THE GYPSY TWIST

A Max Royster Mystery

by Frank Hickey


By the Same Author

BOOKS

The Gypsy Twist
Funny Bunny Hunts the Horn Bug
Brownstone Kidnap Crackup
Can Showbizzers Crush Crime?
Softening Flatbush

FEATURE FILMS

Spy, The Movie

(co-written with Charles Messina
& Lynwood Shiva Sawyer)



The Gypsy Twist: A Max Royster Mystery
Copyright © 2014 by Frank Hickey

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, mechanical or electronic, including manual re-input, photocopying, scanning, optical character recognition, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

This novel is a work of fiction. All characters and events described herein are fictitious and wholly the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to events or actual persons, living or dead, is unintentional and coincidental.

Library of Congress
Catalogue-in-Publication Data

The Gypsy Twist / Frank Hickey
1. Fiction – Crime 2. Fiction – Mystery 3. Fiction – Hardboiled

Published by Pigtown Books, an imprint of
Hidden Pearl Books L.L.C.

ISBN: 978-0-9848810-6-2

For further information, please contact:

info@pigtownbooks.com

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Third Edition / First Issue



To Larry Hickey

1920 – 2011



PROLOGUE

Lipkin, the murder expert, told me how the first kill went down.

The kid, Rusty, was running along Central Park’s dirt bridle path after dark. That October night blew cold for the season. Leaves had fallen on the path, but we got enough of Rusty’s footprints later to reconstruct the murder.

From the prints, we knew that Rusty sprinted along the path and then slowed down for the cool-off period.

His father told us that Rusty hated to run.

But his father made him do it. He said that the park was safe enough now for a boy his age.

Rusty had walked near a grove of trees, weariness weighting his heels. The strangler was waiting for him. From the mixture of two types of sweat swabbed from his body, we knew the killer was nude for the kill. It must have made the murder that much more exciting.

Someday we would be able to extract DNA from sweat they way they did from blood or saliva.

But we could not do it now.

The strangler jumped him there and wrapped a forearm around the boy’s chin. And squeezed.

For a long time, the strangler lay in a lover’s hug on top of Rusty. Forensics told us that much. For the killer, this was their time for a sweet nap of release. The murderer could relax at last.

Then the strangler jumped onto the boy’s back and wrapped legs around him. Bruises from heels being dug in his flesh showed later.

Then the killer dragged Rusty’s body deeper into the trees and stripped off his clothes. They were together and naked and secret.

Nobody heard anything.



CHAPTER 1. Policing Flatbush, Brooklyn

I tooled the blue-and-white NYPD car through Brooklyn’s back alleys, past broken toilets and gardens of scattered newspapers.

“Try missing some bumps, Maxy,” Hardesty, my cop partner, said.

Hardesty boasted heavy forearms, with black fur that matched his eyebrows and his five o’clock shadow. He was chewing gum and switching his violet cell-phone on.

“Imagine waking up on this hellish street each morning,” I said. “It would sour a saint. No wonder everyone here lives loud and angry. The City of Pink People wrote off this black neighborhood before you ever hit the delivery room.”

“Everyone says you talk funny for a cop, Max.”

“Any unit, 2319 Lott Place, signal 10-17,” the radio said. “Domestic violence. Female armed with knife, possible EDP.”

“EDP?” I repeated.

Those words chilled my gut. Knives scared me. EDPs, Emotionally Disturbed Persons, disturbed me even more.

I wanted someone else to take the call. But nobody did.

“Let’s take it, partner,” I said. My voice cracked. “Why not?”

“First, she might slice us with that knife,” Hardesty said. “You’ve been cut before. So you’ve already seen these politically correct bullets couldn’t stop a nut.”

“Maybe she’s calm now.”

“Or we protect ourselves and ignore the call,” Hardesty said. “We take it and shoot, it means the Duty Captain, Firearms Review Board, various angry reverends and newspaper columns. Jesse Jackson, Reverend Al. Calling us racists. Pickets in front of my house in Massapequa Park. My kids threatened at school. Maybe federal prison. All pointed at us. That’s why not.”

“You want someone else to take it?”

“Max, we haven’t eaten yet. Both fricking starving. Collar her, we don’t chow all night. Other cops in New York, let them take it.”

“We don’t volunteer, they’ll leave us alone?” I asked.

“Fine by me.”

“You became a cop to get left alone?”

