Authors: Donald Hamilton
Death of a Citizen
The Wrecking Crew
Print edition ISBN: 9781783299898
E-book edition ISBN: 9781783299904
Published by Titan Books
A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd
144 Southwark Street, London SE1 0UP
First edition: June 2016
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 1985, 2016 by Donald Hamilton. All rights reserved.
Matt Helm® is the registered trademark of Integute AB.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
Did you enjoy this book?
We love to hear from our readers.
Please email us at
or write to us at Reader Feedback at the above address.
To receive advance information, news, competitions, and exclusive offers online, please sign up for the Titan newsletter on our website:
The girl Mac had sent to me, presumably because he didn’t know what else to do with her, was a very proper young woman in a severely tailored gray flannel business suit and a severe white silk blouse with a neat little ascot thing at the throat. Nicely constructed, of slightly less than medium height, she had a grave oval face dominated by very serious gray-blue eyes. The mouth, although adequate in size, didn’t look as if she’d ever taken advantage of its potential for laughter. A shy, pinched, reluctant little smile was the best she’d managed for me so far. Well, it wasn’t exactly a laughing situation.
She had a lot of fine light-brown hair pinned up about her head in a ladylike Victorian manner, displaying a graceful neck. The hair was light enough that she could have become a striking little blonde without a great deal of effort—a simple rinse would have done the job. The fact that she hadn’t made the effort said a lot about her. She wore very little makeup, just a touch of lipstick; and her face was pale, but that could have been the result of the awkward and distressing circumstances that had brought her to me. I noticed that her hands were quite attractive. Locked in her lap as she sat facing me stiffly, on a small straight chair she’d chosen in preference to the mate of the comfortable number in which I was sprawled, they were slender, shapely hands, but not too small to be useful. The nails were well cared for but trimmed fairly short, with clear, colorless polish, very discreet. No blood-red talons here.
However, she’d yielded to conventional femininity in a couple of respects. Her neat black pumps, which matched the purse in her lap, had fairly high slim heels that did nice things for her pretty ankles; and her smoky stockings were very sheer, emphasizing the pleasant shape of her legs. But unlike most modern young ladies, who’re happy to display their erogenous zones to anyone who cares to look, Miss Amy Barnett still hadn’t let me determine whether she was wearing panty hose or sustained the smoothness of her nylons with more elaborate feminine engineering. So far she’d managed her narrow skirt with faultless modesty. But I would have bet a considerable amount of money on the tights. She didn’t look like a girl who’d go in for frivolous lacy garter belts and cute little bikini panties; and she certainly didn’t need the support of a girdle.
“Well, after all, he
in jail and he
my father,” she said a bit defiantly. “Even if I haven’t seen him since I was a child.”
It was a mass-produced hotel room in a mass-produced hotel near the Miami waterfront. The Marina Towers, if it matters. Never mind what I was doing there. Actually, it was done, and I’d been making arrangements to return to Washington when the phone had rung and Mac had instructed me to sit tight and expect a visitor. He’d also given me the background of the situation and apologized for dumping the job on me because I was handy, since there were personal reasons why I might find it distasteful—but personal doesn’t count for much with us. If it did, there were also personal reasons, which Mac seemed to have forgotten, why I didn’t mind as much as I might have.
“But I gather you don’t approve of him,” I said to the girl facing me. “Even though he is your pop.”
“How can I? The work he does… used to do! If you can call it work! I was terribly shocked when Mother explained it to me all those years ago—I was seven at the time—explained why I no longer had a daddy, why she’d had to leave him. But I understood perfectly. I mean, what else could she do when she finally learned what he’d been hiding all those years, what kind of a man he really was.” Amy Barnett hesitated. “But now that Mother’s dead he’s my only living relative, Mr. Helm, and I felt obliged to come when I learned he was in trouble.” She shook her head quickly. “No, that’s not quite accurate. I was already trying to locate him when I heard about that.”
“You’ve had no contact with him since your mother walked out on him and took you with her?”
