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The Last Interview

Craig McDonald

More than a thousand miles from Lake Michigan to the borderlands — this hellhole of red dust and terra-cotta tile roofs.

The Las Cruces sun tumbles down legless drunk behind Picacho Mountain, making the reporter squint. Jug-eared LBJ is yammering on through the radio’s static: more lies about Vietnam.

The last three hundred miles are a shock-absorber punishing, pothole-peppered agony. The ’65 Ford Galaxy’s been making new noises since somewhere south of Santa Fe. Expensive-sounding noises.

The rolled-down windows and strategically angled wings do little but push around the fidgeting journalist’s beads of sweat.

But the struggling Ford delivers the interviewer to his destination: A posh hacienda in La Mesillia — two stories of stucco with a wrap-around second floor porch, hard by the Rio Grande.

The author’s English wife greets the journalist … leads him to a first-floor guest room. "Sleep," she says. "Tomorrow you two talk."


Hector Lassiter: burly, unshaven, brindle hair askew, lays in his deathbed, contemplating the stinging stump of his truncated right leg. The leg was lost last month to gangrene borne of diabetes … diabetes borne of alcoholism … alcoholism borne of living the life that feeds the books that pay for the life, and the liquor, that cost him the leg.

The doctor has lately eyed Hector’s tingling left leg with intent.

Or so the dying novelist believes.

Hector’s also taken to sleeping with a loaded antique Colt ’73 Peacemaker hidden under his pillow, preparing to take himself out — do it before they can amputate his throbbing hands … take those critical, increasingly-tingling trigger fingers.

The doomed author listens to his caretaker, or fifth "wife," as she regards herself, reading this likely last-journalist-come-to-interview-him the riot act: no smuggling in liquor … no loaning of cigarettes.

A promise she’ll be back in three hours’ time. She tells the reporter she means to take advantage of her husband’s company to venture out with Carmelita, their long-suffering Tarahumara-born servant for some goddamned misbegotten, budget-busting shopping spree.

Now the door opens, and the reporter — gaunt, straw-haired and bespectacled … perhaps vaguely tubercular — shoulders in, lugging a big black leather bag. Can’t be more than 22. He’s sporting thick-lensed glasses that probably spared the poor bastard the draft.

Lassiter spreads his arms, smiles … those famous dimples, nearly buried under his hoary beard. "Holy Jesus," the last of the first-wave Black Mask writers says out of the side of his mouth, in full Texas drawl, "a thousand fucking miles to record the last ruminations of a fitfully lucid, one-legged hack writer. How empty must your life be, eh lad? Fuck on a bicycle: Hope I live down to expectations. Who’s this one for?"

The reporter smiles crookedly, revealing crooked teeth. "Esquire." He plugs his reel-to-reel recorder in and lays the microphone on the pillow by Hector Lassiter’s head. He presses the "record" button with a nicotine-stained thumb.

"If you don’t mind, thought we’d start with some impressions regarding your peers," the reporter says, extra loud for the recorder.

"Peers? Yeah … shoot," Lassiter says, already disappointed.

"Right: Dashiell Hammett?"

"Pussy-whipped communist."

"Raymond Chandler?"

"Unwitting homosexual."

"Cornell Woolrich?"

"Overtly queer." Lassiter winks. "But I feel a gimpy affinity with old Corny … he’s a fellow cripple now … same circumstances. Or so I hear."

"Agatha Christie?"

The writer’s brows knit. "Faker. Fucking mystery writer."

The reporter scratches his head. "You’re a mystery writer."

"I’m a crime writer. She’s a ‘mystery’ writer. It’s different."

"You sound resentful."

Hector smiles, shakes his head. "I out earn her. And her stuff is shit … stupid puzzles solved by a daffy old bitch or an effete fucking Belgian. Fuck that. Ever meet a loveable old bitch or effete fucking Belgian who could do more than rub you the wrong way? They’ll still be reading me long after the worms have done with Dame Christie. Her audience is nearly as old as her."

