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Authors: James Patterson

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BOOK: Midnight Club
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PART ONE

The Grave Dancer

7

Isiah Parker; 125th Street, June 1988

THE ORANGE JULIUS
stand tucked on the corner of 125th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard had at least one advantage over many of the other stores in the area—an open, lively view onto the street. A view of the changing, or rather, the decaying neighborhood: the sealed-off and abandoned buildings, like Blumstein’s, Harlem’s last department store, and the Loews Victoria, both shut down now. The Hotel Teresa, where Fidel Castro had once stayed while visiting New York, now an office building. The Apollo—where Basie, and Bessie Smith, Bill Eckstein and Ellington had played—closed, and now opened up again. Who knew for how long?

Isiah Parker stood behind the brightly colored counter of the Orange Julius stand. He was dutifully wiping it down, while he watched the fascinating panorama of 125th Street stretch out before him. He had the thought that squalor and misery had never been so interesting; he had no idea why that was so.

He heard his name being called by the juice-stand boss. “Hey, man, you deaf or what? Two fucking banana Julius, man.”

Isiah Parker wasn’t deaf. As far as his hearing went, he was discovering lately that he had rabbit ears. He was like the professional athletes whose hearing seemed to magnify personal insults and jeers from the grandstands. Parker thought briefly about making an Orange Julius concoction out of the juice-stand boss’s face. He thought better of it, for the moment, anyway.

“Yes sir, two Julies on the way,” he muttered in a low growl directed at the boss.

“Two
banana
Julius.”

“Yes sir, two banana Julies coming up.”

All this time, he had kept his attention beaconed out onto the street. Specifically, he was watching the crumbling over-pass that supported the ancient New York Central Railroad tracks.

He’d been waiting almost a week for this very moment… and now he wasn’t sure what to look for. So he watched real closely, while he fixed the Julies: crushed ice, fresh banana, special sugary powder from the parent company, godawful sweet-and-sour taste, in his opinion.

Then suddenly, Isiah Parker was sure what he was watching. The two dealers got sloppy, and he saw the exchange. He saw the briefest flash of dollar green out on the street.

“Hey you, Parker.
Parker!
” he heard once again.

“Hey
you,
man,” Parker talked back. “You shut the fuck up. Just shut your mouth, understand?”

Perhaps for the first time in his life, the bullying Orange Julius boss shut up. There was something about the look on Parker’s face that said he was a lot more serious than any ordinary counter guy ought to be.

Suddenly, Isiah Parker vaulted up and over the counter. There was a powerful animal spring in his body.

The usual loiterers inside the juice stand looked up as he burst out of the scarred Plexiglas doors. He was holding a .22-caliber revolver up toward the sky and the molded stone rooftops of nearby buildings.

Across 125th Street, one of the cocaine dealers had already seen him coming.

Damn,
Parker thought to himself.

The drug dealer and his buddy suddenly began to sprint down Frederick Douglass Boulevard. They went due east on 125th Street. Then south. And east again.

A cabbie honked at him angrily. Parker’s hand whacked down hard on the yellow cab’s hood.
Take absolutely nobody’s shit on the street.
That was the lesson he’d learned a long time ago in Harlem.

Then Parker was running at full speed. He was running wildly, like yet another hyped-up junkie or thief. He was doing what he had once loved to do, in another time and place. Something he’d done well enough to get into a Texas college on a track scholarship. College, where he learned to deal with his anger a little, learned to mask it better, anyway, talk around it.

At thirty-five years old, he could still run. Maybe not any record-breaking hundred-yard dashes, but he could run faster than two pitiful drug pushers who had just tried to sell a slab of coke to fourteen-year-old kids on 125th.

Faster than two total scumbags who strolled the Harlem neighborhood with no respect for anybody or anything. Like the people here were nothing, and not a single thing mattered except their making money off the sadness, off the need for a little flash of hope and painless escape.

Parker started to smile as he ran. Wild sense of humor up in Harlem these days. One of the dope dealers must have pulled a muscle, because he started limping and grabbing at his left thigh. Now
that
was hilarious.

Isiah Parker flashed by him as if he were standing still on a relay block. He pistol-butted the drug dealer on the side of his head as he went by. The dealer went down in the gutter in a heap of flashy clothes.

Parker was almost sure the other dealer was named Pedro Cruz, a Colombian cowboy who had been slumming in the 125th Street neighborhood for the past few months. Pedro Cruz could really run.

As if to underscore that fact, Parker felt a fire exploding inside his chest. His thighs were starting to burn. His heart was slamming around, and things were getting congested and painful. Eight blocks already. C’mon, man, get tired.

