A Broken Man Came Back

A Matt Murphy Mystery

by H. Paul Doucette

He grew up on the streets of Yonkers, honing his survival skills. In time he entered the world of gangs and criminals where he learned how to profit from the wrong side of the law. But like so many, he was eventually caught, however, he caught a break and stood before a judge who gave him a choice...prison or the military. He chose the later.

He finished marine boot camp with a sense of pride, belonging. But it was in the jungles of Vietnam that he discovered his true identity. For the first time in his life he had a sense of purpose; A family of brothers.

Then one night in Saigon at a hochie bar, everything came crashing down when an army sergeant made a sexual pass at him that led to his discharge from the marines.

Murphy got a call from Gabe Herschon, a local gay bar owner and long time friend asking for help. Seems someone was attacking his patrons after they left his club, severely assaulting them.

This wasn’t the first time Murphy had to deal with the gay community but it would be his first time dealing with a trained killer like this man.


Excerpt

Chapter One

 

July 1969

 

Maybe it was a full moon. Maybe a black cat crossed my path. Or maybe it was just the gods who find amusement in messing with my life deciding it was time for a chuckle again, I don’t know, but as I arrived at my office I felt it was going to be one of those days when something bad is going to happen, when you know that bad news is on the other end of a ringing phone or behind a knock on the door. You know the feeling...a tingle at the back of your neck, an uneasiness in the pit of your stomach.

My name is Matt Murphy, Murph to almost everyone who knows me. I’m inching up into my mid-forties but overall, still in pretty good shape...considering. There was a time when the ladies would have thought I was ruggedly good-looking, but those days are well behind me now, although the love of my life tells me I still got it. But then, she's a bit biased.

I run my own one-man detective agency out of an office on Leroy Street in the West Village with my girl Friday, Maggie Garrett. This is all I have known or done since the fifties. It’s the only thing I seem to be good at. My best friend, Abe Goldman, had been my partner after he left the police force for a short time, but he suffered a minor heart attack last year and called it quits. He and his wife, Millie, decided it was time for a quieter life and moved to a small town upstate.

Before hanging out my shingle, I had been a beat cop with the NYPD, but it didn't take. After that, I shipped out for a short while to see some of the world. When I came back I got my PI ticket and carry permit and opened up. Since then, I built up a successful operation. Most of my cases come from several lawyers and an insurance company. I work on a retainer for one small insurance agency over in the East Village as their “special” investigator. Luckily, there hasn't been any shortage of work.

However, over the years the job has put me in the crosshairs a few times on a couple “hairy” cases where I had to take a life that has left me with some bad memories and a few ghosts I carry around. Unlike the popular dime-novel PIs, my conscience won’t let me forget.

The Village, once the center of the Beat movement, seems to be at the threshold of something that would change it again. I'm not sure what it’s becoming, but I know that whatever it is that gave the place its unique character would survive and adapt. For now, though, many of the places and people I know are gone or going.

Over the years I have acquired a network of contacts from cops to people on the opposite side of the street, like Elmore Jackson, a gangster with the black mob up in Harlem, and people like

Crazy Pete, a petty thief and major hustler. He knew the Village like no one else I’ve known, including most of its darker secrets. He was one of my best and frequent sources of information and the most eclectic and eccentric character I've ever known. And he was a friend. He was killed by a gang of college kids over a game of pool.

I was working a case dealing with the dance community at the time but took the time to hunt them down. I still think of him. There are many friends and contacts still around, but I seldom see them these days, except when my wife Jane and I go back for a night out.

On this particular morning I’m sitting at my desk, my feet up on the window ledge, enjoying my second coffee of the morning. There’s a small dance studio across the street and I’m watching several young women going through their warm-up exercises, hoping it will distract me. I’m not a voyeur, but sometimes I like to share a coffee with them…from a safe distance, of course…and it’s such a nice view.

Usually I have the radio on, but lately it seemed like it was broadcasting nothing but bad news: protests and riots in Harlem, the gays rebelling against the police harassment and prejudice, resulting in a physical riot a little while back at the Stonewall Inn. On top of all this, the NYPD is battling an onslaught of charges of corruption and abuses of authority. Times like these make me think Abe had the right idea...almost.

Then the phone on my desk rang and, poof, the revere was gone. I put my feet down, turn away from the window, and slowly reach for the phone,

“Yeah?” I said.

Maggie chuckled, then said, “A bit grumpy this morning?”

“Sorry. What’s up?”

“Gabe’s on the line.”

“Oh? Okay, put him through.”

Gabe Herschon is a gay Jew and has been a friend of mine for over ten years. He was born in Germany before the war. His parents, seeing what was happening there under the Nazis, managed to get him out and sent him to England where he eventually made it to the States. His parents weren’t so lucky. They disappeared in one of the camps.

I met him back when I was still single and a regular fixture among the habitué in the Village. Gabe worked in one of the more well-known clubs before finally opening his own modest-sized bar off the beaten track up in the northwest end of the Village near Chelsea. It was originally a small neighborhood watering hole. Gabe took it over from the owner who decided it was time to retire. He opened as an out-of-the-way exclusive club for the gay community. He has been lucky so far, staying under the police radar and keeping the mob from muscling in and taking over his business.

That last bit always makes me smile, the idea of the Mafia’s owning gay bars. Who would’ve thought that could happen? Then again, it makes a weird kind of sense when you think about it. The mob does prey on the vulnerable after all and who is more vulnerable in our society than gays and those with alternate sexual interests? Still, I can’t quite get my head around the image of some wise guy greeting a pair of queens at the door. Gives new meaning to the line “Is that a gun in your pocket or you just glad to see me?”

Over the years he, like Crazy Pete, has been one of my sources of information in the Village.

“Mathew,” Gabe said in his distinctive tone of voice. He was one of the few people who called me by my full name and not Murph. A while back, he was brutally attacked by a group of Southern “good ole boys.” I tracked them down and now they’re enjoying an extended stay, guests of the State.

“Gabe. What’s up?” I asked, taking a moment longer to enjoy the view.

“Do you have some time to come to the club? I really need to talk with you.”

“Sure. Care to give me a hint?”

“I need your help,” was all he would say.

"A Broken Man Came Back" by H. Paul Doucette

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Genres

Murder/
Mystery
Suspense
Series
? Heat Level: 3