Book Showcase: SYMPHONY ROAD by Gabriel Valjan

Symphony Road by Gabriel Valjan Banner

 

Symphony Road

by Gabriel Valjan

February 1-28, 2021 Tour

 

Synopsis:

Symphony Road by Gabriel Valjan

Trouble comes in threes for Shane Cleary, a former police officer and now, a PI.

Arson. A Missing Person. A cold case.

Two of his clients whom he shouldn’t trust, he does, and the third, whom he should, he can’t.

Shane is up against crooked cops, a notorious slumlord and a mafia boss who want what they want, and then there’s the good guys who may or may not be what they seem.

Praise for Symphony Road:

“The second installment in this noir series takes us on a gritty journey through mid-seventies Boston, warts and all, and presents Shane Cleary with a complex arson case that proves to be much more than our PI expected. Peppered with the right mix of period detail and sharp, spare prose, Valjan proves he’s the real deal.” – Edwin Hill, Edgar finalist and author of Watch Her

“Ostracized former cop turned PI Shane Cleary navigates the mean streets of Boston’s seedy underbelly in Symphony Road. A brilliant follow up to Dirty Old Town, Valjan’s literary flair and dark humor are on full display.” – Bruce Robert Coffin, award-winning author of the Detective Byron Mysteries

“A private eye mystery steeped in atmosphere and attitude.” – Richie Narvaez, author of Noiryorican

Book Details:

Genre: Crime fiction, Procedural, Noir, Historical Fiction
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: January 15, 2021
Number of Pages: 232
ISBN: 978-1-953789-07-5
Series: Shane Cleary Mystery, #2
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

I went to cross the street when the wheels of a black Cadillac sped up and bristled over tempered glass from a recent smash-and-grab. The brake lights pulsed red, and a thick door opened. A big hulk stepped out, and the car wobbled. The man reached into his pocket. I thought this was it. My obituary was in tomorrow’s paper, written in past tense and in the smallest and dullest typeface, Helvetica, because nothing else said boring better.

Click. Click. “I can never get this fucking thing to light.”

It was Tony Two-Times, Mr. B’s no-neck side man. His nickname came from his habit of clicking his lighter twice. “Mr. B wants a word.”

“Allow me.” I grabbed the Bic. The orange flame jumped on my first try and roasted the end of his Marlboro Red. “You really oughta quit.”

“Thanks for the health advice. Get in.”

Tony nudged me into the backseat. I became the meat in the sandwich between him and Mr. B. There was no need for introductions. The chauffeur was nothing more than a back of a head and a pair of hands on the wheel. The car moved and Mr. B contemplated the night life outside the window.

“I heard you’re on your way to the police station to help your friend.”

“News travels fast on Thursday night. Did Bill tell you before or after he called me?”

“I’m here on another matter.”

The cloud of smoke made me cough. Tony Two-Times was halfway to the filter. The chauffeur cracked the window a smidge for ventilation. As I expected, the radio played Sinatra and there were plans for a detour. A string of red and green lights stared back at us through a clean windshield.

“A kid I know is missing,” Mr. B said.

“Kids go missing all the time.”

“This kid is special.”

“Has a Missing Persons Report been filed?”

The look from Mr. B prompted regret. “We do things my way. Understood?”

We stopped at a light. A long-legged working girl with a chinchilla wrap crossed the street. She approached the car to recite the menu and her prices, but one look at us and she kept walking.

“Is this kid one of your own?”

The old man’s hand strummed leather. The missing pinky unnerved me. I’ve seen my share of trauma in Vietnam: shattered bones, intestines hanging out of a man, but missing parts made me queasy. The car moved and Mr. B continued the narrative.

“Kid’s a real pain in my ass, which is what you’d expect from a teenager, but he’s not in the rackets, if that’s what you’re wondering. This should be easy money for you.”

Money never came easy. As soon as it was in my hand, it went to the landlady, or the vet, or the utilities, or inside the refrigerator. I’d allow Mr. B his slow revelation of facts. Mr. B mentioned the kid’s gender when he said “he’s not in the rackets.” This detail had already made the case easier for me. A boy was stupider, easier to find and catch. Finding a teenage girl, that took something special, like pulling the wings off of an angel.

