This is the premise of Avery Nolan: Private Dick of the Dead, a new mystery/thriller by Tony Faville (Kings of the Dead) written in the pulpy style of Hard Boiled Detective stories, but with a zombie twist.
How does Nolan, a gum-shoe accustomed to snapping shots of cheating husbands, get himself caught up in a dangerous game of intrigue and the living dead? Read on for a special preview of the first chapter. Then experience the thrilling conclusion by picking up Avery Nolan: Private Dick of the Dead on Smashwords or Amazon.
September 22, 1959
New York, New York
It is a quarter to six on a Tuesday afternoon as I
walk out of the 42nd Street movie house. I just
finished watching the latest singing cowboy movie
to come out of Hollywood and I had hoped that the
last hour and a half would help to ease half a
lifetime of pain and suffering.
I should have known better than to expect a
It is late September, and the skies are dark with
a storm front blowing in from the northwest. I pull
my fedora down low over my head and pop the
collar of my overcoat up to shield my neck from the
now blowing winds and cutting rain. Stepping
around the corner and into the partial shelter the
alleyway provided, I pull a half-empty pack of
Lucky Strikes from my pocket, shake out a smoke,
and tap it against the side of my zippo.
Rolling the dented and scratched hunk of brass
around in my hand, I watch it as it moves in the
quickly fading daylight. I can't help but remember
its former owner, a Navy Corpsman, who lit my
smoke for me as I lay there bleeding into the black
sands of Iwo Jima. Of course I can never forget, for
just as he flipped it shut, he took a Jap round in the
neck. When he fell over dead across my body, the
lighter must have fallen into my gear because it was
with me when I finally got home. I have carried it
with me every day since.
I flick it open and roll the wheel, bringing theThe mystery deepens in Avery Nolan: Private Dick of the Dead.
yellowish flame to life with a small spray of sparks,
and light the small filterless cigarette. I hear a noise
down the darkened alleyway behind me. Turning, I
squint through the wind and rain and see a lone bum
on his hands and knees, looking for all the world
like he is throwing up the remnants of last night’s
nickel hooch and canned baked beans.
This is New York City and the sight of a bum
in an alleyway is nothing new or earthshaking, so I
make my way down the street towards my office. If
recent business had been better I might have caught
a taxi to take me the few blocks, but times are
tough, even more so for a twenty dollar a day
private dick, such as myself.
Because of the rain, I cover the distance in
under fifteen minutes, a little double-time jog
harkening back to my days in the Marines. Running
full bore through the jungles of Guadalcanal with
forty pounds of gear and a Garand rifle in my hands
was a lot different than sprinting through the city
streets of the concrete jungle. Rotating through the
revolving door of my building, I step into the foyer
and shake my whole body as if I am a Cocker
Spaniel who just came in from taking a crap in the
Joe, the old coot of a doorman, is in his usual
chair and fails to even look up at me as he sits there
snoring his way through his golden years. I step past
him and the broken elevator, and head up the three
flights of stairs to reach the landing that holds my
Pausing momentarily to look at my name
painted in gold on the frosted glass of the door, I
make a mental note to remind myself to ask the
building super to freshen up the paint when he has a
Reaching out, I take the doorknob in my hand,
and step back as the door slowly opens inwards
under my touch. Instinctively, my right hand shoots
into the gap of my open overcoat and whips out my
pistol, bringing it to bear on the darkened office
before me. Stepping into the room slowly, I attempt
to let my eyes adjust to the darkness. Cursing my
inability to afford an office with an exterior
window, I reach behind my back with my left hand,
feeling for the light switch.
Suddenly, a lighter flicks to life in the dark
shadows of my office. Even in the darkness, I can
see the dame that is sitting in the chair at the side of
my office with a cigarette dangling between her
ruby red lips. In the brief moment her face was
illuminated by the flickering yellow glow of her
lighter, I can see that she is something special.
It’s either that, or she just has a habit of
thinking she is special.
Flipping on the overhead light with my left
hand, I continue to hold my pistol in her general
With a smoky voice that is gently touched by
expensive scotch, she says, "Unless you tend to
hold all of your clients at gunpoint, Mister Nolan, I
would kindly request that you put your pistol away.
You men and your guns.” She shook her head
ruefully, “I believe Doctor Freud was right, that is
an awfully big gun."
Walking across the office to behind my desk, I
place my pistol on the corner, and remove my coat.
Shaking the water from it, I hang it on the wooden
rack in the corner to dry, then take a seat in my
squeaky wooden and leather chair. "It's not the size
of the gun lady…"
She interrupts me before I can finish, "Yes
Detective, it's knowing how to use it, correct?"
I can see that from her ten dollar shoes to her
forty dollar dress and all the Chanel No. 5 all
between, that she is a dame that is used to money.
Old money is my guess, and from the looks of
things, a lot of it.
My only question is, what is a dame with
money doing in the office of a guy like me? Sure, I
am no slouch as a private investigator, but I am the
guy that lonely housewives pay to take pictures of
their husbands in cheap motels in flagrante delicto
with the latest bimbo du jour.
"Since you have me at a distinct disadvantage,
madam, may I at least have your name please?"
"Of course, Mister Nolan, my name is Anna
Winters." She stands up from her chair and slinks
across the room like a jungle cat to take a seat in the
chair in front of me. If this is all an act, she is laying
it on awfully thick. Problem is, it’s working.
