Tom and Joe have been walking the beat on the mean streets of the Big Apple longer than they can remember—or care to. They’ve been good cops, protecting the public and holding the line against crime and chaos in a city that has plenty of both. And all they have to show for it is a whole lot of nothing.
But now the partners have devised a scheme to make all their dreams come true: the perfect heist. Tom and Joe are going to rob the fat cats on Wall Street for millions and walk away clean. With the right connections and the proper execution, there’s no way their plan can fail. And that’s why they’re so surprised when everything goes totally, hysterically wrong . . .
With Cops and Robbers, the three-time Edgar Award–winning author, named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, offers “another very hot and successful” novel with “a siren shrill finale” (Kirkus Reviews).
Praise for Donald E. Westlake
“Westlake has no peer in the realm of comic mystery novelists.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“No writer can excel Donald E. Westlake.” —Los Angeles Times
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About the Author
Westlake’s cinematic prose and brisk dialogue made his novels attractive to Hollywood, and several motion pictures were made from his books, with stars such as Lee Marvin and Mel Gibson. Westlake wrote several screenplays himself, receiving an Academy Award nomination for his adaptation of The Grifters, Jim Thompson’s noir classic.
Donald E. Westlake (1933–2008) was one of the most prolific and talented authors of American crime fiction. He began his career in the late 1950s, churning out novels for pulp houses—often writing as many as four novels a year under various pseudonyms—but soon began publishing under his own name. His most well-known characters were John Dortmunder, an unlucky thief, and a ruthless criminal named Parker. His writing earned him three Edgars and a Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. Westlake’s cinematic prose and brisk dialogue made his novels attractive to Hollywood, and several motion pictures were made from his books, with stars such as Lee Marvin and Mel Gibson. Westlake wrote several screenplays himself, receiving an Academy Award nomination for his adaptation of The Grifters, Jim Thompson’s noir classic.
Read an Excerpt
They were on day shift then, which meant they had to face all that morning traffic on the Long Island Expressway. That was the only bad thing about living out on the Island, bucking that rush-hour traffic whenever they had day shift.
One of them was Joe Loomis; thirty-two years of age, he was a uniformed patrolman assigned to a squad-car beat with a partner named Paul Goldberg. The other was Tom Garrity; thirty-four years old, he was a detective third-grade usually partnered with a guy named Ed Dantino. They were both stationed at the 15th Precinct on the West Side of Manhattan, and lived next door to one another on Mary Ellen Drive in Monequois, Long Island, twenty-seven miles from the Midtown Tunnel.
They drove into town together like this whenever their schedules worked that way, taking turns at whose car they'd use. This morning they were in Joe's Plymouth, with Joe at the wheel, dressed in uniform. Except for the hat, which he'd tossed on the back seat. Tom was in the passenger seat in his usual work clothes; a brown suit, white shirt, thin yellow tie.
Physically, they were more or less the same type, though there wouldn't be any trouble telling them apart. They were both just about six feet tall, and both a little overweight; Tom maybe twenty pounds, Joe maybe fifteen. In Tom, the weight concentrated mostly in his stomach and behind, while in Joe it spread out all over him, like baby fat. Neither of them liked to admit to themselves that they'd gained weight. Without saying anything to anybody, both of them had tried to go on diets a couple of times, but the diets never seemed to work.
Joe's hair was black, and very thick, and worn a little longer than it used to be; not so much because he wanted to be stylish with the new trends, as because it was always a boring pain in the ass to get a haircut, and these days it was possible to get pretty shaggy before anybody noticed or commented. So Joe ran longer between haircuts than he used to.
Tom's hair was brown, and thinning badly. He'd read a few years ago that taking a lot of showers sometimes caused baldness, so he'd been secretly using his wife's shower cap ever since, but the hair was still coming out. The top of his head was very thin now, with long roads of scalp showing where there used to be only a forest of hair.
