Tag Archives: 1940

A Detective Story—2

by Colin Deerwood

I was surprised. Al’s sister was a real looker. Al was the oldest of twelve kids and she was his baby sister. She was still older than me. A looker all the same, the kind of dame who knows how to keep herself up. She could have been thirty-five, more like forty, and right away, from the expression on her face, I could tell what she thought of me.

She didn’t waste any time. “Jesus, Al! How many times I gotta tell ya I don’t want to meet any of your creepy friends! You tell me a nice clean cut kid I don’t expect a runaway from the morgue, a goddamn zombie, for crissakes! Look at that face! I’ve seen better faces in an ashtray!”

She had spunk, that much was obvious, and her carrot colored hair had been permed to give it that Orphan Annie look.

“Now don’t start in on him, Della. Lackland, he’s a nice guy, he’s just in a rough line of work. He’s a. . .confidential investigator, you know, a private eye. . .you stand a chance of being pushed around. . . .”

She stopped in the long shadow of the light pole and fetched a cigarette from her purse to her lips. She glanced back at Al and then at me. “This guy?” she asked in disbelief pointing her cigarette at me.

I offered my lighter and she took the flame, eyeing me as she sucked in.

“Yeah, this is the guy, like I tole ya, maybe he can help you out.”

That made her smile. She blew a ball of smoke with practiced ease. At second glance, she did have a lot of make up on, a flesh-tone paste, rouged at the cheekbones, and a sort of green grease lining her eyes. Her eyelashes were unbelievably long, and her eyebrows, much too precise and too thin.

“Yeah, maybe. . . .”  The lipstick was a deep red but it didn’t altogether mask the tiny lines that indicated that those lips had been puckered to the limit.

“What’s this all about?” I wanted to know.

“I want you to find a man for me, and before you go suggesting that I look no further, the man I’m looking for walked out on me and took. . . .”  She drew on the cigarette and appraised me with one eye shut. “Let’s just say he took some of my valuables and money.”  She let that sink in, and then, “I don’t care about the money but there were a few items of, uh, sentimental value, and I’d like to recover them.”

I nodded my head, stifling a yawn.

Al suggested we all go have a drink and we went down into this little joint with a yellow and green neon palm tree in the window and a pale varnished bamboo interior. It was one of those places where you could order fancy exotic drinks with umbrellas in them. Too fancy for me so I ordered the usual, Al a beer, and Della something in half a pineapple when it came. The bartender was a seedy looking oriental in a Hawaiian shirt I thought I recognized from the track. He too took a long look at my mug.

It seemed that Della was more interested in getting her man back than the money or the jewelry. I was supposed to find him, find out where he’d moved to, and if he were living with anyone, female, for instance. She would take care of the rest. All she wanted to do was talk to him and she was positive she could convince him that they could work out their troubles. She sipped on the two tiny straws poking out of the pineapple and blinked her long lashes at me.

Maybe I looked like I had just fallen off the turnip truck. “You got a pair a socks or something I could use to track him down. I just feed ‘em to my bloodhounds and away we go!”

I got a cold stare. She reached into her handbag, a tiny green thing that matched her shoes and, incidentally, her eyes.

“This is the garage where he gets his roadster worked on.”

She handed me an old work order. “And he makes book in the barber shop down on Mulberry, the Italian’s”

I touched a finger to the swollen side of my mouth. “If you’ll pardon me for saying so, this guy is starting to sound like some kind of pimp.”

The green eyes glared. Al coughed nervously into his beer. I tried to smile but it hurt to move my mouth that way.

“Don’t make that any of your business, crumb. Find him, if you can, and stay out of his way because if he gets his hands on you. . . .”

The barbershop had a bell over the door that sounded when I walked in. The man in the polished hair behind the chair looked up from the array of combs in his hand. He chose one and pointed with it to the door behind me.

“Get outta here!”

“I’m looking for Eddie Cartucci. I got a message for him.”

“Wad I say? Get outta here, I doan need your kinds!”  He bared his teeth beneath the dark sliver of hair on his upper lip. “Gedout! gedout!”

A couple of toughs slid through a crack in the door at the back and hunched over toward me.

“Hey, creep, you heard the man, beat it!”

I caught a look at myself in the mirror behind the barber chair as a big hand slapped my shoulder and I was spun around and lifted out through the door, my shins slammed into the concrete steps leading up to street level.

