“The Corner Pocket” by Bradley Spinelli
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, Bradley Spinelli—author of the forthcoming crime novel The Painted Gun—gives us a glimpse of his novel’s hero, David “Itchy” Crane, who has an uncanny knack for survival.
The Corner Pocket
by Bradley Spinelli
Lundi Gras: Burgundy & St. Louis, French Quarter, New Orleans, LA
I’d found a pack of Parliaments in the freezer and stood on Burgundy pulling on one. I still cheated on my diet, but not in front of her. The Quarter was quiet. It was Lundi Gras, the day before Fat Tuesday, meaning Zulu’s festival and Rex arriving on the river, but no day parades—the calm before the big drunk hurricane. Every stoop on the block flaunted discarded go-cups. On Bourbon, they’d be soaping the street. The smoke felt clean and alert in my lungs.
My phone buzzed—that would be the call.
Before I could answer, a familiar face caught my eye on the opposite sidewalk. She slowed down, smiled, started to cross. Still pretty, dressed sharp in New York blacks—she had been a hippie when I knew her a decade before, long dresses and multi-colored bags, on the lake in Guatemala.
“Maddy,” I asked, “what are you doing in New Orleans?”
“I’m from here,” she said, “remember?”
“Oye,” another voice said in my ear, nudging my kidney with what was clearly a gun. I took him in as Madelaine pulled up: Guatemalan, ugly, and scowling. Damn it, I thought. Guatemala?
“A revenge plan? What is he, a cousin?”
“Mas o menos.”
“You know the reason,” she said, and shoved me towards Conti. “Let’s duck into the Three-Legged Dog.”
“I get eighty-sixed from that bar, you’ll have a problem.” He looked to her, she cocked an eyebrow. “The Corner Pocket,” I suggested, and we stepped into the street.
“You wanna die in a gay bar,” Madelaine laughed. “If only your dear Ashley could see you now.”
I wanted to smack her. Everything I’d survived because of Ashley since Guatemala—Jesus, remember Bali?—I wasn’t going down now.
Lee waved as we came in, stowing a mop bucket and sliding behind the bar. The place was empty except for a single punter, fifty-something, rumpled suit, slumped in a barstool with a gogo boy in his lap—barely twenty-one, wearing only tighty-whiteys. They looked left over from the night before. It was that kind of a place. Pool table in the back, gogo boys in front.
I took a short whiskey. Madelaine parked me in a chair, the ugly Guatemalan with his back to the bar, his gun hidden. The Evan Williams tasted dusty.
“Names,” she said. “Everyone at the FBI who wanted Balam killed.”
“You’re kidding. That was years ago—”
“Not kidding. Tell us or die.”
“I tell you, and die.” It was a weak play. Any leads I had were cold as day-old chicken. She didn’t flinch.
“Tell us, Itchy.”
“Siegel. That’s the only guy I remember. And he didn’t want anybody dead.”
She didn’t like it, and I wondered if her partner spoke English.
Lee hit him with a pool cue and he dropped the gun howling, and I spun Madelaine around the neck and into my chair. Ugly was on the ground with Pauly’s boot in his neck—the punter from the bar, one of Lee’s cronies. I dragged Madelaine, thrashing in the chair, to the bar. The boy tossed me a pair of pink fuzzy handcuffs that looked like a Mardi Gras throw, grinning, “They’ll hold ‘er.” I cuffed Maddy to the rail.
“I called them,” Pauly said, pocketing the gun. “They’re coming, but, it’s Mardi Gras time.”
“Yeah, you rite!” Lee said, leaning the stick against the wall, and Ugly threw Pauly off and rabbited. The boy was on him, a scribble of whaling fists—the boys who hung at the Corner were all Deep South, hardened by defending against homophobes, tough, even thuggish—and put him down quick. The boy jumped as Ugly rose again behind the gun in his hand—I hadn’t seen him take it off Pauly.
The room froze. I grabbed the cue ball from the table and threw it, beaned Ugly square. He winced, wobbled—and the boy in the tighty-whiteys dropped him for good.
“That’s a good shot, Itchy,” Lee said
“It was a good set-up.”
“You two are good together. Where is she?”
My phone hadn’t rung again. “Couldn’t say. Waiting to find out.”
“Tell her I said not to be a stranger.”
Funny, I often found myself thinking the same thing.
BRADLEY SPINELLI is the author of the novel Killing Williamsburg, and the writer/director of the film #AnnieHall,
which the Village Voice called “fascinating.” He contributes regularly to Bedford + Bowery and lives in Brooklyn. The Painted Gun is his latest novel. Visit his website at 13spinelli.com. Author photos by Ronit Schlam.
The Painted Gun is available exclusively from our website and will be available in stores everywhere on March 7, 2017. Follow this link for more information about the book, which Publishers Weekly calls a “tricky and delightfully surprising crime novel.”
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Accepted submissions are typically published 6–8 months after their notification date and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected]. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Feb 1, 2017