In The Seduction of Peter S., an out-of-work actor gets picked up by an older woman, and together they hatch an outrageous scheme, recruiting New York’s handsomest thespians and putting them to work in the world’s oldest profession. The doyennes of the Upper East Side can have any actor they want—for a price.
The Case of Lucy Bending is an erotic thriller like no other. Among the rich and famous of Florida’s gold coast, a beautiful and precocious young girl is surrounded by adults who think only of money, power, murder, and vengeance. Will a child psychiatrist be able to save Lucy Bending from the world around her? It’s a deadly proposition.
A hardboiled insurance investigator, Wolf Lannihan has tangled with some of the world’s most dangerous femme fatales—and lived to tell the tale. Tales of the Wolf chronicles Lannihan’s bawdiest, craziest stories, and shows how he always gets his woman.
These three books by legendary thriller writer Lawrence Sanders display precisely what makes his work so addictive. No one writes smarter, sexier stories than the creator of the Edward X. Delaney Series.
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About the Author
Lawrence Sanders (1920–1998) was the New York Times bestselling author of more than forty mystery and suspense novels. The Anderson Tapes, completed when he was fifty years old, received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for best first novel. His prodigious oeuvre encompasses the Edward X. Delaney, Archy McNally, and Timothy Cone series, along with his acclaimed Commandment books. Stand-alone novels include Sullivan's Sting and Caper. Sanders remains one of America’s most popular novelists, with more than fifty million copies of his books in print.
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The Seduction of Peter S., The Case of Lucy Bending, and Tales of the Wolf
Three Thrillers in One Volume
By Lawrence Sanders
Openroad Integrated MediaCopyright © 1983 Lawrence Sanders
All rights reserved.
The Seduction of Peter S.
My name is Peter Scuro. I am the kind of man who goes through life asking: Is this all there is?
I said: "Do you know the answer to all the heavy questions that have baffled the world since Adam? I have the answer. Think of God as a clown, the Divine Clown. That solves everything. Undeserved suffering. Injustice. Pain. It all suddenly makes sense if you think of God as a clown. An earthquake kills a thousand people? Slapstick. A bridge collapses in Bolivia and thirty innocents are drowned? A great shtick. Are you following me? An infant born with leukemia? Hard act to top. The Divine Clown. Think about it. When the idea sinks in, you can sit back and applaud the performance."
Sol Hoffheimer's massive face sagged in a smile. "Peter, if you believed half of what you say, you'd be amused. But you're not; you're indignant. A nice distinction. You're not a true cynic; you're just peevish."
"That's right," I said. "I try to be hard as flint, but inside I'm just tapioca."
We were in my agent's littered office on West 45th Street. Outside, a gutsy wind and coughs of snow. Inside, a clanking radiator and the smell of dead cigars.
"So," Hoffheimer said, "I gather the audition didn't go too hot."
"Audition?" I said. "What audition? They took one look at me, and I was o-u-t. They're looking for a younger type."
"It happens," the agent said philosophically. "The director gets a mental image of the guy he wants, and —"
I gave a finger to the world. "I've been trying to match somebody's mental image — anybody's! — for twelve years now. I've worked hard. Made the rounds. Knocked down doors. Grabbed anything that came along. And what have I got to show for it? Some shitty credits and about eight thousand bucks over twelve years. That's the sum total of my theatrical career."
"Too many people," Hoffheimer said, shrugging. "Not enough jobs."
"Don't tell me. What hurts is that every year a new crop of kids shows up. I saw boys at that so-called audition today, I swear to God I could have been their father. And a lot of them handsome, rugged, with plenty of brio. Next January I'll be thirty-six. Where does that leave me, Sol — reading for the English butler with muttonchop whiskers? Yes, m'lord. No, m'lord. I'm getting to the breaking point."
"Listen," the agent said. "I can match you kvetch for kvetch. Me, I'm forty-eight. In the business almost twenty-five years. When I started, I had dreams of million-dollar deals. You know, calling the Coast: 'Hi, baby, this is Sol. Have I got a hot property for you!' Beautiful starlets. Champagne dinners. That's what I thought it would be like. Peter, I don't even know anyone on the Coast. And the only starlets I know are hookers."
I laughed. "We're a great couple of failures, Sol."
"No," the agent said. "That door could open tomorrow and a new Clark Gable or Marilyn Monroe could walk in."
