Rage, terror, and redemption: these are the stones upon which F. Paul Wilson builds the concluding chapter of Repairman Jack: The Early Years, the prequel trilogy focusing on the formative years of Wilson's globally popular supernatural troubleshooter.
The strands of Jack's life, established in the first two books, Cold City and Dark City, are now woven into a complete pattern.
Centered around an obscure group of malcontents intent on creating a terrible explosion in New York City in 1993, Fear City shows the final stages of young Jack becoming Repairman Jack. It is a dark and terrible story, full of plots and needless mayhem, with secret agents, a freelance torturer, a secret society as old as human history, love, death, and a very bleak triumph. Jack threads his way through this intricate maze, as people he loves are stripped away from him in a way that presages the later epic series of novels.
About the Author
F. PAUL WILSON, the New York Times bestselling author of the Repairman Jack novels, lives in Wall, New Jersey. In 2008, he won the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Read an Excerpt
A Repairman Jack Novel The Early Years Trilogy: Book Three
By F. Paul Wilson
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2014 F. Paul Wilson
All rights reserved.
"Is this the Shadow?" Jack said, holding up the cellophane envelope. "I mean, the Shadow?"
The sixtyish guy behind the counter—lank hair, three-day stubble, ratty brown cardigan—looked annoyed as he brought it close to his smeared glasses and squinted at the label. Jack wondered how he saw anything through them.
"If it says 'genuine glow in the dark Shadow ring,' which it does, then that's what it is."
Attracted by the BACK-DATE MAGAZINES sign, Jack had wandered into this narrow, coffin-sized store off Times Square. The place seemed to specialize in Life magazine and had moldy issues piled to the ceiling. Jack had been curious to see if the place stocked any old pulps. It did, but only a few, and those had disconcerting titles like Ranch Romances and Fifteen Love Stories. None of the Black Mask types he was hunting for. But tucked in among the yellowed, flaking issues he'd found the ring.
The white plastic body was shaped like the Shadow on each side—Jack could even make out a .45 Colt semiauto in one hand—but the stone set in the top was bright blue and shaped like Gibraltar.
"But this looks nothing like the Shadow's girasol ring."
The guy stared at him. "Do you even know what a girasol is?"
This seemed to take him by surprise. "Okay. Point for you. What are you—eighteen?"
Jack didn't react. He got this all the time. "You're half a dozen short."
"Coulda fooled me. But still a kid. How does a twenty-four-year-old like you know about the Shadow's girasol ring?"
"Read a few old issues."
"That's the pulp Shadow. The character started on radio, sponsored by a company called Blue Coal. That blue plastic 'stone' there is supposed to be a chunk of blue coal."
Jack was thinking it was just about the neatest thing he'd seen in a long time.
"And it glows in the dark too?"
"That's what it says. Never tested it."
"That'll be a bargain next year after the movie comes out."
"The Shadow. Gonna star Alec Baldwin, I hear."
Jack remembered him from The Hunt for Red October. Yeah, he had the look for the Lamont Cranston part.
"So if I'm tired of it next year you'll buy it back for more?"
"Can't promise that. Can't even promise I'll be here, what with Disney moving in."
News to Jack.
"Word is they're negotiating a ninety-nine-year lease on the Amsterdam."
"Donald Duck on the Deuce? No way."
"Everybody's scared shitless because it'll be proof that the Times Square cleanup every mayor since LaGuardia's been talking about is gonna happen, and you know what that means."
Jack pushed aside a vision of Minnie Mouse in hot pants saying, "Hiya, sailor."
"Rents through the roof. Guys like me forced out, moving over to Hell's Kitchen or farther downtown or just closing up and walking away."
"Oh, no! Where will people go for their copies of Ranch Romances?"
His eyes narrowed behind the grimy lenses. "You a wiseass?"
Jack could see the guy was genuinely worried. He thought about boxing up and moving all those copies of Life and regretted the remark.
"Sometimes the mouth runs ahead of the brain."
"People get in trouble that way."
"Tell me about it."
