Authors: Samuel Fuller
“Rich in invention and bursting with daring conceptions.”
“An amazing artist and voice in American history.”
“One of the screen’s most dynamic directors [and] one hell of a writer.”
“Uncompromising power and integrity…one of the masters.”
“I love Sam Fuller.”
“Irrepressible…he allowed his most disruptively creative impulses to run wild…he was superlatively, extraordinarily himself.”
—New York Times
“A great, great, great storyteller…He got into the deep core of what makes up a human being.”
She studied his blank face. Eyes, nose, mouth, chin, contours normal like millions of people who have faces easily forgotten. Paul had not a single distinctive quality one could describe.
She was frustrated because parsing bagmen was like juggling smoke.
What did it take to be the most trusted men in the most dangerous business in New York City? What gave them that incredible, dependable virtue of loyalty and trust? What made them so impervious to money? To all that cash they carried every day and every night?
Bank tellers steal. Bank directors embezzle. Cashiers steal. Bartenders steal. Politicians steal. Government officials embezzle. But when one of them was caught, he didn’t face a bullet in the brain.
That bullet in the brain didn’t keep a bagman honest.
Their honesty was something that she could never figure out, no matter how often she tried. A bagman made good money but never in the class of other jobs; never a fortune.
Bagmen carried hundreds of millions without opening the bag to borrow a few thousand. Rarely had a bagman that vanished with his bag got away with it. The ones that tried it were caught.
Looking at Paul she finally suspected how his father had learned about the job, and about the qualifications for it. Some retired bagman who played the horses, placed bets with Barney, must’ve got drunk, run off at the mouth, told Barney that she was the boss of all the bagmen in Manhattan.
That son of yours, he must have said. What a bagman that boy would make…
by Lawrence Block
by Max Allan Collins
by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
by Christa Faust
THE COMEDY IS FINISHED
by Donald E. Westlake
BLOOD ON THE MINK
by Robert Silverberg
by Joseph Koenig
THE TWENTY-YEAR DEATH
by Ariel S. Winter
THE COCKTAIL WAITRESS
by James M. Cain
SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT
by Max Allan Collins
WEB OF THE CITY
by Harlan Ellison
by Stephen King
THE SECRET LIVES OF MARRIED WOMEN
by Elissa Wald
by Michael Crichton writing as John Lange
THE WRONG QUARRY
by Max Allan Collins
by Lawrence Block
A HARD CASE CRIME NOVEL
First Hard Case Crime edition: September 2014
A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd
144 Southwark Street
in collaboration with Winterfall LLC
Copyright © 2014 by Chrisam Films
Cover painting copyright © 2014 by Glen Orbik
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Print Edition ISBN 978-1-78116-819-6
E-book ISBN 978-1-78116-820-2
The name “Hard Case Crime” and the Hard Case Crime logo are trademarks of Winterfall LLC. Hard Case Crime books are selected and edited by Charles Ardai.
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To Christa Lang and our daughter, Samantha
Love makes a bagman a poet or a madman.
Sixty seconds before the baby shot its father, leaves fell lazily in Central Park. Sparrow-weight with bulging jugular, the balloon peddler shuffled past the man sitting on the bench near the path bend, saw nothing to remember in Paul’s thirty-year-old cipher face. Paul was half-hidden behind a book of poems. Reading and re-reading Emily Dickinson’s
If I can ease one life the aching
, Paul relived the ten-year-old Paul suffocating his mother with a pillow. She didn’t struggle. He lifted the pillow. She weighed 97 pounds dead.
A leaf fell gently on the poem.
Paul heard the music box playing
without knowing the tune’s name. He’d heard it first a day ago. He didn’t look at his wristwatch. She was on time. Music or no music, she had pushed the carriage around that bend every morning at 9:30 for two months.
A bad thought flashed through his head. He had a ten o’clock appointment with Dr. Adson, arranged by the Boss. The doctor was to examine Paul, try to cure his brainquake. But Paul was going to be late.
For two months he had lacked courage to speak to her. This morning he had the courage.
