Masters of Noir: Volume Four
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by Lawrence Block, Mickey Spillane,
Description: This anthology features some of the most famous authors writing at the peak of their careers! Volume four of Master of Noir has the following ten great stories: THE PICKPOCKET by MICKEY SPILLANE, I DON'T FOOL AROUND by LAWRENCE BLOCK, MAN WITH A SHIV by RICHARD WORMSER, THE FLOATER by JONATHAN CRAIG, SWAMP SEARCH by HARRY WHITTINGTON, FACE OF EVIL by DAVID ALEXANDER, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF by WILLIAM CAMPBELL GAULT, THE FAST LINE by ART CROCKETT, CRIME OF PASSION by RICHARD S. PRATHER, and LUST SONG by STUART FRIEDMAN
eBook Publisher: Wonder Audiobooks, LLC/Wonder eBooks,
eBookwise Release Date: August 2010
3 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [230 KB]
Reading time: 151-211 min.
THE PICKPOCKET by MICKEY SPILLANE
Willie came into the bar smiling. He couldn't understand why he did it, but he did it anyway. Ever since the day he had married Sally and had stopped in for a bottle of beer to bring home for his wedding supper, he had come in smiling. Sally, he thought, three years with Sally, and now there was little Bill and a brother or maybe a sister on the way.
The bartender waved, and Willie said, "Hello, Barney." A beer came up and he pushed a quarter out, looking at himself in the big mirror behind the wall. He wasn't very big, and he was far from good-looking. Just an ordinary guy, a little on the small side. He was respectable now. A real law-abiding citizen. Meeting Sally had done that.
He remembered the day three winters ago when he'd tried to lift a wallet from a guy's pocket. Hunger and cold had made his hand shake and the guy had collared him. He was almost glad to be run into the station house where it was warm. But the guy must have known that, too, and refused to press any charges. So he got kicked out in the cold again. That was where Sally had found him.
He remembered the taxi, and Sally and the driver half-carrying him into her tiny apartment. The smell of the hot soup did more to revive him than anything else. She didn't ask any questions, but he told her nevertheless. He was a pickpocket. A skinny little mug who had lived by his hands ever since he was a kid. She'd told him, right away, that it didn't matter.
He had eaten her food and slept on her couch for a week before he got smart. Then he did something he had never done before in his life. He got a job. It wasn't much at first, just sweeping up in a loft where they made radio parts. Slowly he found out he had hands that could do better things than push a broom. The boss found it out, too, when he discovered Willie assembling sections in half the time that it took a skilled mechanic to do it. They gave the broom to someone else.
Only then did he ask Sally to marry him. She gave up her job at the department store and they settled down to a regular married life. The funny part was that he liked it.
The cops never gave up, though. As regularly as clockwork they came around. A real friendly visit, understand? But they came around. The first of the month Detective Coggins would walk in right after supper, talk a while, looking at him with those cynical, cold blue eyes, then leave. That part worried Willie--not for himself, but for little Bill. It wouldn't be long now before he'd be in school, and the other kids ... they'd take it out on him. Your old man was a crook ... a pickpocket ... yeah, then why do the coppers come around all the time? Willie drained his beer quickly. Sally was waiting supper for him.
He had almost reached the door when he heard the shots. The black sedan shot past as he stepped outside and for one awful instant he saw a face. Black eyebrows ... the sneer ... the scar on the cheek. The face of a guy he had known three years ago. And the guy had seen him, too. In his mind, Willie ran. He ran faster than he had ever run in his life--but his legs didn't run. They carried him homeward as the self-respecting should walk: but his mind ran.
Three years wasn't so long after all.
As soon as he came in Sally knew something was wrong. She said, "What happened?" Willie couldn't answer. "Your job ... " she said hesitantly. Willie shook his head.
It was the hurt look that made his lips move. "Somebody got shot up the street," he told her. "I don't know who it was, but I know who did it."
"Did anyone else ... "
"No, just me. I think I was the only one."
He could tell Sally was almost afraid to ask the next question. Finally, she said: "Did they see you?"
"Yes. He knows me."
"Oh, Willie!" Her voice was muffled with despair. They stood in silence, not knowing what to say, not daring to say anything. But both had the same thoughts. Run. Get out of town. Somebody was dead and it wouldn't hurt to kill a couple more to cover the first.
Sally said: " ... The cops. Should we ... "
"I don't dare. They wouldn't believe me. My word wouldn't be any good anyway."
It came then, the sharp rap on the door. Willie leaped to his feet and ran, reaching for the key in the lock. He was a second too late. The door was tried and pushed open. The guy that came in was big. He filled the door from jamb to jamb with the bulk of his body. He grabbed Willie by the shirt and held him tight in his huge hands.
"Hello, shrimp," he said.