The Hunter and The Trap presents two thrilling and suspenseful stories by Howard Fast, one of the most prolific authors of the twentieth century. In “The Hunter,” celebrated but down-on-his-luck novelist Andrew Bell returns to New York from an African safari only to find himself the prey in someone else’s big game hunt. Bell must seek the help of an old friend in order to escape with his life. In “The Trap,” an ex-soldier is tasked with traveling the world to find children for a daring social and scientific experiment. In a secret compound in California, a group of government-funded US scientists are attempting to win the Cold War by developing a race of super-humans. Isolated from the shortcomings of human society and nurtured to their full potential, these brilliant children begin to develop powers, including telekinesis and telepathy, which represent the next leap in human development. These two engrossing stories are at once horrifying, thrilling, tragic, and uplifting, demonstrating Fast’s range and versatility. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Howard Fast including rare photos from the author’s estate.
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The Hunter and the Trap
By Howard Fast
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1967 Howard Fast
All rights reserved.
Of course I went out to Kennedy to greet Andrew Bell. He had sent me a wire that he was coming in on the two o'clock plane, and he had also sent a wire to Jane Pierce, his public relations girl; so practically everyone in the world knew that he was coming into Kennedy at two o'clock. My going out there was of a particular nature, because sometimes I thought that I was his friend. Otherwise, why would he have sent me a wire?
I called my wife to tell her about it, and she asked me when I thought I might see her again.
"Well, tonight," I said. "You know that."
"Come off it," I said. "Andy Bell is my friend. What else do you want me to do?"
"He has ten thousand friends. He has friends in Istanbul and friends in Paris and friends in Madrid and friends in London and of course in New York. I'll bet he has friends in Albuquerque."
"All right," she repeated, and maybe she was sorry and had pushed it too far.
"It's just a funny damn thing about friends," I told her.
"I know. And you're the only real friend Andy Bell has or ever had."
"Maybe not even me," I said. "I don't know."CHAPTER 2
I drove out to Kennedy, and the traffic was bad, so by the time we got there, the plane had already landed. You could not miss Andrew Bell, but neither could you get very near to him, and from the number of reporters, cameras and microphones you would have guessed an ambassador, a king or a prime minister had just landed. It was that kind of a crowd. There were civilians, perhaps twenty or thirty, but for the most part the crowd was professional and the object of the crowd was news. Andy was news. He was always news.
Jane Pierce spotted me, broke out of the crowd to grab my arm, and told me to please go to him and let him see my face. She was a tall, competent blond, middle-thirties, polite, neutral and successful, and attractive in a hard way; and I was flattered that she felt that I should be with Andy. She had that manner of authority that brings importance wherever it is directed.
"He needs a hard friend," she said in my ear. "Get over to him."
If there was a distinction between hard and soft friends, there were enough in the second category. I saw Joe Jacobs, the columnist—tomorrow he would do an entire column on Andy Bell, possibly a second one the day after that; and Frank Farrell from the News; and Linda Hawley, the society protocol boss and party expert, who already would be contracting for Andy's delivery here and there; and pushing hard to break through, Lucy Praise, the actress, whom he had dated half a dozen times between two wives; and just behind her, Max Golden, the millionaire, who was content to be seen within shouting distance and to pick up any check that had no other takers—Andy took most of them; and Jack Minola, the punchy, ex-heavyweight fighter, who acted as a sort of Newfoundland dog to Andy when Andy was on base in New York, and who liked to think of himself as a bodyguard, self-appointed and tolerated because Andy never got over the fact that celebrities attached themselves to him—and never really comprehended what a celebrity he himself was.
But Jane got me through, and there Andy was, big and healthy and sunburned, his massive shoulders and six feet three inches of height topped by that graying mane of hair. His blue eyes crinkled with pleasure. His face was the face of a kid, and not the face of a fifty-three-year-old who had been married four times and had won the Pulitzer Prize—the face of a kid being fussed over and praised when he might have gotten a hiding instead.
The CBS man had taken the lead in the questioning, and he had just asked Andy where the safari had been this time.
"Kenya mostly. Then we flew into Somaliland."
"Did you pilot the plane?"
"What kind of a plane?"
"An old Piper Cub."
"And is it true you shot a lion from the plane?"
"No. Hell, no. I'm a hunter, not a circus performer."
"But you did go after lion?"
"I never hunt in Africa without thinking of lion. He's number one. I killed three lions—all male. One was a black-maned giant—the biggest lion I ever saw, possibly the biggest ever recorded there."
"Did you shoot elephant?"
"We had a kill in elephant. We had a kill in leopard too. It was a good hunt and we had a good kill."
"And are you pleased to be back in New York?"
"I am. I like New York. I like London and Paris and Madrid and Lisbon. I liked Havana once and maybe someday I'll like Havana again. And I'm glad to be in New York."
