dog whined again and I looked down at him. His brown eyes looked up at my face. What he saw was a private detective named Toby Peters who was closer to fifty than forty-five, had more than a few gray hairs in his sideburns, sweated too easily, and lived with an always sore back and memories bought with hard time. Standing up, which I seemed to be doing less and less, I was close to five nine. My face was dark and most notable for the piece of flesh in its center, which could only charitably be called a nose. God began to remold my nose when I was about thirteen. God used my older brother Phil as his instrument and my brother used a baseball. Later God, without too much creativity, remolded the nose some more with an automobile windshield. Still not content, he let my brother put the final touches to the job with his fist.

That God/sculpture explanation isn't mine. It was given to me a few years back by my landlord at the Farraday, Jeremy Butler, ex-pro wrestler, present poet. I didn't see the work of God in my nose when I looked in the mirror or at my reflection in a store window on Main Street. I saw a tough-looking, surprisingly amused man who needed a new suit and a shave.

"Dog," I said aloud. "why am I happy?"

The dog whined again, but it wasn't heightened animal awareness. I was now sure he needed a walk I looked around and decided that he couldn't relieve himself anywhere in my office. I could let him out into Shelly's office and pretend I didn't know what he was doing. Given the recently scrubbed state of Shelly's lair, even Shelly might notice.

"Dog," I whispered, patting his head, "you'll just have to hold it. Think about something else."

The dog had no intention of thinking of something else. He stood up again on his stumpy legs and looked toward the window and downtown Los Angeles. There was an alley out there but it was four stories down.

The elevator ground past the second floor and the corpse slumped a little further in his chair, probably from the vibrations of the approaching elevator. Maybe it was a warning. Whatever it was, it scared the dog, which stood up on the desk and proved that he couldn't think about something else. I jumped up and back, but my office is just big enough for my desk, my chair, and one other chair jammed behind the door. There was no place to escape but out the window. His leg was up and he was aiming at the telephone.

"No," I said calmly. "Don't. Wait. For Chrissake, is a little bladder retention too much to ask after all I've done for you?"

I didn't expect him to understand me, at least not the words. When I was a kid, I had had a dog named Murphy. I used to talk to Murphy a lot, and he always pretended that he understood, which is what dogs learn to do early when they discover that they're really too stupid to understand. Sometimes you can fool a dog that way. The dog in my office was smarter than the average dog. He put his paw down and whined.

I reached over to the desk and into the bag of Fritos I'd picked up earlier at Safeway and offered a handful to the dog. He sniffed at them, forgot his problem for a second, licked a Frito, took one in his mouth, and sat down to chew on it.

I had lost track of time. Maybe it was the grinding of Fritos in dog teeth that had covered the sound, but I suddenly realized that the elevator had stopped. I tried to listen but the dog had gone for the Frito bag and was pushing paper and grinding, his black nose turning Frito orange. The door to the outside office opened, and then the inner door. All that was left for the killer was to take six or seven stops across the room and open my office door. Above the sound of the distracted dog on my desk I counted the steps and watched as the shadow fell across the pebbled glass of my door.

A hand reached for the door, hesitated, and turned the knob. I reached for my gun on the desk, but it wasn't where I had just put it. The dog had probably kicked it to the floor, where it lay somewhere in darkness.

The door began to open, and I had no time to come up with a plan that didn't include a gun in my hand. I sat back as the door pushed cautiously forward and did my best to look like a dangerous man who has aces full. I said, "We've been waiting for you. Sorry I can't offer you a chair but the only one I've got is occupied by a corpse."

The killer, whose gun I was trying not to look at, stepped in and with a smile said, "Then both chairs will soon be occupied by corpses."

"I don't think so," I said, grinning and reaching slowly to pat the damned dog that might be responsible for getting me permanently punctured. "I've got a few things to tell you."

"Have you?" said the killer with some amusement, closing the door and stepping in. The gun was now leveled at my belly, about where the shotgun would have pointed a decade earlier if Thompson hadn't put a not-too-neat hole in that robber in Gleadale. But Thompson couldn't help me now. He had retired to a hardware store in Fresno.

"I have," I said, hoping to catch a glimpse of that damned gun from the corner of my eye.