The sun made the big, black carriage nosing round the bend shine like wet tar. He would write a poem about it. The red rose he’d left at her apartment door yesterday was clipped to the top of the carriage hood.
Suddenly he was slammed by an emotion he had never felt. Jealousy. For two months she was alone. Now the blonde, blueeyed, ivory-faced girl—his girl, his Ivory Face—was with a stranger, pushing the carriage past the two cops. One cop younger, one older. Paul had seen them every morning for two months at the bend. They were smiling at the baby in the carriage.
The baby was hypnotized by the toy monkey dangling from the wire clamped to the top of the hood between the music box and Paul’s rose.
The balloon peddler stopped shuffling. Only the cluster of his balloons was moving in the gentle breeze. His amused eyes followed the hypnotized baby who believed that the monkey was making the music.
The baby, having learned the magic way to make the monkey play the same music again, pulled the monkey’s long tail.
The music box began playing
. The gun fired from the carriage. The bullet shattered the stranger’s throat. His blood splattered the baby. The stranger fell. Ivory Face collapsed beside him. The baby cried. The balloon peddler hurled his soprano shout:
The baby shot him!
The two cops streaked past the peddler holding onto the cluster of balloons, his finger pointing at the carriage and the crying baby. Paul jumped to see if Ivory Face was hurt but his jump didn’t take place. He was nailed to the bench. The nutcracker squeezed his brain. Shouting in silence with excruciating pain, he heard the music of the flute. The tidal wave of blood drowned his brain. Paul jerked, shook, rumbled.
The brainquake came.
The explosion turned everything pink. The epicenter cracked his brain open, registering 7.7 on the Richter scale. Blood cells
fell into the crevice. Fleeing blood cells were sucked into it. Paul ran naked. Another tremor. 7.8. Paul was chased by the toy monkey playing the flute. The monkey was chased by the two naked cops. The young cop was cranking blood cells out of the music box. The older cop swung the crying baby tied on a rope like a bola. The baby smashed into Paul who fell into the crevice. The rope coiled around Paul’s throat. Blood cells sucked them down toward death…
The brainquake was over.
Sound of flute, color of pink gone.
still playing on music box. Baby crying. Green grass blinding. Blue sky beautiful. White clouds lovely. Sitting on the bench with book still in hand, the sweating Paul was a trip-hammer staring at the darker blue blur rising from the unconscious Ivory Face.
“Just shock.” The blue became sharper. The young cop left Ivory Face on the ground.
His older partner, now in razor-sharp focus too, was still checking the dead stranger. The young cop reached into the carriage for the blood-covered crying baby.
“Don’t touch it!” his partner boomed. “Don’t touch a goddam thing in that carriage!” The old harness bull grunted, forcing himself to his feet, his back killing him, his hip knifing him. “Get Homicide and an ambulance.”
He left a trail of blood to reach the closest eyewitness, sitting on the bench with a book of poems. He jerked Paul to his feet, thumped Paul’s arms above his head, frisked him for gun, seized wallet, plucked the book from his hands, checked the book for a gun, tossed book on bench, checked bushes behind bench, turned trash bin upside down, dumped bottles, plastic bags, condoms, trash on ground, kicked around for the gun, pushed down Paul’s upright arms.
“Where’d that shot come from?” he thundered.
A scraping sound from Paul’s mouth. With effort he forced out each word.
“I was reading.”
“That why you’re sweating?”
“I didn’t hear you.”
The old bull pointed to Paul’s throat. “What’s wrong with you? Cancer?”
Paul nodded. That was easiest.
“See anybody running away after the shot?”
Paul shook his head.
The bull boomed over his shoulder at the young cop, who was now ringed by men, women, children. “Keep ’em away from the carriage, goddamit! But don’t let ’em leave!” He blasted Paul’s ear, “You heard the shot. Where’d it come from?”
“You thought it was
“You a wiseguy?”
Paul shook his head.
“What do you do, wiseguy?”
“Why aren’t you?”
“Come here on your day off?”
Be careful! He’ll take me in. The Boss’ll be angry. Why aren’t they taking care of her? She looks hurt. She looks dead. I’m all mixed up. What did he say? His voice hurts…