“He’s a good kid. No troubles with the law, good in school, excellent grades and all, but his mother seems to think he needed to work off some of that rebellious energy kids get. You know how it is.”

I didn’t. The last of my teen years were spent in rice paddies, in a hundred-seventeen-degree weather—and that was before summer—trying to distinguish friendlies from enemies in a jungle on the other side of the planet. And then there were the firefights, screams, and all the dead bodies.

“Does this kid have a girlfriend?” I asked.

Mr. B said nothing.

“A boyfriend then?” That question made Mr. B twist his head and Tony Two-Times elbowed me hard. “I’ve got to ask. Kids these days. You know, drugs, sex, and rock’ n roll.”

“The kid isn’t like your friend Bill, Mr. Cleary.”

The mister before Cleary was a first. The ribs ached. I caught a flash of the driver’s eyes in the rearview mirror. Mr. B conveyed specifics such as height and weight, build, the last known place the kid was seen, the usual hangouts and habits. This kid was All-American, too vanilla, and Mr. B had to know it. Still, this kid was vestal purity compared to Mr. B, who had run gin during Prohibition, killed his first man during the Depression, and became a made-man before Leave It to Beaver aired its first episode on television.

The car came to a stop. The driver put an emphasis on the brakes. We sat in silence. The locks shot up. Not quite the sound of a bolt-action rifle, but close. Mr. B extended his hand for a handshake. I took it. No choice there. This was B’s way of saying his word was his bond and whatever I discovered during the course of my investigation stayed between us, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

“I’ve got to ask,” I said.

“I’ll pay you whatever you want.”

“It’s not that,” I said, feeling Tony Two-Times’ breath on the back of my neck. “Did you hire Jimmy C to do a job lately?”

“I did not.”

“And Bill called me, just like that?” I knew better than to snap my fingers. Tony would grab my hand and crush my knuckles like a bag of peanuts. A massive paw on the shoulder told me it was time to vacate the premises, but then Mr. B did the tailor’s touch, a light hand to my elbow. “Jimmy is queer like your friend, right?”

“What has that got to do with anything?”

“When it comes to friends, you forgive certain habits, like I allow this idiot over here to smoke those stupid cigarettes. Capisci?”

“Yeah, I understand.”

“Good. Now, screw off.”

I climbed over Tony Two-Times to leave the car. Door handle in my grip, I leaned forward to ask one last thing, “You know about Jimmy’s predicament?”

“Ironic, isn’t it?” Mr. B said.

“What is?”

“I know everything in this town, except where my grandnephew is. Now, shut the door.”

The door clapped shut. I heard bolts hammer down and lock. There was a brief sight of silhouettes behind glass before the car left the curb. I had two cases before breakfast, one in front of me, and the other one, behind me in the precinct house. There was no need for me to turn around. No need either, to read the sign overhead.

The limestone building loomed large in my memory. Two lanterns glowed and the entrance, double doors of polished brass, were as tall and heavy as I remembered them. It was late March and I wasn’t Caesar but it sure as hell felt like the Ides of March as I walked up those marble steps.

***

Excerpt from Symphony Road by Gabriel Valjan. Copyright 2021 by Gabriel Valjan. Reproduced with permission from Gabriel Valjan. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Gabriel Valjan

Gabriel Valjan lives in Boston’s South End. He is the author of the Roma Series and Company Files (Winter Goose Publishing) and the Shane Cleary series (Level Best Books). His second Company File novel, The Naming Game, was a finalist for the Agatha Award for Best Historical Mystery and the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original in 2020. Gabriel is a member of the Historical Novel Society, International Thriller Writer (ITW), and Sisters in Crime.

Catch Up With Gabriel Valjan:
www.GabrielValjan.com
GabrielsWharf.wordpress.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @gvaljan
Instagram – @gabrielvaljan
Twitter – @GValjan
Facebook

 

 

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Guest Post: Gabriel Valjan – DIRTY OLD TOWN

Dirty Old Town by Gabriel Valjan Banner



Hello, book people. If you’re anything like me, then the first thing you do when you wake up is to check your phone to see what day it is. I no longer care about the time, but I need to know what day it is and I still seem to forget. I’m reading more but sleeping less. I’m not necessarily stressed, anxious, or depressed, although I do worry about all of my family and friends that are deemed “essential” and are out working every day during this pandemic. My prayers go out to all that have been touched by COVID-19. 