She didn’t like the way I’d expressed that, but she decided hot to make an issue of it. “Well… well, afterward he tried to write me from time to time, like on my birthdays, but Mother made me send his letters back unopened, so after a while he gave up. Except for the last letter that came quite recently, right after her death, that let me know how to get in touch with the government agency he worked for, if I ever needed any kind of help. Your agency. He wrote that now that he was retired he’d be traveling outside the country for a while, where he’d be hard to reach. He wanted to be sure I was taken care of, now that Mother was gone.” She gave me that pinched little smile again. “Of course, I have a very good job managing an office for a group of doctors; I also have some nurse’s training and plan to get my cap eventually. In other words, Mr. Helm, I’ve been taking care of myself perfectly well for several years; but he seemed really concerned about me. I was feeling very much alone in the world, so I called the number he’d written right away. I did feel that I was betraying Mother in a small way; but it really wouldn’t hurt just to see him and talk to him a little, get to know him a little, if I could catch him before he left the country. Would it?” She shook her head abruptly. “Only, when I called I learned what… what he’d done now, where he is now.”
“But you still flew down here to see him,” I said. “All the way from Cincinnati, Ohio.”
She shrugged resignedly. “I’m just stubborn, I guess. I started this and I had to finish it, even though I don’t know how I’ll pay for the ticket I charged to Visa yesterday, not to mention the hotel bill here. But I guess I’ve had a few doubts—I mean, Mother was a
unreasonable at times. However, it seems that in this case she was perfectly right.” Miss Barnett’s lips tightened primly. “Apparently, my father, a retired professional man of violence, now smuggles drugs and resists savagely when arrested, putting several police officers into the hospital! Not exactly a parent to be proud of, would you say? But I do feel I should face him once, myself, so I’ll know…
Mother made the right decision all those years ago.”
“Sure. Anybody else you want to lock up or execute without a trial while we’re at it?”
There was a brief silence, while the big gray-blue eyes—mostly gray at the moment, I noticed—studied me carefully. Amy Barnett nodded slowly.
“I see. You feel I’m condemning him without a hearing?” When I didn’t speak, she went on quickly: “But that’s exactly what I’m here for, to hear what he has to say!”
“But you’ve already made up your mind about him, haven’t you? Or let your mom make it up for you?”
She frowned. “You don’t like me very much, do you, Mr. Helm?”
I said, “You seem to have made a fine recovery, Miss Barnett.”
“What do you mean?”
I said, deadpan, “Oh, the way he used to kick you around the room after beating up on your poor mother. Battered child, battered wife. But it’s all healed now, I see. But the memories remain even after all these years, of course. The way he strangled the cat with his bare hands and chopped up the dog with a carving knife, blood and guts all over the place, horrible. Naturally your mother had to snatch you away before the disgusting, degenerate brute crippled you for life, or even murdered both of you in your beds. Right?”
She looked bewildered. “I don’t know what you’re talking about! Actually, Daddy was very fond of old Buttons, our springer spaniel. And he certainly never laid a hand on… Oh, you’re being sarcastic!” She licked her lips. “I’m sorry. I’m a little slow today, Mr. Helm.”
I said, “Yes, ma’am. Sarcastic.” I got up and walked across the room to the dresser. “Would you care for a drink?”
“Thank you, I don’t drink.”
Picking up the bottle, I glanced at her over my shoulder. “And I don’t suppose you smoke, either.”
She shook her head minutely. “Anybody’d be a fool to do that to themselves in view of the scientific evidence.”
I said, “And I’ve noticed that you don’t swear. No vices at all, Miss Barnett? Do you fuck?”
She wasn’t going to let me shock her into silence. Her voice was very stiff when it came, but it came: “I’m not a virgin, if that’s what you mean. But I… I wasn’t impressed with it as a form of casual entertainment the… the few times…”
She stopped. When I turned and walked over there and looked down at her, I saw that her ears were quite pink. I took a deep swallow of the drink I’d made myself.
She looked up warily. “Yes?”
“Will you accept my humble apology?”
Her eyes widened. “I don’t understand.”
“I’m sorry for giving you a hard time,” I said. “But then you’ve been giving me a pretty hard time, too. There’s no way you could know it, but a considerable number of years ago my wife left me, taking our three children with her, just the way your mother left your dad; and for exactly the same reason. So when I hear of a man who’s done his best, within his limitations, to be a good husband and father, being deserted by his family for beautiful moral reasons relating to the type of work he’s chosen for himself, I find it hard to be sympathetic with the family that left him; I’m on the other side. But at least my wife—ex-wife—didn’t brainwash my kids into thinking that their daddy was a monster or prevent me from communicating with them occasionally, although in our business it’s usually best to stay pretty much away from people you love so nobody gets the bright idea of using them against you. So I have.” I raised my glass to her. “Anyway, I apologize for getting personal. Your vices, or lack of them, are really no concern of mine, right? But you did go pretty heavy on that professional-man-of-violence stuff. We’re very sensitive fellows, we professional men of violence.”