Eugenie is seventeen, with long legs, blond hair, and an appetite for misery. Daughter of a corrupt millionaire, she has bounced around Europe’s finest boarding schools, and Chester Drum knows she’s trouble the moment he sees her tearing her blouse to implicate Ilya Alluliev, a Russian diplomat, in rape. The man came to give her a message, an envelope that quickly finds its way to Drum’s safe. Inside is an unsigned note claiming that a Russian Nobel Prize–winning poet is in grave danger. As soon as he reads it, Drum joins the poet on the Kremlin’s hit list. The next day, Drum goes to his office and finds Alluliev on the floor, shot dead. The police cannot help him; Drum will find answers only behind the Iron Curtain. At the height of the Cold War, Drum will risk his life for the sake of a fire-eyed teen with a heart made of ice.
About the Author
Stephen Marlowe (1928–2008) was the author of more than fifty novels, including nearly two dozen featuring globe-trotting private eye Chester Drum. Born Milton Lesser, Marlowe was raised in Brooklyn and attended the College of William and Mary. After several years writing science fiction under his given name, he legally adopted his pen name, and began focusing on Chester Drum, the Washington-based detective who first appeared in The Second Longest Night (1955). Although a private detective akin to Raymond Chandler’s characters, Drum was distinguished by his jet-setting lifestyle, which carried him to various exotic locales from Mecca to South America. These espionage-tinged stories won Marlowe acclaim, and he produced more than one a year before ending the series in 1968. After spending the 1970s writing suspense novels like The Summit (1970) and The Cawthorn Journals (1975), Marlowe turned to scholarly historical fiction. He lived much of his life abroad, in Switzerland, Spain, and France, and died in Virginia in 2008.
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Death Is My Comrade
A Chester Drum Mystery
By Stephen Marlowe
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1960 Stephen Marlowe
All rights reserved.
Her name was Eugenie.
She flew into Washington on a Thursday in June, was almost raped—or said she was almost raped—Friday night, tangled with the cops, the State Department and the Russian Embassy over the week end and was declared persona non grata on Monday. Quite a history for a seventeen-year-old girl fresh out of a finishing school in Montreux, Switzerland. But then, there aren't many seventeen-year-old girls like Eugenie.
I first saw her late on a hot, muggy Friday night. I'd driven across the John Philip Sousa Bridge with Marianne Baker and out of Washington across the Maryland tidewater flats to Lucienne Duhamel's summer cottage near Chesapeake City. Earlier, Marianne and I had bent elbows and made small talk with Washington's dinner-jacket set at Lucienne's Chevy Chase town house. Lucienne Duhamel was Eugenie's mother.
As I stopped the car Marianne chided me: "Don't they make speed limits for private detectives, Chet?" But she was smiling.
"You told me I'd like Eugenie."
"Lecher," Marianne said, and we got out of the car. "She's all of seventeen." Which gave Eugenie ten years on Marianne Baker, who's twenty-seven.
Marianne is small and blonde with a year-round natural tan that makes her hair look like platinum, especially on a moonlit night in June in tidewater Maryland. She has laughing brown eyes and a short upper lip and a full lower one and twin six-month-old sons back in the apartment in Georgetown. The boys' father, Wally Baker, is dead. I am their godfather. They're called, one for Wally and one for me, Wallace and Chester. Since they'd only recently been weaned, this was almost Marianne's first night out since her husband was killed. I'd wanted her to enjoy herself. The laughter had gone out of her eyes when Wally died. I thought it high time some of it came back. She looked happy now.
Eugenie was going to change that.
Arm in arm we went along the walk to the front porch of Lucienne Duhamel's summer cottage. I could hear the tidewater lapping against wooden pilings in back. It was very hot and very still, with a lot of moon but no wind. Light showed in the front windows of the small, cedar-shingled cottage.
"I'll say there aren't any speed limits for private detectives," Marianne told me. "Lucienne and Mr. Laschenko aren't even in sight yet."
Then we both heard their car driving up, and its headlights raked the cedar shingles. I had gotten one foot on the porch when I heard the back door slam.
"That's funny," Marianne said. "Who do you suppose it was?"
"Not Eugenie, I hope, after the build-up."
Marianne made an exasperated sound.
