Here is some more of New York Sour. Well overdue, I think. I have been, I confess, rather reticent about sharing it. It is incredibly indulgent. It’s not particularly interesting. A little bit awful. But I enjoy it, and people seem to like the style, and I don’t have anything else to share this week.
A few (more) notes on this novel. I am editing bits as I go. Scenes are falling to the cutting-room floor. I’ve also forgotten what year I set it in. When I wrote it the first time, I did try to avoid anachronisms, and I may have cleaned any up during the second draft, but as I have no recollection of when I set it (late 30s? Early 40s? Who knows?) I doubt I’ll notice any that go by this time. Please be forgiving of these errors. Thanks.
Oh, and before I forget, I’ve been posting little bits of unedited flash-fiction over on my tumblr, which you may wish to follow.
Now…. onto Issue #2!
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
She’s a blonde. Cute, under that oversized hat. Or she would be, if her eyes weren’t red from tears.
“How can I help you, ma’am?”
She twists her handkerchief between her fingers.
“My husband,” she says. Her voice is steady, and I gotta admire the gal for that. “He’s been… murdered.”
“I’m a Private Investigator, ma’am.” And I’ve been warned once too many to keep my nose out of high-profile murders. Gotta play this one cool. “Have you called the police?”
She smacks her palm, silk handkerchief beneath it, down onto my desk. Her eyes are police lights, flashing warnings.
“Of course I called the police,” she snaps at me.
“Now ma’am, I’m just making sure.” I lean forward onto the dark wood of my desk and interlace my fingers. “In that case, how can I help you?”
She looks away, anger draining from her face and shoulders. Leaving her weak in its wake. She sniffs. Dabs at her face with her handkerchief.
“The police… They do their best.” A generous woman, this one. “They do. But, Nick…” Her baby blues connect with me across the desk, pleading: Don’t judge me.
Lady, you have no idea who you’re talking to.
“He was involved with the… the mob.”
A high-roller, a top Italian businessman, involved with the mob? Colour me fucking shocked.
“You haven’t told the cops?”
She shrugs. “They haven’t asked. They’re sure to find out sooner or later… but until they ask I won’t say anything.”
“So why tell me?”
She drops her eyes. That handkerchief she keeps playing with is suddenly fascinating. “I asked around,” she admits. “They say you’re the one to come to if the mob is involved. They say you have…”
“Information?” Damn. Not that it’s bad to get more clients – God knows I need the money – but if they know, New York’s seedy underbelly will know too.
Whoever they are.
She shrugs one of her thin shoulders. Little blonde twig, this woman. Cute, but I can’t imagine she would hold Nick Trollieti’s attention for too long.
Maybe she didn’t.
“You want me to find his murderer?”
“I want to know what happened.” She sticks her little chin into the air. Skinny maybe, but she can take it. “Whatever it was. And if you bring his murderer to justice in the process…”
“Let me assure you. If I start looking into this case, Mrs. Trollieti, bringing his murderer to justice will be one of my top priorities.”
I spend too long looking away from what these damn gangsters do in my city. If I can bring just one of them down, so much the better.
It’s good enough for her. She smiles and extends a hand.
“Thank you, Mr. Marley.”
I look down at that white silk glove for a moment, then take it. Old money. What is a guy like me meant to do here? Kiss her hand or shake it?
She tightens her hand around mine for a moment and then releases it. Guess “shake” was the right answer. These modern women…
“Don’t say that yet,” I tell her. “You haven’t seen my bill.”
She reaches one of those gloves into her purse and pulls out an envelope. “Here. Five hundred in advance – bond, and expenses.”
I try not to look like I’ve just been handed more money than I usually see in a month.
“That’ll do well. Thank you, Mrs. Trollieti.”
I show her to my office door and close it behind her. Her silhouette wiggles for a moment in the frosted glass before she rounds a corner. Faint sounds of high heels on old wood as she makes her way down the stairs.
Old wood. I scuff the sole of my shoe against the floorboards beside the tattered old doormat. It’s chipped, splintering with wear. Could do with a sand and polish. Guess the next guy will have his work cut out.
From this angle my desk looks forlorn. My hat on the hatstand near my filing cabinet. My coat hanging underneath. A dull lamp, bulb so dim it’s nearly orange, same colour as the streetlights that slant their way through the blinds every night.
Now it’s afternoon. Grey, like the dust on my desk.
It’s a wonder I get any clients, once they see the state of this place. Let alone ones with as much money as Mrs. Trollieti.
I drop into my desk chair and drag a pad of paper towards me. It’s an idea… it wouldn’t be the first time a client had hired me to take the heat off himself. It didn’t work then, and it’s not going to work again.
Victoria Trollieti. Suspect Number One. She’ll get a lot of money from her husband’s death. I should find out how much his life was insured for.
Or… maybe she won’t get a lot of money out of this. If Trollieti had debts – worse, if he owed the mob – she might end up with next to nothing.
In which case… who did he owe? I’ll have to dig into his finances.
I make a note in my notebook to ask Mrs. Trollieti for access to his accounts. The last thing I need at the moment is for the fuzz to catch me at something illegal.
I slip my notebook into my pocket and pull open my bottom drawer. Half-empty. I shove the drawer closed.
Too early in the day for a drink. My old man used to say “it’s five o’clock somewhere”. Well it ain’t five o’clock here, and if I’m going to get much work done today I gotta stay on this side of sober.
I’ll start on the streets. Trollieti’s watering holes. A man’s lips get loose when he’s had a few drinks in him. A bartender hears more than most. More than he wants to, most of the time.
I shrug on my trenchcoat and pull open my top desk drawer. My gun greets me with a twinkle of sunlight on polished metal.
“Hello, Shirley. You miss me?”
She slips into the holster at my side. She’s cold, but so are most women. At least Shirley’s reliable.
It’ll be a couple hours before most bars open. On that side of town, that is. Over here, the bars are open 24/7. Making up for the years of prohibition – or so they say. Most were speakeasies in those terrible years.
Terrible for more reasons than one. Criminals ran this city back then. Hell, they run it now. Speakeasies were minor as far as crimes went, at least as far as I was concerned. A man like me’s gotta have a watering hole. I looked the other way. As did the other private investigators, detectives and beat-cops I saw in there on a daily basis.
Fucking hypocrisy in the ranks. At least I never made a point of “fighting crime”. Me… I’m more concerned with justice.