James Chase: Fast Buck

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James Chase Fast Buck
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    Fast Buck
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Fast Buck: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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International jewel thief, Paul Hater, knows a secret that everyone wants to know - and will go to any lengths to uncover. How long can he remain silent? When Hater is arrested in possession of a stolen necklace, the police use every possible means to persuade him to reveal the location of the rest of the collection. He remains silent and so begins his twenty-year prison sentence. Having exhausted all their leads, the International Detective Agency, acting on behalf of the insurers, must patiently await Hater's release before they can hope to find out more. But just as his day of release approaches, Hater is kidnapped by a ruthless international gang determined to force the secret from him and prepared to go to any lengths to do so….

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James Hadley Chase




Rico opened his office door and peered cautiously into the dimly lit restaurant. The long, narrow room with its tables already set for dinner, its small, rectangular dance floor, the band dais decorated with flowers, was empty and silent. He listened intently, then stepped back into the office and shut the door.

‘Be another half-hour before anyone shows up,’ he said. ‘What are you nervous about?’

Seated by the flat, ornate desk in a red-leather lounging chair was a blond giant of a man, whose thick, lumpy shoulders dwarfed the back of the chair. His clothes were creased and dusty. His slouch hat had an oil stain on the front, and the ribbon was frayed. His big, granite-hard face was yellowish white, and his eyes were pale grey: the colour of ice.

Rico watched him with uneasy excitement. He was always nervous and unsure of himself when he was with Baird. He knew Baird was dangerous, and yet he was fascinated by him as some people are fascinated by a snake.

Baird pulled out a dirty, screwed-up handkerchief and tossed what it contained on the desk.

Rico peered intently at the emerald and diamond bracelet. A little pang of greed ran through him. He had never seen anything so beautiful. Then caution edged the greed out of his mind. The bracelet was beyond his class: to attempt to handle it would be as dangerous and futile as a midget attempting to fight Joe Louis.

‘Don’t I keep telling you to leave this kind of stuff alone?’ he said furiously; furious because he was forced to recognise his own shortcomings. ‘It’s no good to me. It’s too dangerous. Al these stones match. The value of the piece is as it is now. Break it up, and it ain’t worth a goddam!’

‘Don’t feed me that crap,’ Baird said. His voice was surprisingly soft for a man of his size. ‘It’s worth a couple of grand even if you have to break it up.’

Rico shook his head. He wouldn’t admit to Baird that he knew of no one to whom he could sell a piece of this value. Ever since he had first met Baird he had tried to impress the big man with his importance.

‘I don’t want it,’ he said. ‘It’s too dangerous.’

Baird looked at Rico, his pale eyes probing.

‘All the same you’ve got to take it, Rico,’ he said. ‘I’m in a jam. The twist might die.’

Rico stiffened. His heart skipped a beat and then began to race madly.

‘What was that? What do you mean?’

Baird reached for a cigarette from a box on Rico’s desk. He smiled jeeringly at Rico. The sudden fear in Rico’s eyes amused him.

‘The bitch tried to scream. There was a prowl car not more than ten yards away. I had to hit her.’

Rico looked as if he were going to faint. He clung to the edge of the desk, his face turning white.

‘Why, you crazy bastard!’ he snarled furiously. ‘Get out of here! Don’t you know this’ll be the first place the cops will come to? They know you’re always here. What are you thinking of? Get out and stay out!’

Baird eased his powerful muscles. All along he had known Rico was a cowardly little rat. He had chosen him because of his cowardice. There were plenty of other fences in town he could have gone to, but none of them would be so easy to handle as Rico in a crisis. He knew, too, he had a fatal fascination for Rico. He was everything Rico wanted to be: big, strong, ruthless, and a killer; he was the out-of-reach fantasy of Rico’s private dreams.

‘I want some dough,’ he said. He lit the cigarette and flicked the match across the room. ‘Give me five Cs.’

Rico was frightened. Baird wouldn’t have said the woman might die unless he had a good reason for saying so. Murder! This was something he hadn’t bargained for when he had told Baird he could handle anything Baird brought to him.

He swept the bracelet across the desk towards Baird.

‘Not a dime! Take it and get out! Think I want to be caught on an accessory rap? Maybe you’re crazy, but I’m not!’

A muscle high up near Baird’s right eye began to twitch. He opened his coat so Rico could see the butt of the .45 Colt he carried in a holster under his arm.

‘Five Cs, Rico,’ he said, and Rico could read the threat in the pale eyes.

‘No!’ Rico said violently. His pock-marked face began to glisten with sweat. ‘You can’t do this to me, Baird! You’re not going to hold me up for something I don’t want! You and me have worked together…’

‘Five Cs,’ Baird repeated, ‘and snap it up. I want to get out of town before the heat’s on.’

Rico snarled at him. He looked like a cornered rat as he crouched over the desk, his teeth showing and sweat running down his face.

‘Get out!’ he said. ‘Take that bracelet with you! I wouldn’t touch it if you gave it to me!’

Baird’s hand shot out and gripped Rico’s shirt front. He hauled him out of his chair, dragged him across the desk, sweeping papers, the cigarette-box, the rack of fountain pens and the telephone to the floor. He stood up, lifting Rico off his feet. Rico hung in Baird’s grip like a sawdust doll, staring with protruding eyes at Baird’s expressionless face.

‘I said five Cs,’ Baird said softly.

He slapped Rico’s face with his left hand. He slapped it four times, very hard, knocking Rico’s head from one side to the other. The sound of the slaps was like the bursting of a paper bag. Then he let go of Rico, who staggered against his desk, his knees buckling.

‘Snap it up,’ Baird said, ‘or you’l get some more.’

Rico staggered to his desk and sat down. His hand went to his cheek, which had puffed up and had turned the colour of port wine. He opened a drawer, took out a bundle of bills and counted out five of them. With a shaking hand he pushed the bills across the desk.

Baird picked them up, tossed the bracelet into Rico’s lap and pocketed the bills.

‘Why do you have to do it the hard way?’ he asked. ‘When I want anything, I damn well get it. You should know that by now.’

Rico didn’t say anything. His fingers caressed his burning face, but he picked up the bracelet and dropped it into his pocket.

‘I’ll let you know where I get to,’ Baird went on as if nothing had happened. ‘I’ll be back in a week if she doesn’t croak. I’ve another little job lined up that might be something. If you hear of anything that’d fit me, keep it on ice until you hear from me? Okay?’

Rico licked his dry lips.

‘Sure,’ he said hoarsely, his hand still on his cheek.

‘Well, so long for now. Take a look outside. I don’t want to walk into any trouble.’

Rico made the effort and went to the door. He peered into the restaurant, listened, stepped back.

‘Okay,’ he said. ‘Go through the kitchens. Don’t let any-one see you.’

‘So long,’ Baird said again, and moved through the dimly lit restaurant, skirting the tables, moving softly, his hands in his pockets, without looking back.

Rico returned to his office and straightened his desk. When he had picked up the various articles that had fallen to the floor, he sat down limply. He took out a mirror from a drawer and examined his reflection. His eyes were hot and intent as he stared at the livid bruise across the side of his face. He put the mirror away, got up and crossed over to a cellarette standing in a corner. He mixed himself a stiff whisky and soda, sat down again, and took the bracelet from his pocket. He studied it for some time. It was a beautiful piece. At a guess it’d be worth five or six grand. But who would buy it? He frowned at the bracelet. It was the best piece he had ever had through his hands; the best and the most dangerous.

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