Behind us, Laschenko tromped once on the gas pedal of his car and cut the motor. Getting out, he called in his booming voice: "Eugenie? A surprise, Eugenie!"
The surprise was that since Eugenie hadn't wanted to attend the party at her mother's town house, Lucienne Duhamel had brought the dregs of the party here. The dregs consisted of Semyon Laschenko, Russia's special cultural attaché in whose honor the party had been given; Lucienne herself; Marianne, who would do a piece for View magazine on Lucienne's latest bid to oust Perle Mesta from her role as the hostess with the mostest; and a private eye named Chet Drum who would rather spend his time with Marianne Baker than with anyone else.
"Surprise, Eugenie!" Laschenko called boomingly again.
That was when Eugenie screamed. Not before, not when Marianne and I had first driven up and not even when the back door slammed. When she heard Laschenko's booming voice. She had held her scream for then.
I crossed the porch in two strides and pulled open the screen door. I heard Laschenko's and Lucienne's running footsteps on the crushed-shell path. Marianne said something as she came in right behind me. We saw Eugenie before Laschenko and Lucienne reached the cottage.
What she was doing was leaning against the hi-fi console in the living room. She wore brief black shorts rolled tight and even shorter against her long smooth thighs. She also wore an aqua blouse that clung to her breasts electrically in the hot muggy air. She was barefoot. Her auburn hair was drawn back tightly from her temples into a single long, thick braid which fell over her shoulder and down across her right breast. Her mouth was moistly red with no lipstick on it. Her big eyes looked scared, or tried to. Not quite terrified. She wasn't that good an actress.
What else she was doing was ripping the neckline of her aqua blouse. Her hand froze there, with four inches of the fabric ripped, when she saw me.
"What's the matter," I said to her, "don't you like it any more?"
She squinched her eyes shut. When she opened them, she'd managed to produce a single tear that rolled down her left cheek. Then Marianne stood beside me, looking anxious and concerned. Eugenie jerked her head toward the rear door. The big braid swung. The tear reached her lips, and she licked at it. "A man," she said. "I ... I didn't lock the door. He ... he tried to rape me."
It was as good a cue as I was liable to get. I ran across the living room and along a narrow hall to the rear door. Marianne went to Eugenie, placing an arm around her shoulders. I wondered if she had seen the trick with the blouse. But hell, I thought, someone had high-tailed it out of there.
The screen door in front slammed as I went out the back door. I hit sand on my first half-dozen strides, then the boards of a dock. In the moonlight at its end a figure was crouched over the kicker in an outboard motorboat. One of his arms went forward and pulled back. The motor sputtered, growled and died.
He saw me then. He jumped out of the boat, rocking it in the water. His shoes slapped the boardwalk as he ran along its edge. So did mine.
I brought him down with a tackle at the edge of the sand. He twisted over and his arms flailed at me. He threw sand in my face, and' got up. Pawing at my eyes, I rose right after him and he hit me with everything he had. I stumbled back two steps. He swung at my jaw again. This time I caught his wrist. I turned it and started to turn him.
He clawed at his jacket with his free hand and came up with a small automatic. Sweat gleamed on his face.
"Don't make me use it, mister."
"Put it away, kid. You don't want to use it."
"Let go of me. I'm getting away."
He spoke pretty good English, even in his fear and desperation, but had a slight accent I couldn't identify. He had a short shock of blond hair and a thin face with high, delicate cheekbones, almost like a woman's. He didn't look more than twenty-three or -four.
"Laschenko?" he said suddenly. The automatic hung in his hand, pointing down toward my legs. He'd almost seemed to have forgotten he held it.
"Don't take me back in there. You don't know what you're doing."
I was still holding his other wrist, and I could feel him trembling. He was as scared as anybody I'd ever seen. Eugenie had hollered rape, had tried to make it look like rape by ripping her blouse. From where I stood it didn't look like rape, attempted or consummated or any other kind.
"Please, mister. You're an American? Let go of me. You don't know what...."
The back door banged. When the kid looked up, I made a grab for the gun. I held both his wrists now. They were sweaty, turning in my hands. The gun squirted from his fingers, hit once on the boardwalk and splashed into the water. Laschenko came out of the house running.
