Neon Madman

Neon Madman

by John Harvey
Neon Madman

Neon Madman

by John Harvey

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Overview

The final entry in the groundbreaking series of hardboiled British mysteries starring Scott Mitchell, the toughest detective to ever call London home.

The ledge isn’t quite wide enough for Scott Mitchell to stand, but he’ll have to make it work. He keeps his balance just long enough to get a few quick snaps of the motel room opposite, where a client’s wife is enjoying a spirited act of adultery and has no idea that she’s been caught on film. It’s sleazy work, but anything that keeps Mitchell’s wallet fat and his hide safe is fine by him. But he took this case because it carried not a hint of danger—so why is somebody trying to kill him?

The West Indian man bursts into Mitchell’s office threatening to tear him apart. Mitchell talks him down before the man is able to break any limbs—or, God forbid, his camera—but he still hasn’t got a clue who the intruder is, or how he’s tied up in the adultery case. And when this simple bit of divorce work goes from quick and easy to slow and deadly, Mitchell will have to move fast if he wants to stay alive.

The final novel in the series that brought the American hardboiled style to Britain, Neon Madman is perfect for fans of Raymond Chandler and John D. MacDonald. Scott Mitchell was one of the first hardboiled British private investigators, and he remains the best.

Neon Madman is the 4th book in the Scott Mitchell Mysteries, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504038867
Publisher: MysteriousPress.com/Open Road
Publication date: 09/13/2016
Series: The Scott Mitchell Mysteries , #4
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 160
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

About The Author
John Harvey (b. 1938) is an incredibly prolific British mystery writer. The author of more than one hundred books, as well as poetry and scripts for television and radio, Harvey did not begin writing professionally until 1975. Until then he was a teacher, educated at Goldsmiths College, London, who taught literature, drama, and film at colleges across England. After cutting his teeth on paperback fiction, Harvey debuted his most famous character, Charlie Resnick, in 1989’s Lonely Hearts, which the English Times called one of the finest crime novels of the century.
 
A police inspector noted for his love of both sandwiches and jazz, Resnick has starred in eleven novels and one volume of short stories. The BBC has adapted two of the Resnick novels, Lonely Hearts and Rough Treatment (1990), for television movies. Both starred Academy Award–nominated actor Tom Wilkinson and had screenplays written by Harvey. Besides writing fiction, Harvey spent over twenty years as the head of Slow Dancer Press. He continues to live and write in London.
John Harvey (b. 1938) is an incredibly prolific British mystery writer. The author of more than one hundred books, as well as poetry and scripts for television and radio, Harvey did not begin writing professionally until 1975. Until then he was a teacher, educated at Goldsmiths College, London, who taught literature, drama, and film at colleges across England. After cutting his teeth on paperback fiction, Harvey debuted his most famous character, Charlie Resnick, in 1989’s Lonely Hearts, which the English Times called one of the finest crime novels of the century. A police inspector noted for his love of both sandwiches and jazz, Resnick has starred in eleven novels and one volume of short stories. The BBC has adapted two of the Resnick novels, Lonely Hearts and Rough Treatment (1990), for television movies. Both starred Academy Award–nominated actor Tom Wilkinson and had screenplays written by Harvey. Besides writing fiction, Harvey spent over twenty years as the head of Slow Dancer Press. He continues to live and write in London.

Read an Excerpt

Neon Madman

A Scott Mitchell Mystery


By John Harvey

MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media

Copyright © 1977 John Harvey
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-3886-7


CHAPTER 1

It was hot. The circles of darkening sweat that spread from my armpits reached almost to my waist; my new navy blue cotton briefs were welded to my body. Inside my shoes, my feet were carrying on an argument with pain that had started several hours earlier and never had they felt less like winning. When I shifted my position in the chair and lowered one foot to the floor, it sang back at me with a flat note of suffering.

I reached up my right hand and wiped away the moisture that dripped from my scalp. Before I had finished more had appeared. Like most things, it was a losing struggle. I gave up and allowed the lines of sweat to run into and through my eyebrows, from there to drip down on to my cheek, the side of my nose. When I couldn't take the gradually increasing irritation any longer I shook my head and watched the drops fall on the blotter on my desk. This time they had met more than their match. I thought I knew how they felt.

It was something after four in the afternoon and I'd been on the go since that morning. Seven hours and much of it on my feet. Walking around, pretending to be looking casually in shop windows or at the dying fragments of roses in other people's gardens; walking around or standing still; standing and watching; watching and waiting.

