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Authors: William P. McGivern

1975 - Night of the Juggler

BOOK: 1975 - Night of the Juggler
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Night of the Juggler

William P. McGivern

© 1975

 

 

 

eForeword

 

A serial killer known as “The Juggler” is about to strike again, as he always does, on October 15 in New York. An NYPD detective is heading a task force to find the killer before he claims another victim, but time is running out. The killer may have already found his next victim, but does not know that the young girl’s father has the means to track him down and bring him in. The search zeroes in on Central Park, where William P. McGivern’s tense and exciting thriller
Night of
the Juggler
(1975) unfolds as the clock runs down.

An Edgar winner early in his writing career, American novelist William P. McGivern (1922-82) became a virtuoso at orchestrating the suspense in the tough, vivid atmosphere in which crimes occur. His work was acclaimed for its careful plotting and intricate detail, and many of his novels were made into films, beginning with
The Big Heat
, which inspired Fritz Lang’s film noir classic in 1953.
Rogue Song
and
Odds
Against Tomorrow
were also filmed in the 1950s, and McGivern’s 1975 novel
Night of the Juggler
became a film in 1980. He also wrote scripts for such films as
I Saw What You Did
,
The Wrecking Crew
and
Brannigan
, and he wrote extensively for television, notably for several seasons of the
Kojak
series.

RosettaBooks is the leading publisher dedicated exclusively to electronic editions of great works of fiction and non-fiction that reflect our world. RosettaBooks is a committed e-publisher, maximizing the resources of the World Wide Web in opening a fresh dimension in the reading experience. In this electronic environment for reading, each RosettaBook will enhance the experience through The RosettaBooks Connection. This gateway instantly delivers to the reader the opportunity to learn more about the title, the author, the content and the context of each work, using the full resources of the Web.

 

Chapter 1

His name was Gus. He had another name, of course, a last name, but sometimes he forgot it. When this occurred, when he was swept by a dreadful and chilling loss of identity, the experience made him as tense as a threatened animal and deepened a redness in his mind that caused him to shake with fury.

When they teased him about this in the fruit and vegetable store he helped keep clean, when the Puerto Rican clerks would laugh at him and say, “Hey, Gus! You Gus who? Gus who?” he would avoid their eyes and try to control the trembling in his hands, while wondering in his dim, lacerated mind at their cruelty.

When this happened, when the insolent clerks with their soft eyes and glossy hair and slurred, liquid English grinned at him and teased him, Senor Perez, who owned this decrepit vegetable shop in the South Bronx, would give them angry, warning headshakes, and the clerks would stop smiling and some might even shrug in a gesture that suggested an indifferent contrition, and then they would all return to their work, ripping brown outer leaves from heads of lettuce, watering mounds of green onions and young cabbages, waiting on the Puerto Ricans and occasional blacks who bought their meager orders of fruits and vegetables at Senor Perez’s shop in this pocket of decay in New York City.

At these times Gus would go into the back room of the shop, and when no one was looking at him, he would hurry into the alley that ran through an area near 135th Street and St. Ann’s Avenue. He was more at home in alleys and in darkness than he was in the shop or in daylight on crowded sidewalks. A tall, huge man, Gus went along the alley with the stalking strides of an animal, at home with the stink of garbage, the slithering sound of rats, and groups of Puerto Ricans in leather jackets bunched ominously at street corners; none of this fetid and potentially dangerous ambiance menaced him; it was not so much that he was confident in this environment, it was rather that he was simply unaware of it.

In the vestibule of the tenement where he lived with Mrs. Schultz in a small rented room, Gus would stare with an annealing sense of impending relief at the dirty oblong cards beneath the mailboxes.

When he found Mrs. Schultz’s name, he would drop his eyes an inch and there, penciled in below it, was his own name: Gus Soltik. He never received any mail; there was no one to write to him, but it gave him a sense of security to know that his name was written there under the mailbox. He couldn’t read his name in a conventional sense, but he had memorized those particular letter shapes and knew the smudged pencil marks meant Gus Soltik.

While he could not make change and had only vague notions of the value of money, he was familiar with the concept of numbers and could easily make his way to the numerically designated streets in the various boroughs of New York City.

Gus Soltik’s “thought processes” were unconventional, to put it as simply as possible. He did not “think” in consecutive patterns; it was as difficult for him to string ideas together as it would have been for a “normal” person to enumerate and define the physical objects of his environment without an alphabet. Thus, to “understand” concepts and emotions and things, Gus Soltik required a specific word, which appeared in his mind as clearly as if it were written in chalk on slate.

Thus, the word “cage” was his reference for all animals. He had no name, however, for his physical needs. He had no way to get inside himself; he was conscious of his existence as an object, but there was no way he could assess or conceive of Gus Soltik in subjective terms.

He did not know that his odor was rank. He wasn’t aware that people on the sidewalks frequently turned to stare after him. He did not understand why it made him feel so desolate and desperate when he forgot his name. It was one of many things he didn’t understand, although it worried him the most. He didn’t know that his physical strength was as great as the combined strength of several average men. He did not know, for another thing, that the small yellow leather hat he wore above his bulging forehead made him look ridiculous, as if he were a mongoloid child dressed by someone with a malicious sense of humor.