I walked to the diner down the street and over the tracks by the row of warehouses. I sat on a round stool at the counter and ordered a cup from the chef in the sweat trimmed white paper hat. He drew the coffee from the huge steamer tank like a bartender drawing a beer from a keg. The air was sweet, thick, and greasy. I’d taken a sip and passed my hand over my head to slick the hair back before I noticed him.

He pretty much matched the description I had dragged out of Della. Broad shouldered, well dressed, patent leather hair, tanned features, and narrow, mean eyes. He was leaning over the table of the booth at the far end of the diner and talking to a couple of his employees like he meant business.

By the time I tuned in, he’d changed his tone and was saying something jokey like “you’ll know how long it gets when you get it up.”  One of the girls, a pale frail with a bright red smoocher, offered her cigarette for him to light. He snapped the flame to the tobacco and she blew out a puff with a knowing smile.

On the way out he gave me a sidelong glance, which immediately suspicioned me to the probability that this gent was slick enough to be checking over his shoulder, and that following him to his address would be dangerous to my life, limb, and safety. I chose a much pleasanter option.

I walked over to the booth, cup in hand.

“Buy you girls a coffee?”

The blonde with the soda took her mouth off the straw only long enough to say, “Take a walk, buster.”

The pale brunette held me with her eyes, cigarette in her hand poised by her chin, a sheer light blue neck scarf tied to one side over the shoulder.

I addressed her. “Come on, sister, nothing wrong with buying a cup of coffee for a couple of hard working ladies, is there?”

The blonde was doing the talking. “Ok, so what do you want, tough guy? Obviously we ain’t the coffee type. Maybe you think we ain’t nice girls or something.”

With that the brunette smiled her smile. It had a thrilling effect on me. I wanted to find a place for both of us to lie down and let her do her nasty stuff.

“No, no, I certainly wouldn’t think that of you ladies. I was just wondering about that friend of yours, the one who just left. He looks an awful lot like a guy I went to school with. What’s his name?”

The blonde sneered at me, the brunette still smiling. “You never went to school, fat head. What do you really want?”

I decided to play it straight and lay it on the line. What did I have to lose?

I leaned over the table and got confidential. I told them I was a private dick. That raised a chuckle. And I told them about the bump on my head. I told them about Al’s sister and about their man. They laughed at everything I said. The details had them in stitches. Pretty soon I was sitting down taking a refill from the chef, lighting the brunette’s cigarette, and making small talk with the blonde. She was interested in Al’s sister. It wasn’t inconceivable that their man was traveling with a straight woman. She wanted to know more, and we traded information in an off the cuff fashion bit by bit.

I left the diner pleased by my audacity and, best of all, with the information I wanted. I felt a little less stupid though the bruises on my face still ached and my shins smarted.

The brownstone was on the Westside and easy enough to find. So was the mug’s yellow roadster. It stuck out like a new shoe in a cobbler’s shop. I was being a sap again.

Al’s sister had me come up to her apartment after I’d called her to say that I’d got a line on her Eddie’s new address. She was sociable this time, maybe a tiny bit seductive. She didn’t object when I asked for an advance and gave me the fifty bucks I wanted. Then she smiled a smile that seemed to say everything.

“Lack, I want you to go to Eddie’s place for me. Ask him to return my things, tell him I still love him, tell him I want to see him soon, ask him to call or come by.”

I looked at the drink in my hand. Drugged? I shook my head even though that made it hurt. “That’s a good way of getting myself killed, lady, not on my life am I gonna do that!”

She didn’t blink. “I’ll add another hundred to your fee.”

I blinked. I started to think but stopped at the dollar sign. “What is it you want. . . returned? I could leave a note, you know, saying ‘Della really misses you and she wants you to call or come by or something, and by the way, I’m taking the. . .what was it again?”

“A jewelry box, a black lacquer jewelry box.”  She mimed the size and shape with her hands.

“Jewelry box. Ok. Do you get my drift? I can get the jewelry box back, but I don’t particularly want to be anybody’s messenger boy.”  Maybe it was the drink, but I felt dangerously close to being a messenger boy just then.

She smiled thin. “Suit yourself.”