I don't know what I was complaining about. That was how I earned my living. If living wasn't too strong a word for what I did. I was a private detective.

All day I'd been out on a case. Following this guy's wife as she went through her daily routine. A routine which he suspected to include more than a soupçon of infidelity. Though where she was going to get the desire from in that heat I couldn't understand.

Her old man drove the Rover out of the garage at around eight thirty and she leaned her head through the window and gave him a good long kiss on the mouth. He headed off towards the city and she went back into the house. Half an hour later she opened the door to a smart young man in an off-the-peg suit and a ready-made smile. It was a little early for the man from the Pru, I thought, and it wasn't the kind of area where the tally boys had to get up with the dawn in order to scrape in a few overdue payments.

She was still wearing her housecoat and there was a welcoming burst of cleavage to accompany her good morning smile. Okay, I thought, so my better days begin with scrambled eggs and orange juice, but out here in the land of plenty, who knows?

I got out of my car which was parked fifty yards down the road on the other side and walked up to the house. A neat gravel path led alongside the garage and into a hundred feet plus of garden. I have a way of walking on gravel that's as soundless as treading on silk. It comes with years of practice.

They hadn't gone upstairs, nor had they bothered to draw the curtains. You could have ridden a bike through the gap between them, never mind aimed the telephoto lens of a Pentax SP 1000. Oh yes, we professionals only use the best. Scott Mitchell's Pentax, it will say when you open your colour supplement one of these fine Sundays and flip through the ads gazing at all those things you should have. That's before you read in the news pages how you can't afford them.

This lady could afford more than most and from the earnest look on the guy's face he was explaining to her how she might make even more. There were some brochures open on his lap and some forms lying on top of one of those smart black brief cases that are too thin to take a decent-size sandwich. I snapped away for a few minutes, but without any enthusiasm. If this was voyeurism, it had all the eroticism of yesterday's cold potatoes.

I went back to the car and waited for him to come out so that I could get a few shots of his face. It had all the smugness you'd expect from someone who'd made his first commission before his first cup of coffee.

I waited around some time while she took a quick bath or a shower or something. She was looking very new and shiny when she reappeared with a shopping bag and made for Kingston High Street. She was wearing a halter top over a loose skirt that finished somewhere around her knees. Her skin was a beautiful, even brown and she was showing a lot of it. Her hair was cut short and shone with a dull coppery colour. She had too much money in her purse and too much time on her hands. She went from shop to shop parading her sensuality as though it was next year's original model.

The only thing was, nobody appeared to be buying. The hottest thing on view apart from the weather was a little double-entendre with the butcher's assistant about how big a piece of steak she wanted that morning.

She broke off her exhausting routine to drink some vile and overpriced coffee in a mock Tudor place called somebody or other's pantry. Then it was back on the shopping trail. I nearly offered to push her trolley in Sainsbury's, but thought better of it. I wasn't into gestures of devotion.

So it went until lunchtime, when she was whisked away by a guy driving a plum-coloured Datsun with the certainty of someone who knew nobody else had a right to be on the same road. They drove down to the river and parked outside a discreet looking hotel with so much ivy on the walls that if it was cut down the brickwork would disintegrate with it.

I parked my own car and made for the dining room. A hasty glance around told me that they hadn't come for lunch. Their hunger was of a different kind.

It wasn't easy getting past the sweet grey-haired old lady who sat behind the reception desk with all the benevolence of a cobra. I finally managed to twist her arm with a five-pound note and got myself and my camera up in to the first floor. The keyhole didn't yield much, so I tried the balcony which ran along the back.

It was turning into the sort of job I would have used a double for if I was making a movie. But this was real life. Or so I kept telling myself as I considered the possibilities of falling from the narrow ledge which led from one section of balcony to another.

I made it all right and thanked her for being so untroubled about the curtain again. Whatever she was suffering from it sure wasn't a guilty conscience.

I stood there for a while taking all the usual pictures while they did most of the usual things. I will say this, though, what they lost in originality they more than made up for in enthusiasm.

Most of the time I could only get shots of his back — you see what I mean about originality — with the occasional glimpse of her face from underneath his arms. I didn't think it would matter much. As long as she was clearly there and doing what she was clearly doing, I didn't think my client was going to be too bothered about her companion's identity.