Sorry, went off on a tangent there…that’s the other thing, my brain seems to be going off in multiple directions all at once. I can’t imagine how authors, musicians, and artists are maintaining their creativity during these trying times. And today’s guest, Gabriel Valjan, author of the recently released Dirty Old Town, will be discussing just that. Thank you, Mr. Valjan for stopping by today.


Creativity in the Time of COVID-19

We’re living in difficult times. Anxiety, uncertainty, and fear have become real demons in our lives. All of us are experiencing an uncomfortable vulnerability and yet compassion and kindness abound. Thousands are making personal protective equipment for the courageous doctors and nurses in hospitals and nursing homes. Millions of Americans are learning anew how to spend time alone, together and rethink how we relate to each other, as Nature has created an unnatural pause to our daily rhythms of school, work, and other stressors.

We’ve learned simplicity is not so simple. We’ve learned the interdependency we have with each other and the poignancy of what we have forgotten but should remember. Teachers are important. We may thank them, if at all. Cashiers at the local market are important. We thank them, as we take the receipt, if at all. The delivery person, whom we’ve thought as a provider of convenience because we didn’t want to cook tonight, is now yet another person our lives depend upon to bring us food and supplies. And our elders, who have been mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, veterans and workers, who had laid down the metaphorical pavement for the next generation, are now our most vulnerable. We learn, we forget, we learn what we’ve forgotten. Everyone matters. Common decency matters. Contact matters.

All of us have been asked to sacrifice our routines and our daily freedoms. Some of us are not responding to it well. Most of us are experiencing and living all those questions posed and pondered by philosophers, whom we dismissed. What matters? What is important? How am I living my life, and how will I live my life after this?

I’m a writer. Most of my writer friends have had to cancel appearances, readings at other venues. Most of the conferences where I meet readers and get to raise the glass and congratulate my friends on their successes in the past year have been canceled. Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, and Thriller Fest have all yielded to the times. I fear other writer conferences will succumb. These literary occasions are not just about awards, just another opportunity to sell books and sign them, or just an excuse to party. Writers value readers. We love meeting them. A kind word of appreciation validates and makes up for the hours of the anguish of self-doubt, and the despair of feeling like a cork bobbing on the relentless sea of anonymity.

Writing matters. 

Creativity matters.

Writers too numerous to name here have written, under the threat of death, imprisonment, and torture. We have read them. The reality of their creative efforts was artificial. Conquest. Politics. War.

Writers have also crafted masterpieces during times of contagion. Boccaccio. Defoe. Porter. Far more writers have looked to the past or to the future to convey the human condition under duress. Camus. P.D. James. le Carré. London. Mandel. Manzoni. Mary Shelley. Saramago.

Technology avails us of means unheard of in the past. Crowd. Zoom. Writers around the world have done readings online, often to aid the very bookstores that have hosted them for readings. Libraries have made available virtual books, and streaming movies and music. Musicians have given concerts or performed solo. 

Contact matters. Art matters because it is not an escape from life, but a means to confront the most difficult moments in all our lives, and a way to document all our emotions for posterity, near and far. In these troubled times, as we are reminded of our mortality, we must remember what defines us is how we respond to adversity, conflict, and other difficulties. 

We exist. We endure. We recover. We remember. 

We create. 




Dirty Old Town

by Gabriel Valjan

on Tour March 1 – April 30, 2020



Synopsis:

Dirty Old Town by Gabriel Valjan


“Robert B. Parker would stand and cheer, and George V. Higgins would join the ovation. This is a terrific book—tough, smart, spare, and authentic. Gabriel Valjan is a true talentimpressive and skilledproviding knock-out prose, a fine-tuned sense of place and sleekly wry style.” Hank Phillippi Ryan, nationally bestselling author of The Murder List



Shane Cleary, a PI in a city where the cops want him dead, is tough, honest and broke. When he’s asked to look into a case of blackmail, the money is too good for him to refuse, even though the client is a snake and his wife is the woman who stomped on Shane’s heart years before. When a fellow vet and Boston cop with a secret asks Shane to find a missing person, the paying gig and the favor for a friend lead Shane to an arsonist, mobsters, a shady sports agent, and Boston’s deadliest hitman, the Barbarian. With both criminals and cops out to get him, the pressure is on for Shane to put all the pieces together before time runs out.




