Stories

Body, Soul, Murder, Part Five, by Ed King

#body-soul-murder #detective #fiction #jazz #mystery #new york

It was Friday night, and Maria was tired. She sat at the window watching the evening traffic go by. The sound of Carol’s music wafted in from the next room, drowning out all the quiet sounds from the street.

Carol was putting on makeup, getting ready to go out. Carol Flanagan who played the guitar and wrote poetry. They never got along well. She had a boyfriend and spent maybe one night in five at the apartment. A space of time in which she managed to turn the bathroom and the kitchen into disaster zones and play records just loudly enough to be dully grating. She didn’t try to be a hassle; she just was. It was simply her way.

Why had Maria come to New York? For what—for Jazz? Was that really it? The strange melodies, the thumping bass. Had that been important enough to uproot her whole life? To leave her father?

The door slammed, and Maria was all alone in the New York apartment with no hot water.

She had lived in the city for six months and not made a single friend. To be truthful, the city horrified her. She was terrified of its dark alleys, its infinite variety. She hadn’t talked to her father.

Worst of all, she hadn’t been to a single jazz show. She lived right in the Village but she hardly ever left the apartment. She spent all day in her room, reading or listening to music. Late at night had become the only time she ever felt like eating anything any more.

A Turkish restaurant in the village had become her sanctuary. It was open late, and she left to go there now, unsure of how she would survive hours in the apartment by herself.

A man stumbled into the restaurant at one o’clock. His clothes were rumpled. He was thin, and he had a thin mustache and long, thin sideburns. He was drunk.

“Eddie!” he cried to the man behind the counter.

The counterman turned. “Phil. What?”

“Eggs. Bacon.”

Phil noticed Maria. He sat down next to her and held out his hand.

“Phil Ocks.”

Maria turned away.

Phil started to mumble to Eddie. His friends were all bastards, he didn’t need them, that kind of thing. Eddie paid no attention.

Phil gained interest in Maria again; he turned and looked into her eyes.

“You know, you’re beautiful,” he said.

She turned to face him.

“Do you really think that or are you just saying it?”

“I know it.”

He left, forgetting about his food. She regretted dismissing him so suddenly. Wasn’t this what she had come to New York for? Life, free from the chains of Lincoln? Meeting strange men, dangerous men?

She walked out into the street. Phils’ form was just beginning to fade from the cone of a streetlight.

“Wait!” she called.

He turned around. She ran to meet him. She looked into his eyes, and they were like a gateway to the life she had imagined for herself.

She slept with him that night. It was not how she had imagined it. He fell asleep in her bed and she found that she couldn’t stand to lie there next to him. She moved to the couch in the living room. It got cold in the night but she couldn’t bring herself to go back to her bedroom to get a blanket. She just lay there—she could hear him breathing—listening to him sleep in her bed.

When the morning came, he got up and came into the living room. He was hung over and very confused at first, but when he realized how Maria felt he apologized. He offered to make her breakfast.

Maria was genuinely sort of charmed by how sorry she was, and she let him. He brought a blanket out of the bedroom for her and she turned on the radio and sat there wrapped up on the couch, listening to the food sizzling on the stove.

They didn’t talk. He made a big breakfast for her but he just made a fried egg for himself and sat there eating it, not rushing, with his eyes down.

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Body, Soul, Murder, Part Three, by Ed King

#body-soul-murder #detective #mystery

They went to a party at an apartment on 110th and and Broadway. Woody had never been to Harlem before. He looked around the street before they went in. Negroes in suits with musical walks greeted each other outside the doorways blaring jazz. On this Friday evening, they seemed more joyful, more full of life than any human beings he’d ever seen before.

The elevator was perpetually out and there were no inside stairs, so the partygoers mounted the steps of the fire escape in the cold. Before they knocked at the door, they took a moment to see if any friendly face was coming up the stairs behind them, a name to shout into the night; or if any raucous souls were perched atop the roof.