I was about to make my way back when they stopped and he rolled over on to his side. She lit him a cigarette and put it lovingly between his lips. I caught him three times. He was an impressive looking man. The sort of face which inspired confidence.

Well, I'd buy a used car from him any day. Even a Datsun.

I slipped back downstairs. Now that I'd got what I'd come for the ledge didn't seem to be any kind of problem at all.

I waited in the bar for them to come back down. A little more arm twisting told me that they came every Tuesday and Thursday, always at the same time. I wondered if his secretary wrote it in his diary for him and then reminded him of his engagement if he seemed in danger of forgetting.

There's a meeting of directors at eleven, an appointment with a merchant banker at twelve and your twice-weekly screw at one.

Nice work if you can get it.

Unlike mine. Mine was a reel of film, a few neat pages giving names of places, descriptions and times. Those were my business. Those and nothing else. As long as I stuck with them I guessed I would be all right. There had been occasions in the past when I had stepped too far outside my league and got myself mixed up in nasty things like murder. It hadn't been nice; it hadn't been easy; I'd been warned by my friendly neighbourhood policemen that my nose was getting in where it wasn't wanted. And I nearly got myself killed.

I hadn't liked that. I had no intention of getting beyond myself again. I was going to stick with nice easy divorce cases and large brown manilla envelopes filled cram full of photographs and notes. I pass the envelope across the desk; the client passes me back a cheque in exchange.

What could be simpler?

I looked up and saw the silhouette against the glass of the office door. For a big man he walked softly. He paused then opened the door and stepped through. He was big. He shut the door with the same decisiveness and leaned back against it. I guess he wanted me to take a good look at him and I could see why.

He was four or five inches over six foot and broad enough for his height not to be the only thing you noticed about him. Some of his muscles were housed in a short-sleeved satiny white shirt, but mostly they bulged outside it. There was a rich scrub of dark curly hair on his chest that made my office doormat look positively threadbare. Above this he wore a plain silver chain necklace.

His legs were threatening the seams of a pair of yellow slacks above a pair of light tan casuals. Both hands were open and spread with their knuckles towards me so that I wouldn't miss any of the rings that adorned his fingers. They weren't just pretty — I bet they hurt some, too.

His hair was curled on to his scalp as tightly as that on his chest. The nose that spread across his face was broad enough to have been broken at least twice.

He was both the most handsome and the most dangerous looking West Indian I had seen for a long time.

I opened my mouth to say something, but there didn't seem much point.

As soon as he had finished making an impression I was sure he would tell me the score. I just hoped the way he read the game I wasn't going to lose by too many.

He moved away from the door and came over towards the desk. I tried to stop them, but my eyes flicked down to the barely open desk drawer anyway. This boy didn't miss a trick.

He gave a funny sort of grin and pointed. 'Don't do that, man. It would be a mistake, like I'm telling it to you.'

From where I was sitting he looked awfully big. I knew that if I stood up he would still be a few inches taller and a hell of a lot heavier. I thought that he was right about the drawer. There was no way I could get the gun out in time. I grinned back at him and tried anyway.

His right leg kicked up under the far side of the desk and the next thing I knew I was trying to chew wood. By the time I had given it up and was spitting out the odd splinter, a few changes had taken place.

Like I was on my back and the chair I had been sitting on had spun away across the room. The desk had rebounded off my mouth on to my legs and tried to knock a tune out of my shin bone with all the delicacy of Lionel Hampton in his third successive chorus of 'Flying Home.' Except the only sound was me — yelling.

The desk drawer had banged itself shut. My visitor had come round between me and it, though he couldn't have thought I was going to be so stupid as to try that trick twice. In case I was he gave me a short, sharp kick into the top of my shoulder. I grunted and pulled my head to one side till it was staring at his shoes. The one he had kicked at me with hadn't got scuffed in the process and I was glad, I felt that if it had he would have blamed me and taken a second shot.

I moved my head and looked up at him. For the second time, I grinned. He pulled his lips back to reveal the usual set of fine, white teeth — then he spat right in my face.

I reached up with my left hand and wiped the thick mixture of spittle and phlegm from my eyes, my cheeks and mouth. I scraped it off on me carpet and did my best to look as though nothing had happened. But I knew that I would remember what had.

So did he.

He took a couple of paces back and told me to get up off my fat white arse.