"Drum?" he called. "You have him?"
I nodded. The blond boy sighed and stopped struggling.
Semyon Laschenko had been in Washington since April. He was a big shaggy bear of a man who wore tweeds till the middle of May and then suddenly appeared in wash-and-wear cords that would weigh less than two pounds dripping wet. He looked as English as Harold Macmillan or roast beef and Yorkshire pudding; he was as Russian as Nikita Khrushchev or a brass samovar. But that spring the cold war had entered one of its unexpected thaws, and Laschenko, extroverted, charming, had been sent to Washington to co-operate with a group of American businessmen who were setting up an American trade exhibition in Moscow's Gorky Park. Laschenko was a Party man, but he was also a party man.
When he reached us, puffing a little because he was big and forty-five or so and had run hard, he did a slow double-take. "You?" he gasped. "You, Ilya?"
The blond boy didn't say anything. Laschenko yanked at his free arm, shaking him. The boy took it docilely.
"You attacked Eugenie?" Laschenko cried.
The boy didn't speak, but I felt him stiffen. The attempted rape idea, I thought, was a new one to him, as new as it had been to Eugenie when we busted in on her.
Laschenko shook the blond boy again. He was still panting.
"That's enough," I said. "You'll wear yourself out."
Laschenko looked at me. He looked at the blond boy, Ilya. He had a clipped graying military moustache and he drew his upper lip into his mouth to suck at it. He released the boy and let his hand fall slowly.
"Let's go inside and see what this is all about," I said.CHAPTER 2
But what it was all about when we went inside was still rape. What it was all about was Eugenie, with a light robe over her torn blouse now, saying Ilya had tried to attack her. What it was all about was Ilya admitting the attempt with a nod and a shame-faced look and an occasional word. I even got the impression that Ilya liked the idea, as much as he could like anything, considering the pickle he was in.
Lucienne Duhamel sat solicitously near her daughter now. Lucienne was one of those agelessly beautiful women who could hover in her early thirties longer than a hummingbird can hover over a bush, and with even less effort. She had jet black hair worn in a short Italian cut that set off the wide pale brow and dark eyes and heavy cheekbones and softly full lips. She wore pendant earrings the color of her hair; though less lustrous, if anything, and a white sheath of a dress with gold thread sewn into the fabric. Her dark eyes usually held an amused, cynical, very Gallic look.
Not now, though. Now it was just short of one-thirty of a Saturday morning, and Lucienne's daughter, fresh from the finishing school in Montreux, had almost been raped. Lucienne was not amused.
"You realize, dear," she told Marianne, "that none of this is for publication."
Marianne said that View magazine was no scandal sheet. Lucienne nodded, and patted her daughter's hand. She asked me abruptly: "Are you bonded as a private detective in the state of Maryland, Mr. Drum?"
"D.C., Virginia and here in Maryland," I said.
"Then it is your duty to call the police?"
"A private detective isn't a policeman," I told her, "and when I'm not on a case I'm just a private citizen. So don't mind me."
A look passed between Eugenie and Ilya. "Besides," Eugenie said quickly, "he can't call the police. Or if he did it wouldn't do any good. Ilya is on the staff of the Russian Embassy. He has diplomatic immunity. Doesn't he, Mr. Laschenko?" Eugenie smiled a little.
Lucienne remembered her Gallic wit long enough to ask: "Child, are you glad he tried to rape you?"
"Maman!" Eugenie said, trying to look shocked and not succeeding.
"Well, the way you act, the way you answer our questions...."
"He made a mistake," Eugenie told her mother. "Perhaps I led him on." Lucienne looked shocked with no trouble at all. "A little," Eugenie added in a small voice. "That is, it may not have been—actually—that he attacked me. But I was frightened and...."
"And I suppose you tore your own blouse?" Lucienne said.
Eugenie darted a glance at me. I kept silent.
Semyon Laschenko cleared his throat, paced, sat down, stood up, and paced again, sucking at his moustache. "I can assure you," he told Lucienne, "that Ilya is finished at the Embassy. He goes home as soon as we can arrange transportation."
Ilya sighed. Eugenie sighed. I scowled at Marianne. I had the impression I was watching a play in which all the actors had forgotten their lines and were adlibbing until the curtain went down.
