Read The Cutie Online

Authors: Donald E. Westlake

The Cutie

Raves For the Work of
DONALD E. WESTLAKE

“One of the great writers of the 20th Century.”

—Newsweek

“[A] book by this guy is cause for happiness.”

—Stephen King

“Brilliant.”

—GQ

“A wonderful read.”

—Playboy

“I thoroughly enjoy his attitude.”

—Elmore Leonard

“Marvelous.”

—Entertainment Weekly

“Donald Westlake must be one of the best craftsmen now crafting stories.”

—George F. Will

“Westlake is a national literary treasure.”

—Booklist

“Tantalizing...The action is non-stop.”

—The Wall Street Journal

“Westlake remains in perfect command; there’s not a word...out of place.”

—San Diego Union-Tribune

“Ingeniously twisted plotting.”

—Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Crime fiction stripped down—as it was meant to be... oh, how the pages keep turning.”

—Philadelphia Enquirer

“The neo-hero: the ruthless, unrepentant, single-minded operator in a humorless and amoral world...No one depicts this scene with greater clarity.”

—The New York Times

“Energy and imagination light up virtually every page, as does some of the best hard-boiled prose ever to grace the noir genre.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Westlake knows precisely how to grab a reader, draw him or her into the story, and then slowly tighten his grip until escape is impossible.”

—Washington Post Book World

“Nobody does the noir thriller better...His lean style and hard-edged characters, not exactly likable, but always compelling, provide a welcome return to the hard-bitten days of yore.”

—San Diego Union Tribune

“Gritty and chillingly noir...[Westlake] succeeds in demonstrating his total mastery of crime fiction.”

—Booklist

“Among the greatest hard-boiled writing of all time.”

—Financial Times (London)

“A brilliant invention.”

—New York Review of Books

“No one can turn a phrase like Westlake.”

—Detroit News and Free Press

“A mystery connoisseur’s delight. His plot delivers twists and turns...A tremendously skillful, smart writer.”

—Time Out New York

“Suspenseful...snarling and tough....As always, [Westlake] writes like the consummate pro he is.”

—Cleveland Plain Dealer

“The novel’s deeper meditations will keep you thinking long after you’ve closed the book.”

—USA Today

Betty Benson closed the door and turned to face me. “If you try anything,” she said, “I can scream.”

I sat on the studio couch.

“You wanted to talk about Mavis,” she said.

“Uh huh.”

“Tesselman sent you to look for whoever killed her?”

“Right again.”

She shook her head. “It just doesn’t seem like him,” she said. “That dirty old man.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because that’s what he is. He came here once and tried to seduce me. He knew I was Mavis’s best friend. And he was old enough to be my grandfather.”

“He’s old enough to be Mavis’s grandfather, too,” I said.

“She thought he could help her in her career.”

“Did you think so?”

“He
could
have,” she said. “But I bet he wouldn’t have. Mavis never learned. She kept going off and sleeping with men who promised her the moon, and they were all the same, all nothing but liars. But she never did learn. She was always sure that this was the time, this man was telling the truth.”

“Tesselman wasn’t the only one, then,” I said. I had the notebook and pencil ready. “Who was next on the rich-man parade?”

“You make it sound a lot harsher than it was. Mavis wasn’t a—a prostitute, or anything like that.”

“I know. She was only mercenary.”

“A lot of people are,” she said...

SOME OTHER HARD CASE CRIME BOOKS YOU WILL ENJOY:

LUCKY AT CARDS
by Lawrence Block

ROBBIE’S WIFE
by Russell Hill

THE VENGEFUL VIRGIN
by Gil Brewer

THE WOUNDED AND THE SLAIN
by David Goodis

BLACKMAILER
by George Axelrod

SONGS OF INNOCENCE
by Richard Aleas

FRIGHT
by Cornell Woolrich

KILL NOW, PAY LATER
by Robert Terrall

SLIDE
by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr

DEAD STREET
by Mickey Spillane

DEADLY BELOVED
by Max Allan Collins

A DIET OF TREACLE
by Lawrence Block

MONEY SHOT
by Christa Faust

ZERO COOL
by John Lange

SHOOTING STAR/SPIDERWEB
by Robert Bloch

THE MURDERER VINE
by Shepard Rifkin

SOMEBODY OWES ME MONEY
by Donald E. Westlake

NO HOUSE LIMIT
by Steve Fisher

BABY MOLL
by John Farris

THE MAX
by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr

THE FIRST QUARRY
by Max Allan Collins

GUN WORK
by David J. Schow

FIFTY-TO-ONE
by Charles Ardai

KILLING CASTRO
by Lawrence Block

THE DEAD MAN’S BROTHER
by Roger Zelazny

The
CUTIE
by
Donald E. Westlake

A HARD CASE CRIME BOOK

(HCC-053)

First Hard Case Crime edition: March 2009

Published by

Titan Books

A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd

144 Southwark Street

London

SE1 OUP

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 © 1960 by Donald E. Westlake.

Originally published as
The Mercenaries
.

Cover painting copyright © 2009 by Ken Laager

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.

Print edition ISBN 978-0-85768-362-5

E-book ISBN 978-1-78116-103-6

Cover design by Cooley Design Lab

Design direction by Max Phillips

www.maxphillips.net

Typeset by Swordsmith Productions

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

For Larry and Nedra

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter One

Ella and I went to bed at two-thirty. We turned off the light, reached for each other, and the doorbell rang.

I swore, and Ella’s hand tightened on my shoulder. “Maybe they’ll go away,” she whispered.

The answer was another nervous jabbing at the bell. Whoever was outside was in a hurry. I sat up, switched on the table lamp beside the bed, and Ella and I squinted at one another. She was a good-looking woman, a damn good-looking woman. Black hair falling soft to her shoulders, lips full and red and bruised-looking, eyes half-closed and waiting. She was sitting up, leaning toward me, and the sheet had fallen away from her breasts. I didn’t want to leave her, not now, not for anything. I didn’t care who it was out there, Ed Ganolese or anybody.

The bell jangled again, and Ella smiled at me, to let me know she knew what I was thinking, and that she had the same thoughts. “Hurry back,” she whispered.

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