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Authors: Steven Gomez

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Taco Noir

BOOK: Taco Noir
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Taco Noir

Tales of Culinary Crime

 

Steven Gomez

Copyright 2012 Steven Gomez

All Rights Reserved Worldwide

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

The material has been written and published solely for entertainment purposes. The author and the publisher shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity with respect to any loss, damage, or injury caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly by the information contained in this book.

First Edition

Book Cover and design by Steven Gomez

Photography by Steven Gomez and Deborah Watson-Novacek

Printed in the USA

 

Visit
theNoirFactory.com
for the best in suspense fiction

www.noirfactory.com Copyright © 2012 Steven Gomez

All rights reserved.

ISBN:
0615635091

ISBN-13:
978-0615635095

 

 

DEDICATION

 

For Alfred Gomez

 

Who showed me which end of the spoon was which.

 

Table of Contents

 

FORWARD

THE CASE OF THE VANISHING PITS

THE CASE OF THE UPPER CRUST

THE CASE OF THE UNHAPPY CHICKPEA

THE CASE OF THE SECOND STORY EXPOSURE

THE CASE OF THE HARD-BOILED MONTE CRISTO

THE CASE OF VINTAGE LARCENY

THE CASE OF THE BITING SPICE

THE CASE OF THE AWKWARD HIGH NOTE

THE CASE OF THE FOWL PREDICTION

THE CASE OF THE HIGH STAKES

THE CASE OF THE UNDERCOVER MULLIGAN

THE CASE OF THE ABSENT EXHIBIT

THE BIG SHOULDERS

PREVIEW OF KRINGLE NOIR

PREVIEW OF THE CURSE

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

FORWARD

 

 

By Steven Gomez

 

There’s a dark alleyway because there’s always a dark alleyway. There’s fog because there needs to be fog. There’s a gin joint, a greasy diner, and a newsstand because it won’t work if there isn’t. In the distance a fog horn cries out, and the chill cuts its way through your coat like a rusty razor. You can see streetlights glow in the avenue beyond, but all they do is make the shadows that much darker. The smell of burnt coffee drifts through the air, and when the wind changes, so does the story.

              It could be the Moroccan dive down the street, where the man at the bar sports a fez and peels fruit with a stiletto. It might be the hotdog cart up the road near where the cop patrols nightly and takes a piece of whatever action comes his way. It might even be the fresh-faced kid who slings hash at the local diner, who came to the big city to be a star but ended up in over her head.

             

              There’s a marriage between food and American detective fiction that is stronger than any other genre fiction. When we imagine the hero of a hard-boiled detective story, we rarely think of the detective in his office any longer than to pick up messages from his dedicated (and often leggy) secretary. When he visits his apartment long enough to hang up his fedora, it is usually empty with the exception of a rumpled bed and a cheap bottle of booze.

              The detective’s world is defined by the places people eat, drink, and congregate. Our hero crashes cocktail parties, meets informants at dive bars, and gets his heart started every morning in the local hash-house with coffee every bit as bitter as he.

              From the lamb chops and sliced tomatoes of Sam Spade, the dry Martini of Nick Charles, Philip Marlow’s bologna sandwiches, or Spenser’s gourmet omelets, the food of the noir detective is every bit a staple of their world as is a snub-nose revolver. Bars, diners, and restaurants give the sleuth’s world definition and, well… flavor. Without them, the black and white world of noir literature becomes exactly that.

              The stories in this book all stem from a life-long love of great food and great detective stories. Some of the best times in my life have been defined by meals with friends, and stories shared. Going out to dinner with my parents as a kid meant going to a greasy spoon followed by a trip to the newsstand. A visit to grandma’s house was heralded by the smell of percolated coffee and freshly-made tortillas. Diners, truck-stops, and dives made up an early part of my life just as bistros, tasting rooms, and cafes made up the later years. Put them together, and it’s the best of both worlds.