Then I stopped in at McCauley’s to pay off my tab. The bartender asked me if I was practicing to be a wino as he took my money. I had to order another drink after that crack. I put it on my tab. And another after that. And another so that by the time I stood in front of the brownstone, my face didn’t hurt anymore, it only looked like it did.

I hadn’t sent for the ambulance, either, but there was one there, parked out front of the brownstone and flanked by squad cars of the city’s finest. There was also a fair sized crowd gathered around the entrance to the building. I weaved through the throng, easy enough in my condition, and up to the uniforms holding the on-lookers back. They were just wheeling the stretcher out followed by a couple of plainclothes guys and a blonde dame who looked awfully familiar. Then it all came together as she caught my gaze and recognized me. She was one of Eddie’s girls, the one I had entertained at the diner. Her finger was pointing at me and I knew then that that was Eddie with the sheet over his face. The thing that struck me funny was that these plainclothes cops were wearing exactly the same kind of fedora. The guy behind me was craning around me to get a better look and didn’t understand that I wanted to get back through. He didn’t like it when I shoved him, but he didn’t get a chance to shove me back. I had a hat on each arm leading me aside.

“Hey, what’s going on, boys?” I said nonchalantly.

“Let’s go downtown and talk about it,” one or the other said.

Hogan looked in on me cooling my heels in the holding tank.

“Whatsa matter, wisenheimer, vagrancy again? Or is it drunk and disorderly?”

“Murder,” and I watched his bulldog face turn to mud.

“Ya don’t say?”  He had his fists on his hips, sheaf of papers in one, tie loosened around the collar, sweat darkened yoke and pits, cuffs rolled up to the elbows. If it weren’t for the revolver on his hip, you’d swear he smelled just like a parish priest. Now he was interested.

“I always took you to be dumber than that. Murder takes guts. And some smarts. You got neither.”

“Thanks, Hogan, I really appreciate your concern but don’t bother. I know you think I’m a good for nothing asshole and you’re probably right. . . .”

“Not probably, positively. What happened to your face?”

“I fell down on some guy’s knuckles or the toe of his shoe, something like that.”

Hogan was starting to bore me. He must have got the hint because he left after razing me with a long pitying look, the kind you get from the padre when you tell him you don’t care if you go to Hell.

Della didn’t answer. When I got through with the doorbell I started in on the door. I thought I heard the wood crack, but that could have been my fist. A woman in wire curlers stuck her head out the door down the hallway.

“She left about an hour ago.”

“Thanks,” I said, “I’ll bet you say that to all the boys. Wanna try for the sixty-four dollar question? Any idea where she might have gone?”

I got a slammed door dead bolt triple lock chain rattle for my answer. I cursed loud enough for the entire floor to hear. First I’d been beaten to a pulp by some no-bit hood and then set up by some ball-busting torch. I stood there on the moth eaten carpet in the hallway not knowing which one was worse. That the cops had bought my alibi was about the only bright smudge in the whole dismal chain of events.

I dragged myself down the three flights of stairs to the street below. A cold rain had begun to fall, the failing light failed even more, and me without an umbrella. I paused in the foyer before making a dash for it. The row of mailboxes caught my eye. Hers was number thirty-four. It had a little paper strip fastened to the front with “D. Street” written in a neat hand. A mother and her daughter rushed by on the sidewalk sharing an umbrella. I dug out my pocketknife and pried the box open. Advertisers, bills, a reminder from her dentist, and a pink slip from the post office that had the “article too large for box” square checked. I put everything back except for that.

I stepped out into the rain, out into the slick dark street, out in front of a yellow cab that screeched to a halt a few inches from me. I got in and gave the driver my address. He screamed at me, said he was going to strangle me, beat me to a pulp, kill me for that stunt.

“Why’d ya stop?” I shouted back. I thought his hat was going to blow off the top of his head.

“Where’d ya say, chump?”   A true cabbie.

I unlocked the door to my office. It smelled wet. I figured the leak down the outside wall still hadn’t fixed itself. I switched on the overhead light. A mess, from the bed and the dingy sheets piled up in the middle like a tower of fungus, the reek of stale tobacco, garbage over spilling the can, butt crammed ashtrays on the table, to the unmistakable scuttle of tiny insects hightailing it for the shadows. I should have been disgusted but I was too preoccupied.

