Never Take a Shave at a
Shop Named Delilah's
by Henry Mazel
This month, we're proud to present an excerpt from Henry Mazel's
new novel, Murderously Incorrect, available from Crime and Again
Press, which introduces New York P.I. Alex
There's a lotta good buzz about this one, with favorable reviews
and comments from Publishers Weekly, Fox TV News,
Library Journal, ForeWord, Midwest Book Review
and Booklist, as well as Amazon.com.
Raines dodged traffic and street trash as she made her way
to the sidewalk on the east side of Avenue A. She glanced down
at the paper in her hand and then up to the tenements nearby.
Her gaze stopped at number 172. A faded storefront sign read,
'Ukrainian Freedom Party.' To the right of the storefront was
an entranceway leading up a steep flight of stairs. Again she
checked the paper and the tenement in front of her. The scowl
on her face said she could do without this. For a long while
she stood there debating whether to go in. Finally, she let out
a small sigh, bent her head down and marched right toward the
Rada peered through the plate-glass window of the Veleshka Coffee
Shop, he could have spotted Katharine across the street-if he
was looking. As it was he was more interested in breakfast and
the not-so-subtle techniques involved in wolfing it down.
was a neighborhood hangout that cut across class and cultural
lines. There was an old-style fountain with leatherette spinning
stools-most of them slashed and then pasted over with tape a
shade or two lighter than the original cardinal red. Behind the
counter, a middle-aged man of vaguely Slavic origin actually
jerked sodas, and you could pick up the newspapers: The Irish
Echo or Swoboda, or even better, The Daily Racing Form. It was
a place where Slavs, post-punkers, and aging yuppies occupied
the same space, if not the same time-or maybe it was the other
not only defined the neighborhood, but you could usually get
a decent burger, and a passable bowl of potato soup.
actually hear Lesia until the third, "Good, Alex?"
up at the stocky, gray-haired waitress and forced a smile. "Like
always, Lesia. Home cooking." Yeah, and it would taste a
hell of a lot better if people would just leave him alone to
eat it. Suddenly his eggs looked runny and he felt slightly nauseated.
He dropped his fork on the plate. Breakfast was over.
yeah, home cooking," Lesia repeated affably. "More
not for me."
else? We make some stuffed cabbage, Alex. I put some in a bag
for you, okay?"
for the cabbage, don't you think?"
cabbage?" She laughed as though he'd made a joke. "Really,
from me, you take it right with you."
him another cup of coffee just in case, and wiped down the table.
"Alex, you see in the paper? They say a riot in Kharkiv."
read Ukrainian like I used to."
writing New York Post in Ukrainian, now?" she asked.
thought you meant Swoboda."
making joke, Alex. Of course, Swoboda."
for a moment and gave a tug on his knuckle. "Don't you,
uh, think the print is kinda small in that paper?"
ignored the question. "Shouldn't lose touch with the homeland,
Alex. Maybe comes a revolution."
many do you need?"
too many Russians," she almost spat. "Ukraine for Ukrainians,
that's true, Alex."
charge by the Hetman, right? A few swipes of the old saber from
the guys on horseback-no more Bolshi Russians, huh?"
yah, the Hetman," she repeated as she walked away from the
table toward the counter.
did, Lesia brushed past Father Stupanyk, the rector of St. Barthelms
who came in daily to buy a copy of Swoboda and sip on a Pepsi
Cola, which he secreted in his flowing black robe as though it
were a sin to drink anything so sweet and quenching. He glanced
over at Alex, stroked his long gray beard and mischievously wagged
a finger. Alex acknowledged him with a shrug-and the smile of
the nearly just.
Raines had reached the top of the stairs, where she was confronted
by an apartment door with a badly stenciled sign in black spray
paint that read 'RADA INVESTIGATIONS.' She rang the bell and
waited. There was no answer. She heard a sound, but it could
have come from the apartment next door. She tried again and waited.
Nothing. She knocked on the door and listened for the sound again
before she turned the knob and pushed the door open.
dropped like a token in a turnstile. She looked around at what
someone might have facetiously called a living room. And it was
one hell of a mess. Actually, it aspired to be some sort of office-but
it was even further from an office than it was from a living
cautiously moved in a few steps.
Rada? Hello, Mr. Rada?" At the other end of the room the
door that led to the bedroom was mostly ajar, but there was a
closed door next to that. Katharine approached the closed door
and slowly cracked it open. Then she screamed.
bedraggled face of a man was behind the door. He half lunged,
half fell toward her. Katharine blanched, held back a second
scream, lost her balance and fell backward.
with a stubbly beard and a wild eye, loomed over her. He wore
a tattered sweatshirt with the words 'Thank You Paine Webber'
emblazoned on it. He just stood over her with his one wild eye
door suddenly clattered open and Alex sauntered in swinging a
brown paper bag from one hand. Without missing a beat, he walked
over to the bum and handed him the bag-Katharine's presence on
the floor barely noted. "Here you go, Victor, from the Veleshka.
grinned as he unfolded the bag and sniffed inside. "Gee,
thanks, Alex!" His upper plate practically clanked, making
his words almost unintelligible. And he literally drooled in
expectation-a few driblets hitting the floor.
his hand toward Katharine who was struggling to get up. "And
who might you be?" he asked.
his hand as she righted herself. Katharine was embarrassed and
still a bit stunned. She gawked at them both as she tried to
compose herself. "Doctor Katharine Raines," she said.
