Authors: Jerry Stahl
Tags: #Police Procedural, #Mystery & Detective, #Humorous, #Ex-police officers, #General, #Suspense, #Undercover operations, #Fiction
From the acclaimed and controversial author of
comes one of the most vividly subversive, savagely funny, and explosive novels yet unleashed in our tender century.
is a violent and mind-wrenching masterpiece in the gonzo noir style that has earned Jerry Stahl his legion of avid fans.
Down-and-out ex-cop and not-quite-reformed addict Manny Rupert accepts a job going undercover to find out if an old man locked up in a California prison is who he claims to be: the despicable—and allegedly dead—Josef Mengele, aka the Angel of Death. What if, instead of drowning thirty years ago, the sadistic legend whose Auschwitz crimes still horrify faked his own death and is now locked up in San Quentin, ranting and bitter about being denied the adulation he craves for his contribution to keeping the Master Race pure—if no longer masterful?
After accidentally reuniting with ex-wife and love of his life, Tina, at San Quentin—they first met at the crime scene where Tina murdered her first husband with Drano-laced Lucky Charms—Manny spends a bad night imbibing boxed wine and questionable World War One morphine, hunched over a trove of photos showing live genital dissections that plant him in the middle of a conspiracy involving genocide, drugs, eugenics, human experiments, and America’s secret history of collusion with German believers in Nordic superiority.
Manny’s quest sends him careening from one extreme of apocalypse-adjacent reality to the other: from SS-inked Jewish shotcallers to meth-crazed virgin hookers, from Mexican gangbangers to Big Pharma–financed prison research to an animal shelter that gasses more than stray dogs and cats…
Pain Killers captures one man’s struggle against a perverse and demented scheme of global proportions, in a literary tour de force as outrageous, compelling, and dangerous as history itself. Not for the faint of heart, the novel hurtles readers into a disturbing, original, and alarmingly real world filled with some of the kinkiest sex, most horrific violence, and screaming wit ever found on the page—proving yet again that Stahl is, as The New Yorker described him, “a better-than-Burroughs virtuoso.”
Sun Myung Moon looked great in a bikini.
The sight did not inspire me to schedule gender reassignment, but it was undeniably engaging. As my eyes strayed to the other eight-by-ten glossies on the bedroom dresser, I found myself wondering if the arrangement was random or if there was some coded message in the way things had been laid out.
The buxom Sun Myung, sandwiched between a muu-muu’d Pope Benedict and a severely hog-tied Clarence Thomas, floated directly over Jerry Falwell, who appeared to be reading the Bible while spanking a hefty, ball-gagged blonde with CHOOSE LIFE branded across her coccyx. Of the four, Falwell was the only one who looked like he was enjoying himself. Maybe that was the message the home invader meant to convey:
Party like Falwell!
Or maybe, in the manner of burglars who relieve themselves on the carpet after stealing your silverware, the message was the fact that they were able to leave anything at all. The message was:
Hey, asshole, look what we can do!
There was, certainly, a lesson in Justice Thomas’s comportment. Despite the obvious pain and degradation, his expression was one of infinite patience. Gentle understanding. I had never been a fan, but his stoic bearing won me over. The man had nobility.
I basked in that thought for a moment, then reality clawed me again. My home invader might still be in my home. I cried out, feeling like an idiot,
“I’m a cop!”
That’s when I noticed a black and white photo, smaller than the others, wedged behind a dresser leg.
This one showed a smiling, gap-toothed fellow in a uniform. He might have been Jack Lemmon’s cousin, if Jack Lemmon’s cousin had a trim mustache and served in the SS. The twin lightning bolts on the lapels were a dead giveaway. The officer in the photo was in a laboratory, a forbidding nurse at his side. He clamped calipers in both hands, simultaneously measuring the budding breasts of naked, pubescent twin girls on his left and right. Stamped under the shot, in block letters, was BEIDHÄNDIG. Below that, in a looping scrawl, someone had penned the translation:
The ex-cop in me knew I should stop staring and deal with the situation—however it is you deal with strangers planting celebrity perv pics in your bedroom. But the image of that smiling SS man and his calipers was so disturbing, my eyes retreated to the puckish Moon. Why shouldn’t the Korean messiah enjoy some dress-up? Think what early Christians would have done if Jesus had been resurrected with cleavage!
All speculation was shattered by a gravelly voice behind me. “They’re not real!” Before I could react, something cracked the back of my head. I don’t remember going down. I only remember coming to, blinking away twirling stars, in a forced crouch. Trapped in a tiny aluminum jail.
“Christ!” I cried.
I got no photos.”
I blinked some more and realized I wasn’t in jail. I was cramped within the four legs of a walker. A heavily jowled old man waited for me to raise my eyes, then spat an inch from my knee.
I considered punching the senior intruder in the testicles. They were, in my Guantánamo crouch, at eye level, drooping prominently behind the shiny weave of his poly-blend Sansabelt trousers.
“What kind of schmohawk gets mugged by a seventy-two-year-old with a walker?”
