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Chapter 1


If you lived in Jersey City in the 1950’s, and you wanted action, you went to the Barbary Coast, a five-square-block stretch of honkytonks that separated the “men only” taverns of Jersey City from the “women welcome” bars of Union City. I went there because you could get anything you wanted there—fast women, easy money, or maybe it was fast money, easy women. It didn’t matter; it was all I needed—until I met Angel, who looked like an angel but was anything but—blond hair, eyes that seemed to change color with every flicker of the strobe lights that constantly blinked on and off the guys and girls gyrating in the cage above the bar in Stumpy’s A Go-Go.  

Geez, she was gorgeous.

Everybody stared when she walked in, not only because she was beautiful, but because she had class. Suddenly, the place seemed tawdry; even the working girls turned their faces so they wouldn’t have to confront the difference between their reality and hers.

She walks right up to me, looks me square in the eyes, and says, “I need help.”

The way she looked at me, I felt like I was the one that needed help. I couldn’t make out what color her eyes were, but I couldn’t stop looking at them either.

“What kind of help?”

“The kind that the .38 you’re packing can take care of.”

“You got the wrong guy,” I say, thinking that this is the kind of filly that can get a guy in big trouble. “I’m a cop.”

“You were a cop.”

“OK. So I’m not a cop anymore, but I’m not Murder for Hire either. You want the mob for that.”

“It’s the mob I need help with.”

“The mob? You don’t need me. You need the Marines.”

I guess that wasn’t what she was hoping to hear, because she melted, tears filled those big, irresistible eyes—and I melted right along with her.

I slid off the barstool and guided her out of the bar, every guy in the joint hating me. I’m breaking every rule in the book; at this point, I don’t even know her name, much less her game, but I don’t care.

“Where are we going?” she asks.

“To my office,” I say, and I take her outside onto a crowded, neon-lit street. It’s a summer night, so all the booze joints have their doors open and music is pouring out—cowboy crooners clash with saxophones, bass guitars, and hard rockers. Teens and guys without enough money to buy a drink cruise slowly past, honking their horns, and shouting at anything that looks like it might be female—which is a bit iffy, because on the Barbary Coast, not everything that looks female is female.

“Ok,” I say, shouting over the noise, “Talk.”

“This is your office?” she says looking around, a little astounded and maybe disappointed too.

“Nobody can hear anything we say here. Talk.”

She shrugs, frowns, bites her lip, looks around. “Some guy in the mob is giving me trouble.”

“Which guy? What kind of trouble?”

“Fat Tony’s son—Mad Dog.”

 “Mad Dog! What did you do to get him on your tail?”

“It’s not what I did; it’s what I wouldn’t do.”

I look at her, and I can see the whole story. Mad Dog is…well, a mad dog. My mind is working a million miles an hour, but she misunderstands.

“Never mind,” she says.  She spins on her five-inch stilettos and walks away.

I’m admiring her gait when a car pulls up to the curb and two guys jump out and grab her.

Brains I don’t have a lot of, but reflexes I have in abundance. I’m on them faster than you can say ‘Jack Robinson.’  Kidney punches straighten them up, and then I knock their heads together so hard, they must have heard the crack in Brooklyn.

“C’mon, let’s get out of here.”

I take her for a quick walk through a couple of back alleys, and in a few minutes we’re on a quiet residential street.

“Tell me about Mad Dog.”

“I think he’s dead.”

“You killed him!”

“No, you killed him.”


“Yeah, you. He was one of the guys you just sent to la-la land. Jesus, you really crunched them. I think I saw his head crack open.”

I hadn’t looked at them. I had come up on them from behind, and didn’t stay around to chit-chat.

“You sure it was Mad Dog?”

“Trust me.”

“How do you know he was dead?”

“I’ve seen dead guys before. Besides, his head cracked like a walnut—and that blood coming out of his ear wasn’t a very positive sign.”


But she doesn’t hear me. She’s already walking away, high heels clicking in the darkness.

“Thanks,” she says, waves over her shoulder, and is gone.

* * * *

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