The emphasis on the 'Doctor' was somehow meant to restore her
about to brush the dirt from her skirt, but she gave him a look
that could have killed crows; he thought better of it. "Sorry
about Victor, he's really harmless. Got no place to go. Likes
closets-everybody's got their nutsness, right? Anyway, he's a
good guy so I let him stay when he needs to."
toward Victor, who was now sprawled out on the couch making a
horrible mess of the cabbage with his fingers.
a good guy, ain't ya, Victor?" Alex yelled, as though Victor
would have trouble hearing or interpreting what he said.
looked up for an instant. "Yeah, Alex," was all he
had time to say before he waded back into the stuffed cabbage
with a vengeance.
him not to drip," Katharine said as she straightened herself
up a bit more. She gave Alex a less than tepid smile through
"Why don't you haul it into the kitchen, Victor.
I got a client here."
wiped his wet hands on his faded trousers and reluctantly started
to get up. "Alex, you got any gum balls?"
not today Victor." He turned to Katharine. "He likes
gum balls, in all the different colors. I'll tell you, it's a
mystery to me how he chews them without teeth."
Mr. Rada . . . you are Alex Rada? You know, I don't really care
if he like gum balls." She eyed Victor with a kind of abrupt
antipathy. "He smells like a wet rug."
whatever works for you, Doctor. Whatever works for you."
it's a bit presumptuous of you, isn't it? What makes you
think I'm a client?" Katharine asked.
for one thing, you're wearing heels."
. . . uh, Doctor. I only get two kinds of people up here that
I don't know-clients and bill collectors. The bill collectors
don't wear heels. Besides, I'm not a detective for nothing, ya
just say I'm a potential client, okay?"
You know, he fought Carmen Basilio once." He nodded toward
Victor and watched him amble unsteadily toward the kitchen.
he got knocked out in the twelfth."
I mean who's Carmine Basilio?"
don't seem to be communicating here."
maybe it would help if one of us sat down." Katharine said.
I'm sorry." Alex grabbed a straight back chair, pulled the
soiled shirts off it, and set it down in front of Katharine.
a house call, Doctor?"
Mr. Rada, this is not a house call."
the doctorate in?"
carefully studied the room and avoided Alex. "Well, I suppose
I should be impressed, Mr. Rada," she said, as she finally
looked at him. " . . . Okay, I'll bite, how did you know
I'm not a physician?"
nails. Your nails are too long."
clever. Well, you are one impressive guy, aren't you? . . . It's
in political science." Katharine tilted her head, taking
his measure. "Tell me something, why isn't there a message
on your answering machine?"
not mechanically inclined."
mean not mechanically inclined like Richard Nixon, or not mechanically
inclined like your basic village idiot?" The smile through
the clenched teeth again. "I had to come all the way down
my clients feel more comfortable insulting me after they've given
me a retainer."
"All right. Yes. Yes, Mr. Rada, I would like to hire you."
toward an institutional metal desk, sat, and after a bit of rummaging
through a pile emerged with a pad and pen.
For . . . ?"
like you to find someone. A woman. My graduate assistant actually,
and I'm concerned about her."
your interest, doesn't she have relatives, parents?"
Katharine glanced down at the floor as she spoke. "No relatives
that I know of. Just some friends at N.Y.U., that's where I teach.
They're worried about her, too. She was very special, Mr. Rada,
and I'd like to help. I just want to know what happened to her,
I feel responsible, that's all."
her, realized how beautiful she was. The pen in his hand began
tapping, then-perhaps matching his thinking pattern-it began
to drum rapidly on the desk. He wasn't quite sure he was buying
all this. There was an awkward silence, as though they both knew
what the other was thinking. Alex lost the game of chicken.
well I've been meaning to get it fixed . . . the answering machine.
Tried the police, have you?"
She's not in any of the hospitals or the morgue. The party line
is that anyone over twenty-one can pack up and leave, and they
can't do anything. But she didn't." Alex continued drumming
the pencil on the desk. "She liked to hang around the clubs
and bars down here. Your bailiwick, I understand," Katharine
added, with more than a smack of sarcasm.
said, she was special. Was?"
come on." The sarcasm had turned to annoyance. "Look,
no one's seen her for almost three weeks. This isn't some game."
drumming, made a note, tossed the pencil aside. "Okay, I
get $350 a day plus any expenses. If there are any. . . ."
tilted her head a little, surveyed the 'office' and stared at
Rada skeptically. It was Alex's turn to be embarrassed.
right, how about $300?" he said, completely resigned.
glare was unwavering.
know, Dr. Raines, this must be your lucky day. Just so happens
it's Ukrainian Flower Day. So we're havin' a sale . . . $250
a day, and I'm not gonna come down from that." He waved
his hand in the air as though he were brushing away a fly.
nodded almost imperceptibly in agreement. "But just for
the record, Mr. Rada, I think I'm paying you more than you're
worth. So just make sure there are no cost overruns, okay?"
Alex couldn't quite look at her when he spoke.
"Hey, you know, fine, as long as, uh, we understand each
other." The fact that he felt second-rate wasn't lost on
either of them.
Copyright (c) 1998 by Henry Mazel.
Henry Mazel has enjoyed a career as an award-winning
filmmaker, playwright, and screenwriter. His written work for
film and stage includes Life and Other Games of Chance,
Thugs, Favoring Harry Gold, and Primary Evidence.
A past recipient of the Cine Eagle award, he is a member
of The Writers Guild of America and The Mystery Writers
of America. Mostly, he divides his time between Manhattan
and Chinese restaurants too numerous to mention. This is an excerpt
from his first novel.
Want more? Head to Henry's site, and read another excerpt,
Burma: Over the Hump, and while you're there, check out
the rest of The
Author's Homepage, Henry's bridge to the 21st century,
which he's going across going across kicking and screaming. Interviews,
excerpts, links and news on the author and his various projects..
And head here for more
Thrilling Detective Fiction!
Please direct comments on the above story
and inquiries about submissions to
the editor, or check out this page.
"And I'll tell you right out that I'm a man who likes talking
to a man that likes to talk."
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