"Then tell them. I've always liked The Arabian Nights, Mr. Peters," said the killer with smart-ass amusement, leaning back against the wall. "You like Scheherazade, will live as long as your tales amuse me and are relevant to our present situation."

"What I have to say you'll find interesting," I said with a lopsided grin.

"Begin," said the killer, and since I had no idea what I was going to say, I cursed the moment one week earlier on a May day when I had entered the Farraday Building feeling sorry for myself but expecting more than a week of time left on earth.

CHAPTER 2

Normally, I parked my '38 Ford coupe behind the Farraday. But "normally" didn't exist any longer. There was a war on and car parts were hard to get, especially tires. The best source for fenders, running boards, bumpers, and tires was your friendly neighborhood garage mechanic, who might have a deal with some enterprising youngsters or oldsters who could strip a defenseless car in three minutes. If the war went on more than a few years, I suggested to No-Neck Arnie, the mechanic who had sold me the car, we'd get to the point where there would be only a few cars left, each one a monster combination of Fords, DeSotos, Caddies, and whatever.

"You're a philosopher," Arnie had said, shifting his body around to look at me, since he had no neck. "Like that guy on the radio, what's his name, Fred Allen."

I had a deal with Arnie. I parked my car in his garage, where he stopped his people from taking it apart. He also kept it running. In exchange for this, he charged me more than the usual war budget, which, considering the times, was quite fair. I looked back at the Ford, whose bumper sagged and whose right headlight looked bloodshot.

"A beauty, Arn," I said before going out through the open garage door. I was in no hurry. I had nothing waiting for me in the office besides a list of phone calls to make to see if I could pick up some fill-in for hotel detectives who might be going on vacation. I also had a lead on some guard work at Grumman's. A guy I had once worked with at Warner Brothers told me they were beefing up their night staff now that they had government contracts, and maybe I could get on part-time.

That was going to be the last call on my list. The Grumman lead was desperation, a confession that I was up against it. I had told myself five years earlier that I was not going to put on a uniform again, not no time, not never. I'd made my vow after wearing the Glendale cop uniform and the uniform of the security staff at Warners. There was no way I was going to put on a uniform again unless there was nothing else to do. Not never comes sooner than you think when you have to come up with the rent and enough cereal and eggs to stay alive.

I took in the late morning sun heading down Main Street toward the Farraday, which is on Hoover and Ninth. I went past the row of Mexican tiendas at the Plaza end of Main. Some guys were arguing in Spanish in a barber shop. One of the guys was the barber, who held a scissors in his hand. In any other part of town, you could be sure the barber would win the argument, but there's no one more stubborn than a Mexican who knows he's right, even if the other guy is holding a sharp scissors and has him pinned in a chair. Some tinny music blared out of a phonograph shop as I crossed over and passed the new city hall that looked like one of those Egyptian obelisks with windows.

Now I was in my neighborhood, crowds passing dark working men's clothing stores, storefront burlesque houses, and nickel movie theaters. Before the war the crowds moved slowly, people from other neighborhoods looking for bargains, and people from this neighborhood just looking at the ground and shuffling along. The war had, changed that. Now people were hurrying and the faces were those of kids in soldier and sailor uniforms with little bird chests, looking scared or trying with little success to look tough. The street smelled of the stuff they cleaned the uniforms with.

The crowd thinned out when I hit Hoover. The smell of the lobby of the Farraday was one of the things I could count on. Not many people love the smell of Lysol. I love it. The Farraday Building perspired Lysol, which Jeremy Butler used generously to try to fight off mildew and decay. Lysol was the dominant smell, but there were others beyond it in the dark echoing hall as I paused in front of the lobby directory to be sure my name was still there. Seeping through the Lysol was the smell of drunks who kept finding places to sleep in the nooks and crevices of the Farraday until they were routed gently but firmly by the giant landlord, Jeremy, who lived in a comfortable apartment there, the only apartment in the building, maintained only so he could be near the trenches for his constant battle with dirt, grime, and humanity. Jeremy never complained. He simply swept, polished, cleaned, and carried on with the knowledge that the process never ended. The other smells of the Farraday vied for my attention when I got past the lobby and headed for the wide stairs, listening to the echo of my own footsteps. I smelled sweat, bacon, oil, glue, paper from the four floors of cubbyhole offices that housed bookies, doctors who might not be doctors, companies that did not do business that anyone could identify, and photographers whose sample photos in the hall dated back to the days of silent movie stars.