Flicking her ashes into the ashtray on my desk, she
continues, "My father is Doctor James Winters, a
geneticist that does his research at New York
She could have said her father was a platypus
and I would not have cared any more at this
moment in time. As I said, she is a world class
dame, with a set of pins that led all the way up to
there, and with more curves than the Pacific Coast
Highway. Sure, there are plenty of lookers in New
York City, but a lady of this caliber only comes
along once in a blue moon.
Pulling a photo from the manila envelope she
has in her hands, she slides it across my desk, then
settles back and takes a long drag from her cigarette
before gently exhaling a stream of smoke into the
The man in the photo before me looks like a
professor, a true to life egghead, from his white lab
coat, to the bow tie and eye glasses perched
awkwardly on his narrow face. Yeah, I would say
he appears to be the epitome of a professor.
"My father is missing, Mister Nolan, and I
would like you to help me find him."
"Please call me Avery; my father was Mister
Nolan. At least that is what my mother told me. So,
you say he is missing?"
"That is correct Mister...sorry, Avery. Nobody
has heard from him for the last two days, neither my
mother, nor any of his colleagues from the
Looking back at the picture, I am able to rule
out that he is lost on a bender in some alleyway, as
he does not seem to be the type to wile away his
time with booze and loose women.
"Have you filed a police report? Missing
persons is more up their alley, not mine."
"My father’s situation is a little more, shall we
say, sensitive, than the New York Police
Department is capable of handling. I need someone
with more of your skill set."
"Look, Anna, I get a pair of sawbucks a day to
take pictures of guys cheating on their wives. Now,
if you simply want me to find your father and take
pictures of him, then maybe I do in fact have the
skill set you are looking for, if not, then maybe I am
not your guy."
"Sergeant Avery Nolan, United States Marine
Corps. Enlisted on December 8th, 1941. You were
made a squad leader after Guadalcanal and were
decorated for bravery on several occasions, a Navy
Cross, two Bronze Stars and four Purple Hearts, the
last of which was received on Iwo Jima. No, Avery,
I believe you have exactly the skill set I am looking
She had obviously done her homework. I am
impressed, and I say so. "Okay, so you have read
my file, that still doesn't make me your guy."
"No, Avery, I paid a man a sawbuck a day, as
you put it, to find me the right man. As the children
in the schoolyards are fond of saying: Tag, you're it,
In the distance I can hear a police siren
screaming through the city, the typical sounds of the
city that never sleeps.
"Okay, so you need someone that can handle
himself, that tells me there is more to the story than
just a missing professor. And since you have not
been very forthcoming with additional information
as of yet, I am inclined to tell you that my fee is
thirty dollars per day, plus expenses, with one week
paid in advance."
She stamps out the remnants of her cigarette in
the ashtray and promptly lights another. Reaching
into her handbag, she pulls out an envelope and
tosses it across the desk. It lands with a weighty
plop and then slides off the desktop and into my lap.
Picking up the envelope, I open it and find a
cool grand in twenty dollar bills. She slides the
original manila envelope across my desk and I look
inside, finding additional photos and notes with
names, addresses and phone numbers.
Expertly blowing another cone of smoke in my
direction she says, "A thousand a week and all
expenses paid Mister Nolan. Not only is my father
missing, but so is much of his research. Most
importantly, his specimen is missing from the lab."
"Specimen? What kind of specimen are we
talking about? Rat? Monkey?"
"I feel it would be best if you found the answer
you seek at my father’s lab. I have already
contacted the school and you will be granted full
access to his lab, and cooperation from his research
Opening the bottom drawer of my desk, I
retrieve a bottle of cheap scotch and two dirty
glasses. Pouring a glass, I offer it to her, but she
politely declines. Sliding the bottle and spare glass
to the side, I raise the glass to my nose and take a
whiff of the mossy spirit before savoring a small
"Alright, Miss Winters, consider me your man.
Since I prefer to give my client daily reports of my
findings, how do I get in touch with you?"
Standing up, she places her lipstick-stained
cigarette in the ashtray, pulls her royal blue
overcoat on, and cinches the belt tight around her
narrow waist. On any given day, with her red hair
and subtly freckled skin, in that shade of blue she
could have passed for a movie star.
"My number is in the envelope, you can feel
free to call me at any time, day or night."
"One more question before you go, Anna, what
exactly was your father researching?"
"He was working on a project for the
Department of Defense. He said it had something to
do with battlefield first aid capabilities for soldiers.
Truthfully, I really don't know anything more than
"First aid is not exactly something people tend
to disappear over. Are you sure his disappearance is
related to his work?"
"It is only my assumption. My last phone call
with my father was three days ago, he said
something about going to ‘Mischka's’. I thought
nothing of it, assuming he had meant a colleague,
but none of them claim to have knowledge of a
Rising from my chair, I extend my hand to her
and shake hers, a gesture she readily returns with a
strong grip, stronger than most women of her
stature. "Don't you worry Miss Winters, I will find
your father for you, you have my word on that."
I walk her to the door as she thanks me for
taking the case, then usher her through the open
door. I watch with a certain pleasure as she walks
down the long hallway to the stairs.
Walking back to my desk, I pour myself
another drink and looked at the stack of money
peeking out from the open envelope on the desktop.
A cool grand a week to find a stodgy old professor
that is likely lost in some dark and dank archive
hall? Yeah, I guess a Private Dick with a skill set
like mine could get used to those kinds of numbers.