|Will Viharo's Private Eye Vic Valentine is Back!|
|Written by Will "The Thrill" Viharo|
AFTER 16 YEARS, WILL VIHARO’S PRIVATE EYE “VIC VALENTINE” IS BACK IN THE SADDLE!
In 1995 the now-defunct Wild Card Press of San Francisco published Retrospective Online contributor Will (later known as “The Thrill”) Viharo’s detective novel, Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me. A couple of years later the publishers opened the popular Parkway Theater in Oakland, and asked Will to host a weekly cult movie night, which eventually became renowned as “Thrillville.” But Will’s true dream was to be a novelist. In 2001, Christian Slater magically came upon a copy of Love Stories and has optioned it for a film annually since then. After the Parkway and its sister theater the Cerrito Speakeasy folded in 2009, Will took Thrillville on the road, but tired of it, and returned to his first love, publishing much of his vast backlog of books (including his very first, Chumpy Walnut, excerpted on our site here). Now, 16 years after the first novel in the Vic Valentine series debuted, Will has finally published two of the long-awaited sequels, Fate Is My Pimp and Romance Takes A Rain Check, as a “double feature,” with yet another “double feature,” I Lost My Heart In Hollywood and Diary Of A Dick, waiting in the wings.
Here are the back cover blurbs for Fate/Romance:
FATE IS MY PIMP picks up the torrid trail of Vic Valentine, Private Eye as he traverses the mean streets of San Francisco and beyond in search of a mobster's missing teenage daughter, encountering various voluptuous vixens, a female surf band, and a stalker leaving him mysterious musical messages, all while infiltrating an Elvis-theme commune for runaways, led by a deviously decadent Deacon Rivers. Follow the further misadventures of the misguided hero of LOVE STORIES ARE TOO VIOLENT FOR ME as he continues looking for love in all the wrong places, and unfortunately for him—finding it.
ROMANCE TAKES A RAIN CHECK finds Vic back on the East Coast, tracking down a lead on his cop father's killer, visiting his mother in an asylum, and reuniting with his high school sweetheart, Dolly Duncan, now married to a doper dentist. Nothing is what it seems, times and people have changed, and Vic is going to learn the hard way - again - that some bones, and boners, are best left buried.
And below is Chapter Two of Fate Is My Pimp. For more on his many pulp novels, including ordering info, please surf over to http://www.thrillville.net/fiction/index.html
DIM SUM NEON
I awoke late the next day from a dream wherein I was James Bond, conducting myself with stylish aplomb, but hoping no one would catch on that I was too short to be Agent 007. This is a recurring dream, along with the ones where I'm adrift on a ship lost in the fogbound sea. I don't know what it means, nor do I particularly care, since as James Bond I not only have a license to kill, I have a license to love. Faceless but beautiful women occupy these dreams, usually posing as my next-door neighbor in an exotic hotel, but then I find them going through my belongings while I'm in the shower. I'm on a ship in a lot of these dreams, Walter PPK in tow, searching for something before being discovered and diving overboard in a hail of misfired bullets. Then I return to my exotic hotel room, find the babe in my closet, kiss her, and hope she doesn't catch on I'm too short to be James Bond. I can't tell if the bad guys on the ship do or not. Maybe they try to shoot me because I'm an imposter. Sometimes in the dream I wonder if I'm starring as James Bond in a movie, or if I'm really supposed to be him. Either way, I go along with it. If only I could stay asleep past that first kiss...
When I woke up from that dream, I felt the same way I always do when I wake up: I'm still undercover, in the life of a loveless loser, in too deep and begging to get out before it's too late and I lose my mind, merging identities with this hopeless sap forever, lost in this pathetic existence. I beg and plead with my nameless, formless superior to let me out; the mission is a bust, and I'm in perpetual danger. But my contact, whoever sent me into this, is either eluding me or ignoring me. Maybe I've been written off. I'll never get out alive, I fear. I'm caught in a trap, and I can't walk out.