He forked over a Jackson. The guy slipped it into his pocket and didn't ask for sales tax. Fine.
Jack walked out with his treasure and slipped it onto his pinky finger. He ambled east toward Times Square, thinking not of the Shadow but of Disney instead.
What he remembered most about Disney World from the couple of times his folks had taken him there during the seventies was how clean it had been. Could that happen here? Times Square was anything but clean, and 42nd Street even less so. But grime and kitsch and porn and fringe people were part of the ambience. Take that away and replace it with a bunch of high-end chain stores and what did you have? You had a freaking mall. Might as well move back to Jersey.
As he crossed Duffy Square and headed up Seventh Avenue, he realized the writing had been on the wall for a couple of years now, ever since the state started buying up properties along the Deuce, especially the old theaters.
Plus ça change ...?
Jack doubted it.
If the magazine guy was right about the Amsterdam, then change was sure as hell coming and, as far as Jack was concerned, not for the better. Well, better if you were a landlord, but no way for a small businessman. Things would not, as the saying went, stay the same. All the quirky little stores and all the quirky people who frequented them and all the quirky people who ran them were going to go the way of the Neanderthals.
His growing dark mood about the end of an era was blown away by the sight of a familiar face trying to hail a cab across the street from the Winter Garden. She was talking on a mobile phone as she waved her arm.
She turned and, for an instant, looked not-so-pleasantly surprised. Then she smiled. "Jack! How nice to see you!"
They shared a quick, slightly awkward hug.
He pointed to her phone—one of the new smaller versions. Unlike the older brick-size models with the big antenna, these could fit in a pocket. He noticed NOKIA under the oblong screen.
"Up with the latest technology, I see."
"I looove this thing! It's made my life so easy. No more looking for a pay phone."
He gave her a lopsided grin and cocked his head toward the Winter Garden marquee. "Going to see Cats?"
Their fling thing had lasted two years and during that whole period the only time they'd been to a theater was to see Penn & Teller. Cristin had ended it. She hadn't called it quits, per se, more like weaned them off each other. They used to get together every Sunday—every single Sunday—but last fall she'd started begging off with increasingly lame excuses until Jack got the message.
She may have engineered the actual parting, but Jack had been the reason. They'd gone into the relationship with the understanding that they'd get together one day a week and be friends with benefits, nothing more. Cristin had been very strict about not wanting strings and Jack had been all for it. At least at first. Along the way he became attached and started wanting more. But Cristin wasn't looking for more. She liked things just the way they were and wouldn't bend.
Jack had suffered through the process of attenuation, but after clearing the air at an official breakup lunch between Christmas and New Year's, they'd parted friends.
Seeing Cristin again for the first time in weeks made him realize he was still carrying a torch for her.
"You've let your hair grow," he said.
She had a roundish face, dark hair, blue eyes, and a bright smile that always made him want to smile too. She wore her fur-lined raincoat.
"Can I see?"
"You still getting off on that?"
"I don't know about getting off ..."
She rolled her eyes, did a quick turn, and lifted her hair. She had one tattoo and it decorated her nape: a Sumerian symbol known as ama-gi.
He caught the briefest glimpse, and then she dropped her hair.
"I was heading for a late lunch ..." he began.
"Oh, I'd love to, Jack, but I've got to get down to FIT. I have a class."
Years ago she'd dropped out of the Fashion Institute to work full time for an event planning operation called Celebrations. The job kept her hopping all over the city, but she still wanted her degree and took one course a semester to keep herself moving toward it.
"Tomorrow then? Or Thursday?"
He hoped he didn't sound desperate. He didn't feel desperate ... he simply wanted to spend a little time with her.
She gave him a long look. "Just lunch?"
"Two old friends from high school sharing food and small talk."
She smiled. "That sounds great. Dutch, right?"
She'd always insisted on paying her share and, since Jack wasn't exactly flush these days, that was a good thing. Cristin, on the other hand, made excellent money planning events.
But where to eat?
Apparently she already had an idea. "I found a cool little French place on East Sixty-first called Le Pistou."
Jack made a face. "Really? What's choice number two?"