Book Details:

Genre: Crime Fiction, Mystery, Procedural, Historical Fiction
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: January 14th 2020
Number of Pages: 162
ISBN: 1087857325 (ISBN13: 9781087857329)
Series: A Shane Cleary Mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads



Author Bio:


Gabriel Valjan
Gabriel is the author of two series, Roma and Company Files, with Winter Goose Publishing. Dirty Old Town is the first in the Shane Cleary series for Level Best Books. His short stories have appeared online, in journals, and in several anthologies. He has been a finalist for the Fish Prize, shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, and received an Honorable Mention for the Nero Wolfe Black Orchid Novella Contest in 2018. You can find him on Twitter (@GValjan) and Instagram (gabrielvaljan). He lurks the hallways at crime fiction conferences, such as Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, and New England Crime Bake. Gabriel is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime.

Catch Up With Gabriel Valjan On:




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Enter To Win!!:


This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Gabriel Valjan. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on March 1, 2020, and runs through May 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.



Guest Post: THE NAMING GAME by Gabriel Valjan

The Naming Game by Gabriel Valjan


Good day, book people. If you follow my blog, and I hope that you do, you’re probably already familiar with today’s guest due to an early post for The Company Files: The Good Man that posted earlier this year. Today, I’m pleased to welcome Gabriel Valjan, author of The Company Files 2: The Naming Game. Mr. Valjan will be sharing with us the importance of place, especially forgotten places in his latest book. Thank you, Mr. Valjan for stopping by today, I appreciate your time and the information you’ll be providing. Fellow readers, I encourage you to sit back, enjoy your beverage of choice, and let’s armchair travel back in time together to forgotten LA with Mr. Valjan.



In The Naming Game, I introduce readers to several locations of Forgotten LA. I’ve listed four below, but read the novel and you’ll visit many more places in my tale of noir with a historical twist.

All excerpts from The Naming Game are used with permission from the author and publisher, Gabriel Valjan and Winter Goose Publishing.

Scene 1

“The Windsor was French elegance of dark wood and red leather booths. Ben Dimsdale ran the establishment, designed the menu, and collected the hefty price for the privilege of dining there.”

Take 1

Ben Dimsdale was a fixture on the LA culinary scene, introducing Angelenos to fine dining at his Windsor, at the intersection of Seventh and Catalina, and east of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Mr. Dimsdale would lend his personal touch with customers until he relinquished the Windsor in the early Nineties. The Prince, the last incarnation of the restaurant, would not survive in Koreatown. Dimsdale himself died in 2003. Movie aficionados may recall seeing a bandaged Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) across from Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) in an atmospheric restaurant in the classic neo-noir film Chinatown. That was filmed inside The Windsor, circa early Seventies.

Scene 2

“The Cocoanut Grove was dedicated to nocturnal decadence. Palm trees were imported inside, stuffed monkeys sat on top of them, their choreographed arms groping the leafy foliage and their glass eyes forever gazing at a ceiling painted midnight blue with unmoving stars. Here the desert people came to dance and forget their troubles and mingle with matinée royalty. Here they dined and here they listened to music beneath Moorish arches and tried to forget the Crusades and the inconvenience of Christ on the cross. On a grand night they might see ghosts or the gauzy image of Pola Negri walking her pet cheetah on a long leash through the garden.”

Take 2

The Ambassador Hotel and its legendary nightclub used to sit on a generous parcel of land at 3400 Wilshire Boulevard. The Cocoanut Grove hosted the second Academy Awards in 1930 and several more ceremonies in subsequent years. Obscure fact for movie buffs: the film White Shadows in the South Seas, which won an Oscar for Best Cinematography in 1930, is the first film in which Leo the Lion roars for MGM. In its heyday, the Cocoanut Grove was the happening place for Hollywood royalty and partygoers. Sadly, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated at the Ambassador in 1968 and his death signaled the beginning of the end for the hotel and nightclub, although the hotel would remain open as a film location for studios. Donald Trump tried to acquire the property and failed. The hotel was demolished in 2005 and the Los Angeles Unified School District has built a learning center on the site, along with a park in honor of the late Senator Kennedy. 