I walked down to Rendezvous, my favorite cafe, for some wakeup espresso and a quick scan of the Chronicle. Maybe Doc was right, I thought. The phone calls were meaningless. I had to wake up, or grow up, do something vertical at any rate. This was the hazard of being in too deep in a phony guise - you start believing it's real. I had to keep reminding myself it was only a dream.
For lunch, since it was noon (I wake up late on a regular basis unless a case dictates otherwise), I went into Chinatown and dined at my favorite chop-suey joint on Grant. It was cheap and the Chinese waiters were just off the boat and I felt like James Bond in the Orient on a secret mission. All I really did was order the Number Five lunch special and stare into space. I especially liked the fortune cookies in this joint. Usually. I remember that day I got one that made me feel vaguely uneasy: "Life: Lights go on, a brief flurry of confusion, lights go out." Made me feel like a goddamn cockroach.
I called over the waiter, whose name was Louie, at least in English, and asked him what the hell this fortune was supposed to mean.
"You Wic Walentine, you know," He said, smiling ear to ear, more like a wise guy than a wise man.
"Vic. Vic Valentine," I corrected him, as always. "A wick is in a candle. I keep telling you that, Louie."
"Okay, Mister Walentine. You want ‘nother cookie?"
"Naw, not this time. Next time, though, make sure I get a cheerier message."
Louie nodded, smiling, inwardly laughing at me, I could tell. I flashed on Chow Yun Fat in The Killer, doing some double fisted point blank bullets-in-the-belly action. But I was a little short to be the Killer, too. Something me, my love affairs, and life all had in common: just too damn short.
The only thing in the world that gave me any hopeful notion of longevity was my trusty '63 sky blue Corvair. I took a roundabout route back to my office, just killing time. Or maybe it was killing me. Hard to tell. At least the scenery was pleasant on the way to inevitable oblivion. That's why I stay in San Francisco, I reminded myself as I cruised through Pacific Heights, stealing right hand glances at the majestic Bay, the sweeping panorama of Alcatraz, the low fogbank, the bridges. It was the middle of April somewhere, warming up but still cool and crisp, just like I love it. The architecture was equally awesome up here, Victorian mansions painted in an array of pastels, nestled in well-kept flower gardens. By the time I got back to my dumpy office in the Richmond I was hating life again, envious of those who could afford to live daily surrounded by luxurious beauty. A small-time P.I. like me could never score such comforts. At least we were all equally vulnerable to earthquakes. And I had my Corvair. And my freedom. I sat down at my desk listening to messages, hoping for another mysterious musical message from the phantom phoner. Nada. It was just a fluke after all. I still had my Corvair. And my freedom.
There was a knock on the door, and my heart jumped. No one on the answering machine had piqued my interest, since they were all people either asking for their money back or demanding money for petty things like rent and electricity. I was way behind on my bills. I owed Doc two months back rent, and if it went any longer it could strain my friendship. I needed a client. I got one. He waltzed in the door like a genie to grant me three wishes. As soon as I saw him I knew he could never give me my first two no matter what, so I had to settle for the third: a wealthy client. And that he was, in spades.
The guy standing in the doorway looked like a cartoon version of a classic wiseguy: dark double-breasted suit, white silk shirt, a tie as deeply red as my heart board, shiny Florsheim shoes, slick black hair, dark wire-framed shades, and pasty East Coast skin, pockmarked with questionable experience. He took off his shades with well-rehearsed flourish, revealing eyes as dark and spicy as Italian meatballs. I noticed a scar from his left cheek down to his upper lip, giving him the appearance of a cleft lip, but when he spoke I could tell this was not the case. His voice was low and even. But I couldn't help noticing that his hand still holding the shades was shaking. A lot. Did I make him nervous?
"I'm Shiv," he said. "Just plain Shiv. Don't ask for a first or last name. And if you ever—and I mean ever—call me Shivers, I'll bury a bullet so far into your skull they'll need to excavate your head with dynamite to get it out."
