Copp For Hire, A Joe Copp Thriller (Joe Copp Private Eye Series)






Don Pendleton



A Joe
, Private Eye Novel

by the creator of

The Executioner: Mack Bolan Series



Reviews of Don Pendleton’s Joe
, Private Eye Series


St. Petersburg Times:
“Pendleton has a great new character in
His style is fresh, the pace is brisk, and there are enough twists to please any mystery fan.”


Library Journal:
“Pendleton, author of the long-running paperback Executioner series, shows in his first hardcover that hardboiled writing can be insightful as well as action-packed.”


Milwaukee Sentinel: “Pendleton is a master of action and dialog and ‘
’ is a taut detective story.”


“Action filled...
is a likable tough guy...An exciting, satisfying read.”


Flint Journal:
“Pendleton proves again he is the equal of Mickey
when it comes to the hard-boiled mystery.”


ALA Booklist:
“This is the real thing, the hardcover debut of the author of the perennially popular ‘Executioner series’...the charm of the Executioner books.”


Arkansas Gazette:
“Intriguing...believable.. Pendleton’s got a good story to tell.”


Also by Don Pendleton



The Executioner, Mack Bolan Series

Mystery Series

Ashton Ford Mystery Series


Fiction with Linda Pendleton



Comics by Don and Linda Pendleton

The Executioner, War Against the Mafia


Nonfiction Books by Don Pendleton

A Search for Meaning From the Surface of a Small Planet


Nonfiction Books by Don and Linda Pendleton

To Dance With Angels

Whispers From the Soul

The Metaphysics of the Novel

The Cosmic Breath







Copyright © 1987 by Don Pendleton

Published with permission of Linda Pendleton. All Rights Reserved.

First Kindle Edition, 2010


ISBN: 1-55611-064-2

First Printing Published 1987 by Donald I. Fine.

Lynx Edition / September 1988;

Back in Print Edition,
, 2000.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used Fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


Cover Design by Linda Pendleton and Judy Bullard





For Cy, for Frank, for Don,

and for all the good gentlemen of law and literature

who helped this book into print;

my gratitude.





For Hire


Chapter One



I SMELLED TROUBLE all over this kid the instant she stepped into my office. She was hot. About twenty. Designer jeans so tight they could sweat. Shrink-wrapped onto a
bottom and grafted onto the
, low on the hips to reveal an indented little belly button, flaring a bit around three-inch heels. A tube- top started about six inches higher up to cover another four or five inches of
. On some girls maybe it would have covered ten inches vertically; on her, four or five. I'm talking tits ... mouth-watering tits, thrusting against the elastic material in a way designed and intended to grab the attention. But they had a lot of competition. This kid was great everywhere. Long black hair spilled onto creamy shoulders. The face was ... exotic, I guess. Lips that gave you a stir every time they parted, eyes that looked everywhere and seemed to see it all. I figured they'd seen quite a bit already.

I also figured hooker or stripper, or maybe both.

My snap judgments have been known to be wrong, but I did not think I was wrong on this one. She looked the office over, looked me over, almost went back out, finally asked in a husky little voice, "Are you Joe

I looked the office over, looked her over, pushed my nameplate to the edge of the desk. "That's me."

Guess she decided to give me a try after all. She dropped onto the edge of a chair, looked around again like a bird casing the territory before relaxing onto the perch. "I think I'm in trouble."

Knew damned well she was in trouble. Any kid walking around looking that edible was in trouble.

I asked, "Who is he?"

She asked, "How did you know?"


She said, "I don't know his name. But I think he's a cop."

I told her, "
I. Maybe you need to see a lawyer."

The kid was very uptight. She frowned, looked at the door as though wishing she'd never come through it, said to me while looking at the door, "No, I—you see ... you are a private detective, aren't you?"

The lettering on the door says that. Well, what it says is
For Hire
, which is also what my business cards say and what the
expensive yellow pages ad says. A small conceit. I was a public cop for eighteen years. Still think of myself that way except that now I have private sponsors.

I told this kid, "Yes I am. But I don't guard bodies or settle disputes between lovers."

She stared at me for a few seconds then replied, "This is not like that. But maybe I should see a lawyer. Could you recommend one?

"What is it like?"


"You said not like something. So what is it like?"

She fumbled in her purse for a cigarette. Gave me a stir as she inserted it between those ripe lips. I got to my feet and went over to light it for her. She rose quickly to accept the light, gazed into my eyes briefly then turned away to release the smoke. I am six-three. In the heels, this kid's eyes were level with mine. She smelled nice. But she was looking at the door again.

I told her, in a voice as gentle as I can make it, "You can leave any time you'd like. Relax. I'm not going to jump your bones. Sit down and tell me about it."