Some people standing along 124th Street recognized Parker. Isiah Parker had been around the neighborhood for a long time. A lot of people knew Isiah. Even more of them had known his brother, Marcus.

Familiarity aside, nobody was going to stop the scum dealer he was chasing. You stopped some South American-looking guy in Harlem, you could wind up dead, or in even worse trouble.

Besides, chase scenes were fun to watch on a slow-moving summer afternoon, better than a Sylvester Stallone movie at the Loews Theatre.

One Hundred Twenty-fourth Street was like a graveyard for old, busted-up Plymouths, Chevys, Fords. A few neighborhood dudes clapped for the footrace going down on the otherwise hot and boring afternoon. Nobody seemed to care why the chase had started.

Finally, Parker was running almost side by side with the Colombian drug pusher. He looked over at the other man—almost like he wanted to pass, instead of catch him.

The drug dealer was Pedro Cruz, all right. The bearded Colombian tough didn’t even know how to look frightened. He was trying to figure how to go for his gun and keep running full speed at the same time.

His right hand was clawing furiously inside the flapping nylon vest, which he wore over the bare, brown skin of his chest.

Parker finally took a full-stride lead on Cruz.

Suddenly, Isiah Parker seemed to be floating
backward
in time and space…

His arm came up, his elbow bent, and it smashed full force into the drug dealer’s chin.

Cruz toppled over in a complicated three-point cartwheel. He ended up in a crumpled heap against a sagging cyclone fence that was full of holes, so that everybody in the neighborhood could get in and out of the yard as they wished.

Isiah Parker was pleased that he hadn’t shot the drug dealer. He took out his .22 revolver and pointed it up at the hunched-over, snooping superintendent on a nearby brownstone porch. The superintendent cringed, and tried to slime away.

“I’m a police officer…,” Parker said between gasping breaths. “Call the Nineteenth Precinct…”

The superintendent grinned as if he had just won on
Family Feud
or
Wheel of Fortune.
He shuffled back inside his building and called the police. He appreciated a good chase scene on
Miami Vice,
or on his front porch, for that matter. Harlem was still pretty good for that, at least.

At three in the afternoon, New York undercover detective Isiah Parker was still wearing the Orange Julius T-shirt and his stained juice-stand apron. He’d lost the leather hat somewhere, a nice chapeau, too.

The strange outfit made him seem like a regular New York workingman. It made him feel like part of the gritty neighborhood; it didn’t matter which neighborhood.

This neighborhood was in southern Harlem, between Broadway and West End Avenue. Parker stood on the street corner, sucking on an orange Italian ice, checking out the scene. He was noting little things he would need to remember tonight, this night of revenge.

Finally, Isiah Parker headed back to the Nineteenth Precinct in Harlem, where he was still on duty until four-thirty.

8

West Ninety-ninth Street; Midnight

ON THE SOUTHERNMOST
border of Harlem, the summer night had turned sticky-hot, almost fetid. A few blocks away, families were sleeping out on fire escapes and on tenement rooftops.

A battered black Ford Escort was parked halfway between Riverside Drive and West End Avenue on Ninety-ninth Street. Three men were cramped inside the car, waiting in the darkness.

At twenty past twelve they were rewarded for their diligence and patience.

“That’s them now. They’re here. Blue Mercedes.”

A man named Jimmy Burke spoke softly inside the Escort. He straightened himself behind the car’s steering wheel. He gestured down Ninety-ninth Street, toward a town house known to the men in the Escort as Allure.

The four-story town house was overshadowed by the neighborhood’s taller and more stately apartment buildings. Discreet and inconspicuous, its midblock location allowed visitors to slip in and out with a minimum of notice.

A dark blue Mercedes stretch limousine had eased to a stop in front of the elegant town house. A steep gray-stone stoop led the way to oak double doors, illuminated by antique gaslight lamps.

Two men in dark business suits stepped out of the limousine. The men carefully peered around the street before allowing a third passenger to follow them out into the night.

“Two soldiers…A driver. He sure as hell travels light.”

One of the men inside the Escort had been stretched across the length of the backseat. Isiah Parker leaned forward now. He had closely cropped black hair, and a smoothly handsome face. His rangy body strongly suggested professional athletics, though Parker would have said it was his skin color, not his body, that made some people think he might have been a basketball player once upon a time.

“We’ll give the garbage an hour or so to relax and get comfortable,” Parker said, speaking calmly. “Then we go in. Why don’t you turn on the radio, Jimmy? Brothers on Ninety-ninth Street would be listening to a little music, you know. Ba-dahdah-deet. Let’s do it up right.”

9

Alexandre St.-Germain; Allure

ALEXANDRE ST.-GERMAIN
was sitting on top of the world, and he knew it. How many other men had succeeded in one business, much less two? How many had entrée into Wall Street boardrooms, but also the private homes of Anthony (Joe Batters) Accardo, of Carmine Persico?

