Fever: A Nameless Detective Novel (Nameless Detective Novels)

Fever: A Nameless Detective Novel (Nameless Detective Novels) by Bill Pronzini

Book: Fever: A Nameless Detective Novel (Nameless Detective Novels) by Bill Pronzini Read Free Book Online
Authors: Bill Pronzini
the early sixties.
    Broadway east of Columbus is still the center of adult entertainment, but all the memorable old clubs are gone now and the ones that have replaced them don’t have the style or the flare. They’re all loud music and blinding neon and aggressive shills and in-your-face sex, with interchangeable names and programs and attitudes. Tourist traps and sleaze palaces, for the most part. Benjy’s Seven, just off Montgomery, was one of that breed. I knew it would be even before I tuned out the shill at the door and walked inside.
    Dark except for flashing strobe lights, music blaring from hidden speakers, a horseshoe-shaped bar, and seven small, round, raised dancer’s platforms spotted at different heights among the tables spread throughout. Benjy’s seven. At peak hours, topless dancers would do their thing on the little platforms, wrapping themselves around the brass poles that jutted up phallically from the center of each one. Now only two were in use—one Asian woman, one black woman, both lethargic in their gyrations. There were less than a dozen customers, all male, all grouped around the two dancers, staring with eyes that seemed glazed and zombielike in the swirl of colored light. Places like this, particularly in the afternoon, strike me as bleak and depressing. Men with no lives, no commitments or goals, sucking down cheap liquor while they watched dull-witted women of the same ilk expose their bodies and simulate indifferent sex. It was all about as stimulating and erotic as a visit to a stud farm.
    Two scantily clad waitresses worked the tables, neither of them very busy. I went over to the bar, paid too much for a bottle of beer-flavored water, and waited for one of the waitresses to come up to her station. She wasn’t Ginger Benn. “You want me to send Ginger over?” she asked. I said yes, and she went away, and pretty soon the other waitress sidled up.
    Mid-twenties, blond, busty, big without being fat. Old, cynical eyes sized me up, decided I was nobody she knew, and took on the same blank look as the male customers. Her smile was thin and professional. “I’m Ginger,” she said.
    “I’m Bill.”
    “We don’t know each other. Somebody give you my name?”
    “Not exactly. I’m looking for Janice Stanley.”
    The smile didn’t quite go away. “She doesn’t work here.”
    “I know. But she’s a friend of yours.”
    “Who told you that? I hardly know her.”
    “Then how come you let her move in with you a month ago?”
    Now the smile was gone; the overpainted mouth was drawn tight. “Look, mister, you want to make a date with Janice, go ask somebody else.”
    “I didn’t say I wanted to make a date with her.”
    “Then what do you want?”
    “I told you. I’m trying to find her.”
    “Why?” Then, warily, “You some kind of cop?”
    “A friend of her husband’s.”
    “Yeah, well, I don’t know where she is.”
    “When did you see her last?”
    “Few days ago. Friday.”
    “Heard from her since?”
    “No.”
    “Not even curious why she disappeared all of a sudden?”
    “None of my business. I got enough troubles of my own.”
    “The two of you didn’t get along, is that it?”
    “We got along. She was just crashing with me for a while, okay? Now why don’t you leave me alone, let me do my job?”
    “Somebody beat her up on the weekend,” I said.
    The words stung her enough to make her head jerk, her eyes widen. “Beat her up?”
    “That’s right. Badly enough to send her back home for a couple of days. Only now she’s disappeared again, under suspicious circumstances.”
    “… What’s that mean, suspicious circumstances?”
    “You have any idea who smacked her around?”
    “No. How would I know?”
    “Or where she might be now?”
    “No.”
    “Friends of hers, people she might go to?”
    “We didn’t talk much. Didn’t see each other much.”
    “What did she do when she wasn’t staying in your apartment?”
    Shrug. “Her business, not

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