I had revenge on my mind and there wasn’t room for anything else. I reached under the mattress and pulled out a bundled oily rag wrapped around an old .38 Smith & Wesson with the serial numbers filed off. It was something that had come my way a few years earlier and I had stashed it away for just such a time. I dug through a box of papers on the floor of the closet. No bullets there. I went through a couple of coat pockets and found one .38 caliber bullet. Then I remembered I’d been using one to add up expenses and it was still on the table among the bottle caps and paper matches. That made two. I stood on a chair and reached my hand into the dark recesses of the closet shelf. Nothing but an old suitcase I’d all but forgotten. Full of old papers from a novel I was going to write. And yes, one lone bullet rattling around in the bottom. I had no idea how it got there.

Next Time: Out To Get Even

A Detective Story—1

by Colin Deerwood

Lackland Ask is the name.  ‘Lack’ to my friends, ‘Don’t’ to those who think they’re funny. You might have seen my portrait on the cover of Black Mask, the crime fiction magazine. This is my story.  It starts with a blonde.  This kind of story always starts with a blonde.

I was wearing my only suit, a barely stylish, casual lapel pinstripe black coat over a high vest and loosened at the neck a small knot red, blue and gold school tie.  The frayed cuff of my white shirt at my left wrist nudged the square crystal of the watch held there with an alligator hide strap. That hand rested casually half out of the pocket of the matching pinstriped trousers.  My other hand held a police special, finger on the trigger, pointed in the general direction of the sawdust and dirt floor.

I let go with a single round. It shattered the calm of the tumbledown roadhouse where I had stopped in for a mint julep. All they had was sipping corn.  It also disturbed the concentration of the two hayseeds whose hands were doing a thorough job of roaming all over the pink parts of the blonde in the black spaghetti-strap dress.  They turned their heads, hands poised, to look at me with sorrowful puzzlement.

“You’re a dead man,” I said evenly.

I twitched a corner of my thin, neatly trimmed moustache and drew my left hand out.

They were real attentive to the meaning of my thumb and scurried sideways into the mismatched collection of barrel stave tables, chairs, and benches

I moved my slick combed head just enough to let the blonde know what I wanted.  “Now you and I will take a ride.  Chevy coupe, out front.  Get in it.”

She stared at me, uncomprehending.  I emphasized with my thumb.  She clutched her small black handbag to her breasts and brushed past me.

The bartender looked like he was trying to decide whether to make a foolish move with something from under the bar.

“You’re a dead man,” I said evenly.

He froze and I stepped away, keeping the pistol in front of me, waist high, still pointing toward the floor.  I indicated the dollar bill next to my empty glass.  “Buy these gents a drink on me.”

I gave them the benefit of one of my smiles, lips over bared teeth.  Their mouths gaped like the knees of worn overalls.

I stepped sideways in three steps and was out the door to a gray evening in early May, North Carolina, just outside of Raleigh.

The blonde was sitting in the passenger’s seat.  She thought she was being nonchalant looking at her face in a hand mirror and passing a puff over her cheeks. Getting in on the driver’s side I caught her knees trembling.

I fit the key in the ignition and turned the machinery on, working the gas.  The yokels had obviously decided to have that drink.  In gear, up on the clutch, and gravel spewed out from under the rear wheels to pepper the tin siding like buckshot.

I was listening to the engine purr as it lapped up the macadam and glanced over to see her clutching the purse nervously to her lap.  My hand to the dash radio made her flinch.  I tuned in one spark of reception after another but out in the wet green hills, no signal had the strength to be heard, not even the high powered stations from Memphis or West Virginia. Music might have relaxed her, dispelled her fears, soothe the savage breast.  She must have had an inkling of who I was, what I was doing, and where I was taking her.  It couldn’t have been the first time. I figured I should answer her unasked questions

She beat me to the punch.  “Who do you think you are?”

I reached inside my jacket and slipped out the faux gold cigarette case, placing it on the seat between us.

“Relax.  Have a smoke.”  I thumbed the catch and the case snapped open revealing the cigarettes, Luckies, the reefer I had rolled especially for her, and my card.

She weakened visibly when she caught sight of the brown paper cigarettes.  “Who are you?  Anyway.”

“Go ahead, light up.”

She snaked a red nailed hand out to the case, and paused, curious, a finger on my card.     She read it silently, and with an uncomprehending smile, the flip of her blonde hairdo bobbing, half asked, “Lackland Ask, Confidential Matters Investigated?”