"Understood," I said simply, acting nonplussed like I did way back when as a paperboy being tracked by a neighborhood dog nipping at my heels. Animals sense fear, and this guy was definitely Mutual of Omaha material.
"New York," I then said, pegging his Wild Kingdom of origin correctly.
"That's right," he said, closing the door behind him and taking the seat opposite me, with casual grace. He was around fifty so his shaking wasn't due to some geriatric condition. I didn't think it prudent to inquire any further into the subject, since it was obviously so touchy he had to lay it to rest as part of his introductory remarks. As long as he wasn't aiming a piece in my general direction I had nothing to worry about, anyway. For now. He reached into the left breast of his suit and I held my breath, but he only produced a handsome gold cigarette case and asked me, "Mind if I smoke?"
"Go ahead," I said, breaking my own office policy. If a cigarette would calm him down, I thought, I'll risk the second hand cancer factor. At least that was a long shot. From where he was sitting, a bullet in my brain wouldn't be. My mind was racing even faster than usual. I wondered if someone had ordered a hit on me, and this guy was just being polite about it. So who would want me iced? The stalker on my answering machine? But no, Mister Shiv had other plans for me that may have entailed my demise indirectly, but this wasn't his intention.
"I want you to find my daughter," he said finally after taking a puff from his trembling cigarette. His fingers were a blur. "I flew in from New York to Frisco just this morning, looked in the phone book, and picked you simply out of a hunch. I'm good with hunches, so don't let me down."
"I'll try." I said. "What makes you think your daughter is out here, Mister Shiv?"
He closed his eyes and reopened them slowly, massaging his right temple with his right index finger as he did so. "Shiv," he hissed. "Just Shiv. That is the final time I'll tell you that." His voice didn't quiver at all.
"Like a knife," I said, but it bounced right off of him. He'd heard it all before. For all I knew he got the moniker from carving up guys like me, so I moved the conversation ahead quickly. "What's her name?" I asked.
"Lucy," he said.
"I can't tell you that." He sure was a touchy guy.
"Well, Mister, I mean, um, Shiv, I'll need to know as much about her as possible if I'm going to locate - "
He held up a finger as a signal of silence, and I obliged him instantly. Then he reached into the right breast of his suit and handed me a photograph of Lucy. It was all I could do not to bark or whistle out loud. I stifled my instincts in favor of good health, though. She was beautiful in a suburban Sicilian kind of way, a Long Island bad Catholic girl: long wavy dark hair, smooth olive complexion, huge brown long-lashed eyes, full luscious lips. I knew the type from growing up in Bensonhurst, where these girls were on every block like little black widows. I’M half-Italian, but the fathers of these girls wanted nothing but purebreds for their precious little daughters. Despite their advances, the word around the 'hood was hands off the goodies. Hands caught in that cookie jar would never see their wrists again. The girls knew this and flirted shamelessly, hoping to trap Micks and half-Micks like me and other WASPs and Jewboys into big trouble with their older brothers. Lucy was very innocent looking but that didn't fool me. And this picture screamed jailbait, dangling from a meat hook. I didn't bite. I chose my next words carefully. "Anything...more recent?"
"That's from her high school last year," he said, watching my reaction carefully. With a daughter as beautiful as this, I understood now why he shook so much. She probably drove him crazy. "Good enough, unless she's shaved her head or something. I'll kill her if she did. Kids these days got no god damn style." I looked up briefly at his disco wardrobe but repressed an urge to smile. He went on. "You notice that? All kids dress like nigger ghetto punks these days. Girls, too. Backward baseball caps and shit. Flannel shirts, baggy pants. It makes me sick. I used to pick her up at school in a fucking limo, and she'd walk out of the schoolyard looking like an ex-con in the prison yard instead. I felt like I wasn't her Daddy anymore. She embarrassed me, looking like that."
