The Sweet Ride
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by Richard Prather
Description: "As far as I'm concerned, Richard S. Prather was the King of the paperback P.I writers of the 60s. Shell Scott should be in the Top Ten of any readers list of favorite private eyes."
--Robert J. Randisi
For four decades, Richard S. Prather published over 40 works of detective fiction, most featuring his clever, cad-about-town hero, Shell Scott. Known for their arched humor, punchy dialogue, and sunny Southern California locale, the Shell Scott books represent one of the greatest private eye collections ever produced.
THE SWEET RIDE
A Shell Scott Mystery
Shell Scott. He's a guy with a pistol in his pocket and murder on his mind. The crime world's public enemy number one, this Casanova is a sucker for a damsel in distress. When a pair of lovely legs saunters into his office, he can't help but take the job, even when the case is a killer. Martinique was a cool, creamy piece of dynamite with a ten-second fuse and an I.Q. around one hundred sixty. Those were numbers Shell Scott liked to play--except in her case they seemed to add up to murder.
Honored with the Life Achievement Award by the Private Eye Writers of America!
"(Shell Scott is) as amusingly blithe a figure as the field has seen since the Saint."
eBook Publisher: E-Reads, 1972
eBookwise Release Date: April 2002
10 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [327 KB]
Reading time: 215-301 min.
All Other formats: Printing DISABLED, Read-aloud DISABLED
I swung left into Mulberry Drive and headed back toward town, hoping Mayor Everson Fowler's phone call to the local law had taken Sergeant Samuels and Officer Jonah off my tail for good. I was also hoping, with slight unease, that we'd been talking about the same people.
Those two guys -- or at least the one I'd gotten an unappetizingly close look at -- were sure funny-looking fuzz. And I have been very closely associated, though usually to my profit and pleasure, with one hell of a lot of fuzz.
I was pretty far from my home base, Sheldon Scott, Investigations in downtown L.A., and maybe that fact plus the unaccustomed chill in the Northern California air was responsible for the small knot of tension between my shoulder blades, and the coolness that once in a while spider-stepped along my spine.
There was nothing except that brisk breezy nip to give anyone goose bumps or even mild anxieties. This was the tail end of winter, one of those afternoons when spring steals a March day and shows off a week or two ahead of schedule, the air clean and clear, sun bright in a preposterously blue sky.
I had the front windows of my rented Cadillac rolled down, and the chill breeze, strong enough to bend even my bristle of white-blond hair, felt good on my chops. I'm thirty years old, six-foot-two and two hundred and six solid pounds, healthy, whole, and generally full of vigorous beans. I should have been feeling great despite the several hours of sleep I'd lost during the past week, particularly considering how uncommonly toothsome and friendly were the tomatoes who had helped me lose them.
But I couldn't push that mild, constant uneasiness out of my mind, couldn't shake the occasional prickliness that cobwebbed the nape of my neck. It had started when I first spotted that dark sedan, the odd blue-black color of a beetle's wing, behind me early this morning. And the queer "something" had been bugging me, increasingly, ever since.
I knew what the trouble probably was.
In thirty years of living, and especially during my several years as a private investigator, I had been similarly bugged often enough before to recognize the symptoms. I was missing something. Most likely something very obvious, plain as a wart on a fan-dancer's fanny, something I'd looked smack-dab at but failed to see clearly. Perhaps because, as in the case of the fan-waving dancer, I had not been looking for warts.
I hadn't really been looking for much else, either, not yet. I'd been hired and pleasantly but firmly fired by one client, then swiftly reemployed by one of the wealthiest and -- in view of what my fee might now add up to -- most generous citizens of Newton. Newton, California, toward which I was now tooling my rented Cad. A slightly offbeat beginning, perhaps, and mildly perplexing, but nothing that struck me as unusually ominous or disturbing. Not, at least, on the surface....
The hell with it, I told myself. There had been other occasions when the "something" giving rise to symptoms of mild unease was no more than an overdose of L.A.'s smothering smog or the fact that my shorts were too tight. So I leaned forward, stretching against the too-tight seat belt, and snapped on the radio, found some music that sounded less like elephants tap-dancing to a Watusi wedding chant than do most pop arias, and made myself relax.
Soon I felt that tight knot atop my spine loosen a little, and warm a little, like a chunk of soft ice commencing to thaw. But not for long.
I was rolling down Mulberry a hair over the 50 m.p.h. speed limit, not more than a couple of miles from the Newton city limits, when the truck careened around a curve maybe two blocks ahead of me. It wasn't one of those little pickup trucks, or even a bigger cab and piggy-back-trailer job for carrying furniture to warehouses or an acre of manure from the farm. No, it was a monster cab-over-engine diesel rig with attached trailer, fenders like Volkswagens, and front bumper big enough to anchor a battleship, with the driver -- if it had one, which considering the erratic nature of its progress was a debatable question -- perched eight or ten feet up in the air. It looked like a flying locomotive, a dozen mobile homes stacked together, like a beat-up 747 jet preparing to land on me.
It roared around the curve coming fast from my left to right, swerved, skidded, and swung back into the left lane. His left. My lane. The one I was in.
If we hit head on, closing at well over a hundred miles an hour, the driver of that monstrosity might be considerably annoyed but I knew there'd be nothing left of my Cad, or me, except a colorful tangle of metallic strips and chunks like the remains of a giant time-bomb clock.
But then the truck gradually pulled over into the right lane, away from dead-ahead, and I sucked my lungs full of the nippy pre-spring air, and had time to start letting it out in a sigh of happy thanksgiving and sweet relief.
So at least I was relieved, and almost happy, when the sonofabitch hit me.
Copyright © 1972 by Richard S.Prather