Scene 3

“The man used his cigarette like a prop to indicate Billy Gray’s, “There are two tales about this club and its former owner, the boxer Max Rosenbloom. Story one says George Raft discovered Max one day in a street fight in East Harlem. Story two says Mickey Cohen discovered Max. Which one do you think is the truth?””

Take 3

Slapsy Maxie’s, named after the boxer Maxie Rosenbloom, moved from Beverly Boulevard to 5665 Wilshire Boulevard in the Forties. Maxie’s served as a popular scene for music and the latest in comedy, and as a front for Mickey Cohen. The gangster used the nightclub’s address as a mail drop under the alias Mr. O’Brien. The IRS didn’t catch onto Mickey’s game of Mr. Postman until 1961.

At the time of the novel, 1951, the nightclub was known as Billy Gray’s Band Box, so named after the comic and dancer. Jackie Gleason tried out his persona of Reggie Van Gleason III on regulars. Poor health and legal troubles forced Billy Gray to sell the property. Gray’s manager Sammy Shore, actor Pauly Shore’s father, took over the business until it closed in 1966, but would go on to create The Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard with his wife, Mitzi, in 1972. An Office Depot now stands where the original Billy Gray’s Band Box stood.

The Company Files: 2.

The Naming Game

by Gabriel Valjan

on Tour April 22 – June 22, 2019


The Company Files 2 The Naming Game by Gabriel Valjan

Synopsis:


Whether it’s Hollywood or DC, life and death, success or failure hinge on saying a name.

The right name.

When Charlie Loew is found murdered in a seedy flophouse with a cryptic list inside the dead script-fixer’s handkerchief, Jack Marshall sends Walker undercover as a screenwriter at a major studio and Leslie as a secretary to Dr. Phillip Ernest, shrink to the stars. J. Edgar Hoover has his own list. Blacklisted writers and studio politics. Ruthless gangsters and Chief Parker’s LAPD. Paranoia, suspicions, and divided loyalties begin to blur when the House Un-American Activities Committee insists that everyone play the naming game.


Praise for The Naming Game:


“With crackling dialogue and a page-turning plot shot-through with authentic period detail, Gabriel Valjan pulls the reader into the hidden world of the 1950’s Hollywood studio scene, involving murder, McCarthyism and mayhem.”
~ James L’Etoile, author of At What Cost and Bury the Past


“Terrific historical noir as Gabriel Valjan takes us on a trip through post-war Hollywood involving scandal, McCarthyism, blacklisting, J. Edgar Hoover and, of course, murder. Compelling story, compelling characters – and all the famous name dropping is great fun. Highly recommended!”
~ R.G. Belsky, author of the Clare Carlson Mystery Series


“Brilliantly written, Gabriel Valjan’s

The Naming Game whisks the reader back in time to postwar Los Angeles. Spies, Communism, and Hollywood converge in a first-rate thriller.”
~ Bruce Robert Coffin, Agatha Award nominated author of Beyond the Truth



Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery, Crime Fiction

Published by: Winter Goose Publishing

Publication Date: May 4, 2019

Number of Pages: 210

ISBN: 978-1-941058-86-2

Series: The Company Files: 2

Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads


Gabriel Valjan

Author Bio:

Gabriel Valjan is the author of two series, The Roma Series and The Company Files, available from Winter Goose Publishing. His short stories have appeared in Level Best anthologies and other publications. Twice shortlisted for the Fish Prize in Ireland, once for the Bridport Prize in England, and an Honorable Mention for the Nero Wolfe Black Orchid Novella Contest, he is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime National, a local member of Sisters in Crime New England, and an attendee of Bouchercon, Crime Bake, and Malice Domestic conferences.


Catch Up With Gabriel On:

gabrielvaljan.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!



Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!




Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Gabriel Valjan. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on April 22, 2019, and runs through June 24, 2019. Void where prohibited.


