Harlem Shadow Novel...After Dark
Preparing a Harlem Shadow Novel called After Dark. The feeling of After Dark will be that of the mystery/action pulps and maybe a Walter Moseley, Easy Rawlins mystery. I'm planning on writing about four stories for the first edition. This is the first story...it's a work in progress but I just wanted to post a preview. Enjoy and post comments.
THE HARLEM SHADOW
An Action Soul Mystery Mini Novel
By Brian Williams
I don’t like hospitals. Never have. People are sick, contagious. And some people never make it out of these places alive. I avoid doctors and prescription medicine whenever I can. I figure they don’t call it “practicing” medicine without a good reason. But on a cold as hell night in October, a friend of mine gave me a call and said he needed a favor. That favor necessitated me entering a hospital.
The dude’s name was Noose...Isaiah Noose. He was a big, ham-fisted Negro with dark brown polished skin and beady white eyes. Noose was a private investigator that sometimes worked closely with NYPD…whenever he came to Harlem you could be certain there’d be a lot of gun smoke and body bags. Isaiah didn’t take no mess. The white cops at the PD didn’t like cavorting in the jungle or working with me…so they sent him to accomplish their dirty work. I didn’t have a problem with Noose. He’s what you might call…my type of guy.
The morgue was a dismal, antiseptic room on the 3rd floor that seemed to swallow all sounds of life…it was deadly quiet except for Noose’s abrasive voice.
He stood by the gurney like a dark magician, preparing to unveil his latest trick. He never smiled, but his face seemed to be contorted in a constant smirk. I know this must have made him very unpopular amongst the boys in blue. He lifted the sheet momentarily exposing the grotesque visage of a creature that was only vaguely human.
“Do you know what this is Shadow?” Noose said grinding a toothpick to shreds in the corner of his mouth.
“Of course I do. It’s a zuvembie.” I smiled slyly from behind the domino mask.
Noose took a puff of his cigar and shot me a quizzical glance. He removed his fedora exposing his tight rows of kinks and an ugly scar beneath his left eye. This boy had the face only a mother could love…but somehow he made it work.
“How the hell did you know that?” Noose demanded.
“I’m what you might call…an educated nigger, detective.” I smiled wide unable to contain myself.
Noose chuckled a bit, his white eyes widening and his cigar smoke curling around his head like a ghostly chain.
“That’s why I like you Shadow…I don’t have to tell you shit. So you probably have this case halfway solved then…am I right?” Noose teased me…but it was a challenge just the same.
I didn’t like everything about Noose. The one thing that bothered me in particular was his complete lack of fear when he was in my presence. He walked and talked to me as if we were equals; he even spoke of me as if many times I was his assistant instead of the other way around. I played his game because I needed him as an ally.
“No. I haven’t solved the mystery of the black zuvembies in Harlem. But it’s not too difficult to tell who’s trafficking them. It has to be Madame Zenobia. And that fat scum, Bossman. The zuvembies are being used as expendable hitmen. It’s really a pretty ingenious idea. What’s the big deal…I mean honestly…they’re already dead.” I feigned ignorance but I knew the real reason.
Zuvembies were roaming the streets of Harlem. Bossman had greased the palms of NYPD heavily to look the other way as he used these undead minions to muscle the neighborhood and protect his interests. What NYPD didn’t bank on is the overflow of zuvembies into places like Brooklyn and Manhattan. White folks were complaining.
“Come on Shadow…I thought you said you were educated? Bossman and Madame Zenobia co-own a plantation in Haiti. In their employ is a bokor or voodoo sorcerer who goes by the name of King Root. He’s the one who’s been creating all of these damn…zuvembies. NYPD ain’t havin it. And the big deal is some of these nappy headed spooks done crossed over into the white folks land of milk and honey. So all bets are off.” Noose winked at me as though he was hurting my feelings.
I had no problem cracking down on the illicit enterprises of that obese, sedentary ghetto mollusk known as Bossman. But I had been quietly exterminating zuvembies in the shadows of Harlem for a solid year now and was currently under investigation by the Commissioner as a possible murder suspect. I hated the backward swinging doors of justice and the City of New York’s absolute reluctance to acknowledge me and my activities in Harlem.
“So NYPD needs The Harlem Shadow to find and take down King Root? Is that the game then?” I said, my face becoming a stoic mask.
“Wow…you really are a smart nigger! Hahahahhhhaha!” Noose chortled uncontrollably, his teeth gleaming white behind that sinister smirk.
I thought about a strategy. It was apparent that some form of voodoo witchcraft was being used to create these zuvembies…something I had studied briefly while in my metaphysical training phase but not enough to truly comprehend it from a scientific standpoint. From what I could tell…the zuvembies varied in strength but they seemed to fall easy when shot with lead bullets. I also heard through the grapevine that the bokor was capable of astral projection and in many cases was actually controlling the body of the zuvembie but could only occupy one corpse at a time. The makings of a plan began to coalesce in my head but I would need to take a field trip to collect some knowledge and supplies. A field trip to Haiti.
“Tell the Commish, I’ll handle his King Root problems and dispense with the zuvembies if he calls the dogs off of me. Also, I need some traveling money…I’m going to charter a plane to Haiti…tonight.” I said in a deadly serious tone of voice.
Noose seemed to wince a little at both requests; no matter how hard he tried to play…he was still the black-faced hand puppet of the openly racist police commissioner. He was going to catch all types of “nigga hell” to get the items I requested, but you’ve got to pay to play.
“I can do that for you, Shadow. I like the way you think. Destroy the operation from within. They won’t see you coming. Who are you going to get to fly you out of here though this time of night?” Noose inquired.
I never discuss my liaisons with other adventurers or persons of intrigue. These associates are key to my primary operation of keeping Harlem safe and giving the impression that I could do anything I wanted to at any given moment. I knew a pilot, a French West African named Francois Bullard who owned an expensive penthouse in Manhattan that secretly contained a small air hangar for experimental air craft he created. For the right amount of money and excitement, Bullard would fly me around the world and back.
“Never you mind, who…that’s not your concern. Secure the things I’ve asked you for…have the money by midnight.” I said this as I climbed out the morgue window.
Noose watched me leap to the rooftop of an adjacent building with that damn smirk on his face.
“Do what you do, Mr. Shadow. I’ll get your money.”
As I looked back at his blockish silhouette in the window, I could still see the glint of his immaculate choppers and I wondered what tricks he had up his sleeve for me.
To be continued...