              I’d like to think that I am the first person to tie these genres together in this particular way, but I know I am mistaken. I’ve seen and appreciated mystery stories that have focused on regional foods and flavors, as well as included interesting recipes, but I think that this book is a singular sort of animal.

              Our world-weary and slightly beaten no-name detective is driven not only by his search for a culinary excellence but also for justice. Although he is at times foolish, I’ve done my best (with the exception of the last story) to stay away from the ridiculous. Our hero is riddled with flaws and short-comings, but ennui isn’t one of them. I’m a complete sucker for a bruised and battered hero who remains unbroken. Hopefully so are you.

              The letter of the law is almost always broken and its spirit might suffer, but more often than not, justice is served. And it is usually served with the appropriate side dish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE CASE OF THE VANISHING PITS

When you deal with the mob, you gotta watch your stones

 

Spring came late this year, fighting the good fight against the oppressive snow and the pelting rain that washed the city clean of its filth, if only for a moment. The sun visited as frequently as a paying client, but unlike those same clients, when it showed up it came like gangbusters. It beat through the clouds and filled the city with an unfamiliar sensation that I can only take as hope. For me, though, the bright sun cast long shadows into my life that brought me to mind of years past and of the Herm Walther case.

              Herman was neither a good nor a kind man, which worked out well considering he was paid to be neither of those things. From the age of three he had a thirty-inch neck and an IQ to match. At age eight he probably shook down his first mark on the playground for his milk money, and developed a taste for it. With those skills well in tow, he left behind the confines of PS 102 and set out to make his way in the world. His way led him to the wrong side of the tracks.

              Herm worked as hired muscle for a reptile by the name of Zack Demone. Demone was what we in polite society call a ‘loan agent’ and what made him a success in said field was the fact that he possessed an almost supernatural ability to find desperate mugs in need of a life line and bleed them dry. If further misfortune visited these suckers and they somehow fell behind in the payments on the soul-crushing interest that Zack charged, then he would compound said misery by visiting Herm on them. For having very little education, Herm Walther excelled in the field of payment restructuring.

It was on such a visit, while Herm was assisting a local merchant adjust his bottom line, that Herm was pinched by the cops. A quick glance into the holding cell that had seen plenty of Herm Walther in his thirty years of existence convinced the DA that Herm was an excellent candidate for an extended stay upstate. In Herm’s chosen profession, a few years up the river was considered a hazard of the job, or even a mark of honor. Honor, like many other words, had no place in Herm Walther’s vocabulary. Compound that with the fact that Herm’s little woman was eight months pregnant at the time, Herm took his time in the holding cell to figure some new math. He sent word to the DA that there might be a deal to be made if some ‘arithmetic’ could be overlooked.

              Working for years with Zack Demone had given Herm complete knowledge of his boss’ dealings. It was perfectly understandable for Demone to assume that Herm Walther wasn’t smart enough to notice his lips moving, let alone pay attention to Demone’s dealings, but Walther was smarter than his boss gave him credit for. Not much, mind you, but just enough to be dangerous.

              Walther’s deal with the DA was for full immunity for any crimes committed while under Zack Demone’s employment, both known and discovered under investigation. To Herm, it seemed like a sweet deal, one that would see him out of the clink by suppertime, and home for the spring to bounce little Herm Junior on his knee.

              The only things that Herm had not been granted were protection and common sense.

              On the day that Herm was to testify to the grand jury regarding Zack Demone’s criminal activities, Herm was, for lack of a better term, ‘absent.’ Herm’s absence had made as much impact as his presence did. The DA dropped the charges against Demone, and then proceeded to have a steak dinner, graciously provided by Demone. Demone himself had to go through the extensive interviewing process of hiring a new thug. The process took about five seconds. Nature, I’m told, abhors a vacuum, and the small one provided by Herm Walther’s absence was soon filled, and the city went on its own merry, apathetic way.

BOOK: Taco Noir
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