I whistled as I went up, ignoring the tug inside my body that reminded me that a sore back was never more than a trauma away. By the fourth floor I wasn't feeling quite so loving about the Farraday, and when I paused in front of the door to Shelly Minck's office, my good mood had disappeared. I was getting close to that uniform, and the sound of Shelly's drill didn't help.

Shelly was constantly changing the sign on the glass outside our office. He had a deal with one of the tenants in the Farraday, Kevin Potnow the photographer, who also did a bit of signpainting. Shelly took care of Kevin's teeth and Kevin did photographs of Shelly and his wife Mildred and changed the lettering on our door when a new idea struck Shelly for drawing in clientele who happened to be passing by the darkened door on the fourth floor of the building on their way to oblivion.

The current lettering, in gold, read:

S. David Minck, D.D.S., L.L.D., O.S., B.B., PH.B. Dentist and Oral Surgeon

In small, black letters below this was written:

Toby Peters, Investigations


The t in Peters was almost gone. I went in, ignored the filthy anteroom, and went through the next door into Shelly's suite. The dishes were still piled high in the sink in the corner, with various dental tools peeking up out of pots in which at some unremembered point in time chili had been burned. The coffee was bubbling black in the pot on the hot plate and Shelly, short, bald, and glaring myopically through his thick, slipping glasses, was chewing on his cigar butt and drilling away at the mouth of someone who looked familiar.

Shelly paused to wipe his sweaty hands on his dirty smock as his voice hummed "The Man I Love."

"Seidman," I said, looking at the cadaverous man in the dental chair, "what the hell are you doing here?"

Seidman refused the not-too-clean cup of water handed to him by Shelly for rinsing and spat into the white porcelain bowl.

"You're a detective. Figure it out," Shelly said, searching for some instrument beneath the pile of metal on the table nearby. "We don't need William Powell for this one." He chuckled. "A man is in a dental chair." Shelly looked up grinning, the blunt instrument he had been seeking now in his hand. "A dentist," he went on, pointing the instrument at his own chest, "is standing over him and a white cloth covers the man from the neck down."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Fala Factor by Stuart M. Kaminsky. Copyright © 1984 Stuart M. Kaminsky. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com.
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.

Meet the Author

Stuart M. Kaminsky (1934–2009) was one of the most prolific crime fiction authors of the last four decades. Born in Chicago, he spent his youth immersed in pulp fiction and classic cinema—two forms of popular entertainment which he would make his life’s work. After college and a stint in the army, Kaminsky wrote film criticism and biographies of the great actors and directors of Hollywood’s Golden Age. In 1977, when a planned biography of Charlton Heston fell through, Kaminsky wrote Bullet for a Star, his first Toby Peters novel, beginning a fiction career that would last the rest of his life. Kaminsky penned twenty-four novels starring the detective, whom he described as “the anti-Philip Marlowe.” In 1981’s Death of a Dissident, Kaminsky debuted Moscow police detective Porfiry Rostnikov, whose stories were praised for their accurate depiction of Soviet life. His other two series starred Abe Lieberman, a hardened Chicago cop, and Lew Fonseca, a process server. In all, Kaminsky wrote more than sixty novels. He died in St. Louis in 2009.

Stuart M. Kaminsky (1934–2009) was one of the most prolific crime fiction authors of the last four decades. Born in Chicago, he spent his youth immersed in pulp fiction and classic cinema—two forms of popular entertainment which he would make his life’s work. After college and a stint in the army, Kaminsky wrote film criticism and biographies of the great actors and directors of Hollywood’s Golden Age. In 1977, when a planned biography of Charlton Heston fell through, Kaminsky wrote Bullet for a Star, his first Toby Peters novel, beginning a fiction career that would last the rest of his life. Kaminsky penned twenty-four novels starring the detective, whom he described as “the anti-Philip Marlowe.” In 1981’s Death of a Dissident, Kaminsky debuted Moscow police detective Porfiry Rostnikov, whose stories were praised for their accurate depiction of Soviet life. His other two series starred Abe Lieberman, a hardened Chicago cop, and Lew Fonseca, a process server. In all, Kaminsky wrote more than sixty novels. He died in St. Louis in 2009. 

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