Authors: Ted Lewis
Tags: #Crime / Fiction
This edition published in 2015 by Syndicate Books
Copyright Â© 1976 The Estate of Edward Lewis
Other Books by Ted Lewis
The Jack Carter Trilogy
Jack Carter's Law
Jack Carter and the Mafia Pigeon
All the Way Home and All the Night Through
About the Author
Born in Manchester, England, Ted Lewis (1940-1982) spent most of his youth in Barton-upon-Humber in the north of England. After graduating from Hull Art School, Lewis moved to London and first worked in advertising before becoming an animation specialist, working on the Beatles'
. His novels are the product of his lifelong fascination with the criminal lifestyle of London's Soho district and the down-and-out lifestyle of the English factory town. Lewis's novels pioneered the British noir school. He authored nine novels, the second of which was famously adapted in 1971 as the now iconic
, which stars Michael Caine.
This novel and its central character were originally inspired by certain actual events and by a real person. But it is a work of fiction: all the descriptions of prisons, convicts and their friends and relatives, prison officers and policemen are imaginary.
THE SPADE IS FIVE TEN, tall and as shiny as a black silk stocking and her writhing body shines out from the satin sheets like heat in negative, a hot contrast to the pot-pale sandiness of the blonde girl who is at present chewing on the spade's left earlobe and fingering one of the spade's nipples with all the loving attention a child gives to a new toy. And while this is happening, I'm on the brink of sinking myself into the spade's oily warmth, my tip tickling on the black curls of her pubic hair. Her legs are doubled up and her knees slide upward rubbing against my shoulders as I prepare for re-entry.
Then the phone rings.
I close my eyes with a different intensity and say the word instead of acting it out. I pull back and get off the bed, walk over to the bedroom door and lift my shoulder holster off the hook. Then I open the door and go through into the hall and pick up the pay phone receiver.
It is Murdock.
“This is Murdock,” he says.
I nod although there is no one to see.
“Draper's on your ass,” Murdock says.
“And that is the end of the news?” I say.
“It's worse than usual. He's onto the car three times since you went up there. If you don't stop fucking, he's going to fuck you when we go in.”
“It'll make a change from his licking assholes.”
“I've got no more change. I'm in Muriel's. The car's outside.”
“Mind you don't get a ticket,” I say, put the phone back and walk into the bedroom.
It would be nice to feel I'd been missed but the plain fact is that they're doing just fine without me.
The fair girl has just finished going down on the spade and the spade is heaving both her pelvis and a great sigh that ends in a shuddering groan that complements the shuddering of her body. I stand in the doorway and wait for the heat to disperse.
The blonde sits up and runs her tongue across her teeth and the spade stays where she is, legs splayed, eyes closed, clenched fists gripping the damp sheets. I begin to pick up my clothes from the chair by the bed and as I lean forward, the holster slips from my shoulder and falls to the carpet, its heavy sound smothered by the thick pile.
“You should have hung it in a better place,” the blonde girl says.
“Five minutes ago I could have.”
The spade comes back from wherever the blonde had sent her and props herself up on her elbows.
“Where'd you go, baby?” she says.
“The way of all flesh,” I say, pulling on my shorts. “But don't worry about it too much.”
The spade falls back again.
“I won't, honey,” she says. “Not while Jo-Ann's around.”
Jo-Ann grins at me and I button my shirt and strap on the holster, tuck my shirt into the waistband of my pants and then I sit down on the chair next to the bed and slip on my shoes. Jo-Ann asks if I've got a cigarette so I feel in my coat which is draped on the back of the chair. I take out my pack of cigarettes and lean over the spade and Jo-Ann fishes one out of the pack. The spade leans up and takes one, too, except that as she tries to shake the cigarette loose, all the others fall out decorating her tits and her stomach. I begin to pick them off her and Jo-Ann says, “It could catch on.”
“Yeah,” says the spade, “this is one I've not seen.”
“If I leave you a couple to smoke later, do I get a discount?” I ask. “Plus the fact that the auditorium had to be evacuated because of fire.”
The spade smiles. “You're a cop,” she says. “You should know this is a case you ain't never going to prove. No way. Besides, you're on reduced rates already. The house takes cents, not dollars, when you call.”