"On the other hand, it could be your landlord with your overdue rent bill."
"Yeah," Hoffheimer said morosely. "That too."
The agent stripped the cellophane from a cheap cigar. He lighted it with a dented Zippo, blew a plume of smoke at the ceiling. He put his feet up on the desk. Stared at the one sooted window, the gusts of snow.
Sol Hoffheimer had grown into his face. Years ago, his head had seemed too large, his features gross. But as he aged, time had given him authority, a certain heavy elegance.
"One of the lesser Roman emperors," Jenny Tolliver had commented. "Picture him in a toga and see if I'm not right."
"You think you're a failure, Peter?" the agent asked suddenly.
"Close to it," I said. "I'm trapped. What else am I trained to do? Sell Jockey shorts in men's boutiques or demonstrate potato peelers in five-and-tens? I have no skills outside the theater. And they don't seem to want me in the theater."
"If you give up," Hoffheimer said, "you'll regret it for the rest of your life."
"I may have to live with that," I said. "If I want to eat."
The agent took his feet down, leaned across the desk to stare at me.
"I can let you have ten," he said.
I rose and began to gather up hat, coat, scarf, gloves.
"Thanks, Sol," I said, "but no thanks. I'm into you too deep now." I moved to the door, then turned back to face him. "By the way, if I don't see you before, Merry Christmas."
"Yeah," Hoffheimer said. "Merry Christmas to you, too."
I had my hand on the doorknob when I turned back again.
"I'll take that ten, Sol," I said, trying to smile.
Spring may belong to all the world, but winter is Manhattan's own. As I walked uptown on Fifth Avenue through the steely light I thought, despite my woes, that I wanted to be there, that moment.
The sky was a brittle blue, the wind edged. Snow blown from rooftops and ledges made sparkles in air as sharp as ether. Shoppers jostled. Flags snapped. Horns blared, and carols boomed from loudspeakers. It was all alive, and no one in that painting would ever die.
I strode with my tweed Burberry trenchcoat (a mite shabby at cuffs and collar) open and whipping. About my neck was a long vermilion cashmere scarf (bought at a discount from my last employer), casually looped. And cocked rakishly on my head, a knitted Irish field hat. (It was easy to steal a hat. You walked into a busy store hatless and emerged hatted.)
I had a tight, hawkish face, all corners and edges. Hair so black it was purple. An olive skin, and teeth as white and square as sugar cubes. A faint smile slicked with irony. To be honest, more Iago than Hamlet.
I was tall, lithe, with a bounce in my step and an arrogant posture. There was a thrusting forward against the crowd, against the knifing wind, against life.
I glanced occasionally at my reflection in the shop windows as I passed: In another time, I might have been a buccaneer, a courtier, a titled dandy. I saw myself as dashing — except sometimes at 3:00 A.M. when I wondered if I plodded.
My pace slowed at 48th Street, where the luxury shops began. Leather and silk. Hammered silver and molded gold. The world's riches gracefully wrought and artfully displayed, with the added attraction of uselessness.
I longed for the power to just walk in, point, laugh, and say, "I'll take that!" What a joy, to buy for no reason and discard at whim. To contemptuously show your superiority to those glittering baubles.
I paused to look into a shop that sold only imported foods: caviar and truffles, pâté and hearts of palm. A mob of shoppers waved fistfuls of bills at harried clerks.
I turned away, aching for a place in this moneyed world.
On West 54th Street, near Eighth Avenue, was the Losers' Place, a busy bar and moribund restaurant, frequented mostly by unemployed actors and off-duty cops.
It was a dim, musty hangout, boasting an alley for dart-throwing, an enormous TV set suspended by chains from the pressed tin ceiling, and Bass Ale on tap. The walls were covered with autographed photos of famous actors, none of whom would be caught dead in the joint.
The scarred bar was against the far wall. I wandered in, waved negligently at two acquaintances tossing darts, and headed directly for the bar. Planting one foot on the tarnished brass rail, I tipped my hat to the back of my head.
Jimmy, the bartender, came over and wiped away the cigarette ashes and pretzel crumbs on the bar in front of me.
"Peter," he said. "Merry the fuck Christmas."
"Ah shure," I said in a rank Irish brogue. "And I'll be wishin' the same to you and yours. Give us a wee Dickens, will ye, m'lad?"
