Neon Blue (suspense) and This Shoal of Space (SF) by John Argo were the first two e-books ever published online for download, in the history of the world, 1996-7 in innovative weekly serial chapters. More info at the museum pages. If you enjoy this free read, which is offered in the spirit of the Golden Age of the World Wide Web, please consider buying a print or e-book edition as a way of thanking the author. A fine E-book is typically priced at the cost of a latte, yet offers many more hours of enjoyment than a cup of coffee. Thank you (John Argo).

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Chapter 39. Manhattan

about Neon Blue or Girl, unlockedBlue met with Tomasi in his Manhattan office Wednesday morning. He poured black home-brewed coffee from his steel thermos. "Must feel like home again."

"Thanks. Yes. I wish it had been for other reasons."

He put his feet up. "I'm sorry, Humboldt. I didn't know the guy but I think he was a good cop and I'm sorry we lost him."

"Do we have any idea where Silverstone is?"

Tomasi held his pencil up with his index fingers like goal posts. "No. The FBI ran a check of all slashers named Silverstone, and while there was one in Colorado ten years ago who used a knife on his mother in law, and another one in Philadelphia two years ago who used a trowel on his construction foreman, there haven't been any Silverstones using straight razors, which is what this weapon seems to have been." He dropped the pencil. "However. Several things. One, the weapon was not left at the scene of the crime, which probably means the guy carries it and may use it again and probably used it before. Second, the FBI computer comes up with a match in Los Angeles about a month ago. What makes the Los Angeles snuff so interesting is that it's the same exact MO, and it's so recent." He pulled out a FAX showing a line diagram of a human body. A dotted line had been drawn along the left side of the neck. "I think the same guy did it. Look at our original drawing that came out of the Coroner's office. Eddie was slashed to the left side of the neck, so was the kid in LA. Both cuts were a single slash from a powerful hand, presumably a man's, and the penetration was enough to induce massive bleeding, an instant drop of blood pressure to the brain, shock, death within seconds. They both literally died before they hit the ground."

"The angles are wrong," Blue said. "The Los Angeles guy's slash was more toward the front, and the angle to the horizontal…oops."

"Exactly," Tomasi said. "You're very sharp, Humboldt. The guy in Los Angeles was a tall man. A basketball player who had gotten himself involved in the drug trade. He was about six inches taller than Eddie. The point is, it gives us the height on our man. I'd say six feet even. Not only that, but the way he slashed both men, he was very close, so he must be respectable, trustworthy looking. He's physically strong, and he packs a razor. A guy wouldn't pack a razor unless he knew how to use it. I mean, a gun would be easier."

"Noisier," she said.

"So get a silencer. Now another thing. The secretary says the guy may have a slight accent. So if nothing turns up in the U.S. we try maybe Canada; Quebec maybe. Or Europe. This guy didn't look Latin. Another thing. Here's a composite sketch."

Blue regarded a chilling face. Total stranger. She turned away. "I'm still waiting for our lady to come out of her coma."

"You've been doing a bang-up job out there. I've got Vito working undercover as a baggage handler at JFK. He says it's a good physical workout and the ladies are nice to look at."

"That sounds like Vito," Blue said smiling.

"There is one other thing." Tomasi leaned forward. "On the personal side, Humboldt. Maggie has called here several times."

"Again?" Blue's stomach sank, and her smile drooped.

Tomasi's eyes dipped in a knowing, ominous nod. "She came in here a week ago confidentially and told me you and she were having an affair and you left her and she didn't know how she could go on without you."

Blue sighed deeply. "It was a mistake, Mr. Tomasi."

He shrugged. "I stay out of personal things, unless other factors affect an agent's work. With you, there isn't anything like that. We get a lot of nuts in here, and she seems pretty nutty. I just thought you ought to know. An embarrassment could really affect your career with law enforcement, especially with the Federal Government. You understand of course."

Blue kept her feelings deeply stored apart in separate boxes, and she made sure the padlocks were tightly locked

Blue stopped at her apartment, knees still shaking from the funeral and the conversation with Tomasi. The old red brick high-rise depressed her. Dust on everything upset her, so she did a quick cleaning. It was good to be among her stuffed animals, her books, her favorite chair by the TV. After cleaning, she showered and dressed. She packed her suitcase anew, throwing in more of her nice clothes.

Then she read her piled up mail. Bills; junk mail; and notes from Maggie. Cards, letters, drawings in manila envelopes…sadly, she added them to the O-file. What use, the past? Why did the woman persist, when it was all so long gone and over with?

On impulse, filled with kindness, with a desire to set things straight, to make a nasty break somehow cleaner, she dialed Maggie's number. She remembered it by heart. As the phone rang in the familiar Lower West Side studio, images like old newsreel pictures flipped through Blue's mind. The smell of Maggie's place—paints, acrylics, thinner, always with that overtone of black coffee re-percolated to a tarry state. Maggie, tender. Maggie, jealous. Maggie mothering her through her divorce pains. "Hello?" the familiar voice said, distracted, not happy, busy probably, bitchy. Blue hung up.

Blue kept her feelings deeply stored apart in separate boxes, and she made sure the padlocks were tightly locked


Copyright © 1996 by John Argo, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.

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