"But you like French."
"I do." He could eat just about anything, even snails. "But I don't know if I could eat at a place called Piss Stew."
"It's vegetable soup."
He held up his hands. "Stop. You're only making it worse."
"You'll never change," she said through a laugh. "Thursday's good. Meet there noonish?"
He hailed her a cab and one pulled over right away.
"But just for lunch," she said as he held the door for her.
"Of course. We broke up, remember?"
"I do. But you don't know why."
That took him by surprise. "I thought it was because I was getting too attached."
"No. I was."
She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek then slipped into the cab. He shook his head as he watched it weave down Seventh.
Cristin, Cristin, Cristin ...
Despite her paranoia about strings, she seemed happy with where she was in her life. He didn't know anybody else like that. That didn't mean she was going to stay put. He knew she was three years into a five-year plan that involved socking away every extra cent for now and eventually opening her own boutique to sell her original designs.
She was also happy with who she was. Jack wondered what that felt like.
He'd read something from Wilde last year and his brain had attached it to Cristin: Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. Not because Wilde had been describing Cristin, but because it was so not Cristin. He didn't know anyone who thought like Cristin. She danced to her own tune and to hell with what everyone else was playing.
He missed her.
When her cab disappeared into the traffic crush he turned and continued his uptown ramble.
Okay, the week was looking better, even if it involved a French restaurant in the East Sixties. How bad could lunch be? Twenty bucks apiece? Thirty?
Yeah, his resources had dwindled. Perhaps he'd been too generous in his flush days. He didn't regret it, though. He lived a simple life. His two major expenses were rents: on his apartment and on the garage space for Ralph. Other than that, he lived on junk food and beer.
His fix-it business hadn't exactly taken off. He collected a fee now and again, but the jobs were sporadic. Nothing he could count on. So he'd been supplementing his income as a waiter in a hole-in-the-wall West Village trattoria that paid him under the table. Perhaps "paid" was a euphemism—a teeny fraction of minimum wage—but the tips were good. Everybody had heard Dylan's "Positively 4th Street" and all the tourists flocked to West 4th when they visited the Village. Trattoria Villagio waited there to provide drinks and light fare when they took a break from prowling the specialty shops.
He checked his watch. Lots of time to kill before meeting a prospective customer at Julio's. Maybe he'd grab a Whopper and train over to Brooklyn to check on an investment.CHAPTER 2
The frigid February wind off the Hudson cut through Kadir Allawi's fatigue jacket. He stood on the dock by the Central Railroad Terminal with Mahmoud, Kasi, Salameh, and Yousef. Jersey City sprawled behind them, Ellis Island sat off to the right, but their attention was riveted across the river on the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
"You truly believe it is possible?" Kadir said in Arabic.
Yousef nodded. "Properly placed within the base, the right bomb will topple the north tower into the south tower, bringing down both."
Ramzi Yousef, a wiry, bearded Pakistani with piercing black eyes, had learned bomb making in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Just last September al-Qaeda had sent him here to bring jihad to America.
Aimal Kasi, another Pakistani, had been living in northern Virginia since his arrival two years ago. He wore a thick mustache rather than a full beard, and had traveled north this week to help with the bomb. He raised his palms toward heaven: "May Allah make it so."
Kadir sent up a prayer as well. He had long dreamed of the towers' fall, yearned for it, prayed for it.
Mohammed Salameh, a displaced Palestinian like Kadir, said nothing. He did not seem able to pull his gaze from the towers.
"But it will take a big one," Mahmoud said. "And a big one will take money—money we don't have."
Ever the pessimist, Mahmoud Abouhalima towered over Kadir, Yousef, Salameh, and Kasi. He tended to keep his red hair covered but could not hide his red beard.
Yousef only growled in reply.
Kadir could not blame him. Misfortune had dogged their gamaii for almost two years now. The money from the Al-Kifah Afghan refugee fund had not been diverted toward jihad as expected. Sheikh Omar had been blamed for the brutal murder of the fund's founder and booed off the stage of the Al-Farooq Mosque in Brooklyn. He had taken up residence here in Jersey City at the Al-Salam Mosque, but he longed to return to Brooklyn.
