Skip Case (David Dean Mysteries) (Chapter V, page 1 of 19)

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Saturday, May 8th 4:00 A.M.

Much later, in the darkest part of the night, Dean's mind was creating picture stories to amuse itself while his body lay in frozen and unmoving slumber like a fallen mannequin. Ghostly, veiled ladies of exceptional height passed in somber silence past an empty bier while a shadowy figure looking like a cross between Hercule Poirot and Fred O'Connor lurked behind a pillar, watch­ing. The unearthly shrill of the telephone shattered the scene, once, twice, three times before Dean clawed at the instrument and grumbled something.

"Yellow 42," said an anxious voice on the other line.

Dean rubbed his eyes to consciousness. "For God's sake, Vinnie. Do you know what time it is?"

"Don't use my name! The phone may be bugged!"

"Stop playing games, Vinnie. It's the middle of the night."

Rapid fire. "Be at the corner of Locust and Ninth in 20 min­utes or I'm a dead man!" Then Dean was listening to a dial tone.

"Vinnie, you son-of-a-bitch, you'll be a dead man if I catch up to you!" Dean yelled to the empty phone, slamming down the receiver and mashing his pillow into a ball.

Try as he might, the mourning ladies of dreamland wouldn't return to the empty coffin. They'd floated away from the church of his slumber and refused to make a second appearance. In exas­peration he turned and squinted at the illuminated hands of his clock radio. Ten minutes after four. The son-of-a-bitch. He turned over. He turned again. Locust and Ninth. His mind tried to pic­ture what was located on that corner but couldn't. It was a crappy neighborhood, he remembered that much. A liquor store, a pawn shop? He told himself he didn't give a damn about Locust and Ninth but his mind wouldn't let go. Finally, as wide awake as a kid on Christmas morning, he gave up the ghosts and dressed, intent on making the trip for the sole satisfaction of punching out Vinnie Baratto.

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