Hector Lassiter gestures at his side table with a hairy, shaking hand, pointing to a haphazard stack of hardcovers and softbound galleys in danger of falling. "Look at those damned things. Pretty high pile, eh? Cocksuckers all still crave jacket comments from me. Crap, most all of it. Fucking book about a detective cat in there somewhere. No shit, an actual fucking pussy detective. Holy pleading bleeding Jesus. It’ll probably win the Edgar. If I’m not dead when it happens, some dipshit will come after me to write an introduction for the reprint for the Limited Editions Club. Mark my words."

The reporter smiles; crosses one leg over the other. Hector thinks: Six weeks ago, I could do that, too.

The reporter tugs at his shirt’s sleeves … Hector thinks he sees needle scars, just peeking under the cuffs. He frowns. Hector thinks: Another fucking junkie.

The reporter says, "How about Rex Stout?"

"Another lefty."

"Estelle Quartermain?"

"Fucking mystery hack of the first water. Bad as Christie. Hell, worse — her stupid ‘locked room mysteries.’" Lassiter waves a hand. "Ever hear of anyone really getting whacked in a locked room?"

The reporter shrugs … he’s got those telltale nervous hands and feet. And he’s sweating out of proportion to the undeniable heat. Hector knows the signs. He thinks, certain now: Junkie.

Lassiter snorts. "Exactly. No damned way. People die over a $10 drug deal. They kill over a dumpy woman in some peanut-shell-strewn, cigarette smoke-laden cantina. They cuff their wife ’cause she won’t shut up during Carson’s monologue. Her head hits the bedpost, and she falls to the floor, her neck at some impossible angle. I’ve written those scenes. Scenes I’ve lived or witnessed. Fucking Dame Quartermain dismisses me for those scenes. Says I only write about whores, drunkards and bottom-feeders. Of course, she doesn’t use those terms. But I know what she means. Says I’m sordid. Says I’m seedy. All because I don’t have some humpbacked dowager with some shaking, beloved Chihuahua solving murder cases in vicarages … murders involving exotic poisons. All that dainty dialogue and ‘action’ in service to some fretted-over puzzle plot. Know what, scribe of mine? When you have to run to the reference books, you’re not writing. Use that windy passage as a pull-quote, eh lad?"

Bouncing one leg, the wired reporter says, "I interviewed Estelle Quartermain a couple of months ago. She’s a nice lady."

Lassiter grunts and says, "And that should matter to me — her being ‘nice’ — that should matter to me as a reader? Why should that be, exactly? There’s a letter on the nightstand over there from her somewhere. Arrived last week. She’s still nursing a grudge over something I said to her at a party 10 years ago. Writes religiously, about once a month, stubbornly pushing for an apology to her husband. I said something in my cups, or so she says … I don’t remember what. Her husband left early. Do remember that. Ruined her night, or so the purple-haired bitch says … stewing under that fucking beehive. Estelle says I hurt her man’s pride … in a ‘lingering’ way." The writer waves it away with a thick-fingered hand. "She says I ‘don’t have the brains’ to write the kinds of books she writes. The point is, I have the brains not to write the kinds of shitty books she writes."

The old writer’s big bed is bracketed by double-doors. The doors open onto the upper porch. There is heatlightning on the horizon now. Black clouds roil either side of Hector Lassiter’s head. The old writer smiles crookedly, says, "My witchy warden’s words of warning aside, got some smokes?"

The reporter smiles and roots around in his jacket pocket; passes Hector a virgin pack of Pall Malls. The crime writer slits the pack with a long, yellow thumbnail and the reporter fires him up with a battered silver Zippo. Hector’s cheeks hollow once, twice. He blows some smoke rings, says, "Who do you read, son? When you read for yourself, I mean."

"Some Hesse. Burroughs."

