Authors: Whit Masterson
BADGE OF EVIL
Linneker, the millionaire, was dead … murdered.
Quinlan and McCoy, smartest of the metropolitan police, knew the name of the killer. They staked their well-established reputations on the guilt of Linneker’s daughter, Tara. But assistant district attorney Mitch Holt wasn’t satisfied.
This is the gripping story of Holt’s fight against public opinion, against his superiors and against two clever veterans in the force. It was a fight not only to establish the girl’s evidence but to pin the badge of evil where it belonged …
Before the fight was finished, it had cost Holt his job, his reputation and nearly his life …
a division of F+W Media, Inc.
To MARY and UEL
I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenceless or oppressed, or delay any man’s cause for lucre or malice. So help me God
— CONCLUSION: ATTORNEY’S OATH
eight o’clock, on a clear Saturday evening late in January, there occurred an explosion that was destined to shake the whole state of California.
Rudy Linneker sat in his luxurious redwood beach cabaña on Landfall Point and watched television and fiddled with his first cocktail of the day. He was a widower, aged fifty-five, dressed in brightly flowered swim trunks and sandals. The snack bar was set with a light dinner for two because he had dared his daughter to join him in a mid-winter swim that night and she generally did as he suggested. So he loafed and thought what a comfort a girl was to a man in his prime. Occasionally he cocked his head like an elderly lovebird and listened for the sound of his daughter’s step descending the wooden stairs on the bluff behind his private floodlighted beach.
The daughter, however, didn’t arrive until some time after the catastrophe.
The sliding glass windows of the cabaña were open. Across the harbour, twinkling with ship-lamps, Rudy Linneker could make out the silhouette of his lumber yard, the spires of the loading cranes, the black mass of the freighter that had docked that day. His business, at rest for the night, represented the other interest in his life.
He heard no one come down the cliff stairway or walk across the sand to the cabaña. But at eight o’clock, a hand reached through the window and dropped a package inside.
Rudy Linneker heard the package thump on the woven-grass carpet. He turned in his chair and saw it, the bound cluster of things like thick red fingers, and the short sparking fuse. He rose uncertainly, not comprehending. He was destroyed as the yellow blast flashed through the cabaña.
Ten days after that, the police had still not made an arrest.
Mitchell Holt knocked once on the door lettered District Attorney. He didn’t get a response but he went in anyway. His boss was hidden behind the morning newspaper. The only indication of life was the stream of cigarette smoke coiling up from the opposite side of the paper barrier. Holt sat down across the desk from him and waited, a trifle apprehensive.
After a moment, the district attorney lowered the newspaper as if unveiling a statue. There was a resemblance. James P. Adair was an erect craggy-faced man with a heavy head of hair as grey as granite. Also stonelike, he had an immovable aspect so that when he smiled it came as a great gift, and when he didn’t he was wholly the implacable prosecutor. As a result, his staff usually approached him gingerly, never quite sure which face their boss might be wearing at the moment.
“Glad you could spare a minute, Mitch,” Adair said, and Holt relaxed. This was the genial boss; there was even a worried little smile forming. “What do you know about the Linneker murder?”
“Just office scuttlebutt. I’ve been busy.”
“I know.” Adair turned the newspaper around on the desk where Holt could read it. “Nice picture of you.”
It was, although Holt hadn’t seen this latest use of it. The pro-administration
had devoted front page space to today’s imminent wind-up of the Buccio case. Holt, as the assistant district attorney who had prosecuted it to a successful conclusion, was featured. The halftone cut showed a serious-faced young man, thin to the point of gauntness, with intense deep-set eyes and unruly dark hair. Holt, who didn’t care for pictures of himself, privately considered that this one made him look too much like a young Abe Lincoln. But his wife liked it, and so did nearly everyone, so Holt figured it must be the way he looked to people. His own ideal would have been a more mature photograph with less of the young crusader air about it. At thirty-five, Mitch Holt didn’t fancy himself in the role.
“Nice,” Adair repeated, but he was no longer referring to the picture. “The job you did on Emil Buccio, the whole profession thinks so. Restores one’s respect for the law as justice, and it certainly maintains public confidence in this office. How come you aren’t in Superior Court for the sentencing?”
“That much the judge can handle. Far as I’m concerned, my work ended last Friday when they brought in the verdict.” He spoke lightly but meant it. He was capable of immersing himself completely in a case, living it twenty-four hours a day. But once he had won it — or, occasionally, lost it — he was equally capable of putting it completely behind him. Holt’s satisfaction lay in feeling that he had done his utmost and, unlike some prosecutors, he did not become emotionally involved with the verdict.
Adair studied him a moment. “I don’t see how you can stay away. If I’d worked nine months to smash the Buccio set-up, I’d be there for the
coup de grâce
. Darn near went down to the courthouse, anyway, just to see Old Man Buccio get what’s coming to him. The rest of the family will fall apart into small-time fragments now that you’ve nailed the top man.”
