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Authors: Kim Newman

The Night Mayor

BOOK: The Night Mayor
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Contents

Cover

Also by Kim Newman

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Epigraph

Part I: Get Richie Quick

1

2

3

4

5

6

Part II: The Bard of the Boulevard

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

Part III: Lady in the Dark

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

Part IV: Darkest Before Dawn

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

…And Other Stories

Dreamers

Patricia’s Profession

Twitch Technicolor

Pamela’s Pursuit

About the Author

Also Available from Titan Books

ALSO BY KIM NEWMAN AND AVAILABLE FROM TITAN BOOKS

Anno Dracula

Anno Dracula: The Bloody Red Baron

Anno Dracula: Dracula Cha Cha Cha

Anno Dracula: Johnny Alucard

Professor Moriarty: Hound of the D’Urbervilles

Jago

The Quorum

Life’s Lottery

An English Ghost Story

Bad Dreams

COMING SOON

The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School

THE NIGHT MAYOR

Print edition ISBN: 9781781165669

E-book edition ISBN: 9781781165676

Published by Titan Books

A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd

144 Southwark Street, London SE1 0UP

First Titan Books edition: April 2015

2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

Kim Newman asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

Copyright © 1989, 2015 Kim Newman

‘Dreamers’ ©1985, 2015

‘Patricia’s Profession’ ©1985, 2015

‘Twitch Technicolor’ ©1989, 2015

‘Pamela’s Pursuit’ ©1989, 2015

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.

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For Fiona Ferguson, Saskia Baron and Amanda Lipman, Hellcat Film Editors

And above all, shadow upon shadow upon shadow… Lee Garmes, Tony Gaudio, Lucien Ballard, Sol Polito, Ernest Haller, James Wong Howe, John F. Seitz and the other great cameramen of the era pitched every shot in glistening low-key, so that rain always glittered across windows and windscreens like quicksilver, furs shone with a faint halo, faces were barred deeply with those shadows that faintly symbolised some imprisonment of body or soul. The visual mode was intensely romantic, and its precise matching to the stories of fatal women and desperate men – straight out of
The Romantic Agony
– gave Forties
film noir
its completeness as a
genre
. A world was created, as sealed off from reality as the world of musicals and of Paramount sophisticated comedies, yet in its way more delectable than either.

CHARLES HIGHAM AND JOEL GREENBERG
,
Hollywood in the Forties

PART I
GET RICHIE QUICK
1

I
t was two thirty in the morning, and raining. In the City, it was always two thirty in the morning and raining.

Streets away, in the Kit Kat Klub, Nat King Cole was singing. I heard him under the permanent hiss of the rain and the sizzle of water on neon. In the distance, someone was shouting. There were three gunshots in swift succession, and the someone wasn’t shouting any more. A siren wailed, cutting into Nat’s plaintive purr, fading out as he hit the final verse. There was more gunfire, indiscriminate this time, and a car careered down the road, throwing up a splash of gutter water that fell just short of my shoes. I couldn’t see who was driving, but there was an interesting pattern of bullet dents in the vehicle’s rear, and the back window was white sugar, holed and dissolving. A police car, screeching like Mario Lanza trying for a note just out of his reach, came by in pursuit. The cars, bound together by a story I could only guess at, disappeared around a corner. Soon, even their noise was gone.

There are eight million stories in the City. The trick is to keep to your own, and not be distracted. All the others twine their plot lines around you like strangler’s spaghetti.

Back in the world, they had warned me about going crazy. I had almost laughed at them. It wasn’t so funny now it was my head in the mangle.

All of a sudden, hunched against a wall, I felt very old, very tired. Mine is a cold, wet, late-at-night profession, but just now life was colder, wetter and later than even I normally care for. Nat had finished his set now, and Judy Garland was on, singing ‘Over the Rainbow’ as if there were another world beyond the City limits where troubles melt like lemon drops. In the alley behind me, hunched down among the garbage cans, something shifted and laughed. I turned my back on it, more exhausted than brave.

I looked down at the gutter. An attenuated ghost rippled darkly in the stream. I recognised myself, but only just. There was a haunted quality about my eyes that I didn’t want to acknowledge. I was wearing my dark-grey fedora, rain-silver trench coat, powder-grey suit, white shirt, black knit tie, black patent-leather shoes and dark-grey socks with light-grey clocks. I was sheltering under the elevated railway, sucking on a soggy cigarette, waiting for the lead that was supposed to bust my case wide open.

The lead was several reels overdue.

Already, I had sleepwalked through a montage of fruitless searching. Blinking white signs, each with one letter missing: Cocacaba a Cabin, Mild ed’s, The Blue Pa rot, Grea y Joe’s Diner. Unhelpful extras expressively turning away from silent questions. My feet pounding the shimmering sidewalk, soaked trouser cuffs whipping chilled ankles. Cruising taxicabs, waving windscreen wipers, and the abstract shapes of rain on glass. Bit players lying, denying all knowledge of the man I was after. Through it all the orchestral swell of my music, a purposeful yet melancholy jazz. And, in the end, nothing to show for it.

