Masters of Noir: Volume One
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by Ed McBain, Mickey Spillane, Lawrence Block
Description: A walk on the wild side! In this series of collections of gritty Noir and Hardboiled stories, you'll find some of the best writers of the craft writing in their prime. The following stories are included in this first volume of Masters of Noir: IDENTITY UNKNOWN by JONATHAN CRAIG, THE GIRL BEHIND THE HEDGE by MICKEY SPILLANE, CARRERA'S WOMAN by ED McBAIN writing as RICHARD MARSTEN, BUTCHER by RICHARD S. PRATHER, LOOK DEATH IN THE EYE by LAWRENCE BLOCK, ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON by GIL BREWER, FRAME by FRANK KANE, DOUBLE by BRUNO FISCHER, and AS I LIE DEAD by FLETCHER FLORA.
eBook Publisher: Wonder Audiobooks, LLC/Wonder eBooks,
eBookwise Release Date: July 2010
3 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [227 KB]
Reading time: 150-210 min.
CARRERA'S WOMAN by ED McBAIN writing as RICHARD MARSTEN
We were just about even. The Mexican sky hung over our heads like a pale blue circus tent. We crouched behind the rocks, and we each held .45's in our fists. We were high in the Sierra Madres, and the rocks were jagged and sharp; high outcroppings untouched by erosive waters. Between us was a stretch of pebble-strewn flatland and a solid wall of hatred that seemed alive in the heat of the sun.
We were just about even, but not quite.
The guy behind the other .45 had ten thousand dollars that belonged to me. I had something that belonged to him, his woman.
She lay beside me now, flat on her belly. She was slim and browned from the sun, a colorful print skirt curving over the smooth roundness of her body. Her legs were long and sleek where the skirt ended. I held her wrist tightly, her arm twisted into a V behind her back. She had stopped struggling now, and she lay peacefully, her head twisted away from me, her hair looking like black, untamed weeds against the ground.
"Carrera!" I shouted.
"I hear you, senor," he answered. His voice was fat, fat the way he was. I thought of his paunch, and I thought of the ten G's in the money belt, pressed tight against his sweaty flesh. My money. I'd worked hard for that money. I'd sweated in the Tampico oil fields for more than three years, socking it away a little at a time, letting it pile up for the day I could kiss Mexico goodbye.
"Look, Carrera," I said, "I'm giving you one last chance."
"Save your breath, senor," he called back.
"You'd better save yours, you bastard," I shouted. "You'd better save it because pretty soon you're not going to have any."
"Perhaps," he answered. I couldn't see him because his head was pulled down below the rocks. But I knew he was grinning, and I wanted to strangle him for it.
'I want that ten thousand," I shouted.
He laughed aloud this time, and my fingers tightened involuntarily around the girl's wrist. "Ah, but that is where the difficulty lies," he said. "I want it, too."
"Look, Carrera, I'm through playing around," I told him. "If you're not out of there in five minutes, I'm going to put a hole in your sweetie's head." I paused, wondering if he'd heard me. "You got that, Carrera? Five minutes."
He waited again before answering, and then his voice drifted across the flatland. "You had better shoot her now, senor. You are not getting this money."
The girl began laughing, a throaty laugh that started somewhere down in her chest and bubbled up onto her lips.
"Shut up!" I told her. I let her wrist go for a second and slapped her on the behind, hard, the palm of my hand smarting. I grabbed her wrist again, and bent her arm up behind her.
She was still laughing.
"What's so damn funny?" I asked her.
"You will never outwait Carrera," she said. Her voice was as low and as deep as her laugh. "Carrera is a very patient man."
"I can be patient, too, sister," I said. "I patiently saved that ten thousand bucks for three years, and no tin horn crook is going to step in and swipe it."
"You underestimate Carrera," she said.
"No, baby, I've got Carrera pegged to a tee. He's a small-time punk. Back in the States, he'd be shaking pennies out of gum machines. He probably steals tortillas from blind old ladies down here."
"You underestimate him," she repeated.
I shook my head. "No, baby, this is Carrera's big killing--or so he thinks. That ten thousand is his key to the big time. Only it belongs to me, and it's coming back to me."
She rolled over suddenly, pinning my arm under her back. She wore a peasant blouse with a swooping neckline, and a shadowed cleft was deep between her breasts. Her lips were a little too full, almost swollen looking. And her mouth was a little too wide for the narrow oval face. She looked up at me through heavily fringed eyes, smoldering brown, intense with the reflection of the Mexican sky--and with something else.
