Survival. . . ZERO!
Copyright © 1970 by Mickey Spillane
To Jack and Peggy McKenna
With thanks for the many happy returns
They had left him for dead in the middle of a pool of blood in his own bedroom, his belly slit open like gaping barn doors, the hilt of the knife wedged against his sternum. But the only trouble was that he had stayed alive somehow, his life pumping out, managing to knock the telephone off the little table and dial me. Now he was looking up at me with seconds left and all he could do was force out the words, “Mike… there wasn’t no reason.”
I didn’t try to fake him out He knew what was happening. I said, “Who, Lippy?”
His lips fought to frame the sentence. “Nobody I… not the kind… .No reason, Mike. No reason.”
And then Lippy Sullivan died painfully but quickly.
I went out in the hallway of the shabby brownstone rooming house and walked
up to the front apartment that had SUPER scrawled across the top panels in faded white paint and gave it a rap with the toe of my shoe. Inside, somebody swore hoarsely and a chair scraped across bare wood.
Two locks and a bolt rasped in their sockets and the door cracked open on a safety chain.
The fat-faced guy with the beery breath squinted up at me in the light from behind him, then his
Eyes narrowed, not liking what he saw. “Yeah?”
“You got a phone, buddy?”
“What if I do?”
“You can let me use it.”
“Drop dead.” He started to close the door, but I already had my foot in the crack.
I said, “Open up.”
For a second his jowls seemed to sag, then he got his beer courage back up again. “You a cop?
Let’s see your badge.”
“I’ll show you more than a badge in a minute.”
This time he didn’t try smart-mouthing me. I let him close the door, slide the chain off, then pushed in past him. The room was a homegrown garbage collection, but I found the phone behind a pile of empty six-pack cartons, dialed my number and a solid Brooklyn voice said, “Homicide South, Sergeant Woods.”
“Captain Chambers in? This is Mike Hammer.”
Behind me a beer can popped open and the fat guy slid onto a chair.
When the phone was picked up I said, “Hi, Pat. I got a stiff for you.”
Softly, Pat muttered, “Damn, Mike…”
“Hell,” I told him, “I didn’t do it.”
“Okay, give me the details.”
I gave him the address on West Forty-sixth, Lippy’s full name and told him the rest could wait. I didn’t want the guy behind me getting an earful and Pat got the message. He told me a squad car was on the way and he’d be right behind it. I hung up and lit a butt.
It was an election year and all the new brooms were waiting to sweep clean. The old ones were
Looking to sweep cleaner. It was another murder now, a nice, messy, newspaper-type murder and both sides would love to make me a target. I’d been in everybody’s hair just too damn long, I guess.
When I turned around the fat guy was sweating. The empty beer can had joined the others on the table beside him.
“Who’s… the stiff?”
“A tenant named Lippy Sullivan.”
“Who’d want to kill him?”
I shoved my hat back and walked over to where he was sitting and let him look at the funny grin I knew I was wearing. “He have anybody in with him tonight?”
“Listen, Mister. ..”
“Just answer me.”
“I didn’t hear nothin’.”
“How long you been here?” I said.
“All night. I been sitting here all night and I didn’t hear nothin’.”
I let the grin go a little bigger and the grin wasn’t pretty at all. “You better be right,” I told him.
“Now sit here some more and think about things and maybe something might come back to you.”