RARA-AVIS: practical tips for hard-boiled dicks

From: Frederick Zackel ( fzackel@wcnet.org)
Date: 07 Nov 2000

From an unpublished manuscript:

I've known him for years. He was long and gaunt, tough and stringy as beef jerky, and older than McKinley's been dead. He was very British and had a very thick accent. His suits and his shirts were custom-made down on Post Street. His shoes were custom-made in Manhattan by a small shoemaker on the Upper East Side. He always drove a luxury car, usually a Cadillac. At the same time, for as long as I've known him, he lived in a studio apartment that was empty except for a sleeping bag on a foam mat.

I was always formal with Old Pete, not aloof but distant, mindful and appreciative of his seniority. When I worked at Pacific-Continental Investigations, he was not my mentor. Oh, we worked together, and I learned a lot. He taught me how the game works, but not the rules of the game, and they are two very distant cousins.

He taught me the dark side of the law and the darker side of the dollar bill. I learned a hundred scams, each one nastier than the one before. He taught me how to get into places I had no right to be in . How to wiggle a pass key. How to rake a lock partway and then feel to finish opening it. Not that I ever got as good as Old Pete. When it comes to locksmithing, I was no good at a clean opening. Some people had the feel. I was a butcher.

In our off-hours, time and again he cheated me at cards, then showed me all the tricks and gimmicks he had gained from a lifetime on the edge. Then he would cheat me again, this time more brutally, more cruelly, so I'd never get cocky and think I knew it all.

No, I haven't seen it all, but thanks to him, I had seen too much. Old Pete showed me the streets I never wanted to know.

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