"That's all?" Lucienne demanded.
"What else can we do?" Laschenko said. "Eugenie is right. Ilya has diplomatic immunity."
"Unless he waives it," Lucienne said.
Laschenko snorted. "Would you, my dear, in his position?"
"Even if he did," Eugenie said, "I wouldn't testify."
Lucienne looked at her coldly. "You wouldn't have to. You are under age. The word, I believe, is statutory."
Ilya, staring down at his shoes, said: "I will waive diplomatic immunity."
There was a silence. Marianne gave me a warning look. I didn't know why. Speaking Russian, Laschenko said something angrily to Ilya.
"No," Ilya insisted. "I will waive diplomatic immunity. I will give myself up to the police."
"For what?" Laschenko asked sarcastically. "For frightening her? Enough. You're coming back to the Embassy with me now."
One moment Ilya stood looking down at his shoes. The next he made a run for the door. Laschenko went after him. The screen door slammed behind Ilya and his running footsteps crunched on the shell path. I reached the door a stride before Laschenko. We performed an after-you-Alphonse routine. Finally Laschenko rushed outside. In a few minutes he was back, shaking his head. "Gone," he said.
I thought Marianne smiled at me. Laschenko said he would drive Lucienne and Eugenie back to Chevy Chase, and we all went out to the cars. Leaning his head out the rolled-down window of Lucienne's Lincoln, Laschenko told me:
"Mr. Drum, we would appreciate it if what happened tonight goes no further. You understand? The touchy international situation?" His smile was not quite unctuous. "But you're a man of the world. I don't have to tell you."
"That's up to Ilya, isn't it?" I said.
Laschenko shrugged and turned to Marianne, who stood beside me. "Mrs. Baker? After all, you are a reporter."
"View isn't a scandal sheet. Good night, Mr. Laschenko."
Marianne and I got into my car. When I turned the headlights on, the Lincoln parked behind us pulled out and roared away.
"You did that on purpose, didn't you?" Marianne asked me.
"Did what on purpose?"
"That business in the doorway. You wanted the boy to get away."
"He was scared blue. And he like hell tried to rape her."
Marianne smiled. "My favorite tough guy—with a heart of gold." I lit a cigarette. "What are you waiting for, Chet?"
"She made that rape business up on the spur of the moment. Which means Ilya was trying to tell her something or give her something. If it was give and not tell, she may have left it behind for safekeeping."
"Curious?" Marianne said.
I shrugged. "Let's take a look inside."
Marianne touched my arm. She was smiling like a canary that had done the incredible and swallowed a cat. "We don't have to, Chet. Ilya gave her something, all right. An envelope. While you and Laschenko were out on the beach, she gave it to me."
"You mean you had it all the time?" I said stupidly.
Marianne patted her pocketbook. "Take me home, Chet."
We tiptoed into Marianne's Georgetown apartment, but Mrs. Gower, the housekeeper, greeted us in a hearty voice. "That's all right, they're sleeping like a pair of angels. You don't have to walk on eggshells."
"Did they sleep right through?" Marianne asked.
"They did, the little dolls. Have fun?"
"Why yes, thank you, we did," Marianne said. "A very interesting evening."
Mrs. Gower stretched, her starched uniform rustling. She was a large woman with a jaw like the business end of an ax and big, kind eyes. "Well, if there's nothing else you'll be wanting, it's about a week past my bedtime."
"You didn't have to stay up," Marianne said.
"You know something now, dear," Mrs. Gower said, "I like those twin boys some myself."
When she had excused herself and gone to bed, Marianne told me: "That old phony, she just wanted to see if I had a good time. You'd better watch yourself, Chester Drum. She's a matchmaker type, and you're her number-one candidate."
"I'll remember that."
"It's funny. When I first had to think about hiring a full-time housekeeper because Wally was dead and I had to go back to a full-time job, I thought she'd get in my hair ten times a day. But now I don't know what I'd do without Mrs. Gower. Drink?"
"You make them. The matchmaker's pride and joy is leaving to look at the twins and to get comfortable."
Excerpted from Death Is My Comrade by Stephen Marlowe. Copyright © 1960 Stephen Marlowe. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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