"Skinny Billy. Junkie. Fucker shot and killed his wife playing William Tell, ya know. And Hesse? He’s a fuckin’ kraut. What about crime fiction — who do you read?"

"Uh, been reading some Kenneth Robeson."

"Kenneth Robeson? Ain’t no such beast, boy. You reading those fuckin’ Doc Savage paperback reprints?"

The reporter squirms. "A few here and there … good camp. And Robeson’s stuff is — "

Hector Lassiter draws deep and blows smoke out both nostrils, like some paunchy, mutilated dragon. "‘Robeson’ was a house pen name, invented by Street & Smith so they could fire the real hard-working pulp writer on a whim if need be. Same shitty joint that published Black Mask. ‘Maxwell Grant,’ who wrote the bulk of The Shadow novels, he was really a guy named Walt Gibson. Buddy of Houdini’s. Wrote two novels a month for more than a decade for old S&S. Had a battery of typewriters; the keys all stained with blood. No shit: Old Walt typed his fingers bloody. All the time. Let’s see your affable Mrs. Quartermain match that."

Hector turns his mouth down. "Anyway, nine times out of ten, your ‘Ken Robeson’ was a fella name of Lester Dent. Great guy. Born out west, like me. Lonely childhood to stoke that imagination. Just like me. Used to hang with him in Florida. Good as Hammett and funny to boot — when he wrote his own stuff. Look for the books under his own name, sonny … look for a short story — ‘Sailfish.’ Good as anything the best of us have done."

The reporter nods and smiles. "Will do. Florida: You lived there for a few years, in the Keys. Knew Hemingway. You two had a falling out."

"Old news, boy. Put it this way, my Florida P.I. novel, Wandering Eye, was ten times the novel To Have and Have Not was … and published the same year. Outsold Papa, in those early Depression days. Hemingway dismissed me as a ‘mystery’ writer. Still, he knew his shit in the 1920s … those great short stories. His notion of ‘one true sentence.’ Too bad he forgot all he knew, down there on Bone Key."

Lassiter chews his lip, considering the junkie journalist. He weighs angles. Decides to play with a notion, just a bit … probably never go the whole course … just flirt with it a bit. Keep himself interested.

Hector reaches over to the sidetable for a legal pad and pen. He hands them to the reporter. "Game I used to play with Hemingway. We’d challenge each other to top one another’s one true sentence. Write this down, eh?" Hector recites:

"I killed him because…."

He says, "Okay kiddo, finish it. Make it the truest sentence you can, but keep it fucking short."

Smiling crookedly, the reporter nervously bounces the point of the pen on the paper. He weighs the words: "I killed him because…."

"… he was bitter and used up"?

No. Might piss the old man off.

"… of what he said to me"?

No. Too weak.

The reporter searches, sensing the old man’s eyes on him … on his wrists, sending him off, tugging down his sleeves. He thinks of what Hector Lassiter has said about Estelle Quartermain. He remembers what Estelle told him about the used-up old one-legged man laying before him now. With his left hand, the reporter writes:

"I killed him because of what he did to her."

Hector Lassiter takes the notebook back, reads. He beams. Still has a pretty solid set of teeth. "Good, son. Perfect, really. Short, simple, evocative. And it’s gotta all come down to a woman in the end, eh? Always does. Even for Woolrich … at least in his books. Cherchez la femme." He hands the notepad back to the reporter. He says, "I feel like a proud teacher. Sign your work for the old man, huh?"

The reporter smiles crookedly again. Under his "one true sentence" he scrawls "Andrew Nagel." He passes the legal pad back to the old writer. Hector looks at it again and smiles, shaking his head approvingly. "Good fucking start, Andrew. You get back to Chicago you write what comes after, yeah? Send it to me. Deal?"

"Sure, Mr. Lassiter."

"Hector. We’re fellow writers now Andy."

The old author is seized by a thought. He abruptly asks: "Andy, what have you read of mine, huh, kid?"