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Book Showcase: THE COMPANY FILES – THE GOOD MAN by Gabriel Valjan



The Company Files

The Good Man

by Gabriel Valjan

on Tour January 14-26, 2019



Synopsis:


The Company Files: The Good Man by Gabriel Valjan

Jack Marshall had served with Walker during the war, and now they work for The Company in postwar Vienna. With the help of Leslie, an analyst who worked undercover gathering intelligence from Hitler’s inner circle, they are tasked to do the inconceivable: recruit former Nazis with knowledge that can help the U.S. in the atomic race. But someone else is looking for these men. And when he finds them, he does not leave them alive.

In this tale of historical noir, of corruption and deceit, no one is who they say they are. Who is The Good Man in a world where an enemy may be a friend, an ally, the enemy, and governments deny everything?





Book Details:


Genre: International Mystery, Crime Fiction
Published by: Winter Goose Publishing
Publication Date: December 15 2017
Number of Pages: 251
ISBN: 1941058736 (ISBN13: 9781941058732)
Series: The Company Files: 1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads




Read an excerpt:




At 0300 his little black beauty warbled from the nightstand, and stirred Walker from his semi-erotic embrace of the pillow. Grable, his .45, was sleeping next to the receiver. She could sleep through anything. He was jealous.

“Awake?” Jack’s distinctive voice came over the wire.

“I am now.” Eyes focused on becoming alert.

“Meet me at the Narrenturm, ninth district.”

“Why?”

“The IP are here already.”

Walker washed a hand over his face, still in the fog.

“What is it, Jack?”

“Dead body in the Fruitcake House.”

The informative sentence ended with a click. The IP, the International Police, presence was a guarantee that the crime scene would not be kept contained.

Walker got out of bed.

His room was square, clean, and impersonal. The room measured 50 square meters and served as living room where the nice, upholstered chair was and bedroom where stood the bed. A modest walnut armoire rested against the wall space next to the bathroom door. There was a set of doors out to the balcony so small that it was an insult to a poor man’s suicide.

There was no pretension to domesticity or habit, like paintings, books, or luxurious furniture. His mirror in the bathroom was his daily reminder of what he presented to the world, and on the nightstand rested his Leich desk phone with its felt-covered base, curled cord, and petite Bakelite body that he answered when the outside world called him.

Each night before bed Walker draped a towel over the upholstered chair, and he placed a pail of water on the balcony. Then he inventoried the room. He knew that if something changed in the room he would wake up. Out of habit he slept without socks, his feet in the open air, so he could respond to anything that moved uninvited in the room.

The AKH is the General Hospital in Vienna, the Allgemeines Krankenhaus, the largest in the country, and the Narrenturm was the second mental hospital in Europe after Bedlam in London. The German word for the place was Gugelhupf because of its architecture. The asylum housed the mentally ill, the criminally insane, and political prisoners.

The AKH boasted the first lightning rods in Vienna on its roof and breakthroughs in hygienic practices. Walker wondered whether the lightning rods had anything to do with the electroconvulsive therapy he had read about back home, as he walked over to the chair, grabbed the towel, and tossed it onto the floor by the balcony door. Blood groups had first been typed in thorough Teutonic style at the AKH, while patients were chained to lattice doors at the Narrenturm, screaming like the forgotten poor and unrepentant heretics in medieval dungeons well into the nineteenth century.

He took off his shorts, went out onto the balcony naked in the cold air, picked up the pail of now freezing water and poured it over his head.

He had learned this trick from a Russian POW. Cold water forces the body to discharge negativity and disease. The POW, he was told through a translator, did this ritual every single day without fail regardless of season. The water made his skin scream. Walker never got used to the shock. The heaviness went out of him through his heels and his mind focused.

He toweled off, dressed, and coaxed Grable out of her sleep and under his arm.

Any time of night the Narrenturm is a nightmare. The building had a corkscrew circular corridor that spun off twenty-eight patient rooms on each of its five floors. Dessert cake. Each room had slit windows that only a starving bird could contemplate for roosting. Escaping the place was as formidable as finding it.