"If you were smart," she said, "you would leave. You would pack up and go, my friend, and you wouldn't stop to look back."
"I'm not smart."
"I know. So you'll stay here, and Carrera will kill you. Or I will kill you. Either way, you will be dead, and your money will be gone, anyway." She paused and a faint smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. "It is better that you lose only your money."
I glanced at my watch. "Carrera has about two minutes, honey."
"And after that?"
"It's up to Carrera," I said. As if to check, I shouted, "You like your girlfriends dead, Carrera?"
"Ten thousand dollars will buy a lot of girlfriends," he called back.
I looked down at her. She seemed to be comfortable resting against my arm. I could feel the warm flesh of her back where it pressed against my hand.
"Did you hear your boyfriend?" I asked.
"He doesn't seem to give a damn whether I shoot you or not."
She shrugged, and her sudden motion did things to the front of her blouse. "It is not that," she whispered. "He simply knows that you will not kill me."
"Don't be too surprised, baby."
She lifted one black brow against her forehead, held it bent there like the crooked wing of a raven in flight. The smile flitted across her face again, was gone almost before it started. "You will not kill me," she said.
I didn't answer her. I kept staring at my watch until the five minutes were up. I was suddenly sweating all over. My shirt stuck to my back, and I could feel the perspiration trickling down my chest, oozing through the blond hairs that covered it. My brow was beaded with enormous drops of sweat that converged and slid down the side of my nose.
After a long while, she said, "See?"
That was all she said. I looked at her for a few seconds, and then I released her wrist, pulling my arm from under her. I held the .45 on her as I undid my belt. My dungarees were tight around my waist. I'd thrown them on the night I caught them both in my hotel room, Carrera and this wench. Carrera was fast for a fat man, but I'd grabbed his woman, and I'd kept her with me on the chase that led through the streets of Tampico, out past El Higo, Taniajas, Tancanhuitz, Chicontepac--Mexican towns as old as the Aztecs, towns with rutted cart roads that had raised hell with the tires of my '46 Olds. Carrera had driven an old Ford. He drove it recklessly, ditching it when we reached the mountains, stumbling forward on foot then, with the girl and me close behind him.
"Roll over," I told her.
Her eyes opened in mock surprise, then narrowed lewdly.
"Let's not get cute," I said. I grabbed her shoulder and shoved, and she rolled over, her skirt lifting with the movement, lifting over a soft, browned thigh. She pulled it down quickly, and I grabbed her hands and crossed them behind her back. I wrapped the belt around them tightly, looped it through, and took another turn. She sat up when I was finished, and studied my face carefully.
"My feet, senor. Are you not afraid I will kick you to death?"
She was mocking me, and I was ready to answer when I realized her last statement had been a carefully calculated one. She was trying to shame me into leaving her feet unbound.
I pulled my shirt tails out of the band of my dungarees, and started to unbutton the shirt. I was going to tear it into strips and use these to tie her feet together. I thought of the sun overhead, and I realized how pleasant it would be with a blistering sunburn and that fat pig across the dirt alley with a .45 pointed my way. I buttoned my shirt again and let it hang outside my trousers. Then I sat down across her knees quickly, pinning her legs to the ground. A surprised look crossed her face, and her eyes grew saucer-wide as I took the hem of her skirt in my hands and began tearing.
She tried to kick, so I shoved her back with the heel of my hand, and she sprawled onto her back and lay still while I tore a wide band from the bottom of her skirt. It made the skirt a good deal shorter. Her knees were round and smooth, and her calves were muscular, like a dancer's calves, rippling with a supple, sinuous grace. She looked at me with unmasked hatred in her eyes. She was Carrera's woman, all right, clear to the marrow.
I tore the band of material into narrower strips and reached for her ankles. She kicked out viciously, aiming for my face as I bent over her. I threw one arm across her legs, looped the material under her ankles. I straddled her then, my back to her face, and finished knotting the cloth around her ankles. I did a good job. Not so tight as to stop circulation, but tight enough to prevent any running around. I got up then and lit a cigarette, tucking the heavy Colt into my waistband.
"Now what?" she asked. She was leaning back against the rocks, a loose strand of hair falling over one eye.
"What's your name?"
She didn't answer.
I shrugged. "Suit yourself," I said.
"My name is Linda," she said at length.
"Make yourself comfortable, Linda," I told her. "We're going to be here for quite some time."