“I guess,” said Holt uneasily. What’s he building me up to? he wondered. The boss wasn’t ordinarily so lavish with praise.
“Nice,” said Adair again, smiling with obvious satisfaction. “You took a routine dead-end complaint and you tracked it through dummy business and interlocking companies and witnesses scared of their own sins. And after nine months of documenting rake-offs and kickbacks, today you’re having your baby, the neatest, tightest case in years. The bar licencing racket is finished for good and so are the Buccios, so far as undercover power is concerned.’’ Adair leaned forward. “What’s next on your agenda, Mitch?”
“My last summer’s vacation.”
“February’s a pretty punk time. Maybe you’d be smart to wait for warm weather.”
Holt grinned wryly. “Try telling that to my wife. And then duck.”
“How is Connie? And your daughter?”
“Fine — I guess. I’m afraid I haven’t paid them much attention lately. The word I hear around the house is that when I’m on a case they might as well go off and die somewhere.” Holt shifted his long legs, disturbed by Adair’s unusual interest in his personal life. He added emphatically, “We’re getting away to Mexico for a couple of weeks. Her father has a ranch at Ensenada, you know. There’s some good hunting down there. Antelope.”
“Uh-huh.” Adair rose and sauntered to the window, first to gaze sombrely down at the fountain in the patio of the Civic Centre, and then to regard the brace of antique six-shooters racked on the wall. Holt had never been able to decide whether the Old West décor of Adair’s office, with oil paintings of frontier days and collections of branding irons and old-style sheriffs’ badges, represented a genuine historical interest or an attempt to escape to a simpler past from a ruthlessly complicated present. Others said that Adair wanted to be branded as a character, for political purposes, but Holt didn’t go along with this gossip. Some of the district attorney’s staff called him Two-Gun, but not to his face.
Adair took down one of his pistols and spun the cylinder. It was an old single-action
the famous Colt Peacemaker. “Antelope, huh? Mitch — how’d you like to go man-hunting instead?” He sighted at Chief Crazy Horse on the wall.
“Shoot,” said Holt noncommittally.
Adair smiled and squeezed the trigger. The metallic click was loud and deadly. “The Linneker dynamiter,” he said.
“Has it reached that stage yet?”
“The case is ten days old and it hasn’t reached any stage at all. That’s exactly the trouble.”
“Ten days isn’t very long.”
“The name was Linneker, not John Doe. You know how I hate political angles, but we might as well face them when they exist. There’s a lot of pressure being put on to break this one fast, particularly by the
. I had to go to a meeting at the mayor’s house last night — Chief Gould was there and Rackmill and several other interested parties — and that was the word from on high: show some results.”
Holt nodded. He could understand Adair’s position. The Linneker’s, like the Buccios, were a prominent local family but of different standing. There had been a Linneker among the founding fathers, and Linneker Lumber & Hardware Company was as familiar as the Bank of America. No community project, no social function or charity subscription was complete without the name Linneker being included among the patrons or on the board of directors. The murder ten days ago was automatically a front page story as long as the case stayed open, and the pressure on the law enforcement agencies was in direct proportion. Holt still didn’t see what this had to do with him, however. The district attorney’s office normally took over after the police had done their work, not before.
Adair, still standing, gestured with the pistol. “Rudy Linneker had almost everything and he was a nice guy, too. Fine father-daughter relationship, very close, ever since his wife died about ten years ago. So now the only survivor is the daughter, Tara, thirty years old and still single. Only child, only survivor. He was worth upwards of two million dollars, home on Landfall Point, ranch in Arizona, private plane, the works. All that, and a week ago Saturday he got killed.” Adair gave a short dry laugh and replaced the revolver in its rack. “Killed? He was darn near obliterated. Got any reactions, Mitch?”
“Sounds like a mess.”
“It is — both ways. And no signs yet that it’s ever going to be cleaned up. No leads, no motive, no nothing.”
“The daughter any help?”
“Tara Linneker claims she was out riding around with her boy friend — fiancé, actually — when it happened.” Adair hesitated. “Linneker didn’t cotton much to the young man. His name’s Shayon. McCoy’s working on that angle.”
“McCoy?” said Holt sharply, straightening up. “You mean Captain McCoy? I thought he retired a couple of years ago.”
“He did. But Gould has called him back to handle the mess. You can see just how seriously the police are taking this.”
Holt could see. Captain Loren McCoy was something of a legend among the city’s law enforcement agencies. Holt had never known him personally or worked with him, but he was well aware of the McCoy reputation. For nearly thirty years he had headed the homicide division and, together with his principal assistant, Sergeant Hank Quinlan, had formed a manhunting team without equal in the whole southwest. That the police department should call McCoy back to active duty proved how desperately they wanted a quick and successful end to the Linneker case.