Hercules S Sputz was one hell of a guy but he'd been dead for some time, which was why it was kind of puzzling to see him staring at me from the other side of the desk.
"What gives, Clay?" he said.
"You're asking me that? You're supposed to be dead, you moron."
"Aw don't give me that." He rose from the chair. The desk parted like vapour. And he gave me a hug that told me he was very much alive. Only thing was the LAPD had given their ex-chief one hell of a funeral, and Sheri had bought the most expensive black dress in the shop. When the casket went through those curtains no one was paying it much attention. They were looking at her.
"So what are you doing here, Herc?"
"I heard you had Gwen Gardner on the Rack and well, you know, it gets lonely up there."
"Jeez, a rampant ghost. A rampant fleshy ghost. He was an old friend, but Gwen was a guest and she didn't like ghosts. Besides, Sheri took a dim view of impropriety unless she was involved. "Sorry, Herc the old days are gone. Have a cigar. Take two. Take one for Raphael and Gabriel.
He sighed. A universe deflating. "They have a no smoking policy. That's for the other place."
I'm sorry, pal. Tough breaks, but Gwen, I'll tell her you called....more
I was down to my last packet of Luckies. Twenty minutes later I'd finished the pack, a small mountain of butts piled high on the desk. It was like looking at Kilimanjaro, only I'd never seen it so what did I know? Time to worry when I saw zebras running across the desk, tiny elephants dancing the fox trot, my old friends the snakes - I knew them by name - coiled between me and the bourbon. I was already two bottles down, good for another before the first zebra arrived. Trouble was Sheri arrived first, behind her a client.
My heart leapt, could be a new case, one paying the big bucks, one involving knocking some sense into a punk and knocking it out again.
Sheri shook her head. She noticed the carnage of the desk and the smile vanished. "Angela Brown," she said. "And you'd better be good, Clay, you hear?"
I loved it when Sheri did strict. I was going to make a suggestion but the two of them had already left the room...more
I was staring out the window. Rain trickled down it, tobacco coloured rain and greasy as hell. Below man-rats scurried, their tails whipping through puddles, and lizards in short dresses teetered on heels. It
wasn't my world anymore, hadn't been for a time, and it would carry on changing. Only two people wouldn't, me and Sheri Lamour. That's the only problem with Djinn, immortal and earthbound, their heads still in Pittsburgh when Eisenhower ruled.
"Anything worth reading?"
Sheri sighed. "There is something. I'd been saving it."
She saw the light in my face and laughed, a soft delicious sound like ice-cream and sex. The thought made me pause. There were other ways of passing the time, but Sheri was ahead of me and fine-tuning a holo. "Andrew Grant," she said....more
The walk turned into a run. I hadn’t run so fast since war was declared in December ’41. As I ran the wolf ran along side, and some where along the line the two of us merged and became one, the supreme predator, the beast from the primordial swamp. A fierce howling burst out from foam-flecked lips, the howl of the hunter, the howl that rejoiced in the warm trail, the scent of a kill. Another hundred yards or so and his den would be in sight. Another minute and Prinz would be finished. Doomed. Yeah doomed, because I would get to him before the law and its lily-livered liberal guardians arranged for him a mink-lined padded cell. It was hard to contain that final howl, the howl that proclaimed to all the world - “I’ve got you, Yozzer Prinz!”
A car pulled up alongside, a head, hair blowing in the dark night wind, the fragrance of Confetti Lentheric. "Clay, stop. We have no time for this now."
I groaned. It meant only one thing, and our contract was clear. Guests came before anything - even Napoleons of crime, the brainless punks that followed them. And before you say anything, chasing and following are two different things.
"Who," I said.
"Lauren Stone. I reckon she's your kind of gal."
"I only have one kind of gal." I said. The answer pleased her. It always did....more
The office was silent. The light was on but Sheri wasn't there, just a pen and a waste-bin foaming with paper. I walked on through. She wasn't in the library either though I noticed several books on the floor. They looked as though they'd been thrown.
It didn't bode well. Sheri in a rage - well we won't go there. Let's say I'd rather be in a viper pit holding off a Rotweiller with one hand and a pissed off croc with the other.
I heard the muttering first - frantic - even hysteric. Flesh and bone trembled. Sheri had a heart of quartz and the morals of a cat. Like a cat she never cried, much less mutter or play the weeping dame. I approached cautiously, keeping the Smith &Wesson .44 in my pocket...but cocked.
The door opened smoothly and at first I didn't see her. The bed shifted and a pale arm threw out a crumpled ball of paper. It joined the small mountain on the floor.
"What's up cup-cake?"
A head erupted, hair tousled, eyes blazing and I looked around for the viper pit.
"Lionel Fanthorpe," she hissed.
I glared at the bed. "Fanthorpe...a friend of yours?"
Her lips trembled. "You know he wrote over 180 books?"