But Gus Soltik knew some things with the instincts of an animal. His eyesight was acute, and his sense of hearing was exceptional; he was always the first to be aware of approaching subway trains, for example, and in the old tenement where he lived, he could track Mrs.

Schultz all through the house by her footsteps, even though she wore soft felt slippers indoors. His sense of direction was impeccable; he could drift through any of the boroughs of New York at any time of the day or night, but when he wanted to return “home,” some indicator in his mind pointed straight at the Triboro Bridge in the lower Bronx. He could walk for hour after hour, mile after mile, sometimes breaking into a clumsy, lumbering trot but never feeling tired, never breathing hard.

And one other thing, Gus Soltik knew. He knew that he was thirty years old. His mother had died when he was twenty-five, and after she died, he did something each year, and he had now done it four times.

And he would do it again within the next twenty-four hours, a total of five times in all, which made him thirty.

He knew vaguely that it was disloyal to his mother to forget his name.

All he had left of her now was one of her dresses, black and shapeless but with a pretty collar made of tiny seed pearls. That dress hung in the small back room he rented from Mrs. Schultz, and with the dress were the dried flowers and the card.

It was all he had left of his mother.

But Gus Soltik, with the instinct of a wild creature, could always sense the approaching anniversary of her death. It was the time of year when the days were darker and shorter and the winds against his bulging forehead and massive hands were streaked with a coldness which would intensify until snow was falling in the streets and the gutters were noisy with the sound of running slush and water. And when it became cold, he listened and watched Mrs. Schultz with the wariness of an animal because the old woman did something each year that told Gus Soltik the exact day his mother had been killed.

On each anniversary of his mother’s death Mrs. Schultz paid the priests at the crumbling heap of St. Stanislaus to celebrate a requiem high mass to deliver his mother’s soul from all evil and from the torments of hell. She had tried to explain all this to Gus, but he understood nothing but the horror of his mother screaming in some place that raged with fire.

Mrs. Schultz had taken him to the first mass. But he had never gone again; he had been frightened by the three black-clad priests on the altar, and the sound of the vengeful, wrathful music from the choir loft had so terrified him that his heart had thudded and pounded like an imprisoned animal within his massive rib cage. So he had never gone again. But Mrs. Schultz was proud and happy to save her dimes and quarters until she had enough to pay for that dead mass which commemorated the soul of Gus’ mother.

When she told him about it, he knew the time was coming; when she waddled off to the church thick with sweaters under her old black coat, Gus Soltik knew for certain it was now time to mark the day of his mother’s death.

On an afternoon in the middle of October, Gus Soltik sat in the sunlight of Central Park and looked at little girls playing in the children’s zoo at Sixty-sixth Street and Fifth Avenue.

There were blacks and Puerto Ricans and white girls, some running in shrill packs, others accompanied by young mothers or nurses. The sun was warm on the backs of Gus Soltik’s hands and warm on his face, and the iron bench he sat on was pleasantly warm, excitingly so, under his heavy, powerful thighs.

It was early afternoon, and the sunlight on this lovely fall day dropped through the tawny crowns of changing maples and elms and struck the worn brick walks and green lawns like a shower of copper pennies. And the sunlight fell on the bare and flashing arms of little girls, brown and white and black, caressing them with a shimmering radiance and transmuting all the various colors of their flesh into tones of glowing gold.

Gus heard the growling of the lions from the big zoo at Sixty-fifth Street. That told him the time. Two thirty. That’s when they fed them.

The growling that was like distant thunder made him think of Lanny Gruber. Lanny was his friend. Lanny talked slowly to him, and Gus could understand him.

Children were playing ball on the lawn near Gus, their voices a piping counterpoint to the guttural cacophony of the lions. Old men and women sat nearby feeding peanuts to squirrels. Some of them, with tired, sagging faces, stared with wistful hostility at the romping children.

Neatly groomed businessmen crossed back and forth on their way to Fifth Avenue or Central Park West. Gus was not afraid of them, but in some fashion they diminished him, with the arrogant swing of their briefcases, the fact that they seemed to know things. When Gus thought of them sitting in offices and phoning from one city to another (as he believed was possible) to tell people things, it made him feel small and vulnerable. Still, he wasn’t afraid of them because he knew they wouldn’t hurt him.

Then Gus noticed something that made his big body go tense with fear; a patrolman in a blue uniform was watching him. Policemen would hurt you, he knew. It was his worst fear; not so much being hurt, but knowing no way to make them stop it.

He vividly remembered one of his mother’s anniversaries, and a basement with someone his mother had warned him about, teaching her a lesson, feeling strong and excited, when a door was kicked in and they came at him like raging animals, one big with orange-red hair, the other dark with a terrible scar on his cheek, and Gus had seen all this in splintered bars of light coming through the door they had smashed in. They had shouted at him, fury straining their voices, and had fired at him with guns, but with a strength made boundless by terror, Gus had knocked them down and fled from the basement.

Yes, they would hurt you and never stop it, he thought, staring sullenly and fearfully, but from the corners of his eyes, at the young cop in the blue uniform.

BOOK: 1975 - Night of the Juggler
2.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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