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The Lucifer Messiah
By Frank Cavallo Medallion Press, Inc. Copyright © 2006 Frank Cavallo
All right reserved.
Chapter One New York City November 19, 1946
A stench crawled into his nostrils. Garbage. Rotten food. Shit. Even the shadows stank.
They were still out there. Somewhere. Stalking him.
He forced himself to move, creeping through the filth and the darkness. His gut ached. He felt the blood drooling out of him. It trickled into his pants, ran down his leg. It was sticky and wet.
He had to keep going.
He recognized the street ahead. Ninth Avenue and the corner of West Thirty-Sixth Street. The edge of Hell's Kitchen.
Street lamps buzzed overhead; an electric swarm of pale, flickering light. Across the way, the minute hand of an old gothic clock moved one click. That made it 1:13 AM.
Sean didn't care.
Steam exhaled from a sewer vent. Sulfurous ghosts washed over him. For a moment he welcomed the warmth. But he couldn't linger. He only bathed in the hot odor for a moment.
He fell, toppling a half-filled trashcan. Noise was the last thing he needed. He didn't get up, not right away. First he grabbed his dented felt hat from a puddle. His overcoat was already ruined, but that hat meant a lot to him-sweat stains and mildew notwithstanding.
A sedan turned from around the far corner. Headlights skimmed the street. Tires squeaked on blacktop.
Sean scrambled to his feet. He stumbled backward, hoping to reach the safety of the reeking dark.
His chin dripping sweat, he watched as the car drove by. It was motoring slowly, agonizingly so as it rolled past his little alley-hovel, then beyond him, and finally around the next block.
He counted in his head.
One, one thousand. Two, one thousand. Three ...
After what he figured was enough of a pause, he chanced an appearance. Hobbling out into the dangerous light, he gasped for air and hurried across the street.
He only made it halfway.
A pair of shots ricocheted. The sedan screeched from around the corner. It roared like a mechanical predator. Lead and fire and noise spewed from two Thompson sub-machine guns.
Sean faltered. He dragged his feet with an urgency that was nothing short of panic, across the bullet-marked street and into a second alcove.
The grinding steel-on-steel whine raced behind. He made it into the narrow passage between a bakery and a shoe store. His feet crushed broken glass. He slipped as he ran. Before he could gain much distance, with the sedan plowing toward him through the debris, he came face to face with frustration.
A ten-foot iron fence blocked his way, mocking his flight in rusted silence. Razor wire ringed the top, though the barbs were barely visible through the shadows and the steam. The headlights were on him.
Gunfire clanged at his feet.
He winced. The bullets were close, but there was something else. He shivered, though not from the cold, closed his eyes tight and fell backward.
The gloom swallowed him.
A moment later, the sedan skidded to a halt inches from the fence. Rocco Gallucci heaved the passenger-side door open. He bounded out with a Tommy gun braced in his arms. The barrel was dripping smoke.
"We know you're out there Mulcahy. The boss wants a word with you. He ain't gonna shed no tears if we bring you back in pieces," the fat man shouted.
Two others joined him from within the massive automobile.
"He ain't back here," one whispered.
"He's here. He ain't got no way outta here," Rocco said.
A rustle stirred behind a dumpster. Jolted, the third gunman squeezed his trigger, firing off a pair of rounds. His comrade was quick to grab him. Rocco rebuked him just as fast.
"It's just rats Gino!"
The smoke from the shots took a moment to clear. When it did, they saw a brood of rodents, nine or ten strong, squealing and crawling over one another. The pests scurried in a half-dozen directions, a mess of whiskers and scaly tails burrowing through a pile of old clothes-a dented felt hat and a once-fancy overcoat among them.
"Looks like they ate some bum," Gino said.
The men continued their search. They rifled through every inch of the trash in the alley, but of the fugitive they had cornered, there was nothing. Just some blood smeared on the lower links of the fence.
"He's gone. There ain't no two ways around it," Gino said.
"That's impossible," Rocco answered.
"Unless he climbed the fence."
"Climbed the fuckin' fence, my ass. You wanna be the one to tell Mr. Calabrese that we lost 'em? After what that son of a bitch did to the new guy?"
"We gotta tell him something. And I don't see nobody back here," Gino said.
Rocco spit. He cursed again, this time in his native Sicilian dialect. Within a few moments, they were back in the sedan, and gone from the alley.
A short while later, after the block had settled back into the slumber from which it had been so rudely awakened, Sean Mulcahy limped out of the alley. He was still dressed in the tattered overcoat and the beat-up felt hat.
A rat scampered across his shoe. It climbed up and disappeared under the leg of his pants.
He was finally home.
Excerpted from The Lucifer Messiah by Frank Cavallo Copyright © 2006 by Frank Cavallo. Excerpted by permission.
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