I stand up and take out my wallet, lay some bills on the bed and say, “Here, buy a pack of cigarettes between you.”
“Or maybe a book of matches,” the spade says.
I put my coat on and go out of the room. I leave a bill with Muriel then go down the stairs and out into the early May sunlight. The dust from the traffic hangs like unwashed lace in the sun's rays.
I begin to walk the block and a half to where Murdock told me he'd be but I don't go direct. Instead I drop in the Q.E. Tavern and sit at the bar and order a beer from the tap. While I'm waiting for the man to fill the pot, a kid slides onto the next stool, hair a burst of tight curls, gold-rimmed glasses, tan jacket, polo shirt, flares, stacks. He puts a white bag full of groceries on the counter in front of him and waits as if he's waiting for the bartender to fill my pot and give it to me then he can place his own order. While he's waiting, although he tries not to, he looks around the bar a couple of times and adjusts his glasses once. The froth pushes up over the rim of my pot and the barman slides the pot in my direction. I lean forward as if I'm going to pick it up but I speed up the action and grab the grocery bag, taking a grip on the kid's left wrist so's there's no way he can leave without cutting his hand off, although he jerks this way and that like a rabbit on the hump. The bartender comes up with his insurance and now he's taken us in instead of us being just assholes on stools; he knows which way to point it which makes the kid freeze his wriggling. I push over the grocery bag and it isn't a can of Campbell's that clacks down onto the bar. I pick the Colt up and put the barrel against the kid's wet top lip and say to him, “Now all I can take you for is the permit and you're only going to get small time, whatever, but just how did you intend to do it? Did you intend waving it like a daisy, and then when the man here comes up with his, then what? You going to pull the trigger after you found it, by which time your eyeballs would have been shot out and finding the trigger would've been even harder? Is that what you intended to do? Or did you imagine the man here was going to give you all his money just at the sight of you handling that fucking thing? You were going to scare him to death just by taking that thing out of your groceries? You don't think this man knows a stick-up artist from a fuck in glasses? You don't think he's also got a guy over there in back who jumps when a little foot button's pressed and comes up from right behind you and takes you out from there? No, you don't, do you? You don't think any of that.”
The kid's mouth is working like a goldfish and his face is the color of ice cream. Finally he manages to speak. “I got a sick wife,” he says. “She's sick.”
“Yeah, and she's got a sick husband,” I tell him. “I watch the
“She's got to go into the hospital. Have this operation.”
The bartender puts his pistol back and says, “I can't move. You'll have to come back after five. That's when I get off.”
“Sure,” I say, putting a cuff on the kid's wrist. “I'll be back.”
“It's true what I say,” the kid says. “I needed the dough to see they do right by her. I never done anything before. I got no record.”
“You have now,” I tell him. “Pick up your groceries.” I finish my beer and then we move off the stools and across the bar out into the street, and as we go through the door, I tap the heel of one of his boots. “You were going to run for it in these?” I ask him. He doesn't answer.
“Why didn't you pick something really fast, like stilts?” When we get to where Murdock's parked the car, he's already in it smoking, arm sticking out of the open window. I get in the back with the kid.
“What's this?” Murdock says.
“An asshole,” I tell him.
Murdock moves the car away from the curb and crosses over the street and stops at a red light. I tell Murdock about the kid and he says, “Draper's going to look a prick now.”
“That's right,” I say. “I mean if we hadn't seen this suspicious character outside the bar and stopped the car for me to follow him, somebody might've got shot, maybe more than one.”
“Right,” Murdock says.
The red light changes and Murdock slides the car forward. Ten minutes later we're in front of the bright glass walls of the new department building shaped like a detergent box against the dusty robin's egg blue sky. The letter “O” from POLICE has fallen away from the brickwork where it was fixed.
We park the car and hustle the kid inside the building, hand everything over to Garson, then take the elevator and press for Draper's floor. The elevator stops twice on the way up. The first time Fuller gets in, carrying a file as neatly as he shoots his cuffs and knots his tie and combs his hair. The only thing sloppy about him, the only thing he lets go of, is his mouth when he smiles at seeing me and Murdock. A minute goes by and then he says, “Going to collect your medals?”
“What for?” says Murdock.