"Read Rooster of Heaven. And I really loved the film."

"That was a novelization, sonny, not a novel. I wrote a straight-to-paperback treatment just to put back the parts of my story that that one-eyed fucker Sam Ford tore out for his fucking waste of a film. In the land of the blind, the one eyed man might be king, but in the land of the two, or, even the three-eyed? Well, he’s just another myopic dumbass. What else of mine have you read? Anything? Tell the truth."

The reporter shrugs. "Inside Job."

"Famously — some would say infamously — done for money. I had a daughter born with a hole in her heart. Needed the cash for a surgery that killed her. My baby girl was named Dolores. She hung in until the age of three. Her first — and last — word, was ‘Daddy.’ Quote that, Andrew."

The reporter searches the old man’s filmy blue eyes. Hector’s cataracts look like some inept impressionist painter’s notion of drunkenly dispersing clouds.

Well, it’s a line Andy is toying with … maybe needs work.

Lassiter grunts and points a shaking finger at the reporter. "You drew this assignment, didn’t you boy? You didn’t come all this way because Rhapsody in Black rocked your world? Never read The Shortest Story, and so experienced no revelations, right?"

The reporter straightens his shoulders; feels his sweaty shirt peel loose in a few places from his acne-dappled back. He says softly, "I drew the assignment, sir … like you said."

Hector credits the reporter’s candor. At least the scrawny fucker has that going for him. "Hell … doesn’t matter," Hector says, resigned now … sadly settling on his scheme. "What do you want from me, Andy?"

"There was a hotel in El Paso. It was May 13, 1956."

The old writer tips his head on side. And so it comes. As it always does.

The eternal question.

The one he has never answered.

Hector Lassiter says, "Now that’s a locked room, boy. That’s my private mystery. The pain too private to trot out."

"You might never get another chance to go on record, Mr. Lassiter."

Hector bites his lip, sighs. "‘There was a ship.’"

The reporter catches that one on the first bounce. "Coleridge … right?"

"Just so. So you do read more than just bad pulp fiction and my toss-offs."

"It’s a classic."

"Sure it is Andrew." The bearded writer puffs his cigarette and gestures at his missing leg. "‘It was that accursed white whale that razed me; made a poor pegging lubber of me for ever and a day.’"

"Ahab," the reporter smiles.

"Like old Melville, do you?"

The reporter shrugs again. With two fingers, Andy stabs his slipping glasses back up the bridge of his damp nose. "So long as you don’t start regarding me as your Moby Dick … sure, why not?"

Hector winks and shakes his head. He reaches to the sidetable for a box. "Only ‘Moby Dick’ I regard lately is the one between my one-and-a-half legs, and he’s not breaking surface much these days." The old writer roots through the box, pulls out a hypodermic and a little vial of liquid. "Insulin," Hector explains. "You’d think three years of heroin addiction back in the late 1950s," — a damnable lie — "would have given me some facility with this damned rig." He looks for a reaction from the reporter and doesn’t get much … the kid licks his lips and averts his eyes. "Don’t suppose you’d be able to help me out with this, huh Andrew?"

The reporter says, with little conviction, "Wouldn’t know how." He shoots his sleeves again.

Lassiter snorts and spikes his remaining leg and grimaces. He sits back and retrieves his Pall Mall. He feels himself leaning harder into his dark notion. "Don’t suppose," Hector says, "you smuggled in anything to drink?"

"Couldn’t be good for you, Hector."

"Think I’m going to bounce back from this? Naw. We enjoy the moments left us. Solid advice, Andrew."

The reporter grins and reaches in his bag. He holds up the Jim Beam bottle. Andy Nagel smiles wider — meaner — at the dying writer’s hungry smile and cracks the seal. Lassiter points to a sideboard across the room. Five glasses sit on a serving tray there, gathering dust. The reporter rubs clean two glasses on the untucked tails of his shirt and pours two generous doses. He passes one to the dying novelist.

