New Jersey Noir: Cape May
New Jersey has more laws than any other state, but a paucity of law-abiding citizens.
— Thomas C. Colt
Paterson, New Jersey
Tuesday, March 24th
Wanna see some dead bodies?”
Yeah, yeah, I know. It sounds kind of callous, but when you’ve seen a billion stiffs, who cares about a few more?
Especially, if it’s not your case.
I was intrigued, ever so slightly, and Luca sensed it. He’d been my best friend since we were brats in grammar school, and he’d been kidding himself ever since that he could “read” me, that he could somehow “know” what I was thinking.
Well, maybe sometimes he could.
“You’ll want to see this, Jack. I guarantee it.”
Luca Salerno, former Paterson beat cop, was now the best detective working out of the Passaic County Courthouse in Paterson, New Jersey, and I knew what he was doing, and he knew that I knew what he was doing.
Trying to get me out of the house.
I was sitting in Stone House, my house, exactly a month after “the one whose name I dare not dwell on” jumped into her bright-red Neon and drove three thousand miles to California. It was also almost six weeks since my uncle was assassinated at the Paterson Falls, which was why the house was empty.
Except for me.
I stood up and looked out the back window of the house, which sits on top of Garrett Mountain, high above the nightlights of the city I loved, the city of Paterson. The city which, even though nobody knows it, made America the greatest country on earth. Yeah, the founders get some cred, and all the immigrants, and the much-praised “work ethic,” etc., but Paterson blasted off the great American industrial juggernaut, being the home of our “second” revolution: industry/business.
It was one of the founders, of course, who kicked everything off. Who had the vision. Who looked at the awesome power of the falls and saw the nascent “engine” of the revolution. A guy named Hamilton. Soon the place was “Silk City,” then it was “firearms” city, then it was “locomotive engines” city, then it was “aeronautics” city, with an awful lot of ups and downs along the way. Yeah, there’s way too much crime in Paterson, too much corruption, too many fatherless households, too many botched educational schemes, but I still love the place.
I love the mountain, I love the river, I love the falls, I love the food, and I love the people.
I especially love the parades:
The African-American Day Parade, the Dominican Day Parade, the Turkish-American Day Parade, the Bangladeshi Day Parade, the Peruvian Day Parade, and all the other countless “ethnic day” parades. There’s pretty much a new parade every week, which makes sense since Paterson is the most densely-populated city in the US, excepting the big-boy across the Hudson, and the most ethnically diverse city in the US, excepting the same exception.
“You still there?” Luca wiseassed. “Or did the line go dead?”
I ignored his sarcasm, still staring at the glittering nightlights of the city which spread out before me. It was approaching midnight, and I’d been watching Godfather II, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to interrupt myself.
“Where?” I wondered.
“The riverbank. Off Totowa Ave.”
I was still thinking.
“You’ll enjoy it, Jack. I promise.”
Hell, maybe I should get out of the house. I wasn’t really sulking, and I certainly wasn’t depressed, as a matter of fact, I’ve never been depressed in my life. It’s not part of the family makeup. The genetic code. But after losing both my uncle and the pretty girl whom it’s probably best not to think about, I was much enjoying the elemental pleasures: The Godfathers I & II, Faulkner, and Ross Macdonald.
Do private dicks really read books about private dicks?
Sure, they do.
Do mob guys really read books about the mob?
Sure, they do.
Do politician really read books about politicians?
Which, of course, assumes that they can read in the first place. Maybe they just watch the movies.
I do both.
Besides, nothing interesting had crossed my desk recently. These days I’m able to pick and choose my cases, but after the recent bloody mess, nothing interesting had walked into my office.
“You coming or not?”
Somebody was impatient.
“Sure,” I said. “Why not?”