Bad Samaritan

Nick Forte Book 5

Nick Forte has a hard time leaving well enough alone. He seriously injures a man for slapping a woman Forte has never seen before, so when Becky Tuttle comes to him with disconcerting letters sent to her author alter ago Desiree d’Arnaud, he does more than a cursory investigation. Following the thread of Becky’s problem leads through a local cop who takes the situation too lightly for Forte’s taste and into the disturbing world of men’s rights activists, for whom he has no use at all.

Becky’s case isn’t the only thing going on in Forte’s life. A chance meeting with Lily O’Donoghue, a former prostitute whose mother’s death Forte feels responsible for, leads to a blackmailer who has videos of Lily’s former occupation. Forte takes care of the blackmailer with minimal fuss, but learns (again) that no good deed goes unpunished. Forte’s innocent intercession brings him back into the sphere of Chicago gangster Mickey Touhy, who has interest in both Lily and Forte.

Forte’s usual cast of Sharon, Goose, Delbert, Sonny, Jan, and, of course, his daughter Caroline do what they can to keep him on an even keel. The problem is that Forte’s keel may be permanently damaged and the only resolutions he can arrive at satisfy no one, least of all himself.

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Excerpt

He parked on West Iowa in front of an unlighted shotgun house three-quarters of a mile north of the United Center. I drifted to a stop at a hydrant across the street. A light came on inside the house. I took what I needed from my car and went over to ring the bell.

He answered the door with an expression between confused and irritated. I took the knife I brought from the car and severed his tie an inch below the knot. His mouth fell open and I stuffed the tie into it. “I want the money you picked up at Eldrick’s and all the videos.”

He made a sound. Could have been, What videos? Hard to tell with the tie in his mouth.

I stuck a leg behind him and took him down hard. Pried his jaws apart and starting forcing the tie into his throat. “Slap the floor when you’re ready. Don’t wait too long. You pass out and I’ll leave you for the coroner.” He tapped out before I could start again.

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I pulled out the damp tie. “The money first.”

“I’m supposed to have more time.”

“You don’t. Where is it?”

He delayed until I brought a wad of damp tie into his field of vision. “On the counter. In the kitchen.”

I nodded that way and he led me to it. “Now the videos,” I said.

“You want the money and the videos? How am I supposed to make a living?”

“Not my problem. Where are they?”

“So you rob me and you put me out of business. Fuck you. Take the money and go.”

I hit him in the midsection and stuffed the tie back into his mouth when he tried to suck air. Fed it down his throat until I felt him gag. “If your business depends on those videos, then yes. You’re out of business.” He retched and I pulled the tie free.

“That bitch sent you, didn’t she?”

I stuffed the tie back into his mouth and pinched his nose shut. “You have until you pass out to show me where or I’ll find it myself.”

He led me into the front room. A laptop sat on a TV tray. Piles of DVDs in paper sleeves rested on and beside it. I put them all in my jacket pocket. Took the thumb drive I’d brought from the car and inserted it into a port in the laptop. Pressed the power button. Thumb drives are amazing things nowadays. This one had a capacity of thirty-two gigs, enough for all kinds of programs, including a bootable operating system and a data destruction program that would make the hard drive clean as a surgeon’s hands.

He moved like he might do something when he realized what was going on. I held up a finger to stop him.

“Jesus Christ, you’re going to erase them? Who the fuck are you?”

“I’m the guy who’s coming back here if she ever even sees you crossing the street again. We good on that?”

He looked at me like a kid who’d watched someone run over the bike he saved every penny for. “I don’t understand. Who are you? Why did you do this? You have no idea what’s going to happen to me without that money and that computer.”

I looked at him sitting there, almost comically despondent. “I have a friend from Texas. He says, situation like this, you just have to remember that some days you get the bear, and some days…” I waited for him to look up. “And some days the fucking bear gets you.”

I threw the disks in a Dumpster before curiosity got the better of me.

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Nick Forte series