Inside the party, the music was the same way as what they’d passed on the street. A crackling intelligence, a sophistication of a kind he’d never known before, seemed to extend through the black skin and the black night through the gleaming horns and back out into the air. It landed in the dancers on the floor—hot and sweaty, shaking and grooving, smelling of glorious human bodies.
He felt all the fear of the newspaper article and Andiamo melt away. It seemed that it had never been real anyway.
He danced with Maria. The world of paperwork and phone calls receded further into obscurity. This was a new language. No forms or memos. Just her body against his.

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Body, Soul, Murder, Part Two, by Ed King

#body-soul-murder #detective #mystery

Woody slept poorly that night. Ecstatic visions of Maria alternated with premonitions of the horrible tortures that Amerigo Andiamo would subject him to. He had only just drifted off when he was woken up by a tapping at his window.

Could it her? Had he not dreamed the whole thing?

A breath of cold air came in through the window, then he heard the voice. Like the first cold air in autumn.

“Woody?”

Those blue eyes appeared out of the darkness.

“Let’s go,” she said.

Woody climbed out of his window to meet her on the street.

There she was. Just as he had remembered her.

They hailed a cab. They talked on the way.

“You ready to get started on the case tonight?” she said.

“Started?” said Woody. “I thought you said explain. I thought you were going to explain things.”

“Yeah, but that’s no fun. I thought we could get right into the action.” There was that eyebrow again.

“Action?”

“Yeah,” she said. “We’re going to go and spy on my husband. There’s a jazz club on 95th in Harlem that he’s at a lot. If we go there tonight maybe we can catch him out.”

“Why do you need to come with me?” said Woody.

“Don’t you worry about that.”

“There’s an alarming amount of stuff that you don’t want me to worry about.”

When they got to the club, the cab driver turned around in the front seat. “You sure you wanna go to this place?” he said. “It’s a pretty seedy joint.”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Maria.

They got out of the cab. Woody had never been to Harlem before. He looked around the street before they went in. Negroes in suits with musical walks greeted each other outside the doorways blaring jazz. On this Friday evening, they seemed more joyful, more full of life than any human beings he’d ever seen.

The club was a place called the Spit Valve. Woody looked over his shoulder as he came in. Would he see Andiamo here?

They sat down at a table.

“So,” said Woody. “You wanna tell me what your husband’s done to make you wanna come to a place like this to spy on him? You know, marriage is generally seen as a positive thing. You know, love, and…”

“Well, I’ve never been in love, so.”

“You were never in love with Phil?”

“No. That wasn’t love.” She eyed him skeptically. “Sex can be so intense that sometimes you think it’s love. But people change.”

“How’d you change?”

“I used to be a normal girl, and now this.”

“Now what? You still look plenty normal to me.”

She rolled her eyes like this was the cheesiest line any guy had ever used on her. She wouldn’t meet his eyes and looked down cynically into her food.

“I’m serious, you’re not so bad. Everyone makes mistakes.”

“You just wanna sleep with me.”

“I don’t see how that changes anything,” Woody said. Lame joke.

“It does. Everyone acts a certain way because they think it’ll make me get in bed with them. They act like I’m an angel.”

“Maybe you are.”

The same eye roll.

“I’m serious,” Woody said. “You’re beautiful, you’re independent. So you’re going through a bad time now. Everybody does at some point in their lives.”

“Maybe. Speaking of bad points, how’d you end up doing paperwork for the police department?”

“Well, I missed a lot of opportunities because of my peanut allergy.”

Woody looked over at the next table, where a large man in an overcoat sat smoking a cigarette. He wore a bowler hat pulled down low over his eyes and the rest of his face was shrouded in smoke. The figure he cut looked familiar to Woody, but he couldn’t place how.

The big band got up on the bandstand and started to play. A crackling intelligence, a sophistication of a kind he’d never known before, seemed to extend through the black skin and the black night through the gleaming horns and back out into the air. It landed in the dancers on the floor—hot and sweaty, shaking and grooving, smelling of humanity.

Woody felt a calm descend over him. His eyes were drawn to Maria’s.

“Would you like to dance?” he said, with more courage than he had ever said a sentence before in his life.

