Jungle
Complex 90 by Mickey Spillane

Complex 90

Book
Publisher(s): 
Genre: 
Release Date: 
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
# of Pages: 
272

CHAPTER TWO

The day had been sunny and bright, laying bare the dirt and wear of buildings, the age of this city as apparent as a fading beauty queen’s morning face before make-up. But this was night and filth became subtle tones under artificial light and decay disappeared as if airbrushed away. Through the wall-size window, the glass and steel and concrete structures formed a geometric study with only occasional winking lights to indicate this view was of life going on in the city.

I was in the penthouse of the Wentworth Hotel just off Broadway in the upper fifties, attending a politician’s idea of an intimate cocktail party, meaning there were over one hundred guests, with invitations required at the door. Senator Allen Jasper and his wife Emily had a chalet-like home in the Catskills, but because the senator’s law offices were in Manhattan, they maintained this cozy apartment that took up the Wentworth’s top floor. Just for convenience and entertaining.

Tonight was the latter.

No tuxes or gowns, just the kind of evening attire that few could afford outside the social register. I was circulating, avoiding prolonged conversations and the proffered trays of hors d’oeuvres and glasses of champagne. Every pop of a champagne cork, rising over the clink of glasses and the tinkle of Cole Porter from the guy at the baby grand, got my attention.

I was working security, of course, in a charcoal suit that might have been off the rack but was as expensive as some of the Italian tailored suits and Paris designer evening dresses around me, cut as it was to conceal the .45 Colt Auto in the shoulder sling.

A guy of my notoriety can have trouble going undercover, but tonight nobody had recognized me. Or at least nobody made a point of it. Anyway, I wasn’t attracting as much attention these days. Just a middle-aged P.I. who used to make headlines, reduced to taking on jobs where he could find them. Like this one.

Normally I steered a wide path of political types. But I got a kick out of Senator Jasper—he was a conservative, a rare one from this part of the world, and he spoke his mind, which made him a natural target for the far left crowd and Commie front groups. He’d been attracting a lot of attention lately, not only in his native New York but all across the country.

Crowds cheered him, other crowds razzed him. But pundits right and left considered him a straight-shooter and a rare no-b.s. politico. He’d had plenty of literal eggs tossed his way, but never got any of the figurative stuff on his face.

The guy had humble beginnings and had worked his way through law school working construction in the summer. He was a self-made man, at least before he married money, one of that breed called rugged individualist that refused to go out of style but never would. With that chiseled movie-star handsome mug of his on that lanky Lincoln-esque frame, Jasper had no trouble attracting TV time. This was a guy in a position to influence public thinking—so much so that he might pop up on the ballot during a national election one of these days.

In the last election, I’d done a job for the senator, pulling the rug out from under an opponent whose people had gone for a smear job. I’d been backing up another P.I., Ralph Marley, who worked out of Los Angeles. Jasper had met him out there doing publicity and fundraising, and Marley had been on retainer for two years doing what might be termed bodyguard work.

I knew Marley going back ten years. We threw each other jobs that were out of our respective licensed jurisdictions. Whenever he was traveling with the senator to New York, Marley would call me in as necessary.

Like tonight.

Marley ambled up. He was in a sharp brown suit, the jacket just loose enough to hide the holstered .38 on his hip. He reminded me of Bogart in his heyday, if Bogie had been bigger and left his toupe at home.

“Pretty easy gig,” Marley said in a wry near whisper. He also lacked Bogie’s lisp. “Lots of good-looking ladies on hand. A hound like you ought to be in heaven.”

“People have tried to put me there using a less pleasant approach.”

“There, or the other place.”

I let my eyes stroll around taking in all the smiling faces, the lightweight summer suits, the low-cut dresses, heads back in laughter or bobbing forward to make a conversational point.

“Don’t think we’re gonna get any clowns with placards in here tonight,” I allowed. “But with a guy like the senator, an assassination play is always possible.”

“What, some Lee Harvey crashing the party? Not with that aide of the senator’s on the door, checking invites.”

“Still. You never know.”

“No. You don’t.” Marley smiled, then leaned in. “It’s not violence that keeps guys like us in business, Mike. It’s the threat of it.”

I raised a shush finger. “Don’t tell anybody.”

We exchanged grins and he drifted off. We needed to work different sides of the room. Earlier he had pointed out and identified key guests—two army generals involved with procurement, Senator Parker from New Jersey, the president of Allied Servo-Electronics, all with their wives. Also, Warren Bentley, socialite and Wall Street genius, who was waiting for his date to arrive, Irene Carroll, the latest Washington “hostess with the mostess,” who was fashionably late.

“The two have been making the social columns lately,” Marley had said.

“If she’s his date, why is Bentley by himself?”

“She lives here in the hotel, when she’s not in D.C. Probably takes her an hour to layer on all that ice.”

The Carroll dame’s propensity for displays of Gabor-like jewelry was part of why we were on guard duty tonight.

Other guests on hand were typical New York partygoers, well-known but out of work actors, fashion models, bestselling writers, newspaper columnists, and society page escapees. Marley was right that there was a plentitude of pulchritude on parade, but the actresses were too obvious with their breastworks and the models too subtle with their lack of same.

One young woman—I made her for late twenties—stood out from the crowd. Marley hadn’t identified her for me, so I had no idea who she was.

She was under-dressed for the affair and by that I don’t mean her goodies were hanging out. She wore a simple light blue satin blouse and a navy pencil skirt to her dimpled knees and you could see that her legs were as bare as they were pale. None of this summer sun for her—she was as ghostly as that dame in the Charles Addams cartoons but not so tall and much more curvy. Her hair was carefully arranged to look careless, a startling mass of Carmen-esque black curls, her eyebrows heavy and unplucked, her eyes dark, her lips full and moist with blood-red lipstick punctuated by a nearby beauty mark.

She might have been Liz Taylor’s younger, better-looking sister.

One of the temptations of a dull security gig is to glom onto a dish like this and spend all your time eyeballing her. I managed not to do that, but I did notice that she seemed to talk only to a handful of the others present—an older gent in his distinguished sixties with wireframe glasses, a mustache, and gray, thinning hair, who smoked a pipe; our congressional host and his wife Emily; and a gawky kid in an ill-fitting seersucker suit with a weak chin, eyeglasses with tortoiseshell frames, and a pronounced overbite.

That sorry specimen appeared to have accompanied this doll to the do. Was she blind? Did she have a nebbish fetish? If they ever brought back “Henry Aldrich,” he was their man.

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SYNOPSIS

Hammer accompanies a conservative politician to Moscow on a fact-finding mission. Arrested and imprisoned by the KGB on a bogus charge; he quickly escapes, creating an international incident by getting into a fire fight with Russian agents.

On his stateside return, the government is none too happy with Hammer. Russia is insisting upon his return to stand charges, and various government agencies are following him. A question dogs our hero: why him? Why does Russia want him back, and why was he singled out to accompany the senator to Russia in the first place?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mickey Spillane (1918-2006) sold hundreds of millions of books. He introduced iconic detective Mike Hammer to readers in 1947 with I, THE JURY, and was named a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master in 1995.