Hector savors the delicious bite and burn. He sighs: That warmth infusing his chest … fucking sublime. He settles back into his pillows.

"Now," the reporter says. "It’s 1956. Your wife dies … some say suspiciously. You’re a fleeting suspect before it’s reluctantly ruled a heroin overdose. The case remains … inconclusive. What really happened, Hector?"

The old writer stubs out the butt of his cigarette. He snags the soft pack and shakes out another; leans in for the reporter to light him up again. "No. Not like that Andy. You want the story? The story nobody has ever had? Well, a couple of favors, Andy my boy. ’Cause, ya know, I have to go on living this shitty excuse for a life after you’ve gone on to your next ‘assignment.’"

There’s a languishing writing desk in the northwest corner of the room. Hector gestures at a straight-back wooden chair. "For starters, tuck that sucker up under the doorknob," he says "— can’t have the she-bitch and her taco-bending sidekick finding us with the booze and coffin nails, can we?"

The reporter winks and rises. He wedges the chair’s back up under the brass knob and nudges it tight with his toe.

The old man gestures at the windows next. It’s raining now, and the rain is blowing in. "Best close and lock the windows, too," Hector says. "Won’t be able to do much about the scent of the cigarette smoke … but wet walls and floors — trés more suspicious. And the heat? Well, it’s a dry heat, right?"

The sweating reporter closes and secures the doors on either side of the author’s bed. He sheds his jacket and is about to sit down when the old man says, "Last favor. Grab another glass over there, eh? Might need to go two-fisted for this … dark waters my boy, dark fucking waters."

The reporter sets the spare glass down on the nightstand and then holds up a finger. "Hold on a minute — need to flip the tape." The reporter plays with the spools; tightens them. He hits "record" again. "Okay. It’s 1956. It’s your wife’s last day on earth."


How do you tell a man why you murdered a woman you loved?

How to start?

How do you give it context? Not to alibi yourself or excuse what you did. How do you show why you were driven to do that bad evil thing to her?

Your baby’s Mexican mother’s secret drug addiction … that’s at the dark heart of it all.

Your woman’s heroin Jones: It weakened your unborn daughter’s frail body, condemning her to death before she was even born.

It was an addiction that was well hidden by Maria. She injected through the soles of her callused feet. She kept it hidden through your courtship … a year of marriage … and through nine months of pregnancy.

She hid it well, through three years of your daughter’s short life.

Then it comes: These perplexed words from a doctor, chewing his lip over your daughter’s death bed … hints of congenital birth defects perhaps goosed by … well … perhaps some narcotic influence. For there were other things wrong with your little girl … things only just being discovered … or suspected. A welter of birth defects.

Dolores dies in your arms, whispering "Daddy."

Unable to face your house, or your daughter’s empty bedroom, her absent voice and laugh, you booked yourselves into a hotel room — paid up two weeks in advance.

You feel sorry for Maria for a time, until when, confronted, she confesses her addiction a week after your daughter’s funeral. Drunk, scaring yourself with your thoughts about killing this woman who bore/murdered your child, you reluctantly let her shoot you up.


It’s shitty strategy on Maria’s part … drug monkey logic. She stares at you with the addled echo of your dead daughter’s dark eyes, lips parted, watching for signs of your capitulation to the heroin.

But the drug that mellows her makes you go dark and cold. You let the resentment fester — let the poison stoke your darkest impulses. Let it build on the hate you feel for Maria for letting her worthless devotion to this wired short ride cost you your black-haired, black-eyed baby girl.

Maria condemned your little girl to a slow death that dragged on for three years — three years to let you grow to achingly love the poor little girl born with no future. Three years of hollow hoping that age will grant her frail body the strength to swamp her damaged heart — render that fierce fucking hole irrelevant.

But your love and hope, your fame and talent, can’t fill the hole in your baby girl’s heart.