After Walker had given a brief flash of his papers and had inquired after directions, the MP told him in factual German that Courtyard 6 was accessible from one of several entrances. ‘Take Alserstrasse, Garnisongasse, or Spitalgasse, and then consult any one of the gateway maps.’ It was just the right number of precise German details to confuse him.

In darkness and frustration Walker found the wrought-iron gate with a nice curvy snake that he thought was the caduceus. He looked at the serpent. Was it the caduceus of Hermes or the rod of Asclepius? He touched the single snake, ran his fingers across the diamond-shaped iron fixtures. Old man Hermes must have stolen back his staff and had just enough time to get away from the crazies with only one of his snakes. The caduceus, he remembered, had two.

Above him, darkness; ahead of him, in the curving hall as he climbed, voices. He saw Jack, who, intuitively turning his head to his shoulder, saw him before turning his head back to face forward, as International Police and some suits swarmed around, the air charged in a Babel of languages. Even in a crowd Jack Marshall stood out as a man not to crowd.

Walker went to stand next to Jack. Standing at ease – hands behind his back – out of habit. Jack uttered his words just audibly enough for Walker to hear. “The German word for magician is Der Zauberer. Our friend is a magician. He sets the stage, does his trick, and then poof he’s gone. No clues. Nothing.”

Approaching them were the four-to-a-jeep policemen, one representative for each of the national flags that controlled the city. They were reporting to the Inspector in their respective languages. Walker knew the Inspector would summarize the scene for him and Jack in English.

The Frenchman who wore a long haggard face from smoking too many cigarettes, spoke with a phlegmatic bass. The Brit recounted events in his reedy voice with an affected posh accent; no doubt picked up from the BBC back in Birmingham. The Russian, after he had spoken, stood at attention with winter in his face, whereas the American, a young kid, gave a smiling report, about as graceful as a southpaw in a room of righties. Walker’s ears listened for any German, keen for the second verb at the end of the sentence so he could understand what was being said. The Inspector scribbled notes with a very short pencil that took brevity to an art form.

Finally. In his lilting Austrian-inflected English: “Gentlemen, it appears we have an unfortunate scenario here. The victim was discovered this evening, two hours ago to be precise. The police arrived at the scene after hearing a tip from an informant that this facility was being used for black-market trading. Thinking that they might discover black-market penicillin or other commodities popular these days, they made this discovery. Our medical examiner is making an assessment as I speak.”

Jack and Walker remained silent.

The man continued as the four policemen lingered solemnly and choir-like behind him. “The victim in question was, according to our preliminary findings, a man of the medical profession with questionable ethics.”

“You mean a Nazi doctor,” Jack said in his tone of an officer weary of formality and needing facts.

The Frenchman murmured “Bosch” and covered his racist word with a cough. The Inspector’s eyes looked behind him without turning his head.

“Yes, a doctor. The deceased is said to have performed unseemly medical experiments on prisoners in the camps. He did horrible things to children, women, and particularly, Russian prisoners of war. Unconscionable.”

The Russian, a silent Boris, stared ahead without a flinch or thaw.

The Inspector with a modest bow of the head and genteel click of his heels handed Jack a piece of paper. It was a preliminary. Jack said nothing. His eyes took in the paper with a downward glance and he began the short walk to the scene.

Walker and Marshall entered the patient’s cell. The room smelled of something tarry. Some other men who had just been there left in whispers, leaving them alone with the doctor and the body. When the doctor, who was dressed in the all-black priestly garb of his profession, saw his helpers leave and these new men arrive, he switched from his native language to English the way an owl with fourteen neck bones moves his head in ways not humanly possible.

“How’s the patient?” Marshall asked the little man near the body.

“Dead a day or two by his liver temperature. Rigor has set, as you well can see from the positioning.” The doctor was making his own notes while he talked.

“Any thoughts to cause of death, Herr Doktor?” Walker asked, knowing that coroners had looked at enough mortality to be either humble or inhumanly arrogant.

The doctor used his fingers to show an invisible syringe and did the motion of pressing the plunger. Abgespritzt. Lethal injection. I would say, carbolic acid.”

“Sounds to me that would be a fast way to go, Doctor,” Jack said with his hands in his topcoat’s pockets.

