Read The Twenty-Year Death Online

Authors: Ariel S. Winter

The Twenty-Year Death

BOOK: The Twenty-Year Death
4.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

SOME OTHER HARD CASE CRIME BOOKS YOU WILL ENJOY:

FIFTY-TO-ONE
by Charles Ardai

KILLING CASTRO
by Lawrence Block

THE DEAD MAN’S BROTHER
by Roger Zelazny

THE CUTIE
by Donald E. Westlake

HOUSE DICK
by E. Howard Hunt

CASINO MOON
by Peter Blauner

FAKE I.D.
by Jason Starr

PASSPORT TO PERIL
by Robert B. Parker

STOP THIS MAN!
by Peter Rabe

LOSERS LIVE LONGER
by Russell Atwood

HONEY IN HIS MOUTH
by Lester Dent

QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE
by Max Allan Collins

THE CORPSE WORE PASTIES
by Jonny Porkpie

THE VALLEY OF FEAR
by A.C. Doyle

MEMORY
by Donald E. Westlake

NOBODY’S ANGEL
by Jack Clark

MURDER IS MY BUSINESS
by Brett Halliday

GETTING OFF
by Lawrence Block

QUARRY’S EX
by Max Allan Collins

THE CONSUMMATA

by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

CHOKE HOLD
by Christa Faust

THE COMEDY IS FINISHED
by Donald E. Westlake

BLOOD ON THE MINK
by Robert Silverberg

FALSE NEGATIVE
by Joseph Koenig

The
TWENTY-YEAR
Death
by
Ariel S. Winter

A HARD CASE CRIME BOOK

(HCC-108)

First Hard Case Crime edition: August 2012

Published by

Titan Books

A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd

144 Southwark Street

London

SE1 OUP

in collaboration with Winterfall LLC

Copyright © 2012 by Ariel S. Winter

Cover painting copyright © 2012 by Charles Pyle

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Print edition ISBN 978-0-85768-581-0

E-book ISBN 978-0-85768-741-8

Design direction by Max Phillips

www.maxphillips.net

Typeset by Swordsmith Productions

The name “Hard Case Crime” and the Hard Case Crime logo are trademarks of Winterfall LLC. Hard Case Crime books are selected and edited by Charles Ardai.

Printed in the United States of America

Visit us on the web at
www.HardCaseCrime.com

Contents

1. A Man in the Street

2. Malniveau Prison

3. The American Writer

4. Another One

5. Five Wooden Boxes

6. Hansel and Gretel

7. Visiting Hours

8. Lost and Found

9. The Assistant Warden

10. A Lineup

11. Getting Somewhere

12. Madame Rosenkrantz is Found

13. Thirty-two Years

14. Roadblock

15. Dinner with Friends

16. Clotilde-ma-Fleur

17. Mahossier in the Infirmary

The
TWENTY-YEAR
Death
Malniveau
PRISON

in memoriam
G.S.
with apologies

1.
A Man in the Street

The rain started with no warning. It had been dark for an hour by then, and the night had masked the accumulation of clouds. But once it began, the raindrops fell with such violence that everyone in Verargent felt oppressed.

After forty minutes of constant drumming—it was near eight o’clock, Tuesday, April 4, 1931—the rain eased some, settling into the steady spring rainfall that would continue throughout the night.

The rain’s new tenor allowed for other sounds. The baker, on his way to bed for the night, heard the lapping of a large body of water from behind his basement door. He shot back the lock, and rushed downstairs to find nearly two feet of water covering the basement floor. A gushing stream ran down the wall that faced the street.

Appalled, the baker rushed up the stairs calling to his wife. She hurried past him, down the stairs, to see for herself, as he went to the coat rack to retrieve his black rain slicker. This had happened before. Something blocked the gutter at the side of the street, and the water was redirected down their drive, flooding the basement. Somebody in Town Hall would hear from him in the morning.

He opened the front door and went out into the rain just as his wife arrived from the basement. The force of the storm pressed the hood of his slicker over his forehead. He hurried
down the drive with his head bowed; rivulets of water formed long v’s on the packed earth beneath his feet. Now he’d be up much of the night bailing out the basement, and he had to be up at three-thirty to make the bread. The mayor would hear about this in the morning!

He reached the end of the drive, about twenty-five feet, and looked along the curb towards the opening to the sewer. The streetlamps were not lit, but there appeared to be a person lying in the gutter. The baker cursed all drunks.

“Hey!” he called, approaching the man, who was lying face down. The baker’s voice was almost covered by the rain. “Hey, you!” He kicked the man’s foot. There was no response. The street was dark. No one else was out in the storm. The houses across the way and along the street were shuttered. He kicked the man again, cursing him. Water still coursed along the drive towards his house.

His schedule was shot; tomorrow was going to be a nightmare. Then he noticed that the drunk’s face was buried in the water coursing around his body, and the baker felt the first flicker of panic.