Little Dolores dies whispering "Daddy."

You ride that one and only heroin high — free-associating. Plotting.

You scope the room … assess angles.

In the end, you go the easy route.

As Maria lays naked on the bed, black hair spread on the pillow, luxuriating in her high, begging you to fuck her — to make a new baby — you instead berate her … leave her alone to her tingling trip. Soon enough, she’s asleep. You grab the hotel ice bucket … 25 trips … and the tub is sufficiently full of cold cubes.

Holding it through a handkerchief, you pick up her hypodermic, surveying the bottoms of her feet. Their soles are covered with scabbed-over punctures, like the scars of a thousand scorpions’ stings.

Fuck it — go for her arm. Three shots … of air. Give the junkie bitch an embolism of epic proportions. You follow that with a massive injection of heroin.

You carry her naked body into the bathroom and drop her in the ice, spreading it over her. You lay the needle on the closed toilet lid by the bathtub, next to the empty vial.

You write an angry note to her … all the expected words. You lay out in the letter your disgusted discovery of her drug addiction … what it did to your dead daughter. Now you’re leaving her… and you wish your wife in hell. You date it yesterday. You stick the note in her dead hand, flung out strategically over the side of the tub.

You pack your stuff, and, still using a handkerchief, drop the Do-Not-Disturb sign on the doorknob. The air conditioner is full up: May take twelve, fifteen hours for the ice to melt. You’ll be buying drinks and slapping backs — conspicuously — in Ciudad Juárez in less than two.


Tell this junkie reporter the truth?

You do. Baldly.

Andrew Nagel stares out at the storm raging on the horizon, says, "Jesus, this could make me."

It could indeed. Lassiter says, "That’s your last one true sentence, Andrew."

Then Hector Lassiter reaches under his pillow, grasps the well-worn butt of the Peacemaker, and, cocking, reaches over and presses the barrel to the reporter’s left temple. He tugs the hair trigger.

Adios Andrew.

Alone again … as he always seems to be.

Alone at the typewriter.

Alone in his own head.

Only time Hector didn’t feel alone — those scant moments spent with his baby girl.

Two more shots — fired through each spool of tape … reduced to magnetized confetti. The ruined recorder kicks twice.

Andrew Nagel was a southpaw — Hector was careful to note that when Andrew wrote his first true sentence. Using the edge of the bedsheet, Hector grabs the legal pad from the bedside table and tears off the top sheet of paper with its signed, unwitting confession. He slips the note into Andrew’s dead right hand. He gingerly raises the reporter’s sleeve — a welter of needle scars … several of them look fresh. Worthless junkie.

The old one-legged writer grabs a pen and Estelle Quartermain’s languishing letter. Hector annotates it with lies. He scrawls vile notes in the margins — a punched up version of that night of the supposed big slight he can’t recall. At the top of her letter, Hector Lassiter writes, "Estelle, you clapped up cunt, I’m so fucking grateful I slept with you that night. Fond fucking memories … so to speak."

The crime writer — the last of the first wave Black Mask writers — surveys the room. It’s a plausible enough murder-suicide scene for these backwater environs.

But now for the vexing nuance — drive that old mystery writing bitch up a wall.

Fox those cops.

Reaching to the other side of the bed, Hector Lassiter picks up a tube of his wife’s lipstick. He applies it to his dry lips, careful to avoid the stray hairs of his moustache and beard. He picks up the derelict bottle of whiskey and the virgin glass, pours four fingers and downs it, leaving a glass rimmed with lipstick. Then he smokes two cigarettes, stubbing out the lipstick-smeared butts in the empty tumbler.

Enter the mystery woman.

He rubs the lipstick from his mouth with his fingers and licks those clean, washing away the taste with swigs of whiskey straight from the bottle.

