Two murders. One detective. Half a brain.
1931, New York City: Detective Vic Boyo may not be the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but that doesn’t stop him from solving cases as only he can. With a little luck and a whole lot of gumption, Boyo sets out to find the murderer of a local cop. Problem is, Boyo’s more interested in a gorgeous femme fatale accused of killing her husband. She’s destined for the electric chair, but Boyo’s got a hunch she might be innocent. And nobody gets in the way of Boyo’s hunches, not even Vic Boyo himself.
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Things were quiet, and the hallway was dark. Shaking the wet collar of my trench coat, I reached to unlock the door and stopped. Because it was already open.
Yeah. Somebody was inside, and it wasn’t me.
“Welcome, Mr. Boyo,” came a gravel-coated voice from the impenetrable darkness of my living room. “Please do come in.”
I felt for the heater I always carried along with me, tucked safely into the waist of my pants. One of these days, I planned to spring for one of those swanky shoulder holsters, but that day hadn’t arrived yet.
Squinting into the dark, I shoved the door open.
“Close it, Boyo,” the same voice ordered.
“You forgot something,” I said.
“That’s Mr. Boyo to you. Whoever you are.” I shut the door and figured it was dark enough for my heater to make an appearance. Which it did, but I had to aim blindly. Never stopped me before. Hasn’t stopped me since. “Is the power out?”
“We feel safer in the dark. Don’t we, boys?” Deep chuckles came from opposite ends of the room.
Dang. They had me outnumbered.
Gravel-voice continued, “But if you’re an unfortunate victim of achluophobia—”
“Gesundheit,” I said.
“—then we’ll let you have your precious light.”
As soon as the corner lamp switched on, I got a good look at my uninvited guests. Three thugs in striped suits and felt hats held Tommy guns and stood around my sofa where their boss sat smoking a cigar with his feet up on my coffee table. The nerve of that guy. No manners whatsoever. He was a real big butterball and wore an expensive-looking white cotton suit. His thin grey hair was combed back and tucked into a derby as brown and fuzzy as a chestnut mare’s patootie.
I’d already slipped my heater back into the waist of my pants and covered the bulge with my coat. I knew better than to try my luck against those Tommy guns.
“Mind telling me what this is all about?” I said.
The fat man rose and cleared his throat, pointing at me with his stogie. “Tomorrow morning, you’ll be put on the Merryface case.”
“How could you possibly know that?”
“Shut your trap, Boyo, and let me do the talking. I’ve got connections, see? If you’re smart, you’ll refuse. That is, if you plan to be alive this time tomorrow night, you’ll turn the case down and find something healthier to do. Healthier for you, that is. ”
“You make a habit of threatening cops?”
“I make a habit of telling idiots what’s what.” He motioned to his boys and they approached me en masse, heading for the door. “Joey. Give Mr. Boyo a little taste of what’s in store for him.”
“What’s that, Boss?” said one of the gun-toting thugs.
“Give him a glimpse of the bright future that awaits if he doesn’t play ball.”
“Uh…” The thug scratched at his head, obviously at a loss.
The fat man sighed, shaking his head as he regarded the carpet for a moment. “When you want something done right…” he trailed off.
Then he plowed his fist into my solar plexus, and I doubled over, almost positive the room had capsized. With a groan, I dropped to my knees, straining to breathe.
“Let that be a lesson to you, Boyo. Do the right thing, and nobody gets hurt. Including yourself.” They tromped out of my place and slammed the door shut behind them. Their heavy footfalls echoed down the hallway outside, fading into the distance.
“Good riddance,” I wheezed, stumbling forward to turn the lock.
About the Author:
Milo James Fowler is a teacher by day and a speculative fictioneer by night. When he’s not grading papers, he’s imagining what the world might be like in a dozen alternate realities. So far, his short fiction has appeared in more than 150 publications, including AE SciFi, Beneath Ceaseless Skies,Cosmos, Daily Science Fiction, Nature, and Shimmer. Find his novels, novellas, and short story collections wherever books are sold. Milo is represented by the Zack Company.