I did exactly as I was told: I got up off my fat white arse.

'You're Scott Mitchell, right?'

'Right. How did you guess?'

He looked at me with scorn. 'For one thing your name's all over the outside door. For another, from what I've heard about you, that's the kind of dumb trick you would try.'

'Too bad,' I said. 'I'll have to stop them sending copies of my references to every cheap hood and heavy in town.'

This time he laughed out loud. I went over and got the chair and sat down.

'So what is it?' I asked. 'Or did you just come over to grab a few laughs and have a little work out on the side?'

He had something against me sitting down. This time he kicked the chair from under me and grabbed me before I bit the floor. He yanked me into the air and jolted me down on to my feet.

As if I wasn't having enough trouble with them already.

'Look, man, you don't try games with me. You listen. See?'

I did my best to show him that I was going to do exactly that and without any trouble. Apart from anything else, I was anxious to know what he wanted.

'You were down south of the river today. You were at a place called the Three Swans. Asking questions. That right, man?'

I could have denied it but I was feeling tender and tired — and hotter than ever. I didn't want a going-over. Not right then and there. Later maybe.

'Sure,' I said, 'I was there.'

The large head nodded. 'What you doing there?'

'I was following somebody for a client.'

'Who?'

It was my turn to shake my head. Only I did it in the opposite direction.

He took a step towards me and I saw his fists begin to bunch up. They looked like over-ripe bananas.

'You've got to know I can't tell you that. Once I start giving away clients' names as soon as I'm asked, there goes my hope of getting any more work.'

I knew that if he really went to town on me, the question of work would be purely academic. I had to say something, and fast.

'Look, I'll give you this much. I was following a woman. Divorce business. She was supposed to have showed up at the hotel. Nothing happened. I asked a few questions and got nowhere. Her old man's obviously some kind of nut. It was all a big waste of time. Now there's nothing in that to interest you — or whoever you're working for.'

There was a long pause. I was conscious of the streams of sweat that were pouring down my face more strongly than ever. Across the room a dumb fly had managed to get itself trapped between the two panes of the open window and was buzzing and banging in an effort to get out.

Somehow I didn't think he was going to make it.

Somehow I thought I knew how he must be feeling.

The West Indian didn't have a crease in his shiny shirt and there wasn't a bead of perspiration on him. Perhaps he wasn't human. Perhaps he wasn't really there at all. I could simply walk around him and let myself out of the office and nothing would happen.

And maybe some magic or mysterious hand would move the window and the fly would slip out into the early evening air.

I stood there and looked up into the man's face, watching his expression change to a nasty sneer. Behind us, the fly buzzed on with increasing desperation.

I had to have one more go. 'If we got our paths crossed, that was nothing but coincidence. There wasn't anything going on for you to get disturbed about. Not on my account. I'm sure not going back there. No reason to.'

He flexed his muscles in the right arm and I held myself tense in readiness, but all he did was say, 'You being square about that divorce thing?'

'Sure.'

'You better be. 'Cos if I ever have to come back to you, man ...'

He didn't need to finish his sentence. My imagination was working well enough to fill in the details.

He came right up to me and lifted one fist level with my face. He allowed the edges of the rings to graze my skin, finally pushing one hard into the flesh underneath my right cheekbone.

'You got me, Mitchell?'

It was difficult answering with a faceful of fist, but I did the best I could. Finally he lowered his hand and stepped away. Which was when he saw the camera in its case on the floor. He stooped down and picked it up.

'You have this with you today?'

'Yes.'

'You got the film still in it?'

'Sure. There's a film there.'

He began to walk towards the door, camera in hand.

'Only it's not the one you're looking for.'

He swung round and glared at me.

'How come?'

'I took that out — the film I used today — took it out and mailed it off to be developed. It should be back in four days.'

'If you're lying ...'

'I'm not lying. My client wants those pictures of his wife walking around shopping all day. The film that's in there's brand new. Take a look for yourself.'

He hesitated, looked down at the camera, then swung back his arm and threw the Pentax at me as hard as he could. I held it on the third attempt. It had cost me a lot of money and I wasn't about to be able to afford another. Certainly not the way this case was going — whichever way that was.

He stood in the doorway and pointed a finger at me.

'Pray you been telling me the truth, Whitey, or I might have to come back and get myself a little righteous with you.'


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Neon Madman by John Harvey. Copyright © 1977 John Harvey. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
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.

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