The green and chrome point of the Chevy coup ate up the gray ribbon of roadway on its way back to the Bad Apple.

She was the boss’s daughter.  The boss was a stubby Serb by the name of Yan Kovic with crossed green eyes and a shiny pink bullet for a head.  He liked to be called “Yan-kay” by his warts and wiseguys. Like that was supposed to make him sound more American. He was a small caliber hood in the way of a lot of smarter, more ambitious Italian punks.  His kid was just another worry.

I gave him my account of how I had traced his daughter to Raleigh and her slick talking country boyfriend who had just thrown her over for the deputy sheriff’s spit-curled waitress.

“You waste da punk like I telling you?”

“Yeah, he’s dead.”  I didn’t bother to add that the deputy had done the job for me with a double barrel shotgun.

He folded his hands on the desk in front of him.  I watched his knuckles go white.

He nodded his skinhead.  “Good, good.”  A finger called over one of his Polish sausages, a washed out, pimple faced blonde with dumb eyes and a white tie over a black shirt.

“Give to Mr. Ask, Confidential Matters Investigated, his fee,” he laughed with a cough.  “A C-note, was it not?”

I tapped a Lucky on the cigarette case, fit it to my lips and lit it.  I said, “Yeah,” let the smoke out, and turning my attention to “Yankee’s” kielbasa. I watched him reach inside his suit coat, a garish mauve with pinstripes, and extract a long black leather wallet.  He folded it open and I caught a glimpse of the sheaf of bills.  That much money made me nervous. His large fingers flicked through the stack expertly and shoved a crisp specimen in my direction. The sight of Ben’s likeness in the oval hypnotized me.  I reached for it and it fluttered, just missing my fingertips, towards the plush red pile of the carpet under my feet. I crouched to catch it before it landed.  As I did, I realized my mistake.  The red pile exploded into blackness against my cheek.

I didn’t like groaning out loud.  But I couldn’t help it. The lump at the base of my skull throbbed in pain.  I should have been dead.  The Polack was a stupid careless son of a bitch and he didn’t have long to live.  I’d come to that conclusion over the last five hours since I dragged myself out of a ditch upstate.  A good Samaritan, I didn’t get his name, dropped me off at my rooming house.

The Polack was going to die very simply because I was going to kill him.

I let my head fall forward. It didn’t hurt any more or less in that position. My forearms across my thighs, I stared at the butt and ash stuffed saucer next to the ringed tumbler and the stained coffee cup on the otherwise cluttered table. I’d given the cleaning woman the month off and she’d taken a year.  I splashed more rotgut against the sides of the tumbler and knocked it back.

The Polack was going to die very simply because I was going to kill him.  First, I had it all planned out. I’d burn his ape and relieve him of his bank roll and then I’d split the Slav’s melon.  My reward would be an extended vacation in some place like Chile.  I heard they had a climate just like California down there.  It was an ideal place for a gringo with cash, that is if you didn’t mind Christmas coming in the middle of summer.

I felt around in my jacket pockets for the pack of Luckies I hoped would be there.  My luck was still breaking bad.  Not a smoke left and it was five blocks to the all-night deli, five blocks I wasn’t going to make easily.

I’d gone to a lot of trouble finding that slate-eyed hophead kid of his.  He was real small time for that trick.  It steamed me.  I knew the jerk wasn’t worried about a measly hundred clams. He had just wanted to show off that he was still a tough guy to his troops, show them the old general still had it in him.

Fatal mistake.  They should have made sure I was dead.  I’d be doing the younger hoods a favor.  I could charge for it but this one was going to be on the house.  Besides, I don’t like doing business with wiseguys.  I don’t like their ethics.

I stood up but sat back down.

Sipping my supper in a little dive on the edge of Chinatown, I went over my finances. A broken ten spot: a fin, four fish and change.  The prospect of what I had to do to get more was competing with the dull throb at the nape of my neck.

My pal Al worked in the kitchen. The wrinkles on his brow made steps up to his receding hairline.

“You don’t look too good, Lack.”