The FBI seemed everywhere, interfering with the finances of the fronts for jihad that posed as charities. They even blocked a recent money transfer from Yousef's uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, intended for purchase of the raw materials for the bomb.
"Look at them," Yousef said, nodding toward the towers. "They stand there and mock us."
Mahmoud raised his clenched fists. "And we do not need a fortune, just ... just ..."
"Just more than we have," Yousef said. He turned to Kasi. "Didn't you say your father left you money?"
"He did, but I invested it all."
Kadir knew Kasi was part owner of a courier business.
"And you have nothing left?"
He shrugged. "It's growing—I do a lot of the driving myself—but we make barely enough to survive."
And then Kadir had an idea. "I know someone who might help us."
"Who?" Mahmoud said.
"The man from Qatar."CHAPTER 3
A little Dominican girl, black hair, black eyes, and a pink hair band, answered his knock on the rickety side door to the garage. Her face lit at the sight of him and she leaped into his arms.
"How's it going, Bonita?"
Not exactly statuesque at five feet, but she'd grown a good three inches in the two years or so since he'd saved her from slavery.
"Great! I'm a teenager next week."
He feigned shock. "No! Thirteen already?"
He'd known that, but still found it hard to believe that she'd been not quite eleven when Moose had dragged her onto that Outer Banks sand dune. Jack had followed with a tire iron. Only he and Bonita had returned.
She posed. "Don't I look it?"
She wore a baggy sweatshirt and jeans—necessary apparel in her brother's unheated garage—but even so, Jack could see she was developing.
"You're beautiful." And she was. She lived up to her name. "And I can't believe how good your English is. You couldn't speak a word when we met."
"Better and better."
"Hey, Jack," Rico said, wiping his hands as he approached with a barely noticeable limp. The lanky Dominican wore a concerned expression. "Julio send you?"
He shrugged, looking embarrassed now. "I'm a little late this month."
Jack waved him off. "That's between you and Julio. I'm not involved."
Not true—not even close. Jack had wanted to help Rico start a landscaping business but they shared a checkered past and he'd known Rico would never accept a loan from him. So Julio had fronted Jack's money; he collected the payments and passed them on to Jack.
"It's that snow, man," Rico said.
"That's the problem. We ain't had no snow."
Jack got it. Rico's landscaping work dried up with the coming of cold weather and he depended on plowing parking lots in the winter. But this winter had been pretty dry so far.
"Can't help you there, I'm afraid."
"Just tell Julio when you see him that it's coming soon."
"Sure. But don't worry. He knows you're good for it. And you know Julio by now. He's pretty laid back about the whole thing."
And why not? It wasn't his money. But Jack wasn't worried. Rico was a hard worker with a wide streak of macho honor. Probably starve before he welshed on a debt.
"Yeah, but I feel bad, you know?"
"I know. But anyway, that's not why I'm here. I came to ask your permission to take your sister out for lunch and a movie for her thirteenth birthday."
Bonita squealed with delight. "Yes-yes-yes! Can I go?"
Rico put on a dubious expression. "I don't know ... what movie we talking about?"
"Home Alone Two."
He'd taken her to Wayne's World for her twelfth. The Home Alone sequel had come out at the end of last year but was still playing in a couple of second-run theaters around the city. He figured Bonita would like it because of Macaulay Culkin and the Manhattan setting—the subtitle was Lost in New York, after all. And as for Jack, he loved the booby traps.
"I'll have her home in time for dinner."
"Oh, all right," he said with exaggerated reluctance. "I'll have bizchoco ready for you when you come home."
She hugged her brother. "Thank you!"
Rico winked at Jack over the top of her head. "You keep her safe, yes?"
"Scout's honor. I'll pick her up here next week."
Excerpted from Fear City by F. Paul Wilson. Copyright © 2014 F. Paul Wilson. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Tuesday, February 16, 1993,
Friday, February 26, 1993,
The Secret History of the World,
Also by F. Paul Wilson,
About the Author,