He knelt, soaking his pants leg. The rain felt like pins and needles against his shoulders. Choking back his discomfort, he reached for the drunk’s shoulder, and rolled him away from the curb so that he was lying on his back in the street. The drunk’s head rolled to the side. His eyes were open; his face was bloated. He was undisturbed by the rain.

The baker jerked back. The concrete thought:
He’s dead!
coincided with a gathering numbness and the uncomfortable beat of his heart in his throat. The baker turned, and hurried back to the house.

His wife, elbows cupped in opposite hands, held herself at the door. “Did you fix it?”

“Call the police,” the baker said.

His wife went to the phone stand at the foot of the stairs. “You’re dripping on the floor; take off your coat.”

“Call the police,” the baker said, not explaining himself. “Call the police, call the police.”

His wife raised the phone to her ear. “The line’s down. It must be the storm.”

The baker turned and grabbed the doorknob.

“Where are you going? The basement...”

“There’s a man dead in the street.”

The baker lived ten minutes from Town Hall, which was also the police station. Nervous, he avoided looking at the dead man as he turned towards the center of town. The rain was still steady, a static hush over everything that served to both cloud and concentrate the baker’s hurried thoughts: A man was dead. The basement was flooded. It was late. A man was dead.

At the police station, he found that it would not have mattered if the phone lines had been operational. Of the three officers on duty, two had been called to assist with an automobile crash before the phone lines had gone down.

“The rain makes the roads treacherous,” the remaining officer explained. “People shouldn’t be out.”

“But the man’s dead,” the baker insisted, confused that these words had not inspired a flurry of activity.

“We just have to wait for Martin and Arnaud to return.”

The baker sat on one of the three wooden chairs that lined the wall between the front door and the counter where the officer
sat. Small puddles of water refracted on the tile, tracing the steps the baker had taken since entering the police station. The officer had already taken his name and statement, and now was trying to pass the time, but the baker was unable to focus. He was exhausted.

Martin and Arnaud returned twenty minutes later. They were young men, the fronts of their slickers covered in mud from their recent work at the automobile crash. They glanced at the baker, but ignored him, talking to each other, until the officer on duty interrupted them and explained the baker’s situation.

It was decided that Martin would accompany the baker back to his house, while Arnaud would go in the police car to the hospital to retrieve a medic and an ambulance.

Back out in the rain, the men were silent. The streets were still deserted. Even the few late-night cafés and bars at the center of town were closed. Martin and the baker arrived at the baker’s house to find the body unmoved. It was still blocking the gutter, still sending water into the baker’s home. They stood several feet away in silence, their hands in the pockets of their slickers, their shoulders hunched against the rain.

They only had to wait a minute before a police car followed by an ambulance pulled up in front of the house. The medics jumped out of the ambulance and retrieved a stretcher from the back. Arnaud came to where Martin and the baker were standing.

“We will contact you tomorrow, if we need anything else,” Martin said.

The baker watched the medics load the body onto the stretcher and then into the ambulance.

“Somebody needs to fix the drainage,” the baker said, his mind clearing some now that the body had been removed.

“You’ll have to bring that up with the town in the morning.”

“I have to be up early, and my basement is flooded.”

The officers were unconcerned.

The baker’s heart wasn’t really in it.

The ambulance pulled away. One of the officers said, “We’ll let you know,” but he didn’t say what they would let him know. They got back into the police car and pulled away, leaving the street once again empty.

The baker could see that the water was already flowing correctly, draining into the sewer. He turned back up his drive, preparing for a night bailing out the basement.

Inside, his wife came downstairs. “What happened?”

The baker peeled off his dripping coat, and began to roll up the sleeves of his shirt. “Some drunk was taken unexpected.”

These were the details as related over breakfast the next morning to Chief Inspector Pelleter by the Verargent chief of police Letreau. Pelleter was in town to hear the testimony of a murderer at the nearby Malniveau Prison. This murderer, Mahossier, was one that Pelleter had arrested several years earlier for a brutal multiple child slaying in which he had kept children in cages in his basement in order to have them fight one another to the death. On two prior occasions, Mahossier had contacted Pelleter, claiming to have information. Pelleter hated to be on call to a convicted criminal, but Mahossier would talk to no one else, and his information had both times proved accurate. Over the course of the previous visits, Pelleter and chief of police Letreau had become friendly.

BOOK: The Twenty-Year Death
4.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Magnificent M.D. by Carol Grace
Undone, Volume 1 by Callie Harper
Seducing the Regency Dom by Raven McAllan
Uncovered by Truth by Rachael Duncan
Firewall by Henning Mankell
Mind Magic by Eileen Wilks
Girl with a Monkey by Thea Astley
Love Lies Bleeding by Remmy Duchene
Passion's Twins by Dee Brice