Conquer’s Golden Case in Occult Detective Magazine #9

Cathaven Press has released their latest issue of Occult Detective Magazine, and my 1970’s Harlem sleuth John Conquer returns to the pages from whence he came in CONQUER’S GOLDEN CASE, a new story set after the events of the full length novel CONQUER: FEAR OF A BLACK CAT, which should be out later this year. Don’t worry, no spoilers in this.

In this outing John tries to unload some gifted tickets to the King Tut exhibit at the Met and winds up accompanying a foxy lady inside, where her overriding lust for all things Ancient Egyptian gets him in a supernatural fix.

Here as always, is an excerpt –

It was the biggest thing to hit New York City since Mr. October and it was selling out every day.

It wasn’t The Isley Brothers or Bob Marley at the Garden. It wasn’t The Stones or Blondie at the Palladium. Even though it was a gray, drizzling Christmas Eve and a frigid thirty four degrees, the line of hopefuls at the main entrance stretched down the front steps and way up 5th Avenue; a long snake of humanity bundled in wooly winter coats, huddled beneath umbrellas, all there to attend the final stop in the celebrated two year U.S. tour of a bona fide African superstar.

King Tut.

The Treasures of King Tutankhamun exhibit at the Met had somehow, like a weird retro-fad throwing it all the way back to 1922, become the hottest ticket in town. That goofy King Tut song from the dude on Saturday Night Live was all over the radio again, and girls were painting their eyes like Elizabeth Taylor and hanging cartouches from their ears.

John Conquer had read somewhere some psychoanalyst had theorized that viewing this stuff for some was like owning it. Every chick wanted to be Cleopatra, and every dude Yul Brynner.

Others said the treasures of the boy king’s arrival were emblematic of the rejuvenation of the NYC. Nixon was out (the Democrats still liked to remind you, two years on), Koch was in, and the city was on the upswing, or so the headlines said.

As far as Conquer was concerned, the lives of the people whose stories made up the back pages hadn’t changed too much. Sometimes it felt like the city had died on the night of the big blackout, and now they were all dwelling in its afterlife. Whether it was hell or heaven remained to be seen.

The fools lined up outside the museum looked content, even so close to closing, when the chance of them getting in was as slim as a smack head’s arm. Sure, they did. They had the option to go home any time they wanted. They weren’t sleeping out here on the icy slabs with a streetlamp buzzing over their heads and the end of some flatfoot’s billy club for an alarm clock.

John Conquer bopped past them all, his cop buddy Ron’s tickets tucked into the inside pocket of his toasty oxblood coat. A bomb threat down at the 12th precinct station house had cancelled all the cops’ holiday plans. Conquer never would have dropped the bread on the tickets otherwise, and he damn sure wouldn’t stand out in the drizzling rain waiting for it to turn to snow, not just to bump along a dusty museum with a bunch of out of town cattle pressing their muzzles up against the glass to see shiny shit a lot of dead rich folks had buried three thousand years ago.

He knew the difference between viewing and owning all too well, and how viewing could put a hunger in a poor man.

But Ron had been in a bind, and Conquer didn’t have anything much to do anyway. The year was winding down. He had no pretty secretary to induce him to hang around the office anymore, no family to visit, other than his late uncle’s old boyfriend who shared a house in Crown Heights with a bunch of lively transvestites. They’d invited him to dinner, but he’d played Ebenezer, not wanting to deal with a lot of noise after what had been a noisy year.

Honestly, he’d ridden the #6 down from St. Marks Place with the idea of unloading the tickets on some tourists in front of the museum and treating himself to a nice Christmas dinner someplace expensive, maybe somewhere with an ‘oli’s’ or an ‘etti’s’ on the sign.

 He walked up the steps, eyeing the crowd, picking out the other scalpers furtively flashing their wares to those in line, seeing the latter shake their heads or pay the fare, then break out of line and head for the door. Conquer gave each seller his due space, but tried to overhear their going prices. He didn’t want to undercut any brother out hustling, but he didn’t want to stand out here much longer either. As long as he made back what he’d paid Harris plus maybe ten bucks, he’d be happy.

“Excuse me,” came a musical, accented voice behind him, accompanied by a light touch of his sleeve. “Are you selling tickets?”

He turned, and got an eyeful of one of the loveliest women he’d ever seen.

Only her face showed from the tasteful swaddle of a white cashmere scarf and a long white wool hooded cape gilded with gold accents, but what a face! He first noticed the largeness and depth of her dark eyes, which dominated her smooth, light skinned features.  Her unblemished cheeks swelled and cascaded down into a tapered, delicate chin, above which her full lips, painted the shade of pomegranate rind, slightly parted to half-reveal an achingly sweet snow-white smile.

Conquer saw her eyes flit up and down him, and her smile widen, and he felt a warmth low in his belly the biting air couldn’t hope to chill.

“I got two tickets,” he said, drawing them out of his coat and fanning them out with a confident grin to match hers. “But they ain’t for sale.”

“Oh?” she said, disappointed now. “You’re waiting for someone then?”

That accent. She was from out of town. Way out of town. Out of this world, even.

“Didn’t realize I was till just now,” he said.

She laughed, a high, trilling sound behind her fine porcelain teeth.

“Are you making a pass at me, mister….?”

Still smiling, though. Brighter than before, if that was possible. More warmth now, responding to the tickle she was feeling, he knew.

“My name’s John Conquer,” he said. “And you better believe I am.”

Watch the skies for CONQUER: FEAR OF A BLACK CAT this year.

In the meantime, pick up ODM #9 here –


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