A really odd kind of book. It starts as one thing and ends as something else. It was recommended by James Reasoner when I reviewd another book by the author. That I took so long to get to it is entirely my own fault.

Ry Caulder is a hit man that had begun to burn out after decades of work. He lived in a seedy hotel, most of his money hidden in various accounts around the world, though he kept a very large chunk of cash on hand, $300,000 in hundred dollar bills hidden in a safe place.

His carefully constructed world of aloofness had started to crack. A young woman with a six year old son in the next apartment had gradually fallen under his protection. Her story was not new: hiding from an abusive husband, both to her and the boy, too much money, a man who looked on them both as possessions.

Ry’s plan was to retire. But his bosses wouldn’t let him. James Vincent Baxter, nee Jimmy Binanchi in the old days, was holding up the fee for his latest job, the execution of another hit man that had did the unpardonable, get stopped by the cops, killing the cops, then sold out to the Feds for no sentence. They wanted him to take out Fredrickson, a man who happened to be Ry’s mentor, though they hadn’t worked together in twenty years after the old man had killed an innocent young woman.

See, Ry had his own ethics: he didn’t kill children, cops or innocents. He always planned meticulously each job such that there was never collateral damage and his victims always looked like “death by accident.”

Fredrickson had been sent down to Colombia to see about an old farmer that wouldn’t sell his farm to interested parties. Now it appeared the man was working with a Colombian drug cartel against Baxter and the mob. He’d already wiped out one “factory,” killing fourteen employees, literally hacking, ripping bodies to pieces. A hazy photo caught on a security camera could certainly be Fredrickson.

Ry had hs own problems with his old mentor and didn’t want the job. But he had little choice. Still, he wanted to be sure. So he began to follow his car around until he saw him enter another drug factory, alone, and heard the awful screams and gunshots start up. By the time he got inside, it was the same as the other one, bodies torn apart. And something new. The smell of kerosene.

He barely got out in time.

Now it turned into a game. Fredrickson came up to him in a club for a friendly chat and made allusions to friends of his. As in the young woman and her son.

They weren’t the first though. He came to his apartment one night to find Alvin, ex-biker, bar owner, and occasional assistant on a job. Dead in his lounge chair and a veiled note about the next door neighbors.

This was going to end. Ry prepared a bomb, plastique, and while Fredrickson was in a club, placed it under the man’s car. He followed him when he emerged at closing time and when they were on the freeway sped up beside him, getting a cheerful wave s he roared past. Far enough away, Ry pushed the detonator button and the SUV went up, flipping into the air, a second explosion from the gas tank.

The only problem was that Baxter wouldn’t give him his money. TV reports talked about the mysterious explosion and the fact that no body was in the remains.

Now Baxter thinks Ry is working with Fredrickson and says he don’t kill the man, Baxter will have him killed.

Still not believing he could have escaped the bomb, Ry goes to his castle-like home late at night with a sniper rifle. Amazingly, he spots Fredrickson standing in a window. smoking and looking out at the night.

Ry would fix that.

He saw the mercury tipped bullet catch Fredrickson between the eyes, exploding the head, and watched the body, blood shooting from the neck stump, fall to the floor.

The next day there was Fredrickson out watering his lawn.

Now Ry finds himself caught between the mob, a Colombian gang, the police looking into all these goings on, and the vengeful hit man who refuses to die. And there’s the young woman and her son who Ry feels more for than he’s comfortable admitting.

Lankford kept me guessing on this one. On what exactly was going on and I couldn’t flip those pages fast enough as I tried to pin it down.


For more forgotten books, check Fridays with Patti Abbott over at her blog, Pattinase.