Joe had the quicker personality of the two, rough and pragmatic, while Tom was more thoughtful and more imaginative. Joe was the one likely to get into brawls, and Tom was the one likely to calm everybody down again. And while Tom could sit almost anywhere and keep company with his thoughts, Joe needed action and movement or he'd get bored, he'd start to fidget.
As he was fidgeting now. They'd been sitting in this one spot in stalled traffic for almost five minutes, and now Joe was craning his head this way and that, trying to stare past the cars in front of him to see what was causing the tie-up. But there wasn't anything special to see; just three lanes of nobody moving. Finally, out of anger and frustration, he leaned on the horn.
The sound went through Tom's head like a blunt nail. "Don't," he said, waving one hand. "Forget it, Joe." He was too weary to be bugged by stalled traffic.
"Bastards," Joe said, and looked to his right. Over there, past Tom, he saw the car in the next lane; a pale blue brand new Cadillac Eldorado. The windows were all rolled up, and the driver was sitting in there in his air-conditioned comfort as neat and unruffled as a banker turning down a second mortgage. "Look at that son of a bitch," Joe said, and pointed with his jaw at the Caddy and the man in it.
Tom glanced over. "Yeah, I know," he said.
They both looked at him for a few seconds, envying him. He looked to be in his forties, very neatly dressed, and he faced front looking calm and untroubled; he didn't care if there was a traffic jam or not. And the way his one finger was tapping lightly on the steering wheel, he had a radio in there that worked. Probably even his dashboard clock worked.
Joe rested his left forearm on the steering wheel and glared at his watch. He said, "If we stay here without moving another sixty seconds by my watch, I'm going over there and study that Caddy and find a violation and give that son of a bitch a ticket."
Tom grinned. "Sure, sure," he said.
Joe kept frowning at his watch, but gradually his expression changed and he started to grin instead, remembering something he still couldn't get over. Still looking at the watch, but not really counting anymore, he said, "Tom?"
"You remember that liquor store a couple of weeks ago, the guy that held it up disguised as a cop?"
Joe turned his head and looked at Tom. He was grinning very broadly now. "That was me," he said.
Tom laughed. "Sure it was," he said.
Joe moved his arm down from the steering wheel. He'd forgotten all about his watch. "No, I mean it," he said. "I had to tell somebody, you know? And who else but you?"
Tom didn't know whether he was supposed to believe it or not. Squinting at Joe as though that would help him see better, he said, "You putting me on?"
"I swear to God." Joe shrugged. "You know Grace lost her job."
"And Jackie's supposed to have swimming lessons this summer. Dinero, you know?" He rubbed his thumb and finger together, in the gesture that means money.
Tom was beginning to think it might be the truth. "Yeah?" he said. "So?"
"So I was thinking about it. The whole thing, the payments and the problems and the whole mess, and I just walked in and did it."
Meaning it as a question, but phrasing it like a statement, Tom said, "On the level."
"On a stack of Bibles. I got two hundred thirty-three bucks."
Tom started to grin. "You really did it," he said.
A horn honked behind them. Joe looked front, and the traffic had moved maybe three car lengths. He shifted into drive, caught up, and shifted back into park.
Tom said, in a bemused kind of way, "Two hundred thirty-three dollars."
"That's right." Joe was feeling great, having the chance to talk about it. He said, "And you know what really amazed me?"
"Well, two things. That I'd even do it at all. The whole time, I couldn't believe it. I'm pointing a gun at this guy, I just can't believe it."
Tom nodded, encouraging him. "Yeah, yeah ..."
"But the thing that really got me is how easy it was. You know? No resistance, no trouble, no sweat. Walk in, take it, walk out."
Tom said, "What about the guy in the store?"
Joe shrugged. "He works there. I'm pointing a gun at him. He's gonna get a medal saving the boss's dough?"
Tom shook his head. He was grinning from ear to ear, as though he'd just been told his daughter was head of her class. "I can't get over it," he said. "You really did it, you just walked in and did it."
"It was so easy," Joe said. "You know? To this day I can't believe how easy it was."