She dropped abruptly onto her perch again, waved the cigarette in a dainty grasp. "I don't want to leave. I think he might be out there waiting for me."

I went to the window and looked out, saw nothing unusual. "Looks clear to me. What's the beef?"

"There's no beef. Not that I know about, anyway. This guy just follows me around all the time. Everywhere I go."

I sighed and asked her, "Are we talking official police business here or .. . ?"

"Well I hope it's official business. I haven't done anything wrong. But why would he be following me?"

"Why do you think he's a cop?"

"George said—he's a bartender where I work—George said he has seen this guy in a police uniform. But he's never in uniform when I see him, and—"

"Where do you work?"

"New Frontier."

Uh huh. One of the joints in the county jurisdiction. You've seen them. Live Girls,
, Girls—Totally Nude.

"You dance there?"


"You've seen this guy there?"

"Yes. Started coming in a couple of weeks ago. Always sits in the back, though, never up along the runway. Never tips me. Just sits there and stares at me all the time I'm performing. Then he leaves. Guess he's worked out the timing 'cause he comes back in every time I go on. For the past week I've been noticing him sitting in his car when I get off work. He follows me home and I think he sits outside and watches my window. I think he's a freak, and I'm scared. Yesterday he followed me to the mall. I saw him twice while I was shopping."

I returned to my chair, sat back, put my hands together, asked the young lady, "Is there some reason why you should be under police surveillance?"

She gave me a blank look and a negative wag of the head.

"Do you do drugs?"

"I might toke once in a while. But nothing ..."

"Live alone?"

"I have a roommate ... a girl. We share an apartment."

"Do you know anyone who's dealing?"

"Half the guys you meet nowadays deal some. But I've never—no, I don't really know anyone that involved."

"You have no other, uh, activities that would be of police interest?"

"If you mean do I make dates out of the club—no, I don't."

I smiled. "Had to ask."

She replied simply, "Everyone does."

"Do the other girls make dates? At the club, I mean."

"Some, I guess."

"Your roommate?"

"She doesn't work there."

"Where does she work?"

"She does parties."

"What kind of parties."

"You know—birthdays, bachelor parties, that kind of thing."

"As a stripper?"


"Does she do other things?"

"I wouldn't know about that."

"Or care?"

"Or care," she confirmed, with another suck at the cigarette.

I told her, "I'm expensive."

"How expensive?"

"Just like a hooker," I replied. "Hundred dollars an hour plus expenses."

She said, "Jesus," and bit her lip. Then I got the first smile out of her. Not much, but a wry little twist of the lips. "Cheap hooker," she said.

I smiled back. "Well, I don't give as much. What do you want me to do for you?"

She got to her feet. "Nothing. Can't afford you."

I told her, "The public cops work for free. Go tell them your troubles."

She said, "Guess I'll have to. But I'm as scared of them as I am of the freaks."

"No reason to be, if you're straight. I was a public cop. Never jumped any little girls' bones."

That earned me a second smile, this one a bit more honest. "It's not my bones I'm worried about."

That comment could have meant several things. I wanted to know what it really meant, so I said, "Tell you what. I'll give it an hour for you. If I scare the guy off, maybe you'd like to give it an hour for me."

She did not reply to that, except with the face. So I'd been fifty percent on target. You win some and lose some. I felt like I'd won all of this one, though, by losing.

I told her, "Just kidding. But you can buy me a drink, maybe, and reserve me a spot on the runway. What time do you go on tonight?"

"Be there at ten o'clock," she said, but not with a lot of enthusiasm.

I said, "Hey, I had to get the straight of it. Okay? So now I'm straight. Won't cost me anything to drop in and have a talk with your freak. Except the price of a drink. Spring for that and we have a deal."

I got a whole smile that time, a quite
one. "Deal," she said, "but it's a two- drink minimum. It'll cost me six bucks."

"You can take it off your taxes."

"What taxes?"

She gave me a smile, a handshake, and a polite good-by.

Then she took that tantalizing body out of there. I was crossing to the window to check out her car when I heard the squealing of tires digging hard at asphalt and the groaning of an internal-combustion engine at heavy takeoff demand.

The unmistakable
came instantly. I got to the window just in time to see that ex-tantalizing young body flying through the air all a mangled mess; a dark vehicle speeding out of the parking lot.

I knew even before I went out there that I had just lost a client. A client, yeah. A deal is a deal, and I owed her at least that hour I'd promised.

But as I knelt there beside that broken corpse, the feeling came and very strongly that I would be spending more than a mere hour for this one. As it turned out, I very nearly spent the rest of my life.


Chapter Two


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