“Not necessarily. Ten to fifteen millimeters of the liquid, if injected directly into the heart, should induce ventricular tachycardia in, say, fifteen seconds. Our man here was not so lucky. First, I found no such puncture in the chest. I did find, however, a puncture in one of the extremities. I would say this man took an hour to die. Look at him.”

With this pronouncement, the small birdlike man clicked his little black bag shut and left Jack and Walker inside the cell.

Walker’s eyes took in the history of the room. He estimated that the room was tall enough, walls thick enough, that a man could scream all he wanted and nobody would know he existed. He imagined centuries of such screams within this room and maybe some claw marks on the walls, too. “How did he get in here?”

“And what does the staging job mean?” Jack said.

The dead man was propped on a stool, naked. A metal T, evidentially meant for chaining prisoners, was behind him with one part of the cross bar holding his left arm secure while his right hand, bent in rigor, rested over his heart. The corpse’s left arm had received the injection, the head was cocked back, the throat muscles taut but the mouth closed shut in typical Germanic reticence. The eyes were clouded over, the light gone from them when the heart had stopped. The legs were neutral, the back straight in a way that any mother would be proud of such perfect posture.

Walker and Jack walked around the body without saying a word. In front of the corpse was an SS uniform, folded neatly in a stack. The shirt’s right collar patch bore the runic double lightning bolts, the left patch and matching right shoulder board said, with its three diamonds and two double bars, Hauptsturmführer, Captain. His .32 was holstered and accounted for at his feet, next to his shined-to-a-sheen boots.

Jack said nothing. His mind had already processed the scene.

They descended the stairway towards the exit. Both stopped to look at the display of the hydrocephalic baby inside a formaldehyde jar. Walker and Marshall stopped, looked at it, and said nothing, because there was nothing to say.

“What do you think, Walker?” was the question once they were outside.

“The Inspector said that this dead man was a medico but there was no serpent badge on the uniform. That tells me he wasn’t in the Medical Corps. He had to be a straight-up SS man, maybe with some medical knowledge or simply passing through the camp. But he’s no doctor, so I don’t know how the Inspector could say he was doing medical experiments, unless that report of his says something I’m missing.”

Jack answered, “It doesn’t. Anything else?”

“Those slacks,” Walker replied. “They had cat hair on them.”

“So the dead guy either had a cat…”

“Or the killer has one, because there are no cats here that I can see. Another thing: those clothes were pressed and regulation-folded. He wasn’t wearing them when he was killed. Besides, nobody would walk through Vienna these days with that uniform. They either were placed in front of him as he was dying, or after he was dead. It’s all staged to make some kind of statement. Question is, where did his street clothes go.”

Jack touched his breast pocket, where the Inspector’s report rested privately. “We have another problem, Walker.”

“And what might that be?” Walker thought he knew what Jack was thinking but he waited.

Jack was quiet.

“What? You want me to go chase down an orange tabby?”

“Relax, Walker. That Inspector’s report is in German. That’s why I didn’t show it to you.”

“So my German isn’t perfect, but I can manage. What does it say?”

“It gives us the man’s name.”

They stood outside together as the sun was arriving.

“That man…” Jack pointed with his eyes upward to the stone turret from hell “was on our list. Either way we’ll never be able to talk to the Captain.”

“So what’s your recommendation?” asked Walker, afraid of the answer.

They walked to the curb together. Jack had hailed a cab, opened up the suicide door, got in, but delayed the driver with a few words in German, and from the car window said to Walker, “Talk to Leslie later to see what she thinks after I get tonight’s details to her. I’ll get a report on your desk that might interest you.”

He banged on the side door as a signal to the driver to take off.

***


Excerpt from The Company Files: 1. The Good Man by Gabriel Valjan.  Copyright © 2018 by Gabriel Valjan. Reproduced with permission from Gabriel Valjan. All rights reserved.



Gabriel Valjan

Author Bio:



Gabriel Valjan is the author of the Roma Series and The Company Files from Winter Goose Publishing as well as numerous short stories. In 2018, he was shortlisted for the Bridport and Fish Prize Short Story Prizes.

Gabriel lives in Boston, Massachusetts, where he enjoys the local restaurants, and his two cats, Squeak and Squawk, keep him honest to the story on the screen.


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