The traffic moved a little again. They were both quiet for a minute, but they were still both thinking about Joe's robbery. Finally Tom looked over at him, his expression serious, and said, "Joe? What do you do now?"
Joe frowned at him, not understanding the question. "What?"
Tom shrugged, not knowing any other way to say it. "What do you do? I mean, is that it?"
Joe made a barking kind of laugh. "I'm not giving it back, if that's what you mean. I spent it."
"No, I don't mean ..." Tom shook his head, trying to find what he meant. Then he said, "Will you do it again?"
Joe started to shake his head, but then stopped and frowned, thinking it over. "Christ alone knows," he said.
My first squeal of the day was a robbery with assault, in an apartment over on Central Park West. Actually it was my partner, Ed Dantino, that took the call. Ed is a couple inches shorter than me and maybe ten pounds heavier, but he still has all his hair. Maybe he started using his wife's shower cap earlier than I did.
Finishing the call, Ed hung up the phone and said, "Okay, Tom. We're going for a ride."
"In this heat?" I was feeling a little queasy today, from the beer last night. Usually a feeling like that goes away toward midmorning, but the heat and the humidity were keeping me from shaking it today. I'd been looking forward to a couple hours of relaxation in the squadroom until I felt better.
The squadroom isn't all that great. It's a big square room with plaster walls painted a really sickening green, and big globe lights hanging down from the ceiling. The room is full of desks, all of them old, no two of them alike, and a general smell of old cigars and used socks. But it's up on the second floor of the precinct house, and there's a big fan in the corner near the windows, and on hot humid days there's a little breath of air that passes through from time to time, giving a promise that life may be possible after all, if we just hang in there.
But Ed said, "It's on Central Park West, Tom."
"Oh," I said. With rich people, we make house calls. So I got to my feet and followed Ed downstairs. When we got to our car, an unmarked green Ford, he volunteered to drive and I didn't argue with him.
Going across town, I started thinking again about what Joe had told me this morning in the car. I still thought sometimes he was pulling my leg, but then I'd remember the way he'd talked about it, and I'd know for sure he'd been telling the truth.
What a crazy thing to do! Thinking of it was the only thing to make me forget my stomach. I'd be sitting there, trying to burp and not being able to, and the first thing you know I'd be grinning instead, thinking about Joe and the liquor store.
I almost told Ed, in the car, while we drove over, but finally decided not to. Actually it hadn't been very smart of Joe even to tell me, and God knows I wasn't going to turn him in. But the more people that know a thing, the more chance that the wrong people can find it out. Like, if I told Ed, I could be sure he wouldn't report it, but he just might tell somebody else. Who would tell somebody else, who would tell somebody else, and who knew where it would end?
But I could understand why Joe hadn't been able to stop himself from telling at least one other person about it, and I was kind of flattered I'd been the one he'd picked. I mean, we'd been friends for years, we lived next door to each other, we worked out of the same precinct, but when a guy trusts you with a secret that could put him away for maybe twenty years you know you've got a friend.
And a pretty wild-ass friend at that. Imagine going into a liquor store, in uniform, and pulling out a gun and just taking everything in the cash register! And he had to get away with it because who would believe a robber in a policeman's uniform was really a policeman?
While I meditated about Joe's Great Liquor Store Robbery, Ed drove directly over to Central Park West and turned south toward the address we wanted. He didn't have the siren on; where we were going, the crime had already been committed and the criminals had already gotten away, so there wasn't any sense of urgency. They were reporting the robbery because their insurance required it, and we were making a house call because they were rich.
I love Central Park West. On the one side there's the park, green and rolling, and on the other side the apartment buildings full of rich people, rolling in green. The East Side has become more fashionable in the last few years, as the slums of Harlem have crowded down from the north and the Puerto Rican slum of Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues has crowded over from the west, but there's still plenty of wealth to be found on Central Park West, particularly toward the southern end.
We parked in front of the address. It had a canopy and a doorman, both of which I liked. We went inside, and going up in the elevator I said, "You do the talking, okay?"
I'd already told Ed I was under the weather, so he just said, "Sure."