“Happens all the time.” I yanked myself up by a walker leg so that my new friend and I were jammed face-to-face, like two guys squeezed into a telephone booth. “Just last week an old lady brained me with her orthopedic cane, and the day before that some prick with Alzheimer’s kicked me down a flight of stairs, then forgot he did it and kicked me down another flight.”
“Oh, a funny guy.”
“That’s me,” I said. “May I?”
I lifted one of his hands off the grip and eased by him. The old man’s breath stank of sardines and horseradish. When he picked something fleshy off his tongue and flicked it at me, I slapped him.
My attacker rubbed his face, his mouth forming a smile that looked like it was made of other people’s lips. “How ’bout that, the kid’s not a complete pussy.”
I kicked the walker away and caught him when he fell forward. I was that tough.
“How about you shut the fuck up so I can decide whether to strangle you or not? It’d be legal—you broke in!”
This seemed to make the jowly old man even happier. “So what’s stopping you?”
“I’m curious. You make a habit of hobbling around, planting bad tabloid shots in people’s houses? There money in that?”
The old guy spat out another fleck and I backhanded him.
“I live here, Pops. Stop hocking on my carpet.”
He spat again. This time when I tried to slap him, he caught my hand. His grip was a shock, but no more than his reflexes. He kept grinning until he let my hand drop. “Bad habit,” he said.
I winced, which I knew he’d enjoy. Then I righted the fallen walker and handed it back it to him. “You still haven’t told me about the pictures.”
“I got a job for you.”
“So that’s why you Walker Texas Rangered me?”
“I wanted to get your attention. The pics are fakes. Photoshop.”
“Fuck the pictures. What are you doing here?”
He shrugged. “You break into a man’s home, you want to give him a show. Ha!”
The old man feinted left with a jab and cackled when I ducked. Enough strange things had happened in my life that the bar for “strange” was fairly high. But this was getting up there.
“Okay, I lied,” the old man blurted. “They’re not all fakes.”
He tapped the gap-toothed SS man in my hand.
“This one is real. He’s the only one I’m interested in.”
“The Nazi. Uh-huh. You know where he lives?”
His meaty lips crumpled in a kind of private giggle. “San Quentin. Ever been there?”
“It’s prime real estate. Right near the ocean.”
“I’ve got a lot of questions, but I’m going to start with ‘Why me?’”
“Look at this place. Your life is for shit.”
“That makes me special?”
“It makes you a guy who might think San Quentin’s an improvement.”
“You trying to hire me or put me away?”
“To go to prison? Wasn’t that a bad Steven Seagal movie?”
“As opposed to the many fine ones. You’re not listening. You won’t be
prison. You’ll be
“Right. So when I’m gang-raped in my cell, all that D-block dick will be
my ass, it won’t be
“For God’s sake!” The old man slapped the photo of the SS man in my hand. “All you have to do is check him out.”
I studied the photograph. “If he’s even alive, he’s gotta be a hundred-something.”
“Ninety-seven. Twenty-four years older than me.”
“It sounds like you know him.”
I waited for more. Nothing. “Who is he?”
A shadow passed over the old man’s face. His bluster was suddenly gone.
Just saying the name somehow drained him. I had to help him into a chair. For the first time it occurred to me that maybe my uninvited guest had wandered out of a rest home. Maybe his worried loved ones were scouring the streets.
“Mengele died in ’seventy-nine,” I said as gently as possible. “I saw it on the Biography Channel. Chances are he’s probably still dead.”
The old man regarded me with clear eyes. “He might be. Or he might be in San Quentin. All you have to do is talk to him. You’ll know.”
“Why me? There must be a dozen Simon Wiesenthal guys trying to find him.”
“Ten dozen. But nobody’s asking you to find him. He’s been found. All you need to do is identify him. See if it’s really him.”
“How do I do that?”
“By helping him.”
“Helping him?” Now
wanted to sit down. “What are you, a fucking Nazi?”
“Far from it. This is part of a plan. And it’s all set up. Do you have anything to drink?”
I grabbed a bottle of water from beside the bed and gave it to him. He gulped heartily and handed the bottle back with a steady hand. His voice was strong again. “You pose as a drug counselor. Teach a class. There’ll be a few of you in the group, and one of them will be Mengele—or won’t be. You’ll all be sharing your stories.”
“You think Mengele, you think sharing.”
“Go ahead and mock. Are you familiar with the term ‘recovery’?”
“I’ve read about it,” I said.
“Well, that’s what you’ll be doing. You’ll be teaching a drug awareness class.”
“And I live up there?”
“Just for a few days. You do the job, and maybe when you come back, you still have a home.”
He reached in his jacket and pulled out one of the flyers the Realtor had stuffed into the buyer’s box she’d spiked into the lawn. NOTICE TO FORECLOSE. She kept sticking them in the box, I kept ripping the box out.
“It makes you feel like an American,” I said, “when you have the same problems as other Americans…. But it’s hard to keep up.”
“Like I say, don’t think San Quentin. Think Marin County. Prime real estate. You’ll be right on the water.”
He could see the hesitation in my face. I’ve never been good at just saying no.
“What happens if it is him? A bunch of Jews have him killed?”