Excerpt from Fortune Favors the Dead by Stephen Spotswood , plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Fortune Favors the Dead

Pentecost and Parker #1

by Stephen Spotswood

Fortune Favors the Dead by  Stephen Spotswood X
Fortune Favors the Dead by  Stephen Spotswood
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2020, 336 pages

    Aug 2021, 352 pages


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Jordan Lynch
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Print Excerpt


The first time I met Lillian Pentecost, I nearly caved her skull in with a piece of lead pipe.

I had scored a few shifts working guard duty at a building site on West Forty-second. A lot of the crew on Hart and Hal loway's Traveling Circus and Sideshow picked up gigs like that whenever we rolled into a big city. Late-night and off-day gigs where we could clock in after a performance and get paid cash on the barrel.

There were more jobs like that available in those years. A lot of the men who'd usually have taken them were overseas hoping for a shot at Hitler. When you're desperate to fill a post, even a twenty-year-old cirky girl starts to look good.

Not that it required much of a résumé. It was a knuckle head job. Walk the fenced-in perimeter from eleven until dawn and keep an eye out for anyone slipping through the fence. If anyone did, I was supposed to ring a bell and shout and make a ruckus to drive them away. If they refused, I ran and found a cop.

At least that was what I was supposed to do. McCloskey—the site foreman, who was paying me—had other thoughts.

"You catch anyone slipping in, you give them a good clob ber with this," he said, tugging at his greasy moustache. This was a two-foot length of lead pipe. "You do that, you get an extra dollar bonus. Gotta set an example."

Who I was setting an example for, I didn't know. I also didn't know what was around the site that would be worth stealing. Construction had just started, so it was basically a giant hole in the ground half the size of a city block. Some lumber, some pipe, a few tools, but nothing really worth pinching. This close to Times Square, I was more likely to get drunks looking for a place to sleep it off.

I expected to spend a handful of uneventful nights, collect a few bucks, and be done with my shift in time to run back to Brooklyn and help with the circus's matinee. I was also hop ing to find some quiet time to devour the detective novel I'd picked up at the newsstand down the street. Maybe catch a few hours' sleep in some corner of the yard. On the road, solitary sleep—especially sleep without the rumble of trucks or the roar of the tigers prowling in their cage across the yard—was a rarity.

The first two nights, that was exactly how it went. It was actually kind of lonely. New York might be the city that never sleeps, but even those few blocks in the heart of Midtown took a catnap between two and five. Not much in the way of foot traffic, or at least little that could be heard through the seven-foot-high wooden fence surrounding the construction site. That half-block hole in the ground was eerily quiet.

So on the third night the creak of a board being pried away from the fence rang out like a bell.

Heart racing, I grabbed the piece of lead pipe and made my way around the edge of the pit. I was wearing dungarees and a denim shirt—soft fabrics that didn't make a sound. My boots had worn-thin soles, which didn't do any favors for my arches but meant I was able to slip like a shadow. I crept up on the fig ure crouched on its haunches at the edge of the pit.

Whoever it was picked up a handful of dirt and let it sift through their fingers. I thought about yelling and try ing to drive them off, but they were bigger than me. In their other hand they were brandishing what looked like a stick or cudgel—something heftier than my length of pipe at any rate. If I yelled and got rushed, I wasn't sure I'd be able to stay on my feet long enough to hit back.

I took one slow step after another. When I was only a short stride away I lifted the pipe above my head. I wondered what it would feel like when I brought it down. Could I finesse it so I just knocked them out? Detectives were always managing to do that in the dime novels. More likely, I'd crack their skull open like an egg. My stomach did the same kind of slow flip it performed when I watched the trapeze artists.

From Fortune Favors the Dead: A Novel by Stephen Spotswood, published by Doubleday, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright (c) 2020 by Stephen Spotswood.

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