It was a very expensive apartment we were headed for, on a high floor. The woman herself let us in, opening the door as though she weren't used to that kind of manual labor. She was about forty-five, and holding time away with every pill and diet and exercise she could find. She looked expensive but old, like her apartment.
She took us into the living room, but didn't suggest we sit down. It was a beautiful room, all golden and brown, with high windows overlooking the park. An air-conditioner hummed, and the sun shone through the windows, and you could almost hear the buzz of lazy insects. You get the idea; everything sun-dappled and rich and comfortable and beautiful and easy. It was just a great room to be in.
Ed did the talking for both of us, while I wandered around the room, digging how good it felt to be there. She had knickknacks and whatnots all over the place, in marble and onyx and different kinds of wood, and some in chrome or glass or green stone, and every one of them was just a pleasure to be with.
Over by the window, Ed and the woman were talking, their voices seeming to be muffled by the sunlight, muted and indistinct, like voices in another room when you're sick in bed in the daytime. From time to time I'd tune in on what they were saying, but I just couldn't build up any interest. It was the room I cared about, I didn't give a shit about the two spades that had busted in here.
At one point, I heard Ed say, "And they came in through the service entrance?"
"Yes," she said. She had a voice like a prune, very offensive. "They struck my maid," she said. "They cut the inside of her mouth, I sent her downstairs to my doctor. I could have her sent back up if you need a statement."
"Maybe later," Ed said.
"I can't think why they struck her," she said. "She is black, after all."
Ed said, "Then they came in here, is that it?"
"No," she said, "they never came in here at all, thank goodness. I have some rather valuable things in here. They went from the kitchen into the bedroom."
"Where were you?"
On a glass coffee table was an ornate lacquered Oriental wooden box. I picked it up and opened it, and it had half a dozen cigarettes inside. Virginia Slims. The wood inside the box was a warm golden color, like imported beer.
The woman was saying, "I was in my office. It connects with the bedroom. I heard them rummaging around, and went to the door. As soon as I saw them, of course, I realized what they were doing."
"Can you give me a description?"
"I honestly didn't —"
I said, "How much would a thing like this cost?"
The woman looked at me, baffled. "I beg your pardon?"
I showed her the Oriental box. "This thing," I said. "How much would it go for?"
She talked down her nose at me. "I believe that was thirty-seven hundred dollars. Under four thousand."
What a great thing! Four thousand dollars for this little box. "To hold cigarettes in," I said, mainly to myself, and turned away again to put it back on the coffee table.
Behind me, the woman was being a little miffed, saying to Ed, "Where were we?"
I looked at the things on the coffee table. It made me happy to be with them. I couldn't help smiling.
I don't know why, for some reason I'd been pissed off all day. It had started right from the time I got out of bed this morning. If Grace hadn't avoided me, we would have had us a good old-fashioned fight, because I was really in the mood for it.
Then the car, and the traffic, none of that helped. And the heat. It felt good telling Tom about the liquor store, a thing I'd been bottling up inside me for a couple weeks, but a little while after I told him and we'd stopped talking about it I was in a rotten mood again. Only now I had something to hook onto, because I just kept thinking about that comfortable bastard in his air-conditioned Cadillac out there on the Long Island Expressway this morning. I was sorry I hadn't ticketed him for something; anything. I hated the idea that somebody was better off than me.
For me, the best way to work off a mad is to drive. Not in that stop-and-go traffic like on the Expressway this morning; that just makes things worse. But in ordinary traffic, where I can move, use my skills. I get behind the wheel, I push it a little hard, win some contests, and pretty soon I feel better. So I volunteered to drive today, and my partner, Paul Goldberg, just shrugged and said it was fine with him. Which I knew he would; he has no feeling for cars, Paul. He'd rather I drove all the time, so he could sit beside me and chew gum. I never saw anybody in my life who could chew so much gum. He went through Chiclets like kids through Kleenex.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Cops and Robbers"
Copyright © 1972 Donald E. Westlake.
Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
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