“Remembering where the building is,” Fuller says, and nearly pisses in his pants at his great awesome wit.
“What building?” I say. “This building?”
“Yeah, this is a building,” Murdock says. “This is a building, isn't it, Fuller?”
“Oh, this building,” I say. “I get it. He means this building.”
Fuller colors up and says, “Yeah, okay.”
“This the building you mean, Fuller?” Murdock says.
“Forget it,” Fuller says.
The elevator stops and the door slides open. We watch Fuller get out and the door closes behind him. The elevator takes off again and Murdock shakes his head. Then three stops later we're at Draper's floor and we get out, walk down the corridor and go into the office next to Draper's office where Ruth Higgins is typing something on her I.B.M.
“Good morning boys,” she says, not looking up from her typing.
“Right,” Murdock says.
“You're right,” I say.
“It's that kind of morning then,” Ruth says, zipping the papers out of the machine.
“You tell us,” Murdock says.
Ruth puts the papers in the tray and takes some clean sheets from another tray.
“There's nothing I know,” she says, rolling the sheets into the machine. “You know I never know anything.”
I lean over her desk. “I would like,” I say, “to take one night out to find out what you don't know. That would give me great pleasure. What you don't know would be wonderful to discover. Because there isn't nothing, nothing in this world, you don't know.”
“Go tell my old man,” she says, starting on the machine. “I don't even know the time of day as far as he's concerned.”
“Then neither does he,” Murdock says.
“Oh, he knows,” Ruth says. “Trouble is we're in different zones.”
Draper's square figure shows behind the frosted glass and then the connecting door opens and he stands looking at us.
“Detectives Boldt and Murdock to see you, sir,” Ruth says, her face as straight as ever.
“So it is,” Draper says. “Thanks for the introduction.” Draper turns away and walks back into his office. Ruth carries on with her typing. Murdock and I walk through the open door.
Draper's office looks and smells like Draper. The impression is of aftershave and leather and veneer and light alloy. The window behind Draper's desk gives a panorama of the cityâa view extending beyond the suburbs. Draper walks behind the desk but instead of sitting down, he leans against the window frame.
“So?” he says.
“So you wanted to see us, sir,” I reply.
“I wanted to see you,” he says. “It's you I wanted to see. I wanted to see you an hour ago. Where the hell have you been?”
“Apprehending an armed criminal, sir.”
Draper gives me his long, flat stare and decides to take a dive in this one as there's no way he's going to win.
“Doubtless I'll be reading about it in your report?”
“And the report won't be written on the back of a bill from the Giaconda or on a satin sheet from Muriel's?”
“I don't know. I haven't written it yet, sir.”
Draper carries on with his staring for a while and then he moves to the leather chair behind his desk and does some more staring from there. Then he says, “Your brother.”
I don't say anything.
“He's coming to town soon,” Draper says, “and he's bringing the flag with him.”
“I know. I watch T.V.”
Draper takes a cigarette from a box on his desk.
“It'll be really interesting, don't you think,” he says, picking up the dome-shaped lighter off his desk. “I mean if he gets the nomination. And after that, the rest. Interesting for you and me and the department and every other cop in the whole fucking country, don't you think?”
“Or will it be particularly interesting for you? Like the job opportunities your brother'd have in handfuls. I mean, he'd sure be some brother if he didn't bounce one off you.”
“He sure would,” I say, smiling at Draper and pursing my lips slightly, as though I'm about to blow him a kiss. Draper lights his cigarette and blows out smoke and hangs onto the lighter, rolling it around in his hand. “The only thing that surprises me,” Draper says, “is that he didn't come around before or that you never went after him. Is it that the Department is such a meaningful part of your life that to leave would make you feel cold and empty deep inside?”
“Yes sir,” I tell him. “That's right, sir.”
Draper puts the lighter down and stares at that for a while as a change from staring at me. Then he says, “For a man of the people, your brother is a very unpopular guy.”
There was no way I'm going to comment on that even though I agree with what Draper's saying.
“I mean he's certainly unpopular with me, and from what I gather mingling at the golf club, he's not exactly got one hundred percent of the ticket. Still, I expect you meet one or two of his supporters. The occasional one. Tell me, do his supporters always carry guns with their schoolbooks or does it just seem that way?”