He was a little rat of a guy.  The sleeves of his dingy grease stained white shirt rolled up to his elbows showed off the graffiti of tattoos up and down his forearms.  There was an unusually elaborate round design just below the crook of his left elbow that always got me wondering.  Next to the palm trees, martini glass with naked woman as olive, assorted half clothed shapelies, parrots, and slogans, the emblem was real artwork.  When I asked him about it once, he had just shrugged and said that it was something he’d got one night when he was drunk. In Bombay. Or Calcutta.  Some place exotic I’d never visit.  It wasn’t the kind of answer I was expected to believe but I knew that was all I was going to get.

He pulled himself up on the stool next to mine.  He ogled the gash over my eyebrow.  “Take a fall?  Or maybe you was tripped.”

I nodded and set the glass to my lips.  The alcohol still stung where my lower lip had been forced against my teeth by a knee or a shoe.  It brought back the moment in a series of painful images and I almost whimpered remembering.

Al was good at reading expressions.  “I tol ya before, if ya ever needed any muscle, ya should come see me.  I ain’t too big myself, but I got friends, connections.”

I began to tip backwards but Al grabbed my arm and I opened my eyes.

Once I pressed him on who his connections were but he changed the subject saying, “Don’t ask about it until ya really need it, kid.”

“No, this is something I’ve got to take care of myself.” I said.  I watched myself say it in the mirror behind the bar.  The right side of my face was puffed up and that corner of my moustache turned slightly upward.  It wasn’t the way I ever wanted to look.  I touched it gingerly and closed my eyes. Even the dim interior made them ache and water.  Or maybe it was the damn incense.  The whiny music really got to you, too, if you closed your eyes and had a few drinks.

I began to tip backwards but Al grabbed my arm and I opened my eyes.

Madame Chi was standing behind the beaded entrance to the backroom.  She wasn’t smiling.

“I gotta get back to work, Lack,” Al said in a whisper, “whydoncha come back ‘round midnight when I get off work?  I wancha should meet my sister.”

He gave me one of those smiles that showed me he wasn’t wearing his choppers.

I killed some time at a movie house in midtown that ran three features continuously.  One was a grade B white hat western I just caught the end of. . .riding off with a wave over the shoulder while the gal’s left behind with an empty feed bag and a yearning in her heart.  Then I dozed through a Robinson cops and robbers, tuning in and out from one dream to another.  Finally I was awakened by the unmistakable sound and smell of someone getting sick off of a sweet wine drunk.  Sailors on shore leave, kids playing hooky from night school, maybe.  I didn’t stick around to find out.

The lavatory was one flight below street level and reeked, dimly lighted.  A few seedy characters shuffled around in front of the half dozen splotched urinals and looked out from the corners of their eyes appraisingly.  I threw some water on my battered burning face and tried to shake the tired throb out from behind my eyes.  Even the water seemed repelled by my mug and dripped from my cheeks in huge greasy drops.

An old black man in a battered sea captain’s hat had come in behind me.  Now I saw him in the mirror looking at me, the pockets of his gray smudged smock bulging with rags, brushes and polish cans.  He had his weight on one foot, frame and face like a burnt wood match. The shoeshine man emitted a low whistle as I brushed past him, his brow furrowed with obvious concern.  “You shoulda seen the other guy,” I told him.

My stomach growled, unashamed.  Then it did a backward flip at the whiff of cheap cologne.  A groper.

I decided to try another part of the theater, away from puking teenagers or swabbies, and settled in a seat in the middle of the middle row, no one in close proximity.

I focused on the large black and white images flickering across the big screen.  Walter Brennan pours a drink for buckskin clad Gary Cooper and some of the redeye slops over and eats a hole in the bar top.  The image directly passed on to my stomach where nothing resembling food had made an appearance in twenty-four hours and blistered a hole in my empty gut, too.

Just about then I detected the scent of fresh popcorn and the not-so-subtle displacement of air as someone sat in the seat next to mine.  My stomach growled, unashamed.  Then it did a backward flip at the whiff of cheap cologne.  A groper.

I tried to keep my focus on the screen but caught myself nodding off, drool trickling over the rim of my swollen lip.

The next thing I knew I had a lap full of popcorn.  Then an earful of sour breathed apologies as he made to brush the spill onto the floor.  He bent forward, his hand stopping on my leg.  I jammed my elbow into his face, suddenly wide-awake.  The adrenalin pumped through me.  I could hear him choking and sobbing.  I had easily broken his nose. I imagined him inhaling blood as I burst out into the exploding neon night of midtown.

Next Time: Meet Al’s Sister