It’s November 26, 1974 and Mallory is at the bus station to pick up his best friend, John, stepson of Sheriff Brennan, due in shortly, fresh from Viet Nam. He’s working up the courage to talk to the young blond woman sitting on the bench beside him. A writer with a few short stories sold to Ellery Queen and Mike Shayne magazines, he’s suddenly at a loss for words.
That’s when the huge black man walks into the waiting room and looks around. Dressed in a very expensive looking suit, only one thing mars the bald, bullet head: a jagged scar running down through one empty eye socket. He spots the two of them and stalks over. Mallory doesn’t know him and, judging by the expression on her face, she has no idea either. But the man stops in front of her, uttering one word, “Bitch!” He repeats it as one meaty hand grabs her coat and lifts her from the bench.
That’s when Mallory hit him in the throat.
The huge man then does three things: he releases the girl, lightly touches his Adam’s apple, and knocks Mallory across the room against a Pepsi machine with one ham-like arm!
As the man comes at him, Mallory ducks another swat, feels behind, and latches onto a glass pop bottle, bringing it in a hard loop against the big head. The man goes down long enough for Mallory to scramble over to a pay phone and dial the Sheriff. The big man hustles out, scowling, and the call is ended.
Mallory gets into a conversation with the young woman after that. Janet Tabor is her name and she tells him a horrific story. She’s headed to a hospital in the next city where her mother is dying, victim in a house fire and badly burned. The doctors had told her on the phone there was evidence she’d been badly beaten before the fire. And it all seems to be related to Janet’s son. She, a solo mother, had been estranged from mother for several years until health problems for the boy, needing an operation that she couldn’t afford, had reunited them. Mother had somehow arranged funding, from an unknown person, and Janet had moved here with the boy, sending him for the surgery. Now she had no idea where the boy was and her mother was dying.
And she had no idea who the hulk-like black was and why he’d assaulted her.
Mallory puts her on her bus and, shortly, John’s bus pulls in and the two friends head for Mallory’s trailer to catch up and drink a few beers. A couple of hours later, the Sheriff calls and says they might as well make a night of it. He has to investigate a fatal car accident out on Colorado Hill. Mallory and John, on the spur, ecide to go out and see if they can give a hand.
The car had gone over a cliff, rolled a few times, and ended nose down at the bottom. Mallory, John, and the Sheriff make their way down. As they get close, John smells the strong odor of liquor and gets the shock of his life when he spies the crushed remains of the driver: Janet Tabor! A woman he’d put on a bus two hours before now dead at the bottom of a hill. Despite Mallory telling him about the bus station incident, the Sheriff is ready to call it an accident.
Which doesn’t sit well with our erstwhile hero. He starts poking around and is not long coming up with another accident. A budding politician, his wife, and daughter, were killed in a car accident at the exact same spot three years before. When John’s sister reveals that she knew Janet and the two of them had worked on an earlier campaign for the dead politician, Mallory definitely knows he’s onto something.
NO CURE FOR DEATH, from 1983, was the second of five novels to feature writer/amateur detective Mallory. Liked it.