"She looks very pretty here," I blurted, but then I stammered, "but not too pretty. I mean attractive in a nice, natural sense. Not attractive, she's too young to be attractive, at least to me, I mean look at me, but she looks very nice, is what I mean. Nice. Well...mannered. A nice girl. A nice Catholic girl. Not that she's Catholic, I mean she could be anything, but...I don't mean to assume anything, that she's Catholic or you're Catholic, but what I'm getting at is that she doesn't look like the MTV type. You know MTV? That's what you meant, right? I mean, I used to watch MTV, when it first started, I was young once, I'm still young, but too old for her, I mean for her generation, I mean, not that I'd ever be in the running for...well, anyway, I used to write about music, mostly new wave type music, you know, of the rock genre, but I really like Frank Sinatra, not that I assume you do, that's just me, but I understand what you mean, I mean my point is I really hate grunge and hip-hop and all that stuff kids like these days, so I'm with you. You're right, they got no style. Not that your daughter hasn't got style, I'm sure she does, but there's such a thing as peer pressure, especially at that age, and - “
"Shut up," he said.
"Okay," I said.
"She wrote me from San Francisco, so I know she's here," he went on as if I'd never said a word. "No return address. I have some relatives in North Beach, but they tell me she never got in
touch with them."
"Did she run away?" I asked.
"As opposed to what?" he shot back.
I swallowed. I was already working up a sweat and we hadn't even talked money yet. I hoped the dough would be worth it. "I mean...she ran away without telling you where she was going, or she planned to leave and start a new life, possibly with your relatives out here (c) "
He laughed derisively, and I merely smiled politely. "She's seventeen, what do you mean start a new life? She's only a baby, for Christ's sake."
"So if she didn't get in touch with your family here, why San Francisco?"
"That's what I want you to find out, Mister Valentine. You are Italian, aren't you?"
"Sure," I said. "New York, too."
"Yes, I know."
"Oh, I mentioned that? I don't remember - "
"I had you checked out."
"Already? By who?"
"I have friends in this town, Mister Valentine. You think I'd hire just any jerk to find my daughter? I need someone low-key like yourself. I avoid high profile business of this nature. My line of work is, shall we say, of a sensitive nature, and I don't like to advertise my whereabouts and business dealings to the general public. Do I make myself clear?"
His words were bubbles in a murky lagoon to me, but I lied to save face. Literally. "Crystal," I said. "What else can you tell me about Lucy?"
"What do you want to know, exactly?"
"Well...how is your relationship with her?" I gulped. I was tired of feeling on the defensive with this quivering hit man. Who cares if he had an itchy trigger finger? This was my office he was shivering in. "What I mean is...is she avoiding you?"
Again he closed his eyes and reopened them. "Obviously she is avoiding me, Mister Valentine. If all I had to do was call her up and go pick her up at the airport, I wouldn't need you, would I?"
"So you had a falling out, I take it."
"Of a sort. I don't want to go into detail about my personal life, Mister Valentine."
"Vic. You can call me Vic."
"When and if I know you better. The more I talk to you the less I like you, to be frank. But I trust my sources, so I'll give you a chance."
Speaking of chances, I took a big one just then. I'd had it with this character already, and if he wasted me I only hoped I'd live long enough to write him a thank you note. "Look, Shiv, I feel under no obligation whatsoever to find your daughter. This is business, not personal, as the saying goes. You're not doing me any big favor to hire me for this job, just like I wouldn't be doing you a big favor to take it. We can both ply our respective trades elsewhere. Only after money has changed hands will I feel in a position of obligation to you, and since that hasn't happened yet, you're free to walk out of here and get on with your life without me, and I'll do the same. I mean, without you, not me. I'm stuck with me. You're not. Now...do I make myself clear?" If my love life had been better I would never have been so bold. As it was, I felt I had nothing to lose.
He looked at me for a while, studying my face, then he broke into a broad grin, stood up, and reached his shivering hand for a shake. I accepted and found his grip to be firm, uncomfortably so, despite the illusion of weakness. "You're my man, Vic," he said. "I was waiting for you to show some chutzpah. The way you were acting, like a freakin' pussy, well, you had me worried. I need a man with two balls knockin' when he walks."