And if you, a first-timer, had summoned the courage to ask Jimmy what a "Dickens" was, he would have muttered, "Oliver Twist" — a martini with both olive and lemon peel.
"How's it going?" Jimmy placed the stemmed glass on a little cardboard mat advertising an Eighth Avenue massage parlor.
"It's all shit," I said pleasantly.
"Oh, you discovered that, did you?" The bartender showed his gold tooth in a grin and moved away. I took a small sip of my drink, looking about casually as I waited for it to go down and warm. Some people I knew waved to me; I flipped a hand to them. Cops and actors: losers all.
Singles were at the bar, hunched over their drinks or staring at their crackled reflections in the back mirror. Two barstools to the left of me was something: a woman, standing, in a dark mink coat down to her ankles and a matching sombrero. I wondered how many little animals had been executed to provide that outfit.
I watched her in the mirror. Alligator handbag, gold Dunhill lighter, gold-tipped cigarettes. Gold rings, bracelets, heavy chain choker. Fingernails that didn't end. Hands that didn't look young. The face was shadowed by the brim of the mink sombrero, and she wore outsize sunglasses.
I was still trying to figure her age when she slid a bill onto the bar, snapped her handbag shut, and strode directly to me.
"Fifty," she said in a husky voice.
"What?" I said, startled.
"Fifty," she repeated patiently. "Fifty dollars."
I was amused, wondering what a Park Avenue hooker was doing on Eighth Avenue.
"I'm flattered," I said, smiling. "Do I really look like a man who can afford fifty dollars?"
"Dummy," she said. "Do I look like a woman who needs fifty dollars?" We stared.
"You'll pay fifty?" I asked in a low voice.
She nodded. "Yes or no?"
For the rest of my life I was to wonder why I had never hesitated.
"Where?" I said.
"Your place," she said.
"I'll have to make a call."
"Do that," she said. "I'll finish your drink. I love olives."
I used the telephone near the greasy kitchen. Someone had written on the wall: "I suck," followed by a phone number. I dialed my own apartment. My roommate, Arthur Enders, picked up on the fifth ring.
"Art?" I said. "Peter. Can you clear out right now?"
"What?" Enders said in his wispy voice. "Peter, I don't understand."
"I need the place for an hour," I said. "Alone. Right now. It's very important."
"What's it all about?"
"Art, will you do this for me? I'm supposed to meet Jenny at Blotto's at six. Will you please leave now and wait for her there? Okay?"
"Well ... if it's important."
"It is. I'll explain later. I'll join you and Jenny at Blotto's at about six-thirty. I'm buying dinner."
"You got the job?" Enders said excitedly.
"I got a job," I said. "You'll leave immediately? Promise?"
"Can I take a crap first?"
"A fast crap," I said, and hung up.
Back at the bar, she had finished my drink, eaten the olive, and was nibbling on the lemon peel. I paid the tab with Sol Hoffheimer's sawbuck and we left. People looked at us curiously. I didn't care.
In the cab going uptown, we spoke twice. At 61st Street I said, "What were you doing in the Losers'?"
She said: "Slumming."
At 72nd Street I said, "Why me?"
She said: "You look reasonably clean."
It was a six-story converted brownstone on West 75th Street. Entrance three steps down from the sidewalk. Green plastic garbage cans in the paved front areaway. Twelve apartments; north windows faced the street, south windows faced a scabrous courtyard with one valiant ailanthus tree.
Arthur Enders and I shared the back one-bedroom apartment on the first floor. It had been broken into only twice. Now we had three locks and a chain on the front door. Bars on the ground-level windows, of course.
Each month we alternated. One slept in the bedroom, one on the convertible in the living room, and then we switched. The kitchen was minuscule, the bathroom (shower stall, no tub) even smaller. We paid $450 a month for this gem and counted ourselves lucky.
For almost five years we had considered it a temporary habitation — until I landed a juicy role and Arthur completed The Great American Play. The cast-off furniture had been donated by friends, purchased at the Salvation Army warehouse, or retrieved from the gutter.
Orange crates served as bookcases. A Con Ed cable spool, lying on its side, was a cocktail table. Lamps were clamp-on photographers' reflectors, and the dining table was a flush door supported on cinder blocks. The place reeked of roach spray and cremated hamburgers. Clothing hung from curtain rods and doorjambs. Shredded rugs, contributed by a cat-lover, covered patches of a linoleum floor so worn that the brown backing showed through.