He spoke the way he wrote, and I did not know whether to laugh or to cry. He had his entourage with him, Jose Peretz and Diva. Peretz was a small, dark, tight-muscled little man with polished hair and button eyes. He carried two knives and he had been known to use them. No one knew anything about him. Some said that he had been a bad matador and others said he had been a run-of-the-mill male whore, but no one really knew anything about him except that he spoke Spanish with a Portuguese accent—when he spoke, which was not often. That was about as much as Diva spoke. She was a tall, beautiful, black-haired woman of thirty or so, and nothing at all was known about her—that is, just a little less than was known about Peretz. That was the entourage. Somehow, they made arrangements and looked after the baggage and cleared away obstacles. Now and then a pretty and young stenographer joined them: this one, that one, the girl changed. But this time there were only two.
Andy saw me. "Hey, Monte!" he boomed. "Hey, Monte, goddamn you!" And then almost without pause, he was answering a question, and he said that No, he had never killed a Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Then he embraced me, and I could feel the iron-hard muscles of his arms biting into me. No fat and no soft. "But I will," he added, referring to the bighorn.
Some young kid who worked for one of the TV networks asked another who I was, and the reply came, "That's Monte Case, his friend."CHAPTER 3
I drove him back to New York in my car, just the two of us. In the time since he had last been here, the airport had changed; the roads had changed. I think it was before the Fair, and now the Fair was over; and I was not even sure that the new stadium for the Mets had been here. But he didn't notice such things, or maybe he could not admit that anything had changed since his last visit. He closed his eyes, stretched his long length, and said, oh, my God, he was tired and beat up and felt every one of his fifty-three years.
"You're young," I said inanely. I never made good or sharp conversation with him, and I was always conscious of the awkwardness of my comments.
"Balls, Monte. I am old as the hills and goddamn tired of it. Why do I keep chasing my tail?"
"That's your problem, Andy."
"Another hunt. The chase and the kill. That's it. That's really it. That's the one sweet taste. I could give up the rest of it, the booze and the girls and all the status and celebrity horse-shit, but not that. Where are we going?"
"Where did your luggage go?"
"The hell with the luggage. That's at the Carlyle."
"That's right. Jane got me the suite there. It's the place, isn't it?"
"I suppose so. It's the place."
"I mean—since Jack's time. My God, I can't believe he's dead. I haven't been back since then. But the hotel is still in, isn't it?"
"But Jack is dead."
He had only met Kennedy once and briefly, but he was not name-dropping or trying to impress me. All the "great" names that flashed in and out of the press were his peers. If he was not intimate with them, it was only because time and circumstances had prevented such intimacy from developing.
"You don't want to go there?" I asked him.
"You said you were tired."
"The hell with that! I'm always tired."
"Pete's—Christ Almighty, that's still there, isn't it? Pete didn't die or anything like that, did he? Or go broke?"
"It's still there, and he didn't go broke."
"Monte, let me tell you one thing—one small, crowded fact of life. Suppose I needed twenty grand. Now. This damn bloody minute. No collateral—nothing except my marker. Where would I go?"
"Make it a smaller price and come to me."
"Balls. You know goddamn well that there's only one person in the world I can go to. There's only one person in the world that will write me a check for twenty grand and never ask why or how."
"Did you ever try it?"
"You're a cynical bastard, Monte."
"Good, we'll go to Pete's."
"You don't mind?" he asked, concerned suddenly that he might have hurt my feelings.
"Mind? My word, Andy, this is your day, your place, and it seems to me that it is maybe your city too."CHAPTER 4
The doorman at Pete's had only been there a year and a half or so, and he didn't recognize Andy. Afterwards, he was filled with remorse; he had the attitude of a man who wants nothing so much as to throw himself under a truck, and he pleaded for Andy's forgiveness. "You got to understand, Mr. Bell, that I'm new here. That's no excuse. But that's the way it is, that's the way the cookie crumbles, that's the way it is." Andy gave him five dollars, and the doorman swore up and down that he would never forget him again, and I suppose he didn't.
But if his welcome from the doorman was less than effusive, Pete made up for it, engulfing Andy in his three hundred pounds of fat and soft muscle and kissing him. Pete was the one man in town who could kiss another man and get away with it. They embraced and hugged each other, and then Pete yelled to the bartender:
"Mike, get the hell down to the cellar and bring up that keg of black rum that has Mr. Bell's name on it. Do it yourself. I don't want any lousy, grimy busboy hands touching that keg of rum."
"You son of a bitch," Andy said, and grinned. "You kept that keg."
"They can take away my place. Not that keg."
"You fat bastard, I love you," Andy said.
"Ha! The only thing you love, Andy, are those guns of yours, which my friend Doc Schwartz holds are phallic symbols."
"Where is he? I'll put something up his ass for him to think about. Phallic symbols, huh? You've become goddamn classy for a saloon keeper."
"And how do you like this new saloon of mine—about two million dollars worth of it visible from where you stand?"
At this time of the afternoon—it was just past four o'clock now—the restaurant at Pete's place was practically empty, but there were a dozen or so people at the bar and the serious drinkers were beginning to drift in. There were two men from the Associated Press who recognized Andy and gathered around. Bernie Watts, the press agent, was drinking in a dark corner with Norma Smith, the redheaded belly dancer, who was just one inch under six feet tall and was making a sensation doing what she did best, which was belly dancing. She led him over, and Watts apologized decently for the intrusion.