They got up and danced. Her head fell into his shoulder and her hair splayed over his chest. He felt all the fear of the newspaper article and Andiamo melt away. It seemed that it had never been real anyway.

The world of paperwork and phone calls receded further into obscurity. This was a new language. No forms or memos. Just her body against his.

When the song was over, she left him and glided across the room to a group of friends that stood in the corner, off the bandstand.

Suddenly Woody noticed something out of the corner of his eye. The man in the bowler hat stood up from the table quickly. When Woody looked over, he was darting out of the restaurant. Maria noticed too.

“Follow him!” she said.

“Andiamo!” Woody yelled.

“Right, let’s go!” said Maria.

Ignoring this incongruous remark, Woody saw his chance to prove himself to Maria. Borne on by the feeling that had taken him by the soul, Woody followed. The ragged rhythm drew him out the door.

They followed the shadowy figure through dark alleyways… through the steamy New York night. Woody heard jazz in every footstep that he took. His heart and Maria’s heels tapping on the sidewalk were the erratic drums underneath his movements.

At some point, they lost the shadowy character in the night. He could have slipped into a doorway or up a fire escape or into a basement. He was gone.

“Well,” said Maria (panting, flushed, somehow more beautiful than before). “I guess we lost him.”

“Yeah,” Woody agreed.

“Anyway,” she said, looking at him with that strange suggestive look again. “It’s a perfectly good night. We might as well make the most of it.”

To be continued.

Follow Ed at @edjamesking

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The Crystal Dragon, Part 6, by Edward King

#action #adventure #crystal #crystal dragon #dragon #mystery #russia #siberia

Read the previous part here. Artwork by phalanxus.

When Sedgwick and Hammer got back to their room, the power was out.

“It must be something to do with the dragon,” said Sedgwick. He looked around. “Candles,” he said.

He pulled two out of a drawer where Hammer glimpsed various other articles of seduction, set them on the small coffee table in between the two beds, and lit them. He opened the door to the fridge and retrieved two beers from the dark interior.

“What I know,” said Sedgwick. “Not much. It started last night.”

Sedgwick left the party in room 308 early. Samantha was texting him relentlessly. He made it back to his dorm room and tried to call her, but he couldn’t get through.

He went outside to get a breath of fresh air.

The whole thing with Sammy had begun as a summer fling a year ago. Did he love her? No. He couldn’t.

But there had been moments. Her rubbing sunscreen on his back before tubing the river. Exhausted afterwards. Her looking into his eyes.

“What am I going to do when you leave?”

He shrugged it off like it was nothing.

Maybe there was something there. Something worth preserving.

But no. Now was now. He typed out the text on his phone: “Sammy, we need to talk when I get back. I’m not sure if this is working.” Hit send.

It was then that he noticed the hooded figure along the periphery of the compound, inside the fence. He wore a ratty grey trenchcoat. His face was swathed in shadow. He was fingering a small, glowing box, like an illuminated rubiks cube.

“He was muttering something,” Sedgwick told Hammer, in their candlelit dorm.

“Like what?”

“I don’t know! ‘Blah, blah, blah, I’m muttering something.’”

“Never mind. What happened next?”

“He saw me and dropped the cube. It sort of shattered on the ground and there was a rumbling, like something was angered. A glow, like, emanated from all of the pieces, and formed itself into a ball. It darted inside. I followed it.”

“So there it was, this glowing orb, just hanging out in the hallway of the dorm. I was just standing there, like, aghast. Then other people started to come out.

“At first they didn’t know what to do. Then they brought out their phones and started taking pictures.

With each picture they took, the light seemed to gain more and more form. First it separated into two glowing eyes. Then a head started to appear, long and snakelike, with flared nostrils. Then a long body.

“That’s about where you came in,” said Sedgwick.

%

Hammer woke up early in the morning after sleeping poorly. He had dreamed of a golden dragon soaring through the clouds.

The sky was just getting light. Suddenly the speakers around the dormitory blared, and a dry voice intoned: “all assemble for an emergency meeting! Meet in educational building two in five minutes.”

Follow Ed at @edjamesking

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