I relaxed. Guy couldn't be doing much other than that.
"And he wrote 89 in just three years. You know what that means?"
"He didn't get out much."
"That's a 158 page book every twelve days! Clay, it's impossible. I've tried. God knows I've tried."
Cat woman looked suddenly frail and I wanted to hug her and do all manner of things.
She stopped me. "Thing is he's downstairs. We've got to talk to him. See how it's done!"
"Or break his Goddamned pen. Come on. Let's go....more
Sheri was sat astride a Harley Davidson. She had the fan on, blowing her hair so she looked like Medusa on speed. I could have told her an office was no place for a 1977 Harley Davidson XR750 Flat Tracker. I could have told her I didn't appreciate the way the fan was messing with my filing system, paper blowing like some kind of polar blizzard. I could have told her lots of things. Instead I said nothing, just looked.
Truth is Sheri looked good in black leathers. They accentuated every curve of her body, her derriere resembling two finely carved aubergines. I could have said eggplants, but one rolls off the lips, the other makes you think of over-priced food.
"Hey, Sheri," I said, raising my voice over the roar of the fan. "What the hell?"
"Jason Jack Miller," she said. "He's big on bikes and we have him downstairs!"...more
I began walking. Walking towards the nearest light; taking the direction I guessed my quarry had taken. The shadows were alive with the kind of garbage waterfronts attract the world over. Rats with faces and whispers without names; the soft tug on the sleeve; the hard luck story told in a phrase. The sign outside said, “The Trout.” I managed a smile and walked in. I had run my fish to earth.
Sheri was waiting for me at the bar.
"What the hell...?" Sheri was good, but sometimes she frightened me.
"How I got here before you? Listen we don't have time for this now. Lianne Spicer is waiting for us."
"And the biggest war-lord and pimp this side of Kabul - what about him?"
"It's your call, Clay. Literary criticism or fighting crime."
I scratched my head. The world turned upside down....more
Some people are born bad. Some have badness thrust upon them, and then there are those who don't know they're bad. In my experience they're the worst, mainly because they are all around us. They infest the cities and are found in mansions and cellars. They have no souls. One day there will be a reckoning, and people like me will clear up the mess, people like me and Sheri Lamour.
She joined me at the window, the street lights giving her skin a faint golden glow. She's Djinn, like me and therefore immortal. We have seen much, will see more and read every book that has yet to be written. A glance told me at once she was worried. Her perfume was different too; she was pursing her lips, which is different from wanting to be kissed.
"What's up, kid?"
"We have Piers Anthony downstairs."
"I've heard of him."
"You should. He's someone who'll live for ever."
"He's Djinn? Jeez, I didn't know that."
"No, I mean his words will live for ever. Have you ever thought of writing, Clay?" She sounded sad, as though there was a chance anything we wrote could ever outlive us.
"You want me to put ink in my gun?" It was a joke. Sheri didn't smile. I sighed. "OK lets see the guy." ...more
The bar was half empty and I was somewhere else on bourbon and Tramadol. My ribs still hurt where the bullet had punctured a lung. The room was hot, the lights down low, and the dame was still talking. I felt my eyelids drooping and made little effort to hold them back. The rest of the lecture merged into a meaningless jumble, encased in a velvety darkness.
“However Rhodopseudomonas palustris seems to bud off daughters without restriction. (the vision of a promiscuous Greek broad with child-bearing hips invaded my private darkness) In fact such, admittedly primitive organisms may be the only potentially immortal beings on this planet."
I didn't understand a goddamned word, not until she emitted an ear-piercing shriek and a question I was in no mood to answer:
“Why can’t humans share the same potential for immortality as the humble microbe?”
Sheri leant over. She was dressed in a nurse's costume, and wore it like no nurse should. I can tell you, convalescance has its compensations.
"I know what you're thinking, Clay." She looked at me with aurora borealis eyes. Tramadol and bourbon has its compensations too. "Just don't say a word - and keep the gun in your pocket."
Jeez. If the Good Lord wanted a mute Clay Cross, He'da ripped my tongue out at birth - like he shoulda done with Doctor Rhodopseudomonas Palustris over there.
Sheri placed her hand on my thigh and I smelt chloroform and starch and Lentheric Confetti. We have someone to interview, she said. "But afterwards...
"Who?" I said, thinking of afterwards...
"Heidi Ruby Miller. She's an adventurous woman...more
Clay rarely allows anyone but Mike Keyton or Sheri into his domain, but since he’s still recovering from an unfortunate gunshot wound to a rather delicate area, I’m still on Rack-watching duty. Instead of our typical Rack, which I’m not equipped (or allowed ) to oversee, I thought it’d be fun to continue looking at some of our most popular Rack questions and compare our favorite authors’ answers.
Question: Elmore Leonard listed ten rules, one of which is: 'Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel.' What rule or piece of advice would you add to the list, and if you know his ten rules, which one would you break?...more