Donald E. Westlake
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The Mystery Writers of America's 1993 Grand Master offers an off-the-wall, delightfully funny mystery about the tobacco industry's attempt to catch a particularly elusive spy before he goes up in smoke. National ad/promo. Tour.
Everybody ran for it, arms outstretched. Everybody crashed into everybody else, and the vase crashed into the floor. Everybody stared at four hundred thousand dollars in tiny pieces, and the front door slammed. 45 Roving the outside of the house, while the thirteen pursuers went haring off in all directions—or, hounding off in all directions, since they kept baying at one another—Freddie felt a deep and total bitterness, very unlike his normally sunny personality. He had to keep reminding
shiny sharp things on path and lawn, so that when Freddie got here he’d have to move very slowly, clearing all the tacks and pins out of the way of his bare feet, if he was barefoot, or have to wear shoes. In either case, Barney and the others would see him coming. Barney went back into the house. Peg sat in the chair and watched the preparations continue, Leethe moving around the house to the left, Bosco and the trip-wiring thug to the right. From time to time, a car or pickup truck went by on
happening, three bulky men in brown uniforms came out of the building, paused to lock the front gate, then clambered into the little car and drove away. Peg didn’t wait for a signal from Freddie. She knew that place down there was empty, she knew he was in there dismantling the alarm system, she knew it would be only a very few minutes before he came out with a white towel or a roll of fax paper or something to wave at her, so she started the van and eased it slowly forward, through and beyond
the luxurious cordovan-tone leather of the Jaguar upholstery. “Is that right,” said Leethe. Sour as ever, which was his problem, wasn’t it? The other nice thing about meeting here instead of at the restaurant was, down here Barney didn’t have to do his restaurant grovel with this asshole. They could meet as… what? Partners. “Lemme tell you about Freddie Noon,” Barney told his partner. “He’s got no phone listed in his name, he isn’t registered to vote—” “That’s a surprise,” Leethe said, with
that horrible accident that so messed up his hands—but the eyebrows would show (or not show), so she bought black and brown eyebrow pencils, on the assumption that if she painted his invisible eyebrows, the color would show on top of the invisible hairs, and look realistic enough for a dim-lit restaurant after dark. Let’s see, what else? Skin-tone lipstick. Blush. But not too much stuff; she wasn’t up for a night on the town with Bozo the Clown. So she paid for her purchases—they were paying for