Conquer Comes Correct in Occult Detective Quarterly Presents!

odqpOne of my favorite fiction periodicals Occult Detective Quarterly has put out a long form book, Occult Detective Quarterly Presents, and my street savvy 70’s occult/blaxploitation PI John Conquer is hitting the dark back alleys of Harlem again in Conquer Comes Correct.

A skinny gangbanger wanders into John’s dojo with news that an old friend has been murdered outside a Harlem bookstore, shot with an arrow. Soon after, Lt. Lou Lazzeroni asks Conquer for help figuring out how the carcass of a headless, skinned gorilla found its way into a Bronx intersection. Are the two cases related? You better believe it, baby.

ODQ Presents includes stories from Charles Rutledge, Amanda DeWees, and the ever lovin’ Willie Meikle, among others.

The idea for this one began with the offhanded mention of an actual headless, butchered gorilla found in the Bronx in the 70s in an article I read about the infamous 41st Police Preccint, AKA ‘Fort Apache.’

Here’s an excerpt:

Baba Ron Hamilton’s East Harlem Dojo, in the unwrought bottom floor of a townhouse on 125th street, dispensed the wisdom of Daruma and Malcolm X in equal doses to any kid looking for something better than a bloody end in the glass-littered gutters of Harlem. For a time, it had been a haven for a punk orphan named John Conquer, until he’d made the decision to use a knife on a Hunts Point pimp instead of his fists and chosen a tour of duty over a jail sentence.

Baba Hamilton encouraged revolutionaries; not the kind the kind the CIA sweated over, but the kind they really ought to fear, the kind in suits and ties. Between kumites he talked up college like it was the Marine Corps.

Had John Conquer taken more of that lesson to heart twelve years ago, he might’ve foregone the actual Marines and didi’d down a different path than the one that had led him staggering through the slicing elephant grass and the gut shuddering thunderstorm of blood and paddy water kicked into the sky by 50mm VC Sky Horse mortars, through the magic and loss of an adopted Montagnard family, and finally to a private investigator’s office on St. Mark’s Place.

But he was back now where he’d left off, under Baba Hamilton’s wary eye, holding his end of a makeshift coat rack chin up bar for a couple of shining, skinny, pre-teen yellow belts to pull themselves up off the floor.  Her snuck a fast wink at Vonetta, the light skinned twenty something black belt with the sweet smile and fighter’s ass.

It was always good to be back in the dojo, good to smell the sweat and the blood and hear the slap of bodies on the mats, to feel that visceral internal heat stoking, like a potter’s fire baking soft muscles and hearts into a hard glaze.

Conquer saw the rawboned kid in the cut sleeves amble in and look around. So did Baba Hamilton.  The hulking dark kenkojuku master raised one massive, callused hand. The sempai ceased his counting, the boys and girls dropped down from the knotted gi ropes hanging from the exposed pipework, and the blue belts stopped midway through their Ten Hands Kata in precise, paramilitary unison.

The shaggy newcomer found himself in a dead silent room, faced with twenty four hard stares possessed by twenty four sweating martial artists of varying degrees of expertise, all of whom would swarm him at a gesture from Baba Hamilton.

He didn’t look away though. He was a tough young bopper, a dirty faced Puerto Rican kid with one of those upper lips that looked more like a splash of chocolate milk than a mustache. It undermined his hard attitude, gave him a boyish cast no amount of gangster posturing could quite overcome. His wild, black tangle of hair was pinched by a red bandanna, so it looked like a potted bunch of geraniums sprouting from his skullcap. His denim vest was adorned with patches, one of which bore the name Jeet Kune Joe. His had eyes scanned the sea of stark white gis with affected nonchalance, but Baba Hamilton stepped forward, way too big to discount.

“Hola young man,” he said, his voice a thunder rumble that could rattle all the panes uptown when he directed it into a kiai shout. “How can we help you?”

“Yo, y’all do kung fu up in here?” the kid asked.

“This is a kenkojuku karate dojo,” said Baba Hamilton. “It’s a style of shotokan handed down by our founder, Sensei Okano Tomosaburo.”

He gestured to a photo of the stern looking, dark haired Japanese man in a black gi on the wall between Brother Malcolm and Dr. King.

The kid stared at the portraits for a while.

“You’re welcome to train with us,” said Baba Hamilton. “But you leave your colors in the street out front.”

That snapped the kid out of his momentary trance.

“Nah, I ain’t here for that. I’m lookin’ for O.G. Juju.”

“There’s nobody here by that name, son,” said Baba Hamilton.

But he was wrong.

Juju, warlord and co-founder of the 167th Street Black Enchanters, was there.

John Conquer had started the outlaw club back in the day with a couple of like-minded fools. He’d been fresh from Vietnam and scratching to survive in the derelict tenements of the South Bronx, boosting car stereos, mugging suckers, and raising hell in a burnout’s race whose only prize was a bunk at Attica. He was a long way from that ragged edged, wild-eyed twenty year old in cut-sleeved olive drab jumping in minor leaguers, rumbling with the Savage Nomads and the white gangs from the North Bronx, torching buildings for cash and butting heads with King Solomon’s pet crews.

In a sense, the boy that had gone by the name Juju was gone.

Hell, Baba Hamilton wasn’t always right, but he was never wrong.

Conquer set his end of the coat rack down and walked up next to Baba Hamilton, mopping the back of his neck with a towel.

“Who’s asking for him?”

***

Occult Detective Quarterly Presents is now on sale from Ulthar Press. Get it!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1726439933/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1537317168&sr=8-6&keywords=occult+detective+quarterly

 

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Published in: on September 19, 2018 at 8:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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