Albert J. Parisi

Award Winning Writer and Author

        Dear reader,

Following is the first few pages of my current effort, a novel tentatively titled "Lost in the Shuffle." It takes place in 1945 Manhattan, a short time after VJ Day, or Victory in Japan. The city is in chaos with returning troops and our lead character, an overworked and underpaid NYPD detective, finds himself saddled with a murder investigation the likes of which goes against his grain and core values. Higher-ups want the death of a young and nameless prostitute found in a seedy hotel hushed up and forgotten, but he won't have any of it. At the very least, he informs his superiors, "she deserves a name."

  Lost in teh Shuffle


Chapter One

For early September, it was a pleasant day, even if the Hudson River smelled rank with oil slicks, garbage and dead fish washing up on its greasy banks.

Considering all the troop ships tying up and departing the docks, it was no wonder. Frank DeLuca had seen many a weary mess boy dump heaps of trash over the stern, foregoing the garbage scows.

It was a passing annoyance. The detective had his own garbage to deal with.

VJ Day, for Victory in Japan, was over and done, and the welcome bands greeting returning GIs with off-key serenades were becoming all too few.

Over the last three days, some 30,000 soldiers, Marines and airmen with discharge papers in hand had disembarked, making their way into Manhattan and heading for all points north, south and west after years of being away overseas.

Of course there were those boys who were in no hurry to get home, all hot to take in the sights of the city and many of its pleasures. He had to laugh at the thought of one rube with a chest full of medals and still kicking the Iowa farm cow shit from his boots and shouting “Hot damn!” at Broadway and 33rd while craning his neck at the skyscrapers. The buses were packed, the subways jammed, the cabs we crammed and spilling over as were the bars, those fancy and seedy.

Frank pushed his battered fedora back and rubbed his neck hard.

Many a person had said he reminded them of the actor John Hodiak, especially after seeing the movie “Lifeboat” last year and “A Bell for Adano” released in the spring. He was of medium height, ruggedly built, a strong chin and with a deep, resonant voice commanding a reserved and street-wise New York vernacular. He only wished he commanded the movie star’s salary. His own pay grade was dismal. Better to be a working stiff than a put-upon Hollywood heartthrob, he thought. It offered some comfort.

Regardless, it was going to be a long day.

With all the hoopla and carousing, the city’s newspaper headlines ignored the day-to-day chaos and focused instead on the heroes of 1945. And there was nothing but heroes.

But in the big city, five murders had been reported overnight, and not one of them had made the papers, at least not that he had seen. One bum had stabbed another dead near Nedick’s in Times Square because his pal, he had told a couple of beats cops, wouldn’t spring for a hot cup of joe. Cops over on 12th found two stiffs in a back alley that likely had a mob tie over gambling. The fourth was a Polish cabbie found near Central Park who in the early hours of the morning had dropped off some Richie Rich at the Waldorf. Someone drilled him through the head and the precinct boys there believed it was a robbery gone wrong. Even the mounted cops who had found him were taken aback when their steady, veteran steeds became skittish over the blood and brain splatter.

Then there was his own cherry pick, and his stomach churned all the more from his morning black coffee and greasy eggs at Emil’s Lunch Counter on 12th. Homicide Detective First Grade Frank DeLuca was already in a foul mood.

The Hotel Trixie on 12th Avenue was a shithole. Vagrants, bums, hookers and their johns were its denizens. Its lobby smelled of disinfectant and lilacs, and in the dead of summer, it was all the more fierce. There was no “In Like Flynn” for anyone ending up there.

DeLuca eased his way past the uniforms that had collected in the hallway to Room 3C. Cigarette smoke aside, he could make out the smell of dirty linens and further down, the reek of urine.

“Frankie, what gives?” said Detective Peppino “Pepsi” Riley as DeLuca rounded the corner and entered the room.

The walls were a mottled grey and once white. A painting of a British lord mounted on a horse and leading a fox hunt hung askew on a far wall. In the center of the room, adjacent to a battered desk, chair and night table stood a disheveled bed laden with the nude body of a young woman, her stone-dead eyes glaring in his direction. Her pale neck, blotched and bruised, curved at an odd angle where it had been snapped. Her honey-blond hair draped a stained pillow. There was a stinging stench as well: someone had puked in the corner.

“You’re gonna like this one, Frankie. This tall, cool drink of water is new to town and best we can figure, was a regular at The Stage Door Canteen as early as a week ago. A hot dish, but that’s what the wife says about me.”

“Screw you, Pepsi. I’m not in the mood.”


© ajparisi 2023