Now, reaching again to the sidetable on his wife’s side of the bed, Hector Lassiter grabs a bottle of perfume. He breaks it on the edge of the table and slathers perfume on his gun hand and arm — voiding any possibility of a paraffin test that could reveal Hector fired a weapon. He tosses his arm across his wife’s sidetable — feigning the spastically flung arm of a dying man. Glass breaks … costly cosmetics fly.

Satisfied with the effect, Hector wedges the Peacemaker in Andrew Nagel’s dead left hand, finger on the hair trigger … barrel pointed at a one-legged pulp novelist. Hector reaches for the never-used cane that his fifth "wife" has hopefully placed by the headboard. He positions Andrew’s dead hand … scoots himself in place. With the rubber stopper of the cane, he pushes the dead reporter’s dead index finger back against the hair trigger.

Jesus fucking Christ.

That burn.

Like a thousand shots of whiskey, received at once.

That sound.

The Peacemaker tumbles to the tile floor.

Groaning, Hector returns the cane to its former position.

Gut shot.

A bad way to go.

Call it half-assed penitence.

And his remaining leg … there’s no feeling left. Must have nicked his spinal chord. Maybe severed it.

So: Paralysis to boot.

Dipping his finger in his own wound, light-headed now, Hector grimaces and twists, reaching up over his headboard. He writes above his bed, wincing with the pain:


For a moment, he frets, thinking of pillow-biting Cornell Woolrich … fearing the "EQ" might be misconstrued — suspected of standing for "Ellery Queen" … hinting of sodomistic shenanigans.

Then he remembers Estelle’s newly annotated letter.

Hector gingerly rubs a little blood from his gut on Andrew’s dead trigger finger.

Lassiter sucks his blood from his own finger. Then the dying crime writer lays back for a last time on his pillow.

Hector lets that old whore death settle in with him, warm and slow.

Death with imagery: Scenes from his books in montage … a melodramatic mélange the punchy pulp writer confuses for his own memories:


His lonely office.

Guttering light from a neon sign pulses through slanted shades.

A slow-turning ceiling fan stirs old dust.

Enter the woman: at first, just a busty silhouette through stenciled pebbled glass. Then, she’s standing before him in silk stockings with seams up the back. Raven hair and ruby lips. He’ll learn she likes to bite his shoulder while peaking. Betrayed, tricked, played for a fool, he’ll shoot her during a last shared orgasm….

Mean streets: It’s Chicago. It’s 1936. He’s sent to settle a union strike. He settles that strike. But there are casualties. Talk about a killing floor….

A sibilant homosexual lackey (Street & Smith will balk at that … so call him "a Nancy boy") comes calling. Nancy boy is in thrall to an endomorphic European of indeterminate origin (adapted for film, the part will be played by Sydney Greenstreet). The pair slays his partner, seeking some elusive bronze statue of a wolf with a treasure map stowed inside. A man owes his partner … even if he is banging his dead partner’s dipsomaniacal wife. So he sets off again down those mean streets….


From his far off place, Hector can dimly hear screams now … screams from somewhere. Fists pounding on a door.

The screams grow closer and he thinks he hears breaking glass in the distance … someone shouting for him. But it’s too late … and now drowned out by music … some march maybe, played on a hammer dulcimer … drums, tiple and accordion … "Tramps & Hawkers."

Hector reaches out his hand and the little girl takes it and smiles. He towers above Dolores, beaming, standing there on his two solid legs.

They march up the side of the hill somewhere near Creel, half-walking half-running through prickly pear, maguey … sage and heather.

There’s a dark-haired woman at the top of that hill, astride a strawberry roan, silhouetted against some bloody sunset.

Craig McDonald is an award-winning journalist and editor. He is a contributor to the 2004 New York Times nonfiction bestseller Secrets of the Code. One of his short stories will appear in the anthology Dublin Noir, edited by Ken Bruen. Art in The Blood, a collection of interviews conducted by McDonald with 20 crime writers, is forthcoming from PointBlank Press.

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