St.-Germain even understood the danger of personal vanity. He had seen the results again and again. And yet, he knew he was smarter than other men. He had read more; experienced far more. He had been educated at the Sorbonne: economics and biology. He preferred the school of hard knocks.

At twenty-two, he had been known in Marseilles as Mercedes. Just the single name, which everyone in the demimonde seemed to know. Even then, he had a special quality that allowed him to buy and sell narcotics on the docks, and then mingle with the rich on their priceless yachts. Alexandre St.-Germain had style; he had exceptional good looks; plus the gift of charm. He had learned to use these qualities to unlock doors everywhere around the world.

In Tripoli, he was the Butcher—the chief contact for arms deals with Syria and Libya, for any murderers willing to pay for the highest quality and service.

Now he was known by police departments as the Grave Dancer. He was a man with many different faces, different names, different life-styles.

So this is Allure, St.-Germain considered as he wandered through a spacious foyer, then the luxurious living room downstairs. He smiled as he observed the richly furnished surroundings inside the club on West Ninety-ninth Street… Elaborately carved double doors. Cold marble floors. A de Kooning, a Pisarro, a Klee. A piano room leading into a planted solarium.

It was mostly eclectic. Art Deco here and there. A hint of Italian Renaissance. Gallic touches such as a Louis XVI buffet in the hallway, some antique French prints.

There was a wet bar stocked with cut glass decanters, bottles of Taittinger, hock, fresh lime and lemons, ice that looked like assortments of diamonds. Fresh flowers: mossed roses and nosegays graced a long serving table.

And the most beautiful women and young boys were stationed everywhere. They reminded him of models at a Paris fashion show, gently mouthing their hellos, affecting their effete bows. A few wore body paint, their faces streaked like artful urban savages.

Some of the most respected men in the world were clients here, he knew. The overdone elegance was an attempt to pander to their wealth and supposed taste; to assuage middle-class American guilt, perhaps; to mask the reality that this was a highly expensive bordello, one of the finest in the world.

He was escorted by a tall black model, who took him arm in arm up mahogany stairs to the second floor. A painted runner distinguished the staircase. The model was slender and long-legged, superior in every way.

He was aware of a slight surge of anticipation. He wondered what surprises had been prepared for him tonight.

Alexandre St.-Germain pushed open the heavy oak bedroom door on the second floor. The woman at his side had silently, very efficiently, vanished.

The two women inside the bedroom suite at Allure were exquisite, far surpassing his escort upstairs, or any of the courtesans he’d seen so far. Both were young; both call girls captured the essence of innocent, wide-eyed American beauty.

So far, so good. Very good, indeed.

“Je m’appelle Kay,”
one of them said to him.

“Bienvenu à Allure. On nous a choisies de vous saluer, de dire bonjour…Il y a d’autres jeunes filles, sí vous desirez.”

“No, I don’t desire any other women,” St.-Germain answered in English. “The two of you are very beautiful.”

The woman who had spoken first, Kay, was dark-haired, but extremely fair-skinned. Her skin actually looked dusted with some kind of fine powder. Her eyes were delicately sketched. The powder accentuated her cheekbones. Her hair was combed to one side, softly pulled behind her ear.

She communicated expressively with slender hands. Her smile was brilliant, and seemed sincere. She was very good indeed. Even her French was polished.

“I’m Kimberly. Kim.” The second girl seemed shy, younger than the first. She was no more than eighteen, with long blond hair, flowing almost to the bottom of her spine.

The scent of expensive perfume reached St.-Germain as he stood transfixed in the open doorway. The smell of flowers surrounded him. Things were done to perfection at Allure, just the way St.-Germain demanded that they be.

The bedroom suite was a fantasy maze of cut glass, Italian marble, two-inch-thick carpeting, and mosaic tile. Music whispered from hidden speakers, a light tango-rock beat currently featured in the trendiest after-hours clubs. Drugs were laid out all over a chrome and glass coffee table. The atmosphere was undeniably sexy, but also romantic.

The dark-haired woman, Kay, wore a Hermes gown that was delicately split up the side. The dress revealed a tease of nylon stockings, with silver pendants that mysteriously spiraled upward. The dress made her appear liquid, accentuating every curve, every nuance of her body.

Kimberly was long-legged as well, with firm, sculpted breasts and a glowing tan. Her nipples were already erect. She also wore an evening gown, Givenchy or Yves St. Laurent, along with spike-heeled slippers and sophisticated makeup.

Alexandre St.-Germain smiled and bowed. This couldn’t have been better if he had arranged each detail himself.

BOOK: Midnight Club
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