Bill Pronzini: The Stalker

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Bill Pronzini The Stalker
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    The Stalker
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    Английский
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This is a fast paced mystery/thriller. Men who participated in a never solved robbery of an armored truck are being picked off one-by-one 11 years after the crime.

Bill Pronzini: другие книги автора


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Books by Bill Pronzini

Snowbound


With an Extreme Burning


Panic


Games


The Jade Figurine


Dead Run


Night Screams


Masques


The Hangings


Firewind


The Last Days of Horse-Shy Halloran


Quincannon

The Stalker

Bill Pronzini


THE STALKER


Copyright © 1971 by Bill Pronzini


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the author.

The sins ye do by two and two ye must pay for one by one.

Rudyard Kipling


Tomlinson

Prologue

March, 1959

The khaki-colored Smithfield armored car entered the enclosed grounds of Mannerling Chemical, a few miles south of Granite City, Illinois, at ten minutes past nine of a cold, crisp Wednesday morning—precisely on schedule for its quarterly pick-up of the company’s substantial cash receipts. It pulled to a stop in front of the Accounting Office, which was located in a wing of Building Four just inside the eastern gate, and driver Felix Marik stepped out into the frosty air to unlock the rear doors. Guards Walter Macklin and Lloyd Fosbury emerged with several empty canvas money sacks, and entered the Accounting Office.

Just as driver Marik stepped around to the side of the car, two young men dressed in dark business suits and dark overcoats, carrying small brown briefcases, approached him at a leisurely pace. They had left Parking Lot 2, directly across the asphalt roadway from Building Four, immediately after the armored car’s arrival. The more muscular of the two men wore a thin black mustache attached with spirit gum, and had cotton balls inside his mouth to make his cheeks seem round and puffy; pinned to the left breast pocket of his coat was a counterfeit of the blue and white triangular identity badge which Mannerling required for admittance to its grounds. Black lettering on it read: ROBERTS, M. R.—ACCT. 4. His name was Steve Kilduff. The lean, spare man with him—wearing a set of false, bucked front teeth and whitish actor’s make-up to make his normally weathered complexion seem pallid—had an identity badge which said he was Garfield, D. L., also Acct. 4. His real name was Jim Conradin.

Kilduff smiled cheerfully as they approached the Smithfield driver. He stopped and said, “Good morning.”

“Morning,” Marik answered.

“Little nippy out, eh?”

“You can say that again.”

“Hell, what it really is, is ass-freezing weather.”

Marik grinned. “Amen, brother.”

Conradin had moved to stand next to the left front fender of the armored car. While Kilduff joked pleasantly with Marik about the weather, Jim took his slightly trembling and gloved left hand from his overcoat pocket and placed a small blob of putty-like material on the upper treads of the tire. He stepped away and nodded almost imperceptibly as Kilduff glanced at him.

Kilduff rubbed his hands together briskly. “What say we get some coffee before we go to work, Dave?”

“Good idea,” Conradin said. He was trying to control a nervous tic which had gotten up along the left side of his jaw.

Marik said to them, “Well, take it slow.”

“Sure,” Kilduff told him. “You, too.”

They moved away, passing the door to the Accounting Office. Just as they did, the door opened and Macklin and Fosbury came out with their guns drawn, each carrying several of the now-full money sacks. Kilduff and Conradin did not look at them as they re-entered the rear of the armored car. Marik locked the doors and returned to the cab and swung the car into a U-turn, heading toward the eastern gate.

Kilduff and Conradin cut diagonally across the asphalt roadway and walked slowly toward the far end of Parking Lot 2—where a six-year-old DeSoto sedan waited for them.

Kilduff said, “Clockwork, Jim.”

“Yeah.”

“Listen, are you all right?”

“Sure. I’m fine.”

They were nearing the DeSoto now, and Conradin began to walk a little faster, his eyes fixed on the dew-streaked black hood. He was two steps in front of Kilduff, fifty feet from the sedan, when an oliveuniformed Mannerling ground-security guard, Leo Helgerman, stepped out from between two other parked cars almost directly in front of them.

Conradin stopped abruptly, and he and Helgerman stood looking at one another for a brief second—Helgerman with eyes that were faintly quizzical; Conradin’s eyes round and moist with fear. Kilduff stepped around on Conradin’s left, smiling disarmingly, building amiable words of greeting in his throat.

But Conradin was already moving by then, moving forward, and he brought his right hand up and slashing down across the back of Helgerman’s neck. The guard’s eyes rolled up in his head and he fell soundlessly to the cold, wet asphalt.

Kilduff jumped forward and caught Conradin’s arm and spun him around. “You stupid son of a bitch!” he said between clenched teeth. “What did you do that for?”

Conradin stood trembling. There was a thin, silvery sheen of sweat on his face. “I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know.”

Kilduff looked at Helgerman and saw that he was still breathing. He pulled Conradin toward the DeSoto, opened the passenger door, and shoved him inside. He went around and slid in under the wheel. The starter made a labored whirring sound, took hold, and Kilduff let out the clutch; he turned onto the company road which led to the western gate.

Conradin sat with his hands clenching his knees, and the sweat streamed down into the collar of his white shirt, smearing some of the make-up on his face and neck. He was still trembling.

“Snap out of it, will you?” Kilduff told him grimly. “Do you want to blow the whole thing?”

“Jesus,” Conradin said. He was staring straight ahead. “Oh Jesus, Jesus.”

But they had no trouble at the gate ...


The stolen yellow tow truck, with the words “Dave’s Garage” in blue letters on the body, was parked in a clump of willow and buckeye trees—just off the three-hundred-yard paved access road which wound through grassy fields to connect the eastern gate of Mannerling Chemical with State Highway 64.

Three men sat waiting in the cab, each of them dressed in gray work coveralls. The driver, whose name was Gene Beauchamp, said, “What if the goddamn tire doesn’t blow when it’s supposed to?”

“It’ll blow, don’t worry,” the man in the middle said. He was Larry Drexel. “We tested the corrosive a dozen times, didn’t we?”

“At least that.”

“Okay,” Drexel said. He looked at his wristwatch. “They should be coming out of the gate right about now. Let’s get set.”

They took grotesquely designed Hallowe’en masks from the pockets of their coveralls, slipped them over their heads, and put on peakedbill caps pulled low. Drexel and the third man, Paul Wykopf, took blued-steel revolvers from under the seat and held them in their laps.

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