Hardesty cussed and speared the radio mike.

“Seven-One Eddie. Give us the job on Lott Place,” he said.

Trying to breathe slow, I gunned the engine and whipped the car past two lumbering buses.

Wooden frame houses splintered all weary into kindling on either side of the street. I slid to a stop near the address on Lott Place and hauled out my 220 pounds and six feet of uniform. The car’s rearview mirror showed my flame-colored hair topping green eyes over a buffalo hunter’s moustache. Today my joints felt older than forty-four.

“2319’s that crumbling apartment building on a rent strike,” I said. “No gas, water or juice this week. Squatters took it over.”

From a window high up, a shriveled Latino man about sixty waved at us.

“Don’t hurt the lady!” he sang out in a syrupy Spanish accent. “She like my sister, to me.”

“We won’t hurt her,” I said. “What’s her name?”

But the man ducked inside without speaking.

Another NYPD car stopped. The driver, Gist, a black woman, jangled out of the car. She waved her Glock 9mm.

“We’ll take this job, Maxy,” she said.

“Go assassinate someone else,” I muttered.

“Say again?”

“We got this job on paper, Gist,” I said. “Cover the side. Okay? Thanks.”

“Stop wearing a dress, Max,” Gist said. “Use your piece for once. Bang!”

I angled inside the dark lobby of 2319. Sweat sponged my dark blue uniform. Hardesty, followed, drawing his gun.

“Gist already shot three citizens,” Hardesty muttered, squinting into the corners. “Just got off Restricted Duty. Why does she always want to pull a trigger?”

“Goes back to her childhood. We don’t handle this smoothly, she’ll score Number Four.”

“Only you care, Max.”

“Stay clear for a shot,” I said, my voice shaky. “Give me room. I’ll spray the bear grease.”

“It better work. Can’t see in here.”

I moved ten feet away, across the lobby. Afternoon sunlight poked through the wrapping paper taped across the broken windows. I gripped a Mace canister in my left hand.

Someone wailed from the staircase. Footsteps hammered. A huge black woman bolted downstairs. Blood smeared her shirt.

“See the devil!” she screamed. “See the devil everywhere!” She clutched a stained bread knife.

My hands shook.

“Stay back!” I shouted. Somehow, I sprayed Mace at her. My other hand dug under my jacket.

The jacket snagged my thumb. I fought to clear my hand.

“Tear-gas!” she screamed, moving in. “Nothing but honkey white boy aftershave!”

“Halt!” Hardesty shouted. He aimed the 9mm two-handed on her belly. His trigger finger pulled back.

“The Devil, you!”

I yanked a smaller, orange-colored spray bottle from my jacket. I squirted it onto the floor in front of the woman.

Red liquid spurted out. The woman stepped onto it. Her foot flew out. She sprawled backwards.

The knife slashed up.

“Max! Back up! Got a clear shot.”

My wet hand swung my baton. The baton smacked her knife hand. She screamed. She tried to stab me. The blade brushed my jacket. I wailed.

“Max! Are you crazy?”

The plastic baton wobbled in my mitt. Then I swung again and again. The baton hit the blade.

The blade snapped and flew behind her. The woman scrambled up. She fell down again, gripping the broken knife handle. Her legs splayed out.

“Ma’am, you can’t stand up,” I said. “Lie on your stomach, hands out in front.”

She spat at me.

Hardesty moved closer and trained the gun on her. “Max, don’t try cuffing her. Get some backup.”

“Like Gist? Gist’ll blow her into rock ‘n’ roll heaven.”

I snaked out my new handcuffs, waited and lunged. One handcuff snagged the right wrist. The steel levered against the bone.

“Devil, you’re hurting me!”

“Give me the left, ma’am. Then it stops hurting. That way, everyone wins.”

The woman got to a knee. Her foot flew out on the slippery floor. She sprawled again. I crunched my teeth together, concentrated and caught the left wrist. I jammed it into the open cuff. Then I sank down, chest heaving.

I felt crawling into a dumpster and not waking up again.

She lay panting, handcuffed, and covered with red grease.

“Mace never works,” I said. “Karate would just make her mad. Tranquilizer gun will kill her. That slippery stuff knocks her down and keeps her down. God bless it.”

“Where’d you find it, Maxy?”

“Thailand. Wild animal trainers use it.”

“Someday, maybe our Department will okay us to use it.”

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