When I managed the three locks and ushered the woman into this shambles, she took one look around and said, "Jesus!"
"It's not much," I admitted.
"Much?" she said. "It's not anything."
But she took off her fur and sombrero, placing them gingerly on the back of an armchair that had a spring poking from the seat cushion. Then she took off her sunglasses. It was the first time I had a good look at her.
Upper forties, I guessed. Not much natural beauty, but hairdressers and makeup experts had made the most of what she had. I hoped aerobic dancing and a good masseuse had done the same for the body, hidden under a loose shift of champagne-colored wool.
The face certainly had strength. Maybe too much. Hard eyes, boxy jaw. Thin lips extended with rouge and gloss. Madder-dyed hair teased to soften the high brow. The neck was firm. Wide shoulders. A deep bosom. She endured my scrutiny with aplomb.
"Okay?" she asked.
"Choice," I said.
"You're a dear," she said, touching my cheek. "Got anything to drink?"
"Any port in a storm."
"Actually," I said in my best British accent ("Eckshully"), "it's Chianti."
She laughed at that. When I brought her the wine, she was coming out of the bedroom.
"Men's clothes," she noted. "Not all your size or style. I gather your roommate is a male."
"You're not gay, are you?"
"Mournful," I said. "Most of the time. What do you want me to call you?"
"Martha," she said. "It happens to be my name. What's yours?"
She didn't make a joke out of that, for which I was thankful.
She finished the wine in two gulps and I led her back into the bedroom, which luckily was mine that month.
Her body turned out to be rich and sturdy. Nipples like red gumdrops. A heavy thatch, but that didn't turn me off. A blocky torso, but she did have a waist, and the thighs of a linebacker. It was a big, strong carcass, but it didn't daunt me.
"You're beautiful," she said, inspecting me.
"Nothing kinky," she ordered. "Just a good, hard bang."
After, when our breathing returned to normal, I said, "It's none of my goddamned business, Martha, and you can certainly tell me to go to hell, but do you do this often?"
"Fuck?" she said. "All the time."
"You know what I mean — picking up strangers in bars."
"When the mood is on me," she said blithely. "It offends you?"
"Of course not. But isn't it dangerous?"
"That's half the fun — the risk. Listen, buster, it's a whole new ball game out there. Every year there are more and more women like me. Independent, with enough money to choose their pleasures. How many women in the past could do that?"
"You're right," I said thoughtfully. "I'm glad you chose me."
She kissed my cheek, then gathered up her clothes and handbag and headed for the bathroom.
"After you flush," I called after her, "you've got to jiggle the handle."
"Of course," she said. "In a place like this, naturally."
I dressed swiftly, made for the living room, and went through her coat. A book of matches from the Four Seasons in one of the pockets. In the lining, embroidered initials: M.T. The label was from the Barcarole Boutique. I knew the place. Hellishly expensive.
She came out of the bathroom and handed me some bills, folded. I slid them into my jacket pocket without even glancing at them.
"How can I get in touch with you, Peter?" she asked as I helped her on with her mink.
I jotted down the number of my answering service and told her my last name. She tucked the paper into her handbag.
"I'll get you a cab," I said, and she kissed my cheek again.
I went out with her, not bothering to put on hat or coat. In the dim lobby we met old Mrs. Fultz who lived in the ground-floor front. She looked at us sharply.
I got Martha a taxi going uptown on Amsterdam. We smiled and nodded goodbye. Then, the cold beginning to get to me, I jogged back to the apartment. My watch, a Hong Kong ripoff of a Cartier, told me I had about twenty minutes to meet Arthur and Jenny Tolliver at Blotto's.
It wasn't the first time I had been unfaithful to a woman who loved me; I knew the drill. You brushed your teeth. Twice. You showered. Twice. Most important, you washed your hair. Perfumes clung. And the smell of sex.
Excerpted from The Seduction of Peter S., The Case of Lucy Bending, and Tales of the Wolf by Lawrence Sanders. Copyright © 1983 Lawrence Sanders. Excerpted by permission of Openroad Integrated Media.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsThe Seduction of Peter S.,
The Case of Lucy Bending,
Tales of the Wolf,
About the Author,