Excerpt from North River by Pete Hamill, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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North River

A Novel

By Pete Hamill

North River

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"Maybe I should walk," Delaney said.

"Eddie's maybe nine blocks from here."

"He's a thousand miles from here if you get us killed, Bootsie."

The fat man grunted, slowed down. The window was foggy from their breathing, and Bootsie took out a white silk handkerchief and wiped at it. Then handed the handkerchief to Delaney. The doctor wiped at the steamy front window on his side, then rolled the side window down an inch. Bootsie grunted.

"How come you don't got a car?" Bootsie said. "You could follow me."

"Can't afford it."

"Come on. You're a doctor."

"That's why I can't afford it."

"These bust- outs around here, they don't pay?"

"They're poor, Bootsie. They still get sick."

The fat man turned, made a right and another right, heading toward Little Italy. A few kids were coming down from the tenements. One of them was carrying a surplice, its hem emerging below a wrapping of Christmas paper, the boy off to serve the seven o'clock mass at Sacred Heart. As Delaney so often did, long ago. He noticed that up here the streetlights were still working. Another zone in the city grid. Another world.

"What happened to Eddie?"

"You'll fi nd out."

"Maybe I could get ready if you told me what happened."

Bootsie sighed, pondered this, made another turn through the snow- packed streets. Parked cars were turning into immense white sculptures in the wind- driven snow.

"Mr. Corso got shot, maybe an hour ago."

"Where?"

"The stomach. Maybe the arm too. And maybe the hand. There's blood all over his fingers . . ."

"I mean, where'd it happen?" "The club. We had a New Year's party, all the guys, the wives. A band too, and all the usual shit, noisemakers, funny hats. Most people go home, maybe t'ree in the morning. Some of the guys go over Chinatown to get laid. Then there's a card game, whiskey, a big pot. I cook up some breakfast, scramble eggs, sausage, the usual. Then in the door comes t'ree jaboneys, guns out. They don't say a word. They just start shooting. Then everybody's shooting. The t'ree shooters go down, but so does Mr. Corso. He's hurt real bad, but he says, 'Go throw these cocksuckers in the river.' I stay with him while the other guys haul the dead guys away. It's still dark, see? Nobody on the street. All the lights out. No cops. Nothing. Just the fucking snow."

He pulled up a few doors from the storefront housing the Good Men Social and Athletic Club. The street was empty. He and Delaney got out. Bootsie knocked on the door. Three fast raps, then two. A sallow man with dead eyes peered out, opened the door wider. Most of the lights were out.

"Took your fuckin' time," the sallow man said to Bootsie.

"Fast as I could, Carmine. It's a fuckin' blizzard out there."

The club was a mess of noisemakers, funny hats, overturned ta- bles, and blood. Delaney could see smears through the blood where bodies had been dragged. Against the wall, Eddie Corso was lying on a cot. He smiled thinly when he saw Delaney.

"Medic, medic," he whispered, and then grinned in a bleary way.

There was blood on his face, probably from his wet crimson hand, but there was a huge spreading stain of blood on the white shirt.

"Jesus, it hurts like a bastard, Doc."

"You've been through worse."

He grinned. "Morphine, morphine . . ." The call of the trenches in the rain. "Please, Doc . . ."

Corso laughed and then moaned, and Delaney gave him what he needed. He swabbed his arm with cotton soaked in alcohol, prepared a syringe, then injected him with a shot of morphine. Corso winced, then sighed in a gargly way. Delaney ripped open the bloody shirt to look at the worst wound, then used pressure and tape to staunch the bleeding.

Copyright © 2007 by Pete Hamill

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