Read The Last Match Online

Authors: David Dodge

The Last Match

Raves
For
the Work of

DAVID
DODGE!

“A rattling job of story-telling to rank with the top… thrillers of recent years… Even Dodge’s excellent earlier books have hardly prepared one for the pure virtuosity of narrative excitement which he reveals here.

—The New York Times

“Mr. Dodge, always a master hand at dangers and hair-raising near misses, has never put characters through a more nerve-racking ordeal…fans new and old should love it.”

—San Francisco Chronicle

“[A] sparkling yarn…Cleverly original, sprightly characterization, swift and deft movement, and surprise climax.”

—Chicago Sunday Tribune

“A first-class story of adventure, and more…Mr. Dodge writes with a conviction and a professional integrity which compel belief from the first page to the last.”

—The Spectator

“The tale is one of those rare tough ones in which the toughness is as convincing as it is unstinting…tight and rapid.”

— The Chicago Sun Book Week

“A web of intrigue, adventure and violence…A titanic struggle that builds to an exciting climax.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Fine, hard-packed, hard-hitting prose.”

—Anthony Boucher

“Plentiful action, information, colorful backgrounds… Exciting.”

— The Saturday Review of Literature

“Accelerated and absorbing.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“Better add David Dodge to your list of household necessities.”

—Will Cuppy

“A
thriller with more than mere thrills to recommend it.

—New Statesman

“[A]
fine, meaty story.”

—The New Yorker

“Very adept weaving of uncommon stuffs and all in all your only probable complaint will be that at the end there isn’t any more. First rate.”

—New York Herald Tribune Book Review

A respectable looking French bank-clerk type was standing there. He wore an incongruously sporty cloth cap that had been set squarely on his head with a spirit level. “Good afternoon, monsieur,” he said politely. “Is this your name?”

He held out some kind of an official-looking document so I could read the name on it. It was mine.

“It might be,” I said. “Why?”

“I have a warrant for your arrest. Interpol.”

He put the paper carefully away in his pocket and took out a wallet with an identification card in it; picture, thumbprint and the rest. It looked genuine. So did he.

I said, “I guess we ought to talk, huh?”

He took off his cap before coming in. If I’d had a doormat I think he would have wiped his shoes, too. Carefully. He was that kind.

I knew quite a bit about Interpol. The warrant, which looked legal as far as it went, was signed by a French judge, and France had about as much jurisdiction over me in Tangier as it would have had in Tokyo.

The guy stood there holding his silly cap, politely and patiently waiting for me to come along quietly. While I was hesitating, his cap dropped from his fingers, his eyes froze and glazed, his mouth fell open. Boda had come down from the roof…

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A HARD CASE CRIME BOOK

(HCC-025)

October 2006

Published by

Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.

200 Madison Avenue

New York, NY 10016

in collaboration with Winterfall LLC

If you purchased this book without a cover, you should know

that it is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and

destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the

publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”

Copyright © 2003, 2006 by Kendal Dodge Butler.

Originally written by David Dodge in 1973.

Cover painting copyright © 2006 by William George.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or

transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical

means, including photocopying, recording or by any information

storage and retrieval system, without the written

permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and

incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or

are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or

dead, is entirely coincidental.

ISBN
0-8439-5596-1

ISBN
-13
978-0-8439-5596-5

The name “Hard Case Crime” and the Hard Case Crime logo

are trademarks of Winterfall LLC. Hard Case Crime books are

selected and edited by Charles Ardai.

Printed in the United States of America

Visit
us on the web at
www.HardCaseCrime.com

THE LAST MATCH

Chapter One

The guy who was waiting for me in my room merely wanted to blow my head off, that’s all. To teach me a lesson, as it turned out. He used a little short-barreled revolver, a thirty-two I think it was, but he didn’t know how to hold it to keep the barrel from flipping up every time he pulled the trigger. The kick of the shots lifted the bullets over my head or over my shoulder or somewhere else that wasn’t into me. He got off three of them before I could do anything about it.

There’s something to be said for combat training even if there’s nothing at all to say for the rest of the schooling they give you in the U.S. Army. After you’ve been bounced hard enough and often enough by experts because you’re not reacting fast enough, your reflexes tend to sharpen up. And when you’re scared silly by a gun going blam, blam, blam in your face they get even sharper. Given a window to jump out of I’d have been gone with the wind like a soaring rocket. But the guy stood between me and the escape in that direction, and in the other direction I had just trapped myself by closing a hotel-room door behind me before putting on the lights so he could see to pot me. In the circumstances there wasn’t much to do except throw my room key in his face and go for his ankles before he fired number four.

It worked. He was small, middle-aged, nothing much to handle. I took the gun away from him and sat on his chest. He began to cry.

He looked and was dressed like an American. I thought I might have seen him someplace before. He didn’t have the kind of face to remember. After my heart had eased back down my throat to where it belonged, I said, “What did you want to go and do that for?”

“Mildred,” he blubbered, the tears puddling in his eyes. “Sh-she’s going to l-leave me, and I l-l-love her.”

“Who’s Mildred?” I shook the live shells out of the revolver to put them in my pocket where they wouldn’t kill anybody.

“Don’t you dare mock me, damn you!” He was both indignant and tearful at the same time, but more indignant than tearful.

“No, honest. I don’t know any Mildreds.”

“You’re a liar!”

“All right, I’m a liar. I still don’t know any Mildreds. If I let you up, will you please tell me what it’s all about without pulling a knife?”

He gulped. It sounded affirmative. “But you’re still a liar.”

“I conceded that. I still don’t know any Mildreds.”

I gave him a hand to pull him to his feet. He said automatically, “Thank you.” I said, “You’re welcome. Here’s your pistol. It isn’t loaded.”

“Thank you,” he said again. He was a polite little murderer, I must say.

The cops were there within a few minutes after the shooting. The hotel was one of the best in Cannes, on the Croisette, and there were always a couple of
flics
out in front to keep the crowds moving whenever somebody important checked in, like a movie star. Before they hauled him away I made another attempt to find out what it was all about. All I could get from him was that Mildred had said she no longer loved him and was going to leave him. It was all my fault. So he had decided to shoot me, to retain her love. Simple.

Even simpler was the fact that I really didn’t know any Mildreds. I checked up on the guy while the cops had him—they took the pistol away, fined him and turned him loose three days later—and learned that he was registered at the hotel with his wife. MacCullin, their name was. The
concierge
pointed the wife out to me, a so-so number with orange hair and a figure that had seen better days.

I did, too, know her, although not by name. We had been fellow guests at a party somewhere, Eden Roc I think it was, where everybody had had more than enough to drink. Mildred and I ended up in a garden for fun and games under the stars. Nothing serious came of it; a spell of catch-as-catch-can wrestling, heavy breathing, shared lipstick, that was it. The garden was too crowded with other wrestlers for anything more. I may have told her, I probably did tell her as anyone but a cad would tell a lady he’s been grappling with, that I would love a return bout in more sheltered circumstances, but that was the end of it. I didn’t ask if she had a husband, she didn’t volunteer the information, nobody jealous came looking for her. Now she had fingered me to him for reasons of her own I didn’t want to know about.

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