"I got this broad with me and she says she'll take me apart if she doesn't meet you, Mr. Bell, and she's big enough to do it. The only claim I got on you is that Jane Pierce and I once shared an office."
Andy had an eight-ounce glass of black rum in his hand. He shook hands with Watts and grinned with pleasure at the redhead.
"My name's Norma," the redhead said. "You're my hero. Ian Fleming was my hero for a while but he's a lousy writer. You're the best writer in the world."
"God bless you! You ever tasted black rum?"
"No," the redhead said, licking her lips. "You pour it and I'll taste it. I don't mean that Ian Fleming couldn't tell a story. He's got something you can't knock, but no class. I mean he's gauche. You know what I mean?"
"I know one thing," Andy said. "You and me, we're going to talk about literature—right?"
Lieutenant O'Brian, who was the head of the detective squad at the local precinct, came in then, and he was introduced, and then two Hollywood male stars and their director turned up, and then a photographer who climbed onto the bar to get a few pictures. The crowd got thicker, but Norma Smith, the big belly dancer, held her place. Andy was telling Pete about the big black-maned lion, and the hubbub died down, because when Andy told a story that way, straight and clean and simple, you didn't compete or interrupt. He had laid down the background with a few plain strokes. He had been alone at the time, quite deliberately. He had wanted to do it alone. He was in a big meadow, much of it covered with waist-high grass, with here and there an open spot. He had watched the motion of the grass defining the lion's path. It was late afternoon, and the lion had not yet made its kill; and then the lion came out of the grass and the beast stood there facing Andy.
"I was in no danger from the lion," Andy said. "There are very few animals that will go for man unprovoked. A man-eating lion has the habit, but he's old and cantankerous and incapable of running down game. This lion was young and vigorous. He was about thirty yards from me, and he regarded me with small interest and less concern, and I knew that in a moment he would step back into the grass and disappear. That was when I decided to make the kill, and everything I thought about I had to think through in a fraction of a second."
He tasted his rum and then explained that the lion had been in the wrong position.
"Head on—and all I could see was his face and that great mane and his front legs. Maybe a slice of shoulder, but that kind of shot is no good. The best shot is from a parallel position, with the lion a bit ahead of you. Then you can reach the heart, and then you have time for a second shot—or your bearer has. I was alone. Only one shot and that one had to be in the brain—through the eye or the skull, and the skull can be bad. I was scared as hell. If the first shot did not kill immediately, then even a mortal wound wouldn't save my life. The lion would come in like an express train—well, I did it. It was a good kill."
"Son of a bitch," Pete said.
"You're too much," the belly dancer said. The crowd got bigger, and I recalled that it was like the old days in Pete's old place.CHAPTER 5
By six o'clock, Andy had put down over a pint of black rum, and he decided to throw a party at the suite at the Carlyle. I had no opinions on this subject, because I knew Andy a little. He had probably begun to drink when he boarded the plane in Africa; his capacity was enormous and his body's ability to deal with alcohol was little short of miraculous; and by now, underneath his controlled exterior, there was something wild and irresistible.
"All of you," he said, including a crowd of about twenty people clustered around us and the belly dancer. "And I want the mayor," he said to me. "I want the mayor and the mayor's wife and the governor and I want Mon-signor Sheen—"
"You're out of your mind. And you're behind times. I think he's a bishop now, and he sure as hell doesn't go to parties."
"Maybe he would," Lieutenant O'Brian put in. "You don't know, Monte. You're not even a Catholic."
"And this is not even a religious matter, you will forgive me."
"And who the hell are you to say what is a religious matter?"
"Oh, wait one damn cotton-picking minute," Andy said. "You know, I met him once maybe fifteen years ago, but we were like brothers. There was good blood between us. We knew each other. We broke bread and we drank wine. He said to me, 'Andy, if you need me, call me and I'll come.'" He turned to Pete. "Look, Pete—am I stepping on anyone's toes? A man's religion is a piece of his gut. I don't have that gut. I'm one-quarter Presbyterian, one-quarter Methodist, one-quarter Episcopalian and I think one-quarter Jewish and one-quarter Mormon—"
"That's five quarters," someone snorted.
"So it's five quarters," Pete said. "And if he isn't entitled to five quarters, who the hell is? No, you're not out of line, Andy. You were never out of line."
"You're too much," the belly dancer said. "I'm a Catholic. I'm a rotten Catholic, but I am a Catholic and you're not stepping on anyone's toes."
"And I want Marc Connolly and Bette Davis there, and Eva Gabor and what's-his-name, that marvelous kid who conducts the Philharmonic?"
"Bernstein, and he's not a kid any more."
"Well, I want him to come with his wife and all his friends—"
Excerpted from The Hunter and the Trap by Howard Fast. Copyright © 1967 Howard Fast. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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