"Clang, clang, clang," I said, and he laughed. Then he sat back down and I continued, feeling manly and full of masculine camaraderie, Mafia style. I'd already made up my mind this guy was Mob. Everything about him screamed "import-export." I knew the type from back East, from my 'hood. I could've been wrong, but I decided to coast under that assumption just to play it safe. We weren't exactly old-time goombahs yet, and if I took this case and screwed up there was a chance I'd wind up a sea monkey in San Francisco Bay. I'd never dealt directly with a goodfella before, but I was desperate and I knew I had plenty of cash. If I played my cards right, I'd be able to take a long overdue vacation. And if I didn't, what the hell, I'd be on permanent vacation. Either way, I'd be better off than I was, I figured. So Shiv sat back and relaxed and explained how Lucy was a little wild and rebellious and thought she could love without her Daddy just fine. He chalked it up to normal teenage angst but I could tell with my gift for reading human nature that Lucy was not your average runaway with an attitude problem. After all, her old man wasn't your average authority figure. She was probably real mixed-up, found out her father was a shady character, and took off to escape her evil environs. This was how I read it at the time, anyway. The little he told me about her intrigued me, but I knew what it was that really inspired me: Little Elvis, coughing up a storm between my legs, stifled by my pants and my telepathic pleas for restraint. Lucy was a babe, and Little Elvis wanted to meet her. He was a selfish bastard, and ignorant, too, because if Daddy caught me boinking his daughter Little Elvis would be surfing down a sewer pipe, and if the cops caught me he'd wind up doing the jailhouse rock with some unpleasant partners. I wouldn't let him be anyone's punk. I was keeping him under wraps, no matter how much he tried to plea bargain with me. Lucy was not a romantic prospect, I kept telling myself as I looked at the picture and listened seriously to Shiv talk about her privileged childhood, at least in his eyes. She's trouble, I said to myself, over and over and over, trying in vain to drown out Little Elvis' cries for release. Nonetheless, after Shiv was finished telling me what a princess his daughter was, and how he'd give his life to save her from any potential jeopardy, I couldn't wait for him to leave so I could get started on the case.
On his way out he paid me my retainer fee plus a generous bonus. We both agreed that New York was the center of the Universe and San Francisco merely a petty satellite. I pretended to agree, even though in truth I could never live in New York again. Too many people like him there.
When he left all I had were his hotel number and the picture of Lucy to show around town, discreetly, as he'd instructed. He was a very self-conscious guy. That wasn't a good sign. Paranoid clients usually have something to hide that I'd rather not find. But money and Little Elvis talked to me that evening, and like an idiot I listened, forgetting all about the mysterious romantic phone calls, at least temporarily. I thought instead about my fortune cookie for the day, the ominous "Life: Lights go on, brief flurry of confusion, lights go out." If only the light wasn't so bright it wouldn't be so bad, I thought. It glared in my vision and made me see spots so I could only stumble blindly down my path, reaching out for landmarks and anchors and other sympathetic hands. I was thinking about this when I went into the bathroom and the light bulb blew out with a pop and I stood there pissing aimlessly in the dark, hoping I was right on target but never being completely sure that I was. When that light goes out, it goes quickly, and without warning. I was having second thoughts about the Lucy case as I contemplated this fact. I didn't want Shiv to put my lights out before my flurry of confusion had run its course. I made a mental note to replace the bulb in the bathroom first thing in the morning, and finally fell asleep.
Will "The Thrill" Viharo is a freelance writer, host of the film series “Forbidden Thrills” at Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge, and creator of the long running cult movie cabaret “Thrillville.” He lives in Alameda, CA with his wife Monica “Tiki Goddess” Cortes and their two cats. For more please surf over to www.thrillville.net. To order your copy of Vic Valentine visit http://stores.lulu.com/willviharo