All I had was a name. A name that closed doors and emptied bars. A name that, spoken aloud, invoked sewn-shut lips, pulled-down shades, drink-up-and-get-out looks, hastily remembered appointments and muttered warnings. Just a name.

Truro Daine.

Back in the world, the name of Truro Daine had plenty of associations. Murderer, arsonist, dope peddler, pornographer, blackmailer, flamboyant thief and a lot of other things, all unhealthy. Now, he was the last of the escaped convicts. My clients wanted him found, and dragged back to his prison of permanent steel and perishable flesh.

Sounds simple, huh?

There was a catch. The prince of catches. It would floor Dempsey in the first round, keep John Wayne off the beaches of Iwo Jima. The City belonged to Daine. Not just the Mayor and the cops and the courts… the City. Every rainwashed alley, Art Nouveau penthouse, backstreet gin joint and deserted warehouse was his personal property.

Out there in formless dark, where the sidewalk ends, Truro Daine was waiting, a coal-eyed panther in the asphalt jungle. I cupped a palm around the dying end of my smoke, snatching the warmth while it was there. I couldn’t taste tobacco any more. Taste was just one of the senses that had started to let me down.

Earlier, the rain had been heavy, a constant sheet that soaked through my hat and coat, trickling down the back of my neck. Now, it was a fine drizzle, almost invisible, pricking my exposed hand. For some stupid reason, I didn’t have gloves. My hand looked white and dead in the lamplight, smudged only from constant smoking, and felt like a shrivelled skin glove on my aching fingerbones.

A newspaper, folded headline out, slid past in the gutter. It was the
Inquirer.
G-MEN BUST AXIS SPY RING: VEIDT, SANDERS, ZUCCO INDICTED. Untrustworthy faces peered out from mug shots. Yesterday’s news.

A train shrieked overhead, lights raking the street. It was on schedule, spotlighting rickety fire escapes. In one of the apartments, Edward G. Robinson was strangling a girl. The passing train pixelated the murder. The girl was obviously a cheap floozy. Joan Bennett? She bent backwards out of the window, unable to do more than kick and gurgle. Edward G. was twisting a string of pearls into her throat. The girl lashed out with the last of her strength, knocking over a lamp. A bare wall whitened behind struggling silhouettes.

The train clickiticlicked on, empty as always.

The string broke, and pearls showered past the El, shining like freshly pulled teeth. Edward G. scrambled over the corpse and squeezed onto the fire escape. Rain streamed over his horror-struck, flabby face. His music swelled, faintly audible from the street. He crawled into the clattering cobweb of iron ladders and landings, descending with monkey-like agility.

Dropping the last ten feet, he landed across the alley from me. He was without an overcoat and hat, and his disarrayed suit instantly two-toned with the cascade that fell from the shaking fire escape. He looked at me, panic shivering his jowls. I looked at him. My cigarette went out, and I threw it dead into the water. Edward G. turned and vanished into the night. Two flights up, the rain was falling into the open eyes of the dead girl.

Death. It’s never pretty. Except for Greta Garbo, luminous with consumption.

But this wasn’t my case. The cops could handle it. It wouldn’t be difficult. Either a merciless investigator would badger the apparently harmless Robinson into a confession, harping endlessly on alibis and clues and motives. Or the murderer would be tormented by a nightmare tangle of memories and break down just as they were ready to file the killing under ‘unsolved’. Either way, Eddie G. was already on the last mile. Some things were predictable.

I waited, still wondering where my lead was.

After an age, a limousine slid out of the night, its surfaces rain-blobbed ebony mirrors. I saw myself broken into a million wobbling pieces and had the uncomfortable impression that might be a prophetic image. The headlights flashed as the car turned, dazzling as the naked sun. The giant was impatient, confined to a labyrinth of narrow streets, a raging beast tethered to a steady ten miles an hour. It stopped dead beside me, and growled. The windows were a flat black, the interior as dark as the devil’s heart, except for the rat-like eyes of the man-shape looking out from the back seat.

The front passenger door opened, and Mike Mazurki got out. With his gorilla shoulders crammed into a double-breasted jacket, he looked ready to go fifteen rounds with an enraged moose. His fingers were a bunch of fat white bananas. I had to look twice before noticing the automatic stuck like a child’s toy in his giant fist. He didn’t have any dialogue, but the gun said ‘get into the car’ in fifteen different languages. The back door swung open, and the rat eyes leaned forward into the light. I recognised Dan Duryea. He flashed a smile as full of teeth as a piranha’s.

BOOK: The Night Mayor
7.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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